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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesErnest Maltravers - Book 6 - Chapter 2
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Ernest Maltravers - Book 6 - Chapter 2 Post by :Heri_Rosyadi Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2073

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Ernest Maltravers - Book 6 - Chapter 2

BOOK VI CHAPTER II

"_Dauph. Sir, I must speak to you. I have been long your
despised kinsman.

"_Morose. Oh, what thou wilt, nephew."--EPICENE.

"Her silence is dowry eno'--exceedingly soft spoken; thrifty
of her speech, that spends but six words a day."--_Ibid._


THE coach dropped Mr. Ferrers at the gate of a villa about three miles from town. The lodge-keeper charged himself with the carpet-bag, and Ferrers strolled, with his hands behind him (it was his favourite mode of disposing of them), through the beautiful and elaborate pleasure-grounds.

"A very nice, snug little box (jointure-house, I suppose)! I would not grudge that, I'm sure, if I had but the rest. But here, I suspect, comes madam's first specimen of the art of having a family." This last thought was extracted from Mr. Ferrers's contemplative brain by a lovely little girl, who came running up to him, fearless and spoilt as she was; and, after indulging a tolerable stare, exclaimed, "Are you come to see papa, sir?"

"Papa!--the deuce!"--thought Lumley; "and who is papa, my dear?"

"Why, mamma's husband. He is not my papa by rights."

"Certainly not, my love; not by rights--I comprehend."

"Eh!"

"Yes, I am going to see your papa by wrongs--Mr. Templeton."

"Oh, this way, then."

"You are very fond of Mr. Templeton, my little angel."

"To be sure I am. You have not seen the rocking-horse he is going to give me."

"Not yet, sweet child! And how is mamma?"

"Oh, poor, dear mamma," said the child, with a sudden change of voice, and tears in her eyes. "Ah, she is not well!"

"In the family way, to a dead certainty!" muttered Ferrers with a groan: "but here is my uncle. Horrid name! Uncles were always wicked fellows. Richard the Third and the man who did something or other to the babes in the wood were a joke to my hard-hearted old relation, who has robbed me with a widow! The lustful, liquorish old--My _dear sir, I'm so glad to see you!"

Mr. Templeton, who was a man very cold in his manners, and always either looked over people's heads or down upon the ground, just touched his nephew's outstretched hand, and telling him he was welcome, observed that it was a very fine afternoon.

"Very, indeed; sweet place this; you see, by the way, that I have already made acquaintance with my fair cousin-in-law. She is very pretty."

"I really think she is," said Mr. Templeton, with some warmth, and gazing fondly at the child, who was now throwing buttercups up in the air, and trying to catch them. Mr. Ferrers wished in his heart that they had been brickbats!

"Is she like her mother?" asked the nephew.

"Like whom, sir?"

"Her mother--Mrs. Templeton."

"No, not very; there is an air, perhaps, but the likeness is not remarkably strong. Would you not like to go to your room before dinner?"

"Thank you. Can I not first be presented to Mrs. Tem--"

"She is at her devotions, Mr. Lumley," interrupted Mr. Templeton, grimly.

"The she-hypocrite!" thought Ferrers. "Oh, I am delighted that your pious heart has found so congenial a helpmate!"

"It is a great blessing, and I am grateful for it. This is the way to the house."

Lumley, now formally installed in a grave bedroom, with dimity curtains and dark-brown paper with light-brown stars on it, threw himself into a large chair, and yawned and stretched with as much fervour as if he could have yawned and stretched himself into his uncle's property. He then slowly exchanged his morning dress for a quiet suit of black, and thanked his stars that, amidst all his sins, he had never been a dandy, and had never rejoiced in a fine waistcoat--a criminal possession that he well knew would have entirely hardened his uncle's conscience against him. He tarried in his room till the second bell summoned him to descend; and then, entering the drawing-room, which had a cold look even in July, found his uncle standing by the mantelpiece, and a young, slight, handsome woman, half-buried in a huge but not comfortable _fauteuil_.

"Your aunt, Mrs. Templeton; madam, my nephew, Mr. Lumley Ferrers," said Templeton, with a wave of the hand.

"John,--dinner!"

"I hope I am not late!"

"No," said Templeton, gently, for he had always liked his nephew, and began now to thaw towards him a little on seeing that Lumley put a good face upon the new state of affairs.

"No, my dear boy--no; but I think order and punctuality cardinal virtues in a well-regulated family."

"Dinner, sir," said the butler, opening the folding-doors at the end of the room.

"Permit me," said Lumley, offering his arm to his aunt. "What a lovely place this is!"

Mrs. Templeton said something in reply, but what it was Ferrers could not discover, so low and choked was the voice.

"Shy," thought he: "odd for a widow! but that's the way those husband-buriers take us in!"

Plain as was the general furniture of the apartment, the natural ostentation of Mr. Templeton broke out in the massive value of the plate, and the number of the attendants. He was a rich man, and he was proud of his riches: he knew it was respectable to be rich, and he thought it was moral to be respectable. As for the dinner, Lumley knew enough of his uncle's tastes to be prepared for viands and wines that even he (fastidious gourmand as he was) did not despise.

Between the intervals of eating, Mr. Ferrers endeavoured to draw his aunt into conversation, but he found all his ingenuity fail him. There was, in the features of Mrs. Templeton, an expression of deep but calm melancholy, that would have saddened most persons to look upon, especially in one so young and lovely. It was evidently something beyond shyness or reserve that made her so silent and subdued, and even in her silence there was so much natural sweetness, that Ferrers could not ascribe her manner to haughtiness or the desire to repel. He was rather puzzled; "for though," thought he, sensibly enough, "my uncle is not a youth, he is a very rich fellow; and how any widow, who is married again to a rich old fellow, can be melancholy, passes my understanding!"

Templeton, as if to draw attention from his wife's taciturnity, talked more than usual. He entered largely into politics, and regretted that in times so critical he was not in parliament.

"Did I possess your youth and your health, Lumley, I would not neglect my country--Popery is abroad."

"I myself should like very much to be in parliament," said Lumley, boldly.

"I dare say you would," returned the uncle, drily. "Parliament is very expensive--only fit for those who have a large stake in the country. Champagne to Mr. Ferrers."

Lumley bit his lip, and spoke little during the rest of the dinner. Mr. Templeton, however, waxed gracious by the time the dessert was on the table; and began cutting up a pineapple, with many assurances to Lumley that gardens were nothing without pineries. "Whenever you settle in the country, nephew, be sure you have a pinery."

"Oh, yes," said Lumley, almost bitterly, "and a pack of hounds, and a French cook; they will all suit my fortune very well."

"You are more thoughtful on pecuniary matters than you used to be," said the uncle.

"Sir," replied Ferrers, solemnly, "in a very short time I shall be what is called a middle-aged man."

"Humph!" said the host.

There was another silence. Lumley was a man, as we have said, or implied before, of great knowledge of human nature, at least the ordinary sort of it, and he now revolved in his mind the various courses it might be wise to pursue towards his rich relation. He saw that, in delicate fencing, his uncle had over him the same advantage that a tall man has over a short one with the physical sword-play;--by holding his weapon in a proper position, he kept the other at arm's length. There was a grand reserve and dignity about the man who had something to give away, of which Ferrers, however actively he might shift his ground and flourish his rapier, could not break the defence. He determined, therefore, upon a new game, for which his frankness of manner admirably adapted him. Just as he formed this resolution, Mrs. Templeton rose, and with a gentle bow, and soft though languid smile, glided from the room. The two gentlemen resettled themselves, and Templeton pushed the bottle to Ferrers.

"Help yourself, Lumley! your travels seem to have deprived you of your high spirits--you are pensive."

"Sir," said Ferrers, abruptly, "I wish to consult you."

"Oh, young man! you have been guilty of some excess--you have gambled--you have--"

"I have done nothing, sir, that should make me less worthy your esteem. I repeat, I wish to consult you; I have outlived the hot days of my youth--I am now alive to the claims of the world. I have talents, I believe; and I have application, I know. I wish to fill a position in the world that may redeem my past indolence, and do credit to my family. Sir, I set your example before me, and I now ask your counsel, with the determination to follow it."

Templeton was startled; he half shaded his face with his hand, and gazed searchingly upon the high forehead and bold eyes of his nephew. "I believe you are sincere," said he, after a pause.

"You may well believe so, sir."

"Well, I will think of this. I like an honourable ambition--not too extravagant a one,--_that is sinful; but a _respectable station in the world is a proper object of desire, and wealth is a blessing; because," added the rich man, taking another slice of the pineapple,--"it enables us to be of use to our fellow-creatures!"

"Sir, then," said Ferrers, with daring animation--"then I avow that my ambition is precisely of the kind you speak of. I am obscure, I desire to be reputably known; my fortune is mediocre, I desire it to be great. I ask you for nothing--I know your generous heart; but I wish independently to work out my own career."

"Lumley," said Templeton, "I never esteemed you so much as I do now. Listen to me--I will confide in you; I think the government are under obligations to me."

"I know it," exclaimed Ferrers, whose eyes sparkled at the thought of a sinecure--for sinecures then existed!

"And," pursued the uncle, "I intend to ask them a favour in return."

"Oh, sir!"

"Yes; I think--mark me--with management and address, I may--"

"Well, my dear sir!"

"Obtain a barony for myself and heirs; I trust I shall soon have a family!"

Had somebody given Lumley Ferrers a hearty cuff on the ear, he would have thought less of it than of this wind-up of his uncle's ambitious projects. His jaws fell, his eyes grew an inch larger, and he remained perfectly speechless.

"Ay," pursued Mr. Templeton, "I have long dreamed this; my character is spotless, my fortune great. I have ever exerted my parliamentary influence in favour of ministers; and, in this commercial country, no man has higher claims than Richard Templeton to the honours of a virtuous, loyal, and religious state. Yes, my boy,--I like your ambition--you see I have some of it myself; and since you are sincere in your wish to tread in my footsteps, I think I can obtain you a junior partnership in a highly respectable establishment. Let me see; your capital now is--

"Pardon me, sir," interrupted Lumley, colouring with indignation despite himself; "I honour commerce much, but my paternal relations are not such as would allow me to enter into trade. And permit me to add," continued he, seizing with instant adroitness the new weakness presented to him--"permit me to add, that those relations, who have been ever kind to me, would, properly managed, be highly efficient in promoting your own views of advancement; for your sake I would not break with them. Lord Saxingham is still a minister--nay, he is in the cabinet."

"Hem--Lumley--hem!" said Templeton, thoughtfully; "we will consider--we will consider. Any more wine?"

"No, I thank you, sir."

"Then I'll just take my evening stroll, and think over matters. You can rejoin Mrs. Templeton. And I say, Lumley,--I read prayers at nine o'clock. Never forget your Maker, and He will not forget you. The barony will be an excellent thing--eh?--an English peerage--yes--an English peerage! very different from your beggarly countships abroad!"

So saying, Mr. Templeton rang for his hat and cane, and stepped into the lawn from the window of the dining-room.

"'The world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open,'" muttered Ferrers; "I would mould this selfish old man to my purpose; for, since I have neither genius to write nor eloquence to declaim, I will at least see whether I have not cunning to plot and courage to act. Conduct--conduct--conduct--there lies my talent; and what is conduct but a steady walk from a design to its execution?"

With these thoughts Ferrers sought Mrs. Templeton. He opened the folding-doors very gently, for all his habitual movements were quick and noiseless, and perceived that Mrs. Templeton sat by the window, and that she seemed engrossed with a book which lay open on a little work-table before her.

"Fordyce's _Advice to Young Married Women_, I suppose. Sly jade! However, I must not have her against me."

He approached; still Mrs. Templeton did not note him; nor was it till he stood facing her that he himself observed that her tears were falling fast over the page.

He was a little embarrassed, and, turning towards the window, affected to cough, and then said, without looking at Mrs. Templeton, "I fear I have disturbed you."

"No," answered the same low, stifled voice that had before replied to Lumley's vain attempts to provoke conversation; "it was a melancholy employment, and perhaps it is not right to indulge in it."

"May I inquire what author so affected you."

"It is but a volume of poems, and I am no judge of poetry; but it contains thoughts which--which--" Mrs. Templeton paused abruptly, and Lumley quietly took up the book.

"Ah!" said he, turning to the title-page--"my friend ought to be much flattered."

"Your friend?"

"Yes: this, I see, is by Ernest Maltravers, a very intimate ally of mine."

"I should like to see him," cried Mrs. Templeton, almost with animation. "I read but little; it was by chance that I met with one of his books, and they are as if I heard a dear friend speaking to me. Ah! I should like to see him!"

"I'm sure, madam," said the voice of a third person, in an austere and rebuking accent, "I do not see what good it would do your immortal soul to see a man who writes idle verses, which appear to me, indeed, highly immoral. I just looked into that volume this morning and found nothing but trash--love-sonnets, and such stuff."

Mrs. Templeton made no reply, and Lumley, in order to change the conversation, which seemed a little too matrimonial for his taste, said, rather awkwardly, "You are returned very soon, sir."

"Yes, I don't like walking in the rain!"

"Bless me, it rains, so, it does--I had not observed--"

"Are you wet, sir? had you not better--" began the wife timidly.

"No, ma'am, I'm not wet, I thank you. By the by, nephew, this new author is a friend of yours. I wonder a man of his family should condescend to turn author. He can come to no good. I hope you will drop his acquaintance--authors are very unprofitable associates, I'm sure. I trust I shall see no more of Mr. Maltravers's books in my house."

"Nevertheless, he is well thought of, sir, and makes no mean figure in the world," said Lumley, stoutly; for he was by no means disposed to give up a friend who might be as useful to him as Mr. Templeton himself.

"Figure or no figure--I have not had many dealings with authors in my day; and when I had I always repented it. Not sound, sir, not sound--all cracked somewhere. Mrs. Templeton, have the kindness to get the Prayer-book--my hassock must be fresh stuffed, it gives me quite a pain in my knee. Lumley, will you ring the bell? Your aunt is very melancholy. True religion is not gloomy; we will read a sermon on Cheerfulness."

"So, so," said Mr. Ferrers to himself, as he undressed that night--"I see that my uncle is a little displeased with my aunt's pensive face--a little jealous of her thinking of anything but himself: _tant mieux_. I must work upon this discovery; it will not do for them to live too happily with each other. And what with that lever, and what with his ambitious projects, I think I see a way to push the good things of this world a few inches nearer to Lumley Ferrers."

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