Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

What will he do with it (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 38)
Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonWhat will he do with it (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook













Limited to One Thousand Copies













VIGNETTES for the next Book of Beauty.

" I QUITE agree with you, Alban ; Honoria Vipont is a very
superior young lady. "

" I knew you would think so ! " cried the Colonel, with
more warmth than usual to him.

"Many years since," resumed Darrell, with reflective air,
"I read Miss Edgeworth's novels; and in conversing with
Miss Honoria Vipont, methinks I confer with one of Miss
Edgeworth's heroines: so rational, so prudent, so well-
behaved; so free from silly romantic notions; so replete with
solid information, moral philosophy and natural history; so
sure to regulate her watch and her heart to the precise mo-
ment, for the one to strike, and the other to throb, and to
marry at last a respectable steady husband, whom she will
win with dignity, and would lose with decorum ! A very
superior girl indeed." 1

" Though your description of Miss Vipont is satirical, " said
Alban Morley, smiling, in spite of some irritation, "yet I

1 Darrell speaks, not the author. Darrell is unjust to the more exquisite
female characters of a Novelist admirable for strength of sense, correctness
of delineation, terseness of narrative, and lucidity of style ; nor less admirable
for the unexaggerated nobleness of sentiment by which some of her heroines
are notably distinguished.

VOL. II. 1


will accept it as panegyric ; for it conveys unintentionally a
just idea of the qualities that make an intelligent companion
and a safe wife. And those are the qualities we must look
to, if we marry at our age. We are no longer boys," added
the Colonel, sententiously.

DARRELL. "Alas, no! I wish we were. But the truth
of your remark is indisputable. Ah, look! Is not that a
face which might make an octogenarian forget that he is not
a boy? What regular features ! and what a blush !"

The friends were riding in the Park ; and as Darrell spoke
he bowed to a young lady, who with one or two others
passed rapidly by in a barouche. It was that very hand-
some young lady to whom Lionel had seen him listening so
attentively in the great crowd, for which Carr Vipont's
family party had been deserted.

"Yes; Lady Adela is one of the loveliest girls in London,"
said the Colonel, who had also lifted his hat as the barouche
whirled by, " and amiable too : I have known her ever since
she was born. Her father and I are great friends ; an excel-
lent man, but stingy. I had much difficulty in arranging the
eldest girl's marriage with Lord Bolton, and am a trustee in
the settlements. If you feel a preference for Lady Adela,
though I don't think she would suit you so well as Miss
Vipont, I will answer for her father's encouragement and
her consent. 'T is no drawback to you, though it is to
most of her admirers, when I add, ' There 's nothing with

"And nothing in her! which is worse," said Darrell.
" Still, it is pleasant to gaze on a beautiful landscape, even
though the soil be barren."

COLONEL MORLEY. "That depends upon whether you
are merely the artistic spectator of the landscape, or the
disappointed proprietor of the soil."

"Admirable!" said Darrell; "you have disposed of Lady
Adela. So ho! so ho!" Darrell's horse (his old high-
mettled horse, freshly sent to him from Fawley, and in spite
of the five years that had added to its age, of spirit made
friskier by long repose) here put down its ears, lashed out,


and indulged in a bound which would have unseated many a
London rider. A young Amazon, followed hard by some two
or three young gentlemen and their grooms, shot by, swift
and reckless as a hero at Balaclava. But with equal sudden-
ness, as she caught sight of Darrell, whose hand and voice
had already soothed the excited nerves of his steed, the
Amazon wheeled round and gained his side. Throwing up
her veil, she revealed a face so prettily arch, so perversely
gay, with eye of radiant hazel, and fair locks half loosened
from their formal braid, that it would have beguiled resent-
ment from the most insensible, reconciled to danger the most
timid. And yet there was really a grace of humility in the
apologies she tendered for her discourtesy and thoughtless-
ness. As the girl reined her light palfrey by Darrell ? s side,
turning from the young companions who had now joined
her, their hackneys in a foam, and devoting to his ear all her
lively overflow of happy spirits, not untempered by a certain
deference, but still apparently free from dissimulation,
Darrell's grand face lighted up; his mellow laugh, unre-
strained though low, echoed her sportive tones; her youth,
her joyousness, were irresistibly contagious. Alban Morley
watched observant, while interchanging talk with her atten-
dant comrades, young men of high ton, but who belonged to
that jeunesse doree with which the surface of life patrician is
fretted over : young men with few ideas, fewer duties ; but
with plenty of leisure, plenty of health, plenty of money in
their pockets, plenty of debts to their tradesmen, daring at
Melton, scheming at Tattersall's, pride to maiden aunts,
plague to thrifty fathers, fickle lovers, but solid matches;
in brief, fast livers, who get through their youth betimes, and
who, for the most part, are middle-aged before they are
thirty, tamed by wedlock, sobered by the responsibilities that
come with the cares of property and the dignities of rank;
undergo abrupt metamorphosis into chairmen of quarter
sessions, county members, or decorous peers; their ideas
enriched as their duties grow; their opinions, once loose as
willows to the wind, stiffening into the palisades of fenced
propriety; valuable, busy men, changed as Henry V., when


coming into the cares of state, lie said to the Chief Justice,
"There is my hand; " and to Sir John Falstaff,

" I know thee not, old man ;
Fall to thy prayers ! "

But meanwhile the &lite of this jeunesse dor6e glittered round
Flora Vy vyan ; not a regular beauty like Lady Adela, not a
fine girl like Miss Vipont : but such a light, faultless figure !
such a pretty radiant face ! more womanly for affecting to be
manlike, Hebe aping Thalestris. Flora, too, was an heir-
ess; an only child, spoilt, wilful; not at all accomplished
(my belief is that accomplishments are thought great bores
by the jeunesse doree) ; no accomplishment except horseman-
ship, with a slight knack at billiards, and the capacity to
take three whiffs from a Spanish cigarette. That last was
adorable : four offers had been advanced to her hand on that
merit alone. (N.B. Young ladies do themselves no good
with the jeunesse dor6e, which in our time is a lover that
rather smokes than "sighs, like furnace," by advertising
their horror of cigars.) You would suppose that Flora
Vyvyan must be coarse, vulgar perhaps; not at all; she was
piquante, original ; and did the oddest things with the air and
look of the highest breeding. Fairies cannot be vulgar, no
matter what they do : they may take the strangest liberties,
pinch the maids, turn the house topsy-turvy ; but they are
ever the darlings of grace and poetry. Flora Vyvyan was a
fairy. Not peculiarly intellectual herself, she had a venera-
tion for intellect ; those fast young men were the last persons
likely to fascinate that fast young lady. Women are so per-
verse: they always prefer the very people you would least
suspect, the antithesis to themselves. Yet is it possible
that Flora Vyvyan can have carried her crotchets to so ex-
travagant a degree as to have designed the conquest of Guy
Darrell, ten years older than her own father? She, too, an
heiress, certainly not mercenary; she who had already re-
fused better worldly matches than Darrell himself was,
young men, handsome men, with coronets on the margin of
their note-paper and the panels of their broughams! The


idea seemed preposterous; nevertheless, Alban Morley, a
shrewd observer, conceived that idea, and trembled for his

At last the young lady and her satellites shot off, and the
Colonel said cautiously, "Miss Vyvyan is alarming."

DAKRELL. "Alarming! the epithet requires construing."

COLONEL MORLEY. "The sort of girl who might make a
man of our years really and literally an old fool! "

DARRELL. " Old fool such a man must be if girls of any
sort are permitted to make him a greater fool than he was
before. But I think that, with those pretty hands resting on
one's armchair, or that sunny face shining into one's study
windows, one might be a very happy old fool ; and that is the
most one can expect! "

COLONEL MORLEY (checking an anxious groan). "I am
afraid, my poor friend, you are far gone already. No wonder
Honoria Vipont fails to be appreciated. But Lady Selina
has a maxim, the truth of which my experience attests, 'The
moment it comes to women, the most sensible men are
the ' "

"Oldest fools!" put in Darrell. "If Mark Antony made
such a goose of himself for that painted harridan Cleopatra,
what would he have done for a blooming Juliet ! Youth and
high spirits! Alas! why are these to be unsuitable compan-
ions for us as we reach that climax in time and sorrow when
to the one we are grown the most indulgent, and of the other
have the most need? Alban, that girl, if her heart were
really won, her wild nature wisely mastered, gently guided,
would make a true, prudent, loving, admirable wife "

" Heavens ! " cried Alban Morley.

"To such a husband, ""pursued Darrell, unheeding the
ejaculation, "as Lionel Haughton. What say you?"

" Lionel oh, I have no objection at all to that ; but he 's
too young yet to think of marriage, a mere boy. Be-
sides, if you yourself marry, Lionel could scarcely aspire to
a girl of Miss Vyvyan's birth and fortune."

" Ho, not aspire ! That boy at least shall not have to woo
in vain from the want of fortune. The day I marry, if ever


that day come, I settle on Lionel Haughton and his heirs five
thousand a year; and if, with gentle blood, youth, good looks,
and a heart of gold, that fortune does not allow him to aspire
to any girl whose hand he covets, I can double it, and still
be rich enough to buy a superior companion in Honoria
Vipont "

MORLEY. " Don't say buy "

DARRELL. "Ay, and still be young enough to catch a but-
terfly in Lady Adela, still be bold enough to chain a panther
in Flora Vyvyan. Let the world know your world in each
nook of its gaudy auction-mart that Lionel Haughton is no
pauper cousin, no penniless fortune-hunter. I wish that
world to be kind to him while he is yet young and can enjoy
it. Ah, Morley, Pleasure, like Punishment, hobbles after us,
pede claudo. What would have delighted us yesterday does
not catch us up till to-morrow, and yesterday's pleasure is
not the morrow's. A pennyworth of sugar-plums would have
made our eyes sparkle when we were scrawling pot-hooks at
a preparatory school, but no one gave us sugar-plums then.
Now every day at dessert France heaps before us her daintiest
sugar-plums in gilt bonbonnieres. Do you ever covet them?
I never do. Let Lionel have his sugar-plums in time. And
as we talk, there he comes. Lionel, how are you? "

"I resign you to Lionel's charge now," said the Colonel,
glancing at his watch. "I have an engagement, trouble-
some. Two silly friends of mine have been quarrelling,
high words, in an age when duels are out of the question. I
have promised to meet another man, and draw up the form
for a mutual apology. High words are so stupid nowadays.
No option but to swallow them up again if they were as high
as steeples. Adieu for the present. We meet to-night at
Lady Dulcett's concert?"

"Yes," said Darrell. "I promised Miss Vyvyan to be
there, and keep her from disturbing the congregation. You,
Lionel, will come with me."

LIONEL (embarrassed). "No; you must excuse me. I
have long been engaged elsewhere."

"That's a pity," said the Colonel, gravely. "Lady Dul-


cett's concert is just one of the places where a young man
should be seen." Colonel Morley waved his hand with
his usual languid elegance, and his hack cantered off with
him, stately as a charger, easy as a rocking-horse.

" Unalterable man ! " said Darrell, as his eye followed the
horseman's receding figure; "through all the mutations on
Time's dusty high-road, stable as a milestone. Just what
Alban Morley was as a school-boy he is now ; and if mortal
span were extended to the age of the patriarchs, just what
Alban Morley is now Alban Morley would be a thousand
years hence. I don't mean externally, of course: wrinkles
will come; cheeks will fade. But these are trifles: man's
body is a garment, as Socrates said before me, and every
seven years, according to the physiologists, man has a new
suit, fibre and cuticle, from top to toe. The interior being
that wears the clothes is the same in Alban Morley. Has he
loved, hated, rejoiced, suffered? Where is the sign? Not
one. At school, as in life, doing nothing, but decidedly
somebody, respected by small boys, petted by big boys,
an authority with all. Never getting honours ; arm and arm
with those who did: never in scrapes; advising those who
were : imperturbable, immovable, calm, above mortal cares as
an Epicurean deity. What can wealth give that he has not
got? In the houses of the richest he chooses his room. Talk
of ambition, talk of power, he has their rewards without an
effort. True prime minister of all the realm he cares for:
good society has not a vote against him; he transacts its
affairs, he knows its secrets, he wields its patronage; ever
requested to do a favour, no man great enough to do him
one; incorruptible, yet versed to a fraction in each man's
price; impeccable, yet confidant in each man's foibles;
smooth as silk, hard as adamant; impossible to wound, vex,
annoy him, but not insensible; thoroughly kind. Dear,
dear Alban ! nature never polished a finer gentleman out of
a solider block of man! " Darrell's voice quivered a little as
he completed in earnest affection the sketch begun in play-
ful irony, and then, with a sudden change of thought, he
resumed lightly,


"But I wish you to do me a favour, Lionel. Aid me to
repair a fault in good breeding of which Alban Morley would
never have been guilty. I have been several days in London,
and not yet called on your mother. Will you accompany me
now to her house and present me?"

" Thank you, thank you : you will make her so proud and
happy; but may I ride on and prepare her for your visit? "

"Certainly; her address is "

"Gloucester Place, No. ."

"I will meet you there in half an hour."


" LET Observation, with expansive view,

Survey mankind from China to Peru,"

and Observation will everywhere find, indispensable to the happiness of woman,

LIONEL knew that Mrs. Haughton would that day need
more than usual forewarning of a visit from Mr. Darrell;
for the evening of that day Mrs. Haughton proposed "to give
a party." When Mrs. Haughton gave a party, it was a seri-
ous affair. A notable and bustling housewife, she attended
herself to each preparatory detail. It was to assist at this
party that Lionel had resigned Lady Dulcett's concert. The
young man, reluctantly acquiescing in the arrangements by
which Alban Morley had engaged him a lodging of his own,
seldom or never let a day pass without gratifying his mother's
proud heart by an hour or two spent in Gloucester Place,
often to the forfeiture of a pleasant ride or other tempting
excursion with gay comrades. Difficult in London life, and
at the full of its season, to devote an hour or two to visits,
apart from the track chalked out by one's very mode of exist-
ence ; difficult to cut off an hour so as not to cut up a day.


And Mrs. Haughton was exacting, nice in her choice as to
the exact slice in the day. She took the prime of the joint.
She liked her neighbours to see the handsome, elegant young
man dismount from his charger or descend from his cabriolet
just at the witching hour when Gloucester Place was fullest.
Did he go to a levee, he must be sure to come to her before he
changed his dress, that she and Gloucester Place might ad-
mire him in uniform. Was he going to dine at some very
great house, he must take her in his way (though no street
could be more out of his way), that she might be enabled to
say in the parties to which she herself repaired, "There is
a great dinner at Lord So-and-so's to-day; my son called
on me before he went there. If he had been disengaged,
I should have asked permission to bring him here."

Not that Mrs. Haughton honestly designed nor even
wished to draw the young man from the dazzling vortex of
high life into her own little currents of dissipation. She was
much too proud of Lionel to think that her friends were grand
enough for him to honour their houses by his presence. She
had in this, too, a lively recollection of her lost Captain's
doctrinal views of the great world's creed. The Captain had
flourished in the time when Impertinence, installed by
Brummell, though her influence was waning, still schooled
her oligarchs, and maintained the etiquette of her court ; and
even when his mesalliance and his debts had cast him out of
his native sphere, he lost not all the original brightness of an
exclusive. In moments of connubial confidence, when owning
his past errors and tracing to his sympathizing Jessie the
causes of his decline, he would say, "'Tis not a man's birth,
nor his fortune, that gives him his place in society: it de-
pends on his conduct, Jessie. He must not be seen bowing
to snobs, nor should his enemies track him to the haunts of
vulgarians. I date my fall in life to dining with a horrid
man who lent me 100, and lived in Upper Baker Street.
His wife took my arm from a place they called a drawing-
room [the Captain as he spoke was on a fourth floor], to share
some unknown food which they called a dinner [the Captain
at that moment would have welcomed a rasher]. The woman


went about blabbing : the thing got wind ; for the first time
my character received a soil. What is a man without char-
acter! and character once sullied, Jessie, a man becomes
reckless. Teach my boy to beware of the first false step; no
association with parvenus. Don't cry, Jessie : I don't mean
that he is to cut you; relations are quite different from other
people; nothing so low as cutting relations. I continued, for
instance, to visit Guy Darrell, though he lived at the back of
Holborn, and I actually saw him once in brown beaver gloves.
But he was a relation. I have even dined at his house, and
met odd people there, people who lived also at the back of
Holborn. But he did not ask me to go to their houses; and
if he had I must have cut him."

By reminiscences of this kind of talk, Lionel was saved
from any design of Mrs. Haughton to attract his orbit into
the circle within which she herself moved. He must come to
the parties she gave, illumine or awe odd people there. That
was a proper tribute to maternal pride. But had they asked
him to their parties, she would have been the first to resent
such a liberty.

Lionel found Mrs. Haughton in great bustle. A gar-
dener's cart was before the street door. Men were bringing
in a grove of evergreens, intended to border the staircase,
and make its exiguous ascent still more difficult. The re-
freshments were already laid out in the dining-room. Mrs.
Haughton, with scissors in hand, was cutting flowers to
fill the eperyne, but darting to and fro, like a dragon-fly,
from the dining-room to the hall, from the flowers to the

"Dear me, Lionel, is that you? Just tell me, you who go
to all those grandees, whether the ratafia-cakes should be
opposite to the sponge-cakes, or whether they would not go
better thus, at cross-corners?"

"My dear mother, I never observed: I don't know. But
make haste : take off that apron ; have these doors shut ; come
upstairs. Mr. Darrell will be here very shortly. I have
ridden on to prepare you."

"Mr. Darrell, TO-DAY! How could you let him come?


Lionel, how thoughtless you are ! You should have some
respect for your mother: I am your mother, sir."

" Yes, my own dear mother : don't scold ; I could not help
it. He is so engaged, so sought after ; if I had put him off
to-day, he might never have come, and "

"Never have come! Who is Mr. Darrell, to give himself
such airs? Only a lawyer after all," said Mrs. Haughton,
with majesty.

"Oh, Mother! that speech is not like you. He is our
benefactor our "

"Don't, don't say more; I was very wrong; quite wicked;
only my temper, Lionel dear. Good Mr. Darrell! I shall
be so happy to see him: see him, too, in this house that I
owe to him ; see him by your side ! I think I shall fall down
on my knees to him," and her eyes began to stream.

Lionel kissed the tears away fondly. " That 's my own
mother now indeed: now I am proud of you, Mother; and
how well you look! I am proud of that too."

" Look well I am not fit to be seen, this figure though
perhaps an elderly quiet gentleman like good Mr. Darrell
does not notice ladies much. John, John, make haste with
those plants. Gracious me! you've got your coat off ! put
it on ; I expect a gentleman ; I 'm at home, in the front
drawing-room, no, that's all set out, the back drawing-
room, John. Send Susan to me. Lionel, do just look at the
supper-table ; and what is to be done with the flowers, and "

The rest of Mrs. Haughton' s voice, owing to the rapidity of
her ascent, which affected the distinctness of her utterance,
was lost in air. She vanished at culminating point within
her chamber.


MRS. HAUGHTON at home to Guy Darrell.

THANKS to Lionel's activity, the hall was disencumbered,
the plants hastily stowed away, the parlour closed on the fes-
tive preparations, and the footman in his livery waiting at
the door, when Mr. Darrell arrived. Lionel himself came
out and welcomed his benefactor's footstep across the thresh-
old of the home which the generous man had provided for the

If Lionel had some secret misgivings as to the result of
this interview, they were soon and most happily dispelled;
for at the sight of Guy Darrell leaning so affectionately on
her son's arm, Mrs. Haughton mechanically gave herself up
to the impulse of her own warm, grateful, true woman's
heart. And her bound forward; her seizure of Darrell's
hand; her first fervent blessing; her after words, simple but
eloquent with feeling, made that heart so transparent that
Darrell looked it through with respectful eyes.

Mrs. Haughton was still a pretty woman, and with much
of that delicacy of form and outline which constitutes the
gentility of person. She had a sweet voice too, except when
angry. Her defects of education, of temper, or of conven-
tional polish were not discernible in the overflow of natural
emotion. Darrell had come resolved to be pleased if possible.
Pleased he was, much more than he had expected. He even
inly accepted for the deceased Captain excuses which he
had never before admitted to himself. The linen-draper's
daughter was no coarse presuming dowdy, and in her candid
rush of gratitude there was not that underbred servility
which Darrell had thought perceptible in her epistolary com-
positions. There was elegance too, void both of gaudy osten-
tation and penurious thrift, in the furniture and arrangements


of the room. The income he gave to her was not spent with
slatternly waste or on tawdry gewgaws. To ladies in gen-
eral, Darrell's manner was extremely attractive, not the
less winning because of a certain shyness which, implying
respect for those he addressed and a modest undervaluing of

Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonWhat will he do with it (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 38)