Night and Morning, Volume 2

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THE WORKS

OF
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
(LORD LYTTON)

NIGHT AND MORNING

Book II

CHAPTER I.

               ”Incubo. Look to the cavalier. What ails he?

                      . . . . .

               Hostess. And in such good clothes, too!”

                        BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER: Love’s Pilgrimage.

     ”Theod. I have a brother—there my last hope!.

              Thus as you find me, without fear or wisdom,

              I now am only child of Hope and Danger.”—Ibid.

The time employed by Mr. Beaufort in reaching his home was haunted by
gloomy and confused terrors. He felt inexplicably as if the
denunciations of Philip were to visit less himself than his son. He
trembled at the thought of Arthur meeting this strange, wild, exasperated
scatterling—perhaps on the morrow—in the very height of his passions.
And yet, after the scene between Arthur and himself, he saw cause to fear
that he might not be able to exercise a sufficient authority over his
son, however naturally facile and obedient, to prevent his return to the
house of death. In this dilemma he resolved, as is usual with cleverer
men, even when yoked to yet feebler helpmates, to hear if his wife had
anything comforting or sensible to say upon the subject. Accordingly, on
reaching Berkeley Square, he went straight to Mrs. Beaufort; and having
relieved her mind as to Arthur’s safety, related the scene in which he
had been so unwilling an actor. With that more lively susceptibility
which belongs to most women, however comparatively unfeeling, Mrs.
Beaufort made greater allowance than her husband for the excitement
Philip had betrayed. Still Beaufort’s description of the dark menaces,
the fierce countenance, the brigand-like form, of the bereaved son, gave
her very considerable apprehensions for Arthur, should the young men
meet; and she willingly coincided with her husband in the propriety of
using all means of parental persuasion or command to guard against such
an encounter. But, in the meanwhile, Arthur returned not, and new fears
seized the anxious parents. He had gone forth alone, in a remote suburb
of the metropolis, at a late hour, himself under strong excitement. He
might have returned to the house, or have lost his way amidst some dark
haunts of violence and crime; they knew not where to send, or what to
suggest. Day already began to dawn, and still he came not. A length,
towards five o’clock, a loud rap was heard at the door, and Mr. Beaufort,
hearing some bustle in the hall, descended. He saw his son borne into
the hall from a hackney-coach by two strangers, pale, bleeding, and
apparently insensible. His first thought was that he had been murdered
by Philip. He uttered a feeble cry, and sank down beside his son.

“Don’t be darnted, sir,” said one of the strangers, who seemed an
artisan; “I don’t think he be much hurt. You sees he was crossing the
street, and the coach ran against him; but it did not go over his head;
it be only the stones that makes him bleed so: and that’s a mercy.”

“A providence, sir,” said the other man; “but Providence watches over us
all, night and day, sleep or wake. Hem! We were passing at the time
from the meeting—the Odd Fellows, sir—and so we took him, and got him a
coach; for we found his card in his pocket. He could not speak just
then; but the rattling of the coach did him a deal of good, for he
groaned—my eyes! how he groaned! did he not, Burrows?”

“It did one’s heart good to hear him.”

“Run for Astley Cooper—you—go to Brodie. Good Heavens! he is dying.

Be quick—quick!” cried Mr. Beaufort to his servants, while Mrs.

Beaufort, who had now gained the spot, with greater presence of mind had

Arthur conveyed into a room.

“It is a judgment upon me,” groaned Beaufort, rooted to the stone of his
hall, and left alone with the strangers. “No, sir, it is not a judgment,
it is a providence,” said the more sanctimonious and better dressed of
the two men “for, put the question, if it had been a judgment, the wheel
would have gone over him—but it didn’t; and, whether he dies or not, I
shall always say that if that’s not a providence, I don’t know what is.
We have come a long way, sir; and Burrows is a poor man, though I’m well
to do.”

This hint for money restored Beaufort to his recollection; he put his
purse into the nearest hand outstretched to clutch it, and muttered forth
something like thanks.

“Sir, may the Lord bless you! and I hope the young gentleman will do
well. I am sure you have cause to be thankful that he was within an inch
of the wheel; was he not, Burrows? Well, it’s enough to convert a
heathen. But the ways of Providence are mysterious, and that’s the truth
of it. Good night, sir.”

Certainly it did seem as if the curse of Philip was already at its work.
An accident almost similar to that which, in the adventure of the blind
man, had led Arthur to the clue of Catherine, within twenty-four hours
stretched Arthur himself upon his bed. The sorrow Mr. Beaufort had not
relieved was now at his own hearth. But there were parents and nurses,
and great physicians, and skilful surgeons, and all the army that combine
against Death, and there were ease, and luxury, and kind eyes, and pitying
looks, and all that can take the sting from pain. And thus, the very
night on which Catherine had died, broken down, and worn out, upon a
strange breast, with a feeless doctor, and by the ray of a single candle,
the heir to the fortunes once destined to her son wrestled also with the
grim Tyrant, who seemed, however, scared from his prey by the arts and
luxuries which the world of rich men raises up in defiance of the grave.

Arthur, was, indeed, very seriously injured; one of his ribs was broken,
and he had received two severe contusions on the head. To insensibility
succeeded fever, followed by delirium. He was in imminent danger for
several days. If anything could console his parents for such an
affliction, it was the thought that, at least, he was saved from the
chance of meeting Philip.

Mr. Beaufort, in the instinct of that capricious and fluctuating
conscience which belongs to weak minds, which remains still, and
drooping, and lifeless, as a flag on a masthead during the calm of
prosperity, but flutters, and flaps, and tosses when the wind blows and
the wave heaves, thought very acutely and remorsefully of the condition
of the Mortons, during the danger of his own son. So far, indeed, from
his anxiety for Arthur monopolising all his care, it only sharpened his
charity towards the orphans; for many a man becomes devout and good when
he fancies he has an Immediate interest in appeasing Providence. The
morning after Arthur’s accident, he sent for Mr. Blackwell. He
commissioned him to see that Catherine’s funeral rites were performed
with all due care and attention; he bade him obtain an interview with
Philip, and assure the youth of Mr. Beaufort’s good and friendly
disposition towards him, and to offer to forward his views in any course
of education he might prefer, or any profession he might adopt; and he
earnestly counselled the lawyer to employ all his tact and delicacy in
conferring with one of so proud and fiery a temper. Mr. Blackwell,
however, had no tact or delicacy to employ: he went to the house of
mourning, forced his way to Philip, and the very exordium of his
harangue, which was devoted to praises of the extraordinary generosity
and benevolence of his employer, mingled with condescending admonitions
towards gratitude from Philip, so exasperated the boy, that Mr. Blackwell
was extremely glad to get out of the house with a whole skin. He,
however, did not neglect the more formal part of his mission; but
communicated immediately with a fashionable undertaker, and gave orders
for a very genteel funeral. He thought after the funeral that Philip
would be in a less excited state of mind, and more likely to hear reason;
he, therefore, deferred a second interview with the orphan till after
that event; and, in the meanwhile, despatched a letter to Mr. Beaufort,
stating that he had attended to his instructions; that the orders for the
funeral were given; but that at present Mr. Philip Morton’s mind was a
little disordered, and that he could not calmly discuss the plans for the
future suggested by Mr. Beaufort. He did not doubt, however, that in
another interview all would be arranged according to the wishes his
client had so nobly conveyed to him. Mr. Beaufort’s conscience on this
point was therefore set at rest. It was a dull, close, oppressive
morning, upon which the remains of Catherine Morton were consigned to the
grave. With the preparations for the funeral Philip did not interfere;
he did not inquire by whose orders all that solemnity of mutes, and
coaches, and black plumes, and crape bands, was appointed. If his vague
and undeveloped conjecture ascribed this last and vain attention to
Robert Beaufort, it neither lessened the sullen resentment he felt
against his uncle, nor, on the other hand, did he conceive that he had a
right to forbid respect to the dead, though he might reject service for
the survivor. Since Mr. Blackwell’s visit, he had remained in a sort of
apathy or torpor, which seemed to the people of the house to partake
rather of indifference than woe.

The funeral was over, and Philip had returned to the apartments occupied
by the deceased; and now, for the first time, he set himself to examine
what papers, &c., she had left behind. In an old escritoire, he found,
first, various packets of letters in his father’s handwriting, the
characters in many of them faded by time. He opened a few; they were the
earliest love-letters. He did not dare to read above a few lines; so
much did their living tenderness, and breathing, frank, hearty passion,
contrast with the fate of the adored one. In those letters, the very
heart of the writer seemed to beat! Now both hearts alike were stilled!
And GHOST called vainly unto GHOST!

He came, at length, to a letter in his mother’s hand, addressed to
himself, and dated two days before her death. He went to the window and
gasped in the mists of the sultry air for breath. Below were heard the
noises of London; the shrill cries of itinerant vendors, the rolling
carts, the whoop of boys returned for a while from school. Amidst all
these rose one loud, merry peal of laughter, which drew his attention
mechanically to the spot whence it came; it was at the threshold of a
public-house, before which stood the hearse that had conveyed his
mother’s coffin, and the gay undertakers, halting there to refresh
themselves. He closed the window with a groan, retired to the farthest
corner of the room, and read as follows:

“MY DEAREST PHILIP,—When you read this, I shall be no more. You and
poor Sidney will have neither father nor mother, nor fortune, nor name.
Heaven is more just than man, and in Heaven is my hope for you. You,
Philip, are already past childhood; your nature is one formed, I think,
to wrestle successfully with the world. Guard against your own passions,
and you may bid defiance to the obstacles that will beset your path in
life. And lately, in our reverses, Philip, you have so subdued those
passions, so schooled the pride and impetuosity of your childhood, that I
have contemplated your prospects with less fear than I used to do, even
when they seemed so brilliant. Forgive me, my dear child, if I have
concealed from you my state of health, and if my death be a sudden and
unlooked-for shock. Do not grieve for me too long. For myself, my
release is indeed escape from the prison-house and the chain—from bodily
pain and mental torture, which may, I fondly hope, prove some expiation
for the errors of a happier time. For I did err, when, even from the
least selfish motives, I suffered my union with your father to remain
concealed, and thus ruined the hopes of those who had rights upon me
equal even to his. But, O Philip! beware of the first false steps into
deceit; beware, too, of the passions, which do not betray their fruit
till years and years after the leaves that look so green and the blossoms
that seem so fair.

“I repeat my solemn injunction—Do not grieve for me; but strengthen your
mind and heart to receive the charge that I now confide to you—my
Sidney, my child, your brother! He is so soft, so gentle, he has been so
dependent for very life upon me, and we are parted now for the first and
last time. He is with strangers; and—and—O Philip, Philip! watch over
him for the love you bear, not only to him, but to me! Be to him a
father as well as a brother. Put your stout heart against the world, so
that you may screen him, the weak child, from its malice. He has not
your talents nor strength of character; without you he is nothing. Live,
toil, rise for his sake not less than your own. If you knew how this
heart beats as I write to you, if you could conceive what comfort I take
for him from my confidence in you, you would feel a new spirit—my
spirit—my mother-spirit of love, and forethought, and vigilance, enter
into you while you read. See him when I am gone—comfort and soothe him.
Happily he is too young yet to know all his loss; and do not let him
think unkindly of me in the days to come, for he is a child now, and they
may poison his mind against me more easily than they can yours. Think,
if he is unhappy hereafter, he may forget how I loved him, he may curse
those who gave him birth. Forgive me all this, Philip, my son, and heed
it well.

“And now, where you find this letter, you will see a key; it opens a well
in the bureau in which I have hoarded my little savings. You will see
that I have not died in poverty. Take what there is; young as you are,
you may want it more now than hereafter. But hold it in trust for your
brother as well as yourself. If he is harshly treated (and you will go
and see him, and you will remember that he would writhe under what you
might scarcely feel), or if they overtask him (he is so young to work),
yet it may find him a home near you. God watch over and guard you both!
You are orphans now. But HE has told even the orphans to call him
‘Father!'”

When he had read this letter, Philip Morton fell upon his knees, and
prayed.

CHAPTER II.

          ”His curse! Dost comprehend what that word means?

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