'My father, my dear, dear father, my beloved father!' exclaimed Miss Temple, throwing herself at his feet. 'Oh! do not say so; oh! recall those words, those wild, those terrible words. Indeed, indeed, my heart is breaking. Pity me, pity me; for God's sake, pity me.'
'I would do more than pity you; I would save you.'
'It is not as you think,' she continued, with streaming eyes: 'indeed it is not. He has not preferred his suit, he has urged no claim. He has behaved in the most delicate, the most honourable, the most considerate manner. He has thought only of my situation. He met me by accident. My friends are his friends. They know not what has taken place between us. He has not breathed it to human being. He has absented himself from his home, that we might not meet.'
'You must marry Lord Montfort at once.'
'Oh! my father, even as you like. But do not curse me; dream not of such terrible things; recall those fearful words; love me, love me; say I am your child. And Digby, I am true to Digby. But, indeed, can I recall the past; can I alter it? Its memory overcame me. Digby knows all; Digby knows we met; he did not curse me; he was kind and gentle. Oh! my father!'
'My Henrietta,' said Mr. Temple, moved; 'my child!'
'Oh! my father, I will do all you wish; but speak not again as you have spoken of Ferdinand. We have done him great injustice; I have done him great injury. He is good and pure; indeed, he is; if you knew all, you would not doubt it. He was ever faithful; indeed, indeed he was. Once you liked him. Speak kindly of him, father. He is the victim. If you meet him, be gentle to him, sir: for, indeed, if you knew all, you would pity him.'
In Which Ferdinand Has a Very Stormy Interview with His Father.
IF WE pause now to take a calm and comprehensive review of the state and prospects of the three families, in whose feelings and fortunes we have attempted to interest the reader, it must be confessed that, however brilliant and satisfactory they might appear on the surface, the elements of discord, gloom, and unhappiness might be more profoundly discovered, and might even be held as rapidly stirring into movement. Miss Temple was the affianced bride of Lord Montfort, but her heart was Captain Armine's: Captain Armine, in the estimation of his parents, was the pledged husband of Miss Grandison, while he and his cousin had, in fact, dissolved their engagement. Mr. Temple more than suspected his daughter's partiality for Ferdinand. Sir Ratcliffe, very much surprised at seeing so little of his son, and resolved that the marriage should be no further delayed, was about to precipitate confessions, of which he did not dream, and which were to shipwreck all the hopes of his life. The Count Mirabel and Miss Grandison were both engaged in an active conspiracy. Lord Montfort alone was calm, and if he had a purpose to conceal, inscrutable. All things, however, foreboded a crisis.
Sir Ratcliffe, astonished at the marked manner in which his son absented himself from Brook-street, resolved upon bringing him to an explanation. At first he thought there might be some lovers' quarrel; but the demeanour of Katherine, and the easy tone in which she ever spoke of her cousin, soon disabused him of this fond hope. He consulted his wife. Now, to tell the truth, Lady Armine, who was a shrewd woman, was not without her doubts and perplexities, but she would not confess them to her husband. Many circumstances had been observed by her which filled her with disquietude, but she had staked all her hopes upon this cast, and she was of a sanguine temper. She was leading an agreeable life. Katherine appeared daily more attached to her, and Lady Armine was quite of opinion that it is always very injudicious to interfere. She endeavoured to persuade Sir Ratcliffe that everything was quite right, and she assured him that the season would terminate, as all seasons ought to terminate, by the marriage.
And perhaps Sir Ratcliffe would have followed her example, only it so happened that as he was returning home one morning, he met his son in Grosvenor-square.
'Why, Ferdinand, we never see you now,' said Sir Ratcliffe.
'Oh! you are all so gay,' said Ferdinand. 'How is my mother?'
'She is very well. Katherine and herself have gone to see the balloon, with Lord Montfort and Count Mirabel. Come in,' said Sir Ratcliffe, for he was now almost at his door.
The father and son entered. Sir Ratcliffe walked into a little library on the ground floor, which was his morning room.
'We dine at home to-day, Ferdinand,' said Sir Ratcliffe. 'Perhaps you will come.'
'Thank you, sir, I am engaged.'
'It seems to me you are always engaged. For a person who does not like gaiety, it is very odd.'
'Heigho!' said Ferdinand. 'How do you like your new horse, sir?'
'Ferdinand, I wish to speak a word to you,' said Sir Ratcliffe. 'I do not like ever to interfere unnecessarily with your conduct; but the anxiety of a parent will, I think, excuse the question I am about to ask. When do you propose being married?'
'Oh, I do not know exactly.'
'Your grandfather has been dead now, you know, much more than a year. I cannot help thinking your conduct singular. There is nothing wrong between you and Katherine, is there?'
'Yes, wrong? I mean, is there any misunderstanding? Have you quarrelled?'
'No, sir, we have not quarrelled; we perfectly understand each other.'
'I am glad to hear it, for I must say I think your conduct is very unlike that of a lover. All I can say is, I did not win your mother's heart by such proceedings.'
'Katherine has made no complaint of me, sir?'
'Certainly not, and that surprises me still more.'
Ferdinand seemed plunged in thought. The silence lasted some minutes. Sir Ratcliffe took up the newspaper; his son leant over the mantel-piece, and gazed upon the empty fire-place. At length he turned round and said, 'Father, I can bear this no longer; the engagement between Katherine and myself is dissolved.'
'Good God! when, and why?' exclaimed Sir Ratcliffe, the newspaper falling from his hand.
'Long since, sir; ever since I loved another woman, and she knew it.'
'Ferdinand! Ferdinand!' exclaimed the unhappy father; but he was so overpowered that he could not give utterance to his thoughts. He threw himself in a chair, and wrung his hands. Ferdinand stood still and silent, like a statue of Destiny, gloomy and inflexible.
'Speak again,' at length said Sir Ratcliffe. 'Let me hear you speak again. I cannot believe what I have heard. Is it indeed true that your engagement with your cousin has been long terminated?'
Ferdinand nodded assent.
'Your poor mother!' exclaimed Sir Ratcliffe. 'This will kill her.' He rose from his seat, and walked up and down the room in great agitation.
'I knew all was not right,' he muttered to himself. 'She will sink under it; we must all sink under it. Madman! you know not what you have done!'
'It is in vain to regret, sir; my sufferings have been greater than yours.'
'She will pardon you, my boy,' said Sir Ratcliffe, in a quicker and kinder tone. 'You have lived to repent your impetuous folly; Katherine is kind and generous; she loves us all; she must love you; she will pardon you. Yes! entreat her to forget it; your mother, your mother has great influence with her; she will exercise it, she will interfere; you are very young, all will yet be well.'
'It is as impossible for me to marry Katherine Grandison, as for you yourself to do it, sir,' said Ferdinand, in a tone of calmness.
'You are not married to another?'
'In faith; I am bound by a tie which I can never break.'
'And who is this person?'
'She must be nameless, for many reasons.'
'Ferdinand,' said Sir Ratcliffe, 'you know not what you are doing. My life, your mother's, the existence of our family, hang upon your conduct. Yet, yet there is time to prevent this desolation. I am controlling my emotions; I wish you to save us, you, all! Throw yourself at your cousin's feet. She is soft-hearted; she may yet be yours!'
'Dear father, it cannot be.'
'Then-then, welcome ruin!' exclaimed Sir Ratcliffe, in a hoarse voice. 'And,' he continued, pausing between every word, from the difficulty of utterance, 'if the conviction that you have destroyed all our hopes, rewarded us for all our affection, our long devotion, by blasting every fond idea that has ever illumined our sad lives, that I and Constance, poor fools, have clung and clung to; if this conviction can console you, sir, enjoy it——-
'Ferdinand! my son, my child, that I never have spoken an unkind word to, that never gave me cause to blame or check him, your mother will be home soon, your poor, poor mother. Do not let me welcome her with all this misery. Tell me it is not true; recall what you have said; let us forget these harsh words; reconcile yourself to your cousin; let us be happy.'
'Father, if my heart's blood could secure your happiness, my life were ready; but this I cannot do.'
'Do you know what is at stake? Everything. All, all, all! We can see Armine no more; our home is gone. Your mother and myself must be exiles. Oh! you have not thought of this: say you have not thought of this.'
Ferdinand hid his face; his father, emboldened, urged the fond plea. 'You will save us, Ferdinand, you will be our preserver? It is all forgotten, is it not? It is a lovers' quarrel, after all?'
'Father, why should I trifle with your feelings? why should I feign what can never be? This sharp interview, so long postponed, ought not now to be adjourned. Indulge no hopes, for there are none.'
'Then by every sacred power I revoke every blessing that since your birth I have poured upon your head. I recall the prayers that every night I have invoked upon your being. Great God! I cancel them. You have betrayed your cousin; you have deserted your mother and myself; you have first sullied the honour of our house, and now you have destroyed it. Why were you born? What have we done that your mother's womb should produce such a curse? Sins of my father, they are visited upon me! And Glastonbury, what will Glastonbury say? Glastonbury, who sacrificed his fortune for you.'
'Mr. Glastonbury knows all, sir, and has always been my confidant.'
'Is he a traitor? For when a son deserts me, I know not whom to trust.'
'He has no thoughts but for our welfare, sir. He will convince you, sir, I cannot marry my cousin.'
'Boy, boy! you know not what you say. Not marry your cousin! Then let us die. It were better for us all to die.'
'My father! Be calm, I beseech you; you have spoken harsh words; I have not deserted you or my mother; I never will. If I have wronged my cousin, I have severely suffered, and she has most freely forgiven me. She is my dear friend. As for our house: tell me, would you have that house preserved at the cost of my happiness? You are not the father I supposed, if such indeed be your wish.'
'Happiness! Fortune, family, beauty, youth, a sweet and charming spirit, if these will not secure a man's happiness, I know not what might. And these I wished you to possess.'
'Sir, it is in vain for us to converse upon this subject. See Glastonbury, if you will. He can at least assure you that neither my feelings are light nor my conduct hasty. I will leave you now.'
Ferdinand quitted the room; Sir Ratcliffe did not notice his departure, although he was not unaware of it. He heaved a deep sigh, and was apparently plunged in profound thought.
Ferdinand Is Arrested by Messrs. Morris and Levison, and Taken to a Spunging-House.
IT MUST be confessed that the affairs of our friends were in a critical state: everyone interested felt that something decisive in their respective fortunes was at hand. And, yet, so vain are all human plans and calculations, that the unavoidable crisis was brought about by an incident which no one anticipated. It so happened that the stormy interview between Sir Ratcliffe and his son was overheard by a servant. This servant, who had been engaged by Miss Grandison in London, was a member of a club to which a confidential clerk of Messrs. Morris and Levison belonged. In the ensuing evening, when this worthy knight of the shoulder-knot just dropped out for an hour to look in at this choice society, smoke a pipe, and talk over the affairs of his mistress and the nation, he announced the important fact that the match between Miss Grandison and Captain Armine was 'no go,' which, for his part, he did not regret, as he thought his mistress ought to look higher. The confidential clerk of Messrs. Morris and Levison listened in silence to this important intelligence, and communicated it the next morning to his employers. And so it happened that a very few days afterwards, as Ferdinand was lying in bed at his hotel, the door of his chamber suddenly opened, and an individual, not of the most prepossessing appearance, being much marked with smallpox, reeking with gin, and wearing top-boots and a belcher handkerchief, rushed into his room and enquired whether he were Captain Armine.
'The same,' said Ferdinand. 'And pray, sir, who are you?'
'Don't wish to be unpleasant,' was the answer, 'but, sir, you are my prisoner.'
There is something exceedingly ignoble in an arrest: Ferdinand felt that sickness come over him which the uninitiated in such ceremonies must experience. However, he rallied, and enquired at whose suit these proceedings were taken.
'Messrs. Morris and Levison, sir.'
'Cannot I send for my lawyer and give bail?'
The bailiff shook his head. 'You see, sir, you are taken in execution, so it is impossible.'
'And the amount of the debt?'
'Is 2,800L., sir.'
'Well, what am I to do?'
'Why, sir, you must go along with us. We will do it very quietly. My follower is in a hackney-coach at the door, sir. You can just step in as pleasant as possible. I suppose you would like to go to a house, and then you can send for your friends, you know.'
'Well, if you will go down stairs, I will come to you.'
The bailiff grinned. 'Can't let you out of my sight, sir.'
'Why, I cannot dress if you are here.'
The bailiff examined the room to see if there were any mode of escape; there was no door but the entrance; the window offered no chance. 'Well, sir,' he said, 'I likes to do things pleasant. I can stand outside, sir; but you must be quick.'
Ferdinand rang for his servant. When Louis clearly understood the state of affairs, he was anxious to throw the bailiff out of the window, but his master prevented him. Mr. Glastonbury had gone out some two hours; Ferdinand sent Louis with a message to his family, to say he was about leaving town for a few days; and impressing upon him to be careful not to let them know in Brook-street what had occurred, he completed his rapid toilet and accompanied the sheriff's officer to the hackney-coach that was prepared for him.
As they jogged on in silence, Ferdinand revolved in his mind how it would be most advisable for him to act. Any application to his own lawyer was out of the question. That had been tried before, and he felt assured that there was not the slightest chance of that gentleman discharging so large a sum, especially when he was aware that it was only a portion of his client's liabilities; he thought of applying for advice to Count Mirabel or Lord Catchimwhocan, but with what view? He would not borrow the money of them, even if they would lend it; and as it was, he bitterly reproached himself for having availed himself so easily of Mr. Bond Sharpe's kind offices. At this moment, he could not persuade himself that his conduct had been strictly honourable to that gentleman. He had not been frank in the exposition of his situation. The money had been advanced under a false impression, if not absolutely borrowed under a false pretence. He cursed Catchimwhocan and his levity. The honour of the Armines was gone, like everything else that once belonged to them. The result of Ferdinand's reflections was, that he was utterly done up; that no hope or chance of succour remained for him; that his career was closed; and not daring to contemplate what the consequences might be to his miserable parents, he made a desperate effort to command his feelings.
Here the coach turned up a dingy street, leading out of the lower end of Oxford-street, and stopped before a large but gloomy dwelling, which Ferdinand's companion informed him was a spunging-house. 'I suppose you would like to have a private room, sir; you can have every accommodation here, sir, and feel quite at home, I assure you.'
In pursuance of this suggestion, Captain Armine was ushered into the best drawing-room, with barred windows, and treated in the most aristocratic manner. It was evidently the chamber reserved only for unfortunate gentlemen of the utmost distinction. It was amply furnished with a mirror, a loo-table, and a very hard sofa. The walls were hung with old-fashioned caricatures by Bunbury; the fire-irons were of polished brass; over the mantel-piece was the portrait of the master of the house, which was evidently a speaking likeness, and in which Captain Armine fancied he traced no slight resemblance to his friend Mr. Levison; and there were also some sources of literary amusement in the room, in the shape of a Hebrew Bible and the Racing Calendar.
After walking up and down the room for an hour, meditating over the past, for it seemed hopeless to trouble himself any further with the future, Ferdinand began to feel faint, for it may be recollected that he had not even breakfasted. So pulling the bell-rope with such force that it fell to the ground, a funny little waiter immediately appeared, awed by the sovereign ring, and having, indeed, received private intelligence from the bailiff that the gentleman in the drawing-room was a regular nob.
And here, perhaps, I should remind the reader, that of all the great distinctions in life none perhaps is more important than that which divides mankind into the two great sections of NOBS and SNOBS. It might seem at the first glance, that if there were a place in the world which should level all distinctions, it would be a debtors' prison. But this would be quite an error. Almost at the very moment that Captain Armine arrived at his sorrowful hotel, a poor devil of a tradesman who had been arrested for fifty pounds, and torn from his wife and family, had been forced to repair to the same asylum. He was introduced into what is styled the coffee-room, being a long, low, unfurnished sanded chamber, with a table and benches; and being very anxious to communicate with some friend, in order, if possible, to effect his release, and prevent himself from being a bankrupt, he had continued meekly to ring at intervals for the last half-hour in order that he might write and forward his letter. The waiter heard the coffee-room bell ring, but never dreamed of noticing it, though the moment the signal of the private room sounded, and sounded with so much emphasis, he rushed upstairs, three steps at a time, and instantly appeared before our hero: and all this difference was occasioned by the simple circumstance, that Captain Armine was a NOB, and the poor tradesman a SNOB.
'I am hungry,' said Ferdinand. 'Can I get anything to eat at this damned place?'
'What would you like, sir? Anything you choose, sir. Mutton chop, rump steak, weal cutlet? Do you a fowl in a quarter of an hour; roast or boiled, sir?'
'I have not breakfasted yet; bring me some breakfast.'
'Yes, sir,' said the little waiter. 'Tea, sir? Coffee, eggs, toast, buttered toast, sir? Like any meat, sir? Ham, sir? Tongue, sir? Like a devil, sir?'
'Anything, everything, only be quick.'
'Yes, sir,' responded the waiter. 'Beg pardon, sir. No offence, I hope, but custom to pay here, sir. Shall be happy to accommodate you, sir. Know what a gentleman is.'
'Thank you, I will not trouble you,' said Ferdinand; 'get me that note changed.'
'Yes, sir,' replied the little waiter, bowing very low as he disappeared.
'Gentleman in best drawing-room wants breakfast. Gentleman in best drawing-room wants change for a ten-pound note. Breakfast immediately for gentleman in best drawing-room. Tea, coffee, toast, ham, tongue, and a devil. A regular nob!'
Ferdinand was so exhausted that he had postponed all deliberation as to his situation until he had breakfasted; and when he had breakfasted, he felt dull. It is the consequence of all meals. In whatever light he viewed his affairs, they seemed inextricable. He was now in a spunging-house; he could not long remain here, he must be soon in a gaol. A gaol! What a bitter termination of all his great plans and hopes! What a situation for one who had been betrothed to Henrietta Temple! He thought of his cousin, he thought of her great fortune, which might have been his. Perhaps at this moment they were all riding together in the Park. In a few days all must be known to his father. He did not doubt of the result. Armine would immediately be sold, and his father and mother, with the wretched wreck of their fortune, would retire to the Continent. What a sad vicissitude! And he had done it all; he, their only child, their only hope, on whose image they had lived, who was to restore the house. He looked at the bars of his windows, it was a dreadful sight. His poor father, his fond mother, he was quite sure their hearts would break. They never could survive all this misery, this bitter disappointment of all their chopes. Little less than a year ago and he was at Bath, and they were all joy and triumph. What a wild scene had his life been since! O Henrietta! why did we ever meet? That fatal, fatal morning! The cedar tree rose before him, he recalled, he remembered everything. And poor Glastonbury—it was a miserable end. He could not disguise it from himself, he had been most imprudent, he had been mad. And yet so near happiness, perfect, perfect happiness! Henrietta might have been his, and they might have been so happy! This confinement was dreadful; it began to press upon his nerves. No occupation, not the slightest resource. He took up the Racing Calendar, he threw it down again. He knew all the caricatures by heart, they infinitely disgusted him. He walked up and down the room till he was so tired that he flung himself upon the hard sofa. It was intolerable.
A gaol must be preferable to this. There must be some kind of wretched amusement in a gaol; but this ignoble, this humiliating solitude, he was confident he should go mad if he remained here. He rang the bell again.
'Yes, sir,' said the little waiter.
'This place is intolerable to me,' said Captain Armine. 'I really am quite sick of it. What can I do?'
The waiter looked a little perplexed.
'I should like to go to gaol at once,' said Ferdinand.
'Lord! sir!' said the little waiter.
'Yes! I cannot bear this,' he continued; 'I shall go mad.'
'Don't you think your friends will call soon, sir?'
'I have no friends,' said Ferdinand. 'I hope nobody will call.'
'No friends!' said the little waiter, who began to think Ferdinand was not such a nob as he had imagined. 'Why, if you have no friends, sir, it would be best to go to the Fleet, I think.'
'By Jove, I think it would be better.'
'Master thinks your friends will call, I am sure.'
'Nobody knows I am here,' said Ferdinand.
'Oh!' said the little waiter, 'You want to let them know, do you, sir?'
'Anything sooner; I wish to conceal my disgrace.'
'O sir! you are not used to it; I dare say you never were nabbed before?'
'There it is; if you will be patient, you will see everything go well.'
'Never, my good fellow; nothing can go well.'
'O sir! you are not used to it. A regular nob like you, nabbed for the first time, and for such a long figure, sir, sure not to be diddled. Never knowed such a thing yet. Friends sure to stump down, sir.'
'The greater the claim, the more difficulty in satisfying it, I should think,' said Ferdinand.
'Lord! no, sir: you are not used to it. It is only poor devils nabbed for their fifties and hundreds that are ever done up. A nob was never nabbed for the sum you are, sir, and ever went to the wall. Trust my experience. I never knowed such a thing.'
Ferdinand could scarcely refrain from a smile. Even the conversation of the little waiter was a relief to him.
'You see, sir,' continued that worthy, 'Morris and Levison would never have given you such a deuce of a tick unless they knowed your resources. Trust Morris and Levison for that. You done up, sir! a nob like you, that Morris and Levison have trusted for such a tick! Lord! sir, you don't know nothing about it. I could afford to give them fifteen shillings in the pound for their debt myself and a good day's business, too. Friends will stump down, sir, trust me.'
'Well, it is some satisfaction for me to know that they will not, and that Morris and Levison will not get a farthing.'
'Well, sir,' said the incredulous little functionary, 'when I find Morris and Levison lose two or three thousand pounds by a nob who is nabbed for the first time, I will pay the money myself, that is all I know.'
Here the waiter was obliged to leave Ferdinand, but he proved his confidence in that gentleman's fortunes by his continual civility, and in the course of the day brought him a stale newspaper. It seemed to Ferdinand that the day would never close. The waiter pestered him about dinner, eulogising the cook, and assuring him that his master was famous for champagne. Although he had no appetite, Ferdinand ordered dinner in order to ensure the occurrence of one incident. The champagne made him drowsy; he was shown to his room; and for a while he forgot his cares in sleep.
The Crisis Rapidly Advances.
HENRIETTA TEMPLE began once more to droop. This change was not unnoticed by her constant companion Lord Montfort, and yet he never permitted her to be aware of his observation. All that he did was still more to study her amusement; if possible, to be still more considerate and tender. Miss Grandison, however, was far less delicate; she omitted no opportunity of letting Miss Temple know that she thought that Henrietta was very unwell, and that she was quite convinced Henrietta was thinking of Ferdinand. Nay! she was not satisfied to confine these intimations to Miss Temple; she impressed her conviction of Henrietta's indisposition on Lord Montfort, and teased him with asking his opinion of the cause.
'What do you think is the cause, Miss Grandison?' said his lordship, very quietly.
'Perhaps London does not agree with her; but then, when she was ill before she was in the country; and it seems to me to be the same illness. I wonder you do not notice it, Lord Montfort. A lover to be so insensible, I am surprised!'
'It is useless to notice that which you cannot remedy.'
'Why do you not call in those who can offer remedies?' said Miss Grandison. 'Why not send for Sir Henry?'
'I think it best to leave Henrietta alone,' said Lord Montfort.
'Do you think it is the mind, then?' said Miss Grandison.
'It may be,' said Lord Montford.
'It may be! Upon my word, you are very easy.'
'I am not indifferent, Miss Grandison. There is nothing that I would not do for Henrietta's welfare.'
'Oh! yes, there is; there is something,' said Miss Grandison, rather maliciously.
'You are really an extraordinary person, Miss Grandison,' said Lord Montfort. 'What can you mean by so strange an observation?'
'I have my meaning; but I suppose I may have a mystery as well as anybody else.'
'A mystery, Miss Grandison?'
'Yes! a mystery, Lord Montfort. There is not a single individual in the three families who has not a mystery, except myself; but I have found out something. I feel quite easy now: we are all upon an equality.'
'You are a strange person.'
'It may be so; but I am happy, for I have nothing on my mind. Now that poor Ferdinand has told Sir Ratcliffe we are not going to marry, I have no part to play. I hate deception; it is almost as bitter as marrying one who is in love with another person.'
'That must indeed be bitter. And is that the reason that you do not marry your cousin?' enquired Lord Montfort.
'I may be in love with another person, or I may not,' said Miss Grandison. 'But, however that may be, the moment Ferdinand very candidly told me he was, we decided not to marry. I think we were wise; do not you. Lord Montfort?'
'If you are happy, you were wise,' said Lord Montfort.
'Yes, I am pretty happy: as happy as I can well be when all my best friends are miserable.'
'I think so: my aunt is in tears; my uncle in despair; Ferdinand meditates suicide; Henrietta is pining away; and you, who are the philosopher of the society, you look rather grave. I fancy I think we are a most miserable set.'
'I wish we could be all happy,' said Lord Montfort.
'And so we might, I think,' said Miss Grandison; 'at least, some of us.'
'Make us, then,' said Lord Montfort.
'I cannot make you.'
'I think you could, Miss Grandison.'
At this moment Henrietta entered, and the conversation assumed a different turn.
'Will you go with us to Lady Bellair's, Kate?' said Miss Temple. 'The duchess has asked me to call there this morning.'
Miss Grandison expressed her willingness: the carriage was waiting, and Lord Montfort offered to attend them. At this moment the servant entered with a note for Miss Grandison.
'From Glastonbury,' she said; 'dear Henrietta, he wishes to see me immediately. What can it be? Go to Lady Bellair's, and call for me on your return. You must, indeed; and then we can all go out together.'
And so it was arranged. Miss Temple, accompanied by Lord Montfort, proceeded to Bellair House.
'Don't come near me,' said the old lady when she saw them; 'don't come near me; I am in despair; I do not know what I shall do; I think I shall sell all my china. Do you know anybody who wants to buy old china? They shall have it a bargain. But I must have ready money; ready money I must have. Do not sit down in that chair; it is only made to look at. Oh! if I were rich, like you! I wonder if my china is worth three hundred pounds. I could cry my eyes out, that I could. The wicked men; I should like to tear them to pieces. Why is not he in Parliament? and then they could not take him up. They never could arrest Charles Fox. I have known him in as much trouble as anyone. Once he sent all his furniture to my house from his lodgings. He lodged in Bury-street. I always look at the house when I pass by. Don't fiddle the pens; I hate people who fiddle. Where is Gregory? where is my bell' Where is the page? Naughty boy! why do not you come? There, I do not want anything; I do not know what to do. The wicked men! The greatest favourite I had: he was so charming! Charming people are never rich; he always looked melancholy. I think I will send to the rich man I dine with; but I forget his name. Why do not you tell me his name?'
'My dear Lady Bellair, what is the matter?'
'Don't ask me; don't speak to me. I tell you I am in despair. Oh! if I were rich, how I would punish those wicked men!'
'Can I do anything?' said Lord Montfort.
'I do not know what you can do. I have got the tic. I always have the tic when my friends are in trouble.'
'Who is in trouble, Lady Bellair?'
'My dearest friend; the only friend I care about. How can you be so hard-hearted? I called upon him this morning, and his servant was crying. I must get him a place; he is such a good man, and loves his master. Now, do you want a servant? You never want anything. Ask everybody you know whether they want a servant, an honest man, who loves his master. There he is crying down stairs, in Gregory's room. Poor, good creature! I could cry myself, only it is of no use.'
'Who is his master?' said Lord Montfort.
'Nobody you know; yes! you know him very well. It is my dear, dear friend; you know him very well. The bailiffs went to his hotel yesterday, and dragged him out of bed, and took him to prison. Oh! I shall go quite distracted. I want to sell my china to pay his debts. Where is Miss Twoshoes?' continued her ladyship; 'why don't you answer? You do everything to plague me.'
'Miss Grandison, Lady Bellair?'
'To be sure; it is her lover.'
'Have I not been telling you all this time? They have taken him to prison.'
Miss Temple rose and left the room.
'Poor creature! she is quite shocked. She knows him, too,' said her ladyship. 'I am afraid he is quite ruined. There is a knock. I will make a subscription for him. I dare say it is my grandson. He is very rich, and very good-natured.'
'My dear Lady Bellair,' said Lord Montfort, rising, 'favour me by not saying a word to anybody at present. I will just go in the next room to Henrietta. She is intimate with the family, and much affected. Now, my dear lady, I entreat you,' continued his lordship, 'do not say a word. Captain Armine has good friends, but do not speak to strangers. It will do harm; it will indeed.'
'You are a good creature; you are a good creature. Go away.'
'Lady Frederick Berrington, my lady,' announced the page.
'She is very witty, but very poor. It is no use speaking to her. I won't say a word. Go to Miss Thingabob: go, go.' And Lord Montfort escaped into the saloon as Lady Frederick entered.
Henrietta was lying on the sofa, her countenance was hid, she was sobbing convulsively.
'Henrietta,' said Lord Montfort, but she did not answer. 'Henrietta, he again said, 'dear Henrietta! I will do whatever you wish.'
'Save him, save him!' she exclaimed. 'Oh! you cannot save him! And I have brought him to this! Ferdinand! dearest Ferdinand! oh! I shall die!'
'For God's sake, be calm,' said Lord Montfort, 'there is nothing I will not do for you, for him.'
'Ferdinand, Ferdinand, my own, own Ferdinand, oh! why did we ever part? Why was I so unjust, so wicked? And he was true! I cannot survive his disgrace and misery. I wish to die!'
'There shall be no disgrace, no misery,' said Lord Montfort, 'only for God's sake, be calm. There is a chattering woman in the next room. Hush! hush! I tell you I will do everything.'
'You cannot; you must not; you ought not! Kind, generous Digby! Pardon what I have said; forget it; but indeed I am so wretched, I can bear this life no longer.'
'But you shall not be wretched, Henrietta; you shall be happy; everybody shall be happy. I am Armine's friend, I am indeed. I will prove it. On my honour, I will prove that I am his best friend.'
'You must not. You are the last person, you are indeed. He is so proud! Anything from us will be death to him. Yes! I know him, he will die sooner than be under an obligation to either of us.'
'You shall place him under still greater obligations than this,' said Lord Montfort. 'Yes! Henrietta, if he has been true to you, you shall not be false to him.'
'Digby, Digby, speak not such strange words. I am myself again. I left you that I might be alone. Best and most generous of men, I have never deceived you; pardon the emotions that even you were not to witness.'
'Take my arm, dearest, let us walk into the garden. I wish to speak to you. Do not tremble. I have nothing to say that is not for your happiness; at all times, and under all circumstances, the great object of my thoughts.'
He raised Miss Temple gently from the sofa, and they walked away far from the observation of Lady Bellair, or the auricular powers, though they were not inconsiderable, of her lively guest.
In Which Ferdinand Receives More than One Visit, and Finds That Adversity Has Not Quite Deprived Him of His Friends.
IN THE mean time morning broke upon the unfortunate Ferdinand. He had forgotten his cares in sleep, and, when he woke, it was with some difficulty that he recalled the unlucky incident of yesterday, and could satisfy himself that he was indeed a prisoner. But the bars of his bedroom window left him not very long in pleasing doubt.
His friend, the little waiter, soon made his appearance. 'Slept pretty well, sir? Same breakfast as yesterday, sir? Tongue and ham, sir? Perhaps you would like a kidney instead of a devil? It will be a change.'
'I have no appetite.'
'It will come, sir. You an't used to it. Nothing else to do here but to eat. Better try the kidney, sir. Is there anything you fancy?'
'I have made up my mind to go to gaol to-day.' 'Lord! sir, don't think of it. Something will turn up, sir, take my word.'
And sooth to say, the experienced waiter was not wrong. For bringing in the breakfast, followed by an underling with a great pomp of plated covers, he informed Ferdinand with a chuckle, that a gentleman was enquiring for him. 'Told you your friends would come, sir.'
The gentleman was introduced, and Ferdinand beheld Mr. Glastonbury.
'My dear Glastonbury,' said Ferdinand, scarcely daring to meet his glance, 'this is very kind, and yet I wished to have saved you this.'
'My poor child,' said Glastonbury.
'Oh! my dear friend, it is all over. This is a more bitter moment for you even than for me, kind friend. This is a terrible termination of all your zeal and labours.'
'Nay!' said Glastonbury; 'let us not think of anything but the present. For what are you held in durance?'
'My dear Glastonbury, if it were only ten pounds, I could not permit you to pay it. So let us not talk of that. This must have happened sooner or later. It has come, and come unexpectedly: but it must be borne, like all other calamities.'
'But you have friends, my Ferdinand.'
'Would that I had not! All that I wish now is that I were alone in the world. If I could hope that my parents would leave me to myself, I should be comparatively easy. But when I think of them, and the injury I must do them, it is hell, it is hell.'
'I wish you would tell me your exact situation,' said Mr. Glastonbury.
'Do not let us talk of it; does my father know of this?'
''Tis well; he may yet have a happy day. He will sell Armine.'
Glastonbury shook his head and sighed. 'Is it so bad?' he said.
'My dearest friend, if you will know the worst, take it. I am here for nearly three thousand pounds, and I owe at least ten more.'
'And they will not take bail?'
'Not for this debt; they cannot. It is a judgment debt, the only one.'
'And they gave you no notice?'
'None: they must have heard somehow or other that my infernal marriage was off. They have all waited for that. And now that you see that affairs are past remedy; let us talk of other topics, if you will be so kind as to remain half an hour in this dungeon. I shall quit it directly; I shall go to gaol at once.'
Poor Glastonbury, he did not like to go, and yet it was a most melancholy visit. What could they converse about? Conversation, except on the interdicted subject of Ferdinand's affairs, seemed quite a mockery. At last, Ferdinand said, 'Dear Glastonbury, do not stay here; it only makes us both unhappy. Send Louis with some clothes for me, and some books. I will let you know before I leave this place. Upon reflection, I shall not do so for two or three days, if I can stay as long. See my lawyer; not that he will do anything; nor can I expect him; but he may as well call and see me. Adieu, dear friend.'
Glastonbury was about to retire, when Ferdinand called him back. 'This affair should be kept quiet,' he said. 'I told Louis to say I was out of town in Brook-street. I should be sorry were Miss Temple to hear of it, at least until after her marriage.'
Ferdinand was once more alone with the mirror, the loo-table, the hard sofa, the caricatures which he hated even worse than his host's portrait, the Hebrew Bible, and the Racing Calendar. It seemed a year that he had been shut up in this apartment, instead of a day, he had grown so familiar with every object. And yet the visit of Glastonbury had been an event, and he could not refrain from pondering over it. A spunging-house seemed such a strange, such an unnatural scene, for such a character. Ferdinand recalled to his memory the tower at Armine, and all its glades and groves, shining in the summer sun, and freshened by the summer breeze. What a contrast to this dingy, confined, close dungeon! And was it possible that he had ever wandered at will in that fair scene with a companion fairer? Such thoughts might well drive a man mad. With all his errors, and all his disposition at present not to extenuate them, Ferdinand Armine could not refrain from esteeming himself unlucky. Perhaps it is more distressing to believe ourselves unfortunate, than to recognise ourselves as imprudent.
A fond mistress or a faithful friend, either of these are great blessings; and whatever may be one's scrapes in life, either of these may well be sources of consolation. Ferdinand had a fond mistress once, and had Henrietta Temple loved him, why, he might struggle with all these calamities; but that sweet dream was past. As for friends, he had none, at least he thought not. Not that he had to complain of human nature. He had experienced much kindness from mankind, and many were the services he had received from kind acquaintances. With the recollection of Catch, to say nothing of Bond Sharpe, and above all, Count Mirabel, fresh in his mind, he could not complain of his companions. Glastonbury was indeed a friend, but Ferdinand sighed for a friend of his own age, knit to him by the same tastes and sympathies, and capable of comprehending all his secret feelings; a friend who could even whisper hope, and smile in a spunging-house.
The day wore away, the twilight shades were descending; Ferdinand became every moment more melancholy, when suddenly his constant ally, the waiter, rushed into the room. 'My eye, sir, here is a regular nob enquiring for you. I told you it would be all right.'
'Who is it?'
'Here he is coming up.'
Ferdinand caught the triumphant tones of Mirabel on the staircase.
'Which is the room? Show me directly. Ah! Armine, mon ami! mon cher! Is this your friendship? To be in this cursed hole, and not send for me! C'est une mauvaise plaisanterie to pretend we are friends! How are you, good fellow, fine fellow, excellent Armine? If you were not here I would quarrel with you. There, go away, man.' The waiter disappeared, and Count Mirabel seated himself on the hard sofa.
'My dear fellow,' continued the Count, twirling the prettiest cane in the world, 'this is a betise of you to be here and not send for me. Who has put you here?'
'My dear Mirabel, it is all up.'
'Pah! How much is it?'
'I tell you I am done up. It has got about that the marriage is off, and Morris and Levison have nabbed me for all the arrears of my cursed annuities.'
'But how much?'
'Between two and three thousand.'
The Count Mirabel gave a whistle.
'I brought five hundred, which I have. We must get the rest somehow or other.'
'My dear Mirabel, you are the most generous fellow in the world; but I have troubled my friends too much. Nothing will induce me to take a sou from you. Besides, between ourselves, not my least mortification at this moment is some 1,500L., which Bond Sharpe let me have the other day for nothing, through Catch.'
'Pah! I am sorry about that, though, because he would have lent us this money. I will ask Bevil.'
'I would sooner die.'
'I will ask him for myself.'
'It is impossible.'
'We will arrange it: I tell you who will do it for us. He is a good fellow, and immensely rich: it is Fitzwarrene; he owes me great favours.'
'Dear Mirabel, I am delighted to see you. This is good and kind. I am so damned dull here. It quite gladdens me to see you; but do not talk about money.'
'Here is 500L.; four other fellows at 500L. we can manage it.'
'No more, no more! I beseech you.'
'But you cannot stop here. Quel drole appartement! Before Charley Doricourt was in Parliament he was always in this sort of houses, but I got him out somehow or other; I managed it. Once I bought of the fellow five hundred dozen of champagne.'
'A new way to pay old debts, certainly,' said Ferdinand.
'I tell you—have you dined?'
'I was going to; merely to have something to do.'
'I will stop and dine with you,' said the Count, ringing the bell, 'and we will talk over affairs. Laugh, my friend; laugh, my Armine: this is only a scene. This is life. What can we have for dinner, man? I shall dine here.'
'Gentleman's dinner is ordered, my lord; quite ready,' said the waiter. 'Champagne in ice, my lord?'
'To be sure; everything that is good. Mon cher Armine, we shall have some fun.'
'Yes, my lord,' said the waiter, running down stairs. 'Dinner for best drawing-room directly; green-pea-soup, turbot, beefsteak, roast duck and boiled chicken, everything that is good, champagne in ice; two regular nobs!'
The dinner soon appeared, and the two friends seated themselves.
'Potage admirable!' said Count Mirabel. 'The best champagne I ever drank in my life. Mon brave, your health. This must be Charley's man, by the wine. I think we will have him up; he will lend us some money. Finest turbot I ever ate! I will give you some of the fins. Ah! you are glad to see me, my Armine, you are glad to see your friend. Encore champagne! Good Armine, excellent Armine! Keep up your spirits, I will manage these fellows. You must take some bifteac. The most tender bifteac I ever tasted! This is a fine dinner. Encore un verre! Man, you may go; don't wait.'
'By Jove, Mirabel, I never was so glad to see anybody in my life. Now, you are a friend; I feel quite in spirits.'
'To be sure! always be in spirits. C'est une betise not to be in spirits. Everything is sure to go well. You will see how I will manage these fellows, and I will come and dine with you every day until you are out: you shall not be here eight-and-forty hours. As I go home I will stop at Mitchell's and get you a novel by Paul de Kock. Have you ever read Paul de Kock's books?'
'Never,' said Ferdinand.
'What a fortunate man to be arrested! Now you can read Paul de Kock! By Jove, you are the most lucky fellow I know. You see, you thought yourself very miserable in being arrested. 'Tis the finest thing in the world, for now you will read Mon Voisin Raymond. There are always two sides to a case.'
'I am content to believe myself very lucky in having such a friend as you,' said Ferdinand; 'but now as these things are cleared away, let us talk over affairs. Have you seen Henrietta?'
'Of course, I see her every day.'
'I hope she will not know of my crash until she has married.'
'She will not, unless you tell her.'
'And when do you think she will be married?'
'When you please.'
'Cher ami! point de moquerie!'
'By Jove, I am quite serious,' exclaimed the Count. 'I am as certain that you will marry her as that we are in this damned spunging-house.'
'The very finest sense in the world. If you will not marry her, I will myself, for I am resolved that good Montfort shall not. It shall never be said that I interfered without a result. Why, if she were to marry Montfort now, it would ruin my character. To marry Montfort after all my trouble: dining with that good Temple, and opening the mind of that little Grandison, and talking fine things to that good duchess; it would be a failure.'
'What an odd fellow you are, Mirabel!' 'Of course! Would you have me like other people and not odd? We will drink la belle Henriette! Fill up! You will be my friend when you are married, eh? Mon Armine, excellent garcon! How we shall laugh some day; and then this dinner, this dinner will be the best dinner we ever had!'
'But why do you think there is the slightest hope of Henrietta not marrying Montfort?'
'Because my knowledge of human nature assures me that a young woman, very beautiful, very rich, with a very high spirit, and an only daughter, will never go and marry one man when she is in love with another, and that other one, my dear fellow, like you. You are more sure of getting her because she is engaged.'
What a wonderful thing is a knowledge of human nature! thought Ferdinand to himself. The Count's knowledge of human nature is like my friend the waiter's experience. One assures me that I am certain to marry a woman because she is engaged to another person, and the other, that it is quite clear my debts will be paid because they are so large! The Count remained with his friend until eleven o'clock, when everybody was locked up. He invited himself to dine with him to-morrow, and promised that he should have a whole collection of French novels before he awoke. And assuring him over and over again that he looked upon him as the most fortunate of all his friends, and that if he broke the bank at Crocky's to-night, which he fancied he should, he would send him two or three thousand pounds; at the same time he shook him heartily by the hand, and descended the staircase of the spunging-house, humming Vive la Bagatelle.
ALTHOUGH, when Ferdinand was once more left alone to his reflections, it did not appear to him that anything had occurred which should change his opinion of his forlorn lot, there was something, nevertheless, inspiring in the visit of his friend Count Mirabel. It did not seem to him, indeed, that he was one whit nearer extrication from his difficulties than before; and as for the wild hopes as to Henrietta, he dismissed them from his mind as the mere fantastic schemes of a sanguine spirit, and yet his gloom, by some process difficult to analyse, had in great measure departed. It could not be the champagne, for that was a remedy he had previously tried; it was in some degree doubtless the magic sympathy of a joyous temperament: but chiefly it might, perhaps, be ascribed to the flattering conviction that he possessed the hearty friendship of a man whose good-will was, in every view of the case, a very enviable possession. With such a friend as Mirabel, he could not deem himself quite so unlucky as in the morning. If he were fortunate, and fortunate so unexpectedly, in this instance, he might be so in others. A vague presentiment that he had seen the worst of life came over him. It was equally in vain to justify the consoling conviction or to resist it; and Ferdinand Armine, although in a spunging-house, fell asleep in better humour with his destiny than he had been for the last eight months.
His dreams were charming: he fancied that he was at Armine, standing by the Barbary rose-tree. It was moonlight; it was, perhaps, a slight recollection of the night he had looked upon the garden from the window of his chamber, the night after he had first seen Henrietta. Suddenly, Henrietta Temple appeared at his window, and waved her hand to him with a smiling face. He immediately plucked for her a flower, and stood with his offering beneath her window. She was in a riding-habit, and she told him that she had just returned from Italy. He invited her to descend, and she disappeared; but instead of Henrietta, there came forward from the old Place——-the duchess, who immediately enquired whether he had seen his cousin; and then her Grace, by some confused process common in dreams, turned into Glastonbury, and pointed to the rose-tree, where, to his surprise, Katherine was walking with Lord Montfort. Ferdinand called out for Henrietta, but, as she did not appear, he entered the Place, where he found Count Mirabel dining by himself, and just drinking a glass of champagne. He complained to Mirabel that Henrietta had disappeared, but his friend laughed at him, and said that, after such a long ride, leaving Italy only yesterday, he could scarcely expect to see her. Satisfied with this explanation, Ferdinand joined the Count at his banquet, and was awakened from his sleep, and his dream apparently, by Mirabel drawing a cork.
Ah! why did he ever wake? It was so real; he had seen her so plainly; it was life; it was the very smile she wore at Ducie; that sunny glance, so full of joy, beauty, and love, which he could live to gaze on! And now he was in prison, and she was going to be married to another. Oh! there are things in this world that may well break hearts!
The cork of Count Mirabel was, however, a substantial sound, a gentle tap at his door: he answered it, and the waiter entered his chamber.
'Beg pardon, sir, for disturbing you; only eight o'clock.'
'Then why the deuce do you disturb me?' 'There has been another nob, sir. I said as how you were not up, and he sent his compliments, and said as how he would call in an hour, as he wished to see you particular.' 'Was it the Count?'
'No, sir; but it was a regular nob, sir, for he had a coronet on his cab. But he would not leave his name.'
'Catch, of course,' thought Ferdinand to himself. 'And sent by Mirabel. I should not wonder, if after all, they have broken the bank at Crocky's. Nothing shall induce me to take a ducat.'
However, Ferdinand thought fit to rise, and contrived to descend to the best drawing-room about a quarter of an hour after the appointed time. To his extreme surprise he found Lord Montfort.
'My dear friend,' said Lord Montfort, looking a little confused; 'I am afraid I have sadly disturbed you. But I could not contrive to find you yesterday until it was so late that I was ashamed to knock them up here, and I thought, therefore, you would excuse this early call, as, as, as, I wished to see you very much indeed.'
'You are extremely kind,' said Captain Armine. 'But really I much regret that your lordship should have had all this trouble.'
'Oh! what is trouble under such circumstances!' replied his lordship. 'I cannot pardon myself for being so stupid as not reaching you yesterday. I never can excuse myself for the inconvenience you have experienced.'
Ferdinand bowed, but was so perplexed that he could not say a word.
'I hope, my dear Armine,' said his lordship, advancing rather slowly, putting his arm within that of Ferdinand, and then walking up and down the room together, 'I hope you will act at this moment towards me as I would towards you, were our respective situations changed.'
Ferdinand bowed, but said nothing.
'Money, you know, my good fellow,' continued Lord Montfort, 'is a disagreeable thing to talk about; but there are circumstances which should deprive such conversation between us of any awkwardness which otherwise might arise.'
'I am not aware of them, my lord,' said Ferdinand, 'though your good feelings command my gratitude.'
'I think, upon reflection, we shall find that there are some,' said Lord Montfort. 'For the moment I will only hope that you will esteem those good feelings, and which, on my part, I am anxious should ripen into sincere and intimate friendship, as sufficient authority for my placing your affairs in general in that state that they may in future never deprive your family and friends of society necessary to their happiness.'
'My lord, I am sure that adversity has assumed a graceful hue with me, for it has confirmed my most amiable views of human nature. I shall not attempt to express what I feel towards your lordship for this generous goodness, but I will say I am profoundly impressed with it; not the less, because I cannot avail myself in the slightest degree of your offer.'
'You are too much a man of the world, I am sure, my dear Armine, to be offended by my frankness. I shall, therefore, speak without fear of misconception. It does appear to me that the offer which I have made you is worthy of a little more consideration. You see, my dear friend, that you have placed yourself in such a situation that however you may act the result cannot be one completely satisfactory. The course you should pursue, therefore, as, indeed, all conduct in this world should be, is a matter of nice calculation. Have you well considered the consequences of your rushing upon ruin? In the first place, your family will receive a blow from which even future prosperity may not recover them. Your family estate, already in a delicate position, may be irrecoverably lost; the worldly consequences of such a vicissitude are very considerable; whatever career you pursue, so long as you visibly possess Armine, you rank always among the aristocracy of the land, and a family that maintains such a position, however decayed, will ultimately recover. I hardly know an exception to this rule. I do not think, of all men, that you are most calculated to afford one.'
'What you say has long pressed itself upon us,' said Captain Armine.
'Then, again,' resumed Lord Montfort, 'the feelings and even interests of your friends are to be considered. Poor Glastonbury! I love that old man myself. The fall of Armine might break his heart; he would not like to leave his tower. You see, I know your place.'
'Poor Glastonbury!' said Ferdinand.
'But above all,' continued Lord Montfort, 'the happiness, nay, the very health and life of your parents, from whom all is now concealed, would perhaps be the last and costliest sacrifices of your rashness.'
Ferdinand threw himself on the sofa and covered his face.
'Yet all this misery, all these misfortunes, may be avoided, and you yourself become a calm and happy man, by—for I wish not to understate your view of the subject, Armine—putting yourself under a pecuniary obligation to me. A circumstance to be avoided in the common course of life, no doubt; but is it better to owe me a favour and save your family estate, preserve your position, maintain your friend, and prevent the misery, and probable death, of your parents, or be able to pass me in the street, in haughty silence if you please, with the consciousness that the luxury of your pride has been satisfied at the cost of every circumstance which makes existence desirable?'
'You put the case strongly,' said Ferdinand; 'but no reasoning can ever persuade me that I am justified in borrowing 3,000L., which I can never repay.'
'Accept it, then.'
''Tis the same thing,' said Ferdinand.
'I think not,' said Lord Montfort; 'but why do you say never?'
'Because it is utterly impossible that I ever can.'
'How do you know you may not marry a woman of large fortune?' said Lord Montfort. 'Now you seem to me exactly the sort of man who would marry an heiress.'
'You are thinking of my cousin,' said Ferdinand. 'I thought that you had discovered, or that you might have learnt, that there was no real intention of our union.'
'No, I was not thinking of your cousin,' said Lord Montfort; 'though, to tell you the truth, I was once in hopes that you would marry her. However, that I well know is entirely out of the question, for I believe Miss Grandison will marry someone else.'
'Indeed!' exclaimed Ferdinand, a little agitated. 'Well! may she be happy! I love Kate from the bottom of my heart. But who is the fortunate fellow?'
''Tis a lady's secret,' said Lord Montfort. 'But let us return to our argument. To be brief: either, my dear Armine, you must be convinced by my reasoning, or I must remain here a prisoner like yourself; for, to tell you the truth, there is a fair lady before whom I cannot present myself except in your company.'
Ferdinand changed countenance. There wanted but this to confirm his resolution, which had scarcely wavered. To owe his release to Henrietta's influence with Lord Montfort was too degrading.
'My lord,' he said, 'you have touched upon a string that I had hoped might have been spared me. This conversation must, indeed, cease. My mouth is sealed from giving you the reasons, which nevertheless render it imperative on me to decline your generous offer.'
'Well, then,' said Lord Montfort, 'I must see if another can be more successful,' and he held forth a note to the astounded Ferdinand, in Henrietta's writing. It dropped from Ferdinand's hand as he took it. Lord Montfort picked it up, gave it him again, and walked to the other end of the room. It was with extreme difficulty that Ferdinand prevailed on himself to break the seal. The note was short; the hand that traced the letters must have trembled. Thus it ran:—
'Dearest Ferdinand,—Do everything that Digby wishes. He is our best friend. Digby is going to marry Katherine; are you happy? Henrietta.'
Lord Montfort looked round; Ferdinand Armine was lying senseless on the sofa.
Our friend was not of a swooning mood, but we think the circumstances may excuse the weakness.
As for Lord Montfort, he rang the bell for the little waiter, who, the moment he saw what had occurred, hurried away and rushed up stairs again with cold water, a bottle of brandy, and a blazing sheet of brown paper, which he declared was an infallible specific. By some means or other Ferdinand was in time recovered, and the little waiter was fairly expelled.
'My dear friend,' said Ferdinand, in a faint voice; 'I am the happiest man that ever lived; I hope you will be, I am sure you will be; Katherine is an angel. But I cannot speak. It is so strange.'
'My dear fellow, you really must take a glass of brandy,' said Lord Montfort. 'It is strange, certainly. But we are all happy.'
'I hardly know where I am,' said Ferdinand, after a few minutes. 'Am I really alive?'
'Let us think how we are to get out of this place. I suppose they will take my cheque. If not, I must be off.'
'Oh, do not go,' said Ferdinand. 'If you go I shall not believe it is true. My dear Montfort, is it really true?'
'You see, my dear Armine,' said Lord Montfort, smiling, 'it was fated that I should marry a lady you rejected. And to tell you the truth, the reason why I did not get to you yesterday, as I ought to have done, was an unexpected conversation I had with Miss Grandison. I really think this arrest was a most fortunate incident. It brought affairs to a crisis. We should have gone on playing at cross purposes for ever.'
Here the little waiter entered again with a note and a packet.
'The same messenger brought them?' asked Ferdinand.
'No, sir; the Count's servant brought the note, and waits for an answer; the packet came by another person.'
Ferdinand opened the note and read as follows:—
'Berkeley-square, half-past 7, morning.
'Mon Ami,—Best joke in the world! I broke Crocky's bank three times. Of course; I told you so. I win 15,000L. Directly I am awake I will send you the three thousand, and I will lend you the rest till your marriage. It will not be very long. I write this before I go to bed, that you may have it early. Adieu, cher ami.
'My arrest was certainly the luckiest incident in the world,' said Ferdinand, handing the note to Lord Montfort. 'Mirabel dined here yesterday, and went and played on purpose to save me. I treated it as a joke. But what is this?' Ferdinand opened the packet. The handwriting was unknown to him. Ten bank notes of 300L. each fell to the ground.
'Do I live in fairyland?' he exclaimed. 'Now who can this be? It cannot be you; it cannot be Mirabel. It is wondrous strange.'
'I think I can throw some light upon it,' said Lord Montfort. 'Katherine was mysteriously engaged with Glastonbury yesterday morning. They were out together, and I know they went to her lawyer's. There is no doubt it is Katherine. I think, under the circumstances of the case, we need have no delicacy in availing ourselves of this fortunate remittance. It will at least save us time,' said Lord Montfort, ringing the bell. 'Send your master here directly,' he continued to the waiter.
The sheriff's officer appeared; the debt, the fees, all were paid, and the discharge duly taken. Ferdinand in the meantime went up stairs to lock up his dressing-case; the little waiter rushed after him to pack his portmanteau. Ferdinand did not forget his zealous friend, who whispered hope when all was black. The little waiter chuckled as he put his ten guineas in his pocket. 'You see, sir,' he said, 'I was quite right. Knowed your friends would stump down. Fancy a nob like you being sent to quod! Fiddlededee! You see, sir, you weren't used to it.'
And so Ferdinand Armine bid adieu to the spunging-house, where, in the course of less than eight-and-forty hours, he had known alike despair and rapture. Lord Montfort drove along with a gaiety unusual to him.
'Now, my dear Armine,' he said, 'I am not a jot the less in love with Henrietta than before. I love her as you love Katherine. What folly to marry a woman who was in love with another person! I should have made her miserable, when the great object of all my conduct was to make her happy. Now Katherine really loves me as much as Henrietta loves you. I have had this plan in my head for a long time. I calculated finely; I was convinced it was the only way to make us all happy. And now we shall all be related; we shall be constantly together; and we will be brother friends.'
'Ah! my dear Montfort,' said Ferdinand, 'what will Mr. Temple say?'
'Leave him to me,' said Lord Montfort.
'I tremble,' said Ferdinand, 'if it were possible to anticipate difficulties to-day.'
'I shall go to him at once,' said Lord Montfort; 'I am not fond of suspense myself, and now it is of no use. All will be right.'
'I trust only to you,' said Ferdinand; 'for I am as proud as Temple. He dislikes me, and he is too rich for me to bow down to him.'
'I take it upon myself,' said Lord Montfort. 'Mr. Temple is a calm, sensible man. You will laugh at me, but the truth is, with him it must be a matter of calculation: on the one hand, his daughter's happiness, a union with a family second to none in blood, alliances, and territorial position, and only wanting his wealth to revive all its splendour; on the other, his daughter broken-hearted, and a duke for his son-in-law. Mr. Temple is too sensible a man to hesitate, particularly when I remove the greatest difficulty he must experience. Where shall I out you down? Berkeley-Square?'
Ferdinand Meditates over His Good Fortune.
IN MOMENTS of deep feeling, alike sudden bursts of prosperity as in darker hours, man must be alone. It requires some self-communion to prepare ourselves for good fortune, as well as to encounter difficulty, and danger, and disgrace. This violent and triumphant revolution in his prospects and his fortunes was hardly yet completely comprehended by our friend, Ferdinand Armine; and when he had left a note for the generous Mirabel, whose slumbers he would not disturb at this early hour, even with good news, he strolled along up Charles-street, and to the Park, in one of those wild and joyous reveries in which we brood over coming bliss, and create a thousand glorious consequences.
It was one of those soft summer mornings which are so delightful in a great city. The sky was clear, the air was bland, the water sparkled in the sun, and the trees seemed doubly green and fresh to one who so recently had gazed only on iron bars. Ferdinand felt his freedom as well as his happiness. He seated himself on a bench and thought of Henrietta Temple! he took out her note, and read it over and over again. It was indeed her handwriting! Restless with impending joy, he sauntered to the bridge, and leant over the balustrade, gazing on the waters in charmed and charming vacancy. How many incidents, how many characters, how many feelings flitted over his memory! Of what sweet and bitter experience did he not chew the cud! Four-and-twenty hours ago, and he deemed himself the most miserable and forlorn of human beings, and now all the blessings of the world seemed showered at his feet! A beautiful bride awaited him, whom he had loved with intense passion, and who he had thought but an hour ago was another's. A noble fortune, which would permit him to redeem his inheritance, and rank him among the richest commoners of the realm, was to be controlled by one a few hours back a prisoner for desperate debts. The most gifted individuals in the land emulated each other in proving which entertained for him the most sincere affection. What man in the world had friends like Ferdinand Armine? Ferdinand Armine, who, two days back, deemed himself alone in the world! The unswerving devotion of Glastonbury, the delicate affection of his sweet cousin, all the magnanimity of the high-souled Mont-fort, and the generosity of the accomplished Mirabel, passed before him, and wonderfully affected him. He could not flatter himself that he indeed merited such singular blessings; and yet with all his faults, which with him were but the consequences of his fiery youth, Ferdinand had been faithful, to Henrietta. His constancy to her was now rewarded. As for his friends, the future must prove his gratitude to them.'
Ferdinand Armine had great tenderness of disposition, and somewhat of a meditative mind; schooled by adversity, there was little doubt that his coming career would justify his favourable destiny.
It was barely a year since he had returned from Malta, but what an eventful twelvemonth! Everything that had occurred previously seemed of another life; all his experience was concentrated in that wonderful drama that had commenced at Bath, the last scene of which was now approaching; the characters, his parents, Glastonbury, Katherine, Henrietta, Lord Montfort, Count Mirabel, himself, and Mr. Temple!
Ah! that was a name that a little disturbed him; and yet he felt confidence now in Mirabel's prescience; he could not but believe that with time even Mr. Temple might be reconciled! It was at this moment that the sound of military music fell upon his ear; it recalled old days; parades and guards at Malta; times when he did not know Henrietta Temple; times when, as it seemed to him now, he had never paused to think or moralise. That was a mad life. What a Neapolitan ball was his career then! It was indeed dancing on a volcano. And now all had ended so happily! Oh! could it indeed be true? Was it not all a dream of his own creation, while his eye had been fixed in abstraction on that bright and flowing river? But then there was Henrietta's letter. He might be enchanted, but that was the talisman.
In the present unsettled, though hopeful state of affairs, Ferdinand would not go home. He was resolved to avoid any explanations until he heard from Lord Montfort. He shrank from seeing Glastonbury or his cousin. As for Henrietta, it seemed to him that he never could have heart to meet her again, unless they were alone. Count Mirabel was the only person to whom he could abandon his soul, and Count Mirabel was still in his first sleep.
So Ferdinand entered Kensington Gardens, and walked in those rich glades and stately avenues. It seems to the writer of this history that the inhabitants of London are scarcely sufficiently sensible of the beauty of its environs. On every side the most charming retreats open to them, nor is there a metropolis in the world surrounded by so many rural villages, picturesque parks, and elegant casinos. With the exception of Constantinople, there is no city in the world that can for a moment enter into competition with it. For himself, though in his time something of a rambler, he is not ashamed in this respect to confess to a legitimate Cockney taste; and for his part he does not know where life can flow on more pleasantly than in sight of Kensington Gardens, viewing the silver Thames winding by the bowers of Rosebank, or inhaling from its terraces the refined air of graceful Richmond.
In exactly ten minutes it is in the power of every man to free himself from all the tumult of the world; the pangs of love, the throbs of ambition, the wear and tear of play, the recriminating boudoir, the conspiring club, the rattling hell; and find himself in a sublime sylvan solitude superior to the cedars of Lebanon, and inferior only in extent to the chestnut forests of Anatolia. Kensington Gardens is almost the only place that has realised his idea of the forests of Spenser and Ariosto. What a pity, that instead of a princess in distress we meet only a nurserymaid! But here is the fitting and convenient locality to brood over our thoughts; to project the great and to achieve the happy. It is here that we should get our speeches by heart, invent our impromptus; muse over the caprices of our mistresses, destroy a cabinet, and save a nation.
About the time that Ferdinand directed his steps from these green retreats towards Berkeley-Square, a servant summoned Miss Temple to her father.
'Is papa alone?' enquired Miss Temple.
'Only my lord with him,' was the reply.
'Is Lord Montfort here!' said Miss Temple, a little surprised.
'My lord has been with master these three hours,' said the servant.
Ferdinand Receives the Most Interesting Invitation to Dinner Ever Offered to Him.
IS NOT it wonderful?' said Ferdinand, when he had finished his history to Count Mirabel.
'Not the least,' said the Count, 'I never knew anything less surprising. 'Tis exactly what I said, 'tis the most natural termination in the world.'
'Ah, my dear Mirabel, you are a prophet! What a lucky fellow I am to have such a friend as you!'
'To be sure you are. Take some more coffee. What are you going to do with yourself?'
'I do not know what to do with myself. I really do not like to go anywhere until I have heard from Montfort. I think I shall go to my hotel' 'I will drive you. It is now three o'clock.' But just at this moment, Mr. Bevil called on the Count, and another hour disappeared. When they were fairly in the cabriolet, there were so many places to call at, and so many persons to see, that it was nearly six o'clock when they reached the hotel. Ferdinand ran up stairs to see if there were any letter from Lord Montfort. He found his lordship's card, and also Mr. Temple's; they had called about half an hour ago; there was also a note. These were its contents:—
'My Dear Captain Armine,
'I have prepared myself with this note, as I fear I shall hardly be so fortunate as to find you at home. It is only very recently that I have learnt from Henrietta that you were in London, and I much regret to hear that you have been so great an invalid. It is so long since we met that I hope you will dine with us to-day; and indeed I am so anxious to see you, that I trust, if you have unfortunately made any other engagement, you may yet contrive to gratify my request. It is merely a family party; you will only meet our friends from St. James'-square, and your own circle in Brook-street. I have asked no one else, save old Lady Bellair, and your friend Count Mirabel; and Henrietta is so anxious to secure his presence, that I shall be greatly obliged by your exerting your influence to induce him to accompany you, as I fear there is little hope of finding him free.
'Henrietta joins with me in kindest regards; and I beg you to believe me,
'My dear Captain Armine,
'Most cordially yours,
'Well, what is the matter?' said the Count, when Ferdinand returned to the cabriolet, with the note in his hand, and looking very agitated.
'The strangest note!' said Ferdinand.
'Give it me,' said the Count. 'Do you call that strange? Tis the most regular epistle I ever read; I expected it. 'Tis an excellent fellow, that Mr. Temple; I will certainly dine with him, and send an excuse to that old Castlefyshe. A family party, all right; and he asks me, that is proper. I should not wonder if it ended by my being your trustee, or your executor, or your first child's godfather. Ah, that good Temple is a sensible man. I told you I would settle this business for you. You should hear me talk to that good Temple. I open his mind. A family party; it will be amusing! I would not miss it for a thousand pounds. Besides, I must go to take care of you, for you will be committing all sorts of betises. I will give you one turn in the park. Jump in, mon enfant. Good Armine, excellent fellow, jump in! You see, I was right; I am always right. But I will confess to you a secret: I never was so right as I have been in the present case. 'Tis the best business that ever was!'
Some Account of the Party, and Its Result.
IN SPITE of the Count Mirabel's inspiring companionship, it must be confessed that Ferdinand's heart failed him when he entered Mr. Temple's house. Indeed, had it not been for the encouragement and jolly raillery of his light-hearted friend, it is not quite clear that he would have succeeded in ascending the staircase. A mist came over his vision as he entered the room; various forms, indeed, glanced before him, but he could distinguish none. He felt so embarrassed, that he was absolutely miserable. It was Mr. Temple's hand that he found he had hold of; the calm demeanour and bland tones of that gentleman somewhat reassured him. Mr. Temple was cordial, and Count Mirabel hovered about Ferdinand, and covered his confusion. Then he recognised the duchess and his mother; they were sitting together, and he went up and saluted them. He dared not look round for the lady of the house. Lady Bellair was talking to his father. At last he heard his name called by the Count. 'Armine, mon cher, see this beautiful work!' and Ferdinand advanced, or rather staggered, to a window where stood the Count before a group, and in a minute he clasped the hand of Henrietta Temple. He could not speak. Katherine was sitting by her, and Lord Montfort standing behind her chair. But Count Mirabel never ceased talking, and with so much art and tact, that in a few moments he had succeeded in producing comparative ease on all sides.
'I am so glad that you have come to-day,' said Henrietta. Her eyes sparkled with a strange meaning, and then she suddenly withdrew her gaze. The rose of her cheek alternately glowed and faded. It was a moment of great embarrassment, and afterwards they often talked of it.
Dinner, however, was soon announced as served, for Mirabel and Ferdinand had purposely arrived at the last moment. As the duke advanced to offer his arm to Miss Temple, Henrietta presented Ferdinand with a flower, as if to console him for the separation. It was a round table; the duchess and Lady Bellair sat on each side of Mr. Temple, the duke on the right hand of Miss Temple; where there were so many members of the same family, it was difficult to arrange the guests. Ferdinand held back, when Count Mirabel, who had secured a seat by Henrietta, beckoned to Ferdinand, and saying that Lady Bellair wished him to sit next to her, pushed Ferdinand, as he himself walked away, into the vacated seat. Henrietta caught the Count's eye as he moved off; it was a laughing eye.
'I am glad you sit next to me,' said Lady Bellair to the Count, 'because you are famous. I love famous people, and you are very famous. Why don't you come and see me? Now I have caught you at last, and you shall come and dine with me the 7th, 8th, or 9th of next month; I have dinner parties every day. You shall dine with me on the 8th, for then Lady Frederick dines with me, and she will taste you. You shall sit next to Lady Frederick, and mind you flirt with her. I wonder if you are as amusing as your grandfather. I remember dancing a minuet with him at Versailles seventy years ago.'
'It is well recollected in the family,' said the Count.
'Ah! you rogue!' said the little lady, chuckling, 'you lie! I like a lie sometimes,' she resumed, 'but then it must be a good one. Do you know, I only say it to you, but I am half afraid lies are more amusing than truth.'
'Naturally,' said the Count, 'because truth must in general be commonplace, or it would not be true.'
In the meantime, Ferdinand was seated next to Henrietta Temple. He might be excused for feeling a little bewildered. Indeed, the wonderful events of the last four-and-twenty hours were enough to deprive anyone of a complete command over his senses. What marvel, then, that he nearly carved his soup, ate his fish with a spoon; and drank water instead of wine! In fact, he was labouring under a degree of nervous excitement which rendered it quite impossible for him to observe the proprieties of life. The presence of all these persons was insupportable to him. Five minutes alone with her in the woods of Ducie, and he would have felt quite reassured. Miss Temple avoided his glance! She was, in truth, as agitated as himself, and talked almost entirely to the duke; yet sometimes she tried to address him, and say kind things. She called him Ferdinand; that was quite sufficient to make him happy, although he felt very awkward. He had been seated some minutes before he observed that Glastonbury was next to him.
'I am so nervous, dear Glastonbury,' said Ferdinand, 'that I do not think I shall be able to remain in the room.'
'I have heard something,' said Glastonbury, with a smile, 'that makes me quite bold.'
'I cannot help fancying that it is all enchantment,' said Ferdinand.
'There is no wonder, my dear boy, that you are enchanted,' said Glastonbury.
'Ferdinand,' said Miss Temple in a low voice, 'papa is taking wine with you.' Ferdinand looked up and caught Mr. Temple's kind salute.
'That was a fine horse you were riding to-day,' said Count Mirabel, across the table to Miss Grandison.
'Is it not pretty? It is Lord Montfort's.'
'Lord Montfort's!' thought Ferdinand. 'How strange all this seems!'
'You were not of the riding party this morning,' said his Grace to Henrietta.
'I have not been very well this day or two,' said Miss Temple.
'Well, I think you are looking particularly well to-day,' replied the duke. 'What say you, Captain Armine?'
Ferdinand blushed, and looked confused at this appeal, and muttered some contradictory compliments.
'Oh! I am very well now,' said Miss Temple.
'You must come and dine with me,' said Lady Bellair to Count Mirabel, 'because you talk well across a table. I want a man who talks well across a table. So few can do it without bellowing. I think you do it very well.'
'Naturally,' replied the Count. 'If I did not do it well, I should not do it at all.'
'Ah! you are audacious,' said the old lady. 'I like a little impudence. It is better to be impudent than to be servile.'
'Mankind are generally both,' said the Count.
'I think they are,' said the old lady. 'Pray, is the old Duke of Thingabob alive? You know whom I mean: he was an emigre, and a relation of yours.'
'De Crillon. He is dead, and his son too.'
'He was a great talker,' said Lady Bellair, 'but then, he was the tyrant of conversation. Now, men were made to listen as well as to talk.'
'Without doubt,' said the Count; 'for Nature has given us two ears, but only one mouth.'
'You said that we might all be very happy,' whispered Lord Montfort to Miss Grandison. 'What think you; have we succeeded?'
'I think we all look very confused,' said Miss Grandison. 'What a fortunate, idea it was inviting Lady Bellair and the Count. They never could look confused.'
'Watch Henrietta,' said Lord Montfort.
'It is not fair. How silent Ferdinand is!'
'Yes, he is not quite sure whether he is Christopher Sly or not,' said Lord Montfort. 'What a fine embarrassment you have contrived, Miss Grandison!'
'Nay, Digby, you were the author of it. I cannot help thinking of your interview with Mr. Temple. You were prompt!'
'Why, I can be patient, fair Katherine,' said Lord Montfort; 'but in the present instance I shrank from suspense, more, however, for others than myself. It certainly was a singular interview.'
'And were you not nervous?'
'Why, no; I felt convinced that the interview could have only one result. I thought of your memorable words; I felt I was doing what you wished, and that I was making all of us happy. However, all honour be to Mr. Temple! He has proved himself a man of sense.'
As the dinner proceeded, there was an attempt on all sides to be gay. Count Mirabel talked a great deal, and Lady Bellair laughed at what he said, and maintained her reputation for repartee. Her ladyship had been for a long time anxious to seize hold of her gay neighbour, and it was evident that he was quite 'a favourite.' Even Ferdinand grew a little more at his ease. He ventured to relieve the duke from some of his labours, and carve for Miss Temple.
'What do you think of our family party?' said Henrietta to Ferdinand, in a low voice.
'I can think only of one thing,' said Ferdinand.
'I am so nervous,' she continued, 'that it seems to me I shall every minute shriek, and leave the room.'
'I feel the same; I am stupefied.'
'Talk to Mr. Glastonbury; drink wine, and talk. Look, look at your mother; she is watching us. She is dying to speak to you, and so is some one else.'
At length the ladies withdrew. Ferdinand attended them to the door of the dining-room. Lady Bellair shook her fan at him, but said nothing. He pressed his mother's hand. 'Good-bye, cousin Ferdinand,' said Miss Grandison in a laughing tone. Henrietta smiled upon him as she passed by. It was a speaking glance, and touched his heart. The gentlemen remained behind much longer than was the custom in Mr. Temple's house. Everybody seemed resolved to drink a great deal of wine, and Mr. Temple always addressed himself to Ferdinand, if anything were required, in a manner which seemed to recognise, his responsible position in the family.
Anxious as Ferdinand was to escape to the drawing-room, he could not venture on the step. He longed to speak to Glastonbury on the subject which engrossed his thoughts, but he had not courage. Never did a man, who really believed himself the happiest and most fortunate person in the world, ever feel more awkward and more embarrassed. Was his father aware of what had occurred? He could not decide. Apparently, Henrietta imagined that his mother did, by the observation which she had made at dinner. Then his father must be conscious of everything. Katherine must have told all. Were Lord Montfort's family in the secret? But what use were these perplexing enquiries? It was certain that Henrietta was to be his bride, and that Mr. Temple had sanctioned their alliance. There could be no doubt of that, or why was he there?
At length the gentlemen rose, and Ferdinand once more beheld Henrietta Temple. As he entered, she was crossing the room with some music in her hand, she was a moment alone. He stopped, he would have spoken, but his lips would not move.
'Well,' she said, 'are you happy?'
'My head wanders. Assure me that it is all true,' he murmured in an agitated voice.
'It is all true; there, go and speak to Lady Armine. I am as nervous as you are.'
Ferdinand seated himself by his mother.
'Well, Ferdinand,' she said, 'I have heard wonderful things.'
'And I hope they have made you happy, mother?'
'I should, indeed, be both unreasonable and ungrateful if they did not; but I confess to you, my dear child, I am even as much astonished as gratified.'
'And my father, he knows everything?'
'Everything. But we have heard it only from Lord Montfort and Katherine. We have had no communication with anyone else. And we meet here to-day in this extraordinary manner, and but for them we should be completely in the dark.'
'And the duchess; do they know all?'
'I conclude so.'
''Tis very strange, is it not?'
'I am quite bewildered.'
'O mother! is she not beautiful? Do you not love her? Shall we not all be the happiest family in the world?'
'I think we ought to be, dear Ferdinand. But I have not recovered from my astonishment. Ah, my child, why did you not tell me when you were ill?'
'Is it not for the best that affairs should have taken the course they have done? But you must blame Kate as well as me; dear Kate!'
'I think of her,' said Lady Armine; 'I hope Kate will be happy.'
'She must be, dear mother; only think what an excellent person is Lord Montfort.'
'He is indeed an excellent person,' said Lady Armine; 'but if I had been engaged to you, Ferdinand, and it ended by my marrying Lord Montfort, I should be very disappointed.'
'The duchess would be of a different opinion,' said Ferdinand.
Lady Bellair, who was sitting on a sofa opposite, and had hitherto been conversing with the duchess, who had now quitted her and joined the musicians, began shaking her fan at Ferdinand in a manner which signified her extreme desire that he should approach her.
'Well, Lady Bellair,' said Ferdinand, seating himself by her side.
'I am in the secret, you know,' said her ladyship.
'What secret, Lady Bellair?'
'Ah! you will not commit yourself. Well, I like discretion. I have always seen it from the first. No one has worked for you as I have. I like true love, and I have left her all my china in my will.'
'I am sure the legatee is very fortunate, whoever she may be.'
'Ah, you rogue, you know very well whom I mean. You are saucy; you never had a warmer friend than myself. I always admired you; you have a great many good qualities and a great many bad ones. You always were a little saucy. But I like a little spice of sauciness; I think it takes. I hear you are great friends with Count Thingabob; the Count, whose grandfather I danced with seventy years ago. That is right; always have distinguished friends. Never have fools for friends; they are no use. I suppose he is in the secret too.'
'Really, Lady Bellair, I am in no secret. You quite excite my curiosity.'
'Well, I can't get anything out of you, I see that. However, it all happened at my house, that can't be denied. I tell you what I will do; I will give you all a dinner, and then the world will be quite certain that I made the match.'
Lady Armine joined them, and Ferdinand seized the opportunity of effecting his escape to the piano.
'I suppose Henrietta has found her voice again, now,' whispered Katherine to her cousin.
'Dear Katherine, really if you are so malicious, I shall punish you,' said Ferdinand.
'Well, the comedy is nearly concluded. We shall join hands, and the curtain will drop.'
'And I hope, in your opinion, not an unsuccessful performance.'
'Why, I certainly cannot quarrel with the catastrophe,' said Miss Grandison.
In the meantime, the Count Mirabel had obtained possession of Mr. Temple, and lost no opportunity of confirming every favourable view which that gentleman had been influenced by Lord Montfort to take of Ferdinand and his conduct. Mr. Temple was quite convinced that his daughter must be very happy, and that the alliance, on the whole, would be productive of every satisfaction that he had ever anticipated.
The evening drew on; carriages were announced; guests retired; Ferdinand lingered; Mr. Temple was ushering Lady Bellair, the last guest, to her carriage; Ferdinand and Henrietta were alone. They looked at each other, their eyes met at the same moment, there was but one mode of satisfactorily terminating their mutual embarrassments: they sprang into each other's arms. Ah, that was a moment of rapture, sweet, thrilling, rapid! There was no need of words, their souls vaulted over all petty explanations; upon her lips, her choice and trembling lips, he sealed his gratitude and his devotion.
The sound of footsteps was heard, the agitated Henrietta made her escape by an opposite entrance. Mr. Temple returned, he met Captain Armine with his hat, and enquired whether Henrietta had retired; and when Ferdinand answered in the affirmative, wished him good-night, and begged him to breakfast with them to-morrow.
Which, Though Final, It Is Hoped Will Prove Satisfactory.
OUR kind reader will easily comprehend that from the happy day we have just noticed, Ferdinand Armine was seldom absent from Grosvenor-square, or from the society of Henrietta Temple. Both were so happy that they soon overcame any little embarrassment which their novel situation might first occasion them. In this effort, however, they were greatly encouraged by the calm demeanour of Lord Montfort and the complacent carriage of his intended bride. The world wondered and whispered, marvelled and hinted, but nothing disturbed Lord Montfort, and Katherine had the skill to silence raillery. Although it was settled that the respective marriages should take place as soon as possible, the settlements necessarily occasioned delay. By the application of his funded property, and by a charge upon his Yorkshire estates, Mr. Temple paid off the mortgages on Armine, which, with a certain life-charge in his own favour, was settled in strict entail upon the issue of his daughter. A certain portion of the income was to be set aside annually to complete the castle, and until that edifice was ready to receive them, Ferdinand and Henrietta were to live with Mr. Temple, principally at Ducie, which Mr. Temple had now purchased.
In spite, however, of the lawyers, the eventful day at length arrived. Both happy couples were married at the same time and in the same place, and Glastonbury performed the ceremony. Lord and Lady Montfort departed for a seat in Sussex, belonging to his father; Ferdinand and Henrietta repaired to Armine; while Sir Ratcliffe and his lady paid a visit to Mr. Temple in Yorkshire, and Glastonbury found himself once more in his old quarters in Lancashire with the duke and duchess.
Once more at Armine; wandering once more together in the old pleasaunce; it was so strange and sweet, that both Ferdinand and Henrietta almost began to believe that it was well that the course of their true love had for a moment not run so smoothly as at present, and they felt that their adversity had rendered them even more sensible of their illimitable bliss. And the woods of Ducie, they were not forgotten; nor, least of all, the old farmhouse that had been his shelter. Certainly they were the happiest people that ever lived, and though some years have now passed since these events took place, custom has not sullied the brightness of their love. They have no cares now, and yet both have known enough of sorrow to make them rightly appreciate their unbroken and unbounded blessings.
When the honeymoon was fairly over, for neither of them would bate a jot of this good old-fashioned privilege, Sir Ratcliffe and Lady Armine returned to the Place, and Glastonbury to his tower; while Mr. Temple joined them at Ducie, accompanied by Lord and Lady Montfort. The autumn also brought the Count Mirabel to slaughter the pheasants, gay, brilliant, careless, kind-hearted as ever. He has ever remained one of Ferdinand's most cherished friends; indeed, I hardly think that there is any individual to whom Ferdinand is more attached. And after all, as the Count often observes, if it had not been for Ferdinand's scrapes they would not have known each other. Nor was Lord Catchimwhocan passed over. Ferdinand Armine was not the man to neglect a friend or to forget a good service; and he has conferred on that good-natured, though somewhat improvident, young nobleman, more substantial kindness than the hospitality which is always cheerfully extended to him. When Ferdinand repaid Mr. Bond Sharpe his fifteen hundred pounds, he took care that the interest should appear in the shape of a golden vase, which is now not the least gorgeous ornament of that worthy's splendid sideboard. The deer have appeared again too in the park of Armine, and many a haunch smokes on the epicurean table of Cleveland-row.