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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 9 - Chapter 2
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What Will He Do With It - Book 9 - Chapter 2 Post by :dant245 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2409

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What Will He Do With It - Book 9 - Chapter 2

BOOK IX CHAPTER II

RETROSPECT.

THERE IS A PLACE AT WHICH THREE ROADS MEET, SACRED TO THAT MYSTERIOUS GODDESS CALLED DIANA ON EARTH, LUNA, OR THE MOON, IN HEAVEN, OR HECATE IN THE INFERNAL REGIONS. AT THIS PLACE PAUSE THE VIRGINS PERMITTED TO TAKE THEIR CHOICE OF THE THREE ROADS. FEW GIVE THEIR PREFERENCE TO THAT WHICH IS VOWED TO THE GODDESS IN HER NAME OF DIANA: THAT ROAD, COLD AND BARREN, IS CLOTHED BY NO ROSES AND MYRTLES. ROSES AND MYRTLES VEIL THE ENTRANCE TO BOTH THE OTHERS, AND IN BOTH THE OTHERS HYMEN HAS MUCH THE SAME GAY-LOOKING TEMPLES. BUT WHICH OF THOSE TWO LEADS TO THE CELESTIAL LUNA, OR WHICH OF THEM CONDUCTS TO THE INFERNAL HECATE, NOT ONE NYMPH IN FIFTY DIVINES. IF THY HEART SHOULD MISGIVE THEE, O NYMPH!--IF, THOUGH CLOUD VEIL THE PATH TO THE MOON, AND SUNSHINE GILD THAT TO PALE HECATETHINE INSTINCT RECOILS FROM THE SUNSHINE, WHILE THOU DAREST NOT ADVENTURE THE CLOUD--THOU HAST STILL A CHOICE LEFT--THOU HAST STILL THE SAFE ROAD OF DIANA. HECATE, O NYMPH, IS THE GODDESS OF GHOSTS. IF THOU TAKEST HER PATH, LOOK NOT BACK, FOR THE GHOSTS ARE BEHIND THEE...

When we slowly recover from the tumult and passion of some violent distress, a peculiar stillness falls upon the Mind, and the atmosphere around it becomes in that stillness appallingly clear. We knew not, while wrestling with our woe, the extent of its ravages. As a land the day after a flood, as a field the day after a battle, is the sight of our own sorrow, when we no longer have to steer its raging, but to endure the destruction it has made. Distinct before Caroline Montfort's vision stretched the waste of her misery--the Past, the Present, the Future, all seemed to blend in one single Desolation. A strange thing it is how all time will converge itself, as it were, into the burning-glass of a moment! There runs a popular superstition that it is thus, in the instant of death; that our whole existence crowds itself on the glazing eye--a panorama of all we have done on earth just as the soul restores to the earth its garment. Certes, there are hours in our being, long before the last and dreaded one, when this phenomenon comes to warn us that, if memory were always active, time would be never gone. Rose before this woman--who, whatever the justice of Darrell's bitter reproaches, had a nature lovely enough to justify his anguish at her loss--the image of herself at that turning point of life, when the morning mists are dimmed on our way, yet when a path chosen is a fate decided. Yes; she had excuses, not urged to the judge who sentenced, nor estimated to their full extent by the stern equity with which, amidst suffering and wrath, he had desired to weigh her cause.

Caroline's mother, Mrs. Lindsay, was one of those parents who acquire an extraordinary influence over their children by the union of caressing manners with obstinate resolves. She never lost control of her temper nor hold on her object. A slight, delicate, languid creature too, who would be sure to go into a consumption if unkindly crossed. With much strong common sense, much knowledge of human nature, egotistical, worldly, scheming, heartless, but withal so pleasing, so gentle, so bewitchingly despotic, that it was like living with an electrobiologist, who unnerves you by a look to knock you down with a feather. In only one great purpose of her life had Mrs. Lyndsay failed. When Darrell, rich by the rewards of his profession and the bequest of his namesake, had entered Parliament, and risen into that repute which confers solid and brilliant station, Mrs. Lyndsay conceived the idea of appropriating to herself his honours and his wealth by a second Hymen. Having so long been domesticated in his house during the life of Mrs. Darrell, an intimacy as of near relations had been established between them. Her soft manners attached to her his children; and after Mrs. Darrell's death rendered it necessary that she should find a home of her own, she had an excuse, in Matilda's affection for her and for Caroline, to be more frequently before Darrell's eyes, and consulted by him yet more frequently, than when actually a resident in his house. To her Darrell confided the proposal which had been made to him by the old Marchioness of Montfort, for an alliance between her young grandson and his sole surviving child. Wealthy as was the House of Vipont, it was amongst its traditional maxims that wealth wastes if not perpetually recruited. Every third generation, at farthest, it was the duty of that house to marry an heiress. Darrell's daughter, just seventeen, not yet brought out, would be an heiress, if he pleased to make her so, second to none whom the research of the Marchioness had detected within the drawing-rooms and nurseries of the three kingdoms. The proposal of the venerable peeress was at first very naturally gratifying to Darrell. It was an euthanasia for the old knightly race to die into a House that was an institution in the empire, and revive phoenix-like in a line of peers, who might perpetuate the name of the heiress whose quarterings they would annex to their own, and sign themselves "Darrell Montfort." Said Darrell inly, "On the whole, such a marriage would have pleased my poor father." It did not please Mrs. Lyndsay. The bulk of Darrell's fortune thus settled away, he himself would be a very different match for Mrs. Lyndsay; nor was it to her convenience that Matilda should be thus hastily disposed of, and the strongest link of connection between Fulham and Carlton Gardens severed. Mrs. Lyndsay had one golden rule, which I respectfully point out to ladies who covet popularity and power: she never spoke ill of any one whom she wished to injure. She did not, therefore, speak ill of the Marquess to Darrell, but she so praised him that her praise alarmed. She ought to know the young peer well; she was a good deal with the Marchioness, who liked her pretty manners. Till then, Darrell had only noticed this green Head of the Viponts as a neat-looking Head, too modest to open its lips. But he now examined the Head with anxious deliberation, and finding it of the poorest possible kind of wood, with a heart to match, Guy Darrell had the audacity to reject, though with great courtesy, the idea of grafting the last plant of his line on a stem so pithless. Though, like men who are at once very affectionate and very busy, he saw few faults in his children, or indeed in any one he really loved, till the fault was forced on him, he could not but be aware that Matilda's sole chance of becoming a happy and safe wife was in uniting herself with such a husband as would at once win her confidence and command her respect. He trembled when he thought of her as the wife of a man whose rank would expose her to all fashionable temptations, and whose character would leave her without a guide or protector.

The Marquess, who obeyed his grandmother from habit, and who had lethargically sanctioned her proposals to Darrell, evinced the liveliest emotion he had ever yet betrayed when he learned that his hand was rejected. And if it were possible for him to carry so small a sentiment aspique into so large a passion as hate, from that moment he aggrandised his nature into hatred. He would have given half his lands to have spited Guy Darrell. Mrs. Lyndsay took care to be at hand to console him, and the Marchioness was grateful to her for taking that trouble some task upon herself. And in the course of their conversation Mrs. Lyndsay contrived to drop into his mind the egg of a project which she took a later occasion to hatch under her plumes of down. "There is but one kind of wife, my dear Montfort, who could increase your importance: you should marry a beauty; next to royalty ranks beauty." The Head nodded, and seemed to ruminate for some moments, and then _apropos des bottes_, it let fall this mysterious monosyllable, "Shoes." By what process of ratiocination the Head had thus arrived at the feet, it is not for me to conjecture. All I know is that, from that moment, Mrs. Lyndsay bestowed as much thought upon Caroline's chaussure as if, like Cinderella, Caroline's whole destiny in this world hung upon her slipper. With the feelings and the schemes that have been thus intimated, this sensible lady's mortification may well be conceived when she was startled by Darrell's proposal, not to herself, but to her daughter. Her egotism was profoundly shocked, her worldliness cruelly thwarted. With Guy Darrell for her own spouse, the Marquess of Montfort for her daughter's, Mrs. Lyndsay would have been indeed a considerable personage in the world. But to lose Darrell for herself, and the Marquess altogether--the idea was intolerable! Yet, since to have refused at once for her portionless daughter a man in so high a position, and to whom her own obligations were so great, was impossible, she adopted a policy, admirable for the craft of its conception and the dexterity of its execution. In exacting the condition of a year's delay, she made her motives appear so loftily disinterested, so magnanimously friendly! She could never forgive herself if he--he--the greatest, the best of men, was again rendered unhappy in marriage by her imprudence (hers, who owed to him her all!)--yes, imprudent indeed, to have thrown right in his way a pretty coquettish girl ("for Caroline is coquettish, Mr. Darrell; most girls so pretty are at that silly age"). In short, she carried her point against all the eloquence Darrell could employ, and covered her designs by the semblance of the most delicate scruples, and the sacrifice of worldly advantages to the prudence which belongs to high principle and affectionate caution.

And what were Caroline's real sentiments for Guy Darrell? She understood them-now on looking back. She saw herself as she was then--as she had stood under the beech-tree, when the heavenly pity that was at the core of her nature--when the venerating, grateful affection that had grown with her growth made her yearn to be a solace and a joy to that grand and solitary life. Love him! Oh certainly she loved him, devotedly, fondly; but it was with the love of a child. She had not awakened then to the love of woman. Removed from his presence, suddenly thrown into the great world--yes, Darrell had sketched the picture with a stern, but not altogether an untruthful hand. He had not, however, fairly estimated the inevitable influence which a mother such as Mrs. Lyndsay would exercise over a girl so wholly inexperienced--so guileless, so unsuspecting, and so filially devoted. He could not appreciate--no man can--the mightiness of female cunning. He could not see how mesh upon mesh the soft Mrs. Lyndsay (pretty woman with pretty manners) wove her web round the "cousins," until Caroline, who at first had thought of the silent fair-haired young man only as the Head of her House, pleased with attentions that kept aloof admirers of whom she thought Guy Darrell might be more reasonably jealous, was appalled to hear her mother tell her that she was either the most heartless of coquettes, or poor Montfort was the most ill-used of men. But at this time Jasper Losely, under his name of Hammond, brought his wife from the French town at which they had been residing, since their marriage, to see Mrs. Lyndsay and Caroline at Paris, and implore their influence to obtain a reconciliation with her father. Matilda soon learned from Mrs. Lyndsay, who affected the most enchanting candour, the nature of the engagement between Caroline and Darrell. She communicated the information to Jasper, who viewed it with very natural alarm. By reconciliation with Guy Darrell, Jasper understood something solid and practical--not a mere sentimental pardon, added to that paltry stipend of L700 a-year which he had just obtained--but the restoration to all her rights and expectancies of the heiress he had supposed himself to marry. He had by no means relinquished the belief that sooner or later Darrell would listen to the Voice of Nature, and settle all his fortune on his only child. But then for the Voice of Nature to have fair play, it was clear that there should be no other child to plead for. And if Darrell were to marry again and to have sons, what a dreadful dilemma it would be for the Voice of Nature! Jasper was not long in discovering that Caroline's engagement was not less unwelcome to Mrs. Lyndsay than to himself, and that she was disposed to connive at any means by which it might be annulled. Matilda was first employed to weaken the bond it was so desirable to sever. Matilda did not reproach, but she wept. She was sure now that she should he an outcast--her children beggars. Mrs. Lyndsay worked up this complaint with adroitest skill. Was Caroline sure that it was not most dishonourable--most treacherous--to rob her own earliest friend of the patrimony that would otherwise return to Matilda with Darrell's pardon? This idea became exquisitely painful to the high-spirited Caroline, but it could not counterpoise the conviction of the greater pain she should occasion to the breast that so confided in her faith, if that faith were broken. Step by step the intrigue against the absent one proceeded. Mrs. Lyndsay thoroughly understood the art of insinuating doubts. Guy Darrell, a man of the world, a cold-blooded lawyer, a busy politician, he break his heart for a girl! No, it was only the young, and especially the young when not remarkably clever, who broke their hearts for such trifles. Montfort, indeed--there was a man whose heart could be broken!--whose happiness could be blasted! Dear Guy Darrell had been only moved, in his proposals, by generosity. "Something, my dear child, in your own artless words and manner, that made him fancy he had won your affections unknown to yourself!--an idea that he was bound as a gentleman to speak out! Just like him. He has that spirit of chivalry. But my belief is, that he is quite aware by this time how foolish such a marriage would be, and would thank you heartily if, at the year's end, he found himself free, and you happily disposed of elsewhere," &c., &c. The drama advanced. Mrs. Lyndsay evinced decided pulmonary symptoms. Her hectic cough returned; she could not sleep; her days were numbered--a secret grief. Caroline implored frankness, and, clasped to her mother's bosom, and compassionately bedewed with tears, those hints were dropped into her ear which, though so worded as to show the most indulgent forbearance to Darrell, and rather as if in compassion for his weakness than in abhorrence of his perfidy, made Caroline start with the indignation of revolted purity and outraged pride. "Were this true, all would be indeed at an end between us! But it is not true. Let it be proved."

"But, my dear, dear child, I could not stir in a matter so delicate. I could not aid in breaking off a marriage so much to your worldly advantage, unless you could promise that, in rejecting Mr. Darrell, you would accept your cousin. In my wretched state of health, the anxious thought of leaving you in the world literally penniless would kill me at once."

"Oh, if Guy Darrell be false (but that is impossible)! do with me all you will; to obey and please you would be the only comfort left to me."

Thus was all prepared for the final denouement. Mrs. Lyndsay had not gone so far without a reliance on the means to accomplish her object, and for these means she had stooped to be indebted to the more practical villany of Matilda's husband.

Jasper, in this visit to Paris, had first formed the connection which completed the wickedness of his perverted nature, with that dark adventuress who has flitted shadow-like through part of this varying narrative. Gabrielle Desmarets was then in her youth, notorious only for the ruin she had inflicted on admiring victims, and the superb luxury with which she rioted on their plunder. Captivated by the personal advantages for which Jasper then was preeminently conspicuous, she willingly associated her fortunes with his own. Gabrielle was one of those incarnations of evil which no city but Paris can accomplish with the same epicurean refinement, and vitiate into the same cynical corruption. She was exceedingly witty, sharply astute, capable of acting any part, carrying out any plot; and when it pleased her to simulate the decorous and immaculate gentlewoman, she might have deceived the most experienced roue. Jasper presented this Artiste to his unsuspecting wife as a widow of rank, who was about to visit London, and who might be enabled to see Mr. Darrell, and intercede on their behalf. Matilda fell readily into the snare; the Frenchwoman went to London, with assumed name and title, and with servants completely in her confidence. And such (as the reader knows already) was that eloquent baroness who had pleaded to Darrell the cause of his penitent daughter! No doubt the wily Parisienne had calculated on the effect of her arts and her charms, to decoy him into at least a passing forgetfulness of his faith to another. But if she could not succeed there, it might equally achieve the object in view to obtain the credit of that success. Accordingly, she wrote to one of her friends at Paris letters stating that she had found a very rich admirer in a celebrated English statesman, to whom she was indebted for her establishment, &c.; and alluding, in very witty and satirical terms, to his matrimonial engagement with the young English beauty at Paris, who was then creating such a sensation--an engagement of which she represented her admirer to be heartily sick, and extremely repentant. Without mentioning names, her descriptions were unmistakable. Jasper, of course, presented to Mrs. Lyndsay those letters (which, he said, the person to whom they were addressed had communicated to one of her own gay friends), and suggested that their evidence against Darrell would be complete in Miss Lyndsay's eyes if some one, whose veracity Caroline could not dispute, could corroborate the assertions of the letters; it would be quite enough to do so if Mr. Darrell were even seen entering or leaving the house of a person whose mode of life was so notorious. Mrs. Lyndsay, who, with her consummate craft, saved her dignity by affected blindness to the artifices at which she connived, declared that, in a matter of inquiry which involved the private character of a man so eminent, and to whom she owed so much, she would not trust his name to the gossip of others. She herself would go to London. She knew that odious, but too fascinating, Gabrielle by sight (as every one did who went to the opera or drove in the Bois de Boulogne). Jasper undertook that the Parisienne should show herself at her balcony at a certain day at a certain hour, and that at that hour Darrell should call and be admitted; and Mrs. Lyndsay allowed that that evidence would suffice. Sensible of the power over Caroline that she would derive if, with her habits of languor and her delicate health, she could say that she had undertaken such a journey to be convinced with her own eyes of a charge which, if true, would influence her daughter's conduct and destiny--Mrs. Lyndsay did go to London--did see Gabrielle Desmarets at her balcony--did see Darrell enter the house; and on her return to Paris did, armed with this testimony, and with the letters that led to it, so work upon her daughter's mind, that the next day the Marquess of Montfort was accepted. But the year of Darrell's probation was nearly expired; all delay would be dangerous--all explanations would be fatal, and must be forestalled. Nor could a long courtship be kept secret; Darrell might hear of it, and come over at once; and the Marquess's ambitious kinsfolk would not fail to interfere if the news of his intended marriage with a portionless cousin reached their ears. Lord Montfort, who was awed by Carr, and extremely afraid of his grandmother, was not less anxious for secrecy and expedition than Mrs. Lyndsay herself.

Thus, then, Mrs. Lyndsay triumphed, and while her daughter was still under the influence of an excitement which clouded her judgment, and stung her into rashness of action as an escape from the torment of reflection--thus were solemnised Caroline's unhappy and splendid nuptials. The Marquess hired a villa in the delightful precincts of Fontainebleau for his honeymoon; that moon was still young when the Marquess said to himself, "I don't find that it produces honey." When he had first been attracted towards Caroline, she was all life and joy--too much of a child to pine for Darrell's absence, while credulously confident of their future union--her spirits naturally wild and lively, and the world, opening at her feet, so novel and so brilliant. This fresh gaiety had amused the Marquess--he felt cheated when he found it gone. Caroline might be gentle, docile, submissive; but those virtues, though of higher quality than glad animal spirits, are not so entertaining. His own exceeding sterility of mind and feeling was not apparent till in the _tetes-a-tetes of conjugal life. A good-looking young man, with a thoroughbred air, who rides well, dances well, and holds his tongue, may, in all mixed societies, pass for a shy youth of sensitive genius! But when he is your companion for life, and all to yourself, and you find that, when he does talk, he has neither an idea nor a sentiment--alas! alas for you, young bride, if you have ever known the charm of intellect, or the sweetness of sympathy. But it was not for Caroline to complain; struggling against her own weight of sorrow, she had no immediate perception of her companion's vapidity. It was he, poor man, who complained. He just detected enough of her superiority of intelligence to suspect that he was humiliated, while sure that he was bored. An incident converted his growing indifference into permanent dislike not many days after their marriage.

Lord Montfort, sauntering into Caroline's room, found her insensible on the floor--an open letter by her side. Summoning her maid to her assistance, he took the marital privilege of reading the letter which had apparently caused her swoon. It was from Matilda, and written in a state of maddened excitement. Matilda had little enough of what is called heart; but she had an intense selfishness, which, in point of suffering, supplies the place of a heart. It was not because she could not feel for the wrongs of another that she could not feel anguish for her own. Arabella was avenged. The cold-blooded snake that had stung her met the fang of the cobra-capella. Matilda had learned from some anonymous correspondent (probably a rival of Gabrielle's) of Jasper's liaison with that adventuress. But half recovered from her confinement, she had risen from her bed--hurried to Paris (for the pleasures of which her husband had left her)--seen this wretched Gabrielle--recognised in her the false baroness to whom Jasper had presented her--to whom, by Jasper's dictation, she had written such affectionate letters--whom she had employed to plead her cause to her father;--seen Gabrielle--seen her at her own luxurious apartment, Jasper at home there--burst into vehement wrath-roused up the cobra-capella; and on declaring she would separate from her husband, go back to her father, tell her wrongs, appeal to his mercy, Gabrielle calmly replied: "Do so, and I will take care that your father shall know that your plea for his pardon through Madame la Baronne was a scheme to blacken his name, and to frustrate his marriage. Do not think that he will suppose you did not connive at a project so sly; he must know you too well, pretty innocent." No match for Gabrielle Desmarets, Matilda flung from the house, leaving Jasper whistling an air from Figaro; returned alone to the French town from which she now wrote to Caroline, pouring out her wrongs, and, without seeming sensible that Caroline had been wronged too, expressing her fear that her father might believe her an accomplice in Jasper's plot, and refuse her the means to live apart from the wretch; upon whom she heaped every epithet that just indignation could suggest to a feeble mind. The latter part of the letter, blurred and blotted, was incoherent, almost raving. In fact Matilda was then seized by the mortal illness which hurried her to her grave. To the Marquess much of this letter was extremely uninteresting--much of it quite incomprehensible. He could not see why it should so overpoweringly affect his wife. Only those passages which denounced a scheme to frustrate some marriage meditated by Mr. Darrell made him somewhat uneasy, and appeared to him to demand an explanation. But Caroline, in the anguish to which she awakened, forestalled his inquiries. To her but two thoughts were present--how she had wronged Darrell--how ungrateful and faithless she must seem to him; and in the impulse of her remorse, and in the childlike candour of her soul, artlessly, ingenuously, she poured out her feelings to the husband she had taken as counsellor and guide, as if seeking to guard all her sorrow for the past from a sentiment that might render her less loyal to the responsibilities which linked her future to another's. A man of sense would have hailed in so noble a confidence (however it might have pained him for the time) a guarantee for the happiness and security of his whole existence. He would have seen how distinct from that ardent love which in Caroline's new relation of life would have bordered upon guilt and been cautious as guilt against disclosing its secrets, was the infantine, venerating affection she had felt for a man so far removed from her by years and the development of intellect--an affection which a young husband, trusted with every thought, every feeling, might reasonably hope to eclipse. A little forbearance, a little of delicate and generous tenderness, at that moment, would have secured to Lord Montfort the warm devotion of a grateful heart, in which the grief that overflowed was not for the irreplaceable loss of an earlier lover, but the repentant shame for wrong and treachery to a confiding friend.

But it is in vain to ask from any man that which is not in him! Lord Montfort listened with sullen, stolid displeasure. That Caroline should feel the slightest pain at any cause which had cancelled her engagement to that odious Darrell, and had raised her to the rank of his Marchioness, was a crime in his eyes never to be expiated. He considered, not without reason, that Mrs. Lyndsay had shamefully deceived him; and fully believed that she had been an accomplice with Jasper in that artifice which he was quite gentleman enough to consider placed those who had planned it out of the pale of his acquaintance. And when Caroline, who had been weeping too vehemently to read her lord's countenance, came to a close, Lord Montfort took up his hat and said: "I beg never to hear again of this lawyer and his very disreputable family connections. As you say, you and your mother have behaved very ill to him; but you don't seem to understand that you have behaved much worse to me. As to condescending to write to him, and enter into explanations how you came to be Lady Montfort, it would be so lowering to me that I would never forgive it--never. I would just as soon that you run away at once;--sooner. As for Mrs. Lyndsay, I shall forbid her entering my house. When you have done crying, order your things to be packed up. I shall return to England to-morrow."

That was perhaps the longest speech Lord Montfort ever addressed to his wife; perhaps it was also the rudest. From that time he regarded her as some Spaniard of ancient days might regard a guest on whom he was compelled to bestow the rights of hospitality--to whom he gave a seat at his board, a chair at his hearth, but for whom he entertained a profound aversion, and kept at invincible distance, with all the ceremony of dignified dislike. Once only during her wedded life Caroline again saw Darrell. It was immediately on her return to England, and little more than a month after her marriage. It was the day on which Parliament had been prorogued preparatory to its dissolution--the last Parliament of which Guy Darrell was a member. Lady Montfort's carriage was detained in the throng with which the ceremonial had filled the streets, and Darrell passed it on horseback. It was but one look in that one moment; and the look never ceased to haunt her--a look of such stern disdain, but also of such deep despair. No language can exaggerate the eloquence which there is in a human countenance, when a great and tortured spirit speaks out from it accusingly to a soul that comprehends. The crushed heart, the ravaged existence, were bared before her in that glance, as clearly as to a wanderer through the night are the rents of the precipice in the flash of the lightning. So they encountered--so, without a word, they parted. To him that moment decided the flight from active life to which his hopeless thoughts had of late been wooing the jaded, weary man. In safety to his very conscience, he would not risk the certainty thus to encounter one whom it convulsed his whole being to remember was another's wife. In that highest and narrowest sphere of the great London world to which Guy Darrell's political distinction condemned his social life, it was impossible but that he should be brought frequently into collision with Lord Montfort, the Head of a House with which Darrell himself was connected--the most powerful patrician of the party of which Darrell was so conspicuous a chief. Could he escape Lady Montfort's presence, her name at least would be continually in his ears. From that fatal beauty he could no more hide than from the sun.

This thought, and the terror it occasioned him, completed his resolve on the instant. The next day he was in the groves of Fawley, and amazed the world by dating from that retreat a farewell address to his constituents. A few days after, the news of his daughter's death reached him; and as that event became known it accounted to many for his retirement for a while from public life.

But to Caroline Montfort, and to her alone, the secret of a career blasted, a fame renounced, was unmistakably revealed. For a time she was tortured, in every society she entered, by speculation and gossip which brought before her the memory of his genius, the accusing sound of his name. But him who withdraws from the world, the world soon forgets; and by degrees Darrell became as little spoken of as the dead.

Mrs. Lyndsay had never, during her schemes on Lord Montfort, abandoned her own original design on Darrell. And when, to her infinite amaze and mortification, Lord Montfort, before the first month of his marriage expired, took care, in the fewest possible words, to dispel her dream of governing the House, and residing in the houses of Vipont, as the lawful agent during the life-long minority to which she had condemned both the submissive Caroline and the lethargic Marquess, she hastened by letter to exculpate herself to Darrell--laid, of course, all the blame on Caroline. Alas! had not she always warned him that Caroline was not worthy of him?--him, the greatest, the best of men, &c., &c. Darrell replied by a single cut of his trenchant sarcasm--sarcasm which shore through her cushion of down and her veil of gauze like the sword of Saladin. The old Marchioness turned her back upon Mrs. Lyndsay. Lady Selina was crushingly civil. The pretty woman with pretty manners, no better off for all the misery she had occasioned, went to Rome, caught cold, and having no one to nurse her as Caroline had done, fell at last into a real consumption, and faded out of the world elegantly and spitefully, as fades a rose that still leaves its thorns behind it.

Caroline's nature grew developed and exalted by the responsibilities she had accepted, and by the purity of her grief. She submitted, as a just retribution, to the solitude and humiliation of her wedded lot; she earnestly, virtuously strove to banish from her heart every sentiment that could recall to her more of Darrell than the remorse of having darkened a life that had been to her childhood so benignant, and to her youth so confiding. As we have seen her, at the mention of Darrell's name--at the allusion to his griefs--fly to the side of her ungenial lord, though he was to her but as the owner of the name she bore,--so it was the saving impulse of a delicate, watchful conscience that kept her as honest in thought as she was irreproachable in conduct. But vainly, in summoning her intellect to the relief of her heart--vainly had she sought to find in the world friendships, companionships, that might eclipse the memory of the mind so lofty in its antique mould--so tender in its depths of unsuspected sweetness--which had been withdrawn from her existence before she could fully comprehend its rarity, or appreciate its worth.

At last she became free once more; and then she had dared thoroughly to examine into her own heart, and into the nature of that hold which the image of Darrell still retained on its remembrances. And precisely because she was convinced that she had succeeded in preserving her old childish affection for him free from the growth into that warm love which would have been guilt if so encouraged, she felt the more free to volunteer the atonement which might permit her to dedicate herself to his remaining years. Thus, one day, after a conversation with Alban Morley, in which Alban had spoken of Darrell as the friend, almost the virtual guardian, of her infancy; and, alluding to a few lines just received from him, brought vividly before Caroline the picture of Darrell's melancholy wanderings and blighted life,--thus had she, on the impulse of the moment, written the letter which had reached Darrell at Malta. In it she referred but indirectly to the deceit that had been practised on herself--far too delicate to retail a scandal which she felt to be an insult to his dignity, in which, too, the deceiving parties were his daughter's husband and her own mother. No doubt every true woman can understand why she thus wrote to Darrell, and every true man can equally comprehend why that letter failed in its object, and was returned to her in scorn. Hers was the yearning of meek, passionless affection, and his the rebuke of sensitive, embittered indignant love.

But now, as all her past, with its interior life, glided before her, by a grief the most intolerable she had yet known, the woman became aware that it was no longer penitence for the injured friend--it was despair for the lover she had lost. In that stormy interview, out of all the confused and struggling elements of her life--long self-reproach, LOVE--the love of woman--had flashed suddenly, luminously, as the love of youth at first sight. Strange--but the very disparity of years seemed gone! She, the matured, sorrowful woman, was so much nearer to the man, still young in heart and little changed in person, than the gay girl of seventeen had been to the grave friend of forty! Strange, but those vehement reproaches had wakened emotions deeper in the core of the wild mortal breast than all that early chivalrous homage which had exalted her into the ideal of dreaming poets. Strange, strange, strange! But where there is nothing strange, THERE--is there ever love?

And with this revelation of her own altered heart, came the clearer and fresher insight into the nature and character of the man she loved. Hitherto she had recognised but his virtues--now she beheld his failings! beholding them as if virtues, loved him more; and, loving him, more despaired. She recognised that all-pervading indomitable pride, which, interwoven with his sense of honour, became relentless as it was unrevengeful. She comprehended now that, the more he loved her, the less he would forgive; and, recalling the unexpected gentleness of his farewell words, she felt that in his promised blessing lay the sentence that annihilated every hope.

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