Page images

“She will never face the live elephants," said Maria, her lips smiling at the joke, as she endeavoured to be gay and hopeful as George was. But the effort utterly failed. A vision came over her of George there alone ; berself in the cold grave, whither she believed she was surely hastening; Meta—ay, what of Meta ?

“ Oh, George ! if I might but get strong! if I might but live to go!" she cried, in a wail of agony.

“Hush, hush! Maria, hush! I must not scold you; but indeed it is not right to give way to these low spirits. That of itself will keep you back. Shall I take you up to town with me now, to-morrow, just for a week's change? I know it would partially bring you round, and we'd make shift in my rooms for the time. Margery will take care of Meta here."

She knew how worse than useless was the thought of attempting it; she saw that George could not be brought to understand her excessive weakness. A faint hope came across her that, now that the uncertainty of his future prospects was removed, she might grow better. That uncertainty had been distressing her sick heart for months. .

She subdued her emotion and sat down in the chair quietly, saying that she was not strong enough to go up with him this time, it would be a change in one sense for her, she added, the thinking of the new life; and then she began to talk of other things.

“ Did you see Reginald before he sailed po
" Not immediately before it, I think.”
“ You are aware that he has gone as common seaman."

“ Yes. By the way, there's no knowing what I may be able to do for Regy out there. And for Isaac too, perhaps. Once I am in a good position I shall be able to assist them and I'll do it. Regy hates the sea: I'll get him something more to his taste in Calcutta."

Maria's face flushed with bope, and she clasped her nervous hands together. “If you could, George! how thankful I should be! I · think of poor Regy and his hard life night and day."

“ Which is not good for you by any means, young lady. I wish you'd get out of that habit of thinking and fretting about others. It has been just poor Thomas's fault.”

She answered by a faint smile. “Has Thomas given you his ring ?" she asked.

"He gave it me this afternoon,” replied George, taking it from his pocket. It was a ring with a bright green stone, on which was engraved the arms of the Godolphins. Sir George had worn it always, and it came to Thomas at his death: now it had come to George.

“ You do not wear it, George.”

“ Not yet. I cannot bear to put it on my finger while Thomas lives. In point of fact, I have no right to do 80—at least, to use the signet: it pertains exclusively to the head of the Godolphins."

* Do you see Mrs. Pain often ?" Maria presently said, with apparent indifference. But George little knew the fluttering emotion that had been working within, or the effort it had taken to subdue it ere the question could be put.

“ I see her sometimes ; not often. She gets me to ride with her in the Park now and then."

* Does she intend to continue to reside with the Verralls ?! · I suppose so. I have not heard her mention anything about it.”

« George, I have often wondered where Mrs. Pain's money comes from," Maria resumed, in a dreamy tone. " It was said in the old days, you know, that the report of her having thirty thousand pounds' fortune was false; that she had none."

“I don't believe she had a penny," returned George. “As to her income, I fancy it is drawn from Verrall. Mrs. Pain's husband was connected in some business way with Verrall, and perhaps she still benefits. I know nothing whatever, but I have often thought it must be so. Hark! Listen!"

George raised his hand as he abruptly spoke, for a distant sound had broken upon his ear. Springing to the window he threw it open. The death-bell of All Souls' was booming out over Prior's Ash.

Before a word was spoken by him or by his wife ; before George could still the emotion that was thumping at his heart, Margery came in with a scared face : in her flurry, her sudden grief, she addressed him as she had been accustomed to address him in his boyhood.

“Do you hear it, Master George ? That's the passing-bell! It is for him. There's nobody else within ten miles that they'd trouble to have the bell tolled for at nigh ten o'clock at night. The master of Ashlydyat's gone."

She sat down on a chair, regardless of the presence of her master and mistress, and flinging her apron over her face, burst into a storm of sobs.

A voice in the passage outside aroused her, for she recognised it as Bexley's. George opened the room door, and the old man came in.

“It is all over, sir," he said, his manner strangely still, his voice unnaturally calm and low, as is sometimes the case where emotion is striven to be suppressed. “Miss Janet bade me come to you with the tidings."

George's bearing was suspiciously quiet too. “ It is very sudden, Bexley,” he presently rejoined.

Maria had risen and stood with one hand leaning on the table, her eyes strained on Bexley, her white face turned to him. Margery never moved.

" Very sudden, sir: and get my mistress did not seem unprepared for it. He took his tea with her, and was so cheerful and well over it, that I declare I began to hope he had taken a fresh turn. Soon afterwards Miss Bessy came back, and I heard her laughing in the room as she told them some story that had been related to her by Lady Godol. phin. Presently my mistress called me in, to give me directions about a little matter she wanted done to-morrow, and while she was speaking to me, Miss Bessy cried out. We turned round and saw her leaning over my master. He had slipped back in his chair powerless, and I hastened to raise and support him. Death was in his face, sir; there was no mistaking it; but he was quite conscious, quite sensible, and smiled at us. 'I must say farewell to you,' he said, and Miss Bessy burst into a fit of sobs; but my mistress kneeled down quietly before him, and took his hands in hers, and said, 'Thomas, is the moment come?' 'Yes, it is come,' he answered, and he tried to look

round at Miss Bessy, who stood a little behind his chair. "Don't grieve,' he said, 'I am going on first,' but she only sobbed the more.

Good-by, my dear ones,' he continued ; 'good-by, Bexley; I shall wait for you all, as I know I am being waited for. Fear ? he went on, for Miss Bessy sobbed out something that sounded like the word, · fear, when I am going to God !—when I saw Jesus—Jesus— ?"

Bexley fairly broke down with a great burst, and the tears were rolling silently over Maria's cheeks. George wheeled round to the window and stood there with his back to them. Presently Bexley mastered himself and resumed: Margery had come forward then and taken her apron from before her eyes.

“It was the last word he spoke, Jesus.' His voice ceased, his hands fell, and the eyelids dropped. There was no struggle ; nothing but a long gentle breath ; and he died with the smile upon his lips."

“He had cause to smile,” interjected Margery, the words coming from her in jerks. “If ever a man has gone to his rest in heaven it is Mr. Godolphin. He had more than his share of sorrow in this world, and God has took him to a better.”

Every feeling in George's heart echoed to the words,-every pulse beat in wild sorrow for the death of his good brother,-every sting that remorse could bring pricked him with the consciousness of his own share in it. He thrust his burning face beyond the window into the cool night; he raised his eyes to the blue canopy of heaven, serene and fair in the moonlight, almost as if he saw in imagination the redeemed soul winging its flight thither. He pressed his hands upon his throbbing breast to still its emotion ; but for the greatest exercise of self-control he would have burst into sobs, as Bexley had done; and it may be that he; he, careless George Godolphin; breathed forth a yearning cry to Heaven to be pardoned his share of the past. If Thomas, in his changed condition, could look down upon him, now, with his loving eyes, his ever-forgiving spirit, he would know how bitter and genuine, how full of anguish, were these regrets!

George leaned his head on the side of the window to subdue his emotion, to gather the outward calmness that man likes not to have ruffled before the world; he listened to the strokes of the passing-bell, ringing out so sharply in the still night air : and every separate stroke was laden with its weight of pain.



If ever, says Voltaire, there was any one happy on earth, it was Fleury. "He was considered one of the most amiable and sociable of men till seventy-three, and at that usual age of retirement, came to be respected as one of the wisest.” From 1726 to 1742, adds the historian,* everything throve in his hands, and till almost a nonagenarian his mind continued clear, discerning, and fit for business.

We are told that Fleury's conduct in his diocese, as Bishop of Fréjus, had been so benevolent, regular, and exemplary, as to attract universal love and respect; and that he was pointed out by public opinion, not less than by some Court cabals, to the dying Grand Monarque, as the preceptor for his infant great-grandson and successor, Lewis the Fifteenth.

During the Regency,—to follow Earl Stanhope's narrative,-Fleury “ behaved with so much prudence and circumspection, as not to offend either Orleans or Dubois : he never thrust himself into any State or Court intrigues, and only zealously discharged the duties of his trust. Gradually he gained an absolute control over the mind of his pupil, and when Bourbon came to the helm, was desired always to assist at the conferences of the Monarch and the Minister. Nor was his ascendancy weakened by his pupil's marriage ; for the young Queen, of timid and shrinking temper, and zealous only in her devotions, took no great part in politics. Fleury would probably have found no difficulty in removing the Duke of Bourbon at an earlier period, but thought it better to let circumstances work for him, and be carried down the propitious current of events. • Time and I against any two others,' was a favourite saying of the crafty Mazarin.

“ Fleury, therefore, allowed the attack to come from the opposite quarter. Bourbon contrived to draw the young Queen to his party, and made a joint application to his Majesty, that he might transact business without the intervention of Fleury. On learning this cabal, Fleury, sure of his ground, but affecting great meekness, took leave of the King by letter, and retired to his country house at Issy. There he remained for one day in apparent disgrace. But it was only for one day. Louis, in the utmost concern at his loss, gave positive orders to Bourbon to invite him back to Court, which the Minister did accordingly, with many expressions of friendship and of wonder at his sudden retirement.f Yet in June, 1726, he was again combining an attack upon this valued friend, when Fleury discovered and crushed him, and obtained, without difficulty, his dismissal from office and banishment to Chantilly.” I .

From which period dates the "justly famous administration of Fleury" - signalised by historians as a new era of peace and prosperity to France.

• Siècle de Louis XIV., ch. iii..

† Hor. Walpole to Lord Townshend, Dec. 24, 1725, and Duclos, Mém., vol. iii. P. 364.

| History of England, by Lord Mahon, vol. ii. p. 100 sq. Third edit.

There is a passage in Mr. Carlyle's History of Frederick the Great, in which the reader's attention is called to the year 1726, wherein Cardinal Fleury began his long supremacy in the state ; " an aged reverend gentleman, of sly, delicately cunning ways, and disliking war, as George I. did, unless when forced on him: now and henceforth, no mediating power more anxious than France to have the ship in trim."* Ten years later, the same historian has to show us France, after nibbling for several centaries, in the act of swallowing Lorraine whole. “Cunning Fleury has swallowed it whole. “That was what he meant in picking this quarrel ! said Teutschland, mournfully. Fleury was very pacific, candid in aspect to the Sea-Powers and others; and did not crow afflictively, did not say what he had meant.”+

It is of the Silesian question, vexed by and vexing all the Powers in 1741, that Macaulay is treating when he remarks of the Cardinal, that the voice of Fleury had always been for peace; that he had a conscience; and that now, in extreme old age, he was unwilling, after a life " which, when his situation was considered, must be pronounced singularly pure, to carry the fresh stain of a great crime before the tribunal of his God.”

Three Cardinals have reigned in France, observes M. Arsène Houssaye, -Richelieu, Mazarin, Fleury. Three Churchmen, three Statesmen. With less of genius than the two former, Fleury had the art of proving sufficient unto the day and the demands thereof; and without resorting to the axe, like Richelieu, or to intrigue, like Mazarin, he continued their work of isolating the crown by lowering the noblesse. Cardinal Fleury, says this critic, was afraid of what he called a ministère historique. He had no contempt for future celebrity, but it was not at all to his mind to be written about by his contemporaries. He liked silence, and would often repeat an apophthegm of the “Imitation," namely, “ Ama nesciri," -In his horror of noise, he would have no governmental authorities round about him but simple commis. He dreaded innovators, and said that every new idea contains within itself a tempest - "failing to see that the tempest forms the fertilising torrent.” It was his belief that Law had been the ruin of France, "Law, qui avait été le torrent fécond éparpillant des parcelles d'or là où l'or n'était jamais venu.”—But the historian avows his sympathies to be due to a Minister who consciously and designedly laboured for the people only; who read the Gospels more frequently than Machiavel, and who said with l'Abbé de Saint-Pierre that your true soldiers are they who cultivate the soil.

“ But if he was right in his relation to the people, he was wrong in his relation to power; for by dint of removing to a distance from the throne all those men who, by genius, character, or boldness, created public opinion in France, public opinion was turned against him, and ceased to accept his mot d'ordre from Versailles."

One of Sir Bulwer Lytton's travelled heroes is introduced to a man in a clerical garb, and of a benevolent and prepossessing countenance, as

* Carlyle, Hist. of Fredk. the Grt., vol. i. book v. ch. iä.
+ Vol. ii. book ix. ch. xi.

Macaulay's Essay on Fredk. the Great.
$ Le Roi Voltaire, 1. vi. ch. vi.

« EelmineJätka »