Part 2 out of 3
and every time I have gone straight enough along the line to have killed
"Ay, the mark itself does not so much signify," said Mr. Marsden, "at
least, not in actual duelling--the great thing is to be in the line."
While he spoke, Lord Lilburne's ball went a third time through the glove.
His cold bright eye turned on Vaudemont, as he said, with a smile,--
"They tell me you shoot well with a fowling-piece, my dear Vaudemont--are
you equally adroit with a pistol?"
"You may see, if you like; but you take aim, Lord Lilburne; that would be
of no use in English duelling. Permit me."
He walked to the glove, and tore from it one of the fingers, which he
fastened separately to the tree, took the pistol from Dykeman as he
walked past him, gained the spot whence to fire, turned at once round,
without apparent aim, and the finger fell to the ground.
Lilburne stood aghast.
"That's wonderful!" said Marsden; "quite wonderful. Where the devil did
you get such a knack?--for it is only knack after all!"
"I lived for many years in a country where the practice was constant,
where all that belongs to rifle-shooting was a necessary accomplishment--
a country in which man had often to contend against the wild beast. In
civilised states, man himself supplies the place of the wild beast--but
we don't hunt him!--Lord Lilburne" (and this was added with a smiling and
disdainful whisper), "you must practise a little more."
But, disregardful of the advice, from that day Lord Lilburne's morning
occupation was gone. He thought no longer of a duel with Vaudemont. As
soon as the sportsman had left him, he bade Dykeman take up the pistols,
and walked straight home into the library, where Robert Beaufort, who was
no sportsman, generally spent his mornings.
He flung himself into an arm-chair, and said, as he stirred the fire with
"Beaufort, I'm very sorry I asked you to invite Vaudemont. He's a very
ill-bred, disagreeable fellow!" Beaufort threw down his steward's
account-book, on which he was employed, and replied,--
"Lilburne, I have never had an easy moment since that man has been in the
house. As he was your guest, I did not like to speak before, but don't
you observe--you must observe--how like he is to the old family
portraits? The more I have examined him, the more another resemblance
grows upon me. In a word," said Robert, pausing and breathing hard, "if
his name were not Vaudemont--if his history were not, apparently, so well
known, I should say--I should swear, that it is Philip Morton who sleeps
under this roof!"
"Ha!" said Lilburne, with an earnestness that surprised Beaufort, who
expected to have heard his brother-in-law's sneering sarcasm at his
fears; "the likeness you speak of to the old portraits did strike me; it
struck Marsden, too, the other day, as we were passing through the
picture-gallery; and Marsden remarked it aloud to Vaudemont. I remember
now that he changed countenance and made no answer. Hush! hush! hold
your tongue, let me think--let me think. This Philip--yes--yes--I and
Arthur saw him with--with Gawtrey--in Paris--"
"Gawtrey! was that the name of the rogue he was said to--"
"Yes--yes--yes. Ah! now I guess the meaning of those looks--those
words," muttered Lilburne between his teeth. "This pretension to the
name of Vaudemont was always apocryphal--the story always but half
believed--the invention of a woman in love with him--the claim on your
property is made at the very time he appears in England. Ha! Have you a
newspaper there? Give it me. No! 'tis not in this paper. Ring the bell
for the file!"
"What's the matter? you terrify me!" gasped out Mr. Beaufort, as he rang
"Why! have you not seen an advertisement repeated several times within
the last month?"
"I never read advertisements; except in the county paper, if land is to
"Nor I often; but this caught my eye. John" (here the servant entered),
"bring the file of the newspapers. The name of the witness whom Mrs.
Morton appealed to was Smith, the same name as the captain; what was the
"I don't remember."
"Here are the papers--shut the door--and here is the advertisement: 'If
Mr. William Smith, son of Jeremiah Smith, who formerly rented the farm of
Shipdale-Bury, under the late Right Hon. Charles Leopold Beaufort (that's
your uncle), and who emigrated in the year 18-- to Australia, will apply
to Mr. Barlow, Solicitor, Essex Street, Strand, he will hear of something
to his advantage.'"
"Good Heavens! why did not you mention this to me before?"
"Because I did not think it of any importance. In the first place, there
might be some legacy left to the man, quite distinct from your business.
Indeed, that was the probable supposition;--or even if connected with the
claim, such an advertisement might be but a despicable attempt to
frighten you. Never mind--don't look so pale--after all, this is a proof
that the witness is not found--that Captain Smith is neither the Smith,
nor has discovered where the Smith is!"
"True!" observed Mr. Beaufort: "true--very true!"
"Humph!" said Lord Lilburne, who was still rapidly glancing over the
file--"Here is another advertisement which I never saw before: this
looks suspicious: 'If the person who called on the -- of September, on
Mr. Morton, linendraper, &c., of N----, will renew his application
personally or by letter, he may now obtain the information he sought
"Morton!--the woman's brother! their uncle! it is too clear!"
"But what brings this man, if he be really Philip Morton, what brings him
here!--to spy or to threaten?"
"I will get him out of the house this day."
"No--no; turn the watch upon himself. I see now; he is attracted by your
daughter; sound her quietly; don't tell her to discourage his
confidences; find out if he ever speaks of these Mortons. Ha! I
recollect--he has spoken to me of the Mortons, but vaguely--I forget
what. Humph! this is a man of spirit and daring--watch him, I say,--
watch him! When does Arthur came back?"
"He has been travelling so slowly, for he still complains of his health,
and has had relapses; but he ought to be in Paris this week, perhaps he
is there now. Good Heavens! he must not meet this man!"
"Do what I tell you! get out all from your daughter. Never fear: he can
do nothing against you except by law. But if he really like Camilla--"
"He!--Philip Morton--the adventurer--the--"
"He is the eldest son: remember you thought even of accepting the second.
He--nay find the witness--he may win his suit; if he likes Camilla, there
may be a compromise."
Mr. Beaufort felt as if turned to ice.
"You think him likely to win this infamous suit, then?" he faltered.
"Did not you guard against the possibility by securing the brother? More
worth while to do it with this man. Hark ye! the politics of private are
like those of public life,--when the state can't crush a demagogue, it
should entice him over. If you can ruin this dog" (and Lilburne stamped
his foot fiercely, forgetful of the gout), "ruin him! hang him! If you
can't" (and here with a wry face he caressed the injured foot), "if you
can't ('sdeath, what a twinge!), and he can ruin you,--bring him into the
family, and make his secret ours! I must go and lie down--I have
In great perplexity Beaufort repaired at once to Camilla. His nervous
agitation betrayed itself, though he smiled a ghastly smile, and intended
to be exceeding cool and collected. His questions, which confused and
alarmed her, soon drew out the fact that the very first time Vaudemont
had been introduced to her he had spoken of the Mortons; and that he had
often afterwards alluded to the subject, and seemed at first strongly
impressed with the notion that the younger brother was under Beaufort's
protection; though at last he appeared reluctantly convinced of the
contrary. Robert, however agitated, preserved at least enough of his
natural slyness not to let out that he suspected Vaudemont to be Philip
Morton himself, for he feared lest his daughter should betray that
suspicion to its object.
"But," he said, with a look meant to win confidence, "I dare say he knows
these young men. I should like myself to know more about them. Learn
all you can, and tell me, and, I say--I say, Camilla,--he! he! he!--you
have made a conquest, you little flirt, you! Did he, this Vaudemont,
ever say how much he admired you?"
"He!--never!" said Camilla, blushing, and then turning pale.
"But he looks it. Ah! you say nothing, then. Well, well, don't
discourage him; that is to say,--yes, don't discourage him. Talk to him
as much as you can,--ask him about his own early life. I've a particular
wish to know--'tis of great importance to me."
"But, my dear father," said Camilla, trembling and thoroughly bewildered,
"I fear this man,--I fear--I fear--"
Was she going to add, "I fear myself?" I know not; but she stopped
short, and burst into tears.
"Hang these girls!" muttered Mr. Beaufort, "always crying when they
ought to be of use to one. Go down, dry your eyes, do as I tell you,--
get all you can from him. Fear him!--yes, I dare say she does!"
muttered the poor man, as he closed the door.
From that time what wonder that Camilla's manner to Vaudemont was yet
more embarrassed than ever: what wonder that he put his own heart's
interpretation on that confusion. Beaufort took care to thrust her more
often than before in his way; he suddenly affected a creeping, fawning
civility to Vaudemont; he was sure he was fond of music; what did he
think of that new air Camilla was so fond of? He must be a judge of
scenery, he who had seen so much: there were beautiful landscapes in the
neighbourhood, and, if he would forego his sports, Camilla drew prettily,
had an eye for that sort of thing, and was so fond of riding.
Vaudemont was astonished at this change, but his delight was greater than
the astonishment. He began to perceive that his identity was suspected;
perhaps Beaufort, more generous than he had deemed him, meant to repay
every early wrong or harshness by one inestimable blessing. The generous
interpret motives in extremes--ever too enthusiastic or too severe.
Vaudemont felt as if he had wronged the wronger; he began to conquer even
his dislike to Robert Beaufort. For some days he was thus thrown much
with Camilla; the questions her father forced her to put to him, uttered
tremulously and fearfully, seemed to him proof of her interest in his
fate. His feelings to Camilla, so sudden in their growth--so ripened and
so favoured by the Sub-Ruler of the world--CIRCUMSTANCE--might not,
perhaps, have the depth and the calm completeness of that, One True Love,
of which there are many counterfeits,--and which in Man, at least,
possibly requires the touch and mellowness, if not of time, at least of
many memories--of perfect and tried conviction of the faith, the worth,
the value and the beauty of the heart to which it clings;--but those
feelings were, nevertheless, strong, ardent, and intense. He believed
himself beloved--he was in Elysium. But he did not yet declare the
passion that beamed in his eyes. No! he would not yet claim the hand of
Camilla Beaufort, for he imagined the time would soon come when he could
claim it, not as the inferior or the suppliant, but as the lord of her
"Here's something got amongst us!"--_Knight of Malta_.
Two or three nights after his memorable conversation with Robert
Beaufort, as Lord Lilburne was undressing, he said to his valet:
"Dykeman, I am getting well."
"Indeed, my lord, I never saw your lordship look better."
"There you lie. I looked better last year--I looked better the year
before--and I looked better and better every year back to the age of
twenty-one! But I'm not talking of looks, no man with money wants looks.
I am talking of feelings. I feel better. The gout is almost gone. I
have been quiet now for a month--that's a long time--time wasted when, at
my age, I have so little time to waste. Besides, as you know, I am very
much in love!"
"In love, my lord? I thought that you told me never to speak of--"
"Blockhead! what the deuce was the good of speaking about it when I was
wrapped in flannels! I am never in love when I am ill--who is? I am
well now, or nearly so; and I've had things to vex me--things to make
this place very disagreeable; I shall go to town, and before this day
week, perhaps, that charming face may enliven the solitude of Fernside.
I shall look to it myself now. I see you're going to say something.
Spare yourself the trouble! nothing ever goes wrong if I myself take it
The next day Lord Lilburne, who, in truth, felt himself uncomfortable and
_gene_ in the presence of Vaudemont; who had won as much as the guests at
Beaufort Court seemed inclined to lose; and who made it the rule of his
life to consult his own pleasure and amusement before anything else, sent
for his post-horses, and informed his brother-in-law of his departure.
"And you leave me alone with this man just when I am convinced that he is
the person we suspected! My dear Lilburne, do stay till he goes."
"Impossible! I am between fifty and sixty--every moment is precious at
that time of life. Besides, I've said all I can say; rest quiet--act on
the defensive--entangle this cursed Vaudemont, or Morton, or whoever he
be, in the mesh of your daughter's charms, and then get rid of him, not
before. This can do no harm, let the matter turn out how it will. Read
the papers; and send for Blackwell if you want advice on any, new
advertisements. I don't see that anything more is to be done at present.
You can write to me; I shall be at Park Lane or Fernside. Take care of
yourself. You're a lucky fellow--you never have the gout! Good-bye."
And in half an hour Lord Lilburne was on the road to London.
The departure of Lilburne was a signal to many others, especially and
naturally to those he himself had invited. He had not announced to such
visitors his intention of going till his carriage was at the door. This
might be delicacy or carelessness, just as people chose to take it: and
how they did take it, Lord Lilburne, much too selfish to be well-bred,
did not care a rush. The next day half at least of the guests were gone;
and even Mr. Marsden, who had been specially invited on Arthur's account,
announced that he should go after dinner! he always travelled by night--
he slept well on the road--a day was not lost by it.
"And it is so long since you saw Arthur," said Mr. Beaufort, in
remonstrance, "and I expect him every day."
"Very sorry--best fellow in the world--but the fact is, that I am not
very well myself. I want a little sea air; I shall go to Dover or
Brighton. But I suppose you will have the house full again about
Christmas; in that case I shall be delighted to repeat my visit."
The fact was, that Mr. Marsden, without Lilburne's intellect on the one
hand, or vices on the other, was, like that noble sensualist, one of the
broken pieces of the great looking-glass "SELF." He was noticed in
society as always haunting the places where Lilburne played at cards,
carefully choosing some other table, and as carefully betting upon
Lilburne's side. The card-tables were now broken up; Vaudemont's
superiority in shooting, and the manner in which he engrossed the talk of
the sportsmen, displeased him. He was bored--he wanted to be off-and off
he went. Vaudemont felt that the time was come for him to depart, too;
Robert Beaufort--who felt in his society the painful fascination of the
bird with the boa, who hated to see him there, and dreaded to see him
depart, who had not yet extracted all the confirmation of his persuasions
that he required, for Vaudemont easily enough parried the artless
questions of Camilla--pressed him to stay with so eager a hospitality,
and made Camilla herself falter out, against her will, and even against
her remonstrances--(she never before had dared to remonstrate with either
father or mother),--"Could not you stay a few days longer?"--that
Vaudemont was too contented to yield to his own inclinations; and so for
some little time longer he continued to move before the eyes of Mr.
Beaufort--stern, sinister, silent, mysterious--like one of the family
pictures stepped down from its frame. Vaudemont wrote, however, to
Fanny, to excuse his delay; and anxious to hear from her as to her own
and Simon's health, bade her direct her letter to his lodging in London
(of which he gave her the address), whence, if he still continued to
defer his departure, it would be forwarded to him. He did not do this,
however, till he had been at Beaufort Court several days after Lilburne's
departure, and till, in fact, two days before the eventful one which
closed his visit.
The party, now greatly diminished; were at breakfast, when the servant
entered, as usual, with the letter-bag. Mr. Beaufort, who was always
important and pompous in the small ceremonials of life, unlocked the
precious deposit with slow dignity, drew forth the newspapers, which he
threw on the table, and which the gentlemen of the party eagerly seized;
then, diving out one by one, jerked first a letter to Camilla, next a
letter to Vaudemont, and, thirdly, seized a letter for himself.
"I beg that there may be no ceremony, Monsieur de Vaudemont: pray excuse
me and follow my example: I see this letter is from my son;" and he broke
The letter ran thus:
"MY DEAR FATHER,--Almost as soon as you receive this, I shall be with
you. Ill as I am, I can have no peace till I see and consult you. The
most startling--the most painful intelligence has just been conveyed to
me. It is of a nature not to bear any but personal communication.
"Your affectionate son,
"P.S.--This will go by the same packet-boat that I shall take myself, and
can only reach you a few hours before I arrive."
Mr. Beaufort's trembling hand dropped the letter--he grasped the elbow of
the chair to save himself from falling. It was clear!--the same visitor
who had persecuted himself had now sought his son! He grew sick, his son
might have heard the witness--might be convinced. His son himself now
appeared to him as a foe--for the father dreaded the son's honour! He
glanced furtively round the table, till his eye rested on Vaudemont, and
his terror was redoubled, for Vaudemont's face, usually so calm, was
animated to an extraordinary degree, as he now lifted it from the letter
he had just read. Their eyes met. Robert Beaufort looked on him as a
prisoner at the bar looks on the accusing counsel, when he first
commences his harangue.
"Mr. Beaufort," said the guest, "the letter you have given me summons me
to London on important business, and immediately. Suffer me to send for
horses at your earliest convenience."
"What's the matter?" said the feeble and seldom heard voice of Mrs.
Beaufort. "What's the matter, Robert?--is Arthur coming?"
"He comes to-day," said the father, with a deep sigh; and Vaudemont, at
that moment rising from his half-finished breakfast, with a bow that
included the group, and with a glance that lingered on Camilla, as she
bent over her own unopened letter (a letter from Winandermere, the seal
of which she dared not yet to break), quitted the room. He hastened to
his own chamber, and strode to and fro with a stately step--the step of
the Master--then, taking forth the letter, he again hurried over its
contents. They ran thus:
DEAR, Sir,--At last the missing witness has applied to me. He proves to
be, as you conjectured, the same person who had called on Mr. Roger
Morton; but as there are some circumstances on which I wish to take your
instructions without a moment's delay, I shall leave London by the mail,
and wait you at D---- (at the principal inn), which is, I understand,
twenty miles on the high road from Beaufort Court.
"I have the honor to be, sir,
Vaudemont was yet lost in the emotions that this letter aroused, when
they came to announce that his chaise was arrived. As he went down the
stairs he met Camilla, who was on the way to her own room.
"Miss Beaufort," said he, in a low and tremulous voice, "in wishing you
farewell I may not now say more. I leave you, and, strange to say, I do
not regret it, for I go upon an errand that may entitle me to return
again, and speak those thoughts which are uppermost in my soul even at
He raised her hand to his lips as he spoke, and at that moment Mr.
Beaufort looked from the door of his own room, and cried, "Camilla." She
was too glad to escape. Philip gazed after her light form for an
instant, and then hurried down the stairs.
"_Longueville_.--What! are you married, Beaufort?
_Beaufort_.--Ay, as fast
As words, and hands, and hearts, and priest,
Could make us."--BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: _Noble Gentleman_.
In the parlour of the inn at D------ sat Mr. John Barlow. He had just
finished his breakfast, and was writing letters and looking over papers
connected with his various business--when the door was thrown open, and a
gentleman entered abruptly.
"Mr. Beaufort," said the lawyer rising, "Mr. Philip Beaufort--for such I
now feel you are by right--though," he added, with his usual formal and
quiet smile, "not yet by law; and much--very much, remains to be done to
make the law and the right the same;--I congratulate you on having
something at last to work on. I had begun to despair of finding our
witness, after a month's advertising; and had commenced other
investigations, of which I will speak to you presently, when yesterday,
on my return to town from an errand on your business, I had the pleasure
of a visit from William Smith himself.--My dear sir, do not yet be too
sanguine.--It seems that this poor fellow, having known misfortune, was
in America when the first fruitless inquiries were made. Long after this
he returned to the colony, and there met with a brother, who, as I drew
from him, was a convict. He helped the brother to escape. They both
came to England. William learned from a distant relation, who lent him
some little money, of the inquiry that had been set on foot for him;
consulted his brother, who desired him to leave all to his management.
The brother afterwards assured him that you and Mr. Sidney were both
dead; and it seems (for the witness is simple enough to allow me to
extract all) this same brother then went to Mr. Beaufort to hold out the
threat of a lawsuit, and to offer the sale of the evidence yet
"And Mr. Beaufort?"
"I am happy to say, seems to have spurned the offer. Meanwhile William,
incredulous of his brother's report, proceeded to N----, learned nothing
from Mr. Morton, met his brother again--and the brother (confessing that
he had deceived him in the assertion that you and Mr. Sidney were dead)
told him that he had known you in earlier life, and set out to Paris to
"Known me?--To Paris?"
"More of this presently. William returned to town, living hardly and
penuriously on the little his brother bestowed on him, too melancholy and
too poor for the luxury of a newspaper, and never saw our advertisement,
till, as luck would have it, his money was out; he had heard nothing
further of his brother, and he went for new assistance to the same
relation who had before aided him. This relation, to his surprise,
received the poor man very kindly, lent him what he wanted, and then
asked him if he had not seen our advertisement. The newspaper shown him.
contained both the advertisements--that relating to Mr. Morton's visitor,
that containing his own name. He coupled them both together--called on
me at once. I was from town on your business. He returned to his own
home; the next morning (yesterday morning) came a letter from his
brother, which I obtained from him at last, and with promises that no
harm should happen to the writer on account of it."
Vaudemont took the letter and read as follows:
"DEAR WILLIAM,--No go about the youngster I went after: all researches in
vane. Paris develish expensive. Never mind, I have sene the other--the
young B--; different sort of fellow from his father--very ill--frightened
out of his wits--will go off to the governor, take me with him as far as
Bullone. I think we shall settel it now. Mind as I saide before, don't
put your foot in it. I send you a Nap in the Seele--all I can spare.
"Direct to me, Monsieur Smith--always a safe name--Ship Inn, Bullone."
"Do you know the name then?" said Mr. Barlow. "Well; the poor man owns
that he was frightened at his brother--that he wished to do what is
right--that he feared his brother would not let him--that your father was
very kind to him--and so he came off at once to me; and I was very
luckily at home to assure him that the heir was alive, and prepared to
assert his rights. Now then, Mr. Beaufort, we have the witness, but will
that suffice us? I fear not. Will the jury believe him with no other
testimony at his back? Consider!--When he was gone I put myself in
communication with some officers at Bow Street about this brother of his
--a most notorious character, commonly called in the police slang Dashing
"Ah! Well, proceed!"
"Your one witness, then, is a very poor, penniless man, his brother a
rogue, a convict: this witness, too, is the most timid, fluctuating,
irresolute fellow I ever saw; I should tremble for his testimony against
a sharp, bullying lawyer. And that, sir, is all at present we have to
"I see--I see. It is dangerous--it is hazardous. But truth is truth;
justice--justice! I will run the risk."
"Pardon me, if I ask, did you ever know this brother?--were you ever
absolutely acquainted with him--in the same house?"
"Many years since--years of early hardship and trial--I was acquainted
with him--what then?"
"I am sorry to hear it," and the lawyer looked grave. "Do you not see
that if this witness is browbeat--is disbelieved, and if it be shown that
you, the claimant, was--forgive my saying it--intimate with a brother of
such a character, why the whole thing might be made to look like perjury
and conspiracy. If we stop here it is an ugly business!"
"And is this all you have to say to me? The witness is found--the only
surviving witness--the only proof I ever shall or ever can obtain, and
you seek to terrify me--me too--from using the means for redress
Providence itself vouchsafes me--Sir, I will not hear you!"
"Mr. Beaufort, you are impatient--it is natural. But if we go to law--
that is, should I have anything to do with it, wait--wait till your case
is good. And hear me yet. This is not the only proof--this is not the
only witness; you forget that there was an examined copy of the register;
we may yet find that copy, and the person who copied it may yet be alive
to attest it. Occupied with this thought, and weary of waiting the
result of our advertisement, I resolved to go into the neighbourhood of
Fernside; luckily, there was a gentleman's seat to be sold in the
village. I made the survey of this place my apparent business. After
going over the house, I appeared anxious to see how far some alterations
could be made--alterations to render it more like Lord Lilburne's villa.
This led me to request a sight of that villa--a crown to the housekeeper
got me admittance. The housekeeper had lived with your father, and been
retained by his lordship. I soon, therefore, knew which were the rooms
the late Mr. Beaufort had principally occupied; shown into his study,
where it was probable he would keep his papers, I inquired if it were the
same furniture (which seemed likely enough from its age and fashion) as
in your father's time: it was so; Lord Lilburne had bought the house just
as it stood, and, save a few additions in the drawing-room, the general
equipment of the villa remained unaltered. You look impatient!--I'm
coming to the point. My eye fell upon an old-fashioned bureau--"
"But we searched every drawer in that bureau!"
"Any secret drawers?"
"Secret drawers! No! there were no secret drawers that I ever heard
Mr. Barlow rubbed his hands and mused a moment.
"I was struck with that bureau; for any father had had one like it. It
is not English--it is of Dutch manufacture."
"Yes, I have heard that my father bought it at a sale, three or four
years after his marriage."
"I learned this from the housekeeper, who was flattered by my admiring
it. I could not find out from her at what sale it had been purchased,
but it was in the neighbourhood she was sure. I had now a date to go
upon; I learned, by careless inquiries, what sales near Fernside had
taken place in a certain year. A gentleman had died at that date whose
furniture was sold by auction. With great difficulty, I found that his
widow was still alive, living far up the country: I paid her a visit;
and, not to fatigue you with too long an account, I have only to say that
she not only assured me that she perfectly remembered the bureau, but
that it had secret drawers and wells, very curiously contrived; nay, she
showed me the very catalogue in which the said receptacles are noticed in
capitals, to arrest the eye of the bidder, and increase the price of the
bidding. That your father should never have revealed where he stowed
this document is natural enough, during the life of his uncle; his own
life was not spared long enough to give him much opportunity to explain
afterwards, but I feel perfectly persuaded in my mind--that unless Mr.
Robert Beaufort discovered that paper amongst the others he examined--in
one of those drawers will be found all we want to substantiate your
claims. This is the more likely from your father never mentioning, even
to your mother apparently, the secret receptacles in the bureau. Why
else such mystery? The probability is that he received the document
either just before or at the time he purchased the bureau, or that he
bought it for that very purpose: and, having once deposited the paper in
a place he deemed secure from curiosity--accident, carelessness, policy,
perhaps, rather shame itself (pardon me) for the doubt of your mother's
discretion, that his secrecy seemed to imply, kept him from ever alluding
to the circumstance, even when the intimacy of after years made him more
assured of your mother's self-sacrificing devotion to his interests. At
his uncle's death he thought to repair all!"
"And how, if that be true--if that Heaven which has delivered me hitherto
from so many dangers, has, in the very secrecy of my poor father, saved
my birthright front the gripe of the usurper--how, I say, is---"
"The bureau to pass into our possession? That is the difficulty. But we
must contrive it somehow, if all else fail us; meanwhile, as I now feel
sure that there has been a copy of that register made, I wish to know
whether I should not immediately cross the country into Wales, and see if
I can find any person in the neighbourhood of A----- who did examine the
copy taken: for, mark you, the said copy is only of importance as leading
to the testimony of the actual witness who took it."
"Sir," said Vaudemont, heartily shaking Mr. Barlow by the hand, "forgive
my first petulance. I see in you the very man I desired and wanted--your
acuteness surprises and encourages me. Go to Wales, and God speed you!"
"Very well!--in five minutes I shall be off. Meanwhile, see the witness
yourself; the sight of his benefactor's son will do more to keep him
steady than anything else. There's his address, and take care not to
give him money. And now I will order my chaise--the matter begins to
look worth expense. Oh! I forgot to say that Monsieur Liancourt called
on you yesterday about his own affairs. He wishes much to consult you.
I told him you would probably be this evening in town, and he said he
would wait you at your lodging."
"Yes--I will lose not a moment in going to London, and visiting our
witness. And he saw my mother at the altar! My poor mother--Ah, how
could my father have doubted her!" and as he spoke, he blushed for the
first time with shame at that father's memory. He could not yet conceive
that one so frank, one usually so bold and open, could for years have
preserved from the woman who had sacrificed all to him, a secret to her
so important! That was, in fact, the only blot on his father's honour--
a foul and grave blot it was. Heavily had the punishment fallen on those
whom the father loved best! Alas, Philip had not yet learned what
terrible corrupters are the Hope and the Fear of immense Wealthy, even to
men reputed the most honourable, if they have been reared and pampered in
the belief that wealth is the Arch blessing of life. Rightly considered,
in Philip Beaufort's solitary meanness lay the vast moral of this world's
Mr. Barlow was gone. Philip was about to enter his own chaise, when a
dormeuse-and-four drove up to the inn-door to change horses. A young man
was reclining, at his length, in the carriage, wrapped in cloaks, and
with a ghastly paleness--the paleness of long and deep disease upon his
cheeks. He turned his dim eye with, perhaps, a glance of the sick man's
envy on that strong and athletic, form, majestic with health and vigour,
as it stood beside the more humble vehicle. Philip did not, however,
notice the new arrival; he sprang into the chaise, it rattled on, and
thus, unconsciously, Arthur Beaufort and his cousin had again met. To
which was now the Night--to which the Morning?
"_Bakam_. Let my men guard the walls.
_Syana_. And mine the temple."--_The Island Princess_.
While thus eventfully the days and the weeks had passed for Philip, no
less eventfully, so far as the inner life is concerned, had they glided
away for Fanny. She had feasted in quiet and delighted thought on the
consciousness that she was improving--that she was growing worthier of
him--that he would perceive it on his return. Her manner was more
thoughtful, more collected--less childish, in short, than it had been.
And yet, with all the stir and flutter of the aroused intellect, the
charm of her strange innocence was not scared away. She rejoiced in the
ancient liberty she had regained of going out and coming back when she
pleased; and as the weather was too cold ever to tempt Simon from his
fireside, except, perhaps, for half-an-hour in the forenoon, so the hours
of dusk, when he least missed her, were those which she chiefly
appropriated for stealing away to the good school-mistress, and growing
wiser and wiser every day in the ways of God and the learning of His
creatures. The schoolmistress was not a brilliant woman. Nor was it
accomplishments of which Fanny stood in need, so much as the opening of
her thoughts and mind by profitable books and rational conversation.
Beautiful as were all her natural feelings, the schoolmistress had now
little difficulty in educating feelings up to the dignity of principles.
At last, hitherto patient under the absence of one never absent from her
heart, Fanny received from him the letter he had addressed to her two
days before he quitted Beaufort Court;--another letter--a second letter--
a letter to excuse himself for not coming before--a letter that gave her
an address that asked for a reply. It was a morning of unequalled
delight approaching to transport. And then the excitement of answering
the letter--the pride of showing how she was improved, what an excellent
hand she now wrote! She shut herself up in her room: she did not go out
that day. She placed the paper before her, and, to her astonishment, all
that she had to say vanished from her mind at once. How was she even to
begin? She had always hitherto called him "Brother." Ever since her
conversation with Sarah she felt that she could not call him that name
again for the world--no, never! But what should she call him--what could
she call him? He signed himself "Philip." She knew that was his name.
She thought it a musical name to utter, but to write it! No! some
instinct she could not account for seemed to whisper that it was
improper--presumptuous, to call him "Dear Philip." Had Burns's songs--
the songs that unthinkingly he had put into her hand, and told her to
read--songs that comprise the most beautiful love-poems in the world--had
they helped to teach her some of the secrets of her own heart? And had
timidity come with knowledge? Who shall say--who guess what passed
within her? Nor did Fanny herself, perhaps, know her own feelings: but
write the words "Dear Philip" she could not. And the whole of that day,
though she thought of nothing else, she could not even get through the
first line to her satisfaction. The next morning she sat down again. It
would be so unkind if she did not answer immediately: she must answer.
She placed his letter before her--she resolutely began. But copy after
copy was made and torn. And Simon wanted her--and Sarah wanted her--and
there were bills to be paid; and dinner was over before her task was
really begun. But after dinner she began in good earnest.
"How kind in you to write to me" (the difficulty of any name was
dispensed with by adopting none), "and to wish to know about my dear
grandfather! He is much the same, but hardly ever walks out now, and I
have had a good deal of time to myself. I think something will surprise
you, and make you smile, as you used to do at first, when you come back.
You must not be angry with me that I have gone out by myself very often
--every day, indeed. I have been so safe. Nobody has ever offered to be
rude again to Fanny" (the word "Fanny" was carefully scratched out with
a penknife, and me substituted). "But you shall know all when you come.
And are you sure you are well--quite--quite well? Do you never have the
headaches you complained of sometimes? Do say this? Do you walk out-
every day? Is there any pretty churchyard near you now? Whom do you
"I have been so happy in putting the flowers on the two graves. But I
still give yours the prettiest, though the other is so dear to me. I
feel sad when I come to the last, but not when I look at the one I have
looked at so long. Oh, how good you were! But you don't like me to
"This is very stupid!" cried Fanny, suddenly throwing down her pen; "and
I don't think I am improved at it;" and she half cried with vexation.
Suddenly a bright idea crossed her. In the little parlour where the
schoolmistress privately received her, she had seen among the books, and
thought at the time how useful it might be to her if ever she had to
write to Philip, a little volume entitled, _The Complete Letter Writer_.
She knew by the title-page that it contained models for every description
of letter--no doubt it would contain the precise thing that would suit
the present occasion. She started up at the notion. She would go--she
could be back to finish the letter before post-time. She put on her
bonnet--left the letter, in her haste, open on the table--and just
looking into the parlour in her way to the street door, to convince
herself that Simon was asleep, and the wire-guard was on the fire, she
hurried to the kind schoolmistress.
One of the fogs that in autumn gather sullenly over London and its
suburbs covered the declining day with premature dimness. It grew darker
and darker as she proceeded, but she reached the house in safety. She
spent a quarter of an hour in timidly consulting her friend about all
kinds of letters except the identical one that she intended to write, and
having had it strongly impressed on her mind that if the letter was to a
gentleman at all genteel, she ought to begin "Dear Sir," and end with "I
have the honour to remain;" and that he would be everlastingly offended
if she did not in the address affix "Esquire" to his name (_that_, was a
great discovery),--she carried off the precious volume, and quitted the
house. There was a wall that, bounding the demesnes of the school, ran
for some short distance into the main street. The increasing fog, here,
faintly struggled against the glimmer of a single lamp at some little
distance. Just in this spot, her eye was caught by a dark object in the
road, which she could scarcely perceive to be a carriage, when her hand
was seized, and a voice said in her ear:--
"Ah! you will not be so cruel to me, I hope, as you were to my
messenger! I have come myself for you."
She turned in great alarm, but the darkness prevented her recognising the
face of him who thus accosted her. "Let me go!" she cried,--"let me
"Hush! hush! No--no. Come with me. You shall have a house--carriage--
servants! You shall wear silk gowns and jewels! You shall be a great
As these various temptations succeeded in rapid course each new struggle
of Fanny, a voice from the coach-box said in a low tone,--
"Take care, my lord, I see somebody coming--perhaps a policeman!"
Fanny heard the caution, and screamed for rescue.
"Is it so?" muttered the molester. And suddenly Fanny felt her voice
checked--her head mantled--her light form lifted from the ground. She
clung--she struggled it was in vain. It was the affair of a moment: she
felt herself borne into the carriage--the door closed--the stranger was
by her side, and his voice said:--
"Drive on, Dykeman. Fast! fast!"
Two or three minutes, which seemed to her terror as ages, elapsed, when
the gag and the mantle were gently removed, and the same voice (she still
could not see her companion) said in a very mild tone:--
"Do not alarm yourself; there is no cause,--indeed there is not. I would
not have adopted this plan had there been any other--any gentler one.
But I could not call at your own house--I knew no other where to meet
"This was the only course left to me--indeed it was. I made myself
acquainted with your movements. Do not blame me, then, for prying into
your footsteps. I watched for you all last night-you did not come out.
I was in despair. At last I find you. Do not be so terrified: I will
not even touch your hand if you do not wish it."
As he spoke, however, he attempted to touch it, and was repulsed with an
energy that rather disconcerted him. The poor girl recoiled from him
into the farthest corner of that prison in speechless horror--in the
darkest confusion of ideas. She did not weep--she did not sob--but her
trembling seemed to shake the very carriage. The man continued to
address, to expostulate, to pray, to soothe.
His manner was respectful. His protestations that he would not harm her
for the world were endless.
"Only just see the home I can give you; for two days--for one day. Only
just hear how rich I can make you and your grandfather, and then if you
wish to leave me, you shall."
More, much more, to this effect, did he continue to pour forth, without
extracting any sound from Fanny but gasps as for breath, and now and then
a low murmur:
"Let me go, let me go! My grandfather, my blind grandfather!"
And finally tears came to her relief, and she sobbed with a passion that
alarmed, and perhaps even touched her companion, cynical and icy as he
was. Meanwhile the carriage seemed to fly. Fast as two horses,
thorough-bred, and almost at full speed, could go, they were whirled
along, till about an hour, or even less, from the time in which she had
been thus captured, the carriage stopped.
"Are we here already?" said the man, putting his head out of the window.
"Do then as I told you. Not to the front door; to my study."
In two minutes more the carriage halted again, before a building which
looked white and ghostlike through the mist. The driver dismounted,
opened with a latch-key a window-door, entered for a moment to light the
candles in a solitary room from a fire that blazed on the hearth,
reappeared, and opened the carriage-door. It was with a difficulty for
which they were scarcely prepared that they were enabled to get Fanny
from the carriage. No soft words, no whispered prayers could draw her
forth; and it was with no trifling address, for her companion sought to
be as gentle as the force necessary to employ would allow, that he
disengaged her hands from the window-frame, the lining, the cushions, to
which they clung; and at last bore her into the house. The driver
closed the window again as he retreated, and they were alone. Fanny then
cast a wild, scarce conscious glance over the apartment. It was small
and simply furnished. Opposite to her was an old-fashioned bureau, one
of those quaint, elaborate monuments of Dutch ingenuity, which, during
the present century, the audacious spirit of curiosity-vendors has
transplanted from their native receptacles, to contrast, with grotesque
strangeness, the neat handiwork of Gillow and Seddon. It had a
physiognomy and character of its own--this fantastic foreigner! Inlaid
with mosaics, depicting landscapes and animals; graceless in form and
fashion, but still picturesque, and winning admiration, when more closely
observed, from the patient defiance of all rules of taste which had
formed its cumbrous parts into one profusely ornamented and eccentric
whole. It was the more noticeable from its total want of harmony with
the other appurtenances of the room, which bespoke the tastes of the
plain English squire. Prints of horses and hunts, fishing-rods and
fowling-pieces, carefully suspended, decorated the walls. Not, however,
on this notable stranger from the sluggish land rested the eye of Fanny.
That, in her hurried survey, was arrested only by a portrait placed over
the bureau--the portrait of a female in the bloom of life; a face so
fair, a brow so candid, and eyes so pure, a lip so rich in youth and joy
--that as her look lingered on the features Fanny felt comforted, felt as
if some living protectress were there. The fire burned bright and
merrily; a table, spread as for dinner, was drawn near it. To any other
eye but Fanny's the place would have seemed a picture of English comfort.
At last her looks rested on her companion. He had thrown himself, with a
long sigh, partly of fatigue, partly of satisfaction, on one of the
chairs, and was contemplating her as she thus stood and gazed, with an
expression of mingled curiosity and admiration; she recognised at once
her first, her only persecutor. She recoiled, and covered her face with
her hands. The man approached her:--
"Do not hate me, Fanny,--do not turn away. Believe me, though I have
acted thus violently, here all violence will cease. I love you, but I
will not be satisfied till you love me in return. I am not young, and I
am not handsome, but I am rich and great, and I can make those whom I
love happy,--so happy, Fanny!"
But Fanny had turned away, and was now busily employed in trying to
re-open the door at which she had entered. Failing in this, she suddenly
darted away, opened the inner door, and rushed into the passage with a
loud cry. Her persecutor stifled an oath, and sprung after and arrested
her. He now spoke sternly, and with a smile and a frown at once:--
"This is folly;--come back, or you will repent it! I have promised you,
as a gentleman--as a nobleman, if you know what that is--to respect you.
But neither will I myself be trifled with nor insulted. There must be no
His look and his voice awed Fanny in spite of her bewilderment and her
loathing, and she suffered herself passively to be drawn into the room.
He closed and bolted the door. She threw herself on the ground in one
corner, and moaned low but piteously. He looked at her musingly for some
moments, as he stood by the fire, and at last went to the door, opened
it, and called "Harriet" in a low voice. Presently a young woman, of
about thirty, appeared, neatly but plainly dressed, and of a countenance
that, if not very winning, might certainly be called very handsome. He
drew her aside for a few moments, and a whispered conference was
exchanged. He then walked gravely up to Fanny "My young friend," said
he, "I see my presence is too much for you this evening. This young
woman will attend you--will get you all you want. She can tell you, too,
that I am not the terrible sort of person you seem to suppose. I shall
see you to-morrow." So saying, he turned on his heel and walked out.
Fanny felt something like liberty, something like joy, again. She rose,
and looked so pleadingly, so earnestly, so intently into the woman's
face, that Harriet turned away her bold eyes abashed; and at this moment
Dykeman himself looked into the room.
"You are to bring us in dinner here yourself, uncle; and then go to my
lord in the drawing-room."
Dykeman looked pleased, and vanished. Then Harriet came up and took
Fanny's hand, and said, kindly,--
"Don't be frightened. I assure you, half the girls in London would give
I don't know what to be in your place. My lord never will force you to
do anything you don't like--it's not his way; and he's the kindest and
best man,--and so rich; he does not know what to do with his money!"
To all this Fanny made but one answer,--she threw herself suddenly upon
the woman's breast, and sobbed out: "My grandfather is blind, he cannot
do without me--he will die--die. Have you nobody you love, too? Let me
go--let me out! What can they want with me?--I never did harm to any
"And no one will harm you;--I swear it!" said Harriet, earnestly. "I
see you don't know my lord. But here's the dinner; come, and take a bit
of something, and a glass of wine."
Fanny could not touch anything except a glass of water, and that nearly
choked her. But at last, as she recovered her senses, the absence of her
tormentor--the presence of a woman--the solemn assurances of Harriet
that, if she did not like to stay there, after a day or two, she should
go back, tranquillised her in some measure. She did not heed the artful
and lengthened eulogiums that the she-tempter then proceeded to pour
forth upon the virtues, and the love, and the generosity, and, above all,
the money of my lord. She only kept repeating to herself, "I shall go
back in a day or two." At length, Harriet, having eaten and drunk as
much as she could by her single self, and growing wearied with efforts
from which so little resulted, proposed to Fanny to retire to rest. She
opened a door to the right of the fireplace, and lighted her up a winding
staircase to a pretty and comfortable chamber, where she offered to help
her to undress. Fanny's complete innocence, and her utter ignorance of
the precise nature of the danger that awaited her, though she fancied it
must be very great and very awful, prevented her quite comprehending all
that Harriet meant to convey by her solemn assurances that she should not
be disturbed. But she understood, at least, that she was not to see her
hateful gaoler till the next morning; and when Harriet, wishing her "good
night," showed her a bolt to her door, she was less terrified at the
thought of being alone in that strange place. She listened till
Harriet's footsteps had died away, and then, with a beating heart, tried
to open the door; it was locked from without. She sighed heavily. The
window?--alas! when she had removed the shutter, there was another one
barred from without, which precluded all hope there; she had no help for
it but to bolt her door, stand forlorn and amazed at her own condition,
and, at last, falling on her knees, to pray, in her own simple fashion,
which since her recent visits to the schoolmistress had become more
intelligent and earnest, to Him from whom no bolts and no bars can
exclude the voice of the human heart.
"In te omnis domus inclinata recumbit."--VIRGIL.
[On thee the whole house rests confidingly.]
Lord Lilburne, seated before a tray in the drawing-room, was finishing
his own solitary dinner, and Dykeman was standing close behind him,
nervous and agitated. The confidence of many years between the master
and the servant--the peculiar mind of Lilburne, which excluded him from
all friendship with his own equals--had established between the two the
kind of intimacy so common with the noble and the valet of the old French
_regime_, and indeed, in much Lilburne more resembled the men of that day
and land, than he did the nobler and statelier being which belongs to our
own. But to the end of time, whatever is at once vicious, polished, and
intellectual, will have a common likeness.
"But, my lord," said Dykeman, "just reflect. This girl is so well known
in the place; she will be sure to be missed; and if any violence is done
to her, it's a capital crime, my lord--a capital crime. I know they
can't hang a great lord like you, but all concerned in it may----"
Lord Lilburne interrupted the speaker by, "Give me some wine and hold
your tongue!" Then, when he had emptied his glass, he drew himself
nearer to the fire, warmed his hands, mused a moment, and turned round to
"Dykeman," said he, "though you're an ass and a coward, and you don't
deserve that I should be so condescending, I will relieve your fears at
once. I know the law better than you can, for my whole life has been
spent in doing exactly as I please, without ever putting myself in the
power of LAW, which interferes with the pleasures of other men. You are
right in saying violence would be a capital crime. Now the difference
between vice and crime is this: Vice is what parsons write sermons
against, Crime is what we make laws against. I never committed a crime
in all my life,--at an age between fifty and sixty--I am not going to
begin. Vices are safe things; I may have my vices like other men: but
crimes are dangerous things--illegal things--things to be carefully
avoided. Look you" (and here the speaker, fixing his puzzled listener
with his eye, broke into a grin of sublime mockery), "let me suppose you
to be the World--that cringing valet of valets, the WORLD! I should say
to you this, 'My dear World, you and I understand each other well,--we
are made for each other,--I never come in your way, nor you in mine. If
I get drunk every day in my own room, that's vice, you can't touch me; if
I take an extra glass for the first time in my life, and knock down the
watchman, that's a crime which, if I am rich, costs me one pound--perhaps
five pounds; if I am poor, sends me to the treadmill. If I break the
hearts of five hundred old fathers, by buying with gold or flattery the
embraces of five hundred young daughters, that's vice,--your servant, Mr.
World! If one termagant wench scratches my face, makes a noise, and goes
brazen-faced to the Old Bailey to swear to her shame, why that's crime,
and my friend, Mr. World, pulls a hemp-rope out of his pocket.' Now, do
you understand? Yes, I repeat," he added, with a change of voice, "I
never committed a crime in my life,--I have never even been accused of
one,--never had an action of _crim. con._--of seduction against me. I
know how to manage such matters better. I was forced to carry off this
girl, because I had no other means of courting her. To court her is all
I mean to do now. I am perfectly aware that an action for violence, as
you call it, would be the more disagreeable, because of the very weakness
of intellect which the girl is said to possess, and of which report I
don't believe a word. I shall most certainly avoid even the remotest
appearance that could be so construed. It is for that reason that no one
in the house shall attend the girl except yourself and your niece. Your
niece I can depend on, I know; I have been kind to her; I have got her a
good husband; I shall get her husband a good place;--I shall be godfather
to her first child. To be sure, the other servants will know there's a
lady in the house, but to that they are accustomed; I don't set up for a
Joseph. They need know no more, unless you choose to blab it out. Well,
then, supposing that at the end of a few days, more or less, without any
rudeness on my part, a young woman, after seeing a few jewels, and fine
dresses, and a pretty house, and being made very comfortable, and being
convinced that her grandfather shall be taken care of without her slaving
herself to death, chooses of her own accord to live with me, where's the
crime, and who can interfere with it?"
"Certainly, my lord, that alters the case," said Dykeman, considerably
relieved. "But still," he added, anxiously, "if the inquiry is made,--if
before all this is settled, it is found out where she is?"
"Why then no harm will be done--no violence will be committed. Her
grandfather,--drivelling and a miser, you say--can be appeased by a
little money, and it will be nobody's business, and no case can be made
of it. Tush! man! I always look before I leap! People in this world
are not so charitable as you suppose. What more natural than that a poor
and pretty girl--not as wise as Queen Elizabeth--should be tempted to pay
a visit to a rich lover!
"All they can say of the lover is, that he is a very gay man or a very bad
man, and that's saying nothing new of me. But don't think it will be
found out. Just get me that stool; this has been a very troublesome
piece of business--rather tried me. I am not so young as I was. Yes,
Dykeman, something which that Frenchman Vaudemont, or Vautrien, or
whatever his name is, said to me once, has a certain degree of truth.
I felt it in the last fit of the gout, when my pretty niece was smoothing
my pillows. A nurse, as we grow older, may be of use to one. I wish to
make this girl like me, or be grateful to me. I am meditating a longer
and more serious attachment than usual,--a companion!"
"A companion, my lord, in that poor creature!--so ignorant--so
"So much the better. This world palls upon me," said Lilburne, almost
gloomily. "I grow sick of the miserable quackeries--of the piteous
conceits that men, women, and children call 'knowledge,' I wish to catch
a glimpse of nature before I die. This creature interests me, and that
is something in this life. Clear those things away, and leave me."
"Ay!" muttered Lilburne, as he bent over the fire alone, "when I first
heard that that girl was the granddaughter of Simon Gawtrey, and,
therefore, the child of the man whom I am to thank that I am a cripple,
I felt as if love to her were a part of that hate which I owe to him; a
segment in the circle of my vengeance. But now, poor child!
"I forget all this. I feel for her, not passion, but what I never felt
before, affection. I feel that if I had such a child, I could understand
what men mean when they talk of the tenderness of a father. I have not
one impure thought for that girl--not one. But I would give thousands if
she could love me. Strange! strange! in all this I do not recognise
Lord Lilburne retired to rest betimes that night; he slept sound; rose
refreshed at an earlier hour than usual; and what he considered a fit of
vapours of the previous night was passed away. He looked with eagerness
to an interview with Fanny. Proud of his intellect, pleased in any of
those sinister exercises of it which the code and habits of his life so
long permitted to him, he regarded the conquest of his fair adversary
with the interest of a scientific game. Harriet went to Fanny's room to
prepare her to receive her host; and Lord Lilburne now resolved to make
his own visit the less unwelcome by reserving for his especial gift some
showy, if not valuable, trinkets, which for similar purposes never failed
the depositories of the villa he had purchased for his pleasures. He,
recollected that these gewgaws were placed in the bureau in the study; in
which, as having a lock of foreign and intricate workmanship, he usually
kept whatever might tempt cupidity in those frequent absences when the
house was left guarded but by two women servants. Finding that Fanny had
not yet quitted her own chamber, while Harriet went up to attend and
reason with her, he himself limped into the study below, unlocked the
bureau, and was searching in the drawers, when he heard the voice of
Fanny above, raised a little as if in remonstrance or entreaty; and he
paused to listen. He could not, however, distinguish what was said; and
in the meanwhile, without attending much to what he was about, his bands
were still employed in opening and shutting the drawers, passing through
the pigeon-holes, and feeling for a topaz brooch, which he thought could
not fail of pleasing the unsophisticated eyes of Fanny. One of the
recesses was deeper than the rest; he fancied the brooch was there; he
stretched his hand into the recess; and, as the room was partially
darkened by the lower shutters from without, which were still unclosed to
prevent any attempted escape of his captive, he had only the sense of
touch to depend on; not finding the brooch, he stretched on till he came
to the extremity of the recess, and was suddenly sensible of a sharp
pain; the flesh seemed caught as in a trap; he drew back his finger with
sudden force and a half-suppressed exclamation, and he perceived the
bottom or floor of the pigeon-hole recede, as if sliding back. His
curiosity was aroused; he again felt warily and cautiously, and
discovered a very slight inequality and roughness at the extremity of the
recess. He was aware instantly that there was some secret spring; he
pressed with some force on the spot, and he felt the board give way; he
pushed it back towards him, and it slid suddenly with a whirring noise,
and left a cavity below exposed to his sight. He peered in, and drew
forth a paper; he opened it at first carelessly, for he was still trying
to listen to Fanny. His eye ran rapidly over a few preliminary lines
till it rested on what follows:
"Marriage. The year 18--
"No. 83, page 21.
"Philip Beaufort, of this parish of A-----, and Catherine Morton, of the
parish of St. Botolph, Aldgate, London, were married in this church by
banns, this 12th day of November, in the year one thousand eight hundred
and ----' by me,
"CALEB PRICE, Vicar.
"This marriage was solemnised between us,
"In the presence of
"The above is a true copy taken from the registry of marriages, in A-----
parish, this 19th day of March, 18--, by me,
"MORGAN JONES, Curate of C-------."
[This is according to the form customary at the date at which the
copy was made. There has since been an alteration.]
Lord Lilburne again cast his eye over the lines prefixed to this
startling document, which, being those written at Caleb's desire, by Mr.
Jones to Philip Beaufort, we need not here transcribe to the reader. At
that instant Harriet descended the stairs, and came into the room; she
crept up on tiptoe to Lilburne, and whispered,--
"She is coming down, I think; she does not know you are here."
"Very well--go!" said Lord Lilburne. And scarce had Harriet left the
room, when a carriage drove furiously to the door, and Robert Beaufort
rushed into the study.
"Gone, and none know it.
How now?--What news, what hopes and steps discovered!"
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: _The Pilgrim_.
When Philip arrived at his lodgings in town it was very late, but he
still found Liancourt waiting the chance of his arrival. The Frenchman
was full of his own schemes and projects. He was a man of high repute
and connections; negotiations for his recall to Paris had been entered
into; he was divided between a Quixotic loyalty and a rational prudence;
he brought his doubts to Vaudemont. Occupied as he was with thoughts of
so important and personal a nature, Philip could yet listen patiently to
his friend, and weigh with him the pros and cons. And after having
mutually agreed that loyalty and prudence would both be best consulted by
waiting a little, to see if the nation, as the Carlists yet fondly
trusted, would soon, after its first fever, offer once more the throne
and the purple to the descendant of St. Louis, Liancourt, as he lighted
his cigar to walk home, said, "A thousand thanks to you, my dear friend:
and how have you enjoyed yourself in your visit? I am not surprised or
jealous that Lilburne did not invite me, as I do not play at cards, and
as I have said some sharp things to him!"
"I fancy I shall have the same disqualifications for another invitation,"
said Vaudemont, with a severe smile. "I may have much to disclose to you
in a few days. At present my news is still unripe. And have you seen
anything of Lilburne? He left us some days since. Is he in London?"
"Yes; I was riding with our friend Henri, who wished to try a new horse
off the stones, a little way into the country yesterday. We went through
------ and H----. Pretty places, those. Do you know them?"
"Yes; I know H----."
"And just at dusk, as we were spurring back to town, whom should I see
walking on the path of the high-road but Lord Lilburne himself! I could
hardly believe my eyes. I stopped, and, after asking him about you, I
could not help expressing my surprise to see him on foot at such a place.
You know the man's sneer. 'A Frenchman so gallant as Monsieur de
Liancourt,' said he, 'need not be surprised at much greater miracles; the
iron moves to the magnet: I have a little adventure here. Pardon me if I
ask you to ride on.' Of course I wished him good day; and a little
farther up the road I saw a dark plain chariot, no coronet, no arms, no
footman only the man on the box, but the beauty of the horses assured me
it must belong to Lilburne. Can you conceive such absurdity in a man of
that age--and a very clever fellow too? Yet, how is it that one does not
ridicule it in Lilburne, as one would in another man between fifty and
"Because one does not ridicule,--one loathes-him."
"No; that's not it. The fact is that one can't fancy Lilburne old. His
manner is young--his eye is young. I never saw any one with so much
vitality. 'The bad heart and the good digestion'--the twin secrets for
wearing well, eh!"
"Where did you meet him--not near H----?"
"Yes; close by. Why? Have you any adventure there too? Nay, forgive
me; it was but a jest. Good night!"
Vaudemont fell into an uneasy reverie: he could not divine exactly why
he should be alarmed; but he was alarmed at Lilburne being in the
neighbourhood of H----. It was the foot of the profane violating the
sanctuary. An undefined thrill shot through him, as his mind coupled
together the associations of Lilburne and Fanny; but there was no ground
for forebodings. Fanny did not stir out alone. An adventure, too--pooh!
Lord Lilburne must be awaiting a willing and voluntary appointment, most
probably from some one of the fair but decorous frailties of London.
Lord Lilburne's more recent conquests were said to be among those of his
own rank; suburbs are useful for such assignations. Any other thought
was too horrible to be contemplated. He glanced to the clock; it was
three in the morning. He would go to H---- early, even before he sought
out Mr. William Smith. With that resolution, and even his hardy frame
worn out by the excitement of the day, he threw himself on his bed and
He did not wake till near nine, and had just dressed, and hurried over
his abstemious breakfast, when the servant of the house came to tell him
that an old woman, apparently in great agitation, wished to see him. His
head was still full of witnesses and lawsuits; and he was vaguely
expecting some visitor connected with his primary objects, when Sarah
broke into the room. She cast a hurried, suspicious look round her, and
then throwing herself on her knees to him, "Oh!" she cried, "if you have
taken that poor young thing away, God forgive you. Let her come back
again. It shall be all hushed up. Don't ruin her! don't, that's a dear
"Speak plainly, woman--what do you mean?" cried Philip, turning pale.
A very few words sufficed for an explanation: Fanny's disappearance the
previous night; the alarm of Sarah at her non-return; the apathy of old
Simon, who did not comprehend what had happened, and quietly went to bed;
the search Sarah had made during half the night; the intelligence she had
picked up, that the policeman, going his rounds, had heard a female
shriek near the school; but that all he could perceive through the mist
was a carriage driving rapidly past him; Sarah's suspicions of Vaudemont
confirmed in the morning, when, entering Fanny's room, she perceived the
poor girl's unfinished letter with his own, the clue to his address that
the letter gave her; all this, ere she well understood what she herself
was talking about,--Vaudemont's alarm seized, and the reflection of a
moment construed: the carriage; Lilburne seen lurking in the
neighbourhood the previous day; the former attempt;--all flashed on him
with an intolerable glare. While Sarah was yet speaking, he rushed from
the house, he flew to Lord Lilburne's in Park Lane; he composed his
manner, he inquired calmly. His lordship had slept from home; he was,
they believed, at Fernside: Fernside! H---- was on the direct way to
that villa. Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed since he heard the story
ere he was on the road, with such speed as the promise of a guinea a mile
could extract from the spurs of a young post-boy applied to the flanks of
"Ex humili magna ad fastigia rerum
[Fortune raises men from low estate to the very
summit of prosperity.]
When Harriet had quitted Fanny, the waiting-woman, craftily wishing to
lure her into Lilburne's presence, had told her that the room below was
empty; and the captive's mind naturally and instantly seized on the
thought of escape. After a brief breathing pause, she crept noiselessly
down the stairs, and gently opened the door; and at the very instant she
did so, Robert Beaufort entered from the other door; she drew back in
terror, when, what was her astonishment in hearing a name uttered that
spell-bound her--the last name she could have expected to hear; for
Lilburne, the instant he saw Beaufort, pale, haggard, agitated, rush into
the room, and bang the door after him, could only suppose that something
of extraordinary moment had occurred with regard to the dreaded guest,
"You come about Vaudemont! Something has happened about Vaudemont!
about Philip! What is it? Calm yourself."
Fanny, as the name was thus abruptly uttered, actually thrust her face
through the door; but she again drew back, and, all her senses
preternaturally quickened at that name, while she held the door almost
closed, listened with her whole soul in her ears.
The faces of both the men were turned from her, and her partial entry had
not been perceived.
"Yes," said Robert Beaufort, leaning his weight, as if ready to sink to
the ground, upon Lilburne's shoulder, "Yes; Vaudemont, or Philip, for
they are one,--yes, it is about that man I have come to consult you.
Arthur has arrived."
"And Arthur has seen the wretch who visited us, and the rascal's manner
has so imposed on him, so convinced him that Philip is the heir to all
our property, that he has come over-ill, ill--I fear" (added Beaufort, in
a hollow voice), "dying, to--to--"
"To guard against their machinations?"
"No, no, no--to say that if such be the case, neither honour nor
conscience will allow us to resist his rights. He is so obstinate in
this matter; his nerves so ill bear reasoning and contradiction, that I
know not what to do--"
"Take breath-go on."
"Well, it seems that this man found out Arthur almost as soon as my son
arrived at Paris--that he has persuaded Arthur that he has it in his
power to prove the marriage--that he pretended to be very impatient for a
decision--that Arthur, in order to gain time to see me, affected
irresolution--took him to Boulogne, for the rascal does not dare to
return to England--left him there; and now comes back, my own son, as my
worst enemy, to conspire against me for my property! I could not have
kept my temper if I had stayed. But that's not all--that's not the
worst: Vaudemont left me suddenly in the morning on the receipt of a
letter. In taking leave of Camilla he let fall hints which fill me with
fear. Well, I inquired his movements as I came along; he had stopped at
D----, had been closeted for above an hour with a man whose name the
landlord of the inn knew, for it was on his carpet-bag--the name was
Barlow. You remember the advertisements! Good Heavens! what is to be
done? I would not do anything unhandsome or dishonest. But there never
was a marriage. I never will believe there was a marriage--never!"
"There was a marriage, Robert Beaufort," said Lord Lilburne, almost
enjoying the torture he was about to inflict; "and I hold here a paper
that Philip Vaudemont--for so we will yet call him--would give his right
hand to clutch for a moment. I have but just found it in a secret cavity
in that bureau. Robert, on this paper may depend the fate, the fortune,
the prosperity, the greatness of Philip Vaudemont;--or his poverty, his
exile, his ruin. See!"
Robert Beaufort glanced over the paper held out to him--dropped it on the
floor--and staggered to a seat. Lilburne coolly replaced the document in
the bureau, and, limping to his brother-in-law, said with a smile,--
"But the paper is in my possession--I will not destroy it. No; I have no
right to destroy it. Besides, it would be a crime; but if I give it to
you, you can do with it as you please."
"O Lilburne, spare me--spare me. I meant to be an honest man. I--I--"
And Robert Beaufort sobbed. Lilburne looked at him in scornful surprise.
"Do not fear that I shall ever think worse of you; and who else will know
it? Do not fear me. No;--I, too, have reasons to hate and to fear this
Philip Vaudemont; for Vaudemont shall be his name, and not Beaufort, in
spite of fifty such scraps of paper! He has known a man--my worst foe--
he has secrets of mine--of my past-perhaps of my present: but I laugh at
his knowledge while he is a wandering adventurer;--I should tremble at
that knowledge if he could thunder it out to the world as Philip Beaufort
of Beaufort Court! There, I am candid with you. Now hear my plan.
Prove to Arthur that his visitor is a convicted felon, by sending the
officers of justice after him instantly--off with him again to the
Settlements. Defy a single witness--entrap Vaudemont back to France and
prove him (I think I will prove him such--I think so--with a little money
and a little pains)--prove him the accomplice of William Gawtrey, a
coiner and a murderer! Pshaw! take yon paper. Do with it as you will--
keep it-give it to Arthur--let Philip Vaudemont have it, and Philip
Vaudemont will be rich and great, the happiest man between earth and
paradise! On the other hand, come and tell me that you have lost it, or
that I never gave you such a paper, or that no such paper ever existed;
and Philip Vaudemont may live a pauper, and die, perhaps, a slave at the
galleys! Lose it, I say,--lose it,--and advise with me upon the rest."
Horror-struck, bewildered, the weak man gazed upon the calm face of the
Master-villain, as the scholar of the old fables might have gazed on the
fiend who put before him worldly prosperity here and the loss of his soul
hereafter. He had never hitherto regarded Lilburne in his true light.
He was appalled by the black heart that lay bare before him.
"I can't destroy it--I can't," he faltered out; "and if I did, out of
love for Arthur,--don't talk of galleys,--of vengeance--I--I--"
"The arrears of the rents you have enjoyed will send you to gaol for your
life. No, no; _don't_ destroy the paper."
Beaufort rose with a desperate effort; he moved to the bureau. Fanny's
heart was on her lips;--of this long conference she had understood only
the one broad point on which Lilburne had insisted with an emphasis that
could have enlightened an infant; and he looked on Beaufort as an infant
then--_On that paper rested Philip Vaudemont's fate--happiness if saved,
ruin if destroyed; Philip--her Philip!_ And Philip himself had said to
her once--when had she ever forgotten his words? and now how those words
flashed across her--Philip himself had said to her once, "Upon a scrap of
paper, if I could but find it, may depend my whole fortune, my whole
happiness, all that I care for in life."--Robert Beaufort moved to the
bureau--he seized the document--he looked over it again, hurriedly, and
ere Lilburne, who by no means wished to have it destroyed in his own
presence, was aware of his intention--he hastened with tottering steps to
the hearth-averted his eyes, and cast it on the fire. At that instant
something white--he scarce knew what, it seemed to him as a spirit, as a
ghost--darted by him, and snatched the paper, as yet uninjured, from the
embers! There was a pause for the hundredth part of a moment:--a
gurgling sound of astonishment and horror from Beaufort--an exclamation
from Lilburne--a laugh from Fanny, as, her eyes flashing light, with a
proud dilation of stature, with the paper clasped tightly to her bosom,
she turned her looks of triumph from one to the other. The two men were
both too amazed, at the instant, for rapid measures. But Lilburne,
recovering himself first, hastened to her; she eluded his grasp--she made
towards the door to the passage; when Lilburne, seriously alarmed, seized
"Foolish child!--give me that paper!"
"Never but with my life!" And Fanny's cry for help rang through the
"Then--" the speech died on his lips, for at that instant a rapid stride
was heard without--a momentary scuffle--voices in altercation;--the door
gave way as if a battering ram had forced it;--not so much thrown forward
as actually hurled into the room, the body of Dykeman fell heavily, like
a dead man's, at the very feet of Lord Lilburne--and Philip Vaudemont
stood in the doorway!
The grasp of Lilburne on Fanny's arm relaxed, and the girl, with one
bound, sprung to Philip's breast. "Here, here!" she cried, "take it--
take it!" and she thrust the paper into his hand. "Don't let them have
it--read it--see it--never mind me!" But Philip, though his hand
unconsciously closed on the precious document, did mind Fanny; and in
that moment her cause was the only one in the world to him.
"Foul villain!" he said, as he strode to Lilburne, while Fanny still
clung to his breast: "Speak!--speak!--is--she--is she?--man--man, speak!
--you know what I would say!--She is the child of your own daughter--the
grandchild of that Mary whom you dishonoured--the child of the woman whom
William Gawtrey saved from pollution! Before he died, Gawtrey commended
her to my care!--O God of Heaven!--speak!--I am not too late!"
The manner, the words, the face of Philip left Lilburne terror-stricken
with conviction. But the man's crafty ability, debased as it was,
triumphed even over remorse for the dread guilt meditated,--over
gratitude for the dread guilt spared. He glanced at Beaufort--at
Dykeman, who now, slowly recovering, gazed at him with eyes that seemed
starting from their sockets; and lastly fixed his look on Philip himself.
There were three witnesses--presence of mind was his great attribute.
"And if, Monsieur de Vaudemont, I knew, or, at least, had the firmest
persuasion that Fanny was my grandchild, what then? Why else should she
be here?--Pooh, sir! I am an old man."
Philip recoiled a step in wonder; his plain sense was baffled by the calm
lie. He looked down at Fanny, who, comprehending nothing of what was
spoken, for all her faculties, even her very sense of sight and hearing,
were absorbed in her impatient anxiety for him, cried out:
"No harm has come to Fanny--none: only frightened. Read!--Read!--Save
that paper!--You know what you once said about a mere scrap of paper!
Come away! Come!"
He did now cast his eyes on the paper he held. That was an awful moment
for Robert Beaufort--even for Lilburne! To snatch the fatal document
from that gripe! They would as soon have snatched it from a tiger! He
lifted his eyes--they rested on his mother's picture! Her lips smiled on
him! He turned to Beaufort in a state of emotion too exulting, too blest
for vulgar vengeance--for vulgar triumph--almost for words.
"Look yonder, Robert Beaufort--look!" and he pointed to the picture.
"Her name is spotless! I stand again beneath a roof that was my
father's,--the Heir of Beaufort! We shall meet before the justice of our
country. For you, Lord Lilburne, I will believe you: it is too horrible
to doubt even your intentions. If wrong had chanced to her, I would have
rent you where you stand, limb from limb. And thank her",--(for Lilburne
recovered at this language the daring of his youth, before calculation,
indolence, and excess had dulled the edge of his nerves; and, unawed by
the height, and manhood, and strength of his menacer, stalked haughtily
up to him)--"and thank your relationship to her," said Philip, sinking
his voice into a whisper, "that I do not brand you as a pilferer and a
cheat! Hush, knave!--hush, pupil of George Gawtrey!--there are no duels
for me but with men of honour!"
Lilburne now turned white, and the big word stuck in his throat. In
another instant Fanny and her guardian had quitted the house.
"Dykeman," said Lord Lilburne after a long silence, "I shall ask you
another time how you came to admit that impertinent person. At present,
go and order breakfast for Mr. Beaufort."
As soon as Dykeman, more astounded, perhaps, by his lord's coolness than
even by the preceding circumstances, had left the study, Lilburne came up
to Beaufort,--who seemed absolutely stricken as if by palsy,--and
touching him impatiently and rudely, said,--
"'Sdeath, man!--rouse yourself! There is not a moment to be lost! I
have already decided on what you are to do. This paper is not worth a
rush, unless the curate who examined it will depose to that fact. He is
a curate--a Welsh curate;--you are yet Mr. Beaufort, a rich and a great
man. The curate, properly managed, may depose to the contrary; and then
we will indict them all for forgery and conspiracy. At the worst, you
can, no doubt, get the parson to forget all about it--to stay away. His
address was on the certificate:
"--C-----. Go yourself into Wales without an instant's delay-- Then,
having arranged with Mr. Jones, hurry back, cross to Boulogne, and buy
this convict and his witnesses, buy them! That, now, is the only thing.
Quick! quick!--quick! Zounds, man! if it were my affair, my estate, I
would not care a pin for that fragment of paper; I should rather rejoice
at it. I see how it could be turned against them! Go!"
"No, no; I am not equal to it! Will you manage it? will you? Half my
estate!--all! Take it: but save--"
"Tut!" interrupted Lord Lilburne, in great disdain. "I am as rich as I
want to be. Money does not bribe me. I manage this! I! Lord Lilburne.
I! Why, if found out, it is subornation of witnesses. It is exposure--
it is dishonour--it is ruin. What then? You should take the risk--for
you must meet ruin if you do not. I cannot. I have nothing to gain!"
"I dare not!-I dare not!" murmured Beaufort, quite spirit-broken.
"Subornation, dishonour, exposure!--and I, so respectable--my character!
--and my son against me, too!--my son, in whom I lived again! No, no;
let them take all! Let them take it! Ha! ha! let them take it! Good-
day to you."
"Where are you going?"
"I shall consult Mr. Blackwell, and I'll let you know." And Beaufort
walked tremulously back to his carriage. "Go to his lawyer!" growled
Lilburne. "Yes, if his lawyer can help him to defraud men lawfully,
he'll defraud them fast enough. That will be the respectable way of
doing it! Um!--This may be an ugly business for me--the paper found
here--if the girl can depose to what she heard, and she must have heard
something.--No, I think the laws of real property will hardly allow her
evidence; and if they do--Um!--My granddaughter--is it possible!--And
Gawtrey rescued her mother, my child, from her own mother's vices! I
thought my liking to that girl different from any other I have ever felt:
it was pure--it _was!_--it was pity--affection. And I must never see her
again--must forget the whole thing! And I sin growing old--and I am
childless--and alone!" He paused, almost with a groan: and then the
expression of his face changing to rage, he cried out, "The man
threatened me, and I was a coward! What to do?--Nothing! The defensive
is my line. I shall play no more.--I attack no one. Who will accuse
Lord Lilburne? Still, Robert is a fool. I must not leave him to
himself. Ho! there! Dykeman!--the carriage! I shall go to London."
Fortunate, no doubt, it was for Philip that Mr. Beaufort was not Lord
Lilburne. For all history teaches us--public and private history--
conquerors--statesmen--sharp hypocrites and brave designers--yes, they
all teach us how mighty one man of great intellect and no scruple is
against the justice of millions! The One Man moves--the Mass is inert.
Justice sits on a throne. Roguery never rests,--Activity is the lever of
"Quam inulta injusta ac prava fiunt moribus."--TULL.
[How many unjust and vicious actions are perpetrated
under the name of morals.]
Mobilis alis Hera."--SENECA.
[The hour flies moving with doubtful wings.]
Mr. Robert Beaufort sought Mr. Blackwell, and long, rambling, and
disjointed was his narrative. Mr. Blackwell, after some consideration,
proposed to _set about doing_ the very things that Lilburne had proposed
at once to do. But the lawyer expressed himself legally and covertly, so
that it did not seem to the sober sense of Mr. Beaufort at all the same
plan. He was not the least alarmed at what Mr. Blackwell proposed,
though so shocked at what Lilburne dictated. Blackwell would go the next
day into Wales--he would find out Mr. Jones--he would sound him! Nothing
was more common with people of the nicest honour, than just to get a
witness out of the way! Done in election petitions, for instance, every
"True," said Mr. Beaufort, much relieved.
Then, after having done that, Mr. Blackwell would return to town, and
cross over to Boulogne to see this very impudent person whom Arthur
(young men were so apt to be taken in!) had actually believed. He had no
doubt he could settle it all. Robert Beaufort returned to Berkeley
Square actually in spirits. There he found Lilburne, who, on reflection,
seeing that Blackwell was at all events more up to the business than his
brother, assented to the propriety of the arrangement.
Mr. Blackwell accordingly did set off the next day. _That next_ day,
perhaps, made all the difference. Within two hours from his gaining the
document so important, Philip, without any subtler exertion of intellect
than the decision of a plain, bold sense, had already forestalled both
the peer and the lawyer. He had sent down Mr. Barlow's head clerk to his
master in Wales with the document, and a short account of the manner in
which it had been discovered. And fortunate, indeed, was it that the
copy had been found; for all the inquiries of Mr. Barlow at A---- had
failed, and probably would have failed, without such a clue, in fastening
upon any one probable person to have officiated as Caleb Price's
amanuensis. The sixteen hours' start Mr. Barlow gained over Blackwell
enabled the former to see Mr. Jones--to show him his own handwriting--
to get a written and witnessed attestation from which the curate, however
poor, and however tempted, could never well have escaped (even had he
been dishonest, which he was not), of his perfect recollection of the
fact of making an extract from the registry at Caleb's desire, though he
owned he had quite forgotten the names he extracted till they were again
placed before him. Barlow took care to arouse Mr. Jones's interest in
the case--quitted Wales--hastened over to Boulogne--saw Captain Smith,
and without bribes, without threats, but by plainly proving to that
worthy person that he could not return to England nor see his brother
without being immediately arrested; that his brother's evidence was
already pledged on the side of truth; and that by the acquisition of new
testimony there could be no doubt that the suit would be successful--he
diverted the captain from all disposition towards perfidy, convinced him
on which side his interest lay, and saw him return to Paris, where very
shortly afterwards he disappeared for ever from this world, being forced
into a duel, much against his will (with a Frenchman whom he had
attempted to defraud), and shot through the lungs. Thus verifying a
favourite maxim of Lord Lilburne's, viz. that it does not do, in the long
run, for little men to play the Great Game!
On the same day that Blackwell returned, frustrated in his half-and-half
attempts to corrupt Mr. Jones, and not having been able even to discover
Mr. Smith, Mr. Robert Beaufort received a notice of an Action for
Ejectment to be brought by Philip Beaufort at the next Assizes. And, to
add to his afflictions, Arthur, whom he had hitherto endeavoured to amuse
by a sort of ambiguous shilly-shally correspondence, became so
alarmingly worse, that his mother brought him up to town for advice.
Lord Lilburne was, of course, sent for; and on learning all, his counsel
"I told you before that this man loves your daughter. See if you can
effect a compromise. The lawsuit will be ugly, and probably ruinous. He
has a right to claim six years' arrears--that is above L100,000. Make
yourself his father-in-law, and me his uncle-in-law; and, since we can't
kill the wasp, we may at least soften the venom of his sting."
Beaufort, still perplexed, irresolute, sought his son; and, for the first
time, spoke to him frankly--that is, frankly for Robert Beaufort! He
owned that the copy of the register had been found by Lilburne in a
secret drawer. He made the best of the story Lilburne himself furnished
him with (adhering, of course, to the assertion uttered or insinuated to
Philip) in regard to Fanny's abduction and interposition; he said nothing
of his attempt to destroy the paper. Why should he? By admitting the
copy in court--if so advised--he could get rid of Fanny's evidence
altogether; even without such concession, her evidence might possibly be
objected to or eluded. He confessed that he feared the witness who
copied the register and the witness to the marriage were alive. And then
he talked pathetically of his desire to do what was right, his dread of
slander and misinterpretation. He said nothing of Sidney, and his belief
that Sidney and Charles Spencer were the same; because, if his daughter
were to be the instrument for effecting a compromise, it was clear that
her engagement with Spencer must be cancelled and concealed. And luckily
Arthur's illness and Camilla's timidity, joined now to her father's
injunctions not to excite Arthur in his present state with any additional
causes of anxiety, prevented the confidence that might otherwise have
ensued between the brother and sister. And Camilla, indeed, had no heart
for such a conference. How, when she looked on Arthur's glassy eye, and
listened to his hectic cough, could she talk to him of love and marriage?
As to the automaton, Mrs. Beaufort, Robert made sure of her discretion.
Arthur listened attentively to his father's communication; and the result
of that interview was the following letter from Arthur to his cousin:
"I write to you without fear of misconstruction; for I write to you
unknown to all my family, and I am the only one of them who can have no
personal interest in the struggle about to take place between my father
and yourself. Before the law can decide between you, I shall be in my
grave. I write this from the Bed of Death. Philip, I write this--I, who
stood beside a deathbed more sacred to you than mine--I, who received
your mother's last sigh. And with that sigh there was a smile that
lasted when the sigh was gone: for I promised to befriend her children.
Heaven knows how anxiously I sought to fulfil that solemn vow! Feeble
and sick myself, I followed you and your brother with no aim, no prayer,
but this,--to embrace you and say, 'Accept a new brother in me.' I spare
you the humiliation, for it is yours, not mine, of recalling what passed
between us when at last we met. Yet, I still sought to save, at least,
Sidney,--more especially confided to my care by his dying mother. He
mysteriously eluded our search; but we had reason, by a letter received
from some unknown hand, to believe him saved and provided for. Again I
met you at Paris. I saw you were poor. Judging from your associate, I
might with justice think you depraved. Mindful of your declaration never
to accept bounty from a Beaufort, and remembering with natural resentment
the outrage I had before received from you, I judged it vain to seek and
remonstrate with you, but I did not judge it vain to aid. I sent you,
anonymously, what at least would suffice, if absolute poverty had
subjected you to evil courses, to rescue you from them it your heart were
so disposed. Perhaps that sum, trifling as it was, may have smoothed
your path and assisted your career. And why tell you all this now? To
dissuade from asserting rights you conceive to be just?--Heaven forbid!
If justice is with you, so also is the duty due to your mother's name.
But simply for this: that in asserting such rights, you content yourself
with justice, not revenge--that in righting yourself, you do not wrong
others. If the law should decide for you, the arrears you could demand
would leave my father and sister beggars. This may be law--it would not
be justice; for my father solemnly believed himself, and had every
apparent probability in his favour, the true heir of the wealth that
devolved upon him. This is not all. There may be circumstances
connected with the discovery of a certain document that, if authentic,
and I do not presume to question it, may decide the contest so far as it
rests on truth; circumstances which might seem to bear hard upon my
father's good name and faith. I do not know sufficiently of law to say
how far these could be publicly urged, or, if urged, exaggerated and
tortured by an advocate's calumnious ingenuity. But again, I say
justice, and not revenge! And with this I conclude, inclosing to you
these lines, written in your own hand, and leaving you the arbiter of
The lines inclosed were these, a second time placed before the reader
"I cannot guess who you are. They say that you call yourself a
relation; that must be some mistake. I knew not that my poor mother
had relations so kind. But, whoever you be, you soothed her last
hours--she died in your arms; and if ever-years, long years, hence--
we should chance to meet, and I can do anything to aid another, my
blood, and my life, and my heart, and my soul, all are slaves to
your will! If you be really of her kindred I commend to you my
brother; he is at ---- with Mr. Morton. If you can serve him, my
mother's soul will watch over you as a guardian angel. As for me, I
ask no help from any one; I go into the world, and will carve out my
own way. So much do I shrink from the thought of charity from
others, that I do not believe I could bless you as I do now, if your
kindness to me did not close with the stone upon my mother's grave.
This letter was sent to the only address of Monsieur de Vaudemont which
the Beauforts knew, viz., his apartments in town, and he did not receive
it the day it was sent.
Meanwhile Arthur Beaufort's malady continued to gain ground rapidly.
His father, absorbed in his own more selfish fears (though, at the first
sight of Arthur, overcome by the alteration of his appearance), had
ceased to consider his illness fatal. In fact, his affection for Arthur
was rather one of pride than love: long absence had weakened the ties of
early custom. He prized him as an heir rather than treasured him as a
son. It almost seemed that as the Heritage was in danger, so the Heir
became less dear: this was only because he was less thought of. Poor
Mrs. Beaufort, yet but partially acquainted with the terrors of her
husband, still clung to hope for Arthur. Her affection for him brought
out from the depths of her cold and insignificant character qualities
that had never before been apparent. She watched--she nursed--she tended
him. The fine lady was gone; nothing but the mother was left behind.
With a delicate constitution, and with an easy temper, which yielded to
the influence of companions inferior to himself, except in bodily vigour
and more sturdy will, Arthur Beaufort had been ruined by prosperity.
His talents and acquirements, if not first-rate, at least far above
mediocrity, had only served to refine his tastes, not to strengthen his
mind. His amiable impulses, his charming disposition and sweet temper,
had only served to make him the dupe of the parasites that feasted on the
lavish heir. His heart, frittered away in the usual round of light
intrigues and hollow pleasures, had become too sated and exhausted for
the redeeming blessings of a deep and a noble love. He had so lived for
Pleasure that he had never known Happiness. His frame broke by excesses
in which his better nature never took delight, he came home--to hear of
ruin and to die!
It was evening in the sick-room. Arthur had risen from the bed to which,
for some days, he had voluntarily taken, and was stretched on the sofa
before the fire. Camilla was leaning over him, keeping in the shade,
that he might not see the tears which she could not suppress. His mother
had been endeavouring to amuse him, as she would have amused herself, by
reading aloud one of the light novels of the hour; novels that paint the
life of the higher classes as one gorgeous holyday.
"My dear mother," said the patient querulously, "I have no interest in
these false descriptions of the life I have led. I know that life's
worth. Ah! had I been trained to some employment, some profession! had
I--well--it is weak to repine. Mother, tell me, you have seen Mons. de
Vaudemont: is he strong and healthy?"
"Yes; too much so. He has not your elegance, dear Arthur."
"And do you admire him, Camilla? Has no other caught your heart or your
"My dear Arthur," interrupted Mrs. Beaufort, "you forget that Camilla is
scarcely out; and of course a young girl's affections, if she's well
brought up, are regulated by the experience of her parents. It is time
to take the medicine: it certainly agrees with you; you have more colour
to-day, my dear, dear son."
While Mrs. Beaufort was pouring out the medicine, the door gently opened,
and Mr. Robert Beaufort appeared; behind him there rose a taller and a
statelier form, but one which seemed more bent, more humbled, more
agitated. Beaufort advanced. Camilla looked up and turned pale. The
visitor escaped from Mr. Beaufort's grasp on his arm; he came forward,
trembling, he fell on his knees beside Arthur, and seizing his hand, bent
over, it in silence. But silence so stormy! silence more impressive than
all words his breast heaved, his whole frame shook. Arthur guessed at
once whom he saw, and bent down gently as if to raise his visitor.
"Oh! Arthur! Arthur!" then cried Philip; "forgive me! My mother's
comforter--my cousin--my brother! Oh! brother, forgive me!"
And as he half rose, Arthur stretched out his arms, and Philip clasped
him to his breast.
It is in vain to describe the different feelings that agitated those who
beheld; the selfish congratulations of Robert, mingled with a better and
purer feeling; the stupor of the mother; the emotions that she herself
could not unravel, which rooted Camilla to the spot.
"You own me, then,--you own me!" cried Philip. "You accept the
brotherhood that my mad passions once rejected! And you, too--you,
Camilla--you who once knelt by my side, under this very roof--do you
remember me now? Oh, Arthur! that letter--that letter!--yes, indeed,
that aid which I ascribed to any one--rather than to you--made the date
of a fairer fortune. I may have owed to that aid the very fate that has
preserved me till now; the very name which I have not discredited. No,
no; do not think you can ask me a favour; you can but claim your due.
Brother! my dear brother!"
"_Warwick_.--Exceeding well! his cares are now all over."
The excitement of this interview soon overpowering Arthur, Philip, in
quitting the room with Mr. Beaufort, asked a conference with that
gentleman; and they went into the very parlour from which the rich man
had once threatened to expel the haggard suppliant. Philip glanced round
the room, and the whole scene came again before him. After a pause, he
"Mr. Beaufort, let the Past be forgotten. We may have need of mutual
forgiveness, and I, who have so wronged your noble son, am willing to
suppose that I misjudged you. I cannot, it is true, forego this
Mr. Beaufort's face fell.
"I have no right to do so. I am the trustee of my father's honour and my
mother's name: I must vindicate both: I cannot forego this lawsuit. But
when I once bowed myself to enter your house--then only with a hope,
where now I have the certainty of obtaining my heritage--it was with the
resolve to bury in oblivion every sentiment that would transgress the
most temperate justice. Now, I will do more. If the law decide against
me, we are as we were; if with me--listen: I will leave you the lands of
Beaufort, for your life and your son's. I ask but for me and for mine
such a deduction from your wealth as will enable me, should my brother be
yet living, to provide for him; and (if you approve the choice, which out
of all earth I would desire to make) to give whatever belongs to more
refined or graceful existence than I myself care for,--to her whom I
would call my wife. Robert Beaufort, in this room I once asked you to
restore to me the only being I then loved: I am now again your suppliant;
and this time you have it in your power to grant my prayer. Let Arthur
be, in truth, my brother: give me, if I prove myself, as I feel assured,
entitled to hold the name my father bore, give me your daughter as my
wife; give me Camilla, and I will not envy you the lands I am willing for
myself to resign; and if they pass to any children, those children will
be your daughter's!"
The first impulse of Mr. Beaufort was to grasp the hand held out to him;
to pour forth an incoherent torrent of praise and protestation, of
assurances that he could not hear of such generosity, that what was right
was right, that he should be proud of such a son-in-law, and much more in
the same key. And in the midst of this, it suddenly occurred to Mr.
Beaufort, that if Philip's case were really as good as he said it was, he
could not talk so coolly of resigning the property it would secure him
for the term of a life (Mr. Beaufort thought of his own) so uncommonly
good, to say nothing of Arthur's. At this notion, he thought it best not
to commit himself too far; drew in as artfully as he could, until he
could consult Lord Lilburne and his lawyer; and recollecting also that
he had a great deal to manage with respect to Camilla and her prior
attachment, he began to talk of his distress for Arthur, of the necessity
of waiting a little before Camilla was spoken to, while so agitated about
her brother, of the exceedingly strong case which his lawyer advised him
he possessed--not but what he would rather rest the matter on justice
than law--and that if the law should be with him, he would not the less
(provided he did not force his daughter's inclinations, of which, indeed,
he had no fear) be most happy to bestow her hand on his brother's nephew,
with such a portion as would be most handsome to all parties.
It often happens to us in this world, that when we come with our heart in
our hands to some person or other,--when we pour out some generous burst
of feeling so enthusiastic and self-sacrificing, that a bystander would
call us fool and Quixote;--it often, I say, happens to us, to find our
warm self suddenly thrown back upon our cold self; to discover that we
are utterly uncomprehended, and that the swine who would have munched up
the acorn does not know what to make of the pearl. That sudden ice which
then freezes over us, that supreme disgust and despair almost of the
whole world, which for the moment we confound with the one worldling--
they who have felt, may reasonably ascribe to Philip. He listened to Mr.
Beaufort in utter and contemptuous silence, and then replied only,--
"Sir, at all events this is a question for law to decide. If it decide
as you think, it is for you to act; if as I think, it is for me. Till
then I will speak to you no more of your daughter, or my intentions.
Meanwhile, all I ask is the liberty to visit your son. I would not be
banished from his sick-room!"
"My dear nephew!" cried Mr. Beaufort, again alarmed, "consider this house
as your home."
Philip bowed and retreated to the door, followed obsequiously by his
It chanced that both Lord Lilburne and Mr. Blackwell were of the same
mind as to the course advisable for Mr. Beaufort now to pursue. Lord
Lilburne was not only anxious to exchange a hostile litigation for an
amicable lawsuit, but he was really eager to put the seal of relationship
upon any secret with regard to himself that a man who might inherit
L20,000. a year--a dead shot, and a bold tongue--might think fit to
disclose. This made him more earnest than he otherwise might have been
in advice as to other people's affairs. He spoke to Beaufort as a man of
the world--to Blackwell as a lawyer.
"Pin the man down to his generosity," said Lilburne, "before he gets the
property. Possession makes a great change in a man's value of money.
After all, you can't enjoy the property when you're dead: he gives it
next to Arthur, who is not married; and if anything happen to Arthur,
poor fellow, why, in devolving on your daughter's husband and children,
it goes in the right line. Pin him down at once: get credit with the
world for the most noble and disinterested conduct, by letting your
counsel state that the instant you discovered the lost document you
wished to throw no obstacle in the way of proving the marriage, and that
the only thing to consider is, if the marriage be proved; if so, you will
be the first to rejoice, &c. &c. You know all that sort of humbug as
well as any man!"
Mr. Blackwell suggested the same advice, though in different words--
after taking the opinions of three eminent members of the bar; those
opinions, indeed, were not all alike--one was adverse to Mr. Robert
Beaufort's chance of success, one was doubtful of it, the third
maintained that he had nothing to fear from the action--except, possibly,
the ill-natured construction of the world. Mr. Robert Beaufort disliked
the idea of the world's ill-nature, almost as much as he did that of
losing his property. And when even this last and more encouraging
authority, learning privately from Mr. Blackwell that Arthur's illness
was of a nature to terminate fatally, observed, "that a compromise with a
claimant, who was at all events Mr. Beaufort's nephew, by which Mr.
Beaufort could secure the enjoyment of the estates to himself for life,
and to his son for life also, should not (whatever his probabilities of
legal success) be hastily rejected--unless he had a peculiar affection
for a very distant relation--who, failing Mr. Beaufort's male issue and
Philip's claim, would be heir-at-law, but whose rights would cease if
Arthur liked to cut off the entail,"
Mr. Beaufort at once decided. He had a personal dislike to that distant
heir-at-law; he had a strong desire to retain the esteem of the world; he
had an innate conviction of the justice of Philip's claim; he had a
remorseful recollection of his brother's generous kindness to himself; he
preferred to have for his heir, in case of Arthur's decease, a nephew who
would marry his daughter, than a remote kinsman. And should, after all,
the lawsuit fail to prove Philip's right, he was not sorry to have the
estate in his own power by Arthur's act in cutting off the entail.
Brief; all these reasons decided him. He saw Philip--he spoke to Arthur
--and all the preliminaries, as suggested above, were arranged between
the parties. The entail was cut off, and Arthur secretly prevailed upon
his father, to whom, for the present, the fee-simple thus belonged, to
make a will, by which he bequeathed the estates to Philip, without
reference to the question of his legitimacy. Mr. Beaufort felt his
conscience greatly eased after this action--which, too, he could always
retract if he pleased; and henceforth the lawsuit became but a matter of
form, so far as the property it involved was concerned.
While these negotiations went on, Arthur continued gradually to decline.
Philip was with him always. The sufferer took a strange liking to this
long-dreaded relation, this man of iron frame and thews. In Philip there
was so much of life, that Arthur almost felt as if in his presence itself
there was an antagonism to death. And Camilla saw thus her cousin, day
by day, hour by hour, in that sick chamber, lending himself, with the
gentle tenderness of a woman, to soften the pang, to arouse the
weariness, to cheer the dejection. Philip never spoke to her of love: in
such a scene that had been impossible. She overcame in their mutual
cares the embarrassment she had before felt in his presence; whatever her
other feelings, she could not, at least, but be grateful to one so tender
to her brother. Three letters of Charles Spencer's had been, in the
afflictions of the house, only answered by a brief line. She now took
the occasion of a momentary and delusive amelioration in Arthur's disease
to write to him more at length. She was carrying, as usual, the letter
to her mother, when Mr. Beaufort met her, and took the letter from her
hand. He looked embarrassed for a moment, and bade her follow him into