Je me contente
de ce qui peut s’ecrire, et
je rêve tout ce
qui peut se
rever. De SEVIGNE.
["I content myself with writing what
I am able, and I dream all I possibly can dream.”]
About a week after his wound, and
the second morning of his return to sense and consciousness,
when Clarence opened his eyes, they fell upon a female
form seated watchfully and anxiously by his bedside.
He raised himself in mute surprise, and the figure,
startled by the motion, rose, drew the curtain, and
vanished. With great difficulty he rang his bell.
His valet, Harrison, on whose mind, though it was of
no very exalted order, the kindness and suavity of
his master had made a great impression, instantly
“Who was that lady?” asked Linden.
“How came she here?”
Harrison smiled: “Oh, sir,
pray please to lie down, and make yourself easy:
the lady knows you very well and would come here; she
insists upon staying in the house, so we made up a
bed in the drawing-room and she has watched by you
night and day. She speaks very little English
to be sure, but your honour knows, begging your pardon,
how well I speak French.”
“French?” said Clarence,
faintly, “French? In Heaven’s
name, who is she?”
“A Madame Madame La
Melonveal, or some such name, sir,” said the
Clarence fell back. At that moment
his hand was pressed. He turned, and saw Talbot
by his side. The kind old man had not suffered
La Meronville to be Linden’s only nurse:
notwithstanding his age and peculiarity of habits,
he had fixed his abode all the day in Clarence’s
house, and at night, instead of returning to his own
home, had taken up his lodgings at the nearest hotel.
With a jealous and anxious eye to
the real interest and respectability of his adopted
son, Talbot had exerted all his address, and even all
his power, to induce La Meronville, who had made her
settlement previous to Talbot’s, to quit the
house, but in vain. With that obstinacy which
a Frenchwoman when she is sentimental mistakes for
nobility of heart, the ci-devant amante
of Lord Borodaile insisted upon watching and tending
one of whose sufferings she said and believed she was
the unhappy though innocent cause: and whenever
more urgent means of removal were hinted at La Meronville
flew to the chamber of her beloved, apostrophized him
in a strain worthy of one of D’Arlincourt’s
heroines, and in short was so unreasonably outrageous
that the doctors, trembling for the safety of their
patient, obtained from Talbot a forced and reluctant
acquiescence in the settlement she had obtained.
Ah! what a terrible creature a Frenchwoman
is, when, instead of coquetting with a caprice, she
insists upon conceiving a grande passion. Little,
however, did Clarence, despite his vexation when he
learned of the bienveillance of La Meronville,
foresee the whole extent of the consequences it would
entail upon him: still less did Talbot, who in
his seclusion knew not the celebrity of the handsome
adventuress, calculate upon the notoriety of her motions
or the ill effect her ostentatious attachment would
have upon Clarence’s prosperity as a lover to
Lady Flora. In order to explain these consequences
the more fully, let us, for the present, leave our
hero to the care of the surgeon, his friends, and
his would-be mistress; and while he is more rapidly
recovering than the doctors either hoped or presaged,
let us renew our acquaintance with a certain fair
LETTER FROM THE LADY FLORA ARDENNE TO MISS ELEANOR TREVANION.
My Dearest Eleanor, I have
been very ill, or you would sooner have received an
answer to your kind,-too kind and consoling letter.
Indeed I have only just left my bed: they say
that I have been delirious, and I believe it; for
you cannot conceive what terrible dreams I have had.
But these are all over now, and everyone is so kind
to me, my poor mother above all! It
is a pleasant thing to be ill when we have those who
love us to watch our recovery.
I have only been in bed a few days;
yet it seems to me as if a long portion of my existence
were past, as if I had stepped into a new
era. You remember that my last letter attempted
to express my feelings at Mamma’s speech about
Clarence, and at my seeing him so suddenly. Now,
dearest, I cannot but look on that day, on these sensations,
as on a distant dream. Every one is so kind to
me, Mamma caresses and soothes me so fondly, that
I fancy I must have been under some illusion.
I am sure they could not seriously have meant to forbid
his addresses. No, no: I feel that all will
yet be well, so well, that even you, who
are of so contented a temper, will own that if you
were not Eleanor you would be Flora.
I wonder whether Clarence knows that
I have been ill? I wish you knew him. Well,
dearest, this letter a very unhandsome return,
I own, for yours must content you at present,
for they will not let me write more; though, so far
as I am concerned, I am never so weak, in frame I mean,
but what I could scribble to you about him.
Addio, carissima. F. A.
I have prevailed on Mamma, who wished
to sit by me and amuse me, to go to the Opera to-night,
the only amusement of which she is particularly fond.
Heaven forgive me for my insincerity, but he always
comes into our box, and I long to hear some news of
LETTER II. FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.
Eleanor, dearest Eleanor, I am again
very ill, but not as I was before, ill from a foolish
vexation of mind: no, I am now calm and even happy.
It was from an increase of cold only that I have suffered
a relapse. You may believe this, I assure you,
in spite of your well meant but bitter jests upon
my infatuation, as you very rightly call it, for Mr.
Linden. You ask me what news from the Opera?
Silly girl that I was, to lie awake hour after hour,
and refuse even to take my draught, lest I should be
surprised into sleep, till Mamma returned. I sent
Jermyn down directly I heard her knock at the door
(oh, how anxiously I had listened for it!) to say
that I was still awake and longed to see her.
So, of course, Mamma came up, and felt my pulse, and
said it was very feverish, and wondered the draught
had not composed me; with a great deal more to the
same purpose, which I bore as patiently as I could,
till it was my turn to talk; and then I admired her
dress and her coiffure, and asked if it was a full
house, and whether the prima donna was in voice,
etc.: till, at last, I won my way to the
inquiry of who were her visitors. “Lord
Borodaile,” said she, “and the Duke of
, and Mr. St. George, and Captain
Leslie, and Mr. De Retz, and many others.”
I felt so disappointed, Eleanor, but did not dare
ask whether he was not of the list; till, at last,
my mother observing me narrowly, said, “And by
the by, Mr. Linden looked in for a few minutes.
I am glad, my dearest Flora, that I spoke to you so
decidedly about him the other day.” “Why,
Mamma?” said I, hiding my face under the clothes.
“Because,” said she, in rather a raised
voice, “he is quite unworthy of you! but it is
late now, and you should go to sleep; to-morrow I
will tell you more.” I would have given
worlds to press the question then, but could not venture.
Mamma kissed and left me. I tried to twist her
words into a hundred meanings, but in each I only
thought that they were dictated by some worldly information, some
new doubts as to his birth or fortune; and, though
that supposition distressed me greatly, yet it could
not alter my love or deprive me of hope; and so I
cried and guessed, and guessed and cried, till at
last I cried myself to sleep.
When I awoke, Mamma was already up,
and sitting beside me: she talked to me for more
than an hour upon ordinary subjects, till at last,
perceiving how absent or rather impatient I appeared,
she dismissed Jermyn, and spoke to me thus:
“You know, Flora, that I have
always loved you, more perhaps than I ought to have
done, more certainly than I have loved your brothers
and sisters; but you were my eldest child, my first-born,
and all the earliest associations of a mother are
blent and entwined with you. You may be sure
therefore that I have ever had only your happiness
in view, and that it is only with a regard to that
end that I now speak to you.”
I was a little frightened, Eleanor,
by this opening, but I was much more touched, so I
took Mamma’s hand and kissed and wept silently
over it; she continued: “I observed Mr.
Linden’s attention to you, at ;
I knew nothing more of his rank and birth then than
I do at present: but his situation in the embassy
and his personal appearance naturally induced me to
suppose him a gentleman of family, and, therefore,
if not a great at least not an inferior match for
you, so far as worldly distinctions are concerned.
Added to this, he was uncommonly handsome, and had
that general reputation for talent which is often better
than actual wealth or hereditary titles. I therefore
did not check, though I would not encourage any attachment
you might form for him; and nothing being declared
or decisive on either side when we left ,
I imagined that if your flirtation with him did even
amount to a momentary and girlish phantasy, absence
and change of scene would easily and rapidly efface
the impression. I believe that in a great measure
it was effaced when Lord Aspeden returned to England,
and with him Mr. Linden. You again met the latter
in society almost as constantly as before; a caprice
nearly conquered was once more renewed; and in my anxiety
that you should marry, not for aggrandizement, but
happiness, I own to my sorrow that I rather favoured
than forbade his addresses. The young man remember,
Flora appeared in society as the nephew
and heir of a gentleman of ancient family and considerable
property; he was rising in diplomacy, popular in the
world, and, so far as we could see, of irreproachable
character; this must plead my excuse for tolerating
his visits, without instituting further inquiries respecting
him, and allowing your attachment to proceed without
ascertaining how far it had yet extended. I was
awakened to a sense of my indiscretion by an inquiry
which Mr. Linden’s popularity rendered general;
namely, if Mr. Talbot was his uncle, who was his father?
who his more immediate relations? and at that time
Lord Borodaile informed us of the falsehood he had
either asserted or allowed to be spread in claiming
Mr. Talbot as his relation. This you will observe
entirely altered the situation of Mr. Linden with
respect to you. Not only his rank in life became
uncertain, but suspicious. Nor was this all:
his very personal respectability was no longer unimpeachable.
Was this dubious and intrusive person, without a name
and with a sullied honour, to be your suitor?
No, Flora; and it was from this indignant conviction
that I spoke to you some days since. Forgive
me, my child, if I was less cautious, less confidential
than I am now. I did not imagine the wound was
so deep, and thought that I should best cure you by
seeming unconscious of your danger. The case is
now changed; your illness has convinced me of my fault,
and the extent of your unhappy attachment: but
will my own dear child pardon me if I still continue,
if I even confirm, my disapproval of her choice?
Last night at the Opera Mr. Linden entered my box.
I own that I was cooler to him than usual. He
soon left us, and after the Opera I saw him with the
Duke of Haverfield, one of the most incorrigible
roues of the day, leading out a woman of notoriously
bad character and of the most ostentatious profligacy.
He might have had some propriety, some decency, some
concealment at least, but he passed just before me, before
the mother of the woman to whom his vows of honourable
attachment were due and who at that very instant was
suffering from her infatuation for him. Now,
Flora, for this man, an obscure and possibly a plebeian
adventurer, whose only claim to notice has been founded
on falsehood, whose only merit, a love of you, has
been, if not utterly destroyed, at least polluted
and debased, for this man, poor alike in
fortune, character, and honour, can you any longer
profess affection or esteem?”
“Never, never, never!”
cried I, springing from the bed, and throwing myself
upon my mother’s neck. “Never:
I am your own Flora once more. I will never suffer
any one again to make me forget you,” and then
I sobbed so violently that Mamma was frightened, and
bade me lie down and left me to sleep. Several
hours have passed since then, and I could not sleep
nor think, and I would not cry, for he is no longer
worthy of my tears; so I have written to you.
Oh, how I despise and hate myself
for having so utterly, in my vanity and folly, forgotten
my mother, that dear, kind, constant friend, who never
cost me a single tear, but for my own ingratitude!
Think, Eleanor, what an affront to me, to
me, who, he so often said, had made all other women
worthless in his eyes. Do I hate him? No,
I cannot hate. Do I despise? No, I will
not despise, but I will forget him, and keep my contempt
and hatred for myself.
God bless you! I am worn out.
Write soon, or rather come, if possible, to your affectionate
but unworthy friend, F. A.
Good Heavens! Eleanor, he is
wounded. He has fought with Lord Borodaile.
I have just heard it; Jermyn told me. Can it,
can it be true? What, what have I
said against him? Hate? forget? No, no:
I never loved him till now.
LETTER III. FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.
(After an interval of several weeks.)
Time has flown, my Eleanor, since
you left me, after your short but kind visit, with
a heavy but healing wing. I do not think I shall
ever again be the giddy girl I have been; but my head
will change, not my heart; that was never giddy, and
that shall still be as much yours as ever. You
are wrong in thinking I have not forgotten, at least
renounced all affection for Mr. Linden. I have,
though with a long and bitter effort. The woman
for whom he fought went, you know, to his house, immediately
on hearing of his wound. She has continued with
him ever since. He had the audacity to write
to me once; my mother brought me the note, and said
nothing. She read my heart aright. I returned
it unopened. He has even called since his convalescence.
Mamma was not at home to him. I hear that he
looks pale and altered. I hope not, at
least I cannot resist praying for his recovery.
I stay within entirely; the season is over now, and
there are no parties: but I tremble at the thought
of meeting him even in the Park or the Gardens.
Papa talks of going into the country next week.
I cannot tell you how eagerly I look forward to it:
and you will then come and see me; will you not, dearest
Ah! what happy days we will have yet:
we will read Italian together, as we used to do; you
shall teach me your songs, and I will instruct you
in mine; we will keep birds as we did, let me see,
eight years ago. You will never talk to me of
my folly: let that be as if it had never been;
but I will wonder with you about your future choice,
and grow happy in anticipating your happiness.
Oh, how selfish I was some weeks ago! then I could
only overwhelm you with my egotisms: now, Eleanor,
it is your turn; and you shall see how patiently I
will listen to yours. Never fear that you can
be too prolix: the diffuser you are, the easier
I shall forgive myself.
Are you fond of poetry, Eleanor?
I used to say so, but I never felt that I was till
lately. I will show you my favourite passages
in my favourite poets when you come to see me.
You shall see if yours correspond with mine.
I am so impatient to leave this horrid town, where
everything seems dull, yet feverish, insipid,
yet false. Shall we not be happy when we meet?
If your dear aunt will come with you, she shall see
how I (that is my mind) am improved.
Farewell. Ever your most affectionate,