Part 9 out of 10
miserable; but wicked I will not be--and wicked I should be if I took
advantage of your confiding love. I must disappoint your affection, but
your confidence I will not betray. When I put your love to that test which
it has so nobly stood, I had hoped that a time would come when all doubts
would be cleared up, and when I could reward your constancy by the
devotion of my whole happy life--but that hope is past: I cannot prove
my innocence--I will no longer allow you to take it upon my assertion.
I cannot indeed, with truth, even assert that I have done no wrong; for
though I am not false, I have gone on step by step in deception, and might
go on, I know not how far, nor to what dreadful consequences, if I did not
now stop--and I do stop. On my own head be the penalty of my fault--upon
my own happiness--my own character: I will not involve yours--therefore we
part. You have not yet heard all that has been said of me; but you soon
will, and you will feel, as I do, that I am not fit to be your wife. Your
wife should not be suspected; I have been--I am. All the happiness I can
ever have in this world must be henceforth in the thought of having saved
from misery--if not secured the happiness of those I love. Leave me this
hope--Oh, Granville, do not tell me, do not make me believe that you will
never be happy without me! You will--indeed you will. I only pray Heaven
that you may find love as true as mine, and strength to abide by the truth!
Do not write to me--do not try to persuade me to change my determination:
it is irrevocable. Further writing or meeting could be only useless anguish
to us both. Give me the sole consolation I can now have, and which you
alone can give--let me hear from Cecilia that you and your noble-minded
guardian are, after I am gone, as good friends as you were before you knew
me. I shall be gone from this house before you are here again; I cannot
stay where I can do no good, and might do much evil by remaining even a few
hours longer. As it is, comfort your generous heart on my account, with the
assurance that I am sustained by the consciousness that I am now, to the
best of my power, doing right. Adieu, Granville! Be happy! you can--you
have done no wrong. Be happy, and that will console
"Your affectionate HELEN STANLEY."
This, enclosed to General Clarendon, she sent by Cockburn, who delivered it
to his master immediately. Though she could perfectly depend upon her maid
Rose's fidelity, Helen did not tell her that she was going away in the
morning, to avoid bringing her into any difficulty if she were questioned
by Lady Cecilia; and besides, no note of preparation would he heard or
seen. She would take with her only sufficient for the day, and would leave
Rose to pack up all that belonged to her, after her departure, and
to follow her. Thanks to her own late discretion, she had no money
difficulties--no debts but such as Rose could settle, and she had now only
to write to Cecilia; but she had not yet recovered from the tumult of mind
which the writing to the general and to Beauclerc had caused. She lay down
upon the sofa, and closing her trembling eyelids, she tried to compose
herself sufficiently to think at least of what she was to say. As she
passed the table in going to the sofa, she, without perceiving it, threw
down some of the flowers; they caught her eye, and she said to herself "Lie
there! lie there! Granville's last gifts! last gifts to me! All over now;
lie there and wither! Joys that are passed, wither! All happiness for me,
gone! Lie there, and wither, and die!--and so shall I soon, I hope--if that
only hope is not wrong."
Some one knocked at the door; she started up, and said, "I cannot see you,
A voice not Cecilia's, a voice she did not recollect, answered, "It is not
Cecilia; let me see you. I come from General Clarendon."
Helen opened the door, and saw--Miss Clarendon. Her voice had sounded so
much lower and gentler than usual, that Helen had not guessed it to be
hers. She was cloaked, as if prepared to go away; and in the outer room was
another lady seated with her back towards them, and with her cloak on also.
"My aunt Pennant--who will wait for me. As she is a stranger, she would not
intrude upon you, Miss Stanley; but will you allow me one minute?"
Helen, surprised, begged Miss Clarendon to come in, moved a chair towards
her, and stood breathless with anxiety. Miss Clarendon sat down, and
resuming her abruptness of tone, said, "I feel that I have no right to
expect that you should have confidence in me, and yet I do. I believe in
your sincerity, even from the little I know of you, and I have a notion you
believe in mine. Do you?"
"I do." "I wish it had pleased Heaven," continued Miss Clarendon, "that
my brother had married a woman who could speak truth! But you need not
he afraid; I will not touch on your secrets. On any matter you have in
keeping, my honour as well as yours will command my silence--as will also
my brother's happiness, which I have somewhat at heart; not that I think it
can be preserved by the means you take. But this is not what I came to say.
You mean to go away from this house to-morrow morning?"
"Yes," said Helen.
"You are right. I would not stay where I did not esteem or where I had
reason to believe that I was not esteemed. You are quite right to go, and
to go directly; but not to your old housekeeper."
"Why not?" said Helen.
"Because, though I dare say she is vastly respectable,--an excellent person
in her way, I am convinced,--yet my brother says she might not be thought
just the sort of person to whom you should go now--not just the thing
for you at present; though, at another time, it would be very well and
condescending; but now, when you are attacked, you must look to appearances
--in short, my brother will not allow you to go to this old lady's
boarding-house, or cottage, or whatever it may be, at Seven Oaks; he must
be able to say for you where you are gone. You must be with me; you must be
at Llansillen. Llansillen is a place that can be named. You must be with
me--with General Clarendon's sister. You must--you will, I am sure, my dear
Miss Stanley. I never was so happy in having a house of my own as at this
moment. You will not refuse to return with my aunt and me to Llansillen,
and make our home yours? We will try and make it a happy home to you. Try;
you see the sense of it: the world can say nothing when you are known to be
with Miss Clarendon; and you will, I hope, feel the comfort of it, out of
the stir and din of this London world. I know you like the country, and
Llansillen is a beautiful place--romantic too; a fine castle, an excellent
library, beautiful conservatory; famous for our conservatories we are in
South Wales; and no neighbours--singular blessing! And my aunt Pennant, you
will love her so! Will you try? Come! say that you will."
But Helen could not; she could only press the hand that Miss Clarendon held
out to her. There is nothing more touching, more overcoming, than kindness
at the moment the heart is sunk in despair. "But did General Clarendon
really wish you to ask me?" said Helen, when she could speak. "Did he think
so much and so carefully for me to the last? And with such a bad opinion as
he must have of me!"
"But there you know he is wrong."
"It is like himself," continued Helen; "consistent in protecting me to the
last. Oh, to lose such a friend!"
"Not lost, only mislaid," said Miss Clarendon. "You will find him again
some fair day or other; truth always comes to light. Meanwhile, all is
settled. I must run and tell my aunt, and bless the fates and Lady Emily
Greville, that Lady Cecilia did not come up in the middle of it. Luckily,
she thinks I am gone, and knows nothing of my being with you; for my
brother explained all this to me in his study, after we had left the
saloon, and he desires me to say that his carriage shall be ready for you
at your hour, at eight o'clock. We shall expect you; and now, farewell till
She was gone, and her motto might well be, though in a different
acceptation from that of our greatest modern politician--"_Tout faire sans
But before Helen could go to rest, she must write to Lady Cecilia, and her
thoughts were in such perplexity, and her feelings in such conflict, that
she knew not how to begin. At last she wrote only a few hasty lines of
farewell, and referred for her determination, and for all explanations, to
her letter to the general. It came to "Farewell, dear Cecilia."
Dear! yes, still dear she was to Helen--she must be as Lady Davenant's
daughter--still dear for her own sake was Cecilia, the companion of her
childhood, who had shown her such generous affection early, such fondness
always, who was so charming, with so many good qualities, so much to win
love--loved she must be still. "Farewell, Cecilia; may you be happy!"
But as Helen wrote these words, she thought it impossible, she could
scarcely in the present circumstances wish it possible, that Cecilia should
be happy. How could she, unless her conscience had become quite callous?
She gave her note to Rose, with orders to deliver it herself to Lady
Cecilia to-night, when she should demand admittance. And soon she came, the
very instant Lady Emily Greville went away--before Helen was in bed she
heard Cecilia at her door; she left her to parley with Rose--heard her
voice in the first instance eager, peremptory for admittance. Then a sudden
silence. Helen comprehended that she had opened her note--and in another
instant she heard her retreating step. On seeing the first words referring
for explanation to Helen's letter to the general, panic-struck, Lady
Cecilia hurried to her own room to read the rest privately.
Helen now tried to recollect whether every thing had been said, written,
done, that ought to be done; and at last went to bed and endeavoured to
sleep for a few hours.
Helen was just dressed, and had given her last orders to her bewildered
maid, when she heard a knock at the door, and Mademoiselle Felicie's voice.
She could not at this instant endure to hear her heartless exclamatory
speeches; she would not admit her. Mademoiselle Felicie gave Rose a note
for her young lady--it was from Cecilia.
"Dearest Helen,--The general will not allow me to take leave of you this
morning, but I shall certainly go to you in the course of to-day. I cannot
understand or make you understand any thing till I see you. I _will_ see
you to-day. Your affectionate CECILIA."
"I understand it too well!" thought Helen.
The carriage was announced, Helen was ready; she hurried into it, and she
was gone! And thus she parted from the friend of her childhood--the friend
she had but a few months before met with such joy, such true affection; and
her own affection was true to the last.
As Helen drove from the door, she saw the general--yes, it certainly was
the general riding off--at this unusual hour!--Was it to avoid her? But
she was in too great anguish to dwell upon that or any other circumstance;
her only thought now was to subdue her emotion before she was seen by Miss
Clarendon and Mrs. Pennant. And by the time she arrived, she thought she
had quite recovered herself, and was not aware that any traces of tears
remained; but to Mrs. Pennant's sympathising eyes they were visible, and
after the first introductions and salutations were over, that kind lady,
as she seated her at the breakfast-table, gently pressing her hand, said,
"Poor thing! no wonder--parting with old friends for new is a sad trial:
but you know we shall become old friends in time: we will make what haste
we can, my dear Miss Stanley, and Esther will help me to make you forget
that you have not known us all your life."
"There is very little to be known; no mysteries, that is one comfort," said
Miss Clarendon; "so now to breakfast. You are very punctual, Miss Stanley;
and that is a virtue which aunt Pennant likes, and can estimate to a
fraction of a minute with that excellent watch of hers."
There was some history belonging to that family-watch, which then came out;
and then the conversation turned upon little family anecdotes and subjects
which were naturally interesting to the aunt and niece, and not exciting
to Helen, whose mind, they saw, needed quiet, and freedom from all
From the first awkwardness of her situation, from the sense of intrusion,
and the suddenness of change, she was thus as far as possible gradually and
almost imperceptibly relieved. By their perfect good-breeding, as well as
good-nature, from their making no effort to show her particular attention,
she felt received at once into their family as one of themselves; and yet,
though there was no effort, she perceived in the most minute circumstances
the same sort of consideration which would be shown to an intimate friend.
They not only did not expect, but did not wish, that she should make any
exertion to appear to be what she could not be; they knew the loneliness of
heart she must feel, the weight that must be upon her spirits. They left
her, then, quite at liberty to be with them or alone, as she might like,
and she was glad to be alone with her own thoughts; they soon fixed upon
Beauclerc. She considered how he would feel, what he would think, when
he should receive her letter: she pictured his looks while reading it;
considered whether he would write immediately, or attempt, notwithstanding
her prohibition, to see her. He would know from General Clarendon, that
is, if the general thought proper to tell him, where she was, and that she
would remain all this day in town. Though her determination was fixed,
whether he wrote or came, to abide by her refusal, and for the unanswerable
reasons which she had given, or which she had laid down to herself; yet she
could not, and who, loving as she did, could help wishing that Beauclerc
should desire to see her again; she hoped that he would make every effort
to change her resolution, even though it might cost them both pain. Yet
in some pain there is pleasure; or, to be without it, is a worse kind
of suffering. Helen was conscious of the inconsistency in her mind, and
sighed, and endeavoured to be reasonable. And, to do her justice, there
was not the slightest wavering as to the main point. She thought that the
general might, perhaps, have some relenting towards her. Hope would come
into her mind, though she tried to keep it out; she had nothing to expect,
she repeatedly said to herself, except that either Cecilia would send, or
the general would call this morning, and Rose must come at all events.
The morning passed on, however, and no one came so soon as Helen had
expected. She was sitting in a back room where no knocks at the door could
be heard; but she would have been called, surely, if General Clarendon had
come. He had come, but he had not asked for her; he had at first inquired
only for his sister, but she was not at home, gone to the dentist's. The
general then desired to see Mrs. Pennant, and when she supposed that she
had not heard rightly, and that Miss Stanley must be the person he wished
to see, he had answered, "By no means; I particularly wish not to see Miss
Stanley. I beg to see Mrs. Pennant alone."
It fell to the lot of this gentle-hearted lady to communicate to Helen the
dreadful intelligence he brought: a duel had taken place! When Helen had
seen the general riding off, he was on his way to Chalk Farm. Just as the
carriage was coming round for Miss Stanley, Mr. Beauclerc's groom had
requested in great haste to see the general; he said he was sure something
was going wrong about his master; he had heard the words Chalk Farm. The
general was off instantly, but before he reached the spot the duel had been
fought. A duel between Beauclerc and Mr. Churchill. Beauclerc was safe, but
Mr. Churchill was dangerously wounded; the medical people present could not
answer for his life. At the time the general saw him he was speechless, but
when Beauclerc and his second, Lord Beltravers, had come up to him, he had
extended his hand in token of forgiveness to one or the other, but to which
he had addressed the only words he had uttered could not be ascertained;
the words were, "_You_ are not to blame!--escape!--fly!" Both had fled to
the Continent. General Clarendon said that he had no time for explanations,
he had not been able to get any intelligible account of the cause of the
affair. Lord Beltravers had named Miss Stanley, but Beauclerc had stopped
him, and had expressed the greatest anxiety that Miss Stanley's name should
not be implicated, should not be mentioned. He took the whole blame upon
himself--said he would write--there was no time for more.
Mrs. Pennant listened with the dread of losing a single word: but however
brief his expressions, the general's manner of speaking, notwithstanding
the intensity of his emotion, was so distinct that every word was audible,
except the name of Lord Beltravers, which was not familiar to her. She
asked again the name of Mr. Beauclerc's second? "Lord Beltravers," the
general repeated with a forcible accent, and loosening his neck-cloth with
his finger, he added, "Rascal! as I always told Beauclerc that he was, and
so he will find him--too late."
Except this exacerbation, the general was calmly reserved in speech, and
Mrs. Pennant felt that she could not ask him a single question beyond what
he had communicated. When he rose to go, which he did the moment he had
finished what he had to say, she had, however, courage enough to hope that
they should soon hear again, when the general should learn something more
of Mr. Churchill.
Certainly he would let her know whatever he could learn of Mr. Churchill's
Her eyes followed him to the door with anxious eagerness to penetrate
farther into what his own opinion of the danger might be. His rigidity of
composure made her fear that he had no hope, "otherwise certainly he would
have said something."
He opened the door again, and returning, said, "Depend upon it you shall
hear how he is, my dear Mrs. Pennant, before you leave town to-morrow."
"We will not go to-morrow," she replied. "We will stay another day at
least. Poor Miss Stanley will be so anxious----"
"I advise you not to stay in town another day, my dear madam. You can do
no good by it. If Mr. Churchill survive this day, he will linger long I am
assured. Take Helen--take Miss Stanley out of town, as soon as may be.
Better go to-morrow, as you had determined."
"But it will be so long, my dear general!--one moment--if we go, it will
be so long before we can hear any further news of your ward."
"I will write."
"To Miss Stanley--Oh, thank you."
"To my sister," he looked back to say, and repeated distinctly, "To my
"Very well--thank you, at all events."
Mrs. Pennant saw that, in General Clarendon's present disposition towards
Miss Stanley, the less she said of him the better, and she confined herself
strictly to what she had been commissioned to say, and all she could do was
to prevent the added pain of suspense; it was told to Helen in the simplest
shortest manner possible:--but the facts were dreadful. Beauclerc was
safe!--safe! but under what circumstances?
"And it was for me, I am sure," cried Helen, "I am sure it was for me! I
was the cause! I am the cause of that man's death--of Beauclerc's agony."
For some time Helen had not power or thought for any other idea. The
promise that they should hear as soon as they could learn any thing more of
Mr. Churchill's state was all she could rely upon or recur to.
When her maid Rose arrived from General Clarendon's, she said, that when
Lady Cecilia heard of the duel she had been taken very ill, but had since
recovered sufficiently to drive out with the general. Miss Clarendon
assured Helen there was no danger. "It is too deep a misfortune for Lady
Cecilia. Her feelings have not depth enough for it, you will see. You need
not be afraid for her, Helen."
The circumstances which led to the duel were not clearly known till long
afterwards, but may be now related. The moment Beauclerc had parted from
Helen when he turned away at the carriage door after the party at Lady
Castlefort's he went in search of one, who, as he hoped, could explain the
strange whispers he had heard. The person of whom he went in search was
his friend, his friend as he deemed him, Lord Beltravers. Churchill had
suggested that if any body knew the bottom of the matter, except that
origin of all evil Lady Katrine herself,--it must be Lord Beltravers, with
whom Lady Castlefort was, it was said, _fortement eprise_, and as Horace
observed, "the secrets of scandal are common property between lovers, much
modern love being cemented by hate."
Without taking in the full force of this observation in its particular
application to the hatred which Lord Beltravers might feel to Miss Stanley,
as the successful rival of his sister Blanche, Beauclerc hastened to act
upon his suggestion. His lordship was not at home: his people thought he
had been at Lady Castlefort's; did not know where he might be if not there.
At some gambling-house Beauclerc at last found him, and Lord Beltravers
was sufficiently vexed in the first place at being there found, for he
had pretended to his friend Granville that he no longer played. His
embarrassment was increased by the questions which Beauclerc so suddenly
put to him; but he had _nonchalante_ impudence enough to brave it through,
and he depended with good reason on Beauclerc's prepossession in his
favour. He protested he knew nothing about it; and he returned Churchill's
charge, by throwing the whole blame upon him; said he knew he was in league
with Lady Katrine;--mentioned that one morning, sometime ago, he had
dropped in unexpectedly early at Lady Castlefort's, and had been surprised
to find the two sisters, contrary to their wont, together--their heads and
Horace Churchill's over some manuscript, which was shuffled away as
he entered. This was true, all but the shuffling away; and hear it is
necessary to form a clear notion, clearer than Lord Beltravers will give,
of the different shares of wrong; of wrong knowingly and unknowingly
perpetrated by the several scandal-mongers concerned in this affair.
Lord Beltravers could be in no doubt as to his own share, for he it was who
had furnished the editor of Colonel D'Aubigny's Memoirs with the famous
letters. When Carlos, Lady Davenant's runaway page, escaped from Clarendon
Park, having changed his name, he got into the service of Sir Thomas
D'Aubigny, who was just at this time arranging his brother's papers. Now
it had happened that Carlos had been concealed behind the screen in Lady
Davenant's room, the day of her first conversation with Helen about Colonel
D'Aubigny, and he had understood enough of it to perceive that there was
some mystery about the colonel with either Helen or Lady Cecilia; and
chancing one day, soon after he entered Sir Thomas's service, to find his
escritoire open, he amused himself with looking over his papers, among
which he discovered the packet of Lady Cecilia's letters. Carlos was not
perfectly sure of the handwriting; he thought it was Lady Cecilia's; but
when he found the miniature of Miss Stanley along with them, he concluded
that the letters must be hers. And having special reasons for feeling
vengeance against Helen, and certain at all events of doing mischief, he
sent them to General Clarendon: not, however, forgetting his old trade, he
copied them first. This was just at the time when Lord Beltravers returned
from abroad after his sister's divorce. He by some accident found out who
Carlos was, and whence he came, and full of his own views for his sister,
he cross-examined him as to every thing he knew about Miss Stanley; and
partly by bribes, partly by threats of betraying him to Lady Davenant, he
contrived to get from him the copied letters. Carlos soon after returned
with his master to Portugal, and was never more heard of. Lord Beltravers
took these purloined copies of the letters, thus surreptitiously obtained,
to the editor, into whose hands Sir Thomas D'Aubigny (who knew nothing of
books or book-making) had put his brother's memoirs. This editor, as has
been mentioned, had previously consulted Mr. Churchill, and in consequence
of his pepper and salt hint, Lord Beltravers himself made those
interpolations which he hoped would ruin his sister's rival in the eyes of
Mr. Churchill, however, except this hint, and except his vanity in
furnishing a good title, and his coxcombry of literary patronage, and his
general hope that Helen's name being implicated in such a publication would
avenge her rejection of himself, had had nothing to do with the business.
This Lord Beltravers well knew, and yet when he found that the slander made
no impression upon Beauclerc, and that he was only intent upon discovering
the slanderer, he, with dexterous treachery, contrived to turn the tables
upon Churchill, and to direct all Beauclerc's suspicion towards him!
He took his friend home with him, and showed him all the newspaper
paragraphs--paragraphs which he himself had written! Yes, this man
of romantic friendship, this blaze, this hero oppressed with his own
sensibility, could condescend to write anonymous scandal, to league with
newsmongers, and to bribe waiting-women to supply him with information, for
Mademoiselle Felicie had, through Lady Katrine's maid, told all, and more
than all she knew, of what passed at General Clarendon's; and on this
foundation did he construct those paragraphs, which he hoped would blast
the character of the woman to whom his dearest friend was engaged. And now
he contrived to say all that could convince Beauclerc that Mr. Churchill
was the author of these very paragraphs. And hot and rash, Beauclerc rushed
on to that conclusion. He wrote, a challenge to Churchill, and as soon as
it was possible in the morning he sent it by Lord Beltravers. Mr. Churchill
named Sir John Luttrell as his friend: Lord Beltravers would enter into no
terms of accommodation; the challenge was accepted, Chalk Farm appointed as
the place of meeting, and the time fixed for eight o'clock next morning.
And thus, partly by his own warmth of temper, and partly by the falsehood
of others, was Beauclerc urged on to the action he detested, to be the
thing he hated. Duelling and duellists had, from the time he could think,
been his abhorrence, and now he was to end his life, or to take the life of
a fellow-creature perhaps, in a duel.
There was a dread interval. And it was during the remainder of this day and
night that Beauclerc felt most strongly compared with all other earthly
ties, his attachment, his passionate love for Helen. At every pause,
at every close of other thoughts forced upon him, his mind recurred to
Helen--what Helen would feel--what Helen would think--what she would
suffer--and in the most and in the least important things his care was for
her. He recalled the last look that he had seen at the carriage-door when
they parted, recollected that it expressed anxiety, was conscious that he
had turned away abruptly--that in the preoccupied state of his mind he had
not spoken one word of kindness--and that this might be the last impression
of him left on her mind. He knew that her anxiety would increase, when
all that day must pass without his return, and it was then he thought of
sending her those flowers which would, he knew, reassure her better than
any words he could venture to write.
Meanwhile his false friend coldly calculated what were the chances in his
sister's favour; and when Churchill fell, and even in the hurry of their
immediate departure, Lord Beltravers wrote to Madame de St. Cymon, over
whom the present state of her affairs gave him command, to order her to set
out immediately, and to take Blanche with her to Paris, without asking the
consent of that fool and prude, her aunt Lady Grace.
It was well for poor Helen, even in the dreadful uncertainty in which she
left London, that she did not know _all_ these circumstances. It may be
doubted, indeed, whether we should be altogether happier in this life if
that worst of evils, as it is often called, suspense, were absolutely
annihilated, and if human creatures could clearly see their fate, or even
know what is most likely to happen.
According to the general's advice, Mrs. Pennant did not delay her journey,
and Helen left London the next day with her and Miss Clarendon. The last
bulletin of Mr. Churchill had been that he was still in great danger, and a
few scarce legible lines Helen had received from Cecilia, saying that the
general would not allow her to agitate herself by going to take leave of
her, that she was glad that Helen was to be out of town till all blew over,
and that she was so much distracted by this horrible event, she scarcely
knew what she wrote.
As they drove out of town, Miss Clarendon, in hopes of turning Helen's
thoughts, went on talking. "Unless," said she, "we could like Madame de
Genlis, 'promote the post-boys into agents of mystery and romance,' we
have but little chance, I am afraid, of any adventures on our journey to
Llansillen, my dear Miss Stanley."
She inveighed against the stupid safety, convenience, luxury, and
expedition of travelling now-a-days all over England, even in Wales, "so
that one might sleep the whole way from Hyde Park corner to Llansillen
gate," said she, "and have no unconscionably long nap either. No
difficulties on the road, nothing to complain of at inns, no enjoying one's
dear delight in being angry, no opportunity even of showing one's charming
resignation. Dreadfully bad this for the nervous and bilious, for all the
real use and benefit of travelling is done away; all too easy for my taste;
one might as well be a doll, or a dolt, or a parcel in the coach."
Helen would have been glad to have been considered merely as a parcel in
the coach. During the whole journey, she took no notice of any thing
till they came within a few miles of Llansillen; then, endeavouring to
sympathise with her companions, she looked out of the carriage window at
the prospect which they admired. But, however charming, Llansillen had not
for Helen the chief charm of early, fond, old associations with a happy
home. To her it was to be, she doubted not, as happy as kindness could make
it, but still it was new; and in that thought, that feeling, there was
something inexpressibly melancholy; and the contrast, at this moment,
between her sensations and those of her companions, made the pain the more
poignant; they perceived this, and were silent. Helen was grateful for this
consideration for her, but she could not bear to be a constraint upon them,
therefore she now exerted herself, sat forward--admired and talked when
she was scarcely able to speak. By the time they came to Llansillen gate,
however, she could say no more; she was obliged to acknowledge that she was
not well; and when the carriage at last stopped at the door, there was such
a throbbing in her temples, and she was altogether so ill, that it was with
the greatest difficulty she could, leaning on Miss Clarendon's arm, mount
the high steps to the hall-door. She could scarcely stand when she reached
the top, but, making an effort, she went on, crossed the slippery floor of
that great hall, and came to the foot of the black oak staircase, of which
the steps were so very low that she thought she could easily go up, but
found it impossible, and she was carried directly up to Miss Clarendon's
own room, no other having been yet prepared. The rosy Welsh maids looked
with pity on the pale stranger. They hurried to and fro, talking Welsh to
one another very fast; and Helen felt as if she were in a foreign land,
and in a dream. The end of the matter was, that she had a low fever which
lasted long. It was more dispiriting than dangerous--more tedious than
alarming. Her illness continued for many weeks, during which time she was
attended most carefully by her two new friends--by Miss Clarendon with the
utmost zeal and activity--by Mrs. Pennant with the greatest solicitude and
Her history for these weeks--indeed for some months afterwards--can be only
the diary of an invalid and of a convalescent. Miss Clarendon meanwhile
received from her brother, punctually, once a week, bulletins of
Churchill's health; the surgical details, the fears of the formation
of internal abscess, reports of continual exfoliations of bone, were
judiciously suppressed, and the laconic general reported only "Much the
same--not progressing--cannot be pronounced out of danger." These bulletins
were duly repeated to Helen, whenever she was able to hear them; and at
last she was considered well enough to read various letters, which had
arrived for her during her illness; several were from Lady Cecilia, but
little in them. The first was full only of expressions of regret, and
self-reproach; in the last, she said, _she hoped soon to have a right to
claim Helen back again_. This underlined passage Helen knew alluded to the
promise she had once made, that at the birth of her child all should be
told; but words of promise from Cecilia had lost all value--all power to
excite even hope, as she said to herself as she read the words, and sighed.
One of her letters mentioned what she would have seen in the first
newspaper she had opened, that Lady Blanche Forrester was gone with her
sister, the Comtesse de St. Cymon, to Paris, to join her brother Lord
Beltravers. But Lady Cecilia observed, that Helen need not be alarmed by
this paragraph, which she was sure was inserted on purpose to plague her.
Lady Cecilia seemed to take it for granted that her rejection of Beauclerc
was only a _ruse d'amour_, and went on with her usual hopes, now vague and
more vague every letter--that things would end well sometime, somehow or
Helen only sighed on reading these letters, and quick as she glanced her
eye over them, threw them from her on the bed; and Miss Clarendon said,
"Ay! you know her now, I see!"
Helen made no reply: she was careful not to make any comment which could
betray how much, or what sort of reason she had to complain of Lady
Cecilia; but Miss Clarendon, confident that she had guessed pretty nearly
the truth, was satisfied with her own penetration, and then, after seeming
to doubt for a few moments, she put another letter into Helen's hand, and
with one of those looks of tender interest which sometimes softened her
countenance, she left the room.
The letter was from Beauclerc; it appeared to have been written immediately
after he had received Helen's letter, and was as follows:--
"Not write to you, my dearest Helen! Renounce my claim to your hand!
submit to be rejected by you, my affianced bride! No, never--never! Doubt!
suspicion!--suspicion of you!--you, angel as you are--you, who have
devoted, sacrificed yourself to others. No, Helen, my admiration, my love,
my trust in you, are greater than they ever were. And do _I_ dare to say
these words to you? _I_, who am perhaps a murderer! I ought to imitate your
generosity, I ought not to offer you a hand stained with blood:--I ought at
least to leave you free till I know when I may return from banishment. I
have written this at the first instant I have been able to command during
my hurried journey, and as you know something of what led to this unhappy
business, you shall in my next letter hear the whole; till then, adieu!
The next day, when she thought Helen sufficiently recovered from the
agitation of reading Beauclerc's letter, aunt Pennant produced one letter
more, which she had kept for the last, because she hoped it would give
pleasure to her patient. Helen sat up in her bed eagerly, and stretched out
her hand. The letter was directed by General Clarendon, but that was only
the outer cover, they knew, for he had mentioned in his last dispatch
to his sister, that the letter enclosed for Miss Stanley was from Lady
Davenant. Helen tore off the cover, but the instant she saw the inner
direction, she sank hack, turned, and hid her face on the pillow.
It was directed--"To Mrs. Granville Beauclerc."
Lady Davenant had unfortunately taken it for granted, that nothing could
have prevented the marriage.
Aunt Pennant blamed herself for not having foreseen, and prevented this
accident, which she saw distressed poor Helen so much. But Miss Clarendon
wondered that she was so shocked, and supposed she would get over it in a
few minutes, or else she must be very weak. There was nothing that tended
to raise her spirits much in the letter itself, to make amends for the
shock the direction had given. It contained but a few lines in Lady
Davenant's own handwriting, and a postscript from Lord Davenant. She wrote
only to announce their safe arrival at Petersburgh, as she was obliged to
send off her letter before she had received any dispatches from England;
and she concluded with, "I am sure the first will bring me the joyful news
of Beauclerc's happiness and yours, my dear child."
Lord Davenant's postscript added, that in truth Lady Davenant much needed
such a cordial, for that her health had suffered even more than he had
feared it would. He repented that he had allowed her to accompany him to
such a rigorous climate.
All that could he said to allay the apprehensions this postscript might
excite, was of course said in the best way by aunt Pennant. But it was
plain that Helen did not recover during the whole of this day from the
shock she had felt "from that foolish direction," as Miss Clarendon said.
She could not be prevailed upon to rise this day, though Miss Clarendon,
after feeling her pulse, had declared that she was very well able to get
up. "It was very bad for her to remain in bed." This was true, no doubt.
And Miss Clarendon remarked to her aunt that she was surprised to find
Miss Stanley so weak. Her aunt replied that it was not surprising that she
should be rather weak at present, after such a long illness.
"Weakness of body and mind need not go together," said Miss Clarendon.
"Need not, perhaps," said her aunt, "but they are apt to do so."
"It is to be hoped the weakness of mind will go with the weakness of body,
and soon," said Miss Clarendon.
"We must do what we can to strengthen and fatten her, poor thing!" said
"Fatten the body, rather easier than to strengthen the mind. Strength of
mind cannot be thrown in, as you would throw in the bark, or the chicken
"Only have patience with her," said Mrs. Pennant, "and you will find that
she will have strength of mind enough when she gets quite well. Only have
During Helen's illness Miss Clarendon had been patient, but now that she
was pronounced convalescent, she became eager to see her quite well. In
time of need Miss Clarendon had been not only the most active and zealous,
but a most gentle and--doubt it who may--soft-stepping, soft-voiced nurse;
but now, when Doctor Tudor had assured them that all fever was gone, and
agreed with her that the patient would soon be well, if she would only
think so, Miss Clarendon deemed it high time to use something more than her
milder influence, to become, if not a rugged, at least a stern nurse, and
she brought out some of her rigid lore.
"I intend that you should get up in seasonable time to-day, Helen," said
she, as she entered her room.
"Do you?" said Helen in a languid voice.
"I do," said Miss Clarendon; "and I hope you do not intend to do as you did
yesterday, to lie in bed all day."
Helen turned, sighed, and Mrs. Pennant said, "Yesterday is over, my dear
Esther--no use in talking of yesterday."
"Only to secure our doing better to-day, ma'am," replied Miss Clarendon
with prompt ability.
Helen was all submission, and she got up, and that was well. Miss Clarendon
went in quest of arrow-root judiciously; and aunt Pennant stayed and
nourished her patient meanwhile with "the fostering dew of praise;" and
let her dress as slowly and move as languidly as she liked, though Miss
Clarendon had admonished her "not to _dawdle_."
As soon as she was dressed, Helen went to the window and threw up the sash
for the first time to enjoy the fresh air, and to see the prospect which
she was told was beautiful; and she saw that it was beautiful, and, though
it was still winter, she felt that the air was balmy; and the sun shone
bright, and the grass began to be green, for spring approached. But how
different to her from the spring-time of former years! Nature the same, but
all within herself how changed! And all which used to please, and to
seem to her most cheerful, now came over her spirits with a sense of
sadness;--she felt as if all the life of life was gone. Tears filled her
eyes, large tears rolled slowly down as she stood fixed, seeming to gaze
from that window at she knew not what. Aunt Pennant unperceived stood
beside her, and let the tears flow unnoticed. "They will do her good; they
are a great relief sometimes." Miss Clarendon returned, and the tears
were dried, but the glaze remained, and Miss Clarendon saw it, and gave a
reproachful look at her aunt, as much as to say, "Why did you let her cry?"
And her aunt's look in reply was, "I could not help it, my dear."
"Eat your arrow-root," was all that transpired to Helen. And she tried
to eat, but could not; and Miss Clarendon was not well pleased, for the
arrow-root was good, and she had made it; she felt Miss Stanley's pulse,
and said that "It was as good a pulse as could be, only low and a little
"Do not flutter it any more, then, Esther my dear," said Mrs. Pennant.
"What am I doing or saying, ma'am, that should flutter anybody that has
"Some people don't like to have their pulse felt," said aunt Pennant.
"Those people have not common sense," replied the niece.
"I believe I have not common sense," said Helen.
"Sense you have enough--resolution is what you want, Helen, I tell you."
"I know," said Helen, "too true----"
"True, but not too true--nothing can be too true."
"True," said Helen, with languid submission. Helen was not in a condition
to chop logic, or ever much inclined to it; now less than ever, and least
of all with Miss Clarendon, so able as she was. There is something very
provoking sometimes in perfect submission, because it is unanswerable. But
the langour, not the submission, afforded some cause for further remark and
"Helen, you are dreadfully languid to-day."
"Sadly," said Helen.
"If you could have eaten more arrow-root before it grew cold, you would
have been better."
"But if she could not, my dear Esther," said aunt Pennant.
"_Could_ not, ma'am! As if people could not eat if they pleased."
"But if people have no appetite, my dear, I am afraid eating will not do
"I am afraid, my dear aunt, you will not do Miss Stanley much good," said
Miss Clarendon, shaking her head; "you will only spoil her." "I am quite
spoiled, I believe," said Helen; "you must unspoil me, Esther."
"Not so very easy," said Esther; "but I shall try, for I am a sincere
"I am sure of it," said Helen.
Then what more could be said? Nothing at that time--Helen's look was so
sincerely grateful, and "gentle as a lamb," as aunt Pennant observed; and
Esther was not a wolf quite--at heart not at all.
Miss Clarendon presently remarked that Miss Stanley really did not seem
glad to be better--glad to get well. Helen acknowledged that instead of
being glad, she was rather sorry.
"If it had pleased Heaven, I should have been glad to die."
"Nonsense about dying, and worse than nonsense," cried Miss Clarendon,
"when you see that it did not please Heaven that you should die--"
"I am content to live," said Helen.
"Content! to be sure you are," said Miss Clarendon. "Is this your
thankfulness to Providence?"
"I am resigned--I am thankful--I will try to be more so--but cannot be
General Clarendon's bulletins continued with little variation for some
time; they were always to his sister--he never mentioned Beauclerc, but
confined himself to the few lines or words necessary to give his promised
regular accounts of Mr. Churchill's state, the sum of which continued to be
for a length of time: "Much the same."--"Not in immediate danger."--"Cannot
be pronounced out of danger."
Not very consolatory, Helen felt. "But while there is life, there is hope,"
as aunt Pennant observed.
"Yes, and fear," said Helen; and her hopes and fears on this subject
alternated with fatiguing reiteration, and with a total incapacity of
forming any judgment.
Beauclerc's letter of explanation arrived, and other letters came from him
from time to time, which, as they were only repetitions of hopes and fears
as to Churchill's recovery, and of uncertainty as to what might be his own
future fate, only increased Helen's misery; and as even their expressions
of devoted attachment could not alter her own determination, while she felt
how cruel her continued silence must appear, they only agitated without
relieving her mind. Mrs. Pennant sympathised with and soothed her, and knew
how to sooth, and how to raise, and to sustain a mind in sorrow, suffering
under disappointed affection, and sunk almost to despondency; for aunt
Pennant, besides her softness of manner, and her quick intelligent
sympathy, had power of consolation of a higher sort, beyond any which this
world can give. She was very religious, of a cheerfully religious turn of
mind--of that truly Christian spirit which hopeth all things. When she was
a child somebody asked her if she was bred up in the fear of the Lord. She
said no, but in the love of God. And so she was, in that love which casteth
out fear. And now the mildness of her piety, and the whole tone and manner
of her speaking and thinking, reminded Helen of that good dear uncle by
whom she had been educated. She listened with affectionate reverence, and
she truly and simply said, "You do me good--I think you have done me a
great deal of good--and you shall see it." And she did see it afterwards,
and Miss Clarendon thought it was her doing, and so her aunt let it pass,
and was only glad the good was done.
The first day Helen went down to the drawing-room, she found there a man
who looked, as she thought at first glance, like a tradesman--some person,
she supposed, come on business, standing waiting for Miss Clarendon, or
Mrs. Pennant. She scarcely looked at him, but passed on to the sofa, beside
which was a little table set for her, and on it a beautiful work-box, which
she began to examine and admire.
"Not nigh so handsome as I could have wished it, then, for you, Miss
Helen--I ask pardon, Miss Stanley."
Helen looked up, surprised at hearing herself addressed by one whom she had
thought a stranger; but yet she knew the voice, and a reminiscence came
across her mind of having seen him somewhere before.
"Old David Price, ma'am. Maybe you forget him, you being a child at that
time. But since you grew up, you have been the saving of me and many
more----" Stepping quite close to her, he whispered that he had been paid
under her goodness's order by Mr. James, along with _the other creditors_
that had been _left_.
Helen by this time recollected who the poor Welshman was--an upholsterer
and cabinet-maker, who had been years before employed at the Deanery. Never
having been paid at the time, a very considerable debt had accumulated,
and having neither note nor bond, Price said that he had despaired of ever
obtaining the amount of his earnings. He had, however, since the dean's
death, been paid in full, and had been able to retire to his native
village, which happened to be near Llansillen, and most grateful he was;
and as soon as he perceived that he was recognised, his gratitude became
better able to express itself. Not well, however, could it make its way out
for some time; between crying and laughing, and between two languages, he
was at first scarcely intelligible. Whenever much moved, David Price had
recourse to his native Welsh, in which he was eloquent; and Mrs. Pennant,
on whom, knowing that she understood him, his eyes turned, was good enough
to interpret for him. And when once fairly set a-going, there was danger
that poor David's garrulous gratitude should flow for ever. But it was all
honest; not a word of flattery; and his old face was in a glow and radiant
with feeling, and the joy of telling Miss Helen all, how, and about it;
particularly concerning the last day when Mr. James paid him, and them, and
all of them: that was a day Miss Stanley ought to have seen; pity she could
not have witnessed it; it would have done her good to the latest hour of
her life. Pity she should never see the faces of many, some poorer they
might have been than himself; many richer, that would have been ruined for
ever but for her. For his own part, he reckoned himself one of the happiest
of them all, in being allowed to see her face to face. And he hoped, as
soon as she was able to get out so far--but it was not so far--she would
come to see how comfortable he was in his own house. It ended at last in
his giving a shove to the work-box on the table, which, though nothing
worth otherwise, he knew she could not mislike, on account it was made
out of all the samples of wood the dean, her uncle, had given to him in
Notwithstanding the immoderate length of his speeches, and the
impossibility he seemed to find of ending his visit, Helen was not much
tired. And when she was able to walk so far, Mrs. Pennant took her to see
David Price, and in a most comfortable house she found him; and every one
in that house, down to the youngest child, gathered round her by degrees,
some more, some less shy, but all with gratitude beaming and smiling in
their faces. It was delightful to Helen; for there is no human heart so
engrossed by sorrow, so over whelmed by disappointment, so closed against
hope of happiness, that will not open to the touch of gratitude.
But there was still in Helen's inmost soul one deceitful hope. She thought
she had pulled it up by the roots many times, and the last time completely;
but still a little fibre lurked, and still it grew again. It was the hope
that Cecilia would keep that last promise, though at the moment Helen had
flung from her the possibility; yet now she took it up again, and she
thought it was possible that Cecilia might be true to her word. If her
child should be born alive, and if it should be a boy! It became a
heart-beating suspense as the time approached, and every day the news might
be expected. The post came in but three times a week at Llansillen, and
every post day Miss Clarendon repeated her prophecy to her aunt, "You will
see, ma'am, the child will be born in good time, and alive. You who have
always been so much afraid for Lady Cecilia, will find she has not feeling
enough to do her any harm."
In due time came a note from the general. "A boy! child and mother doing
well. Give me joy."
The joy to Miss Clarendon was much increased by the triumph, in her own
perfectly right opinion. Mrs. Pennant's was pure affectionate joy for
the father, and for Lady Cecilia, for whom, all sinner as she was in her
niece's eyes, this good soul had compassion. Helen's anxiety to hear again
and again every post was very natural, the aunt thought; quite superfluous,
the niece deemed it: Lady Cecilia would do very well, no doubt, she
prophesied again, and laughed at the tremor, the eagerness, with which
Helen every day asked if there was any letter from Cecilia. At last one
came, the first in her own hand-writing, and it was to Helen herself, and
it extinguished all hope. Helen could only articulate, "Oh! Cecilia!" Her
emotion, her disappointment, were visible, but unaccountable: she could
give no reason for it to Miss Clarendon, whose wondering eye was upon her;
nor even to sympathising aunt Pennant could she breathe a word without
betraying Cecilia; she was silent, and there was all that day, and many
succeeding days, a hopelessness of languor in her whole appearance. There
was, as Miss Clarendon termed it, a "backsliding in her recovery," which
grieved aunt Pennant, and Helen had to bear imputation of caprice, and of
indolence from Miss Clarendon; but even that eye immediately upon her, that
eye more severe than ever, had not power to rouse her. Her soul was sunk
within, nothing farther to hope; there, was a dead calm, and the stillness
and loneliness of Llansillen made that calm almost awful. The life of great
excitation which she had led previous to her illness, rendered her more
sensible of the change, of the total want of stimulus. The walks to Price's
cottage had been repeated, but, though it was a very bright spot, the eye
could not always be fixed upon it.
Bodily exertion being more easy to her now than mental, she took long
walks, and came in boasting how far she had been, and looking quite
exhausted. And Miss Clarendon wondered at her wandering out alone; then she
tried to walk with Miss Clarendon, and she was more tired, though the walks
were shorter--and that was observed, and was not agreeable either to the
observer, or to the observed. Helen endeavoured to make up for it; she
followed Miss Clarendon about in all her various occupations, from
flower-garden to conservatory, and from conservatory to pheasantry, and to
all her pretty cottages, and her schools, and she saw and admired all the
good that Esther did so judiciously, and with such extraordinary, such
"Nothing wonderful in it," Miss Clarendon said: and as she ungraciously
rejected praise, however sincere, and required not sympathy, Helen was
reduced to be a mere silent, stupid, useless stander-by, and she could not
but feel this a little awkward. She tried to interest herself for the poor
people in the neighbourhood, but their language was unintelligible to her,
and her's to them, and it is hard work trying to make objects for oneself
in quite a new place, and with a pre-occupying sorrow in the mind all the
time. It was not only hard work to Helen, but it seemed labour in vain--
bringing soil by handfulls to a barren rock, where, after all, no plant
will take root. Miss Clarendon thought that labour could never be in vain.
One morning, when it must be acknowledged that Helen had been sitting
too long in the same position, with her head leaning on her hand, Miss
Clarendon in her abrupt voice asked, "How much longer, Helen, do you
intend to sit there, doing only what is the worst thing in the world for
Helen started, and said she feared she had been sitting too long idle.
"If you wish to know how long, I can tell you," said Miss Clarendon; "just
one hour and thirteen minutes."
"By the stop watch," said Helen, smiling.
"By my watch," said grave Miss Clarendon; "and in the mean time look at the
quantity of work I have done."
"And done so nicely!" said Helen, looking at it with admiration.
"Oh, do not think to bribe me with admiration; I would rather see you do
something yourself than hear you praise my doings."
"If I had anybody to work for. I have so few friends now in the world who
would care for anything I could do! But I will try--you shall see, my dear
Esther, by and bye."
"By and bye! no, no--now. I cannot bear to see you any longer, in this
half-alive, half-dead state."
"I know," said Helen, "that all you say is for my good. I am sure your only
object is my happiness."
"Your happiness is not in my power or in your's, but it is in your power to
deserve to be happy, by doing what is right--by exerting yourself:--that
is my object, for I see you are in danger of being lost in indolence. Now
you have the truth and the whole truth."
Many a truth would have come mended from Miss Clarendon's tongue, if it had
been uttered in a softer tone, and if she had paid a little more attention
to times and seasons: but she held it the sacred duty of sincerity to tell
a friend her faults as soon as seen, and without circumlocution.
The next day Helen set about a drawing. She made it an object to herself,
to try to copy a view of the dear Deanery in the same style as several
beautiful drawings of Miss Clarendon's. While she looked over her
portfolio, several of her old sketches recalled remembrances which made her
sigh frequently; Miss Clarendon heard her, and said--"I wish you would cure
yourself of that habit of sighing; it is very bad for you."
"I know it," said Helen.
"Despondency is not penitence," continued Esther: "reverie is not
She felt as desirous as ever to make Helen happy at Llansillen, but she was
provoked to find it impossible to do so. Of a strong body herself, capable
of great resistance, powerful reaction under disappointment or grief, she
could ill make allowance for feebler health and spirits--perhaps feebler
character. For great misfortunes she had great sympathy, but she could not
enter into the details of lesser sorrows, especially any of the sentimental
kind, which she was apt to class altogether under the head--"Sorrows of my
Lord Plumcake!" an expression which had sovereignly taken her fancy, and
which her aunt did not relish, or quite understand.
Mrs. Pennant was, indeed, as complete a contrast to her niece in these
points, as nature and habit joined could produce. She was naturally of the
most exquisitely sympathetic mimosa-sensibility, shrinking and expanding
to the touch of others' joy or woe; and instead of having by long use worn
this out, she had preserved it wonderfully fresh in advanced years. But,
notwithstanding the contrast and seemingly incompatible difference between
this aunt and niece, the foundations of their characters both being good,
sound, and true, they lived on together well, and loved each other dearly.
They had seldom differed so much on any point as in the present case, as to
their treatment of their patient and their guest. Scarcely a day passed in
which they did not come to some mutual remonstrance; and sometimes when she
was by, which was not pleasant to her, as may be imagined. Yet perhaps even
these little altercations and annoyances, though they tried Helen's temper
or grieved her heart at the moment, were of use to her upon the whole, by
drawing her out of herself. Besides, these daily vicissitudes--made by
human temper, manner, and character--supplied in some sort the total want
of events, and broke the monotony of these tedious months.
The general's bulletins, however, became at last more favourable:
Mr. Churchill was decidedly better; his physician hoped he might soon be
pronounced out of danger. The general said nothing of Beauclerc, but that
he was, he believed, still at Paris. And from this time forward no more
letters came from Beauclerc to Helen; as his hopes of Churchill's recovery
increased, he expected every day to be released from his banishment, and
was resolved to write no more till he could say that he was free. But
Helen, though she did not allow it to herself, felt this deeply: she
thought that her determined silence had at last convinced him that all
pursuit of her was vain; and that he submitted to her rejection: she told
herself it was what should be, and yet she felt it bitterly. Lady Cecilia's
letters did not mention him, indeed they scarcely told anything; they had
become short and constrained: the general, she said, advised her to go
out more, and her letters often concluded in haste, with "Carriage at the
door," and all the usual excuses of a London life.
One day when Helen was sitting intently drawing, Miss Clarendon said
"Helen!" so suddenly that she started and looked round; Miss Clarendon was
seated on a low stool at her aunt's feet, with one arm thrown over her
great dog's neck; he had laid his head on her lap, and resting on him, she
looked up with a steadiness, a fixity of repose, which brought to Helen's
mind Raphael's beautiful figure of Fortitude leaning on her lion; she
thought she had never before seen Miss Clarendon look so handsome, so
graceful, so interesting; she took care not to say so, however.
"Helen!" continued Miss Clarendon, "do you remember the time when I was at
Clarendon Park and quitted it so abruptly? My reasons were good, whatever
my manner was; the opinion of the world I am not apt to fear for myself, or
even for my brother, but to the whispers of conscience I do listen. Helen!
I was conscious that certain feelings in my mind were too strong,--in me,
you would scarcely believe it--too tender. I had no reason to think that
Granville Beauclerc liked me; it was therefore utterly unfit that I should
think of him: I felt this, I left Clarendon Park, and from that moment I
have refused myself the pleasure of his society, I have altogether ceased
to think of him. This is the only way to conquer a hopeless attachment.
But you, Helen, though you have commanded him never to attempt to see you
again, have not been able to command your own mind. Since Mr. Churchill
is so much better, you expect that he will soon be pronounced out of
danger--you expect that Mr. Beauclerc will come over--come here, and be at
"I expect nothing," said Helen in a faltering voice, and then added
resolutely, "I cannot foresee what Mr. Beauclerc may do, but of this be
assured, Miss Clarendon, that until I stand as I once stood, and as I
deserve to stand, in the opinion of your brother; unless, above all, I
can bring _proofs_ to Granville's confiding heart, that I have ever been
unimpeachable of conduct and of mind, and in all but one circumstance
true--true as yourself, Esther--never, never, though your brother and all
the world consented, never till I myself felt that I was _proved_ to be as
worthy to be his wife as I think I am, would I consent to marry him--no,
not though my heart were to break."
"I believe it," said Mrs. Pennant; "and I wish--oh, how I wish--"
"That Lady Cecilia were hanged, as she deserves," said Miss Clarendon: "so
do I, I am sure; but that is nothing to the present purpose."
"No, indeed," said Helen.
"Helen!" continued Esther, "remember that Lady Blanche Forrester is at
"Lady Cecilia tells you there is no danger; I say there is."
"Why should you say so, my dear Esther?" said her aunt.
"Has not this friend of yours always deceived, misled you, Helen?"
"She can have no motive for deceiving me in this," said Helen: "I believe
"Believe her then!" cried Miss Clarendon; "believe her, and do not believe
me, and take the consequences: I have done."
Helen sighed, but though she might feel the want of the charm of Lady
Cecilia's suavity of manner, of her agreeable, and her agreeing temper, yet
she felt the safe solidity of principle in her present friend, and admired,
esteemed, and loved, without fear of change, her unblenching truth. Pretty
ornaments of gold cannot be worked out of the native ore; to fashion
the rude mass some alloy must be used, and when the slight filigree of
captivating manner comes to be tested against the sterling worth of
unalloyed sincerity, weighed in the just balance of adversity, we are
glad to seize the solid gold, and leave the ornaments to those that they
The fear about Lady Blanche Forrester was, however, soon set at rest, and
this time Lady Cecilia was right. A letter from her to Helen announced
that Lady Blanche was married!--actually married, and not to Granville
Beauclerc, but to some other English gentleman at Paris, no matter whom.
Lord Beltravers and Madame de St. Cymon, disappointed, had returned to
London; Lady Cecilia had seen Lord Beltravers, and heard the news from him.
There could be no doubt of the truth of the intelligence, and scarcely did
Helen herself rejoice in it with more sincerity than did Miss Clarendon,
and Helen loved her for her candour as well as for her sympathy.
Time passed on; week after week rolled away. At last General Clarendon
announced to his sister, but without one word to Helen, that Mr. Churchill
was pronounced out of danger. The news had been sent to his ward, the
general said, and he expected Granville would return from his banishment
Quite taken up in the first tumult of her feelings at this intelligence,
Helen scarcely observed that she had no letter from Cecilia. But even aunt
Pennant was obliged to confess, in reply to her niece's observation, that
this was "certainly very odd! but we shall soon hear some explanation, I
Miss Clarendon shook her head; she said that she had always thought how
matters would end; she judged from her brother's letters that he began to
find out that he was not the happiest of men. Yet nothing to that effect
was ever said by him; one phrase only excepted, in his letter to her on her
last birth-day, which began with, "In our happy days, my dear Esther."
Miss Clarendon said nothing to Helen upon this subject; she refrained
altogether from mentioning Lady Cecilia.
Two, three post-days passed without bringing any letter to Helen. The
fourth, very early in the morning, long before the usual time for the
arrival of the post, Rose came into her room with a letter in her hand,
saying, "From General Clarendon, ma'am. His own man, Mr. Cockburn, has just
this minute arrived, ma'am--from London." With a trembling hand, Helen tore
the letter open: not one word from General Clarendon! It was only a cover,
containing two notes; one from Lord Davenant to the general, the other from
Lady Davenant to Helen.
Lord Davenant said that Lady Davenant's health had declined so alarmingly
after their arrival at Petersburgh, that he had insisted upon her return to
England, and that as soon as the object of his mission was completed, he
should immediately follow her. A vessel, he said, containing letters from
England, had been lost, so that they were in total ignorance of what had
occurred at home; and, indeed, it appeared from the direction of Lady
Davenant's note to Helen, written on her landing in England, that she had
left Russia without knowing that the marriage had been broken off, or that
Helen had quitted General Clarendon's. She wrote--"Let me see you and
Granville once more before I die. Be in London, at my own house, to meet
me. I shall be there as soon as I can be moved."
The initials only of her name were signed. Elliot added a postscript,
saying that her lady had suffered much from an unusually long passage, and
that she was not sure what day they could be in town.
There was nothing from Lady Cecilia.--Cockburn said that her ladyship had
not been at home when he set out; that his master had ordered him to travel
all night, to get to Llansillen as fast as possible, and to make no delay
in delivering the letter to Miss Stanley.
To set out instantly, to be in town at her house to meet Lady Davenant,
was, of course, Helen's immediate determination. General Clarendon had sent
his travelling carriage for her; and under the circumstances, her friends
could have no wish but to speed her departure. Miss Clarendon expressed
surprise at there being no letter from Lady Cecilia, and would see and
question Cockburn herself; but nothing more was to be learned than what he
had already told, that the packet from Lady Davenant had come by express to
his master after Lady Cecilia had driven out, as it had been her custom of
late, almost every day, to Kensington, to see her child. Nothing could
be more natural, Mrs. Pennant thought, and she only wondered at Esther's
unconvinced look of suspicion. "Nothing, surely, can be more natural, my
dear Esther." To which Esther replied, "Very likely, ma'am." Helen was too
much hurried and too much engrossed by the one idea of Lady Davenant to
think of what they said. At parting she had scarcely time even to thank her
two friends for all their kindness, but they understood her feelings, and,
as Miss Clarendon said, words on that point were unnecessary. Aunt Pennant
embraced her again and again, and then let her go, saying, "I must not
detain you, my dear."
"But I must," said Miss Clarendon, "for one moment. There is one point on
which my parting words are necessary. Helen! keep clear of Lady Cecilia's
affairs, whatever they may be. Hear none of her secrets."
Helen wished she had never heard any; did not believe there were any more
to hear; but she promised herself and Miss Clarendon that she would observe
this excellent counsel.
And now she was in the carriage, and on her road to town. And now she had
leisure to breathe, and to think, and to feel. Her thoughts and feelings,
however, could be only repetitions of fears and hopes about Lady Davenant,
and uncertainty and dread of what would happen when she should require
explanation of all that had occurred in her absence. And how would Lady
Cecilia he able to meet her mother's penetration?--ill or well, Lady
Davenant was so clear-sighted. "And how shall I," thought Helen, "without
plunging deeper in deceit, avoid revealing the truth? Shall I assist
Cecilia to deceive her mother in her last moments; or shall I break my
promise, betray Cecilia's secret, and at last be the death of her mother
by the shock?" It is astonishing how often the mind can go over the same
thoughts and feelings without coming to any conclusion, any ease from
racking suspense. In the mean time, on rolled the carriage, and Cockburn,
according to his master's directions, got her over the ground with all
When they were within the last stage of London, the carriage suddenly
stopped, and Helen, who was sitting far back, deep in her endless reverie,
started forward--Cockburn was at the carriage-door.
"My lady, coming to meet you, Miss Stanley."
It was Cecilia herself. But Cecilia so changed in her whole appearance,
that Helen would scarcely have known her. She was so much struck that she
hardly knew what was said; but the carriage-doors were opened, and Lady
Cecilia was beside her, and Cockburn shut the door without permitting one
moment's delay, and on they drove.
Lady Cecilia was excessively agitated. Helen had not power to utter a word,
and was glad that Cecilia went on speaking very fast; though she spoke
without appearing to know well what she was saying: of Helen's goodness
in coming so quickly, of her fears that she would never have been in time
--"but she was in time,--her mother had not yet arrived. Clarendon had gone
to meet her on the road, she believed--she was not quite certain."
That seemed very extraordinary to Helen. "Not quite certain?" said she.
"No, I am not," replied Cecilia, and she coloured; her very pale cheek
flushed; but she explained not at all, she left that subject, and spoke of
the friends Helen had left at Llansillen--then suddenly of her mother's
return--her hopes--her fears--and then, without going on to the natural
idea of seeing her mother, and of how soon they should see her, began to
talk of Beauclerc--of Mr. Churchill's being quite out of danger--of the
general's expectation of Beauclerc's immediate return. "And then, my
dearest Helen," said she, "all will be-----"
"Oh! I do not know how it will be!" cried she, her tone changing suddenly;
and, from the breathless hurry in which she had been running on, sinking at
once to a low broken tone, and speaking very slowly. "I cannot tell what
will become of any of us. We can never be happy again--any one of us. And
it is all my doing--and I cannot die. Oh! Helen, when I tell you-----"
She stopped, and Miss Clarendon's warning counsel, all her own past
experience, were full in Helen's mind; and after a moment's silence, she
stopped Cecilia just as she seemed to have gathered power to speak, and
begged that she would not tell her any thing that was to be kept secret.
She could not, would not hear any secrets; she turned her head aside, and
let down the glass, and looked out, as if determined not to be compelled to
receive this confidence.
"Have you, then, lost all interest, all affection for me, Helen? I deserve
it!--But you need not fear me now, Helen: I have done with deception, would
to Heaven I had never begun with it!"
It was the tone and look of truth--she steadily fixed her eyes upon
Helen--and instead of the bright beams that used to play in those eyes,
there was now a dark deep-seated sorrow, almost despair. Helen was touched
to the heart: it was indeed impossible for her, it would have been
impossible for any one who had any feeling, to have looked upon Lady
Cecilia Clarendon at that moment, and to have recollected what she had so
lately been, without pity. The friend of her childhood looked upon her with
all the poignant anguish of compassion--
"Oh! my dear Cecilia! how changed!"
Helen was not sensible that she uttered the words "how changed!"
"Changed! yes! I believe I am," said Lady Cecilia, in a calm voice, "very
much changed in appearance, but much more in reality; my mind is more
altered than my person. Oh! Helen! if you could see into my mind at this
moment, and know how completely it is changed;--but it is all in vain now!
You have suffered, and suffered for me! but your sufferings could not equal
mine. You lost love and happiness, but still conscious of deserving both: I
had both at my command, and I could enjoy neither under the consciousness,
the torture of remorse."
Helen threw her arms round her, and exclaimed, "Do not think of me!--all
will be well--since you have resolved on the truth, all will yet he well."
Cecilia sighed deeply and went on.--"I am sure, Helen, you were surprised
that my child was born alive; at least I was. I believe its mother had not
feeling enough to endanger its existence. Well, Clarendon has that comfort
at all events, and, as a boy, it will never put him in mind of his mother.
Well, Helen, I had hopes of myself to the last minute; I really and truly
hoped, as I told you, that I should have had courage to tell him all when
I put the child into his arms. But his joy!--I could not dash his joy--I
could not!--and then I thought I never could. I knew you would give me up;
I gave up all hope of myself. I was very unhappy, and Clarendon thought I
was very ill; and I acknowledge that I was anxious about you, and let all
the blame fall on you, innocent, generous creature!--I heard my husband
perpetually upbraiding you when he saw me ill--all, he said, the
consequences of your falsehood--and all the time I knew it was my own.
"My dear Helen, it is impossible to tell you all the daily, hourly
necessities for dissimulation which occurred. Every day, you know, we were
to send to inquire for Mr. Churchill; and every day when Clarendon brought
me the bulletin, he pitied me, and blamed you; and the double dealing in
my countenance he never suspected--always interpreted favourably. Oh,
such confidence as he had in me--and how it has been wasted, abused! Then
letters from Beauclerc--how I bore to hear them read I cannot conceive:
and at each time that I escaped, I rejoiced and reproached myself--and
reproached myself and rejoiced. I succeeded in every effort at deception,
and was cursed by my own success. Encouraged to proceed, I soon went on
without shame and without fear. The general heard me defending you against
the various reports which my venomous cousin had circulated, and he only
admired what he called 'my amiable zeal.' His love for me increased, but
it gave me no pleasure: for, Helen, now I am going to tell you an
extraordinary turn which my mind took, for which I cannot account--I
can hardly believe it--it seems out of human nature--my love for him
decreased!--not only because I felt that he would hate me if he discovered
my deceit, but because he was lowered in my estimation! I had always had,
as every body has, even my mother, the highest opinion of his judgment. To
that judgment I had always looked up; it had raised me in my own opinion;
it was a motive to me to be equal to what he thought me: but now that
motive was gone, I no longer looked up to him; his credulous affection had
blinded his judgment--he was my dupe! I could not reverence--I could not
love one who was my dupe. But I cannot tell you how shocked I was at myself
when I felt my love for him decrease every time I saw him.
"I thought myself a monster; I had grown use to every thing but that--that
I could not endure; it was a darkness of the mind--a coldness; it was as if
the sun had gone out of the universe; it was more--it was worse--it was
as if I was alone in the world. Home was a desert to me. I went out every
evening; sometimes, but rarely, Clarendon accompanied me: he had become
more retired; his spirits had declined with mine; and though he was glad I
should go out and amuse myself, yet he was always exact as to the hours of
my return. I was often late--later than I ought to have been, and I made a
multitude of paltry excuses; this it was, I believe, which first shook his
faith in my truth; but I was soon detected in a more decided failure.
"You know I never had the least taste for play of any kind: you may
remember I used to be scolded for never minding what I was about at ecarte:
in short, I never had the least love for it--it wearied me; but now that my
spirits were gone, it was a sort of intoxication in which I cannot say I
indulged--for it was no indulgence, but to which I had recourse. Louisa
Castlefort, you know, was always fond of play--got into her first
difficulties by that means--she led me on. I lost a good deal of money to
her, and did not care about it as long as I could pay; but presently it
came to a time when I could not pay without applying to the general: I
applied to him, but under false pretences--to pay this bill or that, or to
buy something, which I never bought: this occurred so often and to such
extent, that he suspected--he discovered how it went; he told me so. He
spoke in that low, suppressed, that terrible voice which I had heard once
before; I said, I know not what, in deprecation of his anger. 'I am not
angry, Cecilia,' said he. I caught his hand, and would have detained him;
he withdrew that band, and, looking at me, exclaimed, 'Beautiful creature!
half those charms would I give for _truth!_' He left the room, and there
was contempt in his look.
"All my love--all my reverence, returned for him in an instant; but what
could I say? He never recurred to the subject; and now, when I saw the
struggle in his mind, my passion for him returned in all its force.
"People who flattered me often, you know, said I was fascinating, and I
determined to use my powers of fascination to regain my husband's heart;
how little I knew that heart! I dressed to please him--oh! I never dressed
myself with such care in my most coquettish days;--I gave a splendid ball;
I dressed to please him--he used to be delighted with my dancing: he had
said, no matter what, but I wanted to make him say it--feel it again; he
neither said nor felt it. I saw him standing looking at me, and at the
close of the dance I heard from him one sigh. I was more in love with him
than when first we were married, and he saw it, but that did not restore me
to his confidence--his esteem; nothing could have done that, but--what I
had not. One step in dissimulation led to another.
"After Lord Beltravers returned from Paris on Lady Blanche's marriage, I
used to meet him continually at Louisa Castlefort's. As for play, that was
over with me for ever, but I went to Louisa's continually, because it was
the gayest house I could go to; I used to meet Lord Beltravers there, and
he pretended to pay me a vast deal of attention, to which I was utterly
indifferent, but his object was to push his sister into society again by my
means. He took advantage of that unfortunate note which I had received from
Madame de St. Cymon, when she was at Old Forest; he wanted me to admit
her among my acquaintance; he urged it in every possible way, and was
excessively vexed that it would not do: not that he cared for her; he often
spoke of her in a way that shocked me, but it hurt his pride that she
should be excluded from the society to which her rank entitled her. I had
met her at Louisa's once or twice; but when I found that for her brother's
sake she was always to be invited, I resolved to go there no more, and I
made a merit of this with Clarendon. He was pleased; he said, 'That is
well, that is right, my dear Cecilia.' And he went out more with me. One
night at the Opera, the Comtesse de St. Cymon was in the box opposite to
us, no lady with her, only some gentlemen. She watched me; I did all I
could to avoid her eye, but at an unlucky moment she caught mine, bent
forward, and had the assurance to bow. The general snatched the opera-glass
from my hand, made sure who it was, and then said to me,
"'How does that woman dare to claim your notice, Lady Cecilia? I am afraid
there must have been some encouragement on your part.'
"'None,' said I, 'nor ever shall be; you see I take no notice.'
"'But you must have taken notice, or this could never be?'
"'No indeed!' persisted I. 'Helen! I really forgot at the moment that first
unfortunate note. An instant afterwards I recollected it, and the visit
about the cameos, but that was not my fault. I had, to be sure, dropped
a card in return at her door, and I ought to have mentioned that, but I
really did not recollect it till the words had passed my lips, and then
it was too late, and I did not like to go back and spoil my case by an
exception. The general did not look quite satisfied; he did not receive my
assertions as implicitly as formerly. He left the box afterwards to speak
to some one, and while he was gone in came Lord Beltravers. After some
preliminary nothings, he went directly to the point; and said in an assured
manner, 'I believe you do not know my sister at this distance. She has been
endeavouring to catch your eye.'
"'The Comtesse de St. Cymon does me too much honour,' said I with a
slight inclination of the head, and elevation of the eyebrow, which spoke
"Unabashed, and with a most provoking, almost sneering look, he replied,
'Madame de St. Cymon had wished to say a few words to your ladyship on your
own account; am I to understand this cannot be?'
"'On my own account?' said I, 'I do not in the least understand your
lordship.' 'I am not sure,' said he, 'that I perfectly comprehend it. But I
know that you sometimes drive to Kensington, and sometimes take a turn
in the gardens there. My sister lives at Kensington, and could not she,
without infringing etiquette, meet you in your walk, and have the honour
of a few words with you? Something she wants to say to you,' and here he
lowered his voice, 'about a locket, and Colonel D'Aubigny.'
"Excessively frightened, and hearing some one at the door, I answered, 'I
do not know, I believe I shall drive to Kensington to-morrow.' He bowed
delighted, and relieved me from his presence that instant. The moment
afterwards General Clarendon came in. He asked me, 'Was not that Lord
Beltravers whom I met?'
"'Yes,' said I; 'he came to reproach me for not noticing his sister, and I
answered him in such a manner as to make him clear that there was no hope.'
"'You did right,' said he, 'if you did so.' My mind was in such confusion
that I could not quite command my countenance, and I put up my fan as if
the lights hurt me. "'Cecilia,' said he, 'take care what you are about.
Remember, it is not my request only, but my command to my wife' (he laid
solemn stress on the words) 'that she should have no communication with
"'My dear Clarendon, I have not the least wish.'
"'I do not ask what your wishes may be; I require only your obedience.'
"Never have I heard such austere words from him. I turned to the stage, and
I was glad to seize the first minute I could to get away. But what was to
be done? If I did not go to Kensington, there was this locket, and I knew
not what, standing out against me. I knew that this wretched woman had
had Colonel D'Aubigny in her train abroad, and supposed that he
must--treacherous profligate as he was--have given the locket to her, and
now I was so afraid of its coming to Clarendon's eyes or ears!--and yet why
should I have feared his knowing about it? Colonel D'Aubigny stole it, just
as he stole the picture. I had got it for you, do you recollect?"
"Perfectly," said Helen, "and your mother missed it."
"Yes," continued Lady Cecilia. "O that I had had the sense to do nothing
about it! But I was so afraid of its somehow bringing everything to
light: my cowardice--my conscience--my consciousness of that first fatal
falsehood before my marriage, has haunted me at the most critical moments:
it has risen against me, and stood like an evil spirit threatening me from
the right path.
"I went to Kensington, trusting to my own good fortune, which had so often
stood me in stead; but Madame de St. Cymon was too cunning for me, and so
interested, so mean, she actually bargained for giving up the locket. She
hinted that she knew Colonel D'Aubigny had never been your lover, and ended
by saying she had not the locket with her; and though I made her understand
that the general would never allow me to receive her at my own house, yet
she 'hoped I could manage an introduction for her to some of my friends,
and that she would bring the locket on Monday, if I would in the mean time
try, at least with Lady Emily Greville and Mrs. Holdernesse.'
"I felt her meanness, and yet I was almost as mean myself, for I agreed to
do what I could. Monday came, Clarendon saw me as I was going out, and,
as he handed me into the carriage, he asked me where I was going. To
Kensington I said, and added--oh! Helen, I am ashamed to tell you, I
added,--I am going to see my child. And there I found Madame de St. Cymon,
and I had to tell her of my failure with Lady Emily and Mrs. Holdernesse. I
softened their refusal as much as I could, but I might have spared myself
the trouble, for she only retorted by something about English prudery. At
this moment a shower of rain came on, and she insisted upon my taking her
home; 'Come in,' said she, when the carnage stopped at her door: 'if you
will come in, I will give it to you now, and you need not have the trouble
of calling again.' I had the folly to yield, though I saw that it was a
trick to decoy me into her house, and to make it pass for a visit. It all
flashed upon me, and yet I could not resist, for I thought I must obtain
the locket at all hazards. I resolved to get it from her before I left the
house, and then I thought all would be finished.
"She looked triumphant as she followed me into her saloon, and gave a
malicious smile, which seemed to say, 'You see you are visiting me after
all.' After some nonsensical conversation, meant to detain me, I pressed
for the locket, and she produced it: it was indeed the very one that had
been made for you--But just at that instant, while she still held it in her
band, the door suddenly opened, and Clarendon stood opposite to me!
"I heard Madame de St. Cymon's voice, but of what she said, I have no idea.
I heard nothing but the single word 'rain' and with scarcely strength to
articulate, I attempted to follow up that excuse. Clarendon's look of
contempt!--But he commanded himself, advanced calmly to me, and said, 'I
came to Kensington with these letters; they have just arrived by express.
Lady Davenant is in England--she is ill.' He gave me the packet, and left
the room, and I heard the sound of his horses' feet the next instant as
he rode off. I broke from Madame de St. Cymon, forgetting the locket and
everything. I asked my servants which way the general had gone? 'To Town.'
I perceived that he must have been going to look for me at the nurse's, and
had seen the carriage at Madame de St. Cymon's door. I hastened after him,
and then I recollected that I had left the locket on the table at Madame de
St. Cymon's, that locket for which I had hazarded--lost--everything! The
moment I readied home, I ran to Clarendon's room; he was not there, and oh!
Helen, I have not seen him since!
"From some orders which he left about horses, I suppose he went to meet my
mother. I dared not follow him. She had desired me to wait for her arrival
at her own house. All yesterday, all last night, Helen, what I have
suffered! I could not bear it any longer, and then I thought of coming to
meet you. I thought I must see you before my mother arrived--my mother! but
Clarendon will not have met her till to-day. Oh, Helen! you feel all that I
fear--all that I foresee."
Lady Cecilia sank back, and Helen, overwhelmed with all she had heard,
could for some time only pity her in silence; and at last could only
suggest that the general would not have time for any private communication
with Lady Davenant, as her woman would be in the carriage with her, and the
general was on horseback.
It was late in the day before they reached town. As they came near
Grosvenor Square, Cockburn inquired whether they were to drive home, or to
"To my mother's, certainly, and as fast as you can."
Lady Davenant had not arrived, but there were packages in the hall, her
courier, and her servants, who said that General Clarendon was with her,
but not in the carriage; he had sent them on. No message for Lady Cecilia,
but that Lady Davenant would be in town this night.
To night--some hours still of suspense! As long as there were arrangements
to be made, anything to do or to think of but that meeting of which they
dared not think, it was endurable, but too soon all was settled; nothing
to be done, but to wait and watch, to hear the carriages roll past, and
listen, and start, and look at each other, and sink back disappointed.
Lady Cecilia walked from the sofa to the window, and looked out, and back
again---continually, continually, till at last Helen begged her to sit
down. She sat down before an old piano-forte of her mother's, on which her
eyes fixed; it was one on which she had often played with Helen when they
were children. "Happy, innocent days," said she; "I never shall we be so
happy again, Helen! But I cannot think of it;" she rose hastily, and threw
herself on the sofa.
A servant, who had been watching at the hall-door, came in--"The carriage,
my lady! Lady Davenant is coming."
Lady Cecilia started up; they ran down stairs; the carriage stopped, and in
the imperfect light they saw the figure of Lady Davenant, scarcely altered,
leaning upon General Clarendon's arm. The first sound of her voice was
feebler, softer, than formerly--quite tender, when she said, as she
embraced them both by turns, "My dear children!"
"You have accomplished your journey, Lady Davenant, better than you
expected," said the general.
Something struck her in the tone of his voice. She turned quickly, saw her
daughter lay her hand upon his arm, and saw that arm withdrawn!
They all entered the saloon--it was a blaze of light; Lady Davenant,
shading her eyes with her hand, looked round at the countenances, which she
had not yet seen. Lady Cecilia shrank back. The penetrating eyes turned
from her, glanced at Helen, and fixed upon the general.
"What is all this?" cried she.
Helen threw her arms round Lady Davenant. "Let us think of you first, and
Lady Davenant broke from her, and pressing forwards exclaimed, "I must see
my daughter--if I have still a daughter! Cecilia!"
The general moved. Lady Cecilia, who had sunk upon a chair behind him,
attempted to rise. Lady Davenant stood opposite to her; the light was now
full upon her face and figure; and her mother saw how it was changed! and
looking back at Helen, she said in a low, awful tone, "I see it; the black
spot has spread!"
Scarcely had Lady Davenant pronounced these words, when she was seized with
violent spasms. The general had but just time to save her from falling; he
could not leave her. All was terror! Even her own woman, so long used to
these attacks, said it was the worst she had ever seen, and for some time
evidently feared it would terminate fatally. At last slowly she came to
herself, but perfectly in possession of her intellects, she sat up, looked
round, saw the agony in her daughter's countenance, and holding out her
hand to her, said, "Cecilia, if there is anything that I ought to know, it
should be said now." Cecilia caught her mother's hand, and threw herself
upon her knees. "Helen, Helen, stay!" cried she, "do not go, Clarendon!"
He stood leaning against the chimney-piece, motionless, while Cecilia, in a
faltering voice, began; her voice gaining strength, she went on, and poured
out all--even from the very beginning, that first suppression of the truth,
that first cowardice, then all that followed from that one falsehood--all
--even to the last degradation, when in the power, in the presence of that
bad woman, her husband found and left her. She shuddered as she came to the
thought of that look of his, and not daring, not having once dared while
she spoke, to turn towards him, her eyes fixed upon her mother's; but as
she finished speaking, her head sank, she laid her face on the sofa beside
her; she felt her mother's arm thrown over her and she sobbed convulsively.
There was silence.
"I have still a daughter!" were the first words that broke the silence.
"Not such as I might have had, but that is my own fault."
"I have still a daughter," repeated Lady Davenant. "There is," continued
she, turning to General Clarendon, "there is a redeeming power in truth.
She may yet be more worthy to be your wife than she has ever yet been!"
"Never!" exclaimed the general. His countenance was rigid as iron; then
suddenly it relaxed, and going up to Helen, he said,
"I have done you injustice, Miss Stanley. I have been misled. I have done
you injustice, and by Heaven! I will do you public justice, cost me what it
will. Beauclerc will be in England in a few days, at the altar I will
give you to him publicly; in the face of all the world, will I mark my
approbation of his choice; publicly will I repair the wrong I have done
you. I will see his happiness and yours before I leave England for ever!"
Lady Cecilia started up: "Clarendon!" was all she could say.
"Yes, Lady Cecilia Clarendon," said he, all the stern fixedness of his face
returning at once--"Yes, Lady Cecilia Clarendon, we separate, now and for
Then turning from her, he addressed Lady Davenant. "I shall be ordered on
some foreign service. Your daughter, Lady Davenant, will remain with you,
while I am still in England, unless you wish otherwise----"
"Leave my daughter with me, my dear general, till my death," said Lady
Davenant. She spoke calmly, but the general, after a respectful--an
affectionate pressure of the hand she held out to him, said, "That may be
far distant, I trust in God, and we shall at all events meet again the day
of Helen's marriage."
"And if that day is to be a happy day to me," cried Helen, "to me or to
your own beloved ward, General Clarendon, it must be happy to Cecilia!"
"As happy as she has left it in my power to make her. When I am gone, my
"Name it not as happiness for my daughter," interrupted Lady Davenant, "or
you do her injustice, General Clarendon."
"I name it but to do her justice," said he. "It is all that she has left
it in my power to give;" and then his long suppressed passion suddenly
bursting forth, he turned to Cecilia. "All I can give to one so
false--false from the first moment to the last--false to me--to me! who so
devotedly, fondly, blindly loved her!" He rushed out of the room.
Then Lady Davenant, taking her daughter in her arms, said, "My child,
return to me!"
She sank back exhausted. Mrs. Elliott was summoned, she wished them all out
of the room, and said so; but Lady Davenant would have her daughter stay
beside her, and with Cecilia's hand in hers, she fell into a profound
On awaking in the morning, after some long-expected event has happened, we
feel in doubt whether it has really occurred, or whether it is all a dream.
Then comes the awful sense of waking truth, and the fear that what has been
done, or said, is irremediable, and then the astonishment that it really is
done. "It is over!" Helen repeated to herself, repeated aloud, before she
could well bring herself from that state of half belief, before she could
recover her stunned faculties.
Characters which she thought she perfectly understood, had each appeared,
in these new circumstances, different from what she had expected. From
Cecilia she had scarcely hoped, even at the last moment, for such perfect
truth in her confession. From Lady Davenant not so much indulgence, not
all that tenderness for her daughter. From the general, less violence of
expression, more feeling for Cecilia; he had not allowed the merit of her
candour, her courage at the last. It was a perfectly voluntary confession,
all that concerned Colonel D'Aubigny, and the letters could never have been
known to the general by any other means. Disappointed love, confidence
duped, and his pride of honour, had made him forget himself in anger, even
to cruelty. Helen thought he would feel this hereafter, fancied he must
feel it even now, but that, though he might relent, he would not recede;
though he might regret that he had made the determination, he would
certainly abide by it; that which he had resolved to do, would certainly be
done,--the separation between him and Cecilia would take place. And though
all was clear and bright in Helen's own prospects, the general's esteem
restored, his approbation to be publicly marked, Beauclerc to be convinced
of her perfect innocence! Beauclerc, freed from all fear and danger,
returning all love and joy; yet she could not be happy--it was all mixed
with bitterness, anguish for Cecilia.
She had so often so forcibly urged her to this confession! and now it was
made, did Helen regret that it was made? No, independently of her own
cleared character, she was satisfied, even for Cecilia's sake, for it was
right, whatever were the consequences; it was right, and in the confusion
and discordance of her thoughts and feelings, this was the only fixed
point. To this conclusion she had come, but had not been able farther to
settle her mind, when she was told that Lady Davenant was now awake, and
wished to see her.
Lady Davenant, renovated by sleep, appeared to Helen, even when she saw her
by daylight, scarcely altered in her looks. There was the same life, and
energy, and elasticity, and strength, Helen hoped, not only of mind, but of
body, and quick as that hope rose, as she stood beside her bed, and looked
upon her, Lady Davenant marked it, and said, "You are mistaken, my dear
Helen, I shall not last long; I am now to consider how I am to make the
most of the little life that remains. How to repair as far as may be, as
far as can be, in my last days, the errors of my youth! You know, Helen,
what I mean, and it is now no time to waste words, therefore I shall not
begin by wasting upon you, Helen, any reproaches. Foolish, generous, weak
creature that you are, and as the best of human beings will ever be--I must
be content with you as you are; and so," continued she, in a playful tone,
"we must love one another, perhaps all the better, for not being too
perfect. And indeed, my poor child, you have been well punished already,
and the worst of criminals need not be punished twice. Of the propensity to
sacrifice your own happiness for others you will never be cured, but you
will, I trust, in future, when I am gone never to return, be true to
yourself. Now as to my daughter--"
Lady Davenant then went over with Helen every circumstance in Cecilia's
confession, and showed how, in the midst of the shock she had felt at the
disclosure of so much falsehood, hope for her daughter's future truth had
risen in her mind even from the courage, and fulness, and exactness of her
confession. "And it is not," continued she, "a sudden reformation; I
have no belief in sudden reformations. I think I see that this change in
Cecilia's mind has been some time working out by her own experience of the
misery, the folly, the degradation of deceit."
Helen earnestly confirmed this from her own observations, and from the
expressions which had burst forth in the fulness of Cecilia's heart and
strength of her conviction, when she told her all that had passed in her
"That is well!" pursued Lady Davenant; "but principles cannot be
depended upon till confirmed by habit; and Cecilia's nature is so
variable--impressions on her are easily, even deeply made, but all in sand;
they may shift with the next tide--may be blown away by the next wind."
"Oh no," exclaimed Helen, "there is no danger of that. I see the impression
deepening every hour, from your kindness and--" Helen hesitated, "And
"_Besides_," said Lady Davenant, "usually comes as the _arriere-ban_
of weak reasons: you mean to say that the sight of my sufferings must
strengthen, must confirm all her principles--her taste for truth. Yes,"
continued she, in her most firm tone, "Cecilia's being with me during my
remaining days will be painful but salutary to her. She sees, as you do,
that all the falsehood meant to save me has been in vain; that at last the
shock has only hastened my end: it must be so, Helen. Look at it steadily,
in the best point of view--the evil you cannot avert; take the good and be
thankful for it."
And Cecilia--how did she feel? Wretched she was, but still in her
wretchedness there was within her a relieved conscience and the sustaining
power of truth; and she had now the support of her mother's affection, and
the consolation of feeling that she had at last done Helen justice! To her
really generous, affectionate disposition, there was in the return of her
feelings to their natural course, an indescribable sense of relief. Broken,
crushed, as were all her own hopes, her sympathy, even in the depths of her
misery, now went pure, free from any windings of deceit, direct to Helen's
happy prospects, in which she shared with all the eagerness of her warm
Beauclerc arrived, found the general at home expecting him, and in his
guardian's countenance and voice he saw and heard only what was natural to
the man. The general was prepared, and Beauclerc was himself in too great
impatience to hear the facts, to attend much to the manner in which things
"Lady Davenant has returned ill; her daughter is with her, and Helen----"
"And you may be happy, Beauclerc, if there be truth in woman," said the
general. "Go to her--you will find I can do justice. Go, and return when
you can tell me that your wedding-day is fixed. And, Beauclerc," he called
after him, "let it be as soon as possible."
"The only unnecessary advice my dear guardian has ever given me,"
Beauclerc, laughing, replied.
The general's prepared composure had not calculated upon this laugh, this
slight jest; his features gave way. Beauclerc, struck with a sudden change
in the general's countenance, released his hand from the congratulatory
shake in which its power failed. The general turned away as if to shun
inquiry, and Beauclerc, however astonished, respected his feelings, and
said no more. He hastened to Lady Davenant with all a lover's speed--with
all a lover's joy saw the first expression in Helen's eyes; and with all a
friend's sorrow for Lady Davenant and for the general, heard all that was
to be told of Lady Cecilia's affairs: her mother undertook the explanation,
Cecilia herself did not appear.
In the first rush of Beauclerc's joy in Helen's cleared fame, he was ready
to forgive all the deceit; yes, to forgive all; but it was such forgiveness
as contempt can easily grant, which can hardly be received by any soul not
lost to honour. This Lady Davenant felt, and felt so keenly, that Helen
trembled for her: she remained silent, pressing her hand upon her heart,
which told her sense of approaching danger. It was averted by the calmness,
the truth, the justice with which Helen spoke to Beauclerc of Cecilia. As
she went on, Lady Davenant's colour returned and Beauclerc's ready sympathy
went with her as far as she pleased, till she came to one point, from which
he instantly started back. Helen proposed, if Beauclerc would consent, to
put off their marriage till the general should be reconciled to Cecilia.
"Attempt it not, Helen," cried Lady Davenant; "delay not for any
consideration. Your marriage must be as soon as possible, for my sake, for
Cecilia's--mark me!--for Cecilia's sake, as soon as possible let it be; it
is but justice that her conscience should be so far relieved, let her no
longer obstruct your union. Let me have the satisfaction of seeing it
accomplished; name the day, Helen, I may not have many to live."
The day, the earliest possible, was named by Helen; and the moment it was
settled, Lady Davenant hurried Beauclerc away, saying--"Return to General
Clarendon--spare him suspense--it is all we can do for him."
The general's wishes in this, and in all that followed, were to be obeyed.
He desired that the marriage should be public, that all should be bidden
of rank, fashion, and note--all their family connections. Lady Katrine
Hawksby, he especially named. To do justice to Helen seemed the only
pleasurable object now remaining to him. In speaking to Beauclerc, he
never once named Lady Cecilia; it seemed a tacit compact between him and
Beauclerc, that her name should not be pronounced. They talked of Lady
Davenant; the general said he did not think her in such danger as she
seemed to consider herself to be: his opinion was, he declared, confirmed
by his own observation; by the strength of mind and of body which she had
shown since her arrival in England. Beauclerc could only hope that he was
right; and the general went on to speak of the service upon which he was
to be employed: said that all _arrangements_, laying an emphasis upon the
word, would be transacted by his man of business. He spoke of what would
happen after he quitted England, and left his ward a legacy of some
favourite horse which he used to ride at Clarendon Park, and seemed to take
it for granted that Beauclerc and Helen would be sometimes there when
he was gone. Then, having cleared his throat several times, the general
desired that Lady Cecilia's portrait, which he designated only as "the
picture over the chimney-piece in my room," should be sent after him. And
taking leave of Beauclerc, he set off for Clarendon Park, where he was to
remain till the day before the wedding;--the day following he had fixed for
his departure from England.
When Beauclerc was repeating this conversation to Helen, Lady Davenant came
into the room just as he was telling these last particulars. She marked the
smile, the hope that was excited, but shook her head, and said, "Raise
no false hopes in my daughter's mind, I conjure you;" and she turned the
conversation to other subjects. Beauclerc had been to see Mr. Churchill,
and of that visit Lady Davenant wished to hear.
As to health, Beauclerc said that Mr. Churchill had recovered almost
perfectly; "but there remains, and I fear will always remain, a little
lameness, not disabling, but disfiguring--an awkwardness in moving, which,
to a man of his personal pretensions, is trying to the temper; but after
noticing the impediment as he advanced to meet me, he shook my hand
cordially, and smiling, said, 'You see I am a marked man; I always wished
to be so, you know, so pray do not repent, my good friend.' He saw I was
too much moved for jesting, then he took it more seriously, but still
kindly, assuring me that I had done him real service; it is always of
service, he said, to be necessitated to take time for quiet reflection, of
which he had had sufficient in his hours of solitary confinement--this
little adversity had left him leisure to be good.
"And then," continued Beauclerc, "Churchill adverting to our foolish
quarrel, to clear that off my mind, threw the whole weight of the blame
at once comfortably upon the absent--on Beltravers. Churchill said we had
indeed been a couple of bravely blind fools; he ought, as he observed, to
have recollected in time, that
'A full hot horse, who being allowed his way,
Self-mettle tires him.'
"So that was good, and Horace, in perfect good-humour with me and
himself, and all the world, played on with the past and the future, glad
he had no more of his bones to exfoliate; glad, after so many months of
failure in 'the first intention,' to find himself in a whole skin, and
me safe returned from transportation--spoke of Helen seriously; said
that his conduct to her was the only thing that weighed upon his mind,
but he hoped that his sincere penitence, and his months of suffering,
would be considered as sufficient atonement for his having brought her
name before the public; and he finished by inviting himself to our
wedding, if it were only for the pleasure of seeing what sort of a face
Lady Katrine Hawksby will have upon the occasion.--It was told of a
celebrated statesman, jealous of his colleagues, Horace says, that every
commonly good speech cost him a twinge of the gout; and every uncommonly
good one sent him to bed with a regular fit. Now Horace protests that
every commonly decent marriage of her acquaintance costs Lady Katrine at
least a sad headache; but Miss Stanley's marriage, likely as it is to be
so happy after all, as he politely said, foredooms poor Lady Katrine to
a month's heartache at the least, and a face full ell long."
Whether in his penitence he had forsworn slander or not, it was plain
that Churchill had not lost either his taste, talent, or power of
sarcasm, and of this Beauclerc could have given, and in time gave,
further illustrations; but it was in a case which came home to him
rather too nearly, and on which his reports did not flow quite so
fluently--touching Lord Beltravers, it was too tender a subject.
Beauclerc was ashamed of himself for having been so deceived when, after
all his guardian had done to save his fortune, after all that noble
sacrifice had been made, he found that it was to no good end, but for
the worst purpose possible. Lord Beltravers, as it was now clear, never
had the slightest intention of living in that house of his ancestors on
which Beauclerc had lavished his thousands, ay, and tens of thousands:
but while he was repairing, and embellishing, and furnishing Old Forest,
fit for an English aristocrat of the first water, the Lord Beltravers at
the gaming-table, pledged it, and lost it, and sold it; and it went to
the hammer. This came out in the first fury of Lord Beltravers upon his
sister's marriage at Paris: and then and there Beauclerc first came to
the perception that his good friend had predestined him and his fortune
for the Lady Blanche, whom, all the time, he considered as a fool and a
puppet, and for whom he had not the slightest affection: it was all for
his own interested purposes.
Beauclerc suddenly opened his eyes wide, and saw it all at once: how it
had happened that they had never seen it before, notwithstanding all
that the general on one side, and Lady Davenant on the other, had done
to force them open, was incomprehensible; but, as Lady Davenant
observed, "A sort of cataract comes over the best eyes for a time, and
the patient will not suffer himself to be couched; and if you struggle
to perform the operation that is to do him good against his will, it is
odds but you blind him for life."
Helen could not, however, understand how Granville could have been so
completely deceived, except that it had been impossible for him to
imagine the exquisite meanness of that man's mind.
"There," cried Beauclerc, "you see my fault was having too little,
instead of too much imagination."
Lady Davenant smiled, and said, "It has been admirably observed, that 'it
is among men as among certain tribes of animals, it is sometimes only
necessary that one of the herd should step forward and lead the way, to
make all the others follow with alacrity and submission; and I solve the
whole difficulty thus: I suppose that Lord Beltravers, just following
Beauclerc's lead, succeeded in persuading him that he was a man of genius
and a noble fellow, by allowing all Beauclerc's own paradoxes, adopting
all his ultra-original opinions, and, in short, sending him back the image
of his own mind, till Granville had been caught by it, and had fairly
fallen in love with it--a mental metaphysical Narcissus. [Footnote: Lord
Mahon.] "After all," continued Lady Davenant, smiling, "of all the follies
of youth, the dangerous folly of trying to do good--that for which you
stand convicted, may be the most easily pardoned, the most safely left to
time and experience to cure. You know, Granville, that ever since the time
of Alexander the Great's great tutor, the characteristic faults of youth
and age have been the '_too much_' and the '_too little_.' In youth, the
too much confidence in others and in themselves, the too much of
enthusiasm--too much of benevolence;--in age, alas! too little. And with
this youth, who has the too much in every thing--what shall we do with
him, Helen? Take him, for better for worse, you must; and I must love him
as I have done from his childhood, a little while longer--to the end of my
"A little longer, to the end of her life!" said Beauclerc to himself, as
leaning on the back of Helen's chair he looked at Lady Davenant. "I
cannot believe that she whom I see before me is passing away, to be with
us but a little longer; so full of life as she appears; such energy
divine! No, no, she will live, live long!"
And as his eyes looked that hope, Helen caught it, and yet she doubted,
and sighed, but still she had hope. Cecilia had none; she was sitting
behind her mother; she looked up at Helen, and shook her head; she had
seen more of her mother's danger, she had been with her in nights of
fearful struggle. She had been with her just after she had written to
Lord Davenant what she must have felt to be a farewell letter--letter,
too, which contained the whole history of Cecilia's deception and
Helen's difficulties, subjects so agitating that the writing of them had
left her mother in such a state of exhaustion that Cecilia could think
only with terror for her, yet she exerted all her power over herself to
hide her anguish, not only for her mother's but for Helen's sake.
The preparations for the wedding went on, pressed forward by Lady
Davenant as urgently as the general could desire. The bridesmaids were
to be Lady Emily Greville's younger sister, Lady Susan, and, at Helen's
particular request, Miss Clarendon. Full of joy, wonder, and sympathy,
in wedding haste Miss Clarendon and Mrs. Pennant arrived both delighted
that it was all happily settled for Helen: which most, it was scarcely
possible to say; but which most curious as to the means by which it had
been settled, it was very possible to see. When Miss Clarendon had
secured a private moment with Helen, she began.