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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Disowned - Chapter 79
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The Disowned - Chapter 79 Post by :affiliates9 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1107

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The Disowned - Chapter 79

CHAPTER LXXIX

But gasping heaved the breath that Lara drew,
And dull the film along his dim eye grew.--BYRON.


The light broke partially through the half-closed shutters of the room in which lay Lord Ulswater, who, awakened to sense and pain by the motion of the carriage, had now relapsed into insensibility. By the side of the sofa on which he was laid, knelt Clarence, bathing one hand with tears violent and fast; on the opposite side leaned over, with bald front, and an expression of mingled fear and sorrow upon his intent countenance, the old steward; while, at a little distance, Lord Westborough, who had been wheeled into the room, sat mute in his chair, aghast with bewilderment and horror, and counting every moment to the arrival of the surgeon, who had been sent for. The stranger to whom the carriage belonged stood by the window, detailing in a low voice to the chaplain of the house what particulars of the occurrence he was acquainted with, while the youngest scion of the family, a boy of about ten years, and who in the general confusion had thrust himself unnoticed into the room, stood close to the pair, with open mouth and thirsting ears and a face on which childish interest at a fearful tale was strongly blent with the more absorbed feeling of terror at the truth.

Slowly Lord Ulswater opened his eyes; they rested upon Clarence.

"My brother! my brother!" cried Clarence, in a voice of powerful anguish, "is it thus--thus that you have come hither to--" He stopped in the gushing fulness of his heart. Extricating from Clarence the only hand he was able to use, Lord Ulswater raised it to his brow, as if in the effort to clear remembrance; and then, turning to Wardour, seemed to ask the truth of Clarence's claim,--at least so the old man interpreted the meaning of his eye, and the faint and scarce intelligible words which broke from his lips.

"It is; it is, my honoured lord," cried he, struggling with his emotion; "it is your brother, your lost brother, Clinton L'Estrange." And as he said these words, Clarence felt the damp chill hand of his brother press his own, and knew by that pressure and the smile--kind, though brief from exceeding pain--with which the ill-fated nobleman looked upon him, that the claim long unknown was at last acknowledged, and the ties long broken united, though in death.

The surgeon arrived: the room was cleared of all but Clarence; the first examination was sufficient. Unaware of Clarence's close relationship to the sufferer, the surgeon took him aside. "A very painful operation," said he, "might be performed, but it would only torture, in vain, the last moments of the patient; no human skill can save or even protract his life."

The doomed man, who, though in great pain, was still sensible, stirred. His brother flew towards him. "Flora," he murmured, "let me see her, I implore."

Curbing, as much as he was able, his emotion, and conquering his reluctance to leave the sufferer even for a moment, Clarence flew in search of Lady Flora. He found her; in rapid and hasty words, he signified the wish of the dying man, and hurried her, confused, trembling, and scarce conscious of the melancholy scene she was about to witness, to the side of her affianced bridegroom.

I have been by the death-beds of many men, and I have noted that shortly before death, as the frame grows weaker and weaker, the fiercer passions yield to those feelings better harmonizing with the awfulness of the hour. Thoughts soft and tender, which seem little to belong to the character in the health and vigour of former years, obtain then an empire, brief, indeed, but utter for the time they last; and this is the more impressive because (as in the present instance I shall have occasion to portray) in the moments which succeed and make the very latest of life, the ruling passion, suppressed for an interval by such gentler feelings, sometimes again returns to take its final triumph over that frail clay, which, through existence, it has swayed, agitated, and moulded like wax unto its will.

When Lord Ulswater saw Flora approach and bend weepingly over him, a momentary softness stole over his face. Taking her hand he extended it towards Clarence, and turning to the latter faltered out, "Let this--my--brother--atone--for--;" apparently unable to finish the sentence, he then relaxed his hold and sank upon the pillow; and so still, so apparently breathless did he remain for several minutes, that they thought the latest agony was over.

As, yielding to this impression, Clarence was about to withdraw the scarce conscious Flora from the chamber, words, less tremulous and indistinct than aught which he had yet uttered, broke from Lord Ulswater's lips. Clarence hastened to him; and bending over his countenance saw that even through the rapid changes and shades of death, it darkened with the peculiar characteristics of the unreleased soul within: the brow was knit into more than its wonted sternness and pride; and in the eye which glared upon the opposite wall, the light of the waning life broke into a momentary blaze,--that flash, so rapid and evanescent, before the air drinks in the last spark of the being it has animated, and night--the starless and eternal--falls over the extinguished lamp! The hand of the right arm (which was that unshattered by the fall) was clenched and raised; but, when the words which came upon Clarence's ear had ceased, it fell heavily by his side, like a clod of that clay which it had then become. In those words it seemed as if, in the confused delirium of passing existence, the brave soldier mingled some dim and bewildered recollection of former battles with that of his last most fatal though most ignoble strife.

"Down, down with them!" he muttered between his teeth, though in a tone startlingly deep and audible; "down with them! No quarter to the infidels! strike for England and Effingham. Ha!--who strives for flight there!--kill him! no mercy, I say,--none!--there, there, I have despatched him; ha! ha! What, still alive?--off, slave, off! Oh, slain! slain in a ditch, by a base-born hind; oh, bitter! bitter! bitter!" And with these words, of which the last, from their piercing anguish and keen despair, made a dread contrast with the fire and defiance of the first, the jaw fell, the flashing and fierce eye glazed and set, and all of the haughty and bold patrician which the earth retained was--dust!

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