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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 16 - Chapter 1
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The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 16 - Chapter 1 Post by :Jredling Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :579

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The Caxtons: A Family Picture - Part 16 - Chapter 1

PART XVI CHAPTER I

"Please, sir, be this note for you?" asked the waiter.

"For me,--yes; it is my name."

I did not recognize the handwriting, and yet the note was from one whose writing I had often seen. But formerly the writing was cramped, stiff, perpendicular (a feigned hand, though I guessed not it was feigned); now it was hasty, irregular, impatient, scarce a letter formed, scarce a word that seemed finished, and yet strangely legible withal, as the hand writing of a bold man almost always is. I opened the note listlessly, and read,--

"I have watched for you all the morning. I saw her go. Well! I did not throw myself under the hoofs of the horses. I write this in a public-house, not far. Will you follow the bearer, and see once again the outcast whom all the rest of the world will shun?"

Though I did not recognize the hand, there could be no doubt who was the writer.

"The boy wants to know if there's an answer," said the waiter.

I nodded, took up my hat, and left the room. A ragged boy was standing in the yard, and scarcely six words passed between us before I was following him through a narrow lane that faced the inn and terminated in a turnstile. Here the boy paused, and making me a sign to go on, went back his way whistling. I passed the turnstile, and found myself in a green field, with a row of stunted willows hanging over a narrow rill. I looked round, and saw Vivian (as I intend still to call him) half kneeling, and seemingly intent upon some object in the grass.

My eye followed his mechanically. A young unfledged bird that had left the nest too soon stood, all still and alone, on the bare short sward, its beak open as for food, its gaze fixed on us with a wistful stare. Methought there was something in the forlorn bird that softened me more to the forlorner youth, of whom it seemed a type.

"Now," said Vivian, speaking half to himself, half to me, "did the bird fall from the nest, or leave the nest at its own wild whim? The parent does not protect it. Mind, I say not it is the parent's fault,--perhaps the fault is all with the wanderer. But, look you, though the parent is not here, the foe is,--yonder, see!"

And the young man pointed to a large brindled cat that, kept back from its prey by our unwelcome neighborhood, still remained watchful, a few paces off, stirring its tail gently backwards and forwards, and with that stealthy look in its round eyes, dulled by the sun,--half fierce, half frightened,--which belongs to its tribe when man comes between the devourer and the victim.

"I do see," said I; "but a passing footstep has saved the bird!"

"Stop!" said Vivian, laying my hand on his own, and with his old bitter smile on his lip,--"stop! Do you think it mercy to save the bird? What from; and what for? From a natural enemy,--from a short pang and a quick death? Fie! is not that better than slow starvation,--or, if you take more heed of it, than the prison-bars of a cage? You cannot restore the nest, you cannot recall the parent. Be wiser in your mercy,--leave the bird to its gentlest fate."

I looked hard on Vivian: the lip had lost the bitter smile. He rose and turned away. I sought to take up the poor bird; but it did not know its friends, and ran from me, chirping piteously,--ran towards the very jaws of the grim enemy. I was only just in time to scare away the beast, which sprang up a tree and glared down through the hanging boughs. Then I followed the bird, and as I followed, I heard, not knowing at first whence the sound came, a short, quick, tremulous note. Was it near, was it far? From the earth, in the sky? Poor parent bird, like parent-love, it seemed now far and now near; now on earth, now in sky!

And at last, quick and sudden, as if born of the space, lo, the little wings hovered over me!

The young bird halted, and I also.

"Come," said I, "ye have found each other at last,--settle it between you!"

I went back to the outcast.

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PART XVI CHAPTER IIPisistratus.--"How came you to know we had stayed in the town?" Vivian.--"Do you think I could remain where you left me? I wandered out, wandered hither. Passing at dawn through yon streets, I saw the hostlers loitering by the gates of the yard, overheard them talk, and so knew you were all at the inn,--all!" He sighed heavily. Pisistratus.--"Your poor father is very ill. Oh, cousin, how could you fling from you so much love?" Vivian.--"Love! his! my father's!" Pisistratus.--"Do you really not believe, then, that your father loved you?" Vivian.--"If I had believed it, I had never
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PART XV CHAPTER IThere would have been nothing in what had chanced to justify the suspicions that tortured me, but for my impressions as to the character of Vivian. Reader, hast thou not, in the easy, careless sociability of youth, formed acquaintance with some one in whose more engaging or brilliant qualities thou hast,--not lost that dislike to defects or vices which is natural to an age when, even while we err, we adore what is good, and glow with enthusiasts for the ennobling sentiment and the virtuous deed,--no, happily, not lost dislike to what is bad, nor thy quick sense
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