Fanny had a long conversation with this lady, and she brought back a bundle of books. The light might have been seen that night, and many nights after, burning long and late from her little window. And having recovered her old freedom of habits, which Simon, poor man, did not notice, and which Sarah, thinking that anything was better than moping at home, did not remonstrate against, Fanny went out regularly for two hours, or sometimes for even a longer period, every evening after old Simon had composed himself to the nap that filled up the interval between dinner and tea.
In a very short time—a time that with ordinary stimulants would have seemed marvellously short—Fanny's handwriting was not the same thing; her manner of talking became different; she no longer called herself "Fanny" when she spoke; the music of her voice was more quiet and settled; her sweet expression of face was more thoughtful; the eyes seemed to have deepened in their very colour; she was no longer heard chaunting to herself as she tripped along. The books that she nightly fed on had passed into her mind; the poetry that had ever unconsciously sported round her young years began now to create poetry in herself. Nay, it might almost have seemed as if that restless disorder of the intellect, which the dullards had called Idiotcy, had been the wild efforts, not of Folly, but of GENIUS seeking to find its path and outlet from the cold and dreary solitude to which the circumstances of her early life had compelled it.
Days, even weeks, passed—she never spoke of Vaudemont. And once, when Sarah, astonished and bewildered by the change in her young mistress, asked:
"When does the gentleman come back?"
Fanny answered, with a mysterious smile, "Not yet, I hope,—not quite yet!"
"Thierry. I do begin To feel an alteration in my nature, And in his full-sailed confidence a shower Of gentle rain, that falling on the fire Hath quenched it.
How is my heart divided Between the duty of a son and love!" BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: Thierry and Theodorat.
Vaudemont had now been a month at Beaufort Court. The scene of a country-house, with the sports that enliven it, and the accomplishments it calls forth, was one in which he was well fitted to shine. He had been an excellent shot as a boy; and though long unused to the fowling- piece, had, in India, acquired a deadly precision with the rifle; so that a very few days of practice in the stubbles and covers of Beaufort Court made his skill the theme of the guests and the admiration of the keepers. Hunting began, and—this pursuit, always so strong a passion in the active man, and which, to the turbulence and agitation of his half-tamed breast, now excited by a kind of frenzy of hope and fear, gave a vent and release—was a sport in which he was yet more fitted to excel. His horsemanship, his daring, the stone walls he leaped and the floods through which he dashed, furnished his companions with wondering tale and comment on their return home. Mr. Marsden, who, with some other of Arthur's early friends, had been invited to Beaufort Court, in order to welcome its expected heir, and who retained all the prudence which had distinguished him of yore, when having ridden over old Simon he dismounted to examine the knees of his horse;—Mr. Marsden, a skilful huntsman, who rode the most experienced horses in the world, and who generally contrived to be in at the death without having leaped over anything higher than a hurdle, suffering the bolder quadruped (in case what is called the "knowledge of the country"—that is, the knowledge of gaps and gates—failed him) to perform the more dangerous feats alone, as he quietly scrambled over or scrambled through upon foot, and remounted the well-taught animal when it halted after the exploit, safe and sound; —Mr. Marsden declared that he never saw a rider with so little judgment as Monsieur de Vaudemont, and that the devil was certainly in him.
This sort of reputation, commonplace and merely physical as it was in itself, had a certain effect upon Camilla; it might be an effect of fear. I do not say, for I do not know, what her feelings towards Vaudemont exactly were. As the calmest natures are often those the most hurried away by their contraries, so, perhaps, he awed and dazzled rather than pleased her;—at least, he certainly forced himself on her interest. Still she would have started in terror if any one had said to her, "Do you love your betrothed less than when you met by that happy lake?"—and her heart would have indignantly rebuked the questioner. The letters of her lover were still long and frequent; hers were briefer and more subdued. But then there was constraint in the correspondence—it was submitted to her mother. Whatever might be Vaudemont's manner to Camilla whenever occasion threw them alone together, he certainly did not make his attentions glaring enough to be remarked. His eye watched her rather than his lip addressed; he kept as much aloof as possible from the rest of her family, and his customary bearing was silent even to gloom. But there were moments when he indulged in a fitful exuberance of spirits, which had something strained and unnatural. He had outlived Lord Lilburne's short liking; for since he had resolved no longer to keep watch on that noble gamester's method of play, he played but little himself; and Lord Lilburne saw that he had no chance of ruining him— there was, therefore, no longer any reason to like him. But this was not all; when Vaudemont had been at the house somewhat more than two weeks, Lilburne, petulant and impatient, whether at his refusals to join the card-table, or at the moderation with which, when he did, he confined his ill-luck to petty losses, one day limped up to him, as he stood at the embrasure of the window, gazing on the wide lands beyond, and said:—
"Vaudemont, you are bolder in hunting, they tell me, than you are at whist."
"Honours don't tell against one—over a hedge!"
"What do you mean?" said Lilburne, rather haughtily.
Vaudemont was, at that moment, in one of those bitter moods when the sense of his situation, the sight of the usurper in his home, often swept away the gentler thoughts inspired by his fatal passion. And the tone of Lord Lilburne, and his loathing to the man, were too much for his temper.
"Lord Lilburne," he said, and his lip curled, "if you had been born poor, you would have made a great fortune—you play luckily."
"How am I to take this, sir?"
"As you please," answered Vaudemont, calmly, but with an eye of fire. And he turned away.
Lilburne remained on the spot very thoughtful: "Hum! he suspects me. I cannot quarrel on such ground—the suspicion itself dishonours me—I must seek another."
The next day, Lilburne, who was familiar with Mr. Harsden (though the latter gentleman never played at the same table), asked that prudent person after breakfast if he happened to have his pistols with him.
"Yes; I always take them into the country—one may as well practise when one has the opportunity. Besides, sportsmen are often quarrelsome; and if it is known that one shoots well,—it keeps one out of quarrels!"
"Very true," said Lilburne, rather admiringly. "I have made the same remark myself when I was younger. I have not shot with a pistol for since years. I am well enough now to walk out with the help of a stick. Suppose we practise for half-an-hour or so."
"With all my heart," said Mr. Marsden.
The pistols were brought, and they strolled forth;—Lord Lilburne found his hand out.
"As I never hunt now," said the peer, and he gnashed his teeth, and glanced at his maimed limb; "for though lameness would not prevent my keeping my seat, violent exercise hurts my leg; and Brodie says any fresh accident might bring on tic douloureux;—and as my gout does not permit me to join the shooting parties at present, it would be a kindness in you to lend me your pistols—it would while away an hour or so; though, thank Heaven, my duelling days are over!"
"Certainly," said Mr. Marsden; and the pistols were consigned to Lord Lilburne.
Four days from the date, as Mr. Marsden, Vaudemont, and some other gentlemen were making for the covers, they came upon Lord Lilburne, who, in a part of the park not within sight or sound of the house, was amusing himself with Mr. Marsden's pistols, which Dykeman was at hand to load for him.
He turned round, not at all disconcerted by the interruption.
"You have no idea how I've improved, Marsden:—just see!" and he pointed to a glove nailed to a tree. "I've hit that mark twice in five times; and every time I have gone straight enough along the line to have killed my man."
"Ay, the mark itself does not so much signify," said Mr. Marsden, "at least, not in actual duelling—the great thing is to be in the line."
While he spoke, Lord Lilburne's ball went a third time through the glove. His cold bright eye turned on Vaudemont, as he said, with a smile,—
"They tell me you shoot well with a fowling-piece, my dear Vaudemont—are you equally adroit with a pistol?"
"You may see, if you like; but you take aim, Lord Lilburne; that would be of no use in English duelling. Permit me."
He walked to the glove, and tore from it one of the fingers, which he fastened separately to the tree, took the pistol from Dykeman as he walked past him, gained the spot whence to fire, turned at once round, without apparent aim, and the finger fell to the ground.
Lilburne stood aghast.
"That's wonderful!" said Marsden; "quite wonderful. Where the devil did you get such a knack?—for it is only knack after all!"
"I lived for many years in a country where the practice was constant, where all that belongs to rifle-shooting was a necessary accomplishment— a country in which man had often to contend against the wild beast. In civilised states, man himself supplies the place of the wild beast—but we don't hunt him!—Lord Lilburne" (and this was added with a smiling and disdainful whisper), "you must practise a little more."
But, disregardful of the advice, from that day Lord Lilburne's morning occupation was gone. He thought no longer of a duel with Vaudemont. As soon as the sportsman had left him, he bade Dykeman take up the pistols, and walked straight home into the library, where Robert Beaufort, who was no sportsman, generally spent his mornings.
He flung himself into an arm-chair, and said, as he stirred the fire with unusual vehemence,—
"Beaufort, I'm very sorry I asked you to invite Vaudemont. He's a very ill-bred, disagreeable fellow!" Beaufort threw down his steward's account-book, on which he was employed, and replied,—
"Lilburne, I have never had an easy moment since that man has been in the house. As he was your guest, I did not like to speak before, but don't you observe—you must observe—how like he is to the old family portraits? The more I have examined him, the more another resemblance grows upon me. In a word," said Robert, pausing and breathing hard, "if his name were not Vaudemont—if his history were not, apparently, so well known, I should say—I should swear, that it is Philip Morton who sleeps under this roof!"
"Ha!" said Lilburne, with an earnestness that surprised Beaufort, who expected to have heard his brother-in-law's sneering sarcasm at his fears; "the likeness you speak of to the old portraits did strike me; it struck Marsden, too, the other day, as we were passing through the picture-gallery; and Marsden remarked it aloud to Vaudemont. I remember now that he changed countenance and made no answer. Hush! hush! hold your tongue, let me think—let me think. This Philip—yes—yes—I and Arthur saw him with—with Gawtrey—in Paris—"
"Gawtrey! was that the name of the rogue he was said to—"
"Yes—yes—yes. Ah! now I guess the meaning of those looks—those words," muttered Lilburne between his teeth. "This pretension to the name of Vaudemont was always apocryphal—the story always but half believed—the invention of a woman in love with him—the claim on your property is made at the very time he appears in England. Ha! Have you a newspaper there? Give it me. No! 'tis not in this paper. Ring the bell for the file!"
"What's the matter? you terrify me!" gasped out Mr. Beaufort, as he rang the bell.
"Why! have you not seen an advertisement repeated several times within the last month?"
"I never read advertisements; except in the county paper, if land is to be sold."
"Nor I often; but this caught my eye. John" (here the servant entered), "bring the file of the newspapers. The name of the witness whom Mrs. Morton appealed to was Smith, the same name as the captain; what was the Christian name?"
"I don't remember."
"Here are the papers—shut the door—and here is the advertisement: 'If Mr. William Smith, son of Jeremiah Smith, who formerly rented the farm of Shipdale-Bury, under the late Right Hon. Charles Leopold Beaufort (that's your uncle), and who emigrated in the year 18— to Australia, will apply to Mr. Barlow, Solicitor, Essex Street, Strand, he will hear of something to his advantage.'"
"Good Heavens! why did not you mention this to me before?"
"Because I did not think it of any importance. In the first place, there might be some legacy left to the man, quite distinct from your business. Indeed, that was the probable supposition;—or even if connected with the claim, such an advertisement might be but a despicable attempt to frighten you. Never mind—don't look so pale—after all, this is a proof that the witness is not found—that Captain Smith is neither the Smith, nor has discovered where the Smith is!"
"True!" observed Mr. Beaufort: "true—very true!"
"Humph!" said Lord Lilburne, who was still rapidly glancing over the file—"Here is another advertisement which I never saw before: this looks suspicious: 'If the person who called on the — of September, on Mr. Morton, linendraper, &c., of N——, will renew his application personally or by letter, he may now obtain the information he sought for.'"
"Morton!—the woman's brother! their uncle! it is too clear!"
"But what brings this man, if he be really Philip Morton, what brings him here!—to spy or to threaten?"
"I will get him out of the house this day."
"No—no; turn the watch upon himself. I see now; he is attracted by your daughter; sound her quietly; don't tell her to discourage his confidences; find out if he ever speaks of these Mortons. Ha! I recollect—he has spoken to me of the Mortons, but vaguely—I forget what. Humph! this is a man of spirit and daring—watch him, I say,— watch him! When does Arthur came back?"
"He has been travelling so slowly, for he still complains of his health, and has had relapses; but he ought to be in Paris this week, perhaps he is there now. Good Heavens! he must not meet this man!"
"Do what I tell you! get out all from your daughter. Never fear: he can do nothing against you except by law. But if he really like Camilla—"
"He!—Philip Morton—the adventurer—the—"
"He is the eldest son: remember you thought even of accepting the second. He—nay find the witness—he may win his suit; if he likes Camilla, there may be a compromise."
Mr. Beaufort felt as if turned to ice.
"You think him likely to win this infamous suit, then?" he faltered.
"Did not you guard against the possibility by securing the brother? More worth while to do it with this man. Hark ye! the politics of private are like those of public life,—when the state can't crush a demagogue, it should entice him over. If you can ruin this dog" (and Lilburne stamped his foot fiercely, forgetful of the gout), "ruin him! hang him! If you can't" (and here with a wry face he caressed the injured foot), "if you can't ('sdeath, what a twinge!), and he can ruin you,—bring him into the family, and make his secret ours! I must go and lie down—I have overexcited myself."
In great perplexity Beaufort repaired at once to Camilla. His nervous agitation betrayed itself, though he smiled a ghastly smile, and intended to be exceeding cool and collected. His questions, which confused and alarmed her, soon drew out the fact that the very first time Vaudemont had been introduced to her he had spoken of the Mortons; and that he had often afterwards alluded to the subject, and seemed at first strongly impressed with the notion that the younger brother was under Beaufort's protection; though at last he appeared reluctantly convinced of the contrary. Robert, however agitated, preserved at least enough of his natural slyness not to let out that he suspected Vaudemont to be Philip Morton himself, for he feared lest his daughter should betray that suspicion to its object.
"But," he said, with a look meant to win confidence, "I dare say he knows these young men. I should like myself to know more about them. Learn all you can, and tell me, and, I say—I say, Camilla,—he! he! he!—you have made a conquest, you little flirt, you! Did he, this Vaudemont, ever say how much he admired you?"
"He!—never!" said Camilla, blushing, and then turning pale.
"But he looks it. Ah! you say nothing, then. Well, well, don't discourage him; that is to say,—yes, don't discourage him. Talk to him as much as you can,—ask him about his own early life. I've a particular wish to know—'tis of great importance to me."
"But, my dear father," said Camilla, trembling and thoroughly bewildered, "I fear this man,—I fear—I fear—"
Was she going to add, "I fear myself?" I know not; but she stopped short, and burst into tears.
"Hang these girls!" muttered Mr. Beaufort, "always crying when they ought to be of use to one. Go down, dry your eyes, do as I tell you,— get all you can from him. Fear him!—yes, I dare say she does!" muttered the poor man, as he closed the door.
From that time what wonder that Camilla's manner to Vaudemont was yet more embarrassed than ever: what wonder that he put his own heart's interpretation on that confusion. Beaufort took care to thrust her more often than before in his way; he suddenly affected a creeping, fawning civility to Vaudemont; he was sure he was fond of music; what did he think of that new air Camilla was so fond of? He must be a judge of scenery, he who had seen so much: there were beautiful landscapes in the neighbourhood, and, if he would forego his sports, Camilla drew prettily, had an eye for that sort of thing, and was so fond of riding.
Vaudemont was astonished at this change, but his delight was greater than the astonishment. He began to perceive that his identity was suspected; perhaps Beaufort, more generous than he had deemed him, meant to repay every early wrong or harshness by one inestimable blessing. The generous interpret motives in extremes—ever too enthusiastic or too severe. Vaudemont felt as if he had wronged the wronger; he began to conquer even his dislike to Robert Beaufort. For some days he was thus thrown much with Camilla; the questions her father forced her to put to him, uttered tremulously and fearfully, seemed to him proof of her interest in his fate. His feelings to Camilla, so sudden in their growth—so ripened and so favoured by the Sub-Ruler of the world—CIRCUMSTANCE—might not, perhaps, have the depth and the calm completeness of that, One True Love, of which there are many counterfeits,—and which in Man, at least, possibly requires the touch and mellowness, if not of time, at least of many memories—of perfect and tried conviction of the faith, the worth, the value and the beauty of the heart to which it clings;—but those feelings were, nevertheless, strong, ardent, and intense. He believed himself beloved—he was in Elysium. But he did not yet declare the passion that beamed in his eyes. No! he would not yet claim the hand of Camilla Beaufort, for he imagined the time would soon come when he could claim it, not as the inferior or the suppliant, but as the lord of her father's fate.
"Here's something got amongst us!"—Knight of Malta.
Two or three nights after his memorable conversation with Robert Beaufort, as Lord Lilburne was undressing, he said to his valet:
"Dykeman, I am getting well."
"Indeed, my lord, I never saw your lordship look better."
"There you lie. I looked better last year—I looked better the year before—and I looked better and better every year back to the age of twenty-one! But I'm not talking of looks, no man with money wants looks. I am talking of feelings. I feel better. The gout is almost gone. I have been quiet now for a month—that's a long time—time wasted when, at my age, I have so little time to waste. Besides, as you know, I am very much in love!"
"In love, my lord? I thought that you told me never to speak of—"
"Blockhead! what the deuce was the good of speaking about it when I was wrapped in flannels! I am never in love when I am ill—who is? I am well now, or nearly so; and I've had things to vex me—things to make this place very disagreeable; I shall go to town, and before this day week, perhaps, that charming face may enliven the solitude of Fernside. I shall look to it myself now. I see you're going to say something. Spare yourself the trouble! nothing ever goes wrong if I myself take it in hand."
The next day Lord Lilburne, who, in truth, felt himself uncomfortable and gene in the presence of Vaudemont; who had won as much as the guests at Beaufort Court seemed inclined to lose; and who made it the rule of his life to consult his own pleasure and amusement before anything else, sent for his post-horses, and informed his brother-in-law of his departure.
"And you leave me alone with this man just when I am convinced that he is the person we suspected! My dear Lilburne, do stay till he goes."
"Impossible! I am between fifty and sixty—every moment is precious at that time of life. Besides, I've said all I can say; rest quiet—act on the defensive—entangle this cursed Vaudemont, or Morton, or whoever he be, in the mesh of your daughter's charms, and then get rid of him, not before. This can do no harm, let the matter turn out how it will. Read the papers; and send for Blackwell if you want advice on any, new advertisements. I don't see that anything more is to be done at present. You can write to me; I shall be at Park Lane or Fernside. Take care of yourself. You're a lucky fellow—you never have the gout! Good-bye."
And in half an hour Lord Lilburne was on the road to London.
The departure of Lilburne was a signal to many others, especially and naturally to those he himself had invited. He had not announced to such visitors his intention of going till his carriage was at the door. This might be delicacy or carelessness, just as people chose to take it: and how they did take it, Lord Lilburne, much too selfish to be well-bred, did not care a rush. The next day half at least of the guests were gone; and even Mr. Marsden, who had been specially invited on Arthur's account, announced that he should go after dinner! he always travelled by night— he slept well on the road—a day was not lost by it.
"And it is so long since you saw Arthur," said Mr. Beaufort, in remonstrance, "and I expect him every day."
"Very sorry—best fellow in the world—but the fact is, that I am not very well myself. I want a little sea air; I shall go to Dover or Brighton. But I suppose you will have the house full again about Christmas; in that case I shall be delighted to repeat my visit."
The fact was, that Mr. Marsden, without Lilburne's intellect on the one hand, or vices on the other, was, like that noble sensualist, one of the broken pieces of the great looking-glass "SELF." He was noticed in society as always haunting the places where Lilburne played at cards, carefully choosing some other table, and as carefully betting upon Lilburne's side. The card-tables were now broken up; Vaudemont's superiority in shooting, and the manner in which he engrossed the talk of the sportsmen, displeased him. He was bored—he wanted to be off-and off he went. Vaudemont felt that the time was come for him to depart, too; Robert Beaufort—who felt in his society the painful fascination of the bird with the boa, who hated to see him there, and dreaded to see him depart, who had not yet extracted all the confirmation of his persuasions that he required, for Vaudemont easily enough parried the artless questions of Camilla—pressed him to stay with so eager a hospitality, and made Camilla herself falter out, against her will, and even against her remonstrances—(she never before had dared to remonstrate with either father or mother),—"Could not you stay a few days longer?"—that Vaudemont was too contented to yield to his own inclinations; and so for some little time longer he continued to move before the eyes of Mr. Beaufort—stern, sinister, silent, mysterious—like one of the family pictures stepped down from its frame. Vaudemont wrote, however, to Fanny, to excuse his delay; and anxious to hear from her as to her own and Simon's health, bade her direct her letter to his lodging in London (of which he gave her the address), whence, if he still continued to defer his departure, it would be forwarded to him. He did not do this, however, till he had been at Beaufort Court several days after Lilburne's departure, and till, in fact, two days before the eventful one which closed his visit.
The party, now greatly diminished; were at breakfast, when the servant entered, as usual, with the letter-bag. Mr. Beaufort, who was always important and pompous in the small ceremonials of life, unlocked the precious deposit with slow dignity, drew forth the newspapers, which he threw on the table, and which the gentlemen of the party eagerly seized; then, diving out one by one, jerked first a letter to Camilla, next a letter to Vaudemont, and, thirdly, seized a letter for himself.
"I beg that there may be no ceremony, Monsieur de Vaudemont: pray excuse me and follow my example: I see this letter is from my son;" and he broke the seal.
The letter ran thus:
"MY DEAR FATHER,—Almost as soon as you receive this, I shall be with you. Ill as I am, I can have no peace till I see and consult you. The most startling—the most painful intelligence has just been conveyed to me. It is of a nature not to bear any but personal communication.
"Your affectionate son, "ARTHUR BEAUFORT. "Boulogne.
"P.S.—This will go by the same packet-boat that I shall take myself, and can only reach you a few hours before I arrive."
Mr. Beaufort's trembling hand dropped the letter—he grasped the elbow of the chair to save himself from falling. It was clear!—the same visitor who had persecuted himself had now sought his son! He grew sick, his son might have heard the witness—might be convinced. His son himself now appeared to him as a foe—for the father dreaded the son's honour! He glanced furtively round the table, till his eye rested on Vaudemont, and his terror was redoubled, for Vaudemont's face, usually so calm, was animated to an extraordinary degree, as he now lifted it from the letter he had just read. Their eyes met. Robert Beaufort looked on him as a prisoner at the bar looks on the accusing counsel, when he first commences his harangue.
"Mr. Beaufort," said the guest, "the letter you have given me summons me to London on important business, and immediately. Suffer me to send for horses at your earliest convenience."
"What's the matter?" said the feeble and seldom heard voice of Mrs. Beaufort. "What's the matter, Robert?—is Arthur coming?"
"He comes to-day," said the father, with a deep sigh; and Vaudemont, at that moment rising from his half-finished breakfast, with a bow that included the group, and with a glance that lingered on Camilla, as she bent over her own unopened letter (a letter from Winandermere, the seal of which she dared not yet to break), quitted the room. He hastened to his own chamber, and strode to and fro with a stately step—the step of the Master—then, taking forth the letter, he again hurried over its contents. They ran thus:
DEAR, Sir,—At last the missing witness has applied to me. He proves to be, as you conjectured, the same person who had called on Mr. Roger Morton; but as there are some circumstances on which I wish to take your instructions without a moment's delay, I shall leave London by the mail, and wait you at D—— (at the principal inn), which is, I understand, twenty miles on the high road from Beaufort Court.
"I have the honor to be, sir, "Yours, &c., "JOHN BARLOW.
Vaudemont was yet lost in the emotions that this letter aroused, when they came to announce that his chaise was arrived. As he went down the stairs he met Camilla, who was on the way to her own room.
"Miss Beaufort," said he, in a low and tremulous voice, "in wishing you farewell I may not now say more. I leave you, and, strange to say, I do not regret it, for I go upon an errand that may entitle me to return again, and speak those thoughts which are uppermost in my soul even at this moment."
He raised her hand to his lips as he spoke, and at that moment Mr. Beaufort looked from the door of his own room, and cried, "Camilla." She was too glad to escape. Philip gazed after her light form for an instant, and then hurried down the stairs.
"Longueville.—What! are you married, Beaufort? Beaufort.—Ay, as fast As words, and hands, and hearts, and priest, Could make us."—BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: Noble Gentleman.
In the parlour of the inn at D——— sat Mr. John Barlow. He had just finished his breakfast, and was writing letters and looking over papers connected with his various business—when the door was thrown open, and a gentleman entered abruptly.
"Mr. Beaufort," said the lawyer rising, "Mr. Philip Beaufort—for such I now feel you are by right—though," he added, with his usual formal and quiet smile, "not yet by law; and much—very much, remains to be done to make the law and the right the same;—I congratulate you on having something at last to work on. I had begun to despair of finding our witness, after a month's advertising; and had commenced other investigations, of which I will speak to you presently, when yesterday, on my return to town from an errand on your business, I had the pleasure of a visit from William Smith himself.—My dear sir, do not yet be too sanguine.—It seems that this poor fellow, having known misfortune, was in America when the first fruitless inquiries were made. Long after this he returned to the colony, and there met with a brother, who, as I drew from him, was a convict. He helped the brother to escape. They both came to England. William learned from a distant relation, who lent him some little money, of the inquiry that had been set on foot for him; consulted his brother, who desired him to leave all to his management. The brother afterwards assured him that you and Mr. Sidney were both dead; and it seems (for the witness is simple enough to allow me to extract all) this same brother then went to Mr. Beaufort to hold out the threat of a lawsuit, and to offer the sale of the evidence yet existing—"
"And Mr. Beaufort?"
"I am happy to say, seems to have spurned the offer. Meanwhile William, incredulous of his brother's report, proceeded to N——, learned nothing from Mr. Morton, met his brother again—and the brother (confessing that he had deceived him in the assertion that you and Mr. Sidney were dead) told him that he had known you in earlier life, and set out to Paris to seek you—"
"Known me?—To Paris?"
"More of this presently. William returned to town, living hardly and penuriously on the little his brother bestowed on him, too melancholy and too poor for the luxury of a newspaper, and never saw our advertisement, till, as luck would have it, his money was out; he had heard nothing further of his brother, and he went for new assistance to the same relation who had before aided him. This relation, to his surprise, received the poor man very kindly, lent him what he wanted, and then asked him if he had not seen our advertisement. The newspaper shown him. contained both the advertisements—that relating to Mr. Morton's visitor, that containing his own name. He coupled them both together—called on me at once. I was from town on your business. He returned to his own home; the next morning (yesterday morning) came a letter from his brother, which I obtained from him at last, and with promises that no harm should happen to the writer on account of it."
Vaudemont took the letter and read as follows:
"DEAR WILLIAM,—No go about the youngster I went after: all researches in vane. Paris develish expensive. Never mind, I have sene the other—the young B—; different sort of fellow from his father—very ill—frightened out of his wits—will go off to the governor, take me with him as far as Bullone. I think we shall settel it now. Mind as I saide before, don't put your foot in it. I send you a Nap in the Seele—all I can spare.
"Yours, "JEREMIAH SMITH.
"Direct to me, Monsieur Smith—always a safe name—Ship Inn, Bullone."
"Do you know the name then?" said Mr. Barlow. "Well; the poor man owns that he was frightened at his brother—that he wished to do what is right—that he feared his brother would not let him—that your father was very kind to him—and so he came off at once to me; and I was very luckily at home to assure him that the heir was alive, and prepared to assert his rights. Now then, Mr. Beaufort, we have the witness, but will that suffice us? I fear not. Will the jury believe him with no other testimony at his back? Consider!—When he was gone I put myself in communication with some officers at Bow Street about this brother of his —a most notorious character, commonly called in the police slang Dashing Jerry—"
"Ah! Well, proceed!"
"Your one witness, then, is a very poor, penniless man, his brother a rogue, a convict: this witness, too, is the most timid, fluctuating, irresolute fellow I ever saw; I should tremble for his testimony against a sharp, bullying lawyer. And that, sir, is all at present we have to look to."
"I see—I see. It is dangerous—it is hazardous. But truth is truth; justice—justice! I will run the risk."
"Pardon me, if I ask, did you ever know this brother?—were you ever absolutely acquainted with him—in the same house?"
"Many years since—years of early hardship and trial—I was acquainted with him—what then?"
"I am sorry to hear it," and the lawyer looked grave. "Do you not see that if this witness is browbeat—is disbelieved, and if it be shown that you, the claimant, was—forgive my saying it—intimate with a brother of such a character, why the whole thing might be made to look like perjury and conspiracy. If we stop here it is an ugly business!"
"And is this all you have to say to me? The witness is found—the only surviving witness—the only proof I ever shall or ever can obtain, and you seek to terrify me—me too—from using the means for redress Providence itself vouchsafes me—Sir, I will not hear you!"
"Mr. Beaufort, you are impatient—it is natural. But if we go to law— that is, should I have anything to do with it, wait—wait till your case is good. And hear me yet. This is not the only proof—this is not the only witness; you forget that there was an examined copy of the register; we may yet find that copy, and the person who copied it may yet be alive to attest it. Occupied with this thought, and weary of waiting the result of our advertisement, I resolved to go into the neighbourhood of Fernside; luckily, there was a gentleman's seat to be sold in the village. I made the survey of this place my apparent business. After going over the house, I appeared anxious to see how far some alterations could be made—alterations to render it more like Lord Lilburne's villa. This led me to request a sight of that villa—a crown to the housekeeper got me admittance. The housekeeper had lived with your father, and been retained by his lordship. I soon, therefore, knew which were the rooms the late Mr. Beaufort had principally occupied; shown into his study, where it was probable he would keep his papers, I inquired if it were the same furniture (which seemed likely enough from its age and fashion) as in your father's time: it was so; Lord Lilburne had bought the house just as it stood, and, save a few additions in the drawing-room, the general equipment of the villa remained unaltered. You look impatient!—I'm coming to the point. My eye fell upon an old-fashioned bureau—"
"But we searched every drawer in that bureau!"
"Any secret drawers?"
"Secret drawers! No! there were no secret drawers that I ever heard of!"
Mr. Barlow rubbed his hands and mused a moment.
"I was struck with that bureau; for any father had had one like it. It is not English—it is of Dutch manufacture."
"Yes, I have heard that my father bought it at a sale, three or four years after his marriage."
"I learned this from the housekeeper, who was flattered by my admiring it. I could not find out from her at what sale it had been purchased, but it was in the neighbourhood she was sure. I had now a date to go upon; I learned, by careless inquiries, what sales near Fernside had taken place in a certain year. A gentleman had died at that date whose furniture was sold by auction. With great difficulty, I found that his widow was still alive, living far up the country: I paid her a visit; and, not to fatigue you with too long an account, I have only to say that she not only assured me that she perfectly remembered the bureau, but that it had secret drawers and wells, very curiously contrived; nay, she showed me the very catalogue in which the said receptacles are noticed in capitals, to arrest the eye of the bidder, and increase the price of the bidding. That your father should never have revealed where he stowed this document is natural enough, during the life of his uncle; his own life was not spared long enough to give him much opportunity to explain afterwards, but I feel perfectly persuaded in my mind—that unless Mr. Robert Beaufort discovered that paper amongst the others he examined—in one of those drawers will be found all we want to substantiate your claims. This is the more likely from your father never mentioning, even to your mother apparently, the secret receptacles in the bureau. Why else such mystery? The probability is that he received the document either just before or at the time he purchased the bureau, or that he bought it for that very purpose: and, having once deposited the paper in a place he deemed secure from curiosity—accident, carelessness, policy, perhaps, rather shame itself (pardon me) for the doubt of your mother's discretion, that his secrecy seemed to imply, kept him from ever alluding to the circumstance, even when the intimacy of after years made him more assured of your mother's self-sacrificing devotion to his interests. At his uncle's death he thought to repair all!"
"And how, if that be true—if that Heaven which has delivered me hitherto from so many dangers, has, in the very secrecy of my poor father, saved my birthright front the gripe of the usurper—how, I say, is—-"
"The bureau to pass into our possession? That is the difficulty. But we must contrive it somehow, if all else fail us; meanwhile, as I now feel sure that there has been a copy of that register made, I wish to know whether I should not immediately cross the country into Wales, and see if I can find any person in the neighbourhood of A——- who did examine the copy taken: for, mark you, the said copy is only of importance as leading to the testimony of the actual witness who took it."
"Sir," said Vaudemont, heartily shaking Mr. Barlow by the hand, "forgive my first petulance. I see in you the very man I desired and wanted—your acuteness surprises and encourages me. Go to Wales, and God speed you!"
"Very well!—in five minutes I shall be off. Meanwhile, see the witness yourself; the sight of his benefactor's son will do more to keep him steady than anything else. There's his address, and take care not to give him money. And now I will order my chaise—the matter begins to look worth expense. Oh! I forgot to say that Monsieur Liancourt called on you yesterday about his own affairs. He wishes much to consult you. I told him you would probably be this evening in town, and he said he would wait you at your lodging."
"Yes—I will lose not a moment in going to London, and visiting our witness. And he saw my mother at the altar! My poor mother—Ah, how could my father have doubted her!" and as he spoke, he blushed for the first time with shame at that father's memory. He could not yet conceive that one so frank, one usually so bold and open, could for years have preserved from the woman who had sacrificed all to him, a secret to her so important! That was, in fact, the only blot on his father's honour— a foul and grave blot it was. Heavily had the punishment fallen on those whom the father loved best! Alas, Philip had not yet learned what terrible corrupters are the Hope and the Fear of immense Wealthy, even to men reputed the most honourable, if they have been reared and pampered in the belief that wealth is the Arch blessing of life. Rightly considered, in Philip Beaufort's solitary meanness lay the vast moral of this world's darkest truth!
Mr. Barlow was gone. Philip was about to enter his own chaise, when a dormeuse-and-four drove up to the inn-door to change horses. A young man was reclining, at his length, in the carriage, wrapped in cloaks, and with a ghastly paleness—the paleness of long and deep disease upon his cheeks. He turned his dim eye with, perhaps, a glance of the sick man's envy on that strong and athletic, form, majestic with health and vigour, as it stood beside the more humble vehicle. Philip did not, however, notice the new arrival; he sprang into the chaise, it rattled on, and thus, unconsciously, Arthur Beaufort and his cousin had again met. To which was now the Night—to which the Morning?
"Bakam. Let my men guard the walls. Syana. And mine the temple."—The Island Princess.
While thus eventfully the days and the weeks had passed for Philip, no less eventfully, so far as the inner life is concerned, had they glided away for Fanny. She had feasted in quiet and delighted thought on the consciousness that she was improving—that she was growing worthier of him—that he would perceive it on his return. Her manner was more thoughtful, more collected—less childish, in short, than it had been. And yet, with all the stir and flutter of the aroused intellect, the charm of her strange innocence was not scared away. She rejoiced in the ancient liberty she had regained of going out and coming back when she pleased; and as the weather was too cold ever to tempt Simon from his fireside, except, perhaps, for half-an-hour in the forenoon, so the hours of dusk, when he least missed her, were those which she chiefly appropriated for stealing away to the good school-mistress, and growing wiser and wiser every day in the ways of God and the learning of His creatures. The schoolmistress was not a brilliant woman. Nor was it accomplishments of which Fanny stood in need, so much as the opening of her thoughts and mind by profitable books and rational conversation. Beautiful as were all her natural feelings, the schoolmistress had now little difficulty in educating feelings up to the dignity of principles.
At last, hitherto patient under the absence of one never absent from her heart, Fanny received from him the letter he had addressed to her two days before he quitted Beaufort Court;—another letter—a second letter— a letter to excuse himself for not coming before—a letter that gave her an address that asked for a reply. It was a morning of unequalled delight approaching to transport. And then the excitement of answering the letter—the pride of showing how she was improved, what an excellent hand she now wrote! She shut herself up in her room: she did not go out that day. She placed the paper before her, and, to her astonishment, all that she had to say vanished from her mind at once. How was she even to begin? She had always hitherto called him "Brother." Ever since her conversation with Sarah she felt that she could not call him that name again for the world—no, never! But what should she call him—what could she call him? He signed himself "Philip." She knew that was his name. She thought it a musical name to utter, but to write it! No! some instinct she could not account for seemed to whisper that it was improper—presumptuous, to call him "Dear Philip." Had Burns's songs— the songs that unthinkingly he had put into her hand, and told her to read—songs that comprise the most beautiful love-poems in the world—had they helped to teach her some of the secrets of her own heart? And had timidity come with knowledge? Who shall say—who guess what passed within her? Nor did Fanny herself, perhaps, know her own feelings: but write the words "Dear Philip" she could not. And the whole of that day, though she thought of nothing else, she could not even get through the first line to her satisfaction. The next morning she sat down again. It would be so unkind if she did not answer immediately: she must answer. She placed his letter before her—she resolutely began. But copy after copy was made and torn. And Simon wanted her—and Sarah wanted her—and there were bills to be paid; and dinner was over before her task was really begun. But after dinner she began in good earnest.
"How kind in you to write to me" (the difficulty of any name was dispensed with by adopting none), "and to wish to know about my dear grandfather! He is much the same, but hardly ever walks out now, and I have had a good deal of time to myself. I think something will surprise you, and make you smile, as you used to do at first, when you come back. You must not be angry with me that I have gone out by myself very often —every day, indeed. I have been so safe. Nobody has ever offered to be rude again to Fanny" (the word "Fanny" was carefully scratched out with a penknife, and me substituted). "But you shall know all when you come. And are you sure you are well—quite—quite well? Do you never have the headaches you complained of sometimes? Do say this? Do you walk out- every day? Is there any pretty churchyard near you now? Whom do you walk with?
"I have been so happy in putting the flowers on the two graves. But I still give yours the prettiest, though the other is so dear to me. I feel sad when I come to the last, but not when I look at the one I have looked at so long. Oh, how good you were! But you don't like me to thank you."
"This is very stupid!" cried Fanny, suddenly throwing down her pen; "and I don't think I am improved at it;" and she half cried with vexation. Suddenly a bright idea crossed her. In the little parlour where the schoolmistress privately received her, she had seen among the books, and thought at the time how useful it might be to her if ever she had to write to Philip, a little volume entitled, The Complete Letter Writer. She knew by the title-page that it contained models for every description of letter—no doubt it would contain the precise thing that would suit the present occasion. She started up at the notion. She would go—she could be back to finish the letter before post-time. She put on her bonnet—left the letter, in her haste, open on the table—and just looking into the parlour in her way to the street door, to convince herself that Simon was asleep, and the wire-guard was on the fire, she hurried to the kind schoolmistress.
One of the fogs that in autumn gather sullenly over London and its suburbs covered the declining day with premature dimness. It grew darker and darker as she proceeded, but she reached the house in safety. She spent a quarter of an hour in timidly consulting her friend about all kinds of letters except the identical one that she intended to write, and having had it strongly impressed on her mind that if the letter was to a gentleman at all genteel, she ought to begin "Dear Sir," and end with "I have the honour to remain;" and that he would be everlastingly offended if she did not in the address affix "Esquire" to his name (that, was a great discovery),—she carried off the precious volume, and quitted the house. There was a wall that, bounding the demesnes of the school, ran for some short distance into the main street. The increasing fog, here, faintly struggled against the glimmer of a single lamp at some little distance. Just in this spot, her eye was caught by a dark object in the road, which she could scarcely perceive to be a carriage, when her hand was seized, and a voice said in her ear:—
"Ah! you will not be so cruel to me, I hope, as you were to my messenger! I have come myself for you."
She turned in great alarm, but the darkness prevented her recognising the face of him who thus accosted her. "Let me go!" she cried,—"let me go!"
"Hush! hush! No—no. Come with me. You shall have a house—carriage— servants! You shall wear silk gowns and jewels! You shall be a great lady!"
As these various temptations succeeded in rapid course each new struggle of Fanny, a voice from the coach-box said in a low tone,—
"Take care, my lord, I see somebody coming—perhaps a policeman!"
Fanny heard the caution, and screamed for rescue.
"Is it so?" muttered the molester. And suddenly Fanny felt her voice checked—her head mantled—her light form lifted from the ground. She clung—she struggled it was in vain. It was the affair of a moment: she felt herself borne into the carriage—the door closed—the stranger was by her side, and his voice said:—
"Drive on, Dykeman. Fast! fast!"
Two or three minutes, which seemed to her terror as ages, elapsed, when the gag and the mantle were gently removed, and the same voice (she still could not see her companion) said in a very mild tone:—
"Do not alarm yourself; there is no cause,—indeed there is not. I would not have adopted this plan had there been any other—any gentler one. But I could not call at your own house—I knew no other where to meet you.
"This was the only course left to me—indeed it was. I made myself acquainted with your movements. Do not blame me, then, for prying into your footsteps. I watched for you all last night-you did not come out. I was in despair. At last I find you. Do not be so terrified: I will not even touch your hand if you do not wish it."
As he spoke, however, he attempted to touch it, and was repulsed with an energy that rather disconcerted him. The poor girl recoiled from him into the farthest corner of that prison in speechless horror—in the darkest confusion of ideas. She did not weep—she did not sob—but her trembling seemed to shake the very carriage. The man continued to address, to expostulate, to pray, to soothe.
His manner was respectful. His protestations that he would not harm her for the world were endless.
"Only just see the home I can give you; for two days—for one day. Only just hear how rich I can make you and your grandfather, and then if you wish to leave me, you shall."
More, much more, to this effect, did he continue to pour forth, without extracting any sound from Fanny but gasps as for breath, and now and then a low murmur:
"Let me go, let me go! My grandfather, my blind grandfather!"
And finally tears came to her relief, and she sobbed with a passion that alarmed, and perhaps even touched her companion, cynical and icy as he was. Meanwhile the carriage seemed to fly. Fast as two horses, thorough-bred, and almost at full speed, could go, they were whirled along, till about an hour, or even less, from the time in which she had been thus captured, the carriage stopped.
"Are we here already?" said the man, putting his head out of the window. "Do then as I told you. Not to the front door; to my study."
In two minutes more the carriage halted again, before a building which looked white and ghostlike through the mist. The driver dismounted, opened with a latch-key a window-door, entered for a moment to light the candles in a solitary room from a fire that blazed on the hearth, reappeared, and opened the carriage-door. It was with a difficulty for which they were scarcely prepared that they were enabled to get Fanny from the carriage. No soft words, no whispered prayers could draw her forth; and it was with no trifling address, for her companion sought to be as gentle as the force necessary to employ would allow, that he disengaged her hands from the window-frame, the lining, the cushions, to which they clung; and at last bore her into the house. The driver closed the window again as he retreated, and they were alone. Fanny then cast a wild, scarce conscious glance over the apartment. It was small and simply furnished. Opposite to her was an old-fashioned bureau, one of those quaint, elaborate monuments of Dutch ingenuity, which, during the present century, the audacious spirit of curiosity-vendors has transplanted from their native receptacles, to contrast, with grotesque strangeness, the neat handiwork of Gillow and Seddon. It had a physiognomy and character of its own—this fantastic foreigner! Inlaid with mosaics, depicting landscapes and animals; graceless in form and fashion, but still picturesque, and winning admiration, when more closely observed, from the patient defiance of all rules of taste which had formed its cumbrous parts into one profusely ornamented and eccentric whole. It was the more noticeable from its total want of harmony with the other appurtenances of the room, which bespoke the tastes of the plain English squire. Prints of horses and hunts, fishing-rods and fowling-pieces, carefully suspended, decorated the walls. Not, however, on this notable stranger from the sluggish land rested the eye of Fanny. That, in her hurried survey, was arrested only by a portrait placed over the bureau—the portrait of a female in the bloom of life; a face so fair, a brow so candid, and eyes so pure, a lip so rich in youth and joy —that as her look lingered on the features Fanny felt comforted, felt as if some living protectress were there. The fire burned bright and merrily; a table, spread as for dinner, was drawn near it. To any other eye but Fanny's the place would have seemed a picture of English comfort. At last her looks rested on her companion. He had thrown himself, with a long sigh, partly of fatigue, partly of satisfaction, on one of the chairs, and was contemplating her as she thus stood and gazed, with an expression of mingled curiosity and admiration; she recognised at once her first, her only persecutor. She recoiled, and covered her face with her hands. The man approached her:—
"Do not hate me, Fanny,—do not turn away. Believe me, though I have acted thus violently, here all violence will cease. I love you, but I will not be satisfied till you love me in return. I am not young, and I am not handsome, but I am rich and great, and I can make those whom I love happy,—so happy, Fanny!"
But Fanny had turned away, and was now busily employed in trying to re-open the door at which she had entered. Failing in this, she suddenly darted away, opened the inner door, and rushed into the passage with a loud cry. Her persecutor stifled an oath, and sprung after and arrested her. He now spoke sternly, and with a smile and a frown at once:—
"This is folly;—come back, or you will repent it! I have promised you, as a gentleman—as a nobleman, if you know what that is—to respect you. But neither will I myself be trifled with nor insulted. There must be no screams!"
His look and his voice awed Fanny in spite of her bewilderment and her loathing, and she suffered herself passively to be drawn into the room. He closed and bolted the door. She threw herself on the ground in one corner, and moaned low but piteously. He looked at her musingly for some moments, as he stood by the fire, and at last went to the door, opened it, and called "Harriet" in a low voice. Presently a young woman, of about thirty, appeared, neatly but plainly dressed, and of a countenance that, if not very winning, might certainly be called very handsome. He drew her aside for a few moments, and a whispered conference was exchanged. He then walked gravely up to Fanny "My young friend," said he, "I see my presence is too much for you this evening. This young woman will attend you—will get you all you want. She can tell you, too, that I am not the terrible sort of person you seem to suppose. I shall see you to-morrow." So saying, he turned on his heel and walked out.
Fanny felt something like liberty, something like joy, again. She rose, and looked so pleadingly, so earnestly, so intently into the woman's face, that Harriet turned away her bold eyes abashed; and at this moment Dykeman himself looked into the room.
"You are to bring us in dinner here yourself, uncle; and then go to my lord in the drawing-room."
Dykeman looked pleased, and vanished. Then Harriet came up and took Fanny's hand, and said, kindly,—
"Don't be frightened. I assure you, half the girls in London would give I don't know what to be in your place. My lord never will force you to do anything you don't like—it's not his way; and he's the kindest and best man,—and so rich; he does not know what to do with his money!"
To all this Fanny made but one answer,—she threw herself suddenly upon the woman's breast, and sobbed out: "My grandfather is blind, he cannot do without me—he will die—die. Have you nobody you love, too? Let me go—let me out! What can they want with me?—I never did harm to any one."
"And no one will harm you;—I swear it!" said Harriet, earnestly. "I see you don't know my lord. But here's the dinner; come, and take a bit of something, and a glass of wine."
Fanny could not touch anything except a glass of water, and that nearly choked her. But at last, as she recovered her senses, the absence of her tormentor—the presence of a woman—the solemn assurances of Harriet that, if she did not like to stay there, after a day or two, she should go back, tranquillised her in some measure. She did not heed the artful and lengthened eulogiums that the she-tempter then proceeded to pour forth upon the virtues, and the love, and the generosity, and, above all, the money of my lord. She only kept repeating to herself, "I shall go back in a day or two." At length, Harriet, having eaten and drunk as much as she could by her single self, and growing wearied with efforts from which so little resulted, proposed to Fanny to retire to rest. She opened a door to the right of the fireplace, and lighted her up a winding staircase to a pretty and comfortable chamber, where she offered to help her to undress. Fanny's complete innocence, and her utter ignorance of the precise nature of the danger that awaited her, though she fancied it must be very great and very awful, prevented her quite comprehending all that Harriet meant to convey by her solemn assurances that she should not be disturbed. But she understood, at least, that she was not to see her hateful gaoler till the next morning; and when Harriet, wishing her "good night," showed her a bolt to her door, she was less terrified at the thought of being alone in that strange place. She listened till Harriet's footsteps had died away, and then, with a beating heart, tried to open the door; it was locked from without. She sighed heavily. The window?—alas! when she had removed the shutter, there was another one barred from without, which precluded all hope there; she had no help for it but to bolt her door, stand forlorn and amazed at her own condition, and, at last, falling on her knees, to pray, in her own simple fashion, which since her recent visits to the schoolmistress had become more intelligent and earnest, to Him from whom no bolts and no bars can exclude the voice of the human heart.
"In te omnis domus inclinata recumbit."—VIRGIL.
[On thee the whole house rests confidingly.]
Lord Lilburne, seated before a tray in the drawing-room, was finishing his own solitary dinner, and Dykeman was standing close behind him, nervous and agitated. The confidence of many years between the master and the servant—the peculiar mind of Lilburne, which excluded him from all friendship with his own equals—had established between the two the kind of intimacy so common with the noble and the valet of the old French regime, and indeed, in much Lilburne more resembled the men of that day and land, than he did the nobler and statelier being which belongs to our own. But to the end of time, whatever is at once vicious, polished, and intellectual, will have a common likeness.
"But, my lord," said Dykeman, "just reflect. This girl is so well known in the place; she will be sure to be missed; and if any violence is done to her, it's a capital crime, my lord—a capital crime. I know they can't hang a great lord like you, but all concerned in it may——"
Lord Lilburne interrupted the speaker by, "Give me some wine and hold your tongue!" Then, when he had emptied his glass, he drew himself nearer to the fire, warmed his hands, mused a moment, and turned round to his confidant:—
"Dykeman," said he, "though you're an ass and a coward, and you don't deserve that I should be so condescending, I will relieve your fears at once. I know the law better than you can, for my whole life has been spent in doing exactly as I please, without ever putting myself in the power of LAW, which interferes with the pleasures of other men. You are right in saying violence would be a capital crime. Now the difference between vice and crime is this: Vice is what parsons write sermons against, Crime is what we make laws against. I never committed a crime in all my life,—at an age between fifty and sixty—I am not going to begin. Vices are safe things; I may have my vices like other men: but crimes are dangerous things—illegal things—things to be carefully avoided. Look you" (and here the speaker, fixing his puzzled listener with his eye, broke into a grin of sublime mockery), "let me suppose you to be the World—that cringing valet of valets, the WORLD! I should say to you this, 'My dear World, you and I understand each other well,—we are made for each other,—I never come in your way, nor you in mine. If I get drunk every day in my own room, that's vice, you can't touch me; if I take an extra glass for the first time in my life, and knock down the watchman, that's a crime which, if I am rich, costs me one pound—perhaps five pounds; if I am poor, sends me to the treadmill. If I break the hearts of five hundred old fathers, by buying with gold or flattery the embraces of five hundred young daughters, that's vice,—your servant, Mr. World! If one termagant wench scratches my face, makes a noise, and goes brazen-faced to the Old Bailey to swear to her shame, why that's crime, and my friend, Mr. World, pulls a hemp-rope out of his pocket.' Now, do you understand? Yes, I repeat," he added, with a change of voice, "I never committed a crime in my life,—I have never even been accused of one,—never had an action of crim. con.—of seduction against me. I know how to manage such matters better. I was forced to carry off this girl, because I had no other means of courting her. To court her is all I mean to do now. I am perfectly aware that an action for violence, as you call it, would be the more disagreeable, because of the very weakness of intellect which the girl is said to possess, and of which report I don't believe a word. I shall most certainly avoid even the remotest appearance that could be so construed. It is for that reason that no one in the house shall attend the girl except yourself and your niece. Your niece I can depend on, I know; I have been kind to her; I have got her a good husband; I shall get her husband a good place;—I shall be godfather to her first child. To be sure, the other servants will know there's a lady in the house, but to that they are accustomed; I don't set up for a Joseph. They need know no more, unless you choose to blab it out. Well, then, supposing that at the end of a few days, more or less, without any rudeness on my part, a young woman, after seeing a few jewels, and fine dresses, and a pretty house, and being made very comfortable, and being convinced that her grandfather shall be taken care of without her slaving herself to death, chooses of her own accord to live with me, where's the crime, and who can interfere with it?"
"Certainly, my lord, that alters the case," said Dykeman, considerably relieved. "But still," he added, anxiously, "if the inquiry is made,—if before all this is settled, it is found out where she is?"
"Why then no harm will be done—no violence will be committed. Her grandfather,—drivelling and a miser, you say—can be appeased by a little money, and it will be nobody's business, and no case can be made of it. Tush! man! I always look before I leap! People in this world are not so charitable as you suppose. What more natural than that a poor and pretty girl—not as wise as Queen Elizabeth—should be tempted to pay a visit to a rich lover!
"All they can say of the lover is, that he is a very gay man or a very bad man, and that's saying nothing new of me. But don't think it will be found out. Just get me that stool; this has been a very troublesome piece of business—rather tried me. I am not so young as I was. Yes, Dykeman, something which that Frenchman Vaudemont, or Vautrien, or whatever his name is, said to me once, has a certain degree of truth. I felt it in the last fit of the gout, when my pretty niece was smoothing my pillows. A nurse, as we grow older, may be of use to one. I wish to make this girl like me, or be grateful to me. I am meditating a longer and more serious attachment than usual,—a companion!"
"A companion, my lord, in that poor creature!—so ignorant—so uneducated!"
"So much the better. This world palls upon me," said Lilburne, almost gloomily. "I grow sick of the miserable quackeries—of the piteous conceits that men, women, and children call 'knowledge,' I wish to catch a glimpse of nature before I die. This creature interests me, and that is something in this life. Clear those things away, and leave me."
"Ay!" muttered Lilburne, as he bent over the fire alone, "when I first heard that that girl was the granddaughter of Simon Gawtrey, and, therefore, the child of the man whom I am to thank that I am a cripple, I felt as if love to her were a part of that hate which I owe to him; a segment in the circle of my vengeance. But now, poor child!
"I forget all this. I feel for her, not passion, but what I never felt before, affection. I feel that if I had such a child, I could understand what men mean when they talk of the tenderness of a father. I have not one impure thought for that girl—not one. But I would give thousands if she could love me. Strange! strange! in all this I do not recognise myself!"
Lord Lilburne retired to rest betimes that night; he slept sound; rose refreshed at an earlier hour than usual; and what he considered a fit of vapours of the previous night was passed away. He looked with eagerness to an interview with Fanny. Proud of his intellect, pleased in any of those sinister exercises of it which the code and habits of his life so long permitted to him, he regarded the conquest of his fair adversary with the interest of a scientific game. Harriet went to Fanny's room to prepare her to receive her host; and Lord Lilburne now resolved to make his own visit the less unwelcome by reserving for his especial gift some showy, if not valuable, trinkets, which for similar purposes never failed the depositories of the villa he had purchased for his pleasures. He, recollected that these gewgaws were placed in the bureau in the study; in which, as having a lock of foreign and intricate workmanship, he usually kept whatever might tempt cupidity in those frequent absences when the house was left guarded but by two women servants. Finding that Fanny had not yet quitted her own chamber, while Harriet went up to attend and reason with her, he himself limped into the study below, unlocked the bureau, and was searching in the drawers, when he heard the voice of Fanny above, raised a little as if in remonstrance or entreaty; and he paused to listen. He could not, however, distinguish what was said; and in the meanwhile, without attending much to what he was about, his bands were still employed in opening and shutting the drawers, passing through the pigeon-holes, and feeling for a topaz brooch, which he thought could not fail of pleasing the unsophisticated eyes of Fanny. One of the recesses was deeper than the rest; he fancied the brooch was there; he stretched his hand into the recess; and, as the room was partially darkened by the lower shutters from without, which were still unclosed to prevent any attempted escape of his captive, he had only the sense of touch to depend on; not finding the brooch, he stretched on till he came to the extremity of the recess, and was suddenly sensible of a sharp pain; the flesh seemed caught as in a trap; he drew back his finger with sudden force and a half-suppressed exclamation, and he perceived the bottom or floor of the pigeon-hole recede, as if sliding back. His curiosity was aroused; he again felt warily and cautiously, and discovered a very slight inequality and roughness at the extremity of the recess. He was aware instantly that there was some secret spring; he pressed with some force on the spot, and he felt the board give way; he pushed it back towards him, and it slid suddenly with a whirring noise, and left a cavity below exposed to his sight. He peered in, and drew forth a paper; he opened it at first carelessly, for he was still trying to listen to Fanny. His eye ran rapidly over a few preliminary lines till it rested on what follows:
"Marriage. The year 18—
"No. 83, page 21.
"Philip Beaufort, of this parish of A——-, and Catherine Morton, of the parish of St. Botolph, Aldgate, London, were married in this church by banns, this 12th day of November, in the year one thousand eight hundred and ——' by me, "CALEB PRICE, Vicar.
"This marriage was solemnised between us, "PHILIP BEAUFORT. "CATHERINE MORTON.
"In the presence of "DAVID APREECE. "WILLIAM SMITH.
"The above is a true copy taken from the registry of marriages, in A——- parish, this 19th day of March, 18—, by me, "MORGAN JONES, Curate of C———-."
[This is according to the form customary at the date at which the copy was made. There has since been an alteration.]
Lord Lilburne again cast his eye over the lines prefixed to this startling document, which, being those written at Caleb's desire, by Mr. Jones to Philip Beaufort, we need not here transcribe to the reader. At that instant Harriet descended the stairs, and came into the room; she crept up on tiptoe to Lilburne, and whispered,—
"She is coming down, I think; she does not know you are here."
"Very well—go!" said Lord Lilburne. And scarce had Harriet left the room, when a carriage drove furiously to the door, and Robert Beaufort rushed into the study.
"Gone, and none know it.
How now?—What news, what hopes and steps discovered!" BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: The Pilgrim.
When Philip arrived at his lodgings in town it was very late, but he still found Liancourt waiting the chance of his arrival. The Frenchman was full of his own schemes and projects. He was a man of high repute and connections; negotiations for his recall to Paris had been entered into; he was divided between a Quixotic loyalty and a rational prudence; he brought his doubts to Vaudemont. Occupied as he was with thoughts of so important and personal a nature, Philip could yet listen patiently to his friend, and weigh with him the pros and cons. And after having mutually agreed that loyalty and prudence would both be best consulted by waiting a little, to see if the nation, as the Carlists yet fondly trusted, would soon, after its first fever, offer once more the throne and the purple to the descendant of St. Louis, Liancourt, as he lighted his cigar to walk home, said, "A thousand thanks to you, my dear friend: and how have you enjoyed yourself in your visit? I am not surprised or jealous that Lilburne did not invite me, as I do not play at cards, and as I have said some sharp things to him!"
"I fancy I shall have the same disqualifications for another invitation," said Vaudemont, with a severe smile. "I may have much to disclose to you in a few days. At present my news is still unripe. And have you seen anything of Lilburne? He left us some days since. Is he in London?" "Yes; I was riding with our friend Henri, who wished to try a new horse off the stones, a little way into the country yesterday. We went through ——— and H——. Pretty places, those. Do you know them?"
"Yes; I know H——."
"And just at dusk, as we were spurring back to town, whom should I see walking on the path of the high-road but Lord Lilburne himself! I could hardly believe my eyes. I stopped, and, after asking him about you, I could not help expressing my surprise to see him on foot at such a place. You know the man's sneer. 'A Frenchman so gallant as Monsieur de Liancourt,' said he, 'need not be surprised at much greater miracles; the iron moves to the magnet: I have a little adventure here. Pardon me if I ask you to ride on.' Of course I wished him good day; and a little farther up the road I saw a dark plain chariot, no coronet, no arms, no footman only the man on the box, but the beauty of the horses assured me it must belong to Lilburne. Can you conceive such absurdity in a man of that age—and a very clever fellow too? Yet, how is it that one does not ridicule it in Lilburne, as one would in another man between fifty and sixty?"
"Because one does not ridicule,—one loathes-him."
"No; that's not it. The fact is that one can't fancy Lilburne old. His manner is young—his eye is young. I never saw any one with so much vitality. 'The bad heart and the good digestion'—the twin secrets for wearing well, eh!"
"Where did you meet him—not near H——?"
"Yes; close by. Why? Have you any adventure there too? Nay, forgive me; it was but a jest. Good night!"
Vaudemont fell into an uneasy reverie: he could not divine exactly why he should be alarmed; but he was alarmed at Lilburne being in the neighbourhood of H——. It was the foot of the profane violating the sanctuary. An undefined thrill shot through him, as his mind coupled together the associations of Lilburne and Fanny; but there was no ground for forebodings. Fanny did not stir out alone. An adventure, too—pooh! Lord Lilburne must be awaiting a willing and voluntary appointment, most probably from some one of the fair but decorous frailties of London. Lord Lilburne's more recent conquests were said to be among those of his own rank; suburbs are useful for such assignations. Any other thought was too horrible to be contemplated. He glanced to the clock; it was three in the morning. He would go to H—— early, even before he sought out Mr. William Smith. With that resolution, and even his hardy frame worn out by the excitement of the day, he threw himself on his bed and fell asleep.
He did not wake till near nine, and had just dressed, and hurried over his abstemious breakfast, when the servant of the house came to tell him that an old woman, apparently in great agitation, wished to see him. His head was still full of witnesses and lawsuits; and he was vaguely expecting some visitor connected with his primary objects, when Sarah broke into the room. She cast a hurried, suspicious look round her, and then throwing herself on her knees to him, "Oh!" she cried, "if you have taken that poor young thing away, God forgive you. Let her come back again. It shall be all hushed up. Don't ruin her! don't, that's a dear good gentleman!"
"Speak plainly, woman—what do you mean?" cried Philip, turning pale.
A very few words sufficed for an explanation: Fanny's disappearance the previous night; the alarm of Sarah at her non-return; the apathy of old Simon, who did not comprehend what had happened, and quietly went to bed; the search Sarah had made during half the night; the intelligence she had picked up, that the policeman, going his rounds, had heard a female shriek near the school; but that all he could perceive through the mist was a carriage driving rapidly past him; Sarah's suspicions of Vaudemont confirmed in the morning, when, entering Fanny's room, she perceived the poor girl's unfinished letter with his own, the clue to his address that the letter gave her; all this, ere she well understood what she herself was talking about,—Vaudemont's alarm seized, and the reflection of a moment construed: the carriage; Lilburne seen lurking in the neighbourhood the previous day; the former attempt;—all flashed on him with an intolerable glare. While Sarah was yet speaking, he rushed from the house, he flew to Lord Lilburne's in Park Lane; he composed his manner, he inquired calmly. His lordship had slept from home; he was, they believed, at Fernside: Fernside! H—— was on the direct way to that villa. Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed since he heard the story ere he was on the road, with such speed as the promise of a guinea a mile could extract from the spurs of a young post-boy applied to the flanks of London post-horses.
"Ex humili magna ad fastigia rerum Extollit."—JUVENAL.
[Fortune raises men from low estate to the very summit of prosperity.]
When Harriet had quitted Fanny, the waiting-woman, craftily wishing to lure her into Lilburne's presence, had told her that the room below was empty; and the captive's mind naturally and instantly seized on the thought of escape. After a brief breathing pause, she crept noiselessly down the stairs, and gently opened the door; and at the very instant she did so, Robert Beaufort entered from the other door; she drew back in terror, when, what was her astonishment in hearing a name uttered that spell-bound her—the last name she could have expected to hear; for Lilburne, the instant he saw Beaufort, pale, haggard, agitated, rush into the room, and bang the door after him, could only suppose that something of extraordinary moment had occurred with regard to the dreaded guest, and cried:
"You come about Vaudemont! Something has happened about Vaudemont! about Philip! What is it? Calm yourself."
Fanny, as the name was thus abruptly uttered, actually thrust her face through the door; but she again drew back, and, all her senses preternaturally quickened at that name, while she held the door almost closed, listened with her whole soul in her ears.
The faces of both the men were turned from her, and her partial entry had not been perceived.
"Yes," said Robert Beaufort, leaning his weight, as if ready to sink to the ground, upon Lilburne's shoulder, "Yes; Vaudemont, or Philip, for they are one,—yes, it is about that man I have come to consult you. Arthur has arrived."
"And Arthur has seen the wretch who visited us, and the rascal's manner has so imposed on him, so convinced him that Philip is the heir to all our property, that he has come over-ill, ill—I fear" (added Beaufort, in a hollow voice), "dying, to—to—"
"To guard against their machinations?"
"No, no, no—to say that if such be the case, neither honour nor conscience will allow us to resist his rights. He is so obstinate in this matter; his nerves so ill bear reasoning and contradiction, that I know not what to do—"
"Take breath-go on."
"Well, it seems that this man found out Arthur almost as soon as my son arrived at Paris—that he has persuaded Arthur that he has it in his power to prove the marriage—that he pretended to be very impatient for a decision—that Arthur, in order to gain time to see me, affected irresolution—took him to Boulogne, for the rascal does not dare to return to England—left him there; and now comes back, my own son, as my worst enemy, to conspire against me for my property! I could not have kept my temper if I had stayed. But that's not all—that's not the worst: Vaudemont left me suddenly in the morning on the receipt of a letter. In taking leave of Camilla he let fall hints which fill me with fear. Well, I inquired his movements as I came along; he had stopped at D——, had been closeted for above an hour with a man whose name the landlord of the inn knew, for it was on his carpet-bag—the name was Barlow. You remember the advertisements! Good Heavens! what is to be done? I would not do anything unhandsome or dishonest. But there never was a marriage. I never will believe there was a marriage—never!"
"There was a marriage, Robert Beaufort," said Lord Lilburne, almost enjoying the torture he was about to inflict; "and I hold here a paper that Philip Vaudemont—for so we will yet call him—would give his right hand to clutch for a moment. I have but just found it in a secret cavity in that bureau. Robert, on this paper may depend the fate, the fortune, the prosperity, the greatness of Philip Vaudemont;—or his poverty, his exile, his ruin. See!"
Robert Beaufort glanced over the paper held out to him—dropped it on the floor—and staggered to a seat. Lilburne coolly replaced the document in the bureau, and, limping to his brother-in-law, said with a smile,—
"But the paper is in my possession—I will not destroy it. No; I have no right to destroy it. Besides, it would be a crime; but if I give it to you, you can do with it as you please."
"O Lilburne, spare me—spare me. I meant to be an honest man. I—I—" And Robert Beaufort sobbed. Lilburne looked at him in scornful surprise.
"Do not fear that I shall ever think worse of you; and who else will know it? Do not fear me. No;—I, too, have reasons to hate and to fear this Philip Vaudemont; for Vaudemont shall be his name, and not Beaufort, in spite of fifty such scraps of paper! He has known a man—my worst foe— he has secrets of mine—of my past-perhaps of my present: but I laugh at his knowledge while he is a wandering adventurer;—I should tremble at that knowledge if he could thunder it out to the world as Philip Beaufort of Beaufort Court! There, I am candid with you. Now hear my plan. Prove to Arthur that his visitor is a convicted felon, by sending the officers of justice after him instantly—off with him again to the Settlements. Defy a single witness—entrap Vaudemont back to France and prove him (I think I will prove him such—I think so—with a little money and a little pains)—prove him the accomplice of William Gawtrey, a coiner and a murderer! Pshaw! take yon paper. Do with it as you will— keep it-give it to Arthur—let Philip Vaudemont have it, and Philip Vaudemont will be rich and great, the happiest man between earth and paradise! On the other hand, come and tell me that you have lost it, or that I never gave you such a paper, or that no such paper ever existed; and Philip Vaudemont may live a pauper, and die, perhaps, a slave at the galleys! Lose it, I say,—lose it,—and advise with me upon the rest."
Horror-struck, bewildered, the weak man gazed upon the calm face of the Master-villain, as the scholar of the old fables might have gazed on the fiend who put before him worldly prosperity here and the loss of his soul hereafter. He had never hitherto regarded Lilburne in his true light. He was appalled by the black heart that lay bare before him.
"I can't destroy it—I can't," he faltered out; "and if I did, out of love for Arthur,—don't talk of galleys,—of vengeance—I—I—"
"The arrears of the rents you have enjoyed will send you to gaol for your life. No, no; don't destroy the paper."
Beaufort rose with a desperate effort; he moved to the bureau. Fanny's heart was on her lips;—of this long conference she had understood only the one broad point on which Lilburne had insisted with an emphasis that could have enlightened an infant; and he looked on Beaufort as an infant then—On that paper rested Philip Vaudemont's fate—happiness if saved, ruin if destroyed; Philip—her Philip! And Philip himself had said to her once—when had she ever forgotten his words? and now how those words flashed across her—Philip himself had said to her once, "Upon a scrap of paper, if I could but find it, may depend my whole fortune, my whole happiness, all that I care for in life."—Robert Beaufort moved to the bureau—he seized the document—he looked over it again, hurriedly, and ere Lilburne, who by no means wished to have it destroyed in his own presence, was aware of his intention—he hastened with tottering steps to the hearth-averted his eyes, and cast it on the fire. At that instant something white—he scarce knew what, it seemed to him as a spirit, as a ghost—darted by him, and snatched the paper, as yet uninjured, from the embers! There was a pause for the hundredth part of a moment:—a gurgling sound of astonishment and horror from Beaufort—an exclamation from Lilburne—a laugh from Fanny, as, her eyes flashing light, with a proud dilation of stature, with the paper clasped tightly to her bosom, she turned her looks of triumph from one to the other. The two men were both too amazed, at the instant, for rapid measures. But Lilburne, recovering himself first, hastened to her; she eluded his grasp—she made towards the door to the passage; when Lilburne, seriously alarmed, seized her arm;—
"Foolish child!—give me that paper!"
"Never but with my life!" And Fanny's cry for help rang through the house.
"Then—" the speech died on his lips, for at that instant a rapid stride was heard without—a momentary scuffle—voices in altercation;—the door gave way as if a battering ram had forced it;—not so much thrown forward as actually hurled into the room, the body of Dykeman fell heavily, like a dead man's, at the very feet of Lord Lilburne—and Philip Vaudemont stood in the doorway!
The grasp of Lilburne on Fanny's arm relaxed, and the girl, with one bound, sprung to Philip's breast. "Here, here!" she cried, "take it— take it!" and she thrust the paper into his hand. "Don't let them have it—read it—see it—never mind me!" But Philip, though his hand unconsciously closed on the precious document, did mind Fanny; and in that moment her cause was the only one in the world to him.
"Foul villain!" he said, as he strode to Lilburne, while Fanny still clung to his breast: "Speak!—speak!—is—she—is she?—man—man, speak! —you know what I would say!—She is the child of your own daughter—the grandchild of that Mary whom you dishonoured—the child of the woman whom William Gawtrey saved from pollution! Before he died, Gawtrey commended her to my care!—O God of Heaven!—speak!—I am not too late!"
The manner, the words, the face of Philip left Lilburne terror-stricken with conviction. But the man's crafty ability, debased as it was, triumphed even over remorse for the dread guilt meditated,—over gratitude for the dread guilt spared. He glanced at Beaufort—at Dykeman, who now, slowly recovering, gazed at him with eyes that seemed starting from their sockets; and lastly fixed his look on Philip himself. There were three witnesses—presence of mind was his great attribute.
"And if, Monsieur de Vaudemont, I knew, or, at least, had the firmest persuasion that Fanny was my grandchild, what then? Why else should she be here?—Pooh, sir! I am an old man."
Philip recoiled a step in wonder; his plain sense was baffled by the calm lie. He looked down at Fanny, who, comprehending nothing of what was spoken, for all her faculties, even her very sense of sight and hearing, were absorbed in her impatient anxiety for him, cried out:
"No harm has come to Fanny—none: only frightened. Read!—Read!—Save that paper!—You know what you once said about a mere scrap of paper! Come away! Come!"
He did now cast his eyes on the paper he held. That was an awful moment for Robert Beaufort—even for Lilburne! To snatch the fatal document from that gripe! They would as soon have snatched it from a tiger! He lifted his eyes—they rested on his mother's picture! Her lips smiled on him! He turned to Beaufort in a state of emotion too exulting, too blest for vulgar vengeance—for vulgar triumph—almost for words.
"Look yonder, Robert Beaufort—look!" and he pointed to the picture. "Her name is spotless! I stand again beneath a roof that was my father's,—the Heir of Beaufort! We shall meet before the justice of our country. For you, Lord Lilburne, I will believe you: it is too horrible to doubt even your intentions. If wrong had chanced to her, I would have rent you where you stand, limb from limb. And thank her",—(for Lilburne recovered at this language the daring of his youth, before calculation, indolence, and excess had dulled the edge of his nerves; and, unawed by the height, and manhood, and strength of his menacer, stalked haughtily up to him)—"and thank your relationship to her," said Philip, sinking his voice into a whisper, "that I do not brand you as a pilferer and a cheat! Hush, knave!—hush, pupil of George Gawtrey!—there are no duels for me but with men of honour!"
Lilburne now turned white, and the big word stuck in his throat. In another instant Fanny and her guardian had quitted the house.
"Dykeman," said Lord Lilburne after a long silence, "I shall ask you another time how you came to admit that impertinent person. At present, go and order breakfast for Mr. Beaufort."
As soon as Dykeman, more astounded, perhaps, by his lord's coolness than even by the preceding circumstances, had left the study, Lilburne came up to Beaufort,—who seemed absolutely stricken as if by palsy,—and touching him impatiently and rudely, said,—
"'Sdeath, man!—rouse yourself! There is not a moment to be lost! I have already decided on what you are to do. This paper is not worth a rush, unless the curate who examined it will depose to that fact. He is a curate—a Welsh curate;—you are yet Mr. Beaufort, a rich and a great man. The curate, properly managed, may depose to the contrary; and then we will indict them all for forgery and conspiracy. At the worst, you can, no doubt, get the parson to forget all about it—to stay away. His address was on the certificate:
"—C——-. Go yourself into Wales without an instant's delay— Then, having arranged with Mr. Jones, hurry back, cross to Boulogne, and buy this convict and his witnesses, buy them! That, now, is the only thing. Quick! quick!—quick! Zounds, man! if it were my affair, my estate, I would not care a pin for that fragment of paper; I should rather rejoice at it. I see how it could be turned against them! Go!"
"No, no; I am not equal to it! Will you manage it? will you? Half my estate!—all! Take it: but save—"
"Tut!" interrupted Lord Lilburne, in great disdain. "I am as rich as I want to be. Money does not bribe me. I manage this! I! Lord Lilburne. I! Why, if found out, it is subornation of witnesses. It is exposure— it is dishonour—it is ruin. What then? You should take the risk—for you must meet ruin if you do not. I cannot. I have nothing to gain!"
"I dare not!-I dare not!" murmured Beaufort, quite spirit-broken. "Subornation, dishonour, exposure!—and I, so respectable—my character! —and my son against me, too!—my son, in whom I lived again! No, no; let them take all! Let them take it! Ha! ha! let them take it! Good- day to you."
"Where are you going?"
"I shall consult Mr. Blackwell, and I'll let you know." And Beaufort walked tremulously back to his carriage. "Go to his lawyer!" growled Lilburne. "Yes, if his lawyer can help him to defraud men lawfully, he'll defraud them fast enough. That will be the respectable way of doing it! Um!—This may be an ugly business for me—the paper found here—if the girl can depose to what she heard, and she must have heard something.—No, I think the laws of real property will hardly allow her evidence; and if they do—Um!—My granddaughter—is it possible!—And Gawtrey rescued her mother, my child, from her own mother's vices! I thought my liking to that girl different from any other I have ever felt: it was pure—it was!—it was pity—affection. And I must never see her again—must forget the whole thing! And I sin growing old—and I am childless—and alone!" He paused, almost with a groan: and then the expression of his face changing to rage, he cried out, "The man threatened me, and I was a coward! What to do?—Nothing! The defensive is my line. I shall play no more.—I attack no one. Who will accuse Lord Lilburne? Still, Robert is a fool. I must not leave him to himself. Ho! there! Dykeman!—the carriage! I shall go to London."