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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 8 - Chapter 6
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What Will He Do With It - Book 8 - Chapter 6 Post by :dant245 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3133

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What Will He Do With It - Book 8 - Chapter 6



George Morley set out the next day for Norwich, in which antique city, ever since the 'Dane peopled it, some wizard or witch, star-reader, or crystal-seer' has enjoyed a mysterious renown, perpetuating thus through all change in our land's social progress the long line of Vala and Saga, who came with the Raven and Valkyr from Scandinavian pine shores. Merle's reserve vanished on the perusal of Sophy's letter to him. He informed George that Waife declared he had plenty of money, and had even forced a loan upon Merle; but that he liked an active, wandering life; it kept him from thinking, and that a pedlar's pack would give him a license for vagrancy, and a budget to defray its expenses; that Merle had been consulted by him in the choice of light popular wares, and as to the route he might find the most free from competing rivals. Merle willingly agreed to accompany George in quest of the wanderer, whom, by the help of his crystal, he seemed calmly sure he could track and discover. Accordingly, they both set out in the somewhat devious and desultory road which Merle, who had some old acquaintances amongst the ancient profession of hawkers, had advised Waife to take. But Merle, unhappily confiding more in his crystal than Waife's steady adherence to the chart prescribed, led the Oxford scholar the life of a will-of-the-wisp; zigzag, and shooting to and fro, here and there, till, just when George had lost all patience, Merle chanced to see, not in the crystal, a pelerine on the neck of a farmer's daughter, which he was morally certain he had himself selected for Waife's pannier. And the girl stating in reply to his inquiry that her father had bought that pelerine as a present for her, not many days before, of a pedlar in a neighbouring town, to the market of which the farmer resorted weekly, Merle cast an horary scheme, and finding the Third House (of short journeys) in favourable aspect to the Seventh House (containing the object desired), and in conjunction with the Eleventh House (friends), he gravely informed the scholar that their toils were at an end, and that the Hour and the Man were at hand. Not over-sanguine, George consigned himself and the seer to an early train, and reached the famous town of Oazelford, whither, when the chronological order of our narrative (which we have so far somewhat forestalled) will permit, we shall conduct the inquisitive reader.

Meanwhile Lionel, subscribing without a murmur to Lady Montfort's injunction to see Sophy no more till Darrell had been conferred with and his consent won, returned to his lodgings in London, sanguine of success, and flushed with joy. His intention was to set out at once to Fawley; but on reaching town he found there a few lines from Dairell himself, in reply to a long and affectionate letter which Lionel had written a few days before asking permission to visit the old manor-house; for amidst all his absorbing love for Sophy, the image of his lonely benefactor in that gloomy hermitage often rose before him. In these lines, Darrell, not unkindly, but very peremptorily, declined Lionel's overtures.

"In truth, my dear young kinsman," wrote the recluse--"in truth I am, with slowness, and with frequent relapses, labouring through convalescence from a moral fever. My nerves are yet unstrung. I am as one to whom is prescribed the most complete repose;--the visits, even of friends the dearest, forbidden as a perilous excitement. The sight of you--of any one from the great world--but especially of one whose rich vitality of youth and hope affronts and mocks my own fatigued exhaustion, would but irritate, unsettle, torture me. When I am quite well I will ask you to come. I shall enjoy your visit. Till then, on no account, and on no pretext, let my morbid ear catch the sound of your footfall on my quiet floor. Write to me often, but tell me nothing of the news and gossip of the world. Tell me only of yourself, your studies, your thoughts, your sentiments, your wishes. Nor forget my injunctions. Marry young, marry for love; let no ambition of power, no greed of gold, ever mislead you into giving to your life a companion who is not the half of your soul. Choose with the heart of a man; I know that you will choose with the self-esteem of a gentleman; and be assured beforehand of the sympathy and sanction of your 'CHURLISH BUT LOVING KINSMAN.'"

After this letter, Lionel felt that, at all events, he could not at once proceed to the old manor-house in defiance of its owner's prohibition. He wrote briefly, entreating Darrell to forgive him if he persisted in the prayer to be received at Fawley, stating that his desire for a personal interview was now suddenly become special and urgent; that it not only concerned himself, but affected his benefactor. By return of post Darrell replied with curt frigidity, repeating, with even sternness, his refusal to receive Lionel, but professing himself ready to attend to all that his kinsman might address to him by letter. "If it be as you state," wrote Darrell, with his habitual irony, "a matter that relates to myself, I claim, as a lawyer for my own affairs--the precaution I once enjoined to my clients--a written brief should always precede a personal consultation."

In fact, the proud man suspected that Lionel had been directly or indirectly addressed on behalf of Jasper Losely; and certainly that was the last subject on which he would have granted an interview to his young kinsman. Lionel, however; was not perhaps sorry to be thus compelled to trust to writing his own and Sophy's cause. Darrell was one of those men whose presence inspires a certain awe--one of those men whom we feel, upon great occasions, less embarrassed to address by letter than in person. Lionel's pen moved rapidly--his whole heart and soul suffused with feeling--; and, rushing over the page, he reminded Darrell of the day when he had told to the rich man the tale of the lovely wandering child, and how, out of his sympathy for that child, Darrell's approving, fostering tenderness to himself had grown. Thus indirectly to her forlorn condition had he owed the rise in his own fortunes. He went through the story of William Losely as he had gathered it from Alban Morley, and touched pathetically on his own father's share in that dark history. If William Losely really was hurried into crime by the tempting necessity for a comparatively trifling sum, but for Charles Haughton would the necessity have arisen? Eloquently then the lover united grandfather and grandchild in one touching picture--their love for each other, their dependence on each other. He enlarged on Sophy's charming, unselfish, simple, noble character; he told how he had again found her; he dwelt on the refining accomplishments she owed to Lady Montfort's care. How came she with Lady Montfort? Why had Lady Montfort cherished, adopted her? Because Lady Montfort told him how much her own childhood had owed to Darrell; because, should Sophy be, as alleged, the offspring of his daughter, the heiress of his line, Caroline Montfort rejoiced to guard her from danger, save her from poverty, and ultimately thus to fit her to be not only acknowledged with delight, but with pride. Why had he been enjoined not to divulge to Darrell that he had again found, and under Lady Montfort's roof, the child whom, while yet unconscious of her claims, Darrell himself had vainly sought to find, and benevolently designed to succour? Because Lady Montfort wished to fulfil her task--complete Sophy's education, interrupted by grief for her missing grandfather, and obtain indeed, when William Losely again returned, some proofs (if such existed) to corroborate the assertion of Sophy's parentage. "And," added Lionel, "Lady Montfort seems to fear that she has given you some cause of displeasure--what I know not, but which might have induced you to disapprove of the acquaintance I had begun with her. Be that as it may, would you could hear the reverence with which she ever alludes to your worth--the gratitude with which she attests her mother's and her own early obligations to your intellect and heart!" Finally, Lionel wove all his threads of recital into the confession of the deep love into which his romantic memories of Sophy's wandering childhood had been ripened by the sight of her graceful, cultured youth. "Grant," he said, "that her father's tale be false--and no doubt you have sufficient reasons to discredit it--still, if you cannot love her as your daughter's child, receive, know her, I implore--let her love and revere you--as my wife! Leave me to protect her from a lawless father--leave me to redeem, by some deeds of loyalty and honour, any stain that her grandsire's sentence may seem to fix upon our union. Oh! if ambitious before, how ambitious I should be now--to efface for her sake, as for mine, her grandsire's shame, my father's errors! But if, on the other hand, she should, on the requisite inquiries, be proved to descend from your ancestry--your father's blood in her pure veins--I know, alas! then that I should have no right to aspire to such nuptials. Who would even think of her descent from a William Losely? Who would not be too proud to remember only her descent from you? All spots would vanish in the splendour of your renown; the highest in the land would court her alliance. And I am but the pensioner of your bounty, and only on my father's side of gentle origin. But still I think you would not reject me--you would place the future to my credit; and I would wait, wait patiently, till I had won such a soldier's name as would entitle me to mate with a daughter of the Darrells."

Sheet upon sheet the young eloquence flowed on--seeking, with an art of which the writer was unconscious, all the arguments and points of view which might be the most captivating to the superb pride or to the exquisite tenderness which seemed to Lionel the ruling elements of Darrell's character.

He had not to wait long for a reply. At the first glance of the address on its cover, his mind misgave him; the hopes that bad hitherto elated his spirit yielded to abrupt forebodings. Darrell's handwriting was habitually in harmony with the intonations of his voice-singularly clear, formed with a peculiar and original elegance, yet with the undulating ease of a natural, candid, impulsive character. And that decorous care in such mere trifles as the very sealing of a letter, which, neglected by musing poets and abstracted authors, is observable in men of high public station, was in Guy Darrell significant of the Patrician dignity that imparted a certain stateliness to his most ordinary actions.

But in the letter which lay in Lionel's hand the writer was scarcely recognisable--the direction blurred, the characters dashed off from a pen fierce yet tremulous; the seal a great blotch of wax; the device of the heron, with its soaring motto, indistinct and mangled, as if the stamping instrument had been plucked wrathfully away before the wax had cooled. And when Lionel opened the letter, the handwriting within was yet more indicative of mental disorder. The very ink looked menacing and angry--blacker as the pen had been forcibly driven into the page. "Unhappy boy!" began the ominous epistle, "is it through you that the false and detested woman who has withered up the noon-day of my life seeks to dishonour its blighted close? Talk not to me of Lady Montfort's gratitude and reverence! Talk not to me of her amiable, tender, holy aim, to obtrude upon my childless house the grand-daughter of a convicted felon! Show her these lines, and ask her by what knowledge of my nature she can assume that ignominy to my name would be a blessing to my hearth? Ask her, indeed, how she can dare to force herself still upon my thoughts--dare to imagine she can lay me under obligations--dare to think she can be something still in my forlorn existence! Lionel Haughton, I command you in the name of all the dead whom we can claim as ancestors in common, to tear from your heart, as you would tear a thought of disgrace, this image which has bewitched your reason. My daughter, thank Heaven, left no pledge of an execrable union. But a girl who has been brought up by a thief--a girl whom a wretch so lost to honour as Jasper Losely sought to make an instrument of fraud to my harassment and disgrace, be her virtues and beauty what they may, I could not, without intolerable anguish, contemplate as the wife of Lionel Haughton. But receive her as your wife!

"Admit her within these walls! Never, never; I scorn to threaten you with loss of favour, loss of fortune. Marry her if you will. You shall have an ample income secure to you. But from that moment our lives are separated--our relation ceases. You will never again see nor address me. But oh, Lionel, can you--can you inflict upon me this crowning sorrow? Can you, for the sake of a girl of whom you have seen but little, or in the Quixotism of atonement for your father's fault, complete the ingratitude I have experienced from those who owed me most? I cannot think it. I rejoice that you wrote--did not urge this suit in person. I should not have been able to control my passion; we might have parted foes. As it is, I restrain myself with difficulty! That woman, that child, associated thus to tear from me the last affection left to my ruined heart. No! You will not be so cruel! Send this, I command you, to Lady Montfort. See again neither her nor the impostor she has been cherishing for my disgrace. This letter will be your excuse to break off with both--with both. GUY DARRELL."

Lionel was stunned. Not for several hours could he recover self-possession enough to analyse his own emotions, or discern the sole course that lay before him. After such a letter from such a benefactor, no option was left to him. Sophy must be resigned; but the sacrifice crushed him to the earth--crushed the very manhood out of him. He threw himself on the floor, sobbing--sobbing as if body and soul were torn, each from each, in convulsive spasms.

But send this letter to Lady Montfort? A letter so wholly at variance with Darrell's dignity of character--a letter in which rage seemed lashed to unreasoning frenzy. Such bitter language of hate and scorn, and even insult to a woman, and to the very woman who had seemed to Lionel so reverently to cherish the writer's name--so tenderly to scheme for the writer's happiness! Could he obey a command that seemed to lower Darrell even more than it could humble her to whom it was sent?

Yet disobey! What but the letter itself could explain? Ah--and was there not some strange misunderstanding with respect to Lady Montfort, which the letter itself, and nothing but the letter, would enable her to dispel; and if dispelled, might not Darrell's whole mind undergo a change? A flash of joy suddenly broke on his agitated, tempestuous thoughts. He forced himself again to read those blotted impetuous lines. Evidently--evidently, while writing to Lionel--the subject Sophy--the man's wrathful heart had been addressing itself to neither. A suspicion seized him; with that suspicion, hope. He would send the letter, and with but few words from himself--words that revealed his immense despair at the thought of relinquishing Sophy--intimated his belief that Darrell here was, from some error of judgment which Lionel could not comprehend, avenging himself on Lady Montfort; and closed with his prayer to her, if so, to forgive lines coloured by hasty passion, and, for the sake of all, not to disdain that self-vindication which might perhaps yet soften a nature possessed of such depths of sweetness as that which appeared now so cruel and so bitter. He would not yet despond--not yet commission her to give his last farewell to Sophy.

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