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.
Smiles on past misfortune’s brow,
Soft reflection’s hand can trace;
And o’er the cheek of sorrow throw
A melancholy grace;
While hope prolongs our happier hour
Or deepest shades that dimly low’r
And blacken round our weary way,
Gilds with a gleam of distant day.
Still where rosy pleasure leads,
See a kindred grief pursue;
Behind the steps that misery treads,
Approaching comfort view:
The hues of bliss more brightly glow
Chastised by sable tints of woe,
And blended form with artful strife
The strength and harmony of life.
IN the Earl’s present frame of mind, the gaieties of London disgusted, and business seemed irksome to him. He was too tenderly beloved by his family, for his wishes not to be theirs; and at his desire they left the capital, where the latter part of their residence had been rendered unpleasant by many mortifications, and endeavoured to lose the remembrance of them, in the tranquillity of Castle Drelincourt.
The Earl did not allow himself to indulge in weak complaints, or blameable repinings; he obliged himself to consider the bright side of the picture, which he had at first contemplated in its darkest colours; and the natural candour of his mind, soon dispelled the mist, raised by prejudice and disappointment, and taught him to look forward with composure to the meeting, of which, the bare idea, had in his first moments of despondency, appeared an insupportable affliction. There needed only the signal of a smile re-appearing on his benignant countenance, to animate all around him with delight; and as he surveyed the affectionate group, by which he was surrounded, he felt that he had other sources of happiness besides worldly grandeur, and outward shew. In this state of returning cheerfulness, the family received with comparative pleasure, an account of the day when the fugitives might be expected; and when it arrived, every bosom was agitated, though with different emotions. Lord and Lady Drelincourt were filled with sensations of parental love, too powerful to admit those of displeasure, in any great degree, though sufficient to destroy the perfect satisfaction that they would otherwise have experienced. Edmund was anxious as to the reception with which his sister might meet, and the impression that she would make upon the family. Lady Rosamond was curious to see the female, whose charms had effaced the recollection of hers, from the breast of a man whom she had loved, though she had discarded him in a fit of ill-humour at her own faults. The gentle and affectionate Emma, longed to embrace the sister of her beloved Edmund, and felt already warmly attached to her. Even Lady Maud and Lady Bertha were interested; the former deplored with a rueful countenance, the introduction of foreign blood, into a family, in whose veins the pure English stream, had flown undefiled, till this unlucky mixture; and lamented the increasing partiality that the nation shewed for aliens, which she pronounced would finally be its ruin: whilst the latter called Henry a recreant knight, but longed to see the peerless dame, whose charms had caused him to forget his allegiance to Lady Harriett. Lady Maria was the least moved, a little anxiety to see her brother, and a little curiosity to know if Everilda were as handsome and interesting as Edmund made up the whole of her emotion.
After a day that appeared unusually long, the evening succeeded, as is generally the case even in the longest day.
The party were assembled in the drawing room; one took up a book, another a pencil, a third touched the keys of a piano-forte; all were employed, and none thought of what they were doing. At length the sound of horses’ feet and carriage wheels, relieved every one from thinking on a subject, which none chose to make the theme of conversation.
The travellers were now heard to ascend the stairs, and Edmund devoutly wished that he had the power of annihilating the next five minutes.
The door was thrown open, and Lord Courtney entered, leading his lady, and Donna Claudina; he knelt with Everilda at the feet of his father, who forgetting all his anger, blessed them, and desiring them to rise, resigned them to Lady Drelincourt, whose maternal heart knew none but the softest emotions; she embraced them, and wept, whilst Lady Courtney forcibly reminded of her own mother, bedewed her hand with tears, and exclaimed with graceful energy, "Ah madam, you are kind and good, as I have been taught to expect. Already you forgive me; you acknowledge me as your daughter; oh! teach me to deserve the envied title!" Lady Drelincourt again embraced, and assured her of her love. Everilda then turned hastily to Edmund, and throwing herself into his arms, burst afresh into tears, saying, "I know not how to intreat forgiveness for an act, by which I have the happiness of seeing my dear brother again." He pressed her tenderly to his bosom, nor was ashamed of the tears, which trembled in his own eyes, as he gazed on a sister so fondly beloved, and the first of his family whom he had seen during an absence, of nearly two years.
The introduction of the remainder of the party, was of course less impassioned; though Lady Courtney covered Emma with blushes, by taking her hand, and saying, "My heart tells me, I am not addressing a stranger; suffer me think that I am speaking to a beloved sister." Edmund approached, and joining their hands, raised them to his lips, saying, "Never may your unity be interrupted; may it improve into the most refined friendship, and prove a source of happiness to you, as the contemplation of it will ever be to me." When the first congratulations were over, refreshments were brought in, and whilst the travellers were employed in taking some, the rest of the party had leisure to examine them. In Lord Courtney, every trace of care was effaced, by the kind reception that he had met with; and his countenance was distinguished only by the glow of health, the smile of cheerfulness, and the glance of tender rapture, with which he surveyed his Everilda. Her beauty appeared to the utmost advantage, even under the disguise of a travelling dress; but she had now thrown off a large fur pelisse, which had hidden her fine form; her hat likewise was laid aside, and a profusion of auburn ringlets carelessly flowed from the band, by which the remainder was confined in large curls; her bloom was heightened by exercise and agitation; the slight embarrassment of her manner, added to the interest of her appearance, whilst the varying emotions of her soul, encreased every instant the charms of her intelligent countenance. Her animation was happily contrasted, by the interesting melancholy of the pensive Claudina, who felt alone in the large circle, and was strongly reminded by witnessing the bliss of domestic affection, of her own desolate, and friendless situation, which was rendered yet more wretched, by the cruelty of her only relative, her brother. These reflections filled her eyes with tears; she strove to disperse them, by the smile of resignation, which faintly played about her lips; the ineffectual struggle called a slight blush into her cheeks, and just painted them sufficiently, to shew how much the glow of happiness would become her. Sorrow never wore a lovelier form, or inspired more interest in the hearts of the beholders; soothed by their attentions, she felt her spirits gradually revive, and Everilda diffused additional animation around her, when she saw her own smiles reflected in the countenance of her friend.
Though Lady Courtney’s introduction to the Earl in the character of his daughter-in-law, was certainly very opposite to what his wishes had once been, yet he could not long withstand the fascination of her manners, the brilliancy of her talents, and the excellent disposition which seemed to regulate all her actions. Had she even been less amiable, his heart would have pleaded for her with irresistible eloquence, for she powerfully appealed to its feelings by her resemblance to her father; and whilst tracing in her countenance and expressions, the features and manner of his early friend, Lord Drelincourt could feel no sentiment but that of the warmest affection, for the object, who constantly recalled to his mind, one in whose society he had passed many of his happiest days.
If Everilda soon obtained the Earl’s esteem, that of the ladies, was bestowed upon her, with at least equal readiness. The appearance of kindness, was enough to incite her to deserve it; for some time all her study was to please, and the effects of her laudable exertions were agreeable as she could desire. Unfortunately however the happiness which this perfect family-concord, created in her bosom, was the very means of interrupting its source; for in the ebulitions of it, her vivacity caused her in some instances, to overstep the cautious decorum, and polite attention, which she had on her first introduction, rigidly prescribed to herself.
Sir Edward Clayton, (for in consequence of his uncle’s death, we must introduce him to our readers by that title,) had left England the moment he heard of the expected arrival of a woman whom he adored, notwithstanding her unjustifiable conduct towards him. Finding that he could not yet trust himself in her society, without feeling emotions, which he was too honorable to indulge, he wisely took refuge in flight; resolving not to encounter temptation until he was well assured that he could rise superior to it. He therefore took his sister, who told him he was born to be jockied by the women, to a small estate, in a remote part of Ireland, which had been left to him by Sir John with the rest of his property, and which he now wished to dispose of, as it was quite abstracted from his other possessions.
During their visit there, his sister’s rosy complexion, smart figure, and goodnatured manners, captivated an Irish baronet; and as he rode well, had an excellent stud, and delighted in field sports, he had not much difficulty in prevailing on her to run for life in the same yoke, as she expressed it; and her brother, pleased to see his sister happily settled, almost forgot the unpleasant cause of his visit to Ireland, in the satisfaction that he received from its consequences.
Sir Edward’s departure was of course mentioned at the castle, and on hearing it the imprudent Everilda exclaimed, that she regretted his absence as she had promised herself much amusement from witnessing the struggle of resentment and love in his bosom, when he again beheld her: Lady Rosamond was still too partial to her old admirer, to look very complacently on the woman, whose superior charms had so rapidly effaced the impression which hers had once made on him; this speech was not calculated to make her forget the mortifying circumstance, and she replied with perhaps too much asperity, "Sir Edward Clayton, Madam, is not generally thought a subject of mere amusement, neither are his talents and manners often a source of ridicule to any who are capable of appreciating their value." The coldness with which she spoke and the freezing epithet of Madam, struck Lady Courtney forcibly: she well knew what had been the nature of Sir Edward’s intimacy with the family and might therefore naturally have imagined the subject could not be pleasing to Lady Rosamond; but instead of excusing the harshness of these words, by reflecting on the provocation that she had given, she suffered herself to be hurried away by impatience, and added to it by replying, "My dear Lady Rosamond, there needs no argument to convince me that his attractions have been found irresistible; and I ask pardon for the selfishness by which I was prompted to wish for a scene, that I might easily have known could not be generally entertaining;" this little dialogue passed during the first month of Lady Courtney’s residence at the Castle; it was easy to see that the impression it left on her mind, and Lady Rosamond’s was not such as to promise any very great cordiality; and after this, no subject however trifling, could be discussed, without giving rise to a difference of opinion between them.
Lady Courtney conscious that her introduction into the family was not exactly what had been desired, was jealous of every word that could possibly be interpreted into an affront; and particularly from Lady Rosamond, who was as little used to control, as herself, and approached too near her in talents, beauty, and disposition, not to inspire an idea of rivalry; whilst the powers of wit and satire, were so liberally and equally bestowed on each, that an incessant war of words was maintained between them, and it was difficult to decide after the combat, which party had proved victorious.
In those engagements however, each may be said to lose more than can be won; for the pleasure of triumphing over the vanquished in argument, is much more than counterbalanced, by the probability of having gained one enemy, and lost many friends. However wit may be admired at a distance, all shrink from its approach, justly fearing, that severity of which, they may in their turn expect to be the objects. Self-interest then induces sympathetic compassion towards the conquered, and displeasure towards the conqueror, who is affectedly admired and inwardly condemned.
The frequent altercations between Lady Courtney and Lady Rosamond, gave the greatest pain to the judicious and affectionate Claudina, who saw her beloved Everilda daily losing by petulance, and wilful misapprehension, that influence amongst her new friends, which her talents and manners would otherwise have preserved. Edmund was not less uneasy, for the kind reception that his sister had met with, and the delicate attention with which she was treated, ought at least, he thought, to claim her forbearance, as strongly as his gratitude; and he was mortified and distressed to the utmost, when he saw her degrading her talents, and accomplishments, by seeking to lessen those of Lady Rosamond, in a comparison with them; for he well knew, that her antagonist was too nearly her equal, to be insulted with impunity, or conquered with facility. He naturally confided his uneasiness to Lady Emma, who endeavoured to console him, by representing the frequent arguments between the fair antagonists, as mere trials of skill, produced by curiosity to know which was the most powerful in conducting them. "Then the best consolation you can give me," replied he sorrowfully, "is, that their disputes originate in vanity, but in what may they end?" "In what can they end," returned Emma, "but admiration of your sister? Every one who sees, must admire her; and every one who knows, must love her; for she requires only to be known, and then what appears to you as a serious fault, would be acknowledged only as the effervescence of her brilliant genius, and lively imagination." "Ah!" replied he, "you are partial even to her faults; I love my sister, and am proud of her; but I can see, and condemn her errors." "And why am I partial?" asked Lady Emma, in the sweetest accents, "I have little merit in acknowledging perfection, when it is allied to you." Edmund kissed her hand with fervor, and the gloom of his countenance was dispersed, as he gazed on the speaking sensibility, tenderness, and modesty, depicted in that of his Emma. Amidst these family feuds, Lord Courtney was the most unconcerned of any of the party; he adored his wife, loved his sister, and treated every altercation between them, as a jest; telling them that occasional discords made harmony more pleasing, and that they would not appear half so charming separate: that they were flint and steel to each other’s wit, and he was sure only pretended to differ in opinion, in order to shew it to the most advantage. This he would say with so much good humour, that they were often persuaded into the belief that it actually was so. Lady Courtney would then generously make some concession, which Lady Rosamond would as generously accept, and thus was amity restored, till a difference of opinion maintained too tenaciously, and controverted too warmly, would plunge them into yet deeper opposition. The decline of Lady Courtney’s health, however, produced a cessation of hostilities; for Lady Rosamond had too just a confidence in her own powers, to attack her antagonist on unequal grounds; anxiety for her recovery, was a point in which there was no division of sentiment, and to effect this, the hotwells were proposed by the physicians, who seemed to think that her ladyship’s indisposition might arise from the change of climate.
Notwithstanding Lord Drelincourt’s aversion from all places of public rendezvous for cheapening the sex, he on this occasion willingly waved his prejudice, and consented to accompany the invalid with his family.
Before they had been long at the delightful village of Clifton, where the votaries of health are rewarded for their search, by the beauties of nature, which are there scattered with her most liberal hand, —Lady Courtney’s indisposition was discovered to be owing to a cause, which gave her new claims on the affection of her lord, and additional consequence among relatives, whose esteem already knew no bounds, but what her own caprice occasionally prescribed.
In Lady Courtney, however, the pleasure arising from this wished-for circumstance, was considerably alloyed, by the restraints which it occasioned. If she wished to ride on horseback, Lady Drelincourt intreated her to forego so dangerous an exercise, speaking with such affectionate anxiety, and relating so many bad consequences which it might produce, that she was obliged to relinquish her desire. She was fond of walking, and was charmed with the variety and beauty of the surrounding country, which would tempt the most indolent to explore it; but if she went out of sight of the house, Lord Drelincourt himself followed her, and used such warm intreaties for her return, and looked so anxiously on every step she took, that she gave up the pleasure of walking, that she might not keep him in a state of painful suspence. Company would fatigue, and solitude depress her. Staying in the house relaxed her, and going out of it exposed her to cold; in short, wearied with remonstrances, her patience failed, and she declared in pretty strong terms, that she would for the future, take the trouble of conducting herself, and would be answerable for every consequence, as no imprudence of which she might be guilty, could do her more harm, than the impatience that she felt of such constant contradiction; and to prove the truth of her assertion, she talked herself angry, and then fell into hysterics, and by that means effectually alarmed Lord and Lady Drelincourt into submission.
The reins once given into her own hands, she commenced her career with additional ardour, from the restraint that she had suffered; her spirits acquired new elasticity from contrasting the alacrity of returning health, with the languor of past indisposition; her friends were too happy in seeing her so, to complain of the means by which the change had been produced; and it was not till her extended pedestrian excursions in the morning, and dancing until a late hour in the evening, produced the loss of all their hopes, that they severely repented having trusted her to her own guidance.
Lady Courtney was as highly mortified as any of the party, at this unlucky accident; but she fancied that she could perceive resentment, when she ought only to have met with compassion, and this unjust idea, took such strong possession of her mind, that she counterfeited an indifference in the presence of Lord and Lady Drelincourt, which she was far from feeling, and which naturally added to their vexation.
As soon as Lady Courtney was sufficiently recovered to travel, the family returned to the Castle; conscious that her behavior had deserved reprehension, she tormented herself with fancying that she could read it in every word and look, and with her natural impatience of control, encreased by the excessive indulgence always shewn by her parents, even to her faults, instead of averting by gentleness and acknowledgment, the censure for which she confessed to herself there was room, she braved it by additional haughtiness of behaviour, and provoked it by expressing innumerable foolish or unreasonable desires, which she never felt. Among the rest she affected a childish eagerness to be presented at court, and enquired every day, when the happy one would arrive, that was to convey them to town. Lord Drelincourt was at length displeased, and thought the respect due to himself, called on him to take notice of a rudeness, which he could no longer pretend to overlook. "I am sorry Lady Courtney," said he very gravely, "that your residence under my roof, should be unpleasant to you. I am only consoled for so mortifying a discovery, by the hope that you are the first guest to whom I ever made it so; and I must apologize for the dulness of which you so openly complain, by candidly acknowledging, that, in imagining you would be pleased with rational amusements, and family concord, I entirely mistook your character." He paused, and the profoundest silence ensued; a silence the more painful, as it shewed that every one considered the subject too serious, to intrude any remark. Lady Courtney shrunk from the reproof that she had courted. She had always looked up to Lord Drelincourt with affectionate reverence, and ardently desired his esteem, though her behaviour had of late too often been calculated to deprive her of it. Her heart told her that this was now the case, and the blood forsook her cheeks, to support the pang it felt at the idea. Claudina saw her friend’s emotions, she saw pride struggling with contrition in her breast, and she saw Lord Drelincourt leaving the room in displeasure; anxiety conquered her natural timidity; she fell at his feet, and bursting into tears, exclaimed, "Oh! my lord, believe me it is now that you mistake Lady Courtney’s character; you think her sullen, now when she is miserable; you believe her wilfully continuing in error, when she is deprived of the power of acknowledging her fault by the anguish with which she feels it." Claudina’s impassioned manner roused Everilda, who was too nobly independant to accept a pardon by proxy. She went up to the Earl, and entreated his forgiveness, saying, "I have no claim but on your kindness. I know I must have forfeited your esteem, yet suffer me to hope an avowal of my fault, and an altered conduct, may in time regain it. I should be too severely punished," added she, bursting into tears, "if I thought you would with-hold it from me for ever; alas! do not deprive me of a hope, that will encourage all my best resolutions."
Two such graceful pleaders would have gained pardon for much more weighty faults. The Earl embraced them both, every one was affected, and Emma throwing herself into Lady Courtney’s arms, sobbed through the excess of her emotions.
The next morning at breakfast, the Earl informed his family that he meant to set off to town the ensuing week; and hoped that they would be in readiness to accompany him. This generous behaviour, effectually overcame Lady Courtney, who never judged her own faults so severely, as when others treated them with lenity: she took his hand, and pressing it to her lips, whilst her tears fell on it. "Ah! my lord, how shall I ever be worthy of the kindness with which you treat me;" she exclaimed, "how odious your indulgence makes my conduct appear, in my own eyes." "My dearest Everilda," the Earl replied, "I have not quite forgiven you; I mean to exact a pledge of your future good behaviour, and that is, that you will gratify me by approving my present arrangement. We shall arrive in town just before the birth-day; and after all, I am I acknowledge, selfish enough to be impatient for the pleasure of presenting so lovely an addition to my family." "You are too good my lord," answered Everilda, "you must in time make me worthy of you. Forgive me dear madam," continued she, addressing Lady Drelincourt, "and you my dear Lady Rosamond, forgive me all whom I may have offended; and ascribe my conduct to my inferiority, when compared with such amiable and exalted characters." "And you do not ask my forgiveness whilst you are playing the fair penitent so prettily," said Lord Courtney, "nor should I grant it if you did; for these sudden amendments, are generally followed by relapses, which are worse than the original disorder." "If mine should be so," replied Lady Courtney, smiling through her tears, "the effect will all fall upon you, for that saucy speech, but I ask pardon only of those whom I have offended, and you are not one of the number; any more than my pretty little Emma, whom it is as difficult to displease, as be displeased with; or my dear Claudina and Edmund, who bear with all my faults, because they know how much I love them." "But I protest against any exceptions," said Lady Drelincourt, affectionately interrupting her, "and however you may love those whom you have mentioned, I will dispute the palm of loving you, with any of them."
Shalle I wasting in dispaire
Dye because a woman’s faire?
Shalle my cheeks growe pale with care,
That another’s rosie are?
Be she fairer than the daye,
Or the opening fields in Maye,
If she be not faire for me,
hat care I how faire she bee!
ON account of leaving Castle Drelincourt earlier than the Earl had at first intended, the preparations for Lord Courtney’s establishment, were not compleated; and it was agreed that he should continue under his parental roof, a few months longer.
It is unnecessary after the description we have given of Everilda’s attractions, to say that she was universally admired, in the circles of fashion; and we are afraid it is equally unnecessary to add, that the admiration which she met with, was highly gratifying to her. Perhaps her fondness for it, might be encreased by observing Lord Courtney’s pleasure at the attention that she gained; for he was naturally flattered to hear his own opinion, ecoed by the voice of public approbation, and his taste made the standard of perfection.
One morning a letter was brought to Lady Courtney, who immediately recognized in the direction, the writing of Sir Edward Clayton; she mentioned this before she broke the seal, and Claudina turned pale on hearing a name, which her heart incessantly repeated, though it never passed her lips:—the contents were read aloud by Lady Courtney, with her usual frankness, and were as follows:
If during the happy period, in which I was honored with your ladyship’s acquaintance, my heart became too fully sensible of the influence of your charms, to patiently bear the idea of any other possessing them, the change in your situation yet taught me too well what was due to it, to intrude myself on your ladyship’s recollection, until a necessary alteration in my sentiments, might enable me to do it with propriety to you, and comparative ease to myself. The past, (however painful the task) I have taught myself to forget; and I trust my conduct for the future, will convince you, that my admiration of Everilda di Rodalvi, is at least equalled by my respect for Lady Courtney; which I hope you will grant me permission to testify in person, among your other friends; and I have the honor to remain,
and humble servant,
"Generous Clayton," exclaimed Claudina, "how nobly has he endeavoured to conquer a passion so ill requited." The animation with which she spoke, was unusual in her; and Lady Rosamond’s eyes meeting hers, expressed a degree of sympathy in her feelings, which convinced her that they were understood, and tinged her cheeks with crimson, until Lady Courtney replied, "Compassion my dear Claudina, is sister to love; you had better therefore console the deserted swain, for my cruelty, which believe me he would not then regret." This speech drove the blood back to Claudina’s agitated heart, and vainly endeavouring to smile, she was going to leave the room, when she met Lord Courtney, who said, gaily taking her hand. "You must not run away, for I am going to read an epistle from the valiant knight-errant, who in magnanimously rescuing one lady from violence, was himself taken willing captive by another, who generously resigned him when she found a slave yet more humble; and hear how he thanks her for his freedom." He then read aloud:
You would, I am certain, neither believe nor esteem me, were I to declare, that I never felt any resentment against you, for being as successful with the object of our mutual admiration, as I had once hoped to be. Your lordship is fortunate in possessing a prize, too estimable to be resigned without anguish; but affection cannot be decided by the sword; and I considered my wretched life, of which I was weary, and in which, no one was interested, as a very inadequate stake against yours, which presented to you every charm, and endearing tie. I was not base enough to wish to deprive the woman I had loved, of the object for whom she forsook me, and with whom I could not but acknowledge, that probability she had of enjoying that happiness, which she can confer in as eminent a degree as she is deserving of it; nor was I selfish enough to remember the only injury you ever offered me, and forget the innumerable kindnesses which I had received from you, and your worthy and amiable family: I felt that your fault was excused by its cause; alas! I felt my own wounds too acutely, to wonder that you were vulnerable to the same fatal, unerring weapons.
"When you were acquitted to me by the impartial evidence of my own judgment, I was not consious of my obligation to submit the cause to that of the world, whose opinion I despise: instead therefore of inviting you to combat with me, I resolved to combat with myself; and am happy to inform you, that I am compleatly victorious. I have conquered the sense of my misfortune, by considering that it is now irremediable; I have opposed reason to passion, hope to disappointment. The remembrance of my past attachment I have subdued, by the resolution of forming another; and if I must not expect to meet again with an object so capable of creating one ardent as lasting, I shall be equally released from the fear of another rival so irresistible.
"That you may not think me a vain boaster of courage which I do not possess, or of success which I have not had, I trust you will give me leave to convince you of my victory, by paying my respects to you;
I remain my lord,
"yours most obediently,
"There now," exclaimed Courtney, "there is style for you; and a style which I like; it is noble, generous and independent. I shall write to him and tell him that my Everilda will be as happy to see him as I shall." "Indeed," said Lady Courtney, giving him her own letter, "I should be very remiss, if I did not desire you to say something extremely polite for me, in answer to that epistle." "Ah! what he has written to you too," replied Courtney, "already the world knows how you keep me in subjection, and he was obliged to flatter you into goodhumour, that you might give me permission to say I should be glad to see him. Well, I will shew him that if I am afraid, I am not jealous of you, and so with your leave, my Everilda, I will say that we shall be impatient for the pleasure of his society.
"You can never be jealous," replied Lady Courtney, with a most fascinating smile, "whilst you know that you are so amiable, and so superior to the rest of the world." "And I can never cease to know it whilst I have such an insinuating flatterer, who so often tells me it," returned her husband: he affectionately embraced her in saying this, and then went to take his morning ride with Edmund.
Of mortal glory, oh soon darken’d ray!
Oh winged joys of man, more swift than wind!
Oh fond desires, which in our fancies stray!
Oh traitrous hopes, which do our judgments blind!
DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORNDEN.
OUR readers will easily conceive the emotions felt by Sir Edward Clayton, on his first visit to Lady Courtney. But his feelings were not betrayed in his conduct, which was governed by the most rigid propriety. He conversed on the topics of the day with an air of tolerable ease; and if his lips involuntarily trembled as he addressed an object to whom he had been so fondly attached, he took care that his words at least should be under the control of reason.
Not daring to trust himself to converse very long with Lady Courtney, he naturally paid a great degree of attention to the other ladies, with whom he could discourse some-what cheerfully, for with them the efforts of his mind to amuse, were not interrupted by the feelings of his heart. The unfortunate Claudina was too well versed in the effects of love, since she had become a prey to it, to be gratified by an attention, bestowed without a thought of the object, to whom it was paid. She could judge of his feelings at that moment, by the acuteness of her own: disappointed hopes, and fruitless regrets, inspired those of each party, but similarity of misfortune, did not in this instance, produce the sympathy which generally results from it. Claudina’s mind was too much agitated to attend to trifling conversation; her heart was too much occupied to be interested in mere complimentary forms of politeness. Her answers were so short, and manners so cold, that Sir Edward imagined he must have unintentionally offended her; and for a moment the idea started into his mind, that she might have communicated to Everilda, the dislike with which he had inspired her. It is natural to wish to ascribe a disappointment, to the misconduct of any other person, rather than to our own. Self-love made Sir Edward cherish this idea; and under its influence he treated Claudina with coldness, at least equal to that which she had expressed towards him.
The change in his manner, did not escape the quick observation of Lady Rosamond, any more than the cause by which it was produced; and which confirmed her in her suspicions, relative to the state of Claudina’s heart.
A marked coldness, is as flattering as a marked attention, for it is only the same cause producing different effects; and perhaps each mode of conduct, may be inspired by the hope of attracting the notice of the object to whom it is directed. The discovery however, effectually chased from Lady Rosamond’s mind, the intention of endeavouring to reclaim her faithless lover; an idea which had often obtruded on it, and for which her remaining, or rather revived affection for him, strongly pleaded, though her pride was equally eloquent in urging her to refuse him, should he voluntarily seek to return to his allegiance. But she was too generous to hesitate, when she became sensible that another was deeply interested in her decision; and she would have regarded herself as guilty of a breach of trust, had she persisted in her original intentions, a moment after the discovery of Claudina’s partiality. She therefore directed her conversation chiefly to Mr. Fletcher; who had become extremely assiduous in his attentions to her; and perhaps the conquest of her own wishes, on which she had so generously resolved, was facilitated by the pleasure of shewing her cidevantamant, that the assiduities of another had become agreeable to her.
They who examine very deeply into the sources of their best actions, must have great confidence in themselves, if they expect to be satisfied with the result of their enquiry. It is melancholy to hear people lament, the small portion of virtue there is in the world; and still more melancholy to reflect, how much smaller it would appear, were the motives by which it is prompted generally known.
After Sir Edward had conquered the unpleasant sensations of an introductory visit, his former intimacy in Lord Drelincourt’s family was easily revived. The Earl had always held him in high estimation, and his powers of pleasing, when he suffered the brilliancy of his genius to pierce the gloom, in which a too ardent sensibility sometimes involved it, were too fascinating to be easily relinquished, where they had once been displayed. But this renewed intercourse, was on the whole inimical to his happiness. The regrets which he had hushed into tranquillity at a distance, were awakened to keener anguish, as his opportunities increased of contemplating the various charms of the woman whom he had so irrecoverably lost. In absence he had dwelt solely on her faults, and seeing them through the distorting medium of resentment, they appeared sufficiently numerous to reconcile him to her desertion. But in her presence, he remembered only that she had once promised to be his, and was now another’s. He had resolved never to see her till he could think of her with composure; to effect this, he thought of her unceasingly, and the very hope of seeing her again, largely contributed to the tranquillity, which he had made the test of his security. He deceived himself; and unhappily he wilfully continued the deception. He felt that he lived but in her presence; when ever he left her, he said to himself, "I am not with her, and I do not feel uneasy, I may therefore visit her again." But he did not inform himself, that his composure arose from his previous resolution to do so. One whole day he stayed away; the day appeared so long, and he felt so wretched during its course, that he resolved to try the dangerous experiment no more. "By accustoming myself to her society," he said, "its charms will become familiar to me; but by abstaining from it, I see how insupportable it makes all other appear." He thought no doubt that he argued admirably; for every one naturally likes the arguments which suit his inclinations.
His respectful homage could not fail to flatter Lady Courtney, who relying entirely on her own principles, and his honor, soon neglected to pay to society, the debt due from all who are protected by its laws, a regard to its opinons, and to the propriety of appearance required for its support.
Sir Edward was her constant attendant, in public; did she dance, he was her partner; did she play or sing, he accompanied her; at cards or table, he invariably took his seat near her; and if he sometimes hesitated, through fear of exposing to censure the woman whom he loved, a smile from her, put every wise and virtuous resolve to flight, and the desire of pleasing her reigned triumphant in his breast.
Perhaps Lord Courtney would have been better satisfied, to see less particular attention paid to his wife, tho’ he had been as highly gratified as she was with that of a general nature shewn to her; but like every other young person he was tremblingly alive to the dread of ridicule, and to be laughed at as a jealous husband, tho’ by men who were as compleatly divested of honor, as their ladies were of shame, was a trial which he felt unable to endure with fortitude. He had not the slightest doubt of his wife’s conduct; he knew her too well to have even a momentary fear that it might be unworthy of her; but he knew that the world would judge from appearances only, and therefore appearances ought to be observed. He could see many women who merely by a rigid attention to common forms of propriety, had passed thro’ life uncondemned, tho’ not unsuspected; and yet these were the very women who were loudest in their censures of his Everilda; who wholly unsuspicious of blame, whilst unconscious of deserving it, invited its severity by the imprudent levity of her behaviour. It would have been more friendly to his wife, and more just to himself, if Lord Courtney, on making these reflections had resolved to pursue the plan of conduct, which would have rendered a repetition of them unnecessary; but "the world’s dread laugh, which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn," was the phantom that he could not cease to fear; and to avoid it, he submitted to the possibility of becoming in reality, the mark for "scorn to point her slow unmoving finger at," when by a firmer conduct he would have ensured the applause of the wise, the approbation of the virtuous, and have preserved his own honor and his wife’s, from the withering influence of suspicion, and the poisonous blast of scandal.
Edmund remarked the cloud that obscured his friend’s customary cheerfulness and connected as he now was with him, he could not remark it without anxiety as well as regret. Could Lady Courtney have offended him? their uninterrupted and mutual affection forbade the idea. Was Miss Macdonald the cause? She might be in distress; he might wish to assist her, and require the aid of some friend. This determined Edmund to take notice of an alteration which otherwise he would not have appeared to observe. Lord Courtney seemed hurt, that his gravity should have drawn attention, and denied with some peevishness having any reason for it. Edmund was almost discouraged, but affectionately uttered a hope that his friend was happy. "Happy my dear Edmund," he replied, "yes, as happy as man may be; but life is puppet-shew work at the best; we neither fix our attention on the present scene, nor recollect the past: we are only intent on what will come the next, and when it is over, we find that it has not been worth looking at." Well," said Edmund smiling, "it is not entirely without novelty however; since you can moralize on its imperfections. I shall begin to think our friend Clayton not quite so romantic in his ideas, if you adopt similar ones." "I am not so deficient in ideas," replied Lord Courtney hastily, "as to adopt Sir Edward Clayton’s on any subject, for there are none that I less approve;" then conscious of the warmth which he had betrayed, he continued, "but if you think that I am ill-humoured or melancholy, have the charity to accompany me in a ride; for I must be both, in a very great degree, if your society cease to be one of my chief pleasures." It was not in nature to resist such a compliment; and it was just made in time to allay the resentment, that his last speech had occasioned even in Edmund’s breast; for tho’ always gentle and unassuming, he yet knew too well the respect due to himself, to submit to rudeness, however it might be attributed to the influence of anger, or impatience.
About this time one of those unfortunate affairs of gallantry occurred which give occasion for the pleader on one side, to paint in the most beautiful colours, charms of mind and person, and perfection of connubial happiness, which probably had never any other foundation but in the fruitful eloquence of the counsel for the plaintiff; and on the other of excusing the breach of every sacred and moral tie, palliating vice under new names, proving neglect which never existed, and teaching mankind to distrust even the fairest appearances of virtue. As this event took place in the higher circles, it afforded incessant conversation, till the remembrance of it was effaced by some other of the same nature more new, and of course more entertaining; attended likewise with circumstances of still greater atrocity, consequently a thousand times more interesting.
Whilst however it was yet the subject of some days wonder, it was mentioned one morning at Lady Drelincourt’s work table, where the gentlemen were assembled, waiting for fair weather. Some of them said it was at least a proof that a woman could keep a secret, when her own interest was concerned in its preservation, as the connexion had subsisted many years, without even being suspected. "Well," exclaimed Lady Courtney, with her usual animation, "I declare I think that very secrecy, an aggravation of her fault." "I am of a different opinion," replied Lord Courtney, with unusual gravity, "it at least proved her regard to public opinion, and that is a virtue in every one, and above all in a female." "Yes," answered his lady, "as far as self-interest is concerned, it is very adviseable; and for that reason we see it practised the most scrupulously, by those, who are the most conscious that their conduct requires a screen." "Not entirely so, my dear Everilda," said the Earl, taking up the argument, "in society, next to being virtuous, it is essential to its interests to appear so; and they who, content with the rectitude of their thoughts, are regardless of the construction that may be put upon their actions, are unjust to themselves, and to the virtue on which they rely; for they expose themselves to censure, where they might have been gratified by receiving just praise, and affording a beneficial example to others." "Yet," replied Everilda, "is not vice infinitely more culpable when it affects the language of virtue, than virtue can be made to appear, by the censures of vice? I confess, I would much rather be supported by the applauses of my own conscience, than by the approbation of those, in deceiving whom, I should add hypocrisy to my other faults." "But you do not argue fairly, my dear Everilda," returned the Earl, with the utmost good humour, "you seem to think it necessary, to be vicious and a hypocrite, or virtuous and an object of censure. Virtue to be beneficial, ought to be acknowledged; and I wish only to convince you, that where we rely entirely on the purity of our own intentions, for approbation, we cannot be surprised if the world be backward in granting it; for our intentions can only be known to ourselves, and the world can only judge of them by our actions, consequently ought not to be accused of too great severity if it condemn such as appear deserving of censure; and give little credit to the integrity of principles, which do not seem to have sufficient influence to correct the conduct that offends." "In short," said Lord Courtney abruptly, "there can need little argument to convince any, but those who are wilfully obstinate in error, that vice may be made to appear more vicious, and audacity more audacious, by shewing an utter contempt of the opinions of that society, which they disgrace by their actions; and as the rain has now ceased, I think we may spend our time more agreeably, than in discussing topics, which I am sorry are become so familiar, that they fail to inspire the disgust, which their deformity would otherwise naturally create." He spoke with a bitterness and severity altogether new to him. The Earl seeing that he was ruffled, proposed taking him to the House, and Edmund accompanied them, leaving Sir Edward Clayton, who was a regular morning visitor, in a situation the very reverse of agreeable. He had felt the full force of the conversation, without daring to take a part in it, lest what he said might be misconstrued. In any other company he would have spiritedly examined the value of popular applause, and the basis on which it was generally founded; but now he shrunk from giving an opinion, lest he should be suspected of teaching Lady Courtney to despise it. "Alas!" he mentally exclaimed, "I have not only neglected the observance of propriety to the world, but I have also neglected the conviction which my own sense of it forced upon my mind. I have said, I will rest satisfied with the purity of my own desires, but I have never really enquired what those desires were; ah! too surely the best of them is a selfish one!—to gratify my partiality for the society of my friend’s wife, even though by the unjustifiable indulgence of it, I expose him to ridicule, and her to censure; thus ungenerously subjecting them to evils, which the misjudging world extends not to me; and I who am the only guilty person, am the only one who escapes punishment."
When Sir Edward had once convinced himself that his conduct had been wrong, an alteration in it, was the invariable consequence of the conviction; and he now resolved no longer to prefer his own gratification to the dictates of honor. From that day, he determined to shun society hitherto too fascinating, to learn at a distance, to distrust his own resolution, and to conquer temptation, by taking refuge in flight.
The deep reverie into which these reflections had plunged him, was interrupted by the sarcastic tones, and angry countenances of Lady Courtney, and Lady Rosamond, who were as usual of opposite opinions. The former hurt at the severity of her husband’s manner, and mortified by the coldness with which he had left the company, continued the subject, saying, "I must acknowledge notwithstanding the incontrovertible arguments, which the gentlemen have given themselves the trouble to maintain, I am still obstinate in believing that sincerity is an essential virtue in society, and that vice is rendered infinitely more dangerous by being unsuspected." "But there may be an affectation of sincerity," replied Lady Rosamond, "equally calculated to conceal vice, by disarming suspicion, and under the disguise of excessive candour, it may practise the hypocrisy which it pretends to condemn." "And there may be a zeal," retorted Lady Courtney, "which, by its violence, disgusts, instead of convincing, and causes the sincerity of its motives to be suspected." If it had been possible to mistake the personality of these remarks, the tones and looks, by which they were accompanied were sufficiently explanatory. Sir Edward was concerned to witness dissention between two women, each highly superior to the generality of females; to take notice of it, was however to encrease it, and he deferred his departure a few minutes, that he might not appear to have observed what had passed. To change a subject of conversation, that had already produced so many unfortunate remarks, he mentioned music, and requested Lady Rosamond would favour him with a song, which he had greatly admired the preceding evening. She was on the point of complying, when Lady Courtney exclaimed, "Ah! for heaven’s sake Sir Edward, have some compassion on my ears, for really anglicized Italian, is too severe a trial for them. If my little Emma would give us a Scotch air, we should have at least nature to interest us." Emma however declined, and Lady Rosamond justly offended at a remark, which common civility ought to have restrained, left the instrument, at which Everilda took her seat, and sung and played a very difficult air, with admirable execution and taste, for she was a perfect mistress of music, and understood its principles scientifically.
When she had finished, she perceived however, that the party of her auditors had decreased, for Lady Rosamond had gone away, and not wishing therefore, to have the appearance of continuing in Sir Edward’s company, she left the room with Lady Emma, and only Claudina remained: nor would she have stayed, had she not thought the desertion of the whole party, would have been so marked a rudeness to Sir Edward, that she sacrificed her inclinations to her sense of politeness, and her unwillingness to wound the feelings of another. Her manner was however so embarrassed, her answers so cold, and she appeared so anxious for his departure, that he became more than ever convinced, of having unintentionally offended her. The idea did not now inspire him with the resentment, which had formerly accompanied it, for he was humbled by self-reproach, and not inclined to censure any actions but his own. "Yes, she despises me," he said to himself, "and with reason; she loves Everilda, with too much sincerity and warmth, to esteem the man who suffers his attentions to endanger her reputation; she saw on my introduction here, to what perils I was about to expose my integrity: if she blamed me for risking it, what must she do now, when she sees how rapidly it fails me? justly may she condemn my presumption, and despise my weakness." Impressed with these ideas, he approached the timid Claudina, who was agitated by every feeling opposite to those, which he supposed occasioned her emotion. "You hate me," he said in the most moving tones, "you hate me, and I acknowledge the justice of your hatred; but I did not expect that you, who are so gentle, so benevolent to every other person, would shew it to me with such cruel severity." "I hate you, Sir Edward?" exclaimed Claudina, turning pale, "ah! how can you be so unjust to my feelings? wound them not by the cruel supposition." "Pardon me, pardon my unhappiness which deprives me of the power even of expressing myself as I could wish;" said he "hatred, is indeed a term too strong; never could its vindictive sensations assimilate with sensibility like yours; but you condemn me Claudina, yet surely the peculiarity of the circumstances in which I am placed, may in some measure palliate my errors." He paused, but as Claudina made no reply, he continued, "Your silence is as expressive as your words could be; you think my conduct as inexcusable as it is base?" he hastily walked across the room, and Claudina terrified at his violence, replied, "Why, Sir Edward, will you persist in asking an opinion, which I am unable to give? why will you ungenerously construe the expression of my countenance, nay my very silence, into censures, as harsh, as they would be from me unjustifiable?" "Then you do not think me so very culpable," he exclaimed, again taking a seat, "you think me not utterly void of virtue? Oh! how rigid, and impracticable, must be the stern tenets of morality, which would not relax somewhat of their severity, in a case so hard as mine." "You still mistake me, Sir Edward," answered Claudina, trembling at the idea of authorizing principles inimical to propriety, "I think you very unfortunate, and infinite would be your claims on the compassion and sympathy of the virtuous, if you looked to them for consolation; but when you can lose sight of rectitude of conduct, for the gratification of self-love, on yourself alone you must depend for support, and weak indeed will it prove, when you have not even the aid of your own esteem, to enable you to bear with the censures of others. You look displeased, I fear I have said too much; yet not to express disapprobation of vicious sentiments, is to partake in them, and no one wishes his errors to be palliated, but to excuse a continuance in them." "Ah! cruel, unfeeling dictates of morality," he exclaimed, "how cold, how powerless, ye appear, when opposed to the agonies of feeling. It is easy to declaim against evils never felt; you Claudina know not the torments of love, of injured, ill-requited love; you cruelly add to my afflictions, you who are so well acquainted with their cause; who have seen my soul absorbed in fancied possession of a matchless treasure, you can upbraid me for lamenting its loss, for gazing on it with the bitterness of regret; you would refuse me even this poor consolation; you think it makes me happy. Be satisfied, it has not that effect. Every hour of temporary forgetfulness in her society, is purchased with one of added misery in solitude: then my eyes atone with tears of anguish, for the pleasure of gazing on her; then am I at once sensible of my weakness and its punishment; but you have never loved, and therefore cannot excuse the wanderings of passion. You have fortunately passed your existence in the unruffled calm of tranquillity, therefore cannot feel for one, who was born to be the slave of disappointed sentiment. You may have shed the tear of duty over the cruelty of your relations, but you cannot judge of the agony which rends the heart, that finds itself deceived, deserted by the object of its doating love."
These severe reflections, and his agitation were too much for the susceptible Claudina; she burst into tears and clasping her hands exclaimed, "Oh open not my wounds afresh; call not insensible one, whose life is consuming under the influence of passion. Say not that I have never known love. Ah fatal day when I first submitted to its dominion! never since that day has my bosom known peace. I love, and love without hope, I shall carry the impression made on my heart into my grave, but I shall not have dishonored the purity of my passion by seeking its gratification unworthily: my unhappiness will have injured no one, and that cheering reflection will console me in death." "Alas, have you also loved," said Sir Edward immediately becoming calm, "you have indeed by this confession taught me the injustice of my conduct; you say that you have suffered, and how uncomplainingly! Oh! those tears wound me to the soul; pardon me if I have recalled ideas which have caused them to flow; from this day I will strive to imitate your firmness; you shall be my ‘guide, philosopher and friend;’ your gentleness shall soothe, your resolution encourage me, and never again shall the subject of my ill-fated passion pass my lips; but ah, Claudina, how hard to be silent! How blest did I consider myself when every faculty of my soul was absorbed in admiration; never till then had life held forth its charms to me. In vain I had sought to interest my feelings in the pursuits of ambition, or in realizing the dreams of avarice. My ardent soul soared above the slow advancement of the first, and looked down with contempt on the sordid views of the last. Literature only increased a sensibility already too exquisite for my happiness; and by adding imaginary charms to a state of existence, painted in the most brilliant colours by fancy’s magic pencil, inspired me with new disgust of the tame and insipid tints of real life: ah! Claudina, there is in every person’s existence an epoch, from which he begins to taste its value. I saw Everilda, I loved, I lived; from that moment I beheld no other object in creation, than as it was connected with her. Every beauty of nature seemed to add to my passion; the air I breathed inspired love; the day flew too rapidly, even though it closed but to be succeeded by another still more delightful. How dreadful then was my disappointment! how keen the mingled feelings it inspired! Can they ever be forgotten? oh no! without them my soul would now become a blank; alas! I must still exist, and still be made conscious of existing, by the acuteness of my suffering! How can I endeavour to forget an object, of which every occurrence in life must remind me? How tear an image from my heart, when there is no other with which I can replace it! Why am I endued by nature with sensibilities so keen, when fortune has cruelly destined them to be the ruin of my peace? Oh Claudina, teach me resignation, promise to befriend me with your advice." "Already," she replied, with a captivating smile, "already you have broken the conditions on which it was to be given." He looked at her with stedfastness, and thought that he had never seen her so interesting. He almost wished his heart had withstood the force of Everilda’s attractions to be sensible of Claudina’s unassuming worth and pensive sweetness, and taking her hand with an air of expressive tenderness, he had raised it to his lips, when, at that moment, Lord Courtney entered and she withdrew it in confusion. Sir Edward likewise felt embarrassed, but Henry’s countenance expressed pleasure, and his good humour and cheerfulness were displayed in all their wonted powers.
Whilst he was discoursing with the animation natural to him; and which seemed to return with redoubled force, from having suffered a temporary suspension, the ladies re-entered equipped for paying morning visits. Sir Edward rose to depart. "We shall meet you this evening at the duchess’s concert," said Lady Courtney. He hesitated, and all his resolution tottered. He stammered out something of an engagement elsewhere, and then congratulated himself on the conquest that he had made over his inclinations. But he soon found the victory neither so easy, nor so certain as he imagined, Lady Courtney would not hear a denial, and declared that she should take no part in the music if he were not there, as she had been so used to his accompaniment that she should be utterly unable to perform without it. "So no hesitation, Sir Edward," she continued, "but say positively whether I must wait your arrival for music, or quietly take my seat at a card table?" False shame now conquered Sir Edward’s laudable resolutions; there was no resisting so direct an appeal, without the greatest apparent rudeness, and to have his real reasons known, might certainly acquit him of intentional disrespect, but it would also make him laughed at for his distrust of himself and his quixotic veneration for his mistress’s fair fame; and every one knows that in society so polished as that of the present day, it is infinitely less painful to appear vicious than ridiculous.
"I will avail myself of the honor of her Grace’s invitation," said Sir Edward, bowing to conceal the tinge of real shame, which passed across his cheek, as he felt the weakness of his best resolves: he looked at Claudina instinctively; for her approbation had that morning become necessary to his own, and he felt conscious that in this instance, he must inevitably risk his claim to it; but the spirit of cheerfulness had fled from a countenance to which early misfortune had rendered it almost a stranger. The glance of sensibility, the smile of tenderness, the blush of pleasure newly felt, had fled, and her placid features retained only the expression of disappointment void of surprise, disapprobation divested of any sentiment harsher than regret. Nor was her countenance alone changed; Lord Courtney’s had also relapsed into gloom, and Sir Edward took his leave, bitterly regretting that his irresolution should occasion unhappiness in any other bosom than his own. "How weak Claudina must think me," he mentally exclaimed, "how inferior my conduct to her’s! she, with uncomplaining sweetness has borne in silence the agonies of a passion, of which all the pains and pleasures must be keenly felt by sensibility exquisite as she possesses: too surely her melancholy is caused by absence from the unconscious object of her love; for unconscious of its existence must be the man who can suffer it to be unreturned. Probably her native country possesses the treasure to which she has devoted her heart, and estranged from it perhaps for ever, can it be wondered at, if common pleasures appear insipid to a mind like her’s? But she is happier than I am. She is rich in her own esteem, and the admiration of all around her, whilst I am a just prey to the scorn of others, and to my own reproach."
Thus Sir Edward Clayton deplored the weakness, which he could not, however sensible of it, summon resolution to conquer, nor was the object that inspired it less unhappy.
The displeasure of her husband was new to her; she believed it to be undeserved, and her favorite, though dangerous system of governing her actions entirely by her thoughts, forbade any endeavour to conciliate the return of a complacency which she thought was unjustly withheld from her. The dinner hour passed almost in silence, for Lady Rosamond had not forgotten the remarks of the morning, and could not forgive Lady Courtney for usurping the attention of a man, to whose notice she had resigned her own claim in the hope, that it would be devoted to Claudina, whose daily declining health and drooping spirits too plainly proclaimed the listlessness of disappointment, and hopeless regret. Lady Emma behaved with the affectionate tenderness natural to her, but partial as she was to Everilda, she yet shrunk from expression of kindness, which lost their value to her affectionate heart, when accompanied by offensive comparisons of her amiable qualities with the foibles of others.
Lord Courtney seemed anxious to lose the sense of vexation in wine, and sacrificed largely to the insidious power, who flattering his mistaken votary by bestowing exhilarated spirits, deprives him at the same moment of reason to conduct them; and in return for granting temporary forgetfulness, requires the risk of committing errors, which may wound remembrance, long after the power of atoning for them is no more.
"Oh when we swallow down
Intoxicating wine, we drink damnation!
Naked we stand the sport of mocking fiends,
Who grin to see our noble nature vanquish’d,
Ourselves subdued to beasts!"
Oh Fancy, paint not coming days too fair,
Oft for the joys that sprightly May should yield,
Rain pouring clouds have darken’d all the air,
Or snows untimely whiten’d o’er the fields.
THE concert at the Duchess of D’s was a private one, and the aid of professional performers was not required.
To such parties Lord Drelincourt’s daughters had always been considered as valuable acquisitions, and the great attainments of Lady Courtney, in the science of harmony, which she had from childhood been accustomed to hear in the highest perfection, caused her performances to command an attention, flattering to her, and no less gratifying to those who paid it, as they were amply rewarded by the exquisite taste and brilliant execution which she always displayed.
On this evening she surpassed her usual powers, and the most extravagant praises were bestowed on her exertions; but on this evening likewise, praise, for the first time in her life, ceased to please her; she saw that her husband was not gratified by the admiration which she excited, and it appeared tedious to her. It occasioned no animation in his countenance, and therefore it created no pleasure in her bosom; she even discerned in the flattery of the men a familiarity which roused her resentment and disgust; and in the neglect of the women, a contempt which she shrunk from, fearful that she might have incurred it by her own imprudence, in affecting a levity of which she abhorred the reality; but however mortified she felt she yet was resolved to appear happy, and was animated, various and charming, even beyond her natural powers: every one pronounced her fascinating, but any one might have pronounced also, that the gaiety which she spread around her, was a stranger at that moment to her own heart; that the heightened colour, the restless glance, the rapid utterance, were as nearly allied to secret vexations, and concealed anxiety, as to the exuberance of mirth or the gratification of vanity; however it is not the fault of society to be profound in its remarks; the men admired and the women envied, whilst Everilda alone felt how insufficient the admiration of the former was to confer real satisfaction, and how much the envy of the latter was misplaced. The Count Solano, who resided not far from Florence, was one of the party. Approaching Lady Courtney with the ease to which he was entitled, from a long intimacy in her family, he informed her that he was soon to leave England; "and," continued he, "I shall leave it with regret, for I have always been partial to it, and if any thing could have raised my opinion of my english friends, it would be seeing them so sensible of your worth, and so alive to your attractions. I shall be proud on my return to say, that, even compared with english ladies, my fair countrywoman’s charms are not excelled, and that her claims on the admiration of all who know her, are as universally acknowledged in England, as they were felt in Florence. But what shall I say from you respecting the country for which you have deserted us? Am I to have the pleasure of saying that you are as happy in it, as you once made every one who knew you in your own?" "I cannot judge," replied Lady Courtney smiling, "what idea would be formed of my happiness by that comparison, but you may certainly say with truth, that England has equally surprised and delighted me: I had feared meeting only with men immersed in the cares of their country, always studying to support its welfare, and to signalize themselves in the temple of fame: I had feared finding the women devoted to domestic duties, and rarely emerging from the delightful amusements of rational retirement, to pay the debt of occasionally appearing in scenes of public life suited more to their rank than to their wishes. But the alarming accounts that I had heard were absolutely false, and a short acquaintance with both sexes, informed me how egregiously they had been wronged. The men condescend to divert their sense of public cares by pursuing private pleasures with tolerable avidity, and the women are not so singularly modest and reserved as they have been described by travellers, who have unjustly represented them, as the most amiable of their sex in their own families, and the most forbidding when absent from them." "The english ladies," replied the Count, "have certainly, from time immemorial, been deemed as cruel as they are fair, and perhaps proud of their irreproachable renown, they have been encouraged to preserve it, by persevering in a severity, which the natural gentleness of the female sex could otherwise scarcely exert." "Whatever may have become of the motive," answered Lady Courtney, "the effect certainly does not remain in any very troublesome degree; any more than exists among the men, that rigid adherence to their own manners and opinions, and that contempt for those of other nations, which, we are told, once formed the most striking feature of their character, and that of which they were the most proud: we may now hear an english nobleman talk in favor of an abolition of all distinctions, we may hear infidelity from a black coat, or treason from a red one; and we may hear the government condemned as tyrannical and oppressive, when its very accusers give the most convincing proof of the confidence they place in its lenity and forbearance, by the measures which they take to incur its just chastisement." "It must be confessed," returned the Count, "that of late years, the peculiar style of thinking which at one time marked the english character as worthy of admiration, has somewhat suffered by the facility with which they have adopted the eccentricities of other nations, without enquiring if they were congenial to the spirit of their own." "Ah, no," interrupted Lady Courtney, "it is an old-fashioned prejudice long since obsolete, otherwise they would not build houses in the italian style of architecture, totally regardless of the trifling variation of climate; nor would they, when built, revive the gothic taste of furnishing them, were it not, I presume, to mark more strongly by the force of contrast, the difference between ancient and modern manners." "Is it necessary," asked Mr. Fletcher, "to point out the difference? I believe there will be little danger of confounding them; I should rather imagine that it is with the laudable design of sending us back to the times of simplicity, when the only preparation for the arrival of a guest, was to strew the floor with a double quantity of rushes, to throw a double quantity of wood upon the fire, to place before him the largest portion of the repast, and when it was over, to entertain him with the merriest story or cunningest device." "If we have as great a variety of manners as of architecture," replied Lady Courtney, "we shall certainly not risk being fatigued by sameness, whilst we continue the amusing and rational plan of bringing the peculiarities of all countries under one roof. Is it not extremely entertaining to ascend a flight of steps after the fashion of the sixteenth century, then to walk through an egyptian hall into a grecian banqueting-room, or gothic ball-room, with painted windows and sash-lights, the recesses lined with glass and ornamented with etruscan vases? or into a turkish bed-chamber, ornamented full of images and hieroglyphics, leading to a roman-bath with the newest french furniture?" "Very well," returned Mr. Fletcher, "allowing a little poetical licence for the inconsistencies with which you charge us, this variety may not be without its advantages; we are told of Lucullus, that the style of his entertainments was proportionate to the splendor of the rooms in which they were served, each apartment being distinguished by a name indicative of its rank in the scale of importance; and how agreeable it would be to take a hint from him and adapt our conversation and manners to the costume of the apartment into which we might be introduced; we should then confine our topic of horses, to the stables; of politics, to the dining-room; of abstruse literature, to the study, and reserve the easy rattle and fascinating gallantry of the french man, for the boudoir; whilst in the cool veranda, my fair countrywomen should adopt the compassionate custom of Italy, to relieve their husbands from the drudgery of entertaining them, by deputing a cicesbeo to pay the attentions which are insipid from those, who are only prompted to bestow them by the old-fashioned notions of conjugal love." "Ah indeed," interrupted Lady Courtney, "you compliment the italian ladies too highly if you suppose that they have any customs with which the english ladies are unacquainted; no, no, so far from it, they even improve upon the licence allowed us from time immemorial, of having a cavalier servente; ours are chosen by the husband, or some elderly relation, your countrywomen wisely chuse for themselves, which you must allow is infinitely more agreeable; and they are generally independent enough to shew the world that they are proud of their choice, as they seldom take any pains to conceal it, which is certainly to the credit of their sincerity; but that is the delight of living in a free country, the chains of vulgar prejudices are not known, oh! it is surely charming to be free!"
The uneasiness which Lady Courtney had concealed, as carefully as she had felt it, acutely pointed the severity of her remark. The happy are seldom rigid censors, and Lady Courtney had never lashed the follies of society, until this evening, when she found her spirits unequal to participating in them. The length and animation of the discourse, had gained many attentive hearers, and her satire was concealed under such well feigned ignorance, that some thought she actually meant it as praise, others however who had been taught by experience, to distinguish narrowly between a real meaning, and one ironical, soon discerned the censure in disguise, and conscience unpolitely informing them, that they were included among the objects of her persifflage, by a sympathetic movement they withdrew, from the general circle, to make their comments in a smaller one. "What a shameless creature!" exclaimed Lady Nevil, who had very naturally at the mention of cavalier servente, looked round the room, to see if Lord Stranton had arrived, "her audacity exceeds all bounds, but what could be expected from an opera-dancer?" "Yet your ladyship must have heard the Count Rodalvi call her his sister, and his family is known to be one of the first in Tuscany." Remarked one of the party, who retained some candour, even when speaking of a beautiful woman. "The Count’s calling her sister, does not prove her claim to affinity," said Lady John Talbot, "we all know he would oblige the Earl in any thing, as he is to become one of the family; and perhaps in calling her sister, he only means to say, that she will be so when he marries Lady Emma." "Very likely." "More than probable." Every one repeated to this ingenious supposition, and Lady Nevil continued, "I always thought she had been accustomed to perform in public; no one could sing and play as she does, who had merely been taught music as an accomplishment; what can Lady Stuart, or Lady Glerney, or Lady Mary Horton, or half the ladies of our acquaintance play? and we all know that they have been taught ever since they could sit upright; I had the first masters in town myself, for fourteen years, and they used to play so charmingly all the time they stayed! and yet I should feel very unequal to performing in public." "I dare say you would," said Lady John, "and I should be very glad if more were as diffident of their powers, for it is a terrible trial of patience, when people fancy themselves so superlatively accomplished, and still more when they are really so." "I am wearied to death with Lady Courtney’s praises," returned Lady Nevil, "where she is, there is no rational conversation, and really her confidence increases so rapidly, under the protection of the gentlemen’s applause, that it quite makes me tremble." "What can make Lady Nevil tremble?" said Mr. Fletcher, who had overheard the conclusion of the sentence, "Lady Nevil, whose charms would find a champion in every being, who saw them menaced by danger." "We were speaking of Lady Courtney," replied the ready fair one, "and I was lamenting the malevolent constructions that might be put on her charming vivacity, which would make the more candid, and those who were better acquainted with her, tremble." "How amiable is anxiety in such a cause," said Mr. Fletcher, "you are afraid the influence of Lady Courtney’s charms, may be weakened by the brilliancy of her wit, but trust me, they receive additional strength from its well turned sallies; the admiration of her beauty, great as it is, might be transient, but the inexhaustible novelty and interest of her conversation rivets it." "And yet the novelty of her conversation," replied Lady John, "has not raised her in the opinion of the censorious, and the effects produced by it, however flattering to her vanity, may not be very beneficial to her character; observe I speak only of the turn which the ill-natured may give to it." "Your ladyship speaks with your accustomed candor and penetration," said Mr. Fletcher, without departing from his accustomed sincerity,
"Envy will merit as its shade pursue,
And like the shadow prove the substance true."
"The censorious and ill-natured, are certainly intolerable pests in polite society, and the most alarming consideration is, that their mischief, when once suffered to break out, is incalculable; it is like the plague, destroying all before it; its wrath will not be appeased by the sacrifice of the original offender, whose character may have been wantonly offered for investigation, the spirit of enquiry spreads, a general scrutiny may be made, and where can any one say the evil shall end?" He was called away, and Lady Nevil enquired if Mr. Fletcher was in jest or earnest, in what he said? as she never could know exactly what he meant. "Lord, my dear," replied Lady John Talbot peevishly, "I should never have done, if I always asked myself the meaning of people’s words, and as to jest or earnest, nine times out of ten, they are to be taken which way you find the most convenient; but all who are connected with the Earl of Drelincourt, acquire some ridiculous way of thinking or peculiarity of manner; I never could admire either Lord Courtney or Signior Rodalvi, about whom the women were once so fatiguing, as the men are now with this illustrious lady of the opera." Lady Nevil knew very well, that her dear friend’s opinion respecting Lord Courtney, and Signior Rodalvi, had not always been of the non-admiring class, but with all the forbearance of modern manners, she affected implicitly to believe her, and as she did not see Lord Stranton, she went with her to the altar of the blind goddess, where every passion is forgotten, or swallowed up in the agitations produced by her decrees: here every one was intent on deceiving, or guarding against deception; on encreasing their store or their debts; on making unerring calculations, or lamenting the unforseen chances by which they were defeated; and the beauty of Venus, or the wisdom of Minerva, would have been displayed in vain, when opposed to the calls of avarice, and the fluctuations of hope and fear, in the breast of every individual.
Lord Courtney’s sacrifices to Bacchus, had not been very successful; he was grave and silent, and unfortunately he could not be so, without drawing attention; for the reputation of being a professed wit, or droll, however enviable and delightful it may be considered, by those who never could attain it, has one inconvenience to its possessor, who is never allowed the privilege, liberally granted to other mortals, of having his hours of care and dullness, but is expected to be always merry himself, and to make every one around him merry also. This is not however at all times an easy task, and Lord Courtney never found it more difficult than at this moment; he therefore went to the grand centre of attraction, where wit is readily dispensed with as unprofitable; a fault of which it is very often accused, even by those who possess it in the highest perfection. It happened unfortunately that Sir Edward Clayton, had this evening likewise devoted himself to the board of green cloth, not less to divert uneasy reflections, than to withdraw his usual attentions from Lady Courtney, whom he had summoned resolution to leave after the conclusion of the music. Lord Courtney was very much in the humour to quarrel with himself, and to divert the inclination he resolved to quarrel with Sir Edward; marked coldness, formal civility, and ceremonious attention, begun the attack, but in vain, he had the field of combat entirely to himself, for Sir Edward, conscious and dejected, bore patiently a conduct, which he felt he had incurred, by the imprudence of his own; and could not rouse his drooping spirits to answer remarks, the personality of which, he trusted was not observed by any other person. His forbearance, provoked still more the headstrong impetuosity of Lord Courtney, who imputed it to contempt; and under this idea, his incivility became too obvious to escape the observation of the company, or Sir Edward’s just resentment. Lord Courtney had played carelessly, of which he might soon have been convinced by the rapidity of his losses; for where an attention to the mysteries of science is neglected, every one kindly endeavours to convince the unwary player, that something more than even good cards, is necessary. Lord Courtney had lost all the money he had brought with him, and Sir Edward offered to lend him what he had occasion for, but he coldly declined borrowing of him, and immediately requested Lord John Talbot to become his creditor, for the sum which he wanted; Sir Edward, notwithstanding he felt much hurt, said with great politeness, "Did you fear finding me a severe creditor, my lord, that you would not honor me, by becoming my debtor?" "No sir," replied he, with unjustifiable contempt in his manner, "I have not learned to fear you, but before I lay myself under obligations to any man, I like to be convinced of his sincerity." This remark, could not possibly be suffered to pass unnoticed; Sir Edward replied with becoming spirit, Lord Courtney retorted with unbecoming warmth, for he was certainly the aggressor, and after some severe remarks on both sides, Sir Edward said, "Lord Courtney, you well know that you have injured me in a point, for which the friendship of your life could ill atone; I am sorry you add insult to injury, not that you can by it, encrease the unhappiness which you have already caused me, but, as it argues, what I did not expect from you, a littleness of mind, which cannot pardon the man whom you know you have wronged." "’Tis well sir," replied Lord Courtney, "’tis well you have acquainted me that you consider yourself aggrieved, I could not indeed pardon myself now, were I to omit telling you, that for every wrong which I have committed against you, whatever satisfaction you may require shall be given."
We suppose that few of our readers, are ignorant of the nature of the fashionable reparation for wrongs, real or imaginary; we call it reparation, for as to the satisfaction to be derived from it, we never could thoroughly understand, from what source the satisfactory sensations were to arise; but this ignorance we frankly acknowledge proceeds from our not ever having been engaged in such agreeable amusements, chusing rather to leave them to those sons of valour, who can digest a brace of bullets, and find them
For warriors who delight in blood."
The harmony of the company was rather disturbed by this affair, but as the disputants left the room, and fortunately none other of the Earl’s family were present at the time it happened, oblivion of all that had passed, was proposed by the sapient Lord John, who remarked, that "Of all silly, obsolete things, surely contending for the claims of friendship, or the honor of women, is the most absurd, and the greatest torture to the patience of rational creatures. Who thinks of the first but boys at school? and as to the last, the ladies are able to defend themselves, and Lady Courtney as well as any I know, can stand forth in her own vindication." "And who dares assert that her conduct needs vindication?" enquired a voice which sounded like thunder in the ears of the affrighted peer, he looked around, and found that it had proceeded from Edmund, who hearing some flying reports of the misunderstanding between Clayton and Lord Courtney, had just entered the room to gain intelligence respecting it, as Lord John was making his harrangue, "If there be any one," he continued, "who has the temerity to breathe a suspicion of Lady Courtney’s honor, let him do it now, and he shall find that its defence it not considered by me of trivial import, nor shall it be easily defamed." His eyes darted indignant lightning as he spoke, his attitude and figure might have been compared by a heathen poet to those of Jove, when he prepares to hurl his thunder on a guilty world, or the angry Mars, when he rushes forth to battle, or to any other deity that the reader may like better; but as we wish to be uniform, we shall not violate the costume of our christian history, by pagan comparisons, and will therefore content ourselves, notwithstanding it may savour of the bathos, with saying that he looked like the champion of England, when he throws down his glove, (which he knows no one will venture to take up) and challenges the world to dispute the claim of the illustrious monarch to the throne. But alas! we are obliged to repeat, that "the days of chivalry are past," and the Count’s challenge was, like the champion’s, suffered to pass unnoticed in respectful silence, he waited some moments, and receiving no answer, he continued, "Malevolent indeed must be the heart, which could censure the unguarded vivacity of innocence, and despicable the courage which could hear it censured unjustly, and remain inactive in its vindication." He left the room as he spoke, bestowing on Lord John, a glance of mingled resentment and contempt, which made him feel abashed, for the
"Grave rebuke severe in youthful beauty,
Had added grace invincible."
Lady Courtney was soon the only person who remained ignorant of the confusion, of which she had unconsciously been the cause, and when Lord Drelincourt, unable to conceal his uneasiness respecting his son, requested his family to return home, she alone, was at a loss to account for the gloom which pervaded the party.
Lord Courtney however had arrived at home some time before, and his servant said, that he had gone to bed rather indisposed with the head-ach; but the Earl could not feel satisfied without ocular demonstration, of his son’s safety, and therefore went into his chamber, where he had the happiness of finding him, apparently in undisturbed repose; he left the room with very different sensations from those which had agitated him on entering it; for all his ideas of chivalry, and feats of arms, and fair renown, had been put to flight, by the dread of his son’s danger; and though he was of too high courage, and possessed too nice a sense of the laws of honor, to advise the refusal of a challenge from an equal, who conceived himself aggrieved, yet to send one without even the plea of injury, was as opposite from his principles of rectitude, in all cases, as it was in this instance agonizing to his parental feelings.
Oh human life how mutable, how vain!
How thy wide sorrows circumscribe thy joy!
A sunny island in a stormy main,
A spot of azure in a cloudy sky.
THE Earl had flattered himself too much, in supposing that the fracas between his son, and Sir Edward, would end without further uneasiness. The former had returned home in the height of passion, and sent a challenge to the latter, which however he might condemn, when restored to the cool use of his unprejudiced reason, he was yet too much enslaved by false shame to retract.
Lord Courtney was ready to acknowledge to himself that he alone had been to blame, but to acknowledge it to the world was a very different thing, and as difficult as it would have been humiliating. He had the firmest reliance on his wife’s honor, and not only believed Sir Edward’s principles sufficiently strict to forbid any idea of tempting her to debase it, but even thought him infinitely more to be pitied than condemned; yet such is the subjection in which modern honour holds its votaries that he preferred risking his own life, and that of a fellow-creature, the happiness of his family, and the reputation of his wife, to making an acknowledgement that his challenge had been sent in a moment of inebriated madness. He was very anxious that Edmund should accompany him, but durst not propose it, lest that young man, more reasonable, though not less courageous, should not only refuse to attend him, but endeavour to prevent the meeting. He however resolved to sound him as to his opinion on the subject, and accordingly finding an opportunity to be alone with him, he began the conversation, by saying, "Do you not think that Clayton used me ill last night?" "Not having been present at your dispute," replied Edmund, "I am not able to judge of the merits or demerits of either party; but I will engage to say, that Clayton thought you used him ill." "I care not what he thought," said Lord Courtney impatiently, "I think that he aspersed my honor, and that I could take no means of vindicating it which would be too severe." Edmund enquired in what the aspersion had consisted. He could not answer very clearly, because he really did not know, but he still dwelt on the injurious expressions which Sir Edward had used, and repeating that he conceived himself bound to take notice of them, he again enquired Edmund’s opinion as to the justice of his cause, and the proper method of asserting it. Edmund had the rare merit of always thinking for himself, a privilege which is much seldomer exerted by rational beings than is generally imagined, some, indeed, may suppose, when they adopt a mode of conduct remarkable for any whim or singularity, that to the wondering plain folks who are content to proceed quietly in the beaten track, their eccentricity will prove that they think for themselves; but they will be internally convinced that it is for fashion’s sake, and to make others think of them.
Edmund took not the opinion of any one for the guide of his conduct, which he governed by the unalterable rule of right and wrong, as pointed out by reason, not by custom. He adopted no ideas because they were general, nor was he ashamed of confessing any, because they were singular; and he now refused to espouse Lord Courtney’s cause, notwithstanding his esteem for him, because he could not regard it as just.
Lord Courtney was much hurt by Edmund’s firmness in opposing his wishes. "I flattered myself," said he, "that where my interest was concerned, you would have waved your difference of opinion." "And how could I really serve your interest by assisting you in endangering your own life, or that of a worthy man whom you have offended?" enquired Edmund. "I think that he has offended me" replied Lord Courtney, "and this is the article in which your opinion differs from mine: but laying aside every consideration which I might have expected from your friendship, there is something due to the honor of your sister, I confess that I expected more alacrity in such a cause." "Point out the man who dares to asperse it," replied Edmund, "and I will then evince my alacrity in defending it; but I should do it little service were I to publish to the world, that I fight to vindicate what needs no vindication, to clear from suspicion what never was suspected; I will not take credit for my scruples of conscience respecting duelling, for in this instance it is not by them alone, that I am deterred; though at all times and in all cases the subject in a religious point of view is wholly indefensible. Society we are told requires some mode of punishing offences, which however inimical to its good understanding, and continuance, may yet not be cognizable by law, or if they were, where it is asked, is the man of spirit, who would not rather redress his own wrongs, than be obliged to the tardy justice of another for their reparation? It is urged that calumny will only be silenced, impertinence awed, and insult subdued, by the dread of being obliged by weapons more powerful than words to answer for the liberty which they have taken; there may be policy in forbearing to enquire with too great severity into this mode of vindicating wounded honor, but no one can pretend to palliate the guilt of a man who from wilful misapprehension risks the sacred blessing of existence in the cause of obstinacy; who conscious of being the transgressor yet unjustly usurps a privilege which would scarcely be defensible even if he felt himself injured, and had no other way of proving his regard for his honor, than by shewing that its defence was held more sacred by him than life itself. In short if you were impelled to give, or to receive a challenge, from a conviction that you were justified to yourself at least in the occasion of it, then notwithstanding my disapprobation of this ordeal of modern honor, I would accompany you, and rather die by your side, than see you injured, or insulted: when on the contrary I know that you internally acquit Clayton, of the most distant intention to either injure or insult, and even that you cannot avoid charging yourself with intending both, you must excuse me from countenancing an unjust usurpation of the privileges of single combat, by which it was never meant for the aggressor to challenge the aggrieved, nor would I affect to approve what I condemn, or be accessary to a meeting, the event of which might possibly plunge your family and my sister into misery." Edmund remained firm in his opinion, and Lord Courtney was obliged to conceal his own, as he did not wish Edmund to know, that like the generality of people who consult their friends, he had previously resolved how to act, independant of any advice that might be given; and the opposition which he had met with, only confirmed him the more in his observance of secrecy, respecting his intention, as he would rather have owed a reconciliation with his antagonist, to a candid acknowledgment of his own errors, than to the interference of peace-officers. As the hour approached, which was appointed for his meeting with Clayton, Lord Courtney contrived to elude the observation of his family, and by increased cheerfulness, to make them unsuspicious of any impending danger. But before he left the house, he pressed Everilda to his bosom, fervently imploring the blessing of heaven upon her, nor could he at that moment entirely conceal the emotion to which his various sensations gave birth; and she felt affected by the ardor of his manner, though she had not the most distant suspicion of its cause.
"With what affection he always treats me!" she said to herself, "how amiable he is! and how fortunate I ought to consider myself, in being united to so estimable a man, and by him related to so worthy a family! I will no longer trifle with the esteem of those whom I love, no longer lessen it by a struggle for dominion, which even if acquired, I should only owe to my perseverance in folly, and to their real superiority, in yielding the victory, rather than prolong the contest for it; I will lay aside the idle desire of attracting admiration, which when gained, creates no pleasure in my heart, already occupied with the tenderest esteem for my husband; the unmeaning attention of a frivolous croud, shall be exchanged for the approbation of my own friends, and the good opinion of the few, who may be deserving and amiable as they are." With these resolutions worthy of her superior attainments, and naturally amiable disposition, Lady Courtney left the dressing-room, to join the ladies, who were at work in the break-fast parlour. No one had more fascinating powers than she possessed, and never before had she exerted them so fully, never before had she appeared so truly captivating; no severity of remark, destroyed the playfulness of her wit, no prejudice obscured her judgment, no caprice or contradiction, dictated her opinions; she was gentle, affectionate, and obliging, goodhumouredly acknowledging her errors, and saying that she should not be guilty of them so often if her friends did not by forgiving her too early, deprive her of the time necessary to repent of them. In the meantime the hostile parties had met, and Lord Courtney was accompanied by a gentleman under sailing orders for the East Indies, and Sir Edward by a foreigner of rank; the seconds vainly endeavoured to reconcile them, neither would allow himself to be in the wrong, or could convince his adversary of the contrary. At length Lord Courtney said, "You perceive Sir Edward, my friend is anxious that our misunderstanding should be amicably settled; it is a natural wish on his part, and doubtless your friend may entertain a similar one, but when resolutions are made, arguments are wearisome as they are unnecessary. My determination is fixed; I esteem you and believe you to be a man of honor, but unless you will retract the expressions which you used last night, I must consider you as my enemy:" he paused for a reply, Sir Edward answered, "To retract what I then said, my lord, would be to criminate myself, by allowing that I had asserted a falsehood, I spoke what I felt, and what I must consider to be true; but I will say, that I spoke it without an intention to offend; and if this acknowledgment will satisfy you, I shall be happy to forget the past; if not, it is all the apology that I can make, and more than in strict justice I am required to give." "Then you have already said enough, sir," replied Lord Courtney, "our opinions differ, and words only, will not cause them to agree; the first fire is yours." He turned pale as he uttered these words, for though his courage was unsubdued, his affections spoke, and at that moment he forcibly felt the value of the life which he rashly placed in the disposal of chance; alas! an unhappy chance guided Clayton’s hand, and though he had turned round and averted his eyes, as he discharged the fatal weapon, it yet carried an unerring aim; the ball penetrated the hip of Lord Courtney, who fired his own pistol in the air, and then sunk upon the earth. It was the transaction of a moment; Clayton ran to raise Lord Courtney, and in an agony of sorrow, lamented the unhappiness of his fate, in thus unintentionally injuring a man whom he sincerely esteemed. "My dear sir," replied Lord Courtney, "you add to my sufferings by condemning yourself, where I alone have been to blame; and I call on those gentlemen to witness, that be the consequence of my wound what it may, I entirely acquit you, and declare, that in this instance and in every other in which I have known you, your conduct has been uniformly that of a man of honor, and of one whom I should ever be proud to rank among my friends." He attempted to rise, but was unable; those around him mournfully contemplated the change produced in his countenance, by the sufferings of a few minutes, though he endeavoured to conceal the anguish he endured, and again addressing himself to Clayton, said with firm composure, "I feel worse than I at first imagined myself to be; if you my dear sir, wish to oblige me, you will take the steps necessary for your safety; and for that of those gentlemen, then however this unfortunate affair may terminate, the knowledge of your being beyond the reach of harm, will greatly relieve my mind." Sir Edward refused to hear of flight, and declared his resolution not to leave Lord Courtney, until he knew the extent of his danger; at length however, the entreaties of his own second, and the uneasiness which he saw his refusal occasioned, determined him to depart; when shaking hands with his unfortunate antagonist, and breathing a sigh of regret and self-reproach, he entered the carriage with his friend, and was rapidly whirled out of sight. The removal of Lord Courtney was neither so easy nor so expeditious. The pain of his wound, intense even in a recumbent posture, was rendered almost intolerable by motion; but it was easy to perceive as he approached the end of his journey, that the idea of plunging his family into unhappiness was more agonizing to him than his own sufferings. "I think I could be conveyed privately into the house," he said to the servant who supported him, "I would then have it reported, that I had fallen from my horse, the surgeons could be sent for without exciting alarm, and their opinion might be kept secret." The servant endeavoured to make him easy by promising to evade discovery; but an anxious parent is not to be deceived. The Earl, when he found his son had left the house, without mentioning to what place he was going, was exceedingly alarmed, and when Edmund, whom he had sent to Sir Edward, returned with the unwelcome tidings that he also was from home, the morning was passed by him in a state of the most torturing suspence; in walking from the window of his study, to the top of the stairs, in watching, and listening for his son’s return. At length the moment came, when he saw him indeed return, but pale, wounded, and sinking under the firm support of his active attendant; then suspense was changed for the most horrid certainty, he believed him about to expire before his eyes, and it was long before he could listen to Lord Courtney’s assurances, that he was only slightly hurt, and his entreaties that his father would inform the family of the accident, that had befallen him, in such a manner, as would quiet any apprehensions that they might otherwise entertain; whilst they were debating, a door was opened, and Lord Drelincourt fearing lest any one might enter suddenly, went himself into the breakfast-room, where the ladies were conversing with the most cheerful cordiality. The agitated appearance of the Earl, drew general attention, and Lady Drelincourt enquired, in the tenderest accents, if he was indisposed? "No," replied he hesitating, "I am not ill, but," He paused, and involuntarily looked at Lady Courtney, with such earnest meaning, that she felt alarmed, and was about to express her fears, when Claudina, who had been all the morning in her dressing-room alone, rushed into the room, and clasping her hands in the attitude of despair, exclaimed, "Oh God! is it Clayton who has dyed his hands in blood? wretched, wretched Claudina! never again canst thou know peace, Clayton has become a murderer! oh! why did I live to hear the dreadful tidings?" Scarcely had she uttered these words, when she fell senseless on the floor, with such violence, that the consternation was universal, and whilst the young ladies rang for attendants, and endeavoured to restore her to life, the Earl took Lady Drelincourt from the room, unperceived by the rest of the party.
Everilda was much shocked, by the unhappy condition of her friend, whose agitation, had thus betrayed the secret of her attachment, which she had hitherto guarded with such cautious firmness, that even Lady Courtney had never suspected its existence. Now that she was convinced of it, she admired the delicacy of Claudina’s conduct as much as she condemned the imprudence of her own. "Alas!" she thought, "whilst my loved friend was sinking under the effort of concealing a virtuous, tho’ unfortunate attachment, I was sacrificing duty and propriety, to gratify my vanity, by encouraging the attentions of one, whose affection I had once possessed, and had requited with treachery and ingratitude: what has my boundless love of admiration done? I have by it destroyed the favourite companion of my youth; awakened the sensibility of a worthy man to misery; mortified the husband whom I adore; disobliged the friends whose good opinion I would die to deserve; and incurred the censure of all, who value virtue too highly, to pardon the appearance of vice." The tears swam in Lady Courtney’s brilliant eyes, during these reflections, and as she bent over Claudina’s lifeless form, they fell on her pale cheek, and seemed like dew-drops, hanging on the pensive lilly. "Alas!" exclaimed Lady Courtney, turning to Lady Rosamond, "had I sooner known the state of my Claudina’s heart, what folly and unhappiness, might have been avoided." Lady Rosamond understood the penitent expression of her countenance, and unwilling to add to her affliction, kindly pressed her hand, saying, "To acknowledge an error, is to forsake it, and all may yet be well." The ladies had been so intent on recovering Claudina, that they had never enquired into the cause of her situation, but Lady Rosamond’s words awakening a desire to know what had really befallen Sir Edward Clayton, and how Claudina had heard of any circumstance relative to him, Lady Courtney asked the attendants, if they knew any thing of the matter? but they replied only by looks of dismay, and consciousness, which alarmed more than words could have done. Lady Courtney impatiently repeated her enquiries, and finding that when all were addressed, none would answer, she demanded of Bianca an immediate reply, Bianca turned pale, "What would you know my lady?" she enquired in trembling accents. "I wish to know what has occasioned Claudina’s alarm, and if you have heard any thing concerning Sir Edward Clayton? you before comprehended me, I am well assured by your countenance, and I detest prevarication." Bianca unaccustomed to being harshly spoken to, burst into tears and replied, "Alas! my lady, pardon my unwillingness to inform you of an event, which may reduce you to a state even worse than that of Lady Claudina; Sir Edward Clayton is well, but he has wounded my lord in a duel, and—" Everilda stayed not to hear more, for darting from the room, with the rapidity of lightening, she flew to Lord Courtney’s apartment.
He was laid on the bed, supported by Edmund, Lady Drelincourt was weeping over him, and the Earl was conversing with the surgeons who had just arrived, Everilda’s shrieks filled the room, and supporting herself with one hand on the bedpost, she covered her eyes with the other, unable to endure the expression of pain, which at a single glance she had perceived in her husband’s countenance. Her agony increased Lord Courtney’s: "Oh! my Everilda," he faintly exclaimed, "I shall hear thy shrieks even in my grave, already they vibrate through my soul." At the sound of his voice she instantly became calm, for a few moments, but her agitation soon returned, and throwing herself on her knees by him, she said in a quick tone, "My Henry, tell me you forgive me—I know you will die—I shall not long survive you—Our separation will be short, and we shall be reunited to part no more." Lady Drelincourt burst afresh into tears, and the Earl tenderly exhorted Everilda to retire. No entreaties however could prevail on her to move, "If Henry will suffer me in his presence, I will never leave him," was her answer, and he requested that she might be indulged in every thing she wished, but it was urged, that her presence would impede the performance of the necessary, though painful operation, of searching for the ball, this argument had some effect, she consented to retire, but suddenly her faculties became suspended, by her feelings, fear seemed to chill her blood, the crimson current appeared frozen in her veins, and she was conveyed cold and motionless, to her own apartment. Anxiety and foreboding sorrow, prevailed throughout the house, and encreased the sad suspence in which every one was held, during the interval that necessarily elapsed before an opinion of Lord Courtney’s danger could be formed. The female domestics wept incessantly, whilst attending on their ladies, for Lady Maria, whose sensibility was of the sickliest and most helpless kind, had thrown herself into hysterics, and was added to the number of invalids. Lady Rosamond’s strength of mind was now truly valuable, and Emma resolutely following the laudable example given by her sister, concealed her tears, and checked the sighs with which her heart seemed breaking, to wait on the sick, to console the unhappy, and to relieve the minds of those around her, by taking every care upon herself. The surgeons were successful in their first attempt to extract the ball, and the family yielding to the flattering suggestions of hope, forgot their recent fears, and rejoiced as if the object of them, were already freed from every probability of impending danger. Soon however these illusions vanished, Lord Courtney daily sunk under the effects of his wound, he became visibly weaker, and his physicians feared the fatal termination of a disorder, already attended by every unfavourable symptom.
What pleasure can the bursting heart possess,
In the last parting and severe distress?
Can fame, wealth, honor, titles, joy bestow,
And make the laboring breast with transport glow!
The gaudy trifles gild our dawning light,
But oh! how weak their influence on our night,
Then fame, wealth, honor, titles, vainly bloom,
Nor shed one ray of comfort on the tomb.
THE sufferings of the Earl whilst he contemplated the sad change already wrought in the darling child of his heart, the hope of his life, the source of all his joys, exceeded the powers of description. He gazed in silent anguish, on Lord Courtney’s altered form, so lately distinguished alike by strength and elegance, now wasted to a shadow, sinking under debility, and exhausted by languor; his cheek, where health had once spread her richest tints, was now mocked by the crimson glow of hectic fever; his eyes, where lately intelligence had dwelt in liquid lustre, now faded under the influence of disease, and were only occasionally lighted up by momentary hope, to contrast more forcibly, the despair that quickly succeeded, from the conviction, which his own feelings forced upon him. Dreadful trial to fond parents, and affectionate friends! dreadful indeed, it is to behold the sufferings of those whom we love! there are moments, when the sympathy excited by them, becomes so agonizing, that self-love teaches us to look forward with comparative resignation, to the hour, when it will no longer be so painfully called forth; when the most mournful recollections of happiness past, never to be recalled, the bitterest regrets for social delights, fled never to be again enjoyed, appear more easy to be borne, than the quick transition from hope to fear, the lingering torments of doubt, and the agonizing pangs of suspense. Every evil is magnified, whilst there appears a possibility of averting it; but when once known to be inevitable, it is submitted to, with a fortitude which diminishes its force. The very hopelessness of grief, inspires courage to attempt its subjection, and the mind dwells on the past with a melancholy tenderness, that softens the remembrance of its loss.
"Did the sharp pang we feel for friends deceas’d,
Unbated last, with anguish we must die;
But nature bids its rigour should be eas’d,
By lenient time, and strong necessity.
These calm the passions, and subdue the mind,
To bear th’ appointed lot of human-kind."
Mornful indeed were all around, but faint were the sufferings of the most afflicted, in comparison with the agonies which rent the bosom of Everilda; she beheld her husband, the object of her youthful love, doomed to die, yet fondly clinging to life; and his anxiety to live, distracted her even more than the dread of his death. When she saw him watching the countenances of his physicians, endeavouring to palliate even his own account of his feelings, at some times yielding to the most cheering hope, at others sinking under the influence of despair; then unable to command her feelings, she would hastily leave the room to conceal them, and wringing her hands, in all the agonies of uncontrolable grief, she would exclaim, "Wretch, that I am! it is I, who have reduced him to this state; my guilty follies, my unpardonable vanities, have drawn down this heavy punishment. Oh! merciful God, spare my husband; spare him to his parents, for I am unworthy of him." Thus in prayers and self-reproach, would the unhappy Everilda, occupy herself, until the violence of her grief, destroying in some measure its continuance, she was enabled to return with a composed countenance, though breaking heart, to take her station near the dying Henry; who fondly attached to her, with his natural goodness of disposition, now gave redoubled proofs of his affection, fearing that the remembrance of it would soon be her only consolation.
He had continued a fortnight in this melancholy state, and Lord Drelincourt had never taken any other repose, than on a sofa near him; or would suffer any other person to attend on his beloved son in the night; for his parental feelings never slept, and a sigh from Lord Courtney, or a change of his posture, immediately produced an enquiry into his wishes from his father, who was comparatively happy, if they were of a nature to be gratified.
The Earl’s sensations in this trying juncture, were indeed of the most painful kind. He saw his beloved and only son, the object of his most anxious solicitude, and fondest hope, languishing on the bed of sickness, groaning under sufferings, and overwhelmed with sorrow. Ah! how forcibly did this sad spectacle convince him of the inefficacy of riches, and the futility of rank.
"For what avail the highest gifts of heav’n,
If drooping health and spirits go amis!
How tasteless then whatever can be given,
Health is the vital principle of bliss."
"Alas!" exclaimed the unhappy father, as he cast his eyes over the lofty and magnificent apartment, which contained every artificial aid for ease and comfort, that luxury could sigh for, or ingenuity invent; "alas! of what use are the soft carpet, the gilded sofa, and a couch of down, if repose be in vain solicited amid them? What avails the service of plate, if the food which it contains, be loathed; or the long train of domestics, if their attendance cannot in any degree soften pain, or divert languor? Yet let me not be ungrateful, let me rather be thankful, that the afflictions of my poor child, have at least every human alleviation; alas! how many are at this moment suffering under every aggravation of evil! how many uncomplaining spirits, are bowed down with ills encreased by want! how many affectionate hearts are broken, in witnessing the sorrows which they cannot relieve! oh God! teach me to extract benefit from thy chastenings, and to be unceasingly zealous to lessen those wants and miseries in the situation of others, from which thou hast been graciously pleased to preserve my own."
Such were the reflections of Lord Drelincourt during his constant attendance on his son, who received all his medicines and sustenance, from the unwearied hand of parental love. But nature was at length exhausted, and the Earl confessed himself overpowered by bodily fatigue, and mental uneasiness. He complained of lassitude and coldness, and was evidently so ill, that in order to relieve the apprehensions of his family, he consented to retire to bed, whilst Edmund gladly accepted the office of watching over his sick friend.
Lord Courtney found himself much less inclined to sleep than to enter into conversation. "What an inconsistent thing is honor," said he, "or rather how incorrect in general are our ideas of it! Had not Clayton been a man of honor, and one whom I esteemed, I should not have conceived myself strictly called upon to fulfil an engagement made in a moment of inebriated anger; and yet that anger was raised by a man whom I believe to be a contemptible character, though I was once intimate with him, and he called me his friend. I cannot say I returned the compliment, for my ideas of the sacred ties of real friendship were always too exalted to apply the term to every one whom I might meet twice in the same party, and in the same pursuits; however I was weak enough to let the impertinent sneers of this man mortify me, and instead of checking his insolence I turned all the ill humour excited by it against Clayton. You will guess that I allude to Lord John Talbot, who notwithstanding he so liberally bestowed on me the undesirable title of his friend, has most cordially hated me ever since he married a woman whom he well knew I despised, and who he had just sense enough to discover was in fact a despicable character. He could not bear to see me enjoy in marriage a degree of happiness which he could never hope to attain; or place a confidence in my wife, which he never could in his, whose levity even all his vigilance cannot restrain. Yet to confute the malicious insinuations of this man, I have thrown away a life endeared to me by a thousand blessings of which I never knew the value so forcibly as now, when I am called on to resign them." "Oh! my dear Courtney" exclaimed Edmund, "do not say you must resign them, let us rather hope that you may enjoy them many years, and that each succeeding year may add to them." "Edmund," replied Courtney with melancholy earnestness, "we easily believe what we wish; but there are cases, where conviction is unavoidable, and sanguine indeed must be those hopes which could resist it; mine are not so; I feel how easy it is to throw away life, how difficult to recal it; I am attached to it by many ties, and in resigning it, I grieve for my poor father, who has loved me too tenderly for his own peace; I grieve for my Everilda, my mother, my sisters, nay even my common acquaintance I feel attached to, when I consider how soon I must leave them for ever." He paused overcome by his emotions, but in a few minutes he proceeded, "I thank God I have not the fear of death to add my love of life; I have never intentionally injured any one, poor Mary Macdonald excepted: she is the only being whom I ever used basely, and my desertion of her and breach of promise to her father, have dwelt heavily on my mind since I have meditated on every action of my past life, and seen each in its proper colours: but I have repented, and I humbly hope to be forgiven; I feel and bewail my own unworthiness, but I trust to the mediation of my Redeemer, and to the mercies of a God of kindness and long suffering. Poor Mary! I have indeed behaved cruelly to her, but she is not lost to virtue; I never attempted to seduce her mind, and I am now only consoled by the hope that her principles are so far uncorrupted, that aided by them her conduct may yet I trust be exemplary. She shall neither want countenance nor support; I have remembered her in my will, I have recommended her to my father’s protection, he will be kind to her for my sake, and he will acquit himself towards her, with that honor and generosity, which
poor Macdonald hoped she would find in me. My Everilda too will not turn from her, with the harsh austerity of unforgiving virtue; she will pardon the errors caused by affection for me, the woman who loved her husband, will never be worthless in her eyes," he paused again fatigued by his exertion, and Edmund could only endeavour to console him whilst his own emotions rendered his attempts inarticulate. At length he prevailed on him to endeavour to sleep; all was hushed around, and only the regular tickings of a time-piece marked the progress of the heavy hours during the last night that Lord Courtney was destined to exist.
The first dawn of day brought the Earl to his son’s bed-room. But how was he shocked on perceiving the great alteration which had taken place in his appearance: Henry saw his father’s emotion, and shaking his head in hopeless despondency he said languidly, "It is all over with me Sir," he looked earnestly at the Earl as he spoke, perhaps still faintly hoping to be contradicted. But the anxiety of the parent overpowered every other consideration, and Lord Drelincourt involuntarily returned his son’s melancholy gesture, which accorded too well with his own feelings. Henry made a vain effort to rise, but finding his weakness insurmountable he gave up the attempt, "I shall never rise more," he said and a tear strayed down his faded cheek; he was silent some minutes, at length he said, "I should wish to see all my friends; I had better do it before I am weaker; my dear Sir, you are too deeply afflicted, do not thus distress yourself; alas! I had hoped to recover and to shew myself sensible of your kindness, but it is now too late to be flattered." All Lord Drelincourt’s firmness forsook him when he pressed the feverish, and wasted hand, which his son held out to him; he no longer saw any thing in the world, but that son dying, and in his dissolution every hope of happiness seemed also to expire. The Earl could no longer restrain his tears but giving way to all his emotions he wept, he wrung his hands and looking to heaven exclaimed, "Oh! I have fixed my mind too intently on worldly things, I have even considered my son more as the heir to my title than as my invaluable child; I have not been thankful enough for the happiness I enjoyed as a parent, I have looked upon the blessing which thou gavest me, in too worldly a view, and now I am punished by the deprivation of it. Oh heavy blow, oh! unlooked-for trial! let me not say it is severe, oh God, teach me to thy decrees." The family now entered, drown’d in tears, his mother, wife, and sisters, knelt round the bed of Lord Courtney; who sensible of his approaching end, filled with the awe inspired by a knowledge of it, and agonized by the affliction of those so dear to him, from whom he was so soon to part, gazed on the scene with a sort of stupor, which deprived him of the power of expressing any of the various emotions by which he was bewildered.
The Earl had sent for the physician, who now arrived, and on him the eyes of every one present, were turned with the most beseeching enquiries. Too honest to disguise what he knew, and too compassionate to be able to conceal what he feared, his countenance was so faithful a transcript of his mind, that even those, who notwithstanding appearances, had entertained some hope, found that they had been too sanguine; but that delightful passion will linger long in a parent’s heart, and Lord Drelincourt took the physician into another room, to know his real opinion. It would have been cruel to encourage in this unhappy father a delusion, of which a few minutes might discover the fallacy; and the worthy man made a painful effort, to prepare the mind of the Earl, for the shock it must soon receive; he told