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–giants!”

“I am wasting your whole morning,–too bad in me,” said Vargrave, as the clock struck five; “the Lords meet this evening,–important business; once more a thousand thanks to you; good day.”

“A very good day to you, my lord; don’t mention it; glad at any time to ser-ser-serve you,” said Mr. Douce, fidgeting, curveting, and prancing round Lord Vargrave, as the latter walked through the outer office to the carriage.

“Not a step more; you will catch cold. Good-by–on Monday, then, seven o’clock. The House of Lords.”

And Lumley threw himself back in his carriage in high spirits.

CHAPTER IV.

OUBLIE de Tullie, et brave du Senat.* VOLTAIRE: _Brutus_, Act ii. sc. 1.

* “Forgotten by Tully and bullied by the Senate.”

IN the Lords that evening the discussion was animated and prolonged,–it was the last party debate of the session. The astute Opposition did not neglect to bring prominently, though incidentally, forward the question on which it was whispered that there existed some growing difference in the Cabinet. Lord Vargrave rose late. His temper was excited by the good fortune of his day’s negotiation; he felt himself of more importance than usual, as a needy man is apt to do when he has got a large sum at his banker’s; moreover, he was exasperated by some personal allusions to himself, which had been delivered by a dignified old lord who dated his family from the ark, and was as rich as Croesus. Accordingly, Vargrave spoke with more than his usual vigour. His first sentences were welcomed with loud cheers; he warmed, he grew vehement, he uttered the most positive and unalterable sentiments upon the question alluded to, he greatly transgressed the discretion which the heads of his party were desirous to maintain,–instead of conciliating without compromising, he irritated, galled, _and_ compromised. The angry cheers of the opposite party were loudly re-echoed by the cheers of the more hot-headed on his own side. The premier and some of his colleagues observed, however, a moody silence. The premier once took a note, and then reseated himself, and drew his hat more closely over his brows. It was an ominous sign for Lumley; but he was looking the Opposition in the face, and did not observe it. He sat down in triumph; he had made a most effective and a most mischievous speech,–a combination extremely common. The leader of the Opposition replied to him with bitter calmness; and when citing some of his sharp sentences, he turned to the premier, and asked, “Are these opinions those also of the noble lord? I call for a reply,–I have a right to demand a reply,” Lumley was startled to hear the tone in which his chief uttered the comprehensive and significant “_Hear, hear_!”

At midnight the premier wound up the debate; his speech was short, and characterized by moderation. He came to the question put to him. The House was hushed,–you might have heard a pin drop; the Commoners behind the throne pressed forward with anxiety and eagerness on their countenances.

“I am called upon,” said the minister, “to declare if those sentiments, uttered by my noble friend, are mine also, as the chief adviser of the Crown. My lords, in the heat of debate every word is not to be scrupulously weighed, and rigidly interpreted.” (“Hear, hear,” ironically from the Opposition, approvingly from the Treasury benches.) “My noble friend will doubtless be anxious to explain what he intended to say. I hope, nay, I doubt not, that his explanation will be satisfactory to the noble lord, to the House, and to the country; but since I am called upon for a distinct reply to a distinct interrogatory, I will say at once, that if those sentiments be rightly interpreted by the noble lord who spoke last, those sentiments are not mine, and will never animate the conduct of any cabinet of which I am a member.” (Long-continued cheering from the Opposition.) “At the same time, I am convinced that my noble friend’s meaning has not been rightly construed; and till I hear from himself to the contrary, I will venture to state what I think he designed to convey to your lordships.” Here the premier, with a tact that nobody could be duped by, but every one could admire, stripped Lord Vargrave’s unlucky sentences of every syllable that could give offence to any one; and left the pointed epigrams and vehement denunciations a most harmless arrangement of commonplace.

The House was much excited; there was a call for Lord Vargrave, and Lord Vargrave promptly rose. It was one of those dilemmas out of which Lumley was just the man to extricate himself with address. There was so much manly frankness in his manner, there was so much crafty subtlety in his mind! He complained, with proud and honest bitterness, of the construction that had been forced upon his words by the Opposition. “If,” he added (and no man knew better the rhetorical effect of the _tu quoque form of argument),–“if every sentence uttered by the noble lord opposite in his zeal for liberty had, in days now gone by, been construed with equal rigour, or perverted with equal ingenuity, that noble lord had long since been prosecuted as an incendiary, perhaps executed as a traitor!” Vehement cheers from the ministerial benches; cries of “Order!” from the Opposition. A military lord rose to order, and appealed to the Woolsack.

Lumley sat down as if chafed at the interruption; he had produced the effect he had desired,–he had changed the public question at issue into a private quarrel; a new excitement was created; dust was thrown into the eyes of the House. Several speakers rose to accommodate matters; and after half-an-hour of public time had been properly wasted, the noble lord on the one side and the noble lord on the other duly explained, paid each other the highest possible compliments, and Lumley was left to conclude his vindication, which now seemed a comparatively flat matter after the late explosion. He completed his task so as to satisfy, apparently, all parties–for all parties were now tired of the thing, and wanted to go to bed. But the next morning there were whispers about the town, articles in the different papers, evidently by authority, rejoicings among the Opposition, and a general feeling that though the Government might keep together that session, its dissensions would break out before the next meeting of parliament.

As Lumley was wrapping himself in his cloak after this stormy debate, the Marquess of Raby–a peer of large possessions, and one who entirely agreed with Lumley’s views–came up to him, and proposed that they should go home together in Lord Raby’s carriage. Vargrave willingly consented, and dismissed his own servants.

“You did that admirably, my dear Vargrave!” said Lord Raby, when they were seated in the carriage. “I quite coincide in all your sentiments; I declare my blood boiled when I heard —– [the premier] appear half inclined to throw you over. Your hit upon —– was first-rate,–he will not get over it for a month; and you extricated yourself well.”

“I am glad you approve my conduct,–it comforts me,” said Vargrave, feelingly; “at the same time I see all the consequences; but I can brave all for the sake of character and conscience.”

“I feel just as you do!” replied Lord Raby, with some warmth; “and if I thought that —– meant to yield to this question, I should certainly oppose his administration.”

Vargrave shook his head, and held his tongue, which gave Lord Raby a high idea of his discretion.

After a few more observations on political matters, Lord Raby invited Lumley to pay him a visit at his country-seat.

“I am going to Knaresdean next Monday; you know we have races in the park, and really they are sometimes good sport; at all events, it is a very pretty sight. There will be nothing in the Lords now,–the recess is just at hand; and if you can spare the time, Lady Raby and myself will be delighted to see you.”

“You may be sure, my dear lord, I cannot refuse your invitation; indeed, I intended to visit your county next week. You know, perhaps, a Mr. Merton.”

“Charles Merton?–to be sure; most respectable man, capital fellow, the best parson in the county,–no cant, but thoroughly orthodox; he certainly keeps in his brother, who, though a very active member, is what I call a waverer on certain questions. Have you known Merton long?”

“I don’t know him at all as yet; my acquaintance is with his wife and daughter,–a very fine girl, by the by. My ward, Miss Cameron, is staying with them.”

“Miss Cameron! Cameron–ah, I understand. I think I have heard that– But gossip does not always tell the truth!”

Lumley smiled significantly, and the carriage now stopped at his door.

“Perhaps you will take a seat in our carriage on Monday?” said Lord Raby.

“Monday? Unhappily I am engaged; but on Tuesday your lordship may expect me.”

“Very well; the races begin on Wednesday: we shall have a full house. Good-night.”

CHAPTER V.

HOMUNCULI quanti sunt, cum recogito.*–PLAUTUS.

* “When I reflect, how great your little men are in their own consideration!”

IT is obvious that for many reasons we must be brief upon the political intrigue in which the scheming spirit of Lord Vargrave was employed. It would, indeed, be scarcely possible to preserve the necessary medium between too plain a revelation and too complex a disguise. It suffices, therefore, very shortly to repeat what the reader has already gathered from what has gone before; namely, that the question at issue was one which has happened often enough in all governments,–one on which the Cabinet was divided, and in which the weaker party was endeavouring to out-trick the stronger.

The malcontents, foreseeing that sooner or later the head of the gathering must break, were again divided among themselves whether to resign, or to stay in and strive to force a resignation on their dissentient colleagues. The richer and the more honest were for the former course; the poorer and the more dependent for the latter. We have seen that the latter policy was that espoused and recommended by Vargrave, who, though not in the Cabinet, always contrived somehow or other to worm out its secrets. At the same time he by no means rejected the other string to his bow. If it were possible so to arrange and to strengthen his faction, that, by the _coup d’etat_ of a sudden resignation in a formidable body, the whole Government might be broken up, and a new one formed from among the resignees, it would obviously be the best plan. But then Lord Vargrave was doubtful of his own strength, and fearful to play into the hands of his colleagues, who might be able to stand even better without himself and his allies, and by conciliating the Opposition take a step onward in political movement,–which might leave Vargrave placeless and powerless for years to come.

He repented his own rashness in the recent debate, which was, indeed, a premature boldness that had sprung out of momentary excitement–for the craftiest orator must be indiscreet sometimes. He spent the next few days in alternately seeking to explain away to one party, and to sound, unite, and consolidate the other. His attempts in the one quarter were received by the premier with the cold politeness of an offended but careful statesman, who believed just as much as he chose, and preferred taking his own opportunity for a breach with a subordinate to risking any imprudence by the gratification of resentment. In the last quarter, the penetrating adventurer saw that his ground was more insecure than he had anticipated. He perceived in dismay and secret rage that many of those most loud in his favour while he was with the Government would desert him the soonest if thrown out. Liked as a subordinate minister, he was viewed with very different eyes the moment it was a question whether, instead of cheering his sentiments, men should trust themselves to his guidance. Some did not wish to displease the Government; others did not seek to weaken but to correct them. One of his stanchest allies in the Commons was a candidate for a peerage; another suddenly remembered that he was second cousin to the premier. Some laughed at the idea of a puppet premier in Lord Saxingham; others insinuated to Vargrave that he himself was not precisely of that standing in the country which would command respect to a new party, of which, if not the head, he would be the mouthpiece. For themselves they knew, admired, and trusted him; but those d—–d country gentlemen–and the dull public!

Alarmed, wearied, and disgusted, the schemer saw himself reduced to submission, for the present at least; and more than ever he felt the necessity of Evelyn’s fortune to fall back upon, if the chance of the cards should rob him of his salary. He was glad to escape for a breathing-while from the vexations and harassments that beset him, and looked forward with the eager interest of a sanguine and elastic mind–always escaping from one scheme to another–to his excursion into B—–shire.

At the villa of Mr. Douce, Lord Vargrave met a young nobleman who had just succeeded to a property not only large and unencumbered, but of a nature to give him importance in the eyes of politicians. Situated in a very small county, the estates of Lord Doltimore secured to his nomination at least one of the representatives, while a little village at the back of his pleasure-grounds constituted a borough, and returned two members to parliament. Lord Doltimore, just returned from the Continent, had not even taken his seat in the Lords; and though his family connections, such as they were–and they were not very high, and by no means in the fashion–were ministerial, his own opinions were as yet unrevealed.

To this young nobleman Lord Vargrave was singularly attentive. He was well formed to attract men younger than himself, and he eminently succeeded in his designs upon Lord Doltimore’s affection.

His lordship was a small, pale man, with a very limited share of understanding, supercilious in manner, elaborate in dress, not ill-natured _au fond_, and with much of the English gentleman in his disposition,–that is, he was honourable in his ideas and actions, whenever his natural dulness and neglected education enabled him clearly to perceive (through the midst of prejudices, the delusions of others, and the false lights of the dissipated society in which he had lived) what was right and what wrong. But his leading characteristics were vanity and conceit. He had lived much with younger sons, cleverer than himself, who borrowed his money, sold him their horses, and won from him at cards. In return they gave him all that species of flattery which young men _can_ give with so hearty an appearance of cordial admiration. “You certainly have the best horses in Paris. You are really a devilish good fellow, Doltimore. Oh, do you know, Doltimore, what little Desire says of you? You have certainly turned the girl’s head.”

This sort of adulation from one sex was not corrected by any great acerbity from the other. Lord Doltimore at the age of twenty-two was a very good _parti_; and, whatever his other deficiencies, he had sense enough to perceive that he received much greater attention–whether from opera-dancers in search of a friend, or virtuous young ladies in search of a husband–than any of the companions, good-looking though many of them were, with whom he had habitually lived.

“You will not long remain in town now the season is over?” said Vargrave, as after dinner he found himself, by the departure of the ladies, next to Lord Doltimore.

“No, indeed; even in the season I don’t much like London. Paris has rather spoiled me for any other place.”

“Paris is certainly very charming; the ease of French life has a fascination that our formal ostentation wants. Nevertheless, to a man like you, London must have many attractions.”

“Why, I have a good many friends here; but still, after Ascot, it rather bores me.”

“Have you any horses on the turf?”

“Not yet; but Legard (you know Legard, perhaps,–a very good fellow) is anxious that I should try my luck. I was very fortunate in the races at Paris–you know we have established racing there. The French take to it quite naturally.”

“Ah, indeed! It is so long since I have been in Paris–most exciting amusement! _A propos_ of races, I am going down to Lord Raby’s to-morrow; I think I saw in one of the morning papers that you had very largely backed a horse entered at Knaresdean.”

“Yes, Thunderer–I think of buying Thunderer. Legard–Colonel Legard (he was in the Guards, but he sold out)–is a good judge, and recommends the purchase. How very odd that you too should be going to Knaresdean!”

“Odd, indeed, but most lucky! We can go together, if you are not better engaged.”

Lord Doltimore coloured and hesitated. On the one hand he was a little afraid of being alone with so clever a man; on the other hand, it was an honour,–it was something for him to talk of to Legard. Nevertheless, the shyness got the better of the vanity. He excused himself; he feared he was engaged to take down Legard.

Lumley smiled, and changed the conversation; and so agreeable did he make himself, that when the party broke up, and Lumley had just shaken hands with his host, Doltimore came to him, and said in a little confusion,–

“I think I can put off Legard–if–if you–“

“That’s delightful! What time shall we start?–need not get down much before dinner–one o’clock?”

“Oh, yes! not too long before dinner; one o’clock will be a little too early.”

“Two then. Where are you staying?”

“At Fenton’s.”

“I will call for you. Good-night! I long to see Thunderer!”

CHAPTER VI.

LA sante de l’ame n’est pas plus assuree que celle du corps; et quoique l’on paraisse eloigne des passions, on n’est pas moins en danger de s’y laisser emporter que de tomber malade quand on se porte bien.*–LA ROCHEFOUCAULD.

* “The health of the soul is not more sure than that of the body; and although we may appear free from passions, there is not the less danger of their attack than of falling sick at the moment we are well.”

IN spite of the efforts of Maltravers to shun all occasions of meeting Evelyn, they were necessarily sometimes thrown together in the round of provincial hospitalities; and certainly, if either Mr. Merton or Caroline (the shrewder observer of the two) had ever formed any suspicion that Evelyn had made a conquest of Maltravers, his manner at such times effectually removed it.

Maltravers was a man to feel deeply, but no longer a boy to yield to every tempting impulse. I have said that FORTITUDE was his favourite virtue, but fortitude is the virtue of great and rare occasions; there was another, equally hard-favoured and unshowy, which he took as the staple of active and every-day duties, and that virtue was JUSTICE. Now, in earlier life, he had been enamoured of the conventional Florimel that we call HONOUR,–a shifting and shadowy phantom, that is but the reflex of the opinion of the time and clime. But justice has in it something permanent and solid; and out of justice arises the real not the false honour.

“Honour!” said Maltravers,–“honour is to justice as the flower to the plant,–its efflorescence, its bloom, its consummation! But honour that does not spring from justice is but a piece of painted rag, an artificial rose, which the men-milliners of society would palm upon us as more natural than the true.”

This principle of justice Maltravers sought to carry out in all things–not, perhaps, with constant success; for what practice can always embody theory?–but still, at least his endeavour at success was constant. This, perhaps, it was which had ever kept him from the excesses to which exuberant and liberal natures are prone, from the extravagances of pseudo-genius.

“No man, for instance,” he was wont to say, “can be embarrassed in his own circumstances, and not cause embarrassment to others. Without economy, who can be just? And what are charity, generosity, but the poetry and the beauty of justice?”

No man ever asked Maltravers twice for a just debt; and no man ever once asked him to fulfil a promise. You felt that, come what would, you might rely upon his word. To him might have been applied the witty eulogium passed by Johnson upon a certain nobleman: “If he had promised you an acorn, and the acorn season failed in England, he would have sent to Norway for one!”

It was not, therefore, the mere Norman and chivalrous spirit of honour, which he had worshipped in youth as a part of the Beautiful and the Becoming, but which in youth had yielded to temptation, as a _sentiment_ ever must yield to a passion, but it was the more hard, stubborn, and reflective _principle_, which was the later growth of deeper and nobler wisdom, that regulated the conduct of Maltravers in this crisis of his life. Certain it is, that he had never but once loved as he loved Evelyn; and yet that he never yielded so little to the passion.

“If engaged to another,” thought he, “that engagement it is not for a third person to attempt to dissolve. I am the last to form a right judgment of the strength or weakness of the bonds which unite her to Vargrave, for my emotions would prejudice me despite myself. I may fancy that her betrothed is not worthy of her,–but that is for her to decide. While the bond lasts, who can be justified in tempting her to break it?”

Agreeably to these notions, which the world may, perhaps, consider overstrained, whenever Maltravers met Evelyn, he intrenched himself in a rigid and almost a chilling formality. How difficult this was with one so simple and ingenuous! Poor Evelyn! she thought she had offended him; she longed to ask him her offence,–perhaps, in her desire to rouse his genius into exertion, she had touched some secret sore, some latent wound of the memory? She recalled all their conversations again and again. Ah, why could they not be renewed? Upon her fancy and her thoughts Maltravers had made an impression not to be obliterated. She wrote more frequently than ever to Lady Vargrave, and the name of Maltravers was found in every page of her correspondence.

One evening, at the house of a neighbour, Miss Cameron (with the Mertons) entered the room almost in the same instant as Maltravers. The party was small, and so few had yet arrived that it was impossible for Maltravers, without marked rudeness, to avoid his friends from the rectory; and Mrs. Merton, placing herself next to Evelyn, graciously motioned to Maltravers to occupy the third vacant seat on the sofa, of which she filled the centre.

“We grudge all your improvements, Mr. Maltravers, since they cost us your society. But we know that our dull circle must seem tame to one who has seen so much. However, we expect to offer you an inducement soon in Lord Vargrave. What a lively, agreeable person he is!”

Maltravers raised his eyes to Evelyn, calmly and penetratingly, at the latter part of this speech. He observed that she turned pale, and sighed involuntarily.

“He had great spirits when I knew him,” said he; “and he had then less cause to make him happy.”

Mrs. Merton smiled, and turned rather pointedly towards Evelyn.

Maltravers continued, “I never met the late lord. He had none of the vivacity of his nephew, I believe.”

“I have heard that he was very severe,” said Mrs. Merton, lifting her glass towards a party that had just entered.

“Severe!” exclaimed Evelyn. “Ah, if you could have known him! the kindest, the most indulgent–no one ever loved me as he did.” She paused, for she felt her lip quiver.

“I beg your pardon, my dear,” said Mrs. Merton, coolly. Mrs. Merton had no idea of the pain inflicted by _treading upon a feeling_. Maltravers was touched, and Mrs. Merton went on. “No wonder he was kind to you, Evelyn,–a brute would be that; but he was generally considered a stern man.”

“I never saw a stern look, I never heard a harsh word; nay, I do not remember that he ever even used the word ‘command,'” said Evelyn, almost angrily.

Mrs. Merton was about to reply, when suddenly seeing a lady whose little girl had been ill of the measles, her motherly thoughts flowed into a new channel, and she fluttered away in that sympathy which unites all the heads of a growing family. Evelyn and Maltravers were left alone.

“You do not remember your father, I believe?” said Maltravers.

“No father but Lord Vargrave; while he lived, I never knew the loss of one.”

“Does your mother resemble you?”

“Ah, I wish I could think so; it is the sweetest countenance!”

“Have you no picture of her?”

“None; she would never consent to sit.”

“Your father was a Cameron; I have known some of that name.”

“No relation of ours: my mother says we have none living.”

“And have we no chance of seeing Lady Vargrave in B—–shire?”

“She never leaves home; but I hope to return soon to Brook-Green.”

Maltravers sighed, and the conversation took a new turn.

“I have to thank you for the books you so kindly sent; I ought to have returned them ere this,” said Evelyn.

“I have no use for them. Poetry has lost its charm for me,–especially that species of poetry which unites with the method and symmetry something of the coldness of Art. How did you like Alfieri?”

“His language is a kind of Spartan French,” answered Evelyn, in one of those happy expressions which every now and then showed the quickness of her natural talent.

“Yes,” said Maltravers, smiling, “the criticism is acute. Poor Alfieri! in his wild life and his stormy passions he threw out all the redundance of his genius; and his poetry is but the representative of his thoughts, not his emotions. Happier the man of genius who lives upon his reason, and wastes feeling only on his verse!”

“You do not think that we _waste_ feeling upon human beings?” said Evelyn, with a pretty laugh.

“Ask me that question when you have reached my years, and can look upon fields on which you have lavished your warmest hopes, your noblest aspirations, your tenderest affections, and see the soil all profitless and barren. ‘Set not your heart on the things of earth,’ saith the Preacher.”

Evelyn was affected by the tone, the words, and the melancholy countenance of the speaker. “You, of all men, ought not to think thus,” said she, with a sweet eagerness; “you who have done so much to awaken and to soften the heart in others; you–who–” she stopped short, and added, more gravely. “Ah, Mr. Maltravers, I cannot reason with you, but I can hope you will refute your own philosophy.”

“Were your wish fulfilled,” answered Maltravers, almost with sternness, and with an expression of great pain in his compressed lips, “I should have to thank you for much misery.” He rose abruptly, and turned away.

“How have I offended him?” thought Evelyn, sorrowfully; “I never speak but to wound him. What _have_ I done?”

She could have wished, in her simple kindness, to follow him, and make peace; but he was now in a coterie of strangers; and shortly afterwards he left the room, and she did not see him again for weeks.

CHAPTER VII.

NIHIL est aliud magnum quam multa minuta.*–VETUS. AUCTOR.

* “There is nothing so great as the collection of the minute.”

AN anxious event disturbed the smooth current of cheerful life at Merton Rectory. One morning when Evelyn came down, she missed little Sophy, who had contrived to establish for herself the undisputed privilege of a stool beside Miss Cameron at breakfast. Mrs. Merton appeared with a graver face than usual. Sophy was unwell, was feverish; the scarlet fever had been in the neighbourhood. Mrs. Merton was very uneasy.

“It is the more unlucky, Caroline,” added the mother, turning to Miss Merton, “because to-morrow, you know, we were to have spent a few days at Knaresdean to see the races. If poor Sophy does not get better, I fear you and Miss Cameron must go without me. I can send to Mrs. Hare to be your chaperon; she would be delighted.”

“Poor Sophy!” said Caroline; “I am very sorry to hear she is unwell; but I think Taylor would take great care of her; you surely need not stay, unless she is much worse.”

Mrs. Merton, who, tame as she seemed, was a fond and attentive mother, shook her head and said nothing; but Sophy was much worse before noon. The doctor was sent for, and pronounced it to be the scarlet fever.

It was now necessary to guard against the infection. Caroline had had the complaint, and she willingly shared in her mother’s watch of love for two or three hours. Mrs. Merton gave up the party. Mrs. Hare (the wife of a rich squire in the neighbourhood) was written to, and that lady willingly agreed to take charge of Caroline and her friend.

Sophy had been left asleep. When Mrs. Merton returned to her bed, she found Evelyn quietly stationed there. This alarmed her, for Evelyn had never had the scarlet fever, and had been forbidden the sick-room. But poor little Sophy had waked and querulously asked for her dear Evy; and Evy, who had been hovering round the room, heard the inquiry from the garrulous nurse, and come in she would; and the child gazed at her so beseechingly, when Mrs. Merton entered, and said so piteously, “Don’t take Evy away,” that Evelyn stoutly declared that she was not the least afraid of infection, and stay she must. Nay, her share in the nursing would be the more necessary since Caroline was to go to Knaresdean the next day.

“But you go too, my dear Miss Cameron?”

“Indeed I could not. I don’t care for races, I never wished to go, I would much sooner have stayed; and I am sure Sophy will not get well without me,–will you, dear?”

“Oh, yes, yes; if I’m to keep you from the nice races, I should be worse if I thought that.”

“But I don’t like the nice races, Sophy, as your sister Carry does; she must go,–they can’t do without her; but nobody knows me, so I shall not be missed.”

“I can’t hear of such a thing,” said Mrs. Merton, with tears in her eyes; and Evelyn said no more then. But the next morning Sophy was still worse, and the mother was too anxious and too sad to think more of ceremony and politeness, so Evelyn stayed.

A momentary pang shot across Evelyn’s breast when all was settled; but she suppressed the sigh which accompanied the thought that she had lost the only opportunity she might have for weeks of seeing Maltravers. To that chance she had indeed looked forward with interest and timid pleasure. The chance was lost; but why should it vex her,–what was he to her?

Caroline’s heart smote her, as she came into the room in her lilac bonnet and new dress; and little Sophy, turning on her eyes which, though languid, still expressed a child’s pleasure at the sight of finery, exclaimed, “How nice and pretty you look, Carry! Do take Evy with you,–Evy looks pretty too!”

Caroline kissed the child in silence, and paused irresolute; glanced at her dress, and then at Evelyn, who smiled on her without a thought of envy; and she had half a mind to stay too, when her mother entered with a letter from Lord Vargrave. It was short: he should be at the Knaresdean races, hoped to meet them there, and accompany them home. This information re-decided Caroline, while it rewarded Evelyn. In a few minutes more, Mrs. Hare arrived; and Caroline, glad to escape, perhaps, her own compunction, hurried into the carriage, with a hasty “God bless you all! Don’t fret–I’m sure she will be well to-morrow; and mind, Evelyn, you don’t catch the fever!” Mr. Merton looked grave and sighed, as he handed her into the carriage; but when, seated there, she turned round and kissed her hand at him, she looked so handsome and distinguished, that a sentiment of paternal pride smoothed down his vexation at her want of feeling. He himself gave up the visit; but a little time after, when Sophy fell into a tranquil sleep, he thought he might venture to canter across the country to the race-ground, and return to dinner.

Days–nay, a whole week passed, the races were over, but Caroline had not returned. Meanwhile, Sophy’s fever left her; she could quit her bed, her room; she could come downstairs now, and the family was happy. It is astonishing how the least ailment in those little things stops the wheels of domestic life! Evelyn fortunately had not caught the fever: she was pale, and somewhat reduced by fatigue and confinement; but she was amply repaid by the mother’s swimming look of quiet gratitude, the father’s pressure of the hand, Sophy’s recovery, and her own good heart. They had heard twice from Caroline, putting off her return: Lady Raby was so kind, she could not get away till the party broke up; she was so glad to hear such an account of Sophy.

Lord Vargrave had not yet arrived at the rectory to stay; but he had twice ridden over, and remained there some hours. He exerted himself to the utmost to please Evelyn; and she–who, deceived by his manners, and influenced by the recollections of long and familiar acquaintance, was blinded to his real character–reproached herself more bitterly than ever for her repugnance to his suit and her ungrateful hesitation to obey the wishes of her stepfather.

To the Mertons, Lumley spoke with good-natured praise of Caroline; she was so much admired; she was the beauty at Knaresdean. A certain young friend of his, Lord Doltimore, was evidently smitten. The parents thought much over the ideas conjured up by that last sentence.

One morning, the garrulous Mrs. Hare, the gossip of the neighbourhood, called at the rectory; she had returned, two days before, from Knaresdean; and she, too, had her tale to tell of Caroline’s conquests.

“I assure you, my dear Mrs. Merton, if we had not all known that his heart was pre-occupied, we should have thought that Lord Vargrave was her warmest admirer. Most charming man, Lord Vargrave! but as for Lord Doltimore, it was quite a flirtation. Excuse _me_: no scandal, you know, ha, ha! a fine young man, but stiff and reserved,–not the fascination of Lord Vargrave.”

“Does Lord Raby return to town, or is he now at Knaresdean for the autumn?”

“He goes on Friday, I believe: very few of the guests are left now. Lady A. and Lord B., and Lord Vargrave and your daughter, and Mr. Legard and Lord Doltimore, and Mrs. and the Misses Cipher; all the rest went the same day I did.”

“Indeed!” said Mrs. Merton, in some surprise.

“Ah, I read your thoughts: you wonder that Miss Caroline has not come back,–is not that it? But perhaps Lord Doltimore–ha, ha!–no scandal now–do excuse _me_!”

“Was Mr. Maltravers at Knaresdean?” asked Mrs. Merton, anxious to change the subject, and unprepared with any other question. Evelyn was cutting out a paper horse for Sophy, who–all her high spirits flown–was lying on the sofa, and wistfully following her fairy fingers. “Naughty Evy, you have cut off the horse’s head!”

“Mr. Maltravers? No, I think not; no, he was not there. Lord Raby asked him pointedly to come, and was, I know, much disappointed that he did not. But _a propos_ of Mr. Maltravers: I met him not a quarter of an hour ago, this morning, as I was coming to you. You know we have leave to come through his park, and as I was in the park at the time, I stopped the carriage to speak to him. I told him that I was coming here, and that you had had the scarlet fever in the house, which was the reason you had not gone to the races; and he turned quite pale, and seemed so alarmed. I said we were all afraid that Miss Cameron should catch it; and, excuse me–ah, ah!–no scandal, I hope–but–“

“Mr. Maltravers,” said the butler, throwing open the door. Maltravers entered with a quick and even a hurried step. He stopped short when he saw Evelyn; and his whole countenance was instantly lightened up by a joyous expression, which as suddenly died away.

“This is kind, indeed,” said Mrs. Merton; “it is so long since we have seen you.”

“I have been very much occupied,” muttered Maltravers, almost inaudibly, and seated himself next Evelyn. “I only just heard–that–that you had sickness in the house. Miss Cameron, you look pale–you–you have not suffered, I hope?”

“No, I am quite well,” said Evelyn, with a smile; and she felt happy that her friend was kind to her once more.

“It’s only me, Mr. Ernest,” said Sophy; “you have forgot me.”

Maltravers hastened to vindicate himself from the charge, and Sophy and he were soon made excellent friends again. Mrs. Hare, whom surprise at this sudden meeting had hitherto silenced, and who longed to shape into elegant periphrasis the common adage, “Talk of,” etc., now once more opened her budget. She tattled on, first to one, then to the other, then to all, till she had tattled herself out of breath; and then the orthodox half-hour was expired, and the bell was rung, and the carriage ordered, and Mrs. Hare rose to depart.

“Do just come to the door, Mrs. Merton,” said she, “and look at my pony-phaeton, it is so pretty; Lady Raby admires it so much; you ought to have just such another.” As she spoke, she favoured Mrs. Merton with a significant glance, that said, as plainly as glance could say, “I have something to communicate.” Mrs. Merton took the hint, and followed the good lady out of the room.

“Do you know, my dear Mrs. Merton,” said Mrs. Hare, in a whisper, when they were safe in the billiard-room, that interposed between the apartment they had left and the hall; “do you know whether Lord Vargrave and Mr. Maltravers are very good friends?”

“No, indeed; why do you ask?”

“Oh, because when I was speaking to Lord Vargrave about him, he shook his head; and really I don’t remember what his lordship said, but he seemed to speak as if there was a little soreness. And then he inquired very anxiously if Mr. Maltravers was much at the rectory; and looked discomposed when he found you were such near neighbours. You’ll excuse me, you know–ha, ha! but we’re such old friends!–and if Lord Vargrave is coming to stay here, it might be unpleasant to meet–you’ll excuse _me_. I took the liberty to tell him he need not be jealous of Mr. Maltravers–ha, ha!–not a marrying man at all. But I did think Miss Caroline was the attraction–you’ll excuse me–no scandal–ha, ha! But, after all, Lord Doltimore must be the man. Well, good morning, I thought I’d just give you this hint. Is not the phaeton pretty? Kind compliments to Mr. Merton.”

And the lady drove off.

During this confabulation, Maltravers and Evelyn were left alone with Sophy. Maltravers had continued to lean over the child, and appeared listening to her prattle; while Evelyn, having risen to shake hands with Mrs. Hare, did not reseat herself, but went to the window, and busied herself with a flower-stand in the recess.

“Oh, very fine, Mr. Ernest,” said Sophy (always pronouncing that proper name as if it ended in _th_), “you care very much for us to stay away so long,–don’t he, Evy? I’ve a great mind not to speak to you, sir, that I have!”

“That would be too heavy a punishment, Miss Sophy, only, luckily, it would punish yourself; you could not live without talking–talk–talk –talk!”

“But I might never have talked more, Mr. Ernest, if Mamma and pretty Evy had not been so kind to me;” and the child shook her head mournfully, as if she had _pitie de soi-meme_. “But you won’t stay away so long again, will you? Sophy play to-morrow; come to-morrow, and swing Sophy; no nice swinging since you’ve been gone.”

While Sophy spoke Evelyn turned half round, as if to hear Maltravers answer; he hesitated, and Evelyn spoke.

“You must not tease Mr. Maltravers so; Mr. Maltravers has too much to do to come to us.”

Now this was a very pettish speech in Evelyn, and her cheek glowed while she spoke; but an arch, provoking smile was on her lips.

“It can be a privation only to me, Miss Cameron,” said Maltravers, rising, and attempting in vain to resist the impulse that drew him towards the window. The reproach in her tone and words at once pained and delighted him; and then this scene, the suffering child, brought back to him his first interview with Evelyn herself. He forgot, for the moment, the lapse of time, the new ties she had formed, his own resolutions.

“That is a bad compliment to us,” answered Evelyn, ingenuously; “do you think we are so little worthy your society as not to value it? But, perhaps” (she added, sinking her voice) “perhaps you have been offended–perhaps I–I–said–something that–that hurt you!”

“You!” repeated Maltravers, with emotion.

Sophy, who had been attentively listening, here put in, “Shake hands and make it up with Evy–you’ve been quarrelling, naughty Ernest!”

Evelyn laughed, and tossed back her sunny ringlets. “I think Sophy is right,” said she, with enchanting simplicity; “let us make it up,” and she held out her hand to Maltravers.

Maltravers pressed the fair hand to his lips. “Alas!” said he, affected with various feelings which gave a tremor to his deep voice, “your only fault is that your society makes me discontented with my solitary home; and as solitude must be my fate in life, I seek to inure myself to it betimes.”

Here–whether opportunely or not, it is for the reader to decide–Mrs. Merton returned to the room.

She apologized for her absence, talked of Mrs. Hare and the little Master Hares,–fine boys, but noisy; and then she asked Maltravers if he had seen Lord Vargrave since his lordship had been in the county. Maltravers replied, with coldness, that he had not had that honour: that Vargrave had called on him in his way from the rectory the other day, but that he was from home, and that he had not seen him for some years.

“He is a person of most prepossessing manners,” said Mrs. Merton.

“Certainly,–most prepossessing.”

“And very clever.”

“He has great talents.”

“He seems most amiable.”

Maltravers bowed, and glanced towards Evelyn, whose face, however, was turned from him.

The turn the conversation had taken was painful to the visitor, and he rose to depart.

“Perhaps,” said Mrs. Merton, “you will meet Lord Vargrave at dinner to-morrow; he will stay with us a few days,–as long as he can be spared.”

Maltravers meet Lord Vargrave! the happy Vargrave, the betrothed to Evelyn! Maltravers witness the familiar rights, the enchanting privileges, accorded to another! and that other one whom he could not believe worthy of Evelyn! He writhed at the picture the invitation conjured up.

“You are very kind, my dear Mrs. Merton, but I expect a visitor at Burleigh,–an old and dear friend, Mr. Cleveland.”

“Mr. Cleveland!–we shall be delighted to see him too. We knew him many years ago, during your minority, when he used to visit Burleigh two or three times a year.”

“He is changed since then; he is often an invalid. I fear I cannot answer for him; but he will call as soon as he arrives, and apologize for himself.”

Maltravers then hastily took his departure. He would not trust himself to do more than bow distantly to Evelyn; she looked at him reproachfully. So, then, it was really premeditated and resolved upon–his absence from the rectory; and why? She was grieved, she was offended–but more grieved than offended,–perhaps because esteem, interest, admiration, are more tolerant and charitable than love.

CHAPTER VIII.

_Arethusa_. ‘Tis well, my lord, your courting of ladies.

. . . . . .

_Claremont_. Sure this lady has a good turn done her against her will.

PHILASTER.

In the breakfast-room at Knaresdean, the same day, and almost at the same hour, in which occurred the scene and conversation at the rectory recorded in our last chapter, sat Lord Vargrave and Caroline alone. The party had dispersed, as was usual, at noon. They heard at a distance the sounds of the billiard-balls. Lord Doltimore was playing with Colonel Legard, one of the best players in Europe, but who, fortunately for Doltimore, had of late made it a rule never to play for money. Mrs. and the Misses Cipher, and most of the guests, were in the billiard-room looking on. Lady Raby was writing letters, and Lord Raby riding over his home farm. Caroline and Lumley had been for some time in close and earnest conversation. Miss Merton was seated in a large armchair, much moved, with her handkerchief to her eyes. Lord Vargrave, with his back to the chimney-piece, was bending down and speaking in a very low voice, while his quick eye glanced, ever and anon, from the lady’s countenance to the windows, to the doors, to be prepared against any interruption.

“No, my dear friend,” said he, “believe me that I am sincere. My feelings for you are, indeed, such as no words can paint.”

“Then why–“

“Why wish you wedded to another; why wed another myself? Caroline, I have often before explained to you that we are in this the victims of an inevitable fate. It is absolutely necessary that I should wed Miss Cameron. I never deceived you from the first. I should have loved her,–my heart would have accompanied my hand, but for your too seductive beauty, your superior mind!–yes, Caroline, your mind attracted me more than your beauty. Your mind seemed kindred to my own,–inspired with the proper and wise ambition which regards the fools of the world as puppets, as counters, as chessmen. For myself, a very angel from heaven could not make me give up the great game of life, yield to my enemies, slip from the ladder, unravel the web I have woven! Share my heart, my friendship, my schemes! this is the true and dignified affection that should exist between minds like ours; all the rest is the prejudice of children.”

“Vargrave, I am ambitious, worldly: I own it; but I could give up all for you!”

“You think so, for you do not know the sacrifice. You see me now apparently rich, in power, courted; and this fate you are willing to share; and this fate you _should_ share, were it the real one I could bestow on you. But reverse the medal. Deprived of office, fortune gone, debts pressing, destitution notorious, the ridicule of embarrassments, the disrepute attached to poverty and defeated ambition, an exile in some foreign town on the poor pension to which alone I should be entitled, a mendicant on the public purse; and that, too, so eaten into by demands and debts, that there is not a grocer in the next market-town who would envy the income of the retired minister! Retire, fallen, despised, in the prime of life, in the zenith of my hopes! Suppose that I could bear this for myself, could I bear it for you? _You_, born to be the ornament of courts! And you could you see me thus–life embittered, career lost–and feel, generous as you are, that your love had entailed on me, on us both, on our children, this miserable lot! Impossible, Caroline! we are too wise for such romance. It is not because we love too little, but because our love is worthy of each other, that we disdain to make love a curse! We cannot wrestle against the world, but we may shake hands with it, and worm the miser out of its treasures. My heart must be ever yours; my hand must be Miss Cameron’s. Money I must have,–my whole career depends on it. It is literally with me the highwayman’s choice,–money or life.” Vargrave paused, and took Caroline’s hand.

“I cannot reason with you,” said she; “you know the strange empire you have obtained over me, and, certainly, in spite of all that has passed (and Caroline turned pale) I could bear anything rather than that you should hereafter reproach me for selfish disregard of your interests,–your just ambition.”

“My noble friend! I do not say that I shall not feel a deep and sharp pang at seeing you wed another; but I shall be consoled by the thought that I have assisted to procure for you a station worthier of your merits than that which I can offer. Lord Doltimore is rich,–you will teach him to employ his riches well; he is weak,–your intellect will govern him; he is in love,–your beauty will suffice to preserve his regard. Ah, we shall be dear friends to the last!”

More–but to the same effect–did this able and crafty villain continue to address to Caroline, whom he alternately soothed, irritated, flattered, and revolted. Love him she certainly did, as far as love in her could extend; but perhaps his rank, his reputation, had served to win her affection; and; not knowing his embarrassments, she had encouraged a worldly hope that if Evelyn should reject his hand it might be offered to her. Under this impression she had trifled, she had coquetted, she had played with the serpent till it had coiled around her; and she could not escape its fascination and its folds. She was sincere,–she could have resigned much for Lord Vargrave; but his picture startled and appalled her. For difficulties in a palace she might be prepared; perhaps even for some privations in a _cottage ornee_,–but certainly not for penury in a lodging-house! She listened by degrees with more attention to Vargrave’s description of the power and homage that would be hers if she could secure Lord Doltimore; she listened, and was in part consoled. But the thought of Evelyn again crossed her; and perhaps with natural jealousy was mingled some compunction at the fate to which Lord Vargrave thus coldly appeared to condemn one so lovely and so innocent.

“But do not, Vargrave,” she said, “do not be too sanguine; Evelyn may reject you. She does not see you with my eyes; it is only a sense of honour that, as yet, forbids her openly to refuse the fulfilment of an engagement from which I know that she shrinks; and if she does refuse, and you be free,–and I another’s–“

“Even in that case,” interrupted Vargrave, “I must turn to the Golden Idol; my rank and name must buy me an heiress, if not so endowed as Evelyn, wealthy enough, at least, to take from my wheels the drag-chain of disreputable debt. But Evelyn–I will not doubt of her! her heart is still unoccupied!”

“True; as yet her affections are not engaged.”

“And this Maltravers–she is romantic, I fancy–did he seem captivated by her beauty or her fortune?”

“No, indeed, I think not; he has been very little with us of late. He talked to her more as to a child,–there is a disparity of years.”

“I am many years older than Maltravers,” muttered Vargrave, moodily.

“You–but your _manner_ is livelier, and, therefore, younger!”

“Fair flatterer! Maltravers does not love me: I fear his report of my character–“

“I never heard him speak of you, Vargrave; and I will do Evelyn the justice to say, that precisely as she does not love she esteems and respects you.”

“Esteems! respects! these are the feelings for a prudent Hymen,” said Vargrave, with a smile. “But, hark! I don’t hear the billiard-balls; they may find us here,–we had better separate.”

Lord Vargrave lounged into the billiard-room. The young men had just finished playing, and were about to visit Thunderer, who had won the race, and was now the property of Lord Doltimore.

Vargrave accompanied them to the stables; and after concealing his ignorance of horseflesh as well as he could, beneath a profusion of compliments on fore-hand, hind-quarters, breeding, bone, substance, and famous points, he contrived to draw Doltimore into the courtyard, while Colonel Legard remained in converse high with the head groom.

“Doltimore, I leave Knaresdean to-morrow; you go to London, I suppose? Will you take a little packet for me to the Home Office?”

“Certainly, when I go; but I think of staying a few days with Legard’s uncle–the old admiral; he has a hunting-box in the neighbourhood, and has asked us both over.”

“Oh, I can detect the attraction; but certainly it is a fair one, the handsomest girl in the county; pity she has no money.”

“I don’t care for money,” said Lord Doltimore, colouring, and settling his chin in his neckcloth; “but you are mistaken; I have no thoughts that way. Miss Merton is a very fine girl, but I doubt much if she cares for me. I would never marry any woman who was not very much in love with me.” And Lord Doltimore laughed rather foolishly.

“You are more modest than clear-sighted,” said Vargrave, smiling; “but mark my words,–I predict that the beauty of next season will be a certain Caroline Lady Doltimore.”

The conversation dropped.

“I think that will be settled well,” said Vargrave to himself, as he was dressing for dinner. “Caroline will manage Doltimore, and I shall manage one vote in the Lords and three in the Commons. I have already talked him into proper politics; a trifle all this, to be sure: but I had nothing else to amuse me, and one must never lose an occasion. Besides, Doltimore is rich, and rich friends are always useful. I have Caroline, too, in my power, and she may be of service with respect to this Evelyn, who, instead of loving, I half hate: she has crossed my path, robbed me of wealth; and now, if she does refuse me–but no, I will not think of _that_!”

CHAPTER IX.

OUT of our reach the gods have laid
Of time to come the event;
And laugh to see the fools afraid
Of what the knaves invent.–SEDLEY, _from Lycophron_.

THE next day Caroline returned to the rectory in Lady Raby’s carriage; and two hours after her arrival came Lord Vargrave. Mr. Merton had secured the principal persons in the neighbourhood to meet a guest so distinguished, and Lord Vargrave, bent on shining in the eyes of Evelyn, charmed all with his affability and wit. Evelyn, he thought, seemed pale and dispirited. He pertinaciously devoted himself to her all the evening. Her ripening understanding was better able than heretofore to appreciate his abilities; yet, inwardly, she drew comparisons between his conversation and that of Maltravers, not to the advantage of the former. There was much that amused but nothing that interested in Lord Vargrave’s fluent ease. When he attempted sentiment, the vein was hard and hollow; he was only at home on worldly topics. Caroline’s spirits were, as usual in society, high, but her laugh seemed forced, and her eye absent.

The next day, after breakfast, Lord Vargrave walked alone to Burleigh. As he crossed the copse that bordered the park, a large Persian greyhound sprang towards him, barking loudly; and, lifting his eyes, he perceived the form of a man walking slowly along one of the paths that intersected the wood. He recognized Maltravers. They had not till then encountered since their meeting a few weeks before Florence’s death; and a pang of conscience came across the schemer’s cold heart. Years rolled away from the past; he recalled the young, generous, ardent man, whom, ere the character or career of either had been developed, he had called his friend. He remembered their wild adventures and gay follies, in climes where they had been all in all to each other; and the beardless boy, whose heart and purse were ever open to him, and to whose very errors of youth and inexperienced passion he, the elder and the wiser, had led and tempted, rose before him in contrast to the grave and melancholy air of the battled and solitary man, who now slowly approached him,–the man whose proud career he had served to thwart, whose heart his schemes had prematurely soured, whose best years had been consumed in exile,–a sacrifice to the grave which a selfish and dishonourable villany had prepared! Cesarini, the inmate of a mad-house, Florence in her shroud,–such were the visions the sight of Maltravers conjured up. And to the soul which the unwonted and momentary remorse awakened, a boding voice whispered, “And thinkest thou that thy schemes shall prosper, and thy aspirations succeed?” For the first time in his life, perhaps, the unimaginative Vargrave felt the mystery of a presentiment of warning and of evil.

The two men met, and with an emotion which seemed that of honest and real feeling, Lumley silently held out his hand, and half turned away his head.

“Lord Vargrave!” said Maltravers, with an equal agitation, “it is long since we have encountered.”

“Long,–very long,” answered Lumley, striving hard to regain his self-possession; “years have changed us both; but I trust it has still left in you, as it has in me, the remembrance of our old friendship.”

Maltravers was silent, and Lord Vargrave continued,–

“You do not answer me, Maltravers. Can political differences, opposite pursuits, or the mere lapse of time, have sufficed to create an irrevocable gulf between us? Why may we not be friends again?”

“Friends!” echoed Maltravers; “at our age that word is not so lightly spoken, that tie is not so unthinkingly formed, as when we were younger men.”

“But may not the old tie be renewed?”

“Our ways in life are different; and were I to scan your motives and career with the scrutinizing eyes of friendship, it might only serve to separate us yet more. I am sick of the great juggle of ambition, and I have no sympathy left for those who creep into the pint-bottle, or swallow the naked sword.”

“If you despise the exhibition, why, then, let us laugh at it together, for I am as cynical as yourself.”

“Ah,” said Maltravers with a smile, half mournful, half bitter, “but are you not one of the Impostors?”

“Who ought better to judge of the Eleusiniana than one of the Initiated? But seriously, why on earth should political differences part private friendship? Thank Heaven! such has never been my maxim.”

“If the differences be the result of honest convictions on either side,–no; but are you honest, Lumley?”

“Faith, I have got into the habit of thinking so; and habit’s a second nature. However, I dare say we shall yet meet in the arena, so I must not betray my weak points. How is it, Maltravers, that they see so little of you at the rectory? You are a great favourite there. Have you any living that Charley Merton could hold with his own? You shake your head. And what think you of Miss Cameron, my intended?”

“You speak lightly. Perhaps you–“

“Feel deeply,–you were going to say. I do. In the hand of my ward, Evelyn Cameron, I trust to obtain at once the domestic happiness to which I have as yet been a stranger, and the wealth necessary to my career.”

Lord Vargrave continued, after a short pause, “Though my avocations have separated us so much, I have no doubt of her steady affection,–and, I may add, of her sense of honour. She alone can repair to me what else had been injustice in my uncle.” He then proceeded to repeat the moral obligations which the late lord had imposed on Evelyn,–obligations that he greatly magnified. Maltravers listened attentively, and said little.

“And these obligations being fairly considered,” added Vargrave, with a smile, “I think, even had I rivals, that they could scarcely in honour attempt to break an existing engagement.”

“Not while the engagement lasted,” answered Maltravers; “not till one or the other had declined to fulfil it, and therefore left both free: but I trust it will be an alliance in which all but affection will be forgotten; that of honour alone would be but a harsh tie.”

“Assuredly,” said Vargrave; and, as if satisfied with what had passed, he turned the conversation,–praised Burleigh, spoke of county matters, resumed his habitual gayety, though it was somewhat subdued, and promising to call again soon, he at last took his leave.

Maltravers pursued his solitary rambles, and his commune with himself was stern and searching.

“And so,” thought he, “this prize is reserved for Vargrave! Why should I deem him unworthy of the treasure? May he not be worthier, at all events, than this soured temper and erring heart? And he is assured too of her affection! Why this jealous pang? Why can the fountain within never be exhausted? Why, through so many scenes and sufferings, have I still retained the vain madness of my youth,–the haunting susceptibility to love? This is my latest folly.”

BOOK IV.

“A virtuous woman is man’s greatest pride.”–SIMONIDES.

CHAPTER I.

ABROAD uneasy, nor content at home.
. . . . . .
And Wisdom shows the ill without the cure.

HAMMOND: _Elegies_.

TWO or three days after the interview between Lord Vargrave and Maltravers, the solitude of Burleigh was relieved by the arrival of Mr. Cleveland. The good old gentleman, when free from attacks of the gout, which were now somewhat more frequent than formerly, was the same cheerful and intelligent person as ever. Amiable, urbane, accomplished, and benevolent, there was just enough worldliness in Cleveland’s nature to make his views sensible as far as they went, but to bound their scope. Everything he said was so rational; and yet, to an imaginative person, his conversation was unsatisfactory, and his philosophy somewhat chilling.

“I cannot say how pleased and surprised I am at your care of the fine old place,” said he to Maltravers, as, leaning on his cane and his _ci-devant_ pupil’s arm, he loitered observantly through the grounds; “I see everywhere the presence of the Master.”

And certainly the praise was deserved. The gardens were now in order, the dilapidated fences were repaired, the weeds no longer encumbered the walks. Nature was just assisted and relieved by Art, without being oppressed by too officious a service from her handmaid. In the house itself some suitable and appropriate repairs and decorations–with such articles of furniture as combined modern comfort with the ancient and picturesque shapes of a former fashion–had redeemed the mansion from all appearance of dreariness and neglect; while still was left to its quaint halls and chambers the character which belonged to their architecture and associations. It was surprising how much a little exercise of simple taste had effected.

“I am glad you approve what I have done,” said Maltravers. “I know not how it was, but the desolation of the place when I returned to it reproached me. We contract friendship with places as with human beings, and fancy they have claims upon us; at least, that is my weakness.”

“And an amiable one it is, too,–I share it. As for me, I look upon Temple Grove as a fond husband upon a fair wife. I am always anxious to adorn it, and as proud of its beauty as if it could understand and thank me for my partial admiration. When I leave you I intend going to Paris, for the purpose of attending a sale of the pictures and effects of M. de —–. These auctions are to me what a jeweller’s shop is to a lover; but then, Ernest, I am an old bachelor.”

“And I, too, am an Arcadian,” said Maltravers, with a smile.

“Ah, but you are not too old for repentance. Burleigh now requires nothing but a mistress.”

“Perhaps it may soon receive that addition. I am yet undecided whether I shall sell it.”

“Sell it! sell Burleigh!–the last memorial of your mother’s ancestry! the classic retreat of the graceful Digbys! Sell Burleigh!”

“I had almost resolved to do so when I came hither; then I forswore the intention: now again I sometimes sorrowfully return to the idea.”

“And in Heaven’s name, why?”

“My old restlessness returns. Busy myself as I will here, I find the range of action monotonous and confined. I began too soon to draw around me the large circumference of literature and action; and the small provincial sphere seems to me a sad going back in life. Perhaps I should not feel this, were my home less lonely; but as it is–no, the wanderer’s ban is on me, and I again turn towards the lands of excitement and adventure.”

“I understand this, Ernest; but why is your home so solitary? You are still at the age in which wise and congenial unions are the most frequently formed; your temper is domestic; your easy fortune and sobered ambition allow you to choose without reference to worldly considerations. Look round the world, and mix with the world again, and give Burleigh the mistress it requires.”

Maltravers shook his head, and sighed.

“I do not say,” continued Cleveland, wrapped in the glowing interest of the theme, “that you should marry a mere girl, but an amiable woman, who, like yourself, has seen something of life, and knows how to reckon on its cares, and to be contented with its enjoyments.”

“You have said enough,” said Maltravers, impatiently; “an experienced woman of the world, whose freshness of hope and heart is gone! What a picture! No, to me there is something inexpressibly beautiful in innocence and youth. But you say justly,–my years are not those that would make a union with youth desirable or well suited.”

“I do _not_ say that,” said Cleveland, taking a pinch of snuff; “but you should avoid great disparity of age,–not for the sake of that disparity itself, but because with it is involved discord of temper, pursuits. A _very_ young woman, new to the world, will not be contented with home alone; you are at once too gentle to curb her wishes, and a little too stern and reserved–pardon me for saying so–to be quite congenial to very early and sanguine youth.”

“It is true,” said Maltravers, with a tone of voice that showed he was struck with the remark; “but how have we fallen on this subject? let us change it. I have no idea of marriage,–the gloomy reminiscence of Florence Lascelles chains me to the past.”

“Poor Florence, she might once have suited you; but now you are older, and would require a calmer and more malleable temper.”

“Peace, I implore you!”

The conversation was changed; and at noon Mr. Merton, who had heard of Cleveland’s arrival, called at Burleigh to renew an old acquaintance. He invited them to pass the evening at the rectory; and Cleveland, hearing that whist was a regular amusement, accepted the invitation for his host and himself. But when the evening came, Maltravers pleaded indisposition, and Cleveland was obliged to go alone.

When the old gentleman returned about midnight, he found Maltravers awaiting him in the library; and Cleveland, having won fourteen points, was in a very gay, conversable humour.

“You perverse hermit!” said he, “talk of solitude, indeed, with so pleasant a family a hundred yards distant! You deserve to be solitary,–I have no patience with you. They complain bitterly of your desertion, and say you were, at first, the _enfant de la maison_.”

“So you like the Mertons? The clergyman is sensible, but commonplace.”

“A very agreeable man, despite your cynical definition, and plays a very fair rubber. But Vargrave is a first-rate player.”

“Vargrave is there still?”

“Yes, he breakfasts with us to-morrow,–he invited himself.”

“Humph!”

“He played one rubber; the rest of the evening he devoted himself to the prettiest girl I ever saw,–Miss Cameron. What a sweet face! so modest, yet so intelligent! I talked with her a good deal during the deals in which I cut out. I almost lost my heart to her.”

“So Lord Vargrave devoted himself to Miss Cameron?”

“To be sure,–you know they are to be married soon. Merton told me so. She is very rich. He is the luckiest fellow imaginable, that Vargrave! But he is much too old for her: she seems to think so too. I can’t explain why I think it; but by her pretty reserved manner I saw that she tried to keep the gay minister at a distance: but it would not do. Now, if you were ten years younger, or Miss Cameron ten years older, you might have had some chance of cutting out your old friend.”

“So you think I also am too old for a lover?”

“For a lover of a girl of seventeen, certainly. You seem touchy on the score of age, Ernest.”

“Not I;” and Maltravers laughed.

“No? There was a young gentleman present, who, I think, Vargrave might really find a dangerous rival,–a Colonel Legard,–one of the handsomest men I ever saw in my life; just the style to turn a romantic young lady’s head; a mixture of the wild and the thoroughbred; black curls, superb eyes, and the softest manners in the world. But, to be sure, he has lived all his life in the best society. Not so his friend, Lord Doltimore, who has a little too much of the green-room lounge and French _cafe_ manner for my taste.”

“Doltimore, Legard, names new to me; I never met them at the rectory.”

“Possibly they are staying at Admiral Legard’s, in the neighbourhood. Miss Merton made their acquaintance at Knaresdean. A good old lady–the most perfect Mrs. Grundy one would wish to meet with–who owns the monosyllabic appellation of Hare (and who, being my partner, trumped my king!) assured me that Lord Doltimore was desperately in love with Caroline Merton. By the way, now, there is a young lady of a proper age for you,–handsome and clever, too.”

“You talk of antidotes to matrimony; and so Miss Cameron–“

“Oh, no more of Miss Cameron now, or I shall sit up all night; she has half turned my head. I can’t help pitying her,–married to one so careless and worldly as Lord Vargrave, thrown so young into the whirl of London. Poor thing! she had better have fallen in love with Legard,–which I dare say she will do, after all. Well, good-night!”

CHAPTER II.

PASSION, as frequently is seen,
Subsiding, settles into spleen;
Hence, as the plague of happy life, I ran away from party strife.–MATTHEW GREEN.

Here nymphs from hollow oaks relate
The dark decrees and will of fate.–_Ibid._

ACCORDING to his engagement, Vargrave breakfasted the next morning at Burleigh. Maltravers at first struggled to return his familiar cordiality with equal graciousness. Condemning himself for former and unfounded suspicions, he wrestled against feelings which he could not or would not analyze, but which made Lumley an unwelcome visitor, and connected him with painful associations, whether of the present or the past. But there were points on which the penetration of Maltravers served to justify his prepossessions.

The conversation, chiefly sustained by Cleveland and Vargrave, fell on public questions; and as one was opposed to the other, Vargrave’s exposition of views and motives had in them so much of the self-seeking of the professional placeman, that they might well have offended any man tinged by the lofty mania of political Quixotism. It was with a strange mixture of feelings that Maltravers listened: at one moment he proudly congratulated himself on having quitted a career where such opinions seemed so well to prosper: at another, his better and juster sentiments awoke the long-dormant combative faculty, and he almost longed for the turbulent but sublime arena, in which truths are vindicated and mankind advanced.

The interview did not serve for that renewal of intimacy which Vargrave appeared to seek, and Maltravers rejoiced when the placeman took his departure.

Lumley, who was about to pay a morning visit to Lord Doltimore, had borrowed Mr. Merton’s stanhope, as being better adapted than any statelier vehicle to get rapidly through the cross-roads which led to Admiral Legard’s house; and as he settled himself in the seat, with his servant by his side, he said laughingly, “I almost fancy myself naughty master Lumley again in this young-man-kind of two-wheeled cockle-boat: not dignified, but rapid, eh?”

And Lumley’s face, as he spoke, had in it so much of frank gayety, and his manner was so simple, that Maltravers could with difficulty fancy him the same man who, five minutes before, had been uttering sentiments that might have become the oldest-hearted intriguer whom the hot-bed of ambition ever reared.

As soon as Lumley was gone, Maltravers left Cleveland alone to write letters (Cleveland was an exemplary and voluminous correspondent) and strolled with his dogs into the village. The effect which the presence of Maltravers produced among his peasantry was one that seldom failed to refresh and soothe his more bitter and disturbed thoughts. They had gradually (for the poor are quick-sighted) become sensible of his _justice_,–a finer quality than many that seem more amiable. They felt that his real object was to make them better and happier; and they had learned to see that the means he adopted generally advanced the end. Besides, if sometimes stern, he was never capricious or unreasonable; and then, too, he would listen patiently and advise kindly. They were a little in awe of him, but the awe only served to make them more industrious and orderly,–to stimulate the idle man, to reclaim the drunkard. He was one of the favourers of the small-allotment system,–not, indeed, as panacea, but as one excellent stimulant to exertion and independence; and his chosen rewards for good conduct were in such comforts as served to awaken amongst those hitherto passive, dogged, and hopeless a desire to better and improve their condition. Somehow or other, without direct alms, the goodwife found that the little savings in the cracked teapot or the old stocking had greatly increased since the squire’s return, while her husband came home from his moderate cups at the alehouse more sober and in better temper. Having already saved something was a great reason why he should save more. The new school, too, was so much better conducted than the old one; the children actually liked going there; and now and then there were little village feasts connected with the schoolroom; play and work were joint associations.

And Maltravers looked into his cottages, and looked at the allotment-ground; and it was pleasant to him to say to himself, “I am not altogether without use in life.” But as he pursued his lonely walk, and the glow of self-approval died away with the scenes that called it forth, the cloud again settled on his brow; and again he felt that in solitude the passions feed upon the heart. As he thus walked along the green lane, and the insect life of summer rustled audibly among the shadowy hedges and along the thick grass that sprang up on either side, he came suddenly upon a little group that arrested all his attention.

It was a woman, clad in rags, bleeding, and seemingly insensible, supported by the overseer of the parish and a labourer.

“What is the matter?” asked Maltravers.

“A poor woman has been knocked down and run over by a gentleman in a gig, your honour,” replied the overseer. “He stopped, half an hour ago, at my house to tell me that she was lying on the road; and he has given me two sovereigns for her, your honour. But, poor cretur! she was too heavy for me to carry her, and I was forced to leave her and call Tom to help me.”

“The gentleman might have stayed to see what were the consequences of his own act,” muttered Maltravers, as be examined the wound in the temple, whence the blood flowed copiously.

“He said he was in a great hurry, your honour,” said the village official, overhearing Maltravers. “I think it was one of the grand folks up at the parsonage; for I know it was Mr. Merton’s bay horse,–he is a hot ‘un!”

“Does the poor woman live in the neighbourhood? Do you know her?” asked Maltravers, turning from the contemplation of this new instance of Vargrave’s selfishness of character.

“No; the old body seems quite a stranger here,–a tramper, or beggar, I think, sir. But it won’t be a settlement if we take her in; and we can carry her to the Chequers, up the village, your honour.”

“What is the nearest house,–your own?”

“Yes; but we be so busy now!”

“She shall not go to your house, and be neglected; and as for the public-house, it is too noisy: we must move her to the Hall.”

“Your honour!” ejaculated the overseer, opening his eyes.

“It is not very far; she is severely hurt. Get a hurdle, lay a mattress on it. Make haste, both of you; I will wait here till you return.”

The poor woman was carefully placed on the grass by the road-side, and Maltravers supported her head, while the men hastened to obey his orders.

CHAPTER III.

ALSE from that forked hill, the boasted seat Of studious Peace and mild Philosophy,
Indignant murmurs mote be heard to threat.–WEST.

MR. CLEVELAND wanted to enrich one of his letters with a quotation from Ariosto, which he but imperfectly remembered. He had seen the book he wished to refer to in the little study the day before; and he quitted the library to search for it.

As he was tumbling over some volumes that lay piled on the writing-table, he felt a student’s curiosity to discover what now constituted his host’s favourite reading. He was surprised to observe that the greater portion of the works that, by the doubled leaf and the pencilled reference, seemed most frequently consulted, were not of a literary nature,–they were chiefly scientific; and astronomy seemed the chosen science. He then remembered that he had heard Maltravers speaking to a builder, employed on the recent repairs, on the subject of an observatory. “This is very strange,” thought Cleveland; “he gives up literature, the rewards of which are in his reach, and turns to science, at an age too late to discipline his mind to its austere training.”

Alas! Cleveland did not understand that there are times in life when imaginative minds seek to numb and to blunt imagination. Still less did he feel that, when we perversely refuse to apply our active faculties to the catholic interests of the world, they turn morbidly into channels of research the least akin to their real genius. By the collision of minds alone does each mind discover what is its proper product: left to ourselves, our talents become but intellectual eccentricities.

Some scattered papers, in the handwriting of Maltravers, fell from one of the volumes. Of these, a few were but algebraical calculations, or short scientific suggestions, the value of which Mr. Cleveland’s studies did not enable him to ascertain; but in others they were wild snatches of mournful and impassioned verse, which showed that the old vein of poetry still flowed, though no longer to the daylight. These verses Cleveland thought himself justified in glancing over; they seemed to portray a state of mind which deeply interested, and greatly saddened him. They expressed, indeed, a firm determination to bear up against both the memory and the fear of ill; but mysterious and hinted allusions here and there served to denote some recent and yet existent struggle, revealed by the heart only to the genius. In these partial and imperfect self-communings and confessions, there was the evidence of the pining affections, the wasted life, the desolate hearth of the lonely man. Yet so calm was Maltravers himself, even to his early friend, that Cleveland knew not what to think of the reality of the feelings painted. Had that fervid and romantic spirit been again awakened by a living object? If so, where was the object found? The dates affixed to the verses were most recent. But whom had Maltravers seen? Cleveland’s thoughts turned to Caroline Merton, to Evelyn; but when he had spoken of both, nothing in the countenance, the manner, of Maltravers had betrayed emotion. And once the heart of Maltravers had so readily betrayed itself! Cleveland knew not how pride, years, and suffering school the features, and repress the outward signs of what pass within. While thus engaged, the door of the study opened abruptly, and the servant announced Mr. Merton.

“A thousand pardons,” said the courteous rector. “I fear we disturb you; but Admiral Legard and Lord Doltimore, who called on us this morning, were so anxious to see Burleigh, I thought I might take the liberty. We have come over quite in a large party,–taken the place by storm. Mr. Maltravers is out, I hear; but you will let us see the house. My allies are already in the hall, examining the armour.”

Cleveland, ever sociable and urbane, answered suitably, and went with Mr. Merton into the hall, where Caroline, her little sisters, Evelyn, Lord Doltimore, Admiral Legard, and his nephew were assembled.

“Very proud to be my host’s representative and your guide,” said Cleveland. “Your visit, Lord Doltimore, is indeed an agreeable surprise. Lord Vargrave left us an hour or so since to call on you at Admiral Legard’s: we buy our pleasure with his disappointment.”

“It is very unfortunate,” said the admiral, a bluff, harsh-looking old gentleman; “but we were not aware, till we saw Mr. Merton, of the honour Lord Vargrave has done us. I can’t think how we missed him on the road.”

“My dear uncle,” said Colonel Legard, in a peculiarly sweet and agreeable tone of voice, “you forget we came three miles round by the high road; and Mr. Merton says that Lord Vargrave took the short cut by Langley End. My uncle, Mr. Cleveland, never feels in safety upon land, unless the road is as wide as the British Channel, and the horses go before the wind at the rapid pace of two knots and a half an hour!”

“I just wish I had you at sea, Mr. Jackanapes,” said the admiral, looking grimly at his handsome nephew, while he shook his cane at him.

The nephew smiled; and, falling back, conversed with Evelyn.

The party were now shown over the house; and Lord Doltimore was loud in its praises. It was like a chateau he had once hired in Normandy,–it had a French character; those old chairs were in excellent taste,–quite the style of Francis the First.

“I know no man I respect more than Mr. Maltravers,” quoth the admiral. “Since he has been amongst us this time, he has been a pattern to us country gentlemen. He would make an excellent colleague for Sir John. We really must get him to stand against that young puppy who is member of the House of Commons only because his father is a peer, and never votes more than twice a session.”

Mr. Merton looked grave.

“I wish to Heaven you could persuade him to stay amongst you,” said Cleveland. “He has half taken it into his head to part with Burleigh!”

“Part with Burleigh!” exclaimed Evelyn, turning abruptly from the handsome colonel, in whose conversation she had hitherto seemed absorbed.

“My very ejaculation when I heard him say so, my dear young lady.”

“I wish he would,” said Lord Doltimore hastily, and glancing towards Caroline. “I should much like to buy it. What do you think would be the purchase-money?”

“Don’t talk so cold-bloodedly,” said the admiral, letting the point of his cane fall with great emphasis on the floor. “I can’t bear to see old families deserting their old places,–quite wicked. You buy Burleigh! have not you got a country seat of your own, my lord? Go and live there, and take Mr. Maltravers for your model,–you could not have a better.”

Lord Doltimore sneered, coloured, settled his neckcloth, and turning round to Colonel Legard, whispered, “Legard, your good uncle is a bore.”

Legard looked a little offended, and made no reply.

“But,” said Caroline, coming to the relief of her admirer, “if Mr. Maltravers will sell the place, surely he could not have a better successor.”

“He sha’n’t sell the place, ma’am, and that’s poz!” cried the admiral. “The whole county shall sign a round-robin to tell him it’s a shame; and if any one dares to buy it we’ll send him to Coventry.”

Miss Merton laughed, but looked round the old wainscot walls with unusual interest; she thought it would be a fine thing to be Lady of Burleigh!

“And what is that picture so carefully covered up?” said the admiral, as they now stood in the library.

“The late Mrs. Maltravers, Ernest’s mother,” replied Cleveland, slowly. “He dislikes it to be shown–to strangers: the other is a Digby.”

Evelyn looked towards the veiled portrait, and thought of her first interview with Maltravers; but the soft voice of Colonel Legard murmured in her ear; and her revery was broken.

Cleveland eyed the colonel, and muttered to himself, “Vargrave should keep a sharp look-out.”

They had now finished their round of the show-apartments–which indeed had little but their antiquity and old portraits to recommend them–and were in a lobby at the back of the house, communicating with a courtyard, two sides of which were occupied with the stables. The sight of the stables reminded Caroline of the Arab horses; and at the word “horses” Lord Doltimore seized Legard’s arm and carried him off to inspect the animals. Caroline, her father, and the admiral followed. Mr. Cleveland happened not to have on his walking-shoes; and the flagstones in the courtyard looked damp; and Mr. Cleveland, like most old bachelors, was prudently afraid of cold; so he excused himself, and stayed behind. He was talking to Evelyn about the Digbys, and full of anecdotes about Sir Kenelm at the moment the rest departed so abruptly; and Evelyn was interested, so she insisted on keeping him company.

The old gentleman was flattered; he thought it excellent breeding in Miss Cameron. The children ran out to renew acquaintance with the peacock, who, perched on an old stirrup-stone, was sunning his gay plumage in the noon-day.

“It is astonishing,” said Cleveland, “how certain family features are transmitted from generation to generation! Maltravers has still the forehead and eyebrows of the Digbys,–that peculiar, brooding, thoughtful forehead, which you observed in the picture of Sir Kenelm. Once, too, he had much the same dreaming character of mind, but he has lost that, in some measure at least. He has fine qualities, Miss Cameron,–I have known him since he was born. I trust his career is not yet closed; could he but form ties that would bind him to England, I should indulge in higher expectations than I did even when the wild boy turned half the heads in Gottingen.

“But we were talking of family portraits: there is one in the entrance-hall, which perhaps you have not observed; it is half obliterated by damp and time, yet it is of a remarkable personage, connected with Maltravers by ancestral intermarriages,–Lord Falkland, the Falkland of Clarendon; a man weak in character, but made most interesting by history,–utterly unfitted for the severe ordeal of those stormy times; sighing for peace when his whole soul should have been in war; and repentant alike whether with the Parliament or the king, but still a personage of elegant and endearing associations; a student-soldier, with a high heart and a gallant spirit. Come and look at his features,–homely and worn, but with a characteristic air of refinement and melancholy thought.”

Thus running on, the agreeable old gentleman drew Evelyn into the outer hall. Upon arriving there, through a small passage, which opened upon the hall, they were surprised to find the old housekeeper and another female servant standing by a rude kind of couch on which lay the form of the poor woman described in the last chapter. Maltravers and two other men were also there; and Maltravers himself was giving orders to his servants, while he leaned over the sufferer, who was now conscious both of pain and the service rendered to her. As Evelyn stopped abruptly, and in surprise, opposite and almost at the foot of the homely litter, the woman raised herself up on one arm, and gazed at her with a wild stare; then muttering some incoherent words which appeared to betoken delirium, she sank back, and was again insensible.

CHAPTER IV.

HENCE oft to win some stubborn maid, Still does the wanton god assume
The martial air, the gay cockade,
The sword, the shoulder-knot, and plume.

MARRIOTT.

THE hall was cleared, the sufferer had been removed, and Maltravers was left alone with Cleveland and Evelyn.

He simply and shortly narrated the adventure of the morning; but he did not mention that Vargrave had been the cause of the injury his new guest had sustained. Now this event had served to make a mutual and kindred impression on Evelyn and Maltravers. The humanity of the latter, natural and commonplace as it was, was an endearing recollection to Evelyn, precisely as it showed that his cold theory of disdain towards the mass did not affect his actual conduct towards individuals. On the other hand, Maltravers had perhaps been yet more impressed with the prompt and ingenuous sympathy which Evelyn had testified towards the sufferer: it had so evidently been her first gracious and womanly impulse to hasten to the side of this humble stranger. In that impulse, Maltravers himself had been almost forgotten; and as the poor woman lay pale and lifeless, and the young Evelyn bent over her in beautiful compassion, Maltravers thought she had never seemed so lovely, so irresistible,–in fact, pity in woman is a great beautifier.

As Maltravers finished his short tale, Evelyn’s eyes were fixed upon him with such frank and yet such soft approval, that the look went straight to his heart. He quickly turned away, and abruptly changed the conversation.

“But how long have you been here, Miss Cameron,–and your companions?”

“We are again intruders; but this time it was not my fault.”

“No,” said Cleveland, “for a wonder it was male, and not lady-like curiosity that trespassed on Bluebeard’s chamber. But, however, to soften your resentment, know that Miss Cameron has brought you a purchaser for Burleigh. Now, then, we can test the sincerity of your wish to part with it. I assure you, meanwhile, that Miss Cameron was as much shocked at the idea as I was. Were you not?”

“But you surely have no intention of selling Burleigh?” said Evelyn, anxiously.

“I fear I do not know my own mind.”

“Well,” said Cleveland, “here comes your tempter. Lord Doltimore, let me introduce Mr. Maltravers.”

Lord Doltimore bowed.

“Been admiring your horses, Mr. Maltravers. I never saw anything so perfect as the black one; may I ask where you bought him?”

“It was a present to me,” answered Maltravers.

“A present?”

“Yes, from one who would not have sold that horse for a king’s ransom,–an old Arab chief, with whom I formed a kind of friendship in the desert. A wound disabled him from riding, and he bestowed the horse on me, with as much solemn tenderness for the gift as if he had given me his daughter in marriage.”

“I think of travelling in the East,” said Lord Doltimore, with much gravity: “I suppose nothing will induce you to sell the black horse?”

“Lord Doltimore!” said Maltravers, in a tone of lofty surprise.

“I do not care for the price,” continued the young nobleman, a little disconcerted.

“No; I never sell any horse that has once learned to know me. I would as soon think of selling a friend. In the desert, one’s horse is one’s friend. I am almost an Arab myself in these matters.”

“But talking of sale and barter reminds me of Burleigh,” said Cleveland, maliciously. “Lord Doltimore is a universal buyer. He covets all your goods: he will take the house, if he can’t have the stables.”

“I only mean,” said Lord Doltimore, rather peevishly, “that if you wish to part with Burleigh, I should like to have the option of purchase.”

“I will remember it, if I determine to sell the place,” answered Maltravers, smiling gravely; “at present I am undecided.”

He turned away towards Evelyn as he spoke, and almost started to observe that she was joined by a stranger, whose approach he had not before noticed,–and that stranger a man of such remarkable personal advantages, that, had Maltravers been in Vargrave’s position, he might reasonably have experienced a pang of jealous apprehension. Slightly above the common height; slender, yet strongly formed; set off by every advantage of dress, of air, of the nameless tone and pervading refinement that sometimes, though not always, springs from early and habitual intercourse with the most polished female society,–Colonel Legard, at the age of eight and twenty, had acquired a reputation for beauty almost as popular and as well known as that which men usually acquire by mental qualifications. Yet there was nothing effeminate in his countenance, the symmetrical features of which were made masculine and expressive by the rich olive of the complexion, and the close jetty curls of the Antinous-like hair.

They seemed, as they there stood–Evelyn and Legard–so well suited to each other in personal advantages, their different styles so happily contrasted; and Legard, at the moment, was regarding her with such respectful admiration, and whispering compliment to her in so subdued a tone, that the dullest observer might have ventured a prophecy by no means agreeable to the hopes of Lumley Lord Vargrave.

But a feeling or fear of this nature was not that which occurred to Maltravers, or dictated his startled exclamation of surprise.

Legard looked up as he heard the exclamation, and saw Maltravers, whose back had hitherto been turned towards him. He, too, was evidently surprised, and seemingly confused; the colour mounted to his cheek, and then left it pale.

“Colonel Legard,” said Cleveland, “a thousand apologies for my neglect: I really did not observe you enter,–you came round by the front door, I suppose. Let me make you acquainted with Mr. Maltravers.”

Legard bowed low.

“We have met before,” said he, in embarrassed accents: “at Venice, I think!”

Maltravers inclined his head rather stiffly at first, but then, as if moved by a second impulse, held out his hand cordially.

“Oh, Mr. Ernest, here you are!” cried Sophy, bounding into the hall, followed by Mr. Merton, the old admiral, Caroline, and Cecilia.

The interruption seemed welcome and opportune. The admiral, with blunt cordiality, expressed his pleasure at being made known to Mr. Maltravers.

The conversation grew general; refreshments were proffered and declined; the visit drew to its close.

It so happened that as the guests departed, Evelyn, from whose side the constant colonel had insensibly melted away, lingered last,–save, indeed, the admiral, who was discussing with Cleveland a new specific for the gout. And as Maltravers stood on the steps, Evelyn turned to him with all her beautiful _naivete_ of mingled timidity and kindness, and said,–

“And are we really never to see you again; never to hear again your tales of Egypt and Arabia; never to talk over Tasso and Dante? No books, no talk, no disputes, no quarrels? What have we done? I thought we had made it up,–and yet you are still unforgiving. Give me a good scold, and be friends!”

“Friends! you have no friend more anxious, more devoted than I am. Young, rich, fascinating as you are, you will carve no impression on human hearts deeper than that you have graven here!”

Carried away by the charm of her childlike familiarity and enchanting sweetness, Maltravers had said more than he intended; yet his eyes, his emotion, said more than his words.

Evelyn coloured deeply, and her whole manner changed. However, she turned away, and saying, with a forced gayety, “Well, then, you will not desert us; we shall see you once more?” hurried down the steps to join her companions.

CHAPTER V.

SEE how the skilful lover spreads his toils.–STILLINGFLEET.

THE party had not long returned to the rectory, and the admiral’s carriage was ordered, when Lord Vargrave made his appearance. He descanted with gay good-humour on his long drive, the bad roads, and his disappointment at the _contretemps_ that awaited him; then, drawing aside Colonel Legard, who seemed unusually silent and abstracted, he said to him,–

“My dear colonel, my visit this morning was rather to you than to Doltimore. I confess that I should like to see your abilities enlisted on the side of the Government; and knowing that the post of Storekeeper to the Ordnance will be vacant in a day or two by the promotion of Mr. —–, I wrote to secure the refusal. To-day’s post brings me the answer. I offer the place to you; and I trust, before long, to procure you also a seat in parliament. But you must start for London immediately.”

A week ago, and Legard’s utmost ambition would have been amply gratified by this post; he now hesitated.

“My dear lord,” said he, “I cannot say how grateful I feel for your kindness; but–but–“

“Enough; no thanks, my dear Legard. Can you go to town to-morrow?”

“Indeed,” said Legard, “I fear not; I must consult my uncle.”

“I can answer for him; I sounded him before I wrote. Reflect! You are not rich, my dear Legard; it is an excellent opening: a seat in parliament, too! Why, what can be your reason for hesitation?”

There was something meaning and inquisitive in the tone of voice in which this question was put that brought the colour to the colonel’s cheek. He knew not well what to reply; and he began, too, to think that he ought not to refuse the appointment. Nay, would his uncle, on whom he was dependent, consent to such a refusal? Lord Vargrave saw the irresolution, and proceeded. He spent ten minutes in combating every scruple, every objection: he placed all the advantages of the post, real or imaginary, in every conceivable point of view before the colonel’s eyes; he sought to flatter, to wheedle, to coax, to weary him into accepting it; and he at length partially succeeded. The colonel petitioned for three days’ consideration, which Vargrave reluctantly acceded to; and Legard then stepped into his uncle’s carriage, with the air rather of a martyr than a maiden placeman.

“Aha!” said Vargrave, chuckling to himself as he took a turn in the grounds, “I have got rid of that handsome knave; and now I shall have Evelyn all to myself!”

CHAPTER VI.

I AM forfeited to eternal disgrace if you do not commiserate. . . . . . .
Go to, then, raise, recover.–BEN JONSON: _Poetaster_.

THE next morning Admiral Legard and his nephew were conversing in the little cabin consecrated by the name of the admiral’s “own room.”

“Yes,” said the veteran, “it would be moonshine and madness not to accept Vargrave’s offer; though one can see through such a millstone as that with half an eye. His lordship is jealous of such a fine, handsome young fellow as you are,–and very justly. But as long as he is under the same roof with Miss Cameron, you will have no opportunity to pay your court; when he goes, you can always manage to be in her neighbourhood; and then, you know–puppy that you are–her business will be very soon settled.” And the admiral eyed the handsome colonel with grim fondness.

Legard sighed.

“Have you any commands at —–?” said he; “I am just going to canter over there before Doltimore is up.”

“Sad lazy dog, your friend.”

“I shall be back by twelve.”

“What are you going to —– for?”

“Brookes, the farrier, has a little spaniel,–King Charles’s breed. Miss Cameron is fond of dogs. I can send it to her, with my compliments,–it will be a sort of leave-taking.”

“Sly rogue; ha, ha, ha! d—–d sly; ha, ha!” and the admiral punched the slender waist of his nephew, and laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.

“Good-by, sir.”

“Stop, George; I forgot to ask you a question; you never told me you knew Mr. Maltravers. Why don’t you cultivate his acquaintance?”

“We met at Venice accidentally. I did not know his name then; he left just as I arrived. As you say, I ought to cultivate his acquaintance.”