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EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
NIGHT AND MORNING
TO THE EDITION OF 1845.
Much has been written by critics, especially by those in Germany (the
native land of criticism), upon the important question, whether to please
or to instruct should be the end of Fiction--whether a moral purpose is
or is not in harmony with the undidactic spirit perceptible in the higher
works of the imagination. And the general result of the discussion has
been in favour of those who have contended that Moral Design, rigidly so
called, should be excluded from the aims of the Poet; that his Art should
regard only the Beautiful, and be contented with the indirect moral
tendencies, which can never fail the creation of the Beautiful.
Certainly, in fiction, to interest, to please, and sportively to elevate
--to take man from the low passions, and the miserable troubles of life,
into a higher region, to beguile weary and selfish pain, to excite a
genuine sorrow at vicissitudes not his own, to raise the passions into
sympathy with heroic struggles--and to admit the soul into that serener
atmosphere from which it rarely returns to ordinary existence, without
some memory or association which ought to enlarge the domain of thought
and exalt the motives of action;--such, without other moral result or
object, may satisfy the Poet,* and constitute the highest and most
universal morality he can effect. But subordinate to this, which is not
the duty, but the necessity, of all Fiction that outlasts the hour, the
writer of imagination may well permit to himself other purposes and
objects, taking care that they be not too sharply defined, and too
obviously meant to contract the Poet into the Lecturer--the Fiction into
the Homily. The delight in Shylock is not less vivid for the Humanity it
latently but profoundly inculcates; the healthful merriment of the
Tartufe is not less enjoyed for the exposure of the Hypocrisy it
denounces. We need not demand from Shakespeare or from Moliere other
morality than that which Genius unconsciously throws around it--the
natural light which it reflects; but if some great principle which guides
us practically in the daily intercourse with men becomes in the general
lustre more clear and more pronounced, we gain doubly, by the general
tendency and the particular result.
*[I use the word Poet in its proper sense, as applicable to any
writer, whether in verse or prose, who invents or creates.]
Long since, in searching for new regions in the Art to which I am a
servant, it seemed to me that they might be found lying far, and rarely
trodden, beyond that range of conventional morality in which Novelist
after Novelist had entrenched himself--amongst those subtle recesses in
the ethics of human life in which Truth and Falsehood dwell undisturbed
and unseparated. The vast and dark Poetry around us--the Poetry of
Modern Civilisation and Daily Existence, is shut out from us in much, by
the shadowy giants of Prejudice and Fear. He who would arrive at the
Fairy Land must face the Phantoms. Betimes, I set myself to the task of
investigating the motley world to which our progress in humanity--has
attained, caring little what misrepresentation I incurred, what hostility
I provoked, in searching through a devious labyrinth for the foot-tracks
In the pursuit of this object, I am, not vainly, conscious that I have
had my influence on my time--that I have contributed, though humbly and
indirectly, to the benefits which Public Opinion has extorted from
Governments and Laws. While (to content myself with a single example)
the ignorant or malicious were decrying the moral of Paul Clifford, I
consoled myself with perceiving that its truths had stricken deep--that
many, whom formal essays might not reach, were enlisted by the picture
and the popular force of Fiction into the service of that large and
Catholic Humanity which frankly examines into the causes of crime, which
ameliorates the ills of society by seeking to amend the circumstances by
which they are occasioned; and commences the great work of justice to
mankind by proportioning the punishment to the offence. That work, I
know, had its share in the wise and great relaxation of our Criminal
Code--it has had its share in results yet more valuable, because leading
to more comprehensive reforms-viz., in the courageous facing of the ills
which the mock decorum of timidity would shun to contemplate, but which,
till fairly fronted, in the spirit of practical Christianity, sap daily,
more and more, the walls in which blind Indolence would protect itself
from restless Misery and rampant Hunger. For it is not till Art has told
the unthinking that nothing (rightly treated) is too low for its breath
to vivify and its wings to raise, that the Herd awaken from their chronic
lethargy of contempt, and the Lawgiver is compelled to redress what the
Poet has lifted into esteem. In thus enlarging the boundaries of the
Novelist, from trite and conventional to untrodden ends, I have seen, not
with the jealousy of an author, but with the pride of an Originator, that
I have served as a guide to later and abler writers, both in England and
abroad. If at times, while imitating, they have mistaken me, I am not.
answerable for their errors; or if, more often, they have improved where
they borrowed, I am not envious of their laurels. They owe me at least
this, that I prepared the way for their reception, and that they would
have been less popular and more misrepresented, if the outcry which
bursts upon the first researches into new directions had not exhausted
its noisy vehemence upon me.
In this Novel of _Night and Morning_ I have had various ends in view--
subordinate, I grant, to the higher and more durable morality which
belongs to the Ideal, and instructs us playfully while it interests, in
the passions, and through the heart. First--to deal fearlessly with that
universal unsoundness in social justice which makes distinctions so
marked and iniquitous between Vice and Crime--viz., between the
corrupting habits and the violent act--which scarce touches the former
with the lightest twig in the fasces--which lifts against the latter the
edge of the Lictor's axe. Let a child steal an apple in sport, let a
starveling steal a roll in despair, and Law conducts them to the Prison,
for evil commune to mellow them for the gibbet. But let a man spend one
apprenticeship from youth to old age in vice--let him devote a fortune,
perhaps colossal, to the wholesale demoralisation of his kind--and he may
be surrounded with the adulation of the so-called virtuous, and be served
upon its knee, by that Lackey--the Modern World! I say not that Law can,
or that Law should, reach the Vice as it does the Crime; but I say, that
Opinion may be more than the servile shadow of Law. I impress not here,
as in _Paul Clifford_, a material moral to work its effect on the
Journals, at the Hastings, through Constituents, and on Legislation;--I
direct myself to a channel less active, more tardy, but as sure--to the
Conscience--that reigns elder and superior to all Law, in men's hearts
and souls;--I utter boldly and loudly a truth, if not all untold,
murmured feebly and falteringly before, sooner or later it will find its
way into the judgment and the conduct, and shape out a tribunal which
requires not robe or ermine.
Secondly--In this work I have sought to lift the mask from the timid
selfishness which too often with us bears the name of Respectability.
Purposely avoiding all attraction that may savour of extravagance,
patiently subduing every tone and every hue to the aspect of those whom
we meet daily in our thoroughfares, I have shown in Robert Beaufort the
man of decorous phrase and bloodless action--the systematic self-server--
in whom the world forgive the lack of all that is generous, warm, and
noble, in order to respect the passive acquiescence in methodical
conventions and hollow forms. And how common such men are with us in
this century, and how inviting and how necessary their delineation, may
be seen in this,--that the popular and pre-eminent Observer of the age in
which we live has since placed their prototype in vigorous colours upon
imperishable canvas.--[Need I say that I allude to the Pecksniff of Mr.
There is yet another object with which I have identified my tale. I
trust that I am not insensible to such advantages as arise from the
diffusion of education really sound, and knowledge really available;--for
these, as the right of my countrymen, I have contended always. But of
late years there has been danger that what ought to be an important truth
may be perverted into a pestilent fallacy. Whether for rich or for poor,
disappointment must ever await the endeavour to give knowledge without
labour, and experience without trial. Cheap literature and popular
treatises do not in themselves suffice to fit the nerves of man for the
strife below, and lift his aspirations, in healthful confidence above.
He who seeks to divorce toil from knowledge deprives knowledge of its
most valuable property.--the strengthening of the mind by exercise. We
learn what really braces and elevates us only in proportion to the effort
it costs us. Nor is it in Books alone, nor in Books chiefly, that we are
made conscious of our strength as Men; Life is the great Schoolmaster,
Experience the mighty Volume. He who has made one stern sacrifice of
self has acquired more than he will ever glean from the odds and ends of
popular philosophy. And the man the least scholastic may be more robust
in the power that is knowledge, and approach nearer to the Arch-Seraphim,
than Bacon himself, if he cling fast to two simple maxims--"Be honest in
temptation, and in Adversity believe in God." Such moral, attempted
before in Eugene Aram, I have enforced more directly here; and out of
such convictions I have created hero and heroine, placing them in their
primitive and natural characters, with aid more from life than books,--
from courage the one, from affection the other--amidst the feeble
Hermaphrodites of our sickly civilisation;--examples of resolute Manhood
and tender Womanhood.
The opinions I have here put forth are not in fashion at this day. But I
have never consulted the popular any more than the sectarian, Prejudice.
Alone and unaided I have hewn out my way, from first to last, by the
force of my own convictions. The corn springs up in the field centuries
after the first sower is forgotten. Works may perish with the workman;
but, if truthful, their results are in the works of others, imitating,
borrowing, enlarging, and improving, in the everlasting Cycle of Industry
NOTE TO THE PRESENT EDITION, 1851.
I have nothing to add to the preceding pages, written six years ago, as
to the objects and aims of this work; except to say, and by no means as a
boast, that the work lays claims to one kind of interest which I
certainly never desired to effect for it--viz., in exemplifying the
glorious uncertainty of the Law. For, humbly aware of the blunders which
Novelists not belonging to the legal profession are apt to commit, when
they summon to the _denouement_ of a plot the aid of a deity so
mysterious as Themis, I submitted to an eminent lawyer the whole case of
"Beaufort versus Beaufort," as it stands in this Novel. And the pages
which refer to that suit were not only written from the opinion annexed
to the brief I sent in, but submitted to the eye of my counsel, and
revised by his pen.--(N.B. He was feed.) Judge then my dismay when I
heard long afterwards that the late Mr. O'Connell disputed the soundness
of the law I had thus bought and paid for! "Who shall decide when
doctors disagree?" All I can say is, that I took the best opinion that
love or money could get me; and I should add, that my lawyer, unawed by
the alleged _ipse dixit_ of the great Agitator (to be sure, he is dead),
still stoutly maintains his own views of the question.
[I have, however, thought it prudent so far to meet the objection
suggested by Mr. O'Connell, as to make a slight alteration in this
edition, which will probably prevent the objection, if correct,
being of any material practical effect on the disposition of that
visionary El Dorado--the Beaufort Property.]
Let me hope that the right heir will live long enough to come under the
Statute of Limitations. Possession is nine points of the law, and Time
may give the tenth.
NIGHT AND MORNING.
"Noch in meines Lebens Lenze
War ich and ich wandert' aus,
Und der Jugend frohe Tanze
Liess ich in des Vaters Haus."
SCHILLER, Der Pilgrim.
"Now rests our vicar. They who knew him best,
Proclaim his life to have been entirely rest;
Not one so old has left this world of sin,
More like the being that he entered in."--CRABBE.
In one of the Welsh counties is a small village called A----. It is
somewhat removed from the high road, and is, therefore, but little known
to those luxurious amateurs of the picturesque, who view nature through
the windows of a carriage and four. Nor, indeed, is there anything,
whether of scenery or association, in the place itself, sufficient to
allure the more sturdy enthusiast from the beaten tracks which tourists
and guide-books prescribe to those who search the Sublime and Beautiful
amidst the mountain homes of the ancient Britons. Still, on the whole,
the village is not without its attractions. It is placed in a small
valley, through which winds and leaps down many a rocky fall, a clear,
babbling, noisy rivulet, that affords excellent sport to the brethren of
the angle. Thither, accordingly, in the summer season occasionally
resort the Waltons of the neighbourhood--young farmers, retired traders,
with now and then a stray artist, or a roving student from one of the
universities. Hence the solitary hostelry of A----, being somewhat more
frequented, is also more clean and comfortable than could reasonably be
anticipated from the insignificance and remoteness of the village.
At a time in which my narrative opens, the village boasted a sociable,
agreeable, careless, half-starved parson, who never failed to introduce
himself to any of the anglers who, during the summer months, passed a day
or two in the little valley. The Rev. Mr. Caleb Price had been educated
at the University of Cambridge, where he had contrived, in three years,
to run through a little fortune of L3500. It is true, that he acquired
in return the art of making milkpunch, the science of pugilism, and the
reputation of one of the best-natured, rattling, open-hearted companions
whom you could desire by your side in a tandem to Newmarket, or in a row
with the bargemen. By the help of these gifts and accomplishments, he
had not failed to find favour, while his money lasted, with the young
aristocracy of the "Gentle Mother." And, though the very reverse of an
ambitious or calculating man, he had certainly nourished the belief that
some one of the "hats" or "tinsel gowns"--i.e., young lords or fellow-
commoners, with whom he was on such excellent terms, and who supped with
him so often, would do something for him in the way of a living. But it
so happened that when Mr. Caleb Price had, with a little difficulty,
scrambled through his degree, and found himself a Bachelor of Arts and at
the end of his finances, his grand acquaintances parted from him to their
various posts in the State Militant of Life. And, with the exception of
one, joyous and reckless as himself, Mr. Caleb Price found that when
Money makes itself wings it flies away with our friends. As poor Price
had earned no academical distinction, so he could expect no advancement
from his college; no fellowship; no tutorship leading hereafter to
livings, stalls, and deaneries. Poverty began already to stare him in
the face, when the only friend who, having shared his prosperity,
remained true to his adverse fate,--a friend, fortunately for him, of
high connections and brilliant prospects--succeeded in obtaining for him
the humble living of A----. To this primitive spot the once jovial
roisterer cheerfully retired--contrived to live contented upon an income
somewhat less than he had formerly given to his groom--preached very
short sermons to a very scanty and ignorant congregation, some of whom
only understood Welsh--did good to the poor and sick in his own careless,
slovenly way--and, uncheered or unvexed by wife and children, he rose in
summer with the lark and in winter went to bed at nine precisely, to save
coals and candles. For the rest, he was the most skilful angler in the
whole county; and so willing to communicate the results of his experience
as to the most taking colour of the flies, and the most favoured haunts
of the trout--that he had given especial orders at the inn, that whenever
any strange gentleman came to fish, Mr. Caleb Price should be immediately
sent for. In this, to be sure, our worthy pastor had his usual
recompense. First, if the stranger were tolerably liberal, Mr. Price was
asked to dinner at the inn; and, secondly, if this failed, from the
poverty or the churlishness of the obliged party, Mr. Price still had an
opportunity to hear the last news--to talk about the Great World--in a
word, to exchange ideas, and perhaps to get an old newspaper, or an odd
number of a magazine.
Now, it so happened that one afternoon in October, when the periodical
excursions of the anglers, becoming gradually rarer and more rare, had
altogether ceased, Mr. Caleb Price was summoned from his parlour in which
he had been employed in the fabrication of a net for his cabbages, by a
little white-headed boy, who came to say there was a gentleman at the inn
who wished immediately to see him--a strange gentleman, who had never
been there before.
Mr. Price threw down his net, seized his hat, and, in less than five
minutes, he was in the best room of the little inn.
The person there awaiting him was a man who, though plainly clad in a
velveteen shooting-jacket, had an air and mien greatly above those common
to the pedestrian visitors of A----. He was tall, and of one of those
athletic forms in which vigour in youth is too often followed by
corpulence in age. At this period, however, in the full prime of
manhood--the ample chest and sinewy limbs, seen to full advantage in
their simple and manly dress--could not fail to excite that popular
admiration which is always given to strength in the one sex as to
delicacy in the other. The stranger was walking impatiently to and fro
the small apartment when Mr. Price entered; and then, turning to the
clergyman a countenance handsome and striking, but yet more prepossessing
from its expression of frankness than from the regularity of its
features,--he stopped short, held out his hand, and said, with a gay
laugh, as he glanced over the parson's threadbare and slovenly costume,
"My poor Caleb!--what a metamorphosis!--I should not have known you
"What! you! Is it possible, my dear fellow?--how glad I am to see you!
What on earth can bring you to such a place? No! not a soul would
believe me if I said I had seen you in this miserable hole."
"That is precisely the reason why I am here. Sit down, Caleb, and we'll
talk over matters as soon as our landlord has brought up the materials
"The milk-punch," interrupted Mr. Price, rubbing his hands.
"Ah, that will bring us back to old times, indeed!"
In a few minutes the punch was prepared, and after two or three
preparatory glasses, the stranger thus commenced: "My dear Caleb, I am in
want of your assistance, and above all of your secrecy."
"I promise you both beforehand. It will make me happy the rest of my
life to think I have served my patron--my benefactor--the only friend I
"Tush, man! don't talk of that: we shall do better for you one of these
days. But now to the point: I have come here to be married--married, old
And the stranger threw himself back in his chair, and chuckled with the
glee of a schoolboy.
"Humph!" said the parson, gravely. "It is a serious thing to do, and a
very odd place to come to."
"I admit both propositions: this punch is superb. To proceed. You know
that my uncle's immense fortune is at his own disposal; if I disobliged
him, he would be capable of leaving all to my brother; I should disoblige
him irrevocably if he knew that I had married a tradesman's daughter; I
am going to marry a tradesman's daughter--a girl in a million! the
ceremony must be as secret as possible. And in this church, with you for
the priest, I do not see a chance of discovery."
"Do you marry by license?"
"No, my intended is not of age; and we keep the secret even from her
father. In this village you will mumble over the bans without one of
your congregation ever taking heed of the name. I shall stay here a
month for the purpose. She is in London, on a visit to a relation in the
city. The bans on her side will be published with equal privacy in a
little church near the Tower, where my name will be no less unknown than
hers. Oh, I've contrived it famously!"
"But, my dear fellow, consider what you risk."
"I have considered all, and I find every chance in my favour. The bride
will arrive here on the day of our wedding: my servant will be one
witness; some stupid old Welshman, as antediluvian as possible--I leave
it to you to select him--shall be the other. My servant I shall dispose
of, and the rest I can depend on."
"I detest buts; if I had to make a language, I would not admit such a
word in it. And now, before I run on about Catherine, a subject quite
inexhaustible, tell me, my dear friend, something about yourself."
. . . . . . .
Somewhat more than a month had elapsed since the arrival of the stranger
at the village inn. He had changed his quarters for the Parsonage--went
out but little, and then chiefly on foot excursions among the sequestered
hills in the neighbourhood. He was therefore but partially known by
sight, even in the village; and the visit of some old college friend to
the minister, though indeed it had never chanced before, was not, in
itself, so remarkable an event as to excite any particular observation.
The bans had been duly, and half audibly, hurried over, after the service
was concluded, and while the scanty congregation were dispersing down the
little aisle of the church,--when one morning a chaise and pair arrived
at the Parsonage. A servant out of livery leaped from the box. The
stranger opened the door of the chaise, and, uttering a joyous
exclamation, gave his arm to a lady, who, trembling and agitated, could
scarcely, even with that stalwart support, descend the steps. "Ah!" she
said, in a voice choked with tears, when they found themselves alone in
the little parlour,--"ah! if you knew how I have suffered!"
How is it that certain words, and those the homeliest, which the hand
writes and the eye reads as trite and commonplace expressions--when
spoken convey so much,--so many meanings complicated and refined? "Ah!
if you knew how I have suffered!"
When the lover heard these words, his gay countenance fell; he drew back
--his conscience smote him: in that complaint was the whole history of a
clandestine love, not for both the parties, but for the woman--the
painful secrecy--the remorseful deceit--the shame--the fear--the
sacrifice. She who uttered those words was scarcely sixteen. It is an
early age to leave Childhood behind for ever!
"My own love! you have suffered, indeed; but it is over now.
"Over! And what will they say of me--what will they think of me at home?
"It is but for a short time; in the course of nature my uncle cannot live
long: all then will be explained. Our marriage once made public, all
connected with you will be proud to own you. You will have wealth,
station--a name among the first in the gentry of England. But, above
all, you will have the happiness to think that your forbearance for a
time has saved me, and, it may be, our children, sweet one!--from poverty
"It is enough," interrupted the girl; and the expression of her
countenance became serene and elevated. "It is for you--for your sake.
I know what you hazard: how much I must owe you! Forgive me, this is the
last murmur you shall ever hear from these lips."
An hour after these words were spoken, the marriage ceremony was
"Caleb," said the bridegroom, drawing the clergyman aside as they were
about to re-enter the house, "you will keep your promise, I know; and you
think I may depend implicitly upon the good faith of the witness you have
"Upon his good faith?--no," said Caleb, smiling, "but upon his deafness,
his ignorance, and his age. My poor old clerk! He will have forgotten
all about it before this day three months. Now I have seen your lady, I
no longer wonder that you incur so great a risk. I never beheld so
lovely a countenance. You will be happy!" And the village priest
sighed, and thought of the coming winter and his own lonely hearth.
"My dear friend, you have only seen her beauty--it is her least charm.
Heaven knows how often I have made love; and this is the only woman I
have ever really loved. Caleb, there is an excellent living that adjoins
my uncle's house. The rector is old; when the house is mine, you will
not be long without the living. We shall be neighbours, Caleb, and then
you shall try and find a bride for yourself. Smith,"--and the bridegroom
turned to the servant who had accompanied his wife, and served as a
second witness to the marriage,--tell the post-boy to put to the horses
"Yes, Sir. May I speak a word with you?"
"Your uncle, sir, sent for me to come to him, the day before we left
"And I could just pick up among his servants that he had some suspicion--
at least, that he had been making inquiries--and seemed very cross, sir."
"You went to him?"
"No, Sir, I was afraid. He has such a way with him;--whenever his eye is
fixed on mine, I always feel as if it was impossible to tell a lie; and--
and--in short, I thought it was best not to go."
"You did right. Confound this fellow!" muttered the bridegroom, turning
away; "he is honest, and loves me: yet, if my uncle sees him, he is
clumsy enough to betray all. Well, I always meant to get him out of the
way--the sooner the better. Smith!"
"You have often said that you should like, if you had some capital, to
settle in Australia. Your father is an excellent farmer; you are above
the situation you hold with me; you are well educated, and have some
knowledge of agriculture; you can scarcely fail to make a fortune as a
settler; and if you are of the same mind still, why, look you, I have
just L1000. at my bankers: you shall have half, if you like to sail by
the first packet."
"Oh, sir, you are too generous."
"Nonsense--no thanks--I am more prudent than generous; for I agree with
you that it is all up with me if my uncle gets hold of you. I dread my
prying brother, too; in fact, the obligation is on my side; only stay
abroad till I am a rich man, and my marriage made public, and then you
may ask of me what you will. It's agreed, then; order the horses, we'll
go round by Liverpool, and learn about the vessels. By the way, my good
fellow, I hope you see nothing now of that good-for-nothing brother of
"No, indeed, sir. It's a thousand pities he has turned out so ill; for
he was the cleverest of the family, and could always twist me round his
"That's the very reason I mentioned him. If he learned our secret, he
would take it to an excellent market. Where is he?"
"Hiding, I suspect, sir."
"Well, we shall put the sea between you and him! So now all's safe."
Caleb stood by the porch of his house as the bride and bridegroom entered
their humble vehicle. Though then November, the day was exquisitely mild
and calm, the sky without a cloud, and even the leafless trees seemed to
smile beneath the cheerful sun. And the young bride wept no more; she
was with him she loved--she was his for ever. She forgot the rest. The
hope--the heart of sixteen--spoke brightly out through the blushes that
mantled over her fair cheeks. The bridegroom's frank and manly
countenance was radiant with joy. As he waved his hand to Caleb from the
window the post-boy cracked his whip, the servant settled himself on the
dickey, the horses started off in a brisk trot,--the clergyman was left
To be married is certainly an event in life; to marry other people is,
for a priest, a very ordinary occurrence; and yet, from that day, a great
change began to operate in the spirits and the habits of Caleb Price.
Have you ever, my gentle reader, buried yourself for some time quietly in
the lazy ease of a dull country-life? Have you ever become gradually
accustomed to its monotony, and inured to its solitude; and, just at the
time when you have half-forgotten the great world--that _mare magnum_
that frets and roars in the distance--have you ever received in your calm
retreat some visitor, full of the busy and excited life which you
imagined yourself contented to relinquish? If so, have you not
perceived, that, in proportion as his presence and communication either
revived old memories, or brought before you new pictures of "the bright
tumult" of that existence of which your guest made a part,--you began to
compare him curiously with yourself; you began to feel that what before
was to rest is now to rot; that your years are gliding from you unenjoyed
and wasted; that the contrast between the animal life of passionate
civilisation and the vegetable torpor of motionless seclusion is one
that, if you are still young, it tasks your philosophy to bear,--feeling
all the while that the torpor may be yours to your grave? And when your
guest has left you, when you are again alone, is the solitude the same as
it was before?
Our poor Caleb had for years rooted his thoughts to his village. His
guest had been like the Bird in the Fairy Tale, settling upon the quiet
branches, and singing so loudly and so gladly of the enchanted skies
afar, that, when it flew away, the tree pined, nipped and withering in
the sober sun in which before it had basked contented. The guest was,
indeed, one of those men whose animal spirits exercise upon such as come
within their circle the influence and power usually ascribed only to
intellectual qualities. During the month he had sojourned with Caleb, he
had brought back to the poor parson all the gaiety of the brisk and noisy
novitiate that preceded the solemn vow and the dull retreat;--the social
parties, the merry suppers, the open-handed, open-hearted fellowship of
riotous, delightful, extravagant, thoughtless YOUTH. And Caleb was not a
bookman--not a scholar; he had no resources in himself, no occupation but
his indolent and ill-paid duties. The emotions, therefore, of the Active
Man were easily aroused within him. But if this comparison between his
past and present life rendered him restless and disturbed, how much more
deeply and lastingly was he affected by a contrast between his own future
and that of his friend! Not in those points where he could never hope
equality--wealth and station--the conventional distinctions to which,
after all, a man of ordinary sense must sooner or later reconcile
himself--but in that one respect wherein all, high and low, pretend to
the same rights--rights which a man of moderate warmth of feeling can
never willingly renounce--viz., a partner in a lot however obscure; a
kind face by a hearth, no matter how mean it be! And his happier friend,
like all men full of life, was full of himself--full of his love, of his
future, of the blessings of home, and wife, and children. Then, too, the
young bride seemed so fair, so confiding, and so tender; so formed to
grace the noblest or to cheer the humblest home! And both were so happy,
so all in all to each other, as they left that barren threshold! And the
priest felt all this, as, melancholy and envious, he turned from the door
in that November day, to find himself thoroughly alone. He now began
seriously to muse upon those fancied blessings which men wearied with
celibacy see springing, heavenward, behind the altar. A few weeks
afterwards a notable change was visible in the good man's exterior. He
became more careful of his dress, he shaved every morning, he purchased a
crop-eared Welsh cob; and it was soon known in the neighbourhood that the
only journey the cob was ever condemned to take was to the house of a
certain squire, who, amidst a family of all ages, boasted two very pretty
marriageable daughters. That was the second holy day-time of poor Caleb
--the love-romance of his life: it soon closed. On learning the amount
of the pastor's stipend the squire refused to receive his addresses; and,
shortly after, the girl to whom he had attached himself made what the
world calls a happy match: and perhaps it was one, for I never heard that
she regretted the forsaken lover. Probably Caleb was not one of those
whose place in a woman's heart is never to be supplied. The lady
married, the world went round as before, the brook danced as merrily
through the village, the poor worked on the week-days, and the urchins
gambolled round the gravestones on the Sabbath,--and the pastor's heart
was broken. He languished gradually and silently away. The villagers
observed that he had lost his old good-humoured smile; that he did not
stop every Saturday evening at the carrier's gate, to ask if there were
any news stirring in the town which the carrier weekly visited; that he
did not come to borrow the stray newspapers that now and then found their
way into the village; that, as he sauntered along the brookside, his
clothes hung loose on his limbs, and that he no longer "whistled as he
went;" alas, he was no longer "in want of thought!" By degrees, the
walks themselves were suspended; the parson was no longer visible: a
stranger performed his duties.
One day, it might be some three years and more after the fatal visit I
have commemorated--one very wild rough day in early March, the postman,
who made the round of the district, rang at the parson's bell. The
single female servant, her red hair loose on her neck, replied to the
"And how is the master?"
"Very bad;" and the girl wiped her eyes.
"He should leave you something handsome," remarked the postman, kindly,
as he pocketed the money for the letter.
The pastor was in bed--the boisterous wind rattled clown the chimney and
shook the ill-fitting casement in its rotting frame. The clothes he had
last worn were thrown carelessly about, unsmoothed, unbrushed; the scanty
articles of furniture were out of their proper places; slovenly
discomfort marked the death-chamber. And by the bedside stood a
neighbouring clergyman, a stout, rustic, homely, thoroughly Welsh priest,
who might have sat for the portrait of Parson Adams.
"Here's a letter for you," said the visitor.
"For me!" echoed Caleb, feebly. "Ah--well--is it not very dark, or are
my eyes failing?" The clergyman and the servant drew aside the curtains
and propped the sick man up: he read as follows, slowly, and with
"DEAR, CALEB,--At last I can do something for you. A friend of mine has
a living in his gift just vacant, worth, I understand, from three to four
hundred a year: pleasant neighbourhood--small parish. And my friend
keeps the hounds!--just the thing for you. He is, however, a very
particular sort of person--wants a companion, and has a horror of
anything evangelical; wishes, therefore, to see you before he decides.
If you can meet me in London, some day next month, I'll present you to
him, and I have no doubt it will be settled. You must think it strange I
never wrote to you since we parted, but you know I never was a very good
correspondent; and as I had nothing to communicate advantageous to you I
thought it a sort of insult to enlarge on my own happiness, and so forth.
All I shall say on that score is, that I've sown my wild oats; and that
you may take my word for it, there's nothing that can make a man know how
large, the heart is, and how little the world, till he comes home
(perhaps after a hard day's hunting) and sees his own fireside, and hears
one dear welcome; and--oh, by the way, Caleb, if you could but see my
boy, the sturdiest little rogue! But enough of this. All that vexes me
is, that I've never yet been able to declare my marriage: my uncle,
however, suspects nothing: my wife bears up against all, like an angel as
she is; still, in case of any accident, it occurs to me, now I'm writing
to you, especially if you leave the place, that it may be as well to send
me an examined copy of the register. In those remote places registers
are often lost or mislaid; and it may be useful hereafter, when I
proclaim the marriage, to clear up all doubt as to the fact.
"Good-bye, old fellow,
"Yours most truly, &c., &c."
"It comes too late," sighed Caleb, heavily; and the letter fell from his
hands. There was a long pause. "Close the shutters," said the sick man,
at last; "I think I could sleep: and--and--pick up that letter."
With a trembling, but eager gripe, he seized the paper, as a miser would
seize the deeds of an estate on which he has a mortgage. He smoothed the
folds, looked complacently at the well-known hand, smiled--a ghastly
smile! and then placed the letter under his pillow, and sank down; they
left him alone. He did not wake for some hours, and that good clergyman,
poor as himself, was again at his post. The only friendships that are
really with us in the hour of need are those which are cemented by
equality of circumstance. In the depth of home, in the hour of
tribulation, by the bed of death, the rich and the poor are seldom found
side by side. Caleb was evidently much feebler; but his sense seemed
clearer than it had been, and the instincts of his native kindness were
the last that left him. "There is something he wants me do for him," he
"Ah! I remember: Jones, will you send for the parish register? It is
somewhere in the vestry-room, I think--but nothing's kept properly.
Better go yourself--'tis important."
Mr. Jones nodded, and sallied forth. The register was not in the vestry;
the church-wardens knew nothing about it; the clerk--a new clerk, who was
also the sexton, and rather a wild fellow--had gone ten miles off to a
wedding: every place was searched; till, at last, the book was found,
amidst a heap of old magazines and dusty papers, in the parlour of Caleb
himself. By the time it was brought to him, the sufferer was fast
declining; with some difficulty his dim eye discovered the place where,
amidst the clumsy pothooks of the parishioners, the large clear hand of
the old friend, and the trembling characters of the bride, looked forth,
"Extract this for me, will you?" said Caleb. Mr. Jones obeyed.
"Now, just write above the extract:
"'Sir,--By Mr. Price's desire I send you the inclosed. He is too ill to
write himself. But he bids me say that he has never been quite the same
man since you left him; and that, if he should not get well again, still
your kind letter has made him easier in his mind."
"That is all I have to say: sign your name, and put the address--here it
is. Ah, the letter," he muttered, "must not lie about! If anything
happens to me, it may get him into trouble."
And as Mr. Jones sealed his communication, Caleb feebly stretched his wan
hand, held the letter which had "come too late" over the flame of the
candle. As the blazing paper dropped on the carpetless floor, Mr. Jones
prudently set thereon the broad sole of his top-boot, and the maidservant
brushed the tinder into the grate.
"Ah, trample it out:--hurry it amongst the ashes. The last as the rest,"
said Caleb, hoarsely. "Friendship, fortune, hope, love, life--a little
flame, and then--and then--"
"Don't be uneasy--it's quite out!" said Mr. Jones. Caleb turned his
face to the wall. He lingered till the next day, when he passed
insensibly from sleep to death. As soon as the breath was out of his
body, Mr. Jones felt that his duty was discharged, that other duties
called him home. He promised to return to read the burial-service over
the deceased, gave some hasty orders about the plain funeral, and was
turning from the room, when he saw the letter he had written by Caleb's
wish, still on the table. "I pass the post-office--I'll put it in," said
he to the weeping servant; "and just give me that scrap of paper." So he
wrote on the scrap, "P. S. He died this morning at half-past twelve,
without pain.--M. J.;" and not taking the trouble to break the seal,
thrust the final bulletin into the folds of the letter, which he then
carefully placed in his vast pocket, and safely transferred to the post.
And that was all that the jovial and happy man, to whom the letter was
addressed, ever heard of the last days of his college friend.
The living, vacant by the death of Caleb Price, was not so valuable as to
plague the patron with many applications. It continued vacant nearly the
whole of the six months prescribed by law. And the desolate parsonage
was committed to the charge of one of the villagers, who had occasionally
assisted Caleb in the care of his little garden. The villager, his wife,
and half-a-dozen noisy, ragged children, took possession of the quiet
bachelor's abode. The furniture had been sold to pay the expenses of the
funeral, and a few trifling bills; and, save the kitchen and the two
attics, the empty house, uninhabited, was surrendered to the sportive
mischief of the idle urchins, who prowled about the silent chambers in
fear of the silence, and in ecstasy at the space. The bedroom in which
Caleb had died was, indeed, long held sacred by infantine superstition.
But one day the eldest boy having ventured across the threshold, two
cupboards, the doors standing ajar, attracted the child's curiosity. He
opened one, and his exclamation soon brought the rest of the children
round him. Have you ever, reader, when a boy, suddenly stumbled on that
El Dorado, called by the grown-up folks a lumber room? Lumber, indeed!
what _Virtu_ double-locks in cabinets is the real lumber to the boy!
Lumber, reader! to thee it was a treasury! Now this cupboard had been
the lumber-room in Caleb's household. In an instant the whole troop had
thrown themselves on the motley contents. Stray joints of clumsy
fishing-rods; artificial baits; a pair of worn-out top-boots, in which
one of the urchins, whooping and shouting, buried himself up to the
middle; moth-eaten, stained, and ragged, the collegian's gown-relic of
the dead man's palmy time; a bag of carpenter's tools, chiefly broken; a
cricket-bat; an odd boxing-glove; a fencing-foil, snapped in the middle;
and, more than all, some half-finished attempts at rude toys: a boat, a
cart, a doll's house, in which the good-natured Caleb had busied himself
for the younger ones of that family in which he had found the fatal ideal
of his trite life. One by one were these lugged forth from their dusty
slumber-profane hands struggling for the first right of appropriation.
And now, revealed against the wall, glared upon the startled violators of
the sanctuary, with glassy eyes and horrent visage, a grim monster. They
huddled back one upon the other, pale and breathless, till the eldest,
seeing that the creature moved not, took heart, approached on tip-toe-
twice receded, and twice again advanced, and finally drew out, daubed,
painted, and tricked forth in the semblance of a griffin, a gigantic
The children, alas! were not old and wise enough to knew all the dormant
value of that imprisoned aeronaut, which had cost Caleb many a dull
evening's labour--the intended gift to the false one's favourite brother.
But they guessed that it was a thing or spirit appertaining of right to
them; and they resolved, after mature consultation, to impart the secret
of their discovery to an old wooden-legged villager, who had served in
the army, who was the idol of all the children of the place, and who,
they firmly believed, knew everything under the sun, except the mystical
arts of reading and writing. Accordingly, having seen that the coast was
clear--for they considered their parents (as the children of the hard-
working often do) the natural foes to amusement--they carried the monster
into an old outhouse, and ran to the veteran to beg him to come up slyly
and inspect its properties.
Three months after this memorable event, arrived the new pastor--a slim,
prim, orderly, and starch young man, framed by nature and trained by
practice to bear a great deal of solitude and starving. Two loving
couples had waited to be married till his Reverence should arrive. The
ceremony performed, where was the registry-book? The vestry was
searched-the church-wardens interrogated; the gay clerk, who, on the
demise of his deaf predecessor, had come into office a little before
Caleb's last illness, had a dim recollection of having taken the registry
up to Mr. Price at the time the vestry-room was whitewashed. The house
was searched-the cupboard, the, mysterious cupboard, was explored. "Here
it is, sir!" cried the clerk; and he pounced upon a pale parchment
volume. The thin clergyman opened it, and recoiled in dismay--more than
three-fourths of the leaves had been torn out.
"It is the moths, sir," said the gardener's wife, who had not yet removed
from the house.
The clergyman looked round; one of the children was trembling. "What
have you done to this book, little one?"
"Speak the truth, and you sha'n't be punished."
"I did not know it was any harm--hi!--hi!--"
"And old Ben helped us."
"And--and--and--hi!--hi!--The tail of the kite, sir!--"
"Where is the kite?"
Alas! the kite and its tail were long ago gone to that undiscovered
limbo where all things lost, broken, vanished, and destroyed; things that
lose themselves--for servants are too honest to steal; things that break
themselves--for servants are too careful to break; find an everlasting
and impenetrable refuge.
"It does not signify a pin's head," said the clerk; "the parish must find
a new 'un!"
"It is no fault of mine," said the Pastor. "Are my chops ready?"
"And soothed with idle dreams the frowning fate."--CRABBE.
"Why does not my father come back? what a time he has been away!"
"My dear Philip, business detains him; but he will be here in a few days
"I should like him to see how much I am improved."
"Improved in what, Philip?" said the mother, with a smile. "Not Latin,
I am sure; for I have not seen you open a book since you insisted on poor
"Todd! Oh, he was such a scrub, and spoke through his nose: what could
he know of Latin?"
"More than you ever will, I fear, unless--" and here there was a certain
hesitation in the mother's voice, "unless your father consents to your
going to school."
"Well, I should like to go to Eton! That's the only school for a
gentleman. I've heard my father say so."
"Philip, you are too proud."--"Proud! you often call me proud; but,
then, you kiss me when you do so. Kiss me now, mother."
The lady drew her son to her breast, put aside the clustering hair from
his forehead, and kissed him; but the kiss was sad, and the moment after
she pushed him away gently and muttered, unconscious that she was
"If, after all, my devotion to the father should wrong the children!"
The boy started, and a cloud passed over his brow; but he said nothing.
A light step entered the room through the French casements that opened on
the lawn, and the mother turned to her youngest-born, and her eye
"Mamma! mamma! here is a letter for you. I snatched it from John: it is
The lady uttered a joyous exclamation, and seized the letter. The
younger child nestled himself on a stool at her feet, looking up while
she read it; the elder stood apart, leaning on his gun, and with
something of thought, even of gloom, upon his countenance.
There was a strong contrast in the two boys. The elder, who was about
fifteen, seemed older than he was, not only from his height, but from the
darkness of his complexion, and a certain proud, nay, imperious,
expression upon features that, without having the soft and fluent graces
of childhood, were yet regular and striking. His dark-green shooting-
dress, with the belt and pouch, the cap, with its gold tassel set upon
his luxuriant curls, which had the purple gloss of the raven's plume,
blended perhaps something prematurely manly in his own tastes, with the
love of the fantastic and the picturesque which bespeaks the presiding
genius of the proud mother. The younger son had scarcely told his ninth
year; and the soft, auburn ringlets, descending half-way down the
shoulders; the rich and delicate bloom that exhibits at once the hardy
health and the gentle fostering; the large deep-blue eyes; the flexile
and almost effeminate contour of the harmonious features; altogether made
such an ideal of childlike beauty as Lawrence had loved to paint or
Chantrey model. And the daintiest cares of a mother, who, as yet, has
her darling all to herself--her toy, her plaything--were visible in the
large falling collar of finest cambric, and the blue velvet dress with
its filigree buttons and embroidered sash.
Both the boys had about them the air of those whom Fate ushers blandly
into life; the air of wealth, and birth, and luxury, spoiled and pampered
as if earth had no thorn for their feet, and heaven not a wind to visit
their young cheeks too roughly. The mother had been extremely handsome;
and though the first bloom of youth was now gone, she had still the
beauty that might captivate new love--an easier task than to retain the
old. Both her sons, though differing from each other, resembled her; she
had the features of the younger; and probably any one who had seen her in
her own earlier youth would have recognized in that child's gay yet
gentle countenance the mirror of the mother when a girl. Now, however,
especially when silent or thoughtful, the expression of her face was
rather that of the elder boy;--the cheek, once so rosy was now pale,
though clear, with something which time had given, of pride and thought,
in the curved lip and the high forehead. One who could have looked on
her in her more lonely hours, might have seen that the pride had known
shame, and the thought was the shadow of the passions of fear and sorrow.
But now as she read those hasty, brief, but well-remembered characters--
read as one whose heart was in her eyes--joy and triumph alone were
visible in that eloquent countenance. Her eyes flashed, her breast
heaved; and at length, clasping the letter to her lips, she kissed it
again and again with passionate transport. Then, as her eyes met the
dark, inquiring, earnest gaze of her eldest born, she flung her arms
round him, and wept vehemently.
"What is the matter, mamma, dear mamma?" said the youngest, pushing
himself between Philip and his mother. "Your father is coming back, this
day--this very hour;--and you--you--child--you, Philip--" Here sobs broke
in upon her words, and left her speechless.
The letter that had produced this effect ran as follows:
TO MRS MORTON, Fernside Cottage.
"DEAREST KATE,--My last letter prepared you for the news I have now to
relate--my poor uncle is no more. Though I had seen little of him,
especially of late years, his death sensibly affected me; but I have at
least the consolation of thinking that there is nothing now to prevent my
doing justice to you. I am the sole heir to his fortune--I have it in my
power, dearest Kate, to offer you a tardy recompense for all you have put
up with for my sake;--a sacred testimony to your long forbearance, your
unreproachful love, your wrongs, and your devotion. Our children, too--
my noble Philip!--kiss them, Kate--kiss them for me a thousand times.
"I write in great haste--the burial is just over, and my letter will only
serve to announce my return. My darling Catherine, I shall be with you
almost as soon as these lines meet your eyes--those clear eyes, that, for
all the tears they have shed for my faults and follies, have never looked
the less kind. Yours, ever as ever,
This letter has told its tale, and little remains to explain. Philip
Beaufort was one of those men of whom there are many in his peculiar
class of society--easy, thoughtless, good-humoured, generous, with
feelings infinitely better than his principles.
Inheriting himself but a moderate fortune, which was three parts in the
hands of the Jews before he was twenty-five, he had the most brilliant
expectations from his uncle; an old bachelor, who, from a courtier, had
turned a misanthrope--cold--shrewd--penetrating--worldly--sarcastic--and
imperious; and from this relation he received, meanwhile, a handsome and,
indeed, munificent allowance. About sixteen years before the date at
which this narrative opens, Philip Beaufort had "run off," as the saying
is, with Catherine Morton, then little more than a child,--a motherless
child--educated at a boarding-school to notions and desires far beyond
her station; for she was the daughter of a provincial tradesman. And
Philip Beaufort, in the prime of life, was possessed of most of the
qualities that dazzle the eyes and many of the arts that betray the
affections. It was suspected by some that they were privately married:
if so, the secret had been closely kept, and baffled all the inquiries of
the stern old uncle. Still there was much, not only in the manner, at
once modest and dignified, but in the character of Catherine, which was
proud and high-spirited, to give colour to the suspicion. Beaufort, a
man naturally careless of forms, paid her a marked and punctilious
respect; and his attachment was evidently one not only of passion, but
of confidence and esteem. Time developed in her mental qualities far
superior to those of Beaufort, and for these she had ample leisure of
cultivation. To the influence derived from her mind and person she added
that of a frank, affectionate, and winning disposition; their children
cemented the bond between them. Mr. Beaufort was passionately attached
to field sports. He lived the greater part of the year with Catherine,
at the beautiful cottage to which he had built hunting stables that were
the admiration of the county; and though the cottage was near London, the
pleasures of the metropolis seldom allured him for more than a few days--
generally but a few hours-at a time; and he--always hurried back with
renewed relish to what he considered his home.
Whatever the connection between Catherine and himself (and of the true
nature of that connection, the Introductory Chapter has made the reader
more enlightened than the world), her influence had, at least, weaned
from all excesses, and many follies, a man who, before he knew her, had
seemed likely, from the extreme joviality and carelessness of his nature,
and a very imperfect education, to contract whatever vices were most in
fashion as preservatives against _ennui_. And if their union had been
openly hallowed by the Church, Philip Beaufort had been universally
esteemed the model of a tender husband and a fond father. Ever, as he
became more and more acquainted with Catherine's natural good qualities,
and more and more attached to his home, had Mr. Beaufort, with the
generosity of true affection, desired to remove from her the pain of an
equivocal condition by a public marriage. But Mr. Beaufort, though
generous, was not free from the worldliness which had met him everywhere,
amidst the society in which his youth had been spent. His uncle, the
head of one of those families which yearly vanish from the commonalty
into the peerage, but which once formed a distinguished peculiarity in
the aristocracy of England--families of ancient birth, immense
possessions, at once noble and untitled--held his estates by no other
tenure than his own caprice. Though he professed to like Philip, yet he
saw but little of him. When the news of the illicit connection his
nephew was reported to have formed reached him, he at first resolved to
break it off; but observing that Philip no longer gambled, nor ran in
debt, and had retired from the turf to the safer and more economical
pastimes of the field, he contented himself with inquiries which
satisfied him that Philip was not married; and perhaps he thought it, on
the whole, more prudent to wink at an error that was not attended by the
bills which had here-to-fore characterised the human infirmities of his
reckless nephew. He took care, however, incidentally, and in reference
to some scandal of the day, to pronounce his opinion, not upon the fault,
but upon the only mode of repairing it.
"If ever," said he, and he looked grimly at Philip while he spoke, "a
gentleman were to disgrace his ancestry by introducing into his family
one whom his own sister could not receive at her house, why, he ought to
sink to her level, and wealth would but make his disgrace the more
notorious. If I had an only son, and that son were booby enough to do
anything so discreditable as to marry beneath him, I would rather have my
footman for my successor. You understand, Phil!"
Philip did understand, and looked round at the noble house and the
stately park, and his generosity was not equal to the trial. Catherine
--so great was her power over him--might, perhaps, have easily triumphed
over his more selfish calculations; but her love was too delicate ever to
breathe, of itself, the hope that lay deepest at her heart. And her
children!--ah! for them she pined, but for them she also hoped. Before
them was a long future, and she had all confidence in Philip. Of late,
there had been considerable doubts how far the elder Beaufort would
realise the expectations in which his nephew had been reared. Philip's
younger brother had been much with the old gentleman, and appeared to be
in high favour: this brother was a man in every respect the opposite to
Philip--sober, supple, decorous, ambitious, with a face of smiles and a
heart of ice.
But the old gentleman was taken dangerously ill, and Philip was summoned
to his bed of death. Robert, the younger brother, was there also, with
his wife (who he had married prudently) and his children (he had two, a
son and a daughter). Not a word did the uncle say as to the disposition
of his property till an hour before he died. And then, turning in his
bed, he looked first at one nephew, then at the other, and faltered out:
"Philip, you are a scapegrace, but a gentleman! Robert, you are a
careful, sober, plausible man; and it is a great pity you were not in
business; you would have made a fortune!--you won't inherit one, though
you think it: I have marked you, sir. Philip, beware of your brother.
Now let me see the parson."
The old man died; the will was read; and Philip succeeded to a rental of
L20,000. a-year; Robert, to a diamond ring, a gold repeater, L5,000. and
a curious collection of bottled snakes.
"Stay, delightful Dream;
Let him within his pleasant garden walk;
Give him her arm--of blessings let them talk."--CRABBE.
"There, Robert, there! now you can see the new stables. By Jove, they
are the completest thing in the three kingdoms!"
"Quite a pile! But is that the house? You lodge your horses more
magnificently than yourself."
"But is it not a beautiful cottage?--to be sure, it owes everything to
Catherine's taste. Dear Catherine!"
Mr. Robert Beaufort, for this colloquy took place between the brothers,
as their britska rapidly descended the hill, at the foot of which lay
Fernside Cottage and its miniature demesnes--Mr. Robert Beaufort pulled
his travelling cap over his brows, and his countenance fell, whether at
the name of Catherine, or the tone in which the name was uttered; and
there was a pause, broken by a third occupant of the britska, a youth of
about seventeen, who sat opposite the brothers.
"And who are those boys on the lawn, uncle?"
"Who are those boys?" It was a simple question, but it grated on the ear
of Mr. Robert Beaufort--it struck discord at his heart. "Who were those
boys?" as they ran across the sward, eager to welcome their father home;
the westering sun shining full on their joyous faces--their young forms
so lithe and so graceful--their merry laughter ringing in the still air.
"Those boys," thought Mr. Robert Beaufort, "the sons of shame, rob mine
of his inheritance." The elder brother turned round at his nephew's
question, and saw the expression on Robert's face. He bit his lip, and
"Arthur, they are my children."
"I did not know you were married," replied Arthur, bending forward to
take a better view of his cousins.
Mr. Robert Beaufort smiled bitterly, and Philip's brow grew crimson.
The carriage stopped at the little lodge. Philip opened the door, and
jumped to the ground; the brother and his son followed. A moment more,
and Philip was locked in Catherine's arms, her tears falling fast upon
his breast; his children plucking at his coat; and the younger one crying
in his shrill, impatient treble, "Papa! papa! you don't see Sidney,
Mr. Robert Beaufort placed his hand on his son's shoulder, and arrested
his steps, as they contemplated the group before them.
"Arthur," said he, in a hollow whisper, "those children are our disgrace
and your supplanters; they are bastards! bastards! and they are to be his
Arthur made no answer, but the smile with which be had hitherto gazed on
his new relations vanished.
"Kate," said Mr. Beaufort, as he turned from Mrs. Morton, and lifted his
youngest-born in his arms, "this is my brother and his son: they are
welcome, are they not?"
Mr. Robert bowed low, and extended his hand, with stiff affability, to
Mrs. Morton, muttering something equally complimentary and inaudible.
The party proceeded towards the house. Philip and Arthur brought up the
"Do you shoot?" asked Arthur, observing the gun in his cousin's hand.
"Yes. I hope this season to bag as many head as my father: he is a
famous shot. But this is only a single barrel, and an old-fashioned sort
of detonator. My father must get me one of the new gulls. I can't
afford it myself."
"I should think not," said Arthur, smiling.
"Oh, as to that," resumed Philip, quickly, and with a heightened colour,
"I could have managed it very well if I had not given thirty guineas for
a brace of pointers the other day: they are the best dogs you ever saw."
"Thirty guineas!" echoed Arthur, looking with native surprise at the
speaker; "why, how old are you?"
"Just fifteen last birthday. Holla, John! John Green!" cried the young
gentleman in an imperious voice, to one of the gardeners, who was
crossing the lawn, "see that the nets are taken down to the lake
to-morrow, and that my tent is pitched properly, by the lime-trees, by
nine o'clock. I hope you will understand me this time: Heaven knows you
take a deal of telling before you understand anything!"
"Yes, Mr. Philip," said the man, bowing obsequiously; and then muttered,
as he went off, "Drat the nat'rel! He speaks to a poor man as if he
warn't flesh and blood."
"Does your father keep hunters?" asked Philip. No."
"Perhaps one reason may be, that he is not rich enough."
"Oh! that's a pity. Never mind, we'll mount you, whenever you like to
pay us a visit."
Young Arthur drew himself up, and his air, naturally frank and gentle,
became haughty and reserved. Philip gazed on him, and felt offended; he
scarce knew why, but from that moment he conceived a dislike to his
"For a man is helpless and vain, of a condition so exposed to
calamity that a raisin is able to kill him; any trooper out of the
Egyptian army--a fly can do it, when it goes on God's errand."--
JEREMY TAYLOR _On the Deceitfulness of the Heart_.
The two brothers sat at their wine after dinner. Robert sipped claret,
the sturdy Philip quaffed his more generous port. Catherine and the boys
might be seen at a little distance, and by the light of a soft August
moon, among the shrubs and boseluets of the lawn.
Philip Beaufort was about five-and-forty, tall, robust, nay, of great
strength of frame and limb; with a countenance extremely winning, not
only from the comeliness of its features, but its frankness, manliness,
and good nature. His was the bronzed, rich complexion, the inclination
towards embonpoint, the athletic girth of chest, which denote redundant
health, and mirthful temper, and sanguine blood. Robert, who had lived
the life of cities, was a year younger than his brother; nearly as tall,
but pale, meagre, stooping, and with a careworn, anxious, hungry look,
which made the smile that hung upon his lips seem hollow and artificial.
His dress, though plain, was neat and studied; his manner, bland and
plausible; his voice, sweet and low: there was that about him which, if
it did not win liking, tended to excite respect--a certain decorum, a
nameless propriety of appearance and bearing, that approached a little to
formality: his every movement, slow and measured, was that of one who
paced in the circle that fences round the habits and usages of the world.
"Yes," said Philip, "I had always decided to take this step, whenever my
poor uncle's death should allow me to do so. You have seen Catherine,
but you do not know half her good qualities: she would grace any station;
and, besides, she nursed me so carefully last year, when I broke my
collar-bone in that cursed steeple-chase. Egad, I am getting too heavy
and growing too old for such schoolboy pranks."
"I have no doubt of Mrs. Morton's excellence, and I honour your motives;
still, when you talk of her gracing any station, you must not forget, my
dear brother, that she will be no more received as Mrs. Beaufort than she
is now as Mrs. Morton."
"But I tell you, Robert, that I am really married to her already; that
she would never have left her home but on that condition; that we were
married the very day we met after her flight."
Robert's thin lips broke into a slight sneer of incredulity. "My dear
brother, you do right to say this--any man in your situation would say
the same. But I know that my uncle took every pains to ascertain if the
report of a private marriage were true."
"And you helped him in the search. Eh, Bob?"
Bob slightly blushed. Philip went on.
"Ha, ha! to be sure you did; you knew that such a discovery would have
done for me in the old gentleman's good opinion. But I blinded you both,
ha, ha! The fact is, that we were married with the greatest privacy;
that even now, I own, it would be difficult for Catherine herself to
establish the fact, unless I wished it. I am ashamed to think that I
have never even told her where I keep the main proof of the marriage.
I induced one witness to leave the country, the other must be long since
dead: my poor friend, too, who officiated, is no more. Even the
register, Bob, the register itself, has been destroyed: and yet,
notwithstanding, I will prove the ceremony and clear up poor Catherine's
fame; for I have the attested copy of the register safe and sound.
Catherine not married! why, look at her, man!"
Mr. Robert Beaufort glanced at the window for a moment, but his
countenance was still that of one unconvinced. "Well, brother," said he,
dipping his fingers in the water-glass, "it is not for me to contradict
you. It is a very curious tale--parson dead--witnesses missing. But
still, as I said before, if you are resolved on a public marriage, you
are wise to insist that there has been a previous private one. Yet,
believe me, Philip," continued Robert, with solemn earnestness, "the
"Damn the world! What do I care for the world! We don't want to go to
routs and balls, and give dinners to fine people. I shall live much the
same as I have always done; only, I shall now keep the hounds--they are
very indifferently kept at present--and have a yacht; and engage the best
masters for the boys. Phil wants to go to Eton, but I know what Eton is:
poor fellow! his feelings might be hurt there, if others are as sceptical
as yourself. I suppose my old friends will not be less civil now I have
L20,000. a year. And as for the society of women, between you and me, I
don't care a rush for any woman but Catherine: poor Katty!"
"Well, you are the best judge of your own affairs: you don't misinterpret
"My dear Bob, no. I am quite sensible how kind it is in you--a man of
your starch habits and strict views, coming here to pay a mark of respect
to Kate (Mr. Robert turned uneasily in his chair)--even before you knew
of the private marriage, and I'm sure I don't blame you for never having
done it before. You did quite right to try your chance with my uncle."
Mr. Robert turned in his chair again, still more uneasily, and cleared
his voice as if to speak. But Philip tossed off his wine, and proceeded,
without heeding his brother,--
"And though the poor old man does not seem to have liked you the better
for consulting his scruples, yet we must make up for the partiality of
his will. Let me see--what with your wife's fortune, you muster L2000.
"Only L1500., Philip, and Arthur's education is growing expensive. Next
year he goes to college. He is certainly very clever, and I have great
"That he will do Honour to us all--so have I. He is a noble young
fellow: and I think my Philip may find a great deal to learn from him,--
Phil is a sad idle dog; but with a devil of a spirit, and sharp as a
needle. I wish you could see him ride. Well, to return to Arthur.
Don't trouble yourself about his education--that shall be my care. He
shall go to Christ Church--a gentleman-commoner, of course--and when he
is of age we'll get him into parliament. Now for yourself, Bob. I shall
sell the town-house in Berkeley Square, and whatever it brings you shall
have. Besides that, I'll add L1500. a year to your L1000.--so that's
said and done. Pshaw! brothers should be brothers.--Let's come out and
play with the boys!"
The two Beauforts stepped through the open casement into the lawn.
"You look pale, Bob--all you London fellows do. As for me, I feel as
strong as a horse: much better than when I was one of your gay dogs
straying loose about the town'. 'Gad, I have never had a moment's ill
health, except from a fall now and then. I feel as if I should live for
ever, and that's the reason why I could never make a will."
"Have you never, then, made your will?"
"Never as yet. Faith, till now, I had little enough to leave. But now
that all this great Beaufort property is at my own disposal, I must think
of Kate's jointure. By Jove! now I speak of it, I will ride to ----
to-morrow, and consult the lawyer there both about the will and the
marriage. You will stay for the wedding?"
"Why, I must go into --shire to-morrow evening, to place Arthur with his
tutor. But I'll return for the wedding, if you particularly wish it:
only Mrs. Beaufort is a woman of very strict--"
"I--do particularly wish it," interrupted Philip, gravely; "for I desire,
for Catherine's sake, that you, my sole surviving relation, may not seem
to withhold your countenance from an act of justice to her. And as for
your wife, I fancy L1500. a year would reconcile her to my marrying out
of the Penitentiary."
Mr. Robert bowed his head, coughed huskily, and said, "I appreciate your
generous affection, Philip."
The next morning, while the elder parties were still over the breakfast-
table, the younger people were in the grounds it was a lovely day, one of
the last of the luxuriant August--and Arthur, as he looked round, thought
he had never seen a more beautiful place. It was, indeed, just the spot
to captivate a youthful and susceptible fancy. The village of Fernside,
though in one of the counties adjoining Middlesex, and as near to London
as the owner's passionate pursuits of the field would permit, was yet as
rural and sequestered as if a hundred miles distant from the smoke of the
huge city. Though the dwelling was called a cottage, Philip had enlarged
the original modest building into a villa of some pretensions. On either
side a graceful and well-proportioned portico stretched verandahs,
covered with roses and clematis; to the right extended a range of costly
conservatories, terminating in vistas of trellis-work which formed those
elegant alleys called rosaries, and served to screen the more useful
gardens from view. The lawn, smooth and even, was studded with American
plants and shrubs in flower, and bounded on one side by a small lake, on
the opposite bank of which limes and cedars threw their shadows over the
clear waves. On the other side a light fence separated the grounds from
a large paddock, in which three or four hunters grazed in indolent
enjoyment. It was one of those cottages which bespeak the ease and
luxury not often found in more ostentatious mansions--an abode which, at
sixteen, the visitor contemplates with vague notions of poetry and love--
which, at forty, he might think dull and d---d expensive-which, at sixty,
he would pronounce to be damp in winter, and full of earwigs in the
summer. Master Philip was leaning on his gun; Master Sidney was chasing
a peacock butterfly; Arthur was silently gazing on the shining lake and
the still foliage that drooped over its surface. In the countenance of
this young man there was something that excited a certain interest. He
was less handsome than Philip, but the expression of his face was more
prepossessing. There was something of pride in the forehead; but of good
nature, not unmixed with irresolution and weakness, in the curves of the
mouth. He was more delicate of frame than Philip; and the colour of his
complexion was not that of a robust constitution. His movements were
graceful and self-possessed, and he had his father's sweetness of voice.
"This is really beautiful!--I envy you, cousin Philip."
"Has not your father got a country-house?"
"No: we live either in London or at some hot, crowded watering-place."
"Yes; this is very nice during the shooting and hunting season. But my
old nurse says we shall have a much finer place now. I liked this very
well till I saw Lord Belville's place. But it is very unpleasant not to
have the finest house in the county: _aut Caesar aut nullus_--that's my
motto. Ah! do you see that swallow? I'll bet you a guinea I hit it."
"No, poor thing! don't hurt it." But ere the remonstrance was uttered,
the bird lay quivering on the ground. "It is just September, and one
must keep one's hand in," said Philip, as he reloaded his gun.
To Arthur this action seemed a wanton cruelty; it was rather the wanton
recklessness which belongs to a wild boy accustomed to gratify the
impulse of the moment--the recklessness which is not cruelty in the boy,
but which prosperity may pamper into cruelty in the man. And scarce had
he reloaded his gun before the neigh of a young colt came from the
neighbouring paddock, and Philip bounded to the fence. "He calls me,
poor fellow; you shall see him feed from my hand. Run in for a piece of
bread--a large piece, Sidney." The boy and the animal seemed to
understand each other. "I see you don't like horses," he said to Arthur.
As for me, I love dogs, horses--every dumb creature."
"Except swallows." said Arthur, with a half smile, and a little
surprised at the inconsistency of the boast.
"Oh! that is short,--all fair: it is not to hurt the swallow--it is to
obtain skill," said Philip, colouring; and then, as if not quite easy
with his own definition, he turned away abruptly.
"This is dull work--suppose we fish. By Jove!" (he had caught his
father's expletive) "that blockhead has put the tent on the wrong side of
the lake, after all. Holla, you, sir!" and the unhappy gardener looked
up from his flower-beds; "what ails you? I have a great mind to tell my
father of you--you grow stupider every day. I told you to put the tent
under the lime-trees."
"We could not manage it, sir; the boughs were in the way."
"And why did you not cut the boughs, blockhead?"
"I did not dare do so, sir, without master's orders," said the man
"My orders are sufficient, I should think; so none of your impertinence,"
cried Philip, with a raised colour; and lifting his hand, in which he
held his ramrod, he shook it menacingly over the gardener's head,--"I've
a great mind to----"
"What's the matter, Philip?" cried the good-humoured voice of his
"This fellow does not mind what I say, sir."
"I did not like to cut the boughs of the lime-trees without your orders,
sir," said the gardener.
"No, it would be a pity to cut them. You should consult me there, Master
Philip;" and the father shook him by the collar with a good-natured, and
affectionate, but rough sort of caress.
"Be quiet, father!" said the boy, petulantly and proudly; "or," he
added, in a lower voice, but one which showed emotion, "my cousin may
think you mean less kindly than you always do, sir."
The father was touched: "Go and cut the lime-boughs, John; and always do
as Mr. Philip tells you."
The mother was behind, and she sighed audibly. "Ah! dearest, I fear you
will spoil him."
"Is he not your son? and do we not owe him the more respect for having
hitherto allowed others to--"
He stopped, and the mother could say no more. And thus it was, that this
boy of powerful character and strong passions had, from motives the most
amiable, been pampered from the darling into the despot.
"And now, Kate, I will, as I told you last night, ride over to ---- and
fix the earliest day for our public marriage: I will ask the lawyer to
dine here, to talk about the proper steps for proving the private one."
"Will that be difficult" asked Catherine, with natural anxiety.
"No,--for if you remember, I had the precaution to get an examined copy
of the register; otherwise, I own to you, I should have been alarmed. I
don't know what has be come of Smith. I heard some time since from his
father that he had left the colony; and (I never told you before--it
would have made you uneasy) once, a few years ago, when my uncle again
got it into his head that we might be married, I was afraid poor Caleb's
successor might, by chance, betray us. So I went over to A---- myself,
being near it when I was staying with Lord C----, in order to see how far
it might be necessary to secure the parson; and, only think! I found an
accident had happened to the register--so, as the clergyman could know
nothing, I kept my own counsel. How lucky I have the copy! No doubt the
lawyer will set all to rights; and, while I am making the settlements, I
may as well make my will. I have plenty for both boys, but the dark one
must be the heir. Does he not look born to be an eldest son?"
"Pshaw! one don't die the sooner for making a will. Have I the air of a
man in a consumption?"--and the sturdy sportsman glanced complacently at
the strength and symmetry of his manly limbs. "Come, Phil, let's go to
the stables. Now, Robert, I will show you what is better worth seeing
than those miserable flower-beds." So saying, Mr. Beaufort led the way
to the courtyard at the back of the cottage. Catherine and Sidney
remained on the lawn; the rest followed the host. The grooms, of whom
Beaufort was the idol, hastened to show how well the horses had thriven
in his absence.
"Do see how Brown Bess has come on, sir! but, to be sure, Master Philip
keeps her in exercise. Ah, sir, he will be as good a rider as your
honour, one of these days."
"He ought to be a better, Tom; for I think he'll never have my weight to
carry. Well, saddle Brown Bess for Mr. Philip. What horse shall I take?
Ah! here's my old friend, Puppet!"
"I don't know what's come to Puppet, sir; he's off his feed, and turned
sulky. I tried him over the bar yesterday; but he was quite restive
"The devil he was! So, so, old boy, you shall go over the six-barred
gate to-day, or we'll know why." And Mr. Beaufort patted the sleek neck
of his favourite hunter. "Put the saddle on him, Tom."
"Yes, your honour. I sometimes think he is hurt in the loins somehow--he
don't take to his leaps kindly, and he always tries to bite when we
bridles him. Be quiet, sir!"
"Only his airs," said Philip. I did not know this, or I would have taken
him over the gate. Why did not you tell me, Tom?"
"Lord love you, sir! because you have such a spurret; and if anything
had come to you--"
"Quite right: you are not weight enough for Puppet, my boy; and he never
did like any one to back him but myself. What say you, brother, will you
ride with us?"
"No, I must go to ---- to-day with Arthur. I have engaged the post-
horses at two o'clock; but I shall be with you to-morrow or the day
after. You see his tutor expects him; and as he is backward in his
mathematics, he has no time to lose."
"Well, then, good-bye, nephew!" and Beaufort slipped a pocket-book into
the boy's hand. "Tush! whenever you want money, don't trouble your
father--write to me--we shall be always glad to see you; and you must
teach Philip to like his book a little better--eh, Phil?"
"No, father; I shall be rich enough to do without books," said Philip,
rather coarsely; but then observing the heightened colour of his cousin,
he went up to him, and with a generous impulse said, "Arthur, you admired
this gun; pray accept it. Nay, don't be shy--I can have as many as I
like for the asking: you're not so well off, you know."
The intention was kind, but the manner was so patronising that Arthur
felt offended. He put back the gun, and said, drily, "I shall have no
occasion for the gun, thank you."
If Arthur was offended by the offer, Philip was much more offended by the
refusal. "As you like; I hate pride," said he; and he gave the gun to
the groom as he vaulted into his saddle with the lightness of a young
Mercury. "Come, father!"
Mr. Beaufort had now mounted his favourite hunter--a large, powerful
horse well known for its prowess in the field. The rider trotted him
once or twice through the spacious yard.
"Nonsense, Tom: no more hurt in the loins than I am. Open that gate; we
will go across the paddock, and take the gate yonder--the old six-bar--
"Capital!--to be sure!--"
The gate was opened--the grooms stood watchful to see the leap, and a
kindred curiosity arrested Robert Beaufort and his son.
How well they looked! those two horsemen; the ease, lightness, spirit of
the one, with the fine-limbed and fiery steed that literally "bounded
beneath him as a barb"--seemingly as gay, as ardent, and as haughty as
the boyrider. And the manly, and almost herculean form of the elder
Beaufort, which, from the buoyancy of its movements, and the supple grace
that belongs to the perfect mastership of any athletic art, possessed an
elegance and dignity, especially on horseback, which rarely accompanies
proportions equally sturdy and robust. There was indeed something
knightly and chivalrous in the bearing of the elder Beaufort--in his
handsome aquiline features, the erectness of his mien, the very wave of
his hand, as he spurred from the yard.
"What a fine-looking fellow my uncle is!" said Arthur, with involuntary
"Ay, an excellent life--amazingly strong!" returned the pale father,
with a slight sigh.
"Philip," said Mr. Beaufort, as they cantered across the paddock, "I
think the gate is too much for you. I will just take Puppet over, and
then we will open it for you."
"Pooh, my dear father! you don't know how I'm improved!" And slackening
the rein, and touching the side of his horse, the young rider darted
forward and cleared the gate, which was of no common height, with an ease
that extorted a loud "bravo" from the proud father.
"Now, Puppet," said Mr. Beaufort, spurring his own horse. The animal
cantered towards the gate, and then suddenly turned round with an
impatient and angry snort. "For shame, Puppet!--for shame, old boy!"
said the sportsman, wheeling him again to the barrier. The horse shook
his head, as if in remonstrance; but the spur vigorously applied showed
him that his master would not listen to his mute reasonings. He bounded
forward--made at the gate--struck his hoofs against the top bar--fell
forward, and threw his rider head foremost on the road beyond. The horse
rose instantly--not so the master. The son dismounted, alarmed and
terrified. His father was speechless! and blood gushed from the mouth
and nostrils, as the head drooped heavily on the boy's breast. The
bystanders had witnessed the fall--they crowded to the spot--they took
the fallen man from the weak arms of the son--the head groom examined him
with the eye of one who had picked up science from his experience in such
"Speak, brother!--where are you hurt?" exclaimed Robert Beaufort.
"He will never speak more!" said the groom, bursting into tears. "His
neck is broken!"
"Send for the nearest surgeon," cried Mr. Robert. "Good God! boy!
don't mount that devilish horse!"
But Arthur had already leaped on the unhappy steed, which had been the
cause of this appalling affliction. "Which way?"
"Straight on to ----, only two miles--every one knows Mr. Powis's house.
God bless you!" said the groom. Arthur vanished.
"Lift him carefully, and take him to the house," said Mr. Robert. "My
poor brother! my dear brother!"
He was interrupted by a cry, a single shrill, heartbreaking cry; and
Philip fell senseless to the ground.
No one heeded him at that hour--no one heeded the fatherless BASTARD.
"Gently, gently," said Mr. Robert, as he followed the servants and their
load. And he then muttered to himself, and his sallow cheek grew bright,
and his breath came short: "He has made no will--he never made a will."
"Constance. O boy, then where art thou?
* * * * What becomes of me"--_King John_.
It was three days after the death of Philip Beaufort--for the surgeon
arrived only to confirm the judgment of the groom: in the drawing-room of
the cottage, the windows closed, lay the body, in its coffin, the lid not
yet nailed down. There, prostrate on the floor, tearless, speechless,
was the miserable Catherine; poor Sidney, too young to comprehend all his
loss, sobbing at her side; while Philip apart, seated beside the coffin,
gazed abstractedly on that cold rigid face which had never known one
frown for his boyish follies.
In another room, that had been appropriated to the late owner, called his
study, sat Robert Beaufort. Everything in this room spoke of the
deceased. Partially separated from the rest of the house, it
communicated by a winding staircase with a chamber above, to which Philip
had been wont to betake himself whenever he returned late, and over-
exhilarated, from some rural feast crowning a hard day's hunt. Above a
quaint, old-fashioned bureau of Dutch workmanship (which Philip had
picked up at a sale in the earlier years of his marriage) was a portrait
of Catherine taken in the bloom of her youth. On a peg on the door that
led to the staircase, still hung his rough driving coat. The window
commanded the view of the paddock in which the worn-out hunter or the
unbroken colt grazed at will. Around the walls of the "study"--
(a strange misnomer!)--hung prints of celebrated fox-hunts and renowned
steeple-chases: guns, fishing-rods, and foxes' brushes, ranged with a
sportsman's neatness, supplied the place of books. On the mantelpiece
lay a cigar-case, a well-worn volume on the Veterinary Art, and the last
number of the Sporting Magazine. And in the room--thus witnessing of the
hardy, masculine, rural life, that had passed away--sallow, stooping,
town-worn, sat, I say, Robert Beaufort, the heir-at-law,--alone: for the
very day of the death he had remanded his son home with the letter that
announced to his wife the change in their fortunes, and directed her to
send his lawyer post-haste to the house of death. The bureau, and the
drawers, and the boxes which contained the papers of the deceased were
open; their contents had been ransacked; no certificate of the private
marriage, no hint of such an event; not a paper found to signify the last
wishes of the rich dead man.
He had died, and made no sign. Mr. Robert Beaufort's countenance was
still and composed.
A knock at the door was heard; the lawyer entered.
"Sir, the undertakers are here, and Mr. Greaves has ordered the bells to
be rung: at three o'clock he will read the service."
"I am obliged to you., Blackwell, for taking these melancholy offices on
yourself. My poor brother!--it is so sudden! But the funeral, you say,
ought to take place to-day?"
"The weather is so warm," said the lawyer, wiping his forehead. As he
spoke, the death-bell was heard.
There was a pause.
"It would have been a terrible shock to Mrs. Morton if she had been his
wife," observed Mr. Blackwell. "But I suppose persons of that kind have
very little feeling. I must say that it was fortunate for the family
that the event happened before Mr. Beaufort was wheedled into so improper
"It was fortunate, Blackwell. Have you ordered the post-horses? I shall
start immediately after the funeral."
"What is to be done with the cottage, sir?"
"You may advertise it for sale."
"And Mrs. Morton and the boys?" "Hum! we will consider. She was a
tradesman's daughter. I think I ought to provide for her suitably, eh?"
"It is more than the world could expect from you, sir; it is very
different from a wife."
"Oh, very!--very much so, indeed! Just ring for a lighted candle, we
will seal up these boxes. And--I think I could take a sandwich. Poor
The funeral was over; the dead shovelled away. What a strange thing it
does seem, that that very form which we prized so charily, for which we
prayed the winds to be gentle, which we lapped from the cold in our arms,
from whose footstep we would have removed a stone, should be suddenly
thrust out of sight--an abomination that the earth must not look upon--a
despicable loathsomeness, to be concealed and to be forgotten! And this
same composition of bone and muscle that was yesterday so strong--which
men respected, and women loved, and children clung to--to-day so
lamentably powerless, unable to defend or protect those who lay nearest
to its heart; its riches wrested from it, its wishes spat upon, its
influence expiring with its last sigh! A breath from its lips making all
that mighty difference between what it was and what it is!
The post-horses were at the door as the funeral procession returned to
Mr. Robert Beaufort bowed slightly to Mrs. Morton, and said, with his
pocket-handkerchief still before his eyes:
"I will write to you in a few days, ma'am; you will find that I shall not
forget you. The cottage will be sold; but we sha'n't hurry you. Good-
bye, ma'am; good-bye, my boys;" and he patted his nephews on the head.
Philip winced aside, and scowled haughtily at his uncle, who muttered to
himself, "That boy will come to no good!" Little Sidney put his hand
into the rich man's, and looked up, pleadingly, into his face. "Can't
you say something pleasant to poor mamma, Uncle Robert?"
Mr. Beaufort hemmed huskily, and entered the britska--it had been his
brother's: the lawyer followed, and they drove away.
A week after the funeral, Philip stole from the house into the
conservatory, to gather some fruit for his mother; she had scarcely
touched food since Beaufort's death. She was worn to a shadow; her hair
had turned grey. Now she had at last found tears, and she wept
noiselessly but unceasingly.
The boy had plucked some grapes, and placed them carefully in his basket:
he was about to select a nectarine that seemed riper than the rest, when
his hand was roughly seized; and the gruff voice of John Green, the
"What are you about, Master Philip? you must not touch them 'ere fruit!"
"How dare you, fellow!" cried the young gentleman, in a tone of equal
astonishment and, wrath.
"None of your airs, Master Philip! What I means is, that some great
folks are coming too look at the place tomorrow; and I won't have my show
of fruit spoiled by being pawed about by the like of you; so, that's
plain, Master Philip!"
The boy grew very pale, but remained silent. The gardener, delighted to
retaliate the insolence he had received, continued:
"You need not go for to look so spiteful, master; you are not the great
man you thought you were; you are nobody now, and so you will find ere
long. So, march out, if you please: I wants to lock up the glass."
As he spoke, he took the lad roughly by the arm; but Philip, the most
irascible of mortals, was strong for his years, and fearless as a young
lion. He caught up a watering-pot, which the gardener had deposited
while he expostulated with his late tyrant and struck the man across the
face with it so violently and so suddenly, that he fell back over the
beds, and the glass crackled and shivered under him. Philip did not wait
for the foe to recover his equilibrium; but, taking up his grapes, and
possessing himself quietly of the disputed nectarine, quitted the spot;
and the gardener did not think it prudent to pursue him. To boys, under
ordinary circumstances--boys who have buffeted their way through a
scolding nursery, a wrangling family, or a public school--there would
have been nothing in this squabble to dwell on the memory or vibrate on
the nerves, after the first burst of passion: but to Philip Beaufort it
was an era in life; it was the first insult he had ever received; it was
his initiation into that changed, rough, and terrible career, to which
the spoiled darling of vanity and love was henceforth condemned. His
pride and his self-esteem had incurred a fearful shock. He entered the
house, and a sickness came over him; his limbs trembled; he sat down in
the hall, and, placing the fruit beside him, covered his face with his
hands and wept. Those were not the tears of a boy, drawn from a shallow
source; they were the burning, agonising, reluctant tears, that men shed,
wrung from the heart as if it were its blood. He had never been sent to
school, lest he should meet with mortification. He had had various
tutors, trained to show, rather than to exact, respect; one succeeding
another, at his own whim and caprice. His natural quickness, and a very
strong, hard, inquisitive turn of mind, had enabled him, however, to pick
up more knowledge, though of a desultory and miscellaneous nature, than
boys of his age generally possess; and his roving, independent, out-of-
door existence had served to ripen his understanding. He had certainly,
in spite of every precaution, arrived at some, though not very distinct,
notion of his peculiar position; but none of its inconveniences had
visited him till that day. He began now to turn his eyes to the future;
and vague and dark forebodings--a consciousness of the shelter, the
protector, the station, he had lost in his father's death--crept coldly,
over him. While thus musing, a ring was heard at the bell; he lifted his
head; it was the postman with a letter. Philip hastily rose, and,
averting his face, on which the tears were not dried, took the letter;
and then, snatching up his little basket of fruit, repaired to his
The shutters were half closed on the bright day--oh, what a mockery is
there in the smile of the happy sun when it shines on the wretched! Mrs.
Morton sat, or rather crouched, in a distant corner; her streaming eyes
fixed on vacancy; listless, drooping; a very image of desolate woe; and
Sidney was weaving flower-chains at her feet.
"Mamma!--mother!" whispered Philip, as he threw his arms round her neck;
"look up! look up!-my heart breaks to see you. Do taste this fruit: you
will die too, if you go on thus; and what will become of us--of Sidney?"
Mrs. Morton did look up vaguely into his face, and strove to smile.
"See, too, I have brought you a letter; perhaps good news; shall I break
Mrs. Morton shook her head gently, and took the letter--alas! how
different from that one which Sidney had placed in her hands not two
short weeks since--it was Mr. Robert Beaufort's handwriting. She
shuddered, and laid it down. And then there suddenly, and for the first
time, flashed across her the sense of her strange position--the dread of
the future. What were her sons to be henceforth?
What herself? Whatever the sanctity of her marriage, the law might fail
her. At the disposition of Mr. Robert Beaufort the fate of three lives
might depend. She gasped for breath; again took up the letter; and
hurried over the contents: they ran thus:
"DEAR, MADAM,--Knowing that you must naturally be anxious as to the
future prospects of your children and yourself, left by my poor brother
destitute of all provision, I take the earliest opportunity which it
seems to me that propriety and decorum allow, to apprise you of my
intentions. I need not say that, properly speaking, you can have no kind
of claim upon the relations of my late brother; nor will I hurt your
feelings by those moral reflections which at this season of sorrow
cannot, I hope, fail involuntarily to force themselves upon you. Without
more than this mere allusion to your peculiar connection with my brother,
I may, however, be permitted to add that that connection tended very
materially to separate him from the legitimate branches of his family;
and in consulting with them as to a provision for you and your children,
I find that, besides scruples that are to be respected, some natural
degree of soreness exists upon their minds. Out of regard, however, to
my poor brother (though I saw very little of him of late years), I am
willing to waive those feelings which, as a father and a husband, you may
conceive that I share with the rest of my family. You will probably now
decide on living with some of your own relations; and that you may not be
entirely a burden to them, I beg to say that I shall allow you a hundred
a year; paid, if you prefer it, quarterly. You may also select such
articles of linen and plate as you require for your own use. With regard
to your sons, I have no objection to place them at a grammar-school, and,
at a proper age, to apprentice them to any trade suitable to their future
station, in the choice of which your own family can give you the best
advice. If they conduct themselves properly, they may always depend on
my protection. I do not wish to hurry your movements; but it will
probably be painful to you to remain longer than you can help in a place
crowded with unpleasant recollections; and as the cottage is to be sold--
indeed, my brother-in-law, Lord Lilburne, thinks it would suit him--you
will be liable to the interruption of strangers to see it; and your
prolonged residence at Fernside, you must be sensible, is rather an
obstacle to the sale. I beg to inclose you a draft for L100. to pay any
present expenses; and to request, when you are settled, to know where the
first quarter shall be paid.
"I shall write to Mr. Jackson (who, I think, is the bailiff) to detail my
instructions as to selling the crops, &c., and discharging the servants;
so that you may have no further trouble.
"I am, Madam,
"Your obedient Servant,
"Berkeley Square, September 12th, 18--."
The letter fell from Catherine's hands. Her grief was changed to
indignation and scorn.
"The insolent!" she exclaimed, with flashing eyes. "This to me!--to me--
the wife, the lawful wife of his brother! the wedded mother of his
"Say that again, mother! again--again!" cried Philip, in a loud voice.
"I swear it," said Catherine, solemnly. "I kept the secret for your
father's sake. Now for yours, the truth must be proclaimed."
"Thank God! thank God!" murmured Philip, in a quivering voice, throwing
his arms round his brother, "We have no brand on our names, Sidney."
At those accents, so full of suppressed joy and pride, the mother felt at
once all that her son had suspected and concealed. She felt that beneath
his haughty and wayward character there had lurked delicate and generous
forbearance for her; that from his equivocal position his very faults
might have arisen; and a pang of remorse for her long sacrifice of the
children to the father shot through her heart. It was followed by a
fear, an appalling fear, more painful than the remorse. The proofs that
were to clear herself and them! The words of her husband, that last
awful morning, rang in her ear. The minister dead; the witness absent;
the register lost! But the copy of that register!--the copy! might not
that suffice? She groaned, and closed her eyes as if to shut out the
future: then starting up, she hurried from the room, and went straight to
Beaufort's study. As she laid her hand on the latch of the door, she
trembled and drew back. But care for the living was stronger at that
moment than even anguish for the dead: she entered the apartment; she
passed with a firm step to the bureau. It was locked; Robert Beaufort's
seal upon the lock:--on every cupboard, every box, every drawer, the same
seal that spoke of rights more valued than her own. But Catherine was
not daunted: she turned and saw Philip by her side; she pointed to the
bureau in silence; the boy understood the appeal. He left the room, and
returned in a few moments with a chisel. The lock was broken:
tremblingly and eagerly Catherine ransacked the contents; opened paper
after paper, letter after letter, in vain: no certificate, no will, no
memorial. Could the brother have abstracted the fatal proof? A word
sufficed to explain to Philip what she sought for; and his search was
more minute than hers. Every possible receptacle for papers in that
room, in the whole house, was explored, and still the search was
Three hours afterwards they were in the same room in which Philip had
brought Robert Beaufort's letter to his mother. Catherine was seated,
tearless, but deadly pale with heart-sickness and dismay.
"Mother," said Philip, "may I now read the letter?" Yes, boy; and decide
for us all. She paused, and examined his face as he read. He felt her
eye was upon him, and restrained his emotions as he proceeded. When he
had done, he lifted his dark gaze upon Catherine's watchful countenance.
"Mother, whether or not we obtain our rights, you will still refuse this
man's charity? I am young--a boy; but I am strong and active. I will
work for you day and night. I have it in me--I feel it; anything rather
than eating his bread."
"Philip! Philip! you are indeed my son; your father's son! And have
you no reproach for your mother, who so weakly, so criminally, concealed
your birthright, till, alas! discovery may be too late? Oh! reproach me,
reproach me! it will be kindness. No! do not kiss me! I cannot bear it.
Boy! boy! if as my heart tells me, we fail in proof, do you understand
what, in the world's eye, I am; what you are?"
"I do!" said Philip, firmly; and lie fell on his knees at her feet."
Whatever others call you, you are a mother, and I your son. You are, in
the judgment of Heaven, my father's Wife, and I his Heir."
Catherine bowed her head, and with a gush of tears fell into his arms.
Sidney crept up to her, and forced his lips to her cold cheek. "Mamma!
what vexes you? Mamma, mamma!"
"Oh, Sidney! Sidney! How like his father! Look at him, Philip! Shall
we do right to refuse him even this pittance? Must he be a beggar too?"
"Never beggar," said Philip, with a pride that showed what hard lessons
he had yet to learn. "The lawful sons of a Beaufort were not born to beg
"The storm above, and frozen world below.
* * * * *
The olive bough
Faded and cast upon the common wind,
And earth a doveless ark."--LAMAN BLANCHARD.
Mr. Robert Beaufort was generally considered by the world a very worthy
man. He had never committed any excess--never gambled nor incurred debt
--nor fallen into the warm errors most common with his sex. He was a
good husband--a careful father--an agreeable neighbour--rather charitable
than otherwise, to the poor. He was honest and methodical in his
dealings, and had been known to behave handsomely in different relations
of life. Mr. Robert Beaufort, indeed, always meant to do what was right
--in the eyes of the world! He had no other rule of action but that
which the world supplied; his religion was decorum--his sense of honour
was regard to opinion. His heart was a dial to which the world was the
sun: when the great eye of the public fell on it, it answered every
purpose that a heart could answer; but when that eye was invisible, the
dial was mute--a piece of brass and nothing more.
It is just to Robert Beaufort to assure the reader that he wholly
disbelieved his brother's story of a private marriage. He considered
that tale, when heard for the first time, as the mere invention (and a