Paul Clifford, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter XVII

That contrast of the hardened and mature,

The calm brow brooding o’er the project dark,

With the clear loving heart, and spirit pure

Of youth — I love, yet, hating, love to mark!

H. FLETCHER.

On the forenoon of the day after the ball, the carriage of William Brandon, packed and prepared, was at the door of his abode at Bath; meanwhile the lawyer was closeted with his brother.

“My dear Joseph,” said the barrister, “I do not leave you without being fully sensible of your kindness evinced to me, both in coming hither, contrary to your habits, and accompanying me everywhere, despite of your tastes.”

“Mention it not, my dear William,” said the kind-hearted squire, “for your delightful society is to me the most agreeable (and that’s what I can say of very few people like you; for, for my own part, I generally find the cleverest men the most unpleasant) in the world! And I think lawyers in particular (very different, indeed, from your tribe you are!) perfectly intolerable!”

“I have now,” said Brandon, who with his usual nervous quickness of action was walking with rapid strides to and fro the apartment, and scarcely noted his brother’s compliment — “I have now another favour to request of you. Consider this house and these servants yours for the next month or two at least. Don’t interrupt me — it is no compliment — I speak for our family benefit.” And then seating himself next to his brother’s armchair, for a fit of the gout made the squire a close prisoner, Brandon unfolded to his brother his cherished scheme of marrying Lucy to Lord Mauleverer. Notwithstanding the constancy of the earl’s attentions to the heiress, the honest squire had never dreamed of their palpable object; and he was overpowered with surprise when he heard the lawyer’s expectations.

“But, my dear brother,” he began, “so great a match for my Lucy, the Lord–Lieutenant of the Coun —”

“And what of that?” cried Brandon, proudly, and interrupting his brother. “Is not the race of Brandon, which has matched its scions with royalty, far nobler than that of the upstart stock of Mauleverer? What is there presumptuous in the hope that the descendant of the Earls of Suffolk should regild a faded name with some of the precious dust of the quondam silversmiths of London? Besides,” he continued, after a pause, “Lucy will be rich, very rich, and before two years my rank may possibly be of the same order as Mauleverer’s!”

The squire stared; and Brandon, not giving him time to answer, resumed. It is needless to detail the conversation; suffice it to say that the artful barrister did not leave his brother till he had gained his point — till Joseph Brandon had promised to remain at Bath in possession of the house and establishment of his brother; to throw no impediment on the suit of Mauleverer; to cultivate society, as before; and above all, not to alarm Lucy, who evidently did not yet favour Mauleverer exclusively, by hinting to her the hopes and expectations of her uncle and father. Brandon, now taking leave of his brother, mounted to the drawing-room in search of Lucy. He found her leaning over the gilt cage of one of her feathered favourites, and speaking to the little inmate in that pretty and playful language in which all thoughts, innocent yet fond, should be clothed. So beautiful did Lucy seem, as she was thus engaged in her girlish and caressing employment, and so utterly unlike one meet to be the instrument of ambitious designs, and the sacrifice of worldly calculations, that Brandon paused, suddenly smitten at heart, as he beheld her. He was not, however, slow in recovering himself; he approached. “Happy he,” said the man of the world, “for whom caresses and words like these are reserved!”

Lucy turned. “It is ill!” she said, pointing to the bird, which sat with its feathers stiff and erect, mute and heedless even of that voice which was as musical as its own.

“Poor prisoner!” said Brandon; “even gilt cages and sweet tones cannot compensate to thee for the loss of the air and the wild woods!”

“But,” said Lucy, anxiously, “it is not confinement which makes it ill! If you think so, I will release it instantly.”

“How long have you had it?” asked Brandon.

“For three years!” said Lucy. “And is it your chief favourite?”

“Yes; it does not sing so prettily as the other, but it is far more sensible, and so affectionate!”

“Can you release it then?” asked Brandon, smiling. “Would it not be better to see it die in your custody than to let it live and to see it no more?”

“Oh, no, no!” said Lucy, eagerly; “when I love any one, anything, I wish that to be happy, not me!”

As she said this, she took the bird from the cage; and bearing it to the open window, kissed it, and held it on her hand in the air. The poor bird turned a languid and sickly eye around it, as if the sight of the crowded houses and busy streets presented nothing familiar or inviting; and it was not till Lucy with a tender courage shook it gently from her, that it availed itself of the proffered liberty. It flew first to an opposite balcony; and then recovering from a short and as it were surprised pause, took a brief circuit above the houses; and after disappearing for a few minutes, flew back, circled the window, and re-entering, settled once more on the fair form of its mistress and nestled into her bosom.

Lucy covered it with kisses. “You see it will not leave me!” said she.

“Who can?” said the uncle, warmly, charmed for the moment from every thought but that of kindness for the young and soft creature before him — “who can,” he repeated with a sigh, “but an old and withered ascetic like myself? I must leave you indeed; see, my carriage is at the door! Will my beautiful niece, among the gayeties that surround her, condescend now and then to remember the crabbed lawyer, and assure him by a line of her happiness and health? Though I rarely write any notes but those upon cases, you, at least, may be sure of an answer. And tell me, Lucy, if there be in all this city one so foolish as to think that these idle gems, useful only as a vent for my pride in you, can add a single charm to a beauty above all ornament?”

So saying, Brandon produced a leathern case; and touching a spring, the imperial flash of diamonds, which would have made glad many a patrician heart, broke dazzlingly on Lucy’s eyes.

“No thanks, Lucy,” said Brandon, in answer to his niece’s disclaiming and shrinking gratitude; “I do honour to myself, not you; and now bless you, my dear girl. Farewell! Should any occasion present itself in which you require an immediate adviser, at once kind and wise, I beseech you, my dearest Lucy, as a parting request, to have no scruples in consulting Lord Mauleverer. Besides his friendship for me, he is much interested in you, and you may consult him with the more safety and assurance; because” (and the lawyer smiled) “he is perhaps the only man in the world whom my Lucy could not make in love with her. His gallantry may appear adulation, but it is never akin to love. Promise me that you will not hesitate in this.”

Lucy gave the promise readily; and Brandon continued in a careless tone: “I hear that you danced last night with a young gentleman whom no one knew, and whose companions bore a very strange appearance. In a place like Bath, society is too mixed not to render the greatest caution in forming acquaintances absolutely necessary. You must pardon me, my dearest niece, if I remark that a young lady owes it not only to herself but to her relations to observe the most rigid circumspection of conduct. This is a wicked world, and the peach-like bloom of character is easily rubbed away. In these points Mauleverer can be of great use to you. His knowledge of character, his penetration into men, and his tact in manners are unerring. Pray, be guided by him; whomsoever he warns you against, you may be sure is unworthy of your acquaintance. God bless you! You will write to me often and frankly, dear Lucy; tell me all that happens to you — all that interests, nay, all that displeases.”

Brandon then, who had seemingly disregarded the blushes with which during his speech Lucy’s cheeks had been spread, folded his niece in his arms, and hurried, as if to hide his feelings, into his carriage. When the horses had turned the street, he directed the postilions to stop at Lord Mauleverer’s. “Now,” said he to himself, “if I can get this clever coxcomb to second my schemes, and play according to my game and not according to his own vanity, I shall have a knight of the garter for my nephew-inlaw!”

Meanwhile Lucy, all in tears, for she loved her uncle greatly, ran down to the squire to show him Brandon’s magnificent present.

“Ah,” said the squire, with a sigh, “few men were born with more good, generous, and great qualities (pity only that his chief desire was to get on in the world; for my part, I think no motive makes greater and more cold-hearted rogues) than my brother William!”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bulwer-lytton/edward/clifford/chapter17.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31