The Virginians, by William Makepeace Thackeray

CHAPTER LXVII

In which a Tragedy is acted, and two more are begun

James Wolfe, Harry’s new Colonel, came back from America a few weeks after our Virginian had joined his regiment. Wolfe had previously been Lieutenant-Colonel of Kingsley’s, and a second battalion of the regiment had been formed and given to him in reward for his distinguished gallantry and services at Cape Breton. Harry went with quite unfeigned respect and cordiality to pay his duty to his new commander, on whom the eyes of the world began to be turned now — the common opinion being that he was likely to become a great general. In the late affairs in France, several officers of great previous repute had been tried and found lamentably wanting. The Duke of Marlborough had shown himself no worthy descendant of his great ancestor. About my Lord George Sackville’s military genius there were doubts, even before his unhappy behaviour at Minden prevented a great victory. The nation was longing for military glory, and the Minister was anxious to find a general who might gratify the eager desire of the people. Mr. Wolfe’s and Mr. Lambert’s business keeping them both in London, the friendly intercourse between those officers was renewed, no one being more delighted than Lambert at his younger friend’s good fortune.

Harry, when he was away from his duty, was never tired of hearing Mr. Wolfe’s details of the military operations of the last year, about which Wolfe talked very freely and openly. Whatever thought was in his mind, he appears to have spoken it out generously. He had that heroic simplicity which distinguished Nelson afterwards: he talked frankly of his actions. Some of the fine gentlemen at St. James’s might wonder and sneer at him; but amongst our little circle of friends we may be sure he found admiring listeners. The young General had the romance of a boy on many matters. He delighted in music and poetry. On the last day of his life he said he would rather have written Gray’s Elegy than have won a battle. We may be sure that with a gentleman of such literary tastes our friend George would become familiar; and as they were both in love, and both accepted lovers, and both eager for happiness, no doubt they must have had many sentimental conversations together which would be very interesting to report could we only have accurate accounts of them. In one of his later letters, Warrington writes:

“I had the honour of knowing the famous General Wolfe, and seeing much of him during his last stay in London. We had a subject of conversation then which was of unfailing interest to both of us, and I could not but admire Mr. Wolfe’s simplicity, his frankness, and a sort of glorious bravery which characterised him. He was much in love, and he wanted heaps and heaps of laurels to take to his mistress. ‘If it be a sin to covet honour,’ he used to say with Harry the Fifth (he was passionately fond of plays and poetry), ‘I am the most offending soul alive.’ Surely on his last day he had a feast which was enough to satisfy the greediest appetite for glory. He hungered after it. He seemed to me not merely like a soldier going resolutely to do his duty, but rather like a knight in quest of dragons and giants. My own country has furnished of late a chief of a very different order, and quite an opposite genius. I scarce know which to admire most. The Briton’s chivalrous ardour, or the more than Roman constancy of our great Virginian.”

As Mr. Lambert’s official duties detained him in London, his family remained contentedly with him, and I suppose Mr. Warrington was so satisfied with the rural quiet of Southampton Row and the beautiful flowers and trees of Bedford Gardens, that he did not care to quit London for any long period. He made his pilgrimage to Castlewood, and passed a few days there, occupying the chamber of which he had often heard his grandfather talk, and which Colonel Esmond had occupied as a boy and he was received kindly enough by such members of the family as happened to be at home. But no doubt he loved better to be in London by the side of a young person in whose society he found greater pleasure than any which my Lord Castlewood’s circle could afford him, though all the ladies were civil, and Lady Maria especially gracious, and enchanted with the tragedy which George and Parson Sampson read out to the ladies. The chaplain was enthusiastic in its praises, and indeed it was through his interest and not through Mr. Johnson’s after all, that Mr. Warrington’s piece ever came on the stage. Mr. Johnson, it is true, pressed the play on his friend Mr. Garrick for Drury Lane, but Garrick had just made an arrangement with the famous Mr. Home for a tragedy from the pen of the author of Douglas. Accordingly, Carpezan was carried to Mr. Rich at Covent Garden, and accepted by that manager.

On the night of the production of the piece, Mr. Warrington gave an elegant entertainment to his friends at the Bedford Head, in Covent Garden, whence they adjourned in a body to the theatre; leaving only one or two with our young author, who remained at the coffee-house, where friends from time to time came to him with an account of the performance. The part of Carpezan was filled by Barry, Shuter was the old nobleman, Reddish, I need scarcely say, made an excellent Ulric, and the King of Bohemia was by a young actor from Dublin, Mr. Geoghegan, or Hagan as he was called on the stage, and who looked and performed the part to admiration. Mrs. Woffington looked too old in the first act as the heroine, but her murder in the fourth act, about which great doubts were expressed, went off to the terror and delight of the audience. Miss Wayn sang the ballad which is supposed to be sung by the king’s page, just at the moment of the unhappy wife’s execution, and all agreed that Barry was very terrible and pathetic as Carpezan, especially in the execution scene. The grace and elegance of the young actor, Hagan, won general applause. The piece was put very elegantly on the stage by Mr. Rich, though there was some doubt whether, in the march of Janissaries in the last, the manager was correct in introducing a favourite elephant, which had figured in various pantomimes, and by which one of Mr. Warrington’s black servants marched in a Turkish habit. The other sate in the footman’s gallery, and uproariously wept and applauded at the proper intervals.

The execution of Sybilla was the turning-point of the piece. Her head off, George’s friends breathed freely, and one messenger after another came to him at the coffee-house, to announce the complete success of the tragedy. Mr. Barry, amidst general applause, announced the play for repetition, and that it was the work of a young gentleman of Virginia, his first attempt in the dramatic style.

We should like to have been in the box where all our friends were seated during the performance, to have watched Theo’s flutter and anxiety whilst the success of the play seemed dubious, and have beheld the blushes and the sparkles in her eyes, when the victory was assured. Harry, during the little trouble in the fourth act, was deadly pale — whiter, Mrs. Lambert said, than Barry, with all his chalk. But if Briareus could have clapped hands, he could scarcely have made more noise than Harry at the end of the piece. Mr. Wolfe and General Lambert huzzayed enthusiastically. Mrs. Lambert, of course, cried: and though Hetty said, “Why do you cry, mamma? I you don’t want any of them alive again; you know it serves them all right”— the girl was really as much delighted as any person present, including little Charley from the Chartreux, who had leave from Dr. Crusius for that evening, and Miss Lucy, who had been brought from boarding-school on purpose to be present on the great occasion. My Lord Castlewood and his sister, Lady Maria, were present; and his lordship went from his box and complimented Mr. Barry and the other actors on the stage; and Parson Sampson was invaluable in the pit, where he led the applause, having, I believe, given previous instructions to Gumbo to keep an eye upon him from the gallery, and do as he did.

Be sure there was a very jolly supper of Mr. Warrington’s friends that night — much more jolly than Mr. Garrick’s, for example, who made but a very poor success with his Agis and its dreary choruses, and who must have again felt that he had missed a good chance, in preferring Mr. Home’s tragedy to our young author’s. A jolly supper, did we say? — Many jolly suppers. Mr. Gumbo gave an entertainment to several gentlemen of the shoulder-knot, who had concurred in supporting his master’s masterpiece: Mr. Henry Warrington gave a supper at the Star and Garter, in Pall Mall, to ten officers of his new regiment, who had come up for the express purpose of backing Carpezan; and finally, Mr. Warrington received the three principal actors of the tragedy, our family party from the side box, Mr. Johnson and his ingenious friend, Mr. Reynolds the painter, my Lord Castlewood and his sister, and one or two more. My Lady Maria happened to sit next to the young actor who had performed the part of the King. Mr. Warrington somehow had Miss Theo for a neighbour, and no doubt passed a pleasant evening beside her. The greatest animation and cordiality prevailed, and when toasts were called, Lady Maria gaily gave “The King of Hungary” for hers. That gentleman, who had plenty of eloquence and fire, and excellent manners, on as well as off the stage, protested that he had already suffered death in the course of the evening, hoped that he should die a hundred times more on the same field; but, dead or living, vowed he knew whose humble servant he ever should be. Ah, if he had but a real crown in place of his diadem of pasteboard and tinsel, with what joy would he lay it at her ladyship’s feet! Neither my lord nor Mr. Esmond were over well pleased with the gentleman’s exceeding gallantry — a part of which they attributed, no doubt justly, to the wine and punch, of which he had been partaking very freely. Theo and her sister, who were quite new to the world, were a little frightened by the exceeding energy of Mr. Hagan’s manner — but Lady Maria, much more experienced, took it in perfectly good part. At a late hour coaches were called, to which the gentlemen attended the ladies, after whose departure some of them returned to the supper-room, and the end was that Carpezan had to be carried away in a chair, and that the King of Hungary had a severe headache; and that the Poet, though he remembered making a great number of speeches, was quite astounded when half a dozen of his guests appeared at his house the next day, whom he had invited overnight to come and sup with him once more.

As he put Mrs. Lambert and her daughters into their coach on the night previous, all the ladies were flurried, delighted, excited; and you may be sure our gentleman was with them the next day, to talk of the play and the audience, and the actors, and the beauties of the piece, over and over again. Mrs. Lambert had heard that the ladies of the theatre were dangerous company for young men. She hoped George would have a care, and not frequent the greenroom too much.

George smiled, and said he had a preventive against all greenroom temptations, of which he was not in the least afraid; and as he spoke he looked in Theo’s face, as if in those eyes lay the amulet which was to preserve him from all danger.

“Why should he be afraid, mamma?” asks the maiden simply. She had no idea of danger or of guile.

“No, my darling, I don’t think he need be afraid,” says the mother, kissing her.

“You don’t suppose Mr. George would fall in love with that painted old creature who performed the chief part?” asks Miss Hetty, with a toss of her head. “She must be old enough to be his mother.”

“Pray, do you suppose that at our age nobody can care for us, or that we have no hearts left?” asks mamma, very tartly. “I believe, or I may say, I hope and trust, your father thinks otherwise. He is, I imagine, perfectly satisfied, miss. He does not sneer at age, whatever little girls out of the schoolroom may do. And they had much better be back there, and they had much better remember what the fifth commandment is — that they had, Hetty!”

“I didn’t think I was breaking it by saying that an actress was as old as George’s mother,” pleaded Hetty.

“George’s mother is as old as I am, miss! — at least she was when we were at school. And Fanny Parker — Mrs. Mountain who now is — was seven months older, and we were in the French class together; and I have no idea that our age is to be made the subject of remarks and ridicule by our children, and I will thank you to spare it, if you please! Do you consider your mother too old, George?”

“I am glad my mother is of your age, Aunt Lambert,” says George, in the most sentimental manner.

Strange infatuation of passion — singular perversity of reason! At some period before his marriage, it not unfrequently happens that a man actually is fond of his mother-inlaw! At this time our good General vowed, and with some reason, that he was jealous. Mrs. Lambert made much more of George than of any other person in the family. She dressed up Theo to the utmost advantage in order to meet him; she was for ever caressing her, and appealing to her when he spoke. It was, “Don’t you think he looks well?”—“Don’t you think he looks pale, Theo, today?”— “Don’t you think he has been sitting up over his books too much at night?” and so forth. If he had a cold, she would have liked to make gruel for him and see his feet in hot water. She sent him recipes of her own for his health. When he was away, she never ceased talking about him to her daughter. I dare say Miss Theo liked the subject well enough. When he came, she was sure to be wanted in some other part of the house, and would bid Theo take care of him till she returned. Why, before she returned to the room, could you hear her talking outside the door to her youngest innocent children, to her servants in the upper regions, and so forth? When she reappeared, was not Mr. George always standing or sitting at a considerable distance from Miss Theo — except, to be sure, on that one day when she had just happened to drop her scissors, and he had naturally stooped down to pick them up? Why was she blushing? Were not youthful cheeks made to blush, and roses to bloom in the spring? Not that mamma ever noted the blushes, but began quite an artless conversation about this or that, as she sate down brimful of happiness to her worktable.

And at last there came a letter from Virginia in Madam Esmond’s neat, well-known hand, and over which George trembled and blushed before he broke the seal. It was in answer to the letter which he had sent home, respecting his brother’s commission and his own attachment to Miss Lambert. Of his intentions respecting Harry, Madam Esmond fully approved. As for his marriage, she was not against early marriages. She would take his picture of Miss Lambert with the allowance that was to be made for lovers’ portraits, and hope, for his sake, that the young lady was all he described her to be. With money, as Madam Esmond gathered from her son’s letter, she did not appear to be provided at all, which was a pity, as, though wealthy in land, their family had but little ready-money. However, by Heaven’s blessing, there was plenty at home for children and children’s children, and the wives of her sons should share all she had. When she heard more at length from Mr. and Mrs. Lambert, she would reply for her part more fully. She did not pretend to say that she had not greater hopes for her son, as a gentleman of his name and prospects might pretend to the hand of the first lady of the land; but as Heaven had willed that her son’s choice should fall upon her old friend’s daughter, she acquiesced, and would welcome George’s wife as her own child. This letter was brought by Mr. Van den Bosch of Albany, who had lately bought a very large estate in Virginia, and who was bound for England to put his granddaughter to a boarding-school. She, Madam Esmond, was not mercenary, nor was it because this young lady was heiress of a very great fortune that she desired her sons to pay Mr. Van d. B. every attention. Their properties lay close together, and could Harry find in the young lady those qualities of person and mind suitable for a companion for life, at least she would have the satisfaction of seeing both her children near her in her declining years. Madam Esmond concluded by sending her affectionate compliments to Mrs. Lambert, from whom she begged to hear further, and her blessing to the young lady who was to be her daughter-inlaw.

The letter was not cordial, and the writer evidently but half satisfied; but, such as it was, her consent was here formally announced. How eagerly George ran away to Soho with the long-desired news in his pocket! I suppose our worthy friends there must have read his news in his countenance — else why should Mrs. Lambert take her daughter’s hand and kiss her with such uncommon warmth, when George announced that he had received letters from home? Then, with a break in his voice, a pallid face, and a considerable tremor, turning to Mr. Lambert, he said: “Madam Esmond’s letter, sir, is in reply to one of mine, in which I acquainted her that I had formed an attachment in England, for which I asked my mother’s approval. She gives her consent, I am grateful to say, and I have to pray my dear friends to be equally kind to me.”

“God bless thee, my dear boy!” says the good General, laying a hand on the young man’s head. “I am glad to have thee for a son, George. There, there, don’t go down on your knees, young folks! George may, to be sure, and thank God for giving him the best little wife in all England. Yes, my dear, except when you were ill, you never caused me a heartache — and happy is the man, I say, who wins thee!”

I have no doubt the young people knelt before their parents, as was the fashion in those days; and am perfectly certain that Mrs. Lambert kissed both of them, and likewise bedewed her pocket-handkerchief in the most plentiful manner. Hetty was not present at this sentimental scene, and when she heard of it, spoke with considerable asperity, and a laugh that was by no means pleasant, saying: “Is this all the news you have to give me? Why, I have known it these months past. Do you think I have no eyes to see, and no ears to hear, indeed?” But in private she was much more gentle. She flung herself on her sister’s neck, embracing her passionately, and vowing that never, never would Theo find any one to love her like her sister. With Theo she became entirely mild and humble. She could not abstain from her jokes and satire with George, but he was too happy to heed her much, and too generous not to see the cause of her jealousy.

When all parties concerned came to read Madam Esmond’s letter, that document, it is true, appeared rather vague. It contained only a promise that she would receive the young people at her house, and no sort of proposal for a settlement. The General shook his head over the letter — he did not think of examining it until some days after the engagement had been made between George and his daughter: but now he read Madam Esmond’s words, they gave him but small encouragement.

“Bah!” says George. “I shall have three hundred pounds for my tragedy. I can easily write a play a year; and if the worst comes to the worst, we can live on that.”

“On that and your patrimony,” says Theo’s father.

George now had to explain, with some hesitation, that what with paying bills for his mother, and Harry’s commission and debts, and his own ransom — George’s patrimony proper was well-nigh spent.

Mr. Lambert’s countenance looked graver still at this announcement, but he saw his girl’s eyes turned towards him with an alarm so tender, that he took her in his arms and vowed that, let the worst come to the worst, his darling should not be balked of her wish.

About the going back to Virginia, George frankly owned that he little liked the notion of returning to be entirely dependent on his mother. He gave General Lambert an idea of his life at home, and explained how little to his taste that slavery was. No. Why should he not stay in England, write more tragedies, study for the bar, get a place, perhaps? Why, indeed? He straightway began to form a plan for another tragedy. He brought portions of his work, from time to time, to Miss Theo and her sister: Hetty yawned over the work, but Theo pronounced it to be still more beautiful and admirable than the last, which was perfect.

The engagement of our young friends was made known to the members of their respective families, and announced to Sir Miles Warrington, in a ceremonious letter from his nephew. For a while Sir Miles saw no particular objection to the marriage; though, to be sure, considering his name and prospects, Mr. Warrington might have looked higher. The truth was, that Sir Miles imagined that Madam Esmond had made some considerable settlement on her son, and that his circumstances were more than easy. But when he heard that George was entirely dependent on his mother, and that his own small patrimony was dissipated, as Harry’s had been before, Sir Miles’s indignation at his nephew’s imprudence knew no bounds; he could not find words to express his horror and anger at the want of principle exhibited by both these unhappy young men: he thought it his duty to speak his mind about them, and wrote his opinion to his sister Esmond in Virginia. As for General and Mrs. Lambert, who passed for respectable persons, was it to be borne that such people should inveigle a penniless young man into a marriage with their penniless daughter? Regarding them, and George’s behaviour, Sir Miles fully explained his views to Madam Esmond, gave half a finger to George whenever his nephew called on him in town, and did not even invite him to partake of the famous family small-beer. Towards Harry his uncle somewhat unbent; Harry had done his duty in the campaign, and was mentioned with praise in high quarters. He had sown his wild oats — he at least was endeavouring to amend; but George was a young prodigal, fast careering to ruin, and his name was only mentioned in the family with a groan. Are there any poor fellows nowadays, I wonder, whose polite families fall on them and persecute them; groan over them and stone them, and hand stones to their neighbours that they may do likewise? All the patrimony spent! Gracious heavens! Sir Miles turned pale when he saw his nephew coming. Lady Warrington prayed for him as a dangerous reprobate; and, in the meantime, George was walking the town, quite unconscious that he was occasioning so much wrath and so much devotion. He took little Miley to the play and brought him back again. He sent tickets to his aunt and cousins which they could not refuse, you know; it would look too marked were they to break altogether. So they not only took the tickets, but whenever country constituents came to town they asked for more, taking care to give the very worst motives to George’s intimacy with the theatre, and to suppose that he and the actresses were on terms of the most disgraceful intimacy. An august personage having been to the theatre, and expressed his approbation of Mr. Warrington’s drama to Sir Miles, when he attended his R-y-l H-ghn-ss’s levee at Saville House, Sir Miles, to be sure, modified his opinion regarding the piece, and spoke henceforth more respectfully of it. Meanwhile, as we have said, George was passing his life entirely careless of the opinion of all the uncles, aunts, and cousins in the world.

Most of the Esmond cousins were at least more polite and cordial than George’s kinsfolk of the Warrington side. In spite of his behaviour over the cards, Lord Castlewood, George always maintained, had a liking for our Virginians, and George was pleased enough to be in his company. He was a far abler man than many who succeeded in life. He had a good name, and somehow only stained it; a considerable wit, and nobody trusted it; and a very shrewd experience and knowledge of mankind, which made him mistrust them, and himself most of all, and which perhaps was the bar to his own advancement. My Lady Castlewood, a woman of the world, wore always a bland mask, and received Mr. George with perfect civility, and welcomed him to lose as many guineas as he liked at her ladyship’s card-tables. Between Mr. William and the Virginian brothers there never was any love lost; but, as for Lady Maria, though her love affair was over, she had no rancour; she professed for her cousins a very great regard and affection, a part of which the young gentlemen very gratefully returned. She was charmed to hear of Harry’s valour in the campaign; she was delighted with George’s success at the theatre; she was for ever going to the play, and had all the favourite passages of Carpezan by heart. One day, as Mr. George and Miss Theo were taking a sentimental walk in Kensington Gardens, whom should they light upon but their cousin Maria in company with a gentleman in a smart suit and handsome laced hat, and who should the gentleman be but his Majesty King Louis of Hungary, Mr. Hagan? He saluted the party, and left them presently. Lady Maria had only just happened to meet him. Mr. Hagan came sometimes, he said, for quiet, to study his parts in Kensington Gardens, and George and the two ladies walked together to Lord Castlewood’s door in Kensington Square, Lady Maria uttering a thousand compliments to Theo upon her good looks, upon her virtue, upon her future happiness, upon her papa and mamma, upon her destined husband, upon her paduasoy cloak and dear little feet and shoe-buckles.

Harry happened to come to London that evening, and slept at his accustomed quarters. When George appeared at breakfast, the Captain was already in the room (the custom of that day was to call all army gentlemen Captains), and looking at the letters on the breakfast-table.

“Why, George,” he cries, “there is a letter from Maria!”

“Little boy bring it from Common Garden last night — Master George asleep,” says Gumbo.

“What can it be about?” asks Harry, as George peruses his letter with a queer expression of face.

“About my play, to be sure,” George answers, tearing up the paper, and still wearing his queer look.

“What, she is not writing love-letters to you, is she, Georgy?”

“No, certainly not to me,” replies the other. But he spoke no word more about the letter; and when at dinner in Dean Street Mrs. Lambert said, “So you met somebody walking with the King of Hungary yesterday in Kensington Gardens?”

“What little tell-tale told you? A mere casual rencontre — the King goes there to study his parts, and Lady Maria happened to be crossing the garden to visit some of the other King’s servants at Kensington Palace.” And so there was an end to that matter for the time being.

Other events were at hand fraught with interest to our Virginians. One evening after Christmas, the two gentlemen, with a few more friends, were met round General Lambert’s supper-table; and among the company was Harry’s new Colonel of the 67th, Major-General Wolfe. The young General was more than ordinarily grave. The conversation all related to the war. Events of great importance were pending. The great minister now in power was determined to carry on the war on a much more extended scale than had been attempted hitherto: an army was ordered to Germany to help Prince Ferdinand, another great expedition was preparing for America, and here, says Mr. Lambert, “I will give you the health of the Commander — a glorious campaign, and a happy return to him!”

“Why do you not drink the toast, General James!” asked the hostess of her guest.

“He must not drink his own toast,” says General Lambert; “it is we must do that!”

What? was James appointed? — All the ladies must drink such a toast as that, and they mingled their kind voices with the applause of the rest of the company.

Why did he look so melancholy? the ladies asked of one another when they withdrew. In after days they remembered his pale face.

“Perhaps he has been parting from his sweetheart,” suggests tender-hearted Mrs. Lambert. And at this sentimental notion, no doubt all the ladies looked sad.

The gentlemen, meanwhile, continued their talk about the war and its chances. Mr. Wolfe did not contradict the speakers when they said that the expedition was to be directed against Canada.

“Ah, sir,” says Harry, “I wish your regiment was going with you, and that I might pay another visit to my old friends at Quebec.”

What, had Harry been there? Yes. He described his visit to the place five years before, and knew the city, and the neighbourhood, well. He lays a number of bits of biscuit on the table before him, and makes a couple of rivulets of punch on each side. “This fork is the Isle d’Orleans,” says he, “with the north and south branches of St. Lawrence on each side. Here’s the Low Town, with a battery — how many guns was mounted there in our time, brother? — but at long shots from the St. Joseph shore you might play the same game. Here’s what they call the little river, the St. Charles, and a bridge of boats with a tete du pont over to the place of arms. Here’s the citadel, and here’s convents — ever so many convents — and the cathedral; and here, outside the lines to the west and south, is what they call the Plains of Abraham — where a certain little affair took place, do you remember, brother? He and a young officer of the Rousillon regiment ca ca’d at each other for twenty minutes, and George pinked him, and then they jure’d each other an amitie eternelle. Well it was for George: for his second saved his life on that awful day of Braddock’s defeat. He was a fine little fellow, and I give his toast: Je bois a la sante du Chevalier de Florac!”

“What, can you speak French, too, Harry?” asks Mr. Wolfe. The young man looked at the General with eager eyes.

“Yes,” says he, “I can speak, but not so well as George.”

“But he remembers the city, and can place the batteries, you see, and knows the ground a thousand times better than I do!” cries the elder brother.

The two elder officers exchanged looks with one another; Mr. Lambert smiled and nodded, as if in reply to the mute queries of his comrade: on which the other spoke. “Mr. Harry,” he said, “if you have had enough of fine folks, and White’s, and horse-racing ——”

“Oh, sir!” says the young man, turning very red.

“And if you have a mind to a sea voyage at a short notice, come and see me at my lodgings tomorrow.”

What was that sudden uproar of cheers which the ladies heard in their drawing-room? It was the hurrah which Harry Warrington gave when he leaped up at hearing the General’s invitation.

The women saw no more of the gentlemen that night. General Lambert had to be away upon his business early next morning, before seeing any of his family; nor had he mentioned a word of Harry’s outbreak on the previous evening. But when he rejoined his folks at dinner, a look at Miss Hetty’s face informed the worthy gentleman that she knew what had passed on the night previous, and what was about to happen to the young Virginian. After dinner Mrs. Lambert sat demurely at her work, Miss Theo took her book of Italian Poetry. Neither of the General’s customary guests happened to be present that evening.

He took little Hetty’s hand in his, and began to talk with her. He did not allude to the subject which he knew was uppermost in her mind, except that by a more than ordinary gentleness and kindness he perhaps caused her to understand that her thoughts were known to him.

“I have breakfasted,” says he, “with James Wolfe this morning, and our friend Harry was of the party. When he and the other guests were gone, I remained and talked with James about the great expedition on which he is going to sail. Would that his brave father had lived a few months longer to see him come back covered with honours from Louisbourg, and knowing that all England was looking to him to achieve still greater glory! James is dreadfully ill in body — so ill that I am frightened for him — and not a little depressed in mind at having to part from the young lady whom he has loved so long. A little rest, he thinks, might have set his shattered frame up; and to call her his has been the object of his life. But, great as his love is (and he is as romantic as one of you young folks of seventeen), honour and duty are greater, and he leaves home, and wife, and ease, and health, at their bidding. Every man of honour would do the like; every woman who loves him truly would buckle on his armour for him. James goes to take leave of his mother to-night; and though she loves him devotedly, and is one of the tenderest women in the world, I am sure she will show no sign of weakness at his going away.”

“When does he sail, papa?” the girl asked.

“He will be on board in five days.” And Hetty knew quite well who sailed with him.

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