'We have been exploring the happy valley,' said Lord Cadurcis to Lady Annabel, 'and here is our plunder,' and he gave her the violets.
'You were always fond of flowers,' said Lady Annabel.
'Yes, I imbibed the taste from you,' said Cadurcis, gratified by the gracious remark.
He seated himself at her feet, examined and admired her work, and talked of old times, but with such infinite discretion, that he did not arouse a single painful association. Venetia was busied with her father's poems, and smiled often at the manuscript notes of Cadurcis. Lying, as usual, on the grass, and leaning his head on his left arm, Herbert was listening to Captain Cadurcis, who was endeavouring to give him a clear idea of the Bosphorus. Thus the morning wore away, until the sun drove them into the villa.
'I will show you my library, Lord Cadurcis,' said Herbert.
Cadurcis followed him into a spacious apartment, where he found a collection so considerable that he could not suppress his surprise. 'Italian spoils chiefly,' said Herbert; 'a friend of mine purchased an old library at Bologna for me, and it turned out richer than I imagined: the rest are old friends that have been with me, many of them at least, at college. I brought them back with me from America, for then they were my only friends.'
'Can you find Cabanis?' said Lord Cadurcis.
Herbert looked about. It is in this neighbourhood, I imagine,' he said. Cadurcis endeavoured to assist him. 'What is this?' he said; 'Plato!'
'I should like to read Plato at Athens,' said Herbert. 'My ambition now does not soar beyond such elegant fortune.'
'We are all under great obligations to Plato,' said Cadurcis. 'I remember, when I was in London, I always professed myself his disciple, and it is astonishing what results I experienced. Platonic love was a great invention.'
Herbert smiled; but, as he saw Cadurcis knew nothing about the subject, he made no reply.
'Plato says, or at least I think he says, that life is love,' said Cadurcis. 'I have said it myself in a very grand way too; I believe I cribbed it from you. But what does he mean? I am sure I meant nothing; but I dare say you did.'
'I certainly had some meaning,' said Herbert, stopping in his search, and smiling, 'but I do not know whether I expressed it. The principle of every motion, that is of all life, is desire or love: at present; I am in love with the lost volume of Cabanis, and, if it were not for the desire of obtaining it, I should not now be affording any testimony of my vitality by looking after it.'
'That is very clear,' said Cadurcis, 'but I was thinking of love in the vulgar sense, in the shape of a petticoat. Certainly, when I am in love with a woman, I feel love is life; but, when I am out of love, which often happens, and generally very soon, I still contrive to live.'
'We exist,' said Herbert, 'because we sympathise. If we did not sympathise with the air, we should die. But, if we only sympathised with the air, we should be in the lowest order of brutes, baser than the sloth. Mount from the sloth to the poet. It is sympathy that makes you a poet. It is your desire that the airy children of your brain should be born anew within another's, that makes you create; therefore, a misanthropical poet is a contradiction in terms.'
'But when he writes a lampoon?' said Cadurcis.
'He desires that the majority, who are not lampooned, should share his hate,' said Herbert.
'But Swift lampooned the species,' said Cadurcis. 'For my part, I think life is hatred.'
'But Swift was not sincere, for he wrote the Drapier's Letters at the same time. Besides, the very fact of your abusing mankind proves that you do not hate them; it is clear that you are desirous of obtaining their good opinion of your wit. You value them, you esteem them, you love them. Their approbation causes you to act, and makes you happy. As for sexual love,' said Herbert, 'of which you were speaking, its quality and duration depend upon the degree of sympathy that subsists between the two persons interested. Plato believed, and I believe with him, in the existence of a spiritual antitype of the soul, so that when we are born, there is something within us which, from the instant we live and move, thirsts after its likeness. This propensity develops itself with the development of our nature. The gratification of the senses soon becomes a very small part of that profound and complicated sentiment, which we call love. Love, on the contrary, is an universal thirst for a communion, not merely of the senses, but of our whole nature, intellectual, imaginative, and sensitive. He who finds his antitype, enjoys a love perfect and enduring; time cannot change it, distance cannot remove it; the sympathy is complete. He who loves an object that approaches his antitype, is proportionately happy, the sympathy is feeble or strong, as it may be. If men were properly educated, and their faculties fully developed,' continued Herbert, 'the discovery of the antitype would be easy; and, when the day arrives that it is a matter of course, the perfection of civilisation will be attained.'
'I believe in Plato,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'and I think I have found my antitype. His theory accounts for what I never could understand.'
In the course of the evening Lady Annabel requested Lord Cadurcis and his cousin to take up their quarters at the villa. Independent of the delight which such an invitation occasioned him, Cadurcis was doubly gratified by its being given by her. It was indeed her unprompted solicitation; for neither Herbert nor even Venetia, however much they desired the arrangement, was anxious to appear eager for its fulfilment. Desirous of pleasing her husband and her daughter; a little penitent as to her previous treatment of Cadurcis, now that time and strange events had combined to soften her feelings; and won by his engaging demeanour towards herself, Lady Annabel had of mere impulse resolved upon the act; and she was repaid by the general air of gaiety and content which it diffused through the circle.
Few weeks indeed passed ere her ladyship taught herself even to contemplate the possibility of an union between her daughter and Lord Cadurcis. The change which had occurred in her own feelings and position had in her estimation removed very considerable barriers to such a result. It would not become her again to urge the peculiarity of his temperament as an insuperable objection to the marriage; that was out of the question, even if the conscience of Lady Annabel herself, now that she was so happy, were perfectly free from any participation in the causes which occasioned the original estrangement between Herbert and herself. Desirous too, as all mothers are, that her daughter should be suitably married, Lady Annabel could not shut her eyes to the great improbability of such an event occurring, now that Venetia had, as it were, resigned all connection with her native country. As to her daughter marrying a foreigner, the very idea was intolerable to her; and Venetia appeared therefore to have resumed that singular and delicate position which she occupied at Cherbury in earlier years, when Lady Annabel had esteemed her connection with Lord Cadurcis so fortunate and auspicious. Moreover, while Lord Cadurcis, in birth, rank, country, and consideration, offered in every view of the ease so gratifying an alliance, he was perhaps the only Englishman whose marriage into her family would not deprive her of the society of her child. Cadurcis had a great distaste for England, which he seized every opportunity to express. He continually declared that he would never return there; and his habits of seclusion and study so entirely accorded with those of her husband, that Lady Annabel did not doubt they would continue to form only one family; a prospect so engaging to her, that it would perhaps have alone removed the distrust which she had so unfortunately cherished against the admirer of her daughter; and although some of his reputed opinions occasioned her doubtless considerable anxiety, he was nevertheless very young, and far from emancipated from the beneficial influence of his early education. She was sanguine that this sheep would yet return to the fold where once he had been tended with so much solicitude. When too she called to mind the chastened spirit of her husband, and could not refrain from feeling that, had she not quitted him, he might at a much earlier period have attained a mood so full of promise and to her so cheering, she could not resist the persuasion that, under the influence of Venetia, Cadurcis might speedily free himself from the dominion of that arrogant genius to which, rather than to any serious conviction, the result of a studious philosophy, she attributed his indifference on the most important of subjects. On the whole, however, it was with no common gratification that Lady Annabel observed the strong and intimate friendship that arose between her husband and Cadurcis. They were inseparable companions. Independently of the natural sympathy between two highly imaginative minds, there were in the superior experience, the noble character, the vast knowledge, and refined taste of Herbert, charms of which Cadurcis was very susceptible Cadurcis had not been a great reader himself, and he liked the company of one whose mind was at once so richly cultured and so deeply meditative: thus he obtained matter and spirit distilled through the alembic of another's brain. Jealousy had never had a place in Herbert's temperament; now he was insensible even to emulation. He spoke of Cadurcis as he thought, with the highest admiration; as one without a rival, and in whose power it was to obtain an imperishable fame. It was his liveliest pleasure to assist the full development of such an intellect, and to pour to him, with a lavish hand, all the treasures of his taste, his learning, his fancy, and his meditation. His kind heart, his winning manners, his subdued and perfect temper, and the remembrance of the relation which he bore to Venetia, completed the spell which bound Cadurcis to him with all the finest feelings of his nature. It was, indeed, an intercourse peculiarly beneficial to Cadurcis, whose career had hitherto tended rather to the development of the power, than the refinement of his genius; and to whom an active communion with an equal spirit of a more matured intelligence was an incident rather to be desired than expected. Herbert and Cadurcis, therefore, spent their mornings together, sometimes in the library, sometimes wandering in the chestnut woods, sometimes sailing in the boat of the brig, for they were both fond of the sea: in these excursions, George was in general their companion. He had become a great favourite with Herbert, as with everybody else. No one managed a boat so well, although Cadurcis prided himself also on his skill in this respect; and George was so frank and unaffected, and so used to his cousin's habits, that his presence never embarrassed Herbert and Cadurcis, and they read or conversed quite at their ease, as if there were no third person to mar, by his want of sympathy, the full communion of their intellect. The whole circle met at dinner, and never again parted until at a late hour of night. This was a most agreeable life; Cadurcis himself, good humoured because he was happy, doubly exerted himself to ingratiate himself with Lady Annabel, and felt every day that he was advancing. Venetia always smiled upon him, and praised him delightfully for his delightful conduct.
In the evening, Herbert would read to them the manuscript poem of Cadurcis, the fruits of his Attic residence and Grecian meditations. The poet would sometimes affect a playful bashfulness on this head, perhaps not altogether affected, and amuse Venetia, in a whisper, with his running comments; or exclaim with an arch air, 'I say, Venetia, what would Mrs. Montague and the Blues give for this, eh? I can fancy Hannah More in decent ecstasies!'
'It is an odd thing, my dear Herbert,' said Cadurcis to his friend, in one of these voyages, 'that destiny should have given you and me the same tutor.'
'Masham!' said Herbert, smiling. 'I tell you what is much more singular, my dear Cadurcis; it is, that, notwithstanding being our tutor, a mitre should have fallen upon his head.'
'I am heartily glad,' said Cadurcis. 'I like Masham very much; I really have a sincere affection for him. Do you know, during my infernal affair about those accursed Monteagles, when I went to the House of Lords, and was cut even by my own party; think of that, the polished ruffians! Masham was the only person who came forward and shook hands with me, and in the most marked manner. A bishop, too! and the other side! that was good, was it not? But he would not see his old pupil snubbed; if he had waited ten minutes longer, he might have had a chance of seeing him massacred. And then they complain of my abusing England, my mother country; a step-dame, I take it.'
'Masham is in politics a Tory, in religion ultra-orthodox,' Herbert. 'He has nothing about him of the latitudinarian; and yet he is the most amiable man with whom I am acquainted. Nature has given him a kind and charitable heart, which even his opinions have not succeeded in spoiling.'
'Perhaps that is exactly what he is saying of us two at this moment,' said Cadurcis. 'After all, what is truth? It changes as you change your clime or your country; it changes with the century. The truth of a hundred years ago is not the truth of the present day, and yet it may have been as genuine. Truth at Rome is not the truth of London, and both of them differ from the truth of Constantinople. For my part, I believe everything.'
'Well, that is practically prudent, if it be metaphysically possible,' said Herbert. 'Do you know that I have always been of opinion, that Pontius Pilate has been greatly misrepresented by Lord Bacon in the quotation of his celebrated question. 'What is truth?' said jesting Pilate, and would not wait for an answer. Let us be just to Pontius Pilate, who has sins enough surely to answer for. There is no authority for the jesting humour given by Lord Bacon. Pilate was evidently of a merciful and clement disposition; probably an Epicurean. His question referred to a declaration immediately preceding it, that He who was before him came to bear witness to the truth. Pilate inquired what truth?'
'Well, I always have a prejudice against Pontius Pilate,' said Lord Cadurcis; 'and I think it is from seeing him, when I was a child, on an old Dutch tile fireplace at Marringhurst, dressed like a burgomaster. One cannot get over one's early impressions; but when you picture him to me as an Epicurean, he assumes a new character. I fancy him young, noble, elegant, and accomplished; crowned with a wreath and waving a goblet, and enjoying his government vastly.'
'Before the introduction of Christianity,' said Herbert, 'the philosophic schools answered to our present religious sects. You said of a man that he was a Stoic or an Epicurean, as you say of a man now that he is a Calvinist or a Wesleyan.'
'I should have liked to have known Epicurus,' said Cadurcis.
'I would sooner have known him and Plato than any of the ancients,' said Herbert. 'I look upon Plato as the wisest and the profoundest of men, and upon Epicurus as the most humane and gentle.'
'Now, how do you account for the great popularity of Aristotle in modern ages?' said Cadurcis; 'and the comparative neglect of these, at least his equals? Chance, I suppose, that settles everything.'
'By no means,' said Herbert. 'If you mean by chance an absence of accountable cause, I do not believe such a quality as chance exists. Every incident that happens, must be a link in a chain. In the present case, the monks monopolised literature, such as it might be, and they exercised their intellect only in discussing words. They, therefore, adopted Aristotle and the Peripatetics. Plato interfered with their heavenly knowledge, and Epicurus, who maintained the rights of man to pleasure and happiness, would have afforded a dangerous and seducing contrast to their dark and miserable code of morals.'
'I think, of the ancients,' said Cadurcis; 'Alcibiades and Alexander the Great are my favourites. They were young, beautiful, and conquerors; a great combination.'
'And among the moderns?' inquired Herbert.
'They don't touch my fancy,' said Cadurcis. 'Who are your heroes?'
'Oh! I have many; but I confess I should like to pass a day with Milton, or Sir Philip Sidney.'
'Among mere literary men,' said Cadurcis; 'I should say Bayle.'
'And old Montaigne for me,' said Herbert.
'Well, I would fain visit him in his feudal chateau,' said Cadurcis. 'His is one of the books which give a spring to the mind. Of modern times, the feudal ages of Italy most interest me. I think that was a springtide of civilisation, all the fine arts nourished at the same moment.'
'They ever will,' said Herbert. 'All the inventive arts maintain a sympathetic connection between each other, for, after all, they are only various expressions of one internal power, modified by different circumstances either of the individual or of society. It was so in the age of Pericles; I mean the interval which intervened between the birth of that great man and the death of Aristotle; undoubtedly, whether considered in itself, or with reference to the effects which it produced upon the subsequent destinies of civilised man, the most memorable in the history of the world.'
'And yet the age of Pericles has passed away,' said Lord Cadurcis mournfully, 'and I have gazed upon the mouldering Parthenon. O Herbert! you are a great thinker and muse deeply; solve me the problem why so unparalleled a progress was made during that period in literature and the arts, and why that progress, so rapid and so sustained, so soon received a check and became retrograde?'
'It is a problem left to the wonder and conjecture of posterity,' said Herbert. 'But its solution, perhaps, may principally be found in the weakness of their political institutions. Nothing of the Athenians remains except their genius; but they fulfilled their purpose. The wrecks and fragments of their subtle and profound minds obscurely suggest to us the grandeur and perfection of the whole. Their language excels every other tongue of the Western world; their sculptures baffle all subsequent artists; credible witnesses assure us that their paintings were not inferior; and we are only accustomed to consider the painters of Italy as those who have brought the art to its highest perfection, because none of the ancient pictures have been preserved. Yet of all their fine arts, it was music of which the Greeks were themselves most proud. Its traditionary effects were far more powerful than any which we experience from the compositions of our times. And now for their poetry, Cadurcis. It is in poetry, and poetry alone, that modern nations have maintained the majesty of genius. Do we equal the Greeks? Do we even excel them?'
'Let us prove the equality first,' said Cadurcis. 'The Greeks excelled in every species of poetry. In some we do not even attempt to rival them. We have not a single modern ode, or a single modern pastoral. We have no one to place by Pindar, or the exquisite Theocritus. As for the epic, I confess myself a heretic as to Homer; I look upon the Iliad as a remnant of national songs; the wise ones agree that the Odyssey is the work of a later age. My instinct agrees with the result of their researches. I credit their conclusion. The Paradise Lost is, doubtless, a great production, but the subject is monkish. Dante is national, but he has all the faults of a barbarous age. In general the modern epic is framed upon the assumption that the Iliad is an orderly composition. They are indebted for this fallacy to Virgil, who called order out of chaos; but the Aeneid, all the same, appears to me an insipid creation. And now for the drama. You will adduce Shakspeare?'
'There are passages in Dante,' said Herbert, 'not inferior, in my opinion, to any existing literary composition, but, as a whole, I will not make my stand on him; I am not so clear that, as a lyric poet, Petrarch may not rival the Greeks. Shakspeare I esteem of ineffable merit.'
'And who is Shakspeare?' said Cadurcis. 'We know of him as much as we do of Homer. Did he write half the plays attributed to him? Did he ever write a single whole play? I doubt it. He appears to me to have been an inspired adapter for the theatres, which were then not as good as barns. I take him to have been a botcher up of old plays. His popularity is of modern date, and it may not last; it would have surprised him marvellously. Heaven knows, at present, all that bears his name is alike admired; and a regular Shaksperian falls into ecstasies with trash which deserves a niche in the Dunciad. For my part, I abhor your irregular geniuses, and I love to listen to the little nightingale of Twickenham.'
'I have often observed,' said Herbert, 'that writers of an unbridled imagination themselves, admire those whom the world, erroneously, in my opinion, and from a confusion of ideas, esteems correct. I am myself an admirer of Pope, though I certainly should not ever think of classing him among the great creative spirits. And you, you are the last poet in the world, Cadurcis, whom one would have fancied his votary.'
'I have written like a boy,' said Cadurcis. 'I found the public bite, and so I baited on with tainted meat. I have never written for fame, only for notoriety; but I am satiated; I am going to turn over a new leaf.'
'For myself,' said Herbert, 'if I ever had the power to impress my creations on my fellow-men, the inclination is gone, and perhaps the faculty is extinct. My career is over; perhaps a solitary echo from my lyre may yet, at times, linger about the world like a breeze that has lost its way. But there is a radical fault in my poetic mind, and I am conscious of it. I am not altogether void of the creative faculty, but mine is a fragmentary mind; I produce no whole. Unless you do this, you cannot last; at least, you cannot materially affect your species. But what I admire in you, Cadurcis, is that, with all the faults of youth, of which you will free yourself, your creative power is vigorous, prolific, and complete; your creations rise fast and fair, like perfect worlds.'
'Well, we will not compliment each other,' said Cadurcis; 'for, after all, it is a miserable craft. What is poetry but a lie, and what are poets but liars?'
'You are wrong, Cadurcis,' said Herbert, 'poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.'
'I see the towers of Porto Venere,' said Cadurcis directing the sail; 'we shall soon be on shore. I think, too, I recognise Venetia. Ah! my dear Herbert, your daughter is a poem that beats all our inspiration!'
One circumstance alone cast a gloom over this happy family, and that was the approaching departure of Captain Cadurcis for England. This had been often postponed, but it could be postponed no longer. Not even the entreaties of those kind friends could any longer prevent what was inevitable. The kind heart, the sweet temper, and the lively and companionable qualities of Captain Cadurcis, had endeared him to everyone; all felt that his departure would occasion a blank in their life, impossible to be supplied. It reminded the Herberts also painfully of their own situation, in regard to their native country, which they were ever unwilling to dwell upon. George talked of returning to them, but the prospect was necessarily vague; they felt that it was only one of those fanciful visions with which an affectionate spirit attempts to soothe the pang of separation. His position, his duties, all the projects of his life, bound him to England, from which, indeed, he had been too long absent. It was selfish to wish that, for their sakes, he should sink down into a mere idler in Italy; and yet, when they recollected how little his future life could be connected with their own, everyone felt dispirited.
'I shall not go boating to-day,' said George to Venetia; 'it is my last day. Mr. Herbert and Plantagenet talk of going to Lavenza; let us take a stroll together.'
Nothing can be refused to those we love on the last day, and Venetia immediately acceded to his request. In the course of the morning, therefore, herself and George quitted the valley, in the direction of the coast towards Genoa. Many a white sail glittered on the blue waters; it was a lively and cheering scene; but both Venetia and her companion were depressed.
'I ought to be happy,' said George, and sighed. 'The fondest wish of my heart is attained. You remember our conversation on the Lago Maggiore, Venetia? You see I was a prophet, and you will be Lady Cadurcis yet.'
'We must keep up our spirits,' said Venetia; 'I do not despair of our all returning to England yet. So many wonders have happened, that I cannot persuade myself that this marvel will not also occur. I am sure my uncle will do something; I have a secret idea that the Bishop is all this time working for papa; I feel assured I shall see Cherbury and Cadurcis again, and Cadurcis will be your home.'
'A year ago you appeared dying, and Plantagenet was the most miserable of men,' said Captain Cadurcis. 'You are both now perfectly well and perfectly happy, living even under the same roof, soon, I feel, to be united, and with the cordial approbation of Lady Annabel. Your father is restored to you. Every blessing in the world seems to cluster round your roof. It is selfish for me to wear a gloomy countenance.'
'Ah! dear George, you never can be selfish,' said Venetia.
'Yes, I am selfish, Venetia. What else can make me sad?'
'You know how much you contribute to our happiness,' said Venetia, 'and you feel for our sufferings at your absence.'
'No, Venetia, I feel for myself,' said Captain Cadurcis with energy; 'I am certain that I never can be happy, except in your society and Plantagenet's. I cannot express to you how I love you both. Nothing else gives me the slightest interest.'
'You must go home and marry,' said Venetia, smiling 'You must marry an heiress.'
'Never,' said Captain Cadurcis. 'Nothing shall ever induce me to marry. No! all my dreams are confined to being the bachelor uncle of the family.'
'Well, now I think,' said Venetia, 'of all the persons I know, there is no one so qualified for domestic happiness as yourself. I think your wife, George, would be a very fortunate woman, and I only wish I had a sister, that you might marry her.'
'I wish you had, Venetia; I would give up my resolution against marriage directly.'
'Alas!' said Venetia, 'there is always some bitter drop in the cup of life. Must you indeed go, George?'
'My present departure is inevitable,' he replied; 'but I have some thoughts of giving up my profession and Parliament, and then I will return, never to leave you again.'
'What will Lord —— say? That will never do,' said Venetia. 'No; I should not be content unless you prospered in the world, George. You are made to prosper, and I should be miserable if you sacrificed your existence to us. You must go home, and you must marry, and write letters to us by every post, and tell us what a happy man you are. The best thing for you to do would be to live with your wife at the abbey; or Cherbury, if you liked. You see I settle everything.'
'I never will marry,' said Captain Cadurcis, seriously.
'Yes you will,' said Venetia.
'I am quite serious, Venetia. Now, mark my words, and remember this day. I never will marry. I have a reason, and a strong and good one, for my resolution.'
'What is it?'
'Because my marriage will destroy the intimacy that subsists between me and yourself, and Plantagenet,' he added.
'Your wife should be my friend,' said Venetia.
'Happy woman!' said George.
'Let us indulge for a moment in a dream of domestic bliss,' said Venetia gaily. 'Papa and mamma at Cherbury; Plantagenet and myself at the abbey, where you and your wife must remain until we could build you a house; and Dr. Masham coming down to spend Christmas with us. Would it not be delightful? I only hope Plantagenet would be tame. I think he would burst out a little sometimes.'
'Not with you, Venetia, not with you,' said George 'you have a hold over him which nothing can ever shake. I could always put him in an amiable mood in an instant by mentioning your name.'
'I wish you knew the abbey, George,' said Venetia. 'It is the most interesting of all old places. I love it. You must promise me when you arrive in England to go on a pilgrimage to Cadurcis and Cherbury, and write me a long account of it.'
'I will indeed; I will write to you very often.'
'You shall find me a most faithful correspondent, which, I dare say, Plantagenet would not prove.'
'Oh! I beg your pardon,' said George; 'you have no idea of the quantity of letters he wrote me when he first quitted England. And such delightful ones! I do not think there is a more lively letter-writer in the world! His descriptions are so vivid; a few touches give you a complete picture; and then his observations, they are so playful! I assure you there is nothing in the world more easy and diverting than a letter from Plantagenet.'
'If you could only see his first letter from Eton to me?' said Venetia. 'I have always treasured it. It certainly was not very diverting; and, if by easy you mean easy to decipher,' she added laughing, 'his handwriting must have improved very much lately. Dear Plantagenet, I am always afraid I never pay him sufficient respect; that I do not feel sufficient awe in his presence; but I cannot disconnect him from the playfellow of my infancy; and, do you know, it seems to me, whenever he addresses me, his voice and air change, and assume quite the tone and manner of childhood.'
'I have never known him but as a great man,' said Captain Cadurcis; 'but he was so frank and simple with me from the very first, that I cannot believe that it is not two years since we first met.'
'Ah! I shall never forget that night at Ranelagh,' said Venetia, half with a smile and half with a sigh. 'How interesting he looked! I loved to see the people stare at him, and to hear them whisper his name.'
Here they seated themselves by a fountain, overshadowed by a plane-tree, and for a while talked only of Plantagenet.
'All the dreams of my life have come to pass,' said Venetia. 'I remember when I was at Weymouth, ill and not very happy, I used to roam about the sands, thinking of papa, and how I wished Plantagenet was like him, a great man, a great poet, whom all the world admired. Little did I think that, before a year had passed, Plantagenet, my unknown Plantagenet, would be the admiration of England; little did I think another year would pass, and I should be living with my father and Plantagenet together, and they should be bosom friends. You see, George, we must never despair.'
'Under this bright sun,' said Captain Cadurcis, 'one is naturally sanguine, but think of me alone and in gloomy England.'
'It is indeed a bright sun,' said Venetia; 'how wonderful to wake every morning, and be sure of meeting its beam.'
Captain Cadurcis looked around him with a sailor's eye. Over the Apennines, towards Genoa, there was a ridge of dark clouds piled up with such compactness, that they might have been mistaken in a hasty survey for part of the mountains themselves.
'Bright as is the sun,' said Captain Cadurcis, 'we may have yet a squall before night.'
'I was delighted with Venice,' said his companion, not noticing his observation; 'I think of all places in the world it is one which Plantagenet would most admire. I cannot believe but that even his delicious Athens would yield to it.'
'He did lead the oddest life at Athens you can conceive,' said Captain Cadurcis. 'The people did not know what to make of him. He lived in the Latin convent, a fine building which he had almost to himself, for there are not half a dozen monks. He used to pace up and down the terrace which he had turned into a garden, and on which he kept all sorts of strange animals. He wrote continually there. Indeed he did nothing but write. His only relaxation was a daily ride to Piraeus, about five miles over the plain; he told me it was the only time in his life he was ever contented with himself except when he was at Cherbury. He always spoke of London with disgust.'
'Plantagenet loves retirement and a quiet life,' said Venetia; 'but he must not be marred with vulgar sights and common-place duties. That is the secret with him.'
'I think the wind has just changed,' said Captain Cadurcis. 'It seems to me that we shall have a sirocco. There, it shifts again! We shall have a sirocco for certain.'
'What did you think of papa when you first saw him?' said Venetia. 'Was he the kind of person you expected to see?'
'Exactly,' said Captain Cadurcis. 'So very spiritual! Plantagenet said to me, as we went home the first night, that he looked like a golden phantom. I think him very like you, Venetia; indeed, there can be no doubt you inherited your face from your father.'
'Ah! if you had seen his portrait at Cherbury, when he was only twenty!' said Venetia. 'That was a golden phantom, or rather he looked like Hyperion. What are you staring at so, George?'
'I do not like this wind,' muttered Captain Cadurcis. 'There it goes.'
'You cannot see the wind, George?'
'Yes, I can, Venetia, and I do not like it at all. Do you see that black spot flitting like a shade over the sea? It is like the reflection of a cloud on the water; but there is no cloud. Well, that is the wind, Venetia, and a very wicked wind too.'
'How strange! Is that indeed the wind?'
'We had better return home,' said Captain Cadurcis I wish they had not gone to Lavenza.'
'But there is no danger?' said Venetia.
'Danger? No! no danger, but they may get a wet jacket.'
They walked on; but Captain Cadurcis was rather distrait: his eye was always watching the wind; at last he said, 'I tell you, Venetia, we must walk quickly; for, by Jove, we are going to have a white squall.'
They hurried their pace, Venetia mentioned her alarm again about the boat; but her companion reassured her; yet his manner was not so confident as his words.
A white mist began to curl above the horizon, the blueness of the day seemed suddenly to fade, and its colour became grey; there was a swell on the waters that hitherto had been quite glassy, and they were covered with a scurfy foam.
'I wish I had been with them,' said Captain Cadurcis, evidently very anxious.
'George, you are alarmed,' said Venetia, earnestly. 'I am sure there is danger.'
'Danger! How can there be danger, Venetia? Perhaps they are in port by this time. I dare say we shall find them at Spezzia. I will see you home and run down to them. Only hurry, for your own sake, for you do not know what a white squall in the Mediterranean is. We have but a few moments.'
And even at this very instant, the wind came roaring and rushing with such a violent gush that Venetia could scarcely stand; George put his arm round her to support her. The air was filled with thick white vapour, so that they could no longer see the ocean, only the surf rising very high all along the coast.
'Keep close to me, Venetia,' said Captain Cadurcis; 'hold my arm and I will walk first, for we shall not be able to see a yard before us in a minute. I know where we are. We are above the olive wood, and we shall soon be in the ravine. These Mediterranean white squalls are nasty things; I had sooner by half be in a south-wester; for one cannot run before the wind in this bay, the reefs stretch such a long way out.'
The danger, and the inutility of expressing fears which could only perplex her guide, made Venetia silent, but she was terrified. She could not divest herself of apprehension about her father and Plantagenet. In spite of all he said, it was evident that her companion was alarmed.
They had now entered the valley; the mountains had in some degree kept off the vapour; the air was more clear. Venetia and Captain Cadurcis stopped a moment to breathe. 'Now, Venetia, you are safe,' said Captain Cadurcis. 'I will not come in; I will run down to the bay at once.' He wiped the mist off his face: Venetia perceived him deadly pale.
'George,' she said, 'conceal nothing from me; there is danger, imminent danger. Tell me at once.'
'Indeed, Venetia,' said Captain Cadurcis, 'I am sure everything will be quite right. There is some danger, certainly, at this moment; but of course, long ago, they have run into harbour. I have no doubt they are at Spezzia at this moment. Now, do not be alarmed; indeed there is no cause. God bless you!' he said, and bounded away. 'No cause,' thought he to himself, as the wind sounded like thunder, and the vapour came rushing up the ravine. 'God grant I may be right; but neither between the Tropics nor on the Line have I witnessed a severer squall than this! What open boat can live in this weather Oh! that I had been with them. I shall never forgive myself!'
Venetia found her mother walking up and down the room, as was her custom when she was agitated. She hurried to her daughter. 'You must change your dress instantly, Venetia,' said Lady Annabel. 'Where is George?'
'He has gone down to Spezzia to papa and Plantagenet; it is a white squall; it comes on very suddenly in this sea. He ran down to Spezzia instantly, because he thought they would be wet,' said the agitated Venetia, speaking with rapidity and trying to appear calm.
'Are they at Spezzia?' inquired Lady Annabel, quickly.
'George has no doubt they are, mother,' said Venetia.
'No doubt!' exclaimed Lady Annabel, in great distress. 'God grant they may be only wet.'
'Dearest mother,' said Venetia, approaching her, but speech deserted her. She had advanced to encourage Lady Annabel, but her own fear checked the words on her lips.
'Change your dress, Venetia,' said Lady Annabel; 'lose no time in doing that. I think I will send down to Spezzia at once,'
'That is useless now, dear mother, for George is there.'
'Go, dearest,' said Lady Annabel; 'I dare say, we have no cause for fear, but I am exceedingly alarmed about your father, about them: I am, indeed. I do not like these sudden squalls, and I never liked this boating; indeed, I never did. George being with them reconciled me to it. Now go, Venetia; go, my love.'
Venetia quitted the room. She was so agitated that she made Pauncefort a confidant of her apprehensions.
'La! my dear miss,' said Mistress Pauncefort, 'I should never have thought of such a thing! Do not you remember what the old man said at Weymouth, "there is many a boat will live in a rougher sea than a ship;" and it is such an unlikely thing, it is indeed, Miss Venetia. I am certain sure my lord can manage a boat as well as a common sailor, and master is hardly less used to it than he. La! miss, don't make yourself nervous about any such preposterous ideas. And I dare say you will find them in the saloon when you go down again. Really I should not wonder. I think you had better wear your twill dress; I have put the new trimming on.'
They had not returned when Venetia joined her mother. That indeed she could scarcely expect. But, in about half an hour, a message arrived from Captain Cadurcis that they were not at Spezzia, but from something he had heard, he had no doubt they were at Sarzana, and he was going to ride on there at once. He felt sure, however, from what he had heard, they were at Sarzana. This communication afforded Lady Annabel a little ease, but Venetia's heart misgave her. She recalled the alarm of George in the morning, which it was impossible for him to disguise, and she thought she recognised in this hurried message and vague assurances of safety something of the same apprehension, and the same fruitless efforts to conceal it.
Now came the time of terrible suspense. Sarzana was nearly twenty miles distant from Spezzia. The evening must arrive before they could receive intelligence from Captain Cadurcis. In the meantime the squall died away, the heavens became again bright, and, though the waves were still tumultuous, the surf was greatly decreased. Lady Annabel had already sent down more than one messenger to the bay, but they brought no intelligence; she resolved now to go herself, that she might have the satisfaction of herself cross-examining the fishermen who had been driven in from various parts by stress of weather. She would not let Venetia accompany her, who, she feared, might already suffer from the exertions and rough weather of the morning. This was a most anxious hour, and yet the absence of her mother was in some degree a relief to Venetia; it at least freed her from the perpetual effort of assumed composure. While her mother remained, Venetia had affected to read, though her eye wandered listlessly over the page, or to draw, though the pencil trembled in her hand; anything which might guard her from conveying to her mother that she shared the apprehensions which had already darkened her mother's mind. But now that Lady Annabel was gone, Venetia, muffling herself up in her shawl, threw herself on a sofa, and there she remained without a thought, her mind a chaos of terrible images.
Her mother returned, and with a radiant countenance, Venetia sprang from the sofa. 'There is good news; O mother! have they returned?'
'They are not at Spezzia,' said Lady Annabel, throwing herself into a chair panting for breath; 'but there is good news. You see I was right to go, Venetia. These stupid people we send only ask questions, and take the first answer. I have seen a fisherman, and he says he heard that two persons, Englishmen he believes, have put into Lerici in an open boat.'
'God be praised!' said Venetia. 'O mother, I can now confess to you the terror I have all along felt.'
'My own heart assures me of it, my child,' said Lady Annabel weeping; and they mingled their tears together, but tears not of sorrow.
'Poor George!' said Lady Annabel, 'he will have a terrible journey to Sarzana, and be feeling so much for us! Perhaps he may meet them.'
'I feel assured he will,' said Venetia; 'and perhaps ere long they will all three be here again. Joy! joy!'
'They must never go in that boat again,' said Lady Annabel.
'Oh! they never will, dearest mother, if you ask them not,' said Venetia.
'We will send to Lerici,' said Lady Annabel.
'Instantly,' said Venetia; 'but I dare say they already sent us a messenger.'
'No!' said Lady Annabel; 'men treat the danger that is past very lightly. We shall not hear from them except in person.'
Time now flew more lightly. They were both easy in their minds. The messenger was despatched to Lerici; but even Lerici was a considerable distance, and hours must elapse before his return. Still there was the hope of seeing them, or hearing from them in the interval.
'I must go out, dear mother,' said Venetia. 'Let us both go out. It is now very fine. Let us go just to the ravine, for indeed it is impossible to remain here.'
Accordingly they both went forth, and took up a position on the coast which commanded a view on all sides. All was radiant again, and comparatively calm. Venetia looked upon the sea, and said, 'Ah! I never shall forget a white squall in the Mediterranean, for all this splendour.'
It was sunset: they returned home. No news yet from Lerici. Lady Annabel grew uneasy again. The pensive and melancholy hour encouraged gloom; but Venetia, who was sanguine, encouraged her mother.
'Suppose they were not Englishmen in the boat,' said Lady Annabel.
'It is impossible, mother. What other two persons in this neighbourhood could have been in an open boat? Besides, the man said Englishmen. You remember, he said Englishmen. You are quite sure he did? It must be they. I feel as convinced of it as of your presence.'
'I think there can be no doubt,' said Lady Annabel. 'I wish that the messenger would return.'
The messenger did return. No two persons in an open boat had put into Lerici; but a boat, like the one described, with every stitch of canvas set, had passed Lerici just before the squall commenced, and, the people there doubted not, had made Sarzana.
Lady Annabel turned pale, but Venetia was still sanguine. 'They are at Sarzana,' she said; 'they must be at Sarzana: you see George was right. He said he was sure they were at Sarzana. Besides, dear mother, he heard they were at Sarzana.'
'And we heard they were at Lerici,' said Lady Annabel in a melancholy tone.
And so they were, dear mother; it all agrees. The accounts are consistent. Do not you see how very consistent they are? They were seen at Lerici, and were off Lerici, but they made Sarzana; and George heard they were at Sarzana. I am certain they are at Sarzana. I feel quite easy; I feel as easy as if they were here. They are safe at Sarzana. But it is too far to return to-night. We shall see them at breakfast to-morrow, all three.'
'Venetia, dearest! do not you sit up,' said her mother. 'I think there is a chance of George returning; I feel assured he will send to-night; but late, of course. Go, dearest, and sleep.'
'Sleep!' thought Venetia to herself; but to please her mother she retired.
'Good-night, my child,' said Lady Annabel. 'The moment any one arrives, you shall be aroused.'
Venetia, without undressing, lay down on her bed, watching for some sound that might give her hope of George's return. Dwelling on every instant, the time dragged heavily along, and she thought that the night had half passed when Pauncefort entered her room, and she learnt, to her surprise, that only an hour had elapsed since she had parted from her mother. This entrance of Pauncefort had given Venetia a momentary hope that they had returned.
'I assure you, Miss Venetia, it is only an hour,' said Pauncefort, 'and nothing could have happened. Now do try to go to sleep, that is a dear young lady, for I am certain sure that they will all return in the morning, as I am here. I was telling my lady just now, I said, says I, I dare say they are all very wet, and very fatigued.'
'They would have returned, Pauncefort,' said Venetia, 'or they would have sent. They are not at Sarzana.'
'La! Miss Venetia, why should they be at Sarzana? Why should they not have gone much farther on! For, as Vicenzo was just saying to me, and Vicenzo knows all about the coast, with such a wind as this, I should not be surprised if they were at Leghorn.'
'O Pauncefort!' said Venetia, 'I am sick at heart!'
'Now really, Miss Venetia, do not take on so!' said Pauncefort; 'for do not you remember when his lordship ran away from the abbey, and went a gipsying, nothing would persuade poor Mrs. Cadurcis that he was not robbed and murdered, and yet you see he was as safe and sound all the time, as if he had been at Cherbury.'
'Does Vicenzo really think they could have reached Leghorn?' said Venetia, clinging to every fragment of hope.
'He is morally sure of it, Miss Venetia,' said Pauncefort, 'and I feel quite as certain, for Vicenzo is always right.'
'I had confidence about Sarzana,' said Venetia; 'I really did believe they were at Sarzana. If only Captain Cadurcis would return; if he only would return, and say they were not at Sarzana, I would try to believe they were at Leghorn.'
'Now, Miss Venetia,' said Pauncefort, 'I am certain sure that they are quite safe; for my lord is a very good sailor; he is, indeed; all the men say so; and the boat is as seaworthy a boat as boat can be. There is not the slightest fear, I do assure you, miss.'
'Do the men say that Plantagenet is a good sailor?' inquired Venetia.
'Quite professional!' said Mistress Pauncefort; 'and can command a ship as well as the best of them. They all say that.'
'Hush! Pauncefort, I hear something.'
'It's only my lady, miss. I know her step,'
'Is my mother going to bed?' said Venetia.
'Yes,' said Pauncefort, 'my lady sent me here to see after you. I wish I could tell her you were asleep.'
'It is impossible to sleep,' said Venetia, rising up from the bed, withdrawing the curtain, and looking at the sky. 'What a peaceful night! I wish my heart were like the sky. I think I will go to mamma, Pauncefort!'
'Oh! dear, Miss Venetia, I am sure I think you had better not. If you and my lady, now, would only just go to sleep, and forget every thing till morning, it would be much better for you. Besides, I am sure if my lady knew you were not gone to bed already, it would only make her doubly anxious. Now, really, Miss Venetia, do take my advice, and just lie down, again. You may be sure the moment any one arrives I will let you know. Indeed, I shall go and tell my lady that you are lying down as it is, and very drowsy;' and, so saying, Mistress Pauncefort caught up her candle, and bustled out of the room.
Venetia took up the volume of her father's poems, which Cadurcis had filled with his notes. How little did Plantagenet anticipate, when he thus expressed at Athens the passing impressions of his mind, that, ere a year had glided away, his fate would be so intimately blended with that of Herbert! It was impossible, however, for Venetia to lose herself in a volume which, under any other circumstances, might have compelled her spirit! the very associations with the writers added to the terrible restlessness of her mind. She paused each instant to listen for the wished-for sound, but a mute stillness reigned throughout the house and household. There was something in this deep, unbroken silence, at a moment when anxiety was universally diffused among the dwellers beneath that roof, and the heart of more than one of them was throbbing with all the torture of the most awful suspense, that fell upon Venetia's excited nerves with a very painful and even insufferable influence. She longed for sound, for some noise that might assure her she was not the victim of a trance. She closed her volume with energy, and she started at the sound she had herself created. She rose and opened the door of her chamber very softly, and walked into the vestibule. There were caps, and cloaks, and whips, and canes of Cadurcis and her father, lying about in familiar confusion. It seemed impossible but that they were sleeping, as usual, under the same roof. And where were they? That she should live and be unable to answer that terrible question! When she felt the utter helplessness of all her strong sympathy towards them, it seemed to her that she must go mad. She gazed around her with a wild and vacant stare. At the bottom of her heart there was a fear maturing into conviction too horrible for expression. She returned to her own chamber, and the exhaustion occasioned by her anxiety, and the increased coolness of the night, made her at length drowsy. She threw herself on the bed and slumbered.
She started in her sleep, she awoke, she dreamed they had come home. She rose and looked at the progress of the night. The night was waning fast; a grey light was on the landscape; the point of day approached. Venetia stole softly to her mother's room, and entered it with a soundless step. Lady Annabel had not retired to bed. She had sat up the whole night, and was now asleep. A lamp on a small table was burning at her side, and she held, firmly grasped in her hand, the letter of her husband, which he had addressed to her at Venice, and which she had been evidently reading. A tear glided down the cheek of Venetia as she watched her mother retaining that letter with fondness even in her sleep, and when she thought of all the misery, and heartaches, and harrowing hours that had preceded its receipt, and which Venetia believed that letter had cured for ever. What misery awaited them now? Why were they watchers of the night? She shuddered when these dreadful questions flitted through her mind. She shuddered and sighed. Her mother started, and woke.
'Who is there?' inquired Lady Annabel.
'My child, have you not slept?'
'Yes, mother, and I woke refreshed, as I hope you do.'
'I wake with trust in God's mercy,' said Lady Annabel. 'Tell me the hour.'
'It is just upon dawn, mother.'
'Dawn! no one has returned, or come.'
'The house is still, mother.'
'I would you were in bed, my child.'
'Mother, I can sleep no more. I wish to be with you;' and Venetia seated herself at her mother's feet, and reclined her head upon her mother's knee.
'I am glad the night has passed, Venetia,' said Lady Annabel, in a suppressed yet solemn tone. 'It has been a trial.' And here she placed the letter in her bosom. Venetia could only answer with a sigh.
'I wish Pauncefort would come,' said Lady Annabel; 'and yet I do not like to rouse her, she was up so late, poor creature! If it be the dawn I should like to send out messengers again; something may be heard at Spezzia.'
'Vicenzo thinks they have gone to Leghorn, mother.'
'Has he heard anything!' said Lady Annabel, eagerly.
'No, but he is an excellent judge,' said Venetia, repeating all Pauncefort's consolatory chatter. 'He knows the coast so well. He says he is sure the wind would carry them on to Leghorn; and that accounts, you know, mother, for George not returning. They are all at Leghorn.'
'Would that George would return,' murmured Lady Annabel; 'I wish I could see again that sailor who said they were at Lerici. He was an intelligent man.'
'Perhaps if we send down to the bay he may be there,' said Venetia.'
'Hush! I hear a step!' said Lady Annabel.
Venetia sprung up and opened the door, but it was only Pauncefort in the vestibule.
'The household are all up, my lady,' said that important personage entering; ''tis a beautiful morning. Vicenzo has run down to the bay, my lady; I sent him off immediately. Vicenzo says he is certain sure they are at Leghorn, my lady; and, this time three years, the very same thing happened. They were fishing for anchovies, my lady, close by, my lady, near Sarzana; two young men, or rather one about the same age as master, and one like my lord; cousins, my lady, and just in the same sort of boat, my lady; and there came on a squall, just the same sort of squall, my lady; and they did not return home; and everyone was frightened out of their wits, my lady, and their wives and families quite distracted; and after all they were at Leghorn; for this sort of wind always takes your open boats to Leghorn, Vicenzo says.'
The sun rose, the household were all stirring, and many of them abroad; the common routine of domestic duty seemed, by some general yet not expressed understanding, to have ceased. The ladies descended below at a very early hour, and went forth into the valley, once the happy valley. What was to be its future denomination? Vicenzo returned from the bay, and he contrived to return with cheering intelligence. The master of a felucca who, in consequence of the squall had put in at Lerici, and in the evening dropped down to Spezzia, had met an open boat an hour before he reached Sarzana, and was quite confident that, if it had put into port, it must have been, from the speed at which it was going, a great distance down the coast. No wrecks had been heard of in the neighbourhood. This intelligence, the gladsome time of day, and the non-arrival of Captain Cadurcis, which according to their mood was always a circumstance that counted either for good or for evil, and the sanguine feelings which make us always cling to hope, altogether reassured our friends. Venetia dismissed from her mind the dark thought which for a moment had haunted her in the noon of night; and still it was a suspense, a painful, agitating suspense, but only suspense that yet influenced them.
'Time! said Lady Annabel. 'Time! we must wait.'
Venetia consoled her mother; she affected even a gaiety of spirit; she was sure that Vicenzo would turn out to be right, after all; Pauncefort said he always was right, and that they were at Leghorn.
The day wore apace; the noon arrived and passed; it was even approaching sunset. Lady Annabel was almost afraid to counterorder the usual meals, lest Venetia should comprehend her secret terror; the very same sentiment influenced Venetia. Thus they both had submitted to the ceremony of breakfast, but when the hour of dinner approached they could neither endure the mockery. They looked at each other, and almost at the same time they proposed that, instead of dining, they should walk down to the bay.
'I trust we shall at least hear something before the night,' said Lady Annabel. 'I confess I dread the coming night. I do not think I could endure it.'
'The longer we do not hear, the more certain I am of their being at Leghorn,' said Venetia.
'I have a great mind to travel there to-night,' said Lady Annabel.
As they were stepping into the portico, Venetia recognised Captain Cadurcis in the distance. She turned pale; she would have fallen had she not leaned on her mother, who was not so advanced, and who had not seen him.
'What is the matter, Venetia!' said Lady Annabel, alarmed.
'He is here, he is here!'
'No, George. Let me sit down.'
Her mother tried to support her to a chair. Lady Annabel took off her bonnet. She had not strength to walk forth. She could not speak. She sat down opposite Venetia, and her countenance pictured distress to so painful a degree, that at any other time Venetia would have flown to her, but in this crisis of suspense it was impossible. George was in sight; he was in the portico; he was in the room.
He looked wan, haggard, and distracted. More than once he essayed to speak, but failed.
Lady Annabel looked at him with a strange, delirious expression. Venetia rushed forward and seized his arm, and gazed intently on his face. He shrank from her glance; his frame trembled.
In the heart of the tempest Captain Cadurcis traced his way in a sea of vapour with extreme danger and difficulty to the shore. On his arrival at Spezzia, however, scarcely a house was visible, and the only evidence of the situation of the place was the cessation of an immense white surf which otherwise indicated the line of the sea, but the absence of which proved his contiguity to a harbour. In the thick fog he heard the cries and shouts of the returning fishermen, and of their wives and children responding from the land to their exclamations. He was forced, therefore, to wait at Spezzia, in an agony of impotent suspense, until the fury of the storm was over and the sky was partially cleared. At length the objects became gradually less obscure; he could trace the outline of the houses, and catch a glimpse of the water half a mile out, and soon the old castles which guard the entrance of the strait that leads into the gulf, looming in the distance, and now and then a group of human beings in the vanishing vapour. Of these he made some inquiries, but in vain, respecting the boat and his friends. He then made the brig, but could learn nothing except their departure in the morning. He at length obtained a horse and galloped along the coast towards Lerici, keeping a sharp look out as he proceeded and stopping at every village in his progress for intelligence. When he had arrived in the course of three hours at Lerici, the storm had abated, the sky was clear, and no evidence of the recent squall remained except the agitated state of the waves. At Lerici he could hear nothing, so he hurried on to Sarzana, where he learnt for the first time that an open boat, with its sails set, had passed more than an hour before the squall commenced. From Sarzana he hastened on to Lavenza, a little port, the nearest sea-point to Massa, and where the Carrara marble is shipped for England. Here also his inquiries were fruitless, and, exhausted by his exertions, he dismounted and rested at the inn, not only for repose, but to consider over the course which he should now pursue. The boat had not been seen off Lavenza, and the idea that they had made the coast towards Leghorn now occurred to him. His horse was so wearied that he was obliged to stop some time at Lavenza, for he could procure no other mode of conveyance; the night also was fast coming on, and to proceed to Leghorn by this dangerous route at this hour was impossible. At Lavenza therefore he remained, resolved to hasten to Leghorn at break of day. This was a most awful night. Although physically exhausted, Captain Cadurcis could not sleep, and, after some vain efforts, he quitted his restless bed on which he had laid down without undressing, and walked forth to the harbour. Between anxiety for Herbert and his cousin, and for the unhappy women whom he had left behind, he was nearly distracted. He gazed on the sea, as if some sail in sight might give him a chance of hope. His professional experience assured him of all the danger of the squall. He could not conceive how an open boat could live in such a sea, and an instant return to port so soon as the squall commenced, appeared the only chance of its salvation. Could they have reached Leghorn? It seemed impossible. There was no hope they could now be at Sarzana, or Lerici. When he contemplated the full contingency of what might have occurred, his mind wandered, and refused to comprehend the possibility of the terrible conclusion. He thought the morning would never break.
There was a cavernous rock by the seashore, that jutted into the water like a small craggy promontory. Captain Cadurcis climbed to its top, and then descending, reclined himself upon an inferior portion of it, which formed a natural couch with the wave on each side. There, lying at his length, he gazed upon the moon and stars whose brightness he thought would never dim. The Mediterranean is a tideless sea, but the swell of the waves, which still set in to the shore, bore occasionally masses of sea-weed and other marine formations, and deposited them around him, plashing, as it broke against the shore, with a melancholy and monotonous sound. The abstraction of the scene, the hour, and the surrounding circumstances brought, however, no refreshment to the exhausted spirit of George Cadurcis. He could not think, indeed he did not dare to think; but the villa of the Apennines and the open boat in the squall flitted continually before him. His mind was feeble though excited, and he fell into a restless and yet unmeaning reverie. As long as he had been in action, as long as he had been hurrying along the coast, the excitement of motion, the constant exercise of his senses, had relieved or distracted the intolerable suspense. But this pause, this inevitable pause, overwhelmed him. It oppressed his spirit like eternity. And yet what might the morning bring? He almost wished that he might remain for ever on this rock watching the moon and stars, and that the life of the world might never recommence.
He started; he had fallen into a light slumber; he had been dreaming; he thought he had heard the voice of Venetia calling him; he had forgotten where he was; he stared at the sea and sky, and recalled his dreadful consciousness. The wave broke with a heavy plash that attracted his attention: it was, indeed, that sound that had awakened him. He looked around; there was some object; he started wildly from his resting-place, sprang over the cavern, and bounded on the beach. It was a corpse; he is kneeling by its side. It is the corpse of his cousin! Lord Cadurcis was a fine swimmer, and had evidently made strong efforts for his life, for he was partly undressed. In all the insanity of hope, still wilder than despair, George Cadurcis seized the body and bore it some yards upon the shore. Life had been long extinct. The corpse was cold and stark, the eyes closed, an expression of energy, however, yet lingering in the fixed jaw, and the hair sodden with the sea. Suddenly Captain Cadurcis rushed to the inn and roused the household. With a distracted air, and broken speech and rapid motion, he communicated the catastrophe. Several persons, some bearing torches, others blankets and cordials, followed him instantly to the fatal spot. They hurried to the body, they applied all the rude remedies of the moment, rather from the impulse of nervous excitement than with any practical purpose; for the case had been indeed long hopeless. While Captain Cadurcis leant over the body, chafing the extremities in a hurried frenzy, and gazing intently on the countenance, a shout was heard from one of the stragglers who had recently arrived. The sea had washed on the beach another corpse: the form of Marmion Herbert. It would appear that he had made no struggle to save himself, for his hand was locked in his waistcoat, where, at the moment, he had thrust the Phaedo, showing that he had been reading to the last, and was meditating on immortality when he died.
END OF BOOK VI.
It was the commencement of autumn. The verdure of summer still lingered on the trees; the sky, if not so cloudless, was almost as refulgent as Italy; and the pigeons, bright and glancing, clustered on the roof of the hall of Cherbury. The steward was in attendance; the household, all in deep mourning, were assembled; everything was in readiness for the immediate arrival of Lady Annabel Herbert.
''Tis nearly four years come Martinmas,' said the grey-headed butler, 'since my lady left us.'
'And no good has come of it,' said the housekeeper. 'And for my part I never heard of good coming from going to foreign parts.'
'I shall like to see Miss Venetia again,' said a housemaid. 'Bless her sweet face.'
'I never expected to see her Miss Venetia again from all we heard,' said a footman.
'God's will be done!' said the grey-headed butler; 'but I hope she will find happiness at home. 'Tis nigh on twenty years since I first nursed her in these arms.'
'I wonder if there is any new Lord Cadurcis,' said the footman. 'I think he was the last of the line.'
'It would have been a happy day if I had lived to have seen the poor young lord marry Miss Venetia,' said the housekeeper. 'I always thought that match was made in heaven.'
'He was a sweet-spoken young gentleman,' said the housemaid.
'For my part,' said the footman, 'I should like to have seen our real master, Squire Herbert. He was a famous gentleman by all accounts.'
'I wish they had lived quietly at home,' said the housekeeper.
'I shall never forget the time when my lord returned,' said the grey-headed butler. 'I must say I thought it was a match.'
'Mistress Pauncefort seemed to think so,' said the housemaid.
'And she understands those things,' said the footman.
'I see the carriage,' said a servant who was at a window in the hall. All immediately bustled about, and the housekeeper sent a message to the steward.
The carriage might be just discovered at the end of the avenue. It was some time before it entered the iron gates that were thrown open for its reception. The steward stood on the steps with his hat off, the servants were ranged in order at the entrance. Touching their horses with the spur, and cracking their whips, the postilions dashed round the circular plot and stopped at the hall-door. Under any circumstances a return home after an interval of years is rather an awful moment; there was not a servant who was not visibly affected. On the outside of the carriage was a foreign servant and Mistress Pauncefort, who was not so profuse as might have been expected in her recognitions of her old friends; her countenance was graver than of yore. Misfortune and misery had subdued even Mistress Pauncefort. The foreign servant opened the door of the carriage; a young man, who was a stranger to the household, but who was in deep mourning, alighted, and then Lady Annabel appeared. The steward advanced to welcome her, the household bowed and curtseyed. She smiled on them for a moment graciously and kindly, but her countenance immediately reassumed a serious air, and whispering one word to the strange gentleman, she entered the hall alone, inviting the steward to follow her.
'I hope your ladyship is well; welcome home, my lady; welcome again to Cherbury; a welcome return, my lady; hope Miss Venetia is quite well; happy to see your ladyship amongst us again, and Miss Venetia too, my lady.' Lady Annabel acknowledged these salutations with kindness, and then, saying that Miss Herbert was not very well and was fatigued with her journey, she dismissed her humble but trusty friends. Lady Annabel then turned and nodded to her fellow-traveller.
Upon this Lord Cadurcis, if we must indeed use a title from which he himself shrank, carried a shrouded form in his arms into the hall, where the steward alone lingered, though withdrawn to the back part of the scene; and Lady Annabel, advancing to meet him, embraced his treasured burden, her own unhappy child.
'Now, Venetia! dearest Venetia!' she said, ''tis past; we are at home.'
Venetia leant upon her mother, but made no reply.
'Upstairs, dearest,' said Lady Annabel: 'a little exertion, a very little.' Leaning on her mother and Lord Cadurcis, Venetia ascended the staircase, and they reached the terrace-room. Venetia looked around her as she entered the chamber; that scene of her former life, endeared to her by so many happy hours, and so many sweet incidents; that chamber where she had first seen Plantagenet. Lord Cadurcis supported her to a chair, and then, overwhelmed by irresistible emotion, she sank back in a swoon.
No one was allowed to enter the room but Pauncefort. They revived her; Lord Cadurcis holding her hand, and touching, with a watchful finger, her pulse. Venetia opened her eyes, and looked around her. Her mind did not wander; she immediately recognised where she was, and recollected all that had happened. She faintly smiled, and said, in a low voice 'You are all too kind, and I am very weak. After our trials, what is this, George?' she added, struggling to appear animated; 'you are at length at Cherbury.'
Once more at Cherbury! It was, indeed, an event that recalled a thousand associations. In the wild anguish of her first grief, when the dreadful intelligence was broken to her, if anyone had whispered to Venetia that she would yet find herself once more at Cherbury, she would have esteemed the intimation as mockery. But time and hope will struggle with the most poignant affliction, and their influence is irresistible and inevitable. From her darkened chamber in their Mediterranean villa, Venetia had again come forth, and crossed mountains, and traversed immense plains, and journeyed through many countries. She could not die, as she had supposed at first that she must, and therefore she had exerted herself to quit, and to quit speedily, a scene so terrible as their late abode. She was the very first to propose their return to England, and to that spot where she had passed her early life, and where she now wished to fulfil, in quiet and seclusion, the allotment of her remaining years; to meditate over the marvellous past, and cherish its sweet and bitter recollections. The native firmness of Lady Annabel, her long exercised control over her emotions, the sadness and subdued tone which the early incidents of her career had cast over her character, her profound sympathy with her daughter, and that religious consolation which never deserted her, had alike impelled and enabled her to bear up against the catastrophe with more fortitude than her child. The arrow, indeed, had struck Venetia with a double barb. She was the victim; and all the cares of Lady Annabel had been directed to soothe and support this stricken lamb. Yet perhaps these unhappy women must have sunk under their unparalleled calamities, had it not been for the devotion of their companion. In the despair of his first emotions, George Cadurcis was nearly plunging himself headlong into the wave that had already proved so fatal to his house. But when he thought of Lady Annabel and Venetia in a foreign land, without a single friend in their desolation, and pictured them to himself with the dreadful news abruptly communicated by some unfeeling stranger; and called upon, in the midst of their overwhelming agony, to attend to all the heart-rending arrangements which the discovery of the bodies of the beings to whom they were devoted, and in whom all their feelings were centred, must necessarily entail upon them, he recoiled from what he contemplated as an act of infamous desertion. He resolved to live, if only to preserve them from all their impending troubles, and with the hope that his exertions might tend, in however slight a degree, not to alleviate, for that was impossible; but to prevent the increase of that terrible woe, the very conception of which made his brain stagger. He carried the bodies, therefore, with him to Spezzia, and then prepared for that fatal interview, the commencement of which we first indicated. Yet it must be confessed that, though the bravest of men, his courage faltered as he entered the accustomed ravine. He stopped and looked down on the precipice below; he felt it utterly impossible to meet them; his mind nearly deserted him. Death, some great and universal catastrophe, an earthquake, a deluge, that would have buried them all in an instant and a common fate, would have been hailed by George Cadurcis, at that moment, as good fortune.
He lurked about the ravine for nearly three hours before he could summon up heart for the awful interview. The position he had taken assured him that no one could approach the villa, to which he himself dared not advance. At length, in a paroxysm of energetic despair, he had rushed forward, met them instantly, and confessed with a whirling brain, and almost unconscious of his utterance, that 'they could not hope to see them again in this world.'
What ensued must neither be attempted to be described, nor even remembered. It was one of those tragedies of life which enfeeble the most faithful memories at a blow shatter nerves beyond the faculty of revival, cloud the mind for ever, or turn the hair grey in an instant. They carried Venetia delirious to her bed. The very despair, and almost madness, of her daughter forced Lady Annabel to self-exertion, of which it was difficult to suppose that even she was capable. And George, too, was obliged to leave them. He stayed only the night. A few words passed between Lady Annabel and himself; she wished the bodies to be embalmed, and borne to England. There was no time to be lost, and there was no one to be entrusted except George. He had to hasten to Genoa to make all these preparations, and for two days he was absent from the villa. When he returned, Lady Annabel saw him, but Venetia was for a long time invisible. The moment she grew composed, she expressed a wish to her mother instantly to return to Cherbury. All the arrangements necessarily devolved upon George Cadurcis. It was his study that Lady Annabel should be troubled upon no point. The household were discharged, all the affairs were wound up, the felucca hired which was to bear them to Genoa, and in readiness, before he notified to them that the hour of departure had arrived. The most bitter circumstance was looking again upon the sea. It seemed so intolerable to Venetia, that their departure was delayed more than one day in consequence; but it was inevitable; they could reach Genoa in no other manner. George carried Venetia in his arms to the boat, with her face covered with a shawl, and bore her in the same manner to the hotel at Genoa, where their travelling carriage awaited them.
They travelled home rapidly. All seemed to be impelled, as it were, by a restless desire for repose. Cherbury was the only thought in Venetia's mind. She observed nothing; she made no remark during their journey; they travelled often throughout the night; but no obstacles occurred, no inconveniences. There was one in this miserable society whose only object in life was to support Venetia under her terrible visitation. Silent, but with an eye that never slept, George Cadurcis watched Venetia as a nurse might a child. He read her thoughts, he anticipated her wishes without inquiring them; every arrangement was unobtrusively made that could possibly consult her comfort.
They passed through London without stopping there. George would not leave them for an instant; nor would he spare a thought to his own affairs, though they urgently required his attention. The change in his position gave him no consolation; he would not allow his passport to be made out with his title; he shuddered at being called Lord Cadurcis; and the only reason that made him hesitate about attending them to Cherbury was its contiguity to his ancestral seat, which he resolved never to visit. There never in the world was a less selfish and more single-hearted man than George Cadurcis. Though the death of his cousin had invested him with one of the most ancient coronets in England, a noble residence and a fair estate, he would willingly have sacrificed his life to have recalled Plantagenet to existence, and to have secured the happiness of Venetia Herbert.
The reader must not suppose, from the irresistible emotion that overcame Venetia at the very moment of her return, that she was entirely prostrated by her calamities. On the contrary, her mind had been employed, during the whole of her journey to England, in a silent effort to endure her lot with resignation. She had resolved to bear up against her misery with fortitude, and she inherited from her mother sufficient firmness of mind to enable her to achieve her purpose. She came back to Cherbury to live with patience and submission; and though her dreams of happiness might be vanished for ever, to contribute as much as was in her power to the content of that dear and remaining relative who was yet spared to her, and who depended in this world only upon the affection of her child. The return to Cherbury was a pang, and it was over. Venetia struggled to avoid the habits of an invalid; she purposed resuming, as far as was in her power, all the pursuits and duties of her life; and if it were neither possible, nor even desirable, to forget the past, she dwelt upon it neither to sigh nor to murmur, but to cherish in a sweet and musing mood the ties and affections round which all her feelings had once gathered with so much enjoyment and so much hope.
She rose, therefore, on the morning after her return to Cherbury, at least serene; and she took an early opportunity, when George and her mother were engaged, and absent from the terrace-room, to go forth alone and wander amid her old haunts. There was not a spot about the park and gardens, which had been favourite resorts of herself and Plantagenet in their childhood, that she did not visit. They were unchanged; as green, and bright, and still as in old days, but what was she? The freshness, and brilliancy, and careless happiness of her life were fled for ever. And here he lived, and here he roamed, and here his voice sounded, now in glee, now in melancholy, now in wild and fanciful amusement, and now pouring into her bosom all his domestic sorrows. It was but ten years since he first arrived at Cherbury, and who could have anticipated that that little, silent, reserved boy should, ere ten years had passed, have filled a wide and lofty space in the world's thought; that his existence should have influenced the mind of nations, and his death eclipsed their gaiety! His death! Terrible and disheartening thought! Plantagenet was no more. But he had not died without a record. His memory was embalmed in immortal verse, and he had breathed his passion to his Venetia in language that lingered in the ear, and would dwell for ever on the lips, of his fellow-men.
Among these woods, too, had Venetia first mused over her father; before her rose those mysterious chambers, whose secret she had penetrated at the risk of her life. There were no secrets now. Was she happier? Now she felt that even in her early mystery there was delight, and that hope was veiled beneath its ominous shadow. There was now no future to ponder over; her hope was gone, and memory alone remained. All the dreams of those musing hours of her hidden reveries had been realised. She had seen that father, that surpassing parent, who had satisfied alike her heart and her imagination; she had been clasped to his bosom; she had lived to witness even her mother yield to his penitent embrace. And he too was gone; she could never meet him again in this world; in this world in which they had experienced such exquisite bliss; and now she was once more at Cherbury! Oh! give her back her girlhood, with all its painful mystery and harassing doubt! Give her again a future!
She returned to the hall; she met George on the terrace, she welcomed him with a sweet, yet mournful smile. 'I have been very selfish,' she said, 'for I have been walking alone. I mean to introduce you to Cherbury, but I could not resist visiting some old spots.' Her voice faltered in these last words. They re-entered the terrace-room together, and joined her mother.
'Nothing is changed, mamma,' said Venetia, in a more cheerful tone. 'It is pleasant to find something that is the same.'
Several days passed, and Lord Cadurcis evinced no desire to visit his inheritance. Yet Lady Annabel was anxious that he should do so, and had more than once impressed upon him the propriety. Even Venetia at length said to him, 'It is very selfish in us keeping you here, George. Your presence is a great consolation, and yet, yet, ought you not to visit your home?' She avoided the name of Cadurcis.
'I ought, dear Venetia.' said George, 'and I will. I have promised Lady Annabel twenty times, but I feel a terrible disinclination. To-morrow, perhaps.'
'To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,' murmured Venetia to herself, 'I scarcely comprehend now what to-morrow means.' And then again addressing him, and with more liveliness, she said, 'We have only one friend in the world now, George, and I think that we ought to be very grateful that he is our neighbour.'
'It is a consolation to me,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'for I cannot remain here, and otherwise I should scarcely know how to depart.'
'I wish you would visit your home, if only for one morning,' said Venetia; 'if only to know how very near you are to us.'
'I dread going alone,' said Lord Cadurcis. 'I cannot ask Lady Annabel to accompany me, because—' He hesitated.
'Because?' inquired Venetia.
'I cannot ask or wish her to leave you.'
'You are always thinking of me, dear George,' said Venetia, artlessly. 'I assure you, I have come back to Cherbury to be happy. I must visit your home some day, and I hope I shall visit it often. We will all go, soon,' she added.
'Then I will postpone my visit to that day,' said George. 'I am in no humour for business, which I know awaits me there. Let me enjoy a little more repose at dear Cherbury.'
'I have become very restless of late, I think,' said Venetia, 'but there is a particular spot in the garden that I wish to see. Come with me, George.'
Lord Cadurcis was only too happy to attend her. They proceeded through a winding walk in the shrubberies until they arrived at a small and open plot of turf, where Venetia stopped. 'There are some associations,' she said, 'of this spot connected with both those friends that we have lost. I have a fancy that it should be in some visible manner consecrated to their memories. On this spot, George, Plantagenet once spoke to me of my father. I should like to raise their busts here; and indeed it is a fit place for such a purpose; for poets,' she added, faintly smiling, 'should be surrounded with laurels.'
'I have some thoughts on this head that I am revolving in my fancy myself,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'but I will not speak of them now.'
'Yes, now, George; for indeed it is a satisfaction for me to speak of them, at least with you, with one who understood them so well, and loved them scarcely less than I did.'
George tenderly put his arm into hers and led her away. As they walked along, he explained to her his plans, which yet were somewhat crude, but which greatly interested her; but they were roused from their conversation by the bell of the hall sounding as if to summon them, and therefore they directed their way immediately to the terrace. A servant running met them; he brought a message from Lady Annabel. Their friend the Bishop of —— had arrived.
'Well, my little daughter,' said the good Masham, advancing as Venetia entered the room, and tenderly embracing her. The kind-hearted old man maintained a conversation on indifferent subjects with animation for some minutes; and thus a meeting, the anticipation of which would have cost Venetia hours of pain and anxiety, occurred with less uneasy feelings.
Masham had hastened to Cherbury the moment he heard of the return of the Herberts to England. He did not come to console, but to enliven. He was well aware that even his eloquence, and all the influence of his piety, could not soften the irreparable past; and knowing, from experience, how in solitude the unhappy brood over sorrow, he fancied that his arrival, and perhaps his arrival only, might tend in some degree at this moment to their alleviation and comfort. He brought Lady Annabel and Venetia letters from their relations, with whom he had been staying at their country residence, and who were anxious that their unhappy kinsfolk should find change of scene under their roof.
'They are very affectionate,' said Lady Annabel, 'but I rather think that neither Venetia nor myself feel inclined to quit Cherbury at present.'
'Indeed not, mamma,' said Venetia. 'I hope we shall never leave home again.'
'You must come and see me some day,' said the Bishop; then turning to George, whom he was glad to find here, he addressed him in a hearty tone, and expressed his delight at again meeting him.
Insensibly to all parties this arrival of the good Masham exercised a beneficial influence on their spirits. They could sympathise with his cheerfulness, because they were convinced that he sympathised with their sorrow. His interesting conversation withdrew their minds from the painful subject on which they were always musing. It seemed profanation to either of the three mourners when they were together alone, to indulge in any topic but the absorbing one, and their utmost effort was to speak of the past with composure; but they all felt relieved, though at first unconsciously, when one, whose interest in their feelings could not be doubted, gave the signal of withdrawing their reflections from vicissitudes which it was useless to deplore. Even the social forms which the presence of a guest rendered indispensable, and the exercise of the courtesies of hospitality, contributed to this result. They withdrew their minds from the past. And the worthy Bishop, whose tact was as eminent as his good humour and benevolence, evincing as much delicacy of feeling as cheerfulness of temper, a very few days had elapsed before each of his companions was aware that his presence had contributed to their increased content.
'You have not been to the abbey yet, Lord Cadurcis,' said Masham to him one day, as they were sitting together after dinner, the ladies having retired. 'You should go.'
'I have been unwilling to leave them,' said George, 'and I could scarcely expect them to accompany me. It is a visit that must revive painful recollections.'
'We must not dwell on the past,' said Masham; 'we must think only of the future.'
'Venetia has no future, I fear,' said Lord Cadurcis.
'Why not?' said Masham; 'she is yet a girl, and with a prospect of a long life. She must have a future, and I hope, and I believe, it will yet be a happy one.'
'Alas!' said Lord Cadurcis, 'no one can form an idea of the attachment that subsisted between Plantagenet and Venetia. They were not common feelings, or the feelings of common minds, my dear lord.'
'No one knew them both better than I did,' said Masham, 'not even yourself: they were my children.'
'I feel that,' said George, 'and therefore it is a pleasure to us all to see you, and to speak with you.'
'But we must look for consolation,' said Masham; 'to deplore is fruitless. If we live, we must struggle to live happily. To tell you the truth, though their immediate return to Cherbury was inevitable, and their residence here for a time is scarcely to be deprecated, I still hope they will not bury themselves here. For my part, after the necessary interval, I wish to see Venetia once more in the world.'
Lord Cadurcis looked very mournful, and shook his head.
'As for her dear mother, she is habituated to sorrow and disappointment,' said Masham. 'As long as Venetia lives Lady Annabel will be content. Besides, deplorable as may be the past, there must be solace to her in the reflection that she was reconciled to her husband before his death, and contributed to his happiness. Venetia is the stricken lamb, but Venetia is formed for happiness, and it is in the nature of things that she will be happy. We must not, however, yield unnecessarily to our feelings. A violent exertion would be unwise, but we should habituate ourselves gradually to the exercise of our duties, and to our accustomed pursuits. It would be well for you to go to Cadurcis. If I were you I would go to-morrow. Take advantage of my presence, and return and give a report of your visit. Habituate Venetia to talk of a spot with which ultimately she must renew her intimacy.'
Influenced by this advice, Lord Cadurcis rose early on the next morning and repaired to the seat of his fathers, where hitherto his foot had never trod. When the circle at Cherbury assembled at their breakfast table he was missing, and Masham had undertaken the office of apprising his friends of the cause of his absence. He returned to dinner, and the conversation fell naturally upon the abbey, and the impressions he had received. It was maintained at first by Lady Annabel and the Bishop, but Venetia ultimately joined in it, and with cheerfulness. Many a trait and incident of former days was alluded to; they talked of Mrs. Cadurcis, whom George had never seen; they settled the chambers he should inhabit; they mentioned the improvements which Plantagenet had once contemplated, and which George must now accomplish.
'You must go to London first,' said the Bishop; 'you have a great deal to do, and you should not delay such business. I think you had better return with me. At this time of the year you need not be long absent; you will not be detained; and when you return, you will find yourself much more at ease; for, after all, nothing is more harassing than the feeling, that there is business which must be attended to, and which, nevertheless, is neglected.'
Both Lady Annabel and Venetia enforced this advice of their friend; and so it happened that, ere a week had elapsed, Lord Cadurcis, accompanying Masham, found himself once more in London.
Venetia was now once more alone with her mother; it was as in old times. Their life was the same as before the visit of Plantagenet previous to his going to Cambridge, except indeed that they had no longer a friend at Marringhurst. They missed the Sabbath visits of that good man; for, though his successor performed the duties of the day, which had been a condition when he was presented to the living, the friend who knew all the secrets of their hearts was absent. Venetia continued to bear herself with great equanimity, and the anxiety which she observed instantly impressed on her mother's countenance, the moment she fancied there was unusual gloom on the brow of her child, impelled Venetia doubly to exert herself to appear resigned. And in truth, when Lady Annabel revolved in her mind the mournful past, and meditated over her early and unceasing efforts to secure the happiness of her daughter, and then contrasted her aspirations with the result, she could not acquit herself of having been too often unconsciously instrumental in forwarding a very different conclusion than that for which she had laboured. This conviction preyed upon the mother, and the slightest evidence of reaction in Venetia's tranquilised demeanour occasioned her the utmost remorse and grief. The absence of George made both Lady Annabel and Venetia still more finely appreciate the solace of his society. Left to themselves, they felt how much they had depended on his vigilant and considerate attention, and how much his sweet temper and his unfailing sympathy had contributed to their consolation. He wrote, however, to Venetia by every post, and his letters, if possible, endeared him still more to their hearts. Unwilling to dwell upon their mutual sorrows, yet always expressing sufficient to prove that distance and absence had not impaired his sympathy, he contrived, with infinite delicacy, even to amuse their solitude with the adventures of his life of bustle. The arrival of the post was the incident of the day; and not merely letters arrived; one day brought books, another music; continually some fresh token of his thought and affection reached them. He was, however, only a fortnight absent; but when he returned, it was to Cadurcis. He called upon them the next day, and indeed every morning found him at Cherbury; but he returned to his home at night; and so, without an effort, from their guest he had become their neighbour.
Plantagenet had left the whole of his property to his cousin: his mother's fortune, which, as an accessory fund, was not inconsiderable, besides the estate. And George intended to devote a portion of this to the restoration of the abbey. Venetia was to be his counsellor in this operation, and therefore there were ample sources of amusement for the remainder of the year. On a high ridge, which was one of the beacons of the county, and which, moreover, marked the junction of the domains of Cherbury and Cadurcis, it was his intention to raise a monument to the united memories of Marmion Herbert and Plantagenet Lord Cadurcis. He brought down a design with him from London, and this was the project which he had previously whispered to Venetia. With George for her companion, too, Venetia was induced to resume her rides. It was her part to make him acquainted with the county in which he was so important a resident. Time therefore, at Cherbury, on the whole, flowed on in a tide of tranquil pleasure; and Lady Annabel observed, with interest and fondness, the continual presence beneath her roof of one who, from the first day she had met him, had engaged her kind feelings, and had since become intimately endeared to her.
The end of November was, however, now approaching, and Parliament was about to reassemble. Masham had written more than once to Lord Cadurcis, impressing upon him the propriety and expediency of taking his seat. He had shown these letters, as he showed everything, to Venetia, who was his counsellor on all subjects, and Venetia agreed with their friend.
'It is right,' said Venetia; 'you have a duty to perform, and you must perform it. Besides, I do not wish the name of Cadurcis to sink again into obscurity. I shall look forward with interest to Lord Cadurcis taking the oaths and his seat. It will please me; it will indeed.'
'But Venetia,' said George, 'I do not like to leave this place. I am happy, if we may be happy. This life suits me. I am a quiet man. I dislike London. I feel alone there.'
'You can write to us; you will have a great deal to say. And I shall have something to say to you now. I must give you a continual report how they go on at the abbey. I will be your steward, and superintend everything.'
'Ah!' said George, 'what shall I do in London without you, without your advice? There will be something occurring every day, and I shall have no one to consult. Indeed I shall feel quite miserable; I shall indeed.'
'It is quite impossible that, with your station, and at your time of life, you should bury yourself in the country,' said Venetia. 'You have the whole world before you, and you must enjoy it. It is very well for mamma and myself to lead this life. I look upon ourselves as two nuns. If Cadurcis is an abbey, Cherbury is now a convent.'
'How can a man wish to be more than happy? I am quite content here,' said George, 'What is London to me?'
'It may be a great deal to you, more than you think,' said Venetia. 'A great deal awaits you yet. However, there can be no doubt you should take your seat. You can always return, if you wish. But take your seat, and cultivate dear Masham. I have the utmost confidence in his wisdom and goodness. You cannot have a friend more respectable. Now mind my advice, George.'