———— So, begone!
We will not now be troubled with reply;
We offer fair, take it advisedly.
King Henry IV. Part I.
It had been the purpose of Tyrrel, by rising and breakfasting early, to avoid again meeting Mr. Touchwood, having upon his hands a matter in which that officious gentleman’s interference was likely to prove troublesome. His character, he was aware, had been assailed at the Spa in the most public manner, and in the most public manner he was resolved to demand redress, conscious that whatever other important concerns had brought him to Scotland, must necessarily be postponed to the vindication of his honour. He was determined, for this purpose, to go down to the rooms when the company was assembled at the breakfast hour, and had just taken his hat to set out, when he was interrupted by Mrs. Dods, who, announcing “a gentleman that was speering for him,” ushered into the chamber a very fashionable young man in a military surtout, covered with silk lace and fur, and wearing a foraging-cap; a dress now too familiar to be distinguished, but which at that time was used only by geniuses of a superior order. The stranger was neither handsome nor plain, but had in his appearance a good deal of pretension, and the cool easy superiority which belongs to high breeding. On his part, he surveyed Tyrrel; and, as his appearance differed, perhaps, from that for which the exterior of the Cleikum Inn had prepared him, he abated something of the air with which he had entered the room, and politely announced himself as Captain Jekyl, of the —— Guards, (presenting, at the same time, his ticket.)
“He presumed he spoke to Mr. Martigny?”
“To Mr. Francis Tyrrel, sir,” replied Tyrrel, drawing himself up —“Martigny was my mother’s name — I have never borne it.”
“I am not here for the purpose of disputing that point, Mr. Tyrrel, though I am not entitled to admit what my principal’s information leads him to doubt.”
“Your principal, I presume, is Sir Bingo Binks?” said Tyrrel. “I have not forgotten that there is an unfortunate affair between us.”
“I have not the honour to know Sir Bingo Binks,” said Captain Jekyl. “I come on the part of the Earl of Etherington.”
Tyrrel stood silent for a moment, and then said, “I am at a loss to know what the gentleman who calls himself Earl of Etherington can have to say to me, through the medium of such a messenger as yourself, Captain Jekyl. I should have supposed that, considering our unhappy relationship, and the terms on which we stand towards each other, the lawyers were the fitter negotiators between us.”
“Sir,” said Captain Jekyl, “you are misunderstanding my errand. I am come on no message of hostile import from Lord Etherington — I am aware of the connexion betwixt you, which would render such an office altogether contradictory to common sense and the laws of nature; and I assure you, I would lay down my life rather than be concerned in an affair so unnatural. I would act, if possible, as a mediator betwixt you.”
They had hitherto remained standing. Mr. Tyrrel now offered his guest a seat; and, having assumed one himself, he broke the awkward pause which ensued by observing, “I should be happy, after experiencing such a long course of injustice and persecution from your friend, to learn, even at this late period, Captain Jekyl, any thing which can make me think better, either of him, or of his purpose towards me and towards others.”
“Mr. Tyrrel,” said Captain Jekyl, “you must allow me to speak with candour. There is too great a stake betwixt your brother and you to permit you to be friends; but I do not see it is necessary that you should therefore be mortal enemies.”
“I am not my brother’s enemy, Captain Jekyl,” said Tyrrel —“I have never been so — His friend I cannot be, and he knows but too well the insurmountable barrier which his own conduct has placed between us.”
“I am aware,” said Captain Jekyl, slowly and expressively, “generally, at least, of the particulars of your unfortunate disagreement.”
“If so,” said Tyrrel, colouring, “you must be also aware with what extreme pain I feel myself compelled to enter on such a subject with a total stranger — a stranger, too, the friend and confidant of one who —— But I will not hurt your feelings, Captain Jekyl, but rather endeavour to suppress my own. In one word, I beg to be favoured with the import of your communication, as I am obliged to go down to the Spa this morning, in order to put to rights some matters there which concern me nearly.”
“If you mean the cause of your absence from an appointment with Sir Bingo Binks,” said Captain Jekyl, “the matter has been already completely explained. I pulled down the offensive placard with my own hand, and rendered myself responsible for your honour to any one who should presume to hold it in future doubt.”
“Sir,” said Tyrrel, very much surprised, “I am obliged to you for your intention, the more so as I am ignorant how I have merited such interference. It is not, however, quite satisfactory to me, because I am accustomed to be the guardian of my own honour.”
“An easy task, I presume, in all cases, Mr. Tyrrel,” answered Jekyl, “but peculiarly so in the present, when you will find no one so hardy as to assail it. — My interference, indeed, would have been unjustifiably officious, had I not been at the moment undertaking a commission implying confidential intercourse with you. For the sake of my own character, it became necessary to establish yours. I know the truth of the whole affair from my friend, the Earl of Etherington, who ought to thank Heaven so long as he lives, that saved him on that occasion from the commission of a very great crime.”
“Your friend, sir, has had, in the course of his life, much to thank Heaven for, but more for which to ask God’s forgiveness.”
“I am no divine, sir,” replied Captain Jekyl, with spirit; “but I have been told that the same may be said of most men alive.”
“I, at least, cannot dispute it,” said Tyrrel; “but, to proceed. — Have you found yourself at liberty, Captain Jekyl, to deliver to the public the whole particulars of a rencontre so singular as that which took place between your friend and me?”
“I have not, sir,” said Jekyl —“I judged it a matter of great delicacy, and which each of you had the like interest to preserve secret.”
“May I beg to know, then,” said Tyrrel, “how it was possible for you to vindicate my absence from Sir Bingo’s rendezvous otherwise?”
“It was only necessary, sir, to pledge my word as a gentleman and a man of honour, characters in which I am pretty well known to the world, that, to my certain personal knowledge, you were hurt in an affair with a friend of mine, the further particulars of which prudence required should be sunk into oblivion. I think no one will venture to dispute my word, or to require more than my assurance. — If there should be any one very hard of faith on the occasion, I shall find a way to satisfy him. In the meanwhile, your outlawry has been rescinded in the most honourable manner; and Sir Bingo, in consideration of his share in giving rise to reports so injurious to you, is desirous to drop all further proceedings in his original quarrel, and hopes the whole matter will be forgot and forgiven on all sides.”
“Upon my word, Captain Jekyl,” answered Tyrrel, “you lay me under the necessity of acknowledging obligation to you. You have cut a knot which I should have found it very difficult to unloose; for I frankly confess, that, while I was determined not to remain under the stigma put upon me, I should have had great difficulty in clearing myself, without mentioning circumstances, which, were it only for the sake of my father’s memory, should be buried in eternal oblivion. I hope your friend feels no continued inconvenience from his hurt?”
“His lordship is nearly quite recovered,” said Jekyl.
“And I trust he did me the justice to own, that, so far as my will was concerned, I am totally guiltless of the purpose of hurting him?”
“He does you full justice in that and every thing else,” replied Jekyl; “regrets the impetuosity of his own temper, and is determined to be on his guard against it in future.”
“That,” said Tyrrel, “is so far well; and now, may I ask once more, what communication you have to make to me on the part of your friend? — Were it from any one but him, whom I have found so uniformly false and treacherous, your own fairness and candour would induce me to hope that this unnatural quarrel might be in some sort ended by your mediation.”
“I then proceed, sir, under more favourable auspices than I expected,” said Captain Jekyl, “to enter on my commission. — You are about to commence a lawsuit, Mr. Tyrrel, if fame does not wrong you, for the purpose of depriving your brother of his estate and title.”
“The case is not fairly stated, Captain Jekyl,” replied Tyrrel; “I commence a lawsuit, when I do commence it, for the sake of ascertaining my own just rights.”
“It comes to the same thing eventually,” said the mediator; “I am not called upon to decide upon the justice of your claims, but they are, you will allow, newly started. The late Countess of Etherington died in possession — open and undoubted possession — of her rank in society.”
“If she had no real claim to it, sir,” replied Tyrrel, “she had more than justice who enjoyed it so long; and the injured lady whose claims were postponed, had just so much less. — But this is no point for you and me to discuss between us — it must be tried elsewhere.”
“Proofs, sir, of the strongest kind, will be necessary to overthrow a right so well established in public opinion as that of the present possessor of the title of Etherington.”
Tyrrel took a paper from his pocketbook, and, handing it to Captain Jekyl, only answered, “I have no thoughts of asking you to give up the cause of your friend; but methinks the documents of which I give you a list, may shake your opinion of it.”
Captain Jekyl read, muttering to himself, “‘Certificate of marriage, by the Rev. Zadock Kemp, chaplain to the British Embassy at Paris, between Marie de Bellroche, Comptesse de Martigny, and the Right Honourable John Lord Oakendale — Letters between John Earl of Etherington and his lady, under the title of Madame de Martigny — Certificate of baptism — Declaration of the Earl of Etherington on his death-bed.’— All this is very well — but may I ask you, Mr. Tyrrel, if it is really your purpose to go to extremity with your brother?”
“He has forgot that he is one — he has lifted his hand against my life.”
“You have shed his blood — twice shed it,” said Jekyl; “the world will not ask which brother gave the offence, but which received, which inflicted, the severest wound.”
“Your friend has inflicted one on me, sir,” said Tyrrel, “that will bleed while I have the power of memory.”
“I understand you, sir,” said Captain Jekyl; “you mean the affair of Miss Mowbray?”
“Spare me on that subject, sir!” said Tyrrel. “Hitherto I have disputed my most important rights — rights which involved my rank in society, my fortune, the honour of my mother — with something like composure; but do not say more on the topic you have touched upon, unless you would have before you a madman! — Is it possible for you, sir, to have heard even the outline of this story, and to imagine that I can ever reflect on the cold-blooded and most inhuman stratagem, which this friend of yours prepared for two unfortunates, without”— He started up, and walked impetuously to and fro. “Since the Fiend himself interrupted the happiness of perfect innocence, there was never such an act of treachery — never such schemes of happiness destroyed — never such inevitable misery prepared for two wretches who had the idiocy to repose perfect confidence in him! — Had there been passion in his conduct, it had been the act of a man — a wicked man, indeed, but still a human creature, acting under the influence of human feelings — but his was the deed of a calm, cold, calculating demon, actuated by the basest and most sordid motives of self-interest, joined, as I firmly believe, to an early and inveterate hatred of one whose claims he considered as at variance with his own.”
“I am sorry to see you in such a temper,” said Captain Jekyl, calmly; “Lord Etherington, I trust, acted on very different motives than those you impute to him; and if you will but listen to me, perhaps something may be struck out which may accommodate these unhappy disputes.”
“Sir,” said Tyrrel, sitting down again, “I will listen to you with calmness, as I would remain calm under the probe of a surgeon tenting a festered wound. But when you touch me to the quick, when you prick the very nerve, you cannot expect me to endure without wincing.”
“I will endeavour, then, to be as brief in the operation as I can,” replied Captain Jekyl, who possessed the advantage of the most admirable composure during the whole conference. “I conclude, Mr. Tyrrel, that the peace, happiness, and honour of Miss Mowbray, are dear to you?”
“Who dare impeach her honour!” said Tyrrel, fiercely; then checking himself, added, in a more moderate tone, but one of deep feeling, “they are dear to me, sir, as my eyesight.”
“My friend holds them in equal regard,” said the Captain; “and has come to the resolution of doing her the most ample justice.”
“He can do her justice no otherwise, than by ceasing to haunt this neighbourhood, to think, to speak, even to dream of her.”
“Lord Etherington thinks otherwise,” said Captain Jekyl; “he believes that if Miss Mowbray has sustained any wrong at his hands, which, of course, I am not called upon to admit, it will be best repaired by the offer to share with her his title, his rank, and his fortune.”
“His title, rank, and fortune, sir, are as much a falsehood as he is himself,” said Tyrrel, with violence —“Marry Clara Mowbray? never!”
“My friend’s fortune, you will observe,” replied Jekyl, “does not rest entirely upon the event of the lawsuit with which you, Mr. Tyrrel, now threaten him. — Deprive him, if you can, of the Oakendale estate, he has still a large patrimony by his mother; and besides, as to his marriage with Clara Mowbray, he conceives, that unless it should be the lady’s wish to have the ceremony repeated to which he is most desirous to defer his own opinion, they have only to declare that it has already passed between them.”
“A trick, sir!” said Tyrrel, “a vile infamous trick! of which the lowest wretch in Newgate would be ashamed — the imposition of one person for another.”
“Of that, Mr. Tyrrel, I have seen no evidence whatever. The clergyman’s certificate is clear — Francis Tyrrel is united to Clara Mowbray in the holy bands of wedlock — such is the tenor — there is a copy — nay, stop one instant, if you please, sir. You say there was an imposition in the case — I have no doubt but you speak what you believe, and what Miss Mowbray told you. She was surprised — forced in some measure from the husband she had just married — ashamed to meet her former lover, to whom, doubtless, she had made many a vow of love, and ne’er a true one — what wonder that, unsupported by her bridegroom, she should have changed her tone, and thrown all the blame of her own inconstancy on the absent swain? — A woman, at a pinch so critical, will make the most improbable excuse, rather than be found guilty on her own confession.”
“There must be no jesting in this case,” said Tyrrel, his cheek becoming pale, and his voice altered with passion.
“I am quite serious, sir,” replied Jekyl; “and there is no law court in Britain that would take the lady’s word — all she has to offer, and that in her own cause — against a whole body of evidence direct and circumstantial, showing that she was by her own free consent married to the gentleman who now claims her hand. — Forgive me, sir — I see you are much agitated — I do not mean to dispute your right of believing what you think is most credible — I only use the freedom of pointing out to you the impression which the evidence is likely to make on the minds of indifferent persons.”
“Your friend,” answered Tyrrel, affecting a composure, which, however, he was far from possessing, “may think by such arguments to screen his villainy; but it cannot avail him — the truth is known to Heaven — it is known to me — and there is, besides, one indifferent witness upon earth, who can testify that the most abominable imposition was practised on Miss Mowbray.”
“You mean her cousin — Hannah Irwin, I think, is her name,” answered Jekyl; “you see I am fully acquainted with all the circumstances of the case. But where is Hannah Irwin to be found?”
“She will appear, doubtless, in Heaven’s good time, and to the confusion of him who now imagines the only witness of his treachery — the only one who could tell the truth of this complicated mystery — either no longer lives, or, at least, cannot be brought forward against him, to the ruin of his schemes. Yes, sir, that slight observation of yours has more than explained to me why your friend, or, to call him by his true name, Mr. Valentine Bulmer, has not commenced his machinations sooner, and also why he has commenced them now. He thinks himself certain that Hannah Irwin is not now in Britain, or to be produced in a court of justice — he may find himself mistaken.”
“My friend seems perfectly confident of the issue of his cause,” answered Jekyl; “but for the lady’s sake, he is most unwilling to prosecute a suit which must be attended with so many circumstances of painful exposure.”
“Exposure, indeed!” answered Tyrrel; “thanks to the traitor who laid a mine so fearful, and who now affects to be reluctant to fire it. — Oh! how I am bound to curse that affinity that restrains my hands! I would be content to be the meanest and vilest of society, for one hour of vengeance on this unexampled hypocrite! — One thing is certain, sir — your friend will have no living victim. His persecution will kill Clara Mowbray, and fill up the cup of his crimes, with the murder of one of the sweetest —— I shall grow a woman, if I say more on the subject!”
“My friend,” said Jekyl, “since you like best to have him so defined, is as desirous as you can be to spare the lady’s feelings; and with that view, not reverting to former passages, he has laid before her brother a proposal of alliance, with which Mr. Mowbray is highly pleased.”
“Ha!” said Tyrrel, starting —“And the lady?”—
“And the lady so far proved favourable, as to consent that Lord Etherington shall visit Shaws-Castle.”
“Her consent must have been extorted!” exclaimed Tyrrel.
“It was given voluntarily,” said Jekyl, “as I am led to understand; unless, perhaps, in so far as the desire to veil these very unpleasing transactions may have operated, I think naturally enough, to induce her to sink them in eternal secrecy, by accepting Lord Etherington’s hand. — I see, sir, I give you pain, and am sorry for it. — I have no title to call upon you for any exertion of generosity; but, should such be Miss Mowbray’s sentiments, is it too much to expect of you, that you will not compromise the lady’s honour by insisting upon former claims, and opening up disreputable transactions so long past?”
“Captain Jekyl,” said Tyrrel, solemnly, “I have no claims. Whatever I might have had, were cancelled by the act of treachery through which your friend endeavoured too successfully to supplant me. Were Clara Mowbray as free from her pretended marriage as law could pronounce her, still with me — me, at least, of all men in the world — the obstacle must ever remain, that the nuptial benediction has been pronounced over her, and the man whom I must for once call brother.”— He stopped at that word, as if it had cost him agony to pronounce it, and then resumed:—“No, sir, I have no views of personal advantage in this matter — they have been long annihilated — But I will not permit Clara Mowbray to become the wife of a villain — I will watch over her with thoughts as spotless as those of her guardian angel. I first persuaded her to quit the path of dutyE9 — I, of all men who live, am bound to protect her from the misery — from the guilt — which must attach to her as this man’s wife. I will never believe that she wishes it — I will never believe, that in calm mind and sober reason, she can be brought to listen to such a guilty proposal. — But her mind — alas! — is not of the firm texture it once could boast; and your friend knows well how to press on the spring of every passion that can agitate and alarm her. Threats of exposure may extort her consent to this most unfitting match, if they do not indeed drive her to suicide, which I think the most likely termination. I will, therefore, be strong where she is weak. — Your friend, sir, must at least strip his proposals of their fine gilding. I will satisfy Mr. Mowbray of St. Ronan’s of his false pretences, both to rank and fortune; and I rather think he will protect his sister against the claim of a needy profligate, though he might be dazzled with the alliance of a wealthy peer.”
“Your cause, sir, is not yet won,” answered Jekyl; “and when it is, your brother will retain property enough to entitle him to marry a greater match than Miss Mowbray, besides the large estate of Nettlewood, to which that alliance must give him right. But I would wish to make some accommodation between you if it were possible. You profess, Mr. Tyrrel, to lay aside all selfish wishes and views in this matter, and to look entirely to Miss Mowbray’s safety and happiness?”
“Such, upon my honour, is the exclusive purpose of my interference — I would give all I am worth to procure her an hour of quiet — for happiness she will never know again.”
“Your anticipations of Miss Mowbray’s distress,” said Jekyl, “are, I understand, founded upon the character of my friend. You think him a man of light principle, and because he overreached you in a juvenile intrigue, you conclude that now, in his more steady and advanced years, the happiness of the lady in whom you are so much interested ought not to be trusted to him?”
“There may be other grounds,” said Tyrrel, hastily; “but you may argue upon those you have named, as sufficient to warrant my interference.”
“How, then, if I should propose some accommodation of this nature? Lord Etherington does not pretend to the ardour of a passionate lover. He lives much in the world, and has no desire to quit it. Miss Mowbray’s health is delicate — her spirits variable — and retirement would most probably be her choice. — Suppose — I am barely putting a supposition — suppose that a marriage between two persons so circumstanced were rendered necessary or advantageous to both — suppose that such a marriage were to secure to one party a large estate — were to insure the other against all the consequences of an unpleasant exposure — still, both ends might be obtained by the mere ceremony of marriage passing between them. There might be a previous contract of separation, with suitable provisions for the lady, and stipulations, by which the husband should renounce all claim to her society. Such things happen every season, if not on the very marriage day, yet before the honeymoon is over. — Wealth and freedom would be the lady’s, and as much rank as you, sir, supposing your claims just, may think proper to leave them.”
There was a long pause, during which Tyrrel underwent many changes of countenance, which Jekyl watched carefully, without pressing him for an answer. At length he replied, “There is much in your proposal, Captain Jekyl, which I might be tempted to accede to, as one manner of unloosing this Gordian knot, and a compromise by which Miss Mowbray’s future tranquillity would be in some degree provided for. But I would rather trust a fanged adder than your friend, unless I saw him fettered by the strongest ties of interest. Besides, I am certain the unhappy lady could never survive the being connected with him in this manner, though but for the single moment when they should appear together at the altar. There are other objections”——
He checked himself, paused, and then proceeded in a calm and self-possessed tone. “You think, perhaps, even yet, that I have some selfish and interested views in this business; and probably you may feel yourself entitled to entertain the same suspicion towards me, which I avowedly harbour respecting every proposition which originates with your friend. — I cannot help it — I can but meet these disadvantageous impressions with plain dealing and honesty; and it is in the spirit of both that I make a proposition to you. — Your friend is attached to rank, fortune, and worldly advantages, in the usual proportion, at least, in which they are pursued by men of the world — this you must admit, and I will not offend you by supposing more.”
“I know few people who do not desire such advantages,” answered Captain Jekyl; “and I frankly own, that he affects no particular degree of philosophic indifference respecting them.”
“Be it so,” answered Tyrrel. “Indeed, the proposal you have just made indicates that his pretended claim on this young lady’s hand is entirely, or almost entirely, dictated by motives of interest, since you are of opinion that he would be contented to separate from her society on the very marriage day, provided that, in doing so, he was assured of the Nettlewood property.”
“My proposition was unauthorized by my principal,” answered Jekyl; “but it is needless to deny, that its very tenor implies an idea, on my part, that Lord Etherington is no passionate lover.”
“Well then,” answered Tyrrel. “Consider, sir, and let him consider well, that the estate and rank he now assumes, depend upon my will and pleasure — that, if I prosecute the claims of which that scroll makes you aware, he must descend from the rank of an earl into that of a commoner, stripped of by much the better half of his fortune — a diminution which would be far from compensated by the estate of Nettlewood, even if he could obtain it, which could only be by means of a lawsuit, precarious in the issue, and most dishonourable in its very essence.”
“Well, sir,” replied Jekyl, “I perceive your argument — What is your proposal?”
“That I will abstain from prosecuting my claim on those honours and that property — that I will leave Valentine Bulmer in possession of his usurped title and ill-deserved wealth — that I will bind myself under the strongest penalties never to disturb his possession of the Earldom of Etherington and estates belonging to it — on condition that he allows the woman, whose peace of mind he has ruined for ever, to walk through the world in her wretchedness, undisturbed either by his marriage-suit, or by any claim founded upon his own most treacherous conduct — in short, that he forbear to molest Clara Mowbray, either by his presence, word, letter, or through the intervention of a third party, and be to her in future as if he did not exist.”
“This is a singular offer,” said the Captain; “may I ask if you are serious in making it?”
“I am neither surprised nor offended at the question,” said Tyrrel. “I am a man, sir, like others, and affect no superiority to that which all men desire the possession of — a certain consideration and station in society. I am no romantic fool to undervalue the sacrifice I am about to make. I renounce a rank, which is and ought to be the more valuable to me, because it involves (he blushed as he spoke) the fame of an honoured mother — because, in failing to claim it, I disobey the commands of a dying father, who wished that by doing so I should declare to the world the penitence which hurried him perhaps to the grave, and the making which public he considered might be some atonement for his errors. From an honoured place in the land, I descend voluntarily to become a nameless exile; for, once certain that Clara Mowbray’s peace is assured, Britain no longer holds me. — All this I do, sir, not in any idle strain of overheated feeling, but seeing, and knowing, and dearly valuing, every advantage which I renounce — yet I do it, and do it willingly, rather than be the cause of farther evil to one, on whom I have already brought too — too much.”
His voice, in spite of his exertions, faltered as he concluded the sentence, and a big drop which rose to his eye, required him for the moment to turn towards the window.
“I am ashamed of this childishness,” he said, turning again to Captain Jekyl; “if it excites your ridicule, sir, let it be at least a proof of my sincerity.”
“I am far from entertaining such sentiments,” said Jekyl, respectfully — for, in a long train of fashionable follies, his heart had not been utterly hardened —“very far, indeed. To a proposal so singular as yours, I cannot be expected to answer — except thus far — the character of the peerage is, I believe, indelible, and cannot be resigned or assumed at pleasure. If you are really Earl of Etherington, I cannot see how your resigning the right may avail my friend.”
“You, sir, it might not avail,” said Tyrrel, gravely, “because you, perhaps, might scorn to exercise a right, or hold a title, that was not legally yours. But your friend will have no such compunctious visitings. If he can act the Earl to the eye of the world, he has already shown that his honour and conscience will be easily satisfied.”
“May I take a copy of the memorandum containing this list of documents,” said Captain Jekyl, “for the information of my constituent?”
“The paper is at your pleasure, sir,” replied Tyrrel; “it is itself but a copy. — But Captain Jekyl,” he added, with a sarcastic expression, “is, it would seem, but imperfectly let into his friend’s confidence — he may be assured his principal is completely acquainted with the contents of this paper, and has accurate copies of the deeds to which it refers.”
“I think it scarce possible,” said Jekyl, angrily.
“Possible and certain!” answered Tyrrel. “My father, shortly preceding his death, sent me — with a most affecting confession of his errors — this list of papers, and acquainted me that he had made a similar communication to your friend. That he did so I have no doubt, however Mr. Bulmer may have thought proper to disguise the circumstance in communication with you. One circumstance, among others, stamps at once his character, and confirms me of the danger he apprehended by my return to Britain. He found means, through a scoundrelly agent, who had made me the usual remittances from my father while alive, to withhold those which were necessary for my return from the Levant, and I was obliged to borrow from a friend.”
“Indeed?” replied Jekyl. “It is the first time I have heard of these papers — May I enquire where the originals are, and in whose custody?”
“I was in the East,” answered Tyrrel, “during my father’s last illness, and these papers were by him deposited with a respectable commercial house, with which he was connected. They were enclosed in a cover directed to me, and that again in an envelope, addressed to the principal person in their firm.”
“You must be sensible,” said Captain Jekyl, “that I can scarcely decide on the extraordinary offer which you have been pleased to make, of resigning the claim founded on these documents, unless I had a previous opportunity of examining them.”
“You shall have that opportunity — I will write to have them sent down by the post — they lie but in small compass.”
“This, then,” said the Captain, “sums up all that can be said at present. — Supposing these proofs to be of unexceptionable authenticity, I certainly would advise my friend Etherington to put to sleep a claim so important as yours, even at the expense of resigning his matrimonial speculation — I presume you design to abide by your offer?”
“I am not in the habit of altering my mind — still less of retracting my word,” said Tyrrel, somewhat haughtily.
“We part friends, I hope?” said Jekyl, rising, and taking his leave.
“Not enemies certainly, Captain Jekyl. I will own to you I owe you my thanks, for extricating me from that foolish affair at the Well — nothing could have put me to more inconvenience than the necessity of following to extremity a frivolous quarrel at the present moment.”
“You will come down among us, then?” said Jekyl.
“I certainly shall not wish to appear to hide myself,” answered Tyrrel; “it is a circumstance might be turned against me — there is a party who will avail himself of every advantage. I have but one path, Captain Jekyl — that of truth and honour.”
Captain Jekyl bowed, and took his leave. So soon as he was gone, Tyrrel locked the door of the apartment, and drawing from his bosom a portrait, gazed on it with a mixture of sorrow and tenderness, until the tears dropped from his eye.
It was the picture of Clara Mowbray, such as he had known her in the days of their youthful love, and taken by himself, whose early turn for painting had already developed itself. The features of the blooming girl might be yet traced in the fine countenance of the more matured original. But what was now become of the glow which had shaded her cheek? — what of the arch, yet subdued pleasantry, which lurked in the eye? — what of the joyous content, which composed every feature to the expression of an Euphrosyne? — Alas! these were long fled! — Sorrow had laid his hand upon her — the purple light of youth was quenched — the glance of innocent gaiety was exchanged for looks now moody with ill-concealed care, now animated by a spirit of reckless and satirical observation.
“What a wreck! what a wreck!” exclaimed Tyrrel; “and all of one wretch’s making. — Can I put the last hand to the work, and be her murderer outright? I cannot — I cannot! — I will be strong in the resolve I have formed — I will sacrifice all — rank — station — fortune — and fame. Revenge! — Revenge itself, the last good left me — revenge itself I will sacrifice, to obtain for her such tranquillity as she may be yet capable to enjoy.”
In this resolution he sat down, and wrote a letter to the commercial house with whom the documents of his birth, and other relative papers, were deposited, requesting that the packet containing them should be forwarded to him through the post-office.
Tyrrel was neither unambitious, nor without those sentiments respecting personal consideration, which are usually united with deep feeling and an ardent mind. It was with a trembling hand, and a watery eye, but with a heart firmly resolved, that he sealed and dispatched the letter; a step towards the resignation, in favour of his mortal enemy, of that rank and condition in life, which was his own by right of inheritance, but had so long hung in doubt betwixt them.
E9 p. 151. “I first persuaded her to quit the path of duty.” This remark of Tyrrel’s is one of the many surviving traces of the original plot. — A.L.
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