DRELINCOURT AND RODALVI;
TWO NOBLE FAMILIES.
A NOVEL, IN THREE VOLUMES.
BY MRS. BYRON,
AUTHOR OF ANTI-DELPHINE.
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn; good and ill together:
our virtues would be proud if our faults whipp’d them not; and
our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our
PRINTED FOR J. MAWMAN, IN THE POULTRY.
BY G. HAZARD, BEECH-STREET.
DRELINCOURT AND RODALVI.
Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness
Wherein the pregnant enemy doth much.
THE season was now rapidly advancing, when London appears in its utmost gaiety and splendor. Lord Drelincourt always went there in February, and he this year rather hastened his return to it, as he remarked, with sorrow, the increasing estrangement of Lord Courtney from home, and the dejection which clouded Lady Rosamond’s fine features, and cast a gloom over all her ideas and remarks. It was not possible that she should feel otherwise than mortified, when every letter from her faithless ci-devaut amant, instead of being filled with complaints of her cruelty, and his misery, teemed with the praises of another, and declarations of his own happiness. She could not avoid hearing of his new attachment, though Edmund was too delicate ever to mention it, but Henry never failed to rally her on the futility of her charms, and the readiness with which Clayton had consoled himself.
When the day was fixed for leaving the castle, Lord Courtney mentioned a previous engagement, that he had formed with Lord John Talbot, which obliged him to be in town somewhat sooner than the rest of the family, he therefore took his leave, hoping to meet them at the time appointed. Lord Drelincourt was too indulgent to controul his son, in a matter of no real importance, but he was mortified to observe in him of late, on the most trifling occasions, an air of constraint and mystery, never attendant on actions which will bear scrutiny. He spoke not on the subject, but the expression of gravity in his countenance, was understood by the conscious Henry, who felt hurt to even slightly wound the feelings of a father, to whom, the tenderest affection, the most respectful obedience, and sincerest confidence were due.
The day after Lord Courtney’s departure, Lord Drelincourt received letters which made him anxious to be in town, as soon as possible, and as the weather was remarkably fine, he wished his family to accompany him, accordingly they set off a week sooner than they had originally intended.
On their way Lord Drelincourt alighted from the carriage, to shew Edmund a point which commanded one of the most extensive views in England. In returning, the Earl unfortunately struck his foot against a stone, and by a sudden twist sprained his ancle. The pain was very violent, and Lady Drelincourt urged him to stop at Blandford. He had wished to reach Salisbury, where he meant to conclude the day’s journey, as it was his customary and favorite resting place; but in compliance with her entreaties, an outrider was dispatched to the former place; when they arrived there, his lordship’s ancle was much swelled, a son of Esculapius was sent for, and in a few minutes one arrived, who by the assistance of a good house, with chemicals, and galenicals, inscribed neatly in golden letters over the door, had the most business, and as some would think, consequently the best medical abilities in the place. The messenger who had been dispatched for him, had informed him, that he was sent for to a lord. This intelligence acted as an electrical shock upon his nerves. "A Lord!" he exclaimed, jumping up, and leaving the ensanguined stream to flow from the arm of a half-price patient, who had called on him; "A Lord! I never heard of one being arrived, I wish I had known, I would have been a little better dressed, but I will wait on his lordship directly," hurrying out of the room as he spoke; he was however recalled by the feeble voice of the sick man, whom he had left, and who asked with the utmost simplicity, if he were to wait there till Mr. Pestle returned from calling on the lord? "Yes, do if you please," replied the man of business, but recollecting himself he added, "I will just tie up your arm before I go," and by this wonderful instance of memory, and presence of mind, he probably deprived the honest countryman of the glory, of dying a death, similar to that of the illustrious Seneca. Fortunately no other obstacle intervened, except meeting a few patients in his way, all of whom Mr. Pestle informed, that he would have the pleasure of seeing them, as soon as he had just looked in on the Earl of Drelincourt, who had been waiting for him a considerable time at the Crown.
As he ascended the stairs, Mr. Pestle had ample employment in pulling up his cravat, arranging his frill, and letting a white handkerchief peep from his pocket; by the time that all this was done, the door was thrown open, and he was introduced into the presence of the peer. After a bow to every individual, which resembled in lowness and humility, that movement called in the East Indies a salam, or that which a devout persian makes to the rising sun; Mr. Pestle approached, and surveyed the part affected with the nice eye of medical criticism. "My lord, your lordship’s accident might have been much more serious, than you will, I hope, now find it. In the course of my practice, I have seen very lingering, tedious, and difficult cases, induced by cases apparently as trifling. Your lordship has had a narrow escape from a luxation of the tibia, but happily," continued he, "it is so defended by the ligamentum superius anterium, and the ligamentum posticum, superius, that I believe no worse consequences will arise to your lordship, than a violent sprain of the ligamentum deltoides, I will however, send your lordship an embrocation for the part affected, and an ointment to remove the discolouration of the cuticle, and," feeling the Earl’s pulse, "I think a composing draught for this evening, and another in the morning, may be of service to your lordship. "What," said the Earl with a smile, "do you think me so violently fluttered by my accident, or so much alarmed for its consequences?" "By no means my lord," answered Mr. Pestle, "I merely mentioned draughts, because we generally; that is, it is customary to send them, but certainly I will not, if they be not agreeable to your lordship." The Earl smiled again, and politely replied, "Yes, I beg you will send them, Mr. Pestle, a custom is seldom general without good reasons, and I like to conform to established rules." Mr. Pestle then departed, with the same profusion of bows, as he had exhibited on his entrance, and had the satisfaction of telling all his patients, that he had been the whole of the morning, with the Earl of Drelincourt, who was a mighty pleasant man. His lady and daughters also were charming women and vastly handsome.
During the examination of his lordship’s ancle, Edmund had retired to refresh himself by some slight duties of the toilet, and his valet whilst combing his hair, informed him with that air of mystery, which never fails to rouse curiosity, that Dawson was at the Inn. "Dawson!" exclaimed Edmund, "what is he doing here when his master is in London?" "Lord Courtney is here too, I believe sir," said the valet with a smile, that spoke what he durst not otherwise express, "not that Dawson told me so sir, he denied it, but I heard him ordering horses to be brought out, as soon as dinner was taken up for my lord; and I was surprised that he should order them, when it was so nearly dark." "And I am more than surprised," Edmund involuntarily exclaimed, he however checked himself from saying more, but he returned to the Earl with so disturbed a countenance, that he was immediately asked if he were indisposed; he replied that he did not feel quite well at that moment, nor did he deviate much from the exact veracity, which he always endeavoured to observe, for he was really agitated, and resolved to satisfy himself, whether Lord Courtney were actually preparing to leave the inn at that late hour, notwithstanding the arrival of the family.
They were scarcely seated at the dinner-table, before Edmund heard the sound of horses’ feet, and he again drew attention by changing colour; he complained of a violent pain in his head, and requesting to be excused from continuing at the table, he left the room with a beating heart, and went into another; from the windows of which, he plainly discerned a carriage, and four horses, the useful Dawson was putting in some parcels, and a few minutes after, he distinguished beyond a doubt, the features of Lord Courtney, whom he was shocked to see, accompanied by a lady, in whose slender form arrayed in sable garbs, he instantly recognized Mary Macdonald; a female servant followed her, the door was closed, the postillions cracked their whips, and the carriage, followed by Dawson, was quickly out of hearing.
Edmund’s heart was formed of nature’s best and most susceptible materials, and his eyes filled with tears, as he mentally exclaimed, "Lost unfortunate Mary! unhappy Henry! one day thou wilt remember with agony, that thou hast basely betrayed the trust of a fond father, of a dying friend! Oh may’st thou yet repent ere thou committest a crime, which when committed, no repentance can expiate." Not one spark of resentment did Edmund feel at the distrust, which Henry had shewn of him, no, he was rather proud that their friendship had not been a partnership in vice. He rejoiced also that Lord Drelincourt was spared the pang of knowing his son’s dereliction from the principles which had been so carefully instilled into him; and he sought to console himself by the hope that Henry might not yet be dead to conviction, and that the disinterested advice of friendship, might be received with the penitence of returning virtue.
The next day Lord Drelincourt was able to pursue his journey, whether by the assistance of nature, or of Mr. Pestle’s draughts, we will not determine, but he certainly did reach town, in safety with all his family.
Now see a splendid city rise to view,
With carts, aud cars, and coaches, roaring all,
Wide-pour’d abroad, behold the giddy crew,
See how they dash along from wall to wall!
At every door, hark! how they thundering call,
Good Lord! what can this giddy rout excite?
Why on each other with fell tooth to fall,
A neighbour’s fortune, fame, or peace to blight,
And make new tiresome parties for the coming night.
THE delights of London, arrayed in the facinating garb of novelty, could not fail to interest the mind of Edmund, though they never, for a moment, drew his attention from the explanation which he wished to have with Henry; who, as if suspecting his designs, industriously shunned the communication so anxiously sought. Edmund was not however discouraged, but resolved to watch a favourable opportunity, and disguised his wishes, in order to throw Henry off his guard till one should occur.
Lady Drelincourt’s nights were always crowded, for every one wished to appear at her assemblies; and the first brought all the fashionables who had arrived in town. Amongst the number were, the Earl of Carisbrooke, Lady Laura Delany, Miss Clayton, and Sir John, who had come to town on business, after an absence of twenty years; and of course discovered wonderful alterations since he had last visited it. The Dunderton family also were of the party, for they had left their cards immediately on Lord Drelincourt’s arrival, and much sooner than he wished; he by no means approving of his ward’s intimacy with Miss Dunderton, as it encreased to a degree of familiarity, of which folly or enmity is too frequently the consequence.
The Earl of Carisbrooke kindly rallied Edmund on his desertion, saying, that Lady Laura was quite offended by it: "I was more reasonable," added he, "and told her, that I did not expect you to devote much of your time to a gouty old man, and a solitary lady, when you had so many fair claimants on your attention at the Castle." Edmund apologized with much grace to the Earl, but he shrunk from the idea of doing it to her ladyship; for though he had never loved her, yet she had certainly first inspired him with a wish to please; and an attachment, even of that slight kind, cannot be remembered by one new to the world, without aukward sensations. The lady however advanced, and with the delightful ease of modern manners, tapped him with her fan, and beckoned him to a seat near her on a sofa, which had fortunately been deserted by two old ladies for the whist table. The hero obeyed the summons with a beating heart, and pressed her hand to supply the place of words; whilst Lady Laura, encouraged by his confusion, and of course imagining that it sprung from the tenderest emotions, laid aside her first intention of behaving with coldness and hauteur, and adopted the same mode of conduct, that she had often successfully practised in the summer-house, whither she so considerately always invited her guests, to recover the fatigue of walking a quarter of a mile.
"You do not know," said she, in the tenderest tones that she could possibly assume, "how you hurt me by so suddenly forsaking Carisbrooke; my father was really quite offended with the inconsistency of your conduct, but I always endeavoured to excuse it to him: tell me now, in return for my good-nature, to what it really might be owing?" This home question greatly embarrassed Edmund, who was not prepared either to expect or to answer it; he however extricated himself tolerably well, by saying, that "Whatever had occasioned his apparent negligence, her ladyship must be too conscious of her own attractions, not to know that it must have been as painful to himself, as it could possibly appear disrespectful to others." Lady Laura might not believe this exactly, for she was too conversant in the language of gallantry, to expect that sincerity should form one of its characteristics; but she appeared perfectly satisfied, and began once more to play off the artillery of tender glances, broken sentences, and affected confusion; though not with the success by which they had been before distinguished; for Edmund’s eyes wandered from her’s to follow the pretty figure, and pleasing countenance of his Emma, as she passed from room to room, paying attention to all, and gaining it from every one, by the graces of her unaffected deportment. Lady Laura saw that she was not attended to, and like a skilful general, made a good retreat, resolving to rally her forces at a more favourable opportunity; telling Edmund therefore, that she should expect to see him the next day in Grosvenor Square, she left the sofa, and took her place at a table where all the softer emotions were lost in the anxieties of rouge et noir.
Hard is the fortune that the sex attends,
Women, like princes, find few real friends;
All who approach them their own ends pursue,
Lovers and ministers are seldom true:
Hence oft from reason heedless beauty strays,
And the most trusted guide the most betrays;
Hence by fond dreams of fancied power amus’d,
When most they tyrannize they’re most abus’d.
EDMUND was too polite to fail in an appointment with a lady, and after having had the pleasure of a tête à tête with Lady Laura, the day being very fine, he sauntered on horseback towards Hammersmith, and would probably soon have returned, as the morning was far advanced, had not his curiosity been attracted by a gentleman a little way before him, who he thought must be Lord Courtney; he followed him till his conjectures were reduced to certainty, and quickening his pace he soon overtook him.
Lord Courtney did not appear highly delighted with the rencontre, or much inclined to loquacity; his replies were short and unsatisfactory, his behaviour cold and absent; but Edmund was determined not to be offended, or to leave him till he had gained his confidence. Henry was too volatile to preserve long an assumed gravity, too good-natured to long affect a coldness that he could not feel; and after riding nearly half an hour in silence, he began to converse with his usual frankness.
"My dear fellow, " said he, "now acknowledge plainly, that you think me a rude, reserved, unpleasant sort of a being; I am sure you must, though you may be more good-natured than I deserve, and not willing to tell me so." "Indeed," replied Edmund, "I could not tell you so, without doing my thoughts injustice: part of your own accusation I will agree to, for I know you have been reserved to me of late, but far from thinking that friendship cannot exist without an entire communication, I am of opinion rather that its very essence consists in the liberty of occasional concealment, without giving birth to suspicion or displeasure." "You are a generous fellow," answered Courtney, "and I am unworthy of so kind a friend. My concealments have arisen from a consciousness, that your virtue would disapprove my conduct, which justly incurs my own reproaches, and they embitter all the sweets that passion taught me to expect; but which, I am convinced cannot be tasted, if vice be necessary to obtain the possession of them." He paused, and appeared much affected; after a few minutes he proceeded, "Promise, Edmund, that you will not despise—alas! I may say hate me, if I, at last, place entire confidence in you; from selfish motives I own, on my part, for I am tempted to do it by the hope of finding, in your consolation and advice, relief from recollections and remorse, intolerable to be borne alone." Edmund earnestly requested his confidence, without informing him, that it could disclose little more than he already knew; but they had arrived at Brompton, and Henry alighting at the door of a small neat house, requested him to do the same. They entered without knocking, and went into a parlour, which was furnished in a style of plain elegance, and contained a grand piano-forte, a book-case filled with the best English authors, an embroidering frame, drawing implements, and many other useful decorations. Whilst Edmund cast his eyes round the apartment, Henry continued silent and embarrassed: in a few minutes the door was opened, and the unfortunate Mary entered. She started on seeing Edmund, but it was the simple movement of surprise, for no other emotion appeared: the blush of shame suffused not her cheek, though modesty still seemed to reign on it; her manners were easy, unaffected and interesting as they had ever been, she behaved to Edmund with the warm politeness due to Henry’s friend, and to Henry himself, every word, ever look, bespoke the most delicate and undisguised affection." Strange inconsistency!" exclaimed Edmund mentally, "shall vice wear the aspect of virtue? does innocence associate with guilt? can happiness shine in eyes which ought to be dimmed with repentant tears? ah! could Macdonald see his daughter thus, what would not be his sufferings!" The unconscious object of Edmund’s reverie, awoke him from it by asking him in the most engaging terms, to stay and take his dinner with Lord Courtney and her; he started on hearing her so openly join her name to Henry’s, and refused her invitation with an impressive look, in which there was more of sorrow, than of anger. Lord Courtney appeared displeased, and enquired what were his objections? Edmund could not give his real ones, he could not allege that the painful reflections excited by his company, were such, as to preclude the possibility of either receiving, or giving pleasure, whilst remaining in it; but he excused himself, on the score, of not having seen any of the family, before he left Berkeley Square. Henry assured him that it was of no consequence, adding, "My father’s dinner hour is fixed, as the law of the medes and the persians, ‘which altereth not;’ and if not one of the family were ready at the appointed time, you would yet see the dishes smoaking on the table, and the servants standing around it, ‘punctual as lovers to the moment sworn,’ you will therefore keep no one waiting, and in the evening we will return together, and the same apology will serve for both." Edmund still hesitated, there was yet another reason, which he had been ashamed to give, and he now stammered out, something of an engagement to attend Lady Laura Delany, to the Opera; "Bravo," exclaimed Courtney, I admire your choice of company, nor do I wonder at your unwillingness to comply with Miss Macdonald’s request, when you are required to protect the timid and interesting Lady Laura." There was a bitter irony in the tone of these words, which offended even the gentle Edmund, and his fine eyes flashed reproachful fire on Lord Courtney, whose conscious looks could not bear their glance; Edmund repeated his apologies to Mary, and rose to take his leave, Courtney rose likewise, "You are not going," said Mary in a tone of entreaty; he took her hand saying, "I must go, excuse me to-day, for I have indispensable engagements." "Do not ask me to excuse you," said Mary, for you must well know, that I could not excuse myself were I capable of wishing to detain you contrary to your inclinations." Offended pride struggled with tenderness in her bosom, the first flushed her cheek, the last trembled in her eye. Henry felt the appeal forcibly, but he felt also, that he had offended Edmund, and he could not bear the thought of seeing him depart in anger. Edmund saw that Henry had already repented his petulance, and this instantly disarmed his quick resentment. "Suffer me," said he, with the smile of benevolence, which speaks immediately to the heart; "suffer me to have the privilege of changing my mind, a privilege always granted to your sex," addressing himself to Mary, "and every day exerted by you," turning to Henry; "neither can therefore deny it to me, and I hope that Miss Macdonald will permit us to dine together here, as probably her hour is sufficiently early to allow me time, on my return, to change the deshabille, for which I must apologize to her." This proposal was immediately accepted with unfeigned pleasure. Mary’s eyes sparkled with renovated cheerfulness; the gloom on Courtney’s countenance was dispersed, and even Edmund’s regrets were hushed, by the propriety of conduct which he saw strictly observed, and the pleasing and rational conversation which was sustained.
The repast was served with an air of comfort, and elegant neatness. The dishes, few in number, were in the first season and admirably dressed. They were waited on only by one servant, in a plain suit; and the plate, liquors, and desert, were all in the style of an excellently regulated household. Mary did the honors of the table, with the most enchanting grace and simplicity: coffee was brought soon after, and the time was filled up with music, in which she was only a learner, but had already made sufficient progress to accompany her voice with much taste and pathos, in the most admired airs of her native country.
At an early hour the gentlemen departed, and Henry desired Edmund to breakfast with him the next morning, when he would candidly relate his errors, and endeavour to profit by advice, "at present," said he, "I dare not think of any thing penseroso, for I ought to be very civil to Lady Harriett, and you know she is so exceedingly penetrating, that I must spare her sensibility." Edmund, notwithstanding he used the utmost expedition in adorning himself; yet failed in gallantry so much as to be half an hour beyond his appointment, for which he was reproached by Lady Laura, who told him she "could not forget that he was once more punctual." He blushed at the remembrance, and rejoiced that he had been spared another tête à tête with her ladyship, whose society in losing novelty, had lost the only charm that it had ever possessed, and whose artificial manners suffered greatly from the comparison which he daily made between them, and Lady Emma’s ease and native modesty. Perceiving that her swain was in no very pliable humour, the lady ordered her carriage, and endeavoured to banish the frowns from her countenance, by reflecting that she should, at least have the satisfaction of exhibiting his fine figure in her box, and that by talking to him on different topics, with an air of deep interest, she might inspire the females with envy, and perhaps stimulate the attention of Lord John Talbot, a fashionable young man, whom report gave to her ladyship as a lover, and her conduct to him, plainly evinced that if he were not so, it was from no want of encouragement. With these consolatory hopes she suffered Edmund to hand her into the carriage, and they proceeded to the opera-house, after stopping to take up a little, lean, wrinkled female, who submitted to act as a foil to youth and gaiety, in order to insure a place at a table, or in public, where her own means were not all-powerful. It happened that Lady Drelincourt and her family were likewise at the opera; and, as their box was opposite to Lady Laura’s, they of course had a full view of each other.
This gave no great pleasure to Lady Laura, who suspected that she had a rival in the family, but could not determine exactly on any particular lady. Her suspicions were confirmed by the inattention of her beau, from the moment of their entrance; she spoke, but received no answer, she looked at him, but his eyes were fixed on some individual of the opposite party, with a tender expression, so unlike the fashionable stare of indifference, that she immediately felt herself forsaken; a discovery not likely to be borne with patience, and she exclaimed in no very pleasing accents, "Really, if you mean to be equally entertaining all the evening, you will draw my attention entirely from this beautiful ballet." Edmund’s ears caught the last words of her speech, and he replied, without moving his eyes, "Beautiful indeed! and interesting as beautiful!" Her ladyship burst into a loud laugh, and asked him where he had dined? this question rather roused him, and looking round, he remarked with surprise, the altered expression of her countenance. Ill-nature and malice deformed her features, he lip was drawn up with a contemptuous sneer, and he sought to refresh his eyes by again fixing them on the simply elegant form of Lady Emma. Lady Laura exerted all her self-command, she saw that her empire tottered, and that her only chance of victory was to appear unconscious of defeat. She therefore addressed her conversation to her chaprone, who unfortunately was very deaf, not that this in general was considered as any defect in her, on the contrary, she was often pronounced a very agreeable companion, when she had neither heard nor spoken one word during the conversation; and her society was sometimes sought with an avidity, which however might still have been exceeded, had she fortunately been blind as well as deaf.
A ballet was performing, "very pretty indeed," said Lady Laura to her companion, with her eyes fixed on the box that so successfully rivetted Edmund’s attention; "charmingly pretty indeed, do you not think so, Mrs. Arundale?" Mrs. Arundale judiciously never gave her opinion until it was asked, and then good naturedly accommodated it to that of the enquirer. She now followed the direction of her ladyship’s eyes, and very naturally replied, "They are indeed, my lady, very handsome." "They," re-echoed Lady Laura, "what do you mean?" "Which do I mean? indeed they are all handsome, but I think the young lady in pink the prettiest, though the one entirely in white is very pleasing, but rather pale." "I was speaking of the dancing madam," said Lady Laura, very coolly, then added in a lower tone, "It is very entertaining to come to a public place with the deaf and dumb." This ungentle hint recalled Edmund’s attention, and he resolved not to gratify himself again at the expense of politeness. Perhaps he had less merit in this sacrifice, as he had already had the pleasure of a curtsey, and timid smile from Lady Emma, which was certainly food enough for a lover to live upon for the remainder of the evening. His returning cares restored Lady Laura’s smiles, though she could not do away the effect which her ill-humour had produced; or throw any expression into her countenance, sweet enough to efface the remembrance of the angry passions before imprinted on it.
Towards the latter end of the piece, Lord John Talbot came into the box, and Lady Laura’s eyes sparkled with vanity and hope, as he negligently looked round, saying, "How are you this evening? how do you exist all this immense time; these people would weary the patience of an anti-deluvian." "Oh! you gothic creature," said Lady Laura, "surely you can never be tired of this charming harmony. Do you allow this attack on music, Signior?" Oh!" interrupted Lord John, "Signior Rodalvi is used to something more like music than this infernal noise; but we have nothing good in England, except decent horseflesh, for every thing else it is a beggarly nation." Edmund was astonished, "What," thought be, "is this an Englishman? do the natives of this country then go abroad to despise all other nations, and return to abuse their own, although it is so highly favored, as to render even their warmest prejudices in its favor excusable?" Lord John had now thrown himself into a chair, as if he wished to take a nap; and bringing his head so nearly in contact with her ladyship’s shoulder, as to make it seem a pillow, they presented an interesting picture of the agreeable negligence of one sex, and the condescending tolerance of the other, according to the newest fashions. Had Edmund followed his own opinions of propriety and impropriety, and his inclinations to chastise the latter, he would have ordered the peer to leave the box, and insult decorum elsewhere; but he saw plainly, that the familarity which disgusted him, was by no means so displeasing to its object, who listened with great complacency to the nothings yawned, rather than whispered into her ear. In about a quarter of an hour Lord John arose, and taking leave of the company with the same careless nod, by which he had saluted them on his entrance, he swung out of the box, notwithstanding the very pressing invitation which he received from Lady Laura to stay, and the hints that she threw out, of returning home before the piece was ended.
She would now gladly have turned her attention again to Edmund; but, unfortunately at that moment, some ill-natured or misinformed person, circulated a report of fire having broken out among the machinery; which, added to a powerful smell of smoke, created such terror that the house was soon in confusion, notwithstanding some of the principal performers appeared on the stage, to assure the audience that the cause of their alarm, merely arose from some preparations for a part of the spectacle. Edmund however felt only half satisfied with this apology, and was so pale with apprehension, that Lady Laura began to form a contemptible opinion of his courage, and endeavoured to laugh him out of his fears, assuring him, that a piece would never be heard through, if flying reports of that nature were attended to; adding, that if there were even reason for alarm, she should always commend remaining quiet, as there was much more danger in going with the crowd, than could result from waiting till it should be dispersed. Edmund perfectly agreed with her ladyship, as to the propriety of her plans, but added, that he thought Lady Drelincourt appeared alarmed; he would therefore beg leave to go to the opposite side for a few moments, just to escort the ladies to their carriage if they required assistance, and would then have the pleasure of returning. Lady Laura coldly begged him not to confine himself; adding, "I cannot but admire the perfection of your ocular powers; I am sure the other side of the house might be in flames, and I unable to perceive it." She had forgotten that her eyes, however deficient, could, a few minutes before, distinguish Lord John opposite to her, notwithstanding the immense distance and that he, though very fashionably blind, could not affect to misunderstand her pointed obeisance, and encouraging looks.
Edmund flew to the box which contained one inestimably dear to him, and who rose higher every day in his estimation; for he every day became convinced that in her he should possess a jewel, richer than all the tribe of gay fashionable females, who flutter round the blaze of dissipation, till they are burnt in its flames.
He found Lady Drelincourt much alarmed, and her daughters on that account, were anxious to return home. Henry actually devoted his attention to his mother, and resigned the care of Lady Harriett to Mr. Dunderton, who had just arrived at a time when he could make himself useful, and who received his charge with a profusion of soft speeches. Edmund protected Lady Emma; her sisters had a crowd of beaux, and they were safely guarded to the carriage. "Have you room for me," said Edmund." "We should not have it for any other fifth," said Lady Rosamond, "but for you, we would submit to be crowded." The gentlemen loudly complained of this avowed partiality. Edmund stepped into the carriage, and never once thought of Lady Laura, till the arrival of Lord Courtney, after the piece was ended, reminded him of his excessive rudeness. "Ah! what shall I do?" exclaimed he, starting up, "what is to be done? ladies assist me, I implore you give me your advice." "When we know your reasons for requiring it," said Lady Drelincourt, "you shall have the very best that we can offer." "Now indeed, my dear lady, it is no jest," continued he, "I have left, that is, I have forgotten¾ " he stopped, and Henry helped him out, by saying, "You have forgotten what you were going to tell us; but, my dear fellow, do now recollect what you have left at the opera? is it your heart or your toothpick-case." "No," replied Edmund, "I have left Lady Laura." The grave inquietude with which he spoke, diverted the company, and Henry consoled him by an assurance that she would not be lost for want of protection. It was however agreed that he ought to return, in order to make enquiries after the deserted fair one. Henry was deferring all apology till the next day, saying, "Lord John Talbot should have stayed with her, who does he think will take the trouble of escorting his mistress? I am sure he will not find me so condescending, though perhaps when she is his wife I may do it, just for the eclat of the thing." Lady Drelincourt gently reproved him for levity of his speech, adding that she was well assured his words were at variance with his sentiments; he was beginning to hold a mock argument with her, but Edmund could not forbear expressing his surprize, on hearing that Lord John, was an accepted lover of Lady Laura; Henry laughed at the astonishment which he betrayed, asking him if he had expected that one admirer would content her? Emma coloured, and an emotion resembling jealousy passed across her heart, but it was dispelled by Edmund’s replying, "I own that had I known it sooner, I should have looked for more attention from his lordship, and less from her ladyship, during the short time I saw them together." "My dear fellow," returned Henry, "would’st thou enslave us again in the trammels of our forefathers; just when we are congratulating ourselves on having shaken them off? no, no, they are as the ‘tales of other time,’ and the remembrance of them may be ‘pleasant, but yet mournful,’ for they will ‘return no more." A servant was now dispatched to Lady Laura, and returned with the information, that she had retired to rest much indisposed. "Well," said Henry, "I congratulate you however, on not having her death to answer for; her indisposition will not be very lingering, I dare say; she will be visible to-morrow, and you will be admitted to the happiness of pleading for your pardon in the magic boudoir." The family now separated for the night, and Lady Harriett followed Emma into her dressing room, to enquire with a mysterious air, "If she did not think that Edmund must be attached to Lady Laura, from the emotion which he had discovered, on hearing that she was going to marry Lord John Talbot?" Lady Emma replied, that she really believed he had no attachment whatever, to the lady in question, and that his emotion, as Lady Harriett emphatically termed it, was only surprise, suddenly excited by hearing of an arrangement, with which he was unacquainted. "Very possibly that might be the case," answered Lady Harriett, "only he must have some attachment more than we know of, he is so sparing in his attentions at home: I am sure he does not speak to me, for a day together, but you are indeed a favourite." "I," exclaimed Emma, "why should you think so? does he address his conversation oftener to me than to any one else?" "No, perhaps not much oftener, but always with more interest, and he smiles when he hears your voice, and when you do not see him, he looks at you; and he plays the tunes which he has heard you admire, and when he takes a pencil into his hand, he copies your sketches, apparently without thinking of what he is doing." Emma blushed, and began to think Lady Harriett in a more rational humour, than she had ever known her. "Now acknowledge, my dear Emma," continued her sentimental companion, "that there is something infinitely soothing to the mind of susceptibility, in the idea of being beloved." She paused for a reply, which Emma gave briefly, saying, "Certainly any one is unworthy of being beloved, who is incapable of appreciating the sincere attachment of a worthy object." "Yes," said Lady Harriett, "and an object may be worthy, though doomed to be unfortunate, as my sweet friend Eliza Dunderton says, and indeed her brother is a proof of her assertion; he is not so lively, so very much the rage as Lord Courtney, or as handsome as Count Rodalvi, but he is interesting, and truly amiable." Then throwing herself into what she conceived a charming attitude, with a tragedy air, which showed how rapidly she improved in the society, and from the counsels of her Eliza, she exclaimed in a pathetic tone,
"Ill fated youth, my heart must feel thy woes,
But my seal’d lips their source shall ne’er disclose."
Then with a well acted confusion she hastily bade goodnight, and retired, to the great joy of Emma, who could only account for her romantic absurdity, by supposing that she had lost her reason, or was talking in her sleep.
Friendship! thou greatest happiness below,
The world would be a desart but for thee,
And man himself a nobler kind of brute.
Wherefore did heav’n our god-like reason give
To make the charms of conversation sweet,
To open and unbosom all our woes,
For life’s sure medicine is a faithful friend.
THE next morning Edmund breakfasted by appointment with Henry, whose spirits were again fled, and his countenance expressed the effects of a sleepless night and an uneasy mind.
As soon as they were alone, Edmund remarked with concern, his friend’s altered looks, requested him to have some medical advice. "Alas! Rodalvi," said he, "there is not an article in the materia-medica which would afford me relief; unless it have lately gained some, capable of ministering to a mind deseased; there lies my ill, there I ought to minister to myself, and from that I shrink like a base coward." He started up, and walked about in great agitation, Edmund besought him to be tranquil; "Tranquil!" he exclaimed, "no, no, it is not for me to be tranquil! you, Edmund, are happy, you have never forfeited your own esteem; and thousands in my situation would not be unhappy, wretched that I am, I abhor vice, yet cannot summon resolution to practise the virtue, that I know and admire." After a long pause, in which he endeavoured to recover sufficient calmness to resume his discourse, he continued, "I am ashamed to confess, how early I formed the design of seducing the innocent girl, whom you saw yesterday; it commenced even from the moment in which I first beheld her. Encouraged by finding that she had not mentioned my impertinent behaviour to her father, my vanity construed her silence into partiality, and I resolved to improve it to my own advantage, though I was soon convinced that the fear of exciting her father’s uneasiness, had been her sole motive for the only reserve she had ever used towards him. Would that she had related it in the first impulse of anger, he would not then have smiled on an assassin, who basely wounded him when he could not defend himself.
"After Macdonald’s death, it was necessary to fix on some plan for his daughter immediately; at first I determined upon sending her into Scotland, under the care of my servant, and in the company of Jane Williams, the gardener’s daughter, a well-behaved honest young woman, who had waited on her, and to whom she appeared attached. Unfortunately I thought again, and however second thoughts may be deemed the wisest, they are seldom the most favorable to the causes of humanity and virtue, for the dictates of the former, have too often been repressed on a nearer view, by cautious avarice, and the ardour of the latter, damped by the suggestions of self-gratification.
"As the time approached for her departure, my courage sunk under the idea of losing her; I began to hesitate; I persuaded myself that there was something disrespectful to her father’s memory, and that I only half fulfilled my promise, by sending her away under the care of servants; I therefore resolved to accompany her, to place her myself under the care of her aunt, with whom I hoped that my father’s name, and my own, would be of service in procuring her respect and comfort. Pleased with any thing like a reprieve, I was delighted with the victory which I imagined I had gained over my inclinations, and compared my triumph to that of Cyrus, or Scipio, thinking my own forbearance in no wise inferior to theirs. I imparted my intentions to Mary, who received them with that innocent sweetness which so enslaves me, that unsuspecting implicit reliance on my honor, which, I thank heaven, she has never yet had reason to repent; believe me Edmund, I have never yet sought to injure the purity which confides in me, and could I gain resolution to withdraw from temptation, I might yet be virtuous and happy, for surely the applauses of my own heart would diffuse balm over my wounded soul." "Oh Courtney," exclaimed Edmund, "there spoke my friend; cherish the noble thought, resign her, Henry, resign her, and fulfil your trust with honor; ah, do not add another victim to infamy, lead her not to lament that ignorance of guilt, which deprived her even of suspicion. Do not teach her its existence, by discovering it where she expected every virtue; my dear friend, the ardour or passion will subside, and your conduct must hereafter appear to you in its real colours, perhaps also at a time, when wearied of the world and disgusted with mankind, all your resources for happiness must be drawn from the retrospect of a well-spent life. What then will be your feelings, when you review your actions and dwell on this period? Perhaps long after the poor deceived object of your love, may have ceased to exist, and will be remembered only by the remorse awakened in your breast, from the consciousness of your base conduct towards her. Seduction, always a crime, is in this case one of the deepest dye, it joins perfidy, cruelty, falsehood and perjury, it offends immediately God and man, and when the hour of your death arrives, you may be agonized by recollecting the violation of your promises given in the same trying moment, to Macdonald." Edmund’s fine countenance in speaking, was animated by the energy of virtue, and illuminated by the light of truth, his eyes beamed conviction, whilst the tears which fell from them, softened the rigour of his speech, and attested the sincerity of the tender friendship by which it was inspired.
Lord Courtney listened in silence, he felt the force of Edmund’s arguments, for his own heart had taught him the same, but he received them with the peevishness, of "a man convinced against his will." When the unimpassioned Madame de Maintenon, urged Madame de Montespan, to withdraw her guilty attachment from the King, and to fill her heart with the love of God, devoting the rest of her life to penitence and prayer. "Alas! madame," replied the wavering mistress, "you seem to think it as easy to change an attachment, as to change one’s linen; and for a King too!" Courtney answered nearly in the same words, "I agree to all that you have said; I know what I ought to do, but how to prevail on myself to do it, is the difficulty which I have hitherto found insurmountable. You seem to think it as easy for me to disengage myself from an attachment, as from an appointment to dine; and an attachment for one too so eminently lovely!" "Her loveliness is no excuse," returned Edmund, "for your irresolution, no addition to your difficulties; every man thinks the woman he loves, eminently and incomparably lovely; and he is only convinced by a new attachment, that she may be equalled and perhaps excelled." Courtney was piqued, "Yes," he replied, "if to do, were as easy, as to know what is fitting to be done, ‘chapels would be churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.’ You can condemn my partiality to a girl, who possesses every power to facinate by nature, for of art she knows not the name, and yet you for weeks, submitted the disposal of your time, to a capricious woman of quality, under the idea of her entertaining a serious passion for you; forgetting she was known as a hacknied coquette, that a woman of that description, will never love any one but herself, that Lady Laura has been so profuse of her smiles in the world of fashion, that it is a proof of greater dexterity to escape them, than of bonne fortune, to be favoured with them; and that the former is generally considered more enviable than the latter." Edmund did not wish to quarrel with a friend whom he loved, for a woman whom he despised, though that may be the order of things, among the Quixotes of the day, who manfully meet to fight, are separated by the peace-officers, shake hands, have the satisfaction of seeing their intentions set forth in a barren paper, and gain the admiration of the ladies for their daring courage; he therefore calmly answered, that he confessed his ignorance of Lady Laura’s principles, at the time of his becoming acquainted with her, that he discontinued his intimacy, when he became convinced of her favours being general, and that he only now made a shew of it, from a consideration of the politeness, which he deemed due to every female, though by her conduct she might sometimes forfeit her claim to it. This mild reply recalled Henry to a sense of his petulance. "You must forgive me my dear friend," said he, "I grow as savage as a bear, and I am vexed to find you ten thousand times more worthy than I shall ever be; I ask your advice, and if it be not exactly according to my wishes, and diametrically opposite to what you ought to give, I become angry, persuade myself that it is not worth taking, but that my own is infinitely better, and ought to be followed; I will however resume my history, though I know that I must make a poor figure as the hero of it. I told you that Mary was pleased with my determination to accompany her into Scotland; a journey of five hundred miles, appeared to her a terrific undertaking, and she naturally expressed pleasure in having a companion whom she regarded as her best friend. This determined me; I postponed the day of her departure, and never fixed it again. I prevailed on her to change her lodgings to a village, six miles from Drelincourt, called Appleton, on pretence that the rooms she then had were damp; an idea given me by the old people, who lamented the circumstance, and gladly accepted her offer of taking Jane to wait on her. In this retired spot, she remained, perfectly satisfied with my delaying her journey, on account of the severity of the winter, which even under its mildest aspect, is certainly an improper and uncomfortable season for travelling.
"When the time was fixed, for our leaving the castle, I easily prevailed on her to quit Appleton; she had no friend but me; she considered me as her lawful guardian, and thought herself bound to comply with my proposals, which appeared entirely for her comfort. I had travelled very leisurely, never suspecting the probability of seeing my father on the road, as I knew that he did not intend to begin his journey, until the time when I expected mine would be ended; imagine then my surprize and dismay, when I recognized his livery; at the first I thought that he meant only to change horses, for I knew he never made Blandford his resting-place; but I soon found that he was stationary for the night, and I durst not risk a discovery; I endured all the tortures of concealment and anxiety, until you were seated at table, I then framed an excuse to Mary for my apparent whimsicality; ordered horses, went one stage further that night, and took a different rout for the remainder of the way.
"I had previously engaged the house which you saw yesterday at Brompton, and I immediately procured masters in every branch of the polite arts for Mary, whose education had hitherto been solely guided by her own excellent capacity, and natural taste, aided by her father’s occasional instructions, as his confined income rendered it impossible for him to give her the advantages, that his affection wished. Her ignorance of the world, guards her from uneasiness, she perceives not any thing peculiar in her situation, and in retaining Jane as a companion, she imagines that every appearance of impropriety is avoided. Her time glides on in undisturbed tranquillity, marked only by the acquisition of useful knowledge, or pleasing accomplishments. She delights to see me when she can display any improvement, and in my absence, her sole study is to deserve my approbation, by redoubled diligence.
"Alas! shall I cultivate the rich soil of her mind, for another to reap its fruits? Shall I daily see the loveliest flowers of my own planting, spring up, and must another mark their bloom, and enjoy their fragrance? I am denied the privilege of the humble peasant, I have not a right to dispose of my hand; no, I know too well what I have received from my ancestors, and what I owe to them; yet I cannot but think, that the disposal of my heart belongs to me alone, and my Mary would accept it, unmindful of the censure of the world, for she would know that I had not more to offer. Marriage is at best a mere human ceremony, instituted for the convenience and security of society, its form differs in every country, and it is of consequence only so far, as it binds one man to one woman; so long therefore as the end is effected, the means are optional; and as from the peculiarity of my situation, I am under the necessity of accommodating my actions to circumstances, my intentions may nevertheless be pure, my conduct honorable, Heaven knowing my motives, will acquit me of guilt, and men will have no right to accuse me, for I should only deviate from established rules, because a compliance with them, would injure those, to whom I owe the most affectionate reverence, and those from whom, though yet unborn, I may hope to receive it. How few are there who will condemn me for obeying the dictates of my own inclinations! how many would be justified in censuring me, were I to disgrace my lineage by an unequal marriage! in the first instance, I only injure myself, in the last I injure my posterity, I wish not to appear scrupulously virtuous at their expence, and I would rather be accused of failing in the rigid forms of morality, than of forgetting the respect due to an illustrious name and exalted rank. My own actions are free; if they incur censure, I alone am the sufferer: but I have no right to entail shame on my children, for those on whom the name of Drelincourt will descend, shall never have cause to blush for the weakness of their father, and the inferior condition of their mother." So spoke family pride, and early instilled prejudices; so shrunk Lord Courtney from the idea of giving birth to a titled heir, by a woman, virtuous as she was lovely, capable of adorning any rank to which she might be exalted, and whose only fault consisted in the want of nobility. Edmund combated these opinions with honest warmth. "I do not understand your distinctions," said he, "you seem to think yourself entitled by your birth, to overcome every obstacle divine and human, that may interfere with your wishes. You say, a just pride, a debt due to your ancestors and to your posterity, forbids your marrying the object of your affection, because her condition in life is unequal to your own. I grant this, and respect the distinctions which society requires; but I cannot think you excusable in forming a dishonorable connexion with her, and thereby rendering her inferior to every virtuous woman, in even the lowest ranks of life. The right that you claim of incurring censure on your own actions, I will not dispute, but I cannot grant that the noble privilege extends to hers; nor can I imagine what plea you can alledge to involve her in ruin, or why your children by her, should blush to know themselves born in wedlock, yet be enabled to bear the taunts of illiberal contempt, or the reproaches of malicious cruelty, without experiencing any painful sensations on knowing themselves to be the fruits of betrayed confidence, and illicit love. If all obstacles must be made to yield to our desires, however inordinate, then may the tyrant ‘wade unchecked through slaughter to a throne,’ and plead in excuse for his cruelties, that the intermediate claimants interfered with his desire to reign, and that being unable to succeed by peaceful means, he was justified in waving the murdering steel, and dispersing the obstacles to his gratification. But virtue must be fixed and unalterable, her laws can never be subjected to the arbitrary opinions of men, blinded by prejudice and passion; and the arguments which you have advanced in support of your wishes, only prove that however ingenious the understanding may be, in strengthening the suggestions of the will, and dignifying them with the appearance of reason, it can yet raise no cloud of words sufficiently powerful to obscure that steady light of truth, with which the Almighty has been graciously pleased to illuminate our minds, to guide us through the mazes of error, and to enable us to continue in the paths of virtue with cheerfulness and security." Edmund ceased, Henry replied, arguments were maintained on both sides, without producing conviction to either, and the controversy ended as controversies generally do, by each party being more warmly convinced of the truth of his own opinion, and the fallacy and weakness of that of his adversary.
At length they parted; Henry went to pay his devoirs to his fair enslaver, who suspected not the discussion of which she had been the subject, and Edmund delighted with the hope of saving her from ruin, and his friend from remorse, resolved to impart the whole affair to Lord Drelincourt, rightly thinking, that in a case so desperate, confidence would be "more honor’d in the breach than the observance." Unfortunately the Earl was at that time engaged at the house, but Edmund resolved to take the first opportunity of his return, to gain a private audience of him, and in the intermediate time, he went to pay his respects to Lady Laura, and to frame an excuse for his negligence the preceeding evening.
Then all for parking and parading,
Coquetting, dancing, masquerading,
For sales, plays, courts and crowds, what passion,
Nay churches even if the fashion;
For woman’s sense of right and wrong,
Is ruled by the almighty throng;
Still turns to each meander tame,
And swims the straw of every stream.
THE groom of the chambers shewed Edmund into Lady Laura’s dressing-room, and informed him, that she had been much indisposed. "Mi ladi," said Monsieur La Fleurette, "be tèrs bad tout le matin; she had des fit historic last night, she had such grand peur of de barbares who made all de grand bruit; and dis morning, one, two o’clock came, she had de historic fit again, and de physician came to help her to die, but she be better for all dat." With this melancholy account he left the room; and soon after her ladyship entered, with an air of interesting languor, and most attractingly dressed in an elegantly deshabille, of fine muslin, trimmed with beautiful lace. Edmund, naturally compassionate, saw immediately that she was really indisposed, and accordingly paid his condolences in a very tender manner. "I shall soon be better," she replied, " I was hurried and alarmed last night in coming from the opera, which made me rest very ill; but I shall feel quite renovated with a little air." Edmund was really shocked, and attempted to apologize, but she goodnaturedly commanded his silence, and he thought that she had never appeared more amiable. She saw the impression which she made, but unfortunately, in endeavouring to strengthen, she destroyed it. When she smiled tenderly, he recollected Henry’s words, and they introduced such a crowd of melancholy reflections, that his countenance became clouded by them. She quickly remarked the change, and asked him to take an airing with her; he endeavoured to excuse himself, by saying, that he was engaged to meet the ladies at a fashionable auction. "What!" exclaimed she, "at the sale of Sir William Lightly’s effects?" "The same." "Oh delightful! then I will make one of your party, for it will do me good to be amused; I was very intimate with them all the last winter; I know there are a profusion of sweet tempting articles, and all the world will be there; besides, I was Lady Lightly’s particular friend, and she will be pleased to hear I was there; she will think it a compliment you know; excusez moi donc, un moment." so saying, she tripped away to alter her dress, leaving Edmund to wonder at the different modes of complimenting in different countries.
Lady Laura’s prophecy seemed actually fulfilled, the rooms were delightfully crowded with a motley group drawn together by avarice, extravagance, indolence, vanity, scandal and curiosity. Lady Laura was in her element, and soon forgot all des barbares, and de historic fit. "How d’ye do, how d’ye do," said she, nodding to Lady Drelincourt and her party; "you see I come to you sans cérémonie." She then seated herself, and after taking time to recover breath, she ran on, "How very shocking to see all these pretty things so thrown about, what brutes these creditors are, how dreadful to fall into their clutches. It is immensely hard on people of fashion; their clumsy tradesmen never consider the enormous expences they are obliged to incur in order to appear tolerably genteel." "Nor do the people of fashion, I am afraid," said Lady Rosamond "ever consider the expences that their tradesman are obliged to incur, and how many families are ruined by the efforts of their customers to appear genteel." "Oh, Lord! yes, it is very shocking for the industrious souls; but to be sure some of them are horrid cormorants, and bore one to death with their long bills." "And yet, a long bill," said Mr. Fletcher, "is not a characteristic of the bird which you have just mentioned; I am afraid, rather, that you may compare the poor tradesmen to snipes; and the masked ball, or suite of newly furnished rooms, to the voracious gormandizer, that swallows up the little people without finding his ravenous appetite appeased." "Oh, you wretch!" cried her ladyship, "to compare an aukward creature of a tradesman to any thing so delicate and divine as a snipe; but, really now, I am so sorry for poor Lady Lightly; what is become of her, pray?" "I believe," said Mr. Fletcher, "she is in the country, writing a treatise on the inestimable value of friendship, illustrated by various incidents, and innumerable characters, ancient and modern." "Indeed! well I never knew that she could write, but it is a happy resource, poor woman, she may find it very useful; I will subscribe to her book, if she publishes it by subscription. I suppose they have nothing left; indeed they lived terribly fast; quite shocking to receive so many invitations from them, when all the world knew that they could not hold out another winter." "Which I suppose," said Mr. Fletcher, "was the reason why all the world good-naturedly accepted them, fearing, in its tender anxiety, lest every entertainment should be the last." "Oh! you are so severe," returned her ladyship, "if I did not know you, I should be quite afraid of you." "And I have heard many declare their fears of your ladyship, merely because they do know you." She was going to retort, but at that moment, Mr. Sellwell gracefully waving his hammer, entreated silence, with an earnestness, nearly resembling a command. He then opened the sale with a speech, in which he extolled the elegant taste that had collected so matchless an assortment of goods; hinted, with impertinent delicacy, his grief at being called on to dispose of them, and judiciously intimated his satisfaction, on seeing to so brilliant an assemblage of beauty and fashion; who, he doubted not, would willingly do justice to articles, so eminently worthy their attention.
Valuable paintings were now knocked down at one fourth of their original cost, and gaudy copies purchased for three times more than their intrinsic value, whilst the comments of the company formed the principal entertainment. Lord Dunderton had come to bid for bookcases, though they were very useless articles of furniture in his eyes; a small shelf in his counting-house, having always, hitherto, been capacious enough for this library. Conscious of this, be was vexed to find much more bidden for them than he thought they could be worth; though they were most tastefully designed, and elegantly ornamented. He could not however prevail on himself to bid one-third of their value, but endeavoured to vent his disappointment in abusing their late owner. Lord Drelincourt had just stepped in, and stood near him, though he could not have addressed his complaints to a worse subject. "It is amazing, my Lord Drelincourt," he exclaimed, his words almost inarticulate with passion, "it is astonishing to see how some people do throw away their money. Who would have thought to have seen such handsome furniture, in a young fellow’s house not worth a groat? what business had he to be knighted? silly mushroom, he never did any good after; it is, indeed, a strange thing that people cannot be content with that state of life, unto which it may please God to call them. For my part, I don’t say nothing out of envy, I am doing well in the world, thank God, but one can’t but be vexed to see no distinctions made; why there’s a parcel of young fellows just now bid against me, out of contradiction, about them there book-cases; not that I had much use for ‘em, but I don’t believe the young sparks are so flush of cash; rather a shy article, that I believe with most of ‘em; not that I care about it, but there is a respect due, my lord, that there is sometimes a want of that said article in the present day." Lord Drelincourt drew himself up with additional hauteur, until he effectually overlooked the little fat figure who had talked of similarity of opinion, and deficiency of respect; he answered briefly, that he did not carry his expectations of respect being paid to him, to so ridiculous an extent, as to look for it in a mere trifle of fancy or convenience; and that he had not the honor of knowing Lord Dunderton sufficiently to form a judgment of his claims to it. Lord Dunderton thought it mighty odd, that Lord Drelincourt should stand on such ceremony, for a sense of his own importance prevented him from ascribing the coldness, which he could not but remark, to any other cause, and he answered, "I hope your lordship does not consider me as a stranger, seeing we are quite next door neighbours, as one may say, in the country; and I think the nobility should be very friendly with one another, it is a pleasing sight, my lord, and what ought to be." "Sir, you are very condescending," said the Earl, making him a half bow, "and all the nobility are very much obliged to you." He bowed again, and left him, to take a seat near Lady Drelincourt, with the polite attention of the old school, to whose precepts he was very partial; and Lord Dunderton congratulated himself on having made such a clever, civil speech, that it must please the Earl, or the deuce was in him.
The attention of the company was now attracted by the voice of a female, who bid very loudly for a pair of elegant pistols, which Mr. Sellwell had warmly recommended to the attention of the gentlemen, assuring them that they were so admirably bored as to send unerring destruction, if the hand that held them possessed, in the smallest degree, the cool and steady courage so eminently the characteristic of the age. Notwithstanding Mr. Sellwell’s compliments, the gentlemen did not appear ambitious of possessing such unerring weapons; the beauty of the mounting indeed attracted some of them, but they would probably have been just as much prized if they had not been bored, for with many it was decreed quite obsolete to fire; to meet and measure the ground, being sufficient to satisfy anyone, however bitterly affronted. The lady proving victorious, insisted on having the prize delivered into her own hands; and stepping forward to receive it, presented the blooming countenance of Miss Clayton, whose roseate tints of health, and exercise, put the deepest rouge of the languid ladies of quality to the blush. She examined the pistols carefully, drew the triggers, snapped them, and professed herself well pleased with her purchase, whilst the gentlemen, admiring the novelty of it, and attracted by her smart figure, began to stare at her, and ask who she was. "Egad, a spirited girl," said Lord John Talbot; "if it were not so consumedly hot, and I were somewhat nearer, I would positively chat a little with her; prithee, Courtney, who is she? and where does she come from?" "Her name," replied Courtney, " is Clayton, and the merry-looking, fresh-coloured old gentleman beside her, is a worthy baronet, her uncle, who has given her an excellent education in his stables, and trained her as carefully as any of his favorite hounds. She will scour the country in a fox-chase, and is always sure to be in at the death: she shoots flying, and will bring you down as many birds as you please: she will make an excellent wife, and I’ll answer for her never having the vapours: shall I introduce you?" "No, indeed," replied his lordship, "I will not trouble you, I have as many eccentricities on my hands as I can manage; the colour of her cheeks would throw me into a plethora; and I should not be able to die in peace, for her yoix, yoix, tally-ho!"
Henry was tempted to bid for a pretty cabinet, containing every necessary implement for work and drawing; it was most ingeniously contrived, and was the production of a French nobleman’s leisure hours: if the amusement be thought trifling, let it be remembered, that it was not vicious; and too often, the plans of vice are conceived in the moments of idleness. "Ah! how terrible," exclaimed Lady Laura to Lord Courtney, "to see that sweet little cabinet go for such a trifle; it was poor Lady Lightly’s favorite: poor woman, how shocked I am! she could not draw, but she got the sweetest little sketches and paintings from the emigrants, very cheap, and that just did as well: poor woman, how I pity her! I would have bought it myself, to make her a present of it, if I were not almost a beggar already;" pointing to a pile of chips before her, "I have half ruined myself with purchases, but I always did long for this sweet china, whenever I saw it; did you ever behold such brilliant colours?" He replied in his usual rattling strain of gallantry; but his purchase had attracted curiosity, and he was rather puzzled to answer the numerous questions addressed to him on the subject. Lady Harriett simpered, imagining that she could guess his designs; and Mr. Dunderton, who had lately paid her great attention, whenever he could do it unobserved by her guardian, affecting to be in depair, whispered to her, "Happy Courtney! he can testify his love in a thousand ways, of which my cruel fate denies me the power." He might have said, for fate read father, as Lord Dunderton had too recently acquired riches, to distribute them very profusely; he knew how easily "they make to themselves wings and fly away;" he therefore resolved to secure the possession of them, by keeping their pinions closely cut, infinitely to the chagrin of his son, who often found all his eloquence, unable to procure a discharge of his tailor’s bill, or even a dinner for his young friends, in return of the numerous entertainment which he was obliged to accept from them. Miss Dunderton did not fare much better, and often complained bitterly to her mamma, that it was a shame for a lord’s daughter to go so shabbily dressed, when every miss in the city, was as fine as hands and pins could make her. The prudent mother generally steered a middle course, commending her husband’s care for his family, and, at the same time, supplying her son with cash when she could get it; and always allowing her daughter to order to a sufficient quantity of materials for one dress, to make half a dozen fashionable wet draperies. All her indulgence did not, however, lessen the mortification, that the young people felt at their father’s parsimony; from which, wisely resolving to deliver themselves, they entered into an agreement, to mutually aid, abet, and assist each other, in every scheme that might appear favorable to their interest. Miss Dunderton promised to befriend her brother in gaining Lady Harriett; and he, in return, engaged to make her a present of an elegant wardrobe on the day of his marriage, and to find her titled husband among his acquaintance. Knowing however the Earl’s intentions, with respect to his ward, they felt the necessity of observing the greatest caution. In order therefore to avoid any suspicion, Mr. Dunderton prevailed on his sister to give up, for the present, her designs on Lord Courtney, to which she consented, as she had previously exerted every art of which she was mistress to gain his attention, without reaping the success that she wished for, and had once flattered herself with the hope of obtaining.
The company now began to disperse, and the major part of them who had been constant visitors at the house, amused themselves with condemning the elegance of the decorations, and complimenting their own foresight, in having always prophesied the end of such profusion.
Nor reigns ambition in bold man alone,
Soft female hearts the rude invader own;
But there indeed it deals in nicer things
Than routing armies, or dethroning kings.
MISS Clayton was perfectly satisfied with the amusement she had found at the auction, and declared that it was the pleasantest morning she had spent since she came to town.
The truth was, that this young lady was not exempt from her sex’s ruling passion, a love of admiration; on the contrary, it was as ardent in her bosom, as in that of a birthnight belle: the only difference was, that to obtain it, one assumed the manners of an amazon, the other of a courtezan; one dressed almost in man’s attire, the other almost in that of nature. Both understood the meaning of the word admiration in its modern sense, that is to signify, exciting wonder; not in the old-fashioned acceptation, when it was understood as synonimous with esteem and love.
When Miss Clayton came to town with her uncle, she had hoped to be considered as the most dashing character of the day; but was mortified to find that folly there assumed such various forms, that every road to notoriety was crowded with votaries, who warmly disputed the prize so anxiously sought after. She rode in a full gallop, and over-leaped every obstacle in vain, for a rival candidate drove to the goal, four in hand, and outstripped all other competitors by her dexterous velocity. The purchase of the pistols was however an idea entirely new. Miss Clayton was consoled by having started one so original, and resolving to secure her fame by firing them on the first opportunity, she wore them constantly, and looked so dauntless, that the most unbounded insolence, would have required additional courage, to risk offending her. She one day rode with her uncle, to visit a friend at some distance from town; and, in chattering over other times, Sir John lengthened his morning-call, until they were almost involved in the obscurity of night before their return. "Ods daggers" said Sir John, "I wish we had not stayed so late; I do not half like this gloomy look out. Halloo! you Jacob, keep close to my back: I feel very ticklish, my teeth chatter, I believe its with the cold; but London is grown a shocking wicked place since I was there last, and we may be robbed and murdered, Lord help us! before we get home." "Trust me, sir," replied his valiant niece, "no one shall do the first, unless they likewise manage to do the last, and I believe to that they would find pretty stout resistance." Miss Clayton was inspired by the consciousness of possessing her redoubtable pistols; but poor Sir John had nothing to raise his spirits, and replied, in desponding tones, "Oh! my dear, do not talk of making any resistance. What, if any of the bloody cut-throats should be lurking about, and over-hear you. I’m all in a tremble, I wish I was in bed and fast asleep, Lord help me! I would not get up for my dinner, not if the king himself, God bless him, was to send to ask me. Resistance! no, marry, we would not, make any resistance; I should be overthankful to come off with a whole skin; for what is money but paltry trash, beneath the care of a wise man?" Honest Jacob’s back felt as ticklish as his master’s and he was not much consoled by calling to mind the old proverb, that "The devil takes the hindermost." They had not proceeded far, when Jacob exclaimed, in tremulous accents, "Oh! please your honor here be tew men a coming; they be quite handy to us, and there be but one of these tew pistols loaded; will your honor please to take him?" "No, no, tr-tr-tr-truly," replied his honor, "I am but a very indifferent marksman, thou may’st use it thyself." Jacob would have declined the favor, but the horsemen came up to them, and after a very close examination of their features, one of the strangers exclaimed, "Surely I see Sir John Clayton?" "No you don’t," replied the cautious baronet, "if you are seeking for him, my friend, I advise you to look further on." He then, in a low voice, informed his niece that the fellow pretending to know him, was all a hum; that there was no end of their tricks in London; but that they should not bamboozle him. Now the terrible intruder happened to be no other than Mr. Breresford, who, like them, was rather later on the road than he thought agreeable, and seeing a party before him, he found "his breast with sympathetic fear alarmed," and slackened his pace, till, on the assurance of his servant, that he could distinguish a petticoat among them, he took courage to quicken it again, as he had never heard of highway-women. He was much pleased to see the face of an acquaintance instead of a robber, but was somewhat disconcerted by the baronet’s denying his name; he resolved therefore to try the lady, and coming round to her, said "Surely I cannot mistake, have I not the pleasure of seeing Miss Clayton?" "Yes, sir." replied the undaunted nymph, "pray receive my address." Saying this, she snapped one of her pistols at him, and he, with a piteous shriek, fell off his horse. "Oh, Lord! my dear," cried the worthy baronet, "what have you done? poor miserable sinner, he is killed; oh! what shall we do? what will become of us! I never had a murder on my conscience before." The servant now, by his loud lamentations, informed them of his mater’s name, and poor Sir John quaked at the idea of being accessary to the death of an innocent man; whilst even Miss Clayton’s laurels trembled on her victorious brows, and she heartily wished herself once more in peaceful obscurity at Clayton Hall. Some persons however coming past, conveyed the wounded hero to a house not far distant, and Miss Clayton led the way for the rest of the party, saying, "we have to be sure run confoundedly on the wrong side of the post, and it will be devilishly aukward if we have to swing for it." "Oh, my dear," answered Sir John, "do not talk about it, I am all in a flutter and my heart’s in my mouth, I shall never like the report of a gun again. Oh dear; it can only be manslaughter, for I’ll take my affadavit we had no malice afore thought, but I’d as liefe be hanged if it was not for the shame, as be sent to any out o’th’ way place beyond seas; what could I do at my time of life, all among kangaroos and wild men? No, no, I shall die on my passage, and then I shall be thrown overboard without christian burial, who would have thought a month ago that I should have come to such an ignominious end? What a disgrace it will be to my poor nephew? He’ll be forced to change his name, it will be the talk of all Devonshire!" His niece endeavoured to console him by observing, that no man need blush for his name, who was not ashamed of his actions, that with fresh air and exercise life was always worth having, that with good health every body had something to be thankful for, even in Botany Bay, and that after all they might have gone to worse places, as it must be a country that would afford excellent hunting, and plenty of game. "Ah dear heart," said Sir John, "what good would that do us! if there were as many hares as there must be rogues, they would be of no use to us; we should have no worthy friends to send them to, or jolly dogs to go out with us; and miserable horse-flesh I do suppose; no, no, England is the only place worth living in; I warrant all the fine places abroad, that they pretend to talk about, are a parcel of dirty beggarly holes." They now arrived at the house, and found to their great joy, that Breresford had only fainted, and had quite recovered by the motion of removing, though he could not but think himself mortally wounded, and entreated those around him, not to disguise his danger from false compassion. At length, he was with some difficulty convinced that he might consider himself able to pursue his journey, and received the apologies of his adversaries with his usual goodnature. The next day, the whole town was informed of the adventure; Miss Clayton became the rage, and had the pleasure of seeing herself carricatured in every printshop, under the name of the "Fair Amazon, or Rob me if you dare."—
We are fully sensible of the apology which we ought to make, for stepping out of the direct path of this unparalleled history, to relate Miss Clayton’s vagaries; but we thought it would be an unpardonable neglect of the notoriety, that she had taken such pains to acquire, were we to leave them entirely unnoticed, and to mention them at any other time, would have diverted the attention of our readers too much from the grand, important, and interesting incidents, with which we mean speedily to present them.
Ah me, is all our pleasure mix’d with woe!
Is there on earth no happiness sincere?
Must e’en this bitter stream of sorrow flow
From joy’s domestic spring our children dear?
How oft did Thetis drop the silver tear,
When with fond eyes she view’d her darling boy,
How oft her breast heav’d with presaging fear,
Lest vice’s secret canker should annoy
Fair virtue’s opening bud, and all her hopes destroy.
EDMUND anxiously sought for an opportunity of speaking to the Earl, but unfortunately his lordship had again entered into the labyrinths of politics, notwithstanding the disgust with which disappointment had formerly inspired him: and as it was not in his nature to espouse a cause, with only lukewarm zeal, particularly one so important in his eyes, as the welfare of his country, he devoted his time with such unremitted attention to public affairs, that he was seldom seen even by his own family, until late in the evening, when he endeavoured in social cheerfulness, to unbend his mind from the ardent and busy thought of the day.
Edmund sensible of this, was extremely unwilling to obtrude a subject on him, which would inevitably embitter the short time, that he allowed himself for recreation, and add new cares to a brow already clouded with anxieties not his own.
But on the other hand, he considered the danger of Mary’s situation, and the temptation of Henry’s; he felt himself accessary to her ruin, in delaying the prevention of it, and he accused himself of negligence in the cause of virtue, whilst he suffered selfish motives to interfere with his endeavours to promote it. In this doubtful and trying situation, his spirits forsook him, and his altered countenance proclaimed a mind disturbed. The gentle Lady Emma sympathized in his uneasiness, though ignorant of its source; delicacy checked every enquiry which anxiety prompted her to make, and when they were alone, each felt restrained and unhappy, yet neither made an effort to discover the cause of these feelings; Edmund guessed however that his apparent reserve wounded Emma’s sensibility, and though fully aware of the confidence due to love, he felt himself unauthorized to entrust it with a secret which belonged not to himself; to see her unhappy was more than he could bear, and he resolved to summon resolution, to acquit himself of the debt, which he conceived he owed to Mary, to Henry, to Lord Drelincourt, and to himself. He would then be released from the painful responsibility which he now held, and in the consciousness of having performed his duty, he hoped soon to lose the sense of anxiety and suspense, under which he suffered. He accordingly entreated Lord Drelincourt
to favour him with a quarter of an hour’s conversation, before he went to the house; the Earl immediately complied, and led the way into his study, with a countenance so benevolent, and unsuspicious of ill, that Edmund felt anew the utmost reluctance to wound his feelings, and the unpleasant situation in which he himself was placed.
However, after he had commenced his account, he surmounted his agitation, and when modestly stating the reasons which actuated his disclosure, and conjuring Lord Drelincourt to save the orphan of a brave officer, whose dying hours had been cheered by the hope, of leaving her not unprotected, his language was so impassioned, his manner so energetic, he maintained the cause of injured unsuspecting innocence with such tender dignity, and pleaded in behalf of forgiveness for Henry’s conduct, with such anxious friendship, that Lord Drelincourt lost in admiration, forgot his firmness, and paid Edmund’s eloquence the tribute of his tears: Edmund was greatly affected, and again entreating pardon, if he had been too importunate; retired with a mind comparatively at ease, but left the Earl a prey to a variety of contending emotions.
Shall we exhibit the human heart all its weaknesses to our readers? Or shall we deceive them, and represent Lord Drelincourt as a character rather to be desired than expected, unswayed by prejudice, unchanged by circumstances, unmoved by interest.
The partiality with which we are inclined to consider the character of this worthy nobleman, would induce us to conceal his errors, but truth forbids, and us it is our ardent wish to instruct, we must declare his faults, and lament their effects.
Lord Drelincourt would have shuddered at the commission of a crime, and had he been left with such a charge, as dying confidence had bequeathed to his son, though the object of it had been lovelier than the Spartan dame, and he in all the pride of youth, and the impetuosity of passion, yet would he have held her sacred and inviolate. His heart might have consumed in flames more ardent from concealment, but silence would have for ever sealed his lips on the subject of his love, which even to have felt he would have considered as a breach of trust.
Yet Lord Drelincourt was inclined to be lenient towards his darling son, even on the very articles wherein at his son’s age, he was the most rigorous in judging himself.
He examined his own actions by the undeviating principles of rectitude and honor; those of his son, he was willing, to consider like a man of the world, and to judge modern manners, by modern rules. Not that he for a moment thought of conniving at his son's continuing an acquaintance with Miss Macdonald; he was too tender a parent to his own daughters, and felt too forcibly the respect due to them, to see unmoved, the daughter of' Macdonald standing upon the brink of a precipice, from which one false step, would hurl her into ruin: no; knowing her danger, he resolved to avert it, but shall we confess, that his weakness was in wishing that he had not known it? And though he did not say to Edmund in the words of Constance, "away, this news hath made thee a most ugly man;" yet he could not repress a wish, (even whilst his cheek glowed at its impropriety,) that Henry had been more cautious, or Edmund less communicative. That Henry, had possessed more virtue, or Edmund less. But these thoughts were transient, as unworthy; selfishness and vice, were strangers to Lord Drelincourt’s bosom, and if ever they visited it for a moment by mistake, they soon left a place, where they found no congenial associates. Parental anxiety had inspired the wishes, which his nobleness of soul caused him to reject as soon as formed. He had been so happy in seeing his son free from the glaring vices and low excesses of the day, that at the first view he could scarcely regret his having formed a connexion comparatively virtuous: where innocent manners, and a cultivated mind, would ensure constancy and abhorrence of vice. He feared, also, lest the deprivation of an object so fondly, yet so respectfully beloved, might throw Lord Courtney into despair, and drive him to seek refuge from his own recollections, even in the ruinous and degrading haunts which he had hitherto avoided, from an early instilled virtue, and a proper sense of the purity of religion, as well as of the dignity of rank. These were the considerations that had involuntarily risen in Lord Drelincourt’s mind; but from a mind like his, every selfish thought was speedily expelled, and he resolved to converse seriously with Henry on the subject, not doubting of success, even considering his advice as the effusions of friendship, without calling in the aid of parental authority; which however he felt it would be his duty to employ in its utmost power, should his arguments fail to produce the desired effect.
Having resolved on the line of conduct proper to pursue, he endeavoured to compose himself, and went to lose his sense of domestic unhappiness in the discussion of public evils. As soon as Edmund saw Lord Courtney he honestly confessed his breach of trust. Henry looked, on the first hearing of it, as if he knew not exactly how to behave; but after a momentary struggle between anger and friendship the latter prevailed, and he replied, extending his hand to him, "I will not upbraid you, Edmund, with betraying my confidence, first, because I have no right to condemn in another, what I have been glaringly guilty of myself; secondly, because I know you incapable of committing an ungenerous action; and I do firmly believe that in this instance, you have been actuated by the most praiseworthy motives, and a sincere desire to serve me better, than you thought you should do by keeping my secrets; oblige me however, my dear friend, by no more mentioning the subject; it is an unpleasant and an unprofitable one, it engrosses too much of my thoughts, and I wish it not to intrude also on our friendly conversations; let this therefore be the last time of discussing it, and we will now if you please, pay our court to the ladies, whom I have not seen since yesterday at noon." His determined gravity, discouraged Edmund from answering, and he willingly attended him into the breakfast-room where the ladies were assembled. Henry soon informed then with an abruptness by which they were astonished, that he was going immediately into Oxfordshire, where he should spend a month. "What can tempt you leave town at a time, when you always declare yourself charmed with its gaiety?" Demanded Lady Rosamond. "What would tempt you all my dear sisters to do it likewise, even were you the gayest among the gay;" Lord Courtney replied: Lady Rosamond laughed, and told him that he dealt in enigmas. " Is there nothing then," said he, "that would tempt you into the country at this season? I did not really think you such a votary of dissipation." "Not entirely of dissipation," answered Lady Rosamond, "but at this season, London affords such various amusements, that both wisdom and folly, may be feasted in the most luxurious manner, according to their several, inclinations." "Well, you are a good casuist, Rose," continued he, "but what is your opinion, Maria? you speak not on the weighty subject." Now it happened that London had always the effect of a hotbed, on Lady Maria’s foibles, causing the seeds which had lain dormant during the latter part of her residence in the country, to spring up rapidly in the warm atmosphere of fashion, and to produce plentifully the fruits of affectation and folly. "I am so wretchedly languid," replied the indolent beauty in the most affected tone, ’pon honor, my nerves are so weak, that I am utterly unequal to the fatigue of collecting my ideas sufficiently to give an opinion on any topic; but certainly the calm retirement of the country is much more enviable, than the bustle of this noisy town, particularly to one so unfortunately delicate as I am." "Yes," said Henry, with goodhumoured raillery, "it is very shocking to be so weak, that you can only spend every morning in shopping, making visits, attending auctions, and exhibitions, and every evening just visit the theatre, and opera, and look into half a dozen assemblies." "Ah, but you do not consider, Henry," she replied, how exhausted I am with any little amusement into which I may enter, in compliance with custom more than my own inclination." " Yes," said he, "I do consider my dear sister, I consider that,
‘Miss D. tottering, catches at your hand,
Was ever thing so pretty born to stand?"
Lady Maria had good sense enough, to know, that she sometimes tempted satire, and goodnature enough, to pardon those who applied it to her; a smile was all the answer that she made, but Edmund gallantly took her hand and raising it to his lips, said, "Lady Maria’s charms are too powerful to need any aid, and conscious of their force, she is content to appear ‘ as though secure of all beholder’s hearts, neglecting she could take ’em!" Lady Maria thanked him for the politeness of his counter-quotation, and scarcely suppressed a sigh, as she acknowledged to herself, that the greatest possible inducement to lay aside her indolence, and affectation, would have been the hope of meriting his esteem. Lord Courtney then asked Emma, what would induce her to leave the joys of the town? She raised her eyes involuntarily to Edmund, but meeting his, she cast them clown, and blushing deeply, replied, "The company of my friends makes every place agreeable, and with them I am amused in town, and happy in the country." "A very prudent reply," said Lord Courtney, drawing her nearer to him, for she was almost his favorite sister, "why need you blush child? I cannot imagine how you contrive to bring all this pretty pink into your cheeks on every occasion;" then turning to Lady Harriett, he said, "I will not ask your opinion ma belle ange, for I should be jealous of your preference either way." Lady Harriett looked pleased and silly; to look silly did not indeed require much effort on her part, as nature had kindly adapted her countenance for assuming that expression with great ease. She made no answer, and he feeling unequal at that moment to continuing a conversation, in which he was not interested, gave her a tender pressure of the hand, a kind of language very eloquent in filling up the pauses of a brainless beau, and in general received with such complacency, that Henry laughingly declared, he should use it more frequently, but that he was often afraid of not being suffered to withdraw his hand again. "Well ladies," he exclaimed, "I am weary of your pretended ignorance, and your disingenuous replies: know then, that I am going on an expedition, which would tempt every one of you, that is to say a matrimonial one." He then informed them that he had that morning received a letter from Charles Saunders, his intimate friend, and companion at college, with the happy tidings of his being about to shackle himself in silken cords, and golden fetters, with the loveliest of the sex, and imploring the presence of his old acquaintance. "I suppose," added Henry, "to keep his spirits during the dreadful ceremony, I shall therefore go to witness his felicity, and I hope to anticipate my own." He then took a seat near Lady Harriett, and assailed her with such a profusion of compliments, that she even pardoned the temporary desertion of the charms, which he so liberally praised.
That same day he communicated his designs to his father, took his leave of him and his mother, embraced his sisters, and Lady Harriett, shook hands with Edmund, and departed, leaving the whole party astonished at the rapidity of his movements, particularly Edmund, who strongly suspected him of making truth, in this instance, yield to circumstance, as he had only in the morning been pressed to dine at Lord John Talbot’s, with him the next day.
To chase each partial purpose from his breast,
And thro’ the mists of passion and of sense,
And thro’ the tossing tide of chance and pain
To hold his course unfaultering; while the voice
Of truth and virtue, up the steep ascent
Of Nature, calls him to his great reward
Th’ applauding smile of heaven.
LORD Courtney’s stay in Oxfordshire was prolonged from week to week, till Lord Drelincourt began to grow uneasy, and Edmund suspicious; for he had made enquiries at Brompton, and found that Miss Macdonald had left it at the time of Henry’s departure.
At last the truant returned, after an absence of nearly three months. His mother and sisters welcomed him with the greatest affection; Edmund flew to meet him with undissembled warmth, but Lord Drelincourt received him with coldness and gravity; the only means by which he ever testified displeasure.
Lord Courtney adored his father, and greatly mortified by the first cool reception that he had ever met with from him; he manifested his vexation by silence, and affected to be lost in thought, forgetting that his own conduct had justly merited the displeasure by which he felt offended.
Lord Drelincourt impatient at his son’s behaviour, soon desired to speak to him in private; and when they had retired into his study, he, with an asperity very unusual in him, reproached Lord Courtney with his disrespectful conduct in absenting himself so long, and then proceeded to converse on the subject of which his hasty departure had before prevented the mention. After setting forth, in the strongest terms, the baseness of his son’s designs on an innocent girl committed to his charge, the Earl concluded by peremptorily commanding him to see her no more; adding, that he would himself undertake to send her into Scotland to her aunt.
Lord Courtney was stung to the quick by his father’s haughty and determined manner. "Your commands, my lord," he replied with bitterness, "are unfortunately issued too late to benefit the object of them; for, unless you can recall the past, they will be useless; therefore, as far as she is concerned, your interference can be of no service." "I am sorry for it, young man," retorted the Earl, "I am sorry Captain Macdonald should have been so deceived; and that his unhappy daughter should have been consigned to so false a guardian, I am sorry a Drelincourt should have disgraced his name by a base action; and you, sir, I pity, for he who incurs self-reproach is a truly pitiable object." The language of contempt was new to Henry, and ill could his unbroken spirit submit to it. "My Lord," said he, "spare your censures, I have not deceived the object trusted to my care; I have not yet behaved dishonourably towards her, and time will develope whether I shall ever do it." "Have you then promised her marriage?" demanded the Earl. " I have," replied Lord Courtney, with firmness. "And do you mean to perform your promise!" continued the Earl, in faultering accents. "If she require the performance of it, I believe I shall," answered Lord Courtney. The Earl turned pale, he took two or three hasty turns across the room, "Is it come to this!" he exclaimed; but he could say no more, and throwing himself into a chair, he covered his face with his hands. His emotion created sympathetic agony in the breast of Henry, who ardently desired to fall at his father’s feet, and crave forgiveness; but pride, false pride, forbade, and he gazed in silence on the anguish that he had caused in a parent’s heart.
At length Lord Drelincourt recovered himself, he looked up, and said in a softened tone of voice, "Henry, I had wished you to begin your travels very soon; I say I had wished, because after the proofs which you have given me of surmounting every thing in the gratification of your own inclinations, I am not weak enough to flatter myself, that you will sacrifice any thing in compliance with mine." "Oh! my father," exclaimed Lord Courtney, bursting into tears, "wound me not to the soul by this cruel coldness, as new as it is painful to me. Banish me for ever from your sight if I be grown odious to you; but be not so unjust as for one moment, to imagine that I could be ungrateful and vile enough to fail in my duty to a father, whom I can never sufficiently reverence and love." It is unnecessary to say after this, that a reconciliation took place. The Earl however trembled, when he recollected that in two months his son would be of age. He was more than ever strenuous for him to go abroad before the arrival of that period; and Henry, anxious to obliterate the recollection of his disobedience from his father’s mind, acquiesced in every thing that was proposed to him, though his compliance, in this instance, required the utmost efforts of his resolution.
Lord Courtney’s long absence from the metropolis, in its most inviting season, could not fail to attract the notice of his gay acquaintance; and he found himself, on his return, so weary of enquiries that he did not chuse to answer, and railleries to which he was in no humour to reply, that as soon as the birth-day was over, he was very glad to hear the Earl declare his intention of immediately leaving town.
The plan of Henry’s route was soon arranged; and a Mr. Barlowe, a worthy and well-informed clergyman, who had married Lady Emma’s governess, and to whom Lord
Drelincourt had presented a living, was fixed on, as his travelling companion and friend. The family were of course soon acquainted with the intended deprivation of Lord Courtney’s society; but the Earl imparted to Lady Drelincourt only, his reasons for hastening his son’s departure, and she acquiesced in the necessity of it, whilst she wept at the idea of parting with him, and lamented the unprotected situation of the orphan girl, who had unfortunately won his regard.
The period necessary to elapse, before Lord Courtney was in readiness to depart, rolled slowly on in anxiety and sorrow. He was frequently absent from the Castle; but the Earl knew the severity of his trial, and expected no unnatural firmness from him; though he could not but rejoice, as the moment drew near, which would at once terminate his son’s conflict and his own suspense.
After what we have described him to be, after shewing his character in every pleasing and domestic light, it is unnecessary to say, that Lord Drelincourt felt, at his approaching separation from his son, all the anguish of a tender, and all the anxiety of a wise parent. He had seen in Lord Courtney the happiest effects of a domestic education; he saw in his estrangement from home a probability of all the favorable appearances which he had witnessed with paternal delight, being blasted by the temptations of vice, or lost in the insignificance of folly. It may be asked, if Lord Drelincourt’s enlarged mind could not be brought to consider the world itself as one vast city, where different nations, manners, and opinions, are all lost in the appellation of citizens? It was not that he feared "Antres vast, and desarts idle, and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders;" he was well convinced, that in all climates, men are essentially the same, and that one mode of conduct will gain the esteem of all alike; but before he sent his son to traverse the vast city, he wished him to have at least a general idea of its plan, and of the object of his search. He knew that Henry was one of the many who are acted on, almost entirely from accidental causes. He was blest with virtuous inclinations and shining talents; but the careful father saw that the nicest discrimination would be required to guard these endowments from degenerating into vices. The vivacity that rendered him the peculiar favorite of a domestic circle, might among strangers, plunge him into excesses, and the more easily, from the facility with which he yielded to intreaty; and which, though among his friends it could be called by no other name than good-nature, might, among strangers, be productive of the most ruinous consequences. His generosity, under the influence of vanity, might become profusion, and render him the prey of the designing; even his taste for the fine arts, his love of enquiry, and thirst for general knowledge, were now sources of anxiety to the Earl, who feared lest they should induce his son to associate with those in whom the sacred gift of genius is too often rendered of little value by their entire want of conduct. It may be urged that the Earl was so inclined to look on the dark side of probable events, that he gave himself unnecessary pain in thus distrusting a son, who had never deserved the suspicion of being propense to change, merely from a change of air. But the Earl was a tender father, and Lord Courtney was an only son; and such a son as was rare indeed, in the annals of fashion. Many may not enter into Lord Drelincourt’s feelings, because there are not many who possess the greatest treasure that Heaven can bestow on man, a child, amiable, virtuous, and dutiful, as Lord Courtney had hitherto been. The Earl had seen some like Henry, like him they had left their native isle, rich in public and private virtues; the darling of their friends, and making the esteem of those to whom they were dear, their first consideration. He had also seen them return, but alas! how changed! emaciated persons, enervated constitutions, estranged affections and prostituted abilities, were the precious fruits of their travels, the offerings to their mourning disappointed friends. Could he see and not tremble! could he witness the frailty of expectation, the uncertainty of hope, and not dread the possibility of his brightest prospects being overcast? Filled with melancholy reflections, he sent to Lord Courtney the evening before his departure, requesting his company in the library. He came; a few moments elapsed in unpleasant silence, which at length the Earl broke, by saying in a voice that betrayed all his emotions. "Henry I trust you know how dear you are to me, if you had not been convinced of it before, I could not express it at this time. I love you with the tenderest affection. I esteem and admire you for your own worth, independant of every selfish consideration, and when I consider you as my heir, the last of your illustrious house, the centre of all my hopes, I feel grateful to Heaven, for having made me dependant for happiness in this life, on one so capable of bestowing it; one whom I acknowledge with pride, to be the chief source from which I ever can receive it." He paused, and Henry, pale, and agitated, pressed his father’s hands with fervour to his heart, and bedewed them with the tears of filial love: the Earl continued, "I shall not occupy your time and my own, with common-place exhortations and remarks; my cares in your education would have been ill bestowed, could I now say any thing to you concerning your duty, and propriety of conduct, of which your own heart has not already informed you. I had wished you to make an entire tour of minute observation, through your own country, before you left it to visit any other; and this not only to avoid the ridicule, justly thrown on those, who in their impatience to go abroad, forget their utter ignorance of every thing at home, but also as it would have produced in you the habits of gaining information, and taught you the best means of acquiring it; a task difficult to be learned, even with a tolerable knowledge of the objects of which you go in search, and an entire command of language; what then must it be in a foreign country, where you are utterly ignorant of its peculiarities, and often unable to express your ideas without difficulty?
"Information is never easy to be acquired, and there is no privilege by which nobility can shorten the way to it; pictures indeed are easily seen, and it is easy to praise them in the same language which they have extorted for centuries, and which like birthday odes, weary the hearer by their uniformity, or disgust the reader by their hyperbole. Of our acquaintance, probably one half would pity my folly, and the other my deficiency in taste, did they hear me declare to you, that I had rather have you study the people, than their productions, and the workmen than their works. I am far from commending indolence in the pursuit of perfection, or indifference in the examination of it, and I am well aware that the character of a nation, may be read in its progress in the liberal arts and sciences; I only wish you not to lose time in acquiring that technical and cant language, which has been repeated until it has become a just prey to ridicule. Let the character of the inhabitants, the wealth of the country, and the sources of that wealth, be objects of your strict enquiry, and minute investigation. As a representative of your country, as a politician, and as a man of rank and fortune, which require their possessor to adorn them with talents, you will find these the fields, where enquiry will yield the most fruitful harvest, they are fields rich in information, which lie too often fallow, whilst the worn-out grounds of criticism and admiration, are plowed until barrenness is the only reward of labour. Let others describe pictures, I would have my son know men. To facilitate the acquisition of this necessary knowledge, hear on every subject, as many opinions as you chuse, but form not your own from those of any other person, for you will never find two people who think alike. Let not that love of novelty, which ‘grows by what it feeds upon,’ impel you to change the scene too quickly, for you cannot know immediately what it may contain worthy of observation. Even after a little journey within a hundred miles of the capital, I have frequently heard you regret your ignorance of having been near some particular spot, which you had wished to see, your indolence in suffering an opportunity of examining it, to escape, or your inattention whilst in the act of exploring it, of which you only became sensible, by being unable at a future period, to answer the questions, or join in the opinions of those, who had been more exact in their researches. I have one more remark to make, and that is, on the subject of writing letters; I know that this is an employment of which young people are fond; they are naturally warm in their own attachments, and credulous in believing the professions of others. Self-love easily teaches us to imagine, that what is earnestly solicited, must be sincerely desired; and we judge of the pain which a refusal will occasion, by our own unwillingness to give it. A request to hear from a person, is often dictated merely by politeness, and a desire to appear interested in his concerns; in some it is the offspring of vanity, and in that case compliance only produces a boast of intimacy, which perhaps never existed. In others it is solicited, merely to give the requester an opportunity of shewing his own skill in epistolary composition; thus at least half the number who solicit your correspondence, are actuated by selfish motives. I will now suppose you convinced that the remaining half, are sincere in their wishes for your welfare, and their desire to hear of it. What is the consequence? you waste in writing letters, the leisure time, which should be devoted to reading on subjects, connected with what you have seen, or digesting and arranging the ideas, naturally arising rapidly in your mind, and which must be noted directly, if you wish to preserve them, or to know their change. But you are a traveller, and letters written at a distance are expected to be entertaining; the consequence is, that opinions are hastily formed, and crudely stated; they are read in a circle of friends, and remembered long after you have become ashamed of them, and would wish them to be forgotten. Amidst a numerous correspondence, letters must be short, and consequently subjects are treated with disadvantageous brevity; and that the time which is spent in writing common-place ideas, might be much more usefully employed in gaining new ones, few I believe will deny. I will not dwell on the confidence, often ill placed, which by being continued in writing, has laid the parties concerned, under painful and unavoidable restraints; experience is the only teacher whose precepts enforce conviction; and a youthful heart will pour out its warmest effusions, until the ardor of the moment being passed, memory reviews its productions; reflection would correct them, but they are already out of reach, and may be perused a second time by your correspondent, with sentiments similar to your own, on the recollection of them. I am however far from wishing to entirely deny you the pleasure of writing, or receiving letters; and perhaps the design of transmitting your observations, might stimulate you to accuracy in making them. I would only warn you against encumbering yourself with a load, which, however inconvenient you may find it, cannot be shaken off without giving offence; and advise you to write fully to one, rather than briefly to many. In mentioning religion to you, Henry, you will not imagine that I am about to enter into a disquisition on its importance, of which I believe you to be fully sensible; and I should conceive myself to have been very remiss as the instructor of your infancy, and the guardian of your youth, if I had at this time to enquire into, or regret your opinions on so essential a topic. The conduct which will necessarily be induced by your principles, will be the best evidence of their propriety. But do not confine their benefits to your own bosom; do not rest contented with a sense of right belief yourself, and be ungrateful enough to hear others ridicule and despise religion, without your standing forth in its behalf. Next to uttering infidelity, there is a fault in bearing with it, and suffering its advocate to construe your silence into approbation, or at least into indifference. Formerly in enumerating the good qualities of a distinguished character, that of being a christian always held the foremost place, and as human actions, will ever be prompted in some degree by human motives, perhaps the praise justly annexed to an epithet so honorable, might be a powerful inducement to deserve it.
"Our enlightened age has blotted from the page of panegyric, the title which ought to include every virtue, but we do not see the omission supplied, by any subject of admiration more praiseworthy. I trust however that the very circumstance of the prevalence of infidelity, will in time lessen its influence. They who are led away by novelty, will grow weary of repeating sarcasms, no longer new, and they who wish to astonish by the daring eccentricities of their opinions, will be disgusted when they find them in the mouth of every witling, who by burlesquing sacred things, can always extort a smile, after his own powers fail to command one; whilst the man of a really enquiring mind, will be careful how he raises doubts, when he hears them repeated by every fool, who seeks to disguise his ignorance, under the affectation of scepticism. Let me exhort you then my dear Henry, to ‘be ready to give every man a reason, for the faith which abideth in you,’ and though I do not wish you to intrude your sentiments unnecessarily, yet never suffer them to be attacked without frankly explaining, and firmly defending them.
"I have nothing more to add. Your attachment to Mr. Barlowe, is sufficient to ensure respectful conduct towards him, treat him as a friend; you will find him a sincere one, and your behaviour to him, will model that of those around you.—
"He paused and tenderly caressing
The darling of his wounded heart,
Looks had means only of expressing
Thoughts language never could impart."
After this lengthened conversation, in which Lord Drelincourt joined the kindness of the friend, to the anxiety of the parent, he returned with his son, to the remainder of the family, and the evening was spent with the affectionate melancholy naturally rising in the minds of friends, who know that at the same hour the next day, they shall be separated.
Short is the course of every lawless pleasure,
Grief like a shade on all its rootsteps waits
Scarce visible in joy’s meridian height,
But downwards as its blaze declining speeds,
The dwarfish shadow to a giant spreads.
THE day at length arrived, the long-dreaded day, which was to deprive this affectionate family of one as estimable as beloved! Henry entered Edmund’s apartment at an early hour in the morning; he was pale, trembling and agitated; he grasped Edmund’s hand, and for some time was unable to find utterance. At length he exclaimed, "Oh! my friend; had I possessed your virtue, your fortitude, had I followed your advice, or listened to the dictates of my own conscience, what anguish might I have been spared! I need not tell you, that my visit into Oxfordshire was nominal; I read your doubts in your countenance when I mentioned it. In truth it was the thought of a moment, suggested by the fear of losing her, whom you would have rescued from destruction. I went to her, and with undissembled agony, informed her of my dread, lest we should be separated; her anguish too plainly told me to what extent I was beloved, and insensible to every thing but the fear of losing me, she deplored her wretchedness in being deprived of her only friend, the sole consolation of her deserted state. Ill did I requite her gratitude and love! All my resolution vanished at the sight of her distress; in a fatal moment I promised her my hand, though I reserved to myself the privilege of with-holding it, until I attained my twenty-fifth year: what I proposed by the delay, I know not even now; but I have already proved myself capable of falsehood, and I shudder to think how far my guilt may yet extend.
"Loving me as she did, agitated as she was, by the fear of losing me, whom she fondly thought her only benefactor; seeing in the rest of the world no friend, knowing that she had scarcely an acquaintance, is it surprising if she for a moment hesitated, unwilling to rashly refuse, terms apparently eligible and with which many would have gladly and immediately complied? Yes, she hesitated, but her excellent judgment and native rectitude, pointed out immediately, the injury that she should do me, by accepting my proposals, and this consideration had more effect in her decision, than the injustice, (all lovely and virtuous as she is) that she should do herself. She refused my offer with floods of tears, and entreated that I would have the goodness to send her into Scotland, where she would endeavour to forget me, and seek tranquillity by burying the past in oblivion. The conflict which I had witnessed in her soul, and her final conquest over her affection; only endeared her the more strongly to me. I left no arts, no arguments, untried to shake her resolution, and at last succeeded, by affecting to doubt the tenderness, which could so firmly resist entreaty. This insinuation overpowered her fortitude, which though it shielded her from yielding to persuasion, was not proof against the appearance of displeasure; and after vainly endeavouring to appease it, she consented to put herself into my power, and trust to my honor for a future reparation, which yet, such was her regard for me, I saw she hardly wished to receive. Yes, I saw, and was ungrateful enough to console myself, with the idea that when the time appointed for its performance should arrive, I could easily prevail on her affection, to acquit me of my promise, by stating to her the evils that might acrue to me from its fulfilment.
"To enjoy the pleasure of her society, unembittered by the fear of interruption, and to amuse the agitation of her mind, I made the tour of the greatest part of England with her, travelling in a hired carriage, attended only by Dawson and the faithful Jane, to whom Mary had become much attached. During my journey, my chains were every day rivetted more firmly, by the artless sweetness, and engaging conversation of my companion. I thought myself fortunate above all other men, and was only awakened from my dream of felicity, by the necessity of returning home, for I felt that I had prolonged my absence almost beyond the power of excusing it. You are acquainted with the rest, but you are not acquainted with what I have suffered. It is now that I am punished for my dereliction of honor and integrity. I have parted from Mary, you will have guessed that she is at Appleton; yes, I have parted from her; and surely my late happiness, has been dearly purchased with the misery of the moment, in which I bade her farewell; but it is past, though her anxieties have scarcely begun, for I was cowardly enough to deceive her, and to tell her that my absence would be short; she, whilst surprised at my excessive grief, sweetly chid me for it amidst her own tears. Oh! Edmund, she has many claims on me; promise to befriend her; by your attachment to me, promise it. I am sufficiently wretched in leaving her, without the bitter aggravation of leaving her unprotected." No longer the gay, the volatile Henry; the repentant Lord Courtney wept as he gave this charge to Edmund, who promised to act in every thing as he wished, and conjured him to compose himself.
We will not dwell on the parting scene; it is not probable that any of our readers are ignorant of the feelings occasioned by the separation of friends; and it is an unpleasing task to dwell on the grief of a hitherto happy family.
Now whither shall I fly to find relief;
What charitable hand will aid me now?
Will stay my falling steps, support my ruins,
And heal my wounded mind with balmy comfort?
EDMUND had at first thought of returning to his parents in the company of his friend, but Lord Drelincourt, who became every day more attached to him, requested him to prolong his visit, adding, that he should think it unkind, if Edmund deserted him, at a time when his company, always valuable, would be inestimable. This entreaty was too flattering to be resisted, and it was easy to prevail on Edmund to lengthen his visit in a family where his Emma resided. The Earl, to disperse the gloom occasioned by his son’s departure, proposed making the tour of Scotland, and the most important parts of England, as he should, by that means, have the pleasure of at once gratifying and instructing all his family. This agreeable scheme was entered into with great eagerness, and as the summer was far advanced, they prepared for it with all possible expedition. Edmund did not however forget his promise to his friend; he took care to see Miss Macdonald before he left the country, and informing her of the address which would constantly find him; he entreated her, in the most polite and friendly manner, to allow him the pleasure of being serviceable to her in any way, in which she would honor him with her commands. She thanked him with her usual grace; but declined his assistance, saying, that she should need none during the short period of Lord Courtney’s absence. Edmund was shocked to see the serenity with which she spoke upon a subject respecting which he knew her to be deceived; and he felt conscious of aiding the deception by his silence, but he feared to break it, lest he should betray Henry’s confidence a second time, without answering any good effect.
It was not Lord Drelincourt’s intention to deprive this deserted orphan of his son’s protection, and to cast her friendless on the world: he had formed his plans respecting her, and hoped that they were such, as she would in time be grateful to him for having put in execution.
He had learned the name and address of her aunt, and Glasgow was purposely included in his route, to give him the opportunity of personally stating her niece’s claims on her. If she consented to receive her, all would be well; her errors would be unknown; her youth and ignorance might excuse them even to herself, and time, it was to be hoped, would restore her to tranquillity, and her own esteem.
If he succeeded as he wished, he resolved to give her consequence in the eyes of her aunt, by equipp