Эдвард Джордж Бульвер-Литтон
Pelham — Volume 07
Pelham — Volume 07
Эдвард Джордж Бульвер-Литтон
Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton
Pelham — Volume 07
Si ad honestatem nati sumus ea aut sola expetenda est, aut certe omni pondere gravior est habenda quam reliqua omnia.
Cas. Brutus, I do observe you now of late:
I have not from your eyes that gentleness,
And shew of love as I was wont to have.
I rose at my usual early hour; sleep had tended to calm, and, I hope, also, to better my feelings. I had now leisure to reflect, that I had not embraced my party from any private or interested motive; it was not, therefore, from a private or interested motive that I was justified in deserting it. Our passions are terrible sophists! When Vincent had told me, the day before, that it was from men, not measures, that I was to change, and that such a change could scarcely deserve the name, my heart adopted the assertion, and fancied it into truth.
I now began to perceive the delusion; were government as mechanically perfect as it has never yet been (but as I trust it may yet be), it would signify little who were the mere machines that regulated its springs: but in a constitution like ours, the chief character of which—pardon me, ye De Lolmites—is its uncertainty; where men invariably make the measures square to the dimensions of their own talent or desire; and where, reversing the maxim of the tailor, the measures so rarely make the men; it required no penetration to see how dangerous it was to entrust to the aristocratic prejudice of Lincoln, or the vehement imbecility of Lesborough, the execution of the very same measures which might safely be committed to the plain sense of Dawton, and, above all, to the great and various talents of his coadjutors. But what made the vital difference between the two parties was less in the leaders than the body. In the Dawton faction, the best, the purest, the wisest of the day were enrolled; they took upon themselves the origin of all the active measures, and Lord Dawton was the mere channel through which those measures flowed; the plain, the unpretending, and somewhat feeble character of Lord Dawton's mind, readily conceded to the abler components of his party, the authority it was so desirable that they should exert. In Vincent's party, with the exception of himself, there was scarcely an individual with the honesty requisite for loving the projects they affected to propose, or the talents that were necessary for carrying them into effect, even were their wishes sincere; nor were either the haughty Lincoln, or his noisy and overbearing companion, Lesborough, at all of a temper to suffer that quiet, yet powerful interference of others, to which Dawton unhesitatingly submitted.
I was the more resolved to do all possible justice to Dawton's party, from the inclination I naturally had to lean towards the other; and in all matters, where private pique or self-interest can possibly penetrate, it has ever been the object of my maturer consideration to direct my particular attention to that side of the question which such undue partizans are the least likely to espouse. While I was gradually, but clearly, feeling my way to a decision, I received the following note from Guloseton:—
"I said nothing to you last night of what is now to be the subject of my letter, lest you should suppose it arose rather from the heat of an extempore conviviality, than its real source, viz. a sincere esteem for your mind, a sincere affection for your heart, and a sincere sympathy in your resentment and your interest.
"They tell me that Lord Dawton's triumph or discomfiture rests entirely upon the success of the motion upon—, brought before the House of Commons, on the—. I care, you know, very little for my own part, which way this question is decided; do not think, therefore, that I make any sacrifice when I request you to suffer me to follow your advice in the disposal of my four votes. I imagine, of course, that you would wish them to adopt the contrary side to Lord Dawton; and upon receiving a line from you to that effect, they shall be empowered to do so.
"Pray, oblige me also by taking the merit of this measure upon yourself, and saying (wherever it may be useful to you), how entirely, both the voters and their influence are at your disposal. I trust we shall yet play the Bel to this Dragon, and fell him from his high places.
"Pity me, my dear friend; I dine out to-day, and feel already, by an intuitive shudder, that the soup will be cold, and the sherry hot. Adieu.
Now, then, my triumph, my vanity, and my revenge might be fully gratified. I had before me a golden opportunity of displaying my own power, and of humbling that of the minister. My heart swelled high at the thought. Let it be forgiven me, if, for a single moment, my previous calculations and morality vanished from my mind, and I saw only the offer of Vincent, and the generosity of Guloseton. But I checked the risings of my heart, and compelled my proud spirit to obedience.
I placed Guloseton's letter before me, and as I read it once more in order to reply to it, the disinterested kindness and delicacy of one, whom I had long, in the injustice of my thoughts, censured as selfish, came over me so forcibly, and contrasted so deeply with the hollowness of friends more sounding, alike in their profession and their creeds, that the tears streamed fast and gushingly from my eyes.
A thousand misfortunes are less affecting than a single kindness.
I wrote, in answer, a warm and earnest letter of thanks for an offer, the judicious kindness of which penetrated me to the soul. I detailed, at some length, the reasons which induced me to the decision I had taken; I sketched also the nature of the very important motion about to be brought before the House, and deduced from that sketch the impossibility of conscientiously opposing Lord Dawton's party in the debate. I concluded with repeating the expressions my gratitude suggested, and after declining all interference with Lord Guloseton's votes, ventured to add, that had I interfered, it would have been in support of Dawton; not as a man, but a minister—not as an individual friend, but a public servant.
I had just despatched this letter, when Vincent entered: I acquainted him, though in the most respectful and friendly terms, with my determination. He seemed greatly disappointed, and endeavoured to shake my resolution; finding this was in vain, he appeared at last satisfied, and even affected with my reasons. When we parted, it was with a promise, confirmed by both, that no public variance should ever again alter our private opinions of each other.
When I was once more alone, and saw myself brought back to the very foot of the ladder I had so far and so fortunately climbed; when I saw that, in rejecting all the overtures of my friends, I was left utterly solitary and unaided among my foes—when I looked beyond and saw no faint loophole of hope, no single stepping-stone on which to recommence my broken, but unwearied career—perhaps one pang of regret and repentance, at my determination, came across me: but there is something marvellously restorative in a good conscience, and one soon learns to look with hope to the future, when one can feel justified in turning with pride to the past.
My horse came to the door at my usual hour for riding: with what gladness I sprung upon his back, felt the free wind freshening over my fevered cheek, and turned my rein towards the green lanes that border the great city on its western side. I know few counsellors more exhilarating than a spirited horse. I do not wonder that the Roman emperor made a consul of his steed. On horseback I always best feel my powers, and survey my resources; on horseback, I always originate my noblest schemes, and plan their ablest execution. Give me but a light rein, and a free bound, and I am Cicero—Cato—Caesar; dismount me, and I become a mere clod of the earth which you condemn me to touch; fire, energy, etheriality have departed; I am the soil without the sun—the cask without the wine—the garments without the man.
I returned home with increased spirits and collected thoughts; I urged my mind from my own situation, and suffered it to rest upon what Lady Roseville had told me of Reginald Glanville's interference in my behalf. That extraordinary man still continued powerfully to excite my interest; nor could I dwell, without some yearning of the kindlier affections, upon his unsolicited, and, but for Lady Roseville's communication, unknown exertions in my cause. Although the officers of justice were still actively employed in the pursuit of Tyrrell's murderer, and although the newspapers were still full of speculations on their indifferent success, public curiosity had began to flag upon the inquiry. I had, once or twice, been in Glanville's company when the murder was brought upon the tapis, and narrowly examined his behaviour upon a subject which touched him so fearfully. I could not, however, note any extraordinary confusion or change in his countenance; perhaps the pale cheek grew somewhat paler, the dreaming eye more abstracted, and the absent spirit more wande ring than before; but many other causes than guilt, could account for signs so doubtful and minute.
"You shall soon know all," the last words which he had addressed to me, yet rang in my ears, and most intensely did I anticipate the fulfilment of this promise. My hopes too—those flatterers, so often the pleasing antitheses of reason, whispered that this was not the pledge of a guilty man; and yet he had said to Lady Roseville, that he did not wonder at my estrangement from him: such words seemed to require a less favourable construction than those he had addressed to me; and, in making this mental remark, another, of no flattering nature to Glanville's disinterestedness, suggested itself; might not his interference for me with Lord Dawton, arise rather from policy than friendship; might it not occur to him, if, as I surmised, he was acquainted with my suspicions, and acknowledged their dreadful justice, that it would be advisable to propitiate my silence? Such were among the thousand thoughts which flashed across me, and left my speculations in debate and doubt.
Nor did my reflections pass unnoticed the nature of Lady Roseville's affection for Glanville. From the seeming coldness and austerity of Sir Reginald's temperament, it was likely that this was innocent, at least in act; and there was also something guileless in the manner in which she appeared rather to exult in, than to conceal, her attachment. True that she was bound to no ties; she had neither husband nor children, for whose sake love became a crime: free and unfettered, if she gave her heart to Glanville, it was also allowable to render the gift lawful and perpetual by the blessing of the church.
Alas! how little can woman, shut up in her narrow and limited circle of duties, know of the wandering life and various actions of her lover. Little, indeed, could Lady Roseville, when, in the heat of her enthusiasm, she spoke of the lofty and generous character of Glanville, dream of the foul and dastardly crime of which he was more than suspected; nor, while it was, perhaps, her fondest wish to ally herself to his destiny, could her wildest fancies anticipate the felon's fate, which, if death came not in an hastier and kinder shape, must sooner or later await him.
Of Thornton, I had neither seen nor heard aught since my departure from Lord Chester's; that reprieve was, however, shortly to expire. I had scarcely got into Oxford-street, in my way homeward, when I perceived him crossing the street with another man. I turned round to scrutinize the features of his companion, and, in spite of a great change of dress, a huge pair of false whiskers, and an artificial appearance of increased age, my habit of observing countenances enabled me to recognize, on the instant, my intellectual and virtuous friend, Mr. Job Jonson. They disappeared in a shop, nor did I think it worth while further to observe them, though I still bore a reminiscetory spite against Mr. Job Jonson, which I was fully resolved to wreak, at the first favourable opportunity.
I passed by Lady Roseville's door. Though the hour was late, and I had, therefore, but a slight chance of finding her at home, yet I thought the chance worth the trouble of inquiry. To my agreeable surprise, I was admitted: no one was in the drawing-room. The servant said, Lady Roseville was at that moment engaged, but would very shortly see me, and begged I would wait.
Agitated as I was by various reflections, I walked (in the restlessness of my mood) to and fro the spacious rooms which formed Lady Roseville's apartments of reception. At the far end was a small boudoir, where none but the goddess's favoured few were admitted. As I approached towards it, I heard voices, and the next moment recognised the deep tones of Glanville. I turned hastily away, lest I should overhear the discourse; but I had scarcely got three steps, when the convulsed sound of a woman's sob came upon my ear. Shortly afterwards, steps descended the stairs, and the street door opened.
The minutes rolled on, and I became impatient. The servant re-entered— Lady Roseville was so suddenly and seriously indisposed, that she was unable to see me. I left the house, and, full of bewildered conjectures, returned to my apartments.
The next day was one of the most important in my life. I was standing wistfully by my fireplace, listening to a broken-winded hurdy-gurdy, with the most mournful attention, stationed opposite to my window, when Bedos announced Sir Reginald Glanville. It so happened, that I had that morning taken the miniature I had found in the fatal field, from the secret place in which I usually kept it, in order more closely to examine it, lest any more convincing proof of its owner, than the initials and Thornton's interpretation, might be discovered by a minuter investigation.
The picture was lying on the table when Glanville entered: my first impulse was to seize and secrete it; my second to suffer it to remain, and to watch the effect the sight of it might produce. In following the latter, I thought it, however, as well to choose my own time for discovering the miniature; and as I moved to the table, I threw my handkerchief carelessly over it. Glanville came up to me at once, and his countenance, usually close and reserved in its expression, assumed a franker and bolder aspect.
"You have lately changed towards me," he said:—"mindful of our former friendship, I have come to demand the reason."
"Can Sir Reginald Glanville's memory," answered I, "supply him with no probable cause?"
"It can," replied Glanville, "but I would not trust only to that. Sit down, Pelham, and listen to me. I can read your thoughts, and I might affect to despise their import—perhaps two years since I should—at present I can pity and excuse them. I have come to you now, in the love and confidence of our early days, to claim, as then, your good opinion and esteem. If you require any explanation at my hands, it shall be given. My days are approaching their end. I have made up my accounts with others—I would do so with you. I confess, that I would fain leave behind me in your breast, the same affectionate remembrance I might heretofore have claimed, and which, whatever be your suspicions, I have done nothing to forfeit. I have, moreover, a dearer interest than my own to consult in this wish—you colour, Pelham—you know to whom I allude; for my sister's sake, if not for my own, you will hear me."
Glanville paused for a moment. I raised the handkerchief from the miniature—I pushed the latter towards him—"Do you remember this?" said I, in a low tone.
With a wild cry, which thrilled through my heart, Glanville sprung forward and seized it. He gazed eagerly and intensely upon it, and his cheek flushed—his eyes sparkled—his breast heaved. The next moment he fell back in his chair, in one of the half swoons, to which, upon any sudden and violent emotion, the debilitating effects of his disease subjected him.
Before I could come to his assistance he had recovered. He looked wildly and fiercely upon me. "Speak," he cried, "speak—where got you this— where?—answer, for mercy's sake!"
"Recollect yourself," said I, sternly. "I found that token of your presence upon the spot where Tyrrell was murdered."
"True, true," said Glanville, slowly, and in an absent and abstracted tone. He ceased abruptly, and covered his face with his hands; from this attitude he started with some sudden impulse.
"And tell me," he said, in a low, inward, exulting tone, "was it—was it red with the blood of the murdered man?"
"Wretch!" I exclaimed, "do you glory in your guilt?"
"Hold!" said Glanville, rising, with an altered and haughty air; "it is not to your accusations that I am now to listen: if you are yet desirous of weighing their justice before you decide upon them, you will have the opportunity: I shall be at home at ten this night; come to me, and you shall know all. At present, the sight of this picture has unnerved me. Shall I see you?"
I made no other rejoinder than the brief expression of my assent, and Glanville instantly left the room.
During the whole of that day, my mind was wrought up into a state of feverish and preternatural excitation. I could not remain in the same spot for an instant; my pulse beat with the irregularity of delirium. For the last hour I placed my watch before me, and kept my eyes constantly fixed upon it. Should any one think this exaggerated, let him remember, that it was not only Glanville's confession that I was to hear; my own fate, my future connection with Ellen, rested upon the story of that night. For myself, when I called to mind Glanville's acknowledgment of the picture, and his slow and involuntary remembrance of the spot where it was found, I scarcely allowed my temper, sanguine as it was, to hope.
Some minutes before the hour of ten I repaired to Glanville's house. He was alone—the picture was before him.
I drew my chair towards him in silence, and accidentally lifting up my eyes, encountered the opposite mirror. I started at my own face; the intensity and fearfulness of my interest had rendered it even more hueless than that of my companion.