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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNight And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 19
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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 19 Post by :Kjell Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :502

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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 19


"Jul.... Good lady, love him!
You have a noble and an honest gentleman.
I ever found him so.
Love him no less than I have done, and serve him,
And Heaven shall bless you--you shall bless my ashes."

We have been too long absent from Fanny; it is time to return to her. The delight she experienced when Philip made her understand all the benefits, the blessings, that her courage, nay, her intellect, had bestowed upon him, the blushing ecstasy with which she heard (as they returned to H----, the eventful morning of her deliverance, side by side, her hand clasped in his, and often pressed to his grateful lips) his praises, his thanks, his fear for her safety, his joy at regaining her--all this amounted to a bliss, which, till then, she could not have conceived that life was capable of bestowing. And when he left her at H----, to hurry to his lawyer's with the recovered document, it was but for an hour. He returned, and did not quit her for several days. And in that time he became sensible of her astonishing, and, to him, it seemed miraculous, improvement in all that renders Mind the equal to Mind; miraculous, for he guessed not the Influence that makes miracles its commonplace. And now he listened attentively to her when she conversed; he read with her (though reading was never much in his vocation), his unfastidious ear was charmed with her voice, when it sang those simple songs; and his manner (impressed alike by gratitude for the signal service rendered to him, and by the discovery that Fanny was no longer a child, whether in mind or years), though not less gentle than before, was less familiar, less superior, more respectful, and more earnest. It was a change which raised her in her own self-esteem. Ah, those were rosy days for Fanny!

A less sagacious judge of character than Lilburne would have formed doubts perhaps of the nature of Philip's interest in Fanny. But he comprehended at once the fraternal interest which a man like Philip might well take in a creature like Fanny, if commended to his care by a protector whose doom was so awful as that which had ingulfed the life of William Gawtrey. Lilburne had some thoughts at first of claiming her, but as he had no power to compel her residence with him, he did not wish, on consideration, to come again in contact with Philip upon ground so full of humbling recollections as that still overshadowed by the images of Gawtrey and Mary. He contented himself with writing an artful letter to Simon, stating that from Fanny's residence with Mr. Gawtrey, and from her likeness to her mother, whom he had only seen as a child, he had conjectured the relationship she bore to himself; and having obtained other evidence of that fact (he did not say what or where), he had not scrupled to remove her to his roof, meaning to explain all to Mr. Simon Gawtrey the next day. This letter was accompanied by one from a lawyer, informing Simon Gawtrey that Lord Lilburne would pay L200. a year, in quarterly payments, to his order; and that he was requested to add, that when the young lady he had so benevolently reared came of age, or married, an adequate provision would be made for her. Simon's mind blazed up at this last intelligence, when read to him, though he neither comprehended nor sought to know why Lord Lilburne should be so generous, or what that noble person's letter to himself was intended to convey. For two days, he seemed restored to vigorous sense; but when he had once clutched the first payment made in advance, the touch of the money seemed to numb him back to his lethargy: the excitement of desire died in the dull sense of possession.

And just at that time Fanny's happiness came to a close. Philip received Arthur Beaufort's letter; and now ensued long and frequent absences; and on his return, for about an hour or so at a time, he spoke of sorrow and death; and the books were closed and the songs silenced. All fear for Fanny's safety was, of course, over; all necessity for her work; their little establishment was increased. She never stirred out without Sarah; yet she would rather that there had been some danger on her account for him to guard against, or some trial that his smile might soothe. His prolonged absences began to prey upon her--the books ceased to interest--no study filled up the dreary gap--her step grew listless-her cheek pale--she was sensible at last that his presence had become necessary to her very life. One day, he came to the house earlier than usual, and with a much happier and serener expression of countenance than he had worn of late.

Simon was dozing in his chair, with his old dog, now scarce vigorous enough to bark, curled up at his feet. Neither man nor dog was more as a witness to what was spoken than the leathern chair, or the hearth-rug, on which they severally reposed.

There was something which, in actual life, greatly contributed to the interest of Fanny's strange lot, but which, in narration, I feel I cannot make sufficiently clear to the reader. And this was her connection and residence with that old man. Her character forming, as his was completely gone; here, the blank becoming filled--there, the page fading to a blank. It was the tatter, total Deathliness-in-Life of Simon, that, while so impressive to see, renders it impossible to bring him before the reader in his full force of contrast to the young Psyche. He seldom spoke--often, not from morning till night; he now seldom stirred. It is in vain to describe the indescribable: let the reader draw the picture for himself. And whenever (as I sometimes think he will, after he has closed this book) he conjures up the idea he attaches to the name of its heroine, let him see before her, as she glides through the humble room--as she listens to the voice of him she loves--as she sits musing by the window, with the church spire just visible--as day by day the soul brightens and expands within her--still let the reader see within the same walls, greyhaired, blind, dull to all feeling, frozen to all life, that stony image of Time and Death! Perhaps then he may understand why they who beheld the real and living Fanny blooming under that chill and mass of shadow, felt that her grace, her simplicity, her charming beauty, were raised by the contrast, till they grew associated with thoughts and images, mysterious and profound, belonging not more to the lovely than to the sublime.

So there sat the old man; and Philip, though aware of his presence, speaking as if he were alone with Fanny, after touching on more casual topics, thus addressed her:

"My true and my dear friend, it is to you that I shall owe, not only my rights and fortune, but the vindication of my mother's memory. You have not only placed flowers upon that gravestone, but it is owing to you, under Providence, that it will be inscribed at last with the Name which refutes all calumny. Young and innocent as you now are, my gentle and beloved benefactress, you cannot as yet know what a blessing it will be to me to engrave that Name upon that simple stone. Hereafter, when you yourself are a wife, a mother, you will comprehend the service you have rendered to the living and the dead!"

He stopped--struggling with the rush of emotions that overflowed his heart. Alas, THE DEAD! what service can we render to them?--what availed it now, either to the dust below, or to the immortality above, that the fools and knaves of this world should mention the Catherine whose life was gone, whose ears were deaf, with more or less respect? There is in calumny that poison that, even when the character throws off the slander, the heart remains diseased beneath the effect. They say that truth comes sooner or later; but it seldom comes before the soul, passing from agony to contempt, has grown callous to men's judgments. Calumniate a human being in youth--adulate that being in age;--what has been the interval? Will the adulation atone either for the torture, or the hardness which the torture leaves at last? And if, as in Catherine's case (a case, how common!), the truth come too late--if the tomb is closed--if the heart you have wrung can be wrung no more--why the truth is as valueless as the epitaph on a forgotten Name! Some such conviction of the hollowness of his own words, when he spoke of service to the dead, smote upon Philip's heart, and stopped the flow of his words.

Fanny, conscious only of his praise, his thanks, and the tender affection of his voice, stood still silent-her eyes downcast, her breast heaving.

Philip resumed:

"And now, Fanny, my honoured sister, I would thank you for more, were it possible, even than this. I shall owe to you not only name and fortune, but happiness. It is from the rights to which you have assisted me, and which will shortly be made clear, that I am able to demand a hand I have so long coveted--the hand of one as dear to me as you are. In a word, the time has, this day, been fixed, when I shall have a home to offer to you and to this old man--when I can present to you a sister who will prize you as I do: for I love you so dearly--I owe you so much--that even that home would lose half its smiles if you were not there. Do you understand me, Fanny? The sister I speak of will be my wife!"

The poor girl who heard this speech of most cruel tenderness did not fall, or faint, or evince any outward emotion, except in a deadly paleness. She seemed like one turned to stone. Her very breath forsook her for some moments, and then came back with a long deep sigh. She laid her hand lightly on his arm, and said calmly:

"Yes--I understand. We once saw a wedding. You are to be married--I shall see yours!"

"You shall; and, later, perhaps, I may see your own."

"I have a brother. Ah! if I could but find him--younger than I am--beautiful almost as you!"

"You will be happy," said Fanny, still calmly.

"I have long placed my hopes of happiness in such a union! Stay, where are you going?"

"To pray for you," said Fanny, with a smile, in which there was something of the old vacancy, as she walked gently from the room. Philip followed her with moistened eyes. Her manner might have deceived one more vain. He soon after quitted the house, and returned to town.

Three hours after, Sarah found Fanny stretched on the floor of her own room--so still--so white--that, for some moments, the old woman thought life was gone. She recovered, however, by degrees; and, after putting her hands to her eyes, and muttering some moments, seemed much as usual, except that she was more silent, and that her lips remained colourless, and her hands cold like stone.

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