The History of Henry Esmond, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter X.

We Entertain a Very Distinguished Guest at Kensington.

Should any clue be found to the dark intrigues at the latter end of Queen Anne’s time, or any historian be inclined to follow it, ’twill be discovered, I have little doubt, that not one of the great personages about the Queen had a defined scheme of policy, independent of that private and selfish interest which each was bent on pursuing: St. John was for St. John, and Harley for Oxford, and Marlborough for John Churchill, always; and according as they could get help from St. Germains or Hanover, they sent over proffers of allegiance to the Princes there, or betrayed one to the other: one cause, or one sovereign, was as good as another to them, so that they could hold the best place under him; and like Lockit and Peachem, the Newgate chiefs in the “Rogues’ Opera,” Mr. Gay wrote afterwards, had each in his hand documents and proofs of treason which would hang the other, only he did not dare to use the weapon, for fear of that one which his neighbor also carried in his pocket. Think of the great Marlborough, the greatest subject in all the world, a conqueror of princes, that had marched victorious over Germany, Flanders, and France, that had given the law to sovereigns abroad, and been worshipped as a divinity at home, forced to sneak out of England — his credit, honors, places, all taken from him; his friends in the army broke and ruined; and flying before Harley, as abject and powerless as a poor debtor before a bailiff with a writ. A paper, of which Harley got possession, and showing beyond doubt that the Duke was engaged with the Stuart family, was the weapon with which the Treasurer drove Marlborough out of the kingdom. He fled to Antwerp, and began intriguing instantly on the other side, and came back to England, as all know, a Whig and a Hanoverian.

Though the Treasurer turned out of the army and office every man, military or civil, known to be the Duke’s friend, and gave the vacant posts among the Tory party; he, too, was playing the double game between Hanover and St. Germains, awaiting the expected catastrophe of the Queen’s death to be Master of the State, and offer it to either family that should bribe him best, or that the nation should declare for. Whichever the King was, Harley’s object was to reign over him; and to this end he supplanted the former famous favorite, decried the actions of the war which had made Marlborough’s name illustrious, and disdained no more than the great fallen competitor of his, the meanest arts, flatteries, intimidations, that would secure his power. If the greatest satirist the world ever hath seen had writ against Harley, and not for him, what a history had he left behind of the last years of Queen Anne’s reign! But Swift, that scorned all mankind, and himself not the least of all, had this merit of a faithful partisan, that he loved those chiefs who treated him well, and stuck by Harley bravely in his fall, as he gallantly had supported him in his better fortune.

Incomparably more brilliant, more splendid, eloquent, accomplished than his rival, the great St. John could be as selfish as Oxford was, and could act the double part as skilfully as ambidextrous Churchill. He whose talk was always of liberty, no more shrunk from using persecution and the pillory against his opponents than if he had been at Lisbon and Grand Inquisitor. This lofty patriot was on his knees at Hanover and St. Germains too; notoriously of no religion, he toasted Church and Queen as boldly as the stupid Sacheverel, whom he used and laughed at; and to serve his turn, and to overthrow his enemy, he could intrigue, coax, bully, wheedle, fawn on the Court favorite and creep up the back-stair as silently as Oxford, who supplanted Marlborough, and whom he himself supplanted. The crash of my Lord Oxford happened at this very time whereat my history is now arrived. He was come to the very last days of his power, and the agent whom he employed to overthrow the conqueror of Blenheim, was now engaged to upset the conqueror’s conqueror, and hand over the staff of government to Bolingbroke, who had been panting to hold it.

In expectation of the stroke that was now preparing, the Irish regiments in the French service were all brought round about Boulogne in Picardy, to pass over if need were with the Duke of Berwick; the soldiers of France no longer, but subjects of James the Third of England and Ireland King. The fidelity of the great mass of the Scots (though a most active, resolute, and gallant Whig party, admirably and energetically ordered and disciplined, was known to be in Scotland too) was notoriously unshaken in their King. A very great body of Tory clergy, nobility, and gentry, were public partisans of the exiled Prince; and the indifferents might be counted on to cry King George or King James, according as either should prevail. The Queen, especially in her latter days, inclined towards her own family. The Prince was lying actually in London, within a stone’s cast of his sister’s palace; the first Minister toppling to his fall, and so tottering that the weakest push of a woman’s finger would send him down; and as for Bolingbroke, his successor, we know on whose side his power and his splendid eloquence would be on the day when the Queen should appear openly before her Council and say:—“This, my lords, is my brother; here is my father’s heir, and mine after me.”

During the whole of the previous year the Queen had had many and repeated fits of sickness, fever, and lethargy, and her death had been constantly looked for by all her attendants. The Elector of Hanover had wished to send his son, the Duke of Cambridge — to pay his court to his cousin the Queen, the Elector said; — in truth, to be on the spot when death should close her career. Frightened perhaps to have such a memento mori under her royal eyes, her Majesty had angrily forbidden the young Prince’s coming into England. Either she desired to keep the chances for her brother open yet; or the people about her did not wish to close with the Whig candidate till they could make terms with him. The quarrels of her Ministers before her face at the Council board, the pricks of conscience very likely, the importunities of her Ministers, and constant turmoil and agitation round about her, had weakened and irritated the Princess extremely; her strength was giving way under these continual trials of her temper, and from day to day it was expected she must come to a speedy end of them. Just before Viscount Castlewood and his companion came from France, her Majesty was taken ill. The St. Anthony’s fire broke out on the royal legs; there was no hurry for the presentation of the young lord at Court, or that person who should appear under his name; and my Lord Viscount’s wound breaking out opportunely, he was kept conveniently in his chamber until such time as his physician would allow him to bend his knee before the Queen. At the commencement of July, that influential lady, with whom it has been mentioned that our party had relations, came frequently to visit her young friend, the Maid of Honor, at Kensington, and my Lord Viscount (the real or supposititious), who was an invalid at Lady Castlewood’s house.

On the 27th day of July, the lady in question, who held the most intimate post about the Queen, came in her chair from the Palace hard by, bringing to the little party in Kensington Square intelligence of the very highest importance. The final blow had been struck, and my Lord of Oxford and Mortimer was no longer Treasurer. The staff was as yet given to no successor, though my Lord Bolingbroke would undoubtedly be the man. And now the time was come, the Queen’s Abigail said: and now my Lord Castlewood ought to be presented to the Sovereign.

After that scene which Lord Castlewood witnessed and described to his cousin, who passed such a miserable night of mortification and jealousy as he thought over the transaction, no doubt the three persons who were set by nature as protectors over Beatrix came to the same conclusion, that she must be removed from the presence of a man whose desires towards her were expressed only too clearly; and who was no more scrupulous in seeking to gratify them than his father had been before him. I suppose Esmond’s mistress, her son, and the Colonel himself, had been all secretly debating this matter in their minds, for when Frank broke out, in his blunt way, with:—“I think Beatrix had best be anywhere but here,”— Lady Castlewood said:—“I thank you, Frank, I have thought so, too;” and Mr. Esmond, though he only remarked that it was not for him to speak, showed plainly, by the delight on his countenance, how very agreeable that proposal was to him.

“One sees that you think with us, Henry,” says the viscountess, with ever so little of sarcasm in her tone: “Beatrix is best out of this house whilst we have our guest in it, and as soon as this morning’s business is done, she ought to quit London.”

“What morning’s business?” asked Colonel Esmond, not knowing what had been arranged, though in fact the stroke next in importance to that of bringing the Prince, and of having him acknowledged by the Queen, was now being performed at the very moment we three were conversing together.

The Court-lady with whom our plan was concerted, and who was a chief agent in it, the Court physician, and the Bishop of Rochester, who were the other two most active participators in our plan, had held many councils in our house at Kensington and elsewhere, as to the means best to be adopted for presenting our young adventurer to his sister the Queen. The simple and easy plan proposed by Colonel Esmond had been agreed to by all parties, which was that on some rather private day, when there were not many persons about the Court, the Prince should appear there as my Lord Castlewood, should be greeted by his sister in waiting, and led by that other lady into the closet of the Queen. And according to her Majesty’s health or humor, and the circumstances that might arise during the interview, it was to be left to the discretion of those present at it, and to the Prince himself, whether he should declare that it was the Queen’s own brother, or the brother of Beatrix Esmond, who kissed her Royal hand. And this plan being determined on, we were all waiting in very much anxiety for the day and signal of execution.

Two mornings after that supper, it being the 27th day of July, the Bishop of Rochester breakfasting with Lady Castlewood and her family, and the meal scarce over, Doctor A.‘s coach drove up to our house at Kensington, and the Doctor appeared amongst the party there, enlivening a rather gloomy company; for the mother and daughter had had words in the morning in respect to the transactions of that supper, and other adventures perhaps, and on the day succeeding. Beatrix’s haughty spirit brooked remonstrances from no superior, much less from her mother, the gentlest of creatures, whom the girl commanded rather than obeyed. And feeling she was wrong, and that by a thousand coquetries (which she could no more help exercising on every man that came near her, than the sun can help shining on great and small) she had provoked the Prince’s dangerous admiration, and allured him to the expression of it, she was only the more wilful and imperious the more she felt her error.

To this party, the Prince being served with chocolate in his bedchamber, where he lay late, sleeping away the fumes of his wine, the Doctor came, and by the urgent and startling nature of his news, dissipated instantly that private and minor unpleasantry under which the family of Castlewood was laboring.

He asked for the guest; the guest was above in his own apartment: he bade Monsieur Baptiste go up to his master instantly, and requested that MY LORD VISCOUNT Castlewood would straightway put his uniform on, and come away in the Doctor’s coach now at the door.

He then informed Madam Beatrix what her part of the comedy was to be:—“In half an hour,” says he, “her Majesty and her favorite lady will take the air in the Cedar-walk behind the new Banqueting-house. Her Majesty will be drawn in a garden-chair, Madam Beatrix Esmond and HER BROTHER, MY LORD VISCOUNT Castlewood, will be walking in the private garden, (here is Lady Masham’s key,) and will come unawares upon the Royal party. The man that draws the chair will retire, and leave the Queen, the favorite, and the maid of honor and her brother together; Mistress Beatrix will present her brother, and then! — and then, my Lord Bishop will pray for the result of the interview, and his Scots clerk will say Amen! Quick, put on your hood, Madam Beatrix; why doth not his Majesty come down? Such another chance may not present itself for months again.”

The Prince was late and lazy, and indeed had all but lost that chance through his indolence. The Queen was actually about to leave the garden just when the party reached it; the Doctor, the Bishop, the maid of honor and her brother went off together in the physician’s coach, and had been gone half an hour when Colonel Esmond came to Kensington Square.

The news of this errand, on which Beatrix was gone, of course for a moment put all thoughts of private jealousy out of Colonel Esmond’s head. In half an hour more the coach returned; the Bishop descended from it first, and gave his arm to Beatrix, who now came out. His lordship went back into the carriage again, and the maid of honor entered the house alone. We were all gazing at her from the upper window, trying to read from her countenance the result of the interview from which she had just come.

She came into the drawing-room in a great tremor and very pale; she asked for a glass of water as her mother went to meet her, and after drinking that and putting off her hood, she began to speak —“We may all hope for the best,” says she; “it has cost the Queen a fit. Her Majesty was in her chair in the Cedar-walk, accompanied only by Lady — — when we entered by the private wicket from the west side of the garden, and turned towards her, the Doctor following us. They waited in a side walk hidden by the shrubs, as we advanced towards the chair. My heart throbbed so I scarce could speak; but my Prince whispered, ‘Courage, Beatrix,’ and marched on with a steady step. His face was a little flushed, but he was not afraid of the danger. He who fought so bravely at Malplaquet fears nothing.” Esmond and Castlewood looked at each other at this compliment, neither liking the sound of it.

“The Prince uncovered,” Beatrix continued, “and I saw the Queen turning round to Lady Masham, as if asking who these two were. Her Majesty looked very pale and ill, and then flushed up; the favorite made us a signal to advance, and I went up, leading my Prince by the hand, quite close to the chair: ‘Your Majesty will give my Lord Viscount your hand to kiss,’ says her lady, and the Queen put out her hand, which the Prince kissed, kneeling on his knee, he who should kneel to no mortal man or woman.

“‘You have been long from England, my lord,’ says the Queen: ‘why were you not here to give a home to your mother and sister?’

“‘I am come, Madam, to stay now, if the Queen desires me,’ says the Prince, with another low bow.

“‘You have taken a foreign wife, my lord, and a foreign religion; was not that of England good enough for you?’

“‘In returning to my father’s church,’ says the Prince, ‘I do not love my mother the less, nor am I the less faithful servant of your majesty.’

“Here,” says Beatrix, “the favorite gave me a little signal with her hand to fall back, which I did, though I died to hear what should pass; and whispered something to the Queen, which made her Majesty start and utter one or two words in a hurried manner, looking towards the Prince, and catching hold with her hand of the arm of her chair. He advanced still nearer towards it; he began to speak very rapidly; I caught the words, ‘Father, blessing, forgiveness,’— and then presently the Prince fell on his knees; took from his breast a paper he had there, handed it to the Queen, who, as soon as she saw it, flung up both her arms with a scream, and took away that hand nearest the Prince, and which he endeavored to kiss. He went on speaking with great animation of gesture, now clasping his hands together on his heart, now opening them as though to say: ‘I am here, your brother, in your power.’ Lady Masham ran round on the other side of the chair, kneeling too, and speaking with great energy. She clasped the Queen’s hand on her side, and picked up the paper her Majesty had let fall. The Prince rose and made a further speech as though he would go; the favorite on the other hand urging her mistress, and then, running back to the Prince, brought him back once more close to the chair. Again he knelt down and took the Queen’s hand, which she did not withdraw, kissing it a hundred times; my lady all the time, with sobs and supplications, speaking over the chair. This while the Queen sat with a stupefied look, crumpling the paper with one hand, as my Prince embraced the other; then of a sudden she uttered several piercing shrieks, and burst into a great fit of hysteric tears and laughter. ‘Enough, enough, sir, for this time,’ I heard Lady Masham say: and the chairman, who had withdrawn round the Banqueting-room, came back, alarmed by the cries. ‘Quick,’ says Lady Masham, ‘get some help,’ and I ran towards the Doctor, who, with the Bishop of Rochester, came up instantly. Lady Masham whispered the Prince he might hope for the very best; and to be ready tomorrow; and he hath gone away to the Bishop of Rochester’s house, to meet several of his friends there. And so the great stroke is struck,” says Beatrix, going down on her knees, and clasping her hands. “God save the King: God save the King!”

Beatrix’s tale told, and the young lady herself calmed somewhat of her agitation, we asked with regard to the Prince, who was absent with Bishop Atterbury, and were informed that ’twas likely he might remain abroad the whole day. Beatrix’s three kinsfolk looked at one another at this intelligence: ’twas clear the same thought was passing through the minds of all.

But who should begin to break the news? Monsieur Baptiste, that is Frank Castlewood, turned very red, and looked towards Esmond; the Colonel bit his lips, and fairly beat a retreat into the window: it was Lady Castlewood that opened upon Beatrix with the news which we knew would do anything but please her.

“We are glad,” says she, taking her daughter’s hand, and speaking in a gentle voice, “that the guest is away.”

Beatrix drew back in an instant, looking round her at us three, and as if divining a danger. “Why glad?” says she, her breast beginning to heave; “are you so soon tired of him?”

“We think one of us is devilishly too fond of him,” cries out Frank Castlewood.

“And which is it — you, my lord, or is it mamma, who is jealous because he drinks my health? or is it the head of the family” (here she turned with an imperious look towards Colonel Esmond), “who has taken of late to preach the King sermons?”

“We do not say you are too free with his Majesty.”

“I thank you, madam,” says Beatrix, with a toss of the head and a curtsey.

But her mother continued, with very great calmness and dignity —“At least we have not said so, though we might, were it possible for a mother to say such words to her own daughter, your father’s daughter.”

“Eh? mon pere,” breaks out Beatrix, “was no better than other persons’ fathers.” And again she looked towards the Colonel.

We all felt a shock as she uttered those two or three French words; her manner was exactly imitated from that of our foreign guest.

“You had not learned to speak French a month ago, Beatrix,” says her mother, sadly, “nor to speak ill of your father.”

Beatrix, no doubt, saw that slip she had made in her flurry, for she blushed crimson: “I have learnt to honor the King,” says she, drawing up, “and ’twere as well that others suspected neither his Majesty nor me.”

“If you respected your mother a little more,” Frank said, “Trix, you would do yourself no hurt.”

“I am no child,” says she, turning round on him; “we have lived very well these five years without the benefit of your advice or example, and I intend to take neither now. Why does not the head of the house speak?” she went on; “he rules everything here. When his chaplain has done singing the psalms, will his lordship deliver the sermon? I am tired of the psalms.” The Prince had used almost the very same words in regard to Colonel Esmond that the imprudent girl repeated in her wrath.

“You show yourself a very apt scholar, madam,” says the Colonel; and, turning to his mistress, “Did your guest use these words in your ladyship’s hearing, or was it to Beatrix in private that he was pleased to impart his opinion regarding my tiresome sermon?”

“Have you seen him alone?” cries my lord, starting up with an oath: “by God, have you seen him alone?”

“Were he here, you wouldn’t dare so to insult me; no, you would not dare!” cries Frank’s sister. “Keep your oaths, my lord, for your wife; we are not used here to such language. Till you came, there used to be kindness between me and mamma, and I cared for her when you never did, when you were away for years with your horses and your mistress, and your Popish wife.”

“By — — ” says my lord, rapping out another oath, “Clotilda is an angel; how dare you say a word against Clotilda?”

Colonel Esmond could not refrain from a smile, to see how easy Frank’s attack was drawn off by that feint:—“I fancy Clotilda is not the subject in hand,” says Mr. Esmond, rather scornfully; “her ladyship is at Paris, a hundred leagues off, preparing baby-linen. It is about my Lord Castlewood’s sister, and not his wife, the question is.”

“He is not my Lord Castlewood,” says Beatrix, “and he knows he is not; he is Colonel Francis Esmond’s son, and no more, and he wears a false title; and he lives on another man’s land, and he knows it.” Here was another desperate sally of the poor beleaguered garrison, and an alerte in another quarter. “Again, I beg your pardon,” says Esmond. “If there are no proofs of my claim, I have no claim. If my father acknowledged no heir, yours was his lawful successor, and my Lord Castlewood hath as good a right to his rank and small estate as any man in England. But that again is not the question, as you know very well; let us bring our talk back to it, as you will have me meddle in it. And I will give you frankly my opinion, that a house where a Prince lies all day, who respects no woman, is no house for a young unmarried lady; that you were better in the country than here; that he is here on a great end, from which no folly should divert him; and that having nobly done your part of this morning, Beatrix, you should retire off the scene awhile, and leave it to the other actors of the play.”

As the Colonel spoke with a perfect calmness and politeness, such as ’tis to be hoped he hath always shown to women,11 his mistress stood by him on one side of the table, and Frank Castlewood on the other, hemming in poor Beatrix, that was behind it, and, as it were, surrounding her with our approaches.

11 My dear father saith quite truly, that his manner towards our sex was uniformly courteous. From my infancy upwards, he treated me with an extreme gentleness, as though I was a little lady. I can scarce remember (though I tried him often) ever hearing a rough word from him, nor was he less grave and kind in his manner to the humblest negresses on his estate. He was familiar with no one except my mother, and it was delightful to witness up to the very last days the confidence between them. He was obeyed eagerly by all under him; and my mother and all her household lived in a constant emulation to please him, and quite a terror lest in any way they should offend him. He was the humblest man with all this; the least exacting, the more easily contented; and Mr. Benson, our minister at Castlewood, who attended him at the last, ever said —“I know not what Colonel Esmond’s doctrine was, but his life and death were those of a devout Christian.”— R. E. W.

Having twice sallied out and been beaten back, she now, as I expected, tried the ultima ratio of women, and had recourse to tears. Her beautiful eyes filled with them; I never could bear in her, nor in any woman, that expression of pain:—“I am alone,” sobbed she; “you are three against me — my brother, my mother, and you. What have I done, that you should speak and look so unkindly at me? Is it my fault that the Prince should, as you say, admire me? Did I bring him here? Did I do aught but what you bade me, in making him welcome? Did you not tell me that our duty was to die for him? Did you not teach me, mother, night and morning to pray for the King, before even ourselves? What would you have of me, cousin, for you are the chief of the conspiracy against me; I know you are, sir, and that my mother and brother are acting but as you bid them; whither would you have me go?”

“I would but remove from the Prince,” says Esmond, gravely, “a dangerous temptation; heaven forbid I should say you would yield; I would only have him free of it. Your honor needs no guardian, please God, but his imprudence doth. He is so far removed from all women by his rank, that his pursuit of them cannot but be unlawful. We would remove the dearest and fairest of our family from the chance of that insult, and that is why we would have you go, dear Beatrix.”

“Harry speaks like a book,” says Frank, with one of his oaths, “and, by — — every word he saith is true. You can’t help being handsome, Trix; no more can the Prince help following you. My counsel is that you go out of harm’s way; for, by the Lord, were the Prince to play any tricks with you, King as he is, or is to be, Harry Esmond and I would have justice of him.”

“Are not two such champions enough to guard me?” says Beatrix, something sorrowfully; “sure, with you two watching, no evil could happen to me.”

“In faith, I think not, Beatrix,” says Colonel Esmond; “nor if the Prince knew us would he try.”

“But does he know you?” interposed Lady Castlewood, very quiet: “he comes of a country where the pursuit of kings is thought no dishonor to a woman. Let us go, dearest Beatrix. Shall we go to Walcote or to Castlewood? We are best away from the city; and when the Prince is acknowledged, and our champions have restored him, and he hath his own house at St. James’s or Windsor, we can come back to ours here. Do you not think so, Harry and Frank?”

Frank and Harry thought with her, you may be sure.

“We will go, then,” says Beatrix, turning a little pale; “Lady Masham is to give me warning to-night how her Majesty is, and tomorrow —”

“I think we had best go today, my dear,” says my Lady Castlewood; “we might have the coach and sleep at Hounslow, and reach home tomorrow. ’Tis twelve o’clock; bid the coach, cousin, be ready at one.”

“For shame!” burst out Beatrix, in a passion of tears and mortification. “You disgrace me by your cruel precautions; my own mother is the first to suspect me, and would take me away as my gaoler. I will not go with you, mother; I will go as no one’s prisoner. If I wanted to deceive, do you think I could find no means of evading you? My family suspects me. As those mistrust me that ought to love me most, let me leave them; I will go, but I will go alone: to Castlewood, be it. I have been unhappy there and lonely enough; let me go back, but spare me at least the humiliation of setting a watch over my misery, which is a trial I can’t bear. Let me go when you will, but alone, or not at all. You three can stay and triumph over my unhappiness, and I will bear it as I have borne it before. Let my gaoler-inchief go order the coach that is to take me away. I thank you, Henry Esmond, for your share in the conspiracy. All my life long I’ll thank you, and remember you, and you, brother, and you, mother, how shall I show my gratitude to you for your careful defence of my honor?”

She swept out of the room with the air of an empress, flinging glances of defiance at us all, and leaving us conquerors of the field, but scared, and almost ashamed of our victory. It did indeed seem hard and cruel that we three should have conspired the banishment and humiliation of that fair creature. We looked at each other in silence: ’twas not the first stroke by many of our actions in that unlucky time, which, being done, we wished undone. We agreed it was best she should go alone, speaking stealthily to one another, and under our breaths, like persons engaged in an act they felt ashamed in doing.

In a half-hour, it might be, after our talk she came back, her countenance wearing the same defiant air which it had borne when she left us. She held a shagreen-case in her hand; Esmond knew it as containing his diamonds which he had given to her for her marriage with Duke Hamilton, and which she had worn so splendidly on the inauspicious night of the Prince’s arrival. “I have brought back,” says she, “to the Marquis of Esmond the present he deigned to make me in days when he trusted me better than now. I will never accept a benefit or a kindness from Henry Esmond more, and I give back these family diamonds, which belonged to one king’s mistress, to the gentleman that suspected I would be another. Have you been upon your message of coach-caller, my Lord Marquis? Will you send your valet to see that I do not run away?” We were right, yet, by her manner, she had put us all in the wrong; we were conquerors, yet the honors of the day seemed to be with the poor oppressed girl.

That luckless box containing the stones had first been ornamented with a baron’s coronet, when Beatrix was engaged to the young gentleman from whom she parted, and afterwards the gilt crown of a duchess figured on the cover, which also poor Beatrix was destined never to wear. Lady Castlewood opened the case mechanically and scarce thinking what she did; and behold, besides the diamonds, Esmond’s present, there lay in the box the enamelled miniature of the late Duke, which Beatrix had laid aside with her mourning when the King came into the house; and which the poor heedless thing very likely had forgotten.

“Do you leave this, too, Beatrix?” says her mother, taking the miniature out, and with a cruelty she did not very often show; but there are some moments when the tenderest women are cruel, and some triumphs which angels can’t forego.12

12 This remark shows how unjustly and contemptuously even the best of men will sometimes judge of our sex. Lady Castlewood had no intention of triumphing over her daughter; but from a sense of duty alone pointed out her deplorable wrong. — H. E.

Having delivered this stab, Lady Castlewood was frightened at the effect of her blow. It went to poor Beatrix’s heart: she flushed up and passed a handkerchief across her eyes, and kissed the miniature, and put it into her bosom:—“I had forgot it,” says she; “my injury made me forget my grief: my mother has recalled both to me. Farewell, mother; I think I never can forgive you; something hath broke between us that no tears nor years can repair. I always said I was alone; you never loved me, never — and were jealous of me from the time I sat on my father’s knee. Let me go away, the sooner the better: I can bear to be with you no more.”

“Go, child,” says her mother, still very stern; “go and bend your proud knees and ask forgiveness; go, pray in solitude for humility and repentance. ’Tis not your reproaches that make me unhappy, ’tis your hard heart, my poor Beatrix; may God soften it, and teach you one day to feel for your mother.”

If my mistress was cruel, at least she never could be got to own as much. Her haughtiness quite overtopped Beatrix’s; and, if the girl had a proud spirit, I very much fear it came to her by inheritance.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07