DRELINCOURT AND RODALVI;
TWO NOBLE FAMILIES.
A NOVEL, IN THREE VOLUMES.
BY MRS. BYRON,
AUTHOR OF ANTI-DELPHINE.
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn; good and ill together:
our virtues would be proud if our faults whipp’d them not; and
our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our
PRINTED FOR J. MAWMAN, IN THE POULTRY.
BY G. HAZARD, BEECH-STREET.
DRELINCOURT AND RODALVI.
Smiles on past misfortune’s brow,
Soft reflection’s hand can trace;
And o’er the cheek of sorrow throw
A melancholy grace;
While hope prolongs our happier hour
Or deepest shades that dimly low’r
And blacken round our weary way,
Gilds with a gleam of distant day.
Still where rosy pleasure leads,
See a kindred grief pursue;
Behind the steps that misery treads,
Approaching comfort view:
The hues of bliss more brightly glow
Chastised by sable tints of woe,
And blended form with artful strife
The strength and harmony of life.
IN the Earl’s present frame of mind, the gaieties of London disgusted, and business seemed irksome to him. He was too tenderly beloved by his family, for his wishes not to be theirs; and at his desire they left the capital, where the latter part of their residence had been rendered unpleasant by many mortifications, and endeavoured to lose the remembrance of them, in the tranquillity of Castle Drelincourt.
The Earl did not allow himself to indulge in weak complaints, or blameable repinings; he obliged himself to consider the bright side of the picture, which he had at first contemplated in its darkest colours; and the natural candour of his mind, soon dispelled the mist, raised by prejudice and disappointment, and taught him to look forward with composure to the meeting, of which, the bare idea, had in his first moments of despondency, appeared an insupportable affliction. There needed only the signal of a smile re-appearing on his benignant countenance, to animate all around him with delight; and as he surveyed the affectionate group, by which he was surrounded, he felt that he had other sources of happiness besides worldly grandeur, and outward shew. In this state of returning cheerfulness, the family received with comparative pleasure, an account of the day when the fugitives might be expected; and when it arrived, every bosom was agitated, though with different emotions. Lord and Lady Drelincourt were filled with sensations of parental love, too powerful to admit those of displeasure, in any great degree, though sufficient to destroy the perfect satisfaction that they would otherwise have experienced. Edmund was anxious as to the reception with which his sister might meet, and the impression that she would make upon the family. Lady Rosamond was curious to see the female, whose charms had effaced the recollection of hers, from the breast of a man whom she had loved, though she had discarded him in a fit of ill-humour at her own faults. The gentle and affectionate Emma, longed to embrace the sister of her beloved Edmund, and felt already warmly attached to her. Even Lady Maud and Lady Bertha were interested; the former deplored with a rueful countenance, the introduction of foreign blood, into a family, in whose veins the pure English stream, had flown undefiled, till this unlucky mixture; and lamented the increasing partiality that the nation shewed for aliens, which she pronounced would finally be its ruin: whilst the latter called Henry a recreant knight, but longed to see the peerless dame, whose charms had caused him to forget his allegiance to Lady Harriett. Lady Maria was the least moved, a little anxiety to see her brother, and a little curiosity to know if Everilda were as handsome and interesting as Edmund made up the whole of her emotion.
After a day that appeared unusually long, the evening succeeded, as is generally the case even in the longest day.
The party were assembled in the drawing room; one took up a book, another a pencil, a third touched the keys of a piano-forte; all were employed, and none thought of what they were doing. At length the sound of horses’ feet and carriage wheels, relieved every one from thinking on a subject, which none chose to make the theme of conversation.
The travellers were now heard to ascend the stairs, and Edmund devoutly wished that he had the power of annihilating the next five minutes.
The door was thrown open, and Lord Courtney entered, leading his lady, and Donna Claudina; he knelt with Everilda at the feet of his father, who forgetting all his anger, blessed them, and desiring them to rise, resigned them to Lady Drelincourt, whose maternal heart knew none but the softest emotions; she embraced them, and wept, whilst Lady Courtney forcibly reminded of her own mother, bedewed her hand with tears, and exclaimed with graceful energy, "Ah madam, you are kind and good, as I have been taught to expect. Already you forgive me; you acknowledge me as your daughter; oh! teach me to deserve the envied title!" Lady Drelincourt again embraced, and assured her of her love. Everilda then turned hastily to Edmund, and throwing herself into his arms, burst afresh into tears, saying, "I know not how to intreat forgiveness for an act, by which I have the happiness of seeing my dear brother again." He pressed her tenderly to his bosom, nor was ashamed of the tears, which trembled in his own eyes, as he gazed on a sister so fondly beloved, and the first of his family whom he had seen during an absence, of nearly two years.
The introduction of the remainder of the party, was of course less impassioned; though Lady Courtney covered Emma with blushes, by taking her hand, and saying, "My heart tells me, I am not addressing a stranger; suffer me think that I am speaking to a beloved sister." Edmund approached, and joining their hands, raised them to his lips, saying, "Never may your unity be interrupted; may it improve into the most refined friendship, and prove a source of happiness to you, as the contemplation of it will ever be to me." When the first congratulations were over, refreshments were brought in, and whilst the travellers were employed in taking some, the rest of the party had leisure to examine them. In Lord Courtney, every trace of care was effaced, by the kind reception that he had met with; and his countenance was distinguished only by the glow of health, the smile of cheerfulness, and the glance of tender rapture, with which he surveyed his Everilda. Her beauty appeared to the utmost advantage, even under the disguise of a travelling dress; but she had now thrown off a large fur pelisse, which had hidden her fine form; her hat likewise was laid aside, and a profusion of auburn ringlets carelessly flowed from the band, by which the remainder was confined in large curls; her bloom was heightened by exercise and agitation; the slight embarrassment of her manner, added to the interest of her appearance, whilst the varying emotions of her soul, encreased every instant the charms of her intelligent countenance. Her animation was happily contrasted, by the interesting melancholy of the pensive Claudina, who felt alone in the large circle, and was strongly reminded by witnessing the bliss of domestic affection, of her own desolate, and friendless situation, which was rendered yet more wretched, by the cruelty of her only relative, her brother. These reflections filled her eyes with tears; she strove to disperse them, by the smile of resignation, which faintly played about her lips; the ineffectual struggle called a slight blush into her cheeks, and just painted them sufficiently, to shew how much the glow of happiness would become her. Sorrow never wore a lovelier form, or inspired more interest in the hearts of the beholders; soothed by their attentions, she felt her spirits gradually revive, and Everilda diffused additional animation around her, when she saw her own smiles reflected in the countenance of her friend.
Though Lady Courtney’s introduction to the Earl in the character of his daughter-in-law, was certainly very opposite to what his wishes had once been, yet he could not long withstand the fascination of her manners, the brilliancy of her talents, and the excellent disposition which seemed to regulate all her actions. Had she even been less amiable, his heart would have pleaded for her with irresistible eloquence, for she powerfully appealed to its feelings by her resemblance to her father; and whilst tracing in her countenance and expressions, the features and manner of his early friend, Lord Drelincourt could feel no sentiment but that of the warmest affection, for the object, who constantly recalled to his mind, one in whose society he had passed many of his happiest days.
If Everilda soon obtained the Earl’s esteem, that of the ladies, was bestowed upon her, with at least equal readiness. The appearance of kindness, was enough to incite her to deserve it; for some time all her study was to please, and the effects of her laudable exertions were agreeable as she could desire. Unfortunately however the happiness which this perfect family-concord, created in her bosom, was the very means of interrupting its source; for in the ebulitions of it, her vivacity caused her in some instances, to overstep the cautious decorum, and polite attention, which she had on her first introduction, rigidly prescribed to herself.
Sir Edward Clayton, (for in consequence of his uncle’s death, we must introduce him to our readers by that title,) had left England the moment he heard of the expected arrival of a woman whom he adored, notwithstanding her unjustifiable conduct towards him. Finding that he could not yet trust himself in her society, without feeling emotions, which he was too honorable to indulge, he wisely took refuge in flight; resolving not to encounter temptation until he was well assured that he could rise superior to it. He therefore took his sister, who told him he was born to be jockied by the women, to a small estate, in a remote part of Ireland, which had been left to him by Sir John with the rest of his property, and which he now wished to dispose of, as it was quite abstracted from his other possessions.
During their visit there, his sister’s rosy complexion, smart figure, and goodnatured manners, captivated an Irish baronet; and as he rode well, had an excellent stud, and delighted in field sports, he had not much difficulty in prevailing on her to run for life in the same yoke, as she expressed it; and her brother, pleased to see his sister happily settled, almost forgot the unpleasant cause of his visit to Ireland, in the satisfaction that he received from its consequences.
Sir Edward’s departure was of course mentioned at the castle, and on hearing it the imprudent Everilda exclaimed, that she regretted his absence as she had promised herself much amusement from witnessing the struggle of resentment and love in his bosom, when he again beheld her: Lady Rosamond was still too partial to her old admirer, to look very complacently on the woman, whose superior charms had so rapidly effaced the impression which hers had once made on him; this speech was not calculated to make her forget the mortifying circumstance, and she replied with perhaps too much asperity, "Sir Edward Clayton, Madam, is not generally thought a subject of mere amusement, neither are his talents and manners often a source of ridicule to any who are capable of appreciating their value." The coldness with which she spoke and the freezing epithet of Madam, struck Lady Courtney forcibly: she well knew what had been the nature of Sir Edward’s intimacy with the family and might therefore naturally have imagined the subject could not be pleasing to Lady Rosamond; but instead of excusing the harshness of these words, by reflecting on the provocation that she had given, she suffered herself to be hurried away by impatience, and added to it by replying, "My dear Lady Rosamond, there needs no argument to convince me that his attractions have been found irresistible; and I ask pardon for the selfishness by which I was prompted to wish for a scene, that I might easily have known could not be generally entertaining;" this little dialogue passed during the first month of Lady Courtney’s residence at the Castle; it was easy to see that the impression it left on her mind, and Lady Rosamond’s was not such as to promise any very great cordiality; and after this, no subject however trifling, could be discussed, without giving rise to a difference of opinion between them.
Lady Courtney conscious that her introduction into the family was not exactly what had been desired, was jealous of every word that could possibly be interpreted into an affront; and particularly from Lady Rosamond, who was as little used to control, as herself, and approached too near her in talents, beauty, and disposition, not to inspire an idea of rivalry; whilst the powers of wit and satire, were so liberally and equally bestowed on each, that an incessant war of words was maintained between them, and it was difficult to decide after the combat, which party had proved victorious.
In those engagements however, each may be said to lose more than can be won; for the pleasure of triumphing over the vanquished in argument, is much more than counterbalanced, by the probability of having gained one enemy, and lost many friends. However wit may be admired at a distance, all shrink from its approach, justly fearing, that severity of which, they may in their turn expect to be the objects. Self-interest then induces sympathetic compassion towards the conquered, and displeasure towards the conqueror, who is affectedly admired and inwardly condemned.
The frequent altercations between Lady Courtney and Lady Rosamond, gave the greatest pain to the judicious and affectionate Claudina, who saw her beloved Everilda daily losing by petulance, and wilful misapprehension, that influence amongst her new friends, which her talents and manners would otherwise have preserved. Edmund was not less uneasy, for the kind reception that his sister had met with, and the delicate attention with which she was treated, ought at least, he thought, to claim her forbearance, as strongly as his gratitude; and he was mortified and distressed to the utmost, when he saw her degrading her talents, and accomplishments, by seeking to lessen those of Lady Rosamond, in a comparison with them; for he well knew, that her antagonist was too nearly her equal, to be insulted with impunity, or conquered with facility. He naturally confided his uneasiness to Lady Emma, who endeavoured to console him, by representing the frequent arguments between the fair antagonists, as mere trials of skill, produced by curiosity to know which was the most powerful in conducting them. "Then the best consolation you can give me," replied he sorrowfully, "is, that their disputes originate in vanity, but in what may they end?" "In what can they end," returned Emma, "but admiration of your sister? Every one who sees, must admire her; and every one who knows, must love her; for she requires only to be known, and then what appears to you as a serious fault, would be acknowledged only as the effervescence of her brilliant genius, and lively imagination." "Ah!" replied he, "you are partial even to her faults; I love my sister, and am proud of her; but I can see, and condemn her errors." "And why am I partial?" asked Lady Emma, in the sweetest accents, "I have little merit in acknowledging perfection, when it is allied to you." Edmund kissed her hand with fervor, and the gloom of his countenance was dispersed, as he gazed on the speaking sensibility, tenderness, and modesty, depicted in that of his Emma. Amidst these family feuds, Lord Courtney was the most unconcerned of any of the party; he adored his wife, loved his sister, and treated every altercation between them, as a jest; telling them that occasional discords made harmony more pleasing, and that they would not appear half so charming separate: that they were flint and steel to each other’s wit, and he was sure only pretended to differ in opinion, in order to shew it to the most advantage. This he would say with so much good humour, that they were often persuaded into the belief that it actually was so. Lady Courtney would then generously make some concession, which Lady Rosamond would as generously accept, and thus was amity restored, till a difference of opinion maintained too tenaciously, and controverted too warmly, would plunge them into yet deeper opposition. The decline of Lady Courtney’s health, however, produced a cessation of hostilities; for Lady Rosamond had too just a confidence in her own powers, to attack her antagonist on unequal grounds; anxiety for her recovery, was a point in which there was no division of sentiment, and to effect this, the hotwells were proposed by the physicians, who seemed to think that her ladyship’s indisposition might arise from the change of climate.
Notwithstanding Lord Drelincourt’s aversion from all places of public rendezvous for cheapening the sex, he on this occasion willingly waved his prejudice, and consented to accompany the invalid with his family.
Before they had been long at the delightful village of Clifton, where the votaries of health are rewarded for their search, by the beauties of nature, which are there scattered with her most liberal hand, —Lady Courtney’s indisposition was discovered to be owing to a cause, which gave her new claims on the affection of her lord, and additional consequence among relatives, whose esteem already knew no bounds, but what her own caprice occasionally prescribed.
In Lady Courtney, however, the pleasure arising from this wished-for circumstance, was considerably alloyed, by the restraints which it occasioned. If she wished to ride on horseback, Lady Drelincourt intreated her to forego so dangerous an exercise, speaking with such affectionate anxiety, and relating so many bad consequences which it might produce, that she was obliged to relinquish her desire. She was fond of walking, and was charmed with the variety and beauty of the surrounding country, which would tempt the most indolent to explore it; but if she went out of sight of the house, Lord Drelincourt himself followed her, and used such warm intreaties for her return, and looked so anxiously on every step she took, that she gave up the pleasure of walking, that she might not keep him in a state of painful suspence. Company would fatigue, and solitude depress her. Staying in the house relaxed her, and going out of it exposed her to cold; in short, wearied with remonstrances, her patience failed, and she declared in pretty strong terms, that she would for the future, take the trouble of conducting herself, and would be answerable for every consequence, as no imprudence of which she might be guilty, could do her more harm, than the impatience that she felt of such constant contradiction; and to prove the truth of her assertion, she talked herself angry, and then fell into hysterics, and by that means effectually alarmed Lord and Lady Drelincourt into submission.
The reins once given into her own hands, she commenced her career with additional ardour, from the restraint that she had suffered; her spirits acquired new elasticity from contrasting the alacrity of returning health, with the languor of past indisposition; her friends were too happy in seeing her so, to complain of the means by which the change had been produced; and it was not till her extended pedestrian excursions in the morning, and dancing until a late hour in the evening, produced the loss of all their hopes, that they severely repented having trusted her to her own guidance.
Lady Courtney was as highly mortified as any of the party, at this unlucky accident; but she fancied that she could perceive resentment, when she ought only to have met with compassion, and this unjust idea, took such strong possession of her mind, that she counterfeited an indifference in the presence of Lord and Lady Drelincourt, which she was far from feeling, and which naturally added to their vexation.
As soon as Lady Courtney was sufficiently recovered to travel, the family returned to the Castle; conscious that her behavior had deserved reprehension, she tormented herself with fancying that she could read it in every word and look, and with her natural impatience of control, encreased by the excessive indulgence always shewn by her parents, even to her faults, instead of averting by gentleness and acknowledgment, the censure for which she confessed to herself there was room, she braved it by additional haughtiness of behaviour, and provoked it by expressing innumerable foolish or unreasonable desires, which she never felt. Among the rest she affected a childish eagerness to be presented at court, and enquired every day, when the happy one would arrive, that was to convey them to town. Lord Drelincourt was at length displeased, and thought the respect due to himself, called on him to take notice of a rudeness, which he could no longer pretend to overlook. "I am sorry Lady Courtney," said he very gravely, "that your residence under my roof, should be unpleasant to you. I am only consoled for so mortifying a discovery, by the hope that you are the first guest to whom I ever made it so; and I must apologize for the dulness of which you so openly complain, by candidly acknowledging, that, in imagining you would be pleased with rational amusements, and family concord, I entirely mistook your character." He paused, and the profoundest silence ensued; a silence the more painful, as it shewed that every one considered the subject too serious, to intrude any remark. Lady Courtney shrunk from the reproof that she had courted. She had always looked up to Lord Drelincourt with affectionate reverence, and ardently desired his esteem, though her behaviour had of late too often been calculated to deprive her of it. Her heart told her that this was now the case, and the blood forsook her cheeks, to support the pang it felt at the idea. Claudina saw her friend’s emotions, she saw pride struggling with contrition in her breast, and she saw Lord Drelincourt leaving the room in displeasure; anxiety conquered her natural timidity; she fell at his feet, and bursting into tears, exclaimed, "Oh! my lord, believe me it is now that you mistake Lady Courtney’s character; you think her sullen, now when she is miserable; you believe her wilfully continuing in error, when she is deprived of the power of acknowledging her fault by the anguish with which she feels it." Claudina’s impassioned manner roused Everilda, who was too nobly independant to accept a pardon by proxy. She went up to the Earl, and entreated his forgiveness, saying, "I have no claim but on your kindness. I know I must have forfeited your esteem, yet suffer me to hope an avowal of my fault, and an altered conduct, may in time regain it. I should be too severely punished," added she, bursting into tears, "if I thought you would with-hold it from me for ever; alas! do not deprive me of a hope, that will encourage all my best resolutions."
Two such graceful pleaders would have gained pardon for much more weighty faults. The Earl embraced them both, every one was affected, and Emma throwing herself into Lady Courtney’s arms, sobbed through the excess of her emotions.
The next morning at breakfast, the Earl informed his family that he meant to set off to town the ensuing week; and hoped that they would be in readiness to accompany him. This generous behaviour, effectually overcame Lady Courtney, who never judged her own faults so severely, as when others treated them with lenity: she took his hand, and pressing it to her lips, whilst her tears fell on it. "Ah! my lord, how shall I ever be worthy of the kindness with which you treat me;" she exclaimed, "how odious your indulgence makes my conduct appear, in my own eyes." "My dearest Everilda," the Earl replied, "I have not quite forgiven you; I mean to exact a pledge of your future good behaviour, and that is, that you will gratify me by approving my present arrangement. We shall arrive in town just before the birth-day; and after all, I am I acknowledge, selfish enough to be impatient for the pleasure of presenting so lovely an addition to my family." "You are too good my lord," answered Everilda, "you must in time make me worthy of you. Forgive me dear madam," continued she, addressing Lady Drelincourt, "and you my dear Lady Rosamond, forgive me all whom I may have offended; and ascribe my conduct to my inferiority, when compared with such amiable and exalted characters." "And you do not ask my forgiveness whilst you are playing the fair penitent so prettily," said Lord Courtney, "nor should I grant it if you did; for these sudden amendments, are generally followed by relapses, which are worse than the original disorder." "If mine should be so," replied Lady Courtney, smiling through her tears, "the effect will all fall upon you, for that saucy speech, but I ask pardon only of those whom I have offended, and you are not one of the number; any more than my pretty little Emma, whom it is as difficult to displease, as be displeased with; or my dear Claudina and Edmund, who bear with all my faults, because they know how much I love them." "But I protest against any exceptions," said Lady Drelincourt, affectionately interrupting her, "and however you may love those whom you have mentioned, I will dispute the palm of loving you, with any of them."
Shalle I wasting in dispaire
Dye because a woman’s faire?
Shalle my cheeks growe pale with care,
That another’s rosie are?
Be she fairer than the daye,
Or the opening fields in Maye,
If she be not faire for me,
hat care I how faire she bee!
ON account of leaving Castle Drelincourt earlier than the Earl had at first intended, the preparations for Lord Courtney’s establishment, were not compleated; and it was agreed that he should continue under his parental roof, a few months longer.
It is unnecessary after the description we have given of Everilda’s attractions, to say that she was universally admired, in the circles of fashion; and we are afraid it is equally unnecessary to add, that the admiration which she met with, was highly gratifying to her. Perhaps her fondness for it, might be encreased by observing Lord Courtney’s pleasure at the attention that she gained; for he was naturally flattered to hear his own opinion, ecoed by the voice of public approbation, and his taste made the standard of perfection.
One morning a letter was brought to Lady Courtney, who immediately recognized in the direction, the writing of Sir Edward Clayton; she mentioned this before she broke the seal, and Claudina turned pale on hearing a name, which her heart incessantly repeated, though it never passed her lips:—the contents were read aloud by Lady Courtney, with her usual frankness, and were as follows:
If during the happy period, in which I was honored with your ladyship’s acquaintance, my heart became too fully sensible of the influence of your charms, to patiently bear the idea of any other possessing them, the change in your situation yet taught me too well what was due to it, to intrude myself on your ladyship’s recollection, until a necessary alteration in my sentiments, might enable me to do it with propriety to you, and comparative ease to myself. The past, (however painful the task) I have taught myself to forget; and I trust my conduct for the future, will convince you, that my admiration of Everilda di Rodalvi, is at least equalled by my respect for Lady Courtney; which I hope you will grant me permission to testify in person, among your other friends; and I have the honor to remain,
and humble servant,
"Generous Clayton," exclaimed Claudina, "how nobly has he endeavoured to conquer a passion so ill requited." The animation with which she spoke, was unusual in her; and Lady Rosamond’s eyes meeting hers, expressed a degree of sympathy in her feelings, which convinced her that they were understood, and tinged her cheeks with crimson, until Lady Courtney replied, "Compassion my dear Claudina, is sister to love; you had better therefore console the deserted swain, for my cruelty, which believe me he would not then regret." This speech drove the blood back to Claudina’s agitated heart, and vainly endeavouring to smile, she was going to leave the room, when she met Lord Courtney, who said, gaily taking her hand. "You must not run away, for I am going to read an epistle from the valiant knight-errant, who in magnanimously rescuing one lady from violence, was himself taken willing captive by another, who generously resigned him when she found a slave yet more humble; and hear how he thanks her for his freedom." He then read aloud:
You would, I am certain, neither believe nor esteem me, were I to declare, that I never felt any resentment against you, for being as successful with the object of our mutual admiration, as I had once hoped to be. Your lordship is fortunate in possessing a prize, too estimable to be resigned without anguish; but affection cannot be decided by the sword; and I considered my wretched life, of which I was weary, and in which, no one was interested, as a very inadequate stake against yours, which presented to you every charm, and endearing tie. I was not base enough to wish to deprive the woman I had loved, of the object for whom she forsook me, and with whom I could not but acknowledge, that probability she had of enjoying that happiness, which she can confer in as eminent a degree as she is deserving of it; nor was I selfish enough to remember the only injury you ever offered me, and forget the innumerable kindnesses which I had received from you, and your worthy and amiable family: I felt that your fault was excused by its cause; alas! I felt my own wounds too acutely, to wonder that you were vulnerable to the same fatal, unerring weapons.
"When you were acquitted to me by the impartial evidence of my own judgment, I was not consious of my obligation to submit the cause to that of the world, whose opinion I despise: instead therefore of inviting you to combat with me, I resolved to combat with myself; and am happy to inform you, that I am compleatly victorious. I have conquered the sense of my misfortune, by considering that it is now irremediable; I have opposed reason to passion, hope to disappointment. The remembrance of my past attachment I have subdued, by the resolution of forming another; and if I must not expect to meet again with an object so capable of creating one ardent as lasting, I shall be equally released from the fear of another rival so irresistible.
"That you may not think me a vain boaster of courage which I do not possess, or of success which I have not had, I trust you will give me leave to convince you of my victory, by paying my respects to you;
I remain my lord,
"yours most obediently,
"There now," exclaimed Courtney, "there is style for you; and a style which I like; it is noble, generous and independent. I shall write to him and tell him that my Everilda will be as happy to see him as I shall." "Indeed," said Lady Courtney, giving him her own letter, "I should be very remiss, if I did not desire you to say something extremely polite for me, in answer to that epistle." "Ah! what he has written to you too," replied Courtney, "already the world knows how you keep me in subjection, and he was obliged to flatter you into goodhumour, that you might give me permission to say I should be glad to see him. Well, I will shew him that if I am afraid, I am not jealous of you, and so with your leave, my Everilda, I will say that we shall be impatient for the pleasure of his society.
"You can never be jealous," replied Lady Courtney, with a most fascinating smile, "whilst you know that you are so amiable, and so superior to the rest of the world." "And I can never cease to know it whilst I have such an insinuating flatterer, who so often tells me it," returned her husband: he affectionately embraced her in saying this, and then went to take his morning ride with Edmund.
Of mortal glory, oh soon darken’d ray!
Oh winged joys of man, more swift than wind!
Oh fond desires, which in our fancies stray!
Oh traitrous hopes, which do our judgments blind!
DRUMMOND OF HAWTHORNDEN.
OUR readers will easily conceive the emotions felt by Sir Edward Clayton, on his first visit to Lady Courtney. But his feelings were not betrayed in his conduct, which was governed by the most rigid propriety. He conversed on the topics of the day with an air of tolerable ease; and if his lips involuntarily trembled as he addressed an object to whom he had been so fondly attached, he took care that his words at least should be under the control of reason.
Not daring to trust himself to converse very long with Lady Courtney, he naturally paid a great degree of attention to the other ladies, with whom he could discourse some-what cheerfully, for with them the efforts of his mind to amuse, were not interrupted by the feelings of his heart. The unfortunate Claudina was too well versed in the effects of love, since she had become a prey to it, to be gratified by an attention, bestowed without a thought of the object, to whom it was paid. She could judge of his feelings at that moment, by the acuteness of her own: disappointed hopes, and fruitless regrets, inspired those of each party, but similarity of misfortune, did not in this instance, produce the sympathy which generally results from it. Claudina’s mind was too much agitated to attend to trifling conversation; her heart was too much occupied to be interested in mere complimentary forms of politeness. Her answers were so short, and manners so cold, that Sir Edward imagined he must have unintentionally offended her; and for a moment the idea started into his mind, that she might have communicated to Everilda, the dislike with which he had inspired her. It is natural to wish to ascribe a disappointment, to the misconduct of any other person, rather than to our own. Self-love made Sir Edward cherish this idea; and under its influence he treated Claudina with coldness, at least equal to that which she had expressed towards him.
The change in his manner, did not escape the quick observation of Lady Rosamond, any more than the cause by which it was produced; and which confirmed her in her suspicions, relative to the state of Claudina’s heart.
A marked coldness, is as flattering as a marked attention, for it is only the same cause producing different effects; and perhaps each mode of conduct, may be inspired by the hope of attracting the notice of the object to whom it is directed. The discovery however, effectually chased from Lady Rosamond’s mind, the intention of endeavouring to reclaim her faithless lover; an idea which had often obtruded on it, and for which her remaining, or rather revived affection for him, strongly pleaded, though her pride was equally eloquent in urging her to refuse him, should he voluntarily seek to return to his allegiance. But she was too generous to hesitate, when she became sensible that another was deeply interested in her decision; and she would have regarded herself as guilty of a breach of trust, had she persisted in her original intentions, a moment after the discovery of Claudina’s partiality. She therefore directed her conversation chiefly to Mr. Fletcher; who had become extremely assiduous in his attentions to her; and perhaps the conquest of her own wishes, on which she had so generously resolved, was facilitated by the pleasure of shewing her cidevantamant, that the assiduities of another had become agreeable to her.
They who examine very deeply into the sources of their best actions, must have great confidence in themselves, if they expect to be satisfied with the result of their enquiry. It is melancholy to hear people lament, the small portion of virtue there is in the world; and still more melancholy to reflect, how much smaller it would appear, were the motives by which it is prompted generally known.
After Sir Edward had conquered the unpleasant sensations of an introductory visit, his former intimacy in Lord Drelincourt’s family was easily revived. The Earl had always held him in high estimation, and his powers of pleasing, when he suffered the brilliancy of his genius to pierce the gloom, in which a too ardent sensibility sometimes involved it, were too fascinating to be easily relinquished, where they had once been displayed. But this renewed intercourse, was on the whole inimical to his happiness. The regrets which he had hushed into tranquillity at a distance, were awakened to keener anguish, as his opportunities increased of contemplating the various charms of the woman whom he had so irrecoverably lost. In absence he had dwelt solely on her faults, and seeing them through the distorting medium of resentment, they appeared sufficiently numerous to reconcile him to her desertion. But in her presence, he remembered only that she had once promised to be his, and was now another’s. He had resolved never to see her till he could think of her with composure; to effect this, he thought of her unceasingly, and the very hope of seeing her again, largely contributed to the tranquillity, which he had made the test of his security. He deceived himself; and unhappily he wilfully continued the deception. He felt that he lived but in her presence; when ever he left her, he said to himself, "I am not with her, and I do not feel uneasy, I may therefore visit her again." But he did not inform himself, that his composure arose from his previous resolution to do so. One whole day he stayed away; the day appeared so long, and he felt so wretched during its course, that he resolved to try the dangerous experiment no more. "By accustoming myself to her society," he said, "its charms will become familiar to me; but by abstaining from it, I see how insupportable it makes all other appear." He thought no doubt that he argued admirably; for every one naturally likes the arguments which suit his inclinations.
His respectful homage could not fail to flatter Lady Courtney, who relying entirely on her own principles, and his honor, soon neglected to pay to society, the debt due from all who are protected by its laws, a regard to its opinons, and to the propriety of appearance required for its support.
Sir Edward was her constant attendant, in public; did she dance, he was her partner; did she play or sing, he accompanied her; at cards or table, he invariably took his seat near her; and if he sometimes hesitated, through fear of exposing to censure the woman whom he loved, a smile from her, put every wise and virtuous resolve to flight, and the desire of pleasing her reigned triumphant in his breast.
Perhaps Lord Courtney would have been better satisfied, to see less particular attention paid to his wife, tho’ he had been as highly gratified as she was with that of a general nature shewn to her; but like every other young person he was tremblingly alive to the dread of ridicule, and to be laughed at as a jealous husband, tho’ by men who were as compleatly divested of honor, as their ladies were of shame, was a trial which he felt unable to endure with fortitude. He had not the slightest doubt of his wife’s conduct; he knew her too well to have even a momentary fear that it might be unworthy of her; but he knew that the world would judge from appearances only, and therefore appearances ought to be observed. He could see many women who merely by a rigid attention to common forms of propriety, had passed thro’ life uncondemned, tho’ not unsuspected; and yet these were the very women who were loudest in their censures of his Everilda; who wholly unsuspicious of blame, whilst unconscious of deserving it, invited its severity by the imprudent levity of her behaviour. It would have been more friendly to his wife, and more just to himself, if Lord Courtney, on making these reflections had resolved to pursue the plan of conduct, which would have rendered a repetition of them unnecessary; but "the world’s dread laugh, which scarce the firm philosopher can scorn," was the phantom that he could not cease to fear; and to avoid it, he submitted to the possibility of becoming in reality, the mark for "scorn to point her slow unmoving finger at," when by a firmer conduct he would have ensured the applause of the wise, the approbation of the virtuous, and have preserved his own honor and his wife’s, from the withering influence of suspicion, and the poisonous blast of scandal.
Edmund remarked the cloud that obscured his friend’s customary cheerfulness and connected as he now was with him, he could not remark it without anxiety as well as regret. Could Lady Courtney have offended him? their uninterrupted and mutual affection forbade the idea. Was Miss Macdonald the cause? She might be in distress; he might wish to assist her, and require the aid of some friend. This determined Edmund to take notice of an alteration which otherwise he would not have appeared to observe. Lord Courtney seemed hurt, that his gravity should have drawn attention, and denied with some peevishness having any reason for it. Edmund was almost discouraged, but affectionately uttered a hope that his friend was happy. "Happy my dear Edmund," he replied, "yes, as happy as man may be; but life is puppet-shew work at the best; we neither fix our attention on the present scene, nor recollect the past: we are only intent on what will come the next, and when it is over, we find that it has not been worth looking at." Well," said Edmund smiling, "it is not entirely without novelty however; since you can moralize on its imperfections. I shall begin to think our friend Clayton not quite so romantic in his ideas, if you adopt similar ones." "I am not so deficient in ideas," replied Lord Courtney hastily, "as to adopt Sir Edward Clayton’s on any subject, for there are none that I less approve;" then conscious of the warmth which he had betrayed, he continued, "but if you think that I am ill-humoured or melancholy, have the charity to accompany me in a ride; for I must be both, in a very great degree, if your society cease to be one of my chief pleasures." It was not in nature to resist such a compliment; and it was just made in time to allay the resentment, that his last speech had occasioned even in Edmund’s breast; for tho’ always gentle and unassuming, he yet knew too well the respect due to himself, to submit to rudeness, however it might be attributed to the influence of anger, or impatience.
About this time one of those unfortunate affairs of gallantry occurred which give occasion for the pleader on one side, to paint in the most beautiful colours, charms of mind and person, and perfection of connubial happiness, which probably had never any other foundation but in the fruitful eloquence of the counsel for the plaintiff; and on the other of excusing the breach of every sacred and moral tie, palliating vice under new names, proving neglect which never existed, and teaching mankind to distrust even the fairest appearances of virtue. As this event took place in the higher circles, it afforded incessant conversation, till the remembrance of it was effaced by some other of the same nature more new, and of course more entertaining; attended likewise with circumstances of still greater atrocity, consequently a thousand times more interesting.
Whilst however it was yet the subject of some days wonder, it was mentioned one morning at Lady Drelincourt’s work table, where the gentlemen were assembled, waiting for fair weather. Some of them said it was at least a proof that a woman could keep a secret, when her own interest was concerned in its preservation, as the connexion had subsisted many years, without even being suspected. "Well," exclaimed Lady Courtney, with her usual animation, "I declare I think that very secrecy, an aggravation of her fault." "I am of a different opinion," replied Lord Courtney, with unusual gravity, "it at least proved her regard to public opinion, and that is a virtue in every one, and above all in a female." "Yes," answered his lady, "as far as self-interest is concerned, it is very adviseable; and for that reason we see it practised the most scrupulously, by those, who are the most conscious that their conduct requires a screen." "Not entirely so, my dear Everilda," said the Earl, taking up the argument, "in society, next to being virtuous, it is essential to its interests to appear so; and they who, content with the rectitude of their thoughts, are regardless of the construction that may be put upon their actions, are unjust to themselves, and to the virtue on which they rely; for they expose themselves to censure, where they might have been gratified by receiving just praise, and affording a beneficial example to others." "Yet," replied Everilda, "is not vice infinitely more culpable when it affects the language of virtue, than virtue can be made to appear, by the censures of vice? I confess, I would much rather be supported by the applauses of my own conscience, than by the approbation of those, in deceiving whom, I should add hypocrisy to my other faults." "But you do not argue fairly, my dear Everilda," returned the Earl, with the utmost good humour, "you seem to think it necessary, to be vicious and a hypocrite, or virtuous and an object of censure. Virtue to be beneficial, ought to be acknowledged; and I wish only to convince you, that where we rely entirely on the purity of our own intentions, for approbation, we cannot be surprised if the world be backward in granting it; for our intentions can only be known to ourselves, and the world can only judge of them by our actions, consequently ought not to be accused of too great severity if it condemn such as appear deserving of censure; and give little credit to the integrity of principles, which do not seem to have sufficient influence to correct the conduct that offends." "In short," said Lord Courtney abruptly, "there can need little argument to convince any, but those who are wilfully obstinate in error, that vice may be made to appear more vicious, and audacity more audacious, by shewing an utter contempt of the opinions of that society, which they disgrace by their actions; and as the rain has now ceased, I think we may spend our time more agreeably, than in discussing topics, which I am sorry are become so familiar, that they fail to inspire the disgust, which their deformity would otherwise naturally create." He spoke with a bitterness and severity altogether new to him. The Earl seeing that he was ruffled, proposed taking him to the House, and Edmund accompanied them, leaving Sir Edward Clayton, who was a regular morning visitor, in a situation the very reverse of agreeable. He had felt the full force of the conversation, without daring to take a part in it, lest what he said might be misconstrued. In any other company he would have spiritedly examined the value of popular applause, and the basis on which it was generally founded; but now he shrunk from giving an opinion, lest he should be suspected of teaching Lady Courtney to despise it. "Alas!" he mentally exclaimed, "I have not only neglected the observance of propriety to the world, but I have also neglected the conviction which my own sense of it forced upon my mind. I have said, I will rest satisfied with the purity of my own desires, but I have never really enquired what those desires were; ah! too surely the best of them is a selfish one!—to gratify my partiality for the society of my friend’s wife, even though by the unjustifiable indulgence of it, I expose him to ridicule, and her to censure; thus ungenerously subjecting them to evils, which the misjudging world extends not to me; and I who am the only guilty person, am the only one who escapes punishment."
When Sir Edward had once convinced himself that his conduct had been wrong, an alteration in it, was the invariable consequence of the conviction; and he now resolved no longer to prefer his own gratification to the dictates of honor. From that day, he determined to shun society hitherto too fascinating, to learn at a distance, to distrust his own resolution, and to conquer temptation, by taking refuge in flight.
The deep reverie into which these reflections had plunged him, was interrupted by the sarcastic tones, and angry countenances of Lady Courtney, and Lady Rosamond, who were as usual of opposite opinions. The former hurt at the severity of her husband’s manner, and mortified by the coldness with which he had left the company, continued the subject, saying, "I must acknowledge notwithstanding the incontrovertible arguments, which the gentlemen have given themselves the trouble to maintain, I am still obstinate in believing that sincerity is an essential virtue in society, and that vice is rendered infinitely more dangerous by being unsuspected." "But there may be an affectation of sincerity," replied Lady Rosamond, "equally calculated to conceal vice, by disarming suspicion, and under the disguise of excessive candour, it may practise the hypocrisy which it pretends to condemn." "And there may be a zeal," retorted Lady Courtney, "which, by its violence, disgusts, instead of convincing, and causes the sincerity of its motives to be suspected." If it had been possible to mistake the personality of these remarks, the tones and looks, by which they were accompanied were sufficiently explanatory. Sir Edward was concerned to witness dissention between two women, each highly superior to the generality of females; to take notice of it, was however to encrease it, and he deferred his departure a few minutes, that he might not appear to have observed what had passed. To change a subject of conversation, that had already produced so many unfortunate remarks, he mentioned music, and requested Lady Rosamond would favour him with a song, which he had greatly admired the preceding evening. She was on the point of complying, when Lady Courtney exclaimed, "Ah! for heaven’s sake Sir Edward, have some compassion on my ears, for really anglicized Italian, is too severe a trial for them. If my little Emma would give us a Scotch air, we should have at least nature to interest us." Emma however declined, and Lady Rosamond justly offended at a remark, which common civility ought to have restrained, left the instrument, at which Everilda took her seat, and sung and played a very difficult air, with admirable execution and taste, for she was a perfect mistress of music, and understood its principles scientifically.
When she had finished, she perceived however, that the party of her auditors had decreased, for Lady Rosamond had gone away, and not wishing therefore, to have the appearance of continuing in Sir Edward’s company, she left the room with Lady Emma, and only Claudina remained: nor would she have stayed, had she not thought the desertion of the whole party, would have been so marked a rudeness to Sir Edward, that she sacrificed her inclinations to her sense of politeness, and her unwillingness to wound the feelings of another. Her manner was however so embarrassed, her answers so cold, and she appeared so anxious for his departure, that he became more than ever convinced, of having unintentionally offended her. The idea did not now inspire him with the resentment, which had formerly accompanied it, for he was humbled by self-reproach, and not inclined to censure any actions but his own. "Yes, she despises me," he said to himself, "and with reason; she loves Everilda, with too much sincerity and warmth, to esteem the man who suffers his attentions to endanger her reputation; she saw on my introduction here, to what perils I was about to expose my integrity: if she blamed me for risking it, what must she do now, when she sees how rapidly it fails me? justly may she condemn my presumption, and despise my weakness." Impressed with these ideas, he approached the timid Claudina, who was agitated by every feeling opposite to those, which he supposed occasioned her emotion. "You hate me," he said in the most moving tones, "you hate me, and I acknowledge the justice of your hatred; but I did not expect that you, who are so gentle, so benevolent to every other person, would shew it to me with such cruel severity." "I hate you, Sir Edward?" exclaimed Claudina, turning pale, "ah! how can you be so unjust to my feelings? wound them not by the cruel supposition." "Pardon me, pardon my unhappiness which deprives me of the power even of expressing myself as I could wish;" said he "hatred, is indeed a term too strong; never could its vindictive sensations assimilate with sensibility like yours; but you condemn me Claudina, yet surely the peculiarity of the circumstances in which I am placed, may in some measure palliate my errors." He paused, but as Claudina made no reply, he continued, "Your silence is as expressive as your words could be; you think my conduct as inexcusable as it is base?" he hastily walked across the room, and Claudina terrified at his violence, replied, "Why, Sir Edward, will you persist in asking an opinion, which I am unable to give? why will you ungenerously construe the expression of my countenance, nay my very silence, into censures, as harsh, as they would be from me unjustifiable?" "Then you do not think me so very culpable," he exclaimed, again taking a seat, "you think me not utterly void of virtue? Oh! how rigid, and impracticable, must be the stern tenets of morality, which would not relax somewhat of their severity, in a case so hard as mine." "You still mistake me, Sir Edward," answered Claudina, trembling at the idea of authorizing principles inimical to propriety, "I think you very unfortunate, and infinite would be your claims on the compassion and sympathy of the virtuous, if you looked to them for consolation; but when you can lose sight of rectitude of conduct, for the gratification of self-love, on yourself alone you must depend for support, and weak indeed will it prove, when you have not even the aid of your own esteem, to enable you to bear with the censures of others. You look displeased, I fear I have said too much; yet not to express disapprobation of vicious sentiments, is to partake in them, and no one wishes his errors to be palliated, but to excuse a continuance in them." "Ah! cruel, unfeeling dictates of morality," he exclaimed, "how cold, how powerless, ye appear, when opposed to the agonies of feeling. It is easy to declaim against evils never felt; you Claudina know not the torments of love, of injured, ill-requited love; you cruelly add to my afflictions, you who are so well acquainted with their cause; who have seen my soul absorbed in fancied possession of a matchless treasure, you can upbraid me for lamenting its loss, for gazing on it with the bitterness of regret; you would refuse me even this poor consolation; you think it makes me happy. Be satisfied, it has not that effect. Every hour of temporary forgetfulness in her society, is purchased with one of added misery in solitude: then my eyes atone with tears of anguish, for the pleasure of gazing on her; then am I at once sensible of my weakness and its punishment; but you have never loved, and therefore cannot excuse the wanderings of passion. You have fortunately passed your existence in the unruffled calm of tranquillity, therefore cannot feel for one, who was born to be the slave of disappointed sentiment. You may have shed the tear of duty over the cruelty of your relations, but you cannot judge of the agony which rends the heart, that finds itself deceived, deserted by the object of its doating love."
These severe reflections, and his agitation were too much for the susceptible Claudina; she burst into tears and clasping her hands exclaimed, "Oh open not my wounds afresh; call not insensible one, whose life is consuming under the influence of passion. Say not that I have never known love. Ah fatal day when I first submitted to its dominion! never since that day has my bosom known peace. I love, and love without hope, I shall carry the impression made on my heart into my grave, but I shall not have dishonored the purity of my passion by seeking its gratification unworthily: my unhappiness will have injured no one, and that cheering reflection will console me in death." "Alas, have you also loved," said Sir Edward immediately becoming calm, "you have indeed by this confession taught me the injustice of my conduct; you say that you have suffered, and how uncomplainingly! Oh! those tears wound me to the soul; pardon me if I have recalled ideas which have caused them to flow; from this day I will strive to imitate your firmness; you shall be my ‘guide, philosopher and friend;’ your gentleness shall soothe, your resolution encourage me, and never again shall the subject of my ill-fated passion pass my lips; but ah, Claudina, how hard to be silent! How blest did I consider myself when every faculty of my soul was absorbed in admiration; never till then had life held forth its charms to me. In vain I had sought to interest my feelings in the pursuits of ambition, or in realizing the dreams of avarice. My ardent soul soared above the slow advancement of the first, and looked down with contempt on the sordid views of the last. Literature only increased a sensibility already too exquisite for my happiness; and by adding imaginary charms to a state of existence, painted in the most brilliant colours by fancy’s magic pencil, inspired me with new disgust of the tame and insipid tints of real life: ah! Claudina, there is in every person’s existence an epoch, from which he begins to taste its value. I saw Everilda, I loved, I lived; from that moment I beheld no other object in creation, than as it was connected with her. Every beauty of nature seemed to add to my passion; the air I breathed inspired love; the day flew too rapidly, even though it closed but to be succeeded by another still more delightful. How dreadful then was my disappointment! how keen the mingled feelings it inspired! Can they ever be forgotten? oh no! without them my soul would now become a blank; alas! I must still exist, and still be made conscious of existing, by the acuteness of my suffering! How can I endeavour to forget an object, of which every occurrence in life must remind me? How tear an image from my heart, when there is no other with which I can replace it! Why am I endued by nature with sensibilities so keen, when fortune has cruelly destined them to be the ruin of my peace? Oh Claudina, teach me resignation, promise to befriend me with your advice." "Already," she replied, with a captivating smile, "already you have broken the conditions on which it was to be given." He looked at her with stedfastness, and thought that he had never seen her so interesting. He almost wished his heart had withstood the force of Everilda’s attractions to be sensible of Claudina’s unassuming worth and pensive sweetness, and taking her hand with an air of expressive tenderness, he had raised it to his lips, when, at that moment, Lord Courtney entered and she withdrew it in confusion. Sir Edward likewise felt embarrassed, but Henry’s countenance expressed pleasure, and his good humour and cheerfulness were displayed in all their wonted powers.
Whilst he was discoursing with the animation natural to him; and which seemed to return with redoubled force, from having suffered a temporary suspension, the ladies re-entered equipped for paying morning visits. Sir Edward rose to depart. "We shall meet you this evening at the duchess’s concert," said Lady Courtney. He hesitated, and all his resolution tottered. He stammered out something of an engagement elsewhere, and then congratulated himself on the conquest that he had made over his inclinations. But he soon found the victory neither so easy, nor so certain as he imagined, Lady Courtney would not hear a denial, and declared that she should take no part in the music if he were not there, as she had been so used to his accompaniment that she should be utterly unable to perform without it. "So no hesitation, Sir Edward," she continued, "but say positively whether I must wait your arrival for music, or quietly take my seat at a card table?" False shame now conquered Sir Edward’s laudable resolutions; there was no resisting so direct an appeal, without the greatest apparent rudeness, and to have his real reasons known, might certainly acquit him of intentional disrespect, but it would also make him laughed at for his distrust of himself and his quixotic veneration for his mistress’s fair fame; and every one knows that in society so polished as that of the present day, it is infinitely less painful to appear vicious than ridiculous.
"I will avail myself of the honor of her Grace’s invitation," said Sir Edward, bowing to conceal the tinge of real shame, which passed across his cheek, as he felt the weakness of his best resolves: he looked at Claudina instinctively; for her approbation had that morning become necessary to his own, and he felt conscious that in this instance, he must inevitably risk his claim to it; but the spirit of cheerfulness had fled from a countenance to which early misfortune had rendered it almost a stranger. The glance of sensibility, the smile of tenderness, the blush of pleasure newly felt, had fled, and her placid features retained only the expression of disappointment void of surprise, disapprobation divested of any sentiment harsher than regret. Nor was her countenance alone changed; Lord Courtney’s had also relapsed into gloom, and Sir Edward took his leave, bitterly regretting that his irresolution should occasion unhappiness in any other bosom than his own. "How weak Claudina must think me," he mentally exclaimed, "how inferior my conduct to her’s! she, with uncomplaining sweetness has borne in silence the agonies of a passion, of which all the pains and pleasures must be keenly felt by sensibility exquisite as she possesses: too surely her melancholy is caused by absence from the unconscious object of her love; for unconscious of its existence must be the man who can suffer it to be unreturned. Probably her native country possesses the treasure to which she has devoted her heart, and estranged from it perhaps for ever, can it be wondered at, if common pleasures appear insipid to a mind like her’s? But she is happier than I am. She is rich in her own esteem, and the admiration of all around her, whilst I am a just prey to the scorn of others, and to my own reproach."
Thus Sir Edward Clayton deplored the weakness, which he could not, however sensible of it, summon resolution to conquer, nor was the object that inspired it less unhappy.
The displeasure of her husband was new to her; she believed it to be undeserved, and her favorite, though dangerous system of governing her actions entirely by her thoughts, forbade any endeavour to conciliate the return of a complacency which she thought was unjustly withheld from her. The dinner hour passed almost in silence, for Lady Rosamond had not forgotten the remarks of the morning, and could not forgive Lady Courtney for usurping the attention of a man, to whose notice she had resigned her own claim in the hope, that it would be devoted to Claudina, whose daily declining health and drooping spirits too plainly proclaimed the listlessness of disappointment, and hopeless regret. Lady Emma behaved with the affectionate tenderness natural to her, but partial as she was to Everilda, she yet shrunk from expression of kindness, which lost their value to her affectionate heart, when accompanied by offensive comparisons of her amiable qualities with the foibles of others.
Lord Courtney seemed anxious to lose the sense of vexation in wine, and sacrificed largely to the insidious power, who flattering his mistaken votary by bestowing exhilarated spirits, deprives him at the same moment of reason to conduct them; and in return for granting temporary forgetfulness, requires the risk of committing errors, which may wound remembrance, long after the power of atoning for them is no more.
"Oh when we swallow down
Intoxicating wine, we drink damnation!
Naked we stand the sport of mocking fiends,
Who grin to see our noble nature vanquish’d,
Ourselves subdued to beasts!"
Oh Fancy, paint not coming days too fair,
Oft for the joys that sprightly May should yield,
Rain pouring clouds have darken’d all the air,
Or snows untimely whiten’d o’er the fields.
THE concert at the Duchess of D’s was a private one, and the aid of professional performers was not required.
To such parties Lord Drelincourt’s daughters had always been considered as valuable acquisitions, and the great attainments of Lady Courtney, in the science of harmony, which she had from childhood been accustomed to hear in the highest perfection, caused her performances to command an attention, flattering to her, and no less gratifying to those who paid it, as they were amply rewarded by the exquisite taste and brilliant execution which she always displayed.
On this evening she surpassed her usual powers, and the most extravagant praises were bestowed on her exertions; but on this evening likewise, praise, for the first time in her life, ceased to please her; she saw that her husband was not gratified by the admiration which she excited, and it appeared tedious to her. It occasioned no animation in his countenance, and therefore it created no pleasure in her bosom; she even discerned in the flattery of the men a familiarity which roused her resentment and disgust; and in the neglect of the women, a contempt which she shrunk from, fearful that she might have incurred it by her own imprudence, in affecting a levity of which she abhorred the reality; but however mortified she felt she yet was resolved to appear happy, and was animated, various and charming, even beyond her natural powers: every one pronounced her fascinating, but any one might have pronounced also, that the gaiety which she spread around her, was a stranger at that moment to her own heart; that the heightened colour, the restless glance, the rapid utterance, were as nearly allied to secret vexations, and concealed anxiety, as to the exuberance of mirth or the gratification of vanity; however it is not the fault of society to be profound in its remarks; the men admired and the women envied, whilst Everilda alone felt how insufficient the admiration of the former was to confer real satisfaction, and how much the envy of the latter was misplaced. The Count Solano, who resided not far from Florence, was one of the party. Approaching Lady Courtney with the ease to which he was entitled, from a long intimacy in her family, he informed her that he was soon to leave England; "and," continued he, "I shall leave it with regret, for I have always been partial to it, and if any thing could have raised my opinion of my english friends, it would be seeing them so sensible of your worth, and so alive to your attractions. I shall be proud on my return to say, that, even compared with english ladies, my fair countrywoman’s charms are not excelled, and that her claims on the admiration of all who know her, are as universally acknowledged in England, as they were felt in Florence. But what shall I say from you respecting the country for which you have deserted us? Am I to have the pleasure of saying that you are as happy in it, as you once made every one who knew you in your own?" "I cannot judge," replied Lady Courtney smiling, "what idea would be formed of my happiness by that comparison, but you may certainly say with truth, that England has equally surprised and delighted me: I had feared meeting only with men immersed in the cares of their country, always studying to support its welfare, and to signalize themselves in the temple of fame: I had feared finding the women devoted to domestic duties, and rarely emerging from the delightful amusements of rational retirement, to pay the debt of occasionally appearing in scenes of public life suited more to their rank than to their wishes. But the alarming accounts that I had heard were absolutely false, and a short acquaintance with both sexes, informed me how egregiously they had been wronged. The men condescend to divert their sense of public cares by pursuing private pleasures with tolerable avidity, and the women are not so singularly modest and reserved as they have been described by travellers, who have unjustly represented them, as the most amiable of their sex in their own families, and the most forbidding when absent from them." "The english ladies," replied the Count, "have certainly, from time immemorial, been deemed as cruel as they are fair, and perhaps proud of their irreproachable renown, they have been encouraged to preserve it, by persevering in a severity, which the natural gentleness of the female sex could otherwise scarcely exert." "Whatever may have become of the motive," answered Lady Courtney, "the effect certainly does not remain in any very troublesome degree; any more than exists among the men, that rigid adherence to their own manners and opinions, and that contempt for those of other nations, which, we are told, once formed the most striking feature of their character, and that of which they were the most proud: we may now hear an english nobleman talk in favor of an abolition of all distinctions, we may hear infidelity from a black coat, or treason from a red one; and we may hear the government condemned as tyrannical and oppressive, when its very accusers give the most convincing proof of the confidence they place in its lenity and forbearance, by the measures which they take to incur its just chastisement." "It must be confessed," returned the Count, "that of late years, the peculiar style of thinking which at one time marked the english character as worthy of admiration, has somewhat suffered by the facility with which they have adopted the eccentricities of other nations, without enquiring if they were congenial to the spirit of their own." "Ah, no," interrupted Lady Courtney, "it is an old-fashioned prejudice long since obsolete, otherwise they would not build houses in the italian style of architecture, totally regardless of the trifling variation of climate; nor would they, when built, revive the gothic taste of furnishing them, were it not, I presume, to mark more strongly by the force of contrast, the difference between ancient and modern manners." "Is it necessary," asked Mr. Fletcher, "to point out the difference? I believe there will be little danger of confounding them; I should rather imagine that it is with the laudable design of sending us back to the times of simplicity, when the only preparation for the arrival of a guest, was to strew the floor with a double quantity of rushes, to throw a double quantity of wood upon the fire, to place before him the largest portion of the repast, and when it was over, to entertain him with the merriest story or cunningest device." "If we have as great a variety of manners as of architecture," replied Lady Courtney, "we shall certainly not risk being fatigued by sameness, whilst we continue the amusing and rational plan of bringing the peculiarities of all countries under one roof. Is it not extremely entertaining to ascend a flight of steps after the fashion of the sixteenth century, then to walk through an egyptian hall into a grecian banqueting-room, or gothic ball-room, with painted windows and sash-lights, the recesses lined with glass and ornamented with etruscan vases? or into a turkish bed-chamber, ornamented full of images and hieroglyphics, leading to a roman-bath with the newest french furniture?" "Very well," returned Mr. Fletcher, "allowing a little poetical licence for the inconsistencies with which you charge us, this variety may not be without its advantages; we are told of Lucullus, that the style of his entertainments was proportionate to the splendor of the rooms in which they were served, each apartment being distinguished by a name indicative of its rank in the scale of importance; and how agreeable it would be to take a hint from him and adapt our conversation and manners to the costume of the apartment into which we might be introduced; we should then confine our topic of horses, to the stables; of politics, to the dining-room; of abstruse literature, to the study, and reserve the easy rattle and fascinating gallantry of the french man, for the boudoir; whilst in the cool veranda, my fair countrywomen should adopt the compassionate custom of Italy, to relieve their husbands from the drudgery of entertaining them, by deputing a cicesbeo to pay the attentions which are insipid from those, who are only prompted to bestow them by the old-fashioned notions of conjugal love." "Ah indeed," interrupted Lady Courtney, "you compliment the italian ladies too highly if you suppose that they have any customs with which the english ladies are unacquainted; no, no, so far from it, they even improve upon the licence allowed us from time immemorial, of having a cavalier servente; ours are chosen by the husband, or some elderly relation, your countrywomen wisely chuse for themselves, which you must allow is infinitely more agreeable; and they are generally independent enough to shew the world that they are proud of their choice, as they seldom take any pains to conceal it, which is certainly to the credit of their sincerity; but that is the delight of living in a free country, the chains of vulgar prejudices are not known, oh! it is surely charming to be free!"
The uneasiness which Lady Courtney had concealed, as carefully as she had felt it, acutely pointed the severity of her remark. The happy are seldom rigid censors, and Lady Courtney had never lashed the follies of society, until this evening, when she found her spirits unequal to participating in them. The length and animation of the discourse, had gained many attentive hearers, and her satire was concealed under such well feigned ignorance, that some thought she actually meant it as praise, others however who had been taught by experience, to distinguish narrowly between a real meaning, and one ironical, soon discerned the censure in disguise, and conscience unpolitely informing them, that they were included among the objects of her persifflage, by a sympathetic movement they withdrew, from the general circle, to make their comments in a smaller one. "What a shameless creature!" exclaimed Lady Nevil, who had very naturally at the mention of cavalier servente, looked round the room, to see if Lord Stranton had arrived, "her audacity exceeds all bounds, but what could be expected from an opera-dancer?" "Yet your ladyship must have heard the Count Rodalvi call her his sister, and his family is known to be one of the first in Tuscany." Remarked one of the party, who retained some candour, even when speaking of a beautiful woman. "The Count’s calling her sister, does not prove her claim to affinity," said Lady John Talbot, "we all know he would oblige the Earl in any thing, as he is to become one of the family; and perhaps in calling her sister, he only means to say, that she will be so when he marries Lady Emma." "Very likely." "More than probable." Every one repeated to this ingenious supposition, and Lady Nevil continued, "I always thought she had been accustomed to perform in public; no one could sing and play as she does, who had merely been taught music as an accomplishment; what can Lady Stuart, or Lady Glerney, or Lady Mary Horton, or half the ladies of our acquaintance play? and we all know that they have been taught ever since they could sit upright; I had the first masters in town myself, for fourteen years, and they used to play so charmingly all the time they stayed! and yet I should feel very unequal to performing in public." "I dare say you would," said Lady John, "and I should be very glad if more were as diffident of their powers, for it is a terrible trial of patience, when people fancy themselves so superlatively accomplished, and still more when they are really so." "I am wearied to death with Lady Courtney’s praises," returned Lady Nevil, "where she is, there is no rational conversation, and really her confidence increases so rapidly, under the protection of the gentlemen’s applause, that it quite makes me tremble." "What can make Lady Nevil tremble?" said Mr. Fletcher, who had overheard the conclusion of the sentence, "Lady Nevil, whose charms would find a champion in every being, who saw them menaced by danger." "We were speaking of Lady Courtney," replied the ready fair one, "and I was lamenting the malevolent constructions that might be put on her charming vivacity, which would make the more candid, and those who were better acquainted with her, tremble." "How amiable is anxiety in such a cause," said Mr. Fletcher, "you are afraid the influence of Lady Courtney’s charms, may be weakened by the brilliancy of her wit, but trust me, they receive additional strength from its well turned sallies; the admiration of her beauty, great as it is, might be transient, but the inexhaustible novelty and interest of her conversation rivets it." "And yet the novelty of her conversation," replied Lady John, "has not raised her in the opinion of the censorious, and the effects produced by it, however flattering to her vanity, may not be very beneficial to her character; observe I speak only of the turn which the ill-natured may give to it." "Your ladyship speaks with your accustomed candor and penetration," said Mr. Fletcher, without departing from his accustomed sincerity,
"Envy will merit as its shade pursue,
And like the shadow prove the substance true."
"The censorious and ill-natured, are certainly intolerable pests in polite society, and the most alarming consideration is, that their mischief, when once suffered to break out, is incalculable; it is like the plague, destroying all before it; its wrath will not be appeased by the sacrifice of the original offender, whose character may have been wantonly offered for investigation, the spirit of enquiry spreads, a general scrutiny may be made, and where can any one say the evil shall end?" He was called away, and Lady Nevil enquired if Mr. Fletcher was in jest or earnest, in what he said? as she never could know exactly what he meant. "Lord, my dear," replied Lady John Talbot peevishly, "I should never have done, if I always asked myself the meaning of people’s words, and as to jest or earnest, nine times out of ten, they are to be taken which way you find the most convenient; but all who are connected with the Earl of Drelincourt, acquire some ridiculous way of thinking or peculiarity of manner; I never could admire either Lord Courtney or Signior Rodalvi, about whom the women were once so fatiguing, as the men are now with this illustrious lady of the opera." Lady Nevil knew very well, that her dear friend’s opinion respecting Lord Courtney, and Signior Rodalvi, had not always been of the non-admiring class, but with all the forbearance of modern manners, she affected implicitly to believe her, and as she did not see Lord Stranton, she went with her to the altar of the blind goddess, where every passion is forgotten, or swallowed up in the agitations produced by her decrees: here every one was intent on deceiving, or guarding against deception; on encreasing their store or their debts; on making unerring calculations, or lamenting the unforseen chances by which they were defeated; and the beauty of Venus, or the wisdom of Minerva, would have been displayed in vain, when opposed to the calls of avarice, and the fluctuations of hope and fear, in the breast of every individual.
Lord Courtney’s sacrifices to Bacchus, had not been very successful; he was grave and silent, and unfortunately he could not be so, without drawing attention; for the reputation of being a professed wit, or droll, however enviable and delightful it may be considered, by those who never could attain it, has one inconvenience to its possessor, who is never allowed the privilege, liberally granted to other mortals, of having his hours of care and dullness, but is expected to be always merry himself, and to make every one around him merry also. This is not however at all times an easy task, and Lord Courtney never found it more difficult than at this moment; he therefore went to the grand centre of attraction, where wit is readily dispensed with as unprofitable; a fault of which it is very often accused, even by those who possess it in the highest perfection. It happened unfortunately that Sir Edward Clayton, had this evening likewise devoted himself to the board of green cloth, not less to divert uneasy reflections, than to withdraw his usual attentions from Lady Courtney, whom he had summoned resolution to leave after the conclusion of the music. Lord Courtney was very much in the humour to quarrel with himself, and to divert the inclination he resolved to quarrel with Sir Edward; marked coldness, formal civility, and ceremonious attention, begun the attack, but in vain, he had the field of combat entirely to himself, for Sir Edward, conscious and dejected, bore patiently a conduct, which he felt he had incurred, by the imprudence of his own; and could not rouse his drooping spirits to answer remarks, the personality of which, he trusted was not observed by any other person. His forbearance, provoked still more the headstrong impetuosity of Lord Courtney, who imputed it to contempt; and under this idea, his incivility became too obvious to escape the observation of the company, or Sir Edward’s just resentment. Lord Courtney had played carelessly, of which he might soon have been convinced by the rapidity of his losses; for where an attention to the mysteries of science is neglected, every one kindly endeavours to convince the unwary player, that something more than even good cards, is necessary. Lord Courtney had lost all the money he had brought with him, and Sir Edward offered to lend him what he had occasion for, but he coldly declined borrowing of him, and immediately requested Lord John Talbot to become his creditor, for the sum which he wanted; Sir Edward, notwithstanding he felt much hurt, said with great politeness, "Did you fear finding me a severe creditor, my lord, that you would not honor me, by becoming my debtor?" "No sir," replied he, with unjustifiable contempt in his manner, "I have not learned to fear you, but before I lay myself under obligations to any man, I like to be convinced of his sincerity." This remark, could not possibly be suffered to pass unnoticed; Sir Edward replied with becoming spirit, Lord Courtney retorted with unbecoming warmth, for he was certainly the aggressor, and after some severe remarks on both sides, Sir Edward said, "Lord Courtney, you well know that you have injured me in a point, for which the friendship of your life could ill atone; I am sorry you add insult to injury, not that you can by it, encrease the unhappiness which you have already caused me, but, as it argues, what I did not expect from you, a littleness of mind, which cannot pardon the man whom you know you have wronged." "’Tis well sir," replied Lord Courtney, "’tis well you have acquainted me that you consider yourself aggrieved, I could not indeed pardon myself now, were I to omit telling you, that for every wrong which I have committed against you, whatever satisfaction you may require shall be given."
We suppose that few of our readers, are ignorant of the nature of the fashionable reparation for wrongs, real or imaginary; we call it reparation, for as to the satisfaction to be derived from it, we never could thoroughly understand, from what source the satisfactory sensations were to arise; but this ignorance we frankly acknowledge proceeds from our not ever having been engaged in such agreeable amusements, chusing rather to leave them to those sons of valour, who can digest a brace of bullets, and find them
For warriors who delight in blood."
The harmony of the company was rather disturbed by this affair, but as the disputants left the room, and fortunately none other of the Earl’s family were present at the time it happened, oblivion of all that had passed, was proposed by the sapient Lord John, who remarked, that "Of all silly, obsolete things, surely contending for the claims of friendship, or the honor of women, is the most absurd, and the greatest torture to the patience of rational creatures. Who thinks of the first but boys at school? and as to the last, the ladies are able to defend themselves, and Lady Courtney as well as any I know, can stand forth in her own vindication." "And who dares assert that her conduct needs vindication?" enquired a voice which sounded like thunder in the ears of the affrighted peer, he looked around, and found that it had proceeded from Edmund, who hearing some flying reports of the misunderstanding between Clayton and Lord Courtney, had just entered the room to gain intelligence respecting it, as Lord John was making his harrangue, "If there be any one," he continued, "who has the temerity to breathe a suspicion of Lady Courtney’s honor, let him do it now, and he shall find that its defence it not considered by me of trivial import, nor shall it be easily defamed." His eyes darted indignant lightning as he spoke, his attitude and figure might have been compared by a heathen poet to those of Jove, when he prepares to hurl his thunder on a guilty world, or the angry Mars, when he rushes forth to battle, or to any other deity that the reader may like better; but as we wish to be uniform, we shall not violate the costume of our christian history, by pagan comparisons, and will therefore content ourselves, notwithstanding it may savour of the bathos, with saying that he looked like the champion of England, when he throws down his glove, (which he knows no one will venture to take up) and challenges the world to dispute the claim of the illustrious monarch to the throne. But alas! we are obliged to repeat, that "the days of chivalry are past," and the Count’s challenge was, like the champion’s, suffered to pass unnoticed in respectful silence, he waited some moments, and receiving no answer, he continued, "Malevolent indeed must be the heart, which could censure the unguarded vivacity of innocence, and despicable the courage which could hear it censured unjustly, and remain inactive in its vindication." He left the room as he spoke, bestowing on Lord John, a glance of mingled resentment and contempt, which made him feel abashed, for the
"Grave rebuke severe in youthful beauty,
Had added grace invincible."
Lady Courtney was soon the only person who remained ignorant of the confusion, of which she had unconsciously been the cause, and when Lord Drelincourt, unable to conceal his uneasiness respecting his son, requested his family to return home, she alone, was at a loss to account for the gloom which pervaded the party.
Lord Courtney however had arrived at home some time before, and his servant said, that he had gone to bed rather indisposed with the head-ach; but the Earl could not feel satisfied without ocular demonstration, of his son’s safety, and therefore went into his chamber, where he had the happiness of finding him, apparently in undisturbed repose; he left the room with very different sensations from those which had agitated him on entering it; for all his ideas of chivalry, and feats of arms, and fair renown, had been put to flight, by the dread of his son’s danger; and though he was of too high courage, and possessed too nice a sense of the laws of honor, to advise the refusal of a challenge from an equal, who conceived himself aggrieved, yet to send one without even the plea of injury, was as opposite from his principles of rectitude, in all cases, as it was in this instance agonizing to his parental feelings.
Oh human life how mutable, how vain!
How thy wide sorrows circumscribe thy joy!
A sunny island in a stormy main,
A spot of azure in a cloudy sky.
THE Earl had flattered himself too much, in supposing that the fracas between his son, and Sir Edward, would end without further uneasiness. The former had returned home in the height of passion, and sent a challenge to the latter, which however he might condemn, when restored to the cool use of his unprejudiced reason, he was yet too much enslaved by false shame to retract.
Lord Courtney was ready to acknowledge to himself that he alone had been to blame, but to acknowledge it to the world was a very different thing, and as difficult as it would have been humiliating. He had the firmest reliance on his wife’s honor, and not only believed Sir Edward’s principles sufficiently strict to forbid any idea of tempting her to debase it, but even thought him infinitely more to be pitied than condemned; yet such is the subjection in which modern honour holds its votaries that he preferred risking his own life, and that of a fellow-creature, the happiness of his family, and the reputation of his wife, to making an acknowledgement that his challenge had been sent in a moment of inebriated madness. He was very anxious that Edmund should accompany him, but durst not propose it, lest that young man, more reasonable, though not less courageous, should not only refuse to attend him, but endeavour to prevent the meeting. He however resolved to sound him as to his opinion on the subject, and accordingly finding an opportunity to be alone with him, he began the conversation, by saying, "Do you not think that Clayton used me ill last night?" "Not having been present at your dispute," replied Edmund, "I am not able to judge of the merits or demerits of either party; but I will engage to say, that Clayton thought you used him ill." "I care not what he thought," said Lord Courtney impatiently, "I think that he aspersed my honor, and that I could take no means of vindicating it which would be too severe." Edmund enquired in what the aspersion had consisted. He could not answer very clearly, because he really did not know, but he still dwelt on the injurious expressions which Sir Edward had used, and repeating that he conceived himself bound to take notice of them, he again enquired Edmund’s opinion as to the justice of his cause, and the proper method of asserting it. Edmund had the rare merit of always thinking for himself, a privilege which is much seldomer exerted by rational beings than is generally imagined, some, indeed, may suppose, when they adopt a mode of conduct remarkable for any whim or singularity, that to the wondering plain folks who are content to proceed quietly in the beaten track, their eccentricity will prove that they think for themselves; but they will be internally convinced that it is for fashion’s sake, and to make others think of them.
Edmund took not the opinion of any one for the guide of his conduct, which he governed by the unalterable rule of right and wrong, as pointed out by reason, not by custom. He adopted no ideas because they were general, nor was he ashamed of confessing any, because they were singular; and he now refused to espouse Lord Courtney’s cause, notwithstanding his esteem for him, because he could not regard it as just.
Lord Courtney was much hurt by Edmund’s firmness in opposing his wishes. "I flattered myself," said he, "that where my interest was concerned, you would have waved your difference of opinion." "And how could I really serve your interest by assisting you in endangering your own life, or that of a worthy man whom you have offended?" enquired Edmund. "I think that he has offended me" replied Lord Courtney, "and this is the article in which your opinion differs from mine: but laying aside every consideration which I might have expected from your friendship, there is something due to the honor of your sister, I confess that I expected more alacrity in such a cause." "Point out the man who dares to asperse it," replied Edmund, "and I will then evince my alacrity in defending it; but I should do it little service were I to publish to the world, that I fight to vindicate what needs no vindication, to clear from suspicion what never was suspected; I will not take credit for my scruples of conscience respecting duelling, for in this instance it is not by them alone, that I am deterred; though at all times and in all cases the subject in a religious point of view is wholly indefensible. Society we are told requires some mode of punishing offences, which however inimical to its good understanding, and continuance, may yet not be cognizable by law, or if they were, where it is asked, is the man of spirit, who would not rather redress his own wrongs, than be obliged to the tardy justice of another for their reparation? It is urged that calumny will only be silenced, impertinence awed, and insult subdued, by the dread of being obliged by weapons more powerful than words to answer for the liberty which they have taken; there may be policy in forbearing to enquire with too great severity into this mode of vindicating wounded honor, but no one can pretend to palliate the guilt of a man who from wilful misapprehension risks the sacred blessing of existence in the cause of obstinacy; who conscious of being the transgressor yet unjustly usurps a privilege which would scarcely be defensible even if he felt himself injured, and had no other way of proving his regard for his honor, than by shewing that its defence was held more sacred by him than life itself. In short if you were impelled to give, or to receive a challenge, from a conviction that you were justified to yourself at least in the occasion of it, then notwithstanding my disapprobation of this ordeal of modern honor, I would accompany you, and rather die by your side, than see you injured, or insulted: when on the contrary I know that you internally acquit Clayton, of the most distant intention to either injure or insult, and even that you cannot avoid charging yourself with intending both, you must excuse me from countenancing an unjust usurpation of the privileges of single combat, by which it was never meant for the aggressor to challenge the aggrieved, nor would I affect to approve what I condemn, or be accessary to a meeting, the event of which might possibly plunge your family and my sister into misery." Edmund remained firm in his opinion, and Lord Courtney was obliged to conceal his own, as he did not wish Edmund to know, that like the generality of people who consult their friends, he had previously resolved how to act, independant of any advice that might be given; and the opposition which he had met with, only confirmed him the more in his observance of secrecy, respecting his intention, as he would rather have owed a reconciliation with his antagonist, to a candid acknowledgment of his own errors, than to the interference of peace-officers. As the hour approached, which was appointed for his meeting with Clayton, Lord Courtney contrived to elude the observation of his family, and by increased cheerfulness, to make them unsuspicious of any impending danger. But before he left the house, he pressed Everilda to his bosom, fervently imploring the blessing of heaven upon her, nor could he at that moment entirely conceal the emotion to which his various sensations gave birth; and she felt affected by the ardor of his manner, though she had not the most distant suspicion of its cause.
"With what affection he always treats me!" she said to herself, "how amiable he is! and how fortunate I ought to consider myself, in being united to so estimable a man, and by him related to so worthy a family! I will no longer trifle with the esteem of those whom I love, no longer lessen it by a struggle for dominion, which even if acquired, I should only owe to my perseverance in folly, and to their real superiority, in yielding the victory, rather than prolong the contest for it; I will lay aside the idle desire of attracting admiration, which when gained, creates no pleasure in my heart, already occupied with the tenderest esteem for my husband; the unmeaning attention of a frivolous croud, shall be exchanged for the approbation of my own friends, and the good opinion of the few, who may be deserving and amiable as they are." With these resolutions worthy of her superior attainments, and naturally amiable disposition, Lady Courtney left the dressing-room, to join the ladies, who were at work in the break-fast parlour. No one had more fascinating powers than she possessed, and never before had she exerted them so fully, never before had she appeared so truly captivating; no severity of remark, destroyed the playfulness of her wit, no prejudice obscured her judgment, no caprice or contradiction, dictated her opinions; she was gentle, affectionate, and obliging, goodhumouredly acknowledging her errors, and saying that she should not be guilty of them so often if her friends did not by forgiving her too early, deprive her of the time necessary to repent of them. In the meantime the hostile parties had met, and Lord Courtney was accompanied by a gentleman under sailing orders for the East Indies, and Sir Edward by a foreigner of rank; the seconds vainly endeavoured to reconcile them, neither would allow himself to be in the wrong, or could convince his adversary of the contrary. At length Lord Courtney said, "You perceive Sir Edward, my friend is anxious that our misunderstanding should be amicably settled; it is a natural wish on his part, and doubtless your friend may entertain a similar one, but when resolutions are made, arguments are wearisome as they are unnecessary. My determination is fixed; I esteem you and believe you to be a man of honor, but unless you will retract the expressions which you used last night, I must consider you as my enemy:" he paused for a reply, Sir Edward answered, "To retract what I then said, my lord, would be to criminate myself, by allowing that I had asserted a falsehood, I spoke what I felt, and what I must consider to be true; but I will say, that I spoke it without an intention to offend; and if this acknowledgment will satisfy you, I shall be happy to forget the past; if not, it is all the apology that I can make, and more than in strict justice I am required to give." "Then you have already said enough, sir," replied Lord Courtney, "our opinions differ, and words only, will not cause them to agree; the first fire is yours." He turned pale as he uttered these words, for though his courage was unsubdued, his affections spoke, and at that moment he forcibly felt the value of the life which he rashly placed in the disposal of chance; alas! an unhappy chance guided Clayton’s hand, and though he had turned round and averted his eyes, as he discharged the fatal weapon, it yet carried an unerring aim; the ball penetrated the hip of Lord Courtney, who fired his own pistol in the air, and then sunk upon the earth. It was the transaction of a moment; Clayton ran to raise Lord Courtney, and in an agony of sorrow, lamented the unhappiness of his fate, in thus unintentionally injuring a man whom he sincerely esteemed. "My dear sir," replied Lord Courtney, "you add to my sufferings by condemning yourself, where I alone have been to blame; and I call on those gentlemen to witness, that be the consequence of my wound what it may, I entirely acquit you, and declare, that in this instance and in every other in which I have known you, your conduct has been uniformly that of a man of honor, and of one whom I should ever be proud to rank among my friends." He attempted to rise, but was unable; those around him mournfully contemplated the change produced in his countenance, by the sufferings of a few minutes, though he endeavoured to conceal the anguish he endured, and again addressing himself to Clayton, said with firm composure, "I feel worse than I at first imagined myself to be; if you my dear sir, wish to oblige me, you will take the steps necessary for your safety; and for that of those gentlemen, then however this unfortunate affair may terminate, the knowledge of your being beyond the reach of harm, will greatly relieve my mind." Sir Edward refused to hear of flight, and declared his resolution not to leave Lord Courtney, until he knew the extent of his danger; at length however, the entreaties of his own second, and the uneasiness which he saw his refusal occasioned, determined him to depart; when shaking hands with his unfortunate antagonist, and breathing a sigh of regret and self-reproach, he entered the carriage with his friend, and was rapidly whirled out of sight. The removal of Lord Courtney was neither so easy nor so expeditious. The pain of his wound, intense even in a recumbent posture, was rendered almost intolerable by motion; but it was easy to perceive as he approached the end of his journey, that the idea of plunging his family into unhappiness was more agonizing to him than his own sufferings. "I think I could be conveyed privately into the house," he said to the servant who supported him, "I would then have it reported, that I had fallen from my horse, the surgeons could be sent for without exciting alarm, and their opinion might be kept secret." The servant endeavoured to make him easy by promising to evade discovery; but an anxious parent is not to be deceived. The Earl, when he found his son had left the house, without mentioning to what place he was going, was exceedingly alarmed, and when Edmund, whom he had sent to Sir Edward, returned with the unwelcome tidings that he also was from home, the morning was passed by him in a state of the most torturing suspence; in walking from the window of his study, to the top of the stairs, in watching, and listening for his son’s return. At length the moment came, when he saw him indeed return, but pale, wounded, and sinking under the firm support of his active attendant; then suspense was changed for the most horrid certainty, he believed him about to expire before his eyes, and it was long before he could listen to Lord Courtney’s assurances, that he was only slightly hurt, and his entreaties that his father would inform the family of the accident, that had befallen him, in such a manner, as would quiet any apprehensions that they might otherwise entertain; whilst they were debating, a door was opened, and Lord Drelincourt fearing lest any one might enter suddenly, went himself into the breakfast-room, where the ladies were conversing with the most cheerful cordiality. The agitated appearance of the Earl, drew general attention, and Lady Drelincourt enquired, in the tenderest accents, if he was indisposed? "No," replied he hesitating, "I am not ill, but," He paused, and involuntarily looked at Lady Courtney, with such earnest meaning, that she felt alarmed, and was about to express her fears, when Claudina, who had been all the morning in her dressing-room alone, rushed into the room, and clasping her hands in the attitude of despair, exclaimed, "Oh God! is it Clayton who has dyed his hands in blood? wretched, wretched Claudina! never again canst thou know peace, Clayton has become a murderer! oh! why did I live to hear the dreadful tidings?" Scarcely had she uttered these words, when she fell senseless on the floor, with such violence, that the consternation was universal, and whilst the young ladies rang for attendants, and endeavoured to restore her to life, the Earl took Lady Drelincourt from the room, unperceived by the rest of the party.
Everilda was much shocked, by the unhappy condition of her friend, whose agitation, had thus betrayed the secret of her attachment, which she had hitherto guarded with such cautious firmness, that even Lady Courtney had never suspected its existence. Now that she was convinced of it, she admired the delicacy of Claudina’s conduct as much as she condemned the imprudence of her own. "Alas!" she thought, "whilst my loved friend was sinking under the effort of concealing a virtuous, tho’ unfortunate attachment, I was sacrificing duty and propriety, to gratify my vanity, by encouraging the attentions of one, whose affection I had once possessed, and had requited with treachery and ingratitude: what has my boundless love of admiration done? I have by it destroyed the favourite companion of my youth; awakened the sensibility of a worthy man to misery; mortified the husband whom I adore; disobliged the friends whose good opinion I would die to deserve; and incurred the censure of all, who value virtue too highly, to pardon the appearance of vice." The tears swam in Lady Courtney’s brilliant eyes, during these reflections, and as she bent over Claudina’s lifeless form, they fell on her pale cheek, and seemed like dew-drops, hanging on the pensive lilly. "Alas!" exclaimed Lady Courtney, turning to Lady Rosamond, "had I sooner known the state of my Claudina’s heart, what folly and unhappiness, might have been avoided." Lady Rosamond understood the penitent expression of her countenance, and unwilling to add to her affliction, kindly pressed her hand, saying, "To acknowledge an error, is to forsake it, and all may yet be well." The ladies had been so intent on recovering Claudina, that they had never enquired into the cause of her situation, but Lady Rosamond’s words awakening a desire to know what had really befallen Sir Edward Clayton, and how Claudina had heard of any circumstance relative to him, Lady Courtney asked the attendants, if they knew any thing of the matter? but they replied only by looks of dismay, and consciousness, which alarmed more than words could have done. Lady Courtney impatiently repeated her enquiries, and finding that when all were addressed, none would answer, she demanded of Bianca an immediate reply, Bianca turned pale, "What would you know my lady?" she enquired in trembling accents. "I wish to know what has occasioned Claudina’s alarm, and if you have heard any thing concerning Sir Edward Clayton? you before comprehended me, I am well assured by your countenance, and I detest prevarication." Bianca unaccustomed to being harshly spoken to, burst into tears and replied, "Alas! my lady, pardon my unwillingness to inform you of an event, which may reduce you to a state even worse than that of Lady Claudina; Sir Edward Clayton is well, but he has wounded my lord in a duel, and—" Everilda stayed not to hear more, for darting from the room, with the rapidity of lightening, she flew to Lord Courtney’s apartment.
He was laid on the bed, supported by Edmund, Lady Drelincourt was weeping over him, and the Earl was conversing with the surgeons who had just arrived, Everilda’s shrieks filled the room, and supporting herself with one hand on the bedpost, she covered her eyes with the other, unable to endure the expression of pain, which at a single glance she had perceived in her husband’s countenance. Her agony increased Lord Courtney’s: "Oh! my Everilda," he faintly exclaimed, "I shall hear thy shrieks even in my grave, already they vibrate through my soul." At the sound of his voice she instantly became calm, for a few moments, but her agitation soon returned, and throwing herself on her knees by him, she said in a quick tone, "My Henry, tell me you forgive me—I know you will die—I shall not long survive you—Our separation will be short, and we shall be reunited to part no more." Lady Drelincourt burst afresh into tears, and the Earl tenderly exhorted Everilda to retire. No entreaties however could prevail on her to move, "If Henry will suffer me in his presence, I will never leave him," was her answer, and he requested that she might be indulged in every thing she wished, but it was urged, that her presence would impede the performance of the necessary, though painful operation, of searching for the ball, this argument had some effect, she consented to retire, but suddenly her faculties became suspended, by her feelings, fear seemed to chill her blood, the crimson current appeared frozen in her veins, and she was conveyed cold and motionless, to her own apartment. Anxiety and foreboding sorrow, prevailed throughout the house, and encreased the sad suspence in which every one was held, during the interval that necessarily elapsed before an opinion of Lord Courtney’s danger could be formed. The female domestics wept incessantly, whilst attending on their ladies, for Lady Maria, whose sensibility was of the sickliest and most helpless kind, had thrown herself into hysterics, and was added to the number of invalids. Lady Rosamond’s strength of mind was now truly valuable, and Emma resolutely following the laudable example given by her sister, concealed her tears, and checked the sighs with which her heart seemed breaking, to wait on the sick, to console the unhappy, and to relieve the minds of those around her, by taking every care upon herself. The surgeons were successful in their first attempt to extract the ball, and the family yielding to the flattering suggestions of hope, forgot their recent fears, and rejoiced as if the object of them, were already freed from every probability of impending danger. Soon however these illusions vanished, Lord Courtney daily sunk under the effects of his wound, he became visibly weaker, and his physicians feared the fatal termination of a disorder, already attended by every unfavourable symptom.
What pleasure can the bursting heart possess,
In the last parting and severe distress?
Can fame, wealth, honor, titles, joy bestow,
And make the laboring breast with transport glow!
The gaudy trifles gild our dawning light,
But oh! how weak their influence on our night,
Then fame, wealth, honor, titles, vainly bloom,
Nor shed one ray of comfort on the tomb.
THE sufferings of the Earl whilst he contemplated the sad change already wrought in the darling child of his heart, the hope of his life, the source of all his joys, exceeded the powers of description. He gazed in silent anguish, on Lord Courtney’s altered form, so lately distinguished alike by strength and elegance, now wasted to a shadow, sinking under debility, and exhausted by languor; his cheek, where health had once spread her richest tints, was now mocked by the crimson glow of hectic fever; his eyes, where lately intelligence had dwelt in liquid lustre, now faded under the influence of disease, and were only occasionally lighted up by momentary hope, to contrast more forcibly, the despair that quickly succeeded, from the conviction, which his own feelings forced upon him. Dreadful trial to fond parents, and affectionate friends! dreadful indeed, it is to behold the sufferings of those whom we love! there are moments, when the sympathy excited by them, becomes so agonizing, that self-love teaches us to look forward with comparative resignation, to the hour, when it will no longer be so painfully called forth; when the most mournful recollections of happiness past, never to be recalled, the bitterest regrets for social delights, fled never to be again enjoyed, appear more easy to be borne, than the quick transition from hope to fear, the lingering torments of doubt, and the agonizing pangs of suspense. Every evil is magnified, whilst there appears a possibility of averting it; but when once known to be inevitable, it is submitted to, with a fortitude which diminishes its force. The very hopelessness of grief, inspires courage to attempt its subjection, and the mind dwells on the past with a melancholy tenderness, that softens the remembrance of its loss.
"Did the sharp pang we feel for friends deceas’d,
Unbated last, with anguish we must die;
But nature bids its rigour should be eas’d,
By lenient time, and strong necessity.
These calm the passions, and subdue the mind,
To bear th’ appointed lot of human-kind."
Mornful indeed were all around, but faint were the sufferings of the most afflicted, in comparison with the agonies which rent the bosom of Everilda; she beheld her husband, the object of her youthful love, doomed to die, yet fondly clinging to life; and his anxiety to live, distracted her even more than the dread of his death. When she saw him watching the countenances of his physicians, endeavouring to palliate even his own account of his feelings, at some times yielding to the most cheering hope, at others sinking under the influence of despair; then unable to command her feelings, she would hastily leave the room to conceal them, and wringing her hands, in all the agonies of uncontrolable grief, she would exclaim, "Wretch, that I am! it is I, who have reduced him to this state; my guilty follies, my unpardonable vanities, have drawn down this heavy punishment. Oh! merciful God, spare my husband; spare him to his parents, for I am unworthy of him." Thus in prayers and self-reproach, would the unhappy Everilda, occupy herself, until the violence of her grief, destroying in some measure its continuance, she was enabled to return with a composed countenance, though breaking heart, to take her station near the dying Henry; who fondly attached to her, with his natural goodness of disposition, now gave redoubled proofs of his affection, fearing that the remembrance of it would soon be her only consolation.
He had continued a fortnight in this melancholy state, and Lord Drelincourt had never taken any other repose, than on a sofa near him; or would suffer any other person to attend on his beloved son in the night; for his parental feelings never slept, and a sigh from Lord Courtney, or a change of his posture, immediately produced an enquiry into his wishes from his father, who was comparatively happy, if they were of a nature to be gratified.
The Earl’s sensations in this trying juncture, were indeed of the most painful kind. He saw his beloved and only son, the object of his most anxious solicitude, and fondest hope, languishing on the bed of sickness, groaning under sufferings, and overwhelmed with sorrow. Ah! how forcibly did this sad spectacle convince him of the inefficacy of riches, and the futility of rank.
"For what avail the highest gifts of heav’n,
If drooping health and spirits go amis!
How tasteless then whatever can be given,
Health is the vital principle of bliss."
"Alas!" exclaimed the unhappy father, as he cast his eyes over the lofty and magnificent apartment, which contained every artificial aid for ease and comfort, that luxury could sigh for, or ingenuity invent; "alas! of what use are the soft carpet, the gilded sofa, and a couch of down, if repose be in vain solicited amid them? What avails the service of plate, if the food which it contains, be loathed; or the long train of domestics, if their attendance cannot in any degree soften pain, or divert languor? Yet let me not be ungrateful, let me rather be thankful, that the afflictions of my poor child, have at least every human alleviation; alas! how many are at this moment suffering under every aggravation of evil! how many uncomplaining spirits, are bowed down with ills encreased by want! how many affectionate hearts are broken, in witnessing the sorrows which they cannot relieve! oh God! teach me to extract benefit from thy chastenings, and to be unceasingly zealous to lessen those wants and miseries in the situation of others, from which thou hast been graciously pleased to preserve my own."
Such were the reflections of Lord Drelincourt during his constant attendance on his son, who received all his medicines and sustenance, from the unwearied hand of parental love. But nature was at length exhausted, and the Earl confessed himself overpowered by bodily fatigue, and mental uneasiness. He complained of lassitude and coldness, and was evidently so ill, that in order to relieve the apprehensions of his family, he consented to retire to bed, whilst Edmund gladly accepted the office of watching over his sick friend.
Lord Courtney found himself much less inclined to sleep than to enter into conversation. "What an inconsistent thing is honor," said he, "or rather how incorrect in general are our ideas of it! Had not Clayton been a man of honor, and one whom I esteemed, I should not have conceived myself strictly called upon to fulfil an engagement made in a moment of inebriated anger; and yet that anger was raised by a man whom I believe to be a contemptible character, though I was once intimate with him, and he called me his friend. I cannot say I returned the compliment, for my ideas of the sacred ties of real friendship were always too exalted to apply the term to every one whom I might meet twice in the same party, and in the same pursuits; however I was weak enough to let the impertinent sneers of this man mortify me, and instead of checking his insolence I turned all the ill humour excited by it against Clayton. You will guess that I allude to Lord John Talbot, who notwithstanding he so liberally bestowed on me the undesirable title of his friend, has most cordially hated me ever since he married a woman whom he well knew I despised, and who he had just sense enough to discover was in fact a despicable character. He could not bear to see me enjoy in marriage a degree of happiness which he could never hope to attain; or place a confidence in my wife, which he never could in his, whose levity even all his vigilance cannot restrain. Yet to confute the malicious insinuations of this man, I have thrown away a life endeared to me by a thousand blessings of which I never knew the value so forcibly as now, when I am called on to resign them." "Oh! my dear Courtney" exclaimed Edmund, "do not say you must resign them, let us rather hope that you may enjoy them many years, and that each succeeding year may add to them." "Edmund," replied Courtney with melancholy earnestness, "we easily believe what we wish; but there are cases, where conviction is unavoidable, and sanguine indeed must be those hopes which could resist it; mine are not so; I feel how easy it is to throw away life, how difficult to recal it; I am attached to it by many ties, and in resigning it, I grieve for my poor father, who has loved me too tenderly for his own peace; I grieve for my Everilda, my mother, my sisters, nay even my common acquaintance I feel attached to, when I consider how soon I must leave them for ever." He paused overcome by his emotions, but in a few minutes he proceeded, "I thank God I have not the fear of death to add my love of life; I have never intentionally injured any one, poor Mary Macdonald excepted: she is the only being whom I ever used basely, and my desertion of her and breach of promise to her father, have dwelt heavily on my mind since I have meditated on every action of my past life, and seen each in its proper colours: but I have repented, and I humbly hope to be forgiven; I feel and bewail my own unworthiness, but I trust to the mediation of my Redeemer, and to the mercies of a God of kindness and long suffering. Poor Mary! I have indeed behaved cruelly to her, but she is not lost to virtue; I never attempted to seduce her mind, and I am now only consoled by the hope that her principles are so far uncorrupted, that aided by them her conduct may yet I trust be exemplary. She shall neither want countenance nor support; I have remembered her in my will, I have recommended her to my father’s protection, he will be kind to her for my sake, and he will acquit himself towards her, with that honor and generosity, which
poor Macdonald hoped she would find in me. My Everilda too will not turn from her, with the harsh austerity of unforgiving virtue; she will pardon the errors caused by affection for me, the woman who loved her husband, will never be worthless in her eyes," he paused again fatigued by his exertion, and Edmund could only endeavour to console him whilst his own emotions rendered his attempts inarticulate. At length he prevailed on him to endeavour to sleep; all was hushed around, and only the regular tickings of a time-piece marked the progress of the heavy hours during the last night that Lord Courtney was destined to exist.
The first dawn of day brought the Earl to his son’s bed-room. But how was he shocked on perceiving the great alteration which had taken place in his appearance: Henry saw his father’s emotion, and shaking his head in hopeless despondency he said languidly, "It is all over with me Sir," he looked earnestly at the Earl as he spoke, perhaps still faintly hoping to be contradicted. But the anxiety of the parent overpowered every other consideration, and Lord Drelincourt involuntarily returned his son’s melancholy gesture, which accorded too well with his own feelings. Henry made a vain effort to rise, but finding his weakness insurmountable he gave up the attempt, "I shall never rise more," he said and a tear strayed down his faded cheek; he was silent some minutes, at length he said, "I should wish to see all my friends; I had better do it before I am weaker; my dear Sir, you are too deeply afflicted, do not thus distress yourself; alas! I had hoped to recover and to shew myself sensible of your kindness, but it is now too late to be flattered." All Lord Drelincourt’s firmness forsook him when he pressed the feverish, and wasted hand, which his son held out to him; he no longer saw any thing in the world, but that son dying, and in his dissolution every hope of happiness seemed also to expire. The Earl could no longer restrain his tears but giving way to all his emotions he wept, he wrung his hands and looking to heaven exclaimed, "Oh! I have fixed my mind too intently on worldly things, I have even considered my son more as the heir to my title than as my invaluable child; I have not been thankful enough for the happiness I enjoyed as a parent, I have looked upon the blessing which thou gavest me, in too worldly a view, and now I am punished by the deprivation of it. Oh heavy blow, oh! unlooked-for trial! let me not say it is severe, oh God, teach me to thy decrees." The family now entered, drown’d in tears, his mother, wife, and sisters, knelt round the bed of Lord Courtney; who sensible of his approaching end, filled with the awe inspired by a knowledge of it, and agonized by the affliction of those so dear to him, from whom he was so soon to part, gazed on the scene with a sort of stupor, which deprived him of the power of expressing any of the various emotions by which he was bewildered.
The Earl had sent for the physician, who now arrived, and on him the eyes of every one present, were turned with the most beseeching enquiries. Too honest to disguise what he knew, and too compassionate to be able to conceal what he feared, his countenance was so faithful a transcript of his mind, that even those, who notwithstanding appearances, had entertained some hope, found that they had been too sanguine; but that delightful passion will linger long in a parent’s heart, and Lord Drelincourt took the physician into another room, to know his real opinion. It would have been cruel to encourage in this unhappy father a delusion, of which a few minutes might discover the fallacy; and the worthy man made a painful effort, to prepare the mind of the Earl, for the shock it must soon receive; he told him tenderly, though with firmness, that his son’s recovery was hopeless, nay, that he was at that time actually dying. "Perhaps it is a crisis," said the unhappy father, "it cannot be wrong to hope." "But it may be useless," replied the physician, "and will add to the bitterness of disappointment,—" At that moment a piercing shriek was heard, the Earl turned pale, and covering his face, threw himself on a sofa near him, "It is Everilda’s voice," he exclaimed, "and all is over." Alas! it was indeed; Henry’s quivering lips had endeavoured to articulate a last adieu, his wearied spirit hovered on them ready to depart; Everilda’s shriek of agony recalled it for a moment, he blessed her, and expired.
Everilda sunk insensible on his breathless body; she was conveyed from the room, and the Earl giving orders for every one to leave it, went to contemplate in solitude and silence, the awful change: but when he pressed his son’s lifeless hand to his lips, and found it not yet cold, he covered him with care, drew the curtains, and took his seat again by the bed side, almost unconscious of what he did. The day closed in, and the Earl appeared not; Lady Drelincourt was rendered yet more miserable by the excess of sorrow, to which she supposed he had given way, and entreated Edmund to persuade him if possible, to leave the apartment, where he had spent many hours alone. Edmund was anxious to oblige her, yet was unwilling to intrude on the sacred privacy of a parent’s grief; sacrificing however, his own feelings, he went immediately and knocked at the door; it was opened by the Earl, who seeing only him, resumed his seat, and supporting his head on his hand, remained silent; Edmund waited a few minutes, and then said that he came from Lady Drelincourt, and repeated her anxious desire to see him. The Earl answered in a tone of voice scarcely above a whisper, at the same time looking towards the bed, as if fearful of disturbing even the repose of death, "Edmund how can I leave my poor boy, I shall not long be with him, and I must not forsake him for one moment of the short time that remains, before we shall be separated for ever." Edmund would have redoubled his persuasions, but the Earl’s anxious looks, and low, agitated manner of speaking, struck to his heart, and he was obliged to leave the room, to indulge his own grief.
At length the hour arrived, which was to consign the lately animated and blooming youth to the stately mausoleum, where his ancestors mouldered into dust, and where all distinctions of birth and fortune, must end in silence and oblivion. The pomp and grandeur of the funeral procession, only contrasted more powerfully, the grief and desolation of the survivors. It was to set off at midnight, an hour that suited well the gloom of the occasion. The street was lined with attendants, and with those to whom a spectacle of any kind is gratifying, whether it be the festivities of the living, or the obsequies of the dead; and the expressions of surprise, and admiration of the populace, were mingled in the air, with the sobs and shrieks of the female relatives of the deceased. Still fondly clinging to the memory of his beloved son, the Earl stedfastly gazed upon the mournful hearse, which was about to convey him for ever from his sight. Innumerable torches illuminated the sad spectacle. The door of the hearse was opened to receive the glittering coffin, the Earl contemplated it with firmness, and not one sigh escaped his agonized bosom, till some obstacle impeded the closing of the door, when one of the attendants shut it with a degree of violence that echoed through the street, and roughly shook the sable plumes, which had before gently waved in solemn dignity. The unhappy father groaned, and hiding his face, abandoned himself to all the bitterness of despair, seeming never to have felt the full extent of his irreparable loss, till the rattling of the carriages told him that his son was for ever gone.
Ah! what avail that o’er the vassal plain
His rights, and rich demesnes extended wide,
That honor, and his knights composed his train,
And chivalry stood marshall’d by his side.
THE Earl instead of recovering his composure, when he had no longer the body of his son to weep over, appeared to devote himself to yet more unmeasurable grief. After giving orders to get every thing in readiness to leave town, he shut himself up in his own apartment, and refused to see any of his family. In proportion as his grief for the loss of his son faded from his memory, the disappointment of all his hopes returned with additional force. One hour he wept the early doom of one so engaging and so worthy, the next he deplored his own misfortunes in living to see his family extinct, and his estates devolve to a distant relation of despicable character. The dead are seldom remembered long with very acute sufferings, when we are reminded of them only by the recollection of their virtues. But Lord Drelincourt’s loss was daily recalled to him by its consequences; and he daily felt it the more keenly, as he became more sensible of its effects. Life seemed no longer to possess a charm for him, no longer could he hope to feel interested in it, and he even appeared careless of its preservation.
Lady Drelincourt wept incessantly, her grief for the death of her son, was encreased by her anxiety for her husband who had repeatedly refused to see her; at length she intreated Everilda to go to him without any previous notice, thinking that he could not repulse the widow of his son: and perhaps he might take a melancholy pleasure in her society; and be induced once more, to cheer his disconsolate family with his presence.
But alas! grief and disappointment had rendered the Earl unjust; and when Everilda with streaming eyes, and a breaking heart, came into his presence, and knelt before him, eloquently looking the sorrows to which she was unable to give utterance, he could not conceal that he only beheld in her the bane of his domestic peace, the destroyer of all his hopes, and the cause of all his miseries. He endeavoured however, to disguise the impression she made on him, by saying that he wished to be entirely alone, and thought his wishes had been generally understood; he was turning away, but she caught his hand, exclaiming, "Oh! my lord, will you forsake me thus? have I deserved this anger from you? oh! I am already too, too wretched, make me not more so by your coldness." The Earl stood irresolute, the image of his friend the Marchese, rose to his view, but it was chased by that of his son, wounded, expiring, lifeless, and before this dreadful image, every other consideration vanished. "They who wish to draw me from my solitude," said he in a voice choked by his emotions, "have acted very injudiciously, by sending one to invite me back to society, whose presence can recal none but painful ideas; let me, my lady, recover this shock, before I hazard my feelings to encounter others, though none more trying can await me." The bitterness with which he spoke, pierced Everilda’s soul, but nature had done with her resentments in her; and though the hectic of a moment passed across her cheek, it tarried not; she rose from her humble posture with an air of dignified sorrow, and casting her eyes to heaven she exclaimed, "Never again, my lord, shall the unfortunate Everilda voluntarily intrude upon you; your coldness has stabbed me to the heart; it may be good for me to be afflicted, but you know not what effect your conduct may have on me, or how deeply you may be interested in it. Farewell my lord, you will at some time think better of me." So saying, she left him, and retiring immediately to her room, refused to see any one except Claudina, whom she sent to Lady Drelincourt with an account of her reception; that excellent woman wept, as she lamented the alteration which grief must have produced in the temper of her lord, ere he could have been urged to treat with harshness, one already overpowered by affliction. The affectionate Claudina, sympathized in Lady Drelincourt’s sorrows, but she could stay only a short time with her, as Everilda complained of being much indisposed, and expressed a desire to remain in her apartment.
Lord Drelincourt was not however, of a disposition to continue long under the dominion of prejudice or injustice; he felt that he had treated Everilda unkindly, and he resolved not only to acknowledge it to her, but to abandon a solitude, in which he only added to his sorrows, by fruitless repinings for the blessings he had lost, ungratefully neglecting those that were yet spared to him. With a laudable resolution to conquer the excess of grief, that had rendered him unjust to the remainder of his family, he made them comparatively happy the next day, by joining them at the dinner table. Everilda and Claudina were absent, the Earl enquired for them, but Lady Drelincourt answered, that the former being indisposed, had dined in her own apartment with the latter; indeed since the unfortunate death of Lord Courtney, Everilda had lived so much without any other society, than that of her faithful Claudina, that her absence was no unusual circumstance. But the Earl’s affectionate heart, soon expanded with the tenderness natural to it; and uneasy whilst any part of his family were absent, he repeated his enquiries, desiring that a servant might be dispatched to Lady Courtney’s room, to request her company. Still she came not; neither did the servant return to account for her delay, and Lady Drelincourt fearing that she might be seriously indisposed, said, "Go, my Emma, and see if Lady Courtney be ill; and if she be not, tell her that your father is with us, and wishes to have the pleasure of her company." Lady Emma went, but returned in a few minutes, paler than alpine snows; she endeavoured to speak, but a sudden gush of tears, deprived her of utterance.
Lady Drelincourt was inconceivably alarmed, she imagined that Everilda must be dying, or perhaps already dead. "Speak my dear child," she exclaimed, "speak if it be but one word, is Lady Courtney ill?" "Indeed I do not know, for I have not seen either her or Claudina," replied the weeping Emma. "But have you not been in her apartment?" enquired her mother. "Yes Madam, but I did not see them." "And why not my dear?" "Because they were not there," replied Emma with the utmost simplicity. "Not there!" exclaimed Edmund, starting from his seat, "what, have they fled? Lost Everilda! but no, I wrong her even by the momentary admittance of such a thought." He then went to Emma, and taking her hand, said in the tenderest accents, "Do not distress yourself, my dearest Emma, tell me what you know of her departure, I will follow her instantly, and all may yet be well." Emma could only weep, and declare her entire ignorance of Everilda’s intentions. The Earl now rang the bell, and ordered Bianca to be sent for. "She has not been seen since last night, my lord," said the servant. "Then send Giuseppe," said the Earl impatiently. "Giuseppe it is thought has accompanied her, my lord," replied the man, scarcely able to suppress a smile, for as Bianca and Giuseppe were known to be mutually attached, the domestics imagined that they had gone to be privately married, and never thought of Lady Courtney, of whose departure they were all utterly ignorant. "Leave the room," said the Earl, and as soon as the door was closed, the family began to consult on the measures necessary to be taken, with the hope of recovering the fugitives. That Everilda in a moment of grief and mortification, should have thought of leaving the house, was only consistent with the natural violence of her temper, and uncontrolled susceptibility of feeling; but that the gentle, prudent, and timid Claudina, should act in a manner so contrary to her usual principles, as to countenance Everilda in such imprudent conduct, and even to become the partner of her flight, was strange and incomprehensible; though scarcely more so, than that so large a party should leave the house, without being suspected, or observed; this however on further consideration was found less surprising, as it was recollected that the family had been in confusion, on account of preparing to leave town; and it now appeared, that Lady Courtney and Claudina’s trunks, which had been packed ready with several others, were removed, which left no doubt that their departure was intended to he permanent. It naturally struck every one, that Italy was the object of their destination, and Edmund proposed sending expresses to the different sea-ports, where they would probably attempt to embark. The Earl could hardly conceive it possible, that two females utterly unprotected, should have the temerity to think of travelling through foreign countries, at a time, when the hostility of every continental power, made the attempt hazardous, even for one of the more courageous sex, possessed of every advantage of different passports and numerous letters of introduction; however he could conjecture nothing more probable, particularly as Giuseppe and Bianca had likewise disappeared. These two servants were most faithfully attached to their mistress, and to each other; but possessing much of the fiery impatience of their country’s spirit, they seldom agreed with any other of the domestics, and the Earl had frequently wished his son to dismiss them, on account of the perpetual quarrels they occasioned in his household; but Henrietta the illustrious consort of Charles the first, was not more jealous of any attempt to deprive her of her French attendants, than was Lady Courtney, of every hint that bespoke a desire to discharge her Italians: in this instance, her obstinacy was very easily excused by Lord Courtney, who knew that Bianca was the orphan of two of the Marchese’s vassals, at their death, she was left friendless, and the young Everilda, not then twelve years old, had taken Bianca, who was of her own age, under her protection; she had taught her reading, writing, and needle-work; and was rewarded by finding her a faithful and unwearied attendant. Giuseppe had been yet more, if possible, the object of his lady’s bounty; he was the only son of two cottagers whose poverty was so extreme, that their utmost efforts, could not procure for him, the comforts necessary during a long and severe illness. Everilda in her rambles, found the afflicted parents weeping over their son, whom they believed to be dying, but who was evidently sinking more from inanition than disease; her compassion was easily excited, she ran home, and begged her father to save the poor boy from misery and death. The Marchese never thought his bounty so well employed as when it made his daughter happy, and in a few weeks the object of her cares was restored to health, and received into the family of the Marchese, whom he served with the fidelity and cheerfulness, continually inspired by the remembrance of his obligation to him.
Whilst Edmund was consulting with the Earl, on the most likely means of gaining intelligence of his sister, Lady Drelincourt had visited her apartment, and found in one of her dressing boxes two letters, which she delivered to the Earl, to whom they were directed. The first was from Everilda, it was written in Italian, and was to the following purport:
"I have unhappily been too little accustomed to the language of severity, to subject myself to a repetition of it, where I cannot but think it was unmerited; alas! could I have foreseen the unhappiness I have unintentionally occasioned in your family, by my union with your son, I trust you will believe me when I solemnly declare, that my own life should have been spent in all the languor of a hopeless attachment, ere by indulging it, I would have caused the misery of yours; it is passed, but I might yet have been bound to your family, and endeared to yourself by the tenderest ties; that hope, has hitherto enabled me to support the dreadful trial I have undergone, but your unkindness has destroyed the pleasing illusion; pardon me, my lord, I mean not to reproach you; ill would it become me to condemn, when my own conduct has been so censurable; no, believe me, it is not resentment that urges me to the step on which I now meditate, the favours I have received from you and your family, will never be forgotten by me, or cease to excite in my bosom the liveliest gratitude, which can end only with my wretched existence. The recollection of the happy hours I have enjoyed in your society, will cheer the solitude I am about to seek. The remembrance of the past I cannot be deprived of; it is now my only treasure, and in dwelling on it, my heart will always acknowledge the virtues of the family that I must yet resolve to leave for ever. Alas! I live not for myself alone, a being ten thousand times more dear to me, will owe its existence to my care; oh! my lord, I cannot give birth to my child, if I know it will be taught to hate its mother, execrate her whose follies deprived it of a father. I quit for ever the rank and splendor which have no charms for a broken heart, and which I never knew how to enjoy rationally. In solitude I shall reflect on my errors, I shall repent them with daily contrition, and in time, I trust they will be forgiven. If my child be a daughter, it cannot be thought an injustice to retain the blessing which will reconcile me to life, in the hope of teaching her to avoid her mother’s failings: if it be a son, I shall not gratify my own feelings at the expence of yours; I will resign him to you, when he no longer requires my cares; deprived of him, my existence will soon exhaust itself by its languor, in the grave I shall find repose, and my son will perhaps weep over me, forgetting all my faults in the remembrance that I was his mother, and lived but for him. Farewell, my dear lord, let the tears that now stream from my eyes, expiate my past misconduct, I am punished severely for it, by the incessant recollection of its consequences; oh! let me hope that by you I am forgiven.
Claudina’s letter was written also in Italian, and contained the following words.
"It is the peculiar unhappiness of Claudina’s fate to make her appear ungrateful to her benefactors; but in this instance she hopes the motives of her actions may excuse their apparent impropriety. A solemn promise of secresy was required by Lady Courtney, and Claudina knowing her critical situation, feared lest any opposition might deprive Lord Drelincourt of a hope now inestimably valuable. For this reason she complied with Lady Courtney’s request, and what she promised she considers herself bound to perform, trusting that an anxious attendance on the object of her care, may be of such service, that Lord Drelincourt will pardon, in its future effects, the temporary estrangement from his hospitable roof."
These letters seemed to oppose the idea of the fugitives having intended to return to Italy, and Claudina appeared to have hinted a temporary absence, in order to make the mind of the Earl as easy as she could, without betraying her trust by more fully disclosing their intentions.
The Earl was greatly agitated at the discovery that Everilda had made of her unexpected situation; one moment he bitterly reproached himself for the coldness by which he had repulsed her when she sought an interview with him, the next he pleased himself with the thought of consoling her for it, by every testimony of affection which he could lavish on her: now the delightful hope of living to embrace a grandson, diffused rapture over his bosom, so lately the seat of despair; and then fearing to indulge in a vision so extatic, he mentally implored heaven to grant him resolution to withdraw his thoughts from worldly views, and to teach him to bear the disappointment of them with fortitude.
Weeks elapsed and no tidings of Everilda could be gained: the suspense between hope and fear was too torturing for the Earl; in a fit of despondency he resolved to forget entirely the dream of happiness, on which he had with fondness dwelt, and weary of continuing enquiries which raised perpetual hopes, ending only in new disappointments, he returned once more to Castle Drelincourt, whilst Edmund tore himself reluctantly from his Emma, to whom his heart became still more fondly attached by a sympathy in grief, and prepared to return to Florence to pursue his search on the continent, and to acquit himself of the painful but necessary task of informing his parents of the late melancholy occurrences.
Ah! fruitless now my hopes, my anxious fears,
Fruitless my prospects for thy tender years.
Once smiling fancy to my mental view,
Brightened the scenes that expectation drew;
I saw thy youth in all the flush of may,
I saw thy manhood rip’ning to the day:
Reflection now must sadden o’er thy tomb,
And gather painful knowledge from thy doom.
Now vain to me the genial mornings shine,
In vain the evenings blush with light divine;
In vain the summer blows, the autum glows,
Since grief to me such pensive joy bestows.
Then scenes of life—ye rosy hours depart,
For only sacred sorrow sooths my heart.
THE distraction of the Marchese and his Lady may be easily imagined. In their despair they determined to proceed immediately to England. The Marchese declared that he would search round the world for his daughter, and the Marchesa knew not whether more to lament her
disappearance, or the unhappiness which had forced her to it.
How different the present meeting between the Earl and the Marchese from their former ones; both unhappy; both feeling injured; and both wishing to disguise their feelings. Their embrace was colder than either intended it to be, yet warmer than either intended it to be, yet warmer than they really felt inclined to bestow; but they could not be long together without reviving the sentiments of friendship which had formed the happiness of their youth, and of which the remembrance shed a pleasing influence over the tranquillity of middle life.
The Marchesa and Lady Drelincourt were of dispositions exactly similar; they lamented the unhappy circumstance under which their acquaintance had commenced, and in lamenting them together they found a consolation which lessened the poignancy of their affliction.
Much as the Marchesa was pleased with the whole of Lady Drelincourt’s family, yet to Emma she felt particularly attached; probably the hope of Edmund being made happy by her, was the foundation of an esteem, to which her unaffected loveliness, her feminine sensibility, and retiring modesty, daily added new strength. But the excessive anxiety caused by the mysterious uncertainty of Everilda’s fate, and the interesting situation in which she was known to be, precluded every idea of tranquillity. The Earl also still devoted himself to solitude, and though he appeared highly gratified in the society of the Marchese, yet he avoided him whenever he could do it without breaking the laws of hospitality and politeness.
He always breakfasted alone, contriving not so see his guests until dinner, under pretence of being occupied in some alterations on his estate; and after dinner he left the table as soon as possible, with an excuse of writing letters, or looking over papers. But one day the Marchese had unintentionally traced his steps to the mausoleum, where reposed the ashes of that beloved child, whose untimely death had nipped in the bud, every fair and flattering hope of happiness.
The building stood in the shelter of a small wood, where the gloomy cypress, the mournful larch, and sable yew, cast around a melancholy shade well according with the sad purpose to which it was dedicated. A few flowering shrubs were intermixed, but the season of their sweets was past, and their scanty number, and drooping faded appearance, afforded a melancholy emblem of the paucity and uncertainty of sublunary pleasures. The wind howled with the complaining shrillness that generally attends the declining year, and whirled the dead leaves in its blast, whilst the chilling damp of the atmosphere communicated its influence to the heart. Lord Drelincourt’s feelings were in unison with the gloom around him. The temporary suspension of the beauties of nature was congenial to a mind, whose brightest prospects had faded under the stern mandate of death: the spring would bring no pleasure to him, for in his heart it could revive no hopes; the glare of summer suns would have been intolerable when contrasted with the darkness reigning in his bosom, but "the pale descending year was pleasing still," and to him the reluctance with which nature delivers her treasures, and her charms, to "stern winter ruler of th’ inverted year," was grateful.
At dinner the Earl appeared as usual, Lady Drelincourt asked him if the alterations he had been planning succeeded to his wishes, " I have been attending to them all the morning," he replied "I cannot say my success equals my desires; but in time I trust I shall be rewarded; had I begun sooner to conquer the obstacles which now oppose them, I might have found less difficulty in the efforts which I find necessary, and the consequences might have been infinitely more fortunate than they can now ever prove." He sighed deeply as he concluded, and it was easy to perceive that he had spoken enigmatically, and that the alterations he alluded to, were those which he was anxious to make in his ideas, not in his estates.
He left the room soon after, saying that he had papers of consequence to inspect. The ladies shortly followed, and as the drawing room which they used when the company consisted only of a small party, commanded from one of the windows a view of the wood in which the mausoleum was erected, the Marchese could not resist an inclination he felt, to know if the Earl continued his solitary walks, at the hours when he affected to be engrossed by business or study.
The moon was shining in unclouded brightness, and under pretence of admiring it, he drew aside curtain, and stood near the window. He had not been there many minutes, before he perceived by the stream of silver light which illumined and pleasingly contrasted the gloom, on which it was poured, the figure of the Earl slowly emerging from the thickest part of the wood; he was soon lost among the trees, and then reappeared; his pace was sometimes so slow that it could scarcely be determined whether he moved, or was rooted to the earth; then, as if recollecting himself, he suddenly walked with quick and unequal steps; pausing, again he looked stedfastly on the mild luminary which seemed to send forth its softest beams, as if to calm his troubled bosom. He gazed on it for some moments, and then with folded arms, and downcast eyes again he disappeared in the impervious gloom.
The Marchese was struck to the soul by the despair which this conduct evinced in his friend; He mentally retraced the time when the Earl was blooming, animated, and gay, as the youth he now lamented with such hopeless anguish; and memory fondly dwelt upon the days in which they had together planted a thousand schemes of pleasure, for that charming season of life, in which the delicious sensations of expected and undefinable happiness are so strongly imprinted on the mind, that it delights to recall the time when it was so agreeably deceived, long after the delusion has for ever fled.
The Marchese remembering the past, and comparing it with the present, shrunk from the contrast.
Never did he feel more attached to his friend, than at the moment when he considered him so changed. A tear involuntarily strayed down his cheek; it was a tribute to past happiness. A sigh broke from his oppressed heart, it was emblematical of the transient nature of the felicity he lamented.
One evening the family had formed a circle round the fire, to enjoy, if not conversation, at least that agreeable unrestrained silence, which among friends who rightly understand each others feelings, is not less agreeable. Every one spoke, only when he wished to communicate some idea which might gratify the rest; and none intruded a frivolous remark merely from thinking it necessaay to say something, to exempt themselves from the charge of not being able to say any thing.
A servant however entered with a letter for the Earl, which he said had just arrived by an express, and this incident interrupted the silence that reigned for some time, if we may call that an interruption which was given by looks and gestures, rather than by words.
The mention of the express had fixed the attention of the party, and had roused that of the Marchese and his lady to a painful height; they had been so inured to disappointment respecting their enquiries after their beloved daughter, that they had almost ceased to hope; but as they had still numerous emissaries continually pursuing their search, this express might be from one of them; Everilda might be found, might be waiting to embrace her parents, or she might be languishing in sickness and distress, and needing all their tendernest consolations.
These thoughts passed in quick succession thro’ the minds of more than the anxious parents, and every eye was fixed on the Earl, who had turned pale as he examined the seal and direction of the letter. Instead of opening it, he laid it on the table before him, and appeared lost in thought, till hastily rising he was leaving the room to read it in private, when he saw in the Marchesa’s countenance, such evident tokens of anxious doubt and mortified impatience, that he stopped irresolute, and after a short pause exclaimed, "Why should I disguise my feeling from those so dear to me, who will imagine as easily as they will pardon them. I know the seal and writing of this letter; it is from," he paused, and making an effort to repeat the name with firmness, continued, "it is from Sir Edward Clayton. He has written I fear to revive my sorrows by craving an oblivion of the cause; he should have known that there are injuries, for which perpetual silence is the most soothing atonement that can be made." He then looked over the contents of the letter, and whilst so employed, the frequent changes in his countenance evinced, that they were of an interesting and apparently of a pleasing nature. When he had concluded, he went to the Marchese and his lady, and taking their hands, said, "let us be grateful my dear friends, our Everilda is found, and heaven teaches us a lesson of forgiveness by granting that the man who deprived us of a son, should restore to us a daughter." The rapture diffused by this information was general, but on the Marchesa it rushed with such force, that overpowered by its influence, she fainted in her husband’s arms. In a few minutes however, she recovered, and was sufficiently calm to peruse the letter that had occasioned her emotion, and of which the contents were as follows.
"The hope of imparting pleasure to your lordship’s breast, has excited in mine, sensations to which it has long been a stranger. If, my lord, you will condescend to receive intelligence from a man, who has, as unintentionally as unhappily, injured you beyond the power of reparation, by acknowledgment, or repentance, I trust that mine will be found interesting, when I enform you it relates to Lady Courtney, of whose retreat, I understand you have hitherto been ignorant; and which I accidentally discovered in Wales at a small village, situated in so retired a spot, that if the poverty and humble condition of the few inhabitants which it contains, were not sufficient to prevent intrusion, nature has effectually guarded them from it by concealing them in a deep valley, which even the eye of curiosity might fail to discern, and by surrounding them with mountains, which the hardiest courage might on the first view deem inaccessible.
"I am sorry to be under the necessity of adding that Lady Courtney’s health appears in a very precarious state, but perhaps much ought to be allowed for her present situation, and I hope her anxiety to see her friends, may be equalled by the benefit which she may receive from their society: I am at present with the worthy clergyman of the village, whose guest I shall remain, until I have the satisfaction of resigning to some of your lordship’s family, the responsibility that I at present feel; I shall then leave England, perhaps for ever, but never shall I cease to remember, that it contains those, whose welfare will always be ardently wished, by
"your lordship’s most obedient,
The person whe had brought the letter, was Sir Edward’s valet, and by his master’s orders, he remained with the Earl, in order to attend him on his journey, and to act as a guide, which it was indispensably necessary to have. It was determined that the Marchese and his lady, Lord and Lady Drelincourt, Edmund, and Lady Emma, should set off the next day; attended only by Lady Drelincourt’s woman, and one man servant, as from Sir Edward’s description of the village, it appeared very improbable that a large retinue could be accommodated in it. Lady Emma was chosen in preference to her elder sisters, from Lady Courtney having always appeared particularly partial to her, as well as her being now considered by the Marchesa, as scarcely less dear to her, than the daughter for whom she had wept so many hours away, and to whom she was now about to hasten, with all the speed of maternal rapture.
Leaving the party then to pursue their journey, under the direction of Bernard their trusty conductor, we shall request the attention of our readers, to a retrospective view of the circumstances which led to the discovery of Lady Courtney by Sir Edward Clayton.
Come patience, come and take me by the hande,
And trewe repentance teach myne eyes to weepe;
Humyllity, in neede of thee I stande,
My soul desires thy companie to keepe:
Base worldly thoughts, vanish out of my mynde,
Leave not a spot of you, or your’s behind.
ROBERT DEVEREUX, EARL OF ESSEX.
THE anguish felt by Lady Courtney, when Lord Drelincourt coldly dismissed her from his presence, was unmixed with resentment. She recollected the kindness with which she had always been treated until that moment; she felt that to the excessive grief in which he had indulged, since the death of his son, was to be imputed the change in his disposition, which had produced a similar change in his manners. The former had become gloomy, and inert; the latter, harsh, and repulsive. "And to whom is this sad alteration owing?" she asked herself. "Who introduced dissension and misery into a family, before admired for domestic happiness and love?" Every enquiry she made, received the same answer; she alone was to blame, and she resolved to expiate the mischief that she had occasioned, by withdrawing herself from a family, in which her presence inspired no ideas, but those of the ills that it had diffused around. "When I am gone," she exclaimed, bitterly weeping, "tranquillity at least may visit the haunts, where felicity once loved to dwell; the Earl will become more resigned to the death of his son, when his wretched widow shall no longer remind him of it. My parents shall never know the misery to which their daughter is reduced. I may not live long; ah! how willingly would I resign the burthen of existence, could I bequeath it in a happier form, to the dear child of my Henry, too precious treasure, who may still console its grandfather for the loss of its parent, of which I have deprived it before its birth." Only Claudina had been entrusted with this interesting secret, which Lady Courtney had concealed even from her husband; induced to do so, partly by recollecting the restraints to which she had been subjected when she was before in a similar situation, and to which she had attributed the disappointment of her wishes; but more from the desire of surprising her friends, with the pleasing intelligence at a more advanced period, when there would be less probability of a second defeat of their hopes. It was a circumstance, which she knew would fill Lord Courtney’s heart with delight; and though she every moment longed to see him sympathize in the pleasure that she felt, yet she valued the power of making him happy so highly, that she reserved with a miser’s care the means of doing it, until she should be thoroughly satisfied there was no danger of disappointing the expectations she might inspire.
During the melancholy interval of her husband’s illness, her thoughts were too much engrossed by his situation, to dwell for one moment on her own; but the tender Claudina recollected it, and trembled, and afterwards it was only by her exhortations, that Everilda endeavoured to conquer the violence of her emotions, which threatened to irreparably destroy the hopes, on which her only desire to live, now rested. What then was the sorrow of this faithful friend when Lady Courtney in the wildest agonies of grief, after extorting a promise of secresy from her, entrusted her with the plan she had formed, of withdrawing privately from the Earl’s roof, and retiring to some secluded spot, "where," as she expressed herself in the first effusions of despair, "she might live unknown, and die unpitied. I have already, " she added, "spoken to Bianca and Giuseppe; they will not leave me; this very night I will depart; Giuseppe will take my trunks; I shall want but little, nor perhaps that little long. I have money enough about me to carry me to any part of the kingdom, and to support me when I arrive at a place of security; I can take leave of no one, not even by letter. My heart is too full to think of framing expressions of describe its feelings; but I would not leave thee, my Claudina, without telling thee my designs, thou wilt say when I am gone, how well I loved the friends from whom I fled; for Edmund and Emma, I leave every tender wish, and daily will I pray that their lot may be more happy and permanent than mine has been. Nay, weep not, my Claudina; our hearts will still be united, though distance may prohibit the exchange of our sentiments; think not that I am going to be more wretched; perhaps I may be less so in solitude, and grief, I shall still take a pleasure in thinking of my Claudina, my first, my only friend; nor shall I fear that she may forget me, in the variety of gayer life."
"And do you think then that I would suffer you to go alone?" exclaimed the weeping Claudina, "shall I forsake you in affliction, when your most prosperous days were devoted to me? Oh! no; Everilda, you should know me better. The friendship of our youth shall never be forgotten; I would go through the World with you, and think myself happy amidst distress and danger, if I could bind up the wounds of my Everilda’s heart, and cheer her drooping spirits on our rugged way." They wept together, as Claudina concluded her animated declaration; but soon recovering from, though not repenting, her enthusiasm, she endeavoured to dissuade Everilda from a scheme, which appeared replete with inconvenience to themselves and with uneasiness to their friends. But she was not to be reasoned with, her agitation became so violent on opposition, that Claudina, distressed and irresolute, knew not what plan to pursue, and at last yielded entirely to Lady Courtney’s persuasions; consoling herself with the hope, that the Earl’s temporary anxiety or displeasure, would be amply repaid by the happy effects which tranquillity and indulgence might have on her friend, when an opposite mode of treatment might endanger her health, and the very being of the infant, whose birth was so anxiously desired.
Drowned in tears, the fair fugitives wrote the few lines meant to inform the family of their departure; and then leaving the house unperceived, were conducted by Bianca to the place, where Giuseppe was already waiting with a chaise and four horses, which conveyed them from town, with a velocity that considerably allayed Everilda’s fears of pursuit. During her residence near Bristol, she had frequently expressed a desire to visit Wales; the day had been fixed to gratify this desire when she was taken ill it was no more mentioned. But her thoughts now dwelt on that country, of whose mountainous aspect, and wild romantic situations she had heard much; there she thought it most probable that she should find some sequestered spot, which scarcely human feet had ever trodden, and, with the vague idea of a foreigner, particularly of one who had been accustomed to a variety of small states, all independant of each other, she thought that being out of England, she should be also out of the power of the Earl, should he attempt to insist upon her return; for already she had become so enamoured of her plan of solitary liberty, that she would not bear to think of any occurrence that might oblige her to relinquish it.
They had left London at seven o’clock in the evening, that being the hour when they could most easily elude suspicion, as they knew that no enquiries would be made for them before the hours of two or three in the afternoon of the following day, at which time they had crossed at the New Passage and landed on welch ground.
Lady Courtney’s impatience was such that she would scarcely allow time to take some refreshment before she proceeded on her search for an abode. She now wished for a situation near the sea coast, under the idea, that it would be more secure, and less liable to intrusion. By the assistance of a map, a book of roads, and various enquiries, they on the fourth day from their leaving London, met with a place in Cardiganshire, which seemed as if intended for a safe retreat from the busy world; and if it appeared that the comforts and luxuries of more artificial modes of living, must be procured with difficulty, it also promised that the rumours of terror, and lamentation of evils, would be there unheard. Nor would a place so sequestered ever have been perceived by our fair travellers, had not the discovery been made by accident. One of the horses having lost a shoe, a little welch lad on the road offered to bring a blacksmith from the village of Llewenmawr, where he lived. Giuseppe proposed, as the shorter way, to take the horse to the village; but the boy informed him that the road was almost inaccessible as the houses were quite at the bottom of the huge mountains they saw all around. This account roused Lady Courtney’s curiosity, and leaving the carriage, she and Claudina, ascended with great fatigue wearisome height, whence looking down a narrow pass, they espied what might be a village, but what at that distance appeared to them merely a few white stones collected together in the green and narrow valley; such was the lofty eminence from which it was beheld.
The very sight of a retreat so humble and secure, was sufficient to inspire feelings of tranquillity in the bosom of affliction long agitated by all the agonies of passion. "Ah! exclaimed Everilda, let us seek no further; there will I wear out the remainder of my days; the sun that now strikes his slanting beams on the mountain’s green and sloping side, will shine sweetly on my grave, and I shall find repose near the little church whose spire peeps from that cluster of trees." She then turned to survey the prospect on the other side of the mountains. They commanded an extensive view of the sea, and of a bold and wild country; she was pleased with the contrast these grand features afforded to the mild serenity of the sheltered vale. "You will like this, my Claudina," said she, "for you can scale these heights, and wander among these rocky cliffs on the sea shore. Ah! I shall feel grateful if we can be accommodated in that peaceful valley; we will immediately make enquiries. But how shall we descend? Nature seems to have protected the inhabitants from intrusion by making their humble residences inaccessible." "How then," said Claudina, with a faint though pensive smile, "shall I be enabled to wander among the cliffs as you promised me. I fear my walks must be confined to the narrow green below, whilst I may raise my eyes in wonder to the mountain’s top, and think what sights I might behold, could I but gain their towering heights. It will teach me however to be humble, nor can any place appear confined to me, if I see my Everilda smile in it." Lady Courtney pressed her hand, and said with more cheerfulness than she had ever shewn since her husband’s death, "You forget, my Claudina, the invegorating quality of this pure atmosphere; you will soon be as strong as one of the welch peasant girls, of whom we have already seen many, whose labours might make a pampered steed ashamed of his idleness; and you will become as active as one of the goats, that skip from crag to crag, and look down on the world which lies in minature beneath them, as animals less innocent, regard from the eminence of power, the unexalted, whom they consider as born only to be subservient to their interests." Giuseppe now returned, with information that the horse was ready to proceed; Lady Courtney enquired the road into the village, he answered, that it was safe to venture in the carriage, but that there was a foot path, which afforded a pleasant, and easy descent. They therefore took the way he pointed out to them, and soon arrived in the vale.
If the grand view from the mountains excited sublime ideas, the placid serenity below, inspired the gentlest and most pleasing sensations. The eye could discern nothing but the clear blue sky, and the steep green ascent, on which a few goats were browsing, and trees scattered here and there, relieved without destroying its uniformity.
The village was in itself, every thing that could be desired; sheltered, warm, and clean; through it a stream hastily ran over a pebbled bed; the cottages had an air of comfort, and were not contrasted by any edifice much more important. A small church peeped from a cluster of trees, and very near it, a modest mansion belonging to the clergyman, was distinguished from the rest, more by the taste of its owner, than by any real superiority that it possessed. A little higher indeed, there was
"A gothic mansion venerably gray,
The faint memorial of a better day."
Which had once been dignified with the name of a seat, and had in former times, been the residence of a large and ancient family, but,
"The lizard and the lazy lurking bat,
Had long inhabited the painted room,
Where the sage matron and her maiden sat,
Sweet singing at the silver working loom."
The enlightened heir of modern days, had chosen rather to encrease his scanty income, by a mean and painful dependance on the great, than to limit his wishes, to his power of gratifying them. He had therefore long bade adieu to his native mountains and valleys, leaving the seat of his ancestors, to moulder in ruin and neglect, a fit emblem of his own broken fortune, and disappointed hope.
Ah me, full sorely is my heart forlorn,
To think how modest worth neglected lies;
Whilst partial fame doth with her blast adorn,
Such deeds alone as pride and pomp disguise;
Deeds of ill sort, and mishievous emprize,
Lend me thy clarion goddess! let me try,
To sound the praise of merit ere it dies,
Such as I oft have chanced to espy;
Lost in the dreary shades of dull obscurity.
WE should not have detained our readers with the history of this deserted hall, as its fate was not much harder than that of many of its brethren; but it happened to be the only place, in the village, that afforded any prospect of accommodation for the strangers whose arrival had filled the inhabitants with a degree of amazement, which seemed to have deprived them of the power of speech, as Lady Courtney could procure no answer to any of her enquiries. The women curtsied and pulled their children out of the way, the children peeped from behind their mammies, and all the men were out at work, excepting the blacksmith, whose attitude and figure were precisely that of the knight of the anvil, described in Shakspear’s King John. However when he had recovered from the first effects of surprise, and his mouth had gradually closed until it came within proper limits for utterance, he directed them to the clergyman, who was a good man, he said and a shentleman porn and pred, and her would tell hur every thing hur wanted to know. To this shentleman they accordingly went and apologizing for their intrusion, explained the reason of it, requesting to know if they could procure lodging in a retirement with which they were already charmed. The clergyman was indeed by birth a gentleman, but was unfortunately born a century too late to be so by any thing more profitable than genealogy. In the days when his ancestors were in their zenith of power, they called themselves Ap Rice; but when their descendants found themselves obliged to retrench their appearances and expences, they carried the spirit of economy even into their name, and striking from it the superfluous A, contented themselves with calling it Price, justly imagining that the Ap, signifying the son of, would be very unnecessarily retained in an age when if the son were poor, the father was never enquired after. We shall therefore introduce the worthy clergyman to our readers as Mr. Price. This gentleman was the youngest of fourteen children: by means of a good capacity and studious inclination, he had been enabled to take orders, and was fortunate enough to procure the living of Llewenmawr, which was worth fifteen pounds perannum; and his success created envy in the breasts of many in his calling whose income was only two thirds of that value. For himself he would have been contented, as his wishes were moderate, and it was not wealth that could constitute his felicity; but alas! the want of the former eventually deprived him of the latter. He had been attached from his earliest youth to the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman. She returned his passion, and would gladly have shared with him the inconveniences of a narrow income, thinking, and with some reason, whatever selfish prudence or cautious avarice may urge to the contrary, that mutual affection would supply the place of many luxuries. Unfortunately the parents were not in love, and what was more unfortunate still, they were too compassionate to forbid the intercourse between the young people, tho’ they were also too worldly-minded to consent to their wishes. Thus, year after year rolled on, marked only by the agitation of hope, or listlessness of disappointment. Time endeared them to each other, but the health of the young lady sank under the trial, to which her parents exposed her. Naturally gentle and susceptible, the conflict between affection and duty was too powerful for her delicate frame. At length her parents seeing her ready to fall a victim to avarice, relented, and implored her to live and to make them happy by being so herself. They fixed an early day for her faithful lover to receive her hand, and at length the long-looked for hour arrived. But his rapture was checked by apprehension; for scarcely could her faultering steps conduct her to the altar, scarcely could her feeble accents pronounce the vow that made him happy; she did however pronounce it, she became his wife, he pressed her in rapture to his bosom. "Now Maria thou art mine indeed," he exclaimed, "I am my Owen," she replied, "let me be ever thine." Overcome by her emotions she struggled in vain against their force; in her weak state agitation was fatal; she pressed her hand to her head overpowered by the violence of its throbbings; alas! it was the flutter of departing life, and sinking into her husband’s arms she expired, almost immediately after the ceremony that had united them. Thus in an instant was destroyed the fabric of bliss which slow and painful years had erected, and which fidelity and perseverance had finally completed. The anguish and remorse of the parents exceeded description. The grief of the widowered lover was silent but deep. The prime of his youth had been consumed in anxiety, the meridian of his life was devoted to sorrow, but in his sorrow, there was none of the harshness and misanthropy, which render the indulgence of it a crime. He mourned not as ‘they without hope,’ he considered his separation from his Maria as temporary, and looked with calm resignation to the period when he might be permitted to rejoin her. Withdrawing himself entirely from society he wept over her grave, which he could see from the window of the little parsonage, that he had fondly hoped would be one day adorned by her presence; he gazed on it unceasingly, and was almost tempted to envy her innocent and undisturbed repose. At other times he was employed in the management of a few acres of ground, and amused himself with some birds which had belonged to his Maria, or with cultivating the flowers with which she had ornamented his garden having planted many of them herself in her occasional visits with her parents. Over these remembrances he watched with the utmost care; as their blossoms expanded, his heart became sensible of pleasure, and when the chilling blasts of approaching winter robbed them of their charms, he sighed and remembered that her’s were blighted in their prime. But these objects claimed not all his attention, he wished not to live only to indulge in fruitless grief; he forgot his own sorrows, to assuage those of his parishioners; and relieved their wants from his own frugal stores: he saw himself revered by the few children of unsophisticated nature, with whom he was surrounded, and his earthly wishes strayed not beyond the narrow limits of the vale of Llewenmawr, and its humble inhabitants.
"To them his heart, his love, his griefs, were giv’n,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heav’n;
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale and midway leaves the storm;
Tho’ round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head."
Mr. Price was walking in his garden, when he was informed of the arrival of the ladies, and he immediately left it to receive them with that native politeness which is the offspring of benevolence and good sense, and wants not the superficial ornaments of courtly expression or fashionable modes to recommend it.
He told the ladies that he should be happy in gaining them for neighbours, if it should be in his power to be serviceable to them; and informed them of the mansion that we have already mentioned, one part of which was occupied by a farmer and his wife; but the principal apartments were at liberty. He added that a lady had fitted up two or three rooms in a simple style, the preceding summer; that she had made it her residence for some months on account of her health, but her disorder was hopeless when she came, and she died in the autumn. This account did not discourage Lady Courtney, which the good man was glad to observe, for he had related the fact without disguise, lest she should hear it with additions from any other person, and be made uneasy by it; for he well knew that in solitude and sickness, the mind is ingenious to torment itself, and he thought he could perceive that his new acquintance had not been accustomed to either, though she at present sought the former, and appeared evidently afflicted with the latter.
After some further conversation, he offered to accompany the ladies to view their destined habitation, and they were well pleased with the prospect of comfort which it afforded.
The rooms were commodious, and neatly furnished. A garden behind the house was carried to some extent on the slope of the mountain, which defended it from every inclement gale, and a winding path conducted the passenger with ease to the highest ascents. The good women of the house engaged to have every thing in order by the evening, and in the interim the clergyman invited the ladies to partake of his humble fare. The luggage was therefore taken off, the chaise dismissed, and the wanderers rejoiced that their search of an asylum, was so successfully ended.
And yet e’en here amid these secret shades,
These simple scenes of unreproved delight,
Affliction’s iron hand my breast invades,
And death’s dread dart is ever in my sight.
IT is not in the least surprising, that in this retired spot, the fugitives eluded all enquiry. Our readers must therefore now contemplate Lady Courtney no longer as the
"—————————giddy fluttering thing,
Who shone in the park, and sparkled in the ring:"
but as a penitent recluse, hiding her charms, and wearing away the uniform day, in the solitary retirement of Llewenmawr; attended only by her Claudina, who "pined in thought," but still wore on her placid countenance, the smile of content, to cheat her friend into the cheerfulness, which she feared had for ever fled her own bosom. Accustomed to restraint from her early youth, it was not now that Claudina found it irksome. She regretted the world, only as it contained the man, of whom she thought incessantly, and whom she every moment resolved to forget. To her, the vale of Llewenmawr, never appeared too narrow in its limits, but when she considered that it deprived her of the society, which when possessed, caused her pain, and yet of which the remembrance was now her only pleasure.
Sometimes she felt her spirits sink into despondency, when she beheld the fleeting days of her youth, consuming in hopeless disappointment; the past marked only by the cruelty of her relations, the future promising only mournful remembrances, and fruitless regrets.
But Claudina’s mind, was not more ornamented by every bewitching trait of female delicacy, and sensibility, than it was armed with the more masculine endowments of firmness and resolution; and no sooner was she sensible of the lethargy into which her mental faculties were falling, then she made every laudable effort to rouse them from it; not more on her own account than that of her friend, whose spirits, too prone to droop, needed not the contagious influence of example.
To effect this, she resolved to divert her thoughts, by giving them new subjects for employment. She took daily exercise, knowing how much the mind is influenced by the body; and that the sensations excited in the one, by the health-inspiring breeze, and the contemplation of the beauties of nature, ever new and delightful, must preclude in the other, at least for a time, the indulgence of dispiriting and unpleasing ideas. The tender and elegant Leonard, justly says, "Rural air is balsamic to a wounded mind, and the charms of nature, communicate a secret calm to the soul, which stills the stormy voice of the passions." She wandered among the cliffs on the sea shore, and was soothed by the monotonous murmer of the waves, or amused by the varied sounds of the different birds, which built amongst the rocks, and sought their prey upon the waters. Sometimes she saw the distant vessel gliding in gentle safety on the smooth waste, at others the treacherous element changing its aspect, threatening destruction to the hardy adventurers, whom it lifted as if to the clouds, and then sunk as though in its fury it would bury them, and their dearly-earned treasures in its fathomless abyss.
Often would she return laden with curious shells, or the most beautiful flowers, either the wild produce of the mountains, or those indigenous to the sea shore: she would delineate them with the most delicate exactness, until the shades of evening interfered with her employment, when she would take her guitar, and play to Everilda all the favourite tunes of their early youth, from the lively airs of the Venetian Gondoliers, to the pensive strains of Metastasio; and her sweet and flexible voice, would for a time charm to rest, in Everilda’s bosom, the remembrance of her sorrows. Thus with the few authors that they were enabled to bring with them, and the few that they could borrow from Mr. Price, whose pleasing and rational society, was a valuable acquisition to them, the days passed in tranquil uniformity, and Claudina began to reap by returning health and peace, the reward of her perseverance in what she rightly deemed a branch of duty.
But with Everilda it was very different; whoever has known the approving smile, the partial praise, the lively participation in pleasure, the soothing consolation in sorrow, and the thousand nameless attentions of conjugal affection, will know also, that the kindest offices of the most unwearied friends, must inevitably fall far, far short of the supporting love of an indulgent husband. The loneliness of Everilda’s heart then may be easily conceived; her mind accustomed from infancy to the powerful stimulus of constant and extravagant praise from all around her, seemed to sink under mere debility, now that it was no longer supported even by her own approbation. She had lost the wish to please, and none more worthy filled the large space that it had once occupied.
The constant remembrance of her husband was never unaccompanied by the reproach, of having been indirectly accessary to his death; the ghost of her departed happiness incessantly hovered before her mental view, and accused her as its murderess.
With whatever intention we are tried by afflictions, it certainly was never designed
for them to inspire unreasonable, or as it may be justly termed, irrational grief. The consequences ever attendant on the excessive indulgence of unavailing sorrow, by depriving the mind of benevolence, and the body of health, ought to teach us, that it is no less offensive to the great Creator, who has permitted us to be afflicted, than it is prejudicial to ourselves, and painful to those, by whom we are surrounded.
He cannot be said to be resigned, who mourns incessantly, and who in obstinately contemplating his sorrows, betrays a stubbornness of mind, which will not be subdued by them.
The attentions of friendship are never more valuable or more praiseworthy then when worn out by suffering, a sense of them can scarcely be expressed by their object. From Claudina they were paid with an assiduity which increased in proportion as the unhappy Everilda appeared unconscious of it, and sacrificing all her own plans, just as she began to reap the benefit of them, she confined herself entirely to the house, never for a moment leaving Lady Courtney, who from the acute agonies of grief, gradually sunk into a state of silent dejection, much more prejudicial to her health, and infinitely more dangerous to her mental faculties: in this sad state, her mind dwelt with foreboding melancholy on her condition; she looked forward to the hour, when she should bring forth the fatherless child of her Henry, and all her spirits sank, in the idea that she might not live to become a mother. She had heard the little history of her predecessor, to whose death she often reverted, always concluding her sympathizing reflections on it, with predictions that her own was not far distant.
The lady’s name was Leeson, she had married a young officer of genteel family, but no fortune, against the consent of her father, who was the owner of the mansion, in which she had died. He renounced her on her marriage, and persisted in his resentment, with the firmness that too often sustains us in error, whilst it is not equally powerful, in encouraging us in virtue.
Mrs. Leeson had accompanied her husband in the expedition, under the Duke of York, which deprived England of too many of her sons; unfortunately Captain Leeson was amongst the number. His wife bathed his wounds in her tears, and had the melancholy satisfaction, of hearing him declare, that death in her arms lost its terrors, though parting with her, added to its bitterness. The young widow returned to England with a broken heart, impaired constitution, and destitute of a single friend.
But her distresses melted not the heart of her father, he piqued himself on the observance of his resolution, and almost feared lest the permission he gave her, to die in the deserted mansion of his ancestors, might be construed into a recantation.
She was not long however his debtor even for shelter; she soon sunk under sorrow and illness, and fled from the severity of an earthly father, to that heavenly one, whose boundless mercies and incessant forgiveness, should teach his creatures to show each other the forbearance and compassion which they continually require and receive from his inexhaustible goodness.
Lady Courtney delighted to dwell on the untimely fate of this unfortunate female, and Mr. Price, with the most benevolent intentions, often enlarged on the piety and resignation, that she had displayed during her illness. But no arguments could erase from Everilda’s mind, the idea which self-love naturally inspires, that she was the most unfortunate of human beings. "Say not so, my dear madam," replied the patient teacher of the holy precepts which his practice beautifully exemplified; "say not so; certainly there are many who are more unfortunate than you can consider yourself, and I hope you will never be convinced by the pressure of calamities still more intolerable, that those under which you at present suffer, were not only more bearable than the afflictions of many others, but also than you were destined to endure. We should think it highly presumptuous in any one to declare that his happiness exceeded that of any other created being; nor could we deem the correction severe which might dash his cup of boasted bliss with the alloy of temporary sorrow. Yet a declaration of this nature would be infinitely more excusable than that which you have made, for it might proceed from an excess of gratitude and a lively sense of the blessings that inspired it; but if a decrease of his happiness might be permitted to convince him of its uncertainty, is it not also to be feared that the repining mind may be taught by additional calamities, that those under which it murmured, were comparatively easy to be borne." Seeing Everilda looked distressed, though not convinced, and understanding the silent appeal she made to heaven, by raising her eyes to it, he proceeded in a yet milder tone, "I mean not to declaim in the mere pride of words; I trust that the actions of my past life may give weight to the arguments I would use; I teach what I do know; I have been acquainted with Sorrow so long, that I now consider her as a friend, to whose society, though gloomy, I am so much accustomed, that the gay novelty of any other would not repay me for the trouble of seeking it."
"I know it is not always possible to forget, it is what I could never teach myself, but I would learn to remember without bitterness, and this is what I would wish to teach you." "Alas," replied Everilda, "there is even in this life, ‘the worm that dieth not;’ for when the arrows of adversity are turned aside by the shield of fortitude, when the stings of neglect are weakened by the consciousness of rectitude, when even the bitterness of death is allayed by the consolations of remembrance, yet for self-reproach there is no cure, to its wounds the world can apply no palliative, no lethean balm; and when it can endure its own sufferings without incessant torments, it merits still more severe condemnation. Oh God," continued she, clasping her hands and giving way to an agony of tears, "‘a contrite heart thou wilt not despise, but a wounded spirit who can bear.’" "Yet is not that rather an effusion of wounded pride or mortified self love, than the humble sentiment of penitence or contrition?" asked Mr. Price; he then continued, "It would ill become me to be severe on mankind, and never should the language of censure pass my lips, but with the hope of producing reformation. Yet I fear, if we consider the remorse that arises in the mind, from the recollection of an error, we shall find that the injuries produced by our follies, are less bearable, as we see after the mist of passion or prejudice is evaporated, how easily they might have been avoided. Then indeed every day adds to the painfulness of our recollections, because every day weakens the impulses, which occasioned our fault, and adds to those, which make us ardently long to recal it.
"To repent truely, and to reap benefit from repentance, we must divest ourselves of the garb of selfishness, and be clothed in that of humility; we must deplore our crimes and not their consequences; and when we may humbly hope to have reconciled ourselves to God, by the means which he has graciously pointed out to us, we may then think of a reconciliation with our own reflections." Such were the discourses held by the worthy divine, whenever he perceived Everilda unusually depressed. Ignorant as he was of her condition in life, or of the peculiar circumstances that had driven her to seek refuge in a situation to which it was easy to perceive she had not been accustomed he knew that she was unhappy, nor did he wish to know more, unless further knowledge could teach him to make her less so. His compassion was warmly interested for her, and he lamented the early wreck of such talents, and graces as shone even through the dark cloud, in which her daily increasing dejection enveloped them. But if he compassionated Everilda, he reverenced almost to enthusiasm, the virtues of Claudina; unwearied patience, unshaken fortitude, and uncomplaining sweetness, were assembled in the smile of resignation that illuminated her countenance, the pensive expression of which, could not fail to inspire the most tender sympathy in minds of sensibility, congenial to her own; and as she assiduously watched the declining health, and drooping spirits of her friend, guessing her wishes, and anticipating her wants with the tenderest solicitude, she seemed to personify her, who as described by Mason,
"Her meek hands folded on her modest breast,
In mute submission lifts th’ adoring eye,
E’en to the storm that wrecks her."
Let me, o! let me near some fountain lie!
That thro’ the rock lifts up its foamy head;
Or let me dwell upon some mountain high,
Whose hollow root, and baser parts are spread
On fleeting waters, in its bowels bred:
That I their streams, and they my tears may feed;
Or clothed in some hermit’s ragged weed,
Spend all my days in weeping for this cursed deed.
WE will not detain our readers with an account of Sir Edward Clayton’s sensations, when he heard of Lord Courtney’s death. All that a mind of sensibility could feel, at the dreadful thought of being accessary to the death of a fellow creature, was felt by him; and encreased by the recollection, of the amiable qualities of the deceased, and the wretchedness into which his untimely fate had plunged those connected with him.
Literature, in which Clayton could once find a balm for every wound, now became hateful to him. What indeed could books teach him? Poetry and fiction, only led him to contrast and lament the sad realities of life; whilst morality and reasoning, taught him but to condemn more severely, his own conduct, of which the retrospect was already too painful.
In this unfortunate situation he resolved to study the book of nature, and endeavouring to divert mental uneasiness by bodily employment, he assumed the name of Balfour, and wandered on foot through the greatest part of Wales, staying a few days at any place that appeared agreeable to him, and quitting it when the attractive but transient charm of novelty had fled.
At Caermarthen he met with an old acquaintance, a clergyman, to whom he communicated his change of name, and reasons for so doing, and this friend, anxious to serve him, gave him letters to many of his brethren, and amongst the rest, to Mr. Price; and he made use of these letters, just as he felt a temporary wish to have some one, to whom he could communicate his remarks, or was pleased with the situation of those, to whom they were addressed.
The latter motive induced him to deliver an introductory epistle to Mr. Price, with whose conversation and manners he was soon so highly gratified, that he resolved to suspend his wanderings, and endeavour to find consolation in the precepts, and reap benefit from the example, of the chastened mourner, who notwithstanding the retired life he had led for many years, possessed a mind richly stored, if not with classical learning, yet with that kind of reading and sentiment which perhaps affords a greater, and more pleasing variety of information.
It is not requisite for a person to have passed the principal part of his time in the busy scenes of life, to enable him to be an agreeable and instructive companion in retirement. It is certain, that if the paucity and uniformity of incidents be such, as to inspire no interest, and rouse no reflection, the mind must depend solely on its own powers for amusement; and then, memory may indeed afford truly valuable additions to present ideas, by recalling past scenes, and the sensations inspired by a retrospective view of them, will be gentle, and pleasing, as those felt on perusing for the second time, after a lapse of years, a work in which we were before strongly interested. They please indeed more from a recollection of the much greater pleasure, of which we had before been sensible; the vision is not now so bright; like a landscape by moonlight, the colours appear faded, and indistinct, but the very gloom in which they are involved is grateful, and perhaps adds to the effect.
We repeat that it is not seeing much, but reflecting on what we do see, by which the amusements of youth may add to the pleasures of age; and it generally happens that they who live the most in the busy world, are precisely they who profit the least by its variety.
The statesman, retiring in disgust, renounces the projects of patriotism and ambition, without seeking to occupy the large space, which they had till then filled in his mind; but man was not born to be idle; emperors have amused themselves in solitude, with making watches, or planting cabbages; and he who guided the helm of the state, whose breath made war or peace, whose hand dispensed the riches of his country, or the lives of his countrymen, will in retirement amuse himself with feeding goldfish, laying stones in even rows in his gravel walks, or any other pastime equally innocent. The disabled warrior may still "shoulder his crutch, and tell how fields were won;" but he is as often content to pass the bottle, or hold a hand at cards, without betraying any information superior to that possessed by many who,
"Along the cool sequestered vale of life,
Have kept the noiseless tenor of their way."
The sailor, after exposing himself to every peril of the wind and waves, is glad to cast anchor towards the decline of life, in a snug birth, procured by his hazardous industry, and forgets by his fireside, the roaring of the winds, and the rocking of the waves. The manners of different climes, have left few traces on his mind, and those few are gradually effaced, for as Sir William Davenant observes,
"He’s made no use of sight,
By any thing observed in wide strange seas,
But only of the length of voyages."
He is indeed consulted as an oracle respecting the weather, and when he meets with any old acquaintance, he talks of rocks and straights, dangerous passages, and safe anchorages, but of men and manners, he is perhaps unable to give an opinion, notwithstanding the variety that he may have seen.
Cowper’s life illustrates these remarks; during twenty years, he went not thirteen miles from one sequestered spot; yet do his writings betray any want of incident? or what succession of incidents could give rise to more just and beautiful observations, than he has made in his retirement? Indeed it appears to us highly probable, that his twenty years of seclusion, were spent with much more satisfaction to himself, and benefit to his fellow creatures, than the same period may be by those sons of fortune, who in that time run through half the countries of Europe, to return and abuse their own; who spend their youth like fools, their middle-age like knaves, and their old-age like children. The justice and elegance with which Young expresses his ideas on this subject, will we trust sufficiently apologize for our presenting them to our readers, however our own crude remarks may suffer by a comparison with those of this celebrated author.
"Wisdom is the growth of experience, but experience is not the growth of action, but of reflection on it. In an active life are sown the seeds of wisdom, but he who reflects not, never reaps; has no harvest from it; he carries the burthen of old-age, without the wages of experience; nor knows himself to be old, but from his infirmities, the parish register, and the contempt of mankind. And what has age if it have not esteem?—it has nothing.—"
"And so all this long digression, is to prove that the world is foolish and wicked, as if we did not know that without your illtimed information," say some of the courteous ones, who may honor these pages by a perusal; yet, fair and gentle readers, accuse us not of a design so malevolent, but rather exert some of that forbearing quality, so necessary for the votaries of the Minerva of modern days, and you will then patiently hear, and implicitly believe, that our intentions were simply to prove, that Mr. Price in his little parsonage at Llewenmawr, was a companion as interesting and rational, as could be found in the circle at St. James’s. "Simply enough indeed, and tediously enough, but pray proceed, and do not tax us more with the apologies than you have done even with the offence." Now, most respected readers, that being a speech admitting of two constructions, we shall, as experience has taught us is the wisest way, construe it into a compliment, and shew ourselves grateful, by immediately complying with the request.
Sir Edward soon told Mr. Price that he should like to become a resident, in the vale of Llewenmawr, for a few weeks, if he could be accommodated with lodgings. Mr. Price replied with a courtesy of manner, still more flattering than his words, "Could I find any accommodations in the village equal to my desires for your comfort, Mr. Balfour, I would not be so selfish, as to solicit you to remain my guest; but I frankly confess, I know not of any better, than the bed-room that you have under my roof, and the little closet that I dignify with the name of study, which I beg you will consider appropriated solely to your use; these with a chair in my parlour, and a place at my table, whenever you will honor me with occupying them, and the range of my grounds, over the whole of which, you might range in one quarter of an hour, are what I have to offer you, what you are not only heartily welcome to, but will oblige me by accepting, and what you will not find any of my parishioners capable of offering you. Thus you see," continued he, smiling, "I threaten you into a compliance with my wishes." "And mine my dear sir," said Sir Edward, "are too much interested in it, to need the repetition of such friendly entreaties. I should have preferred a lodging could I have procured one, as your conversation is such a temptation to me, that in order to enjoy it, I fear I shall intrude on your solitude, oftener than may be agreeable to you; but whenever I am troublesome tell me so, and give me an opportunity of shewing my sense of your kindness, by the readiness with which I would make my gratification yield to your convenience."
Sir Edward accordingly took up his abode with the worthy clergyman; and his mind gradually recovering from the anguish under which it had smarted, softened into a melancholy not unpleasing. The tidings of Lady Courtney’s disappearance had not reached him, and he endeavoured to detach his thoughts entirely from her, feeling that by so doing, he paid the only tribute of respect in his power, to the memory of a man, whom in life he had esteemed, but whose death he had unfortunately precipitated.
Perhaps he had the less merit in this forbearance, as he found it more easy to practise than he had once supposed it could ever be. But now horror would have mingled with his love, and he could not bring himself to even wish for the woman whom he had so fondly adored, when he considered her as the widow of the man whom he had destroyed. Whether it were that in dwelling on the remembrance of Claudina, his ideas were unalloyed by any sentiments foreign to that tenderness and sensibility, which she was eminently calculated to inspire; whether it were that she gained by the force of contrast, or whether as Rochefaucault asserts, "The heart is never so readily disposed to receive new impressions, as when it is smarting under the wounds caused by old ones;" certain it is, that Sir Edward incessantly thought of her, wished earnestly that he had esteemed her as she deserved, when he first became acquainted with her, and then sighed again, as he recollected that it would have availed nothing, for, had she not owned that she loved, and loved without hope? This recollection filled him with a peevishness, for which he knew not how to account. He was certain it was not jealousy; that could not exist without passion, and he knew that he had never felt the influence of passion but for Everilda. He might have been happy however, he acknowledged, had Claudina condescended sooner to become his monitress, for who so capable of instruction as she, whose conduct so amiably illustrated the precepts she would teach? He wished to know her sentiments on the late unhappy occurrence, but he feared she must condemn him, and feeling that her censures would make him still more dissatisfied with himself, he endeavoured to rejoice that he should probably never be made acquainted with them.
Oh peaceful solitude!
Where all things smile and in sweet concert join,
All but my thoughts, they still are out of time,
And break, like jarring strings, the harmony.
Mr. Price did not forget in the pleasure he found from his new friend’s society, the attention that he owed to his interesting female acquaintance, and he was so regular in his visits to them, that Sir Edward laughingly enquired into the inducements he had, to be so constant in his devoirs. Mr. Price gave him all the information in his power concerning the ladies, whom Sir Edward had never seen, owing to the increasing indisposition of the one not allowing her to go abroad, and the unwearied kindness of the other, who could not be prevailed on to leave her sick friend.
Mr. Price knew only the time and manner of their arrival; the reason of their retirement, he had never even conjectured, for he possessed none of the restless curiosity, "which grows by what it feeds upon." They appeared to be unhappy, and he had done what he could to alleviate their affliction, "of which," said he, "it was unnecessary to know the source, if that knowledge would not have enabled me to remove it; and I respected their sorrows too much, to discover a wish to be more intimately acquainted with the nature of them. I am however inclined to imagine that they are french emigrants, for they read and speak that language apparently with much more ease than the english, which indeed though they seem to understand it perfectly, and converse in it with the fluency of natives, they yet evidently pronounce with a foreign accent." He then praised in the highest terms the young lady, whom he had never heard addressed by any other name than that of Louisa, and extolled her amiable and interesting attention to Mrs. Belmont, which was the name that Lady Courtney had adopted. "Such firmness joined to so much sensibility, such piety, resignation and fortitude," said he, "I have never seen equalled but in one, who was lovely and amiable, as she is now," he sighed deeply as he concluded, and hastily went to the little window, whence, notwithstanding the twilight was fading away, he could still discern the humble stone that marked his Maria’s grave. Sir Edward echoed his sigh, and thought there was yet in the world, another, whose gentle virtues, and unassuming charms would not suffer by a comparison with those of the amiable foreigner, or of the unfortunate Maria, so untimely blasted. The widower’d clergyman had in his enthusiasm touched a discordant string, and Clayton versed in the feelings of the heart, and the eloquent manner in which silence sometimes expresses them, conjectured what passed in the bosom of his friend, and resolved to leave him to his own reflections, well knowing that there are moments, when any society is an interruption to the communion which the unhappy love to hold with solitude.
It was at an hour when every noise in the village was hushed, save those which add charms even to stillness. The moon had risen in unclouded majesty, and some of her beams "slept sweetly on the bank," whilst others played on the surface of the brook, which fled with limpid speed to join the waters of many streams, that were proud to add their stores to the ocean. The wind just agitated the trees, sufficiently to make mournful music, and at intervals the tinkling of bells, and barking of the watch-dogs were heard, whilst the ponderous swing of a distant waggon, broke with fuller sound upon the charmed ear.
Sir Edward’s feelings were soothed by the beauty of the moonlight scene, and his fertile imagination was picturing the vague and indefinite kind of happiness, which though he never could exactly define in what it should consist, he had incessantly sought, and had been as constantly disappointed in his search. He was roused from his reverie by hearing a guitar struck in plaintive notes; and looking round this sublunary sphere as far as his very contracted prospect would allow, he found himself opposite to the walls, which enclosed the peerless fair ones, of whom his friend had so often expressed his pity and admiration. From these walls the dulcet sounds did certainly proceed; Clayton was at all times an enthusiastic admirer of music, and like Marmontel’s Fonrose, he generally carried his flute about with him. He now took it from his pocket, his soul was on his lips, and he longed to breathe forth the dictates of sensibility. The fear however of appearing to treat two unprotected strangers with levity or disrespect, deterred him, and he contented himself with listening to the pensive, and fascinating vocal strains, which the lady now added to her instrument; the words he could not distinguish, but the voice was surely Claudina’s. The improbability of the idea checked the momentary transport it had inspired. "Of late," he said to himself, "I can never hear of any thing virtuous or delightful, but I associate Claudina with it; and why should I not? she is deserving of far higher praise than I can bestow upon her, shall I then merely refuse it, because I know that from me, it could create in her heart no stronger passion than gratitude?" Whilst he thus argued with himself, the music ceased, and he saw through the white muslin curtain, a female figure walk across the room. Candles were brought in soon after, and he could then plainly discern both the ladies. They were in sable garbs, and one appeared to weep whilst the other hung over her in an affectionate attitude and seemed to be speaking the most soothing language of consolation.
He waited some minutes in the hope of being once more gratified with the melancholy harmony, but he was disappointed, for shortly after one of the ladies occupied herself with needlework, and the other seating herself near the table reclined her head upon her hand and apparently abandoned herself to silent meditation. Not expecting to derive much gratification from being a spectator of this scene, particularly through a curtain, he returned home, with the remembrance of Everilda vibrating through his heart, and agitating it with a thousand painful sensations; till the mild image of Claudina appearing like his guardian angel, put every harsher thought to flight.
The day after Clayton’s evening ramble, Lady Courtney happened to remark the more than usual paleness and dejection of her faithful friend, who, tho’ she could forbear complaining, could not conceal the ravages which confinement and uneasiness had made in her health. Everilda was equally shocked and distressed at a conviction, which she blamed herself for not having felt before.— "Alas!" said she, "my Claudina, I was not always so selfish, the sense of my own sorrows has destroyed my sympathy for those of others; but I will not suffer you longer to confine yourself so strictly with me; my situation," added she sighing, "deprives me of the pleasure of accompanying you in your walks, but your account of them will enliven me, and I shall feel very grateful if I can see exercise bestow even a temporary bloom on the cheek, which has been deprived of it by too great a sympathy in my misfortunes." Claudina’s cheek did, indeed, gain a temporary bloom as Everilda spoke, conscious that the feelings of her own wayward heart had conduced to rob her of it, but she would not consent to leave her friend alone. To obviate that objection, Lady Courtney sent to beg the favor of Mr. Price’s company, and when he arrived, Claudina bent her steps towards her favorite though deserted walk by the sea shore. It was at that season of the year when the beauties of nature are declining daily. Claudina was particularly sensible of the change which had taken place in the scenery during her long confinement to the house. The change however was not unpleasing to the frame of mind that she was in; the rich and varied hues of the autumnal foliage amply compensated, in her eyes, the loss of its summer freshness; and the cawing of the rooks, as they wheeled round in the air, soothed her feelings into harmony as perfect as could have been inspired by the sweetest notes of all the feathered tribe.
When Mr. Price went to Lady Courtney, Sir Edward Clayton strolled to the sea shore to indulge the reflections which pleasingly expand in solitude. He was wandering amongst the cliffs, when turning round one which projected considerably, he saw a female seated on a fragment of rock, and so picturesque were her attitude and situation, that she appeared to his romantic fancy as the figure of Contemplation gazing at the ruins made by the hand of Time. She did not see him, and he knew not whether to advance or to retreat, curiosity dictated the former, politeness urged the latter, but curiosity prevailed, though it is generally imagined that only female minds are subject to her influence. "It is undoubtedly the young emigreé," he said to himself, "and I shall be able to pronounce on the degree of merit, that she may claim in secluding herself from the world, when I know the degree of beauty which she hides in retirement." He was however at the moment disappointed, for the young lady hearing the sound of footsteps, hastily arose and proceeded in her walk. She was veiled, and he could not catch a glimpse of her features, which he was the more anxious to do, as he thought her figure and manner resembled those of Claudina. This idea made him quicken his steps. "Yet why should I endeavour to overtake her?" he asked "is an imaginary resemblance on her part, any excuse for an impertinence on mine? let me not shew her that even retirement, cannot protect her from insult:" he paused and slackened his steps, "yet," continued he mentally, "I would not insult any female, and least of all one whom I know to be unhappy, and believe to be unfortunate; but it is late, she is far from home, and surely there can be no impropriety in my offering to guard her thither," He then once more quickened his pace, as did the fair one her’s also, but he gained upon her, she heard the near approach of his steps, and condemned herself for having walked so long, and strayed so far. She endeavoured to exert more speed, but it was ineffectual, she saw the shadow of the intruder parallel with her own, and she thought it would be more wise to slacken her pace and suffer him to pass her. Clayton could see her agitation, she trembled alike with fear and with fatigue, but she averted her face, and drew her veil still closer over it. He thought some apology was due from him, "I hope, Madam, I have not alarmed you," he said, his voice in a moment fixed her attention, she gazed on him as wondering if her thoughts by day, had the power of representing him as perfectly, as he appeared to her in her nightly dreams. "Sir Edward Clayton!" "Claudina!" they exclaimed together, and their hearts at the same instant acknowledged the dominion of the same sentiment. In him it inspired rapture, which beamed in his countenance, and animated his expressions; in her it created confusion, and a thousand nameless conjectures, and regrets. She was not now however so very sorry that she had stayed so far, for as she already resolved never to see him after that afternoon, if she could avoid it, she was therefore better pleased to have met with him on the seashore, than she would have been to see him in the village, for that would have prevented her walks in future, and she felt within the last few minutes that the air had been of infinite service to her. Claudina still trembled, and her faltering voice betrayed her, Sir Edward remarked it, and reproached himself for having alarmed her; she attributed it entirely to weariness, and he entreated her to take a seat for a few minutes. She complied, but was scarcely seated, when she thought it had the appearance of wishing to prolong the time of his attending her, and the too great caution which betrays the secret it would guard, impelled her to continue her walk. "She has not yet forgiven me," sighed Sir Edward to himself, "and this unexpected meeting which filled my heart with transport, now only adds to my sorrow by convincing me of the disdain with which I am regarded by her." The conversation turned on the occurrences that had led to their meeting, Sir Edward deplored afresh the unhappiness he had occasioned, and lamented that one so lovely and captivating as Lady Courtney, should be estranged from society, and her friends, and devote herself to slow consuming sorrow. Claudina felt a sensation in her breast whilst Sir Edward extolled Everilda, which damped the happiness his presence had inspired. For a moment she doubted his declared ignorance of their abode in Llewenmawr, and feared that he might take up his residence there, in the hope of seeing the object of his early and unfortunate attachment. "If so," she mentally argued, "I must be absolved from my promise of secresy, for never will I be instrumental to the dishonour of my friend, or of her family; and it is a debt I owe to myself and to society, to guard against even the appearance of countenancing vice." These reflections clouded her brow, and her gravity confirmed Sir Edward in his idea of her dislike. Silence ensued, but at length he broke it by saying "If Lady Courtney’s unhappiness excite my sincerest pity, and add to the contrition I have long felt, what then must be my admiration of the friendship which soothes her with unremitting tenderness, withdrawing from society the most captivating charms, to bury them in a solitude rendered still more dreary, by the despair which you must too often be obliged to witness, without the power of alleviating." "I am indeed too often agonized by it," replied Claudina, "and in that consists the severity of my trial. Society I have no merit in renouncing, for it had long ceased to give me pleasure, and in solitude I am at least spared the task of hiding the feelings of the heart under feigned smiles," a sudden glow animated her pensive features as she spoke, and Clayton looking stedfastly on her, exclaimed. "How is that man to be envied whose merits could make so deep an impression on a heart of so much sensibility and worth! Yet if he be unconscious of his happiness, he is an object of pity, and if knowing, he can still neglect it, he must be not only unworthy of it, but of existence." The rapid changes of her countenance whilst he spoke, evinced her emotions, tho’ he was ignorant of their source, and he continued, "oh! pardon me if I offend by thus adverting to the confidence with which you once honored me; pardon me I entreat you, for I know not what I would say, let my distraction plead my excuse. I am about to leave England, ah! do me the justice to believe that to serve you in any part of the globe my existence shall freely be spent in your service; nor should I account my life entirely wretched, if its last moments were soothed by the consciousness of having been instrumental to your happiness." A thousand sensations undefinable and contradictory, struggled in Claudina’s breast, but words could not express any of them, and the fruitless attempt to do it, expired in silence on her trembling lips. Thus the conscious lovers pursued the remainder of their way eloquent even in silence. For know, gentle readers, that words, the vulgar vehicle by which common characters convey common ideas, are deemed, superfluous by all who are under the dominion of Cupid. They being a race of people wholly different from any other with which we are acquainted, have a language peculiar to themselves, and devote their sublime geniuses to translating smiles, construing glances, and commenting upon sighs. The pleasantest path must however have a termination, and the enamoured pair reluctantly arrived, notwithstanding their lingering steps, at the door of the hall. They would then willingly have recalled the time which they had devoted so entirely to contemplation, but it was too late to correct the taciturnity, which they could now only secretly lament. Sir Edward however at parting pressed Claudina’s hand with fervour, and she, roused from the uniform languor in which her life had lately passed, could not conceal the agitation inspired in her bosom by sensations so delightful, and to which she had been so long a stranger. She forgot the presence of Mr. Price, she forgot the effect which surprise might have on Everilda, she forgot every thing but that she had parted from Clayton, and bursting into tears as she entered the room, she exclaimed, "I have seen him once more, my dear friend, I have seen him," but soon ashamed of the emotion she had betrayed, she informed Lady Courtney more calmly and circumstantially of her unexpected rencontre; a smile of transient pleasure and hope illumined the countenance of the latter. "Thank God," she exclaimed, "I trust I shall yet live to see my friend happy, and then will the stillness of the grave be indeed envied by me." Claudina blushed, having only that moment recollected the presence of Mr. Price who with all the delicate consideration natural to him, had risen to take his leave as soon as he perceived that something interesting had occurred. "No, Mr. Price," said Lady Courtney, extending her hand to him with inimitable grace. "You must not leave us, I will no longer have any reserve with so valuable and excellent a friend, propriety no less than inclination now calls on me to entreat your acceptance of my confidence. You, my dear," continued she turning to Claudina "may perhaps wonder to see me so calm, but this inestimable counseller has at length taught me resignation, he has taught me to subdue the impatience of my own reproach, and to submit to the just censure of the world, which before made the remembrance of my misfortunes insupportable: he has taught me to look humbly for pardon to heaven, and in the devout hope of gaining it, I am well contented to bear the punishment which my own follies have inflicted on me." She then gave a candid account of her life, from the period of her first becoming acquainted with Sir Edward Clayton, down to the time of Claudina’s meeting with him. She did not endeavour to palliate the vanity that had led her to sport with his peace, in permitting the continuance of attentions, which added fuel to his ill-treated flame, but she solemnly denied ever having, even in thought, entertained a sentiment inimical to the honor of her husband whom she adored; "and it is this consciousness which supports me now," said she, "for vanity is dead within me, and no warmer passion ever prompted my complacency; Sir Edward will be convinced of this when he sees me, my altered appearance will bring conviction to his mind, the delusion to which I, blameably, contributed will vanish, and all his attentions will, I trust, be turned to one infinitely more calculated to make him happy then I was, even when most deserving of his love."
Mr. Price, as may be imagined, endeavoured to gain Lady Courtney’s consent to inform her friends of her retreat; representing in the most moving terms, the distress that her disappearance must have caused, the joy which any information of her would inspire, and above all, the importance it might be for some of the family to be present at the birth of her child, an event which she now daily expected.
These arguments opened all her wounds afresh, and she wept to excess, though not with the bitterness which had hitherto accompanied her tears. "Alas! Sir," she exclaimed, "you know not the exalted character of the friends whom I have offended, their worth makes me feel more painfully my own degradation; ah, even my own dear father and mother, how could I bear to meet their eyes! Alas! they would not reproach me, their conduct to me was marked only by unbounded tenderness, and ill have I requited it by treachery, disobedience, and ingratitude! Indeed I could not, however selfish I may appear by confessing this weakness, I could not bear to see even my child caressed by those who must detest its mother: oh no, suffer me to remain unknown; I may not live long, death will be welcome to me if you, my good sir, and my faithful friend weep over my grave, which should be near to that of her whom you loved; and perhaps at some future period, my child, my dear child, whom already I doat on with a mother’s fondness, may come to shed a tear over my remains, for time will wrap my faults in oblivion, and it will not be taught to despise the memory of its mother when she can no longer offend."
Mr. Price seeing her so much agitated, forbore to press the subject further at that time, though he could read in Claudina’s dove-like eyes the meek language of gratitude for the earnestness with which he had pressed a suit that he resolved to renew on the first favorable opportunity.
"To gain the point to which our soul aspires,
We nourish toil and reek hard labour sweet,
For this, thro’ Greenland’s frosts, or India’s fires,
The hardy sailors, death and dangers meet,
And the proud chieftain, bolder than discreet,
In blood imbued pursues the martial fray,
And lovers eke, thro’ life’s hard tempest beat,
Led on by hope, that never dying ray,
Hope wantons in their breasts, and strews with flowers
THE change of name adopted by Sir Edward sufficiently accounts for his concealment; as Mr. Price after mentioning to the ladies his having a Mr. Balfour for his guest, in whose society, he every day found encreasing gratification, never repeated his name, except to quote an occasional opinion or remark from him; for judging others by himself, he imagined that the concerns of strangers, could not be very interesting to those, who had in their own affairs subjects of sufficient importance to occupy their thoughts; but his benevolence made him now believe, that it would give Mr. Balfour pleasure, to hear that the ladies, had accidentally heard of an old acquaintance, by whose means the widow might perhaps be prevailed on to return to her friends.
The countenance of this good man, was unusually animated, as he entered his little parsonage, and he found its cheerfulness reflected in the supposed Balfour’s, who rose to meet him with great alacrity.
"One would imagine," said Mr. Price smiling, "that you knew I had a little news to communicate, and your haste to hear it reproaches me, for not having before amused you with some village anecdotes." "In truth my dear sir," replied Clayton, "I am impatient to inform you of an adventure of my own, but tell me what is the subject of your intelligence, and you shall then hear mine." Mr. Price immediately entered on the pleasure he felt from the hope of being serviceable to his female friends, and related the substance of the conversation he had had with them, but when he mentioned Claudina’s, or as he called her, Louisa’s agitation and tears, Clayton hastily interrupted him, "Do you imagine, sir, they were tears of joy? ah! make me happy by confirming that delightful supposition. But no, I deceive myself, they were tears of aversion and anger, you do not answer me, you believe then that they flowed from such odious sources?" Mr. Price unaccustomed to ecstacies, thought Mr. Balfour’s brain was a little confused, but seeing him become calm again he checked the idea, and quietly replied with a smile which he could not conquer, "I own I did not expect you would so suddenly have become interested in this young lady, to whose praises you have often listened with an indifference, which I thought they did not deserve; but however, I will not punish you for it, by delaying to answer questions asked with so much impatience. It appeared to me, that she wept with mingled pleasure and tenderness, evidently inspired by unexpectedly meeting a man, whom in my opinion, she regards with more than common esteem, and truly do I hope he will prove worthy the affections of one so amiable." "He will! it shall be the study of his life to become so," exclaimed Clayton, "ah! sir, you know not the new existence to which you have restored me." "You are then acquainted with the gentleman?" asked Mr. Price, with unaffected surprise. "The gentleman, my dear sir!" replied Clayton, "did not you tell me that she wept for me? and that you believed she regarded me with no common esteem? and can you wonder at my transports!" The good clergyman again thought Mr. Balfour’s intellects were disordered, but Sir Edward recovering from the ebullitions of his rapture, soon convinced him of his sanity, by giving him an undisguised account of the unfortunate accident, which had driven Lady Courtney into the retirement, where he had happily discovered her.
Mr. Price sincerely wished that events so melancholy, might have a fortunate termination, and proposed to take Sir Edward with him the next day, when he should visit Lady Courtney, observing that as the meeting, when ever it took place, must inevitably be very painful, it would be adviseable, at least not to encrease the distressful sensations that would be excited, by allowing much time for their anticipation.
Sir Edward consented to accompany him; but on being introduced to Lady Courtney, how was he shocked to see the difference produced in her appearance by a few month’s suffering. Her eyes were sunk, and their lustre quenched in ceaseless tears; her complexion was faded; her lips pale; her voice broken, and hollow; her figure bent and emaciated; and a deep incessant cough, affectingly proclaimed the alarming state of her health. Such was the altered Everilda; and unexpected as severe, was the trial to which Clayton was exposed, in witnessing the afflicting change. For some minutes, he stood lost in thought, and vainly endeavoured to summon fortitude to speak, but the dignified ease of her manner recalled his attention. "Sir Edward Clayton," she said in a firm tone, though at the sight of him her cheek had become unusually pale, "you see me much altered, and you are afraid I should perceive that you think so; but my health has been too long precarious, to leave me in doubt as to the inroads which disease has made upon my constitution. Let us not however, speak any more on this subject, which no complaints can remedy; or of the past, which no regrets can recal." She then exerted resolution enough to converse with Mr. Price on indifferent topics, and Sir Edward felt convinced by her composure, her dejection, and above all by her calm politeness towards him, that the remembrance of her husband, was the only idea which now occupied her heart. This conviction made him sensible of the void in his own; and he looked incessantly towards Claudina, whose eyes studiously avoided his, but when they accidentally met, their souls mingled in every glance.
The first visit was short and constrained, but the next was less embarrassing, and in the course of it, Sir Edward gained resolution to enter on the subject of informing Lady Courtney’s friends of her retreat. She had had time to consider it; her delicacy told her that Sir Edward ought not to reside a single day in a village, where she had professed that her intention was to remain unknown; yet to urge the impropriety of it to him, and thereby occasion his removal, was what she could not resolve on, as she thought it would be acting cruelly to Claudina, whose attachment to him she well knew; she imagined she could read in his countenance, that it was returned with fervour, and that he waited only for an opportunity to declare it. Yet this did not authorize her to risk her own reputation, by suffering his visits, for though she knew they were no longer directed to herself, yet the world would not know his altered inclinations, "And I have already," said she to herself, "outraged society too much in his company." The result of her reflections was, a resolution to gain some days of happiness for Claudina, by allowing Sir Edward to send an express to Lord Drelincourt, as in the interim, the most rigid propriety could not be offended, by his being received in company with Mr. Price, as his guest.
It was not in the nature of Lady Courtney’s friendship, to praise Claudina without enthusiasm. She delighted to dwell in her absence, on the gratitude she owed her, and invariably concluded her eulogiums by saying, that to see her happy was the only gratification she could receive in life. Sir Edward soon fully comprehended, that he had Lady Courtney’s warmest wishes for his success; and if he might believe the softness in Claudina’s eyes, the tenderness in her tones, and her ill-concealed embarrassment whenever they were left together, his case was not a hopeless one. But true love is timid; he feared to trust appearances, by which he had before been deceived, or to risk, by a presumptuous declaration, depriving himself even of the delusions of hope. He therefore continued to sigh and gaze in silence, notwithstanding the pretty and lively Bianca told him one day, that she was glad he had come, "for," said she, "Donna Claudina has never looked up, since the day she fainted away, and said your honor was murdered, and I am sure it has made me so dull, that if it had not been for Giuseppe, I should have been as bad as she is."
Sir Edward was however soon called on to act decidedly. He was in company with the ladies one afternoon, when a letter was brought to him; it was from Bernard his valet, and informed him that Lord Drelincourt, with part of his family, and the Marchese and his lady, would reach Llewenmawr that evening. Sir Edward turned pale; he saw himself obliged to depart, just when his heart had forgotten its former wounds, in the charms of a new and more fortunate attachment. Lady Courtney perceived his agitation, and guessed that the letter contained information of the time when her friends would arrive. She had complained of unusual languor the whole day, and finding her spirits quite unequal to any new trial, in order to prevent the introduction of the subject at that moment, she hastily said to Mr. Price. "If you my dear Sir, will favour me with your support, I will walk round the garden, for I feel myself suddenly faint and oppressed, perhaps the air may revive me." He reached her cloak, and they left the room, where Claudina and Sir Edward remained. The former attempted to appear very busy, she leaned over some drawings which she pretended to touch, but her trembling hand betrayed itself by the irregular strokes of the pencil, it seemed to guide. Sir Edward appeared no less occupied in admiring the sketches and ornaments, with which her elegant fancy had adorned the room, but he soon left them to gaze on the fairer artist. He took a chair nearer her’s; "Claudina," he said, "you must have perceived my uneasiness on the perusal of the letter which I just now received," he paused for a reply, but as he had already affirmed what she could not deny, she did not think one necessary. He continued, "Claudina, that letter told me what I could never gain resolution to tell myself, it told me that I must leave you. Lord Drelincourt will be here this evening, I am not so far lost in my own gratification as to offend him by my presence; I make to him the greatest sacrifice in my power, I tear myself from one whom I love, and esteem beyond the world, and without whom my life will be a blank. I shall leave England immediately; my exile would be supportable had I hope to sustain me in it; oh, send me not ‘a banished man to roam,’ without even the consolation of thinking that I am remembered by you; speak, my Claudina, but one word, will you pity a man whom you could make happy? will you pardon his past errors in his adoration of your virtues, will you accept his vows and suffer him to live for you?" He had spoken with a rapidity which defied interruption and when he ceased, Claudina wished he had continued to speak, for she was unable to reply. She remembered the time when she had given way to the most exquisite sensations of delight at Florence, and that they were succeeded by the severest disappointment and mortification. She feared the felicity of the present moment might be equally transient, and she dreaded lest the tones of her own voice should dissipate the fascinating illusion. But silence is eloquence to the lover who can construe it in his favour, and Clayton clasped her to his heart in a transport of joy and gratitude, for the indulgence that she had shewn his cause.
We shall pass over the remainder of the scene for two reasons, first, that by those who have ever been in love, it will be easily imagined, and secondly, that we may not make those who have unfortunately never felt the influence of the tender passion, repine at the insipid medium of an existence merely selfish.
Suffice it then to say, that Sir Edward took his leave of Lady Courtney with the utmost respect, and of his Claudina with the liveliest tenderness, and newborn hope.
On returning to the parsonage with Mr. Price, he paid him the most grateful acknowledgments for the kindness that he had received from him; he told him his reason for a departure apparently sudden, saying that he was anxious to spare Lord Drelincourt the apprehension of even accidentally meeting with him, and should therefore set off to Caermarthen where he should stay that night, and wait the arrival of his valet, he should then probably leave England, perhaps for years; but if he never returned to it, absence would not efface from his mind the remembrance of the obligations he owed this worthy friend, under whose roof he had recovered his peace of mind, and to whom he might be indirectly indebted for every future blessing of his life. Never did human breast contain a warmer or more susceptible heart than Clayton’s, and the tears sprung into his expressive hazel eyes, as he pressed Mr. Price’s hand, and regretted that a man so formed to embellish and improve society should live in a solitude unworthy of his endowments; not because the praise so justly his due, was confined to the rustic voices of his little flock, the applause of men could not add to his virtues, but the narrow circle in which he moved, confined their fruits, which were sufficiently plentiful to enrich a space wide indeed.
Mr. Price was equally affected with Sir Edward; but he endeavoured to smile as he returned his fervent pressure, saying, "I can hardly thank you for your society, for I fear the pleasure I have derived from it, will make me dissatisfied with my own; yet have I not thy image, my Maria? and can solitude ever be irksome whilst cheered by the remembrance of thee?" He cast his eyes to heaven as he made this apostrophe, and his spirit seemed to soar above the earth which confined him from the angel he invoked." "Pardon me Sir," he resumed, "as I am so soon to lose you, I am already beginning to fall into the habits in which I indulge when alone; but you will readily excuse me, for you are an enthusiast, and will not refuse an old man, a little of the imagination which makes the happiness of a young one." He again endeavoured to smile, but his heart was full, and he turned aside to conceal the tears by which it might find relief. Clayton was unmanned, he bade a hasty adieu, "God bless you." "God bless you," was warmly repeated. Sir Edward mounted his horse, and when he had proceeded a few paces, he looked back, and saw the good man slowly returning to his house, and pausing as he passed his Maria’s grave.
Affliction is the wholesome soil of virtue;
Where patience, honor, sweet humanity,
Calm fortitude, take root, and strongly flourish:
Whilst prosp’rous fortune that allures with pleasure,
Dazzles with pomp, and undermines with flattery,
Poisons the soil, and its best produce kills.
AS the time approached when Lady Courtney expected the arrival of her friends, her whole soul was agitated; and she walked about the room in restless impatience, perpetually enquiring the hour. One moment she repented having given her consent to see them; the next she was uneasy at their delay, and longed to embrace them. She then, for the first time, regretted the alteration in her looks; "It will make them unhappy," said she, "and I am not deserving of their anxiety."
At length the wished-for, though dreaded, moment arrived. Bianca ran breathless into the room, exclaiming, "Oh! my lady they are all come. There is my honored lady the Marchesa, and your noble father, coming down the hill; for the good pastor went to tell them, that it was dangerous to descend in the carriage; and Lord and Lady Drelincourt are going to his house to stay till you have seen my dear revered lady the Marchesa." "Ah!" exclaimed the pale and trembling Lady Courtney, "the trial will be too much for me; how shall I bear to meet my mother’s eyes? Alas! were she less tender, I should not thus dread to see her." Presently footsteps were heard; they approached the door; a hand was about to open it, but desisted as if irresolute, and Lady Courtney distinguished her mother’s voice, though suppressed into a whisper. "Ah! save me," she shrieked covering her face, "it is she indeed! hide me Claudina, hide me from my injured parents."
Her exclamation brought them into the room, at the moment when she had thrown herself on her knees, and concealed her face with her hands. "My Everilda, my darling child," said the agitated Marchesa, fondly hanging over her, "will you not embrace your mother?" Lady Courtney looked not up; her bosom heaved with convulsive sobs, and she shrunk from the kind caresses of her afflicted parents. "I deserve your reproaches," said she, "spare them not; I deserve them, and I shall not live very long to be tortured by the recollection of them." "Ah! replied the Marchesa, "can you think so harshly of us my child, as to believe that we should reproach you in affliction? No; God forbid that any severity of ours should add to it! but you have forgotten us, and this wished-for meeting, only plants new daggers in my heart, by showing me that to you it gives no pleasure." "My love, my Everilda," said the Marchese affectionately, endeavouring to raise her, "you will not afflict your mother; she is in tears, will you not speak one word of comfort to her?" "In tears!" exclaimed Everilda, starting up, and throwing herself into her mother’s arms, "oh! my mother, weep not for me; let not my own unhappiness be aggravated by witnessing yours." She wept herself in saying those words, and relieved by it, alternately embraced her parents, and uttered the most endearing expressions. She soon recollected Lord Drelincourt, and anxious to shew him every mark of respect, desired that he, and the remainder of the party might be immediately sent for, as she was able, and anxious to see them.
When they arrived, exhausted by her previous emotions, she received them with affectionate and melancholy composure; she spoke little more during the evening, and by degrees the conversation subsided into perfect silence; all testifying in their looks, the surprise and sorrow, inspired by the striking alteration in her appearance.
It seemed as if nature had only waited this affecting scene to begin her operations. Lady Courtney was taken ill, and though at first, she attributed her disorder to the agitation that she had undergone, yet her sensations soon convinced her, that whatever might be the cause, the effects could not long be doubtful. "The hour to which I have looked forward," said she, "through months of anxiety and unhappiness is then at length arrived," and feeling the love of life revive as it became endangered, she added with the despondency generally attending a situation, which even under the happiest circumstances, subdues the firmness of the firmest, "I shall not survive this trial. Alas! I may not even be spared to embrace my Henry’s child; oh God! grant only that I may live to give it birth, and then teach me to be resigned in death."
Her weeping mother endeavoured to encourage her, and besought Heaven to impart consolation to her; but her despondency was such, as to retard even the progress of nature, and every hour added to her sufferings, and encreased her danger.
"Oh! my Henry," exclaimed the almost exhausted Everilda, "hadst thou been with me in this trying moment, what could I not have endured!"
At the commencement of Lady Courtney’s illness, the gentlemen had retired to Mr. Price’s; and as the Earl measured the little parlour with quick and uneasy steps, all the delightful sensations of hope, with which he had been agitated, twenty three years before, on a similar occasion, were recalled to his mind. The intermediate time appeared to him as a dream, of happiness, from which he had awakened to regret that he had ever had so fair a vision. One moment he moralized on the vanity of human wishes; the next, he yielded to the hope which threw sunshine over his breast, of loving his darling son, with increased, though chastened fondness in his offspring "I never" said he "knew the extent of my poor Henry’s worth, or of my own regard for him, until death snatched him for ever from me; I had not sufficiently considered the real value of the blessing I enjoyed, and perhaps I was deprived of it, only to make me sensible that I had not appreciated it as I ought. But if Heaven should in mercy vouchsafe again to grant me so inestimable a treasure, I trust that my affection being purified from the dreams of ambition, would not be displeasing; for my study should be to train the object of it, in the purest paths of religion, and morality, and by so doing, to ensure his happiness and make him truly great." Whilst the Earl reflected thus, Giuseppe came, out of breath, to inform him, that Lady Courtney had given birth to a son. "Thank God." exclaimed the Earl with fervency, in an instant forgetting that he had ever been unhappy. The Marchese equally grateful and delighted, was going to reward the messenger, but on looking in his face he perceived expressions of distress, and evident traces of tears. Parental anxiety was easily roused, he hastily enquired the cause of this appearance of sorrow, and the poor fellow after in vain endeavouring to excuse it, sobbed out that his lady was so ill, it was scarcely expected she could long survive the birth of her child.
The Earl’s joy was not of a selfish kind, and his heart disowned its influence, from the moment when his friends could no longer participate in it. The unhappy Marchese immediately proposed going to his daughter; and Edmund distressed beyond measure, at the dangerous situation of his sister, whom he had from infancy admired, and loved, accompanied him with the Earl.
They found Everilda gazing on her new-born babe, her tears dropped slowly on its features, as she traced in them the remembrance of her lamented husband. "Poor child," said she as she pressed it to a bosom, where even maternal delight was poisoned by the recollection of him, who ought to have shared it with her, "poor child, thou hast no father; ah! had he lived to embrace thee, what pure felicity might have been mine! But I shall not long be separated from him; yet how can I leave thee, thou guiltless cherub! thou drawst thy mother back to earth; for thy sake I have lived till now, for thy sake I would still gladly live." She wept again, her agitation encreased, and her attendants fearing the most fatal consequences from its excess, prevailed on her to part with her child for a few minutes, and endeavour to compose herself.
She received the congratulations and caresses of her friends with calmness, but as she was too much exhausted to converse with them, they left her to the care of her mother and Lady Drelincourt.
The former knelt by her bedside in a state of the most agonizing suspence; she saw the first-born darling of her heart in a situation, too strongly authorizing apprehension, for already were the once brilliant eyes of Lady Courtney closed, already had death spread his paleness over her once glowing complexion.
The Marchesa endeavoured in vain to disguise her grief; it burst out with encreased violence from the effort to restrain it. "I shall lose her," said she, wildly wringing her hands, "I shall lose the dear child who first taught me the delights of a mother! oh! merciful Heaven, spare me this heavy blow; deprive me not of my only daughter, at the moment when she is doubly dear to me."
Lady Courtney faintly endeavoured to speak, but in vain; her voice was so low that it was inaudible, her lips moved, but no sound was uttered. The Marchesa burst into tears, "I cannot distinguish her inarticulate murmurs," she said, "alas! it may be her last request, and I am not able to promise her compliance!" Lady Courtney made another effort to speak, and her voice became rather stronger. She asked for her child, it was brought to her; she laid it upon her bosom, and clasping it in one arm, she extended her other hand towards her mother, cast her eyes to Heaven, a smile played upon her lips, and in a gentle sigh her spirit was released, and fled to join her husband’s in happier regions.
The sea of fortune doth not ever flow,
She draws her favour to the lowest ebb;
Her tides have equal times to come and go,
Her loom doth weave the fine and coarsest web:
No joy so great but runneth to an end,
No hap so hard but may in fine amend.
Not always fall of leaf nor ever spring,
Not endless night, nor yet eternal day:
The saddest birds a season find to sing;
The roughest storm a calm may soon allay.
Thus with succeeding turns, God tempereth all
That man may hope to rise, yet fear to fall.
WE will not detain our readers in the chamber of death; nor will we dismiss them impressed only with gloomy ideas: We will therefore briefly inform them of the principal events which befel the principal characters in this history, and leave them to supply every deficiency from the fruitful source of their own imaginations.
Sir Edward Clayton did not forget the obligations which he conceived he owed to Mr. Price; and a few days after his departure, that worthy man received a letter from him, enclosing a bill of one hundred pounds, and requesting his acceptance of the same sum annually; saying that as a larger might rather have the appearance of a favour, than a token of friendly remembrance, he trusted the insignificance of what he offered, would induce Mr. Price to oblige him by retaining it.
The present so delicately made, created a sigh in the bosom of the receiver, for it recalled to his remembrance the time when such an addition to his income would have been affluence, and might have ensured his felicity.
It seemed as if the evening of this good man’s day was to be gilded by the rays of prosperity; but alas! they came too late and only reminded him more forcibly of the gloom, in which the dark clouds of poverty had involved the meridian. The Earl, with the liberal spirit that ever distinguished his proceedings, offered him a valuable living, on the death of the incumbent, who was in a very advanced age; adding, "And I shall think myself highly favoured, if, until you obtain it, you will grant me the pleasure of your society at Castle Drelincourt, either as a guest, or my domestic chaplain; which would perhaps be preferred by a mind like yours, active and intent to do good." Mr. Price thanked the Earl in the most grateful terms, but declined accepting the honor; "I have been too long a resident in this humble vale, my lord," said he, "to leave it for any other earthly abode; I am attached to it by ties stronger than any worldly temptations could offer to me in another situation. A treasure lies buried there, my lord," pointing to his Maria’s grave, "which I am too much a miser to leave; and I must reply to your goodness in the language of the Scythian, ‘Can I say to her ashes, arise, and go with me to a foreign land;’ oh! no, my heart is buried with them, and every addition to my comforts, would only make me guilty of a fault, in wishing to recal an angel to earth to share them with me:" he paused a moment, and then continued, "but your kindness my lord, will not be forgotten by me; and I may say with Marshal Tallard, that in enumerating my years of sorrow, I shall omit that, in which I had the honor of becoming acquainted with your lordship, and your amiable family:" he paused again; he walked to the window, and the Earl forbore to press him further on a point, that seemed only to give him pain. But though he declined every pecuniary acknowledgment, his claims on gratitude were not forgotten, and soon after the Earl’s arrival in town, an elegant assortment of books, and instruments, with wine, and many little luxuries before unknown in Llewenmawr, were received by Mr. Price, as tokens of remembrance. "How happy would these favours have rendered me twenty years since," he exclaimed, as he looked over them, "but now they make the loneliness of my state still more lonely; ah! it is surely more easy to bear affliction, than happiness, if either must be borne without participation."
The Marchese and his lady, when the first violence of their grief was subdued, persuaded Lord and Lady Drelincourt to part with their beloved Emma, who became the happy wife of the amiable Edmund; and in her, his parents felt their affliction for the untimely death of Everilda, alleviated.
Soon after the nuptials, the Marchese and his family returned to Italy, accompanied by Claudina, who at the expiration of a few months was prevailed on to give her hand to the man, who had long possessed her heart; and Sir Edward Clayton found with her the rare felicity that can only be tasted in perfection, by sensibility like his; which if it sometimes create imaginary evils, and magnify real ones, yet, when fortunately called forth, heightens rapture, and perpetuates esteem.
Claudina transferred to Emma the pure and faithful friendship, which she had entertained for Everilda, and Edmund experienced in the innumerable virtues of his gentle bride, that shining talents and dazzling accomplishments, are not such solid foundations for happiness as are the retiring graces of domestic life, and the sweets of mutual love.
The Marchese and his lady in time became resigned to the loss of their Everilda, and in embracing a little grand-daughter of the same name, they were sensible of a pleasure, which admitted not of embittering recollections.
The Earl dedicated the whole of his time to the young Lord Courtney, who daily gained a stronger resemblance to his father, whose graces he displayed even in infancy; and promised to unfold a thousand amiable qualities, which dawning every day with encreased lustre, cheered the evening of his grandfather’s days with the mild radiance of hope, and called forth once more, all the affections the exercise of which had always laudably constituted the happiness of his life.
Mary Macdonald had, from motives of virtuous delicacy, remained in Italy, notwithstanding the kind entreaties of Mr. Batlowe that she would take up her abode under his roof. She wished not to revisit a country, where her presence might occasion uneasiness to the man whom she still fondly loved. She dreaded the appearance of courting a return of his affection, when he had no longer a right to bestow it. She had experienced her own weakness too forcibly to risk exposing it to a second trial; and she lamented her errors too truely not to scrupulously avoid every indiscretion that might lead her into a repetition of them. But no sooner did she hear the sad tidings of Lord Courtney’s death, then she hastened to England to have the melancholy pleasure of weeping over his grave. She was entrusted by the Earl with the precious deposit of his orphan child, which she pressed to her aching heart with agonized affection; it seemed her own babe restored to her, and she mentally resolved never to forsake it whilst its infant years could be submitted to her care.
She was retained in the family of the Earl, and was treated by him and Lady Drelincourt more as a friend, than a dependant. Her Aunt died shortly after her arrival in England; and left her a handsome fortune, but she entreated permission to continue her office of superintendant of the nursery, until the young Lord Courtney should be required to leave it for more manly scenes; and her society was too highly prized at Castle Drelincourt for the continuance of it not to be readily accepted.
Lady Maria married Mr. Breresford, and finding that mere beauty tho’ it may attract admiration, cannot ensure esteem, roused herself from the lethargy of imaginary languor, to animate her husband by her example, and impart to him the lively traits which were requisite to relieve the insipidity of a character otherwise amiable.
Lady Rosamond forgot the impulses of ambition to share Mr. Fletcher’s moderate fortune; it was sufficient for the enjoyment of rational pleasures, and elegant recreations; and they had too much good sense to deprive themselves of the comforts within their reach, by aiming at the scenes of profusion and dissipation which were beyond it.
Lady Harriett Dunderton was the least fortunate of the personages to whom we have had the honor of introducing our readers, "turning out," in Lord Dunderton’s phraseology, "a losing concern," as a branch of her family which had been twenty years without issue, unexpectedly produced a male heir, to the astonishment of the world, and to the utter discomfiture of Mr. Dunderton; who by this frolic of nature, saw himself encumbered with an expensive silly woman of quality, whose fortune scarcely supplied her with the fashions of the day.
To pretend to instruct our readers relative to the conclusion which may be drawn from the characters and conduct of the principal actors in our work, would be to insult their penetration and our own perspicuity, besides the improbability that their patience which is perhaps already nearly exhausted, should continue thro’ a dozen pages of exhortations and reflections. We shall therefore conclude, by thanking them for bestowing their attention so far on our labours, which will be sufficiently rewarded if the result of them be approved.
Hazard, Printer, 49, Beech Street, London.