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Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete by Edward Bulwer Lytton

Part 7 out of 9

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perhaps one cause of his reserve. He knew what a beautiful possession is
youth,--its sanguine hopes, its elastic spirit, its inexhaustible
resources! What to the eyes of woman were the acquisitions which manhood
had brought him,--the vast but the sad experience, the arid wisdom, the
philosophy based on disappointment? He might be loved but for the vain
glitter of name and reputation,--and love might vanish as custom dimmed
the illusion. Men of strong affections are jealous of their own genius.
They know how separate a thing from the household character genius often
is,--they fear lest they should be loved for a quality, not for
themselves.

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

"The pang, the agony, the doubt!"

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER IV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"This very evening."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cesarini started; the ex-officer continued,--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I have none."

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

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

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

CHAPTER V.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER VI.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER VII.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK IX.

"Woe, woe: all things are clear."--SOPHOCLES: OEd. Tyr. 754.

CHAPTER I.

THE privilege that statesmen ever claim,
Who private interest never yet pursued,
But still pretended 'twas for others' good.
. . . . . .
From hence on every humorous wind that veered
With shifted sails a several course you steered.
_Absalom and Achitophel_, Part ii.

LORD VARGRAVE had for more than a fortnight remained at the inn at
M-----, too ill to be removed with safety in a season so severe. Even
when at last, by easy stages, he reached London, he was subjected to a
relapse; and his recovery was slow and gradual. Hitherto unused to
sickness, he bore his confinement with extreme impatience; and against
the commands of his physician insisted on continuing to transact his
official business, and consult with his political friends in his
sick-room; for Lumley knew well, that it is most pernicious to public men
to be considered failing in health,--turkeys are not more unfeeling to a
sick brother than politicians to an ailing statesman; they give out that
his head is touched, and see paralysis and epilepsy in every speech and
every despatch. The time, too, nearly ripe for his great schemes, made
it doubly necessary that he should exert himself, and prevent being
shelved with a plausible excuse of tender compassion for his infirmities.
As soon therefore as he learned that Legard had left Paris, he thought
himself safe for a while in that quarter, and surrendered his thoughts
wholly to his ambitious projects. Perhaps, too, with the susceptible
vanity of a middle-aged man, who has had his _bonnes fortunes_, Lumley
deemed, with Rousseau, that a lover, pale and haggard--just raised from
the bed of suffering--is more interesting to friendship than attractive
to love. He and Rousseau were, I believe, both mistaken; but that is a
matter of opinion: they both thought very coarsely of women,--one from
having no sentiment, and the other from having a sentiment that was but a
disease. At length, just as Lumley was sufficiently recovered to quit
his house, to appear at his office, and declare that his illness had
wonderfully improved his constitution, intelligence from Paris, the more
startling from being wholly unexpected, reached him. From Caroline he
learned that Maltravers had proposed to Evelyn, and been accepted. From
Maltravers himself he heard the confirmation of the news. The last
letter was short, but kind and manly. He addressed Lord Vargrave as
Evelyn's guardian; slightly alluded to the scruples he had entertained
till Lord Vargrave's suit was broken off; and feeling the subject too
delicate for a letter, expressed a desire to confer with Lumley
respecting Evelyn's wishes as to certain arrangements in her property.

And for this was it that Lumley had toiled! for this had he visited Lisle
Court! and for this had he been stricken down to the bed of pain! Was it
only to make his old rival the purchaser, if he so pleased it, of the
possessions of his own family? Lumley thought at that moment less of
Evelyn than of Lisle Court. As he woke from the stupor and the first fit
of rage into which these epistles cast him, the recollection of the story
he had heard from Mr. Onslow flashed across him. Were his suspicions
true, what a secret he would possess! How fate might yet befriend him!
Not a moment was to be lost. Weak, suffering as he still was, he ordered
his carriage, and hastened down to Mrs. Leslie.

In the interview that took place, he was careful not to alarm her into
discretion. He managed the conference with his usual consummate
dexterity. He did not appear to believe that there had been any actual
connection between Alice and the supposed Butler. He began by simply
asking whether Alice had ever, in early life, been acquainted with a
person of that name, and when residing in the neighbourhood of -----.
The change of countenance, the surprised start of Mrs. Leslie, convinced
him that his suspicions were true.

"And why do you ask, my lord?" said the old lady. "Is it to ascertain
this point that you have done me the honour to visit me?"

"Not exactly, my dear madam," said Lumley, smiling. "But I am going to
C----- on business; and besides that I wished to give an account of your
health to Evelyn, whom I shall shortly see at Paris, I certainly did
desire to know whether it would be any gratification to Lady Vargrave,
for whom I have the deepest regard, to renew her acquaintance with the
said Mr. Butler."

"What does your lordship know of him? What is he; who is he?"

"Ah, my dear lady, you turn the tables on me, I see,--for my one question
you would give me fifty. But, seriously, before I answer you, you must
tell me whether Lady Vargrave does know a gentleman of that name; yet,
indeed, to save trouble, I may as well inform you, that I know it was
under that name that she resided at C-----, when my poor uncle first made
her acquaintance. What I ought to ask is this,--supposing Mr. Butler be
still alive, and a gentleman of character and fortune, would it please
Lady Vargrave to meet with him once more?"

"I cannot tell you," said Mrs. Leslie, sinking back in her chair, much
embarrassed.

"Enough, I shall not stir further in the matter. Glad to see you looking
so well. Fine place, beautiful trees. Any commands at C-----, or any
message for Evelyn?"

Lumley rose to depart.

"Stay," said Mrs. Leslie, recalling all the pining, restless, untiring
love that Lady Vargrave had manifested towards the lost, and feeling that
she ought not to sacrifice to slight scruples the chance of happiness for
her friend's future years,--"stay; I think this question you should
address to Lady Vargrave,--or shall I?"

"As you will,--perhaps I had better write. Good-day," and Vargrave
hurried away.

He had satisfied himself, but he had another yet to satisfy,--and that,
from certain reasons known but to himself, without bringing the third
person in contact with Lady Vargrave. On arriving at C----- he wrote,
therefore, to Lady Vargrave as follows:--

MY DEAR FRIEND,--Do not think me impertinent or intrusive--but you know
me too well for that. A gentleman of the name of Butler is exceedingly
anxious to ascertain if you once lived near -----, in a pretty little
cottage,--Dove, or Dale, or Dell cottage (some such appellation),--and if
you remember a person of his name. Should you care to give a reply to
these queries, send me a line addressed to London, which I shall get on
my way to Paris.

Yours most truly,

VARGRAVE.

As soon as he had concluded, and despatched this letter, Vargrave wrote
to Mr. Winsley as follows:--

MY DEAR SIR,--I am so unwell as to be unable to call on you, or even to
see any one, however agreeable (nay, the more agreeable the more
exciting!). I hope, however, to renew our personal acquaintance before
quitting C-----. Meanwhile, oblige me with a line to say if I did not
understand you to signify that you could, if necessary, prove that Lady
Vargrave once resided in this town as Mrs. Butler, a very short time
before she married my uncle, under the name of Cameron, in Devonshire;
and had she not also at that time a little girl,--an infant, or nearly
so,--who must necessarily be the young lady who is my uncle's heiress,
Miss Evelyn Cameron. My reason for thus troubling you is obvious. As
Miss Cameron's guardian, I have very shortly to wind up certain affairs
connected with my uncle's will; and, what is more, there is some property
bequeathed by the late Mr. Butler, which may make it necessary to prove
identity.

Truly yours,

VARGRAVE.

The answer to the latter communication ran thus:--

"MY LORD,--I am very sorry to hear your lordship is so unwell, and will
pay my respects to-morrow. I certainly can swear that the present Lady
Vargrave was the Mrs. Butler who resided at C-----, and taught music.
And as the child with her was of the same sex, and about the same age as
Miss Cameron, there can, I should think, be no difficulty in establishing
the identity between that young lady and the child Lady Vargrave had by
her first husband, Mr. Butler; but of this, of course, I cannot speak.

"I have the honour, etc."

The next morning Vargrave despatched a note to Mr. Winsley, saying that
his health required him to return to town immediately,--and to town, in
fact, he hastened. The day after his arrival, he received, in a hurried
hand--strangely blurred and blotted, perhaps by tears--this short
letter:--

For Heaven's sake, tell me what you mean! Yes, yes, I did once reside at
Dale Cottage, I did know one of the name of Butler! Has _he_ discovered
the name _I_ bear? Where is he? I implore you to write, or let me see
you before you leave England!

ALICE VARGRAVE.

Lumley smiled triumphantly when he read and carefully put up this letter.

"I must now amuse and put her off--at all events for the present."

In answer to Lady Vargrave's letter, he wrote a few lines to say that he
had only heard through a third person (a lawyer) of a Mr. Butler residing
somewhere abroad, who had wished these inquiries to be made; that he
believed it only related to some disposition of property; that,
_perhaps_, the Mr. Butler who made the inquiry was heir to the Mr. Butler
she had known; that he could learn nothing else at present, as the
purport of her reply must be sent abroad,--the lawyer would or could say
nothing more; that directly he received a further communication it should
be despatched to her, that he was most affectionately and most truly
hers.

The rest of that morning Vargrave devoted to Lord Saxingham and his
allies; and declaring, and believing, that he should not be long absent
at Paris, he took an early dinner, and was about once more to commit
himself to the risks of travel, when, as he crossed the hall, Mr. Douce
came hastily upon him.

"My lord--my lord--I must have a word with your l-l-lordship;--you are
going to--that is--" (and the little man looked frightened) "you intend
to--to go to--that is--ab-ab-ab--"

"Not abscond, Mr. Douce; come into the library: I am in a great hurry,
but I have always time for _you_. What's the matter?"

"Why, then, my lord,--I--I have heard nothing m-m-more from your
lordship about the pur-pur--"

"Purchase?--I am going to Paris, to settle all particulars with Miss
Cameron; tell the lawyers so."

"May--may--we draw out the money to--to--show--that--that we are in
earnest? Otherwise I fear--that is, I suspect--I mean I know, that
Colonel Maltravers will be off the bargain."

"Why, Mr. Douce, really I must just see my ward first; but you shall hear
from me in a day or two;--and the ten thousand pounds I owe you!"

"Yes, indeed, the ten--ten--ten!--my partner is very--"

"Anxious for it, no doubt! My compliments to him. God bless you!--take
care of yourself,--must be off to save the packet;" and Vargrave hurried
away, muttering, "Heaven sends money, and the devil sends duns!"

Douce gasped like a fish for breath, as his eyes followed the rapid steps
of Vargrave; and there was an angry scowl of disappointment on his small
features. Lumley, by this time, seated in his carriage, and wrapped up
in his cloak, had forgotten the creditor's existence, and whispered to
his aristocratic secretary, as he bent his head out of the carriage
window, "I have told Lord Saxingham to despatch you to me, if there is
any--the least--necessity for me in London. I leave you behind, Howard,
because your sister being at court, and your cousin with our notable
premier, you will find out every change in the wind--you understand.
And, I say, Howard, don't think I forget your kindness!--you know that no
man ever served me in vain! Oh, there's that horrid little Douce behind
you,--tell them to drive on!"

CHAPTER II.

HEARD you that?
What prodigy of horror is disclosing?--LILLO: _Fatal Curiosity_.

THE unhappy companion of Cesarini's flight was soon discovered and
recaptured; but all search for Cesarini himself proved ineffectual, not
only in the neighbourhood of St. Cloud, but in the surrounding country
and in Paris. The only comfort was in thinking that his watch would at
least preserve him for some time from the horrors of want; and that by
the sale of the trinket, he might be traced. The police, too, were set
at work,--the vigilant police of Paris! Still day rolled on day, and no
tidings. The secret of the escape was carefully concealed from Teresa;
and public cares were a sufficient excuse for the gloom on De Montaigne's
brow.

Evelyn heard from Maltravers with mingled emotions of compassion, grief,
and awe the gloomy tale connected with the history of the maniac. She
wept for the fate of Florence; she shuddered at the curse that had fallen
on Cesarini; and perhaps Maltravers grew dearer to her from the thought
that there was so much in the memories of the past that needed a
comforter and a soother.

They returned to Paris, affianced and plighted lovers; and then it was
that Evelyn sought carefully and resolutely to banish from her mind all
recollection, all regret, of the absent Legard: she felt the solemnity of
the trust confided in her, and she resolved that no thought of hers
should ever be of a nature to gall the generous and tender spirit that
had confided its life of life to her care. The influence of Maltravers
over her increased in their new and more familiar position, and yet still
it partook too much of veneration, too little of passion; but that might
be her innocence and youth. He, at least, was sensible of no want,--she
had chosen him from the world; and fastidious as he deemed himself, he
reposed, without a doubt, on the security of her faith. None of those
presentiments which had haunted him when first betrothed to Florence
disturbed him now. The affection of one so young and so guileless seemed
to bring back to him all his own youth--we are ever young while the young
can love us! Suddenly, too, the world took to his eyes a brighter and
fairer aspect. Hope, born again, reconciled him to his career and to his
race! The more he listened to Evelyn, the more he watched every evidence
of her docile but generous nature, the more he felt assured that he had
found at last a heart suited to his own. Her beautiful serenity of
temper, cheerful, yet never fitful or unquiet, gladdened him with its
insensible contagion. To be with Evelyn was like basking in the sunshine
of some happy sky! It was an inexpressible charm to one wearied with
"the hack sights and sounds" of this jaded world,--to watch the
ever-fresh and sparkling the thoughts and fancies which came from a soul
so new to life! It enchanted one, painfully fastidious in what relates
to the true nobility of character, that, however various the themes
discussed, no low or mean thought ever sullied those beautiful lips. It
was not the mere innocence of inexperience, but the moral incapability of
guile, that charmed him in the companion he had chosen on his path to
Eternity! He was also delighted to notice Evelyn's readiness of
resources: she had that faculty, without which woman has no independence
from the world, no pledge that domestic retirement will not soon languish
into wearisome monotony,--the faculty of making trifles contribute to
occupation or amusement; she was easily pleased, and yet she so soon
reconciled herself to disappointment. He felt, and chid his own dulness
for not feeling it before, that, young and surpassingly lovely as she
was, she required no stimulant from the heated pursuits and the hollow
admiration of the crowd.

"Such," thought he, "are the natures that alone can preserve through
years the poetry of the first passionate illusion, that can alone render
wedlock the seal that confirms affection, and not the mocking ceremonial
that vainly consecrates its grave!"

Maltravers, as we have seen, formally wrote to Lumley some days after
their return to Paris. He would have written also to Lady Vargrave, but
Evelyn thought it best to prepare her mother by a letter from herself.

Miss Cameron now wanted but a few weeks to the age of eighteen, at which
she was to be the sole mistress of her own destiny. On arriving at that
age the marriage was to take place. Valerie heard with sincere delight
of the new engagement her friend had formed. She eagerly sought every
opportunity to increase her intimacy with Evelyn, who was completely won
by her graceful kindness; the result of Valerie's examination was, that
she did not wonder at the passionate love of Maltravers, but that her
deep knowledge of the human heart (that knowledge so remarkable in the
women of her country!) made her doubt how far it was adequately returned,
how far Evelyn deceived herself. Her first satisfaction became mingled
with anxiety, and she relied more for the future felicity of her friend
on Evelyn's purity of thought and general tenderness of heart than on the
exclusiveness and ardour of her love. Alas! few at eighteen are not too
young for the irrevocable step,--and Evelyn was younger than her years!
One evening at Madame de Ventadour's Maltravers asked Evelyn if she had
yet heard from Lady Vargrave. Evelyn expressed her surprise that she had
not, and the conversation fell, as was natural, upon Lady Vargrave
herself. "Is she as fond of music as you are?" asked Maltravers.

"Yes, indeed, I think so--and of the songs of a certain person in
particular; they always had for her an indescribable charm. Often have I
heard her say that to read your writings was like talking to an early
friend. Your name and genius seemed to make her solitary connection with
the great world. Nay--but you will not be angry--I half think it was her
enthusiasm, so strange and rare, that first taught me interest in
yourself."

"I have a double reason, then, for loving your mother," said Maltravers,
much pleased and flattered. "And does she not like Italian music?"

"Not much; she prefers some rather old-fashioned German airs, very
simple, but very touching."

"My own early passion," said Maltravers, more and more interested.

"But there are also one or two English songs which I have occasionally,
but very seldom, heard her sing. One in especial affects her so deeply,
even when she plays the air, that I have always attached to it a certain
mysterious sanctity. I should not like to sing it before a crowd, but
to-morrow, when you call on me, and we are alone--"

"Ah, to-morrow I will not fail to remind you."

Their conversation ceased; yet, somehow or other, that night when he
retired to rest the recollection of it haunted Maltravers. He felt a
vague, unaccountable curiosity respecting this secluded and solitary
mother; all concerning her early fate seemed so wrapped in mystery.
Cleveland, in reply to his letter, had informed him that all inquiries
respecting the birth and first marriage of Lady Vargrave had failed.
Evelyn evidently knew but little of either, and he felt a certain
delicacy in pressing questions which might be ascribed to the
inquisitiveness of a vulgar family pride. Moreover, lovers have so much
to say to each other, that he had not time to talk at length to Evelyn
about third persons. He slept ill that night,--dark and boding dreams
disturbed his slumber. He rose late and dejected by presentiments he
could not master: his morning meal was scarcely over, and he had already
taken his hat to go to Evelyn's for comfort and sunshine, when the door
opened, and he was surprised by the entrance of Lord Vargrave.

Lumley seated himself with a formal gravity very unusual to him, and as
if anxious to waive unnecessary explanations, began as follows, with a
serious and impressive voice and aspect:--

"Maltravers, of late years we have been estranged from each other. I do
not presume to dictate to you your friendships or your dislikes. Why
this estrangement has happened you alone can determine. For my part I am
conscious of no offence; that which I was I am still. It is you who have
changed. Whether it be the difference of our political opinions, or any
other and more secret cause, I know not. I lament, but it is now too
late to attempt to remove it. If you suspect me of ever seeking, or even
wishing, to sow dissension between yourself and my ill-fated cousin, now
no more, you are mistaken. I ever sought the happiness and union of you
both. And yet, Maltravers, you then came between me and an early and
cherished dream. But I suffered in silence; my course was at least
disinterested, perhaps generous: let it pass. A second time you cross my
path,--you win from me a heart I had long learned to consider mine. You
have no scruple of early friendship, you have no forbearance towards
acknowledged and affianced ties. You are my rival with Evelyn Cameron,
and your suit has prospered."

"Vargrave," said Maltravers, "you have spoken frankly; and I will reply
with an equal candour. A difference of tastes, tempers, and opinions led
us long since into opposite paths. I am one who cannot disunite public
morality from private virtue. From motives best known to you, but which
I say openly I hold to have been those of interest or ambition, you did
not change your opinions (there is no sin in that), but retaining them in
private, professed others in public, and played with the destinies of
mankind as if they were but counters to mark a mercenary game. This led
me to examine your character with more searching eyes; and I found it one
I could no longer trust. With respect to the Dead, let the pall drop
over that early grave,--I acquit you of all blame. He who sinned has
suffered more than would atone the crime! You charge me with my love to
Evelyn. Pardon me, but I seduced no affection, I have broken no tie.
Not till she was free in heart and in hand to choose between us, did I
hint at love. Let me think that a way may be found to soften one portion
at least of the disappointment you cannot but feel acutely."

"Stay!" said Lord Vargrave (who, plunged in a gloomy revery, had scarcely
seemed to hear the last few sentences of his rival): "stay, Maltravers.
Speak not of love to Evelyn! A horrible foreboding tells me that, a few
hours hence, you would rather pluck out your tongue by the roots than
couple the words of love with the thought of that unfortunate girl! Oh,
if I were vindictive, what awful triumph would await me now! What
retaliation on your harsh judgment, your cold contempt, your momentary
and wretched victory over me! Heaven is my witness, that my only
sentiment is that of terror and woe! Maltravers, in your earliest youth,
did you form connection with one whom they called Alice Darvil?"

"Alice! merciful Heaven! what of her?"

"Did you never know that the Christian name of Evelyn's mother is Alice?"

"I never asked, I never knew; but it is a common name," faltered
Maltravers.

"Listen to me," resumed Vargrave: "with Alice Darvil you lived in the
neighbourhood of -----, did you not?"

"Go on, go on!"

"You took the name of Butler; by that name Alice Darvil was afterwards
known in the town in which my uncle resided--there are gaps in the
history that I cannot of my own knowledge fill up,--she taught music; my
uncle became enamoured of her, but he was vain and worldly. She removed
into Devonshire, and he married her there, under the name of Cameron, by
which name he hoped to conceal from the world the lowness of her origin,
and the humble calling she had followed. Hold! do not interrupt me.
Alice had one daughter, as was supposed, by a former marriage; that
daughter was the offspring of him whose name she bore--yes, of the false
Butler!--that daughter is Evelyn Cameron!"

"Liar! devil!" cried Maltravers, springing to his feet, as if a shot had
pierced his heart. "Proofs! proofs!"

"Will these suffice?" said Vargrave, as he drew forth the letters of
Winsley and Lady Vargrave. Maltravers took them, but it was some moments
before he could dare to read. He supported himself with difficulty from
falling to the ground; there was a gurgle in his throat like the sound of
the death-rattle; at last he read, and dropped the letters from his hand.

"Wait me here," he said very faintly, and moved mechanically to the door.

"Hold!" said Lord Vargrave, laying his hand upon Ernest's arm. "Listen
to me for Evelyn's sake, for her mother's. You are about to seek
Evelyn,--be it so! I know that you possess the god-like gift of
self-control. You will not suffer her to learn that her mother has done
that which dishonours alike mother and child? You will not consummate
your wrong to Alice Darvil by robbing her of the fruit of a life of
penitence and remorse? You will not unveil her shame to her own
daughter? Convince yourself, and master yourself while you do so!"

"Fear me not," said Maltravers, with a terrible smile; "I will not
afflict my conscience with a double curse. As I have sowed, so must I
reap. Wait me here!"

CHAPTER III.

. . . MISERY
That gathers force each moment as it rolls,
And must, at last, o'erwhelm me.--LILLO: _Fatal Curiosity_.

MALTRAVERS found Evelyn alone; she turned towards him with her usual
sweet smile of welcome; but the smile vanished at once, as her eyes met
his changed and working countenance; cold drops stood upon the rigid and
marble brow, the lips writhed as if in bodily torture, the muscles of the
face had fallen, and there was a wildness which appalled her in the fixed
and feverish brightness of the eyes.

"You are ill, Ernest,--dear Ernest, you are ill,--your look freezes me!"

"Nay, Evelyn," said Maltravers, recovering himself by one of those
efforts of which men who have _suffered without sympathy_ are alone
capable,--"nay, I am better now; I have been ill--very ill--but I am
better!"

"Ill! and I not know of it?" She attempted to take his hand as she spoke.
Maltravers recoiled.

"It is fire! it burns! Avaunt!" he cried, frantically. "O Heaven!
spare me, spare me!"

Evelyn was not seriously alarmed; she gazed on him with the tenderest
compassion. Was this one of those moody and overwhelming paroxysms to
which it had been whispered abroad that he was subject? Strange as it
may seem, despite her terror, he was dearer to her in that hour--as she
believed, of gloom and darkness--than in all the glory of his majestic
intellect, or all the blandishments of his soft address.

"What has happened to you?" she said, approaching him again; "have you
seen Lord Vargrave? I know that he has arrived, for his servant has been
here to say so; has he uttered anything to distress you? or has--" (she
added falteringly and timidly)--"has poor Evelyn offended you? Speak to
me,--only speak!"

Maltravers turned, and his face was now calm and serene save by its
extreme and almost ghastly paleness, no trace of the hell within him
could be discovered.

"Pardon me," said he, gently, "I know not this morning what I say or do;
think not of it, think not of me,--it will pass away when I hear your
voice."

"Shall I sing to you the words I spoke of last night? See, I have them
ready; I know them by heart, but I thought you might like to read them,
they are so full of simple but deep feeling."

Maltravers took the song from her hands, and bent over the paper; at
first, the letters seemed dim and indistinct, for there was a mist before
his eyes; but at last a chord of memory was struck,--he recalled the
words: they were some of those he had composed for Alice in the first
days of their delicious intercourse,--links of the golden chain, in which
he had sought to bind the spirit of knowledge to that of love.

"And from whom," said he, in a faint voice, as he calmly put down the
verses,--"from whom did your mother learn these words?"

"I know not; some dear friend, years ago, composed and gave them to her.
It must have been one very dear to her, to judge by the effect they still
produce."

"Think you," said Maltravers, in a hollow voice, "think you IT WAS YOUR
FATHER?"

"My father! She never speaks of him! I have been early taught to shun
all allusion to his memory. My father!--it is probable; yes, it may have
been my father; whom else could she have loved so fondly?"

There was a long silence; Evelyn was the first to break it.

"I have heard from my mother to-day, Ernest; her letter alarms me,--I
scarce know why!"

"Ah! and how--"

"It is hurried and incoherent,--almost wild: she says she has learned
some intelligence that has unsettled and unstrung her mind; she has
requested me to inquire if any one I am acquainted with has heard of, or
met abroad, some person of the name of Butler. You start!--have you
known one of that name?"

"I!--did your mother never allude to that name before?"

"Never!--and yet, once I remember--"

"What?"

That I was reading an account in the papers of the sudden death of some
Mr. Butler; and her agitation made a powerful and strange impression upon
me,--in fact, she fainted, and seemed almost delirious when she
recovered; she would not rest till I had completed the account, and when
I came to the particulars of his age, etc. (he was old, I think) she
clasped her hands, and wept; but they seemed tears of joy. The name is
so common--whom of that name have you known?"

"It is no matter. Is that your mother's letter; is that her
handwriting?"

"Yes;" and Evelyn gave the letter to Maltravers. He glanced over the
characters; he had once or twice seen Lady Vargrave's handwriting before,
and had recognized no likeness between that handwriting and such early
specimens of Alice's art as he had witnessed so many years ago; but now,
"trifles light as air" had grown "confirmation strong as proof of Holy
Writ,"--he thought he detected Alice in every line of the hurried and
blotted scroll; and when his eye rested on the words, "Your affectionate
MOTHER, _Alice_!" his blood curdled in his veins.

"It is strange!" said he, still struggling for self-composure; "strange
that I never thought of asking her name before! Alice! her name is
Alice?"

"A sweet name, is it not? It accords so well with her simple
character--how you would love her!"

As she said this, Evelyn turned to Maltravers with enthusiasm, and again
she was startled by his aspect; for again it was haggard, distorted, and
convulsed.

"Oh, if you love me," she cried, "do send immediately for advice! And
yet; is it illness, Ernest, or is it some grief that you hide from me?"

"It is illness, Evelyn," said Maltravers, rising: and his knees knocked
together. "I am not fit even for your companionship,--I will go home."

"And send instantly for advice?"

"Ay; it waits me there already."

"Thank Heaven! and you will write to me one little word--to relieve me?
I am so uneasy!"

"I will write to you."

"This evening?"

"Ay!"

"Now go,--I will not detain you."

He walked slowly to the door, but when he reached it he turned, and
catching her anxious gaze, he opened his arms; overpowered with strange
fear and affectionate sympathy, she burst into passionate tears; and
surprised out of the timidity and reserve which had hitherto
characterized her pure and meek attachment to him, she fell on his
breast, and sobbed aloud. Maltravers raised his hands, and, placing them
solemnly on her young head, his lips muttered as if in prayer. He
paused, and strained her to his heart; but he shunned that parting kiss,
which, hitherto, he had so fondly sought. That embrace was one of agony,
and not of rapture; and yet Evelyn dreamed not that he designed it for
the last!

Maltravers re-entered the room in which he had left Lord Vargrave, who
still awaited his return.

He walked up to Lumley, and held out his hand. "You have saved me from a
dreadful crime,--from an everlasting remorse. I thank you!"

Hardened and frigid as his nature was, Lumley was touched; the movement
of Maltravers took him by surprise. "It has been a dreadful duty,
Ernest," said he, pressing the hand he held; "but to come, too, from
_me_,--your rival!"

"Proceed, proceed, I pray you; explain all this--yet explanation! what do
I want to know? Evelyn is my daughter,--Alice's child! For Heaven's
sake, give me hope; say it is not so; say that she is Alice's child, but
not _mine_! Father! father!--and they call it a holy name--it is a
horrible one!"

"Compose yourself, my dear friend: recollect what you have escaped! You
will recover this shock. Time, travel--"

"Peace, man,--peace! Now then I am calm! When Alice left me she had no
child. I knew not that she bore within her the pledge of our ill-omened
and erring love. Verily, the sins of my youth have arisen against me;
and the curse has come home to roost!"

"I cannot explain to you all details."

"But why not have told me of this? Why not have warned me; why not have
said to me, when my heart could have been satisfied by so sweet a tie,
'Thou hast a daughter: thou art not desolate'? Why reserve the knowledge
of the blessing until it has turned to poison? Fiend that you are! you
have waited this hour to gloat over the agony from which a word from you
a year, nay, a month ago--a little month ago--might have saved me and
her!"

Maltravers, as he spoke, approached Vargrave, with eyes sparkling with
fierce passion, his hand clenched, his form dilated, the veins on his
forehead swelled like cords. Lumley, brave as he was, recoiled.

"I knew not of this secret," said he, deprecatingly, "till a few days
before I came hither; and I came hither at once to disclose it to you.
Will you listen to me? I knew that my uncle had married a person much
beneath him in rank; but he was guarded and cautious, and I knew no more,
except that by a first husband that lady had one daughter,--Evelyn. A
chain of accidents suddenly acquainted me with the rest."

Here Vargrave pretty faithfully repeated what he had learned from the
brewer at C-----, and from Mr. Onslow; but when he came to the tacit
confirmation of all his suspicions received from Mrs. Leslie, he greatly
exaggerated and greatly distorted the account. "Judge, then," concluded
Lumley, "of the horror with which I heard that you had declared an
attachment to Evelyn, and that it was returned. Ill as I was, I hastened
hither: you know the rest. Are you satisfied?"

"I will go to Alice! I will learn from her own lips--yet, how can I meet
her again? How say to her, 'I have taken from thee thy last hope,--I
have broken thy child's heart'?"

"Forgive me, but I should confess to you, that, from all I can learn from
Mrs. Leslie, Lady Vargrave has but one prayer, one hope in life,--that
she may never again meet with her betrayer. You may, indeed, in her own
letter perceive how much she is terrified by the thought of your
discovering her. She has, at length, recovered peace of mind and
tranquillity of conscience. She shrinks with dread from the prospect of
ever again encountering one once so dear, now associated in her mind with
recollections of guilt and sorrow. More than this, she is sensitively
alive to the fear of shame, to the dread of detection. If ever her
daughter were to know her sin, it would be to her as a death-blow. Yet
in her nervous state of health, her ever-quick and uncontrollable
feelings, if you were to meet her, she would disguise nothing, conceal
nothing. The veil would be torn aside: the menials in her own house
would tell the tale, and curiosity circulate, and scandal blacken the
story of her early errors. No, Maltravers, at least wait awhile before
you see her; wait till her mind can be prepared for such an interview,
till precautions can be taken, till you yourself are in a calmer state of
mind."

Maltravers fixed his piercing eyes on Lumley while he thus spoke, and
listened in deep attention.

"It matters not," said he, after a long pause, "whether these be your
real reasons for wishing to defer or prevent a meeting between Alice and
myself. The affliction that has come upon me bursts with too clear and
scorching a blaze of light for me to see any chance of escape or
mitigation. Even if Evelyn were the daughter of Alice by another, she
would be forever separated from me. The mother and the child! there is a
kind of incest even in that thought! But such an alleviation of my
anguish is forbidden to my reason. No, poor Alice, I will not disturb
the repose thou hast won at last! Thou shalt never have the grief to
know that our error has brought upon thy lover so black a doom! All is
over! the world never shall find me again. Nothing is left for me but
the desert and the grave!"

"Speak not so, Ernest," said Lord Vargrave, soothingly; "a little while,
and you will recover this blow: your control over passion has, even in
youth, inspired me with admiration and surprise; and now, in calmer
years, and with such incentives to self-mastery, your triumph will come
sooner than you think. Evelyn, too, is so young; she has not known you
long; perhaps her love, after all, is that caused by some mystic, but
innocent working of nature, and she would rejoice to call you 'father.'
Happy years are yet in store for you."

Maltravers did not listen to these vain and hollow consolations. With
his head drooping on his bosom, his whole form unnerved, the large tears
rolling unheeded down his cheeks, he seemed the very picture of a
broken-hearted man, whom fate never again could raise from despair. He,
who had, for years, so cased himself in pride, on whose very front was
engraved the victory over passion and misfortune, whose step had trod the
earth in the royalty of the conqueror; the veriest slave that crawls bore
not a spirit more humbled, fallen, or subdued! He who had looked with
haughty eyes on the infirmities of others, who had disdained to serve his
race because of their human follies and partial frailties,--_he_, even
_he_, the Pharisee of Genius,--had but escaped by a chance, and by the
hand of the man he suspected and despised, from a crime at which nature
herself recoils,--which all law, social and divine, stigmatizes as
inexpiable, which the sternest imagination of the very heathen had
invented as the gloomiest catastrophe that can befall the wisdom and the
pride of mortals! But one step farther, and the fabulous OEdipus had not
been more accursed!

Such thoughts as these, unformed, confused, but strong enough to bow him
to the dust, passed through the mind of this wretched man. He had been
familiar with grief, he had been dull to enjoyment; sad and bitter
memories had consumed his manhood: but pride had been left him still; and
he had dared in his secret heart to say, "I can defy Fate!" Now the bolt
had fallen; Pride was shattered into fragments, Self-abasement was his
companion, Shame sat upon his prostrate soul. The Future had no hope
left in store. Nothing was left for him but to die!

Lord Vargrave gazed at him in real pain, in sincere compassion; for his
nature, wily, deceitful, perfidious though it was, had cruelty only so
far as was necessary to the unrelenting execution of his schemes. No
pity could swerve him from a purpose; but he had enough of the man within
him to feel pity not the less, even for his own victim! At length
Maltravers lifted his head, and waved his hand gently to Lord Vargrave.

"All is now explained," said he, in a feeble voice; "our interview is
over. I must be alone; I have yet to collect my reason, to commune
calmly and deliberately with myself; I have to write to her--to invent,
to lie,--I, who believed I could never, never utter, even to an enemy,
what was false! And I must not soften the blow to her. I must not utter
a word of love,--love, it is incest! I must endeavour brutally to crush
out the very affection I created! She must hate me!--oh, _teach_ her to
hate me! Blacken my name, traduce my motives,--let her believe them
levity or perfidy, what you will. So will she forget me the sooner; so
will she the easier bear the sorrow which the father brings upon the
child. And _she_ has not sinned! O Heaven, the sin was mine! Let my
punishment be a sacrifice that Thou wilt accept for her!"

Lord Vargrave attempted again to console; but this time the words died
upon his lips. His arts failed him. Maltravers turned impatiently away
and pointed to the door.

"I will see you again," said he, "before I quit Paris; leave your address
below."

Vargrave was not, perhaps, unwilling to terminate a scene so painful: he
muttered a few incoherent words, and abruptly withdrew. He heard the
door locked behind him as he departed. Ernest Maltravers was
alone!--what a solitude!

CHAPTER IV.

PITY me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.--_Hamlet_.

LETTER FROM ERNEST MALTRAVERS TO EVELYN CAMERON.

EVELYN!

All that you have read of faithlessness and perfidy will seem tame to you
when compared with that conduct which you are doomed to meet from me. We
must part, and for ever. We have seen each other for the last time. It
is bootless even to ask the cause. Believe that I am fickle, false,
heartless,--that a whim has changed me, if you will. My resolve is
unalterable. We meet no more even as friends. I do not ask you either
to forgive or to remember me. Look on me as one wholly unworthy even of
resentment! Do not think that I write this in madness or in fever or
excitement. Judge me not by my seeming illness this morning. I invent
no excuse, no extenuation, for my broken faith and perjured vows.
Calmly, coldly, and deliberately I write; and thus writing, I renounce
your love.

This language is wanton cruelty,--it is fiendish insult,--is it not,
Evelyn? Am I not a villain? Are you not grateful for your escape? Do
you not look on the past with a shudder at the precipice on which you
stood?

I have done with this subject,--I turn to another. We are parted,
Evelyn, and forever. Do not fancy,--I repeat, do not fancy that there is
any error, any strange infatuation on my mind, that there is any
possibility that the sentence can be annulled. It were almost easier to
call the dead from the grave than bring us again together, as we were and
as we hoped to be. Now that you are convinced of that truth, learn, as
soon as you have recovered the first shock of knowing how much wickedness
there is on earth,--learn to turn to the future for happier and more
suitable ties than those you could have formed with me. You are very
young; in youth our first impressions are lively but evanescent,--you
will wonder hereafter at having fancied you loved me. Another and a
fairer image will replace mine. This is what I desire and pray for. _As
soon as I learn that you love another, that you are wedded to another, I
will re-appear in the world; till then, I am a wanderer and an exile.
Your hand alone can efface from my brow the brand of Cain!_ When I am
gone, Lord Vargrave will probably renew his suit. I would rather you
married one of your own years,--one whom you could love fondly, one who
would chase away every remembrance of the wretch who now forsakes you.
But perhaps I have mistaken Lord Vargrave's character; perhaps he may be
worthier of you than I deemed (_I_ who set up for the censor of other
men!); perhaps he may both win and deserve your affection.

Evelyn, farewell! God, who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, will
watch over you!

ERNEST MALTRAVERS.

CHAPTER V.

OUR acts our angels are, or good or ill,
The fatal shadows that walk by us still.--JOHN FLETCHER.

THE next morning came; the carriage was at the door of Maltravers, to
bear him away he cared not whither. Where could he fly from memory? He
had just despatched the letter to Evelyn,--a letter studiously written
for the object of destroying all the affection to which he had so fondly
looked as the last charm of life. He was now only waiting for Vargrave,
to whom he had sent, and who hastened to obey the summons.

When Lumley arrived, he was shocked at the alteration which a single
night had effected in the appearance of Maltravers; but he was surprised
and relieved to find him calm and self-possessed.

"Vargrave," said Maltravers, "whatever our past coldness, henceforth I
owe to you an eternal gratitude; and henceforth this awful secret makes
between us an indissoluble bond. If I have understood you rightly,
neither Alice nor other living being than yourself know that in me,
Ernest Maltravers, stands the guilty object of Alice's first love. Let
that secret still be kept; relieve Alice's mind from the apprehension of
learning that the man who betrayed her yet lives: he will not live long!
I leave time and method of explanation to your own judgment and
acuteness. Now for Evelyn." Here Maltravers stated generally the tone
of the letter he had written. Vargrave listened thoughtfully.

"Maltravers," said he, "it is right to try first the effect of your
letter. But if it fail, if it only serve to inflame the imagination and
excite the interest, if Evelyn still continue to love you, if that love
preys upon her, if it should undermine health and spirit, if it should
destroy her?"

Maltravers groaned. Lumley proceeded: "I say this not to wound you, but
to provide against all circumstances. I too have spent the night in
revolving what is best to be done in such a case; and this is the plan I
have formed. Let us, if need be, tell the truth to Evelyn, robbing the
truth only of its shame. Nay, nay, listen. Why not say that under a
borrowed name and in the romance of early youth you knew and loved Alice
(though in innocence and honour)? Your tender age, the difference of
rank, forbade your union. Her father, discovering your clandestine
correspondence, suddenly removed her from the country, and destroyed all
clew for your inquiries. You lost sight of each other,--each was taught
to believe the other dead. Alice was compelled by her father to marry
Mr. Cameron; and after his death, her poverty and her love for her only
child induced her to accept my uncle. You have now learned all,--have
learned that Evelyn is the daughter of your first love, the daughter of
one who adores you still, and whose life your remembrance has for so many
years embittered. Evelyn herself will at once comprehend all the
scruples of a delicate mind; Evelyn herself will recoil from the thought
of making the child the rival to the mother. She will understand why you
have flown from her; she will sympathize with your struggles; she will
recall the constant melancholy of Alice; she will hope that the ancient
love may be renewed, and efface all grief; Generosity and Duty alike will
urge her to conquer her own affection! And hereafter, when time has
restored you both, father and child may meet with such sentiments as
father and child may own!"

Maltravers was silent for some minutes; at length he said abruptly, "And
you really loved her, Vargrave,--you love her still? Your dearest care
must be her welfare."

"It is! indeed, it is!"

"Then I must trust to your discretion; I can have no other confidant; I
myself am not fit to judge. My mind is darkened--you may be right--I
think so."

"One word more,--she may discredit my tale, if unsupported. Will you
write one line to me to say that I am authorized to reveal the secret,
and that it is known only to me? I will not use it unless I should think
it absolutely required."

Hastily and mechanically Maltravers wrote a few words to the effect of
what Lumley had suggested. "I will inform you," he said to Vargrave as
he gave him the paper, "of whatever spot may become my asylum; and you
can communicate to me all that I dread and long to hear; but let no man
know the refuge of despair!"

There was positively a tear in Vargrave's cold eye,--the only tear that
had glistened there for many years; he paused irresolute, then advanced,
again halted, muttered to himself, and turned aside.

"As for the world," Lumley resumed, after a pause, "your engagement has
been public,--some public account of its breach must be invented. You
have always been considered a proud man; we will say that it was low
birth on the side of both mother and father (the last only just
discovered) that broke off the alliance!"

Vargrave was talking to the deaf; what cared Maltravers for the world?
He hastened from the room, threw himself into his carriage, and Vargrave
was left to plot, to hope, and to aspire.

BOOK X.

"A dream!"--HOMER, I, 3.

CHAPTER I.

QUALIS ubi in lucem coluber
. . . Mala gramina pastus.*--VIRGIL.

Pars minima est ipsa puella sui.**--OVID.

* "As when a snake glides into light, having fed on pernicious
pastures."

** "The girl is the least part of himself."

IT would be superfluous, and, perhaps, a sickening task, to detail at
length the mode and manner in which Vargrave coiled his snares round the
unfortunate girl whom his destiny had marked out for his prey. He was
right in foreseeing that, after the first amazement caused by the letter
of Maltravers, Evelyn would feel resentment crushed beneath her certainty
of his affection her incredulity at his self-accusations, and her secret
conviction that some reverse, some misfortune he was unwilling she should
share, was the occasion of his farewell and flight. Vargrave therefore
very soon communicated to Evelyn the tale he had suggested to Maltravers.
He reminded her of the habitual sorrow, the evidence of which was so
visible in Lady Vargrave; of her indifference to the pleasures of the
world; of her sensitive shrinking from all recurrence to her early fate.
"The secret of this," said he, "is in a youthful and most fervent
attachment; your mother loved a young stranger above her in rank, who
(his head being full of German romance) was then roaming about the
country on pedestrian and adventurous excursions, under the assumed name
of Butler. By him she was most ardently beloved in return. Her father,
perhaps, suspected the rank of her lover, and was fearful of her honour
being compromised. He was a strange man, that father! and I know not his
real character and motives; but he suddenly withdrew his daughter from
the suit and search of her lover,--they saw each other no more; her lover
mourned her as one dead. In process of time your mother was constrained
by her father to marry Mr. Cameron, and was left a widow with an only
child,--yourself: she was poor;--very poor! and her love and anxiety for
you at last induced her to listen to the addresses of my late uncle; for
your sake she married again; again death dissolved the tie! But still,
unceasingly and faithfully, she recalled that first love, the memory of
which darkened and embittered all her life, and still she lived upon the
hope to meet with the lost again. At last, and most recently, it was my
fate to discover that the object of this unconquerable affection
lived,--was still free in hand if not in heart: you behold the lover of
your mother in Ernest Maltravers! It devolved on me (an invidious--a
reluctant duty) to inform Maltravers of the identity of Lady Vargrave
with the Alice of his boyish passion; to prove to him her suffering,
patient, unsubdued affection; to convince him that the sole hope left to
her in life was that of one day or other beholding him once again. You
know Maltravers,--his high-wrought, sensitive, noble character; he
recoiled in terror from the thought of making his love to the daughter
the last and bitterest affliction to the mother he had so loved; knowing
too how completely that mother had entwined herself round your
affections, he shuddered at the pain and self-reproach that would be
yours when you should discover to whom you had been the rival, and whose
the fond hopes and dreams that your fatal beauty had destroyed.
Tortured, despairing, and half beside himself, he has fled from this
ill-omened passion, and in solitude he now seeks to subdue that passion.
Touched by the woe, the grief, of the Alice of his youth, it is his
intention, as soon as he can know you restored to happiness and content,
to hasten to your mother, and offer his future devotion as the fulfilment
of former vows. On you, and you alone, it depends to restore Maltravers
to the world,--on you alone it depends to bless the remaining years of
the mother who so dearly loves you!"

It may be easily conceived with what sensations of wonder, compassion,
and dismay, Evelyn listened to this tale, the progress of which her
exclamations, her sobs, often interrupted. She would write instantly to
her mother, to Maltravers. Oh, how gladly she would relinquish his suit:
How cheerfully promise to rejoice in that desertion which brought
happiness to the mother she had so loved!

"Nay," said Vargrave, "your mother must not know, till the intelligence
can be breathed by his lips, and softened by his protestations of
returning affection, that the mysterious object of her early romance is
that Maltravers whose vows have been so lately offered to her own child.
Would not such intelligence shock all pride, and destroy all hope? How
could she then consent to the sacrifice which Maltravers is prepared to
make? No! not till you are another's--not (to use the words of
Maltravers) till you are a happy and beloved wife--must your mother
receive the returning homage of Maltravers; not till then can she know
where that homage has been recently rendered; not till then can
Maltravers feel justified in the atonement he meditates. He is willing
to sacrifice himself; he trembles at the thought of sacrificing you! Say
nothing to your mother, till from her own lips she tells you that she has
learned all."

Could Evelyn hesitate; could Evelyn doubt? To allay the fears, to fulfil
the prayers of the man whose conduct appeared so generous, to restore him
to peace and the world; above all, to pluck from the heart of that
beloved and gentle mother the rankling dart, to shed happiness over her
fate, to reunite her with the loved and lost,--what sacrifice too great
for this?

Ah, why was Legard absent? Why did she believe him capricious, light,
and false? Why had she shut her softest thoughts from her soul? But
he--the true lover--was afar, and his true love unknown! and Vargrave,
the watchful serpent, was at hand.

In a fatal hour, and in the transport of that enthusiasm which inspires
alike our more rash and our more sublime deeds, which makes us alike
dupes and martyrs,--the enthusiasm that tramples upon self, that forfeits
all things to a high-wrought zeal for others, Evelyn consented to become
the wife of Vargrave! Nor was she at first sensible of the
sacrifice,--sensible of anything but the glow of a noble spirit and an
approving conscience. Yes, thus, and thus alone, did she obey both
duties,--that, which she had well-nigh abandoned, to her dead benefactor,
and that to the living mother. Afterwards came a dread reaction; and
then, at last, that passive and sleep-like resignation, which is Despair
under a milder name. Yes,--such a lot had been predestined from the
first; in vain had she sought to fly it: Fate had overtaken her, and she
must submit to the decree!

She was most anxious that the intelligence of the new bond might be
transmitted instantly to Maltravers. Vargrave promised, but took care
not to perform. He was too acute not to know that in so sudden a step
Evelyn's motives would be apparent, and his own suit indelicate and
ungenerous. He was desirous that Maltravers should learn nothing till
the vows had been spoken, and the indissoluble chain forged. Afraid to
leave Evelyn, even for a day, afraid to trust her in England to an
interview with her mother,--he remained at Paris, and hurried on all the
requisite preparations. He sent to Douce, who came in person, with the
deeds necessary for the transfer of the money for the purchase of Lisle
Court, which was now to be immediately completed. The money was to be
lodged in Mr. Douce's bank till the lawyers had completed their
operations; and in a few weeks, when Evelyn had attained the allotted
age, Vargrave trusted to see himself lord alike of the betrothed bride,
and the hereditary lands of the crushed Maltravers. He refrained from
stating to Evelyn who was the present proprietor of the estate to become
hers; he foresaw all the objections she would form;--and, indeed, she was
unable to think, to talk, of such matters. One favour she had asked, and
it had been granted,--that she was to be left unmolested to her solitude
till the fatal day. Shut up in her lonely room, condemned not to confide
her thoughts, to seek for sympathy even in her mother,--the poor girl in
vain endeavoured to keep up to the tenor of her first enthusiasm, and
reconcile herself to a step, which, however, she was heroine enough not
to retract or to repent, even while she recoiled from its contemplation.

Lady Doltimore, amazed at what had passed,--at the flight of Maltravers,
the success of Lumley,--unable to account for it, to extort explanation
from Vargrave or from Evelyn, was distracted by the fear of some
villanous deceit which she could not fathom. To escape herself she
plunged yet more eagerly into the gay vortex. Vargrave, suspicious, and
fearful of trusting to what she might say in her nervous and excited
temper if removed from his watchful eye, deemed himself compelled to
hover round her. His manner, his conduct, were most guarded; but
Caroline herself, jealous, irritated, unsettled, evinced at times a right
both to familiarity and anger, which drew upon her and himself the sly
vigilance of slander. Meanwhile Lord Doltimore, though too cold and
proud openly to notice what passed around him, seemed disturbed and
anxious. His manner to Vargrave was distant; he shunned all
_tete-a-tetes_ with his wife. Little, however, of this did Lumley heed.
A few weeks more, and all would be well and safe. Vargrave did not
publish his engagement with Evelyn: he sought carefully to conceal it
till the very day was near at hand; but it was whispered abroad; some
laughed, some believed. Evelyn herself was seen nowhere. De Montaigne
had, at first, been indignantly incredulous at the report that Maltravers
had broken off a connection he had so desired from a motive so weak and
unworthy as that of mere family pride. A letter from Maltravers, who
confided to him and Vargrave alone the secret of his retreat, reluctantly
convinced him that the wise are but pompous fools; he was angry and
disgusted; and still more so when Valerie and Teresa (for female friends
stand by us right or wrong) hinted at excuses, or surmised that other
causes lurked behind the one alleged. But his thoughts were much drawn
from this subject by increasing anxiety for Cesarini, whose abode and
fate still remained an alarming mystery.

It so happened that Lord Doltimore, who had always had a taste for the
antique, and who was greatly displeased with his own family-seat because
it was comfortable and modern, fell, from _ennui_, into a habit,
fashionable enough in Paris, of buying curiosities and cabinets,--
high-back chairs and oak-carvings; and with this habit returned the
desire and the affection for Burleigh. Understanding from Lumley that
Maltravers had probably left his native land forever, he imagined it
extremely probable that the latter would now consent to the sale,
and he begged Vargrave to forward a letter from him to that effect.

Vargrave made some excuse, for he felt that nothing could be more
indelicate than such an application forwarded through his hands at such a
time; and Doltimore, who had accidentally heard De Montaigne confess that
he knew the address of Maltravers, quietly sent his letter to the
Frenchman, and, without mentioning its contents, begged him to forward
it. De Montaigne did so. Now it is very strange how slight men and
slight incidents bear on the great events of life; but that simple letter
was instrumental to a new revolution in the strange history of
Maltravers.

CHAPTER II.

QUID frustra simulacra fugacia captas?--
Quod petis est nusquam.*--OVID: _Met._ iii. 432.

* "Why, in vain, do you catch at fleeting shadows?
That which you seek is nowhere."

TO no clime dedicated to the indulgence of majestic griefs or to the soft
melancholy of regret--not to thy glaciers, or thy dark-blue lakes,
beautiful Switzerland, mother of many exiles; nor to thy fairer earth and
gentler heaven, sweet Italy,--fled the agonized Maltravers. Once, in his
wanderings, he had chanced to pass by a landscape so steeped in sullen
and desolate gloom, that it had made a powerful and uneffaced impression
upon his mind: it was amidst those swamps and morasses that formerly
surrounded the castle of Gil de Retz, the ambitious Lord, the dreaded
Necromancer, who perished at the stake, after a career of such power and
splendour as seemed almost to justify the dark belief in his
preternatural agencies.*

* See, for description of this scenery, and the fate of De Retz,
the high-wrought and glowing romance by Mr. Ritchie called
"The Magician."

Here, in a lonely and wretched inn, remote from other habitations,
Maltravers fixed himself. In gentler griefs there is a sort of luxury in
bodily discomfort; in his inexorable and unmitigated anguish, bodily
discomfort was not felt. There is a kind of magnetism in extreme woe, by
which the body itself seems laid asleep, and knows no distinction between
the bed of Damiens and the rose-couch of the Sybarite. He left his
carriage and servants at a post-house some miles distant. He came to
this dreary abode alone; and in that wintry season, and that most
disconsolate scene, his gloomy soul found something congenial, something
that did not mock him, in the frowns of the haggard and dismal Nature.
Vain would it be to describe what he then felt, what he then endured.
Suffice it that, through all, the diviner strength of man was not wholly
crushed, and that daily, nightly, hourly, he prayed to the Great
Comforter to assist him in wrestling against a guilty love. No man
struggles so honestly, so ardently as he did, utterly in vain; for in us
all, if we would but cherish it, there is a spirit that must rise at
last--a crowned, if bleeding conqueror--over Fate and all the Demons!

One day after a prolonged silence from Vargrave, whose letters all
breathed comfort and assurance in Evelyn's progressive recovery of spirit
and hope, his messenger returned from the post-town with a letter in the
hand of De Montaigne. It contained, in a blank envelope (De Montaigne's
silence told him how much he had lost in the esteem of his friend), the
communication of Lord Doltimore. It ran thus:--

MY DEAR SIR,--As I hear that your plans are likely to make you a long
resident on the Continent, may I again inquire if you would be induced to
dispose of Burleigh? I am willing to give more than its real value, and
would raise a mortgage on my own property sufficient to pay off, at once,
the whole purchase-money. Perhaps you may be the more induced to the
sale from the circumstance of having an example in the head of your
family, Colonel Maltravers, as I learn through Lord Vargrave, having
resolved to dispose of Lisle Court. Waiting your answer,

I am, dear Sir, truly yours,

DOLTIMORE.

"Ay," said Maltravers, bitterly, crushing the letter in his hand, "let
our name be blotted out from the land, and our hearths pass to the
stranger. How could I ever visit the place where I first saw _her_?"

He resolved at once,--he would write to England, and place the matter in
the hands of agents. This was but a short-lived diversion to his
thoughts, and their cloudy darkness soon gathered round him again.

What I am now about to relate may appear, to a hasty criticism, to savour
of the Supernatural; but it is easily accounted for by ordinary agencies,
and it is strictly to the letter of the truth.

In his sleep that night a dream appeared to Maltravers. He thought he
was alone in the old library at Burleigh, and gazing on the portrait of
his mother; as he so gazed, he fancied that a cold and awful tremor
seized upon him, that he in vain endeavoured to withdraw his eyes from
the canvas--his sight was chained there by an irresistible spell. Then
it seemed to him that the portrait gradually changed,--the features the
same, but the bloom vanished into a white and ghastly hue; the colours of
the dress faded, their fashion grew more large and flowing, but heavy and
rigid as if cut in stone,--the robes of the grave. But on the face there
was a soft and melancholy smile, that took from its livid aspect the
natural horror; the lips moved, and, it seemed as if without a sound, the
released soul spoke to that which the earth yet owned.

"Return," it said, "to thy native land, and thine own home. Leave not
the last relic of her who bore and yet watches over thee to stranger
hands. Thy good Angel shall meet thee at thy hearth!"

The voice ceased. With a violent effort Maltravers broke the spell that
had forbidden his utterance. He called aloud, and the dream vanished: he
was broad awake, his hair erect, the cold dews on his brow. The pallet,
rather than bed on which he lay, was opposite to the window, and the
wintry moonlight streamed wan and spectral into the cheerless room. But
between himself and the light there seemed to stand a shape, a shadow,
that into which the portrait had changed in his dream,--that which had

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