"Colonel Egerton—Mr. Denbigh."
Both gentlemen bowed, but nothing striking was seen in the deportment of either. The colonel, who was not exactly at ease, said hastily—
"Mr. Denbigh is, or has been in the army, I believe."
Denbigh was now taken by surprise in his turn: he cast a look on Egerton of fixed and settled meaning; then carelessly observed, but still as if requiring an answer:
"I am yet; but I do not recollect having had the pleasure of meeting with Colonel Egerton on service."
"Your countenance is familiar, sir," replied the colonel, coldly; "but at this moment I cannot tax my memory with the place of-our meeting, though one sees so many strange faces in a campaign, that they come and go like shadows."
He then changed the conversation. It was some time, however, before either gentleman entirely recovered his ease—and many days elapsed ere anything like intercourse passed between them. The colonel attached himself during this visit to Jane, with occasional notices of the Misses Jarvis, who began to manifest symptoms of uneasiness at the decided preference he showed to a lady they now chose to look upon, in some measure, as a rival.
Mrs. Wilson and her charge, on the other hand, were entertained by the conversation of Chatterton and Denbigh, relieved by occasional sallies from the lively John. There was something in the person and manners of Denbigh that insensibly attracted those whom chance threw in his way. His face was not strikingly handsome, but it was noble; and when he smiled, or was much animated, it invariably communicated a spark of his own enthusiasm to the beholder. His figure was faultless; his air and manner, if less easy than those of Colonel Egerton, were more sincere and ingenuous; his breeding was clearly higher; his respect for others rather bordering on the old school. But in his voice there existed a charm which would make him, when he spoke, to a female ear, almost resistless: it was soft, deep, melodious, and winning.
"Baronet," said the rector, looking with a smile towards his son and daughter, "I love to see my children happy, and Mrs. Ives threatens a divorce if I go on in the manner I have commenced. She says I desert her for Bolton."
"Why, doctor, if our wives conspire against us, and prevent our enjoying a comfortable dish of tea with Clara, or a glass of wine with Frank, we must call in the higher authorities as umpires. What say you, sister? Is a parent to desert his child in any case?"
"My opinion is," said Mrs. Wilson, with a smile, yet speaking with emphasis, "that a parent is not to desert a child, in any case or in any manner."
"Do you hear that, my Lady Moseley?" cried the good-humored baronet.
"Do you hear that, my Lady Chatterton?" echoed John, who had just taken a seat by Grace, when her mother approached them.
"I hear it, but do not see the application, Mr. Moseley."
"No, my lady! Why, there is the honorable Miss Chatterton almost dying to play a game of her favorite chess with Mr. Denbigh. She has beaten us all but him, and her triumph will not be complete until she has him too at her feet."
And as Denbigh politely offered to meet the challenge, the board was produced, and the parties were seated. Lady Chatterton stood leaning over her daughter's chair, with a view, however, to prevent any of those consequences she was generally fond of seeing result from this amusement; every measure taken by this prudent mother being literally governed by judicious calculation.
"Umph," thought John, as he viewed the players, while listening with pleasure to the opinions of Grace, who had recovered her composure and spirits; "Kate, after all, has played one game without using her feet."
Ten days or a fortnight flew swiftly by, during which Mrs. Wilson suffered Emily to give Clara a week, having first ascertained that Denbigh was a settled resident at the rectory, and thereby not likely to be oftener at the House of Francis than at the hall, where he was a frequent and welcome guest, both oh his own account and as a friend of Doctor Ives. Emily had returned, and she brought the bride and groom with her; when one evening as they were pleasantly seated at their various amusements, with the ease of old acquaintances, Mr. Haughton entered. It was at an hour rather unusual for his visits; and throwing down his hat, after making the usual inquiries, he began without preface—
"I know, good people, you are all wondering what has brought me out this time of night, but the truth is, Lucy has coaxed her mother to persuade me into a ball in honor of the times; so, my lady, I have consented, and my wife and daughter have been buying up all the finery in B——, by the way, I suppose, of anticipating their friends. There is a regiment of foot come into barracks within fifteen miles of us, and to-morrow I must beat up for recruits among the officers—girls are never wanting on such occasions."
"Why," cried the baronet, "you are growing young again, my friend."
"No, Sir Edward, but my daughter is young, and life has so many cares that I am willing she should get rid of as many as she can at my expense."
"Surely you would not wish her to dance them away," said Mrs. Wilson; "such relief I am afraid will prove temporary."
"Do you disapprove of dancing, ma'am?" said Mr. Haughton, who held her opinions in great respect as well as a little dread.
"I neither approve nor disapprove of it—jumping up and down is innocent enough in itself, and if it must be done it is well it were done gracefully; as for the accompaniments of dancing I say nothing—what do you say, Doctor Ives?"
"To what, my dear madam?"
"Oh let the girls dance if they enjoy it."
"I am glad you think so, doctor," cried the delighted Mr. Haughton; I was afraid I recollected your advising your son never to dance nor to play at games of chance."
"You thought right, my friend," said the doctor, laying down his newspaper; "I did give that advice to Frank, whom you will please to remember is now rector of Bolton. I do not object to dancing as not innocent in itself or as an elegant exercise; but it is like drinking, generally carried to excess: now as a Christian I am opposed to all excesses; the music and company lead to intemperance in the recreation, and they often induce neglect of duties—but so may anything else."
"I like a game of whist, doctor, greatly," said Mr. Haughton; "but observing that you never play, and recollecting your advice to Mr. Francis, I have forbidden cards when you are my guest"
"I thank you for the compliment, good sir," replied the doctor, with a smile; "still I would much rather see you play cards than hear you talk scandal, as you sometimes do."
"Scandal!" echoed Mr. Haughton.
"Ay, scandal," said the doctor, coolly, "such as the remark you made the last time, which was only yesterday, I called to see you. You accused Sir Edward of being wrong in letting that poacher off so easily; the baronet, you said, did not shoot himself, and did not know how to prize game as he ought."
"Scandal, Doctor—do you call that scandal? why I told Sir Edward so himself, two or three times."
"I know you did, and that was rude."
"Rude! I hope sincerely Sir Edward has put no such construction on it?"
The baronet smiled kindly, and shook his head.
"Because the baronet chooses to forgive your offences, it does not alter their nature," said the doctor, gravely: "no, you must repent and amend; you impeached his motives for doing a benevolent act, and that I call scandal."
"Why, doctor, I was angry the fellow should be let loose; he is a pest to all the game in the county, and every sportsman will tell you so—here, Mr. Moseley, you know Jackson, the poacher."
"Oh! a poacher is an intolerable wretch!" cried Captain Jarvis.
"Oh! a poacher," echoed John, looking drolly at Emily, "hang all poachers."
"Poacher or no poacher, does not alter the scandal," said the doctor; "now let me tell you, good sir, I would rather play at fifty games of whist than make one such speech, unless indeed it interfered with my duties; now, sir, with your leave I'll explain myself as to my son. There is an artificial levity about dancing that adds to the dignity of no man: from some it may detract: a clergyman for instance is supposed to have other things to do, and it might hurt him in the opinions of those with whom his influence is necessary, and impair his usefulness; therefore a clergyman should never dance. In the same way with cards; they are the common instruments of gambling, and an odium is attached to them on that account; women and clergymen must respect the prejudices of mankind in some cases, or lose their influence in society."
"I did hope to have the pleasure of your company, doctor, said Mr. Haughton, hesitatingly.
"And if it will give you pleasure," cried the rector, "you shall have it with all my heart, good sir; it would be a greater evil to wound the feelings of such a neighbor as Mr. Haughton, than to show my face once at a ball," and rising, he laid his hand on the shoulder of the other kindly. "Both your scandal and rudeness are easily forgiven; but I wished to show you the common error of the world which has attached odium to certain things, while it charitably overlooks others of a more heinous nature."
Mr. Haughton, who had at first been a little staggered with the attack of the doctor, recovered himself, and laying a handful of notes on the table, hoped he should have the pleasure of seeing every body. The invitation was generally accepted, and the worthy man departed, happy if his friends did but come, and were pleased.
"Do you dance, Miss Moseley?" inquired Denbigh of Emily, as he sat watching her graceful movements in netting a purse for her father.
"Oh, yes! the doctor said nothing of us girls, you know I suppose he thinks we have no dignity to lose."
"Admonitions are generally thrown away on young ladies when pleasure is in the question," said the doctor, with a look of almost paternal affection.
"I hope you do not seriously disapprove of it in moderation," said Mrs. Wilson.
"That depends, madam, upon circumstances; if it is to be made subsidiary to envy, malice, coquetry, vanity, or any other such little lady-like accomplishment, it certainly had better be let alone. But in moderation, and with the feelings of my little pet here, I should be cynical, indeed, to object."
Denbigh appeared lost in his own ruminations during this dialogue; and as the doctor ended, he turned to the captain, who was overlooking a game of chess between the colonel and Jane, of which the latter had become remarkably fond of late, playing with her hands and eyes instead of her feet—and inquired the name of the corps in barracks at F——.
"The ——th foot, sir," replied the captain, haughtily, who neither respected him, owing to his want of consequence, nor loved him, from the manner in which Emily listened to his conversation.
"Will Miss Moseley forgive a bold request," said Denbigh, with some hesitation.
Emily looked up from her work in silence, but with some little flutterings at the heart.
"The honor of her hand for the first dance," continued Denbigh, observing she was in expectation that he would proceed.
Emily laughingly said, "Certainly, Mr. Denbigh, if you can submit to the degradation."
The London papers now came in, and most of the gentlemen sat down to their perusal. The colonel, however, replaced the men for a second game, and Denbigh still kept his place beside Mrs. Wilson and her niece. The manners, the sentiments, the whole exterior of this gentleman were such as both the taste and judgment of the aunt approved of; his qualities were those which insensibly gained on the heart, and yet Mrs. Wilson noticed, with a slight uneasiness, the very evident satisfaction her niece took in his society. In Dr. Ives she had great confidence, yet Dr. Ives was a friend, and probably judged him favorably; and again, Dr. Ives was not to suppose he was introducing a candidate for the hand of Emily in every gentleman he brought to the hall. Mrs. Wilson had seen too often the ill consequences of trusting to impressions received from inferences of companionship, not to know the only safe way was to judge for ourselves: the opinions of others might be partial—might be prejudiced—and many an improper connexion had been formed by listening to the sentiments of those who spoke without interest, and consequently without examination. Not a few matches are made by this idle commendation of others, uttered by those who are respected, and which are probably suggested more by a desire to please than by reflection or even knowledge. In short Mrs. Wilson knew that as our happiness chiefly interests ourselves, so it was to ourselves, or to those few whose interest was equal to our own, we could only trust those important inquiries necessary to establish a permanent opinion of character. With Doctor Ives her communications on subjects of duty were frequent and confiding, and although she sometimes thought his benevolence disposed him to be rather too lenient to the faults of mankind, she entertained a profound respect for his judgment. It had great influence with her, if it were not always conclusive; she determined, therefore, to have an early conversation with him on the subject so near her heart, and be in a great measure regulated by his answers in the steps to be immediately taken. Every day gave her what he thought melancholy proof of the ill consequences of neglecting a duty, in the increasing intimacy of Colonel Egerton and Jane.
"Here, aunt," cried John, as he ran over a paper, "is a paragraph relating to your favorite youth, our trusty and well beloved cousin the Earl of Pendennyss."
"Read it," said Mrs. Wilson, with an interest his name never failed to excite.
"We noticed to-day the equipage of the gallant Lord Pendennyss before the gates of Annandale-house, and understand the noble earl is last from Bolton castle, Northamptonshire."
"A very important fact," said Captain Jarvis, sarcastically; "Colonel Egerton and myself got as far as the village, to pay our respects to him, when we heard he had gone on to town."
"The earl's character, both as a man and a soldier," observed the colonel, "gives him a claim to our attentions that his rank would not: on that account we would have called."
"Brother," said Mrs. Wilson, "you would oblige me greatly by asking his lordship to waive ceremony; his visits to Bolton castle will probably be frequent, now we have peace; and the owner is so much from home that we may never see him without some such invitation."
"Do you want him as a husband for Emily?" cried John, as he gaily seated himself by the side of his sister.
Mrs. Wilson smiled at an observation which reminded her of one of her romantic wishes; and as she raised her head to reply in the same tone, met the eye of Denbigh fixed on her with an expression that kept her silent. This is really an incomprehensible young man in some respects, thought the cautious widow, his startling looks on the introduction to the colonel crossing her mind at the same time; and observing the doctor opening the door that led to the baronet's library, Mrs. Wilson, who generally acted as soon as she had decided, followed him. As their conversations were known often to relate to the little offices of charity in which they both delighted, the movement excited no surprise, and she entered the library with the doctor uninterrupted.
"Doctor," said Mrs. Wilson, impatient to proceed to the point, "you know my maxim, prevention is better than cure, This young friend of yours is very interesting."
"Do you feel yourself in danger?" said the rector, smiling.
"Not very imminent," replied the lady, laughing good-naturedly. Seating herself, she continued, "Who is he? and who was his father, if I may ask?"
"George Denbigh, madam, both father and son," said the doctor, gravely.
"Ah, doctor, I am almost tempted to wish Frank had been a girl. You know what I wish to learn."
"Put your questions in order, dear madam," said the doctor, in a kind manner, "and they shall be answered."
"So far as I can learn, they are good. His acts, as they have come to my notice, are highly meritorious, and I hope they originated in proper motives. I have seen but little of him of late years, however, and on this head you are nearly as good a judge as myself. His filial piety," said the doctor, dashing a tear from his eye, and speaking with fervor, "was lovely."
"His temper—his disposition?"
"His temper is under great command, although naturally ardent; his disposition eminently benevolent towards his fellow-creatures."
"Suitable," said the doctor, gravely.
His fortune was of but little moment. Emily would be amply provided, for all the customary necessaries of her station; and, thanking the divine, Mrs. Wilson returned to the parlor, easy in mind, and determined to let things take their own course for a time, but in no degree to relax the vigilance of her observation.
On her return to the room, Mrs. Wilson observed Denbigh approach Egerton, and enter into conversation of a general nature. It was the first time anything more than unavoidable courtesies had passed between them. The colonel appeared slightly uneasy under his novel situation, while, on the other hand, his companion showed an anxiety to be on a more friendly footing than heretofore. There was something mysterious in the feelings manifested by both these gentlemen that greatly puzzled the good lady; and from its complexion, she feared one or the other was not entirely free from censure. It could not have been a quarrel, or their names would have been familiar, to each other. They had both served in Spain, she knew, and excesses were often committed by gentlemen at a distance from home their pride would have prevented where they were anxious to maintain a character. Gambling, and a few other prominent vices, floated through her imagination, until, wearied of conjectures where she had no data, and supposing, after all, it might be only her imagination, the turned to more pleasant reflections.
The bright eyes of Emily Moseley unconsciously wandered round the brilliant assemblage at Mr. Haughton's, as she took her seat, in search of her partner. The rooms were filled with scarlet coats, and belles from the little town of F——; and if the company were not the most select imaginable, it was disposed to enjoy the passing moment cheerfully and in lightness of heart. Ere, however, she could make out to scan the countenances of the men, young Jarvis, decked in the full robes of his dignity, as captain in the ——th foot, approached and solicited the honor of her hand. The colonel had already secured her sister, and it was by the instigation of his friend, Jarvis had been thus early in his application. Emily thanked him, and pleaded her engagement. The mortified youth, who had thought dancing with the ladies a favor conferred on them, from the anxiety his sister always manifested to get partners, stood for a few moments in sullen silence; and then, as if to be revenged on the sex, he determined not to dance the whole evening. Accordingly, he withdrew to a room appropriated to the gentlemen, where he found a few of the military beaux, keeping alive the stimulus they had brought with them from the mess-table.
Clara had prudently decided to comport herself as became a clergyman's wife, and she declined dancing altogether. Catherine Chatterton was entitled to open the ball, as superior in years and rank to any who were disposed to enjoy the amusement. The dowager, who in her heart loved to show her airs upon such occasions, had chosen to be later than the rest of the family; and Lucy had to entreat her father to have patience more than once during the interregnum in their sports created by Lady Chatterton's fashion. This lady at length appeared, attended by her son, and followed by her daughters, ornamented in all the taste of the reigning fashions Doctor Ives and his wife, who came late from choice, soon appeared, accompanied by their guest, and the dancing commenced, Denbigh had thrown aside his black for the evening, and as he approached to claim her promised hand, Emily thought him, if not as handsome, much more interesting than Colonel Egerton, who just then passed them while leading her sister to the set. Emily danced beautifully, but perfectly like a lady, as did Jane; but Denbigh, although graceful in his movements and in time, knew but little of the art; and but for the assistance of his partner, he would have more than once gone wrong in the figure. He very gravely asked her opinion of his performance as he handed her to a chair, and she laughingly told him his movements were but a better sort of march. He was about to reply, when Jarvis approached. By the aid of a pint of wine and his own reflections, the youth wrought himself into something of a passion, especially as he saw Denbigh enter, after Emily had declined dancing with himself. There was a gentleman in the corps who unfortunately was addicted to the bottle, and he had fastened on Jarvis as a man at leisure to keep him company. Wine openeth the heart, and the captain having taken a peep at the dancers, and seen the disposition of affairs, returned to his bottle companion, bursting with the indignity offered to his person. He dropped a hint, and a question or two brought the whole grievance forth.
There is a certain set of men in every service who imbibe extravagant notions that are revolting to humanity, and which too often prove to be fatal in their results. Their morals are never correct, and the little they have set loosely about them. In their own cases, their appeals to arms are not always so prompt; but in that of their friends, their perceptions of honor are intuitively keen, and their inflexibility in preserving it from reproach unbending; and such is the weakness of mankind, their "tenderness on points where the nicer feelings of a soldier are involved, that these machines of custom, these thermometers graduated to the scale of false honor, usurp the place of reason and benevolence, and become too often the arbiters of life and death to a whole corps. Such, then, was the confidant to whom Jarvis communicated the cause of his disgust, and the consequences may easily be imagined. As he passed Emily and Denbigh, he threw a look of fierceness at the latter, which he meant as an indication of his hostile intentions. It was lost on his rival, who at that moment was filled with passions of a very different kind from those which Captain Jarvis thought agitated his own bosom; for had his new friend let him alone, the captain would have gone quietly home and gone to sleep.
"Have you ever fought?" said Captain Digby coolly to his companion, as they seated themselves in his father's parlor, whither they had retired to make their arrangements for the following morning.
"Yes," said Jarvis, with a stupid look, "I fought once with Tom Halliday at school."
"At school! My dear friend, you commenced young indeed," said Digby, helping himself to another glass. "And how did it end?"
"Oh! Tom got the better, and so I cried enough," said Jarvis, surlily.
"Enough! I hope you did not flinch," eyeing him keenly "Where were you hit?"
"He hit me all over."
"All over! The d—-l! Did you use small shot? How did you fight?"
"With fists," said Jarvis, yawning.
His companion, seeing how matters were, rang for his servant to put him to bed, remaining himself an hour longer to finish the bottle.
Soon after Jarvis had given Denbigh the look big with his intended vengeance, Colonel Egerton approached Emily, asking permission to present Sir Herbert Nicholson, the lieutenant-colonel of the regiment, and a gentleman who was ambitious of the honor of her acquaintance; a particular friend of his own. Emily gracefully bowed her assent. Soon after, turning her eyes on Denbigh, who had been speaking to her at the moment, she saw him looking intently on the two soldiers, who were making their way through the crowd to the place where she sat. He stammered, said something she could not understand, and precipitately withdrew; and although both she and her aunt sought his figure in the gay throng that flitted around them, he was seen no more that evening.
"Are you acquainted with Mr. Denbigh?" said Emily to her partner, after looking in vain to find his person in the crowd.
"Denbigh! Denbigh! I have known one or two of that name" replied the gentleman. "In the army there are several."
"Yes," said Emily, musing, "he is in the army;" and looking up, she saw her companion reading her countenance with an expression that brought the color to her cheeks with a glow that was painful. Sir Herbert smiled, and observed that the room was warm. Emily acquiesced in the remark, for the first time in her life conscious of a feeling she was ashamed to have scrutinized, and glad of any excuse to hide her confusion.
"Grace Chatterton is really beautiful to-night," whispered John Moseley to his sister Clara. "I have a mind to ask her to dance."
"Do, John." replied his sister, looking with pleasure on her beautiful cousin, who, observing the movements of John as he drew near where she sat, moved her face on each side rapidly, in search of some one who was apparently not to be found. Her breathing became sensibly quicker, and John was on the point of speaking to her as the dowager stepped in between them. There is nothing so flattering to the vanity of a man as the discovery of emotions in a young woman excited by himself, and which the party evidently wishes to conceal; there is nothing so touching, so sure to captivate; or, if it seem to be affected, so sure to disgust.
"Now, Mr. Moseley," cried the mother, "you shall not ask Grace to dance! She can refuse you nothing, and she has been up the last two figures."
"Your wishes are irresistible, Lady Chatterton," said John, coolly turning on his heel. On gaining the other side of the room, he turned to reconnoitre the scene. The dowager was fanning herself as violently as if she had been up the last two figures instead of her daughter, while Grace sat with her eyes fastened on the floor, paler than usual. "Grace," thought the young man, "would be very handsome—very sweet—very—very everything that is agreeable, if—if it were not for Mother Chatterton." He then led out one of the prettiest girls in the room.
Col. Egerton was peculiarly fitted to shine in a ball room. He danced gracefully and with spirit; was perfectly at home with all the usages of the best society, and was never neglectful of any of those little courtesies which have their charm for the moment; and Jane Moseley, who saw all those she loved around her, apparently as happy as herself, found in her judgment or the convictions of her principles, no counterpoise against the weight of such attractions, all centred as it were in one effort to please herself. His flattery was deep for it was respectful—his tastes were her tastes—his opinions her opinions. On the formation of their acquaintance they differed on some trifling point of poetical criticism, and for near a month the colonel had maintained his opinion with a show of firmness; but opportunities not wanting for the discussion, he had felt constrained to yield to her better judgment, her purer taste. The conquest of Colonel Egerton was complete, and Jane who saw in his attentions the submission of a devoted heart, began to look forward to the moment with trembling that was to remove the thin barrier that existed between the adulation of the eyes and the most delicate assiduity to please, and the open confidence of declared love. Jane Moseley had a heart to love, and to love strongly; her danger existed in her imagination: it was brilliant, unchastened by her judgment, we had almost said unfettered by her principles. Principles such as are found in every-day maxims and rules of conduct sufficient to restrain her within the bounds of perfect decorum she was furnished with in abundance; but to that principle which was to teach her submission in opposition to her wishes, to that principle that could alone afford her security against the treachery of her own passions, she was an utter stranger.
The family of Sir Edward were, among the first to retire, and as the Chattertons had their own carriage, Mrs. Wilson and her charge returned alone in the coach of the former. Emily, who had been rather out of spirits the latter-part of the evening, broke the silence by suddenly observing,
"Colonel Egerton is, or soon will be, a perfect hero!"
Her aunt somewhat surprised, both with the abruptness and with the strength of the remark, inquired her meaning.
"Oh, Jane will make him one, whether or not."
This was spoken with an air of vexation which she was unused to, and Mrs. Wilson gravely corrected her for speaking in a disrespectful manner of her sister, one whom neither her years nor-situation entitled her in any measure to advise or control. There was an impropriety in judging so near and dear a relation harshly, even in thought. Emily pressed the hand of her aunt and tremulously acknowledged her error; but she added, that she felt a momentary irritation at the idea of a man of Colonel Egerton's character gaining the command over feelings such as her sister possessed. Mrs. Wilson kissed the cheek of her niece, while she inwardly acknowledged the probable truth of the very remark she had thought it her duty to censure. That the imagination of Jane would supply her lover with those qualities she most honored herself, she believed was taken as a matter of course; and that when the veil she had helped to throw before her own eyes was removed, she would cease to respect, and of course cease to love him, when too late to remedy the evil, she greatly feared. But in the approaching fate of Jane she saw new cause to call forth her own activity.
Emily Moseley had just completed her eighteenth year, and was gifted by nature with a vivacity and ardency of feeling that gave a heightened zest to the enjoyments of that happy age. She was artless but intelligent; cheerful, with a deep conviction of the necessity of piety; and uniform in her practice of all the important duties. The unwearied exertions of her aunt, aided by her own quickness of perception, had made her familiar with the attainments suitable to her sex and years. For music she had no taste, and the time which would have been thrown away in endeavoring to cultivate a talent she did not possess, was dedicated under the discreet guidance of her aunt, to works which had a tendency both to qualify her for the duties of this life, and fit her for that which comes hereafter. It might be said Emily Moseley had never read a book that contained a sentiment or inculcated an opinion improper for her sex or dangerous to her morals; and it was not difficult for those who knew the fact, to fancy they could perceive the consequences in her guileless countenance and innocent deportment. Her looks—her actions—her thoughts, wore as much of nature as the discipline of her well-regulated mind and softened manners could admit. In person she was of the middle size, exquisitely formed, graceful and elastic in her step, without, however, the least departure from her natural movements; her eye was a dark blue, with an expression of joy and intelligence; at times it seemed all soul, and again all heart; her color was rather high, but it varied with every emotion of her bosom; her feelings were strong, ardent, and devoted to those she loved. Her preceptress had never found it necessary to repeat an admonition of any kind, since her arrival at years to discriminate between the right and the wrong.
"I wish," said Doctor Ives to his wife, the evening his son had asked their permission to address Clara, "Francis had chosen my little Emily."
"Clara is a good girl," replied his wife; "she is so mild, so affectionate, that I doubt not she will make him happy—Frank might have done worse at the Hall."
"For himself he has done well, I hope," said the father, "a young woman of Clara's heart may make any man happy but a union with purity, sense, principles, like those of Emily would be more—it would be blissful."
Mrs. Ives smiled at her husband's animation. "You remind me more of the romantic youth I once knew than of the grave divine. There is but one man I know that I could wish to give Emily to; it is Lumley. If Lumley sees her, he will woo her; and if he wooes, he will win her."
"And Lumley I believe to be worthy of her," cried the rector, now taking up a candle to retire for the night.
The following day brought a large party of the military elegants to the Hall, in acceptance of the baronet's hospitable invitation to dinner. Lady Moseley was delighted; so long as her husband's or her children's interest had demanded a sacrifice of her love of society it had been made without a sigh, almost without a thought. The ties of affinity in her were sacred; and to the happiness, the comfort of those in which she felt an interest, there were few sacrifices of her own propensities she would not cheerfully have made: it was this very love of her offspring that made her anxious to dispose of her daughters in wedlock. Her own marriage had been so happy, that she naturally concluded it the state most likely to ensure the happiness of her children; and with Lady Moseley, as with thousands of others, who averse or unequal to the labors of investigation, jump to conclusions over the long line of connecting reasons, marriage was marriage, a husband was a husband. It is true there were certain indispensables, without which the formation of a connexion was a thing she considered not within the bounds of nature. There must be fitness in fortune, in condition, in education, and manners; there must be no glaring evil, although she did not ask for positive good. A professor of religion herself, had any one told her it was a duty of her calling to guard against a connexion with any but a Christian for her girls, she would have wondered at the ignorance that would embarrass the married state, with feelings exclusively belonging to the individual. Had any one told her it were possible to give her child to any but a gentleman, she would have wondered at the want of feeling that could devote the softness of Jane or Emily, to the association with rudeness or vulgarity. It was the misfortune of Lady Moseley to limit her views of marriage to the scene of this life, forgetful that every union gives existence to a long line of immortal beings, whose future welfare depends greatly on the force of early examples, or the strength of early impressions.
The necessity for restriction in their expenditures had ceased, and the baronet and his wife greatly enjoyed the first opportunity their secluded situation had given them, to draw around their board their fellow-creatures of their own stamp. In the former, it was pure philanthropy; the same feeling urged him to seek out and relieve distress in humble life; while in the latter it was love of station and seemliness. It was becoming the owner of Moseley Hall, and it was what the daughters of the Benfield family had done since the conquest.
"I am extremely sorry," said the good baronet at dinner, "Mr. Denbigh declined our invitation to-day; I hope he will yet ride over in the evening."
Looks of a singular import were exchanged between Colonel Egerton and Sir Herbert Nicholson, at the mention of Denbigh's name; which, as the latter had just asked the favor of taking wine with Mrs. Wilson, did not escape her notice. Emily had innocently mentioned his precipitate retreat the night before; and he had, when reminded of his engagement to dine with them that very day, and promised an introduction to Sir Herbert Nicholson by John, in her presence, suddenly excused himself and withdrawn. With an indefinite suspicion of something wrong, she ventured, therefore, to address Sir Herbert Nicholson.
"Did you know Mr. Denbigh, in Spain?"
"I told Miss Emily Moseley, I believe, last evening, that I knew some of the name," replied the gentleman evasively; then pausing a moment, he added with great emphasis, "there is a circumstance connected with one of that name, I shall ever remember."
"It was creditable, no doubt, Sir Herbert," cried young Jarvis, sarcastically. The soldier affected not to hear the question, and asked Jane to take wine with him. Lord Chatterton, however, putting his knife and fork down gravely, and with a glow of animation, observed with unusual spirit,
"I have no doubt it was, sir."
Jarvis in his turn, affected not to hear this speech, and nothing farther was said, as Sir Edward saw that the name of Mr. Denbigh excited a sensation amongst his guests for which he was unable to account, and which he soon forgot himself.
After the company had retired, Lord Chatterton, however, related to the astonished and indignant family of the baronet the substance of the following scene, of which he had been a witness that morning, while on a visit to Denbigh at the rectory. They had been sitting in the parlor by themselves, over their breakfast, when a Captain Digby was announced.
"I have the honor of waiting upon you, Mr. Denbigh," said the soldier, with the stiff formality of a professed duellist, "on behalf of Captain Jarvis, but will postpone my business until you are at leisure," glancing his eye on Chatterton.
"I know of no business with Captain Jarvis," said Denbigh, politely handing the stranger a chair, "to which Lord Chatterton cannot be privy; if he will excuse the interruption. The nobleman bowed, and Captain Digby, a little awed by the rank of Denbigh's friend, proceeded in a more measured manner.
"Captain Jarvis has empowered me, sir, to make any arrangement with yourself or friend, previously to your meeting, which he hopes may be as soon as possible, if convenient to yourself," replied the soldier, coolly.
Denbigh viewed him for a moment with astonishment, in silence; when recollecting himself, he said mildly, and without the least agitation, "I cannot affect, sir, not to understand your meaning, but am at a loss to imagine what act of mine can have made Mr. Jarvis wish to make such an appeal."
"Surely Mr. Denbigh cannot think a man of Captain Jarvis's spirit can quietly submit to the indignity put upon him last evening, by your dancing with Miss Moseley, after she had declined the honor to himself," said the captain, affecting an incredulous smile. "My Lord Chatterton and myself can easily settle the preliminaries, as Captain Jarvis is much disposed to consult your wishes, sir, in this affair."
"If he consults my wishes," said Denbigh, smiling, "he will think no more about it."
"At what time, sir, will it be convenient to give him the meeting?" then, speaking with a kind of bravado gentlemen of his cast are fond of assuming, "my friend would not hurry any settlement of your affairs."
"I can never meet Captain Jarvis with hostile intentions," replied Denbigh, calmly.
"I decline the combat, sir," said Denbigh, with more firmness.
"Your reasons, sir, if you please?" asked Captain Digby compressing his lips, and drawing up with an air of personal interest.
"Surely," cried Chatterton, who had with difficulty estrained his feelings, "surely Mr. Denbigh could never so far forget himself as cruelly' to expose Miss Moseley by accepting this invitation."
"Your reason, my lord," said Denbigh, with interest, "would at all times have its weight; but I wish not to qualify an act of what I conceive to be principle by any lesser consideration. I cannot meet Captain Jarvis, or any other man, in private combat. There can exist no necessity for an appeal to arms in any society where the laws rule, and I am averse to bloodshed."
"Very extraordinary," muttered Captain Digby, somewhat at a loss how to act; but the calm and collected manner of Denbigh prevented a reply; and after declining a cup of tea, a liquor he never drank, he withdrew, saying he would acquaint his friend with Mr. Denbigh's singular notions.
Captain Digby had left Jarvis at an inn, about half a mile from the rectory, for the convenience of receiving early information of the result of his conference. The young man had walked up and down the room during Digby's absence, in a train of reflections entirely new to him. He was the only son of his aged father and mother, the protector of his sisters, and, he might say, the sole hope of a rising family; and then, possibly, Denbigh might not have meant to offend him—he might even have been engaged before they came to the house; or if not, it might have been inadvertence on the part of Miss Moseley. That Denbigh would offer some explanation he believed, and he had fully made up his mind to accept it, let it be what it might, as his fighting friend entered.
"Well," said Jarvis, in a tone that denoted anything but a consciousness that all was well.
"He says he will not meet you," dryly exclaimed his friend, throwing himself into a chair, and ordering a glass of randy and water.
"Not meet me!" exclaimed Jarvis, in surprise. "Engaged, perhaps?"
"Engaged to his d—d conscience."
"To his conscience! I do not know whether I rightly understand you, Captain Digby," said Jarvis, catching his breath, and raising his voice a very little.
"Then, Captain Jarvis," said his friend, tossing off his brandy, and speaking with great deliberation, "he says that nothing—understand me—nothing will ever make him fight a duel."
"He will not!" cried Jarvis, in a loud voice.
"No, he will not," said Digby, handing his glass to the waiter for a fresh supply.
"He shall, by——!"
"I don't know how you will make him."
"Make him! I'll—I'll post him."
"Never do that," said the captain, turning to him, as he leaned his elbows on the table. "It only makes both parties ridiculous. But I'll tell you what you may do. There's a Lord Chatterton who takes the matter up with warmth. If I were not afraid of his interests hurting my promotion, I should have resented something that fell from him myself. He will fight, I dare say, and I'll just return and require an explanation of his words on your behalf."
"No, no," said Jarvis, rather hastily; "he—he is related to the Moseleys, and I have views there it might injure."
"Did you think to forward your views by making the young lady the subject of a duel?" asked Captain Digby sarcastically, and eyeing his companion with contempt.
"Yes, yes," said Jarvis; "it would certainly hurt my views."
"Here's to the health of His Majesty's gallant —— regiment of foot!" cried Captain Digby, in a tone of irony, when three-quarters drunk, at the mess-table, that evening, "and to its champion, Captain Henry Jarvis!"
One of the corps was present accidentally as a guest; and the following week, the inhabitants of F—— saw the regiment in their barracks, marching to slow time after the body of Horace Digby.
Lord Chatterton, in relating the part of the foregoing circumstances which fell under his observation, did ample justice to the conduct of Denbigh; a degree of liberality which did him no little credit, as he plainly saw in that gentleman he had, or soon would have, a rival in the dearest wish of his heart; and the smiling approbation with which his cousin Emily rewarded him for his candor almost sickened him with apprehension. The ladies were not slow in expressing their disgust at the conduct of Jarvis, or backward in their approval of Denbigh's forbearance. Lady Moseley turned with horror from a picture in which she could see nothing but murder and bloodshed; but both Mrs. Wilson and her niece secretly applauded a sacrifice of worldly feelings on the altar of duty; the former admiring the consistent refusal of admitting any collateral inducements, in explanation of his decision: the latter, while she saw the act in its true colors, could hardly help believing that a regard for her feelings had, in a trifling degree, its influence in inducing him to decline the meeting. Mrs. Wilson saw at once what a hold such unusual conduct would take on the feelings of her niece, and inwardly determined to increase, if possible, the watchfulness she had invariably observed on all he said or did, as likely to elucidate his real character, well knowing that the requisites to bring or to keep happiness in the married state were numerous and indispensable; and that the display of a particular excellence, however good in itself, was by no means conclusive as to character; in short, that we perhaps as often meet with a favorite principle as with a besetting sin.
Sir Edward Moseley had some difficulty in restraining the impetuosity of his son, who was disposed to resent this impertinent interference of young Jarvis with the conduct of his favorite sister; indeed, the young man only yielded to his profound respect to his father's commands, aided by a strong representation on the part of his sister of the disagreeable consequences of connecting her name with such a quarrel. It was seldom the good baronet felt himself called on to act as decidedly as on the present occasion. He spoke to the merchant in warm, but gentleman-like terms, of the consequences which might have resulted to his own child from the intemperate act of his son; exculpated Emily entirely from censure, by explaining her engagement to dance with Denbigh, previously to Captain Jarvis's application; and hinted the necessity, if the affair was not amicably terminated, of protecting the peace of mind of his daughters against any similar exposures, by declining the acquaintance of a neighbor he respected as much as Mr. Jarvis.
The merchant was a man of few words, but of great promptitude. He had made his fortune, and more than once saved it, by his decision; and assuring the baronet he should hear no more of it, he took his hat and hurried home from the village, where the conversation passed. On arriving at his own house, he found the family collected in the parlor for a morning ride, and throwing himself into a chair, he broke out on the whole party with great violence.
"So, Mrs. Jarvis," he cried, "you would spoil a very tolerable book-keeper, by wishing to have a soldier in your family; and there stands the puppy who would have blown out the brains of a deserving young man, if the good sense of Mr. Denbigh had not denied him the opportunity."
"Mercy!" cried the alarmed matron, on whom Newgate (for her early life had been passed near its walls), with all its horrors, floated, and a contemplation of its punishments had been her juvenile lessons of morality—"Harry! Harry! would you commit murder?"
"Murder!" echoed her son, looking askance, as if dodging the bailiffs. "No, mother; I wanted nothing but what was fair. Mr. Denbigh would have had an equal chance to blow out my brains; I am sure everything would have been fair."
"Equal chance!" muttered his father, who had cooled himself, in some measure, by an extra pinch of snuff. "No, sir, you have no brains to lose. But I have promised Sir Edward that you shall make proper apologies to himself, to his daughter, and to Mr. Denbigh." This was rather exceeding the truth, but the alderman prided himself on performing rather more than he promised.
"Apology!" exclaimed the captain. "Why, sir, the apology is due to me. Ask Colonel Egerton if he ever heard of apologies being made by the challenger."
"No, sure," said the mother, who, having made out the truth of the matter, thought it was likely enough to be creditable to her child; "Colonel Egerton never heard of such a thing. Did you, colonel?"
"Why, madam," said the colonel, hesitatingly, and politely handing the merchant his snuff-box, which, in his agitation, had fallen on the floor, "circumstances sometimes justify a departure from ordinary measures. You are certainly right as a rule; but not knowing the particulars in the present case, it is difficult for me to decide. Miss Jarvis, the tilbury is ready."
The colonel bowed respectfully to the merchant, kissed his hand to his wife, and led their daughter to his carriage.
"Do you make the apologies?" asked Mr. Jarvis, as the door closed.
"No, sir," replied the captain, sullenly
"Then you must make your pay answer for the next sit months," cried the father, taking a signed draft on his banker from his pocket, coolly tearing it in two pieces, carefully putting the name in his mouth, and chewing it into a ball.
"Why, alderman," said his wife (a name she never used unless she had something to gain from her spouse, who loved to hear the appellation after he had relinquished the office), "it appears to me that Harry has shown nothing but a proper spirit. You are unkind—indeed you are."
"A proper spirit? In what way? Do you know anything of the matter?"
"It is a proper spirit for a soldier to fight, I suppose," said the wife, a little at a loss to explain.
"Spirit, or no spirit, apology, or ten and sixpence."
"Harry," said his mother, holding up her finger in a menacing attitude, as soon as her husband had left the room (for he had last spoken with the door in his hand), "if you do beg his pardon, you are no son of mine."
"No," cried Miss Sarah, "nor any brother of mine. I would be insufferably mean."
"Who will pay my debts?" asked the son, looking up at the ceiling.
"Why, I would, my child, if—if—I had not spent my own allowance."
"I would," echoed the sister; "but if we go to Bath, you know, I shall want all my money."
"Who will pay my debts?" repeated the son.
"Apology, indeed! Who is he, that you, a son of Alderman—of—Mr. Jarvis, of the deanery, B——, North 'amptonshire, should beg his pardon—a vagrant that nobody knows!"
"Who will pay my debts?" again inquired the captain drumming with his foot."
"Harry," exclaimed the mother, "do you love money better than honor—a soldier's honor?"
"No, mother; but I like good eating and drinking. Think mother; it's a cool five hundred, and that's a famous deal of money."
"Harry," cried the mother, in a rage, "you are not fit for a soldier. I wish I were in your place."
"I wish, with all my heart, you had been for an hour this morning," thought the son. After arguing for some time longer, they compromised, by agreeing to leave it to the decision of Colonel Egerton, who, the mother did not doubt, would applaud her maintaining; the Jarvis dignity, a family in which he took quite as much interest as he felt for his own—so he had told her fifty times. The captain, however, determined within himself to touch the five hundred, let the colonel decide as he might; but the colonel's decision obviated all difficulties. The question was put to him by Mrs. Jarvis, on his return from the airing, with no doubt the decision would be favorable to her opinion. The colonel and herself, she said, never disagreed; and the lady was right—for wherever his interest made it desirable to convert Mrs. Jarvis to his side of the question, Egerton had a manner of doing it that never failed to succeed.
"Why, madam," said he, with one of his most agreeable smiles, "apologies are different things, at different times. You are certainly right in your sentiments, as relates to a proper spirit in a soldier; but no one can doubt the spirit of the captain, after the stand he took in this affair; if Mr. Denbigh would not meet him (a very extraordinary measure, in deed, I confess), what can your son do more? He cannot make a man fight against his will, you know."
"True, true," cried the matron, impatiently, "I do not want him to fight; heaven forbid! but why should he, the challenger, beg pardon? I am sure, to have the thing regular, Mr. Denbigh is the one to ask forgiveness."
The colonel felt at a little loss how to reply, when Jarvis, in whom the thoughts of the five hundred pounds had worked a revolution, exclaimed—
"You know, mother, I accused him—that is, I suspected him of dancing with Miss Moseley against my right to her; now you find that it was all a mistake, and so I had better act with dignity, and confess my error."
"Oh, by all means," cried the colonel, who saw the danger of an embarrassing rupture between the families, otherwise: "delicacy to your sex particularly requires that, ma'am, from your son;" and he accidentally dropped a letter as he spoke.
"From Sir Edgar, colonel?" asked Mrs. Jarvis, as he stooped to pick it up.
"From Sir Edgar, ma'am, and he begs to be remembered to yourself and all of your amiable family."
Mrs. Jarvis inclined her body, in what she intended for a graceful bend, and sighed—a casual observer might have thought, with maternal anxiety for the reputation of her child—but it was conjugal regret, that the political obstinacy of the alderman had prevented his carrying up an address, and thus becoming Sir Timothy. Sir Edgar's heir prevailed, and the captain received permission to do what he had done several hours before.
On leaving the room, after the first discussion, and before the appeal, the captain had hastened to his father with his concessions. The old gentleman knew too well the influence of five hundred pounds to doubt the effect in the present in stance, and he had ordered his carriage for the excursion It came, and to the hall they proceeded. The captain found his intended antagonist, and in a rather uncouth manner, he made the required concession. He was restored to his former favor—no great distinction—and his visits to the hall were suffered, but with a dislike Emily could never conquer, nor at all times conceal.
Denbigh was occupied with a book, when Jarvis commenced his speech to the baronet and his daughter, and was apparently too much engaged with its contents, to understand what was going on, as the captain blundered through. It was necessary, the captain saw by a glance of his father's eyes, to say something to that gentleman, who had delicately withdrawn to a distant window. His speech was consequently made here too, and Mrs. Wilson could not avoid stealing a look at them. Denbigh smiled, and bowed in silence. It is enough, thought the widow; the offence was not against him, it was against his Maker; he should not arrogate to himself, in any manner, the right to forgive, or to require apologies—the whole is consistent. The subject was never afterwards alluded to: Denbigh appeared to have forgotten it; and Jane sighed gently, as she devoutly hoped the colonel was not a duellist.
Several days passed before the deanery ladies could sufficiently forgive the indignity their family had sustained, to resume the customary intercourse. Like all other grievances, where the passions are chiefly interested, it was forgotten in time, however, and things were put in some measure on their former footing. The death of Digby served to increase the horror of the Moseleys, and Jarvis himself felt rather uncomfortable, on more accounts than one, at the fatal termination of the unpleasant business.
Chatterton, who to his friends had not hesitated to avow his attachment to his cousin, but who had never proposed for her, as his present views and fortune were not, in his estimation, sufficient for her proper support, had pushed every interest he possessed, and left no steps unattempted an honorable man could resort to, to effect his object. The desire to provide for his sisters had been backed by the ardor of a passion that had reached its crisis; and the young peer who could not, in the present state of things, abandon the field to a rival so formidable as Denbigh, even to further his views to preferment, was waiting in anxious suspense the decision on his application. A letter from his friend informed him, his opponent was likely to succeed; that, in short, all hopes of success had left him. Chatterton was in despair. On the following day, however, he received a second letter from the same friend, unexpectedly announcing his appointment. After mentioning the fact, he went on to say—"The cause of this sudden revolution in your favor is unknown to me, and unless your lordship has obtained interest I am ignorant of, it is one of the most singular instances of ministerial caprice I have ever known." Chatterton was as much at a loss as his friend, to understand the affair; but it mattered not; he could now offer to Emily—it was a patent office of great value, and a few years would amply portion his sisters. That very day, therefore, he proposed, and was refused.
Emily had a difficult task to avoid self-reproach, in regulating her deportment on this occasion. She was fond of Chatterton as a relation—as her brother's friend—as the brother of Grace, and even on his own account; but it was the fondness of a sister. His manner—his words, which, although never addressed to herself, were sometimes overheard unintentionally, and sometimes reached her through her sisters, had left her in no doubt of his attachment; she was excessively grieved at the discovery, and had innocently appealed to her aunt for directions how to proceed. Of his intentions she had no doubt, but at the same time he had not put her in a situation to dispel his hopes; as to encouragement, in the usual meaning of the term, she gave none to him, nor to any one else. There are no little attentions that lovers are fond of showing to their mistresses, and which mistresses are fond of receiving, that Emily ever permitted to any gentleman—no rides—no walks—no tete-a-tetes. Always natural and unaffected, there was a simple dignity about her that forbade the request, almost the thought, in the gentlemen of her acquaintance: she had no amusements, no pleasures of any kind in which her sisters were not her companions; and if anything was on the carpet that required an attendant, John was ever ready. He was devoted to her; the decided preference she gave him over every other man, upon such occasions, flattered his affection; and he would, at any time, leave even Grace Chatterton to attend his sister. All this too was without affectation, and generally without notice. Emily so looked the delicacy and reserve she acted with so little ostentation that not even her own sex had affixed to her conduct the epithet of squeamish; it was difficult, therefore, for her to do anything which would show Lord Chatterton her disinclination to his suit, without assuming a dislike she did not feel, or giving him slights that neither good breeding nor good nature could justify. At one time, indeed, she had expressed a wish to return to Clara; but this Mrs. Wilson thought would only protract the evil, and she was compelled to wait his own time. The peer himself did not rejoice more in his ability to make the offer, therefore, than Emily did to have it in her power to decline it. Her rejection was firm and unqualified, but uttered with a grace and a tenderness to his feelings, that bound her lover tighter than ever in her chains, and he resolved on immediate flight as his only recourse.
"I hope nothing unpleasant has occurred to Lord Chatterton," said Denbigh, with great interest, as he reached the spot where the young peer stood leaning his head against a tree, on his way from the rectory to the hall.
Chatterton raised his face as he spoke: there were evident traces of tears on it, and Denbigh, greatly shocked, was about to proceed as the other caught his arm.
"Mr. Denbigh," said the young man, in a voice almost choked with emotion, "may you never know the pain I have felt this morning. Emily—Emily Moseley—is lost to me—for ever."
For a moment the blood rushed to the face of Denbigh, and his eyes flashed with a look that Chatterton could not stand. He turned, as the voice of Denbigh, in those remarkable tones which distinguished it from every other voice he had ever heard, uttered—
"Chatterton, my lord, we are friends, I hope—I wish it; from my heart."
"Go, Mr. Denbigh—go. You were going to Miss Moseley—do not let me detain you."
"I am going with you, Lord Chatterton, unless you forbid it," said Denbigh, with emphasis, slipping his arm through that of the peer.
For two hours they walked together in the park; and when they appeared at dinner, Emily wondered why Mr. Denbigh had taken a seat next to her mother, instead of his usual place between herself and her aunt. In the evening, he announced his intention of leaving B—— for a short time with Lord Chatterton. They were going to London together; but he hoped to return within ten days. This sudden determination caused some surprise; but, as the dowager supposed it was to secure the new situation, and the remainder of their friends thought it might be business, it was soon forgotten, though much regretted for the time. The gentlemen left the hall that night to proceed to an inn, from which they could obtain a chaise and horses; and the following morning, when the baronet's family assembled around their social breakfast, they were many miles on the road to the metropolis.
Lady Chatterton, finding that little was to be expected in her present situation, excepting what she looked forward to from the varying admiration of John Moseley to her youngest daughter, determined to accept an invitation of Borne standing to a nobleman's seat about fifty miles from the hall, and, in order to keep things in their proper places, to leave Grace with her friends, who had expressed a wish to that effect. Accordingly, the day succeeding the departure of her son, she proceeded on her expedition, accompanied by her willing assistant in the matrimonial speculations.
Grace Chatterton was by nature retiring and delicate; but her feelings were acute, and on the subject of female propriety sensitive to a degree, that the great want of it in a relation she loved as much as her mother had possibly in some measure increased. Her affections were too single in their objects to have left her long in doubt as to their nature with respect to the baronet's son; and it was one of the most painful orders she had ever received, that which compelled her to accept her cousin's invitation. Her mother was peremptory, however, and Grace was obliged to comply. Every delicate feeling she possessed revolted at the step: the visit itself was unwished for on her part; but there did exist a reason which had reconciled her to that—the wedding of Clara. But now to remain, after all her family had gone, in the house where resided the man who had as yet never solicited those affections she had been unable to withhold, it was humiliating—it was degrading her in her own esteem, and she could scarcely endure it.
It is said that women are fertile in inventions to further their schemes of personal gratification, vanity, or even mischief. It may be it is true; but the writer of these pages is a man—one who has seen much of the other sex, and he is happy to have an opportunity of paying a tribute to female purity and female truth. That there are hearts so disinterested as to lose the considerations of self, in advancing the happiness of those they love; that there are minds so pure as to recoil with disgust from the admission of deception, indelicacy, or management, he knows; for he has seen it from long and close examination. He regrets that the very artlessness of those who are most pure in the one sex, subjects them to the suspicions of the grosser-materials which compose the other He believes that innocency, singleness of heart, ardency of feeling, and unalloyed, shrinking delicacy, sometimes exist in the female bosom, to an extent that but few men are happy enough to discover, and that most men believe incompatible with the frailties of human nature. Grace Chatterton possessed no little of what may almost be called this ethereal spirit and a visit to Bolton parsonage was immediately proposed by her to Emily. The latter, too innocent herself to suspect the motives of her cousin, was happy to be allowed to devote a fortnight to Clara, uninterrupted by the noisy round of visiting and congratulations which had attended her first week; and Mrs. Wilson and the two girls left the hall the same day with the Dowager Lady Chatterton. Francis and Clara were happy to receive them, and they were immediately domesticated in their new abode. Doctor Ives and his wife had postponed an annual visit to a relation of the former on account of the marriage of their son, and they now availed themselves of this visit to perform their own engagement. B—— appeared in some measure deserted, and Egerton had the field almost to himself. Summer had arrived, and the country bloomed in all its luxuriance of vegetation: everything was propitious to the indulgence of the softer passions; and Lady Moseley, ever a strict adherent to forms and decorum, admitted the intercourse between Jane and her admirer to be carried to as great lengths as those forms would justify. Still the colonel was not explicit; and Jane, whose delicacy dreaded the exposure of feelings that was involved in his declaration, gave or sought no marked opportunities for the avowal of his passion. Yet they were seldom separate, and both Sir Edward and his wife looked forward to their future union as a thing not to be doubted. Lady Moseley had given up her youngest child so absolutely to the government of her aunt, that she seldom thought of her future establishment. She had that kind of reposing confidence in Mrs. Wilson's proceedings that feeble minds ever bestow on those who are much superior to them; and she even approved of a system in many respects which she could not endeavor to imitate. Her affection for Emily was not, however, less than what she felt for her other children: she was, in fact, her favorite, and, had the discipline of Mrs. Wilson admitted of so weak an interference, might have been injured as such.
John Moseley had been able to find out exactly the hour they breakfasted at the deanery, the length of time it took Egerton's horses to go the distance between that house and the hall; and on the sixth morning after the departure of his aunt, John's bays were in his phaeton, and allowing ten minutes for the mile and a half to the park gates, John had got happily off his own territories, before he met the tilbury travelling eastward. I am not to know which road the colonel may turn, thought John: and after a few friendly, but rather hasty greetings, the bays were again in full trot to the parsonage.
"John," said Emily, holding out her hand affectionately, and smiling a little archly, as he approached the window where she stood, "you should take a lesson in driving from Frank; you have turned more than one hair, I believe."
"How is Clara?" cried John, hastily, taking the offered hand, with a kiss, "aye, and aunt Wilson?"
"Both well, brother, and out walking this fine morning."
"How happens it you are not with them?" inquired the brother, throwing his eyes round the room. "Have they left you alone?"
"No Grace has this moment left me."
"Well, Emily," said John, taking his seat very composedly, but keeping his eyes on the door, "I have come to dine with you. I thought I owed Clara a visit, and have managed nicely to give the colonel the go-by."
"Clara will be happy to see you, dear John, and so will aunt, and so am I"—as she drew aside his fine hair with her fingers to cool his forehead.
"And why not Grace, too?" asked John, with a look of a little alarm.
"And Grace, too, I fancy—but here she is, to answer for herself."
Grace said little on her entrance, but her eyes were brighter than usual, and she looked so contented and happy that Emily observed to her, in an affectionate manner—
"I knew the eau-de-Cologne would do your head good."
"Is Miss Chatterton unwell?" asked John, with a look of interest.
"A slight headache," said Grace, faintly, "but I feel much better."
"Want of air and exercise: my horses are at the door; phaeton will hold three easily; run, sister, for your hat," almost pushing Emily out of the room as he spoke. In a few; minutes the horses might have been suffering for air, but surely not for exercise.
"I wish," cried John, with impatience, when at the distance of a couple of miles from the parsonage, "that gentleman had driven his gig out of the road."
There was a small group on one side of the road, consisting of a man, a woman, and several children. The owner of the gig had alighted, and was in the act of speaking to them, as the phaeton approached at a great rate.
"John," cried Emily, in terror, "You never can pass—you upset us."
"There is no danger, dear Grace," said the brother, endeavoring to check his horses; he succeeded in part, but not so as to prevent his passing at a spot where the road was very narrow; a wheel hit violently against a stone, and some of his works gave way. The gentleman immediately hastened to his assistance—it was Denbigh.
"Miss Moseley!" cried he, in a voice of the tenderest interest "you are not hurt in the least, I hope."
"No," said Emily, recovering her breath, "only frightened;" and taking his hand, she sprang from the carriage.
Miss Chatterton found courage to wait quietly for the care of John. His "dear Grace," had thrilled on every nerve, and she afterwards often laughed at Emily for her terror when there was so little danger. The horses were not in the least frightened, and after a little mending, John declared all was safe. To ask Emily to enter, the carriage again, was to exact no little sacrifice of her feelings to her reason; and she stood in a suspense that too plainly showed that, the terror she had been in had not left her.
"If," said Denbigh, modestly, "if Mr. Moseley will take the ladies in my gig, I will drive the phaeton to the hall, as it is rather unsafe for so heavy a load."
"No, no, Denbigh," said John, coolly, "you are not used to such mettled nags as mine—it would be indiscreet for you to drive them: if, however, you will be good enough to take Emily into your gig—Grace Chatterton, I am sure, is not afraid to trust my driving, and we might all get back as well as ever."
Grace gave her hand almost unconsciously to John, and he handed her into the phaeton, as Denbigh stood willing to execute his part of the arrangement, but too diffident to speak. It was not a moment for affectation, if Emily had been capable of it, and blushing with the novelty of her situation, she took her place in the gig. Denbigh stopped and turned his eyes on the little group with which he had been talking, and at that moment they caught the attention of John also. The latter inquired after their situation. The tale was a piteous one, the distress evidently real. The husband had been gardener to a gentleman in a neighboring county, and he had been lately discharged, to make way, in the difficulty of the times, for a relation of the steward, who was in want of the place. Suddenly thrown on the world, with a wife and four children, with but the wages of a week for his and their support, they had travelled thus far on the way to a neighboring parish, where he said he had a right to, and must seek, public assistance. The children were crying for hunger, and the mother, who was a nurse, had been unable to walk further than where she sat, but had sunk on the ground overcome with fatigue, and weak from the want of nourishment. Neither Emily nor Grace could refrain from tears at the recital of these heavy woes; the want of sustenance was something so shocking in itself, and brought, as it were, immediately before their eyes, the appeal was irresistible. John forgot his bays—forgot even Grace, as he listened to the affecting story related by the woman, who was much revived by some nutriment Denbigh had obtained from a cottage near them, and to which they were about to proceed by his directions, as Moseley interrupted them. His hand shook, his eyes glistened as he took his purse from his pocket, and gave several guineas from it to the mendicant. Grace thought John had never appeared so handsome as the moment, he banded the money to the gardener; his face glowed with unusual excitement, and his symmetry had lost the only charm he wanted in common, softness. Denbigh, after waiting patiently until Moseley had bestowed his alms, gravely repeated his directions for their proceeding to the cottage, when the carriages moved on.
Emily revolved, in her mind, during their short ride, the horrid distress she had witnessed. It had taken a strong hold on her feelings. Like her brother, she was warm-hearted and compassionate, if we may use the term, to excess; and had she been prepared with the means, the gardener would have reaped a double harvest of donations. It struck her, at the moment, unpleasantly, that Denbigh had been so backward in his liberality. The man had rather sullenly displayed half a crown as his gift, in contrast with the golden shower of John's generosity. It had been even somewhat offensive in its exhibition, and urged her brother to a more hasty departure than, under other circumstances, he would just at the moment have felt disposed to make. Denbigh, however, had taken no notice of the indignity, and continued his directions in the same mild and benevolent manner he had used during the whole interview. Half a crown was but little, thought Emily, for a family that was starving; and, unwilling to judge harshly of one she had begun to value so highly, she came to the painful conclusion, her companion was not as rich as he deserved to be. Emily had not yet to learn that charity was in proportion to the means of the donor, and a gentle wish insensibly stole over her that Denbigh might in some way become more richly endowed with the good things of this world. Until this moment her thoughts had never turned to his temporal condition. She knew he was an officer in the army, but of what rank, or even of what regiment, she was ignorant. He had frequently touched in his conversations on the customs of the different countries he had seen. He had served in Italy, in the north of Europe, in the West Indies, in Spain. Of the manners of the people, of their characters, he not unfrequently spoke, and with a degree of intelligence, a liberality, a justness of discrimination, that had charmed his auditors; but on the point of personal service he had maintained a silence that was inflexible, and not a little surprising—more particularly of that part of his history which related to the latter country; from all which she was rather inclined to think his military rank was not as high as she thought he merited, and that possibly he felt an awkwardness of putting it in contrast with the more elevated station of Colonel Egerton. The same idea had struck the whole family, and prevented any inquiries which might be painful. He was so connected with the mournful event of his father's death, that no questions could be put with propriety to the doctor's family; and if Francis had been more communicative to Clara, she was too good a wife to mention it, and her own family was possessed of too just a sense of propriety to touch upon points that might bring her conjugal fidelity in question.
Though Denbigh appeared a little abstracted during the ride, his questions concerning Sir Edward and her friends kind and affectionate. As they approached the house he suffered his horse to walk, and, after some hesitation, he took a letter from his pocket, and handing it to her, said—
"I hope Miss Moseley will not think me impertinent in becoming the bearer of a letter 'from her cousin, Lord Chatterton. He requested it so earnestly, that I could not refuse taking what I am sensible is a great liberty; for it would be deception did I affect to be ignorant of his admiration, or of his generous treatment of a passion she cannot return. Chatterton," and he smiled mournfully, "is yet too true to cease his commendations."
Emily blushed painfully, but she took the letter in silence; and as Denbigh pursued the topic no further, the little distance they had to go was ridden in silence. On entering the gates, however, he said, inquiringly, and with much interest—
"I sincerely hope I have not given offence to your delicacy, Miss Moseley. Lord Chatterton has made me an unwilling confidant. I need not say the secret is sacred, on more accounts than one."
"Surely not, Mr. Denbigh," replied Emily, in a low tone; and the gig stopping, she hastened to accept the assistance of her brother to alight.
"Well, sister," cried John, laughing, "Denbigh is a disciple to Frank's system of horse-flesh. Hairs smooth enough here, I see. Grace and I thought you would never get home." Now, John fibbed a little, for neither Grace nor he had thought in the least about them, or anything else but each other, from the moment they separated until the gig arrived.
Emily made no reply to this speech, and as the gentlemen were engaged in giving directions concerning their horses, she seized an opportunity to read Chatterton's letter.
"I avail myself of the return of my friend Mr. Denbigh to that happy family from which reason requires my self-banishment to assure my amiable cousin, of my continued respect for her character, and to convince her of my gratitude for the tenderness she has manifested to feelings she cannot return. I may even venture to tell her what few women would be pleased to hear, but what I know Emily Moseley too well to doubt, for a moment, will give her unalloyed pleasure—that owing to the kind, the benevolent, the brotherly attentions of my true friend, Mr. Denbigh, I have already gained a peace of mind and resignation I once thought was lost to me for ever. Ah! Emily, my beloved cousin, in Denbigh you will find, I doubt not, a mind, principles, congenial to your own. It is impossible that he could see you without wishing to possess such a treasure; and, if I have a wish that is now uppermost in my heart, it is, that you may learn to esteem each other as you ought, when, I doubt not, you will become as happy as you both deserve to be. What greater earthly blessing can I implore upon you!
Emily, while reading this epistle, felt a confusion but little inferior to that which would have oppressed her had Denbigh himself been at her feet, soliciting that love Chatterton thought him so worthy of possessing; and when they met, she could hardly look in the face a man who, it would seem, had been so openly selected by another, as the fittest to be her partner for life. The unaltered manner of Denbigh himself, however, soon convinced her that he was entirely ignorant of the contents of the note, and it greatly relieved her from the awkwardness his presence at first occasioned.
Francis soon returned, accompanied by his wife and aunt, and was overjoyed to find the guest who had so unexpectedly arrived. His parents had not yet returned from their visit, and Denbigh, of course, would remain at his present quarters. John promised to continue with them for a couple of days: and everything was soon settled to the perfect satisfaction of the whole party. Mrs. Wilson knew the great danger of suffering young people to be inmates of the same house too well, wantonly to incur the penalties, but her visit had nearly expired, and it might give her a better opportunity of judging Denbigh's character; and Grace Chatterton, though too delicate to follow herself, was well contented to be followed, especially when John Moseley was the pursuer.
"I am sorry, aunt, Mr. Denbigh is not rich," said Emily to Mrs, Wilson, after they had retired in the evening, almost unconscious of what she uttered. The latter looked at her niece in surprise, at a remark so abrupt, and one so very different from the ordinary train of Emily's reflections, as she required an explanation. Emily, slightly coloring at the channel her thoughts had insensibly strayed into, gave her aunt an account of their adventure in the course of the morning's drive, and touched lightly on the difference in the amount of the alms of her brother and those of Mr. Denbigh.
"The bestowal of money is not always an act of charity," observed Mrs. Wilson, gravely, and the subject was dropped: though neither ceased to dwell on it in her thoughts, until sleep closed the eyes of both.
The following day Mrs. Wilson invited Grace and Emily to accompany her in a walk; the gentlemen having preceded them in pursuit of their different avocations. Francis had his regular visits of spiritual consolation; John had gone to the hall for his pointers and fowling-piece, the season for woodcock having arrived; and Denbigh had proceeded no one knew whither. On gaining the high-road, Mrs. Wilson desired her companions to lead the way to the cottage where the family of the mendicant gardener had been lodged, and thither they soon arrived. On knocking at the door, they were immediately admitted to an outer room; in which they found the wife of the laborer who inhabited the building, engaged in her customary morning employments. They explained the motives of the visit, and were told that the family they sought were in an adjoining room, but she rather thought at that moment engaged with a clergyman who had called a quarter of an hour before. "I expect, my lady, it's the new rector, who everybody says is so good to the poor and needy; but I have not found time yet to go to church to hear his reverence preach, ma'am," courtseying and handing the fresh dusted chairs to her unexpected visitors. The ladies seated themselves, too delicate to interrupt Francis in his sacred duties, and were silently waiting his appearance, when a voice was distinctly heard through the thin partition, the first note of which undeceived them as to the character of the gardener's visitor.
"It appears then, Davis, by your own confession," said Denbigh, mildly, but in a tone of reproof, "that your frequent acts of intemperance have at least given ground for the steward's procuring your discharge if it has not justified him in doing that which his duty to your common employer required."
"It is hard, sir," replied the man sullenly, "to be thrown on the world with a family like mine, to make way for a younger man with but one child."
"It may be unfortunate for your wife and children," said Denbigh, "but just, as respects yourself. I have already convinced you, that my interference or reproof is not an empty one: carry the letter to the person to whom it is directed, and I pledge you, you shall have a new trial; and should you conduct yourself soberly, and with propriety, continued and ample support; the second letter will gain you children immediate admission to the school I mentioned; and I now leave you, with an earnest injunction to remember that habits of intemperance not only disqualify you to support those who have such great claims on your protection, but inevitably lead to a loss of those powers which are necessary to insure your own eternal welfare."
"May Heaven bless your honor," cried the woman, with fervor, and evidently in tears, "both for what you have said, and what you have done. Thomas only wants to be taken from temptation, to become a sober man again—an honest one he has ever been, I am sure."
"I have selected a place for him," replied Denbigh "where there is no exposure through improper companions, and everything now depends upon himself, under Providence."
Mrs. Wilson had risen from her chair on the first intimation given by Denbigh of his intention to go, but had paused at the door to listen to this last speech; when beckoning her companions, she hastily withdrew, having first made a small present to the woman of the cottage, and requested her not to mention their having called.
"What becomes now of the comparative charity of your brother and Mr. Denbigh, Emily?" asked Mrs. Wilson, as they gained the road on their return homewards. Emily was not accustomed to hear any act of John slightly spoken of without at least manifesting some emotion, which betrayed her sisterly regard; but on the present occasion she chose to be silent; while Grace, after waiting in expectation that her cousin would speak, ventured to say timidly—
"I am sure, dear madam, Mr. Moseley was very liberal and the tears were in his eyes while he gave the money. I was looking directly at them the whole time."
"John is compassionate by nature," continued Mrs. Wilson with an almost imperceptible smile. "I have no doubt his sympathies were warmly enlisted in behalf of this family and possessing much, he gave liberally. I have no doubt he would have undergone personal privation to have relieved their distress, and endured both pain and labor, with such an excitement before him. But what is all that to the charity of Mr. Denbigh?"
Grace was unused to contend, and, least of all, with Mrs. Wilson; but, unwilling to abandon John to such censure, with increased animation, she said—
"If bestowing freely, and feeling for the distress you relieve, be not commendable, madam, I am sure I am ignorant what is."
"That compassion for the woes of others is beautiful in itself, and the want of it an invariable evidence of corruption from too much, and an ill-governed, intercourse with the world, I am willing to acknowledge, my dear Grace," said Mrs. Wilson, kindly; "but the relief of misery, where the heart has not undergone this hardening ordeal, is only a relief to our own feelings: this is compassion; but Christian charity is a higher order of duty: it enters into every sensation of the heart; disposes us to judge, as well as to act, favorably to our fellow creatures; is deeply seated in the sense of our own unworthiness; keeps a single eye, in its dispensations of temporal benefits, to the everlasting happiness of the objects of its bounty; is consistent, well regulated; in short,"—and Mrs. Wilson's pale cheek glowed with an unusual richness of color—"it is an humble attempt to copy after the heavenly example of our Redeemer, in sacrificing ourselves to the welfare of others, and does and must proceed from a love of his person, and an obedience to his mandates."
"And Mr. Denbigh, aunt," exclaimed Emily, the blood mantling to her cheeks with a sympathetic glow, while she lost all consideration for John in the strength of her feelings, "his charity you think to be of this description?"
"So far, my child, as we can understand motives from the nature of the conduct, such appears to have been the charity of Mr. Denbigh."
Grace was silenced, if not convinced; and the ladies continued their walk, lost in their own reflections, until they reached a bend in the road which hid the cottage from view. Emily involuntarily turned her head as they arrived at the spot, and saw that Denbigh had approached within a few paces of them. On joining them, he commenced his complimentary address in such a way as convinced them the cottager had been true to the injunction given by Mrs. Wilson. No mention was made of the gardener, and Denbigh began a lively description of some foreign scenery, of which their present situation reminded him. The discourse was maintained with great interest by himself and Mrs. Wilson for the remainder of their walk.
It was yet early when they reached the parsonage, where they found John, who had driven to the hall to breakfast, and who, instead of pursuing his favorite amusement of shooting, laid down his gun as they entered, observing, "It is rather soon yet for the woodcocks, and I believe I will listen to your entertaining conversation, ladies, for the remainder of the morning." He threw himself upon a sofa at no great distance from Grace, and in such a position as enabled him, without rudeness, to study the features of her lovely face, while Denbigh read aloud to the ladies Campbell's beautiful description of wedded love, in Gertrude of Wyoming.
There was a chastened correctness in the ordinary manner of Denbigh which wore the appearance of the influence of his reason, and a subjection of the passions, that, if anything, gave him less interest with Emily than had it been marked by an evidence of stronger feeling. But on the present occasion, this objection was removed: his reading was impressive; he dwelt on those passages which most pleased him with a warmth of eulogium fully equal to her own undisguised sensations. In the hour occupied in the reading this exquisite little poem, and in commenting on its merits and sentiments, Denbigh gained more on her imagination than in all their former intercourse. His ideas were as pure, as chastened, and almost as vivid as those of the poet; and Emily listened to his periods with intense attention, as they flowed from him in language as glowing as his ideas. The poem had been first read to her by her brother, and she was surprised to discover how she had overlooked its beauties on that occasion. Even John acknowledged that it certainly appeared a different thing now from what he had then thought it; but Emily had taxed his declamatory power in the height of the pheasant season, and, somehow or other, John now imagined that Gertrude was just such a delicate, feminine, warm-hearted domestic girl as Grace Chatterton. As Denbigh closed the book, and entered into a general conversation with Clara and her sister, John followed Grace to a window, and speaking in a tone of unusual softness for him, he said—
"Do you know, Miss Chatterton, I have accepted your brother's invitation to go into Suffolk this summer, and that you are to be plagued with me and my pointers again?"
"Plagued, Mr. Moseley!" said Grace, in a voice even softer than his own. "I am sure—I am sure, we none of us think you or your dogs in the least a plague."
"Ah! Grace," and John was about to become what he had never been before—sentimental—- when he saw the carriage of Chatterton, containing the dowager and Catherine entering the parsonage gates.
Pshaw! thought John, there comes Mother Chatterton "Ah! Grace," said John, "there are your mother and sister returned already."
"Already!" said the young lady, and, for the first time in her life, she felt rather unlike a dutiful child. Five minutes could have made no great difference to her mother, and she would greatly have liked to hear what John Moseley meant to have said; for the alteration in his manner convinced her that his first "ah! Grace" was to have been continued in a somewhat different language from that in which the second "ah! Grace" was ended.
Young Moseley and her daughter, standing together at the open window, caught the attention of Lady Chatterton the moment she got a view of the house, and she entered with a good humor she had not felt since the disappointment in her late expedition in behalf of Catherine; for the gentleman she had had in view in this excursion had been taken up by another rover, acting on her own account, and backed by a little more wit and a good deal more money than what Kate could be fairly thought to possess. Nothing further in that quarter offering in the way of her occupation, she turned her horses' heads towards London, that great theatre on which there never was a loss for actors. The salutations had hardly passed before, turning to John, she exclaimed, with what she intended for a most motherly smile, "What! not shooting this fine day, Mr. Moseley? I thought you never missed a day in the season."
"It is rather early yet, my lady," said John, coolly, a little alarmed by the expression of her countenance.
"Oh!" continued the dowager, in the same strain, "I see how it is; the ladies have too many attractions for so gallant a young man as yourself." Now, as Grace, her own daughter, was the only lady of the party who could reasonably be supposed to have much influence over John's movements—a young gentleman seldom caring as much for his own as for other people's sisters, this may be fairly set down as a pretty broad hint of the opinion the dowager entertained of the real state of things; and John saw it, and Grace saw it. The former coolly replied, "Why, upon the whole, if you will excuse the neglect, I will try a shot this fine day," In five minutes, Carlo and Rover were both delighted. Grace kept her place at the window, from a feeling she could not define, and of which perhaps she was unconscious, until the gate closed, and the shrubbery hid the sportsman from her sight, and then she withdrew to her room to weep.
Had Grace Chatterton been a particle less delicate—less retiring—blessed with a managing mother, as she was, John Moseley would not have thought another moment about her. But, on every occasion when the dowager made any of her open attacks, Grace discovered so much distress, so much unwillingness to second them, that a suspicion of a confederacy never entered his brain. It is not to be supposed that Lady Chattelton's manoeuvres were limited to the direct and palpable schemes we have mentioned; no—these were the effervescence, the exuberance of her zeal; but as is generally the case, they sufficiently proved the ground-work of all her other machinations; none of the little artifices of such as placing—of leaving alone—of showing similarity of tastes:—of compliments to the gentlemen, were neglected.—This latter business she had contrived to get Catherine to take off her hands; but Grace could never pay a compliment in her life, unless changing of color, trembling, undulations of the bosom, and such natural movements can be so called; but she loved dearly to receive them from John Moseley.
"Well, my child," said the mother, as she seated herself by the side of her daughter, who hastily endeavored to conceal her tears, "when are we to have another wedding? I trust everything is settled between you and Mr. Moseley, by this time."
"Mother! Mother!" said Grace, nearly gasping for breath, "Mother, you will break my heart, indeed you will." She hid her face in the clothes of the bed by which she sat, and wept with a feeling of despair.
"Tut, my dear," replied the dowager, not noticing her anguish, or mistaking it for a girlish shame, "you young people are fools in these matters, but Sir Edward and myself will arrange everything as it should be."
The daughter now not only looked up, but sprang from her seat, her hands clasped together, her eyes fixed in horror, her cheek pale as death; but the mother had retired, and Grace sank back into her chair with a sensation of disgrace, of despair, which could not have been surpassed, had she really merited the obloquy and shame which she thought were about to be heaped upon her.
The succeeding morning, the whole party, with, the exception of Denbigh, returned to the hall. Nothing had occurred out of the ordinary course of the colonel's assiduities; and Jane, whose sense of propriety forbad the indulgence of premeditated tete-a-tetes, and such little accompaniments of every-day attachments, was rejoiced to see a sister she loved, and an aunt she respected, once more in the bosom of her family.
The dowager impatiently waited an opportunity to effect, what she intended for a master-stroke of policy in the disposal of Grace. Like all other managers, she thought no one equal to herself in devising ways and means, and was unwilling to leave anything to nature. Grace had invariably thwarted all her schemes by her obstinacy; and as she thought young Moseley really attached to her, she determined by a bold stroke to remove the impediments of false shame, and the dread of repulse, which she believed alone kept the youth from an avowal of his wishes, and get rid at once of a plague that had annoyed her not a little—her daughter's delicacy.
Sir Edward spent an hour every morning in his library, overlooking his accounts, and in other necessary employments of a similar nature, and it was here she determined to have the conference.
"My Lady Chatterton, you do me honor," said the baronet, handing her a chair on her entrance.
"Upon my word, cousin," cried the dowager, "you have a very convenient apartment here," looking around her in affected admiration of all she saw.
The baronet replied, and a short discourse on the arrangements of the whole house insensibly led to some remarks on the taste of his mother, the Honorable Lady Moseley (a Chatterton), until, having warmed the feelings of the old gentleman by some well-timed compliments of that nature, she ventured on the principal object of her visit.
"I am happy to find, Sir Edward, you are so well pleased with the family as to wish to make another selection from it. I sincerely hope it may prove as judicious as the former one."
Sir Edward was a little at a loss to understand her meaning, although he thought it might allude to his son, who he had some time suspected had views on Grace Chatterton; and willing to know the truth, and rather pleased to find John had selected a young woman he loved in his heart, he observed—
"I am not sure I rightly understand your ladyship, though I hope I do."
"No!" cried the dowager, in well-counterfeited affectation of surprise. "Perhaps, after all, maternal anxiety has deceived me, then. Mr. Moseley could hardly have ventured to proceed without your approbation."
"I have ever declined influencing any of my children, Lady Chatterton," said the baronet, "and John is not ignorant of my sentiments. I sincerely hope, however, you allude to an attachment to Grace?"
"I did certainly, Sir Edward," said the lady, hesitatingly "I may be deceived; but you must understand the feelings of a mother, and a young woman ought not to be trifled with."
"My son is incapable of trifling, I hope," cried Sir Edward; with animation, "and, least of all, with Grace Chatterton No; you are quite right. If he has made his choice, he should not be ashamed to avow it."