Eleanor’s Victory - Mary Elizabeth Braddon - ebook

Eleanor’s Victory ebook

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

0,0

Opis

A wonderful life story, with secrets and romance, where the strongest human feelings and impulses win in a difficult moral struggle. The author has beautifully written the image of Elinor, first an impressionable teenager, and after a sensible, kind, loving girl. A lot of interesting, unexpected moments and turns, a secret investigation, secrets associated with the legacy of the old aristocrat and his will, which became an apple of discord between the characters of the book. An unexpected ending finishes the book perfectly. A very interesting, well-written work.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 903

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS



Contents

Going Home.

The Entresol in the Rue De L’€™archevÊQue.

The Story of the past.

Upon the Threshold of A Great Sorrow.

Waiting.

The Black Building by the River.

Suspense.

Good Samaritans.

Looking to the Future.

Hortensia Bannister Holds out A Helping Hand.

Richard Thornton’€™s Promise.

Gilbert Monckton.

Hazlewood.

The Prodigal’€™s Return.

Launcelot.

The Lawyer’€™s Suspicion.

The Shadow on Gilbert Monckton’€™s Life.

Unforgotten.

Like the Memory of A Dream.

Recognition.

On the Track.

In the Shipbroker’€™s Office.

Resolved.

The One Chance.

Accepted.

An Insidious Demon.

Slow Fires.

By the Sundial.

Keeping Watch.

An Old Man’€™s Fancy.

A Powerful Ally.

The Testimony of the Sketch-book.

Maurice De Crespigny’€™s Will.

Richard’€™s Discovery.

What Happened at Windsor.

Another Recognition.

Launcelot’€™s Troubles.

Mr. Monckton Brings Gloomy Tidings from Woodlands.

Launcelot’€™s Counsellor.

Resolved.

A Terrible Surprise.

In the Presence of the Dead.

A Brief Triumph.

Lost.

At Sea.

Laura’€™s Troubles.

Getting over it.

The Reading of the Will.

Deserted.

Gilbert’€™s Letter.

Mrs. Major Lennard.

Going Back to Paris.

Margaret Lennard’€™s Delinquencies.

Very Lonely.

Victor Bourdon Goes over to the Enemy.

The Horrors of Delirium Tremens.

Maurice De Crespigny’€™s Bequest.

The Day of Reckoning.

The Last.

Chapter 1

Going Home

The craggy cliffs upon the Norman coast looked something like the terraced walls and turreted roofs of a ruined city in the hot afternoon sunshine, as the “Empress” steamer sped swiftly onward toward Dieppe. At least they looked thus in the eyes of a very young lady, who stood alone on the deck of the steam-packet, with yearning eyes fixed upon that foreign shore.

It was four o’clock upon a burning August afternoon in the year 1853. The steamer was fast approaching the harbour. Several moustachioed gentlemen, of various ages, costumes, and manners, were busy getting together carpetbags, railway-rugs, camp-stools, newspapers, and umbrellas; preparatory to that eager rush towards the shore by which marine voyagers are apt to testify their contempt for Neptune, when they have no longer need of his service or fear of his vengeance. Two or three English families were collected in groups, holding guard over small mounds or barrows of luggage, having made all preparation for landing at first sight of the Norman shore dim in the distance; and of course about two hours too soon.

Several blooming young English damsels, gathered under maternal wings, were looking forward to sea-bathing in a foreign watering-place. The Établissement des Bains had not yet been built, and Dieppe was not so popular, perhaps, among English pleasure-seekers as it now is. There were several comfortable-looking British families on board the steamer, but of all the friendly matrons and pretty daughters assembled on the deck, there seemed no one in any way connected with that lonely young lady who leant against the bulwark with a cloak across her arm and a rather shabby carpet-bag at her feet.

She was very young–indeed of that age which in the other sex is generally called the period of hobbledehoyhood. There was more ankle to be seen below the hem of her neat muslin frock than is quite consistent with elegance of attire in a young lady of fifteen; but as the ankle so revealed was rounded and slender, it would have been hypercritical to have objected to the shortness of the skirt, which had evidently been outgrown by its wearer.

Then, again, this lonely traveller was not only young but pretty. In spite of the shortness of her frock and the shabbiness of her straw bonnet, it was impossible for the most spiteful of the British misses to affirm the contrary. She was very pretty; so pretty that it was a pleasure to look at her, in her unconscious innocence, and to think how beautiful she would be by-and-by, when that bright, budding, girlish loveliness bloomed out in its womanly splendour.

Her skin was fair but pale,–not a sentimental or sickly pallor, but a beautiful alabaster clearness of tint. Her eyes were grey, large, and dark, or rendered dark by the shadow of long black lashes. I would rather not catalogue her other features too minutely; for though they were regular, and even beautiful, there is something low and material in all the other features as compared to the eyes. Her hair was of a soft golden brown, bright and rippling like a sunlit river. The brightness of that luxuriant hair, the light in her grey eyes, and the vivacity of a very beautiful smile, made her face seem almost luminous as she looked at you. It was difficult to imagine that she could ever look unhappy. She seemed an animated, radiant, and exuberant creature, who made an atmosphere of brightness and happiness about her. Other girls of her age would have crept to a corner of the deck, perhaps to hide their loneliness, or would have clung to the outer fringe of one of the family groups, making believe not to be alone; but this young lady had taken her stand boldly against the bulwark, choosing the position from which she might soonest hope to see Dieppe harbour, and apparently quite indifferent to observation, though many a furtive glance was cast towards the tall but girlish figure and the handsome profile so sharply defined against a blue back-ground of summer sky.

But there was nothing unfeminine in all this; nothing bold or defiant; it was only the innocent unconsciousness of a light-hearted girl, ignorant of any perils which could assail her loneliness and fearless in her ignorance. Throughout the brief sea-voyage she had displayed no symptoms of shyness or perplexity. She had suffered none of the tortures common to many travellers in their marine experiences. She had not been seasick; and indeed she did not look like a person who could be subject to any of the common ills this weak flesh inherits. You could almost as easily have pictured to yourself the Goddess Hygeia suffering from a bilious headache, or Hebe laid up with the influenza, as this auburn-haired, grey-eyed young lady under any phase of mortal suffering. Eyes dim in the paroxysms of sea-sickness, had looked almost spitefully towards this happy, radiant creature, as she flitted hither and thither about the deck, courting the balmy ocean breezes that made themselves merry with her rippling hair. Lips, blue with suffering, had writhed as their owners beheld the sandwiches which this young schoolgirl devoured, the stale buns, the oval raspberry tarts, the hideous, bilious, revolting three-cornered puffs which she produced at different stages of the voyage from her shabby carpet-bag.

She had an odd volume of a novel, and a long, dreary desert of crochet-work, whose white-cotton monotony was only broken by occasional dingy oases bearing witness of the worker’s dirty hands; they were such pretty hands, too, that it was a shame they should ever be dirty; and she had a bunch of flabby, faded flowers, sheltered by a great fan-like shield of newspaper; and she had a smelling-bottle, which she sniffed at perpetually, though she had no need of any such restorative, being as fresh and bright from first to last as the sea breezes themselves, and as little subject to any marine malady as the Lurleis whose waving locks could scarcely have been yellower than her own.

I think, if the feminine voyagers on board the “Empress” were cruel to this solitary young traveller in not making themselves friendly with her in her loneliness, the unkindness must be put down very much to that unchristian frame of mind in which people who are sea-sick are apt to regard those who are not. This bouncing, bright-faced girl seemed to have little need of kindness from the miserable sufferers around her. So she was left to wander about the deck; now reading three pages of her novel; now doing half-a-dozen stitches of her work; now talking to the man at the wheel, in spite of all injunctions to the contrary; now making herself acquainted with stray pet dogs; always contented, always happy; and no one troubled himself about her.

It was only now, when they were nearing Dieppe, that one of the passengers, an elderly, grey-headed Englishman, spoke to her.

“You are very anxious to arrive,” he said, smiling at her eager face.

“Oh, yes, very anxious, sir. We are nearly there, are we not?”

“Yes, we shall enter the harbour presently. You will have some one to meet you there, I suppose?”

“Oh, no,” the young lady answered, lifting her arched brown eyebrows, “not at Dieppe. Papa will meet me at Paris; but he could never come all the way to Dieppe, just to take me back to Paris. He could never afford such an expense as that.”

“No, to be sure; and you know no one at Dieppe?”

“Oh, no, I don’t know any one in all France, except papa.”

Her face, bright as it was even in repose, was lit up with a new brightness as she spoke of her father.

“You are very fond of your papa, I think,” the Englishman said.

“Oh, yes, I love him very, very much. I have not seen him for more than a year. The journey costs so much between England and France, and I have been at school near London, at Brixton; I dare say you know Brixton; but I am going to France now, for good.”

“Indeed! You seem very young to leave school.”

“But I’m not going to leave school,” the young lady answered, eagerly. “I am going to a very expensive school in Paris, to finish my education; and then–”

She paused here, hesitating and blushing a little.

“And then what?”

“I am going to be a governess. Papa is not rich. He has no fortune now.”

“He has had a fortune, then?”

“He has had three.”

The young lady’s grey eyes were lit up with a certain look of triumph as she said this.

“He has been very extravagant, poor dear,” she continued, apologetically; “and he has spent three fortunes, altogether. But he has been always so courted and admired, you know, that it is not to be wondered at. He knew the Prince Regent, and Mr. Sheridan, and Mr. Brummel, and the Duke of York, and–oh, all sorts of people, ever so intimately; and he was a member of the Beefsteak Club, and wore a silver gridiron in his button-hole, and he is the most delightful man in society, even now, though he is very old.”

“Very old! And you are so young.”

The Englishman looked almost incredulously at his animated companion.

“Yes, I am papa’s youngest child. He has been married twice. I have no real brothers and sisters. I have only half-brothers and sisters, who don’t really and truly care for me, you know. How should they? They were grown up when I was born, and I have scarcely ever seen them. I have only papa in all the world.”

“You have no mother, then?”

“No; mamma died when I was three years old.”

The “Empress” packet was entering the harbour by this time. The grey-headed Englishman went away to look after his portmanteaus and hat-boxes, but he returned presently to the fair-haired school-girl.

“Will you let me help you with your luggage?” he said. “I will go and look after it if you will tell me for what to inquire.”

“You are very kind. I have only one box. It is directed to Miss Vane, Paris.”

“Very well, Miss Vane, I will go and find your box. Stay,” he said, taking out his card-case, “this is my name, and if you will permit me, I will see you safely to Paris.”

“Thank you, sir. You are very kind.”

The young lady accepted her new friend’s service as frankly as it was offered. He had grey hair, and in that one particular at least resembled her father. That was almost enough to make her like him.

There was the usual confusion and delay at the Custom-house–a little squabbling and a good deal of bribery; but everything was managed, upon the whole, pretty comfortably. Most of the passengers dropped in at the Hôtel de l’Europe, or some of the other hotels upon the stony quay; a few hurried off to the market-place, to stare at the cathedral church of Saint Jacques, or the great statue of Abraham Duquesne, the rugged sea-king, with broad-brimmed hat and waving plumes, high boots and flowing hair, and to buy peaches and apricots of the noisy market women. Others wandered in the slimy and slippery fish-market, fearfully and wonderingly contemplative of those hideous conger-eels, dog-fish, and other piscatorial monstrosities which seem peculiar to Dieppe. Miss Vane and her companion strolled into the dusky church of Saint Jacques by a little wooden door in a shady nook of the edifice. A few solitary women were kneeling here and there, half-hidden behind their high-backed rush chairs. A fisherman was praying upon the steps of a little chapel, in the solemn obscurity.

“I have never been here before,” Miss Vane whispered. “I came by Dover and Calais, the last time; but this way is so much cheaper, and I almost think it nicer, for the journey’s so short from London to Newhaven, and I don’t mind the long sea voyage a bit. Thank you for bringing me to see this cathedral.”

Half-an-hour after this the two travellers were seated in a first-class carriage, with other railway passengers, French and English, hurrying through the fair Norman landscape.

Miss Vane looked out at the bright hills and woods, the fruitful orchards, and white-roofed cottages, so villa-like, fantastical, and beautiful; and her face brightened with the brightening of the landscape under the hot radiance of the sun. The grey-headed gentleman felt a quiet pleasure in watching that earnest, hopeful, candid face; the grey eyes, illumined with gladness; the parted lips, almost tremulous with delight, as the sunny panorama glided by the open window.

The quiet old bachelor’s heart had been won by his companion’s frank acceptance of his simple service.

“Another girl of her age would have been as frightened of a masculine stranger as of a wild beast,” he thought, “and would have given herself all manner of missish airs; but this young damsel smiles in my face, and trusts me with almost infantile simplicity. I hope her father is a good man. I don’t much like that talk of Sheridan and Beau Brummel and the Beefsteak Club. No very good school for fathers, that, I should fancy. I wish her mother had been alive, poor child. I hope she is going to a happy home, and a happy future.”

The train stopped at Rouen, and Miss Vane accepted a cup of coffee and some brioches from her companion. The red August sunset was melting into grey mistiness by this time, and the first shimmer of the moonlight was silvery on the water as they crossed the Seine and left the lighted city behind them. The grey-headed Englishman fell asleep soon after this, and before long there was a low chorus of snoring, masculine and feminine, audible in the comfortable carriage; only broken now and then, when the train stopped with a jerk at some fantastic village that looked like a collection of Swiss toy cottages in the dim summer night.

But, let these matter-of-fact people snore and slumber as they might, there was no such thing as sleep for Eleanor Vane. It would have been utter sacrilege to have slept in the face of all that moonlighted beauty, to have been carried sleeping through that fairy landscape. The eager schoolgirl’s watchful eyes drank in the loveliness of every hill and valley; the low scattered woodland; the watering streams; and that perplexing Seine, which the rumbling carriage crossed so often with a dismal hollow sound in the stillness of the night.

No; Miss Vane’s bright grey eyes were not closed once in that evening journey; and at last, when the train entered the great Parisian station, when all the trouble and confusion of arrival began–that wearisome encounter of difficulty which makes cowardly travellers wish the longest journey longer than it is–the young lady’s head was thrust out of the window, and her eager eyes wandered hither and thither amongst the faces of the crowd.

Yes, he was there–her father. That white-haired old man, with the gold-headed cane, and the aristocratic appearance. She pointed him out eagerly to her fellow-passenger.

“That is papa–you see,–the handsome man. He is coming this way, but he doesn’t see us. Oh, let me out, please; let me go to him!”

She trembled in her eagerness, and her fair face flushed crimson with excitement. She forgot her carpet-bag, her novel, her crochet, her smelling-bottle, her cloak, her parasol–all her paraphernalia: and left her companion to collect them as best he might. She was out of the carriage and in her father’s arms she scarcely knew how. The platform seemed deserted all in a moment, for the passengers had rushed away to a great dreary salle d’ attente, there to await the inspection of their luggage. Miss Vane, her fellow-traveller, and her father were almost alone, and she was looking up at the old man’s face in the lamplight.

“Papa, dear, papa, darling, how well you are looking; as well as ever; better than ever, I think!”

Her father drew himself up proudly. He was past seventy years of age, but he was a very handsome man. His beauty was of that patrician type which loses little by age. He was tall and broad-chested, erect as a Grenadier, but not fat. The Prince Regent might become corpulent, and lay himself open to the insolent sneers of his sometime boon companion and friend; but Mr. George Mowbray Vandeleur Vane held himself on his guard against that insidious foe which steals away the graces of so many elderly gentlemen. Mr. Vane’s aristocratic bearing imparted such a stamp to his clothes, that it was not easy to see the shabbiness of his garments; but those garments were shabby. Carefully as they had been brushed, they bore the traces of that slow decay which is not to be entirely concealed, whatever the art of the wearer.

Miss Vane’s travelling companion saw all this. He had been so much interested by the young lady’s frank and fearless manner, that he would fain have lingered in the hope of learning something of her father’s character; but he felt that he had no excuse for delaying his departure.

“I will wish you good night, now, Miss Vane,” he said, kindly, “since you are safely restored to your papa.”

Mr. Vane lifted his grey eyebrows, looked at his daughter interrogatively; rather suspiciously, the traveller thought.

“Oh, papa, dear,” the young lady answered, in reply to that questioning look, “this gentleman was on board the boat with me, and he has been so very kind.”

She searched in her pocket for the card which her acquaintance had given her, and produced that document, rather limp and crumpled. Her father looked at it, murmured the name inscribed upon it twice or thrice, as if trying to attach some aristocratic association thereto, but evidently failed in doing so.

“I have not the honour of–a–haw–knowing this name sir,” he said, lifting his hat stiffly about half a yard from his silvered head; “but for your courtesy and kindness to my child, I hope you will accept my best thanks. I was prevented by important business of–a–haw–not altogether undiplomatic character–from crossing the Channel to fetch my daughter; and–aw–also–prevented from sending my servant–by–aw–I thank you for your politeness, sir. You are a stranger, by the way. Can I do anything for you in Paris? Lord Cowley is my very old friend; any service that I can render you in that quarter–I–”

The traveller bowed and smiled.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.