Horrible, most horrible to himself was the disappointment of all his hopes. The bright dreams that he had entertained, the visions of gay things which he had suffered the enchanter Imagination to call forth from the former obscurity of his fate, were all dispelled by the words that he had just heard spoken; and everything dark, and painful and agonising, was spread out around him in its stead. He was as one who, having fallen asleep in a desert, has dreamt sweet dreams, and then suddenly wakes with the rising sun, to find nothing but arid desolation around him.
Thus, painful indeed would have been his feelings if he had only had to contemplate his situation in reference to himself alone; but when he recollected how his position bore upon the Duke and Laura, the thought thereof almost drove him mad. The deceit which had been practised upon him had taught him to entertain hopes, and to pursue objects which he never would have dreamed of, had it not been for that deceit. It had made him throw open his heart to the strongest of all affections, it had made him give himself up entirely to ardent and passionate love, from which he would have fled as from his bane, had he known what was now told to him. He had been made also the instrument of basely deceiving others. He knew that the Duke would never have heard of such a thing as his marriage with Lady Laura; he, knew that in all probability he would never have admitted him into any extraordinary intimacy with his family, if he had not firmly believed that he was anything but that which he was now proved to be. He did not know, but he doubted much whether Laura, knowing her father’s feelings upon such a subject, would ever have thought of him otherwise than as an ordinary acquaintance. He knew not, he could not tell, whether she herself might not upon that subject entertain the same feelings as the Duke. But what would be their sensations, what their astonishment, what their indignation, when they found that they had been so basely deceived, when they found that he had been apparently a sharer in such deceit! Would they ever believe that he had acted unwittingly, when the whole transaction was evidently to the advantage of none but himself; when he was to reap the whole of the solid benefit, and the Earl of Byerdale had only to indulge a revengeful caprice? Would anybody believe it? he asked himself: and, clasping his hands together, he stood overpowered by the feeling of having lost all hope in his own fate, of having lost her he loved for ever, and, perhaps, of having lost also her love and esteem, and the honourable name which he had hitherto borne.
For a few minutes he thus remained, as it were, utterly confounded, with no thought but the mere consciousness of so many evils, and with the cold sneering tone of the Earl of Byerdale still ringing in his ears, announcing to him plainly, that the treacherous statesman enjoyed the wound which he had inflicted upon him, almost as much as the humiliation to which he had doomed the Duke.