Woman's Wrongs (4)
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BOOK IV.—THE LADY OF TITLE.
In three parts,—Girlhood, Marriage, Old Age.


I.—INTRODUCTION.


WE have now reached the fourth book of "Woman's Wrongs," and have mounted the ladder of society from step to step, to trace some of the various phases of ill that afflict woman in the different spheres of life.

    At the poorest stage, that of the workingman's wife, want of moral education on either side will be seen to combine with the hardships and cruelties of society towards the poor, to wreck the happiness of woman.

    At the next stage, that of the class to which the young milliner belongs, heart and intellect are allowed a freer course.  They are neither dwarfed by ignorance nor warped by conventionality and need but a fair chance to reach a full, bright, and happy development.  In that class the best specimen of womanhood would be the likeliest found.  But, for that class too, either poverty and temptation prove destructive, or the weary, toilsome, and ill-sorted marriage to want and drudgery wreck the first budding flowers of intellect and feeling.

    At the next highest stage of social prosperity, that of "The Tradesman's Daughter," education is in reality less developed than in the upper orders of the working classes—for the latter are forced to shift more for themselves, and consequently to observe more, to reflect more, and to feel more.  The tradesman's daughter is too often either a calculating machine or a mere wax flower and, be it well understood, EDUCATION does not consist in music, embroidery, dancing, or French—education consists in knowing how to feel nobly and to judge rightly.  And, indeed, it may often happen that the peasant who cannot sign his own name is more highly educated in the moral, manly, only true sense of the term, than the peer's son, though fresh from Oxford and from Paris.

    In the first book, we have accordingly shown the lurking INSTINCTS of our human nature, undeveloped, but still in existence, played on like a naked machinery by the rude touches of misfortune.  There is much impulse with little feeling, great truth with little judgment. The characters are just what society makes them, but they let themselves be moulded by the rude grasp of that society without even a single struggle.

    In the second book, the HEART stands forth developed.  The rude passions of a Margaret and a Haspen sink into abeyance, and the mechanism by which society beats down to sin and ruin is covered with the velvet of sentiment, or veiled with the gauze of morality.

    In the third book, the MIND steps into the foreground.  The heart is not reached—save by the threshold of the brain—and, in verging nearer to the grades of conventionality, society, which strove to strangle feeling, finds itself foiled because human nature is human nature after all.  It will speak, it will assert its sway.  The heart is an unconquerable rebel, for if you seek to destroy it, Sampson-like in perishing, it pulls down the temple of our life as well.

    We now proceed to the fourth stage, the loftiest platform of our social splendour and our social misery, a true, a startling, a painful revelation.

    In these books we have not merely sought to amuse; we present them to the reader as a psychological and social study.  There you have seen what society makes us.  But we, too, make society.  There is a corrective principle in human nature, a compensating balance which, if we apply aright, will enable us to recover our lost position, if ever we were better (which is very doubtful)—to gain a superior position, if we were not.

    It is folly to say "we can't help it," "we are the creatures of circumstances", "we are what society makes us."  We can help it.  We can create circumstances, we can make society—or whence the efforts at redress and reform, moral, social, political, religious?  Why is it, if circumstance unconditionally makes us what we are, that we don't eternally grow worse?  How is it, that, the evil once begun, the disease once inoculated, surrounded by deteriorating circumstances, nations suddenly emancipate themselves from sin and rise in the moral and intellectual scale of greatness?  It is BECAUSE THERE IS A COMPENSATING BALANCE IN THE MORAL WORLD.  It is because the spring of living action still remains that can enable us to purge off our impurities.  So with individuals, so with nations.  A pure thought rises, greatens, battles, conquers in a single brain.  A Rienzi can be born in a servile Rome, a Luther can appear in a superstitious world, a Cato can regenerate a licentious people.

    "We are the creatures of circumstances."  Yes! the man viciously educated, lost in ignorance (or worse), perverted with false teaching, goaded by poverty, or dragged down by temptation without the counteracting guards, sinks to crime.  Who is the criminal?  The man who did the act?  No! the society that made him do it!

    So far, society makes a man what he is.  But, there are some brains so wrought, some hearts so tempered, some lives so situate that they become the rallying points of the moral reaction.  They stem the torrent of corruption and, USING circumstance to help them on (circumstance is a thing that will use you, if you don't use it—and you may), climb into power, whether moral, political or religious.  Then they wield circumstance—then they use circumstance, to further their moral views.  They look across society and they see poverty and ignorance breed crime; if so, competence and education will counteract it.  Commanding the resources of the state, they are enabled to apply the remedy.  They take the medicine—"Gold"—and pouring it into the phial—"Labour"—give it to the patient, "Poverty".  They give, like a good physician, in gradual, gentle doses, and guide the misused energies of man into a steady, healthy, moral course.  So nations are reformed, so mankind are exalted, so progression is established.

   But mark!  If poverty is the mother of crime, the moral reformer as well as the social reformer must begin by being a political reformer as well.  If the immorality of the poor creates their poverty, then to preach morals would be enough.  But as long as the immorality of the rich creates the poverty of the poor, only one of two courses is left for the reformer; either to preach morality to the rich till they become moral, divest themselves of their riches, and make the world happy—or to take away their power.  Morality has been preached to them for six thousand years, and they are not moral yet.  The Almighty himself, the Bible tells us, preached morality to them in person and by prophet.  They upset His altars, we are told, stoned His messengers, and crucifies His son. [Note]  Then he ceased to commune with them in person.

    Does the moral reformer think to achieve what God himself is said not to have effected?  Nay! the duty of the moral and social reformer is obvious—TO GET POWER—and then use it!  Be not merely preachers and teachers and writers, but Generals and Ministers and Rulers.  Philosophy must sit on the judgment-seat before it can empty the felon's dock.  Peace must stand at the head of an army before it can furl the banners of war.  Equality must step upon the throne of power, before it can remove the tyrannies of the earth.  "You can't make men moral or religious by Acts of Parliament."  Ah! but you can though, not by ordering them to be good, certainly, but by removing the causes which make them bad.

    To the task then, men of thought and truth!  You've made a mistake by merely writing in your closets.  Out of your studies, away from your seclusion, soldiers of the moral world!  Let your aim be POWER—your place is in the senate, the cabinet, and at the head of armies.  You must wield the force too, as well as the mind, if you wish to conquer.  PHILOSOPHY IN ACTION be the shibboleth of the reformer.

    Reader!  We have thought this no digression while introducing the fourth book of our work, for all we write is with one aim, and all we read ought to be read with one object—knowledge.

    We now invite your attention to the over true history of that strange phase of human nature "The Lady of Title."  Having in these books given you an outline of some of the wrongs by which woman is debased and wrecked, we may perhaps, in four future books, show some of those features by which the character is raised and saved.

 
*  Let it not be said "the poor shouted 'crucify him! crucify him!'  They did, but they were set on by the priests and nobles, who had made them ignorant and then played upon their ignorance.  And, as is well-known, the early Christians were almost all the poor.


 
2.—THE DANCE AND THE THUNDER.


BLAZE CASTLE was one glory.  The Earl and Countess of St. Blaze were giving a grand ball.  The pale moon was climbing over the silent harvest-fields.  Worn-out, haggard toil had slunk to rest in its holes and corners.  The light flashing from the lordly windows, the music pealing from the stately halls, floated unchallenged over the rich, deserted corn-lands as it broke gleaming and murmuring through the full woodlands of the park.

    All day long a hot heavy atmosphere had weighed painfully on the throbbing temples of labour and was reverberated with a pricking heat from the palace walls of languid and uncaring ease.  The cattle had remained standing up to their middle in the stilly pools, and the sharp stings of the gad-fly and the insect world had seemed dipped in double venom.  The voice of the bird had been silent, and a sultry foreboding pause seemed holding nature in some ominous suspense.

    With twilight came no freshness.  The evening was intensely close and not a breath of air entered the magnificently-lighted ballroom of the castle.  Yet its spacious windows were all opened wide.  The distant country, caressed by the soft moonlight, framed itself between their gilded panels and silk-hangings, like so many landscapes by some great master, hung against the wall, so motionless and lifeless seemed everything without.

    The heaviness of the atmosphere appeared to have imparted itself to the guests, for the dance languished, the band paused frequently and the fair dancers glided with indolent lassitude or drooped dreamily over the rich ottomans, like flowers before a storm.  The assemblage comprised all that the country afforded of wealth, aristocracy and title, measured by the most exclusive standard  The fête was conspicuous in everything that could add the climax to splendour, or the zest to enjoyment.

    It was at that hour of the evening, in which the imagination, heated by a thousand voluptuous images, conjured up by the ball, loses itself in wild and ardent vision before fatigue tames down its warmer impulses.  There seemed something dreamily intoxicating in the air—the mingled atmosphere of scents and flowers, throbbing with the rapid pulse of music.  A burning dew glistened on the purest, fairest brow, and while the gay brilliancy of the hot saloon stimulated and excited, the quiet, warm gloom of the half-seen country wooed to voluptuous and mysterious retirement.

    In the midst of this scene of enchantment a faint gleam seemed to flicker across the chandeliers.  Faint as it was—throwing them into momentary obscurity by the contrast of its weird strange light—a deep bass came muttering with the light trebles of the sparkling music and a cool breath flowed in soon after, with startling freshness, through the open casements. 

    Some gentlemen stepped to the windows, but the dance continued.  Presently, a deep, heavy, though distant, roll was heard.  It muttered, deepened, swelled and then roared terribly around the towers of the castle.  In an instant, the merry chaos of the ballroom lulled, the women turned pale and looked at each other in alarm.  The music ceased, the voices sunk to a whisper.  There was silence.  "The thunder!" fell in terror from many a faltering lip.

    "How stupid!" exclaimed the Countess of St. Blaze.  "It will spoil the ball.  How very, very stupid!"  It certainly was very wrong that a thunderstorm should take place when a nobleman was giving a ball.  It was some very great mismanagement in nature.  "Dear me!  I'm very sorry," she continued, as though it was all merely an oversight on her part that such a thing should have been allowed to occur.  "Pray do not alarm yourselves—it's nothing at all—merely . . . . Why don't they go on playing—Sir Fiddle My-garter—pray tell them!  Who forms the next contre-danse?  It's nothing at all—merely . . . .

    At that moment a pale blue light filled the whole room and a simultaneous crash, as though a planet had toppled from its equipoise on to the earth, made the whole castle rock to its foundation.  Shrieks and faintings followed the explosion.  The fair guests fled into the adjoining rooms.  Some hid themselves behind curtains and ottomans—some fainted, or pretended to faint—the oldest, whose nerves were the strongest, were the greatest fainters and the stronger sex ran after their fair charges, attracted by the charm of soothing and encouraging them by divers pleasant means.  In the general terror, the wreaths fell from the silken hair, the scarves fled from the snowy shoulders, the bouquets dropped from the loosened girdles.

    The terror seemed to grow the more the occasion for it ceased.  But it was not a pale and haggard terror—it was a pretty, graceful, loving, confiding fear.  Ladies fainted not on sofas, though they might be sitting on them.  They got up to faint in the arms of some young cavalier who was, perhaps, most inconveniently situated for the operation.  Nay! some were seen to walk across the room with the stalwart step of a dragoon till they got near some particularly attractive individual and then, suddenly giving a faint pretty shriek, to drop like a ripe cherry in his arms.  What tender comfort was then whispered! what straying hands! what beating hearts! what gliding forms!—and a remarkable feature of the scene was that the fair nymphs and matrons, after recovering without scent, salts, or water, remained in the same attitudes into which their faintings had surprised them.

    Presently, cavaliers, with their arms around the waists of pliant nymphs, were seen to raise them up and half carry them with many signs of terror to the ball-room.  The band struck up again.  The few drops of rain had imparted afresh vigour to the air.  The deep descent of the thunder and the sharp gleam of the vivid lightning added a magical excitement to the scene.  Louder and wilder played the band, deeper and fuller roared the storm, keener and quicker flashed the clouds.  "Oh! what a delicious excitement!" whispered the Dowager Lady Peppers, and their blunted passions stimulated by the unwonted scene, like bounding bacchanals, the women whirled in the voluptuous dance.  Locks flew loose, bosoms heaved and glowed, cheeks flushed, eyes flashed.  Closer and closer the waltzers embraced, faster and faster the waltzers whirled, and opportunity alone was wanting to complete the desired sin.

    In the embrasure of one of the windows of the ball-room that opened on the terrace leant a young man, whose severe and pale countenance bespoke the presence of a noble thought.  He stood on the threshold of the window—if the term may be used—half in the wild stormy world of nature without, half in the artificial glittering world of man within.  Now he turned to the magnificent tempest of the elements, now he gazed on the impure fever of the passions.

    "And, she, too, may become as one of these, foul, meretricious, callous, the plane-pest of social corruption in her soul—and yet! 'tis sacrilege to think it.  But were those not pure once?  Did they not blush beneath the first dawn of innocent love, fragrant and stainless as the dew upon the rose-bud?  And what have they become?  Foul, pestilent, soul-corruption, or cold, bitter, acrid, dry-bones of humanity, hating and hated, mischief-making and scheming, dowagers of fashion, inheritors and transmitters of the social curse.  And what has made them so?  The false course in which birth and circumstance has launched them.  Alas! and why should she prove an exemption?"

    While the young man reflected thus, a beautiful form—tall, graceful, buoyant as the antelope—glided from the hot ball-room to his side.  Her dark-brown locks waving loosely, her flushed cheek, her sparkling eye, spoke of the excitement of the scene and increased her elegant and surpassing loveliness.  "Do not stand there! Mr. Darcy," she exclaimed. "Pray close the window! don't you hear the storm?"

    "What matters?" he answered.

    "Good heavens! but don't you see the lightning? you will attract it here."

    "That would be a pity while those ladies are so happy."

    "Now, don't be satirical.  Come in, you make me tremble," she replied, laughing.

    "Tremble!  Why should you?  Do you fear I should act the part of a conductor?  Take courage!  Nature is a well-mannered kind of person; she would never send a thunder-bolt among so distinguished a circle.  You know, if it were a cottage . . . ."  Lady Honora St. Blaze looked at him in surprise.  "Besides, you know, it would be a very distinguished kind of death!  I should have my name in all the papers and you could tell your friends such a romance of horrors."

    "You are cruel."

    "No, no!  I should be sure my friends would not forget me for nine days.  But, by the bye, I'm wrong!  There'd be such a smell of sulphur you'd have to leave the dance prematurely."

    The earl's daughter clasped her hands with a melancholy reproachful look.

    "What can make you speak so?"

    "Me?  Nothing.  But you are pale, Lady Honora!  The thunder has marred your pleasure and you hear it louder at this window.  Are you not afraid of remaining here?"

    "No!" she replied, with a sort of childish pettishness in her tone and stepped out on the terrace on which Darcy was now standing.  A flash suddenly deluged the whole heaven.  Lady Honora trembled, but stood firm.  The thunder that followed was distant and subdued.

    "The storm is passing away," said Darcy.  The wind is getting up.  Console yourself, the ball will not be spoilt."

    "I don't care for the ball—I hate the ball!"  Darcy thought he heard a half-stifled sob.  He looked at her intently. She was shedding tears.

    "Good heaven!  What moves you—Honora—Lady Honora?"

    "How can you be so cruel?"

    "Is it possible that anything that I have said should move you to tears?  Pardon me! you know I am ill at ease in a scene like this.  I feel a sort of anger in seeing you enjoy such pleasures as those we are witnessing.  It seems to me as though it was profanation for you to breathe such an atmosphere."

    "But what have I done to you?" said the young lady, with one of those bewitching looks, half smiles, half tears, which no language can describe.  "What have I done to you that you should . . . . What harm have I done?"

    "None! oh! you are good and pure as an angel!  But do you know, that if the inmost thought were written on each brow now beaming in that room, the whole world would turn as from a brand of infamy.  You start—you think me eccentric, mad, what you will.  No matter!  Do you know that those . . . . men . . . . are little better than a band of moral assassins, who lay pitfalls for the happiness of every one of you?  That there are not three, perhaps, who would recoil from the idea of making you miserable for life, who look on you as better then a pastime or, if more seriously, than a stepping-stone on the ladder of ambition.  And would you have me otherwise than sad, when I see you giving yourself up to such as those?"

    "And do you think I give them other than a gloved hand—that I look on them as more than guiding-machines for the contre-danse?  They are merely the requisite machinery for dancing an evening out, and I take them out of my memory at the same time in which I take the flowers from my hair.  It is merely an occasional amusement," and the young philosopher laughed in a manner ill according with her philosophy.

    "But do you not see that these 'occasions' become your whole life, and that your heart will take the impress of your actions if you do not make your actions take the impress of your heart?  Do you not see that this society, which you compare to the wreaths in your hair, quits you as little as do the latter, and becomes thus almost a part of yourself?  Forgive me for speaking so plainly, but I have not seen you alone for eight days . . . . and—and—a storm at a ball is so unusual," he added with an artificial smile, "that liberties may be taken when it happens."

    "Do not fall back into that ironical manner or I shall cry again; I feel—I feel you speak truly.  But what can I do?"

    "Nothing! continue to harden your soul, as those have done—your rank forces you to it.  Forget the obscure and humble friend whose eyes will follow you through the brilliant turmoil."

    "Oh! do not think I have so soon become as heartless as you describe.  You wrong me, you really wrong me!"

    "Alas, then try to become so!" Darcy said bitterly, "in your rank you must grow heartless or broken-hearted.  And perhaps the first is wisest."

    "Don't say so! you are very cruel to me!  Tell me what I should do, and I will do it.  But you should not show me my fault without teaching me how to mend it."  It is remarkable how frivolity, keen sense, and a soft loving nature struggled each for the mastery in this young girl.  "When a lost child stretches its hand towards you, you should not repel it."  And Lady Honora laid her white band in Darcy's, with a charming, childlike confidence.  He could not withstand the spell.  He pressed her fingers to his lips and heart, and she replied to the pressure.

    "Do not be angry with me," he exclaimed, in low hurried tones, while the music of the ball-room prevented his words from being heard within and the gloom of the night, the excitement of the dance, prevented notice being taken of what passed without.  "Do not be angry with me.  You know not all my madness—I dare not tell it you, but you may divine it!  And in the presence of that God who is speaking now out of the depths of nature, in the thunder of his clouds, and the whisper of the leaves, I cannot, cannot remain wholly silent.  Tell me, have you learnt nothing from my silence?  Do you not divine why I suffer when I see you receiving the homage of others?  Why I am less cheerful in your company than others are?  Behold!  I—I—a man, am shedding tears upon this hand I hold and I would not seek to conceal them.  Oh! when I am by your side, I would desire to be good, great, famed, titled—oh! no, no, no! not that—but I would have the right to say to you, 'Angel, all my life is coloured by your glance—from you it takes its hue of bright or dark.'  Have you, have you never dreamed of this?"

    "And what tells you I have not?" she replied very lowly, with drooping head.

    "Good heavens! can it be—what you? Can it be, angel?"

    "Hush! hush! for heaven's sake," she exclaimed, half in terror, half in anger; then as though to expiate the tone and manner she cast her other hand into Darcy's and let herself glide against his breast.

    "Honora!" he murmured, pressing her against his heart.

    "Henry! !"

    The curtain rustled against the casement.  The earl's daughter started rapidly aside.  "Ah! there you are, child!" said the young Duchess of Cartoon, stepping on the thresh-hold, "I suspected as much, for some time."  Then she added with a smile half of mockery half of affability, "I hope Mr. Darcy will now allow you to join the dance.  The quadrilles are forming."

    "The quadrilles!" exclaimed Lady Honora, with perfect unconcern and levity contrasting strangely with the previous scene.  "Oh how delightful!  I have engaged myself to your cousin Alfred.  Where are my gloves?"  They lay on the ground—Darcy never stooped to pick them up.

    In sweeping from the terrace, Lady Honora turned her head towards Darcy.  He remained with folded arms, looking coldly after her.


 
3.THE KEY TO THE FUTURE.


THE Duchess of Cartoon was on a visit to the Countess of St. Blaze, with her brother-in-law, Lord Parciment Cartoon.

    This couple were seated in confidential converse together.  Lord Parciment was a man of forty, cold-looking and passé, although handsome.  He had been a distinguished roué, had shone on the turf in his early days and run through a great part of his property.  He had then made a wealthy match, which had re-erected his shattered fortune, and transferred his gambling propensities from the race-course to the senate.  The latter was more exciting and more profitable.  Lord Parciment was a liberal member—a distinguished liberal.  Lord St. Blaze was a high whig.  The liberal lord was seeking to rat—and to rat for something worth ratting for—and it was of the greatest consequence to him to strengthen his interest by an alliance with the powerful family of St. Blaze.

    The earl, likewise, the influence of whose party was beginning to totter, sought to strengthen himself by the secret support of the popular leader of a powerful section of the liberal interest.  Thus, selfish motives on both sides drew the two noblemen towards each other.

    "She's brain-sick about that young fool, Darcy," said Lord Parciment.

    "Nonsense! mere nonsense!  I know she is.  So I was for you—"

    "Heart—heart-sick, you mean—sister?"

    "No! mere fancy, I assure my venerable brother.  You know I'm but a giddy girl."

    "Hem!"—Lord Parciment did not like to be thought old.  "But you say you surprised them making tender confession on the terrace."

    "And what of that?  I have made a hundred is a season."

    "Pretty well, pretty well!  But I tell you Adela, dear, she's rather an esprit fort, and also a cœur tendre, and they're the deuce!  You can't eradicate a folly out of such people very easily."

    "Well we must try.  Above all, don't thwart her.  Remember, she is not far from being of age and she has an independent fortune of her own—"

    "A large one!" interposed Lord Parciment, with evident and reverential unction.

    "And she might, if her anger were roused," continued the duchess, "feel her power and grow obstinate.  Above all, no coercion, no paternal influence, no display of authority."  Paternal influence and filial duty, in those circles, are prejudices left for the low and vulgar.  The high world is too enlightened for them.

    "Right—right—but now, duchess, you must help me."

    "I will—and what will you do for me in turn?"

    "Ah! you trafficker."

    "Why, you know it's the seventh match I've made since I've married."

    "I know you're a skilled hand—"

    "Well, you know," laughingly said the Duchess, "I must have my reward."

    "The consciousness of having done a good action.  Ha! ha! ha!"

    "We leave that for the herd."

    "Well!  I'll bet you a suite of diamonds that I win the lady."

    "I'll bet you a brace of pistols that you don't."

    "Done!"  And the graceful bargain was struck between the confederated schemers.

    It was agreed that the duchess should enter into the feelings of Lady Honora as her friend and confidant, and prepare the way for Lord Parciment, by giving him an exact account of her sentiments; and in return, impress and persuade the wayward young girl with the excellence of the pretender, the faults of her lover, and the follies of her passion.

    "One thing is against you my dear Parciment—your age."  The duchess liked to vex him.

    "Stuff! nonsense!"

    "And then, they say, you killed your late wife."

    "Pooh! nonsense!  If I hadn't killed her, she'd have killed me."

    "You naughty man!  You were such a bad husband."

    "Why the deuce was she so fond of me, then?  It was quite a bore!—always jealous and prying into all one's little amusements—"

    "Ha! ha! you Juan!  But then, you've got a great girl.  Let me see, how old is she?  Ten, or twelve?"

    "Bah!  Eight, duchess!  Eight!"

    "Well, eight.  Beautiful young heiresses don't like to jump at once into step-mothers."

    "Yes! that's true, it's a difficult game!"  There was a long and thoughtful pause.  "I've got it," he cried, as with a sudden impulse, "I've got it!  Humour her feelings while you deplore her folly.  I'll speak with St. Blaze—you're right, no harshness!  We must throw difficulties in the way—"

    "Ah! make him appear a villain, and ungrateful."

    "Folly!—women like villains and love a man the more, the more ungrateful he is."

    "Ah! you know woman's nature," said the duchess, with a tinge of melancholy in her tone.

    "No! no surfeit her with love and then sharpen the sling of ridicule around her—set the public tongue at work—show the misery of happiness, ha! ha!—and then—then—"

    "What then?"

    "Leave that to me—I've got my plan.  Now do you begin your task.  I'll bet you a suite of diamonds—ha! ha! ha!"

    The duchess flitted out of the room to direct the first attack upon their mutual victim.  Lord Parciment remained to consolidate his plans.  It remains to be seen how long, how far, how bravely, the better impulses of a warped but not yet polluted nature, originally bright, pure, and noble, would struggle in the breast of the earl's daughter.


 
4.—THE STEPS OF TRIAL.

The Women.


BEFORE proceeding to the great and lamentable scenes arising out of the conflict between heartlessness and heart, we must unveil the machinery by which these events were wrought, and, we premise, the chapter now presented to the reader is a sketch from life.

    Lady Honora was at her toilet, or rather, she was reclining in the midst of the unfatiguing labour.  She lay at full length on a luxurious sofa in her dressing-room enveloped in a peignoir of white cachemiere.  Her long ringlets strayed carelessly over the silken pillow, her hand unconsciously deflowered the precious bloom of an orange tree that grew, in full blossom, out of an alabaster vase and one of her feet, naked and white as snow, played mechanically with the Persian cat that gambolled at her feet.  She looked eminently beautiful—but there was a careless, reckless, dreamy lassitude in her manner.  It was the morning after the ball and she was evidently lying in a half-forced obliviousness of some exciting theme that had exhausted for the time her mental energies.

    "Ha! ha!" said the Duchess of Cartoon, who had suddenly, but silently, entered the room.  "A most recherché sort of idling this—quite a step from our schooldays, ha! ha! ha!"

    "Ah! but you were my senior by five years."

    The duchess showed consummate tact in opening the conversation by reminding her intended victim of their disparity in years, thus surrounding her coming admonitions with the weight and sanction of experience and comparative age.

    "And married too, Honora!  But you are really a shocking stay-a-bed."

    "The ball of last night has tired me."

    "Nevertheless, you conversed more than you danced."  Lady Honora cast her eyes down and blushed.

    "Never mind, child!  I don't say it by way of reproach.  Indeed, your cavalier of last night was not so much amiss."

    "Oh! you speak of Mr. Darcy!" said the young lady, with an affectation of nonchalance.

    "To be sure I do!  Now just pretend you know nothing of him."

    "I don't say anything of the kind.  He's a noble-minded, high-spirited young man," said Honora, with an attempt at boldness and decision.

    "And most entertaining, too!" chimed in the duchess.

    "Isn't he?"

    "Only a little eccentric."

    "Ah! he has been so unfortunate."

    "Oh, yes!  I know!  They're all so.  All handsome young men without fortune are always broken-hearted victims of tremendous miseries.  To hear them, one would suppose the world a pesthouse, every man a malefactor harbouring a terrible design against us, and their own hearts a sarcophagus where they have buried all the joys and hopes of life."  The duchess was displaying wonderful tact.  She was turning the high qualities of Darcy, the very points that chiefly enlisted the affections of Honora, into ridicule.

    "You jest Athalia!  But he speaks truly, I assure you."

    "No doubt, for you must know."  There was an almost imperceptible irony in the tone.  "And, without joking, Darcy is a nice looking man.  But dear, let me give you a piece of advice: you let him take too great liberties.  One is obliged to be prudent you know, in your situation.  After marriage, you know, you can do as you like.  One is above all those trifles then.  But, as it is, people will begin to remark the attentions of Mr. Darcy.  They were even talking about it yesterday evening.  It might act very prejudicially with regard to your marriage."

    "But, love, I've no idea of being married"

    "Even so, but still precautions are necessary.  An advantageous offer might be on its way."

    "My greatest happiness will be if no one thinks of me!"

    "And why so, my dear friend?" asked the duchess, fixing a serious look on Honora.

    "Why?" murmured the latter, turning her head aside with a sense of almost shame!  "Why? because I hate the idea of marriage."

    "So you really think seriously of Mr. Darcy?"  The young girl made no answer, but her distress and her blushes spoke for her.  The duchess gave way to a loud, long fit of laughter.

    "What are you laughing at?" asked Lady Honora, well-nigh offended.

    "Now don't be angry, but really I can't help—ha! ha! ha!  Now give me your hand, and let us be friends.  Dear Honora!  But whence could the child have got so funny a notion?  What!  You marry your father's secretary?"

    "I never said so.  But, suppose it was so, what is there so funny in that?  Is it because he is not nobly born?"

    "That would be something, dear.  But I have none of those prejudices," said the crafty duchess, knowing that love laughs at rank and that the best way to confirm one of nature's passions is to place convention's tyranny in its path.  "I could forgive his being the son of a country clergyman, but be has no position in society.  Think of that, dear!"

    "But he is a man—what would you more?"  Lady Honora was democratic without knowing it.  The duchess laughed again.

    "And a man is so attractive, is he not?" she observed, putting a wrong interpretation on the words.  "Besides, dear! he has no fortune."

    "I have more than enough."

    "Ay! there was the rub!  Lady Honora would have been a miserable slave if she had not possessed a fortune in her own right.  Then they would have coerced her—now they were obliged to cajole.

    "You have, dear Honora!  But that, added to your rank, is just the reason why you should make a doubly great match.  Besides, do you suppose your father would ever consent?  No my love!  I speak as your friend—don't think of it!  We all have these little passions. They're quite delightful! I have too!  One thinks they'll last for ever.  One breaks one's heart two or three times—I cried for three days and three nights till I looked a perfect fright—but, somehow, one soon gets over it.  I plunged into a lot of balls with a mad desperation.  I was ready to die, but it all went dear, you don't know how.  But, after all, its the nicest excitement in the world.  Oh!  I know it!  I know it!  You'll cry your eyes out, dear, but you'll soon get over it.  No!  Don't marry him!  Discard him, forget him!"

    "I can't!  I can't!  I can't.  I confess it, I love him!" sobbed Lady Honora, throwing herself on the duchess's breast and bursting into a flood of tears.  The duchess let her cry her fill.  Then, when she had expended the fullness of her grief, when she began to lull and subside, the wily diplomatist knew the time had come for the next stage in her tactics.

    "Tell me, dear!  Darcy is a clever, romantic young man is he not?  Yes! I know it!  Alas, I know it to my cost!  I once loved such a one too!  As I was observing, I thought him all fervour, candour, and disinterested love.  But I did not know the world.  The needy schemer was trying to entrap the heart of the peer's daughter and make his fortune.  And he did it so well!  He affected such a reserve and pride.  You would really have thought he was doing me some vast honour and that his feelings were so sensitive that, knowing the inferiority of his station, he surrounded himself with a double hedge of pride and coldness.  I was perfectly enchanted!  I did so admire his manly independence and noble spirit!  So well did he act his part that, for fear of wounding his exalted feelings, I actually demeaned myself before him.  My blood boils when I think of it, that the plebeian schemer should so completely dupe and play with a St. Blaze!—"

    "Duchess!  You don't apply that to Mr. Darcy?" said Honora, with a flushed brow.

    "No, no, no! not in the least; but I merely, as a friend, in performance of a solemn duty, without casting any aspersion on him, feel bound to warn you that such things are.  Think of it!  Be cautious.  He is penniless and low-born, you the rich heiress and the earl's daughter!  Of course he would play proud, touchy, ingenuous and high-spirited.  I don't say he does—I merely say, be cautious.  I should be indignant to let any needy adventurer play and trifle with my woman's heart and boast how he had made a good speculation of the earl's poor, weak, pliant daughter.  Forgive me, dear Honora!  I don't apply this to you—I know you have too much sense to permit it.  But I was thinking of my own case and I could not control the bitter recollection." 

    Lady Honora was silent, and in deep thought.  The poison was engrafted.  After having given it time to work, the duchess resumed: "If I were you, I would observe him and watch him narrowly.  Be more reserved for a time.  See how he acts.  Put his love to the test.  I'll give you opportunities."

    "And if it stands the test, as I know it will?"

    "Then love him."

    "Why, you just told me it would be impossible for me to marry him, not that I ever thought of it."  A great change had been wrought.  Lady Honora had grown half ashamed of what she had, before, chivalrously avowed!

    "Of course not; ha, ha, ha!  But, you know, you can flirt with him.  And if you marry—a proper match, I mean—then you may find him a delightful companion, he, he!"

    Lady Honora felt shocked, but she said nothing.  It was the philosophy of her class to which she listened.  The duchess rose to go.  "By-the-bye! ma chere, it will be necessary that you allow of no intimacy this evening.  People were speaking of it last night—I forgot to mention it to you—and, if it was to become the talk your father would be placed in a very disagreeable position, so nicely as political parties are balanced now.  Lord Blare and his tail would use it as a means of humiliating him and casting ridicule on him!  You his only child, too!  For heaven's sake be cautious!  You must really not allow him to come near you tonight.  It will be talked of.  You promise?"

    "Yes, yes, I do!" murmured Lady Honora, half frightened.

________________


    "I've done wonders, Parciment!" said the duchess, as she re-entered her room.  I've made her pride take the alarm.  I've made her consent to try his sincerity, and promise to avoid him tonight."

    "Duchess Machiavel!"

    "Ah! you may well say so.  I know his nature so well.  He is as sincere as truth itself—the fool!—that his pride will take fire and the game is in our hands.  Meantime, be you of the party tonight.  He hates you instinctively.  I'll take care she is all smiles to you but, I tell you Parciment, it is a real passion which the silly thing has conceived."

    "Hem!" said Parciment, "that's nonsense.  Why not send Darcy away?"

    "The worst thing in the world!  That would look like persecution.  You'd make her love eternal.  No! make him go of his own accord."  And so paltry chicanery and intrigue were paving the way to great and terrible events.


 
The Men.


LORD PARCIMENT CARTOON and the Earl of St. Blaze were the leaders of two opposite political factions.  Lord Parciment being the "Liberal," Lord St. Blaze the "Conservative."

    The former was bargaining with government to lead his party over into the ministerial camp.  The reward was to be commensurate and, as a bond of union, the rich daughter of the earl was to give her wealth in exchange for the political power of a bastard liberalism, which was to bolster up a falling and fated cabinet.  Lord Parciment was then to be made a peer, and a financial transaction was to complete the mutual benefit.

    The first public act of their new union was to be thus cautiously introduced, as taken from a conversation with an intimate friend:  "I shall support the ministerial measure when it comes forward.  That will be a guarantee of my loyalty to the cabinet."

    "The deuce you will, Parciment!  You were engaged to have spoken against it.  What will the public say?"

    "Bah! my dear friend!  My liberalism is sufficiently established to permit of my making an escapade like that now and then.  Indeed, it makes me look honest, impartial and independent.  And then, you know, on the next question I'll speak against it, very violently indeed, and be accidentally out of the House with all my friends when the division-bell rings."

    "Capital.  But will your party follow you?"

    "My dear Eusnake!  Are they not all like me?"

    There is nothing more truculent than your "independent" member.  Professing to belong to no party, he claims the privilege of betraying them all.  As nature abhors a vacuum, so does morality abhor a neuter.

    The earl had completely fathomed the plan of the House of Cartoon and Lord Parciment knew it.  The duke was the intermediary with the earl.  They acted with diplomatic tact towards each other, but concealment was neither necessary nor attempted.  Each was perfectly aware that neither would consent to any measure that was not for his own individual interest.  These two men of the world, in the fullest sense of the term, had tested each other's powers and they had resolved on acting frankly towards each other from the mutually recognised impossibility of practising deceit successfully.

    The first fruit of Lord Parciment's parliamentary conduct was now to be gathered.  Lord Parciment contracted for the purchase of some extensive iron-stone mines.  The iron trade was very dull at the time.  Shortly after, a letter appeared in the "Times" from a high military authority calling for a complete remodelling of the bayonets of the troops.  A subordinate member of the House brought in a bill on the subject, government supported it, the bill was carried and a contract was entered into for the supply of the metal from the foundries of Lord Parciment!  Shortly after, two more measures—hostile to public liberty—passed the Commons through the neutrality of the same Lord Parciment, who commanded the balance of power.  If any one had accused the leader of the liberals of taking a bribe, he would have been laughed at.  It was all a fair commercial transaction—nothing more!

    The marriage of Lady Honora was fully decided on from that hour.


 
Relations.


MEANWHILE, the young duchess hardly ever left the side of Honora.  She drew her from one round of gaiety into another, surrounding her with the most voluptuous images and the most sinister temptations well knowing, as she said, that "as the senses are inflamed, the feelings cool."  Such is social education in the world of fashion!

    Lady Honora had acted up to the advice of the duchess.  She had treated Darcy with a rather haughty reserve and did not allow him to approach her in society.  The young man was indignant.  Whenever—which was rare—they were more alone and the lady tried to atone by her manner for her previous coldness, the pride of the young man induced him to retaliate, for he too, on his side, scorned to be made, as he thought, the plaything of one who was too proud to acknowledge his society in public.

    The duchess, too, played Lord Parciment across her path and had the tact to make it appear as though her fair young relative was accepting, or at least favouring, his addresses.  All the while too, she humoured Honora's passion, affected to sympathise with her, but treated of her union with the young secretary as an utter and well understood impossibility.

    The heart soon weans itself from the hope of a happiness, as soon as it has fully recognized that it can never be attained.  "Then I will never marry!" said Honora—the duchess smiled slightly, and shook her head.

    During these trials, a bitter struggle had been fought in the heart of Darcy.  Many times he was on the point of throwing up his situation, but the truthfulness of his affection baffled the calculations of the duchess.  If he went, who then could recall Honora from the course of misery and ruin on which she was being hurried?  He resolved on resting by her side.  Thus the duchess and Darcy, like the evil angel and the guardian genius, battled for the heart and soul of that young girl.  But alas the former had all the power and advantage, the latter nothing but good intention and perseverance.

    Seeing that they could not remove Darcy by other means, the duchess advised Lord St. Blaze to send him on "secret and important " political missions to London.  Darcy was driven to despair by the news.  He saw through the whole plot.  But what could he do?  If he refused, his connexion with the Earl would be at an end, and, with it his chance of being near Honora.  He was obliged to obey, but, before leaving, wrote a long, earnest, impassioned letter of warning and advice to the youthful heiress.

    A round of gaiety followed.  In the midst of it, just as Honora seemed taking some renewed interest in the amusements of the season, Lord St. Blaze entered her room one morning and announced to her the fact that her marriage with Lord Parciment had been decided on.  As the duchess told him, "all must now be carried by sudden strokes, she must be stunned into acquiescence, since she can be neither persuaded nor coaxed into it."  Honora tottered beneath the words, and sunk into a chair.

    "What ails you, child?  Are you not well?" said the earl.

    "My father! My father . . . . " sobbed the young girl.  Her hands were folded and raised in supplication, her entire body trembled, her grief choked utterance . . . .  she was speechless.

    The earl pretended not to understand or know the reason of her emotion.  "Compose yourself, my child!  It is quite natural you should be unnerved.  It's an excellent match and may lead to the very highest position."

    At this moment, and before she could answer, Lord Parciment entered according to a previous arrangement.  "Come, my dear friend," said the earl, "I have told Honorashe consents to be yours."

    Lord Parciment advanced with a chivalric grace, took her hand and pressed it to his lips.  Honora was powerless from astonishment.  "And may I indeed dream that my ardent hopes are not doomed to disappointment" he murmured.

    "Who could doubt it?" interposed the earl, before his daughter could speak.  You are so suited to each other!"

    Lord Parciment had too much tact to wait for more.

    "Come," said the earl, "we'll leave her now—she needs some time to calm herself.  We have excited her."  And the twain left their victim alone.  The poor girl burst into a flood of tears.  Her father, when they met, affected not to notice the paleness of her countenance or the redness of her eyes.  One day, however, Honora resolved on confessing all to her father and rejecting the proffered suit.  She threw herself sobbing into his arms.  He repulsed her gently, unwound her embrace and before she could fully explain, kissing her on the forehead, said: "Compose yourself, child!  You are infatuated, dear! just now"—and left the room.

    A month passed thus.  Honora felt it was necessary to come at length to a decision.  She therefore mustered all her courage and resolved on making one last, great effort—and in a quarter wholly unexpected by all.


 
5.—THE LAST EFFORT.


TWILIGHT had fallen. Yet, to increase the deepening gloom, the blinds were lowered in the room occupied by Lady Honora in the earl's house in Grosvenor Square.  Nothing could be seen in the chamber, but the large gilt frames of the costly paintings that shimmered through the shade and the glistening face of the crystal drops that drooped in clusters from the graceful chandelier.  The doors were carefully closed, and a subdued and dusky fire smouldered in the grate.  All was mysterious and silent—one would have said the spot had been prepared for some secret ritual of voluptuous pleasure.

    A young girl reclined on an ottoman in the remotest corner of the apartment.  Her face was so pale, that it showed through the twilight with a startling whiteness, like the outline of a marble bust.  A man was seated opposite and near to her.  He sat in expectant silence.  The two thus brought in presence of each other were Lady Honora and Lord Parciment Cartoon.

    Lady Honora had decided on this desperate alternative, after many nights and days of anguish and uncertainty.  The letter sent by Darcy at his departure had been so frank, so noble, so manly a confession of love and so urgent and solemn a warning, that it had strangely moved her.  She had of late been giving way more and more to the seductive persuasions of the duchess and to the attractions of unceasing gaiety.  But love haunted her in the midst of merriment with a voice of reproachful sorrow.  To stifle that voice, she had raised a superstructure of philosophic sophistry and, true to the weakness of the reason when combating an instinct of nature, had set one duty to fight another duty—her duty to her father to combat her duty to her lover, for to him she had contracted a solemn duty also; she had encouraged his love!—and, her duty to her own heart also, for we DO owe something to ourselves, to our affections, to our happiness, to our innocent pleasures.  We are not machines.  We are made with a thirst for joy and, as long as we can slake it at the founts of virtue, it is sacrilege to violate and crush the natural longing of our being.

    But Darcy's letter had once destroyed all the outward scaffolding of prejudice, cant and conventionality with which she had tried to hide the edifice of truth.  The fact was, the impulsive and yet energetic heart of Honora was growing fickle and inconstant towards Darcy—"Out of sight, out of mind" was beginning to be exemplified.  Desperately and seriously in love with the young man, her passion was too sudden and too impulsive to last.  And now it began to ebb and flow, with each returning tide coming less far than that preceding.  The duchess had admirably calculated the strength of her victim's endurance, and as will be seen, Lord Parciment had perfectly measured the standard of her nature.  Of no staid and settled disposition, no firm character well-founded by a wise education, with generous impulse, good intention, and ardent feelings, she, like so many more of the children of rank and wealth, were thwarted and perverted from the cradle, to be bandied to and fro, like waifs, amid the shallows of society.

    All her old love had, however, kindled up with fresh force and vigour on receipt of Darcy's letter.  She wept, she tore her hair, till her lady's-maid reminded her it would spoil her appearance.  She reproached herself as a "horrible, fickle, cruel, inconstant wretch."  She contemplated running away, and then she did not know where—no arrangements had been made, no suite of apartments taken anywhere, no carriages ordered, no relays prepared.  And then she sat down and sobbed, looking on herself as the most ill-used, miserable victim in the world.  All that was generous, still lurking in the recesses of her heart, had been roused into reproachful action by the mournful, broken-hearted appeal of Darcy, and she tried to stifle her remorse beneath the exaggeration of her grief.  She refused even to see the duchess.  She shut herself up in her room.  The conspirators were alarmed as to the success of their plot, when to their surprise, Lord Parciment received a letter from Honora, appointing a secret interview.

    Honora had fixed on a last effort, decisive of her future.  She resolved on confessing all to Lord Parciment and on an appeal to his generosity.  But, ah! on the point of realising her projects, all her courage forsook her.  In presence of Lord Parciment her determined confidence gave place to embarrassment and timidity.

    She had summoned him—and he was in her presence—but she knew not how to begin her explanations.  They had been seated opposite to each other for several minutes, and yet she had not spoken a word.  Lord Parciment observed her still increasing trouble, but made no attempt to relieve it.  A watchful caution was apparent in his manner, as though he felt the necessity of reserve, in order the better to circumvent his companion.

    At last Honora, feeling it more embarrassing to be silent than to speak, said, in a faltering tone and in a voice so low that Lord Parciment was obliged to bend down in order to catch her words:  "I wished to see you . . . . alone . . . . however painful the interview . . . . to . . . . I felt it my duty to resolve on this step . . . ."

    She stopped; but Lord Parciment maintained a cruel diplomatic silence.  This but increased her embarrassment.  She began to repent having sought for the explanation, and yet she felt it impossible to avoid it now.  Forgetting all the oratory with which she had intended to introduce the matter, she tried to rush into it at once.

    "I wished . . . . I could have desired . . . . the project entertained by my father . . . ."  She burst into tears and was unable to proceed.

    "What moves you, Lady Honora?  Why these tears?  Speak without reserve, ought you not to place full confidence in me?"—said Lord Parciment in a kind, frank, manly, feeling tone.

    "Ah, sir," cried the young girl, encouraged by his manner.  "You are good and generous —it rests with you to dry my tears!"

    "And how?"

    "This union . . . . that you have arranged with my father . . . . I heard of it unexpectedly . . . .  forgive me, sir! . . . . do not be offended at my words . . . . I fully appreciate the honour you do me but . . . . I am very happy as I am—I seek no change."

    At her first words, Lord Parciment trembled.  Her concluding sentence reassured him—he saw pliancy breathed in every syllable.  "The game is mine," thought he.

    "What you say surprises and distresses me beyond measure!  When your father presented me to you as your future husband, and when you let him place your hand in mine, I thought that you consented."

    "I did wrong—I should have . . . . forgive me! but I was overpowered—I could not speak."

    "Ah! Lady Honora! your silence I construed into consent.  I gave myself up to the delightful hope.  Do you know how bitter it is, at one word, to have the whole prospect of a life destroyed, to fall from heaven to hell at one breath?  Alas! why could I not sooner see the aversion I inspired you with?"  His voice trembled.  He seemed choking with emotion.

    "Oh! do not speak of aversion—not that—not that!—you do not understand me—I suffer as much as you in seeing your suffering."

    "Then why repel me?"

    "Pray! pray! do not ask."

    "Lady Honora!" said the wily diplomatist, drawing nearer to his victim.  "Lady Honora! I am no child.  In seeking you, I have yielded to no childish passion.  No! I sought to prepare a home in which I could repose from the turmoils of political life, to live for my own heart and not for the heartless world, to create for myself a sweet employment, that of rendering you happy.  I should have loved what you loved, been pleased with your pleasure.  In the ripened years that I have reached, one loves the sprightly youth that blooms around—the innocence that speaks of our early years, discoloured by the harsh experience of the world, but to be retinted by your love.  You would have risen in my soul like the aurora of an after-day.  And in return, I would have given you all that the world can give—affection, devotion, strength, and the dignity of a matured and manly love.  A poor return, I grant, for the inestimable treasure of your hand, but one that others might be proud of.  And, Honora! have I hoped and dreamed in vain?  Do you dash the visioned future to the ground, because of a fear you will not explain, some scruple or repugnance you did not deign to describe?"

    "No, sir! it is not a scruple, not a caprice.  Why should I wish to distress you?  Your goodness overpowers me,—but—I cannot—I cannot—be your wife."

    "And why?"

    "Who has told you," she replied, bursting into a paroxysm of tears.  "Who has told you that I am still free to choose?  That I have made no pledges I cannot break?  That I have not linked my fate to that of another, before I even knew you?"

    "Enough, Lady Honora!  I need hear no more.  You have already confided this to the duchess.  She has told me!"

    "Can it be?"

    "And yet, you see, I have not given up hope, for I know all such promises are vain.  Lady Honora, you have yielded to the impulse of a warm and generous heart, you have wronged yourself, Lady Honora!  No!  I do not resign hope.  I love you, Honora! and I now will prove my love.  Mine is the glorious task to save you from yourself.  Such a union could not be happy.  You would be a sacrifice to the fondness of your own heart—you would be an eternal self-reproach to yourself—you would place yourself beyond the pale of home—for the very presence of your relenting father would sting you with regret —and do you think that such a union could make him happy?  No! better, boldly, bravely at once face the pain, for pain there will be, there must be!  But you will feel the noble consolation of having done your duty and the calm happiness of having triumphed over a generous weakness, which would have ruined the peace of not your life only, but that of him, and of all dear to you as well.  You have confided your secret to me.  In reply, I will justify your confidence.  For your own sake, I will not give up my suit, except on one confession.  Tell me, Honora! with your hand on your heart—do you hope to unite to him if I retire?  Tell me, I solemnly adjure you—do you think you could be happy with him in a life such as I have so truly described and its truth you must feel?  Tell me, do you not wish that you had never seen him?"

    "Alas! you have seen my heart."

    "One word more!  Tell me the real obstacle to your happiness, is it HE or I?  If the latter, say it, and I am gone for ever."

    "I cannot conceal it," scarcely breathed the earl's daughter, "it is not you."

    "Honora! you have said it.  Now my duty's clear.  Since fate prevents his dearer hand conferring happiness, permit the trust to mine.  Soon, I may hope, amid a tender friendship, you will forget—imprudent illusion.  Your husband, Honora, will not be exacting.  In return for all his love, he will aspire but to your esteem and friendship—"

    "Oh!—you are too generous, too good . . . . but . . . . I would wish to tell you . . . . you understand that  . . . . "

    Lord Parciment rose.  "Cast the pain from your breast, the weight from your mind.  You can lean on my strong arm through life and all your doubts and tortures be at an end."

    "But . . . . hear me! . . . .

    "I have heard all, I comprehend all.  Let us say no more.  The subject's painful.  Confide in me.  I leave you now, Honora—good noble, generous Honora!  Honora, whom I have saved from her own heart to bless her father and her husband and her home!  Farewell, God bless you!"  He took her hand, he kissed it with respectful fervour and actually succeeded in letting a tear fall on its snowy whiteness.  Then he left, suddenly and in great apparent emotion—Honora gazed after him with a look of half-amaze, half-stupefaction.

    "I've got her," said Lord Parciment to the duchess, "but it was a hard struggle.  I have had to expend more rhetoric than would have sufficed for three corn-law debates."  "He's after all a noble character!" said Honora to herself at the same time. "He deserves to lie loved.  One might be happy with such a man."  She dried her tears, and no more flowed.


 
PART II.—MARRIAGE.

1.--THE CHILD.


LORD and Lady Parciment Cartoon had been married nearly nine years.  An only child, a daughter named Elizabeth, was the issue of their marriage.  Lord Parciment had been raised to the peerage shortly afterwards, by the title of Viscount Muralin.  Of Darcy nothing had been heard, save that he had settled down to his profession, that of law, in a remote country town, where report said, he had remained unmarried and was respected for his goodness and philanthropy, but pitied for his melancholy and apparent loneliness.

    During the nine years that had elapsed, Lord and Lady Muralin had blazed for nine successive seasons in the elegant world, she as one of the recognised beauties of the day, he as one of the leading politicians of the House and presumptive premier of the future administration.  They passed for enjoying an average share of conjugal happiness.  Scandal had not been particularly busy with Lady Muralin's name.  Of course, there were a good many rumours and reports.  Of course, she had been accused of one thing and another.  But Lord Muralin said nothing, so what business was it of the world's?  If Lord Muralin was satisfied, surely the world had no business to complain?  And so time passed.  Lady Muralin still blazed, Lord Muralin still debated and the young beauty, only twenty-six years of age now after nine years of marriage, broke as many hearts and destroyed as many unions as ever.

    It was nine o'clock in the morning.  The bright autumn day sparkled over the country-seat of Muralin.  The morning bell rung in the chapel adjoining the house.  A young child of eight descended with its governess the grand staircase of the mansion.  On reaching one of the landings a door opened in the gallery and Lord Muralin appeared in his dressing-gown, a packet of papers in his hand.

    "Where are you coming from, Elizabeth?" he said, passing his hand through the glossy ringlets of the child.

    "From my room, papa!"

    "What—do you no longer sleep in the room where you did?"

    "No, my lord!" said the governess, "her ladyship has directed Miss Elizabeth to sleep upstairs."

    "And why this change?"

    "I do not know, my lord.  I believe the room is wanted."

    "Yes! to give it to the pale gentleman!" said the little girl, raising her head with an angry and vengeful expression.  The viscount turned to the governess, as though demanding an explanation.

    "It's Mr. Henry Vernon, Miss Elizabeth means."

    "Then Mr. Henry Vernon occupies that room?"

    "Yes, my lord."

    Lord Muralin made no answer but cast a rapid glance down the gallery.  It is impossible to say whether this was to see the proximity of the room in question to that of Honora, or whether it was merely an instinctive and involuntary movement.  At any rate, he merely patted the little girl's cheek twice, recommended her to be good and obedient, and walked on without kissing her, as had been his wont.

    The child went on, with her governess, to her mother's room.  The door stood ajar—Elizabeth opened it noiselessly.  Lady Muralin was seated with her back to the entrance; her head rested on one hand, the other held a portrait which she contemplated with avidity.  She was still eminently beautiful, perhaps in the very pride and flush of her charms, but it was a sensual, voluptuous, hardened beauty.  The delicate tenderness, the fairy-like and fragile grace of girlhood had vanished before a sultry oriental splendour.

    The little girl approached her mother noiselessly.  The sound of her steps was muffled by the rich Persian carpeting.  Her entrance was unheard.  She climbed on a chair that stood behind Lady Muralin and peered over the shoulder of the latter.  The whole had been done with marvellous caution and dexterity, like that of a thief prowling on its prey.  No sooner had she looked at the miniature her mother held ere an expression of malicious pleasure sparkled in her countenance and with a sharp, short, piercing laugh she exclaimed: "The portrait of the pale gentleman!"

    Lady Muralin gave a scream, and started up so suddenly, that she nearly upset little Elizabeth.  "Miserable child!" she cried, "how you frightened me—get down—get down!  Oh dear, I tremble still."  And Honora sat down again, disconcerted and out of temper, hiding the miniature with confusion and haste in her hand.  "Why do you not knock at the door, Miss Vansittart?  Why does Mary leave the door open?  See how you expose me to observation—it might have been anyone, as well as you.  You are very inattentive.  You don't show any attachment for me."

    Miss Vansittart seemed to comprehend the full import of her fault, and answered timidly, "It shall not happen again, my lady."

    "And you, Elizabeth, I wont have you frighten me so again.  If you do so any more, you shall be forbid my room."  The child made no answer, but remained erect, its hands in the pockets of its pinafore, its face flushed, its countenance sulky and ungracious.

    Honora placed the miniature furtively in her breast.  Elizabeth's keen eye was on her as she did it.  " Come here!" said the young mother.  The child approached very slowly.  "Kiss me—don't look so ungracious."  The child gave a cry of pain as its mother pressed it towards her.

    "What is it?"

    "The miniatures of the pale gentleman hurts me!"

    Honora blushed and looked very much annoyed.  Miss Vansittart could not restrain a smile.  Honora forced the child's face upwards, more in anger and embarrassment than love, and kissed it.  In doing so the glossy black ringlets of Elizabeth were thrown off her forehead, and her face confronted her mother's in strange contrast—embarrassment in the one—anger and spite in the other.

    There was something strange and repulsive in the very beauty of the child, for beautiful she was.  Her features reminded you of those of Honora; but as the fallen angel might remind you of the beauty of its yet unfallen state.  Its round keen eye cast a sharp, hard glance, that made you feel uncomfortable when you met it.  The laugh that came over its small, thin lips, was always short, spasmodic and shrill.  Its countenance was habitually serious, but serious without calmness or repose, like a metal cast.  If ever a soft expression stole over its features it was like that of the cat, mingled with cunning.  In fine, the child seemed a union of Lord Parciment and Honora—the soul of the former wrapped in the beauty of the latter and glooming through its lustre.

    Lady Muralin seemed struck by some similar thought, for she suddenly pushed back the chid, with a movement almost of aversion, and rising, said: "Now go and play in the laurel-walk—and be steady—I shall see you from the window."

    "I won't go to the laurel-walk," pouted the child.

    "Why not?"

    "I was there yesterday and the pale gentleman sent me away.  He told me to play in the large flower-garden."

    "No doubt, because you were at mischief," said Lady Muralin, blushing.

    "Oh no! for you came directly afterwards and he went away arm-in-arm with you."

    The viscountess made a motion of impatience. "What is that to you, Elizabeth?  You have always something to say about Mr. Vernon."

    "I don't like the pale gentleman," replied the child with a sullen voice, tossing her black ringlets like the mane of a wild horse.

    "Wicked child! why? don't he give you bon-bons and pretty toys!  You have a bad, ungrateful heart.  Take her away Miss Vansittart.  Go! Miss Elizabeth, I don't love you."

    Elizabeth took the hand of her governess and went, casting an angry glance at her mother.

    "Horrid little thing!" said Miss Vansittart, shaking her charge rudely by the arm as soon as they had left the room.  "Why do you vex your mamma so?  You should never say that you have seen her with Mr. Vernon—it annoys her, do you hear?"

    "And does that annoy the pale gentleman also?" said the child after a pause.

    "Of course it does!  Hold your tongue!  Don't think about him and attend to your play."

    "Oh! I can vex the pale gentleman, can I?" said the child, half to herself, and smiled maliciously.  She hated him intensely.

_________________


Ed.—at this point NOTES TO THE PEOPLE ceased publication.  Jones republished "Woman's Wrongs" in an extended 'penny issue' form in 1855.  This complete edition of the novel has recently been republished by Ian Haywood as "Chartist Fiction. Volume 2: Ernest Jones, Woman's Wrongs." (ISBN 978-0-7546-0303-0).

 



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