CAMILLA strove to check her grief upon entering the carriage, in which Miss Margland had again the charge of the young party; but the interrogatory of her Father, Why will you have me? was mentally repeated without ceasing. Ah! why, indeed! thought she, at a moment when every filial duty called more than ever for my stay!–Well, might he not divine the unnatural reason! can I believe it myself!–Believe such an hour arrived?-when my Mother-the best of Mothers!-is expected-when she returns to her family, Camilla seeks another abode! is not this a dream? and may I not one day awake from it?
Miss Margland was in the highest good humour at this expedition: and Indiana was still enraptured to visit London, from old expectations which she knew not how to relinquish; though they were fixed to no point, and as fantastic as vague. Eugenia, whose dejection had made Sir Hugh press her into the party, found nothing in it to revive her; and Camilla entered Grosvenor Square with keen dissatisfaction of every sort. The cautions of Edgar against Mrs. Berlinton broke into all the little relief she might have experienced upon again seeing her. She had meant to keep his final exhortations constantly in her mind, and to make all his opinions and counsels the rule and measure of her conduct: but a cruel perversity of events seemed to cast her every action into an apparent defiance of his wishes.
Mrs. Berlinton, who, in a mansion the most splendid, received her with the same gentle sweetness she had first sought her regard, was delighted by the unexpected sight of Eugenia, whose visit had been settled too late to be announced by letter; and caressed Indiana immediately as a sister. Miss Margland, who came but for two days, sought with much adulation to obtain an invitation for a longer stay; but Mrs. Berlinton, though all courtesy and grace, incommoded herself with no society that she did not find pleasing.
Melmond, who had accompanied them on horseback, was eager to engage the kindness of his sister for Indiana; and Mrs. Berlinton, in compliment to her arrival, refused all parties for the evening, and bestowed upon her an almost undivided attention.
This was not quite so pleasant to him in proof as in hope. Passionless, in this case, herself, the delusions of beauty deceived not her understanding; and half an hour sufficed to shew Indiana to be frivolous, uncultivated, and unmeaning. The perfection, nevertheless, of her face and person, obviated either wonder or censure of the choice of her brother; though she could not but regret that he had not seen with mental eyes the truly superior Eugenia.
The wretched Camilla quitted them all as soon as possible, to retire to her chamber, and ruminate upon her purposed letter. She meant, at first, to write in detail; but her difficulties accumulated as she weighed them. ‘What a season,’ cried she, ‘to sink Lionel still deeper in disgrace! What a treachery, after voluntarily assisting him, to complain of, and betray him! ah! let my own faults teach me mercy for the faults of others!’ yet, without this acknowledgment, what exculpation could she offer for the origin of her debts? and all she had incurred at Tunbridge? those of Southampton she now thought every way unpardonable. Even were she to relate the vain hopes which had led to the expence of the ball dress, could she plead, to an understanding like that of her Mother, that she had been deceived and played upon by such a woman as Mrs. Mittin? ‘I am astonished now myself,’ she cried, ‘at that passive facility!-but to me, alas, thought comes only with repentance!’ The Higden debt, both for the rent and the stores, was the only one at which she did not blush, since, great as was her indiscretion, in not enquiring into her powers before she plighted her services, it would be palliated by her motive.
Vainly she took up her pen; not even a line could she write. ‘How enervating,’ she cried, ‘is all wrong! I have been, till now, a happy stranger to fear! Partially favoured, and fondly confiding, I have looked at my dear Father, I have met my beloved Mother, with the same courage, and the same pleasure that I looked at and met my brother and my sisters, and only with more reverence. How miserable a change! I shudder now at the presence of the most indulgent of Fathers! I fly with guilty cowardice from the fondest of Mothers!’
Eugenia, when able, followed her and had no sooner heard the whole history, than, tenderly embracing her, she said, ‘Let not this distress seem so desperate to you, my dearest sister! your own account points out to me how to relieve it, without either betraying our poor Lionel, or further weighing down our already heavily burthened friends.’
‘And how, my dear Eugenia?’ cried Camilla, with fearful gratitude, and involuntarily reviving by the most distant idea of such a project.
By adopting, she said, the same means that had been invented by Mrs. Mittin. She had many valuable trinkets, the annual offerings of her munificent uncle, the sale of which would go far enough, she could not doubt, towards the payment of the principal, to induce the money-lender to accept interest for the rest, till the general affairs of their house were re-established; when what remained of the sum could be discharged, without difficulty, by herself; now no longer wanting money, nor capable of receiving any pleasure from it, but by the pleasure she might give.
Camilla pressed her in her arms, almost kneeling with fond acknowledgments, and accepted, without hesitation, her generous offer.
‘All, then, is arranged,’ said Eugenia, with a smile so benign it seemed nearly beautiful; ‘and to friendship, and each other, we will devote our future days. My spirits will revive in the revival of Camilla. To see her again gay will be renovation to my uncle; and who knows, my dear sister, but our whole family may again be blest, ’ere long, with peace?’
The next morning they sent off a note to the money-lender, whose direction Camilla had received from Mrs. Mittin, entreating his patience for a fortnight, or three weeks, when he would receive the greatest part of his money, with every species of acknowledgment.
Camilla, much relieved, went to sit with Mrs. Berlinton, but on entering the dressing room, was struck by the sight of Bellamy, just quitting it.
Mrs. Berlinton, upon her appearance, with a look of soft rapture approaching her, said: ‘Felicitate me, loveliest Camilla!-my friend, my chosen friend is restored to me, and the society for which so long I have sighed in vain, may be once more mine!’
Camilla, startled, exclaimed with earnestness, ‘My dearest Mrs. Berlinton, pardon me, I entreat-but is Mr. Bellamy known to Mr. Berlinton?’
‘No!’ answered she, disdainfully; ‘but he has been seen by him. Mr. Berlinton is a stranger to merit or taste; and Alphonso, to him, is but as any other man.’
‘They are, however, acquainted with each other?’ said Camilla.
Mrs. Berlinton answered, that, after her marriage, she remained three months in Wales with her aunt, where Bellamy was travelling to view the country, and where, almost immediately after that unhappy enthralment, she first knew him, and first learnt the soothing charms of friendship; but from that period they had met no more, though they had constantly corresponded.
Camilla was now first sensible to all the alarm with which Edgar had hitherto striven to impress her in vain. The impropriety of such a connexion, the danger of such a partiality, filled her with wonder and disturbance. She hesitated whether to relate or not the adventure of Bellamy with her sister; but the strong repugnance of Eugenia to having it named, and the impossibility of proving the truth of the general opinion of his base scheme, decided her to silence. Upon the plans and the sentiments, however, of Mrs. Berlinton herself, she spared not the extremest sincerity; but she gained no ground by the contest, though she lost not any kindness by the attempt.
At dinner, she felt extremely disturbed by the re-appearance of Bellamy, who alone, she found, had been excepted by Mrs. Berlinton, in the orders of general denial to company. He seemed, himself, much struck at the sight of Eugenia, who blushed and looked embarrassed by his presence. He did not, however, address her; he confined his attentions to Mrs. Berlinton, or Miss Margland.
The former received them with distinguishing softness; the latter, at first, disdainfully repelled them, from the general belief at Cleves of his attempted elopement with Eugenia.; but afterwards, finding she was left wholly to a person who had no resources for entertaining her, namely, herself,-and knowing Eugenia safe while immediately under her eye, she deigned to treat him with more consideration.
The opera was proposed for the evening, Mrs. Berlinton, having both tickets and her box at the service of her fair friends, as the lady with whom she had subscribed was out of town. Indiana was enchanted, Miss Margland was elevated, and Eugenia not unwilling to seek some recreation, though hopeless of finding it. But Camilla, notwithstanding she was lightened, at this moment, from one of her most corrosive cares, was too entirely miserable for any species of amusement. The same strong feelings that gave to pleasure, when she was happy, so high a zest, rendered it nearly abhorrent to her, when grief had possession of her mind.
After dinner, when the ladies retired to dress, Camilla, with some uneasiness, conjured Eugenia to avoid renewing any acquaintance with Bellamy.
Eugenia blushing, while a tear started into either eye, said she was but too well guarded from Bellamy, through a late transaction; which had exalted her to a summit of happiness, from which she could never now descend to any new plan of life, beyond the single state and retirement.
At night, the whole party went to the Opera, except Camilla, who, in spending the evening alone, meant to ruminate upon her affairs, and arrange her future conduct: but Edgar, his virtues, and his loss, took imperious possession of all her thoughts; and while she dwelt upon his honour, his sincerity, and his goodness, and traced, with cherished recollection, every scene in which she had been engaged with him, he and they recurred to her as visions of all earthly felicity.
Awakened from these reveries, by the sound of the carriage, and the rapping at the street door, she was hastening down stairs to meet her sister, when she heard Melmond call out from the coach: ‘Is Miss Eugenia Tyrold come home?’
‘No;’ the man answered; and Melmond exclaimed; ‘Good Heaven!–I must run then back to the theatre. Do not be alarmed, my Indiana, and do not alarm Miss Camilla, for I will not return without her.’
They all entered but himself; while Camilla, fixed to the stair upon which she had heard these words, remained some minutes motionless. Then, tottering down to the parlour, with a voice hollow from affright, and a face pale as death, she tremulously articulated, ‘where is my sister?’
They looked all aghast, and not one of them, for some time, was capable to give any account that was intelligible. She then gathered that, in coming out of the theatre, to get to the coach, they had missed her. None of them knew how, which way, in what manner.
‘And where’s Mr. Bellamy?’ cried she, in an agony of apprehension; ‘was he at the Opera? where-where is he?’
Miss Margland looked dismayed, and Mrs. Berlinton amazed, at this interrogatory; but they both said he had only been in the box at the beginning of the Opera, and afterwards to help them out of the crowd.
‘And who did he help? who? Who?’ exclaimed Camilla.
‘Me,-first–’ answered Miss Margland,–‘and, when we got into a great crowd, he took care of Miss Eugenia too.’ She then added, that in this crowd, both she and Eugenia had been separated from Mrs. Berlinton and Indiana, who by Melmond and another gentleman had been handed straight to the carriage, without difficulty; that soon after, she had lost the arm of Bellamy, who, by some mistake, had turned a wrong way; but she got to the coach by herself; where they had waited full half an hour, Melmond running to and fro and searching in every direction, but in vain, to find Eugenia. Nor had Bellamy again appeared. They then came home, hoping he had put her into a chair, and that she might be arrived before them.
‘Dreadful! Dreadful!’ cried Camilla, sinking on the floor, ‘she is forced away! she is lost!’
When again her strength returned, she desired that some one might go immediately to the house or lodgings of Bellamy, to enquire if he were come home.
This was done by a footman, who brought word he had not been seen there since six o’clock in the evening, when he dressed, and went out.
Camilla now, confirmed in her horrible surmise, was nearly frantic. She bewailed her sister, her father, her uncle; she wanted herself to rush forth, to search Eugenia in the streets; she could scarce be detained within, scarce kept off from entire delirium.
IT was four o’clock in the morning when Melmond returned. Camilla rushed to the street-door to meet him. His silence and his mournful air announced his ill success. She wrung her hands in anguish, and besought him to send instantly an express to Etherington, with the fatal tidings.
He went himself to the nearest stables, desiring she would prepare a letter while he got a man and horse for the journey.
In scrawling and indistinct characters she then wrote:
‘O my Father-our Eugenia has disappeared! she was lost last night at the Opera–Mr. Bellamy was conducting her to Mrs. Berlinton’s coach-but we have seen neither of them since! what-what must we do?’
Melmond wrote the address, which her hand could not make legible; and Miss Margland prepared for the post a laboured vindication to Sir Hugh of her own conduct upon this occasion.
Indiana was long gone to bed. She was really very sorry; but she was really much tired; and she could do, as she said, no good.
But Mrs. Berlinton felt an alarm for Eugenia, and an astonishment concerning Bellamy, that would fully have wakened her faculties, had she been wholly unmoved by the misery of Camilla.
Far other was, however, her nature, gentle, compassionate, and sympathising; and her own internal disturbance, though great even beyond her own conception why, sunk at sight of the excess of wretchedness which disordered her poor friend.
There could be but one possible opinion of this disastrous adventure, which was, that Bellamy had spirited this young creature away, to secure her fortune, by her hand. Melmond again went forth, to make enquiry at all the stables in London, for any carriage that might have been hired for a late hour. And at six o’clock, in great perturbation, he came back, saying, he had just traced that she was put into a chaise and four from a hackney coach; that the chaise was hired in Piccadilly, and engaged for a week. He was now determined to ride post himself in the pursuit, that, if any accidental delay retarded them, he might recover her before she arrived at Gretna Green, whither he could not doubt she was to be conveyed: but as she could not be married by force, his presence might yet be in time to prevent persecution, or foul play.
Camilla nearly embraced him with transport at this ray of hope, and, leaving his tenderest condolements for Indiana, whom he implored his sister to watch sedulously, he galloped northwards.
His heart was most sincerely in the business; what he owed to the noble conduct which the high sentiments and pure regard of Eugenia had dictated, had excited a tender veneration, which made him hold his life as too small an offering to be refused for her service, if its sacrifice could essentially shew his gratitude. And often his secret mind had breathed a wish, that her love of literature had been instilled into her cousin; though he studiously checked, as profane, all that was not admiration of that most exquisite workmanship of nature.
Mrs. Berlinton wanted not to be told this proceeding was wrong, yet still found it impossible to persuade herself Eugenia would not soon think it right; though Eugenia was the creature that she most revered in the whole world, and though, with Bellamy himself she felt irritated and disappointed.
Camilla in every evil reverted to the loss of Edgar, whose guardian care, had she preserved him, would have preserved, she thought, her loved Eugenia.
The express from Etherington brought back only a few lines written by Lavinia, with an account that Mr. Tyrold, in deep misery, was setting out post for Scotland.
A week past thus in suspence, nearly intolerable to Camilla, before Melmond returned.
Always upon the watch, she heard his voice, and flew to meet him in the dressing room. He was at the feet of Indiana, to whom he was pouring forth his ardent lamentations at this long deprivation of her sight.
But joy had evidently no part in his tenderness; Camilla saw at once depression and evil tidings, and, sinking upon a chair, could scarcely pronounce, ‘Have you not then found her?’
‘I have left her but this minute,’ he answered, in a tone the most melancholy.
‘Ah! you have then seen her! you have seen my dearest Eugenia?–O, Mr. Melmond, why have you left her at all?’
It was long before he could answer; he besought her to compose herself; he expressed the extremest solicitude for the uneasiness of Indiana, whose eternal interruptions of ‘Dear! where is she? Dear! why did not she come back?–Dear! who took her away?’ he attributed to the agitation of the fondest friendship, and conjured, while tears of terror started into his eyes, that she would moderate the excess of her sensibility. It seems the peculiar province of the lover, to transfuse all that he himself most prizes, and thinks praise-worthy, into the breast of his chosen object; nor is he more blind to the defects with which she may abound, than prodigal in gifts of virtues which exist but in his own admiration.
‘And my Father? my poor Father!’ cried Camilla, ‘you have seen nothing of my Father?’
‘Pardon me; I have just left him also.’
‘And not with Eugenia?’
‘Yes; they are together.’
Rapture now defied all apprehension with Camilla; the idea of Eugenia restored to her Father, was an idea of entire happiness; but her joy affected Melmond yet more than her alarm: he could not let her fasten upon any false expectations; he bid his sister aid him to support Indiana, and then, with all the gentleness of the sincerest concern, confessed that Eugenia was married before she was overtaken.
This was a blow for which Camilla was still unprepared. She concluded it a forced marriage; horror froze her veins, her blood no longer flowed, her heart ceased to beat, she fell lifeless on the ground.
Her recovery was more speedy than it was happy, and she was assisted to her chamber, no longer asking any questions, no longer desiring further information. All was over of hope: and the particulars seemed immaterial, since the catastrophe was as irreversible as it was afflicting.
Mrs. Berlinton still attended her, grieved for her suffering, yet believing that Eugenia would be the happiest of women; though an indignation the most forcible mingled with her surprise at the conduct of Bellamy.
This dread sort of chasm in the acuteness of the feelings of Camilla lasted not long; and Mrs. Berlinton then brought from Melmond the following account.
With the utmost speed he could use, he could not, though a single horseman, overtake them. They never, as he learnt by the way, remitted their journey, nor stopt for the smallest refreshment but at some cottage. At length, in the last stage to Gretna Green, he met them upon their return. It was easy to him to see that his errand was vain, and the knot indissolubly tied, by the blinds being down, and the easy air with which Bellamy was looking around him.
Eugenia sat back in the chaise with a handkerchief to her eyes. He stopt the vehicle, and told Bellamy he must speak with that lady. ‘That lady, Sir,’ he proudly answered, ‘is my wife; speak to her, therefore; . . . but in my hearing.’ Eugenia at this dropt her handkerchief, and looked up. Her eyes were sunk into her head by weeping, and her face was a living picture of grief. Melmond loudly exclaimed: ‘I come by the authority of her friends, and I demand her own account of this transaction.’ ‘We are now going to our friends,’ replied he, ‘ourselves, and we shall send them no messages.’ He then ordered the postillion to drive on, telling him at his peril to stop no more; Eugenia, in a tone but just audible, saying: ‘Adieu, Mr. Melmond! Adieu!’
To have risked his life in her rescue, at such a moment, seemed to him nothing, could he but more certainly have ascertained her own wishes, and real situation: but as she attempted neither resistance nor remonstrance, he concluded Bellamy spoke truth; and if they were married, he could not unmarry them; and if they were going to her friends, they were doing all he could now exact. He resolved, however, to follow, and if they should turn any other road, to call for assistance till he could investigate the truth.
They stopt occasionally for refreshments at the usual inns, and travelled no more in the dark; but Bellamy never lost sight of her; and Melmond, in watching, observed that she returned to the chaise with as little opposition as she quitted it, though weeping always, and never, for a voluntary moment, uncovering her face. Bellamy seemed always most assiduous in his attentions: she never appeared to repulse him, nor to receive from him any comfort.
On the second day’s journey, just as Bellamy had handed her from the chaise, at the inn where they meant to dine, and which Melmond, as usual, entered at the same time, he saw Mr. Tyrold-hurrying, but so shaking he could scarcely support himself, from a parlour, whence he had seen them alight, into the passage.
The eyes, ever downcast, of Eugenia, perceived him not, till she was clasped, in mute agony, in his arms. She then looked up, saw who it was, and fainted away. Bellamy, though he knew him not, supposed who he might be, and his reverend appearance seemed to impress him with awe.
Nevertheless, he was himself seizing the now senseless Eugenia, to convey her to some room; when Mr. Tyrold, reviving from indignation, fixed his eyes upon his face, and said: ‘By what authority, Sir, do you presume to take charge of my daughter?’–‘By the authority,’ he answered, ‘of a husband.’ Mr. Tyrold said no more; he caught at the arm of Melmond, though he had not yet seen who he was, and Bellamy carried Eugenia into the first vacant parlour, followed only by the woman of the house.
Melmond then, respectfully, and filled with the deepest commiseration, sought to make himself known to Mr. Tyrold; but he heard him not, he heeded no one; he sat down upon a trunk, accidentally in the passage where all this had passed, saying, but almost without seeming conscious that he spoke aloud: ‘This, indeed, is a blow to break both our hearts!’ Melmond then stood silently by, for he saw, by his folded hands and uplighted eyes, he was ejaculating some prayer: after which, with a countenance more firm, and limbs better able to sustain him, he rose, and moved towards the parlour into which the fainting Eugenia had been carried.
Melmond then again spoke to him by his name. He recollected the voice, turned to him, and gave him his hand, which was of an icy coldness. ‘You are very kind, Mr. Melmond,’ he said; ‘my poor girl’-but stopt, checking what he meant to add, and went to the parlour-door.
It was locked. The woman of the house had left it, and said, the lady was recovered from her fit. Mr. Tyrold, from a thousand feelings, seemed unable to demand admission for himself: he desired Melmond to speak, and claim an audience alone for him with his daughter.
Bellamy opened the door with a look evidently humbled and frightened, yet affecting perfect ease. When Melmond made known his commission, Eugenia, starting up, exclaimed: ‘Yes, yes! I will see my dear Father alone!-and O! that this poor frame might sink to rest on his loved bosom!’
‘In a moment! in a moment!’ cried Bellamy, motioning Melmond to withdraw; ‘tell Mr. Tyrold he shall come in a moment.’
Melmond was forced to retreat; but heard him hastily say, as again he fastened the door, ‘My life, O Eugenia! is in your hands-and is it thus you requite my ardent love and constancy?’
Mr. Tyrold now would wait but a few minutes: it was palpable Bellamy feared the interview; and he could fear it but from one motive: he sent him, therefore, word by Melmond, that if he did not immediately retire, and leave him to a conference alone with his daughter, he would apply no more for a meeting till he claimed it in a court of justice.
Bellamy soon came out, bowed obsequiously to Mr. Tyrold, who passed him without notice, and who was then for half an hour shut up with Eugenia. Longer Bellamy could not endure; he broke in upon them, and left the room no more.
Soon after, Mr. Tyrold came out, his own eyes now as red as those of the weeping bride. He took Melmond apart, thanked him for his kindness, but said nothing could be done. He entreated him therefore to return to his own happier affairs; adding, ‘I cannot talk upon this miserable event. Tell Camilla, her sister is, for the present, going home with me-though not, alas! alone! Tell her, too, I will write to her upon my arrival at Etherington.’
‘This,’ concluded Mrs. Berlinton, ‘is all my brother has to relate; all that for himself he adds, is, that if ever, to something human, the mind of an angel was accorded-that mind seems enshrined in the heart of Eugenia!’
Nothing that Camilla had yet experienced of unhappiness, had penetrated her with feelings of such deadly woe as this event. Eugenia, from her childhood, had seemed marked by calamity: her ill health, even from infancy, and her subsequent misfortunes, had excited in her whole house the tenderest pity, to which the uncommon character with which she grew up, had added respect and admiration. And the strange, and almost continual trials she had had to encounter, from the period of her attaining her fifteenth year, which, far from souring her mind, had seemed to render it more perfect, had now nearly sanctified her in the estimation of them all. To see her, therefore, fall, at last, a sacrifice to deceit or violence,-for one, if not both, had palpably put her into the possession of Bellamy, was a grief more piercingly wounding than all she had yet suffered. Whatever she had personally to bear, she constantly imagined some imprudence or impropriety had provoked; but Eugenia, while she appeared to her so blameless, that she could merit no evil, was so amiable, that willingly she would have borne for her their united portions.
How it had been effected, since force would be illegal, still kept amazement joined to sorrow, till the promised letter arrived from Mr. Tyrold, with an account of the transaction.
Eugenia, parted from Miss Margland by Bellamy, in the crowd, was obliged to accept his protection, which, till then, she had refused, to restore her to her company. The coach, he said, he knew, had orders to wait in Pall Mall, whither the other ladies would be conveyed in chairs, to avoid danger from the surrounding carriages. She desired to go, also, in a chair: but he hurried her by quick surprize into a hackney-coach, which, he said, would be more speedy, and bidding the man drive to Pall Mall, seated himself opposite to her. She had not the most remote suspicion of his design, as his behaviour was even coldly distant, though she wondered Pall Mall was so far off, and that the coachman drove so fast, till they stopt at a turnpike-and then, in one quick and decided moment, she comprehended her situation, and made an attempt for her own deliverance-but he prevented her from being heard.–And the scenes that followed she declined relating. Yet, what she would not recount, she could not, to the questions of her Father, deny, that force, from that moment, was used, to repel all her efforts for obtaining help, and to remove her into a chaise.
Mr. Tyrold required to hear nothing more, to establish a prosecution, and to seize her, publickly, from Bellamy. But from this she recoiled. ‘No, my dear Father,’ she continued, ‘the die is cast! and I am his! Solemn has been my vow! sacred I must hold it!’
She then briefly narrated, that though violence was used to silence her at every place where she sought to be rescued, every interval was employed, by Bellamy, in the humblest supplications for her pardon, and most passionate protestations of regard, all beginning and all ending in declaring, that to live longer without her was impossible, and pledging his ardent attachment for obtaining her future favour; spending the period from stage to stage, or turnpike to turnpike, in kneeling to beseech forgiveness for the desperation to which he was driven, by the most cruel and hopeless passion that ever seized the heart of man. When they were near their journey’s end, he owned that his life was in her hands, but he was indifferent whether he lost it from the misery of living without her, or from her vengeance of this last struggle of his despair. She assured him his life was safe, and offered him pardon upon condition of immediate restoration to her friends; but, suddenly producing a pistol, ‘Now then,’ he said, ‘O! amiable object of my constant love! bless me with your hand, or prepare to see me die at your feet!’ And, with a terrifying oath, he bound himself not to lose her and outlive her loss. She besought him to be more reasonable, with the gentlest prayers; but his vehemence only encreased; she offered him every other promise he could name; but he preferred death to every other she should grant. She then pronounced, though in trembling, a positive refusal. Instantly he lifted up his pistol, and calling out; ‘Forgive, then, O hard-hearted Eugenia, my uncontroulable passion, and shed a tear over the corpse I am going to prostrate at your feet!’ was pointing it to his temple, when, overcome with horror, she caught his arm, exclaiming; ‘Ah! stop! I consent to what you please!’ It was in vain she strove afterwards to retract; one scene followed another, till he had bound her by all she herself held sacred, to rescue him from suicide, by consenting to the union. He found a person who performed the marriage ceremony on the minute of her quitting the chaise. She uttered not one word; she was passive, scared, and scarce alive; but resisted not the eventful ring, with which he encircled her finger, and seemed rousing as from a dream, upon hearing him call her his wife. He professed eternal gratitude, and eternal devotion; but no sooner was all conflict at an end, than, consigning herself wholly to grief, she wept without intermission.
When Mr. Tyrold had heard her history, abhorrence of such barbarous force, and detestation of such foul play upon the ingenuous credulity of her nature, made him insist, yet more strongly, upon taking legal measures for procuring an immediate separation, and subsequent punishment; but the reiterated vows with which, since the ceremony, he had bound her to himself, so forcibly awed the strict conscientiousness of her principles, that no representations could absolve her opinion of what she now held her duty; and while she confessed her unhappiness at a connection formed by such cruel means, she conjured him not to encrease it, by rendering her, in her own estimation, perjured.
‘Patiently, therefore,’ continued Mr. Tyrold, ‘we must bear, what vainly we should combat, and bow down to those calamities of which the purpose is hidden, nor fancy no good is answered, because none is obvious. Man develops but little, though he experiences much. The time will come for his greater diffusion of knowledge; let him meet it without dread, by using worthily his actual portion, I resign myself, therefore, with reverence to this blow; though none yet has struck so hardly at my heart. We must now do what we can for this victim to her own purity, by seeking means to secure her future independence, and by bettering-if possible!-her betrayer. What a daughter, what a sister, what a friend, has her family thus lost! How will your poor Mother receive such killing tidings! Misfortune, sickness, and poverty, she has heroism to endure; but innocence oppressed through its own artlessness, and inexperience duped by villainy, will shake her utmost firmness, and harass into disorder her, as yet, unbroken powers of encountering adversity. Alas!-no evils that visited the early years of this loved child, have proved to her so grievous as the large fortune with which they were followed! We repined, my Camilla, at the deprivation you sustained at that period.–We owe to it, perhaps, that you have not as treacherously been betrayed!
‘How has the opening promise of our Eugenia more than answered our fondest expectations! Her knowledge is still less uncommon than her simplicity, her philosophy for herself than her zeal in the service of others. She is singular with sweetness, peculiar, yet not impracticable; generous without parade, and wise without consciousness. Yet now, so sacrificed seems all,-that I dwell upon her excellencies as if enumerating them over her tomb!’
A letter from Lavinia contained some further particulars. Their Father, she said, finding the poor victim resolute, meant to spare Sir Hugh all that was possible of the detestable craft of Bellamy; and Eugenia was already struggling to recover her natural serenity, that she might appear before him without endangering his own. Bellamy talked of nothing but love and rapture; yet the unsuspicious Eugenia was the only person he deceived; for so little from the heart seemed either his looks or his expressions, that it was palpable he was acting a part, to all who believed it possible words and thoughts could be divided.
A postscript to this letter was added by Eugenia herself
‘Ah, my Camilla! . . . where now are all our sweet promised participations?–But let me not talk of myself; nor do you, my affectionate sister, dwell upon me at this period. One thing I undertook shall yet be performed; the moment I am able to go to Cleves, I will deliver, through Lavinia, what I mentioned. Does anything else remain that is yet in my power? Tell me, my Camilla, and think but with what joy you will give joy again to your
Broken hearted over these letters, Camilla spent her time in their perpetual perusal, in wiping from them her tears, and pressing with fond anguish to her lips the signature of her hapless sister, self-beguiled by her own credulous goodness, and self-devoted by her conscientious scruples.
MR. Clykes, by the promised payment and reward, being for the present appeased, Camilla still admitted some hope of waiting a more favourable moment for her cruel confession. She received, also, a little, though mournful, reprieve from terror, by a letter from Lisbon, written to again postpone the return of Mrs. Tyrold, at the earnest request of Mr. Relvil; and she flattered herself that, before her arrival, she should be enabled to resume those only duties which could draw her from despondence. She lived, meanwhile, wholly shut up from all company, consigned to penitence for her indiscretions, to grief for the fate of her sister, and to wasting regret of her own causelessly lost felicity.
Indiana smiled not more sweetly upon Melmond, for Miss Margland’s advising her to consider in time, whether the promises made by Miss Eugenia Tyrold would be binding to Mrs. Bellamy. She saw, nevertheless, no good, she said, it could do her cousin, that she should neglect such an opportunity of seeing London: and Miss Margland, in aid of this desire, spared so much trouble to Mrs. Berlinton, who soon wearied of Indiana, that she had the satisfaction of being invited to remain in Grosvenor-square till the two young ladies returned into the country.
Mrs. Berlinton, who indulged, in full extent, every feeling, but investigated none, had been piqued and hurt to extreme unhappiness at the late conduct of Bellamy. Attracted by his fine person, and caught by the first flattery which had talked to her of her own, she had easily been captivated by his description of the sympathy which united, and penetrated by his lamentations at the destiny which parted them. His request for her friendship had been the first circumstance, after her marriage, which had given her any interest in life; and soon, with the common effect of such dangerous expedients to while away chagrin, had occupied all her thoughts, and made the rest of the universe seem to her as a blank. But their continued separation from each other, made the day soon too long for mere regret; and her pliant mind, in this state of vacancy, had readily been bent to the new pursuit pressed upon her by Mrs. Norfield; which, however, upon the reappearance of Bellamy, would speedily have given way to the resumption of his influence, had not his elopement with Eugenia left her again all at large. It destroyed an illusion strong though not definable; demolished a friendship ill conceived, and worse understood; and brought with it a disappointment which confused all her ideas. To be inactive was, however, impossible; simplicity, once given up, returned to the dissipated no more; or returns but when experience brings conviction, That all is hollow where the heart bears no part; all is peril where principle is not the guide.
The Faro Table was now re-opened, and again but too powerfully sharpened the faculties which mortification had blunted. A company the most miscellaneous composed her evening assemblies, which were soon, nevertheless, amongst the most fashionable, as well as crowded of the metropolis. Whatever there, is new and splendid, is sure of a run for at least a season. Enquiries into what is right, or strictures upon what is wrong, rarely molest popularity, till the rise of some fresher luminary gives fashion another abode.
Calamity requires not more fortitude than pleasure. What she began but to divert disappointment and lassitude, she continued to attain celebrity; and the company which Faro and Fashion brought together, she soon grew ambitious to collect by motives of more appropriate flattery. All her aim, now, was to be universally alluring; and she looked from object to object, in smiling discourse, till one by one, every object could look only at her: and grace and softness which had been secretly bewitching while she had the dignity to keep admiration aloof, were boldly declared to be invincible, since she permitted such professions to reach her ear.
Long surrounded by gazing admirers, she became now encircled by avowed adorers; and what for victory she had essayed, she pursued ardently for pleasure. Coquetry is as fascinating to those who practise it, as to those whom it seduces; and she found herself, shortly, more happy by a conquest effected by wiles and by art, than by any devotion paid straight forward, and uncourted. The generality of her new ambition protected it from permanent ill consequences; aiming at everyone, she cared for no one; mortified by Bellamy, she resolved to mortify others, and in proportion as her smiles grew softer her heart became harder.
Indiana, at this period, immersed at once from the most private retreat into the gayest vortex of pleasure, thought herself in the upper regions, where happiness, composed by her own ideas, consisted of perpetual admiration to unfading beauty: but though the high qualities with which the devotion of Melmond had gifted her, had enslaved his reason and understanding from suspecting that so fair a form could enclose aught short of its own perfection, his heart was struck, and all his feelings were offended, when he saw her capable of dissipation upon a season of calamity to Eugenia; Eugenia, whom though he could not love, he venerated; Eugenia, whose nature he thought divine, though her person, unhappily, was but too human; Eugenia, to whom he owed the union upon which hung all his wishes . . . to seek pleasure while Eugenia suffered, was astonishing, was incomprehensible. He felt as if every principle of his love were violated; he looked another way, to disguise his shock;-but when he looked at her again, it was forgotten.
Camilla soon after learnt, from Lavinia, that Sir Hugh had been deeply affected by the history of the elopement, though it had been softened to him by all possible means, at the desire of the heroic Eugenia herself; who would now own to no one the force with which she had been carried off. Bellamy continued the most unremitting demonstrations of affection, which she received with gentleness, and appeared entirely to credit as sincere; but he had already absolutely refused a residence offered for them both at Cleves, and made Eugenia herself ask a separate provision of her uncle, though she could not even a moment pretend that the desire was her own. Sir Hugh, nevertheless, had yielded; and notwithstanding his present embarrassments from Clermont, had insisted upon settling a thousand pounds a year upon her immediately; in consequence of which, Bellamy had instantly taken a house at Belfont, to which they were already removing. Eugenia had recovered her gentle fortitude, seemed to submit to her destiny, and repined solely she could not, yet, keep her engagement with respect to the trinkets, which though she had openly told Bellamy were promised to a friend, he had seized to pack up, and said, ‘he could not re-deliver till they were arranged in their new dwelling.’ But she charged Lavinia to express her hopes that the detention would not last long.
When the given three weeks expired, Indiana, infatuated with London, begged and obtained leave to stretch her residence there to a month.
Eugenia was now settled at Belfont; but still Camilla received no intelligence of the promised boon, and spent her lingering hours in her chamber, no longer even invited thence, except at meals, by Mrs. Berlinton; whose extreme and encreasing dissipation, from first allowing no time, took off, next, all desire for social life. Surprised and hurt, Camilla was called off a little from herself, through concern. She sincerely loved Mrs. Berlinton, whom it was difficult to see and know with indifference, and she softly represented to her how ill she felt at ease in the falling off she experienced in her partiality.
Mrs. Berlinton tenderly embraced her, protesting she was dear to her as ever; and feeling, while she spoke, her first affection return; but not a moment had she to bestow from her new mode of life: some party was always formed which she had not force of mind to break; an internal restlessness, from the want of some right pursuit, joined to a disappointment she could not own, made that party induce another; and though none gave her real pleasure, which her strong, however undisciplined and unguided feelings, shut out from such a species of vague life, all gave employment to expectation, and were preferable to a regret at once consuming and mortifying.
Her gentleness, however, and her returned personal kindness, encouraged Camilla to repeat her admonitions, and engage assistance from Melmond; who, at any other period, would, uncalled, have given his whole attention to a sister dear at once to his honour and his heart; but Indiana more than occupied, she engrossed him. She now expected an adoration so unremitting, that if she surprised his eyes turned any other way even a moment, she reproached him with abated love, and it was the business of a day to obtain a reconciliation.
Gratefully, however, at the. instigation of Camilla, he resumed the vigilance with which, upon her first entering London the preceding year, he had attended to all the actions of his sister. But the difference already produced by the effect of flattery, the hardening of example, and the sway of uncontrolled early power, astonished and alarmed him. At her first setting out, she had hearkened to all counsel, frightened by every representation of danger, and humbled by every remonstrance against impropriety. But she now heard him with little or no emotion; and from beginning to listen unmoved, soon proceeded to reply and resist. A search, rather than a love, of pleasure had seized her young mind, which had now gained an ascendant that rendered contest less shocking, than yielding would have been painful.
The tribulation of Melmond at this ill success, rested not solely upon his sister; he saw yet more danger for Indiana, who now seemed scarce to live but while arraying, or displaying herself. His passion had lost its novelty, and her eyes lost their beaming pleasure in listening to it; and the regard he had fondly expected to take place of first ecstacy, he now found unattainable, from want of all materials for its structure. His discourse, when not of her beauty, but strained her faculties; his reading, when compelled to hear it, but wearied her intellects. She had no genius to catch his meaning, and no attention to supply its place.
Deeply he now thought of Eugenia, with that regret ever attached to frail humanity, for what is removed from possible possession. The purity of her love, the cultivation of her mind, and the nobleness of her sentiments, now bore forth a contrast to the general mental and intellectual littleness of Indiana, which made him blame the fastidious eyes, that could dwell upon her face and form; and feel that, even with the matchless Indiana, he must sigh at their mutual perversity of fate.
Nor missed he more in soul, than Indiana in adoration, who turned from what she now resented as coldness, to the violent praises of Macdersey, who became, at this period, a frequenter of Mrs. Berlinton’s assemblies. She understood not the inevitable difference of the altered situation; that he who was accepted might be grateful, but could not be anxious; and that Melmond, while in suspense, wore the same impassioned air, and spoke the same impassioned feelings as Macdersey. To her, all seemed the change not from doubt to security, but from love to insensibility.
To live always at her feet, while he thought her all-divine, was his own first joy and greatest pride: but when once he found his goddess had every mortal imperfection, his homage ceased, with amazement that ever it could have been excited. Those eyes, thought he, which I have gazed at whole days with such unreflecting admiration; and whose shape, colour, size, and sweet proportion still hold their pre-eminence, now, while retaining their first lustre, have lost all their illusory charm! I meet them-but to deplore their vacancy of the soul’s intelligence–I fondly-vainly seek!
Even when again the time arrived for returning to Cleves, Indiana, hanging languidly upon every minute she could steal from it, petitioned for a few days more from the ever-granting Baronet, which, while by her devoted to coquetry, admiration, and dress, were consumed by Camilla in almost every species of wretchedness. Mrs. Mittin wrote her word that Mr. Clykes was become more uneasy than ever for his money, as she had thought it indispensable to acquaint him of the reports. in the neighbourhood, that Mr. Tyrold had met with misfortunes, and was retrenching: if he could not, therefore, be paid quickly, he must put in his claims elsewhere.
The same post brought from Lavinia an account so afflicting of Eugenia, as nearly to annihilate even this deep personal distress. It was known, through Molly Mill, who, by the express insistance of Sir Hugh, continued to live with her young Mistress, that Bellamy had already, at Belfont, cast off the mask of pretended passion, and grossly demanded of her Mistress to beg money for him of Sir Hugh; acknowledging, without scruple, large debts, that demanded speedy payment, and pressing her to ask for the immediate possession of the Yorkshire estate. Her Mistress, though mildly, always steadily refused; which occasioned reproaches so rude and violent as almost to frighten her into fits; and so loud, that they were often heard by every servant in the house.
Camilla, at this dreadful history, grew nearly indifferent to all else, and would have relinquished, almost unrepining, her expectations of personal relief, but that Lavinia, in the name of their unhappy sister, bid her still cherish them; assuring her she hoped yet to perform her engagement, as Mr. Bellamy never disputed her already given promise, though he had mislaid the key of the box in which the trinkets were deposited.
Nor even here rested the misery of Camilla: another alarm stole upon her mind, of a nature the most dreadful.
Upon the first evening of this newly-granted stay, while she was conversing alone with Mrs. Berlinton before the nocturnal toilette of that lady, a servant announced Mr. Bellamy. Mrs. Berlinton blushed high, evidently with as much of anger as surprise; Camilla hastily withdrawing, to avoid an object abhorrent to her, wondered she would admit him: yet, anxious for any intelligence that could relate to her sister, enquired when he was gone, and ran towards the dressing-room to ask what had passed: but before she reached the door, the sound of his voice re-entering the hall, and of his step re-ascending the stairs, made her fly into the adjoining apartment, not to encounter him; where the instant he had shut the door, and before she could move, she heard him exclaim, ‘You weep still, my lovely friend? Ah! can one doubt so injurious remain upon your mind as to suppose any thing but the cruel necessity of my misfortunes could have made me tarnish our celestial friendship with any other engagement? Ah I look at her . . . and look at yourself!’
Camilla, who, at first, had been immoveable from consternation, now recovered sufficiently to get back to her room. But she returned no more to Mrs. Berlinton, though Bellamy soon departed; her eagerness for information subsided in indignant sorrow. That Eugenia, the injured, the inestimable Eugenia, should be spoken of, by the very violator who had torn her from her friends, as a mere burthen attached to the wealth she procured him, struck at her heart as a poniard. And the impropriety to herself, and the wrong to Eugenia, of Mrs. Berlinton, in listening to such a discourse, totally sunk that lady in her esteem-though it determined her, as a duty due to them all around, to represent what she felt upon this subject; and the next day, the instant she was visible, she begged an audience.
Mrs. Berlinton was pensive and dejected, but, as usual, open and unguarded; she began herself to speak of the visit of Bellamy, and to ask why she ran away.
Camilla, without answer or hesitation, related what she had overheard; adding: ‘O, Mrs. Berlinton! can you suffer him to talk thus? Can you think of my injured Eugenia-lately your own favourite friend-and bear to hear him?’
‘How injured, my ever-dear Camilla? Does she know what he says? Can it hurt her unheard? Can it affect her unimagined? He but solaces his sadness by a confidence he holds sacred; ’tis the type of our friendship, now dearer, he says, than ever, since reciprocated by such sympathy.’
‘You affright me, Mrs. Berlinton! what a perversion of reason to talk of sympathy in your situations? Did Eugenia press him to the altar? Did any friends solicit the alliance? Oh, Mrs. Berlinton! think but a moment, and your own feeling mind will paint his conduct in colours I have not the skill to attain!’
‘You are right!’ cried she, blushing in her unwilling conviction: ‘I know not how he could delude me to believe our fates resembled. Certainly nothing can be less similar.’
Camilla was happy in this victory; but the following day, Bellamy, at the same hour was announced, and in the same manner was admitted; Camilla flying, and Mrs. Berlinton protesting she should attack his mistaken comparison with severity.
Severity, however, was a quality with which she was unacquainted; Camilla, anxious in every way, hastened to her when he was gone, but found her dissolved in tender tears, shed, she declared, in regret of the uneasiness she had given him, for he had now made her fully sensible his destiny alone was to blame.
The understanding of Camilla was highly superior to being duped by such flimsy sophistry, which she heard with added detestation of the character of Bellamy; yet perceived that no remonstrance could prevent his admittance, and that every interview regularly destroyed the effect of every exhortation.
In this melancholy period, the sole satisfaction she received was through a letter written by Lionel from Ostend, in which he told her that the dread of imprisonment, or want, in a foreign country, made him lead a life so parsimonious, so totally deprived of all pleasure and all comfort, that he was almost consumed with regret for the wilfulness with which he had thrown away his innumerable advantages; and so much struck with the retrospection of the wanton follies and vices which had involved him in such dishonour and ruin, that he began now to think he had rather been mad than wicked;-so unmeaning, unreflecting, and unprovoked, as well as worthless, had been the course he had pursued.
Camilla sent this letter immediately to her Father, who remitted to Lionel such a sum as must obviate distress, with such intimation for the future as he hoped would best encourage more solid reformation.
Thus passed the time, improperly, or unhappily to all, till the third period fixed for the return to the country elapsed: and Camilla, finding the whole view of her journey abortive, saw the accumulated yet useless suffering involved through her ill-judged procrastination. Yet, as Eugenia still did not despair, even her confession was unwritten; and as Miss Margland and Indiana granted her request of going round by Belfont, which she had previously arranged from an ardent desire to embrace her loved sister, she still dwelt on a last hope from that interview.
WITH mingled disquietude and distaste, Melmond saw the reluctance of Indiana to quit town, and that he was less than a cypher with her upon the last evening’s assembly, where, without deigning to bestow one look upon him, she chatted, smiled, and fluttered with every one else; undisguisedly betraying that whom she should soon have alone, and have always, should not rob of even one precious moment this last splendid blaze of general admiration. He sighed; and in common with the hapless perverseness of mortals, thought he had thrown away, in Eugenia, a gem richer than all her tribe! [Shakespeare]
Camilla, whose heart, however dead to joy, was invariably open to tenderness, was melted with fond emotions in the idea of again meeting her beloved Eugenia, and ready for her journey nearly with the light.
Soon after she was dressed, a housemaid rapping at her door, said, ‘Pray, Ma’am, is Miss Lynmere with you?’
Presently Miss Margland came herself.
‘Pray, Miss Camilla, do you know any thing of Miss Lynmere? It’s the oddest thing in the world where she can be!’
Camilla, now, went forth to aid the search; Melmond, who was waiting to hand her into the carriage, looked amazed at the enquiry. It soon, however, was clear, that she was no where in the house; and, after sundry examinations and researches, one of the maids was brought to confess having aided her, in the middle of the night, to go into the street, where she was handed into a post chaise by Mr. Macdersey.
Melmond appeared thunder struck. An action so unexpected at the period of a solemn engagement which waited but the journey to Cleves for being compleated, seemed to him, at first, incredible. But, when Miss Margland exclaimed ‘O pursue her; Mr. Melmond! order your horse, and gallop to Scotland immediately!’ he gravely, and rather drily answered: ‘By no means, Ma’am! The man who has the honour of her preference, is the only one who can have any hope to make her happy. I have no ambition for a hand that has been voluntarily held out to another.’
He then returned, quietly, to his own lodgings; far more indignant than hurt at this abrupt conclusion of a connexion which, though it had opened to him as a promise of Elysium, was closing with every menace of mutual discontent.
Camilla was truly concerned; and not merely for the future risk run by her Cousin, in this rash flight, but for the new disappointment to her Uncle. She was obliged, however, to bestow her whole attention upon Miss Margland, whose tribulation was yet greater, and who, in losing thus her pupil, lost the expected reward of near thirteen years of unwilling attendance. She had, by no means, indeed, merited this treachery from Indiana, whom though incapable to instruct in much good, she had sedulously guarded from all evil.
To return to Sir Hugh without her charge, without indeed either of the young ladies who were put under her care, she had not courage. Nor could Camilla so little feel for her distress as to request it. An express, therefore, was ordered to Cleves, for informing him of these ill tidings, with a very elaborate panegyric from Miss Margland of her own conduct; and a desire to know if she should remain in town till something transpired concerning Indiana.
The express was but just gone, when a packet, which ought to have arrived two days before, by the stage, was delivered to Camilla. Its intention was merely to convey more speedily a letter from Lavinia, containing the terrible information that Mr. Clykes had just been at Etherington himself, to deliver in his accounts, and press immediate payment! Their Father, Lavinia said, conceived the whole some imposition, till the man produced the paper signed by his daughter. She had then been called in, and obliged to confess her knowledge of the transaction. She would avoid, she said, particulars that could be only uselessly afflicting; but the interview had ended in their Father’s agreeing to pay, when it should be possible, the sums actually delivered to the creditors, and for which Mr. Clykes could produce their own receipts; but refusing, positively and absolutely, any gratuity whatsoever, from detestation of so dangerous and seductive a species of trade, as clandestine and illegal money-lending to minors: The man, much provoked, said a friend of his had been used far more handsomely by Sir Hugh Tyrold; but finding his remonstrances vain, acknowledged the law against him for the interest; but threatened to send in an account for his own trouble, in collecting and paying the bills, that he would dispute, for validity, in any court of justice to which he could be summoned: and, in leaving the house, he menaced an immediate writ, if all he could legally claim were not paid the next day; unless a new bond were properly signed, with a promise to abide by that already drawn up. Their Father, she was forced to confess, had now lent his every guinea, for the debts of Clermont, to Sir Hugh; and was at this, instant, deliberating to whom he should apply; but desired, meanwhile, an exact statement of the debts which this man had in commission to discharge. The letter concluded with Lavinia’s unfeigned grief in the task of writing it.
Camilla read it with a distraction that made it wholly unintelligible to her; yet could not read it a second time; her eyes became dim, her faculties confused, and she rather felt deprived of the power of thinking, than filled with any new and dreadful subjects for rumination.
In this state, the letter on the floor, her eyes staring around, yet looking vacant, and searching nothing she was called to Lord O’Lerney, who begged the honour of a conference with her upon business.
She shook her head, in token of denial, but could not speak. The servant looked amazed; yet brought her a second message, that his Lordship was extremely sorry to torment her, but wished to communicate something concerning Mr. Macdersey.
She then faintly articulated, ‘I can see nobody.’
Still the same dreadful vacuity superseded her sensibility, till, soon after, she received a note from Lady Isabella Irby, desiring to be admitted to a short conversation with her upon the part of Lord O’Lerney.
With the name of Lady Isabella Irby recurred the remembrance that she was a favourite of Edgar-and bursting into tears, she consented to the interview; which took place immediately.
The terrible state in which she appeared was naturally, though not justly, attributed by her ladyship to the elopement of her Cousin: while Camilla, called by her sight to softer regrets, beheld again, in mental view, the loved and gentle image of Edgar.
Lady Isabella apologised politely, but briefly, for her intrusion, saying: ‘My Lord O’Lerney, whose judgment is never in any danger, but where warped by his wish of giving pleasure, insists upon it that you will be less incommoded by a quick forced admission of me than of himself. Nobody else will think so: but it is not easy to refuse him: so here I am. The motive of this intrusion you can but too readily divine. Lord O’Lerney is truly concerned at this rash action in his kinsman, which he learnt by an accidental call at his lodgings, where various circumstances had just made it known. He could not rest without desiring to see some part of the young lady’s family, and making an offer of his own best services with respect to some arrangement for her future establishment. It is for this purpose, you have been so importunately hurried; Lord O’Lerney wishing to make the first news that is sent to Sir Hugh Tyrold less alarming, by stating, at once, what he can communicate concerning Mr. Macdersey.’
Camilla, who only now recollected that Mr. Macdersey was related to Lord O’Lerney, was softened into some attention, and much gratitude for his goodness, and for her Ladyship’s benevolence in being its messenger.
‘Will you, then,’ said Lady Isabella, ‘now you understand the purport of his visit, see Lord O’Lerney himself? He can give you much better and clearer documents than I can; and it is always the best and shortest mode to deal with principals.’
Camilla mechanically complied, and Lady Isabella sent her footman with a note to his Lordship, who was waiting at her house in Park-lane.
The discourse still fell wholly upon Lady Isabella; Camilla, lost alternately in misery and absence, spoke not, heard not; yet former scenes, though not present circumstances, were brought to her mind by the object before her,-and almost with reverence, she looked at the favourite of Edgar, in whose sweetness of countenance, good sense, delicacy, and propriety, she conceived herself reading every moment the causes of his approbation. Ah, why, thought she, while unable to reply, or to listen to what was said, why knew I not this charming woman, while yet he took an interest in my conduct and connexions! Perhaps her gentle wisdom might have drawn me into its own path! how would he have delighted to have seen me under such influence! how now, even now, lost to him as I am!-would he generously rejoice, could he view the condescending partiality of looks and manner that seem to denote her disposition to kindness!
Lord O’Lerney soon joined them; and after thanking Camilla for granting, and his Ambassadress for obtaining him an audience, said; ‘I have been eager for the honour of a conference with Miss Tyrold, in the hope of somewhat alleviating the fears for the future, that may naturally join with displeasure for the present, from the very unadvised step of this morning. But, however wrong the manner in which this marriage may be effected, the alliance in itself will not, I hope, be so disadvantageous, as matches of this expeditious character prove in general. The actual possessions of Macdersey are, indeed, far beneath what Miss Lynmere, with her uncommon claims, might demand; but his expectations are considerable, and well founded; and his family will all come forward to meet her, with every mark of respect, for which, as its head, I shall lead the way. He is honest, honourable, and good natured; not particularly endowed, with judgment or discretion, but by no means wanting in parts, though they are rather wild and eccentric.’
His Lordship then gave a full and satisfactory detail of the present state, and future hopes of his kinsman; and added, that it should be his own immediate care to endeavour to secure for the fair bride a fixed settlement, from the rich old cousin who had long promised to make Macdersey his heir. He told Camilla to write this, without delay, to the young lady’s Uncle, with full leave to use his name and authority.
‘At all times,’ he continued, ‘it is necessary to be quick, and as explicit as possible, in representing what can conciliate an adventure of this sort, of which the clandestine measure implies on one side, if not on both, something wrong; but most especially it is necessary to use speed where the flight is made with an Hibernian; for with the English in general, it is nearly enough that a man should be born in Ireland, to decide him for a fortune-hunter. If you lived, however, in that country, you would see the matter pretty equally arranged; and that there are not more of our pennyless beaux who return laden with the commodity of rich wives, than of those better circumstanced who bring home wives with more estimable dowries.’
He then added, that it was from Miss Lynmere herself he had learnt the residence of Camilla in Grosvenor Square; for, having made some acquaintance with her at one of Mrs. Berlinton’s evening parties, he had heard she was a niece of Sir Hugh Tyrold, and immediately enquired after her fair kinswoman, whom he had seen at Tunbridge.
Camilla thanked him for remembering her; and Lady Isabella, with a countenance that implied approbation in the remark, said, ‘I have never once heard of Miss Tyrold at the assemblies of this house.’
She quietly replied she had never been present at them; but a look of sensibility with which her eyes dropt, spoke more than she intended, of concern at their existence, or at least frequency.
‘Your lovely young Hostess,’ said Lord O’Lerney, ‘has entered the world at too early an hour to be aware of the surfeit she is preparing herself, by this unremitting luxury of pleasure; but I know so well her innocence and good qualities, that I doubt not but the error will bring its own cure, and she will gladly return to the literary and elegant intercourse, which she has just now given up for one so much more tumultuous.’
‘I am glad you still think so, my Lord;’ said Lady Isabella, also looking down; ‘she is a very sweet creature, and the little I have seen of her, made me, while in her sight, warmly her well-wisher. Nevertheless I should rather see any young person, for whom I was much interested,-unless endowed with the very remarkable forbearance of Miss Tyrold,-under her influence after the period your Lordship expects to return, than during its interregnum!’
Camilla disavowed all claim to such praise, blushing both for her friend and herself at what was said. Lord O’Lerney, looking concerned, paused, and then answered, ‘You know my partiality for Mrs. Berlinton: yet I always see with fresh respect the courage with which my dear Lady Isabella casts aside her native reserve and timidity, where she thinks a hint-an intimation-may do good, or avert dangers!
His eye was then fixed upon Camilla, who surprized, turned hastily to Lady Isabella, and saw a tender compassion in her countenance, that confirmed the interpretation of Lord O’Lerney; joined with a modest confusion that seemed afraid, or ashamed, of what had escaped her.
Grateful for herself, but extremely grieved for the idea that seemed to have gone forth of Mrs. Berlinton, she felt a tear start into her eye. She chaced it, with as little emotion as she could shew; and Lord O’Lerney, with an air of gayer kindness, said; ‘As we must now, Miss Tyrold, account ourselves to be somewhat allied, you permit me, I hope, to recommend my gallant Cousin to your protection with Sir Hugh? That he has his share of the wildness, the blunders, the eccentricities, and the rhodomontade, which form, with you English, our stationary national character, must not be denied; but he has also, what may equally, I hope, be given us in the lump, generosity, spirit, and good intentions. With all this. . . . ’
He was here interrupted; the door being suddenly burst open by Mrs. Mittin, who entered, exclaiming, ‘Lord, Miss, what a sad thing this is! I declare it’s put me quite into a quiver! And all Winchester’s quite in an uproar, as one may say. You never see how every body’s in a turmoil!’
Here ended the little interval of horrour in Camilla. Mrs. Mittin and Mr. Clykes seemed to her as one; yet that, already, her Cousin’s elopement should have spread so near home, seemed impossible. ‘When,’ she cried, ‘were you in Winchester? And how came this affair known to you?’
‘Known? why, my dear Miss, it was there it all happened. I come through it with Mr. Dennel, who was so obliging as to bring me to town, for a little business I’ve got to do; and next week he’ll take me back again; for as to poor little Mrs. Lissin, she’ll be quite lost without me. She don’t know her right hand from her left, as one may say. But how should she, poor child? Why she is but a baby. What’s fifteen? And she’s no more.’
‘We’ll talk of that,’ said Camilla, colouring at her loquacious familiarity, ‘some other time.’ And attempted to beg Lord O’Lerney would finish what he was saying. But Mrs. Mittin, somewhat affronted, cried; ‘Lord, only think of your sitting here, talking, and making yourself so comfortable, just as if nothing was the matter! when every body else is in such a taking as never was the like! I must say, as to that, a gentleman more liked, and in more respect never was, I believe; and I can’t say but what I’m very sorry myself for what Mr. Clykes has done; however, I told you, you know, you’d best not provoke him; for though there can’t be a better sort of man, he’ll leave no stone unturned to get his money.’
‘For Heaven’s sake,’ cried Camilla, startled, ‘what. . . . .
‘What? . . . Why, Lord, Miss! don’t you know your Papa’s took up? He’s put in Winchester Prison, for that debt, you know.’
The breath of Camilla instantly stopt, and senseless, lifeless, she sunk upon the floor.
Lord O’Lerney quitted the room in great concern, to call some female assistants; but Lady Isabella remained, contributing with equal tenderness and judgment to her aid, though much personally affected by the incident.
Her recovery was quick, but it was only to despair; to screams rather than lamentations, to cries rather than tears. Her reason felt the shock as forcibly as her heart; the one seemed tottering on its seat, the other bursting its abode. Words of alarming incoherency proclaimed the danger menacing her intellects, while agonies nearly convulsive distorted her features, and writhed her form.
Unaffectedly shocked, yet not venturing, upon so slight an acquaintance, to interfere, Lady Isabella uttered gently but impressively her good wishes and concern, and glided away.
The nearly distracted Camilla saw not that she went; and knew no longer that she had been in the room. She held her forehead one moment; called for death the next; and the next wildly deprecated eternal punishment. But as the horrour nearly intolerable of this first abrupt blow gave way, the desire of flying instantly to her Father was the symptom of restored recollection.
Hastening then to Miss Margland, she conjured her, by all that was most affecting, to set off immediately for Winchester. But Miss Margland, though she spared not the most severe attacks upon the already self-condemned and nearly demolished Camilla, always found something relative to herself that was more pressing than what could regard any other, and declared she could not stir from town till she received an answer from Sir Hugh.
Camilla besought at least to have the carriage; but of this she asserted herself at present the indisputable mistress, and as the express might come back in a few hours, with directions that she should set off immediately, she would not listen to parting with it. Camilla, frantic to be gone, flew then down stairs, and called to the porter in the hall, that some one should instantly seek her a chaise, coach, or any conveyance whatever, that could carry her to Winchester.
She perceived not that Lady Isabella, waiting for her footman, who had, accidentally, gone on further, upon some message, now opened the door of the parlour, where Lord O’Lerney was conversing with her upon what had happened; she was flying back, though not knowing whither nor which way she turned, when Lord O’Lerney, gently stopping her, asked, why she would not, on such an emergence, apply for the carriage of Mrs. Berlinton? Lady Isabella seconded the motion, by a soft, but just hint, of the danger of her taking such a journey, in a hired carriage, entirely unprotected.
She had scarce consideration enough left to either thank or understand them, yet mechanically followed their counsel, and went to Mrs. Berlinton; Lord O’Lerney, deeply touched by her distress, sending in a servant at the same time with his name, and following: while Lady Isabella, too much interested to go till something was decided, quietly shut herself into the parlour, there to wait his Lordship’s information.
The request for the carriage was, indeed, rather made by him than by Camilla, who, when she entered the room, and would have spoken, found herself deprived of the power of utterance, and looked a picture of speechless dismay.
The tender feelings of Mrs. Berlinton were all immediately awakened by this sight, and she eagerly answered Lord O’Lerney, that both her carriage and herself should be devoted to her distressed friend: yet, the first emotion over, she recollected an engagement she could not break, though one she hesitated to mention, and at last only alluded to unexplained, though making known it was insurmountable; while the colour, of which her late hours had robbed her lovely cheeks, returned to them as she stammered her retractation.
The next day, however, she was beginning to promise,-but Camilla, to whom the next minute seemed endless, flew down again to the hall, to supplicate the first footman she could meet, to run and order any sort of carriage he could find; with but barely sufficient recollection to refrain running out with that view herself.
Lady Isabella, again coming forth, entreated to know if there were any commission, any possible service she could herself perform. Camilla thanked her, without knowing what she said; and Lord O’Lerney, who was descending the stairs, repeated similar offers. But wild with affright, or shuddering with horrour, she passed without hearing or observing him.
To see a young creature in a state so deplorable, and to consider her as travelling without any friend or support, in so shaken a condition, to visit an imprisoned Father, touched these benign observers with the sincerest commiseration; and the connexion of a part of his family forming at this moment with a branch of her own, induced Lord O’Lerney to believe he was almost bound to take care of her himself. ‘And yet,’ said he to Lady Isabella, ‘though I am old enough to be her grandfather, the world, should I travel with her, might impute my assistance to a species of admiration which I hope to experience no more-as witness my trusting myself so much with Lady Isabella Irby!’
Lady Isabella, from the quick coincidence of similar feelings, instantly conceived his wishes, and paused to weigh their possibility. A short consideration was sufficient for this purpose. It brought to her memory her various engagements; but it represented at the same time to her benevolence that they would be all, by the performance of one good action,
More honour’d in the breach than the observance:
She sent, therefore, a message after Camilla, entreating a short conference.
Camilla, who was trying to comprehend some further account from Mrs. Mittin, silently, but hastily obeyed the call; and her look of wild anguish would have fixed the benign intention of Lady Isabella, had it been wavering. In a simple phrase, but with a manner the most delicate, her Ladyship then offered to conduct her to Winchester. A service so unexpected, a goodness so consoling, instantly brought Camilla to the use of her frightened away faculties, but with sensations of gratitude so forcible, that Lord O’Lerney with difficulty saved her from falling at the feet of his amiable friend, and with yet more difficulty restrained his own knees from doing her that homage. And still the more strongly he felt this active exertion, from the disappointment he had just endured through the failure of his favourite Mrs. Berlinton.
No time was to be lost; Lady Isabella determined to do well what she once undertook to do at all; she went to Park-lane, to make known her excursion, and arrange some affairs, and then instantly returned, in her own post-chaise, and four horses, for Camilla; who was driven from the metropolis.
LADY Isabella, for the first two or three miles, left Camilla uninterruptedly to her own thoughts; she then endeavoured to engage her in some discourse, but was soon forced to desist. Her misery exceeded all measure of restraint, all power of effort. Her Father in prison! and for her own debts! The picture was too horrible for her view, yet too adhesive to all her thoughts, all her feelings, all her faculties, to be removed from them a moment. Penetrated by what she owed to Lady Isabella, she frequently took her hand, pressed it between her own, pressed it to her lips; but could shew her no other gratitude, and force herself to no other exertion.
It was still early, they travelled post, and with four horses, and arrived at Winchester before eight o’clock.
Shaking, she entered the town, half fainting, half dead. Lady Isabella would have driven straight on to Etherington, which was but a stage further; but to enter the rectory, whence the Rector himself was torn– ‘No!’ cried she, ‘no! there where abides my Father, there alone will I abide! No roof shall cover my head, but that which covers his! I have no wish but to sink at his feet-to crawl in the dust-to confine myself to the hardest labour for the remnant of my miserable existence, so it might expiate but this guilty outrage!’
Lady Isabella took not any advantage of the anguish that was thus bursting forth with secret history; she was too delicate and too good to seize such a moment for surprising confidence, and only enquired if she had any friend in the town, who could direct her whither to go, and accompany as well as direct.
She knew no one with sufficient intimacy to endure presenting herself to them upon such an occasion; and preferred proceeding alone to the sad and cruel interview. Lady Isabella ordered the chaise to an hotel, where she was shewn into a room upstairs, whence she sent one of her own servants to enquire out where debtors were confined, and if Mr. Tyrold were in custody: charging him not to name, from whom or why he came, and begging Camilla to get ready a note to prepare her Father for the meeting, and prevent any affecting surprise. She then went to chuse herself a chamber, determined not to quit her voluntary charge, till she saw her in the hands of her own friends.
Camilla could not write: to kneel, to weep, to sue, was all she could bear to plan; to present to him the sight of her hand writing she had not courage.
Presently she heard a chaise drive rapidly through the inn gate: it might be him, perhaps released; she flew down the stairs with that wild hope; but no sooner had descended them, than a dread of his view took its place, and she ran back: she stopt, however, in the landing place, to hear who entered.
Suddenly a voice struck her ear that made her start; that vibrated quick to her heart, and there seemed to arrest the springs of life; she thought it the voice of her Mother–
It ceased to speak; and she dropt on one knee, inwardly, but fervently praying her senses might deceive her.
Again, however, and more distinctly, it reached her; doubt then ceased, and terrour next to horrour took its place. What was said she knew not, her trepidation was too great to take in more than the sound.
Prostrate she fell on the floor; but hearing a waiter say, ‘Up stairs, madam, you may have a room to yourself.’ She started, rose, and rushing violently back to the apartment she had quitted, bolted herself in; exclaiming, ‘I am not worthy to see you, my Mother! I have cast my Father into prison-and I know you will abhor me!’
She then sat down against the door, to listen if she were pursued; she heard a footstep, a female step; she concluded it that of her Mother; ‘She can come,’ cried she, ‘but to give me her malediction!’ And flew frantic about the room, looking for any means of escape, yet perceiving only the window, whence she must be dashed to destruction.
She now heard a hand upon the lock of the door. ‘O that I could die! that I could die!’ she cried, madly advancing to the window, and throwing up the sash, yet with quick instinctive repentance pulling it down, shuddering and exclaiming: ‘Is there no death for me but murder-no murder but suicide?’
A voice now found its way through her cries to her ear, that said, ‘It is me, my dear Miss Tyrold; will you not admit me?’
It was Lady Isabella; but her Mother might be with her: she could not, however, refuse to open the door, though desperately she said to herself: If she is there, I will pass her, and rush into the streets!
Seeing, however, Lady Isabella alone, she dropt on her knees, ejaculating ‘Thank Heaven! thank Heaven! one moment yet I am spared!’
‘What is it, my dear Miss Tyrold,’ said Lady Isabella, ‘that causes you this sudden agony? what can it be that thus dreadfully disorders you?’
‘Is she with you?’ cried she, in a voice scarce audible, ‘does she follow me? does she demand my Father?’
‘Rise, dear madam, and compose yourself. If you mean a Lady whom this minute I have passed, and whose countenance so much resembles yours, that I thought her at once some near relation, she is just gone from this house.’
‘Thank Heaven! thank Heaven!’ again ejaculated the prostrate Camilla; ‘My Mother is spared a little longer the dreadful sight of all she must now most abominate upon earth!’
She then begged Lady Isabella instantly to order the chaise, and return to town.
‘On the contrary,’ answered her Ladyship, extremely surprised at so wild a request, ‘Let me rather, myself, carry you to your family.’
‘O no, Lady Isabella, no!’ cried Camilla, speaking with frightful rapidity, and shaking in every limb, ‘all now is changed. I came to wait upon my Father-to humble myself at his feet-not to obtrude myself upon my Mother!–O Lady Isabella!-l shall have broken her heart-and I dare not offend her with my sight!’
Lady Isabella, with the most judicious gentleness, endeavoured to render her more reasonable.
‘I pretend not,’ she said, ‘to decide upon your situation, though I comprehend its general affliction: yet still, and at all events, its termination must be a meeting. Suffer me, therefore, rather to hasten than retard so right a measure. Allow of my mediation, and give me the infinite pleasure of leaving you in the hands of your friends.’
Camilla, though scarcely able to articulate her words, declared again the motive to her journey was at an end; that her Father had now one to watch, soothe, and attend him, who had none of her dreadful drawbacks to consoling powers; and that she would remain at Mrs. Berlinton’s till summoned home by their immediate commands.
Lady Isabella began pleading their own rights to decide if or not the meeting should be deferred: but wildly interrupting her, ‘You know not,’ she cried, ‘what it is you ask. I have not nerves, I have not hardiness to force myself into such a presence. An injured Father . . . an offended Mother . . . O Lady Isabella! if you knew how I adore-and how I have ruined them! . . . ’
‘Let me go to them from you, myself; let me represent your situation. They are now probably together. That Lady whom I saw but from the stairs, though her countenance so much struck me, and whom I now conclude to be Mrs. Tyrold, said, as she passed, ‘I shall walk; I only want a guide;’–
‘They had not, then, even met!’ cried Camilla, starting up with fresh horrour; ‘she is but just arrived-has but just been at Etherington-and there heard-that her husband was in prison-and in prison for the debts of her daughter! her guilty-perhaps reprobated daughter!’–
Again, wringing her hands, half distracted, ‘O, that the earth,’ she cried, ‘had received me, ere I quitted the parental roof! Innocent I had then died, beloved, regretted,-no shame would have embittered my Father’s sorrow-no wrath my Mother’s -no culpable misconduct would have blighted with disgrace their so long-long wished-for meeting!’
The compassionating, yet judicious Lady Isabella, willing to shorten the sufferings she pitied, made yet another effort to prevent this unadvised return, by proposing they should both sleep this night at Winchester, that Camilla might gather some particulars of her family, and some composure for herself, to better judge what step to pursue. But all desire of meeting was now converted into horrour; she was too much known in the neighbourhood to escape being recognized if she stayed till the morning, and her shattered intellects, she declared, could not bear passing a whole night in expectation of a discovery through some accident. ‘Have I not already,’ cried she, ‘heard her voice and fled its sound? judge then, Lady Isabella, if I can present myself before her! No, I must write, first. I have a long and dreadful history to relate-and then, when she has heard it-and when the rectory has again its reverend master-and when they find some little palliation, where now they can see only guilt-and when all is committed without disguise to their goodness-their mercy-they may say to me perhaps themselves: Unhappy Camilla! thou hast paid thy just penalty; come home, then, to thy parents’ roof, thou penitent child!’
Lady Isabella knew too little of the characters with which she had to deal, to judge if it would be right to insist any further: she ordered, therefore, fresh horses to her chaise, and as soon as her footman came back, who brought the now useless direction where Mr. Tyrold was to be found, they galloped out of Winchester.
At Alton they stopt to sleep; and, her immediate terrour removed, she became more sensible of what she owed to Lady Isabella, to whom, in the course of the evening, she recounted frankly the whole history of her debts, except what related to Lionel.
‘Your Ladyship hears me,’ said she, in conclusion, ‘with the patience of benevolence, though I fear, with the censure of all judgment. What evils have accrued from want of consideration and foresight! My errours have all been doubled by concealment-every mischief has been augmented by delay. O, Lady Isabella! how sad an example shall I add to your powers of benign instruction!–From day to day, from hour to hour, I planned expedients, where I ought to have made confessions! To avoid one dreadful-but direct evil, what I have suffered has been nearly intolerable-what I have inflicted, unpardonable!’
Lady Isabella, much touched by her openness and confidence, repaid them by all that compassion could suggest, or that a sincere disposition towards esteem could anticipate of kindness. She gathered the amount of the sum for which Mr. Tyrold was confined, and besought Camilla to let it less weigh upon her spirits, as she could herself undertake that Lord O’Lerney would accommodate him with it immediately, and wait his perfect leisure for re-payment. ‘I have known him,’ said she, ‘from a child, and have always seen, with respect and admiration, the prompt pleasure with which he rather seizes than accepts every opportunity to do good.’
Camilla returned the most grateful thanks; but acknowledged she had no apprehension but that the writ would immediately be withdrawn, as the county was almost filled with friends to her Father, who would come forward upon such an occasion. ‘What rests thus upon my mind,’ said she, ‘and what upon his-and upon my Mother’s will rest-is the disgrace-and the cause! the one so public, the other so clandestine! And besides, though this debt will be easily discharged, its payment by a loan is but incurring another: and how that is to be paid, I know not indeed. Alas! Lady Isabella!-the Father I have thus dreadfully involved, has hitherto, throughout his exemplary life, held it a sacred duty to adapt his expences to his income!’
Again Lady Isabella gave what consolation she could bestow; and in return for her trust, said she would speak to her with sincerity upon a point of much delicacy. It was of her friend, Mrs. Berlinton; ‘who now,’ said she, ‘you are not, perhaps, aware, is become a general topic of discourse. To the platonics, with which she set out in life, she has, of late, joined coquetry; nor even there stops the ardour with which she seeks to animate her existence; to two characters, hitherto thought the most contradictory, the sentimental and the flirting, she unites yet a third, till now believed incompatible with the pleasures and pursuits of either; this, I need not tell you, is that of a gamestress. And when to three such attributes is added an open aversion to her husband, a professed, an even boasted hatred of his person, his name, his very being-what hope can be entertained, be her heart, her intentions what they may, that the various dangers she sets at defiance, will not ultimately take their revenge, and surprise her in their trammels?’
Edgar himself seemed, to Camilla, to be speaking in this representation; and that idea made it catch her attention, in the midst of her utmost misery. She urged, however, all she knew, and could suggest, in favour of Mrs. Berlinton; and Lady Isabella expressed much concern in occasioning her any painful sensations. ‘But who,’ said she, ‘can see you thus nearly, and not be interested in your happiness? And I have known, alas!-though I am still under thirty, instances innumerable of self-deluded young women, who trusting to their own pure intentions, have neither feared nor heeded the dangers which encircled them, till imperceptibly, from the insidious influence of levity, they have pursued the very course they began with disclaiming, and followed the very steps from which at first they unaffectedly recoiled.’
Instructed and grateful, though incapable of being tranquillised, Camilla the next day reached Grosvenor Square long before her fair friend had left her downy pillow. Lady Isabella exacted a promise to be informed of her proceedings, and, loaded with merited acknowledgments, returned to her own mansion.
Camilla took possession of the first room in which she found a pen and ink, and wrote instantly to Lavinia a short, rapid, and incoherent letter, upon the distraction of her mind at the dreadful calamity she had occasioned her Father, and the accumulated horrours to which her Mother had returned. She durst not present herself before them uncalled, not even by letter; but she would live in the strictest retirement and penance till they ordered her home, for which epoch, not more longed than dreaded, she besought her sister’s mediation.
This sent off, she forced herself to wait upon Miss Margland, who had received an answer from Cleves to continue in town till Indiana wrote or re-appeared. She was put immediately into uncommon good-humour, by the ill success at the journey of Camilla, which she protested was exactly what she expected.
Camilla then strove to recollect all she had been told by Lord O’Lerney of Mr. Macdersey, and to relate it to Miss Margland, who, pleased and surprised, undertook to write it to Sir Hugh.
To three days of dreadful suspense she now saw herself inevitably condemned, in waiting an answer from Lavinia: but as her eyes were opened to remark, by the admonitions of Lady Isabella, and her attention was called back to the earlier cautions of Edgar, her time, though spent with misery, hung not upon her unoccupied. She thought herself called upon by every tie of friendship, faithfully and courageously to represent to Mrs. Berlinton her impropriety of conduct with regard to Bellamy, and the reports that were spread abroad to her more general disadvantage.
Her reception from that Lady, she had thought, for the first time, cold. She had welcomed her, indeed, with an accustomed embrace, but her kindness seemed strained, her smile was faint, and the eyes which so softly used to second it, were averted.
As soon as they were alone together, Camilla took her hand; but, without returning its pressure, Mrs. Berlinton presented her with a new poem for her evening’s amusement.
Camilla put it down, but while hesitating how to begin, Bellamy was announced. She started, and flew away, but returned when he was gone, and begged a conference.
Mrs. Berlinton answered certainly; though she looked embarrassed, and added not immediately, as she was obliged to dress for the evening.
Camilla entreated she might speak with her before dinner the next day.
To this she received a gentle assent: but no interview at the time appointed took place; and when at dinner they met, no notice was taken of the neglect.
She now saw she was pointedly avoided. Her courage, however, was called upon, her gratitude was indebted for past kindnesses, and her honour felt a double engagement. The opportunity therefore she could not obtain by request, she resolved to seize by surprise.
Bellamy was again, however, announced; but the moment that, from her own chamber, she heard him descend the stairs, she flew to the dressing-room, and abruptly entered it.
The surprise she gave was not greater than that she received. Mrs. Berlinton, her fine eyes streaming with tears, and her white hands uplifted with an air of supplication, was evidently in an act of devotion. Camilla drew back, and would have retired, but she hastily dried her eyes, and said: ‘Miss Tyrold? Do you want me? where’s Miss–Miss Margland?’
‘Ah! my dearest Mrs. Berlinton! my friend, as I had hoped, and by me, surely I trust loved for ever,’ cried Camilla, throwing her arms round her neck, ‘why this sorrow? why this distance? why this unkind avoidance?’
Mrs. Berlinton, who, at first, had shrunk from her embrace, now fell, in trembling agitation, upon her breast. Camilla hoped this was the instant to improve; when she appeared to be, herself, calling religion to her aid, and when the tenderness of her appeal seemed to bring back a movement of her first partiality. ‘Suffer, suffer me,’ she therefore cried, ‘to speak to you now! hear me, my dear and amiable friend, with the sweetness that first won my affection!’
Mrs. Berlinton, affrighted, drew back, acknowledging herself unhappy; but shrinking from all discourse, and starting when Camilla named Bellamy, with a confusion she vainly strove to repress.
Unhackneyed in the world as was Camilla, her understanding and sense of right stood here in the place of experience, to point out the danger and impropriety surrounding her friend; and catching her by the gown, as she would have quitted the room, ‘Mrs. Berlinton,’ she emphatically cried, ‘if you persist in this unhappy, this perilous intercourse, you risk your reputation, you risk my sister’s peace, you risk even your own future condemnation!–O forgive me, forgive me! I see how I have affected you-but you would listen to no milder words!’
Mrs. Berlinton had sunk upon a chair, her hands clasped upon for forehead, and tears running rapidly down her cheeks. Brought up with religious terrours, yet ill instructed in religious principles, the dread of future punishment nearly demolished her, though no regular creed of right kept her consistently or systematically in any uniform exercise of good. But thus forcibly surprised into sudden conscientious recollections, she betrayed, rather than opened her heart, and acknowledged that she was weeping at a denial she had given to Bellamy; who, molested by the impossibility of ever conversing with her undisturbed, had entreated her to grant him, from time to time, a few hours society, in a peaceful retirement. ‘Nor should I-nor could I–’ she cried’ ‘refuse him-for I have every reliance in his honour-but that the guilty world, ignorant of the purity of our friendship, might causelessly alarm my brother for my fame. And this, and the fear of any-though so groundless-uneasiness to your sister, makes me resist his powerful eloquence, and even my own notions of what is due to our exalted league of friendship.’
Camilla listened with horrour to this avowal, yet saw, with compassion, that her friend endeavoured to persuade herself she was free from wrong; though with censure that she sought to gloss over, rather than investigate, every doubt to the contrary: but while fear was predominant for the event of such a situation to herself, abhorrence filled her whole mind against Bellamy, in every part, every plan, and every probability of the business.
‘O Mrs. Berlinton!’ she cried, ‘conquer this terrible infatuation, which obscures danger from your sight, and right from your discernment! Mr. Bellamy is married; and if you think, yourself, my sister would be hurt to know of these unhallowed leagues and bonds, you must be sure, with the least reflection, that they are wrong; you too, are married; and if Mr. Melmond would join with the world in contemning the extraordinary project you mention, you must feel, with the least reflexion, it ought not to be granted. Even were you both single, it would be equally improper, though not so wide spreading in its mischief. I have committed many errours; yet not one of them wilfully, or against conviction: nevertheless, the ill consequences that have ensued, tear me at this moment with repentant sorrow:–Ah! think then, what you-so tender, so susceptible, so feeling, will suffer, if with your apprehensions all awake, you listen to any request that may make my sister unhappy, or involve your deserving brother in any difficulty or hazard!’
Mrs. Berlinton was now subdued. Touched, terrified, and convinced, she embraced Camilla, wept in her arms, and promised to see Bellamy no more.
The next day arrived an answer from Lavinia, long, minute, and melancholy, but tenderly affectionate and replete with pity.
‘Ah, my sister,’ she began, ‘we cannot yet meet! Our Mother is in no state to bear any added emotion. The firmness of her whole character, the fortitude of her whole life, hitherto unbroken by any passion, and superior to any misfortune, have both given way, suddenly and dreadfully, to the scene following her arrival.’
She then went back to particulars.
Mr. Clykes, she had heard, finding his bill for his own trouble positively refused, had conceived the Tyrold family in danger of bankruptcy, by the general rumours of the joint claimants of Lionel and Clermont; and imagining he had no time to lose, hoped by an arrest to frighten their Father to terms, in order to obviate the disgrace of such a measure. Their Father would, however, hear of none, nor pay any thing above the exact amount of the signed receipts of the various creditors; and submitted to the confinement, in preference to applying to any friend to be his bail, till he could consult with a lawyer. He was already at Winchester, where he had given Clykes a meeting, when the writ was served against him. He sent a dispatch to Etherington, to prevent any surprise at his not returning, and to desire the affair might not travel to Cleves, where Lavinia was then with Sir Hugh. This note, addressed to the upper servant, fell into the hands of Mrs. Tyrold herself, the next evening, upon her sudden arrival. She had been thus unexpectedly brought back by the news of the flight of Bellamy with Eugenia: her brother was still ill; but every consideration gave way to the maternal; and in the hope to yet rescue her daughter from this violator, she set off in a packet which was just sailing. But what, upon descending from the chaise, was the horrour of her first news! She went on instantly to Winchester, and alighting at an hotel, took a guide and went to the place of confinement.
‘The meeting that ensued,’ continued Lavinia, ‘no one witnessed, but everyone may imagine. I will not therefore, wound your feelings, my dearest Camilla, with even touching upon my own. The impression, however, left upon the mind of our Poor Mother, I should try vainly to disguise, since it has given her a shock that has forced from me the opening of this letter.’
She then besought her to take, nevertheless, some comfort, since she had the unspeakable satisfaction to inform her that their Father was returned to the rectory. He had been liberated, from the writ’s being withdrawn; though without his consent, without even his knowledge, and contrary to his wishes. Nor was it yet ascertained by whom this was done, though circumstances allowed no division to their conjectures.
Harry Westwyn had learnt the terrible event in a ride he had accidentally taken to Winchester; and, upon returning to Cleves, had communicated it, with the most feeling circumspection, to herself. The excess of grief with which she had heard him, had seemed to penetrate to his quickly sensitive soul, ‘for he is yet more amiable,’ she added, ‘than his Father’s partiality paints him;’ they agreed not to name it to Sir Hugh; though Harry assured her that no less than five gentlemen in the vicinity had already flown to Mr. Tyrold, to conjure to be accepted as his bail: but he chose first to consult his lawyer upon the validity of the claim made against him. All their care, however, was ineffectual; through some of the servants, Sir Hugh was informed of the affair, and his affliction was despair. He accused himself as being the cause of this evil, from the money he had borrowed for Clermont, which might wholly have been avoided, had he followed his brother’s advice in immediate and severe retrenchments. These, however, he now began, in a manner that threatened to rob him of every comfort; and Mr. Westwyn was so much affected by his distress, that, to relieve him, at least, from the expence of two guests and their servants, he instantly took leave, promising nevertheless, to yet see him again, before he returned for the rest of his days to his native home. In a few hours after the departure of these gentlemen, news arrived that Mr. Tyrold was again at the rectory. Mr. Clykes had suddenly sent his receipt, in full of all demands, and then set off for London.
‘There cannot be a doubt this was the deed of the generous Mr. Westwyn, in compact with his deserving Son,’ continued Lavinia; ‘they have been traced to Winchester; but we none of us know where, at present, to direct to them. The delight of my Uncle at this act of his worthy old friend, has extremely revived him. My Father is much dissatisfied the wretched Clykes should thus be paid all his fraudulent claims; but my Mother and my Uncle would, I believe, scarce have supported life under his longer confinement.’
The letter thus concluded.
‘My Mother, when first she heard you were in town, was herself going to send for you; but when she understood that Miss Margland was with you, and you lived in utter seclusion from company, she said; “Since she is safe, I had rather not yet see her.” Our beloved Father acquiesces, for he thinks you, at present, too much shaken, as well as herself, for so agitating an interview, till her mind is restored to its usual firmness. Judge then, my sister, since even he is for the delay, if your Lavinia can gather courage to plead against it?
‘You know, my dearest Camilla, her extreme and tender fondness; you cannot, therefore, doubt, but her displeasure will soon pass away. But when, to the dreadful pangs of finding the hapless fate of Eugenia irremediable, was added the baneful sight of an adored Husband in custody, you cannot wonder such complicate shocks should have disordered her frame, and taught her,-even her, as my incomparable Father has just said to me, “that always to be superior to calamity, demands a mental strength beyond the frail texture of the human composition; though to wish, and to try for it, shews we have that within, which aspires at a higher state, and prepares us for fuller perfection”.
‘Can I better finish my letter than with words such as these? Adieu, then, my dear sister, I hope soon to write more chearful tidings.
‘Our poor Mother is gone to Belfont. What a meeting again there!
A wish for death, immediate death, in common with every youthful mourner, in the first paroxysm of violent sorrow, was the sole sensation which accompanied the reading, or remained after the finishing of this letter, with Camilla. ‘Here,’ she cried, falling prostrate, ‘here might I but at once expire! close these unworthy eyes, forbidden to raise themselves to the authors of my existence! finish my short and culpable career, forgotten-since no longer cherished-by the parents I have offended-by the Mother who no longer wishes to see me!’
She laid down her head, and her sight became dim; a convulsive shivering, from feelings over-strained, and nerves dreadfully shattered, seized her; she sighed short and quick, and thought her prayer already accomplishing; but the delusion soon ceased; she found life still in its vigour, though bereft of its joy; and death no nearer to her frame, for being called upon by her wishes.
In the heaviness of disappointment, ‘I have lived,’ she cried, ‘too long, and yet I cannot die! I am become an alien to my family, and a burthen to myself! ordered from my home by my Father, lest my sight should be destructive to my Mother-while my sister durst not even plead for me. . . . O happy Edgar! how great has been thy escape not to have taken for thy wife this excommunicated wretch!’–
To live thus, seemed to her impossible; to pass even the day in such wretchedness she believed impracticable. Any, every period appeared to her preferable, and in the desperation of her heart, she determined instantly to pursue her Mother to Belfont; and there, by the gentle intercession of Eugenia, to obtain her pardon, or, which she thought immediately would follow its refusal, to sink to death at her feet.
Relieved from the intenseness of her agony by this plan, and ever eager to pursue the first idea that arose, she flew to borrow from Mrs. Berlinton her post-chaise for the next morning, and to supplicate that Miss Margland would accompany her to Belfont; whence, if she missed Mrs. Tyrold, they could easily return the same day, as the distance was not more than thirteen miles.
The chaise was accorded promptly by Mrs. Berlinton, and no regret expressed at the uncertainty of Camilla whether or not she should return; but Miss Margland, though burning with curiosity to see Eugenia as Mrs. Bellamy, would not quit town, from continual expectation of some news of Indiana.
At an early hour the following morning, and feeling as if suspended but by a thread between life and death, Camilla set off for Belfont.
THE plan of Camilla was to stop within twenty yards of the house of Bellamy, and then send for Molly Mill. But till she gave direction to the driver, she was not aware of the inconvenience of being without a servant, which had not previously occurred either to Mrs. Berlinton or herself. The man could not leave his horses, and she was compelled to let him draw up to the gate. There, when he rang at a bell, her terrour, lest she should suddenly encounter Mrs. Tyrold, made her bid him open the chaise door, that she might get out and walk on, before he enquired for Molly. But, in stepping from the carriage, she discerned, over a paling at some distance, Eugenia herself, alone, slowly walking, and her head turned another way.
Every personal, and even every filial idea, was buried instantly in this sight. The disastrous state of this beloved and unhappy sister, and her own peculiar knowledge of’ the worthless character of the wretch who had betrayed her into his snares, penetrated her with an anguish that took thought from all else; and darting through the great gate, and thence through a smaller one, which opened to the spot where she saw her walking, she flew to her in a speechless transport of sorrow, folded her in her arms, and sobbed upon her shoulder.
Starting, shaking, amazed, Eugenia looked at her; ‘Good Heaven!’ she exclaimed, ‘is it my Sister?–Is it Camilla?–Do I, indeed, see one so dear to me?’ And, too weak to sustain herself, she sunk, though not fainting, upon the turf.
Camilla could not articulate a syllable. The horrour she had conceived against Bellamy chilled all attempt at consolation, and her own misery which, the preceding moment, seemed to be crushing the springs of life, vanished in the agonized affection with which she felt the misfortunes of her sister.
Eugenia soon recovered, and rising, and holding her by the hand, yet seeming to refuse herself the emotion of returning her embraces, said, with a faint effort to smile; ‘You have surprised me, indeed, my dear Camilla, and convicted me to myself of my vain philosophy. I had thought I should never more be moved thus again. But I see now, the affections are not so speedily to be all vanquished.’
The melancholy conveyed by this idea of believed apathy, in a young creature so innocent, and but just dawning into life, still beyond speech, and nearly beyond sufferance, affected Camilla, who hanging over her, sighed out: ‘My dearest!-dearest Eugenia!’
‘And what is it has brought to me this unexpected, but loved sight? Does Mr. Bellamy know you are here?’
‘No,’ she answered, shuddering at his name.
Eugenia looked pensive, looked distressed; and casting down her eyes and hesitating, with a deep sigh said: ‘I,–I have not the trinkets for my dear Sister–Mr. Bellamy–’ she stopt.
Called to her sad self by this shock, of which she strove to repress the emotion, Camilla recollected her own ‘almost blunted purpose,’ [Shakespeare] and fearfully asked if their Mother were yet at Belfont.
‘Ah, no!’ she answered, clasping her hands, and leaning her head upon her sister’s neck: ‘She is gone!-the day before yesterday she was with me,-with me only for one hour!-yet to pass with her such another, I think, my dear Camilla, would soon lead me where I might learn a better philosophy than that I so vainly thought I had already acquired here!’
Camilla, struck with awe, ventured not even at an enquiry; and they both, for some little time, walked on in silence.
‘Did she name to you,’ at length, in broken accents, she asked, ‘did she name to you, my Eugenia,-the poor, banished–Camilla?’–
‘Banished? No. How banished?’
‘She did not mention me?’
‘No. She came to me but upon one subject. She failed in her purpose,-and left me.’
A sigh that was nearly a groan finished this short little speech.
‘Ah, Heaven! My Eugenia,’ cried Camilla, now in agony unresisted, ‘tell me, then, what passed! What new disappointment had my unhappy Mother to sustain? And how, and by what cruel fatality, has it fallen to your lot-even to yours-to suffer her wishes to fail?’
‘You know nothing, then,’ said Eugenia, after a pause, ‘of her view-her errand hither?’
‘Nothing; but that to see you brought her not only hither, but to England.’
‘Blessed may she be!’ cried Eugenia, fervently, ‘and rewarded where rewards are just, and are permanent!’
Camilla zealously joined in the prayer, yet besought to know if she might not be informed of the view to which she alluded?
‘We must go, then,’ said Eugenia, ‘into the house; my poor frame is yet feebler than my mind, and I cannot support it unaided while I make such a relation.’
Camilla, affrighted, now gave up her request; but the generous Eugenia would not leave her in suspense. They went, therefore, to a parlour, where, shutting the doors and windows, he said, ‘I must be concise, for both our sakes; and when you understand me, we must talk instantly of other things.’
Camilla could give only a tacit promise; but her air shewed she would hold it sacred as any bond.
‘The idea which brought over this inestimable Parent, and which brought her, at a moment when she knew me to be alone, to this sad house, these sad arms–Camilla! how shall I speak it? It was to exonerate me from my vows, as forced! to annul all my engagements, as compulsatory! and to restore me again . . . O, Camilla! Camilla! to my Parents, my Sisters, my Uncle, my dearly-loved Cleves!’
She gasped almost convulsively; yet though Camilla now even conjured her to say no more, went on: ‘A proposal such as this, pressed upon me by one whose probity and honour hold all calamity at nought, if opposed to the most minute deviation from right-a proposal such as this . . . ah! let me not go back to the one terrible half instant of demur! It was heart-rending, it was killing! I thought myself again in the bosom of my loved family!’–
‘And is it so utterly impossible? And can it not yet be effected?’–
‘No, my dear Sister, no! The horrible scenes I must go through in a public trial for such a purpose-the solemn vows I must set aside, the re-iterated promises I must break,-no, my dear Sister, no! . . . And now, we will speak of this no more.’
Camilla knew too well her firmness, her enthusiasm to perform whatever she conceived to be her duty, to enter into any contest. Yet to see her thus self devoted, where even her upright Mother, and pious Father, those patterns of resignation to every heaven-inflicted sorrow, thought her ties were repealed by the very villainy which had formed them, seemed more melancholy, and yet harder for submission, than her first seizure by the worthless Bellamy.
‘And how bore my poor Mother-my poor unfortunate Mother! destined thus to woes of every sort, though from children who adore her!-how bore she the deprivation of a hope that had brought her so far?’
‘Like herself! nobly! when once it was decided, and she saw that though, upon certain avowals, the law might revoke my plighted faith, it could not abrogate the scruples of my conscience. She thinks them overstrained, but she knows them to be sincere, and permitted them, therefore, to silence her. Unfit to be seen by any others, she hurried then away. And then, Camilla, began my trial! Indeed I thought, when she had left me, . . . when my arms no more embraced her honoured knees, and neither her blessings, nor her sorrows soothed or wounded my ears, I thought I might defy all evil to assault, all woe to afflict me ever again! that my eyes were exhausted of every tear, and my heart was emptied of all power of future feeling. I seemed suddenly quite hardened;-transformed I thought to stone, as senseless, as immovable, and as cold!’
The sensations of Camilla were all such as she durst not utter; but Eugenia, assuming some composure; added, ‘Of this and of me now enough-speak, my dear Sister, of yourself. How have you been enabled to come hither? And what could you mean by saying you were banished?’
‘Alas! my dearest Eugenia, if my unhappy situation is unknown to you, why should I agitate you with new pain? my Mother, I find, spared you; and not only you, but me-though I have wrung her heart, tortured it by a sight never to be obliterated from her memory-she would not rob me of my beloved sister’s regard; nor even name me, lest the altered tone of her voice should make you say, Of what Camilla does my Mother speak?’
Eugenia, with earnest wonder, begged an explanation; but when Camilla found her wholly uninformed of the history of their Father’s confinement, she recoiled from giving her such a shock: yet having gone too far entirely to recede, she rested the displeasure of their Mother upon the debts, and the dealings with a usurer; both sufficiently repugnant to the strictness and nobleness of Mrs. Tyrold, to seem ample justification of her displeasure.
Eugenia entered into the distresses of her sister, as if exempt herself from all suffering: and Camilla, thus commiserating an commiserated, knew now how to tear herself away; for though Eugenia pressed not her stay, she turned pale, when a door opened, a clock struck, or any thing seemed to prognosticate separation; and looked as if to part with her were death.
At length, however, the lateness of the day forced more of resolution. But when Camilla then rang to give orders for the carriage, the footman said it had been gone more than two hours. The postillion, being left without any directions, thought it convenient to suppose he was done with; and knowing Camilla had no authority, and his lady no inclination to chide him, had given in her little packet, and driven off, without enquiry.
Far from repining at this mixture of impertinence and carelessness, Camilla would have rejoiced in an accident that seemed to invite her stay, had not her sister seemed more startled than pleased by it. She begged, therefore, that a post chaise might be ordered; and Molly Mill, the only servant to whom the mistress of the house appeared willing to speak, received the commission. At sight of Camilla, Molly had cried bitterly, and beginning ‘O Miss!–’ seemed entering into some lamentation and detail; but Eugenia, checking her, half whispered: ‘Good Molly, remember what you promised!’
When Molly came back, she said that there were no horses at Belfont, and would be none till the next morning.
The sisters involuntarily congratulated one another upon this accident, though they reciprocated a sigh, that to necessity alone they should owe their lengthened intercourse.
‘But, my dear mistress,’ cried Molly, ‘there’s a lad that I know very well, for I always see him when I go of an errand, that’s going to Salisbury; and he says he must go through Etherington, and if you’ve any thing you want to send he’ll take it for you; and he can bring any thing back, for he shall be here again to morrow, for he goes post.’
Eugenia, sending away Molly, said, ‘Why should you not seize such an opportunity to address a few lines to our dear Mother? I may then have the satisfaction to see her answer: and if, . . . as I cannot doubt, she tells you to return home with Miss Margland;-for she will not, I am sure, let you travel about alone;-what a relief will it be to me to know the distresses of my beloved sister are terminated! I shall paint your meeting in my “mind’s eye,” see you again restored to the sunshine of her fondness, and while away my solitary languor with reveries far more soothing than any that I have yet experienced at Belfont.’
Camilla embraced her generous Sister; and always readiest for what was speediest, wrote these lines, directed
To Miss TYROLD.
I cannot continue silent, yet to whom may I address myself? I dare not apply to my Father–I scarce dare even think of my Mother–Encompassed with all of guilt with which imprudence could ensnare me, my courage is gone with my happiness! which way may I then turn? In pity to a wretched sister, drop, O Lavinia, at the feet of her I durst not name, but whom I revere, if possible, even more than I have offended, this small and humble memorial of my unhappy existence-my penitence, my supplication, my indescribable, though merited anguish!
Could the two sisters, even in this melancholy state, have continued together, they felt that yet from tender sympathy, consolation might revisit their bosoms. The day closed in; but they could not bear to part; and though, from hour to hour, they pronounced an adieu, they still sat on, talked on, and found a balm in their restored intercourse, so healing and so sweet, that the sun, though they hailed not its beams, rose while they were yet repeating Good Night!
They then thought it too late to retire, mutually agreeing with how much greater facility they might recover their lost rest, than an opportunity such as this for undisturbed conversation.
Every minute of this endearing commerce made separation seem harder; and the answer for which they waited from Etherington, anxiously and fearfully as it was expected, so whiled away the minutes, that it was noon, and no chaise had been ordered, when they heard one driving up to the house.
Alarmed, they listened to know what it portended. ‘Mr. Bellamy,’ said Eugenia, in a low voice, ‘scarce ever comes home at this hour.’
‘Can it be my Mother herself?’ cried Camilla.
In a few minutes, however, Eugenia looked pale, “Tis his step!’ she whispered; and presently Bellamy opened the door.
Obliged to acknowledge his entrance, Camilla arose; but her parched lips and clammy mouth made her feel as if his sight had given her a fever, and she attempted not to force any speech.
He did not seem surprized at seeing her, asked how she did, rather cavalierly than civilly: rang the bell, and gave various orders; addressed scarce a word to his wife, and walked whistling about the room.
A change so gross and quick from the obsequious Bellamy Camilla had hitherto seen, was beyond even her worst expectations, and she conceived as low an opinion of his understanding and his manners, as of his morals.
Eugenia kept her eyes rivetted to the ground; and though she tried, from time to time, to say something to them both, evidently it required her utmost fortitude to remain in the room.
At length; ‘Miss Camilla,’ he said, ‘I suppose you know Miss Margland is gone?’
‘Gone? whither?-how gone?’
‘Why home. That is to her home, as she thinks it, Cleves. She set off this morning with the light.’
Camilla, astonished, was now called forth from her taciturnity; ‘What possibly,’ she cried, ‘can have induced this sudden journey? Has my uncle sent for her?’
‘No; your uncle has nothing to do with it. She had a letter last night from Mrs. Macdersey, with one enclosed for Sir Hugh, to beg pardon and so forth; and this morning she set off to carry it.’
Camilla was confounded. Why Miss Margland had not, at least, called at Belfont to enquire if she would proceed with her, was beyond all her conjecture.
Soon after, Bellamy’s servant came in with a letter for Camilla, which had arrived after she left town, and was given to him by Mrs. Berlinton’s butler. She retired into the next room to read it, where, to her great consternation, she found it was from Jacob, and had been written the day of Mr. Tyrold’s arrest, though, as it was sent by a private hand, it had only now arrived.
‘Things going,’ he said, ‘so bad at Cleves, on account of so many misfortunes, his master was denying himself all his natural comforts, and in particular he had sent to un-order a new pipe of Madeira, saying he would go without; though, as Miss might remember, it was the very wine the doctors had ordered for his stomach. This all the servants had taken so to heart, that they had resolved to buy it among ’em, and get it privately laid in, and not let his honour know but what it was always the same, till he had drunk so much he could not help himself. For this, they were to join, according to their wages or savings; Now I’ says Jacob, ‘being, by his gud honnur’s genrosty, the ritchist ammung us, fur my kalling, wants to do the most, after nixt to the buttlur and huskippir, so, der Miss, awl I’ve gut beng in the funs, witch I cant sil out withowt los, if you can lit me have the munny fur the hurs, without ullconvenince, til Miss Geny that was can pay it, I shul be mutch obbleggd, poor Miss Geny nut havving of a fardin, witch wil be a gret fevur to, Madm,
Yur humbbel survent til deth
So touching a mark of the fond gratitude of the Cleves’ servants to their kind master, mingled tenderness, in defiance of all horrour, in the tears of Camilla; but her total inability to satisfy the just claims of Jacob, since now her resource even in Eugenia failed, with the grief of either defeating his worthy project, or making it lastingly hurtful to him, was amongst the severest strokes which had followed her ill advised schemes. To proclaim such an additional debt, was a shame from which she shrunk; yet to fly immediately to Cleves, and try to soothe her oppressed uncle, was an idea that still seemed gifted with some power to soothe herself. Whither indeed else could she now go? she had no longer either carriage or protectress in town; and what she gathered of the re-admission of Bellamy to Grosvenor-square, made the cautions and opinions of Edgar burst forcibly upon her mind, to impede, though most mournfully, all future return to Mrs. Berlinton.
A pliancy so weak, or so wilful, seemed to announce in that lady an almost determined incorrigibility in wrong, however it might be checked, in its progress, by a mingled love of right, and a fear of ill consequences.
‘Ah Edgar!’ she cried, ‘had I trusted you as I ought, from the moment of your generous declaration-had my confidence been as firm in your kindness as in your honour, what misery had I been saved!-from this connexion-from my debts-from every wide-spreading mischief!–I could then have erred no more, for I should have thought but of your approvance!’
These regrets were, as usual, resuming their absorbing powers;-for all other evils seemed fluctuating, but here misery was stationary; when the voice of Bellamy, speaking harshly to his unhappy wife, and some words she unavoidably caught, by which she found he was requesting that she would demand money of Sir Hugh, made her conclude him not aware he was overheard, and force herself back to the parlour. But his inattention upon her return was so near rudeness, that she soon felt convinced Mrs. Berlinton had acquainted him with her remonstrances and ill opinion: he seemed in guilty fear of letting her converse even a moment with Eugenia; and presently, though with an air of pretended unconcern, said: ‘You have no commands for the chaise I came in, Miss Camilla?’
‘No, Sir. . . . What chaise? . . . Why? . . . ’ she stammered.
‘It’s difficult sometimes to get one at this place; and these horses are very fresh. I bid them stay till they asked you.’
This was so palpable a hint for her to depart, that she could not but answer she would make use of it, when she had taken leave of her sister; whom she now looked at with emotions near despair at her fate, and with difficulty restrained even its most unbridled expressions. But Bellamy kept close, and no private conference could take place. Eugenia merely said: ‘Which way, my dear sister, shall you go?’
‘I . . . I am not, fixed-to . . . to Cleves, I believe,’ answered she, scarce knowing herself what she said.
‘I am very glad of it,’ she replied, ‘for the sake of my poor–’ she found her voice falter, and did not pronounce ‘uncle;’ but added, ‘as Miss Margland has already left London, I think you right to go thither at once; it may abridge many difficulties; and with post-horses, you may be there before it is dark.’
They then embraced tenderly, but parted without any further speech, and she set off rather mechanically than designedly for Cleves.
CAMILLA, for some time, bestowed no thought upon what she was doing, nor whither she was going. A scene so dreadful as that she now quitted, and a character of such utter unworthiness as that with which her sister for life was tied, absorbed her faculties, and nearly broke her heart.
When she stopt, however, at Bagshot, for fresh horses, the obligation of giving directions to others, made her think of herself; and, bewildered with uncertainty whether the step she took were right or wrong, she regretted she had not, at least, desired to stay till the answer arrived from Etherington. Yet her journey had the sanction of Eugenia’s concurrence; and Eugenia seemed to her oracular.
When she came upon the cross road leading from Winchester to Cleves, and felt her quick approach to the spot so loved yet dreaded, the horses seemed to her to fly. Twenty times she called out to the driver not to hurry; who as often assured her the bad roads prevented any haste; she wanted to form some appropriate plan and speech for every emergence; but she could suggest none for any. She was now at the feet of her Mother, now kissing the hands of her Father, now embraced again by her fond uncle; and now rejected by them all. But while her fancy was at work alternately to soothe and to torture her, the park lodge met her eyes, with still no resolution taken.
Vehemently she stopt the chaise. To drive in through the park would call a general attention, and she wished, ere her arrival were announced, to consult alone with Lavinia. She resolved, therefore, to get out of the carriage, and run by a private path, to a small door at the back of the house, whence she could glide to the chamber commonly appropriated to her sister.
She told the postillion to wait, and alighting, walked quick and fearfully towards the lodge.
She passed through the park-gate for foot passengers without notice from the porter. It was twilight. She saw no one; and rejoiced in the general vacancy. Trembling, but with celerity, she ‘skimmed,’ like her celebrated name-sake, the turf; and annoyed only by the shadows of the trees, which all, as first they caught her eye, seemed the precursors of the approach of Mrs. Tyrold, speedily reached the mansion: but when she came to the little door by which she meant to enter, she found it fastened.
To the front door she durst not go, from the numerous chances by which she might surprise some of the family in the hall: and to present herself at the servant’s gate would have an appearance degrading and clandestine.
She recollected, at last, the sash-door of a bow-window belonging to a room that was never occupied but in summer. Thither she went, and knowing the spring by which it could be opened on the outside, let herself into the house.
With steps not to be heard, and scarce breathing, she got thence into a long stone passage, whence she meant to mount the back stairs.
She was relieved by not meeting anyone in the way, though surprised to hear no foot-steps about the house, and no voices from any of the apartments.
Cautiously she went on, looking round at every step, to avoid any sudden encounter; but when she came to the bed-chamber gallery, she saw that the door of the room of Sir Hugh, by which she must necessarily pass, was wide open.
It was possible he might be in it: she had not courage to pass; her sight, thus unprepared, after so many heavy evils, might be too affecting for his weak frame. She turned short round, and entered a large apartment at the head of the stairs, called the billiard-room, where she resolved to wait and watch ere she ventured any further.
Its aspect was to the front of the house; she stole gently to a window, whence she thought the melancholy of her own mind pervaded the park. None of her uncle’s horses were in sight; no one was passing to and fro; and she looked vainly even for the house-dog who ordinarily patrolled before the mansion.
She ventured to bend forwarder, to take a view of the side wings; these, however, presented not any sight more exhilarating nor more animated. Nothing was in motion, no one was visible, not even a fire blazed chearfulness.
She next strove to catch a glance of the windows belonging to the chamber of Eugenia; but her sigh, though sad, was without surprise to see their shutters shut. Those of Indiana were closed also. ‘How mournfully,’ cried she, ‘is all changed! what of virtues are gone with Eugenia! What of beauty with Indiana! The one so constantly interesting! The other looking always so lovely!’–
But deeper still was her sigh, since mingled with self-reproach, to perceive her own chamber also shut up. ‘Alas!’ she cried, ‘my poor uncle considers us all as dead to him!’ She durst not lean sufficiently forward to examine the drawing-room, in which she concluded the family assembled; but she observed, with wonder, that even the library was not open, though it was still too light for candles; and Dr. Orkborne who usually sat there, from the forgetfulness of application, was the last to demand them.
The fear of discovery was now combated by an anxiety to see some one,-any one,-and she returned to the passage. All there was still quiet, and she hazarded gliding past the open door, though without daring to look into the room; but when she came to the chamber of Lavinia, which she softly entered, all was dark, and it was evidently not in present use.
This was truly distressful. She concluded her sister was returned to Etherington, and knew not to whom to apply for counsel or mediation. She no longer, however, feared meeting her parents, who certainly had not made her sister quit Cleves without themselves; and, after a little hesitation, relying upon the ever sure lenity of her uncle, she determined to cast herself upon his kindness: but first to send in a short note, to avoid giving him any surprise.
She returned down the gallery, meaning to apply for pen and ink to the first person she could find: she could only, she knew, meet with a friend; unless, by ill fortune, she should encounter Miss Margland, the way to whose apartment she sedulously shunned.
No longer, however, quite to cautious, she stopt near the chamber of Sir Hugh, and convinced by the stillness it was empty, could not resist stepping into the apartment.
It looked despoiled and forsaken. Nothing was in its wonted order; his favourite guns hung not over the chimney-piece; the corners of the room were emptied of his sticks; his great chair was in a new place; no cushions for his dogs were near the fire; the bedstead was naked.
She now felt petrified; she sunk on the floor, to ejaculate a prayer for his safety, but knew not how to rise again, for terrour; nor which way next to turn, nor what even to conjecture.
Thus she remained, till suspense grew worse than and she forced herself from the room to seek some explanation. It was possible the whole family residence might be changed to the back front of the house. She descended the stairs with almost equal apprehension of meeting any one or seeing no one. The stone passage was now nearly dark. It was always the first part of the house that was lighted, as its windows were small and high: but no preparations were now making for that purpose. She wen to the house-keeper’s room, which was at the foot of the stairs she had descended. The door was shut, and she could not open it. She tried repeatedly, but vainly, to be heard by soft taps and whisperings; no one answered.
Amazed, confounded, she turned slowly another away; not a soul was in sight, not a sound within hearing. Every thing looked desolate, all the family seemed to be vanished.
Insensibly, yet irresistibly, she now moved on towards the drawing-room. The door was shut. She hesitated whether or not to attempt it. She listened. She hoped to catch the voice of her uncle: but all was inviolably still.
This was the only place of assembling in the evening; but her uncle might have dropt asleep, and she would not hazard startling him with her presence. She would sooner go to the hall at once, and be announced in the common way by a servant.
But what was her astonishment in coming to the hall, to find neither servant, light nor fire? and the marble pavement covered with trunks, packing mats, straw, ropes, and boxes? Terrified and astonished, she thought herself walking in her sleep. She could combine no ideas, either good or bad, to account for such a scene, and she looked at it bewildered and incredulous.
After a long hesitation, spent in wonder rather than thought, she at length determined to enter the breakfast parlour, and ring the bell: when the distant sound of a carriage, that was just entering the park, made her shut herself into the room, hastily, but silently.
It advanced rapidly; she trembled; it was surely, she thought, her Mother.
When it drove up to the portico, and she heard the house-bell ring, she instinctively barred her door; but finding no one approach to the call, while the bell was impatiently re-rung, her strong emotions of expectation were taking her again into the hall: but as her hand was upon the lock of the door, a light glimmered through the key hole. She heard some step advancing, and precipitately drew back.
The hall-door was now opened, and a man enquired for a young lady just come from Alresford.
‘There’s no young lady here at all,’ was the answer, in the voice of Jacob.
Finding it only her own driver, she ventured out; crying ‘O Jacob! where is my dear uncle?’
Jacob was, at first, incapable of all answer, through surprise at her strange appearance; but then said, ‘O Miss Camilla! you’ll go nigh to break your good heart when you knows it all! But how you’ve got into the house is what I can’t guess; but I wish, for my poor master’s sake, it had been before now!’
Horrour crept through every vein of Camilla, in the explanation she awaited of this fearful mystery. She motioned to the driver to stay, returned back to the parlour, and beckoned, for she could not speak, to Jacob to follow her.
When he came, and, shutting the door, was beginning a diffuse lamentation, eagerness to avert lengthened suspense recovered her voice, and she passionately exclaimed: ‘Jacob! in two words, where is my uncle?–Is he well?’
‘Why, yes, Miss Camilla, considering–’ he began; but Camilla, whose fears had been fatal, interrupted him with fervent thanksgiving, till she was called back from joy by the following words:
‘He’s gone away Miss Camilla! gone Lord knows where! given up all his grand house-keeping, turned off almost all his poor servants, left this fine place, to have it let to whoever will hire it, and is going to live, he says, in some poor little lodging, till he can scrape together wherewithal to pay off every thing for your papa.’
A thunder-bolt that had instantly destroyed her, would gratefully have been received, in preference to this speech, by Camilla, who, casting up her hands and eyes, exclaimed: ‘Then am I the most detestable, as well as the most wretched of human beings! My Father I have imprisoned!-my Uncle I have turned from his house and home! and for thee, O my Mother!-this is the reception I have prepared!’
Jacob tried to console her; but his account was only added torture.
The very instant he told her, that his master had received the news of the arrest of Mr. Tyrold, he determined upon this violent plan; and though the so speedy release, through the generosity of Mr. Westwyn, had exceedingly calmed his first emotions, he would not change his purpose, and protested he would never indulge himself in peace nor comfort more, till he had cleared off their joint debts; of which he attributed the whole fault to himself, from having lived up to the very verge of his yearly income, when he ought, he said, considering there were so many young people, to have always kept a few odd sums at hand for accidents. ‘We all did what we could,’ continued Jacob, ‘to put him off from such a thing, but all to no purpose; but if you’d been here, Miss Camilla, you’d have done more with him than all of us put together; but he called Miss Lavinia and all of us up to him, and said to us, I won’t have nobody tell this to my poor little girl, meaning you, Miss Camilla, till I’ve got somewhere settled and comfortable; because of her kind heart, says he.’
Tenderness so partial, at so suffering an instant, almost killed Camilla. ‘O Jacob,’ she cried, ‘where is now my dear generous uncle? I will follow him in this chaise (rushing out as she spoke) I will be his servant, his nurse, and attend him from morning to night!’
She hurried into the carriage as she spoke, and bade him give directions to the postillion. But when she heard he was, at present, only at Etherington, whence he was seeking a new abode, her head drooped, and she burst into tears.
Jacob remained, he said, alone, to take care of all the things, and to shew the place to such as might come.
Miss Margland had been at the house about three hours ago; and had met Sir Hugh, who had come over, to give directions about what he would have packed up; and he had read a letter from Miss Indy that was, and had forgiven her; but he was sore vexed Miss Margland had come without Miss Camilla; only she said Miss Camilla was at Mrs. Bellamy’s, and she did not call, because she thought it would be better to go back again, and see more about Miss Indy, and so bring Miss Camilla next time; so she wheedled his master to spare the chaise again, and let her go off directly to settle every thing to Miss Indy’s mind.
Camilla now repented she had not returned to Mrs. Berlinton’s, there, notwithstanding all objections, to have waited her recall; since there her parents still believed her, and thence, under the protection of Miss Margland, would in all probability summon her. To present herself, after this barbarous aggravation of the calamities she had caused, undemanded and unforgiven at Etherington, she thought impossible. She enquired if, by passing the night at Cleves, she might have any chance of seeing her uncle the next day. Jacob answered, no; but that Mr. Tyrold himself, with a gentleman from Winchester, who thought of hiring the house, were to be there early in the morning to take a survey of the premises.
A meeting, thus circumstanced, with her Father, at a moment when he came upon so direful a business, as parting with a place of which she had herself occasioned the desertion, seemed to her insupportable: and she resolved to return immediately to Belfont, to see there if her answer from Lavinia contained any new directions; and if not, to again go to London, and await final commands; without listening ever more to any hopes, projects, or judgments of her own.
Beseeching the worthy Jacob to pardon her non-payment, with every kind assurance that her uncle should know all his goodness, she told the postillion to take her to Belfont.
He could go no further, he said, and that but a foot pace, than to Alresford. Jacob marvelled, but blessed her, and Camilla, ejaculating, ‘Adieu, dear happy–Cleves!’ was driven out of the park.
TO leave thus a spot where she had experienced such felicity; to see it naked and forlorn, despoiled of its hospitality, bereft of its master,-all its faithful old servants unrewarded dismissed; in disgrace to have re-entered its pales, and in terrour to quit them;-to fly even the indulgent Father, whose tenderness had withstood every evil with which errour and imprudence could assail him, set her now all at war with herself, and gave her sensations almost maddening. She reviewed her own conduct without mercy; and though misery after misery had followed every failing, all her sufferings appeared light to her repentant sense of her criminality; for as criminal alone, she could consider what had inflicted misfortunes upon persons so exemplary.
She arrived at Alresford so late, with the return horses, that she was forced to order a room there for the night.
Though too much occupied to weigh well her lonely and improper situation, at an inn, and at such hours, she was too uneasy to go to bed, and too miserable for sleep. She sat up, without attempting to read, write, or employ herself, patrolling her chamber in mournful rumination.
Nearly as soon as it was light, she proceeded, and arrived at the house of Bellamy as the servants were opening the window-shutters.
Fearfully she asked who was at home; and hearing only their mistress, sent for Molly Mill, and enquired for the answer from Etherington; but the lad had not yet brought any. She begged her to run to the inn, to know what had detained him; and then, ordering the chaise to wait, went to her sister.
Eugenia was gently rejoiced to see her, though evidently with encreased personal unhappiness. Camilla would fain have spared her the history of the desertion of Cleves; but it was an act that in its own nature must be public; and she had no other way to account for her so speedy return.
Eugenia heard it with the most piercing affliction; and, in the fulness of her heart, from this new blow, acknowledged the rapacity of Bellamy, and the barbarity with which he now scrupled not to avow the sordid motives of his marriage; cruelly lamenting the extreme simplicity with which she had been beguiled into a belief of the sincerity and violence of his attachment. ‘For myself, however,’ she continued, ‘I now cease to murmur. How can misfortune, personally, cut me deeper? But with pity, indeed, I think of a new victim!’
She then put into her sister’s hand a written paper she had picked up the preceding evening in her room, and which, having no direction, and being in the handwriting of Mrs. Berlinton, she had thought was a former note to herself, accidentally dropt: but the first line undeceived her.
‘I yield, at length, O Bellamy, to the eloquence of your friendship! on Friday,-at one o’clock, I will be there-as you appoint.’
Camilla, almost petrified, read the lines. She knew better than her sister the plan to which this was the consent; which to have been given after her representations and urgency, appeared so utterly unjustifiable, that, with equal grief and indignation, she gave up this unhappy friend as wilfully lost; and her whole heart recoiled from ever again entering her doors.
Retracing, nevertheless, her many amiable qualities, she knew not how, without further effort, to leave her to her threatening fate; and determined, at all risks, to put her into the hands of her brother, whose timely knowledge of her danger might rescue her from public exposure. She wrote therefore the following note:
To FREDERIC MELMOND, Esq.
‘Watch and save,-or you will lose your sister.
His address, from frequently hearing it, was familiar to her; she went herself into the hall, to give the billet to a footman for the post-office. She would not let her sister have any share in the transaction, lest it should afterwards, by any accident, be known; though, to give force to her warning, she risked without hesitation the initials of her own name.
The repugnance, nevertheless, to going again to Mrs. Berlinton, pointed out no new refuge; and she waited, with added impatience, for the answer from Etherington, in hopes some positive direction might relieve her cruel perplexity.
The answer, however, came not, and yet greater grew her distress. Molly Mill brought word that when the messenger, who was a post-boy, returned, he was immediately employed to drive a chaise to London. The people at the inn heard him say something of wanting to go to ‘Squire Bellamy’s with a letter; but he had not time. He was to come back however at night.
To wait till he arrived seemed now to them both indispensable; but while considering at what hour to order the chaise, they heard a horseman gallop up to the house-door. ‘Is it possible it should already be Mr. Bellamy?’ cried Eugenia, changing colour.
His voice, loud and angry, presently confirmed the suggestion. Eugenia, trembling, said she would let him know whom he would find; and went into the next room, where, as he entered, he roughly exclaimed, ‘What have you done with what I dropt out of my pocket-book?’
‘There, Sir,’ she answered, in the tone of firmness given by the ascendance of innocence over guilt, ‘There it is: but how you can reconcile to yourself the delusions by which you must have obtained it I know not. I hope only, for her sake, and for yours, such words will never more meet my eyes.’
He was beginning a violent answer in a raised voice, when Eugenia told him her sister was in the next room.
He then, in a lowered tone, said, ‘I warrant, you have shewn her my letter?’
The veracious Eugenia was incapable of saying no; and Bellamy, unable to restrain his rage, though smothering his voice, through his shut teeth, said, ‘I shall remember this, I promise you! However, if she dare ever speak of it, you may tell her, from me, I shall lock you up upon bread and water for the rest of your life, and lay it at her door. I have no great terms to keep with her now. What does she say about Cleves? and that fool your uncle, who is giving up his house to pay your father’s debts? What has brought her back again?’
‘She is returning to Grosvenor-square, to Miss Margland.’
‘Miss Margland? There’s no Miss Margland in Grosvenor-square; nor any body else, that desires her company I can tell her. However, go, and get her off, for I have other business for you.’
Eugenia, then, opening the door, found her sister almost demolished with terrour and dismay. Silently, for some seconds, they sunk on the breast of each other; horrour closing all speech, drying up even their tears.
‘You have no message to give me!’ Camilla at length whispered ‘I have, perforce, heard all! and I will go;-though whither–’
She stopt, with a look of distress so poignant, that Eugenia bursting into tears, while tenderly she clung around her, said: ‘My sister! my Camilla! from me-from my house must you wander in search of an asylum!’
Bellamy here called her back. Camilla entreated she would inquire if he knew whither Miss Margland was gone.
He now came in himself, bowing civilly, though with constraint, and told her that Miss Margland was with Mrs. Macdersey, at Macdersey’s own lodgings; but that neither of them would any more be invited to Grosvenor-square, after such ill-treatment of Mrs. Berlinton’s brother.
Can you, thought Camilla, talk of ill-treatment? while, turning to her sister, she said, ‘Which way shall I now travel?’
Bellamy abruptly asked, if she was forced to go before dinner; but not with an air of inviting any answer.
None could she make; she looked down, to save her eyes the sight of an object they abhorred, embraced Eugenia, who seemed a picture of death; and after saying adieu, added, ‘If I knew whither you thought I should go-that should be my guide?’
‘Home, my dearest sister!’
‘Drive then,’ she cried, hurrying to the chaise, ‘to Etherington.’
Bellamy advancing, said, with a smile, ‘I see you are not much used to travelling, Miss Camilla!’ and gave the man a direction to Bagshot.
She began, now, to feel nearly careless what became of her; her situation seemed equally desolate and disgraceful, and in gloomy despondence, when she turned from the high road, and stopt at a small inn, called the half-way-house, about nine miles from Etherington, she resolved to remain there till she received her expected answer; ardently hoping, if it were not yielding and favourable, the spot upon which she should read it, would be that upon which her existence would close.
Alighting at the inn, which, from being upon a cross road, had little custom, and was scarce more than a large cottage, she entered a small parlour, discharged her chaise, and ordered a man and horse to go immediately to Belfont.
Presently two or three gentle tappings at the door made her, though fearfully, say, ‘Come in!’ A little girl then, with incessant low courtesies, appeared, and looking smilingly in her face, said, ‘Pray, ma’am, a’n’t you the Lady that was so good to us?’
‘When? my dear? what do you mean?’
‘Why, that used to give us cakes and nice things, and gave ’em to Jen, and Bet, and Jack? and that would not let my dad be took up?’
Camilla now recollected the eldest little Higden, the washerwoman’s niece, and kindly enquired after her father, her aunt, and family.
‘O, they all does pure now. My dad’s had no more mishaps, and he hopes, please God, to get on pretty well.’
‘Sweet hearing!’ cried Camilla, ‘all my purposes have not, then, been frustrated!’
With added satisfaction she learnt also that the little girl had a good place, and a kind mistress.
She begged her to hasten the Belfont messenger, giving her in charge a short note for Eugenia with a request for the Etherington letter. She had spent nothing in London, save in some small remembrances to one or two of Mrs. Berlinton’s servants; and though her chaise-hire had now almost emptied her purse, she thought every expence preferable to either lengthening her suspense, or her residence on the road.
In answer to the demand of what she would be pleased to have, she then ordered tea. She had taken no regular meal for two days; and for two nights had not even been in bed. But the wretchedness of her mind seemed to render her invulnerable to fatigue.
The shaken state of her nerves warped all just consideration of the impropriety of her present sojourn. Her judgment had no chance, where it had her feelings to combat, and in the despondence of believing herself parentally rejected, she was indifferent to appearances, and desperate upon all other events: nor was she brought to any recollection, till she was informed that the messenger she had concluded was half way to Belfont, could not set out till the next morning: this small and private inn not being able to furnish a man and horse at shorter warning.
To pass a second night at an inn, seemed, even in the calculations of her own harassed faculties, utterly improper; and thus, driven to extremity, she forced herself to order a chaise for home; though with a repugnance to so compulsatory a meeting, that made her wish to be carried in it a corpse.
The tardy prudence of the character naturally rash, commonly arrives but to point repentance that it came not before. The only pair of horses the little inn afforded, were now out upon other duty, and would not return till the next day.
Almost to herself incredible seemed now her situation. She was compelled to order a bed, and to go up stairs to a small chamber: but she could not even wish to take any rest. ‘I am an outcast,’ she cried, ‘to my family; my Mother would rather not see me; my Father forbears to demand me; and he-dearer to me than life-by whom I was once chosen, has forgotten me!–How may I support my heavy existence? and when will it end?’
Overpowered, nevertheless, by fatigue, in the middle of the night, she lay down in her cloaths: but her slumbers were so broken by visions of reproach, conveyed through hideous forms, and in menaces the most terrific, that she gladly got up; preferring certain affliction to wild and fantastic horrours.
Nearly as soon as it was light, she rang for little Peggy, whose Southampton anecdotes had secured her the utmost respect from the mistress of the inn, and heard that the express was set off.
Dreadful and dreary, in slow and lingering misery, passed the long interval of his absence, though his rapid manner of travelling made it short for the ground he traversed. She had now, however, bought sufficient experience to bespeak a chaise against his return. The only employment in which she could engage herself, was conversing with Peggy Higden, who, she was glad to find, could not remember her name well enough to make it known, through her pronunciation.
From the window, at length, she perceived a man and horse gallop up to the house. She darted forth, exclaiming: ‘Have you brought me any answer?’ And seizing the letter he held out, saw the hand-writing of Lavinia, and shut herself into her room.
She opened it upon her knees, expecting to find within some lines from her Mother; none, however, appeared, and sad and mortified, she laid down the letter, and wept. ‘So utterly, then,’ she cried, ‘have I lost her? Even with her pen will she not speak to me? How early is my life too long!’
Taking up again, then, the letter, she read what follows.
To MISS CAMILLA TYROLD.
‘Alas, my dear sister, why can I not answer you according to our mutual wishes? My Father is at Winchester, with a lawyer, upon the affairs of Indiana; and my Mother is abroad with my uncle, upon business which he has asked her to transact; but even were she here . . . could I, while the man awaits, intercede? have you forgotten your ever fearful Lavinia? All that she dares, shall be done,-but that you may neither think she has been hitherto neglected, nor let your hopes expect too much speed from her future efforts, I am painfully reduced to own to you, what already has passed. But let it not depress you; you know when she is hurt, it is not lightly; but you know, also, where she loves, her displeasure, once passed, is never allowed to rise again.
‘Yesterday I saw her looking at your picture; the moment seemed to be happy, and I ventured to say; “Ah, poor Camilla!–” but she turned to me with quickness, and cried; “Lament rather, Lavinia, your Father! Did he merit so little trust from his child, that her affairs should be withheld from him till they cast him . . . where I found him! . . . Dread, memorable sight-when may I forget it!”
‘Even after this, my dear Camilla, I hazarded another word, “she will be miserable,” I said, “my dear Mother, till she returns.” “She will return,” she answered, “with Miss Margland. This is no season for any expence that may be avoided; and Camilla, most of all, must now see the duties of oeconomy. Were her understanding less good, I should less heavily weigh her errours; but she sets it apart, to abandon herself to her feelings. Alas! poor thing! they will now themselves be her punishers! Let her not however, despond; tell her, when you write, her angelic Father forgives her; and tell her she has always had my prayers, and will ever have my blessing;-though I am not eager, as yet, to add to her own reproaches, those she may experience from my presence.”
‘I knew not how to introduce this to my dearest Camilla, but your messenger, and his haste, now forces me to say all, and say it quick. He brings, I find, the letter from Belfont, where already we had heard you were removed through Miss Margland, much to the approbation of my Father and my Mother, who hope your sojourn there is a solace to you both. Adieu, my dearest sister-your messenger cannot wait.
‘She will not see me then!’ cried Camilla, ‘she cannot bear my sight! O Death! let me not pray to thee also in vain!’
Weak from inanition, confused from want of sleep, harassed with fatigue, and exhausted by perturbation, she felt now so ill, that she solemnly believed her fatal wish quick approaching.
The landlord of the inn entered to say that the chaise she had ordered was at the door; and put down upon the table the bill of what she had to pay.
Whither to turn, what course to take, she knew not; though to remain longer at an inn, while persuaded life was on its wane, was dreadful; yet how present herself at home, after the letter she had received? what asylum was any where open to her?
She begged the landlord to wait, and again read the letter of Lavinia, when, startled by what was said of abandoning herself to her feelings, she saw that her immediate duty was to state her situation to her parents. She desired, therefore, the chaise might be put up, and wrote these lines:
‘I could not, unhappily, stay at Eugenia’s; nor can I return to Mrs. Berlinton; I am now at the half-way-house where I shall wait for commands. My Lavinia will tell me what I may be ordered to do. I am ill,-and earnestly I pray with an illness from which I may rise no more. When my Father-my Mother, hear this, they will perhaps accord me to be blest again with their sight; the brevity of my career may, to their kindness, expiate its faults; they may pray for me where my own prayers may be too unsanctified to be heard; they may forgive me . . . though my own forgiveness never more will quiet this breast! Heaven bless and preserve them; their unoffending daughters; and my ever loved uncle!
She then rang the bell, and desired this note might go by express to Etherington.
But this, the waiter answered, was impossible; the horse on which the messenger had set out to Belfont, though it had only carried him the first stage, and brought him back the last, had galloped so hard, that his master would not send it out again the same day; and they had but that one.
She begged he would see instantly for some other conveyance.
The man who was come back from Belfont, he answered, would be glad to be discharged, as he wanted to go to rest.
She then took up the bill, and upon examining the sum total, found, with the express, the chaise in which she came the last stage, that which she ordered to take her to Etherington, and the expence of her residence, it amounted to half a crown beyond what she possessed.
She had only, she knew, to make herself known as the niece of Sir Hugh Tyrold, to be trusted by all the environs; but to expose herself in this helpless, and even pennyless state, appeared to her to be a degradation to every part of her family.
To enclose the bill to Etherington was to secure its being paid; but the sentence, Camilla most of all must now see the duties of oeconomy, made her revolt from such a step.
All she still possessed of pecuniary value she had in her pocket: the seal of her Father, the ring of her Mother, the watch of her Uncle, and the locket of Edgar Mandlebert. With one of these she now determined to part, in preference to any new exposure at Etherington, or to incurring the smallest debt. She desired to be left alone, and took them from her pocket, one by one, painfully ruminating upon which she could bear to lose. ‘It may not,’ she thought, ‘be for long; for quick, I hope, my course will end!-yet even for an hour,-even for the last final moment-to give up such dear symbols of all that has made my happiness in life!–’
She looked at them, kissed and pressed them to her heart; spoke to them as if living and understanding representatives of their donors, and bestowed so much time in lamenting caresses and hesitation, that the waiter came again, while yet she was undetermined.
She desired to speak with the mistress of the house.
Instinctively she now put away the gifts of her parents; but between her uncle and Edgar she wavered. She blushed, however, at her demur, and the modesty of duty made her put up the watch. Taking, then, an agitating last view of a locket which circumstances had rendered inappreciable to her, ‘Ah! not in vain,’ she cried, ‘even now shall I lose what once was a token so bewitching . . . Dear precious locket! Edgar even yet would be happy you should do me one last kind office! generously, benevolently, he would rejoice you should spare me still one last menacing shame!’.
When Mrs. Marl, the landlady, came in, deeply colouring, she put it into her hand, turning her eyes another way, while she said; ‘Mrs. Marl, I have not quite money enough to pay the bill; but if you will keep this locket for a security, you will be sure to be paid by and by.’
Mrs. Marl looked at it with great admiration, and then, with yet greater wonder, at Camilla. “Tis pretty, indeed, ma’am,’ she said; “twould be pity to sell it. However, I’ll shew it my husband.’
Mr. Marl soon came himself, with looks somewhat less satisfied, “Tis a fine bauble, ma’am,’ cried he, ‘but I don’t much understand those things; and there’s nobody here can tell me what it’s worth. I’d rather have my money, if you please.’
Weakened now in body, as well as spirits, she burst into tears. Alas! she thought, how little do my friends conjecture to what I am reduced! She offered, however, the watch, and the countenance of Mr. Marl lost its gloom.
‘This,’ said he, ‘is something like! A gold watch one may be sure to get one’s own for; but such a thing as that may’n’t fetch six-pence, fine as it looks.’
Mrs. Marl objected to keeping both; but her husband said he saw no harm in it; and Camilla begged her note might be sent without delay.
A labourer, after some search, was found, who undertook, for handsome pay, to carry it on foot to the rectory.
THE messenger returned not till midnight; what, then, was the consternation of Camilla that he brought no answer! She suspected he had not found the house; she doubted if the letter had been delivered; but he affirmed he had put it into the hands of a maid-servant, though, as it was late, he had come away directly, and not thought of waiting for any answer.
It is not very early in life we learn how little is performed, for which no precaution is taken. Care is the offspring of disappointment; and sorrow and repentance commonly hang upon its first lessons. Unused to transact any sort of business for herself, she had expected, in sending a letter, an answer as a thing of course, and had now only herself to blame for not having ordered him to stay. She consoled herself, however, that she was known to be but nine miles distant from the rectory, and that any commands could be conveyed to her nearly in an hour.
What they might be, became now, therefore, her sole anxiety. Would not her Mother write? After an avowal such as she had made of her desolate, if not dying condition, would she not pardon and embrace her? Was it not even possible she might come herself?
This idea mingled emotions of a contrariety scarcely supportable. ‘O how,’ she cried, ‘shall I see her? Can joy blend with such terrour? Can I wish her approach, yet not dare to meet her eye?-that eye which never yet has looked at me, but to beam with bright kindness!-though a kindness that, even from my childhood, seemed to say, Camilla, be blameless-or you break your Mother’s heart! . . . my poor unhappy Mother! she has always seemed to have a presentiment, I was born to bring her to sorrow!’
Expectation being now, for this night, wholly dead, the excess of her bodily fatigue urged her to take some repose: but her ever eager imagination made her apprehensive her friends might find her too well, and suspect her representation was but to alarm them into returning kindness. A fourth night, therefore, passed without sleep, or the refreshment of taking off her cloaths; and by the time the morning sun shone in upon her apartment, she was too seriously disordered to make her illness require the aid of fancy. She was full of fever, faint, pallid, weak, and shaken by nervous tremors. ‘I think,’ she cried, ‘I am now certainly going; and never was death so welcomed by one so young. It will end in soft peace my brief, but stormy passage, and I shall owe to its solemn call the sacred blessing of my offended Mother!’
Tranquillised by this hope, and this idea, she now lost all sufferings but those of disease: her mind grew calm, her spirits serene: all fears gave way to the certainty of soothing kindness-all grief was buried in the solemnity of expected dissolution.
But this composure outlived not the first hours of the morning; as they vainly advanced, producing no loved presence, no letter, no summons; solicitude revived, disappointment sunk her heart, and dread preyed again upon her nerves. She started at every sound; every breath of wind seemed portentous; she listened upon the stairs; she dragged her feeble limbs to the parlour, to be nearer at hand; she forced them back again to her bed-room, to strain her aching eyes out of the window; but still no voice demanded her, and no person approached.
Peggy, who repeatedly came to tell her the hour, now assured her it was dinner time: unable to eat, she was heedless of the hint this conveyed, and it obtained from her no orders, till Peggy gave her innocently to understand the expectations of her host and hostess; but when, at five o’clock, the table was served, all force and courage forsook her. To be left thus to herself, when her situation was known; to be abandoned at an inn where she had confessed she thought herself dying; ‘My Mother,’ she cried, ‘cannot forgive me! my Father himself deserts me! O Edgar! you did well to fly so unhallowed a connexion!’
She left her dinner for Peggy, and crawling up stairs, cast herself upon the bed, with a desperate supplication she might rise from it no more. ‘The time,’ cried she, ‘is past for consolation, and dead for hope! my parents’ own prayers have been averted, and their prognostics fulfilled. May the dread forfeiture, said my dearest Father, not extend through my daughters!–Alas! Lionel himself has not brought upon him a disgrace such as I have done!–May Heaven, said my honoured Mother, spare me evil under your shape at least!-but under that it has come to her the most heavily!’
Dissolving, then, in sorrowing regret, recollections of maternal tenderness bathed her pillow with her tears, and reversing all the inducements to her sad resignation, abolished every wish but to fall again at the parental feet. ‘To see,’ cried she, ‘once more, the dear authors of my being! to receive their forgiveness, their blessing . . . to view again their honoured countenances!-to hear once more their loved speech . . . Alas! was it I that fled the voice of my Mother? That voice which, till that moment, had been music to my mind! and never reached my ear, but as the precursor of all kindness! why did I not sooner at once kneel at her feet, and seek my lost path under my first and best guide?’
Shocked and contrite in this tardy view of the step she ought to have taken, she now languished to petition for pardon even for an offence unknown; and rising, took up a pen to relate the whole transaction. But her head was confused, and the attempt shewed her she was more ill than she had even herself suspected. She thought all rapidly advancing, and enthusiastically rejoiced.
Yet a second time she took the pen; but it had not touched the paper, when a buzzing, confused, stifled sort of noise from without drew her to the window.
She then perceived an immense crowd of people approaching slowly, and from a distance, towards the inn.
As they advanced, she was struck to hear no encrease of noise, save from the nearer trampling of feet. No voice was distinguishable; no one spoke louder than the rest; they seemed even to tread the ground with caution. They consisted of labourers, workmen, beggars, women, and children, joined by some accidental passengers: yet the general ‘hum of many’ was all that was heard; they were silent though numerous, solemn though mixt.
As they came near, she thought she perceived something in the midst of them like a bier, and caught a glimpse of a gentleman’s habit. Startled, she drew in; but soon, upon another view, discerned clearly a well-dressed man, stretched out his full length, and apparently dead.
Recoiling, shuddering, she hastily shut the window, ‘Yet why,’ she cried, the next moment, ‘and whence this emotion? Is not death what I am meeting?-seeking?-desiring?-what I court? what I pray for?’
She sighed, walked feebly up and down the room, hard and with effort, and then forced herself again to open the window, determined to contemplate steadily the anticipating object of her fervent demand.
Yet not without severe self-compulsion she flung up again the sash; but when she looked out, the crowd alone remained; the bier was gone.
Whether carried on, or brought into the house, she now wished to know, with some particulars, of whom it might be, and what belonged to so strange and horrible an appearance.
She rang for little Peggy; but Peggy came not. She rang again, but no one answered the bell.
She opened her door, meaning to descend to her little parlour for information; but the murmuring buzz she had before heard upon the road, was now within the house, which seemed filled with people, all busy and occupied, yet speaking low, and appearing to partake of a general awe.
She could not venture to encounter so many spectators; she shut her door, to wait quietly till this first commotion should be passed.
This was not for more than an hour; when observing, from her window, that the crowd was dispersed, she again listened at the door, and found that the general disturbance was succeeded by a stillness the most profound.
She then rang again, and little Peggy appeared, but looking pale and much frightened.
Camilla asked what had been the matter.
‘O ma’am,’ she answered, crying, ‘here’s been murder! A gentleman has been murdered-and nobody knows who he is, nor who has done it!’
She then related that he had been found dead in a wood hard by, and one person calling another, and another, he had been brought to the inn to be owned.
‘And is he here now?’ with an involuntary shudder asked Camilla.
Yes, she answered, but her mistress had ordered her not to own it, for fear of frightening the young lady; and said he would soon be carried away.
The tale was shocking, and, though scarce conscious why, Camilla desired Peggy to stay with her.
The little girl was most willing; but she was presently called down stairs; and Camilla, with strong shame of nameless fears and weak horrour, strove to meditate to some use upon this scene.
But her mind was disturbed, her composure was gone; her thoughts were broken, abrupt, unfixed, and all upon which she could dwell with any steadiness, was the desire of one more appeal to her family, that yet they would consent to see her, if they received it in time; or that they should know in what frame of mind she expired, should it bring them too late.
With infinite difficulty, she then wrote the following lines; every bending down of her head making it ache nearly to distraction.
‘Adieu, my dearest parents, if again it is denied me to see you! Adieu, my darling sisters! my tender uncle! I ask not now your forgiveness; I know I shall possess it fully; my Father never withheld it,-and my Mother, if against herself alone I had sinned, would have been equally lenient; would have probed but to heal, have corrected, but to pardon. O tenderest of united partners! bless, then, the early ashes of your erring, but adoring daughter, who, from the moment she inflicted one wound upon your bosoms, has found existence intolerable, and prays now but for her earthly release!
This she gave to Peggy, with a charge that, at any expence, it might be conveyed to the rectory at Etherington immediately.
‘And shall I not,’ thought she, when she had rested from this exertion, ‘and may I not at such a period, with innocence, with propriety, write one poor word to him who was so near becoming first to me in all things?’
She again took her pen, but had only written ‘O Edgar! in this last farewell be all displeasure forgotten!-from the first to the final moment of my short life, dear and sole possessor of my heart!’-when the shooting anguish of her head stopt her hand, and hastily writing the direction, lest she could write no more, she, with difficulty added, ’Not to be delivered till I am dead;’ and was forced to lie down, and shut all light from her strained and aching eyes.
Peggy presently brought her word that all the horses were out, and every body was engaged, and that the note could not possibly go till the next day.
Extremely disappointed, she begged to speak with Mrs. Marl; who sent her word she was much engaged, but would wait upon her as soon as she was able.
Vainly, however, she expected her; it grew dusk; she felt herself worse every moment; flushed with fever, or shivering with cold, and her head nearly split asunder with agony. She determined to go once more down stairs, and offer to her host himself any reward he could claim, so he would undertake the immediate delivery of the letter.
With difficulty she arose; with slow steps, and tottering, she descended; but as she approached her little parlour, she heard voices in it, and stopt. They spoke low, and she could not distinguish them. The door of an adjoining room was open, and by its stillness empty; she resolved to ring there, to demand to speak with Mr. Marl. But as she dragged her weak limbs into the apartment, she saw, stretched out upon a large table, the same form, dress, and figure she had seen upon the bier.
Starting, almost fainting, but too much awed to call out, she held trembling by the door.
The bodily feebleness which impeded her immediate retreat, gave force to a little mental reflexion:
Do I shrink thus, thought she, from what so earnestly I have prayed to become . . . and so soon I must represent . . . a picture of death?
She now impelled herself towards the table. A cloth covered the face; she stood still, hesitating if she had power to remove it: but she thought it a call to her own self-examination; and though mentally recoiling, advanced. When close to the table, she stood still, violently trembling. Yet she would not allow herself to retreat. She now put forth her hand; but it shook suspended over the linen, without courage to draw it aside. At length, however, with enthusiastic self-compulsion, slightly and fearfully, she lifted it up . . . but instantly, and with instinctive horrour, snatched her hand away, and placed it before her shut eyes.
She felt, now, she had tried herself beyond her courage, and, deeply moved, was fain to retreat; but in letting down her hand, to see her way, she found she had already removed the linen from a part of the face, and the view she unintentionally caught almost petrified her.
For some instants she stood motionless, from want of strength to stir, but with closed eyes, that feared to confirm their first surmise; but when, turning from the ghastly visage, she attempted, without another glance, to glide away, an unavoidable view of the coat, which suddenly she recognized, put her conjecture beyond all doubt, that she now saw dead before her the husband of her sister.
Resentment, in gentle minds, however merited and provoked, survives not the breath of the offender. With the certainty no further evil can be practised, perishes vengeance against the culprit, though not hatred of the guilt: and though, with the first movement of sisterly feelings, she would have said, Is Eugenia then released? the awe was too great, his own change was too solemn. He was now where no human eye could follow, no human judgment overtake him.
Again she endeavoured to escape the dreadful scene, but her shaking limbs were refractory, and would not support her. The mortal being requires use to be reconciled to its own visible mortality; dismal is its view; grim, repulsive, terrific its aspect.
But no sooner was her head turned from the dire object, than alarm for her sister took possession of her soul; and with what recollection she possessed, she determined to go to Belfont.
An idea of any active service invigorates the body as well as the mind. She made another effort to depart, but a glance she knew not how to avoid shewed her, upon the coat of the right arm and right side of this ghastly figure, large splashes of blood.
With horrour thus accumulate, she now sunk upon the floor, inwardly exclaiming: He is murdered indeed! . . . and where may be Eugenia?
A woman who had in charge to watch by the corpse, but who had privately stolen out for some refreshment, now returning, saw with affright the new person in the room, and ran to call Mrs. Marl; who, alarmed also at the sight of the young lady, and at her deplorable condition, assisted the woman to remove her from the apartment, and convey her to the chamber, where she was laid down upon the bed, though she resisted being undressed, and was seized with an aguish shivering fit, while her eyes seemed emitting sparks of fire.
‘It is certainly now,’ cried she, ‘over, and hence I move no more!’
The joy with which, a few minutes before, she would have welcomed such a belief, was now converted into an awe unspeakable, undefinable. The wish of death is commonly but disgust of life, and looks forward to nothing further than release from worldly care:-but the something yet beyond . . . the something unknown, untried, yet to come, the bourne whence no traveller returns to prepare succeeding passengers for what they may expect, now abruptly presented itself to her consideration, . . . but came to scare, not to soothe.
All here, she cried, I have wished to leave . . . but . . . have I fitted myself for what I am to meet?
Conscience now suddenly took the reins from the hands of imagination, and a mist was cleared away that hitherto, obscuring every duty by despondence, had hidden from her own perceptions the faulty basis of her desire. Conscience took the reins-and a mist was cleared away that had concealed from her view the cruelty of this egotism.
Those friends, it cried, which thus impatiently thou seekest to quit, have they not loved, cherished, reared thee with the most exquisite care and kindness? If they are offended, who has offended them? If thou art now abandoned, may it not be from necessity, or from accident? When thou hast inflicted upon them the severe pain of harbouring anger against what is so dear to them, wouldst thou load them with regret that they manifested any sensibility of thy errours? Hast thou plunged thy house in calamity, and will no worthier wish occur to thee, than to leave it to its sorrows and distress, with the aggravating pangs of causing thy afflicting, however blamable self-desertion? of coming to thee . . . perhaps even now! . . . with mild forgiveness, and finding thee a self-devoted corpse?-not fallen, indeed, by the profane hand of daring suicide, but equally self-murdered through wilful self-neglect.
Had the voice been allowed sound which spoke this dire admonition, it could scarcely with more horrour, or keener repentance have struck her. ‘That poor man,’ she cried, ‘now delivering up his account, by whatever hand he perished, since less principled, less instructed than myself, may be criminal, perhaps, with less guilt!’
The thought now of her Father,-the piety he had striven to inculcate into her mind; his resignation to misfortune, and his trust through every suffering, all came home to her heart, with religious veneration; and making prayer succeed to remorse, guided her to what she knew would be his guidance if present, and she desired to hear the service for the sick.
Peggy could not read; Mrs. Marl was too much engaged; the whole house had ample employment, and her request was unattainable.
She then begged they would procure her a prayer-book, that she might try to read herself; but her eyes, heavy, aching, and dim, glared upon the paper, without distinguishing the print from the margin.
‘I am worse!’ she cried faintly, ‘my wish comes fast upon me! Ah! not for my punishment let it finally arrive!’
With terror, however, even more than with malady, she now trembled. The horrible sight she had witnessed, brought death before her in a new view. She feared she had been presumptuous; she felt that her preparations had all been worldly, her impatience wholly selfish. She called back her wish, with penitence and affright: her agitation became torture, her regret was aggravated to remorse, her grief to despair.
WHEN the first violence of this paroxysm of sorrow abated, Camilla again strove to pray, and found that nothing so much stilled her. Yet, her faculties confused, hurried, and in anguish, permitted little more than incoherent ejaculations. Again she sighed for her Father; again the spirit of his instructions recurred, and she enquired who was the clergyman of the parish, and if he would be humane enough to come and pray by one who had no claim upon him as a parishioner.
Peggy said he was a very good gentleman, and never refused even the poorest person, that begged his attendance.
‘O go to him, then,’ cried she, ‘directly! Tell him a sick and helpless stranger implores that he will read to her the prayers for the dying! . . . Should I yet live . . . they will compose and make me better;-if not . . . they will give me courage for my quick exit.’
Peggy went forth, and she lay her beating head upon the pillow, and endeavoured to quiet her nerves for the sacred ceremony she demanded.
It was dark, and she was alone; the corpse she had just quitted seemed still bleeding in full view. She closed her eyes, but still saw it; she opened them, but it was always there. She felt nearly stiff with horrour, chilled, frozen, with speechless apprehension.
A slumber, feverish nearly to delirium, at length surprised her harassed faculties; but not to afford them rest. Death, in a visible figure, ghastly, pallid, severe, appeared before her, and with its hand, sharp and forked, struck abruptly upon her breast. She screamed-but it was heavy as cold, and she could not remove it. She trembled; she shrunk from its touch; but it had iced her heart-strings. Every vein was congealed; every stiffened limb stretched to its full length, was hard as marble: and when again she made a feeble effort to rid her oppressed lungs of the dire weight that had fallen upon them, a voice hollow, deep, and distant, dreadfully pierced her ear, calling out: ‘Thou hast but thy own wish! Rejoice, thou murmurer, for thou diest!’ Clearer, shriller, another voice quick vibrated in the air: ‘Whither goest thou,’ it cried, ‘and whence comest thou?’
A voice from within, over which she thought she had no controul, though it seemed issuing from her vitals, low, hoarse, and tremulous, answered, ‘Whither I go, let me rest! Whence I come from let me not look back! Those who gave me birth, I have deserted; my life, my vital powers I have rejected.’ Quick then another voice assailed her, so near, so loud, so terrible . . . she shrieked at its horrible sound. ‘Prematurely,’ it cried, ‘thou art come, uncalled, unbidden; thy task unfulfilled, thy peace unearned. Follow, follow me! the Records of Eternity are opened. Come! write with thy own hand thy claims, thy merits to mercy!’ A repelling self-accusation instantaneously overwhelmed her. ‘O, no! no! no!’ she exclaimed, ‘let me not sign my own miserable insufficiency!’ In vain was her appeal. A force unseen, yet irresistible, impelled her forward. She saw the immense volumes of Eternity, and her own hand involuntarily grasped a pen of iron, and with a velocity uncontroulable wrote these words: ‘Without resignation, I have prayed for death: from impatience of displeasure, I have desired annihilation: to dry my own eyes, I have left . . . pitiless, selfish, unnatural! . . . a Father the most indulgent, a Mother almost idolizing, to weep out their’s!’ Her head would have sunk upon the guilty characters; but her eyelids refused to close, and kept them glaring before her. They became, then, illuminated with burning sulphur. She looked another way; but they partook of the same motion; she cast her eyes upwards, but she saw the characters still; she turned from side to side; but they were always her object. Loud again sounded the same direful voice: ‘These are thy deserts; write now thy claims:-and next,-and quick,-turn over the immortal leaves, and read thy doom–Oh, no!’ she cried, ‘Oh, no!’ . . . ‘O, let me yet return! O, Earth, with all thy sorrows, take, take me once again, that better I may learn to work my way to that last harbour, which rejecting the criminal repiner, opens its soft bosom to the firm, though supplicating sufferer!’ In vain again she called;-pleaded, knelt, wept in vain. The time, she found, was past; she had slighted it while in her power; it would return to her no more; and a thousand voices at once, with awful vibration, answered aloud to every prayer, ‘Death was thy own desire!’ Again, unlicensed by her will, her hand seized the iron instrument. The book was open that demanded her claims. She wrote with difficulty . . . but saw that her pen made no mark! She looked upon the page, when she thought she had finished, . . . but the paper was blank! . . . Voices then, by hundreds, by thousands, by millions, from side to side, above, below, around, called out, echoed and re-echoed, ‘Turn over, turn over . . . and read thy eternal doom!’ In the same instant, the leaf, untouched, burst open . . . and she awoke. But in a trepidation so violent, the bed shook under her, the cold sweat, in large drops, fell from her forehead, and her heart still seemed labouring under the adamantine pressure of the inflexibly cold grasp of death. So exalted was her imagination, so confused were all her thinking faculties, that she stared with wild doubt whether then, or whether now, what she experienced were a dream.
In this suspensive state, fearing to call, to move, or almost to breathe, she remained, in perfect stillness, and in the dark, till little Peggy crept softly into the chamber.
Certain then of her situation, ‘This has been,’ she cried, ‘only a vision-but my conscience has abetted it, and I cannot shake it off.’
When she became calmer, and further recollected herself, she anxiously enquired if the clergyman would not come.
Peggy, hesitatingly, acknowledged he had not been sent for; her mistress had imagined the request proceeded from a disturbance of mind, owing to the sight of the corpse, and said she was sure, after a little sleep, it would be forgotten.
‘Alas!’ said Camilla, disappointed, ‘it is more necessary than ever! my senses are wandering; I seem hovering between life and death–Ah! let not my own fearful fancies absorb this hour of change, which religious rites should consecrate!’
She then told Peggy to plead for her to her mistress, and assure her that nothing else, after the dreadful shock she had received, could still her mind.
Mrs. Marl, not long after came into the room herself; and enquiring how she did, said, if she was really bent upon such a melancholy thing, the clergyman had luckily just called, and would read the service to her directly, if it would give her any comfort.
‘O, great and infinite comfort!’ she cried, and begged he might come immediately, and read to her the prayer for those of whom there is but small hope of recovery. She would have risen, that she might kneel; but her limbs would not second her desire, and she was obliged to lie still upon the outside of the bed. Peggy drew the curtains, to shade her eyes, as a candle was brought into the room; but when she heard Mrs. Marl say: ‘Come in, Sir,’ and ‘here’s the prayer-book,’ overpowered with tender recollection of her Father, to whom such offices were frequent, she burst into an agony of tears, and hid her face upon the pillow.
She soon, however, recovered, and the solemnity of the preparation overawed her sorrow. Mrs. Marl placed the light as far as possible from the bed, and when Camilla waved her hand in token of being ready, said, ‘Now, Sir, if you please.’
He complied, though not immediately; but no sooner had he begun, no sooner devoutly, yet tremblingly, pronounced, O Father of Mercies! than a faint scream issued from the bed.–
He stopt; but she did not speak; and after a short pause, he resumed: but not a second sentence was pronounced when she feebly ejaculated, ‘Ah heaven!’ and the book fell from his hands.
She strove to raise her head; but could not; she opened, however, the side curtain, to look out; he advanced, at the same moment, to the foot of the bed . . . fixed his eyes upon her face, and in a voice that seemed to come from his soul, exclaimed, ‘Camilla!’
With a mental emotion that, for an instant, restored her strength, she drew again the curtain, covered up her face, and sobbed even audibly, while the words, ‘O Edgar!’ vainly sought vent.
He attempted not to unclose the curtain she had drawn, but with a deep groan, dropping upon his knees on the outside, cried, ‘Great God!’ but checking himself, hastily arose, and motioning to Mrs. Marl and to Peggy, to move out of hearing, said, through the curtain; ‘O Camilla! what dire calamity has brought this about?–Speak, I implore!-why are you here?-why alone? Speak! Speak!’
He heard she was weeping, but received no answer, and with energy next to torture exclaimed; ‘Refuse not to trust me! recollect our long friendship-forgive-forget its alienation!–By all you have ever valued-by all your wonted generosity–I call–I appeal . . . Camilla! Camilla!-your silence rends my soul!’
Camilla had no utterance, yet could not resist this urgency, and gently through the opening of the curtain, put forth her feeble hand.
He seemed affected to agony; he held it between each of his own, and while softly he uttered, ‘O ever-unchangeably generous Camilla!’ she felt it moistened with his tears.
Too weak for the new sensation this excited, she drew it away, and the violence of her emotion menacing an hysteric fit, Mrs. Marl came back to her, and wringing his hands as he looked around the room, he tore himself away.
DECLINING all aid, Camilla continued in the same position, wrapt up, coveting the dark, and stifling sighs that were rising into sobs, till she heard a gentle tap at her door. She started, but still hid herself: Mrs. Marl was already gone; Peggy answered the summons, and returned to the bedside, with a note in her hand, begging Camilla to take it, as it came from the gentleman who was to have read the prayers.
‘Is he then gone?’ cried she, in a voice announcing deep disappointment.
‘Yes, he went directly, my dear Lady.’
She threw the covering from her face, and with uplifted hands, exclaimed; ‘O Edgar! could you see me thus . . . and leave me?’
Yet eagerly seizing the letter, called for a candle, and strove to read it. But the characters seemed double to her weak and dazzled eyes, and she was forced to relinquish the attempt. She pressed it to her bosom, and again covered herself up.
Something, nevertheless, like internal revival, once more, to her own unspeakable amazement, began fluttering at her breast. She had seen the beloved of her heart-dearer to her far than the life she thought herself resigning; seen him penetrated to anguish by her situation, awakened to the tenderest recollections, and upon her hand had dropt a testimony of his sensibility, that, dead as she had thought herself to the world, its views, its hopes, its cares, passed straight to her heart-that wonderful repository of successive emotions, whence the expulsion of one species of interest but makes way for the entrance of another; and which vainly, while yet in mortal life, builds, even from hour to hour, upon any chasm of mortal solicitude.
While wrapt up in this reverie, poignantly agitating, yet undefinably soothing, upon the return of Edgar to England, and his astonishing appearance in her room, her attention was again aroused by another gentle tap at the door.
Peggy opened it, and left the room; but soon came back, to beg an answer to the note, for which the gentleman was waiting upon the stairs.
‘Waiting?’ she repeated, in extreme trepidation, ‘is he not then gone?’
‘No ma’am, only out of the room; he can’t go away without the answer, he says.’
A sensation of pleasure was now so new to Camilla, as almost to be too potent either for her strength or her intellects. She doubted all around her, doubted what she heard, doubted even her existence. Edgar, could it be Edgar who was waiting for an answer? . . . who was under the same roof-who had been in the same room-who was now separated from her but by a thin wainscot?–‘O no, no, no!’ she cried, ‘my senses all delude me! one vision after another beguiles my deranged imagination!’ Yet she called Peggy to her again, again asked her if it were indeed true; and, bidding her once more bring the candle, the new spirit with which she was invigorated, enabled her to persevere in her efforts, till she made out the following lines; which were sealed, but not directed.
‘The sorrow, the tumult of my soul, I attempt not to paint.–Forgive, O Camilla! an intrusion which circumstances made resistless. Deign to bury in kind oblivion all remembrance but of our early friendship-our intuitive attachment, our confidence, esteem, and happy juvenile intercourse; and under such auspices-animated as they are innocent-permit me to hasten Mrs. Tyrold to this spot, or trust me–I conjure-with the mystery of this dreadful desolation–O Camilla!-by all the scenes that have passed between us-by the impression indelible they have engraved upon my heart, wound not the most faithful of your friends by rejecting his services!
Dissolved in tears of tenderness, relieving, nay delightful, she immediately sent him word that she accepted his kind office, and should feel eternal gratitude if he would acquaint her friends with her situation.
Peggy soon informed her the gentleman was gone; and she then inquired why he had been brought to her as a clergyman.
The little girl gave the account with the utmost simplicity. Her mistress, she said, knew the gentleman very well, who was ‘Squire Mandlebert, and lived at a great house not many miles off; and had just alighted to bait his horses, as she went to ask about sending for the clergyman. He inquired who was ill; and her Mistress said it was a Lady who had gone out of her mind, by seeing a dead body, and raved of nothing but having prayers read to her; which her husband would do, when his house was clear, if the humour lasted: for they had nobody to send three miles off; and by drawing the curtains, she would not know if it was a clergyman or not. The young ‘Squire then asked if she was a lodger or a traveller, and her mistress answered: ‘She’s a traveller, Sir; and if it had not been for Peggy’s knowing her, we should have been afraid who she might be; for she stays here, and never pays us; only she has given us a watch and a locket for pledges.’ Then he asked on some more questions, continued Peggy, and presently desired to see the locket; and when he had looked at it, he turned as white as a sheet, and said he must see the lady. Her mistress said she was laid down upon the bed, and she could not send in a gentleman; unless it was her husband, just to quiet her poor head by reading her a prayer or too. So then the ‘Squire said he’d take the prayer book and read to her himself, if she’d spare time to go in the room first, and shut up the curtains. So her mistress said no, at first; but Peggy said the poor lady fretted on so badly, that presently up they came together.
Ah! dear darling locket! internally cried Camilla, how from the first have I loved-how to the last will I prize it! Ah! dear darling locket! how for ever-while I live-will I wear it in my bosom!
A calm now took place of her agonies that made her seem in a renovated existence, till sleep, by gentle approaches, stole upon her again: not to bring to her the dread vision which accompanied its first return; nor yet to allow her tranquil repose. A softer form appeared before her; more afflictive, though not so horrible; it was the form of her Mother; all displeasure removed from her penetrating countenance; no longer in her dying child viewing the child that had offended her; yet while forgiving and embracing, seeing her expire in her arms.
She awakened, affrighted,-she started, she sat upright; she called aloud upon her mother, and wildly looking round, thought she saw her at the foot of the bed.
She crossed her eyes with her hands, to endeavour to clear her sight: but the object only seemed more distinct. She bent forward, seeking conviction, yet incredulous, though still meeting the same form.
Sighing, at last, from fruitless fatigue; “Tis wondrous odd,’ she cried, ‘but I now never know when I wake or when I sleep!’
The form glided away; but with motion so palpable, she could no longer believe herself played upon by imagination. Awe-imprest, and wonder-struck, she softly opened her side curtain to look after it. It had stopt by a high chest of drawers, against which, leaning its head upon its arm, it stood erect, but seemed weeping. She could not discern the face; but the whole figure had the same sacred resemblance.
The pulses of her head beat now with so much violence, she was forced to hold her temples. Doubt, dread, and hope seized every faculty at once; till, at length, the upraised arm of the form before her dropt, and she distinctly saw the profile: ‘It is herself! it is my Mother!’ she screamed, rather than pronounced, and threw herself from the bed to the floor.
‘Yes! it is your Mother!’ was repeated, in a tone solemn and penetrating–‘to what a scene, O Camilla, returned! her house abandoned . . . her son in exile . . . her Eugenia lost . . . her husband, the prop of all! . . . where she dare not name!. .. and thou, the child of her bosom! . . . the constant terrour, yet constant darling of her soul . . . where, and how, does she see, does she meet thee, again–O Camilla!’
Then tenderly, though with anguish, bending over her, she would have raised, and helped her to return to the bed: but Camilla would not be aided; she would not lift up her eyes; her face sought the ground, where leaning it upon her hands, without desiring to speak, without wishing to stir, torn by self-reproaches that made her deem herself unworthy to live, she remained speechless, immoveable.
‘Repress, repress,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, gently, yet firmly, ‘these strong feelings, uselessly torturing to us both. Raise your head, my poor girl . . . raise . . . and repose it upon the breast of your Mother.’
‘Of my Mother?’ repeated Camilla, in a voice hardly audible; ‘have I a Mother-who again will own the blast of her hopes and happiness?-the disgrace, the shame of the best and most injured of Fathers!’
‘Let us pray,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, with a sigh, ‘that these evils may pass away, and by salutary exertions, not desponding repinings, earn back our fugitive peace.’
Again she then would have raised her; but Camilla sunk from all assistance: ‘No,’ she cried, ‘I am unworthy your lenity–I am unable even to bear it, . . . ’
‘Camilla,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, steadily, ‘it is time to conquer this impetuous sensibility, which already, in its effects, has nearly broken all our hearts. With what horrour have we missed-with what agony sought you! Now then, that at length, we find you, excite not new terrour, by consigning yourself to willing despair.’
Struck with extreme dread of committing yet further wrong, she lifted up her head, with intention to have risen; but the weak state of her body, forgotten by herself, and by Mrs. Tyrold unsuspected, took its turn for demanding attention.
‘Alas! my poor Child,’ cried she, ‘what horrible havock has this short absence produced! O Camilla! . . . with a soul of feeling like yours,-strong, tender, generous, and but too much alive, how is it you can thus have forgotten the first ties of your duty, and your heart, and have been wrought upon by your own sorrows to forget the sorrows you inflict? Why have you thus fled us? thus abandoned yourself to destruction? Was our anger to be set in competition with our misery? Was the fear of displeasure, from parents who so tenderly love you, to be indulged at the risk of never ending regret to the most lenient of Fathers? and nearly the loss of senses to a Mother who, from your birth, has idolized you in her inmost soul?’
Bending then over her, she folded her in her arms; where Camilla, overpowered with the struggles of joy and contrition, sunk nearly lifeless.
Mrs. Tyrold, seeing now her bodily feebleness, put her to bed, with words of soothing tenderness, no longer blended with retrospective investigation; conjuring her to be calm, to remember whose peace and happiness were encircled in her life and health, and to remit to her fuller strength all further interesting discourse.
‘Ah, my Mother!’ cried Camilla, ‘tell me first-if the time may ever come when with truth you can forgive me?’
‘Alas, my darling Child!’ answered the generous Mother, ‘I have myself now to pardon that I forgave thee not at first!’
Camilla seemed transported to another region; with difficulty Mrs. Tyrold could hold her in her bed, though hovering over her pillow with incessant caresses: but to raise her eye only to meet that of her Mother-not as her fertile terrour had prophesied, darting unrelenting ire, but softly solicitous, and exquisitely kind; to feel one loved hand anxiously upon her forehead, and to glue her own lips upon the other; to find fears that had made existence insupportable, transformed into security that rendered it delicious;-with a floating, uncertain, yet irrepressible hope, that to Edgar she owed this restoration, caused a revulsion in all her feelings, that soon operated upon her frame-not, indeed, with tranquillity, but with rapture approaching to delirium:-when suddenly, a heavy, lumbering noise, appalled her. ‘Ah, my Mother!’ she faintly cried, ‘our beloved Eugenia! . . . that noise . . . where-and how-is Eugenia?–The wretched Mr. Bellamy is no more!’
Mrs. Tyrold answered, she was acquainted with the whole dreadful business, and would relate it in a season of more serenity; but meanwhile, as repose, she well knew, never associated with suspence, she satisfied immediate anxiety, by assurances that Eugenia was safe, and at Etherington.
This was a joy scarce inferior to that which so recently had transported her: but Mrs. Tyrold, gathering from the good Peggy, that she had not been in bed, nor scarce tasted food, since she had been at the half-way-house, refused all particulars, till she had been refreshed with nourishment and rest. The first immediately was ordered, and immediately taken; and Mrs. Tyrold, to propitiate the second, insisted upon total silence, and prepared to sit up with her all night.
Long as the extreme agitation of her spirits distanced
Tir’d Nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep, [Young]
the change from so much misery to heart-felt peace and joy, with the judicious nursing and restoratives devised by Mrs. Tyrold, for her weak and half famished frame, made her slumber, when at length, it arrived, last so long that, though broken by frequent starts, she awoke not till late the next morning.
Her eyes then opened upon a felicity that again made her think herself in a new world. Her Mother, leaning over her, was watching her breathe, with hands uplifted for her preservation, and looks of fondness which seemed to mark that her happiness depended upon its being granted; but as she raised herself, to throw her arms around the loved maternal neck, the shadow of another form, quickly, yet gently receding, struck her sight; . . . ‘Ah, Heaven!’ she exclaimed, ‘who is that?’
‘Will you be good,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, gently, ‘be tranquil, be composed, and earn that I should tell you who has been watching by you this hour?’
Camilla could not answer; certain, now, who it must be, her emotions became again uncontrollable; her horrour, her remorse, her self-abhorrence revived, and agonizingly exclaiming, “Tis my Father!–O, where can I hide my head?’ She strove again to envelop herself with the bed-curtain from all view.
‘Here-in his own arms-upon his own breast you shall hide it,’ said Mr. Tyrold, returning to the bed-side, ‘and all now shall be forgotten, but thankfulness that our afflictions seem finding their period.’
‘O my Father! my Father!’ cried Camilla, forgetting her situation, in her desire to throw herself at his feet, ‘can you speak to me thus, after the woe-the disgrace I have brought upon you?–I deserve your malediction! . . . I expected to be shut out from your heart,–I thought myself abandoned–I looked forward only in death to receiving your forgiveness!–’
Mrs. Tyrold held her still, while her Father now blessed and embraced her, each uttering, in the same moment, whatever was softest to console her: but all her quick feelings were re-awakened beyond their power to appease them; her penitence tortured, her very gratitude tore her to pieces: ‘O my Mother,’ she cried, ‘how do you forbear to spurn me? Can you think of what is passed, and still pronounce your pardon? Will you not draw it back at the sight of my injured Father? Are you not tempted to think I deserve eternal banishment from you both?-and to repent that you have not ordered it?’
‘No, my dearest Child, no! I lament only that I took you not at once to your proper security-to these arms, my Camilla, that now so fondly infold you! to this bosom-my darling girl! where my heart beats your welcome!’
‘You make me too-too happy! the change is almost killing! my Mother-my dearest Mother!–I did not think you would permit me to ever call you so again! My Father I knew would pardon me, for the chief suffering was his own; but even he, I never expected could look at me thus benignly again! and hardly-hardly would he have been tried, if the evil had been reversed!’
Mr. Tyrold exhorted her to silent composure; but finding her agitation over-power even her own efforts, he summoned her to join him in solemn thanks for her restoration.
Awfully, though most gratefully, impressed by such a call, she checked her emotion, and devoutly obeyed: and the short but pious ceremony quieted her nerves, and calmed her mind.
The gentlest tranquillity then took place in her breast, of the tumultuous joy which had first chaced her deadly affliction. The soothing, however serious turn, given by devotion to her changed sensations, softened the acute excess of rapture which mounted felicity nearly to agony. More eloquent, as well as safer than any speech, was the pause of deep gratitude, the silence of humble praise, which ensued. Camilla, in each hand held one of each beloved Parent; alternately she pressed them with grateful reverence to her lips, alternately her eye sought each revered countenance, and received, in the beaming fondness they emitted, a benediction that was balm to every woe.
MR. Tyrold was soon, by urgent claims, forced to leave them; and Camilla, with strong secret anxiety to know if Edgar had caused this blest meeting, led to a general explanation upon past events.
And now, to her utter amazement, she found that her letter sent by the labourer had never been received.
Mrs. Tyrold related, that she had no sooner read the first letter addressed to her through Lavinia, than, softened and affected, she wrote an answer of the utmost kindness to Belfont; desiring Camilla to continue with her sister till called for by Miss Margland, in her return home from Mrs. Macdersey. The visit, meanwhile to Cleves, had transpired through Jacob, and, much touched by, yet much blaming her travelling thus alone, she wrote to her a second time, charging her to remove no more from Belfont without Miss Margland. But, on the preceding morning, the first letter had been returned with a note from Eugenia, that her sister had set out two days before for Etherington.
The moment of this intelligence, was the most dreadful to Mr. Tyrold and herself of their lives. Every species of conjecture was horrible. He set out instantly for Belfont, determining to make enquiries at every inn, house, and cottage, by the way; but by taking, unfortunately, the road through Alton, he had missed the half-way-house. In the evening, while, with apprehensions surpassing all description, she was waiting some news, a chaise drove up to the door. She flew out, but saw in it . . . alone, cold, trembling, and scarce in her senses, Eugenia. Instantly imagining she came with tidings of fatal tendency concerning Camilla, she started back, exclaiming, ‘All, then, is over?’ The chaise-door had been opened; but Eugenia, shaking too violently to get out; only, and faintly, answered, ‘Yes! my Mother . . . all is over!–’ The mistake was almost instantaneous death to her-though the next words of Eugenia cleared it up, and led to her own dreadful narrative.
Bellamy, as soon as Camilla had left Belfont, had made a peremptory demand that his wife should claim, as if for some purpose of her own, a large sum of Sir Hugh. Her steady resistance sent him from the house in a rage; and she saw no more of him till that day at noon, when he returned in deeper, blacker wrath than she had ever yet seen; and vowed that nothing less than her going in person to her uncle with his request, should induce him ever to forgive her. When he found her resolute in refusal, he ordered a chaise, and made her get into it, without saying for what purpose. She saw they were travelling towards Cleves, but he did not once speak, except where they changed horses, till they came upon the cross-road, leading to the half-way-house. Suddenly then, bidding the postillion stop at the end of a lane, he told him he was going to look at a little farm, and, ordering him to wait, made her alight and walk down it till they were out of sight of the man and the carriage. Fiercely, then stopping short, ‘Will you give me,’ he cried, ‘your promise, upon oath, that you will ask your Uncle for the money?’ ‘Indeed, Mr. Bellamy, I cannot!’ she answered. ‘Enough!’ he cried, and took from his pocket a pistol. ‘Good Heaven,’ she said, ‘you will not murder me?’–‘I cannot live without the money myself,’ he answered, ‘and why should I let you?’ He then felt in his waistcoat pocket, whence he took two bullets, telling her, she should have the pleasure of seeing him load the pistol; and that when one bullet had dispatched her, the other should disappoint the executioner. Horrour now conquered her, and she solemnly promised to ask whatever he dictated. ‘I must hold the pistol to your ear,’ cried he, ‘while you take your oath. See! ’tis loaded–This is no child’s play.’ He then lifted it up; but, at the same moment, a distant voice exclaimed, ‘Hold, villain! or you are a dead man!’ Starting, and meaning to hide it within his waistcoat, his hand shook-the pistol went off-it shot him through the body, and he dropt down dead. Without sense or motion, she fell by his side; and, upon recovering, found herself again in the chaise. The postillion, who knew her, had carried her thither, and brought her on to Etherington. She then conjured that proper persons might go back with the driver, and that her Father would have the benevolence to superintend all that could be done that would be most respectfully decent.
The postillion acknowledged that it was himself who had cried, Hold, villain! A suspicion of some mischief had occurred to him, from seeing the end of a pistol jerk from the pocket of the gentleman, as he got out of the chaise; and begging a man, who accidentally passed while he waited, to watch his horses, he ran down a field by the side of the lane, whence he heard the words: ‘The pistol is loaded, and for no child’s play!’ upon which, seeing it raised, and the young Lady shrink, he called out. Yet Eugenia protested herself convinced that Bellamy had no real design against either his own life or her’s, though terrour, at the moment, had conquered her: he had meant but to affright her into consent, knowing well her word once given, with whatever violence torn from her, would be held sacred. The rest was dreadful accident, or Providence in that form playing upon himself his own toils. The pious young Widow was so miserable at this shocking exit, and the shocking manner in which the remains were left exposed, that her Mother had set out herself to give orders in person, from the half-way-house, for bringing thither the body, till Mr. Tyrold could give his own directions. She found, however, that business already done. The man called by the postillion had been joined by a party of labourers, just leaving off work; those had gathered others; they had procured some broad planks which served for a bier, and had humanely conveyed the body to the inn, where the landlord was assured the postillion would come back with some account of him, though little Peggy had only learnt in general that he had been found murdered near a wood.
‘Eugenia is just now,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, in conclusion, ‘plunged into an abyss of ideas, frightful to her humanity, and oppressive to the tenderness of her heart. Her nature is too noble to rejoice in a release to herself, worked by means so horrible, and big with notions of retribution for the wretched culprit, at which even vengeance the most implacable might shudder. Nevertheless, all will imperceptibly pass away, save the pity inherent in all good minds for vice and its penalties. To know his abrupt punishment, and not to be shocked, would be inhuman; but to grieve with any regard for a man of such principles and conduct, would be an outrage to all that they have injured and offended.’
This view of the transaction, by better reconciling Camilla to the ultimate lot of her sister, brought her back to reflect upon her own. Still she had not gathered with precision how she had been discovered. To pronounce the name of Edgar was impossible; but after a long pause, which Mrs. Tyrold had hoped was given again to repose, she ventured to say, ‘I have not yet heard, my dearest Mother, to what benign chance I immediately owe my present unspeakable, unmerited happiness?’
Mrs. Tyrold looked at her a moment in silence, as if to read what her question offered beyond its mere words: but she saw her eye hastily withdrawn from the examination, and her cheeks suddenly enveloped with the bed cloaths.
Quietly, and without turning towards her again, she resumed her narrative.
‘I engaged the worthy postillion of my poor Eugenia to drive me, purposing to send Ambrose on with him, while I waited at the half-way-house: but, about two miles off, Ambrose, who rode before, was stopt by a gentleman, whom he met in a post chaise; when I came up to him, I stopt also. It was Mr. Mandlebert.’
Camilla, who had looked up, now again hastily drew back, and Mrs. Tyrold, after a short pause, went on.
‘His intelligence, of course, finished my search. My first idea was to convey you instantly home; but the particulars I gathered made me fear removing you. When I entered your room, you were asleep;–I dreaded to surprise yet could not refrain taking a view of you, and while I looked, you suddenly awoke.’
Ah! thought Camilla, ’tis to Edgar, then, that ultimately I owe this blest moment!
‘But my Father,’ she cried, ‘my dearest Mother,-how came my dear Father to know where you had found me?’
‘At Belfont he learnt the way you had set out, and that Eugenia and Bellamy were from home; and, without loss of time . . . regardless of the night and of fasting, . . . he returned by a route through which he traced you at every inn where you had changed horses. He, also, entered as you were sleeping-and we watched together by your side.’
Again filial gratitude silenced all but itself, and sleep, the softest she had known for many months, soon gave to oblivion every care in Camilla.
The changeful tide of mental spirits from misery to enjoyment, is not more rapid than the transition from personal danger to safety, in the elastic period of youth. ’Tis the epoch of extremes; and moderation, by which alone we learn the true use of our blessings, is a wisdom we are frequently only taught to appreciate when redundance no longer requires its practice.
Camilla, from sorrow the most desolate, bounded to joy that refused a solicitude; and from an illness that held her suspended between delirium and dissolution, to ease that had no complaint. The sufferings which had deprived her of the benefit of rest and nourishment were no sooner removed, than she appeared to be at once restored to health; though to repair the wastes of strength some time yet was necessary.
Mrs. Tyrold determined to carry her this afternoon to Etherington. The remains of the wretched Bellamy, in a coffin and hearse brought from Winchester, had been sent to Belfont in the morning: and Mr. Tyrold had followed, to give every direction that he should be buried as the master of the house; without reference to the conduct which had forfeited all such respect.
Though the evil committed by the non-deliverance of Camilla’s letter was now past all remedy, Mrs. Tyrold thought it every way right to endeavour to discover where the blame: and by the two usual modes of menace and promises, she learnt that the countryman, when he stopt to drink by the way, had, in lighting his pipe, let the letter take fire; and fearing to lose the recompense he had expected, had set his conscience apart for a crown, and returned with the eventful falsehood, which had made Camilla think herself abandoned, and her friends deplore her as lost.
For the benefit of those with whom, in future, he might have to deal, Mrs. Tyrold took some pains to represent to him the cruel evils his dishonesty had produced; but, stupid rather than wicked, what he had done had been without weighing right from wrong, and what he heard was without understanding it.
Camilla found, with extreme satisfaction, that Mrs. Tyrold, notwithstanding the strictness of the present family oeconomy, meant liberally to recompense Mrs. Marl, for the trouble and patience with which she had attended to a guest so little profitable: while Peggy, to whose grateful remembrance she owed the consideration she had met with in her deserted condition, was rewarded by a much larger sum than she had ever before possessed. Camilla was obliged to confess she had parted with two pledges for future payment: the watch was reclaimed without difficulty; but she shewed so much distress in naming the locket, that Mrs. Tyrold, though she looked anxiously surprised, demanded it without enquiring into its history.
The excess of delight to Camilla in preparing to return to Etherington, rendered her insensible to all fatigue, till she was descending the stairs; when the recollection of the shock she had received from the corpse of Bellamy, made her tremble so exceedingly, that she could scarce walk past the door of the room in which it had been laid. ‘Ah, my dearest Mother,’ she cried, ‘this house must give me always the most penetrating sensations: I have experienced in it the deepest grief, and the most heart-soothing enjoyment that ever, perhaps, gave place one to the other in so short a time!’
Ambrose had announced their intended arrival, and at the door of the house, the timid, but affectionate Lavinia was waiting to receive them; and as Camilla, in alighting, met her tender embraces, a well-known voice reached her ears, calling out in hurried accents, ‘Where is she? Is she come indeed? Are you quite sure?’ And Sir Hugh, hobbling rather than walking into the hall, folded her in his feeble arms, sobbing over her: ‘I can’t believe it for joy! Poor sinner that I am, and the cause of all our bad doings! how can I have deserved such a thing as this, to have my own little Girl come back to me? which could not have made my heart gladder, if I had had no share in all this bad mischief! which, God knows I’ve had enough, owing to my poor head doing always for the worst, for all my being the oldest of us all; which is a thing I’ve often thought remarkable enough, in the point of my knowing no better; which however, I hope my dear little Darling will excuse for the sake of my love, which is never happy but in seeing her.’
The heart of Camilla bounded with grateful joy at sight of this dear Uncle, and at so tender a reception: and while with equal emotion, and equal weakness, they were unable to support either each other or themselves, the worthy old Jacob, his eyes running over, came to help his Master back to the parlour, and Mrs. Tyrold and Lavinia conveyed thither Camilla: who was but just placed upon a sofa, by the side of her fond Uncle, when the door of an inner apartment was softly opened, and pale, wan, and meagre, Eugenia appeared at it, saying, as faintly, yet with open arms, she advanced to Camilla: ‘Let me too-your poor harassed, and but half-alive Eugenia, make one in this precious scene! Let me see the joy of my kind Uncle-the revival of my honoured Mother, the happiness of my dear Lavinia-and feel even my own heart beat once more with delight in the bosom of its darling Sister! . . . my so mourned-but now for ever, I trust, restored to me, most dear Camilla!’
Camilla, thus encircled in her Mother’s, Uncle’s, Sister’s, arms at once, gasped, sighed, smiled, and shed tears in the same grateful minute, while fondly she strove to articulate, ‘Am I again at Etherington and at Cleves in one? And thus indulgently received? thus more than forgiven? My heart wants room for its joy! my Mother! my Sisters! if you knew what despair has been my portion! I feared even the sight of my dear Uncle himself, lest the sorrows and the errours of a creature he so kindly loved, should have demolished his generous heart!’
‘Mine, my dearest little Girl?’ cried the Baronet, ‘why what would that have signified, in comparison to such a young one as yours, that ought to know no sorrow yet a while? God knows, it being time enough to begin: for it is but melancholy at best, the cares of the world; which if you can’t keep off now, will be overtaking you at every turn.’
Mrs. Tyrold entreated Camilla might be spared further conversation. Eugenia had already glided back to her chamber, and begged, this one solacing interview over, to be dispensed with from joining the family at present; Camilla was removed also to her chamber; and the tender Mother divided her time and her cares between these two recovered treasures of her fondest affection.
MR. Tyrold did not return till the next day from Belfont, where, through the account he gave from his Daughter, the violent exit of the miserable Bellamy was brought in accidental death. Various circumstances had now acquainted him with the history of that wretched man, who was the younger son of the master of a great gaming-house. In his first youth, he had been utterly neglected, and left to run wild whither he chose; but his father afterwards becoming very rich, had bestowed upon him as good an education as the late period at which it was begun could allow. He was intended for a lucrative business; but he had no application, and could retain no post: he went into the army; but he had no courage, and was speedily cashiered. Inheriting a passion for the means by which the parental fortune had been raised, he devoted himself next to its pursuit, and won very largely. But as extravagance and good luck, by long custom, go hand in hand, he spent as fast as he acquired; and upon a tide of fortune in his disfavour, was tempted to reverse the chances by unfair play, was found out, and as ignominiously chaced from the field of hazard as from that of patriotism. His father was no more; his eldest brother would not assist him; he sold therefore his house, and all he possessed but his wardrobe, and, relying upon a very uncommonly handsome face and person, determined to seek a fairer lot, by eloping, if possible, with some heiress. He thought it, however, prudent not only to retire from London, but to make a little change in his name, which from Nicholas Gwigg he refined into Alphonso Bellamy. He began his career by a tour into Wales; where he insinuated himself into the acquaintance of Mrs. Ecton, just after she had married Miss Melmond to Mr. Berlinton: and though this was not an intercourse that could travel to Gretna Green, the beauty and romantic turn of the bride of so disproportioned a marriage, opened to his unprincipled mind a scheme yet more flagitious. Fortunately, however, for his fair destined prey, soon after the connexion was formed, she left Wales; and the search of new adventures carried him, by various chances, into Hampshire. But he had established with her a correspondence, and when he had caught, or rather forced, an heiress into legal snares, the discovery of who and what he was, became less important, and he ventured again to town, and renewed his heinous plan, as well as his inveterate early habits; till surprised by some unpleasant recollectors, debts of honour, which he had found it convenient to elude upon leaving the Capital, were claimed, and he found it impossible to appear without satisfying such demands. Thence his cruel and inordinate persecution of his unhappy wife for money; and thence, ultimately, the brief vengeance which had reverberated upon his own head.
Camilla, whose danger was the result of self-neglect, as her sufferings had all flowed from mental anguish, was already able to go down to the study upon the arrival of Mr. Tyrold: where she received, with grateful rapture, the tender blessings which welcomed her to the paternal arms-to her home-to peace-to safety-and primÃ¦val joy.
Mr. Tyrold, sparing to her yet weak nerves any immediate explanations upon the past, called upon his wife to aid him to communicate, in the quietest manner, what had been done at Belfont to Eugenia; charging Camilla to take no part in a scene inevitably shocking.
Once more in the appropriate apartment of her Father, where all her earliest scenes of gayest felicity had passed, but which, of late, she had only approached with terrour, only entered to weep, she experienced a delight almost awful in the renovation of her pristine confidence, and fearless ease. She took from her pocket-where alone she could ever bear to keep it-her loved locket, delighting to attribute to it this restoration to domestic enjoyment; though feeling at the same time, a renewal of suspence from the return of its donor, and from the affecting interview into which she had been surprised, that broke in upon even her filial happiness, with bitter, tyrannical regret. Yet she pressed to her bosom the cherished symbol of first regard, and was holding it to her lips, when Mrs. Tyrold, unexpectedly, re-entered the room.
In extreme confusion, she shut it into its shagreen case, and was going to restore it to her pocket; but infolding it, with her daughter’s hand, between each of her own, Mrs. Tyrold said, ‘Shall I ever, my dear girl, learn-the history of this locket?’
‘O yes, my dearest Mother,’ said the blushing Camilla, ‘of that-and of every-and of all things-you have only-you have merely–’
‘If it distresses you, my dear child, we will leave it to another day,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, whose eyes Camilla saw, as she now raised her own, were swimming in tears.
‘My Mother! my dearest Mother!’ cried she, with the tenderest alarm, ‘has any thing new happened?–Is Eugenia greatly affected?’
‘She is all, every way, and in every respect,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, ‘whatever the fondest, or even the proudest Mother could wish. But I do not at this instant most think of her. I am not without some fears for my Camilla’s strength, in the immediate demand that may be made upon her fortitude. Tell me, my child, with that sincerity which so long has been mutually endearing between us, tell me if you think you can see here, again, and as usual, without any risk to your health, one long admitted and welcomed as a part of the family?’
She started, changed colour, looked up, cast her eyes on the floor; but soon seeing Mrs. Tyrold hold an handkerchief bathed in tears to her face, lost all dread, and even all consciousness in tender gratitude, and throwing her arms round her neck, ‘O my Mother,’ she cried, ‘you who weep not for yourself-scarcely even in the most poignant sorrow-can you weep for me?–I will see-or I will avoid whoever you please–I shall want no fortitude, I shall fear nothing-no one-not even myself-now again under your protection! I will scarcely even think, my beloved Mother, but by your guidance!’
‘Compose yourself, then, my dearest girl: and, if you believe you are equal to behaving with firmness, I will not refuse his request of re-admission.’
‘His request?’ repeated Camilla, with involuntary quickness; but finding Mrs. Tyrold did not notice it, gently adding, ‘That person that–I believe-you mean-has done nothing, my dear Mother, to merit expulsion!–’
‘I am happy to hear you say so: I have been fearfully, I must own, and even piercingly displeased with him.’
‘Ah, my dear Mother! how kind was the partiality that turned your displeasure so wrong a way! that made you,-even you, my dear Mother, listen to your fondness rather than to your justice!–’
She trembled at the temerity of this vindication the moment it had escaped her, and looking another way, spoke again of Eugenia: but Mrs. Tyrold now, taking both her hands, and seeking, though vainly, to meet her eyes, said, ‘My dearest child, I grow painfully anxious to end a thousand doubts; to speak and to hear with no further ambiguity, nor reserve. If Edgar–’
Camilla again changed colour, and strove to withdraw her hands.
‘Take courage, my dear love, and let one final explanation relieve us both at once. If Edgar his merited well of you, why are you parted?–If ill-why this solicitude my opinion of him should be unshaken?’
Her head now dropt upon Mrs. Tyrold’s shoulder, as she faintly answered, ‘He deserves your good opinion, my dearest Mother-for he adores you–I cannot be unjust to him,-though he has made me–I own-not very happy!’
‘Designedly, my Camilla?’
‘O, no, my dearest Mother!-he would not do that to an enemy!’
‘Speak out, then, and speak clearer, my dearest Camilla. If you think of him so well, and are so sure of his good intentions, what-in two words,-what is it that has parted you?’
‘Accident, my dearest Mother-deluding appearances, and false internal reasoning on my part,-and on his, continual misconstruction! O my dearest Mother! how have I missed your guiding care! I had ever the semblance, by some cruel circumstance, some inexplicable fatality of incident, to neglect his counsel, oppose his judgment, deceive his expectations, and trifle with his regard!–Yet, with a heart faithful, grateful, devoted,–O my dearest Mother!-with an esteem that defies all comparison, . . . a respect closely meliorating even to veneration! . . . Never was heart . . . my dearest Mother, so truly impressed with the worth of another . . . with the nobleness. . . . ’
A buzzing noise from the adjoining parlour, sounding something between a struggle and a dispute, suddenly stopt her, . . . and as she raised her head from the bosom of her Mother, in which she had seemed seeking shelter from the very confidence she was pouring forth, she saw the door opened, and the object of whom she was speaking appear at it. . . . Fluttered, colouring, trembling, . . . yet with eyes refulgent with joy, and every feature speaking ecstasy.
Almost fainting with shame and surprise, she gave herself up as disgraced, if not dishonoured evermore, for a short, but bitter half moment. It was not longer. Edgar, rushing forward, and seizing the hands of Mrs. Tyrold, even while they were encircling her drooping, shrinking, half expiring Camilla, pressed them with ardent respect to his lips, rapidly exclaiming, ‘My more than Mother! my dear, kind, excellent, inestimable friend!–Forgive this blest intrusion-plead for me where I dare not now speak-and raise your indeed maternal eyes upon the happiest-the most devoted of your family!’
‘What is it overpowers me thus this morning?’ cried Mrs. Tyrold, leaning her head upon her clinging Camilla, while large drops fell from her eyes; ‘Misfortune, I see, is not the greatest test of our philosophy! . . . joy, twice today, has completely demolished mine!’
‘What goodness is this! what encouragement to hope some indulgent intercession here-where the sense that now breaks in upon me of ungenerous . . . ever to be lamented-and I had nearly said, execrated doubt, fills me with shame and regret-and makes me-even at this soft reviving, heart-restoring moment, feel undeserving my own hopes!’–
‘Shall I-may I leave him to make his peace?’ whispered Mrs. Tyrold to her daughter, whose head sought concealment even to annihilation; but whose arms, with what force they possessed, detained her, uttering faintly but rapidly, ‘O no, no, no!’
‘My more than Mother!’ again cried Edgar, ‘–I will wait till that felicity may be accorded me, and put myself wholly under your kind and powerful influence. One thing alone I must say;–I have too much to answer for, to take any share of the misdemeanors of another!–I have not been a treacherous listener, though a wilful obtruder–See, Mrs. Tyrold! Who placed me in that room-who is the accomplice of my happiness!’
With a smile that seemed to beam but the more brightly for her glistening eyes, Mrs. Tyrold looked to the door, and saw there, leaning against it, the form she most revered; surveying them all with an expression of satisfaction so perfect, contentment so benign, and pleasure mingled with so much thankfulness, that her tears now flowed fast from unrestrained delight; and Mr. Tyrold, approaching to press at once the two objects of his most exquisite tenderness to his breast, said, ‘This surprise was not planned, but circumstances made it more than irresistible. It was not, however, quite fair to my Camilla, and if she is angry, we will be self-exiled till she can pardon us.’
‘This is such a dream,’-cried Camilla, as now, first, from the voice of her Father she believed it reality; ‘so incredible-so unintelligible–I find it entirely-impossible-impossible to comprehend any thing I see or hear!’–
‘Let the past, . . . not the present,’ cried Edgar, ‘be regarded as the dream! And generously drive it from your mind as a fever of the brain, with which reason had no share, and for which memory must find no place.’
‘If I could understand in the least,’ said Camilla, ‘what this all means . . . what–’
Mr. Tyrold now insisted that Edgar should retreat, while he made some explanation; and then related to his trembling, doubting, wondering daughter, the following circumstances.
In returning from Belfont, he had stopt at the half-way-house, where he had received from Mrs. Marl, a letter that, had it reached him as it was intended, at Etherington, would have quickened the general meeting, yet nearly have broken his heart. It was that which, for want of a messenger, had never been sent, and which Peggy, in cleaning the bed room, had found under a table, where it had fallen, she supposes, when the candle was put upon it for reading prayers.
‘There was another letter, too!’ interrupted Camilla, with quick blushing recollection ‘–-but my illness . . . and all that has followed, made me forget them both till this very moment . . . Did she say anything of any . . . other?’
‘Yes; . . . the other had been delivered according to its address.’
‘Be not frightened, my Camilla, all has been beautifully directed for the best. My accomplice had received his early in the morning; he was at the house, by some fortunate hazard, when it was found, and, being well known there, Mrs. Marl gave it to him immediately.’
‘How terrible! . . . It was meant only in case . . . I had seen no one anymore!’ . . .
‘The intent, and the event, have been happily, my child, at war. He came instantly hither, and enquired for me; I was not returned; he asked my route, and rode to follow or meet me. About an hour ago, we encountered upon the road: he gave his horse to his groom, and came into the chaise to me.’
Camilla now could with difficulty listen; but her Father hastened to acquaint her, that Edgar, with the most generous apologies, the most liberal self-blame, had re-demanded his consent for a union, from which every doubt was wholly, and even miraculously removed, by learning thus the true feelings of her heart, as depicted at the awful crisis of expected dissolution. The returning smiles which forced their way now through the tears and blushes of Camilla, shewed how vainly she strove to mingle the regret of shame with the felicity of fond security, produced by this eventful accident. But when she further heard that Edgar, in Flanders, had met with Lionel, who, in frankly recounting his difficulties and adventures, had named some circumstances which had so shaken every opinion that had urged him to quit England, as to induce him instantly, from the conference, to seek a passage for his return, she felt all but happiness retire from her heart;-vanish even from her ideas.
‘You are not angry, then,’ said Mr. Tyrold, as smilingly he read her delighted sensations, ‘that I waited not to consult you? That I gave back at once my consent? That I folded him again in my arms? . . . again . . . called him my son?’
She could but seek the same pressure; and he continued, ‘I would not bring him in with me; I was not aware my dear girl was so rapidly recovered, and I had a task to fulfil to my poor Eugenia that was still my first claim. But I promised within an hour, your Mother, at least, should welcome him. He would walk, he said, for that period. When I met her, I hinted at what was passing, and she followed me to our Eugenia; I then briefly communicated my adventure; and your Mother, my Camilla, lost herself in hearing it! Will you not, . . . like me! . . . withdraw from her all reverence? Her eyes gushed with tears, . . . she wept, as you weep at this moment; she was sure Edgar Mandlebert could alone preserve you from danger, yet make you happy–Was she wrong, my dear child? Shall we attack now her judgment, as well as her fortitude!’
Only at her feet could Camilla shew her gratitude; to action she had recourse, for words were inadequate, and the tenderest caresses now spoke best for them all.
Respect for the situation of Eugenia, who had desired, for this week, to live wholly up stairs and alone, determined Mr. and Mrs. Tyrold to keep back for some time the knowledge of this event from the family. Camilla was most happy to pay such an attention to her sister; but when Mr. Tyrold was leaving her, to consult upon it with Edgar, the ingenuousness of her nature urged her irresistibly to say, ‘Since all this has passed, my dearest Father-my dearest Mother-does it not seem as if I should now myself–’
She stopt; but she was understood; they both smiled, and Mr. Tyrold immediately bringing in Edgar, said, ‘I find my pardon, my dear fellow-culprit, is already accorded; if you have doubts of your own, try your eloquence for yourself.’
He left the room, and Mrs. Tyrold was gently rising to quietly follow, but Camilla, with a look of entreaty of which she knew the sincerity, and would not resist the earnestness, detained her.
‘Ah yes, stay, dearest Madam!’ cried Edgar, again respectfully taking her hand, ‘and through your unalterable goodness, let me hope to procure pardon for a distrust which I here for ever renounce; but which had its origin in my never daring to hope what, at this moment, I have the felicity to believe. Yet now, even now, without your kind mediation, this dear convalescent may plan some probationary trial at which my whole mind, after this long suffering, revolts. Will you be my caution, my dearest Mrs. Tyrold? Will you venture-and will you deign to promise, that if a full and generous forgiveness may be pronounced. . . . ’
‘Forgiveness?’ in a soft voice interrupted Camilla: ‘Have I any thing to forgive? I thought all apology-all explanation, rested on my part; and that my imprudencies-my rashness-my so often-erring judgment . . . and so apparently, almost even culpable conduct.’ . . .
‘O, my Camilla! my now own Camilla!’ cried Edgar, venturing to change the hand of the Mother for that of the daughter; ‘what too, too touching words and concessions are these! Suffer me, then, to hope a kind amnesty may take place of retrospection, a clear, liberal, open forgiveness anticipate explanation and enquiry?’
‘Are you sure,’ said Camilla, smiling, ‘this is your interest, and not mine? . . . Does he not make a mistake, my dearest Mother, and turn my advocate, instead of his own; And can I fairly take advantage of such an errour.’
The sun-shine of her returning smiles went warm to her Mother’s heart, and gave a glow to the cheeks of Edgar, and a brightness to his eyes that irradiated his whole countenance. ‘Your penetrating judgment,’ said he, to Mrs. Tyrold, ‘will take in at once more than any professions, any protestations can urge for me: . . . you see the peace, the pardon which those eyes do not seek to withhold . . . will you then venture, my more than maternal friend! my Mother, in every meaning which affection and reverence can give to that revered appellation-will you venture at once-now-upon this dear and ever after hallowed minute-to seal the kind consent of my truly paternal guardian, and to give me an example of that trust and confidence which my whole future life shall look upon as its lesson?’
‘Yes!’ answered Mrs. Tyrold, instantly joining their hands, ‘and with every security that the happiness of all our lives-my child’s, my husband’s, your’s, my valued Edgar’s, and my own, will all owe their felicity to the blessing with which I now lay my hands upon my two precious children!’
Tears were the only language that could express the fulness of joy which succeeded to so much sorrow; and when Mr. Tyrold returned, and had united his tenderest benediction with that of his beloved wife, Edgar was permitted to remain alone with Camilla; and the close of his long doubts, and her own long perplexities, was a reciprocal confidence that left nothing untold, not an action unrelated, not even a thought unacknowledged.
Edgar confessed that he no sooner had quitted her, than he suspected the justice of his decision; the turn which of late, he had taken, doubtfully to watch her every action, and suspiciously to judge her every motive, though it had impelled him in her presence, ceased to operate in her absence.–He was too noble to betray the well meant, though not well applied warnings of Dr. Marchmont, yet he acknowledged, that when left to cool reflection, a thousand palliations arose for every step he could not positively vindicate: and when, afterwards, from the frank communication of Lionel, he learnt what belonged to the mysterious offer of Sir Sedley Clarendel, that she would superintend the disposal of his fortune, and the deep obligation in which she had been innocently involved, his heart smote him for having judged ere he had investigated that transaction; and in a perturbation unspeakable of quick repentance, and tenderness, he set out for England. But when, at the half-way-house, he stopt as usual to rest his horses in his way to Beech Park,-what were his emotions at the sight of the locket, which the landlady told him had been pledged by a lady in distress! He besought her pardon for the manner in which he had made way to her; but the almost frantic anxiety which seized him to know if or not it was, and to save her, if so, from the intended intrusion of the landlord, made him irresistibly prefer it to the plainer mode which he should have adopted with any one else, of sending in his name, and some message. His shock at her view in such a state, he would not now revive; but the impropriety of bidding the landlady quit the chamber, and the impossibility of entering into an explanation in her hearing, alone repressed, at that agitated moment, the avowal of every sensation with which his heart was labouring. ‘But when,’ he added, ‘shall I cease to rejoice that I had listened to the good landlady’s history of a sick guest, while all conjecture was so remote from whom it might be! when I am tempted to turn aside from a tale of distress, I will recollect what I owe to having given!’ Lost in wonder at what could have brought her to such a situation, and disturbed how to present himself at the rectory, till fixed in his plans, he had ridden to the half-way-house that morning, to enquire concerning the corpse that Mrs. Marl had mentioned-and there-while he was speaking with her, the little maid brought down two letters-one of them directed to himself.–
‘What a rapid transition,’ cried he, ‘was then mine, from regrets that robbed life of all charms, to prospects which paint it in its most vivid colours of happiness! from wavering the most deplorable, to resolutions of expiating by a whole life of devoted fondness, the barbarous waywardness that could deprive me, for one wilful moment, of the exquisite felicity of my lot! . . . ’
‘But still,’ said Camilla, ‘I do not quite understand how you came in that room this morning? and how you authorized yourself to overhear my confessions to my Mother?’
‘Recollect my acknowledged accomplice before you hazard any blame! When I came hither . . . somewhat, I confess, within my given hour, Mr. Tyrold received me himself at the door. He told me I was too soon, and took me into the front parlour. The partition is thin. I heard my name spoken by Mrs. Tyrold, and the gentle voice of my Camilla, in accents yet more gentle than even that voice ever spoke before, answering some question; I was not myself, at first, aware of its tenour . . . but when, unavoidably, I gathered it . . . when I heard words so beautifully harmonizing with what I had so lately perused–I would instantly have ventured into the room; but Mr. Tyrold feared surprising you-you went on-my fascinated soul divested me of obedience-of caution-of all but joy and gratitude . . . and he could no longer restrain me. And now with which of her offenders will my Camilla quarrel?’
‘With neither, I believe, just at present. The conspiracy is so complex, and even my Mother so nearly a party concerned, that I dare not risk the unequal contest. I must only, in future,’ added she smiling, ‘speak ill of you . . . and then you will find less pleasure in the thinness of a partition!’
Faithfully she returned his communication, by the fullest, most candid, and unsparing account of every transaction of her short life, from the still shorter period of its being put into voluntary motion. With nearly breathless interest, he listened to the detail of her transactions with Sir Sedley Clarendel, with pity to her debts, and with horrour to her difficulties. But when, through the whole ingenuous narration, he found himself the constant object of every view, the ultimate motive to every action, even where least it appeared, his happiness, and his gratitude, made Camilla soon forget that sorrow had ever been known to her.
They then spoke of her two favourites, Mrs. Arlbery, and Mrs. Berlinton; and though she was animated in her praise of the good qualities of the first, and the sweet attraction of the last, she confessed the danger, for one so new in the world, of chusing friends distinct from those of her family; and voluntarily promised, during her present season of inexperience, to repose the future choice of her connections, where she could never be happy without their approvance.
The two hundred pounds to Sir Sedley Clarendel, he determined, on the very day that Camilla should be his, to return to the Baronet, under the privilege, and in the name of paying it for a brother.
In conference thus softly balsamic to every past wound, and thus deliciously opening to that summit of earthly felicity . . . confidence unlimited entwined around affection unbounded . . . hours might have passed, unnumbered and unawares, had not prudence forced a separation, for the repose of Camilla.
LATE as Edgar quitted the rectory, he went not straight to Beech Park; every tie both of friendship and propriety carried him first to Dr. Marchmont; who had too much feeling to wonder at the power of his late incitements, and too much goodness of heart not to felicitate hint, upon their issue, though he sighed at the recollection of the disappointments whence his own doubting counsel originated. Twice betrayed in his dearest expectations, he had formed two criterions from his peculiar experience, by which he had settled his opinion of the whole female sex; and where opinion may humour systematic prepossession, who shall build upon his virtue or wisdom to guard the transparency of his impartiality?
The following day, the Westwyns presented themselves at Etherington; hurried from a tour they were taking through Devonshire and Cornwall, by intelligence which had reached them that Sir Hugh Tyrold was ruined, and Cleves was to be let. They met, by chance, with Edgar alone in the parlour; and the joy of the old gentleman in hearing how small a part of the rumour was founded in fact, made him shake hands with him as cordially for setting him right, as Edgar welcomed his kindness, from the pleasure afforded by the sight of such primitive regard. But when, presuming upon his peculiar intimacy in the family, as ward of Mr. Tyrold, though without yet daring to avow his approaching nearer affinity, Edgar insisted upon his superior claim for supplanting them in taking charge of the debt of his guardian; Mr. Westwyn, almost angrily, protested he would let no man upon earth, let him be whose ward he pleased, shew more respect than himself for the brother of Sir Hugh Tyrold; ‘And Hal thinks the same too,’ he added, ‘or he’s no son of mine. And so he’ll soon shew you, in a way you can’t guess, I give you my word. At least that’s my opinion!’
He then took his son apart, and abruptly whispered to him, ‘As that pretty girl you and I took such a fancy to, at Southton, served us in that shabby manner, because of meeting with that old Lord, it’s my opinion you’d do the right thing to take her sister; who’s pretty near as pretty, and gives herself no airs; and that will be shewing respect for my worthy old friend, now he’s down in the world; which is exactly that he did for me when I was down myself. For if he had not lent me that thousand pounds I told you of, when not a relation I had would lend me a hundred, I might have been ruined before ever you were born. Come, tell me your mind Hal! off or on? don’t stand shilly shally; it’s what I can’t bear; speak honestly; I won’t have your choice controlled; only this one thing I must tell you without ceremony, I shall never think well of you again as long as ever I live, if you demur so much as a moment. It’s what I can’t bear; it i’n’t doing a thing handsomely. I can’t say I like it.’
The appearance of Lavinia relieved the immediate embarrassment of Henry, while the modest pleasure with which she received them confirmed the partiality of both. The eagerness, however, of the father, admitted of no delay, and when Sir Hugh entered the room, the son’s assent being obtained, he warmly demanded the fair Lavinia for his daughter-in-law.
Sir Hugh received the proposition with the most copious satisfaction; Mr. and Mrs. Tyrold with equal, though more anxious delight; and Lavinia herself with blushing but unaffected hopes of happiness.
Whatever was known to Sir Hugh, no cautions, nor even his own best designs, could save from being known to the whole house. Eugenia, therefore, was unavoidably informed-of this transaction; and the generous pleasure with which she revived from the almost settled melancholy left upon her, by continual misfortunes, justified the impatience of Edgar to accelerate the allowed period for publishing his own happy history.
Eugenia wept with joy at tidings so precious of her beloved sister, through whom, and her other dear friends, she was alone, she said, susceptible of joy, though to all sorrow she henceforth bid adieu, ‘For henceforth,’ she cried, ‘I mean to regard myself as if already I had passed the busy period of youth and of life, and were only a spectatress of others. For this purpose, I have begun writing my memoirs, which will amuse my solitude, and confirm my–I hope, philosophical idea.’
She then produced the opening of her intended book.
‘No blooming coquette, elated with adulation and triumphant with conquest, here counts the glories of her eyes, or enumerates the train of her adorers: no beauteous prude, repines at the fatigue of admiration, nor bewails the necessity of tyranny: O gentle reader! you have the story of one from whom fate has withheld all the delicacy of vanity, all the regale of cruelty–!”
‘Here,’ interrupted the young biographer, ‘will follow my portrait, and then this further address to my readers.’
‘O ye, who, young and fair, revel in the attractions of beauty, and exult in the pride of admiration, say, where is your envy of the heiress to whom fortune comes with such alloys? And which, however distressed or impoverished, would accept my income with my personal defects?
‘Ye, too, O lords of the creation, mighty men! impute not to native vanity the repining spirit with which I lament the loss of beauty; attribute not to the innate weakness of my sex, the concern I confess for my deformity; nor to feminine littleness of soul, a regret of which the true source is to be traced to your own bosoms, and springs from your own tastes: for the value you yourselves set upon external attractions, your own neglect has taught me to know; and the indifferency with which you consider all else, your own duplicity has instructed me to feel.’
Camilla sought to dissuade her from reflexions so afflictive, and retrospections so poignant; but they aided her, she said, in her task of acquiring composure for the regulation of her future life.
Edgar now received permission to make his communication to the Baronet.
The joy with which Sir Hugh heard it, was for some time over-clouded by doubt. ‘My dear Mr. young Edgar,’ he said, ‘in case you don’t know your own mind yet, in the point of its not changing again, as it did before, I’d as leave you would not tell me of it till you’ve taken the proper time to be at a certainty; frettings about these ups and downs, being what do no good to me, in point of the gout.’
But when thoroughly re-assured, ‘Well,’ he cried, ‘this is just the thing I should have chose out of all our misfortunes, being what makes me happier than ever I was in my life; except once before on the very same account, which all turned out to end in nothing: which, I hope, won’t happen any more: for now I’ve only to pay off all our debts, and then I may go back again to Cleves, which I shall be glad enough to do, it being but an awkward thing to a man, after he’s past boyhood, having no home of his own.’
A sigh at the recollection of the change in his situation, since his plan was last agitated, checked his felicity, and depressed even that of Edgar, who, with the most tender earnestness, besought his leave to advance the sum requisite to return him tranquilly to his mansion; but who could not prevail, till Camilla joined in the petition, and permitted Edgar, in both their names to entreat, as their dearest wish, that they might be united, according to the first arrangement, from Cleves.
This the Baronet could not resist, and preparations were rapidly made for re-instating him in his dwelling, and for the double marriages destined to take place upon his return.
‘Well, then, this,’ cried he, as he poured upon them his tenderest blessings and caresses, ‘is the oddest of all! My dear little Camilla, that I took all my fortune from, is the very person to give me her’s as soon as ever she gets it! as well as my own house over my old head again, after my turning her, as one may say, out of it! which is a thing as curious, in point of us poor ignorant mortals, as if my brother had put it in a sermon.’
‘Such turns in the tide of fortune,’ said Mr. Tyrold, ‘are amongst the happiest lessons of humanity, where those who have served the humble and helpless from motives of pure disinterestedness, find they have made useful friends for themselves, in the perpetual vicissitudes of our unstable condition.’
‘Why, then, there’s but one thing more, by what I can make out,’ said the Baronet, ‘that need be much upon my mind, and that I’ve been thinking some time about, in point of forming a scheme to get rid of, which I think I’ve got a pretty good one: for here’s Lavinia going to be married to the very oldest friend I have in the world; that is, to his son, which is the same thing in point of bringing us all together; and my own dear little girl, to the best gentleman in the county, except for that one thing of going off at the first, which I dare say he did not mean, for which reason I shall mention it no more: and Indiana, to one of those young captains, that I can’t pretend I know much of; but that’s very excusable in so young a person, not having had much head from the beginning; which I always make allowance for; my own not being over extraordinary: and Eugenia, poor thing, being a widow already; for which God be praised; which I hope is no sin, in point of the poor lad that’s gone not belonging to any of us, by what I can make out, except by his own doing whether we would or not; which, however, is neither here nor there, now he’s gone; for Eugenia being no beauty, and Clermont having as good as said so, I suppose she thought she must not be too difficult; which is a thing young girls are apt to fall into; and boys too, for the matter of that; for, by what I can make out of life, I don’t see but what a scholar thinks a girl had better be pretty than not, as much as another man.’
‘But what, my dear brother,’ said Mr. Tyrold, ‘is your new distress and new scheme?’
‘Why I can’t say but what I’m a little put out, that Indiana should forget poor Mrs. Margland, in the particular of asking her to go to live with her; which, however, I dare say she can’t help, those young captains commonly not over liking having elderly persons about them; not that I mean to guess her age, which I take to be fifty, and upwards; which is no point of ours. But the thing I’m thinking of is Dr. Orkborne, in the case of their marrying one another.’
“My dear brother! . . . has any such idea occurred to them?’
‘Not as I know of; but Indiana having done with one, and Eugenia with the other, and me, Lord help me! not wanting either of them, why what can I do if they won’t? the Doctor’s asked to go to town, for the sake of printing his papers, which I begged him not to hurry, for I’m but little fit for learned conversation just now; though when he’s here, he commonly says nothing; only taking out his tablets to write down something that comes into his head, as I suppose: which I can’t say is very entertaining in the light of a companion. However, as to his having called me a blockhead, it’s not what I take umbrage at, not being a wit being a fault of no man’s, except of nature, nobody has a right to be angry at. Besides, as to his having a little pride, it’s what I owe him no ill-will for; a scholar having nothing else but his learning, is excusable for making the most of it. However, if they would marry one another, I can’t but say I should take it very well of them. The only thing I know against it, is the mortal dislike they have to one another: and that, my dear brother, is the point I want to consult you about; for then we shall be got off all round: which would be a great thing off my mind.’
When the happy day arrived for returning to Cleves, Sir Hugh re-took possession of his hospitable mansion, amidst the tenderest felicitations of his fond family, and the almost clamorous rejoicings of the assembled poor of the neighbourhood: and the following morning, Mr. Tyrold gave the hand of Lavinia to Harry Westwyn, and Dr. Marchmont united them; and Edgar, glowing with happiness, now purified from any alloy, received from the same revered hand, and owed to the same honoured voice, the final and lasting possession of the tearful, but happy Camilla.
What further remains to finish this small sketch of a Picture of Youth, may be comprised in a few pages.
Indiana was more fortunate in her northern expedition, than experiments of that nature commonly prove. Macdersey was a man of honour, and possessed better claims to her than he had either language or skill to explain: but the good Lord O’Lerney, who, to benevolence the most chearful, and keenness the least severe, joined judgment and generosity, acted as the guardian of his kinsman, and placed the young couple in competence and comfort.
The profession of Macdersey obliging him to sojourn frequently in country quarters, Indiana, when the first novelty of tête-à-tête was over, wished again for the constant adulatress of her charms and endowments, and, to the inexpressible rapture of Sir Hugh, solicited Miss Margland to be her companion: and the influence of constant flattery was so seductive to her weak mind, that, though insensible to the higher motive of cherishing her in remembrance of her long cares, she was so spoilt by her blandishments, and so accustomed to her management, that she parted from her no more.
Lavinia, with her deserving partner, spent a month between Cleves and Etherington, and then accompanied him and his fond father to their Yorkshire estate and residence. Like all characters of radical worth, she grew daily upon the esteem and affection of her new family, and found in her husband as marked a contrast with Clermont Lynmere, to annul all Hypothesis of Education, as Lord O’Lerney, cool, rational, and penetrating, opposed to Macdersey, wild, eccentric, and vehement, offered against all that is National. Brought up under the same tutor, the same masters, and at the same university, with equal care, equal expence, equal opportunities of every kind, Clermont turned out conceited, voluptuous, and shallow; Henry modest, full of feeling, and stored with intelligence.
Lionel, first enraged, but next tamed, by the disinheritance which he had drawn upon himself, had ample subject in his disappointment to keep alive his repentance. And though enabled to return from banishment, by the ignominious condemnation, with another culprit, of the late partner in his guilt, he felt so lowered from his fallen prospects, and so gloomy from his altered spirits, that when his parents, satisfied with his punishment, held out the olive-branch to invite him home, he came forth again rather as if condemned, than forgiven; and, wholly wanting fortitude either to see or to avoid his former associates, he procured an appointment that carried him abroad, where his friends induced him to remain, till his bad habits, as well as bad connections, were forgotten, and time aided adversity in forming him a new character.
Clermont, for whom his uncle bought a commission, fixed himself in the army; though with no greater love of his country, than was appendant to the opportunity it afforded of shewing his fine person to regimental advantage.
Mrs. Arlbery was amongst the first to hasten with congratulations to Camilla. With too much understanding to betray her pique upon the errour of her judgment, as to the means of attaching Mandlebert, she had too much goodness of heart not to rejoice in the happiness of her young friend.
Mrs. Lissin, who accompanied her in the wedding visit, confessed herself the most disappointed and distressed of human beings. She had not, she said, half so much liberty as when she lived with her Papa, and heartily repented marrying, and wished she had never thought of it. The servants were always teazing her for orders and directions; every thing that went wrong, it was always she who was asked why it was not right; when she wanted to be driving about all day, the coachman always said it was too much for the horses; when she travelled, the maids always asked her what must be packed up; if she happened to be out at dinner time, Mr. Lissin found fault with every thing’s being cold: if she wanted to do something she liked, he said she had better let it alone; and, in fine, her violent desire for this state of freedom, ended in conceiving it a state of bondage; she found her own house the house of which she must take the charge; being her own mistress, having the burthen of superintending a whole family, and being married, becoming the property of another, to whom she made over a legal right to treat her just as he pleased. And as she had chosen neither for character, nor for disposition, neither from sympathy nor respect, she found it hard to submit where she meant to become independent, and difficult to take the cares where she had made no provision for the solaces of domestic life.
The notable Mrs. Mittin contrived soon to so usefully ingratiate herself in the favour of Mr. Dennel, that, in the full persuasion she would save him half his annual expences, he married her: but her friend, Mr. Clykes, was robbed in his journey home of the cash which he had so dishonourably gained.
The first care of Edgar was to clear every debt in which Camilla had borne any share, and then to make over to Lavinia the little portion intended to be parted between the sisters. Henry would have resisted; but Mr. Tyrold knew the fortune of Edgar to be fully adequate to his generosity, and sustained the proposition. Sir Sedley Clarendel received his two hundred pounds without opposition, though with surprise; and was dubious whether to rejoice in the shackles he had escaped, or to lament the charmer he had lost.
Sir Hugh would suffer no one but himself to clear the debts of his two nephews, or refund what had been advanced by his excellent old friend Mr. Westwyn. He called back all his servants, liberally recompensed their marked attachment, provided particularly for good old Jacob; and took upon himself the most ample reward for the postillion who meant to rescue Eugenia.
The prisoner and his wife, now worthy established cottagers, were the first, at the entrance of Beech Park, to welcome the bride and bridegroom; and little Peggy Higden was sent for immediately, and placed, with extremest kindness, where she might rise in use and in profit.
Lord O’Lerney was sedulously sought by Edgar, who had the infinite happiness to see Camilla a selected friend of Lady Isabella Irby, whose benevolent care of her in the season of her utter distress, had softly enchained her tenderest gratitude, and had excited in himself an almost adoring respect.
Melmond had received in time the caution of Camilla, to prevent the meeting to which the baseness of Bellamy was deluding his misguided sister, through her own wild theories. He forbore to blast her fame by calling him publicly to account; and ere further arts could be practised, Bellamy was no more.
Mrs. Berlinton, in the shock of sudden sorrow, shut herself up from the world. Claims of debts of honour, which she had no means to answer, pursued her in her retreat; she became at once the prey of grief, repentance, and shame; and her mind was yet young enough in wrong, to be penetrated by the early chastisement of calamity. Removed from the whirl of pleasure, which takes reflexion from action, and feeling from thought, she reviewed, with poignant contrition, her graceless misconduct with regard to Eugenia, detested her infatuation, and humbled herself to implore forgiveness. Her aunt seized the agitating moment of self-upbraiding and worldly disgust, to impress upon her fears the lessons of her opening life: and thus, repulsed from passion, and sickened of dissipation, though too illiberally instructed for chearful and rational piety, she was happily snatched from utter ruin by protecting, though eccentric enthusiasm.
Eugenia, for some time, continued in voluntary seclusion, happily reaping from the fruits of her education and her virtues, resources and reflexions for retirement, that robbed it of weariness. The name, the recollection of Bellamy, always made her shudder, but the peace of perfect innocence was soon restored to her mind. The sufferings of Mrs. Berlinton from self-reproach, taught her yet more fully to value the felicity of blamelessness; and the generous liberality of her character, made the first inducement she felt for exertion, the benevolence of giving solace to a penitent who had injured her.
Melmond, long conscious of her worth, and disgusted with all that had rivalled it in his mind, with the fervour of sincerity, yet diffidence of shame and regret, now fearfully sought the favour he before had reluctantly received. But Eugenia retreated. She had no courage for a new engagement, no faith for new vows, no hope for new happiness: till his really exemplary character, with the sympathy of his feelings, and the similarity of his taste and turn of mind with her own, made the Tyrolds, when they perceived his ascendance, second his wishes. Approbation so sacred, joined to a prepossession so tender, soon conquered every timid difficulty in the ingenuous Eugenia; who in his well-earnt esteem, and grateful affection, received, at length, the recompence of every exerted virtue, and the solace of every past suffering. Melmond, in a companion delighting in all his favourite pursuits, and capable of joining even in his severer studies, found a charm to beguile from him all former regret, while reason and experience endeared his ultimate choice. Eugenia once loved, was loved for ever. Where her countenance was looked at, her complexion was forgotten; while her voice was heard, her figure was unobserved; where her virtues were known, they seemed but to be enhanced by her personal misfortunes.
The Baronet was enchanted to see her thus unexpectedly happy, and soon transferred to Melmond the classical respect which Clermont had forfeited, when he concurred with Eugenia in a petition, that Dr. Orkborne, without further delay, might be enabled to retire to his own plans and pursuits, with such just and honourable consideration for labours he well knew how to appreciate, as his friend Mr. Tyrold should judge to be worthy of his acceptance.
With joy expanding to that thankfulness which may be called the beauty of Piety, the virtuous Tyrolds, as their first blessings, received these blessings of their children: and the beneficent Sir Hugh felt every wish so satisfied, he could scarcely occupy himself again with a project . . . save a maxim of prudence, drawn from his own experience, which he daily planned teaching to the little generation rising around him; To avoid, from the disasters of their Uncle, the Dangers and Temptations, to their Descendants, of Unsettled Collateral Expectations.
Thus ended the long conflicts, doubts, suspences, and sufferings of Edgar and Camilla; who, without one inevitable calamity, one unavoidable distress, so nearly fell the sacrifice to the two extremes of Imprudence, and Suspicion, to the natural heedlessness of youth unguided, or to the acquired distrust of experience that had been wounded. Edgar, by generous confidence, became the repository of her every thought; and her friends read her exquisite lot in a gaiety no longer to be feared: while, faithful to his word, making Etherington, Cleves, and Beech Park, his alternate dwellings, he rarely parted her from her fond Parents and enraptured Uncle. And Dr. Marchmont, as he saw the pure innocence, open frankness, and spotless honour of her heart, found her virtues, her errours, her facility, or her desperation, but A PICTURE OF YOUTH; and regretting the false light given by the spirit of comparison, in the hypothesis which he had formed from individual experience, acknowledged its injustice, its narrowness, and its arrogance. What, at last, so diversified as man? what so little to be judged by his fellow?
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