Part 1 out of 10
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, David Widger
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
TALES AND NOVELS
IN TEN VOLUMES.
WITH ENGRAVINGS ON STEEL.
"There is Helen in the lime-walk," said Mrs. Collingwood to her husband, as
she looked out of the window. The slight figure of a young person in deep
mourning appeared between the trees,--"How slowly she walks! She looks very
"Yes," said Mr. Collingwood, with a sigh, "she is young to know sorrow, and
to struggle with difficulties to which she is quite unsuited both by nature
and by education, difficulties which no one could ever have foreseen. How
changed are all her prospects!"
"Changed indeed!" said Mrs. Collingwood, "pretty young creature!--Do you
recollect how gay she was when first we came to Cecilhurst? and even last
year, when she had hopes of her uncle's recovery, and when he talked of
taking her to London, how she enjoyed the thoughts of going there! The
world was bright before her then. How cruel of that uncle, with all his
fondness for her, never to think what was to become of her the moment he
was dead: to breed her up as an heiress, and leave her a beggar!"
"But what is to be done, my dear?" said her husband.
"I am sure I do not know; I can only feel for her, you must think for her."
"Then I think I must tell her directly of the state in which her uncle's
affairs are left, and that there is no provision for her."
"Not yet, my dear," said Mrs, Collingwood: "I don't mean about there being
no provision for herself, that would not strike her, but her uncle's
debts,--there is the point: she would feel dreadfully the disgrace to his
memory--she loved him so tenderly!"
"Yet it must be told," said Mr. Collingwood, resolutely "and perhaps it
will be better now; she will feel it less, while her mind is absorbed by
grief for him."
Helen was the only daughter of colonel and Lady Anne Stanley; her parents
had both died when she was too young to know her loss, nor had she ever
felt till now that she was an orphan, for she had been adopted and brought
up with the greatest tenderness by her uncle, Dean Stanley, a man of
genius, learning, and sincere piety, with the most affectionate heart, and
a highly cultivated understanding. But on one subject he really had
not common sense; in money matters he was inconceivably imprudent and
extravagant; extravagant from charity, from taste, from habit. He possessed
rich benefices in the church, and an ample private fortune, and it was
expected that his niece would be a great heiress--he had often said so
himself, and his fondness for her confirmed every one in this belief.
But the dean's taste warred against his affection: his too hospitable,
magnificent establishment had exceeded his income; he had too much indulged
his passion for all the fine arts, of which he was a liberal patron: he had
collected a magnificent library, and had lavished immense sums of money on
architectural embellishments. Cursed with too fine a taste, and with too
soft a heart--a heart too well knowing how to yield, never could he deny
himself, much less any other human being, any gratification which money
could command; and soon the necessary consequence was, that he had no money
to command, his affairs fell into embarrassment--his estate was sold; but,
as he continued to live with his accustomed hospitality and splendour, the
world believed him to be as rich as ever.
Some rise superior from the pressure of pecuniary difficulties, but that
was not the case with Dean Stanley, not from want of elasticity of mind;
but perhaps because his ingenuity continually suggested resources, and his
sanguine character led him to plunge into speculations--they failed, and in
the anxiety and agitation which his embarrassments occasioned him, he fell
into bad health, his physicians ordered him to Italy. Helen, his devoted
nurse, the object upon which all his affections centered, accompanied him
to Florence. There his health and spirits seemed at first, by the change
of climate, to be renovated; but in Italy he found fresh temptations to
extravagance, his learning and his fancy combined to lead him on from day
to day to new expense, and he satisfied his conscience by saying to himself
that all the purchases which he now made were only so much capital, which
would, when sold in England, bring more than their original price, and
would, he flattered himself, increase the fortune he intended for his
niece. But one day, while he was actually bargaining for an antique, he was
seized with a fit of apoplexy. From this fit he recovered, and was able to
return to England with his niece. Here he found his debts and difficulties
had been increasing; he was harassed with doubts as to the monied value of
his last-chosen chef-d'oeuvres; his mind preyed upon his weakened frame, he
was seized with another fit, lost his speech, and, after struggles the most
melancholy for Helen to see, conscious as she was that she could do nothing
for him--he expired--his eyes fixed on her face, and his powerless hand
held between both hers.
All was desolation and dismay at the deanery; Helen was removed to the
vicarage by the kindness of the good vicar and his wife, Mr. and Mrs.
It was found that the dean, instead of leaving a large fortune, had nothing
to leave. All he had laid out at the deanery was sunk and gone; his real
property all sold; his imaginary wealth, his pictures, statues--his whole
collection, even his books, his immense library, shrunk so much in value
when estimated after his death, that the demands of the creditors could not
be nearly answered: as to any provision for Miss Stanley, that was out of
These were the circumstances which Mrs. Collingwood feared to reveal, and
which Mr. Collingwood thought should be told immediately to Helen; but
hitherto she had been so much absorbed in sorrow for the uncle she had
loved, that no one had ventured on the task.
Though Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood had not known her long (for they had but
lately come to the neighbourhood), they had the greatest sympathy for her
orphan state; and they had seen enough of her during her uncle's illness to
make them warmly attached to her. Every body loved her that knew her, rich
or poor, for in her young prosperity, from her earliest childhood, she had
been always sweet-tempered and kind-hearted; for though she had been bred
up in the greatest luxury, educated as heiress to a large fortune, taught
every accomplishment, used to every fashionable refinement, she was not
spoiled--she was not in the least selfish. Indeed, her uncle's indulgence,
excessive though it was, had been always joined with so much affection,
that it had early touched her heart, and filled her whole soul with ardent
It is said, that the ill men do, lives after them--the good is oft interred
with their bones. It was not so with Dean Stanley: the good he had intended
for Helen, his large fortune, was lost and gone; but the real good he had
done for his niece remained in full force, and to the honour of his memory:
the excellent education he had given her--it was excellent not merely in
the worldly meaning of the word, as regards accomplishments and elegance
of manners, but excellent in having given her a firm sense of duty, as the
great principle of action, and as the guide of her naturally warm generous
And now, when Helen returned from her walk, Mr. Collingwood, in the
gentlest and kindest manner he was able, informed her of the confusion in
her uncle's affairs, the debts, the impossibility of paying the creditors,
the total loss of all fortune for herself.
Mrs. Collingwood had well foreseen the effect this intelligence would have
on Helen. At first, with fixed incredulous eyes, she could not believe that
her uncle could have been in any way to blame. Twice she asked--"Are you
sure--are you certain--is there no mistake?" And when the conviction was
forced upon her, still her mind did not take in any part of the facts, as
they regarded herself. Astonished and, shocked, she could feel nothing but
the disgrace that would fall upon the memory of her beloved uncle.
Then she exclaimed--"One part of it is not true, I am certain:" and hastily
leaving the room, she returned immediately with a letter in her hand,
which, without speaking, she laid before Mr. Collingwood, who wiped his
spectacles quickly, and read.
It was addressed to the poor dean, and was from an old friend of his,
Colonel Munro, stating that he had been suddenly ordered to India, and
was obliged to return a sum of money which the dean had many years before
placed in his hands, to secure a provision for his niece, Miss Stanley.
This letter had arrived when the dean was extremely ill. Helen had been
afraid to give it to him, and yet thought it right to do so. The moment
her uncle had read the letter, which he was still able to do, and to
comprehend, though he was unable to speak, he wrote on the back with
difficulty, in a sadly trembling hand, yet quite distinctly, these
words:--"That money is yours, Helen Stanley: no one has any claim upon it.
When I am gone consult Mr. Collingwood; consider him as your guardian."
Mr. Collingwood perceived that this provision had been made by the dean for
his niece before he had contracted his present debts--many years before,
when he had sold his paternal estate, and that knowing his own disposition
to extravagance, he had put this sum out of his own power.
"Right--all right, my dear Miss Stanley," said the vicar; "I am very
glad--it is all justly yours."
"No," said Helen, "I shall never touch it: take it, my dear Mr.
Collingwood, take it, and pay all the debts before any one can complain."
Mr. Collingwood pressed her to him without speaking; but after a moment's
recollection he replied:--"No, no, my dear child, I cannot let you do this:
as your guardian, I cannot allow such a young creature as you are, in a
moment of feeling, thus to give away your whole earthly fortune--it must
"It must, indeed it must, my dear sir. Oh, pay everybody at
"No, not directly, at all events," said Mr. Collingwood--certainly not
directly: the law allows a year."
"But if the money is ready," said Helen, "I cannot understand why the
debt should not be paid at once. Is there any law against paying people
Mr. Collingwood half smiled, and on the strength of that half smile Helen
concluded that he wholly yielded. "Yes, do," cried she, "send this money
this instant to Mr. James, the solicitor: he knows all about it, you say,
and he will see everybody paid."
"Stay, my dear Miss Stanley," said the vicar, "I cannot consent to this,
and you should be thankful that I am steady. If I were at this minute to
consent, and to do what you desire--pay away your whole fortune, you would
repent, and reproach me with my folly before the end of the year--before
six months were over."
"Never, never," said Helen.
Mrs. Collingwood strongly took her husband's side of the question. Helen
could have no idea, she said, how necessary money would be to her. It was
quite absurd to think of living upon air; could Miss Stanley think she was
to go on in this world without money?
Helen said she was not so absurd; she reminded Mrs. Collingwood that she
should still have what had been her mother's fortune. Before Helen had well
got out the words, Mrs. Collingwood replied,
"That will never do, you will never be able to live upon that; the interest
of Lady Anne Stanley's fortune, I know what it was, would just do for
pocket-money for you in the style of life for which you have been educated.
Some of your uncle's great friends will of course invite you presently, and
then you will find what is requisite with that set of people."
"Some of my uncle's friends perhaps will," said Helen; "but I am not
obliged to go to great or fine people, and if I cannot afford it I will
not, for I can live independently on what I have, be it ever so little."
Mrs. Collingwood allowed that if Helen were to live always in the country
in retirement, she might do upon her mother's fortune.
"Wherever I live--whatever becomes of me, the debts must be paid--I will do
it myself;" and she took up a pen as she spoke--"I will write to Mr. James
by this day's post."
Surprised at her decision of manner and the firmness of one in general so
gentle, yielding, and retired, and feeling that he had no legal power to
resist, Mr. Collingwood at last gave way, so far as to agree that he would
in due time use this money in satisfying her uncle's creditors; _provided
she lived for the next six months within her income_.
Helen smiled, as if that were a needless proviso.
"I warn you," continued Mr. Collingwood, "that you will most probably find
before six months are over, that you will want some of this money to pay
debts of your own."
"No, no, no," cried she; "of that there is not the slightest chance."
"And now, my dear child," said Mrs. Collingwood, "now that Mr. Collingwood
has promised to do what you wish, will you do what we wish? Will you
promise to remain with us? to live here with us, for the present at least;
we will resign you whenever better friends may claim you, but for the
present will you try us?"
"Try!" in a transport of gratitude and affection she could only repeat
the words "Try! oh, my dear friends, how happy I am, an orphan, without a
relation, to have such a home."
But though Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood, childless as they were, felt real
happiness in having such a companion--such an adopted daughter, yet they
were sure that some of Dean Stanley's great friends and acquaintance in
high life would ask his niece to spend the spring in town, or the summer in
the country with them; and post after post came letters of condolence to
Miss Stanley from all these personages of high degree, professing the
greatest regard for their dear amiable friend's memory, and for Miss
Stanley, his and their dear Helen; and these polite and kind expressions
were probably sincere at the moment, but none of these dear friends seemed
to think of taking any trouble on her account, or to be in the least
disturbed by the idea of never seeing their dear Helen again in the course
of their lives.
Helen, quite touched by what was said of her uncle, thought only of him;
but when she showed the letters to Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood, they marked
the oversight, and looked significantly as they read, folded the letters up
and returned them to Helen in silence. Afterwards between themselves, they
indulged in certain comments.
"Lady C---- does not invite her, for she has too many daughters, and they
are too ugly, and Helen is too beautiful," said Mrs. Collingwood.
"Lady L---- has too many sons," said Mr. Collingwood, "and they are too
poor, and Helen is not an heiress now."
"But old Lady Margaret Dawe, who has neither sons nor daughters, what
stands in the way there? Oh! her delicate health--delicate health is a
blessing to some people--excuses them always from doing anything for
Then came many, who hoped, in general, to see Miss Stanley as soon as
possible; and some who were "very anxious indeed" to have their dear Helen
with them; but when or where never specified--and a general invitation, as
every body knows, means nothing but "Good morning to you."
Mrs. Coldstream ends with, "I forbear to say more at present," without
giving any reason.
"And here is the dean's dear duchess, always in the greatest haste, with
'You know my heart,' in a parenthesis, 'ever and ever most sincerely and
"And the Davenants," continued Mrs. Collingwood, "who were such near
neighbours, and who were so kind to the dean at Florence; they have not
"But they are at Florence still," said Mr. Collingwood, "they can hardly
have heard of the poor dean's death."
The Davenants were the great people of this part of the country; their
place, Cecilhurst, was close to the deanery and to the vicarage, but they
were not known to the Collingwoods, who had come to Cecilhurst during the
dean's absence abroad.
"And here is Mrs. Wilmot too," continued Mrs. Collingwood, "wondering as
usual, at everybody else, wondering that Lady Barker has not invited Miss
Stanley to Castleport; and it never enters into Mrs. Wilmot's head that she
might invite her to Wilmot's fort. And this is friendship, as the world
"And as it has been ever since the beginning of the world and will be
to the end," replied Mr. Collingwood. "Only I thought in Dean Stanley's
case--however, I am glad his niece does not see it as we do."
No--with all Helen's natural quickness of sensibility, she suspected
nothing, saw nothing in each excuse but what was perfectly reasonable and
kind; she was sure that her uncle's friends could not mean to neglect her.
In short, she had an undoubting belief in those she loved, and she loved
all those who she thought had loved her uncle, or who had ever shown her
kindness. Helen had never yet experienced neglect or detected insincerity,
and nothing in her own true and warm heart could suggest the possibility
of double-dealing, or even of coldness in friendship. She had yet to learn
"No after-friendship e'er can raze
Th' endearments of our early days,
And ne'er the heart such fondness prove,
As when it first began to love;
Ere lovely nature is expelled,
And friendship is romantic held.
But prudence comes with hundred eyes,
The veil is rent, the vision flies,
The dear illusions will not last,
The era of enchantment's past:
The wild romance of life is done,
The real history begun!"
Some time after this, Mr. Collingwood, rising from the breakfast-table,
threw down the day's paper, saying there was nothing in it; Mrs.
Collingwood glancing her eye over it exclaimed--
"Do you call this nothing? Helen, hear this!
"Marriage in high life--At the ambassador's chapel, Paris, on the 16th
instant, General Clarendon to Lady Cecilia Davenant, only daughter of Earl
and Countess Davenant."
"Married! absolutely married!" exclaimed Helen: "I knew it was to be, but
so soon I did not expect. Ambassador's chapel--where did you say?--Paris?
No, that must be a mistake, they are all at Florence--settled there, I
thought their letters said."
Mrs. Collingwood pointed to the paragraph, and Helen saw it was certainly
Paris--there could be no mistake. Here was a full account of the marriage,
and a list of all "the fashionables who attended the fair bride to the
hymeneal altar. Her father gave her away."
"Then certainly it is so," said Helen; and she came to the joyful
conclusion that they must all be on their way home:--"Dear Lady Davenant
coming to Cecilhurst again!"
Lady Cecilia, "the fair bride," had been Helen's most intimate friend;
they had been when children much together, for the deanery was so close to
Cecilhurst, that the shrubbery opened into the park. "But is it not rather
extraordinary, my dear. Helen," said Mrs. Collingwood, "that you should
see this account of your dear Lady Cecilia's marriage in the public papers
only, without having heard of it from any of your friends themselves--not
one letter, not one line from any of them?"
A cloud came over Helen's face, but it passed quickly, and she was sure
they had written--something had delayed their letters. She was certain Lady
Davenant or Lady Cecilia had written; or, if they had not, it was because
they could not possibly, in such a hurry, such agitation as they must have
been in. At all events, whether they had written or not, she was certain
they could not mean anything unkind; she could not change her opinion of
her friend for a letter more or less. "Indeed!" said Mrs. Collingwood, "how
long is it since you have seen them?"
"About two years; just two years it is since I parted from them at
"And you have corresponded with Lady Cecilia constantly ever since?" asked
"Not constantly--oh!" said Mrs. Collingwood, in a prolonged and somewhat
"Not constantly--so much the better," said her husband: "a constant
correspondence is always a great burthen, and moreover, sometimes a great
evil, between young ladies especially--I hate the sight of ladies' long
Helen said that Lady Cecilia's letters were never cross-barred, always
short and far between.
"You seem wonderfully fond of Lady Cecilia," said Mrs. Collingwood.
"Not wonderfully," replied Helen, "but very fond, and no wonder, we were
bred up together. And"--continued she, after a little pause, "and if Lady
Cecilia had not been so generous as she is, she might have been--she must
have been, jealous of the partiality, the fondness, which her mother always
"But was not Lady Davenant's heart large enough to hold two?" asked Mrs.
Collingwood. "Was not she fond of her daughter?"
"Yes, as far as she knew her, but she did not know Lady Cecilia." "Not
know her own daughter!" Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood both at once exclaimed,
"How could that possibly be?"
"Very easily," Helen said, "because she saw so little of her."
"Was not Lady Cecilia educated at home?"
"Yes, but still Lady Cecilia, when a child, was all day long with her
governess, and at Cecilhurst the governess's apartments were quite out of
the way, in one of the wings at the end of a long corridor, with a separate
staircase; she might as well have been in another house."
"Bad arrangement," said Mr. Collingwood, speaking to himself as he stood on
the hearth. "Bad arrangement which separates mother and daughter."
"At that time," continued Helen, "there was always a great deal of company
at Cecilhurst. Lord Davenant was one of the ministers then. I believe--I
know he saw a great many political people, and Lady Davenant was forced to
be always with them talking."
"Talking! yes, yes!" said Mr. Collingwood, "I understand it all--Lady
Davenant is a great politician, and female politicians, with their heads
full of the affairs of Europe, cannot have time to think of the affairs of
"What is the matter, my dear Helen?" said Mrs. Collingwood, taking her
hand. Helen had tears in her eyes and looked unhappy.
"I have done very wrong," said she; "I have said something that has given
you a bad, a false opinion of one for whom I have the greatest admiration
and love--of Lady Davenant. I am excessively sorry; I have done very
"Not the least, my dear child; you told us nothing but what everybody
knows--that she is a great politician; you told us no more."
"But I should have told you more, and what nobody knows better than I do,"
cried Helen, "that Lady Davenant is a great deal more, and a great deal
better than a politician. I was too young to judge, you may think, hut
young as I was, I could see and feel, and children can and do often see a
great deal into character, and I assure you Lady Davenant's is a sort of
deep, high character, that you would admire."
Mrs. Collingwood observed with surprise, that Helen spoke of her with even
more enthusiasm than of her dear Lady Cecilia. "Yes, because she is a
person more likely to excite enthusiasm."
"You did not feel afraid of her, then?"
"I do not say that," replied Helen; "yet it was not fear exactly, it was
more a sort of awe, but still I liked it. It is so delightful to have
something to look up to. I love Lady Davenant all the better, even for that
awe I felt of her."
"And I like you all the better for everything you feel, think, and say
about your friends," cried Mrs. Collingwood; "but let us see what they will
do; when I see whether they can write, and what they write to you, I will
tell you more of my mind--if any letters come."
"If!--" Helen repeated, but would say no more--and there it rested, or
at least stopped. By common consent the subject was not recurred to
for several days. Every morning at post-time Helen's colour rose with
expectation, and then faded with disappointment; still, with the same
confiding look, she said, "I am sure it is not their fault."
"Time will show," said Mrs. Collingwood.
At length, one morning when she came down to breakfast, "Triumph, my dear
Helen!" cried Mrs. Collingwood, holding up two large letters, all scribbled
over with "Try this place and try that, mis-sent to Cross-keys--Over moor,
and heaven knows where--and--no matter."
Helen seized the packets and tore them open; one was from Paris, written
immediately after the news of Dean Stanley's death; it contained two
letters, one from Lady Davenant, the other from Lady Cecilia--"written,
only think!" cried she, "how kind!--the very day before her marriage;
signed 'Cecilia Davenant, for the last time,'--and Lady Davenant, too--to
think of me in all their happiness."
She opened the other letters, written since their arrival in England, she
read eagerly on,--then stopped, and her looks changed.
"Lady Davenant is not coming to Cecilhurst. Lord Davenant is to be sent
ambassador to Petersburgh, and Lady Davenant will go along with him!--Oh!
there is an end of everything, I shall never see her again!--Stay--she is
to be first with Lady Cecilia at Clarendon Park, wherever that is, for some
time--she does not know how long--she hopes to see me there--oh! how
kind, how delightful!" Helen put Lady Davenant's letter proudly into Mrs.
Collingwood's hand, and eagerly opened Lady Cecilia's.
"So like herself! so like Cecilia," cried she. Mrs. Collingwood read and
acknowledged that nothing could be kinder, for here was an invitation, not
vague or general, but particular, and pressing as heart could wish or heart
could make it. "We shall be at Clarendon Park on Thursday, and shall expect
you, dearest Helen, on Monday, just time, the general says, for an answer;
so write and say where horses shall meet you," &c. &c.
"Upon my word, this is being in earnest, when it comes to horses meeting,"
cried Mr. Collingwood. "Of course you will go directly?"
Helen was in great agitation.
"Write--write--my dear, directly," said Mrs. Collingwood, "for the
And before she had written many lines the Cross-post boy sent up word that
he could wait no longer.
Helen wrote she scarcely knew what, but in short an acceptance, signed,
sealed, delivered, and then she took breath. Off cantered the boy with the
letters bagged, and scarcely was he out of sight, when Helen saw under the
table the cover of the packet, in which were some lines that had not yet
been read. They were in Lady Cecilia's handwriting--a postscript.
"I forgot, dear Helen, the thing that is most essential, (you remember
our friend Dumont's definition of _une betise: c'est d'oublier la chose
essentielle;_) I forgot to tell you that the general declares he will not
hear of a mere _visit_ from you. He bids me tell you that it must be 'till
death or marriage.' So, my dear friend, you must make up your mind in short
to live with us till you find a General Clarendon of your own. To this
postscript no reply--silence gives consent."
"If I had seen this!" said Helen, as she laid it before Mr. and Mrs.
Collingwood, "I ought to have answered, but, indeed, I never saw it;"
she sprang forward instantly to ring the bell, exclaiming, "It is time
yet--stop the boy--'silence gives consent.' I must write. I cannot leave
you, my dear friends, in this way. I did not see that postscript, believe
me I did not."
They believed her, they thanked her, but they would not let her ring the
bell; they said she had better not bind herself in any way either to
themselves or to Lady Cecilia. Accept of the present invitation she
must--she must go to see her friend on her marriage; she must take leave of
her dear Lady Davenant before her departure.
"They are older friends than we are," said Mr. Collingwood, "they have the
first claim upon you; but let us think of it as only a visit now. As to a
residence for life, that you can best judge of for yourself after you have
been some time at Clarendon Park; if you do not like to remain there, you
know how gladly we shall welcome you here again, my child; or, if you
decide to live with those you have known so long and loved so much, we
cannot be offended at your choice,"
This generous kindness, this freedom from jealous susceptibility, touched
Helen's heart, and increased her agitation. She could not bear the thoughts
of either the reality or appearance of neglecting these kind good people,
the moment she had other prospects, and frequently in all the hurry of her
preparations, she repeated, "It will only be a visit at Clarendon Park. I
will return to you, I shall write to you, my dear Mrs. Collingwood, at all
When Mr. Collingwood gave her his parting blessing he reminded her of his
warning about her fortune. Mrs. Collingwood reminded her of her promise
to write. The carriage drove from the door. Helen's heart was full of
the friends she was leaving, but by degrees the agitation of the parting
subsided, her tears ceased, her heart grew lighter, and the hopes of seeing
her friends at Clarendon Park arose bright in her mind, and her thoughts
all turned upon Cecilia, and Lady Davenant.
Helen looked eagerly out of the carriage-window for the first view of
Clarendon Park. It satisfied--it surpassed her expectations. It was a fine,
aristocratic place:--ancestral trees, and a vast expanse of park; herds of
deer, yellow and dark, or spotted, their heads appearing in the distance
just above the fern, or grazing near, startled as the carriage passed.
Through the long approach, she caught various views of the house, partly
gothic, partly of modern architecture; it seemed of great extent and
All delightful so far; but now for her own reception. Her breath grew quick
and quicker as she came near and nearer to the house. Some one was standing
on the steps. Was it General Clarendon? No; only a servant. The
carriage stopped, more servants appeared, and as Helen got out, a very
sublime-looking personage informed her, that "Lady Cecilia and the General
were out riding--only in the park--would be in immediately."
And as she crossed the great hall, the same sublime person informed her
that there would be still an hour before dinner-time, and inquired whether
she would be pleased to be shown to her own apartment, or to the library?
Helen felt chilled and disappointed, because this was not exactly the way
she had expected things would be upon her arrival. She had pictured to
herself Cecilia running to meet her in the hall.
Without answering the groom of the chambers, she asked, "Is Lady Davenant
"No; her ladyship is in the library."
"To the library then."
And through the antechamber she passed rapidly, impatient of a momentary
stop of her conductor to open the folding-doors, while a man, with a
letter-box in hand, equally impatient, begged that Lady Davenant might be
told, "The General's express was waiting."
Lady Davenant was sealing letters in great haste for this express, but when
the door opened, and she saw Helen, she threw wax and letter from her, and
pushing aside the sofa-table, came forward to receive her with open arms.
All was in an instant happy in Helen's heart; but there was the man of the
letter-box; he must be attended to. "Beg your pardon, Helen, my dear--one
moment. Letters of consequence--must not be delayed."
By the time the letters were finished, before they were gone, Lady Cecilia
came in. The same as ever, with affectionate delight in her eyes--her
beautiful eyes. The same, yes, the same Cecilia as ever; yet different:
less of a girl, less lively, but more happy. The moment she had embraced
her, Lady Cecilia turned quick to present General Clarendon, thinking he
had followed, but he had stopped in the hall.
"Send off the letters," were the first words of his which Helen heard. The
tone commanding, the voice remarkably gentlemanlike. An instant afterwards
he came in. A fine figure, a handsome man; in the prime of life; with a
high-born, high-bred military air. English decidedly--proudly English.
Something of the old school--composed self-possession, with voluntary
deference to others--rather distant. Helen felt that his manner of
welcoming her to Clarendon Park was perfectly polite, yet she would have
liked it better had it been less polite--more cordial. Lady Cecilia, whose
eyes were anxiously upon her, drew her arm within hers, and hurried her out
of the room. She stopped at the foot of the stairs, gathered up the folds
of her riding-dress, and turning suddenly to Helen, said,--
"Helen, my dear, you must not think _that_"----
"Think what?" said Helen.
"Think _that_--for which you are now blushing. Oh, you know what I mean!
Helen, your thoughts are just as legible in your face, as they always were
to me. His manner is reserved--cold, may be--but not his heart. Understand
this, pray--once for all. Do you? will you, dearest Helen?"
"I do, I will," cried Helen; and every minute she felt that she better
understood and was more perfectly pleased with her friend. Lady Cecilia
showed her through the apartment destined for her, which she had taken
the greatest pleasure in arranging; everything there was not only most
comfortable, but particularly to her taste; and some little delicate proofs
of affection, recollections of childhood, were there;--keepsakes, early
drawings, nonsensical things, not worth preserving, but still preserved.
"Look how near we are together," said Cecilia, opening a door into her own
dressing-room. "You may shut this up whenever you please, but I hope you
will never please to do so. You see how I leave you your own free will, as
friends usually do, with a proviso, a hope at least, that you are never to
use it on any account--like the child's half guinea pocket-money, never to
be changed." Her playful tone relieved, as she intended it should, Helen's
too keen emotion; and this too was felt with the quickness with which every
touch of kindness ever was felt by her. Helen pressed her friend's hand,
and smiled without speaking.
They were to be some time alone before the commencement of bridal visits,
and an expected succession of troops of friends. This was a time of
peculiar enjoyment to Helen: she had leisure to grow happy in the feeling
of reviving hopes from old associations.
She did not forget her promise to write to Mrs. Collingwood; nor afterwards
(to her credit be it here marked)--even when the house was full of company,
and when, by amusement or by feeling, she was most pressed for time--did
she ever omit to write to those excellent friends. Those who best know the
difficulty will best appreciate this proof of the reality of her gratitude.
As Lady Cecilia was a great deal with her husband riding or walking, Helen
had opportunities of being much alone with Lady Davenant, who now gave her
a privilege that she had enjoyed in former times at Cecilhurst, that of
entering her apartment in the morning at all hours without fear of being
considered an intruder.
The first morning, however, on seeing her ladyship immersed in papers with
a brow of care, deeply intent, Helen paused on the threshold, "I am afraid
I interrupt--I am afraid I disturb you."
"Come in, Helen, come in," cried Lady Davenant, looking up, and the face of
care was cleared, and there was a radiance of pleasure--"Interrupt--yes:
disturb--no. Often in your little life, Helen, you have interrupted--never
disturbed me. From the time you were a child till this moment, never did I
see you come into my room without pleasure."
Then sweeping away heaps of papers, she made room for Helen on the sofa
"Now tell me how things are with you--somewhat I have heard reported of my
friend the dean's affairs--tell me all."
Helen told all as briefly as possible; she hurried on through her uncle's
affairs with a tremulous voice, and before she could come to a conclusion
Lady Davenant exclaimed,
"I foresaw it long since: with all my friend's virtues, all his
talents--but we will not go back upon the painful past. You, my dear Helen,
have done just what I should have expected from you,--right;--right, too,
the condition Mr. Collingwood has made--very right. And now to the next
point:--where are you to live, Helen? or rather with whom?"
Helen was not quite sure yet, she said she had not quite determined.
"Am I to understand that your doubt lies between the Collingwoods and my
"Yes; Cecilia most kindly invited me, but I do not know General Clarendon
yet, and he does not know me yet. Cecilia might wish most sincerely that I
should live with her, and I am convinced she does; but her husband must be
"True," said Lady Davenant--"true; a husband is certainly a thing _to be
cared for_--in Scottish phrase, and General Clarendon is no doubt a person
to be considered,--but it seems that I am not a person to be considered in
Even the altered, dry, and almost acrid tone in which Lady Davenant spoke,
and the expression of disappointment in her countenance--were, as marks of
strong affection, deeply gratifying to Helen. Lady Davenant went on.
"Was not Cecilhurst always a home to you, Helen Stanley?"
"Yes, yes,--always a most happy home!"
"Then why is not Cecilhurst to be your home?"
"My dear Lady Davenant! how kind!--how very, very kind of you to wish
it--but I never thought of----"
"And why did you not think of it, Helen?'"
"I mean--I thought you were going to Russia."
"And have you settled, my dear Helen," said Lady Davenant, smiling, "have
you settled that I am never to come back from Russia? Do not you know
that you are--that you ever were--you ever will be to me a daughter?" and
drawing Helen fondly towards her, she added, "as my own very dear--I must
not say dearest child,--must not, because as I well remember once--little
creature as you were then---you whispered to me, 'Never call me
dearest,'--generous-hearted child!" And tears started into her eyes as she
spoke; but at that moment came a knock at the door. "A packet from Lord
Davenant, by Mr. Mapletofft, my lady." Helen rose to leave the room, but
Lady Davenant laid a detaining hand upon her, saying, "You will not be in
my way in the least;" and she opened her packet, adding, that while she
read, Helen might amuse herself "with arranging the books on that table, or
in looking over the letters in that portfolio."
Helen had hitherto seen Lady Davenant only with the eyes of very early
youth; but now, after an absence of two years--a great space in her
existence, it seemed as if she looked upon her with new eyes, and every
hour made fresh discoveries in her character. Contrary to what too often
happens when we again see and judge of those whom we have early known, Lady
Davenant's character and abilities, instead of sinking and diminishing,
appeared to rise and enlarge, to expand and be ennobled to Helen's view.
Strong lights and shades there were, but these only excited and fixed her
attention. Even her defects--those inequalities of temper of which she had
already had some example, were interesting as evidences of the power and
warmth of her affections.
The books on the table were those which Lady Davenant had had in her
travelling carriage. They gave Helen an idea of the range and variety of
the reader's mind. Some of them were presentation copies, as they are
called, from several of the first authors of our own, and foreign
countries; some with dedications to Lady Davenant; others with inscriptions
expressing respect or propitiating favour, or anxious for judgment.
The portfolio contained letters whose very signatures would have driven the
first of modern autograph collectors distracted with joy--whose meanest
scrap would make a scrap-book the envy of the world.
But among the letters in this portfolio, there were none of those nauseous
notes of compliment, none of those epistles adulatory, degrading to those
who write, and equally degrading to those to whom they are written: letters
which are, however cleverly turned, inexpressibly wearisome to all but the
After opening and looking at the signature of several of these letters,
Helen sat in a delightful _embarras de richesse_. To read them all--all at
once, was impossible; with which to begin, she could not determine. One
after another was laid aside as too good to be read first, and after
glancing at the contents of each, she began to deal them round
alphabetically till she was struck by a passage in one of them--she looked
to the signature, it was unknown to fame--she read the whole, it was
striking and interesting. There were several letters in the same hand, and
Helen was surprised to find them arranged according to their dates, in Lady
Davenant's own writing--preserved with those of persons of illustrious
reputation! These she read on without further hesitation. There was no sort
of affectation in them--quite easy and natural, "real feeling, and genius,"
certainly genius, she thought!--and there seemed something romantic and
uncommon in the character of the writer. They were signed Granville
Who could he be, this Granville Beauclerc? She read on till Lady Davenant,
having finished her packet, rang a silver handbell, as was her custom, to
summon her page. At the first tingle of the bell Helen started, and Lady
Davenant asked, "Whose letter, my dear, has so completely abstracted you?"
Carlos, the page, came in at this instant, and after a quick glance at the
handwriting of the letters, Lady Davenant gave her orders in Portuguese to
Carlos, and then returning to Helen, took no further notice of the letters,
but went on just where she had left off. "Helen, I remember when you were
about nine years old, timid as you usually were, your coming forward,
bold as a little lion, to attack me in Cecilia's defence; I forget the
particulars, but I recollect that you said I was unjust, and that I did not
know Cecilia, and there you were right; so, to reward you, you shall see
that now I do her perfect justice, and that I am as fond of her as your
heart can wish. I really never did know Cecilia till I saw her heartily in
love; I had imagined her incapable of real love; I thought the desire of
pleasing universally had been her ruling passion--the ruling passion that,
of a little mind and a cold heart; but I did her wrong. In another more
material point, too, I was mistaken."
Lady Davenant paused and looked earnestly at Helen, whose eyes said, "I am
glad," and yet she was not quite certain she knew to what she alluded.
"Cecilia righted herself, and won my good opinion, by the openness with
which she treated me from the very commencement of her attachment to
General Clarendon." Lady Davenant again paused to reflect, and played for
some moments with the tablets in her hand.
"Some one says that we are apt to flatter ourselves that we leave our
faults when our faults leave us, from change of situation, age, and so
forth; and perhaps it does not signify much which it is, if the faults are
fairly gone, and if there be no danger of their returning: all our former
misunderstandings arose on Cecilia's part from cowardice of character; on
mine from--no matter what--no matter which of us was most wrong."
"True, true," cried Helen eagerly; and anxious to prevent recurrence to
painful recollections, she went on to ask rapidly several questions about
Lady Davenant smiled, and promised that she should have the whole history
of the marriage in true gossip detail.
"When I wrote to you, I gave you some general ideas on the subject, but
there are little things which could not well be written, even to so safe a
young friend as you are, for what is written remains, and often for those
by whom it was never intended to be seen; the _dessoux_des_cartes_ can
seldom be either safely or satisfactorily shown on paper, so give me my
embroidery-frame, I never can tell well without having something to do with
And as Helen set the embroidery-frame, Lady Davenant searched for some
skeins of silk and silk winders.
"Take these, my dear, and wind this silk for me, for I must have my hearer
comfortably established, not like the agonised listener in the '_World_'
leaning against a table, with the corner running into him all the time."
"I must go back," continued Lady Davenant, "quite to the dark ages, the
time when I knew nothing of my daughter's character but by the accidental
lights which you afforded me. I will take up my story before the
reformation, in the middle ages, when you and your dear uncle left us
at Florence; about two years ago, when Cecilia was in the height of her
conquests, about the time when a certain Colonel D'Aubiguy flourished, you
Helen answered "Yes," in rather a constrained voice, which caused Lady
Davenant to look up, and on seeing that look of inquiry, Helen coloured,
though she would have given the world not to be so foolish. The affair was
Cecilia's, and Helen only wished not to have it recurred to, and yet
she had now, by colouring, done the very thing to fix Lady Davenant's
attention, and as the look was prolonged, she coloured more and more.
"I see I was wrong," said Lady Davenant; "I had thought Colonel D'Aubigny's
ecstasy about that miniature of you was only a feint; but I see he really
was an admirer of yours, Helen?"
"Of mine! oh no, never!" Still from her fear of saying something that
should implicate Cecilia, her tone, though she spoke exactly the truth,
was not to Lady Davenant's discriminative ear quite natural--Helen seeing
"Impossible, my dear Lady Davenant! you know I was then so young, quite a
"No, no, not quite; two from eighteen and sixteen remain, I think, and in
our days sixteen is not absolutely a child."
Helen made no answer; her thoughts had gone back to the time when Colonel
D'Aubigny was first introduced to her, which was just before her uncle's
illness, and when her mind had been so engrossed by him, that she had but a
confused recollection of all the rest.
"Now you are right, my dear," said Lady Davenant; "right to be absolutely
silent. In difficult cases say nothing; but still you are wrong in sitting
so uneasily under it, for that seems as if there _was_ something."
"Nothing upon earth!" cried Helen, "if you would not look at me _so_, my
clear Lady Davenant."
"Then, my dear Helen, do not break my embroidery silk; that jerk was
imprudent, and trust me, my dear, the screw of that silk winder is not so
much to blame as you would have me think; take patience with yourself and
with me. There is no great harm done, no unbearable imputation, you are not
accused of loving or liking, only of having been admired." "Never!" cried
"Well, well! it does not signify in the least now; the man is either dying
"I am glad of it," cried Helen.
"How barbarous!" said Lady Davenant, "but let it pass, I am neither glad
nor sorry; contempt is more dignified and safer than hatred, my dear.
"Now to return to Cecilia; soon after, I will not say the D'Aubigny era,
but soon after you left us, I fell sick, Cecilia was excessively kind to
me. In kindness her affectionate heart never failed, and I felt this
the more, from a consciousness that I had been a little harsh to her. I
recovered but slowly; I could not bear to have her confined so long in a
sick room, and yet I did not much like either of the chaperons with
whom she went out, though they were both of rank, and of unimpeachable
character--the one English, one of the best women in the world, but the
most stupid; the other a foreigner, one of the most agreeable women in the
world, but the most false. I prevailed on Cecilia to break off that--I do
not know what to call it, friendship it was not, and my daughter and I drew
nearer together. Better times began to dawn, but still there was little
sympathy between us; my mind was intent on Lord Davenant's interests, hers
on amusement and admiration. Her conquests were numerous, and she gloried
in their number, for, between you and me, Cecilia was, before the
reformation, not a little of a coquette. You will not allow it, you did not
see it, you did not go out with her, and being three or four years younger,
you could not be a very good critic of Cecilia's conduct; and depend upon
it I am right, she was not a little of a coquette. She did not know, and I
am sure I did not know, that she had a heart, till she became acquainted
with General Clarendon.
"The first time we met him,"--observing a quickening of attention in
Helen's eyes, Lady Davenant smiled, and said, "Young ladies always like
to hear of 'the first time we saw him.'--The first time we saw General
Clarendon was--forgive me the day of the month--in the gallery at Florence.
I forget how it happened that he had not been presented to me--to Lord
Davenant he must have been. But so it was and it was new to Cecilia to see
a man of his appearance who had not on his first arrival shown himself
ambitious to be made known to her. He was admiring a beautiful Magdalene,
and he was standing with his back towards us. I recollect that his
appearance when I saw him as a stranger--the time when one can best judge
of appearance--struck me as that of a distinguished person; but little
did I think that there stood Cecilia's husband! so little did my maternal
instinct guide me.
"As we approached, he turned and gave one look at Cecilia; she gave one
look at him. He passed on, she stopped me to examine the picture which he
had been admiring.
"Every English mother at Florence, except myself, had their eyes fixed upon
General Clarendon from the moment of his arrival. But whatever I may have
been, or may have been supposed to be, on the great squares of politics, I
believe I never have been accused or even suspected of being a manoeuvrer
on the small domestic scale.
"My reputation for imbecility in these matters was perhaps advantageous. He
did not shun me as he did the tribe of knowing ones; a hundred reports flew
about concerning him, settling in one, that he was resolved never to marry.
Yet he was a passionate admirer of beauty and grace, and it was said that
he had never been unsuccessful where he had wished to please. The secret of
his resolution against marriage was accounted for by the gossiping public
in many ways variously absurd. The fact was, that in his own family, and in
that of a particular friend, there had been about this time two or three
scandalous intrigues, followed by 'the public brand of shameful life.' One
of these 'sad affairs,' as they are styled, was marked with premeditated
treachery and turpitude. The lady had been, or had seemed to be, for years
a pattern wife, the mother of several children; yet she had long betrayed,
and at last abandoned, a most amiable and confiding husband, and went
off with a man who did not love her, who cared for nought but himself, a
disgusting monster of selfishness, vanity, and vice! This woman was said to
have been once good, but to have been corrupted and depraved by residence
abroad--by the contagion of foreign profligacy. In the other instance, the
seduced wife had been originally most amiable, pure-minded, uncommonly
beautiful, loved to idolatry by her husband, Clarendon's particular friend,
a man high in public estimation. The husband shot himself. The seducer was,
it's said, the lady's first love. That these circumstances should have made
a deep impression on Clarendon, is natural; the more feeling--the stronger
the mind, the more deep and lasting it was likely to be. Besides his
resolution against marriage in general, we heard that he had specially
resolved against marrying any travelled lady, and most especially against
any woman with whom there was danger of a first love. How this danger was
to be avoided or ascertained, mothers and daughters looked at one another,
and did not ask, or at least did not answer.
"Cecilia, apparently unconcerned, heard and laughed at these high resolves,
after her gay fashion with her young companions, and marvelled how long
the resolution would be kept. General Clarendon of course could not but be
introduced to us, could not but attend our assemblies, nor could he avoid
meeting us in all the good English and foreign society at Florence; but
whenever he met us, he always kept at a safe distance: this caution marked
his sense of danger. To avoid its being so construed, perhaps, he made
approaches to me, politely cold; we talked very wisely on the state of the
Continent and the affairs of Europe; I did not, however, confine myself or
him to politics, I gave him many unconscious opportunities of showing in
conversation, not his abilities, for they are nothing extraordinary; but
his character, which is first-rate. Gleams came out, of a character born to
subjugate, to captivate, to attach for life. It worked first on Cecilia's
curiosity; she thought she was only curious, and she listened at first,
humming an opera air between times, with the least concerned look
conceivable. But, her imagination was caught, and it thenceforward through
every thing that every body else might be saying, and through all she said
herself, she heard every word that fell from our general, and even all that
was repeated of his saying at second or third hand. So she learned in due
season that he had seen women as handsome, handsomer than Lady Cecilia
Davenant; but that there was something in her manner peculiarly suited to
his taste--his fastidious taste! so free from coquetry, he said she was.
And true, perfectly true, from the time he became acquainted with her; no
hypocrisy on her part, no mistake on his; at the first touch of a real
love, there was an end of vanity and coquetry. Then her deference--her
affection for her mother, was so charming, he thought; such perfect
confidence--such quick intelligence between us. No deceit here either,
only a little self-deception on Cecilia's part. She had really grown
suddenly fonder of me; what had become of her fear, she did not know. But
I knew full well my new charm and my real merit; I was a good and safe
conductor of the electric shock.
"It chanced one day, when I was listening only as one listens to a man who
is talking at another through oneself, I did not immediately catch the
meaning, or I believe hear what the general said. Cecilia, unawares,
answered for me, and showed that she perfectly understood:--he bowed--she
"Man is usually quicksighted to woman's blushes. But our general was not
vain, only proud; the blush he did not set down to his own account, but
very much to hers. It was a proof, he thought, of so much simplicity of
heart, so unspoiled by the world, so unlike--in short, so like the very
woman he had painted in his fancy, before he knew too much----. Lady
Cecilia was now a perfect angel. Not one word of all this did he say, but
it was understood quite as well as if it had been spoken: his lips were
firm compressed, and the whole outer man composed--frigidly cold;--yet
through all this Cecilia saw--such is woman's penetration in certain
cases--Cecilia saw what must sooner or later happen. He, still proud of his
prudence, refrained from word, look, or sigh, resolved to be impassive
till his judgment should be perfectly satisfied. At last this judgment was
perfectly satisfied; that is, he was passionately in love--fairly 'caught,'
my dear, 'in the strong toils of grace,' and he threw himself at Cecilia's
feet. She was not quite so much surprised as he expected, but more pleased
than he had ventured to hope. There was that, however, in his proud
humility, which told Cecilia there must be no trifling.
'He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
Who fears to put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all.'
"He put it to the test, and won it all. General Clarendon, indeed, is a
man likely to win and keep the love of woman, for this, among other good
reasons, that love and honour being with him inseparable, the idol he
adores must keep herself at the height to which he has raised her, or cease
to receive his adoration. She must be no common vulgar idol for every
passing worshipper." As Lady Davenant paused, Helen looked up, hesitated,
and said: "I hope that General Clarendon is not disposed to jealousy."
"No: he's too proud to be jealous," replied Lady Davenant.
Are proud men never jealous? thought Helen.
"I mean," continued Lady Davenant, "that General Clarendon is too proud to
be jealous of his wife. For aught I know, he might have felt jealousy of
Cecilia before she was his, for then she was but a woman, like another; but
once HIS--once having set his judgment on the cast, both the virtues and
the defects of his character join in security for his perfect confidence in
the wife 'his choice and passion both approve.' From temper and principle
he is unchangeable. I acknowledge that I think the general is a little
inclined perhaps to obstinacy; but, as Burke says, though obstinacy is
certainly a vice, it happens that the whole line of the great and masculine
virtues, constancy, fidelity, fortitude, magnanimity, are closely allied to
this disagreeable quality, of which we have so just an abhorrence.
"It is most peculiarly happy for Cecilia that she has a husband of this
firm character, one on whom she can rely--one to whom she may, she must,
look up, if not always, yet upon all important occasions where decision is
necessary, or integrity required. It is between her and her general as it
should be in marriage, each has the compensating qualities to those which
the other possesses: General Clarendon is inferior to Cecilia in wit, but
superior in judgment; inferior in literature, superior in knowledge of the
world; inferior to my daughter altogether in abilities, in what is called
genius, but far superior in that ruling power, _strength of mind_. Strength
of mind is an attaching as well as a ruling power: all human creatures,
women especially, become attached to those who have power over their
minds. Yes, Helen, I am satisfied with their marriage, and with your
congratulations: yours are the sort I like. Vulgar people--by vulgar people
I mean all who think vulgarly--very great vulgar people have congratulated
me upon this establishment of my daughter's fortune and future rank (a
dukedom in view), all that could be wished in worldly estimation. But I
rejoice in it as the security for my daughter's character and happiness.
Thank you again, my dear young friend, for your sympathy; you can
understand me, you can feel with me."
Sympathy, intelligent, quick, warm, unwearied, unweariable, such as
Helen's, is really a charming accomplishment in a friend; the only
obligation a proud person, is never too proud to receive; and it was most
gratifying to Helen to be allowed to sympathise with Lady Davenant--one
who, in general, never spoke of herself, or unveiled her private feelings,
even to those who lived with her on terms of intimacy. Helen felt
responsible for the confidence granted to her thus upon credit, and a
strong ambition was excited in her mind to justify the high opinion her
superior friend had formed of her. She determined to become all that she
was believed to be; as the flame of a taper suddenly rises towards what is
held over it, her spirit mounted to the point to which her friend pointed.
Helen's perfect happiness at Clarendon Park was not of long duration.
People who have not been by nature blessed or cursed with nice feelings, or
who have well rubbed off their delicacy in roughing through the world, can
be quite happy, or at least happy enough without ascertaining whether they
are really esteemed or liked by those with whom they live. Many, and some
of high degree, when well sheltered and fed, and provided with all
the necessaries, and surrounded by all the luxuries of life, and with
appearances tolerably well kept up by outward manner, care little or nought
about the inside sentiments.
But Helen was neither of the case-hardened philosophic, or the naturally
obtuse-feeling class; she belonged to the over-anxious. Surrounded at
Clarendon Park with all the splendour of life, and with the immediate
expectation of seeing and being seen by the first society in England; with
the certainty also of being tenderly loved and highly esteemed by two of
the persons she was living with, yet a doubt about the third began to make
her miserable. Whether General Clarendon really liked her or not, was a
question that hung upon her mind sometimes as a dead weight--then vibrating
backwards and forwards, she often called to mind, and endeavoured to
believe, what Cecilia the first day told her, that this reserved manner
was natural to him with strangers, and would wear off. But to her the icy
coldness did not thaw. So she felt, or so she fancied, and which it was
she could not decide. She had never before lived with any one about whose
liking for her she could doubt, therefore, as she said to herself, "I know
I am a bad judge." She feared to open her mind to Cecilia. Lady Davenant
would be the safest person to consult; yet Helen, with all her young
delicacy fresh about her, scrupled, and could not screw her courage to
the sticking-place. Every morning going to Lady Davenant's room, she half
resolved and yet came away without speaking. At last, one morning, she
You said something the other day, my dear Lady Davenant, about a visit
from Miss Clarendon. Perhaps--I am afraid--in short I think,--I fear,
the general does not like my being here; and I thought, perhaps, he was
displeased at his sister's not being here,--that he thought Cecilia's
having asked me prevented his sister's coming; but then you told me he was
not of a jealous temper, did not you?"
"_Distinguez_," said Lady Davenant; "_distinguons_, as the old French
metaphysicians used to say, _distinguons_, there be various kinds of
jealousy, as of love. The old romancers make a distinction between
_amour_ and _amour par amours_. Whatever that mean, I beg leave to take a
distinction full as intelligible, I trust, between _jalousie par amour_ and
_jalousie par amitie_. Now, to apply; when I told you that our general was
not subject to jealousy, I should have distinguished, and said, _jalousie
par amour_--jealousy in love, but I will not ensure him against _jalousie
par amitie_--jealousy in friendship--of friends and relations, I mean.
Me-thinks I have seen symptoms of this in the general, he does not like my
influence over Cecilia, nor yours, my dear."
"I understand it all," exclaimed Helen, "and I was right from the very
first; I saw he disliked me, and he ever will and must dislike and detest
me--I see it in every look, hear it in every word, in every tone." "Now,
my dear Helen, if you are riding off on your imagination, I wish you a
pleasant ride, and till you come back again I will write my letter," said
Lady Davenant, taking up a pen.
Helen begged pardon, and protested she was not going to ride off upon any
imagination,--she had no imagination now--she entreated Lady Davenant to
go on, for she was very anxious to know the whole truth, whatever it might
be. Lady Davenant laid down her pen, and told her all she knew. In the
first place, that Cecilia did not like Miss Clarendon, who, though a very
estimable person, had a sort of uncompromising sincerity, joined with a
_brusquerie_ of manner which Cecilia could not endure. How her daughter had
managed matters to refuse the sister without offending the brother, Lady
Davenant said she did not know; that was Cecilia's secret, and probably it
lay in her own charming manner of doing things, aided by the whole affair
having occurred a few days before marriage, when nothing could be taken
ill of the bride elect. "The general, as Cecilia told me, desired that she
would write to invite you, Helen; she did so, and I am very glad of it.
This is all I know of this mighty matter."
But Helen could not endure the idea of being there, contrary to the
general's wishes, in the place of the sister he loved. Oh, how very,
very unfortunate she was to have all her hopes blighted, destroyed--and
Cecilia's kindness all in vain. Dear, dear Cecilia!--but for the whole
world Helen would not be so selfish--she would not run the hazard of making
mischief. She would never use her influence over Cecilia in opposition to
the general. Oh, how little he knew of her character, if he thought it
Helen had now come to tears. Then the keen sense of injustice turned to
indignation; and the tears wiped away, and pride prevailing, colouring she
exclaimed, "That she knew what she ought to do, she knew what she would
do--she would not stay where the master of the house did not wish for her.
Orphan though she was, she could not accept of protection or obligation
from any human being who neither liked or esteemed her. She would
shorten her visit at Clarendon Park--make it as short as his heart could
desire,--she would never be the cause of any disagreement--poor, dear, kind
Cecilia! She would write directly to Mrs. Collingwood." At the close of
these last incoherent sentences, Helen was awe-struck by the absolute
composed immovability and silence of Lady Davenant. Helen stood rebuked
"Instead of writing to Mrs. Collingwood, had not you better go at once?"
said her ladyship, speaking in a voice so calm, and in a tone so slightly
ironical, that it might have passed for earnest on any but an acutely
feeling ear--"Shall I ring, and order your carriage?" putting her hand on
the bell as she spoke, and resting it there, she continued--"It would be so
spirited to be off instantly; so wise, so polite, so considerate towards
_dear_ Cecilia--so dignified towards the general, and so kind towards me,
who am going to a far country, Helen, and may perhaps not see you ever
"Forgive me!" cried Helen; "I never could go while you were here."
"I did not know what you might think proper when you seemed to have lost
"I have recovered them," said Helen; "I will do whatever you
please--whatever you think best."
"It must not be what I please, my dear child, nor what I think best, but
what you judge for yourself to be best; else what will become of you when
I am in Russia? It must be some higher and more stable principle of action
that must govern you. It must not be the mere wish to please this or that
friend;--the defect of your character, Helen, remember I tell you,
is this--inordinate desire to be loved, this impatience of not being
loved--that which but a moment ago made you ready to abandon two of the
best friends you have upon earth, because you imagine, or you suspect, or
you fear, that a third person, almost a stranger, does not like before he
has had time to know you."
"I was very foolish," said Helen; "but now I will be wise, I will do
whatever is--right. Surely you would not have me live here if I were
convinced that the master of the house did not wish it?"
"Certainly not--certainly not," repeated Lady Davenant; "but let us see our
way before us; never gallop, my dear, much less leap; never move, till you
see your way;--once it is ascertained that General Clarendon does not wish
you to be here, nor approve of you for the chosen companion of his wife, I,
as your best friend, would say, begone, and speed you on your way; then
as much pride, as much spirit as you will; but those who are conscious of
possessing real spirit, should never be--seldom are--in a hurry to show it;
that kind of ostentatious haste is undignified in man, and ungraceful in
Helen promised that she would be patience itself: "But tell me exactly,"
said she, "what you would have me do."
"Nothing," said Lady Davenant.
"Nothing! that is easy at least," said Helen, smiling.
"No, not so easy as you imagine; it requires sometimes no small share of
strength of mind."
"Strength of mind!" said Helen, "I am afraid I have not any."
"Acquire it then, my dear," said her friend.
"But can I?"
"Certainly; strength of mind, like strength of body, is improved by
"If I had any to begin with--" said Helen.
"You have some, Helen, a great deal in one particular, else why should
I have any more regard for you, or more hope of you, than of any other
well-dressed, well-taught beauty, any of the tribe of young ladies who pass
before me without ever fixing my mind's eye for one moment?"
"But in what particular, my dear Lady Davenant, do you mean?" said Helen,
anxiously; "I am afraid you are mistaken; in what do you think I ever
showed strength of mind? Tell me, and I will tell you the truth."
"That you will, and there is the point that I mean. Ever since I have known
you, you have always, as at this moment, coward as you are, been brave
enough to speak the truth; and truth I believe to be the only real lasting
foundation for friendship; in all but truth there is a principle of decay
and dissolution. Now good bye, my dear;--stay, one word more--there is a
line in some classic poet, which says 'the suspicion of ill-will never
fails to produce it'--Remember this in your intercourse with General
Clarendon; show no suspicion of his bearing you ill-will, and to show none,
you must feel none. Put absolutely out of your head all that you may have
heard or imagined about Miss Clarendon, or her brother's prejudices on her
"I will--I will indeed," said Helen, and so they parted. A few words have
sometimes a material influence on events in human life. Perhaps even
among those who hold in general that advice never does good, there is no
individual who cannot recollect some few words--some conversation which has
altered the future colour of their lives.
Helen's over-anxiety concerning General Clarendon's opinion of her, being
now balanced by the higher interest Lady Davenant had excited, she met him
with new-born courage; and Lady Cecilia, not that she suspected it was
necessary, but merely by way of prevention, threw in little douceurs of
flattery, on the general's part, repeated sundry pretty compliments, and
really kind things which he had said to her of Helen. These always pleased
Helen at the moment, but she could never make what she was told he said of
her quite agree with what he said to her: indeed, he said so very little,
that no absolute discrepancy could be detected between the words spoken and
the words reported to have been said; but still the looks did not agree
with the opinions, or the cordiality implied.
One morning Lady Cecilia told her that the general wished that she would
ride out with them, "and you must come, indeed you must, and try his pretty
Zelica; he wishes it of all things, he told me so last night."
The general chancing to come in as she spoke, Lady Cecilia appealed to him
with a look that almost called upon him to enforce her request; but he only
said that if Miss Stanley would do him the honour, he should certainly be
happy, if Zelica would not be too much for her; but he could not take it
upon him to advise. Then looking for some paper of which he came in search,
and passing her with the most polite and deferential manner possible, he
left the room.
Half vexed, half smiling, Helen looked at Cecilia, and asked whether all
she had told her was not a little--"_plus belle que la verite._"
Lady Cecilia, blushing slightly, poured out rapid protestations that
all she had ever repeated to Helen of the general's sayings was perfect
truth--"I will not swear to the words--because in the first place it is
not pretty to swear, and next, because I can never recollect anybody's
words, or my own, five minutes after they have been said."
Partly by playfulness, and partly by protestations, Lady Cecilia half
convinced Helen; but from this time she refrained from repeating
compliments which, true or false, did no good, and things went on better;
observing this, she left them to their natural course, upon all such
occasions the best way.
And now visitors began to appear, and some officers of the general's staff
arrived. Clarendon Park happened to be in the district which General
Clarendon commanded, so that he was able usually to reside there. It was in
what is called a good neighbourhood, and there was much visiting, and many
One day at dinner, Helen was seated between the general and a fine young
guardsman, who, as far as his deep sense of his own merit, and his
fashionable indifference to young ladies would permit, had made some
demonstrations of a desire to attract her notice. He was piqued when,
in the midst of something he had wonderfully exerted himself to say, he
observed that her attention was distracted by a gentleman opposite, who
had just returned from the Continent, and who, among other pieces of news,
marriages and deaths of English abroad, mentioned that "poor D'Aubigny" was
at last dead.
Helen looked first at Cecilia, who, as she saw, heard what was said with
perfect composure; and then at Lady Davenant, who had meantime glanced
imperceptibly at her daughter, and then upon Helen, whose eyes she
met--and Helen coloured merely from association, because she had coloured
before-provoking! yet impossible to help it. All passed in less time than
it can be told, and Helen had left the guardsman in the midst of his
sentence, discomfited, and his eyes were now upon her; and in confusion she
turned from him, and there were the general's eyes but he was only inviting
her to taste some particular wine, which he thought she would like, and
which she willingly accepted, and praised, though she assuredly did not
know in the least what manner of taste it had. The general now exerted
himself to occupy the guardsman in a conversation about promotion, and drew
all observation from Helen. Yet not the slightest indication of having
seen, heard, or understood, appeared in his countenance, not the least
curiosity or interest about Colonel D'Aubigny. Of one point Helen was
however intuitively certain, that he had noticed that confusion which he
had so ably, so coolly covered. One ingenuous look from her thanked him,
and his look in return was most gratifying; she could not tell how it was,
but it appeared more as if he understood and liked her than any look she
had ever seen from him before. They were both more at their ease. Next day,
he certainly justified all Cecilia's former assurances, by the urgency with
which he desired to have her of the riding party. He put her on horseback
himself, bade the aide-de-camp ride on with Lady Cecilia--three several
times set the bridle right in Miss Stanley's hand, assuring her that she
need not be afraid, that Zelica was the gentlest creature possible, and he
kept his fiery horse, Fleetfoot, to a pace that suited her during the whole
time they were out. Helen took courage, and her ride did her a vast deal of
The rides were repeated, the general evidently became more and more
interested about Miss Stanley; he appealed continually to her taste, and
marked that he considered her as part of his family; but, as Helen told
Lady Davenant, it was difficult, with a person of his high-bred manners
and reserved temper, to ascertain what was to be attributed to general
deference to her sex, what to particular regard for the individual, how
much to hospitality to his guest, or attention to his wife's friend,
and what might be considered as proof of his own desire to share that
friendship, and of a real wish that she should continue to live with them.
While she was in this uncertainty, Lord Davenant arrived from London; he
had always been fond of Helen, and now the first sight of her youthful
figure in deep mourning, the recollection of the great changes that had
taken place since they had last met, touched him to the heart--he folded
her in his arms, and was unable to speak. He! a great bulky man, with a
face of constitutional joy--but so it was; he had a tender heart, deep
feelings of all kinds under an appearance of _insouciance_ which deceived
the world. He was distinguished as a political leader--but, as he said of
himself, he had been three times inoculated with ambition--once by his
mother, once by his brother, and once by his wife; but it had never taken
well; the last the best, however,--it had shown at least sufficiently to
satisfy his friends, and he was happy to be no more tormented. With talents
of the first order, and integrity unblenching, his character was not of
that stern stuff--no, not of that corrupt stuff--of which modern ambition
should be made.
He had now something to tell Helen, which he would say even before he
opened his London budget of news. He told her, with a congratulatory smile,
that he had had an opportunity of showing his sense of Mr. Collingwood's
merits; and as he spoke he put a letter into her hand.
The letter was from her good friend Mr. Collingwood, accepting a bishopric
in the West Indies, which had been offered to him by Lord Davenant. It
enclosed a letter for Helen, desiring in the most kind manner that she
would let him know immediately and decidedly where and with whom she
intended to live; and there was a postscript from Mrs. Collingwood full of
affection, and doubts, and hopes, and fears.
The moment Helen had finished this letter, without seeming to regard the
inquiring looks of all present, and without once looking towards any one
else, she walked deliberately up to General Clarendon, and begged to speak
to him alone. Never was general more surprised, but of course he was too
much of a general to let that appear. Without a word, he offered his arm,
and led her to his study; he drew a chair towards her--
"No misfortune, I hope, Miss Stanley? If I can in any way be of
"The only service, General Clarendon," said Helen, her manner becoming
composed, and her voice steadying as she went on--"the only service you
can do me now is to tell me the plain truth, and this will prevent what
would certainly be a misfortune to me--perhaps to all of us. Will you read
He received it with an air of great interest, and again moved the chair to
her. Before she sat down, she added,--
"I am unused to the world, you see, General Clarendon. I have been
accustomed to live with one who always told me his mind sincerely, so that
I could judge always what I ought to do. Will you do so now? It is the
greatest service, as well as favour, you can do me."
"Depend upon it, I will," said General Clarendon.
"I should not ask you to tell me in words--that might be painful to your
politeness; only let me see it," said Helen, and she sat down.
The general read on without speaking, till he came to the mention of
Helen's original promise of living with the Collingwoods. He did not
comprehend that passage, he said, showing it to her. He had always, on the
contrary, understood that it had been a long _settled_ thing, a promise
between Miss Stanley and Lady Cecilia, that Helen should live with Lady
Cecilia when she married.
"No such thing!" Helen said. "No such agreement had ever been made."
So the general now perceived; but this was a mistake of his which he
hoped would make no difference in her arrangements, he said: "Why should
it?--unless Miss Stanley felt unhappy at Clarendon Park?"
He paused, and Helen was silent: then, taking desperate resolution, she
"I should be perfectly happy here, if I were sure of your wishes, your
feelings about me--about it."
"Is it possible that there has been any thing in my manner," said he, "that
could give Miss Stanley pain? What could have put a doubt into her mind?"
"There might be some other person nearer, and naturally dearer to you,"
said Helen, looking up in his face ingenuously--"one whom you might have
desired to have in my place:--your sister, Miss Clarendon, in short."
"Did Cecilia tell you of this?"
"No, Lady Davenant did; and since I heard it I never could be happy--I
never can be happy till I know your feeling."
His manner instantly changed.
"You shall know my feelings, then," said he. "Till I knew you, Helen, my
wish was, that my sister should live with my wife; now I know you, my wish
is, that you should live with us. You will suit Cecilia better than my
sister could--will suit us both better, having the same truth of character,
and more gentleness of manner. I have answered you with frankness equal to
your own. And now," said he, taking her hand, "you know Cecilia has always
considered you as her sister--allow me to do the same: consider me as a
brother--such you shall find me. Thank you. This is settled for life,"
added he, drawing her arm through his, and taking up her letters, he led
her back towards the library.
But her emotion, the stronger for being suppressed, was too great for
re-appearing in company: she withdrew her arm from his when they were
passing through the hall, and turning her face away, she had just voice
enough to beg he would show her letters to----
He understood. She ran up-stairs to her own room, glad to be alone; a flood
of joy came over her.
"A brother in Cecilia's husband!--a brother!"
The word had a magical charm, and she could not help repeating it
aloud--she wept like a child. Lady Cecilia soon came flying in, all
delight and affection, reproaches and wonder alternately, in the quickest
conceivable succession. "Delighted, it is settled and for ever! my dear,
dear Helen! But how could you ever think of leaving us, you wicked Helen!
Well! now you see what Clarendon really is! But, my dear, I was so
terrified when I heard it all. You are, and ever were, the oddest mixture
of cowardice and courage. I--do you know I, brave _I_--never should have
advised--never should have ventured as you have? But he is delighted at it
all, and so am I now it has all ended so charmingly, now I have you safe. I
will write to the Collingwoods; you shall not have a moment's pain; I will
settle it all, and invite them here before they leave England; Clarendon
desired I would--oh, he is!--now you will believe me! The Collingwoods,
too, will be glad to be asked here to take leave of you, and all will be
right; I love, as you do, dear Helen, that everybody should be pleased when
I am happy."
When Lady Davenant heard all that had passed, she did not express that
prompt unmixed delight which Helen expected; a cloud came over her brow,
something painful regarding her daughter seemed to strike her, for her
eyes fixed on Cecilia, and her emotion was visible in her countenance; but
pleasure unmixed appealed as she turned to Helen, and to her she gave, what
was unusual, unqualified approbation.
"My dear Helen, I admire your plain straightforward truth; I am satisfied
with this first essay of your strength of mind and courage."
"Courage!" said Helen, smiling.
"Not such as is required to take a lion by the beard, or a bull by the
horns," replied Lady Davenant; "but there are many persons in this world
who, brave though they be, would rather beard a lion, sooner seize a bull
by the horns, than, when they get into a dilemma, dare to ask a direct
question, and tell plainly what passes in their own minds. Moral courage
is, believe me, uncommon in both sexes, and yet in going through the
world it is equally necessary to the virtue of both men and women."
"But do you really think," said Helen, "that strength of mind, or what you
call moral courage, is as necessary to women as it is to men?"
"Certainly, show me a virtue, male or female--if virtues admit of
grammatical distinctions, if virtues acknowledge the more worthy gender and
the less worthy of the grammar, show me a virtue male or female that _can_
long exist without truth. Even that emphatically termed the virtue of our
sex, Helen, on which social happiness rests, society depends, on what is it
based? is it not on that single-hearted virtue truth?--and truth on what?
on courage of the mind. They who dare to speak the truth, will not ever
dare to go irretrievably wrong. Then what is falsehood but cowardice?--and
a false woman!--does not that say all in one word?"
"But whence arose all this? you wonder, perhaps," said Lady Davenant;
"and I have not inclination to explain. Here comes Lord Davenant. Now for
politics--farewell morality, a long farewell. Now for the London budget,
and 'what news from Constantinople? Grand vizier certainly strangled, or
The London budget of news was now opened, and gone through by Lord
Davenant, including quarrels in the cabinet and all that with fear of
change perplexes politicians. But the fears and hopes of different ages are
attached to such different subjects, that Helen heard all this as though
she heard it not, and went on with her drawing, touching, and retouching
it, without ever looking up, till her attention was wakened by the name of
Granville Beauclerc; this was the name of the person who had written those
interesting letters which she had met with in Lady Davenant's portfolio.
"What is he doing in town?" asked the general.
"Amusing himself, I suppose," replied Lord Davenant.
"I believe he forgets that I am his guardian," said the general.
"I am sure he cannot forget that you are his friend," said Lady Cecilia;
"for he has the best heart in the world."
"And the worst head for any thing useful," said the general.
"He is a man of genius," said Lady Davenant.
"Did you speak to him, my lord," pursued the general, "about standing for
"And he said what?"
"That he would have nothing to do with it."
"Something about not being tied to party, and somewhat he said about
patriotism," replied Lord Davenant.
"Nonsense!" said the general, "he is a fool."
"Only young," said Lady Davenant,
"Men are not so very young in these days at two-and-twenty," said the
"In some," said Lady Davenant, "the classical touch, the romance of
political virtue, lasts for months, if not years, after they leave college;
even those who, like Granville, go into high life in London, do not
sometimes, for a season or two, lose their first enthusiasm of patriotism."
The general's lips became compressed. Lord Davenant, throwing himself back
in his easy chair, repeated, "Patriotism! yes, every young man of talent is
apt to begin with a fit of that sort."
"My dear lord," cried Lady Davenant, "you, of all men, to speak of
patriotism as a disease!"
"And a disease that can be had but once in life, I am afraid," replied her
lord laughing; "and yet," as if believing in that at which he laughed, "it
evaporates in most men in words, written or spoken, lasts till the first
pamphlet is published, or till the maiden-speech in parliament is fairly
made, and fairly paid for--in all honour--all honourable men."
Lady Davenant passed over these satirical observations, and somewhat
abruptly asked Lord Davenant if he recollected the late Mr. Windham.
"Certainly he was not a man to be easily forgotten: but what in
particular?" "The scales of his mind were too fine," said Lady Davenant,
"too nicely adjusted for common purposes; diamond scales will not do for
weighing wool. Very refined, very ingenious, very philosophical minds, such
as Windham, Burke, Bacon, were all too scrupulous weighers; their scales
turned with the millionth of a grain, and all from the same cause, subject
to the same defect, indecision. They saw too well how much can be said on
both sides of the question. There is a sort of philosophical doubt, arising
from enlargement of understanding, quite different from that irresolution
of character which is caused by infirmity of will; and I have observed,"
continued Lady Davenant, "in some of these over scrupulous weighers, that
when once they come to a balance, that instant they become most wilful; so
it will be, you will see, with Beauclerc. After excessive indecision, you
will see him start perhaps at once to rash action."
"Rash of wrong, resolute of right," said Lord Davenant.
"He is constitutionally wilful, and metaphysically vacillating," said Lady
The general waited till the metaphysics were over, and then said to Lord
Davenant that he suspected there was something more than mere want of
ambition in Beauclerc's refusal to go into parliament. Some words were here
inaudible to Helen, and the general began to walk up and down the room with
so strong a tread, that at every step the china shook on the table near
which Helen sat, so that she lost most part of what followed, and yet it
seemed interesting, about some Lord Beltravers, and a Comtesse de Saint
---- something, or a Lady Blanche ---- somebody.
Lady Davenant looked anxious, the general's steps became more deliberately,
more ominously firm; till lady Cecilia came up to him, and playfully
linking her arm in his, the steps were moderated, and when a soothing hand
came upon his shoulder, the compressed lips were relaxed--she spoke in a
low voice--he answered aloud.
"By all means! write to him yourself, my love; get him down here and he
will be safe; he cannot refuse you."
"Tuesday, then?" she would name the earliest day if the general approved.
He approved of every thing she said; "Tuesday let it be." Following him to
the door, Lady Cecilia added something which seemed to fill the measure of
his contentment. "Always good and kind," said he; "so let it be.
"Then shall I write to your sister, or will you?"
"You," said the general, "let the kindness come from you, as it always
Lady Cecilia, in a moment at the writing-table, ran off, as fast as pen
could go, two notes, which she put into her mother's hand, who gave an
approving nod; and, leaving them with her to seal and have franked, Cecilia
darted out on the terrace, carrying Helen along with her, to see some
Italian garden she was projecting.
And as she went, and as she stood directing the workmen, at every close of
her directions she spoke to Helen. She said she was very glad that she had
settled that Beauclerc was to come to them immediately. He was a great
favourite of hers.
"Not for any of those grandissimo qualities which my mother sees in him,
and which I am not quite clear exist; but just because he is the most
agreeable person in nature; and really natural; though he is a man of the
world, yet not the least affected. Quite fashionable, of course, but with
true feeling. Oh! he is delightful, just--" then she interrupted herself to
give directions to the workmen about her Italian garden----
"Oleander in the middle of that bed; vases nearer to the balustrade-----"
"Beauclerc has a very good taste, and a beautiful place he has, Thorndale.
He will be very rich. Few very rich young men are agreeable now, women
spoil them so.--['Border that bed with something pretty.']--Still he is,
and I long to know what you will think of him; I know what I think he will
think, but, however, I will say no more; people are always sure to get into
scrapes in this world, when they say what they think.--['That fountain
looks beautiful.']--I forgot to tell you he is very handsome. The general
is very fond of him, and he of the general, except when he considers him
as his guardian, for Granville Beauclerc does not particularly like to be
controlled--who does? It is a curious story.--['Unpack those vases, and by
the time that is done I will be back.']--Take a turn with me, Helen, this
way. It is a curious story: Granville Beauclerc's father--but I don't know
it perfectly, I only know that he was a very odd man, and left the general,
though he was so much younger than himself, guardian to Granville, and
settled that he was not to be of age, I mean not to come into possession
of his large estates, till he is five-and-twenty: shockingly hard on poor
Granville, and enough to make him hate Clarendon, but he does not, and that
is charming, that is one reason I like him! So amazingly respectful to his
guardian always, considering how impetuous he is, amazingly respectful,
though I cannot say I think he is what the gardening books call _patient of
the knife_, I don't think he likes his fancies to be lopped; but then he is
so clever. Much more what you would call a reading man than the general,
distinguished at college, and all that which usually makes a young man
conceited, but Beauclerc is only a little headstrong--all the more
agreeable, it keeps one in agitation; one never knows how it will end, but
I am sure it will all go on well now. It is curious, too, that mamma knew
him also when he was at Eton, I believe--I don't know how, but long before
we ever heard of Clarendon, and she corresponded with him, but I never knew
him till he came to Florence, just after it was all settled with me and the
general; and he was with us there and at Paris, and travelled home with us,
and I like him. Now you know all, except what I do not choose to tell you,
so come back to the workmen--'That vase will not do there, move it in
front of these evergreens; that will do.'"
Then returning to Helen--"After all, I did so right, and I am so glad
I thought in time of inviting Esther, now Mr. Beauclerc is coming--the
general's sister--half sister. Oh, so unlike him! you would never guess
that Miss Clarendon was his sister, except from her pride. But she is so
different from other people; she knows nothing, and wishes to know nothing
of the world. She lives always at an old castle in Wales, Llan ----
something, which she inherited from her mother, and she has always been her
own mistress, living with her aunt in melancholy grandeur there, till her
brother brought her to Florence, where--oh, how she was out of her element!
Come this way and I will tell you more. The fact is, I do not not much like
Miss Clarendon, and I will tell you why--I will describe her to you."
"No, no, do not," said Helen; "do not, my dear Cecilia, and I will tell you
"Why--why?" cried Cecilia. "Do you recollect the story my uncle told us
about the young bride and her old friend, and the bit of advice?"
No, Cecilia did not recollect any thing of it. She should be very glad to
hear the anecdote, but as to the advice, she hated advice.
"Still, if you knew who gave it--it was given by a very great man."
"A very great man! now you make me curious. Well, what is it?" said Lady
"That for one year after her marriage, she would not tell to her friends
the opinion she had formed, if unfavourable, of any of her husband's
relations, as it was probable she might change that opinion on knowing
them better, and would afterwards be sorry for having told her first hasty
judgment. Long afterwards the lady told her friend that she owed to this
advice a great part of the happiness of her life, for she really had, in
the course of the year, completely changed her first notions of some of her
husband's family, and would have had sorely to repent, if she had told her
Cecilia listened, and said it was all "Vastly well! excellent! But I
had nothing in the world to say of Miss Clarendon, but that she was too
good--too sincere for the world we live in. For instance, at Paris, one day
a charming Frenchwoman was telling some anecdote of the day in the most
amusing manner. Esther Clarendon all the while stood by, grave and black
as night, and at last turning upon our charmer at the end of the story,
pronounced, 'There is not one word of truth in all you have been
saying!' Conceive it, in full salon! The French were in such amazement.
'Inconceivable!' as they might well say to me, as she walked off with her
tragedy-queen air; _'Inconcevable--mais, vraiment inconcevable;'_ and
_'Bien Anglaise,'_ they would have added, no doubt, if I had not been by."
"But there must surely have been some particular reason," said Helen.
"None in the world, only the story was not true, I believe. And then
another time, when she was with her cousin, the Duchess of Lisle, at
Lisle-Royal, and was to have gone out the next season in London with the
Duchess, she came down one morning, just before they were to set off for
town, and declared that she bad heard such a quantity of scandal since she
had been there, and such shocking things of London society, that she had
resolved not to go out with the Duchess, and not to go to town at all? So
Helen felt some sympathy in this, and was going to have said so, but
Cecilia went on with--
"And then to expect that Granville Beauclerc--should--"
Here Cecilia paused, and Helen felt curious, and ashamed of her curiosity;
she turned away, to raise the branches of some shrub, which were drooping
from the weight of their flowers.
"I know something _has_ been thought of," said Cecilia. "A match has been
in contemplation--do you comprehend me, Helen?"
"You mean that Mr. Beauclerc is to marry Miss Clarendon," said Helen,
compelled to speak.
"I only say it has been thought of," replied Lady Cecilia; "that is, as
every thing in this way is thought of about every couple not within the
prohibited degrees, one's grandmother inclusive. And the plainer the woman,
the more sure she is to contemplate such things for herself, lest no one
else should think of them for her. But, my dear Helen, if you mean to
"Oh, I don't mean to ask any thing," cried Helen.
"But, whether you ask or not, I must tell you that the general is too proud
to own, even to himself, that he could; ever think of any man for his
sister who had not first proposed for her."
There was a pause for some minutes.
"But," resumed Lady Cecilia, "I could not do less than ask her here for
Clarendon's sake, when I know it pleases him; and she is very--estimable,
and so I wish to make her love me if I could! But I do not think she will
be nearer her point with Mr. Beauclerc, if it is her point, by coming here
just now. Granville has eyes as well as ears, and contrasts will strike.
I know who I wish should strike him, as she strikes me--and I think--I
Helen looked distressed.
"I am as innocent as a dove," pursued Lady Cecilia; "but I suppose even
doves may have their own private little thoughts and wishes."
Helen was sure Cecilia had meant all this most kindly, but she was sorry
that some things had been said. She was conscious of having been interested
by those letters of Mr. Beauclerc's; but a particular thought had now been
put into her mind, and she could never more say, never more feel, that such
a thought had not come into her head. She was very sorry; it seemed as if
somewhat of the freshness, the innocence, of her mind was gone from her.
She was sorry, too, that she had heard all that Cecilia had said about
Miss Clarendon; it appeared as if she was actually doomed to get into some
difficulty with the general about his sister; she felt as if thrown back
into a sea of doubts, and she was not clear that she could, even by
opposing, end them.
On the appointed Tuesday, late, Miss Clarendon arrived; a fine figure,
but ungraceful, as Helen observed, from the first moment when she
turned sharply away from Lady Cecilia's embrace to a great dog of her
brother's--"Ah, old Neptune! I'm glad you're here still."
And when Lady Cecilia would have put down his paws--Let him alone, let him
alone, dear, honest, old fellow."
"But the dear, honest, old fellow's paws are wet, and will ruin your pretty
"It may be new, but you know it is not pretty," said Miss Clarendon,
continuing to pat Neptune's head as he jumped up with his paws on her
"O my dear Esther, how can you hear him? he is so rough in his love!"
"I like rough better than smooth." The rough paw caught in her lace frill,
and it was torn to pieces before "down! down!" and the united efforts of
Lady Cecilia and Helen could extricate it.--"Don't distress yourselves
about it, pray; it does not signify in the least. Poor Neptune, how really
sorry he looks--there, there, wag your tail again--no one shall come
between us two old friends."
Her brother came in, and, starting up, her arms were thrown round his neck,
and her bonnet falling back, Helen who had thought her quite plain before,
was surprised to see that, now her colour was raised, and there was life in
her eyes, she was really handsome.
Gone again that expression, when Cecilia spoke to her: whatever she said,
Miss Clarendon differed from; if it was a matter of taste, she was always
of the contrary opinion; if narrative or assertion, she questioned,
doubted, seemed as if she could not believe. Her conversation, if
conversation it could be called, was a perpetual rebating and regrating,
especially with her sister-in-law; if Lady Cecilia did but say there were
three instead of four, it was taken up as "quite a mistake," and marked not
only as a mistake, but as "not true." Every, the slightest error, became a
crime against majesty, and the first day ended with Helen's thinking her
really the most disagreeable, intolerable person she had ever seen.
And the second day went on a little worse. Helen thought Cecilia took too
much pains to please, and said it would be better to let her quite alone.
Helen did so completely, but Miss Clarendon did not let Helen alone; but
watched her with penetrating eyes continually, listened to every word she
said, and seeming to weigh every syllable,--"Oh, my words are not worth
your weighing," said Helen, laughing.
"Yes they are, to settle my mind."
The first thing that seemed at all to settle it was Helen's not agreeing
with Cecilia about the colour of two ribands which Helen said she could
not flatter her were good matches. The next was about a drawing of Miss
Clarendon's, of Llansillan, her place in Wales; a beautiful drawing indeed,
which she had brought for her brother, but one of the towers certainly was
out of the perpendicular. Helen was appealed to, and could not say it was
upright; Miss Clarendon instantly took up a knife, cut the paper at the
back of the frame, and, taking out the drawing, set the tower to rights.
"There's the use of telling the truth."
"Of listening to it," said Helen.
"We shall get on, I see, Miss Stanley, if you can get over the first
bitter outside of me;--a hard outside, difficult to crack--stains delicate
fingers, may be," she continued, as she replaced her drawing in its
frame--"stains delicate fingers, may be, in the opening, but a good walnut
you will find it, taken with a grain of salt."
Many a grain seemed necessary, and very strong nut-crackers in very strong
hands. Lady Cecilia's evidently were not strong enough, though she strained
hard. Helen did not feel inclined to try.
Cecilia invited Miss Clarendon to walk out and see some of the alterations
her brother had made. As they passed the new Italian garden, Miss Clarendon
asked, "What's all this?--don't like this--how I regret the Old English
garden, and the high beech hedges. Every thing is to be changed here, I
suppose,--pray do not ask my opinion about any of the alterations."
"I do not wonder," said Cecilia, "that you should prefer the old garden,
with all your early associations; warm-hearted, amiable people must always
be so fond of what they have loved in childhood."
"I never was here when I was a child, and I am not one of your amiable
"Very true, indeed," thought Helen.
"Miss Stanley looks at me as if I had seven heads," said Miss Clarendon,
laughing; and, a minute after, overtaking Helen as she walked on, she
looked full in her face, and added, "Do acknowledge that you think me a
savage." Helen did not deny it, and from that moment Miss Clarendon looked
less savagely upon her: she laughed and said, "I am not quite such a bear
as I seem, you'll find; at least I never hug people to death. My growl is
worse than my bite, unless some one should flatter my classical, bearish
passion, and offer to feed me with honey, and when I find it all comb and
no honey, who would not growl then?"
Lady Cecilia now came up, and pointed out views to which the general had
opened. "Yes, it's well, he has done very well, but pray don't stand on
ceremony with me. I can walk alone, you may leave me to my own cogitations,
as I like best."
"Surely, as you like best," said Lady Cecilia; "pray consider yourself, as
you know you are, at home here."
"No, I never shall be at home here," said Esther.
"Oh! don't say that, let me hope--let me hope--" and she withdrew. Helen
just stayed to unlock a gate for Miss Clarendon's 'rambles further,' and,
as she unlocked it, she heard Miss Clarendon sigh as she repeated the word,
"Hope! I do not like to hope, hope has so often deceived me."
"You will never be deceived in Cecilia," said Helen.
"Take care--stay till you try."
"I have tried," said Helen, "I know her."