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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 18
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What Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 18 Post by :Chuks52 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :497

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What Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 18

BOOK VII CHAPTER XVIII

NO COINAGE IN CIRCULATION SO FLUCTUATES IN VALUE AS THE WORTH OF A MARRIAGEABLE MAN.

Colonel Morley was not surprised (that, we know, he could not be, by any fresh experience of human waywardness and caprice), but much disturbed and much vexed by the unexpected nature of Darrell's communication. Schemes for Darrell's future lead become plans of his own. Talk with his old school-fellow had, within the last three months, entered into the pleasures of his age. Darrell's abrupt and final renunciation of this social world made at once a void in the business of Alban's mind, and in the affections of Alban's heart. And no adequate reason assigned for so sudden a flight and so morbid a resolve! Some tormenting remembrance--some rankling grief--distinct from those of which Alban was cognisant, from those in which he had been consulted, was implied, but by vague and general hints. But what was the remembrance or the grief, Alban Morley, who knew everything, was quite persuaded that Darrell would never suffer him to know. Could it be in any way connected with those three young ladies to whom Darrell's attentions had been so perversely impartial? The Colonel did not fail to observe that to those young ladies Darrell's letter made no allusion. Was it not possible that he had really felt for one of them a deeper sentiment than a man advanced in years ever likes to own even to his nearest friend--hazarded a proposal, and met with a rebuff? If so, Alban conjectured the female culprit by whom the sentiment had been inspired, and the rebuff administered. "That mischievous kitten, Flora Vyvyan," growled the Colonel. "I always felt that she had the claws of a tigress under her _patte de velours_!" Roused by this suspicion, he sallied forth to call on the Vyvyans. Mr. Vyvyan, a widower, one of those quiet gentleman-like men who sit much in the drawing-room and like receiving morning visitors, was at home to him. "So Darrell has left town for the season," said the Colonel, pushing straight to the point.

"Yes," said Mr. Vyvyan. "I had a note from him this morning to say he had renounced all hope of--"

"What?" cried the Colonel.

"Joining us in Switzerland. I am so sorry. Flora still more sorry. She is accustomed to have her own way, and she had set her heart on hearing Darrell read 'Manfred' in sight of the Jungfrau!"

"Um!" said the Colonel. "What might be sport to her might be death to him. A man at his age is not too old to fall in love with a young lady of hers. But he is too old not to be extremely ridiculous to such a young lady if he does."

"Colonel Morley--Fie!" cried an angry voice behind him. Flora had entered the room unobserved. Her face was much flushed, and her eyelids looked as if tears had lately swelled beneath them, and were swelling still.

"What have I said to merit your rebuke?" asked the Colonel composedly.

"Said! coupled the thought of ridicule with the name of Mr. Darrell!"

"Take care, Morley," said Mr. Vyvyan, laughing. "Flora is positively superstitious in her respect for Guy Darrell; and you cannot offend her more than by implying that he is mortal. Nay, child, it is very natural. Quite apart from his fame, there is something in that man's familiar talk, or rather, perhaps, in the very sound of his voice, which makes most other society seem flat and insipid.

"I feel it myself. And when Flora's young admirers flutter and babble round her--just after Darrell has quitted his chair beside her--they seem very poor company. I am sure, Flora," continued Vyvyan kindly, "that the mere acquaintance of such a man has done you much good; and I am now in great hopes that, whenever you marry, it will be a man of sense."

"Um!" again said the Colonel, eyeing Flora aslant, but with much attention. "How I wish, for my friend's sake, that he was of an age which inspired Miss Vyvyan with less--veneration."

Flora turned her back on the Colonel, looking out of the window, and her small foot beating the ground with nervous irritation.

"It was given out that Darrell intended to marry again," said Mr. Vyvyan. "A man of that sort requires a very superior highly-educated woman; and if Miss Carr Vipont had been a little more of his age she would have just suited him. But I am patriot enough to hope that he will remain single, and have no wife but his country, like Mr. Pitt." The Colonel having now satisfied his curiosity, and assured himself that Darrell was, there at least, no rejected suitor, rose and approached Flora to make peace and to take leave. As he held out his hand, he was struck with the change in a countenance usually so gay in its aspect--it spoke of more than dejection, it betrayed distress; when she took his hand, she retained it, and looked into his eyes wistfully; evidently there was something on her mind which she wished to express and did not know how. At length she said in a whisper: "You are Mr. Darrell's most intimate friend; I have heard him say so; shall you see him soon?"

"I fear not; but why?"

"Why? you, his friend; do you not perceive that he is not happy? I, a mere stranger, saw it at the first. You should cheer and comfort him; you have that right--it is a noble privilege."

"My dear young lady," said the Colonel, touched, "you have a better heart than I thought for. It is true Darrell is not a happy man; but can you give me any message that might cheer him more than an old bachelor's commonplace exhortations to take heart, forget the rains of yesterday, and hope for some gleam of sun on the morrow?"

"No," said Flora, sadly, "it would be a presumption indeed in me, to affect the consoler's part; but"--(her lips quivered)--"but if I may judge by his letter, I may never see him again."

"His letter! He has written to you, then, as well as to your father?"

"Yes," said Flora, confused and colouring, "a few lines in answer to a silly note of mine; yes, tell him that I shall never forget his kind counsels, his delicate, indulgent construction of--of--in short, tell him my father is right, and that I shall be better and wiser all my life for the few short weeks in which I have known Guy Darrell."

"What secrets are you two whispering there?" asked Mr. Vyvyan from his easy-chair.

"Ask her ten years hence," said the Colonel, as he retreated to the door. "The fairest leaves in the flower are the last that the bud will disclose."

From Mr. Vyvyan the Colonel went to Lord -----'s. His lordship had also heard from Darrell that morning; Darrell declined the invitation to ----Hall; business at Fawley. Lady Adela had borne the disappointment with her wonted serenity of temper, and had gone out shopping. Darrell had certainly not offered his hand in that quarter; had he done so--whether refused or accepted--all persons yet left in London would have heard the news. Thence the Colonel repaired to Carr Vipont's. Lady Selina was at home and exceedingly cross. Carr had been astonished by a letter from Mr. Darrell, dated Fawley--left town for the season without even calling to take leave--a most eccentric man. She feared his head was a little touched--that he knew it, but did not like to own it--perhaps the doctors had told him he must keep quiet, and not excite himself with politics. "I had thought," said Lady Selina, "that he might have felt a growing attachment for Honoria; and considering the disparity of years, and that Honoria certainly might marry any one, he was too proud to incur the risk of refusal. But I will tell you in confidence, as a relation and dear friend, that Honoria has a very superior mind, and might have overlooked the mere age: congenial tastes--you understand. But on thinking it all over, I begin to doubt whether that be the true reason for his running away in this wild sort of manner. My maid tells me that his house-steward called to say that the establishment was to be broken up. That looks as if he had resigned London for good; just, too, when, Carr says, the CRISIS, so long put off, is sure to burst on us. I'm quite sick of clever men--one never knows how to trust them; if they are not dishonest they are eccentric! I have just been telling Honoria that clever men are, after all, the most tiresome husbands. Well, what makes you so silent? What do you say? Why don't you speak?"

"I am slowly recovering from my shock," said the Colonel. "So Darrell shirks the CRISIS, and has not even hinted a preference for Honoria, the very girl in all London that would have made him a safe, rational companion. I told him so, and he never denied it. But it is a comfort to think he is no loss. Old monster!"

"Nay," said Lady Selina, mollified by so much sympathy, "I don't say he is no loss. Honestly speaking--between ourselves--I think he is a very great loss. An alliance between him and Honoria would have united all the Vipont influence. Lord Montfort has the greatest confidence in Darrell; and if this CRISIS comes, it is absolutely necessary for the Vipont interest that it should find somebody who can speak. Really, my dear Colonel Morley, you, who have such an influence over this very odd man, should exert it now. One must not be over-nice in times of CRISIS; the country is at stake, Cousin Alban."

"I will do my best," said the Colonel; "I am quite aware that an alliance which would secure Darrell's talents to the House of Vipont, and the House of Vipont to Darrell's talents, would--but 'tis no use talking, we must not sacrifice Honoria even on the altar of her country's interest!"

"Sacrifice! Nonsense! The man is not young certainly, but then what a grand creature, and so clever."

"Clever--yes! But that was your very objection to him five minutes ago."

"I forgot the CRISIS.--One don't want clever men every day, but there are days when one does want them!"

"I envy you that aphorism. But from what you now imply, I fear that Honoria may have allowed her thoughts to settle upon what may never take place; and if so, she may fret."

"Fret! a daughter of mine fret!--and of all my daughters, Honoria! A girl of the best-disciplined mind! Fret! what a word!--vulgar!"

COLONEL MORLEY.--"So it is; I blush for it; but let us understand each other. If Darrell proposed for Honoria, you think, ambition apart, she would esteem him sufficiently for a decided preference."

LADY SELINA,--"If that be his doubt, re-assure him. He is shy-men of genius are; Honoria would esteem him! Till he has actually proposed it would compromise her to say more even to you."

COLONEL MORLEY.--"And if that be not the doubt, and if I ascertain that Darrell has no idea of proposing, Honoria would--"

LADY SELINA.--"Despise him. Ah, I see by your countenance that you think I should prepare her. Is it so, frankly?"

COLONEL MORLEY.--"Frankly, then. I think Guy Darrell, like many other men, has been so long in making up his mind to marry again that he has lost the right moment, and will never find it."

Lady Selina smells at her vinaigrette, and replies in her softest, affectedest, civilest, and crushingest manner: "POOR--DEAR--OLD MAN!"

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