Part 6 out of 11
and feature. His broad chest, his erect air, his lithe and symmetrical
length of limb, united, happily, the attributes of activity and strength;
and though there was no delicacy of youthful bloom upon his dark cheek,
and though lines which should have come later marred its smoothness with
the signs of care and thought, yet an expression of intelligence and
daring, equally beyond his years, and the evidence of hardy, abstemious,
vigorous health, served to show to the full advantage the outline of
features which, noble and regular, though stern and masculine, the artist
might have borrowed for his ideal of a young Spartan arming for his first
battle. Arthur, slight to feebleness, and with the paleness, partly of
constitution, partly of gay excess, on his fair and clear complexion, had
features far less symmetrical and impressive than his cousin: but what
then? All that are bestowed by elegance of dress, the refinements of
luxurious habit, the nameless grace that comes from a mind and a manner
polished, the one by literary culture, the other by social intercourse,
invested the person of the heir with a fascination that rude Nature alone
ever fails to give. And about him there was a gaiety, an airiness of
spirit, an atmosphere of enjoyment which bespoke one who is in love with
"Why, this is lucky! I'm so glad to see you all!" said Arthur Beaufort,
with that silver-ringing tone and charming smile which are to the happy
spring of man what its music and its sunshine are to the spring of earth.
"You must dine with me at Verey's. I want something to rouse me to-day;
for I did not get home from the _Salon_* till four this morning."
*[The most celebrated gaming-house in Paris in the day before
gaming-houses were suppressed by the well-directed energy of the
"But you won?"
"Yes, Marsden. Hang it! I always win: I who could so well afford to
lose: I'm quite ashamed of my luck!"
"It is easy to spend what one wins," observed Mr. Marsden, sententiously;
"and I see you have been at the jeweller's! A present for Cecile? Well,
don't blush, my dear fellow. What is life without women?"
"And wine?" said a second. "And play?" said a third. "And wealth?" said
"And you enjoy them all! Happy fellow!" said a fifth. The Outcast
pulled his hat over his brows, and walked away.
"This dear Paris," said Beaufort, as his eye carelessly and unconsciously
followed the dark form retreating through the arches;--"this dear Paris!
I must make the most of it while I stay! I have only been here a few
weeks, and next week I must go."
"Pooh--your health is better: you don't look like the same man."
"You think so really? Still I don't know: the doctors say that I must
either go to the German waters--the season is begun--or--"
"Live less with such pleasant companions, my dear fellow! But as you
say, what is life without--"
"Ha! ha. 'Throw physic to the dogs: I'll none of it!'"
And Arthur leaped lightly on his saddle, and as he rode gaily on, humming
the favourite air of the last opera, the hoofs of his horse splashed the
mud over a foot-passenger halting at the crossing. Morton checked the
fiery exclamation rising to his lips; and gazing after the brilliant form
that hurried on towards the Champs Elysees, his eye caught the statues on
the bridge, and a voice, as of a cheering angel, whispered again to his
heart, "TIME, FAITH, ENERGY!"
The expression of his countenance grew calm at once, and as he continued
his rambles it was with a mind that, casting off the burdens of the past,
looked serenely and steadily on the obstacles and hardships of the
future. We have seen that a scruple of conscience or of pride, not
without its nobleness, had made him refuse the importunities of Gawtrey
for less sordid raiment; the same feeling made it his custom to avoid
sharing the luxurious and dainty food with which Gawtrey was wont to
regale himself. For that strange man, whose wonderful felicity of
temperament and constitution rendered him, in all circumstances, keenly
alive to the hearty and animal enjoyments of life, would still emerge, as
the day declined, from their wretched apartment, and, trusting to his
disguises, in which indeed he possessed a masterly art, repair to one of
the better description of restaurants, and feast away his cares for the
moment. William Gawtrey would not have cared three straws for the curse
of Damocles. The sword over his head would never have spoiled his
appetite! He had lately, too, taken to drinking much more deeply than he
had been used to do--the fine intellect of the man was growing thickened
and dulled; and this was a spectacle that Morton could not bear to
contemplate. Yet so great was Gawtrey's vigour of health, that, after
draining wine and spirits enough to have despatched a company of fox-
hunters, and after betraying, sometimes in uproarious glee, sometimes in
maudlin self-bewailings, that he himself was not quite invulnerable to
the thyrsus of the god, he would--on any call on his energies, or
especially before departing on those mysterious expeditions which kept
him from home half, and sometimes all, the night--plunge his head into
cold water--drink as much of the lymph as a groom would have shuddered to
bestow on a horse--close his eyes in a doze for half an hour, and wake,
cool, sober, and collected, as if he had lived according to the precepts
of Socrates or Cornaro!
But to return to Morton. It was his habit to avoid as much as possible
sharing the good cheer of his companion; and now, as he entered the,
Champs Elysees, he saw a little family, consisting of a young mechanic,
his wife, and two children, who, with that love of harmless recreation
which yet characterises the French, had taken advantage of a holiday in
the craft, and were enjoying their simple meal under the shadow of the
trees. Whether in hunger or in envy, Morton paused and contemplated the
happy group. Along the road rolled the equipages and trampled the steeds
of those to whom all life is a holiday. There, was Pleasure--under those
trees was Happiness. One of the children, a little boy of about six
years old, observing the attitude and gaze of the pausing wayfarer, ran
to him, and holding up a fragment of a coarse kind of cake, said to him,
willingly, "Take it--I have had enough!" The child reminded Morton of
his brother--his heart melted within him--he lifted the young Samaritan
in his arms, and as he kissed him, wept.
The mother observed and rose also. She laid her hand on his own: "Poor
boy! why do you weep?--can we relieve you?"
Now that bright gleam of human nature, suddenly darting across the sombre
recollections and associations of his past life, seemed to Morton as if
it came from Heaven, in approval and in blessing of this attempt at
reconciliation to his fate.
"I thank you," said he, placing the child on the ground, and passing his
hand over his eyes,--"I thank you--yes! Let me sit down amongst you."
And he sat down, the child by his side, and partook of their fare, and
was merry with them,--the proud Philip!--had he not begun to discover the
"precious jewel" in the "ugly and venomous" Adversity?
The mechanic, though a gay fellow on the whole, was not without some of
that discontent of his station which is common with his class; he vented
it, however, not in murmurs, but in jests. He was satirical on the
carriages and the horsemen that passed; and, lolling on the grass,
ridiculed his betters at his ease.
"Hush!" said his wife, suddenly; "here comes Madame de Merville;" and
rising as she spoke, she made a respectful inclination of her head
towards an open carriage that was passing very slowly towards the town.
"Madame de Merville!" repeated the husband, rising also, and lifting his
cap from his head. "Ah! I have nothing to say against her!"
Morton looked instinctively towards the carriage, and saw a fair
countenance turned graciously to answer the silent salutations of the
mechanic and his wife--a countenance that had long haunted his dreams,
though of late it had faded away beneath harsher thoughts--the
countenance of the stranger whom he had seen at the bureau of Gawtrey,
when that worthy personage had borne a more mellifluous name. He started
and changed colour: the lady herself now seemed suddenly to recognise
him; for their eyes met, and she bent forward eagerly. She pulled the
check-string--the carriage halted--she beckoned to the mechanic's wife,
who went up to the roadside.
"I worked once for that lady," said the man with a tone of feeling; "and
when my wife fell ill last winter she paid the doctors. Ah, she is an
angel of charity and kindness!"
Morton scarcely heard this eulogium, for he observed, by something eager
and inquisitive in the face of Madame de Merville, and by the sudden
manner in which the mechanic's helpmate turned her head to the spot in
which he stood, that he was the object of their conversation. Once more
he became suddenly aware of his ragged dress, and with a natural shame--a
fear that charity might be extended to him from her--he muttered an
abrupt farewell to the operative, and without another glance at the
carriage, walked away.
Before he had got many paces, the wife however came up to him,
breathless. "Madame de Merville would speak to you, sir!" she said, with
more respect than she had hitherto thrown into her manner. Philip paused
an instant, and again strode on--
"It must be some mistake," he said, hurriedly: "I have no right to expect
such an honour."
He struck across the road, gained the opposite side, and had vanished
from Madame de Merville's eyes, before the woman regained the carriage.
But still that calm, pale, and somewhat melancholy face, presented itself
before him; and as he walked again through the town, sweet and gentle
fancies crowded confusedly on his heart. On that soft summer day,
memorable for so many silent but mighty events in that inner life which
prepares the catastrophes of the outer one; as in the region, of which
Virgil has sung, the images of men to be born hereafter repose or glide--
on that soft summer day, he felt he had reached the age when Youth begins
to clothe in some human shape its first vague ideal of desire and love.
In such thoughts, and still wandering, the day wore away, till he found
himself in one of the lanes that surround that glittering Microcosm of
the vices, the frivolities, the hollow show, and the real beggary of the
gay City--the gardens and the galleries of the Palais Royal. Surprised
at the lateness of the hour, it was then on the stroke of seven, he was
about to return homewards, when the loud voice of Gawtrey sounded behind,
and that personage, tapping him on the back, said,--
"Hollo, my young friend, well met! This will be a night of trial to you.
Empty stomachs produce weak nerves. Come along! you must dine with me.
A good dinner and a bottle of old wine--come! nonsense, I say you shall
come! _Vive la joie_!"
While speaking, he had linked his arm in Morton's, and hurried him on
several paces in spite of his struggles; but just as the words _Vive la
joie_ left his lips, he stood still and mute, as if a thunderbolt had
fallen at his feet; and Morton felt that heavy arm shiver and tremble
like a leaf. He looked up, and just at the entrance of that part of the
Palais Royal in which are situated the restaurants of Verey and Vefour,
he saw two men standing but a few paces before them, and gazing full on
Gawtrey and himself.
"It is my evil genius," muttered Gawtrey, grinding his teeth.
"And mine!" said Morton.
The younger of the two men thus apostrophised made a step towards Philip,
when his companion drew him back and whispered,--"What are you about--do
you know that young man?"
"He is my cousin; Philip Beaufort's natural son!"
"Is he? then discard him for ever. He is with the most dangerous knave
As Lord Lilburne--for it was he--thus whispered his nephew, Gawtrey
strode up to him; and, glaring full in his face, said in a deep and
hollow tone,--"There is a hell, my lord,--I go to drink to our meeting!"
Thus saying, he took off his hat with a ceremonious mockery, and
disappeared within the adjoining restaurant, kept by Vefour.
"A hell!" said Lilburne, with his frigid smile; "the rogue's head runs
"And I have suffered Philip again to escape me," said Arthur, in
self-reproach: for while Gawtrey had addressed Lord Lilburne, Morton had
plunged back amidst the labyrinth of alleys. "How have I kept my oath?"
"Come! your guests must have arrived by this time. As for that wretched
young man, depend upon it that he is corrupted body and soul."
"But he is my own cousin."
"Pooh! there is no relationship in natural children: besides, he will
find you out fast enough. Ragged claimants are not long too proud to
"You speak in earnest?" said Arthur, irresolutely. "Ay! trust my
experience of the world--Allons!"
And in a _cabinet_ of the very _restaurant_, adjoining that in which the
solitary Gawtrey gorged his conscience, Lilburne, Arthur, and their gay
friends, soon forgetful of all but the roses of the moment, bathed their
airy spirits in the dews of the mirthful wine. Oh, extremes of life!
Oh, Night! Oh, Morning!
"Meantime a moving scene was open laid,
That lazar house."--THOMSON'S _Castle of Indolence_.
It was near midnight. At the mouth of the lane in which Gawtrey resided
there stood four men. Not far distant, in the broad street at angles
with the lane, were heard the wheels of carriages and the sound of music.
A lady, fair in form, tender of heart, stainless in repute, was receiving
"Monsieur Favart," said one of the men to the smallest of the four; "you
understand the conditions--20,000 francs and a free pardon?"
"Nothing more reasonable--it is understood. Still I confess that I
should like to have my men close at hand. I am not given to fear; but
this is a dangerous experiment."
"You knew the danger beforehand and subscribed to it: you must enter
alone with me, or not at all. Mark you, the men are sworn to murder him
who betrays them. Not for twenty times 20,000 francs would I have them
know me as the informer. My life were not worth a day's purchase. Now,
if you feel secure in your disguise, all is safe. You will have seen
them at their work--you will recognise their persons--you can depose
against them at the trial--I shall have time to quit France."
"Well, well! as you please."
"Mind, you must wait in the vault with them till they separate. We have
so planted your men that whatever street each of the gang takes in going
home, he can be seized quietly and at once. The bravest and craftiest of
all, who, though he has but just joined, is already their captain;--him,
the man I told you of, who lives in the house, you must take after his
return, in his bed. It is the sixth story to the right, remember: here
is the key to his door. He is a giant in strength; and will never be
taken alive if up and armed."
"Ah, I comprehend!--Gilbert" (and Favart turned to one of his companions
who had not yet spoken) "take three men besides yourself, according to
the directions I gave you,--the porter will admit you, that's arranged.
Make no noise. If I don't return by four o'clock, don't wait for me, but
proceed at once. Look well to your primings. Take him alive, if
possible--at the worst, dead. And now--anon ami--lead on!"
The traitor nodded, and walked slowly down the street. Favart, pausing,
whispered hastily to the man whom he had called Gilbert,--
"Follow me close--get to the door of the cellar-place eight men within
hearing of my whistle--recollect the picklocks, the axes. If you hear
the whistle, break in; if not, I'm safe, and the first orders to seize
the captain in his room stand good."
So saying, Favart strode after his guide. The door of a large, but ill-
favoured-looking house stood ajar--they entered-passed unmolested through
a court-yard--descended some stairs; the guide unlocked the door of a
cellar, and took a dark lantern from under his cloak. As he drew up the
slide, the dim light gleamed on barrels and wine-casks, which appeared to
fill up the space. Rolling aside one of these, the guide lifted a trap-
door, and lowered his lantern. "Enter," said he; and the two men
. . . . . . . .
The coiners were at their work. A man, seated on a stool before a desk,
was entering accounts in a large book. That man was William Gawtrey.
While, with the rapid precision of honest mechanics, the machinery of the
Dark Trade went on in its several departments. Apart--alone--at the foot
of a long table, sat Philip Morton. The truth had exceeded his darkest
suspicions. He had consented to take the oath not to divulge what was to
be given to his survey; and when, led into that vault, the bandage was
taken from his eyes, it was some minutes before he could fully comprehend
the desperate and criminal occupations of the wild forms amidst which
towered the burly stature of his benefactor. As the truth slowly grew
upon him, he shrank from the side of Gawtrey; but, deep compassion for
his friend's degradation swallowing up the horror of the trade, he flung
himself on one of the rude seats, and felt that the bond between them was
indeed broken, and that the next morning he should be again alone in the
world. Still, as the obscene jests, the fearful oaths, that from time to
time rang through the vault, came on his ear, he cast his haughty eye in
such disdain over the groups, that Gawtrey, observing him, trembled for
his safety; and nothing but Philip's sense of his own impotence, and the
brave, not timorous, desire not to perish by such hands, kept silent the
fiery denunciations of a nature still proud and honest, that quivered on
his lips. All present were armed with pistols and cutlasses except
Morton, who suffered the weapons presented to him to lie unheeded on the
"_Courage, mes amis_!" said Gawtrey, closing his book,--"_Courage_!"--a
few months more, and we shall have made enough to retire upon, and enjoy
ourselves for the rest of the days. Where is Birnie?"
"Did he not tell you?" said one of the artisans, looking up. "He has
found out the cleverest hand in France, the very fellow who helped
Bouchard in all his five-franc pieces. He has promised to bring him
"Ay, I remember," returned Gawtrey, "he told me this morning,--he is a
"I think so, indeed!" quoth a coiner; "for he caught you, the best head
to our hands that ever _les industriels_ were blessed with--_sacre
"Flatterer!" said Gawtrey, coming from the desk to the table, and
pouring out wine from one of the bottles into a huge flagon--"To your
Here the door slided back, and Birnie glided in.
"Where is your booty, _mon brave_?" said Gawtrey. "We only coin
money; you coin men, stamp with your own seal, and send them current to
The coiners, who liked Birnie's ability (for the ci-devant engraver was
of admirable skill in their craft), but who hated his joyless manners,
laughed at this taunt, which Birnie did not seem to heed, except by a
malignant gleam of his dead eye.
"If you mean the celebrated coiner, Jacques Giraumont, he waits without.
You know our rules. I cannot admit him without leave."
"_Bon_! we give it,--eh, messieurs?" said Gawtrey. "Ay-ay," cried
several voices. "He knows the oath, and will hear the penalty."
"Yes, he knows the oath," replied Birnie, and glided back.
In a moment more he returned with a small man in a mechanic's blouse.
The new comer wore the republican beard and moustache--of a sandy grey--
his hair was the same colour; and a black patch over one eye increased
the ill-favoured appearance of his features.
"_Diable_! Monsieur Giraumont! but you are more like Vulcan than
Adonis!" said Gawtrey.
"I don't know anything about Vulcan, but I know how to make five-franc
pieces," said Monsieur Giraumont, doggedly.
"Are you poor?"
"As a church mouse! The only thing belonging to a church, since the
Bourbons came back, that is poor!"
At this sally, the coiners, who had gathered round the table, uttered the
shout with which, in all circumstances, Frenchmen receive a _bon mot_.
"Humph!" said Gawtrey. "Who responds with his own life for your
"I," said Birnie.
"Administer the oath to him."
Suddenly four men advanced, seized the visitor, and bore him from the
vault into another one within. After a few moments they returned.
"He has taken the oath and heard the penalty."
"Death to yourself, your wife, your son, and your grandson, if you betray
"I have neither son nor grandson; as for my wife, Monsieur le Capitaine,
you offer a bribe instead of a threat when you talk of her death."
"Sacre! but you will be an addition to our circle, _mon brave_!" said
Gawtrey, laughing; while again the grim circle shouted applause.
"But I suppose you care for your own life."
"Otherwise I should have preferred starving to coming here," answered the
"I have done with you. Your health!"
On this the coiners gathered round Monsieur Giraumont, shook him by the
hand, and commenced many questions with a view to ascertain his skill.
"Show me your coinage first; I see you use both the die and the furnace.
Hem! this piece is not bad--you have struck it from an iron die?--right
--it makes the impression sharper than plaster of Paris. But you take
the poorest and the most dangerous part of the trade in taking the home
market. I can put you in a way to make ten times as much--and with
safety. Look at this!"--and Monsieur Giraumont took a forged Spanish
dollar from his pocket, so skilfully manufactured that the connoisseurs
were lost in admiration--"you may pass thousands of these all over
Europe, except France, and who is ever to detect you? But it will
require better machinery than you have here."
Thus conversing, Monsieur Giraumont did not perceive that Mr. Gawtrey had
been examining him very curiously and minutely. But Birnie had noted
their chief's attention, and once attempted to join his new ally, when
Gawtrey laid his hand on his shoulder, and stopped him.
"Do not speak to your friend till I bid you, or--" lie stopped short, and
touched his pistols.
Birnie grew a shade more pale, but replied with his usual sneer:
"Suspicious!--well, so much the better!" and seating himself carelessly
at the table, lighted his pipe.
"And now, Monsieur Giraumont," said Gawtrey, as he took the head of the
table, "come to my right hand. A half-holiday in your honour. Clear
these infernal instruments; and more wine, mes amis!"
The party arranged themselves at the table. Among the desperate there is
almost invariably a tendency to mirth. A solitary ruffian, indeed, is
moody, but a gang of ruffians are jovial. The coiners talked and laughed
loud. Mr. Birnie, from his dogged silence, seemed apart from the rest,
though in the centre. For in a noisy circle a silent tongue builds a
wall round its owner. But that respectable personage kept his furtive
watch upon Giraumont and Gawtrey, who appeared talking together, very
amicably. The younger novice of that night, equally silent, seated
towards the bottom of the table, was not less watchful than Birnie. An
uneasy, undefinable foreboding had come over him since the entrance of
Monsieur Giraumont; this had been increased by the manner of Mr. Gawtrey.
His faculty of observation, which was very acute, had detected something
false in the chief's blandness to their guest--something dangerous in the
glittering eye that Gawtrey ever, as he spoke to Giraumont, bent on that
person's lips as he listened to his reply. For, whenever William Gawtrey
suspected a man, he watched not his eyes, but his lips.
Waked from his scornful reverie, a strange spell chained Morton's
attention to the chief and the guest, and he bent forward, with parted
mouth and straining ear, to catch their conversation.
"It seems to me a little strange," said Mr. Gawtrey, raising his voice so
as to be heard by the party, "that a coiner so dexterous as Monsieur
Giraumont should not be known to any of us except our friend Birnie."
"Not at all," replied Giraumont; "I worked only with Bouchard and two
others since sent to the galleys. We were but a small fraternity--
everything has its commencement."
"_C'est juste: buvez, donc, cher ami_!"
The wine circulated. Gawtrey began again:
"You have had a bad accident, seemingly, Monsieur Giraumont. How did you
lose your eye?"
"In a scuffle with the _gens d' armes_ the night Bouchard was taken and I
escaped. Such misfortunes are on the cards."
"C'est juste: buvez, donc, Monsieur Giraumont!"
Again there was a pause, and again Gawtrey's deep voice was heard.
"You wear a wig, I think, Monsieur Giraumont? To judge by your eyelashes
your own hair has been a handsomer colour."
"We seek disguise, not beauty, my host; and the police have sharp eyes."
"_C'est juste: buvez, donc-vieux Renard_! When did we two meet last?"
"Never, that I know of."
"_Ce n'est pas vrai! buvez, donc, MONSIEUR FAVART_!"
At the sound of that name the company started in dismay and confusion,
and the police officer, forgetting himself for the moment, sprang from
his seat, and put his right hand into his blouse.
"Ho, there!--treason!" cried Gawtrey, in a voice of thunder; and he
caught the unhappy man by the throat. It was the work of a moment.
Morton, where he sat, beheld a struggle--he heard a death-cry. He saw
the huge form of the master-coiner rising above all the rest, as
cutlasses gleamed and eyes sparkled round. He saw the quivering and
powerless frame of the unhappy guest raised aloft in those mighty arms,
and presently it was hurled along the table-bottles crashing--the board
shaking beneath its weight--and lay before the very eyes of Morton, a
distorted and lifeless mass. At the same instant Gawtrey sprang upon the
table, his black frown singling out from the group the ashen, cadaverous
face of the shrinking traitor. Birnie had darted from the table--he was
half-way towards the sliding door--his face, turned over his shoulder,
met the eyes of the chief.
"Devil!" shouted Gawtrey, in his terrible voice, which the echoes of the
vault gave back from side to side. "Did I not give thee up my soul that
thou mightest not compass my death? Hark ye! thus die my slavery and all
our secrets!" The explosion of his pistol half swallowed up the last
word, and with a single groan the traitor fell on the floor, pierced
through the brain--then there was a dead and grim hush as the smoke
rolled slowly along the roof of the dreary vault.
Morton sank back on his seat, and covered his face with his hands. The
last seal on the fate of THE MAN OF CRIME was set; the last wave in the
terrible and mysterious tide of his destiny had dashed on his soul to the
shore whence there is no return. Vain, now and henceforth, the humour,
the sentiment, the kindly impulse, the social instincts which had
invested that stalwart shape with dangerous fascination, which had
implied the hope of ultimate repentance, of redemption even in this
world. The HOUR and the CIRCUMSTANCE had seized their prey; and the
self-defence, which a lawless career rendered a necessity, left the
eternal die of blood upon his doom!
"Friends, I have saved you," said Gawtrey, slowly gazing on the corpse of
his second victim, while he turned the pistol to his belt. "I have not
quailed before this man's eye" (and he spurned the clay of the officer as
he spoke with a revengeful scorn) "without treasuring up its aspect in my
heart of hearts. I knew him when he entered--knew him through his
disguise--yet, faith, it was a clever one! Turn up his face and gaze on
him now; he will never terrify us again, unless there be truth in ghosts!"
Murmuring and tremulous the coiners scrambled on the table and examined
the dead man. From this task Gawtrey interrupted them, for his quick eye
detected, with the pistols under the policeman's blouse, a whistle of
metal of curious construction, and he conjectured at once that danger was
"I have saved you, I say, but only for the hour. This deed cannot sleep.
See, he had help within call! The police knew where to look for their
comrade--we are dispersed. Each for himself. Quick, divide the spoils!
_Sauve qui peat_!"
Then Morton heard where he sat, his hands still clasped before his face,
a confused hubbub of voices, the jingle of money, the scrambling of feet,
the creaking of doors. All was silent!
A strong grasp drew his hands from his eyes.
"Your first scene of life against life," said Gawtrey's voice, which
seemed fearfully changed to the ear that beard it. "Bah! what would you
think of a battle? Come to our eyrie: the carcasses are gone."
Morton looked fearfully round the vault. He and Gawtrey were alone. His
eyes sought the places where the dead had lain--they were removed--no
vestige of the deeds, not even a drop of blood.
"Come, take up your cutlass, come!" repeated the voice of the chief, as
with his dim lantern--now the sole light of the vault--he stood in the
shadow of the doorway.
Morton rose, took up the weapon mechanically, and followed that terrible
guide, mute and unconscious, as a Soul follows a Dream through the House
"Sleep no more!"--_Macbeth_
After winding through gloomy and labyrinthine passages, which conducted
to a different range of cellars from those entered by the unfortunate
Favart, Gawtrey emerged at the foot of a flight of stairs, which, dark,
narrow, and in many places broken, had been probably appropriated to
servants of the house in its days of palmier glory. By these steps the
pair regained their attic. Gawtrey placed the lantern on the table and
seated himself in silence. Morton, who had recovered his self-possession
and formed his resolution, gazed on him for some moments, equally
taciturn. At length he spoke:
"I bade you not call me by that name," said the coiner; for we need
scarcely say that in his new trade he had assumed a new appellation.
"It is the least guilty one by which I have known you," returned Morton,
firmly. "It is for the last time I call you by it! I demanded to see by
what means one to whom I had entrusted my fate supported himself. I have
seen," continued the young man, still firmly, but with a livid cheek and
lip, "and the tie between us is rent for ever. Interrupt me not! it is
not for me to blame you. I have eaten of your bread and drunk of your
cup. Confiding in you too blindly, and believing that you were at least
free from those dark and terrible crimes for which there is no expiation
--at least in this life--my conscience seared by distress, my very soul
made dormant by despair, I surrendered myself to one leading a career
equivocal, suspicious, dishonourable perhaps, but still not, as I
believed, of atrocity and bloodshed. I wake at the brink of the abyss--
my mother's hand beckons to me from the grave; I think I hear her voice
while I address you--I recede while it is yet time--we part, and for
Gawtrey, whose stormy passion was still deep upon his soul, had listened
hitherto in sullen and dogged silence, with a gloomy frown on his knitted
brow; he now rose with an oath--
"Part! that I may let loose on the world a new traitor! Part! when you
have seen me fresh from an act that, once whispered, gives me to the
guillotine! Part--never! at least alive!"
"I have said it," said Morton, folding his arms calmly; I say it to your
face, though I might part from you in secret. Frown not on me, man of
blood! I am fearless as yourself! In another minute I am gone."
"Ah! is it so?" said Gawtrey; and glancing round the room, which
contained two doors, the one concealed by the draperies of a bed,
communicating with the stairs by which they had entered, the other with
the landing of the principal and common flight: he turned to the former,
within his reach, which he locked, and put the key into his pocket, and
then, throwing across the latter a heavy swing bar, which fell into its
socket with a harsh noise,--before the threshold he placed his vast bulk,
and burst into his loud, fierce laugh: "Ho! ho! Slave and fool, once
mine, you were mine body and soul for ever!"
"Tempter, I defy you! stand back!" And, firm and dauntless, Morton laid
his hand on the giant's vest.
Gawtrey seemed more astonished than enraged. He looked hard at his
daring associate, on whose lip the down was yet scarcely dark.
"Boy," said he, "off! do not rouse the devil in me again! I could crush
you with a hug."
"My soul supports my body, and I am armed," said Morton, laying hand on
his cutlass. "But you dare not harm me, nor I you; bloodstained as you
are, you gave me shelter and bread; but accuse me not that I will save my
soul while it is yet time!--Shall my mother have blessed me in vain upon
Gawtrey drew back, and Morton, by a sudden impulse, grasped his hand.
"Oh! hear me-hear me!" he cried, with great emotion. "Abandon this
horrible career; you have been decoyed and betrayed to it by one who can
deceive or terrify you no more! Abandon it, and I will never desert you.
For her sake--for your Fanny's sake--pause, like me, before the gulf
swallow us. Let us fly!--far to the New World--to any land where our
thews and sinews, our stout hands and hearts, can find an honest mart.
Men, desperate as we are, have yet risen by honest means. Take her, your
orphan, with us. We will work for her, both of us. Gawtrey! hear me.
It is not my voice that speaks to you--it is your good angel's!"
Gawtrey fell back against the wall, and his chest heaved.
"Morton," he said, with choked and tremulous accent, "go now; leave me to
my fate! I have sinned against you--shamefully sinned. It seemed to me
so sweet to have a friend; in your youth and character of mind there was
so much about which the tough strings of my heart wound themselves, that
I could not bear to lose you--to suffer you to know me for what I was.
I blinded--I deceived you as to my past deeds; that was base in me: but I
swore to my own heart to keep you unexposed to every danger, and free
from every vice that darkened my own path. I kept that oath till this
night, when, seeing that you began to recoil from me, and dreading that
you should desert me, I thought to bind you to me for ever by implicating
you in this fellowship of crime. I am punished, and justly. Go, I
repeat--leave me to the fate that strides nearer and nearer to me day by
day. You are a boy still--I am no longer young. Habit is a second
nature. Still--still I could repent--I could begin life again. But
repose!--to look back--to remember--to be haunted night and day with
deeds that shall meet me bodily and face to face on the last day--"
"Add not to the spectres! Come--fly this night--this hour!"
Gawtrey paused, irresolute and wavering, when at that moment he heard
steps on the stairs below. He started--as starts the boar caught in his
lair--and listened, pale and breathless.
"Hush!--they are on us!--they come!" as he whispered, the key from
without turned in the wards--the door shook. "Soft! the bar preserves us
both--this way." And the coiner crept to the door of the private stairs.
He unlocked and opened it cautiously. A man sprang through the aperture:
"Yield!--you are my prisoner!"
"Never!" cried Gawtrey, hurling back the intruder, and clapping to the
door, though other and stout men were pressing against it with all their
"Ho! ho! Who shall open the tiger's cage?"
At both doors now were heard the sound of voices. "Open in the king's
name, or expect no mercy!"
"Hist!" said Gawtrey. "One way yet--the window--the rope."
Morton opened the casement--Gawtrey uncoiled the rope. The dawn was
breaking; it was light in the streets, but all seemed quiet without. The
doors reeled and shook beneath the pressure of the pursuers. Gawtrey
flung the rope across the street to the opposite parapet; after two or
three efforts, the grappling-hook caught firm hold--the perilous path was
"On!--quick!--loiter not!" whispered Gawtrey; "you are active--it seems
more dangerous than it is--cling with both hands-shut your eyes. When on
the other side--you see the window of Birnie's room,--enter it--descend
the stairs--let yourself out, and you are safe."
"Go first," said Morton, in the same tone: "I will not leave you now: you
will be longer getting across than I shall. I will keep guard till you
"Hark! hark!--are you mad? You keep guard! what is your strength to
mine? Twenty men shall not move that door, while my weight is against
it. Quick, or you destroy us both! Besides, you will hold the rope for
me, it may not be strong enough for my bulk in itself. Stay!--stay one
moment. If you escape, and I fall--Fanny--my father, he will take care
of her,--you remember--thanks! Forgive me all! Go; that's right!"
With a firm impulse, Morton threw himself on the dreadful bridge; it
swung and crackled at his weight. Shifting his grasp rapidly--holding
his breath--with set teeth-with closed eyes--he moved on--he gained the
parapet--he stood safe on the opposite side. And now, straining his eyes
across, he saw through the open casement into the chamber he had just
quitted. Gawtrey was still standing against the door to the principal
staircase, for that of the two was the weaker and the more assailed.
Presently the explosion of a fire-arm was heard; they had shot through
the panel. Gawtrey seemed wounded, for he staggered forward, and uttered
a fierce cry; a moment more, and he gained the window--he seized the
rope--he hung over the tremendous depth! Morton knelt by the parapet,
holding the grappling-hook in its place, with convulsive grasp, and
fixing his eyes, bloodshot with fear and suspense, on the huge bulk that
clung for life to that slender cord!
"Le voiles! Le voiles!" cried a voice from the opposite side. Morton
raised his gaze from Gawtrey; the casement was darkened by the forms of
his pursuers--they had burst into the room--an officer sprang upon the
parapet, and Gawtrey, now aware of his danger, opened his eyes, and as he
moved on, glared upon the foe. The policeman deliberately raised his
pistol--Gawtrey arrested himself--from a wound in his side the blood
trickled slowly and darkly down, drop by drop, upon the stones below;
even the officers of law shuddered as they eyed him--his hair bristling
--his cheek white--his lips drawn convulsively from his teeth, and his
eyes glaring from beneath the frown of agony and menace in which yet
spoke the indomitable power and fierceness of the man. His look, so
fixed--so intense--so stern, awed the policeman; his hand trembled as he
fired, and the ball struck the parapet an inch below the spot where
Morton knelt. An indistinct, wild, gurgling sound-half-laugh, half-yell
of scorn and glee, broke from Gawtrey's lips. He swung himself on--near
--near--nearer--a yard from the parapet.
"You are saved!" cried Morton; when at the moment a volley burst from
the fatal casement--the smoke rolled over both the fugitives--a groan, or
rather howl, of rage, and despair, and agony, appalled even the hardest
on whose ear it came. Morton sprang to his feet and looked below. He
saw on the rugged stones far down, a dark, formless, motionless mass--the
strong man of passion and levity--the giant who had played with life and
soul, as an infant with the baubles that it prizes and breaks--was what
the Caesar and the leper alike are, when the clay is without God's
breath--what glory, genius, power, and beauty, would be for ever and for
ever, if there were no God!
"There is another!" cried the voice of one of the pursuers. "Fire!"
"Poor Gawtrey!" muttered Philip. "I will fulfil your last wish;" and
scarcely conscious of the bullet that whistled by him, he disappeared
behind the parapet.
By the soft wind of whispering silks."--DECKER.
The reader may remember that while Monsieur Favart and Mr. Birnie were
holding commune in the lane, the sounds of festivity were heard from a
house in the adjoining street. To that house we are now summoned.
At Paris, the gaieties of balls, or soirees, are, I believe, very rare in
that period of the year in which they are most frequent in London. The
entertainment now given was in honour of a christening; the lady who gave
it, a relation of the new-born.
Madame de Merville was a young widow; even before her marriage she had
been distinguished in literature; she had written poems of more than
common excellence; and being handsome, of good family, and large fortune,
her talents made her an object of more interest than they might otherwise
have done. Her poetry showed great sensibility and tenderness. If
poetry be any index to the heart, you would have thought her one to love
truly and deeply. Nevertheless, since she married--as girls in France
do--not to please herself, but her parents, she made a _mariage de
convenance_. Monsieur de Merville was a sober, sensible man, past middle
age. Not being fond of poetry, and by no means coveting a professional
author for his wife, he had during their union, which lasted four years,
discouraged his wife's liaison with Apollo. But her mind, active and
ardent, did not the less prey upon itself. At the age of four-and-twenty
she became a widow, with an income large even in England for a single
woman, and at Paris constituting no ordinary fortune. Madame de
Merville, however, though a person of elegant taste, was neither
ostentatious nor selfish; she had no children, and she lived quietly in
apartments, handsome, indeed, but not more than adequate to the small
establishment which--where, as on the Continent, the costly convenience
of an entire house is not usually incurred--sufficed for her retinue.
She devoted at least half her income, which was entirely at her own
disposal, partly to the aid of her own relations, who were not rich, and
partly to the encouragement of the literature she cultivated. Although
she shrank from the ordeal of publication, her poems and sketches of
romance were read to her own friends, and possessed an eloquence seldom
accompanied with so much modesty. Thus, her reputation, though not blown
about the winds, was high in her own circle, and her position in fashion
and in fortune made her looked up to by her relations as the head of her
family; they regarded her as _femme superieure_, and her advice with them
was equivalent to a command. Eugenie de Merville was a strange mixture
of qualities at once feminine and masculine. On the one hand, she had a
strong will, independent views, some contempt for the world, and followed
her own inclinations without servility to the opinion of others; on the
other hand, she was susceptible, romantic, of a sweet, affectionate, kind
disposition. Her visit to M. Love, however indiscreet, was not less in
accordance with her character than her charity to the mechanic's wife;
masculine and careless where an eccentric thing was to be done--curiosity
satisfied, or some object in female diplomacy achieved--womanly,
delicate, and gentle, the instant her benevolence was appealed to or her
heart touched. She had now been three years a widow, and was
consequently at the age of twenty-seven. Despite the tenderness of her
poetry and her character, her reputation was unblemished. She had never
been in love. People who are much occupied do not fall in love easily;
besides, Madame de Merville was refining, exacting, and wished to find
heroes where she only met handsome dandies or ugly authors. Moreover,
Eugenie was both a vain and a proud person--vain of her celebrity and
proud of her birth. She was one whose goodness of heart made her always
active in promoting the happiness of others. She was not only generous
and charitable, but willing to serve people by good offices as well as
money. Everybody loved her. The new-born infant, to whose addition to
the Christian community the fete of this night was dedicated, was the
pledge of a union which Madame de Merville had managed to effect between
two young persons, first cousins to each other, and related to herself.
There had been scruples of parents to remove--money matters to adjust--
Eugenie had smoothed all. The husband and wife, still lovers, looked up
to her as the author, under Heaven, of their happiness.
The gala of that night had been, therefore, of a nature more than usually
pleasurable, and the mirth did not sound hollow, but wrung from the
heart. Yet, as Eugenie from time to time contemplated the young people,
whose eyes ever sought each other--so fair, so tender, and so joyous as
they seemed--a melancholy shadow darkened her brow, and she sighed
involuntarily. Once the young wife, Madame d'Anville, approaching her
"Ah! my sweet cousin, when shall we see you as happy as ourselves? There
is such happiness," she added, innocently, and with a blush, "in being a
mother!--that little life all one's own--it is something to think of
"Perhaps," said Eugenie, smiling, and seeking to turn the conversation
from a subject that touched too nearly upon feelings and thoughts her
pride did not wish to reveal--"perhaps it is you, then, who have made our
cousin, poor Monsieur de Vaudemont, so determined to marry? Pray, be
more cautious with him. How difficult I have found it to prevent his
bringing into our family some one to make us all ridiculous!"
"True," said Madame d'Anville, laughing. "But then, the Vicomte is so
poor, and in debt. He would fall in love, not with the demoiselle, but
the dower. _A propos_ of that, how cleverly you took advantage of his
boastful confession to break off his liaisons with that _bureau de
"Yes; I congratulate myself on that manoeuvre. Unpleasant as it was to
go to such a place (for, of course, I could not send for Monsieur Love
here), it would have been still more unpleasant to have received such a
Madame de Vaudemont as our cousin would have presented to us. Only
think--he was the rival of an _epicier_! I heard that there was some
curious _denouement_ to the farce of that establishment; but I could
never get from Vaudemont the particulars. He was ashamed of them, I
"What droll professions there are in Paris!" said Madame d'Anville. "As
if people could not marry without going to an office for a spouse as we
go for a servant! And so the establishment is broken up? And you never
again saw that dark, wild-looking boy who so struck your fancy that you
have taken him as the original for the Murillo sketch of the youth in
that charming tale you read to us the other evening? Ah! cousin, I think
you were a little taken with him. The _bureau de mariage_ had its
allurements for you as well as for our poor cousin!" The young mother
said this laughingly and carelessly.
"Pooh!" returned Madame de Merville, laughing also; but a slight blush
broke over her natural paleness. "But a propos of the Vicomte. You know
how cruelly he has behaved to that poor boy of his by his English wife--
never seen him since he was an infant--kept him at some school in
England; and all because his vanity does not like the world to know that
he has a son of nineteen! Well, I have induced him to recall this poor
"Indeed! and how?"
"Why," said Eugenie, with a smile, "he wanted a loan, poor man, and I
could therefore impose conditions by way of interest. But I also managed
to conciliate him to the proposition, by representing that, if the young
man were good-looking, he might, himself, with our connections, &c., form
an advantageous marriage; and that in such a case, if the father treated
him now justly and kindly, he would naturally partake with the father
whatever benefits the marriage might confer."
"Ah! you are an excellent diplomatist, Eugenie; and you turn people's
heads by always acting from your heart. Hush! here comes the Vicomte"
"A delightful ball," said Monsieur de Vaudemont, approaching the hostess.
"Pray, has that young lady yonder, in the pink dress, any fortune? She
is pretty--eh? You observe she is looking at me--I mean at us!"
"My dear cousin, what a compliment you pay to marriage! You have had two
wives, and you are ever on the _qui vive_ for a third!"
"What would you have me do?--we cannot resist the overtures of your
bewitching sex. Hum--what fortune has she?"
"Not a _sou_; besides, she is engaged."
"Oh! now I look at her, she is not pretty--not at all. I made a mistake.
I did not mean her; I meant the young lady in blue."
"Worse and worse--she is married already. Shall I present you?"
"Ah, Monsieur de Vaudemont," said Madame d'Anville; "have you found out a
new bureau de mariage?"
The Vicomte pretended not to hear that question. But, turning to
Eugenie, took her aside, and said, with an air in which he endeavoured to
throw a great deal of sorrow, "You know, my dear cousin, that, to oblige
you, I consented to send for my son, though, as I always said, it is very
unpleasant for a man like me, in the prime of life, to hawk about a great
boy of nineteen or twenty. People soon say, 'Old Vaudemont and younq
Vaudemont.' However, a father's feelings are never appealed to in vain."
(Here the Vicomte put his handkerchief to his eyes, and after a pause,
continued,)--"I sent for him--I even went to your old _bonne_, Madame
Dufour, to make a bargain for her lodgings, and this day--guess my grief
--I received a letter sealed with black. My son is dead!--a sudden
fever--it is shocking!"
"Horrible! dead!--your own son, whom you hardly ever saw--never since he
was an Infant!"
"Yes, that softens the blow very much. And now you see I must marry. If
the boy had been good-looking, and like me, and so forth, why, as you
observed, he might have made a good match, and allowed me a certain sum,
or we could have all lived together."
"And your son is dead, and you come to a ball!"
"_Je suis philosophe_," said the Vicomte, shrugging his shoulders. "And,
as you say, I never saw him. It saves me seven hundred francs a-year.
Don't say a word to any one--I sha'n't give out that he is dead, poor
fellow! Pray be discreet: you see there are some ill-natured people who
might think it odd I do not shut myself up. I can wait till Paris is
quite empty. It would be a pity to lose any opportunity at present, for
now, you see, I must marry!" And the philosophe sauntered away.
"Those devotions I am to pay
Are written in my heart, not in this book."
"I am pursued--all the ports are stopped too,
Not any hope to escape--behind, before me,
On either side, I am beset."
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER, _The Custom of the Country_
The party were just gone--it was already the peep of day--the wheels of
the last carriage had died in the distance.
Madame de Merville had dismissed her woman, and was seated in her own
room, leaning her head musingly on her hand.
Beside her was the table that held her MSS. and a few books, amidst which
were scattered vases of flowers. On a pedestal beneath the window was
placed a marble bust of Dante. Through the open door were seen in
perspective two rooms just deserted by her guests; the lights still
burned in the chandeliers and girandoles, contending with the daylight
that came through the half-closed curtains. The person of the inmate was
in harmony with the apartment. It was characterised by a certain grace
which, for want of a better epithet, writers are prone to call classical
or antique. Her complexion, seeming paler than usual by that light, was
yet soft and delicate--the features well cut, but small and womanly.
About the face there was that rarest of all charms, the combination of
intellect with sweetness; the eyes, of a dark blue, were thoughtful,
perhaps melancholy, in their expression; but the long dark lashes, and
the shape of the eyes, themselves more long than full, gave to their
intelligence a softness approaching to languor, increased, perhaps, by
that slight shadow round and below the orbs which is common with those
who have tasked too much either the mind or the heart. The contour of
the face, without being sharp or angular, had yet lost a little of the
roundness of earlier youth; and the hand on which she leaned was,
perhaps, even too white, too delicate, for the beauty which belongs to
health; but the throat and bust were of exquisite symmetry.
"I am not happy," murmured Eugenie to herself; "yet I scarce know why.
Is it really, as we women of romance have said till the saying is worn
threadbare, that the destiny of women is not fame but love. Strange,
then, that while I have so often pictured what love should be, I have
never felt it. And now,--and now," she continued, half rising, and with
a natural pang--"now I am no longer in my first youth. If I loved,
should I be loved again? How happy the young pair seemed--they are never
At this moment, at a distance, was heard the report of fire-arms--again!
Eugenie started, and called to her servant, who, with one of the waiters
hired for the night, was engaged in removing, and nibbling as he removed,
the re mains of the feast. "What is that, at this hour?--open the window
and look out!"
"I can see nothing, madame."
"Again--that is the third time. Go into the street and look--some one
must be in danger."
The servant and the waiter, both curious, and not willing to part
company, ran down the stairs, and thence into the street.
Meanwhile, Morton, after vainly attempting Birnie's window, which the
traitor had previously locked and barred against the escape of his
intended victim, crept rapidly along the roof, screened by the parapet
not only from the shot but the sight of the foe. But just as he gained
the point at which the lane made an angle with the broad street it
adjoined, he cast his eyes over the parapet, and perceived that one of
the officers had ventured himself to the fearful bridge; he was pursued--
detection and capture seemed inevitable. He paused, and breathed hard.
He, once the heir to such fortunes, the darling of such affections!--he,
the hunted accomplice of a gang of miscreants! That was the thought that
paralysed--the disgrace, not the danger. But he was in advance of the
pursuer--he hastened on--he turned the angle--he heard a shout behind
from the opposite side--the officer had passed the bridge: "it is but one
man as yet," thought he, and his nostrils dilated and his hands clenched
as he glided on, glancing at each casement as he passed.
Now as youth and vigour thus struggled against Law for life, near at hand
Death was busy with toil and disease. In a miserable _grabat_, or
garret, a mechanic, yet young, and stricken by a lingering malady
contracted by the labour of his occupation, was slowly passing from that
world which had frowned on his cradle, and relaxed not the gloom of its
aspect to comfort his bed of Death. Now this man had married for love,
and his wife had loved him; and it was the cares of that early marriage
which had consumed him to the bone. But extreme want, if long continued,
eats up love when it has nothing else to eat. And when people are very
long dying, the people they fret and trouble begin to think of that too
often hypocritical prettiness of phrase called "a happy release." So the
worn-out and half-famished wife did not care three straws for the dying
husband, whom a year or two ago she had vowed to love and cherish in
sickness and in health. But still she seemed to care, for she moaned,
and pined, and wept, as the man's breath grew fainter and fainter.
"Ah, Jean!" said she, sobbing, "what will become of me, a poor lone
widow, with nobody to work for my bread?" And with that thought she took
on worse than before.
"I am stifling," said the dying man, rolling round his ghastly eyes.
"How hot it is! Open the window; I should like to see the light-daylight
"Mon Dieu! what whims he has, poor man!" muttered the woman, without
The poor wretch put out his skeleton hand and clutched his wife's arm.
"I sha'n't trouble you long, Marie! Air--air!"
"Jean, you will make yourself worse--besides, I shall catch my death of
cold. I have scarce a rag on, but I will just open the door."
"Pardon me," groaned the sufferer; "leave me, then." Poor fellow!
perhaps at that moment the thought of unkindness was sharper than the
sharp cough which brought blood at every paroxysm. He did not like her
so near him, but he did not blame her. Again, I say,--poor fellow! The
woman opened the door, went to the other side of the room, and sat down
on an old box and began darning an old neck-handkerchief. The silence
was soon broken by the moans of the fast-dying man, and again he
muttered, as he tossed to and fro, with baked white lips:
There was no resisting that prayer, it seemed so like the last. The wife
laid down the needle, put the handkerchief round her throat, and opened
"Do you feel easier now?"
"Bless you, Marie--yes; that's good--good. It puts me in mind of old
days, that breath of air, before we came to Paris. I wish I could work
for you now, Marie."
"Jean! my poor Jean!" said the woman, and the words and the voice took
back her hardening heart to the fresh fields and tender thoughts of the
past time. And she walked up to the bed, and he leaned his temples, damp
with livid dews, upon her breast.
"I have been a sad burden to you, Marie; we should not have married so
soon; but I thought I was stronger. Don't cry; we have no little ones,
thank God. It will be much better for you when I am gone."
And so, word after word gasped out--he stopped suddenly, and seemed to
The wife then attempted gently to lay him once more on his pillow--the
head fell back heavily--the jaw had dropped--the teeth were set--the eyes
were open and like the stone--the truth broke on her!
"Jean--Jean! My God, he is dead! and I was unkind to him at the last!"
With these words she fell upon the corpse, happily herself insensible.
Just at that moment a human face peered in at the window. Through that
aperture, after a moment's pause, a young man leaped lightly into the
room. He looked round with a hurried glance, but scarcely noticed the
forms stretched on the pallet. It was enough for him that they seemed to
sleep, and saw him not. He stole across the room, the door of which
Marie had left open, and descended the stairs. He had almost gained the
courtyard into which the stairs had conducted, when he heard voices below
by the porter's lodge.
"The police have discovered a gang of coiners!"
"Yes, one has been shot dead! I have seen his body in the kennel;
another has fled along the roofs--a desperate fellow! We were to watch
for him. Let us go up-stairs and get on the roof and look out."
By the hum of approval that followed this proposition, Morton judged
rightly that it had been addressed to several persons whom curiosity and
the explosion of the pistols had drawn from their beds, and who were
grouped round the porter's lodge. What was to be done?--to advance was
impossible: and was there yet time to retreat?--it was at least the only
course left him; he sprang back up the stairs; he had just gained the
first flight when he heard steps descending; then, suddenly, it flashed
across him that he had left open the window above--that, doubtless, by
that imprudent oversight the officer in pursuit had detected a clue to
the path he had taken. What was to be done?--die as Gawtrey had done!--
death rather than the galleys. As he thus resolved, he saw to the right
the open door of an apartment in which lights still glimmered in their
sockets. It seemed deserted--he entered boldly and at once, closing the
door after him. Wines and viands still left on the table; gilded
mirrors, reflecting the stern face of the solitary intruder; here and
there an artificial flower, a knot of riband on the floor, all betokening
the gaieties and graces of luxurious life--the dance, the revel, the
feast--all this in one apartment!--above, in the same house, the pallet--
the corpse--the widow--famine and woe! Such is a great city! such, above
all, is Paris! where, under the same roof, are gathered such antagonist
varieties of the social state! Nothing strange in this; it is strange
and sad that so little do people thus neighbours know of each other, that
the owner of those rooms had a heart soft to every distress, but she did
not know the distress so close at hand. The music that had charmed her
guests had mounted gaily to the vexed ears of agony and hunger. Morton
passed the first room--a second--he came to a third, and Eugenie de
Merville, looking up at that instant, saw before her an apparition that
might well have alarmed the boldest. His head was uncovered--his dark
hair shadowed in wild and disorderly profusion the pale face and
features, beautiful indeed, but at that moment of the beauty which an
artist would impart to a young gladiator--stamped with defiance, menace,
and despair. The disordered garb--the fierce aspect--the dark eyes, that
literally shone through the shadows of the room-all conspired to increase
the terror of so abrupt a presence.
"What are you?--What do you seek here?" said she, falteringly, placing
her hand on the bell as she spoke. Upon that soft hand Morton laid his
"I seek my life! I am pursued! I am at your mercy! I am innocent! Can
you save me?"
As he spoke, the door of the outer room beyond was heard to open, and
steps and voices were at hand.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, recoiling as he recognised her face. "And is it to
you that I have fled?"
Eugenie also recognised the stranger; and there was something in their
relative positions--the suppliant, the protectress--that excited both her
imagination and her pity. A slight colour mantled to her cheeks--her
look was gentle and compassionate.
"Poor boy! so young!" she said. "Hush!"
She withdrew her hand from his, retired a few steps, lifted a curtain
drawn across a recess--and pointing to an alcove that contained one of
those sofa-beds common in French houses, added in a whisper,--
"Enter--you are saved."
Morton obeyed, and Eugenie replaced the curtain.
"Speak! What are you?"
"Gracious woman, hear me. I am a stranger:
And in that I answer all your demands."
_Custom of the Country_.
Eugenie replaced the curtain. And scarcely had she done so ere the steps
in the outer room entered the chamber where she stood. Her servant was
accompanied by two officers of the police.
"Pardon, madame," said one of the latter; "but we are in pursuit of a
criminal. We think he must have entered this house through a window
above while your servant was in the street. Permit us to search?"
"Without doubt," answered Eugenie, seating herself. "If he has entered,
look in the other apartments. I have not quitted this room."
"You are right. Accept our apologies."
And the officers turned back to examine every corner where the fugitive
was not. For in that, the scouts of Justice resembled their mistress:
when does man's justice look to the right place?
The servant lingered to repeat the tale he had heard--the sight he had
seen. When, at that instant, he saw the curtain of the alcove slightly
stirred. He uttered an exclamation-sprung to the bed--his hand touched
the curtain--Eugenie seized his arm. She did not speak; but as he turned
his eyes to her, astonished, he saw that she trembled, and that her cheek
was as white as marble.
"Madame," he said, hesitating, "there is some one hid in the recess."
"There is! Be silent!"
A suspicion flashed across the servant's mind. The pure, the proud, the
"There is!--and in madame's chamber!" he faltered unconsciously.
Eugenie's quick apprehensions seized the foul thought. Her eyes flashed
--her cheek crimsoned. But her lofty and generous nature conquered even
the indignant and scornful burst that rushed to her lips. The truth!--
could she trust the man? A doubt--and the charge of the human life
rendered to her might be betrayed. Her colour fell--tears gushed to her
"I have been kind to you, Francois. Not a word." "Madame confides in
me--it is enough," said the Frenchman, bowing, with a slight smile on his
lips; and he drew back respectfully.
One of the police officers re-entered.
"We have done, madame; he is not here. Aha! that curtain!"
"It is madame's bed," said Francois. "But I have looked behind."
"I am most sorry to have disarranged you," said the policeman, satisfied
with the answer; "but we shall have him yet." And he retired.
The last footsteps died away, the last door of the apartments closed
behind the officers, and Eugenie and her servant stood alone gazing on
"You may retire," said she at last; and taking her purse from the table,
she placed it in his hands.
The man took it, with a significant look. "Madame may depend on my
Eugenie was alone again. Those words rang in her ear,--Eugenie de
Merville dependent on the discretion of her lackey! She sunk into her
chair, and, her excitement succeeded by exhaustion, leaned her face on
her hands, and burst into tears. She was aroused by a low voice; she
looked up, and the young man was kneeling at her feet.
"Go--go!" she said: "I have done for you all I can."
"You heard--you heard--my own hireling, too! At the hazard of my own good
name you are saved. Go!"
"Of your good name!"--for Eugenie forgot that it was looks, not words,
that had so wrung her pride--"Your good name," he repeated: and glancing
round the room--the toilette, the curtain, the recess he had quitted--all
that bespoke that chastest sanctuary of a chaste woman, which for a
stranger to enter is, as it were, to profane--her meaning broke on him.
"Your good name--your hireling! No, madame,--no!" And as he spoke, he
rose to his feet. "Not for me, that sacrifice! Your humanity shall not
cost you so dear. Ho, there! I am the man you seek." And he strode to
Eugenie was penetrated with the answer. She sprung to him--she grasped
"Hush! hush!--for mercy's sake! What would you do? Think you I could
ever be happy again, if the confidence you placed in me were betrayed?
Be calm--be still. I knew not what I said. It will be easy to undeceive
the man--later--when you are saved. And you are innocent,--are you not?"
"Oh, madame," said Morton, "from my soul I say it, I am innocent--not of
poverty--wretchedness--error--shame; I am innocent of crime. May Heaven
And as he reverently kissed the hand laid on his arm, there was something
in his voice so touching, in his manner something so above his fortunes,
that Eugenie was lost in her feelings of compassion, surprise, and
something, it might be, of admiration in her wonder.
"And, oh!" he said, passionately, gazing on her with his dark, brilliant
eyes, liquid with emotion, "you have made my life sweet in saving it.
You--you--of whom, ever since the first time, almost the sole time, I
beheld you--I have so often mused and dreamed. Henceforth, whatever
befall me, there will be some recollections that will--that--"
He stopped short, for his heart was too full for words; and the silence
said more to Eugenie than if all the eloquence of Rousseau had glowed
upon his tongue.
"And who, and what are you?" she asked, after a pause.
"An exile--an orphan--an outcast! I have no name! Farewell!"
"No--stay yet--the danger is not past. Wait till my servant is gone to
rest; I hear him yet. Sit down--sit down. And whither would you go?"
"I know not."
"Have you no friends?"
"And the police of Paris so vigilant!" cried Eugenie, wringing her
hands. "What is to be done? I shall have saved you in vain--you will be
discovered! Of what do they charge you? Not robbery--not--"
And she, too, stopped short, for she did not dare to breathe the black
"I know not," said Morton, putting his hand to his forehead, "except of
being friends with the only man who befriended me--and they have killed
"Another time you shall tell me all."
"Another time!" he exclaimed, eagerly--"shall I see you again?"
Eugenie blushed beneath the gaze and the voice of joy. "Yes," she said;
"yes. But I must reflect. Be calm be silent. Ah!--a happy thought!"
She sat down, wrote a hasty line, sealed, and gave it to Morton.
"Take this note, as addressed, to Madame Dufour; it will provide you with
a safe lodging. She is a person I can depend on--an old servant who
lived with my mother, and to whom I have given a small pension. She has
a lodging--it is lately vacant--I promised to procure her a tenant--go--
say nothing of what has passed. I will see her, and arrange all. Wait!
--hark!--all is still. I will go first, and see that no one watches you.
Stop," (and she threw open the window, and looked into the court.) "The
porter's door is open--that is fortunate! Hurry on, and God be with
In a few minutes Morton was in the streets. It was still early--the
thoroughfares deserted-none of the shops yet open. The address on the
note was to a street at some distance, on the other side of the Seine.
He passed along the same Quai which he had trodden but a few hours since
--he passed the same splendid bridge on which he had stood despairing, to
quit it revived--he gained the Rue Faubourg St. Honore. A young man in a
cabriolet, on whose fair cheek burned the hectic of late vigils and
lavish dissipation, was rolling leisurely home from the gaming-house, at
which he had been more than usually fortunate--his pockets were laden
with notes and gold. He bent forwards as Morton passed him. Philip,
absorbed in his reverie, perceived him not, and continued his way. The
gentleman turned down one of the streets to the left, stopped, and called
to the servant dozing behind his cabriolet.
"Follow that passenger! quietly--see where he lodges; be sure to find out
and let me know. I shall go home with out you." With that he drove on.
Philip, unconscious of the espionage, arrived at a small house in a quiet
but respectable street, and rang the bell several times before at last he
was admitted by Madame Dufour herself, in her nightcap. The old woman
looked askant and alarmed at the unexpected apparition. But the note
seemed at once to satisfy her. She conducted him to an apartment on the
first floor, small, but neatly and even elegantly furnished, consisting
of a sitting-room and a bedchamber, and said, quietly,--
"Will they suit monsieur?"
To monsieur they seemed a palace. Morton nodded assent.
"And will monsieur sleep for a short time?"
"The bed is well aired. The rooms have only been vacant three days
since. Can I get you anything till your luggage arrives?"
The woman left him. He threw off his clothes--flung himself on the bed--
and did not wake till noon.
When his eyes unclosed--when they rested on that calm chamber, with its
air of health, and cleanliness, and comfort, it was long before he could
convince himself that he was yet awake. He missed the loud, deep voice
of Gawtrey--the smoke of the dead man's meerschaum--the gloomy garret--
the distained walls--the stealthy whisper of the loathed Birnie; slowly
the life led and the life gone within the last twelve hours grew upon his
struggling memory. He groaned, and turned uneasily round, when the door
slightly opened, and he sprung up fiercely,--
"Who is there?"
"It is only I, sir," answered Madame Dufour. "I have been in three times
to see if you were stirring. There is a letter I believe for you, sir;
though there is no name to it," and she laid the letter on the chair
beside him. Did it come from her--the saving angel? He seized it. The
cover was blank; it was sealed with a small device, as of a ring seal.
He tore it open, and found four billets de banque for 1,000 francs each,
--a sum equivalent in our money to about L160.
"Who sent this, the--the lady from whom I brought the note?"
"Madame de Merville? certainly not, sir," said Madame Dufour, who, with
the privilege of age, was now unscrupulously filling the water-jugs and
settling the toilette-table. "A young man called about two hours after
you had gone to bed; and, describing you, inquired if you lodged here,
and what your name was. I said you had just arrived, and that I did not
yet know your name. So he went away, and came again half an hour
afterwards with this letter, which he charged me to deliver to you
A young man--a gentleman?"
"No, sir; he seemed a smart but common sort of lad." For the
unsophisticated Madame Dufour did not discover in the plain black frock
and drab gaiters of the bearer of that letter the simple livery of an
English gentleman's groom.
Whom could it come from, if not from Madame de Merville? Perhaps one of
Gawtrey's late friends. A suspicion of Arthur Beaufort crossed him, but
he indignantly dismissed it. Men are seldom credulous of what they are
unwilling to believe. What kindness had the Beauforts hitherto shown
him?--Left his mother to perish broken-hearted--stolen from him his
brother, and steeled, in that brother, the only heart wherein he had a
right to look for gratitude and love! No, it must be Madame de Merville.
He dismissed Madame Dufour for pen and paper--rose--wrote a letter to
Eugenie--grateful, but proud, and inclosed the notes. He then summoned
Madame Dufour, and sent her with his despatch.
"Ah, madame," said the _ci-devant bonne_, when she found herself in
Eugenie's presence. "The poor lad! how handsome he is, and how shameful
in the Vicomte to let him wear such clothes!"
"Oh, my dear mistress, you must not deny it. You told me, in your note,
to ask him no questions, but I guessed at once. The Vicomte told me
himself that he should have the young gentleman over in a few days. You
need not be ashamed of him. You will see what a difference clothes will
make in his appearance; and I have taken it on myself to order a tailor
to go to him. The Vicomte--must pay me."
"Not a word to the Vicomte as yet. We will surprise him," said Eugenie,
Madame de Merville had been all that morning trying to invent some story
to account for her interest in the lodger, and now how Fortune favoured
"But is that a letter for me?"
"And I had almost forgot it," said Madame Dufour, as she extended the
Whatever there had hitherto been in the circumstances connected with
Morton, that had roused the interest and excited the romance of Eugenie
de Merville, her fancy was yet more attracted by the tone of the letter
she now read. For though Morton, more accustomed to speak than to write
French, expressed himself with less precision, and a less euphuistic
selection of phrase, than the authors and _elegans_ who formed her usual
correspondents; there was an innate and rough nobleness--a strong and
profound feeling in every line of his letter, which increased her
surprise and admiration.
"All that surrounds him--all that belongs to him, is strangeness and
mystery!" murmured she; and she sat down to reply.
When Madame Dufour departed with that letter, Eugenie remained silent and
thoughtful for more than an hour, Morton's letter before her; and sweet,
in their indistinctness, were the recollections and the images that
crowded on her mind.
Morton, satisfied by the earnest and solemn assurances of Eugenie that
she was not the unknown donor of the sum she reinclosed, after puzzling
himself in vain to form any new conjectures as to the quarter whence it
came, felt that under his present circumstances it would be an absurd
Quixotism to refuse to apply what the very Providence to whom he had anew
consigned himself seemed to have sent to his aid. And it placed him,
too, beyond the offer of all pecuniary assistance from one from whom he
could least have brooked to receive it. He consented, therefore, to all
that the loquacious tailor proposed to him. And it would have been
difficult to have recognised the wild and frenzied fugitive in the
stately form, with its young beauty and air of well-born pride, which the
next day sat by the side of Eugenie. And that day he told his sad and
troubled story, and Eugenie wept: and from that day he came daily; and
two weeks--happy, dreamlike, intoxicating to both--passed by; and as
their last sun set, he was kneeling at her feet, and breathing to one to
whom the homage of wit, and genius, and complacent wealth had hitherto
been vainly proffered, the impetuous, agitated, delicious secrets of the
First Love. He spoke, and rose to depart for ever--when the look and
sigh detained him.
The next day, after a sleepless night, Eugenie de Merville sent for the
Vicomte de Vaudemont.
"A silver river small
In sweet accents
Its music vents;
The warbling virginal
To which the merry birds do sing,
Timed with stops of gold the silver string."
_Sir Richard Fanshawe_.
One evening, several weeks after the events just commemorated, a
stranger, leading in his hand, a young child, entered the churchyard of
H----. The sun had not long set, and the short twilight of deepening
summer reigned in the tranquil skies; you might still hear from the trees
above the graves the chirp of some joyous bird;--what cared he, the
denizen of the skies, for the dead that slept below?--what did he value
save the greenness and repose of the spot,--to him alike the garden or
the grave! As the man and the child passed, the robin, scarcely scared
by their tread from the long grass beside one of the mounds, looked at
them with its bright, blithe eye. It was a famous plot for the robin--
the old churchyard! That domestic bird--"the friend of man," as it has
been called by the poets--found a jolly supper among the worms!
The stranger, on reaching the middle of the sacred ground, paused and
looked round him wistfully. He then approached, slowly and hesitatingly,
an oblong tablet, on which were graven, in letters yet fresh and new,
MEMORY OF ONE CALUMNIATED AND WRONGED
THIS BURIAL-STONE IS DEDICATED
BY HER SON.
Such, with the addition of the dates of birth and death, was the tablet
which Philip Morton had directed to be placed over his mother's bones;
and around it was set a simple palisade, which defended it from the tread
of the children, who sometimes, in defiance of the beadle, played over
the dust of the former race.
"Thy son!" muttered the stranger, while the child stood quietly by his
side, pleased by the trees, the grass, the song of the birds, and reeking
not of grief or death,--"thy son!--but not thy favoured son--thy darling
--thy youngest born; on what spot of earth do thine eyes look down on
him? Surely in heaven thy love has preserved the one whom on earth thou
didst most cherish, from the sufferings and the trials that have visited
the less-favoured outcast. Oh, mother--mother!--it was not his crime--
not Philip's--that he did not fulfil to the last the trust bequeathed to
him! Happier, perhaps, as it is! And, oh, if thy memory be graven as
deeply in my brother's heart as my own, how often will it warn and save
him! That memory!--it has been to me the angel of my life! To thee--to
thee, even in death, I owe it, if, though erring, I am not criminal,--if
I have lived with the lepers, and am still undefiled!" His lips then
were silent--not his heart!
After a few minutes thus consumed he turned to the child, and said,
gently and in a tremulous voice, "Fanny, you have been taught to pray--
you will live near this spot,--will you come sometimes here and pray that
you may grow up good and innocent, and become a blessing to those who
"Will papa ever come to hear me pray?"
That sad and unconscious question went to the heart of Morton. The child
could not comprehend death. He had sought to explain it, but she had
been accustomed to consider her protector dead when he was absent from
her, and she still insisted that he must come again to life. And that
man of turbulence and crime, who had passed unrepentant, unabsolved, from
sin to judgment: it was an awful question, "If he should hear her pray?"
"Yes!" said he, after a pause,--"yes, Fanny, there is a Father who will
hear you pray; and pray to Him to be merciful to those who have been kind
to you. Fanny, you and I may never meet again!"
"Are you going to die too? _Mechant_, every one dies to Fanny!" and,
clinging to him endearingly, she put up her lips to kiss him. He took
her in his arms: and, as a tear fell upon her rosy cheek, she said,
"Don't cry, brother, for I love you."
"Do you, dear Fanny? Then, for my sake, when you come to this place, if
any one will give you a few flowers, scatter them on that stone. And now
we will go to one whom you must love also, and to whom, as I have told
you, _he_ sends you; he who--Come!"
As he thus spoke, and placed Fanny again on the ground, he was startled
to see: precisely on the spot where he had seen before the like
apparition--on the same spot where the father had cursed the son, the
motionless form of an old man. Morton recognised, as if by an instinct
rather than by an effort of the memory, the person to whom he was bound.
He walked slowly towards him; but Fanny abruptly left his side, lured by
a moth that flitted duskily over the graves.
"Your name, sir, I think, is Simon Gawtrey?" said Morton. "I have came
to England in quest of you."
"Of me?" said the old man, half rising, and his eyes, now completely
blind, rolled vacantly over Morton's person--"Of me?--for what?--Who are
you?--I don't know your voice!"
"I come to you from your son!"
"My son!" exclaimed the old man, with great vehemence,--"the reprobate!--
the dishonoured!--the infamous!--the accursed--"
"Hush! you revile the dead!"
"Dead!" muttered the wretched father, tottering back to the seat he had
quitted,--"dead!" and the sound of his voice was so full of anguish, that
the dog at his feet, which Morton had not hitherto perceived, echoed it
with a dismal cry, that recalled to Philip the awful day in which he had
seen the son quit the father for the last time on earth.
The sound brought Fanny to the spot; and, with a laugh of delight, which
made to it a strange contrast, she threw herself on the grass beside the
dog and sought to entice it to play. So there, in that place of death,
were knit together the four links in the Great Chain;--lusty and blooming
life--desolate and doting age--infancy, yet scarce conscious of a soul--
and the dumb brute, that has no warrant of a Hereafter!
"Dead!--dead!" repeated the old man, covering his sightless balls with
his withered hands. "Poor William!"
"He remembered you to the last. He bade me seek you out--he bade me
replace the guilty son with a thing pure and innocent, as he had been had
he died in his cradle--a child to comfort your old age! Kneel, Fanny, I
have found you a father who will cherish you--(oh! you will, sir, will
you not?)--as he whom you may see no more!"
There was something in Morton's voice so solemn, that it awed and touched
both the old man and the infant; and Fanny, creeping to the protector
thus assigned to her, and putting her little hands confidingly on his
"Fanny will love you if papa wished it. Kiss Fanny."
"Is it his child--his?" said the blind man, sobbing. "Come to my heart;
here--here! O God, forgive me!" Morton did not think it right at that
moment to undeceive him with regard to the poor child's true connexion
with the deceased: and he waited in silence till Simon, after a burst of
passionate grief and tenderness, rose, and still clasping the child to
his breast, said--
"Sir, forgive me!--I am a very weak old man--I have many thanks to give--
I have much, too, to learn. My poor son! he did not die in want,--did
The particulars of Gawtrey's fate, with his real name and the various
aliases he had assumed, had appeared in the French journals, had been
partially copied into the English; and Morton had expected to have been
saved the painful narrative of that fearful death; but the utter
seclusion of the old man, his infirmity, and his estranged habits, had
shut him out from the intelligence that it now devolved on Philip to
communicate. Morton hesitated a little before he answered:
"It is late now; you are not yet prepared to receive this poor infant at
your home, nor to hear the details I have to state. I arrived in England
but to-day. I shall lodge in the neighbourhood, for it is dear to me.
If I may feel sure, then, that you will receive and treasure this sacred
and last deposit bequeathed to you by your unhappy son, I will bring my
charge to you to-morrow, and we will then, more calmly than we can now,
talk over the past."
"You do not answer my question," said Simon, passionately; "answer that,
and I will wait for the rest. They call me a miser! Did I send out my
only child to starve? Answer that!"
"Be comforted. He did not die in want; and he has even left some little
fortune for Fanny, which I was to place in your hands."
"And he thought to bribe the old miser to be human! Well--well--well--I
will go home."
"Lean on me!"
The dog leapt playfully on his master as the latter rose, and Fanny slid
from Simon's arms to caress and talk to the animal in her own way. As
they slowly passed through the churchyard Simon muttered incoherently to
himself for several paces, and Morton would not disturb, since he could
not comfort, him.
At last he said abruptly, "Did my son repent?"
"I hoped," answered Morton, evasively, "that, had his life been spared,
he would have amended!"
"Tush, sir!--I am past seventy; we repent!--we never amend!" And Simon
again sunk into his own dim and disconnected reveries.
At length they arrived at the blind man's house. The door was opened to
them by an old woman of disagreeable and sinister aspect, dressed out
much too gaily for the station of a servant, though such was her reputed
capacity; but the miser's affliction saved her from the chance of his
comment on her extravagance. As she stood in the doorway with a candle
in her hand, she scanned curiously, and with no welcoming eye, her
"Mrs. Boxer, my son is dead!" said Simon, in a hollow voice.
"And a good thing it is, then, sir!"
"For shame, woman!" said Morton, indignantly. "Hey-dey! sir! whom have
we got here?"
"One," said Simon, sternly, "whom you will treat with respect. He brings
me a blessing to lighten my loss. One harsh word to this child, and you
quit my house!"
The woman looked perfectly thunderstruck; but, recovering herself, she
"I! a harsh word to anything my dear, kind master cares for. And, Lord,
what a sweet pretty creature it is! Come here, my dear!"
But Fanny shrunk back, and would not let go Philip's hand.
"To-morrow, then," said Morton; and he was turning away, when a sudden
thought seemed to cross the old man,--
"Stay, sir--stay! I--I--did my son say I was rich? I am very, very
poor--nothing in the house, or I should have been robbed long ago!"
"Your son told me to bring money, not to ask for it!"
"Ask for it! No; but," added the old man, and a gleam of cunning
intelligence shot over his face,--"but he had got into a bad set. Ask!--
No!--Put up the door-chain, Mrs. Boxer!"
It was with doubt and misgivings that Morton, the next day, consigned the
child, who had already nestled herself into the warmest core of his
heart, to the care of Simon. Nothing short of that superstitious
respect, which all men owe to the wishes of the dead, would have made him
select for her that asylum; for Fate had now, in brightening his own
prospects, given him an alternative in the benevolence of Madame de
Merville. But Gawtrey had been so earnest on the subject, that he felt
as if he had no right to hesitate. And was it not a sort of atonement to
any faults the son might have committed against the parent, to place by
the old man's hearth so sweet a charge?
The strange and peculiar mind and character of Fanny made him, however,
yet more anxious than otherwise he might have been. She certainly
deserved not the harsh name of imbecile or idiot, but she was different
from all other children; she felt more acutely than most of her age, but
she could not be taught to reason. There was something either oblique or
deficient in her intellect, which justified the most melancholy
apprehensions; yet often, when some disordered, incoherent, inexplicable
train of ideas most saddened the listener, it would be followed by
fancies so exquisite in their strangeness, or feelings so endearing in
their tenderness, that suddenly she seemed as much above, as before she
seemed below, the ordinary measure of infant comprehension. She was like
a creature to which Nature, in some cruel but bright caprice, has given
all that belongs to poetry, but denied all that belongs to the common
understanding necessary to mankind; or, as a fairy changeling, not,
indeed, according to the vulgar superstition, malignant and deformed, but
lovelier than the children of men, and haunted by dim and struggling
associations of a gentler and fairer being, yet wholly incapable to learn
the dry and hard elements which make up the knowledge of actual life.
Morton, as well as he could, sought to explain to Simon the peculiarities
in Fanny's mental constitution. He urged on him the necessity of
providing for her careful instruction, and Simon promised to send her to
the best school the neighbourhood could afford; but, as the old man
spoke, he dwelt so much on the supposed fact that Fanny was William's
daughter, and with his remorse, or affection, there ran so interwoven a
thread of selfishness and avarice, that Morton thought it would be
dangerous to his interest in the child to undeceive his error. He,
therefore,--perhaps excusably enough--remained silent on that subject.
Gawtrey had placed with the superior of the convent, together with an
order to give up the child to any one who should demand her in his true
name, which he confided to the superior, a sum of nearly L300., which he
solemnly swore had been honestly obtained, and which, in all his shifts
and adversities, he had never allowed himself to touch. This sum, with
the trifling deduction made for arrears due to the convent, Morton now
placed in Simon's hands. The old man clutched the money, which was for
the most in French gold, with a convulsive gripe: and then, as if ashamed
of the impulse, said--
"But you, sir--will any sum--that is, any reasonable sum--be of use to
"No! and if it were, it is neither yours nor mine--it is hers. Save it
for her, and add to it what you can."
While this conversation took place, Fanny had been consigned to the care
of Mrs. Boxer, and Philip now rose to see and bid her farewell before he
"I may come again to visit you, Mr. Gawtrey; and I pray Heaven to find
that you and Fanny have been a mutual blessing to each other. Oh,
remember how your son loved her!"
"He had a good heart, in spite of all his sins. Poor William!" said
Philip Morton heard, and his lip curled with a sad and a just disdain.
If when, at the age of nineteen, William Gawtrey had quitted his father's
roof, the father had then remembered that the son's heart was good,--the
son had been alive still, an honest and a happy man. Do ye not laugh, O
ye all-listening Fiends! when men praise those dead whose virtues they
discovered not when alive? It takes much marble to build the sepulchre--
how little of lath and plaster would have repaired the garret!
On turning into a small room adjoining the parlour in which Gawtrey sat,
Morton found Fanny standing gloomily by a dull, soot-grimed window, which
looked out on the dead walls of a small yard. Mrs. Boxer, seated by a
table, was employed in trimming a cap, and putting questions to Fanny in
that falsetto voice of endearment in which people not used to children
are apt to address them.
"And so, my dear, they've never taught you to read or write? You've been
sadly neglected, poor thing!"
"We must do our best to supply the deficiency," said Morton, as he
"Bless me, sir, is that you?" and the gouvernante bustled up and dropped
a low courtesy; for Morton, dressed then in the garb of a gentleman, was
of a mien and person calculated to strike the gaze of the vulgar.
"Ah, brother!" cried Fanny, for by that name he had taught her to call
him; and she flew to his side. "Come away--it's ugly there--it makes me
"My child, I told you you must stay; but I shall hope to see you again
some day. Will you not be kind to this poor creature, ma'am? Forgive
me, if I offended you last night, and favour me by accepting this, to
show that we are friends." As he spoke, he slid his purse into the
woman's hand. "I shall feel ever grateful for whatever you can do for
"Fanny wants nothing from any one else; Fanny wants her brother."
"Sweet child! I fear she don't take to me. Will you like me, Miss
"No! get along!"
"Fie, Fanny--you remember you did not take to me at first. But she is so
affectionate, ma'am; she never forgets a kindness."
"I will do all I can to please her, sir. And so she is really master's
grandchild?" The woman fixed her eyes, as she spoke, so intently on
Morton, that he felt embarrassed, and busied himself, without answering,
in caressing and soothing Fanny, who now seemed to awake to the
affliction about to visit her; for though she did not weep--she very
rarely wept--her slight frame trembled--her eyes closed--her cheeks, even
her lips, were white--and her delicate hands were clasped tightly round
the neck of the one about to abandon her to strange breasts.
Morton was greatly moved. "One kiss, Fanny! and do not forget me when we
The child pressed her lips to his cheek, but the lips were cold. He put
her down gently; she stood mute and passive.
"Remember that he wished me to leave you here," whispered Morton, using
an argument that never failed. "We must obey him; and so-God bless you,
He rose and retreated to the door; the child unclosed her eyes, and gazed
at him with a strained, painful, imploring gaze; her lips moved, but she
did not speak. Morton could not bear that silent woe. He sought to
smile on her consolingly; but the smile would not come. He closed the
door, and hurried from the house.
From that day Fanny settled into a kind of dreary, inanimate stupor,
which resembled that of the somnambulist whom the magnetiser forgets to
waken. Hitherto, with all the eccentricities or deficiencies of her
mind, had mingled a wild and airy gaiety. That was vanished. She spoke
little--she never played--no toys could lure her--even the poor dog
failed to win her notice. If she was told to do anything she stared
vacantly and stirred not. She evinced, however, a kind of dumb regard to
the old blind man; she would creep to his knees and sit there for hours,
seldom answering when he addressed her, but uneasy, anxious, and
restless, if he left her.
"Will you die too?" she asked once; the old man understood her not, and
she did not try to explain. Early one morning, some days after Morton
was gone, they missed her: she was not in the house, nor the dull yard
where she was sometimes dismissed and told to play--told in vain. In
great alarm the old man accused Mrs. Boxer of having spirited her away,
and threatened and stormed so loudly that the woman, against her will,
went forth to the search. At last she found the child in the churchyard,
standing wistfully beside a tomb.
"What do you here, you little plague?" said Mrs. Boxer, rudely seizing
her by the arm.
"This is the way they will both come back some day! I dreamt so!"
"If ever I catch you here again!" said the housekeeper, and, wiping her
brow with one hand, she struck the child with the other. Fanny had never
been struck before. She recoiled in terror and amazement, and, for the
first time since her arrival, burst into tears.
"Come--come, no crying! and if you tell master I'll beat you within an
inch of your life!" So saying, she caught Fanny in her arms, and,
walking about, scolding and menacing, till she had frightened back the
child's tears, she returned triumphantly to the house, and bursting into
the parlour, exclaimed, "Here's the little darling, sir!"
When old Simon learned where the child had been found he was glad; for it
was his constant habit, whenever the evening was fine, to glide out to
that churchyard--his dog his guide--and sit on his one favourite spot
opposite the setting sun. This, not so much for the sanctity of the
place, or the meditations it might inspire, as because it was the
nearest, the safest, and the loneliest spot in the neighbourhood of his
home, where the blind man could inhale the air and bask in the light of
heaven. Hitherto, thinking it sad for the child, he had never taken her
with him; indeed, at the hour of his monotonous excursion she had
generally been banished to bed. Now she was permitted to accompany him;
and the old man and the infant would sit there side by side, as Age and
Infancy rested side by side in the graves below. The first symptom of
childlike interest and curiosity that Fanny betrayed was awakened by the
affliction of her protector. One evening, as they thus sat, she made him
explain what the desolation of blindness is. She seemed to comprehend
him, though he did not seek to adapt his complaints to her understanding.
"Fanny knows," said she, touchingly; "for she, too, is blind here;" and
she pressed her hands to her temples. Notwithstanding her silence and
strange ways, and although he could not see the exquisite loveliness
which Nature, as in remorseful pity, had lavished on her outward form,
Simon soon learned to love her better than he had ever loved yet: for
they most cold to the child are often dotards to the grandchild. For her
even his avarice slept. Dainties, never before known at his sparing
board, were ordered to tempt her appetite, toy-shops ransacked to amuse
her indolence. He was long, however, before he could prevail on himself
to fulfil his promise to Morton, and rob himself of her presence. At
length, however, wearied with Mrs. Boxer's lamentations at her ignorance,
and alarmed himself at some evidences of helplessness, which made him
dread to think what her future might be when left alone in life, he
placed her at a day-school in the suburb. Here Fanny, for a considerable
time, justified the harshest assertions of her stupidity. She could not
even keep her eyes two minutes together on the page from which she was to
learn the mysteries of reading; months passed before she mastered the
alphabet, and, a month after, she had again forgot it, and the labour was
renewed. The only thing in which she showed ability, if so it might be
called, was in the use of the needle. The sisters of the convent had
already taught her many pretty devices in this art; and when she found
that at the school they were admired--that she was praised instead of