But Jane and Emily were delicately placed. The lover of the former, and the wives of the lovers of both, were in the way of daily, if not hourly rencounters; and it required all the energies of the young women to appear with composure before them. The elder was supported by pride, the younger by principle. The first was restless, haughty, distant, and repulsive. The last mild, humble, reserved, but eminently attractive. The one was suspected by all around her; the other was unnoticed by any, but by her nearest and dearest friends.
The first rencounter with these dreaded guests occurred at the rooms one evening, where the elder ladies had insisted on the bride's making her appearance. The Jarvises were there before them, and at their entrance caught the eyes of the group. Lady Jarvis approached immediately, filled with exultation—her husband with respect. The latter was received with cordiality—the former politely, but with distance. The young ladies and Sir Henry bowed distantly, and the gentleman soon drew off into another part of the room: his absence alone kept Jane from fainting. The handsome figure of Egerton standing by the side of Mary Jarvis, as her acknowledged husband, was near proving too much for her pride, notwithstanding all her efforts; and he looked so like the imaginary being she had set up as the object of her worship, that her heart was also in danger of rebelling.
"Positively, Sir Edward and my lady, both Sir Timo and myself, and, I dare say, Sir Harry and Lady Egerton too, are delighted to see you comfortably at Bath among us. Mrs. Moseley, I wish you much happiness; Lady Chatterton too. I suppose your ladyship recollects me now; I am Lady Jarvis. Mr. Moseley, I regret, for your sake, that my son Captain Jarvis is not here; you were so fond of each other, and both so loved your guns."
"Positively, my Lady Jarvis," said Moseley, drily, "my feelings on the occasion are as strong as your own; but I presume the captain is much top good a shot for me by this time."
"Why, yes; he improves greatly in most things he undertakes," rejoined the smiling dame, "and I hope he will soon learn, like you, to shoot with the harrows of Cupid. I hope the Honorable Mrs. Moseley is well."
Grace bowed mildly, as she answered to the interrogatory, and smiled at the thought of Jarvis put in competition with her husband in this species of archery, when a voice immediately behind where they sat caught the ears of the whole party; all it said was—
"Harriet, you forgot to show me Marian's letter."
"Yes, but I will to-morrow," was the reply.
It was the tone of Denbigh. Emily almost fell from her seat as it first reached her, and the eyes of all but herself were immediately turned in quest of the speaker. He had approached within a very few feet of them, supporting a lady on each arm. A second look convinced the Moseleys that they were mistaken. It was not Denbigh, but a young man whose figure, face, and air resembled him strongly, and whose voice possessed the same soft melodious tones which had distinguished that of Denbigh. This party seated themselves within a very short distance of the Moseleys, and they continued their conversation.
"You heard from the Colonel to-day, too, I believe," continued the gentleman, turning to the lady who sat next to Emily.
"Yes, he is a very punctual correspondent; I hear every other day."
"How is his uncle, Laura?" inquired her female companion.
"Rather better; but I will thank your grace to find the Marquess and Miss Howard."
"Bring them to us," rejoined the other.
"Yes," said the former lady, with a laugh, "and Eltringham will thank you too, I dare say."
In an instant the duke returned, accompanied by a gentleman of thirty and an elderly lady, who might have been safely taken for fifty without offence to anybody but herself.
During these speeches their auditors had listened with almost breathless interest. Emily had stolen a glance which satisfied her it was not Denbigh himself and it greatly relieved her; but was startled at discovering that she was actually seated by the side of his young and lovely wife. When an opportunity offered, she dwelt on the amiable, frank countenance of her rival with melancholy satisfaction: at least, she thought, he may yet be happy, and I hope penitent.
It was a mixture of love and gratitude which prompted this wish, both sentiments not easily got rid of when once ingrafted in our better feelings. John eyed the strangers with a displeasure for which he could not account at once, and saw, in the ancient lady, the bridesmaid Lord Henry had so unwillingly admitted to that distinction.
Lady Jarvis was astounded with her vicinity to so much nobility, and she drew back to her family to study its movements to advantage; while Lady Chatterton sighed heavily, as she contemplated the fine figures of an unmarried Duke and Marquess, and she without a single child to dispose of. The remainder of the party continued to view them with curiosity, and listened with interest to what they said.
Two or three young ladies had now joined the strangers, attended by a couple of gentlemen, and the conversation became general. The ladies declined dancing entirely, but appeared willing to throw away an hour in comments on their neighbors.
"William," said one of the young ladies, "there is your old messmate, Col. Egerton."
"Yes, I observe him," replied her brother, "I see him;" but, smiling significantly, he continued, "we are messmates no longer."
"He is a sad character," said the Marquess, with a shrug. "William, I would advise you to be cautious of his acquaintance."
"I thank you," replied Lord William, "but I believe I understand him thoroughly."
Jane manifested strong emotion during these remarks, while Sir Edward and his wife averted their faces from a simultaneous feeling of self-reproach. Their eyes met, and mutual concessions were contained in the glance; yet their feelings were unnoticed by their companions, for over the fulfilment of her often repeated forewarnings of neglect and duty to our children, Mrs. Wilson had mourned in sincerity, but she had forgotten to triumph.
"When are we to see Pendennyss?" inquired the Marquess; "I hope he will be here with George—I have a mind to beat up his quarters in Wales this season—what say you, Derwent?"
"I intend it, if I can persuade Lady Harriet to quit the gaieties of Bath so soon—what say you, sister—will you be in readiness to attend me so early?"
This question was asked in an arch tone, and drew the eyes of her friends on the person to whom it was addressed.
"I am ready now, Frederick, if you wish it," answered the sister hastily, and coloring excessively as she spoke.
"But where is Chatterton? I thought he was here—he had a sister married here last week," inquired Lord William Stapleton, addressing no one in particular.
A slight movement in their neighbors attracted the attention of the party.
"What a lovely young woman," whispered the duke to Lady Laura, "your neighbor is!"
The lady smiled her assent, and as Emily overheard it, she rose with glowing cheeks, and proposed a walk round the room.
Chatterton soon after entered. The young peer had acknowledged to Emily that, deprived of hope as he had been by her firm refusal of his hand, his efforts had been directed to the suppression of a passion which could never be successful; but his esteem, his respect, remained in full force. He did not touch at all on the subject of Denbigh, and she supposed that he thought his marriage was a step that required justification.
The Moseleys had commenced their promenade round the room as Chatterton came in. He paid his compliments to them as soon as he entered, and walked with their party. The noble visitors followed their example, and the two parties met. Chatterton was delighted to see them, the Duke was particularly fond of him; and, had one been present of sufficient observation, the agitation of his sister, the Lady Harriet Denbigh, would have accounted for the doubts of her brother as respects her willingness to leave Bath.
A few words of explanation passed; the duke and his friends appeared to urge something on Chatterton, who acted as their ambassador, and the consequence was, an introduction of the two parties to each other. This was conducted with the ease of the present fashion—it was general, and occurred, as it were incidentally, in the course of the evening.
Both Lady Harriet and Lady Laura Denbigh were particularly attentive to Emily. They took their seats by her, and manifested a preference for her conversation that struck Mrs. Wilson as remarkable. Could it be that the really attractive manners and beauty of her niece had caught the fancy of these ladies, or was there a deeper seated cause for the desire to draw Emily out, that both of them evinced? Mrs. Wilson had heard a rumor that Chatterton was thought attentive to Lady Harriet, and the other was the wife of Denbigh; was it possible the quondam suitors of her niece had related to their present favorites the situation they had stood in as regarded Emily? It was odd, to say no more; and the widow dwelt on the innocent countenance of the bride with pity and admiration. Emily herself was not a little abashed at the notice of her new acquaintances, especially Lady Laura's; but as their admiration appeared sincere, as well as their desire to be on terms of intimacy with the Moseleys, they parted, on the whole, mutually pleased.
The conversation several times was embarrassing to the baronet's family, and at moments distressingly so to their daughters.
At the close of the evening they all formed one group at a little distance from the rest of the company, and in a situation to command a view of it.
"Who is that vulgar-looking woman," said Lady Sarah Stapleton, "seated next to Sir Henry Egerton, brother?"
"No less a personage than my Lady Jarvis," replied the marquess, gravely, "and the mother-in-law of Sir Harry, and the wife to Sir Timo—;" this was said, with a look of drollery that showed the marquess was a bit of a quiz.
"Married!" cried Lord William, "mercy on the woman who is Egerton's wife. He is the greatest latitudinarian amongst the ladies, of any man in England—nothing—no, nothing would tempt me to let such a man marry a sister of mine!"
Ah, thought Mrs. Wilson, how we may be deceived in character, with the best intentions, after all! In what are the open vices of Egerton worse than the more hidden ones of Denbigh?
These freely expressed opinions on the character of Sir Henry were excessively awkward to some of the listeners, to whom they were connected with unpleasant recollections of duties neglected, and affections thrown away.
Sir Edward Moseley was not disposed to judge his fellow-creatures harshly; and it was as much owing to his philanthropy as to his indolence, that he had been so remiss in his attention to the associates of his daughters. But the veil once removed, and the consequences brought home to him through his child, no man was more alive to the necessity of caution on this important particular; and Sir Edward formed many salutary resolutions for the government of his future conduct in relation to those whom an experience nearly fatal in its results had now greatly qualified to take care of themselves But to resume our narrative—Lady Laura had maintained with Emily a conversation, which was enlivened by occasional remarks from the rest of the party, in the course of which the nerves as well as the principles of Emily were put to a severe trial.
"My brother Henry," said Lady Laura, "who is a captain in the navy, once had the pleasure of seeing you, Miss Moseley, and in some measure made me acquainted with you before we met."
"I dined with Lord Henry at L——, and was much indebted to his polite attentions in an excursion on the water," replied Emily, simply.
"Oh, I am sure his attentions were exclusive," cried the sister; "indeed, he told us that nothing but want of time prevented his being deeply in love—he had even the audacity to tell Denbigh it was fortunate for me he had never seen you, or I should have been left to lead apes."
"And I suppose you believe him now," cried Lord William, laughing, as he bowed to Emily.
His sister laughed in her turn, but shook her head, in the confidence of conjugal affection.
"It is all conjecture, for the Colonel said he had never enjoyed the pleasure of meeting Miss Moseley, so I will not boast of what my powers might have done; Miss Moseley," continued Lady Laura, blushing slightly at her inclination to talk of an absent husband, so lately her lover, "I hope to have the pleasure of presenting Colonel Denbigh to you soon."
"I think," said Emily, with a strong horror of deception, and a mighty struggle to suppress her feelings, "Colonel Denbigh was mistaken in saying that we had never met; he was of material service to me once, and I owe him a debt of gratitude that I only wish I could properly repay."
Lady Laura listened in surprise; but as Emily paused, she could not delicately, as his wife, remind her further of the obligation, by asking what the service was, and hesitating a moment, continued—
"Henry quite made you the subject of conversation amongst us; Lord Chatterton too, who visited us for a day, was equally warm in his eulogiums. I really thought they created a curiosity in the Duke and Pendennyss to behold their idol."
"A curiosity that would be ill rewarded in its indulgence," said Emily, abashed by the personality of the discourse.
"So says the modesty of Miss Moseley," said the Duke of Derwent, in the peculiar tone which distinguished the softer keys of Denbigh's voice. Emily's heart beat quick as she heard them, and she was afterwards vexed to remember with how much pleasure she had listened to this opinion of the duke. Was it the sentiment, or was it the voice? She, however, gathered strength to answer, with a dignity that repressed further praises:—
"Your grace is willing to divest me of what little I possess."
"Pendennyss is a man of a thousand," continued Lady Laura, with the privilege of a married woman. "I do wish he would join us at Bath—is there no hope, duke?"
"I am afraid not," replied his grace: "he keeps himself immured in Wales with his sister, who is as much of a hermit as he is himself."
"There was a story of an inamorata in private somewhere," cried the marquess; "why at one time it was even said he was privately married to her."
"Scandal, my lord," said the duke, gravely: "Pendennyss is of unexceptionable morals, and the lady you mean is the widow of Major Fitzgerald, whom you knew. Pendennyss never sees her, though by accident he was once of very great service to her."
Mrs. Wilson breathed freely again, as she heard this explanation, and thought if the Marquess knew all, how differently would he judge Pendennyss, as well as others.
"Oh! I have the highest opinion of Lord Pendennyss," cried the Marquess.
The Moseleys were not sorry that the usual hour of retiring put an end to the conversation and their embarrassment.
During the succeeding fortnight, the intercourse between the Moseleys and their new acquaintances increased daily. It was rather awkward at first on the part of Emily; and her beating pulse and changing color too often showed the alarm of feelings not yet overcome, when any allusions were made to the absent husband of one of the ladies. Still, as her parents encouraged the acquaintance, and her aunt thought the best way to get rid of the remaining weakness with respect to Denbigh was not to shrink from even an interview with the gentleman himself, Emily succeeded in conquering her reluctance; and as the high opinion entertained by Lady Laura of her husband was expressed in a thousand artless ways, an interest was created in her that promised in time to weaken if not destroy the impression that had been made by Denbigh himself.
On the other hand, Egerton carefully avoided all collision with the Moseleys. Once, indeed, he endeavored to renew his acquaintance with John, but a haughty repulse almost produced a quarrel.
What representations Egerton had thought proper to make to his wife, we are unable to say; but she appeared to resent something, as she never approached the dwelling or persons of her quondam associates, although in her heart she was dying to be on terms of intimacy with their titled friends. Her incorrigible mother was restrained by no such or any other consideration, and contrived to fasten on the Dowager and Lady Harriet a kind of bowing acquaintance, which she made great use of at the rooms.
The Duke sought out the society of Emily wherever he could obtain it; and Mrs. Wilson thought her niece admitted his approaches with less reluctance than that of any other of the gentlemen around her. At first she was surprised, but a closer observation betrayed to her the latent cause.
Derwent resembled Denbigh greatly in person and voice, although there were distinctions easily to be made on an acquaintance. The Duke had an air of command and hauteur that was never to be seen in his cousin. But his admiration of Emily he did not attempt to conceal; and, as he ever addressed her in the respectful language and identical voice of Denbigh, the observant widow easily perceived, that it was the remains of her attachment to the one that induced her niece to listen, with such evident pleasure, to the conversation of the other.
The Duke of Derwent wanted many of the indispensable requisites of a husband, in the eyes of Mrs. Wilson; yet, as she thought Emily out of all danger at the present of any new attachment, she admitted the association, under no other restraint than the uniform propriety of all that Emily said or did.
"Your niece will one day be a Duchess, Mrs. Wilson," whispered Lady Laura, as Derwent and Emily were running over a new poem one morning, in the lodgings of Sir Edward; the former reading a fine extract aloud so strikingly in the air and voice of Denbigh, as to call all the animation of the unconscious Emily into her expressive face.
Mrs. Wilson sighed, as she reflected on the strength of those feelings which even principles and testimony had not been able wholly to subdue, as she answered—
"Not of Derwent, I believe. But how wonderfully the Duke resembles your husband at times," she added, entirely thrown off her guard.
Lady Laura was evidently surprised.
"Yes, at times he does; they are brothers' children, you know: the voice in all that connexion is remarkable. Pendennyss, though a degree further off in blood, possesses it; and Lady Harriet, you perceive, has the same characteristic; there has been some syren in the family, in days past."
Sir Edward and Lady Moseley saw the attention of the Duke with the greatest pleasure. Though not slaves to the ambition of wealth and rank, they were certainly no objections in their eyes; and a proper suitor Lady Moseley thought the most probable means of driving the recollection of Denbigh from the mind of her daughter. The latter consideration had great weight in inducing her to cultivate an acquaintance so embarrassing on many accounts.
The Colonel, however, wrote to his wife the impossibility of his quitting his uncle while he continued so unwell, and it was settled that the bride should join him, under the escort of Lord William.
The same tenderness distinguished Denbigh on this occasion that had appeared so lovely when exercised to his dying father. Yet, thought Mrs. Wilson, how insufficient are good feelings to effect what can only be the result of good principles.
Caroline Harris was frequently of the parties of pleasure, walks, rides, and dinners, which the Moseleys were compelled to join in; and as the Marquess of Eltringham had given her one day some little encouragement, she determined to make an expiring effort at the peerage, before she condescended to enter into an examination of the qualities of Capt. Jarvis, who, his mother had persuaded her, was an Apollo, that had great hopes of being one day a Lord, as both the Captain and herself had commenced laying up a certain sum quarterly for the purpose of buying a title hereafter—an ingenious expedient of Jarvis's to get into his hands a portion of the allowance of his mother.
Eltringham was strongly addicted to the ridiculous; and without committing himself in the least, drew the lady out on divers occasions, for the amusement of himself and the Duke—who enjoyed, without practising, that species of joke.
The collisions between ill-concealed art and as ill-concealed irony had been practised with impunity by the Marquess for a fortnight, and the lady's imagination began to revel in the delights of a triumph, when a really respectable offer was made to Miss Harris by a neighbor of her father's in the country—one she would rejoice to have received a few days before, but which, in consequence of hopes created by the following occurrence, she haughtily rejected.
It was at the lodgings of the Baronet that Lady Laura exclaimed one day,—
"Marriage is a lottery, certainly, and neither Sir Henry nor Lady Egerton appears to have drawn a prize."
Here Jane stole from the room.
"Never, sister," cried the Marquess. "I will deny that. Any man can select a prize from your sex, if he only knows his own taste."
"Taste is a poor criterion, I am afraid," said Mrs. Wilson, gravely, "on which to found matrimonial felicity."
"To what would you refer the decision, my dear madam?" inquired the Lady Laura.
Lady Laura shook her hear doubtingly.
"You remind me so much of Lord Pendennyss! Everything he wishes to bring under the subjection of judgment and principles."
"And is he wrong, Lady Laura?" asked Mrs. Wilson, pleased to find such correct views existed in one of whom she thought so highly.
"Not wrong, my dear madam, only impracticable. What do you think, Marquess, of choosing a wife in conformity to your principles, and without consulting your tastes?"
Mrs. Wilson shook her head with a laugh, and disclaimed any such statement of the case; but the Marquess, who disliked one of John's didactic conversations very much, gaily interrupted her by saying—
"Oh! taste is everything with me. The woman of my heart against the world, if she suits my fancy, and satisfies my judgment."
"And what may this fancy of your Lordship be?" said Mrs. Wilson, willing to gratify the trifling. "What kind of a woman do you mean to choose? How tall for instance?"
"Why, madam," cried the Marquess, rather unprepared for such a catechism, and looking around him until the outstretched neck and the eager attention of Caroline Harris caught his eye, when he added with an air of great simplicity—"about the height of Miss Harris."
"How old?" asked Mrs. Wilson with a smile.
"Not too young, ma'am, certainly. I am thirty-two—my wife must be five or six and twenty. Am I old enough, do you think, Derwent?" he added in a whisper to the Duke.
"Within ten years," was the reply.
Mrs. Wilson continued—
"She must read and write, I suppose?"
"Why, faith," said the Marquess, "I am not fond of a bookish sort of a woman, and least of all a scholar."
"You had better take Miss Howard," whispered his brother. "She is old enough—never reads—and is just the height."
"No, no, Will," rejoined the brother. "Rather too old that. Now, I admire a woman who has confidence in herself. One that understands the proprieties of life, and has, if possible, been at the head of an establishment before she is to take charge of mine."
The delighted Caroline wriggled about in her chair, and, unable to contain herself longer, inquired:—
"Noble blood of course, you would require, my Lord?"
"Why no! I rather think the best wives are to be found in a medium. I would wish to elevate my wife myself. A Baronet's daughter for instance."
Here Lady Jarvis, who had entered during the dialogue, and caught a clue to the topic they were engaged in, drew near, and ventured to ask if he thought a simple knight too low. The Marquess, who did not expect such an attack, was a little at a loss for an answer; but recovering himself answered gravely, under the apprehension of another design on his person, that "he did think that would be forgetting his duty to his descendants."
Lady Jarvis sighed, and fell back in disappointment; while Miss Harris, turning to the nobleman, in a soft voice, desired him to ring for her carriage. As he handed her down, she ventured to inquire if his lordship had ever met with such a woman as he described.
"Oh, Miss Harris," he whispered, as he handed her into the coach, "how can you ask me such a question? You are very cruel. Drive on, coachman."
"How, cruel, my Lord?" said Miss Harris eagerly. "Stop, John. How, cruel, my Lord?" and she stretched her neck out of the window as the Marquess, kissing his hand to her, ordered the man to proceed.
"Don't you hear your lady, sir?"
Lady Jarvis had followed them down, also with a view to catch anything which might be said, having apologized for her hasty visit; and as the Marquess handed her politely into her carriage, she also begged "he would favor Sir Timo and Sir Henry with a call;" which being promised, Eltringham returned to the room.
"When am I to salute a Marchioness of Eltringham?" cried Lady Laura to her brother, "one on the new standard set up by your Lordship."
"Whenever Miss Harris can make up her mind to the sacrifice," replied the brother very gravely. "Ah me! how very considerate some of your sex are, for the modesty of ours."
"I wish you joy with all my heart, my Lord Marquess," exclaimed John Moseley. "I was once favored with the notice of that same lady for a week or two, but a viscount saved me from capture."
"I really think, Moseley," said the Duke innocently, but speaking with animation, "an intriguing daughter worse than a managing mother."
John's gravity for a moment vanished, as he replied in a lowered key,
"Oh, much worse."
Grace's heart was in her throat, until, by stealing a glance at her husband, she saw the cloud passing over his fine brow; and happening to catch her affectionate smile; his face was at once lighted into a look of pleasantry.
"I would advise caution, my Lord. Caroline Harris has the advantage of experience in her trade, and was expert from the first."
"John—John," said Sir Edward with warmth, "Sir William is my friend, and his daughter must be respected."
"Then, baronet," cried the Marquess, "she has one recommendation I was ignorant of, and as such I am silent: but ought not Sir William to teach his daughter to respect herself? I view these husband-hunting ladies as pirates on the ocean of love, and lawful objects for any roving cruiser like myself to fire at. At one time I was simple enough to retire as they advanced, but you know, madam," turning to Mrs. Wilson with a droll look, "flight only encourages pursuit, so I now give battle in self-defence."
"And I hope successfully, my Lord," observed the Lady. "Miss Harris, brother, does appear to have grown desperate in her attacks, which were formerly much more masked than at present. I believe it is generally the case, when a young worman throws aside the delicacy and feelings which ought to be the characteristics of her sex, and which teach her studiously to conceal her admiration, that she either becomes in time cynical and disagreeable to all around her from disappointment, or persevering in her efforts, as it were, runs a muck for a husband. Now in justice to the gentlemen, I must say, baronet, there are strong symptoms of the Malay about Caroline Harris."
"A muck, a muck," cried the marquess, as, in obedience to the signal of his sister, he rose to withdraw.
Jane had retired to her own room in a mortification of spirit she could ill conceal during this conversation, and she felt a degree of humiliation which almost drove her to the desperate resolution of hiding herself for ever from the world. The man she had so fondly enshrined in her heart proving to be so notoriously unworthy as to be the subject of unreserved censure in general company, was a reproach to her delicacy, her observation, her judgment, that was the more severe, from being true; and she wept in bitterness over her fallen happiness.
Emily had noticed the movement of Jane, and waited anxiously for the departure of the visitors to hasten to her room. She knocked two or three times before her sister replied to her request for admittance.
"Jane, my dear Jane," said Emily, soothingly, "will you not admit me?"
Jane could not resist any longer the affection of her sister, and the door was opened; but as Emily endeavored to take her hand, she drew back coldly, and cried—
"I wonder you, who are so happy, will leave the gay scene below for the society of an humbled wretch like me;" and overcome with the violence of her emotion, she burst into tears.
"Happy!" repeated Emily, in a tone of anguish, "happy, did you say, Jane? Oh, little do you know my sufferings, or you would never speak so cruelly!"
Jane, in her turn, surprised at the strength of Emily's language, considered her weeping sister with commiseration; and then her thoughts recurring to her own case, she continued with energy—
"Yes, Emily, happy; for whatever may have been the reason of Denbigh's conduct, he is respected; and if you do or did love him, he was worthy of it. But I," said Jane, wildly, "threw away my affections on a wretch—a mere impostor—and I am miserable for ever."
"No, dear Jane," rejoined Emily, having recovered her self-possession, "not miserable—nor for ever. You have many, very many sources of happiness yet within your reach, even in this world. I—I do think, even our strongest attachments may be overcome by energy and a sense of duty. And oh! how I wish I could see you make the effort."
For a moment the voice of the youthful moralist had failed her; but anxiety in behalf of her sister overcame her feelings, and she ended the sentence with earnestness.
"Emily," said Jane, with obstinacy, and yet in tears, "you don't know what blighted affections are. To endure the scorn of the world, and see the man you once thought near being your husband married to another, who is showing herself in triumph before you, wherever you go!"
"Hear me, Jane, before you reproach me further, and then judge between us." Emily paused a moment to acquire nerve to proceed, and then related to her astonished sister the little history of her own disappointments. She did not affect to conceal her attachment for Denbigh. With glowing cheeks she acknowledged, that she found a necessity for all her efforts to keep her rebellious feelings yet in subjection; and as she recounted generally his conduct to Mrs. Fitzgerald, she concluded by saying, "But, Jane, I can see enough to call forth my gratitude; and although, with yourself, I feel at this moment as if my affections were sealed for ever, I wish to make no hasty resolutions, nor act in any manner as if I were unworthy of the lot Providence has assigned me."
"Unworthy? no!—you have no reasons for self-reproach. If Mr. Denbigh has had the art to conceal his crimes from you, he did it to the rest of the world also, and has married a woman of rank and character. But how differently are we situated! Emily—I—I have no such consolation."
"You have the consolation, my sister, of knowing there is an interest made for you where we all require it most, and it is there I endeavor to seek my support," said Emily, in a low and humble tone. "A review of our own errors takes away the keenness of our perception of the wrongs done us, and by placing us in charity with the rest of the world, disposes us to enjoy calmly the blessings within our reach. Besides, Jane, we have parents whose happiness is locked up in that of their children, and we should—we must overcome the feelings which disqualify us for our common duties, on their account."
"Ah!" cried Jane, "how can I move about in the world, while I know the eyes of all are on me, in curiosity to discover how I bear my disappointments. But you, Emily, are unsuspected. It is easy for you to affect a gaiety you do not feel."
"I neither affect nor feel any gaiety," said her sister, mildly. "But are there not the eyes of One on us, of infinitely more power to punish or reward than what may be found in the opinions of the world? Have we no duties? For what is our wealth, our knowledge, our time given us, but to improve for our own and for the eternal welfare of those around us? Come then, my sister, we have both been deceived—let us endeavor not to be culpable."
"I wish, from my soul, we could leave Bath," cried Jane. "The place, the people are hateful to me!"
"Jane," said Emily, "rather say you hate their vices, and wish for their amendment: but do not indiscriminately condemn a whole community for the wrongs you have sustained from one of its members."
Jane allowed herself to be consoled, though by no means convinced, by this effort of her sister; and they both found a relief by thus unburdening their hearts to each other, that in future brought them more nearly together, and was of mutual assistance in supporting them in the promiscuous circles in which they were obliged to mix.
With all her fortitude and principle, one of the last things Emily would have desired was an interview with Denbigh, and she was happily relieved from the present danger of it by the departure of Lady Laura and her brother, to go to the residence of the Colonel's sick uncle.
Both Mrs. Wilson and Emily suspected that a dread of meeting them had detained him from his intended journey to Bath; and neither was sorry to perceive, what they considered as latent signs of grace—a grace of which Egerton appeared entirely to be without.
"He may yet see his errors, and make a kind and affectionate husband," thought Emily; and then, as the image of Denbigh rose in her imagination, surrounded with the domestic virtues, she roused herself from the dangerous reflection to the exercise of the duties in which she found a refuge from unpardonable wishes.
Nothing material occurred for a fortnight after the departure of Lady Laura, the Moseleys entering soberly into the amusements of the place, and Derwent and Chatterton becoming more pointed every day in their attentions—the one to Emily, and the other to Lady Harriet; when the dowager received a pressing entreaty from Catherine to hasten to her at Lisbon, where her husband had taken up his abode for a time, after much doubt and indecision as to his place of residence. Lady Herriefield stated generally in her letter, that she was miserable, and that without the support of her mother she could not exist under the present grievances; but what was the cause of those grievances, or what grounds she had for her misery, she left unexplained.
Lady Chatterton was not wanting in maternal regard, and she promptly determined to proceed to Portugal in the next packet. John felt inclined for a little excursion with his bride; and out of compassion to the baron, who was in a dilemma between his duty and his love (for Lady Harriet about that time was particularly attractive), he offered his services.
Chatterton allowed himself to be persuaded by the good-natured John, that his mother could safely cross the ocean under the protection of the latter. Accordingly, at the end of the before mentioned fortnight, the dowager, John, Grace, and Jane, commenced their journey to Falmouth.
Jane had offered to accompany Grace, as a companion in her return (it being expected Lady Chatterton would remain in the country with her daughter); and her parents appreciating her motives, permitted the excursion, with a hope it would draw her thoughts from past events.
Although Grace shed a few tears at parting with Emily and her friends, it was impossible for Mrs. Moseley to be long unhappy, with the face of John smiling by her side; and they pursued their route uninterruptedly. In due season they reached the port of embarkation.
The following morning the packet got under weigh, and a favorable breeze soon wafted them out of sight of their native shores. The ladies were too much indisposed the first day to appear on the deck; but the weather becoming calm and the sea smooth, Grace and Jane ventured out of the confinement of their state-rooms, to respire the fresh air above.
There were but few passengers, and those chiefly ladies—the wives of officers on foreign stations, on their way to join their husbands. As these had been accustomed to moving in the world, their disposition to accommodate soon removed the awkwardness of a first meeting, and our travellers began to be at home in their novel situation.
While Grace stood leaning on the arm of her husband, and clinging to his support, both from affection and a dread of the motion of the vessel, Jane ventured with one of the ladies to attempt a walk round the deck of the ship. Unaccustomed to such an uncertain foothold, the walkers were prevented falling by the kind interposition of a gentleman, who for the first time had shown himself among them at that moment. The accident, and their situation, led to a conversation which was renewed at different times during their passage, and in some measure created an intimacy between our party and the stranger. He was addressed by the commander of the vessel as Mr. Harland; and Lady Chatterton exercised her ingenuity in the investigation of his history, by which she made the following discovery:
The Rev. and Hon. Mr. Harland was the younger son of an Irish earl, who had early embraced his sacred profession in that church, in which he held a valuable living in the gift of his father's family. His father was yet alive, and then at Lisbon with his mother and sister, in attendance on his elder brother, who had been sent there in a deep decline a couple of months before. It had been the wish of his parents to have taken all their children with them; but a sense of duty had kept the young clergyman in the exercise of his holy office, until a request of his dying brother, and the directions of his father, caused him to hasten abroad to witness the decease of the one, and to afford all the solace within his power to the others.
It may be easily imagined that the discovery of the rank of their accidental acquaintance, with the almost certainty that existed of his being the heir of his father's honors, in no degree impaired his consequence in the eyes of the dowager; and it is certain, his visible anxiety and depressed spirits, his unaffected piety, and disinterested hopes for his brother's recovery, no less elevated him in the opinions of her companions.
There was, at the moment, a kind of sympathy between Harland and Jane, notwithstanding the melancholy which gave rise to it proceeding from such very different causes and as the lady, although with diminished bloom, retained all her personal charms, rather heightened than otherwise by the softness of low spirits, the young clergyman sometimes relieved his apprehensions of his brother's death by admitting the image of Jane among his more melancholy reflections.
The voyage was tedious, and some time before it was ended the dowager had given Grace an intimation of the probability there was of Jane's becoming, at some future day, a countess. Grace sincerely hoped that whatever she became she would be as happy as she thought all allied to John deserved to be.
They entered the bay of Lisbon early in the morning; and as the ship had been expected for some days, a boat came alongside with a note for Mr. Harland, before they had anchored. It apprised him of the death of his brother. The young man threw himself precipitately into it, and was soon employed in one of the loveliest offices of his vocation, that of healing the wounds of the afflicted.
Lady Herriefield received her mother in a sort of sullen satisfaction, and her companions with an awkwardness she could ill conceal. It required no great observation in the travellers to discover, that their arrival was entirely unexpected by the viscount, if it were not equally disagreeable; indeed, one day's residence under his roof assured them all that no great degree of domestic felicity was an inmate of the dwelling.
From the moment Lord Herriefield became suspicious that he had been the dupe of the management of Kate and her mother, he viewed every act of his wife with a prejudiced eye. It was easy, with his knowledge of human nature, to detect her selfishness and worldly-mindedness; for as these were faults she was unconscious of possessing, so she was unguarded in her exposure of them. But her designs, in a matrimonial point of view, having ended with her marriage, had the viscount treated her with any of the courtesies due her sex and station, she might, with her disposition, have been contented in the enjoyment of rank and in the possession of wealth; but their more private hours were invariably rendered unpleasant, by the overflowings of her husband's resentment at having been deceived in his judgment of the female sex.
There is no point upon which men are more tender than their privilege of suiting themselves in a partner for life, although many of both sexes are influenced in this important selection more by the wishes and whims of others than is usually suspected; yet, as all imagine what is the result of contrivance and management is the election of free will and taste, so long as they are ignorant, they are contented. Lord Herriefield wanted this bliss of ignorance; and, with contempt for his wife, was mingled anger at his own want of foresight.
Very few people can tamely submit to self-reproach; and as the cause of this irritated state of mind was both not only constantly present, but completely within his power, the viscount seemed determined to give her as little reason to exult in the success of her plans as possible. Jealous he was, from temperament, from bad associations, and a want of confidence in the principles of his wife, the freedom of foreign manners having an additional tendency to excite this baneful passion to an unusual degree. Abridged in her pleasures, reproached with motives she was incapable of harboring, and disappointed in all those enjoyments her mother had ever led her to believe the invariable accompaniments of married life, where proper attention had been paid to the necessary qualifications of riches and rank, Kate had written to the dowager with the hope her presence might restrain, or her advice teach her, successfully to oppose the unfeeling conduct of the viscount.
Lady Chatterton never having implanted any of her favorite systems in her daughter, so much by precept as by the force of example in her own person, as well as by indirect eulogiums on certain people who were endowed with those qualities and blessings she most admired, on the present occasion Catherine did not unburden herself in terms to her mother; but by a regular gradation of complaints, aimed more at the world than at her husband, she soon let the knowing dowager see their application, and in the end completely removed the veil from her domestic grievances.
The example of John and Grace for a short time awed the peer into dissembling his disgust for his spouse; but the ice once broken, their presence soon ceased to affect either the frequency or the severity of his remarks, when under its influence.
From such exhibitions of matrimonial discord, Grace shrank timidly into the retirement of her room, and Jane, with dignity, would follow her example; while John at times became a listener, with a spirit barely curbed within the bounds of prudence, and at others, he sought in the company of his wife and sister, relief from the violence of his feelings.
John never admired nor respected Catherine, for she wanted those very qualities he chiefly loved in her sister; yet, as she was a woman, and one nearly connected with him, he found it impossible to remain a quiet spectator of the unmanly treatment she often received from her husband; he therefore made preparations for his return to England by the first packet, abridging his intended residence in Lisbon more than a month.
Lady Chatterton endeavored all within her power to heal the breach between Kate and her husband, but it greatly exceeded her abilities. It was too late to implant such principles in her daughter, as by a long course of self-denial and submission might have won the love of the viscount, had the mother been acquainted with them herself; so that having induced her child to marry with a view to obtaining precedence and a jointure, she once more set to work to undo part of her former labors, by bringing about a decent separation between the husband and wife, in such a manner as to secure to her child the possession of her wealth, and the esteem of the world. The latter, though certainly a somewhat difficult undertaking, was greatly lessened by the assistance of the former.
John and his wife determined to seize the opportunity to examine the environs of the city. In one of these daily rides, they met their fellow traveller, Mr. now Lord Harland. He was rejoiced to see them again, and hearing of their intended departure, informed them of his being about to return to England in the same vessel—his parents and sister contemplating ending the winter in Portugal.
The intercourse between the two families was kept up with a show of civilities between the noblemen, and much real good-will on the part of the juniors of the circle, until the day arrived for the sailing of the packet.
Lady Chatterton was left behind with Catherine, as yet unable to circumvent her schemes with prudence; it being deemed by the world a worse offence to separate, than to join together one's children in the bands of wedlock.
The confinement of a vessel is very propitious to those intimacies which lead to attachments. The necessity of being agreeable is a check upon the captious, and the desire to lessen the dulness of the scene a stimulus to the lively; and though the noble divine and Jane could not possibly be ranked in either class, the effect was the same. The noble man was much enamored, and Jane unconsciously gratified. It is true, love had never entered her thoughts in its direct and unequivocal form; but admiration is so consoling to those laboring under self-condemnation, and flattery of a certain kind so very soothing to all, it is not to be wondered that she listened with increasing pleasure to the interesting conversation of Harland on all occasions, and more particularly, as often happened, when exclusively addressed to herself.
Grace had of late reflected more seriously on the subject of her eternal welfare than she had been accustomed to do in the house of her mother; and the example of Emily, with the precepts of Mrs. Wilson, had not been thrown away upon her. It is a singular fact, that more women feel a disposition to religion soon after marriage than at any other period of life; and whether it is, that having attained the most important station this life affords the sex, they are more willing to turn their thoughts to a provision for the next, or whether it be owing to any other cause, Mrs. Moseley was included in the number. She became sensibly touched with her situation, and as Harland was both devout and able as well as anxious to instruct, one of the party, at least, had cause to rejoice in the journey for the remainder of her days. But precisely as Grace increased in her own faith, so did her anxiety after the welfare of her husband receive new excitement; and John, for the first time, became the cause of sorrow to his affectionate companion.
The deep interest Harland took in the opening conviction of Mrs. Moseley, did not so entirely engross his thoughts as to prevent the too frequent contemplation of the charms of her friend for his own peace of mind; and by the time the vessel reached Falmouth, he had determined to make a tender of his hand and title to the acceptance of Miss Moseley. Jane did not love Egerton; on the contrary, she despised him; but the time had been, when all her romantic feelings, every thought of her brilliant imagination, had been filled with his image, and Jane felt it a species of indelicacy to admit the impression of another so soon, or even at all. These objections would, in time, have been overcome, as her affections became more and more enlisted on behalf of Harland, had she admitted his addresses; but there was an impediment that Jane considered insurmountable to a union with any man.
She had once communicated her passion to its object. There had been the confidence of approved love; and she had now no heart for Harland, but one that had avowedly been a slave to another. To conceal this from him would be unjust, and not reconcilable to good faith; to confess it, humiliating, and without the pale of probability. It was the misfortune of Jane to keep the world too constantly before her, and to lose sight too much of her really depraved nature, to relish the idea of humbling herself so low in the opinion of a fellow-creature. The refusal of Harland's offer was the consequence, although she had begun to feel an esteem for him, that would no doubt have given rise to an attachment in time, far stronger and more deeply seated than her passing fancy for Colonel Egerton had been.
If the horror of imposing on the credulity of Harland a wounded heart, was creditable to Jane, and showed an elevation of character that under proper guidance would have placed her in the first ranks of her sex; the pride which condemned her to a station nature did not design her for was irreconcilable with the humility a just view of her condition could not fail to produce; and the second sad consequence of the indulgent weakness of her parents, was confirming their child in passions directly at variance with the first duties of a Christian.
We have so little right to value ourselves on anything that pride is a sentiment of very doubtful service, and one certainly, that is unable to effect any useful results which will not equally flow from good principles.
Harland was disappointed and grieved, but prudently judging that occupation and absence would remove recollections which could not be very deep, they parted at Falmouth, and our travellers proceeded on their journey for B——, whither, during their absence, Sir Edward's family had returned to spend a month, before they removed to town for the residue of the winter.
The meeting of the two parties was warm and tender, and as Jane had many things to recount, and John as many to laugh at, their arrival threw a gaiety around Moseley Hall to which it had for months been a stranger.
One of the first acts of Grace, after her return, was to enter strictly into the exercise of all those duties and ordinances required by her church, and the present state of her mind, and from the hands of Dr. Ives she received her first communion at the altar.
As the season had now become far advanced, and the fashionable world had been some time assembled in the metropolis, the Baronet commenced his arrangements to take possession of his town-house, after an interval of nineteen years. John proceeded to the capital first; and the necessary domestics procured, furniture supplied, and other arrangements usual to the appearance of a wealthy family in the world having been completed, he returned with the information that all was ready for their triumphal entrance.
Sir Edward, feeling that a separation for so long a time, and at such an unusual distance, in the very advanced age of Mr. Benfield, would be improper, paid him a visit, with the intention of persuading him to make one of his family for the next four months. Emily was his companion, and their solicitations were happily crowned with a success they had not anticipated. Averse to be deprived of Peter's society, the honest steward was included in the party.
"Nephew," said Mr. Benfield, beginning to waver in his objections to the undertaking, as the arguments pro and con were produced, "there are instances of gentlemen, not in parliament, going to town in the winter, I know. You are one yourself; and old Sir John Cowel, who never could get in, although he ran for every city in the kingdom, never missed his winter in Soho. Yes, yes—the thing is admissible—but had I known your wishes before, I would certainly have kept my borough if it were only for the appearance of the thing—besides," continued the old man, shaking his head, "his majesty's ministers require the aid of some more experienced members in these critical times; for what should an old man like me do in Westminster, unless it were to aid his country with his advice?"
"Make his friends happy with his company, dear uncle," said Emily, taking his hand between both her own, and smiling affectionately on the old gentleman as she spoke.
"Ah! Emmy dear!" cried Mr. Benfield, looking on her with melancholy pleasure, "you are not to be resisted—just such another as the sister of my old friend Lord Gosford; she could always coax me out of anything. I remember now, I heard the earl tell her once he could not afford to buy a pair of diamond ear-rings; and she looked—only looked—did not speak! Emmy!—that I bought them with intent to present them to Her myself."
"And did she take them, uncle?" asked his niece, in a little surprise.
"Oh yes! When I told her if she did not I would throw them into the river, as no one else should wear what had been intended for her; poor soul! how delicate and unwilling she was. I had to convince her they cost three hundred pounds, before she would listen to it; and then she thought it such a pity to throw away a thing of so much value. It would have been wicked, you know, Emmy, dear; and she was much opposed to wickedness and sin in any shape."
"She must have been a very unexceptionable character indeed," cried the Baronet, with a smile, as he proceeded to make the necessary orders for their journey. "But we must return to the party left at Bath."
The letters of Lady Laura informed her friends, that she and Colonel Denbigh had decided to remain with his uncle until the recovery of the latter was complete, and then to proceed to Denbigh Castle, to meet the Duke and his sister during the approaching holidays.
Emily was much relieved by this postponement of an interview which she would gladly have avoided for ever; and her aunt sincerely rejoiced that her niece was allowed more time to eradicate impressions, which, she saw with pain, her charge had yet a struggle to overcome.
There were so many points to admire in the character of Denbigh; his friends spoke of him with such decided partiality; Dr. Ives, in his frequent letters, alluded to him with so much affection; that Emily frequently detected herself in weighing the testimony of his guilt, and indulging the expectation that circumstances had deceived them all in their judgment of his conduct. Then his marriage would cross her mind; and with the conviction of the impropriety of admitting him to her thoughts at all, would come the mass of circumstantial testimony which had accumulated against him.
Derwent served greatly to keep alive the recollections of his person, however; and as Lady Harriet seemed to live only in the society of the Moseleys, not a day passed without giving the Duke some opportunity of indirectly preferring his suit.
Emily not only appeared, but in fact was, unconscious of his admiration; and entered into their amusements with a satisfaction that was increased by the belief that the unfortunate attachment her cousin Chatterton had once professed for herself, was forgotten in the more certain enjoyments of a successful love.
Lady Harriet was a woman of manners and character very different from Emily Moseley; yet had she in a great measure erased the impressions made by the beauty of his kinswoman from the bosom of the baron.
Chatterton, under the depression of his first disappointment, it will be remembered, had left B—— in company with Mr. Denbigh. The interest of the duke had been unaccountably exerted to procure him the place he had so long solicited in vain, and gratitude required his early acknowledgments for the favor. His manner, so very different from a successful applicant for a valuable office, had struck both Derwent and his sister as singular. Before, however, a week's intercourse had passed between them, his own frankness had made them acquainted with the cause; and a double wish prevailed in the bosom of Lady Harriet, to know the woman who could resist the beauty of Chatterton, and to relieve him from the weight imposed on his spirits by disappointed affection.
The manners of Lady Harriet Denbigh were not in the least forward or masculine; but they had the freedom of high rank, mingled with a good deal of the ease of fashionable life. Mrs. Wilson noticed, moreover, in her conduct to Chatterton, a something exceeding the interest of ordinary communications in their situation, which might possibly have been attributed more to feeling than to manner. It is certain, one of the surest methods to drive Emily from his thoughts, was to dwell on the perfections of some other lady; and Lady Harriet was so constantly before him in his visit into Westmore land, so soothing, so evidently pleased with his presence, that the baron made rapid advances in attaining his object.
He had alluded, in his letter to Emily, to the obligation he was under to the services of Denbigh, in erasing his unfortunate partiality for her: but what those services were, we are unable to say, unless they were the usual arguments of the plainest good sense, enforced in the singularly insinuating and kind manner which distinguished that gentleman. In fact, Lord Chatterton was not formed by nature to love long, deprived of hope, or to resist long the flattery of a preference from such a woman as Harriet Denbigh.
On the other hand, Derwent was warm in his encomiums on Emily to all but herself; and Mrs. Wilson again thought it prudent to examine into the state of her feelings, in order to discover if there was any danger of his unremitted efforts drawing Emily into a connexion that neither her religion nor prudence could wholly approve.
Derwent was a man of the world—a Christian only in name; and the cautious widow determined to withdraw in season, should she find grounds for her apprehensions.
About ten days after the departure of the Dowager and her companions, Lady Harriet exclaimed, in one of her morning visits—
"Lady Moseley! I have now hopes of presenting to you soon the most polished man in the United Kingdom!"
"As a husband! Lady Harriet?" inquired the other, with a smile.
"Oh, no! only as a cousin, a second cousin! madam!" replied Lady Harriet, blushing a little, and looking in the opposite direction to the one in which Chatterton was placed.
"But his name? You forget our curiosity! What is his name?" cried Mrs. Wilson, entering into the trifling for the moment.
"Pendennyss, to be sure, my dear madam: whom else can I mean?"
"And you expect the earl at Bath?" Mrs. Wilson eagerly inquired.
"He has given us such hopes, and Derwent has written him to-day, pressing the journey."
"You will be disappointed, I am afraid, sister," said the duke. "Pendennyss has become so fond of Wales of late, that it is difficult to get him out of it."
"But," said Mrs. Wilson, "he will take his seat in parliament during the winter, my lord?"
"I hope he will, madam; though Lord Eltringham holds his proxies, in my absence, in all important questions before the house."
"Your grace will attend, I trust," said Sir Edward. "The pleasure of your company is among my expected enjoyments in the town."
"You are very good, Sir Edward," replied the duke, looking at Emily. "It will somewhat depend on circumstances, I believe."
Lady Harriet smiled, and the speech seemed understood by all but the lady most concerned in it.
"Lord Pendennyss is a universal favorite, and deservedly so," cried the duke. "He has set an example to the nobility, which few are equal to imitate. An only son, with an immense estate, he has devoted himself to the profession of a soldier, and gained great reputation by it in the world; nor has he neglected any of his private duties as a man——"
"Or a Christian, I hope," said Mrs. Wilson, delighted with the praises of the earl.
"Nor of a Christian, I believe," continued the duke; "he appears consistent, humble, and sincere—three requisites, I believe, for that character."
"Does not your grace know?" said Emily, with a benevolent smile.
Derwent colored slightly as he answered—
"Not as well as I ought; but"—lowering his voice for her ear alone, he added, "under proper instruction I think I might learn."
"Then I would recommend that book to you, my lord," rejoined Emily, with a blush, pointing to a pocket Bible which lay near her, though still ignorant of the allusion he meant to convey.
"May I ask the honor of an audience of Miss Moseley," said Derwent, in the same low tone, "whenever her leisure will admit of her granting the favor?"
Emily was surprised; but from the previous conversation and the current of her thoughts at the moment, supposing his communication had some reference to the subject before them, she rose from her chair, and unobtrusively, but certainly with an air of perfect innocence and composure, she went into the adjoining room, the door of which was open very near them.
Caroline Harris had abandoned all ideas of a coronet with the departure of the Marquess of Eltringham and his sisters for their own seat; and as a final effort of her fading charms, had begun to calculate the capabilities of Captain Jarvis, who had at this time honored Bath with his company.
It is true, the lady would have greatly preferred her father's neighbor, but that was an irretrievable step. He had retired, disgusted with her haughty dismissal of his hopes, and was a man who, although he greatly admired her fortune, was not to be recalled by any beck or smile which might grow out of caprice.
Lady Jarvis had, indeed, rather magnified the personal qualifications of her son; but the disposition they had manifested, to devote some of their surplus wealth to purchasing a title, had great weight, for Miss Harris would cheerfully, at any time, have sacrificed one half her own fortune to be called my lady. Jarvis would make but a shabby-looking lord, 'tis true; but then what a lord's wife would she not make herself! His father was a merchant, to be sure, but then merchants were always immensely rich, and a few thousand pounds, properly applied, might make the merchant's son a baron. She therefore resolved to inquire, the first opportunity, into the condition of the sinking fund of his plebeianism, and had serious thoughts of contributing her mite towards the advancement of the desired object, did she find it within the bounds of probable success.
An occasion soon offered, by the invitation of the Captain to accompany him in an excursion in the tilbury of his brother-in-law.
In this ride they passed the equipages of Lady Harriet and Mrs. Wilson, with their respective mistresses, taking an airing. In passing the latter, Jarvis bowed (for he had renewed his acquaintance at the rooms, without daring to visit at the lodgings of Sir Edward), and Miss Harris saw both parties as they dashed by them.
"You know the Moseleys, Caroline?" said Jarvis, with the freedom her manners had established between them.
"Yes," replied the lady, drawing her head back from a view of the carriages; "what fine arms those of the Duke's are—and the coronet, it is so noble—so rich—I am sure if I were a man," laying great emphasis on the word—"I would be a Lord."
"If you could, you mean," cried the captain.
"Could—why money will buy a title, you know—only most people are fonder of their cash than of honor."
"That's right," said the unreflecting captain; "money is the thing, after all. Now what do you suppose our last mess-bill came to?"
"Oh, don't talk of eating and drinking," cried Miss Harris, in affected aversion; "is it beneath the consideration of nobility."
"Then any one may be a lord for me," said Jarvis, drily "if they are not to eat and drink; why, what do they live for, but such sort of things!"
"A soldier lives to fight and gain honor and distinction"—for his wife—Miss Harris would have added, had she spoken all she thought.
"A poor way that of spending a man's time," said the Captain. "Now there is Captain Jones in our regiment; they say he loves fighting as much as eating: if he do, he is a bloodthirsty fellow."
"You know how intimate I am with your dear mother," continued the lady, bent on the principal object; "she has made me acquainted with her greatest wish."
"Her greatest wish!" cried the Captain, in astonishment; "why, what can that be?—a new coach and horses?"
"No, I mean one much dearer to us—I should say, to her, than any such trifles: she has told me of the plan."
"Plan!" said Jarvis, still in wonder, "what plan?"
"About the fund for the peerage, you know. Of course, the thing is sacred with me, as, indeed, I am equally interested with you all in its success."
Jarvis eyed her with a knowing look, and as she concluded, rolling his eyes in an expression of significance, he said—
"What, serve Sir William some such way, eh?"
"I will assist a little, if it be necessary, Henry," said the lady, tenderly, "although my mite cannot amount to a great deal."
During this speech, the Captain was wondering what she could mean; but, having had a suspicion, from something that had fallen from his mother, that the lady was intended for him as a wife, and that she might be as great a dupe as Lady Jarvis herself, he was resolved to know the whole, and to act accordingly.
"I think it might be made to do," he replied, evasively in order to discover the extent of his companion's information.
"Do!", cried Miss Harris, with fervor, "it cannot fail! How much do you suppose will be wanting to buy a barony, for instance?"
"Hem!" said Jarvis; "you mean more than we have already?"
"Why, about a thousand pounds, I think, will do it, with what we have," said Jarvis, affecting to calculate.
"Is that all?" cried the delighted Caroline; and the captain grew in an instant, in her estimation, three inches higher;—quite noble in his air, and, in short, very tolerably handsome.
From that moment, Miss Harris, in her own mind, had fixed the fate of Captain Jarvis, and had determined to be his wife, whenever she could persuade him to offer himself; a thing she had no doubt of accomplishing with comparative ease. Not so the Captain. Like all weak men, there was nothing of which he stood more in terror than of ridicule. He had heard the manoeuvres of Miss Harris laughed at by many of the young men in Bath, and was by no means disposed to add himself to the food for mirth of these wags; and, indeed, had cultivated her acquaintance with a kind of bravado to some of his bottle companions, in order to show his ability to oppose all her arts, when most exposed to them: for it is one of the greatest difficulties to the success of this description of ladies, that their characters soon become suspected, and do them infinitely more injury than all their skill in their vocation.
With these views in the respective champions the campaign opened, and the lady, on her return, acquainted his mother with the situation of the privy purse, that was to promote her darling child to the enviable distinction of the peerage. Lady Jarvis was for purchasing a baronetcy on the spot, with what they had, under the impression that when ready for another promotion they would only have to pay the difference, as they did in the army when he received his captaincy. As, however, the son was opposed to any arrangement that might make the producing the few hundred pounds he had obtained from his mother's folly necessary, she was obliged to postpone the wished-for day, until their united efforts could compass the means of effecting the main point. As an earnest, however, of her spirit in the cause, she gave him a fifty pound note, that morning obtained from her husband, and which the Captain lost at one throw of the dice to his brother-in-law the same evening.
During the preceding events, Egerton had either studiously avoided all collision with the Moseleys, or his engagements had confined him to such very different scenes, that they never met.
The Baronet had felt his presence a reproach, and Lady Moseley rejoiced that Egerton yet possessed sufficient shame to keep him from insulting her with his company.
It was a month after the departure of Lady Chatterton that Sir Edward returned to B——, as related in the preceding chapter, and that the arrangements for the London winter were commenced.
The day preceding their leaving Bath, the engagement of Chatterton with Lady Harriet was made public amongst their mutual friends, and an intimation was given that their nuptials would be celebrated before the family of the Duke left his seat for the capital.
Something of the pleasure that she had for a long time been a stranger to, was felt by Emily Moseley, as the well remembered tower of the village church of B—— struck her sight on their return from their protracted excursion. More than four months had elapsed since they had commenced their travels, and in that period what changes of sentiments had she not witnessed in others; of opinions of mankind in general, and of one individual in particular, had she not experienced in her own person. The benevolent smiles, the respectful salutations they received, in passing the little group of houses which, clustered round the church, had obtained the name of "the village," conveyed a sensation of delight that can only be felt by the deserving and virtuous; and the smiling faces, in several instances glistening with tears, which met them at the Hall, gave ample testimony to the worth of both the master and his servants.
Francis and Clara were in waiting to receive them, and a very few minutes elapsed before the rector and Mrs. Ives, having heard they had passed, drove in also. In saluting the different members of the family, Mrs. Wilson noticed the startled look of the doctor, as the change in Emily's appearance first met his eyes. Her bloom, if not gone, was greatly diminished; and it was only when under the excitement of strong emotions, that her face possessed that radiance which had so eminently distinguished it before her late journey.
"Where did you last see my friend George?" said the Doctor to Mrs. Wilson, in the course of the first afternoon, as he took a seat by her side, apart from the rest of the family.
"At L——," said Mrs. Wilson, gravely.
"L——!" cried the doctor, in evident amazement. "Was he not at Bath then during your stay there?"
"No; I understand he was in attendance on some sick relative, which detained him from his friends," said Mrs. Wilson, wondering why the doctor chose to introduce so delicate a topic. Of his guilt in relation to Mrs. Fitzgerald he was doubtless ignorant, but surely not of his marriage.
"It is now some time since I heard from him," continued the doctor, regarding Mrs. Wilson expressively, but to which the lady only replied with a gentle inclination of the body; and the Rector, after pausing a moment, continued:
"You will not think me impertinent if I am bold enough to ask, has George ever expressed a wish to become connected with your niece by other ties than those of friendship?"
"He did," answered the widow, after a little hesitation.
"He did, and—"
"Was refused," continued Mrs. Wilson, with a slight feeling for the dignity of her sex, which for a moment caused her to lose sight of justice to Denbigh.
Dr. Ives was silent; but manifested by his dejected countenance the interest he had taken in this anticipated connexion, and as Mrs. Wilson had spoken with ill-concealed reluctance on the subject at all, the Rector did not attempt a renewal of the disagreeable.
"Samvenson has returned, and I certainly must hear from Harriet," exclaimed the sister of Pendennyss, as she stood at a window watching the return of a servant from the neighboring post-office.
"I am afraid," rejoined the Earl, who was seated by the breakfast table, waiting the leisure of the lady to give him his cup of tea—"You find Wales very dull, sister. I sincerely hope both Derwent and Harriet will not forget their promise of visiting us this month."
The lady slowly took her seat at the table, engrossed in her own reflections, when the man entered with his budget of news; and having deposited sundry papers and letters he respectfully withdrew. The Earl glanced his eyes over the directions of the epistles, and turning to his servants said, "Answer the bell when called." Three or four liveried footmen deposited their silver salvers and different implements of servitude, and the peer and his sister were left to themselves.
"Here is one from the Duke to me, and one for you from his sister," said the brother; "I propose they be read aloud for our mutual advantage." To this proposal the lady, whose curiosity to hear the contents of Derwent's letter greatly exceeded her interest in that of his sister, cheerfully acquiesced, and her brother first broke the seal of his own epistle, and read its contents as follow:
"Notwithstanding my promise of seeing you this month in Caernarvonshire, I remain here yet, my dear Pendennyss, unable to tear myself from the attractions I have found in this city, although the pleasure of their contemplation has been purchased at the expense of mortified feelings and unrequited affections. It is a truth (though possibly difficult to be believed), that this mercenary age has produced a female disengaged, young, and by no means very rich, who has refused a jointure of six thousand a year, with the privilege of walking at a coronation within a dozen of royalty itself."
Here the accidental falling of a cup from the hands of the fair listener caused some little interruption to the reading of the brother; but as the lady, with a good deal of trepidation and many blushes, apologized hastily for the confusion her awkwardness had made, the Earl continued to read.
"I could almost worship her independence: for I know the wishes of both her parents were for my success. I confess to you freely, that my vanity has been a good deal hurt, as I really thought myself agreeable to her. She certainly listened to my conversation, and admitted my approaches, with more satisfaction than those of any other of the men around her; and when I ventured to hint to her this circumstance, as some justification for my presumption, she frankly acknowledged the truth of my impression, and, without explaining the reasons for her conduct, deeply regretted the construction I had been led to place upon the circumstance. Yes, my lord, I felt it necessary to apologize to Emily Moseley for presuming to aspire to the honor of possessing so much loveliness and virtue. The accidental advantages of rank and wealth lose all their importance, when opposed to her delicacy, ingenuousness, and unaffected principles.
"I have heard it intimated lately, that George Denbigh was in some way or other instrumental in saving her life once; and that to her gratitude, and to my resemblance to the colonel, am I indebted to a consideration with Miss Moseley, which, although it has been the means of buoying me up with false hopes, I can never regret, from the pleasure her society has afforded me. I have remarked, on my mentioning his name to her, that she showed unusual emotion; and as Denbigh is already a husband, and myself rejected, the field is now fairly open to you. You will enter on your enterprise with great advantage, as you have the same flattering resemblance, and, if anything, the voice, which, I am told, is our greatest recommendation with the ladies, in higher perfection than either George or your humble servant."
Here the reader stopped of his own accord, and was so intently absorbed in his meditations, that the almost breathless curiosity of his sister was obliged to find relief by desiring him to proceed. Roused by the sound of her voice, the earl changed color sensibly, and continued:
"But to be serious on a subject of great importance to my future life (for I sometimes think her negative will make Denbigh a duke), the lovely girl did not appear happy at the time of our interview, nor do I think she enjoys at any time the spirits nature has evidently given her. Harriet is nearly as great an admirer of Miss Moseley, and takes her refusal to heart as much as myself; she even attempted to intercede with her in my behalf. But the charming girl though mild, grateful, and delicate, was firm and unequivocal, and left no grounds for the remotest expectation of success from perseverance on my part.
"As Harriet had received an intimation that both Miss Moseley and her aunt entertained extremely rigid notions on the score of religion, she took occasion to introduce the subject in her conference with the former, and was told in reply, 'that other considerations would have determined her to decline the honor I intended her; but that, under any circumstances, a more intimate knowledge of my principles would be necessary before she could entertain a thought of accepting my hand, or, indeed, that of any other man.' Think of that, Pendennyss! The principles of a duke!—now, a dukedom and forty thousand a year would furnish a character, with most people, for a Nero.
"I trust the important object I have had in view here is a sufficient excuse for my breach of promise to you; and I am serious when I wish you (unless the pretty Spaniard has, as I sometimes suspect, made you a captive) to see, and endeavor to bring me in some degree connected with, the charming family of Sir Edward Moseley.
"The aunt, Mrs. Wilson, often speaks of you with the greatest interest, and, from some cause or other, is strongly enlisted in your favor, and Miss Moseley hears your name mentioned with evident pleasure. Your religion or principles cannot be doubted. You can offer larger settlements, as honorable if not as elevated a title, a far more illustrious name, purchased by your own services, and personal merit greatly exceeding the pretensions of your assured friend and relative,
Both brother and sister were occupied with their own reflections for several minutes after the letter was ended, and the silence was broken first, by the latter saying with a low tone to her brother,—
"You must endeavor to become acquainted with Mrs. Wilson; she is, I know, very anxious to see you, and your friendship for the general requires it of you."
"I owe General Wilson much," replied the brother, in a melancholy voice; "and when we go to Annerdale House, I wish you to make the acquaintance of the ladies of the Moseley family, should they be in town this winter;—but you have yet the letter of Harriet to read."
After first hastily running over its contents, the lady commenced the fulfilment of her part of the engagement.
"Frederick has been so much engrossed of late with his own affairs, that he has forgotten there is such a creature in existence as his sister, or, indeed, any one else but a Miss Emily Moseley, and consequently I have been unable to fulfil my promise of making you a visit, for want of a proper escort, and—and—perhaps some other considerations, not worth mentioning in a letter I know you will read to the earl.
"Yes, my dear cousin, Frederick Denbigh has supplicated the daughter of a country baronet to become a duchess; and, hear it, ye marriage-seeking nymphs and marriage-making dames! has supplicated in vain!
"I confess to you, when the thing was first in agitation, my aristocratic blood roused itself a little at the anticipated connexion; but finding on examination that Sir Edward was of no doubtful lineage, and that the blood of the Chattertons runs in his veins, and finding the young lady everything I could wish in a sister, my scruples soon disappeared, with the folly that engendered them.
"There was no necessity for any alarm, for the lady very decidedly refused the honor offered her by Derwent, and what makes the matter worse, refused the solicitations of his sister also.
"I have fifty times been surprised at my own condescension, and to this moment am at a loss to know whether it was to the lady's worth, my brother's happiness, or the Chatterton blood, that I finally yielded. Heigho! this Chatterton is certainly much too handsome for a man; but I forget you have never seen him." (Here an arch smile stole over the features of the listener, as his sister continued)—"To return to my narration, I had half a mind to send for a Miss Harris there is here, to learn the most approved fashion of a lady preferring a suit, but as fame said she was just now practising on a certain hero ycleped Captain Jarvis, heir to Sir Timo of that name, it struck me her system might be rather too abrupt, so I was fain to adopt the best plan—that of trusting to nature and my own feelings for words.
"Nobility is certainly a very pretty thing (for those who have it), but I would defy the old Margravine of —— to keep up the semblance of superiority with Emily Moseley. She is so very natural, so very beautiful, and withal at times a little arch, that one is afraid to set up any other distinctions than such as can be fairly supported.
"I commenced with hoping her determination to reject the hand of Frederick was not an unalterable one. (Yes, I called him Frederick, what I never did out of my own family before in my life.) There was a considerable tremor in the voice of Miss Moseley, as she replied, 'I now perceive, when too late, that my indiscretion has given reason to my friends to think that I have entertained intentions towards his grace, of which I entreat you to believe me, Lady Harriet, I am innocent. Indeed—indeed, as anything more than an agreeable acquaintance I have never allowed myself to think of your brother:' and from my soul I believe her. We continued our conversation for half an hour longer, and such was the ingenuousness, delicacy, and high religious feeling displayed by the charming girl, that if I entered the room with a spark of regret that I was compelled to solicit another to favor my brother's love, I left it with a feeling that my efforts had been unsuccessful. Yes! thou peerless sister of the more peerless Pendennyss! I once thought of your ladyship as a wife for Derwent—"
A glass of water was necessary to enable the reader to clear her voice, which grew husky from speaking so long.
"But I now openly avow, neither your birth, your hundred thousand pounds, nor your merit, would put you on a footing, in my estimation, with my Emily. You may form some idea of her power to captivate, and of her indifference to her conquests, when I mention that she once refused—but I forget, you don't know him, and therefore cannot be a judge. The thing is finally decided, and we shortly go into Westmoreland, and next week, the Moseleys return to Northamptonshire. I don't know when I shall be able to visit you, and think I may now safely invite you to Denbigh Castle, although a month ago I might have hesitated. Love to the earl, and kind assurance to yourself of unalterable regard.
"P.S. I believe I forgot to mention that Mrs. Moseley, a sister of Lord Chatterton, has gone to Portugal, and that the peer himself is to go into the country with us: there is, I suppose, a fellow-feeling between them just now, though I do not think Chatterton looks so very miserable as he might. Adieu."
On ending this second epistle the same silence which had succeeded the reading of the first prevailed, until the lady with an arch expression, interrupted it by saying,
"Harriet will, I think, soon grace the peerage."
"And happily, I trust," replied the brother.
"Do you know Lord Chatterton?"
"I do; he is very amiable, and admirably calculated to contrast with the lively gaiety of Harriet Denbigh."
"You believe in loving our opposites, I see," rejoined the lady; and then affectionately stretching out her hand to him, she added, "but, Pendennyss, you must give me for a sister one as nearly like yourself as possible."
"That might please your affections," answered the earl with a smile, "but how would it comport with my tastes? Will you suffer me to describe the kind of man you are to select for your future lord, unless, indeed, you have decided the point already?"
The lady colored violently, and appearing anxious to change the subject, she tumbled over two or three unopened letters, as she cried eagerly—
"Here is one from the Donna Julia." The earl instantly broke the seal and read aloud; no secrets existing between them in relation to their mutual friend.
"I hasten to write you what I know it will give you pleasure to hear, concerning my future prospects in life. My uncle, General M'Carthy, has written me the cheerful tidings, that my father has consented to receive his only child, without any other sacrifice than a condition of attending the service of the Catholic Church without any professions on my side, or even an understanding that I am conforming to its peculiar tenets. This may be, in some measure, irksome at times, and possibly distressing; but the worship of God with a proper humiliation of spirit, I have learnt to consider as a privilege to us here, and I owe a duty to my earthly father of penitence and care in his later years that will justify the measure in the eyes of my heavenly One. I have, therefore, acquainted my uncle in reply, that I am willing to attend the Conde's summons at any moment he will choose to make them; and I thought it a debt due your care and friendship to apprise your lordship of my approaching departure from this country; indeed, I have great reasons for believing that your kind and unremitted efforts to attain this object have already prepared you to expect this result.
"I feel it will be impossible to quit England without seeing you and your sister, to thank you for the many, very many favors, of both a temporal and eternal nature, you have been the agents of conferring on me. The cruel suggestions which I dreaded, and which it appears had reached the ears of my friends in Spain, have prevented my troubling your lordship of late unnecessarily with my concerns. The consideration of a friend to your character (Mrs. Wilson) has removed the necessity of applying for your advice; she and her charming niece, Miss Emily Moseley, have been, next to yourselves, the greatest solace I have had in my exile, and united you will be remembered in my prayers. I will merely mention here, deferring the explanation until I see you in London, that I have been visited by the wretch from whom you delivered me in Portugal, and that the means of ascertaining his name have fallen into my hands. You will be the best judge of the proper steps to be taken; but I wish, by all means, something may be done to prevent his attempting to see me in Spain. Should it be discovered to my relations there that he has any such intentions, it would certainly terminate in his death, and possibly in my disgrace. Wishing you and your kind sister all possible happiness, I remain,
"Your Lordship's obliged friend,
"Oh!" cried the sister as she concluded the letter, "we must certainly see her before she goes. What a wretch that persecutor of hers must be! how persevering in his villainy!"
"He does exceed my ideas of effrontery," said the earl, in great warmth—"but he may offend too far; the laws shall interpose their power to defeat his schemes, should he ever repeat them."
"He attempted to take your life, brother," said the lady shuddering, "if I remember the tale aright."
"Why, I have endeavored to free him from that imputation," rejoined the brother, musing, "he certainly fired pistol, but the latter hit my horse at such a distance from myself, that I believe his object was to disable me and not murder. His escape has astonished me; he must have fled by himself into the woods, as Harmer was but a short distance behind me, admirably mounted, and the escort was up and in full pursuit within ten minutes. After all it may be for the best he was not taken; for I am persuaded the dragoons would have sabred him on the spot, and he may have parents of respectability, or a wife to kill by the knowledge of his misconduct."
"This Emily Moseley must be a faultless being," cried the sister, as she ran over the contents of Julia's letter. "Three different letters, and each containing her praises!"
The earl made no reply, but opening the duke's letter again, he appeared to be studying its contents. His color slightly changed as he dwelt on its passages, and turning to his sister he inquired if she had a mind to try the air of Westmoreland for a couple of weeks or a month.