Charles James Lever.

The Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) online

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'the first to make advances.' Ainsi, telles sont les femmes du monde!"

Such was Lord Netherby's letter. With what a succession of emotions
Helen read it we confess ourselves unable to depict. If she sometimes
hesitated to read on, an influence, too powerful to control, impelled
her to continue, while a secret interest in Forester's fortunes - a
feeling she had never known till now - induced her to learn his fate.
More than once, in the alteration of her condition, had she recalled the
proffer of affection she had with such determination rejected, and with
what gratitude did she remember the firmness of her decision!

"Poor fellow!" thought she, "I deemed it the mere caprice of one whose
gratitude for kindness had outrun his calmer convictions. And so he
really loved me!"

We must avow the fact: Helen's indifference to Forester had, in the
main, proceeded from a false estimate of his character; she saw in him
nothing but a well-bred, good-looking youth, who, with high connections
and moderate abilities, had formed certain ambitious views, to be
realized rather by the adventitious aid of fortune than his own merits.
He was, in her eyes, a young politician, cautions and watchful, trained
up to regard Lord Castlereagh as the model of statesmen, and political
intrigue as the very climax of intellectual display. To know that she
had wronged him was to make a great revolution in her feelings towards
him, to see that this reserved and calmly minded youth should have
sacrificed everything - position, prospects, all - rather than resign his
hope, faint as it was, of one day winning her affection!

If these were her first thoughts on reading that letter, those that
followed were far less pleasurable. How should she ever be able to show
it to her father? The circumstances alluded to were of a nature he never
could be cognizant of without causing the greatest pain both to him and
herself. To ask Lady Eleanor's counsel would be even more difficult.
Helen witnessed the emotion the sight of Lady Wallincourt's name had
occasioned her mother the day Forester first visited them; the old
rivalry had, then, left its trace on her mind as well as on that of Lady
Julia! What embarrassment on every hand! Where could she seek counsel,
and in whom? Bagenal Daly, the only one she could have opened her
heart to, was away; and was it quite certain she would have ventured
to disclose, even to him, the story of that affection which already
appeared so different from at first? Forester was not now in her eyes
the fashionable guardsman, indulging a passing predilection, or whiling
away the tedious hours of a country-house by a flirtation, in which he
felt interested because repulsed; he was elevated in her esteem by his
misfortunes, and the very uncertainty of his fate augmented her concern.
And yet she must forego the hope of saving him, or else, by showing
the letter to her father, acknowledge her acquaintance with events she
should never have known, or, knowing, should never reveal.

There was no help for it, the letter could not be shown. In all
likelihood neither the Knight nor Lady Eleanor would ever think more
about it; and if they did, there was still enough to speak of in the
courteous sentiments of the writer, and the polite attention of his
invitation, - a civility which even Helen's knowledge of life informed
her was rather proffered in discharge of a debt than as emanating from
any real desire to play their host in London.

Thus satisfying herself that no better course offered for the present,
she turned homewards, but with a heavier heart and more troubled mind
than had ever been her fortune in life to have suffered.


Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 34 of 34)