Lucretia — Volume 04

Lucretia — Volume 04


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The Project Gutenberg EBook Lucretia, by Edward-Bulwer Lytton, Vol. 4 #116 in our series by Edward Bulwer-LyttonCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloadingor redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do notchange or edit the header without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of thisfile. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can alsofind out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****EBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These EBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers*****Title: Lucretia, Volume 4.Author: Edward Bulwer-LyttonRelease Date: March 2005 [EBook #7688] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was firstposted on April 15, 2003]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LUCRETIA, BY LYTTON, V4 ***This eBook was produced by Tapio Riikonen and David Widger, widger@cecomet.netPART THE SECOND.PROLOGUE TO PART THE SECOND.The century has advanced. The rush of the deluge has ebbed back; the old landmarks have ...



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The Project Gutenberg EBook Lucretia, byEdward-Bulwer Lytton, Vol. 4 #116 in our series byEdward Bulwer-LyttonCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Besure to check the copyright laws for your countrybefore downloading or redistributing this or anyother Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen whenviewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do notremove it. Do not change or edit the headerwithout written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and otherinformation about the eBook and ProjectGutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included isimportant information about your specific rights andrestrictions in how the file may be used. You canalso find out about how to make a donation toProject Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain VanillaElectronic Texts****EBooks Readable By Both Humans and ByComputers, Since 1971*******These EBooks Were Prepared By Thousandsof Volunteers*****Title: Lucretia, Volume 4.
Author: Edward Bulwer-LyttonRelease Date: March 2005 [EBook #7688] [Yes,we are more than one year ahead of schedule][This file was first posted on April 15, 2003]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERGEBOOK LUCRETIA, BY LYTTON, V4 ***This eBook was produced by Tapio Riikonen andDavid Widger, widger@cecomet.netPART THE SECOND.PROLOGUE TO PART THE SECOND.The century has advanced. The rush of the delugehas ebbed back; the old landmarks have
reappeared; the dynasties Napoleon willed into lifehave crumbled to the dust; the plough has passedover Waterloo; autumn after autumn the harvestshave glittered on that grave of an empire. Throughthe immense ocean of universal change we lookback on the single track which our frail boat has cutthrough the waste. As a star shines impartially overthe measureless expanse, though it seems to gildbut one broken line into each eye, so, as ourmemory gazes on the past, the light spreads notover all the breadth of the waste where nationshave battled and argosies gone down,—it fallsnarrow and confined along the single course wehave taken; we lean over the small raft on whichwe float, and see the sparkles but reflected fromthe waves that it divides.On the terrace at Laughton but one step pacesslowly. The bride clings not now to thebridegroom's arm. Though pale and worn, it is stillthe same gentle face; but the blush of woman'slove has gone from it evermore.Charles Vernon (to call him still by the name inwhich he is best known to us) sleeps in the vault ofthe St. Johns. He had lived longer than he himselfhad expected, than his physician had hoped,—lived, cheerful and happy, amidst quiet pursuitsand innocent excitements. Three sons had blessedhis hearth, to mourn over his grave. But the twoelder were delicate and sickly. They did not longsurvive him, and died within a few months of eachother. The third seemed formed of a differentmould and constitution from his brethren. To him
descended the ancient heritage of Laughton, andhe promised to enjoy it long.It is Vernon's widow who walks alone in the statelyterrace; sad still, for she loved well the choice ofher youth, and she misses yet the children in thegrave. From the date of Vernon's death, she woremourning without and within; and the sorrows thatcame later broke more the bruised reed,—sad still,but resigned. One son survives, and earth yet hasthe troubled hopes and the holy fears of affection.Though that son be afar, in sport or in earnest, inpleasure or in toil, working out his destiny as man,still that step is less solitary than it seems. Whendoes the son's image not walk beside the mother?Though she lives in seclusion, though the gayworld tempts no more, the gay world is yet linkedto her thoughts. From the distance she hears itsmurmurs in music. Her fancy still mingles with thecrowd, and follows on, to her eye, outshining all therest. Never vain in herself, she is vain now ofanother; and the small triumphs of the young andwell-born seem trophies of renown to the eyes sotenderly deceived.In the old-fashioned market-town still the businessgoes on, still the doors of the bank open and closeevery moment on the great day of the week; butthe names over the threshold are partiallychanged. The junior partner is busy no more at thedesk; not wholly forgotten, if his name still isspoken, it is not with thankfulness and praise. Asomething rests on the name,—that somethingwhich dims and attaints; not proven, not certain,
but suspected and dubious. The head shakes, thevoice whispers; and the attorney now lives in thesolid red house at the verge of the town.In the vicarage, Time, the old scythe-bearer, hasnot paused from his work. Still employed on Greektexts, little changed, save that his hair is gray andthat some lines in his kindly face tell of sorrows asof years, the vicar sits in his parlour; but thechildren no longer, blithe- voiced and rose-cheeked, dart through the rustling espaliers. Thosechildren, grave men or staid matrons (save onewhom Death chose, and therefore now of all bestbeloved!) are at their posts in the world. The youngones are flown from the nest, and, with anxiouswings, here and there, search food in their turn fortheir young. But the blithe voice and rose-cheek ofthe child make not that loss which the hearthmisses the most. From childhood to manhood, andfrom manhood to departure, the natural changesare gradual and prepared. The absence mostmissed is that household life which presided, whichkept things in order, and must be coaxed if a chairwere displaced. That providence in trifles, thatclasp of small links, that dear, bustling agency,—now pleased, now complaining,—dear alike in eachchange of its humour; that active life which has noself of its own; like the mind of a poet, though itsprose be the humblest, transferring self into others,with its right to be cross, and its charter to scold;for the motive is clear,—it takes what it loves tooanxiously to heart. The door of the parlour is open,the garden-path still passes before the threshold;but no step now has full right to halt at the door
and interrupt the grave thought on Greek texts; nosmall talk on details and wise sayings chimes inwith the wrath of "Medea." The Prudent Genius isgone from the household; and perhaps as the goodscholar now wearily pauses, and looks out on thesilent garden, he would have given with joy all thatAthens produced, from Aeschylus to Plato, to hearagain from the old familiar lips the lament on tornjackets, or the statistical economy of eggs.But see, though the wife is no more, though thechildren have departed, the vicar's home is notutterly desolate. See, along the same walk onwhich William soothed Susan's fears and won herconsent,—see, what fairy advances? Is it Susanreturned to youth? How like! Yet look again, andhow unlike! The same, the pure, candid regard; thesame, the clear, limpid blue of the eye; the same,that fair hue of the hair,—light, but not auburn;more subdued, more harmonious than thatequivocal colour which too nearly approaches tored. But how much more blooming and joyous thanSusan's is that exquisite face in which all Hebesmiles forth; how much airier the tread, light withhealth; how much rounder, if slighter still, the waveof that undulating form! She smiles, her lips move,she is conversing with herself; she cannot be allsilent, even when alone, for the sunny gladness ofher nature must have vent like a bird's. But do notfancy that that gladness speaks the levity whichcomes from the absence of thought; it is ratherfrom the depth of thought that it springs, as fromthe depth of a sea comes its music. See, while shepauses and listens, with her finger half-raised to
her lip, as amidst that careless jubilee of birds shehears a note more grave and sustained,—thenightingale singing by day (as sometimes, thoughrarely, he is heard,—perhaps because he misseshis mate; perhaps because he sees from his bowerthe creeping form of some foe to his race),see,as she listens now to that plaintive, low-chantedwarble, how quickly the smile is sobered, how theshade, soft and pensive, steals over the brow. It isbut the mystic sympathy with Nature that bestowsthe smile or the shade. In that heart lightly movedbeats the fine sense of the poet. It is the exquisitesensibility of the nerves that sends its blithe play tothose spirits, and from the clearness of theatmosphere comes, warm and ethereal, the ray ofthat light.And does the roof of the pastor give shelter toHelen Mainwaring's youth? Has Death taken fromher the natural protectors? Those forms which wesaw so full of youth and youth's heart in that veryspot, has the grave closed on them yet? Yet! Howfew attain to the age of the Psalmist! Twenty-sevenyears have passed since that date: how often, inthose years, have the dark doors opened for theyoung as for the old! William Mainwaring died first,careworn and shamebowed; the blot on his namehad cankered into his heart. Susan's life, alwaysprecarious, had struggled on, while he lived, by thestrong power of affection and will; she would notdie, for who then could console him? But at hisdeath the power gave way. She lingered, butlingered dyingly, for three years; and then, for thefirst time since William's death, she smiled: that
smile remained on the lips of the corpse. They hadhad many trials, that young couple whom we left soprosperous and happy. Not till many years aftertheir marriage had one sweet consoler been bornto them. In the season of poverty and shame andgrief it came; and there was no pride onMainwaring's brow when they placed his first-bornin his arms. By her will, the widow consigned Helento the joint guardianship of Mr. Fielden and hersister; but the latter was abroad, her addressunknown, so the vicar for two years had had solecharge of the orphan. She was not unprovided for.The sum that Susan brought to her husband hadbeen long since gone, it is true,—lost in thecalamity which had wrecked William Mainwaring'sname and blighted his prospects; but Helen'sgrandfather, the landagent, had died some timesubsequent to that event, and, indeed, just beforeWilliam's death. He had never forgiven his son thestain on his name,—never assisted, never evenseen him since that fatal day; but he left to Helen asum of about 8,000 pounds; for she, at least, wasinnocent. In Mr. Fielden's eyes, Helen wastherefore an heiress. And who amongst his smallrange of acquaintance was good enough for her?—not only so richly portioned, but so lovely,—accomplished, too; for her parents had of lateyears lived chiefly in France, and languages thereare easily learned, and masters cheap. Mr. Fieldenknew but one, whom Providence had alsoconsigned to his charge,—the supposed son of hisold pupil Ardworth; but though a tender affectionexisted between the two young persons, it seemedtoo like that of brother and sister to afford much
ground for Mr. Fielden's anxiety or hope.From his window the vicar observed the stillattitude of the young orphan for a few moments;then he pushed aside his books, rose, andapproached her. At the sound of his tread shewoke from her revery and bounded lightly towardshim."Ah, you would not see me before!" she said, in avoice in which there was the slightest possibleforeign accent, which betrayed the country in whichher childhood had been passed; "I peeped in twiceat the window. I wanted you so much to walk to thevillage. But you will come now, will you not?" addedthe girl, coaxingly, as she looked up at him underthe shade of her straw hat."And what do you want in the village, my prettyHelen?""Why, you know it is fair day, and you promisedBessie that you would buy her a fairing,—to saynothing of me.""Very true, and I ought to look in; it will help tokeep the poor people from drinking. A clergymanshould mix with his parishioners in their holidays.We must not associate our office only with griefand sickness and preaching. We will go. And whatfairing are you to have?""Oh, something very brilliant, I promise you! I haveformed grand notions of a fair. I am sure it must belike the bazaars we read of last night in that
charming 'Tour in the East.'"The vicar smiled, half benignly, half anxiously. "Mydear child, it is so like you to suppose a village fairmust be an Eastern bazaar. If you always thusjudge of things by your fancy, how this sober worldwill deceive you, poor Helen!""It is not my fault; ne me grondez pas, mechant,"answered Helen, hanging her head. "But come, sir,allow, at least, that if I let my romance, as you callit, run away with me now and then, I can stillcontent myself with the reality. What, you shakeyour head still? Don't you remember the sparrow?""Ha! ha! yes,—the sparrow that the pedlar sold youfor a goldfinch; and you were so proud of yourpurchase, and wondered so much why you couldnot coax the goldfinch to sing, till at last the paintwore away, and it was only a poor little sparrow!""Go on! Confess: did I fret then? Was I not aspleased with my dear sparrow as I should havebeen with the prettiest goldfinch that ever sang?Does not the sparrow follow me about and nestleon my shoulder, dear little thing? And I was rightafter all; for if I had not fancied it a goldfinch, Ishould not have bought it, perhaps. But now Iwould not change it for a goldfinch,—no, not evenfor that nightingale I heard just now. So let me stillfancy the poor fair a bazaar; it is a doublepleasure, first to fancy the bazaar, and then to be"surprised at the fair."You argue well," said the vicar, as they now