THE Marquis of Montfort was the grandson of that nobleman who had been Glastonbury’s earliest patron. The old duke had been dead some years; his son had succeeded to his title, and Digby, that youth whom the reader may recollect was about the same age as Ferdinand Armine, and was his companion during the happy week in London which preceded his first military visit to the Mediterranean, now bore the second title of the family.
The young marquis was an excellent specimen of a class inferior in talents, intelligence, and accomplishments, in public spirit and in private virtues, to none in the world, the English nobility. His complete education had been carefully conducted; and although his religious creed, for it will be remembered he was a Catholic, had deprived him of the advantage of matriculating at an English university, the zeal of an able and learned tutor, and the resources of a German Alma Mater, had afforded every opportunity for the development of his considerable talents. Nature had lavished upon him other gifts besides his distinguished intelligence and his amiable temper: his personal beauty was remarkable, and his natural grace was not less evident than his many acquired accomplishments.
On quitting the University of Bonn, Lord Montfort had passed several years on the continent of Europe, and had visited and resided at most of its courts and capitals, an admired and cherished guest; for, debarred at the period of our story from occupying the seat of his ancestors in the senate, his native country offered no very urgent claims upon his presence. He had ultimately fixed upon Rome as his principal residence, for he was devoted to the arts, and in his palace were collected some of the rarest specimens of ancient and modern invention.
At Pisa, Lord Montfort had made the acquaintance of Mr. Temple, who was residing in that city for the benefit of his daughter’s health, who, it was feared by her physicians, was in a decline. I say the acquaintance of Mr. Temple; for Lord Montfort was aware of the existence of his daughter only by the occasional mention of her name, as Miss Temple was never seen. The agreeable manners, varied information, and accomplished mind of Mr. Temple, had attracted and won the attention of the young nobleman, who shrank in general from the travelling English, and all their arrogant ignorance. Mr. Temple was in turn equally pleased with a companion alike refined, amiable, and enlightened; and their acquaintance would have ripened into intimacy, had not the illness of Henrietta and her repugnance to see a third person, and the unwillingness of her father that she should be alone, offered in some degree a bar to its cultivation.
Yet Henrietta was glad that her father had found a friend and was amused, and impressed upon him not to think of her, but to accept Lord Montfort’s invitations to his villa. But Mr. Temple invariably declined them.
‘I am always uneasy when I am away from you, dearest,’ said Mr. Temple; ‘I wish you would go about a little. Believe me, it is not for myself that I make the suggestion, but I am sure you would derive benefit from the exertion. I wish you would go with me and see Lord Montfort’s villa. There would be no one there but himself. He would not in the least annoy you, he is so quiet; and he and I could stroll about and look at the busts and talk to each other. You would hardly know he was present, he is such a very quiet person.’
Henrietta shook her head; and Mr. Temple could not urge the request.
Fate, however, had decided that Lord Montfort and Henrietta Temple should become acquainted. She had more than once expressed a wish to see the Campo Santo; it was almost the only wish that she had expressed since she left England. Her father, pleased to find that anything could interest her, was in the habit of reminding her of this desire, and suggesting that she should gratify it. But there was ever an excuse for procrastination. When the hour of exertion came, she would say, with a faint smile, ‘Not today, dearest papa;’ and then, arranging her shawl, as if even in this soft clime she shivered, composed herself upon that sofa which now she scarcely ever quitted.
And this was Henrietta Temple! That gay and glorious being, so full of graceful power and beautiful energy, that seemed born for a throne, and to command a nation of adoring subjects! What are those political revolutions, whose strange and mighty vicissitudes we are ever dilating on, compared with the moral mutations that are passing daily under our own eye; uprooting the hearts of families, shattering to pieces domestic circles, scattering to the winds the plans and prospects of a generation, and blasting as with a mildew the ripening harvest of long cherished affection!
‘It is here that I would be buried,’ said Henrietta Temple.
They were standing, the father and the daughter, in the Campo Santo. She had been gayer that morning; her father had seized a happy moment, and she had gone forth, to visit the dead.
That vast and cloistered cemetery was silent and undisturbed; not a human being was there, save themselves and the keeper. The sun shone brightly on the austere and ancient frescoes, and Henrietta stood opposite that beautiful sarcophagus, that seemed prepared and fitting to receive her destined ashes.
‘It is here that I would be buried,’ said she.
Her father almost unconsciously turned his head to gaze upon the countenance of his daughter, to see if there were indeed reason that she should talk of death. That countenance was changed since the moment we first feebly attempted to picture it. That flashing eye had lost something of its brilliancy, that superb form something of its roundness and its stag-like state; the crimson glory of that mantling cheek had faded like the fading eve; and yet it might be thought, it might be suffering, perhaps, the anticipation of approaching death, and as it were the imaginary contact with a serener existence, but certainly there was a more spiritual expression diffused over the whole appearance of Henrietta Temple, and which by many might be preferred even to that more lively and glowing beauty which, in her happier hours, made her the very queen of flowers and sunshine.
‘It is strange, dear papa,’ she continued, ‘that my first visit should be to a cemetery.’
At this moment their attention was attracted by the sound of the distant gates of the cemetery opening, and several persons soon entered. This party consisted of some of the authorities of the city and some porters, bearing on a slab of verd antique a magnificent cinerary vase, that was about to be placed in the Campo. In reply to his enquiries, Mr. Temple learned that the vase had been recently excavated in Catania, and that it had been purchased and presented to the Campo by the Marquis of Montfort. Henrietta would have hurried her father away, but with all her haste they had not reached the gates before Lord Montfort appeared.
Mr. Temple found it impossible, although Henrietta pressed his arm in token of disapprobation, not to present Lord Montfort to his daughter. He then admired his lordship’s urn, and then his lordship requested that he might have the pleasure of showing it to them himself. They turned; Lord Montfort explained to them its rarity, and pointed out to them its beauty. His voice was soft and low, his manner simple but rather reserved. While he paid that deference to Henrietta which her sex demanded, he addressed himself chiefly to her father. She was not half so much annoyed as she had imagined; she agreed with her father that he was a very quiet man; she was even a little interested by his conversation, which was refined and elegant; and she was pleased that he did not seem to require her to play any part in the discourse, but appeared quite content in being her father’s friend. Lord Montfort seemed to be attached to her father, and to appreciate him. And this was always a recommendation to Henrietta Temple.
The cinerary urn led to a little controversy between Mr. Temple and his friend; and Lord Montfort wished that Mr. Temple would some day call on him at his house in the Lung’ Arno, and he would show him some specimens which he thought might influence his opinion. ‘I hardly dare to ask you to come now,’ said his lordship, looking at Miss Temple; ‘and yet Miss Temple might like to rest.’
It was evident to Henrietta that her father would be pleased to go, and yet that he was about to refuse for her sake. She could not bear that he should be deprived of so much and such refined amusement, and be doomed to an uninteresting morning at home, merely to gratify her humour. She tried to speak, but could not at first command her voice; at length she expressed her wish that Mr. Temple should avail himself of the invitation. Lord Montfort bowed lowly, Mr. Temple seemed gratified, and they all turned together and quitted the cemetery.
As they walked along to the house, conversation did not flag. Lord Montfort expressed his admiration of Pisa. ‘Silence and art are two great charms,’ said his lordship.
At length they arrived at his palace. A venerable Italian received them. They passed through a vast hall, in which were statues, ascended a magnificent double staircase, and entered a range of saloons. One of them was furnished with more attention to comfort than an Italian cares for, and herein was the cabinet of urns and vases his lordship had mentioned.
‘This is little more than a barrack,’ said Lord Montfort; ‘but I can find a sofa for Miss Temple.’ So saying, he arranged with great care the cushions of the couch, and, when she seated herself, placed a footstool near her. ‘I wish you would allow me some day to welcome you at Rome,’ said the young marquis. ‘It is there that I indeed reside.’
Lord Montfort and Mr. Temple examined the contents of the cabinet. There was one vase which Mr. Temple greatly admired for the elegance of its form. His host immediately brought it and placed it on a small pedestal near Miss Temple. Yet he scarcely addressed himself to her, and Henrietta experienced none of that troublesome attention from which, in the present state of her health and mind, she shrank. While Mr. Temple was interested with his pursuit, Lord Montfort went to a small cabinet opposite, and brought forth a curious casket of antique gems. ‘Perhaps,’ he said, placing it by Miss Temple, ‘the contents of this casket might amuse you;’ and he walked away to her father.
In the course of an hour a servant brought in some fruits and wine.
‘The grapes are from my villa,’ said Lord Montfort. ‘I ventured to order them, because I have heard their salutary effects have been marvellous. Besides, at this season, even in Italy they are rare. At least \ you cannot accuse me of prescribing a disagreeable remedy,’ he added with a slight smile, as he handed a plate to Miss Temple. She moved to receive them. Her cushions slipped from behind her, Lord Montfort immediately arranged them with skill and care. He was so kind that she really wished to thank him; but before she could utter a word he was again conversing with her father.
At length Mr. Temple indicated his intention to retire, and spoke to his daughter.
‘This has been a great exertion for you, Henrietta,’ he said; ‘this has indeed been a busy day.’
‘I am not wearied; and we have been much pleased.’ It was the firmest tone in which she had spoken for a long time. There was something in her manner which recalled to Mr. Temple her vanished animation. The affectionate father looked for a moment happy. The sweet music of these simple words dwelt on his ear.
He went forward and assisted Henrietta to rise. She closed the casket with care, and delivered it herself to her considerate host. Mr. Temple bade him adieu; Henrietta bowed, and nearly extended her hand. Lord Montfort attended them to the gate; a carriage was waiting there.
‘Ah! we have kept your lordship at home,’ said Mr. Temple.
‘I took the liberty of ordering the carriage for Miss Temple,’ he replied. ‘I feel a little responsible for her kind exertion today.’
AND how do you like my friend, Henrietta?’ said Mr. Temple, as they drove home.
‘I like your friend much, papa. He is quite as quiet as you said; he is almost the only person I have seen since I quitted England who has not jarred my nerves. I felt quite sorry that I had so long prevented you both from cultivating each other’s acquaintance. He does not interfere with me in the least.’
‘I wish I had asked him to look in upon us in the evening,’ said Mr. Temple, rather enquiringly.
‘Not today,’ said Henrietta. ‘Another day, dearest papa.’
The next day Lord Montfort sent a note to Mr. Temple, to enquire after his daughter, and to impress upon him the importance of her eating his grapes. His servant left a basket. The rest of the note was about cinerary urns. Mr. Temple, while he thanked him, assured him of the pleasure it would give both his daughter and himself to see him in the evening.
This was the first invitation to his house that Mr. Temple had ventured to give him, though they had now known each other some time.
In the evening Lord Montfort appeared. Henrietta was lying on her sofa, and her father would not let her rise. Lord Montfort had brought Mr. Temple some English journals, which he had received from Leghorn. The gentlemen talked a little on foreign politics; and discussed the character of several of the most celebrated foreign ministers. Lord Montfort gave an account of his visit to Prince Esterhazy. Henrietta was amused. German politics and society led to German literature. Lord Montfort, on this subject, seemed completely informed. Henrietta could not refrain from joining in a conversation for which she was fully qualified. She happened to deplore her want of books. Lord Montfort had a library; but it was at Rome: no matter; it seemed that he thought nothing of sending to Rome. He made a note very quietly of some books that Henrietta expressed a wish to see, and begged that Mr. Temple would send the memorandum to his servant.
‘But surely tomorrow will do,’ said Mr. Temple. ‘Rome is too far to send to this evening.’
‘That is an additional reason for instant departure,’ said his lordship calmly.
Mr. Temple summoned a servant.
‘Send this note to my house,’ said his lordship. ‘My courier will bring us the books in four days,’ he added, turning to Miss Temple. ‘I am sorry you should have to wait, but at Pisa I really have nothing.’
From this day Lord Montfort passed every evening at Mr. Temple’s house. His arrival never disturbed Miss Temple; she remained on the sofa. If she spoke to him he was always ready to converse with her, yet he never obtruded his society. He seemed perfectly contented with the company of her father. Yet with all this calmness and reserve, there was no air of affected indifference, no intolerable nonchalance; he was always attentive, always considerate, often kind. However apparently engaged with her father, it seemed that his vigilance anticipated all her wants. If she moved, he was at her side; if she required anything, it would appear that he read her thoughts, for it was always offered. She found her sofa arranged as if by magic. And if a shawl were for a moment missing, Lord Montfort always knew where it had been placed. In the meantime, every morning brought something for the amusement of Mr. Temple and his daughter; books, prints, drawings, newspapers, journals of all countries, and caricatures from Paris and London, were mingled with engravings of Henrietta’s favourite Campo Santo.
One evening Mr. Temple and his guest were speaking of a celebrated Professor of the University. Lord Montfort described his extraordinary acquirements and discoveries, and his rare simplicity. He was one of those eccentric geniuses that are sometimes found in decayed cities with ancient institutions of learning. Henrietta was interested in his description. Almost without thought she expressed a wish to see him.
‘He shall come tomorrow,’ said Lord Montfort, ‘if you please. Believe me,’ he added, in a tone of great kindness, ‘that if you could prevail upon yourself to cultivate Italian society a little, it would repay you.’
The professor was brought. Miss Temple was much entertained. In a few days he came again, and introduced a friend scarcely less distinguished. The society was so easy, that even Henrietta found it no burthen. She remained upon her sofa; the gentlemen drank their coffee and conversed. One morning Lord Montfort had prevailed upon her to visit the studio of a celebrated sculptor. The artist was full of enthusiasm for his pursuit, and showed them with pride his great work, a Diana that might have made one envy Endymion. The sculptor declared it was the perfect resemblance of Miss Temple, and appealed to her father. Mr. Temple could not deny the striking likeness. Miss Temple smiled; she looked almost herself again; even the reserved Lord Montfort was in raptures.
‘Oh! it is very like,’ said his lordship. ‘Yes! now it is exactly like. Miss Temple does not often smile; but now one would believe she really was the model.’
They were bidding the sculptor farewell.
‘Do you like him?’ whispered Lord Montfort of Miss Temple.
‘Extremely; he is full of ideas.’
‘Shall I ask him to come to you this evening?’
And so it turned out that in time Henrietta found herself the centre of a little circle of eminent and accomplished men. Her health improved as she brooded less over her sorrows. It gratified her to witness the pleasure of her father. She was not always on her sofa now. Lord Montfort had sent her an English chair, which suited her delightfully.
They even began to take drives with him in the country an hour or so before sunset. The country around Pisa is rich as well as picturesque; and their companion always contrived that there should be an object in their brief excursions. He spoke, too, the dialect of the country; and they paid, under his auspices, a visit to a Tuscan farmer. All this was agreeable; even Henrietta was persuaded that it was better than staying at home. The variety of pleasing objects diverted her mind in spite of herself. She had some duties to perform in this world yet remaining. There was her father: her father who had been so devoted to her, who had never uttered a single reproach to her for all her faults and follies, and who, in her hour of tribulation, had clung to her with such fidelity. Was it not some source of satisfaction to see him again comparatively happy? How selfish for her to mar this graceful and innocent enjoyment! She exerted herself to contribute to the amusement of her father and his kind friend, as well as to share it. The colour returned a little to her cheek; sometimes she burst for a moment into something like her old gaiety; and though these ebullitions were often followed by a gloom and moodiness, against which she found it in vain to contend, still, on the whole, the change for the better was decided, and Mr. Temple yet hoped that in time his sight might again be blessed and his life illustrated by his own brilliant Henrietta.
ONE delicious morning, remarkable even in the south, Lord Montfort called upon them in his carriage, and proposed a little excursion. Mr. Temple looked at his daughter, and was charmed that Henrietta consented. She rose from her seat, indeed, with unwonted animation, and the three friends had soon quitted the city and entered its agreeable environs.
‘It was wise to pass the winter in Italy,’ said Lord Montfort, ‘but to see Tuscany in perfection I should choose the autumn. I know nothing more picturesque than the carts laden with grapes, and drawn by milk-white steers.’
They drove gaily along at the foot of green hills, crowned ever and anon by a convent or a beautiful stone-pine. The landscape attracted the admiration of Miss Temple. A palladian villa rose from the bosom of a gentle elevation, crowned with these picturesque trees. A broad terrace of marble extended in front of the villa, on which were ranged orange trees. On either side spread an olive-grove. The sky was without a cloud, and deeply blue; bright beams of the sun illuminated the building. The road had wound so curiously into this last branch of the Apennines, that the party found themselves in a circus of hills, clothed with Spanish chestnuts and olive trees, from which there was apparently no outlet. A soft breeze, which it was evident had passed over the wild flowers of the mountains, refreshed and charmed their senses.
‘Could you believe we were only two hours’ drive from a city?’ said Lord Montfort.
‘Indeed,’ said Henrietta, ‘if there be peace in this world, one would think that the dweller in that beautiful villa enjoyed it.’
‘He has little to disturb him,’ said Lord Montfort: ‘thanks to his destiny and his temper.’
‘I believe we make our miseries,’ said Henrietta, with a sigh. ‘After all, nature always offers us consolation. But who lives here?’
‘I sometimes steal to this spot,’ replied his lordship.
‘Oh! this, then, is your villa? Ah! you have surprised us!’
‘I only aimed to amuse you.’
‘You are very kind, Lord Montfort,’ said Mr. Temple; ‘and we owe you much.’
They stopped, they ascended the terrace, they entered the villa. A few rooms only were furnished, but their appearance indicated the taste and pursuits of its occupier. Busts and books were scattered about; a table was covered with the implements of art; and the principal apartment opened into an English garden.
‘This is one of my native tastes,’ said Lord Montfort, ‘that will, I think, never desert me.’
The memory of Henrietta was recalled to the flowers of Ducie and of Armine. Amid all the sweets and sunshine she looked sad. She walked away from her companions; she seated herself on the terrace; her eyes were suffused with tears. Lord Montfort took the arm of Mr. Temple, and led him away to a bust of Germanicus.
‘Let me show it to Henrietta,’ said Mr. Temple; ‘I must fetch her.’
Lord Montfort laid his hand gently on his companion. The emotion of Henrietta had not escaped his quick eye.
‘Miss Temple has made a great exertion,’ he said. ‘Do not think me pedantic, but I am something of a physician. I have long perceived that, although Miss Temple should be amused, she must sometimes be left alone.’
Mr. Temple looked at his companion, but the countenance of Lord Montfort was inscrutable. His lordship offered him a medal and then opened a portfolio of Marc Antonios.
‘These are very rare,’ said Lord Montfort; ‘I bring them into the country with me, for really at Rome there is no time to study them. By-the-bye, I have a plan,’ continued his lordship, in a somewhat hesitating tone; ‘I wish I could induce you and Miss Temple to visit me at Rome.’
Mr. Temple shrugged his shoulders, and sighed.
‘I feel confident that a residence at Rome would benefit Miss Temple,’ said his lordship, in a voice a little less calm than usual. ‘There is much to see, and I would take care that she should see it in a manner which would not exhaust her. It is the most delightful climate, too, at this period. The sun shines here today, but the air of these hills at this season is sometimes treacherous. A calm life, with a variety of objects, is what she requires. Pisa is calm, but for her it is too dull. Believe me, there is something in the blended refinement and interest of Rome that she would find exceedingly beneficial. She would see no one but ourselves; society shall be at her command if she desire it.’
‘My dear lord,’ said Mr. Temple, ‘I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your considerate sympathy; but I cannot flatter myself that Henrietta could avail herself of your really friendly offer. My daughter is a great invalid. She ———’
But here Miss Temple joined them.
‘We have a relic of a delicate temple here,’ said Lord Montfort, directing her gaze to another window. ‘You see it now to advantage; the columns glitter in the sun. There, perhaps, was worshipped some wood-nymph, or some river-god.’
The first classic ruin that she had yet beheld attracted the attention of Miss Temple. It was not far, and she acceded to the proposition of Lord Montfort to visit it. That little ramble was delightful. The novelty and the beauty of the object greatly interested her. It was charming also to view it under the auspices of a guide so full of information and feeling.
‘Ah!’ said Lord Montfort, ‘if I might only be your cicerone at Rome!’
‘What say you, Henrietta?’ said Mr. Temple, with a smile. ‘Shall we go to Rome?’
The proposition did not alarm Miss Temple as much as her father anticipated. Lord Montfort pressed the suggestion with delicacy; he hinted at some expedients by which the journey might be rendered not very laborious. But as she did not reply, his lordship did not press the subject; sufficiently pleased, perhaps, that she had not met it with an immediate and decided negative.
When they returned to the villa they found a collation prepared for them worthy of so elegant an abode. In his capacity of a host, Lord Montfort departed a little from that placid and even constrained demeanour which generally characterised him. His manner was gay and flowing; and he poured out a goblet of Monte Pulciano and presented it to Miss Temple.
‘You must pour a libation,’ he said, ‘to the nymph of the fane.’
ABOUT a week after this visit to the villa, Mr. Temple and his daughter were absolutely induced to accompany Lord Montfort to Rome. It is impossible to do justice to the tender solicitude with which he made all the arrangements for the journey. Wherever they halted they found preparations for their reception; and so admirably had everything been concerted, that Miss Temple at length found herself in the Eternal City with almost as little fatigue as she had reached the Tuscan villa.
The palace of Lord Montfort was in the most distinguished quarter of the city, and situate in the midst of vast gardens full of walls of laurel, arches of ilex, and fountains of lions. They arrived at twilight, and the shadowy hour lent even additional space to the huge halls and galleries. Yet in the suite of rooms intended for Mr. Temple and his daughter, every source of comfort seemed to have been collected. The marble floors were covered with Indian mats and carpets, the windows were well secured from the air which might have proved fatal to an invalid, while every species of chair and couch, and sofa, courted the languid or capricious form of Miss Temple, and she was even favoured with an English stove, and guarded by an Indian screen. The apartments were supplied with every book which it could have been supposed might amuse her; there were guitars of the city and of Florence, and even an English piano; a library of the choicest music; and all the materials of art. The air of elegance and cheerful comfort that pervaded these apartments, so unusual in this land, the bright blaze of the fire, evert the pleasant wax-lights, all combined to deprive the moment of that feeling of gloom and exhaustion which attends an arrival at a strange place at a late hour, and Henrietta looked around her, and almost fancied she was once more at Ducie. Lord Montfort introduced his fellow-travellers to their apartments, presented to them the servant who was to assume the management of their little household, and then reminding them of their mutual promises that they were to be entirely their own masters, and not trouble themselves about him any more than if they were at Pisa, he shook them both by the hand, and bade them good-night.
It must be confessed that the acquaintance of Lord Montfort had afforded consolation to Henrietta Temple. It was impossible to be insensible to the sympathy and solicitude of one so highly gifted and so very amiable. Nor should it be denied that this homage, from one of his distinguished rank, was entirely without its charm. To find ourselves, when deceived and deserted, unexpectedly an object of regard and consideration, will bring balm to most bosoms; but to attract in such a situation the friendship of an individual whose deferential notice under any circumstances must be flattering, and to be admired by one whom all admire, these are accidents of fortune which few could venture to despise. And Henrietta had now few opportunities to brood over the past; a stream of beautiful and sublime objects passed unceasingly before her vision. Her lively and refined taste, and her highly cultured mind, could not refrain from responding to these glorious spectacles. She saw before her all that she had long read of, all that she had long mused over. Her mind became each day more serene and harmonious as she gazed on these ideal creations, and dwelt on their beautiful repose. Her companion, too, exerted every art to prevent these amusements from degenerating into fatiguing expeditions. The Vatican was open to Lord Montfort when it was open to none others. Short visits, but numerous ones, was his system. Sometimes they entered merely to see a statue or a picture they were reading or conversing about the preceding eve; and then they repaired to some modern studio, where their entrance always made the sculptor’s eyes sparkle. At dinner there was always some distinguished guest whom Henrietta wished to see; and as she thoroughly understood the language, and spoke it with fluency and grace, she was tempted to enter into conversations, where all seemed delighted that she played her part. Sometimes, indeed, Henrietta would fly to her chamber to sigh, but suddenly the palace resounded with tones of the finest harmony, or the human voice, with its most felicitous skill, stole upon her from the distant galleries. Although Lord Montfort was not himself a musician, and his voice could not pour forth those fatal sounds that had ravished her soul from the lips of Ferdinand Armine, he was well acquainted with the magic of music; and while he hated a formal concert, the most eminent performers were often at hand in his palace, to contribute at the fitting moment to the delight of his guests. Who could withstand the soft influence of a life so elegant and serene, or refuse to yield up the spirit to its gentle excitement and its mild distraction? The colour returned to Henrietta’s cheek and the lustre to her languid eye: her form regained its airy spring of health; the sunshine of her smile burst forth once more.
It would have been impossible for an indifferent person not to perceive that Lord Montfort witnessed these changes with feelings of no slight emotion. Perhaps he prided himself upon his skill as a physician, but he certainly watched the apparent convalescence of his friend’s daughter with zealous interest. And yet Henrietta herself was not aware that Lord Montfort’s demeanour to her differed in any degree from what it was at Pisa. She had never been alone with him in her life; she certainly spoke more to him than she used, but then, she spoke more to everybody; and Lord Montfort certainly seemed to think of nothing but her pleasure and convenience and comfort; but he did and said everything so quietly, that all this kindness and solicitude appeared to be the habitual impulse of his generous nature. He certainly was more intimate, much more intimate, than during the first week of their acquaintance, but scarcely more kind; for she remembered he had arranged her sofa the very first day they met, though he did not even remain to receive her thanks.
One day a discussion rose about Italian society between Mr. Temple and his host. His lordship was a great admirer of the domestic character and private life of the Italians. He maintained that there was no existing people who more completely fulfilled the social duties than this much scandalised nation, respecting whom so many silly prejudices are entertained by the English, whose travelling fellow-countrymen, by-the-bye, seldom enter into any society but that tainted circle that must exist in all capitals.
‘You have no idea,’ he said, turning to Henrietta, ‘what amiable and accomplished people are the better order of Italians. I wish you would let me light up this dark house some night, and give you an Italian party.’
‘I should like it very much,’ said Mr. Temple.
Whenever Henrietta did not enter her negative Lord Montfort always implied her assent, and it was resolved that the Italian party should be given.
All the best families in Rome were present, and not a single English person. There were some perhaps, whom Lord Montfort might have wished to invite, but Miss Temple had chanced to express a wish that no English might be there, and he instantly acted upon her suggestion.
The palace was magnificently illuminated. Henrietta had scarcely seen before its splendid treasures of art. Lord Montfort, in answer to her curiosity, had always playfully depreciated them, and said that they must be left for rainy days. The most splendid pictures and long rows of graceful or solemn statues were suddenly revealed to her; rooms and galleries were opened that had never been observed before; on all sides cabinets of vases, groups of imperial busts, rare bronzes, and vivid masses of tesselated pavement. Over all these choice and beautiful objects a clear yet soft light was diffused, and Henrietta never recollected a spectacle more complete and effective.
These rooms and galleries were soon filled with guests, and Henrietta could not be insensible to the graceful and engaging dignity with which Lord Montfort received the Roman world of fashion. That constraint which at first she had attributed to reserve, but which of late she had ascribed to modesty, now entirely quitted him. Frank, yet always dignified, smiling, apt, and ever felicitous, it seemed that he had a pleasing word for every ear, and a particular smile for every face. She stood at some distance leaning on her father’s arm, and watching him. Suddenly he turned and looked around. It was they whom he wished to catch. He came up to Henrietta and said, ‘I wish to introduce you to the Princess ———.
She is an old lady, but of the first distinction here. I would not ask this favour of you unless I thought you would be pleased.’
Henrietta could not refuse his request. Lord Montfort presented her and her father to the princess, the most agreeable and important person in Rome; and having now provided for their immediate amusement, he had time to attend to his guests in general. An admirable concert now, in some degree, hushed the general conversation. The voices of the most beautiful women in Rome echoed in those apartments. When the music ceased, the guests wandered about the galleries, and at length the principal saloons were filled with dancers. Lord Montfort approached Miss Temple. ‘There is one room in the palace you have never yet visited,’ he said, ‘my tribune; ’tis open to-night for the first time.’
Henrietta accepted his proffered arm. ‘And how do you like the princess?’ he said, as they walked along. ‘It is agreeable to live in a country where your guests amuse themselves.’
At the end of the principal gallery, Henrietta perceived an open door which admitted them into a small octagon chamber, of Ionic architecture. The walls were not hung with pictures, and one work of art alone solicited their attention. Elevated on a pedestal of porphyry, surrounded by a rail of bronze arrows of the lightest workmanship, was that statue of Diana which they had so much admired at Pisa. The cheek, by an ancient process, the secret of which has been recently regained at Rome, was tinted with a delicate glow.
‘Do you approve of it?’ said Lord Montfort to the admiring Henrietta. ‘Ah, dearest Miss Temple,’ he continued, ‘it is my happiness that the rose has also returned to a fairer cheek than this.’
THE reader will not perhaps be much surprised that the Marquis of Montfort soon became the declared admirer of Miss Temple. He made the important declaration after a very different fashion from the unhappy Ferdinand Armine: he made it to the lady’s father. Long persuaded that Miss Temple’s illness had its origin in the mind, and believing that in that case the indisposition of the young lady had probably arisen, from one cause or another, in the disappointment of her affections, Lord Montfort resolved to spare her feelings, unprepared, the pain of a personal appeal. The beauty, the talent, the engaging disposition, and the languid melancholy of Miss Temple, had excited his admiration and pity, and had finally won a heart capable of deep affections, but gifted with great self-control. He did not conceal from Mr. Temple the conviction that impelled him to the course which he had thought proper to pursue, and this delicate conduct relieved Mr. Temple greatly from the unavoidable embarrassment of his position. Mr. Temple contented himself with communicating to Lord Montfort that his daughter had indeed entered into an engagement with one who was not worthy of her affections, and that the moment her father had been convinced of the character of the individual, he had quitted England with his daughter. He expressed his unqualified approbation of the overture of Lord Montfort, to whom he was indeed sincerely attached, and which gratified all those worldly feelings from which Mr. Temple was naturally not exempt. In such an alliance Mr. Temple recognised the only mode by which his daughter’s complete recovery could be secured. Lord Montfort in himself offered everything which it would seem that the reasonable fancy of woman could desire. He was young, handsome, amiable, accomplished, sincere, and exceedingly clever; while, at the same time, as Mr. Temple was well aware, his great position would insure that reasonable gratification of vanity from which none are free, which is a fertile source of happiness, and which would, at all times, subdue any bitter recollections which might occasionally arise to cloud the retrospect of his daughter.
It was Mr. Temple, who, exerting all the arts of his abandoned profession, now indulging in intimations and now in panegyric, conveying to his daughter, with admirable skill, how much the intimate acquaintance with Lord Montfort contributed to his happiness, gradually fanning the feeling of gratitude to so kind a friend, which already had been excited in his daughter’s heart, into one of zealous regard, and finally seizing his opportunity with practised felicity, it was Mr. Temple who had at length ventured to communicate to his daughter the overture which had been confided to him.
Henrietta shook her head.
‘I have too great a regard for Lord Montfort to accede to his wishes,’ said Miss Temple. ‘He deserves something better than a bruised spirit, if not a broken heart.’
‘But, my dearest Henrietta, you really take a wrong, an impracticable view of affairs. Lord Montfort must be the best judge of what will contribute to his own happiness.’
‘Lord Montfort is acting under a delusion,’ replied Miss Temple. ‘If he knew all that had occurred he would shrink from blending his life with mine.’
‘Lord Montfort knows everything,’ said the father, ‘that is, everything he should know.’
‘Indeed!’ said Miss Temple. ‘I wonder he does not look upon me with contempt; at the least, with pity.’
‘He loves you, Henrietta,’ said her father.
‘Ah! love, love, love! name not love to me. No, Lord Montfort cannot love me. It is not love that he feels.’
‘You have gained his heart, and he offers you his hand. Are not these proofs of love?’
‘Generous, good young man!’ exclaimed Henrietta; ‘I respect, I admire him; I might have loved him. But it is too late.’
‘My beloved daughter, oh! do not say so! For my sake, do not say so,’ exclaimed Mr. Temple. ‘I have no wish, I have had no wish, my child, but for your happiness. Lean upon your father, listen to him, be guided by his advice. Lord Montfort possesses every quality which can contribute to the happiness of woman. A man so rarely gifted I never met. There is not a woman in the world, however exalted her rank, however admirable her beauty, however gifted her being, who might not feel happy and honoured in the homage of such a man. Believe me, my dearest daughter, that this is an union which must lead to happiness. Indeed, were it to occur, I could die content. I should have no more cares, no more hopes. All would then have happened that the most sanguine parent, even with such a child as you, could wish or imagine. We should be so happy! For his sake, for my sake, for all our sakes, dearest Henrietta, grant his wish. Believe me, believe me, he is indeed worthy of you.’
‘I am not worthy of him,’ said Henrietta, in a melancholy voice.
‘Ah, Henrietta, who is like you!’ exclaimed the fond and excited father.
At this moment a servant announced that Lord Montfort would, with their permission, wait upon them. Henrietta seemed plunged in thought. Suddenly she said, ‘I cannot rest until this is settled. Papa, leave me with him a few moments alone.’ Mr. Temple retired.
A faint blush rose to the cheek of her visitor when he perceived that Miss Temple was alone. He seated himself at her side, but he was unusually constrained.
‘My dear Lord Montfort,’ said Miss Temple,’ calmly, ‘I have to speak upon a painful subject, but I have undergone so much suffering, that I shall not shrink from this. Papa has informed me this morning that you have been pleased to pay me the highest compliment that a man can pay a woman. I wish to thank you for it. I wish to acknowledge it in terms the strongest and the warmest I can use. I am sensible of the honour, the high honour that you have intended me. It is indeed an honour of which any woman might be proud. You have offered me a heart of which I know the worth. No one can appreciate the value of your character better than myself. I do justice, full justice, to your virtues, your accomplishments, your commanding talents, and your generous soul. Except my father, there is no one who holds so high a place in my affection as yourself. You have been my kind and true friend; and a kind and true friendship, faithful and sincere, I return you. More than friends we never can be, for I have no heart to give.’
‘Ah, dearest Miss Temple,’ said Lord Montfort, agitated, ‘I ask nothing but that friendship; but let me enjoy it in your constant society; let the world recognise my right to be your consoler.’
‘You deserve a better and a brighter fate. I should not be your friend if I could enter into such an engagement.’
‘The only aim of my life is to make you happy,’ said Lord Montfort.
‘I am sure that I ought to be happy with such a friend,’ said Henrietta Temple, ‘and I am happy. How different is the world to me from what it was before I knew you! Ah, why will you disturb this life of consolation? Why will you call me back to recollections that I would fain banish? Why ———’
‘Dearest Miss Temple,’ said Lord Montfort, ‘do not reproach me! You make me wretched. Remember, dear lady, that I have not sought this conversation; that if I were presumptuous in my plans and hopes, I at least took precautions that I should be the only sufferer by their nonfulfilment.’
‘Best and most generous of men! I would not for the world be unkind to you. Pardon my distracted words. But you know all? Has papa told you all? It is my wish.’
‘It is not mine,’ replied Lord Montfort; ‘I wish not to penetrate your sorrows, but only to soothe them.’
‘Oh, if we had but met earlier,’ said Henrietta Temple; ‘if we had but known each other a year ago! when I was, not worthy of you, but more worthy of you. But now, with health shattered, the lightness of my spirit vanished, the freshness of my feelings gone, no, my kind friend, my dear and gentle friend! my affection for you is too sincere to accede to your request; and a year hence Lord Montfort will thank me for my denial.’
‘I scarcely dare to speak,’ said Lord Montfort, in a low tone, as if suppressing his emotion, ‘if I were to express my feelings, I might agitate you. I will not then venture to reply to what you have urged; to tell you I think you the most beautiful and engaging being that ever breathed; or how I dote upon your pensive spirit, and can sit for hours together gazing on the language of those dark eyes. O Miss Temple, to me you never could have been more beautiful, more fascinating. Alas! I may not even breathe my love; I am unfortunate. And yet, sweet lady, pardon this agitation I have occasioned you; try to love me yet; endure at least my presence; and let me continue to cherish that intimacy that has thrown over my existence a charm so inexpressible.’ So saying, he ventured to take her hand, and pressed it with devotion to his lips.
LORD MONTFORT was scarcely disheartened by this interview with Miss Temple. His lordship was a devout believer in the influence of time. It was unnatural to suppose that one so young and so gifted as Henrietta could ultimately maintain that her career was terminated because her affections had been disappointed by an intimacy which was confessedly of so recent an origin as the fatal one in question. Lord Montfort differed from most men in this respect, that the consciousness of this intimacy did not cost him even a pang. He preferred indeed to gain the heart of a woman like Miss Temple, who, without having in the least degree forfeited the innate purity of her nature and the native freshness of her feelings, had yet learnt in some degree to penetrate the mystery of the passions, to one so untutored in the world’s ways, that she might have bestowed upon him a heart less experienced indeed, but not more innocent. He was convinced that the affection of Henrietta, if once obtained, might be relied on, and that the painful past would only make her more finely appreciate his high-minded devotion, and amid all the dazzling characters and seducing spectacles of the world, cling to him with a firmer gratitude and a more faithful fondness. And yet Lord Montfort was a man of deep emotions, and of a very fastidious taste. He was a man of as romantic a temperament as Ferdinand Armine; but with Lord Montfort, life was the romance of reason; with Ferdinand, the romance of imagination. The first was keenly alive to all the imperfections of our nature, but he also gave that nature credit for all its excellencies. He observed finely, he calculated nicely, and his result was generally happiness. Ferdinand, on the contrary, neither observed nor calculated. His imagination created fantasies, and his impetuous passions struggled to realise them.
Although Lord Montfort carefully abstained from pursuing the subject which nevertheless engrossed his thoughts, he had a vigilant and skilful ally in Mr. Temple. That gentleman lost no opportunity of pleading his lordship’s cause, while he appeared only to advocate his own; and this was the most skilful mode of controlling the judgment of his daughter.
Henrietta Temple, the most affectionate and dutiful of children, left to reflect, sometimes asked herself whether she were justified, from what she endeavoured to believe was a mere morbid feeling, in not accomplishing the happiness of that parent who loved her so well? There had been no concealment of her situation, or of her sentiments. There had been no deception as to the past. Lord Montfort knew all. She told him that she could bestow only a broken spirit. Lord Montfort aspired only to console it. She was young. It was not probable that the death which she had once sighed for would be accorded to her. Was she always to lead this life? Was her father to pass the still long career which probably awaited him in ministering to the wearisome caprices of a querulous invalid? This was a sad return for all his goodness: a gloomy catastrophe to all his bright hopes. And if she could ever consent to blend her life with another’s, what individual could offer pretensions which might ensure her tranquillity, or even happiness, equal to those proffered by Lord Montfort? Ah! who was equal to him? so amiable, so generous, so interesting! It was in such a mood of mind that Henrietta would sometimes turn with a glance of tenderness and gratitude to that being who seemed to breathe only for her solace and gratification. If it be agonising to be deserted, there is at least consolation in being cherished. And who cherished her? One whom all admired; one to gain whose admiration, or even attention, every woman sighed. What was she before she knew Montfort? If she had not known Montfort, what would she have been even at this present? She recalled the hours of anguish, the long days of bitter mortification, the dull, the wearisome, the cheerless, hopeless, uneventful hours that were her lot when lying on her solitary sofa at Pisa, brooding over the romance of Armine and all its passion; the catastrophe of Ducie, and all its baseness. And now there was not a moment without kindness, without sympathy, without considerate attention and innocent amusement. If she were querulous, no one murmured; if she were capricious, everyone yielded to her fancies; but if she smiled, everyone was happy. Dear, noble Montfort, thine was the magic that had worked this change! And for whom were all these choice exertions made? For one whom another had trifled with, deserted, betrayed! And Montfort knew it. He dedicated his life to the consolation of a despised woman. Leaning on the arm of Lord Montfort, Henrietta Temple might meet the eye of Ferdinand Armine and his rich bride, at least without feeling herself an object of pity!
Time had flown. The Italian spring, with all its splendour, illumined the glittering palaces and purple shores of Naples. Lord Montfort and his friends were returning from Capua in his galley. Miss Temple was seated between her father and their host. The Ausonian clime, the beautiful scene, the sweet society, had all combined to produce a day of exquisite enjoyment. Henrietta Temple could not refrain from expressing her delight. Her eye sparkled like the star of eve that glittered over the glowing mountains; her cheek was as radiant as the sunset.
‘Ah! what a happy day this has been!’ she exclaimed.
The gentle pressure of her hand reminded her of the delight her exclamation had afforded one of her companions. With a trembling heart Lord Montfort leant back in the galley; and yet, ere the morning sun had flung its flaming beams over the city, Henrietta Temple was his betrothed.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:49