In a green valley of the Apennines, close to the sea-coast between Genoa and Spezzia, is a marine villa, that once belonged to the Malaspina family, in olden time the friends and patrons of Dante. It is rather a fantastic pile, painted in fresco, but spacious, in good repair, and convenient. Although little more than a mile from Spezzia, a glimpse of the blue sea can only be caught from one particular spot, so completely is the land locked with hills, covered with groves of chestnut and olive orchards. From the heights, however, you enjoy magnificent prospects of the most picturesque portion of the Italian coast; a lofty, undulating, and wooded shore, with an infinite variety of bays and jutting promontories; while the eye, wandering from Leghorn on one side towards Genoa on the other, traces an almost uninterrupted line of hamlets and casinos, gardens and orchards, terraces of vines, and groves of olive. Beyond them, the broad and blue expanse of the midland ocean, glittering in the meridian blaze, or about to receive perhaps in its glowing waters the red orb of sunset.
It was the month of May, in Italy, at least, the merry month of May, and Marmion Herbert came forth from the villa Malaspina, and throwing himself on the turf, was soon lost in the volume of Plato which he bore with him. He did not move until in the course of an hour he was roused by the arrival of servants, who brought seats and a table, when, looking up, he observed Lady Annabel and Venetia in the portico of the villa. He rose to greet them, and gave his arm to his wife.
‘Spring in the Apennines, my Annabel,’ said Herbert, ‘is a happy combination. I am more in love each day with this residence. The situation is so sheltered, the air so soft and pure, the spot so tranquil, and the season so delicious, that it realises all my romance of retirement. As for you, I never saw you look so well; and as for Venetia, I can scarcely believe this rosy nymph could have been our pale-eyed girl, who cost us such anxiety!’
‘Our breakfast is not ready. Let us walk to our sea view,’ said Lady Annabel. ‘Give me your book to carry, Marmion.’
‘There let the philosopher repose,’ said Herbert, throwing the volume on the turf. ‘Plato dreamed of what I enjoy.’
‘And of what did Plato dream, papa?’ said Venetia.
‘He dreamed of love, child.’
Venetia took her father’s disengaged arm.
They had now arrived at their sea view, a glimpse of the Mediterranean between two tall crags.
‘A sail in the offing,’ said Herbert. ‘How that solitary sail tells, Annabel!’
‘I feel the sea breeze, mother. Does not it remind you of Weymouth?’ said Venetia.
‘Ah! Marmion,’ said Lady Annabel, ‘I would that you could see Masham once more. He is the only friend that I regret.’
‘He prospers, Annabel; let that be our consolation: I have at least not injured him.’
They turned their steps; their breakfast was now prepared. The sun had risen above the hill beneath whose shade they rested, and the opposite side of the valley sparkled in light. It was a cheerful scene. ‘I have a passion for living in the air,’ said Herbert; ‘I always envied the shepherds in Don Quixote. One of my youthful dreams was living among mountains of rosemary, and drinking only goat’s milk. After breakfast I will read you Don Quixote’s description of the golden age. I have often read it until the tears came into my eyes.’
‘We must fancy ourselves in Spain,’ said Lady Annabel; ‘it is not difficult in this wild green valley; and if we have not rosemary, we have scents as sweet. Nature is our garden here, Venetia; and I do not envy even the statues and cypresses of our villa of the lake.’
‘We must make a pilgrimage some day to the Maggiore, Annabel,’ said Herbert. ‘It is hallowed ground to me now.’
Their meal was finished, the servants brought their work, and books, and drawings; and Herbert, resuming his natural couch, reopened his Plato, but Venetia ran into the villa, and returned with a volume. ‘You must read us the golden age, papa,’ she said, as she offered him, with a smile, his favourite Don Quixote.
‘You must fancy the Don looking earnestly upon a handful of acorns,’ said Herbert, opening the book, ‘while he exclaims, “O happy age! which our first parents called the age of gold! not because gold, so much adored in this iron age, was then easily purchased, but because those two fatal words, meum and tuum, were distinctions unknown to the people of those fortunate times; for all things were in common in that holy age: men, for their sustenance, needed only to lift their hands, and take it from the sturdy oak, whose spreading arms liberally invited them to gather the wholesome savoury fruit; while the clear springs, and silver rivulets, with luxuriant plenty, afforded them their pure refreshing water. In hollow trees, and in the clefts of rocks, the labouring and industrious bees erected their little commonwealths, that men might reap with pleasure and with ease the sweet and fertile harvest of their toils, The tough and strenuous cork-trees did, of themselves, and without other art than their native liberality, dismiss and impart their broad light bark, which served to cover those lowly huts, propped up with rough-hewn stakes, that were first built as a shelter against the inclemencies of the air. All then was union, all peace, all love and friendship in the world. As yet no rude ploughshare presumed with violence to pry into the pious bowels of our mother earth, for she without compulsion kindly yielded from every part of her fruitful and spacious bosom, whatever might at once satisfy, sustain, and indulge her frugal children. Then was the time when innocent, beautiful young sheperdesses went tripping over the hills and vales; their lovely hair sometimes plaited, sometimes loose and flowing, clad in no other vestment but what the modesty of nature might require. The Tyrian dye, the rich glossy hue of silk, martyred and dissembled into every colour, which are now esteemed so fine and magnificent, were unknown to the innocent simplicity of that age; yet, bedecked with more becoming leaves and flowers, they outshone the proudest of the vaindressing ladies of our times, arrayed in the most magnificent garbs and all the most sumptuous adornings which idleness and luxury have taught succeeding pride. Lovers then expressed the passion of their souls in the unaffected language of the heart, with the native plainness and sincerity in which they were conceived, and divested of all that artificial contexture which enervates what it labours to enforce. Imposture, deceit, and malice had not yet crept in, and imposed themselves unbribed upon mankind in the disguise of truth: justice, unbiassed either by favour or interest, which now so fatally pervert it, was equally and impartially dispensed; nor was the judge’s fancy law, for then there were neither judges nor causes to be judged. The modest maid might then walk alone. But, in this degenerate age, fraud and a legion of ills infecting the world, no virtue can be safe, no honour be secure; while wanton desires, diffused into the hearts of men, corrupt the strictest watches and the closest retreats, which, though as intricate, and unknown as the labyrinth of Crete, are no security for chastity. Thus, that primitive innocence being vanished, the oppression daily prevailing, there was a necessity to oppose the torrent of violence; for which reason the order of knighthood errant was instituted, to defend the honour of virgins, protect widows, relieve orphans, and assist all that are distressed. Now I myself am one of this order, honest friends and though all people are obliged by the law of nature to be kind to persons of my character, yet since you, without knowing anything of this obligation, have so generously entertained me, I ought to pay you my utmost acknowledgment, and accordingly return you my most hearty thanks.”
‘There,’ said Herbert, as he closed the book. ‘In my opinion, Don Quixote was the best man that ever lived.’
‘But he did not ever live,’ said Lady Annabel, smiling.
‘He lives to us,’ said Herbert. ‘He is the same to this age as if he had absolutely wandered over the plains of Castile and watched in the Sierra Morena. We cannot, indeed, find his tomb; but he has left us his great example. In his hero, Cervantes has given us the picture of a great and benevolent philosopher, and in his Sancho, a complete personification of the world, selfish and cunning, and yet overawed by the genius that he cannot comprehend: alive to all the material interests of existence, yet sighing after the ideal; securing his four young foals of the she-ass, yet indulging in dreams of empire.’
‘But what do you think of the assault on the windmills, Marmion?’ said Lady Annabel.
‘In the outset of his adventures, as in the outset of our lives, he was misled by his enthusiasm,’ replied Herbert, ‘without which, after all, we can do nothing. But the result is, Don Quixote was a redresser of wrongs, and therefore the world esteemed him mad.’
In this vein, now conversing, now occupied with their pursuits, and occasionally listening to some passage which Herbert called to their attention, and which ever served as the occasion for some critical remarks, always as striking from their originality as they were happy in their expression, the freshness of the morning disappeared; the sun now crowned the valley with his meridian beam, and they reentered the villa. The ladies returned to their cool saloon, and Herbert to his study.
It was there he amused himself by composing the following lines:
Spring in the Apennine now holds her court
Within an amphitheatre of hills,
Clothed with the blooming chestnut; musical
With murmuring pines, waving their light green cones
Like youthful Bacchants; while the dewy grass,
The myrtle and the mountain violet,
Blend their rich odours with the fragrant trees,
And sweeten the soft air. Above us spreads
The purple sky, bright with the unseen sun
The hills yet screen, although the golden beam
Touches the topmost boughs, and tints with light
The grey and sparkling crags. The breath of morn
Still lingers in the valley; but the bee
With restless passion hovers on the wing,
Waiting the opening flower, of whose embrace
The sun shall be the signal. Poised in air,
The winged minstrel of the liquid dawn,
The lark, pours forth his lyric, and responds
To the fresh chorus of the sylvan doves,
The stir of branches and the fall of streams,
The harmonies of nature!
Once more, oh, yes! once more I feel thy breath,
And charm of renovation! To the sky
Thou bringest light, and to the glowing earth
A garb of grace: but sweeter than the sky
That hath no cloud, and sweeter than the earth
With all its pageantry, the peerless boon
Thou bearest to me, a temper like thine own;
A springlike spirit, beautiful and glad!
Long years, long years of suffering, and of thought
Deeper than woe, had dimmed the eager eye
Once quick to catch thy brightness, and the ear
That lingered on thy music, the harsh world
Had jarred. The freshness of my life was gone,
And hope no more an omen in thy bloom
Found of a fertile future! There are minds,
Like lands, but with one season, and that drear
Mine was eternal winter!
A dark dream
Of hearts estranged, and of an Eden lost
Entranced my being; one absorbing thought
Which, if not torture, was a dull despair
That agony were light to. But while sad
Within the desert of my life I roamed,
And no sweet springs of love gushed for to greet
My wearied heart, behold two spirits came
Floating in light, seraphic ministers,
The semblance of whose splendour on me fell
As on some dusky stream the matin ray,
Touching the gloomy waters with its life.
And both were fond, and one was merciful!
And to my home long forfeited they bore
My vagrant spirit, and the gentle hearth.
I reckless fled, received me with its shade
And pleasant refuge. And our softened hearts
Were like the twilight, when our very bliss
Calls tears to soothe our rapture; as the stars
Steal forth, then shining smiles their trembling ray
Mixed with our tenderness; and love was there
In all his manifold forms; the sweet embrace,
And thrilling pressure of the gentle hand,
And silence speaking with the melting eye!
And now again I feel thy breath, O spring!
And now the seal hath fallen from my gaze,
And thy wild music in my ready ear
Finds a quick echo! The discordant world
Mars not thy melodies; thy blossoms now
Are emblems of my heart; and through my veins
The flow of youthful feeling, long pent up,
Glides like thy sunny streams! In this fair scene,
On forms still fairer I my blessing pour;
On her the beautiful, the wise, the good,
Who learnt the sweetest lesson to forgive;
And on the bright-eyed daughter of our love,
Who soothed a mother, and a father saved!
Between the reconciliation of Lady Annabel Herbert with her husband, at the Armenian convent at Venice, and the spring morning in the Apennines, which we have just described, half a year had intervened. The political position of Marmion Herbert rendered it impossible for him to remain in any city where there was a representative of his Britannic Majesty. Indeed, it was scarcely safe for him to be known out of America. He had quitted that country shortly after the struggle was over, chiefly from considerations for his health. His energies had been fast failing him; and a retired life and change of climate had been recommended by his physicians. His own feelings induced him to visit Italy, where he had once intended to pass his life, and where he now repaired to await death. Assuming a feigned name, and living in strict seclusion, it is probable that his presence would never have been discovered; or, if detected, would not have been noticed. Once more united with his wife, her personal influence at the court of St. James’, and her powerful connections, might secure him from annoyance; and Venetia had even indulged in a vague hope of returning to England. But Herbert could only have found himself again in his native country as a prisoner on parole. It would have been quite impossible for him to mix in the civil business of his native land, or enjoy any of the rights of citizenship. If a mild sovereign in his mercy had indeed accorded him a pardon, it must have been accompanied with rigorous and mortifying conditions; and his presence, in all probability, would have been confined to his country residence and its immediate neighbourhood. The pride of Lady Annabel herself recoiled from this sufferance; and although Herbert, keenly conscious of the sacrifice which a permanent estrangement from England entailed upon his wife and child, would have submitted to any restrictions, however humiliating, provided they were not inconsistent with his honour, it must be confessed that, when he spoke of this painful subject to his wife, it was with no slight self-congratulation that he had found her resolution to remain abroad under any circumstances was fixed with her habitual decision. She communicated both to the Bishop of —— and to her brother the unexpected change that had occurred in her condition, and she had reason to believe that a representation of what had happened would be made to the Royal family. Perhaps both the head of her house and her reverend friend anticipated that time might remove the barrier that presented itself to Herbert’s immediate return to England: they confined their answers, however, to congratulations on the reconciliation, to their confidence in the satisfaction it would occasion her, and to the expression of their faithful friendship; and neither alluded to a result which both, if only for her sake, desired.
The Herberts had quitted Venice a very few days after the meeting on the island of St. Lazaro; had travelled by slow journeys, crossing the Apennines, to Genoa; and only remained in that city until they engaged their present residence. It combined all the advantages which they desired: seclusion, beauty, comfort, and the mild atmosphere that Venetia had seemed to require. It was not, however, the genial air that had recalled the rose to Venetia’s cheek and the sunny smile to her bright eye, or had inspired again that graceful form with all its pristine elasticity. It was a heart content; a spirit at length at peace. The contemplation of the happiness of those most dear to her that she hourly witnessed, and the blissful consciousness that her exertions had mainly contributed to, if not completely occasioned, all this felicity, were remedies of far more efficacy than all the consultations and prescriptions of her physicians. The conduct of her father repaid her for all her sufferings, and realised all her dreams of domestic tenderness and delight. Tender, grateful, and affectionate, Herbert hovered round her mother like a delicate spirit who had been released by some kind mortal from a tedious and revolting thraldom, and who believed he could never sufficiently testify his devotion. There was so much respect blended with his fondness, that the spirit of her mother was utterly subdued by his irresistible demeanour. All her sadness and reserve, her distrust and her fear, had vanished; and rising confidence mingling with the love she had ever borne to him, she taught herself even to seek his opinion, and be guided by his advice. She could not refrain, indeed, from occasionally feeling, in this full enjoyment of his love, that she might have originally acted with too much precipitation; and that, had she only bent for a moment to the necessity of conciliation, and condescended to the excusable artifices of affection, their misery might have been prevented. Once when they were alone, her softened heart would have confessed to Herbert this painful conviction, but he was too happy and too generous to permit her for a moment to indulge in such a remorseful retrospect. All the error, he insisted, was his own; and he had been fool enough to have wantonly forfeited a happiness which time and experience had now taught him to appreciate.
‘We married too young, Marmion,’ said his wife.
‘It shall be that then, love,’ replied Herbert; ‘but for all that I have suffered. I would not have avoided my fate on the condition of losing the exquisite present!’
It is perhaps scarcely necessary to remark, that Herbert avoided with the most scrupulous vigilance the slightest allusion to any of those peculiar opinions for which he was, unhappily, too celebrated. Musing over the singular revolutions which had already occurred in his habits and his feelings towards herself, Lady Annabel, indeed, did not despair that his once self-sufficient soul might ultimately bow to that blessed faith which to herself had ever proved so great a support, and so exquisite a solace. It was, indeed, the inexpressible hope that lingered at the bottom of her heart; and sometimes she even indulged in the delightful fancy that his mild and penitent spirit had, by the gracious mercy of Providence, been already touched by the bright sunbeam of conviction. At all events, his subdued and chastened temperament was no unworthy preparation for still greater blessings. It was this hallowed anticipation which consoled, and alone consoled, Lady Annabel for her own estrangement from the communion of her national church. Of all the sacrifices which her devotion to Herbert entailed upon her, this was the one which she felt most constantly and most severely. Not a day elapsed but the chapel at Cherbury rose before her; and when she remembered that neither herself nor her daughter might again kneel round the altar of their God, she almost trembled at the step which she had taken, and almost esteemed it a sacrifice of heavenly to earthly duty, which no consideration, perhaps, warranted. This apprehension, indeed, was the cloud in her life, and one which Venetia, who felt all its validity, found difficulty in combating.
Otherwise, when Venetia beheld her parents, she felt ethereal, and seemed to move in air; for her life, in spite of its apparent tranquillity, was to her all excitement. She never looked upon her father, or heard his voice, without a thrill. His society was as delightful as his heart was tender. It seemed to her that she could listen to him for ever. Every word he spoke was different from the language of other men; there was not a subject on which his richly-cultivated mind could not pour forth instantaneously a flood of fine fancies and deep intelligence. He seemed to have read every book in every language, and to have mused over every line he had read. She could not conceive how one, the tone of whose mind was so original that it suggested on every topic some conclusion that struck instantly by its racy novelty, could be so saturated with the learning and the views of other men. Although they lived in unbroken solitude, and were almost always together, not a day passed that she did not find herself musing over some thought or expression of her father, and which broke from his mind without effort, and as if by chance. Literature to Herbert was now only a source of amusement and engaging occupation. All thought of fame had long fled his soul. He cared not for being disturbed; and he would throw down his Plato for Don Quixote, or close his Aeschylus and take up a volume of Madame de Sévigné without a murmur, if reminded by anything that occurred of a passage which might contribute to the amusement and instruction of his wife and daughter. Indeed, his only study now was to contribute to their happiness. For him they had given up their country and society, and he sought, by his vigilant attention and his various accomplishments, to render their hours as light and pleasant as, under such circumstances, was possible. His muse, too, was only dedicated to the celebration of any topic which their life or themselves suggested. He loved to lie under the trees, and pour forth sonnets to Lady Annabel; and encouraged Venetia, by the readiness and interest with which he invariably complied with her intimations, to throw out every fancy which occurred to her for his verse. A life passed without the intrusion of a single evil passion, without a single expression that was not soft, and graceful, and mild, and adorned with all the resources of a most accomplished and creative spirit, required not the distractions of society. It would have shrunk from it, from all its artificial excitement and vapid reaction. The days of the Herberts flowed on in one bright, continuous stream of love, and literature, and gentle pleasures. Beneath them was the green earth, above them the blue sky. Their spirits were as clear, and their hearts as soft as the clime.
The hour of twilight was approaching, and the family were preparing for their daily walk. Their simple repast was finished, and Venetia held the verses which her father had written in the morning, and which he had presented to her.
‘Let us descend to Spezzia,’ said Herbert to Lady Annabel; ‘I love an ocean sunset.’
Accordingly they proceeded through their valley to the craggy path which led down to the bay. After passing through a small ravine, the magnificent prospect opened before them. The sun was yet an hour above the horizon, and the sea was like a lake of molten gold; the colour of the sky nearest to the sun, of a pale green, with two or three burnished streaks of vapour, quite still, and so thin you could almost catch the sky through them, fixed, as it were, in this gorgeous frame. It was now a dead calm, but the sail that had been hovering the whole morning in the offing had made the harbour in time, and had just cast anchor near some coasting craft and fishing-boats, all that now remained where Napoleon had projected forming one of the arsenals of the world.
Tracing their way down a mild declivity, covered with spreading vineyards, and quite fragrant with the blossom of the vine, the Herberts proceeded through a wood of olives, and emerged on a terrace raised directly above the shore, leading to Spezzia, and studded here and there with rugged groups of aloes.
‘I have often observed here,’ said Venetia, ‘about a mile out at sea; there, now, where I point; the water rise. It is now a calm, and yet it is more troubled, I think, than usual. Tell me the cause, dear father, for I have often wished to know.’
‘It passes my experience,’ said Herbert; ‘but here is an ancient fisherman; let us inquire of him.’
He was an old man, leaning against a rock, and smoking his pipe in contemplative silence; his face bronzed with the sun and the roughness of many seasons, and his grey hairs not hidden by his long blue cap. Herbert saluted him, and, pointing to the phenomenon, requested an explanation of it.
”Tis a fountain of fresh water, signor, that rises in our gulf,’ said the old fisherman, ‘to the height of twenty feet.’
‘And is it constant?’ inquired Herbert.
”Tis the same in sunshine and in storm, in summer and in winter, in calm or in breeze,’ said the old fisherman.
‘And has it always been so?’
‘It came before my time.’
‘A philosophic answer,’ said Herbert, ‘and deserves a paul. Mine was a crude question. Adio, good friend.’
‘I should like to drink of that fountain of fresh water, Annabel,’ said Herbert. ‘There seems to me something wondrous fanciful in it. Some day we will row there. It shall be a calm like this.’
‘We want a fountain in our valley,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘We do,’ said Herbert; ‘and I think we must make one; we must inquire at Genoa. I am curious in fountains. Our fountain should, I think, be classical; simple, compact, with a choice inscription, the altar of a Naiad.’
‘And mamma shall make the design, and you shall write the inscription,’ said Venetia.
‘And you shall be the nymph, child,’ said Herbert.
They were now within a bowshot of the harbour, and a jutting cliff of marble, more graceful from a contiguous bed of myrtles, invited them to rest, and watch the approaching sunset.
‘Say what they like,’ said Herbert, ‘there is a spell in the shores of the Mediterranean Sea which no others can rival. Never was such a union of natural loveliness and magical associations! On these shores have risen all that interests us in the past: Egypt and Palestine, Greece, Rome, and Carthage, Moorish Spain, and feodal Italy. These shores have yielded us our religion, our arts, our literature, and our laws. If all that we have gained from the shores of the Mediterranean was erased from the memory of man, we should be savages. Will the Atlantic ever be so memorable? Its civilisation will be more rapid, but will it be as refined? and, far more important, will it be as permanent? Will it not lack the racy vigour and the subtle spirit of aboriginal genius? Will not a colonial character cling to its society, feeble, inanimate, evanescent? What America is deficient in is creative intellect. It has no nationality. Its intelligence has been imported, like its manufactured goods. Its inhabitants are a people, but are they a nation? I wish that the empire of the Incas and the kingdom of Montezuma had not been sacrificed. I wish that the republic of the Puritans had blended with the tribes of the wilderness.’
The red sun was now hovering over the horizon; it quivered for an instant, and then sank. Immediately the high and undulating coast was covered with a crimson flush; the cliffs, the groves, the bays and jutting promontories, each straggling sail and tall white tower, suffused with a rosy light. Gradually that rosy tint became a bright violet, and then faded into purple. But the glory of the sunset long lingered in the glowing west, streaming with every colour of the Iris, while a solitary star glittered with silver light amid the shifting splendour.
‘Hesperus rises from the sunset like the fountain of fresh water from the sea,’ said Herbert. ‘The sky and the ocean have two natures, like ourselves,’
At this moment the boat of the vessel, which had anchored about an hour back, put to shore.
‘That seems an English brig,’ said Herbert. ‘I cannot exactly make out its trim; it scarcely seems a merchant vessel.’
The projection of the shore hid the boat from their sight as it landed. The Herberts rose, and proceeded towards the harbour. There were some rude steps cut in the rock which led from the immediate shore to the terrace. As they approached these, two gentlemen in sailors’ jackets mounted suddenly. Lady Annabel and Venetia simultaneously started as they recognised Lord Cadurcis and his cousin. They were so close that neither party had time to prepare themselves. Venetia found her hand in that of Plantagenet, while Lady Annabel saluted George. Infinite were their mutual inquiries and congratulations, but it so happened that, with one exception, no name was mentioned. It was quite evident, however, to Herbert, that these were very familiar acquaintances of his family; for, in the surprise of the moment, Lord Cadurcis had saluted his daughter by her Christian name. There was no slight emotion, too, displayed on all sides. Indeed, independently of the agitation which so unexpected a rencounter was calculated to produce, the presence of Herbert, after the first moments of recognition, not a little excited the curiosity of the young men, and in some degree occasioned the embarrassment of all. Who was this stranger, on whom Venetia and her mother were leaning with such fondness? He was scarcely too old to be the admirer of Venetia, and if there were a greater disparity of years between them than is usual, his distinguished appearance might well reconcile the lady to her lot, or even justify her choice. Had, then, Cadurcis again met Venetia only to find her the bride or the betrothed of another? a mortifying situation, even an intolerable one, if his feelings remained unchanged; and if the eventful year that had elapsed since they parted had not replaced her image in his susceptible mind by another more cherished, and, perhaps, less obdurate. Again, to Lady Annabel the moment was one of great awkwardness, for the introduction of her husband to those with whom she was recently so intimate, and who were then aware that the name of that husband was never even mentioned in her presence, recalled the painful past with a disturbing vividness. Venetia, indeed, did not share these feelings fully, but she thought it ungracious to anticipate her mother in the announcement.
The Herberts turned with Lord Cadurcis and his cousin; they were about to retrace their steps on the terrace, when Lady Annabel, taking advantage of the momentary silence, and summoning all her energy, with a pale cheek and a voice that slightly faltered, said, ‘Lord Cadurcis, allow me to present you to Mr. Herbert, my husband,’ she added with emphasis.
‘Good God!’ exclaimed Cadurcis, starting; and then, outstretching his hand, he contrived to add, ‘have I, indeed, the pleasure of seeing one I have so long admired?’
‘Lord Cadurcis!’ exclaimed Herbert, scarcely less surprised. ‘Is it Lord Cadurcis? This is a welcome meeting.’
Everyone present felt overwhelmed with confusion or astonishment; Lady Annabel sought refuge in presenting Captain Cadurcis to her husband. This ceremony, though little noticed even by those more immediately interested in it, nevertheless served, in some degree, as a diversion. Herbert, who was only astonished, was the first who rallied. Perhaps Lord Cadurcis was the only man in existence whom Herbert wished to know. He had read his works with deep interest; at least, those portions which foreign journals had afforded him. He was deeply impressed with his fame and genius; but what perplexed him at this moment, even more than his unexpected introduction to him, was the singular, the very extraordinary circumstance, that the name of their most celebrated countryman should never have escaped the lips either of his wife or his daughter, although they appeared, and Venetia especially, to be on terms with him of even domestic intimacy.
‘You arrived here to day, Lord Cadurcis?’ said Herbert. ‘From whence?’
‘Immediately from Naples, where we last touched,’ replied his lordship; ‘but I have been residing at Athens.’
‘I envy you,’ said Herbert.
‘It would be a fit residence for you,’ said Lord Cadurcis. ‘You were, however, in some degree, my companion, for a volume of your poems was one of the few books I had with me. I parted with all the rest, but I retained that. It is in my cabin, and full of my scribblement. If you would condescend to accept it, I would offer it to you.’
Mr. Herbert and Lord Cadurcis maintained the conversation along the terrace. Venetia, by whose side her old companion walked, was quite silent. Once her eyes met those of Cadurcis; his expression of mingled archness and astonishment was irresistible. His cousin and Lady Annabel carried on a more suppressed conversation, but on ordinary topics. When they had reached the olive-grove Herbert said, ‘Here lies our way homeward, my lord. If you and your cousin will accompany us, it will delight Lady Annabel and myself.’
‘Nothing, I am sure, will give George and myself greater pleasure,’ he replied. ‘We had, indeed, no purpose when you met us but to enjoy our escape from imprisonment, little dreaming we should meet our kindest and oldest friends,’ he added.
‘Kindest and oldest friends!’ thought Herbert to himself. ‘Well, this is strange indeed.’
‘It is but a slight distance,’ said Lady Annabel, who thought it necessary to enforce the invitation. ‘We live in the valley, of which yonder hill forms a part.’
‘And there we have passed our winter and our spring,’ added Venetia, ‘almost as delightfully as you could have done at Athens.’
‘Well,’ thought Cadurcis to himself, ‘I have seen many of the world’s marvels, but this day is a miracle.’
When they had proceeded through the olive-wood, and mounted the acclivity, they arrived at a path which permitted the ascent of only one person at a time. Cadurcis was last, and followed Venetia. Unable any longer to endure the suspense, he was rather irritated that she kept so close to her father; he himself loitered a few paces behind, and, breaking off a branch of laurel, he tossed it at her. She looked round and smiled; he beckoned to her to fall back. ‘Tell me, Venetia,’ he said, ‘what does all this mean?’
‘It means that we are at last all very happy,’ she replied. ‘Do you not see my father?’
‘Yes; and I am very glad to see him; but this company is the very last in which I expected to have that pleasure.’
‘It is too long a story to tell now; you must imagine it.’
‘But are you glad to see me?’
‘I don’t think you care for me the least.’
‘Silly Lord Cadurcis!’ she said, smiling.
‘If you call me Lord Cadurcis, I shall immediately go back to the brig, and set sail this night for Athens.’
‘Well then, silly Plantagenet!’
He laughed, and they ran on.
‘Well, I am not surprised that you should have passed your time delightfully here,’ said Lord Cadurcis to Lady Annabel, when they had entered the villa; ‘for I never beheld so delightful a retreat. It is even more exquisite than your villa on the lake, of which George gave me so glowing a description. I was almost tempted to hasten to you. Would you have smiled on me!’ he added, rather archly, and in a coaxing tone.
‘I am more gratified that we have met here,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘And thus,’ added Cadurcis.
‘You have been a great traveller since we last met?’ said Lady Annabel, a little embarrassed.
‘My days of restlessness are over,’ said Cadurcis. ‘I desire nothing more dearly than to settle down in the bosom of these green hills as you have done.’
‘This life suits Mr. Herbert,’ said Lady Annabel. ‘He is fond of seclusion, and you know I am accustomed to it.’
‘Ah! yes,’ said Cadurcis, mournfully. ‘When I was in Greece, I used often to wish that none of us had ever left dear Cherbury; but I do not now.’
‘We must forget Cherbury,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘I cannot: I cannot forget her who cherished my melancholy childhood. Dear Lady Annabel,’ he added in a voice of emotion, and offering her his hand, ‘forget all my follies, and remember that I was your child, once as dutiful as you were affectionate.’
Who could resist this appeal? Lady Annabel, not without agitation, yielded him her hand, which he pressed to his lips. ‘Now I am again happy,’ said Cadurcis; ‘now we are all happy. Sweetest of friends, you have removed in a moment the bitterness of years.’
Although lights were in the saloon, the windows opening on the portico were not closed. The evening air was soft and balmy, and though the moon had not risen, the distant hills were clear in the starlight. Venetia was standing in the portico conversing with George Cadurcis.
‘I suppose you are too much of a Turk to drink our coffee, Lord Cadurcis,’ said Herbert. Cadurcis turned and joined him, together with Lady Annabel.
‘Nay,’ said Lord Cadurcis, in a joyous tone, ‘Lady Annabel will answer for me that I always find everything perfect under her roof.’
Captain Cadurcis and Venetia now reentered the villa; they clustered round the table, and seated themselves.
‘Why, Venetia,’ said Cadurcis, ‘George met me in Sicily and quite frightened me about you. Is it the air of the Apennines that has worked these marvels? for, really, you appear to me exactly the same as when we learnt the French vocabulary together ten years ago.’
‘“The French vocabulary together, ten years ago!”’ thought Herbert; ‘not a mere London acquaintance, then. This is very strange.’
‘Why, indeed, Plantagenet,’ replied Venetia, ‘I was very unwell when George visited us; but I really have quite forgotten that I ever was an invalid, and I never mean to be again.’
‘“Plantagenet!”’ soliloquised Herbert. ‘And this is the great poet of whom I have heard so much! My daughter is tolerably familiar with him.’
‘I have brought you all sorts of buffooneries from Stamboul,’ continued Cadurcis; ‘sweetmeats, and slippers, and shawls, and daggers worn only by sultanas, and with which, if necessary, they can keep “the harem’s lord” in order. I meant to have sent them with George to England, for really I did not anticipate our meeting here.’
‘“Sweetmeats and slippers,”’ said Herbert to himself, ‘“shawls and daggers!” What next?’
‘And has George been with you all the time?’ inquired Venetia.
‘Oh! we quarrelled now and then, of course. He found Athens dull, and would stay at Constantinople, chained by the charms of a fair Perote, to whom he wanted me to write sonnets in his name. I would not, because I thought it immoral. But, on the whole, we got on very well; a sort of Pylades and Orestes, I assure you; we never absolutely fought.’
‘Come, come,’ said George, ‘Cadurcis is always ashamed of being amiable. We were together much more than I ever intended or anticipated. You know mine was a sporting tour; and therefore, of course, we were sometimes separated. But he was exceedingly popular with all parties, especially the Turks, whom he rewarded for their courtesy by writing odes to the Greeks to stir them up to revolt.’
‘Well, they never read them,’ said Cadurcis. ‘All we, poor fellows, can do,’ he added, turning to Herbert, ‘is to wake the Hellenistic raptures of May Fair; and that they call fame; as much like fame as a toadstool is like a truffle.’
‘Nevertheless, I hope the muse has not slumbered,’ said Herbert; ‘for you have had the happiest inspiration in the climes in which you have resided; not only are they essentially poetic, but they offer a virgin vein.’
‘I have written a little,’ replied Cadurcis; ‘I will give it you, if you like, some day to turn over. Yours is the only opinion that I really care for. I have no great idea of the poetry; but I am very strong in my costume. I feel very confident about that. I fancy I know how to hit off a pasha, or touch in a Greek pirate now. As for all the things I wrote in England, I really am ashamed of them. I got up my orientalism from books, and sultans and sultanas at masquerades,’ he added, archly. ‘I remember I made my heroines always wear turbans; only conceive my horror when I found that a Turkish woman would as soon think of putting my hat on as a turban, and that it was an article of dress entirely confined to a Bond Street milliner.’
The evening passed in interesting and diverting conversation; of course, principally contributed by the two travellers, who had seen so much. Inspirited by his interview with Lady Annabel, and her gracious reception of his overtures, Lord Cadurcis was in one of those frolic humours, which we have before noticed was not unnatural to him. He had considerable powers of mimicry, and the talent that had pictured to Venetia in old days, with such liveliness, the habits of the old maids of Morpeth, was now engaged on more considerable topics; an interview with a pasha, a peep into a harem, a visit to a pirate’s isle, the slave-market, the bazaar, the barracks of the janissaries, all touched with irresistible vitality, and coloured with the rich phrases of unrivalled force of expression. The laughter was loud and continual; even Lady Annabel joined zealously in the glee. As for Herbert, he thought Cadurcis by far the most hearty and amusing person he had ever known, and could not refrain from contrasting him with the picture which his works and the report of the world had occasionally enabled him to sketch to his mind’s eye; the noble, young, and impassioned bard, pouring forth the eloquent tide of his morbid feelings to an idolising world, from whose applause he nevertheless turned with an almost misanthropic melancholy.
It was now much past the noon of night, and the hour of separation, long postponed, was inevitable. Often had Cadurcis risen to depart, and often, without regaining his seat, had he been tempted by his friends, and especially Venetia, into fresh narratives. At last he said, ‘Now we must go. Lady Annabel looks good night. I remember the look,’ he said, laughing, ‘when we used to beg for a quarter of an hour more. O Venetia! do not you remember that Christmas when dear old Masham read Julius Caesar, and we were to sit up until it was finished. When he got to the last act I hid his spectacles. I never confessed it until this moment. Will you pardon me, Lady Annabel?’ and he pressed his hands together in a mockery of supplication.
‘Will you come and breakfast with us tomorrow?’ said Lady Annabel.
‘With delight,’ he answered. ‘I am used, you know, to walks before breakfast. George, I do not think George can do it, though. George likes his comforts; he is a regular John Bull. He was always calling for tea when we were in Turkey!’
At this moment Mistress Pauncefort entered the room, ostensibly on some little affair of her mistress, but really to reconnoitre.
‘Ah! Mistress Pauncefort; my old friend, Mistress Pauncefort, how do you do?’ exclaimed his lordship.
‘Quite well, my lord, please your lordship; and very glad to see your lordship again, and looking so well too.’
‘Ah! Mistress Pauncefort, you always flattered me!’
‘Oh! dear, my lord, your lordship, no,’ said Mistress Pauncefort, with a simper.
‘But you, Pauncefort,’ said Cadurcis, ‘why there must be some magic in the air here. I have been complimenting your lady and Miss Venetia; but really, you, I should almost have thought it was some younger sister.’
‘Oh! my lord, you have such a way,’ said Mistress Pauncefort, retreating with a slow step that still lingered for a remark.
‘Pauncefort, is that an Italian cap?’ said Lord Cadurcis; ‘you know, Pauncefort, you were always famous for your caps.’
Mistress Pauncefort disappeared in a fluster of delight.
And now they had indeed departed. There was a pause of complete silence after they had disappeared, the slight and not painful reaction after the mirthful excitement of the last few hours. At length Herbert, dropping, as was his evening custom, a few drops of orange-flower into a tumbler of water, said, ‘Annabel, my love, I am rather surprised that neither you nor Venetia should have mentioned to me that you knew, and knew so intimately, a man like Lord Cadurcis.’
Lady Annabel appeared a little confused; she looked even at Venetia, but Venetia’s eyes were on the ground. At length she said, ‘In truth, Marmion, since we met we have thought only of you.’
‘Cadurcis Abbey, papa, is close to Cherbury,’ said Venetia.
‘Cherbury!’ said Herbert, with a faint blush. ‘I have never seen it, and now I shall never see it. No matter, my country is your mother and yourself. Some find a home in their country, I find a country in my home. Well,’ he added, in a gayer tone, ‘it has gratified me much to meet Lord Cadurcis. We were happy before, but now we are even gay. I like to see you smile, Annabel, and hear Venetia laugh. I feel, myself, quite an unusual hilarity. Cadurcis! It is very strange how often I have mused over that name. A year ago it was one of my few wishes to know him; my wishes, then, dear Annabel, were not very ambitious. They did not mount so high as you have since permitted them. And now I do know him, and under what circumstances! Is not life strange? But is it not happy? I feel it so. Good night, sweet wife; my darling daughter, a happy, happy night!’ He embraced them ere they retired; and opening a volume composed his mind after the novel excitement of the evening.
Cadurcis left the brig early in the morning alone, and strolled towards the villa. He met Herbert half-way to Spezzia, who turned back with him towards home. They sat down on a crag opposite the sea; there was a light breeze, the fishing boats wore out, and the view was as animated as the fresh air was cheering.
‘There they go,’ said Cadurcis, smiling, ‘catching John Dory, as you and I try to catch John Bull. Now if these people could understand what two great men were watching them, how they would stare! But they don’t care a sprat for us, not they! They are not part of the world the three or four thousand civilised savages for whom we sweat our brains, and whose fetid breath perfumed with musk is fame. Pah!’
Herbert smiled. ‘I have not cared much myself for this same world.’
‘Why, no; you have done something, and shown your contempt for them. No one can deny that. I will some day, if I have an opportunity. I owe it them; I think I can show them a trick or two still.[A] I have got a Damascus blade in store for their thick hides. I will turn their flank yet.’
[Footnote A: I think I know a trick or two would turn Your flanks. Don Juan.]
‘And gain a victory where conquest brings no glory. You are worth brighter laurels, Lord Cadurcis.’
‘Now is not it the most wonderful thing in the world that you and I have met?’ said Cadurcis. ‘Now I look upon ourselves as something like, eh! Fellows with some pith in them. By Jove, if we only joined together, how we could lay it on! Crack, crack, crack; I think I see them wincing under the thong, the pompous poltroons! If you only knew how they behaved to me! By Jove, sir, they hooted me going to the House of Lords, and nearly pulled me off my horse. The ruffians would have massacred me if they could; and then they all ran away from a drummer-boy and a couple of grenadiers, who were going the rounds to change guard. Was not that good? Fine, eh? A brutish mob in a fit of morality about to immolate a gentleman, and then scampering off from a sentry. I call that human nature!’
‘As long as they leave us alone, and do not burn us alive, I am content,’ said Herbert. ‘I am callous to what they say.’
‘So am I,’ said Cadurcis. ‘I made out a list the other day of all the persons and things I have been compared to. It begins well, with Alcibiades, but it ends with the Swiss giantess or the Polish dwarf, I forget which. Here is your book. You see it has been well thumbed. In fact, to tell the truth, it was my cribbing book, and I always kept it by me when I was writing at Athens, like a gradus, a gradus ad Parnassum, you know. But although I crib, I am candid, and you see I fairly own it to you.’
‘You are welcome to all I have ever written,’ said Herbert. ‘Mine were but crude dreams. I wished to see man noble and happy; but if he will persist in being vile and miserable, I must even be content. I can struggle for him no more.’
‘Well, you opened my mind,’ said Cadurcis. ‘I owe you everything; but I quite agree with you that nothing is worth an effort. As for philosophy and freedom, and all that, they tell devilish well in a stanza; but men have always been fools and slaves, and fools and slaves they always will be.’
‘Nay,’ said Herbert, ‘I will not believe that. I will not give up a jot of my conviction of a great and glorious future for human destinies; but its consummation will not be so rapid as I once thought, and in the meantime I die.’
‘Ah, death!’ said Lord Cadurcis, ‘that is a botherer. What can you make of death? There are those poor fishermen now; there will be a white squall some day, and they will go down with those lateen sails of theirs, and be food for the very prey they were going to catch; and if you continue living here, you may eat one of your neighbours in the shape of a shoal of red mullets, when it is the season. The great secret, we cannot penetrate that with all our philosophy, my dear Herbert. “All that we know is, nothing can be known.” Barren, barren, barren! And yet what a grand world it is! Look at this bay, these blue waters, the mountains, and these chestnuts, devilish fine! The fact is, truth is veiled, but, like the Shekinah over the tabernacle, the veil is of dazzling light!’
‘Life is the great wonder,’ said Herbert, ‘into which all that is strange and startling resolves itself. The mist of familiarity obscures from us the miracle of our being. Mankind are constantly starting at events which they consider extraordinary. But a philosopher acknowledges only one miracle, and that is life. Political revolutions, changes of empire, wrecks of dynasties and the opinions that support them, these are the marvels of the vulgar, but these are only transient modifications of life. The origin of existence is, therefore, the first object which a true philosopher proposes to himself. Unable to discover it, he accepts certain results from his unbiassed observation of its obvious nature, and on them he establishes certain principles to be our guides in all social relations, whether they take the shape of laws or customs. Nevertheless, until the principle of life be discovered, all theories and all systems of conduct founded on theory must be considered provisional.’
‘And do you believe that there is a chance of its being discovered?’ inquired Cadurcis.
‘I cannot, from any reason in my own intelligence, find why it should not,’ said Herbert.
‘You conceive it possible that a man may attain earthly immortality?’ inquired Cadurcis.
‘By Jove,’ said Cadurcis, ‘if I only knew how, I would purchase an immense annuity directly.’
‘When I said undoubtedly,’ said Herbert, smiling, ‘I meant only to express that I know no invincible reason to the contrary. I see nothing inconsistent with the existence of a Supreme Creator in the annihilation of death. It appears to me an achievement worthy of his omnipotence. I believe in the possibility, but I believe in nothing more. I anticipate the final result, but not by individual means. It will, of course, be produced by some vast and silent and continuous operation of nature, gradually effecting some profound and comprehensive alteration in her order, a change of climate, for instance, the great enemy of life, so that the inhabitants of the earth may attain a patriarchal age. This renovated breed may in turn produce a still more vigorous offspring, and so we may ascend the scale, from the threescore and ten of the Psalmist to the immortality of which we speak. Indeed I, for my own part, believe the operation has already commenced, although thousands of centuries may elapse before it is consummated; the threescore and ten of the Psalmist is already obsolete; the whole world is talking of the general change of its seasons and its atmosphere. If the origin of America were such as many profound philosophers suppose, viz., a sudden emersion of a new continent from the waves, it is impossible to doubt that such an event must have had a very great influence on the climate of the world. Besides, why should we be surprised that the nature of man should change? Does not everything change? Is not change the law of nature? My skin changes every year, my hair never belongs to me a month, the nail on my hand is only a passing possession. I doubt whether a man at fifty is the same material being that he is at five-and-twenty.’
‘I wonder,’ said Lord Cadurcis, ‘if a creditor brought an action against you at fifty for goods delivered at five-and-twenty, one could set up the want of identity as a plea in bar. It would be a consolation to an elderly gentleman.’
‘I am afraid mankind are too hostile to philosophy,’ said Herbert, smiling, ‘to permit so desirable a consummation.’
‘Should you consider a long life a blessing?’ said Cadurcis. ‘Would you like, for instance, to live to the age of Methusalem?’
‘Those whom the gods love die young,’ said Herbert. ‘For the last twenty years I have wished to die, and I have sought death. But my feelings, I confess, on that head are at present very much modified.’
‘Youth, glittering youth!’ said Cadurcis in a musing tone; ‘I remember when the prospect of losing my youth frightened me out of my wits; I dreamt of nothing but grey hairs, a paunch, and the gout or the gravel. But I fancy every period of life has its pleasures, and as we advance in life the exercise of power and the possession of wealth must be great consolations to the majority; we bully our children and hoard our cash.’
‘Two most noble occupations!’ said Herbert; ‘but I think in this world there is just as good a chance of being bullied by our children first, and paying their debts afterwards.’
‘Faith! you are right,’ said Cadurcis, laughing, ‘and lucky is he who has neither creditors nor offspring, and who owes neither money nor affection, after all the most difficult to pay of the two.’
‘It cannot be commanded, certainly,’ said Herbert ‘There is no usury for love.’
‘And yet it is very expensive, too, sometimes, said Cadurcis, laughing. ‘For my part, sympathy is a puzzler.’
‘You should read Cabanis,’ said Herbert, ‘if indeed, you have not. I think I may find it here; I will lend it you. It has, from its subject, many errors, but it is very suggestive.’
‘Now, that is kind, for I have not a book here, and, after all, there is nothing like reading. I wish I had read more, but it is not too late. I envy you your learning, besides so many other things. However, I hope we shall not part in a hurry; we have met at last,’ he said, extending his hand, ‘and we were always friends.’
Herbert shook his hand very warmly. ‘I can assure you, Lord Cadurcis, you have not a more sincere admirer of your genius. I am happy in your society. For myself, I now aspire to be nothing better than an idler in life, turning over a page, and sometimes noting down a fancy. You have, it appears, known my family long and intimately, and you were, doubtless, surprised at finding me with them. I have returned to my hearth, and I am content. Once I sacrificed my happiness to my philosophy, and now I have sacrificed my philosophy to my happiness.’
‘Dear friend!’ said Cadurcis, putting his arm affectionately in Herbert’s as they walked along, ‘for, indeed, you must allow me to style you so; all the happiness and all the sorrow of my life alike flow from your roof!’
In the meantime Lady Annabel and Venetia came forth from the villa to their morning meal in their amphitheatre of hills. Marmion was not there to greet them as usual.
‘Was not Plantagenet amusing last night?’ said Venetia; ‘and are not you happy, dear mother, to see him once more?’
‘Indeed I am now always happy,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘And George was telling me last night, in this portico, of all their life. He is more attached to Plantagenet than ever. He says it is impossible for any one to have behaved with greater kindness, or to have led, in every sense, a more calm and rational life. When he was alone at Athens, he did nothing but write. George says that all his former works are nothing to what he has written now.’
‘He is very engaging,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘I think he will be such a delightful companion for papa. I am sure papa must like him. I hope he will stay some time; for, after all, poor dear papa, he must require a little amusement besides our society. Instead of being with his books, he might be walking and talking with Plantagenet. I think, dearest mother, we shall be happier than ever!’
At this moment Herbert, with Cadurcis leaning on his arm, and apparently speaking with great earnestness, appeared in the distance. ‘There they are,’ said Venetia; ‘I knew they would be friends. Come, dearest mother, let us meet them.’
‘You see, Lady Annabel,’ said Lord Cadurcis, ‘it is just as I said: Mr. George is not here; he is having tea and toast on board the brig.’
‘I do not believe it,’ said Venetia, smiling.
They seated themselves at the breakfast-table.
‘You should have seen our Apennine breakfasts in the autumn, Lord Cadurcis,’ said Herbert. ‘Every fruit of nature seemed crowded before us. It was indeed a meal for a poet or a painter like Paul Veronese; our grapes, our figs, our peaches, our mountain strawberries, they made a glowing picture. For my part, I have an original prejudice against animal food which I have never quite overcome, and I believe it is only to please Lady Annabel that I have relapsed into the heresy of cutlets.’
‘Do you think I have grown fatter, Lady Annabel?’ said Lord Cadurcis, starting up; ‘I brought myself down at Athens to bread and olives, but I have been committing terrible excesses lately, but only fish.’
‘Ah! here is George!’ said Lady Annabel.
And Captain Cadurcis appeared, followed by a couple of sailors, bearing a huge case.
‘George,’ said Venetia, ‘I have been defending you against Plantagenet; he said you would not come.’
‘Never mind, George, it was only behind your back,’ said Lord Cadurcis; ‘and, under those legitimate circumstances, why even our best friends cannot expect us to spare them.’
‘I have brought Venetia her toys,’ said Captain Cadurcis, ‘and she was right to defend me, as I have been working for her.’
The top of the case was knocked off, and all the Turkish buffooneries, as Cadurcis called them, made their appearance: slippers, and shawls, and bottles of perfumes, and little hand mirrors, beautifully embroidered; and fanciful daggers, and rosaries, and a thousand other articles, of which they had plundered the bazaars of Constantinople.
‘And here is a Turkish volume of poetry, beautifully illuminated; and that is for you,’ said Cadurcis giving it to Herbert. ‘Perhaps it is a translation of one of our works. Who knows? We can always say it is.’
‘This is the second present you have made me this morning. Here is a volume of my works,’ said Herbert, producing the book that Cadurcis had before given him. ‘I never expected that anything I wrote would be so honoured. This, too, is the work of which I am the least ashamed for my wife admired it. There, Annabel, even though Lord Cadurcis is here, I will present it to you; ’tis an old friend.’
Lady Annabel accepted the book very graciously, and, in spite of all the temptations of her toys, Venetia could not refrain from peeping over her mother’s shoulder at its contents. ‘Mother,’ she whispered, in a voice inaudible save to Lady Annabel, ‘I may read this!’
Lady Annabel gave it her.
‘And now we must send for Pauncefort, I think,’ said Lady Annabel, ‘to collect and take care of our treasures.’
‘Pauncefort,’ said Lord Cadurcis, when that gentlewoman appeared, ‘I have brought you a shawl, but I could not bring you a turban, because the Turkish ladies do not wear turbans; but if I had thought we should have met so soon, I would have had one made on purpose for you.’
‘La! my lord, you always are so polite!’
When the breakfast was over, they wandered about the valley, which Cadurcis could not sufficiently admire. Insensibly he drew Venetia from the rest of the party, on the pretence of showing her a view at some little distance. They walked along by the side of a rivulet, which glided through the hills, until they were nearly a mile from the villa, though still in sight.
‘Venetia,’ he at length said, turning the conversation to a more interesting topic, ‘your father and myself have disburthened our minds to each, other this morning; I think we know each other now as well as if we were as old acquaintances as myself and his daughter.’
‘Ah! I knew that you and papa must agree,’ said Venetia; ‘I was saying so this morning to my mother.’
‘Venetia,’ said Cadurcis, with a laughing eye, ‘all this is very strange, is it not?’
‘Very strange, indeed, Plantagenet; I should not be surprised if it appeared to you as yet even incredible.’
‘It is miraculous,’ said Cadurcis, ‘but not incredible; an angel interfered, and worked the miracle. I know all.’
Venetia looked at him with a faint flush upon her cheek; she gathered a flower and plucked it to pieces.
‘What a singular destiny ours has been, Venetia! ‘said Cadurcis. ‘Do you know, I can sit for an hour together and muse over it.’
‘Can you, Plantagenet?’
‘I have such an extraordinary memory; I do not think I ever forgot anything. We have had some remarkable conversations in our time, eh, Venetia? Do you remember my visit to Cherbury before I went to Cambridge, and the last time I saw you before I left England? And now it all ends in this! What do you think of it, Venetia?’
‘Think of what, Plantagenet?’
‘Why, of this reconciliation?’
‘Dear Plantagenet, what can I think of it but what I have expressed, that it is a wonderful event, but the happiest in my life.’
‘You are quite happy now?’
‘I see you do not care for me the least.’
‘Plantagenet, you are perverse. Are you not here?’
‘Did you ever think of me when I was away?’
‘You know very well, Plantagenet, that it is impossible for me to cease to be interested in you. Could I refrain from thinking of such a friend?’
‘Friend! poh! I am not your friend; and, as for that, you never once mentioned my name to your father, Miss Venetia.’
‘You might easily conceive that there were reasons for such silence,’ said Venetia. ‘It could not arise on my part from forgetfulness or indifference; for, even if my feelings were changed towards you, you are not a person that one would, or even could, avoid speaking of, especially to papa, who must have felt such interest in you! I am sure, even if I had not known you, there were a thousand occasions which would have called your name to my lips, had they been uncontrolled by other considerations.’
‘Come, Venetia, I am not going to submit to compliments from you,’ said Lord Cadurcis; ‘no blarney. I wish you only to think of me as you did ten years ago. I will not have our hearts polluted by the vulgarity of fame. I want you to feel for me as you did when we were children. I will not be an object of interest, and admiration, and fiddlestick to you; I will not submit to it.’
‘Well, you shall not,’ said Venetia, laughing. ‘I will not admire you the least; I will only think of you as a good little boy.’
‘You do not love me any longer, I see that,’ said Cadurcis.
‘Yes I do, Plantagenet.’
‘You do not love me so much as you did the night before I went to Eton, and we sat over the fire? Ah! how often I have thought of that night when I was at Athens!’ he added in a tone of emotion.
‘Dear Plantagenet,’ said Venetia, ‘do not be silly. I am in the highest spirits in the world; I am quite gay with happiness, and all because you have returned. Do not spoil my pleasure.’
‘Ah, Venetia! I see how it is; you have forgotten me, or worse than forgotten me.’
‘Well, I am sure I do not know what to say to satisfy you,’ said Venetia. ‘I think you very unreasonable, and very ungrateful too, for I have always been your friend, Plantagenet, and I am sure you know it. You sent me a message before you went abroad.’
‘Darling!’ said Lord Cadurcis, seizing her hand, ‘I am not ungrateful, I am not unreasonable. I adore you. You were very kind then, when all the world was against me. You shall see how I will pay them off, the dogs! and worse than dogs, their betters far; dogs are faithful. Do you remember poor old Marmion? How we were mystified, Venetia! Little did we think then who was Marmion’s godfather.’
Venetia smiled; but she said, ‘I do not like this bitterness of yours, Plantagenet. You have no cause to complain of the world, and you magnify a petty squabble with a contemptible coterie into a quarrel with a nation. It is not a wise humour, and, if you indulge it, it will not be a happy one.’
‘I will do exactly what you wish on every subject, said Cadurcis, ‘if you will do exactly what I wish on one.’
‘Well!’ said Venetia.
‘Once you told me,’ said Cadurcis, ‘that you would not marry me without the consent of your father; then, most unfairly, you added to your conditions the consent of your mother. Now both your parents are very opportunely at hand; let us fall down upon our knees, and beg their blessing.’
‘O! my dear Plantagenet, I think it will be much better for me never to marry. We are both happy now; let us remain so. You can live here, and I can be your sister. Will not that do?’
‘No, Venetia, it will not.’
‘Dear Plantagenet!’ said Venetia with a faltering voice, ‘if you knew how much I had suffered, dear Plantagenet!’
‘I know it; I know all,’ said Cadurcis, taking her arm and placing it tenderly in his. ‘Now listen to me, sweet girl; I loved you when a child, when I was unknown to the world, and unknown to myself; I loved you as a youth not utterly inexperienced in the world, and when my rising passions had taught me to speculate on the character of women; I loved you as a man, Venetia, with that world at my feet, that world which I scorn, but which I will command; I have been constant, Venetia; your heart assures you, of that. You are the only being in existence who exercises over me any influence; and the influence you possess is irresistible and eternal. It springs from some deep and mysterious sympathy of blood which I cannot penetrate. It can neither be increased nor diminished by time. It is entirely independent of its action. I pretend not to love you more at this moment than when I first saw you, when you entered the terrace-room at Cherbury and touched my cheek. From that moment I was yours. I declare to you, most solemnly I declare to you, that I know not what love is except to you. The world has called me a libertine; the truth is, no other woman can command my spirit for an hour. I see through them at a glance. I read all their weakness, frivolity, vanity, affectation, as if they were touched by the revealing rod of Asmodeus. You were born to be my bride. Unite yourself with me, control my destiny, and my course shall be like the sun of yesterday; but reject me, reject me, and I devote all my energies to the infernal gods; I will pour my lava over the earth until all that remains of my fatal and exhausted nature is a black and barren cone surrounded by bitter desolation.’
‘Plantagenet; be calm!’
‘I am perfectly calm, Venetia. You talk to me of your sufferings. What has occasioned them? A struggle against nature. Nature has now triumphed, and you are happy. What necessity was there for all this misery that has fallen on your house? Why is your father an exile? Do not you think that if your mother had chosen to exert her influence she might have prevented the most fatal part of his career? Undoubtedly despair impelled his actions as much as philosophy, though I give him credit for a pure and lofty spirit, to no man more. But not a murmur against your mother from me. She received my overtures of reconciliation last night with more than cordiality. She is your mother, Venetia, and she once was mine. Indeed, I love her; indeed, you would find that I would study her happiness. For after all, sweet, is there another woman in existence better qualified to fill the position of my mother-in-law? I could not behave unkindly to her; I could not treat her with neglect or harshness; not merely for the sake of her many admirable qualities, but from other considerations, Venetia, considerations we never can forget. By heavens! I love your mother; I do, indeed, Venetia! I remember so many things; her last words to me when I went to Eton. If she would only behave kindly to me, you would see what a son-in-law I should make. You would be jealous, that you should, Venetia. I can bear anything from you, Venetia, but, with others, I cannot forget who I am. It makes me bitter to be treated as Lady Annabel treated me last year in London: but a smile and a kind word and I recall all her maternal love; I do indeed, Venetia; last night when she was kind I could have kissed her!’
Poor Venetia could not answer, her tears were flowing so plenteously. ‘I have told your father all, sweetest,’ said Cadurcis; ‘I concealed nothing.’
‘And what said he?’ murmured Venetia.
‘It rests with your mother. After all that has passed, he will not attempt to control your fate. And he is right. Perhaps his interference in my favour might even injure me. But there is no cause for despair; all I wanted was to come to an understanding with you; to be sure you loved me as you always have done. I will not be impatient. I will do everything to soothe and conciliate and gratify Lady Annabel; you will see how I will behave! As you say, too, we are happy because we are together; and, therefore, it would be unreasonable not to be patient. I never can be sufficiently grateful for this meeting. I concluded you would be in England, though we were on our way to Milan to inquire after you. George has been a great comfort to me in all this affair, Venetia; he loves you, Venetia, almost as much as I do. I think I should have gone mad during that cursed affair in England, had it not been for George. I thought you would hate me; but, when George brought me your message, I cared for nothing; and then his visit to the lake was so devilish kind! He is a noble fellow and a true friend. My sweet, sweet Venetia, dry your eyes. Let us rejoin them with a smile. We have not been long away, I will pretend we have been violet hunting,’ said Cadurcis, stooping down and plucking up a handful of flowers. ‘Do you remember our violets at home, Venetia? Do you know, Venetia, I always fancy every human being is like some object in nature; and you always put me in mind of a violet so fresh and sweet and delicate!’
‘We have been exploring the happy valley,’ said Lord Cadurcis to Lady Annabel, ‘and here is our plunder,’ and he gave her the violets.
‘You were always fond of flowers,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘Yes, I imbibed the taste from you,’ said Cadurcis, gratified by the gracious remark.
He seated himself at her feet, examined and admired her work, and talked of old times, but with such infinite discretion, that he did not arouse a single painful association. Venetia was busied with her father’s poems, and smiled often at the manuscript notes of Cadurcis. Lying, as usual, on the grass, and leaning his head on his left arm, Herbert was listening to Captain Cadurcis, who was endeavouring to give him a clear idea of the Bosphorus. Thus the morning wore away, until the sun drove them into the villa.
‘I will show you my library, Lord Cadurcis,’ said Herbert.
Cadurcis followed him into a spacious apartment, where he found a collection so considerable that he could not suppress his surprise. ‘Italian spoils chiefly,’ said Herbert; ‘a friend of mine purchased an old library at Bologna for me, and it turned out richer than I imagined: the rest are old friends that have been with me, many of them at least, at college. I brought them back with me from America, for then they were my only friends.’
‘Can you find Cabanis?’ said Lord Cadurcis.
Herbert looked about. It is in this neighbourhood, I imagine,’ he said. Cadurcis endeavoured to assist him. ‘What is this?’ he said; ‘Plato!’
‘I should like to read Plato at Athens,’ said Herbert. ‘My ambition now does not soar beyond such elegant fortune.’
‘We are all under great obligations to Plato,’ said Cadurcis. ‘I remember, when I was in London, I always professed myself his disciple, and it is astonishing what results I experienced. Platonic love was a great invention.’
Herbert smiled; but, as he saw Cadurcis knew nothing about the subject, he made no reply.
‘Plato says, or at least I think he says, that life is love,’ said Cadurcis. ‘I have said it myself in a very grand way too; I believe I cribbed it from you. But what does he mean? I am sure I meant nothing; but I dare say you did.’
‘I certainly had some meaning,’ said Herbert, stopping in his search, and smiling, ‘but I do not know whether I expressed it. The principle of every motion, that is of all life, is desire or love: at present; I am in love with the lost volume of Cabanis, and, if it were not for the desire of obtaining it, I should not now be affording any testimony of my vitality by looking after it.’
‘That is very clear,’ said Cadurcis, ‘but I was thinking of love in the vulgar sense, in the shape of a petticoat. Certainly, when I am in love with a woman, I feel love is life; but, when I am out of love, which often happens, and generally very soon, I still contrive to live.’
‘We exist,’ said Herbert, ‘because we sympathise. If we did not sympathise with the air, we should die. But, if we only sympathised with the air, we should be in the lowest order of brutes, baser than the sloth. Mount from the sloth to the poet. It is sympathy that makes you a poet. It is your desire that the airy children of your brain should be born anew within another’s, that makes you create; therefore, a misanthropical poet is a contradiction in terms.’
‘But when he writes a lampoon?’ said Cadurcis.
‘He desires that the majority, who are not lampooned, should share his hate,’ said Herbert.
‘But Swift lampooned the species,’ said Cadurcis. ‘For my part, I think life is hatred.’
‘But Swift was not sincere, for he wrote the Drapier’s Letters at the same time. Besides, the very fact of your abusing mankind proves that you do not hate them; it is clear that you are desirous of obtaining their good opinion of your wit. You value them, you esteem them, you love them. Their approbation causes you to act, and makes you happy. As for sexual love,’ said Herbert, ‘of which you were speaking, its quality and duration depend upon the degree of sympathy that subsists between the two persons interested. Plato believed, and I believe with him, in the existence of a spiritual antitype of the soul, so that when we are born, there is something within us which, from the instant we live and move, thirsts after its likeness. This propensity develops itself with the development of our nature. The gratification of the senses soon becomes a very small part of that profound and complicated sentiment, which we call love. Love, on the contrary, is an universal thirst for a communion, not merely of the senses, but of our whole nature, intellectual, imaginative, and sensitive. He who finds his antitype, enjoys a love perfect and enduring; time cannot change it, distance cannot remove it; the sympathy is complete. He who loves an object that approaches his antitype, is proportionately happy, the sympathy is feeble or strong, as it may be. If men were properly educated, and their faculties fully developed,’ continued Herbert, ‘the discovery of the antitype would be easy; and, when the day arrives that it is a matter of course, the perfection of civilisation will be attained.’
‘I believe in Plato,’ said Lord Cadurcis, ‘and I think I have found my antitype. His theory accounts for what I never could understand.’
In the course of the evening Lady Annabel requested Lord Cadurcis and his cousin to take up their quarters at the villa. Independent of the delight which such an invitation occasioned him, Cadurcis was doubly gratified by its being given by her. It was indeed her unprompted solicitation; for neither Herbert nor even Venetia, however much they desired the arrangement, was anxious to appear eager for its fulfilment. Desirous of pleasing her husband and her daughter; a little penitent as to her previous treatment of Cadurcis, now that time and strange events had combined to soften her feelings; and won by his engaging demeanour towards herself, Lady Annabel had of mere impulse resolved upon the act; and she was repaid by the general air of gaiety and content which it diffused through the circle.
Few weeks indeed passed ere her ladyship taught herself even to contemplate the possibility of an union between her daughter and Lord Cadurcis. The change which had occurred in her own feelings and position had in her estimation removed very considerable barriers to such a result. It would not become her again to urge the peculiarity of his temperament as an insuperable objection to the marriage; that was out of the question, even if the conscience of Lady Annabel herself, now that she was so happy, were perfectly free from any participation in the causes which occasioned the original estrangement between Herbert and herself. Desirous too, as all mothers are, that her daughter should be suitably married, Lady Annabel could not shut her eyes to the great improbability of such an event occurring, now that Venetia had, as it were, resigned all connection with her native country. As to her daughter marrying a foreigner, the very idea was intolerable to her; and Venetia appeared therefore to have resumed that singular and delicate position which she occupied at Cherbury in earlier years, when Lady Annabel had esteemed her connection with Lord Cadurcis so fortunate and auspicious. Moreover, while Lord Cadurcis, in birth, rank, country, and consideration, offered in every view of the ease so gratifying an alliance, he was perhaps the only Englishman whose marriage into her family would not deprive her of the society of her child. Cadurcis had a great distaste for England, which he seized every opportunity to express. He continually declared that he would never return there; and his habits of seclusion and study so entirely accorded with those of her husband, that Lady Annabel did not doubt they would continue to form only one family; a prospect so engaging to her, that it would perhaps have alone removed the distrust which she had so unfortunately cherished against the admirer of her daughter; and although some of his reputed opinions occasioned her doubtless considerable anxiety, he was nevertheless very young, and far from emancipated from the beneficial influence of his early education. She was sanguine that this sheep would yet return to the fold where once he had been tended with so much solicitude. When too she called to mind the chastened spirit of her husband, and could not refrain from feeling that, had she not quitted him, he might at a much earlier period have attained a mood so full of promise and to her so cheering, she could not resist the persuasion that, under the influence of Venetia, Cadurcis might speedily free himself from the dominion of that arrogant genius to which, rather than to any serious conviction, the result of a studious philosophy, she attributed his indifference on the most important of subjects. On the whole, however, it was with no common gratification that Lady Annabel observed the strong and intimate friendship that arose between her husband and Cadurcis. They were inseparable companions. Independently of the natural sympathy between two highly imaginative minds, there were in the superior experience, the noble character, the vast knowledge, and refined taste of Herbert, charms of which Cadurcis was very susceptible Cadurcis had not been a great reader himself, and he liked the company of one whose mind was at once so richly cultured and so deeply meditative: thus he obtained matter and spirit distilled through the alembic of another’s brain. Jealousy had never had a place in Herbert’s temperament; now he was insensible even to emulation. He spoke of Cadurcis as he thought, with the highest admiration; as one without a rival, and in whose power it was to obtain an imperishable fame. It was his liveliest pleasure to assist the full development of such an intellect, and to pour to him, with a lavish hand, all the treasures of his taste, his learning, his fancy, and his meditation. His kind heart, his winning manners, his subdued and perfect temper, and the remembrance of the relation which he bore to Venetia, completed the spell which bound Cadurcis to him with all the finest feelings of his nature. It was, indeed, an intercourse peculiarly beneficial to Cadurcis, whose career had hitherto tended rather to the development of the power, than the refinement of his genius; and to whom an active communion with an equal spirit of a more matured intelligence was an incident rather to be desired than expected. Herbert and Cadurcis, therefore, spent their mornings together, sometimes in the library, sometimes wandering in the chestnut woods, sometimes sailing in the boat of the brig, for they were both fond of the sea: in these excursions, George was in general their companion. He had become a great favourite with Herbert, as with everybody else. No one managed a boat so well, although Cadurcis prided himself also on his skill in this respect; and George was so frank and unaffected, and so used to his cousin’s habits, that his presence never embarrassed Herbert and Cadurcis, and they read or conversed quite at their ease, as if there were no third person to mar, by his want of sympathy, the full communion of their intellect. The whole circle met at dinner, and never again parted until at a late hour of night. This was a most agreeable life; Cadurcis himself, good humoured because he was happy, doubly exerted himself to ingratiate himself with Lady Annabel, and felt every day that he was advancing. Venetia always smiled upon him, and praised him delightfully for his delightful conduct.
In the evening, Herbert would read to them the manuscript poem of Cadurcis, the fruits of his Attic residence and Grecian meditations. The poet would sometimes affect a playful bashfulness on this head, perhaps not altogether affected, and amuse Venetia, in a whisper, with his running comments; or exclaim with an arch air, ‘I say, Venetia, what would Mrs. Montague and the Blues give for this, eh? I can fancy Hannah More in decent ecstasies!’
‘It is an odd thing, my dear Herbert,’ said Cadurcis to his friend, in one of these voyages, ‘that destiny should have given you and me the same tutor.’
‘Masham!’ said Herbert, smiling. ‘I tell you what is much more singular, my dear Cadurcis; it is, that, notwithstanding being our tutor, a mitre should have fallen upon his head.’
‘I am heartily glad,’ said Cadurcis. ‘I like Masham very much; I really have a sincere affection for him. Do you know, during my infernal affair about those accursed Monteagles, when I went to the House of Lords, and was cut even by my own party; think of that, the polished ruffians! Masham was the only person who came forward and shook hands with me, and in the most marked manner. A bishop, too! and the other side! that was good, was it not? But he would not see his old pupil snubbed; if he had waited ten minutes longer, he might have had a chance of seeing him massacred. And then they complain of my abusing England, my mother country; a step-dame, I take it.’
‘Masham is in politics a Tory, in religion ultra-orthodox,’ Herbert. ‘He has nothing about him of the latitudinarian; and yet he is the most amiable man with whom I am acquainted. Nature has given him a kind and charitable heart, which even his opinions have not succeeded in spoiling.’
‘Perhaps that is exactly what he is saying of us two at this moment,’ said Cadurcis. ‘After all, what is truth? It changes as you change your clime or your country; it changes with the century. The truth of a hundred years ago is not the truth of the present day, and yet it may have been as genuine. Truth at Rome is not the truth of London, and both of them differ from the truth of Constantinople. For my part, I believe everything.’
‘Well, that is practically prudent, if it be metaphysically possible,’ said Herbert. ‘Do you know that I have always been of opinion, that Pontius Pilate has been greatly misrepresented by Lord Bacon in the quotation of his celebrated question. ‘What is truth?’ said jesting Pilate, and would not wait for an answer. Let us be just to Pontius Pilate, who has sins enough surely to answer for. There is no authority for the jesting humour given by Lord Bacon. Pilate was evidently of a merciful and clement disposition; probably an Epicurean. His question referred to a declaration immediately preceding it, that He who was before him came to bear witness to the truth. Pilate inquired what truth?’
‘Well, I always have a prejudice against Pontius Pilate,’ said Lord Cadurcis; ‘and I think it is from seeing him, when I was a child, on an old Dutch tile fireplace at Marringhurst, dressed like a burgomaster. One cannot get over one’s early impressions; but when you picture him to me as an Epicurean, he assumes a new character. I fancy him young, noble, elegant, and accomplished; crowned with a wreath and waving a goblet, and enjoying his government vastly.’
‘Before the introduction of Christianity,’ said Herbert, ‘the philosophic schools answered to our present religious sects. You said of a man that he was a Stoic or an Epicurean, as you say of a man now that he is a Calvinist or a Wesleyan.’
‘I should have liked to have known Epicurus,’ said Cadurcis.
‘I would sooner have known him and Plato than any of the ancients,’ said Herbert. ‘I look upon Plato as the wisest and the profoundest of men, and upon Epicurus as the most humane and gentle.’
‘Now, how do you account for the great popularity of Aristotle in modern ages?’ said Cadurcis; ‘and the comparative neglect of these, at least his equals? Chance, I suppose, that settles everything.’
‘By no means,’ said Herbert. ‘If you mean by chance an absence of accountable cause, I do not believe such a quality as chance exists. Every incident that happens, must be a link in a chain. In the present case, the monks monopolised literature, such as it might be, and they exercised their intellect only in discussing words. They, therefore, adopted Aristotle and the Peripatetics. Plato interfered with their heavenly knowledge, and Epicurus, who maintained the rights of man to pleasure and happiness, would have afforded a dangerous and seducing contrast to their dark and miserable code of morals.’
‘I think, of the ancients,’ said Cadurcis; ‘Alcibiades and Alexander the Great are my favourites. They were young, beautiful, and conquerors; a great combination.’
‘And among the moderns?’ inquired Herbert.
‘They don’t touch my fancy,’ said Cadurcis. ‘Who are your heroes?’
‘Oh! I have many; but I confess I should like to pass a day with Milton, or Sir Philip Sidney.’
‘Among mere literary men,’ said Cadurcis; ‘I should say Bayle.’
‘And old Montaigne for me,’ said Herbert.
‘Well, I would fain visit him in his feudal chateau,’ said Cadurcis. ‘His is one of the books which give a spring to the mind. Of modern times, the feudal ages of Italy most interest me. I think that was a springtide of civilisation, all the fine arts nourished at the same moment.’
‘They ever will,’ said Herbert. ‘All the inventive arts maintain a sympathetic connection between each other, for, after all, they are only various expressions of one internal power, modified by different circumstances either of the individual or of society. It was so in the age of Pericles; I mean the interval which intervened between the birth of that great man and the death of Aristotle; undoubtedly, whether considered in itself, or with reference to the effects which it produced upon the subsequent destinies of civilised man, the most memorable in the history of the world.’
‘And yet the age of Pericles has passed away,’ said Lord Cadurcis mournfully, ‘and I have gazed upon the mouldering Parthenon. O Herbert! you are a great thinker and muse deeply; solve me the problem why so unparalleled a progress was made during that period in literature and the arts, and why that progress, so rapid and so sustained, so soon received a check and became retrograde?’
‘It is a problem left to the wonder and conjecture of posterity,’ said Herbert. ‘But its solution, perhaps, may principally be found in the weakness of their political institutions. Nothing of the Athenians remains except their genius; but they fulfilled their purpose. The wrecks and fragments of their subtle and profound minds obscurely suggest to us the grandeur and perfection of the whole. Their language excels every other tongue of the Western world; their sculptures baffle all subsequent artists; credible witnesses assure us that their paintings were not inferior; and we are only accustomed to consider the painters of Italy as those who have brought the art to its highest perfection, because none of the ancient pictures have been preserved. Yet of all their fine arts, it was music of which the Greeks were themselves most proud. Its traditionary effects were far more powerful than any which we experience from the compositions of our times. And now for their poetry, Cadurcis. It is in poetry, and poetry alone, that modern nations have maintained the majesty of genius. Do we equal the Greeks? Do we even excel them?’
‘Let us prove the equality first,’ said Cadurcis. ‘The Greeks excelled in every species of poetry. In some we do not even attempt to rival them. We have not a single modern ode, or a single modern pastoral. We have no one to place by Pindar, or the exquisite Theocritus. As for the epic, I confess myself a heretic as to Homer; I look upon the Iliad as a remnant of national songs; the wise ones agree that the Odyssey is the work of a later age. My instinct agrees with the result of their researches. I credit their conclusion. The Paradise Lost is, doubtless, a great production, but the subject is monkish. Dante is national, but he has all the faults of a barbarous age. In general the modern epic is framed upon the assumption that the Iliad is an orderly composition. They are indebted for this fallacy to Virgil, who called order out of chaos; but the Aeneid, all the same, appears to me an insipid creation. And now for the drama. You will adduce Shakspeare?’
‘There are passages in Dante,’ said Herbert, ‘not inferior, in my opinion, to any existing literary composition, but, as a whole, I will not make my stand on him; I am not so clear that, as a lyric poet, Petrarch may not rival the Greeks. Shakspeare I esteem of ineffable merit.’
‘And who is Shakspeare?’ said Cadurcis. ‘We know of him as much as we do of Homer. Did he write half the plays attributed to him? Did he ever write a single whole play? I doubt it. He appears to me to have been an inspired adapter for the theatres, which were then not as good as barns. I take him to have been a botcher up of old plays. His popularity is of modern date, and it may not last; it would have surprised him marvellously. Heaven knows, at present, all that bears his name is alike admired; and a regular Shaksperian falls into ecstasies with trash which deserves a niche in the Dunciad. For my part, I abhor your irregular geniuses, and I love to listen to the little nightingale of Twickenham.’
‘I have often observed,’ said Herbert, ‘that writers of an unbridled imagination themselves, admire those whom the world, erroneously, in my opinion, and from a confusion of ideas, esteems correct. I am myself an admirer of Pope, though I certainly should not ever think of classing him among the great creative spirits. And you, you are the last poet in the world, Cadurcis, whom one would have fancied his votary.’
‘I have written like a boy,’ said Cadurcis. ‘I found the public bite, and so I baited on with tainted meat. I have never written for fame, only for notoriety; but I am satiated; I am going to turn over a new leaf.’
‘For myself,’ said Herbert, ‘if I ever had the power to impress my creations on my fellow-men, the inclination is gone, and perhaps the faculty is extinct. My career is over; perhaps a solitary echo from my lyre may yet, at times, linger about the world like a breeze that has lost its way. But there is a radical fault in my poetic mind, and I am conscious of it. I am not altogether void of the creative faculty, but mine is a fragmentary mind; I produce no whole. Unless you do this, you cannot last; at least, you cannot materially affect your species. But what I admire in you, Cadurcis, is that, with all the faults of youth, of which you will free yourself, your creative power is vigorous, prolific, and complete; your creations rise fast and fair, like perfect worlds.’
‘Well, we will not compliment each other,’ said Cadurcis; ‘for, after all, it is a miserable craft. What is poetry but a lie, and what are poets but liars?’
‘You are wrong, Cadurcis,’ said Herbert, ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.’
‘I see the towers of Porto Venere,’ said Cadurcis directing the sail; ‘we shall soon be on shore. I think, too, I recognise Venetia. Ah! my dear Herbert, your daughter is a poem that beats all our inspiration!’
One circumstance alone cast a gloom over this happy family, and that was the approaching departure of Captain Cadurcis for England. This had been often postponed, but it could be postponed no longer. Not even the entreaties of those kind friends could any longer prevent what was inevitable. The kind heart, the sweet temper, and the lively and companionable qualities of Captain Cadurcis, had endeared him to everyone; all felt that his departure would occasion a blank in their life, impossible to be supplied. It reminded the Herberts also painfully of their own situation, in regard to their native country, which they were ever unwilling to dwell upon. George talked of returning to them, but the prospect was necessarily vague; they felt that it was only one of those fanciful visions with which an affectionate spirit attempts to soothe the pang of separation. His position, his duties, all the projects of his life, bound him to England, from which, indeed, he had been too long absent. It was selfish to wish that, for their sakes, he should sink down into a mere idler in Italy; and yet, when they recollected how little his future life could be connected with their own, everyone felt dispirited.
‘I shall not go boating today,’ said George to Venetia; ‘it is my last day. Mr. Herbert and Plantagenet talk of going to Lavenza; let us take a stroll together.’
Nothing can be refused to those we love on the last day, and Venetia immediately acceded to his request. In the course of the morning, therefore, herself and George quitted the valley, in the direction of the coast towards Genoa. Many a white sail glittered on the blue waters; it was a lively and cheering scene; but both Venetia and her companion were depressed.
‘I ought to be happy,’ said George, and sighed. ‘The fondest wish of my heart is attained. You remember our conversation on the Lago Maggiore, Venetia? You see I was a prophet, and you will be Lady Cadurcis yet.’
‘We must keep up our spirits,’ said Venetia; ‘I do not despair of our all returning to England yet. So many wonders have happened, that I cannot persuade myself that this marvel will not also occur. I am sure my uncle will do something; I have a secret idea that the Bishop is all this time working for papa; I feel assured I shall see Cherbury and Cadurcis again, and Cadurcis will be your home.’
‘A year ago you appeared dying, and Plantagenet was the most miserable of men,’ said Captain Cadurcis. ‘You are both now perfectly well and perfectly happy, living even under the same roof, soon, I feel, to be united, and with the cordial approbation of Lady Annabel. Your father is restored to you. Every blessing in the world seems to cluster round your roof. It is selfish for me to wear a gloomy countenance.’
‘Ah! dear George, you never can be selfish,’ said Venetia.
‘Yes, I am selfish, Venetia. What else can make me sad?’
‘You know how much you contribute to our happiness,’ said Venetia, ‘and you feel for our sufferings at your absence.’
‘No, Venetia, I feel for myself,’ said Captain Cadurcis with energy; ‘I am certain that I never can be happy, except in your society and Plantagenet’s. I cannot express to you how I love you both. Nothing else gives me the slightest interest.’
‘You must go home and marry,’ said Venetia, smiling ‘You must marry an heiress.’
‘Never,’ said Captain Cadurcis. ‘Nothing shall ever induce me to marry. No! all my dreams are confined to being the bachelor uncle of the family.’
‘Well, now I think,’ said Venetia, ‘of all the persons I know, there is no one so qualified for domestic happiness as yourself. I think your wife, George, would be a very fortunate woman, and I only wish I had a sister, that you might marry her.’
‘I wish you had, Venetia; I would give up my resolution against marriage directly.’
‘Alas!’ said Venetia, ‘there is always some bitter drop in the cup of life. Must you indeed go, George?’
‘My present departure is inevitable,’ he replied; ‘but I have some thoughts of giving up my profession and Parliament, and then I will return, never to leave you again.’
‘What will Lord —— say? That will never do,’ said Venetia. ‘No; I should not be content unless you prospered in the world, George. You are made to prosper, and I should be miserable if you sacrificed your existence to us. You must go home, and you must marry, and write letters to us by every post, and tell us what a happy man you are. The best thing for you to do would be to live with your wife at the abbey; or Cherbury, if you liked. You see I settle everything.’
‘I never will marry,’ said Captain Cadurcis, seriously.
‘Yes you will,’ said Venetia.
‘I am quite serious, Venetia. Now, mark my words, and remember this day. I never will marry. I have a reason, and a strong and good one, for my resolution.’
‘What is it?’
‘Because my marriage will destroy the intimacy that subsists between me and yourself, and Plantagenet,’ he added.
‘Your wife should be my friend,’ said Venetia.
‘Happy woman!’ said George.
‘Let us indulge for a moment in a dream of domestic bliss,’ said Venetia gaily. ‘Papa and mamma at Cherbury; Plantagenet and myself at the abbey, where you and your wife must remain until we could build you a house; and Dr. Masham coming down to spend Christmas with us. Would it not be delightful? I only hope Plantagenet would be tame. I think he would burst out a little sometimes.’
‘Not with you, Venetia, not with you,’ said George ‘you have a hold over him which nothing can ever shake. I could always put him in an amiable mood in an instant by mentioning your name.’
‘I wish you knew the abbey, George,’ said Venetia. ‘It is the most interesting of all old places. I love it. You must promise me when you arrive in England to go on a pilgrimage to Cadurcis and Cherbury, and write me a long account of it.’
‘I will indeed; I will write to you very often.’
‘You shall find me a most faithful correspondent, which, I dare say, Plantagenet would not prove.’
‘Oh! I beg your pardon,’ said George; ‘you have no idea of the quantity of letters he wrote me when he first quitted England. And such delightful ones! I do not think there is a more lively letter-writer in the world! His descriptions are so vivid; a few touches give you a complete picture; and then his observations, they are so playful! I assure you there is nothing in the world more easy and diverting than a letter from Plantagenet.’
‘If you could only see his first letter from Eton to me?’ said Venetia. ‘I have always treasured it. It certainly was not very diverting; and, if by easy you mean easy to decipher,’ she added laughing, ‘his handwriting must have improved very much lately. Dear Plantagenet, I am always afraid I never pay him sufficient respect; that I do not feel sufficient awe in his presence; but I cannot disconnect him from the playfellow of my infancy; and, do you know, it seems to me, whenever he addresses me, his voice and air change, and assume quite the tone and manner of childhood.’
‘I have never known him but as a great man,’ said Captain Cadurcis; ‘but he was so frank and simple with me from the very first, that I cannot believe that it is not two years since we first met.’
‘Ah! I shall never forget that night at Ranelagh,’ said Venetia, half with a smile and half with a sigh. ‘How interesting he looked! I loved to see the people stare at him, and to hear them whisper his name.’
Here they seated themselves by a fountain, overshadowed by a plane-tree, and for a while talked only of Plantagenet.
‘All the dreams of my life have come to pass,’ said Venetia. ‘I remember when I was at Weymouth, ill and not very happy, I used to roam about the sands, thinking of papa, and how I wished Plantagenet was like him, a great man, a great poet, whom all the world admired. Little did I think that, before a year had passed, Plantagenet, my unknown Plantagenet, would be the admiration of England; little did I think another year would pass, and I should be living with my father and Plantagenet together, and they should be bosom friends. You see, George, we must never despair.’
‘Under this bright sun,’ said Captain Cadurcis, ‘one is naturally sanguine, but think of me alone and in gloomy England.’
‘It is indeed a bright sun,’ said Venetia; ‘how wonderful to wake every morning, and be sure of meeting its beam.’
Captain Cadurcis looked around him with a sailor’s eye. Over the Apennines, towards Genoa, there was a ridge of dark clouds piled up with such compactness, that they might have been mistaken in a hasty survey for part of the mountains themselves.
‘Bright as is the sun,’ said Captain Cadurcis, ‘we may have yet a squall before night.’
‘I was delighted with Venice,’ said his companion, not noticing his observation; ‘I think of all places in the world it is one which Plantagenet would most admire. I cannot believe but that even his delicious Athens would yield to it.’
‘He did lead the oddest life at Athens you can conceive,’ said Captain Cadurcis. ‘The people did not know what to make of him. He lived in the Latin convent, a fine building which he had almost to himself, for there are not half a dozen monks. He used to pace up and down the terrace which he had turned into a garden, and on which he kept all sorts of strange animals. He wrote continually there. Indeed he did nothing but write. His only relaxation was a daily ride to Piraeus, about five miles over the plain; he told me it was the only time in his life he was ever contented with himself except when he was at Cherbury. He always spoke of London with disgust.’
‘Plantagenet loves retirement and a quiet life,’ said Venetia; ‘but he must not be marred with vulgar sights and common-place duties. That is the secret with him.’
‘I think the wind has just changed,’ said Captain Cadurcis. ‘It seems to me that we shall have a sirocco. There, it shifts again! We shall have a sirocco for certain.’
‘What did you think of papa when you first saw him?’ said Venetia. ‘Was he the kind of person you expected to see?’
‘Exactly,’ said Captain Cadurcis. ‘So very spiritual! Plantagenet said to me, as we went home the first night, that he looked like a golden phantom. I think him very like you, Venetia; indeed, there can be no doubt you inherited your face from your father.’
‘Ah! if you had seen his portrait at Cherbury, when he was only twenty!’ said Venetia. ‘That was a golden phantom, or rather he looked like Hyperion. What are you staring at so, George?’
‘I do not like this wind,’ muttered Captain Cadurcis. ‘There it goes.’
‘You cannot see the wind, George?’
‘Yes, I can, Venetia, and I do not like it at all. Do you see that black spot flitting like a shade over the sea? It is like the reflection of a cloud on the water; but there is no cloud. Well, that is the wind, Venetia, and a very wicked wind too.’
‘How strange! Is that indeed the wind?’
‘We had better return home,’ said Captain Cadurcis I wish they had not gone to Lavenza.’
‘But there is no danger?’ said Venetia.
‘Danger? No! no danger, but they may get a wet jacket.’
They walked on; but Captain Cadurcis was rather distrait: his eye was always watching the wind; at last he said, ‘I tell you, Venetia, we must walk quickly; for, by Jove, we are going to have a white squall.’
They hurried their pace, Venetia mentioned her alarm again about the boat; but her companion reassured her; yet his manner was not so confident as his words.
A white mist began to curl above the horizon, the blueness of the day seemed suddenly to fade, and its colour became grey; there was a swell on the waters that hitherto had been quite glassy, and they were covered with a scurfy foam.
‘I wish I had been with them,’ said Captain Cadurcis, evidently very anxious.
‘George, you are alarmed,’ said Venetia, earnestly. ‘I am sure there is danger.’
‘Danger! How can there be danger, Venetia? Perhaps they are in port by this time. I dare say we shall find them at Spezzia. I will see you home and run down to them. Only hurry, for your own sake, for you do not know what a white squall in the Mediterranean is. We have but a few moments.’
And even at this very instant, the wind came roaring and rushing with such a violent gush that Venetia could scarcely stand; George put his arm round her to support her. The air was filled with thick white vapour, so that they could no longer see the ocean, only the surf rising very high all along the coast.
‘Keep close to me, Venetia,’ said Captain Cadurcis; ‘hold my arm and I will walk first, for we shall not be able to see a yard before us in a minute. I know where we are. We are above the olive wood, and we shall soon be in the ravine. These Mediterranean white squalls are nasty things; I had sooner by half be in a south-wester; for one cannot run before the wind in this bay, the reefs stretch such a long way out.’
The danger, and the inutility of expressing fears which could only perplex her guide, made Venetia silent, but she was terrified. She could not divest herself of apprehension about her father and Plantagenet. In spite of all he said, it was evident that her companion was alarmed.
They had now entered the valley; the mountains had in some degree kept off the vapour; the air was more clear. Venetia and Captain Cadurcis stopped a moment to breathe. ‘Now, Venetia, you are safe,’ said Captain Cadurcis. ‘I will not come in; I will run down to the bay at once.’ He wiped the mist off his face: Venetia perceived him deadly pale.
‘George,’ she said, ‘conceal nothing from me; there is danger, imminent danger. Tell me at once.’
‘Indeed, Venetia,’ said Captain Cadurcis, ‘I am sure everything will be quite right. There is some danger, certainly, at this moment; but of course, long ago, they have run into harbour. I have no doubt they are at Spezzia at this moment. Now, do not be alarmed; indeed there is no cause. God bless you!’ he said, and bounded away. ‘No cause,’ thought he to himself, as the wind sounded like thunder, and the vapour came rushing up the ravine. ‘God grant I may be right; but neither between the Tropics nor on the Line have I witnessed a severer squall than this! What open boat can live in this weather Oh! that I had been with them. I shall never forgive myself!’
Venetia found her mother walking up and down the room, as was her custom when she was agitated. She hurried to her daughter. ‘You must change your dress instantly, Venetia,’ said Lady Annabel. ‘Where is George?’
‘He has gone down to Spezzia to papa and Plantagenet; it is a white squall; it comes on very suddenly in this sea. He ran down to Spezzia instantly, because he thought they would be wet,’ said the agitated Venetia, speaking with rapidity and trying to appear calm.
‘Are they at Spezzia?’ inquired Lady Annabel, quickly.
‘George has no doubt they are, mother,’ said Venetia.
‘No doubt!’ exclaimed Lady Annabel, in great distress. ‘God grant they may be only wet.’
‘Dearest mother,’ said Venetia, approaching her, but speech deserted her. She had advanced to encourage Lady Annabel, but her own fear checked the words on her lips.
‘Change your dress, Venetia,’ said Lady Annabel; ‘lose no time in doing that. I think I will send down to Spezzia at once,’
‘That is useless now, dear mother, for George is there.’
‘Go, dearest,’ said Lady Annabel; ‘I dare say, we have no cause for fear, but I am exceedingly alarmed about your father, about them: I am, indeed. I do not like these sudden squalls, and I never liked this boating; indeed, I never did. George being with them reconciled me to it. Now go, Venetia; go, my love.’
Venetia quitted the room. She was so agitated that she made Pauncefort a confidant of her apprehensions.
‘La! my dear miss,’ said Mistress Pauncefort, ‘I should never have thought of such a thing! Do not you remember what the old man said at Weymouth, “there is many a boat will live in a rougher sea than a ship;” and it is such an unlikely thing, it is indeed, Miss Venetia. I am certain sure my lord can manage a boat as well as a common sailor, and master is hardly less used to it than he. La! miss, don’t make yourself nervous about any such preposterous ideas. And I dare say you will find them in the saloon when you go down again. Really I should not wonder. I think you had better wear your twill dress; I have put the new trimming on.’
They had not returned when Venetia joined her mother. That indeed she could scarcely expect. But, in about half an hour, a message arrived from Captain Cadurcis that they were not at Spezzia, but from something he had heard, he had no doubt they were at Sarzana, and he was going to ride on there at once. He felt sure, however, from what he had heard, they were at Sarzana. This communication afforded Lady Annabel a little ease, but Venetia’s heart misgave her. She recalled the alarm of George in the morning, which it was impossible for him to disguise, and she thought she recognised in this hurried message and vague assurances of safety something of the same apprehension, and the same fruitless efforts to conceal it.
Now came the time of terrible suspense. Sarzana was nearly twenty miles distant from Spezzia. The evening must arrive before they could receive intelligence from Captain Cadurcis. In the meantime the squall died away, the heavens became again bright, and, though the waves were still tumultuous, the surf was greatly decreased. Lady Annabel had already sent down more than one messenger to the bay, but they brought no intelligence; she resolved now to go herself, that she might have the satisfaction of herself cross-examining the fishermen who had been driven in from various parts by stress of weather. She would not let Venetia accompany her, who, she feared, might already suffer from the exertions and rough weather of the morning. This was a most anxious hour, and yet the absence of her mother was in some degree a relief to Venetia; it at least freed her from the perpetual effort of assumed composure. While her mother remained, Venetia had affected to read, though her eye wandered listlessly over the page, or to draw, though the pencil trembled in her hand; anything which might guard her from conveying to her mother that she shared the apprehensions which had already darkened her mother’s mind. But now that Lady Annabel was gone, Venetia, muffling herself up in her shawl, threw herself on a sofa, and there she remained without a thought, her mind a chaos of terrible images.
Her mother returned, and with a radiant countenance, Venetia sprang from the sofa. ‘There is good news; O mother! have they returned?’
‘They are not at Spezzia,’ said Lady Annabel, throwing herself into a chair panting for breath; ‘but there is good news. You see I was right to go, Venetia. These stupid people we send only ask questions, and take the first answer. I have seen a fisherman, and he says he heard that two persons, Englishmen he believes, have put into Lerici in an open boat.’
‘God be praised!’ said Venetia. ‘O mother, I can now confess to you the terror I have all along felt.’
‘My own heart assures me of it, my child,’ said Lady Annabel weeping; and they mingled their tears together, but tears not of sorrow.
‘Poor George!’ said Lady Annabel, ‘he will have a terrible journey to Sarzana, and be feeling so much for us! Perhaps he may meet them.’
‘I feel assured he will,’ said Venetia; ‘and perhaps ere long they will all three be here again. Joy! joy!’
‘They must never go in that boat again,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘Oh! they never will, dearest mother, if you ask them not,’ said Venetia.
‘We will send to Lerici,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘Instantly,’ said Venetia; ‘but I dare say they already sent us a messenger.’
‘No!’ said Lady Annabel; ‘men treat the danger that is past very lightly. We shall not hear from them except in person.’
Time now flew more lightly. They were both easy in their minds. The messenger was despatched to Lerici; but even Lerici was a considerable distance, and hours must elapse before his return. Still there was the hope of seeing them, or hearing from them in the interval.
‘I must go out, dear mother,’ said Venetia. ‘Let us both go out. It is now very fine. Let us go just to the ravine, for indeed it is impossible to remain here.’
Accordingly they both went forth, and took up a position on the coast which commanded a view on all sides. All was radiant again, and comparatively calm. Venetia looked upon the sea, and said, ‘Ah! I never shall forget a white squall in the Mediterranean, for all this splendour.’
It was sunset: they returned home. No news yet from Lerici. Lady Annabel grew uneasy again. The pensive and melancholy hour encouraged gloom; but Venetia, who was sanguine, encouraged her mother.
‘Suppose they were not Englishmen in the boat,’ said Lady Annabel.
‘It is impossible, mother. What other two persons in this neighbourhood could have been in an open boat? Besides, the man said Englishmen. You remember, he said Englishmen. You are quite sure he did? It must be they. I feel as convinced of it as of your presence.’
‘I think there can be no doubt,’ said Lady Annabel. ‘I wish that the messenger would return.’
The messenger did return. No two persons in an open boat had put into Lerici; but a boat, like the one described, with every stitch of canvas set, had passed Lerici just before the squall commenced, and, the people there doubted not, had made Sarzana.
Lady Annabel turned pale, but Venetia was still sanguine. ‘They are at Sarzana,’ she said; ‘they must be at Sarzana: you see George was right. He said he was sure they were at Sarzana. Besides, dear mother, he heard they were at Sarzana.’
‘And we heard they were at Lerici,’ said Lady Annabel in a melancholy tone.
And so they were, dear mother; it all agrees. The accounts are consistent. Do not you see how very consistent they are? They were seen at Lerici, and were off Lerici, but they made Sarzana; and George heard they were at Sarzana. I am certain they are at Sarzana. I feel quite easy; I feel as easy as if they were here. They are safe at Sarzana. But it is too far to return to-night. We shall see them at breakfast tomorrow, all three.’
‘Venetia, dearest! do not you sit up,’ said her mother. ‘I think there is a chance of George returning; I feel assured he will send to-night; but late, of course. Go, dearest, and sleep.’
‘Sleep!’ thought Venetia to herself; but to please her mother she retired.
‘Good-night, my child,’ said Lady Annabel. ‘The moment any one arrives, you shall be aroused.’
Venetia, without undressing, lay down on her bed, watching for some sound that might give her hope of George’s return. Dwelling on every instant, the time dragged heavily along, and she thought that the night had half passed when Pauncefort entered her room, and she learnt, to her surprise, that only an hour had elapsed since she had parted from her mother. This entrance of Pauncefort had given Venetia a momentary hope that they had returned.
‘I assure you, Miss Venetia, it is only an hour,’ said Pauncefort, ‘and nothing could have happened. Now do try to go to sleep, that is a dear young lady, for I am certain sure that they will all return in the morning, as I am here. I was telling my lady just now, I said, says I, I dare say they are all very wet, and very fatigued.’
‘They would have returned, Pauncefort,’ said Venetia, ‘or they would have sent. They are not at Sarzana.’
‘La! Miss Venetia, why should they be at Sarzana? Why should they not have gone much farther on! For, as Vicenzo was just saying to me, and Vicenzo knows all about the coast, with such a wind as this, I should not be surprised if they were at Leghorn.’
‘O Pauncefort!’ said Venetia, ‘I am sick at heart!’
‘Now really, Miss Venetia, do not take on so!’ said Pauncefort; ‘for do not you remember when his lordship ran away from the abbey, and went a gipsying, nothing would persuade poor Mrs. Cadurcis that he was not robbed and murdered, and yet you see he was as safe and sound all the time, as if he had been at Cherbury.’
‘Does Vicenzo really think they could have reached Leghorn?’ said Venetia, clinging to every fragment of hope.
‘He is morally sure of it, Miss Venetia,’ said Pauncefort, ‘and I feel quite as certain, for Vicenzo is always right.’
‘I had confidence about Sarzana,’ said Venetia; ‘I really did believe they were at Sarzana. If only Captain Cadurcis would return; if he only would return, and say they were not at Sarzana, I would try to believe they were at Leghorn.’
‘Now, Miss Venetia,’ said Pauncefort, ‘I am certain sure that they are quite safe; for my lord is a very good sailor; he is, indeed; all the men say so; and the boat is as seaworthy a boat as boat can be. There is not the slightest fear, I do assure you, miss.’
‘Do the men say that Plantagenet is a good sailor?’ inquired Venetia.
‘Quite professional!’ said Mistress Pauncefort; ‘and can command a ship as well as the best of them. They all say that.’
‘Hush! Pauncefort, I hear something.’
‘It’s only my lady, miss. I know her step,’
‘Is my mother going to bed?’ said Venetia.
‘Yes,’ said Pauncefort, ‘my lady sent me here to see after you. I wish I could tell her you were asleep.’
‘It is impossible to sleep,’ said Venetia, rising up from the bed, withdrawing the curtain, and looking at the sky. ‘What a peaceful night! I wish my heart were like the sky. I think I will go to mamma, Pauncefort!’
‘Oh! dear, Miss Venetia, I am sure I think you had better not. If you and my lady, now, would only just go to sleep, and forget every thing till morning, it would be much better for you. Besides, I am sure if my lady knew you were not gone to bed already, it would only make her doubly anxious. Now, really, Miss Venetia, do take my advice, and just lie down, again. You may be sure the moment any one arrives I will let you know. Indeed, I shall go and tell my lady that you are lying down as it is, and very drowsy;’ and, so saying, Mistress Pauncefort caught up her candle, and bustled out of the room.
Venetia took up the volume of her father’s poems, which Cadurcis had filled with his notes. How little did Plantagenet anticipate, when he thus expressed at Athens the passing impressions of his mind, that, ere a year had glided away, his fate would be so intimately blended with that of Herbert! It was impossible, however, for Venetia to lose herself in a volume which, under any other circumstances, might have compelled her spirit! the very associations with the writers added to the terrible restlessness of her mind. She paused each instant to listen for the wished-for sound, but a mute stillness reigned throughout the house and household. There was something in this deep, unbroken silence, at a moment when anxiety was universally diffused among the dwellers beneath that roof, and the heart of more than one of them was throbbing with all the torture of the most awful suspense, that fell upon Venetia’s excited nerves with a very painful and even insufferable influence. She longed for sound, for some noise that might assure her she was not the victim of a trance. She closed her volume with energy, and she started at the sound she had herself created. She rose and opened the door of her chamber very softly, and walked into the vestibule. There were caps, and cloaks, and whips, and canes of Cadurcis and her father, lying about in familiar confusion. It seemed impossible but that they were sleeping, as usual, under the same roof. And where were they? That she should live and be unable to answer that terrible question! When she felt the utter helplessness of all her strong sympathy towards them, it seemed to her that she must go mad. She gazed around her with a wild and vacant stare. At the bottom of her heart there was a fear maturing into conviction too horrible for expression. She returned to her own chamber, and the exhaustion occasioned by her anxiety, and the increased coolness of the night, made her at length drowsy. She threw herself on the bed and slumbered.
She started in her sleep, she awoke, she dreamed they had come home. She rose and looked at the progress of the night. The night was waning fast; a grey light was on the landscape; the point of day approached. Venetia stole softly to her mother’s room, and entered it with a soundless step. Lady Annabel had not retired to bed. She had sat up the whole night, and was now asleep. A lamp on a small table was burning at her side, and she held, firmly grasped in her hand, the letter of her husband, which he had addressed to her at Venice, and which she had been evidently reading. A tear glided down the cheek of Venetia as she watched her mother retaining that letter with fondness even in her sleep, and when she thought of all the misery, and heartaches, and harrowing hours that had preceded its receipt, and which Venetia believed that letter had cured for ever. What misery awaited them now? Why were they watchers of the night? She shuddered when these dreadful questions flitted through her mind. She shuddered and sighed. Her mother started, and woke.
‘Who is there?’ inquired Lady Annabel.
‘My child, have you not slept?’
‘Yes, mother, and I woke refreshed, as I hope you do.’
‘I wake with trust in God’s mercy,’ said Lady Annabel. ‘Tell me the hour.’
‘It is just upon dawn, mother.’
‘Dawn! no one has returned, or come.’
‘The house is still, mother.’
‘I would you were in bed, my child.’
‘Mother, I can sleep no more. I wish to be with you;’ and Venetia seated herself at her mother’s feet, and reclined her head upon her mother’s knee.
‘I am glad the night has passed, Venetia,’ said Lady Annabel, in a suppressed yet solemn tone. ‘It has been a trial.’ And here she placed the letter in her bosom. Venetia could only answer with a sigh.
‘I wish Pauncefort would come,’ said Lady Annabel; ‘and yet I do not like to rouse her, she was up so late, poor creature! If it be the dawn I should like to send out messengers again; something may be heard at Spezzia.’
‘Vicenzo thinks they have gone to Leghorn, mother.’
‘Has he heard anything!’ said Lady Annabel, eagerly.
‘No, but he is an excellent judge,’ said Venetia, repeating all Pauncefort’s consolatory chatter. ‘He knows the coast so well. He says he is sure the wind would carry them on to Leghorn; and that accounts, you know, mother, for George not returning. They are all at Leghorn.’
‘Would that George would return,’ murmured Lady Annabel; ‘I wish I could see again that sailor who said they were at Lerici. He was an intelligent man.’
‘Perhaps if we send down to the bay he may be there,’ said Venetia.’
‘Hush! I hear a step!’ said Lady Annabel.
Venetia sprung up and opened the door, but it was only Pauncefort in the vestibule.
‘The household are all up, my lady,’ said that important personage entering; ”tis a beautiful morning. Vicenzo has run down to the bay, my lady; I sent him off immediately. Vicenzo says he is certain sure they are at Leghorn, my lady; and, this time three years, the very same thing happened. They were fishing for anchovies, my lady, close by, my lady, near Sarzana; two young men, or rather one about the same age as master, and one like my lord; cousins, my lady, and just in the same sort of boat, my lady; and there came on a squall, just the same sort of squall, my lady; and they did not return home; and everyone was frightened out of their wits, my lady, and their wives and families quite distracted; and after all they were at Leghorn; for this sort of wind always takes your open boats to Leghorn, Vicenzo says.’
The sun rose, the household were all stirring, and many of them abroad; the common routine of domestic duty seemed, by some general yet not expressed understanding, to have ceased. The ladies descended below at a very early hour, and went forth into the valley, once the happy valley. What was to be its future denomination? Vicenzo returned from the bay, and he contrived to return with cheering intelligence. The master of a felucca who, in consequence of the squall had put in at Lerici, and in the evening dropped down to Spezzia, had met an open boat an hour before he reached Sarzana, and was quite confident that, if it had put into port, it must have been, from the speed at which it was going, a great distance down the coast. No wrecks had been heard of in the neighbourhood. This intelligence, the gladsome time of day, and the non-arrival of Captain Cadurcis, which according to their mood was always a circumstance that counted either for good or for evil, and the sanguine feelings which make us always cling to hope, altogether reassured our friends. Venetia dismissed from her mind the dark thought which for a moment had haunted her in the noon of night; and still it was a suspense, a painful, agitating suspense, but only suspense that yet influenced them.
‘Time! said Lady Annabel. ‘Time! we must wait.’
Venetia consoled her mother; she affected even a gaiety of spirit; she was sure that Vicenzo would turn out to be right, after all; Pauncefort said he always was right, and that they were at Leghorn.
The day wore apace; the noon arrived and passed; it was even approaching sunset. Lady Annabel was almost afraid to counterorder the usual meals, lest Venetia should comprehend her secret terror; the very same sentiment influenced Venetia. Thus they both had submitted to the ceremony of breakfast, but when the hour of dinner approached they could neither endure the mockery. They looked at each other, and almost at the same time they proposed that, instead of dining, they should walk down to the bay.
‘I trust we shall at least hear something before the night,’ said Lady Annabel. ‘I confess I dread the coming night. I do not think I could endure it.’
‘The longer we do not hear, the more certain I am of their being at Leghorn,’ said Venetia.
‘I have a great mind to travel there to-night,’ said Lady Annabel.
As they were stepping into the portico, Venetia recognised Captain Cadurcis in the distance. She turned pale; she would have fallen had she not leaned on her mother, who was not so advanced, and who had not seen him.
‘What is the matter, Venetia!’ said Lady Annabel, alarmed.
‘He is here, he is here!’
‘No, George. Let me sit down.’
Her mother tried to support her to a chair. Lady Annabel took off her bonnet. She had not strength to walk forth. She could not speak. She sat down opposite Venetia, and her countenance pictured distress to so painful a degree, that at any other time Venetia would have flown to her, but in this crisis of suspense it was impossible. George was in sight; he was in the portico; he was in the room.
He looked wan, haggard, and distracted. More than once he essayed to speak, but failed.
Lady Annabel looked at him with a strange, delirious expression. Venetia rushed forward and seized his arm, and gazed intently on his face. He shrank from her glance; his frame trembled.
In the heart of the tempest Captain Cadurcis traced his way in a sea of vapour with extreme danger and difficulty to the shore. On his arrival at Spezzia, however, scarcely a house was visible, and the only evidence of the situation of the place was the cessation of an immense white surf which otherwise indicated the line of the sea, but the absence of which proved his contiguity to a harbour. In the thick fog he heard the cries and shouts of the returning fishermen, and of their wives and children responding from the land to their exclamations. He was forced, therefore, to wait at Spezzia, in an agony of impotent suspense, until the fury of the storm was over and the sky was partially cleared. At length the objects became gradually less obscure; he could trace the outline of the houses, and catch a glimpse of the water half a mile out, and soon the old castles which guard the entrance of the strait that leads into the gulf, looming in the distance, and now and then a group of human beings in the vanishing vapour. Of these he made some inquiries, but in vain, respecting the boat and his friends. He then made the brig, but could learn nothing except their departure in the morning. He at length obtained a horse and galloped along the coast towards Lerici, keeping a sharp look out as he proceeded and stopping at every village in his progress for intelligence. When he had arrived in the course of three hours at Lerici, the storm had abated, the sky was clear, and no evidence of the recent squall remained except the agitated state of the waves. At Lerici he could hear nothing, so he hurried on to Sarzana, where he learnt for the first time that an open boat, with its sails set, had passed more than an hour before the squall commenced. From Sarzana he hastened on to Lavenza, a little port, the nearest sea-point to Massa, and where the Carrara marble is shipped for England. Here also his inquiries were fruitless, and, exhausted by his exertions, he dismounted and rested at the inn, not only for repose, but to consider over the course which he should now pursue. The boat had not been seen off Lavenza, and the idea that they had made the coast towards Leghorn now occurred to him. His horse was so wearied that he was obliged to stop some time at Lavenza, for he could procure no other mode of conveyance; the night also was fast coming on, and to proceed to Leghorn by this dangerous route at this hour was impossible. At Lavenza therefore he remained, resolved to hasten to Leghorn at break of day. This was a most awful night. Although physically exhausted, Captain Cadurcis could not sleep, and, after some vain efforts, he quitted his restless bed on which he had laid down without undressing, and walked forth to the harbour. Between anxiety for Herbert and his cousin, and for the unhappy women whom he had left behind, he was nearly distracted. He gazed on the sea, as if some sail in sight might give him a chance of hope. His professional experience assured him of all the danger of the squall. He could not conceive how an open boat could live in such a sea, and an instant return to port so soon as the squall commenced, appeared the only chance of its salvation. Could they have reached Leghorn? It seemed impossible. There was no hope they could now be at Sarzana, or Lerici. When he contemplated the full contingency of what might have occurred, his mind wandered, and refused to comprehend the possibility of the terrible conclusion. He thought the morning would never break.
There was a cavernous rock by the seashore, that jutted into the water like a small craggy promontory. Captain Cadurcis climbed to its top, and then descending, reclined himself upon an inferior portion of it, which formed a natural couch with the wave on each side. There, lying at his length, he gazed upon the moon and stars whose brightness he thought would never dim. The Mediterranean is a tideless sea, but the swell of the waves, which still set in to the shore, bore occasionally masses of sea-weed and other marine formations, and deposited them around him, plashing, as it broke against the shore, with a melancholy and monotonous sound. The abstraction of the scene, the hour, and the surrounding circumstances brought, however, no refreshment to the exhausted spirit of George Cadurcis. He could not think, indeed he did not dare to think; but the villa of the Apennines and the open boat in the squall flitted continually before him. His mind was feeble though excited, and he fell into a restless and yet unmeaning reverie. As long as he had been in action, as long as he had been hurrying along the coast, the excitement of motion, the constant exercise of his senses, had relieved or distracted the intolerable suspense. But this pause, this inevitable pause, overwhelmed him. It oppressed his spirit like eternity. And yet what might the morning bring? He almost wished that he might remain for ever on this rock watching the moon and stars, and that the life of the world might never recommence.
He started; he had fallen into a light slumber; he had been dreaming; he thought he had heard the voice of Venetia calling him; he had forgotten where he was; he stared at the sea and sky, and recalled his dreadful consciousness. The wave broke with a heavy plash that attracted his attention: it was, indeed, that sound that had awakened him. He looked around; there was some object; he started wildly from his resting-place, sprang over the cavern, and bounded on the beach. It was a corpse; he is kneeling by its side. It is the corpse of his cousin! Lord Cadurcis was a fine swimmer, and had evidently made strong efforts for his life, for he was partly undressed. In all the insanity of hope, still wilder than despair, George Cadurcis seized the body and bore it some yards upon the shore. Life had been long extinct. The corpse was cold and stark, the eyes closed, an expression of energy, however, yet lingering in the fixed jaw, and the hair sodden with the sea. Suddenly Captain Cadurcis rushed to the inn and roused the household. With a distracted air, and broken speech and rapid motion, he communicated the catastrophe. Several persons, some bearing torches, others blankets and cordials, followed him instantly to the fatal spot. They hurried to the body, they applied all the rude remedies of the moment, rather from the impulse of nervous excitement than with any practical purpose; for the case had been indeed long hopeless. While Captain Cadurcis leant over the body, chafing the extremities in a hurried frenzy, and gazing intently on the countenance, a shout was heard from one of the stragglers who had recently arrived. The sea had washed on the beach another corpse: the form of Marmion Herbert. It would appear that he had made no struggle to save himself, for his hand was locked in his waistcoat, where, at the moment, he had thrust the Phaedo, showing that he had been reading to the last, and was meditating on immortality when he died.
END OF BOOK VI.
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