WITH deep concern Edgar revolved in his mind the suggestions of Dr. Marchmont; and meditation, far from diminishing, added importance to the arguments of his friend. To obtain the hand of an object he so highly admired, though but lately his sole wish, appeared now an uncertain blessing, a suspicious good, since the possession of her heart was no longer to be considered as its inseparable appendage. His very security of the approbation of Mr. and Mrs. Tyrold became a source of solicitude; and, secret from them, from her, and from all, he determined to guard his views, till he could find some opportunity of investigating her own unbiassed sentiments.
Such were his ruminations, when, on re-entering the Park, he perceived her wandering alone amidst the trees. Her figure looked so interesting, her air so serious, her solitude so attractive, that every maxim of tardy prudence, every caution of timid foresight, would instantly have given way to the quick feelings of generous impulse, had he not been restrained by his promise to Dr. Marchmont. He dismounted, and giving his horse to his groom, re-traced her footsteps.
Camilla, almost without her own knowledge, had strolled towards the gate, whence she concluded Edgar to have ridden from the Park, and, almost without consciousness, had continued sauntering in its vicinity; yet she no sooner descried him, than, struck with a species of self-accusation for this appearance of awaiting him, she crossed over to the nearest path towards the house, and, for the first time, was aware of the approach of Edgar without hastening to meet him.
He slackened his pace, to quiet his spirits, and restore his manner to its customary serenity, before he permitted himself to overtake her. ‘Can you,’ he then cried, ‘forgive me, when you hear I have been fulfilling my own appointment, and have postponed my promised investigation?’
‘Rather say,’ she gently answered, ‘could I have forgiven you, if you had shewn me you thought my impatience too ungovernable for any delay?’
To find her thus willing to oblige him, was a new delight, and he expressed his acknowledgments in terms the most flattering.
An unusual seriousness made her hear him almost without reply; yet peace and harmony revisited her mind, and, in listening to his valued praise, she forgot her late alarm at her own sensations, and without extending a thought beyond the present instant, again felt tranquil and happy: while to Edgar she appeared so completely all that was adorable, that he could only remember to repent his engagement with Dr. Marchmont.
Her secret opinion that he was dissatisfied with his lot, gave a softness to her accents that enchanted him; while the high esteem for his character, which mingled with her pity, joined to a lowered sense of her own, from a new-born terror lest that pity were too tender, spread a charm wholly new over her native fire and vivacity.
In a few minutes, they were overtaken by Mandlebert’s gardener, who was bringing from Beech Park a basket of flowers for his master. They were selected from curious hot-house plants, and Camilla stopt to admire their beauty and fragrance.
Edgar presented her the basket; whence she simply took a sprig of myrtle and geranium, conceiving the present to be designed for Indiana. ‘If you are fond of geraniums,’ said he, ‘there is an almost endless variety in my greenhouse, and I will bring you tomorrow some specimens.’
She thanked him, and while he gave orders to the gardener, Miss Margland and Indiana advanced from the house.
Miss Margland had seen them from her window, where, in vain deliberation, she had been considering what step to take. But, upon beholding them together, she thought deliberation and patience were hopeless, and determined, by a decisive stroke, to break in its bud the connection she supposed forming, or throw upon Camilla all censure, if she failed, as the sole means she could devise to exculpate her own sagacity from impeachment. She called upon Indiana, therefore, to accompany her into the Park, exclaiming, in an angry tone, ‘Miss Lynmere, I will shew you the true cause why Mr. Mandlebert does not declare himself-your cousin, Miss Camilla, is wheedling him away from you.’
Indiana, whose belief in almost whatever was said, was undisturbed by any species of reflection, felt filled with resentment, and a sense of injury, and readily following, said–‘I was sure there was something more in it than I saw, because Mr. Melmond behaved so differently. But I don’t take it very kind of my cousin, I can tell her!’
They then hurried into the Park; but, as they came without any plan, they were no sooner within a few yards of the meeting, than they stopt short, at a loss what to say or do.
Edgar, vexed at their interruption, continued talking to the gardener, to avoid joining them; but seeing Camilla, who less than ever wished for their communications, walk instantly another way, he thought it would be improper to pursue her, and only bowing to Miss Margland and Indiana, went into the house.
‘This is worse than ever, cried Miss Margland, ‘to stalk off without speaking, or even offering you any of his flowers, which, I dare say, are only to be put into the parlour flower-pots, for the whole house.’
‘I’m sure I’m very glad of it,’ said Indiana, ‘for I hate flowers; but I’m sure Mr. Melmond would not have done so; nor colonel Andover; nor Mr. Macdersey more than all.’
‘No, nor any body else, my dear, that had common sense, and their eyes open; nor Mr. Mandlebert neither, if it were not for Miss Camilla. However, we’ll let her know we see what she is about; and let Sir Hugh know too: for as to the colonels, and the ensigns, and that young Oxford student, they won’t at all do; officers are commonly worth nothing; and scholars, you may take my word for it, my dear, are the dullest men in the world. Besides, one would not give such a fine fortune as Mr. Mandlebert’s without making a little struggle for it. You don’t know how many pretty things you may do with it. So let us shew her we don’t want for spirit, and speak to her at once.’
These words, reviving in the mind of Indiana her wedding clothes, the train of servants, and the new equipage, gave fresh pique to her provocation: but finding some difficulty to overtake the fleet Camilla, whose pace kept measure with her wish to avoid them, she called after her, to desire she would not walk so fast.
Camilla reluctantly loitered, but without stopping or turning to meet them, that she might still regale herself with the perfume of the geranium presented her by Edgar.
‘You’re in great haste, ma’am,’ said Miss Margland, ‘which I own I did not observe to be the case just now!’
Camilla, in much surprize, asked, what she meant.
‘My meaning is pretty plain, I believe, to any body that chose to understand it. However, though Miss Lynmere scorns to be her own champion, I cannot, as a friend, be quite so passive, nor help hinting to you, how little you would like such a proceeding to yourself, from any other person.’
‘What proceeding?’ cried Camilla, blushing, from a dawning comprehension of the subject, though resenting the manner of the complaint.
‘Nay, only ask yourself, ma’am, only ask yourself, Miss Camilla, how you should like to be so supplanted, if such an establishment were forming for yourself, and every thing were fixt, and every body else refused, and nobody to hinder its all taking place, but a near relation of your own, who ought to be the first to help it forward. I should like to know, I say, Miss Camilla, how you would feel, if it were your own case?’
Astonished and indignant at so sudden and violent an assault, Camilla stood suspended, whether to deign any vindication, or to walk silently away: yet its implications involuntarily filled her with a thousand other, and less offending emotions than those of anger, and a general confusion crimsoned her cheeks.
‘You cannot but be sensible, ma’am,’ resumed Miss Margland, ‘for sense is not what you want, that you have seduced Mr. Mandlebert from your cousin; you cannot but see he takes hardly the smallest notice of her, from the pains you are at to make him admire nobody but yourself.’
The spirit of Camilla now rose high to her aid, at a charge thus impertinent and unjust. ‘Miss Margland,’ she cried, ‘you shock and amaze me! I am at a loss for any motive to so cruel an accusation: but you, I hope at least, my dear Indiana, are convinced how much it injures me.’ She would then have taken the hand of Indiana, but disdainfully drawing it back, ‘I shan’t break my heart about it, I assure you,’ she cried, ‘you are vastly welcome to him for me; I hope I am not quite so odious, but I may find other people in the world besides Mr. Mandlebert!’
‘O, as to that,’ said Miss Margland, ‘I am sure you have only to look in order to chuse; but since this affair has been settled by your uncle, I can’t say I think it very grateful in any person to try to overset his particular wishes. Poor old gentleman! I’m sure I pity him! It will go hard enough with him, when he comes to hear it! Such a requital!-and from his own niece!’
This was an attack the most offensive that Camilla could receive; nothing could so nearly touch her as an idea of ingratitude to her uncle, and resting upon that, the whole tide of those feelings which were, in fact, divided and subdivided into many crossing channels, she broke forth, with great eagerness, into exclaiming, ‘Miss Margland, this is quite barbarous! You know, and you, Indiana, cannot but know, I would not give my uncle the smallest pain, to be mistress of a thousand universes!’
‘Why, then,’ said Miss Margland, ‘should you break up a scheme which he has so much set his heart upon? Why are you always winning over Mr. Mandlebert to yourself, by all that flattery? Why are you always consulting him? always obliging him? always of his opinion? always ready to take his advice?’
‘Miss Margland,’ replied Camilla, with the extremest agitation, ‘this is so unexpected-so undeserved an interpretation,-my consultation, or my acquiescence have been merely from respect; no other thought, no other motive–Good God! what is it you imagine?-what guilt would you impute to me?’
‘O dear,’ cried Indiana, ‘pray don’t suppose it signifies. If you like to make compliments in that manner to gentlemen, pray do it. I hope I shall always hold myself above it. I think it’s their place to make compliments to me.’
A resentful answer was rising to the tongue of Camilla, when she perceived her two little sprigs, which in her recent disorder she had dropt, were demolishing under the feet of Indiana, who, with apparent unmeaningness, but internal suspicion of their giver, had trampled upon them both. Hastily stooping she picked them up, and, with evident vexation, was blowing from them the dust and dirt, when Indiana scoffingly said, ‘I wonder where you got that geranium?’
‘I don’t wonder at all,’ said Miss Margland, ‘for Sir Hugh has none of that species; so one may easily guess.’
Camilla felt herself blush, and letting the flowers fall, turned to Indiana-and said, ‘Cousin, if on my account, it is possible you can suffer the smallest uneasiness, tell me but what I shall do-you shall dictate to me-you shall command me.’
Indiana disclaimed all interest in her behaviour; but Miss Margland cried, ‘What you can do, ma’am, is this, and nothing can be easier, nor fairer: leave off paying all that court to Mr. Mandlebert, of asking his advice, and follow your own whether he likes it or not, and go to see Mrs. Arlbery, and Mrs. every body else, when you have a mind, without waiting for permission, or troubling yourself about what he thinks of it.’
Camilla now trembled in every joint, and with difficulty restrained from tears, while, timidly, she said–‘And do you, dear Indiana, demand of me this conduct? and will it, at least, satisfy you?’
‘Me? O dear no! I demand nothing, I assure you. The whole matter is quite indifferent to me, and you may ask his leave for every thing in the world, if you chuse it. There are people enough ready to take my part, I hope, if you set him against me ever so much.’
‘Indeed, indeed, Indiana,’ said Camilla, overpowered with conflicting sensations, ‘this is using me very unkindly!’ And without waiting to hear another word, she hurried into the house and flew to hide herself in her own room.
This was the first bitter moment she had ever known. Peace, gay though uniform, had been the constant inmate of her breast, enjoyed without thought, possessed without struggle; not the subdued gift of accommodating philosophy, but the inborn and genial produce of youthful felicity’s best aliment, the energy of own animal spirits.
She had, indeed, for some time past, thought Edgar, of too refined and too susceptible a character for the unthinking and undistinguishing Indiana; and for the last day or two, her regret at his fate had strengthened itself into an averseness of his supposed destination, that made the idea of it painful, and the subject repugnant to her; but she had never, till this very morning, distrusted the innoxiousness either of her pity or her regard; and, startled at the first surmise of danger, she had wished to fly even from herself, rather than venture to investigate feelings so unwelcome; yet still and invariably, she had concluded Edgar the future husband of Indiana.
To hear there were any doubts of the intended marriage, filled her with emotions indefinable; to hear herself named as the cause of those doubts, was alarming both to her integrity and her delicacy. She felt the extremest anger at the unprovoked and unwarrantable harshness of Miss Margland, and a resentment nearly equal at the determined petulance, and unjustifiable aspersions of Indiana.
Satisfied of the innocence of her intentions, she knew, not what alteration she could make in her behaviour; and, after various plans, concluded, that to make none would best manifest her freedom from self-reproach. At the summons therefore to dinner, she was the first to appear, eager to shew herself unmoved by the injustice of her accusers, and desirous to convince them she was fearless of examination.
Yet, too much discomposed to talk in her usual manner, she seized upon a book till the party was seated. Answering then to the call of her uncle, with as easy an air as she could assume, she took her accustomed place by his side, and began, for mere employment, filling a plate from the dish that was nearest to her; which she gave to the footman, without any direction whither to carry, or enquiry if any body chose to eat it.
It was taken round the table, and, though refused by all, she heaped up another plate, with the same diligence and speed as if it had been accepted.
Edgar, who had been accidentally detained, only now entered, apologizing for being so late.
Engrossed by the pride of self-defence, and the indignancy of unmerited unkindness, the disturbed mind of Camilla had not yet formed one separate reflexion, nor even admitted a distinct idea of Edgar himself, disengaged from the accusation in which he stood involved. But he had now amply his turn. The moment he appeared, the deepest blushes covered her face; and an emotion so powerful beat in her breast, that the immediate impulse of her impetuous feelings, was to declare herself ill, and run out of the room.
With this view she rose; but ashamed of her plan, seated herself the next moment, though she had first overturned her plate and a sauce-boat in the vehemence of her haste.
This accident rather recovered than disconcerted her, by affording an unaffected occupation, in begging pardon of Sir Hugh, who was the chief sufferer, changing the napkins, and restoring the table to order.
‘What upon earth can be the matter with Miss Camilla, I can’t guess!’ exclaimed Miss Margland, though with an expression of spite that fully contradicted her difficulty of conjecture.
‘I hope,’ said Edgar surprized, ‘Miss Camilla is not ill?’
‘I can’t say I think my cousin looks very bad!’ said Indiana.
Camilla, who was rubbing a part of her gown upon which nothing had fallen, affected to be too busy to hear them: which Sir Hugh, concluding her silent from shame, entreated her not to think of his cloaths, which were worth no great matter, not being his best by two or three suits. Her thoughts had not waited this injunction; yet it was in vain she strove to behave as if nothing had happened. Her spirit instigated, but it would not support her; her voice grew husky, she stammered, forgot, as she went on, what she designed to say when she began speaking, and frequently was forced to stop short, with a faint laugh at herself, and with a colour every moment encreasing. And the very instant the cloth was removed, she rose, unable to constrain herself any longer, and ran up stairs to her own room.
There all her efforts evaporated in tears. ‘Cruel, cruel, Miss Margland,’ she cried, ‘unjust, unkind Indiana! how have I merited this treatment! What can Edgar think of my disturbance? What can I devise to keep from his knowledge the barbarous accusation which has caused it?’
In a few minutes she heard the step of Eugenia.
Ashamed, she hastily wiped her eyes; and before the door could be opened, was at the further end of the room, looking into one of her drawers.
‘What is it that has vexed my dearest Camilla?’ cried her kind sister, ‘something I am sure has grieved her.’
‘I cannot guess what I have done with–I can no where find–’ stammered Camilla, engaged in some apparent search, but too much confused to name anything of which she might probably be in want.
Eugenia desired to assist her, but a servant came to the door, to tell them that the company was going to the summer-house, whither Sir Hugh begged they would follow.
Camilla besought Eugenia to join them, and make her excuses: but, fearing Miss Margland would attribute her absconding to guilt, or cowardice, she bathed her eyes in cold water, and overtook her sister at the stairs of the little building.
In ascending them, she heard Miss Margland say, ‘I dare believe nothing’s the matter but some whim; for to be sure as to whims, Miss Camilla has the most of any creature I ever saw, and Miss Lynmere the least; for you may imagine, Mr. Mandlebert, I have pretty good opportunity to see all these young people in their real colours.’
Overset by this malignancy, she was again flying to the refuge of her own room, and the relief of tears, when the conviction of such positive ill-will in Miss Margland, for which she could assign no reason, but her unjust and exclusive partiality to Indiana, checked her precipitancy. She feared she would construe to still another whim her non-appearance, and resuming a little fresh strength from fresh resentment, turned back; but the various keen sensations she experienced as she entered the summer-house, rendered this little action the most severe stretch of fortitude, her short and happy life had yet called upon her to make.
Sir Hugh addressed her some kind enquiries, which she hastily answered, while she pretended to be busy in preparing to wind some sewing silk upon cards.
She could have chosen no employment less adapted to display the cool indifference she wished to manifest to Miss Margland and Indiana. She pulled the silk the wrong way, twisted, twirled, and entangled it continually; and while she talked volubly of what she was about, as if it were the sole subject of her thoughts, her shaking hands shewed her whole frame disordered, and her high colour betrayed her strong internal emotion.
Edgar looked at her with surprize and concern. What had dropt from Miss Margland of her whims, he had heard with disdain; for, without suspecting her of malice to Camilla, he concluded her warped by her prejudice in favour of Indiana. Dr. Marchmont, however, had bid him judge by proof, not appearance; and he resolved therefore to investigate the cause of this disquiet, before he acted upon his belief in its blamelessness.
Having completely spoilt one skein, she threw it aside, and saying ‘the weather’s so fine, I cannot bear to stay within,’-left her silk, her winders, and her work-bag, on the first chair, and skipt down the stairs.
Sir Hugh declined walking, but would let nobody remain with him. Edgar, as if studying the clouds, glided down first. Camilla, perceiving him, bent her head, and began gathering some flowers. He stood by her a moment in silence, and then said: ‘To-morrow morning, without fail, I will wait upon Mrs. Needham.’
‘Pray take your own time. I am not in any haste.’
‘You are very good, and I am more obliged to you than I can express, for suffering my officious interference with such patience.’
A rustling of silk made Camilla now look up, and she perceived Miss Margland leaning half out of the window of the summerhouse, from earnestness to catch what she said.
Angry thus to be watched, and persuaded that both innocence and dignity called upon her to make no change in her open consideration for Edgar, she answered, in a voice that strove to be more audible, but that irresistibly trembled, ‘I beg you will impartially consult your own judgment, and decide as you think right.’
Edgar, now, became as little composed as herself: the power with which she invested him, possessed a charm to dissolve every hesitating doubt; and when, upon her raising her head, he perceived the redness of her eyes, and found that the perturbation which had perplexed him was mingled with some affliction, the most tender anxiety filled his mind, and though somewhat checked by the vicinity of Miss Margland, his voice expressed the warmest solicitude, as he said, ‘I know not how to thank you for this sweetness; but I fear something disturbs you?–I fear you are not well, or are not happy?’
Camilla again bent over the flowers; but it was not to scent their fragrance; she sought only a hiding place for her eyes, which were gushing with tears; and though she wished to fly a thousand miles off, she had not courage to take a single step, nor force to trust her voice with the shortest reply.
‘You will not speak? yet you do not deny that you have some uneasiness?–Could I give it but the smallest relief, how fortunate I should think myself!–And is it quite impossible?–Do you forbid me to ask what it is?-forbid me the indulgence even to suggest–’
‘Ask nothing! suggest nothing! and think of it no more!’ interrupted Camilla, ‘if you would not make me quite–’
She stopt suddenly, not to utter the word unhappy, of which she felt the improper strength at the moment it was quivering on her lips, and leaving her sentence unfinished, abruptly walked away.
Edgar could not presume to follow, yet felt her conquest irresistible. Her self-denial with regard to Mrs. Arlbery won his highest approbation; her compliance with his wishes convinced him of her esteem; and her distress, so new and so unaccountable, centered every wish of his heart in a desire to solace, and to revive her.
To obtain this privilege hastened at once and determined his measures; he excused himself, therefore, from walking, and went instantly to his chamber, to reclaim, by a hasty letter to Dr. Marchmont, his procrastinating promise.
WITH a pen flowing quick from feelings of the most generous warmth, Edgar wrote the following letter:
To Dr. Marchmont.
Accuse me not of precipitance, my dear Doctor, nor believe me capable of forgetting the wisdom of your suggestions, nor of lightly weighing those evils with which your zeal has encompassed me, though I write at this instant to confess a total contrariety of sentiment, to call back every promise of delay, and to make an unqualified avowal, that the period of caution is past! Camilla is not happy-something, I know not what, has disturbed the gay serenity of her bosom: she has forbid me to enquire the cause;-one way only remains to give me a claim to her confidence.–O Doctor! wonder not if cold, tardy, suspicious–I had nearly said unfeeling, caution, shrinks at such a moment, from the rising influence of warmer sympathy, which bids me sooth her in distress, shield her from danger, strengthen all her virtues, and participate in their emanations!
You will not do me the injustice to think me either impelled or blinded by external enchantments; you know me to have withstood their yet fuller blaze in her cousin: O no! were she despoiled of all personal attraction by the same ravaging distemper that has been so fierce with her poor sister; were a similar cruel accident to rob her form of all symmetry, she would yet be more fascinating to my soul, by one single look, one single word, one sweet beaming smile, diffusing all the gaiety it displays, than all of beauty, all of elegance, all of rank, all of wealth, the whole kingdom, in some wonderful aggregate, could oppose to her.
Her face, her form, however penetrating in loveliness, aid, but do not constitute, her charms; no, ’tis the quick intelligence of soul that mounts to her eyes, ’tis the spirit checked by sweetness, the sweetness animated by spirit, the nature so nobly above all artifice, all study–O Doctor! restore to me immediately every vestige, every trait of any promise, any acquiescence, any idea the most distant, that can be construed into a compliance with one moment’s requisition of delay!
Cleves Park, Friday Evening.
Camilla, meanwhile, shut up in her room, wept almost without cessation, from a sense of general unhappiness, though fixed to no point, and from a disturbance of mind, a confusion of ideas and of feelings, that rendered her incapable of reflection. She was again followed by Eugenia, and could no longer refuse, to her tender anxiety, a short detail of the attack which occasioned her disorder; happy, at least, in reciting it, that by unfolding the cause, there no longer remained any necessity to repress the effects of her affliction.
To her great surprise, however, Eugenia only said: ‘And is this all, my dear Camilla?’
‘All!’ exclaimed Camilla.
‘Yes, is it all?–I was afraid some great misfortune had happened.’
‘And what could happen more painful, more shocking, more cruel?’
‘A thousand things! for this is nothing but a mere mistake; and you should not make yourself unhappy about it, because you are not to blame.’
‘Is it then nothing to be accused of designs and intentions so criminal?’
‘If the accusation were just, it might indeed make you wretched: but it is Miss Margland only who has any reason to be afflicted; for it is she alone who has been in the wrong.’
Struck with this plain but uncontrovertible truth, Camilla wiped her eyes, and strove to recover some composure; but finding her tears still force their way, ‘It is not,’ she cried, with some hesitation, ‘it is not the aspersions of Miss Margland alone that give me so much vexation-the unkindness of Indiana–’
‘Indeed she is highly reprehensible; and so I will tell her;-but still, if she has any fears, however ill-founded, of losing Edgar, you cannot but pardon-you must even pity her.’
Struck again, and still more forcibly, by this second truth, Camilla, ashamed of her grief, made a stronger and more serious effort to repress it; and receiving soon afterwards a summons from her uncle, her spirit rose once more to the relief of her dejection, upon seeing him seated between Miss Margland and Indiana, and discerning that they had been making some successful complaint, by the air of triumph with which they waited her approach.
‘My dear Camilla,’ he cried, with a look of much disturbance, ‘here’s a sad ado, I find; though I don’t mean to blame you, nor young Mr. Mandlebert neither, taste being a fault one can’t avoid; not but what a person’s changing their mind is what I can’t commend in any one, which I shall certainly let him know, not doubting to bring him round by means of his own sense: only, my dear, in the meanwhile, I must beg you not to stand in your cousin’s way.’
‘Indeed, my dear uncle, I do not merit this imputation; I am not capable of such treachery!’ indignantly answered Camilla.
‘Treachery! Lord help us! treachery!’ cried Sir Hugh, fondly embracing her, ‘don’t I know you are as innocent as the baby unborn? and more innocent too, from the advantage of having more sense to guide you by! treachery, my dear Camilla! why, I think there’s nobody so good in the wide world!-by which I mean no reflections, never thinking it right to make any.’
Indiana, sullenly pouting, spoke not a word; but Miss Margland, with a tone of plausibility that was some covert to its malice, said ‘Why then all may be well, and the young ladies as good friends as ever, and Mr. Mandlebert return to the conduct of a gentleman, only just by Miss Camilla’s doing as she would be done by; for nothing that all of us can say will have any effect, if she does not discourage him from dangling about after her in the manner he does now, speaking to nobody else, and always asking her opinion about every trifle, which is certainly doing no great justice to Miss Lynmere.’
Indiana, with a toss of the head, protested his notice was the last thing she desired.
‘My dear Indiana,’ said Sir Hugh, ‘don’t mind all that outward shew. Mr. Mandlebert is a very good boy, and as to your cousin Camilla, I am sure I need not put you in mind how much she is the same; but I really think, whatever’s the reason, the young youths of now-a-days grow backwarder and backwarder. Though I can’t say but what in my time it was just the same; witness myself; which is what I have been sorry for often enough, though I have left off repenting it now, because it’s of no use; age being a thing there’s no getting ahead of.’
‘Well, then, all that remains is this,’ said Miss Margland, ‘let Miss Camilla keep out of Mr. Mandlebert’s way; and let her order the carriage, and go to Mrs. Arlbery’s to-morrow, and take no notice of his likings and dislikings; and I’ll be bound for it he will soon think no more of her, and then, of course, he will give the proper attention to Miss Lynmere.’
‘O, if that’s all,’ cried Sir Hugh, ‘my dear Camilla, I am sure, will do it, and as much again too, to make her cousin easy. And so now, I hope, all is settled, and my two good girls will kiss one another, and be friends; which I am sure I am myself, with all my heart.’
Camilla hung her head, in speechless perturbation, at a task which appeared to her equally hard and unjust; but while fear and shame kept her silent, Sir Hugh drew her to Indiana, and a cold, yet unavoidable salute, gave a species of tacit consent to a plan which she did not dare oppose, from the very strength of the desire that urged her opposition.
They then separated; Sir Hugh delighted, Miss Margland triumphant, Indiana half satisfied, half affronted, and Camilla with a mind so crowded, a heart so full, she scarcely breathed. Sensations the most contrary, of pain, pleasure, hope, and terror, at once assailed her. Edgar, of whom so long she had only thought as of the destined husband of Indiana, she now heard named with suspicions of another regard, to which she did not dare give full extension; yet of which the most distant surmise made her consider herself, for a moment, as the happiest of human beings, though she held herself the next as the most culpable for even wishing it.
She found Eugenia still in her room, who, perceiving her increased emotion, tenderly enquired, if there were any new cause.
‘Alas! yes, my dearest Eugenia! they have been exacting from me the most cruel of sacrifices! They order me to fly from Edgar Mandlebert-to resist his advice-to take the very measures I have promised to forbear-to disoblige, to slight, to behave to him even offensively! my uncle himself, lenient, kind, indulgent as he is, my uncle himself has been prevailed with to inflict upon me this terrible injunction.’
‘My uncle,’ answered Eugenia, ‘is incapable of giving pain to any body, and least of all to you, whom he loves with such fondness; he has not therefore comprehended the affair; he only considers, in general, that to please or to displease Edgar Mandlebert can be a matter of no moment to you, when compared with its importance to Indiana.’
‘It is a thousand and a thousand, a million and a million times more important to me, than it can ever be to her!’ exclaimed the ardent Camilla, ‘for she values not his kindness, she knows not his worth, she is insensible to his virtues!’
‘You judge too hastily, my dear Camilla; she has not indeed your warmth of heart; but if she did not wish the union to take place, why would she shew all this disquiet in the apprehension of its breach?’
Camilla, surprised into recollection, endeavoured to become calmer.
‘You, indeed,’ continued the temperate Eugenia, ‘if so situated, would not so have behaved; you would not have been so unjust; and you could not have been so weak; but still, if you had received, however causelessly, any alarm for the affection of the man you meant to marry, and that man were as amiable as Edgar, you would have been equally disturbed.’
Camilla, convinced, yet shocked, felt the flutter of her heart give a thousand hues to her face, and walking to the window, leaned far out to gasp for breath.
‘Weigh the request more coolly, and you cannot refuse a short compliance. I am sure you would not make Indiana unhappy.’
‘O, no! not for the world!’ cried she, struggling to seem more reasonable than she felt.
‘Yet how can she be otherwise, if she imagines you have more of the notice and esteem of Edgar than herself?’
Camilla now had not a word to say; the subject dropt; she took up a book, and by earnest internal remonstrances, commanded herself to appear at tea-time with tolerable serenity.
The evening was passed in spiritless conversation, or in listening to the piano-forte, upon which Indiana, with the utmost difficulty, played some very easy lessons.
At night, the following answer arrived from Dr. Marchmont:
To Edgar Mandlebert, Esq.
Parsonage House, Cleves,
My DEAR FRIEND,
I must be thankful, in a moment of such enthusiasm, that you can pay the attention of even recollecting those evils with which my zeal only has, you think, encompassed you. I cannot insist upon the practice of caution which you deem unfounded; but as you wait my answer, I will once more open upon my sentiments, and communicate my wishes. It is now only I can speak them; the instant you have informed the young lady of your own, silences them for ever. Your honour and her happiness become then entangled in each other, and I know not which I would least willingly assail. What in all men is base, would to you, I believe, be impossible-to trifle with such favour as may be the growth of your own undisguised partiality.
Your present vehemence to ascertain the permanent possession of one you conceive formed for your felicity, obscures, to your now absorbed faculties, the thousand nameless, but tenacious, delicacies annexed by your species of character to your powers of enjoyment. In two words, then, let me tell you, what, in a short time, you will daily tell yourself: you cannot be happy if not exclusively loved; for you cannot excite, you cannot bestow happiness.
By exclusively, I do not mean to the exclusion of other connections and regard; far from it; those who covet in a bride the oblivion of all former friendships, all early affections, weaken the finest ties of humanity, and dissolve the first compact of unregistered but genuine integrity. The husband, who would rather rationally than with romance be loved himself should seek to cherish, not obliterate the kind feelings of nature in its first expansions. These, where properly bestowed, are the guarantees to that constant and respectable tenderness, which a narrow and selfish jealousy rarely fails to convert into distaste and disgust.
The partiality which I mean you to ascertain, injures not these prior claims; I mean but a partiality exclusive of your situation in life, and of all declaration of your passion: a partiality, in fine, that is appropriate to yourself, not to the rank in the world with which you may tempt her ambition, nor to the blandishments of flattery, which only soften the heart by intoxicating the understanding.
Observe, therefore, if your general character, and usual conduct, strike her mind; if her esteem is yours without the attraction of assiduity and adulation; if your natural disposition and manners make your society grateful to her, and your approbation desirable.
It is thus alone you can secure your own contentment; for it is thus alone your reflecting mind can snatch from the time to come the dangerous surmises of a dubious retrospection.
Remember, you can always advance; you can never, in honour, go back; and believe me when I tell you, that the mere simple avowal of preference, which only ultimately binds the man, is frequently what first captivates the woman. If her mind is not previously occupied, it operates with such seductive sway, it so soothes, so flatters, so bewitches her self-complacency, that while she listens, she imperceptibly fancies she participates in sentiments, which, but the minute before, occurred not even to her imagination; and while her hand is the recompence of her own eulogy, she is not herself aware if she has bestowed it where her esteem and regard, unbiassed by the eloquence of acknowledged admiration, would have wished it sought, or if it has simply been the boon of her own gratified vanity.
I now no longer urge your acquiescence, my dear friend; I merely entreat you twice to peruse what I have written, and then leave you to act by the result of such perusal.
Your truly faithful and obliged
Edgar ran through this letter with an impatience wholly foreign to his general character. ‘Why,’ cried he, ‘will he thus obtrude upon me these fastidious doubts and causeless difficulties? I begged but the restitution of my promise, and he gives it me in words that nearly annihilate my power of using it.’
Disappointed and displeased, he hastily put it into his pocketbook, resolving to seek Camilla, and commit the consequences of an interview to the impulses it might awaken.
He was half way down stairs, when the sentence finishing with, ‘you cannot excite, you cannot bestow happiness,’ confusedly recurred to him: ‘If in that,’ thought he, ‘I fail, I am a stranger to it myself, and a stranger for ever;’ and, returning to his room, he re-opened the letter to look for the passage.
The sentence lost nothing by being read a second time; he paused upon it dejectedly, and presently re-read the whole epistle.
‘He is not quite wrong!’ cried he, pensively; ‘there is nothing very unreasonable in what he urges: true, indeed, it is, that I can never be happy myself, if her happiness is not entwined around my own.’
The first blight thus borne to that ardent glee with which the imagination rewards its own elevated speculations, he yet a third time read the letter.
‘He is right!’ he then cried; ‘I will investigate her sentiments, and know what are my chances for her regard; what I owe to real approbation; and what merely to intimacy of situation. I will postpone all explanation till my visit here expires, and devote the probationary interval, to an examination which shall obviate all danger of either deceiving my own reason, or of beguiling her inconsiderate acceptance.’
This settled, he rejoiced in a mastery over his eagerness, which he considered as complete, since it would defer for no less than a week the declaration of his passion.
THE next morning Camilla, sad and unwilling to appear, was the last who entered the breakfast-parlour. Edgar instantly discerned the continued unhappiness, which an assumed smile concealed from the unsuspicious Sir Hugh, and the week of delay before him seemed an outrage to all his wishes.
While she was drinking her first cup of tea, a servant came in, and told her the carriage was ready.
She coloured, but nobody spoke, and the servant retired. Edgar was going to ask the design for the morning, when Miss Margland said–‘Miss Camilla, as the horses have got to go and return, you had better not keep them waiting.’
Colouring still more deeply, she was going to disclaim having ordered them, though well aware for what purpose they were come, when Sir Hugh said–‘I think, my dear, you had best take Eugenia with you, which may serve you as a companion to talk to, in case you want to say anything by the way, which I take for granted; young people not much liking to hold their tongues for a long while together, which is very natural, having so little to think of.’
‘Miss Eugenia, then,’ cried Miss Margland, before Camilla could reply, ‘run for your cloak as soon as you have finished your breakfast.’
Eugenia, hoping to aid her sister in performing a task, which she considered as a peace-offering to Indiana, said, she had already done.
Camilla now lost all courage for resistance; but feeling her chagrin almost intolerable, quitted the room with her tea undrunk, and without making known if she should return or not.
Eugenia followed, and Edgar, much amazed, said, he had forgotten to order his horse for his morning’s ride, and hastily made off: determined to be ready to hand the sisters to the carriage, and learn whither it was to drive.
Camilla, who, in flying to her room, thought of nothing less than preparing for an excursion which she now detested, was again surprised in tears by Eugenia.
‘What, my dearest Camilla,’ she cried, ‘can thus continually affect you? you cannot be so unhappy without some cause!-why will you not trust your Eugenia?’
‘I cannot talk,’ she answered, ashamed to repeat reasons which she knew Eugenia held to be inadequate to her concern–‘If there is no resource against this persecution-if I must render myself hateful to give them satisfaction, let us, at least, be gone immediately, and let me be spared seeing the person I so ungratefully offend.’
She then hurried down stairs; but finding Edgar in waiting, still more quickly hurried back, and in an agony, for which she attempted not to account, cast herself into a chair, and told Eugenia, that if Miss Margland did not contrive to call Edgar away, the universe could not prevail with her to pass him in such defiance.
‘My dear Camilla,’ said Eugenia, surprized, yet compassionately, ‘if this visit is become so painful to you, relinquish it at once.’
‘Ah, no! for that cruel Miss Margland will then accuse me of staying away only to follow the counsel of Edgar.’
She stopt; for the countenance of Eugenia said–‘And is that not your motive?’ A sudden consciousness took place of her distress; she hid her face, in the hope of concealing her emotion, and with as calm a voice as she could attain, said, the moment they could pass unobserved she would set off.
Eugenia went downstairs.
‘Alas! alas!’ she then cried, ‘into what misery has this barbarous Miss Margland thrown me! Eugenia herself seems now to suspect something wrong; and so, I suppose, will my uncle; and I can only convince them of my innocence by acting towards Edgar as a monster.–Ah! I would sooner a thousand times let them all think me guilty!’
Eugenia had met Miss Margland in the hall, who, impatient for their departure, passed her, and ascended the stairs.
At the sound of her footsteps, the horror of her reproaches and insinuations conquered every other feeling, and Camilla, starting up, rushed forward, and saying ‘Good morning!’ ran off.
Edgar was still at the door, and came forward to offer her his hand. ‘Pray take care of Eugenia,’ she cried, abruptly passing him, and darting, unaided, into the chaise. Edgar, astonished, obeyed, and gave his more welcome assistance to Eugenia; but when both were seated, said–‘Where shall I tell the postillion to drive?’
Camilla, who was pulling one of the green blinds up, and again letting it down, twenty times in a minute, affected not to hear him, but Eugenia answered, ‘to the Grove, to Mrs. Arlbery’s .’
The postillion had already received his orders from Miss Margland, and drove off; leaving Edgar mute with surprise, disappointment and mortification.
Miss Margland was just behind him, and conceived this the fortunate instant for eradicating from his mind every favourable pre-possession for Camilla; assuming, therefore, an air of concern, she said–‘So, you have found Miss Camilla out, in spite of all her precautions! she would fain not have had you know her frolic.’
‘Not know it! has there, then, been any plan? did Miss Camilla intend–’
‘O, she intends nothing in the world for two minutes together! only she did not like you should find out her fickleness. You know, I told you, before, she was all whim; and so you will find. You may always take my opinion, be assured. Miss Lynmere is the only one among them that is always the same, always good, always amiable.’
‘And is not Miss–’ he was going to say Camilla, but checking himself, finished with–‘Miss Eugenia, at least, always equal, always consistent?’
‘Why, she is better than Miss Camilla; but not one among them has any steadiness, or real sweetness, but Miss Lynmere. As to Miss Camilla, if she has not her own way, there’s no enduring her, she frets, and is so cross. When you put her off, in that friendly manner, from gadding after a new acquaintance so improper for her, you set her into such an ill humour, that she has done nothing but cry, as you may have seen by her eyes, and worry herself and all of us round, except you, ever since; but she was afraid of you, for fear you should take her to task, which she hates of all things.’
Half incredulous, yet half shocked, Edgar turned from this harangue in silent disgust. He knew the splenetic nature of Miss Margland, and trusted she might be wrong; but he knew, too, her opportunities for observation, and dreaded lest she might be right. Camilla had been certainly low spirited, weeping, and restless; was it possible it could be for so slight, so unmeaning a cause? His wish was to follow her on horseback; but this, unauthorized, might betray too much anxiety: he tried not to think of what had been said by Dr. Marchmont, while this cloud hung over her disposition and sincerity; for whatever might be the malignity of Miss Margland, the breach of a promise, of which the voluntary sweetness had so lately proved his final captivation, could not be doubted, and called aloud for explanation.
He mounted, however, his horse, to make his promised enquiries of Mrs. Needham; for though the time was already past for impeding the acquaintance from taking place, its progress might yet be stopt, should it be found incompatible with propriety.
The young ladies had scarce left the Park, when Sir Hugh, recollecting a promise he had made to Mr. and Mrs. Tyrold, of never suffering Eugenia to go abroad unattended by some gentleman, while Bellamy remained in the country, sent hastily to beg that Edgar would follow the carriage.
Edgar was out of sight, and there was no chance of overtaking him.
‘Lack-a-day!’ said Sir Hugh, ‘those young folks can never walk a horse but full gallop!’ He then resolved to ask Dr. Orkborne to go after his pupil, and ride by the side of the chaise. He ordered a horse to be saddled; and, to lose no time by messages, the tardiness of which he had already experienced with this gentleman, he went himself to his apartment, and after several vain rappings at his door, entered the room unbid, saying–‘Good Dr. Orkborne, unless you are dead, which God forbid! I think it’s something uncomfortable that you can’t speak to a person waiting at your door; not that I pretend to doubt but you may have your proper reasons, being what I can’t judge.’
He then begged he would get booted and spurred instantly, and follow his two nieces to Mrs. Arlbery’s, in order to take care of Eugenia; adding, ‘though I’m afraid, Doctor, by your look, you don’t much listen to me, which I am sorry for; my not being able to speak like Horace and Virgil being no fault of mine, but of my poor capacity, which no man can be said to be answerable for.’
He then again entreated him to set off.
‘Only a moment, sir! I only beg you’ll accord me one moment!’ cried the Doctor, with a fretful sigh; while, screening his eyes with his left hand, he endeavoured hastily to make a memorandum of his ideas, before he forced them to any other subject.
‘Really, Dr. Orkborne,’ said Sir Hugh, somewhat displeased, ‘I must needs remark, for a friend, I think this rather slow: however, I can’t say I am much disappointed, now, that I did not turn out a scholar myself, for I see, plain enough, you learned men think nothing of any consequence but Homer and such; which, however, I don’t mean to take ill, knowing it was like enough to have been my own case.’
He then left the room, intending to send a man and horse after the chaise, to desire his two nieces to return immediately.
Dr. Orkborne, who, though copiously stored with the works of the ancients, had a sluggish understanding, and no imagination, was entirely overset by this intrusion. The chain of his observations was utterly broken; he strove vainly to rescue from oblivion the slow ripening fruits of his tardy conceptions, and, proportioning his estimation of their value by their labour, he not only considered his own loss as irreparable, but the whole world to be injured by so unfortunate an interruption.
The recollection, however, which refused to assist his fame, was importunate in reminding him that the present offender was his patron; and his total want of skill in character kept from him the just confidence he would otherwise have placed in the unalterable goodness of heart of Sir Hugh, whom, though he despised for his ignorance, he feared for his power.
Uneasy, therefore, at his exit, which he concluded to be made in wrath, he uttered a dolorous groan over his papers, and compelled himself to follow, with an apology, the innocent enemy of his glory.
Sir Hugh, who never harboured displeasure for two minutes in his life, was more inclined to offer an excuse himself for what he had dropt against learning, than to resist the slightest concession from the Doctor, whom he only begged to make haste, the horse being already at the door. But Dr. Orkborne, as soon as he comprehended what was desired, revived from the weight of sacrificing so much time; he had never been on horseback since he was fifteen years of age, and declared, to the wondering baronet, he could not risk his neck by undertaking such a journey.
In high satisfaction, he would then have returned to his room, persuaded that, when his mind was disembarrassed, a parallel between two ancient authors which, with much painful stretch of thought, he had suggested, and which, with the most elaborate difficulty, he was arranging and drawing up, would recur again to his memory: but Sir Hugh, always eager in expedients, said, he should follow in the coach, which might be ready time enough for him to arrive at Mrs. Arlbery’s before the visit was over, and to bring Eugenia safe back; ‘which,’ cried he, ‘is the main point, for the sake of seeing that she goes no where else.’
Dr. Orkborne, looking extremely blank at this unexpected proposition, stood still.
‘Won’t you go, then, my good friend?’
The Doctor, after a long pause, and in a most dejected tone, sighed out, ‘Yes, sir, certainly, with the greatest alacrity.’
Sir Hugh, who took everything literally that seemed right or good-natured, thanked him, and ordered the horses to be put to the coach with all possible expedition.
It was soon at the door, and Dr. Orkborne, who had spent in his room the intervening period, in moaning the loss of the time that was to succeed, and in an opinion that two hours of this morning would have been of more value to him than two years when it was gone, reluctantly obeyed the call that obliged him to descend: but he had no sooner entered the carriage, and found he was to have it to himself, than leaping suddenly from it, as the groom, who was to attend him, was preparing to shut the door, he hastened back to his chamber to collect a packet of books and papers, through the means of which he hoped to recall those flowers of rhetoric, upon which he was willing to risk his future reputation.
The astonished groom, concluding something had frightened him, jumped into the coach to find the cause of his flight; but Sir Hugh, who was advancing to give his final directions, called out, with some displeasure ‘Hollo, there, you Jacob! if Dr. Orkborne thinks to get you to go for my nieces in place of himself, it’s what I don’t approve; which, however, you need not take amiss, one man being no more born with a livery upon his back than another; which God forbid I should think otherwise. Nevertheless, my little girls must have a proper respect shewn them; which, it’s surprising Dr. Orkborne should not know as well as me.’
And, much disconcerted, he walked to the parlour, to ruminate upon some other measure.
‘I am sure, your honour,’ said Jacob, following him, ‘I got in with no ill intention; but what it was as come across the Doctor I don’t know; but just as I was a going to shut the door, without saying never a word, out he pops, and runs upstairs again; so I only got in to see if something had hurt him; but I can’t find nothing of no sort.’
Then, putting to the door, and looking sagaciously, ‘Please your honour,’ he continued, ‘I dare say it’s only some maggot got into his brain from over reading and writing; for all the maids think he’ll soon be cracked.’
‘That’s very wrong of them, Jacob; and I desire you’ll tell them they must not think any such thing.’
‘Why, your honour don’t know half, or you’d be afraid too,’ said Jacob, lowering his voice; ‘he’s like nothing you ever see. He won’t let a chair nor a table be dusted in his room, though they are covered over with cobwebs, because he says, it takes him such a time to put his things to rights again; though all the while what he calls being to rights is just the contrary; for it’s a mere higgledy piggledy, one thing heaped o’top of t’other, as if he did it for fun.’
The baronet gravely answered, that if there were not the proper shelves for his books he would order more.
‘Why, your honour, that’s not the quarter, as I tell you! why, when they’re cleaning out his room, if they happen but to sweep away a bit of paper as big as my hand, he’ll make believe they’ve done him as much mischief as if they’d stole a thousand pound. It would make your honour stare to hear him. Mary says, she’s sure he has never been quite right ever since he come to the house.’
‘But I desire you’ll tell Mary I don’t approve of that opinion. Dr. Orkborne is one of the first scholars in the world, as I am credibly informed; and I beg you’ll all respect him accordingly.’
‘Why, your honour, if it i’n’t owing to something of that sort, why does he behave so unaccountable? I myself heard him making such a noise at the maids one day, that I spoke to Mary afterwards, and asked her what was the matter?–“Laws, nobody knows,” says she, “but here’s the Doctor been all in a huff again; I was just a dusting his desk (says she) and so I happened to wipe down a little bundle of papers, all nothing but mere scraps, and he took on as if they’d been so many guineas (says she) and he kept me there for an hour looking for them, and scolding, and telling such a heap of fibs, that if he was not out of his head, would be a shame for a gentleman to say” (says she).’
‘Fie, fie, Jacob! and tell Mary fie, too. He is a very learned gentleman, and no more a story-teller than I am myself; which God forbid.’
‘Why, your honour, how could this here be true? he told the maids how they had undone him, and the like, only because of their throwing down them few bits of papers; though they are ready to make oath they picked them up, almost every one; and that they were all of a crump, and of no manner of use.’
‘Well, well, say no more about it, good Jacob, but go and give my compliments to Dr. Orkborne, and ask him, what’s the reason of his changing his mind; I mean, provided it’s no secret.’
Jacob returned in two minutes, with uplifted hands and eyes; ‘your honour,’ cried he, ‘now you’ll believe me another time! he is worse than ever, and I’ll be bound he’ll break out before another quarter.’
‘Why, what’s the matter?’
‘Why, as sure as I’m here, he’s getting together ever so many books, and stuffing his pockets, and cramming them under his arms, just as if he was a porter! and when I gave him your honour’s message, I suppose it put him out, for he said, “Don’t hurry me so, I’m a coming;” making believe as if he was only a preparing for going out, in the stead of making that fool of himself.’
Sir Hugh, now really alarmed, bid him not mention the matter to anyone; and was going upstairs himself, when he saw Dr. Orkborne, heavily laden with books in each hand, and bulging from both coat pockets, slowly and carefully coming down.
‘Bless me,’ cried he, rather fearfully, ‘my dear sir, what are you going to do with all that library?’
Dr. Orkborne, wishing him good morning, without attending to his question, proceeding to the carriage, calling to Jacob, who stood aloof, to make haste and open the door.
Jacob obeyed, but with a significant look at his master, that said, ‘you see how it is, sir!’
Sir Hugh following him, gently put his hand upon his shoulder, and mildly said, ‘My dear friend, to be sure you know best, but I don’t see the use of loading yourself in that manner for nothing.’
‘It is a great loss of time, sir, to travel without books,’ answered the Doctor, quietly arranging them in the coach.
‘Travel, my good friend? Why, you don’t call it travelling to go four or five miles? why, if you had known me before my fall–However, I don’t mean to make any comparisons, you gentlemen scholars being no particular good horsemen. However, if you were to go one hundred miles instead of four or five, you could not get through more than one of those books, read as hard as you please; unless you skip half, which I suppose you solid heads leave to the lower ignoramusses.’
‘It is not for reading, sir, that I take all these books, but merely to look into. There are many of them I shall never read in my life, but I shall want them all.’
Sir Hugh now stared with increased perplexity; but Dr. Orkborne, as eager to go, since his books were to accompany him, as before to stay, told Jacob to bid the coachman make haste. Jacob looked at his master, who ordered him to mount his mare, and the carriage drove off.
The baronet, in some uneasiness, seated himself in the hall, to ruminate upon what he had just heard. The quietness and usual manner of speaking and looking of Dr. Orkborne, which he had remarked, removed any immediate apprehensions from the assertions of Jacob and Mary; but still he did not like the suggestion; and the carrying off so many books, when he acknowledged he did not mean to read one of them, disturbed him.
In every shadow of perplexity, his first wish was to consult with his brother; and if he had not parted with both his carriages, he would instantly have set off for Etherington. He sent, however, an express for Mr. Tyrold, begging to see him at Cleves with all speed.
WHEN the chaise drove from Cleves Park, all attempt at any disguise was over with Camilla, who alive only to the horror of appearing ungrateful to Edgar, wept without controul; and, leaning back in the carriage, entreated Eugenia to dispense with all conversation.
Eugenia, filled with pity, wondered, but complied, and they travelled near four miles in silence; when, perceiving, over the paling round a paddock, Mrs. Arlbery and a party of company, Camilla dried her eyes, and prepared for her visit, of which the impetuosity of her feelings had retarded all previous consideration.
Eugenia, with true concern, saw the unfitness of her sister to appear, and proposed walking the rest of the way, in the hope that a little air and exercise might compose her spirits.
She agreed; they alighted, and bidding the footman keep with the carriage, which they ordered should drive slowly behind, they proceeded gently, arm in arm, along a clean raised bank by the side of the road, with a pace suiting at once the infirmity of Eugenia, and the wish of delay in Camilla.
The sound of voices reached them from within the paddock, though a thick shrubbery prevented their seeing the interlocutors.
‘Can you make out the arms?’ said one.
‘No,’ answered another, ‘but I can see the postillion’s livery, and I am certain it is Sir Hugh Tyrold’s.’
‘Then it is not coming hither,’ said a third voice, which they recollected for Mrs. Arlbery’s; ‘we don’t visit: though I should not dislike to see the old baronet. They tell me he is a humorist; and I have a taste for all oddities: but then he has a house full of females, and females I never admit in a morning, except when I have secured some men to take the entertaining them off my hands.’
‘Whither is Bellamy running?’ cried another voice, ‘he’s off without a word.’
‘Gone in hopes of a rencounter, I doubt not,’ answered Mrs. Arlbery; ‘he made palpable aim at one of the divinities of Cleves at the ball.’
Eugenia now grew uneasy. ‘Let us be quick,’ she whispered ‘and enter the house!’
‘Divinities! Lord! are they divinities?’ said a girlish female voice; ‘pray how old are they?’
‘I fancy about seventeen.’
‘Seventeen! gracious! I thought they’d been quite young; I wonder they a’n’t married!’
‘I presume, then, you intend to be more expeditious?’ said another, whose voice spoke him to be General Kinsale.
‘Gracious! I hope so, for I hate an old bride. I’ll never marry at all, if I stay till I am eighteen.’
‘A story goes about,’ said the General, ‘that Sir Hugh Tyrold has selected one of his nieces for his sole heiress; but no two people agree which it is, they have asserted it of each.’
‘I was mightily taken with one of the girls,’ said Mrs. Arlbery; ‘there was something so pleasant in her looks and manner, that I even felt inclined to forgive her being younger and prettier than myself; but she turned out also to be more whimsical-and that there was no enduring.’
Camilla, extremely ashamed, was now upon the point of begging Eugenia to return, when a new speech seized all her attention.
‘Do you know, General, when that beautiful automaton, Miss Lynmere, is to marry young Mandlebert?’
‘Immediately, I understand; I am told he has fitted up his house very elegantly for her reception.’
A deep sigh escaped Camilla at such publicity in the report and belief of the engagement of Edgar with her cousin, and brought with it a consciousness too strong for any further self-disguise, that her distress flowed not all from an unjust accusation: the sound alone of the union struck as a dagger at her heart, and told her, incontrovertibly, who was its master.
Her sensations were now most painful: she grew pale, she became sick, and was obliged, in her turn, to lean upon Eugenia, who, affrighted to see her thus strangely disordered, besought her to go back to the chaise.
She consented, and begged to pass a few minutes there alone. Eugenia therefore stayed without, walking slowly upon the bank.
Camilla, getting into the carriage, pulled up the blinds, and, no longer self-deceived, lamented in a new burst of sorrow, her unhappy fate, and unpropitious attachment.
This consciousness, however, became soon a call upon her integrity, and her regret was succeeded by a summons upon propriety. She gave herself up as lost to all personal felicity, but hoped she had discovered the tendency of her affliction, in time to avoid the dangers, and the errors to which it might lead. She determined to struggle without cessation for the conquest of a partiality she deemed it treachery to indulge; and to appease any pain she now blushed to have caused to Indiana, by strictly following the hard prescription of Miss Margland, and the obvious opinion of Eugenia, in shunning the society, and no longer coveting the approbation of Edgar. ‘Such, my dear father,’ she cried, ‘would be your lesson, if I dared consult you! such, my most honoured mother, would be your conduct, if thus cruelly situated!’
This thought thrilled through every vein with pleasure, in a sense of filial desert, and her sole desire was to return immediately to those incomparable parents, under whose roof she had experienced nothing but happiness, and in whose bosoms she hoped to bury every tumultuous disturbance.
These ideas and resolutions, dejecting, yet solacing, occupied her to the forgetfulness of her intended visit, and even of Eugenia, till the words: ‘Pray let me come to you, my dear Camilla!’ made her let down the blinds.
She then perceived Mr. Bellamy earnestly addressing her sister.
He had advanced suddenly towards her, by a short cut from the paddock, of which she was not aware, when she was about twenty yards from the chaise.
She made an effort to avoid him; but he planted himself in the way of her retreat, though with an air of supplication, with which she strove in vain to be angry.
He warmly represented the cruelty of thus flying him, entreated but the privilege of addressing her as a common acquaintance; and promised, upon that condition, to submit unmurmuring to her rejection.
Eugenia, though in secret she thought this request but equitable, made him no answer.
‘O madam,’ he cried, ‘what have I not suffered since your barbarous letter! why will you be so amiable, yet so inexorable?’
She attempted to quicken her pace; but again, in the same manner, stopping her, he exclaimed: ‘Do not kill me by this disdain! I ask not now for favour or encouragement–I know my hard doom–I ask only to converse with you-though, alas! it was by conversing with you I lost my heart.’
Eugenia felt softened; and her countenance, which had forfeited nothing of expression, though every thing of beauty, soon shewed Bellamy his advantage. He pursued it eagerly; depicted his passion, deprecated her severity, extolled her virtues and accomplishments, and bewailed his unhappy, hopeless flame.
Eugenia, knowing that all she said, and believing that all she heard issued from the fountain of truth, became extremely distressed. ‘Let me pass, I conjure you, Sir,’ she cried, ‘and do not take it ill-but I cannot hear you any longer.’
The vivacity of bright hope flashed into the sparkling eyes of Bellamy, at so gentle a remonstrance; and entreaties for lenity, declarations of passion, professions of submission, and practice of resistance, assailed the young Eugenia with a rapidity that confounded her: she heard him with scarce any opposition, from a fear of irritating his feelings, joined to a juvenile embarrassment how to treat with more severity so sincere and so humble a suppliant.
From this situation, to the extreme provocation of Bellamy, she was relieved by the appearance of Major Cerwood, who having observed, from the paddock, the slow motion of the carriage, had come forth to find out the cause.
Eugenia seized the moment of interruption to press forward, and make the call to her sister already mentioned; Bellamy accompanying and pleading, but no longer venturing to stop her: he handed her, therefore, to the chaise, where Major Cerwood also paid his compliments to the two ladies; and hearing they were going to the seat of Mrs. Arlbery, whither Camilla now forced herself, though more unwillingly than ever, he ran on, with Bellamy, to be ready to hand them from the carriage.
They were shewn into a parlour, while a servant went into the garden to call his mistress.
This interval was not neglected by either of the gentlemen, for Bellamy was scarce more eager to engage the attention of Eugenia, than the Major to force that of Camilla. By Lionel he had been informed she was heiress of Cleves; he deemed, therefore, the opportunity by no means to be thrown away, of making, what he believed required opportunity alone, a conquest of her young heart. Accustomed to think compliments always welcome to the fair, he construed her sadness into softness, and imputed her silence to the confusing impression made upon an inexperienced rural beauty, by the first assiduities of a man of figure and gallantry.
In about a quarter of an hour the servant of Mrs. Arlbery slowly returned, and, with some hesitation, said his lady was not at home. The gentlemen looked provoked, and Camilla and Eugenia, much disconcerted at so evident a denial, left their names, and returned to their carriage.
The journey back to Cleves was mute and dejected: Camilla was shocked at the conscious state of her own mind, and Eugenia was equally pensive. She began to think with anxiety of a contract with a person wholly unknown, and to consider the passion and constancy of Bellamy as the emanations of a truly elevated mind, and meriting her most serious gratitude.
At the hall door they were eagerly met by Sir Hugh, who, with infinite surprise, enquired where they had left Dr. Orkborne.
‘Dr. Orkborne?’ they repeated, ‘we have not even seen him.’
‘Not seen him? did not he come to fetch you?’
‘Why, he went to Mrs. Arlbery’s on purpose! And what he stays for at that lady’s, now you are both come away, is a thing I can’t pretend to judge of; unless he has stopt to read one of those books he took with him; which is what I dare say is the case.’
‘He cannot be at Mrs. Arlbery’s, Sir,’ said Eugenia, ‘for we have but this moment left her house.’
‘He must be there, my dear girls, for he’s no where else. I saw him set out myself, which, however, I shan’t mention the particulars of, having sent for my brother, whom I expect every minute.’
They then concluded he had gone by another road, as there were two ways to the Grove.
Edgar did not return to Cleves till the family were assembling to dinner. His visit to Mrs. Needham had occasioned him a new disturbance. She had rallied him upon the general rumour of his approaching marriage; and his confusion, from believing his partiality for Camilla detected, was construed into a confirmation of the report concerning Indiana. His disavowal was rather serious than strong, and involuntarily mixt with such warm eulogiums of the object he imagined to be meant, that Mrs. Needham, who had only named a certain fair one at Cleves, laughed at his denial, and thought the engagement undoubted.
With respect to his enquiries relative to Mrs. Arlbery, Mrs. Needham said, that she was a woman far more agreeable to the men, than to her own sex; that she was full of caprice, coquetry, and singularity; yet, though she abused the gift, she possessed an excellent and uncommon understanding. She was guilty of no vices, but utterly careless of appearances, and though her character was wholly unimpeached, she had offended or frightened almost all the county around, by a wilful strangeness of behaviour, resulting from an undaunted determination to follow in every thing the bent of her own humour.
Edgar justly deemed this a dangerous acquaintance for Camilla, whose natural thoughtlessness and vivacity made him dread the least imprudence in the connexions she might form; yet, as the reputation of Mrs. Arlbery was unsullied, he felt how difficult would be the task of demonstrating the perils he feared.
Sir Hugh, during the dinner, was exceedingly disturbed. ‘What Dr. Orkborne can be doing with himself,’ said he, ‘is more than any man can tell, for he certainly would not stay at the lady’s, when he found you were both come away; so that I begin to think it’s ten to one but he’s gone nobody knows where! for why else should he take all those books? which is a thing I have been thinking of ever since; especially as he owned himself he should never read one half of them. If he has taken something amiss, I am very ready to ask his pardon; though what it can be I don’t pretend to guess.’
Miss Margland said, he was so often doing something or other that was ill-bred, that she was not at all surprised he should stay out at dinner time. He had never yet fetched her a chair, nor opened the door for her, since he came to the house; so that she did not know what was too bad to expect.
As they were rising from the table, a note arrived from Mr. Tyrold, with an excuse, that important business would prevent his coming to Cleves till the next day. Camilla then begged permission to go in the chaise that was to fetch him, flattering herself something might occur to detain her, when at Etherington. Sir Hugh readily assented, and composing himself for his afternoon nap, desired to be awaked if Dr. Orkborne came back.
All now left the room except Camilla, who, taking up a book, stood still at a window, till she was aroused by the voice of Edgar, who, from the Park, asked her what she was reading.
She turned over the leaves, ashamed at the question, to look for the title; she had held the book mechanically, and knew not what it was.
He then produced the promised nosegay, which had been brought by his gardener during her excursion. She softly lifted up the sash, pointing to her sleeping uncle; he gave it her with a silent little bow, and walked away; much disappointed to miss an opportunity from which he had hoped for some explanation.
She held it in her hand some time, scarcely sensible she had taken it, till, presently, she saw its buds bedewed with her falling tears.
She shook them off, and pressed the nosegay to her bosom. ‘This, at least,’ she cried, ‘I may accept, for it was offered me before that barbarous attack. Ah! they know not the innocence of my regard, or they would not so wrong it! The universe could not tempt me to injure my cousin, though it is true, I have valued the kindness of Edgar-and I must always value it! These flowers are more precious to me, coming from his hands, and reared in his grounds, than all the gems of the East could be from any other possessor. But where is the guilt of such a preference? And who that knows him could help feeling it?’
Sir Hugh now awakening from a short slumber, exclaimed–‘I have just found out the reason why this poor gentleman has made off; I mean, provided he is really gone away, which, however, I hope not: but I think, by his bringing down all those books, he meant to give me a broad hint, that he had got no proper book-case to keep them in; which the maids as good as think too.’
Then, calling upon Camilla, he asked if she was not of that opinion.
‘Y-e-s, Sir,’ she hesitatingly answered.
‘Well, then, my dear, if we all think the same, I’ll give orders immediately for getting the better of that fault.’
Miss Margland, curious to know how Camilla was detained, now re-entered the room. Struck with the fond and melancholy air with which she was bending over her nosegay, she abruptly demanded–‘Pray, where might you get those flowers?’
Covered with shame, she could make no answer.
‘O, Miss Camilla! Miss Camilla!-ought not those flowers to belong to Miss Lynmere?’
‘Mr. Mandlebert had promised me them yesterday morning,’ answered she, in a voice scarce audible.
‘And is this fair, Ma’am?-can you reckon it honourable?–I’ll be judged by Sir Hugh himself. Do you think it right, Sir, that Miss Camilla should accept nosegays every day from Mr. Mandlebert, when her cousin has had never a one at all?’
‘Why, it’s not her fault, you know, Miss Margland, if young Mr. Mandlebert chuses to give them to her. However, if that vexes Indiana, I’m sure my niece will make them over to her with the greatest pleasure; for I never knew the thing she would not part with, much more a mere little smell at the nose, which, whether one has it or not, can’t much matter after it’s over.’
Miss Margland now exultingly held out her hand: the decision was obliged to be prompt; Camilla delivered up the flowers, and ran into her own room.
The sacrifice, cried she, is now complete! Edgar will conclude I hate him, and believe Indiana loves him!-no matter!-it is fitting he should think both. I will be steady this last evening, and to-morrow I will quit this fatal roof!
WHEN summoned to tea, Camilla, upon entering the parlour, found Sir Hugh in mournful discourse with Edgar upon the nonappearance of Dr. Orkborne. Edgar felt a momentary disappointment that she did not honour his flowers with wearing them; but consoled himself with supposing she had preserved them in water. In a few minutes, however, Indiana appeared with them in her bosom.
Almost petrified, he turned towards Camilla, who, affecting an air of unconcern, amused herself with patting a favourite old terrier of her uncle’s .
As soon as he could disengage himself from the Baronet, he leant also over the dog, and, in a low voice, said–‘You have discarded, then, my poor flowers?’
‘Have I not done right?’ answered she, in the same tone; ‘are they not where you must be far happier to see them?’
‘Is it possible,’ exclaimed he, ‘Miss Camilla Tyrold can suppose–’. He stopt, for surprised off his guard, he was speaking loud, and he saw Miss Margland approaching.
‘Don’t you think, Mr. Mandlebert,’ said she, ‘that Miss Lynmere becomes a bouquet very much? she took a fancy to those flowers, and I think they are quite the thing for her.’
‘She does them,’ he coldly answered, ‘too much honour.’
Ah, Heaven! he loves her not! thought Camilla, and, while trembling between hope and terror at the suggestion, determined to redouble her circumspection, not to confirm the suspicion that his indifference was produced by her efforts to attach him to herself.
She had soon what she conceived to be an occasion for its exertion. When he handed her some cakes, he said–‘You would think it, I conclude, impertinent to hear anything more concerning Mrs. Arlbery, now you have positively opened an acquaintance with her?’
She felt the justice of this implied reproach of her broken promise; but she saw herself constantly watched by Miss Margland, and repressing the apology she was sighing to offer, only answered–‘You have nothing, you own, to say against her reputation-and as to any thing else–’
‘True,’ interrupted he, ‘my information on that point is all still in her favour: but can it be Miss Camilla Tyrold, who holds that to be the sole question upon which intimacy ought to depend? Does she account as nothing manners, disposition, way of life?’
‘No, not absolutely as nothing,’ said she, rising; ‘but taste settles all those things, and mine is entirely in her favour.’
Edgar gravely begged her pardon, for so officiously resuming an irksome subject; and returning to Sir Hugh, endeavoured to listen to his lamentations and conjectures about Dr. Orkborne.
He felt, however, deeply hurt. In naming Mrs. Arlbery, he had flattered himself he had opened an opportunity for which she must herself be waiting, to explain the motives of her late visit; but her light answer put an end to that hope, and her quitting her seat shewed her impatient of further counsel.
Not a word that fell from Sir Hugh reached his ear: but he bowed from time to time, and the good Baronet had no doubt of his attention. His eyes were perpetually following Camilla, though they met not a glance from her in return. She played with the terrier, talked with Eugenia, looked out of the window, turned over some books, and did everything with an air of negligence, that while it covered absence and anxiety, displayed a studied avoidance of his notice.
The less he could account for this, the more it offended him. And dwells caprice, thought he, while his eye followed her, even there! in that fair composition!-where may I look for singleness of mind, for nobleness of simplicity, if caprice, mere girlish, unmeaning caprice, dwell there!
The moment she had finished her tea, she left the room, to shorten her cruel task. Struck with the broken sentence of ‘is it possible Miss Camilla Tyrold can suppose–’ the soft hope that his heart was untouched by Indiana, seized her delighted imagination; but the recollection of Miss Margland’s assertions, that it was the real right of her cousin, soon robbed the hope of all happiness, and she could only repeat–To-morrow I will go!–I ought not to think of him!–I had rather be away-to-morrow I will go!
She had hardly quitted the parlour, when the distant sound of a carriage roused Sir Hugh from his fears; and, followed by Edgar and the ladies, he made what haste he could into the courtyard, where, to his infinite satisfaction, he saw his coach driving in.
He ordered it should stop immediately, and called out–‘Pray, Dr. Orkborne, are you there?’
Dr. Orkborne looked out of the window, and bowed respectfully.
‘Good lack, I could never have thought I should be so glad to see you! which you must excuse, in point of being no relation. You are heartily welcome, I assure you; I was afraid I should never see you again; for, to tell you the honest truth, which I would not say a word of before, I had got a notion you were going out of your mind.’
The Doctor took not the smallest heed of his speech, and the carriage drove up to the door. Sir Hugh then seating himself under the portico, said–‘Pray, Dr. Orkborne, before you go to your studies, may I just ask you how you came to stay out all day? and why you never fetched Eugenia? for I take it for granted it’s no secret, on the account Jacob was with you; besides the coachman and horses.’
Dr. Orkborne, though not at all discomposed by these questions, nor by his reception, answered, that he must first collect his books.
‘The poor girls,’ continued the Baronet, ‘came home quite blank; not that they knew a word of my asking you to go for them, till I told them; which was lucky enough, for the sake of not frightening them. However, where you can have been, particularly with regard to your dinner, which, I suppose, you have gone without, is what I can’t guess; unless you’d be kind enough to tell me.’
The Doctor, too busy to hear him, was packing up his books.
‘Come, never mind your books,’ said Sir Hugh; ‘Jacob can carry them for you, or Bob, or any body. Here, Bob, (calling to the postillion, who, with all the rest of the servants, had been drawn by curiosity into the courtyard) whisk me up those books, and take them into the Doctor’s room; I mean, provided you can find a place for them, which I am sorry to say there is none; owing to my not knowing better in point of taking the proper care; which I shall be sure to do for the future.’
The boy obeyed, and mounting one step of the coach, took what were within his reach; which, when the Doctor observed, he snatched away with great displeasure, saying, very solemnly, he had rather at any time be knocked down, than see any body touch one of his books or papers.
Jacob, coming forward, whispered his master not to interfere; assuring him, he was but just got out of one of his tantarums.
Sir Hugh, a little startled, rose to return to the parlour, begging Dr. Orkborne to take his own time, and not hurry himself.
He then beckoned Jacob to follow him.
‘There is certainly something in all this,’ said he to Edgar, ‘beyond what my poor wit can comprehend: but I’ll hear what Jacob has to say before I form a complete judgment; though, to be sure, his lugging out all those books to go but four or five miles, has but an odd look; which is what I don’t like to say.’
Jacob now was called upon to give a narrative of the day’s adventures. ‘Why, your Honour,’ said he, ‘as soon as we come to the Grove, I goes up to the coach door, to ask the Doctor if he would get out, or only send in to let the young ladies know he was come for them; but he was got so deep into some of his larning, that, I dare say, I bawled it three good times in his ears, before he so much as lifted up his head; and then it was only to say, I put him out! and to it he went again, just as if I’d said never a word; till, at last, I was so plaguy mad, I gives the coach such a jog, to bring him to himself like, that it jerked the pencil and paper out of his hand. So then he went straight into one of his takings, pretending I had made him forget all his thoughts, and such like out of the way talk, after his old way. So when I found he was going off in that manner, I thought it only time lost to say no more to him, and so I turned me about not to mind him; when I sees a whole heap of company at a parlour window, laughing so hearty, that I was sure they had heard us. And a fine comely lady, as clever as ever you see, that I found after was the lady of the house, bid me come to the window, and asked what I wanted. So I told her we was come for two of the Miss Tyrolds. Why, says she, they’ve been gone a quarter of an hour, by the opposite road. So then I was coming away, but she made me a sign to come into the parlour, for all it was brimful of fine company, dressed all like I don’t know what. It was as pretty a sight as you’d wish to see. And then, your honour, they all begun upon me at once! there was such a clatter, I thought I’d been turned into a booth at a fair; and merry enough they all was sure!–‘specially the lady, who never opened her lips, but what they all laughed: but as to all what they asked me, I could as soon conjure a ghost as call a quarter of it to mind.’
‘Try, however,’ said Edgar, curious for further information of whatever related to Mrs. Arlbery.
‘Why as to that, ‘squire,’ answered Jacob, with an arch look, ‘I am not so sure and certain you’d like to hear it all.’
‘No? and why not?’
‘O! pray tell, Jacob,’ cried Miss Margland; ‘did they say anything of Mr. Mandlebert?’
‘Yes, and of more than Mr. Mandlebert,’ said Jacob, grinning.
‘Do tell, do tell,’ cried Indiana, eagerly.
‘I’m afeard, Miss!’
Every body assured him no offence should be taken.
‘Well, then, if you must needs know, there was not one of you, but what they had a pluck at.–Pray, says one of them, what does the old gentleman do with all those books and papers in the coach?–That’s what nobody knows, says I, unless his head’s cracked, which is Mary’s opinion.–Then they all laughed more and more, and the lady of the house said:–Pray can he really read?–Whoo! says I, why he does nothing else; he’s at it from morning till night, and Mary says she’s sure before long he’ll give up his meat and drink for it.–I’ve always heard he was a quiz, says another, or a quoz, or some such word; but I did not know he was such a book-worm.–The old quoz is generous, however, I hear, says another, pray do you find him so?–As to that, I can’t say, says I, for I never see the colour of his money.–No! then, what are you such a fool as to serve him for?–So, then, your honour, I found, owing to the coach and the arms, and the like, they thought all the time it was your honour was in the coach. I hope your honour don’t take it amiss of me?’
‘Not at all Jacob; only I don’t know why. they call me an old quiz and quoz for; never having offended them; which I take rather unkind; especially not knowing what it means.’
‘Why, your honour, they’re such comical sort of folks; they don’t mind what they say of nobody. Not but what the lady of the house is a rare gentlewoman. Your honour could not help liking her. I warrant she’s made many a man’s heart ache, and then jumped for joy when she’d done. And as to her eyes, I think in my born days I never see nothing like ’em: they shines like two candles on a dark night afar off on the common —.’
‘Why Jacob,’ said Sir Hugh, ‘I see you have lost your heart. However, go on.’
‘Why, as soon as I found out what they meant–That my master? says I, no, God be thanked! What should I have to live upon if a was? Not so much as a cobweb! for there would not be wherewithal for a spider to make it.’
Here Sir Hugh, with much displeasure, interrupted him; ‘As to the poor gentleman’s being poor,’ said he, ‘it’s no fault of his own, for he’d be rich if he could, I make no doubt; never having heard he was a gambler. Besides which, I always respect a man the more for being poor, knowing how little a rich man may have in him; which I can judge by my own case.’
‘Well, if it is not Sir Hugh, says one of them, who is it?–Why, it’s only our Latin master, says I; upon which they all set up as jolly a laugh again as ever I heard in my days. Jobbins, they’re pure merry!–And who learns Latin! says one, I hope they don’t let him work at poor old Sir Hugh? No, says I, they tried their hands with him at first, but he thanked ’em for nothing. He soon grew tired on’t.–So then they said, who learns now, says they, do you?–Me! says I, no, God be praised, I don’t know A from B, which is the way my head’s so clear, never having muddled it with what I don’t understand.–And so then they all said I was a brave fellow; and they ordered me a glass of wine.’
What a set! thought Edgar, is this, idle, dissipated, curious-for Camilla to associate with!-the lively, the unthinking, the inexperienced Camilla!
‘So then they asked me, says they, does Miss Lynmere learn, says they?–Not, as I know of, says I, she’s no great turn for her book, as ever I heard of; which I hope Miss you won’t take ill, for they all said, no, to be sure, she’s too handsome for that.’
Indiana looked uncertain whether to be flattered or offended. ‘But you have not told us what they said of Mr. Mandlebert yet?’ cried Miss Margland.
‘No, I must come to you first, Miss,’ answered he, ‘for that’s what they come upon next, But mayhap I must not tell?’
‘O yes, you may;’ said she, growing a little apprehensive of some affront, but determined not to seem hurt by it; ‘I am very indifferent to any thing they can say of me, assure yourself!’
‘Why, I suppose, says they, this Latin master studies chiefly with the governess?–They’d study fisty-cuffs I believe, if they did, says I, for she hates him like poison; and there’s no great love lost between them.’
‘And what right had you to say that, Mr. Jacob? I did not ask what you said. Not that I care, I promise you!’
‘O dear no! I’m sure it’s not worth while.’
‘They said worse than I did,’ resumed Jacob, ‘by a deal; they said, says they, she looks duced crabbed-she looks just as if she was always eating a sour apple, says the lady; she looks–’
‘Well, well, I don’t want to hear any more of their opinions. I may look as I please I hope. I hate such gossiping.’
‘So then they said, pray does Miss Camilla learn? says they;–Lord love her, no! says I.’
‘And what said they to that?’ cried Edgar.
‘Why, they said, they hoped not, and they were glad to hear it, for they liked her the best of all. And what does the ugly one do? says they.–’
‘Come, we have heard enough now,’ interrupted Edgar, greatly shocked for poor Eugenia, who fortunately, however, had retired with Camilla.
Sir Hugh too, angrily broke in upon him, saying: ‘I won’t have my niece called ugly, Jacob! You know it’s against my commands such a thing’s being mentioned.’
‘Why, I told ’em so, sir,’ said Jacob; ‘ugly one, says I, she you call the ugly one, is one of the best ladies in the land. She’s ready to lend a hand to every mortal soul; she’s just like my master for that. And as to learning, I make no quÃ¦ry she can talk you over the Latin grammar as fast as e’er a gentleman here. So then they laughed harder than ever, and said they should be afeard to speak to her, and a deal more I can’t call to mind.–So then they come to Mr. Mandlebert. Pray, says they, what’s he doing among you all this time?–Why, nothing particular, says I, he’s only squiring about our young ladies.–But when is this wedding to be? says another. So then I said–’
‘What did you say?’ cried Edgar hastily.
‘Why-nothing,’ answered Jacob, drawing back.
‘Tell us, however, what they said,’ cried Miss Margland.
‘Why, they said, says they, everything has been ready some time at Beech Park;-and they’ll make as handsome a couple as ever was seen.’
‘What stuff is this!’ cried Edgar, ‘do prithee have done.’—
‘No, no,’ said Miss Margland; ‘go on, Jacob!’
Indiana, conscious and glowing at the words handsome couple, could not restrain a simper; but Edgar, thinking only of Camilla, did not understand it.
‘He’ll have trouble enough, says one of the gentlemen,’ continued Jacob, ‘to take care of so pretty a wife.–She’ll be worth a little trouble, says another, for I think she is the most beautifullest girl I ever see–Take my word of it, says the lady of the house, young Mandlebert is a man who won’t be made a fool of; he’ll have his own way, for all her beauty.’
‘What a character to give of me to young ladies!’ cried Edgar, doubtful, in his turn, whether to be hurt or gratified.
‘O she did not stop at that, sir,’ resumed Jacob, ‘for she said, I make no question, says she, but in half a year he’ll lock her up.’
Indiana, surprized, gave an involuntary little shriek: but Edgar, not imputing it to any appropriate alarm, was filled with resentment against Mrs. Arlbery. What incomprehensible injustice! he said to himself: O Camilla! is it possible any event, any circumstance upon earth, could induce me to practise such an outrage? to degenerate into such a savage?
‘Is this all?’ asked Miss Margland.
‘No, ma’am; but I don’t know if Miss will like to hear the rest.’
‘O yes,’ said Indiana, ‘if it’s about me, I don’t mind.’
‘Why, they all said, Miss, you’d make the most finest bride that ever was seen, and they did not wonder at Mr. Mandlebert’s chusing you; but for all that–.’
He stopt, and Edgar, who, following the bent of his own thoughts, had till now concluded Camilla to be meant, was utterly confounded by discovering his mistake. The presence of Indiana redoubled the aukwardness of the situation, and her blushes, and the increased lustre of her eyes, did not make the report seem either unwelcome, or perfectly new to her.
Miss Margland raised her head triumphantly. This was precisely such a circumstance as she flattered herself would prove decisive.
The Baronet, equally pleased, returned her nod of congratulation, and nodding himself towards Edgar, said; ‘you’re blown, you see! but what matters secrets about nothing? which, Lord help me, I never knew how to keep.’
Edgar was now still more disconcerted, and, from mere distress what to say or do, bid Jacob go on.
‘Why then, they said a deal more, how pretty she was, he continued, but they did not know how it would turn out, for the young lady was so much admired, that her husband had need look sharp after her; and if–’
‘What complete impertinence!’ cried Edgar, walking about the room; ‘I really can listen no longer.’
‘If he had done wisely, says the lady of the house, he would have left the professed beauty, and taken that pretty Camilla.’
Edgar surprized, stopt short; this seemed to him less impertinent.
‘Camilla is a charming creature, says she; though she may want a little watching too; but so does every thing that is worth having.’
That woman does not want discernment, thought Edgar, nor she does not want taste.–I can never totally dislike her, if she does such justice to Camilla.
He now again invited Jacob to proceed; but Indiana, with a pouting lip, walked out of the room, and Miss Margland said, there was not need to be hearing him all night.
Jacob, therefore, when no more either interrupted or encouraged, soon finished his narrative. Mrs. Arlbery, amused by watching Dr. Orkborne, had insisted, for an experiment, that Jacob should not return to the coach till he was missed and called for; and so intense was the application of the Doctor to what he was composing, that this did not happen till the whole family had dined; Jacob and the coachman, at the invitation of Mrs. Arlbery, having partaken of the servants’ fare, equally pleased with the regale and the joke. Dr. Orkborne then, suddenly recollecting himself, demanded why the young ladies were so late, and was much discomposed and astonished when he heard they were gone. Mrs. Arlbery invited him into the house, and offered him refreshments, while she ordered water and a feed of corn for the horses; but he only fretted a little, and then went on again with his studies.
Sir Hugh now sent some cold dinner into the Doctor’s room, and declared he should always approve his niece’s acquaintance with Mrs. Arlbery, as she was so kind to his servants and his animals.
NOT a bosom of the Cleves party enjoyed much tranquillity this evening. Miss Margland, though to the Baronet she would not recede from her first assertions, strove vainly to palliate to herself the ill grace and evident dissatisfaction with which Edgar had met the report. To save her own credit, however, was always her primary consideration; she resolved, therefore, to cast upon unfair play in Camilla, or upon the instability of Edgar, all the blame really due to her own undiscerning self-sufficiency.
Indiana thought so little for herself, that she adopted, of course, every opinion of Miss Margland; yet the immoveable coldness of Edgar, contrasted frequently in her remembrance by the fervour of Melmond and of Macdersey, became more and more distasteful to her; and Mrs. Arlbery’s idea, that she should be locked up in half a year, made her look upon him alternately as something to shun or to over-reach. She even wished to refuse him:-but Beech Park, the equipage, the servants, the bridal habiliment.–No! she could enjoy those, if not him. And neither her own feelings, nor the lessons of Miss Margland, had taught her to look upon marriage in any nobler point of view.
But the person most deeply dissatisfied this evening was Edgar. He now saw that, deceived by his own consciousness, he had misunderstood Mrs. Needham, who, as well as Mrs. Arlbery, he was convinced concluded him engaged to Indiana. He had observed with concern the approving credulity of Sir Hugh, and though glad to find his real plan, and all his wishes unsuspected, the false report excited his fears, lest Indiana should give it any credit, and secretly hurt his delicacy for the honour of his taste.
All the influence of pecuniary motives to which he deemed Camilla superior, occurred to him in the very words of Dr. Marchmont for Indiana; whose capacity he saw was as shallow as her person was beautiful. Yet the admiration with which she had already made her first appearance in the world, might naturally induce her belief of his reported devotion. If, therefore, his situation appeared to her to be eligible, she had probably settled to accept him.
The most timid female delicacy was not more scrupulous, than the manly honour of Edgar to avoid this species of misapprehension; and though perfectly confident his behaviour had been as irreproachable as it was undesigning, the least idea of any self-delusion on the part of Indiana, seemed a call upon his integrity for the most unequivocal manifestation of his intentions. Yet any declaration by words, with whatever care selected, might be construed into an implication that he concluded the decision in his own hands. And though he could scarcely doubt the fact, he justly held nothing so offensive as the palpable presumption. One only line of conduct appeared to him, therefore, unexceptionable; which was wholly to avoid her, till the rumour sunk into its own nothingness.
This demanded from him a sacrifice the most painful, that of retiring from Cleves in utter ignorance of the sentiments of Camilla; yet it seemed the more necessary, since he now, with much uneasiness, recollected many circumstances which his absorbed mind had hitherto suffered to pass unnoticed, that led him to fear Sir Hugh himself, and the whole party, entertained the same notion.
He was shocked to consider Camilla involved in such a deception, though delighted by the idea he might perhaps owe to an explanation, some marks of that preference for which Dr. Marchmont had taught him to wait, and which he now hoped might lie dormant from the persuasion of his engagement. To clear this mistake was, therefore, every way essential, as otherwise the very purity of her character must be in his disfavour. Still, however, the visit to the Grove hung upon his mind, and he resolved to investigate its cause the following morning, before he made his retreat.
Early the next day, Camilla sent to hasten the chaise which was to fetch Mr. Tyrold, and begged leave of her uncle to breakfast at Etherington. His assent was always ready; and believing every evil would yield to absence, she eagerly, and even with happiness set off.
When the rest of the party assembled without her, Edgar, surprised, enquired if she were well? Miss Margland answered yes; but for the sake of what she loved best in the world, a frolic, she was gone in the chaise to Etherington. Edgar could not prevail with himself to depart till he had spoken with her, and privately deferred his purposed leave-taking till noon.
During this report, Sir Hugh was anxiously engaged in some business he seemed to wish to conceal. He spoke little, but nodded frequently to himself, with an air of approving his own ideas; he summoned Jacob to him repeatedly, with whom he held various whispering conferences; and desired Miss Margland, who made the tea, not to pour it out too fast, as he was in no hurry to have breakfast over.
When nothing he could urge succeeded, in making any of the company eat or drink any thing more, he pulled Edgar by the sleeve; and, in an eager but low voice, said, ‘My dear Mr. Edgar, I have a great favour to beg of you, which is only that you will do something to divert Dr. Orkborne.’
‘I should be very happy, Sir,’ cried Edgar, smiling, ‘but I much doubt my capability.’
‘Why, my dear Mr. Edgar, it’s only to keep him from finding out my new surprise till it’s got ready. And if you will but just spout out to him a bit or two of Virgil and Horace, or some of those Greek and Latin language-masters, he’ll be in no hurry to budge, I promise you.’
A request from Sir Hugh, who with the most prompt alacrity met the wishes of everyone, was by Edgar held to be indisputable. He advanced, therefore, to Dr. Orkborne, who was feeling for his tablets, which he commonly examined in his way up the stairs, and started a doubt, of which he begged an exposition, upon a passage of Virgil.
Dr. Orkborne willingly stopt, and displayed, with no small satisfaction, an erudition, that did him nearly as much honour in the ears of the ignorant and admiring Sir Hugh, as in those of the cultivated and well-judging Edgar. ‘Ah!’ said the Baronet, sighing, though addressing himself to no one, ‘if I had but addicted myself to these studies in due season, I might have understood all this too! though now I can’t for my life make out much sense of what they’re talking of; nor a little neither, indeed, as to that; thanks to my own idleness; to which, however, I am not much obliged.’
Unfortunately, the discussion soon led to some points of comparison, that demanded a review of various authors, and the doctor proposed adjourning to his own apartment. The Baronet winked at Edgar, who would have changed the discourse, or himself have sought the books, or have been satisfied without them; but Dr. Orkborne was as eager here, as in other matters he was slow and phlegmatic; and, regardless of all opposition, was making off, when Sir Hugh, catching him by the arm, exclaimed, ‘My good friend, I beg it as a particular favour, you won’t stir a step!’
‘Not stir a step, Sir?’ repeated the doctor, amazed.
‘That is, not to your own room.’
‘Not go to my own room, Sir?’
The Baronet gently begged him not to take it amiss, and presently, upon the appearance of Jacob, who entered with a significant smile, said, he would keep him no longer.
Dr. Orkborne, to whom nothing was so irksome as a moment’s detention from his books and papers, instantly departed, inviting Edgar to accompany him; but without troubling himself to inquire for what end he had been held back.
When they were gone, Sir Hugh, rubbing his hands, said, ‘Well, I think this good gentleman won’t go about the country again, with all his books fastened about him, to shew he has nowhere to put them: for as to his telling me he only took them to look at, I am not quite such an ignoramus, with all my ignorance, as to believe such a thing as that, especially of a regular bred scholar.’
A loud and angry sound of voices from above here interrupted the pleased harangue of the Baronet; Miss Margland opened the door to listen, and, with no small delight, heard words, scarce intelligible for rage, breaking from Dr. Orkborne, whose anger, while Edgar was endeavouring to moderate, Jacob and Mary were vociferously resenting.
Sir Hugh, all astonished, feared there was some mistake. He had sent, the preceding day, as far as Winchester, for two bookcases, which he had ordered should arrive early, and be put up during the breakfast; and he had directed Mary to place upon the shelves, with great care, all the loose books and papers she found dispersed about the room, as neatly as possible: after which Jacob was to give notice when all was arranged.
The words now ‘If I must have my manuscripts rummaged at pleasure, by every dunce in the house, I would rather lie in the street!’ distinctly caught their ears. Sir Hugh was thunderstruck with amazement and disappointment, but said nothing. Miss Margland looked all spite and pleasure, and Eugenia all concern.
Louder yet, and with accents of encreasing asperity, the Doctor next exclaimed ‘A twelvemonth’s hard labour will not repair this mischief! I should have been much more obliged to you if you had blown out my brains!’
The Baronet, aghast, cried, ‘Lord help us! I think I had best go and get the shelves pulled down again, what I have done not being meant to offend, being what will cost me ten pounds and upwards.’
He then, though somewhat irresolute, whether or not to proceed, moved towards the foot of the stairs; but there a new storm of rage startled him. ‘I wish you had been all of you annihilated ere ever you had entered my room! I had rather have lost my ears than that manuscript! I wish with all my heart you had been at the bottom of the sea, every one of you, before you had touched it!’
‘If you won’t believe me, it can’t be helped,’ said Mary; ‘but if I was to tell it you over and over, I’ve done nothing to no mortal thing. I only just swept the room after the carpenter was gone, for it was all in such a pickle it was a shame to be seen.’
‘You have ruined me!’ cried he, ‘you have swept it behind the fire, I make not a moment’s doubt; and I had rather you had given me a bowl of poison! you can make me no reparation; it was a clue to a whole section.’
‘Well, I won’t make no more words about it,’ said Mary, angrily; ‘but I’m sure I never so much as touched it with a pair of tongs, for I never see it; nor I don’t so much as know it if I do.’
‘Why, it’s a piece of paper written all over; look! just such another as this: I left it on the table, by this corner–’
‘O! that?’ cried Mary; ‘yes, I remember that.’
‘Well, where is it? What have you done with it?’
‘Why, I happened of a little accident about that;-for as I was a sweeping under the table, the broom knocked the ink down; but, by good luck, it only fell upon that little morsel of paper.’
‘Little morsel of paper? it’s more precious than a whole library! But what did you do with it? what is become of it? whatever condition it is in, if you have but saved it-where is it, I say?’
‘Why-it was all over ink, and good for nothing, so I did not think of your missing it-so I throwed it behind the fire.’
‘I wish you had been thrown there yourself with all my heart! But if ever you bring a broom into my room again–’
‘Why, I did nothing but what my master ordered–’
‘Or if ever you touch a paper, or a book of mine, again–’
‘My master said himself–’
‘Your master’s a blockhead! and you are another-go away, I say!’
Mary now hurried out of the room, enraged for her master, and frightened for herself; and Edgar, not aware Sir Hugh was within hearing, soon succeeded in calming the doctor, by mildly listening to his lamentations.
Sir Hugh, extremely shocked, sat upon the stairs to recover himself. Miss Margland, who never felt so virtuous, and never so elated, as when witnessing the imperfections or improprieties of others, descanted largely against ingratitude; treating an unmeaning sally of passion as a serious mark of turpitude: but Eugenia, ashamed for Dr. Orkborne, to whom, as her preceptor, she felt a constant disposition to be partial, determined to endeavour to induce him to make some apology. She glided, therefore, past her uncle, and tapped at the doctor’s door.
Mary, seeing her master so invitingly in her way, could by no means resist her desire of appeal and complaint; and, descending the stairs, begged his honour to hear her.
‘Mary,’ said he, rising, and returning to the parlour, ‘you need not tell me a word, for I have heard it all myself; by which it may be truly said, listeners never hear good of themselves; so I’ve got the proper punishment; for which reason, I hope you won’t look upon it as an example.’
‘I am sure, Sir,’ said Mary, ‘if your honour can excuse his speaking so disrespectful, it’s what nobody else can; and if it was not for thinking as his head’s got a crack in it, there is not a servant among us as would not affront him for it.’
The Baronet interrupted her with a serious lecture upon the civility he expected for all his guests; and she promised to restrain her wrath; ‘But only, sir,’ she continued, ‘if your honour had seen the bit of paper as he made such a noise at me for, your honour would not have believed it. Not a soul could have read it. My Tom would ha’ been well licked if he’d wrote no better at school. And as to his being a twelvemonth a scrawling such another, I’ll no more believe it than I’ll fly. It’s as great a fib as ever was told!’
Sir Hugh begged her to be quiet, and to think no more of the matter.
‘No, your honour, I hope I’m not a person as bears malice; only I could not but speak of it, because he behaves more comical every day. I thought he’d ha’ beat me over and over. And as to the stories he tells about them little bits of paper, mortal patience can’t bear it no longer.’
The remonstrance of Eugenia took immediate effect. Dr. Orkborne, shocked and alarmed at the expression which had escaped him, protested himself willing to make the humblest reparation, and truly declared, he had been so greatly disturbed by the loss he had just sustained, that he not merely did not mean, but did not know what he had said.
Edgar was the bearer of his apology, which Sir Hugh accepted with his usual good humour. ‘His calling me a blockhead,’ cried he, ‘is a thing I have no right to resent, because I take it for granted, he would not have said it, if he had not thought it; and a man’s thoughts are his castle, and ought to be free!’
Edgar repeated the protestation, that he had been hurried on by passion, and spoke without meaning.
‘Why, then, my dear Mr. Edgar, I must fairly own I don’t see the great superiorness of learning, if it can’t keep a man’s temper out of a passion. However, say nothing of the sort to poor Clermont, upon his coming over, who I expect won’t speak one word in ten I shall understand; which, however, as it’s all been done for the best, I would not have the poor boy discouraged in.’
He then sent a kind message by Edgar to Dr. Orkborne, desiring him not to mind such a trifle.
This conciliating office was congenial to the disposition of Edgar, and softened his impatience for the return of Camilla, but when, soon after, a note arrived from Mr. Tyrold, requesting Sir Hugh to dispense with seeing him till the next day, and apologising for keeping his daughter, he felt equally disappointed and provoked, though he determined not to delay any longer his departure.
He gave orders, therefore, for his horses immediately, and with all the less regret, for knowing Camilla no longer in the circle he was to quit.
The ladies were in the parlour with Sir Hugh, who was sorrowfully brooding over his brother’s note, when he entered it to take leave. Addressing himself somewhat rapidly to the Baronet, he told him he was under an unpleasant necessity, to relinquish some days of the month’s sojourn intended for him. He made acknowledgments full of regard for his kindness and hospitality; and then, only bowing to the ladies, left the room, before the astonished Sir Hugh comprehended he was going.
‘Well,’ cried Miss Margland, ‘this is curious indeed! He has flown off from everything, without even an apology!’
‘I hope he is not really gone?’ said Eugenia, walking to the window.
‘I’m sure I don’t care what he does,’ cried Indiana, ‘he’s welcome to go or to stay. I’m grown quite sick of him, for my part.’
‘Gone?’ said Sir Hugh, recovering breath; ‘it’s impossible! Why, he never has said one word to me of the day, nor the settlements, nor all those things!’
He then rang the bell, and sent to desire Mr. Mandlebert might be called immediately.
Edgar, who was mounting his horse, obeyed with some chagrin. As soon as he re-entered the room, Sir Hugh cried; ‘My dear Mr. young Edgar, it’s something amazing to me you should think of going away without coming to an explanation?’
‘An explanation, sir?’
‘Yes, don’t you know what I mean?’
‘Not in the least, sir,’ cried Edgar, staggered by a doubt whether he suspected what he felt for Camilla, or referred to what was reported of Indiana.
‘Why, then, my pretty dear,’ said Sir Hugh to Indiana, ‘you won’t object, I hope, to taking a little walk in the garden, provided it is not disagreeable to you; for you had better not hear what we are going to talk about before your face.’
Indiana, pouting her beautiful under lip, and scornfully passing Edgar, complied. Eugenia accompanied her; but Miss Margland kept her ground.
Sir Hugh, always unwilling to make any attack, and at a loss how to begin, simply said; ‘Why, I thought Mr. Mandlebert, you would stay with us till next year?’
Edgar only bowed.
‘Why, then, suppose you do?’
‘Most probably, sir, I shall by that time be upon the Continent. If some particular circumstance does not occur, I purpose shortly making the tour of Europe.’
Sir Hugh now lost all guard and all restraint, and with undisguised displeasure exclaimed; ‘So here’s just the second part of Clermont! at the moment I sent for him home, thinking he would come to put the finish to all my cares about Eugenia, he sends me word he must travel!–And though the poor girl took it very well, from knowing nothing of the matter, I can’t say I take it very kind of you, Mr. young Edgar, to come and do just the same by Indiana!’
The surprize of Edgar was unspeakable: that Sir Hugh should wish the relation of Jacob, with respect to Indiana, confirmed, he could not wonder; but that his wishes should have amounted to expectations, and that he should deem his niece ill used by their failure, gave him the most poignant astonishment.
Miss Margland, taking advantage of his silent consternation, began now to pour forth very volubly, the most pointed reflections upon the injury done to young ladies by reports of this nature, which were always sure to keep off all other offers. There was no end, she said, to the admirers who had deserted Indiana in despair; and she questioned if she would ever have any more, from the general belief of her being actually pre-engaged.
Edgar, whose sense of honour was tenaciously delicate, heard her with a mixture of concern for Indiana, and indignation against herself, that kept her long uninterrupted; for though burning to assert the integrity of his conduct, the fear of uttering a word that might be offensive to Indiana, embarrassed and checked him.
Sir Hugh, who in seeing him overpowered, concluded he was relenting, now kindly took his hand, and said: ‘My dear Mr. Mandlebert, if you are sorry for what you were intending, of going away, and leaving us all in the lurch, why, you shall never hear a word more about it, for I will make friends for you with Indiana, and beg of Miss Margland that she’ll do us the favour to say no more.’
Edgar, affectionately pressing the hand of the Baronet, uttered the warmest expressions of personal regard, and protested he should always think it an honour to have been held worthy of pretending to any alliance in his family; but he knew not how the present mistake had been made, or report had arisen: he could boast of no partiality from Miss Lynmere, nor had he ever addressed her with any particular views: yet, as it was the opinion of Miss Margland, that the rumour, however false, might prevent the approach of some deserving object, he now finally determined to become, for awhile, a stranger at Cleves, however painful such self-denial must prove.
He then precipitately left the room, and, in five minutes, had galloped out of the Park.
The rest of the morning was spent by Sir Hugh in the utmost discomposure; and by Miss Margland in alternate abuse of Camilla and of Edgar; while Indiana passed from a piqued and short disappointment, to the consolatory idea that Melmond might now re-appear.
Edgar rode strait to Beech Park, where he busied himself the whole day in viewing alterations and improvements; but where nothing answered his expectations, since Camilla had disappointed them. That sun-beam, which had gilded the place to his eyes, was now over-clouded, and the first possession of his own domain, was his first day of discontent.
THE vivacity with which Camilla quitted Cleves, was sunk before she reached Etherington. She had quitted also Edgar, quitted him offended, and in doubt if it might ever be right she should vindicate herself in his opinion. Yet all seemed strange and unintelligible that regarded the asserted nuptials: his indifference was palpable; she believed him to have been unaccountably drawn in, and her heart softly whispered, it was herself he preferred.
From this soothing but dangerous idea, she struggled to turn her thoughts. She anticipated the remorse of holding the affections of the husband of her cousin, and determined to use every possible method to forget him-unless, which she strove vainly not to hope, the reported alliance should never take place.
These reflections so completely engrossed her the whole way, that she arrived at the Parsonage House, without the smallest mental preparation how to account for her return, or how to plead for remaining at Etherington. Foresight, the offspring of judgment, or the disciple of Experience, made no part of the character of Camilla, whose impetuous disposition was open to every danger of indiscretion, though her genuine love of virtue glowed warm with juvenile ardour.
She entered, therefore, the breakfast parlour in a state of sudden perplexity what to say; Mr. Tyrold was alone and writing. He looked surprized, but embraced her with his accustomed affection, and enquired to what he owed her present sight.
She made no answer; but embraced him again, and enquired after her mother.
‘She is well,’ he replied: ‘but, tell me, is your uncle impatient of my delay? It has been wholly unavoidable. I have been deeply engaged; and deeply chagrined. Your poor mother would be still more disturbed, if the nobleness of her mind did not support her.’
Camilla, extremely grieved, earnestly enquired what had happened.
He then informed her that Mrs. Tyrold, the very next morning, must abruptly quit them all and set out for Lisbon to her sick brother, Mr. Relvil.
‘Is he so much worse?’
‘No: I even hope he is better. An act of folly has brought this to bear. Do not now desire particulars. I will finish my letter, and then return with you for a few minutes to Cleves. The carriage must wait.’
‘Suffer me first to ask, does Lavinia go with my mother?’
‘No, she can only take old Ambrose. Lavinia must supply her place at home.’
‘Ah! my dearest father, and may not I, too, stay with you and assist her?’
‘If my brother will spare you, my dear child, there is nothing can so much contribute to wile away to me your mother’s absence.’
Enchanted thus, without any explanation, to have gained her point, she completely revived; though when Mrs. Tyrold, whom she almost worshipped, entered the room, in all the hurry of preparing for her long journey, she shed a torrent of tears in her arms.
‘This good girl,’ said Mr. Tyrold, ‘is herself desirous to quit the present gaieties of Cleves, to try to enliven my solitude till we all may meet again.’
The conscious and artless Camilla-could not bear this undeserved praise. She quitted her mother, and returning to Mr. Tyrold, ‘O my father!’ she cried, ‘if you will take me again under your beloved roof, it is for my sake-not your’s –I beg to return!’
‘She is right,’ said Mrs. Tyrold; ‘there is no merit in having an heart; she could have none, if to be with you were not her first gratification.’
‘Yes, indeed, my dear mother, it would always be so, even if no other inducement —.’ She stopt short, confused.
Mr. Tyrold, who continued writing, did not heed this little blunder; but his wife, whose quickness of apprehension and depth of observation, were always alive, even in the midst of business, cares, and other attentions, turned hastily to her daughter, and asked to what ‘other inducement’ she alluded.
Camilla, distressed, hung her head, and would have forborne making any answer.
Mrs. Tyrold, then, putting down various packets which she was sorting and selecting, came suddenly up to her, and taking both her hands, looked earnestly in her face, saying: ‘My Camilla! something has disquieted you?-your countenance is not itself. Tell me, my dear girl, what brought you hither this morning? and what is it you mean by some other inducement?’
‘Do not ask me now, my dearest mother,’ answered she, in a faltering voice; ‘when you come back again, no doubt all will be over; and then —’
‘And is that the time, Camilla, to speak to your best friends? would it not be more judicious to be explicit with them, while what affects you is still depending?’
Camilla, hiding her face on her mother’s bosom, burst afresh into tears.
‘Alas!’ cried Mrs. Tyrold, ‘what new evil is hovering? If it must invade me again through one of my children, tell me, at least, Camilla, it is not wilfully that you, too, afflict me? and afflict the best of fathers?’
Mr. Tyrold, dropping his pen, looked at them both with the most apprehensive anxiety.
‘No, my dearest mother,’ said Camilla, endeavouring to meet her eyes; ‘not wilfully,-but something has happened–I can hardly myself tell how or what-but indeed Cleves, now —’ she hesitated.
‘How is my brother?’ demanded Mr. Tyrold.
‘O! all that is good and kind! and I grieve to quit him-but, indeed, Cleves, now —’ Again she hesitated.
‘Ah, my dear child!’ said Mrs. Tyrold, ‘I always feared that residence!-you are too young, too inconsiderate, too innocent, indeed, to be left so utterly to yourself.–Forgive me, my dear Mr. Tyrold; I do not mean to reflect upon your brother, but he is not you!-and with you alone, this dear inexperienced girl can be secure from all harm. Tell me, however, what it is —?’
Camilla, in the extremest confusion changed colour, but tried vainly to speak. Mr. Tyrold, suspended from all employment, waited fearfully some explanation.
‘We have no time,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, ‘for delay-you know I am going abroad,-and cannot ascertain my return; though all my heart left behind me, with my children and their father, will urge every acceleration in my power.’
Camilla, wept again, fondly folding her arms round her mother; ‘I had hoped,’ she cried, ‘that I should have come home to peace, comfort, tranquillity! to both of you, my dearest father and mother, and to all my unbroken happiness under your roof! How little did I dream of so cruel a separation!’
‘Console yourself, my Camilla, that you have not been its cause; may Heaven ever spare me evil in your shape at least! you say it is nothing wilful? I can bear everything else.’
‘We will not,’ said Mr. Tyrold, ‘press her; she will tell us all in her own way, and at her own time. Forced confidence is neither fair nor flattering I will excuse her return to my brother, and she will the sooner be able to give her account for finding herself not hurried.’
‘Calm yourself, then,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, ‘as your indulgent father permits, and I will proceed with my preparations.’
Camilla now, somewhat recovering, declared she had almost nothing to say; but her mother continued packing up, and her father went on with his letter.
She had now time to consider that her own fears and emotion were involving her in unnecessary confessions; she resolved, therefore, to repress the fulness of her heart, and to acknowledge only the accusation of Miss Margland. And in a few minutes, without waiting for further enquiry, she gathered courage to open upon the subject; and with as much ease and quietness as she could command, related, in general terms, the charge brought against her, and her consequent desire to quit Cleves, ‘till,-till–’ Here she stopt for breath. Mr. Tyrold instantly finished the sentence, ‘till the marriage has taken place?’
She coloured, and faintly uttered, ‘Yes.’
‘You are right, my child,’ said he, ‘and you have acted with a prudence which does you honour. Neither the ablest reasoning, nor the most upright conduct, can so completely obliterate a surmise of this nature, from a suspicious mind, as absence. You shall remain, therefore, with me, till your cousin is settled in her new habitation. Do you know if the day is fixed?’
‘No, sir,’ she answered, while the roses fled her cheeks at question which implied so firm a belief of the union.
‘Do not suffer this affair to occasion you any further uneasiness,’ he continued; ‘it is the inherent and unalienable compact of Innocence with Truth, to hold themselves immovably superior to the calumny of false imputations. But, I will go myself to Cleves and set this whole matter right.’
‘And will you, too, sir, have the goodness–’ She was going to say, to make my peace with Edgar; but the fear of misinterpretation checked her, and she turned away.
He gently enquired what she meant; she avoided any explanation, and he resumed his writing.
Ah me! thought she, will the time ever come, when with openness, with propriety, I may clear myself of caprice to Edgar?
Less patient, because more alarmed than her husband, Mrs. Tyrold followed her to the window. She saw a tear in her eye, and again she took both her hands: ‘Have you, my Camilla,’ she cried, ‘have you told us all? Can unjust impertinence so greatly have disturbed you? Is there no sting belonging to this wound that you are covering from our sight, though it may precisely be the spot that calls most for some healing balm?’
Again the cheeks of Camilla received their fugitive roses. ‘My dearest mother,’ she cried, ‘is not this enough?-to be accused-suspected-and to fear–’
She stammered, and would have withdrawn her hands; but Mrs. Tyrold, still holding them, said, ‘To fear what? speak out, my best child! open to us your whole heart!–Where else will you find repositories so tender?’
Tears again flowed down the burning cheeks of Camilla, and dropping her eyes, ‘Ah, my mother!’ she cried, ‘you will think me so frivolous-you will blush so for your daughter-if I own-if I dare confess–’
Again she stopped, terrified at the conjectures to which this opening might give birth; but when further and fondly pressed by her mother, she added, ‘It is not alone these unjust surmises, nor even Indiana’s unkind concurrence in them-but also–I have been afraid–I must have made a strange-a capricious-an ungrateful appearance in the eyes of Edgar Mandlebert.’
Here her voice dropt; but presently recovering, she rapidly continued, ‘I know it is very immaterial-and I am sensible how foolish it may sound-but I shall also think of it no more now,-and therefore, as I have told the whole–’
She looked up, conscience struck at these last words, to see if they proved satisfactory; she caught, in the countenance of her mother, an expression of deep commiseration, which was followed by a thousand maternal caresses of unusual softness, though unaccompanied by any words.
Penetrated, yet distressed, she gratefully received them, but rejoiced when, at length, Mr. Tyrold, rising, said, ‘Go, my love, upstairs to your sister; your mother, else, will never proceed with her business.’
She gladly ran off, and soon, by a concise narration, satisfied Lavinia, and then calmed her own troubled mind.
Mr. Tyrold now, though evidently much affected himself, strove to compose his wife. ‘Alas!’ cried she, ‘do you not see what thus has touched me? Do you not perceive that our lovely girl, more just to his worth than its possessor, has given her whole heart to Edgar Mandlebert?’
‘I perceived it through your emotion, but I had not discovered it myself. I grieve, now, that the probability of such an event had not struck me in time to have kept them apart for its prevention.’
‘I grieve for nothing,’ cried she, warmly, ‘but the infatuated blindness of that self-lost young man. What a wife would Camilla have made him in every stage of their united career! And how unfortunately has she sympathised in my sentiments, that he alone seemed worthy to replace the first and best protector she must relinquish when she quits this house! What will he find in Indiana but a beautiful doll, uninterested in his feelings, unmoved by his excellencies, and incapable of comprehending him if he speaks either of business or literature!’
‘Yet many wives of this description,’ replied Mr. Tyrold, ‘are more pleasing in the eyes of their husbands than women who are either better informed in intellect, or more alive in sensation; and it is not an uncommon idea amongst men, that where, both in temper and affairs, there is least participation, there is most repose. But this is not the case with Edgar.’
‘No! he has a nobler resemblance than this portrait would allow him; a resemblance which made me hope from him a far higher style of choice. He prepares himself, however, his own ample punishment; for he has too much understanding not to sicken of mere personal allurements, and too much generosity to be flattered, or satisfied, by mere passive intellectual inferiority. Neither a mistress nor a slave can make him happy; a companion is what he requires; and for that, in a very few months, how vainly his secret soul may sigh, and think of our Camilla!’
They then settled, that it would be now essential to the peace of their child to keep her as much as possible from his sight; and determined not to send her back to Cleves to apologize for the new plan, but to take upon themselves that whole charge. ‘Her nature,’ said Mrs. Tyrold, ‘is so gay, so prompt for happiness, that I have little fear but in absence she will soon cease to dwell upon him. Fear, indeed, I have, but it is of a deeper evil than this early impression; I fear for her future lot! With whom can we trust her?–She will not endure negligence; and those she cannot respect she will soon despise. What a prospect for her, then, with our present race of young men! their frivolous fickleness nauseates whatever they can reach; they have a weak shame of asserting, or even listening to what is right, and a shallow pride in professing what is wrong. How must this ingenuous girl forget all she has yet seen, heard, or felt, ere she can encounter wickedness, or even weakness, and disguise her abhorrence or contempt?’
‘My dear Georgiana, let us never look forward to evil.’
‘Will it not be doubly hard to bear, if it come upon us without preparation?’
‘I think not. Terror shakes, and apprehension depresses: hope nerves as well as gladdens us. Remember always, I do not by hope mean presumption; I mean simply a cheerful trust in heaven.’
‘I must always yield,’ cried Mrs. Tyrold, ‘to your superior wisdom, and reflecting piety; and if I cannot conquer my fears, at least I will neither court nor indulge them.’
The thanks of a grateful husband repaid this compliance. They sent for Camilla, to acquaint her they would make her excuses at Cleves: she gave a ready though melancholy consent, and the virtue of her motives drew tears from her idolizing mother, as she clasped her to her heart.
They then set out together, that Mr. Tyrold might arrange this business with Sir Hugh, of whom and of Eugenia Mrs. Tyrold was to take leave.
CAMILLA now felt more permanently revived, because better satisfied with the rectitude of her conduct. She could no longer be accused of interfering between Edgar and Indiana; that affair would take its natural course, and, be it what it might, while absent from both parties, she concluded she should at least escape all censure.
Peaceably, therefore, she returned to take possession of her usual apartment, affectionately accompanied by her eldest sister.
The form and the mind of Lavinia were in the most perfect harmony. Her polished complexion was fair, clear, and transparent; her features were of the extremest delicacy, her eyes of the softest blue, and her smile displayed internal serenity. The unruffled sweetness of her disposition bore the same character of modest excellence. joy, hope, and prosperity, sickness, sorrow, and disappointment, assailed alike in vain the uniform gentleness of her temper: yet though thus exempt from all natural turbulence, either of pleasure or of pain, the meekness of her composition degenerated not into insensibility; it was open to all the feminine feelings of pity, of sympathy, and of tenderness.
Thus copiously gifted with ‘all her sex’s softness,’ her society would have contributed to restore Camilla to repose, had they continued together without interruption; but, in a few minutes, the room door was opened, and Lionel, rushing into the apartment, called out, ‘How do, do, my girls? how do, do?’ and shook them each by the hand, with a swing that nearly brought them to the ground.
Camilla always rejoiced at his sight; but Lavinia gravely said, ‘I thought, brother, you had been at Dr. Marchmont’s ?’
‘All in good time, my dear! I shall certainly visit the old gentleman before long.’
‘Did you not sleep there, then, last night?’
‘Good God, Lionel!-if my mother–’
‘My dear little Lavinia,’ cried he, chucking her under the chin, ‘I have a vast notion of making visits at my own time, instead of my mamma’s .’
‘O Lionel! and can you, just now–’
‘Come, come,’ interrupted he, ‘don’t let us waste our precious minutes in old moralizing. If I had not luckily been hard by, I should not have known the coast was clear. Pray where are they gone, tantivying?’
‘To Cleves! what a happy escape! I was upon the point of going thither myself. Camilla, what is the matter with thee?’
‘Nothing–I am only thinking-pray when do you go to Oxford?’
‘Pho, pho,-what do you talk of Oxford for? you are grown quite stupid, girl. I believe you have lived too long with Miss Margland. Pray how does that dear creature do? I am afraid she will grow melancholy from not seeing me so long. Is she as pretty as she used to be? I have some notion of sending her a suitor.’
‘O brother,’ said Lavinia, ‘is it possible you can have such spirits?’
‘O hang it, if one is not merry when one can, what is the world good for? besides, I do assure you, I fretted so consumed hard at first, that for the life of me I can fret no longer.’
‘But why are you not at Dr. Marchmont’s?’
‘Because, my dear, you have no conception the pleasure those old doctors take in lecturing a youngster who is in any disgrace.’
‘Disgrace!’ repeated Camilla.
‘At all events,’ said Lavinia, ‘I beseech you to be a little careful; I would not have my poor mother find you here for the world.’
‘O, as to that, I defy her to desire the meeting less than I do. But come, let’s talk of something else. How go on the classics? Is my old friend, Dr. Orkborne, as chatty and amusing as ever?’
‘My dear Lionel,’ said Camilla, ‘I am filled with apprehension and perplexity. Why should my mother wish not to see you? And why-and how is it possible you can wish not to see her?’
‘What, don’t you know it all?’
‘I know only that something must be wrong; but how, what, or which way, I have not heard.’
‘Has not Lavinia told you, then?’
‘No,’ answered Lavinia; ‘I could be in no haste to give her pain.’
‘You are a good girl enough. But how came you hither, Camilla? and what is the reason you have not seen my mother yourself?’
‘Not seen her! I have been with her this half hour.’
‘What! and in all that time did not she tell you?’
‘She did not name you.’
‘Is it possible!–Well, she’s a noble creature! I wonder how she could ever have such a son as me. And I am still less like my father than her. I suppose I was changed in the cradle. Will you countenance me, young ladies, if some villainous attorney or exciseman should by and by come to own me?’
‘Dear Lionel,’ cried Camilla, ‘do explain to me what has happened. You make me think it important and trifling twenty times in a minute.’
‘O, a horrid business!–Lavinia must tell it you. I’ll go away till she has done. Don’t despise me, Camilla; I am confounded sorry, I promise you.’
He then hurried out of the room, evidently feeling more emotion than he cared to display.
Yet Lavinia had but just begun her relation, when he abruptly returned. ‘Come, I had better tell it you myself,’ cried he, ‘for she’ll make such a dismal ditty of it, that it won’t be over this half year; the sooner we have done with it the better; it will only put you out of spirits.’
Then, sitting down, and taking her hand, he began, ‘You must know I was in rather a bad scrape at Oxford last year —’
‘Last year! and you never told us of it before!’
‘O, ’twas about something you would not understand, so I shall not mention particulars now. It is enough for you to know that two or three of us wanted a little cash!-well, so-in short, I sent a letter-somewhat of a threatening sort-to poor old uncle Relvil!’—
‘O, I did not sign it,-it was only begging a little money, which he can afford to spare very well; and just telling him, if he did not come to a place I mentioned, he would have his brains blown out.’—
‘Pho, pho,-he had only to send the money, you know, and then his brains might keep their place; besides, you can’t suppose there was gunpowder in the words. So I got this copied, and took the proper measures for concealment, and,-would you believe it! the poor old gull was fool enough actually to send the money where he was bid?’
‘Fie, Lione!’ cried Lavinia; ‘do you call him a fool because you terrified him?’
‘Yes, to be sure, my dear; and you both think him so too, only you don’t hold it pretty to say so. Do you suppose, if he had had half the wit of his sister, he would have done it? I believe, in my conscience, there was some odd mistake in their births, and that my mother took away the brains of the man, and left the woman’s for the noddle of my poor uncle.’
‘Fie, fie, brother!’ said Lavinia again; ‘you know how sickly he has always been from his birth, and how soon therefore he might be alarmed.’
‘Why, yes, Lavinia–I believe it was a very bad thing-and I would give half my little finger I had not done it. But it’s over, you know; so what signifies making the worst of it?’
‘And did he not discover you?’
‘No; I gave him particular orders, in my letter, not to attempt anything of that sort, assuring him there were spies about him to watch his proceedings. The good old ass took it all for gospel. So there the matter dropt. However, as ill luck would have it, about three months ago we wanted another sum —’
‘And could you again —’
‘Why, my dear, it was only taking a little of my own fortune beforehand, for I am his heir; so we all agreed it was merely robbing myself; for we had several consultations about it, and one of us is to be a lawyer.’
‘But you give me some pleasure here,’ said Camilla; ‘for I had never heard that my uncle had made you his heir.’
‘No more have I neither, my dear; but I take it for granted. Besides, our little lawyer put it into my head. Well, we wrote again, and told the poor old gentleman-for which I assure you I am heartily repentant-that if he did not send me double the sum, in the same manner, without delay, his house was to be burnt to the ground the first night that he and all his family were asleep in bed.–Now don’t make faces and shruggings, for, I promise you, I think already I deserve to be hanged for giving him the fright; though I would not really have hurt him, all the time, for half his fortune. And who could have guessed he would have bit so easily? The money, however, came, and we thought it all secure, and agreed to get the same sum annually.’
‘Annually!’ repeated Camilla, with uplifted hands.
‘Yes, my dear. You have no conception how convenient it would have been for our extra expenses. But, unluckily, uncle grew worse, and went abroad, and then consulted with some crab of a friend, and that friend with some demagogue of a magistrate, and so all is blown!–However, we had managed it so cleverly, it cost them near three months to find it out, owing, I must confess, to poor uncle’s cowardice in not making his enquiries before the money was carried off, and he himself over the seas and far away. The other particulars Lavinia must give you; for I have talked of it now till I have made myself quite sick. Do tell me something diverting to drive it a little out of my head. Have you seen any thing of my enchanting widow lately?’
‘No, she does not desire to be seen by me. She would not admit me.’
‘She is frankness itself, and does not pretend to care a fig for any of her own sex.–O, but, Camilla, I have wanted to ask you this great while, if you think there is any truth in this rumour, that Mandlebert intends to propose to Indiana?’
‘To propose! I thought it had all long since been settled.’
‘Ay, so the world says; but I don’t believe a word of it. Do you think, if that were the case, he would not have owned it to me? There’s nothing fixed yet, depend upon it.’
Camilla, struck, amazed, and delighted, involuntarily embraced her brother; though, recollecting herself amost at the same moment, she endeavoured to turn oft the resistless impulse into taking leave, and hurrying him away.
Lionel, who to want of solidity and penetration principally owed the errors of his conduct, was easily put upon a wrong scent, and assured her he would take care to be off in time. ‘But what,’ cried he, ‘has carried them to Cleves? Are they gone to tell tales? Because I have lost one uncle by my own fault, must I lose another by their’s?’
‘No,’ answered Lavinia, ‘they have determined not to name you. They have settled that my uncle Hugh shall never be told of the affair, nor anybody else, if they can help it, except your sisters, and Dr. Marchmont.’
‘Well, they are good souls,’ cried he, attempting to laugh, though his eyes were glistening; ‘I wish I deserved them better; I wish, too, it was not so dull to be good. I can be merry and harmless here at the same time,-and so I can at Cleves;-but at Oxford-or in London,-your merry blades there–I can’t deny it, my dear sisters-your merry blades there are but sad fellows. Yet there is such fun, such spirit, such sport amongst them, I cannot for my life keep out of their way. Besides, you have no conception, young ladies, what a bye word you become among them if they catch you flinching. ’
‘I would not for the world say anything to pain you, my dear brother,’ cried Lavinia; ‘but yet I must hope that, in future, your first study will be to resist such dangerous examples, and to drop such unworthy friends?’
‘If it is not to tell tales, then, for what else are they gone to Cleves, just at this time?’
‘For my mother to take leave of Eugenia and my uncle before her journey.’
‘Journey! Why whither is she going?’
‘The deuce she is!–And what for?’
‘To try to make your peace with her brother; or at least to nurse him herself till he is tolerably recovered.’
Lionel slapped his hat over his eyes, and saying, ‘This is too much!-if I were a man I should shoot myself!’-rushed out of the room.
The two sisters rapidly followed him, and caught his arm before he could quit the house. They earnestly besought him to return, to compose himself, and to promise he would commit no rash action.
‘My dear sisters,’ cried he, ‘I am worked just now only as I ought to be; but I will give you any promise you please. However, though I have never listened to my father as I ought to have listened, he has implanted in my mind a horror of suicide, that will make me live my natural life, be it as good for nothing as it may.’
He then suffered his sisters to lead him back to their room, where he cast himself upon a chair, in painful rumination upon his own unworthiness, and his parents’ excellence; but the tender soothings of Lavinia and Camilla, who trembled lest his remorse should urge him to some act of violence, soon drew him from reflections of which he hated the intrusion; and he attended, with complacency, to their youthful security of perfect reconciliations, and re-established happiness.
With reciprocal exultation, the eyes of the sisters congratulated each other on having saved him from despair; and seeing him now calm, and, they hoped, safe, they mutually, though tacitly, agreed to obtrude no further upon meditations that might be useful to him, and remained silently by his side.
For some minutes all were profoundly still; Lionel then suddently started up; the sisters, affrighted, hastily arose at the same instant; when, stretching himself and yawning, he called out, ‘Pr’ythee, Camilla, what is become of that smug Mr. Dubster?’
Speechless with amazement, they looked earnestly in his face, and feared he was raving.
They were soon, however undeceived; the tide of penitence and sorrow was turned in his buoyant spirits, and he was only restored to his natural volatile self.
‘You used him most shabbily,’ he continued, ‘and he was a very pretty fellow. The next time I have nothing better to do, I’ll send him to you, that you may make it up.’
This quick return of gaiety caused a sigh to Lavinia, and much surprise to Camilla; but neither of them could prevail with him to depart, till Mr. and Mrs. Tyrold were every moment expected; they then, though with infinite difficulty, procured his promise that he would go straight to Dr. Marchmont, according to an arrangement made for that purpose by Mrs. Tyrold herself.
Lavinia, when he was gone, related some circumstances of this affair which he had omitted. Mr. Relvil, the elder brother of Mrs. Tyrold, was a country gentleman of some fortune, but of weak parts, and an invalid from his infancy. He had suffered these incendiary letters to prey upon his repose, without venturing to produce them to any one, from a terror of the menaces hurled against him by the writer, till at length he became so completely hypochondriac, that his rest was utterly broken, and, to preserve his very existence, he resolved upon visiting another climate.
The day that he set out for Lisbon, his destined harbour, he delivered his anonymous letters to a friend, to whom he left in charge to discover, if possible, their author.
This discovery, by the usual means of enquiries and rewards, was soon made; but the moment Mr. Relvil learnt that the culprit was his nephew, he wrote over to Mrs. Tyrold a statement of the transaction, declaring he should disinherit Lionel from every shilling of his estate. His health was so much impaired, he said, by the disturbance this had given to his mind, that he should be obliged to spend the ensuing year in Portugal; and he even felt uncertain if he might ever return to his own country.
Mrs. Tyrold, astonished and indignant, severely questioned her son, who covered, with shame, surprise, and repentance, confessed his guilt. Shocked and grieved in the extreme, she ordered him from her sight, and wrote to Dr. Marchmont to receive him. She then settled with Mr. Tyrold the plan of her journey and voyage, hoping by so immediately following, and herself nursing her incensed brother, to soften his wrath, and avert its final ill consequences.
MR. and Mrs. Tyrold returned to Etherington somewhat relieved in their spirits, though perplexed in their opinions. They had heard from Sir Hugh, that Edgar had decidedly disavowed any pretensions to Indiana, and had voluntarily retreated from Cleves, that his disavowal might risk no misconstruction, either in the family or the neighbourhood.
This insensibility to beauty the most exquisite wanted no advocate with Mrs. Tyrold. Once more she conceived some hope of what she wished, and she determined upon seeing Edgar before her departure. The displeasure she had nourished against him vanished, and justice to his general worth, with an affection nearly maternal to his person, took again their wonted place in her bosom, and made her deem herself unkind in having purposed to quit the kingdom without bidding him farewell.
Mr. Tyrold, whom professional duty and native inclination alike made a man of peace, was ever happy to second all conciliatory measures, and the first to propose them, where his voice had any chance of being heard. He sent a note, therefore, to invite Edgar to call the next morning; and Mrs. Tyrold deferred her hour of setting off till noon.
Her own natural and immediate impulse, had been to carry Camilla with her abroad; but when she considered that her sole errand was to nurse and appease an offended sick man, whose chamber she meant not to quit till she returned to her family, she gave up the pleasure she would herself have found in the scheme, to her fears for the health and spirits of her darling child, joined to the superior joy of leaving such a solace with her husband.
Sir Hugh had heard the petition for postponing the further visit of Camilla almost with despondence; but Mr. Tyrold restored him completely to confidence, with respect to his doubts concerning Dr. Orkborne, with whom he held a long and satisfactory conversation; and his own benevolent heart received a sensible pleasure, when, upon examining Indiana with regard to Edgar, he found her, though piqued and pouting, untouched either in affection or happiness.
Early the next morning Edgar came. Mrs. Tyrold had taken measures for employing Camilla upstairs, where she did not even hear that he entered the house.
He was received with kindness, and told of the sudden journey, though not of its motives. He heard of it with unfeigned concern, and earnestly solicited to be the companion of the voyage, if no better male protector were appointed.
Mr. Tyrold folded his arms around him at this grateful proposal, while his wife, animated off her guard, warmly exclaimed–‘My dear, excellent Edgar! you are indeed the model, the true son of your guardian!’
Sorry for what had escaped her, from her internal reference to Lionel, she looked anxiously to see if he comprehended her; but the mantling blood which mounted quick into his cheeks, while his eyes sought the ground, soon told her there was another mode of affinity, which at that moment had struck him.
Willing to establish whether this idea were right, she now considered how she might name Camilla; but her husband, who for no possible purpose could witness distress without seeking to alleviate it, declined his kind offer, and began a discourse upon the passage to Lisbon.
This gave Edgar time to recover, and, in a few seconds, something of moment seemed abruptly to occur to him, and scarcely saying adieu, he hurried to remount his horse.
Mrs. Tyrold was perplexed; but she could take not steps towards an explanation, without infringing the delicacy she felt due to her daughter: she suffered him, therefore, to depart.
She then proceeded with her preparations, which entirely occupied her till the chaise was at the gate; when, as the little party, their eyes and their hearts all full, were taking a last farewell, the parlour door was hastily opened, and Dr. Marchmont and Edgar entered the room.
All were surprised, but none so much as Camilla, who, forgetting, in sudden emotion, every thing but former kindness and intimacy, delightedly exclaimed–‘Edgar! O how happy, my dearest mother!–I was afraid you would go without seeing him!’
Edgar turned to her with a quickness that could only be exceeded by his pleasure; her voice, her manner, her unlooked-for interest in his appearance, penetrated to his very soul. ‘Is it possible,’ he cried, ‘you could have the goodness to wish me this gratification? At a moment such as this, could you —?’ think of me, he would have added; but Dr. Marchmont, coming forward, begged him to account for their intrusion.
Almost overpowered by his own sudden emotion, he could scarce recollect its motive himself; while Camilla, fearful and repentant that she had broken her deliberate and well-principled resolutions, retreated to the window.
Mr. and Mrs. Tyrold witnessed the involuntary movements which betrayed their mutual regard with the tenderest satisfaction; and the complacency of their attention, when Edgar advanced to them, soon removed his embarrassment.
He then briefly acquainted them, that finding Mrs. Tyrold would not accept him for her chevalier, he had ridden hard to the parsonage of Cleves, whence he hoped he had brought her one too unexceptionable for rejection.
Dr. Marchmont, with great warmth, then made a proffer of his services, declaring he had long desired an opportunity to visit Portugal; and protesting that, besides the pleasure of complying with any wish of Mr. Mandlebert’s, it would give him the most serious happiness to shew his gratitude for the many kind offices he owed to Mr. Tyrold, and his high personal respect for his lady; he should require but one day for his preparations, and for securing the performance of the church duty at Cleves during his absence.
Mr. and Mrs. Tyrold were equally struck by the goodness of Dr. Marchmont, and the attentive kindness of Edgar. Mrs. Tyrold, nevertheless, would immediately have declined the scheme; but her husband interposed. Her travelling, he said, with such a guard, would be as conducive to his peace at home, as to her safety abroad. ‘And with respect,’ cried he, ‘to obligation, I hold it as much a moral duty not to refuse receiving good offices, as not to avoid administering them. That species of independence, which proudly flies all ties of gratitude, is inimical to the social compact of civilized life, which subsists but by reciprocity of services.’
Mrs. Tyrold now opposed the scheme no longer, and the chaise was ordered for the next day.
Dr. Marchmont hurried home to settle his affairs; but Edgar begged a short conference with Mr. Tyrold.
Every maternal hope was now awake in Mrs. Tyrold, who concluded this request was to demand Camilla in marriage; and her husband himself, not without trepidation, took Edgar into his study.
But Edgar, though his heart was again wholly Camilla’s, had received a look from Dr. Marchmont that guarded him from any immediate declaration. He simply opened upon the late misconception at Cleves; vindicated himself from any versatility of conduct, and affirmed, that both his attentions and his regard for Indiana had never been either more or less than they still continued. All this was spoken with a plainness to which the integrity of his character gave a weight superior to any protestations.
‘My dear Edgar,’ said Mr. Tyrold, ‘I am convinced of your probity. The tenor of your life is its guarantee, and any other defence is a degradation. There is, indeed, no perfidy so unjustifiable, as that which wins but to desert the affections of an innocent female. It is still, if possible, more cowardly than it is cruel; for the greater her worth, and the more exquisite her feelings, the stronger will be the impulse of her delicacy to suffer uncomplaining; and the deluder of her esteem commonly confides, for averting her reproach, to the very sensibility through which he has ensnared her good opinion.’
‘No one,’ said Edgar, ‘can more sincerely concur in this sentiment than myself; and, I trust, there is no situation, and no character, that could prompt me to deviate in this point. Here, in particular, my understanding must have been as defective as my morals, to have betrayed me into such an enterprise.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘I beg pardon, my dear sir; but, though I have a sort of family regard for Miss Lynmere, and though I think her beauty is transcendent, her heart, I believe —’ he hesitated.
‘Do you think her heart invulnerable?’—
‘Why-no-not positively, perhaps,’ answered he, embarrassed, ‘not positively invulnerable; but certainly I do not think it composed of those finely subtle sensations which elude all vigilance, and become imperceptibly the prey of every assailing sympathy; for itself, therefore, I believe it not in much danger; and, for others–I see not in it that magnetic attraction which charms away all caution, beguiles all security, enwraps the imagination, and masters the reason!’—
The chain of thinking which, from painting what he thought insensible in Indiana led him to describe what he felt to be resistless in Camilla, made him finish the last sentence with an energy that surprised Mr. Tyrold into a smile.
‘You seem deeply,’ he said, ‘to have studied the subject.’
‘But not under the guidance of Miss Lynmere,’ he answered, rising, and colouring, the moment he had spoken, in the fear he had betrayed himself.
‘I rejoice, then, the more,’ replied Mr. Tyrold, calmly, ‘in her own slackness of susceptibility.’
‘Yes,’ cried Edgar, recovering, and quietly re-placing himself; ‘it is her own security, and it is the security of all who surround her; though to those, indeed, there was also another, a still greater, in the contrast which —’ he stopt, confused at his own meaning; yet presently, almost irresistibly, added–‘Not that I think the utmost vivacity of sentiment, nor all the charm of soul, though eternally beaming in the eyes, playing in every feature, glowing in the complection, and brightening every smile —’ he stopt again, overpowered with the consciousness of the picture he was portraying; but Mr. Tyrold continuing silent, he was obliged, though he scarce knew what he said, to go on. ‘Nothing, in short, so selfishly are we formed,-that nothing, not even the loveliest of the lovely, can be truly bewitching, in which we do not hope or expect some participation.–I believe I have not made myself very clear?–However, it is not material–I simply meant to explain my retreat from Cleves. And, indeed, it is barbarous, at a season such as this, to detain you a moment from your family.’
He then hastily took leave.
Mr. Tyrold was sensibly touched by this scene. He saw, through a discourse so perplexed, and a manner so confused, that his daughter had made a forcible impression upon the heart of Mandlebert, but could not comprehend why he seemed struggling to conceal it. What had dropt from him appeared to imply a distrust of exciting mutual regard; yet this, after his own observations upon Camilla, was inconceivable. He regretted, that at a period so critical, she must part with her mother, with whom again he now determined to consult.
Edgar, who hitherto had opened his whole heart upon every occasion to Mr. Tyrold, felt hurt and distressed at this first withholding of confidence. It was, however, unavoidable, in his present situation.
He went back to the parlour to take leave once more of Mrs. Tyrold; but, opening the door, found Camilla there alone. She was looking out of the window, and had not heard his entrance.
This was not a sight to still his perturbed spirits; on the contrary, the moment seemed to him so favourable, that it irresistibly occurred to him to seize it for removing every doubt.
Camilla, who had not even missed her mother and sister from the room, was contemplating the horse of Edgar, and internally arraigning herself for the dangerous pleasure she had felt and manifested at the sight of his master.
He gently shut the door, and approaching her, said, ‘Do I see again the same frank and amiable friend, who in earliest days, who always, indeed, till–’
Camilla turning round, startled to behold him so near, and that no one else remained in the room, blushed excessively, and without hearing what he said, shut the window; yet opened it the same minute, stammering out something, but she herself knew not what, concerning the weather.
The gentlest thoughts crossed the mind of Edgar at this evident embarrassment, and the most generous alacrity prompted him to hasten his purpose. He drew a chair near her, and, in penetrating accents, said: ‘Will you suffer me, will you, can you permit me, to take the privilege of our long friendship, and honestly to speak to you upon what has passed within these last few days at Cleves?’
She could not answer: surprise, doubt, fear of self-deception, and hope of some happy explanation, all suddenly conspired to confound and to silence her.
‘You cannot, I think, forget,’ he soon resumed, ‘that you had condescended to put into my hands the management and decision of the new acquaintance you are anxious to form? My memory, at least, will never be unfaithful to a testimony so grateful to me, of your entire reliance upon the deep, the unspeakable interest I have ever taken, and ever must take, in my invaluable guardian, and in every branch of his respected and beloved family.’
Camilla now began to breathe. This last expression, though zealous in friendliness, had nothing of appropriate partiality; and in losing her hope she resumed her calmness.
Edgar observed, though he understood not, the change; but as he wished to satisfy his mind before he indulged his inclination, he endeavoured not to be sorry to see her mistress of herself during the discussion He wished her but to answer him with openness: she still, however, only listened, while she rose and looked about the room for some work. Edgar, somewhat disconcerted, waited for her again sitting down; and after a few minutes spent in a useless search, she drew a chair to a table at some distance.
Gravely then following, he stood opposite to her, and, after a little pause, said, ‘I perceive you think I go too far? you think that the intimacy of childhood, and the attachment of adolescence, should expire with the juvenile sports and intercourse which nourished them, rather than ripen into solid friendship and permanent confidence?’
‘Do not say so,’ cried she, with emotion; ‘believe me, unless you knew all that had passed, and all my motives, you should judge nothing of these last few days, but think of me only, whether well or ill, as you thought of me a week ago.’
The most laboured and explicit defence could not more immediately have satisfied his mind than this speech. Suspicion vanished, trust and admiration took its place, and once more drawing a chair by her side, ‘My dear Miss Camilla,’ he cried, ‘forgive my having thus harped upon this subject; I here promise you I will name it no more.’
‘And I,’ cried she, delighted, ‘promise you’-she was going to add, that she would give up Mrs. Arlbery, if he found reason to disapprove the acquaintance; but the parlour door opened, and Miss Margland stalked into the room.
Sir Hugh was going to send a messenger to enquire how and when Mrs. Tyrold had set out; but Miss Margland, from various motives of curiosity, offered her services, and came herself. So totally, however, had both Edgar and Camilla been engrossed by each other, that they had not heard the carriage drive up to the garden gate, which, with the door of the house, being always open, required neither knocker nor bell.
A spectre could not more have startled or shocked Camilla. She jumped up, with an exclamation nearly amounting to a scream, and involuntarily seated herself at the other end of the room.
Edgar, though not equally embarrassed, was still more provoked; but he rose, and got her a chair, and enquired after the health of Sir Hugh.
‘He is very poorly, indeed,’ answered she, with an austere air, ‘and no wonder!’
‘Is my uncle ill?’ cried Camilla, alarmed.
Miss Margland deigned no reply.
The rest of the family, who had seen the carriage from the windows, now entered the room, and during the mutual enquiries and account which followed, Edgar, believing himself unobserved, glided round to Camilla, and in a low voice, said, ‘The promise–I think I guess its gratifying import–I shall not, I hope, lose, through this cruel intrusion?’
Camilla, who saw no eyes but those of Miss Margland, which were severely fastened upon her, affected not to hear him, and planted herself in the group out of his way.
He anxiously waited for another opportunity to put in his claim, but he waited in vain; Camilla, who from the entrance of Miss Margland had had the depressing feel of self-accusation, sedulously avoided him; and though he loitered till he was ashamed of remaining in the house at a period so busy, Miss Margland, by indications not to be mistaken, shewed herself bent upon out-staying him; he was obliged, therefore, to depart; though, no sooner was he gone, than, having nothing more to scrutinize, she went also.
But little doubt now remained with the watchful parents of the mutual attachment of Edgar and Camilla, to which the only apparent obstacle seemed, a diffidence on the part of Edgar with respect to her internal sympathy. Pleased with the modesty of such a fear in so accomplished a young man, Mr. Tyrold protested that, if the superior fortune were on the side of Camilla, he would himself clear it up, and point out the mistake. His wife gloried in the virtuous delicacy of her daughter, that so properly, till it was called for, concealed her tenderness from the object who so deservingly inspired it; yet they agreed, that though she could not, at present, meet Edgar too often, she should be kept wholly ignorant of their wishes and expectations, lest they should still be crushed by any unforeseen casualty: and that, meanwhile, she should be allowed every safe and innocent recreation, that might lighten her mind from its depression, and restore her spirits to their native vivacity.
Early the next morning Dr. Marchmont came to Etherington, and brought with him Lionel, by the express direction of his father, who never objected to admit the faulty to his presence; his hopes of doing good were more potent from kindness than from severity, from example than from precept: yet he attempted not to conquer the averseness of Mrs. Tyrold to an interview; he knew it proceeded not from an inexorable nature, but from a repugnance insurmountable to the sight of a beloved object in disgrace.
Mrs. Tyrold quitted her husband with the most cruel regret, and her darling Camilla with the tenderest inquietude; she affectionately embraced the unexceptionable Lavinia, with whom she left a message for her brother, which she strictly charged her to deliver, without softening or omitting one word.
And then, attended by Dr. Marchmont, she set forward on her journey towards Falmouth: whence a packet, in a few days, she was informed, would sail for Lisbon.
GRIEVED at this separation, Mr. Tyrold retired to his study; and his two daughters went to the apartment of Lionel, to comfort him under the weight of his misconduct.
They found him sincerely affected and repentant; yet eager to hear that his mother was actually gone. Ill as he felt himself to deserve such an exertion for his future welfare, and poignant as were his shame and sorrow to have parted her from his excellent father, he thought all evil preferable to encountering her eye, or listening to her admonitions.
Though unaffectedly beloved, Mrs. Tyrold was deeply feared by all her children, Camilla alone excepted; by Lionel, from his horror of reproof; by Lavinia, from the timidity of her humility; and by Eugenia, from her high sense of parental superiority. Camilla alone escaped the contagion; for while too innocent, too undesigning, wilfully to excite displeasure, she was too gay and too light-hearted to admit apprehension without cause.
The gentle Lavinia knew not how to perform her painful task of delivering the message with which she was commissioned. The sight of Lionel in dejection was as sad as it was new to her, and she resolved, in conjunction with Camilla, to spare him till the next day, when his feelings might be less acute. They each sat down, therefore, to work, silent and compassionate; while he, ejaculating blessings upon his parents, and calling for just vengeance upon himself, stroamed up and down the room, biting his knuckles, and now and then striking his forehead.
This lasted about ten minutes: and then, suddenly advancing to his sisters, and snatching a hand of each: ‘Come, girls,’ he cried, now let’s talk of other things.’
Too young to have developed the character of Lionel, they were again as much astonished as they had been the preceding day: but his defects, though not originally of the heart, were of a species that soon tend to harden it. They had their rise in a total aversion to reflection, a wish to distinguish himself from his retired, and, he thought, unfashionable relations, and an unfortunate coalition with some unprincipled young men, who, because flashy and gay, could lead him to whatever they proposed. Yet, when mischief or misfortune ensued from his wanton faults, he was always far more sorry than he thought it manly to own; but as his actions were without judgment, his repentance was without principle; and he was ready for some new enterprise the moment the difficulties of an old one subsided.
Camilla, who, from her affection to him, read his character through the innocence of her own, met his returning gaiety with a pleasure that was proportioned to her pain at his depression; but Lavinia saw it with discomfort, as the signal for executing her charge, and, with extreme reluctance, gave him to understand she had a command to fulfil to him from his mother.
The powers of conscience were again then instantly at work; he felt what he had deserved, he dreaded to hear what he had provoked; and trembling and drawing back, entreated her to wait one half hour before she entered upon the business.
She chearfully consented; and Camilla proposed extending the reprieve to the next day: but not two minutes elapsed, before Lionel protested he could not bear the suspense, and urged an immediate communication.
‘She can have said nothing,’ cried he, ‘worse than I expect, or than I merit. Probe me then without delay. She is acting by me like an angel, and if she were to command me to turn anchoret, I know I ought to obey her.’
With much hesitation, Lavinia then began. ‘My mother says, my dear Lionel, the fraud you have practised —’
‘The fraud! what a horrid word! why it was a mere trick! A joke! a frolic! just to make an old hunks open his purse-strings for his natural heir. I am astonished at my mother! I really don’t care if I don’t hear another syllable.’
‘Well, then, my dear Lionel, I will wait till you are calmer: my mother, I am sure did not mean to irritate, but to convince.’
‘My mother,’ continued he, striding about the room, ‘makes no allowances. She has no faults herself, and for that reason she thinks nobody else should have any. Besides, how should she know what it is to be a young man? and to want a little cash, and not know how to get it?’
‘But I am sure,’ said Lavinia, ‘if you wanted it for any proper purpose, my father would have denied himself everything, in order to supply you.’
‘Yes, yes; but suppose I want it for a purpose that is not proper, how am I to get it then?’
‘Why, then, my dear Lionel, surely you must be sensible you ought to go without it,’ cried the sisters, in a breath.
‘Ay, that’s as you girls say, that know nothing of the matter. If a young man, when he goes into the world, was to make such a speech as that, he would be pointed at. Besides, who must he live with? You don’t suppose he is to shut himself up, with a few musty books, sleeping over the fire, under pretence of study, all day long, do you? like young Melmond, who knows no more of the world than one of you do?’
‘Indeed,’ said Camilla, ‘he seemed to me an amiable and modest young man, though very romantic.’
‘O, I dare say he did! I could have laid any wager of that. He’s just a girl’s man, just the very thing, all sentiment, and poetry and heroics. But we, my little dear, we lads of spirit, hold all that amazing cheap. I assure you, I would as soon be seen trying on a lady’s cap at a glass, as poring over a crazy old author when I could help it. I warrant you think, because one is at the university, one must all be book-worms?’
‘Why, what else do you go there for but to study?’
‘Every thing in the world, my dear.’
‘But are there not sometimes young men who are scholars without being book-worms?’ cried Camilla, half colouring; ‘is not-is not Edgar Mandlebert —’
‘O yes, yes; an odd thing of that sort happens now and then. Mandlebert has spirit enough to carry it off pretty well, without being ridiculous; though he is as deep, for his time, as e’er an old fellow of a college. But then this is no rule for others. You must not expect an Edgar Mandlebert at every turn.’
Ah no! thought Camilla.
‘But, Edgar,’ said Lavinia, ‘has had an extraordinary education, as well as possessing extraordinary talents and goodness: and you, too, my dear Lionel, to fulfil what may be expected from you, should look back to your father, who was brought up at the same university, and is now considered as one of the first men it has produced. While he was respected by the learned for his application, he was loved even by the indolent for his candour and kindness of heart. And though his income, as you know, was so small, he never ran in debt, and by an exact but open oeconomy, escaped all imputation of meanness: while by forbearing either to conceal, or repine at his limited fortune, he blunted even the raillery of the dissipated, by frankly and good humouredly meeting it half way. How often have I heard my dear mother tell you this!’
‘Yes; but all this, child, is nothing to the purpose; my father is no more like other men than if he had been born in another planet, and my attempting to resemble him, is as great a joke, as if you were to dress up Miss Margland in Indiana’s flowers and feathers, and then expect people to call her a beauty.’
‘We do not say you resemble my father, now,’ said Camilla, archly; ‘but is there any reason why you should not try to do it by and by?’
‘O yes! A little one! Nature, nature, my dear, is in the way. I was born a bit of a buck. I have no manner of natural taste for study, and poring, and expounding, and black-letter work. I am a light, airy spark, at your service, not quite so wise as I am merry;-but let that pass. My father, you know, is firm as a rock. He minds neither wind nor weather, nor fleerer nor sneerer: but this firmness, look ye, he has kept all to himself; not a whit of it do I inherit–, every wind that blows veers me about, and makes me look some new way.’
Soon after, gathering courage from curiosity, he desired to hear the message at once.
Lavinia, unwillingly complying, then repeated: ‘The fraud which you have practised, my mother says, whether from wanton folly to give pain, or from rapacious discontent to gain money, she will leave without comment, satisfied that if you have any heart at all, its effects must bring its remorse, since it has dangerously encreased the infirmities of your uncle, driven him to a foreign land, and forced your mother to forsake her home and family in his pursuit, unless she were willing to see you punished by the entire disinheritance with which you are threatened. But —’
‘O, no more! no more! I am ready to shoot myself already! My dear, excellent mother! what do I not owe you! I had never seen, never thought of the business in this solemn way before. I meant nothing at first but a silly joke, and all this mischief has followed unaccountably. I assure you, I had no notion at the beginning he would have minded the letter; and afterwards, Jack Whiston persuaded me, the money was as good as my own, and that it was nothing but a little cribbing from myself. I will never trust him again; I see the whole now in its true and atrocious colours.–I will devote myself in future to make all the amends in my power to my dear incomparable mother.’
The sisters affectionately encouraged this idea, which produced near a quarter of an hour’s serious thinking and penitence.
He then begged to hear the rest; and Lavinia continued.
‘But since you are re-admitted, said my mother, to Etherington, by the clemency of your forbearing father, she charges you to remember, you can only repay his goodness by an application the most intense to those studies you have hitherto neglected, and of which your neglect has been the cause of all your errors; by committing to idle amusements the time that innocently, as well as profitably, ought to have been dedicated to the attainment of knowledge. She charges you also to ask yourself, since, during the vacation, your father himself is your tutor, upon what pretext you can justify wasting his valuable time, however little you may respect your own?–Finally —’
‘I never wasted his time! I never desired to have any instruction in the vacations. ’Tis the most deuced thing in life to be studying so hard incessantly. The waste of time is all his own affair-his own choice-not mine, I assure you! Go on, however.’
‘Finally, she adjures you to consider, that if you still persevere to consume your time in wilful negligence, to bury all thought in idle gaiety, and to act without either reflection or principle, the career of faults which begins but in unthinking folly, will terminate in shame, in guilt, and in ruin! And though such a declension of all good, must involve your family in your affliction, your disgrace, she bids me say, will ultimately fall but where it ought; since your own want of personal sensibility to the horror of your conduct, will neither harden nor blind any human being besides yourself. This is all.’
‘And enough too,’ cried he, reddening: ‘I am a very wretch!–I believe that-though I am sure I can’t tell how; for I never intend any harm, never think, never dream of hurting any mortal! But as to study–I must own to you, I hate it most deucedly. Anything else-if my mother had but exacted any thing else-with what joy I would have shewn my obedience!–If she had ordered me to be horse-ponded, I do protest to you, I would not have demurred.’
‘How always you run into the ridiculous!’ cried Camilla.
‘I was never so serious in my life; not that I should like to be horse-ponded in the least, though I would submit to it for a punishment, and out of duty: but then, when it was done, it would be over: now the deuce of study is, there is no end of it! And it does so little for one! one can go through life so well without it! There is not above here and there an old codger that asks one a question that can bring it into any play. And then, a turn upon one’s heel, or looking at one’s watch, or wondering at one’s short memory, or happening to forget just that one single passage, carries off the whole in two minutes, as completely as if one had been working one’s whole life to get ready for the assault. And pray, now, tell me, how can it be worth one’s best days, one’s gayest hours, the very flower of one’s life-all to be sacrificed to plodding over musty grammars and lexicons, merely to cut a figure just for about two minutes once or twice in a year?’
The sisters, brought up with an early reverence for learning, as forming a distinguished part of the accomplishments of their father, could not subscribe to this argument. But they laughed; and that was ever sufficient for Lionel, who, though sincerely, in private, he loved and honoured his father, never bestowed upon him one voluntary moment that frolic or folly invited elsewhere.
Lavinia and Camilla, perfectly relieved now from all fears for their brother, repaired to the study of their father, anxious to endeavour to chear him, and to accelerate a meeting and reconciliation for Lionel; but they found him desirous to be alone, though kindly, and unsolicited, he promised to admit his son before dinner.
Lionel heard this was a just awe; but gave it no time for deep impression. It was still very early, and he could settle himself to nothing during the hours yet to pass before the interview. He persuaded his sisters, therefore, to walk out with him, to while away at once expectation and retrospection.
THEY set out with no other plan than to take a three hours’ stroll. Lionel led the way, and they journeyed through various pleasant lanes and meadows, till, about three miles distance from Etherington, upon ascending a beautiful little hill, they espied, fifty yards off, the Grove, and a party of company sauntering round its grounds.
He immediately proposed making a visit to Mrs. Arlbery; but Lavinia declined presenting herself to a lady who was unknown to her mother; and Camilla, impressed with the promise she had intended for Edgar, which she was sure, though unpronounced, he had comprehended, dissented also from the motion.
He then said he would go alone; for his spirits were so low from vexation and regret, that they wanted recruit; and he would return to them by the time they would be sufficiently rested to walk home.
To this they agreed; and amused themselves with watching to see him join the group; in which, however, they were no sooner gratified, than, to their great confusion, they perceived that he pointed them out, and that all eyes were immediately directed towards the hill.
Vexed and astonished at his quick passing penitence, they hastened down the declivity, and ran on till a lane, with an high hedge on each side, sheltered them from view.
But Lionel, soon pursuing them, said he brought the indisputable orders of his invincible widow to convoy them to the mansion. She never, she had owned, admitted formal visitors, but whatever was abrupt and out of the way, won her heart.
To the prudent Lavinia, this invitation was by no means alluring. Mrs. Tyrold, from keeping no carriage, visited but little, and the Grove was not included in her small circle; Lavinia, therefore, though she knew not how to be peremptory, was steady in refusal; and Camilla, who would naturally with pleasure have yielded, had a stronger motive for firmness, than any with which she was gifted by discretion, in her wish to oblige Mandlebert. But Lionel would listen to neither of them; and when he found his insistance insufficient, seized Lavinia by one arm, and Camilla by the other, and dragged them up the hill, in defiance of their entreaties, and in full view of the party. He then left the more pleading, though less resisting, Lavinia alone; but pulled Camilla down by the opposite side, with a velocity that, though meant but to bring her to the verge of a small rivulet, forced her into the midst of it so rapidly that he could not himself at last stop: and wetted her so completely that she could with difficulty, when she got across it, walk on.
The violent spirits of Lionel always carried him beyond his own intentions; he was now really sorry for what he had done: and Lavinia, who had quietly followed, was uneasy from the fear of some ill consequence to her sister.
Mrs. Arlbery, who had seen the transaction, came forth now herself, to invite them all into her house, and offer a fire and dry clothing to Camilla; not sparing, however, her well-merited raillery at the awkward exploit of young Tyrold.
Camilla, ashamed to be thus seen, would have hidden herself behind her sister, and retreated; but even Lavinia now, fearing for her health, joined in the request, and she was obliged to enter the house.
Mrs. Arlbery took her upstairs, to her own apartment, and supplied her immediately with a complete change of apparel; protesting that Lionel should be punished for his frolic, by a solitary walk to Etherington, to announce that she would keep his two sisters for the day.
Opposition was vain; she was gay, good humoured, and pleasant, but she would not be denied. She meant not, however, to inflict the serious penalty which the face of Lionel proclaimed him to be suffering, when he prepared to depart; and the sisters, who read in it his dread of meeting Mr. Tyrold alone, in the present circumstances of his affairs, conferred together, and agreed, that Lavinia should accompany him, both to intercede for returning favour from his father, and to explain the accident of Camilla’s staying at the Grove. Mrs. Arlbery, meanwhile, promised to restore her young guest safe at night in her own carriage.
Notwithstanding the pleasure with which Camilla, in any other situation, would have renewed this acquaintance, was now changed into reluctance, she was far from insensible to the flattering kindness with which Mrs. Arlbery received and entertained her, nor to the frankness with which she confessed, that her invisibility the other morning, had resulted solely from pique that the visit had not been made sooner.
Camilla would have attempted some apology for the delay, but she assured her apologies were what she neither took nor gave; and then laughingly added–‘We will try one another to day, and if we find it won’t do-we will shake hands and part. That, you must know, is my mode; and is it not vastly better than keeping up an acquaintance that proves dull, merely because it has been begun?’
She then ordered away all her visitors, without the smallest ceremony; telling them, however, they might come back in the evening, only desiring they would not be early. Camilla stared; but they all submitted as to a thing of course.
‘You are not used to my way, I perceive,’ cried she, smiling; ‘yet, I can nevertheless assure you, you can do nothing so much for your happiness as to adopt it. You are made a slave in a moment by the world, if you don’t begin life by defying it. Take your own way, follow your own humour, and you and the world will both go on just as well, as if you ask its will and pleasure for everything you do, and want, and think.’
She then expressed herself delighted with Lionel, for bringing them together by this short cut, which abolished a world of formalities, not more customary than fatiguing. ‘I pass, I know,’ continued she, ‘for a mere creature of whim; but, believe me, there is no small touch of philosophy in the composition of my vagaries. Extremes, you know, have a mighty knack of meeting. Thus I, like the sage, though not with sage-like motives, save time that must otherwise be wasted; brave rules that would murder common sense; and when I have made people stare, turn another way that I may laugh.’
She then, in a graver strain, and in a manner that proved the laws of politeness all her own, where she chose, for any particular purpose, or inclination, to exert them, hoped this profession of her faith would plead her excuse, that she had thus incongruously made her fair guest a second time enter her house, before her first visit was acknowledged; and enquired whether it were to be returned to Etherington or at Cleves.
Camilla answered, she was now at home, on account of her mother’s being obliged to make a voyage to Lisbon.
Mrs. Arlbery said, she would certainly, then, wait upon her at Etherington; and very civilly regretted having no acquaintance with Mrs. Tyrold; archly, however, adding: ‘As we have no where met I could not seek her at her own house without running too great a risk for then, whether I had liked her or not, I must have received her, you know, into mine. So, you see, I am not quite without Prudence, whatever the dear world says to the contrary.’
She then spoke of the ball, public breakfast, and raffle; chatting both upon persons and things with an easy gaiety, and sprightly negligence, extremely amusing to Camilla, and which soon, in despite of the unwillingness with which she had entered her house, brought back her original propensity to make the acquaintance, and left no regret for what Lionel had done, except what rested upon the repugnance of Edgar to his intercourse. As he could not, however, reproach what was begun without her concurrence, he would see, she hoped, like herself, that common civility henceforward would exact its continuance.
In proportion as her pleasure from this accidental commerce was awakened, and her early partiality revived, her own spirits re-animated, and, in the course of the many hours they now spent completely together, she was set so entirely at her ease, by the good humour of Mrs. Arlbery, that she lost all fear of her wit. She found it rather playful than satirical; rather seeking to amuse than to disconcert; and though sometimes, from the resistless pleasure of uttering a bon mot she thought more of its brilliancy than of the pain it might inflict, this happened but rarely, and was more commonly succeeded by regret than by triumph.
Camilla soon observed she had, personally, nothing to apprehend, peculiar partiality supplying the place of general delicacy, in shielding her from every shaft that even pleasantry could render poignant. The embarrassment, therefore, which, in ingenuous youth, checks the attempt to please, by fear of failure, or shame of exertion, gave way to natural spirits, which gaily rising from entertainment received, restored her vivacity, and gradually, though unconsciously, enabled her to do justice to her own abilities, by unaffectedly calling forth the mingled sweetness and intelligence of her character; and Mrs. Arlbery, charmed with all she observed, and flattered by all she inspired, felt such satisfaction in her evident conquest, that before the tête-à-tête was closed, their admiration was become nearly mutual.
When the evening party was announced, they both heard with surprise that the day was so far advanced. ‘They can wait, however,’ said Mrs. Arlbery, ‘for I know they have nothing to do.’
She then invited Camilla to return to her the next day for a week.
Camilla felt well disposed to comply, hoping soon to reason from Edgar his prejudice against a connection that afforded her such singular pleasure; but to leave her father at this period was far from every wish. She excused herself, therefore, saying, she had still six weeks due to her uncle at Cleves, before any other engagement could take place.
‘Well, then, when you quit your home for Sir Hugh, will you beg off a few days from him, and set them down to my account?’
‘If my uncle pleases —’
‘If he pleases?’ repeated she, laughing; ‘pray never give that If into his decision; you only put contradiction into people’s heads, by asking what pleases them. Say at once, My good uncle, Mrs. Arlbery has invited me to indulge her with a few days at the Grove; so to-morrow I shall go to her. Will you promise me this?’
‘Dear madam, no! my uncle would think me mad.’
‘And suppose he should! A little alarm now and then keeps life from stagnation. They call me mad, I know, sometimes; wild, flighty, and what not; yet you see how harmless I am, though I afford food for such notable commentary.’
‘But can you really like such things should be said of you?’
‘I adore the frankness of that question! why, n — o,–I rather think I don’t. But I’m not sure. However, to prevent their minding me, I must mind them. And it’s vastly more irksome to give up one’s own way, than to hear a few impertinent remarks. And as to the world, depend upon it, my dear Miss Tyrold, the more you see of it, the less you will care for it.’
She then said she would leave her to re-invest herself in her own attire, and go downstairs, to see what the poor simple souls, who had had no more wit than to come back thus at her call, had found to do with themselves.
Camilla having only her common morning dress, and even that utterly spoilt, begged that her appearance might be dispensed with; but Mrs. Arlbery, exclaiming, ‘Why, there are only men; you don’t mind men, I hope!’ ashamed, she promised to get ready; yet she had not sufficient courage to descend, till her gay hostess came back and accompanied her to the drawing room.
UPON entering the room, Camilla saw again the Officers who had been there in the morning, and who were now joined by Sir Sedley Clarendel. She was met at the door by Major Cerwood, who seemed waiting for her appearance, and who made her his compliments with an air that studiously proclaimed his devotion. She seated herself by the side of Mrs. Arlbery, to look on at a game of chess, played by Sir Sedley and General Kinsale.
‘Clarendel,’ said Mrs. Arlbery, ‘you have not the least in the world the air of knowing what you are about.’
‘Pardon me, ma’am,’ said the General, ‘he has been at least half an hour contemplating this very move,-for which, as you see, I now check-mate him. Pray, Sir Sedley, how came you, at last, to do no better?’
‘Thinking of other things, my dear General. ’Tis impossible in the extreme to keep one’s faculties pinioned down to the abstruse vagaries of this brain-besieging game. My head would be deranged past redress, if I did not allow it to visit the four quarters of the globe once, at least, between every move.’
‘You do not play so slow, then, from deliberating upon your chances, but from forgetting them?’
‘Defined my dear General, to scrupulosity! Those exquisite little moments we steal from any given occupation, for the pleasure of speculating in secret upon something wholly foreign to it, are resistless to deliciousness.’
‘I entreat, and command you then,’ cried Mrs. Arlbery, ‘to make your speculations public. Nothing will more amuse me, than to have the least intimation of the subjects of your reveries.’
‘My dear Mrs. Arlbery! your demand is the very quintessence of impossibility! Tell the subject of a reverie! know you not it wafts one at once out of the world, and the world’s powers of expression? while all it substitutes is as evanescent as it is delectable. To attempt the least description would be a presumption of the first monstrousness.’
‘O never heed that! presumption will not precisely be a novelty to you; answer me, therefore, my dear Clarendel, without all this conceit. You know I hate procrastination; and procrastinators still worse.’
‘Softly, dearest madam, softly! There is nothing in nature so horribly shocking to me as the least hurry. My poor nerves seek repose after any turbulent words, or jarring sounds, with the same craving for rest that my body experiences after the jolts, and concussions of a long winded chase. By the way, does anybody want a good hunter? I have the first, perhaps, in Europe; but I would sell it a surprising bargain, for I am excruciatingly tired of it.’
All the gentlemen grouped round him to hear further particulars, except Mr. Macdersey, the young Ensign, who had so unguardedly exposed himself at the Northwick ball, and who now, approaching Camilla, fervently exclaimed; ‘How happy I should have been, madam, if I had had the good fortune to see you meet with that accident this morning, instead of being looking another way! I might then have had the pleasure to assist you. And O! how much more if it had been your divine cousin! I hope that fair angel is in perfect health! O what a beautiful creature she is! her outside is the completest diamond I ever saw! and if her inside is the same, which I dare say it is, by her smiles and delicate dimples, she must be a paragon upon earth!’
‘There is at least something very inartificial in your praise,’ said General Kinsale, ‘when you make your panegyric of an absent lady to a present one.’
‘O General, there is not a lady living can bear any comparison with her. I have never had her out of my thoughts from the first darling moment that ever I saw her, which has made me the most miserable of men ever since. Her eyes so beautiful, her mouth so divine, her nose so heavenly!–’
‘And how,’ cried Sir Sedley, ‘is the tip of her chin?’
‘No joking, sir!’ said the Ensign, reddening; ‘she is a piece of perfection not to be laughed at; she has never had her fellow upon the face of the earth; and she never will have it while the earth holds, upon account of there being no such person above ground.’
‘And pray,’ cried Sir Sedley, carelessly, ‘how can you be sure of that?’
‘How! why by being certain,’ answered the inflamed admirer; ‘for though I have been looking out for pretty women from morning to night, ever since I was conscious of the right use of my eyes, I never yet saw her parallel.’
A servant was now bringing in the tea; but his lady ordered him to set it down in the next room, whence the gentlemen should fetch it as it was wanted.
Major Cerwood took in charge all attendance upon Camilla; but he was not, therefore, exempt from the assiduities required by Mrs. Arlbery, for whom the homage of the General, the Colonel, and the Ensign, were insufficient; and who, had a score more been present, would have found occupation for them all. Sir Sedley alone was excepted from her commands; for knowing they would be issued to him in vain, she contented herself with only interchanging glances of triumph with him, at the submission of every vassal but himself.
‘Heavens!’ cried she, to Colonel Andover, who had hastened to present her the first cup, ‘you surely think I have nerves for a public orator! If I should taste but one drop of this tea, I might envy the repose of the next man who robs on the highway. Major Cerwood, will you try if you can do any better for me?’
The Major obeyed, but not with more success. ‘What in the world have you brought me?’ cried she; ‘Is it tea? It looks prodigiously as if just imported out of the slop bason. For pity sake, Macdersey, arise, and give me your help; you will at least never bring me such maudlin stuff’ as this. Even your tea will have some character; it will be very good or very bad; very hot or very cold; very strong or very weak; for you are always in flames of fire, or flakes of snow.’
‘You do me justice, ma’am; there is nothing upon the face of the earth so insipid as a medium. Give me love or hate! a friend that will go to jail for me, or an enemy that will run me through the body! Riches to chuck guineas about like halfpence, or poverty to beg in a ditch! Liberty wild as the four winds, or an oar to work in a galley! Misery to tear my heart into an hundred thousand millions of atoms, or joy to make my soul dance into my brain! Every thing has some gratification, except a medium. ’Tis a poor little soul that is satisfied between happiness and despair.’
He then flew to bring her a dish of tea.
‘My dear Macdersey,’ cried she, in receiving it, ‘this is according to your system indeed; for ’tis a compound of strong, and rich, and sweet, to cloy an alderman, making altogether so luscious a syrup, that our spring would be exhausted before I could slake my thirst, if I should taste it only a second time. Do, dear General, see if it is not possible to get me some beverage that I can swallow.’
The youngest man present was not more active than the General in this service; but Mrs. Arlbery, casting herself despondingly back the moment she had tasted what he brought her, exclaimed, ‘Why this is worst of all! If you can do no better for me, General, than this, tell me, at least, for mercy’s sake, when some other regiment will be quartered here?’
‘What a cruelty,’ said the Major, looking with a sigh towards Camilla, ‘to remind your unhappy prey they are but birds of passage!’
‘O, all the better, Major. If you understand your own interest you will be as eager to break up your quarters, as I can be to see your successors march into them. I have now heard all your compliments, and you have heard all my repartees; both sides, therefore, want new auditors. A great many things I have said to you will do vastly well again for a new corps; and, to do you justice, some few things you have said yourselves may do again in a new county.’
Then, addressing Camilla, she proposed, though without moving, that they should converse with one another, and leave the men to take care of themselves. ‘And excessively they will be obliged to me,’ she continued, without lowering her voice, ‘for giving this little holiday to their poor brains; for, I assure you, they have not known what to say this half hour. Indeed, since the first fortnight they were quartered here, they have not, upon an average, said above one new thing in three days. But one’s obliged to take up with Officers in the country, because there’s almost nothing else. Can you recommend me any agreeable new people?’
‘O no, ma’am! I have hardly any acquaintance, except immediately round the rectory; but, fortunately, my own family is so large, that I have never been distressed for society.’
‘O, ay, true! your own family, begin with that; do, pray, give me a little history of your own family?’
‘I have no history, ma’am, to give, for my father’s retired life–’
‘O, I have seen your father, and I have heard him preach, and I like him very much. There’s something in him there’s no turning into ridicule.’
Camilla though surprised, was delighted by such a testimony to the respectability of her father; and, with more courage, said ‘And, I am sure, if you knew my mother, you would allow her the same exemption.’
‘So I hear; therefore, we won’t talk of them. It’s a delightful thing to think of perfection; but it’s vastly more amusing to talk of errors and absurdities. To begin with your eldest sister, then-she seems in just the same predicament as your father and but no mother: so we’ll let her rest, too.’
‘Indeed she is; she is as faultless–’
‘O, not a word more then; she won’t do for me at all. But, pray, is there not a single soul in all the round of your large family, that can afford a body a little innocent diversion?’
‘Ah, madam,’ said Camilla, shaking her head; ‘I fear, on the contrary, if they came under your examination, there is not one in whom you would not discern some foible!’
‘I should not like them at all the worse for that; for, between ourselves my dear Miss Tyrold, I am half afraid they might find a foible or two in return in me; so you must not be angry if I beg the favour of you to indulge me with a few of their defects.’
‘Yes for when so many of a family are perfect, if you can’t find me one or two that have a little speck of mortality, you must not wonder if I take flight at your very name. In charity, therefore, if you would not drop my acquaintance, tell me their vulnerable parts.’
Camilla laughed at this ridiculous reasoning, but would not enter into its consequences.
‘Well, then, if you will not assist me, don’t take it ill that I assist myself. In the first place, there’s your brother; I don’t ask you to tell me any thing of him; I have seen him! and I confess to you he does not put me into utter despair! he does not alarm me into flying all his race.’
Camilla tried vainly to look grave.
‘I have seen another, too, your cousin, I think; Miss Lynmere, that’s engaged to young Mandlebert.’
Camilla now tried as vainly to look gay.
‘She’s prodigiously pretty. Pray, is not she a great fool?’
‘I beg your pardon! but I don’t suppose you are responsible for the intellects of all your generation. However, she’ll do vastly well-you need not be uneasy for her. A face like that will take very good care of itself. I am glad she is engaged, for your sake, though I am sorry for Mandlebert; that is, if, as his class of countenance generally predicts, he marries with any notion of expecting to be happy.’
‘But why, ma’am,’ cried Camilla, checking a sigh, ‘are you glad for my sake?’
‘Because there are two reasons why she would be wonderfully in your way; she is not only prettier than you, but sillier.’
‘And would both those reasons,’ cried Camilla, again laughing, ‘make against me?’
‘O, intolerably, with the men! They are always enchanted with something that is both pretty and silly; because they can so easily please and so soon disconcert it; and when they have made the little blooming fools blush and look down, they feel nobly superior, and pride themselves in victory. Dear creatures! I delight in their taste; for it brings them a plentiful harvest of repentance, when it is their connubial criterion; the pretty flies off, and the silly remains, and a man then has a choice companion for life left on his hands!’
The young Ensign here could no longer be silent: ‘I am sure and certain,’ cried he, warmly, ‘Miss Lynmere is incapable to be a fool! and when she marries, if her husband thinks her so, it’s only a sign he’s a blockhead himself.’
‘He’ll be exactly of your opinion for the first month or two,’ answered Mrs. Arlbery, ‘or even if he is not, he’ll like her just as well. A man looks enchanted while his beautiful young bride talks nonsense; it comes so prettily from her ruby lips, and she blushes and dimples with such lovely attraction while she utters it; he casts his eyes around him with conscious elation to see her admirers, and his enviers; but he has amply his turn for looking like a fool himself, when youth and beauty take flight, and when his ugly old wife exposes her ignorance or folly at every word.’
‘The contrast of beginning and end,’ said the General, ‘is almost always melancholy. But how rarely does any man,-nay, I had nearly said, or any woman-think a moment of the time to come, or of any time but the present day, in marrying?’
‘Except with respect to fortune!’ cried Mrs. Arlbery, ‘and there, methinks, you men, at least, are commonly sufficiently provident. I don’t think reflection is generally what you want in that point.’
‘As to reflection,’ exclaimed Mr. Macdersey, “tis the thing in the world I look upon to be the meanest! a man capable of reflection, where a beautiful young creature is in question, can have no soul nor vitals. For my part, ’tis my only misfortune that I cannot get at that lovely girl, to ask her for her private opinion of me at once, that I might either get a licence tomorrow, or drive her out of my head before sleep overtakes me another night.’
‘Your passions, my good Macdersey,’ said Mrs. Arlbery, ‘considering their violence, seem tolerably obedient. Can you really be so fond, or so forgetful at such short warning?’
‘Yes, but it’s with a pain that breaks my heart every time.’
‘You contrive, however, to get it pretty soon mended!’
‘That, madam, is a power that has come upon me by degrees; I have paid dear enough for it!-nobody ever found it harder than I did at the beginning; for the first two or three times I took my disappointments so to heart, that I should have been bound for ever to any friend that would have had the good nature to blow my brains out.’
‘But now you are so much in the habit of experiencing these little failures, that they pass on as things of course?’
‘No, madam, you injure me, and in the tenderest point; for, as long as I have the least hope, my passion’s as violent as ever; but you would not be so unreasonable as to have a man love on, when it can answer no end? It’s no better than making him unhappy for a joke. There’s no sense in such a thing.’
‘By the way, my dear Miss Tyrold, and apropos to this Miss Lynmere,’ said Mrs. Arlbery, ‘do tell me something about Mr. Mandlebert-what is he?-what does he do always amongst you?’
‘He-he!–’ cried Camilla, stammering, ‘he was a ward of my father’s —’
‘O, I don’t mean all that; but what is his style?-his class?-is he agreeable?’
‘I believe-he is generally thought so.’
‘If he is, do pray, then, draw him into my society, for I am terribly in want of recruits. These poor gentlemen you see here are very good sort of men; but they have a trick of sleeping with their eyes wide open, and fancy all the time they are awake; and, indeed, I find it hard to persuade them to the contrary, though I often ask them for their dreams. By the way, can’t you contrive, some or other amongst you, to make the room a little cooler?’
‘Shall I open this window?’ said the Major.
‘Nay, nay, don’t ask me; I had rather bear six times the heat, than give my own directions: nothing in the world fatigues me so much as telling stupid people how to set about things. Colonel, don’t you see I have no fan?’
‘I’ll fetch it directly-have you left it in the dining-parlour?’
‘Do you really think I would not send a footman at once, if I must perplex myself with all that recollection? My dear Miss Tyrold, did you ever see any poor people, that pretended at all to walk about, and mingle with the rest of the world, like living creatures, so completely lethargic?–’tis really quite melancholy! I am sure you have good nature enough to pity them. It requires my utmost ingenuity to keep them in any employment; and if I left them to themselves, they would stand before the fire all the winter, and lounge upon sofas all the summer. And that indolence of body so entirely unnerves the mind, that they find as little to say as to do. Upon the whole, ’tis really a paltry race, the men of the present times. However, as we have got no better, and as the women are worse, I do all I can to make them less insufferable to me.’
‘And do you really think the women are worse?’ cried Camilla.
‘Not in themselves, my dear; but worse to me, because I cannot possibly take the same liberties with them. Macdersey, I wish I had my salts.’
‘It shall be the happiness of my life to find them, be they hid where they may; only tell me where I may have the pleasure to go and look for them.’
‘Nay, that’s your affair.’
‘Why, then, if they are to be found from the garret to the cellar, be sure I am a dead man, if I do not bring them you!’
This mode of displaying airs and graces was so perfectly new to Camilla, that the commands issued, and the obedience paid, were equally amusing to her. Brought up herself to be contented with whatever came in her way, in preference either to giving trouble, or finding fault, the ridiculous, yet playful wilfulness with which she saw Mrs. Arlbery send every one upon her errands, yet object to what every one performed, presented to her a scene of such whimsical gaiety, that her concern at the accident which had made her innocently violate her intended engagement with Edgar, was completely changed into pleasure, that thus, without any possible self blame, an acquaintance she had so earnestly desired was even by necessity established: and she returned home at night with spirits all revived, and eloquent in praise of her new favourite.
MR. Tyrold, according to the system of recreation which he had settled with his wife, saw with satisfaction the pleasure with which Camilla began this new acquaintance, in the hope it would help to support her spirits during the interval of suspense with regard to the purposes of Mandlebert. Mrs. Arlbery was unknown to him, except by general fame; which told him she was a woman of reputation as well as fashion, and that though her manners were lively, her heart was friendly, and her hand ever open to charity.
Upon admitting Lionel again to his presence, he spoke forcibly, though with brevity, upon the culpability of his conduct. What he had done he said, let him colour it to himself with what levity he might, was not only a robbery, but a robbery of the most atrocious and unjustifiable class; adding terror to violation of property, and playing upon the susceptibility of the weakness and infirmities, which he ought to have been the first to have sheltered and sheathed. Had the action contained no purpose but a frolic, even then the situation of the object on whom it fell, rendered it inhuman; but as its aim and end was to obtain money, it was dishonourable to his character, and criminal by the laws of his country. ‘Yet shudder no more,’ continued he, ‘young man, at the justice to which they make you amenable, than at having deserved, though you escape it! From this day, however, I will name it no more. Feeble must be all I could utter, compared with what the least reflection must make you feel! Your uncle, in a broken state of health, is sent abroad; your mother, though too justly incensed to see you, sacrifices her happiness to serve you!’
Lionel, for a few hours, was in despair after this harangue; but as they passed away, he strove to drive it from his mind, persuading himself it was useless to dwell upon what was irretrievable.
Mrs. Arlbery, the following day, made her visit at Etherington, and invited the two sisters to a breakfast she was to give the next morning. Mr. Tyrold, who with surprize and concern at a coldness so dilatory, found a second day wearing away without a visit from Mandlebert, gladly consented to allow of an amusement, that might shake from Camilla the pensiveness into which, at times, he saw her falling.
Mrs. Arlbery had declared she hated ceremony in the summer; guarded, therefore, by Lionel, the sisters walked to the Grove. From the little hill they had again to pass, they observed a group of company upon the leads of her house, which were flat, and balustraded round; and when they presented themselves at the door, they were met by Major Cerwood, who conducted them to the scene of business.
It was the end of July, and the weather was sultry; but though the height of the place upon which the present party was collected, gave some freshness to the air, the heat reflected from the lead would have been nearly intolerable, had it not been obviated by an awning, and by matts, in the part where seats and refreshments were arranged. French horns and clarinets were played during the repast.
This little entertainment had for motive a young lady’s quitting her boarding school. Miss Dennel, a niece, by marriage, of Mrs. Arlbery, who, at the age of fourteen, came to preside at the house and table of her father, had begged to be felicitated by her aunt, upon the joyful occasion, with a ball: but Mrs. Arlbery declared she never gave any entertainments in which she did not expect to play the principal part herself; and that balls and concerts were therefore excluded from her list of home diversions. It was vastly well to see others shine superior, she said, elsewhere, but she could not be so accommodating as to perform Nobody under her own roof. She offered her, however, a breakfast, with full choice of its cakes and refreshments; which, with leave to fix upon the spot where it should be given, was all the youthful pleader could obtain.
The Etherington trio met with a reception the most polite, and Camilla was distinguished by marks of peculiar favour. Few guests were added to the party she had met there before, except the young lady who was its present foundress; and whose voice she recollected to have heard, in the enquiries which had reached her ear from within the paddock.
Miss Dennel was a pretty, blooming, tall girl, but as childish in intellect as in experience; though self-persuaded she was a woman in both, since she was called from school to sit at the head of her father’s table.
Camilla required nothing further for entertainment than to listen to her new friend; Lavinia, though more amazed than amused, always modestly hung back as a mere looker on; and the company in general made their diversion from viewing, through various glasses, the seats of the neighbouring gentlemen, and reviewing, with yet more scrutiny, their characters and circumstances. But Lionel, ever restless, seized the opportunity to patrol the attic regions of the house, where, meeting with a capacious lumber room, he returned to assure the whole party it would make an admirable theatre, and to ask who would come forth to spout with him.
Mr. Macdersey said, he did not know one word of any part, but he could never refuse anything that might contribute to the company’s pleasure.
Away they sped together, and in a few minutes reversed the face of everything. Old sofas, bedsteads, and trunks, large family chests, deal boxes and hampers, carpets and curtains rolled up for the summer, tables with two legs, and chairs without bottoms, were truckled from the middle to one end of the room, and arranged to form a semi-circle, with seats in front, for a pit. Carpets were then uncovered and untied, to be spread for the stage, and curtains, with as little mercy, were unfurled, and hung up to make a scene.
They then applied to Miss Dennel, who had followed to peep at what they were about, and asked if she thought the audience might be admitted.
She declared she had never seen any place so neat and elegant in her life.
Such an opinion could not but be decisive; and they prepared to re-ascend; when the sight of a small door, near the entrance of the large apartment, excited the ever ready curiosity of Lionel, who, though the key was on the outside, contrived to turn it wrong; but while endeavouring to rectify by force what he had spoilt by aukwardness, a sudden noise from within startled them all, and occasioned quick and reiterated screams from Miss Dennel, who, with the utmost velocity burst back upon the company on the leads, calling out; ‘O Lord! how glad I am I’m coming back alive! Mr. Macdersey and young Mr. Tyrold are very likely killed! for they’ve just found I don’t know how many robbers shut up in a dark closet!’
The gentlemen waited for no explanation to this unintelligible story, but hastened to the spot; and Mrs. Arlbery ordered all the servants who were in waiting to follow and assist.
Miss Dennel then entreated to have the trap door through which they ascended, from a small staircase, to the leads, double locked till the gentlemen should declare upon their honours that the thieves were all dead.
Mrs. Arlbery would not listen to this, but waited with Lavinia and Camilla the event.
The gentlemen, meanwhile, reached the scene of action, at the moment when Macdersey, striking first his foot, and then his whole person against the door, had forced it open with such sudden violence, that he fell over a pail of water into the adjoining room.
The servants arriving at the same time, announced that this was merely a closet for mops, brooms, and pails, belonging to the housemaid: and it appeared, upon examination, that the noise from within, had simply been produced by the falling down of a broom, occasioned by their shaking the door in endeavouring to force the lock.
The Ensign, wetted or splashed all over, was in a fury; and, turning to Lionel, who laughed vociferously, whilst the rest of the gentlemen were scarce less moderate, and the servants joined in the chorus, peremptorily demanded to know if he had put the pail there on purpose; ‘In which case, sir,’ said he, ‘you must never let me see you laugh again to the longest hour you have to live!’
‘My good Macdersey,’ said the General, ‘go into another room, and have your cloaths wiped and dried; it will be time enough then to settle who shall laugh longest.’
‘General,’ said he, ‘I scorn to mind being either wet or dry; a soldier ought to be above such delicate effeminacy: it is not, therefore, the sousing I regard, provided I can once be clear it was not done for a joke.’
Lionel, when he could speak, declared, that far from placing the pail there on purpose, he had not known there was such a closet in the house, nor had ever been up those stairs till they all mounted them together.
‘I am perfectly satisfied, then, my good friend,’ said the Ensign, shaking him by the hand with an heartiness that gave him no small share of the pail’s contents; ‘when a gentleman tells me a thing seriously, I make it a point to believe him; especially if he has a good honest countenance, that assures me he would not refuse me satisfaction, in the case he had meant to make game of me.’
‘And do you always terminate your jests with the ceremony of a tilting match?’ cried Sir Sedley.
‘Yes, Sir! if I’m made a joke of by a man of any honour. For, to tell you a piece of my mind, there’s no one thing upon earth I hate like a joke; unless it’s against another person; and then it only gives me a little joy inwardly; for I make it a point of complaisance not to laugh out: except where I happen to wish for a little private conversation with the person that gives me the diversion.’
‘Facetious in the extreme!’ cried Sir Sedley, ‘an infallibly excellent mode to make a man die of laughter? Droll to the utmost!’
‘With regard to that, Sir, I have no objection to a little wit or humour, provided a person has the politeness to laugh only at himself, and his own particular friends and relations; but if once he takes the liberty to turn me into ridicule, I look upon it as an affront, and expect the proper reparation.’
‘O, to refuse that would be without bowels to a degree!’
Lionel now ran up stairs, to beg the ladies would come and see the theatre; but suddenly exclaimed, as he looked around, ‘Ah ha!’ and hastily galloped down, and to the bottom of the house. Mrs. Arlbery descended with her young party, and the Ensign, in mock heroics, solemnly prostrated himself to Miss Dennel, pouring into her delighted ears, from various shreds and scraps of different tragedies, the most high flown and egregiously ill-adapted compliments: while the Major, less absurdly, though scarce less passionately, made Camilla his Juliet, and whispered the tenderest lines of Romeo.
Lionel presently running, out of breath, up stairs again, cried: ‘Mrs. Arlbery, I have drawn you in a new beau.’
‘Have you?’ cried she, coolly; ‘why then I permit you to draw him out again. Had you told me he had forced himself in, you had made him welcome. But I foster only willing slaves. So off, if you please, with your boast and your beau.’
‘I can’t, upon my word, ma’am, for he is at my heels.’
Mandlebert, at the same moment, not hearing what passed, made his appearance.
The surprised and always unguarded Camilla, uttered an involuntary exclamation, which instantly catching his ear, drew his eye towards the exclaimer, and there fixed it; with an astonishment which suspended wholly his half made bow, and beginning address to Mrs. Arlbery.
Lionel had descried him upon the little hill before the house; where, as he was passing on, his own attention had been caught by the sound of horns and clarinets, just as, without any explanation, Lionel flew to tell him he was wanted, and almost forced him off his horse, and up the stairs.
Mrs. Arlbery, in common with those who dispense with all forms for themselves, exacted them punctiliously from all others. The visit therefore of Mandlebert not being designed for her, afforded her at first no gratification, and produced rather a contrary feeling, when she observed the total absence of all pleasure in the surprise with which he met Camilla at her house. She gave him a reception of cold civility, and then chatted almost wholly with the General, or Sir Sedley.
Edgar scarce saw whether he was received or not; his bow was mechanical, his apology for his intrusion was unintelligible. Amazement at seeing Camilla under this roof, disappointment at her breach of implied promise, and mortification at the air of being at home, which he thought he remarked in her situation, though at an acquaintance he had taken so much pains to keep aloof from her, all conspired to displease and perplex him; and though his eyes could with difficulty look any other way, he neither spoke to nor approached her.
Nor was even thus meeting her all he had to give him disturbance-the palpable devoirs of Major Cerwood incensed as well astonished him; for, under pretext of only following the humour of the day, in affecting to act the hero in love, the Major assailed her, without reserve, with declarations of his passion, which though his words passed off as quotations, his looks and manner made appropriate. How, already, thought Edgar, has he obtained such a privilege? such confidence? To have uttered one such sentence, my tongue would have trembled, my lips would have quivered!
Camilla felt confounded by his presence, from the consciousness of the ill opinion she must excite by this second apparent disregard of a given engagement. She would fain have explained to him it’s history, but she could not free herself from the Major, whose theatrical effusions were not now to be repressed, since, at first, she had unthinkingly attended to them.
Lionel joined with Macdersey in directing similar heroics to Miss Dennel, who, simply enchanted, called out: ‘I’m determined when I’ve a house of my own, I’ll have just such a room as this at the top of it, on purpose to act a play every night.’
‘And when, my dear,’ said Mrs. Arlbery, ‘do you expect to have a house of your own?’
‘O, as soon as I am married, you know.’
‘Is your marrying, then, already decided?’
‘Dear no, not that I know of, aunt. I’m sure I never trouble myself about it; only I suppose it will happen some day or other.’
‘And when it does, you are very sure your husband will approve your acting plays every night?’
‘O, as to that, I shan’t ask him. Whenever I’m married I’ll be my own mistress, that I’m resolved upon. But papa’s so monstrous cross, he says he won’t let me act plays now.’
‘Papas and mamas,’ cried Sir Sedley, ‘are ever most egregiously in the way. ’Tis prodigiously surprising they have never yet been banished society. I know no mark more irrefragable of the supineness of mankind.’
Then rising, and exclaiming: ‘What savage heat! I wish the weather had a little feeling!’ he broke up the party by ordering his curricle, and being the first to depart.
‘That creature,’ cried Mrs. Arlbery, ‘if one had the least care for him, is exactly an animal to drive one mad! He labours harder to be affected than any ploughman does for his dinner. And, completely as his conceit obscures it, he has every endowment nature can bestow, except common sense!’
They now all descended to take leave, except the Ensign and Lionel, who went, arm in arm, prowling about, to view all the garrets, followed on tip-toe by Miss Dennel. Lavinia called vainly after her brother; but Camilla, hoping every instant she might clear her conduct to Edgar, was not sorry to be detained.
They had not, however, been five minutes in the parlour, before a violent and angry noise from above, induced them all to remount to the top of the house; and there, upon entering a garret whence it issued, they saw Miss Dennel, decorated with the Ensign’s cocked hat and feather, yet looking pale with fright; Lionel accoutred in the maid’s cloaths, and almost in a convulsion of laughter; and Macdersey, in a rage utterly incomprehensible, with the coachman’s large bob-wig hanging loose upon his head.
It was sometime before it was possible to gather, that having all paraded into various garrets, in search of adventures, Lionel, after attiring himself in the maid’s gown, cap, and apron, had suddenly deposited upon Miss Dennel’s head the Ensign’s cocked hat, replacing it with the coachman’s best wig upon the toupee of Macdersey; whose resentment was so violent at this liberty, that it was still some minutes before he could give it articulation.
The effect of this full buckled bob-jerom which stuck hollow from the young face and powdered locks of the Ensign, was irresistibly ludicrous; yet he would have deemed it a greater indignity to take it quietly off, than to be viewed in it by thousands; though when he saw the disposition of the whole company to sympathise with Lionel, his wrath rose yet higher, and stamping with passion, he fiercely said to him–‘Take it off, sir!-take it off my head!’
Lionel, holding this too imperious a command to be obeyed, only shouted louder. Macdersey then, incensed beyond endurance, lowered his voice with stifled choler, and putting his arms akimbo, said–‘If you take me for a fool, sir, I shall demand satisfaction: for it’s what I never put up with!’
Then, turning to the rest, he solemnly added–‘I beg pardon of all the worthy company for speaking this little whisper, which certainly I should scorn to do before ladies, if it had not been a secret.’
Mrs. Arlbery, alarmed at the serious consequences now threatening this folly, said–‘No, no; I allow of no secrets in my house, but what are entrusted to myself. I insist, therefore, upon being umpire in this cause.’
‘Madam,’ said Macdersey, ‘I hope never to become such a debased brute of the creation, as to contradict the commands of a fair lady: except when it’s upon a point of honour. But I can’t consent to pass for a fool; and still more not for a poltroon–You’ll excuse the little hint.’
Then, while making a profound and ceremonious bow, his wig fell over his head on the ground.
‘This is very unlucky,’ cried he, with a look of vexation; ‘for certainly, and to be sure no human mortal should have made me take it off myself, before I was righted.’
Camilla, picking it up, to render the affair merely burlesque, pulled off the maid’s cap from her brother’s head, and put on the wig in its place, saying–‘There, Lionel, you have played the part of Lady Wrong Head long enough; be so good now as to perform that of Sir Francis.’
This ended the business, and the whole party, in curricles, on horseback, or on foot, departed from the Grove.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51