1839-1908 Ouida.

Ouida, illustrated (Volume 3) online

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vista of rooms that had so often and so long seen the most exclusive and the
most superb entertainments of the time; they passed away, seeing nothing,
dreaming nothing, of the fate that had fallen on the man who thus took his
farewell of them, but speaking only, as their carriages rolled away, of the new
genius that he had introduced among them, and of the lavish and fantastic roy-
alty of splendor with which his fetes were always given. , The murmur of the
voices died away, the strains of the music ceased, the low subdued laughter
sank to silence, the glittering throngs dispersed; they left him his long-familiar
friends, companions, and associates never again to rally round their rot gail-
lartt, never again to be summoned at his bidding.

He stood alone, alone as he must ever be henceforth.

The perfect stillness followed strangely on the movement and melody and
radiance of life that had all died out; a clock struck a mournful silvery chime
upon the silence, the fall of the water splashed in the fountains; other sound
there was none. The light from a million points fell on the clustering colors
of the tropic flowers, the drooping fronds of the pale-green palms, the fair
limbs of the statues, the deep glow of the paintings: he looked at these things,
and knew that from this hour they would be his no more.

To-night for the last time they were his own; when the sun should rise, the
fiat would go forth that would scatter them abroad to strangers' hands and
enemies' spoil. Henceforth they and he would be divided, the things that he
had gathered and cherished would be divided, broadcast to whoever should


choose to buy, and under the roof that had known him so long his voice
be unheard, his face unseen, his name forgotten, his place behold him no more.

Far behind him, parted from him by an eternal gulf, lay the life of his past,
which had been one glad and gorgeous revel, one cloudless and unthinking joy,
and which he must now lay down, as the Discrowned whom the Praetorians
summoned laid aside golden pomp, and Tyrian purples, and brimming amphorae,
and dew-laden rose-crowns, and went out, unpitied and alone, to die.

That sweet and cloudless life of his rich past ! to-night he was dethroned
and driven out from it forever; to-night, a living man, he knew all the desola-
tion of death, and in the full glory of his youth was condemned to the anguish
and the beggary of impoverished and stricken age.

To-night he was driven out to exile; and behind him closed forever were
the barred gates of his lost Eden.



THE Duke of Castlemaine sat in his library in his mighty Abbey of War-
burne, whither he had come by his physician's counsels. He was alone; for
secretaries and chaplains and stewards were no companions for the superb old
Titan of the Regency. His bright blue eyes, so fiery and so eloquent still, were
looking outward at the tumbled mass of rock and moorland and giant forest-
breadths that made the grandeur of Warburne; his head so stately, though
white with eighty winters, was slightly bent; his thoughts were with dead days,
days when his voice rang through the House of Peers or wound its silky
way to the hearts of women, days when he could riot in the wildest orgies
through the night and dictate despatches on which the Fate of Europe hung,
with a clear brain and a calm pulse, when the morning rose, days when he
had loitered laughing over ladies' supper-tables with half a dozen duels on his
hands, and looked in the soft eyes of cloistered Spaniards ere leading his cavalry
to the charge, days when his frame had been iron and his voice magic, when
nations were guided by his will and soft lips had been warm on his own, days,
in one word, of his Youth.

Though in extreme age, the duke was a greater man yet than those of this
generation, more powerful, more fearless, more full of fine wit, of stately
courtesy, of haughty honor. He was of another breed, another creed, another
age, than ours, the age when men drank their brandy where we sip our claret,
when men punished a lie with their sword where we pass it over in prudence,


when disgrace was washed out with life where we bring it in court and make
money of it, when if their morals were more openly lax their honor was more
inexorably stringent, when if their revels were wilder their dealing was fairer,
and when the same strength which made their orgies fiercer and their blow
harder made their eloquence loftier, their mettle higher, their wit keener, their
courage brighter, than our own. And in his extreme grace the Titan was a
Titan yet, dwarfing and paling those of weaklier stature and of more timorous
breed. He sat there looking out at the brown moors, warm with the golden
gorse; and he moved in surprise as the door opened, with a smile of pleasure
lighting his eyes.

" You ! Has an earthquake swallowed the town, that we see you in the
country, my dear Ernest ? "

Even as the first word was spoken, even as his first glance fell on Chandos,
he knew vaguely but terribly that some calamity, vaster than his thoughts
could compass, had fallen here, on the man whom he cared for as he cared for
no other of his race. Chandos was the only one of his blood who had his own
code, his own creed, the only one in whose companionship he heard the echoes
of a long-passed age; and he was proud of him, and built mighty hopes on
him, proud of his eminence, of his brilliance, of his success, proud even of his
personal grace and beauty.

Chandos drew near without a word. Those who loved him as the old duke
loved saw a change on him more ghastly than though they had seen his face
set in the colorless calm of sudden death.

Castlemaine leaned towards him, and his long white fingers closed with a
convulsive pressure on the Mignard snuff-bok that he held.

" What is it ? "

Chandos answered nothing; he sank down into a seat, and his head fell for-
ward on his arms. The recklessness of desperation, the fever of utter hope-
lessness, had given him strength to pass through the ordeal of the night before;
but here his strength broke down. He knew how the pride of the gallant old
man had been centred in him; he suffered for the pain he must deal, not less
than for the misery he bore.

The duke's mellow voice shook huskily:

" Tell me in a word. I have never loved suspense."

Chandos did not lift his head; his answer came slowly dragged out, hoarse
and faint from exhaustion, excitation, and long want of food and sleep: for he
had tasted nothing from the hour that he had learned his fate, and his eyes had
never closed.

" I can tell you in one word: ruin ! "

The duke's hand trembled, making the diamonds flash and glitter on the
enamel lid; it had never so trembled when it had shaken the dice, though a fort-


une hung on a throw, when it had lifted a pistol, though a life hung on the shot,
when it had pointed to a serried square of Soult's picked troops, though an
army hung on the charge.

" Ruin ! A wide word. And for whom ? "

" For me."

" You 1 "

" Yes ! " he answered, with a reckless laugh, such a laugh as the gamester
gives when his last coin is staked and gone and no resource is left except the
suicide's grave. "As Trevenna phrases it, ' Croesus has ceased to reign in
Sardis ! ' It will amuse the world, for a week at least. A long time for the
absent to be remembered."

A deep oath sprang from the close-shut lips of the old duke; his face grew
white as the hoary silky hair that shaded it, and the diamonds shook and glit-
tered in the tremor of his hand. But he loved the temper that made a jest even
of a death-blow; he had seen much of it in his early day; he followed the lead
with gallant endurance.

" Ruin for you ? It is very sudden, is it not ? Tell me more; tell me more."

His voice was very faint, but it was steady; he loved the man of whom he
heard this thing with the generous love of an age that kept all the warmth and
all the fire of his youth; yet they were both of the same school, they both
suppressed all sign of pain as shame. He heard; his head the head of an
Agamemnon bowed; his hand closed convulsively on the Louis Quatorze toy;
his breathing was quick and loud. Once alone he interrupted the recital ; it
was at Trevenna' s name.

" That vile fellow ! I bade you beware of him. He hates you, Ernest."

"It maybe/' said Ohandos, wearily. "I have almost thought so since
since this. And yet he owes me much, more than you know."

" Who hate us so remorselessly as those who owe us anything? "

" Then are men devils ! "

" Most of them. Who doubts it ? Did he ever owe you any grudge ? "

" None, only benefits."

" They are the less easily forgiven of the two. Had you any mistress whom
this man loved ? "

" Never, to my knowledge."

" But you may have had, unknown to you ? ' Who was the woman ? ' may
be asked wellnigh of every feud and misery ! Whatever for, he hates you,
haunts you, envies you ruthlessly, hates you if only because his hands are
large and coarse and yours are long and slender ! "

" You make him knave and fool in one."

" The combination is not rare ! But, pardon me, go on. I will hear more


He heard very patiently, heard to the end.

His head sank, his breathing grew fast and labored, the veins swelled on
his still fair broad brow, his giant limbs trembled. It was the heaviest blow
life had it in its power to deal him; and, though still of the race of Titans, the
duke had lost something of the force of his manhood; the strength which had
risen from the Regent's orgies unscathed, and borne unjaded the heat and bur-
den of Vittoria and Waterloo, was not now what it had been.

" Great God ! if Philip Chandos had foreseen

His voice faltered; his listener stretched out his hand in an involuntary

"In mercy spare me that! Do you think /have not remembered
him ?"

There was a piteous anguish m the few words, that pierced the duke's heart
to the core; his own tones, as he answered, were sorely enfeebled for the voice
that had used to roll his thunder through the Lords, and peal down the ranks
of " Castlemaine's Horse," in the dauntless days of his manhood.

" I meant no reproach ! You would have heard none from your father's
lips. He loved you well; and though you have been improvident, you have not
lost all. You have been true to your house : you have saved your honor.
Pardon me, Ernest; your news has left me scarcely myself. But but must
Clarencieux go ? "

Where Chandos sat, in the gloom of themullioned window, the shiver passed
over him that had always come there at the name of his idolized inheritance;
he could have better borne to part from wealth, and repute, and the love of the
world, and the love of woman, than he could bear to part from Clarencieux.

" They say so," he answered, simply.

" My God ! and we cannot help you. Warburne is mortgaged to its pettiest
farm. We of the Plantagenet blood ! are beggars ! I would give my life to
aid you, and I have nothing."

The confession broke from him so low that it barely was above hi breath.
It was very terrible to the great noble to know that in the dire extremity of the
man he loved he could aid him no more than though he were the poorest peasant
on his lands.

Chandos looked up; the unnatural coldness and fixity that had set upon the
fairness of his face from the moment this calamity had fallen on him softened
and changed; his lips trembled; he rose with a sudden impulse, and stooped
over the duke's chair, laying his hand tenderly on the old man's.

" Forgive me that I bring this shame and wretchedness upon you. I came
here that you might learn it from no other first; not the least bitter of my
memories has been the grief that I must entail on you."

The duke's fingers grasped his hand close, and wrung it hard; no reproach,


no rebuke, came from him; he could not have raised his voice more than he
could have lifted his arm against Chandos in his suffering.

"Do not think of me; I shall live but little time to suffer anything. One
question more. She who is to be your wife ? "

Chandos moved from him into the shadow that was thrown darkly across
the casement by the great cedar-boughs without.

" She is dead to me."

Another oath, loud and deep, rattled in his hearer's throat; the fire of his
manhood's wrath gleamed in his azure eyes. The haughty patrician could
have borne anything sooner than this, that one of his blood should be for-
saken. Still, no recrimination escaped him; he never said "/ warned you ! "
The grand old pagan of a colossal age, hardened by long combat, and used to
the proud supreme dominion of a great chieftainship through such long years
of war and of state power, was more merciful to adversity than the young and
delicate Lily Queen.

Silence fell between them. The duke sat with his white crest bowed, and an
unusual dimness over the brightness of his Plantagenet eyes; and every now and
then the diamonds in the box he held shook with a quick tremor in the sunlight.

" What will you do ? " he asked, suddenly, shading his glance with the
enamelled box.

" Do ! " echoed Chandos, wearily; it seemed to him that his life was ended.
" What is there to do? Nothing; except to end like the last marquis. An
axe on Tower Hill was more dignified, but a dose of laudanum will be as
rapid. It would make the best ending for the story for the clubs, and the
sales will realize better if their interest be heightened by a suicide ! "

The duke looked hastily up, with that fin sourire with which throughout his
career his Grace of Castlemaine had veiled very deep agitation.

"Well, you would have precedent. You would but do what Evelyn
Chandos did after his master's death, you remember ? Doubtless it would finish
the meftdrame well for the world. Still, were I you, I would not. I am an
old soldier, and I confess I do not like surrender to fortune or anything else.
Your father died in the Commons like a gladiator; I should not like you to die
in a ditch like a dog. They would not be meet companion-pictures. Besides
I do not wish to see your grave; I have seen so many ! "

Calmly, dispassionately, the old soldier spoke, toying with his Bourbon box.
None could have guessed the intense anxiety hidden under that courtly man-
ner, the yearning emotion concealed under that serene smile. Once only his
voice shook: he had seen the graves of so many ! of the friends of his youth,
of his brothers in council, of the comrades who had fought and fallen beside
him, of the women who had lain in his bosom and smiled in his eyes. He had
seen so many !


Chandbs knew his meaning, knew all that was veiled under the gracious
courtesy, the gentle smile; those brief and tranquil words to him bore an
unspeakable eloquence, an eloquence which moved him as no insult, no
indignity, no adversity, had power to move him.

Where he stood, he bowed low, very low, till his head was stooped and his
lips touched the aged noble's hand.

"You are right, and I thank you. Have no fear; your words shall be
remembered. Whatever my fate is, I will accept it and endure it."

The duke looked upward at him.

" I am glad," he said, almost faintly. " Centre fortune bon cceur. Pardon
me if I intrude my counsels: it is the privilege of Nestors to prose ! You go
now ? I shall see you again ? "

" Surely." Chandos' voice sank very low as he stood before the grand old
man. " Before I go forgive me."

The duke's eyes, so blue, so fiery still, dwelt on him with a great unuttered
tenderness; and the tones that had used to ring like a clarion down the battle-
fields were gentle as a woman's.

" I have nothing to forgive. Had you loved and served yourself as you
have loved and served others, it would not be thus with you now."

Then they parted, never to meet again.

The duke sat listening to the echo of his footsteps, then, with a slight sigh,
he leaned back in his arm-chair, his hand relaxed its clasp upon the jewelled
box, a weariness came over him new to his nerve of steel, a mist stole before his
eyes, shutting from his sight the flickering leaves and the purple moorlands and
all the light and movement of the forest-world.

The summer light quivered through innumerable boughs, young fawns
played in the warmth, white clouds drifted over sunny skies, and a nest-bird
above in the cedar's branches sang low and softly, as though not to break the
rest of the sleeper within. And the duke still leaned back in his ebony chair,
with the slight smile about his lips, and the diamonds flashing in the box that
was lying at his feet.

The golden day stole onward, the shadows lengthened, the birds sought
their roost, and the young fawns their couches; the peace of evening brooded
on the earth, all things were at rest, and so was he; for he still sat there, motion-
less and with the jewels gleaming at his feet.

The sunset faded, and the twilight came, the purple haze upon the moor-
lands deepening to night. Still he sat there, while the shadows stole the brill-
iance from the diamonds and softly veiled his face as though in reverence.
And when some of his wide household, who were so nigh, yet whom he could
not lift his hand to summon, dared to venture at length unbidden to his pres-


ence, they found him thus; and a great awe fell on them, and the hush of a
breathless dread; for they knew that they were standing in the presence of


The last of a race of Titans had died, as well became him, in silence and
alone, without a sign, and with a smile upon his lips.



IT was night at Clarencieux.

In the Greuze cabinet, where a few weeks before Chandos had stood lightly
glancing through the French novel, with the warmth of its fire shed mellow and
ruddy about him, he stood now. The twilight of the summer evening had but
just fallen; the pale moon steamed in through the oriels; even the fair, rich
hues of the French painter's women looked ashen and weary in the misty half-
light that was alone in the chamber. Chandos leaned against the high carved
marble of the mantel -piece; his chest was bowed as with the weight of age; he
breathed heavily, and with each breath pain; his face was white as the sculp-
ture he rested on, and set into that deadly calm which had never left him when
in others' sight. The tidings of the duke's death had reached him some days,
and had filled up the measure of his anguish, adding to it the torture of a pas-
sionate regret, of an eternal remorse. He had loved the grand old man from
whose fearless, fiery eyes no glance but one of kindness and of gentleness had
looked on him from his earliest childhood; and he knew that the shock of his
own ruin had slain the mighty strength of the old noble, if ever grief killed age.

He stood alone; his heart seemed numb and dead with misery; he gave no
sign of emotion; no tears had ever come into his eyes since the hour in which
his fate fell on him. The nights had passed pacing sleeplessly to and fro his
chamber, or heavily drugged to rest with opium; the days had passed almost
fasting, and in an apathy that awed those about him with a vague terror lest
his end should be in the vacant gloom of madness. He was self-possessed,
self-controlled; he answered tranquilly, he heard patiently; but there was that
in this mechanical action, this unnatural serenity, that had a more horrible
dread for those who saw him than all the ravings of delirium, all the passion of
grief, could ever have had.

The door unclosed: John Trevenna entered.

" They are all here," he said, more softly than he had ever spoken.

Chandos bent his head and followed him out of the chamber. They who
waited were his creditors.


In a day. with the rush of hell-hounds let out of leash, and as though at a
given unanimous signal, his claimants had poured and pressed in on him, bay-
ing with one tongue for their own quarry, money. He had bidden them all
meet here, and they had come without one missing, a strange gathering for
the halls of Clarencieux, where kings had used to find their surest shelter,
and courts had been entertained through Plantagenet and Elizabethan and
Stuart days.

They were collected in the great banqueting-hall; a mob of more than a
hundred men, men who had come down on the same errand, in the same
temper, sullen yet eager, defiant yet suspicious, savage yet audacious, men
who had no mercy on a dethroned royalty, and who had no sight save for the
deficit they pushed to claim. Still even on them the solemn and venerable
beauty of Clarencieux had a quieting spell. As they had entered, their voices
unconsciously had sunk lower, their gait involuntarily had grown less swagger-
ing; and as they stood now, counting with greedy eyes the worth and magnifi-
cence of the banqueting-room, a silence had fallen on them.

" Feels a'most like a church," whispered one, a picture-dealer, as he looked
down the vista of the double porphyry columns.

As he spoke, Chandos entered.

He bowed to them with a grave and courteous grace; all had their hats on,
even those better bred, from the sense of scorn in which they held a debtor,
and for the sake of vaunting and of claiming their own superiority. Involun-
tarily, as they saw him, they uncovered in respectful silence, the Jew Ignatius
Mathias, who represented the bill-discounting firm, alone remaining the excep-
tion. Trevenna's eye had glanced at him as his hand went to his velvet cap,
and his arm had dropped as though paralysed.

In the stillness Chandos advanced up the hall, his eyes resting unmoved on
the strange and motley group that filled with their uncomely forms, and with
almost every type of European nationality, the porphyry chamber where king
and prince and peer had used to sit, his guests and his boon friends. His
perfect calmness was unchanged; his bearing was grave and proud; his face
looked white as the marble of a statue against which he paused, death-white
beside the black velvet of the morning-dress he wore, but it was composed,
haughty, thoughtful, strangely like the face of the last marquis. There was
not a murmur, not a whisper, raised; there was that in his look which held the
coarsest, the greediest, the most pitiless, silent.

He stood beside the statue (it was that of his father) and turned towards
them. He was at the upper end of the porphyry hall, and the multitude faced
him in the glow of the lights that were illumined here.

" Gentlemen," he said, calmly, with a tremor in his voice, though it was faint
as after long illness, " I have but a few words to say to you. You are here to



enforce your claims. Of any one of those claims I was in ignorance a few days
since; but I dispute none of them: the improvidence of my life has left me no
title to do so. You will doubt me, perhaps, when I say I never knew I owed a
single debt; yet such is the truth."

There was a stir among the crowd, restless, pained, yet curious; they could

not tell the meaning of this, yet they were stirred with a singular awe and

wonder. One voice, the picture-dealer's, rough yet cordial, broke the silence:

" We believe you ! damned if we don't ! You ha'n't got a face what lies ! "

Chandos bent his head in silent acknowledgment.

" For the rest," he continued, still with that unchanged tranquillity, " I have
but little to add. The amount of your claims on me is, in the aggregate, suffi-
cient to wreck fortunes ten times larger than mine has been; yet, as I under-
stand, you can be paid in full by my entire surrender of all that I possess.
This surrender I make; my lawyers will explain its value better than I can do.
I resign everything unconditionally to you; it has become no longer mine,
but yours. I believe there will be enough to satisfy you to the uttermost

The murmur rose deeper and louder in the hall ; the mass of men swayed
together as though stirred by a universal impulse. They had come prepared
to bully, to bluster, to demand, to enforce, and they were disarmed. Moreover
as he stood against the statue, they remembered the fame of Philip Chandos;
the coarsest among them felt a pang of shame that his only son should be
standing thus before them now.

They looked at one another; they could not comprehend this man who
voluntarily came and laid down all his possessions at their feet, and yet in their
own rough way they understood him; they would fain now have sympathized
with him had they known how. The picture-dealer a rude, broad boar, who
was worth near a million, and whose claims were the largest of any there, save

Online Library1839-1908 OuidaOuida, illustrated (Volume 3) → online text (page 24 of 79)