Part 8 out of 10
had now learnt the fatal secret from, her mistress, and whose heart
was indeed almost broken at the prospect of the calamity that was
impending over them.
At Padua, Lady Annabel, in her mortified reveries, outraged as she
conceived by her husband, and anxious about her daughter, had schooled
herself into visiting her fresh calamities on the head of the unhappy
Herbert, to whose intrusion and irresistible influence she ascribed
all the illness of her child; but, as the indisposition of Venetia
gradually, but surely, increased, until at length it assumed so
alarming an aspect that Lady Annabel, in the distraction of her mind,
could no longer refrain from contemplating the most fatal result, she
had taught herself bitterly to regret the failure of that approaching
reconciliation which now she could not but believe would, at least,
have secured her the life of Venetia. Whatever might be the risk
of again uniting herself with her husband, whatever might be the
mortification and misery which it might ultimately, or even speedily,
entail upon her, there was no unhappiness that she could herself
experience, which for one moment she could put in competition with the
existence of her child. When that was the question, every feeling
that had hitherto impelled her conduct assumed a totally different
complexion. That conduct, in her view, had been a systematic sacrifice
of self to secure the happiness of her daughter; and the result of all
her exertions was, that not only her happiness was destroyed, but her
life was fast vanishing away. To save Venetia, it now appeared to Lady
Annabel that there was no extremity which she would not endure; and if
it came to a question, whether Venetia should survive, or whether
she should even be separated from her mother, her maternal heart now
assured her that she would not for an instant hesitate in preferring
an eternal separation to the death of her child. Her terror now worked
to such a degree upon her character, that she even, at times, half
resolved to speak to Venetia upon the subject, and contrive some
method of communicating her wishes to her father; but pride, the
habitual repugnance of so many years to converse upon the topic,
mingled also, as should be confessed, with an indefinite apprehension
of the ill consequences of a conversation of such a character on the
nervous temperament of her daughter, restrained her.
'My love!' said Lady Annabel, one day to her daughter, 'do you think
you could go out? The physicians think it of great importance that you
should attempt to exert yourself, however slightly.'
'Dear mother, if anything could annoy me from your lips, it would
be to hear you quote these physicians,' said Venetia. 'Their daily
presence and inquiries irritate me. Let me be at peace. I wish to see
no one but you.'
'But Venetia,' said Lady Annabel, in a voice of great emotion,
'Venetia--,' and here she paused; 'think of my anxiety.'
'Dear mother, it would be ungrateful for me ever to forget that. But
you, and you alone, know that my state, whatever it may be, and to
whatever it may be I am reconciled, is not produced by causes over
which these physicians have any control, over which no one has
control--now,' added Venetia, in a tone of great mournfulness.
For here we must remark that so inexperienced was Venetia in the
feelings of others, and so completely did she judge of the strength
and purity of their emotions from her own, that reflection, since the
terrible adventure of Rovigo, had only convinced her that it was no
longer in her mother's power to unite herself again with her other
parent. She had taught herself to look upon her father's burst of
feeling towards Lady Annabel as the momentary and inevitable result of
a meeting so unexpected and overpowering, but she did not doubt that
the stranger whose presence had ultimately so fatally clouded that
interview of promise, possessed claims upon Marmion Herbert which he
would neither break, nor, upon reflection, be desirous to question. It
was then the conviction that a reconciliation between her parents was
now impossible, in which her despair originated, and she pictured to
herself her father once more at Arqua disturbed, perhaps, for a day
or two, as he naturally must be, by an interview so sudden and so
harassing; shedding a tear, perhaps, in secret to the wife whom he had
injured, and the child whom he had scarcely seen; but relapsing, alike
from the force of habit and inclination, into those previous and
confirmed feelings, under whose influence, she was herself a witness,
his life had been so serene, and even so laudable. She was confirmed
in these opinions by the circumstance of their never having heard
since from him. Placed in his situation, if indeed an irresistible
influence were not controlling him, would he have hesitated for a
moment to have prevented even their departure, or to have pursued
them; to have sought at any rate some means of communicating with
them? He was plainly reconciled to his present position, and felt that
under these circumstances silence on his part was alike kindest and
most discreet. Venetia had ceased, therefore, to question the justice
or the expediency, or even the abstract propriety, of her mother's
conduct. She viewed their condition now as the result of stern
necessity. She pitied her mother, and for herself she had no hope.
There was then much meaning in that little monosyllable with which
Venetia concluded her reply to her mother. She had no hope 'now.' Lady
Annabel, however, ascribed it to a very different meaning; she only
believed that her daughter was of opinion that nothing would induce
her now to listen to the overtures of her father. Prepared for any
sacrifice of self, Lady Annabel replied, 'But there is hope, Venetia;
when your life is in question, there is nothing that should not be
'Nothing can be done,' said Venetia, who, of course, could not dream
of what was passing in her mother's mind.
Lady Annabel rose from her seat and walked to the window; apparently
her eye watched only the passing gondolas, but indeed she saw them
not; she saw only her child stretched perhaps on the couch of death.
'We quitted, perhaps, Rovigo too hastily,' said Lady Annabel, in a
choking voice, and with a face of scarlet. It was a terrible struggle,
but the words were uttered.
'No, mother,' said Venetia, to Lady Annabel's inexpressible surprise,
'we did right to go.'
'Even my child, even Venetia, with all her devotion to him, feels the
absolute necessity of my conduct,' thought Lady Annabel. Her pride
returned; she felt the impossibility of making an overture to Herbert;
she looked upon their daughter as the last victim of his fatal career.
How beautiful is night in Venice! Then music and the moon reign
supreme; the glittering sky reflected in the waters, and every gondola
gliding with sweet sounds! Around on every side are palaces and
temples, rising from the waves which they shadow with their solemn
forms, their costly fronts rich with the spoils of kingdoms, and
softened with the magic of the midnight beam. The whole city too is
poured forth for festival. The people lounge on the quays and cluster
on the bridges; the light barks skim along in crowds, just touching
the surface of the water, while their bright prows of polished iron
gleam in the moonshine, and glitter in the rippling wave. Not a sound
that is not graceful: the tinkle of guitars, the sighs of serenaders,
and the responsive chorus of gondoliers. Now and then a laugh,
light, joyous, and yet musical, bursts forth from some illuminated
coffee-house, before which a buffo disports, a tumbler stands on his
head, or a juggler mystifies; and all for a sequin!
The Place of St. Marc, at the period of our story, still presented the
most brilliant spectacle of the kind in Europe. Not a spot was more
distinguished for elegance, luxury, and enjoyment. It was indeed the
inner shrine of the temple of pleasure, and very strange and amusing
would be the annals of its picturesque arcades. We must not, however,
step behind their blue awnings, but content ourselves with the
exterior scene; and certainly the Place of St. Marc, with the
variegated splendour of its Christian mosque, the ornate architecture
of its buildings, its diversified population, a tribute from every
shore of the midland sea, and where the noble Venetian, in his robe
of crimson silk, and long white peruque, might be jostled by the
Sclavonian with his target, and the Albanian in his kilt, while the
Turk, sitting cross-legged on his Persian carpet, smoked his long
chibouque with serene gravity, and the mild Armenian glided by him
with a low reverence, presented an aspect under a Venetian moon such
as we shall not easily find again in Christendom, and, in spite of the
dying glory and the neighbouring vice, was pervaded with an air of
romance and refinement, compared with which the glittering dissipation
of Paris, even in its liveliest and most graceful hours, assumes a
character alike coarse and commonplace.
It is the hour of love and of faro; now is the hour to press your suit
and to break a bank; to glide from the apartment of rapture into the
chamber of chance. Thus a noble Venetian contrived to pass the night,
in alternations of excitement that in general left him sufficiently
serious for the morrow's council. For more vulgar tastes there was the
minstrel, the conjuror, and the story-teller, goblets of Cyprus wine,
flasks of sherbet, and confectionery that dazzled like diamonds. And
for every one, from the grave senator to the gay gondolier, there was
an atmosphere in itself a spell, and which, after all, has more to do
with human happiness than all the accidents of fortune and all the
arts of government.
Amid this gay and brilliant multitude, one human being stood alone.
Muffled in his cloak, and leaning against a column in the portico
of St. Marc, an expression of oppressive care and affliction was
imprinted on his countenance, and ill accorded with the light and
festive scene. Had he been crossed in love, or had he lost at
play? Was it woman or gold to which his anxiety and sorrow were
attributable, for under one or other of these categories, undoubtedly,
all the miseries of man may range. Want of love, or want of money,
lies at the bottom of all our griefs.
The stranger came forward, and leaving the joyous throng, turned down
the Piazzetta, and approached the quay of the Lagune. A gondolier
saluted him, and he entered his boat.
'Whither, signor?' said the gondolier.
'To the Grand Canal,' he replied.
Over the moonlit wave the gondola swiftly skimmed! The scene was a
marvellous contrast to the one which the stranger had just quitted;
but it brought no serenity to his careworn countenance, though his eye
for a moment kindled as he looked upon the moon, that was sailing in
the cloudless heaven with a single star by her side.
They had soon entered the Grand Canal, and the gondolier looked to his
employer for instructions. 'Row opposite to the Manfrini palace,' said
the stranger, 'and rest upon your oar.'
The blinds of the great window of the palace were withdrawn.
Distinctly might be recognised a female figure bending over the
recumbent form of a girl. An hour passed away and still the gondola
was motionless, and still the silent stranger gazed on the inmates of
the palace. A servant now came forward and closed the curtain of the
chamber. The stranger sighed, and waving his hand to the gondolier,
bade him return to the Lagune.
It is curious to recall our feelings at a moment when a great event
is impending over us, and we are utterly unconscious of its probable
occurrence. How often does it happen that a subject which almost
unceasingly engages our mind, is least thought of at the very instant
that the agitating suspense involved in its consideration is perhaps
about to be terminated for ever! The very morning after the mysterious
gondola had rested so long before the Manfrini Palace, Venetia rose
for the first time since the flight from Rovigo, refreshed by her
slumbers, and tranquil in her spirit. It was not in her power
to recall her dreams; but they had left a vague and yet serene
impression. There seemed a lightness in her heart, that long had been
unusual with her, and she greeted her mother with a smile, faint
indeed, yet natural.
Perhaps this beneficial change, slight but still delightful, might be
attributed to the softness and the splendour of the morn. Before the
approach of winter, it seemed that the sun was resolved to remind the
Venetians that they were his children; and that, although his rays
might be soon clouded for a season, they were not to believe that
their parent had deserted them. The sea was like glass, a golden haze
suffused the horizon, and a breeze, not strong enough to disturb the
waters, was wafted at intervals from the gardens of the Brenta, fitful
Venetia had yielded to the suggestion of her mother, and had agreed
for the first time to leave the palace. They stepped into their
gondola, and were wafted to an island in the Lagune where there was
a convent, and, what in Venice was more rare and more delightful, a
garden. Its scanty shrubberies sparkled in the sun; and a cypress
flanked by a pine-tree offered to the eye unused to trees a novel and
picturesque group. Beneath its shade they rested, watching on one side
the distant city, and on the other the still and gleaming waters of
the Adriatic. While they were thus sitting, renovated by the soft air
and pleasant spectacle, a holy father, with a beard like a meteor,
appeared and addressed them.
'Welcome to St. Lazaro!' said the holy father, speaking in English;
'and may the peace that reigns within its walls fill also your
'Indeed, holy father,' said Lady Annabel to the Armenian monk, 'I have
long heard of your virtues and your happy life.'
'You know that Paradise was placed in our country,' said the monk with
a smile. 'We have all lost Paradise, but the Armenian has lost his
country too. Nevertheless, with God's blessing, on this islet we have
found an Eden, pure at least and tranquil.'
'For the pious, Paradise exists everywhere,' said Lady Annabel.
'You have been in England, holy father?' said Venetia.
'It has not been my good fortune,' replied the monk.
'Yet you speak our tongue with a facility and accent that surprise
'I learnt it in America where I long resided,' rejoined the Armenian.
'This is for your eye, lady,' continued the monk, drawing a letter
from his bosom.
Lady Annabel felt not a little surprised; but the idea immediately
occurred to her that it was some conventual memorial appealing to her
charity. She took the paper from the monk, who immediately moved away;
but what was the agitation of Lady Annabel when she recognised the
handwriting of her husband! Her first thought was to save Venetia
from sharing that agitation. She rose quickly; she commanded herself
sufficiently to advise her daughter, in a calm tone, to remain seated,
while for a moment she refreshed herself by a stroll. She had not
quitted Venetia many paces, when she broke the seal and read these
'Tremble not, Annabel, when you recognise this handwriting. It is that
of one whose only aspiration is to contribute to your happiness; and
although the fulfilment of that fond desire may be denied him, it
never shall be said, even by you, that any conduct of his should now
occasion you annoyance. I am in Venice at the peril of my life, which
I only mention because the difficulties inseparable from my position
are the principal cause that you did not receive this communication
immediately after our strange meeting. I have gazed at night upon your
palace, and watched the forms of my wife and our child; but one word
from you, and I quit Venice for ever, and it shall not be my fault if
you are ever again disturbed by the memory of the miserable Herbert.
'But before I go, I will make this one appeal if not to your justice,
at least to your mercy. After the fatal separation of a life, we have
once more met: you have looked upon me not with hatred; my hand has
once more pressed yours; for a moment I indulged the impossible hope,
that this weary and exhausted spirit might at length be blessed. With
agony I allude to the incident that dispelled the rapture of
this vision. Sufficient for me most solemnly to assure you that
four-and-twenty hours had not elapsed without that feeble and
unhallowed tie being severed for ever! It vanished instantaneously
before the presence of my wife and my child. However you decide, it
can never again subsist: its utter and eternal dissolution was the
inevitable homage to your purity.
'Whatever may have been my errors, whatever my crimes, for I will not
attempt to justify to you a single circumstance of my life, I humble
myself in the dust before you, and solicit only mercy; yet whatever
may have been my career, ah! Annabel, in the infinite softness of your
soul was it not for a moment pardoned? Am I indeed to suffer for that
last lamentable intrusion? You are a woman, Annabel, with a brain as
clear as your heart is pure. Judge me with calmness, Annabel; were
there no circumstances in my situation to extenuate that deplorable
connection? I will not urge them; I will not even intimate them; but
surely, Annabel, when I kneel before you full of deep repentance and
long remorse, if you could pardon the past, it is not that incident,
however mortifying to you, however disgraceful to myself, that should
be an impassable barrier to all my hopes!
'Once you loved me; I ask you not to love me now. There is nothing
about me now that can touch the heart of woman. I am old before my
time; bent with the blended influence of action and of thought, and of
physical and moral suffering. The play of my spirit has gone for ever.
My passions have expired like my hopes. The remaining sands of my life
are few. Once it was otherwise: you can recall a different picture of
the Marmion on whom you smiled, and of whom you were the first love. O
Annabel! grey, feeble, exhausted, penitent, let me stagger over your
threshold, and die! I ask no more; I will not hope for your affection;
I will not even count upon your pity; but endure my presence; let your
roof screen my last days!'
It was read; it was read again, dim as was the sight of Lady Annabel
with fast-flowing tears. Still holding the letter, but with hands
fallen, she gazed upon the shining waters before her in a fit of
abstraction. It was the voice of her child that roused her.
'Mother,' said Venetia in a tone of some decision, 'you are troubled,
and we have only one cause of trouble. That letter is from my father.'
Lady Annabel gave her the letter in silence.
Venetia withdrew almost unconsciously a few paces from her mother. She
felt this to be the crisis of her life. There never was a moment which
she believed required more fully the presence of all her energies.
Before she had addressed Lady Annabel, she had endeavoured to steel
her mind to great exertion. Yet now that she held the letter, she
could not command herself sufficiently to read it. Her breath deserted
her; her hand lost its power; she could not even open the lines on
which perhaps her life depended. Suddenly, with a rapid effort, she
glanced at the contents. The blood returned to her check; her eye
became bright with excitement; she gasped for breath; she advanced to
Lady Annabel. 'Ah! mother,' she exclaimed, 'you will grant all that it
Still gazing on the wave that laved the shore of the island with an
almost inperceptible ripple, Lady Annabel continued silent.
'Mother,' said Venetia, 'my beloved mother, you hesitate.' She
approached Lady Annabel, and with one arm round her neck, she grasped
with the other her mother's hand. 'I implore you, by all that
affection which you lavish on me, yield to this supplication. O
mother! dearest mother! it has been my hope that my life has been at
least a life of duty; I have laboured to yield to all your wishes.
I have struggled to make their fulfilment the law of my being. Yes!
mother, your memory will assure you, that when the sweetest emotions
of my heart were the stake, you appealed to me to sacrifice them, and
they were dedicated to your will. Have I ever murmured? I have sought
only to repay your love by obedience. Speak to me, dearest mother! I
implore you speak to me! Tell me, can you ever repent relenting in
this instance? O mother! you will not hesitate; you will not indeed;
you will bring joy and content to our long-harassed hearth! Tell me
so; I beseech you tell me so! I wish, oh! how I wish, that you would
comply from the mere impulse of your own heart! But, grant that it
is a sacrifice; grant that it may be unwise; that it may be vain; I
supplicate you to make it! I, your child, who never deserted you, who
will never desert you, pledging my faith to you in the face of heaven;
for my sake, I supplicate you to make it. You do not hesitate; you
cannot hesitate; mother, you cannot hesitate. Ah! you would not if you
knew all; if you knew all the misery of my life, you would be glad;
you would be cheerful; you would look upon this as an interposition of
Providence in favour of your Venetia; you would, indeed, dear mother!'
'What evil fortune guided our steps to Italy?' said Lady Annabel in a
solemn tone, and as if in soliloquy.
'No, no, mother; not evil fortune; fortune the best and brightest,'
exclaimed her daughter, 'We came here to be happy, and happiness we
have at length gained. It is in our grasp; I feel it. It was not
fortune, dear mother! it was fate, it was Providence, it was God. You
have been faithful to Him, and He has brought back to you my father,
chastened and repentant. God has turned his heart to all your virtues.
Will you desert him? No, no, mother, you will not, you cannot; for his
sake, for your own sake, and for your child's, you will not!'
'For twenty years I have acted from an imperious sense of duty,' said
Lady Annabel, 'and for your sake, Venetia, as much as for my own.
Shall the feelings of a moment--'
'O mother! dearest mother! say not these words. With me, at least,
it has not been the feeling of a moment. It haunted my infancy; it
harassed me while a girl; it has brought me in the prime of womanhood
to the brink of the grave. And with you, mother, has it been the
feeling of a moment? Ah! you ever loved him, when his name was never
breathed by those lips. You loved him when you deemed he had forgotten
you; when you pictured him to yourself in all the pride of health and
genius, wanton and daring; and now, now that he comes to you penitent,
perhaps dying, more like a remorseful spirit than a breathing being,
and humbles himself before you, and appeals only to your mercy, ah! my
mother, you cannot reject, you could not reject him, even if you were
alone, even if you had no child!'
'My child! my child! all my hopes were in my child,' murmured Lady
'Is she not by your side?' said Venetia.
'You know not what you ask; you know not what you counsel,' said Lady
Annabel. 'It has been the prayer and effort of my life that you should
never know. There is a bitterness in the reconciliation which follows
long estrangement, that yields a pang more acute even than the first
disunion. Shall I be called upon to mourn over the wasted happiness of
twenty years? Why did he not hate us?'
'The pang is already felt, mother,' said Venetia. 'Reject my father,
but you cannot resume the feelings of a month back. You have seen
him; you have listened to him. He is no longer the character which
justified your conduct, and upheld you under the trial. His image has
entered your soul; your heart is softened. Bid him quit Venice without
seeing you, and you will remain the most miserable of women.'
'On his head, then, be the final desolation,' said Lady Annabel; 'it
is but a part of the lot that he has yielded me.'
'I am silent,' said Venetia, relaxing her grasp. 'I see that your
child is not permitted to enter into your considerations.' She turned
'Venetia!' said her mother.
'Mother!' said Venetia, looking back, but not returning.
'Return one moment to me.'
Venetia slowly rejoined her. Lady Annabel spoke in a kind and gentle,
though serious tone.
'Venetia,' she said, 'what I am about to speak is not the impulse of
the moment, but has been long revolved in my mind; do not, therefore,
misapprehend it. I express without passion what I believe to be truth.
I am persuaded that the presence of your father is necessary to
your happiness; nay, more, to your life. I recognise the mysterious
influence which he has ever exercised over your existence. I feel it
impossible for me any longer to struggle against a power to which I
bow. Be happy, then, my daughter, and live. Fly to your father, and be
to him as matchless a child as you have been to me.' She uttered these
last words in a choking voice.
'Is this, indeed, the dictate of your calm judgment, mother?' said
'I call God to witness, it has of late been more than once on my lips.
The other night, when I spoke of Rovigo, I was about to express this.'
'Then, mother!' said Venetia, 'I find that I have been misunderstood.
At least I thought my feelings towards yourself had been appreciated.
They have not; and I can truly say, my life does not afford a single
circumstance to which I can look back with content. Well will it
indeed be for me to die?'
'The dream of my life,' said Lady Annabel, in a tone of infinite
distress, 'was that she, at least, should never know unhappiness. It
was indeed a dream.'
There was now a silence of several minutes. Lady Annabel remained in
exactly the same position, Venetia standing at a little distance from
her, looking resigned and sorrowful.
'Venetia,' at length said Lady Annabel, 'why are you silent?'
'Mother, I have no more to say. I pretend not to act in this life; it
is my duty to follow you.'
'And your inclination?' inquired Lady Annabel.
'I have ceased to have a wish upon any subject,' said Venetia.
'Venetia,' said Lady Annabel, with a great effort, 'I am miserable.'
This unprecedented confession of suffering from the strong mind of her
mother, melted Venetia to the heart. She advanced, and threw her arms
round her mother's neck, and buried her weeping face in Lady Annabel's
'Speak to me, my daughter,' said Lady Annabel; 'counsel me, for my
mind trembles; anxiety has weakened it. Nay, I beseech you, speak.
Speak, speak, Venetia. What shall I do?'
'Mother, I will never say anything again but that I love you!'
'I see the holy father in the distance. Let us walk to him, my child,
and meet him.'
Accordingly Lady Annabel, now leaning on Venetia, approached the monk.
About five minutes elapsed before they reached him, during which not a
word was spoken.
'Holy father,' said Lady Annabel, in a tone of firmness that surprised
her daughter and made her tremble with anticipation, 'you know the
writer of this letter?'
'He is my friend of many years, lady,' replied the Armenian; 'I knew
him in America. I owe to him my life, and more than my life. There
breathes not his equal among men.'
A tear started to the eye of Lady Annabel; she recalled the terms in
which the household at Arqua had spoken of Herbert. 'He is in Venice?'
'He is within these walls,' the monk replied.
Venetia, scarcely able to stand, felt her mother start. After a
momentary pause, Lady Annabel said, 'Can I speak with him, and alone?'
Nothing but the most nervous apprehension of throwing any obstacle in
the way of the interview could have sustained Venetia. Quite pale,
with her disengaged hand clenched, not a word escaped her lips. She
hung upon the answer of the monk.
'You can see him, and alone,' said the monk. 'He is now in the
sacristy. Follow me.'
'Venetia,' said Lady Annabel, 'remain in this garden. I will accompany
this holy man. Stop! embrace me before I go, and,' she added, in a
whisper, 'pray for me.'
It needed not the admonition of her mother to induce Venetia to seek
refuge in prayer, in this agony of her life. But for its salutary and
stilling influence, it seemed to her that she must have forfeited all
control over her mind. The suspense was too terrible for human aid to
support her. Seated by the sea-side, she covered her face with her
hands, and invoked the Supreme assistance. More than an hour passed
away. Venetia looked up. Two beautiful birds, of strange form and
spotless plumage, that perhaps had wandered from the Aegean, were
hovering over her head, bright and glancing in the sun. She accepted
their appearance as a good omen. At this moment she heard a voice,
and, looking up, observed a monk in the distance, beckoning to her.
She rose, and with a trembling step approached him. He retired, still
motioning to her to follow him. She entered, by a low portal, a dark
cloister; it led to an ante-chapel, through which, as she passed, her
ear caught the solemn chorus of the brethren. Her step faltered; her
sight was clouded; she was as one walking in a dream. The monk opened
a door, and, retiring, waved his hand, as for her to enter. There was
a spacious and lofty chamber, scantily furnished, some huge chests,
and many sacred garments. At the extreme distance her mother was
reclined on a bench, her head supported by a large crimson cushion,
and her father kneeling by her mother's side. With a soundless step,
and not venturing even to breathe, Venetia approached them, and, she
knew not how, found herself embraced by both her parents.
END OF BOOK V.
In a green valley of the Apennines, close to the sea-coast between
Genoa and Spezzia, is a marine villa, that once belonged to the
Malaspina family, in olden time the friends and patrons of Dante. It
is rather a fantastic pile, painted in fresco, but spacious, in good
repair, and convenient. Although little more than a mile from Spezzia,
a glimpse of the blue sea can only be caught from one particular spot,
so completely is the land locked with hills, covered with groves of
chestnut and olive orchards. From the heights, however, you enjoy
magnificent prospects of the most picturesque portion of the Italian
coast; a lofty, undulating, and wooded shore, with an infinite variety
of bays and jutting promontories; while the eye, wandering from
Leghorn on one side towards Genoa on the other, traces an almost
uninterrupted line of hamlets and casinos, gardens and orchards,
terraces of vines, and groves of olive. Beyond them, the broad and
blue expanse of the midland ocean, glittering in the meridian blaze,
or about to receive perhaps in its glowing waters the red orb of
It was the month of May, in Italy, at least, the merry month of May,
and Marmion Herbert came forth from the villa Malaspina, and throwing
himself on the turf, was soon lost in the volume of Plato which he
bore with him. He did not move until in the course of an hour he was
roused by the arrival of servants, who brought seats and a table,
when, looking up, he observed Lady Annabel and Venetia in the portico
of the villa. He rose to greet them, and gave his arm to his wife.
'Spring in the Apennines, my Annabel,' said Herbert, 'is a happy
combination. I am more in love each day with this residence. The
situation is so sheltered, the air so soft and pure, the spot so
tranquil, and the season so delicious, that it realises all my romance
of retirement. As for you, I never saw you look so well; and as for
Venetia, I can scarcely believe this rosy nymph could have been our
pale-eyed girl, who cost us such anxiety!'
'Our breakfast is not ready. Let us walk to our sea view,' said Lady
Annabel. 'Give me your book to carry, Marmion.'
'There let the philosopher repose,' said Herbert, throwing the volume
on the turf. 'Plato dreamed of what I enjoy.'
'And of what did Plato dream, papa?' said Venetia.
'He dreamed of love, child.'
Venetia took her father's disengaged arm.
They had now arrived at their sea view, a glimpse of the Mediterranean
between two tall crags.
'A sail in the offing,' said Herbert. 'How that solitary sail tells,
'I feel the sea breeze, mother. Does not it remind you of Weymouth?'
'Ah! Marmion,' said Lady Annabel, 'I would that you could see Masham
once more. He is the only friend that I regret.'
'He prospers, Annabel; let that be our consolation: I have at least
not injured him.'
They turned their steps; their breakfast was now prepared. The sun had
risen above the hill beneath whose shade they rested, and the opposite
side of the valley sparkled in light. It was a cheerful scene. 'I have
a passion for living in the air,' said Herbert; 'I always envied the
shepherds in Don Quixote. One of my youthful dreams was living among
mountains of rosemary, and drinking only goat's milk. After breakfast
I will read you Don Quixote's description of the golden age. I have
often read it until the tears came into my eyes.'
'We must fancy ourselves in Spain,' said Lady Annabel; 'it is not
difficult in this wild green valley; and if we have not rosemary, we
have scents as sweet. Nature is our garden here, Venetia; and I do not
envy even the statues and cypresses of our villa of the lake.'
'We must make a pilgrimage some day to the Maggiore, Annabel,' said
Herbert. 'It is hallowed ground to me now.'
Their meal was finished, the servants brought their work, and books,
and drawings; and Herbert, resuming his natural couch, re-opened his
Plato, but Venetia ran into the villa, and returned with a volume.
'You must read us the golden age, papa,' she said, as she offered him,
with a smile, his favourite Don Quixote.
'You must fancy the Don looking earnestly upon a handful of acorns,'
said Herbert, opening the book, 'while he exclaims, "O happy age!
which our first parents called the age of gold! not because gold, so
much adored in this iron age, was then easily purchased, but because
those two fatal words, _meum_ and _tuum_, were distinctions unknown to
the people of those fortunate times; for all things were in common in
that holy age: men, for their sustenance, needed only to lift their
hands, and take it from the sturdy oak, whose spreading arms liberally
invited them to gather the wholesome savoury fruit; while the clear
springs, and silver rivulets, with luxuriant plenty, afforded them
their pure refreshing water. In hollow trees, and in the clefts
of rocks, the labouring and industrious bees erected their little
commonwealths, that men might reap with pleasure and with ease the
sweet and fertile harvest of their toils, The tough and strenuous
cork-trees did, of themselves, and without other art than their native
liberality, dismiss and impart their broad light bark, which served to
cover those lowly huts, propped up with rough-hewn stakes, that were
first built as a shelter against the inclemencies of the air. All then
was union, all peace, all love and friendship in the world. As yet no
rude ploughshare presumed with violence to pry into the pious bowels
of our mother earth, for she without compulsion kindly yielded from
every part of her fruitful and spacious bosom, whatever might at once
satisfy, sustain, and indulge her frugal children. Then was the time
when innocent, beautiful young sheperdesses went tripping over the
hills and vales; their lovely hair sometimes plaited, sometimes loose
and flowing, clad in no other vestment but what the modesty of nature
might require. The Tyrian dye, the rich glossy hue of silk, martyred
and dissembled into every colour, which are now esteemed so fine and
magnificent, were unknown to the innocent simplicity of that age; yet,
bedecked with more becoming leaves and flowers, they outshone the
proudest of the vaindressing ladies of our times, arrayed in the most
magnificent garbs and all the most sumptuous adornings which idleness
and luxury have taught succeeding pride. Lovers then expressed the
passion of their souls in the unaffected language of the heart, with
the native plainness and sincerity in which they were conceived, and
divested of all that artificial contexture which enervates what it
labours to enforce. Imposture, deceit, and malice had not yet crept
in, and imposed themselves unbribed upon mankind in the disguise of
truth: justice, unbiassed either by favour or interest, which now so
fatally pervert it, was equally and impartially dispensed; nor was the
judge's fancy law, for then there were neither judges nor causes to be
judged. The modest maid might then walk alone. But, in this degenerate
age, fraud and a legion of ills infecting the world, no virtue can be
safe, no honour be secure; while wanton desires, diffused into the
hearts of men, corrupt the strictest watches and the closest retreats,
which, though as intricate, and unknown as the labyrinth of Crete,
are no security for chastity. Thus, that primitive innocence being
vanished, the oppression daily prevailing, there was a necessity
to oppose the torrent of violence; for which reason the order of
knighthood errant was instituted, to defend the honour of virgins,
protect widows, relieve orphans, and assist all that are distressed.
Now I myself am one of this order, honest friends and though all
people are obliged by the law of nature to be kind to persons of my
character, yet since you, without knowing anything of this obligation,
have so generously entertained me, I ought to pay you my utmost
acknowledgment, and accordingly return you my most hearty thanks."
'There,' said Herbert, as he closed the book. 'In my opinion, Don
Quixote was the best man that ever lived.'
'But he did not ever live,' said Lady Annabel, smiling.
'He lives to us,' said Herbert. 'He is the same to this age as if he
had absolutely wandered over the plains of Castile and watched in the
Sierra Morena. We cannot, indeed, find his tomb; but he has left us
his great example. In his hero, Cervantes has given us the picture
of a great and benevolent philosopher, and in his Sancho, a complete
personification of the world, selfish and cunning, and yet overawed
by the genius that he cannot comprehend: alive to all the material
interests of existence, yet sighing after the ideal; securing his four
young foals of the she-ass, yet indulging in dreams of empire.'
'But what do you think of the assault on the windmills, Marmion?' said
'In the outset of his adventures, as in the outset of our lives, he
was misled by his enthusiasm,' replied Herbert, 'without which, after
all, we can do nothing. But the result is, Don Quixote was a redresser
of wrongs, and therefore the world esteemed him mad.'
In this vein, now conversing, now occupied with their pursuits, and
occasionally listening to some passage which Herbert called to their
attention, and which ever served as the occasion for some critical
remarks, always as striking from their originality as they were happy
in their expression, the freshness of the morning disappeared; the sun
now crowned the valley with his meridian beam, and they re-entered the
villa. The ladies returned to their cool saloon, and Herbert to his
It was there he amused himself by composing the following lines:
SPRING IN THE APENNINES.
Spring in the Apennine now holds her court
Within an amphitheatre of hills,
Clothed with the blooming chestnut; musical
With murmuring pines, waving their light green cones
Like youthful Bacchants; while the dewy grass,
The myrtle and the mountain violet,
Blend their rich odours with the fragrant trees,
And sweeten the soft air. Above us spreads
The purple sky, bright with the unseen sun
The hills yet screen, although the golden beam
Touches the topmost boughs, and tints with light
The grey and sparkling crags. The breath of morn
Still lingers in the valley; but the bee
With restless passion hovers on the wing,
Waiting the opening flower, of whose embrace
The sun shall be the signal. Poised in air,
The winged minstrel of the liquid dawn,
The lark, pours forth his lyric, and responds
To the fresh chorus of the sylvan doves,
The stir of branches and the fall of streams,
The harmonies of nature!
Once more, oh, yes! once more I feel thy breath,
And charm of renovation! To the sky
Thou bringest light, and to the glowing earth
A garb of grace: but sweeter than the sky
That hath no cloud, and sweeter than the earth
With all its pageantry, the peerless boon
Thou bearest to me, a temper like thine own;
A springlike spirit, beautiful and glad!
Long years, long years of suffering, and of thought
Deeper than woe, had dimmed the eager eye
Once quick to catch thy brightness, and the ear
That lingered on thy music, the harsh world
Had jarred. The freshness of my life was gone,
And hope no more an omen in thy bloom
Found of a fertile future! There are minds,
Like lands, but with one season, and that drear
Mine was eternal winter!
A dark dream
Of hearts estranged, and of an Eden lost
Entranced my being; one absorbing thought
Which, if not torture, was a dull despair
That agony were light to. But while sad
Within the desert of my life I roamed,
And no sweet springs of love gushed for to greet
My wearied heart, behold two spirits came
Floating in light, seraphic ministers,
The semblance of whose splendour on me fell
As on some dusky stream the matin ray,
Touching the gloomy waters with its life.
And both were fond, and one was merciful!
And to my home long forfeited they bore
My vagrant spirit, and the gentle hearth.
I reckless fled, received me with its shade
And pleasant refuge. And our softened hearts
Were like the twilight, when our very bliss
Calls tears to soothe our rapture; as the stars
Steal forth, then shining smiles their trembling ray
Mixed with our tenderness; and love was there
In all his manifold forms; the sweet embrace,
And thrilling pressure of the gentle hand,
And silence speaking with the melting eye!
And now again I feel thy breath, O spring!
And now the seal hath fallen from my gaze,
And thy wild music in my ready ear
Finds a quick echo! The discordant world
Mars not thy melodies; thy blossoms now
Are emblems of my heart; and through my veins
The flow of youthful feeling, long pent up,
Glides like thy sunny streams! In this fair scene,
On forms still fairer I my blessing pour;
On her the beautiful, the wise, the good,
Who learnt the sweetest lesson to forgive;
And on the bright-eyed daughter of our love,
Who soothed a mother, and a father saved!
Between the reconciliation of Lady Annabel Herbert with her husband,
at the Armenian convent at Venice, and the spring morning in the
Apennines, which we have just described, half a year had intervened.
The political position of Marmion Herbert rendered it impossible for
him to remain in any city where there was a representative of his
Britannic Majesty. Indeed, it was scarcely safe for him to be known
out of America. He had quitted that country shortly after the struggle
was over, chiefly from considerations for his health. His energies had
been fast failing him; and a retired life and change of climate had
been recommended by his physicians. His own feelings induced him to
visit Italy, where he had once intended to pass his life, and where he
now repaired to await death. Assuming a feigned name, and living in
strict seclusion, it is probable that his presence would never have
been discovered; or, if detected, would not have been noticed. Once
more united with his wife, her personal influence at the court of St.
James', and her powerful connections, might secure him from annoyance;
and Venetia had even indulged in a vague hope of returning to England.
But Herbert could only have found himself again in his native country
as a prisoner on parole. It would have been quite impossible for him
to mix in the civil business of his native land, or enjoy any of the
rights of citizenship. If a mild sovereign in his mercy had indeed
accorded him a pardon, it must have been accompanied with rigorous and
mortifying conditions; and his presence, in all probability, would
have been confined to his country residence and its immediate
neighbourhood. The pride of Lady Annabel herself recoiled from this
sufferance; and although Herbert, keenly conscious of the sacrifice
which a permanent estrangement from England entailed upon his wife and
child, would have submitted to any restrictions, however humiliating,
provided they were not inconsistent with his honour, it must be
confessed that, when he spoke of this painful subject to his wife,
it was with no slight self-congratulation that he had found her
resolution to remain abroad under any circumstances was fixed with her
habitual decision. She communicated both to the Bishop of ---- and to
her brother the unexpected change that had occurred in her condition,
and she had reason to believe that a representation of what had
happened would be made to the Royal family. Perhaps both the head of
her house and her reverend friend anticipated that time might remove
the barrier that presented itself to Herbert's immediate return to
England: they confined their answers, however, to congratulations on
the reconciliation, to their confidence in the satisfaction it would
occasion her, and to the expression of their faithful friendship; and
neither alluded to a result which both, if only for her sake, desired.
The Herberts had quitted Venice a very few days after the meeting on
the island of St. Lazaro; had travelled by slow journeys, crossing the
Apennines, to Genoa; and only remained in that city until they engaged
their present residence. It combined all the advantages which they
desired: seclusion, beauty, comfort, and the mild atmosphere that
Venetia had seemed to require. It was not, however, the genial air
that had recalled the rose to Venetia's cheek and the sunny smile to
her bright eye, or had inspired again that graceful form with all its
pristine elasticity. It was a heart content; a spirit at length at
peace. The contemplation of the happiness of those most dear to her
that she hourly witnessed, and the blissful consciousness that her
exertions had mainly contributed to, if not completely occasioned,
all this felicity, were remedies of far more efficacy than all the
consultations and prescriptions of her physicians. The conduct of her
father repaid her for all her sufferings, and realised all her
dreams of domestic tenderness and delight. Tender, grateful, and
affectionate, Herbert hovered round her mother like a delicate spirit
who had been released by some kind mortal from a tedious and revolting
thraldom, and who believed he could never sufficiently testify his
devotion. There was so much respect blended with his fondness, that
the spirit of her mother was utterly subdued by his irresistible
demeanour. All her sadness and reserve, her distrust and her fear, had
vanished; and rising confidence mingling with the love she had ever
borne to him, she taught herself even to seek his opinion, and be
guided by his advice. She could not refrain, indeed, from occasionally
feeling, in this full enjoyment of his love, that she might have
originally acted with too much precipitation; and that, had she only
bent for a moment to the necessity of conciliation, and condescended
to the excusable artifices of affection, their misery might have been
prevented. Once when they were alone, her softened heart would have
confessed to Herbert this painful conviction, but he was too happy
and too generous to permit her for a moment to indulge in such a
remorseful retrospect. All the error, he insisted, was his own; and he
had been fool enough to have wantonly forfeited a happiness which time
and experience had now taught him to appreciate.
'We married too young, Marmion,' said his wife.
'It shall be that then, love,' replied Herbert; 'but for all that I
have suffered. I would not have avoided my fate on the condition of
losing the exquisite present!'
It is perhaps scarcely necessary to remark, that Herbert avoided with
the most scrupulous vigilance the slightest allusion to any of those
peculiar opinions for which he was, unhappily, too celebrated. Musing
over the singular revolutions which had already occurred in his habits
and his feelings towards herself, Lady Annabel, indeed, did not
despair that his once self-sufficient soul might ultimately bow
to that blessed faith which to herself had ever proved so great a
support, and so exquisite a solace. It was, indeed, the inexpressible
hope that lingered at the bottom of her heart; and sometimes she even
indulged in the delightful fancy that his mild and penitent spirit
had, by the gracious mercy of Providence, been already touched by the
bright sunbeam of conviction. At all events, his subdued and chastened
temperament was no unworthy preparation for still greater blessings.
It was this hallowed anticipation which consoled, and alone consoled,
Lady Annabel for her own estrangement from the communion of her
national church. Of all the sacrifices which her devotion to Herbert
entailed upon her, this was the one which she felt most constantly
and most severely. Not a day elapsed but the chapel at Cherbury rose
before her; and when she remembered that neither herself nor her
daughter might again kneel round the altar of their God, she almost
trembled at the step which she had taken, and almost esteemed it
a sacrifice of heavenly to earthly duty, which no consideration,
perhaps, warranted. This apprehension, indeed, was the cloud in
her life, and one which Venetia, who felt all its validity, found
difficulty in combating.
Otherwise, when Venetia beheld her parents, she felt ethereal,
and seemed to move in air; for her life, in spite of its apparent
tranquillity, was to her all excitement. She never looked upon her
father, or heard his voice, without a thrill. His society was as
delightful as his heart was tender. It seemed to her that she could
listen to him for ever. Every word he spoke was different from
the language of other men; there was not a subject on which his
richly-cultivated mind could not pour forth instantaneously a flood of
fine fancies and deep intelligence. He seemed to have read every book
in every language, and to have mused over every line he had read. She
could not conceive how one, the tone of whose mind was so original
that it suggested on every topic some conclusion that struck instantly
by its racy novelty, could be so saturated with the learning and the
views of other men. Although they lived in unbroken solitude, and were
almost always together, not a day passed that she did not find herself
musing over some thought or expression of her father, and which broke
from his mind without effort, and as if by chance. Literature to
Herbert was now only a source of amusement and engaging occupation.
All thought of fame had long fled his soul. He cared not for being
disturbed; and he would throw down his Plato for Don Quixote, or close
his Aeschylus and take up a volume of Madame de Sevigne without a
murmur, if reminded by anything that occurred of a passage which might
contribute to the amusement and instruction of his wife and daughter.
Indeed, his only study now was to contribute to their happiness. For
him they had given up their country and society, and he sought, by his
vigilant attention and his various accomplishments, to render their
hours as light and pleasant as, under such circumstances, was
possible. His muse, too, was only dedicated to the celebration of any
topic which their life or themselves suggested. He loved to lie under
the trees, and pour forth sonnets to Lady Annabel; and encouraged
Venetia, by the readiness and interest with which he invariably
complied with her intimations, to throw out every fancy which occurred
to her for his verse. A life passed without the intrusion of a single
evil passion, without a single expression that was not soft, and
graceful, and mild, and adorned with all the resources of a most
accomplished and creative spirit, required not the distractions
of society. It would have shrunk from it, from all its artificial
excitement and vapid reaction. The days of the Herberts flowed on in
one bright, continuous stream of love, and literature, and gentle
pleasures. Beneath them was the green earth, above them the blue sky.
Their spirits were as clear, and their hearts as soft as the clime.
The hour of twilight was approaching, and the family were preparing
for their daily walk. Their simple repast was finished, and Venetia
held the verses which her father had written in the morning, and which
he had presented to her.
'Let us descend to Spezzia,' said Herbert to Lady Annabel; 'I love an
Accordingly they proceeded through their valley to the craggy path
which led down to the bay. After passing through a small ravine, the
magnificent prospect opened before them. The sun was yet an hour above
the horizon, and the sea was like a lake of molten gold; the colour
of the sky nearest to the sun, of a pale green, with two or three
burnished streaks of vapour, quite still, and so thin you could almost
catch the sky through them, fixed, as it were, in this gorgeous frame.
It was now a dead calm, but the sail that had been hovering the whole
morning in the offing had made the harbour in time, and had just
cast anchor near some coasting craft and fishing-boats, all that now
remained where Napoleon had projected forming one of the arsenals of
Tracing their way down a mild declivity, covered with spreading
vineyards, and quite fragrant with the blossom of the vine, the
Herberts proceeded through a wood of olives, and emerged on a terrace
raised directly above the shore, leading to Spezzia, and studded here
and there with rugged groups of aloes.
'I have often observed here,' said Venetia, 'about a mile out at sea;
there, now, where I point; the water rise. It is now a calm, and yet
it is more troubled, I think, than usual. Tell me the cause, dear
father, for I have often wished to know.'
'It passes my experience,' said Herbert; 'but here is an ancient
fisherman; let us inquire of him.'
He was an old man, leaning against a rock, and smoking his pipe in
contemplative silence; his face bronzed with the sun and the roughness
of many seasons, and his grey hairs not hidden by his long blue cap.
Herbert saluted him, and, pointing to the phenomenon, requested an
explanation of it.
''Tis a fountain of fresh water, signor, that rises in our gulf,' said
the old fisherman, 'to the height of twenty feet.'
'And is it constant?' inquired Herbert.
''Tis the same in sunshine and in storm, in summer and in winter, in
calm or in breeze,' said the old fisherman.
'And has it always been so?'
'It came before my time.'
'A philosophic answer,' said Herbert, 'and deserves a paul. Mine was a
crude question. Adio, good friend.'
'I should like to drink of that fountain of fresh water, Annabel,'
said Herbert. 'There seems to me something wondrous fanciful in it.
Some day we will row there. It shall be a calm like this.'
'We want a fountain in our valley,' said Lady Annabel.
'We do,' said Herbert; 'and I think we must make one; we must inquire
at Genoa. I am curious in fountains. Our fountain should, I think, be
classical; simple, compact, with a choice inscription, the altar of a
'And mamma shall make the design, and you shall write the
inscription,' said Venetia.
'And you shall be the nymph, child,' said Herbert.
They were now within a bowshot of the harbour, and a jutting cliff of
marble, more graceful from a contiguous bed of myrtles, invited them
to rest, and watch the approaching sunset.
'Say what they like,' said Herbert, 'there is a spell in the shores
of the Mediterranean Sea which no others can rival. Never was such a
union of natural loveliness and magical associations! On these shores
have risen all that interests us in the past: Egypt and Palestine,
Greece, Rome, and Carthage, Moorish Spain, and feodal Italy. These
shores have yielded us our religion, our arts, our literature, and our
laws. If all that we have gained from the shores of the Mediterranean
was erased from the memory of man, we should be savages. Will the
Atlantic ever be so memorable? Its civilisation will be more rapid,
but will it be as refined? and, far more important, will it be as
permanent? Will it not lack the racy vigour and the subtle spirit of
aboriginal genius? Will not a colonial character cling to its society,
feeble, inanimate, evanescent? What America is deficient in is
creative intellect. It has no nationality. Its intelligence has been
imported, like its manufactured goods. Its inhabitants are a people,
but are they a nation? I wish that the empire of the Incas and the
kingdom of Montezuma had not been sacrificed. I wish that the republic
of the Puritans had blended with the tribes of the wilderness.'
The red sun was now hovering over the horizon; it quivered for an
instant, and then sank. Immediately the high and undulating coast was
covered with a crimson flush; the cliffs, the groves, the bays and
jutting promontories, each straggling sail and tall white tower,
suffused with a rosy light. Gradually that rosy tint became a bright
violet, and then faded into purple. But the glory of the sunset long
lingered in the glowing west, streaming with every colour of the Iris,
while a solitary star glittered with silver light amid the shifting
'Hesperus rises from the sunset like the fountain of fresh water from
the sea,' said Herbert. 'The sky and the ocean have two natures, like
At this moment the boat of the vessel, which had anchored about an
hour back, put to shore.
'That seems an English brig,' said Herbert. 'I cannot exactly make out
its trim; it scarcely seems a merchant vessel.'
The projection of the shore hid the boat from their sight as it
landed. The Herberts rose, and proceeded towards the harbour. There
were some rude steps cut in the rock which led from the immediate
shore to the terrace. As they approached these, two gentlemen
in sailors' jackets mounted suddenly. Lady Annabel and Venetia
simultaneously started as they recognised Lord Cadurcis and his
cousin. They were so close that neither party had time to prepare
themselves. Venetia found her hand in that of Plantagenet, while Lady
Annabel saluted George. Infinite were their mutual inquiries and
congratulations, but it so happened that, with one exception, no name
was mentioned. It was quite evident, however, to Herbert, that these
were very familiar acquaintances of his family; for, in the surprise
of the moment, Lord Cadurcis had saluted his daughter by her Christian
name. There was no slight emotion, too, displayed on all sides.
Indeed, independently of the agitation which so unexpected a
rencounter was calculated to produce, the presence of Herbert, after
the first moments of recognition, not a little excited the curiosity
of the young men, and in some degree occasioned the embarrassment
of all. Who was this stranger, on whom Venetia and her mother were
leaning with such fondness? He was scarcely too old to be the admirer
of Venetia, and if there were a greater disparity of years between
them than is usual, his distinguished appearance might well reconcile
the lady to her lot, or even justify her choice. Had, then, Cadurcis
again met Venetia only to find her the bride or the betrothed of
another? a mortifying situation, even an intolerable one, if his
feelings remained unchanged; and if the eventful year that had elapsed
since they parted had not replaced her image in his susceptible mind
by another more cherished, and, perhaps, less obdurate. Again, to Lady
Annabel the moment was one of great awkwardness, for the introduction
of her husband to those with whom she was recently so intimate, and
who were then aware that the name of that husband was never even
mentioned in her presence, recalled the painful past with a disturbing
vividness. Venetia, indeed, did not share these feelings fully,
but she thought it ungracious to anticipate her mother in the
The Herberts turned with Lord Cadurcis and his cousin; they were about
to retrace their steps on the terrace, when Lady Annabel, taking
advantage of the momentary silence, and summoning all her energy, with
a pale cheek and a voice that slightly faltered, said, 'Lord Cadurcis,
allow me to present you to Mr. Herbert, my husband,' she added with
'Good God!' exclaimed Cadurcis, starting; and then, outstretching his
hand, he contrived to add, 'have I, indeed, the pleasure of seeing one
I have so long admired?'
'Lord Cadurcis!' exclaimed Herbert, scarcely less surprised. 'Is it
Lord Cadurcis? This is a welcome meeting.'
Everyone present felt overwhelmed with confusion or astonishment; Lady
Annabel sought refuge in presenting Captain Cadurcis to her husband.
This ceremony, though little noticed even by those more immediately
interested in it, nevertheless served, in some degree, as a diversion.
Herbert, who was only astonished, was the first who rallied. Perhaps
Lord Cadurcis was the only man in existence whom Herbert wished to
know. He had read his works with deep interest; at least, those
portions which foreign journals had afforded him. He was deeply
impressed with his fame and genius; but what perplexed him at this
moment, even more than his unexpected introduction to him, was the
singular, the very extraordinary circumstance, that the name of their
most celebrated countryman should never have escaped the lips either
of his wife or his daughter, although they appeared, and Venetia
especially, to be on terms with him of even domestic intimacy.
'You arrived here to day, Lord Cadurcis?' said Herbert. 'From whence?'
'Immediately from Naples, where we last touched,' replied his
lordship; 'but I have been residing at Athens.'
'I envy you,' said Herbert.
'It would be a fit residence for you,' said Lord Cadurcis. 'You were,
however, in some degree, my companion, for a volume of your poems was
one of the few books I had with me. I parted with all the rest, but I
retained that. It is in my cabin, and full of my scribblement. If you
would condescend to accept it, I would offer it to you.'
Mr. Herbert and Lord Cadurcis maintained the conversation along the
terrace. Venetia, by whose side her old companion walked, was quite
silent. Once her eyes met those of Cadurcis; his expression of mingled
archness and astonishment was irresistible. His cousin and Lady
Annabel carried on a more suppressed conversation, but on ordinary
topics. When they had reached the olive-grove Herbert said, 'Here lies
our way homeward, my lord. If you and your cousin will accompany us,
it will delight Lady Annabel and myself.'
'Nothing, I am sure, will give George and myself greater pleasure,' he
replied. 'We had, indeed, no purpose when you met us but to enjoy our
escape from imprisonment, little dreaming we should meet our kindest
and oldest friends,' he added.
'Kindest and oldest friends!' thought Herbert to himself. 'Well, this
is strange indeed.'
'It is but a slight distance,' said Lady Annabel, who thought it
necessary to enforce the invitation. 'We live in the valley, of which
yonder hill forms a part.'
'And there we have passed our winter and our spring,' added Venetia,
'almost as delightfully as you could have done at Athens.'
'Well,' thought Cadurcis to himself, 'I have seen many of the world's
marvels, but this day is a miracle.'
When they had proceeded through the olive-wood, and mounted the
acclivity, they arrived at a path which permitted the ascent of only
one person at a time. Cadurcis was last, and followed Venetia. Unable
any longer to endure the suspense, he was rather irritated that she
kept so close to her father; he himself loitered a few paces behind,
and, breaking off a branch of laurel, he tossed it at her. She looked
round and smiled; he beckoned to her to fall back. 'Tell me, Venetia,'
he said, 'what does all this mean?'
'It means that we are at last all very happy,' she replied. 'Do you
not see my father?'
'Yes; and I am very glad to see him; but this company is the very last
in which I expected to have that pleasure.'
'It is too long a story to tell now; you must imagine it.'
'But are you glad to see me?'
'I don't think you care for me the least.'
'Silly Lord Cadurcis!' she said, smiling.
'If you call me Lord Cadurcis, I shall immediately go back to the
brig, and set sail this night for Athens.'
'Well then, silly Plantagenet!'
He laughed, and they ran on.
'Well, I am not surprised that you should have passed your time
delightfully here,' said Lord Cadurcis to Lady Annabel, when they had
entered the villa; 'for I never beheld so delightful a retreat. It is
even more exquisite than your villa on the lake, of which George gave
me so glowing a description. I was almost tempted to hasten to you.
Would you have smiled on me!' he added, rather archly, and in a
'I am more gratified that we have met here,' said Lady Annabel.
'And thus,' added Cadurcis.
'You have been a great traveller since we last met?' said Lady
Annabel, a little embarrassed.
'My days of restlessness are over,' said Cadurcis. 'I desire nothing
more dearly than to settle down in the bosom of these green hills as
you have done.'
'This life suits Mr. Herbert,' said Lady Annabel. 'He is fond of
seclusion, and you know I am accustomed to it.'
'Ah! yes,' said Cadurcis, mournfully. 'When I was in Greece, I used
often to wish that none of us had ever left dear Cherbury; but I do
'We must forget Cherbury,' said Lady Annabel.
'I cannot: I cannot forget her who cherished my melancholy childhood.
Dear Lady Annabel,' he added in a voice of emotion, and offering her
his hand, 'forget all my follies, and remember that I was your child,
once as dutiful as you were affectionate.'
Who could resist this appeal? Lady Annabel, not without agitation,
yielded him her hand, which he pressed to his lips. 'Now I am again
happy,' said Cadurcis; 'now we are all happy. Sweetest of friends, you
have removed in a moment the bitterness of years.'
Although lights were in the saloon, the windows opening on the portico
were not closed. The evening air was soft and balmy, and though the
moon had not risen, the distant hills were clear in the starlight.
Venetia was standing in the portico conversing with George Cadurcis.
'I suppose you are too much of a Turk to drink our coffee, Lord
Cadurcis,' said Herbert. Cadurcis turned and joined him, together with
'Nay,' said Lord Cadurcis, in a joyous tone, 'Lady Annabel will answer
for me that I always find everything perfect under her roof.'
Captain Cadurcis and Venetia now re-entered the villa; they clustered
round the table, and seated themselves.
'Why, Venetia,' said Cadurcis, 'George met me in Sicily and quite
frightened me about you. Is it the air of the Apennines that has
worked these marvels? for, really, you appear to me exactly the same
as when we learnt the French vocabulary together ten years ago.'
'"The French vocabulary together, ten years ago!"' thought Herbert;
'not a mere London acquaintance, then. This is very strange.'
'Why, indeed, Plantagenet,' replied Venetia, 'I was very unwell when
George visited us; but I really have quite forgotten that I ever was
an invalid, and I never mean to be again.'
'"Plantagenet!"' soliloquised Herbert. 'And this is the great poet
of whom I have heard so much! My daughter is tolerably familiar with
'I have brought you all sorts of buffooneries from Stamboul,'
continued Cadurcis; 'sweetmeats, and slippers, and shawls, and daggers
worn only by sultanas, and with which, if necessary, they can keep
"the harem's lord" in order. I meant to have sent them with George to
England, for really I did not anticipate our meeting here.'
'"Sweetmeats and slippers,"' said Herbert to himself, '"shawls and
daggers!" What next?'
'And has George been with you all the time?' inquired Venetia.
'Oh! we quarrelled now and then, of course. He found Athens dull, and
would stay at Constantinople, chained by the charms of a fair Perote,
to whom he wanted me to write sonnets in his name. I would not,
because I thought it immoral. But, on the whole, we got on very well;
a sort of Pylades and Orestes, I assure you; we never absolutely
'Come, come,' said George, 'Cadurcis is always ashamed of being
amiable. We were together much more than I ever intended or
anticipated. You know mine was a sporting tour; and therefore, of
course, we were sometimes separated. But he was exceedingly popular
with all parties, especially the Turks, whom he rewarded for their
courtesy by writing odes to the Greeks to stir them up to revolt.'
'Well, they never read them,' said Cadurcis. 'All we, poor fellows,
can do,' he added, turning to Herbert, 'is to wake the Hellenistic
raptures of May Fair; and that they call fame; as much like fame as a
toadstool is like a truffle.'
'Nevertheless, I hope the muse has not slumbered,' said Herbert; 'for
you have had the happiest inspiration in the climes in which you have
resided; not only are they essentially poetic, but they offer a virgin
'I have written a little,' replied Cadurcis; 'I will give it you, if
you like, some day to turn over. Yours is the only opinion that I
really care for. I have no great idea of the poetry; but I am very
strong in my costume. I feel very confident about that. I fancy I know
how to hit off a pasha, or touch in a Greek pirate now. As for all the
things I wrote in England, I really am ashamed of them. I got up my
orientalism from books, and sultans and sultanas at masquerades,' he
added, archly. 'I remember I made my heroines always wear turbans;
only conceive my horror when I found that a Turkish woman would as
soon think of putting my hat on as a turban, and that it was an
article of dress entirely confined to a Bond Street milliner.'
The evening passed in interesting and diverting conversation; of
course, principally contributed by the two travellers, who had seen so
much. Inspirited by his interview with Lady Annabel, and her gracious
reception of his overtures, Lord Cadurcis was in one of those frolic
humours, which we have before noticed was not unnatural to him. He had
considerable powers of mimicry, and the talent that had pictured to
Venetia in old days, with such liveliness, the habits of the old maids
of Morpeth, was now engaged on more considerable topics; an interview
with a pasha, a peep into a harem, a visit to a pirate's isle, the
slave-market, the bazaar, the barracks of the janissaries, all touched
with irresistible vitality, and coloured with the rich phrases of
unrivalled force of expression. The laughter was loud and continual;
even Lady Annabel joined zealously in the glee. As for Herbert, he
thought Cadurcis by far the most hearty and amusing person he had ever
known, and could not refrain from contrasting him with the picture
which his works and the report of the world had occasionally enabled
him to sketch to his mind's eye; the noble, young, and impassioned
bard, pouring forth the eloquent tide of his morbid feelings to an
idolising world, from whose applause he nevertheless turned with an
almost misanthropic melancholy.
It was now much past the noon of night, and the hour of separation,
long postponed, was inevitable. Often had Cadurcis risen to depart,
and often, without regaining his seat, had he been tempted by his
friends, and especially Venetia, into fresh narratives. At last he
said, 'Now we must go. Lady Annabel looks good night. I remember the
look,' he said, laughing, 'when we used to beg for a quarter of an
hour more. O Venetia! do not you remember that Christmas when dear
old Masham read Julius Caesar, and we were to sit up until it was
finished. When he got to the last act I hid his spectacles. I never
confessed it until this moment. Will you pardon me, Lady Annabel?' and
he pressed his hands together in a mockery of supplication.
'Will you come and breakfast with us to-morrow?' said Lady Annabel.
'With delight,' he answered. 'I am used, you know, to walks before
breakfast. George, I do not think George can do it, though. George
likes his comforts; he is a regular John Bull. He was always calling
for tea when we were in Turkey!'
At this moment Mistress Pauncefort entered the room, ostensibly on
some little affair of her mistress, but really to reconnoitre.
'Ah! Mistress Pauncefort; my old friend, Mistress Pauncefort, how do
you do?' exclaimed his lordship.
'Quite well, my lord, please your lordship; and very glad to see your
lordship again, and looking so well too.'
'Ah! Mistress Pauncefort, you always flattered me!'
'Oh! dear, my lord, your lordship, no,' said Mistress Pauncefort, with
'But you, Pauncefort,' said Cadurcis, 'why there must be some magic in
the air here. I have been complimenting your lady and Miss Venetia;
but really, you, I should almost have thought it was some younger
'Oh! my lord, you have such a way,' said Mistress Pauncefort,
retreating with a slow step that still lingered for a remark.
'Pauncefort, is that an Italian cap?' said Lord Cadurcis; 'you know,
Pauncefort, you were always famous for your caps.'
Mistress Pauncefort disappeared in a fluster of delight.
And now they had indeed departed. There was a pause of complete
silence after they had disappeared, the slight and not painful
reaction after the mirthful excitement of the last few hours. At
length Herbert, dropping, as was his evening custom, a few drops of
orange-flower into a tumbler of water, said, 'Annabel, my love, I am
rather surprised that neither you nor Venetia should have mentioned to
me that you knew, and knew so intimately, a man like Lord Cadurcis.'
Lady Annabel appeared a little confused; she looked even at Venetia,
but Venetia's eyes were on the ground. At length she said, 'In truth,
Marmion, since we met we have thought only of you.'
'Cadurcis Abbey, papa, is close to Cherbury,' said Venetia.
'Cherbury!' said Herbert, with a faint blush. 'I have never seen it,
and now I shall never see it. No matter, my country is your mother and
yourself. Some find a home in their country, I find a country in my
home. Well,' he added, in a gayer tone, 'it has gratified me much to
meet Lord Cadurcis. We were happy before, but now we are even gay.
I like to see you smile, Annabel, and hear Venetia laugh. I feel,
myself, quite an unusual hilarity. Cadurcis! It is very strange how
often I have mused over that name. A year ago it was one of my few
wishes to know him; my wishes, then, dear Annabel, were not very
ambitious. They did not mount so high as you have since permitted
them. And now I do know him, and under what circumstances! Is not life
strange? But is it not happy? I feel it so. Good night, sweet wife;
my darling daughter, a happy, happy night!' He embraced them ere
they retired; and opening a volume composed his mind after the novel
excitement of the evening.
Cadurcis left the brig early in the morning alone, and strolled
towards the villa. He met Herbert half-way to Spezzia, who turned back
with him towards home. They sat down on a crag opposite the sea; there
was a light breeze, the fishing boats wore out, and the view was as
animated as the fresh air was cheering.
'There they go,' said Cadurcis, smiling, 'catching John Dory, as you
and I try to catch John Bull. Now if these people could understand
what two great men were watching them, how they would stare! But they
don't care a sprat for us, not they! They are not part of the world
the three or four thousand civilised savages for whom we sweat our
brains, and whose fetid breath perfumed with musk is fame. Pah!'
Herbert smiled. 'I have not cared much myself for this same world.'
'Why, no; you have done something, and shown your contempt for them.
No one can deny that. I will some day, if I have an opportunity. I owe
it them; I think I can show them a trick or two still.[A] I have got a
Damascus blade in store for their thick hides. I will turn their flank
[Footnote A: I think I know a trick or two would turn Your flanks.
'And gain a victory where conquest brings no glory. You are worth
brighter laurels, Lord Cadurcis.'
'Now is not it the most wonderful thing in the world that you and I
have met?' said Cadurcis. 'Now I look upon ourselves as something
like, eh! Fellows with some pith in them. By Jove, if we only joined
together, how we could lay it on! Crack, crack, crack; I think I see
them wincing under the thong, the pompous poltroons! If you only knew
how they behaved to me! By Jove, sir, they hooted me going to the
House of Lords, and nearly pulled me off my horse. The ruffians would
have massacred me if they could; and then they all ran away from a
drummer-boy and a couple of grenadiers, who were going the rounds to
change guard. Was not that good? Fine, eh? A brutish mob in a fit of
morality about to immolate a gentleman, and then scampering off from a
sentry. I call that human nature!'
'As long as they leave us alone, and do not burn us alive, I am
content,' said Herbert. 'I am callous to what they say.'
'So am I,' said Cadurcis. 'I made out a list the other day of all
the persons and things I have been compared to. It begins well, with
Alcibiades, but it ends with the Swiss giantess or the Polish dwarf, I
forget which. Here is your book. You see it has been well thumbed. In
fact, to tell the truth, it was my cribbing book, and I always kept
it by me when I was writing at Athens, like a gradus, a _gradus ad
Parnassum_, you know. But although I crib, I am candid, and you see I
fairly own it to you.'
'You are welcome to all I have ever written,' said Herbert. 'Mine were
but crude dreams. I wished to see man noble and happy; but if he will
persist in being vile and miserable, I must even be content. I can
struggle for him no more.'
'Well, you opened my mind,' said Cadurcis. 'I owe you everything;
but I quite agree with you that nothing is worth an effort. As for
philosophy and freedom, and all that, they tell devilish well in a
stanza; but men have always been fools and slaves, and fools and
slaves they always will be.'
'Nay,' said Herbert, 'I will not believe that. I will not give up
a jot of my conviction of a great and glorious future for human
destinies; but its consummation will not be so rapid as I once
thought, and in the meantime I die.'
'Ah, death!' said Lord Cadurcis, 'that is a botherer. What can you
make of death? There are those poor fishermen now; there will be a
white squall some day, and they will go down with those lateen sails
of theirs, and be food for the very prey they were going to catch; and
if you continue living here, you may eat one of your neighbours in
the shape of a shoal of red mullets, when it is the season. The great
secret, we cannot penetrate that with all our philosophy, my dear
Herbert. "All that we know is, nothing can be known." Barren, barren,
barren! And yet what a grand world it is! Look at this bay, these blue
waters, the mountains, and these chestnuts, devilish fine! The fact
is, truth is veiled, but, like the Shekinah over the tabernacle, the
veil is of dazzling light!'
'Life is the great wonder,' said Herbert, 'into which all that is
strange and startling resolves itself. The mist of familiarity
obscures from us the miracle of our being. Mankind are constantly
starting at events which they consider extraordinary. But a
philosopher acknowledges only one miracle, and that is life. Political
revolutions, changes of empire, wrecks of dynasties and the opinions
that support them, these are the marvels of the vulgar, but these are
only transient modifications of life. The origin of existence is,
therefore, the first object which a true philosopher proposes to
himself. Unable to discover it, he accepts certain results from
his unbiassed observation of its obvious nature, and on them he
establishes certain principles to be our guides in all social
relations, whether they take the shape of laws or customs.
Nevertheless, until the principle of life be discovered, all theories
and all systems of conduct founded on theory must be considered
'And do you believe that there is a chance of its being discovered?'
'I cannot, from any reason in my own intelligence, find why it should
not,' said Herbert.
'You conceive it possible that a man may attain earthly immortality?'
'By Jove,' said Cadurcis, 'if I only knew how, I would purchase an
immense annuity directly.'
'When I said undoubtedly,' said Herbert, smiling, 'I meant only to
express that I know no invincible reason to the contrary. I see
nothing inconsistent with the existence of a Supreme Creator in the
annihilation of death. It appears to me an achievement worthy of his
omnipotence. I believe in the possibility, but I believe in nothing
more. I anticipate the final result, but not by individual means. It
will, of course, be produced by some vast and silent and continuous
operation of nature, gradually effecting some profound and
comprehensive alteration in her order, a change of climate, for
instance, the great enemy of life, so that the inhabitants of the
earth may attain a patriarchal age. This renovated breed may in turn
produce a still more vigorous offspring, and so we may ascend the
scale, from the threescore and ten of the Psalmist to the immortality
of which we speak. Indeed I, for my own part, believe the operation
has already commenced, although thousands of centuries may elapse
before it is consummated; the threescore and ten of the Psalmist is
already obsolete; the whole world is talking of the general change of
its seasons and its atmosphere. If the origin of America were such as
many profound philosophers suppose, viz., a sudden emersion of a new
continent from the waves, it is impossible to doubt that such an event
must have had a very great influence on the climate of the world.
Besides, why should we be surprised that the nature of man should
change? Does not everything change? Is not change the law of nature?
My skin changes every year, my hair never belongs to me a month, the
nail on my hand is only a passing possession. I doubt whether a man at
fifty is the same material being that he is at five-and-twenty.'
'I wonder,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'if a creditor brought an action
against you at fifty for goods delivered at five-and-twenty, one
could set up the want of identity as a plea in bar. It would be a
consolation to an elderly gentleman.'
'I am afraid mankind are too hostile to philosophy,' said Herbert,
smiling, 'to permit so desirable a consummation.'
'Should you consider a long life a blessing?' said Cadurcis. 'Would
you like, for instance, to live to the age of Methusalem?'
'Those whom the gods love die young,' said Herbert. 'For the last
twenty years I have wished to die, and I have sought death. But my
feelings, I confess, on that head are at present very much modified.'
'Youth, glittering youth!' said Cadurcis in a musing tone; 'I remember
when the prospect of losing my youth frightened me out of my wits;
I dreamt of nothing but grey hairs, a paunch, and the gout or the
gravel. But I fancy every period of life has its pleasures, and as we
advance in life the exercise of power and the possession of wealth
must be great consolations to the majority; we bully our children and
hoard our cash.'
'Two most noble occupations!' said Herbert; 'but I think in this world
there is just as good a chance of being bullied by our children first,
and paying their debts afterwards.'
'Faith! you are right,' said Cadurcis, laughing, 'and lucky is he who
has neither creditors nor offspring, and who owes neither money nor
affection, after all the most difficult to pay of the two.'
'It cannot be commanded, certainly,' said Herbert 'There is no usury
'And yet it is very expensive, too, sometimes, said Cadurcis,
laughing. 'For my part, sympathy is a puzzler.'
'You should read Cabanis,' said Herbert, 'if indeed, you have not.
I think I may find it here; I will lend it you. It has, from its
subject, many errors, but it is very suggestive.'
'Now, that is kind, for I have not a book here, and, after all, there
is nothing like reading. I wish I had read more, but it is not too
late. I envy you your learning, besides so many other things. However,
I hope we shall not part in a hurry; we have met at last,' he said,
extending his hand, 'and we were always friends.'
Herbert shook his hand very warmly. 'I can assure you, Lord Cadurcis,
you have not a more sincere admirer of your genius. I am happy in your
society. For myself, I now aspire to be nothing better than an idler
in life, turning over a page, and sometimes noting down a fancy. You
have, it appears, known my family long and intimately, and you were,
doubtless, surprised at finding me with them. I have returned to
my hearth, and I am content. Once I sacrificed my happiness to my
philosophy, and now I have sacrificed my philosophy to my happiness.'
'Dear friend!' said Cadurcis, putting his arm affectionately in
Herbert's as they walked along, 'for, indeed, you must allow me to
style you so; all the happiness and all the sorrow of my life alike
flow from your roof!'
In the meantime Lady Annabel and Venetia came forth from the villa to
their morning meal in their amphitheatre of hills. Marmion was not
there to greet them as usual.
'Was not Plantagenet amusing last night?' said Venetia; 'and are not
you happy, dear mother, to see him once more?'
'Indeed I am now always happy,' said Lady Annabel.
'And George was telling me last night, in this portico, of all their
life. He is more attached to Plantagenet than ever. He says it is
impossible for any one to have behaved with greater kindness, or to
have led, in every sense, a more calm and rational life. When he was
alone at Athens, he did nothing but write. George says that all his
former works are nothing to what he has written now.'
'He is very engaging,' said Lady Annabel.
'I think he will be such a delightful companion for papa. I am sure
papa must like him. I hope he will stay some time; for, after all,
poor dear papa, he must require a little amusement besides our
society. Instead of being with his books, he might be walking and
talking with Plantagenet. I think, dearest mother, we shall be happier
At this moment Herbert, with Cadurcis leaning on his arm, and
apparently speaking with great earnestness, appeared in the distance.
'There they are,' said Venetia; 'I knew they would be friends. Come,
dearest mother, let us meet them.'
'You see, Lady Annabel,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'it is just as I said:
Mr. George is not here; he is having tea and toast on board the brig.'
'I do not believe it,' said Venetia, smiling.
They seated themselves at the breakfast-table.
'You should have seen our Apennine breakfasts in the autumn, Lord
Cadurcis,' said Herbert. 'Every fruit of nature seemed crowded before
us. It was indeed a meal for a poet or a painter like Paul Veronese;
our grapes, our figs, our peaches, our mountain strawberries, they
made a glowing picture. For my part, I have an original prejudice
against animal food which I have never quite overcome, and I believe
it is only to please Lady Annabel that I have relapsed into the heresy
'Do you think I have grown fatter, Lady Annabel?' said Lord Cadurcis,
starting up; 'I brought myself down at Athens to bread and olives, but
I have been committing terrible excesses lately, but only fish.'
'Ah! here is George!' said Lady Annabel.
And Captain Cadurcis appeared, followed by a couple of sailors,
bearing a huge case.
'George,' said Venetia, 'I have been defending you against
Plantagenet; he said you would not come.'
'Never mind, George, it was only behind your back,' said Lord
Cadurcis; 'and, under those legitimate circumstances, why even our
best friends cannot expect us to spare them.'
'I have brought Venetia her toys,' said Captain Cadurcis, 'and she was
right to defend me, as I have been working for her.'
The top of the case was knocked off, and all the Turkish buffooneries,
as Cadurcis called them, made their appearance: slippers, and shawls,
and bottles of perfumes, and little hand mirrors, beautifully
embroidered; and fanciful daggers, and rosaries, and a thousand other
articles, of which they had plundered the bazaars of Constantinople.
'And here is a Turkish volume of poetry, beautifully illuminated; and
that is for you,' said Cadurcis giving it to Herbert. 'Perhaps it is a
translation of one of our works. Who knows? We can always say it is.'
'This is the second present you have made me this morning. Here is a
volume of my works,' said Herbert, producing the book that Cadurcis
had before given him. 'I never expected that anything I wrote would be
so honoured. This, too, is the work of which I am the least ashamed
for my wife admired it. There, Annabel, even though Lord Cadurcis is
here, I will present it to you; 'tis an old friend.'
Lady Annabel accepted the book very graciously, and, in spite of all
the temptations of her toys, Venetia could not refrain from peeping
over her mother's shoulder at its contents. 'Mother,' she whispered,
in a voice inaudible save to Lady Annabel, 'I may read this!'
Lady Annabel gave it her.
'And now we must send for Pauncefort, I think,' said Lady Annabel, 'to
collect and take care of our treasures.'
'Pauncefort,' said Lord Cadurcis, when that gentlewoman appeared, 'I
have brought you a shawl, but I could not bring you a turban, because
the Turkish ladies do not wear turbans; but if I had thought we should
have met so soon, I would have had one made on purpose for you.'
'La! my lord, you always are so polite!'
When the breakfast was over, they wandered about the valley, which
Cadurcis could not sufficiently admire. Insensibly he drew Venetia
from the rest of the party, on the pretence of showing her a view at
some little distance. They walked along by the side of a rivulet,
which glided through the hills, until they were nearly a mile from the
villa, though still in sight.
'Venetia,' he at length said, turning the conversation to a more
interesting topic, 'your father and myself have disburthened our minds
to each, other this morning; I think we know each other now as well as
if we were as old acquaintances as myself and his daughter.'
'Ah! I knew that you and papa must agree,' said Venetia; 'I was saying
so this morning to my mother.'
'Venetia,' said Cadurcis, with a laughing eye, 'all this is very
strange, is it not?'
'Very strange, indeed, Plantagenet; I should not be surprised if it
appeared to you as yet even incredible.'
'It is miraculous,' said Cadurcis, 'but not incredible; an angel
interfered, and worked the miracle. I know all.'
Venetia looked at him with a faint flush upon her cheek; she gathered
a flower and plucked it to pieces.
'What a singular destiny ours has been, Venetia! 'said Cadurcis. 'Do
you know, I can sit for an hour together and muse over it.'
'Can you, Plantagenet?'
'I have such an extraordinary memory; I do not think I ever forgot
anything. We have had some remarkable conversations in our time,
eh, Venetia? Do you remember my visit to Cherbury before I went to
Cambridge, and the last time I saw you before I left England? And now
it all ends in this! What do you think of it, Venetia?'
'Think of what, Plantagenet?'
'Why, of this reconciliation?'
'Dear Plantagenet, what can I think of it but what I have expressed,
that it is a wonderful event, but the happiest in my life.'
'You are quite happy now?'
'I see you do not care for me the least.'
'Plantagenet, you are perverse. Are you not here?'
'Did you ever think of me when I was away?'
'You know very well, Plantagenet, that it is impossible for me to
cease to be interested in you. Could I refrain from thinking of such a
'Friend! poh! I am not your friend; and, as for that, you never once
mentioned my name to your father, Miss Venetia.'
'You might easily conceive that there were reasons for such silence,'
said Venetia. 'It could not arise on my part from forgetfulness or
indifference; for, even if my feelings were changed towards you, you
are not a person that one would, or even could, avoid speaking of,
especially to papa, who must have felt such interest in you! I am
sure, even if I had not known you, there were a thousand occasions
which would have called your name to my lips, had they been
uncontrolled by other considerations.'
'Come, Venetia, I am not going to submit to compliments from you,'
said Lord Cadurcis; 'no blarney. I wish you only to think of me as
you did ten years ago. I will not have our hearts polluted by the
vulgarity of fame. I want you to feel for me as you did when we were
children. I will not be an object of interest, and admiration, and
fiddlestick to you; I will not submit to it.'
'Well, you shall not,' said Venetia, laughing. 'I will not admire you
the least; I will only think of you as a good little boy.'
'You do not love me any longer, I see that,' said Cadurcis.
'Yes I do, Plantagenet.'
'You do not love me so much as you did the night before I went to
Eton, and we sat over the fire? Ah! how often I have thought of that
night when I was at Athens!' he added in a tone of emotion.
'Dear Plantagenet,' said Venetia, 'do not be silly. I am in the
highest spirits in the world; I am quite gay with happiness, and all
because you have returned. Do not spoil my pleasure.'
'Ah, Venetia! I see how it is; you have forgotten me, or worse than
'Well, I am sure I do not know what to say to satisfy you,' said
Venetia. 'I think you very unreasonable, and very ungrateful too, for
I have always been your friend, Plantagenet, and I am sure you know
it. You sent me a message before you went abroad.'
'Darling!' said Lord Cadurcis, seizing her hand, 'I am not ungrateful,
I am not unreasonable. I adore you. You were very kind then, when all
the world was against me. You shall see how I will pay them off, the
dogs! and worse than dogs, their betters far; dogs are faithful. Do
you remember poor old Marmion? How we were mystified, Venetia! Little
did we think then who was Marmion's godfather.'
Venetia smiled; but she said, 'I do not like this bitterness of yours,
Plantagenet. You have no cause to complain of the world, and you
magnify a petty squabble with a contemptible coterie into a quarrel
with a nation. It is not a wise humour, and, if you indulge it, it
will not be a happy one.'
'I will do exactly what you wish on every subject, said Cadurcis, 'if
you will do exactly what I wish on one.'
'Well!' said Venetia.
'Once you told me,' said Cadurcis, 'that you would not marry me
without the consent of your father; then, most unfairly, you added to
your conditions the consent of your mother. Now both your parents are
very opportunely at hand; let us fall down upon our knees, and beg
'O! my dear Plantagenet, I think it will be much better for me never
to marry. We are both happy now; let us remain so. You can live here,
and I can be your sister. Will not that do?'
'No, Venetia, it will not.'
'Dear Plantagenet!' said Venetia with a faltering voice, 'if you knew
how much I had suffered, dear Plantagenet!'
'I know it; I know all,' said Cadurcis, taking her arm and placing it
tenderly in his. 'Now listen to me, sweet girl; I loved you when a
child, when I was unknown to the world, and unknown to myself; I loved
you as a youth not utterly inexperienced in the world, and when my
rising passions had taught me to speculate on the character of women;
I loved you as a man, Venetia, with that world at my feet, that
world which I scorn, but which I will command; I have been constant,
Venetia; your heart assures you, of that. You are the only being in
existence who exercises over me any influence; and the influence you
possess is irresistible and eternal. It springs from some deep and
mysterious sympathy of blood which I cannot penetrate. It can neither
be increased nor diminished by time. It is entirely independent of
its action. I pretend not to love you more at this moment than when
I first saw you, when you entered the terrace-room at Cherbury and
touched my cheek. From that moment I was yours. I declare to you, most
solemnly I declare to you, that I know not what love is except to you.
The world has called me a libertine; the truth is, no other woman can
command my spirit for an hour. I see through them at a glance. I read
all their weakness, frivolity, vanity, affectation, as if they were
touched by the revealing rod of Asmodeus. You were born to be my
bride. Unite yourself with me, control my destiny, and my course shall
be like the sun of yesterday; but reject me, reject me, and I devote
all my energies to the infernal gods; I will pour my lava over the
earth until all that remains of my fatal and exhausted nature is a
black and barren cone surrounded by bitter desolation.'
'Plantagenet; be calm!'
'I am perfectly calm, Venetia. You talk to me of your sufferings.
What has occasioned them? A struggle against nature. Nature has now
triumphed, and you are happy. What necessity was there for all this
misery that has fallen on your house? Why is your father an exile? Do
not you think that if your mother had chosen to exert her influence
she might have prevented the most fatal part of his career?
Undoubtedly despair impelled his actions as much as philosophy, though
I give him credit for a pure and lofty spirit, to no man more. But not
a murmur against your mother from me. She received my overtures of
reconciliation last night with more than cordiality. She is your
mother, Venetia, and she once was mine. Indeed, I love her; indeed,
you would find that I would study her happiness. For after all, sweet,
is there another woman in existence better qualified to fill the
position of my mother-in-law? I could not behave unkindly to her; I
could not treat her with neglect or harshness; not merely for the
sake of her many admirable qualities, but from other considerations,
Venetia, considerations we never can forget. By heavens! I love your
mother; I do, indeed, Venetia! I remember so many things; her last
words to me when I went to Eton. If she would only behave kindly
to me, you would see what a son-in-law I should make. You would be
jealous, that you should, Venetia. I can bear anything from you,
Venetia, but, with others, I cannot forget who I am. It makes me
bitter to be treated as Lady Annabel treated me last year in London:
but a smile and a kind word and I recall all her maternal love; I do
indeed, Venetia; last night when she was kind I could have kissed
Poor Venetia could not answer, her tears were flowing so plenteously.
'I have told your father all, sweetest,' said Cadurcis; 'I concealed
'And what said he?' murmured Venetia.
'It rests with your mother. After all that has passed, he will
not attempt to control your fate. And he is right. Perhaps his
interference in my favour might even injure me. But there is no cause
for despair; all I wanted was to come to an understanding with you; to
be sure you loved me as you always have done. I will not be impatient.
I will do everything to soothe and conciliate and gratify Lady
Annabel; you will see how I will behave! As you say, too, we are happy
because we are together; and, therefore, it would be unreasonable not
to be patient. I never can be sufficiently grateful for this meeting.
I concluded you would be in England, though we were on our way to
Milan to inquire after you. George has been a great comfort to me in
all this affair, Venetia; he loves you, Venetia, almost as much as
I do. I think I should have gone mad during that cursed affair in
England, had it not been for George. I thought you would hate me; but,
when George brought me your message, I cared for nothing; and then his
visit to the lake was so devilish kind! He is a noble fellow and a
true friend. My sweet, sweet Venetia, dry your eyes. Let us rejoin
them with a smile. We have not been long away, I will pretend we have