EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
NIGHT AND MORNING
"The knight of arts and industry, And his achievements fair." THOMSON'S Castle of Indolence: Explanatory Verse to Canto II.
In a popular and respectable, but not very fashionable quartier in Paris, and in the tolerably broad and effective locale of the Rue ——, there might be seen, at the time I now treat of, a curious-looking building, that jutted out semicircularly from the neighbouring shops, with plaster pilasters and compo ornaments. The virtuosi of the quartier had discovered that the building was constructed in imitation of an ancient temple in Rome; this erection, then fresh and new, reached only to the entresol. The pilasters were painted light green and gilded in the cornices, while, surmounting the architrave, were three little statues— one held a torch, another a bow, and a third a bag; they were therefore rumoured, I know not with what justice, to be the artistical representatives of Hymen, Cupid and Fortune.
On the door was neatly engraved, on a brass plate, the following inscription:
"MONSIEUR LOVE, ANGLAIS, A L'ENTRESOL."
And if you had crossed the threshold and mounted the stairs, and gained that mysterious story inhabited by Monsieur Love, you would have seen, upon another door to the right, another epigraph, informing those interested in the inquiry that the bureau, of M. Love was open daily from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon.
The office of M. Love—for office it was, and of a nature not unfrequently designated in the "petites affiches" of Paris—had been established about six months; and whether it was the popularity of the profession, or the shape of the shop, or the manners of M. Love himself, I cannot pretend to say, but certain it is that the Temple of Hymen—as M. Love classically termed it—had become exceedingly in vogue in the Faubourg St.—. It was rumoured that no less than nine marriages in the immediate neighbourhood had been manufactured at this fortunate office, and that they had all turned out happily except one, in which the bride being sixty, and the bridegroom twenty-four, there had been rumours of domestic dissension; but as the lady had been delivered,—I mean of her husband, who had drowned himself in the Seine, about a month after the ceremony, things had turned out in the long run better than might have been expected, and the widow was so little discouraged; that she had been seen to enter the office already—a circumstance that was greatly to the credit of Mr. Love.
Perhaps the secret of Mr. Love's success, and of the marked superiority of his establishment in rank and popularity over similar ones, consisted in the spirit and liberality with which the business was conducted. He seemed resolved to destroy all formality between parties who might desire to draw closer to each other, and he hit upon the lucky device of a table d'hote, very well managed, and held twice a-week, and often followed by a soiree dansante; so that, if they pleased, the aspirants to matrimonial happiness might become acquainted without gene. As he himself was a jolly, convivial fellow of much savoir vivre, it is astonishing how well he made these entertainments answer. Persons who had not seemed to take to each other in the first distant interview grew extremely enamoured when the corks of the champagne—an extra of course in the abonnement—bounced against the wall. Added to this, Mr. Love took great pains to know the tradesmen in his neighbourhood; and, what with his jokes, his appearance of easy circumstances, and the fluency with which he spoke the language, he became a universal favourite. Many persons who were uncommonly starched in general, and who professed to ridicule the bureau, saw nothing improper in dining at the table d'hote. To those who wished for secrecy he was said to be wonderfully discreet; but there were others who did not affect to conceal their discontent at the single state: for the rest, the entertainments were so contrived as never to shock the delicacy, while they always forwarded the suit.
It was about eight o'clock in the evening, and Mr. Love was still seated at dinner, or rather at dessert, with a party of guests. His apartments, though small, were somewhat gaudily painted and furnished, and his dining-room was decorated a la Turque. The party consisted-first, of a rich epicier, a widower, Monsieur Goupille by name, an eminent man in the Faubourg; he was in his grand climacteric, but still belhomme; wore a very well-made peruque of light auburn, with tight pantaloons, which contained a pair of very respectable calves; and his white neckcloth and his large gill were washed and got up with especial care. Next to Monsieur Goupille sat a very demure and very spare young lady of about two-and-thirty, who was said to have saved a fortune—Heaven knows how— in the family of a rich English milord, where she had officiated as governess; she called herself Mademoiselle Adele de Courval, and was very particular about the de, and very melancholy about her ancestors. Monsieur Goupille generally put his finger through his peruque, and fell away a little on his left pantaloon when he spoke to Mademoiselle de Courval, and Mademoiselle de Courval generally pecked at her bouquet when she answered Monsieur Goupille. On the other side of this young lady sat a fine-looking fair man—M. Sovolofski, a Pole, buttoned up to the chin, and rather threadbare, though uncommonly neat. He was flanked by a little fat lady, who had been very pretty, and who kept a boarding-house, or pension, for the English, she herself being English, though long established in Paris. Rumour said she had been gay in her youth, and dropped in Paris by a Russian nobleman, with a very pretty settlement, she and the settlement having equally expanded by time and season: she was called Madame Beavor. On the other side of the table was a red-headed Englishman, who spoke very little French; who had been told that French ladies were passionately fond of light hair; and who, having L2000. of his own, intended to quadruple that sum by a prudent marriage. Nobody knew what his family was, but his name was Higgins. His neighbour was an exceedingly tall, large-boned Frenchman, with a long nose and a red riband, who was much seen at Frascati's, and had served under Napoleon. Then came another lady, extremely pretty, very piquante, and very gay, but past the premiere jeunesse, who ogled Mr. Love more than she did any of his guests: she was called Rosalie Caumartin, and was at the head of a large bon-bon establishment; married, but her husband had gone four years ago to the Isle of France, and she was a little doubtful whether she might not be justly entitled to the privileges of a widow. Next to Mr. Love, in the place of honour, sat no less a person than the Vicomte de Vaudemont, a French gentleman, really well-born, but whose various excesses, added to his poverty, had not served to sustain that respect for his birth which he considered due to it. He had already been twice married; once to an Englishwoman, who had been decoyed by the title; by this lady, who died in childbed, he had one son; a fact which he sedulously concealed from the world of Paris by keeping the unhappy boy—who was now some eighteen or nineteen years old—a perpetual exile in England. Monsieur de Vaudemont did not wish to pass for more than thirty, and he considered that to produce a son of eighteen would be to make the lad a monster of ingratitude by giving the lie every hour to his own father! In spite of this precaution the Vicomte found great difficulty in getting a third wife—especially as he had no actual land and visible income; was, not seamed, but ploughed up, with the small-pox; small of stature, and was considered more than un peu bete. He was, however, a prodigious dandy, and wore a lace frill and embroidered waistcoat. Mr. Love's vis-a-vis was Mr. Birnie, an Englishman, a sort of assistant in the establishment, with a hard, dry, parchment face, and a remarkable talent for silence. The host himself was a splendid animal; his vast chest seemed to occupy more space at the table than any four of his guests, yet he was not corpulent or unwieldy; he was dressed in black, wore a velvet stock very high, and four gold studs glittered in his shirt-front; he was bald to the crown, which made his forehead appear singularly lofty, and what hair he had left was a little greyish and curled; his face was shaved smoothly, except a close-clipped mustache; and his eyes, though small, were bright and piercing. Such was the party.
"These are the best bon-bons I ever ate," said Mr. Love, glancing at Madame Caumartin. "My fair friends, have compassion on the table of a poor bachelor."
"But you ought not to be a bachelor, Monsieur Lofe," replied the fair Rosalie, with an arch look; "you who make others marry, should set the example."
"All in good time," answered Mr. Love, nodding; "one serves one's customers to so much happiness that one has none left for one's self."
Here a loud explosion was heard. Monsieur Goupille had pulled one of the bon-bon crackers with Mademoiselle Adele.
"I've got the motto!—no—Monsieur has it: I'm always unlucky," said the gentle Adele.
The epicier solemnly unrolled the little slip of paper; the print was very small, and he longed to take out his spectacles, but he thought that would make him look old. However, he spelled through the motto with some difficulty:—
"Comme elle fait soumettre un coeur, En refusant son doux hommage, On peut traiter la coquette en vainqueur; De la beauty modeste on cherit l'esclavage."
[The coquette, who subjugates a heart, yet refuses its tender homage, one may treat as a conqueror: of modest beauty we cherish the slavery.]
"I present it to Mademoiselle," said he, laying the motto solemnly in Adele's plate, upon a little mountain of chestnut-husks.
"It is very pretty," said she, looking down.
"It is very a propos," whispered the epicier, caressing the peruque a little too roughly in his emotion. Mr. Love gave him a kick under the table, and put his finger to his own bald head, and then to his nose, significantly. The intelligent epicier smoothed back the irritated peruque.
"Are you fond of bon-bons, Mademoiselle Adele? I have a very fine stock at home," said Monsieur Goupille. Mademoiselle Adele de Courval sighed: "Helas! they remind me of happier days, when I was a petite and my dear grandmamma took me in her lap and told me how she escaped the guillotine: she was an emigree, and you know her father was a marquis."
The epicier bowed and looked puzzled. He did not quite see the connection between the bon-bons and the guillotine. "You are triste, Monsieur," observed Madame Beavor, in rather a piqued tone, to the Pole, who had not said a word since the roti.
"Madame, an exile is always triste: I think of my pauvre pays."
"Bah!" cried Mr. Love. "Think that there is no exile by the side of a belle dame."
The Pole smiled mournfully.
"Pull it," said Madame Beavor, holding a cracker to the patriot, and turning away her face.
"Yes, madame; I wish it were a cannon in defence of La Pologne."
With this magniloquent aspiration, the gallant Sovolofski pulled lustily, and then rubbed his fingers, with a little grimace, observing that crackers were sometimes dangerous, and that the present combustible was d'une force immense.
"Helas! J'ai cru jusqu'a ce jour Pouvoir triompher de l'amour,"
[Alas! I believed until to-day that I could triumph over love.]
said Madame Beavor, reading the motto. "What do you say to that?"
"Madame, there is no triumph for La Pologne!" Madame Beavor uttered a little peevish exclamation, and glanced in despair at her red-headed countryman. "Are you, too, a great politician, sir?" said she in English.
"No, mem!—I'm all for the ladies."
"What does he say?" asked Madame Caumartin.
"Monsieur Higgins est tout pour les dames."
"To be sure he is," cried Mr. Love; "all the English are, especially with that coloured hair; a lady who likes a passionate adorer should always marry a man with gold-coloured hair—always. What do you say, Mademoiselle Adele?"
"Oh, I like fair hair," said Mademoiselle, looking bashfully askew at Monsieur Goupille's peruque. "Grandmamma said her papa—the marquis— used yellow powder: it must have been very pretty."
"Rather a la sucre d' orge," remarked the epicier, smiling on the right side of his mouth, where his best teeth were. Mademoiselle de Courval looked displeased. "I fear you are a republican, Monsieur Goupille."
"I, Mademoiselle. No; I'm for the Restoration;" and again the epicier perplexed himself to discover the association of idea between republicanism and sucre d'orge.
"Another glass of wine. Come, another," said Mr. Love, stretching across the Vicomte to help Madame Canmartin.
"Sir," said the tall Frenchman with the riband, eying the epicier with great disdain, "you say you are for the Restoration—I am for the Empire —Moi!"
"No politics!" cried Mr. Love. "Let us adjourn to the salon."
The Vicomte, who had seemed supremely ennuye during this dialogue, plucked Mr. Love by the sleeve as he rose, and whispered petulantly, "I do not see any one here to suit me, Monsieur Love—none of my rank."
"Mon Dieu!" answered Mr. Love: "point d' argent point de Suisse. I could introduce you to a duchess, but then the fee is high. There's Mademoiselle de Courval—she dates from the Carlovingians."
"She is very like a boiled sole," answered the Vicomte, with a wry face. "Still-what dower has she?"
"Forty thousand francs, and sickly," replied Mr. Love; "but she likes a tall man, and Monsieur Goupille is—"
"Tall men are never well made," interrupted the Vicomte, angrily; and he drew himself aside as Mr. Love, gallantly advancing, gave his arm to Madame Beavor, because the Pole had, in rising, folded both his own arms across his breast.
"Excuse me, ma'am," said Mr. Love to Madame Beavor, as they adjourned to the salon, "I don't think you manage that brave man well."
"Ma foi, comme il est ennuyeux avec sa Pologne," replied Madame Beavor, shrugging her shoulders.
"True; but he is a very fine-shaped man; and it is a comfort to think that one will have no rival but his country. Trust me, and encourage him a little more; I think he would suit you to a T."
Here the attendant engaged for the evening announced Monsieur and Madame Giraud; whereupon there entered a little—little couple, very fair, very plump, and very like each other. This was Mr. Love's show couple—his decoy ducks—his last best example of match-making; they had been married two months out of the bureau, and were the admiration of the neighbourhood for their conjugal affection. As they were now united, they had ceased to frequent the table d'hote; but Mr. Love often invited them after the dessert, pour encourager les autres.
"My dear friends," cried Mr. Love, shaking each by the hand, "I am ravished to see you. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Monsieur and Madame Giraud. the happiest couple in Christendom;—if I had done nothing else in my life but bring them together I should not have lived in vain!"
The company eyed the objects of this eulogium with great attention.
"Monsieur, my prayer is to deserve my bonheur," said Monsieur Giraud.
"Cher ange!" murmured Madame: and the happy pair seated themselves next to each other.
Mr. Love, who was all for those innocent pastimes which do away with conventional formality and reserve, now proposed a game at "Hunt the Slipper," which was welcomed by the whole party, except the Pole and the Vicomte; though Mademoiselle Adele looked prudish, and observed to the epicier, "that Monsieur Lofe was so droll, but she should not have liked her pauvre grandmaman to see her."
The Vicomte had stationed himself opposite to Mademoiselle de Courval, and kept his eyes fixed on her very tenderly.
"Mademoiselle, I see, does not approve of such bourgeois diversions," said he.
"No, monsieur," said the gentle Adele. "But I think we must sacrifice our own tastes to those of the company."
"It is a very amiable sentiment," said the epicier.
"It is one attributed to grandmamma's papa, the Marquis de Courval. It has become quite a hackneyed remark since," said Adele.
"Come, ladies," said the joyous Rosalie; "I volunteer my slipper."
"Asseyez-vous donc," said Madame Beavor to the Pole. Have you no games of this sort in Poland?"
"Madame, La Pologne is no more," said the Pole. "But with the swords of her brave—"
"No swords here, if you please," said Mr. Love, putting his vast hands on the Pole's shoulder, and sinking him forcibly down into the circle now formed.
The game proceeded with great vigour and much laughter from Rosalie, Mr. Love, and Madame Beavor, especially whenever the last thumped the Pole with the heel of the slipper. Monsieur Giraud was always sure that Madame Giraud had the slipper about her, which persuasion on his part gave rise to many little endearments, which are always so innocent among married people. The Vicomte and the epicier were equally certain the slipper was with Mademoiselle Adele, who defended herself with much more energy than might have been supposed in one so gentle. The epicier, however, grew jealous of the attentions of his noble rival, and told him that he gene'd mademoiselle; whereupon the Vicomte called him an impertinent; and the tall Frenchman, with the riband, sprang up and said:
"Can I be of any assistance, gentlemen?"
Therewith Mr. Love, the great peacemaker, interposed, and reconciling the rivals, proposed to change the game to Colin Maillard-Anglice, "Blind Man's Buff." Rosalie clapped her hands, and offered herself to be blindfolded. The tables and chairs were cleared away; and Madame Beaver pushed the Pole into Rosalie's arms, who, having felt him about the face for some moments, guessed him to be the tall Frenchman. During this time Monsieur and Madame Giraud hid themselves behind the window-curtain.
"Amuse yourself, men ami," said Madame Beaver, to the liberated Pole.
"Ah, madame," sighed Monsieur Sovolofski, "how can I be gay! All my property confiscated by the Emperor of Russia! Has La Pologne no Brutus?"
"I think you are in love," said the host, clapping him on the back.
"Are you quite sure," whispered the Pole to the matchmaker, that Madame Beavor has vingt mille livres de rentes?"
"Not a sous less."
The Pole mused, and, glancing at Madame Beavor, said, "And yet, madame, your charming gaiety consoles me amidst all my suffering;" upon which Madame Beavor called him "flatterer," and rapped his knuckles with her fan; the latter proceeding the brave Pole did not seem to like, for he immediately buried his hands in his trousers' pockets.
The game was now at its meridian. Rosalie was uncommonly active, and flew about here and there, much to the harassment of the Pole, who repeatedly wiped his forehead, and observed that it was warm work, and put him in mind of the last sad battle for La Pologne. Monsieur Goupille, who had lately taken lessons in dancing, and was vain of his agility—mounted the chairs and tables, as Rosalie approached—with great grace and gravity. It so happened that, in these saltations, he ascended a stool near the curtain behind which Monsieur and Madame Giraud were ensconced. Somewhat agitated by a slight flutter behind the folds, which made him fancy, on the sudden panic, that Rosalie was creeping that way, the epicier made an abrupt pirouette, and the hook on which the curtains were suspended caught his left coat-tail,
"The fatal vesture left the unguarded side;"
just as he turned to extricate the garment from that dilemma, Rosalie sprang upon him, and naturally lifting her hands to that height where she fancied the human face divine, took another extremity of Monsieur Goupille's graceful frame thus exposed, by surprise.
"I don't know who this is. Quelle drole de visage!" muttered Rosalie.
"Mais, madame," faltered Monsieur Goupille, looking greatly disconcerted.
The gentle Adele, who did not seem to relish this adventure, came to the relief of her wooer, and pinched Rosalie very sharply in the arm.
"That's not fair. But I will know who this is," cried Rosalie, angrily; "you sha'n't escape!"
A sudden and universal burst of laughter roused her suspicions—she drew back—and exclaiming, "Mais quelle mauvaise plaisanterie; c'est trop fort!" applied her fair hand to the place in dispute, with so hearty a good-will, that Monsieur Goupille uttered a dolorous cry, and sprang from the chair leaving the coat-tail (the cause of all his woe) suspended upon the hook.
It was just at this moment, and in the midst of the excitement caused by Monsieur Goupille's misfortune, that the door opened, and the attendant reappeared, followed by a young man in a large cloak.
The new-comer paused at the threshold, and gazed around him in evident surprise.
"Diable!" said Mr. Love, approaching, and gazing hard at the stranger. "Is it possible?—You are come at last? Welcome!"
"But," said the stranger, apparently still bewildered, "there is some mistake; you are not—"
"Yes, I am Mr. Love!—Love all the world over. How is our friend Gregg? —told you to address yourself to Mr. Love,—eh?—Mum!—Ladies and gentlemen, an acquisition to our party. Fine fellow, eh?—Five feet eleven without his shoes,—and young enough to hope to be thrice married before he dies. When did you arrive?"
And thus, Philip Morton and Mr. William Gawtrey met once more.
"Happy the man who, void of care and strife, In silken or in leathern purse retains A splendid shilling !"—The Splendid Shilling.
"And wherefore should they take or care for thought, The unreasoning vulgar willingly obey, And leaving toil and poverty behind. Run forth by different ways, the blissful boon to find." WEST'S Education.
"Poor, boy! your story interests me. The events are romantic, but the moral is practical, old, everlasting—life, boy, life. Poverty by itself is no such great curse; that is, if it stops short of starving. And passion by itself is a noble thing, sir; but poverty and passion together—poverty and feeling—poverty and pride—the poverty one is not born to,—but falls into;—and the man who ousts you out of your easy-chair, kicking you with every turn he takes, as he settles himself more comfortably—why there's no romance in that—hard every-day life, sir! Well, well:—so after your brother's letter you resigned yourself to that fellow Smith."
"No; I gave him my money, not my soul. I turned from his door, with a few shillings that he himself thrust into my hand, and walked on—I cared not whither—out of the town, into the fields—till night came; and then, just as I suddenly entered on the high-road, many miles away, the moon rose; and I saw, by the hedge-side, something that seemed like a corpse; it was an old beggar, in the last state of raggedness, disease, and famine. He had laid himself down to die. I shared with him what I had, and helped him to a little inn. As he crossed the threshold, he turned round and blessed me. Do you know, the moment I heard that blessing a stone seemed rolled away from my heart? I said to myself, 'What then! even I can be of use to some one; and I am better off than that old man, for I have youth and health.' As these thoughts stirred in me, my limbs, before heavy with fatigue, grew light; a strange kind of excitement seized me. I ran on gaily beneath the moonlight that smiled over the crisp, broad road. I felt as if no house, not even a palace, were large enough for me that night. And when, at last, wearied out, I crept into a wood, and laid myself down to sleep, I still murmured to myself, 'I have youth and health.' But, in the morning, when I rose, I stretched out my arms, and missed my brother! . . . In two or three days I found employment with a farmer; but we quarrelled after a few weeks; for once he wished to strike me; and somehow or other I could work, but not serve. Winter had begun when we parted.—Oh, such a winter!—Then—then I knew what it was to be houseless. How I lived for some months—if to live it can be called—it would pain you to hear, and humble me to tell. At last, I found myself again in London; and one evening, not many days since, I resolved at last—for nothing else seemed left, and I had not touched food for two days—to come to you."
"And why did that never occur to you before?"!
"Because," said Philip, with a deep blush,—"because I trembled at the power over my actions and my future life that I was to give to one, whom I was to bless as a benefactor, yet distrust as a guide."
"Well," said Love, or Gawtrey, with a singular mixture of irony and compassion in his voice; "and it was hunger, then, that terrified you at last even more than I?"
"Perhaps hunger—or perhaps rather the reasoning that comes from hunger. I had not, I say, touched food for two days; and I was standing on that bridge, from which on one side you see the palace of a head of the Church, on the other the towers of the Abbey, within which the men I have read of in history lie buried. It was a cold, frosty evening, and the river below looked bright with the lamps and stars. I leaned, weak and sickening, against the wall of the bridge; and in one of the arched recesses beside me a cripple held out his hat for pence. I envied him!— he had a livelihood; he was inured to it, perhaps bred to it; he had no shame. By a sudden impulse, I, too, turned abruptly round—held out my hand to the first passenger, and started at the shrillness of my own voice, as it cried 'Charity.'"
Gawtrey threw another log on the fire, looked complacently round the comfortable room, and rubbed his hands. The young man continued,—
"'You should be ashamed of yourself—I've a great mind to give you to the police,' was the answer, in a pert and sharp tone. I looked up, and saw the livery my father's menials had worn. I had been begging my bread from Robert Beaufort's lackey! I said nothing; the man went on his business on tiptoe, that the mud might not splash above the soles of his shoes. Then, thoughts so black that they seemed to blot out every star from the sky—thoughts I had often wrestled against, but to which I now gave myself up with a sort of mad joy—seized me: and I remembered you. I had still preserved the address you gave me; I went straight to the house. Your friend, on naming you, received me kindly, and without question placed food before me—pressed on me clothing and money— procured me a passport—gave me your address—and now I am beneath your roof. Gawtrey, I know nothing yet of the world but the dark side of it. I know not what to deem you—but as you alone have been kind to me, so it is to your kindness rather than your aid, that I now cling—your kind words and kind looks-yet—" he stopped short, and breathed hard.
"Yet you would know more of me. Faith, my boy, I cannot tell you more at this moment. I believe, to speak fairly, I don't live exactly within the pale of the law. But I'm not a villain! I never plundered my friend and called it play!—I never murdered my friend and called it honour!—I never seduced my friend's wife and called it gallantry!" As Gawtrey said this, he drew the words out, one by one, through his grinded teeth, paused and resumed more gaily: "I struggle with Fortune; voila tout! I am not what you seem to suppose—not exactly a swindler, certainly not a robber! But, as I before told you, I am a charlatan, so is every man who strives to be richer or greater than he is.
"I, too, want kindness as much as you do. My bread and my cup are at your service. I will try and keep you unsullied, even by the clean dirt that now and then sticks to me. On the other hand, youth, my young friend, has no right to play the censor; and you must take me as you take the world, without being over-scrupulous and dainty. My present vocation pays well; in fact, I am beginning to lay by. My real name and past life are thoroughly unknown, and as yet unsuspected, in this quartier; for though I have seen much of Paris, my career hitherto has passed in other parts of the city;—and for the rest, own that I am well disguised! What a benevolent air this bald forehead gives me—eh? True," added Gawtrey, somewhat more seriously," if I saw how you could support yourself in a broader path of life than that in which I pick out my own way, I might say to you, as a gay man of fashion might say to some sober stripling— nay, as many a dissolute father says (or ought to say) to his son, 'It is no reason you should be a sinner, because I am not a saint.' In a word, if you were well off in a respectable profession, you might have safer acquaintances than myself. But, as it is, upon my word as a plain man, I don't see what you can do better." Gawtrey made this speech with so much frankness and ease, that it seemed greatly to relieve the listener, and when he wound up with, "What say you? In fine, my life is that of a great schoolboy, getting into scrapes for the fun of it, and fighting his way out as he best can!—Will you see how you like it?" Philip, with a confiding and grateful impulse, put his hand into Gawtrey's. The host shook it cordially, and, without saying another word, showed his guest into a little cabinet where there was a sofa-bed, and they parted for the night. The new life upon which Philip Morton entered was so odd, so grotesque, and so amusing, that at his age it was, perhaps, natural that he should not be clear-sighted as to its danger.
William Gawtrey was one of those men who are born to exert a certain influence and ascendency wherever they may be thrown; his vast strength, his redundant health, had a power of themselves—a moral as well as physical power. He naturally possessed high animal spirits, beneath the surface of which, however, at times, there was visible a certain undercurrent of malignity and scorn. He had evidently received a superior education, and could command at will the manner of a man not unfamiliar with a politer class of society. From the first hour that Philip had seen him on the top of the coach on the R—— road, this man had attracted his curiosity and interest; the conversation he had heard in the churchyard, the obligations he owed to Gawtrey in his escape from the officers of justice, the time afterwards passed in his society till they separated at the little inn, the rough and hearty kindliness Gawtrey had shown him at that period, and the hospitality extended to him now,— all contributed to excite his fancy, and in much, indeed very much, entitled this singular person to his gratitude. Morton, in a word, was fascinated; this man was the only friend he had made. I have not thought it necessary to detail to the reader the conversations that had taken place between them, during that passage of Morton's life when he was before for some days Gawtrey's companion; yet those conversations had sunk deep in his mind. He was struck, and almost awed, by the profound gloom which lurked under Gawtrey's broad humour—a gloom, not of temperament, but of knowledge. His views of life, of human justice and human virtue, were (as, to be sure, is commonly the case with men who have had reason to quarrel with the world) dreary and despairing; and Morton's own experience had been so sad, that these opinions were more influential than they could ever have been with the happy. However in this, their second reunion, there was a greater gaiety than in their first; and under his host's roof Morton insensibly, but rapidly, recovered something of the early and natural tone of his impetuous and ardent spirits. Gawtrey himself was generally a boon companion; their society, if not select, was merry. When their evenings were disengaged, Gawtrey was fond of haunting cafes and theatres, and Morton was his companion; Birnie (Mr. Gawtrey's partner) never accompanied them. Refreshed by this change of life, the very person of this young man regained its bloom and vigour, as a plant, removed from some choked atmosphere and unwholesome soil, where it had struggled for light and air, expands on transplanting; the graceful leaves burst from the long- drooping boughs, and the elastic crest springs upward to the sun in the glory of its young prime. If there was still a certain fiery sternness in his aspect, it had ceased, at least, to be haggard and savage, it even suited the character of his dark and expressive features. He might not have lost the something of the tiger in his fierce temper, but in the sleek hues and the sinewy symmetry of the frame he began to put forth also something of the tiger's beauty.
Mr. Birnie did not sleep in the house, he went home nightly to a lodging at some little distance. We have said but little about this man, for, to all appearance, there was little enough to say; he rarely opened his own mouth except to Gawtrey, with whom Philip often observed him engaged in whispered conferences, to which he was not admitted. His eye, however, was less idle than his lips; it was not a bright eye: on the contrary, it was dull, and, to the unobservant, lifeless, of a pale blue, with a dim film over it—the eye of a vulture; but it had in it a calm, heavy, stealthy watchfulness, which inspired Morton with great distrust and aversion. Mr. Birnie not only spoke French like a native, but all his habits, his gestures, his tricks of manner, were, French; not the French of good society, but more idiomatic, as it were, and popular. He was not exactly a vulgar person, he was too silent for that, but he was evidently of low extraction and coarse breeding; his accomplishments were of a mechanical nature; he was an extraordinary arithmetician, he was a very skilful chemist, and kept a laboratory at his lodgings—he mended his own clothes and linen with incomparable neatness. Philip suspected him of blacking his own shoes, but that was prejudice. Once he found Morton sketching horses' heads—pour se desennuyer; and he made some short criticisms on the drawings, which showed him well acquainted with the art. Philip, surprised, sought to draw him into conversation; but Birnie eluded the attempt, and observed that he had once been an engraver.
Gawtrey himself did not seem to know much of the early life of this person, or at least he did not seem to like much to talk of him. The footstep of Mr. Birnie was gliding, noiseless, and catlike; he had no sociality in him—enjoyed nothing—drank hard—but was never drunk. Somehow or other, he had evidently over Gawtrey an influence little less than that which Gawtrey had over Morton, but it was of a different nature: Morton had conceived an extraordinary affection for his friend, while Gawtrey seemed secretly to dislike Birnie, and to be glad whenever he quitted his presence. It was, in truth, Gawtrey's custom when Birnie retired for the night, to rub his hands, bring out the punchbowl, squeeze the lemons, and while Philip, stretched on the sofa, listened to him, between sleep and waking, to talk on for the hour together, often till daybreak, with that bizarre mixture of knavery and feeling, drollery and sentiment, which made the dangerous charm of his society.
One evening as they thus sat together, Morton, after listening for some time to his companion's comments on men and things, said abruptly,—
"Gawtrey! there is so much in you that puzzles me, so much which I find it difficult to reconcile with your present pursuits, that, if I ask no indiscreet confidence, I should like greatly to hear some account of your early life. It would please me to compare it with my own; when I am your age, I will then look back and see what I owed to your example."
"My early life! well—you shall hear it. It will put you on your guard, I hope, betimes against the two rocks of youth—love and friendship." Then, while squeezing the lemon into his favourite beverage, which Morton observed he made stronger than usual, Gawtrey thus commenced:
THE HISTORY OF A GOOD-FOR-NOTHING.
"All his success must on himself depend, He had no money, counsel, guide, or friend; With spirit high John learned the world to brave, And in both senses was a ready knave."—CRABBE.
"My grandfather sold walking-sticks and umbrellas in the little passage by Exeter 'Change; he was a man of genius and speculation. As soon as he had scraped together a little money, he lent it to some poor devil with a hard landlord, at twenty per cent., and made him take half the loan in umbrellas or bamboos. By these means he got his foot into the ladder, and climbed upward and upward, till, at the age of forty, he had amassed L5,000. He then looked about for a wife. An honest trader in the Strand, who dealt largely in cotton prints, possessed an only daughter; this young lady had a legacy, from a great-aunt, of L3,220., with a small street in St. Giles's, where the tenants paid weekly (all thieves or rogues-all, so their rents were sure). Now my grandfather conceived a great friendship for the father of this young lady; gave him a hint as to a new pattern in spotted cottons; enticed him to take out a patent, and lent him L700. for the speculation; applied for the money at the very moment cottons were at their worst, and got the daughter instead of the money,—by which exchange, you see, he won L2,520., to say nothing of the young lady. My grandfather then entered into partnership with the worthy trader, carried on the patent with spirit, and begat two sons. As he grew older, ambition seized him; his sons should be gentlemen—one was sent to College, the other put into a marching regiment. My grandfather meant to die worth a plum; but a fever he caught in visiting his tenants in St. Giles's prevented him, and he only left L20,000. equally divided between the sons. My father, the College man" (here Gawtrey paused a moment, took a large draught of the punch, and resumed with a visible effort)—"my father, the College man, was a person of rigid principles— bore an excellent character—had a great regard for the world. He married early and respectably. I am the sole fruit of that union; he lived soberly, his temper was harsh and morose, his home gloomy; he was a very severe father, and my mother died before I was ten years old. When I was fourteen, a little old Frenchman came to lodge with us; he had been persecuted under the old regime for being a philosopher; he filled my head with odd crotchets which, more or less, have stuck there ever since. At eighteen I was sent to St. John's College, Cambridge. My father was rich enough to have let me go up in the higher rank of a pensioner, but he had lately grown avaricious; he thought that I was extravagant; he made me a sizar, perhaps to spite me. Then, for the first time, those inequalities in life which the Frenchman had dinned into my ears met me practically. A sizar! another name for a dog! I had such strength, health, and spirits, that I had more life in my little finger than half the fellow-commoners—genteel, spindle-shanked striplings, who might have passed for a collection of my grandfather's walking-canes—bad in their whole bodies. And I often think," continued Gawtrey, "that health and spirits have a great deal to answer for! When we are young we so far resemble savages who are Nature's young people—that we attach prodigious value to physical advantages. My feats of strength and activity—the clods I thrashed—and the railings I leaped—and the boat-races I won— are they not written in the chronicle of St. John's? These achievements inspired me with an extravagant sense of my own superiority; I could not but despise the rich fellows whom I could have blown down with a sneeze. Nevertheless, there was an impassable barrier between me and them—a sizar was not a proper associate for the favourites of fortune! But there was one young man, a year younger myself, of high birth, and the heir to considerable wealth, who did not regard me with the same supercilious insolence as the rest; his very rank, perhaps, made him indifferent to the little conventional formalities which influence persons who cannot play at football with this round world; he was the wildest youngster in the university—lamp-breaker—tandem-driver—mob- fighter—a very devil in short—clever, but not in the reading line— small and slight, but brave as a lion. Congenial habits made us intimate, and I loved him like a brother—better than a brother—as a dog loves his master. In all our rows I covered him with my body. He had but to say to me, 'Leap into the water,' and I would not have stopped to pull off my coat. In short, I loved him as a proud man loves one who stands betwixt him and contempt,—as an affectionate man loves one who stands between him and solitude. To cut short a long story: my friend, one dark night, committed an outrage against discipline, of the most unpardonable character. There was a sanctimonious, grave old fellow of the College, crawling home from a tea-party; my friend and another of his set seized, blindfolded, and handcuffed this poor wretch, carried him, vi et armis, back to the house of an old maid whom he had been courting for the last ten years, fastened his pigtail (he wore a long one) to the knocker, and so left him. You may imagine the infernal hubbub which his attempts to extricate himself caused in the whole street; the old maid's old maidservant, after emptying on his head all the vessels of wrath she could lay her hand to, screamed, 'Rape and murder!' The proctor and his bull-dogs came up, released the prisoner, and gave chase to the delinquents, who had incautiously remained near to enjoy the sport. The night was dark and they reached the College in safety, but they had been tracked to the gates. For this offence I was expelled."
"Why, you were not concerned in it?" said Philip.
"No; but I was suspected and accused. I could have got off by betraying the true culprits, but my friend's father was in public life—a stern, haughty old statesman; my friend was mortally afraid of him—the only person he was afraid of. If I had too much insisted on my innocence, I might have set inquiry on the right track. In fine, I was happy to prove my friendship for him. He shook me most tenderly by the hand on parting, and promised never to forget my generous devotion. I went home in disgrace: I need not tell you what my father said to me: I do not think he ever loved me from that hour. Shortly after this my uncle, George Gawtrey, the captain, returned from abroad; he took a great fancy to me, and I left my father's house (which had grown insufferable) to live with him. He had been a very handsome man—a gay spendthrift; he had got through his fortune, and now lived on his wits—he was a professed gambler. His easy temper, his lively humour, fascinated me; he knew the world well; and, like all gamblers, was generous when the dice were lucky,—which, to tell you the truth, they generally were, with a man who had no scruples. Though his practices were a little suspected, they had never been discovered. We lived in an elegant apartment, mixed familiarly with men of various ranks, and enjoyed life extremely. I brushed off my college rust, and conceived a taste for expense: I knew not why it was, but in my new existence every one was kind to me; and I had spirits that made me welcome everywhere. I was a scamp—but a frolicsome scamp—and that is always a popular character. As yet I was not dishonest, but saw dishonesty round me, and it seemed a very pleasant, jolly mode of making money; and now I again fell into contact with the young heir. My college friend was as wild in London as he had been at Cambridge; but the boy-ruffian, though not then twenty years of age, had grown into the man-villain."
Here Gawtrey paused, and frowned darkly.
"He had great natural parts, this young man-much wit, readiness, and cunning, and he became very intimate with my uncle. He learned of him how to play the dice, and a pack the cards—he paid him L1,000. for the knowledge!"
"How! a cheat? You said he was rich."
"His father was very rich, and he had a liberal allowance, but he was very extravagant; and rich men love gain as well as poor men do! He had no excuse but the grand excuse of all vice—SELFISHNESS. Young as he was he became the fashion, and he fattened upon the plunder of his equals, who desired the honour of his acquaintance. Now, I had seen my uncle cheat, but I had never imitated his example; when the man of fashion cheated, and made a jest of his earnings and my scruples—when I saw him courted, flattered, honoured, and his acts unsuspected, because his connections embraced half the peerage, the temptation grew strong, but I still resisted it. However, my father always said I was born to be a good-for-nothing, and I could not escape my destiny. And now I suddenly fell in love—you don't know what that is yet—so much the better for you. The girl was beautiful, and I thought she loved me—perhaps she did—but I was too poor, so her friends said, for marriage. We courted, as the saying is, in the meanwhile. It was my love for her, my wish to deserve her, that made me iron against my friend's example. I was fool enough to speak to him of Mary—to present him to her—this ended in her seduction." (Again Gawtrey paused, and breathed hard.) "I discovered the treachery—I called out the seducer-he sneered, and refused to fight the low-born adventurer. I struck him to the earth—and then we fought. I was satisfied by a ball through my side! but he," added Gawtrey, rubbing his hands, and with a vindictive chuckle,—"He was a cripple for life! When I recovered I found that my foe, whose sick-chamber was crowded with friends and comforters, had taken advantage of my illness to ruin my reputation. He, the swindler, accused me of his own crime: the equivocal character of my uncle confirmed the charge. Him, his own high- born pupil was enabled to unmask, and his disgrace was visited on me. I left my bed to find my uncle (all disguise over) an avowed partner in a hell, and myself blasted alike in name, love, past, and future. And then, Philip—then I commenced that career which I have trodden since— the prince of good-fellows and good-for-nothings, with ten thousand aliases, and as many strings to my bow. Society cast me off when I was innocent. Egad, I have had my revenge on society since!—Ho! ho! ho!"
The laugh of this man had in it a moral infection. There was a sort of glorying in its deep tone; it was not the hollow hysteric of shame and despair—it spoke a sanguine joyousness! William Gawtrey was a man whose animal constitution had led him to take animal pleasure in all things: he had enjoyed the poisons he had lived on.
"But your father—surely your father—"
"My father," interrupted Gawtrey, "refused me the money (but a small sum) that, once struck with the strong impulse of a sincere penitence, I begged of him, to enable me to get an honest living in a humble trade. His refusal soured the penitence—it gave me an excuse for my career and conscience grapples to an excuse as a drowning wretch to a straw. And yet this hard father—this cautious, moral, money-loving man, three months afterwards, suffered a rogue—almost a stranger—to decoy him into a speculation that promised to bring him fifty per cent. He invested in the traffic of usury what had sufficed to save a hundred such as I am from perdition, and he lost it all. It was nearly his whole fortune; but he lives and has his luxuries still: be cannot speculate, but he can save: he cared not if I starved, for he finds an hourly happiness in starving himself."
"And your friend," said Philip, after a pause in which his young sympathies went dangerously with the excuses for his benefactor; "what has become of him, and the poor girl?"
"My friend became a great man; he succeeded to his father's peerage—a very ancient one—and to a splendid income. He is living still. Well, you shall hear about the poor girl! We are told of victims of seduction dying in a workhouse or on a dunghill, penitent, broken-hearted, and uncommonly ragged and sentimental. It may be a frequent case, but it is not the worst. It is worse, I think, when the fair, penitent, innocent, credulous dupe becomes in her turn the deceiver—when she catches vice from the breath upon which she has hung—when she ripens, and mellows, and rots away into painted, blazing, staring, wholesale harlotry—when, in her turn, she ruins warm youth with false smiles and long bills—and when worse—worse than all—when she has children, daughters perhaps, brought up to the same trade, cooped, plumper, for some hoary lecher, without a heart in their bosoms, unless a balance for weighing money may be called a heart. Mary became this; and I wish to Heaven she had rather died in an hospital! Her lover polluted her soul as well as her beauty: he found her another lover when he was tired of her. When she was at the age of thirty-six I met her in Paris, with a daughter of sixteen. I was then flush with money, frequenting salons, and playing the part of a fine gentleman. She did not know me at first; and she sought my acquaintance. For you must know, my young friend," said Gawtrey, abruptly breaking off the thread of his narrative, "that I am not altogether the low dog you might suppose in seeing me here. At Paris—ah! you don't know Paris— there is a glorious ferment in society in which the dregs are often uppermost! I came here at the Peace, and here have I resided the greater part of each year ever since. The vast masses of energy and life, broken up by the great thaw of the Imperial system, floating along the tide, are terrible icebergs for the vessel of the state. Some think Napoleonism over—its effects are only begun. Society is shattered from one end to the other, and I laugh at the little rivets by which they think to keep it together.
[This passage was written at a period when the dynasty of Louis Philippe seemed the most assured, and Napoleonism was indeed considered extinct.]
"But to return. Paris, I say, is the atmosphere for adventurers—new faces and new men are so common here that they excite no impertinent inquiry, it is so usual to see fortunes made in a day and spent in a month; except in certain circles, there is no walking round a man's character to spy out where it wants piercing! Some lean Greek poet put lead in his pockets to prevent being blown away;—put gold in your pockets, and at Paris you may defy the sharpest wind in the world,—yea, even the breath of that old AEolus—Scandal! Well, then, I had money—no matter how I came by it—and health, and gaiety; and I was well received in the coteries that exist in all capitals, but mostly in France, where pleasure is the cement that joins many discordant atoms. Here, I say, I met Mary and her daughter, by my old friend—the daughter, still innocent, but, sacra! in what an element of vice! We knew each other's secrets, Mary and I, and kept them: she thought me a greater knave than I was, and she intrusted to me her intention of selling her child to a rich English marquis. On the other hand, the poor girl confided to me her horror of the scenes she witnessed and the snares that surrounded her. What do you think preserved her pure from all danger? Bah! you will never guess! It was partly because, if example corrupts, it as often deters, but principally because she loved. A girl who loves one man purely has about her an amulet which defies the advances of the profligate. There was a handsome young Italian, an artist, who frequented the house—he was the man. I had to choose, then, between mother and daughter: I chose the last."
Philip seized hold of Gawtrey's hand, grasped it warmly, and the good- for-nothing continued—
"Do you know, that I loved that girl as well as I had ever loved the mother, though in another way; she was what I fancied the mother to be; still more fair, more graceful, more winning, with a heart as full of love as her mother's had been of vanity. I loved that child as if she had been my own daughter. I induced her to leave her mother's house—I secreted her—I saw her married to the man she loved—I gave her away, and saw no more of her for several months."
"Because I spent them in prison! The young people could not live upon air; I gave them what I had, and in order to do more I did something which displeased the police; I narrowly escaped that time; but I am popular—very popular, and with plenty of witnesses, not over-scrupulous, I got off! When I was released, I would not go to see them, for my clothes were ragged: the police still watched me, and I would not do them harm in the world! Ay, poor wretches! they struggled so hard: he could got very little by his art, though, I believe, he was a cleverish fellow at it, and the money I had given them could not last for ever. They lived near the Champs Elysees, and at night I used to steal out and look at them through the window. They seemed so happy, and so handsome, and so good; but he looked sickly, and I saw that, like all Italians, he languished for his own warm climate. But man is born to act as well as to contemplate," pursued Gawtrey, changing his tone into the allegro; "and I was soon driven into my old ways, though in a lower line. I went to London, just to give my reputation an airing, and when I returned, pretty flush again, the poor Italian was dead, and Fanny was a widow, with one boy, and enceinte with a second child. So then I sought her again, for her mother had found her out, and was at her with her devilish kindness; but Heaven was merciful, and took her away from both of us: she died in giving birth to a girl, and her last words were uttered to me, imploring me—the adventurer—the charlatan—the good-for-nothing—to keep her child from the clutches of her own mother. Well, sir, I did what I could for both the children; but the boy was consumptive, like his father, and sleeps at Pere-la-Chaise. The girl is here—you shall see her some day. Poor Fanny! if ever the devil will let me, I shall reform for her sake. Meanwhile, for her sake I must get grist for the mill. My story is concluded, for I need not tell you all of my pranks—of all the parts I have played in life. I have never been a murderer, or a burglar, or a highway robber, or what the law calls a thief. I can only say, as I said before, I have lived upon my wits, and they have been a tolerable capital on the whole. I have been an actor, a money-lender, a physician, a professor of animal magnetism (that was lucrative till it went out of fashion, perhaps it will come in again); I have been a lawyer, a house- agent, a dealer in curiosities and china; I have kept a hotel; I have set up a weekly newspaper; I have seen almost every city in Europe, and made acquaintance with some of its gaols; but a man who has plenty of brains generally falls on his legs."
"And your father?" said Philip; and here he spoke to Gawtrey of the conversation he had overheard in the churchyard, but on which a scruple of natural delicacy had hitherto kept him silent.
"Well, now," said his host, while a slight blush rose to his cheeks, "I will tell you, that though to my father's sternness and avarice I attribute many of my faults, I yet always had a sort of love for him; and when in London I accidentally heard that he was growing blind, and living with an artful old jade of a housekeeper, who might send him to rest with a dose of magnesia the night after she had coaxed him to make a will in her favour. I sought him out—and—but you say you heard what passed."
"Yes; and I heard him also call you by name, when it was too late, and I saw the tears on his cheeks."
"Did you? Will you swear to that?" exclaimed Gawtrey, with vehemence: then, shading his brow with his band, he fell into a reverie that lasted some moments.
"If anything happen to me, Philip," he said, abruptly, "perhaps he may yet be a father to poor Fanny; and if he takes to her, she will repay him for whatever pain I may, perhaps, have cost him. Stop! now I think of it, I will write down his address for you—never forget it—there! It is time to go to bed."
Gawtrey's tale made a deep impression on Philip. He was too young, too inexperienced, too much borne away by the passion of the narrator, to see that Gawtrey had less cause to blame Fate than himself. True, he had been unjustly implicated in the disgrace of an unworthy uncle, but he had lived with that uncle, though he knew him to be a common cheat; true, he had been betrayed by a friend, but he had before known that friend to be a man without principle or honour. But what wonder that an ardent boy saw nothing of this—saw only the good heart that had saved a poor girl from vice, and sighed to relieve a harsh and avaricious parent? Even the hints that Gawtrey unawares let fall of practices scarcely covered by the jovial phrase of "a great schoolboy's scrapes," either escaped the notice of Philip, or were charitably construed by him, in the compassion and the ignorance of a young, hasty, and grateful heart.
"And she's a stranger Women—beware women."—MIDDLETON.
"As we love our youngest children best, So the last fruit of our affection, Wherever we bestow it, is most strong; Since 'tis indeed our latest harvest-home, Last merriment 'fore winter!" WEBSTER, Devil's Law Case.
"I would fain know what kind of thing a man's heart is? I will report it to you; 'tis a thing framed With divers corners!"—ROWLEY.
I have said that Gawtrey's tale made a deep impression on Philip;—that impression was increased by subsequent conversations, more frank even than their talk had hitherto been. There was certainly about this man a fatal charm which concealed his vices. It arose, perhaps, from the perfect combinations of his physical frame—from a health which made his spirits buoyant and hearty under all circumstances—and a blood so fresh, so sanguine, that it could not fail to keep the pores of the heart open. But he was not the less—for all his kindly impulses and generous feelings, and despite the manner in which, naturally anxious to make the least unfavourable portrait of himself to Philip, he softened and glossed over the practices of his life—a thorough and complete rogue, a dangerous, desperate, reckless daredevil. It was easy to see when anything crossed him, by the cloud on his shaggy brow, by the swelling of the veins on the forehead, by the dilation of the broad nostril, that he was one to cut his way through every obstacle to an end,—choleric, impetuous, fierce, determined. Such, indeed, were the qualities that made him respected among his associates, as his more bland and humorous ones made him beloved. He was, in fact, the incarnation of that great spirit which the laws of the world raise up against the world, and by which the world's injustice on a large scale is awfully chastised; on a small scale, merely nibbled at and harassed, as the rat that gnaws the hoof of the elephant:—the spirit which, on a vast theatre, rises up, gigantic and sublime, in the heroes of war and revolution—in Mirabeaus, Marats, Napoleons: on a minor stage, it shows itself in demagogues, fanatical philosophers, and mob-writers; and on the forbidden boards, before whose reeking lamps outcasts sit, at once audience and actors, it never produced a knave more consummate in his part, or carrying it off with more buskined dignity, than William Gawtrey. I call him by his aboriginal name; as for his other appellations, Bacchus himself had not so many!
One day, a lady, richly dressed, was ushered by Mr. Birnie into the bureau of Mr. Love, alias Gawtrey. Philip was seated by the window, reading, for the first time, the Candide,—that work, next to Rasselas, the most hopeless and gloomy of the sports of genius with mankind. The lady seemed rather embarrassed when she perceived Mr. Love was not alone. She drew back, and, drawing her veil still more closely round her, said, in French:
"Pardon me, I would wish a private conversation." Philip rose to withdraw, when the lady, observing him with eyes whose lustre shone through the veil, said gently: "But perhaps the young gentleman is discreet."
"He is not discreet, he is discretion!—my adopted son. You may confide in him—upon my honour you may, madam!" and Mr. Love placed his hand on his heart.
"He is very young," said the lady, in a tone of involuntary compassion, as, with a very white hand, she unclasped the buckle of her cloak.
"He can the better understand the curse of celibacy," returned Mr. Love, smiling.
The lady lifted part of her veil, and discovered a handsome mouth, and a set of small, white teeth; for she, too, smiled, though gravely, as she turned to Morton, and said—
"You seem, sir, more fitted to be a votary of the temple than one of its officers. However, Monsieur Love, let there be no mistake between us; I do not come here to form a marriage, but to prevent one. I understand that Monsieur the Vicomte de Vaudemont has called into request your services. I am one of the Vicomte's family; we are all anxious that he should not contract an engagement of the strange and, pardon me, unbecoming character, which must stamp a union formed at a public office."
"I assure you, madam," said Mr. Love, with dignity, "that we have contributed to the very first—"
"Mon Dieu!" interrupted the lady, with much impatience, "spare me a eulogy on your establishment: I have no doubt it is very respectable; and for grisettes and epiciers may do extremely well. But the Vicomte is a man of birth and connections. In a word, what he contemplates is preposterous. I know not what fee Monsieur Love expects; but if he contrive to amuse Monsieur de Vaudemont, and to frustrate every connection he proposes to form, that fee, whatever it may be, shall be doubled. Do you understand me?"
"Perfectly, madam; yet it is not your offer that will bias me, but the desire to oblige so charming a lady."
"It is agreed, then?" said the lady, carelessly; and as she spoke she again glanced at Philip.
"If madame will call again, I will inform her of my plans," said Mr. Love.
"Yes, I will call again. Good morning!" As she rose and passed Philip, she wholly put aside her veil, and looked at him with a gaze entirely free from coquetry, but curious, searching, and perhaps admiring—the look that an artist may give to a picture that seines of more value than the place where he finds it would seem to indicate. The countenance of the lady herself was fair and noble, and Philip felt a strange thrill at his heart as, with a slight inclination of her' head, she turned from the room.
"Ah!" said Gawtrey, laughing, "this is not the first time I have been paid by relations to break off the marriages I had formed. Egad! if one could open a bureau to make married people single, one would soon be a Croesus! Well, then, this decides me to complete the union between Monsieur Goupille and Mademoiselle de Courval. I had balanced a little hitherto between the epicier and the Vicomte. Now I will conclude matters. Do you know, Phil, I think you have made a conquest?"
"Pooh!" said Philip, colouring.
In effect, that very evening Mr. Love saw both the epicier and Adele, and fixed the marriage-day. As Monsieur Goupille was a person of great distinction in the Faubourg, this wedding was one upon which Mr. Love congratulated himself greatly; and he cheerfully accepted an invitation for himself and his partners to honour the noces with their presence.
A night or two before the day fixed for the marriage of Monsieur Goupille and the aristocratic Adele, when Mr. Birnie had retired, Gawtrey made his usual preparations for enjoying himself. But this time the cigar and the punch seemed to fail of their effect. Gawtrey remained moody and silent; and Morton was thinking of the bright eyes of the lady who was so much interested against the amours of the Vicomte de Vaudemont.
At last, Gawtrey broke silence:
"My young friend," said he, "I told you of my little protege; I have been buying toys for her this morning; she is a beautiful creature; to-morrow is her birthday—she will then be six years old. But—but—" here Gawtrey sighed—"I fear she is not all right here," and he touched his forehead.
"I should like much to see her," said Philip, not noticing the latter remark.
"And you shall—you shall come with me to-morrow. Heigho! I should not like to die, for her sake!"
"Does her wretched relation attempt to regain her?"
"Her relation! No; she is no more—she died about two years since! Poor Mary! I—well, this is folly. But Fanny is at present in a convent; they are all kind to her, but then I pay well; if I were dead, and the pay stopped,—again I ask, what would become of her, unless, as I before said, my father—"
"But you are making a fortune now?"
"If this lasts—yes; but I live in fear—the police of this cursed city are lynx-eyed; however, that is the bright side of the question."
"Why not have the child with you, since you love her so much? She would be a great comfort to you."
"Is this a place for a child—a girl?" said Gawtrey, stamping his foot impatiently. "I should go mad if I saw that villainous deadman's eye bent upon her!"
You speak of Birnie. How can you endure him?"
"When you are my age you will know why we endure what we dread—why we make friends of those who else would be most horrible foes: no, no— nothing can deliver me of this man but Death. And—and—" added Gawtrey, turning pale, "I cannot murder a man who eats my bread. There are stronger ties, my lad, than affection, that bind men, like galley-slaves, together. He who can hang you puts the halter round your neck and leads you by it like a dog."
A shudder came over the young listener. And what dark secrets, known only to those two, had bound, to a man seemingly his subordinate and tool, the strong will and resolute temper of William Gawtrey?
"But, begone, dull care!" exclaimed Gawtrey, rousing himself. "And, after all, Birnie is a useful fellow, and dare no more turn against me than I against him! Why don't you drink more?
"Oh! have you e'er heard of the famed Captain Wattle?"
and Gawtrey broke out into a loud Bacchanalian hymn, in which Philip could find no mirth, and from which the songster suddenly paused to exclaim:—
"Mind you say nothing about Fanny to Birnie; my secrets with him are not of that nature. He could not hurt her, poor lamb! it is true—at least, as far as I can foresee. But one can never feel too sure of one's lamb, if one once introduces it to the butcher!"
The next day being Sunday, the bureau was closed, and Philip and Gawtrey repaired to the convent. It was a dismal-looking place as to the exterior; but, within, there was a large garden, well kept, and, notwithstanding the winter, it seemed fair and refreshing, compared with the polluted streets. The window of the room into which they were shown looked upon the green sward, with walls covered with ivy at the farther end. And Philip's own childhood came back to him as he gazed on the quiet of the lonely place.
The door opened—an infant voice was heard, a voice of glee-of rapture; and a child, light and beautiful as a fairy, bounded to Gawtrey's breast.
Nestling there, she kissed his face, his hands, his clothes, with a passion that did not seem to belong to her age, laughing and sobbing almost at a breath.
On his part, Gawtrey appeared equally affected: he stroked down her hair with his huge hand, calling her all manner of pet names, in a tremulous voice that vainly struggled to be gay.
At length he took the toys he had brought with him from his capacious pockets, and strewing them on the floor, fairly stretched his vast bulk along; while the child tumbled over him, sometimes grasping at the toys, and then again returning to his bosom, and laying her head there, looked up quietly into his eyes, as if the joy were too much for her.
Morton, unheeded by both, stood by with folded arms. He thought of his lost and ungrateful brother, and muttered to himself:
"Fool! when she is older, she will forsake him!"
Fanny betrayed in her face the Italian origin of her father. She had that exceeding richness of complexion which, though not common even in Italy, is only to be found in the daughters of that land, and which harmonised well with the purple lustre of her hair, and the full, clear iris of the dark eyes. Never were parted cherries brighter than her dewy lips; and the colour of the open neck and the rounded arms was of a whiteness still more dazzling, from the darkness of the hair and the carnation of the glowing cheek.
Suddenly Fanny started from Gawtrey's arms, and running up to Morton, gazed at him wistfully, and said, in French:
"Who are you? Do you come from the moon? I think you do." Then, stopping abruptly, she broke into a verse of a nursery-song, which she chaunted with a low, listless tone, as if she were not conscious of the sense. As she thus sang, Morton, looking at her, felt a strange and painful doubt seize him. The child's eyes, though soft, were so vacant in their gaze.
"And why do I come from the moon?" said he.
"Because you look sad and cross. I don't like you—I don't like the moon; it gives me a pain here!" and she put her hand to her temples. "Have you got anything for Fanny—poor, poor Fanny?" and, dwelling on the epithet, she shook her head mournfully.
"You are rich, Fanny, with all those toys."
"Am I? Everybody calls me poor Fanny—everybody but papa;" and she ran again to Gawtrey, and laid her head on his shoulder.
"She calls me papa!" said Gawtrey, kissing her; "you hear it? Bless her!"
"And you never kiss any one but Fanny—you have no other little girl?" said the child, earnestly, and with a look less vacant than that which had saddened Morton.
"No other—no—nothing under heaven, and perhaps above it, but you!" and he clasped her in his arms. "But," he added, after a pause—"but mind me, Fanny, you must like this gentleman. He will be always good to you: and he had a little brother whom he was as fond of as I am of you."
"No, I won't like him—I won't like anybody but you and my sister!"
"Sister!—who is your sister?"
The child's face relapsed into an expression almost of idiotcy. "I don't know—I never saw her. I hear her sometimes, but I don't understand what she says.—Hush! come here!" and she stole to the window on tiptoe. Gawtrey followed and looked out.
"Do you hear her, now?" said Fanny. "What does she say?"
As the girl spoke, some bird among the evergreens uttered a shrill, plaintive cry, rather than song—a sound which the thrush occasionally makes in the winter, and which seems to express something of fear, and pain, and impatience. "What does she say?—can you tell me?" asked the child.
"Pooh! that is a bird; why do you call it your sister?"
"I don't know!—because it is—because it—because—I don't know—is it not in pain?—do something for it, papa!"
Gawtrey glanced at Morton, whose face betokened his deep pity, and creeping up to him, whispered,—
"Do you think she is really touched here? No, no,—she will outgrow it— I am sure she will!"
Fanny by this time had again seated herself in the middle of the floor, and arranged her toys, but without seeming to take pleasure in them.
At last Gawtrey was obliged to depart. The lay sister, who had charge of Fanny, was summoned into the parlour; and then the child's manner entirely changed; her face grew purple—she sobbed with as much anger as grief. "She would not leave papa—she would not go—that she would not!"
"It is always so," whispered Gawtrey to Morton, in an abashed and apologetic voice. "It is so difficult to get away from her. Just go and talk with her while I steal out."
Morton went to her, as she struggled with the patient good-natured sister, and began to soothe and caress her, till she turned on him her large humid eyes, and said, mournfully,
"Tu es mechant, tu. Poor Fanny!"
"But this pretty doll—" began the sister. The child looked at it joylessly.
"And papa is going to die!"
"Whenever Monsieur goes," whispered the nun, "she always says that he is dead, and cries herself quietly to sleep; when Monsieur returns, she says he is come to life again. Some one, I suppose, once talked to her about death; and she thinks when she loses sight of any one, that that is death."
"Poor child!" said Morton, with a trembling voice.
The child looked up, smiled, stroked his cheek with her little hand, and said:
"Thank you!—Yes! poor Fanny! Ah, he is going—see!—let me go too— tu es mechant."
"But," said Morton, detaining her gently, "do you know that you give him pain?—you make him cry by showing pain yourself. Don't make him so sad!"
The child seemed struck, hung down her head for a moment, as if in thought, and then, jumping from Morton's lap, ran to Gawtrey, put up her pouting lips, and said:
"One kiss more!"
Gawtrey kissed her, and turned away his head.
"Fanny is a good girl!" and Fanny, as she spoke, went back to Morton, and put her little fingers into her eyes, as if either to shut out Gawtrey's retreat from her sight, or to press back her tears.
"Give me the doll now, sister Marie."
Morton smiled and sighed, placed the child, who struggled no more, in the nun's arms, and left the room; but as he closed the door he looked back, and saw that Fanny had escaped from the sister, thrown herself on the floor, and was crying, but not loud.
"Is she not a little darling?" said Gawtrey, as they gained the street.
"She is, indeed, a most beautiful child!"
"And you will love her if I leave her penniless," said Gawtrey, abruptly. "It was your love for your mother and your brother that made me like you from the first. Ay," continued Gawtrey, in a tone of great earnestness, "ay, and whatever may happen to me, I will strive and keep you, my poor lad, harmless; and what is better, innocent even of such matters as sit light enough on my own well-seasoned conscience. In turn, if ever you have the power, be good to her,—yes, be good to her! and I won't say a harsh word to you if ever you like to turn king's evidence against myself."
"Gawtrey!" said Morton, reproachfully, and almost fiercely.
"Bah!—such things are! But tell me honestly, do you think she is very strange—very deficient?"
"I have not seen enough of her to judge," answered Morton, evasively.
"She is so changeful," persisted Gawtrey. "Sometimes you would say that she was above her age, she comes out with such thoughtful, clever things; then, the next moment, she throws me into despair. These nuns are very skilful in education—at least they are said to be so. The doctors give me hope, too. You see, her poor mother was very unhappy at the time of her birth—delirious, indeed: that may account for it. I often fancy that it is the constant excitement which her state occasions me that makes me love her so much. You see she is one who can never shift for herself. I must get money for her; I have left a little already with the superior, and I would not touch it to save myself from famine! If she has money people will be kind enough to her. And then," continued Gawtrey, "you must perceive that she loves nothing in the world but me —me, whom nobody else loves! Well—well, now to the shop again!"
On returning home the bonne informed them that a lady had called, and asked both for Monsieur Love and the young gentleman, and seemed much chagrined at missing both. By the description, Morton guessed she was the fair incognita, and felt disappointed at having lost the interview.
"The cursed carle was at his wonted trade, Still tempting heedless men into his snare, In witching wise, as I before have said; But when he saw, in goodly gear array'd, The grave majestic knight approaching nigh, His countenance fell."—THOMSON, Castle of Indolence.
The morning rose that was to unite Monsieur Goupille with Mademoiselle Adele de Courval. The ceremony was performed, and bride and bridegroom went through that trying ordeal with becoming gravity. Only the elegant Adele seemed more unaffectedly agitated than Mr. Love could well account for; she was very nervous in church, and more often turned her eyes to the door than to the altar. Perhaps she wanted to run away; but it was either too late or too early for the proceeding. The rite performed, the happy pair and their friends adjourned to the Cadran Bleu, that restaurant so celebrated in the festivities of the good citizens of Paris. Here Mr. Love had ordered, at the epicier's expense, a most tasteful entertainment.
"Sacre! but you have not played the economist, Monsieur Lofe," said Monsieur Goupille, rather querulously, as he glanced at the long room adorned with artificial flowers, and the table a cingitante couverts.
"Bah!" replied Mr. Love, "you can retrench afterwards. Think of the fortune she brought you."
"It is a pretty sum, certainly," said Monsieur Goupille, "and the notary is perfectly satisfied."
"There is not a marriage in Paris that does me more credit," said Mr. Love; and he marched off to receive the compliments and congratulations that awaited him among such of the guests as were aware of his good offices. The Vicomte de Vaudemont was of course not present. He had not been near Mr. Love since Adele had accepted the epicier. But Madame Beavor, in a white bonnet lined with lilac, was hanging, sentimentally, on the arm of the Pole, who looked very grand with his white favour; and Mr. Higgins had been introduced, by Mr. Love, to a little dark Creole, who wore paste diamonds, and had very languishing eyes; so that Mr. Love's heart might well swell with satisfaction at the prospect of the various blisses to come, which might owe their origin to his benevolence. In fact, that archpriest of the Temple of Hymen was never more great than he was that day; never did his establishment seem more solid, his reputation more popular, or his fortune more sure. He was the life of the party.
The banquet over, the revellers prepared for a dance. Monsieur Goupille, in tights, still tighter than he usually wore, and of a rich nankeen, quite new, with striped silk stockings, opened the ball with the lady of a rich patissier in the same Faubourg; Mr. Love took out the bride. The evening advanced; and after several other dances of ceremony, Monsieur Goupille conceived himself entitled to dedicate one to connubial affection. A country-dance was called, and the epicier claimed the fair hand of the gentle Adele. About this time, two persons not hitherto perceived had quietly entered the room, and, standing near the doorway, seemed examining the dancers, as if in search for some one. They bobbed their heads up and down, to and fro stopped—now stood on tiptoe. The one was a tall, large-whiskered, fair-haired man; the other, a little, thin, neatly-dressed person, who kept his hand on the arm of his companion, and whispered to him from time to time. The whiskered gentleman replied in a guttural tone, which proclaimed his origin to be German. The busy dancers did not perceive the strangers. The bystanders did, and a hum of curiosity circled round; who could they be?—who had invited them?—they were new faces in the Faubourg—perhaps relations to Adele?
In high delight the fair bride was skipping down the middle, while Monsieur Goupille, wiping his forehead with care, admired her agility; when, to and behold! the whiskered gentleman I have described abruptly advanced from his companion, and cried:
"La voila!—sacre tonnerre!"
At that voice—at that apparition, the bride halted; so suddenly indeed, that she had not time to put down both feet, but remained with one high in the air, while the other sustained itself on the light fantastic toe. The company naturally imagined this to be an operatic flourish, which called for approbation. Monsieur Love, who was thundering down behind her, cried, "Bravo!" and as the well-grown gentleman had to make a sweep to avoid disturbing her equilibrium, he came full against the whiskered stranger, and sent him off as a bat sends a ball.
"Mon Dieu!" cried Monsieur Goupille. "Ma douce amie—she has fainted away!" And, indeed, Adele had no sooner recovered her, balance, than she resigned it once more into the arms of the startled Pole, who was happily at hand.
In the meantime, the German stranger, who had saved himself from falling by coming with his full force upon the toes of Mr. Higgins, again advanced to the spot, and, rudely seizing the fair bride by the arm, exclaimed,—
"No sham if you please, madame—speak! What the devil have you done with the money?"
"Really, sir," said Monsieur Goupille, drawing tip his cravat, "this is very extraordinary conduct! What have you got to say to this lady's money?—it is my money now, sir!"
"Oho! it is, is it? We'll soon see that. Approchez donc, Monsieur Favart, faites votre devoir."
At these words the small companion of the stranger slowly sauntered to the spot, while at the sound of his name and the tread of his step, the throng gave way to the right and left. For Monsieur Favart was one of the most renowned chiefs of the great Parisian police—a man worthy to be the contemporary of the illustrious Vidocq.
"Calmez vous, messieurs; do not be alarmed, ladies," said this gentleman, in the mildest of all human voices; and certainly no oil dropped on the waters ever produced so tranquillising an effect as that small, feeble, gentle tenor. The Pole, in especial, who was holding the fair bride with both his arms, shook all over, and seemed about to let his burden gradually slide to the floor, when Monsieur Favart, looking at him with a benevolent smile, said—
"Aha, mon brave! c'est toi. Restez donc. Restez, tenant toujours la dame!"
The Pole, thus condemned, in the French idiom, "always to hold the dame," mechanically raised the arms he had previously dejected, and the police officer, with an approving nod of the head, said,—
"Bon,! ne bougez point,—c'est ca!"
Monsieur Goupille, in equal surprise and indignation to see his better half thus consigned, without any care to his own marital feelings, to the arms of another, was about to snatch her from the Pole, when Monsieur Favart, touching him on the breast with his little finger, said, in the suavest manner,—
"Mon bourgeois, meddle not with what does not concern you!"
"With what does not concern me!" repeated Monsieur Goupille, drawing himself up to so great a stretch that he seemed pulling off his tights the wrong way. "Explain yourself, if you please! This lady is my wife!"
"Say that again,—that's all!" cried the whiskered stranger, in most horrible French, and with a furious grimace, as he shook both his fists just under the nose of the epicier.
"Say it again, sir," said Monsieur Goupille, by no means daunted; "and why should not I say it again? That lady is my wife!"
"You lie!—she is mine!" cried the German; and bending down, he caught the fair Adele from the Pole with as little ceremony as if she had never had a great-grandfather a marquis, and giving her a shake that might have roused the dead, thundered out,—
"Speak! Madame Bihl! Are you my wife or not?"
"Monstre!" murmured Adele, opening her eyes.
"There—you hear—she owns me!" said the German, appealing to the company with a triumphant air.
"C'est vrai!" said the soft voice of the policeman. And now, pray don't let us disturb your amusements any longer. We have a fiacre at the door. Remove your lady, Monsieur Bihl."
"Monsieur Lofe!—Monsieur Lofe!" cried, or rather screeched the epicier, darting across the room, and seizing the chef by the tail of his coat, just as he was half way through the door, "come back! Quelle mauvaise plaisanterie me faites-vous ici? Did you not tell me that lady was single? Am I married or not: Do I stand on my head or my heels?"
"Hush-hush! mon bon bourgeois!" whispered Mr. Love; "all shall be explained to-morrow!"
"Who is this gentleman?" asked Monsieur Favart, approaching Mr. Love, who, seeing himself in for it, suddenly jerked off the epicier, thrust his hands down into his breeches' pockets, buried his chin in his cravat, elevated his eyebrows, screwed in his eyes, and puffed out his cheeks, so that the astonished Monsieur Goupille really thought himself bewitched, and literally did not recognise the face of the match-maker.
"Who is this gentleman?" repeated the little officer, standing beside, or rather below, Mr. Love, and looking so diminutive by the contras that you might have fancied that the Priest of Hymen had only to breathe to blow him away.
"Who should he be, monsieur?" cried, with great pertness, Madame Rosalie Caumartin, coming to the relief, with the generosity of her sex.—"This is Monsieur Lofe—Anglais celebre. What have you to say against him?"
"He has got five hundred francs of mine!" cried the epicier.
The policeman scanned Mr. Love, with great attention. "So you are in Paris again?—Hein!—vous jouez toujours votre role!
"Ma foi!" said Mr. Love, boldly; "I don't understand what monsieur means; my character is well known—go and inquire it in London—ask the Secretary of Foreign Affairs what is said of me—inquire of my Ambassador—demand of my—"
"Votre passeport, monsieur?"
"It is at home. A gentleman does not carry his passport in his pocket when he goes to a ball!"
"I will call and see it—au revoir! Take my advice and leave Paris; I think I have seen you somewhere!"
"Yet I have never had the honour to marry monsieur!" said Mr. Love, with a polite bow.
In return for his joke, the policeman gave Mr. Love one look-it was a quiet look, very quiet; but Mr. Love seemed uncommonly affected by it; he did not say another word, but found himself outside the house in a twinkling. Monsieur Favart turned round and saw the Pole making himself as small as possible behind the goodly proportions of Madame Beavor.
"What name does that gentleman go by?"
"So—vo—lofski, the heroic Pole," cried Madame Beavor, with sundry misgivings at the unexpected cowardice of so great a patriot.
"Hein! take care of yourselves, ladies. I have nothing against that person this time. But Monsieur Latour has served his apprenticeship at the galleys, and is no more a Pole than I am a Jew."
"And this lady's fortune!" cried Monsieur Goupitle, pathetically; "the settlements are all made—the notaries all paid. I am sure there must be some mistake."
Monsieur Bihl, who had by this time restored his lost Helen to her senses, stalked up to the epicier, dragging the lady along with him.
"Sir, there is no mistake! But, when I have got the money, if you like to have the lady you are welcome to her."
"Monstre!" again muttered the fair Adele.
"The long and the short of it," said Monsieur Favart, "is that Monsieur Bihl is a brave garcon, and has been half over the world as a courier."
"A courier!" exclaimed several voices.
"Madame was nursery-governess to an English milord. They married, and quarrelled—no harm in that, mes amis; nothing more common. Monsieur Bihl is a very faithful fellow; nursed his last master in an illness that ended fatally, because he travelled with his doctor. Milord left him a handsome legacy—he retired from service, and fell ill, perhaps from idleness or beer. Is not that the story, Monsieur Bihl?"
"He was always drunk—the wretch!" sobbed Adele. "That was to drown my domestic sorrows," said the German; "and when I was sick in my bed, madame ran off with my money. Thanks to monsieur, I have found both, and I wish you a very good night."
"Dansez-vous toujours, mes amis," said the officer, bowing. And following Adele and her spouse, the little man left the room—where he had caused, in chests so broad and limbs so doughty, much the same consternation as that which some diminutive ferret occasions in a burrow of rabbits twice his size.
Morton had outstayed Mr. Love. But he thought it unnecessary to linger long after that gentleman's departure; and, in the general hubbub that ensued, he crept out unperceived, and soon arrived at the bureau. He found Mr. Love and Mr. Birnie already engaged in packing up their effects.
"Why—when did you leave?" said Morton to Mr. Birnie.
"I saw the policeman enter."
"And why the deuce did not you tell us?" said Gawtrey.
"Every man for himself. Besides, Mr. Love was dancing," replied Mr. Birnie, with a dull glance of disdain. "Philosophy," muttered Gawtrey, thrusting his dresscoat into his trunk; then, suddenly changing his voice, "Ha! ha! it was a very good joke after all—own I did it well. Ecod! if he had not given me that look, I think I should have turned the tables on him. But those d—-d fellows learn of the mad doctors how to tame us. Faith, my heart went down to my shoes—yet I'm no coward!"
"But, after all, he evidently did not know you," said Morton; "and what has he to say against you? Your trade is a strange one, but not dishonest. Why give up as if—-"
"My young friend," interrupted Gawtrey, "whether the officer comes after us or not, our trade is ruined; that infernal Adele, with her fabulous grandmaman, has done for us. Goupille will blow the temple about our ears. No help for it—eh, Birnie?"
"Go to bed, Philip: we'll call thee at daybreak, for we must make clear work before our neighbours open their shutters."
Reclined, but half undressed, on his bed in the little cabinet, Morton revolved the events of the evening. The thought that he should see no more of that white hand and that lovely mouth, which still haunted his recollection as appertaining to the incognita, greatly indisposed him towards the abrupt flight intended by Gawtrey, while (so much had his faith in that person depended upon respect for his confident daring, and so thoroughly fearless was Morton's own nature) he felt himself greatly shaken in his allegiance to the chief, by recollecting the effect produced on his valour by a single glance from the instrument of law. He had not yet lived long enough to be aware that men are sometimes the Representatives of Things; that what the scytale was to the Spartan hero, a sheriff's writ often is to a Waterloo medallist: that a Bow Street runner will enter the foulest den where Murder sits with his fellows, and pick out his prey with the beck of his forefinger. That, in short, the thing called LAW, once made tangible and present, rarely fails to palsy the fierce heart of the thing called CRIME. For Law is the symbol of all mankind reared against One Foe—the Man of Crime. Not yet aware of this truth, nor, indeed, in the least suspecting Gawtrey of worse offences than those of a charlatanic and equivocal profession, the young man mused over his protector's cowardice in disdain and wonder: till, wearied with conjectures, distrust, and shame at his own strange position of obligation to one whom he could not respect, he fell asleep.
When he woke, he saw the grey light of dawn that streamed cheerlessly through his shutterless window, struggling with the faint ray of a candle that Gawtrey, shading with his hand, held over the sleeper. He started up, and, in the confusion of waking and the imperfect light by which he beheld the strong features of Gawtrey, half imagined it was a foe who stood before him.
"Take care, man," said Gawtrey, as Morton, in this belief, grasped his arm. "You have a precious rough gripe of your own. Be quiet, will you? I have a word to say to you." Here Gawtrey, placing the candle on a chair, returned to the door and closed it.
"Look you," he said in a whisper, "I have nearly run through my circle of invention, and my wit, fertile as it is, can present to me little encouragement in the future. The eyes of this Favart once on me, every disguise and every double will not long avail. I dare not return to London: I am too well known in Brussels, Berlin, and Vienna—"
"But," interrupted Morton, raising himself on his arm, and fixing his dark eyes upon his host,—"but you have told me again and again that you have committed no crime; why then be so fearful of discovery?"
"Why," repeated Gawtrey, with a slight hesitation which he instantly overcame, "why! have not you yourself learned that appearances have the effect of crimes?—were you not chased as a thief when I rescued you from your foe, the law?—are you not, though a boy in years, under an alias, and an exile from your own land? And how can you put these austere questions to me, who am growing grey in the endeavour to extract sunbeams from cucumbers—subsistence from poverty? I repeat that there are reasons why I must avoid, for the present, the great capitals. I must sink in life, and take to the provinces. Birnie is sanguine as ever; but he is a terrible sort of comforter! Enough of that. Now to yourself: our savings are less than you might expect; to be sure, Birnie has been treasurer, and I have laid by a little for Fanny, which I will rather starve than touch. There remain, however, 150 napoleons, and our effects, sold at a fourth their value, will fetch 150 more. Here is your share. I have compassion on you. I told you I would bear you harmless and innocent. Leave us while yet time."