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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 4
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What Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 4 Post by :Cheetaz Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1016

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What Will He Do With It - Book 12 - Chapter 4

BOOK XII CHAPTER IV

Immunis aram si tetigit manus,
Non sumptuosa blandior hostia,
Mollivit aversas Penates,
Farre pio et saliente mica.--HORAT.


It is the grey of the evening. Fairthorn is sauntering somewhat sullenly along the banks of the lake. He has missed, the last three days, his walk with Sophy--missed the pleasing excitement of talking at her, and of the family in whose obsolete glories he considers her very interest an obtrusive impertinence. He has missed, too, his more habitual and less irritating conversation with Darrell. In short, altogether he is put out, and he vents his spleen on the swans, who follow him along the wave as he walks along the margin, intimating either their affection for himself, or their anticipation of the bread-crumbs associated with his image--by the amiable note, half snort and half grunt, to which change of time or climate has reduced the vocal accomplishments of those classical birds, so pathetically melodious in the age of Moschus and on the banks of Cayster.

"Not a crumb, you unprincipled beggars," growled the musician. "You imagine that mankind are to have no other thought but that of supplying you with luxuries! And if you were asked, in a competitive examination, to define ME, your benefactor, you would say: 'A thing very low in the scale of creation, without wings or even feathers, but which Providence endowed with a peculiar instinct for affording nutritious and palatable additions to the ordinary aliment of Swans!' Ay, you may grunt; I wish I had you--in a pie!"

Slowly, out through the gap between yon grey crag and the thorn-tree, paces the doe, halting to drink just where the faint star of eve shoots its gleam along the wave. The musician forgets the swans and quickens his pace, expecting to meet the doe's wonted companion. He is not disappointed. He comes on Guy Darrell where the twilight shadow falls darkest between the grey crag and the thorn-tree.

"Dear Fellow Hermit," said Darrell, almost gaily, yet with more than usual affection in his greeting and voice, "you find me just when I want you. I am as one whose eyes have been strained by a violent conflict of colours, and your quiet presence is like the relief of a return to green. I have news for you, Fairthorn. You, who know more of my secrets than any other man, shall be the first to learn a decision that must bind you and me more together--but not in these scenes, Dick.


'Ibimus--ibimus!
--------------------Supremum
Carpere iter, comites, parati!'"

"What do you mean, sir?" asked Fairthorn. "My mind always misgives me when I hear you quoting Horace. Some reflection about the certainty of death, or other disagreeable subjects, is sure to follow!"

"Death! No, Dick--not now. Marriage-bells and joy, Dick! We shall have a wedding!"

"What! You will marry at last! And it must be that beautiful Caroline Lyndsay! It must--it must! You can never love another! You know it, my dear, dear master. I shall see you, then, happy before I die."

"Tut, foolish old friend!" said Darrell, leaning his aria tenderly on Fairthorn's shoulder, and walking on slowly towards the house. "How often must I tell you that no Marriage-bells can ring for me!"

"But you have told me, too, that you went to Twickenham to steal a sight of her again; and that it was the sight of her that made you resolve to wed no one else. And when I have railed against her for fickleness, have you not nearly frightened me out of my wits, as if no one might rail against her but yourself? And now she is free--and did you not grant that she would not refuse your hand, and would be true and faithful henceforth? And yet you insist on being--granite."

"No, Dick, not granite; I wish I were."

"Granite and pride," persisted Dick, courageously. "If one chips a bit off the granite, one only breaks one's spade against the pride."

"Pride--you too!" muttered Darrell, mournfully; then aloud: "No, it is not pride now, whatever it might have been even yesterday. But I would rather be racked by all the tortures that pious inquisitors ever invented out of compassion for obstinate heretics, than condemn the woman I have so fatally loved to a penance the misery of which she cannot foresee. She would accept me?--certainly! Why! Because she thinks she owes me reparation--because she pities me. And my heart tells me that I might become cruel, and mean, and vindictive, if I were to live day by day with one who created in me, while my life was at noon, a love never known in its morn, and to feel that that love's sole return was the pity vouchsafed to the nightfall of my age. No; if she pitied, but did not love me, when, eighteen years ago, we parted under yonder beech-tree, I should be a dotard to dream that woman's pity mellows into love as our locks become grey, and Youth turns our vows into ridicule. It is not pride that speaks here; it is rather humility, Dick. But we must not now talk of old age and bygones. Youth and marriage-bells, Dick! Know that, I have been for hours pondering how to reconcile with my old-fashioned notions dear Lionel's happiness. We must think of the living as well as the dead, Dick. I have solved the problem. I am happy, and so shall the young folks be."

"You don't mean to say that you will consent to--"

"Yes, to Lionel's marriage with that beautiful girl, whose parentage we never will ask. Great men are their own ancestors; why not sometimes fair women? Enough--I consent! I shall of course secure to my kinsman and his bride an ample fortune. Lionel will have time for his honeymoon before he departs for the wars. He will fight with good heart now, Dick. Young folks of the present day cannot bear up against sorrow, as they were trained to do in mine. And that amiable lady who has so much pity for me has, of course, still more pity for a charming young couple for whose marriage she schemed, in order to give me a home, Dick. And rather than she should pine and fall ill, and--no matter; all shall be settled as it should be for the happiness of the living. But something else must be settled; we must think of the dead as well as the living; and this name of Darrell shall be buried with me in the grave beside my father's. Lionel Haughton will keep to his own name. Live the Haughtons! Perish, but with no blot on their shield--perish the Darrells! Why, what is that? Tears, Dick? Pooh!--be a man! And I want all your strength; for you, too, must have a share in the sacrifice. What follows is not the dictate of pride, if I can read myself aright. No; it is the final completion and surrender of the object on which so much of my life has been wasted--but a surrender that satisfies my crotchets of honour. At all events, if it be pride in disguise, it will demand no victim in others; you and I may have a sharp pang--we must bear it, Dick."

"What on earth is coming now?" said Dick, dolefully.

"The due to the dead, Richara Fairthorn. This nook of fair England, in which I learned from the dead to love honour--this poor domain of Fawley--shall go in bequest to the College at which I was reared."

"Sir!"

"It will serve for a fellowship or two to honest, bravehearted young scholars. It will be thus, while English institutions may last, devoted to Learning and Honour. It may sustain for mankind some ambition more generous than mine, it appears, ever was--settled thus, not in mine, but my dear father's name, like the Darrell Museum. These are my dues to the dead, Dick! And the old house thus becomes useless. The new house was ever a folly. They must go down, both, as soon as the young folks are married;--not a stone stand on stone! The ploughshare shall pass over their sites! And this task I order you to see done. I have not strength. You will then hasten to join me at Sorrento, that corner of earth on which Horace wished to breathe his last sigh.


'Ille to mecum locus et beatae
Postulant arces--ibi--tu '"


"Don't, sir, don't. Horace again! It is too much." Fairthorn was choking; but as if the idea presented to him was really too monstrous for belief, he clutched at Darrell with so uncertain and vehement a hand that he almost caught him by the throat, and sobbed out, "You must be joking."

"Seriously and solemnly, Richara Fairthorn," said Darrell, gently disentangling the fingers that threatened him with strangulation, "seriously and solemnly I have uttered to you my deliberate purpose. I implore you, in the name of our life-long friendship, to face this pain as I do--resolutely, cheerfully. I implore you to execute to the letter the instructions I shall leave with you on quitting England, which I shall do the day Lionel is married; and then, dear old friend, calm days, clear consciences:--In climes where whole races have passed away--proud cities themselves sunk in graves--where our petty grief for a squirearch's lost house we shall both grow ashamed to indulge--there we will moralise, rail against vain dreams and idle pride, cultivate vines and orange trees, with Horace--nay, nay, Dick--with the FLUTE!"

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