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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 11
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What Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 11 Post by :Donna_Maher Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2891

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What Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 11

BOOK XII CHAPTER XI

THE CRISIS--PUBLIC AND PRIVATE.

Lady Montfort's carriage stopped at Colonel Morley's door just as Carr Vipont was coming out. Carr, catching sight of her, bustled up to the carriage window.

"My dear Lady Montfort!--not seen you for an age! What times we live in! How suddenly THE CRISIS has come upon us! Sad loss in poor dear Montfort; no wonder you mourn for him! Had his failings, true--who is not mortal?--but always voted right; always to be relied on in times of CRISIS! But this crotchety fellow, who has so unluckily, for all but himself, walked into that property, is the loosest fish! And what is a House divided against itself? Never was the Constitution in such peril!--I say it deliberately!--and here is the Head of the Viponts humming and haaing, and asking whether Guy Darrell will join the Cabinet. And if Guy Darrell will not, we have no more chance of the Montfort interest than if we were Peep-o'-day Boys. But excuse me; I must be off; every moment is precious in times of CRISIS. Think, if we can't form a Cabinet by to-morrow night--only think what may happen; the other fellows will come in, and then--THE DELUGE!"

Carr is gone to find mops and Dame Partingtons to stave off the deluge. Colonel Morley has obeyed Lady Montfort's summons, and has entered the carriage. Before she can speak, however, he has rushed into the subject of which he himself is full. "Only think--I knew it would be so when the moment came; all depends upon Guy Darrell; Montfort, who seems always in a fright lest a newspaper should fall on his head and crush him, says that if Darrell, whom he chooses to favour just because the newspapers do, declines to join, the newspapers will say the CRISIS is a job! Fancy!--a job--the CRISIS! Lord Mowbray de l'Arco and Sir Josiah Snodge, who are both necessary to a united government, but who unluckily detest each other, refuse to sit in the same Cabinet, unless Darrell sit between--to save them, I suppose, from the fate of the cats of Kilkenny. Sir John Cautly, our crack county member, declares that if Darrell does not come in, 'tis because the CRISIS is going too far! Harry Bold, our most popular speaker, says, if Darrell stay out, 'tis a sign that the CRISIS is a retrograde movement! In short, without Darrell the CRISIS will be a failure, and the House of Vipont smashed--Lady Montfort--smashed! I sent a telegram (oh, that I should live to see such a word introduced into the English language!--but, as Carr says, what times these are!) to Fawley this morning, entreating Guy to come up to town at once. He answers by a line from Horace, which means, 'that he will see me shot first.' I must go down to him; only waiting to know the result of certain negotiations as to measures. I have but one hope. There is a measure which Darrell always privately advocated--which he thoroughly understands--which, placed in his hands, would be triumphantly carried; one of those measures, Lady Montfort, which, if defective, shipwreck a government; if framed as Guy Darrell could frame it, immortalise the minister who concocts and carries them. This is all that Darrell needs to complete his fame and career. This is at length an occasion to secure a durable name in the history of his country; let him reject it, and I shall tell him frankly that his life has been but a brilliant failure. Since he has not a seat in Parliament, and usage requires the actual possession of that qualification for a seat in the Cabinet, we must lose his voice in the Commons. But we can arrange that; for if Darrell will but join the government, and go--to the Lords, Sir Josiah Snodge, who has a great deal of voice and a great deal of jealousy, will join too--head the Vipont interest in the Commons--and speak to the country--speak every night--and all night, too, if required. Yes; Darrell must take the peerage--devote himself for a year or two to this great measure--to the consolidation of his fame--to the redemption of the House of Vipont--and to the Salvation of the Empire; and then, if he please, 'solve senescentem'--that is, he may retire from harness, and browse upon laurels for the rest of his days!"

Colonel Morley delivered himself of this long address without interruption from a listener interested in every word that related to Guy Darrell, and in every hope that could reunite him to the healthful activities of life.

It was now Lady Montfort's turn to speak; though, after subjects so momentous as the Crisis and its speculative consequences, private affairs, relating to a poor little girl like Sophy--nay, the mere private affairs of Darrell himself, seemed a pitiful bathos. Lady Montfort, however, after a few words of womanly comment upon the only part of the Colonel's discourse which touched her heart, hastened on to describe her interview with Arabella, and the melaneboly condition of Darrell's once formidable son-in-law. For that last, the Colonel evinced no more compassionate feeling than any true Englishman, at the time I am writing, would demonstrate for a murderous Sepoy tied to the mouth of a cannon.

"A very good riddance," said the Colonel, dryly. "Great relief to Darrell, and to every one else whom that monster tormented and preyed on; and with his life will vanish the only remaining obstacle in righting poor Willy's good name. I hope to live to collect, from all parts of the country, Willy's old friends and give them a supper, at which I suppose I must not get drunk; though I should rather like it, than not! But I interrupt you! go on."

Lady Montfort proceeded to state the substance of the papers she had perused in reference to the mystery which had been the cause of so much disquietude and bitterness.

The Colonel stretched out his hand eagerly for the documents--thus quoted. He hurried his eye rapidly over the contents of the first paper he lit on, and then said, pulling out his watch: "Well, I have half an hour yet to spare in discussing these matters with you--may I order your coachman to drive round the Regent's Park?--better than keeping it thus at my door, with four old maids for opposite neighbours." The order was given, and the Colonel again returned to the papers. Suddenly he looked up--looked full into Lady Montfort's face, with a thoughtful, searching gaze, which made her drop her own eyes! and she saw that he had been reading Jasper's confession, relating to his device for breaking off her engagement to Darrell, which in her hurry and excitement she had neglected to abstract from the other documents. "Oh, not that paper--you are not to read that," she cried, quickly covering the writing with her hand.

"Too late, my dear cousin. I have read it. All is now clear. Lionel was right; and I was right too, in my convictions, though Darrell put so coolly aside my questions when I was last at Fawley. I am justified now in all the pains I took to secure Lionel's marriage--in the cunning cruelty of my letter to George! Know, Lady Montfort, that if Lionel had sacrificed his happiness to respect for Guy's ancestor-worship, Guy Darrell would have held himself bound in honour never to marry again. He told me so--told me he should be a cheat if he took any step to rob one from whom he had exacted such an offering-of the name, and the heritage, for which the offering had been made. And I then resolved that County Guy should not thus irrevocably shut the door on his own happiness! Lady Montfort, you know that this man loves you--as, verily, I believe, never other man in our cold century loved woman;--through desertion--through change--amidst grief--amidst resentment--despite pride;--dead to all other love--shrinking from all other ties--on, constant on-carrying in the depth of his soul to the verge of age, secret and locked up, the hopeless passion of his manhood. Do you not see that it is through you, and you alone, that Guy Darrell has for seventeen years been lost to the country he was intended to serve and to adorn? Do you not feel that if he now reject this last opportunity to redeem years so wasted, and achieve a fame that may indeed link his Ancestral Name to the honours of Posterity, you, and you alone, are the cause?"

"Alas--alas--but what can I do?"

"Do!--ay, true. The poor fellow is old now; you cannot care for him!--you still young, and so unluckily beautiful!--you, for whom young princes might vie. True; you can have no feeling for Guy Darrell, except pity!"

"Pity! I hate the word!" cried Lady Montfort, with as much petulance as if she had still been the wayward lively Caroline of old.

Again the Man of the World directed toward her face his shrewd eyes, and dropped out, "See him!"

"But I have seen him. You remember I went to plead for Lionel and Sophy--in vain!"

"Not in vain. George writes me word that he has informed you of Darrell's consent to their marriage. And I am much mistaken if his greatest consolation in the pang that consent must have cost him be not the thought that it relieves you from the sorrow and remorse his refusal had occasioned to you. Ah! there is but one person who can restore Darrell to the world-and that is yourself!"

Lady Montfort shook her head drearily.

"If I had but an excuse--with dignity--with self-respect--to--to--!'

"An excuse! You have an absolute necessity to communicate with Darrell. You have to give him these documents--to explain how you came by them. Sophy is with him; you are bound to see her on a subject of such vital importance to herself. Scruples of prudery! You, Caroline Lyndsay, the friend of his daughter--you whose childhood was reared in his very house--you whose mother owed to him such obligations--you to scruple in being the first to acquaint him with information affecting him so nearly! And why, forsooth? Because, ages ago, your hand was, it seems, engaged to him, and you were deceived by false appearances, like a silly young girl as you were."

Again Lady Montfort shook her head drearily--drearily. "Well," said the Colonel, changing his tone, "I will grant that those former ties can't be renewed now. The man now is as old as the hills, and you had no right to expect that he would have suffered so much at being very naturally jilted for a handsome young Marquess."

"Cease, sir, cease," cried Caroline, angrily. The Colonel coolly persisted.

"I see now that such nuptials are out of the question. But has the world come to such a pass that one can never at any age have a friend in a lady unless she marry him? Scruple to accompany me--me your cousin--me your nearest surviving relation--in order to take back the young lady you have virtually adopted!--scruple to trust yourself for half an hour to that tumbledown old Fawley! Are you afraid that the gossips will say you, the Marchioness of Montfort, are running after a gloomy old widower, and scheming to be mistress of a mansion more like a ghosttrap than a residence for civilised beings? Or are you afraid that Guy Darrell will be fool and fop enough to think you are come to force on him your hand? Pooh, pooh! Such scruples would be in place if you were a portionless forward girl, or if he were a conceited young puppy, or even a suspicious old roue. But Guy Darrell--a man of his station, his character, his years! And you, cousin Caroline, what are you? Surely, lifted above all such pitiful crotchets by a rank amongst the loftiest gentlewomen of England; ample fortune, a beauty that in itself is rank and wealth; and, above all, a character that has passed with such venerated purity through an ordeal in which every eye seeks a spot, every ear invites a scandal. But as you will. All I say is, that Darrell's future may be in your hands; that after to-morrow, the occasion to give at least noble occupation and lasting renown to a mind that is devouring itself and stifling its genius, may be irrevocably lost; and that I do believe, if you said to-morrow to Guy Daxrell, 'You refused to hear me when I pleaded for what you thought a disgrace to your name, and yet even that you at last conceded to the voice of affection as if of duty--now hear me when I plead by the side of your oldest friend on behalf of your honour, and in the name of your forefathers,'--if You say THAT, he is won to his country. You will have repaired a wrong; and, pray, will you have compromised your dignity?"

Caroline had recoiled into the corner of the carriage, her mantle close down round her breast, her veil lowered; but no sheltering garb or veil could conceal her agitation.

The Colonel pulled the check-string. "Nothing so natural; you are the widow of the Head of the House of Vipont. You are, or ought to be, deeply interested in its fate. An awful CRISIS, long expected, has occurred. The House trembles. A connection of that House can render it an invaluable service; that connection is the man at whose hearth your childhood was reared; and you go with me--me, who am known to be moving heaven and earth for every vote that the House can secure, to canvass this wavering connection for his support and assistance. Nothing, I say, so natural; and yet you scruple to serve the House of Vipont--to save your country! You may well be agitated. I leave you to your own reflections. My time runs short; I will get out here. Trust me with these documents. I will see to the rest of this long painful subject. I will send a special report to you this evening, and you will reply by a single line to the prayer I have ventured to address to you."

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