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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNight And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 9
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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 9 Post by :Heidi66469 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1256

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Night And Morning - Book 5 - Chapter 9

BOOK V CHAPTER IX

"Thierry. I do begin
To feel an alteration in my nature,
And in his full-sailed confidence a shower
Of gentle rain, that falling on the fire
Hath quenched it.

How is my heart divided
Between the duty of a son and love!"
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: Thierry and Theodorat.


Vaudemont had now been a month at Beaufort Court. The scene of a country-house, with the sports that enliven it, and the accomplishments it calls forth, was one in which he was well fitted to shine. He had been an excellent shot as a boy; and though long unused to the fowling-piece, had, in India, acquired a deadly precision with the rifle; so that a very few days of practice in the stubbles and covers of Beaufort Court made his skill the theme of the guests and the admiration of the keepers. Hunting began, and--this pursuit, always so strong a passion in the active man, and which, to the turbulence and agitation of his half-tamed breast, now excited by a kind of frenzy of hope and fear, gave a vent and release--was a sport in which he was yet more fitted to excel. His horsemanship, his daring, the stone walls he leaped and the floods through which he dashed, furnished his companions with wondering tale and comment on their return home. Mr. Marsden, who, with some other of Arthur's early friends, had been invited to Beaufort Court, in order to welcome its expected heir, and who retained all the prudence which had distinguished him of yore, when having ridden over old Simon he dismounted to examine the knees of his horse;--Mr. Marsden, a skilful huntsman, who rode the most experienced horses in the world, and who generally contrived to be in at the death without having leaped over anything higher than a hurdle, suffering the bolder quadruped (in case what is called the "knowledge of the country"--that is, the knowledge of gaps and gates--failed him) to perform the more dangerous feats alone, as he quietly scrambled over or scrambled through upon foot, and remounted the well-taught animal when it halted after the exploit, safe and sound;--Mr. Marsden declared that he never saw a rider with so little judgment as Monsieur de Vaudemont, and that the devil was certainly in him.

This sort of reputation, commonplace and merely physical as it was in itself, had a certain effect upon Camilla; it might be an effect of fear. I do not say, for I do not know, what her feelings towards Vaudemont exactly were. As the calmest natures are often those the most hurried away by their contraries, so, perhaps, he awed and dazzled rather than pleased her;--at least, he certainly forced himself on her interest. Still she would have started in terror if any one had said to her, "Do you love your betrothed less than when you met by that happy lake?"--and her heart would have indignantly rebuked the questioner. The letters of her lover were still long and frequent; hers were briefer and more subdued. But then there was constraint in the correspondence--it was submitted to her mother. Whatever might be Vaudemont's manner to Camilla whenever occasion threw them alone together, he certainly did not make his attentions glaring enough to be remarked. His eye watched her rather than his lip addressed; he kept as much aloof as possible from the rest of her family, and his customary bearing was silent even to gloom. But there were moments when he indulged in a fitful exuberance of spirits, which had something strained and unnatural. He had outlived Lord Lilburne's short liking; for since he had resolved no longer to keep watch on that noble gamester's method of play, he played but little himself; and Lord Lilburne saw that he had no chance of ruining him--there was, therefore, no longer any reason to like him. But this was not all; when Vaudemont had been at the house somewhat more than two weeks, Lilburne, petulant and impatient, whether at his refusals to join the card-table, or at the moderation with which, when he did, he confined his ill-luck to petty losses, one day limped up to him, as he stood at the embrasure of the window, gazing on the wide lands beyond, and said:--

"Vaudemont, you are bolder in hunting, they tell me, than you are at whist."

"Honours don't tell against one--over a hedge!"

"What do you mean?" said Lilburne, rather haughtily.

Vaudemont was, at that moment, in one of those bitter moods when the sense of his situation, the sight of the usurper in his home, often swept away the gentler thoughts inspired by his fatal passion. And the tone of Lord Lilburne, and his loathing to the man, were too much for his temper.

"Lord Lilburne," he said, and his lip curled, "if you had been born poor, you would have made a great fortune--you play luckily."

"How am I to take this, sir?"

"As you please," answered Vaudemont, calmly, but with an eye of fire. And he turned away.

Lilburne remained on the spot very thoughtful: "Hum! he suspects me. I cannot quarrel on such ground--the suspicion itself dishonours me--I must seek another."

The next day, Lilburne, who was familiar with Mr. Harsden (though the latter gentleman never played at the same table), asked that prudent person after breakfast if he happened to have his pistols with him.

"Yes; I always take them into the country--one may as well practise when one has the opportunity. Besides, sportsmen are often quarrelsome; and if it is known that one shoots well,--it keeps one out of quarrels!"

"Very true," said Lilburne, rather admiringly. "I have made the same remark myself when I was younger. I have not shot with a pistol for since years. I am well enough now to walk out with the help of a stick. Suppose we practise for half-an-hour or so."

"With all my heart," said Mr. Marsden.

The pistols were brought, and they strolled forth;--Lord Lilburne found his hand out.

"As I never hunt now," said the peer, and he gnashed his teeth, and glanced at his maimed limb; "for though lameness would not prevent my keeping my seat, violent exercise hurts my leg; and Brodie says any fresh accident might bring on tic douloureux;--and as my gout does not permit me to join the shooting parties at present, it would be a kindness in you to lend me your pistols--it would while away an hour or so; though, thank Heaven, my duelling days are over!"

"Certainly," said Mr. Marsden; and the pistols were consigned to Lord Lilburne.

Four days from the date, as Mr. Marsden, Vaudemont, and some other gentlemen were making for the covers, they came upon Lord Lilburne, who, in a part of the park not within sight or sound of the house, was amusing himself with Mr. Marsden's pistols, which Dykeman was at hand to load for him.

He turned round, not at all disconcerted by the interruption.

"You have no idea how I've improved, Marsden:--just see!" and he pointed to a glove nailed to a tree. "I've hit that mark twice in five times; and every time I have gone straight enough along the line to have killed my man."

"Ay, the mark itself does not so much signify," said Mr. Marsden, "at least, not in actual duelling--the great thing is to be in the line."

While he spoke, Lord Lilburne's ball went a third time through the glove. His cold bright eye turned on Vaudemont, as he said, with a smile,--

"They tell me you shoot well with a fowling-piece, my dear Vaudemont--are you equally adroit with a pistol?"

"You may see, if you like; but you take aim, Lord Lilburne; that would be of no use in English duelling. Permit me."

He walked to the glove, and tore from it one of the fingers, which he fastened separately to the tree, took the pistol from Dykeman as he walked past him, gained the spot whence to fire, turned at once round, without apparent aim, and the finger fell to the ground.

Lilburne stood aghast.

"That's wonderful!" said Marsden; "quite wonderful. Where the devil did you get such a knack?--for it is only knack after all!"

"I lived for many years in a country where the practice was constant, where all that belongs to rifle-shooting was a necessary accomplishment--a country in which man had often to contend against the wild beast. In civilised states, man himself supplies the place of the wild beast--but we don't hunt him!--Lord Lilburne" (and this was added with a smiling and disdainful whisper), "you must practise a little more."

But, disregardful of the advice, from that day Lord Lilburne's morning occupation was gone. He thought no longer of a duel with Vaudemont. As soon as the sportsman had left him, he bade Dykeman take up the pistols, and walked straight home into the library, where Robert Beaufort, who was no sportsman, generally spent his mornings.

He flung himself into an arm-chair, and said, as he stirred the fire with unusual vehemence,--

"Beaufort, I'm very sorry I asked you to invite Vaudemont. He's a very ill-bred, disagreeable fellow!" Beaufort threw down his steward's account-book, on which he was employed, and replied,--

"Lilburne, I have never had an easy moment since that man has been in the house. As he was your guest, I did not like to speak before, but don't you observe--you must observe--how like he is to the old family portraits? The more I have examined him, the more another resemblance grows upon me. In a word," said Robert, pausing and breathing hard, "if his name were not Vaudemont--if his history were not, apparently, so well known, I should say--I should swear, that it is Philip Morton who sleeps under this roof!"

"Ha!" said Lilburne, with an earnestness that surprised Beaufort, who expected to have heard his brother-in-law's sneering sarcasm at his fears; "the likeness you speak of to the old portraits did strike me; it struck Marsden, too, the other day, as we were passing through the picture-gallery; and Marsden remarked it aloud to Vaudemont. I remember now that he changed countenance and made no answer. Hush! hush! hold your tongue, let me think--let me think. This Philip--yes--yes--I and Arthur saw him with--with Gawtrey--in Paris--"

"Gawtrey! was that the name of the rogue he was said to--"

"Yes--yes--yes. Ah! now I guess the meaning of those looks--those words," muttered Lilburne between his teeth. "This pretension to the name of Vaudemont was always apocryphal--the story always but half believed--the invention of a woman in love with him--the claim on your property is made at the very time he appears in England. Ha! Have you a newspaper there? Give it me. No! 'tis not in this paper. Ring the bell for the file!"

"What's the matter? you terrify me!" gasped out Mr. Beaufort, as he rang the bell.

"Why! have you not seen an advertisement repeated several times within the last month?"

"I never read advertisements; except in the county paper, if land is to be sold."

"Nor I often; but this caught my eye. John" (here the servant entered), "bring the file of the newspapers. The name of the witness whom Mrs. Morton appealed to was Smith, the same name as the captain; what was the Christian name?"

"I don't remember."

"Here are the papers--shut the door--and here is the advertisement: 'If Mr. William Smith, son of Jeremiah Smith, who formerly rented the farm of Shipdale-Bury, under the late Right Hon. Charles Leopold Beaufort (that's your uncle), and who emigrated in the year 18-- to Australia, will apply to Mr. Barlow, Solicitor, Essex Street, Strand, he will hear of something to his advantage.'"

"Good Heavens! why did not you mention this to me before?"

"Because I did not think it of any importance. In the first place, there might be some legacy left to the man, quite distinct from your business. Indeed, that was the probable supposition;--or even if connected with the claim, such an advertisement might be but a despicable attempt to frighten you. Never mind--don't look so pale--after all, this is a proof that the witness is not found--that Captain Smith is neither the Smith, nor has discovered where the Smith is!"

"True!" observed Mr. Beaufort: "true--very true!"

"Humph!" said Lord Lilburne, who was still rapidly glancing over the file--"Here is another advertisement which I never saw before: this looks suspicious: 'If the person who called on the -- of September, on Mr. Morton, linendraper, &c., of N----, will renew his application personally or by letter, he may now obtain the information he sought for.'"

"Morton!--the woman's brother! their uncle! it is too clear!"

"But what brings this man, if he be really Philip Morton, what brings him here!--to spy or to threaten?"

"I will get him out of the house this day."

"No--no; turn the watch upon himself. I see now; he is attracted by your daughter; sound her quietly; don't tell her to discourage his confidences; find out if he ever speaks of these Mortons. Ha! I recollect--he has spoken to me of the Mortons, but vaguely--I forget what. Humph! this is a man of spirit and daring--watch him, I say,--watch him! When does Arthur came back?"

"He has been travelling so slowly, for he still complains of his health, and has had relapses; but he ought to be in Paris this week, perhaps he is there now. Good Heavens! he must not meet this man!"

"Do what I tell you! get out all from your daughter. Never fear: he can do nothing against you except by law. But if he really like Camilla--"

"He!--Philip Morton--the adventurer--the--"

"He is the eldest son: remember you thought even of accepting the second. He--nay find the witness--he may win his suit; if he likes Camilla, there may be a compromise."

Mr. Beaufort felt as if turned to ice.

"You think him likely to win this infamous suit, then?" he faltered.

"Did not you guard against the possibility by securing the brother? More worth while to do it with this man. Hark ye! the politics of private are like those of public life,--when the state can't crush a demagogue, it should entice him over. If you can ruin this dog" (and Lilburne stamped his foot fiercely, forgetful of the gout), "ruin him! hang him! If you can't" (and here with a wry face he caressed the injured foot), "if you can't ('sdeath, what a twinge!), and he can ruin you,--bring him into the family, and make his secret ours! I must go and lie down--I have overexcited myself."

In great perplexity Beaufort repaired at once to Camilla. His nervous agitation betrayed itself, though he smiled a ghastly smile, and intended to be exceeding cool and collected. His questions, which confused and alarmed her, soon drew out the fact that the very first time Vaudemont had been introduced to her he had spoken of the Mortons; and that he had often afterwards alluded to the subject, and seemed at first strongly impressed with the notion that the younger brother was under Beaufort's protection; though at last he appeared reluctantly convinced of the contrary. Robert, however agitated, preserved at least enough of his natural slyness not to let out that he suspected Vaudemont to be Philip Morton himself, for he feared lest his daughter should betray that suspicion to its object.

"But," he said, with a look meant to win confidence, "I dare say he knows these young men. I should like myself to know more about them. Learn all you can, and tell me, and, I say--I say, Camilla,--he! he! he!--you have made a conquest, you little flirt, you! Did he, this Vaudemont, ever say how much he admired you?"

"He!--never!" said Camilla, blushing, and then turning pale.

"But he looks it. Ah! you say nothing, then. Well, well, don't discourage him; that is to say,--yes, don't discourage him. Talk to him as much as you can,--ask him about his own early life. I've a particular wish to know--'tis of great importance to me."

"But, my dear father," said Camilla, trembling and thoroughly bewildered, "I fear this man,--I fear--I fear--"

Was she going to add, "I fear myself?" I know not; but she stopped short, and burst into tears.

"Hang these girls!" muttered Mr. Beaufort, "always crying when they ought to be of use to one. Go down, dry your eyes, do as I tell you,--get all you can from him. Fear him!--yes, I dare say she does!" muttered the poor man, as he closed the door.

From that time what wonder that Camilla's manner to Vaudemont was yet more embarrassed than ever: what wonder that he put his own heart's interpretation on that confusion. Beaufort took care to thrust her more often than before in his way; he suddenly affected a creeping, fawning civility to Vaudemont; he was sure he was fond of music; what did he think of that new air Camilla was so fond of? He must be a judge of scenery, he who had seen so much: there were beautiful landscapes in the neighbourhood, and, if he would forego his sports, Camilla drew prettily, had an eye for that sort of thing, and was so fond of riding.

Vaudemont was astonished at this change, but his delight was greater than the astonishment. He began to perceive that his identity was suspected; perhaps Beaufort, more generous than he had deemed him, meant to repay every early wrong or harshness by one inestimable blessing. The generous interpret motives in extremes--ever too enthusiastic or too severe. Vaudemont felt as if he had wronged the wronger; he began to conquer even his dislike to Robert Beaufort. For some days he was thus thrown much with Camilla; the questions her father forced her to put to him, uttered tremulously and fearfully, seemed to him proof of her interest in his fate. His feelings to Camilla, so sudden in their growth--so ripened and so favoured by the Sub-Ruler of the world--CIRCUMSTANCE--might not, perhaps, have the depth and the calm completeness of that, One True Love, of which there are many counterfeits,--and which in Man, at least, possibly requires the touch and mellowness, if not of time, at least of many memories--of perfect and tried conviction of the faith, the worth, the value and the beauty of the heart to which it clings;--but those feelings were, nevertheless, strong, ardent, and intense. He believed himself beloved--he was in Elysium. But he did not yet declare the passion that beamed in his eyes. No! he would not yet claim the hand of Camilla Beaufort, for he imagined the time would soon come when he could claim it, not as the inferior or the suppliant, but as the lord of her father's fate.

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