Kenilworth eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 697 pages of information about Kenilworth.

“You have a courtly conscience, Master Varney,” said the Countess, “and your veracity will not, I think, interrupt your preferment in the world, such as it is.  But touching Tressilian—­I must do him justice, for I have done him wrong, as none knows better than thou.  Tressilian’s conscience is of other mould—­the world thou speakest of has not that which could bribe him from the way of truth and honour; and for living in it with a soiled fame, the ermine would as soon seek to lodge in the den of the foul polecat.  For this my father loved him; for this I would have loved him—­if I could.  And yet in this case he had what seemed to him, unknowing alike of my marriage and to whom I was united, such powerful reasons to withdraw me from this place, that I well trust he exaggerated much of my father’s indisposition, and that thy better news may be the truer.”

“Believe me they are, madam,” answered Varney.  “I pretend not to be a champion of that same naked virtue called truth, to the very outrance.  I can consent that her charms be hidden with a veil, were it but for decency’s sake.  But you must think lower of my head and heart than is due to one whom my noble lord deigns to call his friend, if you suppose I could wilfully and unnecessarily palm upon your ladyship a falsehood, so soon to be detected, in a matter which concerns your happiness.”

“Master Varney,” said the Countess, “I know that my lord esteems you, and holds you a faithful and a good pilot in those seas in which he has spread so high and so venturous a sail.  Do not suppose, therefore, I meant hardly by you, when I spoke the truth in Tressilian’s vindication.  I am as you well know, country-bred, and like plain rustic truth better than courtly compliment; but I must change my fashions with my sphere, I presume.”

“True, madam,” said Varney, smiling; “and though you speak now in jest, it will not be amiss that in earnest your present speech had some connection with your real purpose.  A court-dame—­take the most noble, the most virtuous, the most unimpeachable that stands around our Queen’s throne—­would, for example, have shunned to speak the truth, or what she thought such, in praise of a discarded suitor, before the dependant and confidant of her noble husband.”

“And wherefore,” said the Countess, colouring impatiently, “should I not do justice to Tressilian’s worth, before my husband’s friend—­before my husband himself—­before the whole world?”

“And with the same openness,” said Varney, “your ladyship will this night tell my noble lord your husband that Tressilian has discovered your place of residence, so anxiously concealed from the world, and that he has had an interview with you?”

“Unquestionably,” said the Countess.  “It will be the first thing I tell him, together with every word that Tressilian said and that I answered.  I shall speak my own shame in this, for Tressilian’s reproaches, less just than he esteemed them, were not altogether unmerited.  I will speak, therefore, with pain, but I will speak, and speak all.”

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Kenilworth from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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