These discomforting retrospections on the past, and painful meditations on the present, continued to occupy his mind, until crossing over from Piccadilly to Coventry Street, he perceived a wretched-looking man, almost bent double, accosting a party of people in broken French, and imploring their charity.
The voice and the accent being Sclavonian, arrested the ear of Thaddeus. Drawing close to the man, as the party proceeded without taking notice of the application, he hastily asked, "Are you a Polander?"
"Father of mercies!" cried the beggar, catching hold of his hand, "am I so blessed! have I at last met him?" and, bursting into tears, he leaned upon the arm of the count, who, hardly able to articulate with surprise, exclaimed—
"Dear, worthy Butzou! What a time is this for you and I to meet! But, come, you must go home with me."
"Willingly, my dear lord," returned he; "for I have no home. I begged my way from Harwich to this town, and have already spent two dismal nights in the streets."
"O, my country!" cried the full heart of Thaddeus.
"Yes," continued the poor old soldier; "it received its death wounds when Kosciusko and my honored master fell."
Thaddeus could not reply; but supporting the exhausted frame of his friend, who was hardly able to walk, after many pauses, gladly descried his own door.
The widow opened it the moment he knocked; and seeing some one with him, was retreating, when Thaddeus, who found from the silence of Butzou that he was faint, begged her to allow him to take his companion into her parlor. She instantly made way, and the count placed the now insensible old man in the arm-chair by the fire.
"He is my friend, my father's friend!" cried Thaddeus, looking at his pale and haggard face, with a strange wildness in his own features; "for heaven's sake give me something to restore him."
Mrs. Robson, in dismay, and literally having nothing better in the house, gave him a glass of water.
"That will not do," exclaimed he, still upholding the motionless body on his arm; "have you no wine? No anything? He is dying for want."
"None, sir; I have none," answered she, frightened at the violence of his manner. "Run, Nanny, and borrow something warming of Mrs. Watts."
"Or," cried Thaddeus, "bring me a bottle of wine from the nearest inn." As he spoke, he threw her the only half-guinea he possessed, and added, "Fly, for he may die in a moment."
The child flew like lightning to the Golden Cross, and brought the wine just as Butzou had opened his eyes, and was gazing at Thaddeus with a languid agony that penetrated his soul. Mrs. Robson held the water to his lips. He swallowed a little, then feebly articulated, "I am perishing for want of food."
Thaddeus had caught the bottle from Nanny, and pouring some of its contents into a glass, made him drink it. This draught revived him a little. He raised himself in his seat; but still panting and speechless, leaned his swimming head upon the bosom of his friend, who knelt by his side, whilst Mrs. Robson was preparing some toasted bread, with a little more heated wine, which was fortunately good sherry.
After much kind exertion between the good landlady and the count, they sufficiently recovered the poor invalid to enable them to support him up stairs to lie down on the bed. The drowsiness usually attendant on debility, aided by the fumes of the wine, threw him into an immediate and deep sleep.
Thaddeus seeing him at rest, thought it proper to rejoin Mrs. Robson, and by a partial history of his friend, acquaint her with the occasion of the foregoing scene. He found the good woman surprised and concerned, but no way displeased; and, in a few words, he gave her a summary explanation of the precipitancy with which, without her permission, he had introduced a stranger under her roof.
The substance of what he said related that the person up stairs had served with him in the army; that on the ruin of his country (which he could no longer conceal was Poland), the venerable man had come in quest of him to England, and in his journey had sustained misfortunes which had reduced him to the state she saw.
"I met him," continued he, "forlorn and alone in the street; and whilst he lives, I shall hold it my duty to protect him. I love him for his own sake, and I honor him for my grandfather's. Besides, Mrs. Robson," cried he, with additional energy, "before I left my country, I made a vow to my sovereign that wherever I should meet this brave old man, I would serve him to the last hour of his life. Therefore we must part no more. Will you give him shelter?" added he, in a subdued voice. "Will you allow me to retain him in my apartments?"
"Willingly, sir; but how can I accommodate him? he is already in your bed, and I have not one to spare."
"Leave that to me, best, kindest of women!" exclaimed the count; "your permission has rendered me happy."
He then wished her a good night, and returning up stairs, wrapped himself in his dressing-gown, and passed the night by the little fire of the sitting-room.
* * * * * * *
THE VETERAN'S NARRATIVE.
Owing to comfortable refreshment and a night of undisturbed sleep, General Butzou awoke in the morning much recovered from the weakness which had subdued him the preceding day.
Thaddeus observed this change with pleasure. Whilst he sat by his bed, ministering to him with the care of a son, he dwelt with a melancholy delight on his revered features, and listened to his languid voice with those tender associations which are dear to the heart, though they pierce it with regretful anguish.
"Tell me, my dear general," said he, "for I can bear to hear it now— tell me what has befallen my unhappy country since I quitted it."
"Every calamity," cried the brave old man, shaking his head, "that tyranny could devise."
"Well, go on," returned the count, with a smile, which truly declared that the composure of his air was assumed; "we, who have beheld her sufferings, and yet live, need not fear hearing them described! Did you see the king before he left Warsaw?"
"No," replied Butzou; "our oppressors took care of that. Whilst you, my lord, were recovering from your wounds in the citadel, I set off for Sachoryn, to join Prince Poniatowski. In my way thither I met some soldiers, who informed me that his highness, having been compelled to discharge his troops, was returning to support his royal brother under the indignities which the haughtiness of the victor might premeditate. I then directed my steps towards Sendomir, where I hoped to find Dombrowski, with still a few faithful followers; but here, too, I was disappointed. Two days before my arrival, that general, according to orders, had disbanded his whole party.[Footnote: Dombrowski withdrew into France, where he was soon joined by others of his countrymen; which little band, in process of time, by gradual accession of numbers, became what was afterwards styled the celebrated Polish legion, in the days of Napoleon; at the head of which legion, the Prince Poniatowski, so often mentioned in these pages, lost his life in the fatal frontier river his dauntless courage dared to swim. His remains were taken to Cracow, and buried near to the tomb of John Sobieski.] I now found that Poland was completely in the hands of her ravagers, and yet I prepared to return into her bosom; my feet naturally took that course. But I was agonized at every step I retrod. I beheld the shores of the Vistula, lined on every side with the allied troops. Ten thousand were posted on her banks, and eighteen thousand amongst the ruins of Praga and Villanow.
"When I approached the walls of Warsaw, imagine, my dear lord, how great was my indignation! How barbarous the conduct of our enemies! Batteries of cannon were erected around the city, to level it with the ground on the smallest murmur of discontent.
"On the morning of my arrival, I was hastening to the palace to pay my duty to the king, when a Cossack officer intercepted me, whom I formerly knew, and indeed kindly warned me that if I attempted to pass, my obstinacy would be fatal to myself and hazardous to his majesty, whose confinement and suffering were augmented in proportion to the adherents he retained amongst the Poles. Hearing this, I was turning away, overwhelmed with grief, when the doors of the audience chamber opened, and the Counts Potocki, Kilinski, and several others of your grandfather's dearest friends, were led forth under a guard. I was standing motionless with surprise, when Potocki, perceiving me, held forth his hand. I took it, and wringing it, in the bitterness of my heart uttered some words which I cannot remember, but my Cossack friend whispered me to beware how I again gave way to such dangerous remarks.
"'Farewell, my worthy general' said Potocki, in a low voice, 'you see we are arrested. We loved Poland too faithfully, for her enemies: and for that reason we are to be sent prisoners to St. Petersburg. Sharing the fate of Kosciusko, our chains are our distinction; such a collar of merit is the most glorious order which the imperial sceptre could bestow on a knight of St. Stanislaus.'
"'Sir, I cannot admit of this conversation,' cried the officer of the guard; and commanding the escort to proceed, I lost sight of these illustrious patriots, probably forever.[Footnote: The Potocki family at that time had still large possessions in the Crimean country of the Cossacks; for it had formerly belonged to the crown of Poland. And hence a kind of kindred memory lingered amongst the people: not disaffecting them from their new masters but allowing a natural respect for the descendants of the old.]
"I understood, from the few Poles who remained in the citadel, that the good Stanislaus was to be sent on the same dismal errand of captivity, to Grodno, the next day. They also told me that Poland being no more, you had torn yourself from its bleeding remains, rather than behold the triumphant entry of its conqueror. This insulting pageant was performed on the 9th of November last. On the 8th, I believe you left Warsaw for England."
"Yes," replied the count, who had listened with a breaking heart to this distressing narrative; "and doubtless I saved myself much misery."
"You did. One of the magistrates described to me the whole scene, at which I would not have been present for the world's empire! He told me that when the morning arrived in which General Suwarrow, attended by the confederated envoys, was to make his public entre, not a citizen could be seen that was not compelled to appear. A dead silence reigned in the streets; the doors and windows of every house remained so closed that a stranger might have supposed it to be a general mourning; and it was the bitterest sight which could have fallen upon our souls! At this moment, when Warsaw, I may say, lay dying at the feet of her conqueror, the foreign troops marched into the city, the only spectators of their own horrible tragedy. At length, with eyes which could no longer weep, the magistrates, reluctant, and full of indignation, proceeded to meet the victor on the bridge of Praga. When they came near the procession, they presented the keys of Warsaw on their knees."—
"On their knees!" interrupted Thaddeus, starting up, and the blood flushing over his face.
"Yes," answered Butzou, "on their knees."
"Almighty Justice!" exclaimed the count, pacing the room with emotion; "why did not the earth open and swallow them! Why did not the blood which saturated the spot whereon they knelt cry out to them? O Butzou, this humiliation of Poland is worse to me than all her miseries!"
"I felt as you feel, my lord," continued the general, "and I expressed myself with the same resentment; but the magistrate who related to me that circumstance urged in excuse for himself and his brethren that such a form was necessary; and had they refused, probably their lives would have been forfeited."
"Well," inquired Thaddeus, resuming his seat, "but where was the king during this transaction?"
"In the castle, where he received orders to be present next day at a public thanksgiving, at which the inhabitants of Warsaw were also commanded to attend, to perform a Te Deum, in gratitude for the destruction of their country. Thank heaven! I was spared from witnessing this blasphemy; I was then at Sendomir. But the day after I had heard of it, I saw the carriage which contained the good Stanislaus guarded like a traitor's out of the gates, and that very hour I left the city. I made my way to Hamburgh, where I took a passage to Harwich. But when there, owing to excessive fatigue, one of my old wounds broke out afresh; and continuing ill a week, I expended all my money. Reduced to my last shilling, and eager to find you, I begged my way from that town to this. I had already spent two miserable days and nights in the open air, with no other sustenance than the casual charity of passengers, when Heaven sent you, my honored Sobieski, to save me from perishing in the streets."
Butzou pressed the hand of his young friend, as he concluded. Indignation still kept its station on the count's features.
The poor expatriated wanderer observed it with satisfaction, well pleased that this strong emotion at the supposed pusillanimity of his countrymen had prevented those bursts of grief which might have been expected from his sensitive nature, when informed that ruined Poland was not only treated by its ravagers like a slave, but loaded with the shackles and usage of a criminal.
Towards evening, General Butzou fell asleep. Thaddeus, leaning back in his chair, fixed his eyes on the fire, and mused with amazement and sorrow on what had been told him. When it was almost dark, and he was yet lost in reflection, Mrs. Robson gently opened the door and presented a letter. "Here, sir," said she, "is a letter which a servant has just left; he told me it required no answer."
Thaddeus sprang from his seat at sight of the paper, and almost catching it from her, his former gloomy cogitations dispersed before the hopes and fond emotions of friendship which now lit up in his bosom. Mrs. Robson withdrew. He looked at the superscription—it was the handwriting of his friend. Tearing it asunder, two folded papers presented themselves. He opened them, and they were his own letters, returned without a word. His beating heart was suddenly checked. Letting the papers fall from his hand, he dropped back on his seat and closed his eyes, as if he would shut them from the world and its ingratitude.
Unable to recover from his astonishment, his thoughts whirled about in a succession of accusations, surmises and doubts, which seemed for a few minutes to drive him to distraction.
"Was it really the hand of Somerset?"
Again he examined the envelope. It was; and the enclosures were his own letters, without one word of apology for such incomprehensible conduct.
"Could he make one? No," replied Thaddeus to himself. "Unhappy that I am, to have been induced to apply twice to so despicable a man! Oh, Somerset," cried he, looking at the papers as they lay before him; "was it necessary that insult should be added to unfaithfulness and ingratitude, to throw me off entirely? Good heavens! did he think because I wrote twice, I would persecute him with applications? I have been told this of mankind; but, that I should find it in him?"
In this way, agitated and muttering, and walking up and down the room, he spent another wakeful and cheerless night.
When he went down stairs next morning, to beg Mrs. Robson to attend his friend until his return, she mentioned how uneasy she was at having heard him most of the preceding night moving above her head. He was trying to account to her for his restlessness, by complaining of a headache, but she interrupted him by saying, "O no, sir; I am sure it is the hard boards you lie on, to accommodate the poor old gentleman. I am certain you will make yourself ill."
Thaddeus thanked her for her solicitude; but declaring that all beds hard, or soft, were alike to him, he left her more reconciled to his pallet on the floor. And with his drawings in his pocket, once more took the path to Great Newport Street.
Resentment against his fickle friend, and anxiety for the tranquillity of General Butzou, whose age, infirmities and sufferings threatened a speedy termination of his life, determined the count to sacrifice all false delicacy and morbid feelings, and to hazard another attempt at acquiring the means of affording those comforts to the sick veteran which his condition demanded. Happen how it would, he resolved that Butzou should never know the complete wreck of his property. I shuddered at loading him with the additional distress of thinking he was a burden on his protector.
Thaddeus passed the door of the printseller who had behaved so ill to him on his first application; and walking to the farthest shop on the same side, entered it. Laying his drawings on the counter, he requested the person who stood there to look at them. They were immediately opened; and the count, dreading a second repulse, or even more than similar insolence, hastily added—
"They are scenes in Germany. If you like to have them their price is a guinea."
"Are you the painter, sir?" was the reply.
"Yes, sir. Do they please you?"
"Yes," answered the tradesman, (for it was the master, examining them nearer); "there is a breadth and freedom in the style which is novel, and may take. I will give you your demand;" and he laid the money on the counter.
Rejoiced that he had succeeded where he had entertained no hope, Thaddeus, with a bow, was leaving the shop, when the man called after him, "Stay, sir!"
He returned, prepared to now hear some disparaging remark.
It is strange, but it is true, that those who have been thrust by misfortune into a state beneath their birth and expectations, too often consider themselves the objects of universal hostility. They see contempt in every eye, they suppose insult in every word; the slightest neglect is sufficient to set the sensitive pride of the unfortunate in a blaze; and, alas! how little is this sensibility respected by the rich and gay in their dealings with the unhappy! To what an addition of misery are the wretched exposed, meeting not only those contumelies which the prosperous are not backward to bestow, but those fancied ills which, however unfounded, keep the mind in a feverish struggle with itself, and an uttered warfare with the surrounding world!
Repeated insults infused into the mind of Sobieski much of this anticipating irritability; and it was with a very haughty step that he turned back to hear what the printseller meant to say.
"I only want to ask whether you follow this art as a profession?"
"Then I shall be glad if you can furnish me with six such drawings every week."
"Certainly," replied Thaddeus, pleased with the probability thus securing something towards the support of his friend.
"Then bring me another half-dozen next Monday."
Thaddeus promised, and with a relieved mind took his way homeward.
Who is there in England, I repeat, who does not remember the dreadfully protracted winter of 1794, when the whole country lay buried in a thick ice which seemed eternal? Over that ice, and through those snows, the venerable General Butzou had begged his way from Harwich to London. He rested at night under the shelter of some shed or outhouse, and cooled his feverish thirst with a little water taken from under the broken ice which locked up the springs. The effect of this was a painful rheumatism, which fixed itself in his limbs, and soon rendered them nearly useless.
Two or three weeks passed over the heads of the general and his young protector, Thaddeus cheering the old man with his smiles, and he, in return, imparting the only pleasure to him which his melancholy heart could receive—the conviction that his attentions and affection were productive of comfort.
In the exercise of these duties, the count not only found his health gradually recover its tone, but his mind became more tranquil, and less prone to those sudden floods of regret which were rapidly sapping his life. By a strict economy on his part, he managed to pay the widow and support his friend out of the weekly profits of his drawings, which were now and then augmented by a commission to do one or two more than the stipulated number.
Thus, conversing with Butzou, reading to him when awake or pursuing his drawings when he slept, Thaddeus spent the time until the beginning of March.
One fine starlight evening in that month, just before the frost broke up, after painting all day, he desired little Nanny to take care of the general; and leaving his work at the printseller's, he then proceeded through Piccadilly, intending to go as far as Hyde Park Corner, and return.
Pleased with the beauty of the night, he walked on, not remarking that he had passed the turnpike, until he heard a scream. The sound came from near the Park wall. He hurried along, and at a short distance perceived a delicate-looking woman struggling with a man, who was assaulting her in a very offensive manner.
Without a moment's hesitation, with one blow of his arm, Thaddeus sent the fellow reeling against the wall. But while he supported the outraged person who seemed fainting, the man recovered himself, and rushing on her champion, aimed a stroke at his head with an immense bludgeon, which the count, catching hold of as it descended, wrenched out of his hand. The horrid oaths of the ruffian and the sobs of his rescued victim collected a mob; and then the villain, fearing worse usage, made off and left Thaddeus to restore the terrified female at his leisure.
As soon as she was able to speak, she thanked her deliverer in a voice and language that assured him it was no common person he had befriended. But in the circumstance of her distress, all would have been the same to him;—a helpless woman was insulted; and whatever her rank might be, he thought she had an equal claim on his protection.
The mob dispersed; and finding the lady capable of walking, he begged permission to see her safe home.
"I thank you, sir," she replied, "and I accept your offer with gratitude. Besides, after your generous interference, it is requisite that I should account to you how a woman of my appearance came out at this hour without attendance. I have no other excuse to advance for such imprudence than that I have often done so with impunity. I have a friend whose husband, being in the Life-Guards, lives near the barracks. We often drink tea with each other; sometimes my servants come for me, and sometimes, when I am wearied and indisposed, I come away earlier and alone. This happened to-night; and I have to thank your gallantry, sir, for my rescue from the first outrage of the kind which ever assailed me."
By the time that a few more complimentary words on her side, and a modest reply from Thaddeus, had passed, they stopped before a house in Grosvenor Place. [Footnote: All this local scenery is changed. There is no turnpike gate now at the Hyde Park end of Piccadilly; neither is there a park wall. Splendid railings occupy its place; and two superb triumphal arches, in the fashion of France, one leading into the Park and the other leading towards Buckingham Palace, gorgeously fill the sites of the former plain, wayfaring, English turnpike-lodges.—1845.] The lady knocked at the door; and as soon as it was opened, the count was taking his leave, but she laid her hand on his arm, and said, in a voice of sincere invitation:
"No, sir; I must not lose the opportunity of convincing you that you have not succored a person unworthy of your kindness. I entreat you to walk in!"
Thaddeus was too much pleased with her manner not to accept this courtesy. He followed her up stairs into a drawing-room, where a young lady was seated at work.
"Miss Egerton," cried his conductress, "here is a gentleman who has this moment saved me from a ruffian. You must assist me to express my gratitude."
"I would with all my heart," returned she; "but your ladyship confers benefits so well, you cannot be at a loss how to receive them."
Thaddeus took the chair which a servant set for him, and, with mingled pleasure and admiration, turned his eyes on the lovely woman he had rescued. She had thrown off her cloak and veil, and displayed a figure and countenance full of dignity and interest.
She begged him to lay aside his great-coat, for she must insist upon his supping with her. There was a commanding softness in her manner, and a gentle yet unappealable decision in her voice, he could not withstand; and he prepared to obey, although he was aware the fashion and richness of the military dress concealed under his coat would give her ideas of his situation he could not answer.
The lady did not notice his hesitation, but, ringing the bell, desired the servant to take the gentleman's hat and coat. Thaddeus instantly saw in the looks of both the ladies what he feared.
"I perceive," said the elder, as she took her seat, "that my deliverer is in the army: yet I do not recollect having seen that uniform before."
"I am not an Englishman," returned he.
"Not an Englishman," exclaimed Miss Egerton, "and speak the language so accurately! You cannot be French?"
"No, madam; I had the honor of serving under the King of Poland."
"Then his was a very gallant court, I suppose," rejoined Miss Egerton, with a smile; "for I am sorry to say there are few about St. James's who would have taken the trouble to do what you have done by Lady Tinemouth."
He returned the young lady's smile. "I have seen too little, madam, of Englishmen of rank to show any gallantry in defending this part of my sex against so fair an accuser." Indeed, he recollected the officers in the Park, and the perfidy of Somerset, and thought he had no reason to give them more respect than their countrywomen manifested.
"Come, come, Sophia," cried Lady Tinemouth; "though no woman has less cause to speak well of mankind than I have. I will not permit my countrymen to be run down in toto. I dare say this gentleman will agree with me that it shows neither a candid nor a patriotic spirit." Her ladyship uttered this little rebuke smilingly.
"I dare say he will not agree with you, Lady Tinemouth. No gentleman yet, who had his wits about him, ever agreed with an elder lady against a younger. Now, Mr. gentleman!—for it seems the name by which we are to address you,—what do you say? Am I so very reprobate?"
Thaddeus almost laughed at the singular way she had chosen to ask his name; and allowing some of the gloom which generally obscured his fine eyes to disperse, he answered with a smile—
"My name is Constantine."
"Well, you have replied to my last question first; but I will not let you off about my sometimes bearish countrymen. I do assure you, the race of the Raleighs, with their footstep cloaks, is quite hors de combat; and so don't you think, Mr. Constantine, I may call them so, without any breach of good manners to them or duty to my country? For you see her ladyship hangs much upon a spinster's patriotism?"
Lady Tinemouth shook her head.
"O, Sophia, Sophia, you are a strange mad-cap."
"I don't care for that; I will have Mr. Constantine's unprejudiced reply. I am sure, if he had taken as long a time in answering your call as he does mine, the ruffian might have killed and eaten you too before he moved to your assistance. Come, may I not say they are anything but well-bred men?"
"Certainly. A fair lady may say anything."
"Positively, Mr. Constantine, I won't endure contempt! Say such another word, and I will call you as abominable a creature as the worst of them."
"But I am not a proper judge, Miss Egerton. I have never been in company with any of these men; so, to be impartial, I must suspend my opinion."
"And not believe my word!"
Thaddeus smiled and bowed.
"There, Lady Tinemouth," cried she, affecting pet, "take your champion to yourself; he is no preux chevalier for me?"
"Thank you, Sophia," returned her ladyship, giving her hand to the count to lead her to the supper-room. "This is the way she skirmishes with all your sex, until her shrewd humor transforms them to its own likeness."
"And where is the man," observed Thaddeus, "who would not be so metamorphosed under the spells of such a Circe?"
"It won't do, Mr. Constantine," cried she, taking her place opposite to him: "my anger is not to be appeased by calling me names; you don't mend the compliment by likening me to a heathen and a witch."
Lady Tinemouth bore her part in the conversation in a strain more in unison with the count's mind. However, he found no inconsiderable degree of amusement from the unreflecting volubility and giddy sallies of her friend; and, on the whole, spent the two hours he passed there with some perceptions of his almost forgotten sense of pleasure.
He was in an elegant apartment, in the company of two lovely and accomplished women, and he was the object of their entire attention and gratitude. He had been used to this in his days of happiness, when he was "the expectancy and rose of the fair state, the glass of fashion and the mould of form,—the observed of all observers!" and the re-appearance of such a scene awakened, with tender remembrances, an associating sensibility which made him rise with regret when the clock struck eleven.
Lady Tinemouth bade him good-night, with an earnest request that he would shortly repeat his visit; and they parted, mutually pleased with each other.
FRIENDSHIP A STAFF IN HUMAN LIFE.
Pleased as the count was with the acquaintance to which his gallantry had introduced him, he did not repeat his visit for a long time.
A few mornings after his meeting with Lady Tinemouth, the hard frost broke up. The change in the atmosphere produced so alarming a relapse of the general's rheumatic fever, that his friend watched by his pillow ten days and nights. At the end of this period he recovered sufficiently to sit up and read or to amuse himself by registering the melancholy events of the last campaigns in a large book, and illustrating it with plans of the battles. The sight of this volume would have distressed Thaddeus, had he not seen that it afforded comfort to the poor veteran, whom it transported back into the scenes on which he delighted to dwell; yet he would often lay down his pen, shut the book, and weep like an infant.
The count left him one morning at his employment, and strolled out, with the intention of calling on Lady Tinemouth. As he walked along by Burlington House, he perceived Pembroke Somerset, with an elderly gentleman, of a very distinguished air, leaning on his arm. They approached him from Bond Street.
All the blood in the count's body seemed rushing to his heart. He trembled. The ingenuous smile on his friend's countenance, and his features so sweetly marked with frankness, made his resolution falter.
"But proofs," cried he to himself, "are absolute!" and turning his face to a stand of books that was near him, he stood there until Somerset had passed. He went past him, speaking these words—
"I trust, father, that ingratitude is not his vice."
"But it is yours, Somerset!" murmured Thaddeus, while for a moment he gazed after them, and then proceeded on his walk.
When his name was announced at Lady Tinemouth's, he found her with another lady, but not Miss Egerton. Lady Tinemouth expressed her pleasure at this visit, and her surprise that it had been so long deferred.
"The pain of such an apparent neglect of your ladyship's goodness," replied he, "has been added to my anxiety for the declining health of a friend, whose increased illness is my apology,"
"I wish," returned her ladyship, her eyes beaming approbation, "that all my friends could excuse their absence so well!"
"Perhaps they might if they chose," observed the other lady, "and with equal sincerity."
Thaddeus understood the incredulity couched under these words. So did Lady Tinemouth, who, however, rejoined, "Be satisfied, Mr. Constantine, that I believe you."
The count bowed.
"Fie, Lady Tinemouth!" cried the lady; "you are partial: nay, you are absurd; did you ever yet hear a man speak truth to a woman?"
"Lady Sara!" replied her ladyship, with one of those arch glances which seldom visited her eyes, "where will be your vanity if I assent to this?"
"In the moon, with man's sincerity."
Thaddeus paid little attention to this dialogue. His thoughts, in spite of himself, were wandering after the figures of Somerset and his father.
Lady Tinemouth, whose fancy had not been quiet about him since his prompt humanity had introduced him to her acquaintance, observed his present absence without noticing it. Indeed, the fruitful imagination of Sophia Egerton had not lain still. She declared, "he was a soldier by his dress, a man of rank from his manners, an Apollo in his person, and a hero from his gallantry!"
Thus had Miss Egerton described him to Lady Sara Ross; "and," added she, "what convinces me he is a man of fashion, he has not been within these walls since we told him we should take it as a favor."
Lady Sara was eager to see this handsome stranger; and having determined to drop in at Lady Tinemouth's every morning until her curiosity was gratified, she was not a little pleased when she heard his name announced.
Lady Sara was married; but she was young and of great beauty, and she liked that its power should be acknowledged by others besides her husband. The instant she beheld the Count Sobieski, she formed the wish to entangle him in her flowery chains. She learnt, by his pale countenance and thoughtful air, that he was a melancholy character; and above all things, she sighed for such a lover. She expected to receive from one of his cast a rare tenderness and devotedness; in short, a fervent and romantic passion!—the fashion of the day ever since the extravagant French romances, such as Delphine and the like, came in; and this unknown foreigner appeared to her to be the very creature of whom her fancy had been in search. His abstraction, his voice and eyes, the one so touching and the other so neglectful of anything but the ground, were irresistible, and she resolved from that moment (in her own words) "to make a set at him."
Not less pleased with this second view of her acquaintance than she had been at the first, Lady Tinemouth directed her discourse to him, accompanied by all that winning interest so endearing to an ingenuous heart. Lady Sara never augured well to the success of her fascinations when the countess addressed any of her victims; and therefore she now tried every means in her power to draw aside the attention of the count. She played with her ladyship's dog; but that not succeeding, she determined to strike him at once with the full graces of her figure. Complaining of heat, she threw off her large green velvet mantle, and rising from her chair, walked towards the window.
When she looked round to enjoy her victory, she saw that this manoeuvre had failed like the rest, for the provoking countess was still standing between her and Thaddeus. Almost angry, she flung open the sash, and putting her head out of the window, exclaimed, in her best-modulated tones:
"How d'ye do?"
"I hope your ladyship is well this fine morning!" was answered in the voice of Pembroke Somerset.
Thaddeus grew pale, and the countess feeling the cold, turned about to ask Lady Sara to whom she was speaking.
"To a pest of mine," returned she gayly; and then, stretching out her neck, resumed: "but where, in the name of wonder, Mr. Somerset, are you driving with all that travelling apparatus?"
"To Deerhurst: I am going to take Lord Avon down. But I keep you in the cold. Good-morning!"
"My compliments to Sir Robert. Good-by! good-by!" waving her white hand until his curricle vanished from sight; and when she turned round, her desires were gratified, for the elegant stranger was standing with his eyes fixed on that hand. But had she known that, for any cognizance they took of its beauty, they might as well have been fixed on vacancy, she would not have pulled down the window, and reseated herself with such an air of triumph.
The count took his seat with a sigh, and Lady Tinemouth did the same.
"So that is the son of Sir Robert Somerset?"
"Yes," replied Lady Sara; "and what does your ladyship think of him? He is called very handsome."
"You forget that I am near-sighted," answered the countess; "I could not discriminate his features, but I think his figure fine. I remember his father was a singularly-admired man, and celebrated for taste and talents."
"That may be," resumed Lady Sara, laughing, and anxious to excite some emotion of rivalry in the breast of Thaddeus. "I am sure I ought not to call in question his talents and taste, for he has often wished that fate had reserved me for his son." She sighed while she spoke, and looked down.
This sigh and gesture had more effect upon her victim than all her exhibited personal charms. So difficult is it to break the cords of affection and habit. Anything relating to Pembroke Somerset could yet so powerfully interest the desolate yet generous Sobieski, as to stamp itself on his features. Besides, the appearance of any latent disquietude, where all seemed splendor and vivacity, painfully reminded him of the checkered lot of man. His eyes were resting upon her ladyship, full of a tender commiseration, pregnant with compassion for her, himself, and all the world, when she raised her head. The meeting of such a look from him filled her with agitation. She felt something strange at her heart. His eyes seemed to have penetrated to its inmost devices. Blushing like scarlet, she got up to hide an embarrassment not to be subdued; and hastily wishing the countess a good-morning curtseyed to him and left the room.
Her ladyship entered her carriage with feelings all in commotion. She could not account for the confusion which his look had occasioned; and half angry at a weakness so like a raw, inexperienced girl, she determined to become one of Lady Tinemouth's constant visitors, until she should have brought him (as she had done most of the men in her circle) to her feet.
These were her ladyship's resolutions, while she rolled along towards St. James's Place. But she a little exceeded the fact in the statement of her conquests; for notwithstanding she could have counted as many lovers as most women, yet few of them would have ventured the folly of a kneeling petition. In spite of her former unwedded charms, these worthy lords and gentlemen had, to a man, adopted the oracle of the poet—
"Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies."
They all professed to adore Lady Sara; some were caught by her beauty, others by her eclat, but none had the most distant wish to make this beauty and eclat his own legal property. For she had no other property to bestow.
The young Marquis of Severn seemed serious towards her ladyship during the first year of his appearance at court; but at the end of that time, instead of offering her his hand, he married the daughter of a rich banker.
Lady Sara was so incensed at this disappointment, that, to show her disdain of her apostate lover, she set off next day for Gretna Green, with Horace Ross, a young and early celebrated commander in the navy, whose honest heart had been some time sueing to her in vain. He was also nephew to the Earl of Wintown. They were married, and her ladyship had the triumph of being presented as a bride the same day with the Marchioness of Severn.
When the whirlwind of her resentment subsided, she began most dismally to repent her union. She loved Captain Ross as little as she had loved Lord Severn. She had admired the rank and fashion of the one, and the profound adoration of the other had made a friend of her vanity. But now that her revenge was gratified, and the homage of a husband ceased to excite the envy of her companions, she grew weary of his attentions, and was rejoiced when the Admiralty ordered him to take the command of a frigate bound to the Mediterranean.
The last fervent kiss which he imprinted on her lips, as she breathed out the cold "Good-by, Ross; take care of yourself!" seemed to her the seal of freedom; and she returned into her dressing-room, not to weep, but to exult in the prospect of a thousand festivities and a thousand captives at her feet.
Left at an early age without a mother, and ignorant of the duties of a wife, she thought that if she kept her husband and herself out of Doctor's Commons, she should do no harm by amusing herself with the heart of every man who came in her way. Thus she hardly moved without a train of admirers. She had already attracted everyone she deemed worthy of the trouble, and listened to their compliments, and insolent presumptions, until she was wearied of both. In this juncture of ennui, Miss Egerton related to her the countess's recontre with the gallant foreigner.
As soon as she heard he was of rank, (for Miss Egerton was not backward to affirm the dreams of her own imagination,) she formed a wish to see him; and when, to her infinite satisfaction, he did present himself, in her eyes he exceeded everything that had been described. To secure such a conquest, she thought, would not only raise the envy of the women, but put the men on the alert to discover some novel and attractive way of proving their devotion.
Whilst Lady Sara was meditating on her new conquest, the count and Lady Tinemouth remained in their tete—tete. Her ladyship talked to him on various subjects; but he answered ill upon them all, and sometimes very wide of the matter. At last, conscious that he must be burdensome, he arose, and, looking paler and more depressed than when he entered, wished her a good morning.
"I am afraid, Mr. Constantine, you are unwell."
Like most people who desire to hide what is passing in their minds, Thaddeus gladly assented to this, as an excuse for a taciturnity he could not overcome.
"Then," cried her ladyship, "I hope you will let me know where to send to inquire after your health."
Thaddeus was confounded for a moment; then, returning into the room, he took up a pen, which lay on the table, and said,
"I will write my address to a place where any of your ladyship's commands may reach me; but I will do myself the honor to repeat my call very soon."
"I shall always be happy to see you," replied the countess, while he was writing; "but before I engage you in a promise of which you may afterwards repent, I must tell you that you will meet with dull entertainment at my house. I see very little company; and were it not for the inexhaustible spirits of Miss Egerton, I believe I should become a complete misanthrope."
"Your house will be my paradise!" exclaimed the count, with an expressiveness to the force of which he did not immediately attend.
Lady Tinemouth smiled.
"I must warn you here, too," cried she. "Miss Egerton must not be the deity of your paradise. She is already under engagements."
Thaddeus blushed at being mistaken, and wished to explain himself.
"You misunderstand me, madam. I am not insensible to beauty; but upon my word, at that moment I had nothing else in my thoughts than gratitude for your ladyship's kindness to an absolute stranger."
"That is true, Mr. Constantine: you are an absolute stranger, if the want of a formal introduction and an ignorance of your family constitute that title. But your protection introduced you to me; and there is something in your appearance which convinces me that I need not be afraid of admitting you into the very scanty number of my friends."
Thaddeus perceived the delicacy of Lady Tinemouth, who wished to know who he was, and yet was unwilling to give him pain by a question so direct that he must answer it. As she now proposed it, she left him entirely to his own discretion; and he determined to satisfy her very proper curiosity, as far as he could without exposing his real name and circumstances.
The countess, whose benevolent heart was deeply interested in his favor, observed the changes of his countenance with an anxious hope that he would be ingenuous. Her solicitude did not arise from any doubts of his quality and worth, but she wished to be enabled to reply with promptness to the inquisitive people who might see him at her house.
"I hardly know," said Thaddeus, "in what words to express my sense of your ladyship's generous confidence in me; and that my character is not undeserving of such distinction, time, I trust, will prove." He paused for a moment, and then resumed: "For my rank, Lady Tinemouth, it is now of little consequence to my comfort; rather, perhaps, a source of mortification; for—" he hesitated, and then proceeded, with a faint color tinging his cheek: "exiles from their country, if they would not covet misery, must learn to forget; hence I am no other than Mr. Constantine; though, in acknowledgment of your ladyship's goodness, I deem it only just that I should not conceal my real quality from you.
"My family was one of the first in Poland. Even in banishment, the remembrance that its virtues were as well known as its name, affords some alleviation to the conviction that when my country fell, all my property and all my kindred were involved in the ruin. Soon after the dreadful sealing of its fate, I quitted it, and by the command of a dying parent, who expired in my arms, sought a refuge in this island from degradations which otherwise I could neither repel nor avoid."
Thaddeus stopped; and the countess, struck by the graceful modesty with which this simple account was related, laid her hand upon his.
"Mr. Constantine, I am not surprised at what you have said. The melancholy of your air induced me to suspect that you were not happy, and my sole wish in penetrating your reserve was to show you that a woman can be a sincere friend."
Tears of gratitude glistened in the count's eyes. Incapable of making a suitable reply, he pressed her hand to his lips. She rose; and willing to relieve a sensibility that delighted her, added, "I will not detain you longer: only let me see you soon."
Thaddeus uttered a few inarticulate words, whose significancy conveyed nothing, but all he felt was declared in their confusion. The countess's eloquent smile showed that she comprehended their meaning; and he left the room.
On the count's return home, he found General Butzou in better spirits, still poring over his journal. This book seemed to be the representative of all which had ever been dear to him. He dwelt upon it and talked about it with a doating eagerness bordering on insanity.
These symptoms, increasing from day to day, gave his young friend considerable uneasiness. He listened with pain to the fond dreams which took possession of the poor old man, who delighted in saying that much might yet be done in Poland when he should be recovered, and they be enabled to return together to Warsaw, and stimulate the people to resume their rights.
Thaddeus at first attempted to prove the emptiness of these schemes; but seeing that contradiction on this head threw the general into deeper despondency, he thought it better to affect the same sentiments, too well perceiving that death would soon terminate these visions with the venerable dreamer's life.
Accordingly, as far as lay in the count's power, he satisfied all the fancied wants of his revered friend, who on every other subject was perfectly reasonable; but at last he became so absorbed in this chimerical plot, that other conversation, or his meals, seemed to oppress him with restraint.
When Thaddeus perceived that his company was rather irksome than a comfort to his friend, he the more readily repeated his visits to Lady Tinemouth. She now looked for his appearance at least once a day. If ever a morning and an evening passed away without his appearance, he was sure of being scolded by Miss Egerton, reproached by the countess, and frowned at by Lady Sara Ross. In defiance of all other engagements, this lady contrived to drop in every night at Lady Tinemouth's. Her ladyship was not more surprised at this sudden attachment of Lady Sara to her house than pleased with her society. She found she could lay aside in her little circle that tissue of affectation and fashion which she wore in public, and really became a charming woman.
Though Lady Sara was vain, she was mistress of sufficient sense to penetrate with tolerable certainty into the characters of her acquaintance. Most of the young men with whom she had hitherto associated having lived from youth to manhood amongst those fashionable assemblies where individuality is absorbed in the general mass of insipidity, she saw they were frivolous, though obsequious to her, or, at the best, warped in taste, if not in principle; and the fascinations she called forth to subdue them were suited to their objects—her beauty, her thoughtless, or her caprice. But, on the reverse, when she formed the wish to entangle such a man as Thaddeus, she soon discovered that to engage his attention she must appear in the unaffected graces of nature. To this end she took pains to display the loveliness of her form in every movement and position; yet she managed the action with so inartificial and frank an air, that she seemed the only person present who was unconscious of the versatility and power of her charms. She conversed with good sense and propriety. In short, she appeared completely different from the gay, ridiculous creature he had seen some weeks before in the countess's drawing-room.
He now admired both her person and her mind. Her winning softness, the vivacity of Miss Egerton, and the kindness of the countess, beguiled him many an evening from the contemplation of melancholy scenes at his humble and anxious home.
One night it came into the head of Sophia Egerton to banter him about his military dress. "Do, for heaven's sake, my dear Don Quixote," cried she, "let us see you out of your rusty armor! I declare I grow frightened at it. And I cannot but think you would be merrier out of that customary suit of solemn black!"
This demand was not pleasing to Thaddeus, but he good-humoredly replied, "I knew not till you were so kind as to inform me that a man's temper depends on his clothes."
"Else, I suppose," cried she, interrupting him, "you would have changed yours before? Therefore, I expect you will do as I bid you now, and put on a Christian's coat against you next enter this house."
Thaddeus was at a loss what to say; he only bowed; and the countess and Lady Sara smiled at her nonsense.
When they parted for the night, this part of the conversation passed off from all minds but that of Lady Tinemouth. She had considered the subject, but in a different way from her gay companion. Sophia supposed that the handsome Constantine wore the dress of his country because it was the most becoming. But as such a whim did not correspond with the other parts of his character, Lady Tinemouth. in her own mind, attributed this adherence to his national habit to the right cause.
She remarked that whenever she wished him to meet any agreeable people at her house, he always declined these introductions under the plea of his dress, though he never proposed to alter it. This conduct, added to his silence on every subject which related to the public amusements about town, led her to conclude, that, like the banished nobility of France he was encountering the various inconveniences of poverty in a foreign land. She hoped that he had escaped its horrors; but she could not be certain, for he always shifted the conversation when it too closely referred to himself.
These observations haunted the mind of Lady Tinemouth, and made her anxious to contrive some opportunity in which she might have this interesting Constantine alone, and by a proper management of the discourse, lead to some avowal of his real situation. Hitherto her benevolent intentions had been frustrated by various interruptions at various times. Indeed, had she been actuated by mere curiosity, she would long ago have resigned the attempt as fruitless; but pity and esteem kept her watchful until the very hour in which her considerate heart was fully satisfied.
One morning, when she was writing in her cabinet, a servant informed her that Mr. Constantine was below. Pleased at this circumstance, she took advantage of a slight cold that affected her; and hoping to draw something out of him in the course of a tete—tete, begged he would favor her by coming into her private room.
When he entered, she perceived that he looked more pensive than usual. He sat down by her, and expressed his concern at her indisposition. She sighed heavily, but remained silent. Her thoughts were too much occupied with her kind plan to immediately form a reply. She had determined to give him a cursory idea of her own unhappiness, and thus, by her confidence, attract him.
"I hope Miss Egerton is well?" inquired he.
"Very well, Mr. Constantine. A heart at ease almost ever keeps the body in health. May she long continue as happy as at this period, and never know the disappointments of her friend!"
He looked at the countess.
"It is true, my dear sir," continued she. "It is hardly probable that the mere effect of thirty-seven years could have made the inroads on my person which you see; but sorrow has done it; and with all the comforts you behold around me, I am miserable. I have no joy independent of the few friends which Heaven has preserved to me; and yet," added she, "I have another anxiety united with those of which I complain; some of my friends, who afford me the consolation I mention, deny me the only return in my power, the office of sharing their griefs."
Thaddeus understood the expression of her ladyship's eye and the tenderness of her voice as she uttered these words. He saw to whom the kind reproach was directed, and he looked down confused and oppressed.
The countess resumed.
"I cannot deny what your countenance declares; you think I mean you. I do, Mr. Constantine. I have marked your melancholy; I have weighed other circumstances; and I am sure that you have many things to struggle with besides the regrets which must ever hang about the bosom of a brave man who has witnessed the destruction of his country. Forgive me, if I give you pain," added she, observing his heightening color. "I speak from real esteem; I speak to you as I would to my own son were he in your situation."
"My dearest madam!" cried Thaddeus, overcome by her benevolence, "you have judged rightly; I have many things to struggle with. I have a sick friend at home, whom misfortune hath nearly bereft of reason, and whose wants are now so complicated and expensive, that never till now did I know the complete desolation of a man without a country or a profession. For myself, Lady Tinemouth, adversity has few pangs; but for my friend, for an old man whose deranged faculties have forgotten the change in my affairs, he who leans on me for support and comfort,—it is this that must account to your ladyship for those inconsistencies in my manner and spirits which are so frequently the subject of Miss Egerton's raillery."
Thaddeus, in the course of this short and rapid narrative, gradually lowered the tone of his voice, and at the close covered his face with his hand. He had never before confided the history of his embarrassments to any creature; and he thought (notwithstanding the countess's solicitations) he had committed an outrage on the firmness of his character by having in anyway acknowledged the weight of his calamities.
Lady Tinemouth considered a few minutes, and then addressed him.
"I should ill repay this generous confidence, my noble young friend, were I to hesitate a moment in forming some plan which may prove of service to you. You have told me no more, Mr. Constantine, than I suspected. And I had something in view." Here the countess stopped, expecting that her auditor would interrupt her. He remained silent, and she proceeded: "You spoke of a profession, of an employment."
"Yes, madam," returned he, taking his hands from his eyes; "I should be glad to engage in any profession or employment you would recommend."
"I have little interest," answered her ladyship, "with people in power; therefore I cannot propose anything which will in any degree suit with your rank; but the employment that I have in view, several of the most illustrious French nobility have not disdained to execute."
"Do not fear to mention it to me," cried the count, perceiving her reluctance; "I would attempt anything that is not dishonorable, to render service to my poor friend."
"Well, then, would you have any objection to teach languages?"
Thaddeus immediately answered, "Oh, no! I should be happy to do so."
"Then," replied she, greatly relieved by the manner in which he received her proposal, "I will now tell you that about a week ago I paid a visit to Lady Dundas, the widow of Sir Hector Dundas, the rich East Indian director. Whilst I was there, I heard her talking with her two daughters about finding a proper master to teach them German. That language has become a very fashionable accomplishment amongst literary ladies; and Misa Dundas, being a member of the Blue-stocking Club, [Footnote: Such was the real name given at the time to Mrs. Montague's celebrated literary parties, held at her house in Portman Square. The late venerable Sir William Pepys was one of their last survivors.] had declared her resolution to make a new translation of Werter. Lady Dundas expressed many objections against the vulgarity of various teachers whom the young ladies proposed, and ended with saying that unless some German gentleman could be found, they must remain ignorant of the language. Your image instantly shot across my mind; and deeming it a favorable opportunity, I told her ladyship that if she could wait a few days, I would sound a friend of mine, who I knew, if he would condescend to take the trouble, must be the most eligible person imaginable. Lady Dundas and the girls gladly left the affair to me, and I now propose it to you."
"And I," replied he, "with a thousand thanks, accept the task."
"Then I will make the usual arrangements," returned her ladyship, "and send you the result."
After half an hour's further conversation, Lady Tinemouth became more impressed with the unsophisticated delicacy and dignity of the count's mind; and he, more grateful than utterance could declare, left his respects for Miss Egerton, and took his leave.
FASHIONABLE SKETCHES FROM THE LIFE.
Next morning, whilst Thaddeus was vainly explaining to the general that he no longer possessed a regiment of horse, which the poor old man wanted him to order out, to try the success of some manoeuvres he had been devising, little Nanny brought in a letter from Slaughter's Coffee-house, where he had noted Lady Tinemouth to direct it to him.[Footnote: This respectable hotel still exists, near the top of St. Martin's Lane.—1845.] He opened it, and found these contents:—
"My dear Sir,
"So anxious was I to terminate the affair with Lady Dundas, that I went to her house last night. I affirmed it as a great obligation that you would undertake the trouble to teach her daughters; and I insist that you do not, from any romantic ideas of candor, invalidate what I have said. I know the world too well not to be convinced of the truth of Dr. Goldsmith's maxim,—'If you be poor, do not seem poor, if you would avoid insult as well as suffering.'
"I told Miss Dundas that you had undertaken the task solely at my persuasion, and that I could not propose other terms than a guinea for two lessons. She is rich enough for any expense, and made no objection to my demand; besides, she presented the enclosed, by way of entrance-money. It is customary. Thus I have settled all preliminaries, and you are to commence your first lesson on Monday, at two o'clock. But before then, pray let me see you.
"Cannot you dine with us on Sunday? A sabbath privilege! to speak of good is blameless. I have informed Miss Egerton of as much of the affair as I think necessary to account for your new occupation. In short, gay in spirits as she is, I thought it most prudent to say as little to her and to Lady Sara as I have done to the Dundases; therefore, do not be uneasy on that head.
"Come to-morrow, if not before, and you will give real pleasure to your sincere friend,
"ADELIZA TINEMOUTH." "SATURDAY MORNING, GROSVENOR PLACE."
Truly grateful to the active friendship of the countess, and looking at the general, who appeared perfectly happy in the prosecution of his wild schemes, Thaddeus inwardly exclaimed, "By these means I shall at least have it in my power to procure the assistance which your melancholy state, my revered friend, requires."
On opening the enclosed, which her ladyship mentioned, he found it to be a bank note for ten pounds. Both the present and its amount gave him pain: not having done any service yet to the donor, he regarded the money more as a gift than as a bond of engagement. However, he found that this delicacy, with many other painful repugnances, must at this moment be laid aside; and, without further self-torment, he consigned the money to the use for which he felt aware the countess had wished it to be applied, namely, to provide himself with an English dress.
During these various reflections, he did not leave Lady Tinemouth's letter unanswered. He thanked her sincerely for her zeal, but declined dining with her the next day, on account of leaving his poor friend so long alone; though he promised to come in the evening when he should be retired to rest.
This excuse was regretted by none more than Lady Sara Ross, who, having heard from Lady Tinemouth that she expected Mr. Constantine to dinner on a Sunday, invited herself to be one of the party. She had now seen him constantly for nearly a month, and found, to her amazement, that in seeking to beguile him, she had only ensnared herself. Every word he uttered penetrated to her heart; every glance of his eyes shook her frame like electricity.
She had now no necessity to affect softness. A young and unsuspected passion had stolen into her bosom, and imparted to her voice and countenance all its subtle power to enchant and to subdue. Thaddeus was not insensible to this gentle fascination; for it appeared to his ingenuous nature to be unconsciously shown, and from under "veiled lids." He looked on her as indeed a lovely woman, who, with a touching delicacy, he observed, often tried to stifle sigh after sigh, which, fluttering rose to her silent lips. Thus, as silently remarking her, he became deeply interested in her; for he believed her yearning heart then thought of her gallant husband, far, far at sea. So had been his conclusion when he first noticed these demonstrations of an inward unuttered sensibility. But in a little while afterwards, when those veiled lids were occasionally raised, and met his compassionate gaze, she mistook the nature of its expression; and her responsive glance, wild with ecstasy, returned him one that darted astonishment, with an appalling dread of his meaning, through his every vein. But on his pillow the same night, when he reflected on what he had felt on receiving so strange a look from a married woman, and one, too, whom he believed to be a virtuous one! he could not, he would not, suppose it meant anything to him; and ashamed of even the idea having entered his head, he crushed it at once, indignant at himself. Though, whenever he subsequently met her at Lady Tinemouth's, he could not help, as if by a natural impulse, avoiding the encountering of her eyes.
In the course of conversation at dinner, on the day Thaddeus had been expected by Lady Tinemouth, in a tone of pleasure she mentioned that she had conferred a great favor on her young cousins, the Misses Dundas, by having prevailed on Mr. Constantine to undertake the trouble of teaching them German. Lady Sara could not conceal her vexation, nor her wonder at Lady Tinemouth's thinking of such a thing; and she uttered something like angry contempt at acquiescence, while inwardly she hated her former old friend for having made the proposal.
Miss Egerton laughed at the scrape into which Lady Tinemouth had brought his good nature, and declared she would tell him next time she saw him what a mulish pair of misses he had presumed to manage.
It was the youngest of these misses that excited Lady Sara's displeasure. Euphemia Dundas was very pretty; she had a large fortune at her disposal; and what might not such united temptations effect on the mind of a man exposed every day to her habitual flirtation? Stung with jealousy, Lady Sara caught at a slight intimation of his possibly coming in before the evening should close. Rallying her smiles, she resolved to make one more essay on his relapsed insensibility, before she beheld him enter scenes so likely to extinguish her hopes. Hopes of what? She never allowed herself to inquire. She knew that she never had loved her husband, that now she detested him, and was devoted to another. To be assured of a reciprocal passion from that other, she believed was the extent of her wish. Thinking that she held her husband's honor safe as her life, she determined to do what she pleased with her heart. Her former admirers were now neglected; and, to the astonishment and admiration of the graver part of her acquaintance, she had lately relinquished all the assemblies in which she had so recently been the brightest attraction, to seclude herself by the domestic fireside of the Countess of Tinemouth.
Thus, whilst the world were admiring a conduct they supposed would give a lasting happiness to herself and to her husband, she was cherishing a passion which might prove the destruction of both.
On Sunday evening, Thaddeus entered Lady Tinemouth's drawing-room just as Miss Egerton seated herself before the tea equipage. At sight of him she nodded her head, and called him to sit by her. Lady Tinemouth returned the grateful pressure of his hand. Lady Sara received him with a palpitating heart, and stooped to remove something that seemed to incommode her foot; but it was only a feint, to hide the blushes which were burning on her cheek. No one observed her confusion. So common is it for those who are the constant witnesses of our actions to be the most ignorant of their expression and tendency.
Thaddeus could not, in spite of himself, be so uninformed, and he gladly obeyed a second summons from the gay Sophia, and drew his chair close to hers.
Lady Sara observed his motions with a pang she could not conceal; and pulling her seat as far from the opposite side as possible, began in silence to sip her tea.
"Ye powers of gallantry!" suddenly exclaimed Miss Egerton, pushing away the table, and lifting her eye-glass to her eye, "I declare I have conquered! Look, Lady Tinemouth; look, Lady Sara! If Mr. Constantine does not better become this English dress than his Polish horribles did him, drown me for a witch!"
"You see I have obeyed you, madam," returned Thaddeus smiling.
"Ah! you are in the right. Most men do that cheerfully, when they know they gain by the bargain. Now, you look like a Christian man; before, you always reminded me of some stalking hero in a tragedy."
"Yes," cried Lady Sara, forcing a smile; "and now you have given him a striking resemblance to George Barnwell!"
Sophia, who did not perceive the sarcasm couched under this remark, good-humoredly replied:
"May be so, Lady Sara; but I don't care for his black suit: obedience was the thing I wanted, and I have it in the present appearance."
"Pray, Lady Tinemouth," asked her ladyship, seeking to revenge herself on his alacrity to obey Miss Egerton, "what o'clock is it? I have promised to be at Lady Sarum's concert by ten."
"It is not nine," returned the countess; "besides, this is the first time I have heard of your engagement. I hoped you would have spent all the evening with us."
"No," answered Lady Sara, "I cannot." And ringing the bell, she rose.
"Bless me, Lady Sara!" cried Miss Egerton, "you are not going? Don't you hear that it is little more than eight o'clock?"
Busying herself in tying her cloak, Lady Sara affected not to hear her, and told the servant who opened the door to order her carriage.
Surprised at this precipitation, but far from guessing the cause, Lady Tinemouth requested Mr. Constantine to see her ladyship down stairs.
"I would rather not," cried she, in a quick voice; and darting out of the room, was followed by Thaddeus, who came up with her just as she reached the street door. He hastened to assist her into the carriage, and saw by the light of the flambeaux her face streaming with tears. He had already extended his hand, when, instead of accepting it, she pushed it from her, and jumped into the carriage, crying in an indignant tone, "To Berkeley Square." He remained for a few minutes looking after her; then returned into the house, too well able to translate the meaning of all this petulance.
When he reascended the stairs, Lady Tinemouth expressed her wonder at the whimsical departure of her friend; but as Thaddeus (who was really disturbed) returned a vague reply, the subject ended.
Miss Egerton, who hardly thought two minutes on the same thing, sent away the tea-board, and, sitting down by him, exclaimed,—
"Mr. Constantine, I hold it right that no man should be thrown into a den of wild creatures without knowing what sort of animals he must meet there. Hence, as I find you have undertaken the taming of that ursa major Lady Dundas, and her pretty cubs, I must give you a taste of their quality. Will you hear me?"
"Will you attend to my advice?"
"If I like it."
"Ha!" replied she, returning his smile with another; "that is just such an answer as I would have made myself, so I won't quarrel with you. Lady Tinemouth, you will allow me to draw your kinsfolks' pictures?"
"Yes, Sophia, provided you don't make them caricatures. Remember, your candor is at stake; to-morrow Mr. Constantine will judge for himself."
"And I am sure he will agree with me. Now, Lady Dundas, if you please! I know your ladyship is a great stickler for precedence."
Lady Tinemouth laughed, and interrupted her—
"I declare, Sophia, you are a very daring girl. What do you not risk by giving way to this satirical spirit?"
"Not anybody's love that I value, Lady Tinemouth: you know that I never daub a fair character; Mr. Constantine takes me on your credit; and if you mean Charles Montresor, he is as bad as myself, and dare not for his life have any qualms."
"Well, well, proceed," cried her ladyship; "I will not interrupt you again."
"Then," resumed she, "I must begin with Lady Dundas. In proper historical style, I shall commence with her birth, parentage, and education. For the first, my father remembers her when she was damoiselle a'honneur to Judge Sefton's lady at Surat, and soon after her arrival there, this pretty Abigail by some means captivated old Hector Dundas, (then governor of the province,) who married her. When she returned in triumph to England, she coaxed her foolish husband to appropriate some of his rupee riches to the purchase of a baronetage. I suppose the appellation Mistress put her in mind of her ci-devant abigailship; and in a fond hour he complied, and she became My Lady. That over, Sir Hector had nothing more obliging to do in this world but to clear her way to perhaps a coronet. He was so good as to think so himself: and, to add to former obligations, had the civility to walk out of it; for one night, whether he had been dreaming of his feats in India, or of a review of his grand entry into his governorship palace, I cannot affirm, but he marched out of his bed room window and broke his neck. Ever since that untoward event, Lady Dundas has exhibited the finest parties in town. Everybody goes to see her, but whether in compliment to their own taste or to her silver muslins, I don't know; for there are half a dozen titled ladies of her acquaintance who, to my certain knowledge, have not bought a ball-dress this twelvemonth. Well, how do you like Lady Dundas?"
"I do not like your sketch," replied Thaddeus, with an unconscious sigh.
"Come, don't sigh about my veracity," interrupted Miss Egerton; "I do assure you I should have been more correct had I been more severe; for her Indian ladyship is as ill-natured as she is ill-bred, and is as presumptuous as ignorant; in short she is a fit mamma for the delectable Miss Dundas, whose description you shall have in two questions. Can you imagine Socrates in his wife's petticoats? Can you imagine a pedant, a scold, and a coquette in one woman? If you can, you have a foretaste of Diana Dundas. She is large and ugly, and thinks herself delicate and handsome; she is self-willed and arrogant, and believes herself wise and learned; and, to sum up all, she is the most malicious creature breathing."
"My dear Sophia," cried Lady Tinemouth, alarmed at the effect such high coloring might have on the mind of Thaddeus; "for heaven's sake be temperate! I never heard you so unbecomingly harsh in my life."
Miss Egerton peeped archly in her face.
"Are you serious, Lady Tinemouth? You know that I would not look unbecoming in your eyes. Besides, she is no real relation of yours. Come, shake hands with me, and I will be more merciful to the gentle Euphemia, for I intend that Mr. Constantine shall be her favorite. Won't you?" cried she, resigning her ladyship's hand. Thaddeus shook his head. "I don't understand your Lord Burleigh nods; answer me in words, when I have finished: for I am sure you will delight in the zephyr smiles of so sweet a fairy. She is so tiny and so pretty, that I never see her without thinking of some gay little trinket, all over precious stones. Her eyes are two diamond sparks, melted into lustre; and her teeth, seed pearl, lying between rubies. So much for the casket; but for the quality of the jewel within, I leave you to make the discovery."
Miss Egerton having run herself out of breath, suddenly stopped. Seeing that he was called upon to say something, Thaddeus made an answer which only drew upon him a new volley of raillery. Lady Tinemouth tried to avert it, but she failed; and Sophia continued talking with little interruption until the party separated for the night.
HONORABLE RESOURCES OF AN EXILE.
Now that the count thought himself secure of the means of payment, he sent for a physician, to consult him respecting the state of the general. When Dr. Cavendish saw and conversed with the venerable Butzou, he gave it as his opinion that his malady was chiefly on the nerves, and had originated in grief.
"I can too well suppose it," replied Thaddeus.
"Then," rejoined the physician, "I fear, sir, that unless I know something of its cause, my visits will prove almost useless."
The count was silent. The doctor resumed—
"I shall be grieved if his sorrows be of too delicate a nature to be trusted with a man of honor; for in these cases, unless we have some knowledge of the springs of the derangement, we lose time, and perhaps entirely fail of a cure. Our discipline is addressed both to the body and the mind of the patient."
Thaddeus perceived the necessity of compliance, and did so without further hesitation.
"The calamities, sir, which have occasioned the disorder of my friend need not be a secret: too many have shared them with him; his sorrows have been public ones. You must have learnt by his language, Dr. Cavendish, that he is a foreigner and a soldier. He held the rank of general in the King of Poland's service. Since the period in which his country fell, his wandering senses have approximated to what you see."
Dr. Cavendish paused for a moment before he answered the count; then fixing his eyes on the veteran, who was sitting at the other end of the room, constructing the model of a fortified town, he said—
"All that we can do at present, sir, is to permit him to follow his schemes without contradiction, meanwhile strengthening his system with proper medicines, and lulling its irritation by gentle opiates. We must proceed cautiously, and I trust in Heaven that success will crown us at last. I will order something to be taken every night."
When the doctor had written his prescription, and was preparing to go, Thaddeus offered him his fee; but the good Cavendish, taking the hand that presented it, and closing it on the guinea, "No, my dear sir" said he; "real patriotism is too much the idol of my heart to allow me to receive payment when I behold her face. Suffer me, Mr. Constantine, to visit you and your brave companion as a friend, or I never come again."
"Sir, this generous conduct to strangers—"
"Generous to myself, Mr. Constantine, and not to strangers; I cannot consider you as such, for men who devote themselves to their country must find a brother in every honest breast. I will not hear of our meeting on any other terms." [Footnote: This generous man is no fictitious character, the original being Dr. Blackburne, late of Cavendish Square; but who, since the above was written, has long retired from his profession, passing a revered old age in the beautiful neighborhood of our old British classic scenes, the Abbey of Glastonbury.]
Thaddeus could not immediately form a reply adequate to the sentiment which the generous philanthropy of the doctor awakened. Whilst he stood incapable of speaking, Cavendish, with one glance of his penetrating eye, deciphered his countenance, and giving him a friendly shake by the hand, disappeared.
The count took up his hat; and musing all the way he went on the unexpected scenes we meet in life,—disappointment where we expected kindness, and friendship where no hope could arise,—he arrived at the door of Lady Dundas, in Harley Street.
He was instantly let in, and with much ceremony ushered into a splendid library, where he was told the ladies would attend him. Before they entered, they allowed him time to examine its costly furniture, its glittering book-cases, bird-cages, globes, and reading-stands, all shining with burnished gilding; its polished plaster casts of the nine muses, which stood in nine recesses about the room, draperied with blue net, looped up with artificial roses; and its fine cut-steel Grecian stove, on each side of which was placed, on sandal-wood pedestals, two five-feet statues of Apollo and Minerva.
Thaddeus had twice walked round these fopperies of learning, when the door opened, and Lady Dundas, dressed in a morning wrapper of Indian shawls, waddled into the apartment. She neither bowed nor curtseyed to the count, who was standing when she entered, but looking at him from head to foot, said as she passed, "So you are come;" and ringing the bell, called to the servant in no very soft tones, "Tell Miss Dundas the person Lady Tinemouth spoke of is here." Her ladyship then sat down in one of the little gilded chairs, leaving Thaddeus still standing on the spot where he had bowed to her entrance.
"You may sit down," cried she, stirring the fire, and not deigning to look at him; "for my daughter may not choose to come this half-hour."
"I prefer standing," replied the count, who could have laughed at the accuracy of Miss Egerton's picture, had he not prognosticated more disagreeableness to himself from the ill manners of which this was a specimen.
Lady Dundas took no further notice of him. Turning from her bloated countenance, (which pride as well as high living had swollen from prettiness to deformity,) he walked to a window and stationed himself there, looking into the street, until the door was again opened, and two ladies made their appearance.
"Miss Dundas," cried her ladyship, "here is the young man that is to teach you German."
Thaddeus bowed; the younger of the ladies curtseyed; and so did the other, not forgetting to accompany such condescension with a toss of the head, that the effect of undue humility might be done away.
Whilst a servant was setting chairs round a table, on which was painted the Judgment of Hercules, Lady Dundas again opened her lips.
"Pray, Mr. Thingumbob, have you brought any grammars, and primers, and dictionaries, and syntaxes with you?"
Before he had time to reply in the negative, Miss Dundas interrupted her mother.
"I wish, madam, you would leave the arrangement of my studies to myself. Does your ladyship think we would learn out of any book which had been touched by other people? Thomas," cried she to a servant, "send Stephens hither."
Thaddeus silently contemplated this strange mother and daughter, whilst the pretty Euphemia paid the same compliment to him. During his stay, he ventured to look once only at her sylph-like figure. There was an unreceding something in her liquid blue eyes, when he chanced to meet them, which displeased him; and he could not help seeing that from the instant she entered the room she had seldom ceased staring in his face.
He was a little relieved by the maid putting the books on the table. Miss Dundas, taking her seat, desired him to sit down by her and arrange the lessons. Lady Dundas was drawing to the other side of Thaddeus, when Euphemia, suddenly whisking round, pushed before her mother, and exclaimed—
"Dear mamma! you don't want to learn!" and squeezed herself upon the edge of her mother's chair, who, very angrily getting up, declared that rudeness to a parent was intolerable from such well-bred young women, and left the room.
Euphemia blushed at the reproof more than at her conduct; and Miss Dundas added to her confusion by giving her a second reprimand. Thaddeus pitied the evident embarrassment of the little beauty, and to relieve her, presented the page in the German grammar with which they were to begin. This had the desired effect; and for an hour and a half they prosecuted their studies with close attention.
Whilst the count continued his directions to her sister, and then turned his address to herself, Miss Euphemia, wholly unseen by him, with a bent head was affecting to hear him though at the same time she looked obliquely through her thick flaxen ringlets, and gazing with wonder and admiration on his face as it inclined towards her, said to herself, "If this man were a gentleman, I should think him the most charming creature in the world."
"Will your task be too long, madam?" inquired Thaddeus; "will it give you any inconvenience to remember?"
"To remember what?" asked she, for in truth she had neither seen what he had been pointing at nor heard what he had been saying.
"The lesson madam, I have just been proposing."
"Show it to me again, and then I shall be a better judge."
He did as he was desired, and was taking his leave, when she called after him:
"Pray, Mr. Constantine, come to-morrow at two. I want you particularly."
The count bowed and withdrew.
"And what do you want with him to-morrow, child?" asked Miss Dundas; "you are not accustomed to be so fond of improvement."
Euphemia knew very well what she was accustomed to be fond of; but not choosing to let her austere sister into her predilection for the contemplation of superior beauty, she merely answered, "You know, Diana, you often reproach me for my absurd devotion to novel-reading, and my repugnance to graver books; now I want at once to be like you, a woman of great erudition: and for that purpose I will study day and night at the German, till I can read all the philosophers, and be a fit companion for my sister."
This speech from Euphemia (who had always been so declared an enemy to pedantry as to affirm that she learnt German merely because it was the fashion) would have awakened Miss Dundas to some suspicion of a covert design, had she not been in the habit of taking down such large draughts of adulation, that whenever herself was the subject, she gave it full confidence. Euphemia seldom administered these doses but to serve particular views; and seeing in the present case that a little flattery was necessary, she felt no compunction in sacrificing sincerity to the gratification of caprice. Weak in understanding, she had fed on works of imagination, until her mind loathed all kinds of food. Not content with devouring the elegant pages of Mackenzie, Radcliffe, and Lee, she flew with voracious appetite to sate herself on the garbage of any circulating library that fell in her way.
The effects of such a taste were exhibited in her manners. Being very pretty, she became very sentimental. She dressed like a wood nymph, and talked as if her soul were made of love and sorrow. Neither of these emotions had she ever really felt; but in idea she was always the victim of some ill-fated passion, fancying herself at different periods in love with one or other of the finest young men in her circle.
By this management she kept faithful to her favorite principle that "love was a want of her soul!" As it was the rule of her life, it ever trembled on her tongue, ever introduced the confession of any new attachment, which usually happened three times a year, to her dear friend Miss Arabella Rothes. Fortunately for the longevity of their mutual friendship, this young lady lived in an ancient house, forty miles to the north of London. This latter circumstance proved a pretty distress for their pens to descant on; and Arabella remained a most charming sentimental writing-stock, to receive the catalogue of Miss Euphemia's lovers; indeed, that gentle creature might have matched every lady in Cowley's calendar with a gentleman. But every throb of her heart must have acknowledged a different master. First, the fashionable sloven, Augustus Somers, lounged and sauntered himself into her good graces; but his dishevelled hair, and otherwise neglected toilette, not exactly meeting her ideas of an elegant lover, she gave him up at the end of three weeks. The next object her eyes fell upon, as most opposite to her former fancy, was the charming Marquis of Inverary. But here all her arrows failed, for she never could extract from him more than a "how d'ye do?" through the long lapse of four months, during which time she continued as constant to his fine figure, and her own folly, as could have fallen to the lot of any poor despairing damsel. However, my lord was so cruel, so perfidious, as to allow several opportunities to pass in which he might have declared his passion; and she told Arabella, in a letter of six sheets, that she would bear it no longer.
She put this wise resolution in practice, and had already played the same game with half a score, (the last of whom was a young guardsman, who had just ridden into her heart by managing his steed with the air of a "feathered Mercury," one day in Hyde Park,) when Thaddeus made his appearance before her.
The moment she fixed her eyes on him, her inflammable imagination was set in a blaze. She forgot his apparent subordinate quality in the nobleness of his figure; and once or twice that evening, while she was flitting about, the sparkling cynosure of the Duchess of Orkney's masquerade, her thoughts hovered over the handsome foreigner.
She viewed the subject first one way and then another, and, in her ever varying mind, "he was everything by turns, and nothing long;" but at length she argued herself into a belief that he must be a man of rank from some of the German courts, who having seen her somewhere unknown to herself, had fallen in love with her, and so had persuaded Lady Tinemouth to introduce him as a master of languages to her family that he might the better appreciate the disinterestedness of her disposition.
This wild notion having once got into her head, received instant credence. She resolved, without seeming to suspect it, to treat him as his quality deserved, and to deliver sentiments in his hearing which should charm him with their delicacy and generosity.
With these chimeras floating in her brain, she returned home, went to bed, and dreamed that Mr. Constantine had turned out to be the Duc d'Enghien, had offered her his hand, and that she was conducted to the altar by a train of princes and princesses, his brothers and sisters.
She woke the next morning from these deliriums in an ecstasy, deeming them prophetic; and, taking up her book, began with a fluttering attention to scan the lesson which Thaddeus had desired her to learn.
"What are these words? These seeming flowers? Maids to call them, 'Love in idleness.'"
The following day at noon, as the Count Sobieski was crossing Cavendish Square to keep his appointment in Harley Street, he was met by Lady Sara Ross. She had spoken with the Misses Dundas the night before, at the masquerade, where discovering the pretty Euphemia through the dress of Eloisa, her jealous and incensed heart could not withstand the temptation of hinting at the captivating Abelard she had selected to direct her studies. Her ladyship soon penetrated into the situation of Euphemia's heated fancy, and drew from her, without betraying herself, that she expected to see her master the following day. Stung to the soul, Lady Sara quitted the rooms, and in a paroxysm of disappointment, determined to throw herself in his way as he went to her rival's house.
With this hope, she had already been traversing the square upwards of half an hour, attended by her maid, when her anxious eye at last caught a view of his figure proceeding along Margaret Street. Hardly able to support her tottering frame, shaken as it was with contending emotions, she accosted him first: for he was passing straight onward, without looking to the right or the left. On seeing her ladyship, he stopped, and expressed his pleasure at the meeting.
"If you really are pleased to meet me," said she, forcing a smile, "take a walk with me round the square. I want to speak with you."
Thaddeus bowed, and she put her arm through his, but remained silent for a few minutes, in evident confusion. The count recollected it must now be quite two. He knew the awkwardness of making the Misses Dundas wait; and notwithstanding his reluctance to appear impatient with Lady Sara, he found himself obliged to say—
"I am sorry I must urge your ladyship to honor me with your commands, for it is already past the time when I ought to have been with the Misses Dundas."
"Yes," cried Lady Sara, angrily, "Miss Euphemia told me as much; but, Mr. Constantine, as a friend, I must warn you against her acts, as well as against those of another lady, who would do well to correct the boldness of her manner."
"Whom do you mean, madam?" interrogated Thaddeus, surprised at her warmth, and totally at a loss to conjecture to whom she alluded.