Vivian Grey, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 4

He stopped one moment on the landing-place, ere he was about to leave the house for ever.

“’Tis all over! and so, Vivian Grey, your game is up! and to die, too, like a dog! a woman’s dupe! Were I a despot, I should perhaps satiate my vengeance upon this female fiend with the assistance of the rack, but that cannot be; and, after all, it would be but a poor revenge in one who has worshipped the Empire of the Intellect to vindicate the agony I am now enduring upon the base body of a woman. No! ’tis not all over. There is yet an intellectual rack of which few dream: far, far more terrific than the most exquisite contrivances of Parysatis. Jacinte,” said he to a female attendant that passed, “is your mistress at home?”

“She is, sir.”

“’Tis well,” said Vivian, and he sprang upstairs.

“Health to the lady of our love!” said Vivian Grey, as he entered the elegant boudoir of Mrs. Felix Lorraine. “In spite of the easterly wind, which has spoiled my beauty for the season, I could not refrain from inquiring after your prosperity before I went to the Marquess. Have you heard the news?”

“News! no; what news?”

“’Tis a sad tale,” said Vivian, with a melancholy voice.

“Oh! then, pray do not tell it me. I am in no humour for sorrow to-day. Come! a bon-mot, or a calembourg, or exit Mr. Vivian Grey.”

“Well, then, good morning! I am off for a black crape, or a Barcelona kerchief. Mrs. Cleveland is dead.”

“Dead!” exclaimed Mrs. Lorraine.

“Dead! She died last night, suddenly. Is it not horrible?”

“Shocking!” exclaimed Mrs. Lorraine, with a mournful voice and an eye dancing with joy. “Why, Mr. Grey, I do declare you are weeping.”

“It is not for the departed!”

“Nay, Vivian! for Heaven’s sake, what is the matter?”

“My dear Mrs. Lorraine!” but here the speaker’s voice was choked with grief, and he could not proceed.

“Pray compose yourself.”

“Mrs. Felix Lorraine, can I speak with you half an hour, undisturbed?”

“By all means. I will ring for Jacinte. Jacinte! mind I am not at home to anyone. Well, what is the matter?”

“O! madam, I must pray your patience; I wish you to shrive a penitent.”

“Good God! Mr. Grey! for Heaven’s sake be explicit.”

“For Heaven’s sake, for your sake, for my soul’s sake, I would be explicit; but explicitness is not the language of such as I am. Can you listen to a tale of horror? can you promise me to contain yourself?”

“I will promise anything. Pray, pray proceed.”

But in spite of her earnest solicitations her companion was mute. At length he rose from his chair, and leaning on the chimney-piece, buried his face in his hands and wept.

“Vivian,” said Mrs. Lorraine, “have you seen the Marquess yet?”

“Not yet,” he sobbed; “I am going to him, but I am in no humour for business this morning.”

“Compose yourself, I beseech you. I will hear everything. You shall not complain of an inattentive or an irritable auditor. Now, my dear Vivian, sit down and tell me all.” She led him to a chair, and then, after stifling his sobs, with a broken voice he proceeded.

“You will recollect, madam, that accident made me acquainted with certain circumstances connected with yourself and Mr. Cleveland. Alas! actuated by the vilest of sentiments, I conceived a violent hatred against that gentleman, a hatred only to be equalled by my passion for you; but I find difficulty in dwelling upon the details of this sad story of jealousy and despair.”

“Oh! speak, speak! compensate for all you have done by your present frankness; be brief, be brief.”

“I will be brief,” said Vivian, with earnestness: “I will be brief. Know then, madam, that in order to prevent the intercourse between you and Mr. Cleveland from proceeding I obtained his friendship, and became the confidante of his heart’s sweetest secret. Thus situated, I suppressed the letters with which I was entrusted from him to you, and, poisoning his mind, I accounted for your silence by your being employed in other correspondence; nay, I did more; with the malice of a fiend, I boasted of —; nay, do not stop me; I have more to tell.”

Mrs. Felix Lorraine, with compressed lips and looks of horrible earnestness, gazed in silence.

“The result of all this you know; but the most terrible part is to come; and, by a strange fascination, I fly to confess my crimes at your feet, even while the last minutes have witnessed my most heinous one. Oh! madam. I have stood over the bier of the departed; I have mingled my tears with those of the sorrowing widower, his young and tender child was on my knee, and as I kissed his innocent lips, me thought it was but my duty to the departed to save the father from his mother’s rival — ” He stopped.

“Yes, yes, yes,” said Mrs. Felix Lorraine, in a low whisper.

“It was then, even then, in the hour of his desolation, that I mentioned your name, that it might the more disgust him; and while he wept over his virtuous and sainted wife, I dwelt on the vices of his rejected mistress.”

Mrs. Lorraine clasped her hands, and moved restlessly on her seat.

“Nay! do not stop me; let me tell all. ‘Cleveland,’ said I, ‘if ever you become the husband of Mrs. Felix Lorraine, remember my last words: it will be well for you if your frame be like that of Mithridates of Pontus, and proof against —— poison.’”

“And did you say this?” shrieked the woman.

“Even these were my words.”

“Then may all evil blast you!” She threw herself on the sofa; her voice was choked with the convulsions of her passion, and she writhed in fearful agony.

Vivian Grey, lounging in an arm-chair in the easiest of postures, and with a face brilliant with smiles, watched his victim with the eye of a Mephistopheles.

She slowly recovered, and, with a broken voice, poured forth her sacred absolution to the relieved penitent.

“You wonder I do not stab you; hah! hah! hah! there is no need for that! the good powers be praised that you refused the draught I once proffered. Know, wretch, that your race is run. Within five minutes you will breathe a beggar and an outcast. Your golden dreams are over, your cunning plans are circumvented, your ambitious hopes are crushed for ever, you are blighted in the very spring of your life. Oh, may you never die! May you wander for ever, the butt of the world’s malice; and may the slow moving finger of scorn point where’er you go at the ruined Charlatan!”

“Hah, hah! is it so? Think you that Vivian Grey would fall by a woman’s wile? Think you that Vivian Grey could be crushed by such a worthless thing as you? Know, then, that your political intrigues have been as little concealed from me as your personal ones; I have been acquainted with all. The Marquess has himself seen the Minister, and is more firmly established in his pride of place than ever. I have myself seen our colleagues, whom you tampered with, and their hearts are still true, and their purpose still fixed. All, all prospers; and ere five days are passed ‘the Charlatan’ will be a Senator.”

The shifting expression of Mrs. Lorraine’s countenance, while Vivian was speaking, would have baffled the most cunning painter. Her complexion was capricious as the chameleon’s, and her countenance was so convulsed that her features seemed of all shapes and sizes. One large vein protruded nearly a quarter of an inch from her forehead, and the dank light which gleamed in her tearful eye was like an unwholesome meteor quivering in a marsh. When he ended she sprang from the sofa, and, looking up and extending her arms with unmeaning wildness, she gave one loud shriek and dropped like a bird shot on the wing; she had burst a blood-vessel.

Vivian raised her on the sofa and paid her every possible attention. There is always a medical attendant lurking about the mansions of the noble, and to this worthy and the attendant Jacinte Vivian delivered his patient.

Had Vivian Grey left the boudoir a pledged bridegroom his countenance could not have been more triumphant; but he was labouring under unnatural excitement; for it is singular that when, as he left the house, the porter told him that Mr. Cleveland was with his Lord, Vivian had no idea at the moment what individual bore that name. The fresh air of the street revived him, and somewhat cooled the bubbling of his blood. It was then that the man’s information struck upon his senses.

“So, poor Cleveland!” thought Vivian; “then he knows all!” His own misery he had not yet thought of; but when Cleveland occurred to him, with his ambition once more baulked, his high hopes once more blasted, and his honourable soul once more deceived; when he thought of his fair wife, and his infant children, and his ruined prospects, a sickness came over his heart, he grew dizzy, and fell.

“And the gentleman’s ill, I think,” said an honest Irishman; and, in the fulness of his charity, he placed Vivian on a door-step.

“So it seems,” said a genteel passenger in black; and he snatched, with great sang-froid, Vivian’s watch. “Stop thief!” hallooed the Hibernian. Paddy was tripped up. There was a row, in the midst of which Vivian Grey crawled to an hotel.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19