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- Sybil, or the Two Nations - 30/101 -

"Not at all: I was travelling in the neighbourhood, and made a diversion for the sake of seeing an abbey of which I had heard so much."

"Yes; it was the greatest of the Northern Houses. But they told me the people were most wretched round the Abbey; nor do I think there is any other cause for their misery, than the hard hearts of the family that have got the lands."

"You feel deeply for the people!" said Egremont looking at her earnestly.

Sybil returned him a glance expressive of some astonishment, and then said, "And do not you? Your presence here assures me of it."

"I humbly follow one who would comfort the unhappy."

"The charity of Mr St Lys is known to all."

"And you--you too are a ministering angel."

"There is no merit in my conduct, for there is no sacrifice. When I remember what this English people once was; the truest, the freest, and the bravest, the best-natured and the best- looking, the happiest and most religious race upon the surface of this globe; and think of them now, with all their crimes and all their slavish sufferings, their soured spirits and their stunted forms; their lives without enjoyment and their deaths without hope; I may well feel for them, even if I were not the daughter of their blood."

And that blood mantled to her cheek as she ceased to speak, and her dark eye gleamed with emotion, and an expression of pride and courage hovered on her brow. Egremont caught her glance and withdrew his own; his heart was troubled.

St Lys. who had been in conference with the weaver, left him and went to the bedside of his wife. Warner advanced to Sybil, and expressed his feelings for her father, his sense of her goodness. She, observing that the squall seemed to have ceased, bade him farewell, and calling Harold, quitted the chamber.

Book 2 Chapter 15

"Where have you been all the morning, Charles?" said Lord Marney coming into his brother's dressing-room a few minutes before dinner; "Arabella had made the nicest little riding party for you and Lady Joan, and you were to be found nowhere. If you go on in this way, there is no use of having affectionate relations, or anything else."

"I have been walking about Mowbray. One should see a factory once in one's life."

"I don't see the necessity," said Lord Marney; "I never saw one, and never intend. Though to be sure, when I hear the rents that Mowbray gets for his land in their neighbourhood, I must say I wish the worsted works had answered at Marney. And if it had not been for our poor dear father, they would."

"Our family have always been against manufactories, railroads- -everything," said Egremont.

"Railroads are very good things, with high compensation," said Lord Marney; "and manufactories not so bad, with high rents; but, after all, these are enterprises for the canaille, and I hate them in my heart."

"But they employ the people, George."

"The people do not want employment; it is the greatest mistake in the world; all this employment is a stimulus to population. Never mind that; what I came in for, is to tell you that both Arabella and myself think you talk too much to Lady Maud."

"I like her the best."

"What has that to do with it my dear fellow? Business is business. Old Mowbray will make an elder son out of his elder daughter. The affair is settled; I know it from the best authority. Talking to Lady Maud is insanity. It is all the same for her as if Fitz-Warene had never died. And then that great event, which ought to be the foundation of your fortune, would be perfectly thrown away. Lady Maud, at the best, is nothing more than twenty thousand pounds and a fat living. Besides, she is engaged to that parson fellow, St Lys.

"St Lys told me to-day that nothing would ever induce him to marry. He would practise celibacy, though he would not enjoin it."

"Enjoin fiddle-stick! How came you to be talking to such a sanctified imposter; and, I believe, with all his fine phrases, a complete radical. I tell you what, Charles, you must really make way with Lady Joan. The grandfather has come to-day, the old Duke. Quite a family party. It looks so well. Never was such a golden opportunity. And you must be sharp too. That little Jermyn, with his brown eyes and his white hands, has not come down here, in the month of August, with no sport of any kind, for nothing."

"I shall set Lady Firebrace at him."

"She is quite your friend, and a very sensible woman too, Charles, and an ally not to be despised. Lady Joan has a very high opinion of her. There's the bell. Well, I shall tell Arabella that you mean to put up the steam, and Lady Firebrace shall keep Jermyn off. And perhaps it is as well you did not seem too eager at first. Mowbray Castle, my dear fellow, in spite of its manufactories, is not to be despised. And with a little firmness, you could keep the people out of your park. Mowbray could do it, only he has no pluck. He is afraid people would say he was the son of a footman."

The Duke, who was the father of the Countess de Mowbray, was also lord lieutenant of the county. Although advanced in years, he was still extremely handsome; with the most winning manners; full of amenity and grace. He had been a rou‚ in his youth, but seemed now the perfect representative of a benignant and virtuous old age. He was universally popular; admired by young men, adored by young ladies. Lord de Mowbray paid him the most distinguished consideration. It was genuine. However maliciously the origin of his own father might be represented, nobody could deprive him of that great fact, his father-in-law; a duke, a duke of a great house who had intermarried for generations with great houses, one of the old nobility, and something even loftier.

The county of which his grace was Lord Lieutenant was very proud of its nobility; and certainly with Marney Abbey at one end, and Mowbray Castle at the other, it had just cause; but both these illustrious houses yielded in importance, though not in possessions, to the great peer who was the governor of the province.

A French actress, clever as French actresses always are, had persuaded, once upon a time, an easy-tempered monarch of this realm, that the paternity of her coming babe was a distinction of which his majesty might be proud. His majesty did not much believe her; but he was a sensible man, and never disputed a point with a woman; so when the babe was born, and proved a boy, he christened him with his name; and elevated him to the peerage in his cradle by the title of Duke of Fitz-Aquitaine and Marquis of Gascony.

An estate the royal father could not endow him with, for he had spent all his money, mortgaged all his resources, and was obliged to run in debt himself for the jewels of the rest of his mistresses; but he did his best for the young peer, as became an affectionate father or a fond lover. His majesty made him when he arrived at man's estate the hereditary keeper of a palace which he possessed in the north of England; and this secured his grace a castle and a park. He could wave his flag and kill his deer; and if he had only possessed an estate, he would have been as well off as if he had helped conquer the realm with King William, or plundered the church for King Harry. A revenue must however be found for the Duke of Fitz-Aquitaine, and it was furnished without the interference of Parliament, but with a financial dexterity worthy of that assembly--to whom and not to our sovereigns we are obliged for the public debt. The king granted the duke and his heirs for ever, a pension on the post-office, a light tax upon coals shipped to London, and a tithe of all the shrimps caught on the southern coast. This last source of revenue became in time, with the development of watering- places, extremely prolific. And so, what with the foreign courts and colonies for the younger sons, it was thus contrived very respectably to maintain the hereditary dignity of this great peer.

The present Duke of Fitz-Aquitaine had supported the Reform Bill, but had been shocked by the Appropriation clause; very much admired Lord Stanley, and was apt to observe, that if that nobleman had been the leader of the conservative party, he hardly knew what he might not have done himself. But the duke was an old whig, had lived with old whigs all his life, feared revolution, but still more the necessity of taking his name out of Brookes', where he had looked in every day or night since he came of age. So, not approving of what was going on, yet not caring to desert his friends, he withdrew, as the phrase runs, from public life; that is to say, was rarely in his seat; did not continue to Lord Melbourne the proxy that had been entrusted to Lord Grey; and made tory magistrates in his county though a whig lord lieutenant.

When forces were numbered, and speculations on the future indulged in by the Tadpoles and Tapers, the name of the Duke of Fitz-Aquitaine was mentioned with a knowing look and in a mysterious tone. Nothing more was necessary between Tadpole and Taper; but, if some hack in statu pupillari happened to be present at the conference, and the gentle novice greedy for party tattle, and full of admiring reverence for the two great hierophants of petty mysteries before him, ventured to

Sybil, or the Two Nations - 30/101

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