MISS DACRE, although she was prepared to greet the Duke of St. James with cordiality, did not anticipate with equal pleasure the arrival of the page and the jäger. Infinite had been the disturbances they had occasioned during their first visit, and endless the complaints of the steward and the housekeeper. The men-servants were initiated in the mysteries of dominoes, and the maid-servants in the tactics of flirtation. Karlstein was the hero of the under-butlers, and even the trusty guardian of the cellar himself was too often on the point of obtaining the German’s opinion of his master’s German wines. Gaming, and drunkenness, and love, the most productive of all the teeming causes of human sorrow, had in a week sadly disordered the well-regulated household of Castle Dacre, and nothing but the impetuosity of our hero would have saved his host’s establishment from utter perdition. Miss Dacre was, therefore, not less pleased than surprised when the britzska of the Duke of St. James discharged on a fine afternoon, its noble master, attended only by the faithful Luigi, at the terrace of the Castle.
A few country cousins, fresh from Cumberland, who knew nothing of the Duke of St. James except from a stray number of ‘The Universe,’ which occasionally stole down to corrupt the pure waters of their lakes, were the only guests. Mr. Dacre grasped our hero’s hand with a warmth and expression which were unusual with him, but which conveyed, better than words, the depth of his friendship; and his daughter, who looked more beautiful than ever, advanced with a beaming face and joyous tone, which quite reconciled the Duke of St. James to being a ruined man.
The presence of strangers limited their conversation to subjects of general interest. At dinner, the Duke took care to be agreeable: he talked in an unaffected manner, and particularly to the cousins, who were all delighted with him, and found him ‘quite a different person from what they had fancied.’ The evening passed over, and even lightly, without the aid of écarté, romances, or gallops. Mr. Dacre chatted with old Mr. Montingford, and old Mrs. Montingford sat still admiring her ‘girls,’ who stood still admiring May Dacre singing or talking, and occasionally reconciled us to their occasional silence by a frequent and extremely hearty laugh; that Cumberland laugh which never outlives a single season in London.
And the Duke of St. James, what did he do? It must be confessed that in some points he greatly resembled the Misses Montingford, for he was both silent and admiring; but he never laughed. Yet he was not dull, and was careful not to show that he had cares, which is vulgar. If a man be gloomy, let him keep to himself. No one has a right to go croaking about society, or, what is worse, looking as if he stifled grief. These fellows should be put in the pound. We like a good broken heart or so now and then; but then one should retire to the Sierra Morena mountains, and live upon locusts and wild honey, not ‘dine out’ with our cracked cores, and, while we are meditating suicide, the Gazette, or the Chiltern Hundreds, damn a vintage or eulogise an entrée.
And as for cares, what are cares when a man is in love? Once more they had met; once more he gazed upon that sunny and sparkling face; once more he listened to that sweet and thrilling voice, which sounded like a bird-like burst of music upon a summer morning. She moved, and each attitude was fascination. She was still, and he regretted that she moved. Now her neck, now her hair, now her round arm, now her tapering waist, ravished his attention; now he is in ecstasies with her twinkling foot; now he is dazzled with her glancing hand.
Once more he was at Dacre! How different was this meeting to their first! Then, she was cold, almost cutting; then she was disregardful, almost contemptuous; but then he had hoped; ah! madman, he had more than hoped. Now she was warm, almost affectionate; now she listened to him with readiness, ay! almost courted his conversation. And now he could only despair. As he stood alone before the fire, chewing this bitter cud, she approached him.
‘How good you were to come directly!’ she said with a smile, which melted his heart. ‘I fear, however, you will not find us so merry as before. But you can make anything amusing. Come, then, and sing to these damsels. Do you know they are half afraid of you? and I cannot persuade them that a terrible magician has not assumed, for the nonce, the air and appearance of a young gentleman of distinction.’
He smiled, but could not speak. Repartee sadly deserts the lover; yet smiles, under those circumstances, are eloquent; and the eye, after all, speaks much more to the purpose than the tongue. Forgetting everything except the person who addressed him, he offered her his hand, and advanced to the group which surrounded the piano.
THE next morning was passed by the Duke of St. James in giving Mr. Dacre his report of the state of his affairs. His banker’s accounts, his architect’s estimates, his solicitor’s statements, were all brought forward and discussed. A ride, generally with Miss Dacre and one of her young friends, dinner, and a short evening, and eleven o’clock, sent them all to repose. Thus glided on a fortnight. The mornings continued to be passed in business. Affairs were more complicated than his Grace had imagined, who had no idea of detail. He gave all the information that he could, and made his friend master of his particular feelings. For the rest, Mr. Dacre was soon involved in much correspondence; and although the young Duke could no longer assist him, he recommended and earnestly begged that he would remain at Dacre; for he could perceive, better than his Grace, that our hero was labouring under a great deal of excitement, and that his health was impaired. A regular course of life was therefore as necessary for his constitution as it was desirable for all other reasons.
Behold, then, our hero domesticated at Dacre; rising at nine, joining a family breakfast, taking a quiet ride, or moderate stroll, sometimes looking into a book, but he was no great reader; sometimes fortunate enough in achieving a stray game at billiards, usually with a Miss Montingford, and retiring to rest about the time that in London his most active existence generally began. Was he dull? was he wearied? He was never lighter-hearted or more contented in his life. Happy he could not allow himself to be styled, because the very cause which breathed this calm over his existence seemed to portend a storm which could not be avoided. It was the thought, the presence, the smile, the voice of May Dacre that imparted this new interest to existence: that being who never could be his. He shuddered to think that all this must end; but although he never indulged again in the great hope, his sanguine temper allowed him to thrust away the future, and to participate in all the joys of the flowing hour.
At the end of February the Montingfords departed, and now the Duke was the only guest at Dacre; nor did he hear that any others were expected. He was alone with her again; often was he alone with her, and never without a strange feeling coming over his frame, which made him tremble. Mr. Dacre, a man of active habits, always found occupation in his public duties and in the various interests of a large estate, and usually requested, or rather required, the Duke of St. James to be his companion. He was desirous that the Duke should not be alone, and ponder too much over the past; nor did he conceal his wishes from his daughter, who on all occasions, as the Duke observed with gratification, seconded the benevolent intentions of her parent. Nor did our hero indeed wish to be alone, or to ponder over the past. He was quite contented with the present; but he did not want to ride with papa, and took every opportunity to shirk; all of which Mr. Dacre set down to the indolence of exhaustion, and the inertness of a mind without an object.
‘I am going to ride over to Doncaster, George,’ said Mr. Dacre one morning at breakfast. ‘I think that you had better order your horse too. A good ride will rouse you, and you should show yourself there.’
‘Oh! very well, sir; but, but I think that ——’
‘But what?’ asked Mr. Dacre, smiling.
The Duke looked to Miss Dacre, who seemed to take pity on his idleness.
‘You make him ride too much, papa. Leave him at home with me. I have a long round today, and want an escort. I will take him instead of my friend Tom Carter. You must carry a basket though,’ said she, turning to the Duke, ‘and run for the doctor if he be wanted, and, in short, do any odd message that turns up.’
So Mr. Dacre departed alone, and shortly after his daughter and the Duke of St. James set out on their morning ramble. Many were the cottages at which they called; many the old dames after whose rheumatisms, and many the young damsels after whose fortunes they enquired. Old Dame Rawdon was worse or better; worse last night, but better this morning. She was always better when Miss called. Miss’s face always did her good. And Fanny was very comfortable at Squire Wentworth’s, and the housekeeper was very kind to her, thanks to Miss saying a word to the great Lady. And old John Selby was quite about again. Miss’s stuff had done him a world of good, to say nothing of Mr. Dacre’s generous old wine.
‘And is this your second son, Dame Rishworth?’ ‘No; that bees our fourth,’ said the old woman, maternally arranging the urchin’s thin, white, flat, straight, unmanageable hair. ‘We are thinking what to do with him, Miss. He wants to go out to service. Since Jem Eustace got on so, I don’t know what the matter is with the lads; but I think we shall have none of them in the fields soon. He can clean knives and shoes very well, Miss. Mr. Bradford, at the Castle, was saying t’other day that perhaps he might want a young hand. You haven’t heard anything, I suppose, Miss?’
‘And what is your name, sir?’ asked Miss Dacre. ‘Bobby Rishworth, Miss!’ ‘Well, Bobby, I must consult Mr. Bradford.’ ‘We be in great trouble, Miss,’ said the next cottager. ‘We be in great trouble. Tom, poor Tom, was out last night, and the keepers will give him up. The good man has done all he can, we have all done all we can, Miss, and you see how it ends. He is the first of the family that ever went out. I hope that will be considered, Miss. Seventy years, our fathers before us, have we been on the ‘state, and nothing ever sworn agin us. I hope that will be considered, Miss. I am sure if Tom had been an underkeeper, as Mr. Roberts once talked of, this would never have happened. I hope that will be considered, Miss. We are in great trouble surely. Tom, you see, was our first, Miss.’
‘I never interfere about poaching, you know, Mrs. Jones. Mr. Dacre is the best judge of such matters. But you can go to him, and say that I sent you. I am afraid, however, that he has heard of Tom before.’
‘Only that night at Milwood, Miss; and then you see he had been drinking with Squire Ridge’s people. I hope that will be considered, Miss.’
‘Well, well, go up to the Castle.’
‘Pray be seated, Miss,’ said a neat-looking mistress of a neat little farmhouse. ‘Pray be seated, sir. Let me dust it first. Dust will get everywhere, do what we can. And how’s Pa, Miss? He has not given me a look-in for many a day, not since he was a-hunting: bless me, if it ayn’t a fortnight. This day fortnight he tasted our ale, sure enough. Will you take a glass, sir?’
‘You are very good. No, I thank you; not today.’
‘Yes, give him a glass, nurse. He is unwell, and it will do him good.’
She brought the sparkling amber fluid, and the Duke did justice by his draught.
‘I shall have fine honey for you, Miss, this year,’ said the old nurse. ‘Are you fond of honey, sir? Our honey is well known about. I don’t know how it is, but we do always contrive to manage the bees. How fond some people are of honey, good Lord! Now, when you were a little girl (I knew this young lady, sir, before you did), you always used to be fond of honey. I remember one day: let me see, it must be, ay! truly, that it is, eighteen years ago next Martinmas: I was a-going down the nursery stairs, just to my poor mistress’s room, and I had you in my arms (for I knew this young lady, sir, before you did). Well! I was a-going down the stairs, as I just said, to my poor dear mistress’s room with you, who was then a little-un indeed (bless your smiling face! you cost me many a weary hour when you were weaned, Miss. That you did! Some thought you would never get through it; but I always said, while there is life there is hope; and so, you see I were right); but, as I was saying, I was a-going down the stairs to my poor dear mistress, and I had a gallipot in my hand, a covered gallipot, with some leeches. And just as I had got to the bottom of the stairs, and was a-going into my poor dear mistress’s room, said you (I never shall forget it), said you, “Honey, honey, nurse.” She thought it were honey, sir. So you see she were always very fond of honey (for I knew this young lady long before you did, sir).’
‘Are you quite sure of that, nurse?’ said Miss Dacre; ‘I think this is an older friend than you imagine. You remember the little Duke; do not you? This is the little Duke. Do you think he has grown?’
‘Now! bless my life! is it so indeed? Well, be sure, he has grown. I always thought he would turn out well, Miss, though Dr. Pretyman were always a-preaching, and talking his prophecycations. I always thought he would turn out well at last. Bless me! how he has grown, indeed! Perhaps he grows too fast, and that makes him weak. Nothing better than a glass of ale for weak people. I remember when Dr. Pretyman ordered it for my poor dear mistress. “Give her ale,” said the Doctor, “as strong as it can be brewed;” and sure enough, my poor dear master had it brewed! Have you done growing, sir? You was ever a troublesome child. Often and often have I called George, George, Georgy, Georgy Porgy, and he never would come near me, though he heard all the time as plainly as he does now. Bless me! he has grown indeed!’
‘But I have turned out well at last, nurse, eh?’ asked the Duke.
‘Ay! sure enough; I always said so. Often and often have I said, he will turn out well at last. You be going, Miss? I thank you for looking in. My duty to my master. I was thinking of bringing up one of those cheeses he likes so.’
‘Ay! do, nurse. He can eat no cheese but yours.’
As they wandered home, they talked of Lady Caroline, to whom the Duke mentioned that he must write. He had once intended distinctly to have explained his feelings to her in a letter from Dacre; but each day he postponed the close of his destiny, although without hope. He lingered and he lingered round May Dacre, as a bird flutters round the fruit which is already grasped by a boy. Circumstances, which we shall relate, had already occurred, which confirmed the suspicion he had long entertained that Arundel Dacre was his favoured rival. Impressed with the folly of again encouraging hope, yet unable to harden his heart against her continual fascination, the softness of his manner indicated his passion, and his calm and somewhat languid carriage also told her it was hopeless. Perhaps, after all, there is no demeanour more calculated to melt obdurate woman. The gratification he received from her society was evident, yet he never indulged in that gallantry of which he was once so proud. When she approached him, a mild smile lit up his pensive countenance; he adopted her suggestions, but made none; he listened to her remarks with interest, but no longer bandied repartee. Delicately he impressed her with the absolute power which she might exercise over his mind.
‘I write myself to Caroline tomorrow,’ said Miss Dacre.
‘Ah! Then I need not write. I talked of going up sooner. Have the kindness to explain why I do not: peremptory orders from Mr. Dacre; fresh air, and ——’
‘Arithmetic. I understand you get on admirably.’
‘My follies,’ said the Duke with a serious air, ‘have at least been productive of one good end, they have amused you.’
‘Nay! I have done too many foolish things myself any more to laugh at my neighbours. As for yourself, you have only committed those which were inseparable from your situation; and few, like the Duke of St. James, would so soon have opened their eyes to the truth of their conduct.’
‘A compliment from you repays me for all.’
‘Self-approbation does, which is much better than compliments from anyone. See! there is papa, and Arundel too: let us run up!’
THE Duke of St. James had, on his arrival at Dacre, soon observed that a constant correspondence was maintained between Miss Dacre and her cousin. There was no attempt to conceal the fact from any of the guests, and, as that young gentleman was now engaged in an affair interesting to all his friends, every letter generally contained some paragraph almost as interesting to the Montingfords as to herself, which was accordingly read aloud. Mr. Arundel Dacre was candidate for the vacant representation of a town in a distant county. He had been disappointed in his views on the borough, about which he had returned to England, but had been nevertheless persuaded by his cousin to remain in his native country. During this period, he had been a great deal at Castle Dacre, and had become much more intimate and unreserved with his uncle, who observed with great satisfaction this change in his character, and lost no opportunity of deserving and increasing the confidence for which he had so long unavailingly yearned, and which was now so unexpectedly proffered.
The borough for which Arundel Dacre was about to stand was in Sussex, a county in which his family had no property, and very slight connection. Yet at the place, the Catholic interest was strong, and on that, and the usual Whig influence, he ventured. His desire to be a member of the Legislature, at all and from early times extreme, was now greatly heightened by the prospect of being present at the impending Catholic debate. After an absence of three weeks, he had hurried to Yorkshire for four-and-twenty hours, to give a report of the state of his canvass, and the probability of his success. In that success all were greatly interested, but none more so than Miss Dacre, whose thoughts indeed seemed to dwell on no other subject, and who expressed herself with a warmth which betrayed her secret feelings. Had the place only been in Yorkshire, she was sure he must have succeeded. She was the best canvasser in the world, and everybody agreed that Harry Grey-stoke owed his election merely to her insinuating tongue and unrivalled powers of scampering, by which she had completely baffled the tactics of Lady Amarantha.
Germain, who thought that a canvass was only a long morning call, and might be achieved in a cashmere and a britzska.
The young Duke, who had seen little of his second since the eventful day, greeted him with warmth, and was welcomed with a frankness which he had never before experienced from his friend. Excited by rapid travel and his present course of life, and not damped by the unexpected presence of any strangers, Arundel Dacre seemed quite a changed man, and talked immensely.
‘Come, May, I must have a kiss! I have been kissing as pretty girls as you. There now! You all said I never should be a popular candidate. I get regularly huzzaed every day, so they have been obliged to hire a band of butchers’ boys to pelt me. Whereupon I compare myself to Cæsar set upon in the Senate House, and get immense cheering in “The County Chronicle,” which I have bribed. If you knew the butts of wine, the Heidelberg tuns of ale, that I have drank during the last fortnight, you would stare indeed. As much as the lake: but then I have to talk so much, that the ardour of my eloquence, like the hot flannels of the Humane Society, save me from the injurious effects of all this liquid.’
‘But will you get in; but will you get in?’ exclaimed his cousin.
”Tis not in mortals to command success; but ——’
‘Pooh! pooh! you must command it!’ ‘Well, then, I have an excellent chance; and the only thing against me is, that my committee are quite sure. But really I think that if the Protestant overseers, whom, by-the-bye, May, I cannot persuade that I am a heretic (it is very hard that a man is not believed when he says he shall be damned), if they do not empty the workhouse, we shall do. But let us go in, for I have travelled all night, and must be off tomorrow morning.’
They entered the house, and the Duke quitted the family group. About an hour afterwards, he sauntered to the music-room. As he opened the door, his eyes lighted upon May Dacre and her cousin. They were standing before the fire, with their backs to the door. His arm was wound carelessly round her waist, and with his other hand he supported, with her, a miniature, at which she was looking.
The Duke could not catch her countenance, which was completely hid; but her companion was not gazing on the picture: his head, a little turned, indicated that there was a living countenance more interesting to him than all the skill of the most cunning artist. Part of his cheek was alone perceptible, and that was burning red.
All this was the work of a moment. The Duke stared, turned pale, closed the door without a sound, and retired unperceived. When he was sure that he could no longer be observed, he gasped for breath, a cold dew covered his frame, his joints loosened, and his sinking heart gave him that sickening sensation when life appears utterly worthless, and ourselves utterly contemptible. Yet what had he witnessed? A confirmation of what he had never doubted. What was this woman to him? Alas! how supreme was the power with which she ruled his spirit! And this Dacre, this Arundel Dacre, how he hated him! Oh! that they were hand to hand, and sword to sword, in some fair field, and there decide it! He must conquer; he felt that. Already his weapon pierced that craven heart, and ripped open that breast which was to be the pillow of ——. Hell! hell! He rushed to his room, and began a letter to Caroline St. Maurice; but he could not write; and after scribbling over a quire of paper, he threw the sheets to the flames, and determined to ride up to town tomorrow.
The dinner bell sounded. Could he meet them? Ay! meet them! Defy them! Insult them! He descended to the dining-room. He heard her musical and liquid voice; the scowl upon his brow melted away; but, gloomy and silent, he took his seat, and gloomy and silent he remained. Little he spoke, and that little was scarcely courteous. But Arundel had enough to say. He was the hero of the party. Well he might be. Story after story of old maids and young widows, sturdy butchers and corrupt coal merchants, sparkled away; but a faint smile was all the tribute of the Duke, and a tribute that was seldom paid.
‘You are not well!’ said Miss Dacre to him, in a low voice.
‘I believe I am,’ answered he shortly.
‘You do not seem quite so,’ she replied, with an air of surprise.
‘I believe I have got a headache,’ he retorted with little more cordiality. She did not again speak, but she was evidently annoyed.
THERE certainly is a dark delight in being miserable, a sort of strange satisfaction in being savage, which is uncommonly fascinating. One of the greatest pests of philosophy is, that one can no longer be sullen, and most sincerely do I regret it. To brood over misery, to flatter yourself that there is not a single being who cares for your existence, and not a single circumstance to make that existence desirable: there is wild witchery in it, which we doubt whether opium can reach, and are sure that wine cannot.
And the Duke! He soon left the uncle and nephew to their miserable speculations about the state of the poll, and took his sullen way, with the air of Ajax, to the terrace. Here he stalked along in a fierce reverie; asked why he had been born; why he did not die; why he should live, and so on. His wounded pride, which had borne so much, fairly got the mastery, and revenged itself for all insults on Love, whom it ejected most scurvily. He blushed to think how he had humiliated himself before her. She was the cause of that humiliation, and of every disagreeable sensation that he was experiencing. He began, therefore, to imprecate vengeance, walked himself into a fair, cold-hearted, malicious passion, and avowed most distinctly that he hated her. As for him, most ardently he hoped that, some day or other, they might again meet at six o’clock in the morning in Kensington Gardens, but in a different relation to each other.
It was dark when he entered the Castle. He was about ascending to his own room, when he determined not to be cowed, and resolved to show himself the regardless witness of their mutual loves: so he repaired to the drawing-room. At one end of this very spacious apartment, Mr. Dacre and Arundel were walking in deep converse; at the other sat Miss Dacre at a table reading. The Duke seized a chair without looking at her, dragged it along to the fireplace, and there seating himself, with his arms folded, his feet on the fender, and his chair tilting, he appeared to be lost in the abstracting contemplation of the consuming fuel.
Some minutes had passed, when a slight sound, like a fluttering bird, made him look up: Miss Dacre was standing at his side.
‘Is your head better?’ she asked him, in a soft voice.
‘Thank you, it is quite well,’ he replied, in a sullen one.
There was a moment’s pause, and then she again spoke.
‘I am sure you are not well.’
‘Perfectly, thank you.’
‘Something has happened, then,’ she said, rather imploringly.
‘What should have happened?’ he rejoined, pettishly.
‘You are very strange; very unlike what you always are.’
‘What I always am is of no consequence to myself, or to anyone else; and as for what I am now, I cannot always command my feelings, though I shall take care that they are not again observed.’
‘I have offended you?’
‘Then you have shown your discretion, for you should always offend the forlorn.’
‘I did not think before that you were bitter.’
‘That has made me bitter which has made all others so.’
Another pause, yet she did not go.
‘I will not quarrel, and so you need not try. You are consigned to my care, and I am to amuse you. What shall we do?’
‘Do what you like, Miss Dacre; but spare, oh! spare me your pity!’
‘You do indeed surprise me. Pity! I was not thinking of pity! But you are indeed serious, and I leave you.’
He turned; he seized her hand.
‘Nay! do not go. Forgive me,’ he said, ‘forgive me, for I am most miserable.’
‘Why, why are you?’
‘Oh! do not ask; you agonise me.’
‘Shall I sing? Shall I charm the evil spirit?’
She tripped to the piano, and an air, bursting like the spring, and gay as a village feast, filled the room with its delight. He listened, and each instant the chilly weight loosened from his heart. Her balmy voice now came upon his ear, breathing joy and cheerfulness, content and love. Could love be the savage passion which lately subjugated his soul? He rose from his seat; he walked about the room; each minute his heart was lighter, his brow more smooth. A thousand thoughts, beautiful and quivering like the twilight, glanced o’er his mind in indistinct but exquisite tumult, and hope, like the voice of an angel in a storm, was heard above all. He lifted a chair gently from the ground, and, stealing to the enchantress, seated himself at her side. So softly he reached her, that for a moment he was unperceived. She turned her head, and her eyes met his. Even the ineffable incident was forgotten, as he marked the strange gush of lovely light, that seemed to say —— what to think of was, after all, madness.
THE storm was past. He vowed that a dark thought should not again cross his mind. It was fated that she should not be his; but it was some miserable satisfaction that he was only rejected in favour of an attachment which had grown with her years, and had strengthened with her stature, and in deference to an engagement hallowed by time as well as by affection. It was deadly indeed to remember that Fate seemed to have destined him for that happy position, and that his folly had rejected the proffered draught of bliss. He blasphemed against the Fitz-pompeys. However, he did not leave Dacre at the same time as Arundel, but lingered on. His affairs were far from being arranged. The Irish business gave great trouble, and he determined therefore to remain.
It was ridiculous to talk of feeding a passion which was not susceptible of increase. Her society was Heaven; and he resolved to enjoy it, although he was to be expelled. As for his loss of fortune, it gave him not a moment’s care. Without her, he felt he could not live in England, and, even ruined, he would be a match for an Italian prince.
So he continued her companion, each day rising with purer feelings and a more benevolent heart; each day more convinced of the falseness of his past existence, and of the possibility of happiness to a well-regulated mind; each day more conscious that duty is nothing more than self-knowledge, and the performance of it consequently the development of feelings which are the only true source of self-gratification. He mourned over the opportunities which he had forfeited of conducing to the happiness of others and himself. Sometimes he had resolved to remain in England and devote himself to his tenantry; but passion blinded him, and he felt that he had erred too far ever to regain the right road.
The election for which Arundel Dacre was a candidate came on. Each day the state of the poll arrived. It was nearly equal to the last. Their agitation was terrible, but forgotten in the deep mortification which they experienced at the announcement of his defeat. He talked to the public boldly of petitioning, and his certainty of ultimate success; but he let them know privately that he had no intention of the first, and no chance of the second. Even Mr. Dacre could mot conceal his deep disappointment; but May was quite in despair. Even if her father could find means of securing him a seat another time, the present great opportunity was lost.
‘Surely we can make some arrangement for next session,’ said the Duke, whispering hope to her.
‘Oh! no, no, no; so much depended upon this. It is not merely his taking a part in the debate, but — but Arundel is so odd, and everything was staked upon this. I cannot tell you what depended upon it. He will leave England directly.’
She did not attempt to conceal her agitation. The Duke rose, and paced the room in a state scarcely less moved. A thought had suddenly flashed upon him. Their marriage doubtless depended upon this success. He knew something of Arundel Dacre, and had heard more. He was convinced of the truth of his suspicion. Either the nephew would not claim her hand until he had carved out his own fortunes, or perhaps the uncle made his distinction the condition of his consent. Yet this was odd. It was all odd. A thousand things had occurred which equally puzzled him. Yet he had seen enough to weigh against a thousand thoughts.
ANOTHER fortnight glided away, and he was still at the Castle, still the constant and almost sole companion of May Dacre. It is breakfast; the servant is delivering the letter-bag to Mr. Dacre. Interesting moment! when you extend your hand for the billet of a mistress, and receive your tailor’s bill! How provokingly slow are most domestic chieftains in this anxious operation! They turn the letters over and over, and upside and down; arrange, confuse, mistake, assort; pretend, like Champollion, to decipher illegible franks, and deliver with a slight remark, which is intended as a friendly admonition, the documents of the unlucky wight who encourages unprivileged correspondents.
A letter was delivered to Miss Dacre. She started, exclaimed, blushed, and tore it open.
‘Only you, only you,’ she said, extending her hand to the young Duke, ‘only you were capable of this!’
It was a letter from Arundel Dacre, not only written but franked by him.
It explained everything that the Duke of St. James might have told them before; but he preferred hearing all himself, from the delighted and delightful lips of Miss Dacre, who read to her father her cousin’s letter.
The Duke of St. James had returned him for one of his Cornish boroughs. It appeared that Lord St. Maurice was the previous member, who had accepted the Chiltern Hundreds in his favour.
‘You were determined to surprise, as well as delight us,’ said Mr. Dacre.
‘I am no admirer of mysteries,’ said the Duke; ‘but the fact is, in the present case, it was not in my power to give you any positive information, and I had no desire to provide you, after your late disappointment, with new sources of anxiety. The only person I could take the liberty with, at so short a notice, was St. Maurice. He, you know, is a Liberal; but he cannot forget that he is the son of a Tory, and has no great ambition to take any active part in affairs at present. I anticipated less difficulty with him than with his father. St. Maurice can command me again when it suits him; but, I confess to you, I have been surprised at my uncle’s kindness in this affair. I really have not done justice to his character before, and regret it. He has behaved in the most kind-hearted and the most liberal manner, and put me under obligations which I never shall forget. He seems as desirous of serving my friend as myself; and I assure you, sir, it would give you pleasure to know in what terms of respect he speaks of your family, and particularly of Arundel.’
‘Arundel says he shall take his seat the morning of the debate. How very near! how admirably managed! Oh! I never shall recover my surprise and delight! How good you are!’
‘He takes his seat, then, tomorrow,’ said Mr. Dacre, in a musing tone. ‘My letters give a rather nervous account of affairs. We are to win it, they hope, but by two only. As for the Lords, the majority against us will, it is said, be somewhat smaller than usual. We shall never triumph, George, till May is M.P. for the county. Cannot you return her for Pen Bronnock too?’
They talked, as you may suppose, of nothing else. At last Mr. Dacre remembered an appointment with his bailiff, and proposed to the Duke to join him, who acceded.
‘And I to be left alone this morning, then!’ said Miss Dacre. ‘I am sure, as they say of children, I can set to nothing.’
‘Come and ride with us, then!’
‘An excellent idea! Let us canter over to Hauteville! I am just in the humour for a gallop up the avenue, and feel half emancipated already with a Dacre in the House! Oh! tomorrow, how nervous I shall be!’
‘I will despatch Barrington, then,’ said Mr. Dacre, ‘and join you in ten minutes.’
‘How good you are!’ said Miss Dacre to the Duke. ‘How can we thank you enough? What can we do for you?’
‘You have thanked me enough. What have I done after all? My opportunity to serve my friends is brief. Is it wonderful that I seize the opportunity?’
‘Brief! brief! Why do you always say so? Why do you talk so of leaving us?’
‘My visit to you has been already too long. It must soon end, and I remain not in England when it ceases.’
‘Come and live at Hauteville, and be near us?’
He faintly smiled as he said, ‘No, no; my doom is fixed. Hauteville is the last place that I should choose for my residence, even if I remained in England. But I hear the horses.’
The important night at length arrived, or rather the important messenger, who brought down, express, a report of its proceedings to Castle Dacre.
Nothing is more singular than the various success of men in the House of Commons. Fellows who have been the oracles of coteries from their birth; who have gone through the regular process of gold medals, senior wranglerships, and double firsts, who have nightly sat down amid tumultuous cheering in debating societies, and can harangue with unruffled foreheads and unfaltering voice, from one end of a dinner-table to the other, who, on all occasions, have something to say, and can speak with fluency on what they know nothing about, no sooner rise in the House than their spells desert them. All their effrontery vanishes. Commonplace ideas are rendered even more uninteresting by monotonous delivery; and keenly alive as even boobies are in those sacred walls to the ridiculous, no one appears more thoroughly aware of his unexpected and astounding deficiencies than the orator himself. He regains his seat hot and hard, sultry and stiff, with a burning cheek and an icy hand, repressing his breath lest it should give evidence of an existence of which he is ashamed, and clenching his fist, that the pressure may secretly convince him that he has not as completely annihilated his stupid body as his false reputation.
On the other hand, persons whom the women have long deplored, and the men long pitied, as having ‘no manner,’ who blush when you speak to them, and blunder when they speak to you, suddenly jump up in the House with a self-confidence, which is only equalled by their consummate ability. And so it was with Arundel Dacre. He rose the first night that he took his seat (a great disadvantage, of which no one was more sensible than himself), and for an hour and a half he addressed the fullest House that had long been assembled, with the self-possession of an habitual debater. His clenching argument, and his luminous detail, might have been expected from one who had the reputation of having been a student. What was more surprising was, the withering sarcasm that blasted like the simoom, the brilliant sallies of wit that flashed like a sabre, the gushing eddies of humour that drowned all opposition and overwhelmed those ponderous and unwieldy arguments which the producers announced as rocks, but which he proved to be porpoises. Never was there such a triumphant début; and a peroration of genuine eloquence, because of genuine feeling, concluded amid the long and renewed cheers of all parties.
The truth is, Eloquence is the child of Knowledge. When a mind is full, like a wholesome river, it is also clear. Confusion and obscurity are much oftener the results of ignorance than of inefficiency. Few are the men who cannot express their meaning, when the occasion demands the energy; as the lowest will defend their lives with acuteness, and sometimes even with eloquence. They are masters of their subject. Knowledge must be gained by ourselves. Mankind may supply us with facts; but the results, even if they agree with previous ones, must be the work of our own mind. To make others feel, we must feel ourselves; and to feel ourselves, we must be natural. This we can never be, when we are vomiting forth the dogmas of the schools. Knowledge is not a mere collection of words; and it is a delusion to suppose that thought can be obtained by the aid of any other intellect than our own. What is repetition, by a curious mystery ceases to be truth, even if it were truth when it was first heard; as the shadow in a mirror, though it move and mimic all the actions of vitality, is not life. When a man is not speaking, or writing, from his own mind, he is as insipid company as a looking-glass.
Before a man can address a popular assembly with command, he must know something of mankind; and he can know nothing of mankind without knowing something of himself. Self-knowledge is the property of that man whose passions have their play, but who ponders over their results. Such a man sympathises by inspiration with his kind. He has a key to every heart. He can divine, in the flash of a single thought, all that they require, all that they wish. Such a man speaks to their very core. All feel that a master-hand tears off the veil of cant, with which, from necessity, they have enveloped their souls; for cant is nothing more than the sophistry which results from attempting to account for what is unintelligible, or to defend what is improper.
Perhaps, although we use the term, we never have had oratory in England. There is an essential difference between oratory and debating. Oratory seems an accomplishment confined to the ancients, unless the French preachers may put in their claim, and some of the Irish lawyers. Mr. Shiel’s speech in Kent was a fine oration; and the boobies who taunted him for having got it by rote, were not aware that in doing so he only wisely followed the example of Pericles, Demosthenes, Lysias, Isocrates, Hortensius, Cicero, Cæsar, and every great orator of antiquity. Oratory is essentially the accomplishment of antiquity: it was their most efficient mode of communicating thought; it was their substitute for printing.
I like a good debate; and, when a stripling, used sometimes to be stifled in the Gallery, or enjoy the easier privileges of a member’s son. I like, I say, a good debate, and have no objection to a due mixture of bores, which are a relief. I remember none of the giants of former days; but I have heard Canning. He was a consummate rhetorician; but there seemed to me a dash of commonplace in all that he said, and frequent indications of the absence of an original mind. To the last, he never got clear of ‘Good God, sir!’ and all the other hackneyed ejaculations of his youthful debating clubs. The most commanding speaker that I ever listened to is, I think, Sir Francis Burdett. I never heard him in the House; but at an election. He was full of music, grace» and dignity, even amid all the vulgar tumult; and, unlike all mob orators, raised the taste of the populace to him, instead of lowering his own to theirs. His colleague, Mr. Hobhouse, seemed to me ill qualified for a demagogue, though he spoke with power. He is rather too elaborate, and a little heavy, but fluent, and never weak. His thoughtful and highly-cultivated mind maintains him under all circumstances; and his breeding never deserts him. Sound sense comes recommended from his lips by the language of a scholar and the urbanity of a gentleman.
Mr. Brougham, at present, reigns paramount in the House of Commons. I think the lawyer has spoiled the statesman. He is said to have great powers of sarcasm. From what I have observed there, I should think very little ones would be quite sufficient. Many a sneer withers in those walls, which would scarcely, I think, blight a currant-bush out of them; and I have seen the House convulsed with raillery which, in other society, would infallibly settle the rallier to be a bore beyond all tolerance. Even an idiot can raise a smile. They are so good-natured, or find it so dull. Mr. Canning’s badinage was the most successful, though I confess I have listened to few things more calculated to make a man gloomy. But the House always ran riot, taking everything for granted, and cracked their universal sides before he opened his mouth. The fault of Mr. Brougham is, that he holds no intellect at present in great dread, and, consequently, allows himself on all occasions to run wild. Few men hazard more unphilosophical observations; but he is safe, because there is no one to notice them. On all great occasions, Mr. Brougham has come up to the mark; an infallible test of a man of genius.
I hear that Mr. Macaulay is to be returned. If he speaks half as well as he writes, the House will be in fashion again. I fear that he is one of those who, like the individual whom he has most studied, will ‘give up to party what was meant for mankind.’
At any rate, he must get rid of his rabidity. He writes now on all subjects, as if he certainly intended to be a renegade, and was determined to make the contrast complete.
Mr. Peel is the model of a minister, and improves as a speaker; though, like most of the rest, he is fluent without the least style. He should not get so often in a passion either, or, if he do, should not get out of one so easily. His sweet apologies are cloying. His candour — he will do well to get rid of that. He can make a present of it to Mr. Huskisson, who is a memorable instance of the value of knowledge, which maintains a man under all circumstances and all disadvantages, and will.
In the Lords, I admire the Duke. The readiness with which he has adopted the air of a debater, shows the man of genius. There is a gruff, husky sort of a downright Montaignish naïveté about him, which is quaint, unusual, and tells. You plainly perceive that he is determined to be a civilian; and he is as offended if you drop a hint that he occasionally wears an uniform, as a servant on a holiday if you mention the word livery.
Lord Grey speaks with feeling, and is better to hear than to read, though ever strong and impressive. Lord Holland’s speeches are like a refacimento of all the suppressed passages in Clarendon, and the notes in the new edition of Bishop Burnet’s Memoirs: but taste throws a delicate hue over the curious medley, and the candour of a philosophic mind shows that in the library of Holland House he can sometimes cease to be a partisan.
One thing is clear, that a man may speak very well in the House of Commons, and fail very completely in the House of Lords. There are two distinct styles requisite: I intend, in the course of my career, if I have time, to give a specimen of both. In the Lower House Don Juan may perhaps be our model; in the Upper House, Paradise Lost.
NOTHING was talked of in Yorkshire but Mr. Arundel Dacre’s speech. All the world flocked to Castle Dacre to compliment and to congratulate; and an universal hope was expressed that he might come in for the county, if indeed the success of his eloquence did not enable his uncle to preoccupy that honour. Even the calm Mr. Dacre shared the general elation, and told the Duke of St. James regularly every day that it was all owing to him. May Dacre was enthusiastic; but her gratitude to him was synonymous with her love for Arundel, and valued accordingly. The Duke, however, felt that he had acted at once magnanimously, generously, and wisely. The consciousness of a noble action is itself ennobling. His spirit expanded with the exciting effects which his conduct had produced; and he felt consolation under all his misery from the conviction that he had now claims to be remembered, and perhaps regarded, when he was no more among them.
The Bill went swimmingly through the Commons, the majority of two gradually swelling into eleven; and the important night in the Lords was at hand.
‘Lord Faulconcourt writes,’ said Mr. Dacre, ‘that they expect only thirty-eight against us.’
‘Ah! that terrible House of Lords!’ said Miss Dacre. ‘Let us see: when does it come on, the day after tomorrow? Scarcely forty-eight hours and all will be over, and we shall be just where we were. You and your friends manage very badly in your House,’ she added, addressing herself to the Duke.
‘I do all I can,’ said his Grace, smiling. ‘Burlington has my proxy.’
‘That is exactly what I complain of. On such an occasion, there should be no proxies. Personal attendance would indicate a keener interest in the result. Ah! if I were Duke of St. James for one night!’
‘Ah! that you would be Duchess of St. James!’ thought the Duke; but a despairing lover has no heart for jokes, and so he did not give utterance to the wish. He felt a little agitated, and caught May Dacre’s eye. She smiled, and slightly blushed, as if she felt the awkwardness of her remark, though too late.
The Duke retired early, but not to sleep. His mind was busied on a great deed. It was past midnight before he could compose his agitated feelings to repose, and by five o’clock he was again up. He dressed himself, and then put on a rough travelling coat, which, with a shawl, effectually disguised his person; and putting in one pocket a shirt, and in the other a few articles from his dressing-case, the Duke of St. James stole out of Castle Dacre, leaving a note for his host, accounting for his sudden departure by urgent business at Hauteville, and promising a return in a day or two.
The fresh morn had fully broke. He took his hurried way through the long dewy grass, and, crossing the Park, gained the road, which, however, was not the high one. He had yet another hour’s rapid walk, before he could reach his point of destination; and when that was accomplished, he found himself at a small public-house, bearing for a sign his own arms, and situated in the high road opposite his own Park. He was confident that his person was unknown to the host, or to any of the early idlers who were lingering about the mail, then breakfasting.
‘Any room, guard, to London?’
‘Room inside, sir: just going off.’
The door was opened, and the Duke of St. James took his seat in the Edinburgh and York Mail. He had two companions: the first, because apparently the most important, was a hard-featured, grey-headed gentleman, with a somewhat supercilious look, and a mingled air of acuteness and conceit; the other was a humble-looking widow in her weeds, middle-aged, and sad. These persons had recently roused themselves from their nocturnal slumbers, and now, after their welcome meal and hurried toilet, looked as fresh as birds.
‘Well! now we are off,’ said the gentleman. ‘Very neat, cleanly little house this, ma’am,’ continued he to his companion. ‘What is the sign?’ ‘The Hauteville Arms.’ ‘Oh! Hauteville; that is — that is, let me see! the St. James family. Ah! a pretty fool that young man has made of himself, by all accounts. Eh! sir?’
‘I have reason to believe so,’ said the Duke.
‘I suppose this is his park, eh? Hem! going to London, sir?’
‘Ah! hem! Hauteville Park, I suppose, this. Fine ground wasted. What the use of parks is, I can’t say.’
‘The place seems well kept up,’ said the widow.
‘So much the worse; I wish it were in ruins.’
‘Well, for my part,’ continued the widow in a low voice, ‘I think a park nearly the most beautiful thing we have. Foreigners, you know, sir ——’
‘Ah! I know what you are going to say,’ observed the gentleman in a curt, gruffish voice. ‘It is all nonsense. Foreigners are fools. Don’t talk to me of beauty; a mere word. What is the use of all this? It produces about as much benefit to society as its owner does.’
‘And do you think his existence, then, perfectly useless?’ asked the Duke.
‘To be sure, I do. So the world will, some day or other. We are opening our eyes fast. Men begin to ask themselves what the use of an aristocracy is. That is the test, sir.’
‘I think it not very difficult to demonstrate the use of an aristocracy,’ mildly observed the Duke.
‘Pooh! nonsense, sir! I know what you are going to say; but we have got beyond all that. Have you read this, sir? This article on the aristocracy in “The Screw and Lever Review?”’
‘I have not, sir.’
‘Then I advise you to make yourself master of it, and you will talk no more of the aristocracy. A few more articles like this, and a few more noblemen like the man who has got this park, and people will open their eyes at last.’
‘I should think,’ said his Grace, ‘that the follies of the man who had got this park have been productive of evil only to himself. In fact, sir, according to your own system, a prodigal noble seems to be a very desirable member of the commonwealth and a complete leveller.’
‘We shall get rid of them all soon, sir,’ said his companion, with a malignant smile.
‘I have heard that he is very young, sir,’ remarked the widow.
‘What is that to you or me?’
‘Ah! youth is a trying time. Let us hope the best! He may turn out well yet, poor soul!’
‘I hope not. Don’t talk to me of poor souls. There is a poor soul,’ said the utilitarian, pointing to an old man breaking stones on the highway. ‘That is what I call a poor soul, not a young prodigal, whose life has been one long career of infamous debauchery.’
‘You appear to have heard much of this young nobleman,’ said the Duke; ‘but it does not follow, sir, that you have heard truth.’
‘Very true, sir,’ said the widow. ‘The world is very foul-mouthed. Let us hope he is not so very bad.’
‘I tell you what, my friends; you know nothing about what you are talking of. I don’t speak without foundation. You have not the least idea, sir, how this fellow has lived. Now, what I am going to tell you is a fact: I know it to be a fact. A very intimate friend of mine, who knows a person, who is a very intimate friend of an intimate friend of a person, who knows the Duke of St. James, told me himself, that one night they had for supper — what do you think ma’am? — Venison cutlets, each served up in a hundred pound note!’
‘Mercy!’ exclaimed the widow.
‘And do you believe it?’ asked the Duke.
‘Believe it! I know it!’
‘He is very young,’ said the widow. ‘Youth is a very trying time.’
‘Nothing to do with his youth. It’s the system, the infernal system. If that man had to work for his bread, like everybody else, do you think he would dine off bank notes? No! to be sure he wouldn’t! It’s the system.’
‘Young people are very wild!’ said the widow.
‘Pooh! ma’am. Nonsense! Don’t talk cant. If a man be properly educated, he is as capable at one-and-twenty of managing anything, as at any time in his life; more capable. Look at the men who write “The Screw and Lever;” the first men in the country. Look at them. Not one of age. Look at the man who wrote this article on the aristocracy: young Duncan Macmorrogh. Look at him, I say, the first man in the country by far.’
‘I never heard his name before,’ calmly observed the Duke.
‘Not heard his name? Not heard of young Duncan Macmorrogh, the first man of the day, by far; not heard of him? Go and ask the Marquess of Sheepshead what he thinks of him. Go and ask Lord Two and Two what he thinks of him. Duncan dines with Lord Two and Two every week.’
The Duke smiled, and his companion proceeded.
‘Well, again, look at his friends. There is young First Principles. What a «head that fellow has got! Here, this article on India is by him. He’ll knock up their Charter. He is a clerk in the India House. Up to the detail, you see. Let me read you this passage on monopolies. Then there is young Tribonian Quirk. By G — what a mind that fellow has got! By G — nothing but first principles will go down with these fellows! They laugh at anything else. By G — sir, they look upon the administration of the present day as a parcel of sucking babes! When I was last in town, Quirk told me that he would not give that for all the public men that ever existed! He is keeping his terms at Gray’s Inn. This article on a new Code is by him. Shows as plain as light, that, by sticking close to first principles, the laws of the country might be carried in every man’s waistcoat pocket.’
The coach stopped, and a colloquy ensued.
‘Any room to Selby?’
‘Outside or in?’
‘Out, to be sure.’
‘Room inside only.’
‘Well! in then.’
The door opened, and a singularly quaint-looking personage presented himself. He was very stiff and prim in his appearance; dressed in a blue coat and scarlet waistcoat, with a rich bandanna handkerchief tied very neatly round his neck, and a very new hat, to which his head seemed little habituated.
‘Sorry to disturb you, ladies and gentlemen: not exactly the proper place for me. Don’t be alarmed. I’m always respectful wherever I am. My rule through life is to be respectful.’
‘Well, now, in with you,’ said the guard.
‘Be respectful, my friend, and don’t talk so to an old soldier who has served his king and his country.’
Off they went.
‘Majesty’s service?’ asked the stranger of the Duke.
‘I have not that honour.’
‘Hum! Lawyer, perhaps?’
‘Not a lawyer.’
‘Hum! A gentleman, I suppose?’
The Duke was silent; and so the stranger addressed himself to the anti-aristocrat, who seemed vastly annoyed by the intrusion of so low a personage.
‘Going to London, sir?’
‘I tell you what, my friend, at once; I never answer impertinent questions.’
‘No offence, I hope, sir! Sorry to offend. I’m always respectful. Madam! I hope I don’t inconvenience you; I should be sorry to do that. We sailors, you know, are always ready to accommodate the ladies.’
‘Sailor!’ exclaimed the acute utilitarian, his curiosity stifling his hauteur. ‘Why! just now, I thought you were a soldier.’
‘Well! so I am.’
‘Well, my friend, you are a conjuror then.’
‘No, I ayn’t; I’m a marine.’
‘A very useless person, then.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean to say, that if the sailors were properly educated, such an amphibious corps would never have been formed, and some of the most atrocious sinecures ever tolerated would consequently not have existed.’
‘Sinecures! I never heard of him. I served under Lord Combermere. Maybe you have heard of him, ma’am? A nice man; a beautiful man. I have seen him stand in a field like that, with the shot falling about him like hail, and caring no more for them than peas.’
‘If that were for bravado,’ said the utilitarian, ‘I think it a very silly thing.’
‘Bravado! I never heard of him. It was for his king and country.’
‘Was it in India?’ asked the widow.
‘In a manner, ma’am,’ said the marine, very courteously. ‘At Bhurtpore, up by Pershy, and thereabouts; the lake of Cashmere, where all the shawls come from. Maybe you have heard of Cashmere, ma’am?’
‘“Who has not heard of the vale of Cashmere!’” hummed the Duke to himself.
‘Ah! I thought so,’ said the marine; ‘all people know much the same; for some have seen, and some have read. I can’t read, but I have served my king and country for five-and-twenty years, and I have used my eyes.’
‘Better than reading,’ said the Duke, humouring the character.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ said the marine, with a knowing look. ‘I suspect there is a d — d lot of lies in your books. I landed in England last seventh of June, and went to see St. Paul’s. “This is the greatest building in the world,” says the man. Thinks I, “You lie.” I did not tell him so, because I am always respectful. I tell you what, sir; maybe you think St. Paul’s the greatest building in the world, but I tell you what, it’s a lie. I have seen one greater. Maybe, ma’am, you think I am telling you a lie too; but I am not. Go and ask Captain Jones, of the 58th. I went with him: I give you his name: go and ask Captain Jones, of the 58th, if I be telling you a lie. The building I mean is the palace of the Sultan Acber; for I have served my king and country five-and-twenty years last seventh of June, and have seen strange things; all built of precious stones, ma’am. What do you think of that? All built of precious stones; carnelian, of which you make your seals; as sure as I’m a sinner saved. If I ayn’t speaking the truth, I am not going to Selby. Maybe you’d like to know why I am going to Selby? I’ll tell you what. Five-and-twenty years have I served my king and country last seventh of June. Now I begin with the beginning. I ran away from home when I was eighteen, you see! and, after the siege of Bhurtpore, I was sitting on a bale of silk alone, and I said to myself, I’ll go and see my mother. Sure as I am going to Selby, that’s the whole. I landed in England last seventh of June, absent five-and-twenty years, serving my king and country. I sent them a letter last night. I put it in the post myself. Maybe I shall be there before my letter now.’
‘To be sure you will,’ said the utilitarian; ‘what made you do such a silly thing? Why, your letter is in this coach.’
‘Well! I shouldn’t wonder. I shall be there before my letter now. All nonsense, letters: my wife wrote it at Falmouth.’
‘You are married, then?’ said the widow.
‘Ayn’t I, though? The sweetest cretur, madam, though I say it before you, that ever lived.’
‘Why did you not bring your wife with you?’ asked the widow.
‘And wouldn’t I be very glad to? but she wouldn’t come among strangers at once; and so I have got a letter, which she wrote for me, to put in the post, in case they are glad to see me, and then she will come on.’
‘And you, I suppose, are not sorry to have a holiday?’ said the Duke.
‘Ayn’t I, though? Ayn’t I as low about leaving her as ever I was in my life; and so is the poor cretur. She won’t eat a bit of victuals till I come back, I’ll be sworn; not a bit, I’ll be bound to say that; and myself, although I am an old soldier and served my king and country for five-and-twenty years, and so got knocked about, and used to anything, as it were, I don’t know how it is, but I always feel queer whenever I am away from her. I shan’t make a hearty meal till I see her. Somehow or other, when I am away from her, everything feels dry in the throat.’
‘You are very fond of her, I see,’ said the Duke.
‘And ought I not to be? Didn’t I ask her three times before she said yes? Those are the wives for wear, sir. None of the fruit that falls at a shaking for me! Hasn’t she stuck by me in every climate, and in every land I was in? Not a fellow in the company had such a wife. Wouldn’t I throw myself off this coach this moment, to give her a moment’s peace? That I would, though; d —— me if I wouldn’t.’
‘Hush! hush!’ said the widow; ‘never swear. I am afraid you talk too much of your love,’ she added, with a faint smile.
‘Ah! you don’t know my wife, ma’am. Are you married, sir?’
‘I have not that happiness,’ said the Duke.
‘Well, there is nothing like it! but don’t take the fruit that falls at a shake. But this, I suppose, is Selby?’
The marine took his departure, having stayed long enough to raise in the young Duke’s mind curious feelings.
As he was plunged into reverie, and as the widow was silent, conversation was not resumed until the coach stopped for dinner.
‘We stop here half-an-hour, gentlemen,’ said the guard. ‘Mrs. Burnet,’ he continued, to the widow, ‘let me hand you out.’
They entered the parlour of the inn. The Duke, who was ignorant of the etiquette of the road, did not proceed to the discharge of his duties, as the youngest guest, with all the promptness desired by his fellow-travellers.
‘Now, sir,’ said an outside, ‘I will thank you for a slice of that mutton, and will join you, if you have no objection in a bottle of sherry.’
‘What you please, sir. May I have the pleasure of helping you, ma’am?’
After dinner the Duke took advantage of a vacant outside place.
Tom Rawlins was the model of a guard. Young, robust, and gay, he had a letter, a word, or a wink for all he met. All seasons were the same to him; night or day he was ever awake, and ever alive to all the interest of the road; now joining in conversation with a passenger, shrewd, sensible, and respectful; now exchanging a little elegant badinage with the coachman; now bowing to a pretty girl; now quizzing a passer-by; he was off and on his seat in an instant, and, in the whiff of his cigar, would lock a wheel, or unlock a passenger.
From him the young Duke learned that his fellow-inside was Mr. Duncan Macmorrogh, senior, a writer at Edinburgh, and, of course, the father of the first man of the day. Tom Rawlins could not tell his Grace as much about the principal writer in ‘The Screw and Lever Review’ as we can; for Tom was no patron of our periodical literature, farther than a police report in the Publican’s Journal. Young Duncan Macmorrogh was a limb of the law, who had just brought himself into notice by a series of articles in ‘The Screw and Lever,’ in which he had subjected the universe piecemeal to his critical analysis. Duncan Macmorrogh cut up the creation, and got a name. His attack upon mountains was most violent, and proved, by its personality, that he had come from the Lowlands. He demonstrated the inutility of all elevation, and declared that the Andes were the aristocracy of the globe. Rivers he rather patronised; but flowers he quite pulled to pieces, and proved them to be the most useless of existences. Duncan Macmorrogh informed us that we were quite wrong in supposing ourselves to be the miracle of creation. On the contrary, he avowed that already there were various pieces of machinery of far more importance than man; and he had no doubt, in time, that a superior race would arise, got by a steam-engine on a spinning-jenny.
The other ‘inside’ was the widow of a former curate of a Northumbrian village. Some friend had obtained for her only child a clerkship in a public office, and for some time this idol of her heart had gone on prospering; but unfortunately, of late, Charles Burnet had got into a bad set, was now involved in a terrible scrape, and, as Tom Rawlins feared, must lose his situation and go to ruin.
‘She was half distracted when she heard it first, poor creature! I have known her all my life, sir. Many the kind word and glass of ale I have had at her house, and that’s what makes me feel for her, you see. I do what I can to make the journey easy to her, for it is a pull at her years. God bless her! there is not a better body in this world; that I will, say for her. When I was a boy, I used to be the playfellow in a manner with Charley Burnet: a gay lad, sir, as ever you’d wish to see in a summer’s day, and the devil among the girls always, and that’s been the ruin of him; and as open-a-hearted fellow as ever lived. D—— me! I’d walk to the land’s end to save him, if it were only for his mother’s sake, to say nothing of himself.’
‘And can nothing be done?’ asked the Duke.
‘Why, you see, he is back in £ s. d.; and, to make it up, the poor body must sell her all, and he won’t let her do it, and wrote a letter like a prince (No room, sir), as fine a letter as ever you read (Hilloa, there! What! are you asleep?)— as ever you read on a summer’s day. I didn’t see it, but my mother told me it was as good as e’er a one of the old gentleman’s sermons. “Mother,” said he, “my sins be upon my own head. I can bear disgrace (How do, Mr. Wilkins?), but I cannot bear to see you a beggar!”’
‘Ay! sir, as good-a-hearted fellow as ever you’d wish to meet!’
‘Is he involved to a great extent, think you?’
‘Oh! a long figure, sir (I say, Betty, I’ve got a letter for you from your sweetheart), a very long figure, sir (Here, take it!); I should be sorry (Don’t blush; no message?)— I should be sorry to take two hundred pounds to pay it. No, I wouldn’t take two hundred pounds, that I wouldn’t (I say, Jacob, stop at old Bag Smith’s).’
Night came on, and the Duke resumed his inside place. Mr. Macmorrogh went to sleep over his son’s article; and the Duke feigned slumber, though he was only indulging in reverie. He opened his eyes, and a light, which they passed, revealed the countenance of the widow. Tears were stealing down her face.
‘I have no mother; I have no one to weep for me,’ thought the Duke; ‘and yet, if I had been in this youth’s station, my career probably would have been as fatal. Let me assist her. Alas! how I have misused my power, when, even to do this slight deed, I am obliged to hesitate, and consider whether it be practicable.’
The coach again stopped for a quarter of an hour. The Duke had, in consideration of the indefinite period of his visit, supplied himself amply with money on repairing to Dacre. Besides his purse, which was well stored for the road, he had somewhat more than three hundred pounds in his notebook. He took advantage of their tarrying, to inclose it and its contents in a sheet of paper with these lines:
‘An unknown friend requests Mrs. Burnet to accept this token of his sympathy with suffering virtue.’
Determined to find some means to put this in her possession before their parting, he resumed his place. The Scotchman now prepared for his night’s repose. He produced a pillow for his back, a bag for his feet, and a cap for his head. These, and a glass of brandy-and-water, in time produced a due effect, and he was soon fast asleep. Even to the widow, night brought some solace. The Duke alone found no repose. Unused to travelling in public conveyances at night, and unprovided with any of the ingenious expedients of a mail coach adventurer, he felt all the inconveniences of an inexperienced traveller. The seat was unendurably hard, his back ached, his head whirled, the confounded sherry, slight as was his portion, had made him feverish, and he felt at once excited and exhausted. He was sad, too; very depressed. Alone, and no longer surrounded with that splendour which had hitherto made solitude precious, life seemed stripped of all its ennobling spirit. His energy vanished. He repented his rashness; and the impulse of the previous night, which had gathered fresh power from the dewy moon, vanished. He felt alone, and without a friend, and night passed without a moment’s slumber, watching the driving clouds.
The last fifteen miles seemed longer than the whole journey. At St. Alban’s he got out, took a cup of coffee with Tom Rawlins, and, although the morning was raw, again seated himself by his side. In the first gloomy little suburb Mrs. Burnet got out. The Duke sent Rawlins after her with the parcel, with peremptory instructions to leave it. He watched the widow protesting it was not hers, his faithful emissary appealing to the direction, and with delight he observed it left in her hands. They rattled into London, stopped in Lombard Street, reached Holborn, entered an archway; the coachman threw the whip and reins from his now careless hands. The Duke bade farewell to Tom Rawlins, and was shown to a bed.
THE return of morning had in some degree dissipated the gloom that had settled on the young Duke during the night. Sound and light made him feel less forlorn, and for a moment his soul again responded to his high purpose. But now he was to seek necessary repose. In vain. His heated frame and anxious mind were alike restless. He turned, he tossed in his bed, but he could not banish from his ear the whirling sound of his late conveyance, the snore of Mr. Macmorrogh, and the voice of Tom Rawlins. He kept dwelling on every petty incident of his journey, and repeating in his mind every petty saying. His determination to slumber made him even less sleepy. Conscious that repose was absolutely necessary to the performance of his task, and dreading that the boon was now unattainable, he became each moment more feverish and more nervous; a crowd of half-formed ideas and images flitted over his heated brain. Failure, misery, May Dacre, Tom Rawlins, boiled beef, Mrs. Burnet, the aristocracy, mountains and the marine, and the tower of St. Alban’s cathedral, hurried along in infinite confusion. But there is nothing like experience. In a state of distraction, he remembered the hopeless but refreshing sleep he had gained after his fatal adventure at Brighton. He jumped out of bed, and threw himself on the floor, and in a few minutes, from the same cause, his excited senses subsided into slumber.
He awoke; the sun was shining through his rough shutter. It was noon. He jumped up, rang the bell, and asked for a bath. The chambermaid did not seem exactly to comprehend his meaning, but said she would speak to the waiter. He was the first gentleman who ever had asked for a bath at the Dragon with Two Tails. The waiter informed him that he might get a bath, he believed, at the Hum-mums. The Duke dressed, and to the Hummums he then took his way. As he was leaving the yard, he was followed by an ostler, who, in a voice musically hoarse, thus addressed him:
‘Have you seen missis, sir?’
‘Do you mean me? No, I have not seen your missis;’ and the Duke proceeded.
‘Sir, sir,’ said the ostler, running after him, ‘I think you said you had not seen missis?’
‘You think right,’ said the Duke, astonished; and again he walked on.
‘Sir, sir,’ said the pursuing ostler, ‘I don’t think you have got any luggage?’
‘Oh! I beg your pardon,’ said the Duke; ‘I see it. I am in your debt; but I meant to return.’
‘No doubt on’t, sir; but when gemmen don’t have no luggage, they sees missis before they go, sir.’
‘Well, what am I in your debt? I can pay you here.’
‘Five shillings, sir.’
‘Here!’ said the Duke; ‘and tell me when a coach leaves this place tomorrow for Yorkshire.’
‘Half-past six o’clock in the morning precisely,’ said the ostler.
‘Well, my good fellow, I depend upon your securing me a place; and that is for yourself,’ added his Grace, throwing him a sovereign. ‘Now, mind; I depend upon you.’
The man stared as if he had been suddenly taken into partnership with missis; at length he found his tongue.
‘Your honour may depend upon me. Where would you like to sit? In or out? Back to your horses, or the front? Get you the box if you like. Where’s your great coat, sir? I’ll brush it for you.’
The bath and the breakfast brought our hero round a good deal, and at half-past two he stole to a solitary part of St. James’s Park, to stretch his legs and collect his senses. We must now let our readers into a secret, which perhaps they have already unravelled. The Duke had hurried to London with the determination, not only of attending the debate, but of participating in it. His Grace was no politician; but the question at issue was one simple in its nature and so domestic in its spirit, that few men could have arrived at his period of life without having heard its merits, both too often and too amply discussed. He was master of all the points of interest, and he had sufficient confidence in himself to believe that he could do them justice. He walked up and down, conning over in his mind not only the remarks which he intended to make, but the very language in which he meant to offer them. As he formed sentences, almost for the first time, his courage and his fancy alike warmed: his sanguine spirit sympathised with the nobility of the imaginary scene, and inspirited the intonations of his modulated voice.
About four o’clock he repaired to the House. Walking up one of the passages his progress was stopped by the back of an individual bowing with great civility to a patronising peer, and my-lording him with painful repetition. The nobleman was Lord Fitz-pompey; the bowing gentleman, Mr. Duncan Macmorrogh, the anti-aristocrat, and father of the first man of the day.
‘George! is it possible!’ exclaimed Lord Fitz-pompey. ‘I will speak to you in the House,’ said the Duke, passing on, and bowing to Mr. Duncan Macmorrogh.
He recalled his proxy from the Duke of Burlington, and accounted for his presence to many astonished friends by being on his way to the Continent; and, passing through London, thought he might as well be present, particularly as he was about to reside for some time in Catholic countries. It was the last compliment that he could pay his future host. ‘Give me a pinch of snuff.’
The debate began. Don’t be alarmed. I shall not describe it. Five or six peers had spoken, and one of the ministers had just sat down when the Duke of St. James rose. He was extremely nervous, but he repeated to himself the name of May Dacre for the hundredth time, and proceeded. He was nearly commencing ‘May Dacre’ instead of ‘My Lords,’ but he escaped this blunder. For the first five or ten minutes he spoke in almost as cold and lifeless a style as when he echoed the King’s speech; but he was young and seldom troubled them, and was listened to therefore with indulgence. The Duke warmed, and a courteous ‘hear, hear,’ frequently sounded; the Duke became totally free from embarrassment, and spoke with eloquence and energy. A cheer, a stranger in the House of Lords, rewarded and encouraged him. As an Irish landlord, his sincerity could not be disbelieved when he expressed his conviction of the safety of emancipation; but it was as an English proprietor and British noble that it was evident that his Grace felt most keenly upon this important measure. He described with power the peculiar injustice of the situation of the English Catholics. He professed to feel keenly upon this subject, because his native county had made him well acquainted with the temper of this class; he painted in glowing terms the loyalty, the wealth, the influence, the noble virtues of his Catholic neighbours; and he closed a speech of an hour’s duration, in which he had shown that a worn subject was susceptible of novel treatment, and novel interest, amid loud and general cheers. The Lords gathered round him, and many personally congratulated him upon his distinguished success. The debate took its course. At three o’clock the proCatholics found themselves in a minority, but a minority in which the prescient might have well discovered the herald of future justice. The speech of the Duke of St. James was the speech of the night.
The Duke walked into White’s. It was crowded. The first man who welcomed him was Annesley. He congratulated the Duke with a warmth for which the world did not give him credit.
‘I assure you, my dear St. James, that I am one of the few people whom this display has not surprised. I have long observed that you were formed for something better than mere frivolity. And between ourselves I am sick of it. Don’t be surprised if you hear that I go to Algiers. Depend upon it that I am on the point of doing something dreadful.’ ‘Sup with me, St. James,’ said Lord Squib; ‘I will ask O’Connell to meet you.’
Lord Fitz-pompey and Lord Darrell were profuse in congratulations; but he broke away from them to welcome the man who now advanced. He was one of whom he never thought without a shudder, but whom, for all that, he greatly liked.
‘My dear Duke of St. James,’ said Arundel Dacre, ‘how ashamed I am that this is the first time I have personally thanked you for all your goodness!’
‘My dear Dacre, I have to thank you for proving for the first time to the world that I was not without discrimination.’
‘No, no,’ said Dacre, gaily and easily; ‘all the congratulations and all the compliments to-night shall be for you. Believe me, my dear friend, I share your triumph.’
They shook hands with earnestness.
‘May will read your speech with exultation,’ said Arundel. ‘I think we must thank her for making you an orator.’
The Duke faintly smiled and shook his head.
‘And how are all our Yorkshire friends?’ continued Arundel. ‘I am disappointed again in getting down to them; but I hope in the course of the month to pay them a visit.’
‘I shall see them in a day or two,’ said the Duke. ‘I pay Mr. Dacre one more visit before my departure form England.’
‘Are you then indeed going?’ asked Arundel, in a kind voice.
‘Nay, nay, ever is a strong word.’
‘It becomes, then, my feelings. However, we will not talk of this. Can I bear any letter for you?’
‘I have just written,’ replied Arundel, in a gloomy voice, and with a changing countenance, ‘and therefore will not trouble you. And yet ——’
‘And yet the letter is an important letter: to me. The post, to be sure, never does miss; but if it were not troubling your Grace too much, I almost would ask you to be its bearer.’
‘It will be there as soon,’ said the Duke, ‘for I shall be off in an hour.’
‘I will take it out of the box then,’ said Arundel; and he fetched it. ‘Here is the letter,’ said he on his return: ‘pardon me if I impress upon you its importance. Excuse this emotion, but, indeed, this letter decides my fate. My happiness for life is dependent on its reception!’
He spoke with an air and voice of agitation.
The Duke received the letter in a manner scarcely less disturbed; and with a hope that they might meet before his departure, faintly murmured by one party, and scarcely responded to by the other, they parted.
‘Well, now,’ said the Duke, ‘the farce is complete; and I have come to London to be the bearer of his offered heart! I like this, now. Is there a more contemptible, a more ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous ass than myself? Fear not for its delivery, most religiously shall it be consigned to the hand of its owner. The fellow has paid a compliment to my honour or my simplicity: I fear the last, and really I feel rather proud. But away with these feelings! Have I not seen her in his arms? Pah! Thank God! I spoke. At least, I die in a blaze. Even Annesley does not think me quite a fool. O, May Dacre, May Dacre! if you were but mine, I should be the happiest fellow that ever breathed!’
He breakfasted, and then took his way to the Dragon with Two Tails. The morning was bright, and fresh, and beautiful, even in London. Joy came upon his heart, in spite of all his loneliness, and he was glad and sanguine. He arrived just in time. The coach was about to start. The faithful ostler was there with his great-coat, and the Duke found that he had three fellow-passengers. They were lawyers, and talked for the first two hours of nothing but the case respecting which they were going down into the country. At Woburn, a despatch arrived with the newspapers. All purchased one, and the Duke among the rest. He was well reported, and could now sympathise with, instead of smile at, the anxiety of Lord Darrell.
‘The young Duke of St. James seems to have distinguished himself very much,’ said the first lawyer.
‘So I observe,’ said the second one. ‘The leading article calls our attention to his speech as the most brilliant delivered.’
‘I am surprised,’ said the third. ‘I thought he was quite a different sort of person.’
‘By no means,’ said the first: ‘I have always had a high opinion of him. I am not one of those who think the worse of a young man because he is a little wild.’
‘Nor I,’ said the second. ‘Young blood, you know, is young blood.’
‘A very intimate friend of mine, who knows the Duke of St. James well, once told me,’ rejoined the first, ‘that I was quite mistaken about him; that he was a person of no common talents; well read, quite a man of the world, and a good deal of wit, too; and let me tell you that in these days wit is no common thing.’
‘Certainly not,’ said the third. ‘We have no wit now.’
‘And a kind-hearted, generous fellow,’ continued the first, ‘and very unaffected.’
‘I can’t bear an affected man,’ said the second, without looking off his paper. ‘He seems to have made a very fine speech indeed.’
‘I should not wonder at his turning out something great,’ said the third.
‘I have no doubt of it,’ said the second.
‘Many of these wild fellows do.’
‘He is not so wild as we think,’ said the first.
‘But he is done up,’ said the second.
‘Is he indeed?’ said the third. ‘Perhaps by making a speech he wants a place?’
‘People don’t make speeches for nothing,’ said the third.
‘I shouldn’t wonder if he is after a place in the Household,’ said the second.
‘Depend upon it, he looks to something more active,’ said the first.
‘Perhaps he would like to be head of the Admiralty?’ said the second.
‘Or the Treasury?’ said the third.
‘That is impossible!’ said the first. ‘He is too young.’
‘He is as old as Pitt,’ said the third.
‘I hope he will resemble him in nothing but his age, then,’ said the first.
‘I look upon Pitt as the first man that ever lived,’ said the third.
‘What!’ said the first. ‘The man who worked up the national debt to nearly eight hundred millions!’
‘What of that?’ said the third. ‘I look upon the national debt as the source of all our prosperity.’
‘The source of all our taxes, you mean.’
‘What is the harm of taxes?’
‘The harm is, that you will soon have no trade; and when you have no trade, you will have no duties; and when you have no duties, you will have no dividends; and when you have no dividends, you will have no law; and then, where is your source of prosperity?’ said the first.
But here the coach stopped, and the Duke got out for an hour.
By midnight they had reached a town not more than thirty miles from Dacre. The Duke was quite exhausted, and determined to stop. In half an hour he enjoyed that deep, dreamless slumber, with which no luxury can compete. One must have passed restless nights for years, to be able to appreciate the value of sound sleep.
HE ROSE early, and managed to reach Dacre at the breakfast hour of the family. He discharged his chaise at the Park gate, and entered the house unseen. He took his way along a corridor lined with plants, which led to the small and favourite room in which the morning meetings of May and himself always took place when they were alone. As he lightly stepped along, he heard a voice that he could not mistake, as it were in animated converse. Agitated by sounds which ever created in him emotion, for a moment he paused. He starts, his eye sparkles with strange delight, a flush comes over his panting features, half of modesty, half of triumph. He listens to his own speech from the lips of the woman he loves. She is reading to her father with melodious energy the passage in which he describes the high qualities of his Catholic neighbours. The intonations of the voice indicate the deep sympathy of the reader. She ceases. He hears the admiring exclamation of his host. He rallies his strength, he advances, he stands before them. She utters almost a shriek of delightful surprise as she welcomes him.
How much there was to say! how much to ask! how much to answer! Even Mr. Dacre poured forth questions like a boy. But May: she could not speak, but leant forward in her chair with an eager ear, and a look of congratulation, that rewarded him for all his exertion. Everything was to be told. How he went; whether he slept in the mail; where he went; what he did; whom he saw; what they said; what they thought; all must be answered. Then fresh exclamations of wonder, delight, and triumph. The Duke forgot everything but his love, and for three hours felt the happiest of men.
At length Mr. Dacre rose and looked at his watch with a shaking head. ‘I have a most important appointment,’ said he, ‘and I must gallop to keep it. God bless you, my dear St. James! I could stay talking with you for ever; but you must be utterly wearied. Now, my dear boy, go to bed.’
‘To bed!’ exclaimed the Duke. ‘Why, Tom Rawlins would laugh at you!’
‘And who is Tom Rawlins?’
‘Ah! I cannot tell you everything; but assuredly I am not going to bed.’
‘Well, May, I leave him to your care; but do not let him talk any more.’
‘Oh! sir,’ said the Duke, ‘I really had forgotten. I am the bearer to you, sir, of a letter from Mr. Arundel Dacre.’ He gave it him.
As Mr. Dacre read the communication, his countenance changed, and the smile which before was on his face, vanished. But whether he were displeased, or only serious, it was impossible to ascertain, although the Duke watched him narrowly. At length he said, ‘May! here is a letter from Arundel, in which you are much interested.’
‘Give it me, then, papa!’
‘No, my love; we must speak of this together. But I am pressed for time. When I come home. Remember.’ He quitted the room.
They were alone: the Duke began again talking, and Miss Dacre put her finger to her mouth, with a smile.
‘I assure you,’ said he, ‘I am not wearied. I slept at —— y, and the only thing I now want is a good walk. Let me be your companion this morning!’
‘I was thinking of paying nurse a visit. What say you?’
‘Oh! I am ready; anywhere.’
She ran for her bonnet, and he kissed her handkerchief, which she left behind, and, I believe, everything else in the room which bore the slightest relation to her. And then the recollection of Arundel’s letter came over him, and his joy fled. When she returned, he was standing before the fire, gloomy and dull.
‘I fear you are tired,’ she said.
‘Not in the least.’
‘I shall never forgive myself if all this exertion make you ill.’
‘Because, although I will not tell papa, I am sure my nonsense is the cause of your having gone to London.’
‘It is probable; for you are the cause of all that does not disgrace me.’ He advanced, and was about to seize her hand; but the accursed miniature occurred to him, and he repressed his feelings, almost with a groan. She, too, had turned away her head, and was busily engaged in tending a flower.
‘Because she has explicitly declared her feelings to me, and, sincere in that declaration, honours me by a friendship of which alone I am unworthy, am I to persecute her with my dishonoured overtures — the twice rejected? No, no!’
They took their way through the park, and he soon succeeded in reassuming the tone that befitted their situation. Traits of the debate, and the debaters, which newspapers cannot convey, and which he had not yet recounted; anecdotes of Annesley and their friends, and other gossip, were offered for her amusement. But if she were amused, she was not lively, but singularly, unusually silent. There was only one point on which she seemed interested, and that was his speech. When he was cheered, and who particularly cheered; who gathered round him, and what they said after the debate: on all these points she was most inquisitive.
They rambled on: nurse was quite forgotten; and at length they found themselves in the beautiful valley, rendered more lovely by the ruins of the abbey. It was a place that the Duke could never forget, and which he ever avoided. He had never renewed his visit since he first gave vent, among its reverend ruins, to his overcharged and most tumultuous heart.
They stood in silence before the holy pile with its vaulting arches and crumbling walls, mellowed by the mild lustre of the declining sun. Not two years had fled since here he first staggered after the breaking glimpses of self-knowledge, and struggled to call order from out the chaos of his mind. Not two years, and yet what a change had come over his existence! How diametrically opposite now were all his thoughts, and views, and feelings, to those which then controlled his fatal soul! How capable, as he firmly believed, was he now of discharging his duty to his Creator and his fellow-men! and yet the boon that ought to have been the reward for all this self-contest, the sweet seal that ought to have ratified this new contract of existence, was wanting.
‘Ah!’ he exclaimed aloud, and in a voice of anguish, ‘ah! if I ne’er had left the walls of Dacre, how different might have been my lot!’
A gentle but involuntary pressure reminded him of the companion whom, for once in his life, he had for a moment forgotten.
‘I feel it is madness; I feel it is worse than madness; but must I yield without a struggle, and see my dark fate cover me without an effort? Oh! yes, here, even here, where I have wept over your contempt, even here, although I subject myself to renewed rejection, let — let me tell you, before we part, how I adore you!’
She was silent; a strange courage came over his spirit; and, with a reckless boldness, and rapid voice, a misty sight, and total unconsciousness of all other existence, he resumed the words which had broken out, as if by inspiration.
‘I am not worthy of you. Who is? I was worthless. I did not know it. Have not I struggled to be pure? have not I sighed on my nightly pillow for your blessing? Oh! could you read my heart (and sometimes, I think, you can read it, for indeed, with all its faults, it is without guile) I dare to hope that you would pity me. Since we first met, your image has not quitted my conscience for a second. When you thought me least worthy; when you thought me vile, or mad, oh! by all that is sacred, I was the most miserable wretch that ever breathed, and flew to dissipation only for distraction!
‘Not — not for a moment have I ceased to think you the best, the most beautiful, the most enchanting and endearing creature that ever graced our earth. Even when I first dared to whisper my insolent affection, believe me, even then, your presence controlled my spirit as no other woman had. I bent to you then in pride and power. The station that I could then offer you was not utterly unworthy of your perfection. I am now a beggar, or, worse, an insolvent noble, and dare I— dare I to ask you to share the fortunes that are broken, and the existence that is obscure?’
She turned; her arm fell over his shoulder; she buried her head in his breast.
MR. DACRE returned home with an excellent appetite, and almost as keen a desire to renew his conversation with his guest; but dinner and the Duke were neither to be commanded. Miss Dacre also could not be found. No information could be obtained of them from any quarter. It was nearly seven o’clock, the hour of dinner. That meal, somewhat to Mr. Dacre’s regret, was postponed for half an hour, servants were sent out, and the bell was rung, but no tidings. Mr. Dacre was a little annoyed and more alarmed; he was also hungry, and at half-past seven he sat down to a solitary meal.
About a quarter-past eight a figure rapped at the dining-room window: it was the young Duke. The fat butler seemed astonished, not to say shocked, at this violation of etiquette; nevertheless, he slowly opened the window.
‘Anything the matter, George? Where is May?’
‘Nothing. We lost our way. That is all. May — Miss Dacre desired me to say, that she would not join us at dinner.’
‘I am sure, something has happened.’
‘I assure you, my dear sir, nothing, nothing at all the least unpleasant, but we took the wrong turning. All my fault.’
‘Shall I send for the soup?’
‘No. I am not hungry, I will take some wine.’ So saying, his Grace poured out a tumbler of claret.
‘Shall I take your Grace’s hat?’ asked the fat butler.
‘Dear me! have I my hat on?’
This was not the only evidence afforded by our hero’s conduct that his presence of mind had slightly deserted him. He was soon buried in a deep reverie, and sat with a full plate, but idle knife and fork before him, a perfect puzzle to the fat butler, who had hitherto considered his Grace the very pink of propriety.
‘George, you have eaten no dinner,’ said Mr. Dacre.
‘Thank you, a very good one indeed, a remarkably good dinner. Give me some red wine, if you please.’
At length they were left alone.
‘I have some good news for you, George.’
‘I think I have let Rosemount.’
‘And exactly to the kind of person that you wanted, a man who will take a pride, although merely a tenant, in not permitting his poor neighbours to feel the want of a landlord. You will never guess: Lord Mildmay!’
‘What did you say of Lord Mildmay, sir?’
‘My dear fellow, your wits are wool-gathering; I say I think I have let Rosemount.’
‘Oh! I have changed my mind about letting Rosemount.’
‘My dear Duke, there is no trouble which I will grudge, to further your interests; but really I must beg, in future, that you will, at least, apprise me when you change your mind. There is nothing, as we have both agreed, more desirable than to find an eligible tenant for Rosemount. You never can expect to have a more beneficial one than Lord Mildmay; and really, unless you have positively promised the place to another person (which, excuse me for saying, you were not authorised to do) I must insist, after what has passed, upon his having the preference.’
‘My dear sir, I only changed my mind this afternoon: I couldn’t tell you before. I have promised it to no one; but I think of living there myself.’
‘Yourself! Oh! if that be the case, I shall be quite reconciled to the disappointment of Lord Mildmay. But what in the name of goodness, my dear fellow, has produced this wonderful revolution in all your plans in the course of a few hours? I thought you were going to mope away life on the Lake of Geneva, or dawdle it away in Florence or Rome.’
‘It is very odd, sir. I can hardly believe it myself: and yet it must be true. I hear her voice even at this moment. Oh! my dear Mr. Dacre, I am the happiest fellow that ever breathed!’
‘What is all this?’
‘Is it possible, my dear sir, that you have not long before detected the feelings I ventured to entertain for your daughter? In a word, she requires only your sanction to my being the most fortunate of men.’
‘My dear friend, my dear, dear boy!’ cried Mr. Dacre, rising from his chair and embracing him, ‘it is out of the power of man to impart to me any event which could afford me such exquisite pleasure! Indeed, indeed, it is to me most surprising! for I had been induced to suspect, George, that some explanation had passed between you and May, which, while it accounted for your mutual esteem, gave little hope of a stronger sentiment.’
‘I believe, sir,’ said the young Duke, with a smile, ‘I was obstinate.’
‘Well, this changes all our plans. I have intended, for this fortnight past, to speak to you finally on your affairs. No better time than the present; and, in the first place ——’
But, really, this interview is confidential.
THEY come not: it is late. He is already telling all! She relapses into her sweet reverie. Her thought fixes on no subject; her mind is intent on no idea; her soul is melted into dreamy delight; her only consciousness is perfect bliss! Sweet sounds still echo in her ear, and still her pure pulse beats, from the first embrace of passion.
The door opens, and her father enters, leaning upon the arm of her beloved. Yes, he has told all! Mr. Dacre approached, and, bending down, pressed the lips of his child. It was the seal to their plighted faith, and told, without speech, that the blessing of a parent mingled with the vows of a lover! No other intimation was at present necessary;’ but she, the daughter, thought now only of her father, that friend of her long life, whose love had ne’er been wanting: was she about to leave him? She arose, she threw her arms around his neck and wept.
The young Duke walked away, that his presence might not control the full expression of her hallowed soul. ‘This jewel is mine,’ was his thought; ‘what, what have I done to be so blessed?’
In a few minutes he again joined them, and was seated by her side; and Mr. Dacre considerately remembered that he wished to see his steward, and they were left alone. Their eyes meet, and their soft looks tell that they were thinking of each other. His arm steals round the back of her chair, and with his other hand he gently captures hers.
First love, first love! how many a glowing bard has sung thy beauties! How many a poor devil of a prosing novelist, like myself, has echoed all our superiors, the poets, teach us! No doubt, thou rosy god of young Desire, thou art a most bewitching little demon; and yet, for my part, give me last love.
Ask a man which turned out best, the first horse he bought, or the one he now canters on? Ask — but in short there is nothing in which knowledge is more important and experience more valuable than in love. When we first love, we are enamoured of our own imaginations. Our thoughts are high, our feelings rise from out the deepest caves of the tumultuous tide of our full life. We look around for one to share our exquisite existence, and sanctify the beauties of our being.
But those beauties are only in our thoughts. We feel like heroes, when we are but boys. Yet our mistress must bear a relation, not to ourselves, but to our imagination. She must be a real heroine, while our perfection is but ideal. And the quick and dangerous fancy of our race will, at first, rise to the pitch. She is all we can conceive. Mild and pure as youthful priests, we bow down before our altar. But the idol to which we breathe our warm and gushing vows, and bend our eager knees, all its power, does it not exist only in our idea; all its beauty, is it not the creation of our excited fancy? And then the sweetest of superstitions ends. The long delusion bursts, and we are left like men upon a heath when fairies vanish; cold and dreary, gloomy, bitter, harsh, existence seems a blunder.
But just when we are most miserable, and curse the poet’s cunning and our own conceits, there lights upon our path, just like a ray fresh from the sun, some sparkling child of light, that makes us think we are premature, at least, in our resolves. Yet we are determined not to be taken in, and try her well in all the points in which the others failed. One by one, her charms steal on our warming soul, as, one by one, those of the other beauty sadly stole away, and then we bless our stars, and feel quite sure that we have found perfection in a petticoat.
But our Duke — where are we? He had read woman thoroughly, and consequently knew how to value the virgin pages on which his thoughts now fixed. He and May Dacre wandered in the woods, and nature seemed to them more beautiful from their beautiful loves. They gazed upon the sky; a brighter light fell o’er the luminous earth. Sweeter to them the fragrance of the sweetest flowers, and a more balmy breath brought on the universal promise of the opening year.
They wandered in the woods, and there they breathed their mutual adoration. She to him was all in all, and he to her was like a new divinity. She poured forth all that she long had felt, and scarcely could suppress. From the moment he tore her from the insulter’s arms, his image fixed in her heart, and the struggle which she experienced to repel his renewed vows was great indeed. When she heard of his misfortunes, she had wept; but it was the strange delight she experienced when his letter arrived to her father that first convinced her how irrevocably her mind was his.
And now she does not cease to blame herself for all her past obduracy; now she will not for a moment yield that he could have been ever anything but all that was pure, and beautiful, and good.
BUT although we are in love, business must not be utterly neglected, and Mr. Dacre insisted that the young Duke should for one morning cease to wander in his park, and listen to the result of his exertions during the last three months. His Grace listened. Rents had not risen, but it was hoped that they had seen their worst; the railroad had been successfully opposed; and coals had improved. The London mansion and the Alhambra had both been disposed of, and well: the first to the new French Ambassador, and the second to a grey-headed stock-jobber, very rich, who, having no society, determined to make solitude amusing. The proceeds of these sales, together with sundry sums obtained by converting into cash the stud, the furniture, and the bijouterie, produced a most respectable fund, which nearly paid off the annoying miscellaneous debts. For the rest, Mr. Dacre, while he agreed that it was on the whole advisable that the buildings should be completed, determined that none of the estates should be sold, or even mortgaged. His plan was to procrastinate the termination of these undertakings, and to allow each year itself to afford the necessary supplies. By annually setting aside one hundred thousand pounds, in seven or eight years he hoped to find everything completed and all debts cleared. He did not think that the extravagance of the Duke could justify any diminution in the sum which had hitherto been apportioned for the maintenance of the Irish establishments; but he was of opinion that the decreased portion which they, as well as the western estates, now afforded to the total income, was a sufficient reason. Fourteen thousand a-year were consequently allotted to Ireland, and seven to Pen Bronnock. There remained to the Duke about thirty thousand per annum; but then Hauteville was to be kept up with this. Mr. Dacre proposed that the young people should reside at Rosemount, and that consequently they might form their establishment from the Castle, without reducing their Yorkshire appointments, and avail themselves, without any obligation, or even the opportunity, of great expenses, of all the advantages afforded by the necessary expenditure. Finally, Mr. Dacre presented his son with his town mansion and furniture; and as the young Duke insisted that the settlements upon her Grace should be prepared in full reference to his inherited and future income, this generous father at once made over to him the great bulk of his personal property amounting to upwards of a hundred thousand pounds, a little ready money, of which he knew the value.
The Duke of St. James had duly informed his uncle, the Earl of Fitz-pompey, of the intended change in his condition, and in answer received the following letter:—
‘Fitz-pompey Hall, May, 18 —.
‘My dear George — Your letter did not give us so much surprise as you expected; but I assure you it gave us as much pleasure. You have shown your wisdom and your taste in your choice; and I am free to confess that I am acquainted with no one more worthy of the station which the Duchess of St. James must always fill in society, and more calculated to maintain the dignity of your family, than the lady whom you are about to introduce to us as our niece. Believe me, my dear George, that the notification of this agreeable event has occasioned even additional gratification both to your aunt and to myself, from the reflection that you are about to ally yourself with a family in whose welfare we must ever take an especial interest, and whom we may in a manner look upon as our own relatives. For, my dear George, in answer to your flattering and most pleasing communication, it is my truly agreeable duty to inform you (and, believe me, you are the first person out of our immediate family to whom this intelligence is made known) that our Caroline, in whose happiness we are well assured you take a lively interest, is about to be united to one who may now be described as your near relative, namely, Mr. Arundel Dacre.
‘It has been a long attachment, though for a considerable time, I confess, unknown to us; and indeed at first sight, with Caroline’s rank and other advantages, it may not appear, in a mere worldly point of view, so desirable a connection as some perhaps might expect. And to be quite confidential, both your aunt and myself were at first a little disinclined (great as our esteem and regard have ever been for him), a little disinclined, I say, to the union. But Dacre is certainly the most rising man of the day. In point of family, he is second to none; and his uncle has indeed behaved in the most truly liberal manner. I assure you, he considers him as a son; and even if there were no other inducement, the mere fact of your connection with the family would alone not only reconcile, but, so to say, make us perfectly satisfied with the arrangement. It is unnecessary to speak to you of the antiquity of the Dacres. Arundel will ultimately be one of the richest Commoners, and I think it is not too bold to anticipate, taking into consideration the family into which he marries, and above all, his connection with you, that we may finally succeed in having him called up to us. You are of course aware that there was once a barony in the family.
‘Everybody talks of your speech. I assure you, although I ever gave you credit for uncommon talents, I was astonished. So you are to have the vacant ribbon! Why did you not tell me? I learnt it today, from Lord Bobbleshim. But we must not quarrel with men in love for not communicating.
‘You ask me for news of all your old friends. You of course saw the death of old Annesley. The new Lord took his seat yesterday; he was introduced by Lord Bloomerly. I was not surprised to hear in the evening that he was about to be married to Lady Charlotte, though the world affect to be astonished.
I should not forget to say that Lord Annesley asked most particularly after you. For him, quite warm, I assure you.
‘The oddest thing has happened to your friend, Lord Squib. Old Colonel Carlisle is dead, and has left his whole fortune, some say half a million, to the oddest person, merely because she had the reputation of being his daughter. Quite an odd person, you understand me: Mrs. Montfort. St. Maurice says you know her; but we must not talk of these things now. Well, Squib is going to be married to her. He says that he knows all his old friends will cut him when they are married, and so he is determined to give them an excuse. I understand she is a fine woman. He talks of living at Rome and Florence for a year or two.
‘Lord Darrell is about to marry Harriet Wrekin; and between ourselves (but don’t let this go any further at present) I have very little doubt that young Pococurante will shortly be united to Isabel. Connected as we are with the Shropshires, these excellent alliances are gratifying.
‘I see very little of Lucius Grafton. He seems ill.
I understand, for certain, that her Ladyship opposes the divorce. On dit, she has got hold of some letters, through the treachery of her soubrette, whom he supposed quite his creature, and that your friend is rather taken in. But I should not think this true. People talk very loosely. There was a gay party at Mrs. Dallington’s the other night, who asked very kindly after you.
‘I think I have now written you a very long letter. I once more congratulate you on your admirable selection, and with the united remembrance of our circle, particularly Caroline, who will write perhaps by this post to Miss Dacre, believe me, dear George, your truly affectionate uncle,
‘P.S. — Lord Marylebone is very unpopular, quite a brute. We all miss you.’
It is not to be supposed that this letter conveyed the first intimation to the Duke of St. James of the most interesting event of which it spoke. On the contrary, he had long been aware of the whole affair; but we have been too much engaged with his own conduct to find time to let the reader into the secret, which, like all secrets, it is to be hoped was no secret. Next to gaining the affections of May Dacre, it was impossible for any event to occur more delightful to our hero than the present. His heart had often misgiven him when he had thought of Caroline. Now she was happy, and not only happy, but connected with him for life, just as he wished. Arundel Dacre, too, of all men he most wished to like, and indeed most liked. One feeling alone had prevented them from being bosom friends, and that feeling had long triumphantly vanished.
May had been almost from the beginning the confidante of her cousin. In vain, however, had she beseeched him to entrust all to her father. Although he now repented his past feelings he could not be induced to change; and not till he had entered Parliament and succeeded and gained a name, which would reflect honour on the family with which he wished to identify himself, would he impart to his uncle the secret of his heart, and gain that support without which his great object could never have been achieved. The Duke of St. James, by returning him to Parliament, had been the unconscious cause of all his happiness, and ardently did he pray that his generous friend might succeed in what he was well aware was his secret aspiration, and that his beloved cousin might yield her hand to the only man whom Arundel Dacre considered worthy of her.
ANOTHER week brought another letter from the Earl of Fitz-pompey.
The Earl of Fitz-pompey to the Duke of St. James. [Read this alone.]
‘My dear George,
‘I beg you will not be alarmed by the above memorandum, which I thought it but prudent to prefix. A very disagreeable affair has just taken place, and to a degree exceedingly alarming; but it might have turned out much more distressing, and, on the whole, we may all congratulate ourselves at the result. Not to keep you in fearful suspense, I beg to recall your recollection to the rumour which I noticed in my last, of the intention of Lady Aphrodite Grafton to oppose the divorce. A few days back, her brother Lord Wariston, with whom I was previously unacquainted, called upon me by appointment, having previously requested a private interview. The object of his seeing me was no less than to submit to my inspection the letters by aid of which it was anticipated that the divorce might be successfully opposed. You will be astounded to hear that these consist of a long series of correspondence of Mrs. Dallington Vere’s, developing, I am shocked to say, machinations of a very alarming nature, the effect of which, my dear George, was no less than very materially to control your fortunes in life, and those of that charming and truly admirable lady whom you have delighted us all so much by declaring to be our future relative.
‘From the very delicate nature of the disclosures, Lord Wariston felt the great importance of obtaining all necessary results without making them public; and, actuated by these feelings, he applied to me, both as your nearest relative, and an acquaintance of Sir Lucius, and, as he expressed it, and I may be permitted to repeat, as one whose experience in the management of difficult and delicate negotiations was not altogether unknown, in order that I might be put in possession of the facts of the case, advise and perhaps interfere for the common good.
‘Under these circumstances, and taking into consideration the extreme difficulty attendant upon a satisfactory arrangement of the affair, I thought fit, in confidence, to apply to Arundel, whose talents I consider of the first order, and only equalled by his prudence and calm temper. As a relation, too, of more than one of the parties concerned, it was perhaps only proper that the correspondence should be submitted to him.
‘I am sorry to say, my dear George, that Arundel behaved in a very odd manner, and not at all with that discretion which might have been expected both from one of his remarkably sober and staid disposition, and one not a little experienced in diplomatic life. He exhibited the most unequivocal signs of his displeasure at the conduct of the parties principally concerned, and expressed himself in so vindictive a manner against one of them, that I very much regretted my application, and requested him to be cool.
‘He seemed to yield to my solicitations, but I regret to say his composure was only feigned, and the next morning he and Sir Lucius Grafton met. Sir Lucius fired first, without effect, but Arundel’s aim was more fatal, and his ball was lodged in the thigh of his adversary. Sir Lucius has only been saved by amputation; and I need not remark to you that to such a man life on such conditions is scarcely desirable. All idea of a divorce is quite given over. The letters in question were stolen from his cabinet by his valet, and given to a soubrette of his wife, whom Sir Lucius considered in his interest, but who, as you see, betrayed him.
‘For me remained the not very agreeable office of seeing Mrs. Dallington Vere. I made known to her, in a manner as little offensive as possible, the object of my visit. The scene, my dear George, was trying; and I think it hard that the follies of a parcel of young people should really place me in such a distressing position. She fainted, &c, and wished the letters to be given up, but Lord Wariston would not consent to this, though he promised to keep their contents secret provided she quitted the country. She goes directly; and I am well assured, which is not the least surprising part of this strange history, that her affairs are in a state of great distraction. The relatives of her late husband are about again to try the will, and with prospect of success. She has been negotiating with them for some time through the agency of Sir Lucius Grafton, and the late exposé will not favour her interests.
‘If anything further happens, my dear George, depend upon my writing; but Arundel desires me to say that on Saturday he will run down to Dacre for a few days, as he very much wishes to see you and all. With our united remembrance to Mr. and Miss Dacre,
‘Ever, my dear George,
‘Your very affectionate uncle,
The young Duke turned with trembling and disgust from these dark terminations of unprincipled careers; and these fatal evidences of the indulgence of unbridled passions. How nearly, too, had he been shipwrecked in this moral whirlpool! With what gratitude did he not invoke the beneficent Providence that had not permitted the innate seeds of human virtue to be blighted in his wild and neglected soul! With what admiration did he not gaze upon the pure and beautiful being whose virtue and whose loveliness were the causes of his regeneration, the sources of his present happiness, and the guarantees of his future joy!
Four years have now elapsed since the young Duke of St. James was united to May Dacre; and it would not be too bold to declare, that during that period he has never for an instant ceased to consider himself the happiest and the most fortunate of men. His life is passed in the agreeable discharge of all the important duties of his exalted station, and his present career is by far a better answer to the lucubrations of young Duncan Macmorrogh than all the abstract arguments that ever yet were offered in favour of the existence of an aristocracy.
Hauteville House and Hauteville Castle proceed in regular course. These magnificent dwellings will never erase simple and delightful Rosemount from the grateful memory of the Duchess of St. James. Parliament, and in a degree society, invite the Duke and Duchess each year to the metropolis, and Mr. Dacre is generally their guest. Their most intimate and beloved friends are Arundel and his wife, and as Lady Caroline now heads the establishment of Castle Dacre, they are seldom separated. But among their most agreeable company is a young gentleman styled by courtesy Dacre, Marquess of Hauteville, and his young sister, who has not yet escaped from her beautiful mother’s arms, and who beareth the blooming title of the Lady May.
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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53