At this very unexpected reply the spectators tittered, and Mr. Sergeant Buzfuz said curtly, "Stand down, sir."
Sergeant Snubbin then addressed the jury on behalf of the defendant, and after that Mr. Justice Stareleigh summed up.
At the end of a quarter of an hour the jury brought in a verdict for the plaintiff with L750 damages.
In the court-room Mr. Pickwick encountered Messrs. Dodson and Fogg, rubbing their hands with satisfaction.
"Not one farthing of costs or damages do you ever get out of me, if I spend the rest of my existence in a debtor's prison," said Mr. Pickwick.
"We shall see about that," said Mr. Fogg grinning.
Outside Mr. Pickwick and his friends made their way to a hackney coach, and Sam Weller was just preparing to jump upon the box when his father stood before him. The old gentleman shook his head gravely and said in warning accents, "I know'd what 'ud come o' this here mode o' doin' bisness. Oh, Sammy, Sammy, vy worn't there a alleybi?"
"But surely, my dear sir," said Perker to his client the following morning, "you don't really mean, seriously now, that you won't pay these costs and damages?"
"Not one halfpenny," said Mr. Pickwick.
"Hooroar for the principle, as the money-lender said ven he vouldn't renew the bill," observed Mr. Samuel Weller.
III.—In the Fleet Prison
Two months later Mr. Pickwick was arrested for the non-payment of costs and damages and taken to the Fleet Prison. And so, for the first time in his life, Mr. Pickwick found himself within the walls of a debtor's prison.
"Where am I to sleep to-night?" inquired Mr. Pickwick of the turnkey, and after some discussion it was discovered there was a bed to let.
"It ain't a large 'un, but it's an out-and-outer to sleep in. This way, sir," said the turnkey.
Mr. Pickwick, accompanied by Sam Weller, followed his guide up a staircase and along a gallery; at the end of this was an apartment containing eight or nine iron bedsteads.
Mr. Pickwick felt very low-spirited and uncomfortable when he was left alone, and he went slowly to bed. He was awakened from his slumbers by the noise of his bed-fellows, one of whom, wearing grey cotton stockings, was performing a hornpipe; while another, evidently very drunk, was warbling as much as he could recollect of a comic song; the third, a man with thick, bushy whiskers, was applauding both performers.
"My name is Smangle, sir," said the man with the whiskers to Mr. Pickwick.
"Mine is Mivins," said the man in the stockings.
"Well; but come," said Mr. Smangle, after assuring Mr. Pickwick a great many times that he entertained a very high respect for the feelings of a gentleman, "this is but dry work. Let's rinse our mouths with a drop of burnt sherry; the last-comer shall stand it, Mivins shall fetch it, and I'll help to drink it. That's a fair and gentleman-like division of labour, anyhow."
Mr. Pickwick, unwilling to hazard a quarrel, gladly assented to the proposition.
When Mr. Pickwick opened his eyes next morning, the first object upon which they rested was Samuel Weller, seated upon a small black portmanteau.
He soon learnt that money was in the Fleet just what money was out of it; and that if he wished it he could have a room to himself, if he was willing to pay for it.
"There's a capital room up in the coffee-room flight that belongs to a Chancery prisoner," said the turnkey. "It'll stand you in a pound a week. Lord! Why didn't you say at first that you was willing to come down handsome?"
The matter was soon arranged, and in a short time the room was furnished.
"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, when his servant had done his best to make the apartment comfortable, and was now inspecting the arrangements, "I have felt from the first that this is not the place to bring a young man to."
"Nor an old 'un neither, sir."
"You're quite right, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick. "But old men may come here through their own heedlessness and unsuspicion. Do you understand me, Sam?"
"Vell, sir," rejoined Sam, after a pause, "I think I see your drift, and it's my 'pinion that you're a-comin' it a great deal too strong, as the mail-coachman said to the snowstorm ven it overtook him."
"For the time that I remain here," said Mr. Pickwick, "you must leave me, Sam."
"Now, I tell you vot it is," said Mr. Weller, in a grave and solemn voice. "This here sort o' thing won't do at all, so don't let's hear no more about it."
"I am serious, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.
"You air, air you, sir?" inquired Mr. Weller. "Wery good, sir. Then so am I."
With that Mr. Weller fixed his hat on his head with great precision and left the room. Having found his father, Sam explained to the elder Mr. Weller that Mr. Pickwick must not be left alone in the Fleet.
"Vy, they'll eat him up alive, Sammy!" exclaimed the elder Mr. Weller. "Stop there by himself, poor creetur, without nobody to take his part! It can't be done, Samivel, it can't be done!"
"O' course it can't," asserted Sam. "Well, then, I tell you wot it is. I'll trouble you for the loan of five-and-twenty pound. P'raps you may ask for it five minits artervards, p'raps I may say I von't pay, and cut up rough. You von't think o' arrestin' your own son for the money, and sendin' him off to the Fleet, will you, you unnat'ral wagabone?"
The elder Mr. Weller, having grasped the idea, laughed till he was purple.
In the course of the day Sam was duly arrested at the suit of his father, and Sam, having been formally delivered into the warden's custody, passed at once into the prison, and went straight to his master's room.
"I'm a pris'ner, sir," said Sam. "I was arrested this here wery arternoon for debt, and the man as put me in 'ull never let me out till you go yourself."
"Bless my heart and soul!" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick. "What do you mean?"
"Wot I say, sir," rejoined Sam. "If it's forty year to come, I shall be a pris'ner, and I'm very glad on it. He's a malicious, bad-disposed, vorldly-minded, windictive creetur wot's put me in, with a hard heart as there ain't no soft'nin', as the wirtuous clergyman remarked of the old gen'l'm'n with a dropsy, ven he said that upon the whole he thought he'd rather leave his property to his vife than build a chapel with it."
In vain Mr. Pickwick remonstrated.
"I takes my determination on principle, sir," remarked Sam, "and you takes yours on the same ground; vich puts me in mind o' the man as killed hisself on principle."
IV.—Mr. Pickwick Leaves the Fleet
Those enterprising lawyers, Messrs. Dodson and Fogg, having obtained no money from Mr. Pickwick, proceeded in July to arrest Mrs. Bardell, who, as a matter of form, had given them a cognovit for the amount of their costs.
Mr. Pickwick was taking his evening walk in the grounds of the Fleet when Mrs. Bardell was brought in, and Sam Weller, seeing the lady, took off his hat in mock reverence. Mr. Pickwick turned indignantly away.
"Don't bother the woman," said the turnkey to Weller; "she's just come in."
"A pris'ner!" said Sam. "Who's the plaintives? What for? Speak up, old feller!"
"Dodson and Fogg," replied the man.
"Here, Job, Job!" shouted Sam, dashing into the passage, and calling for a man who went errands for the prisoners. "Run to Mr. Perker's, Job; I want him directly. I see some good in this. Here's a game! Hooray!"
Mr. Perker was in Mr. Pickwick's room betimes next morning.
"Well, now, my dear sir," said Perker, "the first question I have to ask is whether this woman is to remain here? It rests solely and wholly and entirely with you."
"With me!" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick.
"Nobody but you can rescue her from this den of wretchedness, to which no man, and still more no woman, should ever be consigned if I had my will," resumed Mr. Perker. "I have seen the woman this morning. By paying the costs, you can obtain a full release and discharge from the damages; and, further, a voluntary statement, under her hand, that this business was from the very first fomented and encouraged by these men, Dodson and Fogg. She entreats me to intercede with you, and implores your pardon."
Before Mr. Pickwick could reply, there was a low murmuring of voices outside, and a hesitating knock at the door; and Mr. Winkle, Mr. Tupman, and Mr. Snodgrass entering most opportunely, at last, by their united pleadings, Mr. Pickwick was fairly argued out of his resolutions. At three o'clock that afternoon Mr. Pickwick took a last look at his little room, and made his way as well as he could through the throng of debtors who pressed eagerly forward to shake him by the hand, until he reached the lodge steps. He turned here to look about him, and his eye brightened as he did so. In all the crowd of wan, emaciated faces, he saw not one which was not the happier for his sympathy and charity.
As for Sam Weller, having dispatched Job Trotter to procure his formal discharge, his next proceeding was to invest his whole stock of ready money in the purchase of five-and-twenty gallons of mild porter, which he himself dispensed on the racket-ground to everybody who would partake of it. This done, he hurra'd in divers parts of the building until he lost his voice, and then quietly relapsed into his usual collected and philosophical condition, and followed his master out of the prison.
* * * * *
Tale of Two Cities
The French Revolution has been the subject of more books than any secular event that ever occurred, and two books by English writers have brought the passion, the cruelty, and the horror of it for all time within the shuddering comprehension of English-speaking people. One is a history that is more than a history; the other a tale that is more than a tale. Dickens, no doubt, owed much of his inspiration to Carlyle's tremendous prose epic. But the genius that depicted a moving and tragic story upon the red background of the Terror was Dickens's own, and the "Tale of Two Cities" was final proof that its author could handle a great theme in a manner that was worthy of its greatness. The work was one of the novelist's later writings—it was published in 1859—and is in many respects distinct from all his others. It stands by itself among Dickens's masterpieces, in sombre and splendid loneliness—a detached glory to its author, and to his country's literature.
I.—Recalled to Life
A large cask of wine had been dropped and broken in the street. All the people within reach had suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine. Some kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and tried to sip before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women's heads. A shrill sound of laughter resounded in the street while this wine game lasted.
The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled. It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes. One tall joker so besmirched scrawled upon a wall, with his finger dipped in muddy wine lees, "Blood!"
And now that the cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which a momentary gleam had driven from his sacred countenance, the darkness of it was heavy— cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want were the lords in waiting on the saintly presence. The children had ancient faces and grave voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age, and coming up afresh, was the sign—Hunger.
The master of the wine-shop outside of which the cask had been broken turned back to his shop when the struggle for the wine was ended. Monsieur Defarge was a dark, bull-necked man, good-humoured-looking on the whole, but implacable-looking, too. Three men who had been drinking at the counter paid for their wine, and left. An elderly gentleman, who had been sitting in a corner with a young lady, advanced, introduced himself as Mr. Jarvis Lorry, of Tellson's Bank, London, and begged the favour of a word.
The conference was very short, but very decided. It had not lasted a minute, when Monsieur Defarge nodded and went out, followed by Mr. Lorry and the young lady.
He led them through a stinking little black courtyard, and up a staircase to a dim garret, where a white-haired man sat on a low bench, stooping and very busy, making shoes.
"You are still hard at work, I see," said Monsieur Defarge.
A pair of haggard eyes looked at the questioner, and a very faint voice replied, "Yes, I am working."
"Here is a visitor. Show him that shoe and tell him the maker's name."
There was a long pause, and the shoemaker asked, "What did you say?"
Defarge repeated his words.
"It is a lady's shoe," answered the shoemaker.
"And the maker's name?"
"One Hundred and Five, North Tower."
"Dr. Manette," said Mr. Lorry, looking steadfastly at him, "do you remember nothing of me? Do you remember nothing of Defarge—your old servant?"
As the Bastille captive of many years gazed at them, marks of intelligence forced themselves through the mist that had fallen on him. They were fainter; they were gone, but they had been there. The young lady moved forward, with tears streaming from her eyes, and kissed him. He took up her golden hair, and looked at it; then drew from his breast a folded rag, and opened it carefully. It contained a little quantity of hair. He took the girl's hair into his hand again.
"It is the same! How can it be? She had a fear of my going that night. Was it you?" He turned upon her with frightful suddenness. But his vigour swiftly died out, and he gloomily shook his head. "No, no, no! It can't be!"
She fell on her knees and clasped his neck.
"If you hear in my voice any resemblance to a voice that was once sweet music to your ears, weep for it—weep for it! Thank God!" she cried. "I feel his sacred tears upon my face! Leave us here," she said. And, as the darkness closed in, they left father and daughter together.
They came back at night. A coach stood outside the courtyard, and the lately released prisoner, in scared, blank wonder, began the journey that was to end in England and rest.
In the dimly-lighted passages of the Old Bailey, Dr. Manette, his daughter, and Mr. Lorry stood by Mr. Charles Darnay—just acquitted on a charge of high treason—congratulating him on his escape from death.
It was not difficult to recognise in Dr. Manette, intellectual of face and upright in bearing, the shoemaker of the garret in Paris. He and his daughter had been unwilling witnesses for the prosecution, called to give evidence that might be distorted into corroboration of a paid spy's falsehoods as to Darnay's dealings with the French king.
Darnay kissed Lucie Manette's hand fervently and gratefully, and warmly thanked his counsel, Mr. Stryver. As he watched them go, a person who had been leaning against the wall stepped up to him. It was Mr. Carton, a barrister, who had sat throughout the trial with his whole attention seemingly concentrated upon the ceiling of the court. Everybody had been struck with the extraordinary resemblance, cleverly used by the defending counsel to confound a witness, between Mr. Carton and Mr. Darnay. Mr. Carton was shabbily dressed, and did not appear to be quite sober.
"This must be a strange sight to you," said Carton, with a laugh.
"I hardly seem yet," returned Darnay, "to belong to this world again."
"Then why the devil don't you dine?"
He led him to a tavern, where Darnay recruited his strength with a good, plain dinner. Carton drank, but ate nothing.
"Now your dinner is done," Carton presently said, "why don't you give your toast?"
"Why, it's on the tip of your tongue."
"Miss Manette, then!"
Carton drank the toast, and flung his glass over his shoulder against the wall, where it shivered in pieces.
After Darnay had gone, Carton drank and slept till ten o'clock, and then walked to the chambers of Mr. Stryver. Mr. Stryver was a glib man, and an unscrupulous, and a bold, and was fast shouldering his way to a lucrative practice; but it had been noted that he had not the striking and necessary faculty of extracting evidence from a heap of statements. A remarkable improvement, however, came upon him as to this. Sydney Carton, idlest and most unpromising of men, was his great ally. What the two drank together would have floated a king's ship.
Stryver never had a case in hand but what Carton was there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling. At last it began to get about that, although Sydney Carton would never be a lion, he was an amazingly good jackal, and that he rendered service to Stryver in that humble capacity. Folding wet towels on his head in a manner hideous to behold, the jackal began the "boiling down" of cases, while Stryver reclined before the fire. Each had bottles and glasses ready to his hand. The work was not done until the clocks were striking three.
Climbing to a high chamber in a well of houses, Carton threw himself down in his clothes on a neglected bed. Sadly, sadly the sun rose. It rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight upon him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.
III.—The Loadstone Rock
"Dear Dr. Manette," said Charles Darnay, "I love your daughter fondly, devotedly. If ever there were love in the world, I love her!"
Dr. Manette turned towards him in his chair, but did not look at him or raise his eyes.
"Have you spoken to Lucie?" he asked.
The doctor looked up; a struggle was evidently in his face—a struggle with that look he still sometimes wore, with a tendency in it to dark doubt and dread.
"If Lucie should ever tell me," he said, "that you are essential to her perfect happiness, I will give her to you."
"Your confidence in me," answered Darnay, relieved, "ought to be returned with full confidence on my part. I am, as you know, like yourself, a voluntary exile from France. The name I bear at present is not my own. I wish to tell you what that is, and why I am in England."
The doctor laid his two hands on Darnay's lips.
"Tell me when I ask you, not now. Go! God bless you!"
On a day shortly before the marriage, while Lucie was sitting at her work alone, Sydney Carton entered.
"I fear you are not well, Mr. Carton," she said, looking up at him.
"No; but the life I lead is not conducive to health."
"Is it not—forgive me—a pity to live no better life?"
"It is too late for that." He covered her eyes with his hand. "Will you hear me?" he continued. "Since I have known you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing; but let me carry through the rest of my misdirected life the remembrance that I opened my heart to you, last of all the world."
"Mr. Carton," she answered, after an agitated pause, "I promise to respect your secret."
"God bless you! My last application is this, that you will believe that for you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. Oh, Miss Manette, think now and then that there is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you!"
He said "farewell!" and left her.
A wonderful corner for echoes was the quiet street-corner near Soho Square, where Dr. Manette lived with his daughter and her husband. But Lucie heard in the echoes none but friendly and soothing sounds. Her husband's step was strong and prosperous among them; her father's firm and equal. The time came when a little Lucie lay on her bosom. But there were other echoes that rumbled menacingly in the distance, with a sound as of a great storm in France, with a dreadful sea rising.
It was August of the year 1792. Charles Darnay talked in a low voice with Mr. Lorry in Tellson's Bank. The bank had a branch in Paris, and the London establishment was the headquarters of the aristocratic emigrants who had fled from France.
"And do you really go to Paris to-night?" asked Darnay.
"I do. You can have no conception of the peril in which our books and papers over yonder are involved, and the getting them out of harm's way is in the power of scarcely anyone but myself."
As Mr. Lorry spoke a letter was laid before him. Darnay saw the direction—it was to himself. "To Monsieur heretofore the Marquis St. Evremonde." Horrified at the oppression and cruelty of his family towards the people, Darnay had left his native country and had never used the title that had, some years before, fallen to him by inheritance. He had told his secret to Dr. Manette on the wedding morning, and to none other.
"I know the man," he said.
"Will you take charge of the letter and deliver it?" asked Mr. Lorry.
When alone, Darnay opened the letter. It was from the steward of his French estate. The man had been charged with acting for an emigrant against the people. It was in vain he had urged that by the marquis's instructions he had acted for the people—had remitted all rents and imposts. The only response was that he had acted for an emigrant. Nothing but the marquis's personal testimony could save him from execution.
Could he resist his old servant's appeal? He knew the peril of it, but his honour was at stake; he must go. That evening he wrote two letters explaining his purpose, one to Lucie, one to the doctor. On the next night he went out, pretending he would be back by-and-by. The two letters he left with the trusty porter to be delivered before midnight; and, with a heavy heart, leaving all that was dear on earth behind him, he journeyed on—drawn, like the mariner in the old story, to the Loadstone Rock.
IV.—The Track of a Storm
In the buildings of Tellson's Bank in Paris, Mr. Lorry sat by a wood fire (it was early September, but the blighted year was prematurely cold), and on his honest face there was a deeper shade than the pendant lamp could throw—a shade of horror. By him sat Dr. Manette; Lucie and her child were in an inner room. They had hastened after Darnay to Paris. Dr. Manette knew that as a Bastille prisoner he bore a charmed life in revolutionary France, and that if Darnay was in danger he could help him. Darnay was indeed in danger. He had been arrested as an aristocrat and an enemy of the Republic.
From the streets there came the usual night hum of the city, with now and then an indescribable ring in it, weird and unearthly, as if some unwonted sounds of a terrible nature were going up to Heaven.
A loud noise of feet and voices came pouring into the courtyard. Mr. Lorry put his hand on the doctor's arm, and they looked out.
A throng of men and women crowded round a grindstone. Turning madly at its double handle were two men, whose faces were more horrible and cruel than the visages of the wildest savages. The eye could not detect one creature in the surrounding group free from the smear of blood. Shouldering one another to get next at the sharpening-stone were men with the stain all over their limbs and bodies; hatchets, knives, bayonets, swords, all were red with it.
"They are murdering the prisoners," whispered Mr. Lorry.
Dr. Manette hastened out of the room, and down into the courtyard. There was a pause, a murmur, and the sound of his voice. Then Mr. Lorry saw him, surrounded by all, hurried out with cries of "Live the Bastille prisoner! Help for the Bastille prisoner's kindred in La Force!"
It was long ere he returned. He had presented himself at the prison before the self-appointed tribunal that was consigning the prisoners to massacre, and had announced himself as a victim of the Bastille. One member of the tribunal had identified him; the member was Defarge. He had pleaded hard for his son-in-law's life, and had been informed that the prisoner must remain in custody; but should, for the doctor's sake, be held in safe custody.
For fifteen months Charles Darnay remained in prison. During all that time Lucie was never sure but that her husband's head would be struck off next day. When at length arraigned as an emigrant whose life was forfeit to the Republic, he pleaded that he had come back to save a citizen's life. That night he sat by the fire with his family, a free man. Lucie at last was at ease.
"What is that?" she cried suddenly.
There was a knock at the door; four armed men in red caps entered the room.
"Evremonde," said the first, "you are again the prisoner of the Republic!"
"Why?" he asked, with his wife and child clinging to him.
"You will know to-morrow."
"One word," entreated the doctor, "who has denounced him?"
"The Citizen Defarge, and another."
"Citizen," said the man, with a strange look, "you will be answered to-morrow."
The news that Darnay had been again arrested was brought to Mr. Lorry later in the evening, and the man who brought it was Sydney Carton. He had come to Paris, he said, on business; his business was now completed, he was about to return, and he had obtained his leave to pass.
"Darnay," he said, "cannot escape condemnation this time."
"I fear not," answered Mr. Lorry.
"I have found," continued Carton, "that the Old Bailey spy who charged Darnay with high treason years ago is now in the service of the Republic and is a turnkey at the prison of the Conciergerie where Darnay is confined. By threatening to denounce him as a spy of Pitt, I have secured that I shall gain access to Darnay in the prison if the trial should go against him."
"But access to him," said Mr. Lorry, "will not save him."
"I never said it would."
Mr. Lorry looked at him mystified, and once more noted his strange resemblance to the man whose fate was to be decided on the morrow.
Carton stood next day in an obscure corner among the crowd when Charles Evremonde, called Darnay, appeared again before the judges.
"Who denounces the accused?" asked the president.
"Ernest Defarge, wine-vendor."
"Alexandre Manette, physician."
"President," cried the doctor, pale and trembling, "I indignantly protest to you."
"Citizen Manette, be silent! Call Citizen Defarge."
Rapidly Defarge told his story. He had been among the leaders in the taking of the Bastille. When the citadel had fallen, he had gone to the cell One Hundred and Five, North Tower, and had searched it. In a hole in the chimney he had found a paper in the handwriting of Dr. Manette.
"Let it be read," said the president.
In this paper Dr. Manette had written the history of his imprisonment. In the year 1757 he had been taken secretly by two nobles to visit two poor people who were on the point of death. One was a woman whom one of the nobles had forcibly carried off from her husband; the other, her brother, whom the seducer had mortally wounded. The doctor had come too late; both the woman and her brother died. The doctor refused a fee, and, to relieve his mind, wrote privately to the government stating the circumstances of the crime. One night he was called out of his home on a false pretext, and taken to the Bastille.
The nobles were the Marquis de St. Evremonde and his brother; and the Marquis was the father of Charles Darnay. A terrible sound arose in the court when the reading was done. The voting of the jury was unanimous, and at every vote there was a roar. Death in twenty-four hours!
That night Carton again came to Mr. Lorry. Between the two men, as they spoke, a figure on a chair rocked itself to and fro, moaning. It was Dr. Manette.
"He and Lucie and her child must leave Paris to-morrow," said Carton. "They are in danger of being denounced. It is a capital crime to mourn for, or sympathise with, a victim of the guillotine. Be ready to start at two o'clock to-morrow afternoon. See them into their seats; take your own seat. The moment I come to you, take me in, and drive away.
"It shall be done."
Carton turned to the couch where Lucie lay unconscious, prostrated with utter grief.
He bent down, touched her face with his lips, and murmured some words. Little Lucie told them afterwards that she heard him say, "A life you love."
In the black prison of the Conciergerie, the doomed of the day awaited their fate. Fifty-two persons were to roll that afternoon on the life-tide of the city to the boundless, everlasting sea.
The hours went on as Darnay walked to and fro in his cell, and the clocks struck the numbers he would never hear again. The final hour, he knew, was three, and he expected to be summoned at two. The clocks struck one. "There is but another now," he thought.
He heard footsteps. The door was opened, and there stood before him, quiet, intent, and smiling, Sydney Carton.
"Darnay," he said, "I bring you a request from your wife."
"What is it?"
"There is no time—you must comply. Take off your boots and coat, and put on mine."
"Carton, there is no escaping from this place. It is madness."
"Do I ask you to escape?" said Carton, forcing the changes upon him.
"Now sit at the table and write what I dictate."
"To whom do I address it?"
"To no one."
"If you remember," said Carton, dictating, "the words that passed between us long ago, you will comprehend this when you see it. I am thankful that the time has come when I can prove them." Carton's hand was withdrawn from his breast, and slowly and softly moved down the writer's face. For a few seconds Darnay struggled faintly, Carton's hand held firmly at his nostrils; then he fell senseless to the ground.
Carton called quietly to the turnkey, who looked in and went again as Carton was putting the paper in Darnay's breast. He came back with two men. They raised the unconscious figure and carried it away.
The door closed, and Carton was left alone. Straining his powers of listening to the utmost, he listened for any sound that might denote suspicion or alarm. There was none. Presently his door opened, and a gaoler looked in, merely saying: "Follow me," whereupon Carton followed him into a dark room. As he stood by the wall in a dim corner, a young woman, with a slight, girlish figure, came to speak to him.
"Citizen Evremonde," she said, "I am a poor little seamstress, who was with you in La Force."
He murmured an answer.
"I heard you were released."
"I was, and was taken again and condemned."
"If I may ride with you, will you let me hold your hand?"
As the patient eyes were lifted to his face, he saw a sudden doubt in them.
"Are you dying for him?" she whispered. "Oh, you will let me hold your hand?"
"Hush! Yes, my poor sister, to the last."
That afternoon a coach going out of Paris drove up to the Barrier. "Papers!" demanded the guard. The papers are handed out and read.
"Alexandre Manette, Lucie Manette, her child. Jarvis Lorry, banker, English. Sydney Carton, advocate, English. Which is he?"
He lies here, in a corner, apparently in a swoon. He is in bad health.
"Behold your papers, countersigned."
"One can depart, citizen?"
"One can depart."
The ministers of Sainte Guillotin are robed and ready. Crash!—and the women who sit with their knitting in front of the guillotine count one. Crash!—and the women count two.
The supposed Evremonde descends with the seamstress from the tumbril, and joins the fast-thinning throng of victims before the crashing engine that constantly whirrs up and falls. The spare hand does not tremble as he grasps it. She goes next before him—is gone. The knitting women count twenty-two.
The murmuring of many voices, the pressing on of many footsteps in the outskirts of the crowd, so that it swells forward like one great heave of water, all flashes away. Twenty-three.
They said of him about the city that night that it was the peacefulest man's face ever beheld there. Had he given utterance to his thoughts at the foot of the scaffold, they would have been these:
"I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous, and happy in that England which I shall see no more. I see her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence.
"It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
* * * * *
Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, was not only a great figure in English politics in the nineteenth century; he was also a novelist of brilliant powers. Born in London on December 21, 1804, the son of Isaac D'Israeli, the future Prime Minister of England was first articled to a solicitor; but he quickly turned from this to politics. Disraeli was leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons in 1847; he was twice Prime Minister. In 1876 he was created Earl of Beaconsfield. Disraeli's novels—especially the famous trilogy of "Coningsby," 1844, "Sybil," 1845, and "Tancred," 1846—are remarkable chiefly for the view they give of contemporary political life, and for the definite political philosophy of their author. Neither the earlier novels—"Vivian Grey", 1826, "Contarini Fleming," "Alroy," 1832, "Henrietta Temple" and "Venetia," 1837—nor the later ones—"Lothair," 1870, and "Endymion," 1874—are to be ranked with "Coningsby" and "Sybil." Many characters in "Coningsby" are well-known men. Lord Monmouth is Lord Hertford, whom Thackeray depicted as the Marquess of Steyne, Rigby is John Wilson Croker, Oswald Millbank is Mr. Gladstone, Lord H. Sydney is Lord John Manners, Sidonia is Baron Alfred de Rothschild, and Coningsby is Lord Lyttelton. Lord Beaconsfield died in London on April 19, 1881.
I.—The Hero of Eton
Coningsby was the orphan child of the younger of the two sons of Lord Monmouth. It was a family famous for its hatreds. The elder son hated his father, and lived at Naples, maintaining no connection either with his parent or his native country. On the other hand, Lord Monmouth hated his younger son, who had married against his consent a woman to whom that son was devoted. Persecuted by his father, he died abroad, and his widow returned to England. Not having a relation, and scarcely an acquaintance, in the world, she made an appeal to her husband's father, the wealthiest noble in England, and a man who was often prodigal, and occasionally generous, who respected law, and despised opinion. Lord Monmouth decided that, provided she gave up her child, and permanently resided in one of the remotest counties, he would make her a yearly allowance of three hundred pounds. Necessity made the victim yield; and three years later, Mrs. Coningsby died, the same day that her father- in-law was made a marquess.
Coningsby was then not more than nine years of age; and when he attained his twelfth year an order was received from Lord Monmouth, who was at Rome, that he should go at once to Eton.
Coningsby had never seen his grandfather. It was Mr. Rigby who made arrangements for his education. This Mr. Rigby was the manager of Lord Monmouth's parliamentary influence and the auditor of his vast estates. He was a member for one of Lord Monmouth's boroughs, and, in fact, a great personage. Lord Monmouth had bought him, and it was a good purchase.
In the spring of 1832, when the country was in the throes of agitation over the Reform Bill, Lord Monmouth returned to England, accompanied by the Prince and Princess Colonna and the Princess Lucretia, the prince's daughter by his first wife. Coningsby was summoned from Eton to Monmouth House, and returned to school in the full favour of the marquess.
Coningsby was the hero of Eton; everybody was proud of him, talked of him, quoted him, imitated him. But the ties of friendship bound Coningsby to Henry Sydney and Oswald Millbank above all companions. Lord Henry Sydney was the son of a duke, and Millbank was the son of one of the wealthiest manufacturers in Lancashire. Once, on the river, Coningsby saved Millbank's life; and this was the beginning of a close and ardent friendship.
Coningsby liked very much to talk politics with Millbank. He heard things from Millbank which were new to him. Politics had, as yet, appeared to him a struggle whether the country was to be governed by Whig nobles or Tory nobles; and Coningsby, a high Tory as he supposed himself to be, thought it very unfortunate that he should probably have to enter life with his friends out of power and his family boroughs destroyed. But, in conversing with Millbank, he heard for the first time of influential classes in the country who were not noble, and were yet determined to acquire power.
Generally, at that time, among the upper boys at Eton there was a reigning inclination for political discussion, and a feeling in favour of "Conservative principles." A year later, and in 1836, gradually the inquiry fell upon attentive ears as to what these Conservative principles were. Before Coningsby and his friends left Eton—Coningsby for Cambridge, and Millbank for Oxford—they were resolved to contend for political faith rather than for mere partisan success or personal ambition.
II.—A Portrait of a Lady
On his way to Coningsby Castle, in Lancashire, where the Marquess of Monmouth was living in state—feasting the county, patronising the borough, and diffusing confidence in the Conservative party in order that the electors of Dartford might return his man, Mr. Rigby, once more for parliament—our hero halted for the night at Manchester. In the coffee-room at the hotel a stranger, loud in praise of the commercial enterprise of the neighbourhood, advised Coningsby, if he wanted to see something tip-top in the way of cotton works, to visit Millbank of Millbank's; and thus it came about that Coningsby first met Edith Millbank. Oswald was abroad; and Mr. Millbank, when he heard the name of his visitor, was only distressed that the sudden arrival left no time for adequate welcome.
"My visit to Manchester, which led to this, was quite accidental," said Coningsby. "I am bound for the other division of the county, to pay a visit to my grandfather, Lord Monmouth, but an irresistible desire came over me during my journey to view this famous district of industry."
A cloud passed over the countenance of Millbank as the name of Lord Monmouth was mentioned; but he said nothing, only turning towards Coningsby, with an air of kindness, to beg him, since to stay longer was impossible, to dine with him. Coningsby gladly agreed to this and the village clock was striking five when Mr. Millbank and his guest entered the gardens of his mansion and proceeded to the house.
The hall was capacious and classic; and as they approached the staircase the sweetest and the clearest voice exclaimed from above: "Papa, papa!" and instantly a young girl came bounding down the stairs; but suddenly, seeing a stranger with her father, she stopped upon the landing-place. Mr. Millbank beckoned her, and she came down slowly; at the foot of the stairs her father said briefly: "A friend you have often heard of, Edith—this is Mr. Coningsby."
She started, blushed very much, and then put forth her hand.
"How often have we all wished to see and to thank you!" Miss Edith Millbank remarked in tones of sensibility.
Opposite Coningsby at dinner that night was a portrait which greatly attracted his attention. It represented a woman extremely young and of a rare beauty. The face was looking out of the canvas, and the gaze of this picture disturbed the serenity of Coningsby. On rising to leave the table he said to Mr. Millbank, "By whom is that portrait, sir?"
The countenance of Millbank became disturbed; his expression was agitated, almost angry. "Oh! that is by a country artist," he said, "of whom you never heard."
III.—The Course of True Love
The Princess Colonna resolved that an alliance should take place between Coningsby and her step-daughter. But the plans of the princess, imparted to Mr. Rigby that she might gain his assistance in achieving them, were doomed to frustration. Coningsby fell deeply in love with Miss Millbank; and Lord Monmouth himself decided to marry Lucretia.
It was in Paris that Coningsby, on a visit to his grandfather, woke to the knowledge of his love for Edith Millbank. They met at a brilliant party, Miss Millbank in the care of her aunt, Lady Wallinger.
"Miss Millbank says that you have quite forgotten her," said a mutual friend.
Coningsby started, advanced, coloured a little, could not conceal his surprise. The lady, too, though more prepared, was not without confusion. Coningsby recalled at that moment the beautiful, bashful countenance that had so charmed him at Millbank; but two years had effected a wonderful change, and transformed the silent, embarrassed girl into a woman of surpassing beauty. That night the image of Edith Millbank was the last thought of Coningsby as he sank into an agitated slumber. In the morning his first thought was of her of whom he had dreamed. The light had dawned on his soul. Coningsby loved.
The course of true love was not to run smoothly with our hero. Within a few days he heard rumours that Miss Millbank was to be married to Sidonia, a wealthy and gifted man of the Jewish race, the friend of Lord Monmouth. Often had Coningsby admired the wisdom and the abilities of Sidonia; against such a rival he felt powerless, and, without mustering courage to speak, left hastily for England.
But Coningsby had been deceived—the gossip was without foundation; and once more he was to meet Edith Millbank. This time, however, it was Mr. Millbank himself who vetoed the courtship.
Oswald had invited his friend to Millbank; and Coningsby, having learnt the baselessness of the report that had driven him from Paris, gladly accepted. Coningsby Castle was near to Hellingsley; and this estate Mr. Millbank had purchased, outbidding Lord Monmouth. Bitter enmity existed between the great marquess and the famous manufacturer—an old, implacable hatred. Mr. Millbank now resided at Hellingsley; and Coningsby left the castle rejoicing to meet his old Eton friend again, and still more the beautiful sister of his old friend.
Mr. Millbank was from home when he arrived; and Coningsby and Miss Millbank walked in the park, and rested by the margin of a stream. Assuredly a maiden and a youth more beautiful and engaging had seldom met in a scene more fresh and fair.
Coningsby gazed on the countenance of his companion. She turned her head, and met his glance.
"Edith," he said, in a tone of tremulous passion, "let me call you Edith! Yes," he continued, gently taking her hand; "let me call you my Edith! I love you!"
She did not withdraw her hand; but turned away a face flushed as the impending twilight.
The lovers returned late for dinner to find that Mr. Millbank was at home.
Next morning, in Mr. Millbank's room, Coningsby learnt that the marriage he looked forward to with all the ardour of youth was quite impossible.
"The sacrifices and the misery of such a marriage are certain and inseparable," said Mr. Millbank gravely, but without harshness. "You are the grandson of Lord Monmouth; at present enjoying his favour, but dependent on his bounty. You may be the heir of his wealth to-morrow and to-morrow you may be the object of his hatred and persecution. Your grandfather and myself are foes—to the death. It is idle to mince phrases. I do not vindicate our mutual feelings; I may regret that they have ever arisen, especially at this exigency. Lord Monmouth would crush me, had he the power, like a worm; and I have curbed his proud fortunes often. These feelings of hatred may be deplored, but they do not exist; and now you are to go to this man, and ask his sanction to marry my daughter!"
"I would appease these hatreds," retorted Coningsby, "the origin of which I know not. I would appeal to my grandfather. I would show him Edith."
"He has looked upon as fair even as Edith," said Mr. Millbank. "And did that melt his heart? My daughter and yourself can meet no more."
In vain Coningsby pleaded his suit. It was not till Mr. Millbank told that he, too, had suffered—that he had loved Coningsby's own mother, and that she gave her heart to another, to die afterwards solitary and forsaken, tortured by Lord Monmouth—that Coningsby was silent. It was his mother's portrait he had looked upon that night at Millbank; and he understood the cause of the hatred.
He wrung Mr. Millbank's hand, and left Hellingsley in despair. But Oswald overtook him in the park; and, leaning on his friend's arm, Coningsby poured forth a hurried, impassioned, and incoherent strain— all that had occurred, all that he had dreamed, his baffled bliss, his actual despair, his hopeless outlook.
A thunderstorm overtook them; and Oswald took refuge from the elements at the castle. There, as they sat together, pledging their faithful friendship, the door opened, and Mr. Rigby appeared.
IV.—Coningsby's Political Faith
Lord Monmouth banished the Princess Colonna from his presence, and married Lucretia. Coningsby returned to Cambridge, and continued to enjoy his grandfather's hospitality whenever Lord Monmouth was in London.
Mr. Millbank had, in the meantime, become a member of parliament, having defeated Mr. Rigby in the contest for the representation of Dartford.
In the year 1840 a general election was imminent, and Lord Monmouth returned to London. He was weary of Paris; every day he found it more difficult to be amused. Lucretia had lost her charm: they had been married nearly three years. The marquess, from whom nothing could be concealed, perceived that often, while she elaborately attempted to divert him, her mind was wandering elsewhere.
He fell into the easy habit of dining in his private rooms, sometimes tete-a-tete with Villebecque, his private secretary, a cosmopolitan theatrical manager, whose tales and adventures about a kind of society which Lord Monmouth had always preferred to the polished and somewhat insipid circles in which he was born, had rendered him the prime favourite of his great patron. Villebecque's step-daughter Flora, a modest and retiring maiden, waited on Lucretia.
Back in London, Lord Monmouth, on the day of his arrival, welcomed Coningsby to his room, and at a sign from his master Villebecque left the apartment.
"You see, Harry," said Lord Monmouth, "that I am much occupied to-day, yet the business on which I wish to communicate with you is so pressing that it could not be postponed. These are not times when young men should be out of sight. Your public career will commence immediately. The government have resolved on a dissolution. My information is from the highest quarter. The Whigs are going to dissolve their own House of Commons. Notwithstanding this, we can beat them, but the race requires the finest jockeying. We can't give a point. Now, if we had a good candidate, we could win Dartford. But Rigby won't do. He is too much of the old clique used up a hack; besides, a beaten horse. We are assured the name of Coningsby would be a host; there is a considerable section who support the present fellow who will not vote against a Coningsby. They have thought of you as a fit person; and I have approved of the suggestion. You will, therefore, be the candidate for Dartford with my entire sanction and support; and I have no doubt you will be successful."
To Coningsby the idea was appalling. To be the rival of Mr. Millbank on the hustings of Dartford! Vanquished or victorious, equally a catastrophe. He saw Edith canvassing for her father and against him. Besides, to enter the House of Commons a slave and a tool of party! Strongly anti-Whig, Coningsby distrusted the Conservative party, and looked for a new party of men who shared his youthful convictions and high political principles.
Lord Monmouth, however, brushed aside his grandson's objections.
"You are certainly still young; but I was younger by nearly two years when I first went in, and I found no difficulty. As for your opinions, you have no business to have any other than those I uphold. I want to see you in parliament. I tell you what it is, Harry," Lord Monmouth concluded, very emphatically, "members of this family may think as they like, but they must act as I please. You must go down on Friday to Dartford and declare yourself a candidate for the town, or I shall reconsider our mutual positions."
Coningsby left Monmouth House in dejection, but to his solemn resolution of political faith he remained firm. He would not stand for Dartford against Mr. Millbank as the nominee of a party he could not follow. In terms of tenderness and humility he wrote to his grandfather that he positively declined to enter parliament except as the master of his own conduct.
In the same hour of his distress Coningsby overheard in his club two men discussing the engagement of Miss Millbank to the Marquess of Beaumanoir, the elder brother of his school friend, Henry Sydney.
Edith Millbank, too, had heard news at a London assembly of wealth and fashion that Coningsby was engaged to be married to Lady Theresa Sydney.
So easily does rumour spin her stories and smite her victims with sadness.
V.—Lady Monmouth's Departure
It was Flora, to whom Coningsby had been always kind and courteous, who told Lucretia that Lord Monmouth was displeased with his grandson.
"My lord is very angry with Mr. Coningsby," she said, shaking her head mournfully. "My lord told M. Villebecque that perhaps Mr. Coningsby would never enter the house again."
Lucretia immediately dispatched a note to Mr. Rigby, and, on the arrival of that gentleman, told him all she had learnt of the contention between Harry Coningsby and her husband.
"I told you to beware of him long ago," said Lady Monmouth. "He has ever been in the way of both of us."
"He is in my power," said Rigby. "We can crush him. He is in love with the daughter of Millbank, the man who bought Hellingsley. I found the younger Millbank quite domiciliated at the castle, a fact which of itself, if known to Lord Monmouth, would ensure the lad's annihilation."
"The time is now most mature for this. Let us not conceal it from ourselves that since this grandson's first visit to Coningsby Castle we have neither of us really been in the same position with my lord which we then occupied, or believed we should occupy. Go now; the game is before you! Rid me of this Coningsby, and I will secure all that you want."
"It shall be done," said Rigby, "it must be done."
Lady Monmouth bade Mr. Rigby hasten at once to the marquess and bring her news of the interview. She awaited with some excitement his return. Her original prejudice against Coningsby and jealousy of his influence had been aggravated by the knowledge that, although after her marriage Lord Monmouth had made a will which secured to her a very large portion of his great wealth, the energies and resources of the marquess had of late been directed to establish Coningsby in a barony.
Two hours elapsed before Mr. Rigby returned. There was a churlish and unusual look about him.
"Lord Monmouth suggests that, as you were tired of Paris, your ladyship might find the German baths at Kissingen agreeable. A paragraph in the 'Morning Post' would announce that his lordship was about to join you; and even if his lordship did not ultimately reach you, an amicable separation would be effected."
In vain Lucretia stormed. Mr. Rigby mentioned that Lord Monmouth had already left the house and would not return, and finally announced that Lucretia's letters to a certain Prince Trautsmandorff were in his lordship's possession.
A few days later, and Coningsby read in the papers of Lady Monmouth's departure to Kissingen. He called at Monmouth House, to find the place empty, and to learn from the porter that Lord Monmouth was about to occupy a villa at Richmond.
Coningsby entertained for his grandfather a sincere affection. With the exception of their last unfortunate interview, he had experienced nothing but kindness from Lord Monmouth. He determined to pay him a visit at Richmond.
Lord Monmouth, who was entertaining two French ladies at his villa, recoiled from grandsons and relations and ties of all kinds; but Coningsby so pleasantly impressed his fair visitors that Lord Monmouth decided to ask him to dinner. Thus, in spite of the combinations of Lucretia and Mr. Rigby, and his grandfather's resentment, within a month of the memorable interview at Monmouth House, Coningsby found himself once more a welcome guest at Lord Monmouth's table.
In that same month other important circumstances also occurred.
At a fete in some beautiful gardens on the banks of the Thames, Coningsby and Edith Millbank were both present. The announcement was made of the forthcoming marriage of Lady Theresa Sydney to Mr. Eustace Lyle, a friend of Mr. Coningsby; and later, from the lips of Lady Wallinger herself, Miss Millbank's aunt, Coningsby learnt how really groundless was the report of Lord Beaumanoir's engagement.
"Lord Beaumanoir admires her—has always admired her," Lady Wallinger explained to Coningsby; "but Edith has given him no encouragement whatever."
At the end of the terrace Edith and Coningsby met. He seized the occasion to walk some distance by her side.
"How could you ever doubt me?" said Coningsby, after some time.
"I was unhappy."
"And now we are to each other as before."
"And will be, come what may," said Edith.
VI.—Lord Monmouth's Money
In the midst of Christmas-revels at the country house of Mr. Eustace Lyle, surrounded by the duke and duchess and their children—the Sydneys—Coningsby was called away by a messenger, who brought news of the sudden death of Lord Monmouth. The marquess had died at supper at his Richmond villa, with no persons near him but those who were very amusing.
The body had been removed to Monmouth House; and after the funeral, in the principal saloon of Monmouth House, the will was eventually read.
The date of the will was 1829; and by this document the sum of L10,000 was left to Coningsby, who at that time was unknown to his grandfather.
But there were many codicils. In 1832, the L10,000 was increased to L50,000. In 1836, after Coningsby's visit to the castle, L50,000 was left to the Princess Lucretia, and Coningsby was left sole residuary legatee.
After the marriage, an estate of L9,000 a year was left to Coningsby, L20,000 to Mr. Rigby, and the whole of the residue went to issue by Lady Monmouth.
In the event of there being no issue, the whole of the estate was to be divided equally between Lady Monmouth and Coningsby. In 1839, Mr. Rigby was reduced to L10,000, Lady Monmouth was to receive L3,000 per annum, and the rest, without reserve, went absolutely to Coningsby.
The last codicil was dated immediately after the separation with Lady Monmouth.
All dispositions in favour of Coningsby were revoked, and he was left with the interest of the original L10,000, the executors to invest the money as they thought best for his advancement, provided it were not placed in any manufactory.
Mr. Rigby received L5,000, M. Villebecque L30,000, and all the rest, residue and remainder, to Flora, commonly called Flora Villebecque, step-child of Armand Villebecque, "but who is my natural daughter by an actress at the Theatre Francais in the years 1811-15, by the name of Stella."
Sidonia lightened the blow for Coningsby as far as philosophy could be of use.
"I ask you," he said, "which would you have rather lost—your grandfather's inheritance or your right leg?"
"Most certainly my inheritance."
"Or your left arm?"
"Still the inheritance."
"Would you have given up a year of your life for that fortune trebled?"
"Even at twenty-three I would have refused the terms."
"Come, then, Coningsby, the calamity cannot be very great. You have health, youth, good looks, great abilities, considerable knowledge, a fine courage, and no contemptible experience. You can live on L300 a year. Read for the Bar."
"I have resolved," said Coningsby. "I will try for the Great Seal!"
Next morning came a note from Flora, begging Mr. Coningsby to call upon her. It was an interview he would rather have avoided. But Flora had not injured him, and she was, after all, his kin. She was alone when Coningsby entered the room.
"I have robbed you of your inheritance."
"It was not mine by any right, legal or moral. The fortune is yours, dear Flora, by every right; and there is no one who wishes more fervently that it may contribute to your happiness than I do."
"It is killing me," said Flora mournfully. "I must tell you what I feel. This fortune is yours. I never thought to be so happy as I shall be if you will generously accept it."
"You are, as I have ever thought you, the kindest and most tender-hearted of beings," said Coningsby, much moved; "but the custom of the world does not permit such acts to either of us as you contemplate. Have confidence in yourself. You will be happy."
"When I die, these riches will be yours; that, at all events, you cannot prevent," were Flora's last generous words.
VII.—On Life's Threshold
Coningsby established himself in the Temple to read law; and Lord Henry Sydney, Oswald Millbank, and other old Eton friends rallied round their early leader.
"I feel quite convinced that Coningsby will become Lord Chancellor," Henry Sydney said gravely, after leaving the Temple.
The General Election of 1841, which Lord Monmouth had expected a year before, found Coningsby a solitary student in his lonely chambers in the Temple. All his friends and early companions were candidates, and with sanguine prospects. They sent their addresses to Coningsby, who, deeply interested, traced in them the influence of his own mind.
Then, in the midst of the election, one evening in July, Coningsby, catching up a third edition of the "Sun," was startled by the word "Dartford" in large type. Below it were the headlines:
"Extraordinary Affair! Withdrawal of the Liberal Candidate! Two Tory Candidates in the Field!"
Mr. Millbank, at the last moment, had retired, and had persuaded his supporters to nominate Harry Coningsby in his place. The fight was between Coningsby and Rigby.
Oswald Millbank, who had just been returned to parliament, came up to London; and from him, as they travelled to Dartford, Coningsby grasped the change of events. Sidonia had explained to Lady Wallinger the cause of Coningsby's disinheritance. Lady Wallinger had told Oswald and Edith; and Oswald had urged on his father the recognition of his friend's affection for his sister.
On his own impulse Mr. Millbank decided that Coningsby should contest Dartford.
Mr. Rigby was beaten; and Coningsby arrived at Dartford in time to receive the cheers of thousands. From the hustings he gave his first address to a public assembly; and by general agreement no such speech had ever been heard in the borough before.
Early in the autumn Harry and Edith were married at Millbank, and they passed their first moon at Hellingsley.
The death of Flora, who had bequeathed the whole of her fortune to the husband of Edith, took place before the end of the year, hastened by the fatal inheritance which disturbed her peace and embittered her days, haunting her heart with the recollection that she had been the instrument of injuring the only being whom she loved.
Coningsby passed his next Christmas in his own hall, with his beautiful and gifted wife by his side, and surrounded by the friends of his heart and his youth.
The young couple stand now on the threshold of public life. What will be their fate? Will they maintain in august assemblies and high places the great truths, which, in study and in solitude, they have embraced? Or will vanity confound their fortunes, and jealousy wither their sympathies?
* * * * *
Sybil, or the Two Nations
"Sybil, or the Two Nations" was published in 1845, a year after "Coningsby," and in it the novelist "considered the condition of the people." The author himself, writing in 1870 of this novel, said: "At that time the Chartist agitation was still fresh in the public memory, and its repetition was far from improbable. I had visited and observed with care all the localities introduced, and as an accurate and never exaggerated picture of a remarkable period in our domestic history, and of a popular organisation which in its extent and completeness has perhaps never been equalled, the pages of "Sybil" may, I venture to believe, be consulted with confidence." "Sybil," indeed, is not only an extremely interesting novel; but as a study of social life in England it is of very definite historical value.
I.—Hard Times for the Poor
It was Derby Day, 1837. Charles Egremont was in the ring at Epsom with a band of young patricians. Groups surrounded the betting post, and the odds were shouted lustily by a host of horsemen. Egremont had backed Caravan to win, and Caravan lost by half a length. Charles Egremont was the younger brother of the Earl of Marney; he had received L15,000 on the death of his father, and had spent it. Disappointed in love at the age of twenty-four, Egremont left England, to return after eighteen months' absence a much wiser man. He was now conscious that he wanted an object, and, musing over action, was ignorant how to act.
The morning after the Derby, Egremont, breakfasting with his mother, learnt that King William IV. was dying, and that a dissolution of parliament was at hand. Lady Marney was a great stateswoman, a leader in fashionable politics.
"Charles," said Lady Marney, "you must stand for the old borough, for Marbury. No doubt the contest will be very expensive, but it will be a happy day for me to see you in parliament, and Marney will, of course, supply the funds. I shall write to him, and perhaps you will do so yourself."
The election took place, and Egremont was returned. Then he paid a visit to his brother at Marney Abbey, and an old estrangement between the two was ended.
Marney Abbey was as remarkable for its comfort and pleasantness of accommodation as for its ancient state and splendour. It had been a religious house. The founder of the Marney family, a confidential domestic of one of the favourites of Henry VIII., had contrived by unscrupulous zeal to obtain the grant of the abbey lands, and in the reign of Elizabeth came a peerage.
The present Lord Marney upheld the workhouse, hated allotments and infant schools, and declared the labourers on his estate to be happy and contented with a wage of seven shillings a week.
The burning of hayricks on the Abbey Farm at the time of Egremont's visit showed that the torch of the incendiary had been introduced and that a beacon had been kindled in the agitated neighbourhood. For misery lurked in the wretched tenements of the town of Marney, and fever was rife. The miserable hovels of the people had neither windows nor doors, and were unpaved, and looked as if they could scarcely hold together. There were few districts in the kingdom where the rate of wages was more depressed.
"What do you think of this fire?" said Egremont to a labourer at the Abbey Farm.
"I think 'tis hard times for the poor, sir," was the reply, given with a shake of the head.
II.—The Old Tradition
"Why was England not the same land as in the days of his light-hearted youth?" Charles Egremont mused, as he wandered among the ruins of the ancient abbey. "Why were these hard times for the poor?" Brooding over these questions, he observed two men hard by in the old cloister garden, one of lofty stature, nearer forty than fifty years of age, the other younger and shorter, with a pale face redeemed from ugliness by its intellectual brow. Egremont joined the strangers, and talked.
"Our queen reigns over two nations, between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy—the rich and the poor," said the younger stranger.
As he spoke, from the lady chapel rose the evening hymn to the Virgin in tones of almost supernatural tenderness.
The melody ceased; and Egremont beheld a female form, a countenance youthful, and of a beauty as rare as it was choice.
The two men joined the beautiful maiden; and the three quitted the abbey grounds together without another word, and pursued their way to the railway station.
"I have seen the tomb of the last abbot of Marney, and I marked your name on the stone, my father," said the maiden. "You must regain our lands for us, Stephen," she added to the younger man.
"I can't understand why you lost sight of those papers, Walter," said Stephen Morley.
"You see, friend, they were never in my possession; they were not mine when I saw them. They were my father's. He was a small yeoman, well-to-do in the world, but always hankering after the old tradition that the lands were ours. This Hatton got hold of him; he did his work well, I have heard. It is twenty-five years since my father brought his writ of right, and though baffled, he was not beaten. Then he died; his affairs were in great confusion; he had mortgaged his land for his writ. There were debts that could not be paid. I had no capital. I would not sink to be a labourer. I had heard much of the high wages of this new industry; I left the land."
"And the papers?"
"I never thought of them, or thought of them with disgust, as the cause of my ruin. Of Hatton, I have not heard since my father's death. He had quitted Mowbray, and none could give me tidings of him. When you came and showed me in a book that the last abbot of Marney was a Walter Gerard, the old feeling stirred again, and though I am but the overlooker at Mr. Trafford's mill, I could not help telling you that my fathers fought at Agincourt."
They approached the station, entered the train, and two hours later arrived at Mowbray. Gerard and Morley left their companion at a convent gate in the suburbs of the manufacturing town.
The two men made their way through the streets and entered a prominent public house. Here they sought an interview with the landlord, and from him got information of Hatton's brother.
"You have heard of a place called Hell-house Yard?" said the publican. "Well, he lives there, and his name is Simon, and that's all I know about him."
III.—The Gulf Impassable
When it came to the point, Lord Marney very much objected to paying Egremont's election expenses, and proposed instead that he should accompany him to Mowbray Castle, and marry Earl Mowbray's daughter, Lady Joan Fitz-Warene.
Lord Mowbray was the grandson of a waiter, who had gone out to India a gentleman's valet, and returned a nabob. Lord Mowbray's two daughters— he had no sons—were great heiresses. Lady Joan was doctrinal; Lady Maud inquisitive. Egremont fell in love with neither, and the visit was a failure. Lord Marney declined to pay the election expenses.
The brothers parted in anger; and Egremont took up his abode in a cottage in Mowedale, a few miles outside the town of Mowbray. He was drawn to this by the knowledge that Walter Gerard and his daughter Sybil, and their friend Stephen Morley, lived close by. Of Egremont's rank these three were ignorant. Sybil had met him with Mr. St. Lys, the good vicar of Mowbray, relieving the misery of a poor weaver's family in the town, and at Mowedale he passed as Mr. Franklin, a journalist.
For some weeks Egremont enjoyed the peace of rural life, and the intercourse with the Gerards ripened into friendship. When the time came for parting, for Egremont had to take his seat in parliament, it was a tender farewell on both sides.
Egremont, embarrassed by his deception, could not only speak vaguely of their meeting again soon. The thought of parting from Sybil nearly overwhelmed him.
When he met Gerard and Morley again it was in London, and disguise was no longer possible. Gerard and Morley came as delegates to the Chartist National Convention in 1839, and, deputed by their fellows to interview Charles Egremont, M.P., came face to face with "Mr. Franklin."
The general misery in the country at that time was appalling. Weavers and miners were starving, agricultural labourers were driven into the new workhouses, and riots were of common occurrence. The Chartists believed their proposals would improve matters, other working-class leaders believed that a general stoppage of work would be more effective.
Sybil, in London with her father, ardently supported the popular movement. Meeting Egremont near Westminster Abbey on the very day after Gerard and Morley had waited upon him, she allowed him to escort her home. Then, for the first time, she learnt that her friend "Mr. Franklin" was the brother of Lord Marney.
It was in vain Egremont urged that they might still be friends, that the gulf between rich and poor was not impassable.
"Oh, sir," said Sybil haughtily, "I am one of those who believe the gulf is impassable—yes, utterly impassable!"
IV.—Plotting Against Lord De Mowbray
Stephen Morley was the editor of the "Mowbray Phoenix," a teetotaler, a vegetarian, a believer in moral force. The friend of Gerard, and in love with Sybil, Stephen looked with no favour on Egremont. Although a delegate to the Chartist Convention, Stephen had not forgotten the claims of Gerard to landed estate, and had pursued his inquiries as to the whereabouts of Hatton with some success.
First Stephen had journeyed to Woodgate, commonly known as Hell-house Yard, a wild and savage place, the abode of a lawless race of men who fashioned locks and instruments of iron. Here he had found Simon Hatton, who knew nothing of his brother's residence.
By accident Stephen discovered that the man he sought lived in the Temple. Baptist Hatton at that time was the most famous of heraldic antiquaries. Not a pedigree in dispute, not a peerage in abeyance, but it was submitted to his consideration. A solitary man was Baptist Hatton, wealthy and absorbed in his pursuits. The meeting with Morley excited him, and he turned over the matter anxiously in his mind as he sat alone.
"The son of Walter Gerard, a Chartist delegate! The best blood in England! Those infernal papers! They made my fortune; and yet the deed has cost me many a pang. It seemed innoxious; the old man dead, insolvent; myself starving; his son ignorant of all—to whom could they be of use, for it required thousands to work them? And yet with all my wealth and power what memory shall I leave? Not a relative in the world, except a barbarian. Ah! had I a child like the beautiful daughter of Gerard. I have seen her. He must be a fiend who could injure her. I am that fiend. Let me see what can be done. What if I married her?"
But Hatton did not offer marriage to Sybil. He did much to make her stay in London pleasant; but there was something about the maiden that awed while it fascinated him. A Catholic himself, Hatton was not surprised to hear from Gerard of Sybil's wish to enter a convent. "And to my mind she is right. My daughter cannot look to marriage; no man that she could marry would be worthy of her."
This did not deter Hatton from considering how the papers relating to Gerard's lost estates could be recovered.
The first move was an action entered against Lord de Mowbray, and this brought that distinguished peer to Mr. Hatton's chambers in the Temple, for Hatton was at that time advising Lord de Mowbray in the matter of reviving an ancient barony. Hatton easily quieted his client.
"Mr. Walter Gerard can do nothing without the deed of '77. Your documents you say are all secure?"
"They are at this moment in the muniment room of the tower of Mowbray Castle."
"Keep them; this action is a feint."
As for Mr. Baptist Hatton, the next time we see him a few months had elapsed. He is at the principal hotel in Mowbray in consultation with Stephen Morley.
A great labour demonstration had taken place the previous night on the moors outside the town, and Gerard had been acclaimed as a popular hero.
"Documents are in existence," said Hatton, "which prove the title of Walter Gerard to the proprietorship of this great district. Two hundred thousand human beings yesterday acknowledged the supremacy of Gerard. Suppose they had known that within the walls of Mowbray Castle were contained the proofs that Walter Gerard was the lawful possessor of the lands on which they live? Moral force is a fine thing, friend Morley, but the public spirit is inflamed here. You are a leader of the people. Let us have another meeting on the Moor! you can put your fingers in a trice on the man who will do our work. Mowbray Castle in their possession, a certain iron chest, painted blue, and blazoned with the shield of Valence, would be delivered to you. You shall have L10,000 down and I will take you back to London besides."
"The effort would fail," said Stephen Morley. "Wages must drop still more, and the discontent here be deeper. But I will keep the secret; I will treasure it up."
V.—Liberty—At a Price
While Mr. Baptist Hatton and Stephen Morley discussed the possible recovery of the papers, much happened in London. Gerard became a marked man in the Chartist Convention, a member of a small but resolute committee. Egremont, now deeply in love with Sybil, declared his suit.
"From the first moment I beheld you in the starlit arch of Marney, your image has never been absent from my consciousness. Do not reject my love; it is deep as your nature, and fervent as my own. Banish those prejudices that have embittered your existence. If I be a noble, I have none of the accidents of nobility. I cannot offer you wealth, splendour, and power; but I can offer you the devotion of an entranced being, aspirations that you shall guide, an ambition that you shall govern."
"These words are mystical and wild," said Sybil in amazement. "You are Lord Marney's brother; I learnt it but yesterday. Retain your hand, and share your life and fortunes! You forget what I am. No, no, kind friend—for such I'll call you—your opinion of me touches me deeply. I am not used to such passages in life. A union between the child and brother of nobles and a daughter of the people is impossible. It would mean estrangement from your family, their hopes destroyed, their pride outraged. Believe me, the gulf is impassable."
The Chartist petition was rejected by the House of Commons contemptuously. Riots took place in Birmingham. Sybil grew anxious for her father's safety.
Egremont's speech in parliament on the presentation of the national petition created some perplexity among his aristocratic relatives and acquaintances. It was free from the slang of faction—the voice of a noble who had upheld the popular cause, who had pronounced that the rights of labour were as sacred as those of property, that the social happiness of the millions should be the statesman's first object.
Sybil, enjoying the calm of St. James's Park on a summer morning, read the speech with emotion, and while she still held the paper the orator himself stood before her. She smiled without distress, and presently confided to Egremont that she was unhappy, about her father.
"I honour your father," said Egremont "Counsel him to return to Mowbray. Exert every energy to get him to leave London at once—to-night if possible. After this business at Birmingham the government will strike at the convention. If your father returns to Mowbray and is quiet, he has a chance of not being disturbed."
Sybil returned and warned her father. "You are in danger," she cried, "great and immediate. Let us quit this city to-night."
"To-morrow, my child," Walter Gerard assured her, "we will return to Mowbray. To-night our council meets, and we have work of utmost importance. We must discountenance scenes of violence. The moment our council is over I will come back to you."
But Walter Gerard did not return. While Sybil sat and waited, Stephen Morley entered the room. His manner was strange and unusual.
"Your father is in danger; time is precious. I can endure no longer the anguish of my life. I love you, and if you will not be mine, I care for no one's fate. I can save your father. If I see him before eight o'clock, I can convince him that the government knows of his intentions, and will arrest him to-night. I am ready to do this service—to save the father from death and the daughter from despair, if she would but only say to me: 'I have but one reward, and it is yours.'"
"It is bitter, this," said Sybil, "bitter for me and mine; but for you pollution, this bargaining of blood. In the name of the Holy Virgin I answer you—no!"
Morley rushed frantically from the room.
Sybil, in despair, made her way to a coffee-house near Charing Cross, which she knew had been much frequented by members of the Chartist Convention. Here, after some delay, she was given the fatal address in Hunt Street, Seven Dials.
Sybil arrived at the meeting a few minutes before the police raided the premises. She was found with her father, and taken with him and six other men to Bow Street Police Station. A note to Egremont procured her release in the early hours of the morning.
Walter Gerard in due time was sent to trial, convicted and sentenced to eighteen month's confinement in York Castle.
VI.—Within the Castle Walls
In 1842 came the great stoppage of work. The mills ceased; the miners went "to play," despairing of a fair day's wage for a fair day's work; and the inhabitants of Woodgate—the Hell-cats, as they were called— stirred up by a Chartist delegate, sallied forth with Simon Hatton, named the "liberator," at their head to deal ruthlessly with all "oppressors of the people."
They sacked houses, plundered cellars, ravaged provision shops, destroyed gas-works and stormed workhouses. In time they came to Mowbray. There the liberator came face to face with Baptist Hatton without recognising his brother.
Stephen Morley and Baptist Hatton were in close conference.
"The times are critical," said Hatton.
"Mowbray may be burnt to the ground before the troops arrive," Morley replied.
"And the castle, too," said Hatton quietly. "I was thinking only yesterday of a certain box of papers. To business, friend Morley. This savage relative of mine cannot be quiet. If he does not destroy Trafford's Mill it will be the castle. Why not the castle instead of the mill?"
Trafford's Mill was saved by the direct intervention of Walter Gerard. All the people of Mowbray knew the good reputation of the Traffords, and Gerard's eloquence turned the mob from the attack.
While the liberator and the Hell-cats hesitated, a man named Dandy Mick, prompted by Morley, urged that a walk should be taken in Lord de Mowbray's park.
The proposition was received with shouts of approbation. Gerard succeeded in detaching a number of Mowbray men, but the Hell-cats, armed with bludgeons, poured into the park and on to the castle.
Lady de Mowbray and her friends made their escape, taking Sybil, who had sought refuge from the mob, with them.
Mr. St. Lys gathered a body of men in defence of the castle, but came too late to prevent the entrance of the Hell-cats. Singularly enough, Morley and one or two of his followers entered with the liberator.
The first great rush was to the cellars, and the invaders were quickly at work knocking off the heads of bottles, and brandishing torches. Morley and his lads traced their way down a corridor to the winding steps of the Round Tower, and forced their way into the muniment room of the castle. It was not till his search had nearly been abandoned in despair that he found the small blue box blazoned with the arms of Valence. He passed it hastily to a trusted companion, Dandy Mick, and bade him deliver it to Sybil Gerard at the convent.
At this moment the noise of musketry was heard; the yeomanry were on the scene.
Morley, cut off from flight by the military, was shot, pistol in hand, with the name of Sybil on his lips. "The world will misjudge me," he thought—"they will call me hypocrite, but the world is wrong."
The man with the box escaped through the window, and in spite of the fire, troopers, and mob, reached the convent in safety.
The castle was burnt to the ground by the torches of the Hell-cats.
Sybil, separated from her friends, found herself surrounded by a band of drunken ruffians. She was rescued by a yeomanry officer, who pressed her to his heart.
"Never to part again," said Egremont.
Under Egremont's protection, Sybil returned to the convent, and there in the courtyard they found Dandy Mick, who had refused to deliver his charge, and was lying down with the blue box for his pillow. He had fulfilled his mission. Sybil, too agitated to perceive all its import, delivered the box into the custody of Egremont, who, bidding farewell to Sybil, bade Mick follow him to his hotel.
While these events were happening, Lord Marney, hearing an alarmed and exaggerated report of the insurrection, and believing that Egremont's forces were by no means equal to the occasion, had set out for Mowbray with his own troop of yeomanry.
Crossing the moor, he encountered Walter Gerard with a great multitude, whom Gerard headed for purposes of peace.
His mind inflamed, and hating at all times any popular demonstration, Lord Marney hastily read the Riot Act, and the people were fired on and sabred. The indignant spirit of Gerard resisted, and the father of Sybil was shot dead. Instantly arose a groan, and a feeling of frenzy came over the people. Armed only with stones and bludgeons they defied the troopers, and rushed at the horsemen; a shower of stones rattled without ceasing on the helmet of Lord Marney, nor did the people rest till Lord Marney fell lifeless on Mowbray Moor, stoned to death.
The writ of right against Lord de Mowbray proved successful in the courts, and his lordship died of the blow.
For a long time after the death of her father Sybil remained in helpless woe. The widowed Lady Marney, however, came over one day, and carried her back to Marney Abbey, never again to quit it until the bridal day, when the Earl and Countess of Marney departed for Italy.
Though the result was not what Mr. Hatton had once anticipated, the idea that he had deprived Sybil of her inheritance had, ever since he had become acquainted with her, been the plague-spot of Hatton's life, and there was nothing he desired more than to see her restored to those rights, and to be instrumental in that restoration.
Dandy Mick was rewarded for all the dangers he had encountered in the service of Sybil, and was set up in business by Lord Marney. A year after the burning of Mowbray Castle, on the return of the Earl and Countess of Marney to England, the romantic marriage and the enormous wealth of Lord and Lady Marney were still the talk in fashionable circles.
* * * * *
Tancred, or the New Crusade
"Tancred," published in 1847, completes the trilogy, which began with "Coningsby" in 1844, and had its second volume in "Sybil" in 1845. In these three novels Disraeli gave to the world his political, social, and religious philosophy. "Coningsby" was mainly political, "Sybil" mainly social, and in "Tancred," as the author tells us, Disraeli dealt with the origin of the Christian Church of England and its relation to the Hebrew race whence Christianity sprang. "Public opinion recognized the truth and sincerity of these views," although their general spirit ran counter to current Liberal utilitarianism. Although "Tancred" lacks the vigour of "Sibyl" and the wit of "Coningsby," it is full of the colour of the East, and the satire and irony in the part relating to Tancred's life in England are vastly entertaining. As in others of Disraeli's novels, many of the characters here are portraits of real personages.
I.—Tancred Goes Forth on His Quest
Tancred, the Marquis of Montacute, was certainly strangely distracted on his twenty-first birthday. He stood beside his father, the Duke of Bellamont, in the famous Crusaders' gallery in the Castle of Montacute, listening to the congratulations which the mayor and corporation of Montacute town were addressing to him; but all the time he kept his eyes fixed on the magnificent tapestries from which the name of the gallery was derived. His namesake, Tancred of Montacute, had distinguished himself in the Third Crusade by saving the life of King Richard at the siege of Ascalon, and his exploits were depicted on the fine Gobelins work hanging on the walls of the great hall. Oblivious of the gorgeous ceremony in which he was playing the principal part, the young Marquis of Montacute stared at the pictures of the Crusader, and a wild, fantastical idea took hold of him.
He was the only child of the Duke of Bellamont, and all the high nobility of England were assembled to celebrate his coming of age. Everything that fortune could bestow seemed to have been given to him. He was the heir of the greatest and richest of English dukes, and his life was made smooth and easy. His father had got a seat in parliament waiting for him, and his mother had already selected a noble and beautiful young lady for his wife. Neither of them had yet consulted their son, but Tancred was so sweet and gentle a boy that they did not dream he would oppose their wishes. They had planned out his life for him ever since he was born, with the view to educating him for the position which he was to occupy in the English aristocracy, and he had always taken the path which they had chosen for him.
In the evening, the duke summoned his son into his library.
"My dear Tancred," he said, "I have a piece of good news for you on your birthday. Hungerford feels that he cannot represent our constituency now that you have come of age, and, with great kindness, he is resigning his seat in your favour. He says that the Marquis of Montacute ought to stand for the town of Montacute, so you will be able to enter parliament at once."
"But I do not wish to enter parliament," said Tancred.
The duke leant back from his desk with a look of painful surprise on his face.
"Not enter parliament?" he exclaimed. "Every Lord Montacute has gone into the House of Commons before taking his seat in the House of Lords. It is an excellent training."
"I am not anxious to enter the House of Lords either," said Tancred. "And I hope, my dear father," he added, with a smile that lit up his young, grave, beautiful face, "that it will be very, very long before I succeed to your place there."
"What, then, do you intend to do, my boy?" said Bellamont, in intense perplexity. "You are the heir to one of the greatest positions in the state, and you have duties to perform. How are you going to fit yourself for them?"
"That is what I have been thinking of for years," said Tancred. "Oh, my dear father, if you knew how long and earnestly I have prayed for guidance! Yes, I have duties to perform! But in this wild, confused, and aimless age of ours, what man can see what his duties are? For my part, I cannot find that it is my duty to maintain the present order of things. In nothing in our religion, our government, our manners, do I find faith. And if there is no faith, how can there be any duty? We have ceased to be a nation. We are a mere crowd, kept from utter anarchy by the remains of an old system which we are daily destroying."
"But what would you do, my dear boy?" said the duke, pale with anxiety. "Have you found any remedy?"
"No," said Tancred mournfully. "There is no remedy to be found in England. Oh, let me save myself, father! Let me save our people from the corruption and ruin that threaten us!"
"But what do you want to do? Where do you want to go?" said the duke.
"I want to go to God!" cried the young nobleman, his blue eyes flaming with a strange light "How is it that the Almighty Power does not send down His angels to enlighten us in our perplexities? Where is the Paraclete, the Comforter Who was promised us? I must go and seek him."
"You are a visionary, my boy," said the duke, gazing at him in blank astonishment.
"Was the Montacute that fought by the side of King Richard in the Holy Land a visionary?" said Tancred. "All I ask is to be allowed to follow in his footsteps. For three days and three nights he knelt in prayer at the tomb of his Redeemer. Six centuries and more have gone by since then. It is high time that we renewed our intercourse with the Most High in the country of His chosen people. I, too, would kneel at that tomb. I, too, surrounded by the holy hills and groves of Jerusalem, would lift my voice to Heaven, and ask for inspiration."
"But surely God will hear your prayers in England as well as in Palestine?"
"No," said his son. "He has never raised up a prophet or a great saint in this country. If we want Him to speak to us as He spoke to the men of old, we must go, like the Crusaders, to the Holy Land."
Finding that he could not turn his son from the strange course on which he was bent, the duke got a great prelate to try and persuade him that all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds.
"We live in an age of progress," reasoned the philosophic bishop. "Religion is spreading with the spread of civilisation. How all our towns are growing! We shall soon see a bishop in Manchester."
"I want to see an angel in Manchester," replied Tancred.
It was no use arguing with a man who talked in this way, and the duke gave Tancred permission to set out on his new crusade.
II.—The Vigil by the Tomb
The moon sank behind the Mount of Olives, leaving the towers, minarets, and domes of Jerusalem in deep shadow; the lamps in the city went out, and every outline was lost in gloom; but the Church of the Holy Sepulchre still shone in the darkness like a beacon light. There, while every soul in Jerusalem slumbered, Tancred knelt in prayer by the tomb of Christ, under the lighted dome, waiting for the fire from heaven to strike into his soul.
His strange vigil was the talk of Syria. It is remarkable how quickly news travels in the East.
"Do you know," said Besso, Rothschild's agent, to his foster-son Fakredeen, an emir of Lebanon, as they sat talking in a house near the gate of Sion, "the young Englishman has brought me such a letter that if he were to tell me to rebuild Solomon's temple, I must do it!"
"He must be fabulously rich!" said Fakredeen, with a sigh. "What has he come here for? The English do not come on pilgrimages. They are all infidels."
"Well, he has come on a pilgrimage," said Besso, "and he is the greatest of English princes. He kneels all night and day in the church over there."
Yes, after a week of solitude, fasting, and prayer, Tancred was keeping vigil before the empty Sepulchre, where Tancred of Montacute had knelt six hundred years before. Day after day, night after night, he prayed for inspiration, but no divine voice broke in upon his impassioned reveries. It was for him that Alonzo Lara, the prior of Terra Santa, kept the light burning all night long at the Holy Sepulchre, for the Spaniard had been moved by the deep faith of the young English nobleman. And one day he said to him:
"Sinai led to Calvary. I think it would be wise for you to trace the path backward from Calvary to Sinai."
It was extremely perilous at that time to adventure into the great desert, for the wild Bedouin tribes were encamped there. But, in spite of this, Tancred made arrangements with an Arabian chief, Sheikh Hassan, and set out for Sinai at the head of a well-armed band of Arabs.
"Ah!" said the sheikh, as they entered the mountainous country, after a three days' march across the wilderness. "Look at these tracks of horses and camels in the defile. The marks are fresh. See that your guns are primed!" he cried to his men.
As he spoke a troop of wild horsemen galloped down the ravine.
"Hassan," one of them shouted, "is that the brother of the Queen of the English with you? Let him ride with us, and you may return in peace."
"He is my brother, too," said Hassan. "Stand aside, you sons of Eblis, or you shall bite the earth."
A wild shout from every height of the defile was the answer. Tancred looked up. The crest on either side was lined with Bedouins, each with his musket levelled.
"There is only one thing for us to do," said Tancred to Hassan. "Let us charge through the defile, and die like men!"
Seizing his pistols, he shot the first horseman through the head, and disabled another. Then he charged down the ravine, and Hassan and his men followed, and scattered the horsemen before them. The Bedouins fired down on them from the crests, and, in a few moments, the place was filled with smoke, and Tancred could not see a yard around him. Still he galloped on, and the smoke suddenly drifted, and he found himself at the mouth of the defile, with a few followers behind him. A crowd of Bedouins were waiting for him.
"Die fighting! Die fighting!" he shouted. Then his horse stumbled, stabbed from beneath by a Bedouin dagger, and fell in the sand. Before he could get his feet out of the stirrups, he was overpowered and bound.