A Blighted Life/Section 7

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A Blighted Life by Rosina Bulwer Lytton
Section 7

Well, the next day, after Miss R_____'s semi-nocturnal visit, when without giving me any particulars, she informed me I was to be set at liberty almost immediately, H_____ came up, and was more explicit, for he was in a towering passion, fanning himself with a newspaper that he clutched vindictively. "'Pon my word," said he, "those abominable papers are too bad! More especially the Somersetshire ones; to read their abusive tirades, one would really suppose, Lady L_____, that instead of being surrounded with every comfort, you had been thrown into a dungeon." "You forget, Mr. H_____," said I, "to the impartial public, who are not paid, and have no interest in thinking otherwise, the infringement upon the liberty of the subject in any way, much less in the brutal one of so unwarrentably kidnapping and seizing withoug judge or jury an inoffensive and defenceless woman, and incarcerating her in a lunatic asylum, is in itself quite sufficient deed of iniquity--whatever the Sybarite surroundings of the locale may be--to raise a storm of public indignation far more easily evoked then quelled. And you also forget that, take a person nolens volens1, and by force, to Buckingham Palace, or to the Tuileries, which is rather more like a palace--and nail down the windows, lock the doors, and put keepers to attend to them, and presto! you convert the palace into a prison, and the most terrible of all prisons, a Madhouse." Finding he could get no sympathy from me, as he might have supposed! he began tapping that bay window of a paunch of his, and said he was so ill with all the uproar that was going on, that he was obliged to take "shugger" (sugar) in his tea!!!! which he never did but when he was ill! Having stated this highly interesting and physiological fact, he left the room as abruptly as he had entered. Now really his coming to me for sympathy and consolation, on the vituperations of the public against him, was almost as fine a piece of logical and inverse justice as Lord DUNDREARY, in Punch, saying in a fury to his wife upon getting his brother's letter, "I tell you what, GEORGINA, if I had known you would have had such a beast of a brother-in-law as THOM, I would not have married you." Feeling very sure that Mr. L_____ would return to the charge, I sat down and wrote him a letter, ready to be given to him when he came. Oh! if we have a Guardian Angel, why did mine desert his post on that day! of all days? I had neraly finished my letter, when that too Odious Miss R_____ marched in again informing me she had brought my Son down with her again; then, said I, "you may take him back with you again; but just wait two minutes and my letter will be finished, which I am writing to him, and you can give it to him." Whereupon this always vulgar, ill-bred, and unwarrantable person, pounces down her skinny, talon-like hand, seizes my letter, and tears it to pieces. I was indignant at such an impertinent outrage, and ordered her to leave the room. She had scarcely done so, before the door again opened, and in walked Mr. L_____, while the door was locked on the outside! The next moment he was kneeling and kissing my feet in a paroxysm of tears--I cannot describe the scene that followed, and I would not, if I could. Enough, that at the end of three hours, he still found me determined to seek legal redress, both in the Divorce Court and elsewhere, for the culminating outrage his Father had inflicted upon me. He said he thought his Father would destroy himself, rather than stand the disgrace. I laughed at that, and told him not to alarm himself, for that his Father was far too great a coward to die voluntarily, even a coward's death; he might, indeed, said I, murder either you or me, if he thought he could lay the crime on anyone else, or make it appear that we had committed suicide. And to tell you the truth, I have no compassion for that nice sense of honour which only shrinks from the public odium of exposure, but defies GOD, by never recoiling before the commission of any amount of evil doing that money can conceal, or hypocrisy varnish. "Then, mother," said he solemnly and sadly,--"every prospect I have in life is ruined, I never can stand the fearful, the horrible exposure of my Father that is inevitable." Here, he had hit the mark; I leaned back in my chair, irresolute, and he saw it, while he continued kneeling with both my hands in his, and his pale tearful, agonized face, looking up to mine. "But don't you know, don't you see, ROBERT, that the moment your Father has cleared this precipice with impunity; then shall I be debarred by 'condonation' from my redress, and left more at his mercy (who has none!) than ever."

"No, no, my own angel darking Mother, then you will bind me to you for ever; he cannot, he dare not, after woing his salvation to your generosity--prevent you having me to protect, and be devoted to you all my life, and if anything goes wrong in future, you will always have me to appeal to, and protect you. Oh, Mother! if you could but see into my heart, you would see that I would, that I have given up everything to get to you and to be with you. I know I am not worth it, that is, that I have been far from worth it, but if you could, darling, make this great, great, noble sacrifice for me--your child--never, never, shall you repent it." After a great deal in the same strain, striking the one chord in my heart that he knew he was sure of, till he had brought it into perfect unison with his own wishes, he had conquered. I threw my arms about hisneck ans said, "Oh, ROBERT, had you asked me to tear my heart out bodily, and give it naked and unguarded into your keeping, it would not be half such a sacrifice as you require of me." "I know it, mother darling, Iknow it;" and then, after a couple of the happiest and perhaps the most foolish hours I ever passed in my life, believing--as I firmly did--that out of such a Slough of Despond I had walked into the warm sheltering Paradise of my child's heart, who at least externally and in manner was all I could wish, which was in itself a great boon after the coarse, common clay I had so long been used to be knocked and bruised against. When he urged me to go abroad with him, to pass what he called our honeymoon, and to take Miss R_____, as he might not be able to get sufficient leave of absence to return with me at the end of three or four months, "Oh! no, not Miss R_____," said I, "she is so very antipathic to me. I'll give her any sum of money for any exertions she may have made in getting my incarceration made public, but we shall be so happy without her, and she is such a wet blanket, and a dirty wet blanket too." "Well, that she certainly is, and when I first saw her I said to myself, 'Heavens! can this be a friend of my mother's?' But when she told me all you had done for her, I then knew how it was. She seems to have set her heart upon going abroad with us, and after all she's done, I don't think we could well refuse her." "Well, dear," said I, very much annoyed at this, "you might have let me choose my own evils and not have extended your hospitality to my bete noire2. But suppose I do yield every point to you, in this way; you know I cannot possibly go abroad, whatever arrangements are made, without appointing one Trustee, and that is more easily said than done, as I know of old the great dislike people have to being brought into contact with your Father; knowing that they have either to abandon my rights, or quarrel with him, which before was what drove me to the pis aller3 of appointing the do-nothing-goos, Sir THOMAS CULLUM." After considering a little while, I said: "I have no great faith in public philanthropists, more especially of the Exeter Hall breed; but as he is one of the Commissioners in Lunacy, and knows the whole affair, I wonder if, under the circumstances, as piece of good Samaritanship, Lord SHAFTESBURY would consent to be my Trustee? for he might be a check upon your Father." "A very good peson," said he, "I'll ask him, and let you know to-morrow, darling." So, it being then seven o'clock, and he having to get back for his Father's dinner, left me after this most harrowing day; though I then little dreamed of the red-hot ploughshares there were to come, after being kept full three months in a Fool's Paradise about my son's love and devotion to me; and when I used to chide him for being so demonstrative, even in public places, and say people would think I was some old woman whom he had married for money, he would say, "Oh, but Mother darling, we are not like ordinary Mother and Son; I love you in every possible way, and then I love you back all the love I've not been let to pay you for years; and then you have suffered so much, and borne it so nobly, that you are to me something holy." At other times he would cry out after hugging me, "Mamma," as he always called me, "what I worship in you, is, that with a lion's heart, you are so tender a woman!" All these demonstrations were, of course, music to my ears, and what tended materially to keep me in this Fool's Paradise, was that there was a girl whom he was mcuh attached to (not an English miss, thank GOD), and whom his vile Father was luring him on to suppose he would giv ehim sufficient money to marry, and when I used to see him looking wretched, and thinking it was about her, he'd burst into tears, and throw himself into my arms, saying, "Oh, no! it's not that, MOther, for I declare before GOD, if it were to be made a matter of alternative, which I would give up, her or you, I'd give her up to-morrow, if I might always have you with me." Then, too, a very old kind benefactor of his, an elderly gentleman, who had shown him much kindness, and whose large means, when ROBERT was a boy, had often atoned for his father's sordid parsimony, wrote to me, saying, "I can answer for the deep love and yearning, dear, dear ROBERT has always had for his Mother; and oh! how sincerely do I rejoice in his happiness now." Add to which my maid was always telling me that FLETCHER, ROBERT'S valet, used to say to her, "Oh! how Mr. L_____ does adore his Mother. I often surprise him kissing her gloves, and slippers. Poor young gentleman! I never saw a happy face on him till now; he seems like a natural person now, which he never did with his Father, of whom he is mortally afraid." So you will own that if this was fooling, I was well fooled. But I must return to the horrors. The next day, after the first on which I had seen him, Mr. L_____ returned to the lodge, and on cmoing into the room, said, "Well darling, you owe me a million kisses, for I have good news for you; SHAFTESBURY consents to being your trustee, so that's settled." I thought this exceedingly kind of Lord SHAFTESBURY, as I did not know him personally, and of course wrote to thank him, which note I gave to Mr. L_____ to take to town; and, despite the almost universality of English bearishness and ill-breeding, still as anything in the shape of a gentleman or gentlwoman always answers a letter, more especially such a one as I had written, I was surprised at that evening, and the whole of the next day passing without my receiving any reply; and I said to Mr. L_____, late on the following day, "Are you sure, ROBERT, that my note went to Lord SHAFTESBURY?" "I would not trust it to a servant, so I took it myself." At this I felt quite satisfied and did not think any more of the matter. The next day the invasion increased; I was quite knocked up, and in bed. That vile fellow, _____, came down to see me. I told Miss R_____ to say I could not see him, as I was in bed, and I added to her--though he was acting in my interest, I would not see him if I were not. Indeed, a friend of mine, Mrs. T_____, told me, after my return from my trapped going abroad, that hearing _____ was engaged, she had driven down to Miss R_____ at 12 at night, to tell her, for Heaven's sake to be on her guard, that that man, of such notoriously infamous character, retained by Sir E_____, did not wreck me. But she having so completely done so, in order, as she thought, to play her own game, replied, like the double distilled ass she is, "Oh, _____ is all on Lady L_____'s side!" "Oh, Miss R_____," said Miss T_____, "how can you believe such nonsense as that?"

Well, it appears that with E_____ J_____ had come down Mr. L_____, and Dr. F_____ W_____, who, I was told, was come on my behalf to counteract--that is, contradict--the statements made by that precious pair of rascals, R_____ and H_____ T_____. "But how," said I, "can he possibly do that when he knows nothing about me--has never seen me, and will only do so for a few minutes?" Verily they are a nice set, one and all of them, ready to swear a poor victim mad or sane, at a moment's notice, for value received! Shame! shame! That disgusting Miss R_____ then began screaming out in her peacock voice, "Now your sone wants you to go abroad with him to-morrow." "But I won't and can't," said I; "I must at least have a week to get some clothes and things." And then this horrid creature made me quite ill with her vulgar bullying manner, and I begged she would leave the room. The dulcifluous Dr. F_____ W_____ was then sent up to me, as he with more tact than truth expressed it, to know my wishes. I told him that I thought I had done quite enough in yielding to my son's wishes in going abroad at all; and that I did not see why I was to be hurried off in this life and death way, as if i had committed a crime, and was to be smuggled out of the country. "Very true," said the amiable Doctor, "and I am sure nothing can be more reasonable than your wish to have a few days to prepare for the journey." He then added, "You are to have, or they are getting you (I don't remember the exact words) a thousand a year, and a house to be furnished for you in town;" which flourishing promise ended in £500, but the solmn assurance from Sir LIAR, E_____ J_____, nad HYDE, that all my debts should be immediately paid, and my debts of honour, before I could get across the Channel was never kept. The dulciferous Dr. W_____, after so perfectly agreeing in all I said, then went down, to as perfectly agree with all the opposition said; and was again sent back to urge their suit; telling me confidentially that the fact was, that the place was in such an uproar that Sir E_____ was terrified; and there would be no peace till the public was assured I was at liberty, and really gone abroad with my son. I may as well here tell you, that such was the honourable estimation Sir L_____ was held in by the said public, that people fully believed I was sent abroad to be made away with; and hence, among many others, the atrocious lie, that I was accompanied by a relation of my own! M_____ R_____, by my own special request! Whereas, as i discovered, like all the rest, too late, this wretch was only sent as a Spy on me and my Son--upon the Jesuitical plan of triples, and as "own correspondent" to Sir LIAR, to whom she used to write every day from the programme he had given her, the blackest lies, for him to read to people:--such for instance, as that I had been very vilent and unmanageable till I had arrived in Paris, when I became calmer! the real truth being, that I was so exhausted, in body and mind from all I had gone through, that I could scarcely move or speak, but used to say, lying down, while my son sat beside me, my hand clasped in his, that I felt so grateful to GOD for his being restored to me that I could almost forgive the relentless author of my life-long misery, and cruelly exceptional persecutions; but that at all events now I'd try and forget him and them, and think of nothing but the present and the future. Well, Dr. F_____ W_____, finding he could not move me from my resolve of not being smuggled out of the country like a felon, sent up the only person who could fool me, my son. And when he told me what it would entail upon him, if he could not succeed in doing his father's bidding, why then I yielded; and having been brought to Mr. H_____'s stronghold on Wednesday the 22nd of June, 1858, at 7 p.m., I left it on Saturday, July the 17th, 1858, at 3 p.m., by almost an equal degree of treachery, falsehood, and springeing. Poor little MARY H_____ cried so violently, that I was really grieved to leave her, and felt quite selfish in going (as I then thought) to be happy, when she who had been for three weeks my one sole Star in the Desert was left so unhappy. Mrs. H_____ said the whole affair had made her usband hill; I said I thought he had been alwasy HILL; while he said he had never suffered so much in his life; the uproar that had been made had played the deuce with him. "I told you it would, Mr. H_____, the day you forced me to come here; why did you not listen to me?" "And then," said he, "my daughter MARY is breaking her heart, and I have got, I'm sure, a confirmed liver complaint from it." "Then," said I, "you must leave off 'shugger,' it is the worst thing in the world for the liver." Dr. OILY GAMMON R_____ told me after my return, that H_____ had been on his knees, imploring him to have pity on his ten children, and not ruin him. The valiant Doctor, who literally could not, or would not say Boo! to a goose, or he might have had beau jeu4 with H_____, pretends he said to him, "You should have thought of these before. You had no mercy upon Lady L_____ when you dragged her to your asylum in that iniquitous manner." However, after my departure Brentford became too hot for him, and he removed to London, where between him and the rest in whose power he, of course, was completely, I understand Sir LIAR was completely beggared with hush-money; not with my tremendous debts, which, at the end of 20 years' ceaseless persecutions, and consequent onerous law expenses, amounted to the might sum of £4,500, which, when at last at the point of thw sword, alias the writ, that generous and honourable man was compelled to pay; he did so by disgorging some of my own money. Upon this memorable and broiling 17th of July, 1858, from 3 to 7 p.m., I had to drive all over London in quest of ready-made things, and then go to 'Farrance's Hotel' to eat a hurried dinner, and after from Belgrave-square to the London Bridge Station, so that I was really quite worn out when at 11 o'clock at night I found myself in bed at the 'Lord Warden Hotel,' Dover, from whence we did not cross to Calais till Monday, the 19th, all newspapers being carefully kept out of my way; and, indeed, I was both too happy and too tired to ask for any, which, of course, was precisely what was calculated upon. Abroad, I can only suppose that all my letters were intercepted by that vile Miss R_____ in her capacity of own correspondent to Sir LIAR, as Mrs. CLARKE told me she had forwarded innumerable ones; and, on my return, I found duplicates, recapitulating their painful contents, and alas! too late warnings, as warnings generally are. "For I told thee so" the Fiend ever whispers, when the deed is done! At Bordeaux I got a letter form JUDAS H_____, in which the following audacious and asinine passage occured, "Sir EDWARD is quite changed, his only wish is to render your life in future as happy as possible." To which I replied, "Yes, no doubt, for it is a patent fact in natural history that the leopard is in the habit of changing its spots at a moment's notice." A few nights after this H_____ humbug, ROBERT was brought some letters from England at the Opera, one of which he no sooner read than bursting into a perfect agony of tears, he rushed out of the box. I, of course, went after him, when that beast, Miss R_____, caught hold of my dress to prevent my following him, saying, "Augh, shure, he's often in dat way," as if she had known him all her life, and had been his bonne d'enfant5. I could not find him; and when that night I went to kiss him, and wish him good-night, I found him pacing his room in a state of distraction, with his hands to his head, exclaiming, "What does my father think I'm made of! what can he suppose I am?" And upon another occasion, though not so fearfully shaken, he appeared in a greater rage; his vile father had written him a furious letter about the scandalous expenses of our journey! "As if," said ROBERT, "I was a dishonest courier; and talks of withdrawing his patronage! from me, as if I was some beggar he had picked up in the street!" "Well dear," said I, "you should keep a strict account of the expenditure; enclose your father all the bills, and ask him if he knows of any way in which five persons can travel for nothing in a country where everything now is fabulously dear?" For even at Luchon at the end of the season, after leaving the Hotel de Bonne Maison as being to oexpensive, they made us pay 500 francs a week for the Châlet we had, for which in the season Mme. DE ROTHSCHILD had paid 1000. Often and often, when I saw the poor boy in these dreadful paroxysms of mingled rage and despair, I implored him on my knees to confide in me, and I would help him, if it were even against myself, for I could bear anything and everything, but to feel and find out that my own child, for whom I had sacrificed everything, and in whom I had garnered up all my hopes, was deceiving me! And who can you trust if not your own mother? But no, the chronic habits of terror and subterfuge were too strong! even when stung or goaded into making me little half-confidences, from which no one, as I told him, could give sound advice, as the very point that is kept from them is in all probability the turning one, which would alter their whole opinion and counsel. But his terror of his vile father was so great, and now added to it, that of that "beastly disgusting old Spy," as he called her, that even in the heart of the Pyrenees, if he did unburden himself in the least to me, it was in a whipser; and he would turn pale, and look furtively around, as if the very birds of the air would carry his words back to Park-lane, or Downing-street. Poor young martyr! poor young martyr! But all the tortures he was then enduring were worthy of the Fiend-Father, who when the poor boy had had a fearful, and nearly fatal, fever at Lucca--took no note of whether he lived or died, only to storm about the expense of the Doctors!!! Yet thisis the loathsome wretch! to whom he allowed the impious dedication to "Lucile" to appear, and blaspheme about his "loved! and honoured name!! and his gentle kindness to him as a child!!" And this is the father for whom he could so cruelly and treacherously sacrifice the Mother who had sacrificed everything, and every chance of redress for hm, and whom he professed to adore, in a way that might have deceived the Recording Angel himself. And worse still! Miss R_____, whom he so loathed and detested, that old Spy, as he called her--was the parasite he could afterwards cabal with against his Mother, to steal those letters of his infamous Father's, which I hand entrusted to that creature the day I was kidnapped at H_____ T_____'s; but in that they did not succeed, as you shall hear presently. So much for that paralysis of the conscience, moral cowardice, which is at once the germ and hotbed of every vice. It was not until I had been thus far springed upon, and thus far on the journey, that after writing to know if all my debts of honour had been paid, as so solemnly promised before I could get across the channel, and the deed drawn up, settling that beggarly £500 a year on me for my life, that I got a letter from that precious rascal, Mr. _____ _____, cooly telling me that everything was at a standstill, till I had appointed a trustee!!! I sent for Mr. L_____, and pointing to the paragraph, said "What does this fresh shuffle mean? did you not explicitly tell me at Inverness Lodge that Lord SHAFTESBURY had consented to be my trustee? and that you yourself took my note of thanks to him? to which I have never from that day to this received any answer?" He turned red and pale alternately, stuttered, stammered, and said, "Did not H_____ tell you?" "Tell me what?" said I; "when and where could I have seen him, to tell me anything?--when I was hurried out of the country like a condemned felon. Of course, that your father, and Mr. _____ _____, might have the whole arena to themselves, to concot their unscrupulous lies and plots." This was the first terrible wrench my affection, that is my esteem for, and confidence, in my son got. A few days after, I saw an advertisement in the Times, from that low swindling publisher _____, of Paternoster-row, of a cheap railway edition of a book of mine called '_____ _____,' which at the time it came out, two years before, Sir LIAR left no stone unturned to get crushed and abused. Now a Mr. IRONSIDE had undertaken to sell one of my books to _____ for a re-issue, and knowing the apathetic hand-over-head way English people do other people's business, I gave Mr. IRONSIDE a list of the books he was not to allow to go into a railway edition, and another list of books of which I had not the copyrights, and '_____ _____,' was first upon the interdicted list. Seeing this barefaced swindle, I sent for Mr. L_____, knowing how potential a man's name always is with the English blackguards, and I said, "Will you just write two lines to that fellow _____, saying, 'Sir,--My mother having seen in the Times of the 26th of September (1858), an advertisement of yours re-issuing a novel of hers, entitled "_____ _____," which Mr. IRONSIDE had so expressly forbidden you to do, she wishes to know by whose, and what authority you have now done so?--I am, sir, your obedient servant,

"'R_____ B_____ L_____.'"

"Ah!" said the young gentleman, "my father has written to me about this re-issue, and says you have broken faith with him about that book in re-issuing it." "How broken faith with him?" said I. "How could that be when I have never had any communication with him upon that or any other subject? I merely interdicted _____'s re-issuing that book, because I cold get better terms for it elsewhere. So pray ask your father how I could have broken faith with him about it; and how angry I am at _____'s barefaced swindle! and pray go and write that letter to _____ directly." I may as well here tell you while I think of it, that part of their plan was to get me to go back and live with Sir LIAR for a short time to patch up his character, and throw dust in the eyes of the public, which is all that is ever required on the score of English morality. Had I been such a glorious fool as to do this, of course he could have poisoned me off comfortably out of hand, and then written touching In Memoriam on me in Mr. HUMBUG DICKENS'S "All the Year Round". For that vile Miss R_____, one day at Luchon, had the imbecility and the effrontery to bring me a letter from her employer, from which that meanest of all villains had ordered her to read out the following unique in the annals of humbug paragraph: "Try and soften Lady L_____'s heart, by reminding her of the time when I was so devoted to her"!!!

"Dear, now, do tink of your own interest, and tell me what I shall write back to Sir EDWARD." "One word will do," said I, "the word 'When?'"

Endnotes[edit]

  1. nolens volens: whether unwilling or willing
  2. bete noire: pet peeve
  3. pis aller: last resort
  4. beau jeu: good game
  5. bonne d'enfant: nanny