Paul Clifford, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter XXXVI.

And Last.

Subtle, Surly — Mammon, Dol,

Hot Ananias, Dapper, Dragger — all

With whom I traded.

The Alchemist.

As when some rural citizen-retired for a fleeting holiday, far from the cares of the world strepitumque Romae — [“And the roar of Rome.”]— to the sweet shades of Pentonville or the remoter plains of Clapham — conducts some delighted visitor over the intricacies of that Daedalian masterpiece which he is pleased to call his labyrinth or maze — now smiling furtively at his guest’s perplexity, now listening with calm superiority to his futile and erring conjectures, now maliciously accompanying him through a flattering path in which the baffled adventurer is suddenly checked by the blank features of a thoroughfareless hedge, now trembling as he sees the guest stumbling unawares into the right track, and now relieved as he beholds him after a pause of deliberation wind into the wrong — even so, O pleasant reader! doth the sage novelist conduct thee through the labyrinth of his tale, amusing himself with thy self-deceits, and spinning forth, in prolix pleasure, the quiet yarn of his entertainment from the involutions which occasion thy fretting eagerness and perplexity. But as when, thanks to the host’s good-nature or fatigue, the mystery is once unravelled, and the guest permitted to penetrate even into the concealed end of the leafy maze, the honest cit, satisfied with the pleasant pains he has already bestowed upon his visitor, puts him not to the labour of retracing the steps he hath so erratically trod, but leads him in three strides, and through a simpler path, at once to the mouth of the maze, and dismisseth him elsewhere for entertainment; even so will the prudent narrator, when the intricacies of his plot are once unfolded, occasion no stale and profitless delays to his wearied reader, but conduct him, with as much brevity as convenient, without the labyrinth which has ceased to retain the interest of a secret.

We shall therefore, in pursuance of the tit’s policy, relate as rapidly as possible that part of our narrative which yet remains untold. On Brandon’s person was found the paper which had contained so fatal an intelligence of his son; and when brought to Lord Mauleverer, the words struck that person (who knew Brandon had been in search of his lost son, whom we have seen that he had been taught however to suppose illegitimate, though it is probable that many doubts whether he had not been deceived must have occurred to his natural sagacity) as sufficiently important to be worth an inquiry after the writer. Dummie was easily found, for he had not yet turned his back on the town when the news of the judge’s sudden death was brought back to it; and taking advantage of that circumstance, the friendly Dunnaker remained altogether in the town (albeit his long companion deserted it as hastily as might be), and whiled the time by presenting himself at the jail, and after some ineffectual efforts winning his way to Clifford. Easily tracked by the name he had given to the governor of the jail, he was conducted the same day to Lord Mauleverer; and his narrative, confused as it was, and proceeding even from so suspicious a quarter, thrilled those digestive organs, which in Mauleverer stood proxy for a heart, with feelings as much resembling awe and horror as our good peer was capable of experiencing. Already shocked from his worldly philosophy of indifference by the death of Brandon, he was more susceptible to a remorseful and salutary impression at this moment than he might have been at any other; and he could not, without some twinges of conscience, think of the ruin he had brought on the mother of the being he had but just prosecuted to the death. He dismissed Dummie, and after a little consideration he ordered his carriage, and leaving the funeral preparations for his friend to the care of his man of business, he set off for London, and the house, in particular, of the Secretary of the Home Department. We would not willingly wrong the noble penitent; but we venture a suspicion that he might not have preferred a personal application for mercy to the prisoner to a written one, had he not felt certain unpleasant qualms in remaining in a country-house overshadowed by ceremonies so gloomy as those of death. The letter of Brandon and the application of Mauleverer obtained for Clifford a relaxation of his sentence. He was left for perpetual transportation. A ship was already about to sail; and Mauleverer, content with having saved his life, was by no means anxious that his departure from the country should be saddled with any superfluous delay.

Meanwhile the first rumour that reached London respecting Brandon’s fate was that he had been found in a fit, and was lying dangerously ill at Mauleverer’s; and before the second and more fatally sure report arrived, Lucy had gathered from the visible dismay of Barlow, whom she anxiously cross-questioned, and who, really loving his master, was easily affected into communication, the first and more flattering intelligence. To Barlow’s secret delight, she insisted instantly on setting off to the supposed sick man; and accompanied by Barlow and her woman, the affectionate girl hastened to Mauleverer’s house on the evening after the day the earl left it. Lucy had not proceeded far before Barlow learned, from the gossip of the road, the real state of the case. Indeed, it was at the first stage that with a mournful countenance he approached the door of the carriage, and announcing the inutility of proceeding farther, begged of Lucy to turn back. So soon as Miss Brandon had overcome the first shock which this intelligence gave her, she said with calmness —

“Well, Barlow, if it be so, we have still a duty to perform. Tell the postboys to drive on!”

“Indeed, madam, I cannot see what use it can be fretting yourself — and you so poorly. If you will let me go, I will see every attention paid to the remains of my poor master.”

“When my father lay dead,” said Lucy, with a grave and sad sternness in her manner, “he who is now no more sent no proxy to perform the last duties of a brother; neither will I send one to discharge those of a niece, and prove that I have forgotten the gratitude of a daughter. Drive on!”

We have said that there were times when a spirit was stricken from Lucy little common to her in general; and now the command of her uncle sat upon her brow. On sped the horses, and for several minutes Lucy remained silent. Her woman did not dare to speak. At length Miss Brandon turned, and, covering her face with her hands, burst into tears so violent that they alarmed her attendant even more than her previous stillness. “My poor, poor uncle!” she sobbed; and those were all her words.

We must pass over Lucy’s arrival at Lord Mauleverer’s house; we must pass over the weary days which elapsed till that unconscious body was consigned to dust with which, could it have retained yet one spark of its haughty spirit, it would have refused to blend its atoms. She had loved the deceased incomparably beyond his merits, and resisting all remonstrance to the contrary and all the forms of ordinary custom, she witnessed herself the dreary ceremony which bequeathed the human remains of William Brandon to repose and to the worm. On that same day Clifford received the mitigation of his sentence, and on that day another trial awaited Lucy. We think briefly to convey to the reader what that scene was; we need only observe that Dummie Dunnaker, decoyed by his great love for little Paul, whom he delightedly said he found not the least “stuck up by his great fame and helewation,” still lingered in the town, and was not only aware of the relationship of the cousins, but had gleaned from Long Ned, as they journeyed down to ——— the affection entertained by Clifford for Lucy. Of the manner in which the communication reached Lucy, we need not speak; suffice it to say, that on the day in which she had performed the last duty to her uncle, she learned for the first time her lover’s situation.

On that evening, in the convict’s cell, the cousins met.

Their conference was low, for the jailer stood within hearing; and it was broken by Lucy’s convulsive sobs. But the voice of one whose iron nerves were not unworthy of the offspring of William Brandon, was clear and audible to her ear, even though uttered in a whisper that scarcely stirred his lips. It seemed as if Lucy, smitten to the inmost heart by the generosity with which her lover had torn himself from her at the time that her wealth might have raised him in any other country far above the perils and the crimes of his career in this; perceiving now, for the first time, and in all their force, the causes of his mysterious conduct; melted by their relationship, and forgetting herself utterly in the desolation and dark situation in which she beheld one who, whatever his crimes, had not been criminal towards her; — it seemed as if, carried away by these emotions, she had yielded altogether to the fondness and devotion of her nature — that she had wished to leave home and friends and fortune, and share with him his punishment and his shame.

“Why,” she faltered — “why — why not? We are all that is left to each other in the world! Your father and mine were brothers; let me be to you as a sister. What is there left for me here? Not one being whom I love, or who cares for me — not one!”

It was then that Clifford summoned all his courage, as he answered. Perhaps, now that he felt (though here his knowledge was necessarily confused and imperfect) his birth was not unequal to hers; now that he read, or believed he read, in her wan cheek and attenuated frame that desertion to her was death, and that generosity and self-sacrifice had become too late — perhaps these thoughts, concurring with a love in himself beyond all words, and a love in her which it was above humanity to resist, altogether conquered and subdued him. Yet, as we have said, his voice breathed calmly in her ear; and his eye only, which brightened with a steady and resolute hope, betrayed his mind. “Live, then!” said he, as he concluded. “My sister, my mistress, my bride, live! In one year from this day — I repeat — I promise it thee!”

The interview was over, and Lucy returned home with a firm step. She was on foot. The rain fell in torrents, yet even in her precarious state her health suffered not; and when within a week from that time she read that Clifford had departed to the bourne of his punishment, she read the news with a steady eye and a lip that, if it grew paler, did not quiver.

Shortly after that time Miss Brandon departed to an obscure town by the seaside; and there, refusing all society, she continued to reside. As the birth of Clifford was known but to few, and his legitimacy was unsuspected by all except, perhaps, by Mauleverer, Lucy succeeded to the great wealth of her uncle; and this circumstance made her more than ever an object of attraction in the eyes of her noble adorer. Finding himself unable to see her, he wrote to her more than one moving epistle; but as Lucy continued inflexible, he at length, disgusted by her want of taste, ceased his pursuit, and resigned himself to the continued sterility of unwedded life. As the months waned, Miss Brandon seemed to grow weary of her retreat; and immediately on attaining her majority, which she did about eight months after Brandon’s death, she transferred the bulk of her wealth to France, where it was understood (for it was impossible that rumour should sleep upon an heiress and a beauty) that she intended in future to reside. Even Warlock (that spell to the proud heart of her uncle) she ceased to retain. It was offered to the nearest relation of the family at a sum which he did not hesitate to close with; and by the common vicissitudes of Fortune, the estate of the ancient Brandons has now, we perceive by a weekly journal, just passed into the hands of a wealthy alderman.

It was nearly a year since Brandon’s death when a letter bearing a foreign postmark came to Lucy. From that time her spirits — which before, though subject to fits of abstraction, had been even and subdued, not sad — rose into all the cheerfulness and vivacity of her earliest youth. She busied herself actively in preparations for her departure from this country; and at length the day was fixed, and the vessel was engaged. Every day till that one, did Lucy walk to the seaside, and ascending the highest cliff, spend hours, till the evening closed, in watching, with seemingly idle gaze, the vessels that interspersed the sea; and with every day her health seemed to strengthen, and the soft and lucid colour she had once worn, to rebloom upon her cheek.

Previous to her departure Miss Brandon dismissed her servants, and only engaged one female, a foreigner, to accompany her. A certain tone of quiet command, formerly unknown to her, characterized these measures, so daringly independent for one of her sex and age. The day arrived — it was the anniversary of her last interview with Clifford. On entering the vessel it was observed that she trembled violently, and that her face was as pale as death. A stranger, who had stood aloof wrapped in his cloak, darted forward to assist her; that was the last which her discarded and weeping servants beheld of her from the pier where they stood to gaze.

Nothing more in this country was ever known of the fate of Lucy Brandon; and as her circle of acquaintances was narrow, and interest in her fate existed vividly in none save a few humble breasts, conjecture was never keenly awakened, and soon cooled into forgetfulness. If it favoured, after the lapse of years, any one notion more than another, it was that she had perished among the victims of the French Revolution.

Meanwhile let us glance over the destinies of our more subordinate acquaintances.

Augustus Tomlinson, on parting from Long Ned, had succeeded in reaching Calais; and after a rapid tour through the Continent, he ultimately betook himself to a certain literary city in Germany, where he became distinguished for his metaphysical acumen, and opened a school of morals on the Grecian model, taught in the French tongue. He managed, by the patronage he received and the pupils he enlightened, to obtain a very decent income; and as he wrote a folio against Locke, proved that men had innate feelings, and affirmed that we should refer everything not to reason, but to the sentiments of the soul, he became greatly respected for his extraordinary virtue. Some little discoveries were made after his death, which perhaps would have somewhat diminished the general odour of his sanctity, had not the admirers of his school carefully hushed up the matter, probably out of respect for the “sentiments of the soul!”

Pepper, whom the police did not so anxiously desire to destroy as they did his two companions, might have managed, perhaps many years longer, to graze upon the public commons, had not a letter, written somewhat imprudently, fallen into wrong hands. This, though after creating a certain stir it apparently died away, lived in the memory of the police, and finally conspired, with various peccadilloes, to produce his downfall. He was seized, tried, and sentenced to seven years’ transportation. He so advantageously employed his time at Botany Bay, and arranged things there so comfortably to himself, that at the expiration of his sentence he refused to return home. He made an excellent match, built himself an excellent house, and remained in “the land of the blest” to the end of his days, noted to the last for the redundance of his hair and a certain ferocious coxcombry of aspect.

As for Fighting Attie and Gentleman George, for Scarlet Jem and for Old Bags, we confess ourselves destitute of any certain information of their latter ends. We can only add, with regard to Fighting Attie, “Good luck be with him wherever he goes!” and for mine host of the Jolly Angler, that, though we have not the physical constitution to quaff “a bumper of blue ruin,” we shall be very happy, over any tolerable wine and in company with any agreeable convivialist, to bear our part in the polished chorus of —

“Here’s to Gentleman George, God bless him!”

Mrs. Lobkins departed this life like a lamb; and Dummie Dunnaker obtained a license to carry on the business at Thames Court. He boasted, to the last, of his acquaintance with the great Captain Lovett, and of the affability with which that distinguished personage treated him. Stories he had, too, about Judge Brandon, but no one believed a syllable of them; and Dummie, indignant at the disbelief, increased, out of vehemence, the marvel of the stories, so that, at length, what was added almost swallowed up what was original, and Dummie himself might have been puzzled to satisfy his own conscience as to what was false and what was true.

The erudite Peter MacGrawler, returning to Scotland, disappeared by the road. A person singularly resembling the sage was afterward seen at Carlisle, where he discharged the useful and praiseworthy duties of Jack Ketch. But whether or not this respectable functionary was our identical Simon Pure, our ex-editor of “The Asinaeum,” we will not take upon ourselves to assert.

Lord Mauleverer, finally resolving on a single life, passed the remainder of his years in indolent tranquillity. When he died, the newspapers asserted that his Majesty was deeply affected by the loss of so old and valued a friend. His furniture and wines sold remarkably high; and a Great Man, his particular intimate, who purchased his books, startled to find, by pencil marks, that the noble deceased had read some of them, exclaimed, not altogether without truth,

“Ah! Mauleverer might have been a deuced clever fellow — if he had liked it!”

The earl was accustomed to show as a curiosity a ring of great value, which he had received in rather a singular manner. One morning a packet was brought him which he found to contain a sum of money, the ring mentioned, and a letter from the notorious Lovett, in which that person in begging to return his lordship the sums of which he had twice assisted to rob him, thanked him, with earnest warmth, for the consideration testified towards him in not revealing his identity with Captain Clifford; and ventured, as a slight testimony of respect, to inclose the aforesaid ring with the sum returned.

About the time Mauleverer received this curious packet, several anecdotes of a similar nature appeared in the public journals; and it seemed that Lovett had acted upon a general principle of restitution — not always, it must be allowed, the offspring of a robber’s repentance. While the idle were marvelling at these anecdotes, came the tardy news that Lovett, after a single month’s sojourn at his place of condemnation, had, in the most daring and singular manner, effected his escape. Whether, in his progress up the country, he had been starved or slain by the natives, or whether, more fortunate, he had ultimately found the means of crossing seas, was as yet unknown. There ended the adventures of the gallant robber; and thus, by a strange coincidence, the same mystery which wrapped the fate of Lucy involved also that of her lover. And here, kind reader, might we drop the curtain on our closing scene, did we not think it might please thee to hold it up yet one moment, and give thee another view of the world behind.

In a certain town of that Great Country where shoes are imperfectly polished —[See Captain Hall’s late work on America]— and opinions are not prosecuted, there resided, twenty years after the date of Lucy Brandon’s departure from England, a man held in high and universal respect, not only for the rectitude of his conduct, but for the energies of his mind, and the purposes to which they were directed. If you asked who cultivated that waste, the answer was, “Clifford!” who procured the establishment of that hospital, “Clifford!” who obtained the redress of such a public grievance, “Clifford!” who struggled for and won such a popular benefit, “Clifford!” In the gentler part of his projects and his undertakings — in that part, above all, which concerned the sick or the necessitous — this useful citizen was seconded, or rather excelled, by a being over whose surpassing loveliness Time seemed to have flown with a gentle and charming wing. There was something remarkable and touching in the love which this couple (for the woman we refer to was Clifford’s wife) bore to each other; like the plant on the plains of Hebron, the time which brought to that love an additional strength brought to it also a softer and a fresher verdure. Although their present neighbours were unacquainted with the events of their earlier life previous to their settlement at ————— it was known that they had been wealthy at the time they first came to reside there, and that, by a series of fatalities, they had lost all. But Clifford had borne up manfully against fortune; and in a new country, where men who prefer labour to dependence cannot easily starve, he had been enabled to toil upward through the severe stages of poverty and hardship with an honesty and vigour of character which won him, perhaps, a more hearty esteem for every successive effort than the display of his lost riches might ever have acquired him. His labours and his abilities obtained gradual but sure success; and he now enjoyed the blessings of a competence earned with the most scrupulous integrity, and spent with the most kindly benevolence. A trace of the trials they had passed through was discernible in each; those trials had stolen the rose from the wife’s cheek, and had sown untimely wrinkles in the broad brow of Clifford. There were moments, too, but they were only moments, when the latter sank from his wonted elastic and healthful cheerfulness of mind into a gloomy and abstracted revery; but these moments the wife watched with a jealous and fond anxiety, and one sound of her sweet voice had the power to dispel their influence; and when Clifford raised his eyes, and glanced from her tender smile around his happy home and his growing children, or beheld through the very windows of his room the public benefits he had created, something of pride and gladness glowed on his countenance, and he said, though with glistening eyes and subdued voice, as his looks returned once more to his wife, “I owe these to thee!”

One trait of mind especially characterized Clifford — indulgence to the faults of others. “Circumstances make guilt,” he was wont to say; “let us endeavour to correct the circumstances, before we rail against the guilt!” His children promised to tread in the same useful and honourable path that he trod himself. Happy was considered that family which had the hope to ally itself with his.

Such was the after-fate of Clifford and Lucy. Who will condemn us for preferring the moral of that fate to the moral which is extorted from the gibbet and the hulks — which makes scarecrows, not beacons; terrifies our weakness, not warms our reason. Who does not allow that it is better to repair than to perish — better, too, to atone as the citizen than to repent as the hermit? Oh, John Wilkes, Alderman of London, and Drawcansir of Liberty, your life was not an iota too perfect — your patriotism might have been infinitely purer, your morals would have admitted indefinite amendment, you are no great favourite with us or with the rest of the world — but you said one excellent thing, for which we look on you with benevolence, nay, almost with respect. We scarcely know whether to smile at its wit or to sigh at its wisdom. Mark this truth, all ye gentlemen of England who would make law as the Romans made fasces — a bundle of rods with an axe in the middle — mark it, and remember! long may it live, allied with hope in ourselves, but with gratitude in our children — long after the book which it now “adorns” and “points” has gone to its dusty slumber — long, long after the feverish hand which now writes it down can defend or enforce it no more: “THE VERY WORST USE TO WHICH YOU CAN PUT A MAN IS TO HANG HIM!”

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