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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNight And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 10
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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 10 Post by :Heidi66469 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :561

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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 10

BOOK V CHAPTER X

"Here's something got amongst us!"--Knight of Malta.

Two or three nights after his memorable conversation with Robert Beaufort, as Lord Lilburne was undressing, he said to his valet:

"Dykeman, I am getting well."

"Indeed, my lord, I never saw your lordship look better."

"There you lie. I looked better last year--I looked better the year before--and I looked better and better every year back to the age of twenty-one! But I'm not talking of looks, no man with money wants looks. I am talking of feelings. I feel better. The gout is almost gone. I have been quiet now for a month--that's a long time--time wasted when, at my age, I have so little time to waste. Besides, as you know, I am very much in love!"

"In love, my lord? I thought that you told me never to speak of--"

"Blockhead! what the deuce was the good of speaking about it when I was wrapped in flannels! I am never in love when I am ill--who is? I am well now, or nearly so; and I've had things to vex me--things to make this place very disagreeable; I shall go to town, and before this day week, perhaps, that charming face may enliven the solitude of Fernside. I shall look to it myself now. I see you're going to say something. Spare yourself the trouble! nothing ever goes wrong if I myself take it in hand."

The next day Lord Lilburne, who, in truth, felt himself uncomfortable and gene in the presence of Vaudemont; who had won as much as the guests at Beaufort Court seemed inclined to lose; and who made it the rule of his life to consult his own pleasure and amusement before anything else, sent for his post-horses, and informed his brother-in-law of his departure.

"And you leave me alone with this man just when I am convinced that he is the person we suspected! My dear Lilburne, do stay till he goes."

"Impossible! I am between fifty and sixty--every moment is precious at that time of life. Besides, I've said all I can say; rest quiet--act on the defensive--entangle this cursed Vaudemont, or Morton, or whoever he be, in the mesh of your daughter's charms, and then get rid of him, not before. This can do no harm, let the matter turn out how it will. Read the papers; and send for Blackwell if you want advice on any, new advertisements. I don't see that anything more is to be done at present. You can write to me; I shall be at Park Lane or Fernside. Take care of yourself. You're a lucky fellow--you never have the gout! Good-bye."

And in half an hour Lord Lilburne was on the road to London.

The departure of Lilburne was a signal to many others, especially and naturally to those he himself had invited. He had not announced to such visitors his intention of going till his carriage was at the door. This might be delicacy or carelessness, just as people chose to take it: and how they did take it, Lord Lilburne, much too selfish to be well-bred, did not care a rush. The next day half at least of the guests were gone; and even Mr. Marsden, who had been specially invited on Arthur's account, announced that he should go after dinner! he always travelled by night--he slept well on the road--a day was not lost by it.

"And it is so long since you saw Arthur," said Mr. Beaufort, in remonstrance, "and I expect him every day."

"Very sorry--best fellow in the world--but the fact is, that I am not very well myself. I want a little sea air; I shall go to Dover or Brighton. But I suppose you will have the house full again about Christmas; in that case I shall be delighted to repeat my visit."

The fact was, that Mr. Marsden, without Lilburne's intellect on the one hand, or vices on the other, was, like that noble sensualist, one of the broken pieces of the great looking-glass "SELF." He was noticed in society as always haunting the places where Lilburne played at cards, carefully choosing some other table, and as carefully betting upon Lilburne's side. The card-tables were now broken up; Vaudemont's superiority in shooting, and the manner in which he engrossed the talk of the sportsmen, displeased him. He was bored--he wanted to be off-and off he went. Vaudemont felt that the time was come for him to depart, too; Robert Beaufort--who felt in his society the painful fascination of the bird with the boa, who hated to see him there, and dreaded to see him depart, who had not yet extracted all the confirmation of his persuasions that he required, for Vaudemont easily enough parried the artless questions of Camilla--pressed him to stay with so eager a hospitality, and made Camilla herself falter out, against her will, and even against her remonstrances--(she never before had dared to remonstrate with either father or mother),--"Could not you stay a few days longer?"--that Vaudemont was too contented to yield to his own inclinations; and so for some little time longer he continued to move before the eyes of Mr. Beaufort--stern, sinister, silent, mysterious--like one of the family pictures stepped down from its frame. Vaudemont wrote, however, to Fanny, to excuse his delay; and anxious to hear from her as to her own and Simon's health, bade her direct her letter to his lodging in London (of which he gave her the address), whence, if he still continued to defer his departure, it would be forwarded to him. He did not do this, however, till he had been at Beaufort Court several days after Lilburne's departure, and till, in fact, two days before the eventful one which closed his visit.

The party, now greatly diminished; were at breakfast, when the servant entered, as usual, with the letter-bag. Mr. Beaufort, who was always important and pompous in the small ceremonials of life, unlocked the precious deposit with slow dignity, drew forth the newspapers, which he threw on the table, and which the gentlemen of the party eagerly seized; then, diving out one by one, jerked first a letter to Camilla, next a letter to Vaudemont, and, thirdly, seized a letter for himself.

"I beg that there may be no ceremony, Monsieur de Vaudemont: pray excuse me and follow my example: I see this letter is from my son;" and he broke the seal.

The letter ran thus:

"MY DEAR FATHER,--Almost as soon as you receive this, I shall be with you. Ill as I am, I can have no peace till I see and consult you. The most startling--the most painful intelligence has just been conveyed to me. It is of a nature not to bear any but personal communication.

"Your affectionate son, "ARTHUR BEAUFORT. "Boulogne.

"P.S.--This will go by the same packet-boat that I shall take myself, and can only reach you a few hours before I arrive."

Mr. Beaufort's trembling hand dropped the letter--he grasped the elbow of the chair to save himself from falling. It was clear!--the same visitor who had persecuted himself had now sought his son! He grew sick, his son might have heard the witness--might be convinced. His son himself now appeared to him as a foe--for the father dreaded the son's honour! He glanced furtively round the table, till his eye rested on Vaudemont, and his terror was redoubled, for Vaudemont's face, usually so calm, was animated to an extraordinary degree, as he now lifted it from the letter he had just read. Their eyes met. Robert Beaufort looked on him as a prisoner at the bar looks on the accusing counsel, when he first commences his harangue.

"Mr. Beaufort," said the guest, "the letter you have given me summons me to London on important business, and immediately. Suffer me to send for horses at your earliest convenience."

"What's the matter?" said the feeble and seldom heard voice of Mrs. Beaufort. "What's the matter, Robert?--is Arthur coming?"

"He comes to-day," said the father, with a deep sigh; and Vaudemont, at that moment rising from his half-finished breakfast, with a bow that included the group, and with a glance that lingered on Camilla, as she bent over her own unopened letter (a letter from Winandermere, the seal of which she dared not yet to break), quitted the room. He hastened to his own chamber, and strode to and fro with a stately step--the step of the Master--then, taking forth the letter, he again hurried over its contents. They ran thus:

DEAR, Sir,--At last the missing witness has applied to me. He proves to be, as you conjectured, the same person who had called on Mr. Roger Morton; but as there are some circumstances on which I wish to take your instructions without a moment's delay, I shall leave London by the mail, and wait you at D---- (at the principal inn), which is, I understand, twenty miles on the high road from Beaufort Court.

"I have the honor to be, sir, "Yours, &c., "JOHN BARLOW.

Vaudemont was yet lost in the emotions that this letter aroused, when they came to announce that his chaise was arrived. As he went down the stairs he met Camilla, who was on the way to her own room.

"Miss Beaufort," said he, in a low and tremulous voice, "in wishing you farewell I may not now say more. I leave you, and, strange to say, I do not regret it, for I go upon an errand that may entitle me to return again, and speak those thoughts which are uppermost in my soul even at this moment."

He raised her hand to his lips as he spoke, and at that moment Mr. Beaufort looked from the door of his own room, and cried, "Camilla." She was too glad to escape. Philip gazed after her light form for an instant, and then hurried down the stairs.

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