Part 9 out of 9
embers of the fire, which threw a dim ghastly light over the chamber,
fell fast asleep. The clock struck the first hour of morning, and in
that house all seemed still.
The next morning, Maltravers was disturbed from his slumber by De
Montaigne, who, arriving, as was often his wont, at an early hour from
his villa, had found Ernest's note of the previous evening.
Maltravers rose and dressed himself; and while De Montaigne was yet
listening to the account which his friend gave of his adventure with
Cesarini, and the unhappy man's accusation of his accomplice, Ernest's
servant entered the room very abruptly.
"Sir," said he, "I thought you might like to know. What is to be done?
The whole hotel is in confusion, Mr. Howard has been sent for, and Lord
Doltimore. So very strange, so sudden!"
"What is the matter? Speak plain."
"Lord Vargrave, sir,--poor Lord Vargrave--"
"Yes, sir; the master of the hotel, hearing you knew his lordship, would
be so glad if you would come down. Lord Vargrave, sir, is dead,--found
dead in his bed!"
Maltravers was rooted to the spot with amaze and horror. Dead! and but
last night so full of life and schemes and hope and ambition.
As soon as he recovered himself, he hurried to the spot, and De Montaigne
followed. The latter, as they descended the stairs, laid his hand on
Ernest's arm and detained him.
"Did you say that Castruccio left the apartment while Vargrave was with
you, and almost immediately after his narrative of Vargrave's instigation
to his crime?"
The eyes of the friends met; a terrible suspicion possessed both. "No;
it is impossible!" exclaimed Maltravers. "How could he obtain entrance,
how pass Lord Vargrave's servants? No, no; think of it not!"
They hurried down the stairs; they reached the other door of Vargrave's
apartment. The notice to Howard, with the name of Vargrave underscored,
was still on the panels. De Montaigne saw and shuddered.
They were in the room by the bedside. A group were collected round; they
gave way as the Englishman and his friend approached; and the eyes of
Maltravers suddenly rested on the face of Lord Vargrave, which was
locked, rigid, and convulsed.
There was a buzz of voices which had ceased at the entrance of
Maltravers; it was now renewed. A surgeon had been summoned--the nearest
surgeon,--a young Englishman of no great repute or name. He was making
inquiries as he bent over the corpse.
"Yes, sir," said Lord Vargrave's servant, "his lordship told me to call
him at nine o'clock. I came in at that hour, but his lordship did not
move nor answer me. I then looked to see if he were very sound asleep,
and I saw that the pillows had got somehow over his face, and his head
seemed to lie very low; so I moved the pillows, and I saw that his
lordship was dead."
"Sir," said the surgeon, turning to Maltravers, "you were a friend of his
lordship, I hear. I have already sent for Mr. Howard and Lord Doltimore.
Shall I speak with you a minute?"
Maltravers nodded assent. The surgeon cleared the room of all but
himself, De Montaigne, and Maltravers.
"Has that servant lived long with Lord Vargrave?" asked the surgeon.
"I believe so,--yes; I recollect his face. Why?"
"And you think him safe and honest?"
"I don't know; I know nothing of him."
"Look here, sir,"--and the surgeon pointed to a slight discoloration on
one side the throat of the dead man. "This may be accidental--purely
natural; his lordship may have died in a fit; there are no certain marks
of outward violence, but murder by suffocation might still--"
"But who besides the servant could gain admission? Was the outer door
"The servant can take oath that he shut the door before going to bed, and
that no one was with his lordship, or in the rooms, when Lord Vargrave
retired to rest. Entrance from the windows is impossible. Mind, sir, I
do not think I have any right to suspect any one. His lordship had been
in very ill health a short time before; had had, I hear, a rush of blood
to the head. Certainly, if the servant be innocent, we can suspect no
one else. You had better send for more experienced practitioners."
De Montaigne, who had hitherto said nothing, now looked with a hurried
glance around the room: he perceived the closet-door, which was ajar, and
rushed to it, as by an involuntary impulse. The closet was large, but a
considerable pile of wood, and some lumber of odd chairs and tables, took
up a great part of the space. De Montaigne searched behind and amidst
this litter with trembling haste,--no trace of secreted murder was
visible. He returned to the bedroom with a satisfied and relieved
expression of countenance. He then compelled himself to approach the
body, from which he had hitherto recoiled.
"Sir," said he, almost harshly, as he turned to the surgeon, "what idle
doubts are these? Cannot men die in their beds, of sudden death, no
blood to stain their pillows, no loop-hole for crime to pass through, but
we must have science itself startling us with silly terrors? As for the
servant, I will answer for his innocence; his manner, his voice attest
it." The surgeon drew back, abashed and humbled, and began to apologize,
to qualify, when Lord Doltimore abruptly entered.
"Good heavens!" said he, "what is this? What do I hear? Is it possible?
Dead! So suddenly!" He cast a hurried glance at the body, shivered, and
sickened, and threw himself into a chair, as if to recover the shock.
When again he removed his hand from his face, he saw lying before him on
the table an open note. The character was familiar; his own name struck
his eye,--it was the note which Caroline had sent the day before. As no
one heeded him, Lord Doltimore read on, and possessed himself of the
proof of his wife's guilt unseen.
The surgeon, now turning from De Montaigne, who had been rating him
soundly for the last few moments, addressed himself to Lord Doltimore.
"Your lordship," said he, "was, I hear, Lord Vargrave's most intimate
friend at Paris."
"I _his_ intimate friend?" said Doltimore, colouring highly, and in a
disdainful accent. "Sir, you are misinformed."
"Have you no orders to give, then, my lord?"
"None, sir. My presence here is quite useless. Good-day to you,
"With whom, then, do the last duties rest?" said the surgeon, turning to
Maltravers and De Montaigne. "With the late lord's secretary?--I expect
him every moment; and here he is, I suppose,"--as Mr. Howard, pale, and
evidently overcome by his agitation, entered the apartment. Perhaps, of
all the human beings whom the ambitious spirit of that senseless clay had
drawn around it by the webs of interest, affection, or intrigue, that
young man, whom it had never been a temptation to Vargrave to deceive or
injure, and who missed only the gracious and familiar patron, mourned
most his memory, and defended most his character. The grief of the poor
secretary was now indeed overmastering. He sobbed and wept like a child.
When Maltravers retired from the chamber of death, De Montaigne
accompanied him; but soon quitting him again, as Ernest bent his way to
Evelyn, he quietly rejoined Mr. Howard, who readily grasped at his offers
of aid in the last melancholy duties and directions.
IF we do meet again, why, we shall smile.--_Julius Caesar_.
THE interview with Evelyn was long and painful. It was reserved for
Maltravers to break to her the news of the sudden death of Lord Vargrave,
which shocked her unspeakably; and this, which made their first topic,
removed much constraint and deadened much excitement in those which
Vargrave's death served also to relieve Maltravers from a most anxious
embarrassment. He need no longer fear that Alice would be degraded in
the eyes of Evelyn. Henceforth the secret that identified the erring
Alice Darvil with the spotless Lady Vargrave was safe, known only to Mrs.
Leslie and to Aubrey. In the course of nature, all chance of its
disclosure must soon die with them; and should Alice at last become his
wife, and should Cleveland suspect (which was not probable) that
Maltravers had returned to his first love, he knew that he might depend
on the inviolable secrecy of his earliest friend.
The tale that Vargrave had told to Evelyn of his early--but, according to
that tale, guiltless--passion for Alice, he tacitly confirmed; and he
allowed that the recollection of her virtues, and the intelligence of her
sorrows and unextinguishable affection, had made him recoil from a
marriage with her supposed daughter. He then proceeded to amaze his
young listener with the account of the mode in which he had discovered
her real parentage, of which the banker had left it to Alice's discretion
to inform her, after she had attained the age of eighteen. And then,
simply, but with manly and ill-controlled emotion, he touched upon the
joy of Alice at beholding him again, upon the endurance and fervour of
her love, upon her revulsion of feeling at learning that, in her
unforgotten lover, she beheld the recent suitor of her adopted child.
"And now," said Maltravers, in conclusion, "the path to both of us
remains the same. To Alice is our first duty. The discovery I have made
of your real parentage does not diminish the claims which Alice has on
me, does not lessen the grateful affection that is due to her from
yourself. Yes, Evelyn, we are not the less separated forever. But when
I learned the wilful falsehood which the unhappy man, now hurried to his
last account, to whom your birth was known, had imposed upon me,--namely,
that you were the child of Alice,--and when I learned also that you had
been hurried into accepting his hand, I trembled at your union with one
so false and base. I came hither resolved to frustrate his schemes and
to save you from an alliance, the motives of which I foresaw, and to
which my own letter, my own desertion, had perhaps urged you. New
villanies on the part of this most perverted man came to my ear: but he
is dead; let us spare his memory. For you--oh, still let me deem myself
your friend,--your more than brother; let me hope now that I have planted
no thorn in that breast, and that your affection does not shrink from the
cold word of friendship."
"Of all the wonders that you have told me," answered Evelyn, as soon as
she could recover the power of words, "my most poignant sorrow is, that I
have no rightful claim to give a daughter's love to her whom I shall ever
idolize as my mother. Oh, now I see why I thought her affection measured
and lukewarm. And have I--I destroyed her joy at seeing you again? But
you--you will hasten to console, to reassure her! She loves you
still,--she will be happy at last; and that--that thought--oh, that
thought compensates for all!"
There was so much warmth and simplicity in Evelyn's artless manner, it
was so evident that her love for him had not been of that ardent nature
which would at first have superseded every other thought in the anguish
of losing him forever, that the scale fell from the eyes of Maltravers,
and he saw at once that his own love had blinded him to the true
character of hers. He was human; and a sharp pang shot across his
breast. He remained silent for some moments; and then resumed,
compelling himself as he spoke to fix his eyes steadfastly on hers.
"And now, Evelyn--still may I so call you?--I have a duty to discharge to
another. You are loved"--and he smiled, but the smile was sad--"by a
younger and more suitable lover than I am. From noble and generous
motives he suppressed that love,--he left you to a rival; the rival
removed, dare he venture to explain to you his own conduct, and plead his
own motives? George Legard--" Maltravers paused. The cheek on which he
gazed was tinged with a soft blush, Evelyn's eyes were downcast, there
was a slight heaving beneath the robe.
Maltravers suppressed a sigh and continued. He narrated his interview
with Legard at Dover; and, passing lightly over what had chanced at
Venice, dwelt with generous eloquence on the magnanimity with which his
rival's gratitude had been displayed. Evelyn's eyes sparkled, and the
smile just visited the rosy lips and vanished again. The worst because
it was the least selfish fear of Maltravers was gone, and no vain doubt
of Evelyn's too keen regret remained to chill his conscience in obeying
its earliest and strongest duties.
"Farewell!" he said, as he rose to depart; "I will at once return to
London, and assist in the effort to save your fortune from this general
wreck: LIFE calls us back to its cares and business--farewell, Evelyn!
Aubrey will, I trust, remain with you still."
"Remain! Can I not return then to my--to her--yes, let me call her
"Evelyn," said Maltravers, in a very low voice, "spare me, spare her that
pain! Are we yet fit to--" He paused; Evelyn comprehended him, and
hiding her face with her hands, burst into tears.
When Maltravers left the room, he was met by Aubrey, who, drawing him
aside, told him that Lord Doltimore had just informed him that it was not
his intention to remain at Paris, and had more than delicately hinted at
a wish for the departure of Miss Cameron. In this emergency, Maltravers
bethought himself of Madame de Ventadour.
No house in Paris was a more eligible refuge, no friend more zealous; no
protector would be more kind, no adviser more sincere. To her then he
hastened. He briefly informed her of Vargrave's sudden death; and
suggested that for Evelyn to return at once to a sequestered village in
England might be a severe trial to spirits already broken; and declared
truly, that though his marriage with Evelyn was broken off, her welfare
was no less dear to him than heretofore. At his first hint, Valerie, who
took a cordial interest in Evelyn for her own sake, ordered her carriage,
and drove at once to Lady Doltimore's. His lordship was out, her
ladyship was ill, in her own room, could see no one, not even her guest.
Evelyn in vain sent up to request an interview; and at last, contenting
herself with an affectionate note of farewell, accompanied Aubrey to the
home of her new hostess.
Gratified at least to know her with one who would be sure to win her
affection and soothe her spirits, Maltravers set out on his solitary
return to England.
Whatever suspicious circumstances might or might not have attended the
death of Lord Vargrave, certain it is that no evidence confirmed and no
popular rumour circulated them. His late illness, added to the supposed
shock of the loss of the fortune he had anticipated with Miss Cameron,
aided by the simultaneous intelligence of the defeat of the party with
whom it was believed he had indissolubly entwined his ambition, sufficed
to account satisfactorily enough for the melancholy event. De Montaigne,
who had been long, though not intimately, acquainted with the deceased,
took upon himself all the necessary arrangements, and superintended the
funeral; after which ceremony, Howard returned to London; and in Paris,
as in the grave, all things are forgotten! But still in De Montaigne's
breast there dwelt a horrible fear. As soon as he had learned from
Maltravers the charge the maniac brought against Vargrave, there came
upon him the recollection of that day when Cesarini had attempted De
Montaigne's life, evidently mistaking him in his delirium for
another,--and the sullen, cunning, and ferocious character which the
insanity had ever afterwards assumed. He had learned from Howard that
the outer door had been left ajar when Lord Vargrave was with Maltravers.
The writing on the panel, the name of Vargrave, would have struck
Castruccio's eye as he descended the stairs; the servant was from home,
the apartments deserted; he might have won his way into the bedchamber,
concealed himself in the _armoire_, and in the dead of the night, and in
the deep and helpless sleep of his victim, have done the deed. What need
of weapons--the suffocating pillows would stop speech and life. What so
easy as escape,--to pass into the anteroom; to unbolt the door; to
descend into the courtyard; to give the signal to the porter in his
lodge, who, without seeing him, would pull the _cordon_, and give him
All this was so possible, so probable.
De Montaigne now withdrew all inquiry for the unfortunate; he trembled at
the thought of discovering him, of verifying his awful suspicions, of
beholding a murderer in the brother of his wife! But he was not doomed
long to entertain fear for Cesarini; he was not fated ever to change
suspicion into certainty. A few days after Lord Vargrave's burial, a
corpse was drawn from the Seine. Some tablets in the pockets, scrawled
over with wild, incoherent verses, gave a clew to the discovery of the
dead man's friends: and, exposed at the Morgue, in that bleached and
altered clay, De Montaigne recognized the remains of Castruccio Cesarini.
"He died and made no sign!"
SINGULA quaeque locum teneant sortita.*--HORACE: _Ars Poetica_.
* "To each lot its appropriate place."
MALTRAVERS and the lawyers were enabled to save from the insolvent bank
but a very scanty portion of that wealth in which Richard Templeton had
rested so much of pride. The title extinct, the fortune gone--so does
Fate laugh at our posthumous ambition! Meanwhile Mr. Douce, with
considerable plunder, had made his way to America: the bank owed nearly
half a million; the purchase money for Lisle Court, which Mr. Douce had
been so anxious to get into his clutches, had not sufficed to stave off
the ruin,--but a great part of it sufficed to procure competence for
himself. How inferior in wit, in acuteness, in stratagem, was Douce to
Vargrave; and yet Douce had gulled him like a child! Well said the
shrewd small philosopher of France--"On peut etre plus fin qu'un autre,
mais pas plus fin que tous les autres."*
* One may be more sharp than one's neighbour, but one can't be
sharper than all one's neighbours.--ROCHEFOUCAULD.
To Legard, whom Maltravers had again encountered at Dover, the latter
related the downfall of Evelyn's fortunes; and Maltravers loved him when
he saw that, far from changing his affection, the loss of wealth seemed
rather to raise his hopes. They parted; and Legard set out for Paris.
But was Maltravers all the while forgetful of Alice? He had not been
twelve hours in London before he committed to a long and truthful letter
all his thoughts, his hopes, his admiring and profound gratitude. Again,
and with solemn earnestness, he implored her to accept his hand, and to
confirm at the altar the tale which had been told to Evelyn. Truly he
said that the shock which his first belief in Vargrave's falsehood had
occasioned, his passionate determination to subdue all trace of a love
then associated with crime and horror, followed so close by his discovery
of Alice's enduring faith and affection, had removed the image of Evelyn
from the throne it had hitherto held in his desires and thoughts; truly
he said that he was now convinced that Evelyn would soon be consoled for
his loss by another, with whom she would be happier than with him; truly
and solemnly he declared that if Alice rejected him still, if even Alice
were no more, his suit to Evelyn never could be renewed, and Alice's
memory would usurp the place of all living love!
Her answer came: it pierced him to the heart. It was so humble, so
grateful, so tender still. Unknown to herself, love yet coloured every
word; but it was love pained, galled, crushed, and trampled on; it was
love, proud from its very depth and purity. His offer was refused.
Months passed away. Maltravers yet trusted to time. The curate had
returned to Brook-Green, and his letters fed Ernest's hopes and assured
his doubts. The more leisure there was left him for reflection, the
fainter became those dazzling and rainbow hues in which Evelyn had been
robed and surrounded, and the brighter the halo that surrounded his
earliest love. The more he pondered on Alice's past history, and the
singular beauty of her faithful attachment, the more he was impressed
with wonder and admiration, the more anxious to secure to his side one to
whom Nature had been so bountiful in all the gifts that make woman the
angel and star of life.
Months passed. From Paris the news that Maltravers received confirmed
all his expectations,--the suit of Legard had replaced his own. It was
then that Maltravers began to consider how far the fortune of Evelyn and
her destined husband was such as to preclude all anxiety for their future
lot. Fortune is so indeterminate in its gauge and measurement. Money,
the most elastic of materials, falls short or exceeds, according to the
extent of our wants and desires. With all Legard's good qualities he was
constitutionally careless and extravagant; and Evelyn was too
inexperienced, and too gentle, perhaps, to correct his tendencies.
Maltravers learned that Legard's income was one that required an economy
which he feared that, in spite of all his reformation, Legard might not
have the self-denial to enforce. After some consideration, he resolved
to add secretly to the remains of Evelyn's fortune such a sum as might,
being properly secured to herself and children, lessen whatever danger
could arise from the possible improvidence of her husband, and guard
against the chance of those embarrassments which are among the worst
disturbers of domestic peace. He was enabled to effect this generosity
unknown to both of them, as if the sum bestowed were collected from the
wrecks of Evelyn's own wealth and the profits of the sale of the houses
in C-----, which of course had not been involved in Douce's bankruptcy.
And then if Alice were ever his, her jointure, which had been secured on
the property appertaining to the villa at Fulham, would devolve upon
Evelyn. Maltravers could never accept what Alice owed to another. Poor
Alice! No! not that modest wealth which you had looked upon complacently
as one day or other to be his.
Lord Doltimore is travelling in the East,--Lady Doltimore, less
adventurous, has fixed her residence in Rome. She has grown thin, and
taken to antiquities and rouge. Her spirits are remarkably high--not an
uncommon effect of laudanum.
CHAPTER THE LAST.
ARRIVED at last
Unto the wished haven.--SHAKSPEARE.
IN the August of that eventful year a bridal party were assembled at the
cottage of Lady Vargrave. The ceremony had just been performed, and
Ernest Maltravers had bestowed upon George Legard the hand of Evelyn
If upon the countenance of him who thus officiated as a father to her he
had once wooed as a bride an observant eye might have noted the trace of
mental struggles, it was the trace of struggles past; and the calm had
once more settled over the silent deeps. He saw from the casement the
carriage that was to bear away the bride to the home of another,--the gay
faces of the village group, whose intrusion was not forbidden, and to
whom that solemn ceremonial was but a joyous pageant; and when he turned
once more to those within the chamber, he felt his hand clasped in
"You have been the preserver of my life, you have been the dispenser of
my earthly happiness; all now left to me to wish for is, that you may
receive from Heaven the blessings you have given to others!"
"Legard, never let her know a sorrow that you can guard her from; and
believe that the husband of Evelyn will be dear to me as a brother!"
And as a brother blesses some younger and orphan sister bequeathed and
intrusted to a care that should replace a father's, so Maltravers laid
his hand lightly on Evelyn's golden tresses, and his lips moved in
prayer. He ceased; he pressed his last kiss upon her forehead, and
placed her hand in that of her young husband. There was silence; and
when to the ear of Maltravers it was broken, it was by the wheels of the
carriage that bore away the wife of George Legard!
The spell was dissolved forever. And there stood before the lonely man
the idol of his early youth, Alice,--still, perhaps, as fair, and once
young and passionate, as Evelyn; pale, changed, but lovelier than of old,
if heavenly patience and holy thought, and the trials that purify and
exalt, can shed over human features something more beautiful than bloom.
The good curate alone was present, besides these two survivors of the
error and the love that make the rapture and the misery of so many of our
kind; and the old man, after contemplating them a moment, stole
"Alice," said Maltravers, and his voice trembled, "hitherto, from motives
too pure and too noble for the practical affections and ties of life, you
have rejected the hand of the lover of your youth. Here again I implore
you to be mine! Give to my conscience the balm of believing that I can
repair to you the evils and the sorrows I have brought upon you. Nay,
weep not; turn not away. Each of us stands alone; each of us needs the
other. In your heart is locked up all my fondest associations, my
brightest memories. In you I see the mirror of what I was when the world
was new, ere I had found how Pleasure palls upon us, and Ambition
deceives! And me, Alice--ah, you love me still! Time and absence have
but strengthened the chain that binds us. By the memory of our early
love, by the grave of our lost child that, had it lived, would have
united its parents, I implore you to be mine!"
"Too generous!" said Alice, almost sinking beneath the emotions that
shook that gentle spirit and fragile form, "how can I suffer your
_compassion_--for it is but compassion--to deceive yourself? You are of
another station than I believed you. How can you raise the child of
destitution and guilt to your own rank? And shall I--I--who, Heaven
knows! would save you from all regret--bring to you now, when years have
so changed and broken the little charm I could ever have possessed, this
blighted heart and weary spirit? Oh, no, no!" and Alice paused abruptly,
and the tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Be it as you will," said Maltravers, mournfully; "but, at least, ground
your refusal upon better motives. Say that now, independent in fortune,
and attached to the habits you have formed, you would not hazard your
happiness in my keeping,--perhaps you are right. To _my_ happiness you
would indeed contribute; your sweet voice might charm away many a memory
and many a thought of the baffled years that have intervened since we
parted; your image might dissipate the solitude which is closing round
the Future of a disappointed and anxious life. With you, and with you
alone, I might yet find a home, a comforter, a charitable and soothing
friend. This you could give to me; and with a heart and a form alike
faithful to a love that deserved not so enduring a devotion. But I--what
can I bestow on you? Your station is equal to my own; your fortune
satisfies your simple wants. 'Tis true the exchange is not equal, Alice.
"Cruel!" said Alice, approaching him with timid steps. "If I could--I,
so untutored, so unworthy--if I could comfort you in a single care!"
She said no more, but she had said enough; and Maltravers, clasping her
to his bosom, felt once more that heart which never, even in thought, had
swerved from its early worship, beating against his own!
He drew her gently into the open air. The ripe and mellow noonday of the
last month of summer glowed upon the odorous flowers, and the broad sea,
that stretched beyond and afar, wore upon its solemn waves a golden and
"And ah," murmured Alice, softly, as she looked up from his breast, "I
ask not if you have loved others since we parted--man's faith is so
different from ours--I only ask if you love me now?"
"More! oh, immeasurably more, than in our youngest days!" cried
Maltravers, with fervent passion. "More fondly, more reverently, more
trustfully, than I ever loved living being!--even her, in whose youth and
innocence I adored the memory of thee! Here have I found that which
shames and bankrupts the Ideal! Here have I found a virtue, that, coming
at once from God and Nature, has been wiser than all my false philosophy
and firmer than all my pride! You, cradled by misfortune,--your
childhood reared amidst scenes of fear and vice, which, while they seared
back the intellect, had no pollution for the soul,--your very parent your
tempter and your foe; you, only not a miracle and an angel by the stain
of one soft and unconscious error,--you, alike through the equal trials
of poverty and wealth, have been destined to rise above all triumphant;
the example of the sublime moral that teaches us with what mysterious
beauty and immortal holiness the Creator has endowed our human nature
when hallowed by our human affections! You alone suffice to shatter into
dust the haughty creeds of the Misanthrope and Pharisee! And your
fidelity to my erring self has taught me ever to love, to serve, to
compassionate, to respect the community of God's creatures to
which--noble and elevated though you are--you yet belong!"
He ceased, overpowered with the rush of his own thoughts. And Alice was
too blessed for words. But in the murmur of the sunlit leaves, in the
breath of the summer air, in the song of the exulting birds, and the deep
and distant music of the heaven-surrounded seas, there went a melodious
voice that seemed as if Nature echoed to his words, and blest the reunion
of her children.
Maltravers once more entered upon the career so long suspended. He
entered with an energy more practical and steadfast than the fitful
enthusiasm of former years; and it was noticeable amongst those who knew
him well, that while the firmness of his mind was not impaired, the
haughtiness of his temper was subdued. No longer despising Man as he is,
and no longer exacting from all things the ideal of a visionary standard,
he was more fitted to mix in the living World, and to minister usefully
to the great objects that refine and elevate our race. His sentiments
were, perhaps, less lofty, but his actions were infinitely more
excellent, and his theories infinitely more wise.
Stage after stage we have proceeded with him through the MYSTERIES OF
LIFE. The Eleusinia are closed, and the crowning libation poured.
And Alice!--Will the world blame us if you are left happy at the last?
We are daily banishing from our law-books the statutes that disproportion
punishment to crime. Daily we preach the doctrine that we demoralize
wherever we strain justice into cruelty. It is time that we should apply
to the Social Code the Wisdom we recognize in Legislation! It is time
that we should do away with the punishment of death for inadequate
offences, even in books; it is time that we should allow the morality of
atonement, and permit to Error the right to hope, as the reward of
submission to its suffering. Nor let it be thought that the close to
Alice's career can offer temptation to the offence of its commencement.
Eighteen years of sadness, a youth consumed in silent sorrow over the
grave of Joy, have images that throw over these pages a dark and warning
shadow that will haunt the young long after they turn from the tale that
is about to close! If Alice had died of a broken heart, if her
punishment had been more than she could bear, _then_, as in real life,
you would have justly condemned my moral; and the human heart, in its
pity for the victim, would have lost all recollection of the error.--My
tale is done.