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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 11 - Chapter 7
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What Will He Do With It - Book 11 - Chapter 7 Post by :Cheetaz Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2472

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What Will He Do With It - Book 11 - Chapter 7

BOOK XI CHAPTER VII

SOPHY, DARRELL, AND THE FLUTE-PLAYER. DARRELL. PREPARES A SURPRISE FOR WAIFE.

Sophy is come. She has crossed that inexorable threshold. She is a guest in the house which rejects her as a daughter. She has been there some days. Waife revived at the first sight of her tender face. He has left his bed; can move for some hours a day into an adjoining chamber, which has been hastily arranged for his private sitting-room; and can walk its floors with a step that grows daily firmer in the delight of leaning on Sophy's arm.

Since the girl's arrival, Darrell has relaxed his watch over the patient. He never now enters his guest's apartment without previous notice; and, by that incommunicable instinct which passes in households between one silent breast and another, as by a law equally strong to attract or repel--here drawing together, there keeping apart--though no rule in either case has been laid down;--by virtue, I say, of that strange intelligence, Sophy is not in the old man's room when Darrell enters. Rarely in the twenty-four hours do the host and the fair young guest encounter. But Darrell is a quick and keen observer. He has seen enough of Sophy to be sensible of her charms--to penetrate into her simple natural loveliness of character--to feel a deep interest in her, and a still deeper pity for Lionel. Secluding himself as much as possible in his private room, or in his leafless woods, his reveries increase in gloom. Nothing unbends his moody brow like Fairthorn's flute or Fairthorn's familiar converse.

It has been said before that Fairthorn knew his secrets. Fairthorn had idolised Caroline Lyndsay. Fairthorn was the only being in the world to when Guy Darrell could speak of Caroline Lyndsay--to whom he could own the unconquerable but unforgiving love which had twice driven him from the social world. Even to Fairthorn, of course, all could not be told. Darrell could not speak of the letter he had received at Malta, nor of Caroline's visit to him at Fawley; for to do so, even to Fairthorn, was like a treason to the dignity of the Beloved. And Guy Darrell might rail at her inconstancy--her heartlessness; but to boast that she had lowered herself by the proffers that were dictated by repentance, Guy Darrell could not do that;--he was a gentleman. Still there was much left to say. He could own that he thought she would now accept his hand; and when Fairthorn looked happy at that thought, and hinted at excuses for her former fickleness, it was a great relief to Darrell to fly into a rage; but if the flute-player meanly turned round and became himself Caroline's accuser, then poor Fairthorn was indeed frightened; for Darrell's trembling lip or melancholy manner overwhelmed the assailant with self-reproach, and sent him sidelong into one of his hidden coverts.

But at this moment Fairthorn was a support to him under other trials--Fairthorn, who respects as he does, as no one else ever can, the sanctity of the Darrell line--who would shrink like himself from the thought that the daughter of Jasper Losely, and in all probability not a daughter of Matilda Darrell, should ever be mistress of that ancestral hall, lowly and obscure and mouldering though it be--and that the child of a sharper, a thief, a midnight assassin, should carry on the lineage of knights and warriors in whose stainless scutcheons, on many a Gothic tomb or over the portals of ruined castles, was impaled the heraldry of Brides sprung from the loins of Lion Kings! Darrell, then, doing full justice to all Sophy's beauty and grace, purity and goodness, was more and more tortured by the conviction that she could never be wife to the man on whom, for want of all nearer kindred, would devolve the heritage of the Darrell name.

On the other hand, Sophy's feelings towards her host were almost equally painful and embittered. The tenderness and reverence that he had showed to her beloved grandfather, the affecting gratitude with which Waife spoke of him, necessarily deepened her prepossessions in his favour as Lionel's kinsman; and though she saw him so sparingly, still, when they did meet, she had no right to complain of his manner. It might be distant, taciturn; but it was gentle, courteous--the manner which might be expected, in a host of secluded habits, to a young guest from whose sympathies he was removed by years, but to whose comforts he was unobtrusively considerate--whose wishes were delicately forestalled. Yet was this all that her imagination had dared to picture on entering those grey walls? Where was the evidence of the relationship of which she had dreamed?--where a single sign that she was more in that house than a mere guest?--where, alas! a token that even Lionel had named her to his kinsman, and that for Lionel's sake that kinsman bade her welcome? And Lionel too--gone the very day before she arrived! That she learned incidentally from the servant who showed her into the room. Gone, and not addressed a line to herself, though but to condole with her on her grandfather's illness, or congratulate her that the illness had spared the life! She felt wounded to the very core. As Waife's progressive restoration allowed her thoughts more to revert to so many causes for pain and perplexity, the mystery of all connected with her own and Waife's sojourn under that roof baffled her at tempts at conjecture. The old man did not volunteer explanations. Timidly she questioned him; but his nerves yet were so unstrung, and her questions so evidently harassed him, that she only once made that attempt to satisfy her own bewilderment, and smiled as if contented when he said, after a long pause: "Patience yet, my child; let me get a little stronger. You see Mr. Darrell will not suffer me to talk with him on matters that must be discussed with him before I go; and then--and then--Patience till then, Sophhy."

Neither George nor his wife gave her any clue to the inquiries that preyed upon her mind. The latter, a kind, excellent woman, meekly devoted to her husband, either was, or affected to be, in ignorance of the causes that had led. Waife to Fawley, save very generally that Darrell had once wronged him by an erring judgment, and had hastened to efface that wrong. And then she kissed Sophy fondly, and told her that brighter days were in store for the old man and herself. George said with more authority--the authority of the priest: "Ask no questions. Time, that solves all riddles, is hurrying on, and Heaven directs its movements."

Her very heart was shut up, except where it could gush forth--nor even then with full tide--in letters to Lady Montfort. Caroline had heard from George's wife, with intense emotion, that Sophy was summoned to Darrell's house, the gravity of Waife's illness being considerately suppressed. Lady Montfort could but suppose that Darrell's convictions had been shaken--his resolutions softened; that he sought an excuse to see Sophy, and judge of her himself. Under this impression, in parting with her young charge, Caroline besought Sophy to write to her constantly and frankly. Sophy felt all inexpressible relief in this correspondence. But Lady Montfort in her replies was not more communicative than Waife or the Morleys; only she seemed more thoughtfully anxious that Sophy should devote her self to the task of propitiating her host's affections. She urged her to try and break through his reserve--see more of him; as if that were possible! And her letters were more filled with questions about Darrell than even with admonitions and soothings to Sophy. The letters that arrived at Fawley were brought in a bag, which Darrell opened; but Sophy noticed that it was with a peculiar compression of lip, and a marked change of colour, that he had noticed the handwriting on Lady Montfort's first letter to her, and that after that first time her letters were not enclosed in the bag, but came apart, and were never again given to her by her host.

Thus passed days in which Sophy's time was spent chiefly in Waife's sick-room. But now he is regaining strength hourly. To his sitting-room comes George frequently to relieve Sophy's watch. There, once a day, comes Guy Darrell, and what then passed between the two men none witnessed. In these hours Waife insisted upon Sophy's going forth for air and exercise. She is glad to steal out alone-steal down by the banks of the calm lake, or into the gloom of the mournful woods. Here she not unfrequently encounters Fairthorn, who, having taken more than ever to the flute, is driven more than ever to outdoor rambles, for he has been cautioned not to indulge in his melodious resource within doors lest he disturb the patient.

Fairthorn and Sophy thus made acquaintance, distant and shy at first on both sides; but it gradually became more frank and cordial. Fairthorn had an object not altogether friendly in encouraging this intimacy. He thought, poor man, that he should be enabled to extract from Sophy some revelations of her early life, which would elucidate, not in favour of her asserted claims, the mystery that hung upon her parentage. But had Dick Fairthorn been the astutest of diplomatists, in this hope he would have been equally disappointed. Sophy had nothing to communicate. Her ingenuousness utterly baffled the poor flute-player. Out of an innocent, unconscious kind of spite, on ceasing to pry into Sophy's descent, he began to enlarge upon the dignity of Darrell's. He inflicted on her the long-winded genealogical memoir, the recital of which had, on a previous occasion, so nearly driven Lionel Haughton from Fawley. He took her to see the antiquary's grave; he spoke to her, as they stood there, of Darrell's ambitious boyhood--his arid, laborious manhood--his determination to restore the fallen line--the very vow he had made to the father he had so pityingly revered. He sought to impress on her the consciousness that she was the guest of one who belonged to a race with whom spotless honour was the all in all; and who had gone through life with bitter sorrows, but reverencing that race, and vindicating that honour; Fairthorn's eye would tremble--his eyes flash on her while he talked. She, poor child, could not divine why; but she felt that he was angry with her--speaking at her. In fact, Fairthorn's prickly tongue was on the barbed point of exclaiming: "And how dare you foist yourself into this unsullied lineage--how dare you think that the dead would not turn in their graves, ere they would make room in the vault of the Darrells for the daughter of a Jasper Losely!" But though she could not conceive the musician's covert meaning in these heraldic discourses, Sophy, with a justness of discrimination that must have been intuitive, separated from the more fantastic declamations of the grotesque genealogist that which was genuine and pathetic in the single image of the last descendant in a long and gradually falling race, lifting it up once more into power and note on toiling shoulders, and standing on the verge of age, with the melancholy consciousness that the effort was successful only for his fleeting life; that, with all his gold, with all his fame, the hope which had achieved alike the gold and the fame was a lying mockery, and that name and race would perish with himself, when the earth yawned for him beside the antiquary's grave.

And these recitals made her conceive a more soft and tender interest in Guy Darrell than she had before admitted; they accounted for the mournfulness on his brow; they lessened her involuntary awe of that stateliness of bearing which before had only chilled her as the evidence of pride.

While Fairthorn and Sophy thus matured acquaintance, Darrell and Waife were drawing closer and closer to each other. Certainly no one would be predisposed to suspect any congeniality of taste, intellect, experience, or emotion, between two men whose lives had been so widely different--in whose faults or merits the ordinary observer would have seen nothing but antagonism and contrast. Unquestionably their characters were strikingly dissimilar, yet there was that in each which the other recognised as familiar to his own nature. Each had been the victim of his heart; each had passed over the ploughshare of self-sacrifice. Darrell had offered up his youth--Waife his age; Darrell to a Father and the unrequiting Dead--Waife to a Son whose life had become his terror. To one man, NAME had been an idol; to the other, NAME had been a weed cast away into the mire. To the one man, unjoyous, evanescent glory--to the other, a shame that had been borne with a sportive cheerfulness, dashed into sorrow only when the world's contumely threatened to despoil Affection of its food. But there was something akin in their joint experience of earthly vanities;--so little solace in worldly honours to the triumphant Orator--so little of misery to the vagrant Mime while his conscience mutely appealed to Heaven from the verdict of his kind. And as beneath all the levity and whim of the man reared and nurtured, and fitted by his characteristic tendencies, to view life through its humours, not through its passions, there still ran a deep undercurrent of grave and earnest intellect and feeling--so too, amidst the severer and statelier texture of the once ambitious, laborious mind, which had conducted Darrell to renown--amidst all that gathered-up intensity of passion, which admitted no comedy into Sorrow, and saw in Love but the aspect of Fate--amidst all this lofty seriousness of soul, there was yet a vivid capacity of enjoyment--those fine sensibilities to the pleasurable sun-rays of life, which are constitutional to all GENIUS, no matter how grave its vocations. True, affliction at last may dull them, as it dulls all else that we took from Nature when she equipped us for life. Yet, in the mind of Darrell, affliction had shattered the things most gravely coveted, even more than it had marred its perceptive acknowledgment of the sympathies between fancies that move to smiles, and thoughts that bequeath solemn lessons, or melt to no idle tears. Had Darrell been placed amidst the circumstances that make happy the homes of earnest men, Darrell would have been mirthful; had Waife been placed amongst the circumstances that concentrate talent, and hedge round life with trained thicksets and belting laurels, Waife would have been grave.

It was not in the earlier conferences that took place in Waife's apartment that the subject which had led the old man to Fawley was brought into discussion. When Waife had sought to introduce it--when, after Sophy's arrival, he had looked wistfully into Darrell's face, striving to read there the impression she had created, and, unable to discover, had begun, with tremulous accents, to reopen the cause that weighed on him--Darrell stopped him at once. "Hush--not yet; remember that it was in the very moment you first broached this sorrowful topic, on arriving here, and perceived how different the point of view from which we two must regard it, that your nerves gave way--your illness rushed on you. Wait, not only till you are stronger, but till we know each other better. This subject is one that it becomes us to treat with all the strength of our reason--with all the calm which either can impose upon the feelings that ruffle judgment. At present, talk we of all matters except that, which I promise you shall be fairly discussed at last."

Darrell found, however, that his most effective diversion from the subject connected with Sophy was through another channel in the old man's affections, hopes, and fears. George Morley, in repeating the conversation he had overheard between Waife and Jasper, had naturally, while clearing the father, somewhat softened the bravado and cynicism of the son's language, and more than somewhat brightened the touches of natural feeling by which the bravado and cynicism had been alternated. And Darrell had sufficient magnanimity to conquer the repugnance with which he approached a name associated with so many dark and hateful memories, and, avoiding as much as possible distinct reference to Jasper's past life, to court a consultation on the chances of saving from the worst the life that yet remained. With whom else, indeed, than Jasper's father could Darrell so properly and so unreservedly discuss a matter in which their interest and their fear were in common?--As though he were rendering some compensation to Waife for the disappointment he would experience when Sophy's claims came to be discussed--if he could assist in relieving the old man's mind as to the ultimate fate of the son for whom he had made so grand a sacrifice, Darrell spoke to Waife somewhat in detail of the views with which he had instructed Colonel Morley to find out and to treat with Jasper. He heard from the Colonel almost daily. Alban had not yet discovered Jasper, nor even succeeded in tracing Mrs. Crane! But an account of Jasper's farewell visit to that den of thieves, from which he had issued safe and triumphant, had reached the ears of a detective employed by the Colonel, and on tolerably good terms with Cutts; and it was no small comfort to know that Jasper had finally broken with those miscreant comrades, and had never again been seen in their haunts. As Arabella had introduced herself to Alban by her former name, and neither he nor Darrell was acquainted with that she now bore, and as no questions on the subject could be put to Waife during the earlier stages of his illness, so it was several days before the Colonel had succeeded in tracing her out as Mrs. Crane of Podden Place--a discovery effected by a distant relation to whom he had been referred at the famous school of which Arabella had been the pride, and who was no doubt the owner of those sheepskin account-books by which the poor grim woman had once vainly sought to bribe Jasper into honest work. But the house in Podden Place was shut up--not a soul in charge of it. The houses immediately adjoining it were tenantless. The Colonel learned, however, from a female servant in an opposite house, that several days ago she had seen a tall, powerful-looking man enter Mrs. Crane's street-door; that she had not seen him quit it; and that some evenings afterwards, as this servant was closing up the house in which she served, she had remarked a large private carriage driving away from Mrs. Crane's door; that it was too dark to see who were in the carriage, but she had noticed a woman whom she felt fully sure was Mrs. Crane's servant, Bridgett Greggs, on the box beside the coachman.

Alban had been to the agent employed by Mrs. Crane in the letting of her houses, but had not there gained any information. The Colonel believed that Mrs. Crane had succeeded in removing Jasper from London--had, perhaps, accompanied him abroad. If with her, at all events for the present he was safe from the stings of want, and with one who had sworn to save him from his own guilty self. If, however, still in England, Alban had no doubt, sooner or later, to hunt him up.

Upon the whole, this conjectural information, though unsatisfactory, allayed much anxiety. Darrell made the most of it in his representations to Waife. And the old man, as we know, was one not hard to comfort, never quarrelling irrevocably with Hope.

And now Waife is rapidly recovering. Darrell, after spending the greater part of several days, intent upon a kind of study from which he had been estranged for many years, takes to frequent absences for the whole day; goes up to London by the earliest train, comes back by the latest. George Morley also goes to London for a few hours. Darrell, on returning, does not allude to the business which took him to the metropolis; neither does George, but the latter seems unusually animated and excited. At length, after one of these excursions, so foreign to his habits, he and George enter together the old man's apartment not long before the early hour at which the convalescent retires to rest. Sophy was seated on the footstool at Waife's knee, reading the Bible to him, his hand resting lightly on her bended head. The sight touched both George and Darrell; but Darrell of the two was the more affected. What young, pure voice shall read to HIM the Book of Hope in the evening of lonely age? Sophy started in some confusion, and as, in quitting the room, she passed by Darrell, he took her hand gently, and scanned her features more deliberately, more earnestly than he had ever yet seemed to do; then he sighed, and dropped the hand, murmuring, "Pardon me." Was he seeking to read in that fair face some likeness to the Darrell lineaments? If he had found it, what then? But when Sophy was gone, Darrell came straight to Waife with a cheerful brow--with a kindling eye.

"William Losely," said he.

"Waife, if you please, sir," interrupted the old man. "William Losely," repeated Darrell, "justice seeks to repair, so far as, alas! it now can, the wrongs inflicted on the name of William Losely. Your old friend Alban Morley supplying me with the notes he had made in the matter of your trial, I arranged the evidence they furnished. The Secretary for the Home Department is one of my most intimate political friends--a man of humanity--of sense. I placed that evidence before him. I, George, and Mr. Hartopp, saw him after he had perused it--"

"My--son--Lizzy's son!"

"His secret will be kept. The question was not who committed the act for which you suffered, but whether you were clearly, incontestably, innocent of the act, and, in pleading guilty, did but sublimely bear the penalty of another. There will be no new trial--there are none who would prosecute. I bring back to you the Queen's free pardon under the Great Seal. I should explain to you that this form of the royal grace is so rarely given that it needed all the strength and affecting circumstance of your peculiar case to justify the Home Secretary in listening, not only to the interest I could bring to bear in your favour, but to his own humane inclinations. The pardon under the Great Seal differs from an ordinary pardon. It purges the blood from the taint of felony--it remits all the civil disabilities which the mere expiry of a penal sentence does not remove. In short, as applicable to your case, it becomes virtually a complete and formal attestation of your innocence. Alban Morley will take care to apprise those of your old friends who may yet survive, of that revocation of unjust obloquy, which this royal deed implies--Alban Morley, who would turn his back on the highest noble in Britain if but guilty of some jockey trick on the turf! Live henceforth openly, and in broad daylight if you please; and trust to us three--the Soldier, the Lawyer, the Churchman--to give to this paper that value which your Sovereign's advisers intend it to receive."

"Your hand now, dear old friend!" cried George. "You remember I commanded you once to take mine as man and gentleman--as man and gentleman, now honour me with yours."

"Is it possible?" faltered Waife, one hand in George's, the other extended in imploring appeal to Darrell--"is it possible? I vindicated--I cleared--and yet no felon's dock for Jasper!--the son not criminated by the father's acquittal! Tell me that! again--again!"

"It is so, believe me. All that rests is to force on that son, if he have a human heart, the conviction that he will be worse than a parricide if he will not save himself."

"And he will--he shall. Oh, that I could but get at him!" exclaimed the preacher.

"And now," said Darrell--"now, George, leave us; for now, upon equal terms, we two fathers can discuss family differences."

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