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- Sybil, or the Two Nations - 60/101 -
move, the factions become united."
Sybil turned and looked at him, and then said, "And what could happen to-morrow, that we should care for the government being acquainted with it or us? Do not they know everything? Do not you meet in their very sight? You pursue an avowed and legal aim by legal means--do you not? What then is there to fear? And why should anything happen that should make us apprehensive?"
"All is very well at this moment," said Morley, "and all may continue well; but popular assemblies breed turbulent spirits, Sybil. Your father takes a leading part; he is a great orator, and is in his element in this clamorous and fiery life. It does not much suit me; I am a man of the closet. This Convention, as you well know, was never much .to my taste. Their Charter is a coarse specific for our social evils. The spirit that would cure our ills must be of a deeper and finer mood."
"Then why are you here?" said Sybil.
Morley shrugged his shoulders, and then said "An easy question. Questions are always easy. The fact is, in active life one cannot afford to refine. I could have wished the movement to have taken a different shape and to have worked for a different end; but it has not done this. But it is still a movement and a great one, and I must work it for my end and try to shape it to my form. If I had refused to be a leader, I should not have prevented the movement; I should only have secured my own insignificance."
"But my father has not these fears; he is full of hope and exultation," said Sybil. "And surely it is a great thing that the people should have their Parliament lawfully meeting in open day, and their delegates from the whole realm declaring their grievances in language which would not disgrace the conquering race which has in vain endeavoured to degrade them. When I heard my father speak the other night, my heart glowed with emotion; my eyes were suffused with tears; I was proud to be his daughter; and I gloried in a race of forefathers who belonged to the oppressed and not to the oppressors."
Morley watched the deep splendour of her eye and the mantling of her radiant cheek, as she spoke these latter words with not merely animation but fervour. Her bright hair, that hung on either side her face in long tresses of luxuriant richness, was drawn off a forehead that was the very throne of thought and majesty, while her rich lip still quivered with the sensibility which expressed its impassioned truth.
"But your father, Sybil, stands alone," at length Morley replied; "surrounded by votaries who have nothing but enthusiasm to recommend them; and by emulous and intriguing rivals, who watch every word and action, in order that they may discredit his conduct, and ultimately secure his downfall."
"My father's downfall!" said Sybil. "Is he not one of themselves! And is it possible, that among the delegates of the People there can be other than one and the same object?"
"A thousand," said Morley; "we have already as many parties as in St Stephen's itself."
"You terrify me," said Sybil. "I knew we had fearful odds to combat against. My visit to this city alone has taught me how strong are our enemies. But I believed that we had on our side God and Truth."
"They know neither of them in the National Convention," said Morley. "Our career will be a vulgar caricature of the bad passions and the low intrigues, the factions and the failures, of our oppressors."
At this moment Gerard and Hatton who were sitting in the remote part of the room rose together and advanced forward; and this movement interrupted the conversation of Sybil and Morley. Before however her father and his new friend could reach them, Hatton as if some point on which he had not been sufficiently explicit, had occurred to him, stopped and placing his hand on Gerard's arm, withdrew him again, saying in a voice which could only be heard by the individual whom he addressed. "You understand--I have not the slightest doubt myself of your moral right: I believe on every principle of justice, that Mowbray Castle is as much yours as the house that is built by the tenant on the lord's land: but can we prove it? We never had the legal evidence. You are in error in supposing that these papers were of any vital consequence; mere memoranda; very useful no doubt: I hope I shall find them; but of no validity. If money were the only difficulty, trust me, it should not be wanting; I owe much to the memory of your father, my good Gerard; I would fain serve you--and your daughter. I'll not tell you what I would do for you, my good Gerard. You would think me foolish; but I am alone in the world, and seeing you again, and talking of old times--I really am scarcely fit for business. Go, however, I must; I have an appointment at the House of Lords. Good bye. I must say farewell to the Lady Sybil."
Book 4 Chapter 10
"You can't have that table, sir, it is engaged," said a waiter at the Athenaeum" to a member of the club who seemed unmindful of the type of appropriation which in the shape of an inverted plate, ought to have warned him off the coveted premises.
"It is always engaged," grumbled the member. "Who has taken it?"
"Mr Hatton, sir."
And indeed at this very moment, it being about eight o'clock of the same day on which the meeting detailed in the last chapter had occurred, a very handsome dark brougham with a beautiful horse was stopping in Waterloo Place before the portico of the Athenaeum Club-house, from which equipage immediately emerged the prosperous person of Baptist Hatton.
This club was Hatton's only relaxation. He had never entered society; and now his habits were so formed, the effort would have been a painful one; though with a first-rate reputation in his calling and supposed to be rich, the openings were numerous to a familiar intercourse with those middle-aged nameless gentlemen of easy circumstances who haunt clubs, and dine a great deal at each others' houses and chambers; men who travel regularly a little, and gossip regularly a great deal; who lead a sort of facile, slipshod existence, doing nothing, yet mightily interested in what others do; great critics of little things; profuse in minor luxuries and inclined to the respectable practice of a decorous profligacy; peering through the window of a clubhouse as if they were discovering a planet; and usually much excited about things with which they have no concern, and personages who never heard of them.
All this was not in Hatton's way, who was free from all pretension, and who had acquired, from his severe habits of historical research, a respect only for what was authentic. These nonentities flitted about him, and he shrunk from an existence that seemed to him at once dull and trifling. He had a few literary acquaintances that he had made at the Antiquarian Society, of which he was a distinguished member; a vice-president of that body had introduced him to the Athenaeum. It was the first and only club that Hatton had ever belonged to, and he delighted in it. He liked splendour and the light and bustle of a great establishment. They saved him from that melancholy which after a day of action is the doom of energetic celibacy. A luxurious dinner without trouble, suited him after his exhaustion; sipping his claret, he revolved his plans. Above all, he revelled in the magnificent library, and perhaps was never happier, than when after a stimulating repast he adjourned up stairs, and buried himself in an easy chair with Dugdale or Selden, or an erudite treatise on forfeiture or abeyance.
To-day however Hatton was not in this mood. He came in exhausted and excited; eat rapidly and rather ravenously; despatched a pint of champagne; and then called for a bottle of Lafitte. His table cleared; a devilled biscuit placed before him, a cool bottle and a fresh glass, he indulged in that reverie, which the tumult of his feelings and the physical requirements of existence had hitherto combined to prevent.
"A strange day," he thought, as with an abstracted air he filled his glass, and sipping the wine, leant back in his chair. "The son of Walter Gerard! A chartist delegate! The best blood in England! What would I not be, were it mine.
"Those infernal papers! They made my fortune--and yet, I know not how it is, the deed has cost me many a pang. Yet it seemed innoxious! the old man dead--insolvent; myself starving; his son ignorant of all, to whom too they could be of no use, for it required thousands to work them, and even with thousands they could only be worked by myself. Had I not done it, I should ere this probably have been swept from the surface of the earth, worn out with penury, disease, and heart-ache. And now I am Baptist Hatton with a fortune almost large enough to buy Mowbray itself, and with knowledge that can make the proudest tremble.
"And for what object all this wealth and power? What memory shall I leave? What family shall I found? Not a relative in the world, except a solitary barbarian, from whom when, years ago I visited him as a stranger I recoiled with unutterable loathing.
"Ah! had I a child--a child like the beautiful daughter of Gerard!"
And here mechanically Hatton filled his glass, and quaffed at once a bumper.
"And I have deprived her of a principality! That seraphic being whose lustre even now haunts my vision; the ring of whose silver tone even now lingers in my ear. He must be a fiend who could injure her. I am that fiend. Let me see--let
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