« ForrigeFortsett »
demned when practised for a righteous end; and thus even the patriarch Abraham feigned Sarah to be his sister when they went down to Egypt.'
56 Ay, sir,' answered the Countess ; ' but God rebuked that deceit , even in the father of his chosen people, by the mouth of the heathen Pharaoh. Out upon you, that will read Scripture only to copy those things which are held out to us as warnings, not as examples !
“* But Sarah disputed not the will of her husband, an it be your pleasure," said Foster, in reply; but did as Abraham commanded, calling herself his sister, that it might be well with her husband for her sake, and that his soul might live because of her beauty.'
66. Now, so Heaven pardon me my useless anger,' answered the . Countess, thou art as daring a hypocrite as yonder fellow is an impudent deceiver. Never will I believe that the noble Dudley gave countenance to so dastardly, so dishonourable a plan. Thus I tread on his infamy, if his indeed it be, and thus destroy its remembrance for ever!'
“ So saying, she tore in pieces Leicester's letter, and stamped, in the extremity of impatience, as if she would have annihilated the minute fragments into which she had rent it.
““ Bear witness,' said Varney, collecting himselt, she has torn my lord's letter, in order to burthen me with the scheme of his devising; and although it promises nought but danger and trouble to me, she would lay it to my charge, as if I had any purpose of mine own in it.'
"• Thou liest, thou treacherous slave !' said Countess Amy, in spite of Janet's attempts to keep her silent, in the sad foresight that her vehemence might only furnish arms against herself. • Thou liest,' she continued— Let me go, Janet-Were it the last word I have to speak, he lies--he had his own foul ends to seek; and broader he would have displayed them, had my passion permitted me to preserve the silence which at first encouraged him to unfold his vile projects.
“*Madam,' said Varney, overwhelmed in spite of his effrontery, I entreat you to believe yourself mistaken.'
" As soon will I believe light darkness. Have I drank of oblivion ? Do I not remember former passages, which, known to Leicester, hal given thee the preferment of a gallows, instead of the honour of his intimacy.--I would I were a man but for five minutes ! It were space enough to make a craven like thee confess his villainy. But go begone~Tell thy master, that when I take the foul course to which such scandalous deceits as thou hast recommended on his behalf must necessarily lead me, I will give him a rival something worthy of the name. He shall not be supplanted by an ignominious lacquey, whose best fortune is to catch his master's last suit of clothes ere it is threadbare, and who is only fit to seduce a suburb-wench by the bravery of new roses in his master's old pantofles. Go, begone, sir-I scorn thee so much, that I am ashamed to have been angry with thee.” ? (Vol. ii. p. 244-250.)
VOL. XVII. NO. XXXIII. 2
There is, however, a considerable sprinkling of passages to be found in these volumes, in which the genius of the author asserts its high pretensions, and we lament that the little room we have to spare will not allow us to do him more justice by our extracts. We will, however, present to our readers one of these passages, in which the skill of this great artist, in exciting and sustaining the fever of breathless solicitude, and supreme emotion, is eminently displayed. It is in the interview which takes place during the fête at Kenilworth between the Earl and Countess, after a series of distressing misadventures and disappoint
“ Leicester, as it seemed to him, had reason to be angry with his lady for transgressing his commands, and thus placing him in the perilous situation in which he had that morning stood. But what displeasure could keep its ground before these testimonies of affection from a being so lovely, that even the negligence of dress, and the withering effects of fear and grief, which would have impaired the beauty of others, rendered her's but the more interesting. He received and repaid her caresses with fondness, mingled with melancholy, the last of which she seemned scarcely to observe, until the first transport of her own joy was over ; when, looking anxiously in his face, she asked if he
«« Not in my body, Amy,' was his answer.
“ " Then I will be well too.-0 Dudley! I have been ill !-very ill, since we last met!—for I call not this morning's horrible vision a meeting. I have been in sickness, in grief, and in danger-But thou art come, and all is joy, and health, and safety.'
"• Alas! Amy,' said Leicester, 'thou hast undone me!!
“« I, my lord,' said Amy, her cheek at once losing its transient flush of joy-how could I injure that which I love better than myself.'
“• I would not upbraid you, Amy,' replied the Earl ; ' but are you not here contrary to my express commands—and does not your presence here endanger both yourself and me?'
"• Does it, does it indeed !' she exclaimed eagerly; o then why am I here a moment longer? O if you knew by what fears I was urged to quit Cumnor Place !-but I will say nothing of myself-only that if it might be otherwise, I would not willingly return thither;
-yet if it concern your safety
6. We will think, Amy, of some other retreat,' said Leicester ; and you
shall go to one of my Northern castles, under the personage, - it will be but needful, I trust, for a very few days—of Varney's wife.'
“How, my Lord of Leicester !' said the lady, disengaging herself from his embraces ; . is it to your wife you give the dishonourable counsel to acknowledge herself the bride of another-and of all men, the bride of that Varney?'
« « Madam, I speak it in earnest-Varney is my true and faithful servant, trusted in my deepest secrets. I had better lose my right
hand than his service at this moment. You have no cause to scorn him as you do.'
“• I could assign one, my lord,' replied the Countess ; ' and I see he shakes even under that assured look of his. But he that is necessary as your right hand to your safety, is free from any accusation of mine. May he be true to you; and that he may be true, trust him not too much or too far. But it is enough to say, that I will not go with him unless by violence, nor would I acknowledge him as my husband, were all
" It is a temporary deception, madam,' said Leicester, irritated by her opposition, é necessary for both our safeties, endangered by you through female caprice, or the premature desire to seize on a rank to which I gave you title, only under condition that our marriage, for a time, should continue secret. If my proposal disgust you, it is yourself has brought it on both of us. There is no other remedy-you must do what your own impatient folly hath rendered necessary—I command you.'
“ 'I cannot put your commands, my lord,' said Amy, in balance with those of honour and conscience. I will not, in this instance, obey you. You may
achieve your own dishonour, to which these crooked policies naturally tend, but I will do nought that can blemish mine. How could you again, my lord, acknowledge me as a pure and chaste matron, worthy to share your fortunes, when, holding that high character, I had strolled the country the acknowledged wife of such a profligate fellow as your servant Varney!'
“. My lord,' said Varney interposing, 'my lady is too much prejudiced against me, unhappily, to listen to what I can offer; yet it may please her better than what she proposes. She has good interest with Master Edmund Tressilian, and could doubtless prevail on him to consent to be her companion to Lidcote-hall, and there she might remain in safety until time permitted the developement of this mystery.'
“ Leicester was silent, but stood looking eagerly on Amy, with eyes which seemed suddenly to glow as much with suspicion as displeasure.
“ The Countess only said, “Would to God I were in my father's house !-When I left it, I little thought I was leaving peace of mind and honour behind me.'
Varney proceeded with a tone of deliberation, · Doubtless this will make it necessary to take strangers into my lord's counsels ; but surely the Countess will be warrant for the honour of Master Tressilian, and such of her father's family
«« Peace, Varney,' said Leicester; 'by Heaven I will strike my dagger into thee, if again thou namest Tressilian as a partner of my counsels !"
""And wherefore not ?' said the Countess; unless they be counsels fitter for such as Varney, than for a man of stainless honour and integrity.--My lord, my lord, bend no angry brows on me—it is the truth, and it is I who speak it. I once did Tressilian wrong
your sake—I will not do him the further injustice of being silent when his honour is brought in question. I can forbear,' she said, looking at Varney, “to pull the mask off hypocrisy, but I will not permit virtụe to be slandered in my hearing.'
“ There was a dead pause. Leicester stood displeased, yet undetermined, and too conscious of the weakness of his cause; while Varney, with a deep and hypocritical affectation of sorrow, mingled with humility, bent his eyes on the ground.
“ It was then that the Countess Amy displayed, in the midst of distress and difficulty, the natural energy of character, which would have rendered her, had fate allowed, a distinguished ornament of the rank which she held. She walked up to Leicester with a composed step, a dignified air, and looks in which strong affection assayed in vain to shake the firmness of conscious truth and rectitude of principle. You have spoke your mind, any lord,” she said, “in these difficulties with which, unhappily, I have found myself unable to comply. This gentleman—this person I would say—has hinted at another scheme, to which I object not but as it displeases you. Will your lordship be pleased to hear what a young and timid woman, but your most affectionate wife, can suggest in the present extremity ?'
“ Leicester was silent, but bent his head towards the Countess, as an intimation that she was at liberty to proceed.
« « There hath been but one cause for all these evils, my lord,' she proceeded, and it resolves itself into the mysterious duplicity with which you have been induced to surround yourself. Extricate yourself at once, my lord, from the tyranny of these disgraceful trammels. Be like a true English gentleman, knight, and earl, who holds that truth is the foundation of honour, and that honour is dear to him as the breath of his nostrils. Take your ill-fated wife by the hand, lead her to the footstool of Elizabeth's throne-Say, that in a moment of infatuation, moved by supposed beauty, of which none perhaps can now trace even the remains, I gave my hand to this Amy Robsart.—You will then have done justice to me, my lord, and to your own honour; and should law or power require you to part from me, I will oppose no objection-since I may then with honour hide a grieved and broken heart in those shades from which your love withdrew me.'
“ There was so much of dignity, so much of tenderness in the Countess's remonstrance, that it moved all that was noble and generous in the soul of her husband. The scales seemed to fall from his
and the duplicity and tergiversation of which he had been guilty, stung him at once with remorse and shame.
"I am not worthy of you, Amy,' he said, that could weigh aught which ambition has to give against such a heart as thine. I have a bitter penance to perform, in disentangling, before sneering foes, and astounded friends, all the meshes of my own deceitful policy.—And the Queen-but let her take my head, as she has threatened.'
". Your head, my lord !' said the Countess ; ' because you used the freedom and liberty of an English subject in chusing a wife? For shame; it is this distrust of the Queen's justice, this apprehension of danger, which cannot but be imaginary, that, like scare-crows, have induced you to forsake the straight-forward path, which, as it is the best, is also the safest.'
“Ah, Amy, thou little knowest !' said Dudley; but, instantly checking himself, he added, " Yet she shall not find in me a safe or easy victim of arbitrary vengeance-I have friends I have allies- I will not, like Norfolk, be dragged to the block, as a victim to sacrifice. Fear not, Amy; thou shalt see Dudley bear himself worthy of his name. I must instantly communicate with some of those friends on whom I can best rely; for, as things stand, I may be made prisoner in my own Castle.'
“60, my good lord,' said Amy, make no faction in a peaceful state! There is no friend can help us so well as our own candid truth and honour. Bring but these to our assistance, and you are safe amidst a whole army of the envious and malignant. Leave these behind you, and all other defence will be fruitless— Truth, my noble lord, is well painted unarmed.'
" But Wisdom, Amy,' answered Leicester, is arrayed in panoply of proof. Argue not with me on the means I shall use to render my confession-since it must be called so--as safe as may be ; it will be fraught with enough of danger, do what we will.-Varney, we must hence.-Farewell, Amy, whom I am to vindicate as mine own, at an expence and risk of which thou alone could'st be worthy. You shall soon hear farther from me.' (Vol. iii. 186–195.)
We find it quite impossible to extend our remarks upon this fresh emanation from the brain of this inexhaustible story-teller. The intervals between his productions are indeed scarcely long enough to allow us to finish the perusal of one before another challenges its place. An inventive faculty so redundant, so teeming and swarming with products and births, was never yet displayed to the world; it is in itself a great curiosity, and may well engage the attention of craniologists, in ascertaining the conformation by which Nature provided room for this prodigious intellectual laboratory. It is not to be dissembled, however, that something is sacrificed to this precipitancy of authorship. Much that this writer has produced is crude and ill-concocted. The volumes before us are evidently done in a spirit of book-making, not quite consistent with the dignity of genius, or the respect due to that countless multitude by whom he is read and rewarded.