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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNight And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 12
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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 12 Post by :Heidi66469 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2145

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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 12

BOOK V CHAPTER XII

"Bakam. Let my men guard the walls.
Syana. And mine the temple."--The Island Princess.


While thus eventfully the days and the weeks had passed for Philip, no less eventfully, so far as the inner life is concerned, had they glided away for Fanny. She had feasted in quiet and delighted thought on the consciousness that she was improving--that she was growing worthier of him--that he would perceive it on his return. Her manner was more thoughtful, more collected--less childish, in short, than it had been. And yet, with all the stir and flutter of the aroused intellect, the charm of her strange innocence was not scared away. She rejoiced in the ancient liberty she had regained of going out and coming back when she pleased; and as the weather was too cold ever to tempt Simon from his fireside, except, perhaps, for half-an-hour in the forenoon, so the hours of dusk, when he least missed her, were those which she chiefly appropriated for stealing away to the good school-mistress, and growing wiser and wiser every day in the ways of God and the learning of His creatures. The schoolmistress was not a brilliant woman. Nor was it accomplishments of which Fanny stood in need, so much as the opening of her thoughts and mind by profitable books and rational conversation. Beautiful as were all her natural feelings, the schoolmistress had now little difficulty in educating feelings up to the dignity of principles.

At last, hitherto patient under the absence of one never absent from her heart, Fanny received from him the letter he had addressed to her two days before he quitted Beaufort Court;--another letter--a second letter--a letter to excuse himself for not coming before--a letter that gave her an address that asked for a reply. It was a morning of unequalled delight approaching to transport. And then the excitement of answering the letter--the pride of showing how she was improved, what an excellent hand she now wrote! She shut herself up in her room: she did not go out that day. She placed the paper before her, and, to her astonishment, all that she had to say vanished from her mind at once. How was she even to begin? She had always hitherto called him "Brother." Ever since her conversation with Sarah she felt that she could not call him that name again for the world--no, never! But what should she call him--what could she call him? He signed himself "Philip." She knew that was his name. She thought it a musical name to utter, but to write it! No! some instinct she could not account for seemed to whisper that it was improper--presumptuous, to call him "Dear Philip." Had Burns's songs--the songs that unthinkingly he had put into her hand, and told her to read--songs that comprise the most beautiful love-poems in the world--had they helped to teach her some of the secrets of her own heart? And had timidity come with knowledge? Who shall say--who guess what passed within her? Nor did Fanny herself, perhaps, know her own feelings: but write the words "Dear Philip" she could not. And the whole of that day, though she thought of nothing else, she could not even get through the first line to her satisfaction. The next morning she sat down again. It would be so unkind if she did not answer immediately: she must answer. She placed his letter before her--she resolutely began. But copy after copy was made and torn. And Simon wanted her--and Sarah wanted her--and there were bills to be paid; and dinner was over before her task was really begun. But after dinner she began in good earnest.

"How kind in you to write to me" (the difficulty of any name was dispensed with by adopting none), "and to wish to know about my dear grandfather! He is much the same, but hardly ever walks out now, and I have had a good deal of time to myself. I think something will surprise you, and make you smile, as you used to do at first, when you come back. You must not be angry with me that I have gone out by myself very often--every day, indeed. I have been so safe. Nobody has ever offered to be rude again to Fanny" (the word "Fanny" was carefully scratched out with a penknife, and me substituted). "But you shall know all when you come. And are you sure you are well--quite--quite well? Do you never have the headaches you complained of sometimes? Do say this? Do you walk out-every day? Is there any pretty churchyard near you now? Whom do you walk with?

"I have been so happy in putting the flowers on the two graves. But I still give yours the prettiest, though the other is so dear to me. I feel sad when I come to the last, but not when I look at the one I have looked at so long. Oh, how good you were! But you don't like me to thank you."

"This is very stupid!" cried Fanny, suddenly throwing down her pen; "and I don't think I am improved at it;" and she half cried with vexation. Suddenly a bright idea crossed her. In the little parlour where the schoolmistress privately received her, she had seen among the books, and thought at the time how useful it might be to her if ever she had to write to Philip, a little volume entitled, The Complete Letter Writer. She knew by the title-page that it contained models for every description of letter--no doubt it would contain the precise thing that would suit the present occasion. She started up at the notion. She would go--she could be back to finish the letter before post-time. She put on her bonnet--left the letter, in her haste, open on the table--and just looking into the parlour in her way to the street door, to convince herself that Simon was asleep, and the wire-guard was on the fire, she hurried to the kind schoolmistress.

One of the fogs that in autumn gather sullenly over London and its suburbs covered the declining day with premature dimness. It grew darker and darker as she proceeded, but she reached the house in safety. She spent a quarter of an hour in timidly consulting her friend about all kinds of letters except the identical one that she intended to write, and having had it strongly impressed on her mind that if the letter was to a gentleman at all genteel, she ought to begin "Dear Sir," and end with "I have the honour to remain;" and that he would be everlastingly offended if she did not in the address affix "Esquire" to his name (that, was a great discovery),--she carried off the precious volume, and quitted the house. There was a wall that, bounding the demesnes of the school, ran for some short distance into the main street. The increasing fog, here, faintly struggled against the glimmer of a single lamp at some little distance. Just in this spot, her eye was caught by a dark object in the road, which she could scarcely perceive to be a carriage, when her hand was seized, and a voice said in her ear:--

"Ah! you will not be so cruel to me, I hope, as you were to my messenger! I have come myself for you."

She turned in great alarm, but the darkness prevented her recognising the face of him who thus accosted her. "Let me go!" she cried,--"let me go!"

"Hush! hush! No--no. Come with me. You shall have a house--carriage--servants! You shall wear silk gowns and jewels! You shall be a great lady!"

As these various temptations succeeded in rapid course each new struggle of Fanny, a voice from the coach-box said in a low tone,--

"Take care, my lord, I see somebody coming--perhaps a policeman!"

Fanny heard the caution, and screamed for rescue.

"Is it so?" muttered the molester. And suddenly Fanny felt her voice checked--her head mantled--her light form lifted from the ground. She clung--she struggled it was in vain. It was the affair of a moment: she felt herself borne into the carriage--the door closed--the stranger was by her side, and his voice said:--

"Drive on, Dykeman. Fast! fast!"

Two or three minutes, which seemed to her terror as ages, elapsed, when the gag and the mantle were gently removed, and the same voice (she still could not see her companion) said in a very mild tone:--

"Do not alarm yourself; there is no cause,--indeed there is not. I would not have adopted this plan had there been any other--any gentler one. But I could not call at your own house--I knew no other where to meet you.

"This was the only course left to me--indeed it was. I made myself acquainted with your movements. Do not blame me, then, for prying into your footsteps. I watched for you all last night-you did not come out. I was in despair. At last I find you. Do not be so terrified: I will not even touch your hand if you do not wish it."

As he spoke, however, he attempted to touch it, and was repulsed with an energy that rather disconcerted him. The poor girl recoiled from him into the farthest corner of that prison in speechless horror--in the darkest confusion of ideas. She did not weep--she did not sob--but her trembling seemed to shake the very carriage. The man continued to address, to expostulate, to pray, to soothe.

His manner was respectful. His protestations that he would not harm her for the world were endless.

"Only just see the home I can give you; for two days--for one day. Only just hear how rich I can make you and your grandfather, and then if you wish to leave me, you shall."

More, much more, to this effect, did he continue to pour forth, without extracting any sound from Fanny but gasps as for breath, and now and then a low murmur:

"Let me go, let me go! My grandfather, my blind grandfather!"

And finally tears came to her relief, and she sobbed with a passion that alarmed, and perhaps even touched her companion, cynical and icy as he was. Meanwhile the carriage seemed to fly. Fast as two horses, thorough-bred, and almost at full speed, could go, they were whirled along, till about an hour, or even less, from the time in which she had been thus captured, the carriage stopped.

"Are we here already?" said the man, putting his head out of the window. "Do then as I told you. Not to the front door; to my study."

In two minutes more the carriage halted again, before a building which looked white and ghostlike through the mist. The driver dismounted, opened with a latch-key a window-door, entered for a moment to light the candles in a solitary room from a fire that blazed on the hearth, reappeared, and opened the carriage-door. It was with a difficulty for which they were scarcely prepared that they were enabled to get Fanny from the carriage. No soft words, no whispered prayers could draw her forth; and it was with no trifling address, for her companion sought to be as gentle as the force necessary to employ would allow, that he disengaged her hands from the window-frame, the lining, the cushions, to which they clung; and at last bore her into the house. The driver closed the window again as he retreated, and they were alone. Fanny then cast a wild, scarce conscious glance over the apartment. It was small and simply furnished. Opposite to her was an old-fashioned bureau, one of those quaint, elaborate monuments of Dutch ingenuity, which, during the present century, the audacious spirit of curiosity-vendors has transplanted from their native receptacles, to contrast, with grotesque strangeness, the neat handiwork of Gillow and Seddon. It had a physiognomy and character of its own--this fantastic foreigner! Inlaid with mosaics, depicting landscapes and animals; graceless in form and fashion, but still picturesque, and winning admiration, when more closely observed, from the patient defiance of all rules of taste which had formed its cumbrous parts into one profusely ornamented and eccentric whole. It was the more noticeable from its total want of harmony with the other appurtenances of the room, which bespoke the tastes of the plain English squire. Prints of horses and hunts, fishing-rods and fowling-pieces, carefully suspended, decorated the walls. Not, however, on this notable stranger from the sluggish land rested the eye of Fanny. That, in her hurried survey, was arrested only by a portrait placed over the bureau--the portrait of a female in the bloom of life; a face so fair, a brow so candid, and eyes so pure, a lip so rich in youth and joy--that as her look lingered on the features Fanny felt comforted, felt as if some living protectress were there. The fire burned bright and merrily; a table, spread as for dinner, was drawn near it. To any other eye but Fanny's the place would have seemed a picture of English comfort. At last her looks rested on her companion. He had thrown himself, with a long sigh, partly of fatigue, partly of satisfaction, on one of the chairs, and was contemplating her as she thus stood and gazed, with an expression of mingled curiosity and admiration; she recognised at once her first, her only persecutor. She recoiled, and covered her face with her hands. The man approached her:--

"Do not hate me, Fanny,--do not turn away. Believe me, though I have acted thus violently, here all violence will cease. I love you, but I will not be satisfied till you love me in return. I am not young, and I am not handsome, but I am rich and great, and I can make those whom I love happy,--so happy, Fanny!"

But Fanny had turned away, and was now busily employed in trying to re-open the door at which she had entered. Failing in this, she suddenly darted away, opened the inner door, and rushed into the passage with a loud cry. Her persecutor stifled an oath, and sprung after and arrested her. He now spoke sternly, and with a smile and a frown at once:--

"This is folly;--come back, or you will repent it! I have promised you, as a gentleman--as a nobleman, if you know what that is--to respect you. But neither will I myself be trifled with nor insulted. There must be no screams!"

His look and his voice awed Fanny in spite of her bewilderment and her loathing, and she suffered herself passively to be drawn into the room. He closed and bolted the door. She threw herself on the ground in one corner, and moaned low but piteously. He looked at her musingly for some moments, as he stood by the fire, and at last went to the door, opened it, and called "Harriet" in a low voice. Presently a young woman, of about thirty, appeared, neatly but plainly dressed, and of a countenance that, if not very winning, might certainly be called very handsome. He drew her aside for a few moments, and a whispered conference was exchanged. He then walked gravely up to Fanny "My young friend," said he, "I see my presence is too much for you this evening. This young woman will attend you--will get you all you want. She can tell you, too, that I am not the terrible sort of person you seem to suppose. I shall see you to-morrow." So saying, he turned on his heel and walked out.

Fanny felt something like liberty, something like joy, again. She rose, and looked so pleadingly, so earnestly, so intently into the woman's face, that Harriet turned away her bold eyes abashed; and at this moment Dykeman himself looked into the room.

"You are to bring us in dinner here yourself, uncle; and then go to my lord in the drawing-room."

Dykeman looked pleased, and vanished. Then Harriet came up and took Fanny's hand, and said, kindly,--

"Don't be frightened. I assure you, half the girls in London would give I don't know what to be in your place. My lord never will force you to do anything you don't like--it's not his way; and he's the kindest and best man,--and so rich; he does not know what to do with his money!"

To all this Fanny made but one answer,--she threw herself suddenly upon the woman's breast, and sobbed out: "My grandfather is blind, he cannot do without me--he will die--die. Have you nobody you love, too? Let me go--let me out! What can they want with me?--I never did harm to any one."

"And no one will harm you;--I swear it!" said Harriet, earnestly. "I see you don't know my lord. But here's the dinner; come, and take a bit of something, and a glass of wine."

Fanny could not touch anything except a glass of water, and that nearly choked her. But at last, as she recovered her senses, the absence of her tormentor--the presence of a woman--the solemn assurances of Harriet that, if she did not like to stay there, after a day or two, she should go back, tranquillised her in some measure. She did not heed the artful and lengthened eulogiums that the she-tempter then proceeded to pour forth upon the virtues, and the love, and the generosity, and, above all, the money of my lord. She only kept repeating to herself, "I shall go back in a day or two." At length, Harriet, having eaten and drunk as much as she could by her single self, and growing wearied with efforts from which so little resulted, proposed to Fanny to retire to rest. She opened a door to the right of the fireplace, and lighted her up a winding staircase to a pretty and comfortable chamber, where she offered to help her to undress. Fanny's complete innocence, and her utter ignorance of the precise nature of the danger that awaited her, though she fancied it must be very great and very awful, prevented her quite comprehending all that Harriet meant to convey by her solemn assurances that she should not be disturbed. But she understood, at least, that she was not to see her hateful gaoler till the next morning; and when Harriet, wishing her "good night," showed her a bolt to her door, she was less terrified at the thought of being alone in that strange place. She listened till Harriet's footsteps had died away, and then, with a beating heart, tried to open the door; it was locked from without. She sighed heavily. The window?--alas! when she had removed the shutter, there was another one barred from without, which precluded all hope there; she had no help for it but to bolt her door, stand forlorn and amazed at her own condition, and, at last, falling on her knees, to pray, in her own simple fashion, which since her recent visits to the schoolmistress had become more intelligent and earnest, to Him from whom no bolts and no bars can exclude the voice of the human heart.

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