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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGodolphin - Chapter 36. Dialogue Between Godolphin And Saville...
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Godolphin - Chapter 36. Dialogue Between Godolphin And Saville... Post by :66034 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2699

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Godolphin - Chapter 36. Dialogue Between Godolphin And Saville...

CHAPTER XXXVI. DIALOGUE BETWEEN GODOLPHIN AND SAVILLE.--CERTAIN EVENTS EXPLAINED.--SAVILLE'S APOLOGY FOR A BAD HEART.--GODOLPHIN'S CONFUSED SENTIMENTS FOR LADY ERPINGHAM


"Good Heavens! Constance Vernon once more free!"

"And did you not really know it? Your retreat by the lake must have been indeed seclusion. It is seven months since Lord Erpingham died."

"Do I dream?" murmured Godolphin, as he strode hurriedly to and fro the apartment of his friend.

Saville, stretched on the sofa, diverted himself with mixing snuffs on a little table beside him. Nothing is so mournfully amusing in life as to see what trifles the most striking occurrences to us appear to our friends.

"But," said Saville, not looking up, "you seem very incurious to know how he died, and where. You must learn that Erpingham had two ruling passions--one for horses, the other for fiddlers. In setting off for Italy he expected, naturally enough, to find the latter, but he thought he might as well export the former. He accordingly filled the vessel with quadrupeds, and the second day after landing he diverted the tedium of a foreign clime with a gentle ride. He met with a fall, and was brought home speechless. The loss of speech was not of great importance to his acquaintance; but he died that night, and the loss of his life was! for he gave very fair dinners--ah,--bah!" And Saville inhaled the fragrance of a new mixture.

Saville had a very pleasant way of telling a story, particularly if it related to a friend's death, or some such agreeable incident. "Poor Lady Erpingham was exceedingly shocked; and well she might be, for I don't think weeds become her. She came here by slow stages, in order that the illustrious Dead might chase away the remembrance of the deceased."

"Your heart has not improved, Saville."

"Heart! What's that? Oh, a thing servant-maids have, and break for John the footman. Heart! my dear fellow, you are turned canter, and make use of words without meaning."

Godolphin was not prepared for a conversation of this order; and Saville, in a somewhat more serious air, continued:--"Every person, Godolphin, talks about the world. The world! it conveys different meanings to each, according to the nature of the circle which makes his world. But we all agree in one thing,--the worldliness of the world. Now, no man's world is so void of affection as ours--the polished, the courtly, the great world: the higher the air, the more pernicious to vegetation. Our very charm, our very fascination, depends upon a certain mockery; a subtle and fine ridicule on all persons and all things constitutes the essence of our conversation. Judge if that tone be friendly to the seriousness of the affections. Some poor dog among us marries, and household plebeianisms corrupt the most refined. Custom attaches the creature to his ugly wife and his squalling children; he grows affectionate, and becomes out of fashion. But we single men, dear Godolphin, have no one to care for but ourselves: the deaths that happen, unlike the ties that fall from the married men, do not interfere with our domestic comforts. We miss no one to make our tea, or give us our appetite-pills before dinner. Our losses are not intimate and household. We shrug our shoulders and are not a whit the worse for them. Thus, for want of grieving, and caring, and fretting, we are happy enough to grow--come, I will use an epithet to please you--hard-hearted! We congeal into philosophy; and are we not then wise in adopting this life of isolation and indifference?"

Godolphin, wrapt in reflection, scarcely heeded the voluptuary, but Saville continued: he had grown to that height in loneliness that he even loved talking to himself.

"Yes, wise! For this world is so filled with the selfish, that he who is not so labours under a disadvantage. Nor are we the worse for our apathy. If we jest at a man's misfortune, we do not do it to his face. Why not out of the ill, which is misfortune, extract good, which is amusement? Three men in this room are made cheerful by a jest at a broken leg in the next. Is the broken leg the worse for it? No; but the three men are made merry by the jest. Is the jest wicked, then? Nay, it is benevolence. But some cry, 'Ay, but this habit of disregarding misfortunes blunts your wills when you have the power to relieve them.' Relieve! was ever such delusion? What can we relieve in the vast mass of human misfortunes? As well might we take a drop from the ocean, and cry, 'Ha, ha! we have lessened the sea!' What are even your public charities? what your best institutions? How few of the multitude are relieved at all; how few of that few relieved permanently! Men die, suffer, starve just as soon, and just as numerously; these public institutions are only trees for the public conscience to go to roost upon. No, my dear fellow, everything I see in the world says, Take care of thyself. This is the true moral of life; every one who minds it gets on, thrives, and fattens; they who don't, come to us to borrow money, if gentlemen; or fall upon the parish, if plebeians. I mind it, my dear Godolphin; I have minded it all my life; I am very contented--content is the sign of virtue,--ah,--bah!"

Yes; Constance was a widow. The hand of her whom Percy Godolphin had loved so passionately, and whose voice even now thrilled to his inmost heart, and awakened the echoes that had slept for years, it was once more within her power to bestow, and within his to demand. What a host of emotions this thought gave birth to! Like the coming of the Hindoo god, she had appeared, and lo, there was a new world! "And her look," he thought, "was kind, her voice full of a gentle promise, her agitation was visible. She loves me still. Shall I fly to her feet? Shall I press for hope? And, oh what, what happiness!----but Lucilla!"

This recollection was indeed a barrier that never failed to present itself to every prospect of hope and joy which the image of Constance coloured and called forth. Even for the object of his first love, could he desert one who had forsaken all for him, whose life was wrapt up in his affection? The very coolness with which he was sensible he had returned the attachment of this poor girl made him more alive to the duties he owed her. If not bound to her by marriage, he considered with a generosity--barely, in truth, but justice, yet how rare in the world--that the tie between them was sacred, that only death could dissolve it. And now that tie was, perhaps, all that held him from attaining the dream of his past life.

Absorbed in these ideas, Godolphin contrived to let Saville's unsympathising discourse glide unheeded along, without reflecting its images on the sense, until the name of Lady Erpingham again awakened his attention.

"You are going to her this evening," said Saville; "and you may thank me for that; for I asked you if you were thither bound in her hearing, in order to force her into granting you an invitation. She only sees her most intimate friends--you, me, and Lady Charlotte Deerham. Widows are shy of acquaintance during their first affliction. I always manage, however, to be among the admitted--caustic is good for some wounds."

"Nay," said Godolphin, smiling, "it is your friendly disposition that makes them sure of sympathy."

"You have hit it. But," continued Saville, "do you think Madame likely to marry again, or shall you yourself adventure? Erpingham has left her nearly his whole fortune."

Irritated and impatient at Saville's tone, Godolphin rose. "Between you and me," said Saville, in wishing him goodbye, "I don't think she will ever marry again. Lady Erpingham is fond of power and liberty; even the young Godolphin--and you are not so handsome as you were--will find it a hopeless suit."

"Pshaw!" muttered Godolphin, as he departed. But the last words of Saville had created a new feeling in his breast. It was then possible, nay, highly probable, that he might have spared himself the contest he had undergone, and that the choice between Lucilla and Constance might never be permitted him. "At all events," said he, almost aloud, "I will see if this conjecture be true: if Constance, yet remembering our early love, yet feeling for the years of secret pining which her ambition bequeathed me, should appear willing to grant me the atonement fate has placed within her power, then, then, it will be time for this self-sacrifice."

The social relations of the sex often make men villanous--they more often make them weak.

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