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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMy Novel - Book 9 - Chapter 7
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My Novel - Book 9 - Chapter 7 Post by :shawnnee Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1559

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My Novel - Book 9 - Chapter 7

BOOK NINTH CHAPTER VII

That evening Harley L'Estrange arrived at his father's house. The few years that had passed since we saw him last had made no perceptible change in his appearance. He still preserved his elastic youthfulness of form, and singular variety and play of countenance. He seemed unaffectedly rejoiced to greet his parents, and had something of the gayety and tenderness of a boy returned from school. His manner to Helen bespoke the chivalry that pervaded all the complexities and curves of his character. It was affectionate, but respectful,--hers to him, subdued, but innocently sweet and gently cordial. Harley was the chief talker. The aspect of the times was so critical that he could not avoid questions on politics; and, indeed, he showed an interest in them which he had never evinced before. Lord Lansmere was delighted.

"Why, Harley, you love your country after all?"

"The moment she seems in danger, yes!" replied the Patrician; and the Sybarite seemed to rise into the Athenian. Then he asked with eagerness about his old friend Audley; and, his curiosity satisfied there, he inquired the last literary news. He had heard much of a book lately published. He named the one ascribed by Parson Dale to Professor Moss; none of his listeners had read it.

Harley pished at this, and accused them all of indolence and stupidity, in his own quaint, metaphorical style. Then he said, "And town gossip?"

"We never hear it," said Lady Lansmere.

"There is a new plough much talked of at Boodle's," said Lord Lansmere.

"God speed it. But is not there a new man much talked of at White's?"

"I don't belong to White's."

"Nevertheless, you may have heard of him,--a foreigner, a Count di Peschiera."

"Yes," said Lord Lansmere; "he was pointed out to me in the Park,--a handsome man for a foreigner; wears his hair properly cut; looks gentlemanlike and English."

"Ah, ah! He is here then!" and Harley rubbed his hands.

"Which road did you take? Did you pass the Simplon?"

"No; I came straight from Vienna."

Then, relating with lively vein his adventures by the way, he continued to delight Lord Lansmere by his gayety till the time came to retire to rest. As soon as Harley was in his own room his mother joined him.

"Well," said he, "I need not ask if you like Miss Digby? Who would not?"

"Harley, my own son," said the mother, bursting into tears, "be happy your own way; only be happy, that is all I ask."

Harley, much affected, replied gratefully and soothingly to this fond injunction. And then gradually leading his mother on to converse of Helen, asked abruptly, "And of the chance of our happiness,--her happiness as well as mine,--what is your opinion? Speak frankly."

"Of her happiness there can be no doubt," replied the mother, proudly. "Of yours, how can you ask me? Have you not decided on that yourself?"

"But still it cheers and encourages one in any experiment, however well considered, to hear the approval of another. Helen has certainly a most gentle temper."

"I should conjecture so. But her mind--"

"Is very well stored."

"She speaks so little--"

"Yes. I wonder why? She's surely a woman!"

"Pshaw," said the countess, smiling in spite of herself.

"But tell me more of the process of your experiment. You took her as a child, and resolved to train her according to your own ideal. Was that easy?"

"It seemed so. I desired to instil habits of truth: she was already by nature truthful as the day; a taste for Nature and all things natural: that seemed inborn; perceptions of Art as the interpreter of Nature: those were more difficult to teach. I think they may come. You have heard her play and sing?"

"NO."

"She will surprise you. She has less talent for drawing; still, all that teaching could do has been done,--in a word, she is accomplished. Temper, heart, mind,--these all are excellent." Harley stopped, and suppressed a sigh. "Certainly I ought to be very happy," said he; and he began to wind up his watch.

"Of course she must love you," said the countess, after a pause. "How could she fail?"

"Love me! My dear mother, that is the very question I shall have to ask."

"Ask! Love is discovered by a glance; it has no need of asking."

"I have never discovered it, then, I assure you. The fact is, that before her childhood was passed, I removed her, as you may suppose, from my roof. She resided with an Italian family near my usual abode. I visited her often, directed her studies, watched her improvement--"

"And fell in love with her?"

"Fall is such a very violent word. No; I don't remember to have had a fall. It was all a smooth inclined plane from the first step, until at last I said to myself, 'Harley L'Estrange, thy time has come. The bud has blossomed into flower. Take it to thy breast.' And myself replied to myself, meekly, 'So be it.' Then I found that Lady N-----, with her daughters, was coming to England. I asked her Ladyship to take my ward to your house. I wrote to you, and prayed your assent; and, that granted, I knew you would obtain my father's. Iam here,--you give me the approval I sought for. I will speak to Helen to-morrow. Perhaps, after all, she may reject me."

"Strange, strange! you speak thus coldly, thus lightly, you, so capable of ardent love!"

"Mother," said Harley, earnestly, "be satisfied! I am! Love as of old, I feel, alas! too well, can visit me never more. But gentle companionship, tender friendship, the relief and the sunlight of woman's smile, hereafter the voices of children,--music that, striking on the hearts of both parents, wakens the most lasting and the purest of all sympathies,--these are my hope. Is the hope so mean, my fond mother?"

Again the countess wept, and her tears were not dried when she left the room.

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BOOK NINTH CHAPTER VIIIOh, Helen, fair Helen,--type of the quiet, serene, unnoticed, deep-felt excellence of woman! Woman, less as the ideal that a poet conjures from the air, than as the companion of a poet on the earth! Woman, who, with her clear sunny vision of things actual, and the exquisite fibre of her delicate sense, supplies the deficiencies of him whose foot stumbles on the soil, because his eye is too intent upon the stars! Woman, the provident, the comforting, angel whose pinions are folded round the heart, guarding there a divine spring unmarred by the winter of the world!
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BOOK NINTH CHAPTER VIMeanwhile Audley Egerton's carriage had deposited him at the door of Lord Lansmere's house, at Knightsbridge. He asked for the countess, and was shown into the drawing-room, which was deserted. Egerton was paler than usual; and as the door opened, he wiped the unwonted moisture from his forehead, and there was a quiver on his firm lip. The countess too, on entering, showed an emotion almost equally unusual to her self-control. She pressed Audley's hand in silence, and seating herself by his side, seemed to collect her thoughts. At length she said, "It is rarely indeed that we
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