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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNight And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 14
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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 14 Post by :Kjell Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2275

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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 14

BOOK V CHAPTER XIV

"Gone, and none know it.

How now?--What news, what hopes and steps discovered!"
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: The Pilgrim.


When Philip arrived at his lodgings in town it was very late, but he still found Liancourt waiting the chance of his arrival. The Frenchman was full of his own schemes and projects. He was a man of high repute and connections; negotiations for his recall to Paris had been entered into; he was divided between a Quixotic loyalty and a rational prudence; he brought his doubts to Vaudemont. Occupied as he was with thoughts of so important and personal a nature, Philip could yet listen patiently to his friend, and weigh with him the pros and cons. And after having mutually agreed that loyalty and prudence would both be best consulted by waiting a little, to see if the nation, as the Carlists yet fondly trusted, would soon, after its first fever, offer once more the throne and the purple to the descendant of St. Louis, Liancourt, as he lighted his cigar to walk home, said, "A thousand thanks to you, my dear friend: and how have you enjoyed yourself in your visit? I am not surprised or jealous that Lilburne did not invite me, as I do not play at cards, and as I have said some sharp things to him!"

"I fancy I shall have the same disqualifications for another invitation," said Vaudemont, with a severe smile. "I may have much to disclose to you in a few days. At present my news is still unripe. And have you seen anything of Lilburne? He left us some days since. Is he in London?"

"Yes; I was riding with our friend Henri, who wished to try a new horse off the stones, a little way into the country yesterday. We went through------and H----. Pretty places, those. Do you know them?"

"Yes; I know H----."

"And just at dusk, as we were spurring back to town, whom should I see walking on the path of the high-road but Lord Lilburne himself! I could hardly believe my eyes. I stopped, and, after asking him about you, I could not help expressing my surprise to see him on foot at such a place. You know the man's sneer. 'A Frenchman so gallant as Monsieur de Liancourt,' said he, 'need not be surprised at much greater miracles; the iron moves to the magnet: I have a little adventure here. Pardon me if I ask you to ride on.' Of course I wished him good day; and a little farther up the road I saw a dark plain chariot, no coronet, no arms, no footman only the man on the box, but the beauty of the horses assured me it must belong to Lilburne. Can you conceive such absurdity in a man of that age--and a very clever fellow too? Yet, how is it that one does not ridicule it in Lilburne, as one would in another man between fifty and sixty?"

"Because one does not ridicule,--one loathes-him."

"No; that's not it. The fact is that one can't fancy Lilburne old. His manner is young--his eye is young. I never saw any one with so much vitality. 'The bad heart and the good digestion'--the twin secrets for wearing well, eh!"

"Where did you meet him--not near H----?"

"Yes; close by. Why? Have you any adventure there too? Nay, forgive me; it was but a jest. Good night!"

Vaudemont fell into an uneasy reverie: he could not divine exactly why he should be alarmed; but he was alarmed at Lilburne being in the neighbourhood of H----. It was the foot of the profane violating the sanctuary. An undefined thrill shot through him, as his mind coupled together the associations of Lilburne and Fanny; but there was no ground for forebodings. Fanny did not stir out alone. An adventure, too--pooh! Lord Lilburne must be awaiting a willing and voluntary appointment, most probably from some one of the fair but decorous frailties of London. Lord Lilburne's more recent conquests were said to be among those of his own rank; suburbs are useful for such assignations. Any other thought was too horrible to be contemplated. He glanced to the clock; it was three in the morning. He would go to H---- early, even before he sought out Mr. William Smith. With that resolution, and even his hardy frame worn out by the excitement of the day, he threw himself on his bed and fell asleep.

He did not wake till near nine, and had just dressed, and hurried over his abstemious breakfast, when the servant of the house came to tell him that an old woman, apparently in great agitation, wished to see him. His head was still full of witnesses and lawsuits; and he was vaguely expecting some visitor connected with his primary objects, when Sarah broke into the room. She cast a hurried, suspicious look round her, and then throwing herself on her knees to him, "Oh!" she cried, "if you have taken that poor young thing away, God forgive you. Let her come back again. It shall be all hushed up. Don't ruin her! don't, that's a dear good gentleman!"

"Speak plainly, woman--what do you mean?" cried Philip, turning pale.

A very few words sufficed for an explanation: Fanny's disappearance the previous night; the alarm of Sarah at her non-return; the apathy of old Simon, who did not comprehend what had happened, and quietly went to bed; the search Sarah had made during half the night; the intelligence she had picked up, that the policeman, going his rounds, had heard a female shriek near the school; but that all he could perceive through the mist was a carriage driving rapidly past him; Sarah's suspicions of Vaudemont confirmed in the morning, when, entering Fanny's room, she perceived the poor girl's unfinished letter with his own, the clue to his address that the letter gave her; all this, ere she well understood what she herself was talking about,--Vaudemont's alarm seized, and the reflection of a moment construed: the carriage; Lilburne seen lurking in the neighbourhood the previous day; the former attempt;--all flashed on him with an intolerable glare. While Sarah was yet speaking, he rushed from the house, he flew to Lord Lilburne's in Park Lane; he composed his manner, he inquired calmly. His lordship had slept from home; he was, they believed, at Fernside: Fernside! H---- was on the direct way to that villa. Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed since he heard the story ere he was on the road, with such speed as the promise of a guinea a mile could extract from the spurs of a young post-boy applied to the flanks of London post-horses.

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