Part 3 out of 3
his study. It was then that Camilla learned, for the first time,
distinctly, the claims and rights of her cousin; then she learned also at
what price those rights were to be enforced with the least possible
injury to her father. Mr. Beaufort naturally put the case before her in
the strongest point of the dilemma. He was to be ruined--utterly ruined;
a pauper, a beggar, if Camilla did not save him. The master of his fate
demanded his daughter's hand. Habitually subservient to even a whim of
her parents, this intelligence, the entreaty, the command with which it
was accompanied, overwhelmed her. She answered but by tears; and Mr.
Beaufort, assured of her submission, left her, to consider of the tone of
the letter he himself should write to Mr. Spencer. He had sat down to
this very task when he was summoned to Arthur's room. His son was
suddenly taken worse: spasms that threatened immediate danger convulsed
and exhausted him, and when these were allayed, he continued for three
days so feeble that Mr. Beaufort, his eyes now thoroughly opened to the
loss that awaited him, had no thoughts even for worldly interests.
On the night of the third day, Philip, Robert Beaufort, his wife, his
daughter, were grouped round the death-bed of Arthur. The sufferer had
just wakened from sleep, and he motioned to Philip to raise him. Mr.
Beaufort started, as by the dim light he saw his son in the arms of
Catherine's! and another Chamber of Death seemed, shadow-like, to replace
the one before him. Words, long since uttered, knelled in his ear:
"There shall be a death-bed yet beside which you shall see the spectre of
her, now so calm, rising for retribution from the grave!" His blood
froze, his hair stood erect; he cast a hurried, shrinking glance round
the twilight of the darkened room: and with a feeble cry covered his
white face with his trembling hands! But on Arthur's lips there was a
serene smile; he turned his eyes from Philip to Camilla, and murmured,
"She will repay you!" A pause, and the mother's shriek rang through the
room! Robert Beaufort raised his face from his hands. His son was dead!
"_Jul_. And what reward do you propose?
It must be my love."--_The Double Marriage_.
While these events, dark, hurried, and stormy, had befallen the family of
his betrothed, Sidney lead continued his calm life by the banks of the
lovely lake. After a few weeks, his confidence in Camilla's fidelity
overbore all his apprehensions and forebodings. Her letters, though
constrained by the inspection to which they were submitted, gave him
inexpressible consolation and delight. He began, however, early to fancy
that there was a change in their tone. The letters seemed to shun the
one subject to which all others were as nought; they turned rather upon
the guests assembled at Beaufort Court; and why I know not,--for there
was nothing in them to authorise jealousy--the brief words devoted to
Monsieur de Vaudemont filled him with uneasy and terrible suspicion. He
gave vent to these feelings, as fully as he dared do, under the knowledge
that his letter would be seen; and Camilla never again even mentioned the
name of Vaudemont. Then there was a long pause; then her brother's
arrival and illness were announced; then, at intervals, but a few hurried
lines; then a complete, long, dreadful silence, and lastly, with a deep
black border and a solemn black seal, came the following letter from Mr.
"MY DEAR SIR,--I have the unutterable grief to announce to you and your
worthy uncle the irreparable loss I have sustained in the death of my
only son. It is a month to day since he departed this life. He died,
sir, as a Christian should die--humbly, penitently--exaggerating the few
faults of his short life, but--(and here the writer's hypocrisy, though
so natural to him--was it, that he knew not that he was hypocritical?--
fairly gave way before the real and human anguish, for which there is no
dictionary!) but I cannot pursue this theme!
"Slowly now awakening to the duties yet left me to discharge, I cannot
but be sensible of the material difference in the prospects of my
remaining child. Miss Beaufort is now the heiress to an ancient name and
a large fortune. She subscribes with me to the necessity of consulting
those new considerations which so melancholy an event forces upon her
mind. The little fancy--or liking--(the acquaintance was too short for
more) that might naturally spring up between two amiable young persons
thrown together in the country, must be banished from our thoughts. As a
friend, I shall be always happy to hear of your welfare; and should you
ever think of a profession in which I can serve you, you may command my
utmost interest and exertions. I know, my young friend, what you will
feel at first, and how disposed you will be to call me mercenary and
selfish. Heaven knows if that be really my character! But at your age,
impressions are easily effaced; and any experienced friend of the world
will assure you that, in the altered circumstances of the case, I have no
option. All intercourse and correspondence, of course, cease with this
letter,--until, at least, we may all meet, with no sentiments but those
of friendship and esteem. I desire my compliments to your worthy uncle,
in which Mrs. and Miss Beaufort join; and I am sure you will be happy to
hear that my wife and daughter, though still in great affliction, have
suffered less in health than I could have ventured to anticipate.
"Believe me, dear Sir,
"To C. SPENCER, Esq., Jun."
When Sidney received this letter, he was with Mr. Spencer, and the latter
read it over the young man's shoulder, on which he leant affectionately.
When they came to the concluding words, Sidney turned round with a vacant
look and a hollow smile. "You see, sir," he said, "you see---"
"My boy--my son--you bear this as you ought. Contempt will soon
Sidney started to his feet, and his whole countenance was changed.
"Contempt--yes, for him! But for her--she knows it not--she is no party
to this--I cannot believe it--I will not! I--I----" and he rushed out of
the room. He was absent till nightfall, and when he returned, he
endeavoured to appear calm--but it was in vain.
The next day brought him a letter from Camilla, written unknown to her
parents,--short, it is true (confirming the sentence of separation
contained in her father's), and imploring him not to reply to it,--but
still so full of gentle and of sorrowful feeling, so evidently worded in
the wish to soften the anguish she inflicted, that it did more than
soothe--it even administered hope.
Now when Mr. Robert Beaufort had recovered the ordinary tone of his mind
sufficiently to indite the letter Sidney had just read, he had become
fully sensible of the necessity of concluding the marriage between Philip
and Camilla before the publicity of the lawsuit. The action for the
ejectment could not take place before the ensuing March or April. He
would waive the ordinary etiquette of time and mourning to arrange all
before. Indeed, he lived in hourly fear lest Philip should discover that
he had a rival in his brother, and break off the marriage, with its
contingent advantages. The first announcement of such a suit in the
newspapers might reach the Spencers; and if the young man were, as he
doubted not, Sidney Beaufort, would necessarily bring him forward, and
ensure the dreaded explanation. Thus apprehensive and ever scheming,
Robert Beaufort spoke to Philip so much, and with such apparent feeling,
of his wish to gratify, at the earliest possible period, the last wish of
his son, in the union now arranged--he spoke, with such seeming
consideration and good sense, of the avoidance of all scandal and
misinterpretation in the suit itself, which suit a previous marriage
between the claimant and his daughter would show at once to be of so
amicable a nature,--that Philip, ardently in love as he was, could not
but assent to any hastening of his expected happiness compatible with
decorum. As to any previous publicity by way of newspaper comment, he
agreed with Mr. Beaufort in deprecating it. But then came the question,
What name was he to bear in the interval?
"As to that," said Philip, somewhat proudly, "when, after my mother's
suit in her own behalf, I persuaded her not to bear the name of Beaufort,
though her due--and for my own part, I prized her own modest name, which
under such dark appearances was in reality spotless--as much as the
loftier one which you bear and my father bore;--so I shall not resume the
name the law denies me till the law restores it to me. Law alone can
efface the wrong which law has done me."
Mr. Beaufort was pleased with this reasoning (erroneous though it was),
and he now hoped that all would be safely arranged.
That a girl so situated as Camilla, and of a character not energetic or
profound, but submissive, dutiful, and timid, should yield to the
arguments of her father, the desire of her dying brother--that she should
not dare to refuse to become the instrument of peace to a divided family,
the saving sacrifice to her father's endangered fortunes--that, in fine,
when, nearly a month after Arthur's death, her father, leading her into
the room, where Philip waited her footstep with a beating heart, placed
her hand in his--and Philip falling on his knees said, "May I hope to
retain this hand for life?"--she should falter out such words as he might
construe into not reluctant acquiescence; that all this should happen is
so natural that the reader is already prepared for it. But still she
thought with bitter and remorseful feelings of him thus deliberately and
faithlessly renounced. She felt how deeply he had loved her--she knew
how fearful would be his grief. She looked sad and thoughtful; but her
brother's death was sufficient in Philip's eyes to account for that.
The praises and gratitude of her father, to whom she suddenly seemed to
become an object of even greater pride and affection than ever Arthur had
been--the comfort of a generous heart, that takes pleasure in the very
sacrifice it makes--the acquittal of her conscience as to the motives of
her conduct--began, however, to produce their effect. Nor, as she had
lately seen more of Philip, could she be insensible of his attachment--of
his many noble qualities--of the pride which most women might have felt
in his addresses, when his rank was once made clear; and as she had ever
been of a character more regulated by duty than passion, so one who could
have seen what was passing in her mind would have had little fear for
Philip's future happiness in her keeping--little fear but that, when once
married to him, her affections would have gone along with her duties; and
that if the first love were yet recalled, it would be with a sigh due
rather to some romantic recollection than some continued regret. Few of
either sex are ever united to their first love; yet married people jog
on, and call each other "my dear" and "my darling" all the same. It
might be, it is true, that Philip would be scarcely loved with the
intenseness with which he loved; but if Camilla's feelings were capable
of corresponding to the ardent and impassioned ones of that strong and
vehement nature--such feelings were not yet developed in her. The heart
of the woman might still be half concealed in the vale of the virgin
innocence. Philip himself was satisfied--he believed that he was
beloved: for it is the property of love, in a large and noble heart, to
reflect itself, and to see its own image in the eyes on which it looks.
As the Poet gives ideal beauty and excellence to some ordinary child of
Eve, worshipping less the being that is than the being he imagines and
conceives--so Love, which makes us all poets for a while, throws its own
divine light over a heart perhaps really cold; and becomes dazzled into
the joy of a false belief by the very lustre with which it surrounds its
The more, however, Camilla saw of Philip, the more (gradually overcoming
her former mysterious and superstitious awe of him) she grew familiarised
to his peculiar cast of character and thought, so the more she began to
distrust her father's assertion, that he had insisted on her hand as a
price--a bargain--an equivalent for the sacrifice of a dire revenge. And
with this thought came another. Was she worthy of this man?--was she not
deceiving him? Ought she not to say, at least, that she had known a
previous attachment, however determined she might be to subdue it? Often
the desire for this just and honourable confession trembled on her lips,
and as often was it checked by some chance circumstance or some maiden
fear. Despite their connection, there was not yet between them that
delicious intimacy which ought to accompany the affiance of two hearts
and souls. The gloom of the house; the restraint on the very language of
love imposed by a death so recent and so deplored, accounted in much for
this reserve. And for the rest, Robert Beaufort prudently left them very
few and very brief opportunities to be alone.
In the meantime, Philip (now persuaded that the Beauforts were ignorant
of his brother's fate) had set Mr. Barlow's activity in search of Sidney;
and his painful anxiety to discover one so dear and so mysteriously lost
was the only cause of uneasiness apparent in the brightening Future.
While these researches, hitherto fruitless, were being made, it so
happened, as London began now to refill, and gossip began now to revive,
that a report got abroad, no one knew how (probably from the servants)
that Monsieur de Vaudemont, a distinguished French officer, was shortly
to lead the daughter and sole heiress of Robert Beaufort, Esq., M.P., to
the hymeneal altar; and that report very quickly found its way into the
London papers: from the London papers it spread to the provincial--it
reached the eyes of Sidney in his now gloomy and despairing solitude.
The day that he read it he disappeared.
"_Jul_. . . . Good lady, love him!
You have a noble and an honest gentleman.
I ever found him so.
Love him no less than I have done, and serve him,
And Heaven shall bless you--you shall bless my ashes."
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: _The Double Marriage_.
We have been too long absent from Fanny; it is time to return to her.
The delight she experienced when Philip made her understand all the
benefits, the blessings, that her courage, nay, her intellect, had
bestowed upon him, the blushing ecstasy with which she heard (as they
returned to H----, the eventful morning of her deliverance, side by side,
her hand clasped in his, and often pressed to his grateful lips) his
praises, his thanks, his fear for her safety, his joy at regaining her--
all this amounted to a bliss, which, till then, she could not have
conceived that life was capable of bestowing. And when he left her at
H----, to hurry to his lawyer's with the recovered document, it was but
for an hour. He returned, and did not quit her for several days. And in
that time he became sensible of her astonishing, and, to him, it seemed
miraculous, improvement in all that renders Mind the equal to Mind;
miraculous, for he guessed not the Influence that makes miracles its
commonplace. And now he listened attentively to her when she conversed;
he read with her (though reading was never much in his vocation), his
unfastidious ear was charmed with her voice, when it sang those simple
songs; and his manner (impressed alike by gratitude for the signal
service rendered to him, and by the discovery that Fanny was no longer a
child, whether in mind or years), though not less gentle than before, was
less familiar, less superior, more respectful, and more earnest. It was
a change which raised her in her own self-esteem. Ah, those were rosy
days for Fanny!
A less sagacious judge of character than Lilburne would have formed
doubts perhaps of the nature of Philip's interest in Fanny. But he
comprehended at once the fraternal interest which a man like Philip might
well take in a creature like Fanny, if commended to his care by a
protector whose doom was so awful as that which had ingulfed the life of
William Gawtrey. Lilburne had some thoughts at first of claiming her,
but as he had no power to compel her residence with him, he did not wish,
on consideration, to come again in contact with Philip upon ground so
full of humbling recollections as that still overshadowed by the images
of Gawtrey and Mary. He contented himself with writing an artful letter
to Simon, stating that from Fanny's residence with Mr. Gawtrey, and from
her likeness to her mother, whom he had only seen as a child, he had
conjectured the relationship she bore to himself; and having obtained
other evidence of that fact (he did not say what or where), he had not
scrupled to remove her to his roof, meaning to explain all to Mr. Simon
Gawtrey the next day. This letter was accompanied by one from a lawyer,
informing Simon Gawtrey that Lord Lilburne would pay L200. a year, in
quarterly payments, to his order; and that he was requested to add, that
when the young lady he had so benevolently reared came of age, or
married, an adequate provision would be made for her. Simon's mind
blazed up at this last intelligence, when read to him, though he neither
comprehended nor sought to know why Lord Lilburne should be so generous,
or what that noble person's letter to himself was intended to convey.
For two days, he seemed restored to vigorous sense; but when he had once
clutched the first payment made in advance, the touch of the money seemed
to numb him back to his lethargy: the excitement of desire died in the
dull sense of possession.
And just at that time Fanny's happiness came to a close. Philip received
Arthur Beaufort's letter; and now ensued long and frequent absences; and
on his return, for about an hour or so at a time, he spoke of sorrow and
death; and the books were closed and the songs silenced. All fear for
Fanny's safety was, of course, over; all necessity for her work; their
little establishment was increased. She never stirred out without Sarah;
yet she would rather that there had been some danger on her account for
him to guard against, or some trial that his smile might soothe. His
prolonged absences began to prey upon her--the books ceased to interest--
no study filled up the dreary gap--her step grew listless-her cheek pale
--she was sensible at last that his presence had become necessary to her
very life. One day, he came to the house earlier than usual, and with a
much happier and serener expression of countenance than he had worn of
Simon was dozing in his chair, with his old dog, now scarce vigorous
enough to bark, curled up at his feet. Neither man nor dog was more as a
witness to what was spoken than the leathern chair, or the hearth-rug, on
which they severally reposed.
There was something which, in actual life, greatly contributed to the
interest of Fanny's strange lot, but which, in narration, I feel I cannot
make sufficiently clear to the reader. And this was her connection and
residence with that old man. Her character forming, as his was
completely gone; here, the blank becoming filled--there, the page fading
to a blank. It was the tatter, total Deathliness-in-Life of Simon, that,
while so impressive to see, renders it impossible to bring him before the
reader in his full force of contrast to the young Psyche. He seldom
spoke--often, not from morning till night; he now seldom stirred. It is
in vain to describe the indescribable: let the reader draw the picture
for himself. And whenever (as I sometimes think he will, after he has
closed this book) he conjures up the idea he attaches to the name of its
heroine, let him see before her, as she glides through the humble room--
as she listens to the voice of him she loves--as she sits musing by the
window, with the church spire just visible--as day by day the soul
brightens and expands within her--still let the reader see within the
same walls, greyhaired, blind, dull to all feeling, frozen to all life,
that stony image of Time and Death! Perhaps then he may understand why
they who beheld the real and living Fanny blooming under that chill and
mass of shadow, felt that her grace, her simplicity, her charming beauty,
were raised by the contrast, till they grew associated with thoughts and
images, mysterious and profound, belonging not more to the lovely than to
So there sat the old man; and Philip, though aware of his presence,
speaking as if he were alone with Fanny, after touching on more casual
topics, thus addressed her:
"My true and my dear friend, it is to you that I shall owe, not only my
rights and fortune, but the vindication of my mother's memory. You have
not only placed flowers upon that gravestone, but it is owing to you,
under Providence, that it will be inscribed at last with the Name which
refutes all calumny. Young and innocent as you now are, my gentle and
beloved benefactress, you cannot as yet know what a blessing it will be
to me to engrave that Name upon that simple stone. Hereafter, when you
yourself are a wife, a mother, you will comprehend the service you have
rendered to the living and the dead!"
He stopped--struggling with the rush of emotions that overflowed his
heart. Alas, THE DEAD! what service can we render to them?--what availed
it now, either to the dust below, or to the immortality above, that the
fools and knaves of this world should mention the Catherine whose life
was gone, whose ears were deaf, with more or less respect? There is in
calumny that poison that, even when the character throws off the slander,
the heart remains diseased beneath the effect. They say that truth comes
sooner or later; but it seldom comes before the soul, passing from agony
to contempt, has grown callous to men's judgments. Calumniate a human
being in youth--adulate that being in age;--what has been the interval?
Will the adulation atone either for the torture, or the hardness which
the torture leaves at last? And if, as in Catherine's case (a case, how
common!), the truth come too late--if the tomb is closed--if the heart
you have wrung can be wrung no more--why the truth is as valueless as the
epitaph on a forgotten Name! Some such conviction of the hollowness of
his own words, when he spoke of service to the dead, smote upon Philip's
heart, and stopped the flow of his words.
Fanny, conscious only of his praise, his thanks, and the tender affection
of his voice, stood still silent-her eyes downcast, her breast heaving.
"And now, Fanny, my honoured sister, I would thank you for more, were it
possible, even than this. I shall owe to you not only name and fortune,
but happiness. It is from the rights to which you have assisted me, and
which will shortly be made clear, that I am able to demand a hand I have
so long coveted--the hand of one as dear to me as you are. In a word,
the time has, this day, been fixed, when I shall have a home to offer to
you and to this old man--when I can present to you a sister who will
prize you as I do: for I love you so dearly--I owe you so much--that even
that home would lose half its smiles if you were not there. Do you
understand me, Fanny? The sister I speak of will be my wife!"
The poor girl who heard this speech of most cruel tenderness did not
fall, or faint, or evince any outward emotion, except in a deadly
paleness. She seemed like one turned to stone. Her very breath forsook
her for some moments, and then came back with a long deep sigh. She laid
her hand lightly on his arm, and said calmly:
"Yes--I understand. We once saw a wedding. You are to be married--I
shall see yours!"
"You shall; and, later, perhaps, I may see your own."
"I have a brother. Ah! if I could but find him--younger than I am--
beautiful almost as you!"
"You will be happy," said Fanny, still calmly.
"I have long placed my hopes of happiness in such a union! Stay, where
are you going?"
"To pray for you," said Fanny, with a smile, in which there was something
of the old vacancy, as she walked gently from the room. Philip followed
her with moistened eyes. Her manner might have deceived one more vain.
He soon after quitted the house, and returned to town.
Three hours after, Sarah found Fanny stretched on the floor of her own
room--so still--so white--that, for some moments, the old woman thought
life was gone. She recovered, however, by degrees; and, after putting
her hands to her eyes, and muttering some moments, seemed much as usual,
except that she was more silent, and that her lips remained colourless,
and her hands cold like stone.
"_Vec_. Ye see what follows.
_Duke_. O gentle sir! this shape again!"--_The Chances_.
That evening Sidney Beaufort arrived in London. It is the nature of
solitude to make passions calm on the surface--agitated in the deeps.
Sidney had placed his whole existence in one object. When the letter
arrived that told him to hope no more, he was at first rather sensible of
the terrible and dismal blank--the "void abyss"--to which all his future
was suddenly changed, than roused to vehement and turbulent emotion. But
Camilla's letter had, as we have seen, raised his courage and animated
his heart. To the idea of her faith he still clung with the instinct of
hope in the midst of despair. The tidings that she was absolutely
betrothed to another, and in so short a time since her rejection of him,
let loose from all restraint his darker and more tempestuous passions.
In a state of mind bordering upon frenzy, he hurried to London--to seek
her--to see her; with what intent--what hope, if hope there were--he
himself could scarcely tell. But what man who has loved with fervour and
trust will be contented to receive the sentence of eternal separation
except from the very lips of the one thus worshipped and thus foresworn?
The day had been intensely cold. Towards evening the snow fell fast and
heavily. Sidney had not, since a child, been before in London; and the
immense City, covered with a wintry and icy mist, through which the
hurrying passengers and the slow-moving vehicles passed, spectre-like,
along the dismal and slippery streets-opened to the stranger no
hospitable arms. He knew not a step of the way--he was pushed to and
fro--his scarce intelligible questions impatiently answered--the snow
covered him--the frost pierced to his veins. At length a man, more
kindly than the rest, seeing that he was a stranger to London, procured
him a hackney-coach, and directed the driver to the distant quarter of
Berkeley Square. The snow balled under the hoofs of the horses--the
groaning vehicle proceeded at the pace of a hearse. At length, and after
a period of such suspense, and such emotion, as Sidney never in after-
life could recall without a shudder, the coach stopped--the benumbed
driver heavily descended--the sound of the knocker knelled loud through
the muffled air--and the light from Mr. Beaufort's hall glared full upon
the dizzy eyes of the visitor. He pushed aside the porter, and sprang
into the hall. Luckily, one of the footmen who had attended Mrs.
Beaufort to the Lakes recognised him; and, in answer to his breathless
"Why, indeed, Mr. Spencer, Miss Beaufort is at home--up-stairs in the
drawing-room, with master and mistress, and Monsieur de Vaudemont; but--"
Sidney waited no more. He bounded up the stairs--he opened the first
door that presented itself to him, and burst, unannounced and unlooked-
for, upon the eyes of the group seated within. He saw not the terrified
start of Mr. Robert Beaufort--he heeded not the faint, nervous
exclamation of the mother--he caught not the dark and wondering glace of
the stranger seated beside Camilla--he saw but Camilla herself, and in a
moment he was at her feet.
"Camilla, I am here!--I, who love you so--I, who have nothing in the
world but you! I am here--to learn from you, and you alone, if I am
indeed abandoned--if you are indeed to be another's!"
He had dashed his hat from his brow as he sprang forward; his long fair
hair, damp with the snows, fell disordered over his forehead; his eyes
were fixed, as for life and death, upon the pale face and trembling lips
of Camilla. Robert Beaufort, in great alarm, and well aware of the
fierce temper of Philip, anticipative of some rash and violent impulse,
turned his glance upon his destined son-in-law. But there was no angry
pride in the countenance he there beheld. Philip had risen, but his
frame was bent--his knees knocked together--his lips were parted--his
eyes were staring full upon the face of the kneeling man.
Suddenly Camilla, sharing her father's fear, herself half rose, and with
an unconscious pathos, stretched one hand, as if to shelter, over
Sidney's head, and looked to Philip. Sidney's eyes followed hers. He
sprang to his feet.
"What, then, it is true! And this is the man for whom I am abandoned!
But unless you--you, with your own lips, tell me that you love me no
more--that you love another--I will not yield you but with life."
He stalked sternly and impetuously up to Philip, who recoiled as his
rival advanced. The characters of the two men seemed suddenly changed.
The timid dreamer seemed dilated into the fearless soldier. The soldier
seemed shrinking--quailing-into nameless terror. Sidney grasped that
strong arm, as Philip still retreated, with his slight and delicate
fingers, grasped it with violence and menace; and frowning into the face
from which the swarthy blood was scared away, said, in a hollow whisper:
"Do you hear me? Do you comprehend me? I say that she shall not be
forced into a marriage at which I yet believe her heart rebels. My claim
is holier than yours. Renounce her, or win her but with my blood."
Philip did not apparently hear the words thus addressed to him. His
whole senses seemed absorbed in the one sense of sight. He continued to
gaze upon the speaker, till his eye dropped on the hand that yet griped
his arm. And as he thus looked, he uttered an inarticulate cry. He
caught the hand in his own, and pointed to a ring on the finger, but
remained speechless. Mr. Beaufort approached, and began some stammered
words of soothing to Sidney, but Philip motioned him to be silent, and,
at last, as if by a violent effort, gasped forth, not to Sidney, but to
"His name?--his name?"
"It is Mr. Spencer--Mr. Charles Spencer," cried Beaufort. "Listen to me,
I will explain all--I--"
"Hush, hush! cried Philip; and turning to Sidney, he put his hand on his
shoulder, and looking him full in the face, said,--
"Have you not known another name? Are you not--yes, it is so--it is--it
is! Follow me--follow!"
And still retaining his grasp, and leading Sidney, who was now subdued,
awed, and a prey to new and wild suspicions, he moved on gently, stride
by stride--his eyes fixed on that fair face--his lips muttering-till the
closing door shut both forms from the eyes of the three there left.
It was the adjoining room into which Philip led his rival. It was lit
but by a small reading-lamp, and the bright, steady blaze of the fire;
and by this light they both continued to gaze on each other, as if
spellbound, in complete silence. At last Philip, by an irresistible
impulse, fell upon Sidney's bosom, and, clasping him with convulsive
energy, gasped out:
"Sidney!--Sidney!--my mother's son!"
"What!" exclaimed Sidney, struggling from the embrace, and at last
freeing himself; "it is you, then!--you, my own brother! You, who have
been hitherto the thorn in my path, the cloud in my fate! You, who are
now come to make me a wretch for life! I love that woman, and you tear
her from me! You, who subjected my infancy to hardship, and, but for
Providence, might have degraded my youth, by your example, into shame and
"Forbear!--forbear!" cried Philip, with a voice so shrill in its agony,
that it smote the hearts of those in the adjoining chamber like the
shriek of some despairing soul. They looked at each other, but not one
had the courage to break upon the interview.
Sidney himself was appalled by the sound. He threw himself on a seat,
and, overcome by passions so new to him, by excitement so strange, hid
his face, and sobbed as a child.
Philip walked rapidly to and fro the room for some moments; at length he
paused opposite to Sidney, and said, with the deep calmness of a wronged
and goaded spirit:
"Sidney Beaufort, hear me! When my mother died she confided you to my
care, my love, and my protection. In the last lines that her hand
traced, she bade me think less of myself than of you; to be to you as a
father as well as brother. The hour that I read that letter I fell on my
knees, and vowed that I would fulfil that injunction--that I would
sacrifice my very self, if I could give fortune or happiness to you. And
this not for your sake alone, Sidney; no! but as my mother--our wronged,
our belied, our broken-hearted mother!--O Sidney, Sidney! have you no
tears for her, too?" He passed his hand over his own eyes for a moment,
and resumed: "But as our mother, in that last letter, said to me, 'let my
love pass into your breast for him,' so, Sidney, so, in all that I could
do for you, I fancied that my mother's smile looked down upon me, and
that in serving you it was my mother whom I obeyed. Perhaps, hereafter,
Sidney, when we talk over that period of my earlier life when I worked
for you, when the degradation you speak of (there was no crime in it!)--
was borne cheerfully for your sake, and yours the holiday though mine the
task--perhaps, hereafter, you will do me more justice. You left me, or
were reft from me, and I gave all the little fortune that my mother had
bequeathed us, to get some tidings from you. I received your letter--
that bitter letter--and I cared not then that I was a beggar, since I was
alone. You talk of what I have cost you--you talk! and you now ask me
to--to--Merciful Heaven! let me understand you--do you love Camilla?
Does she love you? Speak--speak--explain--what, new agony awaits me?"
It was then that Sidney, affected and humbled, amidst all his more
selfish sorrows, by his brother's language and manner, related, as
succinctly as he could, the history of his affection for Camilla, the
circumstances of their engagement, and ended by placing before him the
letter he had received from Mr. Beaufort.
In spite of all his efforts for self-control, Philip's anguish was so
great, so visible, that Sidney, after looking at his working features,
his trembling hands, for a moment, felt all the earlier parts of his
nature melt in a flow of generous sympathy and remorse. He flung himself
on the breast from which he had shrunk before, and cried,--
"Brother, brother! forgive me; I see how I have wronged you. If she has
forgotten me, if she love you, take her and be happy!"
Philip returned his embrace, but without warmth, and then moved away;
and, again, in great disorder, paced the room. His brother only heard
disjointed exclamations that seemed to escape him unawares: "They said
she loved me! Heaven give me strength! Mother--mother! let me fulfil my
vow! Oh, that I had died ere this!" He stopped at last, and the large
dews rolled down his forehead. "Sidney!" said he, "there is a mystery
here that I comprehend not. But my mind now is very confused. If she
loves you--if!--is it possible for a woman to love two? Well, well, I go
to solve the riddle: wait here!"
He vanished into the next room, and for nearly half an hour Sidney was
alone. He heard through the partition murmured voices; he caught more
clearly the sound of Camilla's sobs. The particulars of that interview
between Philip and Camilla, alone at first (afterwards Mr. Robert
Beaufort was re-admitted), Philip never disclosed, nor could Sidney
himself ever obtain a clear account from Camilla, who could not recall
it, even years after, without great emotion. But at last the door was
opened, and Philip entered, leading Camilla by the hand. His face was
calm, and there was a smile on his lips; a greater dignity than even.
that habitual to him was diffused over his whole person. Camilla was
holding her handkerchief to her eyes and weeping passionately. Mr.
Beaufort followed them with a mortified and slinking air.
"Sidney," said Philip, "it is past. All is arranged. I yield to your
earlier, and therefore better, claim. Mr. Beaufort consents to your
union. He will tell you, at some fitter time, that our birthright is at
last made clear, and that there is no blot on the name we shall hereafter
bear. Sidney, embrace your bride!"
Amazed, delighted, and still half incredulous, Sidney seized and kissed
the hand of Camilla; and as he then drew her to his breast, she said, as
she pointed to Philip:--
"Oh! if you do love me as you say, see in him the generous, the noble--"
Fresh sobs broke off her speech; but as Sidney sought again to take her
hand, she whispered, with a touching and womanly sentiment, "Ah! respect
him: see!--" and Sidney, looking then at his brother, saw, that though he
still attempted to smile, his lip writhed, and his features were drawn
together, as one whose frame is wrung by torture, but who struggles not
He flew to Philip, who, grasping his hand, held him back, and said,--
"I have fulfilled my vow! I have given you up the only blessing my life
has known. Enough, you are happy, and I shall be so too, when God
pleases to soften this blow. And now you must not wonder or blame me,
if, though so lately found, I leave you for a while. Do me one kindness,
--you, Sidney--you, Mr. Beaufort. Let the marriage take place at
H----, in the village church by which my mother sleeps; let it be
delayed till the suit is terminated: by that time I shall hope to meet
you all--to meet you, Camilla, as I ought to meet my brother's wife; till
then, my presence will not sadden your happiness. Do not seek to see me;
do not expect to hear from me. Hist! be silent, all of you; my heart is
yet bruised and sore. O THOU," and here, deepening his voice, he raised
his arms, "Thou who hast preserved my youth from such snares and such
peril, who hast guided my steps from the abyss to which they wandered,
and beneath whose hand I now bow, grateful if chastened, receive this
offering, and bless that union! Fare ye well."
"Heaven's airs amid the harpstrings dwell;
And we wish they ne'er may fade;
They cease; and the soul is a silent cell,
Where music never played.
Dream follows dream through the long night-hours."
WILSON: _The Past, a poem_.
The self-command which Philip had obtained for a while deserted him when
he was without the house. His mind felt broken up into chaos; he hurried
on, mechanically, on foot; he passed street upon street, now solitary and
deserted, as the lamps gleamed upon the thick snow. The city was left
behind him. He paused not, till, breathless, and exhausted in spirit if
not in frame, he reached the churchyard where Catherine's dust reposed.
The snow had ceased to fall, but it lay deep over the graves; the
yew-trees, clad in their white shrouds, gleamed ghost-like through the
dimness. Upon the rail that fenced the tomb yet hung a wreath that
Fanny's hand had placed there. But the flowers were hid; it was a wreath
of snow! Through the intervals of the huge and still clouds, there
gleamed a few melancholy stars. The very calm of the holy spot seemed
unutterably sad. The Death of the year overhung the Death of man. And
as Philip bent over the tomb, within and without all was ICE and NIGHT!
For hours he remained on that spot, alone with his grief and absorbed in
his prayer. Long past midnight Fanny heard his step on the stairs, and
the door of his chamber close with unwonted violence. She heard, too,
for some time, his heavy tread on the floor, till suddenly all was
silent. The next morning, when, at the usual hour, Sarah entered to
unclose the shutters and light the fire, she was startled by wild
exclamations and wilder laughter. The fever had mounted to the brain--
he was delirious.
For several weeks Philip Beaufort was in imminent danger; for a
considerable part of that time he was unconscious; and when the peril was
past, his recovery was slow and gradual. It was the only illness to
which his vigorous frame had ever been subjected: and the fever had
perhaps exhausted him more than it might have done one in whose
constitution the disease had encountered less resistance. His brother;
imagining he had gone abroad, was unacquainted with his danger. None
tended his sick-bed save the hireling nurse, the feed physician, and the
unpurchasable heart of the only being to whom the wealth and rank of the
Heir of Beaufort Court were as nothing. Here was reserved for him Fate's
crowning lesson, in the vanity of those human wishes which anchor in gold
and power. For how many years had the exile and the outcast pined
indignantly for his birthright?--Lo! it was won: and with it came the
crushed heart and the smitten frame. As he slowly recovered sense and
reasoning, these thoughts struck him forcibly. He felt as if he were
rightly punished in having disdained, during his earlier youth, the
enjoyments within his reach. Was there nothing in the glorious health
--the unconquerable hope--the heart, if wrung, and chafed, and sorely
tried, free at least from the direst anguish of the passions,
disappointed and jealous love? Though now certain, if spared to the
future, to be rich, powerful, righted in name and honour, might he not
from that sick-bed envy his earlier past? even when with his brother
orphan he wandered through the solitary fields, and felt with what
energies we are gifted when we have something to protect; or when, loving
and beloved, he saw life smile out to him in the eyes of Eugenie; or
when, after that melancholy loss, he wrestled boldly, and breast to
breast with Fortune, in a far land, for honour and independence? There
is something in severe illness, especially if it be in violent contrast
to the usual strength of the body, which has often the most salutary
effect upon the mind; which often, by the affliction of the frame,
roughly wins us from the too morbid pains of the heart! which makes us
feel that, in mere LIFE, enjoyed as the robust enjoy it, God's Great
Principle of Good breathes and moves. We rise thus from the sick-bed
softened and humbled, and more disposed to look around us for such
blessings as we may yet command.
The return of Philip, his danger, the necessity of exertion, of tending
him, had roused Fanny from a state which might otherwise have been
permanently dangerous to the intellect so lately ripened within her.
With what patience, with what fortitude, with what unutterable thought
and devotion, she fulfilled that best and holiest woman's duty--let the
man whose struggle with life and death has been blessed with the vigil
that wakes and saves, imagine to himself. And in all her anxiety and
terror, she had glimpses of a happiness which it seemed to her almost
criminal to acknowledge. For, even in his delirium, her voice seemed to
have some soothing influence over him, and he was calmer while she was
by. And when at last he was conscious, her face was the first he saw,
and her name the first which his lips uttered. As then he grew gradually
stronger, and the bed was deserted for the sofa, he took more than the
old pleasure in hearing her read to him; which she did with a feeling
that lecturers cannot teach. And once, in a pause from this occupation,
he spoke to her frankly,--he sketched his past history--his last
sacrifice. And Fanny, as she wept, learned that he was no more
It has been said that this man, naturally of an active and impatient
temperament, had been little accustomed to seek those resources which are
found in books. But somehow in that sick chamber--it was Fanny's voice--
the voice of her over whose mind he had once so haughtily lamented, that
taught him how much of aid and solace the Herd of Men derive from the
Everlasting Genius of the Few.
Gradually, and interval by interval, moment by moment, thus drawn
together, all thought beyond shut out (for, however crushing for the time
the blow that had stricken Philip from health and reason, he was not that
slave to a guilty fancy, that he could voluntarily indulge--that he would
not earnestly seek to shun--all sentiments 'chat yet turned with unholy
yearning towards the betrothed of his brother);--gradually, I say, and
slowly, came those progressive and delicious epochs which mark a
revolution in the affections:--unspeakable gratitude, brotherly
tenderness, the united strength of compassion and respect that he had
felt for Fanny seemed, as he gained health, to mellow into feelings yet
more exquisite and deep. He could no longer delude himself with a vain
and imperious belief that it was a defective mind that his heart
protected; he began again to be sensible to the rare beauty of that
tender face--more lovely, perhaps, for the paleness that had replaced its
bloom. The fancy that he had so imperiously checked before--before he
saw Camilla, returned to him, and neither pride nor honour had now the
right to chase the soft wings away. One evening, fancying himself alone,
he fell into a profound reverie; he awoke with a start, and the
exclamation, "was it true love that I ever felt for Camilla, or a
passion, a frenzy, a delusion?"
His exclamation was answered by a sound that seemed both of joy and
grief. He looked up, and saw Fanny before him; the light of the moon,
just risen, fell full on her form, but her hands were clasped before her
face; he heard her sob.
"Fanny, dear Fanny!" he cried, and sought to throw himself from the sofa
to her feet. But she drew herself away, and fled from the chamber silent
as a dream.
Philip rose, and, for the first time since his illness, walked, but with
feeble steps, to and fro the room. With what different emotions from
those in which last, in fierce and intolerable agony, he had paced that
narrow boundary! Returning health crept through his veins--a serene, a
kindly, a celestial joy circumfused his heart. Had the time yet come
when the old Florimel had melted into snow; when the new and the true
one, with its warm life, its tender beauty, its maiden wealth of love,
had risen before his hopes? He paused before the window; the spot within
seemed so confined, the night without so calm and lovely, that he forgot
his still-clinging malady, and unclosed the casement: the air came soft
and fresh upon his temples, and the church-tower and spire, for the first
time, did not seem to him to rise in gloom against the heavens. Even the
gravestone of Catherine, half in moonlight, half in shadow, appeared to
him to wear a smile. His mother's memory was become linked with the
"Thou art vindicated--thy Sidney is happy," he murmured: "to her the
Fair hopes, and soft thoughts busy within him, he remained at the
casement till the increasing chill warned him of the danger he incurred.
The next day, when the physician visited him, he found the fever had
returned. For many days, Philip was again in danger--dull, unconscious
even of the step and voice of Fanny.
He woke at last as from a long and profound sleep; woke so refreshed, so
revived, that he felt at once that some great crisis had been passed, and
that at length he had struggled back to the sunny shores of Life.
By his bedside sat Liancourt, who, long alarmed at his disappearance, had
at last contrived, with the help of Mr. Barlow, to trace him to Gawtrey's
house, and had for several days taken share in the vigils of poor Fanny.
While he was yet explaining all this to Philip, and congratulating
him on his evident recovery, the physician entered to confirm the
congratulation. In a few days the invalid was able to quit his room, and
nothing but change of air seemed necessary for his convalescence. It was
then that Liancourt, who had for two days seemed impatient to unburden
himself of some communication, thus addressed him:--
"My--My dear friend, I have learned now your story from Barlow, who
called several times during your relapse; and who is the more anxious
about you, as the time for the decision of your case now draws near. The
sooner you quit this house the better."
"Quit this house! and why? Is there not one in this house to whom I owe
my fortune and my life?"
"Yes; and for that reason I say, 'Go hence:' it is the only return you
can make her."
"I will," said Liancourt, gravely. "I have been a watcher with her by
your sick-bed, and I know what you must feel already:--nay, I must
confess that even the old servant has ventured to speak to me. You have
inspired that poor girl with feelings dangerous to her peace."
"Ha!" cried Philip, with such joy that Liancourt frowned, and said,
"Hitherto I have believed you too honourable to--"
"So you think she loves me?" interrupted Philip. "Yes; what then? You,
the heir of Beaufort Court, of a rental of L20,000. a year,--of an
historical name,--you cannot marry this poor girl?"
"Well!--I will consider what you say, and, at all events, I will leave
the house to attend the result of the trial. Let us talk no more on the
Philip had the penetration to perceive that Liancourt, who was greatly
moved by the beauty, the innocence, and the unprotected position of
Fanny, had not confined caution to himself; that with his characteristic
well-meaning bluntness, and with the license of a man somewhat advanced
in years, he had spoken to Fanny herself: for Fanny now seemed to shun
Philip,--her eyes were heavy, her manner was embarrassed. He saw the
change, but it did not grieve him; he hailed the omens which he drew from
And at last he and Liancourt went. He was absent three weeks, during
which time the formality of the friendly lawsuit was decided in the
plaintiff's favour; and the public were in ecstasies at the noble and
sublime conduct of Mr. Robert Beaufort: who, the moment he had discovered
a document which he might so easily have buried for ever in oblivion,
voluntarily agreed to dispossess himself of estates he had so long
enjoyed, preferring conscience to lucre. Some persons observed that it
was reported that Mr. Philip Beaufort had also been generous--that he had
agreed to give up the estates for his uncle's life, and was only in the
meanwhile to receive a fourth of the revenues. But the universal comment
was, "He could not have done less!" Mr. Robert Beaufort was, as Lord
Lilburne had once observed, a man who was born, made, and reared to be
spoken well of by the world; and it was a comfort to him now, poor man,
to feel that his character was so highly estimated. If Philip should
live to the age of one hundred, he will never become so respectable and
popular a man with the crowd as his worthy uncle. But does it much
matter? Philip returned to H---- the eve before the day fixed for the
marriage of his brother and Camilla.
From Night, Sunshine and Day arose--HES
The sun of early May shone cheerfully over the quiet suburb of H----.
In the thoroughfares life was astir. It was the hour of noon--the hour
at which commerce is busy, and streets are full. The old retired trader,
eying wistfully the rolling coach or the oft-pausing omnibus, was
breathing the fresh and scented air in the broadest and most crowded
road, from which, afar in the distance, rose the spires of the
metropolis. The boy let loose from the day-school was hurrying home to
dinner, his satchel on his back: the ballad-singer was sending her
cracked whine through the obscurer alleys, where the baker's boy, with
puddings on his tray, and the smart maid-servant, despatched for porter,
paused to listen. And round the shops where cheap shawls and cottons
tempted the female eye, many a loitering girl detained her impatient
mother, and eyed the tickets and calculated her hard-gained savings for
the Sunday gear. And in the corners of the streets steamed the itinerant
kitchens of the piemen, and rose the sharp cry, "All hot! all hot!" in
the ear of infant and ragged hunger. And amidst them all rolled on some
lazy coach of ancient merchant or withered maiden, unconscious of any
life but that creeping through their own languid veins. And before the
house in which Catherine died, there loitered many stragglers, gossips,
of the hamlet, subscribers to the news-room hard by, to guess, and
speculate, and wonder why, from the church behind, there rose the merry
peal of the marriage-bell!
At length along the broad road leading from the great city, there were
seen rapidly advancing three carriages of a very different fashion from
those familiar to the suburb. On they came; swiftly they whirled round
the angle that conducted to the church; the hoofs of the gay steeds
ringing cheerily on the ground; the white favours of the servants
gleaming in the sun. Happy is the bride the sun shines on! And when the
carriages had thus vanished, the scattered groups melted into one crowd,
and took their way to the church. They stood idling without in the
burial-ground; many of them round the fence that guarded from their
footsteps Catherine's lonely grave. All in nature was glad,
exhilarating, and yet serene; a genial freshness breathed through the
soft air; not a cloud was to be seen in the smiling azure; even the old
dark yews seemed happy in their everlasting verdure. The bell ceased,
and then even the crowd grew silent; and not a sound was heard in that
solemn spot to whose demesnes are consecrated alike the Birth, the
Marriage, and the Death.
At length there came forth from the church door the goodly form of a rosy
beadle. Approaching the groups, he whispered the better-dressed and
commanded the ragged, remonstrated with the old and lifted his cane
against the young; and the result of all was, that the churchyard, not
without many a murmur and expostulation, was cleared, and the crowd fell
back in the space behind the gates of the principal entrance, where they
swayed and gaped and chattered round the carriages, which were to bear
away the bridal party.
Within the church, as the ceremony was now concluded, Philip Beaufort
conducted, hand-in-hand, silently along the aisle, his brother's wife.
Leaning on his stick, his cold sneer upon his thin lip, Lord Lilburne
limped, step by step, with the pair, though a little apart from them,
glancing from moment to moment at the face of Philip Beaufort, where he
had hoped to read a grief that he could not detect. Lord Lilburne had
carefully refrained from an interview with Philip till that day, and he
now only came to the wedding as a surgeon goes to an hospital, to examine
a disease he had been told would be great and sore: he was disappointed.
Close behind followed Sidney, radiant with joy, and bloom, and beauty;
and his kind guardian, the tears rolling down his eyes, murmured
blessings as he looked upon him. Mrs. Beaufort had declined attending
the ceremony--her nerves were too weak--but, behind, at a longer
interval, came Robert Beaufort, sober, staid, collected as ever to
outward seeming; but a close observer might have seen that his eye had
lost its habitual complacent cunning, that his step was more heavy, his
stoop more joyless. About his air there was a some thing crestfallen.
The consciousness of acres had passed away from his portly presence.
He was no longer a possessor, but a pensioner. The rich man, who had
decided as he pleased on the happiness of others, was a cipher; he had
ceased to have any interest in anything. What to him the marriage of
his daughter now? Her children would not be the heirs of Beaufort. As
Camilla kindly turned round, and through happy tears waited for his
approach, to clasp his hand, he forced a smile, but it was sickly and
piteous. He longed to creep away, and be alone.
"My father!" said Camilla, in her sweet low voice; and she extricated
herself from Philip, and threw herself on his breast.
"She is a good child," said Robert Beaufort vacantly, and, turning his
dry eyes to the group, he caught instinctively at his customary
commonplaces;--"and a good child, Mr. Sidney, makes a good wife!"
The clergyman bowed as if the compliment were addressed to himself: he
was the only man there whom Robert Beaufort could now deceive.
"My sister," said Philip Beaufort, as once more leaning on his arm, they
paused before the church door, "may Sidney love and prize you as--as I
would have done; and believe me, both of you, I have no regret, no
memory, that wounds me now."
He dropped the hand, and motioned to her father to load her to the
carriage. Then winding his arm into Sidney's, he said,--
"Wait till they are gone: I have one word yet with you. Go on,
The clergyman bowed, and walked through the churchyard. But Lilburne,
pausing and surveying Philip Beaufort, said to him, whisperingly,--
"And so much for feeling--the folly! So much for generosity--the
delusion! Happy man!"
"I am thoroughly happy, Lord Lilburne."
"Are you?--Then, it was neither feeling nor generosity; and we were taken
in! Good day." With that he limped slowly to the gate.
Philip answered not the sarcasm even by a look. For at that moment a
loud shout was set up by the mob without--they had caught a glimpse of
"Come, Sidney, this way." he said; "I must not detain you long."
Arm in arm they passed out of the church, and turned to the spot hard by,
where the flowers smiled up to them from the stone on their mother's
The old inscription had been effaced, and the name of CATHERINE BEAUFORT
was placed upon the stone. "Brother," said Philip, "do not forget this
grave: years hence, when children play around your own hearth. Observe,
the name of Catherine Beaufort is fresher on the stone than the dates of
birth and death--the name was only inscribed there to-day--your wedding-
day. Brother, by this grave we are now indeed united."
"Oh, Philip!" cried Sidney, in deep emotion, clasping the hand stretched
out to him; "I feel, I feel how noble, how great you are--that you have
sacrificed more than I dreamed of--"
"Hush!" said Philip, with a smile. "No talk of this. I am happier than
you deem me. Go back now--she waits you."
"And you?--leave you!--alone!"
"Not alone," said Philip, pointing to the grave.
Scarce had he spoken when, from the gate, came the shrill, clear voice of
"We wait for Mr. Sidney Beaufort."
Sidney passed his hand over his eyes, wrung the hand of his brother once
more, and in a moment was by Camilla's side.
Another shout--the whirl of the wheels--the trampling of feet--the
distant hum and murmur--and all was still. The clerk returned to lock
up the church--he did not observe where Philip stood in the shadow of the
wall--and went home to talk of the gay wedding, and inquire at what hour
the funeral of the young woman; his next-door neighbour, would take place
the next day.
It might be a quarter of an hour after Philip was thus left--nor had he
moved from the spot--when he felt his sleeve pulled gently. He turned
round and saw before him the wistful face of Fanny!
"So you would not come to the wedding?" said he.
"No. But I fancied you might be here alone--and sad."
"And you will not even wear the dress I gave you?"
"Another time. Tell me, are you unhappy?"
"Unhappy, Fanny! No; look around. The very burial-ground has a smile.
See the laburnums clustering over the wall, listen to the birds on the
dark yews above, and yonder see even the butterfly has settled upon her
"I am not unhappy." As he thus spoke he looked at her earnestly, and
taking both her hands in his, drew her gently towards him, and continued:
"Fanny, do you remember, that, leaning over that gate, I once spoke to
you of the happiness of marriage where two hearts are united? Nay,
Fanny, nay, I must go on. It was here in this spot,--it was here that
I first saw you on my return to England. I came to seek the dead, and
I have thought since, it was my mother's guardian spirit that drew me
hither to find you--the living! And often afterwards, Fanny, you would
come with me here, when, blinded and dull as I was, I came to brood and
to repine, insensible of the treasures even then perhaps within my reach.
But, best as it was: the ordeal through which I have passed has made me
more grateful for the prize I now dare to hope for. On this grave your
hand daily renewed the flowers. By this grave, the link between the Time
and the Eternity, whose lessons we have read together, will you consent
to record our vows? Fanny, dearest, fairest, tenderest, best, I love
you, and at last as alone you should be loved!--I woo you as my wife!
Mine, not for a season, but for ever--for ever, even when these graves
are open, and the World shrivels like a scroll. Do you understand me?--
do you heed me?--or have I dreamed that that--"
He stopped short--a dismay seized him at her silence. Had he been
mistaken in his divine belief!--the fear was momentary: for Fanny, who
had recoiled as he spoke, now placing her hands to her temples, gazing on
him, breathlessly and with lips apart, as if, indeed, with great effort
and struggle her modest spirit conceived the possibility of the happiness
that broke upon it, advanced timidly, her face suffused in blushes; and,
looking into his eyes, as if she would read into his very soul, said,
with an accent, the intenseness of which showed that her whole fate hung
on his answer,--
"But this is pity?--they have told you that I--in short, you are
generous--you--you--Oh, deceive me not! Do you love her still?--Can you
--do you love the humble, foolish Fanny?"
"As God shall judge me, sweet one, I am sincere! I have survived a
passion--never so deep, so tender, so entire as that I now feel for you!
And, oh, Fanny, hear this true confession. It was you--you to whom my
heart turned before I saw Camilla!--against that impulse I struggled in
the blindness of a haughty error!"
Fanny uttered a low and suppressed cry of delight and rapture. Philip
"Fanny, make blessed the life you have saved. Fate destined us for each
other. Fate for me has ripened your sweet mind. Fate for you has
softened this rugged heart. We may have yet much to bear and much to
learn. We will console and teach each other!"
He drew her to his breast as he spoke--drew her trembling, blushing,
confused, but no more reluctant; and there, by the GRAVE that had been
so memorable a scene in their common history, were murmured those vows in
which all this world knows of human happiness is treasured and recorded--
love that takes the sting from grief, and faith that gives eternity to
love. All silent, yet all serene around them! Above, the heaven,--at
their feet, the grave:--For the love, the grave!--for the faith, the
CHAPTER THE LAST.
"A labore reclinat otium."--HORAT.
[Leisure unbends itself from labour.]
I feel that there is some justice in the affection the general reader
entertains for the old-fashioned and now somewhat obsolete custom, of
giving to him, at the close of a work, the latest news of those who
sought his acquaintance through its progress.
The weak but well-meaning Smith, no more oppressed by the evil
influence of his brother, has continued to pass his days in comfort and
respectability on the income settled on him by Philip Beaufort. Mr. and
Mrs. Roger Morton still live, and have just resigned their business to
their eldest son; retiring themselves to a small villa adjoining the town
in which they had made their fortune. Mrs. Morton is very apt, when she
goes out to tea, to talk of her dear deceased sister-in-law, the late
Mrs. Beaufort, and of her own remarkable kindness to her nephew when a
little boy. She observes that, in fact, the young men owe everything to
Mr. Roger and herself; and, indeed, though Sidney was never of a grateful
disposition, and has not been near her since, yet the elder brother, the
Mr. Beaufort, always evinces his respect to them by the yearly present of
a fat buck. She then comments on the ups and downs of life; and observes
that it is a pity her son Tom preferred the medical profession to the
church. Their cousin, Mr. Beaufort, has two livings. To all this Mr.
Roger says nothing, except an occasional "Thank Heaven, I want no man's
help! I am as well to do as my neighbours. But that's neither here nor
There are some readers--they who do not thoroughly consider the truths of
this life--who will yet ask, "But how is Lord Lilburne punished?"
Punished?--ay, and indeed, how? The world, and not the poet, must answer
that question. Crime is punished from without. If Vice is punished, it
must be from within. The Lilburnes of this hollow world are not to be
pelted with the soft roses of poetical justice. They who ask why he is
not punished may be the first to doff the hat to the equipage in which my
lord lolls through the streets! The only offence he habitually committed
of a nature to bring the penalties of detection, he renounced the moment
he perceived there was clanger of discovery! he gambled no more after
Philip's hint. He was one of those, some years after, most bitter upon
a certain nobleman charged with unfair play--one of those who took the
accusation as proved; and whose authority settled all disputes thereon.
But, if no thunderbolt falls on Lord Lilburne's head--if he is fated
still to eat, and drink, and to die on his bed, he may yet taste the
ashes of the Dead Sea fruit which his hands have culled. He is grown
old. His infirmities increase upon him; his sole resources of pleasure
--the senses--are dried up. For him there is no longer savour in the
viands, or sparkle in the wine,--man delights him not, nor woman neither.
He is alone with Old Age, and in the sight of Death.
With the exception of Simon, who died in his chair not many days after
Sidney's marriage, Robert Beaufort is the only one among the more
important agents left at the last scene of this history who has passed
from our mortal stage.
After the marriage of his daughter he for some time moped and drooped.
But Philip learned from Mr. Blackwell of the will that Robert had made
previously to the lawsuit; and by which, had the lawsuit failed, his
rights would yet have been preserved to him. Deeply moved by a
generosity he could not have expected from his uncle, and not pausing
to inquire too closely how far it was to be traced to the influence of
Arthur, Philip so warmly expressed his gratitude, and so surrounded Mr.
Beaufort with affectionate attentions, that the poor man began to recover
his self-respect,--began even to regard the nephew he had so long
dreaded, as a son,--to forgive him for not marrying Camilla. And,
perhaps, to his astonishment, an act in his life for which the customs of
the world (that never favour natural ties not previously sanctioned by
the legal) would have rather censured than praised, became his
consolation; and the memory he was most proud to recall. He gradually
recovered his spirits; he was very fond of looking over that will: he
carefully preserved it: he even flattered himself that it was necessary
to preserve Philip from all possible litigation hereafter; for if the
estates were not legally Philip's, why, then, they were his to dispose of
as he pleased. He was never more happy than when his successor was by
his side; and was certainly a more cheerful and, I doubt not, a better
man--during the few years in which he survived the law-suit--than ever he
had been before. He died--still member for the county, and still quoted
as a pattern to county members--in Philip's arms; and on his lips there
was a smile that even Lilburne would have called sincere.
Mrs. Beaufort, after her husband's death, established herself in London;
and could never be persuaded to visit Beaufort Court. She took a
companion, who more than replaced, in her eyes, the absence of Camilla.
And Camilla-Spencer-Sidney. They live still by the gentle Lake, happy in
their own serene joys and graceful leisure; shunning alike ambition and
its trials, action and its sharp vicissitudes; envying no one, covetous
of nothing; making around them, in the working world, something of the
old pastoral and golden holiday. If Camilla had at one time wavered in
her allegiance to Sidney, her good and simple heart has long since been
entirely regained by his devotion; and, as might be expected from her
disposition, she loved him better after marriage than before.
Philip had gone through severer trials than Sidney. But, had their
earlier fates been reversed, and that spirit, in youth so haughty and
self-willed, been lapped in ease and luxury, would Philip now be a better
or a happier man? Perhaps, too, for a less tranquil existence than his
brother, Philip yet may be reserved; but, in proportion to the uses of
our destiny, do we repose or toil: he who never knows pain knows but the
half of pleasure. The lot of whatever is most noble on the earth below
falls not amidst the rosy Gardels of the Epicurean. We may envy the man
who enjoys and rests; but the smile of Heaven settles rather on the front
of him who labours and aspires.
And did Philip ever regret the circumstances that had given him Fanny for
the partner of his life? To some who take their notions of the Ideal
from the conventional rules of romance, rather than from their own
perceptions of what is true, this narrative would have been more pleasing
had Philip never loved but Fanny. But all that had led to that love had
only served to render it more enduring and concentred. Man's strongest
and worthiest affection is his last--is the one that unites and embodies
all his past dreams of what is excellent--the one from which Hope springs
out the brighter from former disappointments--the one in which the
MEMORIES are the most tender and the most abundant--the one which,
replacing all others, nothing hereafter can replace.
. . . . . .
And now ere the scene closes, and the audience, whom perhaps the actors
may have interested for a while, disperse, to forget amidst the pursuits
of actual life the Shadows that have amused an hour, or beguiled a care,
let the curtain fall on one happy picture:--
It is some years after the marriage of Philip and Fanny. It is a summer
morning. In a small old-fashioned room at Beaufort Court, with its
casements open to the gardens, stood Philip, having just entered; and
near the window sat Fanny, his boy by her side. She was at the mother's
hardest task--the first lessons to the first-born child; and as the boy
looked up at her sweet earnest face with a smile of intelligence on his
own, you might have seen at a glance how well understood were the teacher
and the pupil. Yes: whatever might have been wanting in the Virgin to
the full development of mind, the cares of the mother had supplied. When
a being was born to lean on her alone--dependent on her providence for
life--then hour after hour, step after step, in the progress of infant
destinies, had the reason of the mother grown in the child's growth,
adapting itself to each want that it must foresee, and taking its
perfectness and completion from the breath of the New Love!
The child caught sight of Philip and rushed to embrace him.
"See!" whispered Fanny, as she also hung upon him, and strange
recollections of her own mysterious childhood crowded upon her,--"See,"
whispered she, with a blush half of shame and half of pride, "the poor
idiot girl is the teacher of your child!"
"And," answered Philip, "whether for child or mother, what teacher is
Thus saying, he took the boy into his arms; and, as he bent over those
rosy cheeks, Fanny saw, from the movement of his lips and the moisture in
his eyes, that he blessed God. He looked upon the mother's face, he
glanced round on the flowers and foliage of the luxurious summer, and
again he blessed God: And without and within, it was Light and MORNING!