George was too indignant to conceal this letter and the reflections of Francis were dreadful.
For a short time he actually meditated suicide, as the only method of removing himself from before the advancement of George. Had not George been more attentive and affectionate than formerly, the awful expedient might have been resorted to.
From college the young men went, one into the army and the other to the mansion of his uncle. George became an elegant, gay, open-hearted, admired captain in the guards; and Francis stalked through the halls of his ancestors, their acknowledged future lord, but a misanthrope; hateful to himself and disagreeable to all around him.
This picture may be highly wrought, but the effects, in the case of Francis, were increased by the peculiar tone of his diseased state of mind. The indulgence of favoritism, nevertheless, always brings its own sad consequences, in a greater or less degree, while it seldom fails to give sorrow and penitence to the bosom of the parents.
No little art and management had been necessary to make the admiral auxiliary to the indirect plan proposed by his friend to bring George and Isabel together. This, however, effected, the general turned his whole strategy to the impression to be made on the heart of the young gentleman.
Sir Frederick Denbigh had the same idea of the virtue of management as the Dowager Lady Chatterton, but he understood human nature better.
Like a prudent officer, his attacks were all masked, and, like a great officer, they seldom failed of success.
The young couple were thrown in each other's way, and as Isabel was extremely attractive, somewhat the opposite to himself in ardor of temperament and vivacity, modest, and sensible, it cannot be expected that the association was maintained by the youth with perfect impunity. Within a couple of months he fancied himself desperately in love with Isabel Howell; and, in truth, he had some reason for the supposition.
The general watched every movement of his son with a wary and vigilant eye—occasionally adding fuel to the flame, by drawing his attention to projects of matrimony in other quarters, until George began to think he was soon to undergo a trial of his constancy, and in consequence he armed himself with a double portion of admiration for his Isabel, in order to enable himself to endure the persecution; while the admiral several times endangered the success of the whole enterprise by volunteer contributions to the hopes of the young man, which only escaped producing an opposite effect to that which was intended, by being mistaken for the overflowings of good nature and friendship.
After suffering his son to get, as he thought, sufficiently entangled in the snares of Cupid, Sir Frederick determined to fire a volley from one of his masked batteries, which he rightly judged would bring on a general engagement. They were sitting at the table after dinner, alone, when the general took the advantage of the name of Miss Howell being accidentally mentioned, to say—
"By the by, George, my friend the admiral said something yesterday on the subject of your being so much with his daughter. I wish you to be cautious, and not to give the old sailor offence in any way, for he is my particular friend."
"He need be under no violent apprehensions," cried George, coloring highly with shame and pride, "I am sure a Denbigh is no unworthy match for a daughter of Sir Peter Howell."
"Oh! to be sure not, boy, we are as old a house as there is in the kingdom, and as noble too; but the admiral has queer notions, and, perhaps, he has some cub of a sailor in his eye for a son-in-law. Be prudent, my boy, be prudent; that is all I ask of you."
The general, satisfied with the effect he had produced, carelessly arose from his seat, and joined Lady Margaret in her drawing-room.
George remained for several minutes musing on his father's singular request, as well as the admiral's caution, when he sprang from his seat, caught up his hat and sword, and in ten minutes rang at Sir Peter's door in Grosvenor Square. He was admitted, and ascending to the drawing-room, he met the admiral on his way out. Nothing was further from the thoughts of the veteran than a finesse like the general's; and, delighted to see George on the battle-ground, he pointed significantly over his shoulder towards the door of the room Isabel was in, and exclaimed, with a good-natured smile,
"There she is, my hearty; lay her aside, and hang me if she don't strike. I say, George, faint heart never won fair lady: remember that, my boy; no, nor a French ship."
George would have been at some loss to have reconciled this speech to his father's caution, if time had been allowed him to think at all; but the door being open he entered, and found Isabel endeavoring to hide her tears.
The admiral, dissatisfied from the beginning with the tardy method of despatching things, thought he might be of use in breaking the ice for George, by trumpeting his praises on divers occasions to his daughter. Under all circumstances, he thought she might be learning to love the man, as he was to be her husband; and speeches like the following had been frequent of late from the parent to the child:
"There's that youngster, George Denbigh: now, Bell, is he not a fine looking lad? Then I know he is brave. His father before him, was good stuff and a true Englishman. What a proper husband he would make for a young woman, he loves his king and country so; none of your new-fangled notions about religion and government, but a sober, religious churchman; that is, as much so, girl, as you can expect in the guards. No Methodist, to be sure;—it's a great pity he wasn't sent to sea, don't you think so? But cheer up, girl, one of these days he may be taking a liking to you yet."
Isabel, whose fears taught her the meaning of these eloquent praises of Captain Denbigh, listened to these harangues in silence, and often meditated on their import by herself in tears.
George approached the sofa on which the lady was seated before she had time to conceal the traces of her sorrow, and in a voice softened by emotion, he took her hand gently as he said,—
"What can have occasioned this distress to Miss Howell. If anything in my power to remove, or which a life devoted to her service can mitigate, she has only to command me to find a cheerful obedience."
"The trifling causes of sorrow in a young woman," replied Isabel, endeavoring to smile, "will hardly require such serious services to remove them."
But the lady was extremely interesting at the moment. George was goaded by his father's caution, and urged on by his own feelings, with great sincerity, and certainly much eloquence, he therefore proffered his love and hand to the acceptance of his mistress.
Isabel heard him in painful silence. She respected him, and dreaded his power over her father; but, unwilling to abandon hopes to which she yet clung as to her spring of existence, with a violent effort she determined to throw herself on the generosity of her lover.
During her father's late absence Isabel had, as usual, since the death of her mother, been left with his sister, and had formed an attachment for a young clergyman, a younger son of a baronet, and the present Dr. Ives. The inclination had been mutual; and as Lady Hawker knew her brother to be perfectly indifferent to money, she could see no possible objection to its indulgence.
On his return, Ives made his proposals, as related; and although warmly backed by the recommendations of the aunt, he was refused. Out of delicacy the wishes of Isabel had not been mentioned by her clerical lover, and the admiral supposed he had only complied with his agreement with the general, without in any manner affecting the happiness of his daughter by his answer. But the feelings which prompted the request still remained in full vigor in the lovers; and Isabel now, with many blushes and some hesitation of utterance, made George fully acquainted with the state of her heart, giving him at the same time to understand that he was the only obstacle to her happiness.
It cannot be supposed that George heard her without pain or mortification. The struggle with self-love was a severe one, but his better feelings prevailed, and he assured the anxious Isabel that from his importunities she had nothing to apprehend in future. The grateful girl overwhelmed him with thanks, and George had to fly ere he repented of his own generosity.
Miss Howell intimated, in the course of her narrative, that a better understanding existed between their parents than the caution of the general had discovered to his unsuspecting child, and George was determined to know the worst at once.
At supper he mentioned, as if in remembrance of his father's injunction, that he had been to take his leave of Miss Howell, since he found his visits gave uneasiness to her friends. "On the whole," he added, endeavoring to yawn carelessly, "I believe I shall visit there no more."
"Nay, nay," returned Sir Frederick, a little displeased at his son's obedience, "I meant no such thing. Neither the admiral nor myself, has the least objection to your visiting in moderation; indeed, you may marry the girl with all our hearts, if you can agree."
"But we can't agree, I take it," said George, looking up at the wall.
"Why not? what hinders?' cried his father unguardedly.
"Only—only I don't like her," said the son, tossing off a glass of wine, which nearly strangled him.
"You don't," cried the general with great warmth, thrown entirely off his guard by this unexpected declaration "and may I presume to ask the reason why you do not like Miss Howell, sir?"
"Oh! you know, one never pretends to give a reason for this sort of feeling, my dear sir."
"Then," cried his father with increasing heat, "you must allow me to say, my dear sir, that the sooner you get rid of these sort of feelings the better. I choose you shall not only like, but love Miss Howell; and this I have promised her father."
"I thought that the admiral was displeased with my coming to his house so much—or did I not understand you this morning?"
"I know nothing of his displeasure, and care less. He has agreed that Isabel shall be your wife, and I have passed my word to the engagement; and if, sir, you wish to be considered as my son, you will prepare to comply."
George was expecting to discover some management on the part of his father, but by no means so settled an arrangement, and his anger was in proportion to the deception.
To annoy Isabel any further was out of the question; to betray her, base; and the next morning he sought an audience with the Duke. To him he mentioned his wish for actual service, but hinted that the maternal fondness of Lady Margaret was averse to his seeking it. This was true, and George now pressed his uncle to assist him in effecting an exchange.
The boroughs of the Duke of Derwent were represented by loyal members of parliament, his two brothers being contemporary with Mr. Benfield in that honor; and a request from a man who sent six members to the Commons, besides having a seat in the Lords in his own person, must be listened to.
Within the week George ceased to be a captain in the guards, and became lieutenant-colonel of a regiment under orders for America.
Sir Frederick soon became sensible of the error his warmth had led him into, and endeavored, by soothing and indulgence, to gain the ground he had so unguardedly lost. But terrible was his anger, and bitter his denunciations, when his son acquainted him with his approaching embarkation with his new regiment for America. They quarrelled; and as the favorite child had never, until now, been thwarted or spoken harshly to, they parted in mutual disgust. With his mother George was more tender; and as Lady Margaret never thought the match such as the descendant of two lines of dukes was entitled to form, she almost pardoned the offence in the cause.
"What's this here?" cried Sir Peter Howell, as he ran over a morning paper at the breakfast table: "Captain Denbigh, late of the guards, has been promoted to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the —— Foot, and sails to-morrow to join that regiment, now on its way to America."
"It's a lie, Bell!—it's all a lie! not but what he ought to be there, too, serving his king and country; but he never would serve you so."
"Me?" said Isabel, with a heart throbbing with the contending feelings of admiration for George's generosity, and delight at her own deliverance. "What have I to do with the movements of Mr. Denbigh?"
"What!" cried her father in astonishment; "a'n't you to be his wife, a'n't it all agreed upon—that is, between Sir Frederick and me, which is the same thing, you know—"
Here he was interrupted by the sudden appearance of the general himself, who had just learnt the departure of his son and hastened, with the double purpose of breaking the intelligence to his friend, and of making his own peace.
"See here, Denbigh," exclaimed the admiral, pointing to the paragraph, "what do you say to that?"
"Too true—too true, my dear friend," replied the general shaking his head mournfully.
"Hark ye, Sir Frederick Denbigh," cried the admiral fiercely; "did you not say that your son George was to marry my daughter?"
"I certainly did, Sir Peter, and am sorry to say that, in defiance of my entreaties and commands, he has deserted his' home, and, in consequence, I have discarded him for ever."
"Now, Denbigh," said the admiral, a good deal mollified by this declaration, "have I not always told you, that in the army you know nothing of discipline? Why, sir, if he was a son of mine, he should marry blindfolded, if I chose to order it. I wish, now, Bell had an offer, and dared to refuse it."
"There is the barber's clerk, you know," said the general, a good deal irritated by the contemptuous manner of his friend.
"And what of that, Sir Frederick?" said the sailor sternly; "if I choose her to marry a quill-driver, she shall comply."
"Ah! my good friend," said the general, willing to drop the disagreeable subject, "I am afraid we shall both find it more difficult to control the affections of our children than we at first imagined."
"You do, General Denbigh?" said the admiral, with a curl of contempt on his lip; and ringing the bell violently, he bid the servant send his young lady to him.
On the appearance of Isabel, her father inquired with an air of settled meaning where young Mr. Ives resided. It was only in the next street, and a messenger was sent to him, with Sir Peter Howell's compliments, and a request to see him without a moment's delay.
"We'll see, we'll see, my old friend, who keeps the best discipline," muttered the admiral, as he paced up and down the room, in eager expectation of the return of his messenger.
The wondering general gazed on his friend, to ascertain if he was out of his senses. He knew he was quick to decide, and excessively obstinate, but he did not think him so crazy as to throw away his daughter in a fit of spleen. It never occurred to Sir Frederick, however, that the engagement with himself was an act of equal injustice and folly, because it was done with more form and deliberation, which, to the eye of sober reason, would rather make the matter worse. Isabel sat in trembling suspense for the issue of the scene, and Ives in a few minutes made his appearance in no little alarm.
On entering, the admiral addressed him abruptly, by inquiring if he still wished to marry that girl, pointing to his daughter. The reply was an eager affirmative. Sir Peter beckoned to Isabel, who approached, covered with blushes; and her father having placed her hand in that of her lover, with an air of great solemnity he gave them his blessing. The young people withdrew to another room at Sir Peter's request, when he turned to his friend, delighted with his own decision and authority, and exclaimed,
"There, Fred. Denbigh, that is what I call being minded."
The general had penetration enough to see that the result was agreeable to both the young people, a thing he had long apprehended; and being glad to get rid of the affair in any way that did not involve him in a quarrel with his old comrade, he gravely congratulated the admiral on his good fortune and retired.
"Yes, yes," said Sir Peter to himself, as he paced up and down his room, "Denbigh is mortified enough, with his joy, and felicity, and grand-children. I never had any opinion of their manner of discipline at all; too much bowing and scraping. I'm sorry, though, he is a priest; not but what a priest may be as good a man as another, but let him behave ever so well, he can only get to be a bishop at the most. Heaven forbid he should ever get to be a Pope! After all, his boys may be admirals if they behave themselves;" and he went to seek his daughter, having in imagination manned her nursery with vice and rear admirals in embryo by the half dozen.
Sir Peter Howell survived the marriage of his daughter but eighteen months; yet that was sufficient time to become attached to his invaluable son-in-law. Mr. Ives insensibly led the admiral, during his long indisposition, to a more correct view of sacred things, than he had been wont to entertain; and the old man breathed his last, blessing both his children for their kindness, and with an humble hope of future happiness. Some time before his death, Isabel, whose conscience had always reproached her with the deception practised on her father, and with the banishment of George from his country and home, threw herself at the feet of Sir Peter and acknowledged her transgression.
The admiral heard her in astonishment, but not in anger. His opinions of life had sensibly changed, and his great cause of satisfaction with his new son removed all motives for regret for anything but for the fate of poor George. With the noble forbearance and tenderness of the young man to his daughter, the hardy veteran was sensibly touched; and his entreaties with Sir Frederick made his peace with a father already longing for the return of his only hope.
The admiral left Colonel Denbigh his blessing, and his favorite pistols, as a remembrance of his esteem; but he did not live to see the reunion with his family.
George had soon learnt, deprived of hope and in the midst of novelty, to forget a passion which could no longer be prosperous; and two years from his departure returned to England, glowing in health, and improved in person and manners by a more extensive knowledge of the world and mankind.
During the time occupied by the foregoing events, Francis continued a gloomy inmate of his uncle's house. The duke and his brother George were too indolent and inactive in their minds to pierce the cloud that mortification and deadened affections had drawn around the real character of their nephew; and although he was tolerated as the heir, he was but little loved as a man.
In losing his brother, Francis lost the only human being with whom he possessed any sympathies in common; and he daily drew more and more into himself, in gloomy meditation on his forlorn situation, in the midst of wealth and expected honors. The attentions he received were paid to his rank, and Francis had penetration enough to perceive it. His visits to his parents were visits of ceremony, and in time all parties came to look to their termination with pleasure, as to the discontinuance of heartless and forced civilities.
Affection, even in the young man, could not endure, repulsed as his feelings were, for ever; and in the course of three years, if his attachments were not alienated from his parents, his ardor had become much abated.
It is a dreadful truth, that the bonds of natural affection can be broken by injustice and contumely; and it is yet more to be deplored, that when from such causes we loosen the ties habit and education have drawn around us, a reaction in our feelings commences; we seldom cease to love, but we begin to hate. Against such awful consequences it is one of the most solemn duties of the parent to provide in season; and what surer safeguard is there, than to inculcate those feelings which teach the mind to love God, and in so doing induce love to the whole human family?
Sir Frederick and Lady Margaret attended the church regularly, repeated the responses with much decency, toasted the church next to the king, even appeared at the altars of their God, and continued sinners. From such sowings, no good fruit could be expected to flourish: yet Francis was not without his hours of devotion; but his religion was, like himself, reserved, superstitious, ascetic, and gloomy. He never entered into social worship: if he prayed it was with an ill-concealed wish to end this life of care. If he returned thanks, it was with a bitterness that mocked the throne before which he was prostrate. Such pictures are revolting; but their originals have and do exist; for what enormity is there of which human frailty, unchecked by divine assistance, may not be guilty?
Francis received an invitation to visit a brother of his mother's at his seat in the country, about the time of the expected return of George from America; and in compliance with the wishes of his uncles he accepted it. The house was thronged with visitors, and many of them were ladies. To these, the arrival of the unmarried heir of the house of Derwent was a subject of no little interest. His character had, however, preceded him, and a few days of his awkward and, as they conceived, sullen deportment, drove them back to their former beaux, with the exception of one; and she was not only amongst the fairest of the throng, but decidedly of the highest pretensions on the score of birth and fortune.
Marian Lumley was the only surviving child of the last Duke of Annerdale, with whom had expired the higher honors of his house. But the Earldom of Pendennyss, with numerous ancient baronies, were titles in fee; and together with his princely estates had descended to his daughter as heir-general of the family. A peeress in her own right, with an income far exceeding her utmost means of expenditure, the lovely Countess of Pendennyss was a prize aimed at by all the young nobles of the empire.
Educated in the midst of flatterers and dependants she had become haughty, vain, and supercilious; still she was lovely, and no one knew better how to practise the most winning arts of her sex, when whim or interest prompted her to the trial.
Her host was her guardian and relative; and through his agency she had rejected, at the age of twenty, numerous suitors for her hand. Her eyes were fixed on the ducal coronet; and unfortunately for Francis Denbigh, he was, at the time, the only man of the proper age who could elevate her to that enviable distinction in the kingdom; and an indirect measure of her own had been the means of his invitation to the country.
Like the rest of her young companions, Marian was greatly disappointed on the view of her intended captive, and for a day or two she abandoned him to his melancholy and himself. But ambition was her idol; and to its powerful rival, love, she was yet a stranger. After a few struggles with her inclinations the consideration that their united fortunes and family alliances would make one of the wealthiest and most powerful houses in the kingdom, prevailed. Such early sacrifices of the inclinations in a woman of her beauty, youth and accomplishments, may excite surprise; but where the mind is left uncultivated by the hand of care, the soul untouched by the love of goodness, the human heart seldom fails to set up an idol of its own to worship. In the Countess of Pendennyss this idol was pride.
The remainder of the ladies, from ceasing to wonder at the manners of Francis, had made them the subject of their mirth; and nettled at his apparent indifference to their society, which they erroneously attributed to his sense of his importance, they overstepped the bounds of good-breeding in manifesting their displeasure.
"Mr. Denbigh," cried one of the most thoughtless and pretty of the gay tribe to him one day, as Francis sat in a corner abstracted from the scene around him, "when do you mean to favor the world with your brilliant ideas in the shape of a book?"
"Oh! no doubt soon," said a second; "and I expect they will be homilies, or another volume to the Whole Duty of Man."
"Rather," cried a third, with bitter irony, "another canto to the Rape of the Lock, his ideas are so vivid and full of imagery."
"Or, what do you think," said a fourth, speaking in a voice of harmony, and tones of the most soothing tenderness, "of pity and compassion, for the follies of those inferior minds, who cannot enjoy the reflections of a good sense and modesty peculiarly his own?"
This might also be irony; and Francis thought it so; but the tones were so soft and conciliating, that with a face pale with his emotions, he ventured to look up and met the eye of Marian, fixed on him in an expression that changed his death-like hue into the color of vermillion.
He thought of this speech; he reasoned on it; he dreamt on it. But for the looks which accompanied it, like the rest of the party, he would have thought it the cruellest cut of them all. But that look, those eyes, that voice, what a commentary on her language did they not afford!
Francis was not long in suspense; the next morning an excursion was proposed, which included all but himself in its arrangements. He was either too reserved or too proud to offer services which were not required.
Several gentlemen had contended for the honor of driving the countess in a beautiful phaeton of her own. They grew earnest in their claims: one had been promised by its mistress with an opportunity of trying the ease of the carriage; another was delighted with the excellent training of her horses; in short, all had some particular claim to the distinction, which was urged with a warmth and pertinacity proportionate to the value of the prize to be obtained. Marian heard the several claimants with an ease and indifference natural to her situation, and ended the dispute by saying—
"Gentlemen, as I have made so many promises from the dread of giving offence, I must throw myself on the mercy of Mr. Denbigh, who alone, with the best claims, does not urge them; to you then," continued she, approaching him with the whip which was to be given the victor, "I adjudge the prize, if you will condescend to accept it."
This was uttered with one of her most attractive smiles, and Francis received the whip with an emotion that he with difficulty could control.
The gentlemen were glad to have the contest decided by adjudging the prize to one so little dangerous, and the ladies sneered at her choice as they left the house.
There was something so soothing in the manners of Lady Pendennyss, she listened to the little he said with such a respectful attention, was so anxious to have him give his opinions, that the unction of flattery, thus sweetly applied, and for the first time, could not fail of its wonted effects.
The communications thus commenced were continued. It was so easy to be attentive, by being simply polite to one unused to notice of any kind, that Marian found the fate of the young man in her hands almost as soon as she attempted to control it.
A new existence opened upon Francis, as day after day she insensibly led him to a display of powers he was unconscious until now of possessing himself. His self-respect began to increase, his limited pleasures to multiply, and he could now look around him with a sense of participation in the delights of life, as he perceived himself of consequence to this much admired woman.
Trifling incidents, managed on her part with consummate art, had led him to the daring inference that he was not entirely indifferent to her; and Francis returned the incipient affection of his mistress with a feeling but little removed from adoration. Week flew by after week, and still he lingered at the residence of his kinsman, unable to tear himself from the society of one so worshipped, and yet afraid to take a step by making a distinct declaration which might involve him in disgrace or ridicule.
The condescension of the countess increased, and she had indirectly given him the most flattering assurances of his success, when George, just arrived from America, having first paid his greetings to his reconciled parents, and the happy couple of his generosity, flew to the arms of his brother in Suffolk.
Francis was overjoyed to see George, and George delighted in the visible improvement of his brother. Still Francis was far, very far behind his junior in graces of mind and body; indeed, few men in England were more adapted by nature and education for female society than was Colonel Denbigh at the period of which we write.
Marian witnessed all his attractions, and deeply felt their influence; for the first time she felt the emotions of the gentle passion; and after having sported in the gay world, and trifled with the feelings of others for years, the countess in her turn became an unwilling victim to its power. George met her flame with a corresponding ardor, and the struggle between ambition and love became severe; the brothers unconsciously were rivals.
Had George for a moment suspected the situation of the feelings of Francis, his very superiority in the contest would have induced him to retreat from the unnatural rivalry. Had the elder dreamt of the views of his junior, he would have abandoned his dearest hopes in utter despair. Francis had so long been accustomed to consider George as his superior in everything, that a competition with him would have appeared desperate. Marian contrived to keep both in hopes, undecided herself which to choose, and perhaps ready to yield to the first applicant. A sudden event, however, removed all doubts, and decided the fate of the three.
The Duke of Derwent and his bachelor brother became so dissatisfied with the character of their future heir, that they as coolly set about providing themselves with wives as they had performed any other ordinary transaction of life, They married cousins, and on the same day the choice of the ladies was assigned between them by lots; and if his grace got the prettier, his brother certainly got the richest; under the circumstances a very tolerable distribution of fortune's favors.
These double marriages dissolved the charm of Francis, and Lady Pendennyss determined to consult her wishes; a little pointed encouragement brought out the declaration of George, and he was accepted.
Francis, who had never communicated his feelings to any one but the lady, and that only indirectly, was crushed by the blow. He continued in public until the day of their union; was present, composed and silent; but it was the silence of a mountain whose volcanic contents had not reached the surface. The same day he disappeared, and every inquiry after him proved fruitless; search was baffled, and for seven years it was not known what had become of the general's eldest son.
George on marrying resigned his commission, at the earnest entreaties of his wife, and retired to one of her seats, to the enjoyment of ease and domestic love. The countess was enthusiastically attached to him; and as motives for the indulgence of coquetry were wanting, her character became gradually improved by the contemplation of the excellent qualities of her generous husband.
A lurking suspicion of the cause of Francis's sudden disappearance rendered her uneasy at times; but Marian was too much beloved, too happy, in the enjoyment of too many honors, and of too great wealth, to be open to the convictions of conscience. It is in our hours of pain and privation that we begin to feel its sting: if we are prosperous, we fancy we reap the fruits of our own merit; but if we are unfortunate, the voice of truth seldom fails to remind us that we are deserving of our fate:—a blessed provision of Providence that often makes the saddest hours of our earthly career the morn of a day that is to endure for ever.
General Denbigh and Lady Margaret both died within five years of the marriage of their favorite child, although both lived to see their descendant, in the person of the infant Lord Lumley.
The duke and his brother George were each blessed with offspring, and in these several descendants of the different branches of the family of Denbigh may be seen the different personages of our history. On the birth of her youngest child, the Lady Marian, the Countess of Pendennyss sustained a shock in her health from which she never wholly recovered: she became nervous, and lost most of her energy both of mind and body. Her husband was her solace; his tenderness remaining unextinguished, while his attentions increased.
As the fortune of Ives and Isabel put the necessity of a living out of the question, and no cure offering for the acceptance of the first, he was happy to avail himself of an offer to become domestic chaplain to his now intimate friend, Mr. Denbigh. For the first six years they were inmates of Pendennyss Castle. The rector of the parish was infirm, and averse to a regular assistant; but the unobtrusive services of Mr. Ives were not less welcome to the pastor than to his parishioners.
Employed in the duties which of right fell to the incumbent, and intrusted with the spiritual guardianship of the dependants of the castle, our young clergyman had ample occupation for all his time, if not a sufficient theatre for his usefulness. Isabel and himself remained the year round in Wales, and the first dawnings of education received by Lord Lumley were those he acquired conjointly with Francis from the care of the latter's father. They formed, with the interval of the time spent by Mr. Denbigh and Lady Pendennyss in town in winter, but one family. To the gentleman, the attachment of the grateful Ives was as strong as it was lasting. Mrs. Ives never ceased to consider him as a self-devoted victim to her happiness; and although a far more brilliant lot had awaited him by the change, yet her own husband could not think it a more happy one.
The birth of Lady Marian had already, in its consequences, begun, to throw a gloom round the domestic comforts of Denbigh, when he was to sustain another misfortune in a separation from his friends.
Mr., now Dr. Ives, had early announced his firm intention, whenever an opportunity was afforded him, to enter into the fullest functions of his ministry, as a matter of duty. Such an opportunity now offered at B——, and the doctor became its rector about the period Sir Edward became possessor of his paternal estate.
Denbigh tried every inducement within his power to keep the doctor in his own society. If as many thousands as his living would give him hundreds could effect it, they would have been at his service; but Denbigh understood the character of the divine too well to offer such an inducement: he however urged the claims of friendship to the utmost, but without success. The doctor acknowledged the hold both himself and family had gained upon his affections, but he added—
"Consider, my dear Mr. Denbigh, what we would have thought of one of the earlier followers of our Saviour, who from motives of convenience or worldly-mindedness could have deserted his sacred calling. Although the changes in the times may have rendered the modes of conducting them different, necessarily the duties remain the same. The minister of our holy religion who has once submitted to the call of his divine Master, must allow nothing but ungovernable necessity to turn him from the path he has entered on; and should he so far forget himself, I greatly fear he would plead, when too late to remedy the evil, his worldly duties, his cares, or even his misfortunes, in vain. Solemn and arduous are his obligations to labor, but when faithfully he has discharged these duties, oh! how glorious must be his reward."
Before such opinions every barrier must fall, and the doctor entered into the cure of his parish without further opposition, though not without unceasing regret on the part of his friend. Their intercourse was, however, maintained by letter, and they also frequently met at Lumley Castle, a seat of the countess's, within two days' ride of the doctor's parish, until her increasing indisposition rendered journeying impossible; then, indeed, the doctor extended his rides into Wales, but with longer intervals between his visits, though with the happiest effects to the objects of his journey.
Mr. Denbigh, worn down with watching and blasted hopes, under the direction of the spiritual watchfulness of the rector of B——, became an humble, sincere, and pious Christian.
It has been already mentioned, that the health of Lady Pendennyss suffered a severe shock, in giving birth to a daughter. Change of scene was prescribed as a remedy for her disorder, and Denbigh and his wife were on their return from a fruitless excursion amongst the northern lakes, in pursuit of amusement and relief for the latter when they were compelled to seek shelter from the fury of a sudden gust in the first building that offered. It was a farm-house of the better sort; and the attendants, carriages, and appearance of their guests, caused no little confusion to its simple inmates. A fire was lighted in the best parlor, and every effort was made by the inhabitants to contribute to the comforts of the travellers.
The countess and her husband were sitting in that kind of listless melancholy which had been too much the companion of their later hours, when in the interval of the storm, a male voice in an adjoining room commenced singing the following ballad, the notes being low, monotonous, but unusually sweet, and the enunciation so distinct, as to rende every syllable intelligible:
Oh! I have lived in endless pain, And I have lived, alas! in vain, For none regard my woe— No father's care conveyed the truth, No mother's fondness blessed my youth, Ah! joys too great to know—
And Marian's love, and Marian's pride, Have crushed the heart that would have died. To save my Marian's tears— A brother's hand has struck the blow Oh! may that brother never know Such madly sorrowing years!
But hush my griefs—and hush my song, I've mourned in vain—I've mourned too long; When none have come to soothe— And dark's the path, that lies before, And dark have been the days of yore, And all was dark in youth.
The maids employed around the person of their comfortless mistress, the valet of Denbigh engaged in arranging a dry coat for his master—all suspended their employments to listen in breathless silence to the mournful melody of the song.
But Denbigh himself had started from his seat at the first notes, and he continued until the voice ceased, gazing in vacant horror in the direction of the sounds. A door opened from the parlor to the room of the musician; he rushed through it, and there, in a kind of shed to the building, which hardly sheltered him from the fury of the tempest, clad in the garments of the extremest poverty, with an eye roving in madness, and a body rocking to and fro from mental inquietude, he beheld seated on a stone the remains of his long lost brother, Francis.
The language of the song was too plain to be misunderstood. The truth glared around George with a violence that dazzled his brain; but he saw it all, he felt it all, and rushing to the feet of his brother, he exclaimed in horror, pressing his hands between his own,—
"Francis—my own brother—do you not know me?"
The maniac regarded him with a vacant gaze, but the voice and the person recalled the compositions of his more reasonable moments to his recollection; pushing back the hair of George, so as to expose his fine forehead to view, he contemplated him for a few moments, and then continued to sing, in a voice still rendered sweeter than before by his faint impressions:
His raven locks, that richly curled, His eye, that proud defiance hurled. Have stol'n my Marian's love! Had I been blest by nature's grace, With such a form, with such a face, Could I so treacherous prove?
And what is man—and what is care— That he should let such passions tear The bases of the soul! Oh! you should do, as I have done— And having pleasure's summit won, Each bursting sob control!
On ending the last stanza, the maniac released his brother, and broke into the wildest laugh of madness.
"Francis!—Oh! Francis, my brother," cried George, in bitterness. A piercing shriek drew his eye to the door he had passed through—on its threshold lay the senseless body of his wife. The distracted husband forgot everything in the situation of his Marian, and raising her in his arms, he exclaimed,—
"Marian—my Marian, revive—look up—know me."
Francis had followed him, and now stood by his side, gazing intently on the lifeless body; his looks became more soft—his eye glanced less wildly—he too cried,—
There was a mighty effort; nature could endure no more, he broke a blood-vessel and fell at the feet of George. They flew to his assistance, giving the countess to her women; but he was dead.
For seventeen years Lady Pendennyss survived this shock: but having reached her own abode, during that long period she never left her room.
In the confidence of his surviving hopes, Doctor Ives and his wife were made acquainted with the real cause of the grief of their friend, but the truth went no further. Denbigh was the guardian of his three young cousins, the duke, his sister, and young George Denbigh; these, with his son, Lord Lumley, and daughter, Lady Marian, were removed from the melancholy of the Castle to scenes better adapted to their opening prospects in life. Yet Lumley was fond of the society of his father, and finding him a youth endowed beyond his years, the care of his parent was early turned to the most important of his duties in that sacred office; and when he yielded to his wishes to go into the army, he knew he went a youth of sixteen, possessed of principles and self-denial that would become a man of five-and-twenty.
General Wilson completed the work which the father had begun; and Lord Lumley formed a singular exception to the character of most of his companions.
At the close of the Spanish war, he returned home, and was just in time to receive the parting breath of his mother.
A few days before her death, the countess requested that her children might be made acquainted with her history and misconduct; and she placed in the hands of her son a letter; with directions for him to open it after her decease. It was addressed to both children, and after recapitulating generally the principal events of her life, continued:
"Thus, my children, you perceive the consequences of indulgence and hardness of heart, which made me insensible to the sufferings of others, and regardless of the plainest dictates of justice. Self was my idol. The love of admiration, which was natural to me, was increased by the flatterers who surrounded me; and had the customs of our country suffered royalty to descend in their unions to a grade in life below their own, your uncle would have escaped the fangs of my baneful coquetry.
"Oh! Marian, my child, never descend so low as to practise those arts which have degraded your unhappy mother. I would impress on you, as a memorial of my parting affection, these simple truths—that coquetry stands next to the want of chastity in the scale of female vices; it is in fact a kind of mental prostitution; it is ruinous to all that delicacy of feeling which gives added lustre to female charms; it is almost destructive to modesty itself. A woman who has been addicted to its practice, may strive long and in vain to regain that singleness of heart, which can bind her up so closely in her husband and children as to make her a good wife or a mother; and if it should have degenerated into habit, it may lead to the awful result of infidelity to her marriage vows.
"It is vain for a coquette to pretend to religion; its practice involves hypocrisy, falsehood, and deception—everything that is mean—everything that is debasing. In short, as it is bottomed on selfishness and pride, where it has once possessed the mind, it will only yield to the truth-displaying banners of the cross. This, and this only, can remove the evil; for without it she, whom the charms of youth and beauty have enabled to act the coquette, will descend into the vale of life, altered, it is true, but not amended. She will find the world, with its allurements, clinging around her parting years, in vain regrets for days that are flown, and in mercenary views for her descendants. Heaven bless you, my children, console and esteem your inestimable father while he yet remains with you; and place your reliance on that Heavenly Parent who will never desert those who seek him in sincerity and love. Your dying mother,
This letter, evidently written under the excitement of deep remorse, made a great impression on both her children. In Lady Marian it was pity, regret, and abhorrence of the fault which had been the principal cause of the wreck of her mother's peace of mind; but in her brother, now Earl of Pendennyss, these feelings were united with a jealous dread of his own probable lot in the chances of matrimony.
His uncle had been the supposed heir to a more elevated title than his own, but he was now the actual possessor of as honorable a name, and of much larger revenues. The great wealth of his maternal grandfather, and the considerable estate of his own father, were, or would soon be, centred in himself; and if a woman as amiable, as faultless, as affection had taught him to believe his mother to be, could yield in her situation to the lure of worldly honors, had he not great reason to dread, that a hand might be bestowed at some day upon himself, when the heart would point out some other destination, if the real wishes of its owner were consulted?
Pendennyss was modest by nature, and humble from principle, though by no means distrustful; yet the shock of discovering his mother's fault, the gloom occasioned by her death and his father's declining health, sometimes led him into a train of reflections which, at others, he would have fervently deprecated.
A short time after the decease of the countess, Mr. Denbigh, finding his constitution fast giving way, under the wasting of a decline he had been in for a year, resolved to finish his days in the abode of his Christian friend, Doctor Ives. For several years they had not met; increasing duties and infirmities on both sides having interrupted their visits.
By easy stages he left the residence of his son in Wales, and accompanied by both his children he reached Lumley Castle much exhausted; here he took a solemn and final leave of Marian, unwilling that she should so soon witness again the death of another parent, and dismissing the earl's. equipage and attendants a short day's ride from B——, they proceeded alone to the rectory.
A letter had been forwarded acquainting the doctor of his approaching visit, wishing it to be perfectly private, but not alluding to its object, and naming a day, a week later than the one on which he arrived. This plan was altered on perceiving the torch of life more rapidly approaching the socket than he had at first supposed. His unexpected appearance and reception are known. Denbigh's death and the departure of his son followed; Francis having been Pendennyss's companion to the tomb of his ancestors in Westmoreland.
The earl had a shrinking delicacy, under the knowledge of his family history, that made him anxious to draw all eyes from the contemplation of his mother's conduct; how far the knowledge of it had extended in society he could not know, but he wished it buried with her in the tomb. The peculiar manner of his father's death would attract notice, and might recall attention to the prime cause of his disorder; as yet all was veiled, and he wished the doctor's family to let it remain so. It was, however, impossible that the death of a man of Mr. Denbigh's rank should be unnoticed in the prints, and the care of Francis dictated the simple truth without comments, as it appeared. As regarded the Moseleys, what was more natural than that the son of Mr. Denbigh should also be Mr. Denbigh?
In the presence of the rector's family no allusions were made to their friends, and the villagers and the neighborhood spoke of them as old and young Mr. Denbigh.
The name of Lord Lumley, now Earl of Pendennyss, was known to the whole British nation; but the long retirement of his father and mother had driven them almost from the recollection of their friends. Even Mrs. Wilson supposed her favorite hero a Lumley. Pendennyss Castle had been for centuries the proud residence of that family; and the change of name in its possessor was forgotten with the circumstances that had led to it.
When, therefore, Emily met the earl so unexpectedly the second time at the rectory, she, of course, with all her companions, spoke of him as Mr. Denbigh. On that occasion, Pendennyss had called in person, in expectation of meeting his kinsman, Lord Bolton; but, finding him absent, he could not resist his desire to visit the rectory. Accordingly, he sent his carriage and servants on to London, leaving them at a convenient spot, and arrived on foot at the house of Dr. Ives. From the same motives which had influenced him before—a wish to indulge, undisturbed by useless ceremony, his melancholy reflections—he desired that his name might not be mentioned.
This was an easy task. Both Doctor and Mrs. Ives had called him, when a child, George or Lumley, and were unused to his new appellation of Pendennyss; indeed, it rather recalled painful recollections to them all.
It may be remembered that circumstances removed the necessity of any introduction to Mrs. Wilson and her party; and the difficulty in that instance was happily got rid of.
The earl had often heard Emily Moseley spoken of by his friends, and in their letters they frequently mentioned her name as connected with their pleasures and employments, and always with an affection Pendennyss thought exceeding that which they manifested for their son's wife; and Mrs Ives, the evening before, to remove unpleasant thoughts, had given him a lively description of her person and character. The earl's curiosity had been a little excited to see this paragon of female beauty and virtue; and, unlike most curiosity on such subjects, he was agreeably disappointed by the examination. He wished to know more, and made interest with the doctor to assist him to continue the incognito with which accident had favored him.
The doctor objected on the ground of principle, and the earl desisted; but the beauty of Emily, aided by her character, had made an impression not to be easily shaken off, and Pendennyss returned to the charge.
His former jealousies were awakened in proportion to his admiration; and, after some time, he threw himself on the mercy of the divine, by declaring his new motive, but without mentioning his parents. The doctor pitied him, for he scanned his feelings thoroughly, and consented to keep silent, but laughingly declared it was bad enough for a divine to be accessory to, much less aiding in a deception; and that he knew if Emily and Mrs. Wilson learnt his imposition, he would lose ground in their favor by the discovery.
"Surely, George," said the doctor with a laugh, "you don't mean to marry the young lady as Mr. Denbigh?"
"Oh, no! it is too soon to think of marrying her at all," replied the earl with a smile; "but, somehow, I should like to see what my reception in the world will be as plain Mr. Denbigh, unprovided for and unknown."
"No doubt, my lord," said the rector archly, "in proportion to your merits, very unfavorably indeed; but then your humility will be finally elevated by the occasional praises I have heard Mrs. Wilson lavish on your proper character of late."
"I am much indebted to her partiality," continued the earl mournfully; then throwing off his gloomy thoughts he added, "I wonder, my dear doctor, your goodness did not set her right in the latter particular."
"Why, she has hardly given me an opportunity; delicacy and my own feelings have kept me very silent on the subject of your family to any of that connexion. They think, I believe, I was a rector in Wales, instead of your father's chaplain; and somehow," continued the doctor, smiling on his wife, "the association with your late parents was so connected in my mind with my most romantic feelings, that although I have delighted in it, I have seldom alluded to it in conversation at all. Mrs. Wilson has spoken of you but twice in my hearing, and that since she has expected to meet you; your name has doubtless recalled the remembrance of her husband."
"I have many, many reasons to remember the general with gratitude," cried the earl with fervor; "but doctor, do not forget my incognito: only call me George; I ask no more."
The plan of Pendennyss was put in execution. Day after day he lingered in Northamptonshire, until his principles and character had grown upon the esteem of the Moseleys in the manner we have mentioned.
His frequent embarrassments were from the dread and shame of a detection. With Sir Herbert Nicholson he had a narrow escape, and Mrs. Fitzgerald and Lord Henry Stapleton he of course avoided; for having gone so far, he was determined to persevere to the end. Egerton he thought knew him, and he disliked his character and manners.
When Chatterton appeared most attentive to Emily, the candor and good opinion of that young nobleman made the earl acquainted with his wishes and his situation. Pendennyss was too generous not to meet his rival on fair grounds. His cousin and the duke were requested to use their united influence secretly to obtain the desired station for the baron. The result is known, and Pendennyss trusted his secret to Chatterton; he took him to London, gave him in charge to Derwent, and returned to prosecute his own suit. His note from Bolton Castle was a ruse to conceal his character, as he knew the departure of the baronet's family to an hour, and had so timed his visit to the earl as not to come in collision with the Moseleys.
"Indeed, my lord," cried the doctor to him one day, "your scheme goes on swimmingly, and I am only afraid when your mistress discovers the imposition, you will find your rank producing a different effect from what you have apprehended."
But Dr. Ives was mistaken. Had he seen the sparkling eyes and glowing cheeks of Miss Moseley, the smile of satisfaction and happiness which played on the usually thoughtful face of Mrs. Wilson, when the earl handed them into his own carriage, as they left his house on the evening of the discovery, the doctor would have gladly acknowledged the failure of his prognostics. In truth, there was no possible event that, under the circumstances, could have given both aunt and niece such heartfelt pleasure, as the knowledge that Denbigh and the earl were the same person.
Pendennyss stood holding the door of the carriage in his hand, irresolute how to act, when Mrs. Wilson said—
"Surely, my lord, you sup with us."
"A thousand thanks, my dear madam, for the privilege," cried the earl, as he sprang into the coach; the door was closed, and they drove off.
"After the explanations of this morning, my lord," said Mrs. Wilson, willing to remove all doubts between him and Emily, and perhaps anxious to satisfy her own curiosity, "it will be fastidious to conceal our desire to know more of your movements. How came your pocket-book in the possession of Mrs. Fitzgerald?"
"Mrs. Fitzgerald!" cried Pendennyss, in astonishment "I lost the book in one of the rooms of the Lodge, and supposed it had fallen into your hands, and betrayed my disguise by Emily's rejection of me, and your own altered eye. Was I mistaken then in both?"
Mrs. Wilson now, for the first time, explained their real grounds for refusing his offers, which, in the morning, she had loosely mentioned as owing to a misapprehension of his just character, and recounted the manner of the book falling into the hands of Mrs. Fitzgerald.
The earl listened in amazement, and after musing with himself, exclaimed—
"I remember taking it from my pocket, to show Colonel Egerton some singular plants I had gathered, and think I first missed it when returning to the place where I had then laid it; in some of the side-pockets were letters from Marian, addressed to me, properly; and I naturally thought they had met your eye."
Mrs. Wilson and Emily immediately thought Egerton the real villain, who had caused both themselves and Mrs. Fitzgerald so much uneasiness, and the former mentioned her suspicions to the earl.
"Nothing more probable, dear madam," cried he, "and this explains to me his startled looks when we first met, and his evident dislike to my society, for he must have seen my person, though the carriage hid him from my sight."
That Egerton was the wretch, and that through his agency the pocket-book had been carried to the cottage, they all now agreed, and turned to more pleasant subjects.
"Master!—here—master," said Peter Johnson, as he stood at a window of Mr. Benfield's room, stirring a gruel for the old gentleman's supper, and stretching his neck and straining his eyes to distinguish objects by the light of the lamps—"I do think there is Mr. Denbigh, handing Miss Emmy from a coach, covered with gold, and two footmen, all dizened with pride like."
The spoon fell from the hands of Mr. Benfield. He rose briskly from his seat, and adjusting his dress, took the arm of the steward, and proceeded to the drawing-room. While these several movements were in operation, which consumed some time, the old bachelor relieved the tedium of Peter's impatience by the following speech:—
"Mr. Denbigh!—what, back?—I thought he never could let that rascal John shoot him and forsake Emmy after all; (here the old gentleman suddenly recollected Denbigh's marriage) but now, Peter, it can do no good either.—I remember, that when my friend the Earl of Gosford "—(and again he was checked by the image of the card-table and the viscountess) "but, Peter," he said with great warmth, "we can go down and see him, notwithstanding."
"Mr. Denbigh!" exclaimed Sir Edward, in astonishment, when he saw the companion of his sister and child enter the drawing-room, "you are welcome once more to your old friends: your sudden retreat from us gave us much pain; but we suppose Lady Laura had too many attractions to allow us to keep you any longer in Norfolk."
The good Baronet sighed, as he held out his hand to the man whom he had once hoped to receive as a son.
"Neither Lady Laura nor any other lady, my dear Sir Edward," cried the earl, as he took the baronet's hand, "drove me from you, but the frowns of your own fair daughter; and here she is, ready to acknowledge her offence, and, I hope, to atone for it."
John, who knew of the refusal of his sister, and was not a little displeased with the cavalier treatment he had received at Denbigh's hands, felt indignant at such improper levity in a married man, and approached with—
"Your servant, Mr. Denbigh—I hope my Lady Laura is well."
Pendennyss understood his look, and replied very gravely—
"Your servant, Mr. John Moseley—my Lady Laura is, or certainly ought to be, very well, as she has this moment gone to a rout, accompanied by her husband."
The quick eye of John glanced from the earl to his aunt, to Emily; a lurking smile was on all their features. The heightened color of his sister, the flashing eyes of the young nobleman, the face of his aunt, all told him that something uncommon was about to be explained; and, yielding to his feelings, he caught the hand which Pendennyss extended to him, and cried,
"Denbigh, I see—I feel—there is some unaccountable mistake—we are—"
"Brothers!" said the earl, emphatically. "Sir Edward—dear Lady Moseley, I throw myself on your mercy. I am an impostor: when your hospitality received me into your house, it is true you admitted George Denbigh, but he is better known as the Earl of Pendennyss."
"The Earl of Pendennyss!" exclaimed Lady Moseley, in a glow of delight, as she saw at once through some juvenile folly a deception which promised both happiness and rank to one of her children. "Is it possible, my dear Charlotte, that this is your unknown friend?"
"The very same, Anne," replied the smiling widow, "and guilty of a folly that, at all events, removes the distance between us a little, by showing that he is subject to the failings of mortality. But the masquerade is ended, and I hope you and Edward will not only treat him as an earl, but receive him as a son."
"Most willingly—most willingly," cried the baronet, with great energy; "be he prince, peer, or beggar, he is the preserver of my child, and as such he is always welcome."
The door now slowly opened, and the venerable bachelor appeared on its threshold.
Pendennyss, who had never forgotten the good will manifested to him by Mr. Benfield, met him with a look of pleasure, as he expressed his happiness at seeing him again in London.
"I never have forgotten your goodness in sending honest Peter such a distance from home, on the object of his visit. I now regret that a feeling of shame occasioned my answering your kindness so laconically:" turning to Mrs. Wilson, he added, "for a time I knew not how to write a letter even, being afraid to sign my proper appellation, and ashamed to use my adopted."
"Mr. Denbigh, I am happy to see you. I did send Peter, it is true, to London, on a message to you—but it is all over now," the old man sighed—"Peter, however, escaped the snares of this wicked place; and if you are happy, I am content. I remember when the Earl of—"
"Pendennyss!" exclaimed the other, "imposed on the hospitality of a worthy man, under an assumed appellation, in order to pry into the character of a lovely female, who was only too good for him, and who now is willing to forget his follies, and make him not only the happiest of men, but the nephew of Mr. Benfield."
During this speech, the countenance of Mr. Benfield had manifested evident emotion: he looked from one to another, until he saw Mrs. Wilson smiling near him. Pointing to the earl with his finger, he stood unable to speak, as she answered simply,—
"And Emmy dear—will you—will you marry him?" cried Mr. Benfield, suppressing his feelings, to give utterance to his question.
Emily felt for her uncle, and blushing deeply, with great frankness she put her hand in that of the earl, who pressed it with rapture again and again to his lips.
Mr. Benfield sank into a chair, and with a heart softened by emotion, burst into, tears.
"Peter," he cried, struggling with his feelings, "I am now ready to depart in peace—I shall see my darling Emmy happy, and to her care I shall commit you."
Emily, deeply affected with his love, threw herself into his arms, in a torrent of tears, and was removed from them by Pendennyss, in consideration for the feelings of both.
Jane felt no emotions of envy for her sister's happiness; on the contrary, she rejoiced in common with the rest of their friends in her brightening prospects, and they all took their seats at the supper table, as happy a group as was contained in the wide circle of the metropolis. A few more particulars served to explain the mystery sufficiently, until a more fitting opportunity made them acquainted with the whole of the earl's proceedings.
"My Lord Pendennyss," said Sir Edward, pouring out a glass of wine, and passing the bottle to his neighbor: "I drink your health—and happiness to yourself and my darling child."
The toast was drunk by all the family, and the earl replied to the compliments with his thanks and smiles, while Emily could only notice them with her blushes and tears.
But this was an opportunity not to be lost by the honest steward, who, from affection and long services, had been indulged in familiarities exceeding any other of his master's establishment. He very deliberately helped himself to a glass of wine, and drawing near the seat of the bride-elect, with an humble reverence, commenced his speech as follows:
"My dear Miss Emmy:—Here's hoping you'll live to be a comfort to your honored father, and your honored mother, and my dear honored master, and yourself, and Madam Wilson." The steward paused to clear his voice, and profited by the delay to cast his eye round the table to collect the names; "and Mr. John Moseley, and sweet Mrs. Moseley, and pretty Miss Jane" (Peter had lived too long in the world to compliment one handsome woman in the presence of another, without the qualifying his speech a little); "and Mr. Lord Denbigh—earl like, as they say he now is, and"—Peter stopped a moment to deliberate, and then making another reference, he put the glass to his lips; but before he had got half through its contents, recollected himself, and replenishing it to the brim, with a smile acknowledging his forgetfulness, continued, "and the Rev. Mr. Francis Ives, and the Rev. Mrs. Francis Ives."
Here the unrestrained laugh of John interrupted him; and considering with himself that he had included the whole family, he finished his bumper. Whether it was pleasure at his own eloquence in venturing on so long a speech, or the unusual allowance, that affected the steward, he was evidently much satisfied with himself, and stepped back behind his master's chair, in great good humor.
Emily, as she thanked him, noticed a tear in the eye of the old man, as he concluded his oration, that would have excused a thousand breaches of fastidious ceremony. But Pendennyss rose from his seat, and took him kindly by the hand, and returned his own thanks for his good wishes.
"I owe you much good will, Mr. Johnson, for, your two journeys in my behalf, and trust I never shall forget the manner in which you executed your last mission in particular. We are friends, I trust, for life."
"Thank you—thank your honor's lordship," said the steward, almost unable to utter; "I hope you may live long, to make dear little Miss Emmy as happy—as I know she ought to be."
"But really, my lord," cried John, observing that the steward's affection for his sister had affected her to tears, "it was a singular circumstance, the meeting of the four passengers of the stage so soon at your hotel."
Moseley explained his meaning to the rest of the company.
"Not so much so as you imagine," said the earl in reply; "yourself and Johnson were in quest of me. Lord Henry Stapleton was under an engagement to meet me that evening at the hotel, as we were both going to his sister's wedding—I having arranged the thing with him by letter previously; and General M'Carthy was also in search of me, on business relating to his niece, the Donna Julia. He had been to Annerdale House, and, through my servants, heard I was at an hotel. It was the first interview between us, and not quite as amicable a one as has since been had in Wales. During my service in Spain, I saw the Conde, but not the general. The letter he gave me was from the Spanish ambassador, claiming a right to require Mrs. Fitzgerald from our government, and deprecating my using an influence to counteract his exertions"—
"Which you refused," said Emily, eagerly.
"Not refused," answered the earl, smiling at her warmth, while he admired her friendly zeal, "for it was unnecessary: there is no such power vested in the ministry. But I explicitly told the general, I would oppose any violent measures to restore her to her country and a convent. From the courts, I apprehended nothing for my fair friend."
"Your honor—my lord," said Peter, who had been listening with great attention, "if I may presume just to ask two questions, without offence."
"Say on, my good friend," said Pendennyss, with an encouraging smile.
"Only" continued the steward—hemming, to give proper utterance to his thoughts—"I wish to know, whether you stayed in that same street after you left the hotel—for Mr. John Moseley and I had a slight difference in opinion about it."
The earl smiled, having caught the arch expression of John, and replied—
"I believe I owe you an apology, Moseley, for my cavalier treatment; but guilt makes us all cowards. I found you were ignorant of my incognito, and I was equally ashamed to continue it, or to become the relater of my own folly. Indeed," he continued, smiling on Emily as he spoke, "I thought your sister had pronounced the opinion of all reflecting people on my conduct. I went out of town, Johnson, at day-break. What is the other query?"
"Why, my lord," said Peter, a little disappointed at finding his first surmise untrue, "that outlandish tongue your honor used—"
"Was Spanish," cried the earl.
"And not Greek, Peter," said his master, gravely. "I thought, from the words you endeavored to repeat to me, that you had made a mistake. You need not be disconcerted, however, for I know several members of the parliament of this realm who could not talk the Greek language, that is, fluently. So it can be no disgrace to a serving-man to be ignorant of it."
Somewhat consoled to find himself as well off as the representatives of his country, Peter resumed his station in silence, when the carriages began to announce the return from the opera. The earl took his leave, and the party retired to rest.
The thanksgivings of Emily that night, ere she laid her head on her pillow, were the purest offering of mortal innocence. The prospect before her was unsullied by a cloud and she poured out her heart in the fullest confidence of pious love and heartfelt gratitude.
As early on the succeeding morning as good-breeding would allow, and much earlier than the hour sanctioned by fashion, the earl and Lady Marian stopped in the carriage of the latter at the door of Sir Edward Moseley. Their reception was the most flattering that could be offered to people of their stamp; sincere, cordial, and, with a trifling exception in Lady Moseley, unfettered with any useless ceremonies.
Emily felt herself drawn to her new acquaintance with a fondness which doubtless grew out of her situation with her brother; which soon found reasons enough in the soft, lady-like, and sincere manners of Lady Marian, to, justify her attachment on her own account.
There was a very handsome suite of drawing-rooms in Sir Edward's house, and the communicating doors were carelessly open. Curiosity to view the furniture, or some such trifling reasons, induced the earl to find his way into the one adjoining that in which the family were seated. It was unquestionably a dread of being lost in a strange house, that induced him to whisper a request to the blushing Emily, to be his companion; and lastly, it must have been nothing but a knowledge that a vacant room was easier viewed than one filled with company, that prevented any one from following them. John smiled archly at Grace, doubtless in approbation of the comfortable time his friend was likely to enjoy, in his musings on the taste of their mother. How the door became shut, we have ever been at a loss to imagine.
The company without were too good-natured and well satisfied with each other to miss the absentees, until the figure of the earl appeared at the reopened door, beckoning, with a face of rapture, to Lady Moseley and Mrs. Wilson. Sir Edward next disappeared, then Jane, then Grace—then Marian; until John began to think a tete-a-tete with Mr. Benfield was to be his morning's amusement.
The lovely countenance of his wife, however, soon relieved his ennui, and John's curiosity was gratified by an order to prepare for his sister's wedding the following week.
Emily might have blushed more than common during this interview, but it is certain she did not smile less; and the earl, Lady Marian assured Sir Edward, was so very different a creature from what he had recently been, that she could hardly think it was the same sombre gentleman with whom she had passed the last few months in Wales and Westmoreland.
A messenger was dispatched for Dr. Ives and their friends at B——, to be witnesses to the approaching nuptials; and Lady Moseley at length found an opportunity of indulging her taste for splendor on this joyful occasion.
Money was no consideration; and Mr. Benfield absolutely pined at the thought that the great wealth of the earl put it out of his power to contribute in any manner to the comfort of his Emmy. However, a fifteenth codicil was framed by the ingenuity of Peter and his master, and if it did not contain the name of George Denbigh, it did that of his expected second son, Roderick Benfield Denbigh, to the qualifying circumstance of twenty thousand pounds, as a bribe for the name.
"And a very pretty child, I dare say, it will be," said the steward, as he placed the paper in its repository. "I don't know that I ever saw, your honor, a couple that I thought would make a handsomer pair like, except—" Peter's mind dwelt on his own youthful form coupled with the smiling graces of Patty Steele.
"Yes! they are as handsome as they are good!" replied his master. "I remember now, when our Speaker took his third wife, the world said that they were as pretty a couple as there was at court. But my Emma and the earl will be a much finer pair. Oh! Peter Johnson; they are young, and rich, and beloved; but, after all, it avails but little if they be not good."
"Good!" cried the steward in astonishment; "they are as good as angels."
The master's ideas of human excellence had suffered a heavy blow in the view of his viscountess, but he answered mildly,
"As good as mankind can well be."
The warm weather had now commenced; and Sir Edward, unwilling to be shut up in London at a time the appearance of vegetation gave the country a new interest, and accustomed for many years of his life to devote an hour in his garden each morn, had taken a little ready furnished cottage a short ride from his residence, with the intention of frequenting it until after the birthday. Thither then Pendennyss took his bride from the altar, and a few days were passed by the newly married pair in this little asylum.
Doctor Ives, with Francis, Clara, and their mother, had obeyed the summons with an alacrity in proportion to the joy they felt on receiving it, and the former had the happiness of officiating on the occasion. It would have been easy for the wealth of the earl to procure a license to enable them to marry in the drawing-room; the permission was obtained, but neither Emily nor himself felt a wish to utter their vows in any other spot than at the altar, and in the house of their Maker.
If there was a single heart that felt the least emotion of regret or uneasiness, it was Lady Moseley, who little relished the retirement of the cottage on so joyful an occasion; but Pendennyss silenced her objections by good-humoredly replying—
"The fates have been so kind to me, in giving me castles and seats, you ought to allow me, my dear Lady Moseley, the only opportunity I shall probably ever have of enjoying love in a cottage."
A few days, however, removed the uneasiness of the good matron, who had the felicity within the week of seeing her daughter initiated mistress of Annerdale House.
The morning of their return to this noble mansion the earl presented himself in St. James's Square, with the intelligence of their arrival, and smiling as he bowed to Mrs. Wilson, he continued—
"And to escort you, dear madam, to your new abode."
Mrs. Wilson started with surprise, and with a heart beating quick with emotion, she required an explanation of his words.
"Surely, dearest Mrs. Wilson—more than aunt—my mother—you cannot mean, after having trained my Emily through infancy to maturity in the paths of duty, to desert her in the moment of her greatest trial. I am the pupil of your husband," he continued, taking her hands in his own with reverence and affection; "we are the children of your joint care, and one home, as there is but one heart, must in future contain us."
Mrs. Wilson had wished for, but hardly dared to expect this invitation. It was now urged from the right quarter, and in a manner that was as sincere as it was gratifying. Unable to conceal her tears, the good widow pressed the hand of Pendennyss to her lips as she murmured out her thanks. Sir Edward was prepared also to lose his sister; but unwilling to relinquish the pleasure of her society, he urged her making a common residence between the two families.
"Pendennyss has spoken truth, my dear brother," cried she, recovering her voice; "Emily is the child of my care and my love—the two beings I love best in this world are now united—but," she added, pressing Lady Moseley to her bosom, "my heart is large enough for you all; you are of my blood, and my gratitude for your affection is boundless. There shall be but one large family of us; and although our duties may separate us for a time, we will, I trust, ever meet in tenderness and love, though with George and Emily I will take up my abode."
"I hope your house in Northamptonshire is not to be vacant always," said Lady Moseley to the earl, anxiously.
"I have no house there, my dear madam," he replied; "when I thought myself about to succeed in my suit before, I directed a lawyer at Bath, where Sir William Harris resided most of his time, to endeavor to purchase the deanery, whenever a good opportunity offered: in my discomfiture," he added, smiling, "I forgot to countermand the order, and he purchased it immediately on its being advertised. For a short time it was an incumbrance to me, but it is now applied to its original purpose. It is the sole property of the Countess of Pendennyss, and I doubt not you will see it often and agreeably tenanted."
This intelligence gave great satisfaction to his friends, and the expected summer restored to even Jane a gleam of her former pleasure.
If there be bliss in this life, approaching in any degree to the happiness of the blessed, it is the fruition of long and ardent love, where youth, innocence, piety, and family concord, smile upon the union. And all these were united in the case of the new-married pair; but happiness in this world cannot or does not, in any situation, exist without alloy.
The peace of mind and fortitude of Emily were fated to receive a blow, as unlooked for to herself as it was unexpected to the world. Bonaparte appeared in France, and Europe became in motion.
From the moment the earl heard the intelligence his own course was decided. His regiment was the pride of the army, and that it would be ordered to join the duke he did not entertain a doubt.
Emily was, therefore, in some little measure prepared for the blow. It is at such moments as our own acts, or events affecting us, get to be without our control, that faith in the justice and benevolence of God is the most serviceable to the Christian. When others spend their time in useless regrets he is piously resigned: it even so happens, that when others mourn he can rejoice.
The sound of the bugle, wildly winding its notes, broke on the stillness of the morning in the little village in which was situated the cottage tenanted by Sir Edward Moseley. Almost concealed by the shrubbery which surrounded its piazza, stood the forms of the Countess of Pendennyss and her sister Lady Marian, watching eagerly the appearance of those whose approach was thus announced.
The carriage of the ladies, with its idle attendants, was in waiting at a short distance; and the pale face but composed resignation of its mistress, indicated a struggle between conflicting duties.
File after file of heavy horse passed them in military pomp, and the wistful gaze of the two females had scanned them in vain for the well known, much-beloved countenance of the leader. At length a single horseman approached them, riding deliberately and musing: their forms met his eye, and in an instant Emily was pressed to the bosom of her husband.
"It is the doom of a soldier," said the earl, dashing a tear from his eye; "I had hoped that the peace of the world would not again be assailed for years, and that ambition and jealousy would yield a respite to our bloody profession; but cheer up, my love—hope for the best—your trust is not in the things of this life, and your happiness is without the power of man."
"Ah! Pendennyss—my husband," sobbed Emily, sinking on his bosom, "take with you my prayers—my love—everything that can console you—everything that may profit you. I will not tell you to be careful of your life; your duty teaches you that. As a soldier, expose it; as a husband guard it; and return to me as you leave me, a lover, the dearest of men, and a Christian."
Unwilling to prolong the pain of parting, the earl gave his wife a last embrace, held Marian affectionately to his bosom, and mounting his horse, was out of sight in an instant.
Within a few days of the departure of Pendennyss, Chatterton was surprised with the entrance of his mother and Catharine. His reception of them was that of a respectful child, and his wife exerted herself to be kind to connexions she could not love, in order to give pleasure to a husband she adored. Their tale was soon told. Lord and Lady Herriefield were separated; and the dowager, alive to the dangers of a young woman in Catharine's situation, and without a single principle on which to rest the assurance of her blameless conduct in future, had brought her to England, in order to keep off disgrace, by residing with her child herself.
There was nothing in his wife to answer the expectations with which Lord Herriefield married. She had beauty, but with that he was already sated; her simplicity, which, by having her attention drawn elsewhere, had at first charmed him, was succeeded by the knowing conduct of a determined follower of the fashions, and a decided woman of the world.
It had never struck the viscount as impossible that an artless and innocent girl would fall in love with his faded and bilious face, but the moment Catharine betrayed the arts of a manager, he saw at once the artifice that had been practised; of course he ceased to love her.
Men are flattered for a season with notice that has been unsought, but it never fails to injure the woman who practises it in the opinion of the other sex, in time. Without a single feeling in common, without a regard to anything but self, in either husband or wife, it could not but happen that a separation must follow, or their days be spent in wrangling and misery. Catharine willingly left her husband; her husband more willingly got rid of her.
During all these movements the dowager had a difficult game to play. It was unbecoming her to encourage the strife, and it was against her wishes to suppress it; she therefore moralized with the peer, and frowned upon her daughter.
The viscount listened to her truisms with the attention of a boy who is told by a drunken father how wicked it is to love liquor, and heeded them about as much; while Kate, mistress at all events of two thousand a year, minded her mother's frowns as little as she regarded her smiles; both were indifferent to her.
A few days after the ladies left Lisbon, the viscount proceeded to Italy in company with the repudiated wife of a British naval officer; and if Kate was not guilty of an offence of equal magnitude, it was more owing to her mother's present vigilance than to her previous care.
The presence of Mrs. Wilson was a great source of consolation to Emily in the absence of her husband; and as their longer abode in town was useless, the countess declining to be presented without the earl, the whole family decided upon a return into Northamptonshire.
The deanery had been furnished by order of Pendennyss immediately on his marriage; and its mistress hastened to take possession of her new dwelling. The amusement and occupation of this movement, the planning of little improvements, her various duties under her increased responsibilities, kept Emily from dwelling unduly upon the danger of her husband. She sought out amongst the first objects of her bounty the venerable peasant whose loss had been formerly supplied by Pendennyss on his first visit to B——, after the death of his father. There might not have been the usual discrimination and temporal usefulness in this instance which generally accompanied her benevolent acts; but it was associated with the image of her husband, and it could excite no surprise in Mrs. Wilson, although it did in Marian, to see her sister driving two or three times a week to relieve the necessities of a man who appeared actually to be in want of nothing.
Sir Edward was again amongst those he loved, and his hospitable board was once more surrounded with the faces of his friends and neighbors. The good-natured Mr. Haughton was always a welcome guest at the hall, and met, soon after their return, the collected family of the baronet, at a dinner given by the latter to his children and one or two of his most intimate neighbors—
"My Lady Pendennyss," cried Mr. Haughton, in the course of the afternoon, "I have news from the earl, which I know it will do your heart good to hear."
Emily smiled at the prospect of hearing in any manner of her husband, although she internally questioned the probability of Mr. Haughton's knowing anything of his movements, of which her daily letters did not apprise her.
"Will you favor me with the particulars of your intelligence, sir?" said the countess.
"He has arrived safe with his regiment near Brussels; heard it from a neighbor's son who saw him enter the house occupied by Wellington, while he was standing in the crowd without, waiting to get a peep at the duke."
"Oh!" said Mrs. Wilson with a laugh, "Emily knew that ten days ago. Could your friend tell us anything of Bonaparte? We are much interested in his movements just now."
Mr. Haughton, a good deal mortified to find his news stale, mused a moment, as if in doubt to proceed or not; but liking of all things to act the part of a newspaper, he continued—
"Nothing more than you see in the prints; but I suppose your ladyship has heard about Captain Jarvis too?"
"Why, no," said Emily, laughing; "the movements of Captain Jarvis are not quite as interesting to me as those of Lord Pendennyss—has the duke made him an aide-de-camp?"
"Oh! no," cried the other, exulting at his having something new: "as soon as he heard of the return of Boney, he threw up his commission and got married."
"Married!" cried John; "not to Miss Harris, surely."
"No; to a silly girl he met in Cornwall, who was fool enough to be caught with his gold lace. He married one day, and the next told his disconsolate wife and panic-stricken mother that the honor of the Jarvises must sleep until the supporters of the name became sufficiently numerous to risk them in the field of battle."
"And how did Mrs. Jarvis and Sir Timo's lady relish the news?" inquired John, expecting something ridiculous.
"Not at all," rejoined Mr. Haughton; "the former sobbed, and said she had only married him for his bravery and red coat, and the lady exclaimed against the destruction of his budding honors."
"How did it terminate?" asked Mrs. Wilson.
"Why, it seems while they were quarrelling about it, the War-Office cut the matter short by accepting his resignation, I suppose the commander-in-chief had learned his character; but the matter was warmly contested: they even drove the captain to a declaration of his principles."
"And what kind of ones might they have been, Haughton?" said Sir Edward, drily.
"Republican!" exclaimed two or three in surprise.
"Yes, liberty and equality, he contended, were his idols, and he could not find it in his heart to fight against Bonaparte."
"A somewhat singular conclusion," said Mr. Benfield, musing. "I remember when I sat in the House, there was a party who were fond of the cry of this said liberty; but when they got the power they did not seem to me to suffer people to go more at large than they went before; but I suppose they were diffident of telling the world their minds after they were put in such responsible stations, for fear of the effect of example."
"Most people like liberty as servants but not as masters, uncle," cried John, with a sneer.
"Captain Jarvis, it seems, liked it as a preservative against danger," continued Mr. Haughton; "to avoid ridicule in his new neighborhood, he has consented to his father's wishes, and turned merchant in the city again."
"Where I sincerely hope he will remain," cried John, who since the accident of the arbor, could not tolerate the unfortunate youth.