LADY LANSMERE.—"Full choice for yourself, Harley: so be it. But we, too, named a condition,—did we not, Lansmere?"
THE EARL (puzzled).—"Eh, did we? Certainly we did."
HARLEY.—"What was it?"
LADY LANSMERE.—"The son of Lord Lansmere can only marry the daughter of a gentleman."
THE EARL.—"Of course, of course."
The blood rushed over Harley's fair face, and then as suddenly left it pale.
He walked away to the window; his mother followed him, and again laid her hand on his shoulder.
"You were cruel," said he, gently, and in a whisper, as he winced under the touch of the hand. Then turning to the earl, who was gazing at him in blank surprise,—it never occurred to Lord Lansmere that there could be a doubt of his son's marrying beneath the rank modestly stated by the countess,—Harley stretched forth his hand, and said, in his soft winning tone, "You have ever been most gracious to me, and most forbearing; it is but just that I should sacrifice the habits of an egotist, to gratify a wish which you so warmly entertain. I agree with you, too, that our race should not close in me,—Noblesse oblige. But you know I was ever romantic; and I must love where I marry; or, if not love, I must feel that my wife is worthy of all the love I could once have bestowed. Now, as to the vague word 'gentleman' that my mother employs—word that means so differently on different lips—I confess that I have a prejudice against young ladies brought up in the 'excellent foppery of the world,' as the daughters of gentlemen of our rank mostly are. I crave, therefore, the most liberal interpretation of this word 'gentleman.' And so long as there be nothing mean or sordid in the birth, habits, and education of the father of this bride to be, I trust you will both agree to demand nothing more,—neither titles nor pedigree."
"Titles, no, assuredly," said Lady Lansmere; "they do not make gentlemen."
"Certainly not," said the earl; "many of our best families are untitled."
"Titles—no," repeated Lady Lansmere; "but ancestors yes."
"Ah, my mother," said Harley, with his most sad and quiet smile, "it is fated that we shall never agree. The first of our race is ever the one we are most proud of; and pray, what ancestors had he? Beauty, virtue, modesty, intellect,—if these are not nobility enough for a man, he is a slave to the dead."
With these words Harley took up his hat and made towards the door.
"You said yourself, 'Noblesse oblige,'" said the countess, following him to the threshold; "we have nothing more to add."
Harley slightly shrugged his shoulders, kissed his mother's hand; whistled to Nero, who started up from a doze by the window, and went his way.
"Does he really go abroad next week?" said the earl. "So he says."
"I am afraid there is no chance for Lady Mary," resumed Lord Lansmere, with a slight but melancholy smile.
"She has not intellect enough to charm him. She is not worthy of Harley," said the proud mother.
"Between you and me," rejoined the earl, rather timidly, "I don't see what good his intellect does him. He could not be more unsettled and useless if he were the merest dunce in the three kingdoms. And so ambitious as he was when a boy! Katherine, I sometimes fancy that you know what changed him."
"I! Nay, my dear Lord, it is a common change enough with the young, when of such fortunes, who find, when they enter life, that there is really little left for them to strive for. Had Harley been a poor man's son, it might have been different."
"I was born to the same fortunes as Harley," said the earl, shrewdly, "and yet I flatter myself I am of some use to old England."
The countess seized upon the occasion, complimented her Lord, and turned the subject.
Harley spent his day in his usual desultory, lounging manner,—dined in his quiet corner at his favourite club. Nero, not admitted into the club, patiently waited for him outside the door. The dinner over, dog and man, equally indifferent to the crowd, sauntered down that thoroughfare which, to the few who can comprehend the Poetry of London, has associations of glory and of woe sublime as any that the ruins of the dead elder world can furnish,—thoroughfare that traverses what was once the courtyard of Whitehall, having to its left the site of the palace that lodged the royalty of Scotland; gains, through a narrow strait, that old isle of Thorney, in which Edward the Confessor received the ominous visit of the Conqueror; and, widening once more by the Abbey and the Hall of Westminster, then loses itself, like all memories of earthly grandeur, amidst humble passages and mean defiles.
Thus thought Harley L'Estrange—ever less amidst the actual world around him than the images invoked by his own solitary soul-as he gained the bridge, and saw the dull, lifeless craft sleeping on the "Silent Way," once loud and glittering with the gilded barks of the antique Seignorie of England.
It was on that bridge that Audley Egerton had appointed to meet L'Estrange, at an hour when he calculated he could best steal a respite from debate. For Harley, with his fastidious dislike to all the resorts of his equals, had declined to seek his friend in the crowded regions of Bellamy's.
Harley's eye, as he passed along the bridge, was attracted by a still form, seated on the stones in one of the nooks, with its face covered by its hands. "If I were a sculptor," said he to himself, "I should remember that image whenever I wished to convey the idea of Despondency!" He lifted his looks and saw, a little before him in the midst of the causeway, the firm, erect figure of Audley Egerton. The moonlight was full on the bronzed countenance of the strong public man, with its lines of thought and care, and its vigorous but cold expression of intense self-control.
"And looking yonder," continued Harley's soliloquy, "I should remember that form, when I wished to hew out from the granite the idea of Endurance."
"So you are come, and punctually," said Egerton, linking his arm in Harley's.
HARLEY—"Punctually, of course, for I respect your time, and I will not detain you long. I presume you will speak to-night?"
EGERTON.—"I have spoken."
HARLEY (with interest).—"And well, I hope?"
EGERTON.—"With effect, I suppose, for I have been loudly cheered, which does not always happen to me."
HARLEY.—"And that gave you pleasure?"
EGERTON (after a moment's thought).—"No, not the least."
HARLEY.—"What, then, attaches you so much to this life,—constant drudgery, constant warfare, the more pleasurable faculties dormant, all the harsher ones aroused, if even its rewards (and I take the best of those to be applause) do not please you?"
EGERTON.—"You say it: but turn to yourself; you have decided, then, to leave England next week?"
HARLEY (moodily).—"Yes. This life in a capital, where all are so active, myself so objectless, preys on me like a low fever. Nothing here amuses me, nothing interests, nothing comforts and consoles. But I am resolved, before it be too late, to make one great struggle out of the Past, and into the natural world of men. In a word, I have resolved to marry."
HARLEY (seriously).—"Upon my life, my dear fellow, you are a great philosopher. You have hit the exact question. You see I cannot marry a dream; and where, out of dreams, shall I find this 'whom'?"
EGERTON.—"You do not search for her."
HARLEY. "Do we ever search for love? Does it not flash upon us when we least expect it? Is it not like the inspiration to the muse? What poet sits down and says, 'I will write a poem'? What man looks out and says, 'I will fall in love'? No! Happiness, as the great German tells us, 'falls suddenly from the bosom of the gods;' so does love."
EGERTON.—"You remember the old line in Horace: 'The tide flows away while the boor sits on the margin and waits for the ford.'"
HARLEV.—"An idea which incidentally dropped from you some weeks ago, and which I have before half-meditated, has since haunted me. If I could but find some child with sweet dispositions and fair intellect not yet formed, and train her up according to my ideal. I am still young enough to wait a few years. And meanwhile I shall have gained what I so sadly want,—an object in life."
EGERTON.—"You are ever the child of romance. But what—"
Here the minister was interrupted by a messenger from the House of Commons, whom Audley had instructed to seek him on the bridge should his presence be required. "Sir, the Opposition are taking advantage of the thinness of the House to call for a division. Mr. ——- is put up to speak for time, but they won't hear him."
Egerton turned hastily to Lord L'Estrange. "You see, you must excuse me now. To-morrow I must go to Windsor for two days: but we shall meet on my return."
"It does not matter," answered Harley; "I stand out of the pale of your advice, O practical man of sense. And if," added Harley, with affectionate and mournful sweetness,—"if I weary you with complaints which you cannot understand, it is only because of old schoolboy habits. I can have no trouble that I do not confide to you."
Egerton's hand trembled as it pressed his friend's, and without a word, he hurried away abruptly. Harley remained motionless for some seconds, in deep and quiet revery; then he called to his dog, and turned back towards Westminster.
He passed the nook in which had sat the still figure of Despondency; but the figure had now risen, and was leaning against the balustrade. The dog, who preceded his master, passed by the solitary form and sniffed it suspiciously.
"Nero, sir, come here," said Harley.
"Nero,"—that was the name by which Helen had said that her father's friend had called his dog; and the sound startled Leonard as he leaned, sick at heart, against the stone. He lifted his head and looked wistfully, eagerly into Harley's face. Those eyes, bright, clear, yet so strangely deep and absent, which Helen had described, met his own, and chained them. For L'Estrange halted also; the boy's countenance was not unfamiliar to him. He returned the inquiring look fixed on his own, and recognized the student by the bookstall.
"The dog is quite harmless, sir," said L'Estrange, with a smile.
"And you call him 'Nero'?" said Leonard, still gazing on the stranger.
Harley mistook the drift of the question.
"Nero, sir; but he is free from the sanguinary propensities of his Roman namesake." Harley was about to pass on, when Leonard said falteringly,
"Pardon me, but can it be possible that you are one whom I have sought in vain on behalf of the child of Captain Digby?"
Harley stopped short. "Digby!" he exclaimed, "where is he? He should have found me easily. I gave him an address."
"Ah, Heaven be thanked!" cried Leonard. "Helen is saved—she will not die," and he burst into tears.
A very few moments and a very few words sufficed to explain to Harley the state of his old fellow-soldier's orphan. And Harley himself soon stood in the young sufferer's room, supporting her burning temples on his breast, and whispering into ears that heard him as in a happy dream, "Comfort, comfort; your father yet lives in me."
And then Helen, raising her eyes, said, "But Leonard is my brother—more than brother-and he needs a father's care more than I do."
"Hush, hush, Helen. I need no one, nothing now!" cried Leonard, and his tears gushed over the little hand that clasped his own.
Harley L'Estrange was a man whom all things that belong to the romantic and poetic side of our human life deeply impressed. When he came to learn the ties between these two Children of Nature, standing side by side, alone amidst the storms of fate, his heart was more deeply moved than it had been for many years. In those dreary attics, overshadowed by the smoke and reek of the humble suburb, the workday world in its harshest and tritest forms below and around them, he recognized that divine poem which comes out from all union between the mind and the heart. Here, on the rough deal table (the ink scarcely dry), lay the writings of the young wrestler for fame and bread; there, on the other side of the partition, on that mean pallet, lay the boy's sole comforter, the all that warmed his heart with living mortal affection. On one side the wall, the world of imagination; on the other, this world of grief and of love. And in both, a spirit equally sublime,—unselfish devotion,—"the something afar from the sphere of our sorrow."
He looked round the room into which he had followed Leonard, on quitting Helen's bedside. He noted the manuscripts on the table, and pointing to them, said gently, "And these are the labours by which you supported the soldier's orphan?—soldier yourself in a hard battle!"
"The battle was lost,—I could not support her," replied Leonard, mournfully.
"But you did not desert her. When Pandora's box was opened, they say Hope lingered last—"
"False, false," said Leonard; "a heathen's notion. There are deities that linger behind Hope,—Gratitude, Love, and Duty."
"Yours is no common nature," exclaimed Harley, admiringly, "but I must sound it more deeply hereafter: at present I hasten for the physician; I shall return with him. We must move that poor child from this low close air as soon as possible. Meanwhile, let me qualify your rejection of the old fable. Wherever Gratitude, Love, and Duty remain to man, believe me that Hope is there too, though she may be often invisible, hidden behind the sheltering wings of the nobler deities."
Harley said this with that wondrous smile of his, which cast a brightness over the whole room, and went away. Leonard stole softly towards the grimy window; and looking up towards the stars that shone pale over the roof-tops, he murmured, "O Thou, the All-seeing and All-merciful! how it comforts me now to think that, though my dreams of knowledge may have sometimes obscured the heavens, I never doubted that Thou wert there! as luminous and everlasting, though behind the cloud!" So, for a few minutes, he prayed silently, then passed into Helen's room, and sat beside her motionless, for she slept. She woke just as Harley returned with a physician; and then Leonard, returning to his own room, saw amongst his papers the letter he had written to Mr. Dale, and muttering, "I need not disgrace my calling,—I need not be the mendicant now"—held the letter to the flame of the candle. And while he said this, and as the burning tinder dropped on the floor, the sharp hunger, unfelt during his late anxious emotions, gnawed at his entrails. Still, even hunger could not reach that noble pride which had yielded to a sentiment nobler than itself, and he smiled as he repeated, "No mendicant!—the life that I was sworn to guard is saved. I can raise against Fate the front of Man once more."
A few days afterwards, and Helen, removed to a pure air, and under the advice of the first physicians, was out of all danger.
It was a pretty detached cottage, with its windows looking over the wild heaths of Norwood, to which Harley rode daily to watch the convalescence of his young charge: an object in life was already found. As she grew better and stronger, he coaxed her easily into talking, and listened to her with pleased surprise. The heart so infantine and the sense so womanly struck him much by its rare contrast and combination. Leonard, whom he had insisted on placing also in the cottage, had stayed there willingly till Helen's recovery was beyond question. Then he came to Lord L'Estrange, as the latter was about one day to leave the cottage, and said quietly, "Now, my Lord, that Helen is safe, and now that she will need me no more, I can no longer be a pensioner on your bounty. I return to London."
"You are my visitor, not my pensioner, foolish boy," said Harley, who had already noticed the pride which spoke in that farewell; "come into the garden and let us talk."
Harley seated himself on a bench on the little lawn; Nero crouched at his feet; Leonard stood beside him.
"So," said Lord L'Estrange, "you would return to London? What to do?"
"Fulfil my fate."
"I cannot guess. Fate is the Isis whose veil no mortal can ever raise."
"You should be born for great things," said Harley, abruptly. "I am sure that you write well. I have seen that you study with passion. Better than writing and better than study, you have a noble heart, and the proud desire of independence. Let me see your manuscripts, or any copies of what you have already printed. Do not hesitate,—I ask but to be a reader. I don't pretend to be a patron: it is a word I hate."
Leonard's eyes sparkled through their sudden moisture. He brought out his portfolio, placed it on the bench beside Harley, and then went softly to the farther part of the garden. Nero looked after him, and then rose and followed him slowly. The boy seated himself on the turf, and Nero rested his dull head on the loud heart of the poet.
Harley took up the various papers before him, and read them through leisurely. Certainly he was no critic. He was not accustomed to analyze what pleased or displeased him; but his perceptions were quick, and his taste exquisite. As he read, his countenance, always so genuinely expressive, exhibited now doubt and now admiration. He was soon struck by the contrast, in the boy's writings, between the pieces that sported with fancy and those that grappled with thought. In the first, the young poet seemed so unconscious of his own individuality. His imagination, afar and aloft from the scenes of his suffering, ran riot amidst a paradise of happy golden creations. But in the last, the THINKER stood out alone and mournful, questioning, in troubled sorrow, the hard world on which he gazed. All in the thought was unsettled, tumultuous; all in the fancy serene and peaceful. The genius seemed divided into twain shapes,—the one bathing its wings amidst the starry dews of heaven; the other wandering, "melancholy, slow," amidst desolate and boundless sands. Harley gently laid down the paper and mused a little while. Then he rose and walked to Leonard, gazing on his countenance as he neared the boy, with a new and a deeper interest.
"I have read your papers," he said, "and recognize in them two men, belonging to two worlds, essentially distinct." Leonard started, and murmured, "True, true!"
"I apprehend," resumed Harley, "that one of these men must either destroy the other, or that the two must become fused and harmonized into a single existence. Get your hat, mount my groom's horse, and come with me to London; we will converse by the way. Look you, I believe you and I agree in this,—that the first object of every noble spirit is independence. It is towards this independence that I alone presume to assist you, and this is a service which the proudest man can receive without a blush."
Leonard lifted his eyes towards Harley's, and those eyes swam with grateful tears; but his heart was too full to answer. "I am not one of those," said Harley, when they were on the road, "who think that because a young man writes poetry he is fit for nothing else, and that he must be a poet or a pauper. I have said that in you there seems to me to be two men,—the man of the Actual world, the man of the Ideal. To each of these men I can offer a separate career. The first is perhaps the more tempting. It is the interest of the State to draw into its service all the talent and industry it can obtain; and under his native State every citizen of a free country should be proud to take service. I have a friend who is a minister, and who is known to encourage talent,—Audley Egerton. I have but to say to him, 'There is a young man who will repay the government whatever the government bestows on him;' and you will rise to-morrow independent in means, and with fair occasions to attain to fortune and distinction. This is one offer,—what say you to it?"
Leonard thought bitterly of his interview with Audley Egerton, and the minister's proffered crown-piece. He shook his head, and replied,
"Oh, my Lord, how have I deserved such kindness? Do with me what you will; but if I have the option, I would rather follow my own calling. This is not the ambition that inflames me."
"Hear, then, the other offer. I have a friend with whom I am less intimate than Egerton, and who has nothing in his gift to bestow. I speak of a man of letters,—Henry Norreys,—of whom you have doubtless heard, who, I should say, conceived an interest in you when he observed you reading at the bookstall. I have often heard him say that literature as a profession is misunderstood, and that rightly followed, with the same pains and the same prudence which are brought to bear on other professions, a competence at least can be always ultimately obtained. But the way may be long and tedious, and it leads to no power but over thought; it rarely attains to wealth; and though reputation may be certain, fame, such as poets dream of, is the lot of few. What say you to this course?"
"My Lord, I decide," said Leonard, firmly; and then, his young face lighting up with enthusiasm, he exclaimed, "Yes, if, as you say, there be two men within me, I feel that were I condemned wholly to the mechanical and practical world, one would indeed destroy the other. And the conqueror would be the ruder and the coarser. Let me pursue those ideas that, though they have but flitted across me, vague and formless, have ever soared towards the sunlight. No matter whether or not they lead to fortune or to fame,—at least they will lead me upward! Knowledge for itself I desire; what care I if it be not power!"
"Enough," said Harley, with a pleased smile at his young companion's outburst. "As you decide so shall it be settled. And now permit me, if not impertinent, to ask you a few questions. Your name is Leonard Fairfield?"
The boy blushed deeply, and bowed his head as if in assent.
"Helen says you are self-taught; for the rest she refers me to you,—thinking, perhaps, that I should esteem you less—rather than yet more highly—if she said you were, as I presume to conjecture, of humble birth."
"My birth," said Leonard, slowly, "is very—very—humble."
"The name of Fairfield is not unknown to me. There was one of that name who married into a family in Lansmere, married an Avenel," continued Harley, and his voice quivered. "You change countenance. Oh, could your mother's name have been Avenel?"
"Yes," said Leonard, between his set teeth. Harley laid his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Then, indeed, I have a claim on you; then, indeed, we are friends. I have a right to serve any of that family."
Leonard looked at him in surprise—"For," continued Harley, recovering himself, "they always served my family; and my recollections of Lansmere, though boyish, are indelible." He spurred on his horse as the words closed, and again there was a long pause; but from that time Harley always spoke to Leonard in a soft voice, and often gazed on him with earnest and kindly eyes.
They reached a house in a central, though not fashionable street. A man-servant of a singularly grave and awful aspect opened the door,—a man who had lived all his life with authors. Poor fellow, he was indeed prematurely old! The care on his lip and the pomp on his brow—no mortal's pen can describe!
"Is Mr. Norreys at home?" asked Harley.
"He is at home—to his friends, my Lord," answered the man, majestically; and he stalked across the hall with the step of a Dangeau ushering some Montmorenci into the presence of Louis le Grand.
"Stay; show this gentleman into another room. I will go first into the library; wait for me, Leonard." The man nodded, and conducted Leonard into the dining-room. Then pausing before the door of the library, and listening an instant, as if fearful to disturb some mood of inspiration, opened it very softly. To his ineffable disgust, Harley pushed before, and entered abruptly. It was a large room, lined with books from the floor to the ceiling. Books were on all the tables, books were on all the chairs. Harley seated himself on a folio of Raleigh's "History of the World," and cried, "I have brought you a treasure!"
"What is it?" said Norreys, good-humouredly, looking up from his desk.
"A mind!" echoed Norreys, vaguely.
"Pooh! I have none,—I have only a heart and a fancy. Listen. You remember the boy we saw reading at the book stall. I have caught him for you, and you shall train him into a man. I have the warmest interest in his future, for I know some of his family, and one of that family was very dear to me. As for money, he has not a shilling, and not a shilling would he accept gratis from you or me either. But he comes with bold heart to work,—and work you must find him." Harley then rapidly told his friend of the two offers he had made to Leonard, and Leonard's choice.
"This promises very well; for letters a man must have a strong vocation, as he should have for law. I will do all that you wish."
Harley rose with alertness, shook Norreys cordially by the hand, hurried out of the room, and returned with Leonard.
Mr. Norreys eyed the young man with attention. He was naturally rather severe than cordial in his manner to strangers,—contrasting in this, as in most things, the poor vagabond Burley; but he was a good judge of the human countenance, and he liked Leonard's. After a pause he held out his hand.
"Sir," said he, "Lord L'Estrange tells me that you wish to enter literature as a calling, and no doubt to study it as an art. I may help you in this, and you meanwhile can help me. I want an amanuensis,—I offer you that place. The salary will be proportioned to the services you will render me. I have a room in my house at your disposal. When I first came up to London, I made the same choice that I hear you have done. I have no cause, even in a worldly point of view, to repent my choice. It gave me an income larger than my wants. I trace my success to these maxims, which are applicable to all professions: 1st, Never to trust to genius for what can be obtained by labour; 2dly, Never to profess to teach what we have not studied to understand; 3dly, Never to engage our word to what we do not our best to execute.
"With these rules, literature—provided a man does not mistake his vocation for it, and will, under good advice, go through the preliminary discipline of natural powers, which all vocations require—is as good a calling as any other. Without them, a shoeblack's is infinitely better."
"Possibly enough," muttered Harley; "but there have been great writers who observed none of your maxims."
"Great writers, probably, but very unenviable men. My Lord, my Lord, don't corrupt the pupil you bring to me." Harley smiled, and took his departure, and left Genius at school with Common-Sense and Experience.
While Leonard Fairfield had been obscurely wrestling against poverty, neglect, hunger, and dread temptation, bright had been the opening day and smooth the upward path of Randal Leslie. Certainly no young man, able and ambitious, could enter life under fairer auspices; the connection and avowed favourite of a popular and energetic statesman, the brilliant writer of a political work that had lifted him at once into a station of his own, received and courted in those highest circles, to which neither rank nor fortune alone suffices for a familiar passport,—the circles above fashion itself the circles of POWER,—with every facility of augmenting information, and learning the world betimes through the talk of its acknowledged masters,—Randal had but to move straight onward, and success was sure. But his tortuous spirit delighted in scheme and intrigue for their own sake. In scheme and intrigue he saw shorter paths to fortune, if not to fame.
His besetting sin was also his besetting weakness. He did not aspire,—he coveted. Though in a far higher social position than Frank Hazeldean, despite the worldly prospects of his old schoolfellow, he coveted the very things that kept Frank Hazeldean below him,—coveted his idle gayeties, his careless pleasures, his very waste of youth. Thus, also, Randal less aspired to Audley Egerton's repute than he coveted Audley Egerton's wealth and pomp, his princely expenditure, and his Castle Rackrent in Grosvenor Square. It was the misfortune of his birth to be so near to both these fortunes,—near to that of Leslie, as the future head of that fallen House; near even to that of Hazeldean, since, as we have seen before, if the squire had had no son, Randal's descent from the Hazeldeans suggested himself as the one on whom these broad lands should devolve. Most young men brought into intimate contact with Audley Egerton would have felt for that personage a certain loyal and admiring, if not very affectionate, respect. For there was something grand in Egerton,—something that commands and fascinates the young. His determined courage, his energetic will, his almost regal liberality, contrasting a simplicity in personal tastes and habits that was almost austere, his rare and seemingly unconscious power of charming even the women most wearied of homage, and persuading even the men most obdurate to counsel,—all served to invest the practical man with those spells which are usually confined to the ideal one. But, indeed, Audley Egerton was an Ideal,—the ideal of the Practical. Not the mere vulgar, plodding, red-tape machine of petty business, but the man of strong sense, inspired by inflexible energy and guided to definite earthly objects. In a dissolute and corrupt form of government, under a decrepit monarchy or a vitiated republic, Audley Egerton might have been a most dangerous citizen: for his ambition was so resolute, and his sight to its ends was so clear. But there is something in public life in England which compels the really ambitious man to honour, unless his eyes are jaundiced and oblique, like Randal Leslie's. It is so necessary in England to be a gentleman. And thus Egerton was emphatically considered a gentleman. Without the least pride in other matters, with little apparent sensitiveness, touch him on the point of gentleman, and no one so sensitive and so proud. As Randal saw more of him, and watched his moods with the lynx-eyes of the household spy, he could perceive that this hard mechanical man was subject to fits of melancholy, even of gloom; and though they did not last long, there was even in his habitual coldness an evidence of something compressed, latent, painful, lying deep within his memory. This would have interested the kindly feelings of a grateful heart; but Randal detected and watched it only as a clew to some secret it might profit him to gain. For Randal Leslie hated Egerton; and hated him the more because, with all his book-knowledge and his conceit in his own talents, he could not despise his patron; because he had not yet succeeded in making his patron the mere tool or stepping-stone; because he thought that Egerton's keen eye saw through his wily heart, even while, as if in profound disdain, the minister helped the protege. But this last suspicion was unsound. Egerton had not detected Leslie's corrupt and treacherous nature. He might have other reasons for keeping him at a certain distance, but he inquired too little into Randal's feelings towards himself to question the attachment, or doubt the sincerity, of one who owed to him so much. But that which more than all embittered Randal's feelings towards Egerton was the careful and deliberate frankness with which the latter had, more than once, repeated and enforced the odious announcement, that Randal had nothing to expect from the minister's WILL, nothing to expect from that wealth which glared in the hungry eyes of the pauper heir to the Leslies of Rood. To whom, then, could Egerton mean to devise his fortune? To whom but Frank Hazeldean? Yet Audley took so little notice of his nephew, seemed so indifferent to him, that that supposition, however natural, was exposed to doubt. The astuteness of Randal was perplexed. Meanwhile, however, the less he himself could rely upon Egerton for fortune, the more he revolved the possible chances of ousting Frank from the inheritance of Hazeldean,—in part, at least, if not wholly. To one less scheming, crafty, and remorseless than Randal Leslie, such a project would have seemed the wildest delusion. But there was something fearful in the manner in which this young man sought to turn knowledge into power, and make the study of all weakness in others subservient to his own ends. He wormed himself thoroughly into Frank's confidence. He learned, through Frank, all the squire's peculiarities of thought and temper, and pondered over each word in the father's letters, which the son gradually got into the habit of showing to the perfidious eyes of his friend. Randal saw that the squire had two characteristics, which are very common amongst proprietors, and which might be invoked as antagonists to his warm fatherly love. First, the squire was as fond of his estate as if it were a living thing, and part of his own flesh and blood; and in his lectures to Frank upon the sin of extravagance, the squire always let out this foible,—"What was to become of the estate if it fell into the hands of a spendthrift? No man should make ducks and drakes of Hazeldean; let Frank beware of that," etc. Secondly, the squire was not only fond of his lands, but he was jealous of them,—that jealousy which even the tenderest fathers sometimes entertain towards their natural heirs. He could not bear the notion that Frank should count on his death; and he seldom closed an admonitory letter without repeating the information that Hazeldean was not entailed; that it was his to do with as he pleased through life and in death. Indirect menace of this nature rather wounded and galled than intimidated Frank; for the young man was extremely generous and high-spirited by nature, and was always more disposed to some indiscretion after such warnings to his self-interest, as if to show that those were the last kinds of appeal likely to influence him. By the help of such insights into the character of father and son, Randal thought he saw gleams of daylight illumining his own chance to the lands of Hazeldean. Meanwhile, it appeared to him obvious that, come what might of it, his own interests could not lose, and might most probably gain, by whatever could alienate the squire from his natural heir. Accordingly, though with consummate tact, he instigated Frank towards the very excesses most calculated to irritate the squire, all the while appearing rather to give the counter advice, and never sharing in any of the follies to which he conducted his thoughtless friend. In this he worked chiefly through others, introducing Frank to every acquaintance most dangerous to youth, either from the wit that laughs at prudence, or the spurious magnificence that subsists so handsomely upon bills endorsed by friends of "great expectations."
The minister and his protege were seated at breakfast, the first reading the newspaper, the last glancing over his letters; for Randal had arrived to the dignity of receiving many letters,—ay, and notes, too, three-cornered and fantastically embossed. Egerton uttered an exclamation, and laid down the newspaper. Randal looked up from his correspondence. The minister had sunk into one of his absent reveries.
After a long silence, observing that Egerton did not return to the newspaper, Randal said, "Ahem, sir, I have a note from Frank Hazeldean, who wants much to see me; his father has arrived in town unexpectedly."
"What brings him here?" asked Egerton, still abstractedly. "Why, it seems that he has heard some vague reports of poor Frank's extravagance, and Frank is rather afraid or ashamed to meet him."
"Ay, a very great fault, extravagance in the young!—destroys independence; ruins or enslaves the future. Great fault,—very! And what does youth want that it should be extravagant? Has it not everything in itself, merely because it is? Youth is youth—what needs it more?"
Egerton rose as he said this, and retired to his writing-table, and in his turn opened his correspondence. Randal took up the newspaper, and endeavoured, but in vain, to conjecture what had excited the minister's exclamations and the revery that succeeded it.
Egerton suddenly and sharply turned round in his chair—"If you have done with the 'Times,' have the goodness to place it here."
Randal had just obeyed, when a knock at the street-door was heard, and presently Lord L'Estrange came into the room, with somewhat a quicker step and somewhat a gayer mien than usual.
Audley's hand, as if mechanically, fell upon the newspaper,—fell upon that part of the columns devoted to births, deaths, and marriages. Randal stood by, and noted; then, bowing to L'Estrange, left the room.
"Audley," said L'Estrange, "I have had an adventure since I saw you,—an adventure that reopened the Past, and may influence my future."
"In the first place, I have met with a relation of—of—the Avenels."
"Indeed! Whom,—Richard Avenel?"
"Richard—Richard—who is he? Oh, I remember, the wild lad who went off to America; but that was when I was a mere child."
"That Richard Avenel is now a rich, thriving trader, and his marriage is in this newspaper,—married to an Honourable Mrs. M'Catchley. Well, in this country who should plume himself on birth?"
"You did not say so always, Egerton," replied Harley, with a tone of mournful reproach.
"And I say so now pertinently to a Mrs. M'Catchley, not to the heir of the L'Estranges. But no more of these—these Avenels."
"Yes, more of them. I tell you I have met a relation of theirs—a nephew of—of—"
"Of Richard Avenel's?" interrupted Egerton; and then added in the slow, deliberate, argumentative tone in which he was wont to speak in public, "Richard Avenel the trader! I saw him once,—a presuming and intolerable man!"
"The nephew has not those sins. He is full of promise, of modesty, yet of pride. And his countenance—oh, Egerton, he has her eyes."
Egerton made no answer, and Harley resumed,
"I had thought of placing him under your care. I knew you would provide for him."
"I will. Bring him hither," cried Egerton, eagerly. "All that I can do to prove my—regard for a wish of yours." Harley pressed his friend's hand warmly.
"I thank you from my heart; the Audley of my boyhood speaks now. But the young man has decided otherwise; and I do not blame him. Nay, I rejoice that he chooses a career in which, if he find hardship, he may escape dependence."
"And that career is—"
"Letters! Literature!" exclaimed the statesman. "Beggary! No, no, Harley, this is your absurd romance."
"It will not be beggary, and it is not my romance: it is the boy's. Leave him alone, he is my care and my charge henceforth. He is of her blood, and I said that he had HER eyes."
"But you are going abroad; let me know where he is; I will watch over him."
"And unsettle a right ambition for a wrong one? No, you shall know nothing of him till he can proclaim himself. I think that day will come."
Audley mused a moment, and then said, "Well, perhaps you are right. After all, as you say, independence is a great blessing, and my ambition has not rendered myself the better or the happier."
"Yet, my poor Audley, you ask me to be ambitious."
"I only wish you to be consoled," cried Egerton, with passion.
"I will try to be so; and by the help of a milder remedy than yours. I said that my adventure might influence my future; it brought me acquainted not only with the young man I speak of, but the most winning, affectionate child,—a girl."
"Is this child an Avenel too?"
"No, she is of gentle blood,—a soldier's daughter; the daughter of that Captain Digby on whose behalf I was a petitioner to your patronage. He is dead, and in dying, my name was on his lips. He meant me, doubtless, to be the guardian to his orphan. I shall be so. I have at last an object in life."
"But can you seriously mean to take this child with you abroad?"
"Seriously, I do."
"And lodge her in your own house?"
"For a year or so, while she is yet a child. Then, as she approaches youth, I shall place her elsewhere."
"You may grow to love her. Is it clear that she will love you,—not mistake gratitude for love? It is a very hazardous experiment."
"So was William the Norman's,—still he was William the Conqueror. Thou biddest me move on from the Past, and be consoled, yet thou wouldst make me as inapt to progress as the mule in Slawkenbergius's tale, with thy cursed interlocutions, 'Stumbling, by Saint Nicholas, every step. Why, at this rate, we shall be all night in getting into'—HAPPINESS! Listen," continued Harley, setting off, full pelt, into one of his wild whimsical humours. "One of the sons of the prophets in Israel felling wood near the river Jordan, his hatchet forsook the helve, and fell to the bottom of the river; so he prayed to have it again (it was but a small request, mark you); and having a strong faith, he did not throw the hatchet after the helve, but the helve after the hatchet. Presently two great miracles were seen. Up springs the hatchet from the bottom of the water, and fixes itself to its old acquaintance, the helve. Now, had he wished to coach it up to heaven in a fiery chariot like Elias, be as rich as Job, strong as Samson, and beautiful as Absalom, would he have obtained the wish, do you think? In truth, my friend, I question it very much."
"I can't comprehend what you mean. Sad stuff you are talking."
"I cannot help that; 'Rabelais is to be blamed for it. I am quoting him, and it is to be found in his Prologue to the Chapters on the 'Moderation of Wishes.' And a propos of 'moderate wishes in point of hatchet,' I want you to understand that I ask but little from Heaven. I fling but the helve after the hatchet that has sunk into the silent stream. I want the other half of the weapon that is buried fathom deep, and for want of which the thick woods darken round me by the Sacred River, and I can catch not a glimpse of the stars."
"In plain English," said Audley Egerton, "you want—" he stopped short, puzzled.
"I want my purpose and my will, and my old character, and the nature God gave me. I want the half of my soul which has fallen from me. I want such love as may replace to me the vanished affections. Reason not,—I throw the helve after the hatchet."
Randal Leslie, on leaving Audley, repaired to Frank's lodgings, and after being closeted with the young Guardsman an hour or so, took his way to Limmer's hotel, and asked for Mr. Hazeldean. He was shown into the coffee-room, while the waiter went up-stairs with his card, to see if the squire was within, and disengaged. The "Times" newspaper lay sprawling on one of the tables, and Randal, leaning over it, looked with attention into the column containing births, deaths, and marriages. But in that long and miscellaneous list he could not conjecture the name which had so excited Mr. Egerton's interest.
"Vexatious!" he muttered; "there is no knowledge which has power more useful than that of the secrets of men."
He turned as the waiter entered and said that Mr. Hazeldean would be glad to see him.
As Randal entered the drawing-room, the squire, shaking hands with him, looked towards the door as if expecting some one else; and his honest face assumed a blank expression of disappointment, when the door closed, and he found that Randal was unaccompanied.
"Well," said he, bluntly, "I thought your old schoolfellow, Frank, might have been with you."
"Have you not seen him yet, sir?"
"No, I came to town this morning; travelled outside the mail; sent to his barracks, but the young gentleman does not sleep there, has an apartment of his own; he never told me that. We are a plain family, the Hazeldeans, young sir; and I hate being kept in the dark,—by my own son, too."
Randal made no answer, but looked sorrowful. The squire, who had never before seen his kinsman, had a vague idea that it was not polite to entertain a stranger, though a connection to himself, with his family troubles, and so resumed good-naturedly, "I am very glad to make your acquaintance at last, Mr. Leslie. You know, I hope, that you have good Hazeldean blood in your veins?"
RANDAL (smiling).—"I am not likely to forget that; it is the boast of our pedigree."
SQUIRE (heartily).—"Shake hands again on it, my boy. You don't want a friend, since my grandee of a half-brother has taken you up; but if ever you should, Hazeldean is not very far from Rood. Can't get on with your father at all, my lad,—more 's the pity, for I think I could have given him a hint or two as to the improvement of his property. If he would plant those ugly commons—larch and fir soon come into profit, sir; and there are some low lands about Rood that would take mighty kindly to draining."
RANDAL.—"My poor father lives a life so retired—and you cannot wonder at it. Fallen trees lie still, and so do fallen families."
SQUIRE.—"Fallen families can get up again, which fallen trees can't."
RANDAL.—"Ah, sir, it often takes the energy of generations to repair the thriftlessness and extravagance of a single owner."
SQUIRE (his brow lowering).—"That's very true. Frank is d—-d extravagant; treats me very coolly, too—not coming; near three o'clock. By the by, I suppose he told you where I was, otherwise how did you find me out?"
RANDAL (reluctantly).—"Sir, he did; and to speak frankly, I am not surprised that he has not yet appeared."
RANDAL.—"We have grown very intimate."
SQUIRE.—"So he writes me word,—and I am glad of it. Our member, Sir John, tells me you are a very clever fellow, and a very steady one. And Frank says that he wishes he had your prudence, if he can't have your talent. He has a good heart, Frank," added the father, relentingly. "But zounds, sir, you say you are not surprised he has not come to welcome his own father!"
"My dear sir," said Randal, "you wrote word to Frank that you had heard from Sir John and others of his goings-on, and that you were not satisfied with his replies to your letters."
"And then you suddenly come up to town."
"Well. And Frank is ashamed to meet you. For, as you say, he has been extravagant, and he has exceeded his allowance; and knowing my respect for you and my great affection for himself, he has asked me to prepare you to receive his confession and forgive him. I know I am taking a great liberty. I have no right to interfere between father and son; but pray—pray think I mean for the best."
"Humph!" said the squire, recovering himself very slowly, and showing evident pain, "I knew already that Frank had spent more than he ought; but I think he should not have employed a third person to prepare me to forgive him. (Excuse me,—no offence.) And if he wanted a third person, was not there his own mother? What the devil! [firing up] am I a tyrant, a bashaw, that my own son is afraid to speak to me? 'Gad, I'll give it him!"
"Pardon me, sir," said Randal, assuming at once that air of authority which superior intellect so well carries off and excuses, "but I strongly advise you not to express any anger at Frank's confidence in me. At present I have influence over him. Whatever you may think of his extravagance, I have saved him from many an indiscretion, and many a debt,—a young man will listen to one of his own age so much more readily than even to the kindest friend of graver years. Indeed, sir, I speak for your sake as well as for Frank's. Let me keep this influence over him; and don't reproach him for the confidence placed in me. Nay, let him rather think that I have softened any displeasure you might otherwise have felt."
There seemed so much good sense in what Randal said, and the kindness of it seemed so disinterested, that the squire's native shrewdness was deceived.
"You are a fine young fellow," said he, "and I am very much obliged to you. Well, I suppose there is no putting old heads upon young shoulders; and I promise you I'll not say an angry word to Frank. I dare say, poor boy, he is very much afflicted, and I long to shake hands with him. So, set his mind at ease."
"Ah, sir," said Randal, with much apparent emotion, "your son may well love you: and it seems to be a hard matter for so kind a heart as yours to preserve the proper firmness with him."
"Oh, I can be firm enough," quoth the squire,—"especially when I don't see him,—handsome dog that he is: very like his mother—don't you think so?
"I never saw his mother, sir."
"'Gad! Not seen my Harry? No more you have; you must come and pay us a visit. I suppose my half-brother will let you come?"
"To be sure, sir. Will you not call on him while you are in town?"
"Not I. He would think I expected to get something from the Government. Tell him the ministers must go on a little better, if they want my vote for their member. But go, I see you are impatient to tell Frank that all 's forgot and forgiven. Come and dine with him here at six, and let him bring his bills in his pocket. Oh, I sha'n't scold him."
"Why, as to that," said Randal, smiling, "I think (forgive me still) that you should not take it too easily; just as I think that you had better not blame him for his very natural and praiseworthy shame in approaching you, so I think, also, that you should do nothing that would tend to diminish that shame,—it is such a check on him. And therefore, if you can contrive to affect to be angry with him for his extravagance, it will do good."
"You speak like a book, and I'll try my best."
"If you threaten, for instance, to take him out of the army, and settle him in the country, it would have a very good effect."
"What! would he think it so great a punishment to come home and live with his parents?"
"I don't say that; but he is naturally so fond of London. At his age, and with his large inheritance, that is natural."
"Inheritance!" said the squire, moodily,—"inheritance! he is not thinking of that, I trust? Zounds, sir, I have as good a life as his own. Inheritance!—to be sure the Casino property is entailed on him; but as for the rest, sir, I am no tenant for life. I could leave the Hazeldean lands to my ploughman, if I chose it. Inheritance; indeed!"
"My dear sir, I did not mean to imply that Frank would entertain the unnatural and monstrous idea of calculating on your death; and all we have to do is to get him to sow his wild oats as soon as possible,—marry and settle down into the country. For it would be a thousand pities if his town habits and tastes grew permanent,—a bad thing for the Hazeldean property, that! And," added Randal, laughing, "I feel an interest in the old place, since my grandmother comes of the stock. So, just force yourself to seem angry, and grumble a little when you pay the bills."
"Ah, ah, trust me," said the squire, doggedly, and with a very altered air. "I am much obliged to you for these hints, my young kinsman." And his stout hand trembled a little as he extended it to Randal.
Leaving Limmer's, Randal hastened to Frank's rooms in St. James's Street. "My dear fellow," said he, when he entered, "it is very fortunate that I persuaded you to let me break matters to your father. You might well say he was rather passionate; but I have contrived to soothe him. You need not fear that he will not pay your debts."
"I never feared that," said Frank, changing colour; "I only feared his anger. But, indeed, I fear his kindness still more. What a reckless hound I have been! However, it shall be a lesson to me. And my debts once paid, I will turn as economical as yourself."
"Quite right, Frank. And, indeed, I am a little afraid that, when your father knows the total, he may execute a threat that would be very unpleasant to you."
"Make you sell out, and give up London."
"The devil!" exclaimed Frank, with fervent emphasis; "that would be treating me like a child."
"Why, it would make you seem rather ridiculous to your set, which is not a very rural one. And you, who like London so much, and are so much the fashion!"
"Don't talk of it," cried Frank, walking to and fro the room in great disorder.
"Perhaps, on the whole, it might be well not to say all you owe, at once. If you named half the sum, your father would let you off with a lecture; and really I tremble at the effect of the total."
"But how shall I pay the other half?"
"Oh, you must save from your allowance; it is a very liberal one; and the tradesmen are not pressing."
"No; but the cursed bill-brokers—"
"Always renew to a young man of your expectations. And if I get into an office, I can always help you, my dear Frank."
"Ah, Randal, I am not so bad as to take advantage of your friendship," said Frank, warmly. "But it seems to me mean after all, and a sort of a lie, indeed, disguising the real state of my affairs. I should not have listened to the idea from any one else; but you are such a sensible, kind, honourable fellow."
"After epithets so flattering, I shrink from the responsibility of advice. But apart from your own interests, I should be glad to save your father the pain he would feel at knowing the whole extent of the scrape you have got into. And if it entailed on you the necessity to lay by—and give up hazard, and not be security for other men—why, it would be the best thing that could happen. Really, too, it seems hard upon Mr. Hazeldean that he should be the only sufferer, and quite just that you should bear half your own burdens."
"So it is, Randal; that did not strike me before. I will take your counsel; and now I will go at once to Limmer's. My dear father! I hope he is looking well?"
"Oh, very. Such a contrast to the sallow Londoners! But I think you had better not go till dinner. He has asked me to meet you at six. I will call for you a little before, and we can go together. This will prevent a good deal of gene and constraint. Good-by till then. Ha! by the way, I think if I were you, I would not take the matter too seriously and penitentially. You see the best of fathers like to keep their sons under their thumb, as the saying is. And if you want at your age to preserve your independence, and not be hurried off and buried in the country, like a schoolboy in disgrace, a little manliness of bearing would not be amiss. You can think over it."
The dinner at Limmer's went off very differently from what it ought to have done. Randal's words had sunk deep, and rankled sorely in the squire's mind; and that impression imparted a certain coldness to his manner which belied the hearty, forgiving, generous impulse with which he had come up to London, and which even Randal had not yet altogether whispered away. On the other hand, Frank, embarrassed both by the sense of disingenuousness, and a desire "not to take the thing too seriously," seemed to the squire ungracious and thankless.
After dinner the squire began to hum and haw, and Frank to colour up and shrink. Both felt discomposed by the presence of a third person; till, with an art and address worthy of a better cause, Randal himself broke the ice, and so contrived to remove the restraint he had before imposed, that at length each was heartily glad to have matters made clear and brief by his dexterity and tact.
Frank's debts were not in reality large; and when he named the half of them, looking down in shame, the squire, agreeably surprised, was about to express himself with a liberal heartiness that would have opened his son's excellent heart at once to him.
But a warning look from Randal checked the impulse; and the squire thought it right, as he had promised, to affect an anger he did not feel, and let fall the unlucky threat, "that it was all very well once in a way to exceed his allowance; but if Frank did not, in future, show more sense than to be led away by a set of London sharks and coxcombs, he must cut the army, come home, and take to farming."
Frank imprudently exclaimed, "Oh, sir, I have no taste for farming. And after London, at my age, the country would be so horribly dull."
"Aha!" said the squire, very grimly—and he thrust back into his pocket-book some extra bank-notes which his fingers had itched to add to those he had already counted out. "The country is terribly dull, is it? Money goes there not upon follies and vices, but upon employing honest labourers, and increasing the wealth of the nation. It does not please you to spend money in that way: it is a pity you should ever be plagued with such duties."
"My dear father—"
"Hold your tongue, you puppy. Oh, I dare say, if you were in my shoes, you would cut down the oaks, and mortgage the property; sell it, for what I know,—all go on a cast of the dice! Aha, sir—very well, very well—the country is horribly dull, is it? Pray stay in town."
"My dear Mr. Hazeldean," said Randal, blandly, and as if with the wish to turn off into a joke what threatened to be serious, "you must not interpret a hasty expression so literally. Why, you would make Frank as bad as Lord A——-, who wrote word to his steward to cut down more timber; and when the steward replied, 'There are only three sign-posts left on the whole estate,' wrote back, 'They've done growing at all events,—down with them!' You ought to know Lord A——-, sir; so witty; and—Frank's particular friend."
"Your particular friend, Master Frank? Pretty friends!" and the squire buttoned up the pocket to which he had transferred his note-book, with a determined air.
"But I'm his friend, too," said Randal, kindly; "and I preach to him properly, I can tell you." Then, as if delicately anxious to change the subject, he began to ask questions upon crops and the experiment of bone manure. He spoke earnestly, and with gusto, yet with the deference of one listening to a great practical authority. Randal had spent the afternoon in cramming the subject from agricultural journals and parliamentary reports; and like all practised readers, had really learned in a few hours more than many a man, unaccustomed to study, could gain from books in a year. The squire was surprised and pleased at the young scholar's information and taste for such subjects.
"But, to be sure," quoth he, with an angry look at poor Frank, "you have good Hazeldean blood in you, and know a bean from a turnip."
"Why, sir," said Randal, ingenuously, "I am training myself for public life; and what is a public man worth if he do not study the agriculture of his country?"
"Right—what is he worth? Put that question, with my compliments, to my half-brother. What stuff he did talk, the other night, on the malt-tax, to be sure!"
"Mr. Egerton has had so many other things to think of, that we must excuse his want of information upon one topic, however important. With his strong sense he must acquire that information, sooner or later; for he is fond of power; and, sir, knowledge is power!"
"Very true,—very fine saying," quoth the poor squire, unsuspiciously, as Randal's eye rested on Mr. Hazeldean's open face, and then glanced towards Frank, who looked sad and bored.
"Yes," repeated Randal, "knowledge is power;" and he shook his head wisely, as he passed the bottle to his host.
Still, when the squire, who meant to return to the Hall next morning, took leave of Frank, his heart warmed to his son; and still more for Frank's dejected looks. It was not Randal's policy to push estrangement too far at first, and in his own presence.
"Speak to poor Frank,—kindly now, sir—do;" whispered be, observing the squire's watery eyes, as he moved to the window.
The squire, rejoiced to obey, thrust out his hand to his son.
"My dear boy," said he, "there, don't fret—pshaw!—it was but a trifle after all. Think no more of it."
Frank took the hand, and suddenly threw his arm round his father's broad shoulder.
"Oh, sir, you are too good,—too good." His voice trembled so that Randal took alarm, passed by him, and touched him meaningly.
The squire pressed his son to his heart,—heart so large, that it seemed to fill the whole width under his broadcloth. "My dear Frank," said he, half blubbering, "it is not the money; but, you see, it so vexes your poor mother; you must be careful in future; and, zounds, boy, it will be all yours one day; only don't calculate on it; I could not bear that, I could not, indeed."
"Calculate!" cried Frank. "Oh, sir, can you think it?"
"I am so delighted that I had some slight hand in your complete reconciliation with Mr. Hazeldean," said Randal, as the young men walked from the hotel. "I saw that you were disheartened, and I told him to speak to you kindly."
"Did you? Ah—I am sorry he needed telling."
"I know his character so well already," said Randal, "that I flatter myself I can always keep things between you as they ought to be. What an excellent man!"
"The best man in the world," cried Frank, heartily; and then, as his accents drooped, "yet I have deceived him. I have a great mind to go back—"
"And tell him to give you twice as much money as you had asked for? He would think you had only seemed so affectionate in order to take him in. No, no, Frank! save, lay by, economize; and then tell him that you have paid half your own debts. Something high-minded in that."
"So there is. Your heart is as good as your head. Goodnight."
"Are you going home so early? Have you no engagements!"
"None that I shall keep."
They parted, and Randal walked into one of the fashionable clubs. He neared a table where three or four young men (younger sons, who lived in the most splendid style, Heaven knew how) were still over their wine.
Leslie had little in common with these gentlemen, but he forced his nature to be agreeable to them, in consequence of a very excellent piece of worldly advice given to him by Audley Egerton. "Never let the dandies call you a prig," said the statesman. "Many a clever fellow fails through life, because the silly fellows, whom half a word well spoken could make his claqueurs, turn him into ridicule. Whatever you are, avoid the fault of most reading men: in a word, don't be a prig!"
"I have just left Hazeldean," said Randal. "What a good fellow he is!"
"Capital!" said the Honourable George Borrowell. "Where is he?"
"Why, he is gone to his rooms. He has had a little scene with his father, a thorough, rough country squire. It would be an act of charity if you would go and keep him company, or take him with you to some place a little more lively than his own lodgings."
"What! the old gentleman has been teasing him!—a horrid shame! Why, Frank is not extravagant, and he will be very rich, eh?"
"An immense property," said Randal, "and not a mortgage on it: an only son," he added, turning away.
Among these young gentlemen there was a kindly and most benevolent whisper, and presently they all rose, and walked away towards Frank's lodgings.
"The wedge is in the tree," said Randal to himself, "and there is a gap already between the bark and the wood."
Harley L'Estrange is seated beside Helen at the lattice-window in the cottage at Norwood. The bloom of reviving health is on the child's face, and she is listening with a smile, for Harley is speaking of Leonard with praise, and of Leonard's future with hope. "And thus," he continued, "secure from his former trials, happy in his occupation, and pursuing the career he has chosen, we must be content, my dear child, to leave him."
"Leave him!" exclaimed Helen, and the rose on her cheek faded.
Harley was not displeased to see her emotion. He would have been disappointed in her heart if it had been less susceptible to affection.
"It is hard on you, Helen," said he, "to be separated from one who has been to you as a brother. Do not hate me for doing so. But I consider myself your guardian, and your home as yet must be mine. We are going from this land of cloud and mist, going as into the world of summer. Well, that does not content you. You weep, my child; you mourn your own friend, but do not forget your father's. I am alone, and often sad, Helen; will you not comfort me? You press my hand, but you must learn to smile on me also. You are born to be the comforter. Comforters are not egotists; they are always cheerful when they console."
The voice of Harley was so sweet and his words went so home to the child's heart, that she looked up and smiled in his face as he kissed her ingenuous brow. But then she thought of Leonard, and felt so solitary, so bereft, that tears burst forth again. Before these were dried, Leonard himself entered, and, obeying an irresistible impulse, she sprang to his arms, and leaning her head on his shoulder, sobbed out,
"I am going from you, brother; do not grieve, do not miss me."
Harley was much moved: he folded his arms, and contemplated them both silently,—and his own eyes were moist. "This heart," thought he, "will be worth the winning!"
He drew aside Leonard, and whispered, "Soothe, but encourage and support her. I leave you together; come to me in the garden later."
It was nearly an hour before Leonard joined Harley.
"She was not weeping when you left her?" asked L'Estrange.
"No; she has more fortitude than we might suppose. Heaven knows how that fortitude has supported mine. I have promised to write to her often."
Harley took two strides across the lawn, and then, coming back to Leonard, said, "Keep your promise, and write often for the first year. I would then ask you to let the correspondence drop gradually."
"Drop! Ah, my Lord!"
"Look you, my young friend, I wish to lead this fair mind wholly from the sorrows of the past. I wish Helen to enter, not abruptly, but step by step, into a new life. You love each other now, as do two children,—as brother and sister. But later, if encouraged, would the love be the same? And is it not better for both of you that youth should open upon the world with youth's natural affections free and unforestalled?"
"True! And she is so above me," said Leonard, mournfully.
"No one is above him who succeeds in your ambition, Leonard. It is not that, believe me."
Leonard shook his head.
"Perhaps," said Harley, with a smile, "I rather feel that you are above me. For what vantage-ground is so high as youth? Perhaps I may become jealous of you. It is well that she should learn to like one who is to be henceforth her guardian and protector. Yet how can she like me as she ought, if her heart is to be full of you?"
The boy bowed his head; and Harley hastened to change the subject, and speak of letters and of glory. His words were eloquent and his voice kindling; for he had been an enthusiast for fame in his boyhood, and in Leonard's his own seemed to him to revive. But the poet's heart gave back no echo,—suddenly it seemed void and desolate. Yet when Leonard walked back by the moonlight, he muttered to himself, "Strange, strange, so mere a child! this cannot be love! Still, what else to love is there left to me?"
And so he paused upon the bridge where he had so often stood with Helen, and on which he had found the protector that had given to her a home, to himself a career. And life seemed very long, and fame but a dreary phantom. Courage still, Leonard! These are the sorrows of the heart that teach thee more than all the precepts of sage and critic.
Another day, and Helen had left the shores of England, with her fanciful and dreaming guardian. Years will pass before our tale re-opens. Life in all the forms we have seen it travels on. And the squire farms and hunts; and the parson preaches and chides and soothes; and Riccabocca reads his Machiavelli, and sighs and smiles as he moralizes on Men and States; and Violante's dark eyes grow deeper and more spiritual in their lustre, and her beauty takes thought from solitary dreams. And Mr. Richard Avenel has his house in London, and the Honourable Mrs. Avenel her opera-box; and hard and dire is their struggle into fashion, and hotly does the new man, scorning the aristocracy, pant to become aristocrat. And Audley Egerton goes from the office to the parliament, and drudges, and debates, and helps to govern the empire in which the sun never sets. Poor sun, how tired he must be—but not more tired than the Government! And Randal Leslie has an excellent place in the bureau of a minister, and is looking to the time when he shall resign it to come into parliament, and on that large arena turn knowledge into power. And meanwhile he is much where he was with Audley Egerton; but he has established intimacy with the squire, and visited Hazeldean twice, and examined the house and the map of the property, and very nearly fallen a second time into the ha-ha, and the squire believes that Randal Leslie alone can keep Frank out of mischief, and has spoken rough words to his Harry about Frank's continued extravagance. And Frank does continue to pursue pleasure, and is very miserable, and horribly in debt. And Madame di Negra has gone from London to Paris, and taken a tour into Switzerland, and come back to London again, and has grown very intimate with Randal Leslie; and Randal has introduced Frank to her; and Frank thinks her the loveliest woman in the world, and grossly slandered by certain evil tongues. And the brother of Madame di Negra is expected in England at last; and what with his repute for beauty and for wealth, people anticipate a sensation. And Leonard, and Harley, and Helen? Patience,—they will all re-appear.
THE ABUSE OF INTELLECT.
There is at present so vehement a flourish of trumpets, and so prodigious a roll of the drum, whenever we are called upon to throw up our hats, and cry "Huzza" to the "March of Enlightenment," that, out of that very spirit of contradiction natural to all rational animals, one is tempted to stop one's ears, and say, "Gently, gently; LIGHT is noiseless: how comes 'Enlightenment' to make such a clatter? Meanwhile, if it be not impertinent, pray, where is Enlightenment marching to?" Ask that question of any six of the loudest bawlers in the procession, and I'll wager tenpence to California that you get six very unsatisfactory answers. One respectable gentleman, who, to our great astonishment, insists upon calling himself "a slave," but has a remarkably free way of expressing his opinions, will reply, "Enlightenment is marching towards the seven points of the Charter." Another, with his hair a la jeune France, who has taken a fancy to his friend's wife, and is rather embarrassed with his own, asserts that Enlightenment is proceeding towards the Rights of Women, the reign of Social Love, and the annihilation of Tyrannical Prejudice. A third, who has the air of a man well-to-do in the middle class, more modest in his hopes, because he neither wishes to have his head broken by his errand-boy, nor his wife carried off to an Agapemone by his apprentice, does not take Enlightenment a step farther than a siege on Debrett, and a cannonade on the Budget. Illiberal man! the march that he swells will soon trample him under foot. No one fares so ill in a crowd as the man who is wedged in the middle. A fourth, looking wild and dreamy, as if he had come out of the cave of Trophonius, and who is a mesmerizer and a mystic, thinks Enlightenment is in full career towards the good old days of alchemists and necromancers. A fifth, whom one might take for a Quaker, asserts that the march of Enlightenment is a crusade for universal philanthropy, vegetable diet, and the perpetuation of peace by means of speeches, which certainly do produce a very contrary effect from the Philippics of Demosthenes! The sixth—good fellow without a rag on his back—does not care a straw where the march goes. He can't be worse off than he is; and it is quite immaterial to him whether he goes to the dog-star above, or the bottomless pit below. I say nothing, however, against the march, while we take it altogether. Whatever happens, one is in good company; and though I am somewhat indolent by nature, and would rather stay at home with Locke and Burke (dull dogs though they were) than have my thoughts set off helter-skelter with those cursed trumpets and drums, blown and dub-a-dubbed by fellows whom I vow to heaven I would not trust with a five-pound note,—still, if I must march, I must; and so deuce take the hindmost! But when it comes to individual marchers upon their own account,—privateers and condottieri of Enlightenment,—who have filled their pockets with Lucifer matches, and have a sublime contempt for their neighbour's barns and hay-ricks, I don't see why I should throw myself into the seventh heaven of admiration and ecstasy.
If those who are eternally rhapsodizing on the celestial blessings that are to follow Enlightenment, Universal Knowledge, and so forth, would just take their eyes out of their pockets, and look about them, I would respectfully inquire if they have never met any very knowing and enlightened gentleman, whose acquaintance is by no means desirable. If not, they are monstrous lucky. Every man must judge by his own experience; and the worst rogues I have ever encountered were amazingly well-informed clever fellows. From dunderheads and dunces we can protect ourselves, but from your sharpwitted gentleman, all enlightenment and no prejudice, we have but to cry, "Heaven defend us!" It is true, that the rogue (let him be ever so enlightened) usually comes to no good himself,—though not before he has done harm enough to his neighbours. But that only shows that the world wants something else in those it rewards besides intelligence per se and in the abstract; and is much too old a world to allow any Jack Horner to pick out its plums for his own personal gratification. Hence a man of very moderate intelligence, who believes in God, suffers his heart to beat with human sympathies, and keeps his eyes off your strongbox, will perhaps gain a vast deal more power than knowledge ever gives to a rogue.
Wherefore, though I anticipate an outcry against me on the part of the blockheads, who, strange to say, are the most credulous idolators of Enlightenment, and if knowledge were power, would rot on a dunghill, yet, nevertheless, I think all really enlightened men will agree with me, that when one falls in with detached sharpshooters from the general March of Enlightenment, it is no reason that we should make ourselves a target, because Enlightenment has furnished them with a gun. It has, doubtless, been already remarked by the judicious reader that of the numerous characters introduced into this work, the larger portion belong to that species which we call the INTELLECTUAL,—that through them are analyzed and developed human intellect, in various forms and directions. So that this History, rightly considered, is a kind of humble familiar Epic, or, if you prefer it, a long Serio-Comedy, upon the Varieties of English Life in this our Century, set in movement by the intelligences most prevalent. And where more ordinary and less refined types of the species round and complete the survey of our passing generation, they will often suggest, by contrast, the deficiencies which mere intellectual culture leaves in the human being. Certainly, I have no spite against intellect and enlightenment. Heaven forbid I should be such a Goth! I am only the advocate for common-sense and fair play. I don't think an able man necessarily an angel; but I think if his heart match his head, and both proceed in the Great March under the divine Oriflamine, he goes as near to the angel as humanity will permit: if not, if he has but a penn'orth of heart to a pound of brains, I say, "Bon jour, mon ange! I see not the starry upward wings, but the grovelling cloven-hoof." I 'd rather be obfuscated by the Squire of Hazeldean than en lightened by Randal Leslie. Every man to his taste. But intellect itself (not in the philosophical but the ordinary sense of the term) is rarely, if ever, one completed harmonious agency; it is not one faculty, but a compound of many, some of which are often at war with each other, and mar the concord of the whole. Few of us but have some predominant faculty, in itself a strength; but which, usurping unseasonably dominion over the rest, shares the lot of all tyranny, however brilliant, and leaves the empire weak against disaffection within, and invasion from without. Hence, intellect may be perverted in a man of evil disposition, and sometimes merely wasted in a man of excellent impulses, for want of the necessary discipline, or of a strong ruling motive. I doubt if there be one person in the world who has obtained a high reputation for talent, who has not met somebody much cleverer than himself, which said somebody has never obtained any reputation at all! Men like Audley Egerton are constantly seen in the great positions of life; while men like Harley L'Estrange, who could have beaten them hollow in anything equally striven for by both, float away down the stream, and, unless some sudden stimulant arouse their dreamy energies, vanish out of sight into silent graves. If Hamlet and Polonius were living now, Polonius would have a much better chance of being a Cabinet Minister, though Hamlet would unquestionably be a much more intellectual character. What would become of Hamlet? Heaven knows! Dr. Arnold said, from his experience of a school, that the difference between one man and another was not mere ability,—it was energy. There is a great deal of truth in that saying.
Submitting these hints to the judgment and penetration of the sagacious, I enter on the fresh division of this work, and see already Randal Leslie gnawing his lips on the background. The German poet observes that the Cow of Isis is to some the divine symbol of knowledge, to others but the milch cow, only regarded for the pounds of butter she will yield. O tendency of our age, to look on Isis as the milch cow! O prostitution of the grandest desires to the basest uses! Gaze on the goddess, Randal Leslie, and get ready thy churn and thy scales. Let us see what the butter will fetch in the market.
A new Reign has commenced. There has been a general election; the unpopularity of the Administration has been apparent at the hustings. Audley Egerton, hitherto returned by vast majorities, has barely escaped defeat—thanks to a majority of five. The expenses of his election are said to have been prodigious. "But who can stand against such wealth as Egerton's,—no doubt backed, too, by the Treasury purse?" said the defeated candidate. It is towards the close of October; London is already full; parliament will meet in less than a fortnight.
In one of the principal apartments of that hotel in which foreigners may discover what is meant by English comfort, and the price which foreigners must pay for it, there sat two persons side by side, engaged in close conversation. The one was a female, in whose pale clear complexion and raven hair, in whose eyes, vivid with a power of expression rarely bestowed on the beauties of the North, we recognize Beatrice, Marchesa di Negra. Undeniably handsome as was the Italian lady, her companion, though a man, and far advanced into middle age, was yet more remarkable for personal advantages. There was a strong family likeness between the two; but there was also a striking contrast in air, manner, and all that stamps on the physiognomy the idiosyncrasies of character. There was something of gravity, of earnestness and passion, in Beatrice's countenance when carefully examined; her smile at times might be false, but it was rarely ironical, never cynical. Her gestures, though graceful, were unrestrained and frequent. You could see she was a daughter of the South. Her companion, on the contrary, preserved on the fair, smooth face, to which years had given scarcely a line or wrinkle, something that might have passed, at first glance, for the levity and thoughtlessness of a gay and youthful nature; but the smile, though exquisitely polished, took at times the derision of a sneer. In his manners he was as composed and as free from gesture as an Englishman. His hair was of that red brown with which the Italian painters produce such marvellous effects of colour; and if here and there a silver thread gleamed through the locks, it was lost at once amidst their luxuriance. His eyes were light, and his complexion, though without much colour, was singularly transparent. His beauty, indeed, would have been rather womanly than masculine, but for the height and sinewy spareness of a frame in which muscular strength was rather adorned than concealed by an admirable elegance of proportion. You would never have guessed this man to be an Italian; more likely you would have supposed him a Parisian. He conversed in French, his dress was of French fashion, his mode of thought seemed French. Not that he was like the Frenchman of the present day,—an animal, either rude or reserved; but your ideal of the marquis of the old regime, the roue of the Regency.
Italian, however, he was, and of a race renowned in Italian history. But, as if ashamed of his country and his birth, he affected to be a citizen of the world. Heaven help the world if it hold only such citizens!
"But, Giulio," said Beatrice di Negra, speaking in Italian, "even granting that you discover this girl, can you suppose that her father will ever consent to your alliance? Surely you know too well the nature of your kinsman?"
"Tu to trompes, ma soeur," replied Giulio Franzini, Count di Peschiera, in French as usual,—"tu to trompes; I knew it before he had gone through exile and penury. How can I know it now? But comfort yourself, my too anxious Beatrice, I shall not care for his consent, till I 've made sure of his daughter's."
"But how win that in despite of the father?"
"Eh, mordieu!" interrupted the count, with true French gayety; "what would become of all the comedies ever written, if marriages were not made in despite of the father? Look you," he resumed, with a very slight compression of his lip, and a still slighter movement in his chair,—"look you, this is no question of ifs and buts! it is a question of must and shall,—a question of existence to you and to me. When Danton was condemned to the guillotine, he said, flinging a pellet of bread at the nose of his respectable judge, 'Mon individu sera bientot dans le neant.' My patrimony is there already! I am loaded with debts. I see before me, on the one side, ruin or suicide; on the other side, wedlock and wealth."
"But from those vast possessions which you have been permitted to enjoy so long, have you really saved nothing against the time when they might be reclaimed at your hands?"
"My sister," replied the count, "do I look like a man who saved? Besides, when the Austrian Emperor, unwilling to raze from his Lombard domains a name and a House so illustrious as our kinsman's, and desirous, while punishing that kinsman's rebellion, to reward my adherence, forbore the peremptory confiscation of those vast possessions at which my mouth waters while we speak, but, annexing them to the crown during pleasure, allowed me, as the next of male kin, to retain the revenues of one half for the same very indefinite period,—had I not every reason to suppose that before long I could so influence his Imperial Majesty, or his minister, as to obtain a decree that might transfer the whole, unconditionally and absolutely, to myself? And methinks I should have done so, but for this accursed, intermeddling English Milord, who has never ceased to besiege the court or the minister with alleged extenuations of our cousin's rebellion, and proofless assertions that I shared it in order to entangle my kinsman, and betrayed it in order to profit by his spoils. So that, at last, in return for all my services, and in answer to all my claims, I received from the minister himself this cold reply, Count of Peschiera, your aid was important, and your reward has been large. That reward it would not be for your honour to extend, and justify the ill opinion of your Italian countrymen by formally appropriating to yourself all that was forfeited by the treason you denounced. A name so noble as yours should be dearer to you than fortune itself.'"
"Ah Giulio," cried Beatrice, her face lighting up, changed in its whole character, "those were words that might make the demon that tempts to avarice fly from your breast in shame."
The count opened his eyes in great amaze; then he glanced round the room, and said quietly,
"Nobody else hears you, my dear Beatrice; talk commonsense. Heroics sound well in mixed society; but there is nothing less suited to the tone of a family conversation."
Madame di Negra bent down her head abashed, and that sudden change in the expression of her countenance which had seemed to betray susceptibility to generous emotion, faded as suddenly away.
"But still," she said coldly, "you enjoy one half of those ample revenues: why talk, then, of suicide and ruin?"
"I enjoy them at the pleasure of the crown; and what if it be the pleasure of the crown to recall our cousin, and reinstate him in his possessions?"
"There is a probability, then, of that pardon? When you first employed me in your researches you only thought there was a possibility."
"There is a great probability of it, and therefore I am here. I learned some little time since that the question of such recall had been suggested by the emperor, and discussed in Council. The danger to the State, which might arise from our cousin's wealth, his alleged abilities,—abilities! bah! and his popular name, deferred any decision on the point; and, indeed, the difficulty of dealing with myself must have embarrassed the minister. But it is a mere question of time. He cannot long remain excluded from the general amnesty already extended to the other refugees. The person who gave me this information is high in power, and friendly to myself; and he added a piece of advice on which I acted. 'It was intimated,' said he, 'by one of the partisans of your kinsman, that the exile could give a hostage for his loyalty in the person of his daughter and heiress; that she had arrived at marriageable age; that if she were to wed, with the emperor's consent, some one whose attachment to the Austrian crown was unquestionable, there would be a guarantee both for the faith of the father, and for the transmission of so important a heritage to safe and loyal hands. Why not' (continued my friend) 'apply to the emperor for his consent to that alliance for yourself,—you, on whom he can depend; you who, if the daughter should die, would be the legal heir to those lands?' On that hint I spoke."
"You saw the emperor?"
"And after combating the unjust prepossessions against me, I stated that so far from my cousin having any fair cause of resentment against me, when all was duly explained to him, I did not doubt that he would willingly give me the hand of his child."
"You did!" cried the marchesa, amazed.
"And," continued the count, imperturbably, as he smoothed, with careless hand, the snowy plaits of his shirt front,—"and that I should thus have the happiness of becoming myself the guarantee of my kinsman's loyalty, the agent for the restoration of his honours, while, in the eyes of the envious and malignant, I should clear up my own name from all suspicion that I had wronged him."
"And the emperor consented?"
"Pardieu, my dear sister, what else could his Majesty do? My proposition smoothed every obstacle, and reconciled policy with mercy. It remains, therefore, only to find out what has hitherto baffled all our researches, the retreat of our dear kinsfolk, and to make myself a welcome lover to the demoiselle. There is some disparity of years, I own; but—unless your sex and my glass flatter me overmuch—I am still a match for many a gallant of five-and-twenty."
The count said this with so charming a smile, and looked so pre-eminently handsome, that he carried off the coxcombry of the words as gracefully as if they had been spoken by some dazzling hero of the grand old comedy of Parisian life.
Then interlacing his fingers and lightly leaning his hands, thus clasped, upon his sister's shoulder, he looked into her face, and said slowly, "And now, my sister, for some gentle but deserved reproach. Have you not sadly failed me in the task I imposed on your regard for my interests? Is it not some years since you first came to England on the mission of discovering these worthy relations of ours? Did I not entreat you to seduce into your toils the man whom I new to be my enemy, and who was indubitably acquainted with our cousin's retreat,—a secret he has hitherto locked within his bosom? Did you not tell me, that though he was then in England, you could find no occasion even to meet him, but that you had obtained the friendship of the statesman to whom I directed your attention, as his most intimate associate? And yet you, whose charms are usually so irresistible, learn nothing from the statesman, as you see nothing of Milord. Nay, baffled and misled, you actually suppose that the quarry has taken refuge in France. You go thither, you pretend to search the capital, the provinces, Switzerland, que sais je? All in vain,—though—foi de gentilhomme—your police cost me dearly. You return to England; the same chase, and the same result. Palsambleu, ma soeur, I do too much credit to your talents not to question your zeal. In a word, have you been in earnest,—or have you not had some womanly pleasure in amusing yourself and abusing my trust?"
"Giulio," answered Beatrice, sadly, "you know the influence you have exercised over my character and my fate. Your reproaches are not just. I made such inquiries as were in my power, and I have now cause to believe that I know one who is possessed of this secret, and can guide us to it."
"Ah, you do!" exclaimed the count. Beatrice did not heed the exclamation, and hurried on.
"But grant that my heart shrunk from the task you imposed on me, would it not have been natural? When I first came to England, you informed me that your object in discovering the exiles was one which I could honestly aid. You naturally wished first to know if the daughter lived; if not, you were the heir. If she did, you assured me you desired to effect, through my mediation, some liberal compromise with Alphonso, by which you would have sought to obtain his restoration, provided he would leave you for life in possession of the grant you hold from the crown. While these were your objects, I did my best, ineffectual as it was, to obtain the information required."
"And what made me lose so important, though so ineffectual an ally?" asked the count, still smiling; but a gleam that belied the smile shot from his eye.
"What! when you bade me receive and co-operate with the miserable spies—the false Italians—whom you sent over, and seek to entangle this poor exile, when found, in some rash correspondence to be revealed to the court; when you sought to seduce the daughter of the Count of Peschiera, the descendant of those who had ruled in Italy, into the informer, the corrupter, and the traitress,—no, Giulio, then I recoiled; and then, fearful of your own sway over me, I retreated into France. I have answered you frankly."
The count removed his hands from the shoulder on which they had reclined so cordially.
"And this," said he, "is your wisdom, and this your gratitude! You, whose fortunes are bound up in mine; you, who subsist on my bounty; you, who—"
"Hold," cried the marchesa, rising, and with a burst of emotion, as if stung to the utmost, and breaking into revolt from the tyranny of years,—"hold! Gratitude! bounty! Brother, brother! what, indeed, do I owe to you? The shame and the misery of a life. While yet a child, you condemned me to marry against my will, against my heart, against my prayers,—and laughed at my tears when I knelt to you for mercy. I was pure then, Giulio,—pure and innocent as the flowers in my virgin crown. And now—now—"
Beatrice stopped abruptly, and clasped her hands before her face.
"Now you upbraid me," said the count, unruffled by her sudden passion, "because I gave you in marriage to a man young and noble?"