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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesErnest Maltravers - Book 7 - Chapter 2
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Ernest Maltravers - Book 7 - Chapter 2 Post by :rgunnltd Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3397

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Ernest Maltravers - Book 7 - Chapter 2

BOOK VII CHAPTER II

"Well, but this is being only an official nobleman. No matter,
'tis still being a nobleman, and that's his aim."
_Anonymous writer of 1772_.

"La musique est le seul des talens qui jouissent de lui-meme;
tons les autres veulent des temoins."*--MARMONTEL.

* Music is the sole talent which gives pleasure of itself; all the
others require witnesses.

"Thus the slow ox would gaudy trappings claim."--HORACE.


MR. TEMPLETON had not obtained his peerage, and, though he had met with no direct refusal, nor made even a direct application to headquarters, he was growing sullen. He had great parliamentary influence, not close borough, illegitimate influence, but very proper orthodox influence of character, wealth, and so forth. He could return one member at least for a city--he could almost return one member for a county, and in three boroughs any activity on his part could turn the scale in a close contest. The ministers were strong, but still they could not afford to lose supporters hitherto zealous--the example of desertion is contagious. In the town which Templeton had formerly represented, and which he now almost commanded, a vacancy suddenly occurred--a candidate started on the opposition side and commenced a canvass; to the astonishment and panic of the Secretary of the Treasury, Templeton put forward no one, and his interest remained dormant. Lord Saxingham hurried to Lumley.

"My dear fellow, what is this?--what can your uncle be about? We shall lose this place--one of our strongholds. Bets run even."

"Why, you see, you have all behaved very ill to my uncle--I am really sorry for it, but I can do nothing."

"What, this confounded peerage! Will that content him, and nothing short of it?"

"Nothing."

"He must have it, by Jove!"

"And even that may come too late."

"Ha! do you think so?"

"Will you leave the matter to me?"

"Certainly--you are a monstrous clever fellow, and we all esteem you."

"Sit down and write as I dictate, my dear lord."

"Well," said Lord Saxingham, seating himself at Lumley's enormous writing-table--"well, go on."

"_My dear Mr. Templeton_--"

"Too familiar," said Lord Saxingham.

"Not a bit; go on."

"_My dear Mr. Templeton:_--

"_We are anxious to secure your parliamentary influence in C------ to the proper quarter, namely, to your own family, as the best defenders of the administration, which you honour by your support. We wish signally, at the same time, to express our confidence in your principles, and our gratitude for your countenance._"

"D-----d sour countenance!" muttered Lord Saxingham.

"_Accordingly,_" continued Ferrers, "_as one whose connection with you permits the liberty, allow me to request that you will suffer our joint relation, Mr. Ferrers, to be put into immediate nomination._"

Lord Saxingham threw down the pen and laughed for two minutes without ceasing. "Capital, Lumley, capital--Very odd I did not think of it before."

"Each man for himself, and God for us all," returned Lumley, gravely: "pray go on, my dear lord."

"_We are sure you could not have a representative that would, more faithfully reflect your own opinions and our interests. One word more. A creation of peers will probably take place in the spring, among which I am sure your name would be to his Majesty a gratifying addition; the title will of course be secured to your sons--and failing the latter, to your nephew.

"_With great regard and respect,

"_Truly yours,

"_SAXINGHAM._"

"There, inscribe that 'Private and confidential,' and send it express to my uncle's villa."

"It shall be done, my dear Lumley--and this contents me as much as it does you. You are really a man to do us credit. You think it will be arranged?"

"No doubt of it."

"Well, good day. Lumley, come to me when it is all settled: Florence is always glad to see you; she says no one amuses her more. And I am sure that is rare praise, for she is a strange girl,--quite a Timon in petticoats."

Away went Lord Saxingham.

"Florence glad to see me!" said Lumley, throwing his arms behind him, and striding to and fro the room--"Scheme the Second begins to smile upon me behind the advancing shadow of Scheme One. If I can but succeed in keeping away other suitors from my fair cousin until I am in a condition to propose myself, why, I may carry off the greatest match in the three kingdoms. _Courage, mon brave Ferrers, courage!_"

It was late that evening when Ferrers arrived at his uncle's villa. He found Mrs. Templeton in the drawing-room seated at the piano. He entered gently; she did not hear him, and continued at the instrument. Her voice was so sweet and rich, her taste so pure, that Ferrers, who was a good judge of music, stood in delighted surprise. Often as he had now been a visitor, even an inmate, at the house, he had never before heard Mrs. Templeton play any but sacred airs, and this was one of the popular songs of sentiment. He perceived that her feeling at last overpowered her voice, and she paused abruptly, and turning round, her face was so eloquent of emotion, that Ferrers was forcibly struck by its expression. He was not a man apt to feel curiosity for anything not immediately concerning himself; but he did feel curious about this melancholy and beautiful woman. There was in her usual aspect that inexpressible look of profound resignation which betokens a lasting remembrance of a bitter past: a prematurely blighted heart spoke in her eyes, in her smile, her languid and joyless step. But she performed the routine of her quiet duties with a calm and conscientious regularity which showed that grief rather depressed than disturbed her thoughts. If her burden were heavy, custom seemed to have reconciled her to bear it without repining; and the emotion which Ferrers now traced in her soft and harmonious features was of a nature he had only once witnessed before--viz., on the first night he had seen her, when poetry, which is the key of memory, had evidently opened a chamber haunted by mournful and troubled ghosts.

"Ah! dear madam," said Ferrers, advancing, as he found himself discovered, "I trust I do not disturb you. My visit is unseasonable; but my uncle--where is he?"

"He has been in town all the morning; he said he should dine out, and I now expect him every minute."

"You have been endeavouring to charm away the sense of his absence. Dare I ask you to continue to play? It is seldom that I hear a voice so sweet and skill so consummate. You must have been instructed by the best Italian masters."

"No," said Mrs. Templeton, with a very slight colour in her delicate cheek, "I learned young, and of one who loved music and felt it; but who was not a foreigner."

"Will you sing me that song again?--you give the words a beauty I never discovered in them; yet they (as well as the music itself), are by my poor friend whom Mr. Templeton does not like--Maltravers."

"Are they his also?" said Mrs. Templeton, with emotion; "it is strange I did not know it. I heard the air in the streets, and it struck me much. I inquired the name of the song and bought it--it is very strange!"

"What is strange?"

"That there is a kind of language in your friend's music and poetry which comes home to me, like words I have heard years ago! Is he young, this Mr. Maltravers?"

"Yes, he is still young."

"And, and--"

Here Mrs. Templeton was interrupted by the entrance of her husband. He held the letter from Lord Saxingham--it was yet unopened. He seemed moody; but that was common with him. He coldly shook hands with Lumley; nodded to his wife, found fault with the fire, and throwing himself into his easy-chair, said, "So, Lumley, I think I was a fool for taking your advice--and hanging back about this new election. I see by the evening papers that there is shortly to be a creation of peers. If I had shown activity on behalf of the government I might have shamed them into gratitude."

"I think I was right, sir," replied Lumley; "public men are often alarmed into gratitude, seldom shamed into it. Firm votes, like old friends, are most valued when we think we are about to lose them; but what is that letter in your hand?"

"Oh, some begging petition, I suppose."

"Pardon me--it has an official look." Templeton put on his spectacles, raised the letter, examined the address and seal, hastily opened it, and broke into an exclamation very like an oath: when he had concluded--"Give me your hand, nephew--the thing is settled--I am to have the peerage. You were right--ha, ha!--my dear wife, you will be my lady, think of that--aren't you glad?--why don't your ladyship smile? Where's the child--where is she, I say?"

"Gone to bed, sir," said Mrs. Templeton, half frightened.

"Gone to bed! I must go and kiss her. Gone to bed, has she? Light that candle, Lumley." (Here Mr. Templeton rang the bell.) "John," said he, as the servant entered,--"John, tell James to go the first thing in the morning to Baxter's, and tell him not to paint my chariot till he hears from me. I must go kiss the child--I must, really."

"D--- the child," muttered Lumley, as, after giving the candle to his uncle, he turned to the fire; "what the deuce has she got to do with the matter? Charming little girl--yours, madam! how I love her! My uncle dotes on her--no wonder!"

"He is, indeed, very, very, fond of her," said Mrs. Templeton, with a sigh that seemed to come from the depth of her heart.

"Did he take a fancy to her before you were married?"

"Yes, I believe--oh yes, certainly."

"Her own father could not be more fond of her."

Mrs. Templeton made no answer, but lighted her candle, and wishing Lumley good night, glided from the room.

"I wonder if my grave aunt and my grave uncle took a bite at the apple before they bought the right of the tree. It looks suspicious; yet no, it can't be; there is nothing of the seducer or the seductive about the old fellow. It is not likely--here he comes."

In came Templeton, and his eyes were moist, and his brow relaxed.

"And how is the little angel, sir?" asked Ferrers.

"She kissed me, though I woke her up; children are usually cross when wakened."

"Are they?--little dears! Well, sir, so I was right, then; may I see the letter?"

"There it is."

Ferrers drew his chair to the fire, and read his own production with all the satisfaction of an anonymous author.

"How kind!--how considerate!--how delicately put!--a double favour! But perhaps, after all, it does not express your wishes."

"In what way?"

"Why--why--about myself."

"_You!_--is there anything about _you in it?--I did not observe _that_--let me see."

"Uncles never selfish!--mem. for commonplace book!" thought Ferrers.

The uncle knit his brows as he re-perused the letter. "This won't do, Lumley," said he very shortly, when he had done.

"A seat in parliament is too much honour for a poor nephew, then, sir?" said Lumley, very bitterly, though he did not feel at all bitter; but it was the proper tone. "I have done all in my power to advance your ambition, and you will not even lend a hand to forward me one step in my career. But, forgive me, sir, I have no right to expect it."

"Lumley," replied Templeton, kindly, "you mistake me. I think much more highly of you than I did--much: there is a steadiness, a sobriety about you most praiseworthy, and you shall go into parliament if you wish it; but not for C------. I will give my interest there to some other friend of the government, and in return they can give you a treasury borough! That is the same thing to you."

Lumley was agreeably surprised--he pressed his uncle's hand warmly, and thanked him cordially. Mr. Templeton proceeded to explain to him that it was inconvenient and expensive sitting for places where one's family was known, and Lumley fully subscribed to all.

"As for the settlement of the peerage, that is all right," said Templeton; and then he sank into a reverie, from which he broke joyously--"yes, that is all right. I have projects, objects--this may unite them all--nothing can be better--you will be the next lord--what--I say, what title shall we have?"

"Oh, take a sounding one--you have very little landed property, I think?"

"Two thousand a year in ------shire, bought a bargain."

"What's the name of the place?"

"Grubley."

"Lord Grubley!--Baron Grubley of Grubley--oh, atrocious! Who had the place before you?"

"Bought it of Mr. Sheepshanks--very old family."

"But surely some old Norman once had the place?"

"Norman, yes! Henry the Second gave it to his barber--Bertram Courval."

"That's it!--that's it! Lord de Courval--singular coincidence!--descent from the old line. Herald's College soon settle all that. Lord de Courval!--nothing can sound better. There must be a village or hamlet still called Courval about the property."

"I am afraid not. There is Coddle End!"

"Coddle End!--Coddle End!--the very thing, sir--the very thing--clear corruption from Courval!--Lord de Courval of Courval! Superb! Ha! ha!"

"Ha! ha!" laughed Templeton, and he had hardly laughed before since he was thirty.

The relations sat long and conversed familiarly. Ferrers slept at the villa, and his sleep was sound; for he thought little of plans once formed and half executed; it was the hunt that kept him awake, and he slept like a hound when the prey was down. Not so Templeton, who did not close his eyes all night.--"Yes, yes," thought he, "I must get the fortune and the title in one line by a prudent management. Ferrers deserves what I mean to do for him. Steady, good-natured, frank, and will get on--yes, yes, I see it all. Meanwhile I did well to prevent his standing for C------; might pick up gossip about Mrs. T., and other things that might be unpleasant. Ah, I'm a shrewd fellow!"

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