Charles James Lever.

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{ he-line more credit to your lordship's love of danger
than discipline."

Forester smiled, but not without anger, at the quiet
persiflage of her manner. It took him some seconds ere
he could resume.

" I perceive," said he, in a tone of deeper feeling, "that
whatever my resolves, to discuss them mnst be an im-
pertinence, when they excite no other emotion than
ridicule "

" Nay, my lord," interposed Helen, eagerly ; " I beg
you to forgive my levity. Nothing was further from my
thoughts than to hurt one to whom we owe our deepest
debt of gratitude. I can never forget you saved my
father's life ; pray do not let me seem so base, to my heart,
as to undervalue this."

" Oh ! Miss Darcy," said he, passionately, " it is I who
need forgiveness I, whose temper, rendered irritable by
illness, suspect reproach and sarcasm in every word of
those who are kindest to me."

" You are unjust to yourself," said Helen, gently ;
" unjust, because you expect the same powers of mind
and judgment that you enjoyed in health. Think how
much better you are than when you came here. Think
what a few days more may do. How changed

" Has Miss Darcy changed since last I met her ? "
asked he, in a tone that sank into the very depth of her
heart.

Helen tried to smile, but emotions of a sadder shade
spread over her pale features, as she said,

" I hope so, my lord ; I trust that altered fortunes
have not lost their teaching. I fervently hope that



HOME. 365

sorrow and suffering have left something behind them
better than unavailing regrets and heart repinings."

" Oh ! believe me," cried Forester, passionately, " it is
not of this change I would speak. I dared to ask with
reference to another feeling."

"Be it so," said Helen, trembling, as if nerving herself
for a strong and long-looked for effort " be it so, my
lord, and is not my answer wide enough for both ?
"Would not any change short of a dishonourable one
make tho decision I once came to a thousand times more
necessary now ? "

" Oh ! Helen, these are cold and cruel words. Will
you tell me that my rank and station are to be like a
curse upon my happiness ? "

" I spoke of our altered condition, my lord. I spoke
of the impossibility of your lordship recurring to a theme
which the sight of that thatched roof should have stifled.
Nay, hear me out. It is not of you or your motives that
is here the question. It is of me, and my duties. They
are there, my lord they are with those whose hearts
have been twined round mine from infancy. Mine, when
the world went well and proudly with us ; doubly, trebly
mine when affection can replace fortune, and the sym-
pathies of the humblest home make up for all the flat-
teries of the world. I have no reason to dwell longer on
this, to one who knows those of whom I speak, and can
value them too."

" But is there no place in your heart, Helen, for other
affections than these ? or is that place already occu-
pied?"

" My lord, you have borne my frankness so well, I must
even submit to yours with a good grace. Still, this is a
question you have no right to ask, or I to answer. I
have told you that whatever doubt there might be as to
your road in life, mine offered no alternative. That ought
surely to be enough."

"It shall be," said Forester, with a low sigh, as, trem-
bling in every limb, he arose from the seat. " And yet,
Helen," said he, in a voice barely above a whisper, " there
might come a time when these duties, to which you cling
with such attachment, should be rendered less needful by



866 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNB*

altered fortunes. I have heard that your father's pros-
pects present more of hope than heretofore, have I not ?
Think, that if the Knight should be restored to his own
again, that then "

" Nay it is scarcely worthy of your lordship to exact
a pledge, which is to hang upon a decision like this. A
verdict may give back my father's estate ; it surely should
not dispose of his daughter's hand ? "

" I would exact nothing, Miss Darcy," said Forester,
stung by the tone of this reply. " But I see you cannot
feel for the difficulties which beset him who has staked
his all upon a cast. I asked, what might your feelings
be, were the circumstances which now surround you
altered ? "

Helen was silent for a second or two ; and then, as if
having collected all her energy, she said, " I would that
you had spared me had spared yourself the pain I now
must give us both ; but to be silent longer would be to
encourage deception." It was not till after another brief
interval that she could continue : " Soon after you left
this, my lord, you wrote a letter to Miss Daly. This
letter I stop not now to ask with what propriety towards
either of us she left in my hands. I read it carefully ;
and if many of the sentiments it contained served to
elevate your character in my esteem, I saw enough to
show me that your resolves were scarcely less instigated
by outraged pride than what you fancied to be a tender
feeling. This perhaps might have wounded me, had I
felt differently towards you. As it was, I thought it for
the best : I deemed it happier that your motives should
be divided ones, even though you knew it not. But as I
read on, my lord as I perused the account of your inter-
view with Lady Wallincourt then a new light broke sud-
denly upon me; I found what, had I known more of life,
should not have surprised, but what, in my ignorance, did
indeed astonish me, that my father's station was regarded
as one which could be alleged as a reason against your
feeling towards his daughter. Now, my lord, we have our
pride too ; and had your influence over me been all that
ever you wished it, I tell you freely that I never would
permit my affection to be gratified at the price of an



HOME. 867

insult to my father's house. If I were to say that your
sentiments towards me should not have suffered it, would
it be too much ? "

" But, dearest Helen, remember that I am no longer
dependent on my mother's will remember that I stand
in a position and a rank which only needs you to share
with me to make it all that my loftiest ambition ever
coveted."

"These are, forgive me if I tell you, very selfish reason-
ings, my lord. They may apply to you; they hardly ad-
dress themselves to my position. The pride which could
not stoop to ally itself with our house in our days of pros-
perity, should not assuredly be wounded by suing us in
our humbler fortunes."

" Your thoughts dwell on Lady Netherby, Miss Darcy,"
said Forester, irritably ; " she is scarcely the person most
to be considered here."

" Enough for me, if I think so," said Helen, haughtily.
*' The lady your lordship's condescension would place in
the position of a mother, should at least be able to regard
me with other feelings than those of compassionate en-
durance. In a word, sir, it cannot be. To discuss the
topic longer, is but to distress us both. Leave me to my
gratitude to you, which is unbounded/ Let me dwell upon
the many traits of noble heroism I can think of in your
character with enthusiasm ay, and with pride pride
that one so high and so gifted should have ever thought
of one so little worthy of him. But do not weaken my
principle by hoping that my affection can be won at the
cost of my self-esteem."

Forester bowed with a deep, respectful reverence ; and
when he lifted up his head, the sad expression of his fea-
tures was that of one who had heard an ii revocable doom
pronounced upon his dearest, most cherished hopes. Lady
Eleanor at the same moment came forward from the door
of the cottage, so that he had barely time to utter a hasty
good-bye ere she joined her daughter.

" Your father wishes to see Lord Wallincourt, Helen.
Has he gone ? " But before Helen could reply the Knight
came up.

" I hope you have not forgotten to ask him to dinner,



868 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

Eleanor ?" said be. "We did so yesterday, and he never
made his appearance the whole evening."

" Helen, did you ? " But Helen was gone while they
were speaking ; so that Darcy, to repair the omission,
hastened after his young friend with all the speed he could
command.

" Have I found you ? '' cried Darcy, as, turning an angle
of the rocky shore, he carne behind Forester, who, with
folded arms and bent-down head, stood like one sorrow-
struck. " I just discovered that neither my wife nor my
daughter had asked you to stop to dinner ; and as you are
punctilious, fully as much as they are forgetful, there was
nothing for it but to run after you."

" You are too kind, my dear Knight but not to-day ;
I'm poorly a headache."

" Nay ; a headache always means a mere excuse. Come
back with me : you shall be as stupid a convive as you
wish, only be a good listener, for I have got a great
budget from my man of law, Mr. Bicknell, and am dying
for somebody to inflict it upon."

With the best grace he could muster which was still
very far from a good one Forester suffered himself to be
led back to the cottage, endeavouring, as he went, to feel
or feign an interest in the intelligence the Knight was full
of. It seemed that Bicknell was very anxious not only for
the Knight's counsel on many points, but for his actual
presence at the trial. He appeared to think that Darcy
being there, would be a great check upon the line of con-
duct he was apprised O'Halloran would adopt. There was
already a very strong reaction in the West in favour of
the old gentry of the land, and it would be, at least, an
evidence of willingness to confront the enemy, were the
Knight to be present.

"He tells me," continued the Knight, "that Daly
regretted deeply not having attended the former trial
why, he does not exactly explain, but he uses the argument
to press me now to do so."

Forester might, perhaps, have enlightened him on this
score, had he so pleased, but he said nothing.

" Of course, I need not say, nothing like intimidation
ia meant by this advice. The days for such are, thank



HOME. 369

God, gone by in Ireland ; and it was, besides, a game I
never could have played at ; but yet, it might be what many
would expect of me, and, at all events, it can scarcely do
harm. What is your opinion ? "

" I quite agree with Mr. Bicknell," said Forester,
hastily ; " there is a, certain license these gentlemen of
wig and gown enjoy, that is more protected by the Bench
than either good morals or good manners warrant."

" Nay, you are now making the very error I would guard
against," said Darcy, laughing. " This legal sparring is
rather good fun, even though they do not always keep the
gloves oc. Now, will you come with me?"

"Of course; I should have asked your leave to do so,
had you not invited me."

" You'll hear the great O'Halloran, and I suspect that
is as much as I shall gain myself by this action. We
have merely some points of law to go upon ; but, as I un-
derstand, nothing new or material in evidence to adduce.
You ask, then, why persist ? I'll own to you I cannot
say ; but there seems the same punctilio in legal matters
as in military ; and it is a point of honour to sustain the
siege until the garrison have eaten their boots. I am
not so far from that contingency now, that I should be
impatient ; but, meanwhile, I perceive the savour of some-
thing better, and here comes Tate to say it is on tbe table."



VOL. ir. B B



870 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.



CHAPTER XXXV.

AH AWKWARD DINNER-PARTY.

WHEN the reader is informed that Lady Eleanor had
not found a fitting moment to communicate to the Knight
respecting Forester, nor had Helen summoned courage to
reveal the circumstances of their late interview, it may
be imagined that the dinner itself was as awkward a
thing as need be. It was, throughout, a game of cross
purposes, in which Darcy alone was not a player, and
therefore more puzzled than the rest, at the constraint and
reserve of his companions, whose efforts at conversation
were either mere unmeaning commonplaces, or hall-con-
cealed retorts to inferred allusions.

However quick to perceive, Darcy was too well versed
in the tactics of society to seem conscious of this, and
merely redoubled his efforts to interest and amuse. Never
had his entertaining qualities less of success. He could
scarcely obtain any acknowledgment from his hearers ;
and stores of pleasantry, poured out in rich profusion,
were listened to with a coldness bordering upon apathy.

He tried to interest them by talking over the necessity
of their speedy removal to the capital, where, for the
advantage of daily consultation, Bicknell desired the
Knight's presence. He spoke of the approaching jour-
ney to the West, for the trial itself he talked of Lionel,
of Daly, of their late campaigns in fact, he touched on
everything, hoping by some passing gleam of interest to
detect a clue to their secret thoughts. To no avail. They
listened with decorous attention, but no signs of eager-
ness or pleasure marked their features ; and when For-
ester rose to take his leave, it was full an hour and a half
before his usual time of going.



AN AWKWABD DINNIiil-l'ARTY. 871

u Now for it, Eleanor," said the Knight, as Helen soon
after quitted the room, " what's your secret, for all this
mystery must mean something ? Nay, don't look so
inpenetrable, my dear ; you'll never persuade any man
who displayed all his agreeability to so little purpose,
that his hearers had not a hidden source of preoccupation
to account for their indifference. What is it, then ? "

"I am really myself in the dark, without my conjec-
tures have reason, and that Lord Wallincourt may have
renewed tc Helen the proposal he once made her, and
with the same fortune."

" Renewed proposal ! "

" Yes, my dear Darcy, it was a secret I had intended
to have told you this very day, and went for the very
purpose of doing so, when I found you engaged with
Bicknell's letters and advices, and scrupled to break in
upon your occupied thoughts. Captain Forester did seek
Helen's affections, and was refused ; and I now suspect
Lord Wallincourt may have had a similar reverse."

" This last is, however, mere guess," said Darcy.

" No more. Of the former Helen herself told me she
frankly acknowledged that her affections were disen-
gaged, but that he had not touched them. It would seem
that he was deeper in love than she gave him credit for.
His whole adventure as a Volunteer sprang out of this
rejected suit, and higher fortunes have not changed his
purpose."

" Then Helen did not care for him ? "

" That she did not, once, I am quite certain ; that she
does not, now, is not so sure. But I kuow that even if
she were to do so, the disparity of condition would be an
insurmountable barrier to her assent."

Darcy walked up and down with a troubled and anxious
air, and at length said,

"Thus is it, that the pride we teach our children, as
the defence against low motives and mean actions, dis-
plays its false and treacherous principles ; and all our
flimsy philosophy is based less on the affections of the
human heart, than on certain conventional usages we have
invented for our own enslavement. There is but one
code of right and wrong, Eleanor, and that one neither

B P 2



372 THE KNIGHT OF GWYNNE.

recognizes the artificial distinctions of grade, nor makes
a virtual of the self-denial; that is a mere offering to
worldly pride."

" You would scarcely have our daughter accept an alli-
ance with a house that disdains our connection?" said
Lady Eleanor, proudly.

" Not, certainly, when the consideration had been once
brought before her mind. It would then be a but a com-
promise with principle. But why should she have ever
learned the lesson ? Why need she have been taught to
mingle notions of worldly position and aggrandizement
with the emotions of her heart? It was enough ifc
should have been enough that his rank and position
were nearly her own, not to trifle with feelings immea-
surably higher and holier than these distinctions sug-
gest."

" But the world, my dear Darcy ; the world would
say "

" The world would say, Eleanor, that her refusal was
perfectly right, and if the world's judgments were purer,
they might be a source of consolation against the year-
long bitterness of a sinking heart. Well, well!" said
he, with a sigh, " I would hope that her heart is free : go
to her, Eleanor learn the truth, and if there be the least
germ of affection there, I will speak to AVallincourt to-
morrow, and tell him to leave us. These half-kindled
embers are the slow poison of many a noble nature, and
need but daily intercourse to make them deadly."

While Lady Eleanor retired to communicate with her
daughter, the Knight paced the little chamber in moody
reverie. As he passed and repassed before the window,
he suddenly perceived the shadow of a man's figure as he
stood beside a rock near the beach. Such an apparition
was strange enough to excite curiosity in a quiet, remote
spot, where the few inhabitants retired to rest at sunset.
Darcy, therefore, opened the window, and moved towards
him ; but ere he had gone many paces, he was addressed
by Forester's voice,

" I was about to pay you a visit, Knight, and only
waited till I saw you alone."

" Let us stroll along the sands, then," said Darcy, " the



AN AWKWARD DINNER-PARTY. 373

night is delicious." And so saying he drew his arm
within Forester's, and walked along at his side.

"I have been thinking," said Forester, in a low, sad
accent " I have been thinking over the advice you lately
gave me, and although, I own, at the time, it scarcely
chimed in with my own notions, now, the more I reflect
upon it, the more plausible does it seem. I have lived
long enough out of fashionable life to make the return to
it anything but a pleasure : for politics I have neither
talent nor temper, and soldiering, if it does not satisfy
every condition of my ambition, ofiers more to my capacity
and my hopes than any other career."

" I would that you were more enthusiastic in the cause,"
said Darcy, who was struck by the deep depression of his
manner; " I would that I saw you embrace the career
more from a profound sense of duty and devotion, than as
a 'pis aller.' "

" Such it is," sighed Forester, and his arm trembled
within Darcy's as he spoke ; " I own it frankly, save in
actual conflict itself, I have no military ardour in my
nature. I accept the road in life, because one must take
some path."

" Then, if this be so," .- aid Darcy, " I recall my counsels.
I love the service, and you also, too well, to wish for such
a mesalliance ; no, campaigning will never do with a spirit
that is merely not averse. Return to London, consult
your relative, Lord Castlereagh I see you smile at my
recommendation of him, but I have learned to read his
character very differently from what I once did. I can
see now, that however the tortuous course of a difficult
policy may have condemned him to stratagems wherein
he was an agent often an unwilling one that his nature
is eminently chivalrous and noble. His education and
his prejudices have made him less rash than we, in our
nationality, like to pardon, but the honour of the empire
lies next his heart. Political profligacy, like any other,
may be leniently dealt with, while it is fashionable, but
there are minds that never permit themselves to be en-
slaved by fashion, when once they have gained a conscious-
ness of their own power ; such is his. He is already
beyond it, and ere many years roll over, he will be equally



374 THE KNIGHT OP GWYNNE.

beyond his competitors too. And now, to yourself. Let
him be your guide. Once launched in public life, its
interests will soon make themselves felt, and you are young
enough to be plastic. I know that every man's early
years, particularly those who are the most favoured by
fortune, have their clouds and dark shadows. You must
not seek an exemption from the common lot ; remember
how much you have to be grateful for ; think of the
advantages for which others strive a life-long, and never
reach ; all yours, at the very outset ; and then, if there be
some sore spots, some secret sorrows under all, take my
advice, and keep them for your own heart. Confessions
are admirable things for old ladies, who like the petty
martyrdom of small sufferings, but men should be made
of sterner stuff. There is a high pride in bearing one's
load alone, don't forget that."

Forester felt that if the Knight had read his inmost
feelings, his counsel could not have been more directly
addressed to his condition ; he had, indeed, a secret sorrow,
and one which threw its gloom over all his prosperity. He
listened attentively to Darcy's reasonings, and followed
him, as in the full sincerity of his nature he opened up
the history of his own life, now, commenting on the
circumstances of good fortune, now, adverting to the mis-
chances which had befallen him. Never had the genial
kindness of the old man appeared more amiable. The
just judgments, the high and honourable sentiments,
not shaken by what he had seen of ingratitude and
wrong, but hopefully maintained and upheld, the singular
modesty of his character, were all charms that won more
and more upon Forester; and when, after a tete-d-iete
prolonged till late in the night, they parted, Forester's
muttered ejaculation was, " Would that I were his son ! "

"It is as I guessed," said Lady Eleanor, when the
Knight re-entered the chamber ; " Helen has refused him.
I could not press her on the reasons, nor ask whether her
heart approved all that her head determined. But she
seemed calm and tranquil ; and if I were to pronounce
from appearance, I should say that the rejection has not
cost her deeply."

" How happy you have.made me, Eleanor," exclaimed



AN AWKWABD DINNER-PARTY. 375

Darcy, joyfully ; for while, perhaps, there is nothing in this
world I should like hetfcer than to see such a man my son-in-
law, there is no misery I would not prefer to witnessing my
child's affections engaged where any sense of duty, or
pride, rendered the engagement hopeless. Now, the case
is this, Helen can afford to be frank and sisterly towards
the poor fellow, who really did love her, and after a few
days he leaves us."

" I thought he would go to-morrow," said Lady Eleanor,
somewhat anxiously.

" No ; I half hinted to him something of the kind, hut
he seemed heut on accompanying me to the West, and
really I did not know how to say nay."

Lady Eleanor appeared not quite satisfied with an
arrangement that promised a continuation of restraint, if
not of positive difficulty, but made no remark about it,
and turned the conversation on their approaching removal
to Dublin.



876 THE KNIGHT OF GAVYNKE.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

AN UNEXPECTED PROPOSAL.

ODE time is now brief with our reader, and we would not
trespass on him longer by dwelling on the mere details of
those struggles to which Helen and Forester were reduced
by daily association and companionship.

One hears much of Platonism, and, occasionally, of
those brother and sisterly affections which are adopted to
compensate for dearer and tenderer ties. Do they ever
really exist ? Has the world ever presented one single
successful instance of the compact ? We are far, very far,
from doubting that friendship, the truest and closest, can
subsist between individuals of opposite sex. We only
hazard the conjecture that such friendships must not
spring out of " Unhappy Love." They must not be
built out of the ruins of wrecked affection. No no;
when Cupid is bankrupt, there is no use in attempting to
patch up his affairs by any composition with the creditors.

We are not quite so sure that this is exactly the illus-
tration Forester would have used to convey his sense of
our proposition ; but that he was thoroughly of our opin-
ion, there is no doubt. "Whether Helen was one of the same
mind or not, she performed her task more easily and more
gracefully. We desire too sincerely to part with our fair
readers on good terms, to venture on the inquiry whether
there is not more frankness and candour in the character
of men than women ? There is certainly a greater diffi-
culty in the exercise of this quality in the gentler sex,
from the many restraints imposed by delicacy and womanly
feeling; and the very habit of keeping within this arti-
ficial barrier of reserve, gives an ease and tranquillity to
female manner under circumstances where men would
expose their troubled and warring emotions. So much,



AN UNEXPECTED PHOPOSAL. 377

perhaps, for the reason that Miss Darcy displayed an
equanimity of temper very different from the miserable
Forester, and exerted powers of pleasing and fascination



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 13) → online text (page 31 of 35)