Part 3 out of 10
singing, all nature gay; and the happy influence was quickly felt by the
riding party. Unpleasant thoughts of the past or future, if any such had
been, were now lost in present enjoyment. The general, twice a man on
horseback, as he always felt himself, managed his own and Helen's horse
to admiration, and Cecilia, riding on with Beauclerc, was well pleased
to hear his first observation, that he had been quite wrong last night,
in not acknowledging that Miss Stanley was beautiful. "People look so
different by daylight and by candlelight," said he; "and so different
when one does not know them at all, and when one begins to know
something of them."
"But what can you know yet of Helen?"
"One forms some idea of character from trifles light as air. How
delightful this day is!"
"And now you really allow she may be called beautiful?"
"Yes, that is, with some expression of mind, heart, soul, which is what
I look for in general," said Beauclerc.
"In general, what can you mean by in general?"
"Not in particular; in particular cases I might think--I--I might feel--
"In particular, then, do you like fools that have no mind, heart, or
soul, Granville?--Answer me."
"Take care," said he, "that horse is too spirited for a lady."
"Not for me," said Lady Cecilia; "but do not think you shall get off so;
what did you mean?"
"My meaning lies too deep for the present occasion."
"For the present company--eh?"
Beauclerc half smiled and answered--"You know you used to tell me that
you hated long discussions on words and nice distinctions."
"Well, well, but let me have the nice distinction now."
"Between love and friendship, then, there is a vast difference in what
one wishes for in a woman's face; there are, 'faces which pale passion
loves.'" "To the right, turn," the general's voice far behind was heard
To the right they turned, into a glade of the park, which opened to a
favourite view of the general's, to which Cecilia knew that all
attention must be paid. He came up, and they proceeded through a wood
which had been planted by his father, and which seemed destined to stand
for ever secure from sacrilegious axe. The road led them next into a
village, one of the prettiest of that sort of scattered English
villages, where each habitation seems to have been suited to the fancy
as well as to the convenience of each proprietor; giving an idea at once
of comfort and liberty, such as can be seen only in England. Happy
England, how blest, would she but know her bliss!
This village was inhabited by the general's tenants. His countenance
brightened and expanded, as did theirs, whenever he came amongst them;
he saw them happy, and they knew that they owed their happiness in just
proportion to their landlord and themselves; therefore there was a
comfortable mixture in their feelings of gratitude and self-respect.
Some old people who were sitting on the stone benches, sunning
themselves at their doors, rose as he passed, cap in hand, with cordial
greeting. The oldest man, the father of the village, forgot his crutch
as he came forward to see his landlord's bride, and to give him joy. At
every house where they stopped, out came husband, wife, and children,
even "wee toddling things;" one of these, while the general was speaking
to its mother, made its way frightfully close to his horse's heels:
Helen saw it, and called to the mother. The general, turning and leaning
back on his horse, said to the bold little urchin as the mother snatched
him up, "My boy, as long as you live never again go behind a horse's
"And remember, it was general Clarendon gave you this advice," added
Beauclerc, and turning to Lady Cecilia--"'_Et souvenez vous que c'est
Marechal Turenne qui vous l'a dit_.'"
While the general searched for that English memento, six-pence, Lady
Cecilia repeated, "Marshal Turenne! I do not understand."
"Yes, if you recollect," said Helen, "you do."
"I dare say I know, but I don't remember," said Cecilia. "It was only,"
said Helen, "that the same thing had happened to Marshal Turenne, that
he gave the same advice to a little child."
Lady Cecilia said she owed Beauclerc an acknowledgment down to her
saddle-bow, for the compliment to her general, and a bow at least as low
to Ellen, for making her comprehend it; and, having paid both debts with
graceful promptitude, she observed, in an aside to Beauclerc, that she
quite agreed with him, that "In friendship it was good not to have to do
"It is always permitted," continued Cecilia, "to woman to use her
intellects so far as to comprehend what man says; her knowledge, of
whatever sort, never comes amiss when it serves only to illustrate what
is said by one of the lords of the creation. Let us note this, my dear
Ellen, as a general maxim, for future use, and pray, since you have so
good a memory, remember to tell mamma, who says I never generalise, that
this morning I have actually made and established a philosophical maxim,
one that may be of some use too, which cannot be said of all
reflections, general or particular."
They rode on through a lane bright and fragrant with primroses and
violets; gradually winding, this lane opened at last upon the beautiful
banks of the Thames, whose "silver bosom" appeared at once before them
in the bright sunshine, silent, flowing on, seeming, as Beauclerc said,
as if it would for ever flow on unaltered in full, broad, placid
dignity. "Here," he exclaimed, as they paused to contemplate the view,
"the throng of commerce, the ponderous barge, the black steam-boat, the
hum and din of business, never have violated the mighty current. No
lofty bridge insultingly over-arches it, no stone-built wharf confines
it; nothing but its own banks, coeval with itself and like itself,
uncontaminated by the petty uses of mankind!--they spread into large
parks, or are hung with thick woods, as nature wills. No citizen's box,
no chimera villa destroys the idea of repose; but nature, uninterrupted,
carries on her own operations in field, and flood, and tree."
The general, less poetically inclined, would name to Helen all the fine
places within view--"Residences," as he practically remarked, "such as
cannot be seen in any country in the world but England; and not only
fine places such as these, but from the cottage to the palace--'the
homes of Old England' are the best homes upon earth."
"The most candid and sensible of all modern French travellers," said
Beauclerc, "was particularly struck with the superiority of our English
country residences, and the comfort of our homes."
"You mean M. de Stael?" said the general; "true English sense in that
book, I allow."
When the general and Beauclerc did agree in opinion about a book, which
was not a circumstance of frequent occurrence, they were mutually
delighted; one always feeling the value of the other's practical sense,
and the other then acknowledging that literature is good for something.
Beauclerc in the fulness of his heart, and abundance of his words, began
to expatiate on M. de Stael's merits, in having better than any
foreigner understood the actual workings and balances of the British
constitution, that constitution so much talked of abroad, and so little
"So little understood any where," said the general.
Reasonably as Beauclerc now spoke, Helen formed a new idea of his
capacity, and began to think more respectfully even of his common sense,
than when she had heard him in the Beltravers cause. He spoke of the
causes of England's prosperity, the means by which she maintains her
superiority among nations--her equal laws and their just administration.
He observed, that the hope which every man born in England, even in the
lowest station, may have of rising by his own merits to the highest
eminence, forms the great spring of industry and talent. He agreed with
the intelligent foreigner's observation, that the aristocracy of talent
is superior in England to the aristocracy of birth.
The general seemed to demur at the word superior, drew himself up, but
said nothing in contradiction.
"Industry, and wealth, and education, and fashion, all emulous, act in
England beneficially on each other," continued Beauclerc.
The general sat at ease again.
"And above all," pursued Beauclerc,--"above all, education and the
diffusion of knowledge----"
"Knowledge--yes, but take care of what kind," said his guardian. "All
kinds are good," said Beauclerc.
"No, only such as are safe," said the general. The march of intellect
was not a favourite march with him, unless the step were perfectly kept,
and all in good time.
But now, on passing a projecting bend in the wood, they came within
sight of a place in melancholy contrast to all they had just admired. A
park of considerable extent, absolutely bereft of trees, except a few
ragged firs on each side of a large dilapidated mansion, on the summit
of a bleak hill: it seemed as if a great wood had once been there.
"Old Forest!" exclaimed the general; "Old Forest, now no more! Many a
happy hour, when I was a boy, have I spent shooting in those woods," and
he pointed to where innumerable stumps of trees, far as the eye could
reach, marked where the forest had once stood: some of the white circles
on the ground showed the magnificent size of those newly felled.
Beauclerc was quite silent.
The general led the way on to the great gate of entrance: the porter's
lodge was in ruins.
A huge rusty padlock hung upon one of the gates, which had been dragged
half open, but, the hinge having sunk, there it stuck--the gate could
not be opened further. The other could not be stirred without imminent
hazard of bringing down the pier on which it hung, and which was so
crazy, the groom said, "he was afraid, if he shook it never so little,
all would come down together."
"Let it alone," said the general, in the tone of one resolved to be
patient; "there is room enough for us to get in one by one--Miss
Stanley, do not be in a hurry, if you please; follow me quietly."
In they filed. The avenue, overgrown with grass, would have been
difficult to find, but for deep old cart-ruts which still marked the
way. But soon, fallen trees, and lopped branches, dragged many a rood
and then left there, made it difficult to pass. And there lay exposed
the white bodies of many a noble tree, some wholly, some half, stripped
of their bark, some green in decay, left to the weather--and every here
and there little smoking pyramids of burning charcoal.
As they approached the house--"How changed," said the general, "from
that once cheerful hospitable mansion!"--It was a melancholy example of
a deserted home: the plaster dropping off, the cut stone green, the
windows broken, the shutters half shut, the way to the hall-door steps
blocked up. They were forced to go round through the yards. Coach-houses
and stables, grand ranges, now all dilapidated. Only one yelping cur in
the great kennel. The back-door being ajar, the general pushed it open,
and they went in, and on to the great kitchen, where they found in the
midst of wood smoke one little old woman, whom they nearly scared out of
her remaining senses. She stood and stared. Beauclerc stepped towards
her to explain; but she was deaf: he raised his voice--in vain. She was
made to comprehend by the general, whose voice, known in former times,
reached her heart--"that they only came to see the place."
"See the place! ah! a sad sight to see." Her eyes reverted to Beauclerc,
and, conceiving that he was the young lord himself, she waxed pale, and
her head shook fearfully; but, when relieved from this mistake, she went
forward to show them over the house.
As they proceeded up the great staircase, she confided to her friend,
the general, that she was glad it was not the young lord, for she was
told he was a fiery man, and she dreaded his coming unawares.
Lady Cecilia asked if she did not know him?
No, she had never seen him since he was a little fellow: "he has been
always roaming about, like the rest, in foreign parts, and has never set
foot in the place since he came to man's estate."
As the general passed a window on the landing-place, he looked out.--
"You are missing the great elm, Sir. Ah! I remember you here, a boy; you
was always good. It was the young lord ordered specially the cutting of
that, which I could not stomach; the last of the real old trees! Well,
well! I'm old and foolish--I'm old and foolish, and I should not talk."
But still she talked on, and as this seemed her only comfort, they would
not check her garrulity. In the hope that they were come to take the
house, she now bustled as well as she could, to show all to the best
advantage, but bad was the best now, as she sorrowfully said. She was
very unwilling that the gentlemen should go up to inspect the roof. They
went, however; and the general saw and estimated, and Beauclerc saw and
The general, recollecting the geography of the house, observed that she
had not shown them what used to be the picture-gallery, which looked out
on the terrace; he desired to see it. She reluctantly obeyed; and, after
trying sundry impossible keys, repeating all the while that her heart
was broke, that she wished it had pleased God never to give her a heart,
unlock the door she could not in her trepidation. Beauclerc gently took
the keys from her, and looked so compassionately upon her, that she God-
blessed him, and thought it a pity her young lord was not like him; and
while he dealt with the lock, Lady Cecilia, saying they would trouble
her no further, slipped into her hand what she thought would be some
comfort. The poor old creature thanked her ladyship, but said gold could
be of no use to her now in life; she should soon let the parish bury
her, and be no cost to the young lord. She could forgive many things,
she said, but she could never forgive him for parting with the old
pictures. She turned away as the gallery-door opened.
One only old daub of a grandmother was there; all the rest had been
sold, and their vacant places remained discoloured on the walls. There
were two or three dismembered old chairs, the richly dight windows
broken, the floor rat-eaten. The general stood and looked, and did not
sigh, but absolutely groaned. They went to the shattered glass door,
which looked out upon the terrace--that terrace which had cost thousands
of pounds to raise, and he called Cecilia to show her the place where
the youngsters used to play, and to point out some of his favourite
"It is most melancholy to see a family-place so gone to ruin," said
Beauclerc; "if it strikes us so much, what must it be to the son of this
family, to come back to the house of his ancestors, and find it thus
desolate! Poor Beltravers!"
The expression of the general's eye changed.
"I am sure you must pity him, my dear general," continued Beauclerc.
"I might, had he done any thing to prevent, or had he done less to
hasten, this ruin."
"How? he should not have cut down the trees, do you mean?--but it was to
pay his father's debts----" "And his own," said the general.
"He told me his father's, sir."
"And I tell you his own."
"Even so," said Beauclerc, "debts are not crimes for which we ought to
shut the gates of mercy on our fellow-creatures--and so young a man as
Beltravers, left to himself, without a home, his family abroad, no
parent, no friend--no guardian friend."
"But what is it you would do, Beauclerc?" said the general.
"What you must wish to be done," said Beauclerc. "Repair this ruin,
restore this once hospitable mansion, and put it in the power of the son
to be what his ancestors have been."
"But how--my dear Beauclerc? Tell me plainly--how?"
"Plainly, I would lend him money enough to make this house fit to live
"And he would never repay you, and would never live in it."
"He would, sir--he promised me he would."
"And I promised him that I would lend him the money."
"Promised! Beauclerc? Without your guardian's knowledge? Pray, how much--"
"Confound me, if I remember the words. The sense was, what would do the
business; what would make the house fit for him and his sisters to live
"Ten thousand!--fifteen thousand would not do."
"Well, sir. You know what will be necessary better than I do. A few
thousands more or less, what signifies, provided a friend be well
served. The superfluous money accumulated during my long minority cannot
be better employed."
"All that I have been saving for you with such care from the time your
"My dear guardian, my dear friend, do not think me ungrateful; but the
fact is,--in short, my happiness does not depend, never can depend, upon
money; as my friend, therefore, I beseech you to consider my moneyed
interest less, and my happiness more."
"Beauclerc, you do not know what your happiness is. One hour you tell me
it is one thing, the next another. What is become of the plan for the
new house you wanted to build for yourself? I must have common sense for
you, Beauclerc, as you have none for yourself. I shall not give you this
money for Lord Beltravers."
"You forget sir, that I told you I had promised."
"You forget, Beauclerc, that I told you that such a promise, vague and
absurd in itself, made without your guardian's concurrence or consent,
is absolutely null and void."
"Null and void in law, perhaps it may be," cried Beauclerc; "but for
that very reason, in honour, the stronger the more binding, and I am
speaking to a man of honour."
"To one who can take care of his own honour," said the general.
"And of mine, I trust."
"You do well to trust it, as your father did, to me: it shall not he
"When once I am of age," interrupted Beauclerc.
"You will do as you please," said the general. "In the mean time I shall
do my duty."
"But, sir, I only ask you to let me _lend_ this money."
"Lend--nonsense! lend to a man who cannot give any security."
"Security!" said Beauclerc, with a look of unutterable contempt. "When a
friend is in distress, to talk to him like an attorney, of security! Do,
pray, sir, spare me that. I would rather give the money at once."
"I make no doubt of it; then at once I say No, sir."
"No, sir! and why do you say no?"
"Because I think it my duty, and nothing I have heard has at all shaken
"Opinion! and so I am to be put down by opinion, without any reason!"
cried Beauclerc. Then trying to command his temper, "But tell me, my
dear general, why I cannot have this cursed money?"
"Because, my dear Beauclerc, I am your guardian, and can say _no_, and
can adhere to a refusal as firmly as any man living, when it is
"Yes, and when it is unnecessary. General Clarendon, according to your
own estimate, fifteen thousand pounds is the utmost sum requisite to put
this house in a habitable state--by that sum I abide!" "Abide!"
"Yes, I require it, to keep my promise to Beltraver's, and have it I
"Not from me."
"From some one else then, for have it I WILL.
"Dearest Clarendon," whispered Lady Cecilia, "let him have it, since he
Without seeming to hear her whisper, without a muscle of his countenance
altering, General Clarendon repeated, "Not from me."
"From some one else then--I can."
"Not while I have power to prevent."
"Power! power! power! Yes, that is what you love, above all things and
all persons, and I tell you plainly, General Clarendon," pursued
Beauclerc, too angry to heed or see Lady Cecilia's remonstrating looks,
"at once I tell you that you have not the power. You had it. It is past
and gone. The power of affection you had, if not of reason; but force,
General Clarendon, despotism, can never govern me. I submit to no man's
mere will, much less to any man's sheer obstinacy."
At the word obstinacy, the general's face, which was before rigid, grew
hard as iron. Beauclerc walked up and down the room with great strides,
and as he strode he went on talking to himself.
"To be kept from the use of my own money, treated like a child--an
idiot--at my time of life! Not considered at years of discretion, when
other men of the meanest capacity, by the law of the land, can do what
they please with their own property! By heavens!--that will of my
"Should be respected, my dear Granville, since it was your father's
will," said Lady Cecilia, joining him as he walked. "And respect----" He
"My dear Lady Cecilia, for your sake----" he tried to restrain himself.
"Till this moment never did I say one disrespectful word to General
Clarendon. I always considered him as the representative of my father;
and when most galled I have borne the chains in which it was my father's
pleasure to leave me. Few men of my age would have so submitted to a
guardian not many years older than himself." "Yes, and indeed that
should be considered," said Lady Cecilia, turning to the general.
"I have always considered General Clarendon more as my friend than my
"And have found him so, I had hoped," said the general, relaxing in tone
hut not in looks.
"I have never treated you, sir, as some wards treat their guardians. I
have dealt openly, as man of honour to man of honour, gentleman to
gentleman, friend to friend."
"Acknowledged, and felt by me, Beauclerc."
"Then now, my dear Clarendon, grant the only request of any consequence
I ever made you--say yes." Beauclerc trembled with impatience.
"No," said the general, "I have said it--No."
The gallery rung with the sound.
"No!" repeated Beauclerc.
Each walked separately up and down the room, speaking without listening
to what the other said. Helen heard an offer from Beauclerc, to which
she extremely wished that the general had listened. But he was deaf with
determination not to yield to any thing Beauclerc could say further: the
noise of passion in their ears was too great for either of them to hear
Suddenly turning, Beauclerc exclaimed,--
"Borne with me, do you say? 'Tis I that have to bear--and by heavens!"
cried he, "more than I can--than I will--bear. Before to-morrow's sun
goes down I will have the money."
"From any money-lending Jew--usurer--extortioner--cheat--rascal--
whatever he be. You drive me to it--you--you my friend--you, with whom I
have dealt so openly; and to the last it shall be open. To no vile
indirections will I stoop. I tell you, my guardian, that if you deny me
my own, I will have what I want from the Jews."
"Easily," said his guardian. "But first, recollect that a clause in your
father's will, in such case, sends his estates to your cousin Venables."
"To my cousin Venables let them go--all--all; if such be your pleasure,
sir, be it so. The lowest man on earth that has feeling keeps his
promise. The slave has a right to his word! Ruin me if you will, and as
soon as you please; disgrace me you cannot; bend my spirit you cannot;
ruin in any shape I will meet, rather than submit to such a guardian,
Tyrant he was on the point of saying, but Lady Cecilia stopped that word
by suddenly seizing upon his arm: forcibly she carried him off, saying
"Come out with me on the terrace, Granville, and recover your senses."
"My senses! I have never lost them; never was cooler in my life," said
he, kicking open the glass door upon its first resistance, and
shattering its remaining panes to fragments. Unnoticing, not hearing the
crash, the general stood leaning his elbow on the mantel-piece, and
covering his eyes with his hand. Helen remained near him, scarce
breathing loud enough to be heard; he did not know she was there, and he
repeated aloud, in an accent of deep feeling, "Tyrant! from Beauclerc!"
A sigh from Helen made him aware of her presence, and, as he removed his
hand from his eyes, she saw his look was more in sorrow than in anger:
she said softly, "Mr. Beauclerc was wrong, very wrong, but he was in a
passion, he did not know what he meant."
There was silence for a few moments. "You are right, I believe," said
the general, "it was heat of anger----"
"To which the best are subject," said Helen, "and the best and kindest
most easily forgive."
"But Beauclerc said some things which were----"
"Unpardonable--only forget them; let all be forgotten."
"Yes," said the general, "all but my determination; that, observe, is
fixed. My mind, Miss Stanley, is made up, and, once made up, it is not
to be changed."
"I am certain of that," said Helen, "but I am not clear that your mind
is made up."
The general looked at her with astonishment.
"Your refusal is not irrevocable."
"You do not know me, Miss Stanley."
"I think I do."
"Better than I know myself."
"Yes, better, if you do yourself the injustice to think that you would
not yield, if it were right to do so. At this very instant," pursued
Helen, disregarding his increasing astonishment, "you would yield if
you could reasonably, honourably--would not you? If you could without
injury to your ward's fortune or character, would you not? Surely it is
for his good only that you are so resolute?"
"Certainly!" He waited with eyes fixed, bending forward, but with
intensity of purpose in his calmness of attention.
"There was something which I heard Mr. Beauclerc say, which, I think,
escaped your attention," said Helen. "When you spoke of the new house he
intended to build for himself, which was to cost so much, he offered to
give that up."
"I never heard that offer."
"I heard him," said Helen, "I assure you: it was when you were both
walking up and down the room."
"This may be so, I was angry _then_," said the general.
"But you are not angry now," said Helen.
He smiled, and in truth he desired nothing more than an honourable
loophole--a safe way of coming off without injury to his ward--without
hurting his own pride, or derogating from the dignity of guardian. Helen
saw this, and, thanking him for his condescension, his kindness, in
listening to her, she hastened as quickly as possible, lest the
relenting moment might not be seized; and running out on the terrace,
she saw Beauclerc, his head down upon his arms, leaning upon an old
broken stone lion, and Lady Cecilia standing beside him, commiserating;
and as she approached, she beard her persuading him to go to the
general, and speak to him again, and say _so_--only say so.
Whatever it was, Helen did not stay to inquire, but told Cecilia, in as
few words as she could, all that she had to say; and ended with "Was I
"Quite right, was not she, Granville?"
Beauclerc looked up--a gleam of hope and joy came across his face, and,
with one grateful look to Helen, he darted forward. They followed, but
could not keep pace with him; and when they reached the gallery, they
found him appealing, as to a father, for pardon.
"Can you forgive, and will you?"
"Forgive my not hearing you, not listening to you, as your father would?
My dear Beauclerc, you were too hot, and I was too cold; and there is an
end of it." This reconciliation was as quick, as war, as the quarrel had
been. And then explanations were made, as satisfactorily as they are
when the parties are of good understanding, and depend on each other's
truth, past, present, and future.
Beauclerc, whose promise all relied on, and for reasons good, none more
implicitly than the general, promised that he would ask for no more than
just what would do to put this Old Forest house in habitable trim; he
said he would give up the new house for himself, till as many thousands
as he now lent, spent, or wasted--take which word you will--should be
again accumulated from his income. It was merely a sacrifice of his own
vanity, and perhaps a little of his own comfort, he said, to save a
friend, a human being, from destruction.
"Well, well, let it rest so."
It was all settled, witness present--"two angels to witness," as
Beauclerc quoted from some old play.
And now in high good-humour, up again to nonsense pitch, they all felt
that delightful relief of spirits, of which friends, after perilous
quarrel, are sensible in perfect reconciliation. They left this
melancholy mansion now, with Beauclerc the happiest of the happy, in the
generous hope that he should be the restorer of its ancient glories and
comfort. The poor old woman was not forgotten as they passed, she
courtesying, hoping, and fearing: Lady Cecilia whispered, and the deaf
"The roof will not fall--all will be well: and there is the man that
will do it all."
"Well, well, my heart inclined to him from the first--at least from the
minute I knew him not to be my young lord."
They were to go home by water. The boat was in readiness, and, as
Beauclerc carefully handed Helen into it, the general said:--"Yes, you
are right to take care of Miss Stanley, Beauclerc; she is a good friend
in need, at least, as I have found this morning," added he, as he seated
himself beside her.
Lady Cecilia was charming, and every thing was delightful, especially
the cold chicken.
No two people could be more unlike in their habits of mind than this
guardian and ward. General Clarendon referred in all cases to old
experience, and dreaded innovation; Beauclerc took for his motto, "My
mind leadeth me to new things." General Clarendon was what is commonly
called a practical man; Granville Beauclerc was the flower of theorists.
The general, fit for action, prompt and decided in all his judgments,
was usually right and just in his conclusions--but if wrong, there was
no setting him right; for he not only would not, but could not go back
over the ground--he could not give in words any explanation of his
process of reasoning--it was enough for him that it was right, and that
it was _his_; while Beauclerc, who cared not for any man's opinion, was
always so ingeniously wrong, and could show all the steps of his
reasoning so plausibly, that it was a pity he should be quite out of the
right road at last. The general hated metaphysics, because he considered
them as taking a flight beyond the reach of discipline, as well as of
common sense: he continually asked, of what use are they?--While Lady
"To invigorate and embellish the understanding. 'This turning the soul
inward on itself concentrates its forces, and fits it for the strongest
and boldest flights; and in such pursuits, whether we take or whether we
lose the game, the chase is certainly of service.'"
Possibly, the general said; he would not dispute the point with Lady
Davenant, but a losing chase, however invigorating, was one in which he
never wished to engage: as to the rest, he altogether hated discussions,
doubts, and questionings. He had "made up his fagot of opinions," and
would not let one be drawn out for examination, lest he should loosen
Beauclerc, on the contrary, had his dragged out and scattered about
every day, and each particular stick was tried, and bent, and twisted,
this way and that, and peeled, and cut, and hacked; and unless they
proved sound to the very core, not a twig of them should ever go back
into his bundle, which was to be the bundle of bundles, the best that
ever was seen, when once tied so that it would hold together--of which
there seemed little likelihood, as every knot slipped, and all fell to
pieces at each pull.
While he was engaged in this analysis, he was, as his guardian thought,
in great moral peril, for not a principle had he left to bless himself
with; and, in any emergency, if any temptation should occur, what was to
become of him? The general, who was very fond of him, but also strongly
attached to his own undeviating rule of right, was upon one occasion
about peremptorily to interpose, not only with remonstrances as a
friend, but with authority as a guardian.
This occurred when Beauclerc was with them at Florence, and when the
general's love for Lady Cecilia, and intimacy with her mother,
commenced. Lady Davenant being much interested for young Beauclerc,
begged that the patient might be left to her, and that his guardian
would refrain from interference. This was agreed to the more readily by
the general, as his thoughts and feelings were then more agreeably
engrossed, and Beauclerc found in Lady Davenant the very friend he
wanted and wished for most ardently--one whose mind would not blench at
any moral danger, would never shrink from truth in any shape, but, calm
and self-possessed, would examine whether it were indeed truth, or only
a phantom assuming her form. Besides, there was in Lady Davenant towards
Beauclerc a sort of maternal solicitude and kindness, of which the
effect was heightened by her dignified manner and pride of character.
She, in the first place, listened to him patiently; she, who could talk,
would listen: this was, as she said, her first merit in his estimation.
To her he poured forth all those doubts, of which she was wise enough
not to make crimes: she was sure of his honourable intentions, certain
that there was no underhand motive, no bad passion, no concealed vice,
or disposition to vice, beneath his boasted freedom from prejudice, to
be justified or to be indulged by getting rid of the restraints of
principle. Had there been any danger of this sort, which with young men
who profess themselves _ultra-liberal_ is usually the case, she would
have joined in his guardian's apprehensions; but in fact Beauclerc,
instead of being "le philosophe sans le savoir," was "le bon enfant sans
le savoir;" for, while he questioned the rule of right in all his
principles, and while they were held in abeyance, his good habits, and
good natural disposition held fast and stood him in stead; while Lady
Davenant, by slow degrees, brought him to define his terms, and
presently to see that he had been merely saying old things in new words,
and that the systems which had dazzled him as novelties were old to
older eyes; in short, that he was merely a resurrectionist of obsolete
heresies, which had been gone over and over again at various long-past
periods, and over and over again abandoned by the common sense of
mankind: so that, after puzzling and wandering a weary way in the dark
labyrinth he had most ingeniously made for himself, he saw light,
followed it, and at length, making his way out, was surprised, and sorry
perhaps to perceive that it was the common light of day.
It is of great consequence to young enthusiastic tyros, like Beauclerc,
to have safe friends to whom they can talk of their opinions privately,
otherwise they will talk their ingenious nonsense publicly, and so they
bind themselves, or are bound, to the stake, and live or die martyrs to
their own follies.
From these and all such dangers Lady Davenant protected him, and she
took care that nobody hurt him in his defenceless state, before his
shell was well formed and hardened. She was further of peculiar service
in keeping all safe and smooth between the ward and guardian. All
Beauclerc's romance the general would have called by the German word
"_Schwaermerey_,"--not fudge--not humbug--literally "sky-rocketing"--
visionary enthusiasm; and when it came to arguments, they might have
turned to quarrels, but for Lady Davenant's superior influence, while
Lady Cecilia's gentleness and gaiety usually succeeded in putting all
serious dangerous thoughts to flight.
Nature never having intended Lady Cecilia for a manoeuvrer, she was now
perpetually on the point of betraying herself; and one day, when she was
alone with Helen, she exclaimed, "Never was any thing better managed
than I managed this, my dear Helen! I am so glad I told you----"
Recollecting herself just in time, she ended with, "so glad I told you
"Oh yes! thank you," said Helen. "My uncle used to say no one could be a
good friend who does not tell the whole truth." "That I deny," thought
Cecilia. The twinge of conscience was felt but very slightly; not
visible in any change of countenance, except by a quick twinkling motion
of the eyelashes, not noticed by unsuspicious Helen.
Every thing now went on as happily as Cecilia could have desired; every
morning they rode or booted to Old Forest to see what was doing. The
roof was rather hastily taken off; Lady Cecilia hurried forward that
measure, aware that it would prevent the possibility of any of the
ladies of the family coming there for some time. Delay was all she
wanted, and she would now, as she promised herself, leave the rest to
time. She would never interfere further in word or look, especially when
her mother might be by. One half of this promise she kept faithfully,
the other she broke continually.
There were plans to be made of all the alterations and improvements at
Old Forest. Beauclerc applied to Lady Cecilia for her advice and
assistance. Her advice she gave, but her assistance she ingeniously
contrived to leave to Helen; for whenever Beauclerc brought to her a
sketch or a plan of what was to be done, Lady Cecilia immediately gave
it to Helen, repeating, "Never drew a regular plan in my life, you know,
my dear, you must do this;" so that Helen's pencil and her patience were
in constant requisition. Then came apologies from Beauclerc, and regrets
at taking up her time, all which led to an intimacy that Lady Cecilia
took care to keep up by frequent visits to Old Forest, so that Helen was
necessarily joined in all his present pursuits.
During one of these visits, they were looking over some old furniture
which Lord Beltravers had commissioned Beauclerc to have disposed of at
some neighbouring auction. There was one curiously carved oak arm-chair,
belonging to "the old old gentleman of all" which the old woman
particularly regretted should go. She had sewn it up in a carpet, and
when it came out, Helen was struck with its likeness to a favourite
chair of her uncle's; many painful recollections occurred to her, and
tears came into her eyes. Ashamed of what appeared so like affectation,
she turned away, that her tears might not be seen, and when Cecilia,
following her, insisted on knowing what was the matter, she left Helen
immediately to the old woman, and took the opportunity of telling
Beauclerc all about Dean Stanley, and how Helen was an heiress and no
heiress, and her having determined to give up all her fortune to pay her
uncle's debts. There was a guardian, too, in the case, who would not
consent; and, in short, a parallelism of circumstances, a similarity of
generous temper, and all this she thought must interest Beauclerc--and
so it did. But yet its being told to him would have gone against his
nice notions of delicacy, and Helen would have been ruined in his
opinion had he conceived that it had been revealed to him with her
consent or connivance. She came back before Lady Cecilia had quite
finished, and a few words which she heard, made her aware of the whole.
The blush of astonishment--the glance of indignation--which she gave at
Lady Cecilia, settled Beauclerc's opinion; and Cecilia was satisfied
that she had done her friend good service against her will; and as to
the means thought she--what signifies going back to consider when they
The Collingwoods gladly availed themselves of Lady Cecilia Clarendon's
kind invitation, as they were both most anxious to take leave of Helen
Stanley before their departure. They were to sail very soon, so that
their visit was but short; a few days of painful pleasure to Helen--a
happy meeting, but enjoyed with the mournful sense that they were so
soon to separate, and for so long a time; perhaps, for ever.
Mr. Collingwood told Helen that if she still agreed to his conditions,
he would arrange with Mr. James, the solicitor, that all the money left
to her by her uncle should be appropriated to the payment of his debts.
"But," continued he, "pause and consider well, whether you can do
without this money, which is still yours; you are, you know, not bound
by any promise, and it is not yet too late to say you have altered your
Helen smiled and said, "You cannot be serious in saying this, I am
Mr. Collingwood assured her that he was. Helen simply said that her
determination was unalterable. He looked pleased yet his last words in
taking leave of her were, "Remember, my dear, that when you have given
away your fortune, you cannot live as if you had it."
The Collingwoods departed; and, after a decent time had elapsed, or what
she deemed a decent time, Lady Cecilia was anxious to ascertain what
progress had been made; how relatively to each other, Lady Blanche
Forrester and Helen stood in Beauclerc's opinion, or rather in his
imagination. But this was not quite so easy a matter to determine as she
had conceived it would be, judging from the frankness of Beauclerc's
temper, and from the terms of familiarity on which they had lived while
abroad. His confidence was not to be won, surprised, or forced. He was
not only jealous of his free will, as most human beings are in love
affairs, but, like all men of true feeling, he desired in these matters
perfect mental privacy.
When Pysche is awakened, it should be by Cupid alone. Beauclerc did not
yet wish that she should be awakened. He admired, he enjoyed that
repose; he was charmed by the perfect confiding simplicity of Helen's
mind, so unlike what he had seen in others--so real. The hope of that
pure friendship which dawned upon him he wished to prolong, and dreaded
lest, by any doubt raised, all might be clouded and changed. Lady
Cecilia was, however, convinced that, without knowing it, he was falling
comfortably in love through friendship; a very easy convenient way.
And Helen, had she too set out upon that easy convenient road of
friendship? She did not think about the road, but she felt that it was
very agreeable, and thought it was quite safe, as she went on so
smoothly and easily. She could not consider Mr. Beauclerc as a new
acquaintance, because she had heard so much about him. He was completely
one of the family, so that she, as part of that family, could not treat
him as a stranger. Her happiness, she was sensible, had much increased
since his arrival; but so had everybody's. He gave a new spring, a new
interest, to everything; added so much to the life of life; his sense
and his nonsense were each of them good in their kind; and they were of
various kinds, from the high sublime of metaphysics to the droll
realities of life. But everybody blaming, praising, scolding, laughing
_at_, or _with_ him, he was necessary to all and with all, for some
reason or other, a favourite.
But the general was always as impatient as Lady Cecilia herself both of
his hypercriticism and of his never-ending fancies, each of which
Beauclerc purused with an eagerness and abandoned with a facility which
sorely tried the general's equanimity. One day, after having ridden to
Old Forest, General Clarendon returned chafed. He entered the library,
talking to Cecilia, as Helen thought, about his horse.
"No managing him! Curb him ever so little, and he is on his hind-legs
directly. Give him his head, put the bridle on his neck, and he stands
still; does not know which way he would go, or what he would do. The
strangest fellow for a rational creature."
Now it was clear it was of Beauclerc that he spoke. "So rash and yet so
resolute," continued the general.
"How is that?" said Lady Davenant.
"I do not know how, but so it is," said the general. "As you know,"
appealing to Helen and to Lady Cecilia, "he was ready to run me through
till he had his own way about that confounded old house; and now there
are all the workmen at a stand, because Mr. Beauclerc cannot decide what
he will have done or undone."
"Oh, it is my fault!" cried Helen, with the guilty recollection of the
last alteration not having been made yesterday in drawing the working
plan, and she hastened to look for it directly; but when she found it,
she saw to her dismay that Beauclerc had scribbled it all over with
literary notes; it was in no state to meet the general's eye; she set
about copying it as fast as possible.
"Yes," pursued the general; "forty alterations--shuffling about
continually. Cannot a man be decided?"
"Always with poor Beauclerc," said Lady Cecilia, "le mieux est l'ennemi
"No, my dear Cecilia, it is all his indolence; there he sat with a book
in his hand all yesterday! with all his impetuosity, too indolent to
stir in his own business," said the general.
"His mind is too active sometimes to allow his body to stir," said Lady
Davenant; "and because he cannot move the universe, he will not stir his
"He is very fond of paradoxes, and your ladyship is very fond of him,"
said the general; "but indolent he is; and as to activity of mind, it is
only in pursuit of his own fancies."
"And your fancies and his differ," said Lady Davenant.
"Because he never fancies any thing useful," said the general. "C'est
selon! c'est selon!" cried Lady Cecilia gaily; "he thinks his fancies
useful, and especially all he is doing at Old Forest; but I confess he
tends most to the agreeable. Certainly he is a most agreeable creature."
"Agreeable! satisfied to be called an agreeable man!" cried the general
indignantly; "yes, he has no ambition."
"There I differ from you, general," said Lady Davenant; "he has too
much: have patience with him; he is long-sighted in his visions of
"Visions indeed!" said the general.
"Those who are really ambitious," continued Lady Davenant, "must think
before they act. 'What shall I do to be for ever known?' is a question
which deserves at least a little more thought than those which most
young men ask themselves, which commonly are, 'What shall I do to be
known to-morrow--on the Turf or at Brook's--or in Doctors' Commons--or
at some exclusive party at charming Lady Nobody's?'"
"What will you do for the plan for these workmen in the mean time, my
dear Clarendon?" said Lady Cecilia, afraid that some long discussion
"Here it is!" said Helen, who had managed to get it ready while they
were talking. She gave it to the general, who thanked her, and was off
directly. Cecilia then came to divert herself with looking at
Beauclerc's scribbled plan, and she read the notes aloud for her
mother's amusement. It was a sketch of a dramatical, metaphysical,
entertainment, of which half a dozen proposed titles had been scratched
out, and there was finally left 'Tarquin the Optimist, or the Temple of
Destiny.' It was from an old story begun by Laurentius Valla, and
continued by Leibnitz;--she read,
_"Act I. Scene 1. Sextus Tarquin goes to consult the Oracle, who
foretells the crime he is to commit.'_
"And then," cried Lady Cecilia, "come measures of old and new front of
Old Forest house, wings included."--Now he goes on with his play.
_"'Tarquin's complaint to Jupiter of the Oracle--Modern Predestination
compared to Ancient Destiny.'_
"And here," continued Cecilia, "come prices of Norway deal and a great
blot, and then we have _'Jupiter's answer that Sextus may avoid his doom
if he pleases, by staying away from Rome; but he does not please to do
so, because he must then_ _renounce the crown. Good speech here on
vanity, and inconsistency of human wishes.'_
"'Kitchen 23 ft. by 21. Query with hobs?'
"I cannot conceive, my dear Helen," continued Lady Cecilia, "how you
could make the drawing out through all this," and she continued to read.
_"'High Priest of Delphi asks Jupiter why he did not give Sextus a
better WILL?--why not MAKE him choose to give up the crown, rather than
commit the crime? Jupiter refuses to answer, and sends the High Priest
to consult Minerva at Athens.'_
"'N.B. Old woman at Old Forest, promised her an oven,'--'_Leibnitz
"Oh! if he goes to Leibnitz," said Lady Cecilia, "he will be too grand
for me, but it will do for you, mamma.
_"'Leibnitz gives in his Temple of the Destinies a representation of
every possible universe from the worst to the best--This could not be
done on the stage.'_
"Very true indeed," said Lady Cecilia; 'but, Helen, listen, Granville
has really found an ingenious resource.
_"'By Ombres Chinoises, suppose; or a gauze curtain, as in Zemire et
Azore, the audience might be made to understand the main point, that
GOOD resulted from Tarquin's BAD choice. Brutus, Liberty, Rome's
grandeur, and the Optimist right at last. Q.E.D.'_
"Well, well," continued Lady Cecilia, "I don't understand it; but I
understand this,--'Bricks wanting.'"
Lady Davenant smiled at this curious specimen of Beauclerc's
versatility, but said, "I fear he will fritter away his powers on a
hundred different petty objects, and do nothing at last worthy of his
abilities. He will scatter and divide the light of his genius, and show
us every change of the prismatic colours--curious and beautiful to
behold, but dispersing, wasting the light he should concentrate on some
one, some noble object."
"But if he has light enough for little objects and great too?" said Lady
Cecilia, "I allow, 'qu'il faudrait plus d'un coeur pour aimer tant de
choses a la fois;' but as I really think Granville has more heart than
is necessary, he can well afford to waste some of it, even on the old
woman at Old Forest."
One evening, Helen was looking over a beautiful scrap-book of Lady
Cecilia's. Beauclerc, who had stood by for some time, eyeing it in
rather scornful silence, at length asked whether Miss Stanley was a
lover of albums and autographs?
Helen had no album of her own, she said, but she was curious always to
see the autographs of celebrated people.
"Why?" said Beauclerc.
"I don't know. It seems to bring one nearer to them. It gives more
reality to our imagination of them perhaps," said Helen.
"The imagination is probably in most cases better than the reality,"
Lady Davenant stooped over Helen's shoulder to look at the handwriting
of the Earl of Essex--the writing of the gallant Earl of Essex, at sight
of which, as she observed, the hearts of queens have beat high. "What a
crowd of associated ideas rise at the sight of that autograph! who can
look at it without some emotion?"
Helen could not. Beauclerc in a tone of raillery said he was sure, from
the eager interest Miss Stanley took in these autographs, that she would
in time become a collector herself; and he did not doubt that he should
see her with a valuable museum, in which should be preserved the old
pens of great men, that of Cardinal Chigi, for instance, who boasted
that he wrote with the same pen for fifty years.
"And by that boast you know," said Lady Davenant, "convinced the
Cardinal de Retz that he was not a great, but a very little man. We will
not have that pen in Helen's museum."
"Why not?" Beauclerc asked, "it was full as well worth having as many of
the relics to be found in most young ladies' and even old gentlemen's
museums. It was quite sufficient whether a man had been great or little
that he had been talked of,--that he had been something of a _lion_--to
make any thing belonging to him valuable to collectors, who preserve and
worship even 'the parings of lions' claws.'"
That class of indiscriminate collectors Helen gave up to his ridicule;
still he was not satisfied. He went on to the whole class of 'lion-
hunters,' as he called them, condemning indiscriminately all those who
were anxious to see celebrated people; he hoped Miss Stanley was not one
of that class.
"No, not a lion-hunter," said Helen; she hoped she never should be one
of that set, but she confessed she had a great desire to see and to know
distinguished persons, and she hoped that this sort of curiosity, or as
she would rather call it enthusiasm, was not ridiculous, and did not
deserve to be confounded with the mere trifling vulgar taste for sight-
seeing and lion-hunting.
Beauclerc half smiled, but, not answering immediately, Lady Davenant
said, that for her part she did not consider such enthusiasm as
ridiculous; on the contrary, she liked it, especially in young people.
"I consider the warm admiration of talent and virtue in youth as a
promise of future excellence in maturer age."
"And yet," said Beauclerc, "the maxim 'not to admire,' is, I believe,
the most approved in philosophy, and in practice is the great secret of
happiness in this world."
"In the _fine_ world, it is a fine air, I know," said Lady Davenant.
"Among a set of fashionable young somnambulists it is doubtless the only
art they know to make men happy or to keep them so; but this has nothing
to do with philosophy, Beauclerc, though it has to do with conceit or
Mr. Beauclerc, now piqued, with a look and voice of repressed feeling,
said, that he hoped her ladyship did not include him among that set of
"I hope you will not include yourself in it," answered Lady Davenant:
"it is contrary to your nature, and if you join the _nil admirari_
coxcombs, it can be only for fashion's sake--mere affectation."
Beauclerc made no reply, and Lady Davenant, turning to Helen, told her
that several celebrated people were soon to come to Clarendon Park, and
congratulated her upon the pleasure she would have in seeing them.
"Besides being a great pleasure, it is a real advantage," continued she,
"to see and be acquainted early in life with superior people. It enables
one to form a standard of excellence, and raises that standard high and
bright. In men, the enthusiasm becomes glorious ambition to excel in
arts or arms; in women, it refines and elevates the taste, and is so far
a preventive against frivolous, vulgar company, and all their train of
follies and vices. I can speak from my own recollection, of the great
happiness it was to me, when I early in life became acquainted with some
of the illustrious of my day."
"And may I ask," said Beauclerc, "if any of them equalled the
expectations you had formed of them?"
"Some far exceeded them," said Lady Davenant.
"You were fortunate. Every body cannot expect to be so happy," said
Beauclerc. "I believe, in general it is found that few great men of any
times stand the test of near acquaintance. No man----"
"Spare me!" cried Lady Davenant, interrupting him, for she imagined she
knew what he was going to say; "Oh! spare me that old sentence, 'No man
is a hero to his valet de chambre.' I cannot endure to hear that for the
thousandth time; I heartily wish it had never been said at all."
"So do I," replied Beauclerc; but Lady Davenant had turned away, and he
now spoke in so low a voice, that only Helen heard him. "So do I detest
that quotation, not only for being hackneyed, but for having been these
hundred years the comfort both of lean-jawed envy and fat mediocrity."
He took up one of Helen's pencils and began to cut it--he looked vexed,
and low to her observed, "Lady Davenant did not do me the honour to let
me finish my sentence."
"Then," said Helen, "if Lady Davenant misunderstood you, why do not you
"No, no it is not worth while, if she could so mistake me."
"But any body may be mistaken; do explain."
"No, no," said he, very diligently cutting the pencil to pieces; "she is
engaged, you see, with somebody--something else."
"But now she has done listening."
"No, no, not now; there are too many people, and it's of no
By this time the company were all eagerly talking of every remarkable
person they had seen, or that they regretted not having seen. Lady
Cecilia now called upon each to name the man among the celebrated of
modern days, whom they should most liked to have seen. By acclamation
they all named Sir Walter Scott, 'The Ariosto of the North!'
All but Beauclerc; he did not join the general voice; he said low to
Helen with an air of disgust--"How tired I am of hearing him called 'The
Ariosto of the North!'"
"But by whatever name," said Helen, "surely you join in that general
wish to have seen him?"
"Yes, yes, I am sure of your vote," cried Lady Cecilia, coming up to
them, "You, Granville, would rather have seen Sir Walter Scott than any
author since Shakespeare--would not you?"
"Pardon me, on the contrary, I am glad that I have never seen him."
"Glad not to have seen him!--_not_?"
The word _not_ was repeated with astonished incredulous emphasis by all
voices. "Glad not to have seen Sir Walter Scott! How extraordinary! What
can Mr. Beauclerc mean?"
"To make us all stare," said Lady Davenant, "so do not gratify him. Do
not wonder at him; we cannot believe what is impossible, you know, only
because it is impossible. But," continued she, laughing, "I know how it
is. The spirit of contradiction--the spirit of singularity--two of your
familiars, Granville, have got possession of you again, and we must have
patience while the fit is on."
"But I have not, and will not have patience," said Lord Davenant, whose
good-nature seldom failed, but who was now quite indignant.
"I wonder you are surprised, my dear Lord," said Lady Davenant, "for Mr.
Beauclerc likes so much better to go wrong by himself than to go right
with all the world, that you could not expect that he would join the
loud voice of universal praise."
"I hear the loud voice of universal execration," said Beauclerc; "you
have all abused me, but whom have I abused? What have I said?"
"Nothing." replied Lady Cecilia; "that is what we complain of. I could
have better borne any abuse than indifference to Sir Walter Scott."
"Indifference!" exclaimed Beauclerc--"what did I say Lady Cecilia, from
which you could infer that I felt indifference? Indifferent to him
whose name I cannot pronounce without emotion! I alone, of all the
world, indifferent to that genius, pre-eminent and unrivalled, who has
so long commanded the attention of the whole reading public, arrested at
will the instant order of the day by tales of other times, and in this
commonplace, this every-day existence of ours, created a holiday world,
where, undisturbed by vulgar cares, we may revel in a fancy region of
felicity, peopled with men of other times--shades of the historic dead,
more illustrious and brighter than in life!"
"Yes, the great Enchanter," cried Cecilia.
"Great and good Enchanter," continued Beauclerc, "for in his magic there
is no dealing with unlawful means. To work his ends, there is never aid
from any one of the bad passions of our nature. In his writings there is
no private scandal--no personal satire--no bribe to human frailty--no
libel upon human nature. And among the lonely, the sad, and the
suffering, how has he medicined to repose the disturbed mind, or
elevated the dejected spirit!--perhaps fanned to a flame the unquenched
spark, in souls not wholly lost to virtue. His morality is not in purple
patches, ostentatiously obtrusive, but woven in through the very texture
of the stuff. He paints man as he is, with all his faults, but with his
redeeming virtues--the world as it goes, with all its compensating good
and evil, yet making each man better contented with his lot. Without our
well knowing how, the whole tone of our minds is raised--for, thinking
nobly of our kind, he makes us think more nobly of ourselves!"
Helen, who had sympathised with Beauclerc in every word he had said,
felt how true it is that
"----Next to genius, is the power Of feeling where true genius lies."
"Yet after all this, Granville," said Lady Cecilia, "you would make us
believe you never wished to have seen this great man?"
Beauclerc made no answer.
"Oh! how I wish I had seen him!" said Helen to Lady Davenant, the only
person present who had had that happiness.
"If you have seen Raeburn's admirable pictures, or Chantrey's speaking
bust," replied Lady Davenant, "you have as complete an idea of Sir Walter
Scott as painting or sculpture can give. The first impression of his
appearance and manner was surprising to me, I recollect, from its quiet,
unpretending good nature; but scarcely had that impression been made before
I was struck with something of the chivalrous courtesy of other times. In
his conversation you would have found all that is most delightful in all
his works--the combined talent and knowledge of the historian, novelist,
antiquary, and poet. He recited poetry admirably, his whole face and figure
kindling as he spoke: but whether talking, reading, or reciting, he never
tired me, even with admiring; and it is curious that, in conversing with
him, I frequently found myself forgetting that I was speaking to Sir Walter
Scott; and, what is even more extraordinary, forgetting that Sir Walter
Scott was speaking to me, till I was awakened to the conviction by his
saying something which no one else could have said. Altogether he was
certainly the most perfectly agreeable and perfectly amiable great man I
"And now, mamma," said Lady Cecilia, "do make Granville confess honestly he
would give the world to have seen him."
"Do, Lady Davenant," said Helen, who saw, or thought she saw, a singular
emotion in Beauclerc's countenance, and fancied he was upon the point of
yielding; but Lady Davenant, without looking at him, replied,--"No, my
dear, I will not ask him--I will not encourage him in _affectation_."
At that word dark grew the brow of Beauclerc, and he drew back, as it were,
into his shell, and out of it came no more that night, nor the next morning
at breakfast. But, as far as could be guessed, he suffered internally, and
no effort made to relieve did him any good, so every one seemed to agree
that it was much better to let him alone, or let him be moody in peace,
hoping that in time the mood would change; but it changed not till the
middle of that day, when, as Helen was sitting working in Lady Davenant's
room, while she was writing, two quick knocks were heard at the door.
"Come in!" said Lady Davenant.
Mr. Beauclerc stood pausing on the threshold----
"Do not go, Miss Stanley," said he, looking very miserable and ashamed, and
proud, and then ashamed again.
"What is the matter, Granville?" said Lady Davenant.
"I am come to have a thorn taken out of my mind," said he--"two thorns
which have sunk deep, kept me awake half the night. Perhaps, I ought to
he ashamed to own I have felt pain from such little things. But so it
is; though, after all, I am afraid they will be invisible to you, Lady
"I will try with a magnifying-glass," said she; "lend me that of your
imagination, Granville--a high power, and do not look so very miserable, or
Miss Stanley will laugh at you."
"Miss Stanley is too good to laugh."
"That is being too good indeed," said Lady Davenant. "Well, now to the
"You were very unjust to me, Lady Davenant, yesterday, and unkind."
"Unkind is a woman's word; but go on."
"Surely man may mark 'unkindness' altered eye' as well as woman," said
Beauclerc; "and from a woman and a friend he may and must feel it, or he is
more or less than man."
"Now what can you have to say, Granville, that will not be anticlimax to
"I will say no more if you talk of exordiums and anti-climaxes," cried
he. "You accused me yesterday of affectation--twice, when I was no more
affected than you are."
"Oh! is that my crime? Is that, what has hurt you so dreadfully? Here is
the thorn that has gone in so deep! I am afraid that, as is usual, the
accusation hurt the more because it was----"
"Do not say 'true,'" interrupted Beauclerc, "for you really cannot believe
it, Lady Davenant. You know me, and all my faults, and I have plenty; but
you need not accuse me of one that I have not, and which from the bottom of
my soul I despise. Whatever are my faults, they are at least real, and my
"You may allow him that," said Helen.
"Well I will--I do," said Lady Davenant; "to appease you, poor injured
innocence; though anyone in the world might think you affected at this
moment. Yet I, who know you, know that it is pure real folly. Yes, yes, I
acquit you of affectation."
Beauclerc's face instantly cleared up.
"But you said two thorns had gone into your mind--one is out, now for the
"I do not feel that other, now," said Beauclerc, "it was only a mistake.
When I began with 'No man,' I was not going to say, 'No man is a hero to
his valet de chambre.' If I had been allowed to finish my sentence, it
would have saved a great deal of trouble, I was going to say that no man
admires excellence more fervently than I do, and that my very reason for
wishing not to see celebrated people is, lest the illusion should be
"No description ever gives us an exact idea of any person, so that when any
one has been much described and talked of, before we see them we form in
our mind's eye some image, some notion of our own, which always proves to
be unlike the reality; and when we do afterwards see it, even if it be
fairer or better than our imagination, still at first there is a sort
of disappointment, from the non-agreement with our previously formed
conception. Every body is disappointed the first time they see Hamlet, or
Falstaff, as I think Dugald Stewart observes."
"True; and I remember," said Lady Davenant, "Madame de la Rochejaquelin
once said to me, 'I hate that people should come to see me. I know it
destroys the illusion.'"
"Yes," cried Beauclerc; "how much I dread to destroy any of those blessed
illusions, which make the real happiness of life. Let me preserve the
objects of my idolatry; I would not approach too near the shrine; I fear
too much light. I would not know that they were false!"
"Would you then be deceived?" said Lady Davenant.
"Yes," cried he; "sooner would I believe in all the fables of the Talmud
than be without the ecstasy of veneration. It is the curse of age to be
thus miserably disenchanted; to outlive all our illusions, all our hopes.
That may be my doom in age, but, in youth, the high spring-time of
existence, I will not be cursed with such a premature ossification of the
heart. Oh! rather, ten thousand times rather, would I die this instant!"
"Well! but there is not the least occasion for your dying," said Lady
Davenant, "and I am seriously surprised that you should suffer so much
from such slight causes; how will you ever get through the world if you
stop thus to weigh every light word?"
"The words of most people," replied he, "pass by me like the idle wind; but
I do weigh every word from the very few whom I esteem, admire, and love;
with my friends, perhaps, I am too susceptible, I love them so deeply."
This is an excuse for susceptibility of temper which flatters friends too
much to be easily rejected. Even Lady Davenant admitted it, and Helen
thought it was all natural.
Lady Cecilia was now impatient to have the house filled with company. She
gave Helen a _catalogue raisonne_ of all who were expected at Clarendon
Park, some for a fashionable three days' visit; some for a week; some for a
fortnight or three weeks, be the same more or less. "I have but one fixed
principle," said she, "but I _have_ one,--never to have tiresome people
when it can possibly be avoided. Impossible, you know, it is sometimes.
One's own and one's husband's relations one must have; but, as for the
rest, it's one's own fault if one fails in the first and last maxim of
hospitality--to welcome the coming and speed the parting guest."
The first party who arrived were of Lady Davenant's particular friends, to
whom Cecilia had kindly given the precedence, if not the preference, that
her mother might have the pleasure of seeing them, and that they might have
the honour of taking leave of her, before her departure from England.
They were political, fashionable, and literary; some of ascendency
in society, some of parliamentary promise, and some of ministerial
eminence--the aristocracy of birth and talents well mixed.
The aristocracy of birth and the aristocracy of talents are words now used
more as a commonplace antithesis, than as denoting a real difference or
contrast. In many instances, among those now living, both are united in a
manner happy for themselves and glorious for their country. England may
boast of having among her young nobility
"The first in birth, the first in fame."
men distinguished in literature and science, in senatorial eloquence and
But in this party at Clarendon Park there were more of the literary and
celebrated than without the presence of Lady Davenant could perhaps have
been assembled, or perhaps would have been desired by the general and Lady
Cecilia. Cecilia's beauty and grace were of all societies, and the general
was glad for Lady Davenant's sake and proud for his own part, to receive
these distinguished persons at his house.
Helen had seen some of them before at Cecilhurst and at the Deanery. By her
uncle's friends she was kindly recognised, by others of course politely
noticed; but miserably would she have been disappointed and mortified, if
she had expected to fix general attention, or excite general admiration.
Past and gone for ever are the days, if ever they were, when a young lady,
on her entrance into life, captivated by a glance, overthrew by the first
word, and led in triumph her train of admirers. These things are not to be
Yet even when unnoticed Helen was perfectly happy. Her expectations were
more than gratified in seeing and in hearing these distinguished people,
and she sat listening to their conversation in delightful enjoyment,
without even wanting to have it seen how well she understood.
There is a precious moment for young people, if taken at the prime, when
first introduced into society, yet not expected, not called upon to take a
part in it, they, as standers by, may see not only all the play, but the
characters of the players, and may learn more of life and of human nature
in a few months, than afterwards in years, when they are themselves actors
upon the stage of life, and become engrossed by their own parts. There is
a time, before the passions are awakened, when the understanding, with all
the life of nature, fresh from all that education can do to develop and
cultivate, is at once eager to observe and able to judge, for a brief space
blessed with the double advantages of youth and age. This time once gone
is lost irreparably; and how often it is lost--in premature vanity, or
Helen had been chiefly educated by a man, and a very sensible man, as Dean
Stanley certainly was in all but money matters. Under his masculine care,
while her mind had been brought forward on some points, it had been kept
back on others, and while her understanding had been cultivated, it had
been done without the aid of emulation or competition; not by touching the
springs of pride, but by opening sources of pure pleasure; and this pure
pleasure she now enjoyed, grateful to that dear uncle. For the single
inimitable grace of simplicity which she possessed, how many mothers,
governesses, and young ladies themselves, willingly, when they see how
much it charms, would too late exchange half the accomplishments, all the
acquirements, so laboriously achieved!
Beauclerc, who had seen something of the London female world, was, both
from his natural taste and from contrast, pleased with Helen's fresh and
genuine character, and he sympathised with all her silent delight. He never
interrupted her in her enthusiastic contemplation of the great stars, but
he would now and then seize an interval of rest to compare her observations
with his own; anxious to know whether she estimated their relative
magnitude and distances as he did. These snatched moments of comparison and
proof of agreement in their observations, or the pleasure of examining
the causes of their difference of opinion, enhanced the enjoyment of this
brilliant fortnight; and not a cloud obscured the deep serene.
Notwithstanding all the ultra-refined nonsense Beauclerc had talked about
his wish not to see remarkable persons, no one could enjoy it more, as
Helen now perceived; and she saw also that he was considered as a man of
promise among all these men of performance. But there were some, perhaps
very slight things, which raised him still more in her mind, because they
showed superiority of character. She observed his manner towards the
general in this company, where he had himself the 'vantage ground--so
different now from what it had been in the Old-Forest battle, when only man
to man, ward to guardian. Before these distinguished persons there was a
look--a tone of deference at once most affectionate and polite.
"It is so generous," said Lady Cecilia to Helen; "is not it?" and Helen
This brilliant fortnight ended too soon, as Helen thought, but Lady Cecilia
had had quite enough of it. "They are all to go to-morrow morning, and I
am not sorry for it," said she at night, as she threw herself into an
arm-chair, in Helen's room; and, after having indulged in a refreshing
yawn, she exclaimed, "Very delightful, very delightful! as you say, Helen,
it has all been; but I am not sure that I should not be very much tired
if I had much more of it. Oh! yes, I admired them all amazingly, but then
admiring all day long is excessively wearisome. The very attitude of
looking up fatigues both body and mind. Mamma is never tired, because she
never has to look up; she can always look down, and that's so grand and so
easy. She has no idea how the neck of my poor mind aches this minute; and
my poor eyes! blasted with excess of light. How yours have stood it so
well, Helen, I cannot imagine! how much stronger they must be than mine. I
must confess, that, without the relief of music now and then, and ecarte,
and that quadrille, bad as it was, I should never have got through it
to-night alive or awake. But," cried she, starting up in her chair, "do you
know Horace Churchill stays to-morrow. Such a compliment from him to stay
a day longer than he intended! And do you know what he says of your eyes,
Helen?--that they are the best listeners he ever spoke to. I should warn
you though, my dear, that he is something, and not a little, I believe, of
a male coquette. Though he is not very young, but he well understands all
the advantages of a careful toilette. He has, like that George Herbert in
Queen Elizabeth's time, 'a genteel humour for dress.' He is handsome still,
and his fine figure, and his fine feelings, and his fine fortune, have
broken two or three hearts; nevertheless I am delighted that he stays,
especially that he stays on your account."
"Upon my account!" exclaimed Helen. "Did not you see that, from the first
day when Mr. Churchill had the misfortune to be placed beside me at dinner,
he utterly despised me: he began to talk to me, indeed, but left his
sentence unfinished, his good story untold, the instant he caught the eye
of a grander auditor."
Lady Cecilia had seen this, and marvelled at a well-bred man so far
forgetting himself in vanity; but this, she observed, was only the first
day; he had afterwards changed his manner towards Helen completely.
"Yes, when he saw Lady Davenant thought me worth speaking to. But, after
all, it was quite natural that he should not know well what to say to me. I
am only a young lady. I acquit him of all peculiar rudeness to me, for I am
sure Mr. Churchill really could not talk for only one insignificant hearer,
could not bring out his good things, unless he felt secure of possessing
the attention of the whole dinner-table, so I quite forgive him."
"After this curse of forgiveness, my dear Helen, I will wish you a good
night," said Lady Cecilia, laughing; and she retired with a fear that there
would not be jealousy enough between the gentlemen, or that Helen would not
know how to play them one against another.
There is a pleasure in seeing a large party disperse; in staying behind
when others go:--there is advantage as well as pleasure, which is felt by
the timid, because they do not leave their characters behind them; and
rejoiced in by the satirical, because the characters of the departed and
departing are left behind, fair game for them. Of this advantage no one
could be more sensible, no one availed himself of it with more promptitude
and skill, than Mr. Churchill: for well he knew that though wit may fail,
humour may not take--though even flattery may pall upon the sense, scandal,
satire, and sarcasm, are resources never failing for the lowest capacities,
and sometimes for the highest.
This morning, in the library at Clarendon Park, he looked out of the window
at the departing guests, and, as each drove off, he gave to each his _coup
de patte_. To Helen, to whom it was new, it was wonderful to see how each,
even of those next in turn to go, enjoyed the demolition of those who were
just gone; how, blind to fate, they laughed, applauded, and licked the hand
just raised to strike themselves. Of the first who went--"Most respectable
people," said Lady Cecilia; "a _bonne mere de famille_."
"Most respectable people!" repeated Horace--"most respectable people, old
coach and all." And then, as another party drove off--"No fear of any thing
truly respectable here."
"Now, Horace, how can you say so?--she is so amiable and so clever."
"So clever? only, perhaps, a thought too fond of English liberty and French
dress. _Poissarde lien corfee."
"_Poissarde!_ of one of the best born, best bred women in England!" cried
Lady Cecilia; "bien coiffee, I allow."
"Lady Cecilia is _si coiffee de sa belle amie_, that I see I must not say
a word against her, till--the fashion changes. But, hark! I hear a voice I
never wish to hear."
"Yet nobody is better worth hearing----"
"Oh! yes, the queen of the Blues--the Blue Devils!"
"Hush!" cried the aide-de-camp, "she is coming in to take leave." Then, as
the queen of the Blue Devils entered, Mr, Churchill, in the most humbly
respectful manner, begged--"My respects--I trust your grace will do me
the favour--the justice to remember me to all your party who--do me the
honour to bear me in mind--" then, as she left the room, he turned about
"Oh! you sad, false man!" cried the lady next in turn to go. "I declare,
Mr. Churchill, though I laugh, I am quite afraid to go off before you."
"Afraid! what could malice or envy itself find to say of your ladyship,
_intacte_ as you are?--_Intacte!_" repeated he, as she drove off,
"_intacte!_--a well chosen epithet, I flatter myself!"
"Yes, _intacte_--untouched--above the breath of slander," cried Lady
"I know it: so I say," replied Churchill: "fidelity that has stood all
temptations--to which it has ever been exposed; and her husband is----"
"A near relation of mine," said Lady Cecilia. "I am not prudish as to
scandal in general," continued she, laughing; "'a chicken, too, might do me
good,' hut then the fox must not prey at home. No one ought to stand by and
hear their own relations abused."
"A thousand pardons! I depended too much on the general maxim--that the
nearer the bone the sweeter the slander."
"Nonsense!" said Lady Cecilia.
"I meant to say, the nearer the heart the dearer the blame. A cut against
a first cousin may go wrong--but a bosom friend--oh! how I have succeeded
against best friends; scolded all the while, of course, and called a
monster. But there is Sir Stephen bowing to you." Then, as Lady Cecilia
kissed her hand to him from the window, Churchill went on: "By the
by, without any scandal, seriously I heard something--I was quite
concerned--that he had been of late less in his study and more in the
boudoir of ------. Surely it cannot be true!"
"Positively false," said Lady Cecilia.
"At every breath a reputation dies," said Beauclerc.
"'Pon my soul, that's true!" said the aide-de-camp. "Positively, hit or
miss, Horace has been going on, firing away with his wit, pop, pop, pop!
till he has bagged--how many brace?"
Horace turned away from him contemptuously, and looked to see whereabouts
Lady Davenant might be all this time.
Lady Davenant was at the far end of the room engrossed, Churchill feared,
by the newspaper; as he approached she laid it down, and said,--
"How scandalous some of these papers have become, but it is the fault of
the taste of the age. 'Those who live to please, must please to live.'"
Horace was not sure whether he was cut or not, but he had the presence of
mind not to look hurt. He drew nearer to Lady Davenant, seated himself,
and taking up a book as if he was tired of folly, to which he had merely
condescended, he sat and read, and then sat and thought, the book hanging
from his hand.
The result of these profound thoughts he gave to the public, not to the
aide-de-camp; no more of the little pop-gun pellets of wits--but now was
brought out reason and philosophy. In a higher tone he now reviewed the
literary, philosophical, and political world, with touches of La Bruyere
and Rochefoucault in the characters he drew and in the reflections he made;
with an air, too, of sentimental contrition for his own penetration and
fine moral sense, which compelled him to see and to be annoyed by the
faults of such superior men.
The analysis he made of every mind was really perfect--in one respect, not
a grain of bad but was separated from the good, and held up clean and clear
to public view. And as an anatomist he showed such knowledge both of the
brain and of the heart, such an admirable acquaintance with all their
diseases and handled the probe and the scalpel so well, with such a
"Well, really this is comfortable," said Lord Davenant, throwing himself
back in his arm-chair--"True English comfort, to sit at ease and see all
one's friends so well dissected! Happy to feel that it is our duty to
our neighbour to see him well cut up--ably anatomised for the good of
society; and when I depart--when my time comes--as come it must, nobody
is to touch me but Professor Churchill. It will be a satisfaction to know
that I shall be carved as a dish fit for gods, not hewed as a carcase for
hounds. So now remember, Cecilia, I call on you to witness--I hereby,
being of sound mind and body, leave and bequeath my character, with all
my defects and deficiencies whatsoever, and all and any singular curious
diseases of the mind, of which I may die possessed, wishing the same many
for his sake,--to my good friend Doctor Horace Churchill, professor of
moral, philosophic, and scandalous anatomy, to be by him dissected at his
good pleasure for the benefit of society."
"Many thanks, my good lord; and I accept your legacy for the honour--not
the value of the gift, which every body must be sensible is nothing," said
Churchill, with a polite bow--"absolutely nothing. I shall never he able
to make anything of it."
"Try--try, my dear friend," answered Lord Davenant. "Try, don't be
"That would be difficult when so distinguished," said Beauclerc, with an
admirable look of proud humility.
"Distinguished Mr. Horace Churchill assuredly is," said Lady Davenant,
looking at him from behind her newspaper. "Distinguished above all his many
competitors in this age of scandal; he has really raised the art to the
dignity of a science. Satire, scandal, and gossip, now hand-in-hand--the
three new graces: all on the same elevated rank--three, formerly considered
as so different, and the last left to our inferior sex, but now, surely, to
be a male gossip is no reproach."
"O, Lady Davenant!--male gossip--what an expression!"
"What a reality!"
"Male gossip!--'_Tombe sur moi le ciel!_'" cried Churchill.
"'_Pourvu que je me venge_,' always understood," pursued Lady Davenant;
"but why be so afraid of the imputation of gossiping, Mr. Churchill? It
is quite fashionable, and if so, quite respectable, you know, and in your
style quite grand.
"And gossiping wonders at being so fine--
"Malice, to be hated, needs but to be seen, but now when it is elegantly
dressed we look upon it without shame or consciousness of evil; we grow
to doat upon it--so entertaining, so graceful, so refined. When vice loses
half its grossness, it loses all its deformity. Humanity used to be
talked of when our friends were torn to pieces, but now there is such
a philosophical perfume thrown over the whole operation, that we are
irresistibly attracted. How much we owe to such men as Mr. Churchill, who
make us feel detraction virtue!"
He bowed low as Lady Davenant, summoned by her lord, left the room, and
there he stood as one condemned but not penitent.
"If I have not been well sentenced," said he, as the door closed, "and made
'_to feel detraction virtue_!'--But since Lady Cecilia cannot help smiling
at that, I am acquitted, and encouraged to sin again the first opportunity.
But Lady Davenant shall not be by, nor Lord Davenant either."
Lady Cecilia sat down to write a note, and Mr. Churchill walked round the
room in a course of critical observation on the pictures, of which, as of
every thing else, he was a supreme judge. At last he put his eye and his
glass down to something which singularly attracted his attention on one of
the marble tables.
"Pretty!" said Lady Cecilia, "pretty are not they?--though one's so tired
of them every where now--those doves!"
"Doves!" said Churchill, "what I am admiring are gloves, are not they, Miss
Stanley?" said he, pointing to an old pair of gloves, which, much wrinkled
and squeezed together, lay on the beautiful marble in rather an unsightly
"Poor Doctor V------," cried Helen to Cecilia; "that poor Doctor V-------is
as absent as ever! he is gone, and has forgotten his gloves!"
"Absent! oh, as ever!" said Lady Cecilia, going on with her note, "the most
absent man alive."
"Too much of that sort of thing I think there is in Doctor V-------,"
pursued Churchill: "a touch of absence of mind, giving the idea of high
abstraction, becomes a learned man well enough; but then it should only
be slight, as a _soupcon_ of rouge, which may become a pretty woman; all
depends on the measure, the taste, with which these things are managed--
"There is nothing managed, nothing _put on_ in Doctor V------," cried
Helen, eagerly, her colour rising; "it is all perfectly sincere, true in
him, whatever it be."
Beauclerc put down his hook.
"All perfectly true! You really think so, Miss Stanley?" said Churchill,
smiling, and looking superior down.
"I do, indeed," cried Helen.
"Charming--so young! How I do love that freshness of mind!"
"Impertinent fellow! I could knock him down, felt Beauclerc.
"And you think all Doctor V------'s humility true?" said Churchill. "Yes,
perfectly!" said Helen; "but I do not wonder you are surprised at it, Mr.
She meant no _malice_, though for a moment he thought she did; and he
winced under Beauclerc's smile.
"I do not wonder that any one who does not know Doctor V------should he
surprised by his great humility," added Helen.
"You are sure that it is not pride that apes humility?" asked Churchill.
"Yes, quite sure!"
"Yet--" said Churchill (putting his malicious finger through a great hole
in the thumb of the doctor's glove) "I should have fancied that I saw
vanity through the holes in these gloves, as through the philosopher's
cloak of old."
"Horace is a famous fellow for picking holes and making much of them, Miss
Stanley, you see," said the aide-de-camp.
"Vanity! Doctor V----has no vanity!" said Helen, "if you knew him."
"No vanity! Whom does Miss Stanley mean?" cried the aide-de-camp. "No
vanity? that's good. Who? Horace?"
"_Mauvais plaisant_!" Horace put him by, and, happily not easily put out of
countenance, he continued to Helen,--
"You give the good doctor credit, too, for all his _naivete_?" said
"He does not want credit for it," said Helen, "he really has it."
"I wish I could see things as you do, Miss Stanley."
"Show him that, Helen," cried Lady Cecilia, looking at a table beside them,
on which lay one of those dioramic prints which appear all a confusion
of lines till you look at them in their right point of view. "Show him
that--it all depends, and so does seeing characters, on getting the right
point of view."
"Ingenious!" said Churchill, trying to catch the right position; "but I
can't, I own--" then abruptly resuming, "Naviete charms me at fifteen," and
his eye glanced at Helen, then was retracted, then returning to his point
of view, "at eighteen perhaps may do," and his eyes again turned to Helen,
"at eighteen--it captivates me quite," and his eye dwelt. "But naivete at
past fifty, verging to sixty, is quite another thing, really rather too
much for me. I like all things in season, and above all, simplicity will
not bear long keeping. I have the greatest respect possible for our learned
and excellent friend, but I wish this could be any way suggested to him,
and that he would lay aside this out-of-season simplicity."
"He cannot lay aside his nature," said Helen, "and I am glad of it, it is
such a good nature."
"Kind-hearted creature he is, I never heard him say a severe word of any
one," said Lady Cecilia.
"What a sweet man he must he!" said Horace, making a face at which none
present, not even Helen, could forbear to smile. "His heart, I am sure, is
in the right place always. I only wish one could say the same of his wig.
And would it be amiss if he sometimes (I would not be too hard upon him,
Miss Stanley), once a fortnight, suppose--brushed, or caused to be brushed,
that coat of his?"
"You have dusted his jacket for him famously, Horace, I think," said the
At this instant the door opened, and in came the doctor himself.
Lady Cecilia's hand was outstretched with her note, thinking, as the door
opened, that she should see the servant come in, for whom she had rung.
"What surprises you all so, my good friends," said the doctor, stopping and
looking round in all his native simplicity.
"My dear doctor" said Lady Cecilia, "only we all thought you were
"And I am not gone, that's all. I stayed to write a letter, and am come
here to look for--but I cannot find-my--"
"Your gloves, perhaps, doctor, you are looking for," said Churchill, going
forward, and with an air of the greatest respect and consideration, both
for the gloves and for their owner, he presented them; then shook the
doctor by the hand, with a cordiality which the good soul thought truly
English, and, bowing him out, added, "How proud he had been to make his
acquaintance,--_au revoir_, he hoped, in Park Lane."
"Oh you treacherous--!" cried Lady Cecilia, turning to Horace, as soon as
the unsuspecting philosopher was fairly gone. "Too bad really! If he were
not the most simple-minded creature extant, he must have seen, suspected,
something from your look; and what would have become of you if the doctor
had come in one moment sooner, and had heard you--I was really frightened."
"Frightened! so was I, almost out of my wits," said Churchill. "_Les
revenans_ always frighten one; and they never hear any good of themselves,
for which reason I make it a principle, when once I have left a room, full
of friends especially, never--never to go back. My gloves, my hat, my coat,
I'd leave, sooner than lose my friends. Once I heard it said, by one who
knew the world and human nature better than any of us--once I heard it said
in jest, but in sober earnest I say, that I would not for more than I am
worth be placed, without his knowing it, within earshot of my best friend."
"What sort of a best friend can yours he?" cried Beauclerc.
"Much like other people's, I suppose," replied Horace, speaking with
perfect nonchalance--"much like other people's best friends. Whosoever
expects to find better, I guess, will find worse, if he live in the world
we live in."
"May I go out of the world before I believe or suspect any such thing?"
cried Beauclerc. "Rather than have the Roman curse light upon me, 'May you
survive all your friends and relations!' may I die a thousand times!"
"Who talks of dying, in a voice so sweet--a voice so loud?" said provoking
Horace, in his calm, well-bred tone; "for my part, I who have the honour of
speaking to you, can boast, that never since I was of years of discretion
(counting new style, beginning at thirteen, of course)--never have I lost a
friend, a sincere friend--never, for this irrefragable reason--since that
nonage, never was I such a neophyte as to fancy I had found that _lusus
natures_, a friend perfectly sincere."
"How I pity you!" cried Beauclerc, "if you are in earnest; but in earnest
you can't be."
"Pardon me, I can, and I am. And in earnest you will oblige me, Mr.
Beauclerc, if you will spare me your pity: for, all things in this world
considered," said Horace Churchill, drawing himself up, "I do not conceive
that I am much an object of pity." Then, turning upon his heel, he walked
away, conscious, however, half an instant afterwards, that he had drawn
himself up too high, and that for a moment his temper had spoiled his tone,
and betrayed him into a look and manner too boastful, bordering on the
ridiculous. He was in haste to repair the error.
Not Garrick, in the height of his celebrity and of his susceptibility, was
ever more anxious than Horace Churchill to avert the stroke of ridicule--to
guard against the dreaded smile. As he walked away, he felt behind his back
that those he left were smiling in silence.
Lady Cecilia had thrown herself on a sofa, resting, after the labour of
_l'eloquence de billet_. He stopped, and, leaning over the back of the
sofa on which she reclined, repeated an Italian line in which was the word
"My dear Lady Cecilia, you, who understand and feel Italian so well, how
expressive are some of their words! _Pavoneggiarsi!_--untranslatable. One
cannot say well in English, to peacock oneself. To make oneself like unto a
peacock is flat; but _pavoneggiarsi_--action, passion, picture, all in one!
To plume oneself comes nearest to it; but the word cannot be given, even by
equivalents, in English; nor can it be naturalised, because, in fact, we
have not the feeling. An Englishman is too proud to boast--too bashful to
strut; if ever he _peacocks himself_, it is in a moment of anger, not in
display. The language of every country," continued he, raising his voice,
in order to reach Lady Davenant, who just then returned to the room, as he
did not wish to waste a philosophical observation on Lady Cecilia,--"the
language of every country is, to a certain degree, evidence, record,
history of its character and manners." Then, lowering his voice almost to a
whisper, but very distinct, turning while he spoke so as to make sure that
Miss Stanley heard--"Your young friend this morning quite captivated me by
her nature--nature, the thing that now is most uncommon, a real natural
woman; and when in a beauty, how charming! How delicious when one meets
with _effusion de coeur_: a young lady, too, who speaks pure English, not
a leash of languages at once; and cultivated, too, your friend is, for one
does not like ignorance, if one could have knowledge without pretension--so
hard to find the golden mean!--and if one could find it, one might not be
Lady Cecilia listened for the finishing word, but none came. It all ended
in a sigh, to be interpreted as she pleased. A look towards the ottoman,
where Beauclerc had now taken his seat beside Miss Stanley, seemed to point
the meaning out: but Lady Cecilia knew her man too well to understand him.
Beauclerc, seated on the ottoman, was showing to Helen some passages in the
book he was reading; she read with attention, and from time to time looked
up with a smile of intelligence and approbation. What either said Horace
could not hear, and he was the more curious, and when the book was put
down, after carelessly opening others he took it up. Very much surprised
was he to find it neither novel nor poem: many passages were marked
with pencil notes of approbation, he took it for granted these were
Bleauclerc's; there he was mistaken, they were Lady Davenant's. She was at
her work-table. Horace, book in hand, approached; the book was not in his
line, it was more scientific than literary--it was for posterity more
than for the day; he had only turned it over as literary men turn over
scientific books, to seize what may serve for a new simile or a good
allusion; besides, among his philosophical friends, the book being talked
of, it was well to know enough of it to have something to say, and he had
said well, very _judiciously_ he had praised it among the elect; but now it
was his fancy to depreciate it with all his might; not that he disliked
the author or the work now more than he had done before, but he was in the
humour to take the opposite side from Beauclerc, so he threw the book from
him contemptuously "Rather a slight hasty thing, in my opinion," said he.
Beauclerc's eyes took fire as he exclaimed, "Slight! hasty! this most
noble, most solid work!"
"Solid in your opinion," said Churchill, with a smile deferential, slightly
"Our own opinion is all that either of us can give," said Beauclerc; "in my
opinion it is the finest view of the progress of natural philosophy, the
most enlarged, the most just in its judgments of the past, and in its
prescience of the future; in the richness of experimental knowledge, in its
theoretic invention, the greatest work by any one individual since the time
"And Bacon is under your protection, too?"
"Protection! my protection?" said Beauclerc.
"Pardon me, I simply meant to ask if you are one of those who swear by Lord
"I swear by no man, I do not swear at all, not on philosophical subjects
especially; swearing adds nothing to faith," said Beauclerc.
"I stand corrected," said Churchill, "and I would go further, and add that
in argument enthusiasm adds nothing to reason--much as I admire, as we
all admire," glancing at Miss Stanley, "that enthusiasm with which this
favoured work has been advocated!"
"I could not help speaking warmly," cried Beauclerc; "it is a book to
inspire enthusiasm; there is such a noble spirit all through it, so pure
from petty passions, from all vulgar jealousies, all low concerns! Judge of
a book, somebody says, by the impression it leaves on your mind when you
lay it down; this book stands that test, at least with me, I lay it down
with such a wish to follow--with steps ever so unequal still to follow,
where it points the way."
"Bravo! bravissimo! hear him, hear him! print him, print him! hot-press
from the author to the author, hot-press!" cried Churchill, and he laughed.
Like one suddenly awakened from the trance of enthusiasm by the cold touch
of ridicule, stood Beauclerc, brought down from heaven to earth, and by
that horrid little laugh, not the heart's laugh.