Part 7 out of 9
great, and the newest fashions in dress. Ignoramuses might suppose she
entered deeply into things, and was thoroughly acquainted with human
nature. No such thing; the only wisdom she possesses, like the owl is
the look of wisdom, and that is the very part of it which I detest.
Passions or feelings she has none, and to love she is an utter stranger.
When somewhat 'in the sear and yellow leaf' she married Mr. Sufton, a
silly old man, who had been dead to the world for many years. But after
having had him buried alive in his own chamber till his existence was
forgot, she had him disinterred for the purpose of giving him a splendid
burial in good earnest. That done, her duty is now to mourn, or appear
to mourn, for the approbation of the world. And now you shall judge for
yourself, for here is Sufton House. Now for the trappings and the weeds
Aware of her cousin's satirical turn, Mary was not disposed to yield
conviction to her representation, but entered Lady Matilda's
drawing-room with a mind sufficiently unbiassed to allow her to form her
own judgment; but a very slight survey satisfied her that the picture
was not overcharged. Lady Matilda sat in an attitude of woe--a
crape--fan and open prayer-book lay before her--her cambric handkerchief
was in her hand--her mourning-ring was upon her finger--and the tear,
not unbidden, stood in her eye. On the same sofa, and side by side, sat
a tall, awkward, vapid-looking personage, whom she introduced as her
brother, the Duke of Altamont. His Grace was flanked by an
obsequious-looking gentleman, who was slightly named as General Carver;
and at a respectful distance was seated a sort of half-cast
gentle-woman, something betwixt the confide humble companion, who was
incidentally as "my good Mrs. Finch."
Her Ladyship pressed Lady Emily's hand--
"I did not expect, my dearest young friend, after the blow I have
experienced--I did not expect I should so soon have been enabled to see
my friends; but I have made a great exertion. Had I consulted my own
feelings, indeed!--but there is a duty we owe to the world--there is an
example we are all bound to show--but such a blow!" Here she had
recourse to her handkerchief.
"Such a blow!" echoed the Duke.
"Such a blow!" re-echoed the General.
"Such a blow!" reverberated Mrs. Finch.
"The most doating husband! I may say he lived but in my sight. Such a
"Such a man!" said the Duke.
"Such a man!" exclaimed the General.
"Oh! such a man!" sobbed Mrs. Finch, as she complacently dropped a few
tears. At hat moment, sacred to tender remembrance, the door opened, and
Mrs. Downe Wright was announced. She entered the room as if she had come
to profane the ashes of the dead, and insult the feelings of the living.
A smile was upon her face; and, in place of the silent pressure, she
shook her Ladyship heartily by the hand as she expressed her pleasure at
seeing her look so well.
"Well!" replied the Lady, "that is wonderful, after whatever have
suffered; but grief, it seems, will not kill!"
"I never thought it would," said Mrs. Downe Wright; "but I thought your
having been confined to the house so long might have affected your
looks. However, I'm happy to see that is not the case, as I don't
recollect ever to have seen you so fat."
Lady Matilda tried to look her into decency, but in vain. She sighed,
and even groaned; but Mrs. Downe Wright would not be dolorous, and was
not to be taken in, either by sigh or groan, crape-fan or prayer-book.
There was nobody her Ladyship stood so much in awe of as Mrs. Downe
Wright. She had an instinctive knowledge that she knew her, and she felt
her genius repressed by her, as Julius Cresar's was by Cassius. They had
been very old acquaintances, but never were cordial friends, though many
worthy people are very apt to confound the two. Upon this occasion Mrs.
Downe Wright certainly did; for, availing herself of this privilege, she
took off her cloak, and said, "'Tis so long since I have seen you, my
dear; and since I see you so well, and able to enjoy the society of your
friends, I shall delay the rest of my visits, and spend the morning with
"That is truly kind of you, my dear Mrs. Downe Wright," returned the
mourner, with a countenance in which real woe was now plainly depicted;
"but I cannot be so selfish as to claim such a sacrifice from you."
"There is no sacrifice in the case, I assure you, my dear," returned
Mrs. Downe Wright. "This is a most comfortable room; and I could go
nowhere that I would meet a pleasanter little circle," looking round.
Lady Matilda thought herself undone. Looking well--fat--comfortable
room--pleasant circle--rung in her ears, and caused almost as great a
whirl in her brain as noses, lips, handkerchiefs, did in Othello's Mrs.
Downe Wright, always disagreeable, was now perfectly insupportable. She
had disconcerted all her plans--she was a bar to all her studied
speeches--even an obstacle to all her sentimental looks; yet to get rid
of her was impossible. In fact, Mrs. Downe Wright was far from being an
amiable woman. She took a malicious pleasure in tormenting those she did
not like; and her skill in this art was so great that she even deprived
the tormented of the privilege of complaint. She had a great insight
into character, and she might be said to read the very thoughts of his
victims. Making a desperate effort to be herself again, Lady Matilda
turned to her two young visitors, with whom she had still some hopes of
"I cannot express how much I feel indebted to the sympathy of my friends
upon this trying occasion--an occasion, indeed, that called for
"A most melancholy occasion!" said the Duke.
"A most distressing occasion!" exclaimed the General.
"Never was greater occasion!" moaned Mrs_._ Finch.
Her Ladyship wiped her eyes, and resumed.
"I feel that I act but a melancholy part, in spite of every exertion.
But my kind friend Mrs. Downe Wright's spirits will, I trust, support
me. She knows what it is to lose--"
Again her voice was buried in her handkerchief, and again she recovered
"I ought to apologise for being thus overcome; but my friends, I hope,
will make due allowance for my situation. It cannot be expected that I
should at all times find myself able for company."
"Not at all!" said the Duke; and the two satellites uttered their
"You are able for a great deal, my dear!" said the provoking Mrs. Downe
Wright; "and I have no doubt but, with a very little exertion, you could
behave as if nothing had happened."
"Your partiality makes you suppose me capable of a great deal more than
I am equal to," answered her Ladyship, with a real hysteric sob. "It is
not everyone who is blessed with the spirits of Mrs. Downe Wright."
"What woman can do, you dare; who dares do more, is none!" said the
General, bowing with a delighted air at this brilliant application.
Mrs. Downe Wright charitably allowed it to pass, as she thought it might
be construed either as a compliment or a banter. Visitors flocked in,
and the insufferable Mrs. Downe Wright declared to all that her Ladyship
was astonishingly well; but without the appropriate whine, which gives
proper pathos, and generally accompanies this hackneyed speech. Mrs.
Finch indeed laboured hard _to _counteract the effect of this
injudicious cheerfulness by the most orthodox sighs, shakes of the head,
and confidential whispers, in which "wonderful woman!"--"prodigious
exertion!"--"perfectly overcome!"--"suffer for this afterwards,"--were
audibly heard by all present; but even then Mrs. Downe Wright's drawn-up
lip and curled nose spoke daggers. At length the tormentor recollected
an engagement she had made elsewhere, and took leave, promising to
return, if possible, the following day. Her friend, in her own mind,
took her measures accordingly. She resolved to order her own carriage to
be in waiting, and if Mrs. Downe Wright put her threat in execution she
would take an airing. True, she had not intended to have been able for
such an exertion for at least a week longer; but, with the blinds down,
she thought it might have an interesting effect.
The enemy fairly gone, Lady Matilda seemed to feel like a person
suddenly relieved from the nightmare; and she was beginning to give a
fair specimen of her scenic powers when Lady Emily, seeing the game was
up with Mrs. Downe Wright, abruptly rose to depart.
"This has been a trying scene for you, my sweet young friends!" said her
Ladyship, taking a hand of each.
"It has indeed!" replied Lady Emily, in a tone so significant as made
"I know it would--youth is always so full of sympathy. I own I have a
preference for the society of my young friends on that account. My good
Mrs. Finch, indeed, is an exception; but worthy Mrs. Downe Wright has
been almost too much for me."
"She is too much!" said the Duke.
"She is a great deal too much!" said the General.
"She is a vast deal too much!" said Mrs. Finch.
"I own I have been rather overcome by her!" with a deep-drawn sigh,
which her visitors hastily availed themselves of to make their retreat.
The Duke and the General handed Lady Emily and Mary to their
"You find my poor sister wonderfully composed," said the former.
"Charming woman, Lady Matilda!" ejaculated the latter; "her feelings do
honour to her head and heart!"
Mary sprang into the carriage as quick as possible to be saved the
embarrassment of a reply; and it was not till they were fairly out of
sight that she ventured to raise her eyes to her cousin's face. There
the expression of ill-humour and disgust were so strongly depicted that
she could not longer repress her risible emotions, but gave way to a
violent fit of laughter.
"How!" exclaimed her companion, "is this the only effect 'Matilda's
moan' has produced upon you? I expected your taste for grief would have
been highly gratified by this affecting representation."
"My appetite, you ought rather to say," replied Mary; "taste implies
some discrimination, which you seem to deny me."
"Why, to tell you the truth, I do look upon you as a sort of
intellectual ghoul; you really do remind me of the lady in the Arabian
Nights, whose taste or appetite, which you will, led her to scorn
everything that did not savour of the churchyard."
"The delicacy of your comparison is highly flattering," said Mary; "but
I must be duller than the fatweed were I to give my sympathy to such as
Lady Matilda Sufton."
"Well, I'm glad to hear you say so; for I assure you I was in pain lest
you should have been taken in, notwithstanding my warning to say
something _larmoyante--or_ join the soft echo--or heave a sigh--or drop a
tear--or do something, in short, that would have disgraced you with me
for ever. At one time, I must do you the justice to own, I thought I saw
you with difficulty repress a smile, and then you blushed so, for fear
you had betrayed yourself! The smile I suppose has gained you one
conquest--the blush another. How happy you who can hit the various
tastes so easily! Mrs. Downe Wright whispered me as she left the room,
'What a charming intelligent countenance your cousin has!' While my Lord
Duke of Altamont observed, as he handed me along, 'What a very sweet
modest-looking girl Miss Douglas was! 'So take your choice--Mrs. William
Downe Wright, or Duchess of Altamont!"
"Duchess of Altamont, to be sure," said Mary: "and then such a man! Oh!
such a man!"
"For marriage is a matter of more worth
Than to be dealt with in attorneyship."
"ALLOW me to introduce to you, ladies, that most high and puissant
Princess, her Grace the Duchess of Altamont, Marchioness of Norwood,
Countess of Penrose, Baroness of, etc. etc.," cried Lady Emily, as she
threw open the drawing-room door, and ushered Mary into the presence of
her mother and sister, with all the demonstrations of ceremony and
respect. The one frowned-the other coloured.
"How vastly absurd!" cried Lady Juliana angrily.
"How vastly amusing!" cried Adelaide contemptuously.
"How vastly annoying!" cried Lady Emily; "to think that this little
Highlander should bear a loft the ducal crown, while you and I,
Adelaide, must sneak about in shabby straw bonnets," throwing down her
own in pretended indignation. "Then to think, which is almost certain, of
her Viceroying it someday; and you and I, and all of us, being presented
to her Majesty--having the honour of her hand to kiss--retreating from
the royal presence upon our heels.
"Oh! ye Sylphs and Gnomes!" and she pretended to sink down overwhelmed
Lady Emily delighted in tormenting her aunt and cousin, and she saw that
she had completely succeeded. Mary was disliked by her mother, and
despised by her sister; and any attempt to bring her forward, or raise
her to a level with themselves, never failed to excite the indignation of
both. The consequences were always felt by her in the increased
ill-humour and disdainful indifference with which she was treated; and
on the present occasion her injudicious friend was only brewing phials
of wrath for her. But Lady Emily never looked to future
consequences--present effect was all she cared for; and she went on to
relate seriously, as she called it, but in the most exaggerated terms,
the admiration which the Duke had expressed for Mary, and her own firm
belief that she might be Duchess when she chose; "that is, after the
expiry of his mourning for the late Duchess. Everyone knows that he is
desirous of having a family, and is determined to marry the moment
propriety permits; he is now decidedly on the look-out, for the year
must be very near a close; and then, hail Duchess of Altamont!"
"I must desire, Lady Emily, you will find some other subject for your
wit, and not fill the girl's head with folly and nonsense; there is a
great deal too much of both already."
"Take care what you say of the future representative of majesty of this
may be high treason yet; only I trust your Grace will be as generous as
Henry the Fifth was, and that the Duchess of Altamont will not remember
the offences committed against Mary Douglas."
Lady Juliana, to whom a jest was an outrage, and raillery
incomprehensible, now started up, and, as she passionately swept out of
the room, threw down a stand of hyacinths, which, for the present, put a
stop to Lady Emily's diversion.
The following day Mrs. Downe Wright arrived with her son, evidently
primed for falling in love at first sight. He was a very handsome young
man, gentle, and rather pleasing in his manners; and Mary, to whom his
intentions were not so palpable, thought him by no means deserving of
the contempt her cousin had expressed for him.
"Well!" cried Lady Emily, after they were gone, "the plot begins to
thicken; lovers begin to pour in, but all for Mary; how mortifying to
you and me, Adelaide! At this rate we shall have nothing to boast of in
the way of disinterested attachment nobody refused!--nothing renounced!
By-and-bye Edward will be reckoned a very good match for _me,_and _you_
will be thought greatly married if you succeed in securing
Lindore--_poor_ Lord Lindore, as it seems that wretch Placid calls him."
Adelaide heard all her cousin's taunts in silence and with apparent
coolness; but they rankled deep in a heart already festering with pride,
envy, and ambition. The thoughts of her sister--and that sister so
inferior to herself--attaining a more splendid alliance, was not to be
endured. True, she loved Lord Lindore, and imagined herself beloved in
return; but even that was not sufficient to satisfy the craving passions
of a perverted mind. She did not, indeed, attach implicit belief to all
that her cousin said on the subject; but she was provoked and irritated
at the mere supposition of such a thing being possible; for it is not
merely the jealous whose happiness is the sport of trifles light as
air--every evil thought, every unamiable feeling, bears about with it
the bane of that enjoyment after which it vainly aspires.
Mary felt the increasing ill-humour which this subject drew upon her,
without being able to penetrate the cause of it; but she saw that it was
displeasing to her mother and sister, and that was sufficient to make
her wish to put a stop to it. She therefore earnestly entreated Lady
Emily to end the joke.
"Excuse me," replied her Ladyship, "I shall do no such thing. In the
first place, there happens to be no joke in the matter. I'm certain,
seriously certain, or certainly serious, which you like, that you may be
Duchess of Altamont, if you please. It could be no common admiration
that prompted his Grace to an original and spontaneous effusion of it. I
have met with him before, and never suspected that he had an innate idea
in his head. I certainly never heard him utter anything half so
brilliant before--it seemed quite like the effect of inspiration."
"But I cannot conceive, even were it as you say, why my mother should be
so displeased about it. She surely cannot suppose me so silly as to be
elated by the unmeaning admiration of anyone, or so meanly aspiring as
to marry a man I could not love, merely because he is a Duke. She was
incapable of such a thing herself, she cannot then suspect me."
"It seems as impossible to make you enter into the characters of your
mother and sister as it would be to teach them to comprehend yours, and
far be it from me to act as interpreter betwixt your understandings. If
you can't even imagine such things as prejudice, narrow-mindedness,
envy, hatred, and malice, your ignorance is bliss, and you had better
remain in it. But you may take my word for one thing, and that is, that
'tis a much wiser thing to resist tyranny than to submit to it. Your
patient Grizzles make nothing of it, except in little books: in real
life they become perfect pack-horses, saddled with the whole offences of
the family. Such will you become unless you pluck up spirit and dash
out. Marry the Duke, and drive over the necks of all your relations;
that's my advice to you."
"And you may rest assured that when I follow your advice it shall be
in whole not in part."
"Well, situated so detestably as you are, I rather think the best thing
you could do would be to make yourself Duchess of Altamont. How
disdainful you look! Come, tell me honestly now, would you really refuse
to be Your Grace, with ninety thousand a year, and remain simple Mary
Douglas, passing rich with perhaps forty?"
"Unquestionably," said Mary.
"What! you really pretend to say you would not marry the Duke of
Altamont?" cried Lady Emily. "Not that I would take him myself; but as
you and I, though the best of friends, differ widely in our sentiments
on most subjects, I should really like to know how it happens that we
coincide in this one. Very different reasons, I daresay, lead to the
same conclusion; but I shall generously give you the advantage of
hearing mine first. I shall say nothing of being engaged--I shall even
banish that idea from my thoughts; but were I free as air--unloving and
unloved--I would refuse the Duke of Altamont; first, because he: is
old--no, first, because he is stupid; second, because he is formal;
third, because he swallows all Lady Matilda's flummery; fourth, because
he is more than double my age; fifth, because he is not handsome; and,
to sum up the whole in the sixth, he wants that inimitable _Je ne scais
quoi_ which I consider as a necessary ingredient in the matrimonial cup.
I shall not, in addition to these defects, dwell upon his unmeaning
stare, his formal bow, his little senseless simper, etc. etc. etc. All
these enormities, and many more of the same stamp, I shall pass by, as I
have no doubt they had their due effect upon you as well as me; but then
I am not like you, under the torments of Lady Juliana's authority. Were
that the case, I should certainly think it a blessing to become Duchess
of anybody to-morrow."
"And can you really imagine," said Mary, "that for the sake of shaking
off a parent's authority I would impose upon myself chains still
heavier, and even more binding? Can you suppose I would so far forfeit
my honour and truth as that I would swear to love, honour, and obey,
where I could feel neither love nor respect, and where cold constrained
obedience would be all of my duty I could hope to fulfil?"
exclaimed Lady Emily; "can I credit my ears? Love! did you say I
thought that had only been for naughty ones, such as me; and that
saints like you would have married for anything and everything but
love! Prudence, I thought, had been the word with you proper ladies--a
prudent marriage! Come, confess, is not that the climax of virtue in
the creed of your school?"
"I never learnt the creed of any school," said Mary, "nor ever heard
anyone's sentiments on the subject, except my dear Mrs. Douglas's."
"Well, I should like to hear your oracle's opinion, if you can give it
"She warned me there was a passion which was very fashionable, and which
I should hear a great deal of, both in conversation and books, that was
the result of indulged fancy, warm imaginations, and ill-regulated
minds; that many had fallen into its snares, deceived by its glowing
colours and alluring name; that--"
"A very good sermon, indeed!" interrupted Lady Emily; "but, no offence
to Mrs. Douglas, I think I could preach a better myself. Love is a
passion that has been much talked of, often described, and little
understood. Cupid has many counterfeits going about the world, who pass
very well with those whose minds are capable of passion, but not of
love. These Birmingham Cupids have many votaries amongst boarding-school
misses, militia officers, and milliners 'apprentices; who marry upon the
mutual faith of blue eyes and scarlet coats; have dirty houses and
squalling children, and hate each other most delectably. Then there is
another species for more refined souls, which owes its birth to the
works of Rousseau, Goethe, Cottin, etc. Its success depends very much
upon rocks, woods, and waterfalls; and it generally ends daggers,
pistols, or poison. But there, I think, Lindore would be more eloquent
than me, so I shall leave it for him to discuss that chapter with you.
But, to return to your own immediate concerns. Pray, are you then
positively prohibited from falling in love? Did Mrs. Douglas only dress
up a scarecrow to frighten you, or had she the candour to show you Love
himself in all his majesty?"
"She told me," said Mary, "that there was a love which even the wisest
and most virtuous need not blush to entertain--the love of a virtuous
object, founded upon esteem, and heightened by similarity of tastes and
sympathy of feelings, into a pure and devoted attachment: unless I feel
all this, I shall never fancy myself in love."
"Humph! I can't say much as to the similarity of tastes and sympathy
of souls between the Duke and you, but surely you might contrive to feel
some love and esteem for a coronet and ninety thousand a year."
"Suppose I did," said Mary, with a smile, "the next point
is to honour; and surely he is as unlikely to excite that sentiment as
the other. Honour---"
"I can't have a second sermon upon honour. 'Can honour take away the
grief of a wound?' as Falstaff says. Love is the only subject I care to
preach about; though, unlike many young ladies, we can talk about other
things too; but as to this Duke, _I_ certainly 'had rather live on
cheese and garlic, in a windmill far, than feed on cakes, and have him
talk to me in any summer-house in Christendom;' and now I have had Mrs.
Douglas's second-hand sentiments upon the subject, I should like to hear
"I have never thought much upon the subject," said Mary; "my sentiments
are therefore all at second-hand, but I shall repeat to you what I think
is not love, and what is." And she repeated these pretty and well-known
CARELESS AND FAITHFUL LOVE.
To sigh--yet feel no pain;
To weep-yet scarce know why;
To sport an hour with beauty's chain,
Then throw it idly by;
To kneel at many a shrine,
Yet lay the heart on none;
To think all other charms divine
But those we just have won:--
This is love-careless love--
Such as kindleth hearts that rove.
To keep one sacred flame
Through life, unchill'd, unmov'd;
To love in wint'ry age the same
That first in youth we loved;
To feel that we adore
With such refined excess,
That though the heart would break with more,
We could not love with less:--
This is love--faithful love--
Such as saints might feel above.
"And such as I do feel, and will always feel, for my Edward," said Lady
Emily. "But there is the dressing-bell!" And she flew off, singing--
"To keep one sacred flame," etc.
"Some, when they write to their friends, are all affection; Some are
wise and sententious; some strain their powers for efforts of gaiety;
some write news, and some write secrets--but to make a letter without
affection, without wisdom, without gaiety, without news, and without a
secret, is doubtless the great epistolic art. "-DR. JOHNSON.
AN unusual length of time had elapsed since Mary had heard from
Glenfern, and she was beginning to feel some anxiety on account of her
friends there, when her apprehensions were dispelled by the arrival of a
large packet, containing letters from Mrs. Douglas and Aunt Jacky. The
former, although the one that conveyed the greatest degree of pleasure,
was perhaps not the one that would be most acceptable to the reader.
Indeed, it is generally admitted that the letters of single ladies are
infinitely more lively and entertaining than those of married ones--a
fact which can neither be denied nor accounted for. The following is a
faithful transcript from the original letter in question;--
"GLENFERN CASTLE, ---SHIRE, N.B. _Feb. 19th,_ 18--.
"My DEAR MARY--Yours was _received_ with _much_ pleasure, as it is
_always_ a satisfaction to your friends _here_ to know that you are
_well_ and doing _well._ We all _take_ the most _sincere_ interest in
your _health,_ and also in your _improvements_ in other _respects._ But
I am _sorry_ to say they do not quite _keep_ pace with _our_
expectations. I must therefore _take_ this opportunity of _mentioning_
to you a _fault_ of yours, _which,_ though a very great _one _in itself,
is one _that_ a very slight _degree_ of attention on your _part,_ will,
I have _no_ doubt, enable you to _get_ entirely the _better of._ is
fortunate for _you,_ my dear Mary, that you have _friends_ who are
always ready to point _out_ your errors to you. For _want_ of that
_most_ invaluable _blessing,_ viz. a sincere _friend, _many a _one_ has
gone out of the _world,_ no wiser in many _respects,_ than when they
_came_ into it. But that, I flatter _myself,_ will not be your _case,_
as you cannot _but_ be sensible of the great _pains_ my sister and I
have _taken_ to point out your _faults_ to you from the _hour _of your
birth. The _one_ to which I particularly _allude _at present is, the
constant omission of _proper_ dates to your _letters,_ by which means we
are all of us very often _brought_ into _most_ unpleasant _situations._
As an _instance_ of it, our _worthy_ minister, Mr M'Drone, happened to
be _calling_ here the very _day_ we received your last _letter._ After
_hearing_ it read, he most _naturally_ inquired the date of it; and I
_cannot_ tell you how _awkward_ we all _felt_ when we were _obliged_ to
confess it had _none!_ And since I am _upon_ that subject, I think it
much _better_ to tell you candidly that I _do_ not think your _hand_ of
write by any _means_ improved. It does not _look_ as if you _bestowed_
that pains upon it which you _undoubtedly_ ought to do; for without
_pains,_ I can assure you, Mary, you _will_ never do any _thing_ well.
As our admirable _grandmother,_ good Lady Girnachgowl, _used_ to say,
pains _makes_ gains; and so it was _seen_ upon her; for it was entirely
_owing_ to her _pains_ that the Girnachgowl estate was relieved, and
_came_ to be what it is now, viz. a most valuable and _highly_
"I know there are _many_ young _people_ who are very _apt _to think it
_beneath_ them to take _pains;"_ but I sincerely trust, my dear Mary,
you have _more_ sense than to be so very _foolish._ Next to a good
distinct _hand_ of write, and _proper_ stops (which I observe you never
_put),_ the thing _most_ to be attended to is your style, _which_ we all
think might _be_ greatly _improved_ by a _little _reflection on your
_part,_ joined to a _few_ judicious _hints_ from your friends. We are
_all_ of opinion, that your _periods_ are too short, and also _that_
your expressions are _deficient_ in dignity. _Neither_ are you
sufficiently circumstantial in your _intelligence,_ even upon subjects
of the highest _importance._ Indeed, upon some _subjects,_ you
_communicate_ no information whatever, which is _certainly_ very
extraordinary in a _young_ person, who ought to be naturally extremely
communicative. Miss M'Pry, who is here upon a _visit_ to us at
_present,_ is perfectly _astonished_ at the total _want_ of news in your
_letters. _She has a _niece_ residing in the neighbourhood of _Bath, _who
sends her regular lists of the company there, and also an _account_ of
the most _remarkable_ events that take _place _there. Indeed, had it not
_been_ for Patty M'Pry, we never would have _heard_ a _syllable_ of the
celebrated _Lady _Travers's elopement with _Sir_ John Conquest; and,
indeed, I cannot _conceal_ from you, that we have heard more as to what
goes on in Lord Courtland's _family_ through Miss Patty M'Pry, than
_ever_ we have heard from you, _Mary._
"In short, I _must_ plainly tell you, _however_ painful you may _feel_
it, that not one of us is ever a _whit_ the wiser after reading your
_letters_ than we _were_ before. But I am _sorry_ to say this is not the
_most_ serious part of the _complaint_ we have to _make_ against you.
We are all _willing_ to find excuses for you, even _upon_ these points,
but I must _confess,_ your neglecting to _return_ any answers to certain
inquiries of your aunts', _appears_ to me perfectly inexcusable. Of
_course,_ you must _understand_ that I allude to that _letter_ of your
Aunt Grizzy's, dated the 17th of December, wherein she _expressed_ a
strong desire that you should endeavour to make yourself _mistress_ of
Dr. Redgill's opinion with _respect_ to lumbago, as she is extremely
anxious to _know_ whether he _considers_ the seat of the disorder to be
in the bones or the sinews; and undoubtedly it is of the greatest
_consequence_ to procure the _opinion_ of a sensible well-informed
English _physician,_ upon a subject of such vital _importance._ Your
Aunt Nicky, also, in a letter, _dated_ the 22d of December, requested to
be _informed_ whether Lord Courtland (like our _great_ landholders)
killed his own _mutton_, as Miss P. M'P. insinuates in a _letter_ to her
aunt, that the _servants_ there are suspected of being _guilty_ of great
_abuses_ on that _score_; but there you also _preserve_ a most
unbecoming, and I own I think _somewhat mysterious silence._
"And now, my dear Mary, _having_ said all that _I_ trust is necessary
to _recall_ you to a sense of _your_ duty, I _shall_ now communicate to
you a _piece_ of intelligence, _which,_ I am certain, will _occasion_
you the _most _unfeigned pleasure, viz. the prospect there is of your
soon _beholding_ some of your friends from this _quarter_ in Bath. Our
valuable friend and _neighbour,_ Sir Sampson, has been rather (we think)
worse than _better_ since you left us. He is now _deprived_ of the
entire use of one leg. He _himself _calls his _complaint_ a morbid
rheumatism; but Lady Maclaughlan _assures_ us it is a rheumatic palsy,
and she has now _formed_ the resolution of _taking_ him _up_ to Bath
early in the ensuing _spring._ And not only that, but she has most
considerately _invited_ your Aunt Grizzy to accompany them, _which,_ of
course, she is to do with the greatest _pleasure._ We are therefore all
extremely _occupied_ in getting your aunt's things _put_ in order for
such an _occasion;_ and you must _accept_ of that as an apology for
none of the girls _being_ at leisure to write _you_ at present, and
_likewise_ for the shortness of _this_ letter. But be assured we will all
_write_ you fully by Grizzy. Meantime, all _unite_ in kind remembrance
to _you._ And I _am,_ my dear Mary, your most affectionate aunt,
"P.S.--Upon _looking_ over your letter, I am much _struck_ with your
X's. You surely _cannot_ be so ignorant as _not_ to know that a well
_made x_ is neither more nor _less_ than _two c's_ joined together back
to back, _instead_ of these senseless crosses you _seem_ so fond of; and
as to _your z's, _I defy any _one_ to distinguish them _from_ your _y_'s.
_I trust you will _attend_ to this, and show that it _proceeds _rather
from want of proper _attention_ than _from_ wilful airs.
"P.S.-Miss P. M'Pry _writes_ her aunt that _there_ is a strong _report
_of Lord Lindore's marriage to our _niece_ Adelaide; but _we _think that
is _impossible,_ as you certainly _never_ could have omitted to _inform_
us of a circumstance _which_ so deeply concerns _us._ If so, I must
_own_ I shall think you quite _unpardonable._ At the _same_ time, it
_appears _extremely improbable _that_ Miss M'P. _would_ have mentioned
_such_ a thing to her _aunt,_without having good _grounds_ to _go_ upon.
Mary could not entirely repress her mirth while she read this catalogue
of her crimes; but she was, at the same time, eager to expiate her
offences, real or imaginary, in the sight of her good old aunt; and she
immediately sat down to the construction of a letter after the model
prescribed;--though with little expectation of being able to cope with
the intelligent Miss P. M'P. in the extent of her communications. Her
heart warmed at the thoughts of seeing again the dear familiar face of
Aunt Grizzy, and of hearing the tones of that voice, which, though sharp
and cracked, still sounded sweet in memory's ear. Such is the power that
early associations ever retain over the kind and unsophisticated heart.
But she was aware how differently her mother would feel on the subject,
as she never alluded to her husband's family but with indignation or
contempt; and she therefore resolved to be silent with regard to Aunt
Grizzy's prospects for the present.
". . . . As in apothecaries' shops all sorts of drugs are permitted to
be, so may all sorts of books be in the library; and as they out of
vipers, and scorpions, and poisonous vegetables extract often wholesome
medicaments for the life of mankind, so out of whatsoever book good
instruction and examples may be acquired."--DRUMMOND _of Hawthornden._
MARY's thoughts had often reverted to Rose Hall since the day she had
last quitted it, and she longed to fulfil her promise to her venerable
friend; but a feeling of delicacy, unknown to herself, withheld her.
"She will not miss me while she has her son with her," said she to
herself; but in reality she dreaded her cousin's raillery should she
continue to visit there as frequently as before. At length a favourable
opportunity occurred. Lady Emily, with great exultation, told her the
Duke of Altamont was to dine at Beech Park the following day, but that
she was to conceal it from Lady Juliana and Adelaide; "for assuredly,"
said she, "if they were apprised of it, they would send you up to the
nursery as a naughty girl, or perhaps down to the scullery, and make a
Cinderella of you. Depend upon it you would not get leave to show your
face in the drawing-room."
"Do you really think so?" asked Mary.
"I know it. I know Lady Juliana would torment you till she had set you a
crying; and then she would tell you you had made yourself such a fright
that you were not fit to be seen, and so order you to your own room. You
know very well it would not be the first time that such a thing has
Mary could not deny the fact; but, sick of idle altercation, she
resolved to say nothing, but walk over to Rose Hall the following
morning. And this she did, leaving a note for her cousin, apologising
for her flight.
She was received with rapture by Mrs. Lennox.
"Ah! my dear Mary," said she, as she tenderly embraced her, "you know
not, you cannot conceive, what a blank your absence makes in my life!
When you open your eyes in the morning, it is to see the light of day
and the faces you love, and all is brightness around you. But when I
wake it is still to darkness. My night knows no end. 'Tis only when I
listen to your dear voice that I forget I am blind."
"I should not have stayed so long from you," said Mary, "but I knew you
had Colonel Lennox with you, and I could not flatter myself you would
have even a thought to bestow upon me."
"My Charles is, indeed, everything that is kind and devoted to me. He
walks with me, reads to me, talks to me, sits with me for hours, and
bears with all my little weaknesses as a mother would with her sick
child; but still there are a thousand little feminine attentions he
cannot understand. I would not that he did. And then to have him always
with me seems so selfish; for, gentle and tender-hearted as he is, I
know he bears the spirit of an eagle within him; and the tame monotony
of my life can ill accord with the nobler habits of his. Yet he says he
is happy with me, and I try to make myself believe him."
"Indeed," said Mary, "I cannot doubt it. It is always a happiness
to be with those we love, and whom we know love us, under any
circumstances; and it is for that reason I love so much to come to my
dear Mrs. Lennox," caressing her as she spoke.
"Dearest Mary, who would not love you? Oh! could I but see--could I
"You must hope everything you desire," said Mary gaily, and little
guessing the nature of her good friend's hopes; "I do nothing but hope."
And she tried to check a sigh, as she thought how some of her best hopes
had been already blighted by the unkindness of those whose love she had
vainly striven to win.
Mrs. Lennox's hopes were already upon her lips, when the entrance of her
son fortunately prevented their being for ever destroyed by a premature
disclosure. He welcomed Mary with an appearance of the greatest
pleasure, and looked so much happier and more animated than when she
last saw him, that she was struck with the change, and began to think he
might almost stand a comparison with his picture.
"You find me still here, Miss Douglas," said he, "although my mother
gives me many hints to be gone, by insinuating what indeed cannot be
doubted, how very ill I supply your place; but--" turning to his
mother--"you are not likely to be rid of me for sometime, as I have just
received an additional leave of absence; but for that, I must have left
"Dear Charles, you never told me so. How could you conceal it from me?
How wretched I should have been had I dreamed of such a thing!"
"That is the very reason for which I concealed it, and yet you reproach
me. Had I told you there was a chance of my going, you would assuredly
have set it down for a certainty, and so have been vexed for no
"But your remaining was a chance too," said Mrs. Lennox, who could not
all at once reconcile herself even to an _escape_ from danger; "and
think, had you been called away from me without any preparation!--
Indeed, Charles, it was very imprudent."
"My dearest mother, I meant it in kindness. I could not bear to give you
a moment's certain uneasiness for an uncertain evil. I really cannot
discover either the use or the virtue of tormenting one's self by
anticipation. I should think it quite as rational to case myself in a
suit of mail, by way of security to my person, as to keep my mind
perpetually on the rack of anticipating evil. I perfectly agree with
that philosopher who says, if we confine ourselves to general
reflections on the evils of life, _that_ can have no effect in preparing
us for them; and if we bring them home to us, _that_ is the certain
means of rendering ourselves miserable."
"But they will come, Charles," said his mother mournfully, "whether we
bring them or not."
"True, my dear mother; but when misfortune does come, it comes
commissioned from a higher power, and it will ever find a well-regulated
mind ready to receive it with reverence, and submit to it with
resignation. There is something, too, in real sorrow that tends to
enlarge and exalt the soul; but the imaginary evils of our own creating
can only serve to contract and depress it."
Mrs. Lennox shook her head. "Ah! Charles, you may depend upon it your
reasoning is wrong, and you will be convinced of it some day."
"I am convinced of it already. I begin to fear this discussion will
frighten Miss Douglas away from us. _There_ is an evil anticipated! Now,
do you, my dear mother, help me to avert it; where that can be done, it
cannot be too soon apprehended."
As Colonel Lennox's character unfolded itself, Mary saw much to admire
in it; and it is more than probable the admiration would soon have been
reciprocal, had it been allowed to take its course. But good Mrs. Lennox
would force it into a thousand little channels prepared by herself, and
love itself must have been quickly exhausted by the perpetual demands
that were made upon it. Mary would have been deeply mortified had she
suspected the cause of her friend's solicitude to show her off; but she
was a stranger to match-making in all its bearings, had scarcely ever
read a novel in her life, and was consequently not at all aware of the
necessity there was for her falling in love with all convenient speed.
She was therefore sometimes amused, though oftener ashamed, at Mrs.
Lennox's panegyrics, and could not but smile as she thought how Aunt
Jacky's wrath would have been kindled had she heard the extravagant
praises that were bestowed on her most trifling accomplishments.
"You must sing my favourite song to Charles, my love--he has never heard
you sing. Pray do: you did not use to require any entreaty from me,
Mary! Many a time you have gladdened my heart with your songs when, but
for you, it would have been filled with mournful thoughts!"
Mary, finding whatever she did or did _not,_ she was destined to hear
only her own praises, was glad to take refuge at the harp, to which she
sang the following ancient ditty:--
"Sweet day! so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky,
Sweet dews shall weep thy fall to-night,
For thou must die.
"Sweet rose! whose hue, angry and brave,
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye,
Thy root is ever in its grave;
And thou must die.
"Sweet spring! full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie,
My music shows you have your closes,
And all must die.
"Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like season'd timber, never gives;
But when the whole world turns to coal,
Then chiefly lives."
"That," said Colonel Lennox, "is one of the any exquisite little pieces
of poetry which are to be found, like jewels in an Ethiop's ear, in my
favourite Isaac Walton. The title of the book offers no encouragement to
female readers, but I know few works from which I rise with such
renovated feelings of benevolence and good-will. Indeed, I know no
author who has given with so much _naivete _so enchanting a
picture of a pious and contented mind. Here--" taking the book from a
shelf, and turning over the leaves--"is one of the passages which has
so often charmed me:--'That very hour which you were absent from me, I
sat down under a willow by the water-side, and considered what you had
told me of the owner of that pleasant meadow in which you left me--that
he has a plentiful estate, and not a heart to think so; that he has at
this time many lawsuits depending, and that they both damped his mirth,
and took up so much of his time and thoughts that he himself had not
leisure to take that sweet comfort I, who pretended no title to
them, took in his fields; for I could there sit quietly, and, looking in
the water, see some fishes sport themselves in the silver streams,
others leaping at flies of several shapes and colours. Looking on the
hills, I could behold them spotted with woods and groves; looking down
upon the meadows I could see, here a boy gathering lilies and
lady-smocks, and there a girl cropping culverkeys and cowslips, all to
make garlands suitable to this present month of May. These, and many
other field flowers, so perfumed the air, that I thought that very
meadow like that field in Sicily, of which Diodorus speaks, where the
perfumes arising from the place make all dogs that hunt in it to fall
off and lose their scent. I say, as I thus sat joying in my own happy
condition, and pitying this poor rich man that owned this and many other
pleasant groves and meadows about me, I did then thankfully remember
what my Saviour said, that the _meek possess the earth--or,_ rather,
they enjoy what the others possess and enjoy not; for anglers and
meek-spirited men are free from those high, those restless
thoughts,--which corrode the sweets of life; and they, and they only,
can say, as the poet has happily expressed it--
'Hail, blest estate of lowliness!
Happy enjoyments of such minds
As, rich in self-contentedness,
Can, like the reeds in roughest winds,
By yielding, make that blow but small,
By which proud oaks and cedars fall.'"
"There is both poetry and painting in such prose as this," said Mary;
"but I should certainly as soon have thought of looking for a pearl
necklace in a fishpond as of finding pretty poetry in a treatise upon
the art of angling."
"That book was a favourite of your father's, Charles," said Mrs. Lennox,
"and I remember, in our happiest days, he used to read parts of it to
me. One passage in particular made a strong impression upon me, though I
little thought then it would ever apply to me. It is upon the blessings
of sight. Indulge me by reading it to me once again."
Colonel Lennox made an effort to conquer his feelings, while he read as
"What would a blind man give to see the pleasant rivers, and meadows,
and flowers, and fountains, that we have met with! I have been told that
if a man that was born blind could attain to have his sight for _but
only one hour_ during his whole life, and should, at the first opening
of his eyes, fix his sight upon the sun when it was in its full glory,
either at the rising or the setting, he would be transported and amazed,
and so admire the glory of it that he would not willingly turn his eyes
from that first ravishing object to behold all the other various
beauties this world could present to them. And this, and many other like
objects, we enjoy daily---"
A deep sigh from Mrs. Lennox made bier son look up. Her eyes were
bathed in tears.
He threw his arms around her. "My dearest mother!" cried he in a voice
choked with agitation, "how cruel--how unthinking--thus to remind
"Do not reproach yourself for my weakness, dear Charles; but I was
thinking how much rather, could I have my sight but for one hour, I
would look upon the face of my own child than on all the glories of the
Colonel Lennox was too deeply affected to speak. He pressed his mother's
hand to his lips--then rose abruptly, and quitted the room. Mary
succeeded in soothing her weak and agitated spirits into composure; but
the chord of feeling had been jarred, and all her efforts to restore it
to its former tone proved abortive for the rest of the day.
"Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself,
And trust no agent."
Much Ado about Nothing.
THERE was something so refreshing in the domestic peacefulness of Rose
Hall, when contrasted with the heartless bustle of Beech Park, that Mary
felt too happy in the change to be in any hurry to quit it. But an
unfortunate discovery soon turned all her enjoyment into bitterness of
heart; and Rose Hall, from being to her a place of rest, was suddenly
transformed into an abode too hateful to be endured.
It happened one day as she entered the drawing-room, Mrs. Lennox was, as
usual, assailing the heart of her son in her behalf. A large Indian
screen divided the room, and Mary's entrance was neither seen nor heard
till she was close by them.
"Oh, certainly, Miss Douglas is all that you say--very pretty--very
amiable--and very accomplished, said Colonel Lennox, with a sort of
half-suppressed yawn, in answer to a eulogium of his mother's.
"Then why not love her? Ah! Charles, promise me that you will at least
try!" said the good old lady, laying her hand upon his with the greatest
This was said when Mary was actually standing before her. To hear the
words, and to feel their application, was a flash of lightning; and for
a moment she felt as if her brain were on fire. She was alive but to one
idea, and that the most painful that could be suggested to a delicate
mind. She had heard herself recommended to the love of a man who was
indifferent to her. Could there be such a humiliation--such a
degradation? Colonel Lennox's embarrassment was scarcely less; but his
mother saw not the mischief she had done, and she continued to speak
without his having the power to interrupt her. But her words fell
unheeded on Mary's ear--she could hear nothing but what she had already
heard. Colonel Lennox rose and respectfully placed a chair for her, but
the action was unnoticed--she saw only herself a suppliant for his love;
and, insensible to everything but her own feelings, she turned and
hastily quitted the room without uttering a syllable. To fly from Rose
Hall, never again to enter it, was her first resolution; yet how was she
to do so without coming to an explanation, worse even than the cause
itself: for she had that very morning yielded to the solicitations of
Mrs. Lennox, and consented to remain till the following day.
"Oh!" thought she, as the scalding tears of shame for the first time
dropped from her eyes, "what a situation am I placed in! To continue
to live under the same roof with the man whom I have heard solicited to
love me; and how mean--how despicable must I appear in his eyes--thus
offered--rejected! How shall I ever be able to convince him that I
care not for his love--that I wished it not--that I would, refuse, scorn
it to-morrow were it offered to me. Oh! could I but tell him so; but he
must ever remain, stranger to my real sentiments--he might reject--but
_I_ cannot disavow! And yet to have him think that I have all this while
been laying snares for him--that all this parade of my acquirements was
for the purpose of gaining his affections! Oh how blind and stupid I was
not to see through the injudicious praises of Mrs. Lennox! I should not
then have suffered this degradation in the eyes of her son!"
Hours passed away unheeded by Mary, while she was giving way to the
wounded sensibility of a naturally high spirit and acute feelings, thus
violently excited in all their first ardour. At length she was recalled
to herself by hearing the sound of a carriage, as it passed under her
window; and immediately after she received a message to repair to the
drawing-room to her cousin, Lady Emily.
"How fortunate!" thought she; "I shall now get away--no matter how or
where, I shall go, never again to return."
And, unconscious of the agitation visible in her countenance, she
hastily descended, impatient to bid an eternal adieu to her once loved
Rose Hall. She found Lady Emily and Colonel Lennox together. Eyes less
penetrating than her cousin's would easily have discovered the state of
poor Mary's mind as she entered the room; her beating heart--her flushed
cheek and averted eye, all declared the perturbation of her spirits; and
Lady Emily regarded her for a moment with an expression of surprise that
served to heighten her confusion.
"I have no doubt I am a very unwelcome visitor here to all parties,"
said she; "for I come--how shall I declare it?--to carry you home, Mary,
by command of Lady Juliana."
"No, no!" exclaimed Mary eagerly; "you are quite welcome. I am quite
ready. I was wishing--I was waiting." Then, recollecting herself, she
blushed still deeper at her own precipitation.
"There is no occasion to be so vehemently obedient," said her cousin;
_"I_ am not quite ready, neither am I wishing or waiting to be off in
such a hurry. Colonel Lennox and I had just set about reviving an old
acquaintance; begun, I can't tell when--and broken off when I was a thing
in the nursery, with a blue sash and red fingers. I have promised him
that when he comes to Beech Park you shall sing him my favourite Scotch
song, 'Should auld acquaintance be forgot?' I would sing it myself if I
could; but I think every Englishwoman who pretends to sing Scotch songs
ought to have the bowstring." Then, turning to the harpsichord, she
began to play it with exquisite taste and feeling.
"There," said she, rising with equal levity; "is not that worth all the
formal bows--and 'recollects to have had the pleasure'--and 'long time
since I had the honour'--and such sort of hateful reminiscences, that
make one feel nothing but that they area great deal older, and uglier,
stupider, and more formal than they were so many years before."
"Where the early ties of the heart remain unbroken," said Colonel
Lennox, with some emotion, "such remembrances do indeed give it back all
its first freshness; but it cannot be to everyone a pleasure to have its
feelings awakened even by tones such as these."
There was nothing of austerity in this; on the contrary, there was so
much sweetness mingled with the melancholy which shaded his countenance,
that even Lady Emily was touched, and for a moment silent. The entrance
of Mrs. Lennox relieved her from her embarrassment. She flew towards
her, and taking her hand, "My dear Mrs. Lennox, I feel very much as if I
were come here in the capacity of an executioner;--no, not exactly that,
but rather a sort of constable or bailiff;--for I am come, on the part
of Lady Juliana Douglas, to summon you to surrender the person of her
well-beloved daughter, to be disposed of as she in her wisdom may think
"Not to-day, surely," cried Mrs. Lennox, in alarm; "to-morrow----"
"My orders are peremptory--the suit is pressing," with a significant
smile to Mary; "this day--oh, ye hours!" looking at a timepiece, "this
very minute. Come Mary--are you ready--_cap-a-pie_?"
At another time Mary would have thought only of the regrets of her
venerable friend at parting with her; but now she felt only her own
impatience to be gone, and she hastily quitted the room to prepare for
On returning to it Colonel Lennox advanced to meet her, evidently
desirous of saying something, yet labouring under great embarrassment.
"Were it not too selfish and presumptuous," said he, while his
heightened colour spoke his confusion, "I would venture to express a hope
that your absence will not be very long from my poor mother."
Mary pretended to be very busy collecting her work, drawings, etc.,
which lay scattered about, and merely bent her head in acknowledgment.
Colonel Lennox proceeded--
"I am aware of the sacrifice it must be to such as Miss Douglas to
devote her time and talents to the comforting of the blind and desolate;
and I cannot express--she cannot conceive--the gratitude--the
respect--the admiration, with which my heart is filled at such proofs of
noble disinterested benevolence on her part."
Had Mary raised her eyes to those that vainly sought to meet hers, she
would there have read all, and more than had been expressed; but she
could only think, "He has been entreated to love!" and at that
humiliating idea she bent her head still lower to the colour that dyed
her cheek to an almost painful degree, while a sense of suffocation at
her throat prevented her disclaiming, as she wished to do, the merit of
any sacrifice. Some sketches of Lochmarlie lay upon a table at which she
had been drawing the day before; they had ever been precious in her
sight till now; but they only excited feelings of mortification, as she
recollected having taken them from her _portefeuille_ at Mrs. Lennox's
request to show to her son.
"This was part of the parade by which I was to win him," thought she
with bitterness; and scarcely conscious of what she did, she crushed
them together, and threw them into the fire. Then hastily advancing to
Mrs. Lennox, she tried to bid her farewell; but as she thought it was
for the last time, tears of tenderness as well as pride stood in her
"God bless you, my dear child!" said the unsuspecting Mrs. Lennox, as
she held her: in her arms. "And God _will_ bless you in His way--though
His ways are not as our ways. I cannot urge you to return to this dreary
abode. But oh, Mary! Think sometimes in your gaiety, that when you do
come, you bring gladness to a mournful heart, and lighten eyes that
never see the sun!"
Mary, too much affected to reply, could only wring the hand of her
venerable friend, as she tore herself from her embrace, and followed
Lady Emily to the carriage. For some time they proceeded in silence.
Mary dreaded to encounter her cousin's eyes, which she was aware were
fixed upon her with more than their usual scrutiny. She therefore kept
hers steadily employed in surveying the well-known objects the road
presented. At length her Ladyship began in a grave tone.
"You appear to have had very stormy weather at Rose Hall?"
"Very much so," replied Mary, without knowing very well what she said.
"And we have had nothing but calms and sunshine at Beech Park. Is not
"Very singular indeed."
"I left the barometer very high--not quite at _settled calm_--that would
be too much; but I find it very low indeed--absolutely below nothing."
Mary now did look up in some surprise; but she hastily withdrew from the
intolerable expression of her cousin's eyes.
"Dear Lady Emily!" cried she in a deprecating tone.
"Well--what more? You can't suppose I'm to put up with hearing my own
name; I've heard that fifty times to-day already from Lady Juliana's
parrot--come, your face speaks volumes. I read a declaration of love in
the colour of your cheeks--a refusal in the height of your nose--and a
sort of general agitation in the quiver of your lip and the
_dereglement_ of your hair. Now for your pulse--a _leettle_ hasty, as
Dr. Redgill would say; but let your tongue declare the rest."
Mary would fain have concealed the cause of her distress from every
human being, as she felt as if degraded still lower by repeating it to
another; and she remained silent, struggling with her emotions.
"'Pon my honour, Mary, you really do use great liberties with my
patience and good-nature. I appeal to yourself whether I might not just
as well have been reading one of Tully's orations to a mule all this
while. Come, you must really make haste to tell your tale, for I am
dying to disclose mine. Or shall I begin? No--that would be inverting
the order of nature or custom, which is the same thing--beginning with
the farce, and ending with the tragedy--so _commencez au commencement,
Thus urged, Mary at length, and with much hesitation, related to her
cousin the humiliation she had experienced. "And after all," said she,
as she ended, "I am afraid I behaved very like a fool. And yet what
could I do in my situation, what would you have done?"
"Done! why, I should have taken the old woman by the shoulder, and cried
Boh! in her ear. And so this is the mighty matter! You happen to
overhear Mrs. Lennox, good old soul! recommending you as a wife to her
son. What could be more natural except his refusing to fall head in ears
in love before he had time to pull his boots off. And then to have a
wife recommended to him! and all your perfections set forth, as if you
had been a laundrymaid--an early riser, neat worker, regular attention
upon church! Ugh I--I must say I think his conduct quite meritorious. I
could almost find in my heart to fall in love with him myself, were it
for no other reason than because he is not such a Tommy Goodchild as to
be in love at his mamma's bidding--that is, loving his mother as he
does--for I see he could cut off a hand, or pluck out an eye, to please
her, though he can't or won't give her his heart and soul to dispose of
as she thinks proper."
"You quite misunderstand me," said Mary, with increasing vexation. "I
did not mean to say anything against Colonel Lennox. I did not wish--I
never once thought whether he liked me or not."
"That says very little for you. You must have a very bad taste if you
care more for the mother's liking than the son's. Then what vexes you so
much? Is it at having made the discovery that your good old friend is
a--a--I beg your pardon--a bit of a goose? Well, never mind--since you
don't care for the man, there's no mischief done. You have only to
change the _dramatis personae._ Fancy that you overheard mere commending
you to Dr. Redgill for your skill in cookery--you'd only have laughed at
that--so why should you weep at t'other. However, one thing I must tell
you, whether it adds to your grief or not, I did remark that Charles
Lennox looked very lover-like towards you; and, indeed, this sentimental
passion he has put you in becomes you excessively. I really never saw
you look so handsome before--it has given an energy and _esprit_ to your
countenance, which is the only thing it wants. You are very much obliged
to him, were it only for having kindled such a fire in your eyes, and
raised such a carnation in your cheek. It would have been long before
good _larmoyante_, Mrs. Lennox would have done as much for you. I
shouldn't wonder were he to fall in love with you after all."
Lady Emily little thought how near she was the the truth when she talked
in this random way. Colonel Lennox saw the wound he had innocently
inflicted on Mary's feelings, and a warmer sentiment than any he had
hitherto experienced had sprung up in his heart. Formerly he had merely
looked upon her as an amiable sweet-tempered girl; but when he saw he
roused to a sense of her own dignity, and marked the struggle betwixt
tender affection and offended delicacy he, formed a higher estimate of
her character, and a spark was kindled that wanted but opportunity to blaze
into a flame, pure and bright as the shrine on which it burned. Such is
the waywardness and price of even the best affections of the human
"C'est a moi de _choisir_ mon gendre;
Toi, tel qu'il est, c'est a it toi de Ie prendre;
De vous aimer, si vous pouvez tous deux, Et d'obeir
a tout ce que je veux." _L'Enfant Prodigue._
"AND now," said Lady Emily, "that I have listened to your story, which
after all is really a very poor affair, do you listen to mine. The
heroine in both is the same, but the hero differs by some degrees. Know,
then, as the ladies in novels say, that the day which saw you depart
from Beech Park was the day destined to decide your fate, and dash your
hopes, if ever you had any, of becoming Duchess of Altamont. The Duke
arrived, I know, for the express purpose of being enamoured of you; but,
alas! you were not. And there was Adelaide so sweet--so gracious--so
beautiful--the poor gull was caught, and is now, I really believe, as
much in love as it is in the nature of a stupid man to be. I must own
she has played her part admirably, and has made more use of her time
than I, with all my rapidity, could have thought possible. In fact, the
Duke is now all but her declared lover, and that merely stands upon a
point of punctilio."
"But Lord Lindore!" exclaimed Mary in astonishment.
"Why, that part of the story is what I _don't_ quite comprehend.
Sometimes I think it is a struggle with Adelaide. Lindore, poor,
handsome, captivating, on one hand; his Grace, rich, stupid,
magnificent, on the other. As for Lindore, he seems to stand quite
aloof. Formerly, you know, he never used to stir from her side, or notice
anyone else. Now he scarcely notices her, at least in presence of the
Duke, Sometimes he affects to look unhappy, but I believe it is mere
affectation. I doubt if he ever thought seriously of Adelaide, or indeed
anybody else, that he could have in a straightforward Ally Croker sort
of a way--but something too much of this. While all this has been going
on in one corner, there comes regularly everyday Mr. William Downe
Wright, looking very much as if he had lost his shoestring, or pocket
handkerchief, and had come there to look for it. I had some suspicion of
the nature of the loss, but was hopeful he would have the sense to keep
it to himself. No such thing: he yesterday stumbled upon Lady Juliana
all alone, and, in the weakest of his weak moments, informed her that
the loss he had sustained was no less than the loss of that precious
jewel his heart; and that the object of his search was no other than
that of Miss Mary Douglas to replace it! He even carried his
_betise_ so far as to request her permission, or her influence,
or, in short, something that her Ladyship never was asked for by any
mortal in their senses before, to aid him in his pursuit. You know how
it delights her to be dressed in a little brief authority; so you may
conceive her transports at seeing the sceptre of power thus placed in
her hands. In the heat of her pride she makes the matter known to the
whole household. Redgills, cooks, stable-boys, scullions, all are quite
_au_ _fait_ to your marriage with Mr. Downe Wright; so I hope you'll
allow that it was about time _you _should be made acquainted with it
yourself. But why so pale and frightened-looking?"
Poor Mary was indeed shocked at her cousin's intelligence. With the
highest feelings of filial reverence, she found herself perpetually
called upon either to sacrifice her own principles or to act indirect
opposition to her mother's will, and upon this occasion she saw nothing
but endless altercation awaiting her; for her heart revolted from the
indelicacy of such measures, and she could not for a moment brook the
idea of being _bestowed_ in marriage. But she had little time for
reflection. They were now at Beech Park; and as she alighted a servant
informed her Lady Juliana wished to see her in her dressing-room
immediately. Thither she repaired with a beating heart and agitated
step. She was received with greater kindness than she had ever yet
experienced from her mother.
"Come in, my dear," cried she, as she extended two fingers to her, and
slightly touched her cheek. "You look very well this morning--much
better than usual. Your complexion is much improved. At the same time
you must be sensible how few girls are married merely for their
looks--that is, married well--unless, to be sure, their beauty is
something _a merveilleuse_--such as your sister's, for instance.
I assure you, it is an extraordinary piece of good fortune in a merely
pretty girl to make what is vulgarly called a good match. I know, at
least, twenty really very nice young women at this moment who cannot get
Mary was silent; and her mother, delighted at her own good sense and
judicious observations, went on--
"That being the case, you may judge how very comfortable I must feel at
having managed to procure for you a most excessive good
establishment--just the very thing I have long wished, as I have felt
quite at a loss about you of late, my dear. When your sister marries, I
shall, of course, reside with her; and as I consider your _liaison _with
those Scotch people as completely at an end, I have really been quite
wretched as to what was to become of you. I can't tell you, therefore,
how excessively relieved I was when Mr. Downe Wright yesterday asked my
permission to address you. Of course I could not hesitate an instant; so
you will meet him at dinner as your accepted. By-the-bye, your hair is
rather blown. I shall send Fanchon to dress it for you. You have really
got very pretty hair; I wonder never remarked it before. Oh! and Mrs.
Downe Wright is to wait upon me to-morrow, I think; and then I believe
we must return the visit. There is a sort of etiquette, you know, in all
these matters--that is the most unpleasant part of it; but when that is
over you will have nothing to think of but ordering your things."
For a few minutes Mary was too much confounded by her mother's rapidity
to reply. She had expected to be urged to accept of Mr. Downe Wright;
but to be told that was actually done for her was more than she was
prepared for. At length she found voice to say that Mr. Downe Wright was
almost a stranger to her, and she must therefore be excused from
receiving his addresses at present.
"How excessively childish!" exclaimed Lady Juliana angrily. "I won't
hear of anything so perfectly foolish. You know (or, at any rate, I do)
all that is necessary to know. I know that he is a man of family and
fortune, heir to a title, uncommonly handsome, and remarkably sensible
and well-informed. I can't conceive what more you would wish to know!"
"I would wish to know something of his character, his principles, his
habits, temper, talents--in short, all those things on which my
happiness would depend."
"Character and principles!--one would suppose you were talking of your
footman! Mr. Downe Wright's character is perfectly good. I never heard
anything against it. As to what you call his principles, I must profess
my ignorance. I really can't tell whether he is a Methodist; but 1 know
he is a gentleman--has a large fortune--is very good-looking--and is not
at all dissipated, I believe. In short, you are most excessively
fortunate in meeting with such a man."
"But I have not the slightest partiality for him," said Mary,
colouring. "It cannot be expected that I should, when I have not been
half a dozen time in his company. I must be allowed some time before I
can consent even to consider--"
"I don't mean that you are to marry to-morrow. It may probably be six
weeks or two months before everything can be arranged."
Mary saw she must speak boldly.
"But I must be allowed much longer time before I can consider myself as
sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Downe Wright to think of him at all in
that light. And even then--he may be very amiable, and yet"--hesitating--
"I may not be able to love him as I ought."
"Love!" exclaimed Lady Juliana, her eyes sparkling with anger; "I
desire I may never hear that word again from any daughter of mine. I am
determined I shall have no disgraceful love-marriages in the family. No
well-educated young woman ever thinks of such a thing now, and I won't
hear a syllable on the subject."
"I shall never marry anybody, I am sure, that you disapprove of," said
"No; I shall take care of that. I consider it the duty of parents to
establish their children properly in the world, without any regard to
their ideas on the subject. I think I must be rather a better judge of
the matter than you can possibly be, and I shall therefore make a point
of your forming what I consider a proper alliance. Your sister, I know,
won't hesitate to sacrifice her own affections to please me. She was
most excessively attached to Lord Lindore--everybody knew that; but she
is convinced of the propriety of preferring the Duke of Altamont, and
won't hesitate in sacrificing her own feelings to mine. But indeed she
has ever been all that I could wish--so perfectly beautiful, and, at the
same time, so excessively affectionate and obedient. She approves
entirely of your marriage with Mr. Downe Wright, as, indeed, all your
friends do. I don't include _your_ friend Lady Emily in that number. I
look upon her as a most improper companion for you; and the sooner you
are separated from her the better. So now good-bye for the present. You
have only to behave as other young ladies do upon those occasions,
which, by-the-bye, is generally to give as much trouble to their friends
as they possibly can."
There are some people who, furious themselves at opposition, cannot
understand the possibility of others being equally firm and decided in a
gentle manner. Lady Juliana was one of those who always expect to carry
their point by a raised voice and sparkling eyes; and it was with
difficulty Mary, with her timid air and gentle accents, could convince
her that she was determined to judge for herself in a matter in which
her happiness was so deeply involved. When at last brought to comprehend
it, her Ladyship's indignation knew no bounds; and Mary was accused in
the same breath with having formed some low connection in Scotland, and
of seeking to supplant her sister by aspiring to the Duke of Altamont.
And at length the conference ended pretty much where it began--Lady
Juliana resolved that her daughter should marry to please her, and her
daughter equally resolved not to be driven into an engagement from which
her heart recoiled.
"Qu'on vante en lui la foi, l'honneur, la probite;
Qu'on prise sa candeur et sa civilite;
Qu'il soit doux, complaisant, oflicieux, sincere:
On Ie veut, j'y souscris, et suis pret a me taire."
WHEN Mary entered the drawing-room she found herself, without knowing
how, by the side of Mr. Downe Wright. At dinner it was the same; and in
short it seemed an understood thing that they were to be constantly
There was something so gentle and unassuming in his manner that, almost
provoked as she was by the folly of his proceedings, she found it
impossible to resent it by her behaviour towards him; and indeed,
without being guilty of actual rudeness, of which she was incapable, it
would not have been easy to have made him comprehend the nature of her
sentiments. He appeared perfectly satisfied with the toleration he met
with; and, compared to Adelaide's disdainful glances, and Lady Emily's
biting sarcasms, Mary's gentleness and civility might well be mistaken
for encouragement. But even under the exhilarating influence of hope and
high spirits his conversation was so insipid and commonplace, that Mary
found it a relief to turn even to Dr. Redgill. It was evident the Doctor
was aware of what was going on, for he regarded her with that increased
respect due to the future mistress of a splendid establishment. Between
the courses he made some complimentary allusions to Highland mutton and
red deer; and he even carried his attentions so far as to whisper, at
the very first mouthful, that _les cotellettes de saumon_ were
superb, when he had never been known to commend anything to another
until he had fully discussed it himself. On the opposite side of the
table sat Adelaide and the Duke of Altamont, the latter looking still
more heavy and inanimate than ever. The operation of eating over, he
seemed unable to keep himself awake, and every now and then yielded to a
gentle slumber, from which, however, he was instantly recalled at the
sound of Adelaide's voice, when he exclaimed, "Ah! Charming--very
charming, ah!"--Lady Emily looked _from_ them as she hummed some part
of Dryden's Ode--
"Aloft in awful state
The godlike hero sate, etc.
The lovely Thais by his side,
Look'd like a blooming Eastern bride."
Then, as his Grace closed his eyes, and his head sank on his shoulder--
"With ravish'd ears
The monarch hears,
Assumes the god,
Affects to nod."
Lady Juliana, who would have been highly incensed had she suspected the
application of the words, was so unconscious of it as to join
occasionally in singing them, to Mary's great confusion and Adelaide's
When they returned to the drawing-room, "Heavens! Adelaide," exclaimed
her cousin, in an affected manner, "what are you made of? Semele herself
was but a mere cinder-wench to you! How can you stand such a
Jupiter--and not scorched! not even singed, I protest!" pretending to
examine her all over. "I vow I trembled at your temerity--your
familiarity with the imperial nod was fearful. I every instant expected
to see you turned into a live coal."
"I did burn," said Adelaide, "with shame, to see the mistress of a house
forget what was due to her father's guests."
"There's a slap on the cheek for me! Mercy! how it burns! No, I did not
forget what was due to my father's guests; on the contrary, I consider
it due to them to save them, if I can, from the snares that I see set
for them. I have told you that I abhor all traps, whether for the poor
simple mouse that comes to steal its bit of cheese, or for the dull
elderly gentleman who falls asleep with a star on his breast."
"This is one of the many kind and polite allusions for which I am
indebted to your Ladyship," said Adelaide haughtily; "but I trust the
day will come when I shall be able to discharge what I owe you."
And she quitted the room, followed by Lady Juliana, who could only make
out that Lady Emily had been insolent, and that Adelaide was offended. A
"I see you think I am in the wrong, Mary; I can read that in the little
reproachful glance you gave me just now. Well, perhaps I am; but I own
it chafes my spirit to sit and look on such a scene of iniquity. Yes,
iniquity I call it, for a woman to be in love with one man, and at the
same time laying snares for another. You may think, perhaps, that
Adelaide has no heart to love anything; but she has a heart, such as it
is, though it is much too fine for every-day use, and therefore it is
kept locked up in marble casket, quite out of reach of you or I. But I'm
mistaken if Frederick has not made himself master of it! Not that I
should blame her for that, if she would be honestly and downrightly in
love with him. But how despicable to see her, with her affections placed
upon one man, at the same time lavishing all her attentions on
another--and that other, if he had been plain John Altamont, Esq., she
would not have been commonly civil to! And, _apropos_ of
civility--I must tell you, if you mean to refuse your hero, you were too
civil by half to him. I observed you at dinner, you sat perfectly
straight, and answered everything he said to you."
"What could I do?" asked Mary, in some surprise.
"I'll tell you what I would have done, and have thought the most
honourable mode of proceeding; I should have turned my back upon him,
and have merely thrown him a monosyllable now and then over my
"I could not be less than civil to him, and I am sure I was not more."
"Civility is too much for a man one means to refuse. You'll never get
rid of a stupid man by civility. Whenever I had any reason to apprehend
a lover, I thought it my duty to turn short upon him and give him a
snarl at the outset, which rid me of him at once. But I really begin to
think I manage these matters better than anybody else--'Where I love, I
profess it: where I hate, in every circumstance I dare proclaim it.'"
Mary tried to defend her sister, in the first place; but though her
charity would not allow her to censure, her conscience whispered there
was much to condemn; and she was relieved from what she felt a difficult
task when the gentlemen began to drop in.
In spite of all her manoeuvres Mr. Downe Wright contrived to be next
her, and whenever she changed her seat, she was sure of his following
her. She had also the mortification of overhearing Lady Juliana tell the
Duke that Mr. Downe Wright was the accepted lover of her youngest
daughter, that he was a man of large fortune, and heir to his uncle,
"Ah! a nephew of my Lord Glenallan's!--Indeed--a pretty young man--like
the family!--Poor Lord Glenallan! I knew him very well. He has had the
palsy since then, poor man--ah!"
The following day Mary was compelled to receive Mrs. Downe Wright's
visit; but she as scarcely conscious of what passed, for Colonel Lennox
arrived at the same time; and it was equally evident that his visit was
also intended for her. She felt that she ought to appear unconcerned in
his presence, and he tried to be so; but still the painful idea would
recur that he had been solicited to love her, and, unskilled in the arts of
even innocent deception, she could only try to hide the agitation under
the coldness of her manner.
"Come, Mary," cried Lady Emily, as if in answer to something Colonel
Lennox had addressed to her in a low voice, "do you remember the promise
I made Colonel Lennox, and which it rests with you to perform?"
"I never consider myself bound to perform the promises of others,"
replied Mary gravely.
"In some cases that may be a prudent resolution, but in the present it
is surely an unfriendly one," said Colonel Lennox.
"A most inhuman one!" cried Lady Emily, "since you and I, it seems,
cannot commence our friendship without something sentimental to set us
agoing. It rests with you, Mary, to be the founder of our friendship;
and if you manage the matter well, that is, sing in your best manner, we
shall perhap, make it a triple alliance, and admit you as third."
"As every man is said to be the artificer of his own fortune, so every
one, I think, had best be the artificer of their own friendship," said
Mary, trying to smile, as she pulled her embroidery frame towards her,
and began to work.
"Neither can be the worse of a good friend to help them on," observed
Mrs. Downe Wright.
"But both may be materially injured by an injudicious one," said Colonel
Lennox; "and although, on this occasion, I am the greatest sufferer by
it, I must acknowledge the truth of Miss Douglas's observation.
Friendship and love, I believe, will always be found to thrive best when
left to themselves."
"And so ends my novel, elegant, and original plan for striking up a
sudden friendship," cried Lady Emily. "Pray, Mr. Downe Wright, can you
suggest anything better for the purpose than an old song?"
Mr. Downe Wright, who was not at all given to suggesting, looked a
"Pull the bell, William, for the carriage," said his mother; "we must
now be moving." And with a general obeisance to the company, and a
significant pressure of the hand to Mary, she withdrew her son from his
dilemma. Although a shrewd, penetrating woman, she did not possess that
tact and delicacy necessary to comprehend the finer feelings of a mind
superior to her own; and in Mary's averted looks and constrained manner
she saw nothing but what she thought quite proper and natural in her
situation. "As for Lady Emily," she observed, "there would be news of
her and that fine dashing-looking Colonel yet, and Miss Adelaide would
perhaps come down a pin before long."
Soon after Colonel Lennox took his leave, in spite of Lady Emily's
pressing invitation for him to spend the day there, and meet her
brother, who had been absent for some days, but was now expected home.
He promised to return again soon, and departed.
"How prodigiously handsome Colonel Lennox looked to-day," said she,
addressing Mary; "and how perfectly unconscious, at least indifferent,
he seems about it. It is quite refreshing to see a handsome man that is
neither a fool nor a coxcomb."
"Handsome! no, I don't think he is very handsome," said Lady Juliana.
"Rather dark, don't you think, my love?" turning to Adelaide, who sat
apart at a table writing, and had scarcely deigned to lift her head all
"Who do you mean? The man who has just gone out? Is his name Lennox?
Yes, he is rather handsome."
"I believe. you are right; he certainly is good-looking, but in a
peculiar style. I don't quite like the expression of his eye, and he
wants that air _distingue,_ which, indeed, belongs exclusively to
persons of birth."
"He has perfectly the air of a man of fashion," said Adelaide, in a
decided tone, as if ashamed to agree with her mother. "Perhaps _un peu
militaire,_ but nothing at all professional."
"Lennox!--it is a Scotch name," observed Lady Juliana contemptuously.
"And, to cut the matter short," said Lady Emily, as she was quitting the
room, "the man who has just gone out is Colonel Lennox, and not the Duke
After a few more awkward, indefinite sort of visits, in which Mary found
it impossible to come to an explanation, she was relieved for the
present from the assiduities of her lover. Lady Juliana received a
note from Mrs. Downe Wright, apologising for what she termed her son's
unfortunate absence at such a critical time; but he had received accounts
of the alarming illness of his uncle Lord Glenallan, and had, in
consequence, set off instantly for Scotland, where she was preparing to
follow; concluding with particular regards to Miss Mary--hopes of being
soon able to resume their pleasant footing in the family, etc. etc.
"How excessively well arranged it will be that old man's dying at this
time!" said her Ladyship, as she tossed the note to her daughter; "Lord
Glenallan will sound so much better than Mr. Downe Wright. The name I
have always considered as the only objectionable part. You are really
most prodigiously fortunate."
Mary was now aware of the folly of talking reason to her mother, and
remained silent; thankful for the present peace this event would ensure
her, and almost tempted to wish that Lord Glenallan's doom might not
speedily be decided.
"It seems it is as proper to our age
To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions,
As it is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion."
LORD LINDORE and Colonel Lennox has been boyish acquaintances, and a
sort of superficial, intimacy was soon established between them, which
served as the ostensible cause of his frequent visits at Beech Park. But
to Mary, who was more alive to the difference of their characters and
sentiments than any other member of the family, this appeared very
improbable, and she could not help suspecting that love for the sister,
rather than friendship for the brother, was the real motive by which he
was actuated. In half jesting manner she mentioned her suspicions to
Lady Emily, who treated the idea with her usual ridicule.
"I really could not have supposed you so extremely missy-ish, Mary," said
she, "as to imagine that because two people like each other's society,
and talk and laugh together a little more than usual, that the must
needs be in love! I believe Charles Lennox loves me much the same as he
did eleven years ago, when I was a little wretch that used to pull his
hair and spoil his watch. And as for me, you know that I consider myself
quite as an old woman--at least as a married one; and he is perfectly
_au fait_ to my engagement with Edward. I have even shown him his
picture and some of his letters."
Mary looked incredulous.
"You may think as you please, but I tell you it is so. In my situation
I should scorn to have Colonel Lennox, or anybody else, in love with me.
As to his liking to talk to me, pray who else can he talk to? Adelaide
would sometimes _condescend_ indeed; but he won't be condescended to,
that's clear, not even by a Duchess. With what mock humility he meets
her airs! how I adore him for it! Then you are such a pillar of ice!--so
shy and unsociable when he is present!--and, by-the-bye, if I did not
despise recrimination as the _pis aller_ of all conscious Misses, I would
say you are much more the object of his _attention,_ at least, than I
am. Several times I have caught him looking very earnestly at you, when,
by the laws of good breeding, his eyes ought to have been fixed
exclusively upon me; and--"
"Pshaw!" interrupted Mary, colouring, "that is mere absence--nothing to
the purpose--or perhaps," forcing a smile, "he may be _trying_ to love
Mary thought of her poor old friend, as she said this, with bitterness
of heart. It was long since she had seen her; and when she had last
inquired for her, her son had said he did not think her well, with a look
Mary could not misunderstand. She had heard him make an appointment with
Lord Lindore for the following day, and she took the opportunity of his
certain absence to visit his mother. Mrs. Lennox, indeed, looked ill, and
seemed more than usually depressed. She welcomed Mary with her usual
tenderness, but even her presence seemed to fail of inspiring her with
Mary found she was totally unsuspicious of the cause of her
estrangement, and imputed it to a very different one.
"You have been a great stranger, my dear!" said she, as she
affectionately embraced her; "but at such a time I could not expect you
to think of me."
"Indeed," answered Mary, equally unconscious of her meaning, "I have
thought much and often, very often, upon you, and wished I could have
come to you; but---" she stopped, for she could not tell the truth, and
would not utter a falsehood.
"I understand it all," said Mrs. Lennox, with a sigh. "Well--well--God's
will be done!" Then trying to be more cheerful, "Had you come little
sooner, you would have met Charles. He is just gone out with Lord
Lindore. He was unwilling to leave me, as he always is, and when he
does, I believe it is as much to please me as himself. Ah! Mary, I once
hoped that I might have lived to see you the happy wife of the best of
sons. I may speak out now, since that is all over. God has willed
otherwise, an may you be rewarded in the choice you have made!"
Mary was struck with consternation to find that her supposed engagement
with Mr. Downe Wright had spread even to Rose Hall; and in the greatest
confusion she attempted to deny it. But after the acknowledgment she had
just heard, she acquitted herself awkwardly; for she felt as if an open
explanation would only serve to revive hopes that never could be
realised, and subject Colonel Lennox and herself to future perplexities.
Nothing but the whole truth would have sufficed to undeceive Mrs. Lennox,
for she had had the intelligence of Mary's engagement from Mrs. Downe
Wright herself, who, for better security of what she already considered
her son's property, had taken care to spread the report of his being the
accepted lover before she left the country. Mary felt all the
unpleasantness of her situation. Although detesting deceit and artifice
of every kind, her confused and stammering denials seemed rather to
corroborate the fact; but she felt that she could not declare her
resolution of never bestowing her hand upon Mr. Downe Wright without
seeming at the same time to court the addresss of Colonel Lennox. Then
how painful--how unjust to herself, as well as cruel to him, to have it
for an instant believed that she was the betrothed of one whose wife she
was resolved she never would be!
In short, poor Mary's mind was a complete chaos; and for the first time
in her life she found it impossible to determine which was the right
course for her to pursue. Even in the midst of her distress, however,
she could not help smiling at the _naivete_ of the good old lady's
"He is a handsome young man, I hear," said she, still in allusion to Mr.
Downe Wright: "has a fine fortune, and an easy temper. All these things
help people's happiness, though they cannot make it; and his choice of
you, my dear Mary, shows that he has some sense."
"What a eulogium!" said Mary, laughing and blushing. "Were he really to
me what you suppose, I must be highly flattered; but I must again assure
you it is not using Mr. Downe Wright well to talk of him as anything to
me. My mother, indeed--".
"Ah! Mary, my dear, let me advise you to beware of being led, even by a
mother, in such a matter as this. God forbid that I should ever
recommend disobedience towards a parent's will; but I fear you have
yielded too much to yours. I said, indeed, when I heard it, that I
feared undue influence had been used; for that I could not think William
Downe Wright would ever have been the choice of your heart. Surely
parents have much to answer for who mislead their children in such an
awful step as marriage!"
This was the severest censure Mary had ever heard drop from Mrs.
Lennox's lips; and she could not but marvel at the self-delusion that
led her thus to condemn in another the very error she had committed
herself, but under such different circumstances that she would not
easily have admitted it to be the same. She sought for the happiness of
her son, while Lady Juliana, she was convinced, wished only her own
"Yes, indeed," said Mary, in answer to her friend's observation,
"parents ought, if possible, to avoid even forming wishes for their
children. Hearts are wayward things, even the best of them." Then more
seriously she added, "And, dear Mrs. Lennox, do not either blame my
mother nor pity me; for be assured, with my heart only will I give my
hand; or rather, I should say, with my hand only will I give my heart:
And now good-bye," cried she, starting up and hurrying away, as she
heard Colonel Lennox's voice in the hall.
She met him on the stair, and would have passed on with a slight remark,
but he turned with her, and finding she had dismissed the carriage,
intending to walk home, he requested permission to attend her. Mary
declined; but snatching up his hat, and whistling his dogs, he set out
with her in spite of her remonstrances to the contrary.
"If you persist in refusing my attendance," said he, "you will inflict an
incurable wound upon my vanity. I shall suspect you are ashamed of being
seen in such company. To be sure, myself, with my shabby jacket and my
spattered dogs, do form rather a ruffian-like escort; and I should not
have dared to have offered my services to a fine lady; but you are not a
fine lady, I know;" and he gently drew her arm within his as they began
to ascend a hill.
This was the first time Mary had found herself alone with Colonel
Lennox since that fatal day which seemed to have divided them for ever.
At first she felt uneasy and embarrassed, but there was so much good
sense and good feeling in the tone of his conversation--it was so far
removed either from pedantry or frivolity, that all disagreeable ideas
soon gave way to the pleasure she had in conversing with one whose turn
of mind seemed so similar to her own; and it was not till she had parted
from him at the gate of Beech Park she had time to wonder how she could
possibly have walked two miles _tete-a-tete_ with a man whom she
had heard solicited to love her!
From that day Colonel Lennox's visits insensibly increased in length
and number; but Lady Emily seemed to appropriate them entirely to
herself; and certainly all the flow of his conversation, the brilliancy
of his wit, were directed to her; but Mary could not but be conscious
that his looks were much oftener riveted on herself, and if his
attentions were not such as to attract general observation, they were
such as she could not fail of perceiving and being unconsciously
"How I admire Charles Lennox's manner to you, Mary," said her cousin,
"after the awkward dilemma you were both in. It was no easy matter to
know how to proceed; a vulgar-minded man would either have oppressed you
with his attentions, or insulted you by his neglect, while he steers so
gracefully free from either extreme; and I observe you are the only
woman upon whom he designs to bestow _les petits soins._ How I despise a
man who is ever on the watch to pick up every silly Miss's fan or glove
that she thinks it pretty to drop! No--the woman he loves, whether his
mother or his wife, will always be distinguished by him, were she
amongst queens and empresses, not by his silly vanity or vulgar
fondness, but by his marked and gentlemanlike attentions towards her.
In short, the best thing you can do is to make up your quarrel with
him--take him for all in all--you won't meet with such another--
certainly not amongst your Highland lairds, by all that I can learn;
and, by-the-bye, I do suspect he is now, as you say, trying to love you;
and let him--you will be very well repaid if he succeeds."
Mary's heart swelled at the thoughts of submitting to such an indignity,
especially as she was beginning to feel conscious that Colonel Lennox
was not quite the object of indifference to her that he ought to be; but
her cousin's remarks only served to render her more distant and reserved
to him than ever.
"What dangers ought'st thou not to dread,
When Love, that's blind, is by blind Fortune, led?"
AT length the long-looked for day arrived. The Duke of Altamont's
proposals were made in due form, and in due form accepted. Lady Juliana
seemed now touching the pinnacle of earthly joy; for, next to being
greatly married herself, her happiness centred in seeing her daughter at
the head of a splendid establishment. Again visions of bliss hovered
around her, and "Peers and Dukes and all their sweeping train" swam
before her eyes, as she anticipated the brilliant results to herself
from so noble an alliance; for self was still, as it had ever been, her
ruling star, and her affection for her daughter was the mere result of
vanity and ambition.
The ensuing weeks were passed in all the bustle of preparations
necessarily attendant on the nuptials of the great. Every morning
brought from Town dresses, jewels, patterns, and packages of all
descriptions. Lady Juliana was in ecstasies, even though it was but
happiness in the second person. Mary watched her sister's looks with the
most painful solicitude; for from her lips she knew she never would
learn the sentiments of her heart. But Adelaide was aware she had a part
to act, and she went through it with an ease and self-possession that
seemed to defy all scrutiny. Once or twice, indeed, her deepening colour
and darkening brow betrayed the feelings of her heart, as the Duke of
Altamont and Lord Lindore were brought into comparison; and Mary
shuddered to think that her sister was even now ashamed of the man whom
she was so soon to vow to love, honour, and obey. She had vainly tried
to lead Adelaide to the subject. Adelaide would listen to nothing which
she had reason to suppose was addressed to herself; but either with cool
contempt took up a book, or left the room, or, with insolent
affectation, would put her hands to her head, exclaiming, _"Mes oreilles
n'etoient pas faites pour les entretiens serieux."_ All Mary's worst
fears were confirmed a few days before that fixed for the marriage. As
she entered the music-room she was startled to find Lord Lindore and
Adelaide alone. Unwilling to suppose that her presence would be
considered as an interruption, she seated herself at a little distance
from them, and was soon engrossed by her task. Adelaide, too, had the
air of being deeply intent upon some trifling employment; and Lord
Lindore, as he sat opposite to her, with his head resting upon his
hands, had the appearance of being engaged in reading. All were silent
for some time; but as Mary happened to look up, she saw Lord
Lindore'seyes fixed earnestly upon her sister, and with _voice_ of
repressed feeling he repeated,_"Ah! je le sens, ma Julie! si'l falloit
renoncer a vous, il n'y auroit plus pour moi d'autre sejour ni d'autre
saison:"_ and throwing down the book, he quitted the room. Adelaide pale
and agitated, rose as if to follow him; then, recollecting herself, she
rushed from the apartment by an opposite door. Mary followed, vainly
hoping that in this moment of excited feeling she might be induced to
open her heart to the voice of affection; but Adelaide was a stranger to
sympathy, and saw only the degradation of confessing the struggle she
endured in choosing betwixt love and ambition. That her heart was Lord
Lindore's she could not conceal from herself, though she would not
confess it to another--and that other the tenderest of sisters, whose
only wish was to serve her. Mary's tears and entreaties were therefore
in vain, and at Adelaide's repeated desire she at length quitted her and
returned to the room she had left.
She found Lady Emily there with a paper in her hand. "Lend me your ears,
Mary," cried she, "while I read these lines to you. Don't be afraid,
there are no secrets in them, or at least none that you or I will be a
whit the wiser for, as they are truly in a most mystic strain. I found
them lying upon this table, and they are in Frederick's handwriting, for
I see he affects the _soupirant_ at present; and it seems there has been
a sort of a sentimental farce acted between Adelaide and him. He
pretends that, although distractedly in love with her, he is not so
selfish as even to wish her to marry him in preference to the Duke of
Altamont; and Adelaide, not to be outdone in heroics, has also made it
out that it is the height of virtue in her to espouse the Duke of
Altamont, and sacrifice all the tenderest affections of her heart to
duty! Duty! yes, the duty of being a Duchess, and of living in state and
splendour with the man she secretly despises, to the pleasure of
renouncing both for the man she loves; and so they have parted, and
here, I suppose, are Lindore's lucubrations upon it, intended as a
_souvenir_ for Adelaide, I presume. Now, night visions befriend me!
"The time returns when o'er my wilder'd mind,
A thraldom came which did each sense enshroud;
Not that I bowed in willing chain confined,
But that a soften'd atmosphere of cloud
Veiled every sense--conceal'd th' impending doom.
'Twas mystic night, and I seem'd borne along
By pleasing dread--and in a doubtful gloom,
Where fragrant incense and the sound of song,
And all fair things we dream of, floated by,
Lulling my fancy like a cradled child,
Till that the dear and guileless treachery,
Made me the wretch I am--so lost, so wild--
A mingled feeling, neither joy or grief,
Dwelt in my heart--I knew not whence it came,
And--but that woe is me! 'twas passing brief,
Even at this hour I fain would feel the same!
I track'd a path of flowers--but flowers among
Were hissing serpents and drear birds of night,
That shot across and scared with boding cries;
And yet deep interest lurked in that affright,
Something endearing in those mysteries,
Which bade me still the desperate joy pursue,
Heedless of what might come--when from mine eyes
The cloud should pass, or what might then accrue.
The cloud _has_ passed--the blissful power is flown,
The flowers are wither'd--wither'd all the scene.
But ah! the dear delusions I have known
Are present still, with loved though altered mien:
I tread the selfsame path in heart unchanged;
But changed now is all that path to me,
For where 'mong flowers and fountains once I ranged
Are barren rocks and savage scenery!"
Mary felt it was in vain to attempt to win her sister's confidence, and
she was too delicate to seek to wrest her secrets from her; she
therefore took no notice of this effusion of love and disappointment,
which she concluded it to be.
Adelaide appeared at dinner as usual. All traces of agitation had
vanished; and her manner was a cool and collected as if all had been
peace and tranquillity at heart. Lord Lindore's departure was slightly
noticed. It was generally understood that he had been rejected by his
cousin; and his absence at such a time was thought perfectly natural;
the Duke merely remarking, with a vacant simper, "So Lord Lindore is
gone--Ah! poor Lord Lindore."
Lady Juliana had, in a very early stage of the business, fixed in her
own mind that she, as a matter of course, would be invited to accompany
her daughter upon her marriage; indeed, she had always looked upon it as
a sort of triple alliance, that was to unite her as indissolubly to the
fortunes of the Duke of Altamont as though she had been his wedded wife.
But the time drew near, and in spite of all her hints and manoeuvres no
invitation had yet been extorted from Adelaide. The Duke had proposed to
her to invite her sister, and even expressed something like a wish to
that effect; for though he felt no positive pleasure in Mary's society,
he was yet conscious of a void in her absence. She was always in good
humour--always gentle and polite--and, without being able to tell why,
his Grace always felt more at ease with her than with anybody else. But
his selfish bride seemed to think that the joys of her elevation would
be diminished if shared even by her own sister, and she coldly rejected
the proposal. Lady Juliana was next suggested--for the Duke had a sort of
vague understanding that his safety lay in a multitude. With him, as
with all stupid people, company was society, words were
conversation--and all the gradations of intellect, from Sir Isaac Newton
down to Dr. Redgill, were to him unknown. But although, as with most
weak people, obstinacy was his _forte,_ he was here again compelled to
yield to the will of his bride, as she also declined the company of her
mother for the present. The disappointment was somewhat softened to Lady
Juliana by the sort of indefinite hopes that were expressed by her
daughter of seeing her in town when they were fairly established; but
until she had seen Altamont House, and knew its accommodations, she
could fix nothing; and Lady Juliana was fain to solace herself with this
dim perspective, instead of the brilliant reality her imagination had
placed within her grasp. She felt, too, without comprehending, the
imperfectness of all earthly felicity. As she witnessed the magnificent
preparations for her daughter's marriage, it recalled the bitter
remembrance of her own--and many a sigh burst from her heart as he
thought, "Such as Adelaide is, I might have been had I been blest with
such a mother, and brought up to know what was for my good!"
The die was cast. Amidst pomp and magnificence, elate with pride, and
sparkling with jewels, Adelaide Douglas reversed the fate of her mother;
and while her affections were bestowed on another, she vowed, in the
face of heaven, to belong only to the Duke of Altamont!
"Good-bye, my dearest love!" said her mother, as she embraced her with
transport, "and I shall be with you very soon; and, above all things,
try to secure a good opera-box for the season. I assure you it is of the
The Duchess impatiently hurried from the congratulations of her family,