Agitated by a suspense which bordered on agony, with a beating heart she heard his quick step descending the stairs. The door opened, and Pembroke, flying into the room, caught up his hat. As he was darting away again, unable to restrain her impatience, Miss Beaufort with an imploring voice ejaculated his name. He turned, and displayed to her amazed sight a countenance in which no vestige of his former animation could be traced. His cheek was flushed, and his eyes shot a wild fire that struck to her heart. Unconscious what she did, she ran up to him; but Pembroke, pushing her back, exclaimed, "Don't ask me any questions, if you would not drive me to madness."
"O Heaven!" cried she, catching his arm, and clinging to him, while the eagerness of his motion dragged her into the hall. "Tell me! Has anything happened to my guardian—to your friend—to Constantine?"
"No," replied he, looking at her with a face full of desperation; "but my father commands me to treat him like a villain."
She could hardly credit her senses at this confirmation that Constantine and Sobieski were one. Turning giddy with the tumultuous delight that rushed over her soul, she staggered back a few paces, and leaning against the open door, tried to recover breath to regain the room she had left.
Pembroke, having escaped from her grasp, ran furiously down the hill, mounted his horse, and forbidding any groom to attend him, galloped towards the high road with the impetuosity of a madman. All the powers of his soul were in arms, Wounded, dishonored, stigmatized with ingratitude and baseness, he believed himself to be the most degraded of men.
It appeared that Sir Robert Somerset had long cherished a hatred to the Poles, in consequence of some injury he affirmed he had received in early youth from one of that nation. In this instance his dislike was implacable; and when his son set out for the continent, he positively forbade him to enter Poland. Notwithstanding his remembrance of this violated injunction, when Pembroke joined the baronet in his library, he did it with confidence. With a bounding heart and animated countenance, he recapitulated how he had been wrought upon by his young Russian friends to take up arms in their cause and march into Poland. At these last words his father turned pale, and though he did not speak, the denunciation was on his brow.
Pembroke, who expected some marks of displeasure, hastened to obliterate his disobedience by narrating the event which had introduced not only the young Count Sobieski to his succor, but the consequent friendship of the whole of that princely family.
Sir Robert still made no verbal reply, but his countenance deepened in gloom; and when Pembroke, with all the pathos of a deep regret, attempted to describe the death of the palatine, the horrors which attended the last hours of the countess, and the succeeding misery of Thaddeus, who was now in England, no language can paint the frenzy which burst at once from the baronet. He stamped on the ground, he covered his face with his clenched hands; then turning on his son with a countenance no longer recognizable, he exclaimed with fury, "Pembroke! you have outraged my commands! Never will I pardon you if that young man ever blasts me with his sight."
"Merciful Heaven!" cried Pembroke, thunderstruck at a violence which he almost wished might proceed from real madness: "surely something has agitated my father! What can this mean?"
Sir Robert shook his head, whilst his teeth ground against each other. "Don't mistake me," replied he, in a firm voice "I am perfectly in my senses. It depends on you that I continue so. You know my oath against all of that nation! and I repeat again, if you ever bring that young man into my presence, you shall never see me more."
A cold dew overspread the body of Pembroke. He would have caught his father's hand, but he held it back. "O sir," said he, "you surely cannot intend that I shall treat with ingratitude the man who saved my life?"
Sir Robert did not vouchsafe him an answer, but continued walking up and down the room, until, his hesitation increasing at every step, he opened the door of an interior apartment and retired, bidding his son remain where he left him.
The horror-struck Pembroke waited a quarter of an hour before his father re-entered. When he did appear, the deep gloom of his eye gave no encouragement to his son, who, hanging down his head, recoiled from speaking first. Sir Robert approached with a composed but severe countenance, and said, "I have been seeking every palliation that your conduct might admit, but I can find none. Before you quitted England, you knew well my abhorrence of Poland. One of that country many years ago wounded my happiness in a way I shall never recover. From that hour I took an oath never to enter its borders, and never to suffer one of its people to come within my doors. Rash, disobedient boy! You know my disposition, and you have seen the emotion with which this dilemma has shaken my soul! I But be it on your own head that you have incurred obligations which I cannot repay. I will not perjure myself to defray a debt contracted against my positive and declared principles. I never will see this Polander you speak of; and it is my express command, on pain of my eternal malediction, that you break with him entirely."
Pembroke fell into a seat. Sir Robert proceeded.
"I pity your distress, but my resolution cannot be shaken. Oaths are not to be broken with impunity. You must either resign him or resign me. We may compromise your debt of gratitude. I will give you deeds to put your friend in possession of five hundred pounds a-year for life forever; nay, I would even double it to give you satisfaction; but from the hour in which you tell him so, you must see him no more."
Sir Robert was quitting the room, when Pembroke, starting from his chair, threw himself in agony on his knees, and catching by the skirt of his father's coat, implored him for God's sake to recall his words; to remember that he was affixing everlasting dishonor on his son! "Remember, dear sir!" cried he, holding his struggling hand, "that the man to whom you offer money as a compensation for insult is of a nature too noble to receive it. He will reject it, and spurn me; and I shall know that I deserve his scorn. For mercy's sake, spare me the agony of harrowing up the heart of my preserver—of meeting reproach from his eyes!"
"Leave me!" cried the baronet, breaking from him; "I repeat, unless you wish to incur my curse, do as I have commanded."
Thus outraged, thus agonised, Pembroke had appeared before the eyes of his cousin Mary more like a distracted creature than a man possessed of his senses. Shortly after his abrupt departure, her apprehension was petrified to a dreadful certainty of some cruel ruin to her hopes, by an order she received in the handwriting of her uncle, commanding her not to attempt visiting Lady Tinemouth whilst the Count Sobieski continued to be her guest, and under peril of his displeasure never to allow that name to pass her lips.
Hardly knowing whither he went, Pembroke did not arrive at the ruined aisle which leads to the habitable part of the Abbey until near three o'clock. He inquired of the groom that took his horse whether the countess and Mr. Constantine were at home. The man replied in the affirmative, but added, with a sad countenance, he feared neither of them could be seen.
"For what reason?" demanded Somerset.
"Alas! sir," replied the servant, "about an hour ago my lady was seized with a violent fit of coughing, which ended in the rupture of a blood-vessel. It continued to flow so long, that Mr. Constantine told the apothecary, whom he had summoned, to send for a physician. The doctor is not yet arrived, and Mr. Constantine won't leave my lady,"
Though Mr. Somerset was truly concerned at the illness of the countess, the respite it afforded him from immediately declaring the ungrateful message of Sir Robert gave him no inconsiderable degree of ease. Somewhat relieved by the hope of being for one day spared the anguish of displaying his father in a disgraceful light, he entered the Abbey, and desired that a maid-servant might be sent to her ladyship's room to inform his friend that Mr. Somerset was below.
In a few minutes the girl returned with the following lines on a slip of paper:
"To Pembroke Somerset, Esq.
"I am grieved that I cannot see my dear Somerset to-day I fear my revered friend is on her death-bed. I have sent for Dr. Cavendish, who is now at Stanford; doubtless you know he is a man of the first abilities. If human skill can preserve her, I may yet have hopes; but her disorder is on the lung and in the heart, and I fear the stroke is sure. I am now sitting by her bedside, and writing what she dictates to her husband, her son, and her daughter. Painful, you may believe, is this task! I cannot, my dear Somerset, add more than my hope of seeing you soon, and that you will join in prayers to Heaven for the restoration of my inestimable friend, with your faithful and affectionate
"Alas! unhappy, persecuted Sobieski!" thought Pembroke, as he closed the paper; "to what art thou doomed! Some friends are torn from thee by death; others desert thee in the hour of trouble."
He took out his pencil to answer this distressing epistle, but he stopped at the first word; he durst not write that his father would fulfil any one of those engagements which he had so largely promised; and throwing away the pencil and the paper, he left a verbal declaration of his sorrow at what had happened, and an assurance of calling next day. Turning his back on a house which he had left on the preceding night with so many joyful hopes, he remounted his horse, and, melancholy and slow, rode about the country until evening,—so unwilling was he to return to that home which now threatened him with the frowns of his father, the tears of Mary Beaufort, and the miserable reflections of his own wretched heart.
THE MATERNAL HEART.
Doctor Cavendish having been detained beyond his expected time with his invalid friend at Stanford, was happily still there, and set off for Harrowby the instant Mr. Constanine's messenger arrived, and before midnight alighted at the Abbey.
When he entered Lady Tinemouth's chamber he found her supported in the arms of Thaddeus, and struggling with a second rupture of her lungs. As he approached the bed, Thaddeus turned his eyes on him with an expression that powerfully told his fears. Dr. Cavendish silently pressed his hand; then taking from his pocket some styptic drops, he made the countess swallow them, and soon saw that they succeeded in stopping the hemorrhage.
Thaddeus and her physician remained by the side of the patient sufferer until ten in the morning, when she sunk into a gentle sleep. Complete stillness being necessary to continue this repose, the good doctor proposed leaving the maid to watch by her ladyship, and drawing the count out of the room, descended the stairs.
Mr. Somerset had been arrived half an hour, and met them in the breakfast parlor. After a few kind words exchanged between the parties, they sat down with dejected countenances to their melancholy meal. Thaddeus was too much absorbed in the scene he had left to take anything but a dish of coffee.
"Do you think Lady Tinemouth is in imminent danger?" inquired Pembroke of the doctor.
Dr. Cavendish sighed, and turning to Thaddeus, directed to him the answer which his friend's question demanded. "I am afraid, my dear Mr. Constantine," said he, in a reluctant voice, "that you are to sustain a new trial! I fear she cannot live eight-and-forty hours."
Thaddeus cast down his eyes and shuddered, but made no reply. Further remarks were prevented by a messenger from the countess, who desired Mr. Constantine's immediate attendance at her bedside. He obeyed. In half an hour he returned, with the mark of tears upon his cheek.
"Dearest Thaddeus!" cried Pembroke, "I trust the countess is not worse? This threatened new bereavement is too much: it afflicts my very heart." Indeed it rent it; for Pembroke could not help internally acknowledging that when Sobieski should close the eyes of Lady Tinemouth, he would be paying the last sad office to his last friend. That dear distinction he durst no longer arrogate to himself. Denied the fulfilment of its duties, he thought that to retain the title would be an assumption without a right.
Thaddeus drew his hand over his again filling eyes. "The countess herself," said he, "feels the truth of what Dr. Cavendish told us. She sent for me, and begged me, as I loved her or would wish to see her die in peace, to devise some means for bringing her daughter to the Abbey to-night. As for Lord Harwold, she says his behavior since he arrived at manhood has been of a nature so cruel and unnatural, that she would not draw on herself the misery, nor on him the added guilt, of a refusal; but with regard to Lady Albina, who has been no sharer in those barbarities, she trusts a daughter's heart might be prevailed on to seek a last embrace from a dying parent. It is this request," continued he, "that agitates me. When she pictured to me, with all the fervor of a mother, her doating fondness for this daughter, (on whom, whenever she did venture to hope, all those hopes rested;) when she wrung my hand, and besought me, as if I had been the sole disposer of her fate, to let her see her child before she died, I could only promise every exertion to effect it, and with an aching heart I came to consult you."
Dr. Cavendish was opening his lips to speak, but Somerset, in his eagerness to relieve his friend, did not perceive it, and immediately answered, "This very hour I will undertake what you have promised. I know Lord Tinemouth's family are now at the Wolds. It is only thirty miles distant; I will send a servant to have relays of horses ready. My curricle, which is now at the door, will be more convenient than a chaise; and I will engage to be back before to-morrow morning. Write a letter, Thaddeus," added he, "to Lady Albina; tell her of her mother's situation; and though I have never seen the young lady, I will give it into her own hand, and then bring her off, even were it in the face of her villanous father."
The pale cheeks of Sobieski flushed with a conscious scarlet. Turning to Dr. Cavendish, he requested him, as the most proper person, to write to Lady Albina, whilst he would walk out with his friend to order the carriage. Pembroke was thanked for his zeal, but it was not by words; they are too weak vehicles to convey strong impressions. Thaddeus pressed his hand, and accompanied the action with a look which spoke volumes. The withered heart of Pembroke expanded under the animated gratitude of his friend. Receiving the letter, he sprang into his seat, and, until he lost sight of Harrowby Hill, forgot how soon he must appear to that friend the most ungrateful of men.
It was near six in the evening before Mr. Somerset left his curricle at the little inn which skirts the village of Harthorpe. He affected to make some inquiries respecting the families in the neighborhood; and his host informed him that the ladies of the earl's family were great walkers, passing almost the whole of the day in the grounds. The measures to be adopted were now obvious. The paling belonging to Lord Tinemouth's park was only a few yards distant; but fearful of being observed, Pembroke sought a more obscure part. Scaling a wall which was covered by the branches of high trees, he found his way to the house through an almost impassable thicket.
He watched nearly an hour in vain for the appearance of Lady Albina, whose youth and elegance, he thought, would unequivocally distinguish her from the rest of the earl's household. Despairing of success, he was preparing to change his station, when he heard a sound among the dry leaves, and the next moment a beautiful young creature passed the bush behind which he was concealed. The fine symmetry of her profile assured him that she must be the daughter of Lady Tinemouth. She stooped to gather a china-aster. Knowing that no time should be lost, Pembroke gently emerged from his recess, but not in so quiet a manner as to escape the ear of Lady Albina, who instantly looking round, screamed, and would have fled, had he not thrown himself before her, and exclaimed, "Stay, Lady Albina! For heaven's sake, stay! I come from your mother!"
She gazed fearfully in his face, and tried to release her hand, which he had seized to prevent her flight.
"Do not be alarmed," continued he; "no harm is intended you. I am the son of Sir Robert Somerset, and the friend of your mother, who is now at the point of death. She implores to see you this night (for she has hardly an hour to live) to hear from your own lips that you do not hate her."
Lady Albina trembled dreadfully, and with faded cheeks and quivering lips replied, "Hate my mother! Oh, no! I have ever dearly loved her!"
A flood of tears prevented her speaking further; and Pembroke, perceiving that he had gained her confidence, put the doctor's letter into her hand. The gentle heart of Lady Albina bled at every word which her almost blinded eyes perused. Turning to Pembroke, who stood contemplating her lovely countenance with the deepest interest, she said, "Pray, Mr. Somerset, take me now to my mother. Were she to die before I arrive, I should be miserable for life. Alas! alas! I have never been allowed to behold her!—never been allowed to visit London, because my father knew that I believed my poor mother innocent, and would have seen her, had it been possible."
Lady Albina wept violently while she spoke, and giving her hand to Pembroke, timidly looked towards the house, and added, "You must take me this instant. We must haste away, in case we should be surprised. If Lady Olivia were to know that I have been speaking with anybody out of the family I should be locked up for months."
Pembroke did not require a second command from his beautiful charge. Conducting her through the unfrequented paths by which he had entered, he seated her in his curricle and whipping his horses, set off, full speed, towards the melancholy goal of his enterprise.
Whilst the two anxious travellers were pursuing their sad journey, the inhabitants of the Abbey were distracted with apprehension lest the countess might expire before their arrival. Ever since Lady Tinemouth received information that Mr. Somerset was gone to the Wolds, hope and fear agitated her by turns, till, wearied out with solicitude and expectation, she turned her dim eyes upon Thaddeus, and said, in a languid voice, "My dear friend, it must be near midnight. I shall never see the morning; I shall never in this world see my child. I pray you, thank Mr. Somerset for all the trouble I have occasioned; and my daughter—my Albina! O father of mercies!" cried she, holding up her clasped hands, "pour all thy blessings upon her head! She never wilfully gave this broken heart a pang!"
The countess had hardly ended speaking when Thaddeus heard a bustle on the stairs. Suspecting that it might be the arrival of his friend, he made a sign to Dr. Cavendish to go and inquire. His heart beat violently whilst he kept his eye fixed on the door, and held the feeble pulse of Lady Tinemouth in his hand. The doctor re-entered, and in a low voice whispered, "Lady Albina is here."
The words acted like magic on the fading senses of the countess. With preternatural strength she started from her pillow, and catching hold of Sobieski's arm with both hers, cried, "O give her to me whilst I have life."
Lady Albina appeared, led in by Pembroke, but instantly quitting his hand, with an agonizing shriek she rushed towards the bed, and flung herself into the extended arms of her mother, whose arms closed on her, and the head of the countess rested on her bosom.
Dr. Cavendish perceived by the struggles of the young lady that she was in convulsions; and taking her off the bed, he consigned her to Pembroke and his friend, who, between them, carried her into another apartment. He remained to assist the countess.
Albina was removed; but the eyes of her amiable and injured mother were never again unclosed: she had breathed her last sigh, in grateful ecstasy, on the bosom of her daughter; and Heaven had taken her spotless soul to Himself.
Being convinced that the countess was indeed no more, the good doctor left her remains in charge of the women; and repairing to the adjoining room, found Lady Albina yet senseless in the arms of his two friends. She was laid on a sofa, and Cavendish was pouring some drops into her mouth, when he descried Thaddeus gliding out of the room. Desirous to spare him the shock of suddenly seeing the corpse of one whom he loved so truly, he said, "Stop, Mr. Constantine! I conjure you, do not go into the countess's room!"
The eyes of Thaddeus turned with emotion on the distressed face of the physician; one glance explained what the doctor durst not speak. Faintly answering, "I will obey you," he hurried from the apartment.
In the count's silent descent from Lady Albina's room to the breakfast-parlor, he too plainly perceived by the tears of the servants that he had now another sorrow to add to his mournful list. He hastened from participation in their clamorous laments, almost unseen, into the parlor, and shutting the door, threw himself into a chair; but rest induced thought, and thought subdued his soul. He started from his position; he paced the room in a paroxysm of anguish; he would have given worlds for one tear to relieve his oppressed heart. Ready to suffocate, he threw open a window and leaned out. Not a star was visible to light the darkness. The wind blew freshly, and with parched lips he inhaled it as the reviving breath of Heaven.
He was sitting on the window-seat, with his head leaning against the casement, when Pembroke entered unobserved; walking up to him, he laid his hand upon his arm, and ejaculated in a tremulous voice, "Thaddeus, dear Thaddeus!"
Thaddeus rose at the well-known sounds: they reminded him that he was not yet alone in the world for his soul had been full of the dying image of his own mother. Clasping Somerset in his arms, he exclaimed, "Heaven has still reserved thee, faithful and beloved, to be my comforter! In thy friendship and fond memories," he added, with a yet heaving breast, "I shall find tender bonds of the past still to endear me to the world."
Pembroke received the embrace of his friend; he felt his tears upon his cheek; but he could neither return the one nor sympathize with the other. The conviction that he was soon to sever that cord, that he was to deprive the man who had preserved his life of the only stay of his existence, and abandon him to despair, struck to his soul. Grasping the hand of his friend, he gazed on his averted and dejected features with a look of desperate horror. "Sobieski," cried he, "whatever may happen, never forget that I swear I love you dearer than my life! And when I am forced to abandon my friend, I shall not be long of abandoning what will then be worthless to me."
Not perceiving the frenzied look which accompanied this energetic declaration, Thaddeus gave no other meaning to the words than a renewed assurance of his friend's affection.
The entrance of Dr. Cavendish disturbed the two young men, to whom he communicated the increased indisposition of Lady Albina.
"The shock she has received," said he, "has so materially shaken her frame, I have ordered her to bed and administered an opiate, which I hope will procure her repose; and you, my dear sir," added he, addressing the count, "you had better seek rest! The stoutest constitution might sink under what you have lately endured. Pray allow Mr. Somerset and myself to prevail with you, on our accounts, if not on your own, to retire for half an hour!"
Thaddeus, in disregard of his personal comfort, never infringed on that of others; he felt that he could not sleep, but he knew it would gratify his benevolent friends to suppose that he did; and accordingly he went to a room, and throwing himself on a bed, lay for an hour, ruminating on all that had passed.
There is an omnipresence in thought, or a celerity producing nearly the same effect, which brings within the short space of a few minutes the images of many foregoing years. In almost the same moment, Thaddeus reflected on his strange meeting with the countess; the melancholy story; her forlorn death-bed; the fatal secret that her vile husband and son were his father and brother; and that her daughter, whom his warm heart acknowledged as a sister, was with him under the same roof, and, like him, the innocent inheritor of her father's shame.
Whilst these multifarious and painful meditations were agitating his perturbed mind, Dr. Cavendish found repose on a couch; and Pembroke Somerset, resolving once more to try the influence of entreaty on the hitherto generous spirit of his father, with mingled hope and despondence commenced a last attempt to shake his fatal resolution, in the following letter:
"TO SIR ROBERT SOMERSET, BART, SOMERSET CASTLE.
"I have not ventured into the presence of my dear father since he uttered the dreadful words which I would give my existence to believe I had never heard. You denounced a curse upon me if I opposed your will to have me break all connection with the man who preserved my life! When I think on this, when I remember that it was from you I received a command so inexplicable from one of your character, so disgraceful to mine, I am almost mad; and what I shall be should you, by repeating your injunctions, force me to obey them, Heaven only knows! but I am certain that I cannot survive the loss of my honor; I cannot survive the sacrifice of all my principles of virtue which such conduct must forever destroy.
"Oh, my father! I conjure you, reflect, before, in compliance with an oath it was almost guilt to make, you decree your only son to everlasting shame and remorse. Act how I will, I shall never be happy more. I cannot live under your malediction; and should I give up my friend, my conscience will reproach me every instant of my existence. Can I draw the breath which he prolonged and cease to remember that I have abandoned him to want and misery? It were vain to flatter myself that he will condescend to escape either by the munificence which you offer as a compensation for my friendship. No; I cannot believe that his sensible and independent nature is so changed; circumstances never had any power over the nobility of his soul.
"Misfortune, which threw the Count Sobieski on the bounty of England, cannot make him appear otherwise in my eyes than as the idol of Warsaw, whose smile was honor and whose friendship conferred distinction.
"Though deprived of the splendor of command; though the eager circle of friends no longer cluster round him; though a stranger in this country, and without a home; though, in place of an equipage and retinue, he is followed by calamit and neglect, yet, in my mind, I still see him in a car of triumph I see not only the opposer of his nation's enemies, but the vanquisher of his own desires. I see the heir of a princely house, who, when mankind have deserted him, is yet encompassed by his virtues. I see him, though cast out from a hardened and unjust society, still surrounded by the lingering spirits of those who were called to better worlds!
"And this is the man, my dear father, (whom I am sure, had he been of any other country than Poland, you would have selected from all other men to be the friend and example of your son),—this is he whom you command me to thrust away.
"I beseech you to examine this injunction! I am now writing under the same roof with him; it depends on you, my ever-revered father, whether I am doing so for the last time; whether this is the last day in which your son is to consider himself a man of honor, or whether he is henceforth to be a wretch overwhelmed with shame and sorrow!
"I have not yet dared to utter one word of your cruel orders to my unhappy friend. He is now retired to seek some rest, after the new anguish of having witnessed the almost sudden death of Lady Tinemouth. Should I have to tell him that he is to lose me too-but I cannot add more. Your own heart, my father, must tell you that my soul is on the rack until I have an answer to this letter."
"Before I shut my paper, let me implore you on my knees, whatever you may decide, do not hate me; do not load my breaking heart with a parent's curse! Whatever I may be, however low and degraded in my own eyes, still, that I sacrificed what is most precious to me, to my father, will impart the only consolation which will then have power to reach your dutiful and afflicted son.
"HARROWBY ABBEY, TWO O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING."
Dr. Cavendish remained in a profound sleep, whilst Pembroke, with an aching heart having written the above letter, and dispatched it by a man and horse, tried to compose himself to half an hour's forgetfulness of life and its turmoils; but he found his attempts as ineffectual as those of his friend.
Thaddeus had found no repose on his restless pillow. Reluctant to disturb the doctor and Somerset, who, he hoped, having less cause for regret, were sleeping tranquilly, he remained in bed; but he longed for morning. To his fevered nerves, any change of position, with movement, seemed better than where he was, and with some gleams of pleasure he watched the dawn, and the rising of the son behind the opposite hill. He got up, opened the window to inhale the air, and looking out, saw a man throw himself off a horse, which was all in foam, and enter the house.
Surprised at this circumstance, he descended to the parlor to make inquiry, and met the man in the hall, who, being Pembroke's messenger, had returned express from the Castle, bearing an order from Sir Robert (who was taken alarmingly ill) that his son must come back immediately.
Dismayed with this new distress, Mr. Somerset, on its instant information, pressed the count so closely to his breast when he bade him farewell, that a more suspicious person might have apprehended it was a final parting; but Thaddeus discerned nothing more in the anguish of his friend's countenance than fear for the safety of Sir Robert; and fervently wishing his recovery, he bade Pembroke remember that should more assistance be necessary, Dr. Cavendish would remain at the Abbey until Lady Albina's return to the Wolds.
Mr. Somerset being gone, towards noon, when the count was anxiously awaiting the appearance of the physician from the room of the new invalid, he was disappointed by the abrupt entrance of two gentlemen. He rose, and with his usual courtesy to strangers, inquired their business? The elder of the men, with a fierce countenance and a voice of thunder, announced himself to be the Earl of Tinemouth, and the other his son.
"We are come," said he, standing at a haughty distance—"we are come to carry from this nest of infamy Lady Albina Stanhope, whom some one of her mother's paramours—perhaps you, sir—dared to steal from her father's home yesterday evening. And I am come to give you, sir, who I guess to be some fugitive vagabond! the chastisement your audacity deserves."
With difficulty the Count Sobieski suppressed the passions which were rising in his breast. He turned a scornful glance on the person of Lord Harwold (who, with an air of insufferable derision, was coolly measuring his figure through an eyeglass); and then, replying to the earl, said, in a firm voice, "My lord, whoever you suppose me to be, it matters not; I now stand in the place of Lady Tinemouth's confidential friend, and to my last gasp I will prove myself the defender of he injured name."
"Her lover!" interrupted Lord Harwold, turning on his heel.
"Her defender, sir!" repeated Thaddeus, with a tremendous frown; "and shame and sorrow will pursue that son who requires a stranger to supply his duty."
"Wretch!" cried the earl, forgetting his assumed loftiness, and advancing passionately towards Thaddeus, with his stick held up; "how dare you address such language to an English nobleman?"
"By the right of nature, which holds her laws over all mankind," returned Thaddeus, calmly looking on the raised stick. "When an English nobleman forgets that he is a son, he deserves reproach from his meanest vassal."
"You see, my lord," cried Harwold, sliding behind his father, "what we bring on ourselves by harboring these democratic foreigners! Sir," added he, addressing himself to Thaddeus, "your dangerous principles shall be communicated to Government. Such traitors ought to hanged."
Sobieski eyed the enraged little lord with contempt; and turning to the earl, who was again going to speak, he said, in an unaltered tone, "I cannot guess, Lord Tinemouth, what is the reason of this attack on me. I came hither by accident; I found the countess ill; and, from respect to her excellent qualities, I remained with her until her eyes were closed forever. She desired to see her daughter before she died,—what human heart could deny a mother such a request?—and Pembroke Somerset, her kinsman, undertook to bring Lady Albina to the Abbey.
"Pembroke Somerset!" echoed the earl. "A pretty guard for my daughter, truly! I have no doubt that he is just such a fellow as his father—just such a person as yourself! I am not to be imposed upon. I know Lady Tinemouth to have been a disgrace to me, and you to be that German adventurer on whose account I sent her from London."
Shocked at this calumny on the memory of a woman whose fame from any other mouth came as unsullied as purity itself, Thaddeus gazed with horror at the furious countenance of the man whom he believed to be his father. His heart swelled; but not deigning to reply to a charge as unmanly as it was false, he calmly took out of his pocket two letters which the countess had dictated to her husband and her son.
Lord Harwold tore his open, cast his eyes over the first words, then crumpling it in his hand, threw it from him, exclaiming, "I am not to be frightened either by her arts or the falsehoods of the fellows with whom she dishonored her name."
Thaddeus, no longer master of himself, sprang towards his unnatural son, and seized his arm with an iron grasp. "Lord Harwold!" cried he, in a dreadful voice, "were it not that I have some mercy on you for that parent's sake, to whom, like a parricide, you are giving a second death by such murderous slander, I would resent her wrongs at the hazard of your worthless life!"
"My lord! my lord!" cried the trembling Harwold, quaking under the gripe of Thaddeus, and shrinking from the terrible brightness of his eye,—"my lord! my lord, rescue me!"
The earl, almost suffocated with rage, called out, "Ruffian! let go my son!" and again raising his arm, aimed a blow at the head of Thaddeus, who, wrenching the stick out of the foaming lord's hand, snapped it in two, and threw the pieces out of the open window.
Lord Harwold took this opportunity to ring the bell violently, on which summons two of his servants entered the room.
"Now, you low-born, insolent scoundrel," cried the disarmed earl, stamping with his feet, and pointing to the men who stood at the door; "you shall be turned by the neck and heels out of this house. Richard, James, collar that fellow instantly."
Thaddeus only extended his arm to the men (who were looking confusedly on each other), and calmly said, "If either of you attempt to obey this command of your lord, you shall have cause to repent it."
The men retreated. The earl repeated his orders.
"Rascals! do as I command you, or instantly quit my service. I will teach you," added he, clenching his fist at the count, who stood resolutely and serenely before him, "I will teach you how to behave to a man of high birth."
The footmen were again deterred from approaching by a glance from the intimidating eyes of Thaddeus, who, turning with stern dignity to the storming earl, said, "You can teach me nothing about high birth that I do not already know. Could it be of any independent benefit to a man, then had I not received the taunts and insults which you have dared to cast upon me."
At that moment Dr. Cavendish, having heard a bustle, made his appearance. Amazed at the sight of two strangers, who from their enraged countenances and the proud elevation with which Thaddeus was standing between them, he rightly judged to be the earl and his son, he advanced towards his friend, intending to support him in the attack which he saw was menaced by the violent gestures of these visitors.
"Dr. Cavendish," said Thaddeus, speaking to him as he approached, "your name must be a passport to the confidence of any man; I therefore shall gratify the husband of my ever lamented friend by quitting this house; but I delegate to you the office with which she entrusted me. I leave you in charge of her sacred remains, and of the jewels which you will find in her apartment. She desired that half of them might be given with her blessing, to her daughter, and the other half, with her pardon, to her son."
"Tell me. Dr. Cavendish," cried the earl, as Thaddeus was passing him to leave the room, "who is that insolent fellow? By heaven, he shall smart for this!"
"Ay, that he shall," rejoined Lord Harwold, "if I have any interest with the Alien-office."
Dr. Cavendish was preparing to speak, when Thaddeus, turning round at this last threat of the viscount, said, "If I did not know myself to be above Lord Harwold's power, perhaps he might provoke me to treat him according to his deserts; but I abjure resentment, while I pity his delusions. For you, my lord," added he, addressing the earl with a less calm countenance, "there is an angel in heaven who pleads against the insults you have uninquiringly and unjustly heaped upon an innocent man!"
Thaddeus disappeared from the apartment while uttering the last word; hastening from the house and park, he stopped near the brow of the hill, at the porch of his lately peaceful little hotel. The landlady was a sister of John Jacobs, the faithful servant of his lamented friend, and who was then watching the door of the neglected chamber in which the sacred remains of his dear mistress lay, as he would have guarded her life, had the foes who had now destroyed it been still menacing its flickering flame. The worthy couple were also attached to that benevolent lady; and with sad looks, but respectful welcoming, they saw Mr. Constantine re-enter their humble home, and assured him of its retirement as long as he might wish to abide in the neighborhood of the Abbey. Any prospect of repose promised elysium to him; and with harassed and torn nerves he took possession of his apartment, which looked down the road that led from the old monastic structure to the town of Grantham. The rapidity of the recent events bewildered his senses, like the illusions of a dream. He had seen his father, his sister, his brother; and most probably he had parted from them forever!—at least, he hoped he should never again be tortured with the sight of Lord Tinemouth or his son.
"How," thought he, whilst walking up and down his solitary parlor, "could the noble nature of my mother love such a man? and how could he have held so long an empire over the pure heart he has just now broken."
He could nowhere discern, in the bloated visage and rageful gestures of the earl, any of that beauty of countenance or grace of manners which had alike charmed Therese Sobieski and the tender Acleliza.
Like those hideous chasms which are dug deep in the land by the impetuous sweep of a torrent, the course of violent passions leaves vast and irreparable traces on the features and in the soul. So it was with Lord Tinemouth.
"How legibly does vice or virtue," ejaculated Thaddeus, "write itself on the human face! The earl's might once have been fine, but the lineaments of selfishness and sin have degraded every part of him. Mysterious Providence! Can he be my father—can it be his blood that is now running in my veins? Can it be his blood that rises at this moment with detestation against him?"
Before the sun set, Sobieski was aroused from these painful soliloquies by still more painful feelings. He saw from his window a hearse driving at full speed up the road that ascended to the Abbey, and presently return at a slower pace, followed by a single black coach.
"Inhuman men!" exclaimed he, while pursuing with his eyes the tips of the sable plumes as the meagre cavalcade of mourners wound down the hill; "could you not allow this poor corse a little rest? Must her persecution be extended to the grave? Must her cold relics be insulted, be hurried to the tomb without reverence—without decency?"
The filial heart that uttered this thought also of his own injured mother, and shrunk with horror at this climax of the earl's barbarity. Dr. Cavendish entered with a flushed countenance. He spoke indignantly of the act he still saw from the window, which he denounced as a sacrilege against the dead. "Not four-and-twenty hours since," cried he, "she expired! and she is hurried into the cold bosom of the earth, like a criminal, or a creature whose ashes a moment above ground might spread a pestilence. Oh, how can that sweet victim, Lady Albin, share such peccant blood?"
Thaddeus, whose soul had just writhed under a similar question with regard to himself, could little bear the repetition and interrupted the good physician by tenderly inquiring how she had borne that so abrupt removal of her mother's remains.
"With mute anguish," returned Dr. Cavendish, in a responding, calmer voice of pity; "and though I had warned her father that the shock of so suddenly tearing his daughter from such beloved relics might peril her own life, he continued obdarate; and putting her into his travelling chariot in a state of insensibility, along with her maid, in a few minutes afterwards I saw him set off in a hired post-chaise, accompanied by his detestable son, loaded with more than one curse, muttered by the honest rustics. Only servants followed in that mourning coach."
In the midst of this depressing conversation a courier arrived from Stamford to Dr. Cavendish, recalling him immediately to return thither, the invalid there having sustained an alarming relapse. The good doctor, sincerely reluctant to quit Thaddeus (whom he still knew by no other name than Constantine), ordered the dispatch-chaise to the hotel door. When it was announced, he shook hands with the now lonely survivor of his departed friend in this stranger land, requested that he might hear from him before he left that part of the country for London again, and bidding him many cordial adieus, continued to look out of the back window of the carriage, until the faint light of the moon and the receding glimmer of the village candles finally hid the little spot that yet contained this young and sadly-stricken exile from his lingering eyes.
THE OLD VILLAGE HOTEL.
For the first time during many nights, Thaddeus slept soundly; but his dreams were disturbed, and he awoke from them at an early hour, unrefreshed and in much fever.
The simple breakfast which his attentive host and hostess set before him was scarcely touched. Their nicely-dressed dinner met with the same fate. He was ill, and possessed neither appetite nor spirits to eat. The good people being too civil to intrude upon him, he sat alone in his window from eight o'clock (at which hour he had arisen) until the cawing of the rooks, as they returned to the Abbey-woods, reminded him of the approach of evening. He was uneasy at the absence of Somerset, not so much on his own account, as on that of Sir Robert, whose increased danger might have occasioned this delay; however, he hoped otherwise. Longing earnestly for a temporary sanctuary under his friend's paternal roof, in the quiet of its peace and virtues, he trusted that the sympathy of Pembroke, the only confidant of his past sorrows, would tend to heal his recent wounds (though the nature of the most galling, he felt, must ever remain unrevealed even to him!) and so fit him, should it be required, to yet further brave the buffets of an adverse fate. Nor was Miss Beaufort forgotten. If ever one idea more than another sweetened the bitterness of his reflections, it was the remembrance of Mary Beaufort. Whenever her image rose before him—whether he were standing in the lonely clay with folded arms, in vacant gaze on the valley beneath, or when lying on his watchful pillow he opened his aching eyes to the morning light-still, as her angel figure presented itself to his mind, he did indeed sigh, but it was a sigh laden with balm; it did not tear his breast like those which had been wrung from him by the hard hand of calamity and insult. It was the soft breath of a hallowed love, which makes man dream of heaven, while he feels sinking to an early grave. Thaddeus felt it delightful to recollect how she had looked on him that day in Hyde Park, when she "bade him take care of his own life, while so devoted to that of his dying friend!" and how she "blessed him in his task," with a voice of tenderness so startlingly sacred to his soul in its accents, that in remembering her words now, when so near the moment of his again seeing and hearing her, his soul expanded towards her, agitated, indeed, but soothed and comforted.
"Sweet Mary!" murmured he, "I shall behold thee once more; I shall again revive under thy kind smile! Oh, it is happiness to know that I owe my liberty to thee, though I may not dare to tell thee so! Yet my swelling heart may cherish the clear consciousness, and, bereaved though I am of all I formerly loved, be indeed blessed while on earth with the heaven-bestowed privilege of loving thee, even in silence and forever! Alas! alas! a man without kindred or a country dare not even wish thee to be his!" A sigh from the depths of his soul closed this soliloquy.
The sight of Pembroke riding through the field towards the little inn, recalled the thoughts of Sobieski to that dear friend alone. He went out to meet him. Mr. Somerset saw him, and putting his horse to a brisk canter, was at his side in a few minutes. Thaddeus asked anxiously about the baronet's health. Pembroke answered with an incoherency devoid of all meaning. Thaddeus looked at him with surprise, but from increased anxiety forbore to repeat the question. They walked towards the inn; still Pembroke did not appear to recover himself, and his evident absence of mind and the wild rambling of his eyes were so striking, that Thaddeus could have no doubt of some dreadful accident.
As soon as they had entered the little parlor, his friend cast himself into a chair, and throwing off his hat, wiped away the perspiration which, though a cold October evening, was streaming down his forehead. Thaddeus endured a suspense which was almost insupportable.
"What is the direful matter, dear Pembroke? Is any we honor, and love, ill unto death?" His pale face showed that he apprehended it, and he thought it might be Mary.
"No, no," returned Pembroke; "everybody is well, excepting myself and my father, who, I verily believe, has lost his senses; at any rate he will drive me mad."
The manner in which this reply was uttered astonished Thaddeus so much, that he could only gaze with wonder on the convulsed feature of his friend. Pembroke observed his amazement, and laying his hand on his arm, said, "My dear, dear Sobieski! what do I not owe to you? Good Heaven! how humbled am I in your sight! But there is a Power above who knows how intimately you are woven with every artery of this heart."
"I believe it, my kind Pembroke," cried Thaddeus, yet more alarmed than before; "tell me what it is that distresses you? If my counsel or my sympathy can offer anything to comfort or assist you, you know I am your own."
Pembroke burst into tears, and covering his streaming eyes with his handkerchief, exclaimed, "I am indeed distressed—distressed even beyond your comfort. Oh! how can I speak it! You will despise my father! You will spurn me!"
"Impossible!" cried Thaddeus with energy, though his flushed cheek and fainting heart immediately declared that he had anticipated what he must hear.
"I see," cried Pembroke, regarding the altered features of his friend with a glance of agony—"I see that you think it is possible that my father can sink me below my own contempt."
The benumbing touch of ingratitude ran through the veins of Thaddeus; his frame was chilled—was petrified; but his just affection and calmed countenance proclaimed how true a judgment he had passed on the whole. He took the burning hand of Mr. Somerset in his own, and, with a steady and consoling voice, said, "Assure yourself, dear Pembroke, whatever be the commands of your father, I shall adhere to them. I cannot understand by these generous emotions that he objects to receive me as your friend. Perhaps," added he,—a flash of suspicion gleaming through his mind,—"perhaps Miss Beaufort may have perceived the devotedness of my heart, and disdaining my—"
"Hush, for Heaven's sake!" cried Pembroke, starting from his chair; "do not implicate my poor cousin! Do not add to her disappointment the misery that you suspect her! No, Thaddeus," continued he, in a calmer tone; "Mary Beaufort loves you: she confessed it in an agony of grief on my bosom, just before I came away; and only through her I dare ever expect to meet forgiveness from you. In spite of my father, you may marry her. She has no curse to dread; she need not sacrifice all that is most precious in her sight to the obstinate caprice of criminal resentment."
"A curse!" reiterated Thaddeus. "How is this!—what have I done, to deserve such hatred from your father?"
"Oh! nothing," cried Pembroke—"nothing. My father never saw you. My father thanks you for all that you have done for me; but it is your country that he hates. Some Polander, years back, injured him; and my father took a fatal oath against the whole nation. He declares that he cannot, he will not, break it, were he by so doing to save his own life, or even mine; for, (Heaven forgive me!) I was this morning wrought up to such frenzy, that I threatened to destroy myself rather than sacrifice my gratitude and honor to his cruel commands! Nay, to convince you that his is no personal enmity to yourself, he ordered me to give you writings which will put you in possession of an independence forever. I have them with me."
All the pride of his princely house rose at once in the breast of Thaddeus. Though full of indignation at this insult of Sir Robert's, he regarded the averted face of his friend with compassion, whilst in a firm voice he rejected the degrading compromise.
"Tell your father," added he, addressing Pembroke, in a tone which even his affection could not soften from a command, "that my absence is not to be bought with money, nor my friendship so rewarded."
Pembroke covered his burning face with his hands. This sight at once brought down the haughty spirit of Sobieski, who continued in gentler accents, "Whatever be the sentiments of Sir Robert Somerset, they shall meet with clue attention from me. He is your father, therefore I respect him; but he has put it out of his power to oblige me; I cannot accept his bounty. Though your heart, my dearest Pembroke, is above all price, yet I will make it a sacrifice to your duty." And by so doing put the last seal on my misfortunes, was the meaning of the heavy sigh which accompanied his last words.
Pembroke traversed the room in an agony. "Merciful Providence!" cried he, wringing his clasped hands, "direct me! Oh, Thaddeus, if you could read my tortured heart, you would pity me; you would see that this affair is tearing my soul from my body. What am I to do? I cannot, I will not, part with you forever."
Thaddeus, with a calm sadness, drew him to a seat. "Be satisfied," said he, "that I am convinced of your affection. Whatever may happen, this assurance will be sufficient to give me comfort; therefore, by that affection, I entreat you, dear Pembroke, not to bring regret to me, and reproach on yourself, by disobeying in any way the will of your father in this matter! If we separate for life, remember, my beloved friend, that the span of our existence here is short; we shall meet again in a happier world—perhaps more blest, for having immolated our wishes to hard duty in this."
"Cease, Sobieski, cease!" cried Pembroke; "I can draw no consolation from this reasoning. It is not duty to obey a hatred little short of distraction; and if we now separate, I feel that I never shall know peace again. Good Heaven! what comfort can I find when you are exposed to all the indignities which the world levels against the unfortunate? Can I indulge in the luxuries of my father's house when I know that you have neither a home nor subsistence? No, Thaddeus, I am not such a villain. I will not give you up, though my father should load me with curses. I trust there is a just Power above who would avert them."
Perceiving that argument would not only be fruitless, but might probably incense his friend's irritated nature to the commission of some rash action, Thaddeus pretended to overlook the frantic gesture and voice which terminated this speech, and assuming a serene air, replied: "Let this be the subject of a future conversation. At present, I must conjure you, by the happiness of us both, to return to the Castle. You know my message to Sir Robert. Present my respects to your aunt; and," added he, after an agitated pause, "assure Miss Beaufort that whilst I have life, her goodness, her sometimes remembrance, will be—"
Pembroke interrupted him. "Why these messages, dear Thaddeus? Do not suppose, though I fulfil my father's orders to return to Somerset to- night, that it is our separation. Gracious Heaven! Is it so easy to part forever?"
"Not forever! Oh, no," replied Thaddeus, grasping his hand; "we shall see each other again; only, meanwhile, repeat those, alas! inadequate messages to your aunt and cousin. Go, my dear Pembroke, to your father; and may the Lord of Heaven bless you!"
The last words were spoken in almost a stifled voice, as he opened his arms and strained his friend to his breast.
"I shall see you to-morrow," cried Pembroke; "on no other condition will I leave you now."
Thaddeus made no further answer to this demand (which he determined should never be granted) than a second embrace. Pembroke went out of the room to order his horse; then, returning, he stood at the door, and holding out his hand to the count, repeated, "Farewell till to- morrow." Thaddeus pressed it warmly, and he disappeared.
The outward gate closed after his friend, but Sobieski remained on the seat into which he had thrown himself. He did not venture to move, lest he should by chance catch a second glance of Pembroke from the window. Now that he was gone, he acknowledged the full worth of what he had relinquished. He had resigned a man who loved him; one who had known and revered his ever-lamented grandfather, and his mother—the only one with whom he could have discoursed of their virtues! He had severed the link which had united his present state with his former fortunes! and throwing his arms along a table that stood near him, he leaned his aching head upon them, and in idea followed with a bleeding heart the progress and reception of his friend at the Castle.
The racking misery which tortured the mind of Mr. Somerset was not borne with equal resignation. Conscious of his having inflicted fresh wounds on the breast of his truest friend, his spirits were so ill adapted to any conversation, that he was pleased rather than disappointed when he found the supper-room at the Castle quite vacant, and only one cover on the table awaiting his arrival.
He asked a few questions of the servants, who informed him that it was past twelve o'clock, and that Sir Robert, who had become worse, had retired to bed early in the evening.
"And where are my aunt and cousin?" demanded Pembroke.
One of the men replied that, in consequence of Miss Beaufort having been taken suddenly indisposed, both the ladies left the saloon before eleven. Pembroke readily guessed the cause of her disorder; he too truly ascribed it to Mary's anxiety respecting the reception which the noble Sobieski would give to his disgraceful proposition. Sighing bitterly, he said no more but went to his chamber.
The restless state of his mind awoke Mr. Somerset by times. Anxious for the success of an application which he intended to make to his beloved cousin, whose pure and virgin heart he believed did indeed here sympathize with his own, he traversed the terrace for an hour before he was summoned to breakfast. The baronet continuing too ill to leave his room, the ladies only were in the parlor when he entered. Miss Dorothy, who had learned the particulars of the late events from her niece, longed to ask Pembroke how his noble friend would act on her brother's so strange and lamentable conduct—conduct so unlike himself in any other circumstance of gratitude in his life. But every time she moved her lips to inquire, her nephew's inflamed eyes and wan countenance made her fear to venture on the subject. Mary sat in mute dejection, watching the agitation of his features; and when he rose to quit the room, still in silence, she looked wistfully towards him. Pembroke turned at the same moment, and holding out his hand to her, said, "Come, Mary: I want to say something to you. Will you walk with me on the terrace?"
With a beating heart Miss Beaufort took his arm, and proceeded without a word until they ascended the stone steps and reached the terrace. A mutual deep-drawn sigh was the first opening to a conversation on which the souls of both hung. Pembroke was the first who spoke.
"My dear Mary," cried he, "you are now my sole dependence. From what I told you yesterday of my father's inflexibility, we can have no hope of his relenting: indeed, after what has passed, I could not flatter myself that Thaddeus Sobieski would now submit to any obligation at his hands. Already he has refused, with all the indignation I expected, Sir Robert's offer of an annuity. My dear cousin, how can I exist and yet witness this my best friend in distress, and living without the succor of my friendship? Heaven knows, this cannot be the case, for I would sooner perish than venture to insult the man my father has treated so ill with any pecuniary offers from me! Therefore, dear girl, it is on you alone that I depend. With his whole soul, as our marriage service says, Thaddeus 'worships you;' you love him! In a few days you will become of age. You will be your own mistress. Marry him, my beloved cousin," cried Pembroke, pressing her hand to his lips, "and relieve my heart from a load of misery! Be generous, my sweet Mary," added he, supporting her now trembling frame against his breast; "act up to your noble nature, and offer him, by me, that hand which his calamities and disinterestedness preclude him from wooing himself."
Miss Beaufort, hardly able to articulate, replied, "I would give him all that I possess could it purchase him one tranquil hour. I would serve him forever could I do it and be unknown? but—"
"O, do not hesitate!—do not doubt!" interrupted Pembroke. "To serve your friends, I know you are capable of the most extraordinary exertions. I know there is nothing within the range of possibility that your generous disposition would not attempt; then, my beloved Mary, dare to be what you are, by having the magnanimity to act as you know you ought—by offering your hand to him. Show the noble Sobieski that you really deserve the devotion of a hero's heart— deserves to be his consolation, who, in losing his mother, lost an angel like yourself."
"Dear Pembroke," replied Miss Beaufort, wiping the gliding tears from her burning cheek, "after the confession which you drew from me yesterday, I will not deny that to be this to your friend would render me the happiest of created beings; but I cannot believe what your sanguine affection tells me. I cannot suppose, situated as I was at Lady Dundas's, surrounded by frivolous and contemptible society, that he could discover anything in me to warrant such a vanity. Every way embarrassed as I was, disliking my companions, afraid of my own interest in him, a veil was drawn over my mind, through which he could neither judge of my good nor bad qualities. How, then, can I flatter myself, or do the Count Sobieski so great an injury, as to imagine that he could conceive any preference for so insignificant a being as I must have appeared?"
It was some time before Pembroke could shake this prepossession of a sincere humility from Miss Beaufort's mind. But after having set in every possible light the terms with which his friend had spoken of her, he at length convinced her of what her heart so earnestly wished to believe—that the love of Sobieski was indeed hers.
Mr. Somerset's next achievement was to overcome her scruples against sanctioning him with the commission he was bent on communicating to Thaddeus. But from the continual recurrence of her apprehensions, that the warm affection of her cousin had too highly colored the first part of his representation, this latter task was not more easy to accomplish than the former.
In vain she remonstrated, in vain she doubted, in vain demurred. Pembroke would not be denied. He saw her heart was with him; and when with faltering lips she assented to the permission, which he almost extorted, she threw her arms round his neck, and implored him, "by all he loved and honored, to be careful of her peace; to remember that she put into his charge all that was most precious to woman—the modesty of her sex and her own self-esteem !"
Delighted at this consent, notwithstanding he received it through the medium of many tears, he fondly and gratefully pressed her to his bosom, uttering his own soul's fervent conviction of a future domestic happiness to them all. Having stood till he saw her re-enter the house from a door on the terrace, he mounted his horse and set off on the spur towards Harrow by Hill.
LETTERS OF FAREWELL.
When Thaddeus recovered from the reverie into which he fell on the departure of Mr. Somerset, he considered how he might remove out of a country in which he had only met with and occasioned distress.
The horrid price that Pembroke's father had set on the continuance of his son's friendship with a powerless exile was his curse. Whatever might have been the injury any individual of now annihilated Poland could, in its palmy days of independence, and sometimes pride, inflict on this implacable Englishman, of a nature that appeared to have blinded him to even human feeling, Thaddeus felt so true an indignation against such cruel injustice, and so much of a contrary sentiment towards the noble son of this hard parent, that he determined to at once relieve the warring mind of Pembroke of any further conflict on his account by immediately quitting England. Averse to a second interview with a friend so justly beloved, which could only produce them new pangs, he resolved on instant preparations—that another morn should not rise upon him in the neighborhood of Somerset Castle. Taking up a pen, with all the renewed loneliness of his fate brooding on his heart, he wrote two letters.
One he addressed to Mr. Somerset, bidding him that farewell which he confessed he could never take. As he wrote, his hand trembled, his bosom swelled, and he hastily shut his eyelids, to withhold his tears from showing themselves on the paper. His emotion, his grief, were driven back, were concealed, but the tenderness of his soul flowed over the letter. He forgave Pembroke's father for Pembroke's sake; and in spite of their personal disunion, he vowed that no earthly power should restrain his love from following the steps of his friend, even into the regions of eternity. He closed his melancholy epistle with informing Mr. Somerset that, as he should quit not only England directly, but Europe, any search after him which his generous nature might dictate would be in vain.
Though Thaddeus Sobieski would have disdained a life of dependence on the greatest potentate of the world; though he rejected with the same sincerity a similar proposal from his friend, and despised the degrading offer of Sir Robert, yet he did not disparage his dignity, not infringe on the disinterested nature of friendship, when he retained the money which Pembroke had conveyed to him in prison. Thaddeus never acted but from principle. His honorable and penetrating mind knew exactly at what point to draw the tender thread of delicacy—the cord of independence. But pride and independence were with him distinct terms. Receiving assistance from a friend and leaning on him wholly for support have different meanings. He accepted the first with gratitude; he would have thought it impossible to live and endure the last. Indeed Thaddeus would have considered himself unworthy to confer a benefit if he had not known how to receive one. But had not Pembroke told him "the whole gift was Mary Beaufort's?" And what were his emotions then? They were full of an ineffable sense of happiness inexplicable to himself. Mary Beaufort was the donor, and it was bliss to have it so, and to know it was so. With these impressions again throbbing at his heart, he began a short letter to her, which he felt must crush that heart forever.
"To Miss Beaufort.
"My faculties lose their power when I take up my pen to address, for the first and the last time, Miss Beaufort. I hardly know what I would say—what I ought to say; I dare not venture to write all that I feel. But have you not been my benefactress? Did you not assert my character and give me liberty when I was calumniated and in distress? Did you not ward from me the scorn of unpitying folly? Did you not console me with your own compassion? You have done all this; and surely you will not despise the gratitude of a heart which you have condescended to sooth and to comfort. At least I cannot leave England forever without imploring blessings on the head of Miss Beaufort, without thanking her on my knees, on which I am writing, for that gracious and benign spirit which discovered a breaking heart under the mask of serenity, which penetrated through the garb of poverty and dependence, and saw that the condemned Constantine was not what he seemed! Your smiles, Miss Beaufort, your voice speaking commiseration, were my sweetest consolations during those heavy months of bitterness which I endured at Dundas House. I contemplated you as a pitying angel, sent to reconcile me to a life which had already become a burden. These are the benefits which Miss Beaufort has bestowed on a friendless exile; these are the benefits which she has bestowed on me! and they are written on my soul. Not until I go down into the grave can they be forgotten. Ah! not even then, for when I rise again, I shall find them still registered there.
"Farewell, most respected, most dear, most honored! My passing soul seems in those words. O, may the Father of heaven bless with his almighty care her whose name will ever be the first and the last in the prayer of the far distant
"THADDEUS CONSTANTINE SOBIESKI.
"HARROWBY VILLAGE, MIDNIGHT."
When he had finished this epistle, with a tremulous hand he consigned it to the same cover that contained his letter to Somerset. Then writing a few lines to the worthy master of the inn, (the brother-in- law of the faithful servant of his late lamented maternal friend,) saying that a sudden occasion had required his immediate departure at that untimely hour, he enclosed a liberal compensation in gold for the attentive services of both the honest man and his warm-hearted wife. Having sealed each packet, he disposed them so on the table that they might be the first things seen on entering the room.
He had fixed on deep night as the securest time for commencing unobserved his pedestrian tour. The moon was now full, and would be a sufficient guide, he thought, on his solitary way. He had determined to walk to London by the least public paths; meaning to see kind Mrs. Robson, and bid her a grateful farewell before he should embark, probably never to return, for America.
He had prepared his slender baggage before he sat down to write the two letters which had cost him so many pangs; compressed within a light black leather travelling-bag, he fastened it over his shoulders by its buckled straps, in the manner of a soldier's knapsack. He then put the memorandum-book which contained his "world's wealth," now to be carefully husbanded, into a concealed pocket in the breast of his waistcoat, feeling, while he pressed it down upon his heart, that his mother's locket and Miss Beaufort's chain kept guard over it.
"Ah!" cried he, as he gently closed the low window by which he leaped into the garden; "England, I leave thee forever, and within thee all that on this earth had been left to me to love. Driven from thee! Nay, driven as if I were another Cain, from the face of every spot of earth that ever had been or would be dear to me! Oh, woe to them who began the course. And thou, Austria, ungrateful leader in the destruction of the country which more than once was thy preserver!— could there be any marvel that the last of the Sobieskis should perish with her? What accumulated sins must rest on thy head, thou seducer of other nations into the spoliation and dismemberment of the long-proved bulwark of Christendom? Assuredly, every hasty sigh that rebels in the breasts of Poland's outcast sons against the mystery of her doom will plead against thee at the judgment-seat of Heaven!"
He went on at a rapid pace through several fields, his heart and soul full of those remembrances, and the direful echoes to them he had met in England. Stopping a moment at the boundary-gate of the Harrowby domains,—the property of a disgraceful owner of a name that might have been his, had not his nobler mother preserved to him that of Sobieski,—he stretched out his arms to the heavens, over which a bleak north-west wind was suddenly collecting dark and spreading clouds, and exclaimed, in earnest supplication, "Oh, righteous Power of Mercy! in thy chastening, grant me fortitude to bear with resignation to thy will the miseries I may yet have to encounter, Ah!" added he, his heart melting as the images presented themselves even as visions to his soul, "teach me to forget what I have been. Teach me to forget that on this dreadful October night twelve months ago I clasped the dying body of my revered grandfather in these arms!"
He could not speak further. Leaning his pale face against the gate, he remained for a few minutes dissolved in all a son's sorrow; then, recovering himself by a sudden start, he proceeded with hurried steps through the further extending meadows until they conducted him by a short village-lane into the high road.
It was on the 10th of October, 1795, that the Count Sobieski commenced this lonely and melancholy journey. It was the 10th of October in the preceding year that he found the veteran palatine bleeding to death in the midst of a heap of slain. The coincidence of his renewed banishment and present consequent mental sufferings with those of that fatal period powerfully affected him, recalling, in the vivid colors of an actual existence, scenes and griefs which the numerous successive events he had passed through had considerably toned down into dream-like shades.
But now, when memory, by one unexpected stroke, had once conjured up the happy past of his early life and its as early blighting, true to her nature, she raised before his mind's eye every hope connected with it and his present doom, till, almost distracted, he quickened his speed. He then slackened it; he quickened it again; but nothing could rid him of those successive images which seem to glide around him like mournful apparitions of the long-lamented dead.
When the dawn broke and the sun rose, he found himself advanced several miles on the south side of Ponton Hill. The spiry aisles of Harrowby Abbey were discernible through the mist, and the towers of Somerset Castle, from their height and situation, were as distinctly seen as if he had been at their base. Neither of these objects were calculated to raise the spirits of Thaddeus. The sorrows of the countess, whose eyes he so recently had closed, and the treatment which he afterwards received from the man to whom he owed his life, were recollections which made him turn from the Abbey with a renewed pang and fix his eyes on Somerset. He looked towards its ivied battlements with all the regret and all the tenderness which can overflow a human heart. Under that roof he believed the eyes of his almost, indeed, worshipped Mary were sealed in sleep; and in an instant his agitated soul addressed her as if she had been present.
"Farewell, most lovely, most beloved! The conviction that it is to ensure the peace of my now only friend on earth, my faithful Pembroke, that I resign the hope of ever beholding thee again in this life, will bring me one comfort, at least, in my barren exile!"
Thus communing with his troubled spirit, he walked the whole day on his way to London. Totally absorbed in meditation, he did not remark the gaze of curiosity which followed his elegant yet distressed figure as he passed through the different towns and villages. Musing on the past, the present, and the future, he neither felt hunger nor thirst, but, with a fixed eye and abstracted countenance, pursued his route until night and weariness overtook him near a cross-road, far away from any house.
Thaddeus looked around and above. The sky was then clear and glittering with stars; the moon, shining on a branch of the Ouse which divides Leicestershire from Northamptonshire, lit the green heath which skirted its banks. He wished not for a more magnificent canopy; and placing his bag under his head, he laid himself down beneath a hillock of furze, and slept till morning.
When he awoke from a heavy sleep, which fatigue and fasting had rendered more oppressive than refreshing, he found that the splendors of the night were succeeded by a heavy rain, and that he was wet through. He arose with stiffness in his limbs, pain in his head, and a dimness over his eyes, with a sense of weakness which almost disabled him from moving. He readily judged that he had caught cold; and every moment feeling himself grow worse, he thought it necessary to seek some house where he might procure rest and assistance.
Leaning on his closed umbrella, which, in his precarious circumstances of travelling, he used in preference to a walking- stick, and no longer able to encumber himself with even the light load of his bag, he cast it amongst the brambles near him. Thinking, from the symptoms he felt, that he might not have many more hours to endure the ills of life, he staggered a few yards further. No habitation appeared; his eyes soon seemed totally obscured, and he sunk down on a bank. For a minute he attempted to struggle with the cold grasp of death, which he believed was fastening on his heart.
"And are my days to be so short?—are they to end thus?" was the voice of his thoughts,—for he was speechless. "Oh! thou merciful Providence, pardon my repining, and those who have brought me to this! My only Father, hear me!"
These were the last movements of his soundless lips, while his blood seemed freezing to insensibility. His eyelids were closed, and pale, and without sign of animation, he lay at the foot of a tree nigh which he had dropped.
He remained a quarter of an hour in this dead-like state before he was observed; at length, a gentleman who was passing along that road, on his way to his country-seat in the neighborhood, thought he perceived a man lying amongst the high grass a little onward on the heath. He stopped his carriage instantly, though driven by four spirited horses, and ordering one of the outriders to alight, bade him examine whether the object in view were living or dead.
The servant obeyed; and presently returning with an affrighted countenance, he informed his master that "it was the body of a young man, who, by his dress, appeared to be a gentleman; and being quite senseless, he supposed he had been waylaid and murdered by footpads." The features of the benevolent inquirer immediately reflected the alarm of his informant. Ordering the chariot door to be opened, he took in his hand a bottle of medicine, (which, from his own invalid states was his carriage companion,) and, stepping out, hastened to the side of the apparently lifeless Thaddeus.
By this time all the servants were collected round the spot. The master himself, whilst he gazed with pity on the marble features of the stranger, observed with pleasure that he saw no marks of violence. Supposing that the present accident might have been occasioned by a fit, and thinking it possible to recall life, he desired that the unfortunate person's neck-cloth might be unloosened, and removing his hat, he contrived to pour some drops into his mouth. Their warmth renewed pulsation to the heart, for one of the men, who was stooping, declared that it beat under his hand. When the benevolent gentleman was satisfied of the truth of this report, he bade his servants place the poor traveller in his carriage; having only another mile or two to go, he said he hoped his charge might be restored at the end of so short a drive.
Whilst the postilions drove rapidly towards the house, the cold face of Thaddeus rested on the bosom of his benefactor, who continued to chafe his temples with eau de Cologne until the chariot stopped before the gates. The men carried the count into the house, and leaving him with their master and a medical man, who resided near, other restoratives were applied which in a short time restored him to consciousness. When he was recalled to recollection, and able to distinguish objects, he saw that he was supported by two gentlemen, and in a spacious chamber.
Gratitude was an active virtue in the soul of Thaddeus. At the moment of his awakening from that sleep which, when it fell upon him, he believed would last until time should be lost in eternity, he pressed the hands of those who held his own, not doubting but that they were the good Samaritans who had preserved him from perishing.
The younger of the gentlemen, perceiving, by the animated lustre which spread over his patient's eyes, that he was going to speak, put his hand on his lips, and said, "Pardon me, sir! you must be mute! Your life at present hangs on a thread; the slightest exertion might snap it. As all you want is rest and resuscitation to supply some great loss which the vital powers have sustained, I must require that you neither speak nor be spoken to until I give permission. Meanwhile, be satisfied, sir, that you are in the kindest hands. This gentleman," added he, (pointing to his friend, who bore the noble presence of high rank,) "saw you on the heath, and brought you to his house, where you now are."
Thaddeus bowed his head to them both in sign of obedience and gratitude, and the elder, with a kind bend of his mild eyes, in silence left the room.
Next morning, when the seal was taken off the lips of the object of their care, he expressed in grateful terms his deep sense of the humanity which had actuated both the gentleman to take so generous an interest in his fate.
"You owe no thanks to me," replied the one who had enjoined and released him from silence, and who was now alone with him; "I am only the agent of another. Yet I do not deny that, in obeying the benevolent orders of Sir Robert Somerset, I have frequent opportunities of gratifying my own heart."
Thaddeus was so confounded at this discovery that he could not speak, and the gentleman proceeded.
"I am apothecary to Sir Robert's household, and as my excellent employer has been long afflicted with an ill state of health, I live in a small Lodge at the other end of the park. He is the boast of the county: the best landlord and the kindest neighbor. All ranks of people love him; and when he dies, (which his late apoplectic fits make it too probable may be soon,) both poor and rich will lose their friend. Ill as he was this morning, when I told him you were out of danger, he expressed a pleasure which did him more good than all my medicines."
Not considering the wildness of the question, Thaddeus hastily demanded, "Does he know who I am?"
The honest apothecary stared at the look and tone with which these words were delivered, and then replied, "No, sir; is there any reason to make you wish that he should not?"
"Certainly none," replied Thaddeus, recollecting himself; "but I shall be impatient until I have an opportunity of telling him how grateful I am for the goodness he has shown to me as a stranger."
Surprised at these hints, (which the count, not considering their tendency, allowed to escape him,) the apothecary gathered sufficient from them, united with the speaker's superior mien, to make him suppose that his patient was some emigrant of quality, whom Sir Robert would rejoice in having served. These surmises and conclusions having passed quickly through the worthy gentleman's brain, he bowed his head with that respect which the generous mind is proud to pay to nobility in ruins, and resumed:
"Whoever you may be, sir, a peasant or a prince, you will meet with British hospitality from the noble owner of this mansion. The magnificence of his spirit is equalled by the goodness of his heart; and I am certain that Sir Robert will consider as fortunate the severe attack which, bringing him from Somerset for change of air, has afforded him an opportunity of serving you."
Thaddeus blushed at the strain of this speech. Readily understanding what was passing in the mind of the apothecary, he hardly knew what to reply. He paused for a moment, and then said, "All you have declared, sir, in praise of Sir Robert Somerset I cannot doubt is deserving. I have already felt the effects of his humanity, and shall ever remember that my life was prolonged by his means; but I have no pretensions to the honor of his acquaintance. I only wish to see him, that I may thank him for what he has done; therefore, if you will permit me to rise this evening, instead of to-morrow morning, you will oblige me."
To this request the apothecary gave a respectful yet firm denial, and went down stairs to communicate his observations to his patron. When he returned, he brought back a request for his patient from the baronet, even as a personal consideration for his host's solicitude concerning him, to remain quietly in the perfect repose of his closed chamber until next day; then it might be hoped Sir Robert would find him sufficiently recovered to receive his visit without risk. To this Sobieski could not but assent, in common courtesy, as well as in grateful feeling; yet he passed in anything but repose the rest of the day, and the anxiety which continued to agitate him while reflecting that he was receiving these obligations from his implacable enemy so occupied and disturbed him, that he spent a sleepless night. The dawn found his fever much augmented; but no corporeal sufferings could persuade him to defer seeing the baronet and immediately leaving his house. Believing, as he did, that all this kindness would have been withheld had his host known on whom he was pouring such benefits, he thought that every minute which passed over him while under Sir Robert's roof inflicted a new outrage on his own respect and honor.
To this end, then, as soon as Mr. Middleton, the apothecary, retired to breakfast, Thaddeus rose from his bed, and was completely dressed before he returned. He had effected this without any assistance, for he was in possession of his travelling-bag. One of the outriders having discerned it amongst the herbage, while the others were busied in carrying its helpless owner to the carriage, he had picked it up, and on the arrival of the party at home, delivered it to the baronet's valet to convey to the invalid gentleman's chamber, justly considering that he would require its contents.
When Mr. Middleton re-entered the apartment, and saw his patient not only risen from his bed, but so completely dressed, he expostulated on the rashness of what he had done, and augured no less than a dangerous relapse from the present increased state of his pulse. Thaddeus, for once in his life, was obstinate, though civilly so; and desiring a servant to request that Sir Robert would indulge him with an audience for a few minutes alone in his library, he soon convinced Mr. Middleton that his purpose was not to be shaken.
The baronet returning his compliments, and saying that he should be happy to see his guest, the still anxious apothecary offered him his assistance down stairs. Thaddeus needed no help, and gratefully declined it. The exertion necessary to be summoned for this interview imparted as much momentary strength to his frame as to his mind, and though his color was heightened, he entered the library with a firm step.
Sir Robert met him at the door, and, shaking him by the hand with a warm assurance of pleasure at so rapid a restoration, would have led him to a seat; but Thaddeus only supported himself against the back of it with his hand, whilst in a steady voice he expressed the most earnest thanks for the benefits he had received; then pausing, and casting the proud lustre of his eyes to the ground, lest their language should tell all that he thought, he continued, "I have only to regret, Sir Robert, that your benevolence has been lavished on a man whom you regard with abhorrence. I am the Count Sobieski, that Polander whom you commanded your son to see no more. Respecting even the prejudices of my friend's parent, I was hastening to London, meaning to set sail for America with the first ship, when I swooned on the road. I believe I was expiring. Your humanity saved me; and I now owe to gratitude, as well as to my own satisfaction, the fulfilment of my determination. I shall leave Deerhurst immediately, and England as soon as I am able to embark."
Thaddeus with a second bow, and not quite so firm a step, without venturing a glance at what he supposed must be the abashed or the enraged looks of Pembroke's father, was preparing to quit the room, when Sir Robert, with a pale and ghastly countenance, exclaimed, "Stop!"
Thaddeus looked round, and struck by the change in his preserver's appearance, paused in his movement. The baronet, incapable of saying more, pointed to a chair for him to sit down; then sinking into another himself, took out his handkerchief, and wiping away the large drops which stood on his forehead, panted for respiration. At last, with a desperate kind of haste, he said.
"Was your mother indeed Therese Sobieski?"
Thaddeus, still more astonished, replied in the affirmative. Sir Robert threw himself back on the chair with a deep groan. Hardly knowing what he did, the count rose from his seat and advanced towards him. On his approach, Sir Robert stretched out his hand, and, with a look and tone of agony, said, "Who was your father?" He then, without waiting for a reply, covered his convulsed features with his handkerchief. The baronet's agitation, which now shook him like an earthquake, became contagious. Thaddeus gazed at him with a palsying uncertainty in his heart; laying his hand on his bewildered brain, he answered, "I know not; yet I fear I must believe him to be the Earl of Tinemouth. But here is his picture." With an almost disabling tremor he unclasped it from his neck where his mother's last blessing had placed it, and touching the spring which held it in its little gold case in the manner of a watch, he gave it open to Sir Robert, who had started from his seat at the name of the earl. The moment the baronet's eyes rested on the miniature, he fell senseless upon the chair.
Thaddeus, hardly more alive, sprinkled some water on his face, and with throbbing temples and a bleeding heart stood in wordless expectation over him. Such excessive emotion told him that something more than Sir Robert's hatred of the Polanders had stimulated his late conduct. Too earnest for an explanation to ring for assistance, he rejoiced to see, by the convulsion of the baronet's features and the heaving of his chest, that animation was returning. In a few minutes he opened his eyes, but when he met the anxious gaze of Thaddeus, he closed them as suddenly. Rising from his seat, he staggered against the chimney-piece, exclaiming, "Oh God, direct me!" Thaddeus, whose conjectures were now wrought almost to wildness, followed him, and whilst his exhausted frame was ready to sink to the earth, he implored him to speak.
"Sir Robert," cried he, "if you know anything of my family, if you know anything of my father, I beseech you to answer me. Or only tell me: am I so wretched as to be the son of Lord Tinemouth?"
The violence of the count's emotions during this agonizing address totally overcame him; before he finished speaking, his limbs withdrew their support, and he dropped breathless against the side of the chair.
Sir Robert turned hastily round. He saw him sunk, like a beautiful flower, bruised and trampled on by the foot of him who had given it root. Unable to make any evasive reply to this last appeal of virtue and of nature, he threw himself with a burst of tears upon his neck, and exclaimed, "Wretch that I have been! Oh, Sobieski! I am thy father. Dear, injured son of the too faithful Therese!"
The first words which carried this avowal to the heart of Thaddeus deprived it of motion, and when Sir Robert expected to receive the returning embrace of his son, he found him senseless in his arms.
The cries of the baronet brought Mr. Middleton and the servants into the room. When the former saw the state of the count, and perceived the agonized position of his patron, (who was supporting and leaning over his son,) the honest man declared that he expected nothing less from the gentleman's disobedience of his orders. The presence of the servants having recalled Sir Robert's wandering faculties, he desired them to remove the invalid with the greatest care back to his chamber. Following them in silence, when they had laid their charge on the bed, he watched in extreme but concealed suspense till Mr. Middleton once more succeeded in restoring animation to his patient.
The moment the count unclosed his eyes, they fixed themselves on his father. He drew the hand which held his to his lips. The tears of paternal love again bathed the cheeks of Sir Robert; he felt how warm at his heart was the affection of his deserted son. Making a sign for Mr. Middleton to leave the room, who obeyed, he bent his streaming eyes upon the other hand of Thaddeus, and, in a faltering voice, "Can you pardon me?"
Thaddeus threw himself on his father's bosom, and wept profusely; then raising Sir Robert's clasped hands to his, whilst his eloquent eyes seemed to search the heavens, he said, "My dear, dear mother loved you to her latest hour; and I have all my mother's heart. Whatever may have been his errors, I love and honor my father."
Sir Robert strained him to his breast. After a pause, whilst he shook the tears from his venerated cheeks, he resumed—"Certain, my dear son, that you require repose, and assured that you will not find it until I have offered some apology for my unnatural conduct, I will now explain the circumstances which impelled my actions, and drew distress upon that noble being, your mother."
Sir Robert hesitated a moment to recover breath, and then, with the verity of a grateful penitence, commenced.
"Keep your situation," added he, putting down Thaddeus, who at this opening was raising himself, "I shall tell my melancholy story with less pain if your eyes be not upon me. I will begin from the first."
The baronet, with frequent agitated pauses, proceeded to relate what may be more succinctly expressed as follows: Very early in life he had attached himself to Miss Edith Beaufort, the only sister of the late Admiral Beaufort, who at that time was pursuing his chosen brave career as post-captain in the British navy. By the successive deaths of their parents, they had been left young to the guardianship of Sir Fulke Somerset and their maternal aunt, his then accomplished lady: she and their deceased mother, the Lady Grace Beaufort, having been sisters—the two celebrated beautiful daughters of Robert Earl Studeley of Warwick.
Sir Fulke's family by the amiable twin of the Lady Grace were Robert (who afterwards succeeded him) and Dorothy his only daughter. But he had a son by a former marriage with the brilliantly-endowed widow of a long-resident governor in the East, who having died on his voyage home to England, on her landing she found herself the sole inheritrix of his immense wealth. She possessed charms of person as well as riches, and as soon as "her weeds" could be laid aside, she became the admired wife of the "gay and gallant" Sir Fulke Somerset. Within the twelve subsequent months she presented him with a son and heir, soon to be her own too; for though she lived three or four years after his birth, her health became so delicate that she never bore another child, but gradually declined, and ultimately expired while apparently in a gentle sleep.