« AnteriorContinuar »
Saith a very homely proverb (pardon its vulgarity), "You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.' But a sow's ear is a much finer work of art than a silk purse. And grand, indeed, the mechanician who could make a sow's ear out of a silk purse, or conjure into creatures of flesh and blood the sarcenet and tulle of a London drawing
"Mamma," asked Honoria Carr Vipont, "what sort of a person was Mrs Darrell ?"
"She was not in our set, my dear," answered Lady Selina. "The Vipont Crookes are just one of those connections in which, though, of course, one is civil to all connections, one is more or less intimate, according as they take after the Viponts or after the Crookes. Poor woman! she died just before Mr Darrell entered Parliament, and appeared in society. But I should say she was not an agreeable person. Not nice," added Lady Selina, after a pause, and conveying a world of meaning in that conventional monosyllable.
I suppose she was very accomplished very clever ?"
"Quite the reverse, my dear. Mr Darrell was exceedingly young when he married-scarcely of age. She was not the sort of woman to suit him."
"But at least she must have been very much attached to him-very proud of him?"
Lady Selina glanced aside from her work, and observed her daughter's face, which evinced an animation not usual to a young lady of a breeding so lofty, and a mind so well disciplined.
"I don't think," said Lady Selina, "that she was proud of him. She would have been proud of his station, or rather of that to which his fame and fortune would have raised her, had she lived to enjoy it. But for a few years after her marriage they were very poor; and though his rise at the bar was sudden and brilliant, he was long wholly absorbed in his profession, and lived in Bloomsbury. Mrs Darrell was not proud of that. The Crookes are generally fine-give themselves airs-marry into great houses if they can-but we can't naturalise them-they always remain Crookes-useful connections, very!
Carr says we have not a more useful —but third-rate, my dear. All the Crookes are bad wives, because they are never satisfied with their own homes, but are always trying to get into great people's homes. Not very long before she died, Mrs Darrell took her friend and relation, Mrs Lyndsay, to live with her. I suspect it was not from affection, or any great consideration for Mrs Lyndsay's circumstances (which were indeed those of actual destitution, tillthanks to Mr Darrell-she won her lawsuit), but simply because she looked to Mrs Lyndsay to get her into our set. Mrs Lyndsay was a great favourite with all of us, charming manners perfectly correct, too thorough Vipont-thorough gentlewoman but artful! Oh, so artful! She humoured poor Mrs Darrell's absurd vanity; but she took care not to injure herself. course, Darrell's wife, and a Vipontthough only a Vipont Crooke-had free passport into the outskirts of good society, the great parties, and so forth. But there it stopped; even I should have been compromised if I had admitted into our set a woman who was bent on compromising herself. Handsome-in a bad style-not the Vipont tournure; and not only silly and flirting, but-(we are alone, keep the secret)--decidedly vulgar, my dear."
"You amaze me! How such a man- Honoria stopped, colouring up to the temples.
"Clever men," said Lady Selina, as a general rule, do choose the oddest wives! The cleverer a man is, the more easily, I do believe, a woman can take him in. However, to do Mr Darrell justice, he has been taken in only once. After Mrs Darrell's death, Mrs Lyndsay, I suspect, tried her chance, but failed. Of course, she could not actually stay in the same house with a widower who
was then young, and who had only to get rid of a wife to whom one was forced to be shy, in order to be received into our set with open arms; and, in short, to be of the very best monde. Mr Darrell came into Parliament immensely rich (a legacy from an old East Indian, besides his own professional savings)-took the house he has now, close by us. Mrs Lyndsay was obliged to retire to a cottage at Fulham. But as she professed to be a second mother to poor Matilda Darrell, she contrived to be very much at Carlton Gardens; her daughter Caroline was nearly always there, profiting by Matilda's masters; and I did think that Mrs Lyndsay would have caught Darrell - but your papa said 'No,' and he was right, as he always is. Nevertheless, Mrs Lyndsay would have been an excellent wife to a public man-so popular-knew the world so well— never made enemies till she made an enemy of poor dear Montfort; but that was natural. By the by, I must write to Caroline. Sweet creature! but how absurd, shutting herself up as if she were fretting for Montfort! That's so like her mother-heartless -but full of propriety."
Here Carr Vipont and Colonel Morley entered the room. "We have just left Darrell," said Carr, "he will dine here to-day, to meet our cousin Alban. I have asked his cousin, young Haughton, and ****, and , your cousins, Selina-(a small party of cousins)-so lucky to find Darrell disengaged."
* * *
"I ventured to promise," said the Colonel, addressing Honoria in an under voice, that Darrell should hear you play Beethoven."
HONORIA.-"Is Mr Darrell so fond of music, then?"
COLONEL MORLEY.-"One would not have thought it. He keeps a secretary at Fawley who plays the flute. There's something very interesting about Darrell. I wish you could hear his ideas on marriage and domestic life - more freshness of heart than in the young men one meets nowadays. It may be prejudice; but it seems to me that the young fellows of the present race, if more sober and staid than we were, are sadly wanting in character and
VOL. LXXXIII.—NO. DXI.
"The same stereotyped ideas," added Honoria, moving away with a gesture of calm disdain.
"A very superior mind hers," whispered the Colonel to Carr Vipont. "She'll never marry a fool." Guy Darrell was very pleasant at small family dinner-party." Carr was always popular in his manners-the true old House of Commons manner, which was very like that of a gentlemanlike public school. Lady Selina, as has been said before, in her own family circle was natural and genial. Young Carr, there, without his wife, more pretentious than his father-being a Lord of the Admiralty-felt a certain awe of Darrell, and spoke little, which was much to his own credit, and to the general conviviality. The other members of the symposium, besides Lady Selina, Honoria, and a younger sister, were but Darrell, Lionel, and Lady Selina's two cousins; elderly peers-one with the garter, the other in the cabinet-jovial men, who had been wild fellows once in the same messroom, and still joked at each other whenever they met as they met now. Lionel, who remembered Vance's description of Lady Selina, and who had since heard her spoken of in society as a female despot who carried to perfection the arts by which despots flourish, with majesty to impose, and caresses to deceive-an Aurungzebe in petticoats-was sadly at a loss to reconcile such portraiture with the good-humoured, motherly woman who talked to him of her home, her husband, her children, with open fondness and becoming pride, and who, far from being so formidably clever as the world cruelly gave out, seemed to Lionel rather below par in her understanding; strike from her talk its kindliness, and the residue was very like twaddle. After dinner, various members of the
Vipont family dropped in- asked impromptu by Carr or by Lady Selina, in hasty three-cornered notes, to take that occasion of renewing their acquaintance with their distinguished connection. By some accident, amongst those invited there were but few young single ladies; and by some other accident, those few were all plain. Honoria Vipont was unequivocally the belle of the room. It could not but be observed that Darrell seemed struck with her talked with her more than with any other lady; and when she went to the piano, and played that great air of Beethoven's, in which music seems to have got into a knot that only fingers the most artful can unravel, Darrell remained in his seat aloof and alone, listening, no doubt, with ravished attention. But just as the air ended, and Honoria turned round to look for him, he was gone.
Lionel did not linger long after him. The gay young man went, thence, to one of those vast crowds which seem convened for a practical parody of Mr Bentham's famous proposition-contriving the smallest happiness for the greatest num
It was a very great house, belong. ing to a very great person. Colonel Morley had procured an invitation for Lionel, and said, “Go ; you should be seen there." Colonel Morley had passed the age of growing-into society -no such cares for the morrow could add a cubit to his conventional stature. One amongst a group of other young men by the doorway, Lionel beheld Darrell, who had arrived before him, listening to a very handsome young lady, with an attention quite as earnest as that which had gratified the superior mind of the well-educated Honoria. A very handsome young lady certainly, but not with a superior mind, nor supposed hitherto to have found young gentlemen "insipid." Doubtless she would henceforth do 80. A few minutes after, Darrell was listening again-this time to another young lady, generally called "fast." If his attentions to her were not marked, hers to him were. She rattled on to him volubly, laughed, pretty hoyden, at her own sallies, and seemed at last so to fascinate him by
her gay spirits that he sate down by her side; and the playful smile on his lips-lips that had learned to be so gravely firm-showed that he could enter still into the mirth of childhood; for surely to the time-worn man the fast young lady must have seemed but a giddy child. Lionel was
amused. Could this be the austere recluse whom he had left in the shades of Fawley? Guy Darrell, at his years, with his dignified repute, the object of so many nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles-could he descend to be that most frivolous of characters, a male coquet? Was he in earnest was his vanity duped? Looking again, Lionel saw in his kinsman's face a sudden return of the sad despondent expression which had moved his own young pity in the solitudes of Fawley. But in a moment the man roused himself-the sad expression was gone. Had the girl's merry laugh again chased it away? But Lionel's attention was now drawn from Darrell himself to the observations murmured round him, of which Darrell was the theme.
"Yes, he is bent on marrying again! I have it from Alban Morley
immense fortune-and so younglooking, any girl might fall in love with such eyes and forehead; besides, what a jointure he could settle!
afraid of him. zing her.
Do look at that girl, Flora Vyvyan, trying to make a fool of him. She can't appreciate that kind of man, and she would not be caught by his money-does not want it. I wonder she is not He is certainly quizThe men think her pretty-I don't. They say he is to return to Parliament, and have a place in the Cabinet. No! he has no children living-very natural he should marry again. A nephew-you are quite mistaken. Young Haughton is no nephew-a very distant connection-could not expect to be the heir. It was given out though, at Paris. The Duchess thought so, and so did Lady Jane. They'll not be so civil to young Haughton now. . . Hush-" Lionel, wishing to hear no more, glided by, and penetrated farther into the throng. And then, as he pro
ceeded, with those last words on his ear, the consciousness came upon him that his position had undergone a change. Difficult to define it; to an ordinary bystander, people would have seemed to welcome him cordially as ever. The gradations of respect in polite society are so exquisitely delicate, that it seems only by a sort of magnetism that one knows from day to day whether one has risen or declined. A man has lost high office, patronage, power, never, perhaps, to regain them. People don't turn their backs on him; their smiles are as gracious, their hands as flatteringly extended. But that man would be dull as a rhinoceros if he did not feel as every one who accosts him feels-that he has descended in the ladder. So with all else. Lose even your fortune, it is not the next day in a London drawing-room that your friends look as if you were going to ask them for five pounds. Wait a year or so for that. But if they have just heard you are ruined, you will feel that they have heard it, let them bow ever so courteously, smile ever so kindly. Lionel at Paris, in the last year or so, had been more than fashionable: he had
been the fashion-courted, run after, petted, quoted, imitated. That evening he felt as an author may feel who has been the rage, and, without fault of his own, is so no more. The rays that had gilt him had gone back to the orb that lent. And they who were most genial still to Lionel Haughton, were those who still most respected thirty-five thousand pounds a-year-in Guy Darrell !
Lionel was angry with himself that he felt galled. But in his wounded pride there was no mercenary regret only that sort of sickness which comes to youth when the hollowness of worldly life is first made clear to it. From the faces round him there fell that glamour by which the amour propre is held captive in large assemblies, where the amour propre is flattered. Magnificent, intelligent audience," thinks the applauded actor. "Delightful party," murmurs the worshipped beauty. Glamour! glamour! Let the audience yawn while the actor mouths; let the party neglect the beauty to adore another, and straightway the "magnificent audience" is an "ignorant public," and the delightful party" a "heartless world."
Escaped from a London Drawing-Room, flesh once more tingles, and blood flows-Guy Darrell explains to Lionel Haughton why he holds it a duty to be-an old fool.
Lionel Haughton glided through the disenchanted rooms, and breathed a long breath of relief when he found himself in the friendless streets.
As he walked slow and thoughtful on, he suddenly felt a hand upon his shoulder, turned, and saw Darrell.
"Give me your arm, my dear Lionel; I am tired out. What a lovely night! What sweet scorn in the eyes of those stars that we have neglected for yon flaring lights." LIONEL.Is it scorn-is it pity? Is it but serene indifference?" DARRELL." As we ourselves interpret; if scorn be present in our own hearts, it will be seen in the disc of Jupiter. Man, egoist though he be, exacts sympathy from all the universe. Joyous, he says to the sun, 'Life-giver, rejoice with me.' Griev
ing, he says to the moon, 'Pensive one, thou sharest my sorrow.' Hope for fame; a star is its promise! Mourn for the dead; a star is the land of reunion! Say to Earth, ‘I have done with thee;' to Time, Thou hast nought to bestow;' and all Space cries aloud, 'The earth is a speck, thine inheritance infinity. Time melts while thou sighest. The discontent of a mortal is the instinct that proves thee immortal.' Thus construing Nature, Nature is our companion, our consoler. Benign as the playmate, she lends herself to our shifting humours. Serious as the teacher, she responds to the steadier inquiries of reason. Mystic and hallowed as the priestess, she keeps alive by dim oracles that spiritual yearning within us, in which, from savage to
sage-hrough all dreams, through all creeds-thrills the sense of a link with Divinity. Never, therefore, while conferring with Nature, is Man wholly alone, nor is she a single companion with uniform shape. Ever new, ever various, she can pass from gay to severe -from fancy to science quick as thought passes from the dance of a leaf, from the tint of a rainbow, the theory of motion, the problem of light. But lose Nature-forget or dismiss her make companions, by hundreds, of men who ignore her, and I will not say with the poet, "This is solitude.' But in the commune, what stale monotony, what weary sameness!"
Thus Darrell continued to weave together sentence with sentence, the intermediate connection of meaning often so subtle, that when put down on paper it requires effort to discern it. But it was his peculiar gift to make clear when spoken, what in writing would seem obscure. Look, manner, each delicate accent in a voice wonderfully distinct in its unrivalled melody, all so aided the sense of mere words, that it is scarcely extravagant to say he might have talked an unknown language, and a listener would have understood. But, understood or not, those sweet intonations it was such delight to hear, that any one with nerves alive to music would have murmured, "Talk on for ever." And in this gift lay one main secret of the man's strange influence over all who came familiarly into his intercourse; so that if Darrell had ever bestowed confidential intimacy on any one not by some antagonistic idiosyncrasy steeled against its charm, and that intimacy had been withdrawn, a void never to be refilled must have been left in the life thus robbed.
Stopping at his door, as Lionel, rapt by the music, had forgotten the pain of the reverie so bewitchingly broken, Darrell detained the hand held out to him, and said, "No, not yet—I have something to say to you: come in; let me say it now."
Lionel bowed his head, and in surprised conjecture followed his kinsman up the lofty stairs into the same comfortless stately room that has been already described. When the
servant closed the door, Darrell sank into a chair. Fixing his eyes upon Lionel with almost parental kindness, and motioning his young cousin to sit by his side, close, he thus began:
Lionel, before I was your age I was married-I was a father. I am lonely and childless now. My life has been moulded by a solemn obligation which so few could comprehend, that I scarce know a man living beside yourself to whom I would frankly confide it. Pride of family is a common infirmity-often petulant with the poor, often insolent with the rich; but rarely, perhaps, out of that pride do men construct a positive binding duty, which at all self-sacrifice should influence the practical choice of life. As a child, before my judgment could discern how much of vain superstition may lurk in our reverence for the dead, my whole heart was engaged in a passionate dream, which my waking existence became vowed to realise. My father!-my lip quivers, my eyes moisten as I recall him, even now, my father!-I loved him so intensely the love of childhood how fearfully strong it is! All in him was so gentle, yet so sensitivechivalry without its armour. I was his constant companion: he spoke to me unreservedly, as a poet to his muse. I wept at his sorrows-I chafed at his humiliations. He talked of ancestors as he thought of them; to him they were beings like the old Lares,-not dead in graves, but images ever present on household hearths. Doubtless he exaggerated their worth-as their old importance. Obscure, indeed, in the annals of empire, their deeds and their power, their decline and fall. Not so thought he; they were to his eyes the moon track in the ocean of history --light on the waves over which they had gleamed-all the ocean elsewhere dark! With him thought I; as my father spoke, his child believed. But what to the eyes of the world was this inheritor of a vaunted name?-a threadbare, slighted, rustic pedant
no station in the very province in which mouldered away the last lowly dwelling-place of his line. By lineage high above most nobles