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Venetia
by Benjamin Disraeli
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It is the hour of love and of faro; now is the hour to press your suit and to break a bank; to glide from the apartment of rapture into the chamber of chance. Thus a noble Venetian contrived to pass the night, in alternations of excitement that in general left him sufficiently serious for the morrow's council. For more vulgar tastes there was the minstrel, the conjuror, and the story-teller, goblets of Cyprus wine, flasks of sherbet, and confectionery that dazzled like diamonds. And for every one, from the grave senator to the gay gondolier, there was an atmosphere in itself a spell, and which, after all, has more to do with human happiness than all the accidents of fortune and all the arts of government.

Amid this gay and brilliant multitude, one human being stood alone. Muffled in his cloak, and leaning against a column in the portico of St. Marc, an expression of oppressive care and affliction was imprinted on his countenance, and ill accorded with the light and festive scene. Had he been crossed in love, or had he lost at play? Was it woman or gold to which his anxiety and sorrow were attributable, for under one or other of these categories, undoubtedly, all the miseries of man may range. Want of love, or want of money, lies at the bottom of all our griefs.

The stranger came forward, and leaving the joyous throng, turned down the Piazzetta, and approached the quay of the Lagune. A gondolier saluted him, and he entered his boat.

'Whither, signor?' said the gondolier.

'To the Grand Canal,' he replied.

Over the moonlit wave the gondola swiftly skimmed! The scene was a marvellous contrast to the one which the stranger had just quitted; but it brought no serenity to his careworn countenance, though his eye for a moment kindled as he looked upon the moon, that was sailing in the cloudless heaven with a single star by her side.

They had soon entered the Grand Canal, and the gondolier looked to his employer for instructions. 'Row opposite to the Manfrini palace,' said the stranger, 'and rest upon your oar.'

The blinds of the great window of the palace were withdrawn. Distinctly might be recognised a female figure bending over the recumbent form of a girl. An hour passed away and still the gondola was motionless, and still the silent stranger gazed on the inmates of the palace. A servant now came forward and closed the curtain of the chamber. The stranger sighed, and waving his hand to the gondolier, bade him return to the Lagune.



CHAPTER X.

It is curious to recall our feelings at a moment when a great event is impending over us, and we are utterly unconscious of its probable occurrence. How often does it happen that a subject which almost unceasingly engages our mind, is least thought of at the very instant that the agitating suspense involved in its consideration is perhaps about to be terminated for ever! The very morning after the mysterious gondola had rested so long before the Manfrini Palace, Venetia rose for the first time since the flight from Rovigo, refreshed by her slumbers, and tranquil in her spirit. It was not in her power to recall her dreams; but they had left a vague and yet serene impression. There seemed a lightness in her heart, that long had been unusual with her, and she greeted her mother with a smile, faint indeed, yet natural.

Perhaps this beneficial change, slight but still delightful, might be attributed to the softness and the splendour of the morn. Before the approach of winter, it seemed that the sun was resolved to remind the Venetians that they were his children; and that, although his rays might be soon clouded for a season, they were not to believe that their parent had deserted them. The sea was like glass, a golden haze suffused the horizon, and a breeze, not strong enough to disturb the waters, was wafted at intervals from the gardens of the Brenta, fitful and sweet.

Venetia had yielded to the suggestion of her mother, and had agreed for the first time to leave the palace. They stepped into their gondola, and were wafted to an island in the Lagune where there was a convent, and, what in Venice was more rare and more delightful, a garden. Its scanty shrubberies sparkled in the sun; and a cypress flanked by a pine-tree offered to the eye unused to trees a novel and picturesque group. Beneath its shade they rested, watching on one side the distant city, and on the other the still and gleaming waters of the Adriatic. While they were thus sitting, renovated by the soft air and pleasant spectacle, a holy father, with a beard like a meteor, appeared and addressed them.

'Welcome to St. Lazaro!' said the holy father, speaking in English; 'and may the peace that reigns within its walls fill also your breasts!'

'Indeed, holy father,' said Lady Annabel to the Armenian monk, 'I have long heard of your virtues and your happy life.'

'You know that Paradise was placed in our country,' said the monk with a smile. 'We have all lost Paradise, but the Armenian has lost his country too. Nevertheless, with God's blessing, on this islet we have found an Eden, pure at least and tranquil.'

'For the pious, Paradise exists everywhere,' said Lady Annabel.

'You have been in England, holy father?' said Venetia.

'It has not been my good fortune,' replied the monk.

'Yet you speak our tongue with a facility and accent that surprise me.'

'I learnt it in America where I long resided,' rejoined the Armenian.

'This is for your eye, lady,' continued the monk, drawing a letter from his bosom.

Lady Annabel felt not a little surprised; but the idea immediately occurred to her that it was some conventual memorial appealing to her charity. She took the paper from the monk, who immediately moved away; but what was the agitation of Lady Annabel when she recognised the handwriting of her husband! Her first thought was to save Venetia from sharing that agitation. She rose quickly; she commanded herself sufficiently to advise her daughter, in a calm tone, to remain seated, while for a moment she refreshed herself by a stroll. She had not quitted Venetia many paces, when she broke the seal and read these lines:

'Tremble not, Annabel, when you recognise this handwriting. It is that of one whose only aspiration is to contribute to your happiness; and although the fulfilment of that fond desire may be denied him, it never shall be said, even by you, that any conduct of his should now occasion you annoyance. I am in Venice at the peril of my life, which I only mention because the difficulties inseparable from my position are the principal cause that you did not receive this communication immediately after our strange meeting. I have gazed at night upon your palace, and watched the forms of my wife and our child; but one word from you, and I quit Venice for ever, and it shall not be my fault if you are ever again disturbed by the memory of the miserable Herbert.

'But before I go, I will make this one appeal if not to your justice, at least to your mercy. After the fatal separation of a life, we have once more met: you have looked upon me not with hatred; my hand has once more pressed yours; for a moment I indulged the impossible hope, that this weary and exhausted spirit might at length be blessed. With agony I allude to the incident that dispelled the rapture of this vision. Sufficient for me most solemnly to assure you that four-and-twenty hours had not elapsed without that feeble and unhallowed tie being severed for ever! It vanished instantaneously before the presence of my wife and my child. However you decide, it can never again subsist: its utter and eternal dissolution was the inevitable homage to your purity.

'Whatever may have been my errors, whatever my crimes, for I will not attempt to justify to you a single circumstance of my life, I humble myself in the dust before you, and solicit only mercy; yet whatever may have been my career, ah! Annabel, in the infinite softness of your soul was it not for a moment pardoned? Am I indeed to suffer for that last lamentable intrusion? You are a woman, Annabel, with a brain as clear as your heart is pure. Judge me with calmness, Annabel; were there no circumstances in my situation to extenuate that deplorable connection? I will not urge them; I will not even intimate them; but surely, Annabel, when I kneel before you full of deep repentance and long remorse, if you could pardon the past, it is not that incident, however mortifying to you, however disgraceful to myself, that should be an impassable barrier to all my hopes!

'Once you loved me; I ask you not to love me now. There is nothing about me now that can touch the heart of woman. I am old before my time; bent with the blended influence of action and of thought, and of physical and moral suffering. The play of my spirit has gone for ever. My passions have expired like my hopes. The remaining sands of my life are few. Once it was otherwise: you can recall a different picture of the Marmion on whom you smiled, and of whom you were the first love. O Annabel! grey, feeble, exhausted, penitent, let me stagger over your threshold, and die! I ask no more; I will not hope for your affection; I will not even count upon your pity; but endure my presence; let your roof screen my last days!'

It was read; it was read again, dim as was the sight of Lady Annabel with fast-flowing tears. Still holding the letter, but with hands fallen, she gazed upon the shining waters before her in a fit of abstraction. It was the voice of her child that roused her.

'Mother,' said Venetia in a tone of some decision, 'you are troubled, and we have only one cause of trouble. That letter is from my father.'

Lady Annabel gave her the letter in silence.

Venetia withdrew almost unconsciously a few paces from her mother. She felt this to be the crisis of her life. There never was a moment which she believed required more fully the presence of all her energies. Before she had addressed Lady Annabel, she had endeavoured to steel her mind to great exertion. Yet now that she held the letter, she could not command herself sufficiently to read it. Her breath deserted her; her hand lost its power; she could not even open the lines on which perhaps her life depended. Suddenly, with a rapid effort, she glanced at the contents. The blood returned to her check; her eye became bright with excitement; she gasped for breath; she advanced to Lady Annabel. 'Ah! mother,' she exclaimed, 'you will grant all that it desires!'

Still gazing on the wave that laved the shore of the island with an almost inperceptible ripple, Lady Annabel continued silent.

'Mother,' said Venetia, 'my beloved mother, you hesitate.' She approached Lady Annabel, and with one arm round her neck, she grasped with the other her mother's hand. 'I implore you, by all that affection which you lavish on me, yield to this supplication. O mother! dearest mother! it has been my hope that my life has been at least a life of duty; I have laboured to yield to all your wishes. I have struggled to make their fulfilment the law of my being. Yes! mother, your memory will assure you, that when the sweetest emotions of my heart were the stake, you appealed to me to sacrifice them, and they were dedicated to your will. Have I ever murmured? I have sought only to repay your love by obedience. Speak to me, dearest mother! I implore you speak to me! Tell me, can you ever repent relenting in this instance? O mother! you will not hesitate; you will not indeed; you will bring joy and content to our long-harassed hearth! Tell me so; I beseech you tell me so! I wish, oh! how I wish, that you would comply from the mere impulse of your own heart! But, grant that it is a sacrifice; grant that it may be unwise; that it may be vain; I supplicate you to make it! I, your child, who never deserted you, who will never desert you, pledging my faith to you in the face of heaven; for my sake, I supplicate you to make it. You do not hesitate; you cannot hesitate; mother, you cannot hesitate. Ah! you would not if you knew all; if you knew all the misery of my life, you would be glad; you would be cheerful; you would look upon this as an interposition of Providence in favour of your Venetia; you would, indeed, dear mother!'

'What evil fortune guided our steps to Italy?' said Lady Annabel in a solemn tone, and as if in soliloquy.

'No, no, mother; not evil fortune; fortune the best and brightest,' exclaimed her daughter, 'We came here to be happy, and happiness we have at length gained. It is in our grasp; I feel it. It was not fortune, dear mother! it was fate, it was Providence, it was God. You have been faithful to Him, and He has brought back to you my father, chastened and repentant. God has turned his heart to all your virtues. Will you desert him? No, no, mother, you will not, you cannot; for his sake, for your own sake, and for your child's, you will not!'

'For twenty years I have acted from an imperious sense of duty,' said Lady Annabel, 'and for your sake, Venetia, as much as for my own. Shall the feelings of a moment—'

'O mother! dearest mother! say not these words. With me, at least, it has not been the feeling of a moment. It haunted my infancy; it harassed me while a girl; it has brought me in the prime of womanhood to the brink of the grave. And with you, mother, has it been the feeling of a moment? Ah! you ever loved him, when his name was never breathed by those lips. You loved him when you deemed he had forgotten you; when you pictured him to yourself in all the pride of health and genius, wanton and daring; and now, now that he comes to you penitent, perhaps dying, more like a remorseful spirit than a breathing being, and humbles himself before you, and appeals only to your mercy, ah! my mother, you cannot reject, you could not reject him, even if you were alone, even if you had no child!'

'My child! my child! all my hopes were in my child,' murmured Lady Annabel.

'Is she not by your side?' said Venetia.

'You know not what you ask; you know not what you counsel,' said Lady Annabel. 'It has been the prayer and effort of my life that you should never know. There is a bitterness in the reconciliation which follows long estrangement, that yields a pang more acute even than the first disunion. Shall I be called upon to mourn over the wasted happiness of twenty years? Why did he not hate us?'

'The pang is already felt, mother,' said Venetia. 'Reject my father, but you cannot resume the feelings of a month back. You have seen him; you have listened to him. He is no longer the character which justified your conduct, and upheld you under the trial. His image has entered your soul; your heart is softened. Bid him quit Venice without seeing you, and you will remain the most miserable of women.'

'On his head, then, be the final desolation,' said Lady Annabel; 'it is but a part of the lot that he has yielded me.'

'I am silent,' said Venetia, relaxing her grasp. 'I see that your child is not permitted to enter into your considerations.' She turned away.

'Venetia!' said her mother.

'Mother!' said Venetia, looking back, but not returning.

'Return one moment to me.'

Venetia slowly rejoined her. Lady Annabel spoke in a kind and gentle, though serious tone.

'Venetia,' she said, 'what I am about to speak is not the impulse of the moment, but has been long revolved in my mind; do not, therefore, misapprehend it. I express without passion what I believe to be truth. I am persuaded that the presence of your father is necessary to your happiness; nay, more, to your life. I recognise the mysterious influence which he has ever exercised over your existence. I feel it impossible for me any longer to struggle against a power to which I bow. Be happy, then, my daughter, and live. Fly to your father, and be to him as matchless a child as you have been to me.' She uttered these last words in a choking voice.

'Is this, indeed, the dictate of your calm judgment, mother?' said Venetia.

'I call God to witness, it has of late been more than once on my lips. The other night, when I spoke of Rovigo, I was about to express this.'

'Then, mother!' said Venetia, 'I find that I have been misunderstood. At least I thought my feelings towards yourself had been appreciated. They have not; and I can truly say, my life does not afford a single circumstance to which I can look back with content. Well will it indeed be for me to die?'

'The dream of my life,' said Lady Annabel, in a tone of infinite distress, 'was that she, at least, should never know unhappiness. It was indeed a dream.'

There was now a silence of several minutes. Lady Annabel remained in exactly the same position, Venetia standing at a little distance from her, looking resigned and sorrowful.

'Venetia,' at length said Lady Annabel, 'why are you silent?'

'Mother, I have no more to say. I pretend not to act in this life; it is my duty to follow you.'

'And your inclination?' inquired Lady Annabel.

'I have ceased to have a wish upon any subject,' said Venetia.

'Venetia,' said Lady Annabel, with a great effort, 'I am miserable.'

This unprecedented confession of suffering from the strong mind of her mother, melted Venetia to the heart. She advanced, and threw her arms round her mother's neck, and buried her weeping face in Lady Annabel's bosom.

'Speak to me, my daughter,' said Lady Annabel; 'counsel me, for my mind trembles; anxiety has weakened it. Nay, I beseech you, speak. Speak, speak, Venetia. What shall I do?'

'Mother, I will never say anything again but that I love you!'

'I see the holy father in the distance. Let us walk to him, my child, and meet him.'

Accordingly Lady Annabel, now leaning on Venetia, approached the monk. About five minutes elapsed before they reached him, during which not a word was spoken.

'Holy father,' said Lady Annabel, in a tone of firmness that surprised her daughter and made her tremble with anticipation, 'you know the writer of this letter?'

'He is my friend of many years, lady,' replied the Armenian; 'I knew him in America. I owe to him my life, and more than my life. There breathes not his equal among men.'

A tear started to the eye of Lady Annabel; she recalled the terms in which the household at Arqua had spoken of Herbert. 'He is in Venice?' she inquired.

'He is within these walls,' the monk replied.

Venetia, scarcely able to stand, felt her mother start. After a momentary pause, Lady Annabel said, 'Can I speak with him, and alone?'

Nothing but the most nervous apprehension of throwing any obstacle in the way of the interview could have sustained Venetia. Quite pale, with her disengaged hand clenched, not a word escaped her lips. She hung upon the answer of the monk.

'You can see him, and alone,' said the monk. 'He is now in the sacristy. Follow me.'

'Venetia,' said Lady Annabel, 'remain in this garden. I will accompany this holy man. Stop! embrace me before I go, and,' she added, in a whisper, 'pray for me.'

It needed not the admonition of her mother to induce Venetia to seek refuge in prayer, in this agony of her life. But for its salutary and stilling influence, it seemed to her that she must have forfeited all control over her mind. The suspense was too terrible for human aid to support her. Seated by the sea-side, she covered her face with her hands, and invoked the Supreme assistance. More than an hour passed away. Venetia looked up. Two beautiful birds, of strange form and spotless plumage, that perhaps had wandered from the Aegean, were hovering over her head, bright and glancing in the sun. She accepted their appearance as a good omen. At this moment she heard a voice, and, looking up, observed a monk in the distance, beckoning to her. She rose, and with a trembling step approached him. He retired, still motioning to her to follow him. She entered, by a low portal, a dark cloister; it led to an ante-chapel, through which, as she passed, her ear caught the solemn chorus of the brethren. Her step faltered; her sight was clouded; she was as one walking in a dream. The monk opened a door, and, retiring, waved his hand, as for her to enter. There was a spacious and lofty chamber, scantily furnished, some huge chests, and many sacred garments. At the extreme distance her mother was reclined on a bench, her head supported by a large crimson cushion, and her father kneeling by her mother's side. With a soundless step, and not venturing even to breathe, Venetia approached them, and, she knew not how, found herself embraced by both her parents.



END OF BOOK V.



BOOK VI.



CHAPTER I.

In a green valley of the Apennines, close to the sea-coast between Genoa and Spezzia, is a marine villa, that once belonged to the Malaspina family, in olden time the friends and patrons of Dante. It is rather a fantastic pile, painted in fresco, but spacious, in good repair, and convenient. Although little more than a mile from Spezzia, a glimpse of the blue sea can only be caught from one particular spot, so completely is the land locked with hills, covered with groves of chestnut and olive orchards. From the heights, however, you enjoy magnificent prospects of the most picturesque portion of the Italian coast; a lofty, undulating, and wooded shore, with an infinite variety of bays and jutting promontories; while the eye, wandering from Leghorn on one side towards Genoa on the other, traces an almost uninterrupted line of hamlets and casinos, gardens and orchards, terraces of vines, and groves of olive. Beyond them, the broad and blue expanse of the midland ocean, glittering in the meridian blaze, or about to receive perhaps in its glowing waters the red orb of sunset.

It was the month of May, in Italy, at least, the merry month of May, and Marmion Herbert came forth from the villa Malaspina, and throwing himself on the turf, was soon lost in the volume of Plato which he bore with him. He did not move until in the course of an hour he was roused by the arrival of servants, who brought seats and a table, when, looking up, he observed Lady Annabel and Venetia in the portico of the villa. He rose to greet them, and gave his arm to his wife.

'Spring in the Apennines, my Annabel,' said Herbert, 'is a happy combination. I am more in love each day with this residence. The situation is so sheltered, the air so soft and pure, the spot so tranquil, and the season so delicious, that it realises all my romance of retirement. As for you, I never saw you look so well; and as for Venetia, I can scarcely believe this rosy nymph could have been our pale-eyed girl, who cost us such anxiety!'

'Our breakfast is not ready. Let us walk to our sea view,' said Lady Annabel. 'Give me your book to carry, Marmion.'

'There let the philosopher repose,' said Herbert, throwing the volume on the turf. 'Plato dreamed of what I enjoy.'

'And of what did Plato dream, papa?' said Venetia.

'He dreamed of love, child.'

Venetia took her father's disengaged arm.

They had now arrived at their sea view, a glimpse of the Mediterranean between two tall crags.

'A sail in the offing,' said Herbert. 'How that solitary sail tells, Annabel!'

'I feel the sea breeze, mother. Does not it remind you of Weymouth?' said Venetia.

'Ah! Marmion,' said Lady Annabel, 'I would that you could see Masham once more. He is the only friend that I regret.'

'He prospers, Annabel; let that be our consolation: I have at least not injured him.'

They turned their steps; their breakfast was now prepared. The sun had risen above the hill beneath whose shade they rested, and the opposite side of the valley sparkled in light. It was a cheerful scene. 'I have a passion for living in the air,' said Herbert; 'I always envied the shepherds in Don Quixote. One of my youthful dreams was living among mountains of rosemary, and drinking only goat's milk. After breakfast I will read you Don Quixote's description of the golden age. I have often read it until the tears came into my eyes.'

'We must fancy ourselves in Spain,' said Lady Annabel; 'it is not difficult in this wild green valley; and if we have not rosemary, we have scents as sweet. Nature is our garden here, Venetia; and I do not envy even the statues and cypresses of our villa of the lake.'

'We must make a pilgrimage some day to the Maggiore, Annabel,' said Herbert. 'It is hallowed ground to me now.'

Their meal was finished, the servants brought their work, and books, and drawings; and Herbert, resuming his natural couch, re-opened his Plato, but Venetia ran into the villa, and returned with a volume. 'You must read us the golden age, papa,' she said, as she offered him, with a smile, his favourite Don Quixote.

'You must fancy the Don looking earnestly upon a handful of acorns,' said Herbert, opening the book, 'while he exclaims, "O happy age! which our first parents called the age of gold! not because gold, so much adored in this iron age, was then easily purchased, but because those two fatal words, meum and tuum, were distinctions unknown to the people of those fortunate times; for all things were in common in that holy age: men, for their sustenance, needed only to lift their hands, and take it from the sturdy oak, whose spreading arms liberally invited them to gather the wholesome savoury fruit; while the clear springs, and silver rivulets, with luxuriant plenty, afforded them their pure refreshing water. In hollow trees, and in the clefts of rocks, the labouring and industrious bees erected their little commonwealths, that men might reap with pleasure and with ease the sweet and fertile harvest of their toils, The tough and strenuous cork-trees did, of themselves, and without other art than their native liberality, dismiss and impart their broad light bark, which served to cover those lowly huts, propped up with rough-hewn stakes, that were first built as a shelter against the inclemencies of the air. All then was union, all peace, all love and friendship in the world. As yet no rude ploughshare presumed with violence to pry into the pious bowels of our mother earth, for she without compulsion kindly yielded from every part of her fruitful and spacious bosom, whatever might at once satisfy, sustain, and indulge her frugal children. Then was the time when innocent, beautiful young sheperdesses went tripping over the hills and vales; their lovely hair sometimes plaited, sometimes loose and flowing, clad in no other vestment but what the modesty of nature might require. The Tyrian dye, the rich glossy hue of silk, martyred and dissembled into every colour, which are now esteemed so fine and magnificent, were unknown to the innocent simplicity of that age; yet, bedecked with more becoming leaves and flowers, they outshone the proudest of the vaindressing ladies of our times, arrayed in the most magnificent garbs and all the most sumptuous adornings which idleness and luxury have taught succeeding pride. Lovers then expressed the passion of their souls in the unaffected language of the heart, with the native plainness and sincerity in which they were conceived, and divested of all that artificial contexture which enervates what it labours to enforce. Imposture, deceit, and malice had not yet crept in, and imposed themselves unbribed upon mankind in the disguise of truth: justice, unbiassed either by favour or interest, which now so fatally pervert it, was equally and impartially dispensed; nor was the judge's fancy law, for then there were neither judges nor causes to be judged. The modest maid might then walk alone. But, in this degenerate age, fraud and a legion of ills infecting the world, no virtue can be safe, no honour be secure; while wanton desires, diffused into the hearts of men, corrupt the strictest watches and the closest retreats, which, though as intricate, and unknown as the labyrinth of Crete, are no security for chastity. Thus, that primitive innocence being vanished, the oppression daily prevailing, there was a necessity to oppose the torrent of violence; for which reason the order of knighthood errant was instituted, to defend the honour of virgins, protect widows, relieve orphans, and assist all that are distressed. Now I myself am one of this order, honest friends and though all people are obliged by the law of nature to be kind to persons of my character, yet since you, without knowing anything of this obligation, have so generously entertained me, I ought to pay you my utmost acknowledgment, and accordingly return you my most hearty thanks."

'There,' said Herbert, as he closed the book. 'In my opinion, Don Quixote was the best man that ever lived.'

'But he did not ever live,' said Lady Annabel, smiling.

'He lives to us,' said Herbert. 'He is the same to this age as if he had absolutely wandered over the plains of Castile and watched in the Sierra Morena. We cannot, indeed, find his tomb; but he has left us his great example. In his hero, Cervantes has given us the picture of a great and benevolent philosopher, and in his Sancho, a complete personification of the world, selfish and cunning, and yet overawed by the genius that he cannot comprehend: alive to all the material interests of existence, yet sighing after the ideal; securing his four young foals of the she-ass, yet indulging in dreams of empire.'

'But what do you think of the assault on the windmills, Marmion?' said Lady Annabel.

'In the outset of his adventures, as in the outset of our lives, he was misled by his enthusiasm,' replied Herbert, 'without which, after all, we can do nothing. But the result is, Don Quixote was a redresser of wrongs, and therefore the world esteemed him mad.'

In this vein, now conversing, now occupied with their pursuits, and occasionally listening to some passage which Herbert called to their attention, and which ever served as the occasion for some critical remarks, always as striking from their originality as they were happy in their expression, the freshness of the morning disappeared; the sun now crowned the valley with his meridian beam, and they re-entered the villa. The ladies returned to their cool saloon, and Herbert to his study.

It was there he amused himself by composing the following lines:

SPRING IN THE APENNINES.

I.

Spring in the Apennine now holds her court Within an amphitheatre of hills, Clothed with the blooming chestnut; musical With murmuring pines, waving their light green cones Like youthful Bacchants; while the dewy grass, The myrtle and the mountain violet, Blend their rich odours with the fragrant trees, And sweeten the soft air. Above us spreads The purple sky, bright with the unseen sun The hills yet screen, although the golden beam Touches the topmost boughs, and tints with light The grey and sparkling crags. The breath of morn Still lingers in the valley; but the bee With restless passion hovers on the wing, Waiting the opening flower, of whose embrace The sun shall be the signal. Poised in air, The winged minstrel of the liquid dawn, The lark, pours forth his lyric, and responds To the fresh chorus of the sylvan doves, The stir of branches and the fall of streams, The harmonies of nature!

II

Gentle Spring! Once more, oh, yes! once more I feel thy breath, And charm of renovation! To the sky Thou bringest light, and to the glowing earth A garb of grace: but sweeter than the sky That hath no cloud, and sweeter than the earth With all its pageantry, the peerless boon Thou bearest to me, a temper like thine own; A springlike spirit, beautiful and glad! Long years, long years of suffering, and of thought Deeper than woe, had dimmed the eager eye Once quick to catch thy brightness, and the ear That lingered on thy music, the harsh world Had jarred. The freshness of my life was gone, And hope no more an omen in thy bloom Found of a fertile future! There are minds, Like lands, but with one season, and that drear Mine was eternal winter!

III.

A dark dream Of hearts estranged, and of an Eden lost Entranced my being; one absorbing thought Which, if not torture, was a dull despair That agony were light to. But while sad Within the desert of my life I roamed, And no sweet springs of love gushed for to greet My wearied heart, behold two spirits came Floating in light, seraphic ministers, The semblance of whose splendour on me fell As on some dusky stream the matin ray, Touching the gloomy waters with its life. And both were fond, and one was merciful! And to my home long forfeited they bore My vagrant spirit, and the gentle hearth. I reckless fled, received me with its shade And pleasant refuge. And our softened hearts Were like the twilight, when our very bliss Calls tears to soothe our rapture; as the stars Steal forth, then shining smiles their trembling ray Mixed with our tenderness; and love was there In all his manifold forms; the sweet embrace, And thrilling pressure of the gentle hand, And silence speaking with the melting eye!

IV.

And now again I feel thy breath, O spring! And now the seal hath fallen from my gaze, And thy wild music in my ready ear Finds a quick echo! The discordant world Mars not thy melodies; thy blossoms now Are emblems of my heart; and through my veins The flow of youthful feeling, long pent up, Glides like thy sunny streams! In this fair scene, On forms still fairer I my blessing pour; On her the beautiful, the wise, the good, Who learnt the sweetest lesson to forgive; And on the bright-eyed daughter of our love, Who soothed a mother, and a father saved!



CHAPTER II.

Between the reconciliation of Lady Annabel Herbert with her husband, at the Armenian convent at Venice, and the spring morning in the Apennines, which we have just described, half a year had intervened. The political position of Marmion Herbert rendered it impossible for him to remain in any city where there was a representative of his Britannic Majesty. Indeed, it was scarcely safe for him to be known out of America. He had quitted that country shortly after the struggle was over, chiefly from considerations for his health. His energies had been fast failing him; and a retired life and change of climate had been recommended by his physicians. His own feelings induced him to visit Italy, where he had once intended to pass his life, and where he now repaired to await death. Assuming a feigned name, and living in strict seclusion, it is probable that his presence would never have been discovered; or, if detected, would not have been noticed. Once more united with his wife, her personal influence at the court of St. James', and her powerful connections, might secure him from annoyance; and Venetia had even indulged in a vague hope of returning to England. But Herbert could only have found himself again in his native country as a prisoner on parole. It would have been quite impossible for him to mix in the civil business of his native land, or enjoy any of the rights of citizenship. If a mild sovereign in his mercy had indeed accorded him a pardon, it must have been accompanied with rigorous and mortifying conditions; and his presence, in all probability, would have been confined to his country residence and its immediate neighbourhood. The pride of Lady Annabel herself recoiled from this sufferance; and although Herbert, keenly conscious of the sacrifice which a permanent estrangement from England entailed upon his wife and child, would have submitted to any restrictions, however humiliating, provided they were not inconsistent with his honour, it must be confessed that, when he spoke of this painful subject to his wife, it was with no slight self-congratulation that he had found her resolution to remain abroad under any circumstances was fixed with her habitual decision. She communicated both to the Bishop of —— and to her brother the unexpected change that had occurred in her condition, and she had reason to believe that a representation of what had happened would be made to the Royal family. Perhaps both the head of her house and her reverend friend anticipated that time might remove the barrier that presented itself to Herbert's immediate return to England: they confined their answers, however, to congratulations on the reconciliation, to their confidence in the satisfaction it would occasion her, and to the expression of their faithful friendship; and neither alluded to a result which both, if only for her sake, desired.

The Herberts had quitted Venice a very few days after the meeting on the island of St. Lazaro; had travelled by slow journeys, crossing the Apennines, to Genoa; and only remained in that city until they engaged their present residence. It combined all the advantages which they desired: seclusion, beauty, comfort, and the mild atmosphere that Venetia had seemed to require. It was not, however, the genial air that had recalled the rose to Venetia's cheek and the sunny smile to her bright eye, or had inspired again that graceful form with all its pristine elasticity. It was a heart content; a spirit at length at peace. The contemplation of the happiness of those most dear to her that she hourly witnessed, and the blissful consciousness that her exertions had mainly contributed to, if not completely occasioned, all this felicity, were remedies of far more efficacy than all the consultations and prescriptions of her physicians. The conduct of her father repaid her for all her sufferings, and realised all her dreams of domestic tenderness and delight. Tender, grateful, and affectionate, Herbert hovered round her mother like a delicate spirit who had been released by some kind mortal from a tedious and revolting thraldom, and who believed he could never sufficiently testify his devotion. There was so much respect blended with his fondness, that the spirit of her mother was utterly subdued by his irresistible demeanour. All her sadness and reserve, her distrust and her fear, had vanished; and rising confidence mingling with the love she had ever borne to him, she taught herself even to seek his opinion, and be guided by his advice. She could not refrain, indeed, from occasionally feeling, in this full enjoyment of his love, that she might have originally acted with too much precipitation; and that, had she only bent for a moment to the necessity of conciliation, and condescended to the excusable artifices of affection, their misery might have been prevented. Once when they were alone, her softened heart would have confessed to Herbert this painful conviction, but he was too happy and too generous to permit her for a moment to indulge in such a remorseful retrospect. All the error, he insisted, was his own; and he had been fool enough to have wantonly forfeited a happiness which time and experience had now taught him to appreciate.

'We married too young, Marmion,' said his wife.

'It shall be that then, love,' replied Herbert; 'but for all that I have suffered. I would not have avoided my fate on the condition of losing the exquisite present!'

It is perhaps scarcely necessary to remark, that Herbert avoided with the most scrupulous vigilance the slightest allusion to any of those peculiar opinions for which he was, unhappily, too celebrated. Musing over the singular revolutions which had already occurred in his habits and his feelings towards herself, Lady Annabel, indeed, did not despair that his once self-sufficient soul might ultimately bow to that blessed faith which to herself had ever proved so great a support, and so exquisite a solace. It was, indeed, the inexpressible hope that lingered at the bottom of her heart; and sometimes she even indulged in the delightful fancy that his mild and penitent spirit had, by the gracious mercy of Providence, been already touched by the bright sunbeam of conviction. At all events, his subdued and chastened temperament was no unworthy preparation for still greater blessings. It was this hallowed anticipation which consoled, and alone consoled, Lady Annabel for her own estrangement from the communion of her national church. Of all the sacrifices which her devotion to Herbert entailed upon her, this was the one which she felt most constantly and most severely. Not a day elapsed but the chapel at Cherbury rose before her; and when she remembered that neither herself nor her daughter might again kneel round the altar of their God, she almost trembled at the step which she had taken, and almost esteemed it a sacrifice of heavenly to earthly duty, which no consideration, perhaps, warranted. This apprehension, indeed, was the cloud in her life, and one which Venetia, who felt all its validity, found difficulty in combating.

Otherwise, when Venetia beheld her parents, she felt ethereal, and seemed to move in air; for her life, in spite of its apparent tranquillity, was to her all excitement. She never looked upon her father, or heard his voice, without a thrill. His society was as delightful as his heart was tender. It seemed to her that she could listen to him for ever. Every word he spoke was different from the language of other men; there was not a subject on which his richly-cultivated mind could not pour forth instantaneously a flood of fine fancies and deep intelligence. He seemed to have read every book in every language, and to have mused over every line he had read. She could not conceive how one, the tone of whose mind was so original that it suggested on every topic some conclusion that struck instantly by its racy novelty, could be so saturated with the learning and the views of other men. Although they lived in unbroken solitude, and were almost always together, not a day passed that she did not find herself musing over some thought or expression of her father, and which broke from his mind without effort, and as if by chance. Literature to Herbert was now only a source of amusement and engaging occupation. All thought of fame had long fled his soul. He cared not for being disturbed; and he would throw down his Plato for Don Quixote, or close his Aeschylus and take up a volume of Madame de Sevigne without a murmur, if reminded by anything that occurred of a passage which might contribute to the amusement and instruction of his wife and daughter. Indeed, his only study now was to contribute to their happiness. For him they had given up their country and society, and he sought, by his vigilant attention and his various accomplishments, to render their hours as light and pleasant as, under such circumstances, was possible. His muse, too, was only dedicated to the celebration of any topic which their life or themselves suggested. He loved to lie under the trees, and pour forth sonnets to Lady Annabel; and encouraged Venetia, by the readiness and interest with which he invariably complied with her intimations, to throw out every fancy which occurred to her for his verse. A life passed without the intrusion of a single evil passion, without a single expression that was not soft, and graceful, and mild, and adorned with all the resources of a most accomplished and creative spirit, required not the distractions of society. It would have shrunk from it, from all its artificial excitement and vapid reaction. The days of the Herberts flowed on in one bright, continuous stream of love, and literature, and gentle pleasures. Beneath them was the green earth, above them the blue sky. Their spirits were as clear, and their hearts as soft as the clime.

The hour of twilight was approaching, and the family were preparing for their daily walk. Their simple repast was finished, and Venetia held the verses which her father had written in the morning, and which he had presented to her.

'Let us descend to Spezzia,' said Herbert to Lady Annabel; 'I love an ocean sunset.'

Accordingly they proceeded through their valley to the craggy path which led down to the bay. After passing through a small ravine, the magnificent prospect opened before them. The sun was yet an hour above the horizon, and the sea was like a lake of molten gold; the colour of the sky nearest to the sun, of a pale green, with two or three burnished streaks of vapour, quite still, and so thin you could almost catch the sky through them, fixed, as it were, in this gorgeous frame. It was now a dead calm, but the sail that had been hovering the whole morning in the offing had made the harbour in time, and had just cast anchor near some coasting craft and fishing-boats, all that now remained where Napoleon had projected forming one of the arsenals of the world.

Tracing their way down a mild declivity, covered with spreading vineyards, and quite fragrant with the blossom of the vine, the Herberts proceeded through a wood of olives, and emerged on a terrace raised directly above the shore, leading to Spezzia, and studded here and there with rugged groups of aloes.

'I have often observed here,' said Venetia, 'about a mile out at sea; there, now, where I point; the water rise. It is now a calm, and yet it is more troubled, I think, than usual. Tell me the cause, dear father, for I have often wished to know.'

'It passes my experience,' said Herbert; 'but here is an ancient fisherman; let us inquire of him.'

He was an old man, leaning against a rock, and smoking his pipe in contemplative silence; his face bronzed with the sun and the roughness of many seasons, and his grey hairs not hidden by his long blue cap. Herbert saluted him, and, pointing to the phenomenon, requested an explanation of it.

''Tis a fountain of fresh water, signor, that rises in our gulf,' said the old fisherman, 'to the height of twenty feet.'

'And is it constant?' inquired Herbert.

''Tis the same in sunshine and in storm, in summer and in winter, in calm or in breeze,' said the old fisherman.

'And has it always been so?'

'It came before my time.'

'A philosophic answer,' said Herbert, 'and deserves a paul. Mine was a crude question. Adio, good friend.'

'I should like to drink of that fountain of fresh water, Annabel,' said Herbert. 'There seems to me something wondrous fanciful in it. Some day we will row there. It shall be a calm like this.'

'We want a fountain in our valley,' said Lady Annabel.

'We do,' said Herbert; 'and I think we must make one; we must inquire at Genoa. I am curious in fountains. Our fountain should, I think, be classical; simple, compact, with a choice inscription, the altar of a Naiad.'

'And mamma shall make the design, and you shall write the inscription,' said Venetia.

'And you shall be the nymph, child,' said Herbert.

They were now within a bowshot of the harbour, and a jutting cliff of marble, more graceful from a contiguous bed of myrtles, invited them to rest, and watch the approaching sunset.

'Say what they like,' said Herbert, 'there is a spell in the shores of the Mediterranean Sea which no others can rival. Never was such a union of natural loveliness and magical associations! On these shores have risen all that interests us in the past: Egypt and Palestine, Greece, Rome, and Carthage, Moorish Spain, and feodal Italy. These shores have yielded us our religion, our arts, our literature, and our laws. If all that we have gained from the shores of the Mediterranean was erased from the memory of man, we should be savages. Will the Atlantic ever be so memorable? Its civilisation will be more rapid, but will it be as refined? and, far more important, will it be as permanent? Will it not lack the racy vigour and the subtle spirit of aboriginal genius? Will not a colonial character cling to its society, feeble, inanimate, evanescent? What America is deficient in is creative intellect. It has no nationality. Its intelligence has been imported, like its manufactured goods. Its inhabitants are a people, but are they a nation? I wish that the empire of the Incas and the kingdom of Montezuma had not been sacrificed. I wish that the republic of the Puritans had blended with the tribes of the wilderness.'

The red sun was now hovering over the horizon; it quivered for an instant, and then sank. Immediately the high and undulating coast was covered with a crimson flush; the cliffs, the groves, the bays and jutting promontories, each straggling sail and tall white tower, suffused with a rosy light. Gradually that rosy tint became a bright violet, and then faded into purple. But the glory of the sunset long lingered in the glowing west, streaming with every colour of the Iris, while a solitary star glittered with silver light amid the shifting splendour.

'Hesperus rises from the sunset like the fountain of fresh water from the sea,' said Herbert. 'The sky and the ocean have two natures, like ourselves,'

At this moment the boat of the vessel, which had anchored about an hour back, put to shore.

'That seems an English brig,' said Herbert. 'I cannot exactly make out its trim; it scarcely seems a merchant vessel.'

The projection of the shore hid the boat from their sight as it landed. The Herberts rose, and proceeded towards the harbour. There were some rude steps cut in the rock which led from the immediate shore to the terrace. As they approached these, two gentlemen in sailors' jackets mounted suddenly. Lady Annabel and Venetia simultaneously started as they recognised Lord Cadurcis and his cousin. They were so close that neither party had time to prepare themselves. Venetia found her hand in that of Plantagenet, while Lady Annabel saluted George. Infinite were their mutual inquiries and congratulations, but it so happened that, with one exception, no name was mentioned. It was quite evident, however, to Herbert, that these were very familiar acquaintances of his family; for, in the surprise of the moment, Lord Cadurcis had saluted his daughter by her Christian name. There was no slight emotion, too, displayed on all sides. Indeed, independently of the agitation which so unexpected a rencounter was calculated to produce, the presence of Herbert, after the first moments of recognition, not a little excited the curiosity of the young men, and in some degree occasioned the embarrassment of all. Who was this stranger, on whom Venetia and her mother were leaning with such fondness? He was scarcely too old to be the admirer of Venetia, and if there were a greater disparity of years between them than is usual, his distinguished appearance might well reconcile the lady to her lot, or even justify her choice. Had, then, Cadurcis again met Venetia only to find her the bride or the betrothed of another? a mortifying situation, even an intolerable one, if his feelings remained unchanged; and if the eventful year that had elapsed since they parted had not replaced her image in his susceptible mind by another more cherished, and, perhaps, less obdurate. Again, to Lady Annabel the moment was one of great awkwardness, for the introduction of her husband to those with whom she was recently so intimate, and who were then aware that the name of that husband was never even mentioned in her presence, recalled the painful past with a disturbing vividness. Venetia, indeed, did not share these feelings fully, but she thought it ungracious to anticipate her mother in the announcement.

The Herberts turned with Lord Cadurcis and his cousin; they were about to retrace their steps on the terrace, when Lady Annabel, taking advantage of the momentary silence, and summoning all her energy, with a pale cheek and a voice that slightly faltered, said, 'Lord Cadurcis, allow me to present you to Mr. Herbert, my husband,' she added with emphasis.

'Good God!' exclaimed Cadurcis, starting; and then, outstretching his hand, he contrived to add, 'have I, indeed, the pleasure of seeing one I have so long admired?'

'Lord Cadurcis!' exclaimed Herbert, scarcely less surprised. 'Is it Lord Cadurcis? This is a welcome meeting.'

Everyone present felt overwhelmed with confusion or astonishment; Lady Annabel sought refuge in presenting Captain Cadurcis to her husband. This ceremony, though little noticed even by those more immediately interested in it, nevertheless served, in some degree, as a diversion. Herbert, who was only astonished, was the first who rallied. Perhaps Lord Cadurcis was the only man in existence whom Herbert wished to know. He had read his works with deep interest; at least, those portions which foreign journals had afforded him. He was deeply impressed with his fame and genius; but what perplexed him at this moment, even more than his unexpected introduction to him, was the singular, the very extraordinary circumstance, that the name of their most celebrated countryman should never have escaped the lips either of his wife or his daughter, although they appeared, and Venetia especially, to be on terms with him of even domestic intimacy.

'You arrived here to day, Lord Cadurcis?' said Herbert. 'From whence?'

'Immediately from Naples, where we last touched,' replied his lordship; 'but I have been residing at Athens.'

'I envy you,' said Herbert.

'It would be a fit residence for you,' said Lord Cadurcis. 'You were, however, in some degree, my companion, for a volume of your poems was one of the few books I had with me. I parted with all the rest, but I retained that. It is in my cabin, and full of my scribblement. If you would condescend to accept it, I would offer it to you.'

Mr. Herbert and Lord Cadurcis maintained the conversation along the terrace. Venetia, by whose side her old companion walked, was quite silent. Once her eyes met those of Cadurcis; his expression of mingled archness and astonishment was irresistible. His cousin and Lady Annabel carried on a more suppressed conversation, but on ordinary topics. When they had reached the olive-grove Herbert said, 'Here lies our way homeward, my lord. If you and your cousin will accompany us, it will delight Lady Annabel and myself.'

'Nothing, I am sure, will give George and myself greater pleasure,' he replied. 'We had, indeed, no purpose when you met us but to enjoy our escape from imprisonment, little dreaming we should meet our kindest and oldest friends,' he added.

'Kindest and oldest friends!' thought Herbert to himself. 'Well, this is strange indeed.'

'It is but a slight distance,' said Lady Annabel, who thought it necessary to enforce the invitation. 'We live in the valley, of which yonder hill forms a part.'

'And there we have passed our winter and our spring,' added Venetia, 'almost as delightfully as you could have done at Athens.'

'Well,' thought Cadurcis to himself, 'I have seen many of the world's marvels, but this day is a miracle.'

When they had proceeded through the olive-wood, and mounted the acclivity, they arrived at a path which permitted the ascent of only one person at a time. Cadurcis was last, and followed Venetia. Unable any longer to endure the suspense, he was rather irritated that she kept so close to her father; he himself loitered a few paces behind, and, breaking off a branch of laurel, he tossed it at her. She looked round and smiled; he beckoned to her to fall back. 'Tell me, Venetia,' he said, 'what does all this mean?'

'It means that we are at last all very happy,' she replied. 'Do you not see my father?'

'Yes; and I am very glad to see him; but this company is the very last in which I expected to have that pleasure.'

'It is too long a story to tell now; you must imagine it.'

'But are you glad to see me?'

'Very.'

'I don't think you care for me the least.'

'Silly Lord Cadurcis!' she said, smiling.

'If you call me Lord Cadurcis, I shall immediately go back to the brig, and set sail this night for Athens.'

'Well then, silly Plantagenet!'

He laughed, and they ran on.



CHAPTER III.

'Well, I am not surprised that you should have passed your time delightfully here,' said Lord Cadurcis to Lady Annabel, when they had entered the villa; 'for I never beheld so delightful a retreat. It is even more exquisite than your villa on the lake, of which George gave me so glowing a description. I was almost tempted to hasten to you. Would you have smiled on me!' he added, rather archly, and in a coaxing tone.

'I am more gratified that we have met here,' said Lady Annabel.

'And thus,' added Cadurcis.

'You have been a great traveller since we last met?' said Lady Annabel, a little embarrassed.

'My days of restlessness are over,' said Cadurcis. 'I desire nothing more dearly than to settle down in the bosom of these green hills as you have done.'

'This life suits Mr. Herbert,' said Lady Annabel. 'He is fond of seclusion, and you know I am accustomed to it.'

'Ah! yes,' said Cadurcis, mournfully. 'When I was in Greece, I used often to wish that none of us had ever left dear Cherbury; but I do not now.'

'We must forget Cherbury,' said Lady Annabel.

'I cannot: I cannot forget her who cherished my melancholy childhood. Dear Lady Annabel,' he added in a voice of emotion, and offering her his hand, 'forget all my follies, and remember that I was your child, once as dutiful as you were affectionate.'

Who could resist this appeal? Lady Annabel, not without agitation, yielded him her hand, which he pressed to his lips. 'Now I am again happy,' said Cadurcis; 'now we are all happy. Sweetest of friends, you have removed in a moment the bitterness of years.'

Although lights were in the saloon, the windows opening on the portico were not closed. The evening air was soft and balmy, and though the moon had not risen, the distant hills were clear in the starlight. Venetia was standing in the portico conversing with George Cadurcis.

'I suppose you are too much of a Turk to drink our coffee, Lord Cadurcis,' said Herbert. Cadurcis turned and joined him, together with Lady Annabel.

'Nay,' said Lord Cadurcis, in a joyous tone, 'Lady Annabel will answer for me that I always find everything perfect under her roof.'

Captain Cadurcis and Venetia now re-entered the villa; they clustered round the table, and seated themselves.

'Why, Venetia,' said Cadurcis, 'George met me in Sicily and quite frightened me about you. Is it the air of the Apennines that has worked these marvels? for, really, you appear to me exactly the same as when we learnt the French vocabulary together ten years ago.'

'"The French vocabulary together, ten years ago!"' thought Herbert; 'not a mere London acquaintance, then. This is very strange.'

'Why, indeed, Plantagenet,' replied Venetia, 'I was very unwell when George visited us; but I really have quite forgotten that I ever was an invalid, and I never mean to be again.'

'"Plantagenet!"' soliloquised Herbert. 'And this is the great poet of whom I have heard so much! My daughter is tolerably familiar with him.'

'I have brought you all sorts of buffooneries from Stamboul,' continued Cadurcis; 'sweetmeats, and slippers, and shawls, and daggers worn only by sultanas, and with which, if necessary, they can keep "the harem's lord" in order. I meant to have sent them with George to England, for really I did not anticipate our meeting here.'

'"Sweetmeats and slippers,"' said Herbert to himself, '"shawls and daggers!" What next?'

'And has George been with you all the time?' inquired Venetia.

'Oh! we quarrelled now and then, of course. He found Athens dull, and would stay at Constantinople, chained by the charms of a fair Perote, to whom he wanted me to write sonnets in his name. I would not, because I thought it immoral. But, on the whole, we got on very well; a sort of Pylades and Orestes, I assure you; we never absolutely fought.'

'Come, come,' said George, 'Cadurcis is always ashamed of being amiable. We were together much more than I ever intended or anticipated. You know mine was a sporting tour; and therefore, of course, we were sometimes separated. But he was exceedingly popular with all parties, especially the Turks, whom he rewarded for their courtesy by writing odes to the Greeks to stir them up to revolt.'

'Well, they never read them,' said Cadurcis. 'All we, poor fellows, can do,' he added, turning to Herbert, 'is to wake the Hellenistic raptures of May Fair; and that they call fame; as much like fame as a toadstool is like a truffle.'

'Nevertheless, I hope the muse has not slumbered,' said Herbert; 'for you have had the happiest inspiration in the climes in which you have resided; not only are they essentially poetic, but they offer a virgin vein.'

'I have written a little,' replied Cadurcis; 'I will give it you, if you like, some day to turn over. Yours is the only opinion that I really care for. I have no great idea of the poetry; but I am very strong in my costume. I feel very confident about that. I fancy I know how to hit off a pasha, or touch in a Greek pirate now. As for all the things I wrote in England, I really am ashamed of them. I got up my orientalism from books, and sultans and sultanas at masquerades,' he added, archly. 'I remember I made my heroines always wear turbans; only conceive my horror when I found that a Turkish woman would as soon think of putting my hat on as a turban, and that it was an article of dress entirely confined to a Bond Street milliner.'

The evening passed in interesting and diverting conversation; of course, principally contributed by the two travellers, who had seen so much. Inspirited by his interview with Lady Annabel, and her gracious reception of his overtures, Lord Cadurcis was in one of those frolic humours, which we have before noticed was not unnatural to him. He had considerable powers of mimicry, and the talent that had pictured to Venetia in old days, with such liveliness, the habits of the old maids of Morpeth, was now engaged on more considerable topics; an interview with a pasha, a peep into a harem, a visit to a pirate's isle, the slave-market, the bazaar, the barracks of the janissaries, all touched with irresistible vitality, and coloured with the rich phrases of unrivalled force of expression. The laughter was loud and continual; even Lady Annabel joined zealously in the glee. As for Herbert, he thought Cadurcis by far the most hearty and amusing person he had ever known, and could not refrain from contrasting him with the picture which his works and the report of the world had occasionally enabled him to sketch to his mind's eye; the noble, young, and impassioned bard, pouring forth the eloquent tide of his morbid feelings to an idolising world, from whose applause he nevertheless turned with an almost misanthropic melancholy.

It was now much past the noon of night, and the hour of separation, long postponed, was inevitable. Often had Cadurcis risen to depart, and often, without regaining his seat, had he been tempted by his friends, and especially Venetia, into fresh narratives. At last he said, 'Now we must go. Lady Annabel looks good night. I remember the look,' he said, laughing, 'when we used to beg for a quarter of an hour more. O Venetia! do not you remember that Christmas when dear old Masham read Julius Caesar, and we were to sit up until it was finished. When he got to the last act I hid his spectacles. I never confessed it until this moment. Will you pardon me, Lady Annabel?' and he pressed his hands together in a mockery of supplication.

'Will you come and breakfast with us to-morrow?' said Lady Annabel.

'With delight,' he answered. 'I am used, you know, to walks before breakfast. George, I do not think George can do it, though. George likes his comforts; he is a regular John Bull. He was always calling for tea when we were in Turkey!'

At this moment Mistress Pauncefort entered the room, ostensibly on some little affair of her mistress, but really to reconnoitre.

'Ah! Mistress Pauncefort; my old friend, Mistress Pauncefort, how do you do?' exclaimed his lordship.

'Quite well, my lord, please your lordship; and very glad to see your lordship again, and looking so well too.'

'Ah! Mistress Pauncefort, you always flattered me!'

'Oh! dear, my lord, your lordship, no,' said Mistress Pauncefort, with a simper.

'But you, Pauncefort,' said Cadurcis, 'why there must be some magic in the air here. I have been complimenting your lady and Miss Venetia; but really, you, I should almost have thought it was some younger sister.'

'Oh! my lord, you have such a way,' said Mistress Pauncefort, retreating with a slow step that still lingered for a remark.

'Pauncefort, is that an Italian cap?' said Lord Cadurcis; 'you know, Pauncefort, you were always famous for your caps.'

Mistress Pauncefort disappeared in a fluster of delight.

And now they had indeed departed. There was a pause of complete silence after they had disappeared, the slight and not painful reaction after the mirthful excitement of the last few hours. At length Herbert, dropping, as was his evening custom, a few drops of orange-flower into a tumbler of water, said, 'Annabel, my love, I am rather surprised that neither you nor Venetia should have mentioned to me that you knew, and knew so intimately, a man like Lord Cadurcis.'

Lady Annabel appeared a little confused; she looked even at Venetia, but Venetia's eyes were on the ground. At length she said, 'In truth, Marmion, since we met we have thought only of you.'

'Cadurcis Abbey, papa, is close to Cherbury,' said Venetia.

'Cherbury!' said Herbert, with a faint blush. 'I have never seen it, and now I shall never see it. No matter, my country is your mother and yourself. Some find a home in their country, I find a country in my home. Well,' he added, in a gayer tone, 'it has gratified me much to meet Lord Cadurcis. We were happy before, but now we are even gay. I like to see you smile, Annabel, and hear Venetia laugh. I feel, myself, quite an unusual hilarity. Cadurcis! It is very strange how often I have mused over that name. A year ago it was one of my few wishes to know him; my wishes, then, dear Annabel, were not very ambitious. They did not mount so high as you have since permitted them. And now I do know him, and under what circumstances! Is not life strange? But is it not happy? I feel it so. Good night, sweet wife; my darling daughter, a happy, happy night!' He embraced them ere they retired; and opening a volume composed his mind after the novel excitement of the evening.



CHAPTER IV.

Cadurcis left the brig early in the morning alone, and strolled towards the villa. He met Herbert half-way to Spezzia, who turned back with him towards home. They sat down on a crag opposite the sea; there was a light breeze, the fishing boats wore out, and the view was as animated as the fresh air was cheering.

'There they go,' said Cadurcis, smiling, 'catching John Dory, as you and I try to catch John Bull. Now if these people could understand what two great men were watching them, how they would stare! But they don't care a sprat for us, not they! They are not part of the world the three or four thousand civilised savages for whom we sweat our brains, and whose fetid breath perfumed with musk is fame. Pah!'

Herbert smiled. 'I have not cared much myself for this same world.'

'Why, no; you have done something, and shown your contempt for them. No one can deny that. I will some day, if I have an opportunity. I owe it them; I think I can show them a trick or two still.[A] I have got a Damascus blade in store for their thick hides. I will turn their flank yet.'

[Footnote A: I think I know a trick or two would turn Your flanks. Don Juan.]

'And gain a victory where conquest brings no glory. You are worth brighter laurels, Lord Cadurcis.'

'Now is not it the most wonderful thing in the world that you and I have met?' said Cadurcis. 'Now I look upon ourselves as something like, eh! Fellows with some pith in them. By Jove, if we only joined together, how we could lay it on! Crack, crack, crack; I think I see them wincing under the thong, the pompous poltroons! If you only knew how they behaved to me! By Jove, sir, they hooted me going to the House of Lords, and nearly pulled me off my horse. The ruffians would have massacred me if they could; and then they all ran away from a drummer-boy and a couple of grenadiers, who were going the rounds to change guard. Was not that good? Fine, eh? A brutish mob in a fit of morality about to immolate a gentleman, and then scampering off from a sentry. I call that human nature!'

'As long as they leave us alone, and do not burn us alive, I am content,' said Herbert. 'I am callous to what they say.'

'So am I,' said Cadurcis. 'I made out a list the other day of all the persons and things I have been compared to. It begins well, with Alcibiades, but it ends with the Swiss giantess or the Polish dwarf, I forget which. Here is your book. You see it has been well thumbed. In fact, to tell the truth, it was my cribbing book, and I always kept it by me when I was writing at Athens, like a gradus, a gradus ad Parnassum, you know. But although I crib, I am candid, and you see I fairly own it to you.'

'You are welcome to all I have ever written,' said Herbert. 'Mine were but crude dreams. I wished to see man noble and happy; but if he will persist in being vile and miserable, I must even be content. I can struggle for him no more.'

'Well, you opened my mind,' said Cadurcis. 'I owe you everything; but I quite agree with you that nothing is worth an effort. As for philosophy and freedom, and all that, they tell devilish well in a stanza; but men have always been fools and slaves, and fools and slaves they always will be.'

'Nay,' said Herbert, 'I will not believe that. I will not give up a jot of my conviction of a great and glorious future for human destinies; but its consummation will not be so rapid as I once thought, and in the meantime I die.'

'Ah, death!' said Lord Cadurcis, 'that is a botherer. What can you make of death? There are those poor fishermen now; there will be a white squall some day, and they will go down with those lateen sails of theirs, and be food for the very prey they were going to catch; and if you continue living here, you may eat one of your neighbours in the shape of a shoal of red mullets, when it is the season. The great secret, we cannot penetrate that with all our philosophy, my dear Herbert. "All that we know is, nothing can be known." Barren, barren, barren! And yet what a grand world it is! Look at this bay, these blue waters, the mountains, and these chestnuts, devilish fine! The fact is, truth is veiled, but, like the Shekinah over the tabernacle, the veil is of dazzling light!'

'Life is the great wonder,' said Herbert, 'into which all that is strange and startling resolves itself. The mist of familiarity obscures from us the miracle of our being. Mankind are constantly starting at events which they consider extraordinary. But a philosopher acknowledges only one miracle, and that is life. Political revolutions, changes of empire, wrecks of dynasties and the opinions that support them, these are the marvels of the vulgar, but these are only transient modifications of life. The origin of existence is, therefore, the first object which a true philosopher proposes to himself. Unable to discover it, he accepts certain results from his unbiassed observation of its obvious nature, and on them he establishes certain principles to be our guides in all social relations, whether they take the shape of laws or customs. Nevertheless, until the principle of life be discovered, all theories and all systems of conduct founded on theory must be considered provisional.'

'And do you believe that there is a chance of its being discovered?' inquired Cadurcis.

'I cannot, from any reason in my own intelligence, find why it should not,' said Herbert.

'You conceive it possible that a man may attain earthly immortality?' inquired Cadurcis.

'Undoubtedly.'

'By Jove,' said Cadurcis, 'if I only knew how, I would purchase an immense annuity directly.'

'When I said undoubtedly,' said Herbert, smiling, 'I meant only to express that I know no invincible reason to the contrary. I see nothing inconsistent with the existence of a Supreme Creator in the annihilation of death. It appears to me an achievement worthy of his omnipotence. I believe in the possibility, but I believe in nothing more. I anticipate the final result, but not by individual means. It will, of course, be produced by some vast and silent and continuous operation of nature, gradually effecting some profound and comprehensive alteration in her order, a change of climate, for instance, the great enemy of life, so that the inhabitants of the earth may attain a patriarchal age. This renovated breed may in turn produce a still more vigorous offspring, and so we may ascend the scale, from the threescore and ten of the Psalmist to the immortality of which we speak. Indeed I, for my own part, believe the operation has already commenced, although thousands of centuries may elapse before it is consummated; the threescore and ten of the Psalmist is already obsolete; the whole world is talking of the general change of its seasons and its atmosphere. If the origin of America were such as many profound philosophers suppose, viz., a sudden emersion of a new continent from the waves, it is impossible to doubt that such an event must have had a very great influence on the climate of the world. Besides, why should we be surprised that the nature of man should change? Does not everything change? Is not change the law of nature? My skin changes every year, my hair never belongs to me a month, the nail on my hand is only a passing possession. I doubt whether a man at fifty is the same material being that he is at five-and-twenty.'

'I wonder,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'if a creditor brought an action against you at fifty for goods delivered at five-and-twenty, one could set up the want of identity as a plea in bar. It would be a consolation to an elderly gentleman.'

'I am afraid mankind are too hostile to philosophy,' said Herbert, smiling, 'to permit so desirable a consummation.'

'Should you consider a long life a blessing?' said Cadurcis. 'Would you like, for instance, to live to the age of Methusalem?'

'Those whom the gods love die young,' said Herbert. 'For the last twenty years I have wished to die, and I have sought death. But my feelings, I confess, on that head are at present very much modified.'

'Youth, glittering youth!' said Cadurcis in a musing tone; 'I remember when the prospect of losing my youth frightened me out of my wits; I dreamt of nothing but grey hairs, a paunch, and the gout or the gravel. But I fancy every period of life has its pleasures, and as we advance in life the exercise of power and the possession of wealth must be great consolations to the majority; we bully our children and hoard our cash.'

'Two most noble occupations!' said Herbert; 'but I think in this world there is just as good a chance of being bullied by our children first, and paying their debts afterwards.'

'Faith! you are right,' said Cadurcis, laughing, 'and lucky is he who has neither creditors nor offspring, and who owes neither money nor affection, after all the most difficult to pay of the two.'

'It cannot be commanded, certainly,' said Herbert 'There is no usury for love.'

'And yet it is very expensive, too, sometimes, said Cadurcis, laughing. 'For my part, sympathy is a puzzler.'

'You should read Cabanis,' said Herbert, 'if indeed, you have not. I think I may find it here; I will lend it you. It has, from its subject, many errors, but it is very suggestive.'

'Now, that is kind, for I have not a book here, and, after all, there is nothing like reading. I wish I had read more, but it is not too late. I envy you your learning, besides so many other things. However, I hope we shall not part in a hurry; we have met at last,' he said, extending his hand, 'and we were always friends.'

Herbert shook his hand very warmly. 'I can assure you, Lord Cadurcis, you have not a more sincere admirer of your genius. I am happy in your society. For myself, I now aspire to be nothing better than an idler in life, turning over a page, and sometimes noting down a fancy. You have, it appears, known my family long and intimately, and you were, doubtless, surprised at finding me with them. I have returned to my hearth, and I am content. Once I sacrificed my happiness to my philosophy, and now I have sacrificed my philosophy to my happiness.'

'Dear friend!' said Cadurcis, putting his arm affectionately in Herbert's as they walked along, 'for, indeed, you must allow me to style you so; all the happiness and all the sorrow of my life alike flow from your roof!'

In the meantime Lady Annabel and Venetia came forth from the villa to their morning meal in their amphitheatre of hills. Marmion was not there to greet them as usual.

'Was not Plantagenet amusing last night?' said Venetia; 'and are not you happy, dear mother, to see him once more?'

'Indeed I am now always happy,' said Lady Annabel.

'And George was telling me last night, in this portico, of all their life. He is more attached to Plantagenet than ever. He says it is impossible for any one to have behaved with greater kindness, or to have led, in every sense, a more calm and rational life. When he was alone at Athens, he did nothing but write. George says that all his former works are nothing to what he has written now.'

'He is very engaging,' said Lady Annabel.

'I think he will be such a delightful companion for papa. I am sure papa must like him. I hope he will stay some time; for, after all, poor dear papa, he must require a little amusement besides our society. Instead of being with his books, he might be walking and talking with Plantagenet. I think, dearest mother, we shall be happier than ever!'

At this moment Herbert, with Cadurcis leaning on his arm, and apparently speaking with great earnestness, appeared in the distance. 'There they are,' said Venetia; 'I knew they would be friends. Come, dearest mother, let us meet them.'

'You see, Lady Annabel,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'it is just as I said: Mr. George is not here; he is having tea and toast on board the brig.'

'I do not believe it,' said Venetia, smiling.

They seated themselves at the breakfast-table.

'You should have seen our Apennine breakfasts in the autumn, Lord Cadurcis,' said Herbert. 'Every fruit of nature seemed crowded before us. It was indeed a meal for a poet or a painter like Paul Veronese; our grapes, our figs, our peaches, our mountain strawberries, they made a glowing picture. For my part, I have an original prejudice against animal food which I have never quite overcome, and I believe it is only to please Lady Annabel that I have relapsed into the heresy of cutlets.'

'Do you think I have grown fatter, Lady Annabel?' said Lord Cadurcis, starting up; 'I brought myself down at Athens to bread and olives, but I have been committing terrible excesses lately, but only fish.'

'Ah! here is George!' said Lady Annabel.

And Captain Cadurcis appeared, followed by a couple of sailors, bearing a huge case.

'George,' said Venetia, 'I have been defending you against Plantagenet; he said you would not come.'

'Never mind, George, it was only behind your back,' said Lord Cadurcis; 'and, under those legitimate circumstances, why even our best friends cannot expect us to spare them.'

'I have brought Venetia her toys,' said Captain Cadurcis, 'and she was right to defend me, as I have been working for her.'

The top of the case was knocked off, and all the Turkish buffooneries, as Cadurcis called them, made their appearance: slippers, and shawls, and bottles of perfumes, and little hand mirrors, beautifully embroidered; and fanciful daggers, and rosaries, and a thousand other articles, of which they had plundered the bazaars of Constantinople.

'And here is a Turkish volume of poetry, beautifully illuminated; and that is for you,' said Cadurcis giving it to Herbert. 'Perhaps it is a translation of one of our works. Who knows? We can always say it is.'

'This is the second present you have made me this morning. Here is a volume of my works,' said Herbert, producing the book that Cadurcis had before given him. 'I never expected that anything I wrote would be so honoured. This, too, is the work of which I am the least ashamed for my wife admired it. There, Annabel, even though Lord Cadurcis is here, I will present it to you; 'tis an old friend.'

Lady Annabel accepted the book very graciously, and, in spite of all the temptations of her toys, Venetia could not refrain from peeping over her mother's shoulder at its contents. 'Mother,' she whispered, in a voice inaudible save to Lady Annabel, 'I may read this!'

Lady Annabel gave it her.

'And now we must send for Pauncefort, I think,' said Lady Annabel, 'to collect and take care of our treasures.'

'Pauncefort,' said Lord Cadurcis, when that gentlewoman appeared, 'I have brought you a shawl, but I could not bring you a turban, because the Turkish ladies do not wear turbans; but if I had thought we should have met so soon, I would have had one made on purpose for you.'

'La! my lord, you always are so polite!'



CHAPTER V.

When the breakfast was over, they wandered about the valley, which Cadurcis could not sufficiently admire. Insensibly he drew Venetia from the rest of the party, on the pretence of showing her a view at some little distance. They walked along by the side of a rivulet, which glided through the hills, until they were nearly a mile from the villa, though still in sight.

'Venetia,' he at length said, turning the conversation to a more interesting topic, 'your father and myself have disburthened our minds to each, other this morning; I think we know each other now as well as if we were as old acquaintances as myself and his daughter.'

'Ah! I knew that you and papa must agree,' said Venetia; 'I was saying so this morning to my mother.'

'Venetia,' said Cadurcis, with a laughing eye, 'all this is very strange, is it not?'

'Very strange, indeed, Plantagenet; I should not be surprised if it appeared to you as yet even incredible.'

'It is miraculous,' said Cadurcis, 'but not incredible; an angel interfered, and worked the miracle. I know all.'

Venetia looked at him with a faint flush upon her cheek; she gathered a flower and plucked it to pieces.

'What a singular destiny ours has been, Venetia! 'said Cadurcis. 'Do you know, I can sit for an hour together and muse over it.'

'Can you, Plantagenet?'

'I have such an extraordinary memory; I do not think I ever forgot anything. We have had some remarkable conversations in our time, eh, Venetia? Do you remember my visit to Cherbury before I went to Cambridge, and the last time I saw you before I left England? And now it all ends in this! What do you think of it, Venetia?'

'Think of what, Plantagenet?'

'Why, of this reconciliation?'

'Dear Plantagenet, what can I think of it but what I have expressed, that it is a wonderful event, but the happiest in my life.'

'You are quite happy now?'

'Quite.'

'I see you do not care for me the least.'

'Plantagenet, you are perverse. Are you not here?'

'Did you ever think of me when I was away?'

'You know very well, Plantagenet, that it is impossible for me to cease to be interested in you. Could I refrain from thinking of such a friend?'

'Friend! poh! I am not your friend; and, as for that, you never once mentioned my name to your father, Miss Venetia.'

'You might easily conceive that there were reasons for such silence,' said Venetia. 'It could not arise on my part from forgetfulness or indifference; for, even if my feelings were changed towards you, you are not a person that one would, or even could, avoid speaking of, especially to papa, who must have felt such interest in you! I am sure, even if I had not known you, there were a thousand occasions which would have called your name to my lips, had they been uncontrolled by other considerations.'

'Come, Venetia, I am not going to submit to compliments from you,' said Lord Cadurcis; 'no blarney. I wish you only to think of me as you did ten years ago. I will not have our hearts polluted by the vulgarity of fame. I want you to feel for me as you did when we were children. I will not be an object of interest, and admiration, and fiddlestick to you; I will not submit to it.'

'Well, you shall not,' said Venetia, laughing. 'I will not admire you the least; I will only think of you as a good little boy.'

'You do not love me any longer, I see that,' said Cadurcis.

'Yes I do, Plantagenet.'

'You do not love me so much as you did the night before I went to Eton, and we sat over the fire? Ah! how often I have thought of that night when I was at Athens!' he added in a tone of emotion.

'Dear Plantagenet,' said Venetia, 'do not be silly. I am in the highest spirits in the world; I am quite gay with happiness, and all because you have returned. Do not spoil my pleasure.'

'Ah, Venetia! I see how it is; you have forgotten me, or worse than forgotten me.'

'Well, I am sure I do not know what to say to satisfy you,' said Venetia. 'I think you very unreasonable, and very ungrateful too, for I have always been your friend, Plantagenet, and I am sure you know it. You sent me a message before you went abroad.'

'Darling!' said Lord Cadurcis, seizing her hand, 'I am not ungrateful, I am not unreasonable. I adore you. You were very kind then, when all the world was against me. You shall see how I will pay them off, the dogs! and worse than dogs, their betters far; dogs are faithful. Do you remember poor old Marmion? How we were mystified, Venetia! Little did we think then who was Marmion's godfather.'

Venetia smiled; but she said, 'I do not like this bitterness of yours, Plantagenet. You have no cause to complain of the world, and you magnify a petty squabble with a contemptible coterie into a quarrel with a nation. It is not a wise humour, and, if you indulge it, it will not be a happy one.'

'I will do exactly what you wish on every subject, said Cadurcis, 'if you will do exactly what I wish on one.'

'Well!' said Venetia.

'Once you told me,' said Cadurcis, 'that you would not marry me without the consent of your father; then, most unfairly, you added to your conditions the consent of your mother. Now both your parents are very opportunely at hand; let us fall down upon our knees, and beg their blessing.'

'O! my dear Plantagenet, I think it will be much better for me never to marry. We are both happy now; let us remain so. You can live here, and I can be your sister. Will not that do?'

'No, Venetia, it will not.'

'Dear Plantagenet!' said Venetia with a faltering voice, 'if you knew how much I had suffered, dear Plantagenet!'

'I know it; I know all,' said Cadurcis, taking her arm and placing it tenderly in his. 'Now listen to me, sweet girl; I loved you when a child, when I was unknown to the world, and unknown to myself; I loved you as a youth not utterly inexperienced in the world, and when my rising passions had taught me to speculate on the character of women; I loved you as a man, Venetia, with that world at my feet, that world which I scorn, but which I will command; I have been constant, Venetia; your heart assures you, of that. You are the only being in existence who exercises over me any influence; and the influence you possess is irresistible and eternal. It springs from some deep and mysterious sympathy of blood which I cannot penetrate. It can neither be increased nor diminished by time. It is entirely independent of its action. I pretend not to love you more at this moment than when I first saw you, when you entered the terrace-room at Cherbury and touched my cheek. From that moment I was yours. I declare to you, most solemnly I declare to you, that I know not what love is except to you. The world has called me a libertine; the truth is, no other woman can command my spirit for an hour. I see through them at a glance. I read all their weakness, frivolity, vanity, affectation, as if they were touched by the revealing rod of Asmodeus. You were born to be my bride. Unite yourself with me, control my destiny, and my course shall be like the sun of yesterday; but reject me, reject me, and I devote all my energies to the infernal gods; I will pour my lava over the earth until all that remains of my fatal and exhausted nature is a black and barren cone surrounded by bitter desolation.'

'Plantagenet; be calm!'

'I am perfectly calm, Venetia. You talk to me of your sufferings. What has occasioned them? A struggle against nature. Nature has now triumphed, and you are happy. What necessity was there for all this misery that has fallen on your house? Why is your father an exile? Do not you think that if your mother had chosen to exert her influence she might have prevented the most fatal part of his career? Undoubtedly despair impelled his actions as much as philosophy, though I give him credit for a pure and lofty spirit, to no man more. But not a murmur against your mother from me. She received my overtures of reconciliation last night with more than cordiality. She is your mother, Venetia, and she once was mine. Indeed, I love her; indeed, you would find that I would study her happiness. For after all, sweet, is there another woman in existence better qualified to fill the position of my mother-in-law? I could not behave unkindly to her; I could not treat her with neglect or harshness; not merely for the sake of her many admirable qualities, but from other considerations, Venetia, considerations we never can forget. By heavens! I love your mother; I do, indeed, Venetia! I remember so many things; her last words to me when I went to Eton. If she would only behave kindly to me, you would see what a son-in-law I should make. You would be jealous, that you should, Venetia. I can bear anything from you, Venetia, but, with others, I cannot forget who I am. It makes me bitter to be treated as Lady Annabel treated me last year in London: but a smile and a kind word and I recall all her maternal love; I do indeed, Venetia; last night when she was kind I could have kissed her!'

Poor Venetia could not answer, her tears were flowing so plenteously. 'I have told your father all, sweetest,' said Cadurcis; 'I concealed nothing.'

'And what said he?' murmured Venetia.

'It rests with your mother. After all that has passed, he will not attempt to control your fate. And he is right. Perhaps his interference in my favour might even injure me. But there is no cause for despair; all I wanted was to come to an understanding with you; to be sure you loved me as you always have done. I will not be impatient. I will do everything to soothe and conciliate and gratify Lady Annabel; you will see how I will behave! As you say, too, we are happy because we are together; and, therefore, it would be unreasonable not to be patient. I never can be sufficiently grateful for this meeting. I concluded you would be in England, though we were on our way to Milan to inquire after you. George has been a great comfort to me in all this affair, Venetia; he loves you, Venetia, almost as much as I do. I think I should have gone mad during that cursed affair in England, had it not been for George. I thought you would hate me; but, when George brought me your message, I cared for nothing; and then his visit to the lake was so devilish kind! He is a noble fellow and a true friend. My sweet, sweet Venetia, dry your eyes. Let us rejoin them with a smile. We have not been long away, I will pretend we have been violet hunting,' said Cadurcis, stooping down and plucking up a handful of flowers. 'Do you remember our violets at home, Venetia? Do you know, Venetia, I always fancy every human being is like some object in nature; and you always put me in mind of a violet so fresh and sweet and delicate!'

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