Part 7 out of 10
correspondence. But honour, what is honour in these dishonourable
days? This is my reward. She contrived to enter my house this evening,
dressed like a farmer's boy, and you may imagine what ensued; rage,
hysterics, and repentance. I am sure if Monteagle had seen me, he
would not have been jealous. I never opened my mouth, but, like a
fool, sent her home in my carriage; and now I am going to be run
through the body for my politeness.'
In this light strain, blended, however, with more decorous feeling on
the part of Lord Scrope, the young men conversed until the messenger's
return with Lord Monteagle's answer. In Hyde Park, in the course of an
hour, himself and Lord Cadurcis, attended by their friends, were to
'Well, there is nothing like having these affairs over,' said
Cadurcis; 'and to confess the truth, my dear Scrope, I should not much
care if Monteagle were to despatch me to my fathers; for, in the whole
course of my miserable life, and miserable, whatever the world may
think, it has been, I never felt much more wretched than I have during
the last four-and-twenty hours. By Jove! do you know I was going to
leave England this morning, and I have ordered my horses, too.'
'Yes, leave England; and where I never intended to return.'
'Well, you are the oddest person I ever knew, Cadurcis. I should have
thought you the happiest person that ever existed. Everybody admires,
everybody envies you. You seem to have everything that man can desire.
Your life is a perpetual triumph.'
'Ah! my dear Scrope, there is a skeleton in every house. If you knew
all, you would not envy me.'
'Well, we have not much time,' said Lord Scrope; 'have you any
arrangements to make?'
'None. My property goes to George, who is my only relative, without
the necessity of a will, otherwise I should leave everything to him,
for he is a good fellow, and my blood is in his veins. Just you
remember, Scrope, that I will be buried with my mother. That is all;
and now let us get ready.'
The sun had just risen when the young men went forth, and the day
promised to be as brilliant as the preceding one. Not a soul was
stirring in the courtly quarter in which Cadurcis resided; even the
last watchman had stolen to repose. They called a hackney coach at the
first stand they reached, and were soon at the destined spot. They
were indeed before their time, and strolling by the side of the
Serpentine, Cadurcis said, 'Yesterday morning was one of the happiest
of my life, Scrope, and I was in hopes that an event would have
occurred in the course of the day that might have been my salvation.
If it had, by-the-bye, I should not have returned to town, and got
into this cursed scrape. However, the gods were against me, and now I
Now Lord Monteagle and his friend, who was Mr. Horace Pole, appeared.
Cadurcis advanced, and bowed; Lord Monteagle returned his bow,
stiffly, but did not speak. The seconds chose their ground, the
champions disembarrassed themselves of their coats, and their swords
crossed. It was a brief affair. After a few passes, Cadurcis received
a slight wound in his arm, while his weapon pierced his antagonist in
the breast. Lord Monteagle dropped his sword and fell.
'You had better fly, Lord Cadurcis,' said Mr. Horace Pole. 'This is a
bad business, I fear; we have a surgeon at hand, and he can help us to
the coach that is waiting close by.'
'I thank you, sir, I never fly,' said Lord Cadurcis; 'and I shall wait
here until I see your principal safely deposited in his carriage; he
will have no objection to my friend, Lord Scrope, assisting him, who,
by his presence to-day, has only fulfilled one of the painful duties
that society imposes upon us.'
The surgeon gave an unfavourable report of the wound, which he dressed
on the field. Lord Monteagle was then borne to his carriage, which was
at hand, and Lord Scrope, the moment he had seen the equipage move
slowly off, returned to his friend.
'Well Cadurcis,' he exclaimed in an anxious voice, 'I hope you have
not killed him. What will you do now?'
'I shall go home, and await the result, my dear Scrope. I am sorry for
you, for this may get you into trouble. For myself, I care nothing.'
'You bleed!' said Lord Scrope.
'A scratch. I almost wish our lots had been the reverse. Come, Scrope,
help me on with my coat. Yesterday I lost my heart, last night I lost
my money, and perhaps to-morrow I shall lose my arm. It seems we are
not in luck.
It has been well observed, that no spectacle is so ridiculous as the
British public in one of its periodical fits of morality. In general,
elopements, divorces, and family quarrels pass with little notice. We
read the scandal, talk about it for a day, and forget it. But, once in
six or seven years, our virtue becomes outrageous. We cannot suffer
the laws of religion and decency to be violated. We must make a
stand against vice. We must teach libertines that the English people
appreciate the importance of domestic ties. Accordingly, some
unfortunate man, in no respect more depraved than hundreds whose
offences have been treated with lenity, is singled out as an expiatory
sacrifice. If he has children, they are to be taken from him. If he
has a profession, he is to be driven from it. He is cut by the higher
orders, and hissed by the lower. He is, in truth, a sort of whipping
boy, by whose vicarious agonies all the other transgressors of the
same class are, it is supposed, sufficiently chastised. We reflect
very complacently on our own severity, and compare, with great pride,
the high standard of morals established in England, with the Parisian
laxity. At length, our anger is satiated, our victim is ruined and
heart-broken, and our virtue goes quietly to sleep for seven years
These observations of a celebrated writer apply to the instance of
Lord Cadurcis; he was the periodical victim, the scapegoat of English
morality, sent into the wilderness with all the crimes and curses of
the multitude on his head. Lord Cadurcis had certainly committed a
great crime: not his intrigue with Lady Monteagle, for that surely was
not an unprecedented offence; not his duel with her husband, for after
all it was a duel in self-defence; and, at all events, divorces
and duels, under any circumstances, would scarcely have excited or
authorised the storm which was now about to burst over the late
spoiled child of society. But Lord Cadurcis had been guilty of the
offence which, of all offences, is punished most severely: Lord
Cadurcis had been overpraised. He had excited too warm an interest;
and the public, with its usual justice, was resolved to chastise him
for its own folly.
There are no fits of caprice so hasty and so violent as those of
society. Society, indeed, is all passion and no heart. Cadurcis, in
allusion to his sudden and singular success, had been in the habit of
saying to his intimates, that he 'woke one morning and found himself
famous.' He might now observe, 'I woke one morning and found myself
infamous.' Before twenty-four hours had passed over his duel with Lord
Monteagle, he found himself branded by every journal in London, as an
unprincipled and unparalleled reprobate. The public, without waiting
to think or even to inquire after the truth, instantly selected as
genuine the most false and the most flagrant of the fifty libellous
narratives that were circulated of the transaction. Stories,
inconsistent with themselves, were all alike eagerly believed, and
what evidence there might be for any one of them, the virtuous people,
by whom they were repeated, neither cared nor knew. The public, in
short, fell into a passion with their darling, and, ashamed of their
past idolatry, nothing would satisfy them but knocking the divinity on
Until Lord Monteagle, to the great regret of society, who really
wished him to die in order that his antagonist might commit murder,
was declared out of danger, Lord Cadurcis never quitted his house, and
he was not a little surprised that scarcely a human being called upon
him except his cousin, who immediately flew to his succour. George,
indeed, would gladly have spared Cadurcis any knowledge of the storm
that was raging against him, and which he flattered himself would blow
over before Cadurcis was again abroad; but he was so much with
his cousin, and Cadurcis was so extremely acute and naturally so
suspicious, that this was impossible. Moreover, his absolute desertion
by his friends, and the invectives and the lampoons with which the
newspapers abounded, and of which he was the subject, rendered any
concealment out of the question, and poor George passed his life in
running about contradicting falsehoods, stating truth, fighting his
cousin's battles, and then reporting to him, in the course of the day,
the state of the campaign.
Cadurcis, being a man of infinite sensibility, suffered tortures. He
had been so habituated to panegyric, that the slightest criticism
ruffled him, and now his works had suddenly become the subject of
universal and outrageous attack; having lived only in a cloud of
incense, he suddenly found himself in a pillory of moral indignation;
his writings, his habits, his temper, his person, were all alike
ridiculed and vilified. In a word, Cadurcis, the petted, idolised,
spoiled Cadurcis, was enduring that charming vicissitude in a
prosperous existence, styled a reaction; and a conqueror, who deemed
himself invincible, suddenly vanquished, could scarcely be more
thunderstruck, or feel more impotently desperate.
The tortures of his mind, however, which this sudden change in his
position and in the opinions of society, were of themselves competent
to occasion to one of so impetuous and irritable a temperament, and
who ever magnified both misery and delight with all the creative
power of a brooding imagination, were excited in his case even to the
liveliest agony, when he reminded himself of the situation in which he
was now placed with Venetia. All hope of ever obtaining her hand had
now certainly vanished, and he doubted whether even her love could
survive the quick occurrence, after his ardent vows, of this degrading
and mortifying catastrophe. He execrated Lady Monteagle with the most
heartfelt rage, and when he remembered that all this time the world
believed him the devoted admirer of this vixen, his brain was
stimulated almost to the verge of insanity. His only hope of the
truth reaching Venetia was through the medium of his cousin, and he
impressed daily upon Captain Cadurcis the infinite consolation it
would prove to him, if he could contrive to make her aware of the real
facts of the case. According to the public voice, Lady Monteagle at
his solicitation had fled to his house, and remained there, and her
husband forced his entrance into the mansion in the middle of the
night, while his wife escaped disguised in Lord Cadurcis' clothes.
She did not, however, reach Monteagle House in time enough to
escape detection by her lord, who had instantly sought and obtained
satisfaction from his treacherous friend. All the monstrous inventions
of the first week had now subsided into this circumstantial and
undoubted narrative; at least this was the version believed by those
who had been Cadurcis' friends. They circulated the authentic tale
with the most considerate assiduity, and shook their heads, and said
it was too bad, and that he must not be countenanced.
The moment Lord Monteagle was declared out of danger, Lord Cadurcis
made his appearance in public. He walked into Brookes', and everybody
seemed suddenly so deeply interested in the newspapers, that you might
have supposed they had brought intelligence of a great battle, or a
revolution, or a change of ministry at the least. One or two men spoke
to him, who had never presumed to address him at any other time, and
he received a faint bow from a distinguished nobleman, who had ever
professed for him the greatest consideration and esteem.
Cadurcis mounted his horse and rode down to the House of Lords. There
was a debate of some public interest, and a considerable crowd was
collected round the Peers' entrance. The moment Lord Cadurcis was
recognised, the multitude began hooting. He was agitated, and grinned
a ghastly smile at the rabble. But he dismounted, without further
annoyance, and took his seat. Not a single peer of his own party spoke
to him. The leader of the Opposition, indeed, bowed to him, and, in
the course of the evening, he received, from one or two more of his
party, some formal evidences of frigid courtesy. The tone of his
reception by his friends could not be concealed from the ministerial
party. It was soon detected, and generally whispered, that Lord
Cadurcis was cut. Nevertheless, he sat out the debate and voted. The
house broke up. He felt lonely; his old friend, the Bishop of----, who
had observed all that had occurred, and who might easily have avoided
him, came forward, however, in the most marked manner, and, in a tone
which everybody heard, said, 'How do you do, Lord Cadurcis? I am very
glad to see you,' shaking his hand most cordially. This made a great
impression. Several of the Tory Lords, among them Venetia's uncle, now
advanced and sainted him. He received their advances with a haughty,
but not disdainful, courtesy; but when his Whig friends, confused, now
hurried to encumber him with their assistance, he treated them with
the scorn which they well deserved.
'Will you take a seat in my carriage home, Lord Cadurcis?' said his
leader, for it was notorious that Cadurcis had been mobbed on his
'Thank you, my lord,' said Cadurcis, speaking very audibly, 'I
prefer returning as I came. We are really both of us such unpopular
personages, that your kindness would scarcely be prudent.'
The house had been full; there was a great scuffle and confusion as
the peers were departing; the mob, now considerable, were prepared for
the appearance of Lord Cadurcis, and their demeanour was menacing.
Some shouted out his name; then it was repeated with odious and
vindictive epithets, followed by ferocious yells. A great many
peers collected round Cadurcis, and entreated him not to return on
horseback. It must be confessed that genuine and considerable feeling
was now shown by all men of all parties. And indeed to witness this
young, and noble, and gifted creature, but a few days back the idol
of the nation, and from whom a word, a glance even, was deemed the
greatest and most gratifying distinction, whom all orders, classes,
and conditions of men had combined to stimulate with multiplied
adulation, with all the glory and ravishing delights of the world, as
it were, forced upon him, to see him thus assailed with the savage
execrations of all those vile things who exult in the fall of
everything that is great, and the abasement of everything that is
noble, was indeed a spectacle which might have silenced malice and
'My carriage is most heartily at your service, Lord Cadurcis,' said
the noble leader of the government in the upper house; 'you can enter
it without the slightest suspicion by these ruffians.' 'Lord Cadurcis;
my dear lord; my good lord, for our sakes, if not for your own;
Cadurcis, dear Cadurcis, my good Cadurcis, it is madness, folly,
insanity; a mob will do anything, and an English mob is viler than
all; for Heaven's sake!' Such were a few of the varied exclamations
which resounded on all sides, but which produced on the person to whom
they were addressed only the result of his desiring the attendant to
call for his horses.
The lobby was yet full; it was a fine thing in the light of the
archway to see Cadurcis spring into his saddle. Instantly there was a
horrible yell. Yet in spite of all their menaces, the mob were for a
time awed by his courage; they made way for him; he might even have
rode quickly on for some few yards, but he would not; he reined his
fiery steed into a slow but stately pace, and, with a countenance
scornful and composed, he continued his progress, apparently
unconscious of impediment. Meanwhile, the hooting continued without
abatement, increasing indeed, after the first comparative pause,
in violence and menace. At length a bolder ruffian, excited by the
uproar, rushed forward and seized Cadurcis' bridle. Cadurcis struck
the man over the eyes with his whip, and at the same time touched his
horse with his spur, and the assailant was dashed to the ground. This
seemed a signal for a general assault. It commenced with hideous
yells. His friends at the house, who had watched everything with the
keenest interest, immediately directed all the constables who were at
hand to rush to his succour; hitherto they had restrained the police,
lest their interference might stimulate rather than repress the mob.
The charge of the constables was well timed; they laid about them with
their staves; you might have heard the echo of many a broken crown.
Nevertheless, though they dispersed the mass, they could not penetrate
the immediate barrier that surrounded Lord Cadurcis, whose only
defence indeed, for they had cut off his groom, was the terrors of his
horse's heels, and whose managed motions he regulated with admirable
skill, now rearing, now prancing, now kicking behind, and now
turning round with a quick yet sweeping motion, before which the mob
retreated. Off his horse, however, they seemed resolved to drag him;
and it was not difficult to conceive, if they succeeded, what must
be his eventual fate. They were infuriate, but his contact with his
assailants fortunately prevented their co-mates from hurling stones at
him from the fear of endangering their own friends.
A messenger to the Horse Guards had been sent from the House of Lords;
but, before the military could arrive, and fortunately (for, with
their utmost expedition, they must have been too late), a rumour of
the attack got current in the House of Commons. Captain Cadurcis,
Lord Scrope, and a few other young men instantly rushed out; and,
ascertaining the truth, armed with good cudgels and such other
effective weapons as they could instantly obtain, they mounted their
horses and charged the nearly-triumphant populace, dealing such
vigorous blows that their efforts soon made a visible diversion in
Lord Cadurcis' favour. It is difficult, indeed, to convey an idea of
the exertions and achievements of Captain Cadurcis; no Paladin of
chivalry ever executed such marvels on a swarm of Paynim slaves; and
many a bloody coxcomb and broken limb bore witness in Petty France
that night to his achievements. Still the mob struggled and were not
daunted by the delay in immolating their victim. As long as they had
only to fight against men in plain clothes, they were valorous and
obstinate enough; but the moment that the crests of a troop of Horse
Guards were seen trotting down Parliament Street, everybody ran away,
and in a few minutes all Palace-yard was as still as if the genius of
the place rendered a riot impossible.
Lord Cadurcis thanked his friends, who were profuse in their
compliments to his pluck. His manner, usually playful with his
intimates of his own standing, was, however, rather grave at present,
though very cordial. He asked them home to dine with him; but they
were obliged to decline his invitation, as a division was expected;
so, saying 'Good-bye, George, perhaps I shall see you to-night,'
Cadurcis rode rapidly off.
With Cadurcis there was but one step from the most exquisite
sensitiveness to the most violent defiance. The experience of this
day had entirely cured him of his previous nervous deference to the
feelings of society. Society had outraged him, and now he resolved to
outrage society. He owed society nothing; his reception at the House
of Lords and the riot in Palace-yard had alike cleared his accounts
with all orders of men, from the highest to the lowest. He had
experienced, indeed, some kindness that he could not forget, but only
from his own kin, and those who with his associations were the same as
kin. His memory dwelt with gratification on his cousin's courageous
zeal, and still more on the demonstration which Masham had made in his
favour, which, if possible, argued still greater boldness and sincere
regard. That was a trial of true affection, and an instance of moral
courage, which Cadurcis honoured, and which he never could forget. He
was anxious about Venetia; he wished to stand as well with her as he
deserved; no better; but he was grieved to think she could believe all
those infamous tales at present current respecting himself. But, for
the rest of the world, he delivered them all to the most absolute
contempt, disgust, and execration; he resolved, from this time,
nothing should ever induce him again to enter society, or admit the
advances of a single civilised ruffian who affected to be social. The
country, the people, their habits, laws, manners, customs, opinions,
and everything connected with them, were viewed with the same
jaundiced eye; and his only object now was to quit England, to which
he resolved never to return.
Venetia was, perhaps, not quite so surprised as the rest of her
friends, when, on their return to Richmond, Lord Cadurcis was not
again seen. She was very unhappy: she recalled the scene in the
garden at Cherbury some years back; and, with the knowledge of the
impetuosity of his temper, she believed she should never see him
again. Poor Plantagenet, who loved her so much, and whose love she so
fully returned! why might they not be happy? She neither doubted the
constancy of his affection, nor their permanent felicity if they
were united. She shared none of her mother's apprehensions or her
prejudices, but she was the victim of duty and her vow. In the course
of four-and-twenty hours, strange rumours were afloat respecting Lord
Cadurcis; and the newspapers on the ensuing morning told the truth,
and more than the truth. Venetia could not doubt as to the duel or the
elopement; but, instead of feeling indignation, she attributed what
had occurred to the desperation of his mortified mind; and she visited
on herself all the fatal consequences that had happened. At present,
however, all her emotions were quickly absorbed in the one terrible
fear that Lord Monteagle would die. In that dreadful and urgent
apprehension every other sentiment merged. It was impossible to
conceal her misery, and she entreated her mother to return to town.
Very differently, however, was the catastrophe viewed by Lady Annabel.
She, on the contrary, triumphed in her sagacity and her prudence. She
hourly congratulated herself on being the saviour of her daughter;
and though she refrained from indulging in any open exultation
over Venetia's escape and her own profound discretion, it was,
nevertheless, impossible for her to conceal from her daughter her
infinite satisfaction and self-congratulation. While Venetia was half
broken-hearted, her mother silently returned thanks to Providence for
the merciful dispensation which had exempted her child from so much
The day after their return to town, Captain Cadurcis called upon them.
Lady Annabel never mentioned the name of his cousin; but George,
finding no opportunity of conversing with Venetia alone, and being,
indeed, too much excited to speak on any other subject, plunged at
once into the full narrative; defended Lord Cadurcis, abused the
Monteagles and the slanderous world, and, in spite of Lady Annabel's
ill-concealed dissatisfaction, favoured her with an exact and
circumstantial account of everything that had happened, how it
happened, when it happened, and where it happened; concluding by a
declaration that Cadurcis was the best fellow that ever lived; the
most unfortunate, and the most ill-used; and that, if he were to be
hunted down for an affair like this, over which he had no control,
there was not a man in London who could be safe for ten minutes. All
that George effected by his zeal, was to convince Lady Annabel that
his cousin had entirely corrupted, him; she looked upon her former
favourite as another victim; but Venetia listened in silence, and not
Two or three days after the riot at the House of Lords, Captain
Cadurcis burst into his cousin's room with a triumphant countenance.
'Well, Plantagenet!' he exclaimed, 'I have done it; I have seen
her alone, and I have put you as right as possible. Nothing can be
'Tell me, my dear fellow,' said Lord Cadurcis, eagerly.
'Well, you know, I have called half-a-dozen times,' said George, 'but
either Lady Annabel was there, or they were not at home, or something
always occurred to prevent any private communication. But I met her
to-day with her aunt; I joined them immediately, and kept with them
the whole morning. I am sorry to say she, I mean Venetia, is devilish
ill; she is, indeed. However, her aunt now is quite on your side, and
very kind, I can tell you that. I put her right at first, and she has
fought our battle bravely. Well, they stopped to call somewhere, and
Venetia was so unwell that she would not get out, and I was left alone
in the carriage with her. Time was precious, and I opened at once. I
told her how wretched you were, and that the only thing that made you
miserable was about her, because you were afraid she would think you
so profligate, and all that. I went through it all; told her the exact
truth, which, indeed, she had before heard; but now I assured her, on
my honour, that it was exactly what happened; and she said she did not
doubt it, and could not, from some conversation which you had together
the day we were all at Hampton Court, and that she felt that nothing
could have been premeditated, and fully believed that everything had
occurred as I said; and, however she deplored it, she felt the same
for you as ever, and prayed for your happiness. Then she told me what
misery the danger of Lord Monteagle had occasioned her; that she
thought his death must have been the forerunner of her own; but the
moment he was declared out of danger seemed the happiest hour of
her life. I told her you were going to leave England, and asked her
whether she had any message for you; and she said, "Tell him he is the
same to me that he has always been." So, when her aunt returned, I
jumped out and ran on to you at once.'
'You are the best fellow that ever lived, George,' said Lord Cadurcis;
'and now the world may go to the devil!'
This message from Venetia acted upon Lord Cadurcis like a charm. It
instantly cleared his mind. He shut himself up in his house for a
week, and wrote a farewell to England, perhaps the most masterly
effusion of his powerful spirit. It abounded in passages of
overwhelming passion, and almost Satanic sarcasm. Its composition
entirely relieved his long-brooding brain. It contained, moreover,
a veiled address to Venetia, delicate, tender, and irresistibly
affecting. He appended also to the publication, the verses he had
previously addressed to her.
This volume, which was purchased with an avidity exceeding even
the eagerness with which his former productions had been received,
exercised extraordinary influence on public opinion. It enlisted the
feelings of the nation on his side in a struggle with a coterie. It
was suddenly discovered that Lord Cadurcis was the most injured of
mortals, and far more interesting than ever. The address to the
unknown object of his adoration, and the verses to Venetia, mystified
everybody. Lady Monteagle was universally abused, and all sympathised
with the long-treasured and baffled affection of the unhappy poet.
Cadurcis, however, was not to be conciliated. He left his native
shores in a blaze of glory, but with the accents of scorn still
quivering on his lip.
END OF BOOK IV.
The still waters of the broad and winding lake reflected the lustre
of the cloudless sky. The gentle declinations of the green hills that
immediately bordered the lake, with an undulating margin that now
retired into bays of the most picturesque form, now jutted forth
into woody promontories, and then opened into valleys of sequestered
beauty, which the eye delighted to pursue, were studded with white
villas, and cottages scarcely less graceful, and occasionally with
villages, and even towns; here and there rose a solitary chapel; and,
scarcely less conspicuous, the black spire of some cypress strikingly
contrasting with the fair buildings or the radiant foliage that in
general surrounded them. A rampart of azure mountains raised their
huge forms behind the nearer hills; and occasionally peering over
these, like spectres on some brilliant festival, were the ghastly
visages of the Alpine glaciers.
It was within an hour of sunset, and the long shadows had fallen upon
the waters; a broad boat, with a variegated awning, rowed by two men,
approached the steps of a marble terrace. The moment they had reached
their point of destination, and had fastened the boat to its moorings,
the men landed their oars, and immediately commenced singing a simple
yet touching melody, wherewith it was their custom to apprise their
employers of their arrival.
'Will they come forth this evening, think you, Vittorio?' said one
boatman to the other.
'By our holy mother, I hope so!' replied his comrade, 'for this light
air that is now rising will do the young signora more good than fifty
'They are good people,' said Vittorio. 'It gives me more pleasure to
row them than any persons who ever hired us.'
'Ay, ay!' said his comrade, 'It was a lucky day when we first put an
oar in the lake for them, heretics though they be.'
'But they may he converted yet,' said his companion; 'for, as I was
saying to Father Francisco last night, if the young signora dies, it
is a sad thing to think what will become of her.'
'And what said the good Father?'
'He shook his head,' said Vittorio.
'When Father Francisco shakes his head, he means a great deal,' said
At this moment a servant appeared on the terrace, to say the ladies
were at hand; and very shortly afterwards Lady Annabel Herbert, with
her daughter leaning on her arm, descended the steps, and entered the
boat. The countenances of the boatmen brightened when they saw them,
and they both made their inquiries after the health of Venetia with
tenderness and feeling.
'Indeed, my good friends,' said Venetia, 'I think you are right, and
the lake will cure me after all.'
'The blessing of the lake be upon you, signora,' said the boatmen,
Just as they were moving off, came running Mistress Pauncefort,
quite breathless. 'Miss Herbert's fur cloak, my lady; you told me to
remember, my lady, and I cannot think how I forgot it. But I really
have been so very hot all day, that such a thing as furs never entered
my head. And for my part, until I travelled, I always thought furs
were only worn in Russia. But live and learn, as I say.'
They were now fairly floating on the calm, clear waters, and the
rising breeze was as grateful to Venetia as the boatmen had imagined.
A return of those symptoms which had before disquieted Lady Annabel
for her daughter, and which were formerly the cause of their residence
at Weymouth, had induced her, in compliance with the advice of her
physicians, to visit Italy; but the fatigue of travel had exhausted
the energies of Venetia (for in those days the Alps were not passed in
luxurious travelling carriages) on the very threshold of the promised
land; and Lady Annabel had been prevailed upon to take a villa on the
Lago Maggiore, where Venetia had passed two months, still suffering
indeed from great debility, but not without advantage.
There are few spots more favoured by nature than the Italian lakes and
their vicinity, combining, as they do, the most sublime features
of mountainous scenery with all the softer beauties and the varied
luxuriance of the plain. As the still, bright lake is to the rushing
and troubled cataract, is Italy to Switzerland and Savoy. Emerging
from the chaotic ravines and the wild gorges of the Alps, the happy
land breaks upon us like a beautiful vision. We revel in the sunny
light, after the unearthly glare of eternal snow. Our sight seems
renovated as we throw our eager glance over those golden plains,
clothed with such picturesque trees, sparkling with such graceful
villages, watered by such noble rivers, and crowned with such
magnificent cities; and all bathed and beaming in an atmosphere so
soft and radiant! Every isolated object charms us with its beautiful
novelty: for the first time we gaze on palaces; the garden, the
terrace, and the statue, recall our dreams beneath a colder sky;
and we turn from these to catch the hallowed form of some cupolaed
convent, crowning the gentle elevation of some green hill, and flanked
by the cypress or the pine.
The influence of all these delightful objects and of this benign
atmosphere on the frame and mind of Venetia had been considerable.
After the excitement of the last year of her life, and the harassing
and agitating scenes with which it closed, she found a fine solace
in this fair land and this soft sky, which the sad perhaps can alone
experience. Its repose alone afforded a consolatory contrast to the
turbulent pleasure of the great world. She looked back upon those
glittering and noisy scenes with an aversion which was only modified
by her self-congratulation at her escape from their exhausting and
contaminating sphere. Here she recurred, but with all the advantages
of a change of scene, and a scene so rich in novel and interesting
associations, to the calm tenor of those days, when not a thought ever
seemed to escape from Cherbury and its spell-bound seclusion. Her
books, her drawings, her easel, and her harp, were now again her chief
pursuits; pursuits, however, influenced by the genius of the land in
which she lived, and therefore invested with a novel interest; for
the literature and the history of the country naturally attracted her
attention; and its fair aspects and sweet sounds, alike inspired her
pencil and her voice. She had, in the society of her mother, indeed,
the advantage of communing with a mind not less refined and cultivated
than her own. Lady Annabel was a companion whose conversation, from
reading and reflection, was eminently suggestive; and their hours,
though they lived in solitude, never hung heavy. They were always
employed, and always cheerful. But Venetia was not more than cheerful.
Still very young, and gifted with an imaginative and therefore
sanguine mind, the course of circumstances, however, had checked her
native spirit, and shaded a brow which, at her time of life and with
her temperament, should have been rather fanciful than pensive. If
Venetia, supported by the disciplined energies of a strong mind, had
schooled herself into not looking back to the past with grief, her
future was certainly not tinged with the Iris pencil of Hope. It
seemed to her that it was her fate that life should bring her no
happier hours than those she now enjoyed. They did not amount to
exquisite bliss. That was a conviction which, by no process of
reflection, however ingenious, could she delude herself to credit.
Venetia struggled to take refuge in content, a mood of mind perhaps
less natural than it should be to one so young, so gifted, and so
Their villa was surrounded by a garden in the ornate and artificial
style of the country. A marble terrace overlooked the lake, crowned
with many a statue and vase that held the aloe. The laurel and the
cactus, the cypress and the pine, filled the air with their fragrance,
or charmed the eye with their rarity and beauty: the walks were
festooned with the vine, and they could raise their hands and pluck
the glowing fruit which screened them, from the beam by which, it was
ripened. In this enchanted domain Venetia might be often seen, a
form even fairer than the sculptured nymphs among which she glided,
catching the gentle breeze that played upon the surface of the lake,
or watching the white sail that glittered in the sun as it floated
over its purple bosom.
Yet this beautiful retreat Venetia was soon to quit, and she thought
of her departure with a sigh. Her mother had been warned to avoid
the neighbourhood of the mountains in the winter, and the autumn was
approaching its close. If Venetia could endure the passage of the
Apennines, it was the intention of Lady Annabel to pass the winter
on the coast of the Mediterranean; otherwise to settle in one of the
Lombard cities. At all events, in the course of a few weeks they were
to quit their villa on the lake.
A very few days after this excursion on the lake, Lady Annabel and her
daughter were both surprised and pleased with a visit from a friend
whose appearance was certainly very unexpected; this was Captain
Cadurcis. On his way from Switzerland to Sicily, he had heard of their
residence in the neighbourhood, and had crossed over from Arona to
The name of Cadurcis was still dear to Venetia, and George had
displayed such gallantry and devotion in all his cousin's troubles,
that she was personally attached to him; he had always been a
favourite of her mother; his arrival, therefore, was welcomed by each
of the ladies with great cordiality. He accepted the hospitality which
Lady Annabel offered him, and remained with them a week, a period
which they spent in visiting the most beautiful and interesting spots
of the lake, with which they were already sufficiently familiar to
allow them to prove guides as able as they were agreeable. These
excursions, indeed, contributed to the pleasure and happiness of the
whole party. There was about Captain Cadurcis a natural cheerfulness
which animated every one in his society; a gay simplicity, difficult
to define, but very charming, and which, without effort, often
produced deeper impressions than more brilliant and subtle qualities.
Left alone in the world, and without a single advantage save those
that nature had conferred upon him, it had often been remarked,
that in whatever circle he moved George Cadurcis always became the
favourite and everywhere made friends. His sweet and engaging temper
had perhaps as much contributed to his professional success as his
distinguished gallantry and skill. Other officers, no doubt, were
as brave and able as Captain Cadurcis, but his commanders always
signalled him out for favourable notice; and, strange to say, his
success, instead of exciting envy and ill-will, pleased even his less
fortunate competitors. However hard another might feel his own lot, it
was soothed by the reflection that George Cadurcis was at least
more fortunate. His popularity, however, was not confined to his
profession. His cousin's noble guardian, whom George had never seen
until he ventured to call upon his lordship on his return to England,
now looked upon him almost as a son, and omitted no opportunity of
advancing his interests in the world. Of all the members of the House
of Commons he was perhaps the only one that everybody praised, and
his success in the world of fashion had been as remarkable as in his
profession. These great revolutions in his life and future prospects
had, however, not produced the slightest change in his mind and
manners; and this was perhaps the secret spell of his prosperity.
Though we are most of us the creatures of affectation, simplicity has
a great charm, especially when attended, as in the present instance,
with many agreeable and some noble qualities. In spite of the rough
fortunes of his youth, the breeding of Captain Cadurcis was high; the
recollection of the race to which he belonged had never been forgotten
by him. He was proud of his family. He had one of those light hearts,
too, which enable their possessors to acquire accomplishments with
facility: he had a sweet voice, a quick ear, a rapid eye. He
acquired a language as some men learn an air. Then his temper was
imperturbable, and although the most obliging and kindest-hearted
creature that ever lived, there was a native dignity about him which
prevented his goodnature from being abused. No sense of interest
either could ever induce him to act contrary to the dictates of his
judgment and his heart. At the risk of offending his patron, George
sided with his cousin, although he had deeply offended his guardian,
and although the whole world was against him. Indeed, the strong
affection that Lord Cadurcis instantly entertained for George is
not the least remarkable instance of the singular, though silent,
influence that Captain Cadurcis everywhere acquired. Lord Cadurcis
had fixed upon him for his friend from the first moment of their
acquaintance; and though apparently there could not be two characters
more dissimilar, there were at bottom some striking points of sympathy
and some strong bonds of union, in the generosity and courage that
distinguished both, and in the mutual blood that filled their veins.
There seemed to be a tacit understanding between the several members
of our party that the name of Lord Cadurcis was not to be mentioned.
Lady Annabel made no inquiry after him; Venetia was unwilling to
hazard a question which would annoy her mother, and of which the
answer could not bring her much satisfaction; and Captain Cadurcis did
not think fit himself to originate any conversation on the subject.
Nevertheless, Venetia could not help sometimes fancying, when her eyes
met his, that their mutual thoughts were the same, and both dwelling
on one who was absent, and of whom her companion would willingly have
conversed. To confess the truth, indeed, George Cadurcis was on his
way to join his cousin, who had crossed over from Spain to Barbary,
and journeyed along the African coast from Tangiers to Tripoli. Their
point of reunion was to be Sicily or Malta. Hearing of the residence
of the Herberts on the lake, he thought it would be but kind to
Plantagenet to visit them, and perhaps to bear to him some message
from Venetia. There was nothing, indeed, on which Captain Cadurcis
was more intent than to effect the union between his cousin and Miss
Herbert. He was deeply impressed with the sincerity of Plantagenet's
passion, and he himself entertained for the lady the greatest
affection and admiration. He thought she was the only person whom he
had ever known, who was really worthy to be his cousin's bride. And,
independent of her personal charms and undoubted talents, she had
displayed during the outcry against Lord Cadurcis so much good sense,
such a fine spirit, and such modest yet sincere affection for the
victim, that George Cadurcis had almost lost his own heart to her,
when he was endeavouring to induce her not utterly to reject that of
another; and it became one of the dreams of his life, that in a little
time, when all, as he fondly anticipated, had ended as it should,
and as he wished it, he should be able to find an occasional home at
Cadurcis Abbey, and enjoy the charming society of one whom he had
already taught himself to consider as a sister.
'And to-night you must indeed go?' said Venetia, as they were walking
together on the terrace. It was the only time that they had been alone
together during his visit.
'I must start from Arona at daybreak,' replied George; 'and I must
travel quickly, for in less than a month I must be in Sicily.'
'Sicily! Why are you going to Sicily?'
Captain Cadurcis smiled. 'I am going to join a friend of ours,' he
'Plantagenet?' she said.
Captain Cadurcis nodded assent.
'Poor Plantagenet!' said Venetia.
'His name has been on my lips several times,' said George.
'I am sure of that,' said Venetia. 'Is he well?'
'He writes to me in fair spirits,' said Captain Cadurcis. 'He has been
travelling in Spain, and now he is somewhere in Africa; we are to meet
in Sicily or Malta. I think travel has greatly benefited him. He seems
quite delighted with his glimpse of Oriental manners, and I should
scarcely be surprised if he were now to stretch on to Constantinople.'
'I wonder if he will ever return to England,' said Venetia,
'There is only one event that would induce him,' said Captain
Cadurcis. And then after a pause he added, 'You will not ask me what
'I wish he were in England, and were happy,' said Venetia.
'It is in your power to effect both results,' said her companion.
'It is useless to recur to that subject,' said Venetia. 'Plantagenet
knows my feelings towards him, but fate has forbidden our destinies to
'Then he will never return to England, and never be happy. Ah,
Venetia! what shall I tell him when we meet? What message am I to bear
him from you?'
'Those regards which he ever possessed, and has never forfeited,' said
'Poor Cadurcis!' said his cousin, shaking his head, 'if any man ever
had reason to be miserable, it is he.'
'We are none of us very happy, I think,' said Venetia, mournfully. 'I
am sure when I look back to the last few years of my life it seems
to me that there is some curse hanging over our families. I cannot
penetrate it; it baffles me.'
'I am sure,' said Captain Cadurcis with great animation, 'nay, I would
pledge my existence cheerfully on the venture, that if Lady Annabel
would only relent towards Cadurcis, we should all be the happiest
people in the world.'
'Heigho!' said Venetia. 'There are other cares in our house besides
our unfortunate acquaintance with your cousin. We were the last people
in the world with whom he should ever have become connected.'
'And yet it was an intimacy that commenced auspiciously,' said her
friend. 'I am sure I have sat with Cadurcis, and listened to him by
the hour, while he has told me of all the happy days at Cherbury when
you were both children; the only happy days, according to him, that he
'Yes! they were happy days,' said Venetia.
'And what connection could have offered a more rational basis for
felicity than your union?' he continued. 'Whatever the world may
think, I, who know Cadurcis to the very bottom of his heart, feel
assured that you never would have repented for an instant becoming the
sharer of his life; your families were of equal rank, your estates
joined, he felt for your mother the affection of a son. There seemed
every element that could have contributed to earthly bliss. As for his
late career, you who know all have already, have always indeed,
viewed it with charity. Placed in his position, who could have acted
otherwise? I know very well that his genius, which might recommend
him to another woman, is viewed by your mother with more than
apprehension. It is true that a man of his exquisite sensibility
requires sympathies as refined to command his nature. It is no common
mind that could maintain its hold over Cadurcis, and his spirit could
not yield but to rare and transcendent qualities. He found them,
Venetia, he found them in her whom he had known longest and most
intimately, and loved from his boyhood. Talk of constancy, indeed! who
has been so constant as my cousin? No, Venetia! you may think fit to
bow to the feelings of your mother, and it would be impertinence in me
to doubt for an instant the propriety of your conduct: I do not doubt
it; I admire it; I admire you, and everything you have done; none can
view your behaviour throughout all these painful transactions with
more admiration, I might even say with more reverence, than myself;
but, Venetia, you never can persuade me, you have never attempted to
persuade me, that you yourself are incredulous of the strength and
permanency of my cousin's love.'
'Ah, George! you are our friend!' said Venetia, a tear stealing down
her cheek. 'But, indeed, we must not talk of these things. As for
myself, I think not of happiness. I am certain I am not born to be
happy. I wish only to live calmly; contentedly, I would say; but that,
perhaps, is too much. My feelings have been so harrowed, my mind so
harassed, during these last few years, and so many causes of pain and
misery seem ever hovering round my existence, that I do assure you,
my dear friend, I have grown old before my time. Ah! you may smile,
George, but my heart is heavy; it is indeed.'
'I wish I could lighten it,' said Captain Cadurcis. 'I fear I am
somewhat selfish in wishing you to marry my cousin, for then you know
I should have a permanent and authentic claim to your regard. But no
one, at least I think so, can feel more deeply interested in your
welfare than I do. I never knew any one like you, and I always tell
Cadurcis so, and that I think makes him worse, but I cannot help it.'
Venetia could not refrain from smiling at the simplicity of this
'Well,' continued her companion,' everything, after all, is for the
best. You and Plantagenet are both very young; I live in hopes that I
shall yet see you Lady Cadurcis.'
Venetia shook her head, but was not sorry that their somewhat
melancholy conversation should end in a livelier vein. So they entered
The hour of parting was painful, and the natural gaiety of Captain
Cadurcis deserted him. He had become greatly attached to the Herberts.
Without any female relatives of his own, their former intimacy and
probable connection with his cousin had taught him to look upon them
in some degree in the light of kindred. He had originally indeed
become acquainted with them in all the blaze of London society, not
very calculated to bring out the softer tints and more subdued tones
of our character, but even then the dignified grace of Lady Annabel
and the radiant beauty of Venetia, had captivated him, and he had
cultivated their society with assiduity and extreme pleasure. The
grand crisis of his cousin's fortunes had enabled him to become
intimate with the more secret and serious qualities of Venetia, and
from that moment he had taken the deepest interest in everything
connected with her. His happy and unexpected meeting in Italy had
completed the spell; and now that he was about to leave them,
uncertain even if they should ever meet again, his soft heart
trembled, and he could scarcely refrain from tears as he pressed their
hands, and bade them his sincere adieus.
The moon had risen, ere he entered his boat, and flung a rippling line
of glittering light on the bosom of the lake. The sky was without a
cloud, save a few thin fleecy vapours that hovered over the azure brow
of a distant mountain. The shores of the lake were suffused with the
serene effulgence, and every object was so distinct, that the eye was
pained by the lights of the villages, that every instant became more
numerous and vivid. The bell of a small chapel on the opposite shore,
and the distant chant of some fishermen still working at their nets,
were the only sounds that broke the silence which they did not
disturb. Reclined in his boat, George Cadurcis watched the vanishing
villa of the Herberts, until the light in the principal chamber was
the only sign that assured him of its site. That chamber held Venetia,
the unhappy Venetia! He covered his face with his hand when even
the light of her chamber vanished, and, full of thoughts tender and
disconsolate, he at length arrived at Arona.
Pursuant to their plans, the Herberts left the Lago Maggiore towards
the end of October, and proceeded by gentle journeys to the Apennines.
Before they crossed this barrier, they were to rest awhile in one of
the Lombard cities; and now they were on the point of reaching Arqua,
which Venetia had expressed a strong desire to visit.
At the latter part of the last century, the race of tourists, the
offspring of a long peace, and the rapid fortunes made during the war,
did not exist. Travelling was then confined to the aristocracy,
and though the English, when opportunity offered, have ever been a
restless people, the gentle bosom of the Euganean Hills was then
rarely disturbed amid its green and sequestered valleys.
There is not perhaps in all the Italian region, fertile as it is in
interesting associations and picturesque beauty, a spot that tradition
and nature have so completely combined to hallow, as the last
residence of Petrarch. It seems, indeed, to have been formed for the
retirement of a pensive and poetic spirit. It recedes from the world
by a succession of delicate acclivities clothed with vineyards and
orchards, until, winding within these hills, the mountain hamlet is
at length discovered, enclosed by two ridges that slope towards each
other, and seem to shut out all the passions of a troubled race. The
houses are scattered at intervals on the steep sides of these summits,
and on a little knoll is the mansion of the poet, built by himself,
and commanding a rich and extensive view, that ends only with the
shores of the Adriatic sea. His tomb, a sarcophagus of red marble,
supported by pillars, doubtless familiar to the reader, is at hand;
and, placed on an elevated site, gives a solemn impression to a scene,
of which the character would otherwise be serenely cheerful.
Our travellers were surprised to find that the house of the poet was
inhabited by a very different tenant to the rustic occupier they had
anticipated. They heard that a German gentleman had within the last
year fixed upon it as the residence of himself and his wife. The
peasants were profuse in their panegyrics of this visitor, whose
arrival had proved quite an era in the history of their village.
According to them, a kinder and more charitable gentleman never
breathed; his whole life was spent in studying and contributing to the
happiness of those around him. The sick, the sorrowful, and the needy
were ever sure of finding a friend in him, and merit a generous
patron. From him came portions to the portionless; no village maiden
need despair of being united to her betrothed, while he could assist
her; and at his own cost he had sent to the academy of Bologna, a
youth whom his father would have made a cowherd, but whom nature
predisposed to be a painter. The inhabitants believed this benevolent
and generous person was a physician, for he attended the sick,
prescribed for their complaints, and had once even performed an
operation with great success. It seemed that, since Petrarch, no one
had ever been so popular at Arqua as this kind German. Lady Annabel
and Venetia were interested with the animated narratives of the
ever-active beneficence of this good man, and Lady Annabel especially
regretted that his absence deprived her of the gratification of
becoming acquainted with a character so rare and so invaluable. In the
meantime they availed themselves of the offer of his servants to view
the house of Petrarch, for their master had left orders, that his
absence should never deprive a pilgrim from paying his homage to the
shrine of genius.
The house, consisting of two floors, had recently been repaired by
the present occupier. It was simply furnished. The ground-floor was
allotted to the servants. The upper story contained five rooms, three
of which were of good size, and two closets. In one of these were the
traditionary chair and table of Petrarch, and here, according to their
guides, the master of the house passed a great portion of his time in
study, to which, by their account, he seemed devoted. The adjoining
chamber was his library; its windows opened on a balcony looking on
two lofty and conical hills, one topped with a convent, while the
valley opened on the side and spread into a calm and very pleasant
view. Of the other apartments, one served as a saloon, but there was
nothing in it remarkable, except an admirably painted portrait of a
beautiful woman, which the servant informed them was their mistress.
'But that surely is not a German physiognomy?' said Lady Annabel.
'The mistress is an Italian,' replied the servant.
'She is very handsome, of whatever nation she may be,' replied Lady
'Oh! how I should have liked to have met these happy people, mamma,'
said Venetia, 'for happy they surely must be.'
'They seem to be good people,' said Lady Annabel. 'It really lightened
my heart to hear of all this gentleman's kind deeds.'
'Ah! if the signora only knew the master,' said their guide, 'she
would indeed know a good man.'
They descended to the garden, which certainly was not like the garden
of their villa; it had been but lately a wilderness of laurels, but
there were evidences that the eye and hand of taste were commencing
its restoration with effect.
'The master did this,' said their guide. 'He will allow no one to work
in the garden but himself. It is a week since he went to Bologna, to
see our Paulo. He gained a prize at the academy, and his father begged
the master to be present when it was conferred on him; he said it
would do his son so much good! So the master went, though it is the
only time he has quitted Qua since he came to reside here.'
'And how long has he resided here?' inquired Venetia.
''Tis the second autumn,' said the guide, 'and he came in the spring.
If the signora would only wait, we expect the master home to-night or
to-morrow, and he would be glad to see her.'
'We cannot wait, my friend,' said Lady Annabel, rewarding the guide;
'but you will thank your master in our names, for the kindness we have
experienced. You are all happy in such a friend.'
'I must write my name in Petrarch's house,' said Venetia. 'Adieu,
happy Arqua! Adieu, happy dwellers in this happy valley!'
Just as Lady Annabel and her daughter arrived at Rovigo, one of those
sudden and violent storms that occasionally occur at the termination
of an Italian autumn raged with irresistible fury. The wind roared
with a noise that overpowered the thunder; then came a rattling shower
of hail, with stones as big as pigeons' eggs, succeeded by rain, not
in showers, but literally in cataracts. The only thing to which
a tempest of rain in Italy can be compared is the bursting of a
waterspout. Venetia could scarcely believe that this could be the same
day of which the golden morning had found her among the sunny hills of
Arqua. This unexpected vicissitude induced Lady Annabel to alter her
plans, and she resolved to rest at Rovigo, where she was glad to find
that they could be sheltered in a commodious inn.
The building had originally been a palace, and in its halls and
galleries, and the vast octagonal vestibule on which the principal
apartments opened, it retained many noble indications of the purposes
to which it was formerly destined.
At present, a lazy innkeeper who did nothing; his bustling wife,
who seemed equally at home in the saloon, the kitchen, and even the
stable; and a solitary waiter, were the only inmates, except the
Herberts, and a travelling party, who had arrived shortly after them,
and who, like them, had been driven by stress of weather to seek
refuge at a place where otherwise they had not intended to remain.
A blazing fire of pine wood soon gave cheerfulness to the vast and
somewhat desolate apartment into which our friends had been ushered;
their sleeping-room was adjoining, but separated. In spite of the
lamentations of Pauncefort, who had been drenched to the skin, and who
required much more waiting upon than her mistress, Lady Annabel and
Venetia at length produced some degree of comfort. They drew the table
near the fire; they ensconced themselves behind an old screen; and,
producing their books and work notwithstanding the tempest, they
contrived to domesticate themselves at Rovigo.
'I cannot help thinking of Arqua and its happy tenants, mamma,' said
'And yet, perhaps, they may have their secret sorrows,' said
Lady Annabel. 'I know not why, I always associate seclusion with
Venetia remembered Cherbury. Their life at Cherbury was like the life
of the German at Arqua. A chance visitor to Cherbury in their absence,
viewing the beautiful residence and the fair domain, and listening to
the tales which they well might hear of all her mother's grace and
goodness, might perhaps too envy its happy occupiers. But were they
happy? Had they no secret sorrows? Was their seclusion associated with
unhappiness? These were reflections that made Venetia grave; but she
opened her journal, and, describing the adventures and feelings of the
morning, she dissipated some mournful reminiscences.
The storm still raged, Venetia had quitted the saloon in which her
mother and herself had been sitting, and had repaired to the adjoining
chamber to fetch a book. The door of this room opened, as all the
other entrances of the different apartments, on to the octagonal
vestibule. Just as she was quitting the room, and about to return to
her mother, the door of the opposite chamber opened, and there came
forward a gentleman in a Venetian dress of black velvet. His stature
was much above the middle height, though his figure, which was
remarkably slender, was bowed; not by years certainly, for his
countenance, though singularly emaciated, still retained traces
of youth. His hair, which he wore very long, descended over his
shoulders, and must originally have been of a light golden colour, but
now was severely touched with grey. His countenance was very pallid,
so colourless indeed that its aspect was almost unearthly; but his
large blue eyes, that were deeply set in his majestic brow, still
glittered with fire, and their expression alone gave life to a visage,
which, though singularly beautiful in its outline, from its faded and
attenuated character seemed rather the countenance of a corpse than of
a breathing being.
The glance of the stranger caught that of Venetia, and seemed to
fascinate her. She suddenly became motionless; wildly she stared at
the stranger, who, in his turn, seemed arrested in his progress, and
stood still as a statue, with his eyes fixed with absorbing interest
on the beautiful apparition before him. An expression of perplexity
and pain flitted over the amazed features of Venetia; and then it
seemed that, by some almost supernatural effort, confusion amounting
to stupefaction suddenly brightened and expanded into keen and
overwhelming intelligence. Exclaiming in a frenzied tone, 'My father!'
Venetia sprang forward, and fell senseless on the stranger's breast.
Such, after so much mystery, so many aspirations, so much anxiety, and
so much suffering, such was the first meeting of Venetia Herbert with
Marmion Herbert, himself trembling and speechless, bore the apparently
lifeless Venetia into his apartment. Not permitting her for a moment
to quit his embrace, he seated himself, and gazed silently on the
inanimate and unknown form he held so strangely within his arms. Those
lips, now closed as if in death, had uttered however one word
which thrilled to his heart, and still echoed, like a supernatural
annunciation, within his ear. He examined with an eye of agitated
scrutiny the fair features no longer sensible of his presence. He
gazed upon that transparent brow, as if he would read some secret in
its pellucid veins; and touched those long locks of golden hair with a
trembling finger, that seemed to be wildly seeking for some vague and
miraculous proof of inexpressible identity. The fair creature had
called him 'Father.' His dreaming reveries had never pictured a being
half so beautiful! She called him 'Father!' Tha word had touched
his brain, as lightning cuts a tree. He looked around him with a
distracted air, then gazed on the tranced form he held with a glance
which would have penetrated her soul, and murmured unconsciously the
wild word she had uttered. She called him 'Father!' He dared not think
who she might be. His thoughts were wandering in a distant land;
visions of another life, another country, rose before him, troubled
and obscure. Baffled aspirations, and hopes blighted in the bud, and
the cherished secrets of his lorn existence, clustered like clouds
upon his perplexed, yet creative, brain. She called him, 'Father!' It
was a word to make him mad. 'Father!' This beautiful being had
called him 'Father,' and seemed to have expired, as it were, in the
irresistible expression. His heart yearned to her; he had met her
embrace with an inexplicable sympathy; her devotion had seemed, as it
were, her duty and his right. Yet who was she? He was a father. It
was a fact, a fact alike full of solace and mortification, the
consciousness of which never deserted him. But he was the father of an
unknown child; to him the child of his poetic dreams, rather than his
reality. And now there came this radiant creature, and called him
'Father!' Was he awake, and in the harsh busy world; or was it the
apparition of au over-excited imagination, brooding too constantly on
one fond idea, on which he now gazed so fixedly? Was this some spirit?
Would that she would speak again! Would that those sealed lips would
part and utter but one word, would but again call him 'Father,' and he
asked no more!
'Father!' to be called 'Father' by one whom he could not name, by one
over whom he mused in solitude, by one to whom he had poured forth all
the passion of his desolate soul; to be called 'Father' by this being
was the aspiring secret of his life. He had painted her to himself in
his loneliness, he had conjured up dreams of ineffable loveliness, and
inexpressible love; he had led with her an imaginary life of thrilling
tenderness; he had indulged in a delicious fancy of mutual interchange
of the most exquisite offices of our nature; and then, when he had
sometimes looked around him, and found no daughter there, no beaming
countenance of purity to greet him with its constant smile, and
receive the quick and ceaseless tribute of his vigilant affection, the
tears had stolen down his lately-excited features, all the consoling
beauty of his visions had vanished into air, he had felt the deep
curse of his desolation, and had anathematised the cunning brain
that made his misery a thousand-fold keener by the mockery of its
And now there came this transcendent creature, with a form more
glowing than all his dreams; a voice more musical than a seraphic
chorus, though it had uttered but one thrilling word: there came this
transcendent creature, beaming with grace, beauty, and love, and had
fallen upon his heart, and called him 'Father!'
Herbert looked up to heaven as if waiting for some fresh miracle to
terminate the harrowing suspense of his tortured mind; Herbert looked
down upon his mysterious companion; the rose was gradually returning
to her cheek, her lips seemed to tremble with reviving breath. There
was only one word more strange to his ear than that which she had
uttered, but an irresistible impulse sent forth the sound.
'Venetia!' he exclaimed.
The eyes of the maiden slowly opened; she stared around her with a
vague glance of perplexity, not unmingled with pain; she looked up;
she caught the rapt gaze of her father, bending over her with
fondness yet with fear; his lips moved, for a moment they refused to
articulate, yet at length they again uttered, 'Venetia!' And the only
response she made was to cling to him with nervous energy, and hide
her face in his bosom.
Herbert pressed her to his heart. Yet even now he hesitated to credit
the incredible union. Again he called her by her name, but added with
rising confidence, 'My Venetia!'
'Your child, your child,' she murmured. 'Your own Venetia.'
He pressed his lips to hers; he breathed over her a thousand
blessings; she felt his tears trickling on her neck.
At length Venetia looked up and sighed; she was exhausted by the
violence of her emotions: her father relaxed his grasp with infinite
tenderness, watching her with delicate solicitude; she leaned her arm
upon his shoulder with downcast eyes.
Herbert gently took her disengaged hand, and pressed it to his lips.
'I am as in a dream,' murmured Venetia.
'The daughter of my heart has found her sire,' said Herbert in an
impassioned voice. 'The father who has long lived upon her fancied
image; the father, I fear, she has been bred up to hate.'
'Oh! no, no!' said Venetia, speaking rapidly and with a slight shiver;
'not hate! it was a secret, his being was a secret, his name was never
mentioned; it was unknown.'
'A secret! My existence a secret from my child, my beautiful fond
child!' exclaimed Herbert in a tone even more desolate than bitter.
'Why did they not let you at least hate me!'
'My father!' said Venetia, in a firmer voice, and with returning
animation, yet gazing around her with a still distracted air, 'Am I
with my father? The clouds clear from my brain. I remember that we
met. Where was it? Was it at Arqua? In the garden? I am with my
father!' she continued in a rapid tone and with a wild smile. 'Oh! let
me look on him;' and she turned round, and gazed upon Herbert with
a serious scrutiny. 'Are you my father?' she continued, in a still,
small voice. 'Your hair has grown grey since last I saw you; it was
golden then, like mine. I know you are my father,' she added, after a
pause, and in a tone almost of gaiety. 'You cannot deceive me. I know
your name. They did not tell it me; I found it out myself, but it made
me very ill, very; and I do not think I have ever been quite well
since. You are Marmion Herbert. My mother had a dog called Marmion,
when I was a little girl, but I did not know I had a father then.'
'Venetia!' exclaimed Herbert, with streaming eyes, as he listened with
anguish to these incoherent sentences. 'My Venetia loves me!'
'Oh! she always loved you,' replied Venetia; always, always. Before
she knew her father she loved him. I dare say you think I do not love
you, because I am not used to speak to a father. Everything must be
learnt, you know,' she said, with a faint, sad smile; 'and then it
was so sudden! I do not think my mother knows it yet. And after all,
though I found you out in a moment, still, I know not why, I thought
it was a picture. But I read your verses, and I knew them by heart at
once; but now my memory has worn out, for I am ill, and everything has
gone cross with me. And all because my father wrote me verses. 'Tis
very strange, is not it?'
'Sweet lamb of my affections,' exclaimed Herbert to himself, 'I fear
me much this sudden meeting with one from whose bosom you ought never
to have been estranged, has been for the moment too great a trial for
this delicate brain.'
'I will not tell my mother,' said Venetia; 'she will be angry.'
'Your mother, darling; where is your mother?' said Herbert, looking,
if possible, paler than he was wont.
She was at Arqua with me, and on the lake for months, but where we are
now, I cannot say. If I could only remember where we are now,' she
added with earnestness, and with a struggle to collect herself, 'I
should know everything.'
'This is Rovigo, my child, the inn of Rovigo. You are travelling with
your mother. Is it not so?'
'Yes! and we came this morning, and it rained. Now I know everything,'
said Venetia, with an animated and even cheerful air.
'And we met in the vestibule, my sweet,' continued Herbert, in a
soothing voice; 'we came out of opposite chambers, and you knew me; my
Venetia knew me. Try to tell me, my darling,' he added, in a tone of
coaxing fondness, 'try to remember how Venetia knew her father.'
'He was so like his picture at Cherbury,' replied Venetia.
'Cherbury!' exclaimed Herbert, with a deep-drawn sigh.
'Only your hair has grown grey, dear father; but it is long, quite as
long as in your picture.'
'Her dog called Marmion!' murmured Herbert to himself, 'and my
portrait, too! You saw your father's portrait, then, every day, love?'
'Oh, no! said Venetia, shaking her head, 'only once, only once. And I
never told mamma. It was where no one could go, but I went there one
day. It was in a room that no one ever entered except mamma, but
I entered it. I stole the key, and had a fever, and in my fever I
confessed all. But I never knew it. Mamma never told me I confessed
it, until many, many years afterwards. It was the first, the only time
she ever mentioned to me your name, my father.'
'And she told you to shun me, to hate me? She told you I was a
villain, a profligate, a demon? eh? eh? Was it not so, Venetia?'
'She told me that you had broken her heart,' said Venetia; 'and she
prayed to God that her child might not be so miserable.'
'Oh, my Venetia!' exclaimed Herbert, pressing her to his breast,
and in a voice stifled with emotion, 'I feel now we might have been
In the meantime the prolonged absence of her daughter surprised
Lady Annabel. At length she rose, and walked into their adjoining
apartment, but to her surprise Venetia was not there. Returning to her
saloon, she found Pauncefort and the waiter arranging the table for
'Where is Miss Herbert, Pauncefort?' inquired Lady Annabel.
'I am sure, my lady, I cannot say. I have no doubt she is in the other
'She is not there, for I have just quitted it,' replied Lady Annabel.
'How very strange! You have not seen the signora?' inquired Lady
Annabel of the waiter.
'The signora is in the room with the gentleman.'
'The gentleman!' exclaimed Lady Annabel. 'Tell me, good man, what do
you mean? I am inquiring for my daughter.'
'I know well the signora is talking of her daughter,' replied the
'But do you know my daughter by sight? Surely you you must mean some
'Do I know the signora's daughter?' said the waiter. 'The beautiful
young lady, with hair like Santa Marguerita, in the church of the Holy
Trinity! I tell the signora, I saw her carried into numero 4, in the
arms of the Signor Forestiere, who arrived this morning.'
'Venetia is ill,' said Lady Annabel. 'Show me to the room, my friend.'
Lady Annabel accordingly, with a hurried step, following her guide,
quitted the chamber. Pauncefort remained fixed to the earth, the very
picture of perplexity.
'Well, to be sure!' she exclaimed, 'was anything ever so strange! In
the arms of Signor Forestiere! Forestiere. An English name. There is
no person of the name of Forest that I know. And in his arms, too! I
should not wonder if it was my lord after all. Well, I should be glad
if he were to come to light again, for, after all, my lady may say
what she likes, but if Miss Venetia don't marry Lord Cadurcis, I must
say marriages were never made in heaven!'
The waiter threw open the door of Mr. Herbert's chamber, and Lady
Annabel swept in with a majesty she generally assumed when about to
meet strangers. The first thing she beheld was her daughter in
the arms of a man whose head was bent, and who was embracing her.
Notwithstanding this astounding spectacle, Lady Annabel neither
started nor screamed; she only said in an audible tone, and one rather
expressing astonishment than agitation, 'Venetia!'
Immediately the stranger looked up, and Lady Annabel beheld her
She was rooted to the earth. She turned deadly pale; for a moment her
countenance expressed only terror, but the terror quickly changed into
aversion. Suddenly she rushed forward, and exclaimed in a tone in
which decision conquered dismay, 'Restore me my child!'
The moment Herbert had recognised his wife he had dexterously
disengaged himself from the grasp of Venetia, whom he left on the
chair, and meeting Lady Annabel with extended arms, that seemed to
deprecate her wrath, he said, 'I seek not to deprive you of her; she
is yours, and she is worthy of you; but respect, for a few moments,
the feelings of a father who has met his only child in a manner so
The presence of her mother instantaneously restored Venetia to
herself. Her mind was in a moment cleared and settled. Her past and
peculiar life, and all its incidents, recurred to her with their
accustomed order, vividness, and truth. She thoroughly comprehended
her present situation. Actuated by long-cherished feelings and the
necessity of the occasion, she rose and threw herself at her mother's
feet and exclaimed, 'O mother! he is my father, love him!'
Lady Annabel stood with an averted countenance, Venetia clinging to
her hand, which she had caught when she rushed forward, and which now
fell passive by Lady Annabel's side, giving no sign, by any pressure
or motion, of the slightest sympathy with her daughter, or feeling for
the strange and agonising situation in which they were both placed.
'Annabel,' said Herbert, in a voice that trembled, though the speaker
struggled to appear calm, 'be charitable! I have never intruded upon
your privacy; I will not now outrage it. Accident, or some diviner
motive, has brought us together this day. If you will not treat me
with kindness, look not upon me with aversion before our child.'
Still she was silent and motionless, her countenance hidden from her
husband and her daughter, but her erect and haughty form betokening
her inexorable mind. 'Annabel,' said Herbert, who had now withdrawn
to some distance, and leant against a pillar, 'will not then nearly
twenty years of desolation purchase one moment of intercourse? I have
injured you. Be it so. This is not the moment I will defend myself.
But have I not suffered? Is not this meeting a punishment deeper
even than your vengeance could devise? Is it nothing to behold this
beautiful child, and feel that she is only yours? Annabel, look on me,
look on me only one moment! My frame is bowed, my hair is grey, my
heart is withered; the principle of existence waxes faint and slack in
this attenuated frame. I am no longer that Herbert on whom you once
smiled, but a man stricken with many sorrows. The odious conviction of
my life cannot long haunt you; yet a little while, and my memory will
alone remain. Think of this, Annabel; I beseech you, think of it. Oh!
believe me, when the speedy hour arrives that will consign me to the
grave, where I shall at least find peace, it will not be utterly
without satisfaction that you will remember that we met if even by
accident, and parted at least not with harshness!'
'Mother, dearest mother!' murmured Venetia, 'speak to him, look on
'Venetia,' said her mother, without turning her head, but in a calm,
firm tone, 'your father has seen you, has conversed with you. Between
your father and myself there can be nothing to communicate, either of
fact or feeling. Now let us depart.'
'No, no, not depart!' said Venetia franticly. 'You did not say depart,
dear mother! I cannot go,' she added in a low and half-hysterical
'Desert me, then,' said the mother. 'A fitting consequence of your
private communications with your father,' she added in a tone of
bitter scorn; and Lady Annabel moved to depart, but Venetia, still
kneeling, clung to her convulsively.
'Mother, mother, you shall not go; you shall not leave me; we will
never part, mother,' continued Venetia, in a tone almost of violence,
as she perceived her mother give no indication of yielding to her
wish. 'Are my feelings then nothing?' she then exclaimed. 'Is this
your sense of my fidelity? Am I for ever to be a victim?' She loosened
her hold of her mother's hand, her mother moved on, Venetia fell upon
her forehead and uttered a faint scream. The heart of Lady Annabel
relented when she fancied her daughter suffered physical pain, however
slight; she hesitated, she turned, she hastened to her child; her
husband had simultaneously advanced; in the rapid movement and
confusion her hand touched that of Herbert.
'I yield her to you, Annabel,' said Herbert, placing Venetia in her
mother's arms. 'You mistake me, as you have often mistaken me, if you
think I seek to practise on the feelings of this angelic child. She is
yours; may she compensate you for the misery I have caused you, but
never sought to occasion!'
'I am not hurt, dear mother,' said Venetia, as her mother tenderly
examined her forehead. 'Dear, dear mother, why did you reproach me?'
'Forget it,' said Lady Annabel, in a softened tone; 'for indeed you
'O Annabel!' said Herbert, 'may not this child be some atonement, this
child, of whom I solemnly declare I would not deprive you, though I
would willingly forfeit my life for a year of her affection; and your,
your sufferance,' he added.
'Mother! speak to him,' said Venetia, with her head on her mother's
bosom, who still, however, remained rigidly standing. But Lady Annabel
'Your mother was ever stern and cold, Venetia,' said Herbert, the
bitterness of his heart at length expressing itself.
'Never,' said Venetia, with great energy; 'never; you know not my
mother. Was she stern and cold when she visited each night in secret
your portrait?' said Venetia, looking round upon her astonished
father, with her bright grey eye. 'Was she stern and cold when she
wept over your poems, those poems whose characters your own hand had
traced? Was she stern and cold when she hung a withered wreath on your
bridal bed, the bed to which I owe my miserable being? Oh, no, my
father! sad was the hour of separation for my mother and yourself.
It may have dimmed the lustre of her eye, and shaded your locks with
premature grey; but whatever may have been its inscrutable cause,
there was one victim of that dark hour, less thought of than
yourselves, and yet a greater sufferer than both, the being in whose
heart you implanted affections, whose unfulfilled tenderness has made
that wretched thing they call your daughter.'
'Annabel!' exclaimed Herbert, rapidly advancing, with an imploring
gesture, and speaking in a tone of infinite anguish, 'Annabel,
Annabel, even now we can be happy!'
The countenance of his wife was troubled, but its stern expression had
disappeared. The long-concealed, yet at length irrepressible, emotion
of Venetia had touched her heart. In the conflict of affection between
the claims of her two parents, Lady Annabel had observed with a
sentiment of sweet emotion, in spite of all the fearfulness of the
meeting, that Venetia had not faltered in her devotion to her mother.
The mental torture of her child touched her to the quick. In the
excitement of her anguish, Venetia had expressed a profound sentiment,
the irresistible truth of which Lady Annabel could no longer
withstand. She had too long and too fondly schooled herself to look
upon the outraged wife as the only victim. There was then, at length
it appeared to this stern-minded woman, another. She had laboured in
the flattering delusion that the devotion of a mother's love might
compensate to Venetia for the loss of that other parent, which in some
degree Lady Annabel had occasioned her; for the worthless husband, had
she chosen to tolerate the degrading connection, might nevertheless
have proved a tender father. But Nature, it seemed, had shrunk from
the vain effort of the isolated mother. The seeds of affection for
the father of her being were mystically implanted in the bosom of his
child. Lady Annabel recalled the harrowing hours that this attempt by
her to curb and control the natural course and rising sympathies
of filial love had cost her child, on whom she had so vigilantly
practised it. She recalled her strange aspirations, her inspired
curiosity, her brooding reveries, her fitful melancholy, her terrible
illness, her resignation, her fidelity, her sacrifices: there came
across the mind of Lady Annabel a mortifying conviction that the
devotion to her child, on which she had so rated herself, might
after all only prove a subtle form of profound selfishness; and that
Venetia, instead of being the idol of her love, might eventually be
the martyr of her pride. And, thinking of these things, she wept.
This evidence of emotion, which in such a spirit Herbert knew how to
estimate, emboldened him to advance; he fell on one knee before her
and her daughter; gently he stole her hand, and pressed it to his
lips. It was not withdrawn, and Venetia laid her hand upon theirs,
and would have bound them together had her mother been relentless.
It seemed to Venetia that she was at length happy, but she would
not speak, she would not disturb the still and silent bliss of the
impending reconciliation. Was it then indeed at hand? In truth, the
deportment of Herbert throughout the whole interview, so delicate, so
subdued, so studiously avoiding the slightest rivaly with his wife
in the affections of their child, and so carefully abstaining from
attempting in the slightest degree to control the feelings of Venetia,
had not been lost upon Lady Annabel. And when she thought of him, so
changed from what he had been, grey, bent, and careworn, with all the
lustre that had once so fascinated her, faded, and talking of that
impending fate which his wan though spiritual countenance too clearly
intimated, her heart melted.
Suddenly the door burst open, and there stalked into the room a woman
of eminent but most graceful stature, and of a most sovereign and
voluptuous beauty. She was habited in the Venetian dress; her dark
eyes glittered with fire, her cheek was inflamed with no amiable
emotion, and her long black hair was disordered by the violence of her
'And who are these?' she exclaimed in a shrill voice.
All started; Herbert sprang up from his position with a glance of
withering rage. Venetia was perplexed, Lady Annabel looked round, and
recognised the identical face, however distorted by passion, that she
had admired in the portrait at Arqua.
'And who are these?' exclaimed the intruder, advancing. 'Perfidious
Marmion! to whom do you dare to kneel?'
Lady Annabel drew herself up to a height that seemed to look down even
upon this tall stranger. The expression of majestic scorn that she
cast upon the intruder made her, in spite of all her violence and
excitement, tremble and be silent: she felt cowed she knew not why.
'Come, Venetia,' said Lady Annabel with all her usual composure, 'let
me save my daughter at least from this profanation,'
'Annabel!' said Herbert, rushing after them, 'be charitable, be just!'
He followed them to the threshold of the door; Venetia was silent, for
she was alarmed.
'Adieu, Marmion!' said Lady Annabel, looking over her shoulder with a
bitter smile, but placing her daughter before her, as if to guard her.
'Adieu, Marmion! adieu for ever!'
The moon shone brightly on the house of Petrarch, and the hamlet
slept in peace. Not a sound was heard, save the shrill voice of the
grasshoppers, so incessant that its monotony blended, as it were, with
the stillness. Over the green hills and the far expanse of the sheeny
plain, the beautiful light of heaven fell with all the magical repose
of the serene hour, an hour that brought to one troubled breast, and
one distracted spirit, in that still and simple village, no quietude.
Herbert came forth into the balcony of his residence, and leaning over
the balustrade, revolved in his agitated mind the strange and stirring
incidents of the day. His wife and his child had quitted the inn of
Rovigo instantly after that mortifying rencounter that had dashed so
cruelly to the ground all his sweet and quickly-rising hopes. As for
his companion, she had by his peremptory desire returned to Arqua
alone; he was not in a mood to endure her society; but he had
conducted himself to her mildly, though with firmness; he had promised
to follow her, and, in pursuance of his pledge, he rode home alone.
He was greeted on his return by his servant, full of the the visit
of the morning. With an irresistible curiosity, Herbert had made him
describe every incident that had occurred, and repeat a hundred times
every word that the visitors had uttered. He listened with some
consolation, however mournful, to his wife's praises of the unknown
stranger's life; he gazed with witching interest upon the autograph of
his daughter on the wall of his library. He had not confessed to his
mistress the relation which the two strangers bore to him; yet he was
influenced in concealing the real circumstances, only by an indefinite
sentiment, that made him reluctant to acknowledge to her ties so
pure. The feelings of the parent overpowered the principles of the
philosopher. This lady indeed, although at the moment she had indulged
in so violent an ebullition of temper, possessed little influence over
the mind of her companion. Herbert, however fond of solitude,
required in his restricted world the graceful results of feminine
superintendence. Time had stilled his passions, and cooled the fervour
of his soul. The age of his illusions had long passed. This was a
connection that had commenced in no extravagant or romantic mood, and
perhaps for that reason had endured. He had become acquainted with her
on his first unknown arrival in Italy, from America, now nearly two
years back. It had been maintained on his side by a temper naturally
sweet, and which, exhausted by years of violent emotion, now required
only repose; seeking, in a female friend, a form that should not
outrage an eye ever musing on the beautiful, and a disposition that
should contribute to his comfort, and never ruffle his feelings.
Separated from his wife by her own act, whatever might have been its
impulse, and for so long an interval, it was a connection which the
world in general might have looked upon with charity, which in her
calmer hours one would imagine even Lady Annabel might have glanced
over without much bitterness. Certainly it was one which, under all
the circumstances of the case, could scarcely be esteemed by her as an
outrage or an insult; but even Herbert felt, with all his philosophy
and proud freedom from prejudice, that the rencounter of the morning
was one which no woman could at the moment tolerate, few eventually
excuse, and which of all incidents was that which would most tend to
confirm his wife in her stoical obduracy. Of his offences towards
her, whatever were their number or their quality, this surely was the
least, and yet its results upon his life and fortunes would in all
probability only be equalled by the mysterious cause of their original
separation. But how much more bitter than that original separation
was their present parting! Mortifying and annoying as had been the
original occurrence, it was one that many causes and considerations
combined to enable Herbert to support. He was then in the very prime
of youth, inexperienced, sanguine, restless, and adventurous, with the
whole world and its unknown results before him, and freedom for which
he ever sighed to compensate for the loss of that domestic joy that
he was then unable to appreciate. But now twenty years, which, in the
career of such a spirit, were equal to a century of the existence of
coarser clay, had elapsed; he was bowed with thought and suffering, if
not by time; his conscience was light, but it was sad; his illusions
had all vanished; he knew the world, and all that the world could
bring, and he disregarded them; and the result of all his profound
study, lofty aspirations, and great conduct was, that he sighed for
rest. The original catastrophe had been merely a separation between
a husband and a wife; the one that had just happened, involved other
feelings; the father was also separated from his child, and a child of
such surpassing qualities, that his brief acquaintance with her had
alone sufficed to convert his dream of domestic repose into a vision
of domestic bliss.
Beautiful Venetia! so fair, and yet so dutiful; with a bosom teeming
with such exquisite sensibilities, and a mind bright with such acute
and elevated intelligence! An abstract conception of the sentiments
that might subsist between a father and a daughter, heightened by all
the devices of a glowing imagination, had haunted indeed occasionally
the solitary musing of Marmion Herbert; but what was this creation of
his poetic brain compared with the reality that now had touched his
human heart? Vainly had he believed that repose was the only solace
that remained for his exhausted spirit. He found that a new passion
now swayed his soul; a passion, too, that he had never proved; of
a nature most peculiar; pure, gentle, refined, yet ravishing and
irresistible, compared with which all former transports, no matter how
violent, tumultuous, and exciting, seemed evanescent and superficial:
they were indeed the wind, the fire, and the tempest that had gone
before, but this was the still small voice that followed, excelled,
and survived their might and majesty, unearthly and eternal!
His heart melted to his daughter, nor did he care to live without her
love and presence. His philosophical theories all vanished. He felt
how dependent we are in this world on our natural ties, and how
limited, with all his arrogance, is the sphere of man. Dreaming of
philanthropy, he had broken his wife's heart, and bruised, perhaps
irreparably, the spirit of his child; he had rendered those miserable
who depended on his love, and for whose affection his heart now
yearned to that degree, that he could not contemplate existence
without their active sympathy.
Was it then too late! Was it then impossible to regain that Paradise
he had forfeited so weakly, and of whose amaranthine bowers, but a few
hours since, he had caught such an entrancing glimpse, of which the
gate for a moment seemed about to re-open! In spite of all, then,
Annabel still loved him, loved him passionately, visited his picture,
mused over the glowing expression of their loves, wept over the bridal
bed so soon deserted! She had a dog, too, when Venetia was a child,
and called it Marmion.
The recollection of this little trait, so trifling, yet so touching,
made him weep even with wildness. The tears poured down his cheeks in
torrents, he sobbed convulsively, his very heart seemed to burst. For
some minutes he leant over the balustrade in a paroxysm of grief.
He looked up. The convent hill rose before him, bright in the moon;
beneath was his garden; around him the humble roofs that he made
happy. It was not without an effort that he recalled the locality,
that he remembered he was at Arqua. And who was sleeping within the
house? Not his wife, Annabel was far away with their daughter. The
vision of his whole life passed before him. Study and strife, and fame
and love; the pride of the philosopher, the rapture of the poet,
the blaze of eloquence, the clash of arms, the vows of passion, the
execration and the applause of millions; both once alike welcome to
his indomitable soul! And what had they borne to him? Misery. He
called up the image of his wife, young, beautiful, and noble, with a
mind capable of comprehending his loftiest and his finest moods, with
a soul of matchless purity, and a temper whose winning tenderness had
only been equalled by her elevated sense of self-respect; a woman that
might have figured in the days of chivalry, soft enough to be his
slave, but too proud to be his victim. He called up her image in
the castle of his fathers, exercising in a domain worthy of such a
mistress, all those sweet offices of life which here, in this hired
roof in a strange land, and with his crippled means, he had yet found
solacing. He conjured before him a bud by the side of that beauteous
flower, sharing all her lustre and all her fragrance, his own Venetia!
What happiness might not have been his? And for what had he forfeited
it? A dream, with no dream-like beauty; a perturbed, and restless, and
agitated dream, from which he had now woke shattered and exhausted.
He had sacrificed his fortune, he had forfeited his country, he had
alienated his wife, and he had lost his child; the home of his heroic
ancestry, the ancient land whose fame and power they had created, the
beauteous and gifted woman who would have clung for ever to his bosom,
and her transcendant offspring worthy of all their loves! Profound
The clock of the convent struck the second hour after midnight.
Herbert started. And all this time where were Annabel and Venetia?
They still lived, they were in the same country, an hour ago they were
under the same roof, in the same chamber; their hands had joined,
their hearts had opened, for a moment he had dared to believe that all
that he cared for might be regained. And why was it not? The cause,
the cause? It recurred to him with associations of dislike, of
disgust, of wrath, of hatred, of which one whose heart was so tender,
and whose reason was so clear, could under the influence of no other
feelings have been capable. The surrounding scene, that had so often
soothed his mournful soul, and connected it with the last hours of
a spirit to whom he bore much resemblance, was now looked upon with
aversion. To rid himself of ties, now so dreadful, was all his
ambition. He entered the house quickly, and, seating himself in his
closet, he wrote these words:
'You beheld this morning my wife and child; we can meet no more. All
that I can effect to console you under this sudden separation shall be
done. My banker from Bologna will be here in two days; express to him
all your wishes.'
It was written, sealed, directed, and left upon the table at which
they had so often been seated. Herbert descended into the garden,
saddled his horse, and in a few minutes, in the heart of night, had
The moment that the wife of Marmion Herbert re-entered her saloon, she
sent for her courier and ordered horses to her carriage instantly.
Until they were announced as ready, Lady Annabel walked up and down
the room with an impatient step, but was as completely silent as the
miserable Venetia, who remained weeping on the sofa. The confusion and
curiosity of Mistress Pauncefort were extraordinary. She still had a
lurking suspicion that the gentleman was Lord Cadurcis and she seized
the first opportunity of leaving the room, and flouncing into that of
the stranger, as if by mistake, determined to catch a glimpse of him;
but all her notable skill was baffled, for she had scarcely opened the
door before she was met by the Italian lady, who received Mistress
Pauncefort's ready-made apology, and bowed her away. The faithful
attendant then hurried downstairs to crossexamine the waiter, but,
though she gained considerable information from that functionary, it
was of a perplexing nature; for from him she only learnt that the
stranger lived at Arqua. 'The German gentleman!' soliloquised Mistress
Pauncefort; 'and what could he have to say to Miss Venetia! and a
married man, too! Well, to be sure, there is nothing like travelling
for adventures! And I must say, considering all that I know, and how
I have held my tongue for nearly twenty years, I think it is very
strange indeed of my lady to have any secrets from me. Secrets,
indeed! Poh!' and Mistress Pauncefort flounced again into Lady
Annabel's room, with a face of offended pride, knocking the books
about, dashing down writing cases, tossing about work, and making as
much noise and disturbance as if she had a separate quarrel with every
single article under her superintendence.
In the meantime the carriage was prepared, to which they were obliged
almost to carry Venetia, feeble and stupefied with grief. Uncertain
of her course, but anxious, in the present state of her daughter, for
rest and quiet, Lady Annabel ordered the courier to proceed to Padua,
at which city they arrived late at night, scarcely a word having been
interchanged during the whole journey between Lady Annabel and her
child, though infinite were the soft and soothing attentions which the
mother lavished upon her. Night, however, brought no rest to Venetia;
and the next day, her state appeared so alarming to Lady Annabel, that
she would have instantly summoned medical assistance, had it not been
for Venetia's strong objections. 'Indeed, dear mother,' she said,
'it is not physicians that I require. They cannot cure me. Let me be
The same cause, indeed, which during the last five years had at
intervals so seriously menaced the existence of this unhappy girl, was
now at work with renovated and even irresistible influence. Her frame
could no longer endure the fatal action of her over-excited nerves.
Her first illness, however alarming, had been baffled by time, skill,
and principally by the vigour of an extremely youthful frame, then a
stranger to any serious indisposition. At a later period, the change
of life induced by their residence at Weymouth had permitted her again
to rally. She had quitted England with renewed symptoms of her former
attack, but a still more powerful change, not only of scene, but of
climate and country, and the regular and peaceful life she had led on
the Lago Maggiore, had again reassured the mind of her anxious mother.
This last adventure at Rovigo, however, prostrated her. The strange
surprise, the violent development of feeling, the agonising doubts and
hopes, the terrible suspense the profound and bitter and overwhelming
disappointment, all combined to shake her mind to its very
foundations. She felt for the first time, that she could no longer
bear up against the torture of her singular position. Her energy was
entirely exhausted; she was no longer capable of making the slightest
exertion; she took refuge in that torpid resignation that results from
Lying on her sofa with her eyes fixed in listless abstraction, the
scene at Rovigo flitted unceasingly before her languid vision. At
length she had seen that father, that unknown and mysterious father,
whose idea had haunted her infancy as if by inspiration; to gain
the slightest knowledge of whom had cost her many long and acute
suffering; and round whose image for so many years every thought of
her intelligence, and every feeling of her heart, had clustered like
spirits round some dim and mystical altar, At length she had beheld
him; she had gazed on that spiritual countenance; she had listened to
the tender accents of that musical voice; within his arms she had been
folded with rapture, and pressed to a heart that seemed to beat
only for her felicity. The blessing of her father, uttered by his
long-loved lips, had descended on her brow, and been sealed with his
The entrance of her mother, that terrible contest of her lacerated
heart, when her two parents, as it were, appealed to her love, which
they would not share; the inspiration of her despair, that so suddenly
had removed the barriers of long years, before whose irresistible
pathos her father had bent a penitent, and her mother's inexorable
pride had melted; the ravishing bliss that for a moment had thrilled
through her, being experienced too for the first time, when she felt
that her parents were again united and bound by the sweet tie of her
now happy existence; this was the drama acted before her with an
almost ceaseless repetition of its transporting incidents; and when
she looked round, and beheld her mother sitting alone, and watching
her with a countenance almost of anguish, it was indeed with extreme
difficulty that Venetia could persuade herself that all had not been a
reverie; and she was only convinced of the contrary by that heaviness
of the heart which too quickly assures us of the reality of those
sorrows of which fancy for a moment may cheat us into scepticism.
And indeed her mother was scarcely less miserable. The sight of
Herbert, so changed from the form that she remembered; those tones of
heart-rending sincerity, in which he had mournfully appealed to the
influence of time and sorrow on his life, still greatly affected her.
She had indulged for a moment in a dream of domestic love, she had
cast to the winds the inexorable determination of a life, and had
mingled her tears with those of her husband and her child. And how
had she been repaid? By a degrading catastrophe, from whose revolting
associations her mind recoiled with indignation and disgust. But her
lingering feeling for her husband, her own mortification, were as
nothing compared with the harrowing anxiety she now entertained for
her daughter. To converse with Venetia on the recent occurrence was
impossible. It was a subject which admitted of no discussion. They
had passed a week at Padua, and the slightest allusion to what had
happened had never been made by either Lady Annabel or her child. It
was only by her lavish testimonies of affection that Lady Annabel
conveyed to Venetia how deeply she sympathised with her, and how
unhappy she was herself. She had, indeed, never quitted for a moment
the side of her daughter, and witnessed each day, with renewed
anguish, her deplorable condition; for Venetia continued in a state
which, to those unacquainted with her, might have been mistaken for
insensibility, but her mother knew too well that it was despair.
She never moved, she never sighed, nor wept; she took no notice of
anything that occurred; she sought relief in no resources. Books, and
drawings, and music, were quite forgotten by her; nothing amused, and
nothing annoyed her; she was not even fretful; she had, apparently,
no physical ailment; she remained pale and silent, plunged in an
absorbing paroxysm of overwhelming woe.
The unhappy Lady Annabel, at a loss how to act, at length thought it
might be advisable to cross over to Venice. She felt assured now, that
it would be a long time, if ever, before her child could again endure
the fatigue of travel; and she thought that for every reason, whether
for domestic comfort or medical advice, or those multifarious
considerations which interest the invalid, a capital was by far the
most desirable residence for them. There was a time when a visit to
the city that had given her a name had been a favourite dream of
Venetia; she had often sighed to be within
The sea-born city's walls; the graceful towers
Loved by the bard.
Those lines of her father had long echoed in her ear; but now the
proposition called no light to her glazed eye, nor summoned for an
instant the colour back to her cheek. She listened to her mother's
suggestion, and expressed her willingness to do whatever she desired.
Venice to her was now only a name; for, without the presence and the
united love of both her parents, no spot on earth could interest, and
no combination of circumstances affect her. To Venice, however, they
departed, having previously taken care that every arrangement should
be made for their reception. The English ambassador at the Ducal court
was a relative of Lady Annabel, and therefore no means or exertions
were spared to study and secure the convenience and accommodation of
the invalid. The barge of the ambassador met them at Fusina; and when
Venetia beheld the towers and cupolas of Venice, suffused with a
golden light and rising out of the bright blue waters, for a moment
her spirit seemed to lighten. It is indeed a spectacle as beautiful as
rare, and one to which the world offers few, if any, rivals. Gliding
over the great Lagune, the buildings, with which the pictures at
Cherbury had already made her familiar, gradually rose up before her:
the mosque-like Church of St. Marc, the tall Campanile red in the sun,
the Moresco Palace of the Doges, the deadly Bridge of Sighs, and the
dark structure to which it leads.
Venice had not then fallen. The gorgeous standards of the sovereign
republic, and its tributary kingdoms, still waved in the Place of St.
Marc; the Bucentaur was not rotting in the Arsenal, and the warlike
galleys of the state cruised without the Lagune; a busy and
picturesque population swarmed in all directions; and the Venetian
noble, the haughtiest of men, might still be seen proudly moving from
the council of state, or stepping into a gondola amid a bowing crowd.
All was stirring life, yet all was silent; the fantastic architecture,
the glowing sky, the flitting gondolas, and the brilliant crowd
gliding about with noiseless step, this city without sound, it seemed
The ambassador had engaged for Lady Annabel a palace on the Grand
Canal, belonging to Count Manfrini. It was a structure of great size
and magnificence, and rose out of the water with a flight of marble
steps. Within was a vast gallery, lined with statues and busts on tall
pedestals; suites of spacious apartments, with marble floors and
hung with satin; ceilings painted by Tintoretto and full of Turkish
trophies; furniture alike sumptuous and massy; the gilding, although
of two hundred years' duration, as bright and burnished as if it
had but yesterday been touched with the brush; sequin gold, as
the Venetians tell you to this day with pride. But even their old
furniture will soon not be left to them, as palaces are now daily
broken up like old ships, and their colossal spoils consigned to
Hanway Yard and Bond Street, whence, re-burnished and vamped up, their
Titantic proportions in time appropriately figure in the boudoirs of
May Fair and the miniature saloons of St. James'. Many a fine lady now
sits in a doge's chair, and many a dandy listens to his doom from a
couch that has already witnessed the less inexorable decrees of the
Council of Ten.
Amid all this splendour, however, one mournful idea alone pervaded the
tortured consciousness of Lady Annabel Herbert. Daily the dark truth
stole upon her with increased conviction, that Venetia had come hither
only to die. There seemed to the agitated ear of this distracted
mother a terrible omen even in the very name of her child; and she
could not resist the persuasion that her final destiny would, in some
degree, be connected with her fanciful appellation. The physicians,
for hopeless as Lady Annabel could not resist esteeming their
interference, Venetia was now surrounded with physicians, shook their
heads, prescribed different remedies and gave contrary opinions; each
day, however, their patient became more languid, thinner and more
thin, until she seemed like a beautiful spirit gliding into the
saloon, leaning on her mother's arm, and followed by Pauncefort, who