Part 10 out of 11
would be so unkind if she did not answer immediately: she must answer.
She placed his letter before her--she resolutely began. But copy after
copy was made and torn. And Simon wanted her--and Sarah wanted her--and
there were bills to be paid; and dinner was over before her task was
really begun. But after dinner she began in good earnest.
"How kind in you to write to me" (the difficulty of any name was
dispensed with by adopting none), "and to wish to know about my dear
grandfather! He is much the same, but hardly ever walks out now, and I
have had a good deal of time to myself. I think something will surprise
you, and make you smile, as you used to do at first, when you come back.
You must not be angry with me that I have gone out by myself very often
--every day, indeed. I have been so safe. Nobody has ever offered to be
rude again to Fanny" (the word "Fanny" was carefully scratched out with
a penknife, and me substituted). "But you shall know all when you come.
And are you sure you are well--quite--quite well? Do you never have the
headaches you complained of sometimes? Do say this? Do you walk out-
every day? Is there any pretty churchyard near you now? Whom do you
"I have been so happy in putting the flowers on the two graves. But I
still give yours the prettiest, though the other is so dear to me. I
feel sad when I come to the last, but not when I look at the one I have
looked at so long. Oh, how good you were! But you don't like me to
"This is very stupid!" cried Fanny, suddenly throwing down her pen; "and
I don't think I am improved at it;" and she half cried with vexation.
Suddenly a bright idea crossed her. In the little parlour where the
schoolmistress privately received her, she had seen among the books, and
thought at the time how useful it might be to her if ever she had to
write to Philip, a little volume entitled, _The Complete Letter Writer_.
She knew by the title-page that it contained models for every description
of letter--no doubt it would contain the precise thing that would suit
the present occasion. She started up at the notion. She would go--she
could be back to finish the letter before post-time. She put on her
bonnet--left the letter, in her haste, open on the table--and just
looking into the parlour in her way to the street door, to convince
herself that Simon was asleep, and the wire-guard was on the fire, she
hurried to the kind schoolmistress.
One of the fogs that in autumn gather sullenly over London and its
suburbs covered the declining day with premature dimness. It grew darker
and darker as she proceeded, but she reached the house in safety. She
spent a quarter of an hour in timidly consulting her friend about all
kinds of letters except the identical one that she intended to write, and
having had it strongly impressed on her mind that if the letter was to a
gentleman at all genteel, she ought to begin "Dear Sir," and end with "I
have the honour to remain;" and that he would be everlastingly offended
if she did not in the address affix "Esquire" to his name (_that_, was a
great discovery),--she carried off the precious volume, and quitted the
house. There was a wall that, bounding the demesnes of the school, ran
for some short distance into the main street. The increasing fog, here,
faintly struggled against the glimmer of a single lamp at some little
distance. Just in this spot, her eye was caught by a dark object in the
road, which she could scarcely perceive to be a carriage, when her hand
was seized, and a voice said in her ear:--
"Ah! you will not be so cruel to me, I hope, as you were to my
messenger! I have come myself for you."
She turned in great alarm, but the darkness prevented her recognising the
face of him who thus accosted her. "Let me go!" she cried,--"let me
"Hush! hush! No--no. Come with me. You shall have a house--carriage--
servants! You shall wear silk gowns and jewels! You shall be a great
As these various temptations succeeded in rapid course each new struggle
of Fanny, a voice from the coach-box said in a low tone,--
"Take care, my lord, I see somebody coming--perhaps a policeman!"
Fanny heard the caution, and screamed for rescue.
"Is it so?" muttered the molester. And suddenly Fanny felt her voice
checked--her head mantled--her light form lifted from the ground. She
clung--she struggled it was in vain. It was the affair of a moment: she
felt herself borne into the carriage--the door closed--the stranger was
by her side, and his voice said:--
"Drive on, Dykeman. Fast! fast!"
Two or three minutes, which seemed to her terror as ages, elapsed, when
the gag and the mantle were gently removed, and the same voice (she still
could not see her companion) said in a very mild tone:--
"Do not alarm yourself; there is no cause,--indeed there is not. I would
not have adopted this plan had there been any other--any gentler one.
But I could not call at your own house--I knew no other where to meet
"This was the only course left to me--indeed it was. I made myself
acquainted with your movements. Do not blame me, then, for prying into
your footsteps. I watched for you all last night-you did not come out.
I was in despair. At last I find you. Do not be so terrified: I will
not even touch your hand if you do not wish it."
As he spoke, however, he attempted to touch it, and was repulsed with an
energy that rather disconcerted him. The poor girl recoiled from him
into the farthest corner of that prison in speechless horror--in the
darkest confusion of ideas. She did not weep--she did not sob--but her
trembling seemed to shake the very carriage. The man continued to
address, to expostulate, to pray, to soothe.
His manner was respectful. His protestations that he would not harm her
for the world were endless.
"Only just see the home I can give you; for two days--for one day. Only
just hear how rich I can make you and your grandfather, and then if you
wish to leave me, you shall."
More, much more, to this effect, did he continue to pour forth, without
extracting any sound from Fanny but gasps as for breath, and now and then
a low murmur:
"Let me go, let me go! My grandfather, my blind grandfather!"
And finally tears came to her relief, and she sobbed with a passion that
alarmed, and perhaps even touched her companion, cynical and icy as he
was. Meanwhile the carriage seemed to fly. Fast as two horses,
thorough-bred, and almost at full speed, could go, they were whirled
along, till about an hour, or even less, from the time in which she had
been thus captured, the carriage stopped.
"Are we here already?" said the man, putting his head out of the window.
"Do then as I told you. Not to the front door; to my study."
In two minutes more the carriage halted again, before a building which
looked white and ghostlike through the mist. The driver dismounted,
opened with a latch-key a window-door, entered for a moment to light the
candles in a solitary room from a fire that blazed on the hearth,
reappeared, and opened the carriage-door. It was with a difficulty for
which they were scarcely prepared that they were enabled to get Fanny
from the carriage. No soft words, no whispered prayers could draw her
forth; and it was with no trifling address, for her companion sought to
be as gentle as the force necessary to employ would allow, that he
disengaged her hands from the window-frame, the lining, the cushions, to
which they clung; and at last bore her into the house. The driver
closed the window again as he retreated, and they were alone. Fanny then
cast a wild, scarce conscious glance over the apartment. It was small
and simply furnished. Opposite to her was an old-fashioned bureau, one
of those quaint, elaborate monuments of Dutch ingenuity, which, during
the present century, the audacious spirit of curiosity-vendors has
transplanted from their native receptacles, to contrast, with grotesque
strangeness, the neat handiwork of Gillow and Seddon. It had a
physiognomy and character of its own--this fantastic foreigner! Inlaid
with mosaics, depicting landscapes and animals; graceless in form and
fashion, but still picturesque, and winning admiration, when more closely
observed, from the patient defiance of all rules of taste which had
formed its cumbrous parts into one profusely ornamented and eccentric
whole. It was the more noticeable from its total want of harmony with
the other appurtenances of the room, which bespoke the tastes of the
plain English squire. Prints of horses and hunts, fishing-rods and
fowling-pieces, carefully suspended, decorated the walls. Not, however,
on this notable stranger from the sluggish land rested the eye of Fanny.
That, in her hurried survey, was arrested only by a portrait placed over
the bureau--the portrait of a female in the bloom of life; a face so
fair, a brow so candid, and eyes so pure, a lip so rich in youth and joy
--that as her look lingered on the features Fanny felt comforted, felt as
if some living protectress were there. The fire burned bright and
merrily; a table, spread as for dinner, was drawn near it. To any other
eye but Fanny's the place would have seemed a picture of English comfort.
At last her looks rested on her companion. He had thrown himself, with a
long sigh, partly of fatigue, partly of satisfaction, on one of the
chairs, and was contemplating her as she thus stood and gazed, with an
expression of mingled curiosity and admiration; she recognised at once
her first, her only persecutor. She recoiled, and covered her face with
her hands. The man approached her:--
"Do not hate me, Fanny,--do not turn away. Believe me, though I have
acted thus violently, here all violence will cease. I love you, but I
will not be satisfied till you love me in return. I am not young, and I
am not handsome, but I am rich and great, and I can make those whom I
love happy,--so happy, Fanny!"
But Fanny had turned away, and was now busily employed in trying to
re-open the door at which she had entered. Failing in this, she suddenly
darted away, opened the inner door, and rushed into the passage with a
loud cry. Her persecutor stifled an oath, and sprung after and arrested
her. He now spoke sternly, and with a smile and a frown at once:--
"This is folly;--come back, or you will repent it! I have promised you,
as a gentleman--as a nobleman, if you know what that is--to respect you.
But neither will I myself be trifled with nor insulted. There must be no
His look and his voice awed Fanny in spite of her bewilderment and her
loathing, and she suffered herself passively to be drawn into the room.
He closed and bolted the door. She threw herself on the ground in one
corner, and moaned low but piteously. He looked at her musingly for some
moments, as he stood by the fire, and at last went to the door, opened
it, and called "Harriet" in a low voice. Presently a young woman, of
about thirty, appeared, neatly but plainly dressed, and of a countenance
that, if not very winning, might certainly be called very handsome. He
drew her aside for a few moments, and a whispered conference was
exchanged. He then walked gravely up to Fanny "My young friend," said
he, "I see my presence is too much for you this evening. This young
woman will attend you--will get you all you want. She can tell you, too,
that I am not the terrible sort of person you seem to suppose. I shall
see you to-morrow." So saying, he turned on his heel and walked out.
Fanny felt something like liberty, something like joy, again. She rose,
and looked so pleadingly, so earnestly, so intently into the woman's
face, that Harriet turned away her bold eyes abashed; and at this moment
Dykeman himself looked into the room.
"You are to bring us in dinner here yourself, uncle; and then go to my
lord in the drawing-room."
Dykeman looked pleased, and vanished. Then Harriet came up and took
Fanny's hand, and said, kindly,--
"Don't be frightened. I assure you, half the girls in London would give
I don't know what to be in your place. My lord never will force you to
do anything you don't like--it's not his way; and he's the kindest and
best man,--and so rich; he does not know what to do with his money!"
To all this Fanny made but one answer,--she threw herself suddenly upon
the woman's breast, and sobbed out: "My grandfather is blind, he cannot
do without me--he will die--die. Have you nobody you love, too? Let me
go--let me out! What can they want with me?--I never did harm to any
"And no one will harm you;--I swear it!" said Harriet, earnestly. "I
see you don't know my lord. But here's the dinner; come, and take a bit
of something, and a glass of wine."
Fanny could not touch anything except a glass of water, and that nearly
choked her. But at last, as she recovered her senses, the absence of her
tormentor--the presence of a woman--the solemn assurances of Harriet
that, if she did not like to stay there, after a day or two, she should
go back, tranquillised her in some measure. She did not heed the artful
and lengthened eulogiums that the she-tempter then proceeded to pour
forth upon the virtues, and the love, and the generosity, and, above all,
the money of my lord. She only kept repeating to herself, "I shall go
back in a day or two." At length, Harriet, having eaten and drunk as
much as she could by her single self, and growing wearied with efforts
from which so little resulted, proposed to Fanny to retire to rest. She
opened a door to the right of the fireplace, and lighted her up a winding
staircase to a pretty and comfortable chamber, where she offered to help
her to undress. Fanny's complete innocence, and her utter ignorance of
the precise nature of the danger that awaited her, though she fancied it
must be very great and very awful, prevented her quite comprehending all
that Harriet meant to convey by her solemn assurances that she should not
be disturbed. But she understood, at least, that she was not to see her
hateful gaoler till the next morning; and when Harriet, wishing her "good
night," showed her a bolt to her door, she was less terrified at the
thought of being alone in that strange place. She listened till
Harriet's footsteps had died away, and then, with a beating heart, tried
to open the door; it was locked from without. She sighed heavily. The
window?--alas! when she had removed the shutter, there was another one
barred from without, which precluded all hope there; she had no help for
it but to bolt her door, stand forlorn and amazed at her own condition,
and, at last, falling on her knees, to pray, in her own simple fashion,
which since her recent visits to the schoolmistress had become more
intelligent and earnest, to Him from whom no bolts and no bars can
exclude the voice of the human heart.
"In te omnis domus inclinata recumbit."--VIRGIL.
[On thee the whole house rests confidingly.]
Lord Lilburne, seated before a tray in the drawing-room, was finishing
his own solitary dinner, and Dykeman was standing close behind him,
nervous and agitated. The confidence of many years between the master
and the servant--the peculiar mind of Lilburne, which excluded him from
all friendship with his own equals--had established between the two the
kind of intimacy so common with the noble and the valet of the old French
_regime_, and indeed, in much Lilburne more resembled the men of that day
and land, than he did the nobler and statelier being which belongs to our
own. But to the end of time, whatever is at once vicious, polished, and
intellectual, will have a common likeness.
"But, my lord," said Dykeman, "just reflect. This girl is so well known
in the place; she will be sure to be missed; and if any violence is done
to her, it's a capital crime, my lord--a capital crime. I know they
can't hang a great lord like you, but all concerned in it may----"
Lord Lilburne interrupted the speaker by, "Give me some wine and hold
your tongue!" Then, when he had emptied his glass, he drew himself
nearer to the fire, warmed his hands, mused a moment, and turned round to
"Dykeman," said he, "though you're an ass and a coward, and you don't
deserve that I should be so condescending, I will relieve your fears at
once. I know the law better than you can, for my whole life has been
spent in doing exactly as I please, without ever putting myself in the
power of LAW, which interferes with the pleasures of other men. You are
right in saying violence would be a capital crime. Now the difference
between vice and crime is this: Vice is what parsons write sermons
against, Crime is what we make laws against. I never committed a crime
in all my life,--at an age between fifty and sixty--I am not going to
begin. Vices are safe things; I may have my vices like other men: but
crimes are dangerous things--illegal things--things to be carefully
avoided. Look you" (and here the speaker, fixing his puzzled listener
with his eye, broke into a grin of sublime mockery), "let me suppose you
to be the World--that cringing valet of valets, the WORLD! I should say
to you this, 'My dear World, you and I understand each other well,--we
are made for each other,--I never come in your way, nor you in mine. If
I get drunk every day in my own room, that's vice, you can't touch me; if
I take an extra glass for the first time in my life, and knock down the
watchman, that's a crime which, if I am rich, costs me one pound--perhaps
five pounds; if I am poor, sends me to the treadmill. If I break the
hearts of five hundred old fathers, by buying with gold or flattery the
embraces of five hundred young daughters, that's vice,--your servant, Mr.
World! If one termagant wench scratches my face, makes a noise, and goes
brazen-faced to the Old Bailey to swear to her shame, why that's crime,
and my friend, Mr. World, pulls a hemp-rope out of his pocket.' Now, do
you understand? Yes, I repeat," he added, with a change of voice, "I
never committed a crime in my life,--I have never even been accused of
one,--never had an action of _crim. con._--of seduction against me. I
know how to manage such matters better. I was forced to carry off this
girl, because I had no other means of courting her. To court her is all
I mean to do now. I am perfectly aware that an action for violence, as
you call it, would be the more disagreeable, because of the very weakness
of intellect which the girl is said to possess, and of which report I
don't believe a word. I shall most certainly avoid even the remotest
appearance that could be so construed. It is for that reason that no one
in the house shall attend the girl except yourself and your niece. Your
niece I can depend on, I know; I have been kind to her; I have got her a
good husband; I shall get her husband a good place;--I shall be godfather
to her first child. To be sure, the other servants will know there's a
lady in the house, but to that they are accustomed; I don't set up for a
Joseph. They need know no more, unless you choose to blab it out. Well,
then, supposing that at the end of a few days, more or less, without any
rudeness on my part, a young woman, after seeing a few jewels, and fine
dresses, and a pretty house, and being made very comfortable, and being
convinced that her grandfather shall be taken care of without her slaving
herself to death, chooses of her own accord to live with me, where's the
crime, and who can interfere with it?"
"Certainly, my lord, that alters the case," said Dykeman, considerably
relieved. "But still," he added, anxiously, "if the inquiry is made,--if
before all this is settled, it is found out where she is?"
"Why then no harm will be done--no violence will be committed. Her
grandfather,--drivelling and a miser, you say--can be appeased by a
little money, and it will be nobody's business, and no case can be made
of it. Tush! man! I always look before I leap! People in this world
are not so charitable as you suppose. What more natural than that a poor
and pretty girl--not as wise as Queen Elizabeth--should be tempted to pay
a visit to a rich lover!
"All they can say of the lover is, that he is a very gay man or a very bad
man, and that's saying nothing new of me. But don't think it will be
found out. Just get me that stool; this has been a very troublesome
piece of business--rather tried me. I am not so young as I was. Yes,
Dykeman, something which that Frenchman Vaudemont, or Vautrien, or
whatever his name is, said to me once, has a certain degree of truth.
I felt it in the last fit of the gout, when my pretty niece was smoothing
my pillows. A nurse, as we grow older, may be of use to one. I wish to
make this girl like me, or be grateful to me. I am meditating a longer
and more serious attachment than usual,--a companion!"
"A companion, my lord, in that poor creature!--so ignorant--so
"So much the better. This world palls upon me," said Lilburne, almost
gloomily. "I grow sick of the miserable quackeries--of the piteous
conceits that men, women, and children call 'knowledge,' I wish to catch
a glimpse of nature before I die. This creature interests me, and that
is something in this life. Clear those things away, and leave me."
"Ay!" muttered Lilburne, as he bent over the fire alone, "when I first
heard that that girl was the granddaughter of Simon Gawtrey, and,
therefore, the child of the man whom I am to thank that I am a cripple,
I felt as if love to her were a part of that hate which I owe to him; a
segment in the circle of my vengeance. But now, poor child!
"I forget all this. I feel for her, not passion, but what I never felt
before, affection. I feel that if I had such a child, I could understand
what men mean when they talk of the tenderness of a father. I have not
one impure thought for that girl--not one. But I would give thousands if
she could love me. Strange! strange! in all this I do not recognise
Lord Lilburne retired to rest betimes that night; he slept sound; rose
refreshed at an earlier hour than usual; and what he considered a fit of
vapours of the previous night was passed away. He looked with eagerness
to an interview with Fanny. Proud of his intellect, pleased in any of
those sinister exercises of it which the code and habits of his life so
long permitted to him, he regarded the conquest of his fair adversary
with the interest of a scientific game. Harriet went to Fanny's room to
prepare her to receive her host; and Lord Lilburne now resolved to make
his own visit the less unwelcome by reserving for his especial gift some
showy, if not valuable, trinkets, which for similar purposes never failed
the depositories of the villa he had purchased for his pleasures. He,
recollected that these gewgaws were placed in the bureau in the study; in
which, as having a lock of foreign and intricate workmanship, he usually
kept whatever might tempt cupidity in those frequent absences when the
house was left guarded but by two women servants. Finding that Fanny had
not yet quitted her own chamber, while Harriet went up to attend and
reason with her, he himself limped into the study below, unlocked the
bureau, and was searching in the drawers, when he heard the voice of
Fanny above, raised a little as if in remonstrance or entreaty; and he
paused to listen. He could not, however, distinguish what was said; and
in the meanwhile, without attending much to what he was about, his bands
were still employed in opening and shutting the drawers, passing through
the pigeon-holes, and feeling for a topaz brooch, which he thought could
not fail of pleasing the unsophisticated eyes of Fanny. One of the
recesses was deeper than the rest; he fancied the brooch was there; he
stretched his hand into the recess; and, as the room was partially
darkened by the lower shutters from without, which were still unclosed to
prevent any attempted escape of his captive, he had only the sense of
touch to depend on; not finding the brooch, he stretched on till he came
to the extremity of the recess, and was suddenly sensible of a sharp
pain; the flesh seemed caught as in a trap; he drew back his finger with
sudden force and a half-suppressed exclamation, and he perceived the
bottom or floor of the pigeon-hole recede, as if sliding back. His
curiosity was aroused; he again felt warily and cautiously, and
discovered a very slight inequality and roughness at the extremity of the
recess. He was aware instantly that there was some secret spring; he
pressed with some force on the spot, and he felt the board give way; he
pushed it back towards him, and it slid suddenly with a whirring noise,
and left a cavity below exposed to his sight. He peered in, and drew
forth a paper; he opened it at first carelessly, for he was still trying
to listen to Fanny. His eye ran rapidly over a few preliminary lines
till it rested on what follows:
"Marriage. The year 18--
"No. 83, page 21.
"Philip Beaufort, of this parish of A-----, and Catherine Morton, of the
parish of St. Botolph, Aldgate, London, were married in this church by
banns, this 12th day of November, in the year one thousand eight hundred
and ----' by me,
"CALEB PRICE, Vicar.
"This marriage was solemnised between us,
"In the presence of
"The above is a true copy taken from the registry of marriages, in A-----
parish, this 19th day of March, 18--, by me,
"MORGAN JONES, Curate of C-------."
[This is according to the form customary at the date at which the
copy was made. There has since been an alteration.]
Lord Lilburne again cast his eye over the lines prefixed to this
startling document, which, being those written at Caleb's desire, by Mr.
Jones to Philip Beaufort, we need not here transcribe to the reader. At
that instant Harriet descended the stairs, and came into the room; she
crept up on tiptoe to Lilburne, and whispered,--
"She is coming down, I think; she does not know you are here."
"Very well--go!" said Lord Lilburne. And scarce had Harriet left the
room, when a carriage drove furiously to the door, and Robert Beaufort
rushed into the study.
"Gone, and none know it.
How now?--What news, what hopes and steps discovered!"
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: _The Pilgrim_.
When Philip arrived at his lodgings in town it was very late, but he
still found Liancourt waiting the chance of his arrival. The Frenchman
was full of his own schemes and projects. He was a man of high repute
and connections; negotiations for his recall to Paris had been entered
into; he was divided between a Quixotic loyalty and a rational prudence;
he brought his doubts to Vaudemont. Occupied as he was with thoughts of
so important and personal a nature, Philip could yet listen patiently to
his friend, and weigh with him the pros and cons. And after having
mutually agreed that loyalty and prudence would both be best consulted by
waiting a little, to see if the nation, as the Carlists yet fondly
trusted, would soon, after its first fever, offer once more the throne
and the purple to the descendant of St. Louis, Liancourt, as he lighted
his cigar to walk home, said, "A thousand thanks to you, my dear friend:
and how have you enjoyed yourself in your visit? I am not surprised or
jealous that Lilburne did not invite me, as I do not play at cards, and
as I have said some sharp things to him!"
"I fancy I shall have the same disqualifications for another invitation,"
said Vaudemont, with a severe smile. "I may have much to disclose to you
in a few days. At present my news is still unripe. And have you seen
anything of Lilburne? He left us some days since. Is he in London?"
"Yes; I was riding with our friend Henri, who wished to try a new horse
off the stones, a little way into the country yesterday. We went through
------ and H----. Pretty places, those. Do you know them?"
"Yes; I know H----."
"And just at dusk, as we were spurring back to town, whom should I see
walking on the path of the high-road but Lord Lilburne himself! I could
hardly believe my eyes. I stopped, and, after asking him about you, I
could not help expressing my surprise to see him on foot at such a place.
You know the man's sneer. 'A Frenchman so gallant as Monsieur de
Liancourt,' said he, 'need not be surprised at much greater miracles; the
iron moves to the magnet: I have a little adventure here. Pardon me if I
ask you to ride on.' Of course I wished him good day; and a little
farther up the road I saw a dark plain chariot, no coronet, no arms, no
footman only the man on the box, but the beauty of the horses assured me
it must belong to Lilburne. Can you conceive such absurdity in a man of
that age--and a very clever fellow too? Yet, how is it that one does not
ridicule it in Lilburne, as one would in another man between fifty and
"Because one does not ridicule,--one loathes-him."
"No; that's not it. The fact is that one can't fancy Lilburne old. His
manner is young--his eye is young. I never saw any one with so much
vitality. 'The bad heart and the good digestion'--the twin secrets for
wearing well, eh!"
"Where did you meet him--not near H----?"
"Yes; close by. Why? Have you any adventure there too? Nay, forgive
me; it was but a jest. Good night!"
Vaudemont fell into an uneasy reverie: he could not divine exactly why
he should be alarmed; but he was alarmed at Lilburne being in the
neighbourhood of H----. It was the foot of the profane violating the
sanctuary. An undefined thrill shot through him, as his mind coupled
together the associations of Lilburne and Fanny; but there was no ground
for forebodings. Fanny did not stir out alone. An adventure, too--pooh!
Lord Lilburne must be awaiting a willing and voluntary appointment, most
probably from some one of the fair but decorous frailties of London.
Lord Lilburne's more recent conquests were said to be among those of his
own rank; suburbs are useful for such assignations. Any other thought
was too horrible to be contemplated. He glanced to the clock; it was
three in the morning. He would go to H---- early, even before he sought
out Mr. William Smith. With that resolution, and even his hardy frame
worn out by the excitement of the day, he threw himself on his bed and
He did not wake till near nine, and had just dressed, and hurried over
his abstemious breakfast, when the servant of the house came to tell him
that an old woman, apparently in great agitation, wished to see him. His
head was still full of witnesses and lawsuits; and he was vaguely
expecting some visitor connected with his primary objects, when Sarah
broke into the room. She cast a hurried, suspicious look round her, and
then throwing herself on her knees to him, "Oh!" she cried, "if you have
taken that poor young thing away, God forgive you. Let her come back
again. It shall be all hushed up. Don't ruin her! don't, that's a dear
"Speak plainly, woman--what do you mean?" cried Philip, turning pale.
A very few words sufficed for an explanation: Fanny's disappearance the
previous night; the alarm of Sarah at her non-return; the apathy of old
Simon, who did not comprehend what had happened, and quietly went to bed;
the search Sarah had made during half the night; the intelligence she had
picked up, that the policeman, going his rounds, had heard a female
shriek near the school; but that all he could perceive through the mist
was a carriage driving rapidly past him; Sarah's suspicions of Vaudemont
confirmed in the morning, when, entering Fanny's room, she perceived the
poor girl's unfinished letter with his own, the clue to his address that
the letter gave her; all this, ere she well understood what she herself
was talking about,--Vaudemont's alarm seized, and the reflection of a
moment construed: the carriage; Lilburne seen lurking in the
neighbourhood the previous day; the former attempt;--all flashed on him
with an intolerable glare. While Sarah was yet speaking, he rushed from
the house, he flew to Lord Lilburne's in Park Lane; he composed his
manner, he inquired calmly. His lordship had slept from home; he was,
they believed, at Fernside: Fernside! H---- was on the direct way to
that villa. Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed since he heard the story
ere he was on the road, with such speed as the promise of a guinea a mile
could extract from the spurs of a young post-boy applied to the flanks of
"Ex humili magna ad fastigia rerum
[Fortune raises men from low estate to the very
summit of prosperity.]
When Harriet had quitted Fanny, the waiting-woman, craftily wishing to
lure her into Lilburne's presence, had told her that the room below was
empty; and the captive's mind naturally and instantly seized on the
thought of escape. After a brief breathing pause, she crept noiselessly
down the stairs, and gently opened the door; and at the very instant she
did so, Robert Beaufort entered from the other door; she drew back in
terror, when, what was her astonishment in hearing a name uttered that
spell-bound her--the last name she could have expected to hear; for
Lilburne, the instant he saw Beaufort, pale, haggard, agitated, rush into
the room, and bang the door after him, could only suppose that something
of extraordinary moment had occurred with regard to the dreaded guest,
"You come about Vaudemont! Something has happened about Vaudemont!
about Philip! What is it? Calm yourself."
Fanny, as the name was thus abruptly uttered, actually thrust her face
through the door; but she again drew back, and, all her senses
preternaturally quickened at that name, while she held the door almost
closed, listened with her whole soul in her ears.
The faces of both the men were turned from her, and her partial entry had
not been perceived.
"Yes," said Robert Beaufort, leaning his weight, as if ready to sink to
the ground, upon Lilburne's shoulder, "Yes; Vaudemont, or Philip, for
they are one,--yes, it is about that man I have come to consult you.
Arthur has arrived."
"And Arthur has seen the wretch who visited us, and the rascal's manner
has so imposed on him, so convinced him that Philip is the heir to all
our property, that he has come over-ill, ill--I fear" (added Beaufort, in
a hollow voice), "dying, to--to--"
"To guard against their machinations?"
"No, no, no--to say that if such be the case, neither honour nor
conscience will allow us to resist his rights. He is so obstinate in
this matter; his nerves so ill bear reasoning and contradiction, that I
know not what to do--"
"Take breath-go on."
"Well, it seems that this man found out Arthur almost as soon as my son
arrived at Paris--that he has persuaded Arthur that he has it in his
power to prove the marriage--that he pretended to be very impatient for a
decision--that Arthur, in order to gain time to see me, affected
irresolution--took him to Boulogne, for the rascal does not dare to
return to England--left him there; and now comes back, my own son, as my
worst enemy, to conspire against me for my property! I could not have
kept my temper if I had stayed. But that's not all--that's not the
worst: Vaudemont left me suddenly in the morning on the receipt of a
letter. In taking leave of Camilla he let fall hints which fill me with
fear. Well, I inquired his movements as I came along; he had stopped at
D----, had been closeted for above an hour with a man whose name the
landlord of the inn knew, for it was on his carpet-bag--the name was
Barlow. You remember the advertisements! Good Heavens! what is to be
done? I would not do anything unhandsome or dishonest. But there never
was a marriage. I never will believe there was a marriage--never!"
"There was a marriage, Robert Beaufort," said Lord Lilburne, almost
enjoying the torture he was about to inflict; "and I hold here a paper
that Philip Vaudemont--for so we will yet call him--would give his right
hand to clutch for a moment. I have but just found it in a secret cavity
in that bureau. Robert, on this paper may depend the fate, the fortune,
the prosperity, the greatness of Philip Vaudemont;--or his poverty, his
exile, his ruin. See!"
Robert Beaufort glanced over the paper held out to him--dropped it on the
floor--and staggered to a seat. Lilburne coolly replaced the document in
the bureau, and, limping to his brother-in-law, said with a smile,--
"But the paper is in my possession--I will not destroy it. No; I have no
right to destroy it. Besides, it would be a crime; but if I give it to
you, you can do with it as you please."
"O Lilburne, spare me--spare me. I meant to be an honest man. I--I--"
And Robert Beaufort sobbed. Lilburne looked at him in scornful surprise.
"Do not fear that I shall ever think worse of you; and who else will know
it? Do not fear me. No;--I, too, have reasons to hate and to fear this
Philip Vaudemont; for Vaudemont shall be his name, and not Beaufort, in
spite of fifty such scraps of paper! He has known a man--my worst foe--
he has secrets of mine--of my past-perhaps of my present: but I laugh at
his knowledge while he is a wandering adventurer;--I should tremble at
that knowledge if he could thunder it out to the world as Philip Beaufort
of Beaufort Court! There, I am candid with you. Now hear my plan.
Prove to Arthur that his visitor is a convicted felon, by sending the
officers of justice after him instantly--off with him again to the
Settlements. Defy a single witness--entrap Vaudemont back to France and
prove him (I think I will prove him such--I think so--with a little money
and a little pains)--prove him the accomplice of William Gawtrey, a
coiner and a murderer! Pshaw! take yon paper. Do with it as you will--
keep it-give it to Arthur--let Philip Vaudemont have it, and Philip
Vaudemont will be rich and great, the happiest man between earth and
paradise! On the other hand, come and tell me that you have lost it, or
that I never gave you such a paper, or that no such paper ever existed;
and Philip Vaudemont may live a pauper, and die, perhaps, a slave at the
galleys! Lose it, I say,--lose it,--and advise with me upon the rest."
Horror-struck, bewildered, the weak man gazed upon the calm face of the
Master-villain, as the scholar of the old fables might have gazed on the
fiend who put before him worldly prosperity here and the loss of his soul
hereafter. He had never hitherto regarded Lilburne in his true light.
He was appalled by the black heart that lay bare before him.
"I can't destroy it--I can't," he faltered out; "and if I did, out of
love for Arthur,--don't talk of galleys,--of vengeance--I--I--"
"The arrears of the rents you have enjoyed will send you to gaol for your
life. No, no; _don't_ destroy the paper."
Beaufort rose with a desperate effort; he moved to the bureau. Fanny's
heart was on her lips;--of this long conference she had understood only
the one broad point on which Lilburne had insisted with an emphasis that
could have enlightened an infant; and he looked on Beaufort as an infant
then--_On that paper rested Philip Vaudemont's fate--happiness if saved,
ruin if destroyed; Philip--her Philip!_ And Philip himself had said to
her once--when had she ever forgotten his words? and now how those words
flashed across her--Philip himself had said to her once, "Upon a scrap of
paper, if I could but find it, may depend my whole fortune, my whole
happiness, all that I care for in life."--Robert Beaufort moved to the
bureau--he seized the document--he looked over it again, hurriedly, and
ere Lilburne, who by no means wished to have it destroyed in his own
presence, was aware of his intention--he hastened with tottering steps to
the hearth-averted his eyes, and cast it on the fire. At that instant
something white--he scarce knew what, it seemed to him as a spirit, as a
ghost--darted by him, and snatched the paper, as yet uninjured, from the
embers! There was a pause for the hundredth part of a moment:--a
gurgling sound of astonishment and horror from Beaufort--an exclamation
from Lilburne--a laugh from Fanny, as, her eyes flashing light, with a
proud dilation of stature, with the paper clasped tightly to her bosom,
she turned her looks of triumph from one to the other. The two men were
both too amazed, at the instant, for rapid measures. But Lilburne,
recovering himself first, hastened to her; she eluded his grasp--she made
towards the door to the passage; when Lilburne, seriously alarmed, seized
"Foolish child!--give me that paper!"
"Never but with my life!" And Fanny's cry for help rang through the
"Then--" the speech died on his lips, for at that instant a rapid stride
was heard without--a momentary scuffle--voices in altercation;--the door
gave way as if a battering ram had forced it;--not so much thrown forward
as actually hurled into the room, the body of Dykeman fell heavily, like
a dead man's, at the very feet of Lord Lilburne--and Philip Vaudemont
stood in the doorway!
The grasp of Lilburne on Fanny's arm relaxed, and the girl, with one
bound, sprung to Philip's breast. "Here, here!" she cried, "take it--
take it!" and she thrust the paper into his hand. "Don't let them have
it--read it--see it--never mind me!" But Philip, though his hand
unconsciously closed on the precious document, did mind Fanny; and in
that moment her cause was the only one in the world to him.
"Foul villain!" he said, as he strode to Lilburne, while Fanny still
clung to his breast: "Speak!--speak!--is--she--is she?--man--man, speak!
--you know what I would say!--She is the child of your own daughter--the
grandchild of that Mary whom you dishonoured--the child of the woman whom
William Gawtrey saved from pollution! Before he died, Gawtrey commended
her to my care!--O God of Heaven!--speak!--I am not too late!"
The manner, the words, the face of Philip left Lilburne terror-stricken
with conviction. But the man's crafty ability, debased as it was,
triumphed even over remorse for the dread guilt meditated,--over
gratitude for the dread guilt spared. He glanced at Beaufort--at
Dykeman, who now, slowly recovering, gazed at him with eyes that seemed
starting from their sockets; and lastly fixed his look on Philip himself.
There were three witnesses--presence of mind was his great attribute.
"And if, Monsieur de Vaudemont, I knew, or, at least, had the firmest
persuasion that Fanny was my grandchild, what then? Why else should she
be here?--Pooh, sir! I am an old man."
Philip recoiled a step in wonder; his plain sense was baffled by the calm
lie. He looked down at Fanny, who, comprehending nothing of what was
spoken, for all her faculties, even her very sense of sight and hearing,
were absorbed in her impatient anxiety for him, cried out:
"No harm has come to Fanny--none: only frightened. Read!--Read!--Save
that paper!--You know what you once said about a mere scrap of paper!
Come away! Come!"
He did now cast his eyes on the paper he held. That was an awful moment
for Robert Beaufort--even for Lilburne! To snatch the fatal document
from that gripe! They would as soon have snatched it from a tiger! He
lifted his eyes--they rested on his mother's picture! Her lips smiled on
him! He turned to Beaufort in a state of emotion too exulting, too blest
for vulgar vengeance--for vulgar triumph--almost for words.
"Look yonder, Robert Beaufort--look!" and he pointed to the picture.
"Her name is spotless! I stand again beneath a roof that was my
father's,--the Heir of Beaufort! We shall meet before the justice of our
country. For you, Lord Lilburne, I will believe you: it is too horrible
to doubt even your intentions. If wrong had chanced to her, I would have
rent you where you stand, limb from limb. And thank her",--(for Lilburne
recovered at this language the daring of his youth, before calculation,
indolence, and excess had dulled the edge of his nerves; and, unawed by
the height, and manhood, and strength of his menacer, stalked haughtily
up to him)--"and thank your relationship to her," said Philip, sinking
his voice into a whisper, "that I do not brand you as a pilferer and a
cheat! Hush, knave!--hush, pupil of George Gawtrey!--there are no duels
for me but with men of honour!"
Lilburne now turned white, and the big word stuck in his throat. In
another instant Fanny and her guardian had quitted the house.
"Dykeman," said Lord Lilburne after a long silence, "I shall ask you
another time how you came to admit that impertinent person. At present,
go and order breakfast for Mr. Beaufort."
As soon as Dykeman, more astounded, perhaps, by his lord's coolness than
even by the preceding circumstances, had left the study, Lilburne came up
to Beaufort,--who seemed absolutely stricken as if by palsy,--and
touching him impatiently and rudely, said,--
"'Sdeath, man!--rouse yourself! There is not a moment to be lost! I
have already decided on what you are to do. This paper is not worth a
rush, unless the curate who examined it will depose to that fact. He is
a curate--a Welsh curate;--you are yet Mr. Beaufort, a rich and a great
man. The curate, properly managed, may depose to the contrary; and then
we will indict them all for forgery and conspiracy. At the worst, you
can, no doubt, get the parson to forget all about it--to stay away. His
address was on the certificate:
"--C-----. Go yourself into Wales without an instant's delay-- Then,
having arranged with Mr. Jones, hurry back, cross to Boulogne, and buy
this convict and his witnesses, buy them! That, now, is the only thing.
Quick! quick!--quick! Zounds, man! if it were my affair, my estate, I
would not care a pin for that fragment of paper; I should rather rejoice
at it. I see how it could be turned against them! Go!"
"No, no; I am not equal to it! Will you manage it? will you? Half my
estate!--all! Take it: but save--"
"Tut!" interrupted Lord Lilburne, in great disdain. "I am as rich as I
want to be. Money does not bribe me. I manage this! I! Lord Lilburne.
I! Why, if found out, it is subornation of witnesses. It is exposure--
it is dishonour--it is ruin. What then? You should take the risk--for
you must meet ruin if you do not. I cannot. I have nothing to gain!"
"I dare not!-I dare not!" murmured Beaufort, quite spirit-broken.
"Subornation, dishonour, exposure!--and I, so respectable--my character!
--and my son against me, too!--my son, in whom I lived again! No, no;
let them take all! Let them take it! Ha! ha! let them take it! Good-
day to you."
"Where are you going?"
"I shall consult Mr. Blackwell, and I'll let you know." And Beaufort
walked tremulously back to his carriage. "Go to his lawyer!" growled
Lilburne. "Yes, if his lawyer can help him to defraud men lawfully,
he'll defraud them fast enough. That will be the respectable way of
doing it! Um!--This may be an ugly business for me--the paper found
here--if the girl can depose to what she heard, and she must have heard
something.--No, I think the laws of real property will hardly allow her
evidence; and if they do--Um!--My granddaughter--is it possible!--And
Gawtrey rescued her mother, my child, from her own mother's vices! I
thought my liking to that girl different from any other I have ever felt:
it was pure--it _was!_--it was pity--affection. And I must never see her
again--must forget the whole thing! And I sin growing old--and I am
childless--and alone!" He paused, almost with a groan: and then the
expression of his face changing to rage, he cried out, "The man
threatened me, and I was a coward! What to do?--Nothing! The defensive
is my line. I shall play no more.--I attack no one. Who will accuse
Lord Lilburne? Still, Robert is a fool. I must not leave him to
himself. Ho! there! Dykeman!--the carriage! I shall go to London."
Fortunate, no doubt, it was for Philip that Mr. Beaufort was not Lord
Lilburne. For all history teaches us--public and private history--
conquerors--statesmen--sharp hypocrites and brave designers--yes, they
all teach us how mighty one man of great intellect and no scruple is
against the justice of millions! The One Man moves--the Mass is inert.
Justice sits on a throne. Roguery never rests,--Activity is the lever of
"Quam inulta injusta ac prava fiunt moribus."--TULL.
[How many unjust and vicious actions are perpetrated
under the name of morals.]
Mobilis alis Hera."--SENECA.
[The hour flies moving with doubtful wings.]
Mr. Robert Beaufort sought Mr. Blackwell, and long, rambling, and
disjointed was his narrative. Mr. Blackwell, after some consideration,
proposed to _set about doing_ the very things that Lilburne had proposed
at once to do. But the lawyer expressed himself legally and covertly, so
that it did not seem to the sober sense of Mr. Beaufort at all the same
plan. He was not the least alarmed at what Mr. Blackwell proposed,
though so shocked at what Lilburne dictated. Blackwell would go the next
day into Wales--he would find out Mr. Jones--he would sound him! Nothing
was more common with people of the nicest honour, than just to get a
witness out of the way! Done in election petitions, for instance, every
"True," said Mr. Beaufort, much relieved.
Then, after having done that, Mr. Blackwell would return to town, and
cross over to Boulogne to see this very impudent person whom Arthur
(young men were so apt to be taken in!) had actually believed. He had no
doubt he could settle it all. Robert Beaufort returned to Berkeley
Square actually in spirits. There he found Lilburne, who, on reflection,
seeing that Blackwell was at all events more up to the business than his
brother, assented to the propriety of the arrangement.
Mr. Blackwell accordingly did set off the next day. _That next_ day,
perhaps, made all the difference. Within two hours from his gaining the
document so important, Philip, without any subtler exertion of intellect
than the decision of a plain, bold sense, had already forestalled both
the peer and the lawyer. He had sent down Mr. Barlow's head clerk to his
master in Wales with the document, and a short account of the manner in
which it had been discovered. And fortunate, indeed, was it that the
copy had been found; for all the inquiries of Mr. Barlow at A---- had
failed, and probably would have failed, without such a clue, in fastening
upon any one probable person to have officiated as Caleb Price's
amanuensis. The sixteen hours' start Mr. Barlow gained over Blackwell
enabled the former to see Mr. Jones--to show him his own handwriting--
to get a written and witnessed attestation from which the curate, however
poor, and however tempted, could never well have escaped (even had he
been dishonest, which he was not), of his perfect recollection of the
fact of making an extract from the registry at Caleb's desire, though he
owned he had quite forgotten the names he extracted till they were again
placed before him. Barlow took care to arouse Mr. Jones's interest in
the case--quitted Wales--hastened over to Boulogne--saw Captain Smith,
and without bribes, without threats, but by plainly proving to that
worthy person that he could not return to England nor see his brother
without being immediately arrested; that his brother's evidence was
already pledged on the side of truth; and that by the acquisition of new
testimony there could be no doubt that the suit would be successful--he
diverted the captain from all disposition towards perfidy, convinced him
on which side his interest lay, and saw him return to Paris, where very
shortly afterwards he disappeared for ever from this world, being forced
into a duel, much against his will (with a Frenchman whom he had
attempted to defraud), and shot through the lungs. Thus verifying a
favourite maxim of Lord Lilburne's, viz. that it does not do, in the long
run, for little men to play the Great Game!
On the same day that Blackwell returned, frustrated in his half-and-half
attempts to corrupt Mr. Jones, and not having been able even to discover
Mr. Smith, Mr. Robert Beaufort received a notice of an Action for
Ejectment to be brought by Philip Beaufort at the next Assizes. And, to
add to his afflictions, Arthur, whom he had hitherto endeavoured to amuse
by a sort of ambiguous shilly-shally correspondence, became so
alarmingly worse, that his mother brought him up to town for advice.
Lord Lilburne was, of course, sent for; and on learning all, his counsel
"I told you before that this man loves your daughter. See if you can
effect a compromise. The lawsuit will be ugly, and probably ruinous. He
has a right to claim six years' arrears--that is above L100,000. Make
yourself his father-in-law, and me his uncle-in-law; and, since we can't
kill the wasp, we may at least soften the venom of his sting."
Beaufort, still perplexed, irresolute, sought his son; and, for the first
time, spoke to him frankly--that is, frankly for Robert Beaufort! He
owned that the copy of the register had been found by Lilburne in a
secret drawer. He made the best of the story Lilburne himself furnished
him with (adhering, of course, to the assertion uttered or insinuated to
Philip) in regard to Fanny's abduction and interposition; he said nothing
of his attempt to destroy the paper. Why should he? By admitting the
copy in court--if so advised--he could get rid of Fanny's evidence
altogether; even without such concession, her evidence might possibly be
objected to or eluded. He confessed that he feared the witness who
copied the register and the witness to the marriage were alive. And then
he talked pathetically of his desire to do what was right, his dread of
slander and misinterpretation. He said nothing of Sidney, and his belief
that Sidney and Charles Spencer were the same; because, if his daughter
were to be the instrument for effecting a compromise, it was clear that
her engagement with Spencer must be cancelled and concealed. And luckily
Arthur's illness and Camilla's timidity, joined now to her father's
injunctions not to excite Arthur in his present state with any additional
causes of anxiety, prevented the confidence that might otherwise have
ensued between the brother and sister. And Camilla, indeed, had no heart
for such a conference. How, when she looked on Arthur's glassy eye, and
listened to his hectic cough, could she talk to him of love and marriage?
As to the automaton, Mrs. Beaufort, Robert made sure of her discretion.
Arthur listened attentively to his father's communication; and the result
of that interview was the following letter from Arthur to his cousin:
"I write to you without fear of misconstruction; for I write to you
unknown to all my family, and I am the only one of them who can have no
personal interest in the struggle about to take place between my father
and yourself. Before the law can decide between you, I shall be in my
grave. I write this from the Bed of Death. Philip, I write this--I, who
stood beside a deathbed more sacred to you than mine--I, who received
your mother's last sigh. And with that sigh there was a smile that
lasted when the sigh was gone: for I promised to befriend her children.
Heaven knows how anxiously I sought to fulfil that solemn vow! Feeble
and sick myself, I followed you and your brother with no aim, no prayer,
but this,--to embrace you and say, 'Accept a new brother in me.' I spare
you the humiliation, for it is yours, not mine, of recalling what passed
between us when at last we met. Yet, I still sought to save, at least,
Sidney,--more especially confided to my care by his dying mother. He
mysteriously eluded our search; but we had reason, by a letter received
from some unknown hand, to believe him saved and provided for. Again I
met you at Paris. I saw you were poor. Judging from your associate, I
might with justice think you depraved. Mindful of your declaration never
to accept bounty from a Beaufort, and remembering with natural resentment
the outrage I had before received from you, I judged it vain to seek and
remonstrate with you, but I did not judge it vain to aid. I sent you,
anonymously, what at least would suffice, if absolute poverty had
subjected you to evil courses, to rescue you from them it your heart were
so disposed. Perhaps that sum, trifling as it was, may have smoothed
your path and assisted your career. And why tell you all this now? To
dissuade from asserting rights you conceive to be just?--Heaven forbid!
If justice is with you, so also is the duty due to your mother's name.
But simply for this: that in asserting such rights, you content yourself
with justice, not revenge--that in righting yourself, you do not wrong
others. If the law should decide for you, the arrears you could demand
would leave my father and sister beggars. This may be law--it would not
be justice; for my father solemnly believed himself, and had every
apparent probability in his favour, the true heir of the wealth that
devolved upon him. This is not all. There may be circumstances
connected with the discovery of a certain document that, if authentic,
and I do not presume to question it, may decide the contest so far as it
rests on truth; circumstances which might seem to bear hard upon my
father's good name and faith. I do not know sufficiently of law to say
how far these could be publicly urged, or, if urged, exaggerated and
tortured by an advocate's calumnious ingenuity. But again, I say
justice, and not revenge! And with this I conclude, inclosing to you
these lines, written in your own hand, and leaving you the arbiter of
The lines inclosed were these, a second time placed before the reader
"I cannot guess who you are. They say that you call yourself a
relation; that must be some mistake. I knew not that my poor mother
had relations so kind. But, whoever you be, you soothed her last
hours--she died in your arms; and if ever-years, long years, hence--
we should chance to meet, and I can do anything to aid another, my
blood, and my life, and my heart, and my soul, all are slaves to
your will! If you be really of her kindred I commend to you my
brother; he is at ---- with Mr. Morton. If you can serve him, my
mother's soul will watch over you as a guardian angel. As for me, I
ask no help from any one; I go into the world, and will carve out my
own way. So much do I shrink from the thought of charity from
others, that I do not believe I could bless you as I do now, if your
kindness to me did not close with the stone upon my mother's grave.
This letter was sent to the only address of Monsieur de Vaudemont which
the Beauforts knew, viz., his apartments in town, and he did not receive
it the day it was sent.
Meanwhile Arthur Beaufort's malady continued to gain ground rapidly.
His father, absorbed in his own more selfish fears (though, at the first
sight of Arthur, overcome by the alteration of his appearance), had
ceased to consider his illness fatal. In fact, his affection for Arthur
was rather one of pride than love: long absence had weakened the ties of
early custom. He prized him as an heir rather than treasured him as a
son. It almost seemed that as the Heritage was in danger, so the Heir
became less dear: this was only because he was less thought of. Poor
Mrs. Beaufort, yet but partially acquainted with the terrors of her
husband, still clung to hope for Arthur. Her affection for him brought
out from the depths of her cold and insignificant character qualities
that had never before been apparent. She watched--she nursed--she tended
him. The fine lady was gone; nothing but the mother was left behind.
With a delicate constitution, and with an easy temper, which yielded to
the influence of companions inferior to himself, except in bodily vigour
and more sturdy will, Arthur Beaufort had been ruined by prosperity.
His talents and acquirements, if not first-rate, at least far above
mediocrity, had only served to refine his tastes, not to strengthen his
mind. His amiable impulses, his charming disposition and sweet temper,
had only served to make him the dupe of the parasites that feasted on the
lavish heir. His heart, frittered away in the usual round of light
intrigues and hollow pleasures, had become too sated and exhausted for
the redeeming blessings of a deep and a noble love. He had so lived for
Pleasure that he had never known Happiness. His frame broke by excesses
in which his better nature never took delight, he came home--to hear of
ruin and to die!
It was evening in the sick-room. Arthur had risen from the bed to which,
for some days, he had voluntarily taken, and was stretched on the sofa
before the fire. Camilla was leaning over him, keeping in the shade,
that he might not see the tears which she could not suppress. His mother
had been endeavouring to amuse him, as she would have amused herself, by
reading aloud one of the light novels of the hour; novels that paint the
life of the higher classes as one gorgeous holyday.
"My dear mother," said the patient querulously, "I have no interest in
these false descriptions of the life I have led. I know that life's
worth. Ah! had I been trained to some employment, some profession! had
I--well--it is weak to repine. Mother, tell me, you have seen Mons. de
Vaudemont: is he strong and healthy?"
"Yes; too much so. He has not your elegance, dear Arthur."
"And do you admire him, Camilla? Has no other caught your heart or your
"My dear Arthur," interrupted Mrs. Beaufort, "you forget that Camilla is
scarcely out; and of course a young girl's affections, if she's well
brought up, are regulated by the experience of her parents. It is time
to take the medicine: it certainly agrees with you; you have more colour
to-day, my dear, dear son."
While Mrs. Beaufort was pouring out the medicine, the door gently opened,
and Mr. Robert Beaufort appeared; behind him there rose a taller and a
statelier form, but one which seemed more bent, more humbled, more
agitated. Beaufort advanced. Camilla looked up and turned pale. The
visitor escaped from Mr. Beaufort's grasp on his arm; he came forward,
trembling, he fell on his knees beside Arthur, and seizing his hand, bent
over, it in silence. But silence so stormy! silence more impressive than
all words his breast heaved, his whole frame shook. Arthur guessed at
once whom he saw, and bent down gently as if to raise his visitor.
"Oh! Arthur! Arthur!" then cried Philip; "forgive me! My mother's
comforter--my cousin--my brother! Oh! brother, forgive me!"
And as he half rose, Arthur stretched out his arms, and Philip clasped
him to his breast.
It is in vain to describe the different feelings that agitated those who
beheld; the selfish congratulations of Robert, mingled with a better and
purer feeling; the stupor of the mother; the emotions that she herself
could not unravel, which rooted Camilla to the spot.
"You own me, then,--you own me!" cried Philip. "You accept the
brotherhood that my mad passions once rejected! And you, too--you,
Camilla--you who once knelt by my side, under this very roof--do you
remember me now? Oh, Arthur! that letter--that letter!--yes, indeed,
that aid which I ascribed to any one--rather than to you--made the date
of a fairer fortune. I may have owed to that aid the very fate that has
preserved me till now; the very name which I have not discredited. No,
no; do not think you can ask me a favour; you can but claim your due.
Brother! my dear brother!"
"_Warwick_.--Exceeding well! his cares are now all over."
The excitement of this interview soon overpowering Arthur, Philip, in
quitting the room with Mr. Beaufort, asked a conference with that
gentleman; and they went into the very parlour from which the rich man
had once threatened to expel the haggard suppliant. Philip glanced round
the room, and the whole scene came again before him. After a pause, he
"Mr. Beaufort, let the Past be forgotten. We may have need of mutual
forgiveness, and I, who have so wronged your noble son, am willing to
suppose that I misjudged you. I cannot, it is true, forego this
Mr. Beaufort's face fell.
"I have no right to do so. I am the trustee of my father's honour and my
mother's name: I must vindicate both: I cannot forego this lawsuit. But
when I once bowed myself to enter your house--then only with a hope,
where now I have the certainty of obtaining my heritage--it was with the
resolve to bury in oblivion every sentiment that would transgress the
most temperate justice. Now, I will do more. If the law decide against
me, we are as we were; if with me--listen: I will leave you the lands of
Beaufort, for your life and your son's. I ask but for me and for mine
such a deduction from your wealth as will enable me, should my brother be
yet living, to provide for him; and (if you approve the choice, which out
of all earth I would desire to make) to give whatever belongs to more
refined or graceful existence than I myself care for,--to her whom I
would call my wife. Robert Beaufort, in this room I once asked you to
restore to me the only being I then loved: I am now again your suppliant;
and this time you have it in your power to grant my prayer. Let Arthur
be, in truth, my brother: give me, if I prove myself, as I feel assured,
entitled to hold the name my father bore, give me your daughter as my
wife; give me Camilla, and I will not envy you the lands I am willing for
myself to resign; and if they pass to any children, those children will
be your daughter's!"
The first impulse of Mr. Beaufort was to grasp the hand held out to him;
to pour forth an incoherent torrent of praise and protestation, of
assurances that he could not hear of such generosity, that what was right
was right, that he should be proud of such a son-in-law, and much more in
the same key. And in the midst of this, it suddenly occurred to Mr.
Beaufort, that if Philip's case were really as good as he said it was, he
could not talk so coolly of resigning the property it would secure him
for the term of a life (Mr. Beaufort thought of his own) so uncommonly
good, to say nothing of Arthur's. At this notion, he thought it best not
to commit himself too far; drew in as artfully as he could, until he
could consult Lord Lilburne and his lawyer; and recollecting also that
he had a great deal to manage with respect to Camilla and her prior
attachment, he began to talk of his distress for Arthur, of the necessity
of waiting a little before Camilla was spoken to, while so agitated about
her brother, of the exceedingly strong case which his lawyer advised him
he possessed--not but what he would rather rest the matter on justice
than law--and that if the law should be with him, he would not the less
(provided he did not force his daughter's inclinations, of which, indeed,
he had no fear) be most happy to bestow her hand on his brother's nephew,
with such a portion as would be most handsome to all parties.
It often happens to us in this world, that when we come with our heart in
our hands to some person or other,--when we pour out some generous burst
of feeling so enthusiastic and self-sacrificing, that a bystander would
call us fool and Quixote;--it often, I say, happens to us, to find our
warm self suddenly thrown back upon our cold self; to discover that we
are utterly uncomprehended, and that the swine who would have munched up
the acorn does not know what to make of the pearl. That sudden ice which
then freezes over us, that supreme disgust and despair almost of the
whole world, which for the moment we confound with the one worldling--
they who have felt, may reasonably ascribe to Philip. He listened to Mr.
Beaufort in utter and contemptuous silence, and then replied only,--
"Sir, at all events this is a question for law to decide. If it decide
as you think, it is for you to act; if as I think, it is for me. Till
then I will speak to you no more of your daughter, or my intentions.
Meanwhile, all I ask is the liberty to visit your son. I would not be
banished from his sick-room!"
"My dear nephew!" cried Mr. Beaufort, again alarmed, "consider this house
as your home."
Philip bowed and retreated to the door, followed obsequiously by his
It chanced that both Lord Lilburne and Mr. Blackwell were of the same
mind as to the course advisable for Mr. Beaufort now to pursue. Lord
Lilburne was not only anxious to exchange a hostile litigation for an
amicable lawsuit, but he was really eager to put the seal of relationship
upon any secret with regard to himself that a man who might inherit
L20,000. a year--a dead shot, and a bold tongue--might think fit to
disclose. This made him more earnest than he otherwise might have been
in advice as to other people's affairs. He spoke to Beaufort as a man of
the world--to Blackwell as a lawyer.
"Pin the man down to his generosity," said Lilburne, "before he gets the
property. Possession makes a great change in a man's value of money.
After all, you can't enjoy the property when you're dead: he gives it
next to Arthur, who is not married; and if anything happen to Arthur,
poor fellow, why, in devolving on your daughter's husband and children,
it goes in the right line. Pin him down at once: get credit with the
world for the most noble and disinterested conduct, by letting your
counsel state that the instant you discovered the lost document you
wished to throw no obstacle in the way of proving the marriage, and that
the only thing to consider is, if the marriage be proved; if so, you will
be the first to rejoice, &c. &c. You know all that sort of humbug as
well as any man!"
Mr. Blackwell suggested the same advice, though in different words--
after taking the opinions of three eminent members of the bar; those
opinions, indeed, were not all alike--one was adverse to Mr. Robert
Beaufort's chance of success, one was doubtful of it, the third
maintained that he had nothing to fear from the action--except, possibly,
the ill-natured construction of the world. Mr. Robert Beaufort disliked
the idea of the world's ill-nature, almost as much as he did that of
losing his property. And when even this last and more encouraging
authority, learning privately from Mr. Blackwell that Arthur's illness
was of a nature to terminate fatally, observed, "that a compromise with a
claimant, who was at all events Mr. Beaufort's nephew, by which Mr.
Beaufort could secure the enjoyment of the estates to himself for life,
and to his son for life also, should not (whatever his probabilities of
legal success) be hastily rejected--unless he had a peculiar affection
for a very distant relation--who, failing Mr. Beaufort's male issue and
Philip's claim, would be heir-at-law, but whose rights would cease if
Arthur liked to cut off the entail,"
Mr. Beaufort at once decided. He had a personal dislike to that distant
heir-at-law; he had a strong desire to retain the esteem of the world; he
had an innate conviction of the justice of Philip's claim; he had a
remorseful recollection of his brother's generous kindness to himself; he
preferred to have for his heir, in case of Arthur's decease, a nephew who
would marry his daughter, than a remote kinsman. And should, after all,
the lawsuit fail to prove Philip's right, he was not sorry to have the
estate in his own power by Arthur's act in cutting off the entail.
Brief; all these reasons decided him. He saw Philip--he spoke to Arthur
--and all the preliminaries, as suggested above, were arranged between
the parties. The entail was cut off, and Arthur secretly prevailed upon
his father, to whom, for the present, the fee-simple thus belonged, to
make a will, by which he bequeathed the estates to Philip, without
reference to the question of his legitimacy. Mr. Beaufort felt his
conscience greatly eased after this action--which, too, he could always
retract if he pleased; and henceforth the lawsuit became but a matter of
form, so far as the property it involved was concerned.
While these negotiations went on, Arthur continued gradually to decline.
Philip was with him always. The sufferer took a strange liking to this
long-dreaded relation, this man of iron frame and thews. In Philip there
was so much of life, that Arthur almost felt as if in his presence itself
there was an antagonism to death. And Camilla saw thus her cousin, day
by day, hour by hour, in that sick chamber, lending himself, with the
gentle tenderness of a woman, to soften the pang, to arouse the
weariness, to cheer the dejection. Philip never spoke to her of love: in
such a scene that had been impossible. She overcame in their mutual
cares the embarrassment she had before felt in his presence; whatever her
other feelings, she could not, at least, but be grateful to one so tender
to her brother. Three letters of Charles Spencer's had been, in the
afflictions of the house, only answered by a brief line. She now took
the occasion of a momentary and delusive amelioration in Arthur's disease
to write to him more at length. She was carrying, as usual, the letter
to her mother, when Mr. Beaufort met her, and took the letter from her
hand. He looked embarrassed for a moment, and bade her follow him into
his study. It was then that Camilla learned, for the first time,
distinctly, the claims and rights of her cousin; then she learned also at
what price those rights were to be enforced with the least possible
injury to her father. Mr. Beaufort naturally put the case before her in
the strongest point of the dilemma. He was to be ruined--utterly ruined;
a pauper, a beggar, if Camilla did not save him. The master of his fate
demanded his daughter's hand. Habitually subservient to even a whim of
her parents, this intelligence, the entreaty, the command with which it
was accompanied, overwhelmed her. She answered but by tears; and Mr.
Beaufort, assured of her submission, left her, to consider of the tone of
the letter he himself should write to Mr. Spencer. He had sat down to
this very task when he was summoned to Arthur's room. His son was
suddenly taken worse: spasms that threatened immediate danger convulsed
and exhausted him, and when these were allayed, he continued for three
days so feeble that Mr. Beaufort, his eyes now thoroughly opened to the
loss that awaited him, had no thoughts even for worldly interests.
On the night of the third day, Philip, Robert Beaufort, his wife, his
daughter, were grouped round the death-bed of Arthur. The sufferer had
just wakened from sleep, and he motioned to Philip to raise him. Mr.
Beaufort started, as by the dim light he saw his son in the arms of
Catherine's! and another Chamber of Death seemed, shadow-like, to replace
the one before him. Words, long since uttered, knelled in his ear:
"There shall be a death-bed yet beside which you shall see the spectre of
her, now so calm, rising for retribution from the grave!" His blood
froze, his hair stood erect; he cast a hurried, shrinking glance round
the twilight of the darkened room: and with a feeble cry covered his
white face with his trembling hands! But on Arthur's lips there was a
serene smile; he turned his eyes from Philip to Camilla, and murmured,
"She will repay you!" A pause, and the mother's shriek rang through the
room! Robert Beaufort raised his face from his hands. His son was dead!
"_Jul_. And what reward do you propose?
It must be my love."--_The Double Marriage_.
While these events, dark, hurried, and stormy, had befallen the family of
his betrothed, Sidney lead continued his calm life by the banks of the
lovely lake. After a few weeks, his confidence in Camilla's fidelity
overbore all his apprehensions and forebodings. Her letters, though
constrained by the inspection to which they were submitted, gave him
inexpressible consolation and delight. He began, however, early to fancy
that there was a change in their tone. The letters seemed to shun the
one subject to which all others were as nought; they turned rather upon
the guests assembled at Beaufort Court; and why I know not,--for there
was nothing in them to authorise jealousy--the brief words devoted to
Monsieur de Vaudemont filled him with uneasy and terrible suspicion. He
gave vent to these feelings, as fully as he dared do, under the knowledge
that his letter would be seen; and Camilla never again even mentioned the
name of Vaudemont. Then there was a long pause; then her brother's
arrival and illness were announced; then, at intervals, but a few hurried
lines; then a complete, long, dreadful silence, and lastly, with a deep
black border and a solemn black seal, came the following letter from Mr.
"MY DEAR SIR,--I have the unutterable grief to announce to you and your
worthy uncle the irreparable loss I have sustained in the death of my
only son. It is a month to day since he departed this life. He died,
sir, as a Christian should die--humbly, penitently--exaggerating the few
faults of his short life, but--(and here the writer's hypocrisy, though
so natural to him--was it, that he knew not that he was hypocritical?--
fairly gave way before the real and human anguish, for which there is no
dictionary!) but I cannot pursue this theme!
"Slowly now awakening to the duties yet left me to discharge, I cannot
but be sensible of the material difference in the prospects of my
remaining child. Miss Beaufort is now the heiress to an ancient name and
a large fortune. She subscribes with me to the necessity of consulting
those new considerations which so melancholy an event forces upon her
mind. The little fancy--or liking--(the acquaintance was too short for
more) that might naturally spring up between two amiable young persons
thrown together in the country, must be banished from our thoughts. As a
friend, I shall be always happy to hear of your welfare; and should you
ever think of a profession in which I can serve you, you may command my
utmost interest and exertions. I know, my young friend, what you will
feel at first, and how disposed you will be to call me mercenary and
selfish. Heaven knows if that be really my character! But at your age,
impressions are easily effaced; and any experienced friend of the world
will assure you that, in the altered circumstances of the case, I have no
option. All intercourse and correspondence, of course, cease with this
letter,--until, at least, we may all meet, with no sentiments but those
of friendship and esteem. I desire my compliments to your worthy uncle,
in which Mrs. and Miss Beaufort join; and I am sure you will be happy to
hear that my wife and daughter, though still in great affliction, have
suffered less in health than I could have ventured to anticipate.
"Believe me, dear Sir,
"To C. SPENCER, Esq., Jun."
When Sidney received this letter, he was with Mr. Spencer, and the latter
read it over the young man's shoulder, on which he leant affectionately.
When they came to the concluding words, Sidney turned round with a vacant
look and a hollow smile. "You see, sir," he said, "you see---"
"My boy--my son--you bear this as you ought. Contempt will soon
Sidney started to his feet, and his whole countenance was changed.
"Contempt--yes, for him! But for her--she knows it not--she is no party
to this--I cannot believe it--I will not! I--I----" and he rushed out of
the room. He was absent till nightfall, and when he returned, he
endeavoured to appear calm--but it was in vain.
The next day brought him a letter from Camilla, written unknown to her
parents,--short, it is true (confirming the sentence of separation
contained in her father's), and imploring him not to reply to it,--but
still so full of gentle and of sorrowful feeling, so evidently worded in
the wish to soften the anguish she inflicted, that it did more than
soothe--it even administered hope.
Now when Mr. Robert Beaufort had recovered the ordinary tone of his mind
sufficiently to indite the letter Sidney had just read, he had become
fully sensible of the necessity of concluding the marriage between Philip
and Camilla before the publicity of the lawsuit. The action for the
ejectment could not take place before the ensuing March or April. He
would waive the ordinary etiquette of time and mourning to arrange all
before. Indeed, he lived in hourly fear lest Philip should discover that
he had a rival in his brother, and break off the marriage, with its
contingent advantages. The first announcement of such a suit in the
newspapers might reach the Spencers; and if the young man were, as he
doubted not, Sidney Beaufort, would necessarily bring him forward, and
ensure the dreaded explanation. Thus apprehensive and ever scheming,
Robert Beaufort spoke to Philip so much, and with such apparent feeling,
of his wish to gratify, at the earliest possible period, the last wish of
his son, in the union now arranged--he spoke, with such seeming
consideration and good sense, of the avoidance of all scandal and
misinterpretation in the suit itself, which suit a previous marriage
between the claimant and his daughter would show at once to be of so
amicable a nature,--that Philip, ardently in love as he was, could not
but assent to any hastening of his expected happiness compatible with
decorum. As to any previous publicity by way of newspaper comment, he
agreed with Mr. Beaufort in deprecating it. But then came the question,
What name was he to bear in the interval?
"As to that," said Philip, somewhat proudly, "when, after my mother's
suit in her own behalf, I persuaded her not to bear the name of Beaufort,
though her due--and for my own part, I prized her own modest name, which
under such dark appearances was in reality spotless--as much as the
loftier one which you bear and my father bore;--so I shall not resume the
name the law denies me till the law restores it to me. Law alone can
efface the wrong which law has done me."
Mr. Beaufort was pleased with this reasoning (erroneous though it was),
and he now hoped that all would be safely arranged.
That a girl so situated as Camilla, and of a character not energetic or
profound, but submissive, dutiful, and timid, should yield to the
arguments of her father, the desire of her dying brother--that she should
not dare to refuse to become the instrument of peace to a divided family,
the saving sacrifice to her father's endangered fortunes--that, in fine,
when, nearly a month after Arthur's death, her father, leading her into
the room, where Philip waited her footstep with a beating heart, placed
her hand in his--and Philip falling on his knees said, "May I hope to
retain this hand for life?"--she should falter out such words as he might
construe into not reluctant acquiescence; that all this should happen is
so natural that the reader is already prepared for it. But still she
thought with bitter and remorseful feelings of him thus deliberately and
faithlessly renounced. She felt how deeply he had loved her--she knew
how fearful would be his grief. She looked sad and thoughtful; but her
brother's death was sufficient in Philip's eyes to account for that.
The praises and gratitude of her father, to whom she suddenly seemed to
become an object of even greater pride and affection than ever Arthur had
been--the comfort of a generous heart, that takes pleasure in the very
sacrifice it makes--the acquittal of her conscience as to the motives of
her conduct--began, however, to produce their effect. Nor, as she had
lately seen more of Philip, could she be insensible of his attachment--of
his many noble qualities--of the pride which most women might have felt
in his addresses, when his rank was once made clear; and as she had ever
been of a character more regulated by duty than passion, so one who could
have seen what was passing in her mind would have had little fear for
Philip's future happiness in her keeping--little fear but that, when once
married to him, her affections would have gone along with her duties; and
that if the first love were yet recalled, it would be with a sigh due
rather to some romantic recollection than some continued regret. Few of
either sex are ever united to their first love; yet married people jog
on, and call each other "my dear" and "my darling" all the same. It
might be, it is true, that Philip would be scarcely loved with the
intenseness with which he loved; but if Camilla's feelings were capable
of corresponding to the ardent and impassioned ones of that strong and
vehement nature--such feelings were not yet developed in her. The heart
of the woman might still be half concealed in the vale of the virgin
innocence. Philip himself was satisfied--he believed that he was
beloved: for it is the property of love, in a large and noble heart, to
reflect itself, and to see its own image in the eyes on which it looks.
As the Poet gives ideal beauty and excellence to some ordinary child of
Eve, worshipping less the being that is than the being he imagines and
conceives--so Love, which makes us all poets for a while, throws its own
divine light over a heart perhaps really cold; and becomes dazzled into
the joy of a false belief by the very lustre with which it surrounds its
The more, however, Camilla saw of Philip, the more (gradually overcoming
her former mysterious and superstitious awe of him) she grew familiarised
to his peculiar cast of character and thought, so the more she began to
distrust her father's assertion, that he had insisted on her hand as a
price--a bargain--an equivalent for the sacrifice of a dire revenge. And
with this thought came another. Was she worthy of this man?--was she not
deceiving him? Ought she not to say, at least, that she had known a
previous attachment, however determined she might be to subdue it? Often
the desire for this just and honourable confession trembled on her lips,
and as often was it checked by some chance circumstance or some maiden
fear. Despite their connection, there was not yet between them that
delicious intimacy which ought to accompany the affiance of two hearts
and souls. The gloom of the house; the restraint on the very language of
love imposed by a death so recent and so deplored, accounted in much for
this reserve. And for the rest, Robert Beaufort prudently left them very
few and very brief opportunities to be alone.
In the meantime, Philip (now persuaded that the Beauforts were ignorant
of his brother's fate) had set Mr. Barlow's activity in search of Sidney;
and his painful anxiety to discover one so dear and so mysteriously lost
was the only cause of uneasiness apparent in the brightening Future.
While these researches, hitherto fruitless, were being made, it so
happened, as London began now to refill, and gossip began now to revive,
that a report got abroad, no one knew how (probably from the servants)
that Monsieur de Vaudemont, a distinguished French officer, was shortly
to lead the daughter and sole heiress of Robert Beaufort, Esq., M.P., to
the hymeneal altar; and that report very quickly found its way into the
London papers: from the London papers it spread to the provincial--it
reached the eyes of Sidney in his now gloomy and despairing solitude.
The day that he read it he disappeared.
"_Jul_. . . . Good lady, love him!
You have a noble and an honest gentleman.
I ever found him so.
Love him no less than I have done, and serve him,
And Heaven shall bless you--you shall bless my ashes."
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: _The Double Marriage_.
We have been too long absent from Fanny; it is time to return to her.
The delight she experienced when Philip made her understand all the
benefits, the blessings, that her courage, nay, her intellect, had
bestowed upon him, the blushing ecstasy with which she heard (as they
returned to H----, the eventful morning of her deliverance, side by side,
her hand clasped in his, and often pressed to his grateful lips) his
praises, his thanks, his fear for her safety, his joy at regaining her--
all this amounted to a bliss, which, till then, she could not have
conceived that life was capable of bestowing. And when he left her at
H----, to hurry to his lawyer's with the recovered document, it was but
for an hour. He returned, and did not quit her for several days. And in
that time he became sensible of her astonishing, and, to him, it seemed
miraculous, improvement in all that renders Mind the equal to Mind;
miraculous, for he guessed not the Influence that makes miracles its
commonplace. And now he listened attentively to her when she conversed;
he read with her (though reading was never much in his vocation), his
unfastidious ear was charmed with her voice, when it sang those simple
songs; and his manner (impressed alike by gratitude for the signal
service rendered to him, and by the discovery that Fanny was no longer a
child, whether in mind or years), though not less gentle than before, was
less familiar, less superior, more respectful, and more earnest. It was
a change which raised her in her own self-esteem. Ah, those were rosy
days for Fanny!
A less sagacious judge of character than Lilburne would have formed
doubts perhaps of the nature of Philip's interest in Fanny. But he
comprehended at once the fraternal interest which a man like Philip might
well take in a creature like Fanny, if commended to his care by a
protector whose doom was so awful as that which had ingulfed the life of
William Gawtrey. Lilburne had some thoughts at first of claiming her,
but as he had no power to compel her residence with him, he did not wish,
on consideration, to come again in contact with Philip upon ground so
full of humbling recollections as that still overshadowed by the images
of Gawtrey and Mary. He contented himself with writing an artful letter
to Simon, stating that from Fanny's residence with Mr. Gawtrey, and from
her likeness to her mother, whom he had only seen as a child, he had
conjectured the relationship she bore to himself; and having obtained
other evidence of that fact (he did not say what or where), he had not
scrupled to remove her to his roof, meaning to explain all to Mr. Simon
Gawtrey the next day. This letter was accompanied by one from a lawyer,
informing Simon Gawtrey that Lord Lilburne would pay L200. a year, in
quarterly payments, to his order; and that he was requested to add, that
when the young lady he had so benevolently reared came of age, or
married, an adequate provision would be made for her. Simon's mind
blazed up at this last intelligence, when read to him, though he neither
comprehended nor sought to know why Lord Lilburne should be so generous,
or what that noble person's letter to himself was intended to convey.
For two days, he seemed restored to vigorous sense; but when he had once
clutched the first payment made in advance, the touch of the money seemed
to numb him back to his lethargy: the excitement of desire died in the
dull sense of possession.
And just at that time Fanny's happiness came to a close. Philip received
Arthur Beaufort's letter; and now ensued long and frequent absences; and
on his return, for about an hour or so at a time, he spoke of sorrow and
death; and the books were closed and the songs silenced. All fear for
Fanny's safety was, of course, over; all necessity for her work; their
little establishment was increased. She never stirred out without Sarah;
yet she would rather that there had been some danger on her account for
him to guard against, or some trial that his smile might soothe. His
prolonged absences began to prey upon her--the books ceased to interest--
no study filled up the dreary gap--her step grew listless-her cheek pale
--she was sensible at last that his presence had become necessary to her
very life. One day, he came to the house earlier than usual, and with a
much happier and serener expression of countenance than he had worn of
Simon was dozing in his chair, with his old dog, now scarce vigorous
enough to bark, curled up at his feet. Neither man nor dog was more as a
witness to what was spoken than the leathern chair, or the hearth-rug, on
which they severally reposed.
There was something which, in actual life, greatly contributed to the
interest of Fanny's strange lot, but which, in narration, I feel I cannot
make sufficiently clear to the reader. And this was her connection and
residence with that old man. Her character forming, as his was
completely gone; here, the blank becoming filled--there, the page fading
to a blank. It was the tatter, total Deathliness-in-Life of Simon, that,
while so impressive to see, renders it impossible to bring him before the
reader in his full force of contrast to the young Psyche. He seldom
spoke--often, not from morning till night; he now seldom stirred. It is
in vain to describe the indescribable: let the reader draw the picture
for himself. And whenever (as I sometimes think he will, after he has
closed this book) he conjures up the idea he attaches to the name of its
heroine, let him see before her, as she glides through the humble room--
as she listens to the voice of him she loves--as she sits musing by the
window, with the church spire just visible--as day by day the soul
brightens and expands within her--still let the reader see within the
same walls, greyhaired, blind, dull to all feeling, frozen to all life,
that stony image of Time and Death! Perhaps then he may understand why
they who beheld the real and living Fanny blooming under that chill and
mass of shadow, felt that her grace, her simplicity, her charming beauty,
were raised by the contrast, till they grew associated with thoughts and
images, mysterious and profound, belonging not more to the lovely than to
So there sat the old man; and Philip, though aware of his presence,
speaking as if he were alone with Fanny, after touching on more casual
topics, thus addressed her:
"My true and my dear friend, it is to you that I shall owe, not only my
rights and fortune, but the vindication of my mother's memory. You have
not only placed flowers upon that gravestone, but it is owing to you,
under Providence, that it will be inscribed at last with the Name which
refutes all calumny. Young and innocent as you now are, my gentle and
beloved benefactress, you cannot as yet know what a blessing it will be
to me to engrave that Name upon that simple stone. Hereafter, when you
yourself are a wife, a mother, you will comprehend the service you have
rendered to the living and the dead!"
He stopped--struggling with the rush of emotions that overflowed his
heart. Alas, THE DEAD! what service can we render to them?--what availed
it now, either to the dust below, or to the immortality above, that the
fools and knaves of this world should mention the Catherine whose life
was gone, whose ears were deaf, with more or less respect? There is in
calumny that poison that, even when the character throws off the slander,
the heart remains diseased beneath the effect. They say that truth comes
sooner or later; but it seldom comes before the soul, passing from agony
to contempt, has grown callous to men's judgments. Calumniate a human
being in youth--adulate that being in age;--what has been the interval?
Will the adulation atone either for the torture, or the hardness which
the torture leaves at last? And if, as in Catherine's case (a case, how
common!), the truth come too late--if the tomb is closed--if the heart
you have wrung can be wrung no more--why the truth is as valueless as the
epitaph on a forgotten Name! Some such conviction of the hollowness of
his own words, when he spoke of service to the dead, smote upon Philip's
heart, and stopped the flow of his words.
Fanny, conscious only of his praise, his thanks, and the tender affection
of his voice, stood still silent-her eyes downcast, her breast heaving.
"And now, Fanny, my honoured sister, I would thank you for more, were it
possible, even than this. I shall owe to you not only name and fortune,
but happiness. It is from the rights to which you have assisted me, and
which will shortly be made clear, that I am able to demand a hand I have
so long coveted--the hand of one as dear to me as you are. In a word,
the time has, this day, been fixed, when I shall have a home to offer to
you and to this old man--when I can present to you a sister who will
prize you as I do: for I love you so dearly--I owe you so much--that even
that home would lose half its smiles if you were not there. Do you
understand me, Fanny? The sister I speak of will be my wife!"
The poor girl who heard this speech of most cruel tenderness did not
fall, or faint, or evince any outward emotion, except in a deadly
paleness. She seemed like one turned to stone. Her very breath forsook
her for some moments, and then came back with a long deep sigh. She laid
her hand lightly on his arm, and said calmly:
"Yes--I understand. We once saw a wedding. You are to be married--I
shall see yours!"
"You shall; and, later, perhaps, I may see your own."
"I have a brother. Ah! if I could but find him--younger than I am--
beautiful almost as you!"
"You will be happy," said Fanny, still calmly.
"I have long placed my hopes of happiness in such a union! Stay, where
are you going?"
"To pray for you," said Fanny, with a smile, in which there was something
of the old vacancy, as she walked gently from the room. Philip followed
her with moistened eyes. Her manner might have deceived one more vain.
He soon after quitted the house, and returned to town.
Three hours after, Sarah found Fanny stretched on the floor of her own
room--so still--so white--that, for some moments, the old woman thought
life was gone. She recovered, however, by degrees; and, after putting
her hands to her eyes, and muttering some moments, seemed much as usual,
except that she was more silent, and that her lips remained colourless,
and her hands cold like stone.
"_Vec_. Ye see what follows.
_Duke_. O gentle sir! this shape again!"--_The Chances_.
That evening Sidney Beaufort arrived in London. It is the nature of
solitude to make passions calm on the surface--agitated in the deeps.
Sidney had placed his whole existence in one object. When the letter
arrived that told him to hope no more, he was at first rather sensible of
the terrible and dismal blank--the "void abyss"--to which all his future
was suddenly changed, than roused to vehement and turbulent emotion. But
Camilla's letter had, as we have seen, raised his courage and animated
his heart. To the idea of her faith he still clung with the instinct of
hope in the midst of despair. The tidings that she was absolutely
betrothed to another, and in so short a time since her rejection of him,
let loose from all restraint his darker and more tempestuous passions.
In a state of mind bordering upon frenzy, he hurried to London--to seek
her--to see her; with what intent--what hope, if hope there were--he
himself could scarcely tell. But what man who has loved with fervour and
trust will be contented to receive the sentence of eternal separation
except from the very lips of the one thus worshipped and thus foresworn?
The day had been intensely cold. Towards evening the snow fell fast and
heavily. Sidney had not, since a child, been before in London; and the
immense City, covered with a wintry and icy mist, through which the
hurrying passengers and the slow-moving vehicles passed, spectre-like,
along the dismal and slippery streets-opened to the stranger no
hospitable arms. He knew not a step of the way--he was pushed to and
fro--his scarce intelligible questions impatiently answered--the snow
covered him--the frost pierced to his veins. At length a man, more
kindly than the rest, seeing that he was a stranger to London, procured
him a hackney-coach, and directed the driver to the distant quarter of
Berkeley Square. The snow balled under the hoofs of the horses--the
groaning vehicle proceeded at the pace of a hearse. At length, and after
a period of such suspense, and such emotion, as Sidney never in after-
life could recall without a shudder, the coach stopped--the benumbed
driver heavily descended--the sound of the knocker knelled loud through
the muffled air--and the light from Mr. Beaufort's hall glared full upon
the dizzy eyes of the visitor. He pushed aside the porter, and sprang
into the hall. Luckily, one of the footmen who had attended Mrs.
Beaufort to the Lakes recognised him; and, in answer to his breathless
"Why, indeed, Mr. Spencer, Miss Beaufort is at home--up-stairs in the
drawing-room, with master and mistress, and Monsieur de Vaudemont; but--"
Sidney waited no more. He bounded up the stairs--he opened the first
door that presented itself to him, and burst, unannounced and unlooked-
for, upon the eyes of the group seated within. He saw not the terrified
start of Mr. Robert Beaufort--he heeded not the faint, nervous
exclamation of the mother--he caught not the dark and wondering glace of
the stranger seated beside Camilla--he saw but Camilla herself, and in a
moment he was at her feet.
"Camilla, I am here!--I, who love you so--I, who have nothing in the
world but you! I am here--to learn from you, and you alone, if I am
indeed abandoned--if you are indeed to be another's!"
He had dashed his hat from his brow as he sprang forward; his long fair
hair, damp with the snows, fell disordered over his forehead; his eyes
were fixed, as for life and death, upon the pale face and trembling lips
of Camilla. Robert Beaufort, in great alarm, and well aware of the
fierce temper of Philip, anticipative of some rash and violent impulse,
turned his glance upon his destined son-in-law. But there was no angry
pride in the countenance he there beheld. Philip had risen, but his
frame was bent--his knees knocked together--his lips were parted--his
eyes were staring full upon the face of the kneeling man.
Suddenly Camilla, sharing her father's fear, herself half rose, and with
an unconscious pathos, stretched one hand, as if to shelter, over
Sidney's head, and looked to Philip. Sidney's eyes followed hers. He
sprang to his feet.
"What, then, it is true! And this is the man for whom I am abandoned!
But unless you--you, with your own lips, tell me that you love me no
more--that you love another--I will not yield you but with life."
He stalked sternly and impetuously up to Philip, who recoiled as his
rival advanced. The characters of the two men seemed suddenly changed.
The timid dreamer seemed dilated into the fearless soldier. The soldier
seemed shrinking--quailing-into nameless terror. Sidney grasped that
strong arm, as Philip still retreated, with his slight and delicate
fingers, grasped it with violence and menace; and frowning into the face
from which the swarthy blood was scared away, said, in a hollow whisper:
"Do you hear me? Do you comprehend me? I say that she shall not be
forced into a marriage at which I yet believe her heart rebels. My claim
is holier than yours. Renounce her, or win her but with my blood."
Philip did not apparently hear the words thus addressed to him. His
whole senses seemed absorbed in the one sense of sight. He continued to
gaze upon the speaker, till his eye dropped on the hand that yet griped
his arm. And as he thus looked, he uttered an inarticulate cry. He
caught the hand in his own, and pointed to a ring on the finger, but
remained speechless. Mr. Beaufort approached, and began some stammered
words of soothing to Sidney, but Philip motioned him to be silent, and,
at last, as if by a violent effort, gasped forth, not to Sidney, but to
"His name?--his name?"
"It is Mr. Spencer--Mr. Charles Spencer," cried Beaufort. "Listen to me,
I will explain all--I--"
"Hush, hush! cried Philip; and turning to Sidney, he put his hand on his
shoulder, and looking him full in the face, said,--
"Have you not known another name? Are you not--yes, it is so--it is--it
is! Follow me--follow!"
And still retaining his grasp, and leading Sidney, who was now subdued,
awed, and a prey to new and wild suspicions, he moved on gently, stride
by stride--his eyes fixed on that fair face--his lips muttering-till the
closing door shut both forms from the eyes of the three there left.
It was the adjoining room into which Philip led his rival. It was lit
but by a small reading-lamp, and the bright, steady blaze of the fire;
and by this light they both continued to gaze on each other, as if
spellbound, in complete silence. At last Philip, by an irresistible
impulse, fell upon Sidney's bosom, and, clasping him with convulsive
energy, gasped out:
"Sidney!--Sidney!--my mother's son!"
"What!" exclaimed Sidney, struggling from the embrace, and at last
freeing himself; "it is you, then!--you, my own brother! You, who have
been hitherto the thorn in my path, the cloud in my fate! You, who are
now come to make me a wretch for life! I love that woman, and you tear
her from me! You, who subjected my infancy to hardship, and, but for
Providence, might have degraded my youth, by your example, into shame and
"Forbear!--forbear!" cried Philip, with a voice so shrill in its agony,
that it smote the hearts of those in the adjoining chamber like the
shriek of some despairing soul. They looked at each other, but not one
had the courage to break upon the interview.
Sidney himself was appalled by the sound. He threw himself on a seat,
and, overcome by passions so new to him, by excitement so strange, hid
his face, and sobbed as a child.
Philip walked rapidly to and fro the room for some moments; at length he
paused opposite to Sidney, and said, with the deep calmness of a wronged
and goaded spirit:
"Sidney Beaufort, hear me! When my mother died she confided you to my
care, my love, and my protection. In the last lines that her hand
traced, she bade me think less of myself than of you; to be to you as a
father as well as brother. The hour that I read that letter I fell on my
knees, and vowed that I would fulfil that injunction--that I would
sacrifice my very self, if I could give fortune or happiness to you. And
this not for your sake alone, Sidney; no! but as my mother--our wronged,
our belied, our broken-hearted mother!--O Sidney, Sidney! have you no
tears for her, too?" He passed his hand over his own eyes for a moment,
and resumed: "But as our mother, in that last letter, said to me, 'let my
love pass into your breast for him,' so, Sidney, so, in all that I could
do for you, I fancied that my mother's smile looked down upon me, and
that in serving you it was my mother whom I obeyed. Perhaps, hereafter,
Sidney, when we talk over that period of my earlier life when I worked
for you, when the degradation you speak of (there was no crime in it!)--
was borne cheerfully for your sake, and yours the holiday though mine the
task--perhaps, hereafter, you will do me more justice. You left me, or
were reft from me, and I gave all the little fortune that my mother had
bequeathed us, to get some tidings from you. I received your letter--
that bitter letter--and I cared not then that I was a beggar, since I was
alone. You talk of what I have cost you--you talk! and you now ask me
to--to--Merciful Heaven! let me understand you--do you love Camilla?
Does she love you? Speak--speak--explain--what, new agony awaits me?"
It was then that Sidney, affected and humbled, amidst all his more
selfish sorrows, by his brother's language and manner, related, as
succinctly as he could, the history of his affection for Camilla, the
circumstances of their engagement, and ended by placing before him the
letter he had received from Mr. Beaufort.
In spite of all his efforts for self-control, Philip's anguish was so
great, so visible, that Sidney, after looking at his working features,
his trembling hands, for a moment, felt all the earlier parts of his
nature melt in a flow of generous sympathy and remorse. He flung himself
on the breast from which he had shrunk before, and cried,--
"Brother, brother! forgive me; I see how I have wronged you. If she has
forgotten me, if she love you, take her and be happy!"
Philip returned his embrace, but without warmth, and then moved away;
and, again, in great disorder, paced the room. His brother only heard
disjointed exclamations that seemed to escape him unawares: "They said
she loved me! Heaven give me strength! Mother--mother! let me fulfil my
vow! Oh, that I had died ere this!" He stopped at last, and the large
dews rolled down his forehead. "Sidney!" said he, "there is a mystery
here that I comprehend not. But my mind now is very confused. If she
loves you--if!--is it possible for a woman to love two? Well, well, I go
to solve the riddle: wait here!"
He vanished into the next room, and for nearly half an hour Sidney was
alone. He heard through the partition murmured voices; he caught more
clearly the sound of Camilla's sobs. The particulars of that interview
between Philip and Camilla, alone at first (afterwards Mr. Robert
Beaufort was re-admitted), Philip never disclosed, nor could Sidney
himself ever obtain a clear account from Camilla, who could not recall
it, even years after, without great emotion. But at last the door was
opened, and Philip entered, leading Camilla by the hand. His face was
calm, and there was a smile on his lips; a greater dignity than even.
that habitual to him was diffused over his whole person. Camilla was
holding her handkerchief to her eyes and weeping passionately. Mr.
Beaufort followed them with a mortified and slinking air.
"Sidney," said Philip, "it is past. All is arranged. I yield to your
earlier, and therefore better, claim. Mr. Beaufort consents to your
union. He will tell you, at some fitter time, that our birthright is at
last made clear, and that there is no blot on the name we shall hereafter
bear. Sidney, embrace your bride!"
Amazed, delighted, and still half incredulous, Sidney seized and kissed
the hand of Camilla; and as he then drew her to his breast, she said, as
she pointed to Philip:--
"Oh! if you do love me as you say, see in him the generous, the noble--"
Fresh sobs broke off her speech; but as Sidney sought again to take her
hand, she whispered, with a touching and womanly sentiment, "Ah! respect
him: see!--" and Sidney, looking then at his brother, saw, that though he
still attempted to smile, his lip writhed, and his features were drawn
together, as one whose frame is wrung by torture, but who struggles not
He flew to Philip, who, grasping his hand, held him back, and said,--
"I have fulfilled my vow! I have given you up the only blessing my life
has known. Enough, you are happy, and I shall be so too, when God
pleases to soften this blow. And now you must not wonder or blame me,
if, though so lately found, I leave you for a while. Do me one kindness,
--you, Sidney--you, Mr. Beaufort. Let the marriage take place at
H----, in the village church by which my mother sleeps; let it be
delayed till the suit is terminated: by that time I shall hope to meet
you all--to meet you, Camilla, as I ought to meet my brother's wife; till
then, my presence will not sadden your happiness. Do not seek to see me;
do not expect to hear from me. Hist! be silent, all of you; my heart is
yet bruised and sore. O THOU," and here, deepening his voice, he raised
his arms, "Thou who hast preserved my youth from such snares and such
peril, who hast guided my steps from the abyss to which they wandered,
and beneath whose hand I now bow, grateful if chastened, receive this
offering, and bless that union! Fare ye well."
"Heaven's airs amid the harpstrings dwell;
And we wish they ne'er may fade;
They cease; and the soul is a silent cell,
Where music never played.
Dream follows dream through the long night-hours."
WILSON: _The Past, a poem_.
The self-command which Philip had obtained for a while deserted him when
he was without the house. His mind felt broken up into chaos; he hurried
on, mechanically, on foot; he passed street upon street, now solitary and
deserted, as the lamps gleamed upon the thick snow. The city was left
behind him. He paused not, till, breathless, and exhausted in spirit if
not in frame, he reached the churchyard where Catherine's dust reposed.
The snow had ceased to fall, but it lay deep over the graves; the
yew-trees, clad in their white shrouds, gleamed ghost-like through the
dimness. Upon the rail that fenced the tomb yet hung a wreath that
Fanny's hand had placed there. But the flowers were hid; it was a wreath
of snow! Through the intervals of the huge and still clouds, there
gleamed a few melancholy stars. The very calm of the holy spot seemed
unutterably sad. The Death of the year overhung the Death of man. And
as Philip bent over the tomb, within and without all was ICE and NIGHT!
For hours he remained on that spot, alone with his grief and absorbed in
his prayer. Long past midnight Fanny heard his step on the stairs, and
the door of his chamber close with unwonted violence. She heard, too,
for some time, his heavy tread on the floor, till suddenly all was
silent. The next morning, when, at the usual hour, Sarah entered to
unclose the shutters and light the fire, she was startled by wild
exclamations and wilder laughter. The fever had mounted to the brain--
he was delirious.