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VI. A Sculptor's Studio
John Marchmont's Legacy.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “ LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET," &c. &c.
THE MAN WITH THE BAXXER.
Dangerfield Arundel, of Dangerfield Park, Devonshire, began on a certain dark winter's night upon which the lad, still a schoolboy, went with his cousin, Martin Mostyn, to witness a blank-verse tragedy at one of the London theatres.
There are few men who, looking back at the long story of their lives, cannot point to one page in the record of the past at which the actual history of life began. The page may come in the very middle of the book, perhaps; perhaps almost at the end. But let it come where it will
, it is, after all, only the actual commencement. At an appointed hour in man's existence, the overture which has been going on ever since he was born is brought to a sudden close by the sharp vibration of the prompter's signal-bell, the curtain rises, and the drama of life begins. Very insignificant sometimes are the first scenes of the play,—commonplace, trite, wearisome; but watch them closely, and interwoven with every word, dimly recognisable in every action, may be seen the awful hand of Destiny. The story has begun : already we, the spectators, can make vague guesses at the plot, and predicate the solemn climax; it is only the actors who are ignorant of the meaning of their several parts, and who are stupidly reckless of the obvious catastrophe.
The story of young Arundel's life began when he was a light-hearted, heedless lad of seventeen, newly escaped for a brief interval from the care of his pastors and masters.
The lad had come to London on a Christmas visit to his father's sister, a good-natured widow, with a great many sons and daughters, and an income only large enough to enable her to keep up the appearances of wealth essential to the family pride of one of the Arundels of Dangerfield.
Laura Arundel had married a Colonel Mostyn, of the East-India Company's service, and had returned from India after a wandering life of some years, leaving her dead husband behind her, and bringing away with her five daughters and three sons, most of whom had been born under canvas.
Mrs. Mostyn bore her troubles bravely, and contrived to do more with her pension, and an additional income of three hundred a year from a small fortune of her own, than the most consummate womanly management can often achieve. Her house in Montague Square was elegantly furnished, her daughters were exquisitely dressed, her sons sensibly edacated, her dinners well cooked. She was not an agreeable woman; she was perhaps, if any thing, too sensible,-so very sensible as to be obviously intolerant of any thing like folly in others. She was a good mother; but by no means an indulgent one. She expected her sons to succeed in life, and her daughters to marry rich men; and would have had little patience with any disappointment in either of these reasonable expectations. She was attached to her brother, Christopher Arundel, and she was very well pleased to spend the autumn months at Dangerfield, where the hunting-breakfasts gave her daughters an excellent platform for the exhibition of charming demi-toilettes and social and domestic graces, perhaps more dangerous to the susceptible hearts of rich young squires than the fascinations of a valse à deux temps or an Italian scena.
But the same Mrs. Mostyn, who never forgot to keep up her correspondence with the owner of Dangerfield Park, utterly ignored the existence of another brother, a certain Hubert Arundel, who had, perhaps, much more need of Ler sisterly friendship than the wealthy Devonshire squire. Heaven knows, the world seemed a lonely place to this younger son, who had been educated for the Church, and was fain to content himself with a scanty living in one of the dullest and dampest towns in fenny Lincolnshire. His sister might have very easily made life much more pleasant to the Rector of Swampington and his only daughter ; but Hubert Arundel was a great deal too proud to remind her of this. If Mrs. Mostyn chose to forget him, the brother and sister had been loving friends and dear companions long ago under the beeches at Dangerfield, she was welcome to do so. She was better off than him; and it is to be remarked, that if A's income is three hundred a year, and B's a thousand, the chances are as seven to three that B will forget any old intimacy that may have existed between himself and A. Hubert Arundel had been wild at college, and had put his autograph across so many oblong slips of blue paper, acknowledging value received that had been only half received, that by the time the claims of all the holders of these portentous morsels of stamped paper had been satisfied, the younger son's fortune had melted away, leaving its sometime possessor the happy owner of a
pair of pointeis, a couple of guns by crack makers, a good many foils, single-sticks, boxing-gloves, wire masks, basket helmets, leathern legguards, and other paraphernalia, a complete set of the old Sporting Magazine, from 1792 to the current year, bound in scarlet morocco, several boxes of very bad cigars, a Scotch terrier, and a pipe of undrinkable port.
Of all these possessions, only the undrinkable port now remained to show that Hubert Arundel had once had a decent younger son's fortune, and bad succeeded most admirably in making ducks and drakes of it. The poor about Swampington believed in the sweet red wine, which had been specially concocted for Israelitish dealers in jewelry, cigars, pictures, wines, and specie. They smacked their lips over the mysterious liquid, and confidently affirmed that it did them more good than all the doctor's stuff the parish apothecary could send them. Poor Hubert Arundel was well content to find that at least this scanty crop of corn had grown up from the wild oats he had sown at Cambridge. The wine pleased the poor creatures who drank it, and was scarcely likely to do them any harm; and there was a reasonable prospect that the last bottle would by and by pass out of the rectory cellars, and with it the last token of that bitterly regretted past.
I have no doubt that Hubert Arundel felt the sting of his only sister's neglect, as only a poor and proud man can feel such an insult; but he never let any confession of this sentiment escape his lips ; and when Mrs. Mostyn, being seized with a fancy for doing this forgotten brother a service, wrote him a letter of insolent advice, winding up with an offer to procure his only child a situation as nursery governess, the Rector of Swampington only crushed the missive in his strong hand, and Aung it into his study-fire, with a muttered exclamation that sounded terribly like an oath.
“A nursery governess !" he repeated savagely; "yes; an underpaid drudge, to teach children their A B C, and mend their frocks and make their pinafores. I should like Mrs. Mostyn to talk to my little Livy for half an hour. I think my girl would have put the lady down so completely by the end of that time, that we should never hear any more about nursery governesses.”
He laughed bitterly as he repeated the obnoxious phrase; but his laugh changed to a sigh.
Was it strange that the father should sigh as he remembered how he had seen the awful hand of Death fall suddenly upon younger and stronger men than bimself? What if he were to die, and leave his only child unmarried? What would become of her, with her dangerous gifts, with her fatal dowry of beauty and intellect and pride?
“But she would never do any thing wrong," the father thought. "Her religious principles are strong enough to keep her right under any circumstances, in spite of any temptation. Her sense of duty is more powerful than any other sentiment. She would never be false to that ; she would never be false to that.”
In return for the hospitality of Dangerfield Park, Mrs. Mostyn was in the habit of opening her doors to either Christopher Arundel or his sons whenever any one of the three came to London. Of course she infinitely preferred seeing Arthur Arundel, the elder son and heir, seated at her well-spread table, and flirting with one of his pretty cousins, than to be bored with his rackety younger brother, a noisy lad of seventeen, with no better prospects than a commission in her Majesty's service, and a hundred and fifty pounds a year to eke out his pay; but she was, notwithstanding, graciously pleased to invite Edward to spend his Christmas holidays in her comfortable household; and it was thus it came to pass that on the 29th of December, in the year 1838, the story of Edward Arundel's life began in a stage-box at Drury Lane Theatre.
The box had been sent to Mrs. Mostyn by the fashionable editor of a fashionable newspaper ; but that lady and her daughters being previously engaged had permitted the two boys to avail themselves of the editorial privilege.
The tragedy was the dull production of a distinguished literary amateur, and even the great actor who played the principal character could not make the performance particularly enlivening. He certainly failed in impressing Mr. Edward Arundel, who flung himself back in his chair and yawned dolefully during the earlier part of the entertainment.
“It ain't particularly jolly, is it, Martin ?” he said naively. “Let's go out and have some oysters, and come in again just before the pantomime begins."
“ Mamma made me promise that we wouldn't leave the theatre till we left for good, Ned,” his cousin answered; "and then we're to go straight home in a cab."
Edward Arundel sighed.
“I wish we hadn't come till half-price, old fellow," he said drearily. “If I'd known it was to be a tragedy, I wouldn't have come away from the Square in such a hurry. I wonder why people write tragedies, when nobody likes them ?”
He turned his back to the stage, and folded his arms upon the velvet cushion of the box preparatory to indulging himself in a deliberate inspection of the audience. Perhaps no brighter face looked upward that night towards the glare and glitter of the great chandelier than that of the fair-haired lad in the stage-box. His candid blue eyes beamed with a more radiant sparkle than any of the myriad lights in the theatre; a nimbus of golden hair shone about his broad white forehead; glowing health, careless happiness, truth, good nature, honesty, boyish vivacity, and the courage of a young lion,--all were expressed in the fearless smile,
a the frank yet half-defiant gaze. Above all, this lad of seventeen looked especially what he was,-a thorough gentleman. Martin Mostyn was prim and effeminate, precociously tired of life, precociously indifferent to every thing but his own advantage ; but the Devonshire boy's talk was still fragrant with the fresh perfume of youth and innocence, still gay with