LOVERS AND FRIENDS.
Printed by J. Darling, Leadenhall-Street, London.
LOVERS AND FRIENDS;
IN FIVE VOLUMES.
ANNE OF SWANSEA,
CONVICTION, GONZALO DE BALDIVIA, CHRONICLES OF AN ILLUSTRIOUS HOUSE, SECRET AVENGERS, SECRETS IN EVERY MANSION, CAMBRIAN PICTURES, CESARIO ROSALBA,
“I hold a mirror up for men to see
How bad they are, how good they ought to be.”
Printed at the Minerva Press for
A.K. NEWMAN AND CO. LEADENHALL STREET.
LOVERS AND FRIENDS.
“How noiseless falls the foot of Time
That only treads on flowers!
What eye with clear account remarks
The ebbing of his glass,
When all its sands are diamond sparks,
That dazzle as they pass?
“But, ah! how slow Time steals along
With those condemn’d to woe!
For them how dark the brightest day
Who muse on pleasures past,
And as the moments creep away,
Wish each sad hour their last!” Z.
“The world is ever ready to believe evil of us, but it is slow
to give credit to our virtues: happy are they who, when
falsely represented, have the consolation of innocence.”
Villany disappointed—A Citizen and his Famil
—Covent Garden Theatre—A Scholar not al-
ways an agreeable Companion.
THE virtuous spirit with which Miss Delmore repulsed every attempt made by sir Cyril Musgrove against her honour, the undisguised censure she passed on his licentious conduct, and the contempt with which she constantly treated him, had effected a change in his sentiments surprising even to himself. Accustomed to meet but little opposition to his wishes, sir Cyril had taught himself to believe that every woman was to be obtained by assailing her vanity or her avarice; but a steady perseverance in refusal, though every offer had been made that could seduce and bribe a weak or venal mind, compelled sir Cyril to retract this illiberal opinion, and confess that Miss Delmore’s mind and principles were incorruptible. Her beauty and accomplishments the admiring world had universally acknowledged; to her vitrue, fortitude, and patience, he was obliged to bear witness, and fully persuaded that she was the only woman he could endure as a wife, and that he must be miserable without her, he at last, after many struggles with pride and profligacy, made her an offer of his hand.
Cecilia replied— “I know not, sir Cyril, whether your penitence, and proposal to make me your wife, is not a new stratagem to lull my suspicions, and get me more completely in your power; but of this I assure you, whatever may be your design, you will reap no advantage from it. I have before told you my affections are irrevocably engaged; my hand is promised: but were I at perfect liberty, and I was certain you are sincere in your present offer of marriage, I should with scorn reject it. The man who has presumed to confine my person, and dared to assail me with dishonourable proposals, is entitled only to my disdain; and rather than be your wife, sir Cyril, I would prefer to labour in the most menial servitude for the means of existence.”
During this unexpected declaration, sir Cyril bit his lips, frowned, and looked a good deal disconcerted; but stifling his mortification, he affected good-humour, and with forced gaiety replied—“You now speak, my charming Cecelia, under the influence of resentment, for which, I confess, I have given you some cause; but I trust you will forgive the little harmless stratagem I used to get you into my power, and kindly attribute it to the excess of my passion for you, particularly as I now offer you the amende honourable. Consider, my fair tyrant, I lay my title and fortune at your feet; and as to my person, I do not, I trust, flatter myself in supposing to that you can form no objection.”
“In my eyes it is hateful,” said Cecilia, “and now, and for ever, I reject any and every offer you can make me, unless Heaven should touch your heart with remorse, and induce you to offer me liberty.”
“Nay, lovely inflexible,” replied sir Cyril, “be not so hasty in your resolves; be calm, and take time to consider, before you so peremptorily reject.”
“No time will prevail on me to accept your proposal, sir Cyril,” returned Miss Delmore; “reflect on the time you have detained me a prisoner. Do you think your amende honorable, were I debased enough to accept it, will restore my ruined reputation, destroyed by your little harmless stratagem, or persuade the world to believe me innocent, after having passed near four months under your roof?”
“The world, my fair inexorable,” said sir Cyril, “is too polite to be severe in scrutinizing the actions of persons of rank and fortune. When you are lady Musgrove, depend upon it, all your former friends will be happy to renew their intimacy.”
“You are mistaken, sir,” replied Miss Delmore; “my friends are all of them persons of honourable mind, and would shun me, however high my rank, or elevated my fortune, were I capable of renouncing an affection that was avowedly the pride of my existence, and breaking promises voluntarily plighted. No, sir Cyril, when I reflect on the noble generous character of lord Rushdale, yours must lose by the comparison; and however protracted may be my separation from him, my respect and affection can never know abatement. Whatever may be your motive for offering me marriage, I repeat, with the honest feeling of sincerity, I dislike your person, I abhor your principles, and never will be your wife.”
“You may, when too late, repent this rejection, madam,” said sir Cyril, reddening with resentment; “you may dislike my person, for certainly there is no accounting for taste; but I like yours, and if you will not marry me—if you will compel me to other measures, why the consequences must not be attributed to me, who would have acted honourably by you.”
“Whatever are the consequences, I am prepared to meet them,” returned Cecilia, with an assumption of spirit she was far from feeling. “You have already proved yourself capable of actions disgraceful to the character of a gentleman; beware that you do not add murder to the catalogue of your crimes.”
“Charming heroine!” exclaimed sir Cyril, “your very anger is beautiful, and armed with a dagger, or a bowl, you would rival Miss O’Neil. But surely you do not suppose me fool enough to believe you would destroy yourself, rather than comply with my wishes?”
Cecilia did not deign a reply to this insulting speech; she hastily retired to give vent to the tears which she with difficulty prevented from gushing from her eyes in the presence of her persecutor, and to supplicate the protection and assistance of that mighty Power whom she was confident she did not address in vain.
More than a fortnight had elapsed, and she believed the words marked on the handkerchief which she placed in the bosom of the child had passed unheeded, or been seen only by persons unable or unwilling to assist her escape. Of lord Rushdale’s feelings she thought with an agony that whirled her brain, for remembering the malicious newspaper representations, she was aware that appearances were indeed very much against her, and she trembled and wept, lest he should have yielded belief to slanders that indeed seemed too probable to be doubted.
Sir Cyril Musgrove had never in his life passed so long a period at Frome Hall, which, though an ancestral seat, was not in a fashionable neighbourhood, and was therefore seldom honoured with his residence for more than a month every summer. He was now heartily tired of the place, as well from want of society, as from the conviction that every servant in the house was assured of Miss Delmore’s innocence, that they all pitied her, and were certain she was kept there against her will; he was also convinced that they all condemned his conduct, and would oppose any violence being offered to her. His prime minister, Mr. Samuel Sparks, had strongly recommended his taking Miss Delmore to France, where he might easily persuade monsieur she was a refractory wife, and national politeness would prevent any interference between mi lor Anglais and his domestic concerns.
This advice sir Cyril considered too good to be neglected, and he resolved to adopt it without loss of time, for his pride was offended, and his resentment influenced. He would have condescended to take the low-born portionless Cecilia to wife; but she had treated his generous proposal with insolent contempt, and he resolved to humble her haughty spirit, by arrogating all the privileges of a husband as soon as they landed in France.
Mr. Samuel Sparks, with much secret satisfaction, received sir Cyril’s orders to prepare for quitting England, and every arrangement being made for a year’s absence, Cecilia was informed they should quit Frome Hall, and begin their journey to Poole the following morning, where a vessel waited to convey them to France.
Against this fresh outrage in forcing her to quit the kingdom, Cecilia remonstrated in terms of bitter reproach, at which sir Cyril laughed, and insultingly said, as she was weary of Frome Hall, he thought to have received her thanks for projecting a trip to Paris, where he trusted she would forget her indignation— “I expect, when you breathe the air of France,” said he, “that you will throw off all your English prudery, and display only the loves and graces.”
Cecilia perceived that sir Cyril was indeed fixed on quitting Frome Hall, for trunks and packages filled all the rooms; and to prevent her from exciting commiseration in the servants, Mr. Sparks was her constant attendant. Never did Cecilia pass a night of such hopeless agony; her eyes were not, for a single moment, visited by sleep; but the long hours were passed in tears and supplications to Heaven, to enable her to preserve the consciousness of virtue in the midst of her future trails.
A dark rainy morning succeeded this miserable night, and sir Cyril remained in bed beyond the hour he proposed setting off. When Cecilia was informed that breakfast waited, and descended to the parlour he remarked that she looked unwell; as the wind swept boisterously over the flowering shrubs, and the rain beat against the windows, he drew near the fire, and protested that the morning was so unpleasant, that, ’pon his honour, he felt inclined to postpone their journey to the next day.
To this Cecilia made no reply; but she felt like a wretch reprieved, though she saw no good that could possibly arise from the delay of a few hours.
“What say you, my charmer,” said sir Cyril, snatching her hand, and rudely kissing it, “shall we remain another day at Frome Hall, or pursue our intended journey, in defiance of wind and rain?”
Struggling to release her hand, which he tightly grasped, Cecilia replied, whether she remained or went, it was equally repugnant to her will, and against her consent. “You are a dear perverse creature,” said sir Cyril, “but I hope every thing from the love-breathing air of France. ’Pon my honour,” staring her in the face, “you look pale, and your eyes are heavy, as if you had not rested well.” Releasing her hand, he looked at the sky— “No hope of the rain going off—cloudy, thick, and gloomy; perhaps to-morrow the sun and Cecilia may both look bright. In the hope it will be so, I will spare my horses, for, ’pon my honour, I should be extremely sorry to expose them to bad weather; the pair that run in my travelling-carriage cost me a thousand pounds; but for figure and action, they are not to be matched in England.”
When the breakfast-things were removed, Miss Delmore would have retired, but sir Cyril insisted she should remain, and play chess with him— “The morning,” said he, “is so confounded dull, that you shall stay and entertain me.”
“I should suppose, sir, you have found, before this, that compulsion fails to make an amusing companion,” replied Cecilia. “Release my hand. I am very unwell, and wish to retire.”
“Mere obstinacy and perverseness,” returned sir Cyril; “but I shall find a way to subdue this froward spirit, to bend you to my will.”
“Never,” said Cecilia.
“Yes,” continued sir Cyril, still grasping her hand, “I shall very shortly see this disdain exchanged for looks of humble entreaty. This hand, which now obstinately resists my clasp, and struggles to free itself, will press mine in fond endearment, and those lips, that now utter reproach and refusal, will soon put on their most inviting smiles, and solicit my kiss.”
“Release me, sir Cyril,” said Cecilia, as, covered with indignant blushes, she evaded his clasp; “never will you be other than detestable in my eyes—never will my lips utter other than reproach for your unmanly conduct.”
At the moment when sir Cyril forcibly held her in his arms, and her shrieks of terror provoked him to snatch kisses from her neck and cheek, a postchaise, followed by four horsemen, drove furiously towards the house. The eyes of Cecilia caught the figure of her friend Wilson, and a loud shriek of joyful recognition burst from her overcharged heart.
Sir Cyril turned in confusion towards the window to reconnoitre his unwelcome visitors, and Cecilia, rushing towards the hall, exclaimed— “Heaven has not forgotten me! deliverance comes!”
Before she could reach the hall, she was met by Mr. Samuel Sparks, who would have hurried her into the passage that led to the servants’ offices; but her cries for help soon brought a young naval officer to her assistance, who, laying a thick cane over the head of Mr. Sparks, left him prostrate on the floor, while he bore the terrified Cecilia to the breakfast-parlour, where sir Cyril Musgrove, in attempting to escape from the window, had dislocated his shoulder, and so severely lacerated his leg, that he lay on the carpet groaning, covered with blood, and unable to reply to the invectives and menaces of the enraged Wilson.
When Cecilia was sufficiently composed to be sensible of the happiness of her deliverance, and had expressed her pleasure at so unexpectedly seeing her early friend, she was introduced to lieutenant Melrose, and two gentlemen of the law, to whom she was requested to relate every circumstance of her being decoyed from the protection of lady Welford, with all that had occurred since sir Cyril Musgrove had confined her person.
Miss Delmore’s deposition being ended, Mr. Samuel Sparks was brought forward, and ordered to confess the share he had taken in decoying Miss Delmore from London. Under the influence of fear, the gay bold Mr. Sparks became mean and cowardly; falling on his knees, he entreated mercy, and declared that he had been employed by sir Cyril Musgrove to carry off Miss Delmore from Torrington Castle, but having failed in that attempt, he had received a bribe of three hundred pounds from sir Cyril, and the promise of three hundred more, and to be set up in a grand hotel at Paris, as soon as Miss Delmore accepted the offers of sir Cyril.
All this being sworn to, Mr. Sparks was given into the charge of a constable, to be held in custody till he had found sufficient bail for his assault on the person of Miss Delmore. Sir Cyril could only reply to the questions he was asked with groans; and having also left him properly guarded, Cecilia, eager to quit the scene of her sufferings and detention, was led to the chaise by Mr. Melrose, leaving sir Cyril Musgrove and his agent, Mr. Samuel Sparks, bound over to answer at law for their offences.
Seated between Mr. Wilson and his young friend, Cecilia learned that her handkerchief had fallen into the hands of an ignorant but worthy woman, who brought it to the mother of Mr. Melrose to read.
“When in London,” said the young lieutenant, “I had heard of the mysterious disappearance of Miss Delmore, and I wrote immediately to Mr. Scroggins, the brother-in-law of Mr. Wilson, to inform him of the discovery brought about by the handkerchief. I was certain Mr. Scroggins was much interested, and anxious to know what had become of Miss Delmore, and I waited with no little impatience for his instruction how to proceed for her liberation.”
“You are the best-hearted lad in the world,” replied Wilson, “and I will use all my influence to promote your marriage with Marian, for though you are not rich, you are a worthy brave fellow, and I would rather see you her husband, than the stupid hunks her father has cast his eye upon; but Scroggins would have answered your letter directly, only he expected me in town, and wished to consult what he is pleased to call a wiser head than his own on the business. Egad, Cecilia, I was half mad with joy to get that account of you, distressing as it was, and I lost no time, I promise you, in taking a counsellor’s advice how to proceed, and in posting to your deliverance.”
Cecilia gratefully pressed the hand of her friend— “Even from my earliest remembrance,” said she, “you have heaped obligations on me; when, or in what way, shall I ever evince my sense of your kindness?”
With a good-humoured smile Wilson replied— “By recovering, as fast as you can, your health and your spirits, for I am sorry to see the rose on your cheek is not as bright as it was when we parted in Cumberland.”
Cecilia’s eyes filled with tears; with the mention of Cumberland, a thousand tender remembrances associated days of innocence, of friendship, and love— “But they will return again,” said she, mentally; “the Power that has hitherto protected will not abandon me to wretchedness.”
Cecilia learned with regret that lady Welford was in Somersetshire with her brother, who was on the point of marriage, and had invited her to assist at his nuptials; and what was still more distressing, that the earl of Torrington, and his son, both in bad health, were gone to Lisbon; that most of her particular friends were absent from London, and Mrs. Doricourt was still in France. Mr. Wilson did not say that either the earl of Torrington or his son were in a dangerous state, but attributed their illness to vexation and regret on account of the ill conduct of the countess, and to her strange departure from lady Welford’s. Other communications he could not make, for the very important disclosure of Mr. Dacres was not known to him, or any persons, except the most particular friends of the unfortunate Oscar. But the apprehensive mind of Cecilia instantly took alarm, and though delicacy restrained the outward expression of grief, and the utterance of her thoughts, she believed that her unaccountable absence, and the vile reports of the newspapers, that so soon appeared after her quitting London, had affected the health and peace of her beloved Oscar; yet ever resigned, and piously relying on the directing wisdom of Providence, she endeavoured to overcome her fears, and having listened to Mr. Wilson’s account of all her friends being absent from town, she said— “We shall then, of course, proceed immediately to Cumberland. How I shall rejoice to see my dear aunt Milman again, and to feel myself in safety among the friends of my infancy at Torrington Castle!”
“I have business that will detain me in town for a month,” replied Wilson, “and as I think it will be highly improper to suffer you to travel alone, I shall, if you approve, place you under the protection of my brother-in-law, honest Matthew Scroggins, who has a wife, not a fine lady to be sure, but a well-meaning good sort of woman, and two daughters, tolerable well-looking girls—Marian particularly so. Eh, Melrose!”
“Marian is a very amiable girl,” said the lieutenant, “and will, I am certain, be happy to do all in her power to render Miss Delmore’s visit in Abchurch-street agreeable.”
Had the mind of Cecilia been at ease, she would have been gratified with the variety of scenery that met her view on the road, which she had before travelled at night; but grief and anxiety so occupied her heart, that she was no longer sensible to the charms of spring, and would have passed the most romantic spots without observance, had they not been pointed out by young Melrose.
The journey to London was safely performed, and having been but very seldom beyond Cheapside, Cecilia was not a little astonished to find the chaise stop at the door of a grocer in a narrow dirty street.
A good-looking elderly man, in a full-bottomed powder wig, received her as she descended from the chaise, and saluting her with a smacking kiss on the cheek, and a hearty shake of the hand, said— “You are welcome to London, Miss. I am very glad my brother-in-law has succeeded in setting you free. Here, Mrs. Scroggins—Jenny—where are you?” bawling loud enough to be heard into the garret, at the same time opening the door of a small parlour— “Mrs. Scroggins—Jenny, I say, why don’t you come down stairs? Here is Miss Delmore arrived! Plague on these here women folk, they take such a long time to dizen themselves! Walk in, Miss—pray walk into the parlour. My wife and daughter will be with you in a twinkle. So, Melrose, my hero, you are returned to London again, I see; hankering after Marian, I suppose; but I shall keep a sharp look-out. You need not expect to marry my daughter till you are made a post-captain, and as them there promotions go by favour, more than by merit, why you stand but a poorish sort of a chance.”
“It is very true, sir,” replied Melrose, “my present visit to London has Marian for its object. I expect to be ordered to sea, and I wished to see her, to assure her—”
“Nonsense,” interrupted Scroggins; “you are a fine young man, and I don’t wish Marian to listen to your love-tales. You can’t marry, for your pay is not more than sufficient to maintain yourself. Marian must marry a husband that can support her; and to be plain with you, a wealthy neighbour of ours has taken a liking to the girl, and as he is an honest, sober man, no reasonable objection can be made to the match.”
“Yes,” replied Melrose, warmly; “the strongest objection. He is old enough to be her father, and Marian dislikes him.”
“She will alter her mind,” said old Scroggins. “He has a handsome house at Putney, keeps a gig, and will settle half his fortune upon her.”
“She will never accept him,” replied Melrose.
A customer drew Scroggins to the counter.
During the conversation between him and the lieutenant, Wilson had been settling with the postboy, and Cecilia had sunk sick and fatigued on a chair in the little dismal-looking parlour, where a nearly-expiring fire made the room appear still more forlorn and comfortless. Presently a rustling noise at the opposite side of the parlour made her start, and perceive a glass-door, covered on the outside with a green curtain, from the concealment of which she perceived she was peeped at by persons who were gratifying their curiosity at the expence of good manners.
Mr. Wilson, on entering the room, and finding Cecilia alone, rang the bell furiously. Presently a dirty-looking servant girl appeared, and asked— “What is your will, sir?”
“My will is to see your mistress and the young ladies,” replied Wilson, in no very complacent tone. “Do they know that Miss Delmore is arrived?”
“Yes, they do, sir,” said the girl; “my mistress will be down as soon as she has settled her head a bit, and Miss Scroggins has put on her new dress.”
“Where is Marian?” asked Mr. Wilson, impatiently.
“Gone to pay a bride visit, sir,” replied the girl, with a simper; “but here comes my mistress.”
Mrs. and Miss Scroggins now bustled into the room, and having, with coarse familiarity, congratulated Miss Delmore on her release from confinement and safe arrival in London, apologized for not being ready to receive her.
“Well, there you have said enough in the way of compliments,” said old Scroggins, thrusting his little purple face in between his wife and daughter; “but fine words go but little way towards filling empty stomachs. Jenny, take Miss Delmore up stairs to your badwire, as you call it, and let her have some refreshment, for I dare say she is almost famished.”
“La, papa!” replied Miss; “sure I know what belongs to good manners, without your instruction.”
Miss Scroggins then invited Cecilia up stairs, who, weary and unhappy in mind, followed her conductors in silence to Miss Scroggins’s boudoir, a low, dark, old-fashioned room, absurdly furnished with Grecian draperies, Egyptian couches, and Italian lamps.
“Now, my dear Miss Delmore, you will find yourself at home,” said Miss Scroggins, casting a glance of proud satisfaction round the apartment, “because I know this boudoir resembles what you have been accustomed to.”
At another time, when her mind was happy, Cecilia’s smile would have contradicted the assertion of Miss Scroggins, and declared that the furniture of the room was unlike any thing she had ever seen—a jumble of articles crowded together, without taste or design; but heartsick, she complained of fatigue, and expressed a wish to retire to bed.
“Not till you have taken some refreshment, Miss,” said Mrs. Scroggins. “My husband would never forgive me, if I did not make you take something. Would you like a sandwich, and a glass of warm port negus, or a cup of strong coffee or tea?”
Finding she should not be allowed to retire before she had taken some refreshment, Cecilia chose tea. Mr. Wilson, the lieutenant, and old Scroggins, attended the tea-table, where, to Cecilia’s great annoyance, she was questioned by Mrs. Scroggins and her daughter, and compelled to give them an account of her being decoyed from lady Welford’s, a description of her journey to Frome Hall, and the behaviour of sir Cyril Musgrove, down to the last moment she remained under his roof.
Mr. Scroggins often repeated—“Well, I never heard the like! what wickedness! Sir Cyril Musgrove deserves hanging.”
Mr. Scroggins wished to tar and feather him. Young Melrose said he should like to see him brought to the gangway of the Alfred, where the boatswain handled a cat-o-nine tails famously.
“If the cowardly rascal had not put his shoulder out, and tore the flesh from his leg in trying to make his escape, I would have horsewhipped him famously,” said Mr. Wilson; “but it strikes me he has got such a punishment as will prevent his running away with another lady in a hurry.”
Miss Scroggins was curious to know if sir Cyril Musgrove was handsome?
“Not in my opinion,” replied Cecilia; “but his person might pass, did he not render himself hateful by his vices.”
Miss Scroggins thought sir Cyril must be greatly in love with Miss Delmore, before he would have ventured on such a daring plan.
“In love!” repeated Mr. Wilson; “why, Jenny, you surprise me. What love can a man feel, that seeks to bring the object of his pursuit to disgrace? When a man is in love, child, he acts generously and openly, and makes his proposals in the face of day. Sir Cyril Musgrove is a scoundrel, and I hope to see him trounced for his villany.”
A knock was now heard at the private door, and Mrs. Scroggins exclaimed— “That, I am sure, is Marian’s genteel rap.”
Presently footsteps were heard in the passage, and Melrose, with joy in his countenance, advanced to open the door, when, to his extreme mortification, he beheld Marian, attended by a military beau, whose dress and manner denoted a complete coxcomb.
Hardly waiting his introduction to Miss Delmore, he threw himself on the couch beside Miss Scroggins, and in language composed of bad English, and worse French, he informed her that her sister Marian was a prude and a simpleton—that she had been terrified to death at the idea of playing silver loo, and had actually insisted on quitting a gay party, just as they had set the card-tables, and were preparing to spend a pleasant evening.
“All the result of her very confined education,” said Miss Scroggins, “and knowing nothing of the customs of the west end of the town. But pray, my dear captain Seaford, how did the bride behave?”
“As brides generally do,” replied the military beau. “She blushed very often, and looked very silly and bashful.”
“How ridiculous!” exclaimed Miss Scroggins; “but I always thought Harriet Morley a very prudish formal girl, quite old maidish in her manner. She never was a favourite of mine, and when she married Howard the waxchandler, I made up my mind not to visit her; but Marian and her, you know, were always particularly intimate; indeed, in their ways, they are very much alike.”
The captain declared the resemblance was striking. “But you will not,” said he, “be so cruel as to absent yourself from the ball her aunt intends giving on the happy occasion of her marriage. Surely, my dear Miss Scroggins, you will not be so barbarous as to deny me the happiness of waltzing with you?”
“I really have not given the ball a thought,” replied Miss Scroggins; “but as I am immensely fond of dancing, it is probable that I may be there, that is, if I approve the company; for really the idea of mixing with cheesemongers, tobacconists, and cornfactors, and fishmongers, is intolerable.”
“Certainly it is a great bore,” replied the captain, “particularly so to you, who have been accustomed to company so very superior.”
“Oh dear, yes,” resumed Miss Scroggins. “When my godmother, lady Meldrum, was alive, I was suffered to associate with none but persons of rank and family; never was seen in public but with a titled arm to lean upon: then on our gala nights—”
“For goodness’ sake, Jane,” said her mother, “don’t begin to talk about them there galleys, for if you do, nobody else will be able to put in a word edgeways.”
“Ay, ay,” rejoiced old Scroggins, “nobody wants to hear nothing about lady Meldrum’s grand doings. I wish, with all my soul, she had been dead afore she took you to live with her, Jane, for she has just made you good for nothing at all but to lie a-bed half the day, and be as proud and fantastical as she was, and to despise tradespeople.”
“Very true, Mr. Scroggins,” resumed his wife; “and as to them there galleys as Jane loves to talk about, they does no sort of good, as I know of.”
“I beg leave to differ in opinion with you there, ma’am,” said the captain, with a look between a smile and a sneer. “A gala, ma’am, let me tell you, does a great deal of good; it puts money into tradesmens’ pockets.”
“Yes,” observed Scroggins, “when they have the good luck to get paid, which does not happen above once in half-a-dozen years.”
“And then,” resumed the captain, “it pays the newspaper writers for puffs, in which the dresses of the ladies, and the quantity devoured of green peas, grapes, and pine-apples, are mentioned, besides all the bond mots and jews pres that passed between certain persons of quality.”
During this conversation, Marian had been seated next Miss Delmore, who was as much pleased with her modest unpresuming attention as she was disgusted with the rude familiarity of her sister. The gentle Marian had been paying a bridal visit, where she met captain Seaford, the avowed admirer of Miss Scroggins, who, having five thousand pounds at her own disposal the day she was twenty, the legacy of her godmother, lady Meldrum, thought proper to encourage his addresses, much against the approbation of her father, who constantly asserted, that when Tom Seaford attended to his practice as a surgeon and apothecary, and minded his shop, he was a well-behaved creditable young man, and he had no objection to him for a son-in-law; but since he had got made a captain in the Smithfield Volunteers, he had become a fool and a jackanapes, talking a lingo that neither himself nor nobody else understood, and instead of getting forward in the world, he was going backwards, neglecting his business, and running in debt— “A pretty sort of a fellow for a husband!” said Scroggins: “if I can prevent it, Jane shall never throw away her five thousand pounds upon him.”
But while he openly and on every occasion expressed his dislike to captain Seaford, it was evident the old man had no other objection to Melrose than that most formidable one, his being poor; with Marian this circumstance did not appear to lessen the lieutenant’s merits; and Mr. Wilson, to whom the whole family, Miss Scroggins excepted, looked up with respect and awe, was so much pleased with his open countenance and manly behaviour, that while he eyed the military beau with disdain, he determined to promote, with all his influence, the fortunes of the lieutenant, to whose good sense and bravery he was so much indebted in the recovery of Cecilia.
In defiance of the prohibition of her mother, Miss Scroggins continued to entertain captain Seaford with the characters of the great people with whom she had been on terms of intimacy while under the protection of lady Meldrum, described the operas she had attended, and the galas where she had been in such delightful crowds, that she was nearly suffocated and squeezed to death, till Miss Delmore, sick of her vulgarity and ridiculous pretensions, as well as much fatigued form her journey, begged permission to retire.
Mrs. Scroggins entreated she would sit up to supper, which should be ready early.
Cecilia again pleaded fatigue, and retired attended by Marian.
Mr. Wilson also declined taking supper, which, he said, was an unwholesome and superfluous meal, and requested to be shewn to his chamber.
Miss Scroggins and the captain now uttered their opinions aloud and unrestrained, declaring, if sir Cyril Musgrove would have married Miss Delmore, she was a great fool to refuse him— “Unless,” added the captain, “she had an attachment elsewhere, and in that case, you know, my dear Miss Scroggins, what is wealth compared to love?”
“It bears no sort of comparison,” observed Mr. Scroggins, “for with money you may purchase every comfort the world can afford; but with love, nothing but hunger, rags, and poverty.”
“Miss Delmore’s rouge is not good,” remarked Miss Scroggins.
“Bless us, Jane! do you think the young lady paints?” asked Mrs. Scroggins.
Miss smiled disdain at the ignorance of her mother.
The captain, taking upon himself to answer her question, said— “My dear ma’am, you will recollect Miss Delmore has been accustomed to the society of persons of rank, and I give you my word of honour, no lady of fashion can possibly appear in public without rouge.”
“I don’t like such fashions,” replied Mrs. Scroggins; “folks ought to let their faces remain as nature made them.”
“You read of Jezabel in the bible painting herself, and she came to the dogs.”
“I don’t think Miss Delmore a good figure,” resumed Miss Scroggins; “she is not near as tall as I am.”
“She is half a head taller,” said her mother.
“Why certainly, ma’am,” replied Miss Scroggins, angrily, “I must appear a dwarf in your eyes.”
“No, no, not a dwarf, Jane,” returned Mrs. Scroggins; “but you are not as tall as Miss Delmore.”
“Have done with this dispute, and let us have supper,” interrupted Mr. Scroggins.
“Not here, sir, I promise you,” replied Miss Scroggins, “to grease the carpet, and fumigate the draperies with the effluvia of tobacco, which I know you will call for as soon as you have swallowed your supper.”
“The cloth is laid in the parlour,” said Mrs. Scroggins; and catching up a candle, she led the way down stairs, followed by the grocer, who kept muttering against the absurdity of furnishing rooms just to look at.
Picking the pinion of a chicken did not prevent Miss Scroggins from pulling the person of Miss Delmore to pieces— “I declare,” said she, “from uncle Wilson’s description, I expected to see a perfect beauty, and after all, she is nothing so extraordinary. I can’t think what induced sir Cyril Musgrove to run away with her.”
Captain Seaford’s interest would not allow him to discover Miss Delmore’s beauty; he protested, upon his honour as a gentleman, Miss Delmore was not to be mentioned in the same year with his divine Jane for beauty, and really, for his part, he thought her stupid and inanimate.
Mr. Melrose, provoked at their illiberal comments, observed it was impossible to judge of Miss Delmore from the very little they had seen, either of her person or manner— “Just off a long journey, she is doubtless greatly fatigued; besides, it should be remembered she is a stranger to the present company, and female reserve and timidity would prevent the display of spirit and animation.”
“Oh dear!” interrupted Miss Scroggins, “people, Mr. Melrose, that are accustomed to high life, and have kept good company, are not troubled with awkward feelings of reserve and timidity.”
“I am very sorry to hear it, Miss Scroggins,” replied the lieutenant, “for in my humble opinion, modesty and timidity are so beautiful and desirable, that it would be quite impossible I should ever admire or love a female in whose conduct they were not conspicuous.”
Marian blushed for her sister, who, giving her head a disdainful toss, observed, that persons who had passed the greatest part of their lives at sea, and had never had the good fortune to be admitted into the higher circles, had generally queer notions respecting women.
“Have done with this nonsense,” said Scroggins; “I neither know, nor want to know, how the women behave in the higher circles, though, if report is to be credited, a good many of them would be the better for a little modesty and reserve. I wish, with all my soul, that fantastical godmother of yours had never introduced you to her company, for I am certain they have learned you to be disobedient to your parents, and rude to your acquaintance. I wish lady Meldrum had taught you a little good manners, for you have done nothing for the last hour but pull Miss Delmore to pieces, in which you have been manfully assisted by that fribble of a fellow that calls himself a captain; and I wonder what your uncle would say if he knew how you have been abusing his favourite.”
“Uncle Wilson would act more properly if he found favourites in his own family,” replied Miss Scroggins, “though, for my part,” affecting an air of indifference, “I don’t care a straw who he leaves his money to. I am sure I don’t want his dirty cash, and I think, papa, it is not a very grateful return to lady Meldrum, to treat her memory so disrespectfully, after having educated me, and treating me as if I had been her own child, and leaving me a handsome fortune; a person of her quality, that kept the very best of company, and always—”
“Don’t provoke me, Jenny,” retorted the grocer. “Hold your tongue, and don’t provoke me: I know well enough what sort of company she kept—a parcel of half-starved persons of title, with little or no fortune. A party of eight or ten of these poor devils she used to call a rout, and a pretty sort of a rout it was—tea and muffins, two or three glasses of raisin wine, a few biscuits, and turn out.”
“It was no such thing, sir,” returned Miss Scroggins, swelling with rage; “my godmother, lady Meldrum, was—”
“Half mad and half foolish,” said Mr. Scroggins. “Zounds, girl! you will persuade me soon that I don’t know a fig from a raisin. I say she has filled your head full of pride and conceit. What are you good for? You don’t know how to mend a hole in your stocking as it should be. You will never be fit for a tradesman’s wife, Jane, and I am certain them there knights and lords, as you are so fond of bragging about, will never think of you in the way of marriage.”
Mrs. Scroggins endeavoured to pacify her husband, who was getting into a passion, by turning the conversation to her son’s expected arrival on the morrow—“ I dare say Solomon will be mighty glad to see his uncle,” said Mrs. Scroggins.
“If he is not, he will be an ungrateful rascal,” replied the grocer, “after all he has done for him since before he was the height of a sugar loaf.”
“What a pleasure it will be to my brother to hear him talk Greek and Latin,” said Mrs. Scroggins, “just the same as if it was his own natural tongue!”
“Perhaps my brother-in-law may understand them there languages,” returned Scroggins, “or else it will give him but little pleasure. To be sure, it is a very fine thing to be a scholar; but when Solomon was at home before, he almost put me beside myself with his Homer, and his Virgil, and his cramp words; but he is a year older now, and I hope he has learned how to behave himself better, and can talk to be understood; at any rate, I hope he will be obedient to his uncle’s wishes, and fall in love with Miss Delmore as soon as ever he sees her.”
Young Melrose stared, and the captain, twirling his watch-chain, asked if she had a good fortune?
“Nothing to you, I suppose, whether she has or not,” replied the grocer, “and it is a matter I don’t trouble my head about. My brother-in-law means to marry the young lady to my son, and to give them all he is worth, which is no trifle, I know.”
“Bless me! how fortunate some folks are!” said the captain. “I have got a rich uncle too, but I never heard the old codger meant to make me his heir.”
“Most likely he has heard how you neglect your shop,” resumed Scroggins, “and lie in bed when you ought to be attending your patients. Business won’t take care of itself, I can tell you. I am sure it is getting late,” yawning and pulling out his watch— “wants only three minutes to eleven—time for every body that has a shop to open in the morning to go to bed.”
Melrose immediately took the hint, pressed Marian’s hand, wished the rest of the party good-night, and departed.
The captain protested it was a prodigious bore to be turned out at so early an hour, just when he was beginning to enjoy himself.
“It is abominably vulgar and ill-bred,” said Miss Scroggins; “but I shall not always be tied down to city hours, I trust.”
The captain, in a half-whisper, replied— “You know how to get rid of this disagreeable slavery whenever you please.”
Miss Scroggins said she detested going to bed so early, and would give his proposals serious consideration.
Old Scroggins, yawning again, exclaimed— “Zounds! will you never have done whispering? It is time to go to bed.”
The captain hoped Miss Scroggins would have pleasant dreams, bowed affectedly, and took his leave.
Old Scroggins did not retire to rest without giving his daughter a lecture on the folly and imprudence of giving encouragement to Tom Seaford, who had laid out his whole fortune in a pair of gold epaulets— “For as to the drugs in his shop,” said the grocer, “they are not worth a pound of hyson bloom; and as to his book-debts, they do not amount to half enough to pay his own creditors.”
Miss Scroggins had heard of the effect produced by silent contempt, and she did not condescend to make a reply to what she considered a very impertinent interference in her father. Captain Seaford was, in her opinion, the most stylish dashing young man she had seen since her return to the city. She certainly had not made up her mind to marry him, because she had higher views; for in lady Meldrum’s house she had been flattered by men of rank, and it was not impossible but she might match with a title; but till something better offered, she was determined to retain the captain as an admirer, in spite of her father’s dislike and remonstrance.
The chief part of the next day Miss Delmore employed in writing to the earl of Torrington and Mrs. Doricourt, and when in the evening she joined the family party, which had then the addition of Mr. Solomon Scroggins, she found nothing to reconcile her to remaining a month with them, but the mild obliging manners of Marian, who, without any of her sister’s affectation and folly, was a genteel-looking interesting young woman. Mr. Solomon Scroggins was a pale thin young man, with large grey eyes, and lank dark hair; he spoke but little, was very awkward, and appeared quite out of his element.
The grocer, seeing him sit twirling his thumbs, gave him a hearty slap on the shoulder— “Why, you are in a brown study, Solomon,” said he. “What are you thinking about?”
“I was just then, sir, ruminant,” replied the young man, “on the Scholium to Cicero, page thirty-seven, volume eight.”
“Never mind the scholars now,” said his mother; “let us hear you talk a bit. Remember, you are not at college now.”
“And instead of thinking of your books, nephew,” rejoined Mr. Wilson, “turn your attention to the ladies; you will find them a very pleasant study.”
“I believe not, sir,” returned Solomon, “for I remember Martial says—”
“Never mind what Martial says,” interrupted Mr. Wilson; “for the sake of making yourself agreeable to the fair sex, you must forget the ancients.”
“Forget the ancients!” repeated Solomon, in a tone of astonishment. “Then for what purpose have I spent so many years in study?”
“Why to make you a clever fellow, to be sure,” said his father, “and to make you a proper partner for the young lady whom your uncle and I have fixed upon for your wife.”
“Woman,” returned Solomon, “has never interfered with, or made any part of my studies.”
Miss Scroggins tittered, and thought her brother Solomon more than half a fool.
“Woman,” resumed the scholar, “is a theoretical subject, and requires a mansuetude, and various marital qualities and properties, which are by no means miscible with my pursuits; and though it is my wish to be marigerous—”
“Well, if it is your wish to be married, Solomon,” said his father, “what are all these cramp words about?”
“You mistake my meaning, sir,” replied Solomon, with increasing gravity. “Marigerous—“
“Stop, Solomon,” said the grocer— “stop till Marian fetches me Bailey’s dictionary.”
“Our college prefers Johnson,” remarked the scholar.
“Now,” resumed old Scroggins, “if it is English you are speaking, I may possibly get at the meaning of your words, for at present I understand them as little as if you were talking Dutch.”
“I am exactly in the same predicament,” rejoined Wilson. “Do, nephew, let your hard words alone, and recollect that you are not at college now, and that neither your father nor myself are great scholars.”
Solomon appeared vexed, as he replied— “I seriously lament that my nescience in the common terms of conversation should render it necessary to apply to a nomenclature; but my fellow-students and myself have always had a nolition to enter into nugacity, and on every subject aspire to express ourselves in ornate language.”
Old Scroggins threw down the dictionary in a rage, wishing the inventor of hard words at the devil, and swearing that Solomon’s came so thick and fast upon him, that he could not find the explanation of one before he was puzzled with another.
Miss Scroggins said, that her brother should have brought an interpreter with him from college; Marian felt inclined to weep; and Miss Delmore pitied the young man, whose education had rendered him unfit for the society of any but professors and graduates; Mr. Wilson looked disappointed, and the young scholar disconcerted.
Mrs. Scroggins said, it was a great pity they did not all of them understand Hebrew and Greek, because they could then converse pleasantly together.
Mr. Wilson began to perceive that his keeping Solomon so very strict to his learning, instead of making him a gentleman and a scholar, had produced only a stiff, formal pedant, who uttered a learned jargon, that would make him the ridicule of his own sex, and the detestation of the other; he wished that his nephew knew less of Hebrew and Greek, and was less conversant with the ancients, as his intimacy with them was likely to shut him out from modern society, and actually rendered his conversation unintelligible to persons of common education and capacity.
A thousand times in the course of the evening Solomon wished himself at college again; while Mr. Wilson lamented the waste of his money, which had been expended to form a learned fool, for Solomon had not an idea or opinion but what he had borrowed from books; Miss Scroggins ridiculed her brother’s awkwardness and formality; old Scroggins swore at his hard words; and Cecilia rejoiced when the hour of retiring released her from a party, from whom she could derive neither instruction nor amusement.
The following morning lieutenant Melrose called, and Cecilia again expressed her grateful sense of the generous and active part he had taken in her liberation from Frome Hall. Melrose declared himself happy in having had the power to be of service to her, and evaded any further praise or thanks, by inviting the ladies to go that evening to Covent Garden theatre, to see the representation of Reynolds’s Dramatist, a comedy which, he said, he had heard much commended.
“I am very glad it is not a tragedy,” said Miss Scroggins, “for I hate every thing horrid and dismal.”
“If you were to see the tragedies of the immortal Æschylus represented,” replied Solomon, “you would alter your opinion, and you may be certain they are worthy attention, for they have undergone philological examination.”
“I agree with Miss Scroggins,” said Melrose, “in preferring comedy, for we have real sorrows and troubles enough, without paying to be made unhappy by fictitious distress.”
“The comedies of Terence,” resumed Solomon, “are allowed to be unequalled in chastity of idea, and elegance of style. Terence was the slave of a Roman senator, who manumitted him for the brilliancy of his genius. His eloquent simplicity in describing the native independence of man, will always be remembered; that single line,
‘Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto,
has rendered him immortal. The Greek comedy—”
“The present company know nothing about,” said the lieutenant. “The comedy to be performed to-night, sir, is by a living author, and whimsically delineates the follies, manners, and extravagances of Englishmen of the present age.”
The present age, and living authors, created no interest in the mind of the scholar, who took out his pocketbook and pencil, and occupied himself with writing.
Miss Scroggins declared at once the pleasure it would afford her to go to the theatre. Marian hesitated to assent, and appeared to wait Miss Delmore’s decision, who, not considering the family of Scroggins exactly the sort of people she would wish to go into public with, was about declining being of the party, but the entrance of Mr. Wilson changed her determination. He so strongly pointed out the necessity of her proving to the world that she was not with sir Cyril Musgrove, that she reluctantly yielded up her own opinion, and consented to go.
Nearly the whole of the day Miss Scroggins was in the bustle of preparation, and her hair was twisted into a variety of forms, and ornamented with chaplets and feathers out of number, before she could determine on the most becoming. At length she descended to her boudoir extravagantly dressed, and highly rouged, where, to her astonishment, she found Miss Delmore and Marian attired with the utmost simplicity.
Her father having surveyed her from head to foot, observed, that she looked like one of the showfolks at Bartholomew fair; and Wilson, who did not at all approve of her dress, expressed his disapprobation in unequivocal terms.
Miss Scroggins said, that lady Meldrum always made her dress to go to the theatre, and if other people chose to attend public places as plain as Quakers, that was no reason she was to follow their example; that probably she might see some of her former acquaintance, and she should not choose them to believe that her circumstances were altered for the worse.
At an early hour, Mr. Wilson handed Miss Delmore into a hackney-coach, and invited Solomon to take a seat with them, leaving lieutenant Melrose to take care of the sisters. Mr. Wilson said, for his own part, he preferred the pit to any other part of the house; but as he knew Cecilia was accustomed to sit in the boxes, he should not think of his own gratification where she was at all concerned.
Cecilia felt repugnant to go to any place of amusement, particularly the theatre, where she had never before been but with lord Rushdale, the earl of Torrington, and lady Welford, and her heart reproached her for having consented to be present at any place of entertainment, while her friends were suffering from illness, and beheld her conduct in a doubtful light.
The house was very thin when they entered; but the box next to the one they sat in was occupied by a party of young men, who, far from sober, talked very loud, and stared so rudely in the face of Cecilia, that she was under the necessity of requesting Solomon Scroggins to change places with her. It was some moments before she could make him understood her wishes, for he was deeply engaged in considering the difference of the dimensions and decorations of Covent Garden theatre, and the amphitheatres at Rome; but after a repetition of her request, he suffered her to take his place.
The oddness of Solomon’s look, and the awkwardness of his manner, soon attracted the notice of the bucks in the next box, who assailed him with their quizzing-glasses, and made a thousand impertinent remarks on his lank hair, his grave countenance, and bare bones, all which never reached the ear of Solomon, who was occupied in reflections on the comedies of Plautus, Terence, and Afranius, compared with whose productions, the piece he came to see would, he supposed, be trifling, insipid, and unworthy the attention of a mind conversant with ancient writers. The curtain having drawn up, Solomon was very attentive to the stage, though he did not appear to be at all gratified with the representation, for he every now and then shook his head and groaned, and muttered— “By no means classical—no unity preserved. Where is the elegance of Terence—the wit of Aristophanes?”
Marian was too happy in the company of Melrose to pay much attention to the play; and Miss Scroggins finding Miss Delmore was not to be drawn into a conversation respecting the merits of the actors, and gave no encouragement to her ill-natured remarks on the dress and persons of the audience, became quite restless and disagreeable, declaring to Marian, that Miss Delmore was as proud as if she was a person of consequence—that she had said nothing to her, more than yes or no, since she entered the theatre; but, for her part, she had no notion of such airs from her indeed, who had been brought up and educated for charity.
Marian said she did not think Miss Delmore proud, and that, no doubt, her silence proceeded from a wish to attend to the play. Miss Scroggins protested she had never known the theatre so dull; she did not see a creature she knew, and would not have come for the world, if she could have guessed the house would have been so empty.
At half-price the boxes began to fill, and to the infinite joy of Miss Scroggins, two or three young men took their places beside her. Having examined her face, which she took no pains to conceal, they glanced at Marian, and then took much pains to get a peep at Miss Delmore; but her eyes were bent on the stage, though her thoughts were full of lord Rushdale, and her own unpleasant situation.
Presently an elderly man, dressed with all the foppery of youth, addressed Miss Scroggins with— “Heaven and earth, child, where have you hid yourself this age? I thought you were married, or turned nun.”
“Not either, sir Charles, I assure you,” replied Miss Scroggins, delighted at last to have obtained notice; “but I have not gone into public much since the death of lady Meldrum.”
“Don’t mention the old hag,” said he, “unless you wish to annihilate me; she was always my aversion; and whenever I remember her crooked figure, her bare bones wrapped in yellow skin, her shrivelled face, and indigo lips, I am ill for a month after. But inform me, my sweet creature, in what part of the town do you conceal your beauties?”
“In the city, sir Charles,” replied Miss Scroggins. “I reside, at present, with my father.”
“In the city!” repeated the old beau, “horrible! What can induce you to live in the city, where you must be continually annoyed with noise, bustle, and dirt? I hate the city, and all the stupid plodders in it.”
“I am sure so do I,” returned Miss Scroggins; “I have been quite miserable ever since I have been there.”
Marian looked the reproof her timidity would not allow her to utter; and Solomon, roused by a conversation not carried on in whispers, forgot, for a moment, the superior excellence of Plautus, Terence, and Aristophanes, to wonder at the intrepidity of his sister, who continued to talk aloud, notwithstanding she had drawn upon herself the gaze of all the persons in her vicinity.
“It is a confounded bore,” resumed the old beau, “to live in the city. Why don’t you take lodgings at the west end of the town? A devilish fine girl like you might establish a faro bank, keep a dashing equipage, and live in the first style—”
“And lose her reputation,” said Wilson, throwing an angry glance on the antiquated fop. “My niece, sir, will, I hope, have more prudence than to follow your advice, which, I must take the liberty to say is very improper, and comes very bad indeed from a person of your years.”
“Years, sir!” repeated the offended beau, “years! You are a d—d impertinent fellow! Do you know who you presume to address? I am sir Charles Chapman.”
“You are not a proper chap for my niece,” returned Wilson, angrily, “and you may spare yourself the trouble of introducing yourself, for I promise you I shall not be ambitious of your acquaintance.”
“Why, who the devil are you,” asked sir Charles, “who presume to address a person of my consequence so familiarly?”
“I am used to address your betters,” said Wilson, “and I don’t wish you to remain here.”
“Bless me, uncle,” rejoined Miss Scroggins, “what a rage you are putting yourself in about nothing! Sir Charles was merely joking; I have had the honour of his acquaintance a long time; he used to visit at lady Meldrum’s. Pray, sir Charles, be pacified; my uncle is a very good sort of man, but living always in the country, he is unacquainted with fashionable manners.”
Sir Charles sat down by Miss Scroggins, notwithstanding the repelling looks of Wilson, whom, muttering between his teeth, he called country put. Having again questioned Miss Scroggins respecting the street where she lived, he exclaimed— “I remember that ugly witch, lady Meldrum, used to say, that old Scroggins, your father, was as rich as a jew; the grocer has made a plum of his raisins, I suppose. If he would come down handsomely, I know a dashing sprig of nobility who would have no objection to take a wife out of the city.”
“My father,” replied Miss Scroggins, “is too fond of his money to part with it during his life.”
“Who,” asked sir Charles, applying his glass to his eye, “who is that demure looking little thing? Is she of your party?”
“My sister, sir Charles,” replied Miss Scroggins.
“Not at all like you,” said the beau; “she should wear rouge—pale faces are unfashionable. And is that another sister?” pointing to Miss Delmore. “Fine bust; I wish she would turn her face this way—very inanimate—sits as motionless as a statue.”
“That lady is no relation of mine at present, sir Charles,” replied Miss Scroggins; “but I understand the old folks have laid their wise heads together, and design to marry her to my brother. Her name is Miss Delmore; she is tolerably pretty, but intolerably proud.”
“Miss Delmore!” repeated sir Charles; “what, the celebrated Miss Delmore, the late protégée of lady Welford, that was said to be on the point of marriage with lord Rushdale, and went off with sir Cyril Musgrove to Paris?”
“Hush! hush! not so loud,” said Miss Scroggins. “It is the same Miss Delmore; but you are a little mistaken in her history.”
“Not at all, my sweet creature,” resumed the old beau, with increasing familiarity. “All the world knows she went to Paris with sir Cyril Musgrove. How came they to separate? Had they a quarrel? Was sir Cyril jealous, and the lady inconstant? or did he grow weary of her caprice and extravagance? which is likely enough to be the case, for mistresses are in general expensive and insolent, as I can answer by experience; but tell me, my dear creature, when did they part? How long has she been in England? Has she obtained a handsome settlement? for, without that, I suppose the money-loving cit, your father, would not consent to the match?”
“No, nor with it,” replied lieutenant Melrose, who, with boiling blood, had overheard the insolent questions to which Miss Scroggins listened with perfect complacency. “The lady of whom you presume to speak,” said Melrose, “in such degrading terms, was never the companion of sir Cyril Musgrove; nor would the family, a part of which you have grossly insulted by your insolent questions, admit her into it, nor be seen with her in public, if they were not convinced of her propriety. Begone, sir, instantly, and do not compel me to disturb the audience, by turning you out of the box.”
Sir Charles Chapman eyed the young lieutenant with a look he designed to express ineffable contempt; then turning to Miss Scroggins, said— “My dear creature, you are positively surrounded by bears. Do you never appear in public without this savage guard?”
“Beware of the bear’s hug,” replied Melrose, seizing him by the collar. “I insist that you quit this box instantly!”
A scuffle ensued, the performance was interrupted, and “silence!” and “turn them out!” were loudly vociferated from every quarter of the house. A friend of sir Charles Chapman struck Wilson, who returned the blow with such interest, that he lost his footing, and falling against Miss Scroggins, almost separated the skirt of her dress from the body.
Cecilia, whose wish was to avoid notice, who had never raised her head from her hand during the last act of the play, was now constrained to quit her seat, to avoid the combatants. In moving to the front of the box, her eyes met those of lady Eglantine Sydney, now marchioness of Beverley, who, with a fashionable party, some of whom had been Cecilia’s intimate acquaintance, occupied the next box; but not one of them now appeared to know her, or to compassionate her distress; and while Miss Scroggins affectedly screamed, Cecilia, mortified and abashed, sunk fainting on the shoulder of Marian, who clung to Solomon to prevent his joining in the affray, for, roused from his learned trance, he wished to make one in the tumult, though he did not clearly understand what it was about.
Sir Charles Chapman having been dragged away by his friends, Cecilia, still insensible, was borne to the saloon, to wait while Melrose and Solomon went in search of a coach, which, as the night proved rainy, was difficult to be procured.
While Marian held a smelling-bottle to the nose of Cecilia, Wilson severely lectured Miss Scroggins on the great impropriety of her entering into conversation with sir Charles Chapman, a person out of her own sphere of life— “But the foppish old baboon has got a good drubbing,” said Wilson, “and will, I fancy, take care how he intrudes his company again among well-conducted people.”
“Well-conducted people!” retorted Miss Scroggins, casting a rueful look on her tattered finery; “if all of us had been well conducted, this riot would not have happened, and I should not have got my dress torn in this manner. I am sure this is the first time in my life that ever I was obliged to quit a theatre on account of my party being improper characters; and, for my part, I wonder how you, so near a relation, could think of bringing me and Marian into public with a person whose conduct has been so notorious.”
Wilson, in an angry tone, bade her be silent, adding, he hoped she was as innocent as the poor suffering girl, who was just then unconscious of her wicked insinuations.
The lieutenant and Solomon Scroggins now returned to say, that they could only procure one coach, and that it rained as hard as it could pour.
Cecilia being lifted into the coach, Wilson placed Marian next her, observing, that she seemed to possess a little Christian charity; but for her sister, she was an unfeeling baggage. To all his inquiries after her health, Cecilia replied only with deep sighs and smothered groans; while Miss Scroggins declared she was very ill, and almost squeezed to death. Six persons jammed into a filthy hackney-coach, it was enough, she said, to kill a person who had never been used to ride in such a way.
“You need not ride, if you prefer walking in the rain,” said Wilson.
“The luxury of coaches,” remarked Solomon, “was unknown in the reign of——”
“I hope you don’t pretend to call a hackney-coach a luxury,” said Miss Scroggins; “you may as well talk of the luxury of riding in a wagon.”
“Sister Jane,” returned Solomon, “it is wisdom to make a virtue of necessity; and, as Hesiod says——”
“Pray keep his sayings to yourself,” said Miss Scroggins; “I am vapoured to death already, and don’t want to be edified with your learning.”
On their arrival in Abchurch-street, Cecilia, unable to converse, retired immediately to bed, where anguish of mind, and an excruciating headache, prevented her closing her eyes, and she passed the night in a state of restless misery, that brought on a nervous fever, and confined her to her chamber.
Wilson, very much offended at the conduct of Miss Scroggins, expatiated in very strong language on the extraordinary latitude she allowed herself, which, he insisted, was unbecoming her situation and pretensions; he said her behaviour at the theatre was unbecoming a modest young woman, and was the sole occasion of the riot there, and of Miss Delmore’s illness. Melrose had his thumb put out, and his arm dreadfully bruised in the scuffle, all which Wilson laid to the charge of his niece, whose insinuations and reflections on Cecilia had irritated him beyond patience.
Old Scroggins knew that his brother-in-law Wilson was rich, and he did not wish that he should find cause of offence in his family; the grocer protested, that it was his belief that lady Meldrum’s legacy had turned Jane’s brain, and his anger rose in proportion with Wilson’s, who repeated the conversation between her and the antiquated fop, sir Charles Chapman, till Miss Scroggins, flaming with rage, declared that she had a great mind to take the advice sir Charles had given her, and look out for lodgings, as she found her father’s house so disagreeable; “and I tell you plainly,” said Miss Scroggins, “as soon as I am of age, I will marry captain Seaford, and by my own mistress.”
“Perhaps not, if you marry him,” said Wilson.
“He is too good natured to contradict me in any thing,” said Miss Scroggins. “I will marry, I am determined, and be my own mistress; I am tired of being called to account, and reprimanded just as if I was a child, and dictated to about my acquaintance and conversation, which I never was accustomed: when my godmother, lady Meldrum, was alive, poor dear woman,” continued Miss Scroggins, “she had no idea how I was to be huffed and snubbed, or she never would have appointed my father my guardian.”
Solomon wished himself back at college again, where nothing had happened to disturb his tranquillity since his matriculation.
This was the first visit Wilson had paid his sister since her children were grown up, and he was much disappointed to find his eldest niece a termagant, and his nephew an absolute idiot in the customs of the world: in his person puritanical and formal, his language composed of far fetched words and Latin quotations; he was disappointed beyond measure, to find the sums he had given to make Solomon a gentleman and a scholar, had transformed the once-lively boy into a disagreeable pedantic blockhead.
Wilson had dispatched an express to the earl of Torrington, to inform him that Miss Delmore was safe under his protection, and to ask his instruction respecting proceeding at law against sir Cyril Musgrove; he had also taken courage to mention the great learning of his nephew Solomon, and his wish to marry him to Miss Delmore, if the match met his approbation; at the same time informing his lordship, that he had not hinted the matter to Miss Delmore, till he was honoured with the knowledge of his pleasure. But though Mr. Wilson had not mentioned this long-cherished wish to Miss Delmore, he had opened his mind freely to his nephew, whom he frequently urged to throw aside his pedantry, and endeavour to make himself agreeable to his favourite Cecilia, who was herself a great scholar, speaking five or six different languages, and playing on various instruments, besides being a fine painter. On the heart of Solomon her beauty, though frequently pointed out, made no impression; he was at that time busily engaged in solving a mathematical problem, and his uncle had to repeat again and again, that he wished him to marry Miss Delmore, before he made him any sort of answer on the subject.
“A man, sir, that marries,” said Solomon, with much precision and gravity, “must make his mind up to endure much ademption.”
“Now you are beginning with your confounded hard words,” returned Wilson. “What a devilish thing it is you can’t express yourself in terms that a man of common capacity may understand! Here, Marian, my good girl, turn over the dictionary for the word ademption, which may be Greek though, for all I understand of it.”
The word being explained, Solomon proceeded to repeat— “A man that marries must make up his mind to much ademption; he must be content to have his morning studies and his lucubrations disturbed, which will by no means adjuvate his improvements in the sciences.”
“Another cramp word,” exclaimed Wilson. “Do, Marian, look for adjuvate.” Having obtained its explanation, he desired Solomon to proceed.
“Nor do I perceive, “ continued the scholar, “what adscititious happiness can possibly result to a man’s life from being married—”
“What the plague,” interrupted Wilson, “do you mean by adscititous? Look for the word, Marian.”
“I must therefore beg leave,” resumed Solomon, “to decline this adunation.”
“I wish to Heaven I could decline your hard words,” said Wilson, looking over Marian’s shoulder at the dictionary.
“I am sure, sir,” replied Solomon, “I am at much pains to avoid abstruse phrases and altiloquence.”
“Oh, the devil!” exclaimed Wilson, “here is another word that would puzzle a parson. Turn to altiloquence, Marian.”
Marian obeyed, though weary of her office, and ready to weep, to think that her brother’s great learning made him unintelligible to his family, who, unable to converse with him, and kept at a distance by his reserve and frigid manners, would never feel towards him the affection of relations.
Solomon’s mind was again busy with the problem; and on his uncle urging him to make himself agreeable, and to speak in simpler language, as nothing was so hateful to women as a bookworm, he replied— “I never intend to marry, sir; and I should be glad if this declaration would satisfy you, because I wish to avoid ambages; not that I am deterred by fear of matrimonial amaritude.”
“Matrimonial what?” asked Wilson.
“Bitterness, sir,” said Marian.
“Hem!” returned Wilson, pretending to cough.
“Neither,” resumed Solomon, “am I a misogamist.”
“I am in a mist,” said Wilson— “in a thick fog. Solomon, you are a d—d fool! Marian, shut the book. I wish, with all my soul, I had given the money bestowed on this fellow’s education to the Foundling Hospital. Answer me, Solomon, and without any of your hard words. Will you be a parson?”
“I will reply to you, sir,” returned the scholar, “without any pseudology, I have no prurience towards divinity; theology, sir, has never been a favourite study of mine, and I am fixed in the intention of taking a voyage round the world in search of knowledge, with my erudite friend Erasmus Peters. I will visit the huts of the negroes in the wilds of Africa—I will become acquainted with the Indians of America—I will converse with the Goubres of Persia—I will gain information from the Bramins on the banks of the Ganges—I will go—”
“Go to the devil in your own hand-basket,” said Wilson, rushing out of the room, and slamming the door with violence after him.
“I do opine,” said Solomon, “that all the people in this great city are insane. I will go back to college with all possible expedition, for if I remain here a month, I shall entirely forget the dignity of a scholar, and become either a hunter after the dross of the earth, or a follower of women.”
“I wish, my dear Solomon,” replied Marian, with tears in her eyes, “you would follow your uncle, and adapt your language to his understanding; for recollect, my dear brother, you are the first of the family that has had a college education.”
—————————“His the adoring air,
The attentive eye that dwells upon the fair;
His the soft tone to grace a tender tale,
And his the flattering sighs that will prevail;
His the whole art of love—but all is art,
For kindly nature never touch’d his heart.”
By fancy’s fairy charms undone,
I vainly hop’d to find
A form as radiant as the sun
Contain a spotless mind. Simple Minstrelsy.
The heart can easier reconcile itself to the death of a belov-
ed object, than to beholding them disgraced by vice, and
leading a life of infamy. American Letters.
Pedantry inimical to Love and the Graces—Un-
expected Meeting of Friends—Innocence justi-
fied—Adventures at Marseilles—Fatal Conse-
quences of Vice—Death the Absolver of Injuries.
THE plain good sense of Mr. Wilson pointed out the absurdity of believing that Miss Delmore would ever be brought to like his nephew Solomon Scroggins, who was so stiffly buckled in an armour of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, that he was absolutely invulnerable to the charms of youth and beauty. To pay the slightest attention to dress Solomon considered absolute waste of time: on all the graceful parts of education he turned an eye of contempt, and asserted that dancing, singing, and playing on musical instruments, were puerile accomplishments, beneath the dignity of a scholar.
With his very awkward person and such ideas, Wilson knew it was impossible that Solomon could recommend himself to the favourable notice of a female, particularly to one whose taste was refined as Miss Delmore’s; he therefore reconciled his mind to the disappointment, and ceased to urge him on the subject of matrimony, but was still earnest in persuading him to turn his thoughts to divinity, as he believed he had interest enough with the earl of Torrington to provide for him handsomely in the church. But Solomon peremptorily declared against taking orders, and persisted in the intention of exploring every part of the habitable world in search of knowledge.
The vexation this obstinacy on the part of his nephew occasioned Mr. Wilson was in some degree removed by a message from sir Cyril Musgrove, who, in dread of a mortification from his bruises, had arrived in London to have his arm amputated, and sent for him previous to the operation, to make a full confession that he had himself written the paragraphs in the newspapers, to impress the public mind with a belief that Miss Delmore had voluntarily gone off with him from lady Welford’s, and had accompanied him to Paris.
Unable to write himself, and under the apprehension of death, sir Cyril dictated this acknowledgment of his guilt to his solicitor, fully justifying the reputation of Miss Delmore, and strictly commanding, whether he lived or died, her innocence should be manifested to the world, by a contradiction, in his name, of the various paragraphs he had caused to be inserted, to deprive her of other protection than his own.
The health of Cecilia had undergone a severe shock while struggling against the licentious designs of sir Cyril Musgrove at Frome Hall, and neither her health nor spirits were amended by her anxiety to hear from Lisbon and France. Lady Welford had answered her letter in the most affectionate manner; she had congratulated her escape from the machinations of sir Cyril, and expressed her concern that she was not at liberty to invite her into Somersetshire, where she was constrained to remain during the whole of the approaching summer; and concluded with observing, as sir Alexander Stuart’s family were gone abroad, and Mrs. Doricourt was still detained in France, she thought it would be most prudent for her to return to Cumberland with all possible expedition.
This advice was entirely consonant with Cecilia’s feelings; she was extremely anxious to quit London, for her residence in the family of Mr. Scroggins was altogether unpleasant, though Marian was unobtrusive and politely attentive to her accommodation, and the old people were even troublesome with their kindness.
Mr. Wilson knew that Cecilia’s delicacy rendered her reluctant to speak of sir Cyril Musgrove; but as soon as his confession appeared in the public prints, he contrived to place them before her; and though her modesty was wounded at being made a subject of general discussion, she was infinitely gratified to see the whole affair properly stated, and her character justified by sir Cyril Musgrove at the expence of his own.
Miss Scroggins was now very urgent with Miss Delmore to go to the opera, for she imagined that all the great people with whom she had been acquainted while under lady Welford’s protection, would eagerly recognise her, if it was only to ask questions and gratify their curiosity, and that being seen to be on such intimate terms with Miss Delmore, she should herself be noticed by persons in high life; but the mortifying adventure at the theatre was too recent, and Cecilia firmly resisted the wishes of Miss Scroggins, whom she quite offended by her refusal.
Among men of rank, Miss Scroggins flattered herself her beauty would be noticed, and she might have the offer of a husband that would enable her to oblige her father by dismissing captain Seaford; but Miss Delmore’s mind still retained the remembrance of the insult she had received at Covent Garden Theatre, and she resolved never again to visit a public place, till she could go with society whose rank would ensure her from similar mortification.
Lieutenant Melrose had received orders to join his ship, and Marian soothed the jealous apprehensions of her lover, by a solemn promise to seek the protection of his mother, rather than become the wife of the man her father had selected for her.
Wilson, at parting with the worthy young man, bade him be courageous and faithful— “And rely,” said he, shaking him by the hand, “on my friendship and good offices.”
Marian neither shed tears, nor spoke of her regret; but it was obvious to Cecilia that she felt the separation from Melrose with a grief that sunk deep, though it was not audible. There was just then a similarity in their situations; they were both deprived of the presence of persons sincerely beloved; and while Cecilia pitied the artless gentle Marian, she wished it was in her power to ensure her happiness, by bestowing on the deserving Melrose as much wealth as would satisfy the worldly prudence of old Scroggins.
The month Mr. Wilson designed spending in London had elapsed. He was convinced of the impossibility of bringing about a marriage between his nephew Solomon and Miss Delmore, and making the best of the disappointment, had reconciled his brother-in-law to relinquishing a project with which they had delighted themselves ever since the parties had been mere infants. But as he, by sending his nephew to college, had spoiled him for ever for a tradesman, he generously provided him the means of visiting the four quarters of the globe with his friend Erasmus Peters, and promised Marian, when Melrose returned from his cruise, he would see what could be done to make her happy.
Miss Delmore, having sent for her trunks from lady Welford’s, made such presents to Mrs. and Miss Scroggins as she thought would amply repay her obligations to them, while on the interesting Marian she bestowed several valuable mementoes of her friendship, assuring her that if it ever was in her power, she would gratefully remember the kindness and attention she had received from her.
Mr. Wilson had appointed the following Thursday for leaving London, and Cecilia, weak and depressed, thought that at Torrington Castle she should recover her health, and be able to wait with more patience the decision of her fate. Wednesday noon had arrived, and every preparation being made for her journey, Cecilia was reflecting with melancholy satisfaction that the next morning she should bid adieu to London, the scene of all her sorrows and mortifications, when an elegant carriage drew up, and she beheld her beloved friend Mrs. Doricourt alight, and enter the house attended by a gentleman.
Overpowered by joy, Cecilia was unable to move, and the clasping arms of her friend were twined round an insensible form. The tears and repeated embraces of Mrs. Doricourt evinced how dear Cecilia was to her heart, who, being restored to sense, would have entered into an explanation of all that had befallen her since they parted, but Mrs. Doricourt was already informed of every particular circumstance. She had seen sir Cyril Musgrove and the worthy Wilson, who, sincerely rejoicing in her return to England, resigned to her the guardianship of his favourite Cecilia.
Mrs. Doricourt’s emotions having subsided, she introduced Mr. Saville, whose melancholy eyes, moist with tears, had for some time been fixed on Cecilia— “While gazing on this lovely creature,” said he, “I forgot the many years that have elapsed, and fancied that Edith stood before me, so perfect is the resemblance; but may the mercy of Heaven grant that in person only you may resemble her, for, though innocent and lovely, her fate was misery! Sweet, amiable Miss Delmore, may yours be happiness!”
Mrs. Doricourt, with that politeness and generosity that characterized all her actions, thanked the family of Scroggins for their hospitality to Miss Delmore. On the female part she forced presents, which the delicacy of Marian would have declined. To the grocer Mrs. Doricourt gave a large order for articles in his line, assuring him of her future custom.
A hint was at all times sufficient to the comprehensive mind of Mrs. Doricourt, and agreeable to the wish of Cecilia, she gave Marian a pressing invitation to visit Miss Delmore, promising to send the carriage to fetch her in the course of a few days.
Cecilia having written a few lines to Mrs. Milman, and made up a parcel of lace, silk, and muslin, as a confirmation of her affectionate remembrance, she gave the package in charge to Mr. Wilson, of whom she took leave with the sincerest good wishes, and assurances of esteem and gratitude.
Miss Scroggins, finding that her sister had been invited to visit Miss Delmore in Portland-square, endeavoured, by gross flattery, to obtain the same notice; but, incapable of deceit, Cecilia could not assume a regard she did not feel, and she left Abchurch-street, without attending to the hints thrown out by Miss Scroggins, who had the mortification to see Marian, who knew nothing of life, and was utterly ignorant of fashionable behaviour, preferred before herself, and likely to be introduced into the first company.
Mrs. Doricourt made it a point to give splendid entertainments at her magnificent mansion, and to take Cecilia to every place of fashionable amusement; and again, her reputation being cleared from the shadow of suspicion, Miss Delmore was envied by the women, and adored by the men. But though restored to fame, and more than ever the darling of Mrs. Doricourt, the piety and resignation of Cecilia often gave way to temporary fits of melancholy, which was increased by an intimacy with Mr. Saville, whose language was frequently wild, and whose manner and countenance bore strong evidence of the habitual sorrow of his mind.
No letters had arrived from the earl of Torrington or lord Rushdale, and Cecilia was persuaded that they believed her guilty, and acting from that impression, had utterly disclaimed her. But Oscar was still the beloved of Cecilia’s heart; every wish, every hope, was identified with him, and while he appeared to neglect and despise her, she found it was impossible to think of him with indifference, or to forget that moment of confidence and love, when he placed his ring on her finger, and in a tone of hallowed tenderness whispered— “Cecilia, I am thine for ever!”
While listening to a recital of the mournful revolutions that had taken place since her absence from England, Mrs. Doricourt did not fail to remember the gloomy presentiments that had filled her mind when parting with Cecilia at Teignmouth. The sorrow that had then darkly gleamed upon her brain, had already in part been verified, and it appeared highly probable to her that the child of her affection had yet much to endure of mental agony, for the silence of the earl of Torrington and his son, protracted far beyond the time when letters might have arrived, seemed to prove their intention of breaking through an engagement that youthful inclination had formed, and parental approbation had sanctioned.
Mrs. Doricourt saw, with infinite concern, the grief that heavily weighed on the spirits of Cecilia, who no longer derived amusement from books, from music, or the pencil; though fearful of giving pain to the bosom of friendship, in the presence of Mrs. Doricourt she strove to appear cheerful; but all her charming animation was gone, and her loss of appetite, her languid eyes and faded cheek, spoke volumes to the apprehensive mind of Mrs. Doricourt, who had herself endured, thro’ lingering years, the misery of disappointed love.
Marian Scroggins had a pretty musical voice, and sang, with affecting simplicity, “Robin Adair.” Perceiving that it increased Miss Delmore’s melancholy, to evade singing it, Marian mentioned having the day before received a letter from lieutenant Melrose, in which he had charged her with respectful remembrances to Miss Delmore.
Cecilia’s spirits were that morning extremely depressed, she burst into an agony of tears, and, in a tone of unusual impatience, exclaimed— “All are remembered but the unfortunate Cecilia. You are happy, Marian; your affection is not thrown away: Melrose is worthy your regard; he is certain you are anxious for his safety, and neglects no opportunity of writing.”
Mrs. Doricourt having soothed this burst of grief, and allowed Cecilia time to recover her composure, said— “I have often heard it observed, that our sorrows are lessened by a comparison with those of greater magnitude; you must not, my Cecilia, believe that you alone are wretched from the perfidy of man; thousands of females have, do, and will feel the misery of neglect—of broken promises and disappointed hopes. I have never told you my history; it is a most disastrous one; but as I am convinced it will prove to you that my trials have far exceeded yours, I will now relate it; and because I desire to convince you how much the mind, by exerting its energies, may rise above adversity, and teach you to believe that Providence is merciful, even while it afflicts, I will embrace the present time to speak of my family and myself.”
Cecilia took up her pencil, and Marian employed herself with her needle, while Mrs. Doricourt brought down her memoir to the period when she embarked with sir Alan Oswald for France.
“I found my property at Marseilles,” said Mrs. Doricourt, “entangled in a way I had not foreseen, and of which I had received no intimation, and my uneasiness and vexation were considerably increased by sir Alan resolving to remain at Marseilles as long as my affairs should detain me, and in a manner compelling me to devote the hours I might have employed in recreation or amusement, in attendance on him, whose prejudices, pride, and ill-temper, put my patience to a most severe trial for many weeks. At last he was taken ill, and humanity constrained me to remain at his lodgings till a late hour every evening.
“In descending the stairs that led from his chamber, I had several times met a man muffled in a great-coat, with his hat flapped over his eyes; but as he always politely made way for me to pass, the circumstance created neither wonder nor alarm. I supposed he was a lodger in the house, whose apartment was on the same floor with that occupied by sir Alan Oswald: but one evening, when I met this stranger, in passing me I fancied he pronounced my name. I started, for ‘Julia,’ in the never to be forgotten tones of Henry Woodville, murmured on my ear. I looked round, but the stranger had disappeared.
“When I entered sir Alan’s chamber, he was sleeping, and I had time to reflect and reason away my agitation; I believed that my fancy had deceived me, as it had in many instances before. I persuaded myself it was beyond probability that Henry Woodville and myself should again meet where our acquaintance had commenced, and after a lapse of so many years; neither did the figure of the stranger appear to my imagination like his; but of that I could not judge with any precision, as he was enveloped in a riding-coat.
“When sir Alan awoke, his extreme impatience at his confinement, and the ungracious manner in which he arrogated my attentions, drove away all recollection of the stranger, whom I did not see on my return. The writings of the estate purchased at Marseilles by Mr. Doricourt, and settled on me, were supposed to want some particular form, the deficiency of which rendered them invalid, and prevented my selling the estate as I wished, while the brother of the person from whom the property had been bought, put in a claim, and was employing the most unjustifiable means to disannul my right. This vexatious lawsuit took up a large portion of my time, and prevented my mind from dwelling on past occurrences, in which Henry Woodville had borne a conspicuous part.
“My stay in France was now unavoidably lengthened, for I found it was absolutely necessary that I should remain on the spot till the affair was brought to trial, which, after many tedious delays, terminated in my favour, and I was enabled to sell the mansion and grounds where I had passed my married life—where the first sorrow my heart ever experienced was occasioned by the death of my beloved mother, and where I laid up for myself a store of misery, by yielding my affections to Henry Woodville, a man every way unworthy their possession.
“Nothing now retarded my return to England but the illness of sir Alan Oswald, whose petulance and impatience tired out all his attendants, who, weary of his ill temper, and disgusted with the homage he continued haughtily to exact, would have left him to die helpless and alone, but for the pains I unceasingly took to secure their services, by presents and conciliatory representations of his sufferings and great age.
“One day I was preparing, as usual, to visit my grandfather, when a gentleman sent in his name, and earnestly requested to see me. It was Mr. Saville. Time and sorrow had so much altered him from the handsome young man I had once known, but the expressive character of his countenance remained unchanged, and I recognised at once the brother of my loved, regretted Edith.
“Our conversation was for some time confined to the misfortunes of the lovely friend of my youth, with whose mournful story, my Cecilia, you are acquainted, and whose fate seemed to have impressed itself indelibly on the heart and brain of her brother. At length, after some preparation, Mr. Saville informed me, that he came to entreat my compassion for an erring man, who was sincerely penitent; and, sensible of his unworthy conduct, humbly solicited to hear me pronounce his pardon, before he was called from a world which his own errors had rendered hateful to him.
“The idea of Henry Woodville flashed at once on my imagination; I was greatly agitated, and the quick changes of my complexion persuaded Mr. Saville that I should faint; but long accustomed to the painful task of subduing my feelings, in a few moments I was sufficiently composed to say— ‘There can be but one person in existence, to the peace of whose mind my pardon may be necessary, for only one of all mankind has betrayed my confidence, and for esteem and kindness has returned me perfidy and ingratitude. I cannot see him, Mr. Saville; but tell him, I forgive his offences against me, as sincerely as I hope to be forgiven mine against Heaven—tell him, sir, I wish him health and happiness, but cannot consent to see him.’
‘You have already seen him,’ replied Mr. Saville; ‘you have repeatedly met Mr. Woodville on—’
‘I know I have,’ said I, eagerly interrupting him, ‘on the stairs, and in the lobby leading to sir Alan Oswald’s apartments;’ for I was now certain that the person I had so often met was Henry Woodville; ‘but convinced, as I am, that an interview will only tear open the wounds that time has healed—that it will be productive of useless retrospections and unavailing regrets, I must repeat, I cannot—will not see him.’
“Finding me so utterly averse to an interview, Mr. Saville ceased to urge it; he informed me, that Henry Woodville, about two years after his marriage, being in necessitous circumstances, had gone out to India as a writer in the Company’s service, but that being himself thoughtless, and his wife incapable, either by good sense or good management, to reclaim him, they had lived together most unhappily, always in poverty and difficulties, brought on by indolence and imprudence.— ‘Woodville,’ continued Mr. Saville, ‘had just buried his wife, when a distant relation of his bequeathed him a handsome fortune; the chief of which lying in my hands, brought me acquainted with Mr. Woodville, who now plunged into excesses that put the finishing stroke to a constitution weakened by the early pernicious habit of inebriation. Fancying that his native air would restore him to health, Woodville returned in the same ship with me to England; but on a constitution destroyed by the continued use of ardent spirits, no air could have effect. He grew every day worse; and, restless and unhappy, he prevailed on me, who have neither home, friends, nor connexions, to pass over with him to France. On our arrival here, in spite of my remonstrances, he drank brandy instead of wine, and in his moments of intoxication related to me his former engagement with you. With execrations on his folly, he acknowledged that he had weakly yielded to his mother’s persuasions, to meet at a friend’s house a young girl, to whom he had, when quite a boy, paid his addresses. This girl he neither respected nor loved, yet in a drunken frolic he was villain enough to marry her. This guilty act, by which he was perjured, he confessed he committed out of mere bravado, and to prove to his bottle companions, that he who possessed no fortune was preferred to an admirer with whom his wife had a certain, though distant, prospect of affluence. Marseilles,’ continued Mr. Saville, ‘renewed on the unhappy Woodville’s memory the guilt and ingratitude of his conduct to you. For days he wandered round the mansion, and about the grounds, where he had become acquainted with the most amiable of her sex; and at night he constantly swallowed bumpers of brandy, to drown the anguish of a reproaching conscience.
‘Such,’ said Mr. Saville, ‘was Woodville’s conduct till he learned your arrival at Marseilles, when sir Alan Oswald engaged apartments in the house where we lodged. He was for quitting it immediately— “Mrs. Doricourt must abhor me!” exclaimed he; “the angel, whom I deceived and deserted, must not behold me. Should I, by accident, cross her path, she would spurn me from her, and with justice, for I have been to her the basest of villains.”
‘Supposing from his own confession of guilt,’ continued Mr. Saville, ‘that you would rather wish to avoid than meet him, I encouraged his wish to remove; but giving way to the natural mutability of his temper, he suddenly changed his mind, and declared, that come what would, he would remain where he was, and gratify his feelings with a sight of you, but that he would be careful you should never be sensible of his presence.
‘Several times this unhappy man has indulged himself with beholding you, but the effect it has had on his mind is dreadful, and the quantity of brandy he swallows astonishing. After a night, the greatest part of which he passed in strong convulsions, he this morning entreated me to bear to you the request I have had the honour of preferring. I will now report to Mr. Woodville your reply.’
‘And my hope,’ rejoined I, ‘that he will abstain from the practice of inebriation, which not only renders him unfit for this world, but incapable of making preparation for the next.’
“Mr. Saville shook his head— ‘Rooted habits,’ returned he, ‘are not to be eradicated by advice, nor yet by suffering.’
“I did not invite the society of Mr. Saville, whose mournful voice and pensive manner much interested me, because I did not wish him to believe that Henry Woodville was of any consequence to me, or that I wished to make inquiries respecting him.
“Supposing that having so positively refused to see him, he would no longer seek to throw himself in my way, I did not let my feelings interfere with what I considered my duty, but went, as usual, to attend the sickbed of sir Alan Oswald.
“On my return, just before I reached the hall, where my servant waited for me, Henry Woodville presented himself before me, in a most disgusting state of intoxication. No longer master of his reason, grasping my hand, he swore that I was his affianced wife, and that he would never again quit me. My spirits had before been shocked by Mr. Saville’s too faithful account of his depravity; and in the struggle to escape his hold, I fainted.
“When I recovered, I found Mr. Saville and a respectable looking woman applying volatiles for my relief. I had just regained strength enough to express my thanks, and had ordered my servant to have the carriage drawn up, when Mr. Saville was requested to hasten to Mr. Woodville, who, in a paroxysm of rage and grief, had burst a blood-vessel, and was to all appearance dying. It is impossible to describe to you, my Cecilia, the horror I felt at that tremendous moment; my own injuries were all forgotten in the dreadful reflection, that the wretched, guilty Woodville was hastening to appear before his Heavenly Judge, with all his unrepented sins upon his head.
“Unable to quit the house, I remained till Mr. Saville returned to assure me that no immediate danger was to be apprehended from the haemorrhage, and that Mr. Woodville was then tranquil, and appeared inclined to sleep.
“Three days more the wretched Woodville lingered between life and death. On the fourth, convinced that his death was rapidly approaching, he again entreated to see me; it was then no moment to remember injuries, or indulge resentful feelings; the soul of Henry Woodville was on the wing for eternity, and only waited to be dismissed by my forgiveness.
“When I entered his chamber, he was reclining on a sofa; but, oh, how fearfully altered from the handsome, animated being, on whom my youthful heart had lavished all its tenderness! His deep blue eyes were sunk; their melting intelligence had given place to a glassy stare, his features were no longer the same, and in the voice alone could I recognise Henry Woodville. Our interview was painful and affecting. In terms of the deepest contrition, he confessed his errors, and declared, that after his marriage, he had never known a moment’s happiness, which he considered as the just punishment of his perfidy and ingratitude to me— ‘But you,’ added he, mournfully, ‘you were fortunate in my desertion, even when I most professed my affection. I was unworthy of you; for even from boyhood I drank deeply, and so confirmed was the habit, that at the period when you honoured me with your confidence, I seldom retired to rest sober.’
“Shocked at his altered appearance, and moved by his self-accusations, I assured him of my forgiveness. His cold clammy hand feebly pressed mine; I shuddered as his pale lips touched it. Oh, never shall I forget the tone of unutterable woe in which he uttered, ‘Julia, farewell for ever!’
“I returned home in an agony of grief that affected my health, and confined me to my bed for several days. When convalescent, I was informed the erring Henry Woodville was no more—that he had bequeathed the whole of his fortune to me, his mother having paid the debt of nature some years before, and having no relations who had any claim on his affection or his gratitude.
“Mr. Saville now became my frequent visitor; his habitual melancholy was better suited to my feelings than the thoughtless gaiety of others with whom I was at times obliged to associate. We conversed, without reserve, on our mutual misfortunes; and while I remembered the character, abilities, and attainments of Henry Woodville, I was astonished how it was possible he could have gained such an ascendancy over my heart, for surely, young as I was at the at the period of our acquaintance, had reason been allowed a voice, he never could have enslaved my imagination, till every hope, idea, and pursuit, had only him for their object, and the world presented no enjoyments, life no felicity, but what was to be derived from him.
“Alas! for me, I indulged these feelings too long. Possessed with an ardent, romantic passion for the heartless, ungrateful Henry Woodville, I shunned the amiable and deserving; but the error has been severely punished, and my heart, while suffering for its misplaced affection, derived conviction from its pain; and I can now, with sincerity and thankfulness, declare, that all my privations and disappointments were merciful interferences of a wise and gracious Providence, to preserve me from fiercer trials and worse misfortunes.
“This,” continued Mrs. Doricourt, presenting to Miss Delmore the identical miniature which she had seen on the altar of the chapel at the Hermitage, “this was a striking resemblance of Henry Woodville when he deserted me. When I last saw him, no one could have believed the picture was ever designed for him, so dreadful were the ravages made by intemperance.”
Cecilia gazed on the miniature till her eyes filled with tears, for in every point, the hair alone excepted, it resembled lord Rushdale; but she made no remark; and Marian having admired the deep blue eyes, and rich serpentine lip, returned it to Mrs. Doricourt, who resumed her narrative.
“The death of sir Alan Oswald shortly followed that of Henry Woodville, and enabled me to return to England. By the will of my grandfather, I was to possess the chief part of his fortune, provided I conveyed his body to the family monument in Dorsetshire, and removed my mother’s ashes from France to repose with his. Need I say I performed these duties with mournful satisfaction, particularly that which concerned my dear mother, because I believed her immortal spirit would rejoice in the knowledge that her father had proved the sincerity of his forgiveness, by desiring that her ashes should mingle with his.
“I say nothing, my Cecilia, of the uneasiness your silence occasioned me, or of the excuses made by lady Welford for your not writing. I was certain that something wrong had occurred, and that you were unhappy. Your letter written since your return to London followed me to Dorsetshire, from whence I hastened to relieve, as far as human consolation can relieve, the sorrows and misfortunes of my beloved child.”
Cecilia clasped the neck of Mrs. Doricourt, and wept on her bosom.
“When I related to you my history,” resumed Mrs. Doricourt, “it was not, my Cecilia, to indulge an idle egotism, or make a parade of the misery I have suffered from the perfidy of man, but to prove to you the truth of that axiom, ‘WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.’ Do not then, my beloved child, do not, I entreat you, give way to regret and sorrow; endeavour to enjoy the blessings that remain to you; be cheerful, and with pious resignation confide in Him, whose dispensations, however afflictive, are ordered with wisdom and mercy, and who will assuredly turn our sharpest disappointments into benefits.”
Cecilia promised to do her best to profit by this advice; and Marian, who had wept frequently during Mrs. Doricourt’s recital, wondered how it was possible for any man to forsake a woman so eminently adorned with all that was beautiful in person, and excellent in mind.
Some company unexpectedly dropping in, the day passed to Mrs. Doricourt’s extreme satisfaction, without affording Cecilia leisure to brood over her disappointments.
Marian, in the evening, returned to Abchurch-street in Mrs. Doricourt’s carriage, sincerely pitying Miss Delmore, who was suffering from undeserved misfortunes, and admiring the character of Mrs. Doricourt, whom she thought superior to any female she had ever seen.
Miss Scroggins was always out of temper when her sister had an invitation to Portland-square; and her ill-humour was that evening particularly excited by Marian telling her mother, that Mrs. Doricourt had promised to interest herself in getting lieutenant Melrose promoted, and that she was invited to go with her and Miss Delmore to the opera on Friday.
“You are greatly in luck, I think,” said Miss Scroggins, spitefully; “but I am sure I don’t at all envy you the honour and pleasure of going into public with Miss Delmore; I have reason enough to remember Covent-Garden theatre, where I got a new dress torn to tatters through her.”
The envy and ill-nature displayed in this speech occasioned the scholar to remark, that it filled him with dolour to perceive, where consanguinity ought to produce colligation, there was a disunion of mind, occasioned by the malevolence and commentitious grievances of his elder sister, who had no just cause of complaint to allege against Miss Delmore, who, if antoptical evidence could be depended on, was a modest young woman, highly to be commended for her observance of taciturnity.
“Nobody asked your opinion on the subject, Mr. Solomon,” returned Miss Scroggins, flaming with anger; “though you are Solomon the second, you don’t at all resemble your namesake in your knowledge of women. I would recommend you to confine your judgment to Hebrew and Greek, which, I fancy, you know more about.”
Solomon looked astonished— “Xantippe, the wife of Socrates,” said he, “is recorded a termagant and a scold, but with her acetosity his philosophy enabled him to bear; but it is apodictical to me, that whoever has the misfortune to marry you will, without amphibology, have more occasion for patience and philosophy than ever Socrates had.”
Miss Scroggins bade him spare his breath, for she was not at all inclined to search the dictionary for the meaning of his cramp words.
“I will not abnegate,” replied Solomon, “that my language is somewhat ill suited to a capacity like yours; but suffer me to ingeminate that you, by your own perverseness, hebetate your understanding, having the folly to prefer bombulation to improvement; and suffer me to indigitate to you, that every man of erudition will evitate a clamorous woman, with the same abhorrence as he would plague and pestilence, or any other scourge of humanity; and though Socrates did, as we are informed from undoubted authority, submit to genecocrasy, his patience and forbearance will not in this age be taken as an example.”
“You are an example of absurdity,” replied Miss Scroggins, “and have entirely worn out my patience. Sooner than I would marry such a learned ass as you, I would prefer living single all my days.”—Miss Scroggins bounced out of the room.
Mrs. Scroggins had listened with gaping wonder to the learning of her son, which, though quite incomprehensible to her, she had no doubt was extremely fine; and as her daughter left the room, she observed, that no doubt Solomon had given his sister very proper advice on her ill-temper and disagreeable ways, but she wished he had spoken plainer, that she might have understood his meaning, for among them his learned words was just like casting pearl afore swine; though, to tell the truth, all words were alike that came in the way of counsel to Jane.
“I plainly discern,” said Solomon, “ the alogy of her temper, which makes her appear even worse than bibacious, and will tend to absume all esteem her relatives may desire to feel towards her. For myself, I ought to be diaphorous in what concerns her, because we shall soon be on the opposite sides of this terraqueous globe; and such is the uncertainty of mundane affairs, it is possible we may never behold each other again.”
Mrs. Scroggins begged he would not make her unhappy by talking in that way, for she hoped to see him return a very rich man— “And then, who knows, my dear Solomon,” continued, she, “but your great learning may make you lord mayor of London? Dear, how proud and how glad I should be to see you in your scarlet robe and gold chain!”
For such honours Solomon had no ambition; the ragged Diogenes in his tub was, in his opinion, a far greater man than the vain, splendid Heliogabalus in his palace; to be Artium Baccalaureus, Philomathes, and Philomatheticus, were the dignities to which he aspired; and to render himself worthy their attainment, in a few days he took leave of his family to join his erudite friend Erasmus Peters, with whom he embarked for the Cape of Good Hope, for the purpose of exploring the laws, customs, and religion of the Hottentots.
Miss Delmore had now resigned all hope of ever again hearing from lord Rushdale, though his was a character differing in every point from that of Mr. Woodville; she soothed the poignancy of her disappointment, by reflecting that Providence, for wise and gracious purposes, had separated her, as it had Mrs. Doricourt, from a person not calculated to ensure her happiness.
The spring was far advanced, and Mrs. Doricourt had sent orders into Cumberland to have the Hermitage prepared for her reception— “For my own part,” said she, musing, “I shall return to my little island with a heart infinitely more at ease than when I left it; but my Cecilia will meet there innumerable objects to remind her of the felicity deceitful fortune once promised her; she will again wander through the groves of St. Herbert, but no longer with a heart untouched by sorrow.”
Miss Delmore had entered the drawing-room unperceived, and overheard part of this soliloquy.— “True, my dear madam,” said she, “for only when I cease to remember, shall I cease to regret lord Rushdale is no longer the being I believed, all truth and honour; but I will not give myself up to sorrow—I will recollect your trials, and think, as you do, all that has happened is for the best—I will also be grateful to Heaven for permitting me to escape the licentious designs of sir Cyril Musgrove, and thank its mercy that I return to the home of my infancy with innocence.”
Mrs. Doricourt’s reply was tender and approving.— “The papers of to-day, my Cecilia,” said she, “announce that sir Cyril Musgrove, having suffered the amputation of his right arm, intends, as soon as he is able to travel, to remove to a warmer climate. What a dreadful punishment must this mutilation be to a man so vain of his person!”
Cecilia prayed that his sufferings might produce a thorough reformation of his morals—“I pity and forgive him,” added she, with a deep sigh, “though he has for ever blighted my hopes, and destroyed my happiness.”
Mrs. Doricourt was about to reprove the despondency of this speech, when Mr. Saville, who had for some time discontinued his visits, was announced.
“We have wondered,” said Cecilia, “what had become of you; why, my dear sir, it is more than four weeks since you have favoured us with a call.”
“I am much flattered, my lovely friend,” replied Mr. Saville, “to find that you have numbered the days of my absence; believe me, I have frequently, since my unavoidable absence, thought of Mrs. Doricourt and yourself; but a melancholy engagement has employed all my time, and rendered me unfit for society.”
Mrs. Doricourt expressed her concern that any thing should have happened to deprive them of the pleasure his visits always afforded them, and sincerely hoped the melancholy circumstance he alluded to was not connected with himself.
“To you,” replied Mr. Saville, “I need not say how unavailing is the effort to obliterate from the heart affections imbibed in youth. However unworthy the object, a lingering tenderness will remain, even when we fancy injury has erased it; and if we behold them in sickness or adversity, our compassion overcomes resentment, and we only remember they are unhappy, and require our assistance.”
Cecilia felt a dread, undefinable to herself; she expected to hear some afflictive tidings, but feared to ask what had happened.
Mrs. Doricourt perceived Mr. Saville was greatly agitated, and seeing him apply his handkerchief to his eyes, she remained silent also.
“A variety of sorrows,” resumed Mr. Saville, “have affected my nerves, and made me weaker than a woman; and now that the grave has closed over her errors, I have scarcely power to tell you the countess of Torrington is no more.”
The intelligence was sudden and unexpected. Mrs. Doricourt felt shocked, and Cecilia wept, for she remembered how lately she had seen her in health, full of gaiety, surrounded by magnificence, and considered the patroness of taste and elegance.
“Yes,” said Mr. Saville, “the vain erring Emily is indeed dead! Her sufferings, I trust, purified her mind—and that her repentance, though late, was accepted. She was once the idol of my heart, for youth but seldom looks beyond the exterior, and the person of Emily Herbert was a model of female beauty; had she possessed a virtuous mind, she had been an angel!”
Mrs. Doricourt inquired if the melancholy event had taken place in London?
“Grant me your patience,” returned Mr. Saville, “and I will endeavour to give you the particulars. The evening that I declined lady Wilton’s invitation, I went with a design of passing an hour or two with a literary character, a man of acknowledged genius struggling with poverty. I was sitting with the poet, listening to an account of his various disappointments, and the difficulties he had met in publishing his works, when the door being accidentally open, I heard a female voice loudly vociferating—‘A pretty piece of work I have made of it, in letting my lodgings to you; but I want no sick folks in my house, that have not got money to pay for attendance; I have something else to do than to wait upon such fine madams as you for nothing; and if you was to die, who is to bury you, pray? But, I tell you plainly, out of my house you shall go, and that directly!’
‘Not to-night! For mercy’s sake, let me remain here till morning!’ said a piteous voice, the distressful tones of which, as they met my ear, recalled to my shuddering memory Emily Herbert.—Where was now the wealth, the rank, the splendour, for which my faithful love had been sacrificed? But she was in want and misery, and that recollection erased at once from my heart every record of her guilt. I flew to the apartment, and beheld, gracious Heaven! It was scarcely credible, the so lately beautiful gay lady Torrington, pale, attenuated, meanly attired, and apparently very ill. At sight of me she shrieked aloud, and covering her face with her hands, exclaimed—‘You, whom I have most injured, you are come to behold my punishment; do not add to my wretchedness by your reproaches, for I feel the deep conviction of my sins!’ Then suddenly falling at my feet, she supplicated my forgiveness, and, in the bitterest agony of woe, confessed that she was deserted, sick, and in want.
“I cannot repeat to you what followed this humiliating confession. The unfeeling woman, who would have driven her out in a stormy night, without the means of procuring food or shelter, now offered her best apartment, and every other accommodation; but I instantly removed the unhappy Emily to lodgings near my own. She was no longer the beautiful girl for whom my doating heart had endured all the agony of disappointed passion; but it was grateful to my feelings to be enabled to pour consolation on the wounded spirit of an erring creature, and to administer to her wants.
“But the nourishment and tenderness that I hoped would restore her health, were offered in vain; she every day became weaker, with the deepest contrition and acknowledgment of the justice of her punishment. She informed me, that immediately on her quitting England, major Norman had persuaded her to marry him, and, by the most artful means, had got possession of the writings of settlement made upon her by her uncle Blackburne, on which he raised a very considerable sum of money, to the amount of many thousand pounds. With a very trifling part of this money he purchased an old chateau, a few leagues from Paris, to which he confined her, with the bare necessaries of life, while he plunged into every extravagance, was absent for days together, leaving her to all the misery of self-reproach. When they met, his behaviour to her was brutal in the extreme, for he even descended to insult and upbraid her with the weakness and wickedness of her conduct, in eloping from the earl of Torrington with him; and he frequently compelled her to entertain at the chateau females of the most abandoned character, on whom he lavished his attentions, while he treated her with contempt and indignity. From this brutality the miserable Emily fled. In the disguise of a paysanne she reached Dover; there she was seized with a fever, brought on by sorrow, agitation, and fatigue; the contents of her purse were nearly exhausted, when she took the lodgings where I was directed by Providence to her relief, where not being able to satisfy the rapacious demands of the landlady, had occasioned the violence I overheard.
“Of lord Torrington Emily very rarely spoke; but she lamented, with deep contrition, the disgrace her conduct had brought upon her son, on whose excellent heart and noble qualities she dwelt with a tenderness and feeling I never before believed she possessed. Frequently she expressed a wish to see him.—‘Could I but hear his lips pronounce my forgiveness,’ said the wretched penitent, ‘it would greatly sooth the pangs of my dying hour! But this consolation Heaven thought fit to deny her; she expired,” said Mr. Saville, “as I was reading to her, at her own desire, the service for the dead. Two nights ago the mortal part of the erring Emily was consigned to the grave.” Mr. Saville wept.—“It is many years,” said he, “since I shed tears before; and though to weep may be called an unmanly weakness, these drops are salutary, for they assuage my burning brain; nor do they flow from sorrow, for I rejoice that the woman I idolized can no longer wound me with a knowledge of her errors, and I gratefully bless Heaven for the certainty that she died a sincere penitent.”
Mr. Saville supposed it would be proper to inform the earl of Torrington of this melancholy event, and said, that he should request his lordship’s solicitor to write him the particulars of her decease.
Miss Delmore was so much shocked by the knowledge of lady Torrington’s death, that she was for some days unable to go abroad; and when she again regained her health, she felt more than ever reluctant to appear in public, conscious that her connexion with the Torrington family, her known engagement to lord Rushdale, and his unaccountable absence, made her the subject of universal conversation.
But neither Mrs. Doricourt nor Mr. Saville, now their daily visitor, would allow of her seclusion; aware of the evil consequences of indulging melancholy habits, they constrained her to enter into company, and to visit public places continually.
“We are not to live for ourselves,” said Mrs. Doricourt; “it is not sufficient that we relieve the distresses of our fellow-creatures, we are required to instruct them how to bear their calamities, and to aid them by our example.”
“It is true,” rejoined Mr. Saville, “Heaven requires all this of us, and my conscience sharply reproaches me for having passed so many useless years of my life in the sinful indulgence of selfish sorrow.”
During the indisposition of Miss Delmore, Marian Scroggins, by her affectionate solicitude, and unwearied attention, had won the warm regard of Mrs. Doricourt; and when Cecilia was again sufficiently recovered to venture abroad, she remembered her promise respecting the opera, and the carriage was sent to Abchurch-street, to fetch Marian, greatly to the mortification of her sister, who said, she should not be at all surprised to hear that another riot had taken place about Miss Delmore—“And I am sure, Marian, if you will take my advice,” added she, “you will not put on your India muslin, to have it torn off your back.”
Marian replied—“I am not at all apprehensive of any such consequence.”
“Why, to be sure,” resumed Miss Scroggins, “as you are going with Mrs. Doricourt, she will take care to give you another, if your dress should be demolished—I had no such luck though; but some people are much more fortunate than others.”
From these ill-natured remarks, Marian was heartily glad to escape, while the goodness of her disposition caused her to regret the disagreeable manners and envious temper of her sister, which prevented her from making friends, and deprived her of the amusements which would, in her mind, have received additional pleasure had she been invited to partake them.
A select party dined in Portland-square, by whom Marian was treated and noticed as the particular friend of Miss Delmore, who, after dinner, retired to her dressing-room, to make some trifling addition to her dress. And Mrs. Doricourt presented Marian with a chaplet of elegant French flowers for her head, and a pearl necklace, with a locket, containing her own and Cecilia’s hair.
When Miss Delmore descended to the drawing-room, attired with graceful simplicity, Mr. Saville gazed at her for some moments with mournful earnestness; then heaving a sigh, he said—“Sweet Cecilia, you have awakened in my heart an interest I thought I should never again feel, for you strongly resemble my dear unfortunate sister. At this moment I could fancy you my sainted Edith, my beauteous blossom, blighted by villany, and consigned to a premature grave! I fear I distress you with these bursts of grief; but your gentleness will, I trust, bear with a wretched man, whom sorrow renders unobservant of the forms of society. Wounded by the treachery of the friend I trusted, and the falsehood of the woman I adored, I detested the world, I shunned society; abhorring all of human race, I lived in solitude and woe, till circumstances of a very peculiar nature roused me on a sudden from this misanthropic trance. My compassion was strongly awakened by the unhappy erring Woodville; I had neither relatives nor local interests to attach me to any country—all places were alike to me, whom grief made a wanderer. I consented to go with Woodville to Marseilles; there I met Mrs. Doricourt. Her gentle persuasions and admonitions have in some degree restored me to my former self, for the knowledge of her trials and sufferings made me blush to think a delicate female had fortitude to endure misfortunes great as had fallen to my share. I am aware,” continued Mr. Saville, “the company of a man, melancholy and abstracted as I am, cannot be pleasing to youth; but your likeness to a dear lost sister, the sweetest, gentlest of her sex, makes me hover near you; for though I am certain that no trace of her remains on earth, yet I would fain delude my heart with the wild improbable belief that you are her child.”
Mrs. Doricourt and Marian entering the room, the thoughts of Mr. Saville were diverted from the melancholy recollection of his ill-fated sister.
It was a fashionable night at the opera, and the beauty of Cecilia, and the interesting diffidence of Marian, had many admirers. At the end of the first act, Mrs. Doricourt directed Miss Delmore’s attention to the marchioness of Beverley, who, with smiles of recognition, saluted her.
“Such is the world,” said Cecilia; “it is full of summer friends: when I really wanted protection and notice, the marchioness of Beverley did not honour me with her recollection; now, when her countenance is of no consequence, she condescends to remember me.”
Mrs. Doricourt smiled—“Remember, my love!” said she; “at the time to which you allude, your radiance was under a cloud, and the marchioness, not being very clear-sighted, could not distinguish false from true.”
Marian was delighted with the company, the music, and the ballet; and even the melancholy Saville declared himself entertained.
After the ballet the duke of Arvingham introduced the marquis of Beverley, with whom neither Mrs. Doricourt nor Cecilia were much pleased; there was a freedom in his manner too bold even for the latitude allowed by fashion, and the eye of a modest woman found it impossible to endure his stare. His look quite disconcerted the bashful Marian, who, though she did not express her dislike, rejoiced when he went to pay his unmeaning compliments to another party of ladies.
The duke of Arvingham was a pleasing elegant young man; he had been one of the warmest of Miss Delmore’s defenders during her mysterious absence; and no one felt more satisfaction than he did to find her fame cleared from every suspicion of impropriety.
The duke of Arvingham had conversed with sir Cyril Musgrove, and had learned from his lips her incorruptible virtue, and the undeviating propriety of her conduct; the duke had also heard that lord Rushdale continued abroad, to avoid fulfilling his engagement with her.
In the duke of Arvingham’s eyes, Miss Delmore was more beautiful than ever, and doubly interesting, from the severe trials her virtue had undergone. It was true she had rejected his addresses, but that was at a time when her hand was promised, and she believed herself positively engaged; it now appeared, from public report, that she was free; again the duke encouraged the delusions of hope, and determined on endeavouring to gain her affections; with this intent he engaged her in conversation, and hovered near her the whole time of the representation, and was ready, at the conclusion, to hand her to the carriage.
Mr. Saville had not been unobservant of the duke’s attention to Cecilia; and when they were seated in the carriage, he said—“Among all the fops that come to stare and talk loud at public places, I have not seen one more truly disgusting than the marquis of Beverley. I am a little astonished at the intimacy that appears to subsist between him and the duke of Arvingham, who is really a very fine young man.”
“I am pleased you approve him,” replied Mrs. Doricourt, “for he is a favourite of mine; he is really a fine young man. Though a duke, he has not been above cultivating his understanding, and when in public, is not ashamed of conducting himself with the politeness of a gentleman.”
Miss Delmore’s mind did the duke of Arvingham justice; his person, understanding, and conduct, public and private, were worthy praise, but approbation was all she could bestow, for lord Rushdale’s person, his intellectual powers, his accomplishments, were all superior, and pangs of acute anguish, of bitter regret, shot through her bosom, as she thought he was lost to her for ever.
Marian Scroggins did not return to Abchurch-street that night, and the next morning Mrs. Doricourt proposed, as it rained heavily, that they should remain at home, and employ themselves in a rational way.
Cecilia and Marian employed themselves with the needle, and Mrs. Doricourt took up a book to read to them. But these pleasing avocations were soon disturbed by the superb carriage of the silly marchioness of Beverley stopping at the door.
At home was the order of the day, and the marchioness of Beverley, more affected than ever, and her husband’s sister-in-law, lady Florence Lenox, entered the drawing-room.
Miss Delmore, as she received the compliments and congratulations of the marchioness on her restoration to her friends, felt disgusted at her deceit, and would have been better pleased with any other visitor.
The marchioness looked at Cecilia’s work, and, with her usual childish lisp, wished that she could spare a little time to devote to her needle, it was so very pleasant to wear work done by oneself; but her engagements were so numerous, the thing was quite impossible, that she had not the least expectation of having a single hour to herself, while she remained in town.—“A-propos, Mrs. Doricourt,” said she, “do you intend honouring Teignmouth with your company the ensuing season?”
Mrs. Doricourt expressed her intention of passing the summer in Cumberland.
“The duke of Arvingham has the same intention,” said lady Florence. “I heard him say he would visit the lakes; but if there was no other attraction, I fancy his grace would prefer the gaiety of a fashionable watering-place.”
“The duke is an admirer of yours, Miss Delmore,” lisped the marchioness, “and report says, instead of being a countess, you are determined on being a duchess.”
Cecilia blushed, and said, report certainly did her honour; but in this, as in various other instances, it was mistaken.
“Perhaps,” rejoined lady Florence, “Miss Delmore intends bestowing herself on a more steady admirer; Mr. Saville, for instance, who can settle on her lacks of rupees, and bushels of yellow star pagodas. I heard yesterday at lady Ashmore’s, that he had bespoke a splendid set of diamonds to present to his intended bride.”
Cecilia felt confused and vexed.
Mrs. Doricourt replied—“Mr. Saville will, I fancy, be as much astonished as I am, when he hears this report, which I can venture to assert is utterly unfounded; and really I am a little offended to think that he is considered Cecilia’s admirer, when his time of life, and very serious disposition, would, I should have supposed, been better adapted to me.”
“The world,” lisped the marchioness, “gives you credit, Mrs. Doricourt, for the declaration you have made against a second marriage; but as it is well known that Miss Delmore’s engagement to lord Rushdale is at an end, why, it is supposed, and indeed positively asserted, in the circles of fashion, that the money bags of Plutus have smothered poor little Cupid, and that Mr. Saville’s Indian wealth—”
Mrs. Doricourt was hurt at the indelicacy of the marchioness, who paid no attention to the evident distress of Cecilia, and hastily interrupting her, she said—“Miss Delmore, lady Beverley, has not announced to the world having broken off her engagement with lord Rushdale, and I am not a little astonished that any person should presume to assert for fact what is mere conjecture; but were this actually the case, Mr. Saville would be by no means an appropriate match for Miss Delmore, who is young enough to be his daughter; besides, I can with certainty answer, that matrimony makes no part of Mr. Saville’s intentions.”
“Mrs. Doricourt is perfectly correct respecting Mr. Saville, I have no doubt,” returned lady Florence; “the duke of Arvingham,” added she, colouring with jealousy, “is much younger, and infinitely handsomer, and his rank will besides render him a more desirable match; but unfortunately there is very little dependence to be placed on his professions of love. I know a young lady of rank and fortune, whom he led to believe he was seriously her admirer; to be sure he did not exactly tell her so, but he looked and sighed, and always contrived to be of her party, go where she would; but when she was momentarily expecting an offer of his hand, she found him attracted by a new face, and equally as attentive to another as he had been to her; all the world knows the inconstancy of the duke of Arvingham’s disposition, and would rather ridicule, than pity, any one for being deceived by his adoration.”
A servant at that moment announced the duke of Arvingham and the marquis of Beverley. Lady Florence seemed confused; she liked the duke, but was certain that he had never paid her any more attention than politeness demanded; and the consciousness of having slandered him out of jealousy, made her feel awkward, in spite of fashionable assurance.
The marchioness did not thank the duke of Arvingham for introducing her husband at Mrs. Doricourt’s, for it occurred to her memory, that she had often, when speaking of Mrs. Doricourt and Miss Delmore, indulged her ill-nature at the expence of truth; and besides, though caring for her husband as little as any lady of the haut ton, yet she felt jealous of Miss Delmore’s superior attractions. With a sneer, she asked—“How could your lordship think of making a call upon Mrs. Doricourt this morning, when you saw my carriage at the door?”
The marquis, affecting good humour, replied, that not having had the pleasure of seeing her for some time, the novelty of the interview rendered it doubly agreeable.
“I sent to your apartment this morning,” said the marchioness, “but was informed you had not then rung your bell.”
“I did not return from lady Gordon’s till it was daylight this morning,” returned the marquis; “I left the opera to keep my engagement—a glorious squeeze, and a most ridiculous set of old tabbies, and pretty Misses just emancipated from the nursery.”
“The latter, I imagine, were extremely attractive,” said the marchioness, “as they kept you from your rest till daylight.”
“No, ’pon my soul,” replied the marquis, “I took very little notice of the blushing, awkward things; no, my attention was occupied by a lively Frenchwoman, madame de Cortes, who sang, and danced, and laughed inimitably.”
“Laughed inimitably!” repeated the marchioness; “do you suppose that any person will attempt to imitate her laugh?”
“Without doubt she will be the rage for some time,” returned the marquis; “for myself, Wilton, and Horton, have pronounced her handsome and attractive, and her laugh, her frown, her walk, her dress, will all be eagerly copied; she is a charming creature—all life and caprice.”
The marchioness put up her lip, and wondered how long madame de Cortes would, in his capricious fancy, be considered a charming creature.
“Till some other more charming creature supersedes her,” replied the marquis; “but positively you must invite her to your masquerade; she will draw all the world in her train.”
“You are vastly obliging,” said the marchioness, “to propose such an attraction to me; but I shall beg leave to decline it, being desirous to see whether the marchioness of Beverley has not sufficient attraction to fill her rooms, without calling in foreign aid.”
The marquis saw she was piqued; declared he admired her resolution, and turned to the table, where Marian sat quietly engaged at her tambour frame. The marchioness was mistaken in the idea that her lord had designs on Miss Delmore; he was too certain of a repulse, to venture a trial of seduction there; the fact was, the gentle, unassuming Marian had excited his licentious wishes; he understood she was the daughter of a grocer, and supposed that her love was to be purchased, and the offended honour of her family appeased, by the judicious distribution of a little of his superfluous wealth.
Lady Florence did all her possible to engage the attention of the duke of Arvingham; but she had the mortification to find that Cecilia was the magnet that attracted him: with pleasure she could have given her poison; and in the bitterness of jealousy, she lamented that sir Cyril Musgrove had not carried her off, as it was now too evident that she had nothing to hope or expect, for the duke had neither eyes nor ears but for Miss Delmore.
While the marchioness conversed with Mrs. Doricourt, she was observant of her husband, who, in a boyish manner, kept annoying Marian, by putting her cotton and scissars out of the way, and telling her, that such intense application would spoil the brilliancy of her eyes; yet though he did not appear to notice Miss Delmore at all, the marchioness was not the less persuaded that she was the object of his visit, and that his teazing Marian was only meant to blind her to his real design. The jealousy of pride swelled the bosom of the marchioness, the jealousy of love, that of lady Florence; it is difficult to say which felt most uneasy, and anxious to conceal their feelings. Neither was the mind of Cecilia more tranquil than theirs; she was certain they would set down the visit and particular attention of the duke of Arvingham to love for her, and wherever they made their next call, would industriously spread the report, which, reaching the ears of lord Rushdale, who doubtless had correspondents in London, would still more alienate his affection from her.
Mrs. Doricourt inquired of the marchioness, if she had lately heard from lady Jacintha Cheveril?
“No, really,” replied she; “and to confess the truth, I have almost forgot that I have such a relation; for when the honourable Mrs. Mabel Oldstock’s will bequeathed the whole of her possessions to me, lady Jacintha Cheveril chose to give herself airs on the occasion, with which I was offended, and a coolness took place; she now resides entirely in Devonshire, and has, I fancy, resigned herself to her fate, and has become content to mope away her life in the country with her penurious husband.”
“The vulgar wretch is immensely rich,” said the marquis, “and so careful of his wife, who promises to present him with an heir, that he will scarcely allow her to go to church, to pray to Heaven to make her a widow.”
“Church!” repeated the marchioness; “to the conventicle, I fancy your lordship means, for the last letter she wrote me was so intolerably methodistical, that it made me quite low spirited, and for fear I should receive another in the same preaching style, I never answered it.”
“How kind and friendly!” said the marquis.
Lady Wilton was announced.
“For Heaven’s sake, Arvingham,” said the marquis, “let us begone! that horrid snuff-taking old woman is my detestation. She is prodigiously jealous of her husband, and fancies that I lead him astray from his conjugal duties.”
“Some truth perhaps in her suspicions,” replied the marchioness.
“Hush!” said lady Florence, “here she waddles, her ruby face reflecting or receiving lustre (which you please) from her scarlet velvet pelisse; and, mercy on me! she has certainly robbed a hearse for the enormous raven plumage of her bonnet.”
“Bonnet!” whispered the marchioness; “it is the tremendous helmet celebrated in Walpole’s Castle of Otranto.”
Lady Wilton being seated, began to regale her nose, to the great discomposure of lady Florence, into whose eyes some particles of the snuff found their way. Lady Wilton was very sorry, but assured her ladyship that it would increase their lustre—“A particular friend of mine,” said she, “assures me that snuff will brighten the intellects, and kindle the fire of genius.”
“Pray,” asked lady Florence, “has your ladyship used snuff long?”
The sarcasm contained in the question did not strike lady Wilton, who having answered many years, informed the company that she had just parted from lady Melvil, who was in the way that women wish to be who love their lords.”
“What a happy fellow Melvil is!” said the marquis.
“Her husband absolutely doats on her,” rejoined lady Wilton.
“Ridiculous and sickening!” exclaimed the marchioness.
“I am told,” said lady Florence, “that Melvil is, to the full, as attentive a husband as he was a lover; but, to be sure, that is not saying a great deal, for lovers are in general negligent enough.”
“I wish I could say all husbands are attentive,” said lady Wilton; “but more is the pity; any thing takes their attention rather than their wives.”
“I wonder,” lisped the marchioness, “you can wish any thing so extremely absurd. The Melvils are ridiculed and laughed at by all their acquaintance, who make a jest of their disgusting fondness.”
“It does not at all disturb their happiness,” returned lady Wilton. “Lord Melvil makes the best of husbands; he is sincerely attached to his wife, and he does not mind the ridicule of the world; he is a domestic character, loves home, never games, never flirts with, nor follows, other women.”
“Neither does lord Wilton,” said the marquis, with a look that contradicted his words.
“You are perfectly well acquainted with lord Wilton’s practices; his gambling and amours are no secret to you,” replied lady Wilton, the ruby of her face taking a deeper dye, “and I wonder at you, marquis, to seduce him into, and encourage, such profligate, licentious—
“Hush! hush!” said the marquis, “you forget that lady Beverley is present, and your accusations may be the occasion of exposing me to tears, fits, reproaches, and all the tempest of female anger.”
“Be under no apprehension,” replied the marchioness, disdainfully, “for I promise you neither your passion for gambling, nor your gallantries, will ever create one moment’s uneasiness in my bosom; I neither desire nor expect your attentions; all I request from you is politeness, and further than this, I assure you, I regard your conduct with all the tranquillity of indifference.”
Marian looked astonished.
The marquis asked her, if she should feel equally indifferent when she was a wife?
“I believe not,” replied Marian, ingenuously, “for I shall never marry but from affection, and should my husband run into excesses of any sort, it would break my heart.”
The marchioness threw on the blushing Marian a glance of haughty contempt.
Lady Florence whispered—“What a simpleton!”
Lady Wilton, looking vastly grave, said—“Very true, Miss; the negligence and infidelities of a husband are enough to break the heart of a woman of feeling.”
“There is no enduring this old woman’s nonsense,” said the marchioness.
Lady Florence, heartily tired of the visit, was anxious to go, and looking at the little gold watch that hung on her bosom, she said—“I believe, marchioness, you forget our engagement with the duchess of Stirling.”
“Positively I had, and thank you for the recollection,” replied lady Beverley; “I have been so agreeably entertained,” glancing at Marian and the marquis, “that it escaped my memory.”
The marchioness and lady Florence took leave, to the great delight of the designing marquis, who having got rid of the troublesome observance of his lady, thought he should now have an opportunity to whisper his flatteries in the ear of Marian, with whose naïveté he was so inflamed, that he determined to undermine her innocence; but knowing the character of the marquis, Mrs. Doricourt seated herself on an ottoman close to Marian, and obliged him to converse on general subjects. This disappointment of his design disconcerted the licentious marquis; even his bold eyes fell beneath the penetrating glance of virtue. Awed and restrained by Mrs. Doricourt, he began to think they had made a very long visit, and reminding the duke of Arvingham that they were to attend a sale at Tattersal’s, he hurried him away.
Lady Wilton having sat a few moments, suddenly exclaimed—“Only think of lady Torrington being dead! nobody knew a word about her being in England, till they read of her funeral in the papers; but perhaps, though it is said she died at her lodgings in Pall-Mall, she may still be alive and merry with that villain, major Norman, in France; for newspapers tell so many falsehoods, that there is no depending upon what they assert.”
“In this instance they have spoken the truth,” replied Mrs. Doricourt; “the countess of Torrington is certainly dead.”
“Bless me!” returned lady Wilton, “and so you know all the particulars?” but not finding Mrs. Doricourt or Cecilia communicative on the subject, she wondered whether the circumstance of the countess’s death would hasten the return of lord Torrington to England.
“I should suppose not,” was the reply made by Mrs. Doricourt.
“Going abroad appears all the rage,” said lady Wilton. “There is sir Middleton Maxfield and his lady, and the Stuart family, and half-a-hundred more of my intimate friends, gone to Lisbon. I am sure my health requires a warm climate, as much as any of my acquaintance; but I can’t prevail on lord Wilton to quit England.”
Hoping to hear some intelligence of lord Rushdale, Mrs. Doricourt inquired, if sir Middleton Maxfield had written to her from Lisbon?
“Sir Middleton is at present too happy to think of his relations,” said lady Wilton; “besides, he would not write to me, for he knows I have such an aversion to a pen, that I should never answer his letters.”
Cecilia rejoiced when the talkative lady Wilton bade them good-morning; and Mrs. Doricourt, without alarming the delicacy of Marian, by expressing a suspicion of the designs of the marquis of Beverley, sufficiently explained his character, to put her on her guard against his seductions.
The duke of Arvingham saw nothing in the manner of Miss Delmore to make him despair of success; she had conversed with him that morning with far less reserve than formerly, and when he took his leave, she had not withdrawn her hand from his gentle pressure. The fact was, Cecilia’s thoughts were wandering far away, and she was entirely unconscious that he had pressed her hand; but this little circumstance gave rise to very flattering hopes in the bosom of Arvingham, and he spoke of Miss Delmore’s virtues, elegance, and beauty, in a style of such devotedness, that the marquis of Beverley asked him, if he really intended to commit matrimony?
“Most certainly,” replied the duke, “if Miss Delmore will accept my hand; with her the wedded life would indeed be happiness, for she has sense to charm, beauty to attract, and accomplishments to entertain.”
“Bravo!” said the marquis; “you are deeply in for it, I perceive; now all these accomplishments that you have enumerated, I should adore in a mistress, but absolutely detest in a wife; the most stupid and homely are too apt to arrogate and be troublesome, but with a wife, beautiful, sensible, and accomplished, a man must sink into utter insignificance. I married lady Eglantine because she is a fool; she is sufficiently troublesome, I promise you; had she been a wit, she would have been actually unmanageable.”
“When I marry,” replied the duke, “my wife shall possess beauty and talent, and I will trust to my own conduct, and her sense and virtue, for our happiness.”
There was a day, when simply but to be,
To live, to breathe, was purest ecstacy;
Then life was new, and with a smiling air
Robb’d of his thorny crown intrusive Care:
And o’er the drear path I was doom’d to tread,
Beneath the little wand’rer’s footsteps shed.
Full many a beam of gay primatic hue,
Add many a bud from Fancy’s bosom threw;
Pleasing, and pleas’d; still blessing, still most blest;
In life alone each transport was possest;
But now, in life alone, no charms I view,
And, oh! Time, Hours, and Love, how chang’d are you!
Lay of an Irish Harp.
They tell me ‘tis my birthday, and I’ll keep it
With double pomp of sadness. SHAKESPEARE.
A Family Déjeuneé—Return to the Hermitage—
Fashionable Assurance—A Duel—Birthday
The marriage of captain Seaford with the rich widow of a city tailor, gave much satisfaction to the mind of old Scroggins, who had for some time apprehended that his daughter Jane, would, in defiance of his advice, perversely throw away her five thousand pounds upon him.
One morning, when the family had assembled at breakfast, he gravely placed his spectacles on his nose, and drawing a newspaper from his pocket, read—“Last Tuesday was married, at Grace Church, by the reverend James Forster, Thomas Seaford, captain in the Smithfield Volunteers, to Penelope Farnby, relict of Simon Farnby, esquire. After the ceremony, the happy couple set off with a party of friends, to pass the honeymoon at Hackney, where the bride has a handsome estate.”
“Funny enough,” said old Scroggins, laughing, “Simon Farnby, my tailor, called esquire! Lord, Lord! What will this world come to!”
Miss Scroggins let fall the coffee cup she was carrying to her mouth, and nearly upset the breakfast-table.
“What the dickens possesses the girl?” exclaimed Mrs. Scroggins, as she gathered up the pieces of the shivered coffee-cup; “you have spoiled my set of second best china with your foolish tantrums.”
“What is the loss of a paltry coffee-cup?” returned Miss Scroggins, in a voice between weeping and screaming.—“What is the breaking of a whole set of trumpery coffee-cups compared with my disappointment?—Captain Seaford is married; ma’am! and did not the vile deceitful wretch, no longer ago than last Sunday, swear, if I would not engage to marry him as soon as I came of age, he would stab himself with his own military sword; and now to think of his having married the dumpy widow Farnby, when he has told me a hundred times that he hated dumpy women—What is the loss of a coffee-cup?”
“A great deal to my thinking,” interrupted Mrs. Scroggins, eyeing the fragments, “especially when it breaks a set that cost a matter of five guineas.”
“Why don’t you use commoner ones?” said the grocer, “and then, if an accident did
“But this was no accident, Mr. Scroggins,” returned his wife.
“Be quiet; I know it,” replied her husband, “and I know all you can say about it wont join the pieces. But as to the loss of Tom Seaford, I tell you what, Jane, if you have only a quarter of an ounce of brains in your foolish head, you will down on your marrow-bones, and give thanks that you have got fairly rid of an idle fop of a fellow, who would soon have sent your money flying, and brought you to poverty.”
“There you are greatly mistaken, sir,” replied Miss Scroggins, “for I never intended to marry him, I assure you; and as to my liking him, I thought him as disagreeable a wretch as ever I saw in my life.”
Old Scroggins laughed heartily—“Stick to that, Jane,” said he; “I am glad to see you take the matter so well, though it is plain enough by your looks to see—”
“To see what?” asked Miss Scroggins, pettishly.
“Why that the ‘the grapes are sour,’ to be sure,” replied her father.
“He is an ugly, ignorant, conceited ape!” said Miss Scroggins, “and the grapes, sir, are not at all sour, for I would not have had the frightful, awkward wretch, if he could have made me an empress; I always hated him.”
“And have you broke my china coffee-cup, and put me in such a fluster I shan’t recover myself to-day,” asked the astonished Mrs. Scroggins, “and all about a man that you hate and detest? Well, I declare I never heard the like. Talk of deceit indeed! why, girl, you are Seaford’s match, let him be as deceitful as ever he will.”
“I am sure I should not have cared about the fellow marrying,” resumed Miss Scroggins, “only that he has acted so sly and so deceitful; I never heard even a whisper of his paying attention to the widow Farnby.”
“I recollect I heard somebody joke him about her at Mrs. Thornton’s,” said Marian; “but I never thought of it after the moment.”
“Ay, that proves the strength of your sisterly affection,” returned Miss Scroggins. “But what better could I expect from you, Miss Marian? Since you have visited the great folks in Portland-square, you have treated me with the greatest indifference, and no doubt are rejoicing in your mind that you shall have a fine story to carry to that proud upstart, Miss Delmore, about my disappointment; but you are greatly mistaken if you think I am disappointed. The loss of such an ill-bred puppy as Tom Seaford is nothing at all to me. I am not so old, or so ugly, that I need despair of getting a husband; and though you wish to see me miserable, I shall not gratify your malice. I will let you see that I am not vexed at his deceit, or at your spiteful airs.” During this speech, Miss Scroggins had raised her naturally shrill voice to so discordant a pitch, that Marian was terrified, and burst into tears. Mrs. Scroggins sat pouting over her broken coffee-cup.—“Ay,” continued Miss Scroggins, with a sneering laugh, “that is always the way with Miss Marian. For my part, I have not my tears ready at command. It is a great pity Seaford did not marry you; I am sure you would have been well suited together, for you are both of you artful hypocrites.”
“What the devil is the meaning of all this noise?” said the grocer, throwing down the newspaper, over which he had been poring. “You say you don’t like Tom Seaford, and that you never intended to marry him, and yet you are raving like a bedlamite about his having married another, and quarrelling with your sister, and calling her names, that the poor child never deserved. I wish you were as good and as mild-tempered and as dutiful as she is, it would make things a great deal more comfortable.”
“Oh dear yes! I know Miss Marian was always your favourite, father,” replied Miss Scroggins; “but if my godmother, poor dear lady Meldrum, was alive, I should not be here to be huffed and snubbed about in this way.”
“Get out of my sight this instant!” said the grocer, rising from the breakfast-table in a rage; “get along to your own room; and if you can remember any good lesson your fine lady godmother ever taught you, try and recover it, for it appears pretty clear to every body that belongs to you, that you have forgot everything you ever learned, except the way to be idle, ill natured, and saucy.”
Miss Scroggins left the room, muttering—“Those belonging to me shall not be troubled with me much longer.”
Old Scroggins walked to the glass to settle his wig—a custom he had when any thing occurred to disturb the serenity of his temper; then pinching the cheek of Marian, he bade her not cry—“As to Jane,” said he, “she is just like the dog in the manger; she did not want the good-for-nothing fellow herself, and yet is angry that any body else took him. However, I am very glad he has got himself a wife, and that my family are fairly rid of him;” then looking at his wife, he asked—“Why, what the plague, Mrs. Scroggins, do you look so glum about? are the pieces of the broken coffee-cup sticking in your gizzard? Pooh! never be so silly as to fret after a bit of crockery ware.”
“Crockery ware!” repeated his wife; “real Worcester china, I promise you, Mr. Scroggins. Do you suppose I should grieve after crockery ware? I wonder at you, Mr. Scroggins.”
“And I wonder you should think it worth the while to be vexed about such a trifle, Mrs. Scroggins,” replied the grocer. “If there was none of this here brittlesome stuff broke, what do you think would become of the trade? Come, let us have no sulky looks; pour me out another cup of coffee, and I don’t much mind if I make you a present of a new set of china.”
The clouds dispersed from the brow of Mrs. Scroggins in an instant; like many other silly women she had a passion for china. Smiling kindly on her husband, she said—“Of the same pattern as Mrs. Alderman Drugget’s?”
“Of any pattern you like,” replied the grocer.
Peace was now restored; the broken coffee-cup was thrown into the slop-bason, and breakfast was finished in perfect good-humour, the grocer making himself merry at the expence of the foolish woman who had thrown herself and her money away on Tom Seaford.
Marian, when she left the parlour, went immediately to her sister’s apartment; but Miss Scroggins chose to be sulky, and without even condescending to look at her, said, she did not want her company.
Marian was much hurt at this conduct; and as she sat down to her needle, she reflected with no little sorrow on the very unpleasant summer she was likely to spend with a sister, whose temper was so bad, that she rendered every person in the family uncomfortable. Mrs. Doricourt was to leave town in a few days.
“Miss Delmore, whose disposition is all sweetness and affability,” said Marian, sighing, “will shortly be many miles distant, and I shall be constrained to remain at home with a sister, who has, alas! no regard for any being except herself. Melrose too is absent, and when he may return, Heaven alone can tell. But Mrs. Doricourt says Providence orders all things for the best; and though my prospects are far from bright, I will endeavour to be content.”
At this moment Mrs. Scroggins put her head in at the door, and, in a great bustle, said—“Go down, Marian; Mrs. Doricourt’s carriage is at the door, and I am in such a pickle I am not fit to be seen.”
Marian obeyed her mother, and hastened down stairs, but not as formerly, with a light heart, rejoicing to meet friends loved and respected, for she believed they were now come to bed her farewell previous to their departure from town.
Mr. Scroggins had bowed and scraped, and ushered Mrs. Doricourt and Miss Delmore to his daughter’s budwar, as he called it; but Miss Scroggins had still a strong fit of the sullens on her, and did not condescend to receive her sister’s visitors; she supposed they came to take leave of Marian, but she did not choose to wish them a pleasant journey. What were they to her? the proud creatures had never taken any notice of her; and if their carriage was overturned every third mile between London and Cumberland, it would not distress her feelings—no, truly, not if they got their bones broke.”
Marian saluted, and was saluted by Mrs. Doricourt and Miss Delmore, with all the sincerity of real friendship.
Miss Delmore discovered by Marian’s eyes that she had been weeping and inquired the cause; but Marian was too kind, and too much ashamed, to confess that her sister’s ill-temper and undeserved reproaches were the occasion of her tears. But there was one part of her sorrow she could disclose, and that was the idea that she should see them no more.
“You surely could not believe us so unfeeling and ungrateful, my dear Marian,” said Mrs. Doricourt, “as to leave town without calling to thank you for all your kindness, and leaving with our warm wishes for your health and happiness.”
Marian’s heart was before oppressed; her tears would not be restrained, and, in a voice tremulous with grief, she replied—“My happiness, dearest madam, will depart with you and Miss Delmore.”
Mrs. Doricourt affectionately pressed Marian’s hand, and said—“Dry up your tears my sweet girl; you shall go with us if we can prevail on your parents to trust you to our protection.”
“Yes,” rejoined Miss Delmore, kissing Marian’s cheek, “for I cannot bear to part with my gentle friend, to whose kindness I have been so much indebted, and from whose society I promise myself so much pleasure.”
Marian smiled through her tears, and exclaimed, in the fullness of her joy—“My sister may well envy me the honour I enjoy in being so distinguished; but will you, indeed, my dear madam, condescend to take me with you into Cumberland? and will Miss Delmore allow me to assist her in cultivating the flowers that adorn your paradise, and of which she is so fond?”
Mrs. Doricourt assured the now happy Marian, that her present visit to Abchurch-street had no other object than to invite her to spend the summer at the Hermitage.
Miss Delmore could not suppress a sigh at the mention of her flowers; with them was associated many a tender and painful remembrance; some of them had been selected by lord Rushdale, who, himself a florist, had instructed her in their cultivation and several of the beautiful exotics that adorned the conservatory, had been presented to her by him. They had often together admired their expanding blossoms; but now, when she beheld their brilliant colours, and inhaled their odours, he would be far away, forgetful of those hours of bliss so precious to her recollection.
Mr. and Mrs. Scroggins, followed by the maid with a silver salver, loaded with refreshments, restored, by their apologies and bustling politeness, the smile to Cecilia’s lips, that these painful thoughts had banished.
Mrs. Scroggins was by no means so delicate as Marian respecting the faults of her eldest daughter, for she at once said, she hoped they would have the goodness to excuse the appearance of Jane, who, to tell the truth, was at home, but in a very bad temper, which more was the pity, was too often the case, and had been quarrelling with Marian just before they arrived.
“My poor little friend, that accounts for the redness of your eyes,” observed Mrs. Doricourt.
Marian blushed deeply for the loquacity of her mother, and would gladly have concealed the faults of her sister; but Mrs. Scroggins said, it was true Jane was of very unhappy temper, owing to her being too much humoured in her infancy.
“Bend the twig when it is young,” said the grocer, “and it will grow as you wish; but Jane’s quality bringing-up has ruined her disposition; it has made her proud, and indolent, and self-willed.”
This declaration of his eldest daughter’s faults was not altogether favourable to Mrs. Doricourt’s design of taking Marian away with her, for Mrs. Scroggins might be apprehensive that Marian’s disposition would be corrupted, as she ranked in the class he denominated quality.
But while she hesitated to prefer her request, Miss Delmore, with graceful and winning affability, mentioned the motive of that morning’s visit; and Mrs. Doricourt added, she hoped Marian would be allowed to pass the summer with her in Cumberland.
Mrs. Scroggins replied, that the indolence and ill-temper of her eldest daughter rendered the company of Marian doubly necessary and agreeable at home; for, to be sure, she was the direct opposite to her sister in every particular, and was of very great service to her in the management of the family, for Marian was very clever, and ingenious, and active, and could undertake to do any thing that was to be cut with a pair of scissars, and sewed with a needle and thread; and she could pickle and preserve, and make jellies, and numberless nice and pretty nick-nacks in pastry and confectionary, all which Jane was above putting her hand to.
The grocer was ashamed that his wife should engross all the conversation, and prevented any further disclosure of Marian’s qualifications, by saying—“Mrs. Scroggins, you have said quite sufficient, my dear; Mrs. Doricourt does not want to engage Marian as a housekeeper.”
“Dear me, no; I know that, Mr. Scroggins,” replied she, a little abashed, then pressing Miss Delmore to take a glass of wine to hide her confusion.
Mrs. Doricourt repeated her invitation to Marian.
Her father replied, bowing to the ground—“We are sensible, madam, of the great honour you do Marian by taking so much notice of her, and are very proud of the invitation, which we certainly can have no objection to her accepting.”
But Mr. Scroggins was mistaken; his wife had a very great objection to Marian’s going from home; she had just cut out a dozen shirts for him, and various other articles of family linen, which she wanted Marian’s assistance to make up, as her daughter Jane absolutely detested the use of that vulgar implement, which she denominated the “steel bar.” But Mrs. Scroggins had always submitted to her husband’s will, who, though a very good man, was apt to be peremptory, could not bear contradiction, and would be master.
The permission being obtained, Mrs. Doricourt and Miss Delmore left the delighted Marian to prepare for the following Sunday, when she was to dine and remain all night in Portland-square, to be ready to begin the journey to Cumberland early on Monday morning.
Mrs. Scroggins, when left alone with her husband, did not venture to drop a hint how extremely lonesome she should feel all the summer without Marian, and how much she should miss her assistance, when the preserving and pickling time came about. But Mr. Scroggins had made up his mind to Marian’s going, and his will was unalterable as the laws of the Medes and Persians; and he paid no further attention to his wife’s hints, than to say—“What will you do, my dear, when the girl gets married? You can’t expect her to remain single all her life, on purpose to pickle your cabbage and girkins, and make raspberry jam, and preserve damascenes. Besides, Mrs. Scroggins, to let you into a little bit of a secret, I have views of my own in letting Marian go into Cumberland; she will be near her uncle Wilson—and if he takes a fancy to her, and you know she appeared to be a favourite, it may prevent his marrying, and having children of his own, to leave his money to, and he is pretty warm, I can tell you.”
This was unanswerable, and like a prudent woman, Mrs. Scroggins held her tongue, though she secretly lamented the loss of Marian, as her sister Jane had none of her serviceable qualifications.
When Miss Scroggins was informed that Marian was going with Mrs. Doricourt to her seat in Cumberland, she took to her bed, and artfully pretended illness, in order to disappoint and detain her at home; but the family apothecary being a sensible honest man, protested he could not find out any complaint Miss Scroggins had, and that he thought employment would be much more efficacious than physic.
After this declaration on the part of the apothecary, Marian received much good advice from her mother, and a twenty pound note from her father, and was permitted to keep her appointment of dining on Sunday with her friends in Portland-square; there she met Mr. Saville, who had also received an invitation from Mrs. Doricourt, to spend the summer at the Hermitage.
On Monday morning the travellers began their journey, and Marian, who had never in her life been ten miles out of London, was in raptures with the variety of prospects and beautiful seats of noblemen and gentlemen, that continually met her view.
Mrs. Doricourt, whose sorrows had subsided in content, felt real pleasure in the thought that every mile they passed brought her nearer to the spot, which she had been at so much pains and expence to fertilize and beautify, to which she had fled nearly heart-broken by the treachery of man, where she had wept in anguish and believed herself, of all created beings, the most wretched and unfortunate; she was now returning with different sentiments and feelings, with a mind purified from error, and disposed to enjoy the blessings so amply dispensed her, convinced that what she had lamented, as a grievous disappointment, had proved a real benefit, for which she could never be sufficiently grateful to overruling Providence.
But the heart of Cecilia did not participate in the pleasure of Mrs. Doricourt, for she remembered with what different prospects she had left Cumberland, and had then rejoiced in the dear and brilliant hope of a union with lord Rushdale.
Mrs. Doricourt read, in Cecilia’s expressive countenance, what was passing in her mind, and with attentive kindness she endeavoured, by conversing on cheerful subjects, to withdraw her thoughts from dwelling on irremediable misfortune.
The pensive-minded Saville was enchanted with the bold majestic scenery of Cumberland, and joined with Marian in repeated exclamations of astonishment and admiration.
The town of Keswick was quickly passed; and as they drew near enough to discover the turrets of Torrington Castle, Mr. Saville became much disturbed, and seemed to shrink from beholding the place where the beautiful erring Emily had once presided, proud, and unthinking that her gay career was so soon to terminate in wretchedness and death. Then, as if ashamed of his weakness, he leaned from the carriage window, and forced himself to gaze on the towers and massive battlements.—“How little of happiness,” exclaimed he, “does the title annexed to this bold edifice bestow on its possessor! A thousand times rather would I be Edmund Saville than the earl of Torrington! Unhappy man! the wealth for which he perjured his soul, for which he deserted my lovely innocent Edith, brought with it neither peace nor honour! His wife, too, the countess of Torrington, who—But let me not disturb the ashes of the dead; her guilt was punished—may her errors be buried with her in the grave!”
Miss Delmore had sunk back in a corner of the carriage, fearful that her eye should glance on the walls that had kindly fostered her helpless infancy—where she had been most happy, but which circumstances now rendered distressing to her thoughts and her sight.
Marian had never seen so noble a structure; but perceiving that Miss Delmore was agitated at the name of Torrington Castle, she contented herself with gazing on its magnificent entrance, till the winding road shut it from her view, without expressing her admiration.
Mrs. Doricourt felt for Cecilia and Mr. Saville, but she did not disturb the silent sorrow of the moment, by a comment or observation on past events, but was mentally moralizing on the fatal consequences attendant on vice, when the sound of rustic music caught her ear, joined with the joyful shouts of the Derwentwater peasantry, who, drest in their holiday clothes, had left their cottages, to meet and welcome the return of their benevolent friend and benefactress.
“I congratulate you, my respected, excellent friend,” said Mr. Saville, “on this triumph, infinitely more glorious, in my opinion, than that which greets the return of a hero from battle, for here neither tears nor regret mingle with the joy.”
The heart of Mrs. Doricourt was sensibly affected by this proof of respect and regard shewn by the honest people, who, in her absence, had not been deprived of her bounty. She stopped the carriage, and spoke with kindness to several of the old people, assuring them that she rejoiced to see them well, and that she returned among them with a pleasure equal to that they expressed at seeing her.
Cecilia also spoke to them, and they blessed her as the angel dispenser of Mrs. Doricourt’s charity, praying that Heaven might make her as happy as she was beautiful.
Charmed with this proof that Mrs. Doricourt had never, in her hours of sorrow, forgotten the wants and distresses of her fellow-creatures, Mr. Saville reproved his own selfish grief, reflecting that it was possible to diffuse happiness, even while the heart was itself insensible to its cheering influence.
The peasants, proud and elated with the condescension shewn them by Mrs. Doricourt and her guests, attended them with acclamations of praise, and shouts of joy, to the border of the lake, where the yacht, dressed with silken streamers, waited to waft them over to St. Herbert’s Island, then fragrant and glowing with all the fertility and beauty of early summer.
It was sunset when they landed on the Chinese bridge, where Mrs. Doricourt, with smiles of affability, welcomed her guests to the Hermitage.
Mr. Saville believed himself again in the—
“clime of the East,
Where the light wings of Zephyr, oppress’d with perfume,
Wax faint o’er the gardens of Gul in their bloom.”
And Marian began to fancy herself transported to those delightful gardens and groves that she had read of in the Tales of the Genii.
Mrs. Milman had been at the Hermitage best part of the day, waiting to see her niece, who, to her infinite chagrin and disappointment, had returned to Cumberland Cecilia Delmore, instead of a lady of title, though she consoled herself with the reflection that she was still very young, and might have better luck the next time she went to London.
After embracing, and expressing the pleasure she really felt at seeing Cecilia, Mrs. Milman observed that she was much thinner, and a great deal paler, than when she left Cumberland.—“Mercy bless me, my dear child,” said she, “I am afraid you are in a consumption.”
Cecilia, with a faint smile, assured her aunt she was quite well, only a little fatigued with the journey.
But Mrs. Milman set her thinness and paleness down to the account of racketing about, and keeping such late hours.—“I know people of quality keep sad hours in London,” said Mrs. Milman, “and though that wicked sir Cyril Musgrove did behave vilely, yet I can never believe that you fretted all the flesh off your bones, child, and wept all the colour out of your cheeks, while you was at Frome hall, which I have heard is a fine, airy, healthful place, like Torrington Castle, far from the smoke of any town; and then I very much wonder, indeed, as sir Cyril is a handsome genteel-looking man, and was sorry for his bad behaviour, and offered you marriage, that you did not accept him, as folks say he is very rich.”
Cecilia replied, the insult he had offered her was, in her opinion, a sufficient reason for rejecting him.
“Well, well, child,” resumed Mrs. Milman, “you know best, to be sure. It was not to be, I suppose. Yet you should have remembered rich baronets are not to be picked up every day in the week; though nobody knows—I may live to see you a countess.”
Mrs. Milman did not express much concern, when speaking of the death of the countess of Torrington, who had never condescended to take much notice of her. Mrs. Milman wondered if the earl intended coming to the castle that summer.—“He is a gay character,” said she, “and will, I dare say, marry again; and if he does, I hope he will have a wife with less pride and more virtue than the late countess, poor sinful creature! And, now I think of it, Cecilia,” added she, “I should not at all wonder if the earl was to offer himself to you, for every body noticed how fond he was of you, and that he was never happy when you were out of his sight.”
“Alas! he is strangely altered,” replied Cecilia; “I have not heard from him for many months; and as the earl has ceased to notice me, you will, I trust, my dear aunt, excuse my coming to Torrington Castle; Mrs. Doricourt will, at all times, be happy to see you at the Hermitage; but she does not approve of my going to the castle.”
Mrs. Milman thought this was carrying pride and delicacy too far, but having settled it in her mind that Cecilia should be the future countess of Torrington, she offered but little opposition to her not coming as usual to the castle.
Mr. Wilson was happy to see his favourite Cecilia in Cumberland again; for little guessing the secret sorrow nourished in her bosom, he thought the pure air would restore the roses to her cheeks, and make her animated as ever. He was greatly pleased and gratified at the notice she bestowed on his niece, which proved to him the extent of her regard for him, and the grateful remembrance she retained of his having rescued her from the villanous designs of sir Cyril Musgrove.
Mr. Wilson was in equal astonishment and perplexity with Cecilia, respecting the earl of Torrington, for he had received no answers to the letters he had written to Lisbon, and was quite at a loss how to proceed with the theatre and banqueting-room, which had been planned the preceding summer by lord Rushdale, who was to have given a drawing of the way he intended to finish the interior.
“Surely, if the earl of Torrington and lord Rushdale are dead,” said Cecilia, “we should, by some means, have been acquainted with the melancholy tidings; and better, far better, could I endure the terrible certainty that they are no more than this agonizing uncertainty.”
Mrs. Doricourt could not suppose they were dead, though their silence was unaccountable; yet, from Wilson’s not having letters, she drew the favourable hope, that the same cause which prevented the earl from writing to him, operated with regard to Cecilia, and that she was not wilfully neglected, or illiberally cast from the hearts that had once professed to adore her.
Mrs. Doricourt did not return to the Hermitage with an intention to seclude herself as formerly. Her mind was now tranquil, and though she was certain that the world contained much evil, she also believed it had an equal portion of good, and that it was shewing true philosophy to take things as they were. Thus reasoning, Mrs. Doricourt gave and received invitations from the neighbouring gentry, who proudly embraced an acquaintance with the handsome widow, and her lovely friends.
Marian every hour repeated—“I am delighted with every thing and every body in Cumberland; I never was half so happy in my life!”
“I would I could hear my Cecilia say the same!” replied Mrs. Doricourt.
“Do not believe me ungrateful,” said Cecilia, with a pensive smile; “are not you with me, the same tender, kind, indulgent friend as ever? Indeed I am happy, very happy!”
But a tear swelling in either eye, convinced Mrs. Doricourt that her heart was far from feeling the happiness her lips asserted; but time, she hoped, would do much in a mind grateful and pious as Cecilia’s.
If Marian admired Mrs. Doricourt in London, she was ready to worship her in Cumberland, for never had she witnessed such real goodness, such universal charity; she beheld the poor invoking blessings on her, and the rich looking up to her as an example of all that was virtuous and amiable in woman.
After Cecilia and Marian had paid a few visits, they became the toasts of Keswick, and more than one advantageous offer was made to the young friends by gentlemen, whose persons might have found acceptance with disengaged hearts; but Marian was faithfully attached to lieutenant Melrose, and Cecelia, though hopeless of ever beholding lord Rushdale again, considered herself as much his wife as if the ceremony of the church had united them.
The duke of Arvingham, while attending his family at Brighton, with lover-like impatience anticipated the hour when he should again behold Miss Delmore. His arrival in Cumberland gave Mrs. Doricourt much satisfaction; of all men, he was the most likely to banish the remembrance of lord Rushdale from the bosom of Cecilia; and, as no intelligence had arrived from abroad, she concluded that all was at an end, and that the earl had resolved his son should not keep his engagement.
Liberal as was the mind of Mrs. Doricourt, she could not help acquiescing with Mr. Saville’s opinion, that such conduct was consonant with the character of the earl, who had not himself scrupled to break through the most sacred engagements; and this being the case, she wished a worthier lover to obtain the affections of Cecilia.
Mr. Saville lost no opportunity of praising the duke of Arvingham.—“In mind and manners,” said he, “the duke is a gentleman; and had I a son, my most anxious wishes would be gratified, were his conduct and principles such as the duke of Arvingham’s.”
Cecilia heard these and similar sentiments often repeated, and, with all the candour of youthful innocence, she joined in his commendation, but without at all suspecting that her friends had any design by their praises to recommend the duke of Arvingham to her favour.
The grief of Cecilia had settled into tranquil pensiveness; she had returned to her books, her harp, and her pencil; and, under her instruction, Marian, attentive and docile, was rapidly gaining those accomplishments, which they merely pretended to teach at the seminary where she was placed for education.
In the improving Marian, and in forming concerts, in which Mr. Saville and the duke took part, Cecilia ceased to be miserable. Mrs. Doricourt had said, employment was the best antidote against sorrow—and when had Mrs. Doricourt erred in her opinion?
The duke of Arvingham had a pleasing voice—Miss Delmore sang duets with him. He had a taste for drawing too, and they took sketches together. The duke read with feeling and propriety; and when the weather did not permit their going abroad, he read alternately with Mr. Saville, while the ladies pursued the needle or the pencil.
As a friend, Cecilia greatly respected the duke of Arvingham, and valued his society; but had he once mentioned love, she would have relinquished every pleasure she derived from his acquaintance.
From never hearing Cecilia, on any occasion, mention the name of lord Rushdale, the duke was confirmed in the opinion that all was at an end between them; but, apprehensive that some lurking tenderness might still remain in her heart, for an object once avowedly preferred to the rest of her admirers, he resolved that time should entirely remove every former impression, before he ventured to renew his addresses, for he was not romantic enough to believe the female heart could love but once; and, as, from all he had learned of the affair, he thought lord Rushdale had acted extremely ungenerous and illiberal by Miss Delmore, it was less probable that she would long retain an affection for a person so unworthy. Time was to prove this, and by remaining her friend a few months longer, he should be able to judge whether her heart was at liberty to make a second choice, and whether it was likely he might succeed in obtaining her regard.
"This day month, my Cecilia," said Mrs. Doricourt, "is your birthday."
Cecilia sighed. She recollected that lord Rushdale, in their last conversation, had said, they should celebrate their next birthdays together. Alas! where was he then? In a distant country, forgetful of all he had proposed for their mutual happiness.
"I will have the day observed," said Mrs. Doricourt, "with rejoicings and festivity; I will issue cards of invitation to all our friends, and I will give Mr. Baldwin orders for preparing the conservatory for a ball."
Cecilia was grateful to Mrs. Doricourt for this fresh instance of her affection, but entreated she would suffer the day to pass unnoticed—"For who am I," said she, with graceful modesty, "that my birthday should be observed?"
"The child of my affection," replied Mrs. Doricourt, "the friend of my heart, and the heiress of my fortune; and it is my supreme will and pleasure to observe the day by giving an entertainment to all our Cumberland friends, as much to celebrate your deliverance from the wicked wiles and stratagems of sir Cyril Musgrove, as to do honour to your natal day: so let me hear no more of your modest objections; and, mark me, child, I expect that you will that day discard for ever, sighs, regret, and sorrow, and resume your smiles and animation; for, believe me, love, the only purpose that sorrow answers, is to dull the eyes, pale the cheeks, and wrinkle the skin."
"Marian, do you love dancing?" asked Mr. Saville.
“Dearly, sir," replied she.
"I believe I shall take a few lessons previous to Cecilia's birthday," resumed he, "that I may solicit you for a partner."
"Indeed I should be extremely proud," replied Marian; "but you are jesting—you would not dance."
"I am not sure of that," said Mr. Saville, "for I have made a resolve to cast away sadness, and be gay as the gayest."
"And I will order dancing dresses exactly alike for Cecilia and Marian," resumed Mrs. Doricourt—"while silk and wreaths of pale roses. I shall not listen to a word of thanks or objections; in this affair I will be obeyed, and intend to be as peremptory as the sovereign queen of St. Herbert's Island ought to be."
Cecilia and Marian kissed her hand, and promised obedience.
Mr. Saville smiled, and professed himself ready to perform the commands of his liege lady.
"We command you, then," said Mrs. Doricourt, "to ride over to Keswick, and make inquiry what has become of our friend the duke of Arvingham, who having for two whole days absented himself from our palace of the Hermitage, we fear is unwell."
"I hope not," said Cecilia; "I should be extremely sorry to hear that the duke of Arvingham is ill."
"Indeed and so should I," rejoined Marian, "he is so sensible, and so affable, and not at all proud."
"He deserves your praise, my dear Marian," replied Cecilia; "There are very few young men like the duke of Arvingham; I should be sincerely concerned to learn that illness prevents his coming to the Hermitage as usual."
"If my ambassador reports that concern to the duke," rejoined Mrs. Doricourt, "I am persuaded he will 'throw physic to the dogs;' the charm contained in that little sentence, 'I should be sorry to hear that the duke of Arvingham is ill,' would, I have no doubt, effect a complete cure."
Miss Delmore could not mistake Mrs. Doricourt's meaning, but unwilling to understand, she merely said, she doubted the efficacy of her good wishes.
Mr. Saville having left the room, and Marian being employed in writing to her mother, Mrs. Doricourt said—"It is evident to me, my Cecilia, that the duke of Arvingham remains in Cumberland entirely on your account."
"I hope not," replied Cecilia; "certainly not—the duke can have no such motive; he knows that I declined the honour he designed me, and it is quite improbable. Oh, no, my dear madam! The lakes and their beautiful environs are so attractive, that a person, with half the duke of Arvingham's taste, might remain months without growing weary of admiring them."
"Granted, my love," returned Mrs. Doricourt; "a contemplative person, or one whose mind was tinctured with romance, or rendered pensive by calamity, might indeed wander for months among the lakes and mountains of Cumberland; but recollect, my Cecilia, the duke of Arvingham's character is neither contemplative, romantic, nor pensive; he is a lively, animated young man, whose life hitherto has had no acquaintance with misfortune, and who has no dislike to join in those amusements that present themselves at places of fashionable resort. What then, but love, can detain him here, and make him content to resign his former friends and pleasures?—What can induce him to listen to the rush of streams, and climb the breezy mountains, but the knowledge that they are dear to Cecilia?"
"It would give me infinite sorrow," replied Cecilia, "to believe myself the motive that detains the duke of Arvingham in Cumberland, because I sincerely wish his intentions bestowed where they have a probability of success; I have rejected his addresses, and I hope he has no intention of renewing them."
"The duke of Arvingham is young, sensible, accomplished, and rich," returned Mrs. Doricourt.
"He is all this, I freely allow," said Cecilia; "but were he the most perfect of Heaven's creation, I could never regard him but as a friend."
"I flatter myself, my dearest Cecilia," replied Mrs. Doricourt, "that you will yet regard him with a warmer sentiment; the conduct of lord Rushdale does not merit the sacrifice of your youth and happiness; and, believe me, my sweet girl, it would give me infinite pleasure to see you the wife of the duke of Arvingham, whose steady attachment, and defence of your fame, when public opinion was swayed by the representations of a villain, demand not only your gratitude, but your affection."
"My gratitude," said Cecilia, "he possesses most sincerely; my love," added she, melting into tears, "my love, unfortunately, is not mine to bestow: however unworthy, I cannot withdraw it from Rushdale; neither, till he pronounces our engagement void, can I consider myself at liberty to accept other addresses. Spare me, I conjure you, my dearest, best of friends! allow me to believe it possible that Rushdale, having by a severe trial proved my faith, will return to claim the hand he appears to resign."
Mrs. Doricourt was moved by the distress of Cecilia, and while she tenderly represented the improbability of lord Rushdale renewing his claim on her affection, after so long a silence, and such glaring neglect, she promised not to urge her on behalf of the duke of Arvingham, till assured, under lord Rushdale's own hand, that he considered their engagement void.
This conversation occasioned Miss Delmore much secret uneasiness under the idea that the duke of Arvingham aspired only to her friendship; she had allowed his attentions, she had treated him with sisterly kindness, and was pleased with his stay in Cumberland. Under her present impressions, she was at a loss how to act; to encourage hopes that never could be realized, would be cruel and dishonourable, and to avoid or treat him with reserve, would now, after an intimacy of so many weeks, appear capricious, as he had not, by any declaration of love, caused her to treat him with less kindness: but while perplexed how to conduct herself, so as effectually to destroy any hope the duke of Arvingham might entertain of obtaining her love, without resigning his friendship, on which she set a high value, the heart of Cecilia was convinced that no future lover could ever supersede lord Rushdale in its tender affections.
When oppressed with painful remembrances, it was Cecilia's custom to seek relief from music. Her memory was now crowding the happy past upon her brain, and imagination was busily torturing reflection into forms of future suffering; she placed herself at the pianoforte, and ran over the keys with a rapid movement; she tried to play a lively air, but her fingers involuntarily sought a pensive measure, and with tears swelling to her eyes, she sung—
"Alas! we are parted for ever,
The fault be it yours, love, or mine.
Shall I ever forget thee, love? Never,
Though hope you have bade me resign.
"Oh! still will I faithfully cherish
The thought, love, that once you were true,
And though life's realities perish,
Fond fancy thy vows shall renew.
"Alas! we no more shall be meeting,
At morn, love, or close of the day;
How soon, love, our pleasures are fleeting,
While sorrow for ever will stay!"
Mrs. Doricourt perceived that the heart of Cecilia was deeply wounded; but she hoped much from offended pride, and more from time.
Marian's letters from home informed her, that captain Seaford and his wife lived in great style, and cut a prodigious dash among their city acquaintance, to the annoyance of Miss Scroggins, who never heard their names mentioned, without remarking that Simon Farnby, the tailor, must have cabbaged finely from his customers, before his widow could afford to drive a phaeton, and entertain so much company; yet for all their grand doings, she should not wonder if they were to come upon the parish at last. Marian's letter from her mother also said, that Jane was likely to rival her with Mr. Bignel, the common-council-man, for she took so much pains to court the old gentleman, that he seemed quite pleased and flattered, and had twice made parties, and taken her to Vauxhall and Sadler's Wells. Mrs. Scroggins concluded with wishing it might be a match, adding, if Jane marries Bignel, he will let her know her master, and cure her of all her airs and ill-tempers.
Marian had no objection to her sister marrying Mr. Bignel; so far from coveting his wealth, the notice he had taken of her had occasioned her many uneasy hours, because her father, in whose eyes money was every thing, wished her to pay more attention to Mr. Bignel, than her heart, which was devoted to Melrose, would allow her to do; and if Jane choose to marry the old gentleman, she wished them all happiness together.
The packet contained no news of Melrose; but perfectly assured of his fidelity, and convinced that he would lose no opportunity of writing to her, Marian satisfied her mind with the hope that they should meet in winter, and with the often repeated assurances of her uncle Wilson, who, every time he saw her, kindly repeated his promise, that he would interest himself for their happiness; and in what way could they be happy but in marriage?
On Mr. Saville's arrival at the duke of Arvingham's lodgings at Keswick, he found him quite well, and penning a letter to Mrs. Doricourt.
"Your visit, my dear sir," said the duke, "confers honour and pleasure, for it convinces me that I am not forgotten by my respected friends at the Hermitage, and believe me, I have not denied myself the felicity of paying my compliments there for two long days, without being sensible of the privation; but when I have explained to you my reasons for not riding over, you will, I am certain, be convinced that the motive was not disrespect."
Mr. Saville having accepted refreshment, the duke stated, that, to his infinite surprise and chagrin, the marquis of Beverley, and two of his fashionable associates, lord Wythers and sir James Holton, had unexpectedly arrived at Keswick, "to visit the lakes," said the duke, "their ostensible motive; for the real one, that brought the marquis and his friends into Cumberland, I will not pretend to swear, but I fancy I can fathom the marquis of Beverley's designs: he had, or I am greatly deceived, taken this journey to seduce, if possible, the amiable Marian Scroggins; for, last night, when heated with wine, he let fall some expression that I entertained when in town, but did not mention, because I thought the innocent girl far enough removed from his designs. I have hitherto resisted his urgent request that I would introduce him at the Hermitage, where he has learned Marian is to spend the summer. I was, at the moment you entered, writing to Mrs. Doricourt on the subject, that I might know how to act with respect to the introduction of the marquis, and to assure her that I had not deprived myself of the pleasure of inquiring after the health of my respected friends without a sufficient reason."
Mr. Saville warmly approved the prudent conduct of the duke, and assured him of the thanks of Mrs. Doricourt, for refusing to introduce the marquis of Beverley at the Hermitage, as he was certain, were Marian entirely out of the question, Mrs. Doricourt and Miss Delmore would pointedly decline an acquaintance with a person of his profligate character. Mr. Saville then mentioned Marian's engagement with lieutenant Melrose, and added, "there is no greater security for the virtue of a young female, than an attachment to a deserving object. I have not the pleasure of knowing lieutenant Melrose; but report speaks highly of him, and Marian has too much sense, to give up her chance of being the wife of a man of honour, for the certain disgrace of enjoying the transient liking of a married libertine."
The duke would not part with Mr. Saville till after dinner; and it was night when he returned to the Hermitage, the bearer of an explanatory letter to Mrs. Doricourt.
The marquis of Beverley being at Keswick did a little astonish Mrs. Doricourt, for though she had in London disliked the familiarity with which he had addressed Marian, she had no idea that he would have followed her to such a distance, or, indeed, pursuing the course he did of racing, gaming, and drinking, that he would have remembered such a being existed.
Mrs. Doricourt was charmed with the conduct of the duke of Arvingham, which she spoke of in terms of the warmest approbation to Miss Delmore, at the same time observing, that she saw no reason why the duke was to absent himself from the Hermitage, on account of the marquis of Beverley, whose visits she never would admit. In the most delicate manner, Mrs. Doricourt informed Marian of the suspicion entertained by the duke of Arvingham of the marquis of Beverley's designs, who, he supposed, had made a pretence of visiting the lakes, merely to introduce himself to her, for the most villainous and licentious purposes.
The modest, timid Marian beheld in the marquis of Beverley another sir Cyril Musgrove, and weeping and alarmed, she expressed her dread of falling into his hands.
"Be under no apprehension, my dear child" said Mrs. Doricourt; "being aware of his designs, we shall be able to circumvent them, and assure yourself every precaution will be taken to prevent his approaching the Hermitage; my servants are incorruptible—on St. Herbert's Island you are perfectly secure, and whenever you return to London, myself will return you to the protection of your parents."
These assurances, in some measure, restored the tranquillity of Marian; but unable to conquer entirely her dread of the marquis, she never ventured alone into the groves or shrubberies, or considered herself perfectly safe, but in the presence of Mrs. Doricourt and Mr. Saville.
The invitation-tickets for Miss Delmore's birthday being issued, the marquis of Beverley, and the companions of his Cumberland tour, had the mortification to find themselves unnoticed; but the marquis was a character not easily repulsed, and though he had been unsuccessful in his applications to Mrs. Doricourt's friends, who, supposing that she had her own private reasons for overlooking and excluding a man of his rank, excused themselves from introducing him at the Hermitage, his assurance suggested the expedient of writing a note—“A little flattery sometimes does well," said the marquis; and after having written what he thought a sufficient dose to satisfy the vanity of Mrs. Doricourt, he boldly expressed his wish to be allowed to congratulate Miss Delmore on her natal day, and finished his note with supposing that Mrs. Doricourt did not know that he had with his friends, lord Wythers and sir James Holton, been some days at Keswick, extremely anxious to pay his personal respects to her, and making unavailing applications to the duke of Arvingham, and other of her friends, to introduce him.
Mrs. Doricourt's reply was concise and decisive; she informed the marquis, in polite but plain language, that no visitor was received at the Hermitage whose moral character was at all doubtful, and that the company invited to celebrate Miss Delmore's birthday were all unmarried persons.
The marquis stamped, raved, and swore, called Mrs. Doricourt a methodistical, puritanical, sanctified old cat, crammed her note in the fire, and vowed he would not quit Keswick, till he had obtained an opportunity of trying whether Marian's virtue was as impregnable, and her morality as severe, as Mrs. Doricourt's, whom he protested was a very she-dragon.
The marquis had reconnoitred St. Herbert's Island from the opposite shore; he had even procured a boat, and endeavoured to effect a landing; but the rocks, steep banks, and artificial defences, rendered it impossible to approach the island, but by the Chinese bridge, and Mrs. Doricourt had strictly cautioned her porter, whose lodge was built on a rock at the extremity of the bridge, on no account or pretence whatever, to admit the marquis of Beverley (whose dress and person were too remarkable to be mistaken) within the gates. The marquis rowed his boat close to the bridge, offered a bribe to the porter, and was repulsed; he then cast a malignant glance over the paradise he could not approach,
"———————as when a prowling wolf,
Whom hunger drives to seek a new haunt for prey,
Watching where shepherds guard their fleecy flock,
Gnashes his teeth in unavailing rage,
Nor dares approach the hurdled cots."
The disappointed marquis cursed the vigilance and honesty of the porter, and returned in a very ill-humour to Keswick, to wait an opportunity of speaking to Marian; for the obstacles laid in his way only irritated and inflamed his determination to carry her off, if her vanity was to be flattered, or her venality bribed.
"I really see no reason," said Mrs. Doricourt, "for our confining ourselves to the island, because the marquis of Beverley remains in our neighbourhood; it is making him of too much consequence, and will give him an idea that we are afraid of him, which is far from being the case."
"Poor Marian actually trembles at his name," replied Miss Delmore.
"I have business at Keswick," returned Mrs. Doricourt, "and as Marian only thinks herself safe in my presence, she shall go with me."
"And if you have no objection," said Mr. Saville, "I will attend as your auxiliary guard."
"I do not exactly know what situation I am fit for," rejoined Miss Delmore; "but I beg to make one of the party."
Surrounded by her friends, Marian could not believe that the marquis would presume to speak to her; and the yacht being in readiness, they were soon wafted across the lake, and proceeded to Keswick, where the day being remarkably fine, they left the carriage, and Mrs. Doricourt having made her purchases, they were turning the corner of a street, with an intention of calling at the duke of Arvingham's lodgings, when they met the marquis of Beverley. Nothing daunted by the rebuff contained in Mrs. Doricourt's note, he immediately accosted them.
Politeness constrained Mrs. Doricourt and her party to return his salutation; after which they would have passed on, but, with determined assurance, he continued to walk by Mrs. Doricourt's side, protesting he was extremely fortunate in having met them, as he had no doubt but it would save him a cool hundred at least, for he was then going to see Wythers and Holton play billiards, and, no doubt, he should have made bets on one side or the other.
Mrs. Doricourt begged they might not detain him; but without appearing to remark the coldness of her manner, he talked of the dullness of Keswick, the beauty of the women, and the fineness of the weather, endeavouring, as he spoke, to catch the eye of Marian, who clung to Mr. Saville's arm—"You positively treat me cruelly, Mrs. Doricourt," said the marquis; "here am I, a stranger in this part of the world, and you take no sort of notice of me; the Hermitage, I am told, is the temple of hospitality, yet I am not permitted even to see the grounds; and as I am without society—"
"I thought your lordship mentioned lord Wythers and sir James Holton being here," interrupted Mrs. Doricourt.
"It is female society I wish for, my dear madam," replied the marquis—"charming, refined, elegant women, such as I have now the honour of conversing with; by the society of women, we are always improved; they give the highest polish to our natures, wean us from our follies, and—but I see by your looks you give no sort of credit to my reformation."
"Are you reformed, marquis?" asked Mrs. Doricourt, "for the good report, I confess, has not travelled into Cumberland; but if it is so, I am very glad to hear it for the sake of the marchioness."
"Confound the marchioness!" thought the marquis. While putting on a grave look, he said—"Quite reclaimed, I assure you; when I return to town, I shall sell off my racers and ponies, forswear White's, and go regularly to church. Does not this look like reformation? and you know 'there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety-and-nine just persons."
"I know," returned Mrs. Doricourt, "that the devil can quote scripture for his own wicked purposes; but to Heaven, marquis, I leave the approval of your reformation; I have the honour to wish you a good morning."
"But you have not yet given me an invitation to your paradise," said the marquis; "and having no acquaintance here, it will be downright charity to extend your countenance and hospitality to me."
"Whenever you can bring a certificate, marquis," replied Mrs. Doricourt, "of your reformation, attested by persons whose veracity I cannot doubt, I shall be happy to invite you to the Hermitage; till then, you must pardon me if I desire we may be 'better strangers."
Mrs. Doricourt now entered a stationer's shop, in the hope of getting rid of further importunity. But the marquis was not to be shaken off—pretending to want paper and sealing wax, he persisted in following them into the shop, where he addressed Miss Delmore, requesting that she would use her good offices to remove Mrs. Doricourt's prejudices against him.
Miss Delmore coldly answered, that she never took the liberty to dispute Mrs. Doricourt's judgment, which she had always found too liberal for prejudice.
"Was ever beauty so severe?" resumed the marquis. Then turning to Marian—"And you, Miss Scroggins, are you also impressed with an unfavourable opinion of my character?"
Marian blushed, and looked at Mr. Saville, as if she wished him to reply for her.
"Miss Scroggins, marquis," said Mr. Saville, "is too diffident to speak her opinions; but I can answer for her, they do not at all differ from those of her friends."
"Really," said the marquis, reddening with passion, "I am infinitely obliged to you, sir, for having so politely explained the young lady's sentiments." He then added, in a lower tone—"I will very shortly take an opportunity, Mr. Saville, of expressing my sense of your gentle manly exposition."
"Spare yourself the trouble, young man," replied Mr. Saville, with calm severity; "I set too high a value on my life to risk it in an idle brawl, though you will find I have sufficient courage to protect innocence from the profligate attacks of vice."
Mrs. Doricourt was not apprehensive on Mr. Saville's account, the equanimity of whose temper she was certain the impertinence of the marquis would not ruffle; but seeing Marian turn pale, and seem almost fainting, she was about to insist on the marquis leaving them, when the duke of Arvingham entered the shop.
The reception the duke met from the ladies and Mr. Saville greatly chagrined the marquis, who suspected that his designs on Marian Scroggins had transpired through him, in whose presence he recollected having, more than once, offered to lay a thousand pounds that he would, in less than a month, bear her off in triumph from the watchful guardianship of Mrs. Doricourt.
Frowning, and looking defiance, the marquis scarcely replied to the duke's salutation, but, with a sneer, said, his grace was happy in possessing a moral character, but as he was unacquainted with the hypocritical cant of sentiment, he would, in the course of the day, call upon him for a lesson.
The duke was surprised, and would have demanded an explanation, but, bowing to the ladies, the marquis left the shop, saying to the duke, in a whisper, as he passed him—"Expect to hear from me in the course of the day."
The duke was glad this intimation of a challenge had not been overheard by the ladies, whom he shortly after handed to their carriage.
Mr. Saville much wished to give the duke his sentiments on the sinful custom of duelling, for he suspected that the marquis had whispered a challenge; but, as the duke was indeed a moral man, he hoped he would not be led, by a false notion of honour, to outrage his Creator, and risk his own life.
Marian was sinking with confusion at the thought of being the occasion of uneasiness, and of giving trouble to her friends; and it required all the affectionate assurances of Mrs. Doricourt and Miss Delmore, and much reasoning on the part of Mr. Saville, to recover her from the agitation the behaviour of the marquis had excited.
The following morning the duke of Arvingham sent an apology to the Hermitage, for not keeping his appointment to dinner, having, as he stated, met a trifling accident, that would confine him to the house for a few days.
Mrs. Doricourt's apprehensive mind instantly took alarm; but, fearful of distressing Marian, she merely said that the duke could not keep his engagement, and took an opportunity of placing the note in Mr. Saville's hand, who at once took her meaning; and, as soon as dinner was removed, he set off for Keswick, to ascertain the state of the duke, who they were certain had fought a duel with the marquis of Beverley.
As he had surmised, he found the duke of Arvingham confined to his bed. He had received a challenge from the marquis of Beverley, who, in very gross language, had accused him of meanly betraying his designs on Marian Scroggins, merely to forward his own purposes.
"This insulting language," said the duke; "was more than my temper could bear; we met, and exchanged shots. I am wounded in my right side, and the marquis in his left shoulder. The balls have been extracted, and we are both likely to do well."
Mr. Saville, with the true piety of a Christian, remonstrated with the duke on the sinful practice of duelling, and so convinced his mind of the moral turpitude, as well as impiety of the act, that he made a solemn promise never again to be provoked to put his own life, or that of another, to hazard.
The marquis of Beverley, while smarting under the hands of his surgeon, began to think he had lowered his dignity, and greatly degraded himself, by fighting a duel about Marian Scroggins, a girl of no consequence, the daughter of a grocer; he dreaded the ridicule that would follow the affair, and that he should see himself caricatured in all the print-shops in London, and therefore thought it would be the wisest way to make an apology to the duke, for the intemperance of his behaviour, and request him to keep the subject of their meeting secret, on account of the marchioness, to whom jealousy and irritation might, at that particular time, be of fatal consequence.
The marquis employed his friend, lord Wythers, who had been his second, to wait on the duke of Arvingham, with his apology and request, stating, at the same time, that he should leave Keswick as soon as his surgeon would give him permission.
The duke had neither intention nor wish to make their meeting public, and he commissioned lord Wythers to assure the marquis that he might rely on his not being the occasion of irritating the sensibility of the marchioness, or of disturbing his domestic peace.
Pain and the loss of blood effectually cooled the marquis’s passion for Marian, and, as soon as he was able to bear the motion of a carriage, he left Cumberland, vehemently execrating his own folly, that had led him so many miles, and into such a cursed scrape, after an insipid creature, who had not spirit enough to commit an imprudence.
The departure of the marquis was soon known at the Hermitage, and Marian protested that she had never, in her life, heard news that gave her more pleasure, for now she should believe herself safe again.
Mr. Saville, conversing on the subject of his wound with the duke of Arvingham, said, he trusted that the pain the marquis of Beverley suffered would be salutary, and effect a serious reformation in his character.
The duke expressed himself hopeless.—“The habits of the marquis,” replied he, “are too deeply rooted; the whole course of his life has been libertinism; though married, he prefers every other woman to his wife, and prides himself on having drunk more wine, and seduced more females, than any man of his age about town.”
“Poor wretch!” said Mr. Saville, “I pity him. How dreadful will be his pangs, when sickness and age shall put a stop to his career of vice?”
Again the silken streamers waved from the painted boats that swam on the lucid surface of the lake; again the trees were entwined with variegated lamps, and the sun, as if in honour of Cecilia’s natal day, shone forth in unclouded splendour. Every thing, on the delightful Island of St. Herbert, animate and inanimate, wore an appearance of gaiety and pleasure; all seemed happy and joyous, except her to whom the festivity should have been most gratifying. But the memory of Cecilia tenaciously recalled the day of exquisite felicity, when, previous to their quitting Cumberland, Mrs. Doricourt had, in a similar style, decorated the verdant groves of St. Herbert, when the graceful, still tenderly-beloved Rushdale had been her partner in the dance: where now did he wander, forgetful of his often-repeated vows of love? perhaps at that very moment, when her heart was wrung with anguish, he was making the same deceitful professions to some other credulous maid, who, like her, listened, believed, and loved.
Was it possible, with such sad reflections, that Cecilia could be happy? It was true, she smiled as she received the congratulations of her friends; but her smiles were like the gleams of sunshine, that play for a moment over beds of snow—they neither cheered nor warmed the desolation of her heart.
Among the earliest of her visitors, the duke of Arvingham arrived at the Hermitage; and never, in Cecilia's eyes, did he appear so interesting; he was pale, and still suffering from his unhealed wound; but pain was forgotten, for never had Cecilia bestowed on him such solicitude and attention; and this from mere gratitude; Cecilia knew that the duke was still unable to go abroad, and she received his visit as the highest compliment he could possibly pay her.
Much against the opinion of his surgeon, the duke had ventured abroad; but he could not deny himself the pleasure of being Cecilia’s guest, and of witnessing the gay evolutions of the dance, in which he was unable to join.
The gentle Marian, unconscious of the share she had in the duke’s accident, expressed the utmost anxiety for his accommodation. She assisted to place the cushions of the sofa for him to lean upon, and displayed so much kindness and feeling, that the duke more than ever rejoiced in having prevented the marquis of Beverley from insulting her delicacy with his libertine proposals.
All the youth and beauty of Keswick and its vicinity were assembled at the Hermitage, and many were the fair females who lingered near the duke of Arvingham, hoping to engage his attention; but Cecilia, more simply dressed than any of the guests, her light graceful form attired in while silk, her bright chestnut ringlets waving among the pale roses that failed to confine them, appeared to him infinitely more interesting and lovely than any of her youthful friends.
The conservatory, prepared for the ball, was tastefully hung with light draperies of green satin, intermixed with rich wreaths of glowing flowers; the French windows, opening on the lawn, gave a distinct view of the romantic cascade sparkling beneath an arch of artificial light—of the Chinese temple, splendidly illuminated—and of groves, glittering with variegated light.
A full band added the enchantment of music to a scene of unrivalled beauty, while the gaiety of the dance, and the smile of pleasure beaming on every face, reproached Cecilia with the ingratitude of her heart, which refused to share in a festivity instituted by the best and most affectionate of friends to do her honour.
Marian actually believed herself in fairy land, and thought, if Melrose were her partner in the dance, it would be impossible to add any thing to her happiness.
Even the melancholy Saville partook of the general pleasure, and, while seated by the duke of Arvingham, and listening to his praises of Cecilia, he forgot his own peculiar misfortunes, and those of his lamented Edith, whom she so much resembled, and secretly condemning the conduct of the earl of Torrington and his son, he wished that he might see her bestow her hand on the duke of Arvingham, whom he alone considered worthy of her; for the amiable qualities of Cecilia’s mind, added to her perfect resemblance of his unfortunate sister, had created in the bosom of Mr. Saville a parental regard; and having no relations or connexions, he had resolved to make her heiress to his ample fortune.
Mrs. Doricourt, whose attention had been politely divided among her guests, had for some time been absent from the ball-room. Miss Delmore was the first to remark the circumstance, and learned from the duke of Arvingham that Mrs. Doricourt had left the room with a servant, who presented her a card.
More than an hour had elapsed, and still she did not appear; it was very strange; wonder at length became fear; and Cecilia growing extremely uneasy at the lengthened absence of her friend, earnestly requested Mr. Saville to oblige her, by inquiring if any thing unpleasant had occurred to detain Mrs. Doricourt from the company.
Pleading fatigue, Miss Delmore took a seat near the duke of Arvingham, who entirely forgot the pain of his wound, while he listened to the magic tones of her voice, and in the delightful hope that he should one day call her his.
The eyes of Cecilia were often turned to the folding doors that led to the library, but they still remained closed.
The duke perceived her anxiety, and endeavoured to fix her attention on a party who were dancing Scotch reels; he asked her if ever she had seen lady Jane Bruce, with true national spirit, keep up a reel, or her friend Miss Graham, the only dancer of reels that lady Jane had failed to tire out?
Cecilia’s answers proved the state of her mind; and at length her uneasiness at the absence of Mrs. Doricourt had so painfully increased, that she had risen from her seat, and was on the point of going herself to inquire what misfortune detained her, for that something terrible had happened, she felt assured; but, before she could make her apology to the duke for quitting him so abruptly, her suspense found relief in the entrance of Mrs. Doricourt, accompanied by a gentleman, whom she immediately introduced to Miss Delmore as the reverend Mr. Dacres, who, having received her complimentary welcome, exclaimed—“How like the voice and look! could the earl of Torrington behold this lovely creature, and not feel the resemblance?”
Cecilia wondered, and thought his manner very strange; but her mind being entirely relieved from the fear of any misfortune having happened to Mrs. Doricourt, she consented to join a cotillion set and was led away, to the regret of the duke, who envied her partner the happiness of touching her hand.
The dancing was kept up till past midnight with great spirit.
Marian was all animation, the happiest of the happy; sometimes wondering whether the galas, of which her sister so often talked, at all resembled the present entertainment.
At one o’clock supper was announced, and the splendid decorations of the tables, and the elegant arrangement of the viands, was a new astonishment to the company, some of whom said, they were inclined to believe Mrs. Doricourt was really an enchantress, for she appeared to have the animal and vegetable world at her command.
During supper, Cecilia thought she had never seen Mr. Saville in such lively spirits, or Mrs. Doricourt so thoughtful; but her astonishment was beyond description, when the reverend Mr. Dacres drank her health, addressing her by the title of lady Cecilia Rushdale; her heart throbbed, her eloquent blood rushed flaming to her cheeks, and, in the joyful belief of his truth and constancy, she forgot her actual reserve and timidity, and, in a tone of exultation, said—“He is returned then! Lord Rushdale had not deceived my opinion of his honour! You, sir,” addressing Mr. Dacres, “are the bearer of these happy tidings.”
The duke of Arvingham felt that he had suffered hope to deceive him, for, in the glow of her cheek, and the sparkle of her eye, he plainly read, that Cecilia’s affections were still devoted to Rushdale, and he listened with equally as much anxiety for the reply of Mr. Dacres as she did.
“No, my Cecilia,” replied Mr. Saville, “for you are mine, by the dear and sacred ties of near affinity. Mr. Dacres is not the bearer of the intelligence you expect—he comes to announce to you, that you are the child of my sainted Edith, the daughter and heiress of the earl of Torrington.”
The duke of Arvingham’s blood circulated through his veins with joyful rapidity, as he felt the renovation of hope; but Cecilia clasped her hands, and, in the wildest tone of despair, exclaimed—“Oh, fatal, hateful discovery! then Oscar is lost to me for ever! Rushdale, my beloved, affianced husband, is my brother!”
Pale and senseless, Cecilia sank into the arms of Mrs. Doricourt, who, attended by the deeply-affected compassionating Marian, retired with her from the astonished company, to whom Mr. Saville apologized for the sudden indisposition of his niece; and Mr. Dacres explained at large the history of the earl of Torrington’s marriage with Edith Saville, the sister of the gentleman then present, for which marriage Cecilia was the offspring; he also, with great feeling and delicacy, spoke of the earl’s desertion of his beautiful wife, and illegal marriage with Miss Herbert, known to them as the countess of Torrington; he dwelt long on the noble qualities of her son, and expressed much sorrow that he was compelled to declare so deserving a young man illegitimate.
The female part of the company, who had crowded round Mr. Dacres, fearful to lose a word of this extraordinary discovery, shed tears, and, remembering the handsome person of the unfortunate Oscar, loudly lamented that he must relinquish the title to which, even from his birth, he had been considered heir.
The gentlemen drank bumpers to the health of lady Cecilia Rushdale, and gave loud and joyful cheers, after Mr. Dacres had proclaimed her the daughter and heiress of the earl of Torrington.
The duke of Arvingham, with much sincerity and warmth, congratulated Mr. Saville on the attainment of such a niece—“of whom,” said he, “an emperor might be proud.”
“She is the image of her mother,” replied Mr. Saville, “and I have loved her for the likeness she bore to my unfortunate Edith; you will judge, now I am certain of our affinity, how dear she will be to my heart.”
“There are other hearts,” said the duke, “which feel how worthy lady Cecilia Rushdale is to be loved.”
“I understand you, my young friend,” replied Mr. Saville, “and feel honoured in your confidence. Give my Cecilia time to overcome her unfortunate predilection, and I am persuaded she will not be insensible to your merits: of this be certain, I know of none I so much wish should win her regard.”
The approbation of Mr. Saville was gratifying to the duke of Arvingham. Mrs. Doricourt too, he was certain, would favour his suit; and he left the Hermitage, convinced that, in a mind like Cecilia’s, virtue would soon triumph over misplaced passion, and full of the hope, that a few months would make him her happy husband.
A burning fever succeeded the despair of Cecilia, and threatened her dissolution; but the fair unfortunate again recovered, and, with gentleness and piety, resigned herself to the will of Providence.
Mr. Wilson, shortly after Cecilia was able to quit her chanber, came to the Hermitage, to inform her that the earl of Torrington was in London, and that he would be at the castle the following week.
“And lord Rushdale,” said Cecilia, greatly agitated, “does he come also?”
“I have heard nothing of Mr. Herbert,” replied Wilson.
“My dear friend,” resumed Cecilia, laying her hand on Wilson’s, “if you really love me, as you have often professed, never, I entreat you, let me hear you call my brother Mr. Herbert; for if it can be accomplished, and I will exert all my influence, the title shall still be his.”
The tears started to Wilson’s eyes,
for, as he gazed on the fair fragile form before him, he believed that the
proud title of Torrington would soon be extinct.
Thy shades, thy silence, now be mine,
Thy charms my only theme;
My haunt the hollow cliff, whose pine
Waves o’er the gloomy stream.
Whence the scar’d owl on pinions grey
Breaks from the rustling boughs,
And down the lone vale sails away
To more profound repose.
For me no more the path invites
Ambition loves to tread,
No more I climb those toilsome heights
My youthful hope misled.
Leaps my fond fluttering heart no more
To mirth’s enlivening strain,
For present pleaseure e’en is o’er,
And all the past is vain! BEATTIE.
“I marke’d the ray
Of the first star that cheer’d thy early day,
Pale yet unquench’d. Again its fires shall burn
Unveil’d by clouds, and brighter in return.”
An important Confession—Loss of Rank the Res-
toration of Happiness—Adventure at Naples—
Return to England—The usual End of a Novel.
The earl of Torrington having dispatched the affairs that detained him in London, began his journey to Cumberland, in high spirits and greatly-amended health, with his young companion, Henry Woodville, and captain Melrose; but on the evening of the second day, the earl complained of excessive weakness and fatigue, which constrained them to remain two days at an inn, that he might recover strength; but finding himself grow worse, instead of better, he gave orders to proceed, persuaded that he must die; but wishing to see and bless his daughter before he resigned his breath, by slow stages they reached Torrington Castle.
The earl having taken refreshment, commanded the attendance of Mrs. Milman, who, apprised of the alteration in Cecilia’s circumstances, had almost wept herself blind, to think that all relationship was at an end between them. The earl strictly interrogated her respecting the manner in which the infant Cecilia had been entrusted to her care.
Mrs. Milman perfectly well remembered, that John Delmore several times repeated—“Nobody knows what this little girl may be in the course of time. Take care of her, for she may turn out to be a great lady,” all which, Mrs. Milman said, she imputed to the father’s fondness for the child, and to her beauty, which being even then very conspicuous, she thought John Delmore expected would, when she grew to woman’s estate, make her fortune, and marry her to some great lord—“For, poor fellow,” added Mrs. Milman, “his head was always full of grand schemes. I am sure nobody rejoices more than I do to think the sweet creature is your lordship’s own lawful-born daughter, though,” bursting into tears, “it almost breaks my heart for all that, to think she is not my niece, because she was so affectionate, and so good, and so dutiful, and without the least bit of pride.”
“And do you suppose that the knowledge of her rank will alter the disposition of lady Cecilia Rushdale?” asked the earl.
“You may be certain she will now be more eminently good, for with enlarged means her virtues will be more diffusive; and I am sure,” continued Mrs. Milman, “I have shed oceans of tears to think of that sweet, dear young gentleman, that we used to call lord Rushdale; every body thinks it such a pity that he should lose the title.”
“If my son was present,” said the earl, “no doubt he would thank you for your concern; but, my good Mrs. Milman, I assure you, and authorize you to repeat it to every person of your acquaintance, that he parts with the honour so long considered his, without the smallest regret, and will rejoice to see them enjoyed by lady Cecilia Rushdale, their rightful possessor.
The earl having dismissed the sobbing Mrs. Milman, complained of being greatly fatigued, and rang for his valet to assist him to his chamber. Too ill for conversation, he merely gave orders that his arrival should the next morning be made known at St. Herbert’s island, where he understood the reverend Mr. Dacres and Mr. Saville were visitors to Mrs. Doricourt, to whom he wrote a few hasty agitated lines, expressive of his gratitude for her maternal care of his beloved child, and entreating her to come with Cecilia immediately to the castle, as he was struck with an illness that he was persuaded would be fatal.
Captain Melrose, impatient to see his adored Marian, requested permission to be his lordship’s messenger to the Hermitage, to which the earl readily assented, begging him to inform the ladies of all that had occurred since their separation from Cecilia, with the exception of Mr. Woodville’s history, which, for a private reason of his own, he wished to keep in reserve.
Henry Woodville knew that the earl of Torrington was much attached to him, and was uneasy if he even passed an hour out of his presence; and gratitude compelled him to remain at the castle, though his anxious thoughts and wishes were at the Hermitage with lady Cecilia Rushdale, whose hand the earl had solemnly promised to bestow upon him, if she herself did not object to the union.—“And who can tell,” said Henry Woodville, “she was taught to expect to marry rank and wealth—who can tell what change may have taken place, with her change of circumstances, in her mind? She may think, if in her humble state she was worthy to marry the son of an earl, that now she may aspire to the highest rank of nobility; and though I am honoured with her father’s approbation, she may despise the pretensions of the poor untitled Woodville.”
The impatient Melrose was “stirring with the lark” and expected to quit the castle before Henry Woodville awoke from dreams of future happiness; but, to his astonishment, he found him risen, and prepared to accompany him to the lake.
The young friends mounted their horses; and as they rode along, Woodville spoke with the utmost regret of the prohibition so strictly laid on him by the earl, that he should not attempt to see lady Cecilia Rushdale but in his presence.—“You may guess my impatience to obtain an interview,” said he, “but my obligations to the earl forbid my indulging my own wishes contrary to his.”
Melrose could not but pity the situation of his friend, though he assented to the propriety of his obeying the earl.
Woodville would have given the world to obtain a sight of lady Cecilia, and he charged his friend with a thousand tender and respectful congratulations to her.
“Come, come, don’t look so melancholy,” said Melrose; “a few hours cannot make much difference; and most likely I may prevail on the ladies to return under my escort to the castle.”
“Heaven grant you may prevail, my dear fellow!” replied Woodville, “that this torturing suspense may be at an end. But you, Melrose, can never know the tumultuous feelings that agitate my bosom. You have never experienced the agony of doubt and fear—you have never felt—”
“No, Heaven of its mercy forbid!” interrupted Melrose. “I never feel inclined to anticipate misfortunes; I think lord Chesterfield says, it is a mark of ill-breeding to use trite maxims and old saws; but I have always considered ‘sufficient to the day is the evil thereof,’ too precious and valuable an axiom to be neglected or forgotten. Hope, my dear friend, is my motto, to which I will cling as long as I have life; and hope I recommend to you: cherish it till we meet again, and expect me to return with happy tidings.”
Henry Woodville sighed; and when they came in sight of the yacht, to which captain Melrose immediately made a signal, it required all his own resolution, aided by the arguments of his friend, to prevent his going with him to St. Herbert’s Island. At last he shook hands with Melrose, and in a voice tremulous with agitation, said—“Tell lady Cecilia Rushdale, if she will not be mine, I shall not consider existence worth preserving.”
When the yacht had received Melrose on board, Woodville lingered on the edge of the water, till doubling the rock, his straining eyes could watch its course no longer; and then, like another Leander, he was inclined to plunge into the lake and hazard his life by swimming to the island that contained the lovely object of his hopes, his fears, and wishes, from whose lips he was to receive the fiat of future joy, or certain wretchedness.
Though ashamed to confess his weakness to his friend Woodville, the heart of Melrose was not absolutely free from little uneasy feelings of doubt; the company Marian had lately been introduced to, might have effected a change of sentiment, and the grand offer her father mentioned might by accepted. This was now to be proved, and the pulse of Melrose beat quicker as he landed on the Chinese bridge.
Mrs. Doricourt received captain Melrose with warm and sincere expression of pleasure. The very great service he had rendered lady Cecilia Rushdale was sufficient to ensure his welcome, had Marian been entirely out of the question; but so tenderly and assiduously had she watched the sickbed of lady Cecilia, that Mrs. Doricourt felt doubly happy to see captain Melrose at the Hermitage, because she was certain his presence would restore to the lips of the gentle Marian the smiles that fear for the life of lady Cecilia had banished.
Mrs. Doricourt having ordered breakfast for captain Melrose, begged permission to retire to peruse the earl of Torrington’s note, promising to send Marian to pour out his chocolate.
Delighted with the reception given him by the still-beautiful Mrs. Doricourt, captain Melrose surveyed, from the open windows, the paradise around him; but yet Marian did not appear. He admired the pictures, took up a newspaper, but could not read; he listened, but heard no approaching step. The breakfast remained untasted, for he was too restless and impatient to eat. At last the door opened, and the blushing Marian was received into his arms, and clasped to his brave and faithful heart.
The person of Marian was improved in grace and beauty since her residence at the Hermitage, and the enraptured Melrose thought her blushes infinitely more becoming than ever, as she read, with modest confusion, her father’s letter, conveying to her his consent to marry captain Melrose, provided her uncle Wilson was agreeable to the match.—“And are you indeed a captain, William?” asked Marian, as she timidly bent her eyes on his face.
“Look at my uniform, love,” said Melrose. He then explained to her his introduction to the earl of Torrington and his son, by whose interest he had obtained promotion, and added—“Your uncle Wilson, my dearest Marian, previous to my quitting England, bade me rely on his friendship. I shall wait on him without delay, and I trust that his approbation will assure me this dear little hand.”
Marian was unable to speak, but her eloquent blushes, and the unreproved kiss she suffered him to take, assured him of his happiness.
Melrose now inquired for lady Cecilia Rushdale.
“Alas!” said Marian, “never was title possessed with so little pleasure; she takes no pride in her rank, but continually wishes it had pleased Heaven to withhold from her honours she can never enjoy. My sweet friend,” continued Marian, her dove eyes filling with tears, “has been at death’s door, but, she has been spared to their supplications. She is pale and thin, and Mrs. Doricourt fears is in a decline; but with faint smiles, lady Cecilia assures us she is quite well.”
“And in what way, my Marian,” asked Melrose, “does lady Cecilia speak of her brother? Has she conquered the attachment that once—“
Marian shook her head mournfully—“That attachment,” said she, “will, I am confident, expire only with her life; she will permit no one to call her brother Mr. Herbert, and persists in declaring that she will herself kneel at the feet of her sovereign, and never cease entreating till he consents that the title of Torrington and its succession be secured to him.”
“Angelic creature!” exclaimed captain Melrose; “she is indeed worthy the noble youth on whom the earl of Torrington intends bestowing her hand.”
Marian turned her soft eyes on her lover with a look of alarm—“I trust,” said she, “that the earl of Torrington has no intention of proposing any lover, however deserving, to lady Cecilia at present; her health and spirits have not yet had time to recover from the shock of discovering her brother in her affianced husband.”
“The earl is extremely ill,” replied Melrose, “so ill, that his son entertains fears for his life; and I am certain that his lordship will not only propose Mr. Woodville to lady Cecilia, but will be anxious to have their nuptials celebrated immediately.”
“This is distressing intelligence,” said Marian; “for I well know that lady Cecilia has no heart to give, however she may be driven to sacrifice herself to duty; and I am certain, if delicacy would permit their proposing a lover, her uncle, Mr. Saville, Mrs. Doricourt, and indeed all her friends, wish her preference to be given to the duke of Arvingham, who is a most elegant and deserving young man.”
“Were he ten times more deserving than he is,” resumed captain Melrose, warmly, “he would bear no sort of comparison with Mr. Woodville; and I am persuaded, that though the heart of lady Cecilia still retains its attachment to lord Rushdale, when she sees Mr. Woodville, who is, of all men that I have ever seen, the most elegant, graceful, and accomplished, she will, without repugnance, accede to the wishes of the earl her father.”
“You do not know lady Cecilia,” said Marian. “Her unfortunate passion for lord Rushdale will never be conquered. She may, in obedience to the earls wishes, give her hand to this Mr. Woodville, but her heart will never forget its first attachment.”
The entrance of lady Cecilia Rushdale with Mrs. Doricourt put an end to this conversation. Lady Cecilia extended her white shadowy hand to captain Melrose with the kindest action of esteem, and warmly congratulated him and Marian on their happy prospects.
Mr. Saville and Mr. Dacres being introduced, lady Cecilia, in evident agitation, said—“Captain Melrose, I am ready to return with you to Torrington Castle. I am certain my first interview with my father will be extremely painful, for strange and distressing alterations have taken place since we last saw each other. I wish this interview was over. But my uncle, and these my kind friends, will go with me; I shall need their support.”
Melrose was shocked to see the ravages grief had made in the beautiful person of lady Cecilia; but in the eyes of her father and her lover, he thought her pale cheek would be more interesting than when it glowed with the brightest tint of the rose.
Agreeable to the request of the earl of Torrington, captain Melrose related what had occurred to prevent his lordship receiving letters from England, which entirely removed the imputation of neglect on the part of the earl and his son.
As they drew near Torrington Castle, Mrs. Doricourt was obliged to chafe the temples of lady Cecilia with volatile essence, to keep her from fainting; and the earl, who had not above an hour risen from his bed, had several times clasped her in his feeble arms, before she was sensible that she was in his presence.
“Oscar, my beloved, my—brother!” said Cecilia, with difficulty pronouncing the word, “where is he? Does he shun the sight of the unhappy creature who, most unwillingly, deprives him of the rank he is so much more worthy to possess?”
Mrs. Doricourt entreated her to be composed; and the earl, taking her cold trembling hand between both his, said—“Your brother, my Cecilia, believing himself unequal to this interview, declines seeing you at present; but he has deputed me to beseech you, in his name, to bestow the affection he, as lord Rushdale, solicited for himself, on his friend Henry Woodville.”
Mrs. Doricourt started, and repeated—“Henry Woodville! what mystery is now to be unfolded?”
Not remarking Mrs. Doricourt’s astonishment, the earl resumed—“Yes, my Cecilia, your Oscar requires of you this proof of affection; he entreats you to give your hand to Henry Woodville, as you value his love.”
“His love! Oscar, my brother’s love! Oh, Heaven be merciful!” exclaimed Cecilia, “and be you merciful, my father!” said she, sinking at his feet; “urge me not to give my hand, for my rebellious heart refuses to forget that Oscar was its hope, its joy, its all of earthly happiness.”
The head of Cecilia sunk on the knees of her father; in an instant she was snatched from her suppliant posture, and a well remembered voice whispered—“Cecilia, my own Cecilia, turn and behold, not thy brother, but Henry Woodville, thy adoring lover, who, sanctioned, renews his claim to his affianced bride.”
Cecilia was some moments before she could believe her happiness, or understand that in the noble youth she had known and loved as Oscar lord Rushdale, she beheld Henry Woodville.
Mrs. Doricourt received his respectful salute, and again repeated—“Henry Woodville! how strange!”
The earl now observed how much she was struck with the name, and said—“The history of this young man, whose claims on my affection I proudly acknowledge, is indeed strange, and its singularity might exceed belief, had it not been attested beyond the possibility of doubt. But will it not be proper to desire the presence of our friends?”
Mrs. Doricourt now mentioned Mr. Saville having, with the reverend Mr. Dacres, attended lady Cecilia to the castle.
The earl changed colour, and seemed disturbed; he would gladly have declined seeing Mr. Saville, but having mused a moment, he said—“Yes, let him come; let him upbraid me with
my guilt; and oh, may the punishment of his reproaches appease offended Heaven!”
But the humane, generous minded Saville came not to upbraid or condemn, for religion taught him—
“All the souls that are, were forfeit once;
And he that might the ’vantage best have took
Found out the remedy;”
and Mr. Saville, while reflecting on the earl’s guilt, with severity asked himself—
“How would you be
If He, which is the top of judgment, should
But judge you as you are? Oh, think on that,
And mercy then will breathe within your lips,
Like man new made.”
Affected at the appearance of the earl, then only in the meridian of like, his brilliant dark eyes dim and sunk, his cheeks sallow, and his once firm-knit, athletic form, thin and feeble, Mr. Saville extended his hand to him, and in a voice that struggled with tears, he said—“Rushdale, all is forgiven; let us consign the past to oblivion, and be this dear child the renewal of our bond of friendship.”
Cecilia pressed the clasped hands of her father and her uncle to her lips; and when Mr. Saville’s feelings allowed him to consider the graceful elegant person of Henry Woodville, and his memory recalled his noble character, he ceased to wonder at the strong attachment of Cecilia; nor could he form a wish to separate two beings, whose mutual perfections rendered them deserving of each other’s affection.
Mr. Saville, as well as Mrs. Doricourt, was struck with the name of Henry Woodville, and mournful recollections of the unfortunate man they had interred at Marseilles filled the minds of both. They were anxious to learn whether he bore any affinity to him, and their curiosity was shortly after relieved by lady Cecilia, who, having introduced Marian to the earl, entreated to be informed how the happy transformation had been effected of Oscar, for so she delighted to call him, into Henry Woodville. With the adventures of the earl and himself, to the arrival of their English friends at Lisbon, she had already been informed by captain Melrose; it was therefore only necessary to relate, that the society of lord Rushdale’s friends, though highly gratifying to his wounded pride, failed to reconcile his mind to the severity of his fate, which separated him for ever from the hope of a union with his adored Cecilia. When he was able to quit the vineyard cabin, and return to Lisbon, he saw his father revive at his presence, and his friends unremitting in endeavours to divert his melancholy; but still the image of Cecilia clung to his heart, and the loss of rank, even the disgrace of his birth, became nothing, compared to the misery of knowing himself her brother.
The kindness with which Oscar had been treated at the vineyard cabin by old Lopez, and the maternal kindness and attention of Suzette, had met a munificent reward from the earl of Torrington; but this seemed insufficient to the heart of Rushdale, who, gratefully attached to the kind peasants, who had treated him with so much humanity, he frequently left splendid entertainments, and gilded palaces, for the honest simplicity of the peasants in the vineyard cabin. In the shade of the mulberry-tree, that grew on a little green eminence before the door, he fancied he felt more tranquil, more resigned to his misfortunes, than in crowded assemblies, where few hearts had sensibility to understand his feelings—“I hate the world,” said Rushdale, “though I am forced into its busy haunts. I seek the calm of solitude, for there I can indulge thought—I can revel in memory—I can search the deep recesses of my brain, though in its maddening cells I pursue the fiend despair.”
At the vineyard cabin, Rushdale fancied himself much more at ease than when in the gay parties which perpetually engaged his English friends, and to which the earl of Torrington endeavoured to allure and attach him; to bury himself in the thick tangled shades of the wood, or sit in melancholy silence under the mulberry-tree, was more soothing to his irritated feelings than the sounds of mirth, the heartless smiles, and unmeaning compliments, which he constantly met at the entertainments in which his friends tried to engage him. Under the long boughs of the mulberry-tree he could, undisturbed, think of Cecilia, and, unreproved, press her ring to his lips.
One evening, Suzette observed to lord Rushdale, who was sitting absorbed in thought, that he must make haste, or he would not reach Lisbon before dark, and there was no moon.
“Alas! my kind Suzette,” replied he, “darkness and solitude are most congenial with my mind.”
“Good lack!” replied Suzette, “I am grieved to hear you say so. Why is this?—a young, handsome, rich lord, like you—”
“I must not suffer you, my good friend,” interrupted Rushdale, “to continue in this error. I am no lord. Unfortunately I am the natural son of the earl of Torrington.”
“The natural son!” repeated Suzette, anxiously. “What then became of the son of the countess?”
“She never had a son,” replied Oscar. “Alas for me! her offspring was a daughter.”
“Well, to be sure, this is mighty strange!” said Suzette; “I am quite puzzled! The countess only had a daughter! Why, how can that be when—Bless me! why I thought you was the son of the beautiful countess of Torrington, whose maiden name was Miss Emily Herbert.”
“I am her son,” replied Oscar. “Would that Heaven had given me any other mother! for, owing to that circumstance, disgrace and wretchedness are my bitter portion; my fame, my health, my peace, are all destroyed. Had I been your son, Suzette, I had been most happy, for then I might have loved without a crime; but now, eternal Providence! I am the most miserable of created beings, for I nourish in my bosom, without the power to erase it, a guilty passion for my own sister. Oh, had I not been the son of the earl of Torrington, I had been superlatively happy.”
Suzette wept bitterly, and sobbing, asked—“Are you quite sure you should have been happy if you had not been the earls’ son?”
“Yes,” replied Rushdale, “yes; I am certain, for the innocent heart of Cecilia was all my own, the earl had consented to our marriage, and I should have been most happy. But now Heaven alone can tell what fate attends her. She, like me, may be wasting her hours in woe, in unavailing repinings at the cruel destiny that separates us for ever. Oh, Cecilia! my adored! when shall I teach this rebellious heart to think of thee with calmness?—Oh, when shall I remember thee as my sister?”
“And do you really think,” asked Suzette, “that the earl would have consented to your marriage if the young lady had not been your sister?”
“The earl,” replied Oscar, “approved my choice. He had appointed the time for our marriage, when the fearful discovery was made that my heart’s adored was his daughter, the offspring of a marriage contracted before his engagement with my mother. I cannot enter into the particulars of this disgraceful story—I can only tell you, that my mother’s marriage not being legal, I am not the heir to his titles, though, woe for me! I am the earl of Torrington’s son.”
Suzette sat for some moments with her faced buried in her hands; she then started from her seat, and asked him if he had a scar on his left arm, just below the shoulder?
Oscar replied he had, and would have inquired the meaning of her question, but Suzette immediately darted out of the cabin, and did not return while he remained.
When he returned to Lisbon, he found the earl had spent the evening at the duchess of Aberdeen’s, and had left orders with the major-domo, that he should follow him there. But Oscar felt ill disposed to join a party whose gaiety would mock his wretchedness. He immediately retired to bed, to think of his lost Cecilia, till sleep should restore her to him with all the lovely innocence and sweet affection of their happy days.
The next morning Oscar did not quit his pillow till a later hour than usual; and on entering the breakfast-parlour, to his extreme astonishment, he found the earl of Torrington in earnest conversation with Lopez and Suzette, and a venerable-looking man in the habit of a monk.
The moment Suzette, whose eyes were red with weeping, saw Oscar, she ran to him, and clasping his hand, said, “You may now be quite happy, sir, for I have eased my conscience of a troublesome load: you may love the beautiful young lady you told me about yesterday with out a crime, for she is not your sister.”
Oscar was astonished at seeing her there but much more at her strange expressions of which he was on the point of asking an explanation, when the earl, falling on his neck, said—“Though no longer Oscar, nor my son, my heart will never forget its affection for you; and could we but find my lost Cecilia, she should yet be yours with a father’s fondest blessing.”
Oscar stood amazed and bewildered.—“What am I to believe?” said he, “Do I understand your words? Am I not your son?”
“No,” rejoined Suzette; “no; I call Heaven to witness the truth of my declaration. Oscar lord Rushdale, the infant son of the earl of Torrington, died on my knee; I was his nurse; and fearful that I should be blamed by the countess for neglect of the babe, I substituted you in his place.”
“Who am I then?” asked Oscar, anxiously, “and where are my parents?”
“The name of your parents,” replied Suzette, “was Woodville; “they went to the East Indies when you were little more than six weeks old. Your mother died at Calcutta; but whether your father yet lives I cannot answer.”
The earl entreated the agitated young man to be calm, adding—“Whoever are your parents, I shall ever consider you my son.” He then bade Suzette proceed.
“Your name, sir,” said she, “is Henry Woodville. You were placed by your mother, a giddy unthinking girl, with a distant relation, who lived a few miles distant from London; the son of this person a soldier, was at that time courting me, and when the countess of Torrington proposed sending the young lord from town to be inoculated, I proposed going with him to Edmonton, where my sweetheart was then quartered, and where his mother lived. The countess had a great opinion of me, though I was at that time young and thoughtless; she relied on my care and suffered me, attended by a man-servant to take the child to Edmonton.
“On your arrival there, I found my intended mother-in-law in great trouble, for Mr. and Mrs. Woodville had just left England, without making any sort of provision for their child, or even paying her for the time she had already taken upon her to nurse him. You, sir, were then a fine, healthy, beautiful babe, so much resembling my little charge, that you might have passed for twin brothers, except that you were the largest of the two. Mrs. West fretted continually at the burthen left on her hands, as she was not in circumstances to support an addition to her family, and she was frequently reproached by her son for having undertaken to nurse the child of a person, who, though she was a relation, was too proud to acknowledge it, or to notice her at all except for her own ends.
“When I had been with Mrs. West a few days, I had the little Oscar inoculated. He appeared at the time in good health; but from that hour he sickened and every day grew worse. One evening as he lay in my arms, so ill that I expected every moment would be his last, Mrs. West said—‘It would be a great happiness if little Henry was as near death as that poor babe appears to be, for his parents, like brutes as they are, have forsaken him, and I am sure I have not the means to bring him up for my part, I don’t know what is to become of him.’
“Our own servant had gone to town, to inform the earl and countess of the child’s illness, and James West, for whom I had great regard, and who happened to be there, immediately said—‘Lady Torrington does not seem to have much love for her child, and as long as the earl has an heir to his title, why he will be satisfied; the young lord will certainly never recover, for he is now, you see, at the last gasp. Suppose you take Henry Woodville, who is a stout healthy child, and dress him in lord Rushdale’s fine laced robes; it will be doing a deep of charity to provide for the little fellow, and it will be taking a troublesome load off my poor mother’s back, who, you know, has scarcely enough to maintain herself.’
“Lord Rushdale, it was certain, could never recover, and I was sadly afraid his death would be imputed to my negligence and want of care; but I hesitated, and thought it would be a great sin to impose another person’s child upon the countess for her own; but the absence of the man-servant, who had followed the earl and countess to Ireland, and the joint persuasions of James West and his mother, at last overcame all my scruples, and I consented to exchange the children. James West bound a peppercorn on Henry’s little arm, just below the shoulder, which produced a mark similar to that of inoculation, but deeper. Poor Oscar, after lingering a few days longer, died, and was buried by the name of Henry Woodville, whom Mrs. West reported to have gone suddenly in convulsion fits.
“After staying at Edmonton the time I supposed would be thought necessary for the child’s perfect recovery, I returned to town with my young charge, and afterwards went with him to Ireland, where he was received by the earl and countess without the least suspicion of his not being their son, though the countess once remarked that she had thought Oscar’s eyes were dark, like his father’s—‘But I find I am mistaken,’ said she, ‘for they are blue, like my own.’
“I was loaded with presents for the care I had taken of the young lord. You sir,” said she, addressing the astonished Henry, “you were that child, and I had the pleasure to see you every day improve in health and beauty. The countess, it is true, was too much engaged with company to take much notice of your improvement, or spend much time with you; but the earl, though he was accounted a very gay man, never let a day pass without once at least visiting you in the nursery.
“At last I married James West; the regiment was ordered to Portugal, and I came with him. He died of a wound he received in battle. Some time after, I married Lopez, and little supposed, that after so many years had gone by, that Providence would lead you to our cabin, or that my conscience would give me no rest till I made a full confession of the deception I had suffered Satan to persuade me to practise.”
The monk crossed himself, and said, in very bad English—“Your confession will be good for your soul.”
“I was grieved to the heart of me,” resumed Suzette, “to see the melancholy that was sinking this poor young gentleman to the grave, and it pained me beyond bearing to hear him say he should be quite happy if he was not the earl of Torrington’s son. So not being able to rest, I opened my mind to Lopez, and he good honest soul, not knowing what was best to do in the affair, went away directly to fetch father Gomez, and he advised that I should lose no time, but make haste to Lisbon, and without the least concealment or excuse, make a full disclosure of my sinful conduct to the earl of Torrington. So here I am,” said she, falling on her knees, “and I am willing to endure any punishment your lordship may think I deserve.”
“Rise, my good woman,” replied the earl; “I am not displeased with you. It was the pleasure of Heaven to take my own child, and I sincerely thank you for giving me a son, of whose noble disposition I am proud, and to whose affection I am so much indebted.”
Henry Woodville embraced the knees of the earl, who raised him to his arms—“Ever my son,” said he, “respected, honoured, and beloved—never will we separate, for your affection is necessary to my existence. This joyful discovery seems to renew my health, and surely it will remove from your heart every trace of sorrow.”
“Cecilia!” exclaimed Henry—“my angel Cecilia! while doubtful of her fate; of her love, I cannot be tranquil or happy.”
The monk understood but very little English, though he was unwilling that Lopez should perceive that he was ignorant of the language; but he perfectly comprehended the value of gold, and having received a well-filled purse from the earl, and taken refreshment, he departed, telling Suzette, if she expected to be forgiven for her sins, she must embrace, without delay, the holy Catholic faith; for if she died an obstinate heretic, she would surely go to perdition.
Suzette being assured of the earl’s forgiveness, and having received a handsome present from Mr. Woodville, departed with her husband, for the vineyard cabin, with a heart lighter, and a conscience infinitely more at ease, than when she entered Lisbon.
The honourable Mr. Drawley being announced, was made acquainted with the happy turn in his friend’s affairs, and he sincerely rejoiced that the proud spirit of Henry was no longer depressed and more mortified with the idea of illegitimacy, and that his deep blue eyes again sparkled with the animation of hope; for the belief that Cecilia was in the power of the cidevant countess, and that he should assuredly find her in Naples, had taken firm possession of his mind; and as the earl was now in tolerable health, it was resolved that they should pass into Italy without further delay.
The duchess of Aberdeen, with Mr. Drawley and lady Arabella, designed to make a tour through Spain. Letters from lady Jane Bruce, fixing the period of her marriage with a nobleman descended, like herself, from royalty, recalled her brother, lord Alwyn Bruce, to England; and Miss Macdonald being pronounced in the last stage of consumption, the dreadful consequence of wearing damp draperies, to cling close round her Grecian figure, occasioned sir Middleton Maxfield, and his lively bride to take a hasty leave of the earl of Torrington and Mr. Woodville, for whose future happiness, and the recovery of lady Cecilia Rushdale, they offered the sincerest wishes.
A prosperous wind soon wafted the earl of Torrington and Henry Woodville to the Bay of Naples, and no sooner were put on shore, than they waited on the prince de Albertini at his palace. The prince assured them that the countess of Torrington certainly had not arrived at Naples, for he had, in consequence of the earl’s letters, caused a vigilant search to be made, not only in the city, but for some miles round, without any success.
These assurances by no means satisfied the anxious mind of Henry Woodville, who, leaving the earl to recover the fatiguing effects of the voyage, procured the disguise of a lazaroni, and with the recommendation of an old lute, penetrated into parts of the city where it was scarcely possible to believe the countess would confine Cecilia; but with the wild and improbable hope of a lover, he played the airs which he had composed for her, believing that if the notes were fortunate enough to reach her ear, she would give him some signal of her vicinity. But morning dawned on the successless Henry, who returned fatigued to seek a renovation of his spirits from the balm of sleep.
Again, on the following day, his search was renewed, and having failed to gain the least intelligence of their lost treasure, the earl of Torrington procured from the cardinal Andrea an order to the superior of every monastery in Naples, to deliver the person of Cecilia Delmore if concealed within their walls; but before this order was put in force, the earl received Wilson’s letters from London, which had followed him from Lisbon to Naples.
Henry Woodville’s joy was now unbounded; his spirits were exalted to a pitch of rapture; and while the earl rejoiced in the unblemished honour of his lovely daughter, he gave thanks that no obstacle now prevented the union of two persons so dear to his affection, and so tenderly attached to each other, for the thoughts of the earl did justice to the stability of Cecilia’s attachment. But while reperusing Wilson’s letters, his pride was greatly offended at his steward presuming to make him a proposal of marrying his daughter, lady Cecilia Rushdale, to his nephew, the son of the city grocer. But Henry’s good humoured smiles soon brought the earl to a recollection, that supposing Miss Delmore the niece of Mrs. Milman, Wilson had certainly proposed no bad match for her in the son of a wealthy grocer, whom he intended his heir, particularly as he was a famous scholar, and had Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, at his fingers ends.
The next day the earl met with an English newspaper, in which he read the death of the countess of Torrington: though the earl had never loved the vain erring Emily Herbert, he was greatly shocked at the news of her premature decease, taking place too in the short space of a few months after her elopement from him. The paper merely mentioned her death and funeral, without giving any other particulars; the earl therefore remained ignorant of her marriage with and flight from the villanous major Norman, and also of the humane and generous conduct of the injured Saville.
Henry Woodville, though happy in the assurance that she was not his mother, was affected even to tears, when he was informed that her career of vanity, dissipation, and error, had met so fatal and hasty a termination. He paid the memory of her whom he had so long believed his mother the compliment of wearing mourning, as did also the earl at his suggestion.
“Unhappy Emily!” said lord Torrington, “deceiving and deceived, we passed the years of our youth together. Already the grave covers thy beauty and thy frailty. Oh! may thy sins be buried there, never to rise against thy eternal happiness!”
They had now no motive to detain them at Naples, and they prepared to return to England with a frigate then anchored in the bay. Melrose, the lover of Marian Scroggins, was the first lieutenant of this frigate, and from seeing him on board, Henry Woodville was much pleased with his appearance and gentlemanly manners, an intimacy soon took place between the young men; and Woodville was not long before he found out how instrumental lieutenant Melrose had been in the discovery and rescue of lady Cecilia Rushdale from her confinement at Frome Hall.
Henry lost no time in acquainting the earl of Torrington with the extent of their obligations to the brave lieutenant, and the earl’s gratitude did not evaporate in professions and acknowledgments; he exerted his influence with the lords of the admiralty, and in a very short time after his return to England, William Melrose was made a post-captain.
From young Melrose the earl had the satisfaction of learning that his darling Cecilia was again under the protection of her long-tried excellent friend, Mrs. Doricourt. Melrose, in his turn, was astonished with the intelligence of Miss Delmore being the earl of Torrington’s daughter, and the recent discovery made by Suzette relative to Henry Woodville’s birth; and as these events would ultimately conduce to the happiness of a most amiable pair, he ceased to regret that his friend was not the earl of Torrington’s son, and the heir to his illustrious titles.
During the earl’s stay at Naples, he heard much of the character of the count del Montarino, and of the illicit intercourse that had been carried on between him and the countess of Torrington, great part of which the earl’s conscience accused him of being accessary to, by his own indifference and criminal attachment to other females.
Henry Woodville, in crossing the Strado Toleda one day, perceived the count del Montarino, but being at a considerable distance, he could not overtake him. On inquiry he found that the count had bought an estate at Baia, but that he passed the greatest part of his time at Naples, plunging into every dissipation, and entirely neglecting his wife, who, unacquainted with the language of the country, very seldom went into company, but led a very recluse melancholy sort of life, guarded by an old priest, who resided in the family.
Henry Woodville having informed the earl of Torrington of what he had heard respecting the count del Montarino’s conduct, and the melancholy life led by his wife, remarked that the “Child of Nature” had been taught a few lessons by a son of art, for which he feared she had paid the high price of her happiness.
“Poor silly girl!” replied the earl, “I am sorry for her, and wish it was in my power to meliorate her situation; but being the count’s wife it is quite impossible for us to interfere. I trust,” continued he, “I shall by no accident meet the villain; for if no other cause of dislike existed, his robbing Cecilia (for what but robbery can it be called?) and his manner of quitting Torrington Castle, are sufficient reasons for considering him a detestable character.”
Mr. Woodville and lieutenant Melrose were at the opera on the evening that this conversation took place. While the overture was playing, Henry pointed out to his friend the count del Montarino, in a splendid habit, seated between two ladies, the one young, pretty, and modestly, though handsomely dressed, the other some years older, showy, but not beautiful, and remarkable for the blaze of jewels that decorated her head and bosom.
The count appeared to be very attentive to the young lady, who appeared to regard him with fear and dislike, while the elder one seemed to pay him the most obsequious respect.
“Poor unfortunate Jemima!” said Mr. Woodville, “she has sacrificed her large fortune to a man whose principles are too corrupt even to repay her generous credulity with common gratitude. I have no doubt but those females are persons of depraved character.”
This idea was confirmed by a gentleman, who said that the count del Montarino’s companions were the widow and daughter of a deceased nobleman, who, leaving but a narrow fortune behind him to support their extravagant habits, it was reported they did not scruple to admit the gallantries of any who had the power to pay a handsome price for their favours.
The entertainment being over Mr. Woodville and lieutenant Melrose remained a few moments in conversation with some friends: they were then retiring through a private passage, where they had ordered their carriage to wait for them, when they were again detained by the pressure of an immense crowd of persons rushing from the public entrance. It was in vain they inquired what had occurred; they were completely hemmed in, and the only answer they obtained was groans and shrieks. At length, having, with much difficulty, made their way to the middle of the crowd, they beheld the prostrate body of the count del Montarino covered with blood, and a female, of wild and fierce demeanour, gazing on the breathless corpse with savage exultation.
Mr. Woodville soon understood that this frantic-looking creature had stabbed the count in several places, as he was handing two ladies to their carriage, the youngest of which ladies she had also wounded in the arm. Two surgeons raised the body of the count from the earth, but he had ceased to breathe, and the perpetrator of this bloody act was given into the hands of justice.
Mr. Woodville now learned that she was a celebrated courtesan, who had once been the count’s distinguished favourite; but inflamed with jealousy, from his having of late neglected her, she had been at much pains to watch his haunts, and having found out to whom his attentions were devoted, she determined on murdering her rival, but missing her aim, and only slightly wounding her arm, as she ascended her carriage, and having overheard the count say, as they came out of the Opera House, that he would be with her in less than an hour, jealous fury prompted her to stab him in the back, and before she could be seized she had repeatedly plunged a dagger in his neck and side.
Undismayed at the dreadful fate that she knew awaited her, she spurned the bleeding body of the count with her feet; and in a voice wild but impressive, said—“I have only sent that villain to perdition a short time before he expected to go, for he was certain, if there is judgment hereafter, that would be his sentence. You seem to pity him,” continued she, looking round on the horror-struck spectators, “and consider me as a fiend, but if you knew the real character of the count del Montarino as well as I know it, instead of dragging me to torture, and branding me with the name of murderess, you would decree me public honours for having rid your city of a monster. By that villain, whose blood crimsons my dagger, I was seduced from the bosom of a virtuous family. In the midst of disgrace and poverty I fondly loved him; but he abandoned me and my infant—forced me to lead a life of infamy—compelled me to allure and plunder those whom my yet-unfaded charms attracted. After an absence of five years we met again at Naples. He had forgotten Volunte Nevini, and again solicited my love. I discovered myself to him; he affected compunction—I loved—I was a woman—and with all my sex’s credulity I believed the artful excuses he invented—I forgave his barbarous desertion, and presented to him his blooming boy. For a few weeks he deluded me with an appearance of affection; he promised to provide for his child; but again he abandoned me to the bitterness of disappointment—he devoted himself to another. Convinced of his cruelty and ingratitude, I swore that I would have revenge for my repeated injuries. I have murdered him. See there the seducer of innocence, the violator of faith, lies bathed in his blood, shed by my hands! Is there one among you, who from your hearts can say he did not deserve death from me? No, you cannot, for you feel the justice of the act. I gaze on his distorted face—I behold him lifeless at my feet—and I do not repent the deed; but for my poor hapless boy, I would say I rejoice in the doom that awaits me; only for the sake of my child will death be terrible!”
A murmur of pity ran through the crowd, as the wretched Volunte Nevini was dragged away to chains and dungeon.
Henry Woodville shuddered, for he remembered the days when the count de Montarino was a inmate of the Torrington family—the distinguished favourite of the volatile countess. They were now both gone to their account. Henry Woodville cautioned Melrose not to mention the horrible affair in the presence of the earl whose spirits and health, he thought, might suffer from the recital; but the earl, being at the cardinal Andrea’s, had heard of the murder, will all its circumstances.
The detestable character of the count del Montarino being generally understood, the fate of the unfortunate Volunte excited much compassion, and the earl of Torrington was the first to propose that her dying moments should be consoled with the certainty that her child was placed beyond the reach of want.
The wretched Volunte Nevini died before the sentence pronounced on her as a murderess was executed, and the cardinal Andrea placed her orphan boy in the care of the abbot of Carthusian monastery, to be educated for the service of the church.
“The situation of poor Jemima is now deplorable,” said the earl of Torrington. “I remember our beloved Cecilia used to say she had an excellent heart. I believe we are the only persons here at all known to her. Humanity overcomes my dislike of her folly; we must offer her our protection.”
Henry Woodville and his friend lieutenant Melrose undertook to bear to the countess del Montarino the melancholy account of her husband’s terrible death. On the arrival of the friends at Baia, they were directed to the mansion of the count del Montarino, into which they found it difficult to obtain an entrance, for the old priest, with many artful excuses, would have prevented their seeing the countess who, having already heard of the murder of her husband, he pretended to say was too ill to admit any company.
Suspecting that this smooth tongued venerable gentleman had private reasons of his own for refusing to admit them to the countess, Henry Woodville, recollecting that the cardinal Andrea’s order to the superior of monasteries remained yet in his pocket, drew it forth, and shewing the seal to the priest, asked if he presumed to dispute that mandate?
The awe-struck priest bowed with more than his usual hypocrisy, and conducted them, without another word, to the presence of Jemima, who, in the transport of seeing an English friend, actually forgot to weep for her husband. Her situation was truly pitiable, for neither the priest nor the servants were sufficiently conversant in her language to comprehend her wishes respecting the count’s funeral; nor could she restrain their rapacity, for knowing they would speedily be discharged, they were taking every unfair advantage of her ignorance, and plundering her without mercy of every thing valuable about the place; but the appearance of Woodville and Melrose, who had brought with them proper persons to take charge of the mansion and its furniture, soon restored order, and put an end to Jemima’s troubles, who, having squeezed out a few tears, took up a handkerchief, and drying her eyes, said—“The count was not very old, to be sure, though he was much older than me. Dear! who would have thought that he would die so soon!”
Melrose was ready to laugh; but turning to the priest, he spoke to him in Italian, while Jemima clinging to Henry Woodville, said—“La! I have been so miserable ever since I married, you can’t think; for the count, do you know, though he pretended to love me very much, used to call me a fool and an idiot—was not that very rude now? and never would let me go any where but to hear mass, and what was the use of that to me? for I did not understand a word that was said, though, to be sure, the organ was very delightful, and the church very grand but do you know now, for all that, I would much rather hear Miss Delmore sing and play on the harp, would not you?”
Henry having replied—“Much rather,” the countess resumed—“When I ran away with the count, I expected to dress and go to operas, and plays, and masquerades, and keep the first company; but I have been so disappointed, you can think for the count told me that the lord chancellor’s lawyers were after me, and that, if they got hold of me before I was of age, they would shut me up in a nunnery, and never let me see him as long as I lived; and do you know, he cried sadly; and so I consented to live here moped up with that ugly, disagreeable, cross, old priest, who can’t understand me when I ask him a question; and, do you know, I have not had a living soul to speak to, except the parrot, and that can only say, ‘Pretty poll, and poor Jemima!”
“Your life had been melancholy indeed,” said Woodville; “but the earl of Torrington will now take you under his protection, and will safely convey you to England, where, I hope your misfortunes will all be at an end.”
“I am sure they will,” replied the countess. “La! I shall be so glad to get back to England again, you can’t think! and now I am a widow, and a countess, I warrant I shall be thought of some consequence, for all lady Eglantine Sydney and lady Jacintha Fitzosborne used to treat me with such indifference, though, do you know, the count deceived me about his grand estate at Naples, his vineyards, and his mulberry plantation. He had neither land, nor house, nor any thing else that I could ever hear of; and he used to say that he must take me to England soon, to raise him some more cash, for the fifty thousand pounds I borrowed of the money-lenders would not last till I was of age.”
“It is well for you,” said Woodville, “that the count is no longer capable of deceiving or defrauding you; for I much fear, had he lived to gain possession of your fortune, you would have experienced a change in his conduct; he would no longer have thought it necessary to keep up an appearance of tenderness.”
“To be sure, the count always spoke kindly to me,” continued Jemima, “and he said he loved me; but I had very little of his company, for he was always full of business and engagements, which he told me it was not proper I should ask questions about; but I was so vexed, you can’t think, because he never took me to Naples with him, for I thought, as I was married, and a countess, I ought to live at Naples, and drive about in grand equipage; and, do you know, I often used to wish I was with aunt Freakley again, and I used to cry and fret till I was quit sick. I often repented that I ran away with the count, for I had every thing my own way when I lived with aunt Freakley, and I am sure I have not had any thing to please me since I was married; and Middleton did not like the count, nor aunt, nor lord Wilton, nor any body that I knew of, except lady Torrington; and, do you know, after we were married, the count told me that Miss Delmore lent him the money to carry me off; and, la! only think that she should have been so much his friend, after all the advice she gave me, and all she said to set me against him!”
Mr. Woodville explained in what way the count had extorted the money from Cecilia.
“Well now,” said Jemima, weeping again, “that proved how dearly he loved me. His putting a mask on his face, and carrying a pistol with him, all was for love of me. Poor man! I am so sorry he is dead you can’t think;” then wiping her eyes—“Mourning will become me, I dare say, because I have such fair skin. Aunt Freakley used to say it was just like alabaster. Aunt will be very glad to see me, don’t you think she will?”
“Undoubtedly,” replied Henry, and then mentioned Mrs. Freakley’s marriage with lord Wilton.
“La!” resumed Jemima, “only think that aunt should be married to a title! I am very glad, though I hate lord Wilton so you can’t think; and as to my brother, sir Middleton Maxfield, I will never forgive him, because he did not pursue me, and try to bring me back when I eloped from Torrington Castle. La! I have passed many and many lonesome hours since then, and though I never could abide reading in all my life, I have wished sadly for some English books since I have been shut up her at Baia; and, do you know, I used to go to bed about nine o’clock every night during the winter, for the count was never at home, and I had nobody to talk to, and I was so tired you can’t think, and so I used to go to sleep; but now I am a widow, I will invite what company I please, and go where I like, and I warrant I will not be in a hurry to run away and be married again, for I am sure I was happier by half when I was Miss Maxfield, than ever I have been since I was the countess of Montarino.”
Mr. Woodville, heartily tired of her nonsense, mentioned that evening was approaching, and hinted the necessity of her putting her seal on the valuables previous to their setting off for Naples.
Sometimes weeping, but often laughing, the countess collected her few trinkets, and telling the priest that she never would be a Catholic, she departed from Baia, hoping never to see the place again, with Woodville and Melrose, who safely conducted her to the palace occupied by the earl of Torrington at Naples, who, though he had always felt annoyed by her weakness and folly, was now so much moved to compassion at her forlorn condition, that he constrained himself to bear with nonsense, and humanely took upon himself to arrange the funeral of the count del Montarino and employed persons to turn her effects into cash, and settle her affairs, which being expeditiously effected, they took leave of Naples unreluctantly, for they had each of them a reason for wishing to reach England.
Having arrived at London, the earl of Torrington restored the “Child of Nature,” silly and imbecile as ever, to her overjoyed aunt, lady Wilton, whose loquacity was to him equally as tiresome as Jemima’s nonsense. Pleading affairs of importance, the earl scarcely staid to receive lady Wilton’s acknowledgements, but hastily made his bow, and left the “Child of Nature” to tell her own history in her own silly way.
Lady Wilton, having again and again questioned her poor dear Jemima relative to the murder of the count, declared he had justly merited the fate he met, and that such a base, inconstant, unfaithful wretch, was not worth shedding a tear about.
Jemima wiped her eyes, and said—“La! I am so glad you can’t think, aunt, for, do you know, crying makes my eyes red, and I look so ugly you can’t think.”
Lady Wilton protested she should now bear the coldness and neglect of her husband with infinitely more patience and temper, since she had her dear countess del Montarino to disclose her griefs to, who, having suffered neglect herself, would pity, and not laugh at her, as the marchioness of Beverley and others of her fashionable acquaintance did; and as long as that monster of a fellow, her husband, was dead, why she was not altogether sorry that Jemima was a countess, because her title would introduce her into the very best company, and recommend her to a better husband.
The earl of Torrington had not been many hours in London, before he wrote to Mr. Wilson his intention of being at the castle in the course of a fortnight. The few days the earl remained in town he employed in procuring the promotion of young Melrose, whose bravery and unexceptionable conduct being taken into consideration, he was raised to the rank of post-captain.
Mr. Woodville, having expressed a wish to see the family of Scroggins, of whom Melrose gave a ludicrous account, was invited by his friend to walk with him to Abchurch-street.
The grocer received Melrose kindly, but bluntly told him, he stood a very poor chance of obtaining the hand of his daughter Marian—“She is gone,” said old Scroggins, “with madam Doricourt and Miss Delmore to Cumberland, and my brother-in-law Wilson writes me word that a very fine young fellow, with a handsome estate, has made Marian an offer.”
“And has Marian accepted his offer?” asked Melrose, impatiently. “If she has, there is no faith to be put in woman.” “Not much, I believe,” replied the grocer, “for they are all of them pretty near as changeable as weathercocks.”
“Marian,” said Miss Scroggins, tossing her head with an air, which she intended Melrose should think contempt for him, “has been fool enough to refuse a man that can keep a carriage for her. The girl is out of her senses, I think; I wish I had been in her place.”
“You certainly would not have married the gentleman merely for the sake of his money, Miss Scroggins?” said Woodville.
“There you are greatly mistaken, sir,” replied she. “Any woman must be mad that marries a man without money. All for love may be Marian’s notion—all for money is mine. I shall take good care, whenever I marry, to have a rich husband.”
“A very good notion, girl,” rejoined old Scroggins.
“If folks have enough to keep the wolf from the door,” said Mrs. Scroggins, “that is quite sufficient. I think there ought to be love as well as money.”
“Pooh! you are a fool,” replied the grocer. “Love, nonsense! money is the grand article; and as you are, lieutenant, I would advise you, as a friend to look out for a rich wife: a fine tall fellow will stand a famous chance with widows and old maids; for, as to my children, I promise you I shall not give them a shilling till my death, nor then, if their mother happens to outlive me. But when we are gone, what we have scraped together by honest industry shall be divided among them, share and share alike; and you know I told you never to think about Marian till you got made a post-captain.”
Melrose now explained his promotion.
Miss Scroggins stared.
Mrs. Scroggins declared she was very glad, and wished him joy.
The wary grocer said, he must inquire into the affair; but if he found things as Melrose stated, he would not go from his word, and he would write to his brother-in-law Wilson, and if he had no objection, why Marian might do as she liked.
Old Scroggins found the statement of Melrose correct in every particular, and further than the young man had mentioned. He learned that the earl of Torrington intended to present him with ten thousand pounds, as an acknowledgment of the service he had rendered Miss Delmore, whom the astonished grocer now, for the first time, understood was the earl’s daughter and heiress.
The sunny prospects of captain Melrose immediately decided old Scroggins, and his hearty consent and blessing were written to Marian, of which the happy Melrose was to be the bearer.
Miss Scroggins was almost frantic when she found that Miss Delmore, whom she had so often called a proud beggarly upstart, was in reality lady Cecilia Rushdale, and that Marian still continued her friend and favourite companion. Miss Scroggins had actually engaged to marry Mr. Bignel, the common-councilman, in the course of the autumn; but her sister’s good fortune, producing envy and dissatisfaction with her own arrangements, and believing it possible, that through Marian she might be again introduced to persons of quality, and make a far better match, she quarrelled with her elderly lover, and absolutely refused to fulfil her engagement, telling him she had altered her mind, and did not intend to marry just then.
The common-councilman, highly offended, swore she should never marry him; and, after many severe reproaches for her jilting behaviour, left her, with a wish that she might die an old maid.
Mrs. Doricourt shed many tears during this recital, for she now remarked that Henry Woodville, in face and person very much resembled his unfortunate father. He had the same deep blue eyes, the same serpentine lip—“But he has not,” said she, mentally, “his wavering mind, his heart of guile.”
When the narrative was ended, addressing Mr. Woodville, she said—“I was well acquainted, sir, with your unfortunate father; he died only a few months since at Marseilles. But you must not believe that he was so unnatural as to forget he had a son. I well recollect hearing Mr. Saville say, that he many times mentioned the boy he left in England when he went abroad, and his sorrow to learn, after a long absence, that the child had died in infancy. Your father, sir,” continued Mrs. Doricourt, “impressed with a belief that he had no relatives, bequeathed the whole of his fortune to me; but I received his property only in trust, making Heaven a solemn promise that I would restore it, whenever I found a person who had a just claim. His son has an undoubted claim; and I, believe me, shall feel the highest gratification in putting you in possession of thirty thousand pounds.”
The earl of Torrington was satisfied that Mrs. Doricourt had a fortune out of which thirty thousand pounds would not be missed; he also knew that her delicacy would not be satisfied till Woodville was in possession of his father’s fortune; he therefore made no objection to her honourable restitution; and when Woodville’s acknowledgments to Mrs. Doricourt were made, he said—“And I also will make restitution; the wealth of old Blackburne shall return to his family; and when I have put from me the ‘accursed thing,’ I will humbly hope that Heaven will accept my penitence.”
The state of the earl’s health did not permit him to receive company at the castle; but at Keswick illuminations and rejoicings took place, and congratulatory letters were continually arriving, in which every happiness was wished lady Cecilia Rushdale and Mr. Woodville.
Mrs. Milman was assured by lady Cecilia, that she would never forget her affectionate care of her infancy, and told her that if she found the office of housekeeper fatiguing or disagreeable, she had only to mention her wishes, and she should be provided for in any way most pleasant to herself. But Mrs. Milman chose to continue in her situation, for since all her castle-building had come to nothing, and she had lost the prospect of marrying highly, through her relationship to Cecilia, she thought she might as well remain where she was, for she hated idleness, and could not sit with her hands before her; and as she had now no chance that she knew of, to get a husband, having refused two offers that she did not think grand enough, why she thought she could be more content at Torrington Castle than any where else.
Mr. Wilson had confirmed the happiness of captain Melrose, by bestowing on him his hearty concurrence with his wish of marrying Marian, to whom he said he would give five thousand pounds on her wedding-day, “that her fortune,” said Wilson, “may be equal to her sister’s; and at my death I will divide my fortune between Solomon and her, for, poor fellow! I fear, for all his learning, when he returns to England, he will bring back only a ragged coat and an empty purse.”
The earl of Torrington, after settling some accounts with his steward, jocosely said—“I am very sorry, Wilson, to destroy your prospects; but you see lady Cecilia Rushdale’s heart is so entirely occupied by Henry Woodville, that your nephew, Solomon Scroggins, has no sort of chance.”
Wilson looked confused, and stammered out an apology for his presumption, to which the earl, kindly shaking him by the hand, replied—“Do not believe, Wilson, that I am offended; as to Cecilia Delmore, your proposal was a generous one, and she herself will be proud to think that in her humble state you considered her worthy to become a part of your family.”
“She is worthy of a crown,” said Wilson, “and may Heaven shower its choicest blessings on her!”
When Wilson was dismissed by the earl, he went to pay a visit to Mrs. Milman, who had not yet exactly reconciled her mind to the disappointment of not being elevated into high life by Cecilia. After having listened for some time to her querulous observations, Mr. Wilson requested her to give him a glass of her peach brandy—“The weather is broiling hot,” said he, “and I have been very busy to-day. I rode over early this morning to Keswick, to look how my workmen came on. Have you seen the houses I am building, Mrs. Milman?”
“Yes,” was the short reply.
“I design the one at the corner of North-street,” resumed he, “for a shop.”
“It is a very good situation,” observed Mrs. Milman.
“And the other, on the East Parade,” continued Wilson, “I will have finished handsomely; it will just suit a new-married pair. And now,” sipping the peach brandy, “and now, my dear friend,” taking her hand, “I am going to make you an offer.”
The mention of a house just fit for a new-married pair put Mrs. Milman all over in a twitter. What could he possibly be going to offer but marriage? She always believed he liked her, and she at once made up her mind to accept his offer. Blushing and bridling, she simpered, and waited till he had sipped up the peach brandy, with no little impatience.
Having drained the last drop, and said it was an excellent cordial, he again took her hand, and resumed—“My dear Mrs. Milman, you do not appear to be as happy here as formerly.”
“Certainly I am not,” replied Mrs. Milman; “things are greatly altered; Cecilia is no longer my niece, you know and——”
“I know all you would say,” interrupted Mr. Wilson; “and as Torrington Castle is no longer agreeable to you, and as I have a very great value for you, and wish to see you happy, knowing you to be an excellent manager, and an exceedingly-clever woman, I am induced to make you an offer of——”
Wilson was seized with a fit of coughing, which the impatience of Mrs. Milman would scarcely allow time to subside, before she asked—“An offer of what?”
“Of the corner shop, my dear woman,” returned Wilson; “it will be just the thing for the display of confectionary and pastry, and no person in the county understands the making of those sort of things better than you. A shop of that sort is much wanting at Keswick, and you have so many friends, I am sure it will answer.”
“I am sure it will not,” said Mrs. Milman, snatching her hand from his, and rising form her chair. “I thank you, Mr. Wilson, for your obliging offer; but whenever I choose to quit my present situation of housekeeper at Torrington Castle, I can be provided for, without troubling myself to keep a pastry-cook’s shop.”
“Just as you please, Mrs. Milman,” replied Wilson, a little piqued at her scornful manner. “I had no intention of offending you.”
“Offending me indeed! resumed she, colouring and smoothing her apron. “I had no notion, Mr. Wilson, that your offer was only to let me your shop after your pretending so much regard, I thought—“
“What did you think?” asked Wilson, perceiving her pause.
“Oh, no matter, Mr. Wilson,” replied she. “I meet nothing but disappointments, I think; but I suppose it is all for the best.”
The worthy, friendly-hearted Wilson had no guess at her meaning, when he observed that the other house would suit a new-married pair. He alluded to Melrose and Marian, and he never supposed Mrs. Milman would construe his offer into a matrimonial proposition.
Mrs. Milman continued to smooth her apron, and the settle her frills—a plain indication to Wilson that her mind was in a ruffled state; he therefore took his leave, assuring her again and again, he had no intention of giving her offence by offering the corner shop.
Mrs. Milman cried for vexation—“The barbarous man!” said she. “Many times he has led me to believe he was going to make me an offer of marriage, and then disappointed me with some silly ridiculous project or other. From this time I am determined never to think about a husband, but content myself to remain all my days the housekeeper of Torrington Castle.”
Captain Melrose being in expectation of sailing orders, was urgent with Marian to name the day of his happiness—“Let me,” said he, “depart with the certainty that you are mine, and I shall meet the enemy with double courage.”
The friends of Marian warmly urged the suit of Melrose.
The earl of Torrington would gladly have had the ceremony of their marriage take place at the castle, but the house at Keswick was finished and furnished by Wilson for the occasion, who, after having officiated as father to the bride, gave it to her as it stood as a nuptial present.
The reverend Mr. Dacres united the happy pair. Mrs. Doricourt and lady Cecilia Rushdale, with two young ladies from the vicinity of Keswick, attended the bride; Mr. Saville, Woodville, and two other gentlemen, completed the bridal party.
The eventful history of Henry Woodville did not long remain unknown to the duke of Arvingham, and the perturbation of his mind occasioned an inflammation of his wound, which again confined him to his bed.
While in this state of mental and bodily suffering, he was constantly visited by the reverend Mr. Dacres and Mr. Saville, to whose pious and friendly arguments he was indebted for the resignation that enabled him, before he left Keswick, to admit a visit from Mr. Woodville, to whom with sincerity, he wished every happiness with lady Cecilia Rushdale.
The marriage of Woodville and lady Cecilia had been delayed on account of the earl’s health, though magnificent preparations were made for the happy occasion. One day, in the presence of Mrs. Doricourt and Mr. Saville, he appointed the day for their marriage, saying at the same time—“I know how much Cecilia desires her Henry to bear the title of Torrington; know then, my beloved children, that our most gracious sovereign has created him viscount Rushdale, and allows him, at my decease, to assume the title and rank of earl of Torrington.” Woodville and Cecilia embraced the knees of the earl, who joining their hands, continued—“My fervid blessing be upon you both, my children; and may the errors of your parents never be visited upon your heads, but may your virtues in the sight of Heaven atone for their guilt!”
On the appointed day, lady Cecilia became the bride of Henry Woodville, viscount Rushdale.
The earl of Torrington survived this happy event only a few months; he died a sincere penitent, and never after his decease did Mr. Saville revert to his errors, but often mentioned his virtues, holding him up as an example of liberality to his friends, and humanity to the poor.
Mr. Saville, at their earnest solicitation, consented to live with the young earl and countess of Torrington. Mrs. Doricourt continued fondly attached to the countess, who, in the midst of all the seduction of rank and wealth, remained chaste, humble, and benevolent.
Henry Woodville proved himself deserving the rank to which he was elevated; respected, admired, and beloved, he passed his life in the bosom of his family, adoring and adored, training up his beautiful offspring in pursuits worthy their rank. The countess frequently observed to Mrs. Doricourt and Mrs. Melrose, her favourite friends—“Henry still continues my lover, though some years have gone by since our marriage; and you,” pressing a hand of each to her lips, “you remain my friends. How grateful I ought to be to Heaven for such blessings!”
“The virtuous and worthy, my beloved Cecilia,” replied Mrs. Doricourt, “though they may be tried by misfortune, and visited by affliction, will never be destitute of lovers and friends.”
Printed by J. Darling, Leadenhall-Street, London.