Part 9 out of 9
passionate hopes and desires, all the romantic aspirations of youth; and
Angela had resigned herself to such renunciation when she rose from her
sick-bed, after the tragedy at Chilton. Here was the calm of the Convent
without its restrictions and limitations, the peace which is not of this
world, and yet liberty to enjoy all that is fairest and noblest in this
world; for had not Sir John pledged himself to take his daughter and niece
and nephew for the grand tour through France and Italy, soon after George's
seventeenth birthday? Father Andrea, who was of Florentine birth, would go
with them; and with such a cicisbeo, they would see and understand all the
treasures of the past and the present, antique and modern art.
Lord Fareham was still in the north of Europe; but, after three years in
Russia, had been transferred from Moscow to Copenhagen, where he was in
high favour with the King of Denmark.
Denzil Warner had lately married a young lady of fortune, the only child
and heiress of a Wiltshire gentleman, who had made a considerable figure in
Parliament under the Protector, but was now retired from public affairs.
And all that remained to Angela of her story of impassioned love, sole
evidence of the homage that had been offered to her beauty or her youth,
was a letter, now long grown dim with tears, which Henriette had given to
her on the first night the children spent under their grandfather's roof.
"I was to hand you this when no one was by," the girl said simply, and left
her aunt standing mute and pale with a sealed letter in her hand.
* * * * *
"How shall I thank or praise you for the sacrifice your love made for one
so unworthy--a sacrifice that cut me to the heart? Alas, my beloved, it
would have been better for both of us hadst thou given me thyself rather
than so empty a gift as thy good name. I hoped to tell you, lip to lip, in
one last meeting, all my gratitude and all my hopeless love; but though I
have watched and hung about your gardens and meadows day after day, you
have been too jealously guarded, or have kept too close, and only with my
pen can I bid you an eternal farewell.
"I go out of your life for ever, since I am leaving for a distant country
with the fixed intention never to return to England. I bequeath you my
children, as if I left you a rag of my own lacerated heart.
"If you ever think of me, I pray you to consider the story of my life
as that of an invincible passion, wicked and desperate if you will, but
constant as life and death. You were, and are, and will be to my latest
breath, my only love.
"Perhaps you will think sometimes, as I shall think always, that we might
have lived innocently and happily in New England, forgetting and forgotten
by the rabble we left behind us, having shaken off the slough of an unhappy
life, beginning the world again, under new names, in a new climate and
country. It was a guilty dream to entertain, perhaps; but I shall dream
it often enough in a strange land, among strange faces and strange
manners--shall dream of you on my death-bed, and open dying eyes to see you
standing by my bedside, looking down at me with that sweetly sorrowful
look I remember best of all the varying expressions in the face I
worship.--Farewell for ever.
While her son and daughter were growing up at the Manor Moat, Lady Fareham
sparkled at the French Court, one of the most brilliant figures in that
brilliant world, a frequent guest at the Louvre and Palais Royal, and the
brand-new palace of Versailles, where the largest Court that had ever
collected round a throne was accommodated in a building of Palladian
richness in ornament and detail, a Palace whose offices were spacious
enough for two thousand servants. No foreigner at the great King's court
was more admired than the lovely Lady Fareham, whose separation from her
black-browed husband occasioned no scandal in a society where the husbands
of beautiful women were for the most part gentlemen who pursued their own
vulgar amours abroad, and allowed a wide liberty to the Venus at home; nor
was Henri de Malfort's constant attendance upon her ladyship a cause of
evil-speaking, since there was scarce a woman of consequence who had not
her _cavaliere servante_.
Madame de Sevigne, in one of those budgets of Parisian scandal with which
she cheered a kinsman's banishment, assured Bussy de Rabutin that Lady
Fareham had paid her friend's debts more than once since her return to
France; but constancy such as De Malfort's could hardly be expected
were not the golden fetters of love riveted by the harder metal of
self-interest. Their alliance was looked on with favour by all that
brilliant world, and even tolerated by that severe moralist, the Due
du Montausier, who had been lately rewarded for his wife's civility to
Mademoiselle de la Valliere, now Duchess and reigning favourite, by being
made guardian of the infant Dauphin.
Every one approved, every one admired; and Hyacinth's life in the land
she loved was like a long summer day. But darkness came upon that day as
suddenly as the night of the tropics. She rose one morning, light-hearted
and happy, to pursue the careless round of pleasure. She lay down in a
darkened chamber, never again to mix in that splendid crowd.
Betwixt noon and twilight Henri de Malfort had fallen in a combat of eight,
a combat so savage as to recall that fatal fight of five against five
during the Fronde, in which Nemours had fallen, shot through the heart by
The light words of a fool in a tavern, backed by three other fools, had led
to this encounter, in which De Malfort had been the challenger. He and
one of his friends died on the ground, while three on the other side
were mortally wounded. It would henceforth be fully understood that Lady
Fareham's name was not for ribald jesters; but the man Lady Fareham loved
was dead, and her life of pleasure had ended with a pistol-ball from an
unerring hand. To her it seemed the hand of Fate. She scarcely thought of
the man who had killed him.
As her life had been brilliant and conspicuous, so her retirement from the
world was not without _eclat_. Royalty witnessed the solemn office of the
Church which transformed Hyacinth, Lady Fareham, into Mere Agnes, of the
Seven Wounds; while, seated in the royal tribune, a King's mistress,
beautiful and adored, thought of a day when she, too, might bring to yonder
altar the sacrifice of a broken spirit and a life that had outlived earthly