Alice, or the Mysteries — Book 11

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BOOK XI.

“Man is born to be a doer of good.”—MARCUS ANTONINUS, lib. iii.

CHAPTER I.

            His teeth he still did grind,

  And grimly gnash, threatening revenge in vain.—SPENSER.

IT is now time to return to Lord Vargrave. His most sanguine hopes were
realized; all things seemed to prosper. The hand of Evelyn Cameron was
pledged to him, the wedding-day was fixed. In less than a week she was
to confer upon the ruined peer a splendid dowry, that would smooth all
obstacles in the ascent of his ambition. From Mr. Douce he learned that
the deeds, which were to transfer to himself the baronial possessions of
the head of the house of Maltravers, were nearly completed; and on his
wedding-day he hoped to be able to announce that the happy pair had set
out for their princely mansion of Lisle Court. In politics; though
nothing could be finally settled till his return, letters from Lord
Saxingham assured him that all was auspicious: the court and the heads of
the aristocracy daily growing more alienated from the premier, and more
prepared for a Cabinet revolution. And Vargrave, perhaps, like most
needy men, overrated the advantages he should derive from, and the
servile opinions he should conciliate in, his new character of landed
proprietor and wealthy peer. He was not insensible to the silent anguish
that Evelyn seemed to endure, nor to the bitter gloom that hung on the
brow of Lady Doltimore. But these were clouds that foretold no
storm,—light shadows that obscured not the serenity of the favouring
sky. He continued to seem unconscious to either; to take the coming
event as a matter of course, and to Evelyn he evinced so gentle,
unfamiliar, respectful, and delicate an attachment, that he left no
opening, either for confidence or complaint. Poor Evelyn! her gayety,
her enchanting levity, her sweet and infantine playfulness of manner,
were indeed vanished. Pale, wan, passive, and smileless, she was the
ghost of her former self! But days rolled on, and the evil one drew
near; she recoiled, but she never dreamed of resisting. How many equal
victims of her age and sex does the altar witness!

One day, at early noon, Lord Vargrave took his way to Evelyn’s. He had
been to pay a political visit in the Faubourg St. Germain, and he was now
slowly crossing the more quiet and solitary part of the gardens of the
Tuileries, his hands clasped behind him, after his old, unaltered habit,
and his eyes downcast,—when suddenly a man, who was seated alone beneath
one of the trees, and who had for some moments watched his steps with an
anxious and wild aspect, rose and approached him. Lord Vargrave was not
conscious of the intrusion, till the man laid his hand on Vargrave’s arm,
and exclaimed,—

“It is he! it is! Lumley Ferrers, we meet again!”

Lord Vargrave started and changed colour, as he gazed on the intruder.

“Ferrers,” continued Cesarini (for it was he), and he wound his arm
firmly into Lord Vargrave’s as he spoke, “you have not changed; your step
is light, your cheek healthful; and yet I—you can scarcely recognize me.
Oh, I have suffered so horribly since we parted! Why is this? Why have
I been so heavily visited, and why have you gone free? Heaven is not
just!”

Castruccio was in one of his lucid intervals; but there was that in his
uncertain eye, and strange unnatural voice, which showed that a breath
might dissolve the avalanche. Lord Vargrave looked anxiously round; none
were near: but he knew that the more public parts of the garden were
thronged, and through the trees he saw many forms moving in the distance.
He felt that the sound of his voice could summon assistance in an
instant, and his assurance returned to him.

“My poor friend,” said he soothingly, as he quickened his pace, “it
grieves me to the heart to see you look ill; do not think so much of what
is past.”

“There is no past!” replied Cesarini, gloomily. “The Past is my Present!
And I have thought and thought, in darkness and in chains, over all that
I have endured, and a light has broken on me in the hours when they told
me I was mad! Lumley Ferrers, it was not for my sake that you led me,
devil as you are, into the lowest hell! You had some object of your own
to serve in separating her from Maltravers. You made me your
instrument. What was I to you that you should have sinned for my sake?
Answer me, and truly, if those lips can utter truth!”

“Cesarini,” returned Vargrave, in his blandest accents, “another time we
will converse on what has been; believe me, my only object was your
happiness, combined, it may be, with my hatred of your rival.”

“Liar!” shouted Cesarini, grasping Vargrave’s arm with the strength of
growing madness, while his burning eyes were fixed upon his tempter’s
changing countenance. “You, too, loved Florence; you, too, sought her
hand; you were my real rival!”

“Hush! my friend, hush!” said Vargrave, seeking to shake off the grip of
the maniac, and becoming seriously alarmed; “we are approaching the
crowded part of the gardens, we shall be observed.”

“And why are men made my foes? Why is my own sister become my
persecutor? Why should she give me up to the torturer and the dungeon?
Why are serpents and fiends my comrades? Why is there fire in my brain
and heart; and why do you go free and enjoy liberty and life? Observed!
What care you for observation? All men search for me!”

“Then why so openly expose yourself to their notice; why—”

“Hear me!” interrupted Cesarini. “When I escaped from the horrible
prison into which I was plunged; when I scented the fresh air, and
bounded over the grass; when I was again free in limbs and spirit,—a
sudden strain of music from a village came on my ear, and I stopped
short, and crouched down, and held my breath to listen. It ceased; and I
thought I had been with Florence, and I wept bitterly! When I recovered,
memory came back to me distinct and clear; and I heard a voice say to me,
‘Avenge her and thyself!’ From that hour the voice has been heard again,
morning and night! Lumley Ferrers, I hear it now! it speaks to my heart,
it warms my blood, it nerves my hand! On whom should vengeance fall?
Speak to me!”

Lumley strode rapidly on. They were now without the grove; a gay throng
was before them. “All is safe,” thought the Englishman. He turned
abruptly and haughtily on Cesarini, and waved his hand; “Begone, madman!”
said he, in a loud and stern voice,—”begone! vex me no more, or I give
you into custody. Begone, I say!”

Cesarini halted, amazed and awed for the moment; and then, with a dark
scowl and a low cry, threw himself on Vargrave. The eye and hand of the
latter were vigilant and prepared; he grasped the uplifted arm of the
maniac, and shouted for help. But the madman was now in his full fury;
he hurled Vargrave to the ground with a force for which the peer was not
prepared, and Lumley might never have risen a living man from that spot,
if two soldiers, seated close by, had not hastened to his assistance.
Cesarini was already kneeling on his breast, and his long bony fingers
were fastening upon the throat of his intended victim. Torn from his
hold, he glared fiercely on his new assailants; and after a fierce but
momentary struggle, wrested himself from their grip. Then, turning round
to Vargrave, who had with some effort risen from the ground, he shrieked
out, “I shall have thee yet!” and fled through the trees and disappeared.

CHAPTER II.

  AH, who is nigh? Come to me, friend or foe!

  My parks, my walks, my manors that I had,

  Ev’n now forsake me.—HENRY VI. Part iii.

LORD VARGRAVE, bold as he was by nature, in vain endeavoured to banish
from his mind the gloomy impression which the startling interview with
Cesarini had bequeathed. The face, the voice of the maniac, haunted him,
as the shape of the warning wraith haunts the mountaineer. He returned
at once to his hotel, unable for some hours to collect himself
sufficiently to pay his customary visit to Miss Cameron. Inly resolving
not to hazard a second meeting with the Italian during the rest of his
sojourn at Paris by venturing in the streets on foot, he ordered his
carriage towards evening; dined at the Cafe de Paris; and then re-entered
his carriage to proceed to Lady Doltimore’s house.

“I beg your pardon, my lord,” said his servant, as he closed the
carriage-door, “but I forgot to say that, a short time after you returned
this morning, a strange gentleman asked at the porter’s lodge if Mr.
Ferrers was not staying at the hotel. The porter said there was no Mr.
Ferrers, but the gentleman insisted upon it that he had seen Mr. Ferrers
enter. I was in the lodge at the moment, my lord, and I explained—”

“That Mr. Ferrers and Lord Vargrave are one and the same? What sort of
looking person?”

“Thin and dark, my lord,—evidently a foreigner. When I said that you

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