« PreviousContinue »
"Oh yes they will; I have no desires now but to live without worry, and die in some good hard fight in harness, like my father."
Alma struck him on the arm with his own riding switch, which she had taken from him to play with the kitten.
"You are naughty and cruel: you say that only to vex me. Do you suppose at thirty-five that you have done with life?"
"Done with life! Certainly not, unless I come to a violent death, as most of my ancestors have done before me. No, my health and my strength are perfect, thank Heaven, notwithstanding I have done my best to impair them; but I have excluded passions, desires, and impulses out of my life-they cost me a vast deal too dear."
Alma looked at him incredulously, with her eyebrows raised.
"I should have thought you too clever a man of the world to talk such folly," said the little lady, impatiently. "In all the vigour, strength, and glory of early manhood, do you suppose it possible for you to ice yourself into a deliberate lifeless stoicism closing round you, as its stony home shuts in the lily-encrimite? You may fancy your nature is chilled for ever (though why it should be I cannot imagine), but be very sure it will rouse itself sooner or later."
"I hope not, that's all I can say," returned De Vigne; "but though you may wake up a sleeping dog, you can't a dead one; don't you know that, young lady ?"
"But from a dead phoenix there will rise a new one."
"A phoenix! an unreal thing, a poetic myth! You choose your metaphor badly for your theory, like all these enthusiasts, Curly, eh? Pin them to fact, they are undone in a moment. What! are you going? I'll come with you—that is, if you are going back to town."
"Yes I am," said Curly. "I'm going to a confounded déjeûner in Palace-gardens, that little flirt's, Jerry Mab, I beg her pardon, the Honourable Geraldine Maberly. I shall barely get back in time; it's one o'clock, I vow. How time slips in some places. If I promise to leave compliments, i. e. in your case, truth, behind me, may I not come again? Pray be merciful, and allow me."
"How can I prevent you?" said Alma, in a laughing unconsciousness of Curly's meaning glances. "Certainly, come if you like; it is kind of you to think of it, for I am very dull here all alone. I am no philosopher, you know, and cannot make a virtue of necessity, and pretend to take my tub and cabbage-leaves in preference to a causeuse and delicate mayonnaise."
Capricious, like all your sex. You are asking for compliments now, Alma. On ne loue d'ordinaire que pour être loué," said De Vigne, dryly.
"Am I? I did not mean it so," answered the girl, innocently.
"Nor did I take it so," said Curly, bending towards her as he took her hand; "so I shall not try to say how much I thank you for your permission, but only avail myself of it as often as I can, for the kindness will certainly be to me."
De Vigne stood looking disdainfully on, stroking his moustaches, and thinking, I dare say, what arrant flirts all women were at heart, and what fools men were to pander to their vanities.
He bid her good morning with that careless hauteur which he had often with everybody else but very rarely with the Little Tressillian.
Curly's horse was at the door, but his groom had ridden further down the road with De Vigne's. While he stood at the door waiting for it, he heard Alma's voice :
"Come back a minute."
He went back, as in courtesy bound.
"Did you want me ?"
"Yes. Why did you speak so crossly to me ?"
"I, crossly! I was not aware of it."
"But I was, and it was not kind of you, Sir Folko."
"Why will you persist in calling me like that knight sans peur et sans reproche ?" said De Vigne, impatiently. "I tell you I have nothing in common with him-with his pure life and his spotless shield. He did no evil; I do-Heaven knows how much! He surmounted his temptations; I have always succumbed to mine. He had a conscience at ease; mine, if it were a tender one, might be as great a torture as the rack. His past was one of wise thoughts and noble deeds; mine can show neither the one nor the other."
"Of your life you know best; but in your character I choose to see the resemblance, if you choose to see the difference, between you and Montfauçon," replied Alma, always resolute to her own opinion. "Was he not a man of experience, a man who feared nothing, who was fierce to his foes and generous to those who trusted him? As for his past, he had probably drawn experience from error, as men ever do, and learnt wisdom out of folly. And as for his stainless shield, is not your haughty De Vigne crest as unsullied as when it passed to you?"
"No," said De Vigne, fiercely. "My folly stained it, and the stain is the curse of my life. Child, why did you speak of such things? If you care for my friendship, you must never speak to me of my past."
His face was stern, his dark eyes stormy, and full of the gloom and remorseful pride her words had suddenly awakened-deadly memories were stirring up in him. Most women might have been afraid of him in his haughty anger. She was not. She looked up at him, bewildered, it is true, but with a strange mingling of girlish tenderness and woman's passion, both unconscious of themselves.
"Oh, I will not! Do forgive me. You know I would never willingly say anything to anger you. You do believe me, don't you?" Yes, yes, I believe you," said De Vigne, hastily. "Don't exalt me into a god, Alma, that's all, for I am very mortal. Good-by, petite."
He laid his hand on her shoulder with the familiar kindness he had imperceptibly grown into with her, natural to his earlier nature, but very exceptional with his present one; he could hardly look into the clear brilliance of her dark blue eyes and doubt her-doubt, at least, that she now meant what she said, whether or no she would keep to it.
In another second he was across his horse's back, and riding out of the court-yard with Curly, while Alma stood in the doorway looking after him, shading her eyes from the May sun, which touched up her golden hair and her picturesque bright-hued dress into a brilliant tableau, under the low, dark, brown porch of her cottage home.
Curly rode on quietly for some little way, busying his mind with rolling the leaves round a Manilla, and lighting it en route, while De Vigne puffed away at a giant Havannah, between regulating which, and keeping his fidgety Grey Derby quiet (he usually rode horses that would
have thrown any other man but him or M. Rarey), he had little leisure for road-side conversation.
At last Curly broke silence, twisting his long blonde moustaches with a puzzled smile, and flicking his mare's ears thoughtfully with his whip. "Well, De Vigne! I don't know what to make of it!"
"Don't know what to make of what?" demanded De Vigne, curtly. He was a little impatient with his Frestonhills pet. One may not care two straws for pheasant-shooting-nay, one may even have sprained one's arm, so that it is a physical impossibility to lift an Enfield to one's shoulder-and yet so dog-in-mangerish is human nature that one could kick a fellow who ventures to come in and touch a head of our défendu or uncared-for game.
"Of that little thing," returned Curly, musingly. "I don't understand her."
"Why very possibly? I know a good deal of women, good, bad, and indifferent, but I'll be hanged if I can understand that Little Tressillian. She's so different, somehow, to all the rest of 'em. She has so much sense in her, and yet she is full of life and nonsense. She can touch on all sorts of queer subjects, and speak about a man's life without a trace of boldness. She is so frank and free one might take no end of advantage of her; and yet, somehow, deuce take it, one can't. The girl's truth and fearlessness are more protection to her than other women's pruderies and chevaux-de-frise."
De Vigne did not answer, but smoked his Havannah silently; probably because he thought with Curly, but was not going to say so.
"She is a little darling," resumed Curly, meditatively. "That's the sort of girl I've dreamed about, De Vigne. One feels a better fellow with her-eh ?"
"Can't say," replied De Vigne. "I have generally looked on young ladies, for inflammable boys like you, as dangerous stimulants rather than as calming tonics."
"Confound your matter-of-fact," swore Curly. "You may laugh at it if you like, but I mean it. She makes me think of things that one pooh-poohs and forgets in the bustle of the world. She's a vast lot too good to be shut up in that brown old house, with only a kitten to play with, and an old nurse to take care of her."
"She seems to have made an impression on you!" said De Vigne, dryly.
"Certainly she has!" said Curly, gaily. "And, 'pon my life, what makes still more impression on me, De Vigne, is, that you and I, two as wild fellows as ever lived, and pretty well as unscrupulous in that line, I should say, as that much-abused chap, Don Juan, should be going calling on that little thing, and chatting with her as harmlessly as if she were our sister, when we ought to be making desperate love to her, if she hadn't such confounded dear trusting eyes of hers that they make one ashamed of one's own thoughts. 'Pon my life, it's very extraordinary!" "If extraordinary, it is only a man's honour," said De Vigne, with his coldest hauteur, "towards a young, guileless girl, utterly unprotected, save by her own defencelessness-the best protection to any right-feeling For my own part, as a 'married man' (how cold his sneer always grew at those words!), I have no right to enter the lists' with you, as
you poetically phrased it to-day, even supposing my experiences of passion did not make me, as they do, renounce all such affairs, with no merit in the renunciation; and for yourself, you are too true a gentleman, Curly, though it is our way' to be unscrupulous in such matters, to take unfair advantage of my introduction of you to a girl who is a lady, and deserves to be treated as such, though she has not the entourages of wealth and position to command respect; and, indeed, if you did, I, to whom Mr. Tressillian appealed for what slight assistance I have it in my power to afford her, should hold myself responsible for having made you known to her, and should be bound to take the insult as to myself."
Curly, at the beginning of De Vigne's very calm, but very grandiose speech, opened his lazy violet eyes, and stared at him; but as he went on, all Curly's warmer feelings, and all the native delicacy and generosity that lay at the heart of this young "Adonis of the Guards," too deep for his life to score them out, roused up, and he turned to his old Frestonhills hero with his smile, so young in its brightness:
"Quite right, De Vigne. You are a brick; and if I do any harm to that dear Little Tressillian, I give you free leave to shoot me dead like a dog, and should richly deserve it, too. But go and see her I must, for she is worth all the women we shall meet at Jerry's to-day, though they do count themselves the crême de la crême."
"The crême de la crême can be, at the best, only skim," said De Vigne, with his ready fling of sarcasm; "but I am not going to the Maberlys', thank you. Early strawberries and late on dits are both flavourless to my taste; the fault of my own palate, perhaps. I shall go and lunch at the U. S., and play a game or two at pool. How much better I should like billiards, if one could progress; but after the first year or two a man has reached his perfection in it, and then he stands still till his eyes and arms fail him. How pleasant the wind is! Grey Derby wants a gallop, let's give him his way."
Palamon and Arcite were not truer or warmer friends than De Vigne and Curly; but, when a woman's face dazzled the eyes of both, the death-blow was struck to friendship, and the seeds of feud were sown.
BISHOP DOYLE'S LIFE AND CORRESPONDENCE.*
BIOGRAPHY is one of the noblest, as it is probably the most useful, branch of literature. The teaching of example, for good or evil, is proverbially powerful-happily, however, more powerful for good when shown in the pages of the biographer. Even the meanest and worst of men feel some sense of veneration, some faint stirring of noble emulation, when they read of the struggles and triumphs, the life battles and vic
The Life, Times, and Correspondence of the Right Reverend Dr. Doyle, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. By William John Fitzpatrick, J.P., author of "The Life, Times, and Contemporaries of Lord Cloncurry," "Lady Morgan, her Career, Literary and Personal," &c. Two Vols. James Duffy, Paternoster-row. 1861.
tories of men who have left illustrious names; and the aspiring and wisely-ambitious are stimulated to fresh ardour and sustained to newer and loftier aims. Other departments of literature may offer more attractions to the author, give greater play to the imagination and wider scope for genius; but in none can a more solid reputation be gained, in none more honourably and fairly earned, than by him of whom it can be justly said that he was a spirited and honest biographer.
Biography formed the favourite reading of Dr. Johnson, and Lord Bacon regrets that the lives of eminent men are not more frequently written, "for," adds he, "though kings, princes, and great personages are few, yet there are many other excellent men who deserve better than vague reports and barren eulogies."
In reading the lives of great men we live again in the past; we see the course of events, sometimes shaping, sometimes being shaped, by their sentiments and actions; we tremble at their temptations, we sympathise with their weakness, we glow with their triumphs, we glory in their success, and having followed the great current of their lives from the cradle to the grave, we sit down to meditation, and rise with vigorous determination to emulate in our own sphere their virtues and their fame.
Honourable, then, and dignified in a high degree, are the labours of the biographer who rescues from neglect, perhaps from oblivion, the memory of great, even of remarkable, men; who clears away from that inscription, which every man whose life is worth recording leaves behind him on the great face of time, the grime and dust of prejudice, misrepresentation, and falsehood, and the traces of neglect, even more deplorable than these, and gives to the world the mighty and instructive lesson of a great and glorious life.
James Doyle was born into the world, of Roman Catholic parents, at a time when to belong to that faith was to be placed under a ban and to be assigned an inferior position in the social scale. True, the bitter severity of the extreme penal laws had been relaxed, some little title to the name and status of a common humanity had been recognised in the Catholic, and he could hold land, at first for a term of years, and subsequently-by a bountiful concession-in fee.
Five years after the birth of James Doyle, the Roman Catholics of the sister isle, with bated breath and almost servile humility, were content to bound the horizon of their hopes and wishes with admission to the profession of the law, capacity to serve as county magistrates, the right of serving on petty and grand juries, and of voting, with large restrictions, in counties at the election of Protestant members of parliament.
In the year 1793, a bill for their relief was passed, and the compassion of the donors outstripping the petition of the mendicants, Catholics were accorded the privilege of spilling their blood in the field and on the battle deck beside their Protestant countrymen-they were permitted to hold army and navy.
commissions in the
In 1829, the "Relief Bill" was passed, to which is usually attributed all the large effects of Roman Catholic emancipation, though, in truth, the chief part of the battle had been fought and won in 1793.
The act of 1829 is not, indeed, so memorable for its provisions, as the speakings and the writings of the men who laboured for its enactment are signal and meritorious.