Part 2 out of 10
"You're scarcely out of childhood yet."
"I am not so very young. I have had trials of my friends--of Cecilia
particularly, much more than you could ever have had."
"Well, this is the best thing I ever heard of her, and from good authority
too; her friends abroad were all false," said Miss Clarendon.
"It is very extraordinary," said Helen, "to hear such a young person as you
are talk so--
"Of false friends--you must have been very unfortunate."
"Pardon me--very fortunate--to find them out in time." She looked at the
prospect, and liked all that her brother was doing, and disliked all that
she even guessed Lady Cecilia had done. Helen showed her that she guessed
wrong here and there, and smiled at her prejudices; and Miss Clarendon
smiled again, and admitted that she was prejudiced, "but every body is;
only some show and tell, and others smile and fib. I wish that word fib was
banished from English language, and white lie drummed out after it. Things
by their right names and we should all do much better. Truth must be told,
whether agreeable or not."
"But whoever makes truth disagreeable commits high treason against virtue,"
"Is that yours?" cried Miss Clarendon, stopping short.
"No," said Helen. "It is excellent whoever said it."
"It was from my uncle Stanley I heard it," said Helen.
"Superior man that uncle must have been."
"I will leave you now," said Helen.
"Do, I see we shall like one another in time, Miss Stanley; in time,--I
hate sudden friendships."
That evening Miss Clarendon questioned Helen more about her friendship with
Cecilia, and how it was she came to hive with her. Helen plainly told her.
"Then it was not an original promise between you?"
"Not at all," said Helen.
"Lady Cecilia told me it was. Just like her,--I knew all the time it was a
Shocked and startled at the word, and at the idea, Helen exclaimed, "Oh!
Miss Clarendon, how can you say so? anybody may he mistaken. Cecilia
mistook--" Lady Cecilia joined them at this moment. Miss Clarendon's face
was flushed. "This room is insufferably hot. What can be the use of a fire
at this time of year?"
Cecilia said it was for her mother, who was apt to be chilly in the
evenings; and as she spoke, she put a screen between the flushed cheek and
the fire. Miss Clarendon pushed it away, saying, "I can't talk, I can't
hear, I can't understand with a screen before me. What did you say,
Lady Cecilia, to Lady Davenant, as we came out from dinner, about Mr.
"That we expect him to-morrow."
"You did not tell me so when you wrote!"
"No, my dear."
"I don't know."
"You don't know, Lady Cecilia! why should people say they do not know, when
they do know perfectly well?"
"If I had thought it was of any consequence to you, Esther," said Cecilia,
with an arch look----
"Now you expect me to answer that it was not of the least consequence to
me--that is the answer you would make; but my answer is, that it was of
consequence to me, and you knew it was."
"And if I did?"
"If you did, why say 'If I had thought it of any consequence to you?'--why
say so? answer me truly."
"Answer me truly!" repeated Lady Cecilia, laughing. "Oh, my dear Esther, we
are not in a court of justice."
"Nor in a court of honour," pursued Miss Clarendon.
"Well, well! let it be a court of love at least," said Lady Cecilia. "What
a pretty proverb that was, Helen, that we met with the other day in that
book of old English proverbs--'Love rules his kingdom without a sword.'"
"Very likely; but to the point," said Miss Clarendon, "when do you expect
"Then I shall go to-morrow!"
"My dear Esther, why?"
"You know why; you know what reports have been spread; it suits neither my
character nor my brother's to give any foundation for such reports. Let me
ring the bell and I will give my own orders."
"My dear Esther, but your brother will be so vexed--so surprised."
"My brother is the best judge of his own conduct, he will do what he
pleases, or what you please. I am the judge of mine, and certainly shall do
what I think right."
She rang accordingly, and ordered that her carriage should be at the door
at six o'clock in the morning.
"Nay, my dear Esther," persisted Cecilia, "I wish you would not decide so
suddenly; we were so glad to have you come to us--"
"Glad! why you know--"
"I know," interrupted Lady Cecilia, colouring, and she began as fast
as possible to urge every argument she could think of to persuade Miss
Clarendon; but no arguments, no entreaties of hers or the general's,
public or private, were of any avail,--go she would, and go she did at six
"I suppose," said Helen to Lady Davenant, "that Miss Clarendon is very
estimable, and she seems to be very clever: but I wonder that with all her
abilities she does not learn to make her manners more agreeable."
"My dear," said Lady Davenant, "we must take people as they are; you may
graft a rose upon an oak, but those who have tried the experiment tell
us the graft will last but a short time, and the operation ends in the
destruction of both; where the stocks have no common nature, there is ever
a want of conformity which sooner or later proves fatal to both."
But Beauclerc, what was become of him?--that day passed, and no Beauclerc;
another and another came, and on the third day, only a letter from him,
which ought to have come on Tuesday.--But "_too late_," the shameful brand
of procrastination was upon it--and it contained only a few lines blotted
in the folding, to say that he could not possibly be at Clarendon Park on
Tuesday, but would on Wednesday or Thursday if possible.
Good-natured Lord Davenant observed, "When a young man in London, writing
to his friends in the country, names two days for leaving town, and adds an
'_if possible_' his friends should never expect him till the last of the
The last of the two days arrived--Thursday. The aide-de-camp asked if Mr.
Beauclerc was expected to-day. "Yes, I expect to see him to-day," the
"I hope, but do not expect," said Lady Davenant, "for, as learned authority
tells me, 'to expect is to hope with some degree of certainty'--"
The general left the room repeating, "I expect him to-day, Cecilia."
The day passed, however, and he came not--the night came. The general
ordered that the gate should be kept open, and that a servant should sit
up. The servant sat up all night, cursing Mr. Beauclerc. And in the morning
he replied with malicious alacrity to the first question his master asked,
"No, Sir, Mr. Beauclerc is not come."
At breakfast, the general, after buttering his bread in silence for some
minutes, confessed that he loved punctuality. It might be a military
prejudice;--it might be too professional, martinet perhaps,--but still he
owned he did love punctuality. He considered it as a part of politeness, a
proper attention to the convenience and feelings of others; indispensable
between strangers it is usually felt to be, and he did not know why
intimate friends should deem themselves privileged to dispense with it.
His eyes met Helen's as he finished these words, and smiling, he
complimented her upon her constant punctuality. It was a voluntary grace in
a lady, but an imperative duty in a man--and a young man.
"You are fond of this young man, I see general," said Lord Davenant.
"But not of his fault."
Lady Cecilia said something about forgiving a first fault.
"Never!" said Lady Davenant. "Lord Collingwood's rule was--never forgive a
first fault, and you will not have a second. You love Beauclerc, I see, as
Lord Davenant says."
"Love him!" resumed the general; "with all his faults and follies, I love
him as if he were my brother."
At which words Lady Cecilia, with a scarcely perceptible smile, cast a
furtive glance at Helen.
The general called for his horses, and, followed by his aide-de-camp,
departed, saying that he should be back at luncheon-time, when he hoped to
find Beauclerc. In the same hope, Lady Davenant ordered her pony-phaeton
earlier than usual; Lady Cecilia further hoped most earnestly that
Beauclerc would come this day, for the next the house would be full of
company, and she really wished to have him one day at least to themselves,
and she gave a most significant glance at Helen.
"The first move often secures the game against the best players," said she.
Helen blushed, because she could not help understanding; she was ashamed,
vexed with Cecilia, yet pleased by her kindness, and half amused by her
arch look and tone.
They were neither of them aware that Lady Davenant had heard the words
that passed, or seen the looks; but immediately afterwards, when they were
leaving the breakfast-room, Lady Davenant came between the two friends,
laid her hand upon her daughter's arm, and said,
"Before you make any move in a dangerous game, listen to the voice of old
Lady Cecilia startled, looked up, but as if she did not comprehend.
"Cupid's bow, my dear," continued her mother, "is, as the Asiatics tell us,
strung with bees, which are apt to sting--sometimes fatally--those who
meddle with it."
Lady Cecilia still looked with an innocent air, and still as if she could
"To speak more plainly, then, Cecilia," said her mother, "build
no matrimonial castles in the air; standing or falling they do
mischief--mischief either to the builder, or to those for whom they may be
"Certainly if they fall they disappoint one," said Lady Cecilia, "but if
Seeing that she made no impression on her daughter, Lady Davenant turned to
Helen, and gravely said,--
"My dear Helen, do not let my daughter inspire you with false, and perhaps
vain imaginations, certainly premature, therefore unbecoming."
Helen shrunk back, yet instantly looked up, and her look was ingenuously
"But, mamma," said Lady Cecilia, "I declare I do not understand what all
this is about."
"About Mr. Granville Beauclerc," said her mother.
"How can you, dear mamma, pronounce his name so _tout an long?_" "Pardon my
indelicacy, my dear; delicacy is a good thing, but truth a better. I have
seen the happiness of many young women sacrificed by such false delicacy,
and by the fear of giving a moment's present pain, which it is sometimes
the duty of a true friend to give."
"Certainly, certainly, mamma, only not necessary now; and I am so sorry you
have said all this to poor dear Helen."
"If you have said nothing to her, Cecilia, I acknowledge I have said too
"I said--I did nothing," cried Lady Cecilia; "I built no castles--never
built a regular castle in my life; never had a regular plan in my
existence; never mentioned his name, except about another person--"
An appealing look to Helen was however _protested_.
"To the best of my recollection, at least," Lady Cecilia immediately added.
"Helen seems to be blushing for your want of recollection, Cecilia."
"I am sure I do not know why you blush, Helen. I am certain I never did say
a word distinctly."
"Not _distinctly_ certainly," said Helen in a low voice. "It was my fault
if I understood----"
"Always true, you are," said Lady Davenant.
"I protest I said nothing but the truth," cried Lady Cecilia hastily.
"But not the whole truth, Cecilia," said her mother.
"I did, upon my word, mamma," persisted Lady Cecilia, repeating "upon my
"Upon your word, Cecilia! that is either a vulgar expletive or a most
She spoke with a grave tone, and with her severe look, and Helen dared not
raise her eyes; Lady Cecilia now coloured deeply.
"Shame! Nature's hasty conscience," said Lady Davenant. "Heaven preserve
"Oh, mother!" cried Lady Cecilia, laying her hand on her mother's, "surely
you do not think seriously--surely you are not angry--I cannot bear to see
you displeased," said she, looking up imploringly in her mother's face, and
softly, urgently pressing her hand. No pressure was returned; that hand was
slowly and with austere composure withdrawn, and her mother walked away
down the corridor to her own room. Lady Cecilia stood still, and the tears
came into her eyes.
"My dear friend, I am exceedingly sorry," said Helen. She could not believe
that Cecilia meant to say what was not true, yet she felt that she had been
to blame in not telling all, and her mother in saying too much.
Lady Cecilia, her tears dispersed, stood looking at the impression which
her mother's signet-ring had left in the palm of her hand. It was at that
moment a disagreeable recollection that the motto of that ring was "Truth."
Rubbing the impress from her hand, she said, half speaking to herself, and
half to Helen--"I am sure I did not mean anything wrong; and I am sure
nothing can be more true than that I never formed a regular plan in my
life. After all, I am sure that so much has been said about nothing, that
I do not understand anything: I never do, when mamma goes on in that way,
making mountains of molehills, which she always does with me, and did ever
since I was a child; but she really forgets that I am not a child. Now, it
is well the general was not by; he would never have borne to see his
wife so treated. But I would not, for the world, be the cause of any
disagreement. Oh! Helen, my mother does not know how I love her, let her be
ever so severe to me! But she never loved me; she cannot help it. I believe
she does her best to love me--my poor, dear mother!"
Helen seized this opportunity to repeat the warm expressions she had heard
so lately from Lady Davenant, and melting they sunk into Cecilia's heart.
She kissed Helen again and again, for a dear, good peacemaker, as she
always was--and "I'm resolved"--but in the midst of her good resolves
she caught a glimpse through the glass door opening on the park, of the
general, and a fine horse they were ringing, and she hurried out: all light
of heart she went, as though
"Or shake the downy _blowball_ from her stalk."
Since Lord Davenant's arrival, Lady Davenant's time was so much taken up
with him, that Helen could not have many opportunities of conversing
with her, and she was the more anxious to seize every one that occurred.
She always watched for the time when Lady Davenant went out in her pony
phaeton, for then she had her delightfully to herself, the carriage
holding only two.
It was at the door, and Lady Davenant was crossing the hall followed by
Helen, when Cecilia came in with a look, unusual in her, of being much
"Another put off from Mr. Beauclerc! He will not he here to-day. I give
Lady Davenant stopped short, and asked whether Cecilia had told him that
probably she should soon be gone?
"To be sure I did, mamma."
"And what reason does he give for his delay?"
"None, mamma, none--not the least apology. He says, very cavalierly
indeed, that he is the worst man in the world at making excuses--shall
"There he is right" said Lady Davenant. "Those who are good at excuses,
as Franklin justly observed, are apt to be good for nothing else."
The general came up the steps at this moment, rolling a note between his
fingers, and looking displeased. Lady Davenant inquired if he could tell
her the cause of Mr. Beauclerc's delay. He could not.
Lady Cecilia exclaimed--"Very extraordinary! Provoking! Insufferable!
"It is Mr. Beauclerc's own affair," said Lady Davenant, wrapping her
shawl round her; and, taking the general's arm, she walked on to her
carriage. Seating herself, and gathering up the reins, she repeated--
"Mr. Beauclerc's own affair, completely."
The lash of her whip was caught somewhere, and, while the groom was
disentangling it, she reiterated--"That will do: let the horses go:"--
and with half-suppressed impatience thanked Helen, who was endeavouring
to arrange some ill-disposed cloak--"Thank you, thank you, my dear: it's
all very well. Sit down, Helen."
She drove off rapidly, through the beautiful park scenery But the
ancient oaks, standing alone, casting vast shadows, the distant massive
woods of magnificent extent and of soft and varied foliage; the secluded
glades, all were lost upon her. Looking straight between her horses'
ears, she drove on in absolute silence.
Helen's idea of Mr. Beauclerc's importance increased wonderfully. What
must he be whose coming or not coming could so move all the world, or
those who were all the world to her? And, left to her own cogitations,
she was picturing to herself what manner of man he might be, when
suddenly Lady Davenant turned, and asked what she was thinking of?
"I beg your pardon for startling you so, my dear; I am aware that it is
a dreadfully imprudent, impertinent question--one which, indeed, I
seldom ask. Few interest me sufficiently to make me care of what they
think: from fewer still could I expect to hear the truth. Nay--nothing
upon compulsion, Helen. Only say plainly, if you would rather not tell
me. That answer I should prefer to the ingenious formula of evasion, the
solecism in metaphysics, which Cecilia used the other day, when
unwittingly I asked her of what she was thinking--'Of a great many
different things, mamma.'"
Helen, still more alarmed by Lady Davenant's speech than by her
question, and aware of the conclusions which might be drawn from her
answer, nevertheless bravely replied that she had been thinking of Mr.
Beauclerc, of what he might be whose coming or not coming was of such
consequence. As she spoke the expression of Lady Davenant's countenance
"Thank you, my dear child, you are truth itself, and truly do I love you
therefore. It's well that you did not ask me of what I was thinking, for
I am not sure that I could have answered so directly."
"But I could never have presumed to ask such a question of you," said
Helen, "there is such a difference."
"Yes," replied Lady Davenant; "there is such a difference as age and
authority require to be made, but nevertheless, such as is not quite
consistent with the equal rights of friendship. You have told me the
subject of your day-dream, my love, and if you please, I will tell you
the subject of mine. I was rapt into times long past: I was living over
again some early scenes--some which are connected, and which connect me,
in a curious manner, with this young man, Mr. Granville Beauclerc."
She seemed to speak with some difficulty, and yet to be resolved to go
on. "Helen, I have a mind," continued she, "to tell you what, in the
language of affected autobiographers, I might call 'some passages of my
Helen's eyes brightened, as she eagerly thanked her: but hearing a half-
suppressed sigh, she added--"Not if it is painful to you though, my dear
"Painful it must be," she replied, "but it may be useful to you; and a
weak friend is that who can do only what is pleasurable. You have often
trusted me with those little inmost feelings of the heart, which,
however innocent, we shrink from exposing to any but the friends we most
love; it is unjust and absurd of those advancing in years to expect of
the young that confidence should come all and only on their side: the
human heart, at whatever age, opens only to the heart that opens in
Lady Davenant paused again, and then said,--" It is a general opinion,
that nobody is the better for advice."
"I am sure I do not think so," said Helen.
"I am glad you do not; nor do I. Much depends upon the way in which it
is offered. General maxims, drawn from experience, are, to the young at
least, but as remarks--moral sentences--mere dead letter, and take no
hold of the mind. 'I have felt' must come before 'I think,' especially
in speaking to a young friend, and, though I am accused of being so fond
of generalising that I never come to particulars, I can and will:
therefore, my dear, I will tell you some particulars of my life, in
which, take notice, there are no adventures. Mine has been a life of
passion--of feeling, at least,--not of incidents: nothing, my dear, to
excite or to gratify curiosity."
"But, independent of all curiosity about events," said Helen, "there is
such an interest in knowing what has been really felt and thought in
their former lives by those we know and love."
"I shall sink in your esteem," said Lady Davenant--"so be it."
"I need not begin, as most people do, with 'I was born'--" but,
interrupting herself, she said, "this heat is too much for me."
They turned into a long shady drive through the woods. Lady Davenant
drew up the reins, and her ponies walked slowly on the grassy road;
then, turning to Helen, she said:--
"It would have been well for me if any friend had, when I was of your
age, put me on my guard against my own heart: but my too indulgent, too
sanguine mother, led me into the very danger against which she should
have warned me--she misled me, though without being aware of it. Our
minds, our very natures differed strangely.
"She was a castle-builder--yes, now you know, my dear, why I spoke so
strongly, and, as you thought, so severely this morning. My mother was a
castle-builder of the ordinary sort: a worldly plan of a castle was
hers, and little care had she about the knight within; yet she had
sufficient tact to know that it must be the idea of the _preux
chevalier_ that would lure her daughter into the castle. Prudent for
herself, imprudent for me, and yet she loved me--all she did was for
love of me. She managed with so much address, that I had no suspicion of
my being the subject of any speculation--otherwise, probably, my
imagination might have revolted, my self-will have struggled, my pride
have interfered, or my delicacy might have been alarmed, but nothing of
all that happened; I was only too ready, too glad to believe all that I
was told, all that appeared in that spring-time of hope and love. I was
very romantic, not in the modern fashionable young-lady sense of the
word, with the mixed ideas of a shepherdess's hat and the paraphernalia
of a peeress--love in a cottage, and a fashionable house in town. No;
mine was honest, pure, real romantic love--absurd if you will; it was
love nursed by imagination more than by hope. I had early, in my secret
soul, as perhaps you have at this instant in yours, a pattern of
perfection--something chivalrous, noble, something that is no longer to
be seen now-a-days--the more delightful to imagine, the moral sublime
and beautiful; more than human, yet with the extreme of human
tenderness. Mine was to be a demigod whom I could worship, a husband to
whom I could always look up, with whom I could always sympathise, and to
whom I could devote myself with all a woman's self-devotion. I had then
a vast idea--as I think you have now, Helen--of self-devotion; you would
devote yourself to your friends, but I could not shape any of my friends
into a fit object. So after my own imagination I made one, dwelt upon
it, doated on it, and at last threw this bright image of my own fancy
full upon the being to whom I thought I was most happily destined--
destined by duty, chosen by affection. The words 'I love you' once
pronounced, I gave my whole heart in return, gave it, sanctified, as I
felt, by religion. I had high religious sentiments; a vow once passed
the lips, a look, a single look of appeal to Heaven, was as much for me
as if pronounced at the altar, and before thousands to witness. Some
time was to elapse before the celebration of our marriage. Protracted
engagements are unwise, yet I should not say so; this gave me time to
open my eyes--my bewitched eyes: still, some months I passed in a trance
of beatification, with visions of duties all performed--benevolence
universal, and gratitude, and high success, and crowns of laurel, for my
hero, for he was military; it all joined well in my fancy. All the
pictured tales of vast heroic deeds were to be his. Living, I was to
live in the radiance of his honour; or dying, to die with him, and then
to be most blessed.
"It is all to me now as a dream, long passed, and never told; no, never,
except to him who had a right to know it--my husband, and now to you,
Helen. From my dream I was awakened by a rude shock--I saw, I thank
Heaven I first, and I alone, saw that his heart was gone from me--that
his heart had never been mine--that it was unworthy of me. No, I will
not say that; I will not think so. Still I trust he had deceived
himself, though not so much as he deceived me. I am willing to believe
he did not know that what he professed for me was not love, till he was
seized by that passion for another, a younger, fairer----Oh! how much
fairer. Beauty is a great gift of Heaven--not for the purposes of female
vanity; but a great gift for one who loves, and wishes to be loved. But
beauty I had not."
"Had not!" interrupted Helen, "I always heard----"
"_He_ did not think so, my dear; no matter what others thought, at least
so I felt at that time. My identity is so much changed that I can look
back upon this now, and tell it all to you calmly.
"It was at a rehearsal of ancient music; I went there accidentally one
morning without my mother, with a certain old duchess and her daughters;
the dowager full of some Indian screen which she was going to buy; the
daughters, intent, one of them, on a quarrel between two of the singers;
the other upon loves and hates of her own. I was the only one of the
party who had any real taste for music. I was then particularly fond of
"Well, my dear, I must come to the point," her voice changing as she
spoke.--"After such a lapse of time, during which my mind, my whole self
has so changed, I could not have believed before I began to speak on
this subject, that these reminiscences could have so moved me; but it is
merely this sudden wakening of ideas long dormant, for years not called
up, never put into words.
"I was sitting, wrapt in a silent ecstasy of pleasure, leaning back
behind the whispering party, when I saw him come in, and, thinking only
of his sharing my delight, I made an effort to catch his attention, but
he did not see me--his eye was fixed on another; I followed that eye,
and saw that most beautiful creature on which it fixed; I saw him seat
himself beside her--one look was enough--it was conviction. A pang went
through me; I grew cold, but made no sound nor motion; I gasped for
breath, I believe, but I did not faint. None cared for me; I was
unnoticed--saved from the abasement of pity. I struggled to retain my
self-command, and was enabled to complete the purpose on which I then--
even _then_, resolved. That resolve gave me force.
"In any great emotion we can speak better to those who do not care for
us than to those who feel for us. More calmly than I now speak to you, I
turned to the person who then sat beside me, to the dowager whose heart
was in the Indian screen, and begged that I might not longer detain her,
as I wished that she would carry me home--she readily complied: I had
presence of mind enough to move when we could do so without attracting
attention. It was well that woman talked as she did all the way home;
she never saw, never suspected, the agony of her to whom she spoke. I
ran up to my own room, bolted the door, and threw myself into a chair;
that is the last thing I remember, till I found myself lying on the
floor, wakening from a state of insensibility. I know not what time had
elapsed; so as soon as I could I rang for my maid; she had knocked at my
door, and, supposing I slept, had not disturbed me--my mother, I found,
had not yet returned.
"I dressed for dinner: HE was to dine with us. It was my custom to see
him for a few minutes before the rest of the company arrived. No time
ever appeared to me so dreadfully long as the interval between my being
dressed that day and his arrival.
"I heard him coming up stairs: my heart heat so violently that I feared
I should not be able to speak with dignity and composure, but the motive
"What I said I know not; I am certain only that it was without one word
of reproach. What I had at one glance foreboded was true--he
acknowledged it. I released him from all engagement to me. I saw he was
evidently relieved by the determined tone of my refusal--at what expense
to my heart lie was set free, he saw not--never knew--never suspected.
But after that first involuntary expression of the pleasure of relief, I
saw in his countenance surprise, a sort of mortified astonishment at my
self-possession. I own my woman's pride enjoyed this; it was something
better than pride--the sense of the preservation of my dignity. I felt
that in this shipwreck of my happiness I made no cowardly exposure of my
feelings, but he did not understand me. Our minds, as I now found, moved
in different orbits. We could not comprehend each other. Instead of
feeling, as the instinct of generosity would have taught him to feel,
that I was sacrificing my happiness to his, he told me that he now
believed I had never loved him. My eyes were opened--I saw him at once
as he really was. The ungenerous look upon self-devotion as madness,
folly, or art: he could not think me a fool, he did not think me mad,
artful I believe he did suspect me to be; he concluded that I made the
discovery of his inconstancy an excuse for my own; he thought me,
perhaps, worse than capricious, interested--for, our engagement being
unknown, a lover of higher rank had, in the interval, presented himself.
My perception of this base suspicion was useful to me at the moment, as
it roused my spirit, and I went through the better, and without relapse
of tenderness, with that which I had undertaken. One condition only I
made; I insisted that this explanation should rest between us two; that,
in fact, and in manner, the breaking off the match should be left
entirely to me. And to this part of the business I now look back with
satisfaction, and I have honest pride in telling you, who will feel the
same for me, that I practised in the whole conduct of the affair no
deceit of any kind, not one falsehood was told. The world knew nothing;
there my mother had been prudent. She was the only person to whom I was
bound to explain--to speak, I mean, for I did not feel myself bound to
explain. Perfect confidence only can command perfect confidence in
whatever relation of life. I told her all that she had a right to know.
I announced to her that the intended marriage could never be--that I
objected to it; that both our minds were changed; that we were both
satisfied in having released each other from our mutual engagement. I
had, as I foresaw, to endure my mother's anger, her entreaties, her
endless surprise, her bitter disappointment; but she exhausted all
these, and her mind turned sooner than I had expected to that hope of
higher establishment which amused her during the rest of the season in
London. Two months of it were still to be passed--to me the two most
painful months of my existence. The daily, nightly, effort of appearing
in public, while I was thus wretched, in the full gala of life in the
midst of the young, the gay, the happy--broken-hearted as I felt--it was
an effort beyond my strength. That summer was, I remember, intolerably
hot. Whenever my mother observed that I looked pale, and that my spirits
were not so good as formerly, I exerted myself more and more; accepted
every invitation because I dared not refuse; I danced at this ball, and
the next, and the next; urged on, I finished to the dregs the
dissipation of the season.
"My mother certainly made me do dreadfully too much. But I blame others,
as we usually do when we are ourselves the most to blame--I had
attempted that which could not be done. By suppressing all outward sign
of suffering, allowing no vent for sorrow in words or tears--by actual
force of compression--I thought at once to extinguish my feelings.
Little did I know of the human heart when I thought this! The weak are
wise in yielding to the first shock. They cannot be struck to the earth
who sink prostrate; sorrow has little power where there is no
resistance.--'The flesh will follow where the pincers tear.' Mine was a
presumptuous--it had nearly been a fatal struggle. That London season at
last over, we got into the country; I expected rest, but found none. The
pressing necessity for exertion over, the stimulus ceasing, I sunk--sunk
into a state of apathy. Time enough had elapsed between the breaking
off of my marriage and the appearance of this illness, to prevent any
ideas on my mother's part of cause and effect, ideas indeed which were
never much looked for, or well joined in her mind. The world knew
nothing of the matter. My illness went under the convenient head
'nervous.' I heard all the opinions pronounced on my case, and knew they
were all mistaken, but I swallowed whatever they pleased. No physician,
I repeated to myself, can 'minister to a mind diseased.'
"I tried to call religion to my aid; but my religious sentiments were,
at that time, tinctured with the enthusiasm of my early character. Had I
been a Catholic, I should have escaped from my friends and thrown myself
into a cloister; as it was, I had formed a strong wish to retire from
that world which was no longer anything to me: the spring of passion,
which I then thought the spring of life, being broken, I meditated my
resolution secretly and perpetually as I lay on my bed. They used to
read to me, and, among other things, some papers of 'The Rambler,' which
I liked not at all; its tripod sentences tired my ear, but I let them go
on--as well one sound as another.
"It chanced that one night, as I was going to sleep, an eastern story in
'The Rambler,' was read to me, about some man, a-weary of the world, who
took to the peaceful hermitage. There was a regular moral tagged to the
end of it, a thing I hate, the words were, 'No life pleasing to God that
is not useful to man.' When I wakened in the middle of that night, this
sentence was before my eyes, and the words seemed to repeat themselves
over and over again to my ears when I was sinking to sleep. The
impression remained in my mind, and though I never voluntarily recurred
to it, came out long afterwards, perfectly fresh, and became a motive of
"Strange, mysterious connection between mind and body; in mere animal
nature we see the same. The bird wakened from his sleep to be taught a
tune sung to him in the dark, and left to sleep again,--the impression
rests buried within him, and weeks afterward he comes out with the tune
perfect. But these are only phenomena of memory--mine was more
extraordinary. I am not sure that I can explain it to you. In my weak
state, my understanding enfeebled as much as my body--my reason weaker
than my memory, I could not help allowing myself to think that the
constant repetition of that sentence was a warning sent to me from
above. As I grew stronger, the superstition died away, but the sense of
the thing still remained with me. It led me to examine and reflect. It
did more than all my mother's entreaties could effect. I had refused to
see any human creature, but I now consented to admit a few. The charm
was broken. I gave up my longing for solitude, my plan of retreat from
the world; suffered myself to be carried where they pleased--to Brighton
it was--to my mother's satisfaction. I was ready to appear in the ranks
of fashion at the opening of the next London campaign. Automatically I
'ran my female exercises o'er' with as good grace as ever. I had
followers and proposals; but my mother was again thrown into despair by
what she called the short work I made with my admirers, scarcely
allowing decent time for their turning into lovers before I warned them
not to think of me. I have heard that women who have suffered from man's
inconstancy are disposed afterwards to revenge themselves by inflicting
pain such as they have themselves endured, and delight in all the
cruelty of coquetry. It was not so with me. Mine was too deep a wound--
skinned over--not callous, and all danger of its opening again I
dreaded. I had lovers the more, perhaps, because I cared not for them;
till amongst them there came one who, as I saw, appreciated my
character, and, as I perceived, was becoming seriously attached. To
prevent danger to his happiness, as he would take no other warning, I
revealed to him the state of my mind. However humiliating the
confession, I thought it due to him. I told him that I had no heart to
give--that I had received none in return for that with which I had
parted, and that love was over with me.
"'As a passion, it may be so, not as an affection,' was his reply.
"The words opened to me a view of his character. I saw, too, by his love
increasing with his esteem, the solidity of his understanding, and the
nobleness of his nature. He went deeper and deeper into my mind, till he
came to a spring of gratitude, which rose and overflowed, vivifying and
fertilising the seemingly barren waste. I believe it to be true that,
after the first great misfortune, persons never return to be the same
that they were before, but this I know--and this it is important you
should be convinced of, my dear Helen--that the mind, though sorely
smitten, can recover its powers. A mind, I mean, sustained by good
principles, and by them made capable of persevering efforts for its own
recovery. It may be sure of regaining, in time--observe, I say in time--
its healthful tone.
"Time was given to me by that kind, that noble being, who devoted
himself to me with a passion which I could not return--but, with such
affection as I could give, and which he assured me would make his
happiness, I determined to devote to him the whole of my future
existence. Happiness for me, I thought, was gone, except in so far as I
could make him happy.
"I married Lord Davenant--much against my mother's wish, for he was then
the younger of three brothers, and with a younger brother's very small
portion. Had it been a more splendid match, I do not think I could have
been prevailed on to give my consent. I could not have been sure of my
own motives, or rather my pride would not have been clear as to the
opinion which others might form. This was a weakness, for in acting we
ought to depend upon ourselves, and not to look for the praise or blame
of others; but I let you see me as I am, or as I was: I do not insist,
like Queen Elizabeth, in having my portrait without shade."
"I am proud to tell you, that at the time I married we were so poor,
that I was obliged to give up many of those luxuries to which I was
entitled, and to which I had been so accustomed, that the doing without
them had till then hardly come within my idea of possibility. Our whole
establishment was on the most humble scale.
"I look back to this period of my life with the greatest satisfaction. I
had exquisite pleasure, like all young people of sanguine temperament
and generous disposition, in the consciousness of the capability of
making sacrifices. This notion was my idol, the idol of the inmost
sanctuary of my mind, and I worshipped it with all the energies of body
"In the course of a few years, my husband's two elder brothers died. If
you have any curiosity to know how, I will tell you, though indeed it is
as little to the purpose as half the things people tell in their
histories. The eldest, a homebred lordling, who, from the moment he
slipped his mother's apron-strings, had fallen into folly, and then, to
show himself manly, run into vice, lost his life in a duel about some
lady's crooked thumb, or more crooked mind.
"The second brother distinguished himself in the navy; he died the death
of honour; he fell gloriously, and was by his country honoured--by his
"After the death of this young man, the inheritance came to my husband.
Fortune soon after poured in upon us a tide of wealth, swelled by
"You will wish to know what effect this change of circumstances produced
upon my mind, and you shall, as far as I know it myself. I fancied that
it would have made none, because I had been before accustomed to all the
trappings of wealth; yet it did make a greater change in my feelings
than you could have imagined, or I could have conceived. The possibility
of producing a great effect in society, of playing a distinguished part,
and attaining an eminence which pleased my fancy, had never till now
been within my reach. The incense of fame had been wafted near me, but
not to me--near my husband I mean, yet not to him; I had heard his
brother's name from the trumpet of fame, I longed to hear his own. I
knew, what to the world was then unknown, his great talents for civil
business, which, if urged into action, might make him distinguished as a
statesman even beyond his hero brother, but I knew that in him ambition,
if it ever awoke, must be awakened by love. Conscious of my influence, I
determined to use it to the utmost.
"Lord Davenant had not at that time taken any part in politics, but from
his connections he could ask and obtain; and there was one in the world
for whom I desired to obtain a favour of importance. It chanced that he,
whom I have mentioned to you as my inconstant lover, now married to my
lovely rival, was at this time in some difficulty about a command
abroad. His connections, though of very high rank were not now in
power. He had failed in some military exploit which had formerly been
intrusted to him. He was anxious to retrieve his character; his credit,
his whole fate in life, depended on his obtaining this appointment,
which, at my request, was secured to him by Lord Davenant. The day it
was obtained was, I think, the proudest of my life. I was proud of
returning good for evil; that was a Christian pride, if pride can be
Christian. I was proud of showing that in me there was none of the fury
of a woman scorned--no sense of the injury of charms despised.
"But it was not yet the fulness of success; it had pained me in the
midst of my internal triumph, that my husband had been obliged to use
intermediate powers to obtain that which I should have desired should
have been obtained by his own. Why should not he be in that first place
of rule? He could hold the balance with a hand as firm, an eye as just.
That he should be in the House of Peers was little satisfaction to me,
unless distinguished among his peers. It was this distinction that I
burned to see obtained by Lord Davenant; I urged him forward then by all
the motives which make ambition virtue. He was averse from public life,
partly from indolence of temper, partly from sound philosophy: power was
low in the scale in his estimate of human happiness; he saw how little
can be effected of real good in public by any individual; he felt it
scarcely worth his while to stir from his easy chair of domestic
happiness. However, love urged him on, and inspired him, if not with
ambition, at least with what looked like it in public. He entered the
lists, and in the political tournament tilted successfully. Many were
astonished, for, till they came against him in the joust, they had no
notion of his weight, or of his skill in arms; and many seriously
inclined to believe that Lord Davenant was only Lady Davenant in
disguise, and all he said, wrote, and did, was attributed to me. Envy
gratifies herself continually by thus shifting the merit from one person
to another; in hopes that the actual quantity may be diminished, she
tries to make out that it is never the real person, but somebody else
who does that which is good. This silly, base propensity might have cost
me dear, would have cost me my husband's affections, had he not been a
man, as there are few, above all jealousy of female influence or female
talent; in short, he knew his own superiority, and needed not to measure
himself to prove his height. He is quite content, rather glad, that
every body should set him down as a common-place character. Far from
being jealous of his wife's ruling him, he was amused by the notion: it
flattered his pride, and it was convenient to his indolence; it fell in,
too, with his peculiar humour. The more I retired, the more I was put
forward, he, laughing behind me, prompted and forbade me to look back.
"Now, Helen, I am come to a point where ambition ceased to be virtue.
But why should I tell you all this? no one is ever the better for the
experience of another."
"Oh! I cannot believe that," cried Helen; "pray, pray go on."
"Ambition first rose in my mind from the ashes of another passion. Fresh
materials, of heterogeneous kinds, altered the colour, and changed the
nature of the flame: I should have told you, but narrative is not my
forte--I never can remember to tell things in their right order. I
forgot to tell you, that when Madame de Stael's book, 'Sur la Revolution
Francaise,' came out, it made an extraordinary impression upon me. I
turned, in the first place, as every body did, eagerly to the chapter on
England, but, though my national feelings were gratified, my female
pride was dreadfully mortified by what she says of the ladies of
England; in fact, she could not judge of them. They were afraid of her.
They would not come out of their shells. What she called timidity, and
what I am sure she longed to call stupidity, was the silence of overawed
admiration, or mixed curiosity and discretion. Those who did venture,
had not full possession of their powers, or in a hurry showed them in a
wrong direction. She saw none of them in their natural state. She
asserts that, though there may be women distinguished as writers in
England, there are no ladies who have any great conversational and
political influence in society, of that kind which, during _l'ancien
regime_, was obtained in France by what they would call their _femmes
marquantes_, such as Madame de Tencin, Madame du Deffand, Mademoiselle
de l'Espinasse. This remark stung me to the quick, for my country and
for myself, and raised in me a foolish, vain-glorious emulation, an
ambition false in its objects, and unsuited to the manners, domestic
habits, and public virtue of our country. I ought to have been gratified
by her observing, that a lady is never to be met with in England, as
formerly in France, at the Bureau du Ministre; and that in England there
has never been any example of a woman's having known in public affairs,
or at least told, what ought to have been kept secret. Between
ourselves, I suspect she was a little mistaken in some of these
assertions; but, be that as it may, I determined to prove that she was
mistaken; I was conscious that I had more within me than I had yet
brought out; I did not doubt that I had eloquence, if I had but courage
to produce it. It is really astonishing what a mischievous effect those
few passages produced on my mind. In London, one book drives out
another, one impression, however deep, is effaced by the next shaking of
the sand; but I was then in the country, for, unluckily for me, Lord
Davenant had been sent away on some special embassy. Left alone with my
nonsense, I set about, as soon as I was able, to assemble an audience
round me, to exhibit myself in the character of a female politician, and
I believe I had a notion at the same time of being the English Corinne.
Rochefoucault, the dexterous anatomist of self-love, says that we
confess our small faults, to persuade the world that we have no large
ones. But, for my part, I feel that there are some small faults more
difficult to me to confess than any large ones. Affectation, for
instance; it is something so little, so paltry, it is more than a crime,
it is a ridicule: I believe I did make myself completely ridiculous; I
am glad Lord Davenant was not by, it lasted but a short time. Our dear
good friend Dumont (you knew Dumont at Florence?) could not bear to see
it; his regard for Lord Davenant urged him the more to disenchant me,
and bring me back, before his return, to my natural form. The
disenchantment was rather rude.
"One evening, after I had been snuffing up incense till I was quite
intoxicated, when my votaries had departed, and we were alone together,
I said to him, 'Allow that this is what would be called at Paris, _un
"Dumont made no reply, but stood opposite to me playing in his peculiar
manner with his great snuff-box, slowly swaying the snuff from side to
side. Knowing this to be a sign that he was in some great dilemma, I
asked of what he was thinking. 'Of you,' said he. 'And what of me?' In
his French accent he repeated those two provoking lines--
'New wit, like wine, intoxicates the brain,
Too strong for feeble women to sustain.'
"'To my face?' said I, smiling, for I tried to command my temper.
"'Better than behind your back, as others do,' said he.
"'Behind my back!' said I; 'impossible.'
"'Perfectly possible,' said he, 'as I could prove if you were strong
enough to bear it.'
"'Quite strong enough,' I said, and bade him speak on.
"'Suppose you were offered,' said he, 'the fairy-ring that rendered the
possessor invisible, and enabled him to hear every thing that was said,
and all that was thought of him, would you throw it away, or put it on
"'Put it on my finger,' I replied; 'and this instant, for a true friend
is better than a magic ring, I put it on.'
"'You are very brave,' said he, 'then you shall hear the lines I heard
in a rival salon, repeated by him who last wafted the censer to you
to-night.' He repeated a kind of doggrel pasquinade, beginning with--
'Tell me, gentles, have you seen,
The prating she, the mock Corinne?'
"Dumont, who had the courage for my good to inflict the blow, could not
stay to see its effect, and this time I was left alone, not with my
nonsense, but with my reason. It was quite sufficient. I was cured. My only
consolation in my disgrace was, that I honourably kept Dumont's counsel.
The friend who composed the lampoon, from that day to this never knew that
I had heard it; though I must own I often longed to tell him, when he was
offering his incense again, that I wished he would reverse his practice,
and let us have the satire in my presence, and keep the flattery for my
absence. The graft of affectation, which was but a poor weak thing, fell
off at once, but the root of the evil had not yet been reached. My friend
Dumont had not cut deep enough, or perhaps feared to cut away too much that
was sound and essential to life: my political ambition remained, and on
Lord Davenant's return sprang up in full vigour.
"Now it is all over, I can analyse and understand my own motives: when I
first began my political course, I really and truly had no love for
power; full of other feelings, I was averse from it; it was absolutely
disagreeable to me; but as people acquire a taste for drams after making
faces at first swallowing, so I, from experience of the excitation,
acquired the habit, the love, of this mental dram-drinking; besides, I had
such delightful excuses for myself: I didn't love power for its own sake,
it was never used for myself, always for others; ever with my old principle
of sacrifice in full play: this flattering unction I laid to my soul, and
it long hid from me its weakness, its gradual corruption.
"The first instance in which I used my influence, and by my husband's
intervention obtained a favour of some importance, the thing done, though
actually obtained by private favour, was in a public point of view well
done and fit to be done; but when in time Lord Davenant had reached that
eminence which had been the summit of my ambition, and when once it was
known that I had influence (and in making it known between jest and earnest
Lord Davenant was certainly to blame), numbers of course were eager to
avail themselves of the discovery, swarms born in the noontide ray, or such
as salute the rising morn, buzzed round me. I was good-natured and glad to
do the service, and proud to show that I could do it. I thought I had some
right to share with Lord Davenant, at least, the honour and pleasures of
patronage, and so he willingly allowed it to be, as long as my objects were
well chosen, though he said to me once with a serious smile, 'The patronage
of Europe would not satisfy you; you would want India, and if you had
India, you would sigh for the New World.' I only laughed, and said 'The
same thought as Lord Chesterfield's, only more neatly put.' 'If all Ireland
were given to such a one for his patrimony, he'd ask for the Isle of Man
for his cabbage-garden.' Lord Davenant did not smile. I felt a little
alarmed, and a feeling of estrangement began between us.
"I recollect one day his seeing a note on my table from one of my
_proteges_, thanking me outrageously, and extolling my very obliging
disposition. He read, and threw it down, and with one of his dry-humour
smiles repeated, half to himself,
And so obliging that she ne'er obliged.'
"I thought these lines were in the Characters of Women, and I hunted all
through them in vain; at last I found them in the character of a man,
which could not suit me, and I was pacified, and, what is extraordinary,
my conscience quite put at ease.
"The week afterwards I went to make some request for a friend: my little
boy--for I had a dear little boy then--had come in along with mamma.
Lord Davenant complied with my request, but unwillingly I saw, and as if
he felt it a weakness; and, putting his hand upon the curly-pated little
fellow's head, he said, 'This boy rules Greece, I see.' The child was
sent for the Grecian history, his father took him on his knee, while he
read the anecdote, and as he ended he whispered in the child's ear,
'Tell mamma this must not be; papa should be ruled only by justice.' He
really had public virtue, I only talked of it.
"After this you will wonder that I could go on, but I did.
"I had at that time a friend, who talked always most romantically, and
acted most selfishly, and for some time I never noticed the
inconsistency between her words and actions. In fact she had two
currents in her mind, two selves, one romantic from books, the other
selfish from worldly education and love of fashion, and of the goods of
this world. She had charming manners, which I thought went for nothing
with me, but which I found stood for every thing. In short, she was as
caressing, as graceful, in her little ways, and as selfish as a cat. She
had claws too, but at first I only felt the velvet.
"It was for this woman that I hazarded my highest happiness--my
husband's esteem, and for the most paltry object imaginable. She wanted
some petty place for some man who was to marry her favourite maid. When
I first mentioned it to him, Lord Davenant coldly said, 'It can't be
done,' and his pen went on very quickly with the letter he was writing.
Vexed and ashamed, and the more vexed because ashamed, I persisted.
'Cannot be done for _me_?' said I. 'Not for anybody,' said he--'by me,
at least.'--I thought--Helen, I am ashamed to tell you what I thought;
but I will tell it you, because it will show you how a mind may be
debased by the love of power, or rather by the consequence which its
possession bestows. I thought he meant to point out to me that, although
he would not do it, I might _get it done_. And, speaking as if to
myself, I said, 'Then I'll go to such a person; then I'll use such and
such ways and means.'
"Looking up from his writing at me, with a look such as I had never seen
from him before, he replied, in the words of a celebrated minister,
_'C'est facile de se servir de pareils moyens, c'est difficile de s'y
"I admired him, despised myself, left the room, and went and told my
friend decidedly it could not be done. That instant, she became my
enemy, and I felt her claws. I was proud of the wounds, and showed them
to my husband. Now, Helen, you think I am cured for ever, and safe.
Alas! no, my dear, it is not so easy to cure habit. I have, however,
some excuse--let me put it forward; the person for whom I again
transgressed was my mother, and for her I was proud of doing the utmost,
because she had, as I could not forget, been ready to sacrifice my
happiness to her speculations. She had left off building castles in the
air, but she had outbuilt herself on earth. She had often recourse to me
in her difficulties, and I supplied funds, as well I might, for I had a
most liberal allowance from my most liberal lord; but schemes of my own,
very patriotic but not overwise, had in process of time drained my
purse. I had a school at Cecilhurst, and a lace manufactory; and to
teach my little girls I must needs bring over lace-makers from Flanders,
and Lisle thread, at an enormous expense: I shut my lace-makers up in a
room (for secrecy was necessary), where, like spiders, they quarrelled
with each other and fought, and the whole failed.
"Another scheme, very patriotic too, cost me an immensity: trying to
make Indian cachemires in England, very beautiful they were, but they
left not the tenth part of a penny in my private purse, and then my
mother wanted some thousands for a new dairy; dairies were then the
fashion, and hers was to be floored with the finest Dutch tiles,
furnished with Sevre china, with plate glass windows, and a porch hung
with French mirrors; so she set me to represent to Lord Davenant her
very distressed situation, and to present a petition from her for a
pension. The first time I urged my mother's request, Lord Davenant said,
'I am sure, Anne, that you do not know what you are asking.' I
desisted. I did not indeed well understand the business, nor at all
comprehend that I was assisting a fraudulent attempt to obtain public
money for a private purpose, but I wished to have the triumph of
success, I wished to feel my own influence.
"Had it been foretold to me that I could so forget myself in the
intoxication of political power, how I should have disdained the
prophecy--'Lord, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?'
There is a fine sermon of Blair's on this subject; it had early made a
great impression upon me; but what are good impressions, good feelings,
good impulses, good intentions, good any thing, without principle?
"My mother wondered how I could so easily take a refusal; she piqued my
pride by observing that she was sorry my influence had declined; her
pity, so near contempt, wounded me, and I unadvisedly exclaimed that my
influence had in no way declined. Scarcely had I uttered the words, when
I saw the inference to which they laid me open, that I had not used my
influence to the utmost for her. My mother had quite sense and just
feeling enough to refrain from marking this in words. She noted it only
by an observing look, followed by a sigh. She confessed that I had
always been so kind, so much kinder than she could have expected, that
she would say no more. This was more to the purpose with me than if she
had talked for hours. I heard fresh sighs, and saw tears begin to flow--
a mother's sighs and tears it is difficult, and I felt it was shameful,
to bear. I was partly melted, much confused, and hurried, too, by
visitors coming in, and I hastily promised that I would try once more
what I could do. The moment I had time for reflection I repented of what
I had promised. But the words were past recall. It was so disagreeable
to me to speak about the affair to my husband, that I wanted to get it
off my mind as soon as possible, but the day passed without my being
able to find a moment when I could speak to Lord Davenant in private.
Company stayed till late, my mother the latest. At parting, as she
kissed me, calling me her dearest Anne, she said she was convinced I
could do whatever I pleased with Lord Davenant, and as she was going
down stairs, added, she was sure the first words she should hear from me
in the morning would be 'Victory, victory!'
"I hated myself for admitting the thought, and yet there it was; I let
it in, and could not get it out. From what an indescribable mixture of
weak motives or impulses, and often without one reasonable principle, do
we act in the most important moments of life. Even as I opened the door
of his room I hesitated, my heart beat forebodingly, but I thought I
could not retreat, and I went in.
"He was standing on the hearth looking weary, but a reviving smile
came on seeing me, and he held out his hand--'My comfort always,' said
"I took his hand, and, hesitating, was again my better self; but I would
not go back, nor could I begin with any preface.--Thank Heaven that was
impossible. I began:--
"'Davenant, I am come to ask you a favour, and you must do it for me.'
"'I hope it is in my power, my dear,' said he; 'I am sure you would not
ask--' and there he stopped.
"I told him it was in his power, and that I would not ask it for any
creature living, but--' He put his hand upon my lips, told me he knew
what I was going to say, and begged me not to say it; but I, hoping to
carry it off playfully, kissed his hand, and putting it aside said, 'I
must ask, and you must grant this to my mother.' He replied, 'It cannot
be, Anne, consistently with public justice, and with my public duty. I--'
"'Nonsense, nonsense,' I said, 'such words are only to mask a refusal.'
_Mask_, I remember, was the word that hurt him. Of all I could have
used, it was the worst: I knew it the instant I had said it. Lord
Davenant stepped back, and with such a look! You, Helen, who have seen
only his benign countenance, his smiling eyes, cannot conceive it. I am
sure he must have seen how much it alarmed me, for suddenly it changed,
and I saw all the melting softness of love.
"Oh fool! vain wicked fool that I was! I thought of 'victory,' and
pursued it. My utmost power of persuasion--words--smiles--and tears I
tried--and tried in vain; and then I could not bear to feel that I had
in vain made this trial of power and love. Shame and pride and anger
seized me by turns, and raised such a storm within me--such confusion--
that I knew not what I did or said. And he was so calm! looked so at
least, though I am sure he was not. His self-possession piqued and
provoked me past all bearing. I cannot tell you exactly how it was--it
was so dreadfully interesting to me that I am unable to recall the exact
words; but I remember at last hearing him say, in a voice I had never
before heard, 'Lady Davenant!'--He had never called me so before; he had
always called me 'Anne:' it seemed as if he had dismissed me from his
"'Call me Anne! O call me Anne!'
"And he yielded instantly, he called me Anne, and caressing me, 'his
Anne.' 'O Helen! never do as I did.' I whispered, 'Then, my love, you
will do this for me--for me, your own Anne?'
"He put me gently away, and leaned against the chimney-piece in silence.
Then turning to me, in a low suppressed voice, he said,--
"'I have loved you--love you as much as man can love woman, there is
nothing I would not sacrifice for you except--'
"'No exceptions!' cried I, in an affected tone of gaiety.
"'Except honour,' he repeated firmly.--Helen, my dear, you are of a
generous nature, so am I, but the demon of pride was within me, it made
me long to try the extent of my power. Disappointed, I sunk to meanness;
never, never, however tempted, however provoked, never do as I did,
never reproach a friend with any sacrifice you have made for them; this
is a meanness which your friend may forgive, but which you can never
"I reproached him with the sacrifice of my feelings, which I had made in
marrying him! His answer was, 'I feel that what you say is true, I am
now convinced you are incapable of loving me; and since I cannot make
you happy, we had better--part.'
"These were the last words I heard. The blow was wholly unexpected.
"Whether I sunk down, or threw myself at his feet, I know not; but when
I came to myself he was standing beside me. There were other faces, but
my eyes saw only his: I felt his hand holding mine, I pressed it, and
said, 'Forget.' He stooped down and whispered, 'It is forgotten.'
"I believe there is nothing can touch a generous mind so much as the
being treated with perfect generosity--nothing makes us so deeply feel
our own fault."
Lady Davenant was here so much moved that she could say no more. By an
involuntary motion, she checked the reins, and the horses stopped, and
she continued quite silent for a few minutes: at length two or three
deeply drawn sighs seemed to relieve her; she looked up, and her
attention seemed to be caught by a bird that was singing sweetly on a
branch over their heads. She asked what bird it was? Helen showed it to
her where it sat: she looked up and smiled, touched the horses with her
whip, and went on where she had left off.--"The next thing was the
meeting my mother in the morning; I prepared myself for it, and thought
I was now armed so strong in honesty that I could go through with it
well: my morality, however, was a little nervous, was fluttered by the
knock at the door, and, when I heard her voice as she came towards my
room, asking eagerly if I was alone, I felt a sickness at the certainty
that I must at once crush her hopes. But I stood resolved; my eyes fixed
on the door through which she was to enter. She came in, to my
astonishment, with a face radiant with joy, and hastening to me she
embraced me with the warmest expression of fondness and gratitude.--I
stood petrified as I heard her talk of my kindness--my generosity. I
asked what she could mean, said there must be some mistake. But holding
before my eyes a note, 'Can there be any mistake in this?' said she.
That note, for I can never forget it, I will repeat to you.
"'What you wish can be done in a better manner than you proposed. The
public must have no concern with it; Lady Davenant must have the
pleasure of doing it her own way; an annuity to the amount required
shall be punctually paid to your banker. The first instalment will be in
his hands by the time you receive this.--DAVENANT.'
"When I had been formerly disenchanted from my trance of love, the
rudeness of the shock had benumbed all my faculties, and left me
scarcely power to think; but now, when thus recovered from the delirium
of power, I was immediately in perfect possession of my understanding,
and when I was made to comprehend the despicable use I would have made
of my influence, or the influence my husband possessed, I was so
shocked, that I have ever since, I am conscious, in speaking of any
political corruption, rather exaggerated my natural abhorrence of it.
Not from the mean and weak idea of convincing the world how foreign all
such wrong was to my soul, but because it really is foreign to it,
because I know how it can debase the most honourable characters; I feel
so much shocked at the criminal as at the crime, because I saw it once
in all its hideousness so near myself.
"A change in the ministry took place this year, Lord Davenant's
resignation was sent in and accepted, and in retirement I had not only
leisure to be good, but also leisure to cultivate my mind. Of course I
had read all such reading as ladies read, but this was very different
from the kind of study that would enable me to keep pace with Lord
Davenant and his highly informed friends. Many of these, more men of
thought than of show, visited us from time to time in the country.
Though I had passed very well in London society, blue, red, and green,
literary, fashionable, and political, and had been extolled as both
witty and wise, especially when my husband was in place; yet when I came
into close contact with minds of a higher order, I felt my own
deficiencies. Lord Davenant's superiority I particularly perceived in
the solidity of the ground he uniformly took and held in reasoning. And
when I, too confident, used to venture rashly, and often found myself
surrounded, and in imminent danger in argument, he used to bring me off
and ably cover my retreat, and looked so pleased, so proud, when I made
a happy hit, or jumped to a right conclusion.
"But what I most liked, most admired, in him was, that he never
triumphed or took unfair advantages on the strength of his learning, of
his acquirements, or of what I may call his logical training.
"I mention these seeming trifles because it is not always in the great
occasions of life that a generous disposition shows itself in the way
which we most feel. Little instances of generosity shown in this way,
unperceived by others, have gone most deeply into my mind; and have most
raised my opinion of his character. The sense that I was over rather
than under valued, made me the more ready to acknowledge and feel my own
deficiencies. I felt the truth of an aphorism of Lord Verulam's, which
is now come down to the copy-books; that 'knowledge is power.' Having
made this notable discovery, I set about with all my might to acquire
knowledge. You may smile, and think that this was only in a new form the
passion for power; no, it was something better. Not to do myself
injustice, I now felt the pure desire of knowledge, and enjoyed the pure
pleasure of obtaining it; assisted, supported, and delighted, by the
sympathy of a superior mind.
"As to intellectual happiness, this was the happiest time of my life. As
if my eyes had been rubbed by your favourite dervise in the Arabian
tales, with this charmed ointment, which opened at once to view all the
treasures of the earth, I saw and craved the boundless treasures opened
to my view. I now wanted to read all that Lord Davenant was reading,
that I might be up to his ideas, but this was not to be done in an
instant. There was a Frenchwoman who complained that she never could
learn any thing, because she could not find anybody to teach her all she
wanted to know in two words. I was not quite so _exigeante_ as this
lady; but, after having skated on easily and rapidly, far on the
superficies of knowledge, it was difficult and rather mortifying to have
to go back and begin at the beginning. Yet, when I wanted to go a little
deeper, and really to understand what I was about, this was essentially
necessary. I could not have got through without the assistance of one
who showed me what I might safely leave unlearned, and who pointed out
what fruit was worth climbing for, what would only turn to ashes.
"This happy time of my life too quickly passed away. It was interrupted,
however, not by any fault or folly of my own, but by an infliction from
the hand of Providence, to which I trust I submitted with resignation--
we lost our dear little boy; my second boy was born dead, and my
confinement was followed by long and severe illness. I was ordered to
try the air of Devonshire.
"One night--now, my dear, I have kept for the last the only romantic
incident in my life--one night, a vessel was wrecked upon our coast; one
of the passengers, a lady, an invalid, was brought to our house; I
hastened to her assistance--it was my beautiful rival!
"She was in a deep decline, and had been at Lisbon for some time, but
she was now sent home by the physicians, as they send people from one
country to another to die. The captain of the ship in which she was
mistook the lights upon the coast, and ran the ship ashore near to our
"Of course we did for her all we could, but she was dying: she knew
nothing of my history, and I trust I soothed her last moments--she died
in my arms.
"She had one child, a son, then at Eton: we sent for him; he arrived too
late; the feeling he showed interested us deeply; we kept him with us
some time; he was grateful; and afterwards as he grew up he often wrote
to me. His letters you have read."
"Mr. Beauclerc!" said Helen.
"Mr. Beauclerc.--I had not seen him for some time, when General
Clarendon presented him to me as his ward at Florence, where I had
opportunities of essentially serving him. You may now understand, my
dear, why I had expected that Mr. Granville Beauclerc might have
preferred coming to Clarendon Park this last month of my stay in England
to the pleasures of London. I was angry, I own, but after five minutes'
grace I cooled, saw that I must be mistaken, and came to the just
conclusion of the old poet, that no one sinks at once to the depth of
ill, and ingratitude I consider as the depth of ill. I opine, therefore,
that some stronger feeling than friendship now operates to detain
Granville Beauclerc. In that case I forgive him, but, for his own sake,
and with such a young man I should say for the sake of society--of the
public good--for he will end in public life, I hope the present object
is worthy of him, whoever she may be.
"Have I anything more to tell you? Yes, I should say that, when by
changes in the political world Lord Davenant was again in power, I had
learned, if not to be less ambitious, at least to show it less. D----,
who knew always how to put sense into my mind, so that I found it there,
and thought it completely my own, had once said that 'every public man
who has a cultivated and high-minded wife, has in fact two selves, each
holding watch and ward for the other.' The notion pleased me--pleased
both my fancy and my reason; I acted on it, and Lord Davenant assures me
that I have been this second self to him, and I am willing to believe
it, first because he is a man of strict truth, and secondly, because
every woman is willing to believe what she wishes."
Lady Davenant paused, and after some minutes of reflection said, "I
confess, however, that I have not reason to be quite satisfied with
myself as a mother; I did not attend sufficiently to Cecilia's early
education: engrossed with politics, I left her too much to governesses,
at one period to a very bad one. I have done what I can to remedy this,
and you have done more perhaps; but I much fear that the early neglect
can never be completely repaired; she is, however, married to a man of
sense, and when I go to Russia I shall think with satisfaction that I
leave you with her."
After expressing how deeply she had been interested in all that she had
heard, and how grateful she felt for the confidence reposed in her,
Helen said she could not help wishing that Cecilia knew all that had
been just told her of Lady Davenant's history. If Cecilia could but know
all the tenderness of her mother's heart, how much less would she fear,
how much more would she love her!
"It would answer no purpose," replied Lady Davenant; "there are persons
with intrinsic differences of character, who, explain as you will, can
never understand one another beyond a certain point. Nature and art
forbid--no spectacles you can furnish will remedy certain defects of
vision. Cecilia sees as much as she can ever see of my character, and I
see, in the best light, the whole of hers. So Helen, my dear, take the
advice of a Scotch proverb--proverbs are vulgar, because they usually
contain common sense--'Let well alone.'"
"You are really a very good little friend," added she, "but keep my
personal narrative for your own use."
It was late before they reached home, and Helen dressed as fast as
possible, for the general's punctual habits required that all should
assemble in the drawing-room five minutes at least before dinner. She
was coming down the private turret staircase, which led from the family
apartments to the great hall, when, just at the turn, and in the most
awkward way possible, she met a gentleman, a stranger, where never
stranger had been seen by her before, running up full speed, so that
they had but barely space and time to clear out of each other's way.
Pardons were begged of course. The manner and voice of the stranger were
particularly gentlemanlike. A servant followed with his portmanteau,
inquiring into which room Mr. Beauclerc was to go?
"Mr. Beauclerc!"--When Helen got to the drawing-room, and found that not
even the general was there, she thought she could have time to run up
the great staircase to Lady Davenant's room, and tell her that Mr.
Beauclerc was come.
"My dear Lady Davenant, Mr. Beauclerc!"--He was there! and she made her
retreat as quickly as possible. The quantity that had been said about
him, and the awkward way in which they had thus accidentally met, made
her feel much embarrassed when they were regularly introduced.
At the beginning of dinner, Helen fancied that there was unusual silence
and constraint; perhaps this might be so, or perhaps people were really
hungry, or perhaps Mr. Beauclerc had not yet satisfied the general and
Lady Davenant: however, towards the end of dinner, and at the dessert,
he was certainly entertaining; and Lady Cecilia appeared particularly
amused by an account which he was giving of a little French piece he had
seen just before he left London, called "Les Premieres Amours," and
Helen might have been amused too, but that Lady Cecilia called upon her
to listen, and, Mr. Beauclerc turning his eyes upon her, she saw, or
fancied that he was put out in his story, and though he went on with
perfect good breeding, yet it was evidently with diminished spirit. As
soon as politeness permitted, at the close of the story, she, to relieve
him and herself, turned to the aide-de-camp on her other side, and
devoted, or seemed to devote, to him her exclusive attention. He was
always tiresome to her, but now more than ever; he went on, when once
set a-going, about his horses and his dogs, while she had the
mortification of hearing almost immediately after her seceding, that Mr.
Beauclerc recovered the life and spirit of his tone, and was in full and
delightful enjoyment of conversation with Lady Cecilia. Something very
entertaining caught her ear every now and then; but, with her eyes fixed
in the necessary direction, it was impossible to make it out, through
the aid-de-camp's never-ending tediousness. She thought the sitting
after dinner never would terminate, though it was in fact rather shorter
As soon as they reached the drawing-room, Lady Cecilia asked her mother
what was the cause of Granville's delay in town, and why he had come
to-day, after he had written it was impossible?
Lady Davenant answered, that he had 'trampled,' as Lord Chatham did, 'on
impossibilities.' "It was not a physical impossibility, it seems."
"I'm sure--I hope," continued Cecilia, "that none of the Beltravers' set
had any thing to do with his delay, yet from a word or two the general
let fall, I'm almost sure that they have--Lady Blanche, I'm afraid--."
There she stopped. "If it were only a money difficulty with Lord
Beltravers," resumed she, "that might be easily settled, for Beauclerc
is rich enough."
"Yes," said Lady Davenant, "but rashly generous; an uncommon fault in
these days, when young men are in general selfishly prudent or selfishly
"I hope," said Cecilia,--"I hope Lady Blanche Forrester will not--"
there she paused, and consulted her mother's countenance; her mother
answered that Beauclerc had not spoken to her of Lady Blanche. After
putting her hopes and fears, questions and conjectures, into every
possible form and direction, Lady Cecilia was satisfied that her mother
knew no more than herself, and this was a great comfort.
When Mr. Beauclerc reappeared, Helen was glad that she was settled at an
embroidery frame, at the furthest end of the room, as there, apart from
the world, she felt safe from all cause for embarrassment, and there she
continued happy till some one came to raise the light of the lamp over
her head. It was Mr. Beauclerc, and, as she looked up, she gave a
foolish little start of surprise, and then all her confusion returning,
with thanks scarce audible, her eyes were instantly fixed on the vine
leaf she was embroidering. He asked how she could by lamplight
distinguish blue from green? a simple and not very alarming question,
but she did not hear the words rightly, and thinking he asked whether
she wished for a screen, she answered "No, thank you."
Lady Cecilia laughed, and covering Helen's want of hearing by
Beauclerc's want of sight, explained--"Do not you see, Granville, the
silk-cards are written upon, 'blue' and 'green;' there can be no
Mr. Beauclerc made a few more laudable attempts at conversation with
Miss Stanley, but she, still imagining that this was forced, could not
in return say anything but what seemed forced and unnatural, and as
unlike her usual self as possible. Lady Cecilia tried to relieve her;
she would have done better to have let it alone, for Beauclerc was not
of the French wit's opinion that, _La modestie n'est bonne qu'a quinze
ans_, and to him it appeared only a graceful timidity. Helen retired
earlier than any one else, and, when she thought over her foolish
awkwardness, felt as much ashamed as if Mr. Beauclerc had actually heard
all that Lady Cecilia had said about him--had seen all her thoughts, and
understood the reason of her confusion. At last, when Lady Cecilia came
into her room before she went to bed, she began with--"I am sure you are
going to scold me, and I deserve it, I am so provoked with myself, and
the worst of it is, that I do not think I shall ever get over it--I am
afraid I shall be just as foolish again tomorrow."
"I could find it in my heart to scold you to death," said Lady Cecilia,
"but that I am vexed myself."
Then hesitating, and studying Helen's countenance, she seemed doubtful
how to proceed. Either she was playing with Helen's curiosity, or she
was really herself perplexed. She made two or three beginnings, each a
little inconsistent with the other.
"Mamma is always right; with her--'coming events' really and truly 'cast
their shadows before.' I do believe she has the fatal gift, the coming
ill to know!"
"Ill!" said Helen; "what ill is coming?"
"After all, however, it may not be an ill," said Lady Cecilia; "it may
be all for the best; yet I am shockingly disappointed, though I declare
I never formed any--"
"Oh, my dear Cecilia, do tell me at once what it is you mean."
"I mean, that Granville Beauclerc, like all men of genius, has acted
like the greatest fool."
"What has he done?"
"He is absolutely--you must look upon him in future--as a married man."
Helen was delighted. Cecilia could form no farther schemes on her
account, and she felt relieved from all her awkwardness.
"Dearest Helen, this is well at all events," cried Cecilia, seeing her
cleared countenance. "This comforts me; you are at ease; and, if I have
caused you one uncomfortable evening, I am sure you are consoled for it
by the reflection that my mother was right, and I, as usual, wrong. But,
Helen," continued she earnestly, "remember that this is not to be known;
remember you must not breathe the least hint of what I have told you to
mamma or the general."
Something more than astonishment appeared in Helen's countenance. "And
is it possible that Mr. Beauclerc does not tell them,--does not trust
his guardian and such a friend as your mother?" said Helen.
"He will tell them, he will tell them--but not yet; perhaps not till--he
is not to see his fiancee--they have for some reason agreed to be
separated for some time--I do not know exactly, but surely every body
may choose their own opportunity for telling their own secrets. In fact,
Helen, the lady, I understand, made it a point with him that nothing
should be said of it yet--to any one."
"But he told it to you?"
"No, indeed, he did not tell it; I found it out, and he could not deny
it; but he charged me to keep it secret, and I would not have told it to
any body living but yourself; and to you, after all I said about him, I
felt it was necessary--thought I was bound--in short, I thought it would
set things to rights, and put you at your ease at once."
And then, with more earnestness, she again pressed upon Helen a promise
of secrecy, especially towards Lady Davenant. Helen submitted. Cecilia
embraced her affectionately, and left the room. Quite tired, and quite
happy, Helen was in bed and asleep in a few minutes.
Not the slightest suspicion crossed her mind that all her friend had
been telling her was not perfectly true. To a more practised, a less
confiding, person the perplexity of Lady Cecilia's prefaces, and some
contradictions or inconsistencies, might have suggested doubts; hut
Helen's general confidence in her friend's truth had never yet been
seriously shaken. Lady Davenant she had always thought prejudiced on
this point, and too severe. If there had been in early childhood a bad
habit of inaccuracy in Cecilia, Helen thought it long since cured; and
so perhaps it was, till she formed a friendship abroad with one who had
no respect for truth.
But of this Helen knew nothing; and, in fact, till now Lady Cecilia's
aberrations had been always trifling, almost imperceptible, errors, such
as only her mother's strictness or Miss Clarendon's scrupulosity could
detect. Nor would Cecilia have ventured upon a decided, an important,
false assertion, except for a kind purpose. Never in her life had she
told a falsehood to injure any human creature, or one that she could
foresee might, by any possibility do harm to any living being. But here
was a friend, a very dear friend, in an awkward embarrassment, and
brought into it by her means; and by a little innocent stretching of the
truth she could at once, she fancied, set all to rights. The moment the
idea came into her head, upon the spur of the occasion, she resolved to
execute it directly. It was settled between the drawing-room door and
her dressing-room. And when thus executed successfully, with happy
sophistry she justified it to herself. "After all," said she to herself,
"though it was not absolutely true, it was _ben trovato_, it was as near
the truth, perhaps, as possible. Beauclerc's best friends really feared
that he was falling in love with the lady in question. It was very
likely, and too likely, it might end in his marrying this Lady Blanche
Forrester. And, on every account, and every way, it was for the best
that Helen should consider him as a married man. This would restore
Helen by one magical stroke to herself, and release her from that
wretched state in which she could neither please nor be pleased." And as
far as this good effect upon Helen was concerned, Lady Cecilia's plan
was judicious; it succeeded admirably.
Wonderful! how a few words spoken, a single idea taken, out of or put
into the mind, can make such a difference, not only in the mental
feelings, but in the whole bodily appearance, and in the actual powers
of perception and use of our senses.
When Helen entered the breakfast-room the next morning, she looked, and
moved, and felt, quite a different creature from what she had been the
preceding day. She had recovered the use of her understanding, and she
could hear and see quite distinctly; and the first thing she saw was,
that nobody was thinking particularly about her; and now she for the
first time actually saw Mr. Beauclerc. She had before looked at him
without seeing him, and really did not know what sort of looking person
he was, except that he was like a gentleman; of that she had a sort of
intuitive perception;--as Cuvier could tell from the first sight of a
single bone what the animal was, what were its habits, and to what class
it belonged, so any person early used to good company can, by the first
gesture, the first general manner of being, passive or active, tell
whether a stranger, even scarcely seen, is or is not a gentleman.
At the beginning of breakfast, Mr. Beauclerc had all the perfect English
quiet of look and manners, with somewhat of a high-bred air of
indifference to all sublunary things, yet saying and doing whatever was
proper for the present company; yet it was done and said like one in a
dream, performed like a somnambulist, correctly from habit, but all
unconsciously. He awakened from his reverie the moment General Clarendon
came in, and he asked eagerly,--
"General! how far is it to Old Forest?" These were the first words which
he pronounced like one wide awake. "I must ride there this morning; it's
The general replied that he did not see the necessity.
"But when I do, sir," cried Beauclerc; the natural vivacity of the young
man breaking through the conventional manner. Next moment, with a humble
look, he hoped that the general would accompany him, and the look of
proud humility vanished from his countenance the next instant, because
the general demurred, and Beauclerc added, "Will not you oblige me so
far? Then I must go by myself."
The general, seeming to go on with his own thoughts, and not to be moved
by his ward's impatience, talked of a review that was to be put off, and
at length found that he could accompany him. Beauclerc then, delighted,
thanked him warmly.
"What is the object of this essential visit to Old Forest, may I ask?"
said Lady Davenant.
"To see a dilapidated house," said the general.
"To save a whole family from ruin," cried Beauclerc; "to restore a man
of first-rate talents to his place in society."
"Pshaw!" said the general.
"Why that contemptuous exclamation, my dear general?" said Beauclerc.
"I have told you, and again I tell you, the thing is impossible!" said
"So I hear you say, sir," replied his ward; "but till I am convinced, I
hold to my project."
"And what is your project, Granville?" said Lady Davenant.
"I will explain it to you when we are alone," said Beauclerc.
"I beg your pardon, I was not aware that there was any mystery," said
Lady Davenant. "No mystery," said Beauclerc, "only about lending some
money to a friend."
"To which I will not consent," said the general.
"Why not, sir?" said Beauclerc, throwing back his head with an air of
defiance in his countenance; there was as he looked at his guardian a
quick, mutable succession of feelings, in striking contrast with the
fixity of the general's appearance.
"I have given you my reasons, Beauclerc," said the general, "It is
unnecessary to repeat what I have said, you will do no good."
"No good, general? When I tell you that if I lend Beltravers the money,
to put his place in repair, to put it in such a state that his sisters
could live in it, he would no longer be a banished man, a useless
absentee, a wanderer abroad, but he would come and settle at Old Forest,
re-establish the fortune and respectability of his family, and above
all, save his own character and happiness. Oh, my dear general!"
General Clarendon, evidently moved by his ward's benevolent enthusiasm,
paused and said that there were many recollections which made it rather
painful to him to revisit Old Forest. Still he would do it for
Beauclerc, since nothing but seeing the place would convince him of the
impracticability of his scheme. "I have not been at Old Forest,"
continued the general, "since I was a boy--since it was deserted by the
owners, and sadly changed I shall find it.
"In former times these Forresters were a respectable, good old English
family, till the second wife, pretty and silly, took a fancy for
figuring in London, where of course she was nobody. Then, to make
herself somebody, she forced her husband to stand for the county. A
contested election--bribery--a petition--another election--ruinous
expense. Then that Beltravers title coming to them: and they were to
live up to it,--and beyond their income. The old story--over head and
shoulders in debt. Then the new story,--that they must go abroad for
"Economy! The cant of all those who have not courage to retrench at
home," said Lady Davenant.
"They must," they said, "live abroad, it is so cheap," continued the
general. "So cheap to leave their house to go to ruin! Cheap education
too! and so good--and what does it come to?"
"A cheap provision it is for a family in many cases," said Lord
Davenant. "Wife, son, and daughter, Satan, are thy own."
"Not in this case," cried Beauclerc; "you cannot mean I hope."
"I can answer for one, the daughter at least," said Lady Davenant; "that
Mad. de St. Cimon, whom we saw abroad, at Florence, you know, Cecilia,
with whom I would not let you form an acquaintance."
"Your ladyship was quite right," said the general.
Beauclerc could not say, "Quite wrong,"--and he looked--suffering.
"I know nothing of the son," pursued Lady Davenant.
"I do," said Beauclerc, "he is my friend."
"I thought he had been a very distressed man, that young Beltravers,"
said the aid-de-camp.
"And if he were, that would not prevent my being his friend, sir," said
"Of course," said the aid-de-camp, "I only asked."
"He is a man of genius and feeling," continued Beauclerc, turning to
"But I never heard you mention Lord Beltravers before. How long has he
been your friend?" said Lady Davenant.
Beauclerc hesitated. The general without hesitation answered, "Three
weeks and one day."
"I do not count my friendship by days or weeks," said Beauclerc.
"No, my dear Beauclerc," said the general: "well would it be for you if
you would condescend to any such common-sense measure." He rose from the
breakfast-table as he spoke, and rang the bell to order the horses.
"You are prejudiced against Beltravers, general; but you will think
better of him, I am sure, when you know him."
"You will think worse of him when you know him, I suspect," replied the
"Suspect! But since you only _suspect_," said Beauclerc, "we English do
not condemn on suspicion, unheard, unseen."
"Not unheard," said the general, "I have heard enough of him." "From the
reports of his enemies," said Beauclerc.
"I do not usually form my judgment," replied the general, "from reports
either of friends or enemies; I have not the honour of knowing any of
Lord Beltravers' enemies."
"Enemies of Lord Beltravers!" exclaimed Lady Davenant. "What right as he
to enemies as if he were a great man?--a person of whom nobody ever
heard, setting up to have enemies! But now-a-days, these candidates for
fame, these would-be celebrated, set up their enemies as they would
their equipages, on credit--then, by an easy process of logic, make out
the syllogism thus:--Every great man has enemies, therefore, every man
who has enemies must be great--hey, Beauclerc?"
Beauclerc vouchsafed only a faint, absent smile, and, turning to his
guardian, asked--"Since Lord Beltravers was not to be allowed the
honours of enemies, or the benefit of pleading prejudice, on what _did_
the general form his judgment?"
"From his own words."
"Stay judgment, my dear general," cried Beauclerc; "words repeated! by
"Repeated by no one--heard from himself, by myself."
"Yourself! I was not aware you had ever met;--when? where?" Beauclerc
started forward on his chair, and listened eagerly for the answer.
"Pity!" said Lady Davenant, speaking to herself,--"pity! that 'with such
quick affections kindling into flame,' they should burn to waste."
"When, where?" repeated Beauclerc, with his eyes fixed on his guardian,
and his soul in his eyes.
Soberly and slowly his guardian answered, and categorically,--"When did
I meet Lord Beltravers? A short time before his father's death.--Where?
At Lady Grace Bland's."
"At Lady Grace Bland's!--where he could not possibly appear to
advantage! Well, go on, sir."
"One moment--pardon me, Beauclerc; I have curiosity as well as yourself.
May I ask why Lord Beltravers could not possibly have appeared to
advantage at Lady Grace Bland's?"
"Because I know he cannot endure her; I have heard him, speaking of her,
quote what Johnson or somebody says of Clariss--'a prating, preaching,
"Good!" said the general, "he said this of his own aunt!" "Aunt! You
cannot mean that Lady Grace is his aunt?" cried Beauclerc.
"She is his mother's sister," replied the general, "and therefore is, I
conceive, his aunt."
"Be it so," cried Beauclerc; "people must tell the truth sometimes, even
of their own relations; they must know it best, and therefore I conclude
that what Beltravers said of Lady Grace is true."
"Bravo! well jumped to a conclusion, Granville, as usual," said Lady
Davenant, "But go on, general, tell us what you have heard from this
precious lord; can you have better than what Beauclerc, his own witness,
gives in evidence?"
"Better I think, and in the same line," said the general: "his lordship
has the merit of consistency. At table, servants of course present, and
myself a stranger, I heard Lord Beltravers begin by cursing England and
all that inhabit it. 'But your country!' remonstrated his aunt. He
abjured England; he had no country, he said, no liberal man ever has; he
had no relations--what nature gave him without his consent he had a
right to disclaim, I think he argued. But I can swear to these words,
with which he concluded--'My father is an idiot, my mother a brute, and
my sister may go to the devil her own way.'"
"Such bad taste!" said the aid-de-camp.
Lady Davenant smiled at the unspeakable astonishment in Helen's face.
"When you have lived one season in the world, my dear child, this power
of surprise will be worn out."
"But even to those who have seen the world," said the aide-de-camp, who
had seen the world, "as it strikes me, really it is such extraordinary
"Such ordinary bad taste! as it strikes me," said Lady Davenant; "base
imitation, and imitation is always a confession of poverty, a want of
original genius. But then there are degrees among the race of imitators.
Some choose their originals well, some come near them tolerably; but
here, all seems equally bad, clumsy, Birmingham counterfeit; don't you
think so, Beauclerc? a counterfeit that falls and makes no noise. There
is the worst of it for your protege, whose great ambition I am sure it
is to make a noise in the world. However, I may spare my remonstrances,
for I am quite aware that you would never let drop a friend." "Never,
never!" cried Beauclerc.
"Then, my dear Granville, do not take up this man, this Lord Beltravers,
for, depend upon it, he will never do. If he had made a bold stroke for
a reputation, like a great original, and sported some deed without a
name, to work upon the wonder-loving imagination of the credulous
English public, one might have thought something of him. But this
cowardly, negative sin, _not_ honouring his father and mother! so
commonplace, too, neutral tint--no effect. Quite a failure, one cannot
even stare, and you know, Granville, the object of all these strange
speeches is merely to make fools stare. To be the wonder of the London
world for a single day, is the great ambition of these ephemeral fame-
hunters 'insects that shine, buzz, and fly-blow in the setting sun.'"
Beauclerc pushed away his tea-cup half across the table, exclaiming,
"How unjust! to class him among a tribe he detests and despises as much
as you can, Lady Davenant. And all for that one unfortunate speech--Not
quite fair, general, not quite philosophical, Lady Davenant, to decide
on a man's character from the specimen of a single speech: this is like
judging of a house from the sample of a single brick. All this time I
know how Beltravers came to make that speech--I know how it was, as well
as if I had been present--better!"
"Better!" cried Lady Cecilia.
"Ladies and gentlemen may laugh," resumed Beauclerc, "but I seriously
"How better than the general, who was present, and heard and saw the
whole?" said Lady Cecilia.
"Yes, better, for he saw only effects, and I know causes; and I appeal
to Lady Davenant,--from Lady Davenant sarcastic to Lady Davenant
philosophic I appeal--may not the man who discovers causes, say he knows
more than he who merely sees effects?"
"He may say he knows more, at all events," replied Lady Davenant; "but
now for the discovery of causes, metaphysical sir."
"I have done," cried the general, turning to leave the breakfast-room;
"when Beauclerc goes to metaphysics I give it up."
"No, no, do not give it up, my dear general," cried Lady Cecilia; "do
not stir till we have heard what will come next, for I am sure it will
be something delightfully absurd."
Beauclerc bowed, and feared he should not justify her ladyship's good
opinion, for he had nothing delightfully absurd to say, adding that the
cause of his friend's appearing like a brute was, that he feared to be a
hypocrite among hypocrites.
"Lord Beltravers was in company with a set who were striving, with all
their might of dissimulation, to appear better than they are, and he, as
he always does, strove to make himself appear worse than he really is."
"Unnecessary, I should think," said Lady Davenant.
"Impossible, I should think," said the general.
"Impossible I know it is to change your opinion, general, of any one,"
"For my own part, I am glad of that," said Lady Cecilia, rising; "and I
advise you, Granville, to rest content with the general's opinion of
yourself, and say no more."
"But," said Beauclerc; "one cannot be content to think only of one's-
"Say no more, say no more," repeated Lady Cecilia, smiling as she looked
back from the door, where she had stopped the general. "For my sake say
no more, I entreat, I do dislike to hear so much said about anything or
anybody. What sort of a road is it to Old Forest?" continued she; "why
should not we ladies go with you, my dear Clarendon, to enliven the
Clarendon's countenance brightened at this proposal. The road was
certainly beautiful, he said, by the banks of the Thames. Lady Cecilia
and the general left the room, but Beauclerc remained sitting at the
breakfast-table, apparently intently occupied in forming a tripod of
three tea-spoons; Lady Davenant opposite to him, looking at him
earnestly, "Granville!" said she. He started, "Granville! set my mind at
ease by one word, tell me the _mot d'enigme_ of this sudden friendship."
"Not what you suppose," said he steadily, yet colouring deeply. "The
fact is, that Beltravers and I were school-fellows; a generous little
fellow he was as ever was born; he got me out of a sad scrape once at
his own expense, and I can never forget it. We had never met since we
left Eton, till about three weeks ago in town, when I found him in great
difficulties, persecuted too, by a party--I could not turn my back on
him--I would rather be shot!"
"No immediate necessity for being shot, my dear Granville, I hope," said
Lady Davenant. "But if this be indeed _all_, I will never say another
word against your Lord Beltravers; I will leave it to you to find out
his character, or to time to show it. I shall be quite satisfied that
you throw away your money, if it be only money that is in the question;
be this Lord Beltravers what he may. Let him say, 'or let them do, it is
all one to me,' provided that he does not marry you to his sister."
"He has not a thought of it," cried Beauclerc; "and if he had, do you
conceive, Lady Davenant, that any man on earth could dispose of me in
marriage, at his pleasure?"
"I hope not," said Lady Davenant.
"Be assured not; my own will, my own heart alone, must decide that
"The horses are at the door!" cried Cecilia, as she entered; but
Helen had made her escape out of the room when Lady Davenant had
pronounced the words, "Set my mind at rest, Granville," as she felt it
must then be embarrassing to him to speak, and to herself to hear. Her
retreat, had not, however, been effected with considerable loss, she had
been compelled to leave a large piece of the crape-trimming of her gown
under the foot of Lady Davenant's inexorable chair.
"Here is something that belongs to Miss Stanley, if I mistake not," said
the general, who first spied the fragment. The aid-de-camp stooped for
it--Lady Cecilia pitied it--Lady Davenant pronounced it to be Helen's
own fault--Beauclerc understood how it happened, and said nothing.
"But, Helen," cried Lady Cecilia, as she re-appeared,--"but, Helen, are
you not coming with us?"
Helen had intended to have gone in the pony-carriage with Lady Davenant,
but her ladyship now declared that she had business to do at home; it
was settled therefore that Helen was to be of the riding party, and that
party consisted of Lady Cecilia and the general, Beauclerc and herself.
It was a delightful day, sun shining, not too hot, air balmy, birds