Part 4 out of 10
"But my being ridiculous does not make my cause so, and that is a comfort."
"And another comfort you may have, my dear Granville," said Lady Davenant,
"that ridicule is not the test of truth; truth should be the test of
"But where is the book?" continued Beauclerc.
Helen gave it to him.
"Now, Mr. Churchill," said Beauclerc; "I am really anxious, I know you are
such a good critic, will you show me these faults? blame as well as praise
must always he valuable from those who themselves excel."
"You are too good," said Churchill.
"Will you then be good enough to point out the errors for me?"
"Oh, by no means," cried Churchill, "don't note me, do not quote me, I am
nobody, and I cannot give up my authorities."
"But the truth is all I want to get at," said Beauclerc.
"Let her rest, my dear sir, at the bottom of her well; there she is,
and there she will be for ever and ever, and depend upon it none of our
windlassing will ever bring her up."
"Such an author as this," continued Beauclerc, "would have been so glad to
have corrected any error."
"So every author tells you, but I never saw one of them who did not look
blank at a list of errata--if you knew how little one is thanked for them!"
"But you would be thanked now," said Beauclerc:--"the faults in style, at
"Nay, I am no critic," said Churchill, confident in his habits of literary
detection; "but if you ask me," said he, as he disdainfully flirted the
leaves back and forward with a "There now!" and a "Here now!" "We should
not call that good writing--you could not think this correct? I may be
wrong, but I should not use this phrase. Hardly English that--colloquial, I
think; and this awkward ablative absolute--never admitted now."
"Thank you," said Beauclerc, "these faults are easily mended."
"Easily mended, say you? I say, better make a new one."
"WHO COULD?" said Beauclerc.
"How many faults you see," said Helen, "which I should never have perceived
unless you had pointed them out, and I am sorry to know them now." Smiling
at Helen's look of sincere mortification, in contrast at this moment with
Mr. Churchill's air of satisfied critical pride, Lady Davenant said,--
"Why sorry, my dear Helen? No human work can be perfect; Mr. Churchill may
be proud of that strength of eye which in such a powerful light can count
the spots. But whether it be the best use to make of his eyes, or the best
use that can be made of the light, remains to be considered."
Beyond measure was Churchill provoked to find Lady Davenant against him and
on the same side as Granville Beauclerc--all unused to contradiction in
his own society, where he had long been supreme, he felt a difference of
opinion so sturdily maintained as a personal insult.
For so young a man as Beauclerc, yet unknown to fame, not only to challenge
the combat but to obtain the victory, was intolerable; and the more so,
because his young opponent appeared no ways elated or surprised, but seemed
satisfied to attribute his success to the goodness of his cause.
Churchill had hitherto always managed wisely his great stakes and
pretensions in both the fashionable and literary world. He had never
actually published any thing except a clever article or two in a review, or
an epigram, attributed to him but not acknowledged. Having avoided giving
his measure, it was believed he was above all who had been publicly
tried--it was always said--"If Horace Churchill would but publish, he would
surpass every other author of our times."
Churchill accordingly dreaded and hated all who might by possibility
approach the throne of fashion, or interfere with his dictatorship in a
certain literary set in London, and from this moment he began cordially to
detest Beauclerc--he viewed him with a scornful, yet with jealous eyes; but
his was the jealousy of vanity, not of love; it regarded Lady Davenant and
his fashionable reputation in the first place--Helen only in the second.
Lady Davenant observed all this, and was anxious to know how much or how
little Helen had seen, and what degree of interest it excited in her mind.
One morning, when they were alone together, looking over a cabinet of
cameos, Lady Davenant pointed to one which she thought like Mr. Beauclerc.
Helen did not see the likeness.
"People see likenesses very differently," said Lady Davenant. "But you and
I, Helen, usually see characters, if not faces, with the same eyes. I
have been thinking of these two gentlemen, Mr. Churchill and Mr.
Beauclerc--which do you think the most agreeable?"
"Mr. Churchill is amusing certainly," said Helen, "but I think Mr.
Beauclerc's conversation much more interesting--though Mr. Churchill is
"When he flatters you," said Lady Davenant.
"When he is not satirical--I was going to say," said Helen.
"There is a continual petty brilliancy, a petty effort too," continued Lady
Davenant, "in Mr. Churchill, that tires me--sparks struck perpetually, but
then you hear the striking of the flints, the clink of the tinder-box."
Helen, though she admitted the tinder-box, thought it too low a comparison.
She thought Churchill's were not mere sparks.
"Well, fireworks, if you will," said Lady Davenant, "that rise, blaze,
burst, fall, and leave you in darkness, and with a disagreeable smell too;
and it's all _feu d'artifice_ after all. Now in Beauclerc there is too
little art and too ardent nature. Some French friends of mine who knew
both, said of Mr. Churchill, '_De l'esprit on ne peut pas plus meme a
Paris_,' the highest compliment a Parisian can pay, but they allowed that
Beauclerc had '_beaucoup plus d'ame_.'"
"Yes," said Helen; "how far superior!"
"It has been said," continued Lady Davenant, "that it is safer to judge of
men by their actions than by their words, but there are few actions and
many words in life; and if women would avail themselves of their daily,
hourly, opportunities of judging people by their words, they would get at
the natural characters, or, what is of just as much consequence, they would
penetrate through the acquired habits; and here Helen, you have two good
studies before you."
Preoccupied as Helen was with the certainty of Beauclerc being an engaged,
almost a married man, and looking, as she did, on Churchill as one who must
consider her as utterly beneath his notice, she listened to Lady Davenant's
remarks as she would have done to observations about two characters in a
novel or on the stage.
As Churchill could not immediately manifest his hatred of Beauclerc, it
worked inwardly the more. He did not sleep well this night, and when he
got up in the morning, there was something the matter with him. Nervous,
bilious--cross it could not be;--_journalier_ (a French word settles
everything)--_journalier_ he allowed he was; he rather gloried in it,
because his being permitted to be so proved his power,--his prerogative of
fortune and talent combined.
In the vast competition of the London world, it is not permitted to every
man to be in his humour or out of his humour at pleasure; but, by an
uncommon combination of circumstances, Churchill had established his
privilege of caprice; he was allowed to have his bad and his good days, and
the highest people and the finest smiled, and submitted to his "_cachet de
faveur et de disgrace_;" and when he was sulky, rude, or snappish, called
it only Horace Churchill's way. They even prided themselves on his
preferences and his aversions. "Horace is always charming when he is with
us."--"With me you have no idea how delightful he is."--"Indeed I must do
him the justice to say, that I never found him otherwise."--While the less
favoured permitted him to be as rude as he pleased, and only petted him,
and told of his odd ways to those who sighed in vain to have him at their
parties. But Lady Davenant was not a person to pet or spoil a child of any
age, and to the general, Mr. Churchill was not particularly agreeable--not
his sort; while to Lady Cecilia, secure in grace, beauty, and fashion, his
humours were only matter of amusement, and she bore with him pleasantly and
"Such weather!" cried he in a querulous tone; "how can a man have any sense
in such weather? Some foreigner says, that the odious climate of England is
an over-balance for her good constitution. The sun of the south is in truth
well worth the liberty of the north. It is a sad thing," said he, with a
very sentimental air, "that a free-born Briton should be servile to these
skyey influences;" and, grumbling on, he looked out of the window as cross
as he pleased, and nobody minded him. The aide-de-camp civilly agreed with
him that it was horrid weather, and likely to rain, and it did rain; and
every one knows how men, like children, are in certain circumstances
affected miserably by a rainy day. There was no going out; horses at the
door, and obliged to be dismissed. Well, since there could be no riding,
the next best thing the aide-de-camp thought, was to talk of horses, and
the officers all grew eager, and Churchill had a mind to exert himself so
far as to show them that he knew more of the matter than they did; that he
was no mere book-man; but on this unlucky day, all went wrong. It happened
that Horace fell into some grievous error concerning the genealogy of a
famous race-horse, and, disconcerted more than he would have been at being
convicted of any degree of moral turpitude, vexed and ashamed, he talked no
more of Newmarket or of Doncaster, left the race-ground to those who prided
themselves on the excellences of their four-footed betters, and lounged
into the billiard-room.
He found Lady Cecilia playing with Beauclerc; Miss Stanley was looking on.
Churchill was a famous billiard-player, and took his turn to show how much
better than Beauclerc he performed, but this day his hand was out, his eye
not good; he committed blunders of which a novice might have been ashamed.
And there was Miss Stanley and there was Beauclerc by to see! and Beauclerc
O line extreme of human misery!
He retreated to the book-room, but there the intellectual Horace, with all
the sages, poets, and novelists of every age within his reach, reached them
not; but, with his hands in his pockets, like any squire or schoolboy
under the load of ignorance or penalties of idleness, stood before the
chimney-piece, eyeing the pendule, and verily believing that this morning
the hands went backward. Dressing-time at last came, and dinner-time,
bringing relief how often to man and child ill-tempered; but, this day to
Churchill dinner brought only discomfiture worse discomfited.
Some of the neighbouring families were to dine at Clarendon Park. Mr.
Churchill abhorred country neighbours and country gentlemen. Among these,
however, were some not unworthy to be perceived by him; and besides these,
there were some foreign officers; one in particular, from Spain, of high
rank and birth, of the _sangre azul_, the _blue blood_, who have the
privilege of the silken cord if they should come to be hanged. This
Spaniard was a man of distinguished talent, and for him Horace might have
been expected to shine out; it was his pleasure, however, this day to
disappoint expectations, and to do "the dishonours of his country." He
would talk only of eating, of which he was privileged not only to speak but
to judge, and pronounce upon _en dernier ressort_, though this was only an
air, for he was not really a gourmand; but after ogling through his glass
the distant dishes, when they with a wish came nigh, he, after a cursory
glance or a close inspection, made them with a nod retire.
At last he thought an opportunity offered for bringing in a well-prepared
anecdote which he had about Cambaceres, and a hot blackbird and white feet,
but unluckily a country gentleman would tell some history of a battle
between poachers and gamekeepers, which fixed the attention of the company
till the moment for the anecdote was past.
Horace left his tale untold, and spoke word never more till a subject was
started on which he thought he could come out unrivalled. General Clarendon
had some remarkably good wines. Churchill was referred to as a judge, and
he allowed them to be all good, but he prided himself on possessing a
certain Spanish wine, esteemed above all price, because not to be had for
money--_amontillado_ is its name. Horace appealed to the Spanish officer,
who confirmed all he said of this vinous phenomenon. "No cultivator can be
certain of producing it. It has puzzled, almost to death, all the _growers_
of Xeres:--it is a variety of sherry, almost as difficult to judge of as to
But Mr. Churchill boasted he had some, undoubtedly genuine; he added, "that
Spanish judges had assured him his taste was so accurate he might venture
to pronounce upon the difficult question of amontillado or not!"
While he yet spoke, General Clarendon, unawares, placed before him some of
this very fine wine, which, as he finished speaking, Churchill swallowed
without knowing it from some other sherry which he had been drinking. He
would have questioned that it was genuine, but the Spaniard, as far as he
could pretend to judge, thought it unquestionable.
Churchill's countenance fell in a manner that quite surprised Helen, and
exceedingly amused Lady Cecilia. He was more mortified and vexed by this
failure than by all the rest, for the whole table smiled.
The evening of this day of misfortune was not brighter than the morning,
everything was wrong--even at night--at night when at last the dinner
company, the country visitors, relieved him from their presence, and when
some comfort might be had, he thought, stretched in a good easy-chair--Lord
Davenant had set him the example. But something had happened to all the
chairs,--there was a variety of fashionable kinds; he tried them by turns,
but none of them this night would suit him. Yet Lady Cecilia maintained
(for the general had chosen them) that they were each and all of them
in their way comfortable, in the full English spirit of the word, and
according to the French explanation of _comfortable_, given to us by
the Duchess d'Abrantes, _convenablement bon_; but in compassion to Mr.
Churchill's fastidious restlessness, she would now show him a perfection of
a chair which she had just had made for her own boudoir. She ordered that
it should be brought, and in it rolled, and it was looked at in every
direction and sat in, and no fault could be found with it, even by the
great faultfinder; but what was it called? It was neither a lounger, nor
a dormeuse, nor a Cooper, nor a Nelson, nor a kangaroo: a chair without a
name would never do; in all things fashionable the name is more than half.
Such a happy name as kangaroo Lady Cecilia despaired of finding for her new
favourite, but she begged some one would give it a good one; whoever gave
her the best name should be invited to the honours and pleasures of the
sitting in this chair for the rest of the night.
Her eyes, and all eyes, turned upon Mr. Churchill, but whether the occasion
was too great, or that his desire to satisfy the raised expectation of the
public was too high strained, or that the time was out of joint, or that he
was out of sorts, the fact was, he could find no name.
Beauclerc, who had not yet tried the chair, sank into its luxurious depth,
and leaning back, asked if it might not be appropriately called the
"Sleepy-hollow!" repeated Lady Cecilia, "excellent!" and by acclammation
"Sleepy-hollow" was approved; but when Beauclerc was invited to the honours
of the sitting, he declined, declaring that the name was not his invention,
only his recollection; it had been given by a friend of his to some such
This magnanimity was too much for Horace; he looked at his watch, found it
was bed-time, pushed the chair out of his way, and departed; Beauclerc, the
first and last idea in this his day of mortifications.
Seeing a man subject to these petty irritations lowers him in the eyes of
woman. For that susceptibility of temper arising from the jealousy of love,
even when excited by trifles, woman makes all reasonable, all natural
allowance; but for the jealousy of self-love she has no pity. Unsuited to
the manly character!--so Helen thought, and so every woman thinks.
It was expected by all who had witnessed his discomfiture and his
parting push to the chair, that Mr. Churchill would be off early in
the morning--such was his wont when he was disturbed in vanity: but he
reappeared at breakfast.
This day was a good day with Horace; he determined it should be so, and
though it was again a wet day, he now showed that he could rule the weather
of his own humour, when intensity of will was wakened by rivalry. He
made himself most agreeable, and the man of yesterday was forgotten or
remembered only as a foil to the man of to-day. The words he so much loved
to hear, and to which he had so often surreptitiously listened, were now
repeated, 'No one can be so agreeable as Horace Churchill is on his good
Bright he shone out, all gaiety and graciousness; the _cachet de faveur_
was for all, but its finest impression was for Helen. He tried flattery,
and wit, each playing on the other with reflected and reflecting lustre,
for a woman naturally says to herself, "When this man has so much wit, his
flattery even must be worth something."
And another day came, and another, and another party of friends filled the
house, and still Mr. Churchill remained, and was now the delight of all. As
far as concerned his successes in society, no one was more ready to join in
applause than Beauclerc; but when Helen was in question he was different,
though he had reasoned himself into the belief that he could not yet love
Miss Stanley, therefore he could not be jealous. But he had been glad to
observe that she had from the first seemed to see what sort of a person Mr.
Churchill was. She was now only amused, as everybody must be, but she would
never be interested by such a man as Horace Churchill, a wit without a
soul. If she were--why he could never feel any further interest about
her--that was all!
So it went on; and now Lady Cecilia was as much amused as she expected
by these daily jealousies, conflicts, and comparisons, the feelings
perpetually tricking themselves out, and strutting about, calling
themselves judgments, like the servants in Gil Blas in their masters'
clothes, going about as counts dukes, and grandees.
"Well, really," said Lady Cecilia to Helen, one day, as she was standing
near her tambour frame, "you are an industrious creature, and the only very
industrious person I ever could bear. I have myself a natural aversion to
a needle, but that tambour needle I can better endure than a common one,
because, in the first place, it makes a little noise in the world; one not
only sees but hears it getting on; one finds, that without dragging it
draws at every link a lengthened chain."
"It is called chainstitch, is it not?" said the aide-de-camp; "and Miss
Stanley is working on so famously fast at it she will have us all in her
chains by and by."
"Bow, Miss Stanley," said Lady Cecilia; "that pretty compliment deserves at
least a bow, if not a look-up."
"I should prefer a look-down, if I were to choose," said Churchill.
"Beggars must not be choosers," said the aide-de-camp.
"But the very reason I can bear to look at you working, Helen," continued
Lady Cecilia, "is, because you do look up so often--so refreshingly. The
professed _Notables_ I detest--those who never raise their eyes from their
everlasting work; whatever is said, read, thought, or felt, is with them of
secondary importance to that bit of muslin in which they are making holes,
or that bit of canvass on which they are perpetrating such figures or
flowers as nature scorns to look upon. I did not mean anything against you
mamma, I assure you," continued Cecilia, turning to her mother, who was
also at her embroidering frame, "because, though you do work, or have work
before you, to do you justice, you never attend to it in the least."
"Thank you! my dear Cecilia," said Lady Davenant, smiling; "I am, indeed, a
sad bungler, but still I shall always maintain a great respect for work and
workers, and I have good reasons for it."
"And so have I," said Lord Davenant. "I only wish that men who do not know
what to do with their hands, were not ashamed to sew. If custom had but
allowed us this resource, how many valuable lives might have been saved,
how many rich ennuyes would not have hung themselves, even in November!
What years of war, what overthrow of empires, might have been avoided, if
princes and sultans, instead of throwing handkerchiefs, had but hemmed
"No, no," said Lady Davenant, "recollect that the race of Spanish kings has
somewhat deteriorated since they exchanged the sword for the tambour-frame.
We had better have things as they are: leave us the privilege of the
needle, and what a valuable resource it is; sovereign against the root of
all evil--an antidote both to love in idleness and hate in idleness--which
is most to be dreaded, let those who have felt both decide. I think we
ladies must be allowed to keep the privilege of the needle to ourselves,
humble though it be, for we must allow it is a good one."
"Good at need," said Churchill. "There is an excellent print, by Bouck, I
believe, of an old woman beating the devil with a distaff; distaffs have
been out of fashion with spinsters ever since, I fancy."
"But as she was old, Churchill," said Lord Davenant, "might not your lady
have defied his black majesty, without her distaff?"
"His _black_ majesty! I admire your distinction, my lord," said Churchill,
"but give it more emphasis; for all kings are not black in the eyes of the
fair, it is said, you know." And here he began an anecdote of regal scandal
in which Lady Cecilia stopped him----
"Now, Horace, I protest against your beginning with scandal so early in the
morning. None of your _on dits_, for decency's sake, before luncheon; wait
Churchill coughed, and shrugged, and sighed, and declared he would be
temperate; he would not touch a character, upon his honour; he would
only indulge in a few little personalities; it could not hurt any lady's
feelings that he should criticise or praise absent beauties. So he just
made a review of all he could recollect, in answer to a question one of the
officers, Captain Warmsley, had asked him, and which, in an absent fit,
he had had the ill-manners yesterday, as now he recollected, not to
answer--Whom he considered as altogether the handsomest woman of his
acquaintance? Beauclerc was now in the room, and Horace was proud to
display, before him in particular, his infinite knowledge of all the fair
and fashionable, and all that might be admitted fashionable without being
fair--all that have the _je ne sais quoi_, which is than beauty dearer.
As one conscious of his power to consecrate or desecrate, by one look
of disdain or one word of praise, he stood; and beginning at the lowest
conceivable point, his uttermost notion of want of beauty--his _laid
ideal_, naming one whose image, no doubt, every charitable imagination will
here supply, Horace next fixed upon another for his mediocrity point--what
he should call "just well enough"--_assez bien, assez_--just up to the
Bellasis motto, "_Bonne et belle assez_." Then, in the ascending scale, he
rose to those who, in common parlance, may be called charming, fascinating;
and still for each he had his fastidious look and depreciating word. Just
keeping within the verge, Horace, without exposing himself to the ridicule
of coxcombry, ended by sighing for that being 'made of every creature's
best'--perfect, yet free from the curse of perfection. Then, suddenly
turning to Beauclerc, and tapping him on the shoulder--"Do, give us your
notions--to what sort of a body or mind, now, would you willingly bend the
Beauclerc could not or would not tell--"I only know that whenever I bend
the knee," said he, "it will be because I cannot help it!"
Beauclerc could not be drawn out either by Churchill's persiflage or
flattery, and he tried both, to talk of his tastes or opinions of women.
He felt too much perhaps about love to talk much about it. This all agreed
well in Helen's imagination with what Lady Cecilia had told her of his
secret engagement. She was sure he was thinking of Lady Blanche, and that
he could not venture to describe her, lest he should betray himself and his
secret. Then, leaving Churchill and the talkers, he walked up and down the
room alone, at the further side, seeming as if he were recollecting some
lines which he repeated to himself, and then stopping before Lady Cecilia,
repeated to her, in a very low voice, the following:--
"I saw her upon nearer view,
A spirit, yet a woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles."
Helen thought Lady Blanche must be a charming creature if she was like this
picture; but somehow, as she afterwards told Lady Cecilia, she had formed a
different idea of Lady Blanche Forrester--Cecilia smiled and asked, "How?
Helen did not exactly know, but altogether she had imagined that she must
be more of a heroine, or perhaps more of a woman of rank and fashion.
She had not formed any exact idea--but different altogether from this
description. Lady Cecilia again smiled, and said, "Very natural; and after
all not very certain that the Lady Blanche is like this picture, which was
not drawn for her or from her assuredly--a resemblance found only in the
imagination, to which we are, all of us, more or less, dupes; and _tant
mieux_ say I--_tant pis_ says mamma--and all mothers."
"There is one thing I like better in Mr. Beauclerc's manners than in Mr.
Churchill," said Helen.
"There are a hundred I like better," said Lady Cecilia, "but what is your
"That he always speaks of women in general with respect--as if he had more
confidence in them, and more dependence upon them for his happiness. Now
Mr. Churchill, with all the adoration he professes, seems to look upon them
as idols that he can set up or pull down, bend the knee to or break to
pieces, at pleasure--I could not like a man for a friend who had a bad, or
even a contemptuous, opinion of women--could you, Cecilia?"
"Certainly not," Lady Cecilia said; "the general had always, naturally, the
greatest respect for women. Whatever prejudices he had taken up had been
only caught from others, and lasted only till he had got rid of the
impression of certain 'untoward circumstances.'" Even a grave, serious
dislike, both Lady Cecilia and Helen agreed that they could bear better
than that persiflage which seemed to mock even while it most professed to
Horace presently discovered the mistakes he had made in his attempts, and
repaired them as fast as he could by his infinite versatility. The changes
shaded off with a skill which made them run easily into each other. He
perceived that Mr. Beauclerc's respectful air and tone were preferred, and
he now laid himself out in the respectful line, adding, as he flattered
himself, something of a finer point, more polish in whatever he said, and
with more weight of authority.
But he was mortified to find that it did not produce the expected effect,
and, after having done the respectful one morning, as he fancied, in the
happiest manner, he was vexed to perceive that he not only could not raise
Helen's eyes from her work, but that even Lady Davenant did not attend to
him: and that, as he was rounding one of his best periods, her looks were
directed to the other side of the room, where Beauclerc sat apart; and
presently she called to him, and begged to know what it was he was reading.
She said she quite envied him the power he possessed of being rapt into
future times or past, completely at his author's bidding, to be transported
how and where he pleased.
Beauclerc brought the book to her, and put it into her hand. As she took it
she said, "As we advance in life, it becomes more and more difficult to
find in any book the sort of enchanting, entrancing interest which we
enjoyed when life, and, books, and we ourselves were new. It were vain to
try and settle whether the fault is most in modern books, or in our ancient
selves; probably not in either: the fact is, that not only does the
imagination cool and weaken as we grow older, but we become, as we live on
in this world, too much engrossed by the real business and cares of life,
to have feeling or time for factitious, imaginary interests. But why do I
say factitious? while they last, the imaginative interests are as real
as any others."
"Thank you," said Beauclerc, "for doing justice to poor imagination, whose
pleasures are surely, after all, the highest, the most real, that we
have, unwarrantably as they have been decried both by metaphysicians and
The book which had so fixed Beauclerc's attention, was Segur's History of
Napoleon's Russian Campaign. He was at the page where the burning of Moscow
is described--the picture of Buonaparte's despair, when he met resolution
greater than his own, when he felt himself vanquished by the human mind, by
patriotism, by virtue--virtue in which he could not believe, the existence
of which, with all his imagination, he could not conceive: the power which
his indomitable will could not conquer.
Beauclerc pointed to the account of that famous inscription on the iron
gate of a church which the French found still standing, the words written
by Rostopchin after the burning of his "delightful home."
"_Frenchmen, I have been eight years in embellishing this residence; I have
lived in it happily in the bosom of my family. The inhabitants of this
estate (amounting to seventeen hundred and twenty) have quitted it at your
approach; and I have, with my own hands, set fire to my own house, to
prevent it from being polluted by your presence._"
"See what one, even one, magnanimous individual can do for his country,"
exclaimed Beauclerc. "How little did this sacrifice cost him! Sacrifice do
I say? it was a pride--a pleasure."
Churchill did not at all like the expression of Helen's countenance, for he
perceived she sympathised with Beauclerc's enthusiasm. He saw that romantic
enthusiasm had more charm for her than wit or fashion; and now he meditated
another change of style. He would try a noble style. He resolved that the
first convenient opportunity he would be a little romantic, and perhaps,
even take a touch at chivalry, a burst like Beauclerc, but in a way of his
own, at the degeneracy of modern times. He tried it--but it was quite a
failure; Lady Cecilia, as he overheard, whispered to Helen what was once
so happily said--"_Ah! le pauvre homme! comme il se batte les flancs d'un
enthousiasme de commande._"
Horace was too clever a man to persist in a wrong line, or one in which his
test of right _success_ did not crown his endeavours. If this did not do,
something else would--should, It was impossible that with all his spirit of
resource he should ultimately fail. To please, and to make an impression on
Helen, a greater impression than Beauclerc--to annoy Beauclerc, in short,
was still, independently of all serious thoughts, the utmost object of
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
VOLUME THE SECOND.
About this time a circumstance occurred, which seemed to have nothing to
do with Churchill, or Beauclerc, but which eventually brought both their
characters into action and passion.
Lord Davenant had purchased, at the sale of Dean Stanley's pictures,
several of those which had been the dean's favourites, and which,
independently of their positive merit, were peculiarly dear to Helen. He
had ordered that they should be sent down to Clarendon Park; at first, he
only begged house-room for them from the general while he and Lady Davenant
were in Russia; then he said that in case he should never return he wished
the pictures should be divided between his two dear children, Cecilia and
Helen; and that, to prevent disputes, he would make the distribution of
them himself now, and in the kindest and most playful manner he allotted
them to each, always finding some excellent reason for giving to Helen
those which he knew she liked best; and then there was to be a _hanging
committee_, for hanging the pictures, which occasioned a great deal of
talking, Beauclerc always thinking most of Helen, or of what was really
best for the paintings; Horace most of himself and his amateurship.
Among these pictures were some fine Wouvermans, and other hunting and
hawking pieces, and one in particular of the duchess and her ladies, from
Don Quixote. Beauclerc, who had gone round examining and admiring, stood
fixed when he came to this picture, in which he fancied he discovered in
one of the figures some likeness to Helen; the lady had a hawk upon her
wrist. Churchill came up eagerly to the examination, with glass at eye. He
could not discern the slightest resemblance to Miss Stanley; but he was in
haste to, bring out an excellent observation of his own, which he had made
his own from a Quarterly Review, illustrating the advantage it would be to
painters to possess knowledge, even of kinds seemingly most distant from
the line of their profession.
"For instance, now _a priori_, one should not insist upon a great painter's
being a good ornithologist, and yet, for want of being something of a
bird-fancier, look here what he has done--quite absurd, a sort of hawk
introduced, such as never was or could be at any hawking affair in nature:
would not sit upon lady's wrist or answer to her call--would never fly at a
bird. Now you see this is a ridiculous blunder."
While Churchill plumed himself on this critical remark Captain Warmsley
told of who still kept hawks in England, and of the hawking parties he had
seen and heard of--"even this year, that famous hawking in Wiltshire, and
that other in Norfolk."
Churchill asked Warmsley if he had been at Lord Berner's when Landseer was
there studying the subject of his famous hawking scene. "Have you seen
it, Lady Cecilia?" continued he; "it is beautiful; the birds seem to be
absolutely coming out of the picture;" and he was going on with some of
his connoisseurship, and telling of his mortification in having missed the
purchase of that picture; but Warmsley got back to the hawking he had seen,
and he became absolutely eloquent in describing the sport.
Churchill, though eager to speak, listened with tolerably polite patience
till Warmsley came to what he had forgot to mention,--to the label with
the date of place and year that is put upon the heron's leg; to the heron
brought from Denmark, where it had been caught, with the label of having
been let fly from Lord Berner's; "for," continued he, "the heron is always
to be saved if possible, so, when it is down, and the hawk over it, the
falconer has some raw beef ready minced, and lays it on the heron's back,
or a pigeon, just killed, is sometimes used; the hawk devours it, and the
heron, quite safe, as soon as it recovers from its fright, mounts slowly
upward and returns to its heronry."
Helen listened eagerly, and so did Lady Cecilia, who said, "You know,
Helen, our favourite Washington Irving quotes that in days of yore, 'a lady
of rank did not think herself completely equipped in riding forth, unless
she had her tassel-gentel held by jesses on her delicate hand.'"
Before her words were well finished, Beauclerc had decided what he would
do, and the business was half done that is well begun. He was at the
library table, writing as fast as pen could go, to give carte blanche to a
friend, to secure for him immediately a whole hawking establishment which
Warmsley had mentioned, and which was now upon public sale, or privately to
be parted with by the present possessor.
At the very moment when Beauclerc was signing and sealing at one end of the
room, at the other Horace Churchill, to whom something of the same plan
had occurred, was charming Lady Cecilia Clarendon, by hinting to her his
scheme--anticipating the honour of seeing one of his hawks borne upon her
Beauclerc, after despatching his letter, came up just in time to catch the
sound and the sense, and took Horace aside to tell him what he had done.
Horace looked vexed, and haughtily observed, that he conceived his place
at Erlesmede was better calculated for a hawking party than most places in
England; and he had already announced his intentions to the ladies. The way
was open to him--but Beauclerc did not see why he should recede; the same
post might carry both their letters--both their orders!"
"How far did your order go, may I ask?" said Churchill.
Churchill owned, with a sarcastic smile, that he was not prepared to go
quite so far. He was not quite so young as Granville; he, unfortunately,
had arrived at years of discretion--he said unfortunately; without ironical
reservation, he protested from the bottom of his heart he considered it as
a misfortune to have become that slow circumspect sort of creature which
looks before it leaps. Even though this might save him from the fate of the
man who was in Sicily, still he considered it as unfortunate to have lost
so much of his natural enthusiasm.
"Natural enthusiasm!" Beauclerc could not help repeating to himself, and he
went on his own way. It must be confessed, as even Beauclerc's best friends
allowed, counting among them Lady Davenant and his guardian, that never
was man of sense more subject to that kind of temporary derangement of the
reasoning powers which results from being what is called bit by a fancy;
he would then run on straight forward, without looking to the right or the
left, in pursuit of his object, great or small. That hawking establishment
now in view, completely shut out, for the moment, all other objects; "of
tercels and of lures he talks;" and before his imagination were hawking
scenes, and Helen with a hawk on her wrist, looking most graceful--a hawk
of his own training it should be. Then, how to train a hawk became the
question. While he was waiting for the answer to his carte blanche, nothing
better, or so good, could be done, as to make himself master of the whole
business, and for this purpose he found it essential to consult every book
on falconry that could be found in the library, and a great plague he
became to everybody in the course of this book-hunt.
"What a bore!" Warmsley might be excused for muttering deep and low between
the teeth. General Clarendon sighed and groaned. Lady Davenant bore and
forebore philosophically--it was for Beauclerc; and to her great philosophy
she gave all the credit of her indulgent partiality. Lady Cecilia,
half-annoyed yet ever good-natured, carried her complaisance so far as to
consult the catalogue and book-shelves sundry times in one hour; but
she was not famous for patience, and she soon resigned him to a better
friend--Helen, the most indefatigable of book-hunters. She had been well
trained to it by her uncle; had been used to it all her life; and really
took pleasure in the tiresome business. She assured Beauclerc it was not
the least trouble, and he thought she looked beautiful when she said so.
Whosoever of the male kind, young, and of ardent, not to say impatient,
spirit, has ever been aided and abetted in a sudden whim, assisted,
forwarded, above all, sympathised with, through all the changes and chances
of a reigning fancy, may possibly conceive how charming, and more charming
every hour, perhaps minute, Helen became in Beauclerc's eyes. But, all in
the way of friendship observe. Perfectly so--on her part, for she could not
have another idea, and it was for this reason she was so much at her ease.
He so understood it, and, thoroughly a gentleman, free from coxcombry, as
he was, and interpreting the language and manners of women with instinctive
delicacy, they went on delightfully. Churchill was on the watch, but he was
not alarmed; all was so undisguised and frank, that now he began to feel
assured that love on her side not only was, but ever would be, quite out of
Beauclerc was, indeed, in the present instance, really and truly intent
upon what he was about; and he pursued the History of Falconry, with all
its episodes, from the olden time of the Boke of St. Alban's down to the
last number of the Sporting Magazine, including Colonel Thornton's latest
flight, with the adventures of his red falcons, Miss M'Ghee and Lord
Townsend, and his red tercels, Messrs. Croc Franc and Craignon;--not
forgetting that never-to-be forgotten hawking of the Emperor
Arambombamboberus with Trebizonian eagles, on the authority of a manuscript
in the Grand Signior's library.
Beauclerc had such extraordinary dependence upon the sympathy of his
friends, that, when he was reading any thing that interested him, no matter
what they might be doing, he must have their admiration for what charmed
him. He brought his book to Lord Davenant, who was writing a letter."
Listen, oh listen! to this pathetic lament of the falconer,--'Hawks,
heretofore the pride of royalty, the insignia of nobility, the ambassador's
present, the priest's indulgence, companion of the knight, and nursling of
the gentle mistress, are now uncalled-for and neglected.'"
"Ha! very well that," said good-natured Lord Davenant, stopping his pen,
dipping again, dotting, and going on.
Then Beauclerc passaged to Lady Davenant, and, interrupting her in Scott's
Lives of the Novelists, on which she was deeply intent, "Allow me, my dear
Lady Davenant, though you say you are no great topographer, to show you
this, it is so curious; this royal falconer's proclamation--Henry the
Eighth's--to preserve his partridges, pheasants, and herons, from his
palace at Westminster to St. Giles's _in the Fields_, and from thence to
Islington, Hampstead, and Highgate, under penalty for every bird killed of
imprisonment, or whatever other punishment to his highness may seem meet."
Lady Davenant vouchsafed some suitable remark, consonant to expectation, on
the changes of times and places, and men and manners, and then motioned the
quarto away with which motion the quarto reluctantly complied; and then
following Lady Cecilia from window to window, as she _tended_ her flowers,
he would insist upon her hearing the table of precedence for hawks. She,
who never cared for any table of precedence in her life, even where the
higher animals were concerned, would only undertake to remember that the
merlin was a lady's hawk, and this only upon condition, that she should
have one to sit upon her wrist like the fair ladies in Wouvermans'
pictures. But further, as to Peregrine, Gerfalcon, or Gerkin, she would
hear nought of them, nor could she listen, though Granville earnestly
exhorted, to the several good reasons which make a falcon dislike her
1st. If he speak rudely to her. 2nd. If he feed her carelessly.
Before he could get thirdly out, Lady Cecilia stopped him, declaring that
in all her life she never could listen to any thing that began with _first_
and _secondly_--reasons especially.
Horace, meanwhile, looked superior down, and thought with ineffable
contempt of Beauclerc's little skill in the arts of conversation, thus upon
unwilling ears to squander anecdotes which would have done him credit at
some London dinner.
"What I could have made of them! and may make of them yet," thought he;
"but some there are, who never can contrive, as other some cleverly do, to
ride their hobby-horses to good purpose and good effect;--now Beauclerc's
hobbies, I plainly see, will always run away with him headlong, cost him
dear certainly, and, may be, leave him in the mire at last."
What this fancy was to cost him, Beauclerc did not yet know. Two or three
passages in the Sporting Magazine had given some hints of the expense
of this "most delectable of all country contentments," which he had not
thought it necessary to read aloud. And he knew that the late Lord Orford,
an ardent pursuer of this "royal and noble" sport, had expended one hundred
a-year on every hawk he kept, each requiring a separate attendant, and
being moreover indulged in an excursion to the Continent every season
during moulting-time: but Beauclerc said to himself he had no notion of
humouring his hawks to that degree; they should, aristocratic birds though
they be, content themselves in England, and not pretend to "damn the
climate like a lord." And he flattered himself that he should be able to
pursue his fancy more cheaply than any of his predecessors; but as he had
promised his guardian that, after the indulgence granted him in the
Beltravers' cause, he would not call upon him for any more extraordinary
supplies, he resolved, in case the expense exceeded his ways and means, to
sell his hunters, and so indulge in a new love at the expense of an old
The expected pleasure of the first day's hawking was now bright in his
imagination; the day was named, the weather promised well, and the German
cadgers and trainers who had been engaged, and who, along with the whole
establishment, were handed over to Beauclerc, were to come down to
Clarendon Park, and Beauclerc was very happy teaching the merlins to sit on
Lady Cecilia's and on Miss Stanley's wrist. Helen's voice was found to be
peculiarly agreeable to the hawk, who, as Beauclerc observed, loved, like
Lear, that excellent thing in woman, a voice ever soft, gentle, and low.
The ladies were to wear some pretty dresses for the occasion, and all was
gaiety and expectation; and Churchill was mortified when he saw how well
the thing was likely to take, that he was not to be the giver of the fete,
especially as he observed that Helen was particularly pleased--when, to his
inexpressible surprise, Granville Beauclerc came to him, a few days before
that appointed for the hawking-party, and said that he had changed his
mind, that he wished to get rid of the whole concern--that he should be
really obliged to Churchill if he would take his engagement off his hands.
The only reason he gave was, that the establishment would altogether be
more than he could afford, he found he had other calls for money, which
were incompatible with his fancy, and therefore he would give it up.
Churchill obliged him most willingly by taking the whole upon himself,
and he managed so to do in a very ingenious way, without incurring any
preposterous expense. He was acquainted with a set of rich, fashionable
young men, who had taken a sporting lodge in a neighbouring county, who
desired no better than to accede to the terms proposed, and to distinguish
themselves by giving a fete out of the common line, while Churchill, who
understood, like a true man of the world, the worldly art of bargaining,
contrived, with off-hand gentleman-like jockeying, to have every point
settled to his own convenience, and he was to be the giver of the
entertainment to the ladies at Clarendon Park. When this change in affairs
was announced, Lady Cecilia, the general, Lady Davenant, and Helen, were
all, in various degrees, surprised, and each tried to guess what could have
been the cause of Beauclerc's sudden relinquishment of his purpose. He
was--very extraordinary for him--impenetrable: he adhered to the words
"I found I could not afford it." His guardian could not believe in this
wonderful prudence, and was almost certain "there must be some imprudence
at the bottom of it all."
Granville neither admitted nor repelled that accusation. Lady Cecilia
worked away with perpetual little strokes, hoping to strike out the truth,
but, as she said, you might as well have worked at an old flint. Nothing
was elicited from him, even by Lady Davenant; nor did the collision of all
their opinions throw any light upon the matter.
Meanwhile the day for the hawking-party arrived. Churchill gave the fete,
and Beauclerc, as one of the guests, attended and enjoyed it without
the least appearance even of disappointment; and, so far from envying
Churchill, he assisted in remedying any little defects, and did all he
could to make the whole go off well.
The party assembled on a rising ground; a flag was displayed to give notice
of the intended sport; the falconers appeared, picturesque figures in their
green jackets and their long gloves, and their caps plumed with herons'
feathers--some with the birds on their wrists--one with the frame over his
shoulder upon which to set the hawk. _Set_, did we say?--no: "_cast_ your
hawk on the perch" is, Beauclerc observed, the correct term; for, as Horace
sarcastically remarked, Mr. Beauclerc might be detected as a novice in the
art by his over-exactness; his too correct, too attic, pronunciation of the
hawking language. But Granville readily and gaily bore all this ridicule
and raillery, sure that it would neither stick nor stain, enjoying with all
his heart the amusement of the scene--the assembled ladies, the attendant
cavaliers; the hood-winked hawks, the ringing of their brass bells; the
falconers anxiously watching the clouds for the first appearance of the
bird; their skill in loosening the hoods, as, having but one hand at
liberty, they used their teeth to untie the string:----And now the hoods
are off, and the hawks let fly.
They were to fly many castes of hawks this day; the first flight was after
a curlew; and the riding was so hard, so dangerous, from the broken nature
of the ground, that the ladies gave it up, and were contented to view the
sport from the eminence where they remained.
And now there was a question to be decided among the sportsmen as to
the comparative rate of riding at a fox chase, and in "the short, but
terrifically hard gallop, with the eyes raised to the clouds, which is
necessary for the full enjoyment of hawking;" and then the gentlemen,
returning, gathered round the ladies, and the settling the point, watches
in hand, and bets depending, added to the interest of flight the first, and
Churchill, master of the revels, was in the highest spirits.
But presently the sky was overcast, the morning lowered, the wind rose, and
changed was Churchill's brow; there is no such thing as hawking against the
wind--that capricious wind!
"Curse the wind!" cried Churchill; "and confusion seize the fellow who says
there is to be no more hawking to-day!"
The chief falconer, however, was a phlegmatic German, and proper-behaved,
as good falconers should be, who, as "Old Tristram's booke" has it, even
if a bird should be lost, he should never swear, and only say, "_Dieu soit
loue_," and "remember that the mother of hawks is not dead."
But Horace, in the face of reason and in defiance of his German
counsellors, insisted upon letting fly the hawks in this high wind; and it
so fell out that, in the first place, all the terms he used in his haste
and spleen were wrong; and in the next, that the quarry taking down the
wind, the horsemen could not keep up with the hawks: the falconers in great
alarm, called to them by the names they gave them--"Miss Didlington," "Lord
Berners." "Ha! Miss Didlington's off;--off with Blucher, and Lady Kirby,
and Lord Berners, and all of 'em after her." Miss Didlington flew fast
and far, and further still, till she and all the rest were fairly out of
sight--lost, lost, lost!
"And as fine a caste of hawks they were as ever came from Germany!"--the
falconers were in despair, and Churchill saw that the fault was his; and
it looked so like cockney sportsmanship! If Horace had been in a towering
rage, it would have been well enough; but he only grew pettish, snappish,
waspish: now none of those words ending in _ish_ become a gentleman; ladies
always think so, and Lady Cecilia now thought so, and Helen thought so too,
and Churchill saw it, and he grew pale instead of red, and that looks ugly
in an angry man.
But Beauclerc excused him when he was out of hearing; and when others said
he had been cross, and crosser than became the giver of a gala, Beauclerc
pleaded well for him, that falconry has ever been known to be "an extreme
stirrer-up of the passions, being subject to mischances infinite."
However, a cold and hot collation under the trees for some, and under a
tent for others, set all to rights for the present. Champagne sparkled, and
Horace pledged and was pledged, and all were gay; even the Germans at their
own table, after their own fashion, with their Rhenish and their foaming
ale, contrived to drown the recollection of the sad adventure of the truant
And when all were refreshed and renewed in mind and body, to the hawking
they went again. For now that
"The wind was laid, and all their fears asleep,"
there was to be a battle between heron and hawk, one of the finest sights
that can be in all falconry.
"Look! look! Miss Stanley," cried Granville; "look! follow that high-flown
hawk--that black speck in the clouds. Now! now! right over the heron; and
now she will _canceleer_--turn on her wing, Miss Stanley, as she comes
down, whirl round, and balance herself--_chanceler_. Now! now look!
But Helen at this instant recollected what Captain Warmsley had said of the
fresh-killed pigeon, which the falconer in the nick of time is to lay upon
the heron's back; and now, even as the cancelleering was going on--three
times most beautifully, Helen saw only the dove, the white dove, which that
black-hearted German held, his great hand round the throat, just raised to
wring it. "Oh, Beauclerc, save it, save it!" cried Lady Cecilia and Helen
Beauclerc sprang forward, and, had it been a tiger instead of a dove, would
have done the same no doubt at that moment; the dove was saved, and the
heron killed. If Helen was pleased, so was not the chief falconer, nor any
of the falconers, the whole German council in combustion! and Horace
Churchill deeming it "Rather extraordinary that any gentleman should so
interfere with other gentlemen's hawks."
Lady Cecilia stepped between, and never stepped in vain. She drew a ring
from her finger--a seal; it was the seal of peace--no great value--but
a well-cut bird--a bird for the chief falconer--a guinea-hen, with its
appropriate cry, its polite motto, "Come back, come back;" and she gave it
as a pledge that the ladies would come back another day, and see another
hawking; and the gentlemen were pleased, and the aggrieved attendant
falconers pacified by a promise of another heron from the heronry at
Clarendon Park; and the clouded faces brightened, and "she smoothed the
raven down of darkness till it smiled," whatever that may mean; but, as
Milton said it, it must be sense as well as sound.
At all events, in plain prose, be it understood that every body was
satisfied, even Mr. Churchill; for Beauclerc had repaired for him, just in
time, an error which would have been a blot on his gallantry of the day. He
had forgotten to have some of the pretty grey hairs plucked from the heron,
to give to the ladies to ornament their bonnets, but Beauclerc had secured
them for him, and also two or three of those much-valued, smooth, black
feathers, from the head of the bird, which are so much prized that a plume
of them is often set with pearls and diamonds. Horace presented these most
gracefully to Lady Cecilia and Helen, and was charmed with Lady Cecilia's
parting compliments, which finished with the words "Quite chivalrous."
And so, after all the changes and chances of weather, wind, and humour, all
ended well, and no one rued the hawking of this day.
"But all this time," said Lady Davenant, "you have not told me whether you
have any of you found out what changed Granville's mind about this falconry
scheme--why he so suddenly gave up the whole to Mr. Churchill. Such a
point-blank weathercock turn of fancy in most young men would no more
surprise me than the changes of those clouds in the sky, now shaped and now
unshaped by the driving wind; but in Granville Beauclerc there is always
some reason for apparent caprice, and the reason is often so ingeniously
wrong that it amuses me to hear it; and even as a study in human nature, I
am curious to know the simple fact."
But no one could tell the simple fact, no one could guess his reason, and
from him it never would have been known--never could have been found out,
but from a mistake--from a letter of thanks coming to a wrong person.
One morning, when Helen was sitting in Lady Davenant's room with her, Lord
Davenant came in, reading a letter, like one walking in his sleep.
"What is all this, my dear? Can you explain it to me? Some good action of
yours, I suppose, for which I am to be thanked."
Lady Davenant looked at the letter. She had nothing to do with the
matter, she said; but, on second thoughts, exclaimed, "This is Granville
Beauclerc's doing, I am clear!"
The letter was from Count Polianski, one of the poor banished Poles; now
poor, but who had been formerly master of a property estimated at about one
hundred and sixty-five thousand _available individuals_. In attempting
to increase the happiness and secure the liberty of these available
individuals, the count had lost every thing, and had been banished from his
country--a man of high feeling as well as talents, and who had done all he
could for that unhappy country, torn to pieces by demagogues from within
and tyrants from without.
Lady Davenant now recollected that Beauclerc had learned from her all this,
and had heard her regretting that the circumstances in which Lord Davenant
was placed at this moment, prevented the possibility of his affording this
poor count assistance for numbers of his suffering fellow-countrymen who
had been banished along with him, and who were now in London in the utmost
distress. Lady Davenant remembered that she had been speaking to Granville
on this subject the very day that he had abandoned his falconry project.
"Now I understand it all," said she; "and it is like all I know and all
I have hoped of him. These hundreds a-year which he has settled on these
wretched exiles, are rather better disposed of in a noble national cause,
than in pampering one set of birds that they may fly at another set."
"And yet this is done," said Lord Davenant, "by one of the much reviled,
high-bred English gentlemen--among whom, let the much reviling, low-bred
English democrats say what they will, we find every day instances of
subscription for public purposes from private benevolence, in a spirit of
princely charity to be found only in our own dear England--England with all
"But this was a less ordinary sort of generosity of Granville's," said Lady
Davenant,--"the giving up a new pleasure, a new whim with all its gloss
fresh upon it, full and bright in his eye."
"True," said Lord Davenant; "I never saw a strong-pulling fancy better
thrown upon its haunches."
The white dove, whose life Helen had saved, was brought home by Beauclerc,
and was offered to her and accepted. Whether she had done a good or a bad
action, by thus saving the life of a pigeon at the expense of a heron, may
be doubted, and will be decided according to the several tastes of ladies
and gentlemen for herons or doves. As Lady Davenant remarked, Helen's
humanity (or dove-anity, as Churchill called it,) was of that equivocal
sort which is ready to destroy one creature to save another which may
happen to be a greater favourite.
Be this as it may, the favourite had a friend upon the present occasion,
and no less a friend than General Clarendon, who presented it with a marble
basin, such as doves should drink out of, by right of long prescription.
The general feared, he said, "that this vase might be a little too
But Helen thought nothing could be altogether more perfect in taste and in
kindness--approving Beauclerc's kindness too--a remembrance of a day most
agreeably spent. Churchill, to whom she looked, as she said the last words,
with all becoming politeness, bowed and accepted the compliment, but with
a reserve of jealousy on the brow; and as he looked again at the dove,
caressing and caressed, and then at the classic vase--he stood vexed, and
to himself he said,--
"So this is the end of all my pains--hawking and all 'quite chivalrous!'
Beauclerc carries off the honours and pleasures of the day, and his present
and his dove are to be all in all. Yet still," continued he to himself in
more consolatory thought--"she is so open in her very love for the bird,
that it is plain she has not yet any love for the man. She would
be somewhat more afraid to show it, delicate as she is. It is only
friendship--honest friendship, on her side; and if her affections be not
engaged somewhere else--she may be mine: if--if I please--if--I can bring
myself fairly to propose--we shall see--I shall think of it."
And now he began to think of it seriously.--Miss Stanley's indifference to
him, and the unusual difficulty which he found in making any impression,
stimulated him in an extraordinary degree. Helen now appeared to him even
more beautiful than he had at first thought her--"Those eyes that fix so
softly," thought he, "those dark eyelashes--that blush coming and going so
beautifully--and there is a timid grace in all her motions, with that
fine figure too--and that high-bred turn of the neck!--altogether she is
charming! and she will be thought so!--she must be mine!"
She would do credit to his taste; he thought she would, when she had a
little more _usage du monde_, do the honours of his house well; and it
would be delightful to train her!--If he could but engage her affections,
before she had seen more of the world, she might really love him for his
own sake--and Churchill wished to be really loved, if possible, for his own
sake; but of the reality of modern love he justly doubted, especially for
a man of his fortune and his age; yet, with Helen's youth and innocence
he began to think he had some chance of disinterested attachment, and he
determined to bring out for her the higher powers of his mind--the better
parts of his character.
One day Lady Davenant had been speaking of London conversation. "So
brilliant," said she, "so short-lived, as my friend Lady Emmeline K----
once said, 'London wit is like gas, which lights at a touch, and at a touch
can be extinguished;'" and Lady Davenant concluded with a compliment to
him who was known to have this "_touch and go_" of good conversation to
Mr. Churchill bowed to the compliment, but afterwards sighed, and it seemed
an honest sigh, from the bottom of his heart. Only Lady Davenant and Helen
were in the room, and turning to Lady Davenant he said,
"If I have it, I have paid dearly for it, more than it is worth, much
too dearly, by the sacrifice of higher powers; I might have been a very
different person from what I am."
Helen's attention was instantly fixed; but Lady Davenant suspected he was
now only talking for effect. He saw what she thought--it was partly true,
but not quite. He felt what he said at the moment; and besides, there is
always a sincere pleasure in speaking of one's self when one can do it
without exposing one's self to ridicule, and with a chance of obtaining
"It was my misfortune," he said, "to be spoiled, even in childhood, by my
As he pronounced the word "mother," either his own heart or Helen's eyes
made him pause with a look of respectful tenderness. It was cruel of a son
to blame the fond indulgence of a mother; but the fact was, she brought
him too forward early as a clever child, fed him too much with that sweet
dangerous fostering dew of praise. The child--the man--must suffer for it
"True, very true," said Lady Davenant; "I quite agree with you."
"I could do nothing without flattery," continued he, pursuing the line of
confession which he saw had fixed Lady Davenant's attention favourably.
"Unluckily, I came too early into possession of a large fortune, and into
the London world, and I lapped the stream of prosperity as I ran, and it
was sweet with flattery, intoxicating, and I knew it, and yet could
not forbear it. Then in a London life every thing is too
stimulating--over-exciting. If there are great advantages to men of science
and literature in museums and public libraries, the more than _Avicenna_
advantages of having books come at will, and ministering spirits in waiting
on all your pursuits--there is too much of every thing except time, and too
little of that. The treasures are within our reach, but we cannot clutch;
we have, but we cannot hold. We have neither leisure to be good, nor to be
great: who can think of living for posterity, when he can scarcely live for
the day? and sufficient for the day are never the hours thereof. From want
of time, and from the immense quantity that nevertheless must be known,
comes the necessity, the unavoidable necessity of being superficial."
"Why should it be unavoidable necessity?" asked Lady Davenant.
"Because _should_ waits upon _must_, in London always, if not elsewhere,"
"A conversation answer," replied Lady Davenant.
"Yes, I allow it; it is even so, just so, and to such tricks, such playing
upon words, do the bad habits of London conversation lead;" and Lady
Davenant wondered at the courage of his candour, as he went on to speak of
the petty jealousies, the paltry envy, the miserable selfish susceptibility
generated by the daily competition of London society. Such dissensions,
such squabbles--an ignoble but appropriate word--such deplorable, such
scandalous squabbles among literary, and even among scientific men.
"And who," continued he, "who can hope to escape in such a tainted
atmosphere--an atmosphere overloaded with life, peopled with myriads of
little buzzing stinging vanities! It really requires the strength of
Hercules, mind and body, to go through our labours, fashionable, political,
_bel esprit_, altogether too much for mortal. In parliament, in politics,
in the tug of war you see how the strongest minds fail, come to
"Do not touch upon that subject," cried Lady Davenant, suddenly agitated.
Then, commanding herself, she calmly added--"As you are not now, I think,
in parliament, it cannot affect you. What were you saying?--your health of
mind and body, I think you said, you were sensible had been hurt by----"
"These straining, incessant competitions have hurt me. My health suffered
first, then my temper. It was originally good, now, as you have seen, I
am afraid"--glancing at Helen, who quickly looked down, "I am afraid I am
There was an awkward silence. Helen thought it was for Lady Davenant to
speak; but Lady Davenant did not contradict Mr. Churchill. Now, the not
contradicting a person who is abusing himself, is one of the most heinous
offences to self-love that can be committed; and it often provokes false
candour to pull off the mask and throw it in your face; but either Mr.
Horace Churchill's candour was true, or it was so well guarded at the
moment that no such catastrophe occurred.
"Worse than this bad effect on my temper!" continued he, "I feel that my
whole mind has been deteriorated--my ambition dwindled to the shortest
span--my thoughts contracted to the narrow view of mere effect; what would
please at the dinner-table or at the clubs--what will be thought of me
by this literary coterie, or in that fashionable boudoir. And for this
_reputation de salon_ I have sacrificed all hope of other reputation,
all power of obtaining it, all hope of "----(here he added a few words,
murmured down to Lady Davenant's embroidery frame, yet still in such a tone
that Helen could not help thinking he meant she should hear)--"If I had a
heart such as--" he paused, and, as if struck with some agonising thought,
he sighed deeply, and then added--"but I have not a heart worth such
acceptance, or I would make the offer."
Helen was not sure what these words meant, but she now pitied him, and she
admired his candour, which she thought was so far above the petty sort
of character he had at first done himself the injustice to seem, and she
seized the first opportunity to tell Beauclerc all Mr. Churchill had said
to Lady Davenant and to her, and of the impression it had made upon them
both. Beauclerc had often discussed Mr. Churchill's character with her,
but she was disappointed when she saw that what she told made no agreeable
impression on Beauclerc: at first he stood quite silent, and when she asked
what he thought, he said--"It's all very fine, very clever."
"But it is all true," said Helen, "And I admire Mr. Churchill's knowing the
truth so well and telling it so candidly."
"Every thing Mr. Churchill has said may be true--and yet I think the truth
is not in him."
"You are not usually so suspicious," said Helen. "If you had heard Mr.
Churchill's voice and emphasis, and seen his look and manner at the time, I
think you could not have doubted him."
The more eager she grew, the colder Mr. Beauclerc became. "Look and manner,
and voice and emphasis," said he, "make a great impression, I know, on
"But what is your reason, Mr. Beauclerc, for disbelief? I have as yet only
heard that you believe every thing that Mr. Churchill said was true,
and yet that you do not believe in his truth," said Helen, in a tone of
And many a time before had Beauclerc been the first to laugh when one
of his own paradoxes stared him in the face; but now he was more out of
countenance than amused, and he looked seriously about for reasons to
reconcile his seeming self-contradiction.
"In the first place, all those allusions and those metaphorical
expressions, which you have so wonderfully well remembered, and which no
doubt were worth remembering, all those do not give me the idea of a man
who was really feeling in earnest, and speaking the plain truth about
faults, for which, if he felt at all, he must be too much ashamed to talk
in such a grand style; and to talk of them at all, except to most intimate
friends, seems so unnatural, and quite out of character in a man who had
expressed such horror of egotists, and who is so excessively circumspect in
"Yes, but Mr. Churchill's forgetting all his little habits of
circumspection, and all fear of ridicule, is the best proof of his being
quite in earnest--that all he said was from his heart."
"I doubt whether he has any heart," said Beauclerc.
"Poor man, he said----" Helen began, and then recollecting the words, 'or
I would make the offer,' she stopped short, afraid of the construction they
might bear, and then, ashamed of her fear, she coloured deeply.
"Poor man, he said----" repeated Beauclerc, fixing his eyes upon her,
"What did he say, may I ask?"
"No,--" said Helen, "I am not sure that I distinctly heard or understood
"Oh, if there was any mystery!" Beauclerc begged pardon.
And he went away very quickly. He did not touch upon the subject again, but
Helen saw that he never forgot it; and, by few words which she heard him
say to Lady Davenant about his dislike to half-confidences, she knew he
was displeased, and she thought he was wrong. She began to fear that his
mistrust of Churchill arose from envy at his superior success in society;
and, though she was anxious to preserve her newly-acquired good opinion of
Churchill's candour, she did not like to lose her esteem for Beauclerc's
generosity. Was it possible that he could be seriously hurt at the
readiness with which Mr. Churchill availed himself of any idea which
Beauclerc threw out, and which he dressed up, and passed as his own?
Perhaps this might be what he meant by "the truth is not in him." She
remembered one day when she sat between him and Beauclerc, and when he did
not seem to pay the least attention to what Mr. Beauclerc was saying to
her, yet fully occupied as he had apparently been in talking for the
company in general, he had through all heard Granville telling the Chinese
fable of the "Man in the Moon, whose business it is to knit together
with an invisible silken cord those who are predestined for each other."
Presently, before the dessert was over, Helen found the "Chinese Man in the
Moon," whom she thought she had all to herself, figuring at the other end
of the table, and received with great applause. And was it possible that
Beauclerc, with his abundant springs of genius, could grudge a drop
thus stolen from him? but without any envy in the case, he was right in
considering such theft, however petty, as a theft, and right in despising
the meanness of the thief. Such meanness was strangely incompatible with
Mr. Churchill's frank confession of his own faults. Could that confession
be only for effect?
Her admiration had been sometimes excited by a particular happiness of
thought, beauty of expression, or melody of language in Mr. Churchill's
conversation. Once Beauclerc had been speaking with enthusiasm of modern
Greece, and his hopes that she might recover her ancient character; and
Mr. Churchill, as if admiring the enthusiasm, yet tempering it with better
judgment, smiled, paused, and answered.
"But Greece is a dangerous field for a political speculator; the
imagination produces an illusion resembling the beautiful appearances which
are sometimes exhibited in the Sicilian straits; the reflected images of
ancient Grecian glory pass in a rapid succession before the mental eye;
and, delighted with the captivating forms of greatness and splendour, we
forget for a moment that the scene is in reality a naked waste."
Some people say they can distinguish between a written and a spoken style,
but this depends a good deal on the art of the speaker. Churchill could
give a colloquial tone to a ready-written sentence, and could speak it
with an off-hand grace, a carelessness which defied all suspicion of
preparation; and the look, and pause, and precipitation--each and all came
in aid of the actor's power of perfecting the illusion. If you had heard
and seen him, you would have believed that, in speaking this passage, the
thought of the _Fata Morgana_ rose in his mind at the instant, and that,
seeing it pleased you, and pleased with it himself, encouraged by your
look of intelligence, and borne along by your sympathy, the eloquent
man followed his own idea with a happiness more than care, admirable in
conversation. A few days afterwards, Helen was very much surprised to find
her admired sentence word for word in a book, from which Churchill's card
fell as she opened it.
Persons without a name Horace treated as barbarians who did not know the
value of their gold; and he seemed to think that, if they chanced to
possess rings and jewels, they might be plucked from them without remorse,
and converted to better use by some lucky civilised adventurer. Yet in his
most successful piracies he was always haunted by the fear of discovery,
and he especially dreaded the acute perception of Lady Davenant; he thought
she suspected his arts of appropriation, and he took the first convenient
opportunity of sounding her opinion on this point.
"How I enjoy," said he to Lady Cecilia "telling a good story to you, for
you never ask if it is a fact. Now, in a good story, no one sticks to
absolute fact; there must be some little embellishment. No one would send
his own or his friend's story into the world without 'putting a hat on its
head, and a stick into its hand,'" Churchill triumphantly quoted; this time
he did not steal.
"But," said Lady Davenant, "I find that even the pleasure I have in mere
characteristic or humorous narration is heightened by my dependence on the
truth--the character for truth--of the narrator."
Not only Horace Churchill, but almost every body present, except Helen,
confessed that they could not agree with her. The character for truth
of the story-teller had nothing to do with his story, unless it was
_historique_, or that he was to swear to it.
"And even if it were _historique_," cried Horace, buoyed up at the moment
by the tide in his favour, and floating out farther than was prudent--"and
even if it were _historique_, how much pleasanter is graceful fiction than
grim, rigid truth; and how much more amusing in my humble opinion!"
"Now," said Lady Davenant, "for instance, this book I am reading--(it was
Dumont's 'Memoires de Mirabeau')--this book which I am reading, gives
me infinitely increased pleasure, from my certain knowledge, my perfect
conviction of the truth of the author. The self-evident nature of some of
the facts would support themselves, you may say, in some instances; but my
perceiving the scrupulous care he takes to say no more than what he knows
to be true, my perfect reliance on the relater's private character for
integrity, gives a zest to every anecdote he tells--a specific weight to
every word of conversation which he repeats--appropriate value to every
trait of wit or humour characteristic of the person he describes. Without
such belief, the characters would not have to me, as they now have, all
the power, and charm, and life, of nature and reality. They are all now
valuable as records of individual varieties that have positively so
existed. While the most brilliant writer could, by fiction, have produced
an effect, valuable only as representing the general average of human
nature, but adding nothing to our positive knowledge, to the data from
which we can reason in future."
Churchill understood Lady Davenant too well to stand quite unembarrassed as
he listened; and when she went on to say how differently she should have
felt in reading these memoirs if they had been written by Mirabeau himself;
with all his brilliancy, all his talents, how inferior would have been her
enjoyment as well as instruction! his shrinking conscience told him how
this might all be applied to himself; yet, strange to say, though somewhat
abashed, he was nevertheless flattered by the idea of a parallel between
himself and Mirabeau. To _Mirabeauder_ was no easy task; it was a certain
road to notoriety, if not to honest fame.
But even in the better parts of his character, his liberality in money
matters, his good-natured patronage of rising genius, the meanness of his
mind broke out. There was a certain young poetess whom he had encouraged;
she happened to be sister to Mr. Mapletofft, Lord Davenant's secretary, and
she had spoken with enthusiastic gratitude of Mr. Churchill's kindness. She
was going to publish a volume of Sonnets under Mr. Churchill's patronage,
and, as she happened to be now at some country town in the neighbourhood,
he requested Lady Cecilia to allow him to introduce this young authoress to
her. She was invited for a few days to Clarendon Park, and Mr. Churchill
was zealous to procure subscriptions for her, and eager to lend the aid of
his fashion and his literary reputation to bring forward the merits of her
book. "Indeed," he whispered, "he had given her some little help in the
composition," and all went well till, in an evil hour, Helen praised one
of the sonnets rather too much--more, he thought, than she had praised
another, which was his own. His jealousy wakened--he began to criticise his
protegee's poetry. Helen defended her admiration, and reminded him that he
had himself recommended these lines to her notice.
"Well!--yes--I did say the best I could for the whole thing, and for her it
is surprising--that is, I am anxious the publication should take. But if we
come to compare--you know this cannot stand certain comparisons that might
be made. Miss Stanley's own taste and judgment must perceive--when we talk
of genius--that is quite out of the question, you know."
Horace was so perplexed between his philanthropy and his jealousy, his
desire to show the one and his incapability of concealing the other, that
he became unintelligible; and Helen laughed, and told him that she could
not now understand what his opinion really was. She was quite ready to
agree with him, she said, if he would but agree with himself: this made him
disagree still more with himself and unluckily with his better self, his
benevolence quite gave way before his jealousy and ill-humour, and he
vented it upon the book; and, instead of prophecies of its success, he
now groaned over "sad careless lines,"--"passages that lead to
nothing,"--"similes that will not hold when you come to examine them."
Helen pointed out in the dedication a pretty, a happy thought.
Horace smiled, and confessed that was his own.
What! in the dedication to himself?--and in the blindness of his vanity he
did not immediately see the absurdity.
The more he felt himself in the wrong, of course the more angry he grew,
and it finished by his renouncing the dedication altogether, declaring he
would have none of it. The book and the lady might find a better patron.
There are things which no man of real generosity could say or do, or think,
put him in ever so great a passion. He would not be harsh to an inferior--a
woman--a protegee on whom he had conferred obligations; but Mr. Churchill
was harsh--he showed neither generosity nor feeling; and Helen's good
opinion of him sank to rise no more.
Of this, however, he had not enough of the sympathy or penetration of
feeling to be aware.
The party now at Clarendon Park consisted chiefly of young people. Among
them were two cousins of Lady Cecilia's, whom Helen had known at Cecilhurst
before they went abroad, while she was still almost a child. Lady Katrine
Hawksby, the elder, was several years older than Cecilia. When Helen last
saw her, she was tolerably well-looking, very fashionable, and remarkable
for high spirits, with a love for _quizzing_, and for all that is vulgarly
called _fun_, and a talent for ridicule, which she indulged at everybody's
expense. She had always amused Cecilia, who thought her more diverting than
really ill-natured; but Helen thought her more ill-natured than diverting,
never liked her, and had her own private reasons for thinking that she was
no good friend to Cecilia: but now, in consequence either of the wear and
tear of London life, or of a disappointment in love or matrimony, she had
lost the fresh plumpness of youth; and gone too was that spirit of mirth,
if not of good humour, which used to enliven her countenance. Thin and
sallow, the sharp features remained, and the sarcastic without the arch
expression; still she had a very fashionable air. Her pretensions to youth,
as her dress showed, were not gone; and her hope of matrimony, though
declining, not set. Her many-years-younger sister, Louisa, now Lady
Castlefort, was beautiful. As a girl, she had been the most sentimental,
refined, delicate creature conceivable; always talking poetry--and so
romantic--with such a soft, sweet, die-away voice--lips apart--and such
fine eyes, that could so ecstatically turn up to heaven, or be so cast
down, charmingly fixed in contemplation:--and now she is married, just the
same. There she is, established in the library at Clarendon Park, with the
most sentimental fashionable novel of the day, beautifully bound, on the
little rose-wood table beside her, and a manuscript poem, a great secret,
"Love's Last Sigh," in her bag with her smelling-bottle and embroidered
handkerchief; and on that beautiful arm she leaned so gracefully, with her
soft languishing expression; so perfectly dressed too--handsomer than ever.
Helen was curious to know what sort of man Lady Louisa had married, for she
recollected that no hero of any novel that ever was read, or talked of,
came up to her idea of what a hero ought to be, of what a man must be, whom
she could ever think of loving. Cecilia told Helen that she had seen Lord
Castlefort, but that he was not Lord Castlefort, or likely to be Lord
Castlefort, at that time; and she bade her guess, among all she could
recollect having ever seen at Cecilhurst, who the man of Louisa's choice
could be. Lady Katrine, with infinite forbearance, smiled, and gave no
hint, while Helen guessed and guessed in vain. She was astonished when she
saw him come into the room. He was a little deformed man, for whom Lady
Louisa had always expressed to her companions a peculiar abhorrence. He had
that look of conceit which unfortunately sometimes accompanies personal
deformity, and which disgusts even Pity's self. Lord Castlefort was said
to have declared himself made for love and fighting! Helen remembered
that kind-hearted Cecilia had often remonstrated for humanity's sake, and
stopped the quizzing which used to go on in their private coteries, when
the satirical elder sister would have it that _le petit bossu_ was in love
But what _could_ make her marry him? Was there anything within to make
amends for the exterior? Nothing--nothing that could "rid him of the lump
behind." But superior to the metamorphoses of love, or of fairy tale,
are the metamorphoses of fortune. Fortune had suddenly advanced him to
uncounted thousands and a title, and no longer _le petit bossu_, Lord
Castlefort obtained the fair hand--the very fair hand of Lady Louisa
Hawksby, _plus belle que fee!_
Still Helen could not believe that Louisa had married him voluntarily; but
Lady Cecilia assured her that it was voluntarily, quite voluntarily. "You
could not have so doubted had you seen the _trousseau_ and the _corbeille_,
for you know, '_Le present fait oublier le futur_.'"
Helen could scarcely smile.
"But Louisa had feeling--really some," continued Lady Cecilia; "but she
could not afford to follow it. She had got into such debt, I really do not
know what she would have done if Lord Castlefort had not proposed; but she
has some little heart, and I could tell you a secret; but no, I will leave
you the pleasure of finding it out."
"It will be no pleasure to me," said Helen.
"I never saw anybody so out of spirits," cried Lady Cecilia, laughing,
"at another's unfortunate marriage, which all the time she thinks very
fortunate. She is quite happy, and even Katrine does not laugh at him any
longer, it is to be supposed; it is no laughing matter now."
"No indeed," said Helen.
"Nor a crying matter either," said Cecilia. "Do not look shocked at me, my
dear, I did not do it; but so many do, and I have seen it so often, that
I cannot wonder with such a foolish face of blame--I do believe, my dear
Helen, that you are envious because Louisa is married before you! for
shame, my love! Envy is a naughty passion, you know our Madame Bonne used
to say; but here's mamma, now talk to her about Louisa Castlefort, pray."
Lady Davenant took the matter with great coolness, was neither shocked nor
surprised at this match, she had known so many worse; Lord Castlefort, as
well as she recollected, was easy enough to live with. "And after all,"
said she, "it is better than what we see every day, the fairest of the
fair knowingly, willingly giving themselves to the most profligate of the
profligate, In short, the market is so overstocked with accomplished young
ladies on the one hand, and on the other, men find wives and establishments
so expensive, clubs so cheap and so much more luxurious than any home,
liberty not only so sweet but so fashionable, that their policy, their
maxim is, 'Marry not at all, or if marriage be ultimately necessary to pay
debts and leave heirs to good names, marry as late as possible;' and thus
the two parties with their opposite interests stand at bay, or try to
outwit or outbargain each other. And if you wish for the moral of the whole
affair, here it is from the vulgar nursery-maids, with their broad sense
and bad English, and the good or bad French of the governess, to the
elegant inuendo of the drawing-room, all is working to the same effect:
dancing-masters, music-masters, and all the tribe, what is it all for, but
to prepare young ladies for the grand event; and to raise in them, besides
the natural, a factitious, an abstract idea of good in being married!
Every girl in these days is early impressed with the idea that she must be
married, that she cannot be happy unmarried. Here is an example of what I
meant the other day by strength of mind; it requires some strength of mind
to be superior to such a foolish, vain, and vulgar belief."
"It will require no great strength of mind in me," said Helen, "for I
really never have formed such notions. They never were early put into my
head; my uncle always said a woman might be very happy unmarried. I do not
think I shall ever be seized with a terror of dying an old maid."
"You are not come to the time yet, my dear," said Lady Davenant smiling.
"Look at Lady Katrine; strength of mind on this one subject would have
saved her from being a prey to envy, and jealousy, and all the vulture
passions of the mind.
"In the old French _regime_," continued Lady Davenant, "the young women
were at least married safely out of their convents; but our young ladies,
with their heads full of high-flown poetry and sentimental novels, are
taken out into the world before marriage, expected to see and not to
choose, shown the most agreeable, and expected, doomed to marry the most
odious. But, in all these marriages for establishment, the wives who have
least feeling are not only likely to be the happiest, but also most likely
to conduct themselves well. In the first place they do not begin with
falsehood. If they have no hearts, they cannot pretend to give any to
the husband, and that is better than having given them to somebody else.
Husband and wife, in this case, clearly understand the terms of agreement,
expect, imagine no more than they have, and jog-trot they go on together to
the end of life very comfortably."
"Comfortably!" exclaimed Helen, "it must be most miserable."
"Not most miserable, Helen," said Lady Davenant, "keep your pity for
others; keep your sighs for those who need them--for the heart which no
longer dares to utter a sigh for itself, the faint heart that dares to
love, but dares not abide by its choice. Such infatuated creatures, with
the roots of feeling left aching within them, must take what opiates they
can find; and in after-life, through all their married existence, their
prayer must be for indifference, and thankful may they be if that prayer is
These words recurred to Helen that evening, when Lady Castlefort sang some
tender and passionate airs; played on the harp with a true Saint Cecilia
air and attitude; and at last, with charming voice and touching expression,
sung her favourite--"Too late for redress."
Both Mr. Churchill and Beauclerc were among the group of gentlemen;
neither was a stranger to her. Mr. Churchill admired and applauded as a
connoisseur. Beauclerc listened in silence. Mr. Churchill entreated for
more--more--and named several of his favourite Italian airs. Her ladyship
really could not. But the slightest indication of a wish from Beauclerc,
was, without turning towards him, heard and attended to, as her sister
failed not to remark and to make others remark.
Seizing a convenient pause while Mr. Churchill was searching for some
master-piece, Lady Katrine congratulated her sister on having recovered her
voice, and declared that she had never heard her play or sing since she was
married till tonight.
"You may consider it as a very particular compliment, I assure you,"
continued she, addressing herself so particularly to Mr. Beauclerc that he
could not help being a little out of countenance,--"I have so begged and
prayed, but she was never in voice or humour, or heart, or something.
Yesterday, even Castlefort was almost on his knees for a song,--were not
you, Lord Castlefort?"
Lord Castlefort pinched his pointed chin, and casting up an angry look,
replied in a dissonant voice,--"I do not remember!"
"_Tout voir, tout entendre, tout oublier_," whispered Lady Katrine to
Mr. Churchill, as she stooped to assist him in the search for a
music-book--"_Tout voir, tout entendre, tout oublier_, should be the motto
adopted by all married people."
Lady Castlefort seemed distressed, and turned over the leaves in such a
flutter that she could not find anything, and she rose, in spite of all
entreaties, leaving the place to her sister, who was, she said, "so much
better a musician and not so foolishly nervous." Lady Castlefort said her
"voice always went away when she was at all--"
There it ended as far as words went; but she sighed, and retired so
gracefully, that all the gentlemen pitied her.
There is one moment in which ill-nature sincerely repents--the moment when
it sees pity felt for its victim.
Horace followed Lady Castlefort to the ottoman, on which she sank.
Beauclerc remained leaning on the back of Lady Katrine's chair, but without
seeming to hear what she said or sung. After some time Mr. Churchill, not
finding his attentions well received, or weary of paying them, quitted Lady
Castlefort but sat down by Helen; and in a voice to be heard by her, but by
no one else, he said--
"What a relief!--I thought I should never get away!" Then, favoured by a
loud bravura of Lady Katrine's, he went on--"That beauty, between you
and me, is something of a bore--she--I don't mean the lady who is now
screaming--she should always sing. Heaven blessed her with song, not
sense--but here one is made so fastidious!"
He sighed, and for some moments seemed to be given up to the duet which
Lady Katrine and an officer were performing; and then exclaimed, but so
that Helen only could hear,--"Merciful Heaven! how often one wishes one had
no ears: that Captain Jones must be the son of Stentor, and that lady!--if
angels sometimes saw themselves in a looking-glass when singing--there
would be peace upon earth."
Helen, not liking to be the secret receiver of his contraband good things,
was rising to change her place, when softly detaining her, he said, "Do not
be afraid, no danger--trust me, for I have studied under Talma."
"What can you mean?"
"I mean," continued he, "that Talma taught me the secret of his dying
scenes--how every syllable of his dying words might be heard to the
furthest part of the audience; and I--give me credit for my ingenuity--know
how, by reversing the art, to be perfectly inaudible at ten paces'
distance, and yet, I trust, perfectly intelligible, always, to you."
Helen now rose decidedly, and retreated to a table at the other side of the
room, and turned over some books that lay there--she took up a volume of
the novel Lady Castlefort had been reading--"Love unquestionable." She was
surprised to find it instantly, gently, but decidedly drawn from her hand:
she looked up--it was Beauclerc.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Stanley, but----"
"Thank you! thank you!" said Helen; "you need not beg my pardon."
This was the first time Beauclerc had spoken in his friendly, cordial,
natural manner, to her, since their incomprehensible misunderstanding. She
was heartily glad it was over, and that he was come to himself again. And
now they conversed very happily together for some time; though what they
said might not be particularly worth recording. Lady Katrine was at Helen's
elbow before she perceived her "looking for her sac;" and Lady Castlefort
came for her third volume, and gliding off, wished to all--"_Felice,
Neither of these sisters had ever liked Helen; she was too true for the
one, and too good-natured for the other. Lady Katrine had always, even when
she was quite a child, been jealous of Lady Cecilia's affection for Helen;
and now her indignation and disappointment were great at finding her
established at Clarendon Park--to live with the Clarendons, to _go out_
with Lady Cecilia. Now, it had been the plan of both sisters, that Lady
Katrine's present visit should be eternal. How they would ever have managed
to fasten her ladyship upon the General, even if Helen had been out of the
question, need not now be considered. Their disappointment and dislike to
Helen were as great as if she had been the only obstacle to the fulfilment
of their scheme.
These two sisters had never agreed--
--"Doom'd by Fate
To live in all the elegance of hate;"
and since Lady Castlefort's marriage, the younger, the beautiful being now
the successful lady of the ascendant, the elder writhed in all the combined
miseries of jealousy and dependance, and an everyday lessening chance of
bettering her condition. Lord Castlefort, too, for good reasons of his own,
well remembered, detested Lady Katrine, and longed to shake her off. In
this wish, at least, husband and wife united; but Lady Castlefort had no
decent excuse for her ardent impatience to get rid of her sister. She had
magnificent houses in town and country, ample room everywhere--but in her
heart. She had the smallest heart conceivable, and the coldest; but had it
been ever so large, or ever so warm, Lady Katrine was surely not the person
to get into it, or into any heart, male or female: there was the despair.
"If Katrine was but married--Mr. Churchill, suppose?"
Faint was the _suppose_ in Lady Castlefort's imagination. Not so the
hope which rose in Lady Katrine's mind the moment she saw him here. "How
fortunate!" Her ladyship had now come to that no particular age, when a
remarkable metaphysical phenomenon occurs; on one particular subject hope
increases as all probability of success decreases. This aberration of
intellect is usually observed to be greatest in very clever women; while
Mr. Churchill, the flattered object of her present hope, knew how to manage
with great innocence and modesty, and draw her on to overt acts of what is
Rousseau says that a man is always awkward and miserable when placed
between two women to whom he is making love. But Rousseau had never
seen Mr. Churchill, and had but an imperfect idea of the dexterity,
the ambiguity, that in our days can be successfully practised by an
accomplished male coquette. Absolutely to blind female jealousy may be
beyond his utmost skill; but it is easy, as every day's practice shows, to
keep female vanity pleasantly perplexed by ocular deception--to make her
believe that what she really sees she does not see, and that what is unreal
is reality: to make her, to the amusement of the spectators, continually
stretch out her hand to snatch the visionary good that for ever eludes her
grasp, or changes, on near approach, to grinning mockery.
This delightful game was now commenced with Lady Katrine, and if Helen
could be brought to take a snatch, it would infinitely increase the
interest and amusement of the lookers on. Of this, however, there seemed
little chance; but the evil eye of envy was set upon her, and the demon of
jealousy was longing to work her woe.
Lady Castlefort saw with scornful astonishment that Mr. Beauclerc's eyes,
sometimes when she was speaking, or when she was singing, would stray
to that part of the room where Miss Stanley might be; and when she was
speaking to him, he was wonderfully absent. Her ladyship rallied him, while
Lady Katrine, looking on, cleared her throat in her horrid way, and longed
for an opportunity to discomfit Helen, which supreme pleasure her ladyship
promised herself upon the first convenient occasion,--convenient meaning
when Lady Davenant was out of the room; for Lady Katrine, though urged
by prompting jealousy, dared not attack her when under cover of that
protection. From long habit, even her sarcastic nature stood in awe of a
certain power of moral indignation, which had at times flashed upon
her, and of which she had a sort of superstitious dread, as of an
incomprehensible, incalculable power.
But temper will get the better of all prudence. Piqued by some little
preference which Lady Cecilia had shown to Helen's taste in the choice of
the colour of a dress, an occasion offered of signalising her revenge,
which could not be resisted. It was a question to be publicly decided,
whether blue, green, or white should be adopted for the ladies' uniform
at an approaching _fete_. She was deputed to collect the votes. All the
company were assembled; Lady Davenant, out of the circle, as it was a
matter that concerned her not, was talking to the gentlemen apart.
Lady Katrine went round canvassing. "Blue, green, or white? say blue,
_pray_." But when she came to Helen, she made a full stop, asked no
question--preferred no prayer, but after fixing attention by her pause,
said, "I need not ask Miss Stanley's vote or opinion, as I know my
cousin's, and with Miss Stanley it is always 'I say ditto to Lady Cecilia;'
therefore, to save trouble, I always count two for Cecilia--one for herself
and one for her _double_."
"Right, Lady Katrine Hawksby," cried a voice from afar, which made her
start; "you are quite right to consider Helen Stanley as my daughter's
double, for my daughter loves and esteems her as her second self--her
better self. In this sense Helen is Lady Cecilia's double, but if you
"Bless me! I don't know what I meant, I declare. I could not have conceived
that Lady Davenant----Miss Stanley, I beg a thousand million of pardons."
Helen, with anxious good-nature, pardoned before she was asked, and
hastened to pass on to the business of the day, but Lady Davenant would not
so let it pass; her eye still fixed she pursued the quailing enemy--"One
word more. In justice to my daughter, I must say her love has not been won
by flattery, as none knows better than the Lady Katrine Hawksby."
The unkindest cut of all, and on the tenderest part. Lady Katrine could not
stand it. Conscious and trembling, she broke through the circle, fled into
the conservatory, and, closing the doors behind her, would not be followed
by Helen, Cecilia, or any body.
Lady Castlefort sighed, and first breaking the silence that ensued, said,
"'Tis such a pity that Katrine will always so let her wit run away with
her--it brings her so continually into----for my part, in all humility I
must confess, I can't help thinking that, what with its being unfeminine
and altogether so incompatible with what in general is thought amiable
--I cannot but consider wit in a woman as a real misfortune. What say the
gentlemen? they must decide, gentlemen being always the best judges."
With an appealing tone of interrogation she gracefully looked up to the
gentlemen; and after a glance towards Granville Beauclerc, unluckily
unnoticed or unanswered, her eyes expected reply from Horace Churchill. He,
well feeling the predicament in which he stood, between a fool and a _femme
d'esprit_, answered, with his ambiguous smile, "that no doubt it was a
great misfortune to have '_plus d'esprit qu'on ne sait mener.'"
"This is a misfortune," said Lady Davenant, "that may be deplored for a
great genius once in an age, but is really rather of uncommon occurrence.
People complain of wit where, nine times in ten, poor wit is quite
innocent; but such is the consequence of having kept bad company. Wit and
ill-nature having been too often found together, when we see one we expect
the other; and such an inseparable false association has been formed, that
half the world take it for granted that there is wit if they do but see
At this moment Mr. Mapletofft, the secretary, entered with his face full
of care, and his hands full of papers. Lady Katrine needed not to feign or
feel any further apprehensions of Lady Davenant; for, an hour afterwards,
it was announced that Lord and Lady Davenant were obliged to set off for
town immediately. In the midst of her hurried preparations Lady Davenant
found a moment to comfort Helen with the assurance that, whatever happened,
she would see her again. It might end in Lord Davenant's embassy being
given up. At all events she would see her again--she hoped in a few
weeks, perhaps in a few days. "So no leave-takings, my dear child, and no
tears--it is best as it is. On my return let me find----"
"Lord Davenant's waiting, my lady," and she hurried away.
Absent or present, the guardian influence of a superior friend is one of
the greatest blessings on earth, and after Lady Davenant's departure Helen
was so full of all she had said to her, and of all that she would approve
or disapprove, that every action, almost every thought, was under the
influence of her friend's mind. Continually she questioned her motives as
well as examined her actions, and she could not but condemn some of her
conduct, or if not her conduct, her manner, towards Horace Churchill; she
had been flattered by his admiration, and had permitted his attentions
more than she ought, when her own mind was perfectly made up as to his
character. Ever since the affair of the poetess, she had been convinced
that she could never make the happiness or redeem the character of one so
According to the ladies' code, a woman is never to understand that a
gentleman's attentions mean anything more than common civility; she is
supposed never to see his mind, however he may make it visible, till he
declares it in words. But, as Helen could not help understanding his
manner, she thought it was but fair to make him understand her by her
manner. She was certain that if he were once completely convinced, not
only that he had not made any impression, but that he never could make any
impression, on her heart, his pursuit would cease. His vanity, mortified,
might revenge itself upon her, perhaps; but this was a danger which she
thought she ought to brave; and now she resolved to be quite sincere, as
she said to herself, at whatever hazard (probably meaning at the hazard of
displeasing Cecilia) she would make her own sentiments clear, and put an
end to Mr. Churchill's ambiguous conduct: and this should be done on the
very first opportunity.
An opportunity soon occurred--Horace had a beautiful little topaz ring
with which Lady Katrine Hawksby fell into raptures; such a charming
device!--Cupid and Momus making the world their plaything.
It was evident that Lady Katrine expected that the seal should be presented
to her. Besides being extravagantly fond of baubles, she desired to have
this homage from Horace. To her surprise and mortification, however, he was
only quite flattered by her approving of his taste:--it was his favourite
seal, and so "he kept the topaz, and the rogue was bit."
Lady Katrine was the more mortified by this failure, because it was
witnessed by many of the company, among whom, when she looked round,
she detected smiles of provoking intelligence. Soon afterwards the
dressing-bell rang and she quitted the room; one after another every one
dropped off, except Helen, who was finishing a letter, and Horace, who
stood on the hearth playing with his seal. When she came to sealing-time,
he approached and besought her to honour him by the acceptance of this
little seal. "If he could obliterate Momus--if he could leave only Cupid,
it would be more appropriate. But it was a device invented for him by a
French friend, and he hoped she would pardon his folly, and think only of
This was said so that it might pass either for mere jest or for earnest;
his look expressed very sentimental love, and Helen seized the moment to
explain herself decidedly.
It was a surprise--a great surprise to Mr. Churchill, a severe
disappointment, not only to his vanity but to his heart, for he had one. It
was some comfort, however, that he had not quite committed himself, and he
recovered--even in the moment of disappointment he recovered himself time
enough dexterously to turn the tables upon Helen.
He thanked her for her candour--for her great care of his happiness, in
anticipating a danger which might have been so fatal to him; but he really
was not aware that he had said anything which required so serious an
Afterwards he amused himself with Lady Katrine at Miss Stanley's
expense, representing himself as in the most pitiable case of Rejected
Addresses--rejected before he had offered. He had only been guilty of
Folly, and he was brought in guilty of Love.
Poor Helen had to endure not only this persiflage, which was soon made to
reach her ear, but also the reproaches of Lady Cecilia, who said, "I should
have warned you, Helen, not to irritate that man's relentless vanity; now
you see the consequences."
"But, after all, what harm can he do me?" thought Helen. "It is very
disagreeable to be laughed at, but still my conscience is satisfied, and
that is a happiness that will last; all the rest will soon be over. I am
sure I did the thing awkwardly, but I am glad it is done."
Mr. Churchill soon afterwards received an invitation--a command to join a
royal party now at some watering-place; an illustrious person could not
live another day without Horace _le desire_. He showed the note, and acted
despair at being compelled to go, and then he departed. To the splendid
party he went, and drowned all recollections of whatever love he had felt
in the fresh intoxication of vanity--a diurnal stimulus which, however
degrading, and he did feel it degrading, was now become necessary to his
His departure from Clarendon Park was openly regretted by Lady Cecilia,
while Lady Katrine secretly mourned over the downfall of her projects, and
Beauclerc attempted not to disguise his satisfaction.
He was all life and love, and would then certainly have declared his
passion, but for an extraordinary change which now appeared in Helen's
manner towards him. It seemed unaccountable; it could not be absolute
caprice, she did not even treat him as a friend, and she evidently avoided
explanation. He thought, and thought, and came as near the truth without
touching it as possible. He concluded that she had understood his joy at
Churchill's departure; that she now clearly perceived his attachment;
and was determined against him. Not having the slightest idea that she
considered him as a married man, he could not even guess the nature of her
feelings. And all the time Helen did not well understand herself; she
began to be extremely alarmed at her own feelings--to dread that there
was something not quite right. This dread, which had come and gone by
fits,--this doubt as to her own sentiments,--was first excited by the
death of her dove--Beauclerc's gift. The poor dove was found one morning
drowned in the marble vase in which it went to drink. Helen was very
sorry--that was surely natural; but she was wonderfully concerned. Lady
Katrine scoffingly said; and before everybody, before Beauclerc, worse than
all, her ladyship represented to the best of her ability the attitude in
which she had found Helen mourning over her misfortune, the dove in her
hand pressed close to her bosom--"And in tears--absolutely." She would
swear to the tears.
Helen blushed, tried to laugh, and acknowledged it was very foolish. Well,
that passed off as only foolish, and she did not at first feel that it was
a thing much to be ashamed of in any other way. But she was sorry that
Beauclere was by when Lady Katrine mimicked her; most sorry that he should
think her foolish. But then did he? His looks expressed tenderness. He was
very tender-hearted. Really manly men always are so; and so she observed to
Lady Cecilia. Lady Katrine heard the observation, and smiled--her odious
smile--implying more than words could say. Helen was not quite clear,
however, what it meant to say.
Some days afterwards Lady Katrine took up a book, in which Helen's name was
written in Beauclerc's hand. "_Gage d'amitie?_" said her ladyship; and
she walked up and down the room, humming the air of an old French song;
interrupting herself now and then to ask her sister if she could recollect
the words. "The _refrain_, if I remember right, is something like this--
Sous le nom d'amitie--sous le nom d'amitie,
La moitie du monde trompe l'autre moitie,
Sous le nom, sous le nom, sous le nom d'amitie.
And it ends with
Sous le nom d'amitie, Damon, je vous adore,
Sous le nom, sous le nom d'amitie.
Miss Stanley, do you know that song?" concluded her malicious ladyship.
No--Miss Stanley had never heard it before; but the marked emphasis with
which Lady Katrine sung and looked, made Helen clear that she meant to
apply the words tauntingly to her and Beauclerc,--but which of them her
ladyship suspected was cheating, or cheated--"_sous le nom d'amitie_,"
she did not know. All was confusion in her mind. After a moment's cooler
reflection, however, she was certain it could not be Beauclerc who was to
blame--it must be herself, and she now very much wished that every body,
and Lady Katrine in particular, should know that Mr. Beauclerc was engaged
--almost married; if this were but known, it would put an end to all such
The first time she could speak to Cecilia on the subject, she begged to
know how soon Mr. Beauclerc's engagement would be declared. Lady Cecilia
slightly answered she could not tell--and when Helen pressed the question