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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGodolphin - Chapter 38. Constance's Undiminished Love For Godolphin...
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Godolphin - Chapter 38. Constance's Undiminished Love For Godolphin... Post by :66034 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :581

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Godolphin - Chapter 38. Constance's Undiminished Love For Godolphin...

CHAPTER XXXVIII. CONSTANCE'S UNDIMINISHED LOVE FOR GODOLPHIN.--HER REMORSE AND HER HOPE.--THE CAPITOL.--THE DIFFERENT THOUGHTS OF GODOLPHIN AND CONSTANCE AT THE VIEW.--THE TENDER EXPRESSIONS OF CONSTANCE


All that Constance heard from others of Godolphin's life since they parted, increased her long-nursed interest in his fate. His desultory habits, his long absences from cities, which were understood to be passed in utter and obscure solitude (for the partner of the solitude and its exact spot were not known), she coupled with the quiet melancholy in his aspect, with his half-reproachful glances toward herself, and with the emotions which he had given vent to in their conversation. And of this objectless and unsatisfactory life she was led to consider herself the cause. With a bitter pang she recalled his early words, when he said, "My future is in your hands;" and she contrasted his vivid energies--his cultivated mind--his high talents--with the life which had rendered them all so idle to others and unprofitable to himself. Few, very few, know how powerfully the sentiment that another's happiness is at her control speaks to a woman's heart. Accustomed to dependence herself, the feeling that another depends on her is the most soothing aliment to her pride. This makes a main cause of her love to her children; they would be incomparably less dear to her if they were made independent of her cares. And years, which had brought the young countess acquainted with the nothingness of the world, had softened and deepened the sources of her affections, in proportion as they had checked those of her ambition. She could not, she did not, seek to disguise from herself that Godolphin yet loved her; she anticipated the hour when he would avow that love, and when she might be permitted to atone for all of disappointment that her former rejection might have brought to him. She felt, too, that it would be a noble as well as delightful task, to awaken an intellect so brilliant to the natural objects of its display; to call forth into active life his teeming thought, and the rich eloquence with which he could convey it. Nor in this hope were her more selfish designs, her political schemings, and her desire of sway over those whom she loved to humble, forgotten; but they made, however,--to be just,--a small part of her meditations. Her hopes were chiefly of a more generous order. "I refused thee," she thought, "when I was poor and dependent--now that I have wealth and rank, how gladly will I yield them to thy bidding!"

But Godolphin, as if unconscious of this favorable bias of her inclinations, did not warm from his reserve. On the contrary, his first abstraction, and his first agitation, had both subsided into a distant and cool self-possession. They met often, but he avoided all nearer or less general communication. She saw, however, that his eyes were constantly in search of her, and that a slight trembling in his voice when he addressed her, belied the calmness of his manner. Sometimes, too, a word, or a touch from her, would awaken the ill-concealed emotions--his lips seemed about to own the triumph of her and of the past; but, as if by a violent effort, they were again sealed; and not unoften, evidently unwilling to trust his self-command, he would abruptly depart. In short, Constance perceived that a strange embarrassment, the causes of which she could not divine, hung about him, and that his conduct was regulated by some secret motive, which did not spring from the circumstances that had occurred between them. For it was evident that he was not withheld by any resentment toward her from her former rejection: even his looks, his words, had betrayed that he had done more than forgive. Lady Charlotte Deerham had heard from Saville of their former attachment: she was a woman of the world, and thought it but common delicacy to give them all occasion to renew it. She always, therefore, took occasion to retire from the immediate vicinity of Constance whenever Godolphin approached, and, as if by accident, to leave them the opportunity to be sufficiently alone. This was a danger that Godolphin had, however, hitherto avoided. One day fate counteracted prudence, and a conference ensued which perplexed Constance and tried severely the resolution of Godolphin.

They went together to the Capitol, from whose height is beheld perhaps the most imposing landscape in the world. It was a sight pre-eminently calculated to arouse and inspire the ambitious and working mind of the young countess.

"Do you think," said she to Godolphin, who stood beside her, "that there lives any one who could behold these countless monuments of eternal glory, and not sigh to recall the triteness, or rather burn to rise from the level, of our ordinary life?"

"Nay," said Godolphin, "to you the view may be an inspiration, to others a warning. The arch and the ruin you survey speak of change yet more eloquently than glory. Look on the spot where once was the temple of Romulus:--there stands the little church of an obscure saint. Just below you is the Tarpeian Rock: we cannot see it; it is hidden from us by a crowd of miserable houses. Along the ancient plain of the Campus Martins behold the numberless spires of a new religion, and the palaces of a modern race! Amidst them you see the triumphal columns of Trajan and Marcus Antoninus; but whose are the figures that crown their summits? St. Peter's and St. Paul's! And this awful wilderness of men's labours--this scene and token of human revolutions--inspires you with a love of glory; to me it proves its nothingness. An irresistible--a crushing sense of the littleness and brief life of our most ardent and sagacious achievements seems to me to float like a voice over the place!"

"And are you still, then," said Constance, with a half sigh, "dead to all but the enjoyment of the present moment?"

"No," replied Godolphin, in a low and trembling voice: "I am not dead to the regret of the past!"

Constance blushed deeply; but Godolphin, as if feeling he had committed himself too far, continued in a hurried tone:--"Let us turn our eyes," said he, "yonder among the olive groves. There

'Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,'

were the summer retreats of Rome's brightest and most enduring spirits. There was the retirement of Horace and Mecaenas: there Brutus forgot his harsher genius; and there the inscrutable and profound Augustus indulged in those graceful relaxations-those sacrifices to wit, and poetry, and wisdom--which have made us do so unwilling and reserved a justice to the crimes of his earlier and the hypocrisy of his later years. Here, again, is a reproach to your ambition," added Godolphin, smiling; "his ambition made Augustus odious; his occasional forgetfulness of ambition alone redeems him."

"And what, then," said Constance, "would you consider inactivity the happiest life for one sensible of talents higher than the common standard?"

"Nay, let those talents be devoted to the discovery of pleasures, not the search after labours; the higher our talents, the keener our perceptions; the keener our perceptions the more intense our capacities for pleasure:(1)--let pleasure then, be our object. Let us find out what is best fitted to give our peculiar tastes gratification, and, having found out, steadily pursue it."

"Out on you! it is a selfish, an ignoble system," said Constance. "You smile--well, I may be unphilosophical, I do not deny it. But, give me one hour of glory, rather than a life of luxurious indolence. Oh, would," added Constance, kindling as she spoke, "that you--you, Mr. Godolphin,--with an intellect so formed for high accomplishment--with all the weapons and energies of life at your command,--would that you could awaken to a more worthy estimate--pardon me--of the uses of exertion! Surely, surely, you must be sensible of the calls that your country, that mankind, have at this epoch of the world, upon all--all, especially, possessing your advantages and powers. Can we pierce one inch beyond the surface of society, and not see that great events are hastening to their birth? Will you let those inferior to yourself hurry on before you, and sit inactive while they win the reward? Will you have no share in the bright drama that is already prepared behind the dark curtain of fate, and which will have a world for its spectators? Ah, how rejoiced, how elated with myself I should feel, if I could will over one like you to the great cause of honourable exertion!"

For one instant Godolphin's eye sparkled, and his pale cheek burned--but the transient emotion faded away as he answered--

"Eight years ago, when she who spoke to me was Constance Vernon, her wish might have moulded me according to her will. Now," and he struggled with emotion, and turned away his face,--"now it is too late!"

Constance was smitten to the heart. She laid her hand gently on his arm, and said, in a sweet and soothing tone, "No, Percy, not too late!"

At that instant, and before Godolphin could reply, they were joined by Saville and Lady Charlotte Deerham.

(1) I suppose Godolphin by the word pleasure rather signifies happiness.

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