Always kind, this morning she greeted him with unusual affection. Never had she seemed to him so exquisitely beautiful. Perhaps her countenance to-day was more pale than wont. There seemed a softness in her eyes usually so brilliant and even dazzling; the accents of her salutation were suppressed and tender.
'I thought you would be here early,' she remarked, 'and therefore I rose to meet you.'
Was he to infer from this artless confession that his image had haunted her in her dreams, or only that she would not delay the conversation on which his happiness depended? He could scarcely doubt which version to adopt when she took his arm and led him from the terrace to walk where they could not be disturbed.
'Dear Plantagenet,' she said, 'for indeed you are very dear to me; I told you last night that I would speak to you to-day on your wishes, that are so kind to me and so much intended for my happiness. I do not love suspense; but indeed last night I was too much surprised, too much overcome by what occurred, that exhausted as I naturally was by all our pleasure, I could not tell you what I wished; indeed I could not, dear Plantagenet.'
'My own Venetia!'
'So I hope you will always deem me; for I should be very unhappy if you did not love me, Plantagenet, more unhappy than I have even been these last two years; and I have been very unhappy, very unhappy indeed, Plantagenet.'
'Unhappy, Venetia! my Venetia unhappy?'
'Listen! I will not weep. I can control my feelings. I have learnt to do this; it is very sad, and very different to what my life once was; but I can do it.'
'You amaze me!'
Venetia sighed, and then resumed, but in a tone mournful and low, and yet to a degree firm.
'You have been away five years, Plantagenet.'
'But you have pardoned that.'
'I never blamed you; I had nothing to pardon. It was well for you to be away; and I rejoice your absence has been so profitable to you.'
'But it was wicked to have been so silent.'
'Oh! no, no, no! Such ideas never entered into my head, nor even mamma's. You were very young; you did as all would, as all must do. Harbour not such thoughts. Enough, you have returned and love us yet.'
'Five years are a long space of time, Plantagenet. Events will happen in five years, even at Cherbury. I told you I was changed.'
'Yes!' said Lord Cadurcis, in a voice of some anxiety, with a scrutinising eye.
'You left me a happy child; you find me a woman, and a miserable one.'
'Good God, Venetia! this suspense is awful. Be brief, I pray you. Has any one—'
Venetia looked at him with an air of perplexity. She could not comprehend the idea that impelled his interruption.
'Go on,' Lord Cadurcis added, after a short pause; 'I am indeed all anxiety.'
'You remember that Christmas which you passed at the hall and walking at night in the gallery, and—'
'Well! Your mother, I shall never forget it.'
'You found her weeping when you were once at Marringhurst. You told me of it.'
'There is a wing of our house shut up. We often talked of it.'
'Often, Venetia; it was a mystery.'
'I have penetrated it,' replied Venetia in a solemn tone; 'and never have I known what happiness is since.'
'Yes, yes!' said Lord Cadurcis, very pale, and in a whisper.
'Plantagenet, I have a father.'
Lord Cadurcis started, and for an instant his arm quitted Venetia's. At length he said in a gloomy voice, 'I know it.'
'Know it!' exclaimed Venetia with astonishment. 'Who could have told you the secret?'
'It is no secret,' replied Cadurcis; 'would that it were!'
'Would that it were! How strange you speak, how strange you look, Plantagenet! If it be no secret that I have a father, why this concealment then? I know that I am not the child of shame!' she added, after a moment's pause, with an air of pride. A tear stole down the cheek of Cadurcis.
'Plantagenet! dear, good Plantagenet! my brother! my own brother! see, I kneel to you; Venetia kneels to you! your own Venetia! Venetia that you love! Oh! if you knew the load that is on my spirit bearing me down to a grave which I would almost welcome, you would speak to me; you would tell me all. I have sighed for this; I have longed for this; I have prayed for this. To meet some one who would speak to me of my father; who had heard of him, who knew him; has been for years the only thought of my being, the only object for which I existed. And now, here comes Plantagenet, my brother! my own brother! and he knows all, and he will tell me; yes, that he will; he will tell his Venetia all, all!'
'Is there not your mother?' said Lord Cadurcis, in a broken tone.
'Forbidden, utterly forbidden. If I speak, they tell me her heart will break; and therefore mine is breaking.'
'Have you no friend?'
'Are not you my friend?'
'I have applied to him; he tells me that he lives, and then he shakes his head.'
'You never saw your father; think not of him.'
'Not think of him!' exclaimed Venetia, with extraordinary energy. 'Of what else? For what do I live but to think of him? What object have I in life but to see him? I have seen him, once.'
'I know his form by heart, and yet it was but a shade. Oh, what a shade! what a glorious, what an immortal shade! If gods were upon earth they would be like my father!'
'His deeds, at least, are not godlike,' observed Lord Cadurcis dryly, and with some bitterness.
'I deny it!' said Venetia, her eyes sparkling with fire, her form dilated with enthusiasm, and involuntarily withdrawing her arm from her companion. Lord Cadurcis looked exceedingly astonished.
'You deny it!' he exclaimed. 'And what should you know about it?'
'Nature whispers to me that nothing but what is grand and noble could be breathed by those lips, or fulfilled by that form.'
'I am glad you have not read his works,' said Lord Cadurcis, with increased bitterness. 'As for his conduct, your mother is a living evidence of his honour, his generosity, and his virtue.'
'My mother!' said Venetia, in a softened voice; 'and yet he loved my mother!'
'She was his victim, as a thousand others may have been.'
'She is his wife!' replied Venetia, with some anxiety.
'Yes, a deserted wife; is that preferable to being a cherished mistress? More honourable, but scarcely less humiliating.'
'She must have misunderstood him,' said Venetia. 'I have perused the secret vows of his passion. I have read his praises of her beauty. I have pored over the music of his emotions when he first became a father; yes, he has gazed on me, even though but for a moment, with love! Over me he has breathed forth the hallowed blessing of a parent! That transcendent form has pressed his lips to mine, and held me with fondness to his heart! And shall I credit aught to his dishonour? Is there a being in existence who can persuade me he is heartless or abandoned? No! I love him! I adore him! I am devoted to him with all the energies of my being! I live only on the memory that he lives, and, were he to die, I should pray to my God that I might join him without delay in a world where it cannot be justice to separate a child from a father.'
And this was Venetia! the fair, the serene Venetia! the young, the inexperienced Venetia! pausing, as it were, on the parting threshold of girlhood, whom, but a few hours since, he had fancied could scarcely have proved a passion; who appeared to him barely to comprehend the meaning of his advances; for whose calmness or whose coldness he had consoled himself by the flattering conviction of her unknowing innocence. Before him stood a beautiful and inspired Moenad, her eye flashing supernatural fire, her form elevated above her accustomed stature, defiance on her swelling brow, and passion on her quivering lip!
Gentle and sensitive as Cadurcis ever appeared to those he loved, there was in his soul a deep and unfathomed well of passions that had been never stirred, and a bitter and mocking spirit in his brain, of which he was himself unconscious. He had repaired this hopeful morn to Cherbury to receive, as he believed, the plighted faith of a simple and affectionate, perhaps grateful, girl. That her unsophisticated and untutored spirit might not receive the advances of his heart with an equal and corresponding ardour, he was prepared. It pleased him that he should watch the gradual development of this bud of sweet affections, waiting, with proud anxiety, her fragrant and her full-blown love. But now it appeared that her coldness or her indifference might be ascribed to any other cause than the one to which he had attributed it, the innocence of an inexperienced mind. This girl was no stranger to powerful passions; she could love, and love with fervency, with devotion, with enthusiasm. This child of joy was a woman of deep and thoughtful sorrows, brooding in solitude over high resolves and passionate aspirations. Why were not the emotions of such a tumultuous soul excited by himself? To him she was calm and imperturbable; she called him brother, she treated him as a child. But a picture, a fantastic shade, could raise in her a tempestuous swell of sentiment that transformed her whole mind, and changed the colour of all her hopes and thoughts. Deeply prejudiced against her father, Cadurcis now hated him, and with a fell and ferocious earnestness that few bosoms but his could prove. Pale with rage, he ground his teeth and watched her with a glance of sarcastic aversion.
'You led me here to listen to a communication which interested me,' he at length said. 'Have I heard it?'
His altered tone, the air of haughtiness which he assumed, were not lost upon Venetia. She endeavoured to collect herself, but she hesitated to reply.
'I repeat my inquiry,' said Cadurcis. 'Have you brought me here only to inform me that you have a father, and that you adore him, or his picture?'
'I led you here,' replied Venetia, in a subdued tone, and looking on the ground, 'to thank you for your love, and to confess to you that I love another.'
'Love another!' exclaimed Cadurcis, in a tone of derision. Simpleton! The best thing your mother can do is to lock you up in the chamber with the picture that has produced such marvellous effects.'
'I am no simpleton, Plantagenet,' rejoined Venetia, quietly, 'but one who is acting as she thinks right; and not only as her mind, but as her heart prompts her.'
They had stopped in the earlier part of this conversation on a little plot of turf surrounded by shrubs; Cadurcis walked up and down this area with angry steps, occasionally glancing at Venetia with a look of mortification and displeasure.
'I tell you, Venetia,' he at length said, 'that you are a little fool. What do you mean by saying that you cannot marry me because you love another? Is not that other, by your own account, your father? Love him as much as you like. Is that to prevent you from loving your husband also?'
'Plantagenet, you are rude, and unnecessarily so,' said Venetia. 'I repeat to you again, and for the last time, that all my heart is my father's. It would be wicked in me to marry you, because I cannot love you as a husband should be loved. I can never love you as I love my father. However, it is useless to talk upon this subject. I have not even the power of marrying you if I wished, for I have dedicated myself to my father in the name of God; and I have offered a vow, to be registered in heaven, that thenceforth I would exist only for the purpose of being restored to his heart.'
'I congratulate you on your parent, Miss Herbert.'
'I feel that I ought to be proud of him, though, alas I can only feel it. But, whatever your opinion may be of my father, I beg you to remember that you are speaking to his child.'
'I shall state my opinion respecting your father, madam, with the most perfect unreserve, wherever and whenever I choose; quite convinced that, however you esteem that opinion, it will not be widely different from the real sentiments of the only parent whom you ought to respect, and whom you are bound to obey.'
'And I can tell you, sir, that whatever your opinion is on any subject it will never influence mine. If, indeed, I were the mistress of my own destiny, which I am not, it would have been equally out of my power to have acted as you have so singularly proposed. I do not wish to marry, and marry I never will; but were it in my power, or in accordance with my wish, to unite my fate for ever with another's, it should at least be with one to whom I could look up with reverence, and even with admiration. He should be at least a man, and a great man; one with whose name the world rung; perhaps, like my father, a genius and a poet.'
'A genius and a poet!' exclaimed Lord Cadurcis, in a fury, stamping with passion; 'are these fit terms to use when speaking of the most abandoned profligate of his age? A man whose name is synonymous with infamy, and which no one dares to breathe in civilised life; whose very blood is pollution, as you will some day feel; who has violated every tie, and derided every principle, by which society is maintained; whose life is a living illustration of his own shameless doctrines; who is, at the same time, a traitor to his king and an apostate from his God!'
Curiosity, overpowering even indignation, had permitted Venetia to listen even to this tirade. Pale as her companion, but with a glance of withering scorn, she exclaimed, 'Passionate and ill-mannered boy! words cannot express the disgust and the contempt with which you inspire me.' She spoke and she disappeared. Cadurcis was neither able nor desirous to arrest her flight. He remained rooted to the ground, muttering to himself the word 'boy!' Suddenly raising his arm and looking up to the sky, he exclaimed, 'The illusion is vanished! Farewell, Cherbury! farewell, Cadurcis! a wider theatre awaits me! I have been too long the slave of soft affections! I root them out of my heart for ever!' and, fitting the action to the phrase, it seemed that he hurled upon the earth all the tender emotions of his soul. 'Woman! henceforth you shall be my sport! I have now no feeling but for myself. When she spoke I might have been a boy; I am a boy no longer. What I shall do I know not; but this I know, the world shall ring with my name; I will be a man, and a great man!'
The agitation of Venetia on her return was not unnoticed by her mother; but Lady Annabel ascribed it to a far different cause than the real one. She was rather surprised when the breakfast passed, and Lord Cadurcis did not appear; somewhat perplexed when her daughter seized the earliest opportunity of retiring to her own chamber; but, with that self-restraint of which she was so complete a mistress, Lady Annabel uttered no remark.
Once more alone, Venetia could only repeat to herself the wild words that had burst from Plantagenet's lips in reference to her father. What could they mean? His morals might be misrepresented, his opinions might be misunderstood; stupidity might not comprehend his doctrines, malignity might torture them; the purest sages have been accused of immorality, the most pious philosophers have been denounced as blasphemous: but, 'a traitor to his king,' that was a tangible, an intelligible proposition, one with which all might grapple, which could be easily disproved if false, scarcely propounded were it not true. 'False to his God!' How false? Where? When? What mystery involved her life? Unhappy girl! in vain she struggled with the overwhelming burden of her sorrows. Now she regretted that she had quarrelled with Cadurcis; it was evident that he knew everything and would have told her all. And then she blamed him for his harsh and unfeeling demeanour, and his total want of sympathy with her cruel and perplexing situation. She had intended, she had struggled to be so kind to him; she thought she had such a plain tale to tell that he would have listened to it in considerate silence, and bowed to her necessary and inevitable decision without a murmur. Amid all these harassing emotions her mind tossed about like a ship without a rudder, until, in her despair, she almost resolved to confess everything to her mother, and to request her to soothe and enlighten her agitated and confounded mind. But what hope was there of solace or information from such a quarter? Lady Annabel's was not a mind to be diverted from her purpose. Whatever might have been the conduct of her husband, it was evident that Lady Annabel had traced out a course from which she had resolved not to depart. She remembered the earnest and repeated advice of Dr. Masham, that virtuous and intelligent man who never advised anything but for their benefit. How solemnly had he enjoined upon her never to speak to her mother upon the subject, unless she wished to produce misery and distress! And what could her mother tell her? Her father lived, he had abandoned her, he was looked upon as a criminal, and shunned by the society whose laws and prejudices he had alike outraged. Why should she revive, amid the comparative happiness and serenity in which her mother now lived, the bitter recollection of the almost intolerable misfortune of her existence? No! Venetia was resolved to be a solitary victim. In spite of her passionate and romantic devotion to her father she loved her mother with perfect affection, the mother who had dedicated her life to her child, and at least hoped she had spared her any share in their common unhappiness. And this father, whoso image haunted her dreams, whose unknown voice seemed sometimes to float to her quick ear upon the wind, could he be that abandoned being that Cadurcis had described, and that all around her, and all the circumstances of her life, would seem to indicate? Alas! it might be truth; alas! it seemed like truth: and for one so lost, so utterly irredeemable, was she to murmur against that pure and benevolent parent who had cherished her with such devotion, and snatched her perhaps from disgrace, dishonour, and despair!
And Cadurcis, would he return? With all his violence, the kind Cadurcis! Never did she need a brother more than now; and now he was absent, and she had parted with him in anger, deep, almost deadly: she, too, who had never before uttered a harsh word to a human being, who had been involved in only one quarrel in her life, and that almost unconsciously, and which had nearly broken her heart. She wept, bitterly she wept, this poor Venetia!
By one of those mental efforts which her strange lot often forced her to practise, Venetia at length composed herself, and returned to the room where she believed she would meet her mother, and hoped she should see Cadurcis. He was not there: but Lady Annabel was seated as calm and busied as usual; the Doctor had departed. Even his presence would have proved a relief, however slight, to Venetia, who dreaded at this moment to be alone with her mother. She had no cause, however, for alarm; Lord Cadurcis never appeared, and was absent even from dinner; the day died away, and still he was wanting; and at length Venetia bade her usual good night to Lady Annabel, and received her usual blessing and embrace without his name having been even mentioned.
Venetia passed a disturbed night, haunted by painful dreams, in which her father and Cadurcis were both mixed up, and with images of pain, confusion, disgrace, and misery; but the morrow, at least, did not prolong her suspense, for just as she had joined her mother at breakfast, Mistress Pauncefort, who had been despatched on some domestic mission by her mistress, entered with a face of wonder, and began as usual: 'Only think, my lady; well to be sure, who have thought it? I am quite confident, for my own part, I was quite taken aback when I heard it; and I could not have believed my ears, if John had not told me himself, and he had it from his lordship's own man.'
'Well, Pauncefort, what have you to say?' inquired Lady Annabel, very calmly.
'And never to send no note, my lady; at least I have not seen one come up. That makes it so very strange.'
'Makes what, Pauncefort?'
'Why, my lady, doesn't your la'ship know his lordship left the abbey yesterday, and never said nothing to nobody; rode off without a word, by your leave or with your leave? To be sure he always was the oddest young gentleman as ever I met with; and, as I said to John: John, says I, I hope his lordship has not gone to join the gipsies again.'
Venetia looked into a teacup, and then touched an egg, and then twirled a spoon; but Lady Annabel seemed quite imperturbable, and only observed, 'Probably his guardian is ill, and he has been suddenly summoned to town. I wish you would bring my knitting-needles, Pauncefort.'
The autumn passed, and Lord Cadurcis never returned to the abbey, and never wrote to any of his late companions. Lady Annabel never mentioned his name; and although she seemed to have no other object in life but the pleasure and happiness of her child, this strange mother never once consulted Venetia on the probable occasion of his sudden departure, and his strange conduct.
Party feeling, perhaps, never ran higher in England than during the period immediately subsequent to the expulsion of the Coalition Ministry. After the indefatigable faction of the American war, and the flagrant union with Lord North, the Whig party, and especially Charles Fox, then in the full vigour of his bold and ready mind, were stung to the quick that all their remorseless efforts to obtain and preserve the government of the country should terminate in the preferment and apparent permanent power of a mere boy.
Next to Charles Fox, perhaps the most eminent and influential member of the Whig party was Lady Monteagle. The daughter of one of the oldest and most powerful peers in the kingdom, possessing lively talents and many fascinating accomplishments, the mistress of a great establishment, very beautiful, and, although she had been married some years, still young, the celebrated wife of Lord Monteagle found herself the centre of a circle alike powerful, brilliant, and refined. She was the Muse of the Whig party, at whose shrine every man of wit and fashion was proud to offer his flattering incense; and her house became not merely the favourite scene of their social pleasures, but the sacred, temple of their political rites; here many a manoeuvre was planned, and many a scheme suggested; many a convert enrolled, and many a votary initiated.
Reclining on a couch in a boudoir, which she was assured was the exact facsimile of that of Marie Antoinette, Lady Monteagle, with an eye sparkling with excitement and a cheek flushed with emotion, appeared deeply interested in a volume, from which she raised her hand as her husband entered the room.
'Gertrude, my love,' said his lordship, 'I have asked the new bishop to dine with us to-day.'
'My dear Henry,' replied her ladyship, 'what could induce you to do anything so strange?'
'I suppose I have made a mistake, as usual,' said his lordship, shrugging his shoulders, with a smile.
'My dear Henry, you know you may ask whomever you like to your house. I never find fault with what you do. But what could induce you to ask a Tory bishop to meet a dozen of our own people?'
'I thought I had done wrong directly I had asked him,' rejoined his lordship; 'and yet he would not have come if I had not made such a point of it. I think I will put him off.'
'No, my love, that would be wrong; you cannot do that.'
'I cannot think how it came into my head. The fact is, I lost my presence of mind. You know he was my tutor at Christchurch, when poor dear Herbert and I were such friends, and very kind he was to us both; and so, the moment I saw him, I walked across the House, introduced myself, and asked him to dinner.'
'Well, never mind,' said Lady Monteagle, smiling. 'It is rather ridiculous: but I hope nothing will be said to offend him.'
'Oh! do not be alarmed about that: he is quite a man of the world, and, although he has his opinions, not at all a partisan. I assure you poor dear Herbert loved him to the last, and to this very moment has the greatest respect and affection for him.'
'How very strange that not only your tutor, but Herbert's, should be a bishop,' remarked the lady, smiling.
'It is very strange,' said his lordship, 'and it only shows that it is quite useless in this world to lay plans, or reckon on anything. You know how it happened?'
'Not I, indeed; I have never given a thought to the business; I only remember being very vexed that that stupid old Bangerford should not have died when we were in office, and then, at any rate, we should have got another vote.'
'Well, you know,' said his lordship, 'dear old Masham, that is his name, was at Weymouth this year; with whom do you think, of all people in the world?'
'How should I know? Why should I think about it, Henry?'
'Why, with Herbert's wife.'
'What, that horrid woman?'
'Yes, Lady Annabel.'
'And where was his daughter? Was she there?'
'Of course. She has grown up, and a most beautiful creature they say she is; exactly like her father.'
'Ah! I shall always regret I never saw him,' said her ladyship.
'Well, the daughter is in bad health; and so, after keeping her shut up all her life, the mother was obliged to take her to Weymouth; and Masham, who has a living in their neighbourhood, which, by-the-bye, Herbert gave him, and is their chaplain and counsellor, and friend of the family, and all that sort of thing, though I really believe he has always acted for the best, he was with them. Well, the King took the greatest fancy to these Herberts; and the Queen, too, quite singled them out; and, in short, they were always with the royal family. It ended by his Majesty making Masham his chaplain; and now he has made him a bishop.'
'Very droll indeed,' said her ladyship; 'and the drollest thing of all is, that he is now coming to dine here.'
'Have you seen Cadurcis to-day?' said Lord Monteagle.
'Of course,' said her ladyship.
'He dines here?'
'To be sure. I am reading his new poem; it will not be published till to-morrow.'
'Is it good?'
'Good! What crude questions you do always ask, Henry!' exclaimed Lady Monteagle. 'Good! Of course it is good. It is something better than good.'
'But I mean is it as good as his other things? Will it make as much noise as his last thing?'
'Thing! Now, Henry, you know very well that if there be anything I dislike in the world, it is calling a poem a thing.'
'Well, my dear, you know I am no judge of poetry. But if you are pleased, I am quite content. There is a knock. Some of your friends. I am off. I say, Gertrude, be kind to old Masham, that is a dear creature!'
Her ladyship extended her hand, to which his lordship pressed his lips, and just effected his escape as the servant announced a visitor, in the person of Mr. Horace Pole.
'Oh! my dear Mr. Pole, I am quite exhausted,' said her ladyship; 'I am reading Cadurcis' new poem; it will not he published till to-morrow, and it really has destroyed my nerves. I have got people to dinner to-day, and I am sure I shall not be able to encounter them.'
'Something outrageous, I suppose,' said Mr. Pole, with a sneer. 'I wish Cadurcis would study Pope.'
'Study Pope! My dear Mr. Pole, you have no imagination.'
'No, I have not, thank Heaven!' drawled out Mr. Pole.
'Well, do not let us have a quarrel about Cadurcis,' said Lady Monteagle. 'All you men are jealous of him.'
'And some of you women, I think, too,' said Mr. Pole.
Lady Monteagle faintly smiled.
'Poor Cadurcis!' she exclaimed; 'he has a very hard life of it. He complains bitterly that so many women are in love with him. But then he is such an interesting creature, what can he expect?'
'Interesting!' exclaimed Mr. Pole. 'Now I hold he is the most conceited, affected fellow that I ever met,' he continued with unusual energy.
'Ah! you men do not understand him,' said Lady Monteagle, shaking her head. 'You cannot,' she added, with a look of pity.
'I cannot, certainly,' said Mr. Pole, 'or his writings either. For my part I think the town has gone mad.'
'Well, you must confess,' said her ladyship, with a glance of triumph, 'that it was very lucky for us that I made him a Whig.'
'I cannot agree with you at all on that head,' said Mr. Pole. 'We certainly are not very popular at this moment, and I feel convinced that a connection with a person who attracts so much notice as Cadurcis unfortunately does, and whose opinions on morals and religion must be so offensive to the vast majority of the English public, must ultimately prove anything but advantageous to our party.'
'Oh! my dear Mr. Pole,' said her ladyship, in a tone of affected deprecation, 'think what a genius he is!'
'We have very different ideas of genius, Lady Monteagle, I suspect,' said her visitor.
'You cannot deny,' replied her ladyship, rising from her recumbent posture, with some animation, 'that he is a poet?'
'It is difficult to decide upon our contemporaries,' said Mr. Pole dryly.
'Charles Fox thinks he is the greatest poet that ever existed,' said her ladyship, as if she were determined to settle the question.
'Because he has written a lampoon on the royal family,' rejoined Mr. Pole.
'You are a very provoking person,' said Lady Monteagle; 'but you do not provoke me; do not flatter yourself you do.'
'That I feel to be an achievement alike beyond my power and my ambition,' replied Mr. Pole, slightly bowing, but with a sneer.
'Well, read this,' said Lady Monteagle, 'and then decide upon the merits of Cadurcis.'
Mr. Pole took the extended volume, but with no great willingness, and turned over a page or two and read a passage here and there.
'Much the same as his last effusion, I think' he observed, as far as I can judge from so cursory a review. Exaggerated passion, bombastic language, egotism to excess, and, which perhaps is the only portion that is genuine, mixed with common-place scepticism and impossible morals, and a sort of vague, dreamy philosophy, which, if it mean anything, means atheism, borrowed from his idol, Herbert, and which he himself evidently does not comprehend.'
'Monster!' exclaimed Lady Monteagle, with a mock assumption of indignation, 'and you are going to dine with him here to-day. You do not deserve it.'
'It is a reward which is unfortunately too often obtained by me,' replied Mr. Pole. 'One of the most annoying consequences of your friend's popularity, Lady Monteagle, is that there is not a dinner party where one can escape him. I met him yesterday at Fanshawe's. He amused himself by eating only biscuits, and calling for soda water, while we quaffed our Burgundy. How very original! What a thing it is to be a great poet!'
'Perverse, provoking mortal!' exclaimed Lady Monteagle. 'And on what should a poet live? On coarse food, like you coarse mortals? Cadurcis is all spirit, and in my opinion his diet only makes him more interesting.'
'I understand,' said Mr. Pole, 'that he cannot endure a woman to eat at all. But you are all spirit, Lady Monteagle, and therefore of course are not in the least inconvenienced. By-the-bye, do you mean to give us any of those charming little suppers this season?'
'I shall not invite you,' replied her ladyship; 'none but admirers of Lord Cadurcis enter this house.'
'Your menace effects my instant conversion,' replied Mr. Pole. 'I will admire him as much as you desire, only do not insist upon my reading his works.'
'I have not the slightest doubt you know them by heart,' rejoined her ladyship.
Mr. Pole smiled, bowed, and disappeared; and Lady Monteagle sat down to write a billet to Lord Cadurcis, to entreat him to be with her at five o'clock, which was at least half an hour before the other guests were expected. The Monteagles were considered to dine ridiculously late.
Marmion Herbert, sprung from one of the most illustrious families in England, became at an early age the inheritor of a great estate, to which, however, he did not succeed with the prejudices or opinions usually imbibed or professed by the class to which he belonged. While yet a boy, Marmion Herbert afforded many indications of possessing a mind alike visionary and inquisitive, and both, although not in an equal degree, sceptical and creative. Nature had gifted him with precocious talents; and with a temperament essentially poetic, he was nevertheless a great student. His early reading, originally by accident and afterwards by an irresistible inclination, had fallen among the works of the English freethinkers: with all their errors, a profound and vigorous race, and much superior to the French philosophers, who were after all only their pupils and their imitators. While his juvenile studies, and in some degree the predisposition of his mind, had thus prepared him to doubt and finally to challenge the propriety of all that was established and received, the poetical and stronger bias of his mind enabled him quickly to supply the place of everything he would remove and destroy; and, far from being the victim of those frigid and indifferent feelings which must ever be the portion of the mere doubter, Herbert, on the contrary, looked forward with ardent and sanguine enthusiasm to a glorious and ameliorating future, which should amply compensate and console a misguided and unhappy race for the miserable past and the painful and dreary present. To those, therefore, who could not sympathise with his views, it will be seen that Herbert, in attempting to fulfil them, became not merely passively noxious from his example, but actively mischievous from his exertions. A mere sceptic, he would have been perhaps merely pitied; a sceptic with a peculiar faith of his own, which he was resolved to promulgate, Herbert became odious. A solitary votary of obnoxious opinions, Herbert would have been looked upon only as a madman; but the moment he attempted to make proselytes he rose into a conspirator against society.
Young, irresistibly prepossessing in his appearance, with great eloquence, crude but considerable knowledge, an ardent imagination and a subtle mind, and a generous and passionate soul, under any circumstances he must have obtained and exercised influence, even if his Creator had not also bestowed upon him a spirit of indomitable courage; but these great gifts of nature being combined with accidents of fortune scarcely less qualified to move mankind, high rank, vast wealth, and a name of traditionary glory, it will not be esteemed surprising that Marmion Herbert, at an early period, should have attracted around him many enthusiastic disciples.
At Christchurch, whither he repaired at an unusually early age, his tutor was Doctor Masham; and the profound respect and singular affection with which that able, learned, and amiable man early inspired his pupil, for a time controlled the spirit of Herbert; or rather confined its workings to so limited a sphere that the results were neither dangerous to society nor himself. Perfectly comprehending and appreciating the genius of the youth entrusted to his charge, deeply interested in his spiritual as well as worldly welfare, and strongly impressed with the importance of enlisting his pupil's energies in favour of that existing order, both moral and religious, in the truth and indispensableness of which he was a sincere believer, Doctor Masham omitted no opportunity of combating the heresies of the young inquirer; and as the tutor, equally by talent, experience, and learning, was a competent champion of the great cause to which he was devoted, his zeal and ability for a time checked the development of those opinions of which he witnessed the menacing influence over Herbert with so much fear and anxiety. The college life of Marmion Herbert, therefore, passed in ceaseless controversy with his tutor; and as he possessed, among many other noble qualities, a high and philosophic sense of justice, he did not consider himself authorised, while a doubt remained on his own mind, actively to promulgate those opinions, of the propriety and necessity of which he scarcely ever ceased to be persuaded. To this cause it must be mainly attributed that Herbert was not expelled the university; for had he pursued there the course of which his cruder career at Eton had given promise, there can be little doubt that some flagrant outrage of the opinions held sacred in that great seat of orthodoxy would have quickly removed him from the salutary sphere of their control.
Herbert quitted Oxford in his nineteenth year, yet inferior to few that he left there, even among the most eminent, in classical attainments, and with a mind naturally profound, practised in all the arts of ratiocination. His general knowledge also was considerable, and he was a proficient in those scientific pursuits which were then rare. Notwithstanding his great fortune and position, his departure from the university was not a signal with him for that abandonment to the world, and that unbounded self-enjoyment naturally so tempting to youth. On the contrary, Herbert shut himself up in his magnificent castle, devoted to solitude and study. In his splendid library he consulted the sages of antiquity, and conferred with them on the nature of existence and of the social duties; while in his laboratory or his dissecting-room he occasionally flattered himself he might discover the great secret which had perplexed generations. The consequence of a year passed in this severe discipline was unfortunately a complete recurrence to those opinions that he had early imbibed, and which now seemed fixed in his conviction beyond the hope or chance of again faltering. In politics a violent republican, and an advocate, certainly a disinterested one, of a complete equality of property and conditions, utterly objecting to the very foundation of our moral system, and especially a strenuous antagonist of marriage, which he taught himself to esteem not only as an unnatural tie, but as eminently unjust towards that softer sex, who had been so long the victims of man; discarding as a mockery the received revelation of the divine will; and, if no longer an atheist, substituting merely for such an outrageous dogma a subtle and shadowy Platonism; doctrines, however, which Herbert at least had acquired by a profound study of the works of their great founder; the pupil of Doctor Masham at length deemed himself qualified to enter that world which he was resolved to regenerate; prepared for persecution, and steeled even to martyrdom.
But while the doctrines of the philosopher had been forming, the spirit of the poet had not been inactive. Loneliness, after all, the best of Muses, had stimulated the creative faculty of his being. Wandering amid his solitary woods and glades at all hours and seasons, the wild and beautiful apparitions of nature had appealed to a sympathetic soul. The stars and winds, the pensive sunset and the sanguine break of morn, the sweet solemnity of night, the ancient trees and the light and evanescent flowers, all signs and sights and sounds of loveliness and power, fell on a ready eye and a responsive ear. Gazing on the beautiful, he longed to create it. Then it was that the two passions which seemed to share the being of Herbert appeared simultaneously to assert their sway, and he resolved to call in his Muse to the assistance of his Philosophy.
Herbert celebrated that fond world of his imagination, which he wished to teach men to love. In stanzas glittering with refined images, and resonant with subtle symphony, he called into creation that society of immaculate purity and unbounded enjoyment which he believed was the natural inheritance of unshackled man. In the hero he pictured a philosopher, young and gifted as himself; in the heroine, his idea of a perfect woman. Although all those peculiar doctrines of Herbert, which, undisguised, must have excited so much odium, were more or less developed and inculcated in this work; nevertheless they were necessarily so veiled by the highly spiritual and metaphorical language of the poet, that it required some previous acquaintance with the system enforced, to be able to detect and recognise the esoteric spirit of his Muse. The public read only the history of an ideal world and of creatures of exquisite beauty, told in language that alike dazzled their fancy and captivated their ear. They were lost in a delicious maze of metaphor and music, and were proud to acknowledge an addition to the glorious catalogue of their poets in a young and interesting member of their aristocracy.
In the meanwhile Herbert entered that great world that had long expected him, and hailed his advent with triumph. How long might have elapsed before they were roused by the conduct of Herbert to the error under which they were labouring as to his character, it is not difficult to conjecture; but before he could commence those philanthropic exertions which apparently absorbed him, he encountered an individual who most unconsciously put his philosophy not merely to the test, but partially even to the rout; and this was Lady Annabel Sidney. Almost as new to the world as himself, and not less admired, her unrivalled beauty, her unusual accomplishments, and her pure and dignified mind, combined, it must be confessed, with the flattering admiration of his genius, entirely captivated the philosophical antagonist of marriage. It is not surprising that Marmion Herbert, scarcely of age, and with a heart of extreme susceptibility, resolved, after a struggle, to be the first exception to his system, and, as he faintly flattered himself, the last victim of prejudice. He wooed and won the Lady Annabel.
The marriage ceremony was performed by Doctor Masham, who had read his pupil's poem, and had been a little frightened by its indications; but this happy union had dissipated all his fears. He would not believe in any other than a future career for him alike honourable and happy; and he trusted that if any wild thoughts still lingered in Herbert's mind, that they would clear off by the same literary process; so that the utmost ill consequences of his immature opinions might be an occasional line that the wise would have liked to blot, and yet which the unlettered might scarcely be competent to comprehend. Mr. and Lady Annabel Herbert departed after the ceremony to his castle, and Doctor Masham to Marringhurst, a valuable living in another county, to which his pupil had just presented him.
Some months after this memorable event, rumours reached the ear of the good Doctor that all was not as satisfactory as he could desire in that establishment, in the welfare of which he naturally took so lively an interest. Herbert was in the habit of corresponding with the rector of Marringhurst, and his first letters were full of details as to his happy life and his perfect consent; but gradually these details had been considerably abridged, and the correspondence assumed chiefly a literary or philosophical character. Lady Annabel, however, was always mentioned with regard, and an intimation had been duly given to the Doctor that she was in a delicate and promising situation, and that they were both alike anxious that he should christen their child. It did not seem very surprising to the good Doctor, who was a man of the world, that a husband, six months after marriage, should not speak of the memorable event with all the fulness and fondness of the honeymoon; and, being one of those happy tempers that always anticipate the best, he dismissed from his mind, as vain gossip and idle exaggerations, the ominous whispers that occasionally reached him.
Immediately after the Christmas ensuing his marriage, the Herberts returned to London, and the Doctor, who happened to be a short time in the metropolis, paid them a visit. His observations were far from unsatisfactory; it was certainly too evident that Marmion was no longer enamoured of Lady Annabel, but he treated her apparently with courtesy, and even cordiality. The presence of Dr. Masham tended, perhaps, a little to revive old feelings, for he was as much a favourite with the wife as with the husband; but, on the whole, the Doctor quitted them with an easy heart, and sanguine that the interesting and impending event would, in all probability, revive affection on the part of Herbert, or at least afford Lady Annabel the only substitute for a husband's heart.
In due time the Doctor heard from Herbert that his wife had gone down into the country, but was sorry to observe that Herbert did not accompany her. Even this disagreeable impression was removed by a letter, shortly after received from Herbert, dated from the castle, and written in high spirits, informing him that Annabel had made him the happy father of the most beautiful little girl in the world. During the ensuing three months Mr. Herbert, though he resumed his residence in London, paid frequent visits to the castle, where Lady Annabel remained; and his occasional correspondence, though couched in a careless vein, still on the whole indicated a cheerful spirit; though ever and anon were sarcastic observations as to the felicity of the married state, which, he said, was an undoubted blessing, as it kept a man out of all scrapes, though unfortunately under the penalty of his total idleness and inutility in life. On the whole, however, the reader may judge of the astonishment of Doctor Masham when, in common with the world, very shortly after the receipt of this letter, Mr. Herbert having previously proceeded to London, and awaiting, as was said, the daily arrival of his wife and child, his former tutor learned that Lady Annabel, accompanied only by Pauncefort and Venetia, had sought her father's roof, declaring that circumstances had occurred which rendered it quite impossible that she could live with Mr. Herbert any longer, and entreating his succour and parental protection.
Never was such a hubbub in the world! In vain Herbert claimed his wife, and expressed his astonishment, declaring that he had parted from her with the expression of perfect kind feeling on both sides. No answer was given to his letter, and no explanation of any kind conceded him. The world universally declared Lady Annabel an injured woman, and trusted that she would eventually have the good sense and kindness to gratify them by revealing the mystery; while Herbert, on the contrary, was universally abused and shunned, avoided by his acquaintances, and denounced as the most depraved of men.
In this extraordinary state of affairs Herbert acted in a manner the best calculated to secure his happiness, and the very worst to preserve his character. Having ostentatiously shown himself in every public place, and courted notice and inquiry by every means in his power, to prove that he was not anxious to conceal himself or avoid any inquiry, he left the country, free at last to pursue that career to which he had always aspired, and in which he had been checked by a blunder, from the consequences of which he little expected that he should so speedily and strangely emancipate himself. It was in a beautiful villa on the lake of Geneva that he finally established himself, and there for many years he employed himself in the publication of a series of works which, whether they were poetry or prose, imaginative or investigative, all tended to the same consistent purpose, namely, the fearless and unqualified promulgation of those opinions, on the adoption of which he sincerely believed the happiness of mankind depended; and the opposite principles to which, in his own case, had been productive of so much mortification and misery. His works, which were published in England, were little read, and universally decried. The critics were always hard at work, proving that he was no poet, and demonstrating in the most logical manner that he was quite incapable of reasoning on the commonest topic. In addition to all this, his ignorance was self-evident; and though he was very fond of quoting Greek, they doubted whether he was capable of reading the original authors. The general impression of the English public, after the lapse of some years, was, that Herbert was an abandoned being, of profligate habits, opposed to all the institutions of society that kept his infamy in check, and an avowed atheist; and as scarcely any one but a sympathetic spirit ever read a line he wrote, for indeed the very sight of his works was pollution, it is not very wonderful that this opinion was so generally prevalent. A calm inquirer might, perhaps, have suspected that abandoned profligacy is not very compatible with severe study, and that an author is seldom loose in his life, even if he be licentious in his writings. A calm inquirer might, perhaps, have been of opinion that a solitary sage may be the antagonist of a priesthood without absolutely denying the existence of a God; but there never are calm inquirers. The world, on every subject, however unequally, is divided into parties; and even in the case of Herbert and his writings, those who admired his genius, and the generosity of his soul, were not content without advocating, principally out of pique to his adversaries, his extreme opinions on every subject, moral, political, and religious.
Besides, it must be confessed, there was another circumstance which was almost as fatal to Herbert's character in England as his loose and heretical opinions. The travelling English, during their visits to Geneva, found out that their countryman solaced or enlivened his solitude by unhallowed ties. It is a habit to which very young men, who are separated from or deserted by their wives, occasionally have recourse. Wrong, no doubt, as most things are, but it is to be hoped venial; at least in the case of any man who is not also an atheist. This unfortunate mistress of Herbert was magnified into a seraglio; the most extraordinary tales of the voluptuous life of one who generally at his studies out-watched the stars, were rife in English society; and
Hoary marquises and stripling dukes,
who were either protecting opera dancers, or, still worse, making love to their neighbours' wives, either looked grave when the name of Herbert was mentioned in female society, or affectedly confused, as if they could a tale unfold, were they not convinced that the sense of propriety among all present was infinitely superior to their sense of curiosity.
The only person to whom Herbert communicated in England was Doctor Masham. He wrote to him immediately on his establishment at Geneva, in a calm yet sincere and serious tone, as if it were useless to dwell too fully on the past. Yet he declared, although now that it was all over he avowed his joy at the interposition of his destiny, and the opportunity which he at length possessed of pursuing the career for which he was adapted, that he had to his knowledge given his wife no cause of offence which could authorise her conduct. As for his daughter, he said he should not be so cruel as to tear her from her mother's breast; though, if anything could induce him to such behaviour, it would be the malignant and ungenerous menace of his wife's relatives, that they would oppose his preferred claim to the guardianship of his child, on the plea of his immoral life and atheistical opinions. With reference to pecuniary arrangements, as his chief seat was entailed on male heirs, he proposed that his wife should take up her abode at Cherbury, an estate which had been settled on her and her children at her marriage, and which, therefore, would descend to Venetia. Finally, he expressed his satisfaction that the neighbourhood of Marringhurst would permit his good and still faithful friend to cultivate the society and guard over the welfare of his wife and daughter.
During the first ten years of Herbert's exile, for such indeed it might be considered, the Doctor maintained with him a rare yet regular correspondence; but after that time a public event occurred, and a revolution took place in Herbert's life which terminated all communication between them; a termination occasioned, however, by such a simultaneous conviction of its absolute necessity, that it was not attended by any of those painful communications which are too often the harrowing forerunners of a formal disruption of ancient ties.
This event was the revolt of the American colonies; and this revolution in Herbert's career, his junction with the rebels against his native country. Doubtless it was not without a struggle, perhaps a pang, that Herbert resolved upon a line of conduct to which it must assuredly have required the strongest throb of his cosmopolitan sympathy, and his amplest definition of philanthropy to have impelled him. But without any vindictive feelings towards England, for he ever professed and exercised charity towards his enemies, attributing their conduct entirely to their ignorance and prejudice, upon this step he nevertheless felt it his duty to decide. There seemed in the opening prospects of America, in a world still new, which had borrowed from the old as it were only so much civilisation as was necessary to create and to maintain order; there seemed in the circumstances of its boundless territory, and the total absence of feudal institutions and prejudices, so fair a field for the practical introduction of those regenerating principles to which Herbert had devoted all the thought and labour of his life, that he resolved, after long and perhaps painful meditation, to sacrifice every feeling and future interest to its fulfilment. All idea of ever returning to his native country, even were it only to mix his ashes with the generations of his ancestors; all hope of reconciliation with his wife, or of pressing to his heart that daughter, often present to his tender fancy, and to whose affections he had feelingly appealed in an outburst of passionate poetry; all these chances, chances which, in spite of his philosophy, had yet a lingering charm, must be discarded for ever. They were discarded. Assigning his estate to his heir upon conditions, in order to prevent its forfeiture, with such resources as he could command, and which were considerable, Marmion Herbert arrived at Boston, where his rank, his wealth, his distinguished name, his great talents, and his undoubted zeal for the cause of liberty, procured him an eminent and gratifying reception. He offered to raise a regiment for the republic, and the offer was accepted, and he was enrolled among the citizens. All this occurred about the time that the Cadurcis family first settled at the abbey, and this narrative will probably throw light upon several slight incidents which heretofore may have attracted the perplexed attention of the reader: such as the newspaper brought by Dr. Masham at the Christmas visit; the tears shed at a subsequent period at Marringhurst, when he related to her the last intelligence that had been received from America. For, indeed, it is impossible to express the misery and mortification which this last conduct of her husband occasioned Lady Annabel, brought up, as she had been, with feelings of romantic loyalty and unswerving patriotism. To be a traitor seemed the only blot that remained for his sullied scutcheon, and she had never dreamed of that. An infidel, a profligate, a deserter from his home, an apostate from his God! one infamy alone remained, and now he had attained it; a traitor to his king! Why, every peasant would despise him!
General Herbert, however, for such he speedily became, at the head of his division, soon arrested the attention, and commanded the respect, of Europe. To his exertions the successful result of the struggle was, in a great measure, attributed; and he received the thanks of Congress, of which he became a member. His military and political reputation exercised a beneficial influence upon his literary fame. His works were reprinted in America, and translated into French, and published at Geneva and Basle, whence they were surreptitiously introduced into France. The Whigs, who had become very factious, and nearly revolutionary, during the American war, suddenly became proud of their countryman, whom a new world hailed as a deliverer, and Paris declared to be a great poet and an illustrious philosopher. His writings became fashionable, especially among the young; numerous editions of them appeared, and in time it was discovered that Herbert was now not only openly read, and enthusiastically admired, but had founded a school.
The struggle with America ceased about the time of Lord Cadurcis' last visit to Cherbury, when, from his indignant lips, Venetia first learnt the enormities of her father's career. Since that period some three years had elapsed until we introduced our readers to the boudoir of Lady Monteagle. During this period, among the Whigs and their partisans the literary fame of Herbert had arisen and become established. How they have passed in regard to Lady Annabel Herbert and her daughter, on the one hand, and Lord Cadurcis himself on the other, we will endeavour to ascertain in the following chapter.
From the last departure of Lord Cadurcis from Cherbury, the health of Venetia again declined. The truth is, she brooded in solitude over her strange lot, until her nerves became relaxed by intense reverie and suppressed feeling. The attention of a mother so wrapt up in her child as Lady Annabel, was soon attracted to the increasing languor of our heroine, whose eye each day seemed to grow less bright, and her graceful form less lithe and active. No longer, fond of the sun and breeze as a beautiful bird, was Venetia seen, as heretofore, glancing in the garden, or bounding over the lawns; too often might she be found reclining on the couch, in spite of all the temptations of the spring; while her temper, once so singularly sweet that it seemed there was not in the world a word that could ruffle it, and which required so keenly and responded so quickly to sympathy, became reserved, if not absolutely sullen, or at times even captious and fretful.
This change in the appearance and demeanour of her daughter filled Lady Annabel with anxiety and alarm. In vain she expressed to Venetia her conviction of her indisposition; but Venetia, though her altered habits confirmed the suspicion, and authorised the inquiry of her parent, persisted ever in asserting that she had no ailment. Her old medical attendant was, however, consulted, and, being perplexed with the case, he recommended change of air. Lady Annabel then consulted Dr. Masham, and he gave his opinion in favour of change of air for one reason: and that was, that it would bring with it what he had long considered Venetia to stand in need of, and that was change of life.
Dr. Masham was right; but then, to guide him in forming his judgment, he had the advantage of some psychological knowledge of the case, which, in a greet degree, was a sealed book to the poor puzzled physician. We laugh very often at the errors of medical men; but if we would only, when we consult them, have strength of mind enough to extend to them something better than a half-confidence, we might be cured the sooner. How often, when the unhappy disciple of Esculapius is perplexing himself about the state of our bodies, we might throw light upon his obscure labours by simply detailing to him the state of our minds!
The result of these consultations in the Herbert family was a final resolution, on the part of Lady Annabel, to quit Cherbury for a while. As the sea air was especially recommended to Venetia, and as Lady Annabel shrank with a morbid apprehension from society, to which nothing could persuade her she was not an object either of odium or impertinent curiosity, she finally resolved to visit Weymouth, then a small and secluded watering-place, and whither she arrived and settled herself, it not being even the season when its few customary visitors were in the habit of gathering.
This residence at Weymouth quite repaid Lady Annabel for all the trouble of her new settlement, and for the change in her life very painful to her confirmed habits, which she experienced in leaving for the first time for such a long series of years, her old hall; for the rose returned to the cheek of her daughter, and the western breezes, joined with the influence of the new objects that surrounded her, and especially of that ocean, and its strange and inexhaustible variety, on which she gazed for the first time, gradually, but surely, completed the restoration of Venetia to health, and with it to much of her old vivacity.
When Lady Annabel had resided about a year at Weymouth, in the society of which she had invariably made the indisposition of Venetia a reason for not entering, a great revolution suddenly occurred at this little quiet watering-place, for it was fixed upon as the summer residence of the English court. The celebrated name, the distinguished appearance, and the secluded habits of Lady Annabel and her daughter, had rendered them the objects of general interest. Occasionally they were met in a seaside walk by some fellow-wanderer over the sands, or toiler over the shingles; and romantic reports of the dignity of the mother and the daughter's beauty were repeated by the fortunate observers to the lounging circle of the public library or the baths.
The moment that Lady Annabel was assured that the royal family had positively fixed upon Weymouth for their residence, and were even daily expected, she resolved instantly to retire. Her stern sense of duty assured her that it was neither delicate nor loyal to obtrude before the presence of an outraged monarch the wife and daughter of a traitor; her haughty, though wounded, spirit shrank from the revival of her husband's history, which must be the consequence of such a conjunction, and from the startling and painful remarks which might reach the shrouded ear of her daughter. With her characteristic decision, and with her usual stern volition, Lady Annabel quitted Weymouth instantly, but she was in some degree consoled for the regret and apprehensiveness which she felt at thus leaving a place that had otherwise so happily fulfilled all her hopes and wishes, and that seemed to agree so entirely with Venetia, by finding unexpectedly a marine villa, some few miles further up the coast, which was untenanted, and which offered to Lady Annabel all the accommodation she could desire.
It so happened this summer that Dr. Masham paid the Herberts a visit, and it was his habit occasionally to ride into Weymouth to read the newspaper, or pass an hour in that easy lounging chat, which is, perhaps, one of the principal diversions of a watering-place. A great dignitary of the church, who was about the King, and to whom Dr. Masham was known not merely by reputation, mentioned his presence to his Majesty; and the King, who was fond of the society of eminent divines, desired that Dr. Masham should be presented to him. Now, so favourable was the impression that the rector of Marringhurst made upon his sovereign, that from that moment the King was scarcely ever content unless he was in attendance. His Majesty, who was happy in asking questions, and much too acute to be baffled when he sought information, finally elicited from the Doctor all that, in order to please Lady Annabel, he long struggled to conceal; but when the King found that the deserted wife and daughter of Herbert were really living in the neighbourhood, and that they had quitted Weymouth on his arrival, from a feeling of delicate loyalty, nothing would satisfy the kind-hearted monarch but personally assuring them of the interest he took in their welfare; and accordingly, the next day, without giving Lady Annabel even the preparation of a notice, his Majesty and his royal consort, attended only by a lord in waiting, called at the marine villa, and fairly introduced themselves.
An acquaintance, occasioned by a sentiment of generous and condescending sympathy, was established and strengthened into intimacy, by the personal qualities of those thus delicately honoured. The King and Queen were equally delighted with the wife and daughter of the terrible rebel; and although, of course, not an allusion was made to his existence, Lady Annabel felt not the less acutely the cause to which she was indebted for a notice so gratifying, but which she afterwards ensured by her own merits. How strange are the accidents of life! Venetia Herbert, who had been bred up in unbroken solitude, and whose converse had been confined to two or three beings, suddenly found herself the guest of a king, and the visitor to a court! She stepped at once from solitude into the most august circle of society; yet, though she had enjoyed none of that initiatory experience which is usually held so indispensable to the votaries of fashion, her happy nature qualified her to play her part without effort and with success. Serene and graceful, she mingled in the strange and novel scene, as if it had been for ever her lot to dazzle and to charm. Ere the royal family returned to London, they extracted from Lady Annabel a compliance with their earnest wishes, that she should fix her residence, during the ensuing season, in the metropolis, and that she should herself present Venetia at St. James's. The wishes of kings are commands; and Lady Annabel, who thus unexpectedly perceived some of the most painful anticipations of her solitude at once dissipated, and that her child, instead of being subjected on her entrance into life to all the mortifications she had imagined, would, on the contrary, find her first introduction under auspices the most flattering and advantageous, bowed a dutiful assent to the condescending injunctions.
Such were the memorable consequences of this visit to Weymouth! The return of Lady Annabel to the world, and her intended residence in the metropolis, while the good Masham preceded their arrival to receive a mitre. Strange events, and yet not improbable!
In the meantime Lord Cadurcis had repaired to the university, where his rank and his eccentric qualities quickly gathered round him a choice circle of intimates, chiefly culled from his old schoolfellows. Of these the great majority were his seniors, for whose society the maturity of his mind qualified him. It so happened that these companions were in general influenced by those liberal opinions which had become in vogue during the American war, and from which Lord Cadurcis had hitherto been preserved by the society in which he had previously mingled in the house of his guardian. With the characteristic caprice and impetuosity of youth, Cadurcis rapidly and ardently imbibed all these doctrines, captivated alike by their boldness and their novelty. Hitherto the child of prejudice, he flattered himself that he was now the creature of reason, and, determined to take nothing for granted, he soon learned to question everything that was received. A friend introduced him to the writings of Herbert, that very Herbert whom he had been taught to look upon with so much terror and odium. Their perusal operated a complete revolution of his mind; and, in little more than a year from his flight from Cherbury, he had become an enthusiastic votary of the great master, for his violent abuse of whom he had been banished from those happy bowers. The courage, the boldness, the eloquence, the imagination, the strange and romantic career of Herbert, carried the spirit of Cadurcis captive. The sympathetic companions studied his works and smiled with scorn at the prejudice of which their great model had been the victim, and of which they had been so long the dupes. As for Cadurcis, he resolved to emulate him, and he commenced his noble rivalship by a systematic neglect of all the duties and the studies of his college life. His irregular habits procured him constant reprimands in which he gloried; he revenged himself on the authorities by writing epigrams, and by keeping a bear, which he declared should stand for a fellowship. At length, having wilfully outraged the most important regulations, he was expelled; and he made his expulsion the subject of a satire equally personal and philosophic, and which obtained applause for the great talent which it displayed, even from those who lamented its want of judgment and the misconduct of its writer. Flushed with success, Cadurcis at length found, to his astonishment, that Nature had intended him for a poet. He repaired to London, where he was received with open arms by the Whigs, whose party he immediately embraced, and where he published a poem, in which he painted his own character as the hero, and of which, in spite of all the exaggeration and extravagance of youth, the genius was undeniable. Society sympathised with a young and a noble poet; his poem was read by all parties with enthusiasm; Cadurcis became the fashion. To use his own expression, 'One morning he awoke, and found himself famous.' Young, singularly handsome, with every gift of nature and fortune, and with an inordinate vanity that raged in his soul, Cadurcis soon forgot the high philosophy that had for a moment attracted him, and delivered himself up to the absorbing egotism which had ever been latent in his passionate and ambitious mind. Gifted with energies that few have ever equalled, and fooled to the bent by the excited sympathies of society, he poured forth his creative and daring spirit with a license that conquered all obstacles, from the very audacity with which he assailed them. In a word, the young, the reserved, and unknown Cadurcis, who, but three years back, was to have lived in the domestic solitude for which he alone felt himself fitted, filled every heart and glittered in every eye. The men envied, the women loved, all admired him. His life was a perpetual triumph; a brilliant and applauding stage, on which he ever played a dazzling and heroic part. So sudden and so startling had been his apparition, so vigorous and unceasing the efforts by which he had maintained his first overwhelming impression, and not merely by his writings, but by his unusual manners and eccentric life, that no one had yet found time to draw his breath, to observe, to inquire, and to criticise. He had risen, and still flamed, like a comet as wild as it was beautiful, and strange is it was brilliant.
We must now return to the dinner party at Lord Monteagle's. When the Bishop of —— entered the room, he found nearly all the expected guests assembled, and was immediately presented by his host to the lady of the house, who received him with all that fascinating address for which she was celebrated, expressing the extreme delight which she felt at thus becoming formally acquainted with one whom her husband had long taught her to admire and reverence. Utterly unconscious who had just joined the circle, while Lord Monteagle was introducing his newly-arrived guest to many present, and to all of whom he was unknown except by reputation, Lord Cadurcis was standing apart, apparently wrapt in his own thoughts; but the truth is, in spite of all the excitement in which he lived, he had difficulty in overcoming the natural reserve of his disposition.
'Watch Cadurcis,' said Mr. Horace Pole to a fine lady. 'Does not he look sublime?'
'Show me him,' said the lady, eagerly. 'I have never seen him yet; I am actually dying to know him. You know we have just come to town.'
'And have caught the raging epidemic, I see,' said Mr. Pole, with a sneer. 'However, there is the marvellous young gentleman! "Alone in a crowd," as he says in his last poem. Very interesting!'
'Wonderful creature!' exclaimed the dame.
'Charming!' said Mr. Pole. 'If you ask Lady Monteagle, she will introduce him to you, and then, perhaps, you will be fortunate enough to be handed to dinner by him.'
'Oh! how I should like it!'
'You must take care, however, not to eat; he cannot endure a woman who eats.'
'I never do,' said the lady, simply; 'at least at dinner.'
'Ah! then you will quite suit him; I dare say he will write a sonnet to you, and call you Thyrza.'
'I wish I could get him to write some lines in my book, said the lady; 'Charles Fox has written some; he was staying with us in the autumn, and he has written an ode to my little dog.'
'How amiable!' said Mr. Pole; 'I dare say they are as good as his elegy on Mrs. Crewe's cat. But you must not talk of cats and dogs to Cadurcis. He is too exalted to commemorate any animal less sublime than a tiger or a barb.'
'You forget his beautiful lines on his Newfoundland,' said the lady.
'Very complimentary to us all,' said Mr. Horace Pole. 'The interesting misanthrope!'
'He looks unhappy.'
'Very,' said Mr. Pole. 'Evidently something on his conscience.'
'They do whisper very odd things,' said the lady, with great curiosity. 'Do you think there is anything in them?'
'Oh! no doubt,' said Mr. Pole; 'look at him; you can detect crime in every glance.'
'Dear me, how shocking! I think he must be the most interesting person that ever lived. I should so like to know him! They say he is so very odd.'
'Very,' said Mr. Pole. 'He must be a man of genius; he is so unlike everybody; the very tie of his cravat proves it. And his hair, so savage and dishevelled; none but a man of genius would not wear powder. Watch him to-day, and you will observe that he will not condescend to perform the slightest act like an ordinary mortal. I met him at dinner yesterday at Fanshawe's, and he touched nothing but biscuits and soda-water. Fanshawe, you know, is famous for his cook. Complimentary and gratifying, was it not?'
'Dear me!' said the lady, 'I am delighted to see him; and yet I hope I shall not sit by him at dinner. I am quite afraid of him.'
'He is really awful!' said Mr. Pole.
In the meantime the subject of these observations slowly withdrew to the further end of the saloon, apart from every one, and threw himself upon a couch with a somewhat discontented air. Lady Monteagle, whose eye had never left him for a moment, although her attentions had been necessarily commanded by her guests, and who dreaded the silent rages in which Cadurcis constantly indulged, and which, when once assumed for the day, were with difficulty dissipated, seized the first opportunity to join and soothe him.
'Dear Cadurcis,' she said, 'why do you sit here? You know I am obliged to speak to all these odious people, and it is very cruel of you.'
'You seemed to me to be extremely happy,' replied his lordship, in a sarcastic tone.
'Now, Cadurcis, for Heaven's sake do not play with my feelings,' exclaimed Lady Monteagle, in a deprecating tone. 'Pray be amiable. If I think you are in one of your dark humours, it is quite impossible for me to attend to these people; and you know it is the only point on which Monteagle ever has an opinion; he insists upon my attending to his guests.'
'If you prefer his guests to me, attend to them.'
'Now, Cadurcis! I ask you as a favour, a favour to me, only for to-day. Be kind, be amiable, you can if you like; no person can be more amiable; now, do!'
'I am amiable,' said his lordship; 'I am perfectly satisfied, if you are. You made me dine here.'
'Have I not dined here to satisfy you?'
'Yes! It was very kind.'
'But, really, that I should be wearied with all the common-places of these creatures who come to eat your husband's cutlets, is too much,' said his lordship. 'And you, Gertrude, what necessity can there be in your troubling yourself to amuse people whom you meet every day of your life, and who, from the vulgar perversity of society, value you in exact proportion as you neglect them?'
'Yes, but to-day I must be attentive; for Henry, with his usual thoughtlessness, has asked this new bishop to dine with us.'
'The Bishop of——?' inquired Lord Cadurcis, eagerly. 'Is he coming?'
'He has been in the room this quarter of an hour?'
'What, Masham! Doctor Masham!' continued Lord Cadurcis.
Lord Cadurcis changed colour, and even sighed. He rose rather quickly, and said, 'I must go and speak to him.'
So, quitting Lady Monteagle, he crossed the room, and with all the simplicity of old days, which instantly returned on him, those melancholy eyes sparkling with animation, and that languid form quick with excitement, he caught the Doctor's glance, and shook his extended hand with a heartiness which astonished the surrounding spectators, accustomed to the elaborate listlessness of his usual manner.
'My dear Doctor! my dear Lord! I am glad to say,' said Cadurcis, 'this is the greatest and the most unexpected pleasure I ever received. Of all persons in the world, you are the one whom I was most anxious to meet.'
The good Bishop appeared not less gratified with the rencounter than Cadurcis himself; but, in the midst of their mutual congratulations, dinner was announced and served; and, in due order, Lord Cadurcis found himself attending that fine lady, whom Mr. Horace Pole had, in jest, suggested should be the object of his services; while Mr. Pole himself was seated opposite to him at table.
The lady, remembering all Mr. Pole's intimations, was really much frightened; she at first could scarcely reply to the casual observations of her neighbour, and quite resolved not to eat anything. But his lively and voluble conversation, his perfectly unaffected manner, and the nonchalance with which he helped himself to every dish that was offered him, soon reassured her. Her voice became a little firmer, her manner less embarrassed, and she even began meditating a delicate assault upon a fricassee.
'Are you going to Ranelagh to-night?' inquired Lord Cadurcis; 'I think I shall take a round. There is nothing like amusement; it is the only thing worth living for; and I thank my destiny I am easily amused. We must persuade Lady Monteagle to go with us. Let us make a party, and return and sup. I like a supper; nothing in the world more charming than a supper,
A lobster salad, and champagne and chat.
That is life, and delightful. Why, really, my dear madam, you eat nothing. You will never be able to endure the fatigues of a Ranelagh campaign on the sustenance of a pate. Pole, my good fellow, will you take a glass of wine? We had a pleasant party yesterday at Fanshawe's, and apparently a capital dinner. I was sorry that I could not play my part; but I have led rather a raking life lately. We must go and dine with him again.'
Lord Cadurcis' neighbour and Mr. Pole exchanged looks; and the lady, emboldened by the unexpected conduct of her cavalier and the exceeding good friends which he seemed resolved to be with her and every one else, began to flatter herself that she might yet obtain the much-desired inscription in her volume. So, after making the usual approaches, of having a great favour to request, which, however, she could not flatter herself would be granted, and which she even was afraid to mention; encouraged by the ready declaration of Lord Cadurcis, that he should think it would be quite impossible for any one to deny her anything, the lady ventured to state, that Mr. Fox had written something in her book, and she should be the most honoured and happiest lady in the land if—'
'Oh! I shall be most happy,' said Lord Cadurcis; 'I really esteem your request quite an honour: you know I am only a literary amateur, and cannot pretend to vie with your real authors. If you want them, you must go to Mrs. Montagu. I would not write a line for her, and no the blues have quite excommunicated me. Never mind; I leave them to Miss Hannah More; but you, you are quite a different sort of person. What shall I write?'
'I must leave the subject to you,' said his gratified friend.
'Well, then,' said his lordship, 'I dare say you have got a lapdog or a broken fan; I don't think I could soar above them. I think that is about my tether.'
This lady, though a great person, was not a beauty, and very little of a wit, and not calculated in any respect to excite the jealousy of Lady Monteagle. In the meantime that lady was quite delighted with the unusual animation of Lord Cadurcis, who was much the most entertaining member of the party. Every one present would circulate throughout the world that it was only at the Monteagle's that Lord Cadurcis condescended to be amusing. As the Bishop was seated on her right hand, Lady Monteagle seized the opportunity of making inquiries as to their acquaintance; but she only obtained from the good Masham that he had once resided in his lordship's neighbourhood, and had known him as a child, and was greatly attached to him. Her ladyship was anxious to obtain some juvenile anecdotes of her hero; but the Bishop contrived to be amusing without degenerating into gossip. She did not glean much, except that all his early friends were more astonished at his present career than the Bishop himself, who was about to add, that he always had some misgivings, but, recollecting where he was, he converted the word into a more gracious term. But if Lady Monteagle were not so successful as she could wish in her inquiries, she contrived still to speak on the, to her, ever-interesting subject, and consoled herself by the communications which she poured into a guarded yet not unwilling ear, respecting the present life and conduct of the Bishop's former pupil. The worthy dignitary had been prepared by public fame for much that was dazzling and eccentric; but it must be confessed he was not a little astonished by a great deal to which he listened. One thing, however, was clear that whatever might be the demeanour of Cadurcis to the circle in which he now moved, time, and the strange revolutions of his life, had not affected his carriage to his old friend. It gratified the Bishop while he listened to Lady Monteagle's details of the haughty, reserved, and melancholy demeanour of Cadurcis, which impressed every one with an idea that some superior being had, as a punishment, been obliged to visit their humble globe, to recall the apparently heartfelt cordiality with which he had resumed his old acquaintance with the former rector of Marringhurst.
And indeed, to speak truth, the amiable and unpretending behaviour of Cadurcis this day was entirely attributable to the unexpected meeting with this old friend. In the hurry of society he could scarcely dwell upon the associations which it was calculated to call up; yet more than once he found himself quite absent, dwelling on sweet recollections of that Cherbury that he had so loved. And ever and anon the tones of a familiar voice caught his ear, so that they almost made him start: they were not the less striking, because, as Masham was seated on the same side of the table as Cadurcis, his eye had not become habituated to the Bishop's presence, which sometimes he almost doubted.
He seized the first opportunity after dinner of engaging his old tutor in conversation. He took him affectionately by the arm, and led him, as if unintentionally, to a sofa apart from the rest of the company, and seated himself by his side. Cadurcis was agitated, for he was about to inquire of some whom he could not mention without emotion.
'Is it long since you have seen our friends?' said his lordship, 'if indeed I may call them mine.'
'Lady Annabel Herbert?' said the Bishop.
'I parted from her about two months back,' continued the Bishop.
'And Cherbury, dear Cherbury, is it unchanged?'
'They have not resided there for more than two years.'
'They have lived, of late, at Weymouth, for the benefit of the sea air.'
'I hope neither Lady Annabel nor her daughter needs it?' said Lord Cadurcis, in a tone of much feeling.
'Neither now, God be praised!' replied Masham; 'but Miss Herbert has been a great invalid.'
There was a rather awkward silence. At length Lord Cadurcis said, 'We meet rather unexpectedly, my dear sir.'
'Why, you have become a great man,' said the Bishop, with a smile; 'and one must expect to meet you.'
'Ah! my dear friend,' exclaimed Lord Cadurcis, with a sigh, 'I would willingly give a whole existence of a life like this for one year of happiness at Cherbury.'
'Nay!' said the Bishop, with a look of good-natured mockery, 'this melancholy is all very well in poetry; but I always half-suspected, and I am quite sure now, that Cherbury was not particularly adapted to you.'
'You mistake me,' said Cadurcis, mournfully shaking his head.
'Hitherto I have not been so very wrong in my judgment respecting Lord Cadurcis, that I am inclined very easily to give up my opinion,' replied the Bishop.
'I have often thought of the conversation to which you allude,' replied Lord Cadurcis; 'nevertheless, there is one opinion I never changed, one sentiment that still reigns paramount in my heart.'
'You think so,' said his companion; but, perhaps, were it more than a sentiment, it would cease to flourish.'
'No,' said Lord Cadurcis firmly; 'the only circumstance in the world of which I venture to feel certain is my love for Venetia.'
'It raged certainly during your last visit to Cherbury,' said the Bishop, 'after an interval of five years; it has been revived slightly to-day, after an interval of three more, by the sight of a mutual acquaintance, who has reminded you of her. But what have been your feelings in the meantime? Confess the truth, and admit you have very rarely spared a thought to the person to whom you fancy yourself at this moment so passionately devoted.'
'You do not do me justice,' said Lord Cadurcis; 'you are prejudiced against me.'
'Nay! prejudice is not my humour, my good lord. I decide only from what I myself observe; I give my opinion to you at this moment as freely as I did when you last conversed with me at the abbey, and when I a little displeased you by speaking what you will acknowledge has since turned out to be the truth.'
'You mean, then, to say,' said his lordship, with some excitement, 'that you do not believe that I love Venetia?'
'I think you do, at this moment,' replied Masham; 'and I think,' he continued, smiling, 'that you may probably continue very much in love with her, even during the rest of the week.'
'You mock me!'
'Nay! I am sincerely serious.'
'What, then, do you mean?'
'I mean that your imagination, my lord, dwelling for the moment with great power upon the idea of Venetia, becomes inflamed, and your whole mind is filled with her image.'
'A metaphysical description of being in love,' said Lord Cadurcis, rather dryly.
'Nay!' said Masham, 'I think the heart has something to do with that.'
'But the imagination acts upon the heart,' rejoined his companion.
'But it is in the nature of its influence not to endure. At this moment, I repeat, your lordship may perhaps love Miss Herbert; you may go home and muse over her memory, and even deplore in passionate verses your misery in being separated from her; but, in the course of a few days, she will be again forgotten.'
'But were she mine?' urged Lord Cadurcis, eagerly.
'Why, you would probably part from her in a year, as her father parted from Lady Annabel.'
'Impossible! for my imagination could not conceive anything more exquisite than she is.'
'Then it would conceive something less exquisite,' said the Bishop. 'It is a restless quality, and is ever creative, either of good or of evil.'
'Ah! my dear Doctor, excuse me for again calling you Doctor, it is so natural,' said Cadurcis, in a tone of affection.
'Call me what you will, my dear lord,' said the good Bishop, whose heart was moved; 'I can never forget old days.'
'Believe me, then,' continued Cadurcis, 'that you misjudge me in respect of Venetia. I feel assured that, had we married three years ago, I should have been a much happier man.'
'Why, you have everything to make you happy,' said the Bishop; 'if you are not happy, who should be? You are young, and you are famous: all that is now wanted is to be wise.'
Lord Cadurcis shrugged his shoulders. I am tired of this life,' he said; 'I am wearied of the same hollow bustle, and the same false glitter day after day. Ah! my dear friend, when I remember the happy hours when I used to roam through the woods of Cherbury with Venetia, and ramble in that delicious park, both young, both innocent, lit by the sunset and guided by the stars; and then remember that it has all ended in this, and that this is success, glory, fame, or whatever be the proper title to baptize the bubble, the burthen of existence is too great for me.'
'Hush, hush!' said his friend, rising from the sofa; 'you will be happy if you be wise.'
'But what is wisdom?' said Lord Cadurcis.
'One quality of it, in your situation, my lord, is to keep your head as calm as you can. Now, I must bid you good night.'
The Bishop disappeared, and Lord Cadurcis was immediately surrounded by several fine ladies, who were encouraged by the flattering bulletin that his neighbour at dinner, who was among them, had given of his lordship's temper. They were rather disappointed to find him sullen, sarcastic, and even morose. As for going to Ranelagh, he declared that, if he had the power of awarding the punishment of his bitterest enemy, it would be to consign him for an hour to the barbarous infliction of a promenade in that temple of ennui; and as for the owner of the album, who, anxious about her verses, ventured to express a hope that his lordship would call upon her, the contemptuous bard gave her what he was in the habit of styling 'a look,' and quitted the room, without deigning otherwise to acknowledge her hopes and her courtesy.
We must now return to our friends the Herberts, who, having quitted Weymouth, without even revisiting Cherbury, are now on their journey to the metropolis. It was not without considerable emotion that Lady Annabel, after an absence of nearly nineteen years, contemplated her return to the scene of some of the most extraordinary and painful occurrences of her life. As for Venetia, who knew nothing of towns and cities, save from the hasty observations she had made in travelling, the idea of London, formed only from books and her imagination, was invested with even awful attributes. Mistress Pauncefort alone looked forward to their future residence simply with feelings of self-congratulation at her return, after so long an interval, to the theatre of former triumphs and pleasures, and where she conceived herself so eminently qualified to shine and to enjoy.
The travellers entered town towards nightfall, by Hyde Park Corner, and proceeded to an hotel in St. James's Street, where Lady Annabel's man of business had engaged them apartments. London, with its pallid parish lamps, scattered at long intervals, would have presented but a gloomy appearance to the modern eye, habituated to all the splendour of gas; but to Venetia it seemed difficult to conceive a scene of more brilliant bustle; and she leant back in the carriage, distracted with the lights and the confusion of the crowded streets. When they were once safely lodged in their new residence, the tumult of unpacking the carriages had subsided, and the ceaseless tongue of Pauncefort had in some degree refrained from its wearying and worrying chatter, a feeling of loneliness, after all this agitation and excitement, simultaneously came over the feelings of both mother and daughter, though they alike repressed its expression. Lady Annabel was lost in many sad thoughts, and Venetia felt mournful, though she could scarcely define the cause. Both were silent, and they soon sought refuge from fatigue and melancholy in sleep.
The next morning, it being now April, was fortunately bright and clear. It certainly was a happy fortune that the fair Venetia was not greeted with a fog. She rose refreshed and cheerful, and joined her mother, who was, however, not a little agitated by an impending visit, of which Venetia had been long apprised. This was from Lady Annabel's brother, the former ambassador, who had of late returned to his native country. The brother and sister had been warmly attached in youth, but the awful interval of time that had elapsed since they parted, filled Venetia's mother with many sad and serious reflections. The Earl and his family had been duly informed of Lady Annabel's visit to the metropolis, and had hastened to offer her the hospitality of their home; but the offer had been declined, with feelings, however, not a little gratified by the earnestness with which it had been proffered.
Venetia was now, for the first time in her life, to see a relative. The anticipated meeting excited in her mind rather curiosity than sentiment. She could not share the agitation of her mother, and yet she looked forward to the arrival of her uncle with extreme inquisitiveness. She was not long kept in suspense. Their breakfast was scarcely finished, when he was announced. Lady Annabel turned rather pale; and Venetia, who felt herself as it were a stranger to her blood, would have retired, had not her mother requested her to remain; so she only withdrew to the back of the apartment.