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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 21
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What Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 21 Post by :dant245 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3292

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What Will He Do With It - Book 7 - Chapter 21

BOOK VII CHAPTER XXI

IN LIFE, AS IN ART, THE BEAUTIFUL MOVES IN CURVES.

They have dined.--George Morley takes the oars, and the boat cuts through the dance of waves flushed by the golden sunset. Beautiful river! which might furnish the English tale-teller with legends wild as those culled on shores licked by Hydaspes, and sweet as those which Cephisus ever blended with the songs of nightingales and the breath of violets! But what true English poet ever names thee, O Father Thames, without a melodious tribute? And what child ever whiled away summer noons along thy grassy banks, nor hallowed thy remembrance among the fairy days of life?

Silently Lionel bent over the side of the gliding boat; his mind carried back to the same soft stream five years ago. How vast a space in his short existence those five years seemed to fill! And how distant from the young man, rich in the attributes of wealth, armed with each weapon of distinction, seemed the hour when the boy had groaned aloud, "'Fortune is so far, Fame so impossible!'" Farther and farther yet than his present worldly station from his past seemed the image that had first called forth in his breast the dreamy sentiment, which the sternest of us in after life never, utterly forget. Passions rage and vanish, and when all their storms are gone, yea, it may be, at the verge of the very grave, we look back and see like a star the female face, even though it be a child's, that first set us vaguely wondering at the charm in a human presence, at the void in a smile withdrawn! How many of us could recall a Beatrice through the gaps of ruined hope, seen, as by the Florentine, on the earth a guileless infant, in the heavens a spirit glorified! Yes--Laura was an affectation--Beatrice a reality!

George's voice broke somewhat distastefully on Lionel's reverie. "We near our destination, and you have not asked me even the name of the lady to whom you are to render homage. It is Lady Montfort, widow to the last Marquess. You have no doubt heard Mr. Darrell speak of her?"

"Never Mr. Darrell--Colonel Morley often. And in the world I have heard her cited as perhaps the handsomest, and certainly the haughtiest, woman in England."

"Never heard Mr. Darrell mention her! that is strange indeed," said George Morley, catching at Lionel's first words, and unnoticing his after comment. "She was much in his house as a child, shared in his daughter's education."

"Perhaps for that very reason he shuns her name. Never but once did I hear him allude to his daughter; nor can I wonder at that, if it be true, as I have been told by people who seem to know very little of the particulars, that, while yet scarcely out of the nursery, she fled from his house with some low adventurer--a Mr. Hammond--died abroad the first year of that unhappy marriage."

"Yes, that is the correct outline of the story; and, as you guess, it explains why Mr. Darrell avoids mention of one, whom he associates with his daughter's name; though, if you desire a theme dear to Lady Montfort, you can select none that more interests her grateful heart than praise of the man who saved her mother from penury, and secured to herself the accomplishments and instruction which have been her chief solace."

"Chief solace! Was she not happy with Lord Montfort? What sort of man was he?"

"I owe to Lord Montfort the living I hold, and I can remember the good qualities alone of a benefactor. If Lady Montfort was not happy with him, it is just to both to say that she never complained. But there is much in Lady Montfort's character which the Marquess apparently failed to appreciate; at all events, they had little in common, and what was called Lady Montfort's haughtiness was perhaps but the dignity with which a woman of grand nature checks the pity that would debase her--the admiration that would sully--guards her own beauty, and protects her husband's name. Here we are. Will you stay for a few minutes in the boat, while I go to prepare Lady Montfort for your visit?"

George leapt ashore, and Lionel remained under the covert of mighty willows that dipped their leaves into the wave. Looking through the green interstices of the foliage, he saw at the far end of the lawn, on a curving bank by which the glittering tide shot oblique, a simple arbour--an arbour like that from which he had looked upon summer stars five years ago--not so densely covered with the honeysuckle; still the honeysuckle, recently trained there, was fast creeping up the sides; and through the trellis of the woodwork and the leaves of the flowering shrub, he just caught a glimpse of some form within--the white robe of a female form in a slow gentle movement-tending perhaps the flowers that wreathed the arbour. Now it was still, now it stirred again; now it was suddenly lost to view. Had the inmate left the arbour? Was the inmate Lady Montfort? George Morley's step had not passed in that direction.

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BOOK VII CHAPTER XXIIA QUIET SCENE-AN UNQUIET HEART. Meanwhile, not far from the willow-bank which sheltered Lionel, but far enough to be out of her sight and beyond her hearing, George Morley found Lady Montfort seated alone. It was a spot on which Milton might have placed the lady in "Comus"--a circle of the smoothest sward, ringed everywhere (except at one opening which left the glassy river in full view) with thick bosks of dark evergreens and shrubs of livelier verdure; oak and chest nut backing and overhanging all. Flowers, too, raised on rustic tiers and stages; a tiny fountain, shooting
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