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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 1
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What Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 1 Post by :Cheetaz Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2625

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What Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 1

BOOK XII CHAPTER I

THE MAN OF THE WORLD SHOWS MORE INDIFFERENCE TO THE THINGS AND DOCTRINES OF THE WORLD THAN MIGHT BE SUPPOSED.--BUT HE VINDICATES HIS CHARACTER, WHICH MIGHT OTHERWISE BE JEOPARDISED, BY THE ADROITNESS WITH WHICH, HAVING RESOLVED TO ROAST CHESTNUTS IN THE ASHES OF ANOTHER MAN'S HEARTH, HE HANDLES THEM WHEN HOTTEST BY THE PROXY OF A--CAT'S PAW.

In the letter which George told Waife he had received from his uncle, George had an excuse for the delicate and arduous mission he undertook, which he did not confide to the old man, lest it should convey more hopes than its nature justified. In this letter, Alban related, with a degree of feeling that he rarely manifested, his farewell conversation with Lionel, who had just departed to join his new regiment. The poor young man had buoyed himself up with delighted expectations of the result of Sophy's prolonged residence under Darrell's roof; he had persuaded his reason that when Darrell had been thus enabled to see and judge of her for himself, he would be irresistibly attracted towards her; that Innocence, like Truth, would be mighty and prevail; Darrell was engaged in the attempt to clear William Losely's name and blood from the taint of felony;--Alban was commissioned to negotiate with Jasper Losely on any terms that would remove all chance of future disgrace from that quarter. Oh yes! to poor Lionel's eyes obstacles vanished--the future became clear. And thus, when, after telling him of his final interview with the Minister, Darrell said, "I trust that, in bringing to William Losely this intelligence, I shall at least soften his disappointment, when I make it thoroughly clear to him how impossible it is that his Sophy can ever be more to me--to us--than a stranger whose virtues create an interest in her welfare"--Lionel was stunned as by a blow. Scarcely could he murmur:

"You have seen her--and your resolve remains the same."

"Can you doubt it?" answered Darrell, as if in surprise. "The resolve may now give me pain on my account, as before it gave me pain on yours. But if not moved by your pain, can I be moved by mine? That would be a baseness." The Colonel, in depicting Lionel's state of mind after the young soldier had written his farewell to Waife, and previous to quitting London, expressed very gloomy forebodings. "I do not say," wrote he, "that Lionel will guiltily seek death in the field, nor does death there come more to those who seek than to those who shun it; but he will go upon a service exposed to more than ordinary suffering, privation, and disease--without that rallying power of hope--that Will, and Desire to Live, which constitute the true stamina of Youth. And I have always set a black mark upon those who go into war joyless and despondent. Send a young fellow to the camp with his spirits broken, his heart heavy as a lump of lead, and the first of those epidemics, which thin ranks more than the cannon, says to itself, 'There is a man for me!' Any doctor will tell you that, even at home, the gay and light-hearted walk safe through the pestilence, which settles on the moping as malaria settles on a marsh. Confound Guy Darrell's ancestors, they have spoilt Queen Victoria as good a young soldier as ever wore a sword by his side! Six months ago, and how blithely Lionel Haughton looked forth to the future!--all laurel!--no cypress! And now I feel as if I had shaken hands with a victim sacrificed by Superstition to the tombs of the dead. I cannot blame Darrell: I dare say in the same position I might do the same. But no; on second thoughts, I should not. If Darrell does not choose to marry and have sons of his own, he has no right to load a poor boy with benefits, and say: 'There is but one way to prove your gratitude; remember my ancestors, and be miserable for the rest of your days!' Darrell, forsooth, intends to leave to Lionel the transmission of the old Darrell name; and the old Darrell name must not be tarnished by the marriage on which Lionel has unluckily set his heart! I respect the old name; but it is not like the House of Vipont--a British Institution. And if some democratical cholera, which does not care a rush for old names, carries off Lionel, what becomes of the old name then? Lionel is not Darrell's son; Lionel need not perforce take the old name. Let the young man live as Lionel Haughton, and the old name die with Guy Darrell!

"As to the poor girl's birth and parentage, I believe we shall never know them. I quite agree with Darrell that it will be wisest never to inquire. But I dismiss, as farfetched and improbable, his supposition that she is Gabrielle Desmaret's daughter. To me it is infinitely more likely, either that the deposition of the nurse, which poor Willy gave to Darrell, and which Darrell showed to me, is true (only that Jasper was conniving at the temporary suspension of his child's existence while it suited his purpose)--or that, at the worst, this mysterious young lady is the daughter of the artiste. In the former supposition, as I have said over and over again, a marriage between Lionel and Sophy is precisely that which Darrell should desire; in the latter case, of course, if Lionel were the head of the House of Vipont, the idea of such an union would be inadmissible. But Lionel, _entre nous_, is the son of a ruined spendthrift by a linen-draper's daughter. And Darrell has but to give the handsome young couple five or six thousand a year, and I know the world well enough to know that the world will trouble itself very little about their pedigrees. And really Lionel should be left wholly free to choose whether he prefer a girl whom he loves with his whole heart, five or six thousand a year, happiness, and the chance of honours in a glorious profession to which he will then look with glad spirits--or a life-long misery, with the right, after Darrell's death--that I hope will not be these thirty years--to bear the name of Darrell instead of Haughton; which, if I were the last of the Haughtons, and had any family pride--as, thank Heaven I have not--would be a painful exchange to me; and dearly bought by the addition of some additional thousands a year, when I had grown perhaps as little disposed to spend them as Guy Darrell himself is. But, after all, there is one I compassionate even more than young Haughton. My morning rides of late have been much in the direction of Twickenham, visiting our fair cousin Lady Montfort. I went first to lecture her for letting these young people see so much of each other. But my anger melted into admiration and sympathy when I found with what tender, exquisite, matchless friendship she had been all the while scheming for Darrell's happiness; and with what remorse she now contemplated the sorrow which a friendship so grateful, and a belief so natural, had innocently occasioned. That remorse is wearing her to death. Dr. F------, who attended poor dear Willy, is also attending her; and he told me privately that his skill was in vain--that her case baffled him; and he had very serious apprehensions. Darrell owes some consideration to such a friend. And to think that here are lives permanently embittered, if not risked, by the ruthless obstinacy of the best-hearted man I ever met! Now, though I have already intimated my opinions to Darrell with a candour due to the oldest and dearest of my friends, yet I have never, of course, in the letters I have written to him or the talk we have had together, spoken out so plainly as I do in writing to you. And having thus written, without awe of his grey eye and dark brow, I have half as mind to add 'seize him in a happy moment and show him this letter.' Yes, I give you full leave; show it to him if you think it would avail. If not, throw it into the fire, and--pray Heaven for those whom we poor mortals cannot serve."

On the envelope Alban had added these words: "But of course, before showing the enclosed, you will prepare Darrell's mind to weigh its contents." And probably it was in that curt and simple injunction that the subtle man of the world evinced the astuteness of which not a trace was apparent in the body of his letter.

Though Alban's communication had much excited his nephew, yet George had not judged it discreet to avail himself of the permission to show it to Darrell. It seemed to him that the pride of his host would take much more offence at its transmission through the hands of a third person than at the frank tone of its reasonings and suggestions. And George had determined to re-enclose it to the Colonel, urging him to forward it himself to Darrell just as it was, with but a brief line to say, "that, on reflection, Alban submitted direct to his old school-fellow the reasonings and apprehensions which he had so unreservedly poured forth in a letter commenced without the intention at which the writer arrived at the close." But now that the preacher had undertaken the duty of an advocate, the letter became his brief.

George passed through the library, through the study, up the narrow stair that finally conducted to the same lofty cell in which Darrell had confronted the midnight robber who claimed a child in Sophy. With a nervous hand George knocked at the door.

Unaccustomed to any intrusion on the part of guest or household in that solitary retreat, somewhat sharply, as if in anger, Darrell's voice answered the knock.

"Who's there?"

"George Morley."

Darrell opened the door.

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