CAMILLA was received with the most tender joy by all her family, again re-assembled at Cleves to welcome the return of young Lynmere, who was expected every hour. Sir Hugh, perfectly recovered from his late illness, and busy, notwithstanding all remonstrance, in preparation for the approaching nuptials, was in spirits that exhilarated whoever saw him. Eugenia awaited that event with gentleness, though with varying sensations; from fears, lest her personal misfortunes should prove repulsive to Clermont and from wishes to find him resembling Melmond in talents and Bellamy in passion and constancy.
Dr. Orkborne gave now his lessons with redoubled assiduity, from an ambition to produce to the scholastic traveller, a phenomenon of his own workmanship in a learned young female: nor were his toils less ready, nor less pleasant, for a secret surmise they would shortly end; though not till honour should be united with independence, for his recompence. But Miss Margland fretted that this wedding would advance no London journey; and Indiana could not for a moment recover from her indignation, that the deformed and ugly Eugenia, though two years younger than herself, should be married before her. Lavinia had no thought but for the happiness of her sister; and Mr. Tyrold lamented the absence of his wife, who, alike from understanding and affection, was the only person to properly superintend this affair, but from whom Dr. Marchmont, just arrived, brought very faint hopes of a speedy return.
Eugenia, however, was not the sole care of her father, at this period. The countenance of Camilla soon betrayed, to his inquiring eyes, the inefficacy of the Tunbridge journey. But he forbore all question; and left to time or her choice to unravel, if new incidents kept alive her inquietude, or, if no incident at all had been equally prejudicial to her repose.
Two days after, while Camilla, still astonished by no news, nor sight of Edgar, was sitting with her sisters, and recounting to them her late adventures, and present difficulties, with Sir Sedley Clarendel, Jacob brought her, in its own superb bird-cage, the learned little bullfinch; telling her, it had been delivered to him without any message, by a man who said she had left it, by mistake, at Tunbridge; whence he had had orders to follow her with it to Cleves park.
She was much provoked thus to receive it. Mrs. Arlbery had pressed her to take it in her uncle’s chaise, which she had firmly refused; and she now concluded this method was adopted, that Sir Sedley might imagine she detained it as his gift.
In drawing out, soon after, the receptacle for the bird’s nourishment, she perceived, written with a pencil upon the wood, these words: ‘Thou art gone then, fair fugitive! Ah! at least, fly only where thou mayst be pursued!’
This writing had not been visible till the machine was taken out to be replenished. She recollected the hand of Sir Sedley, and was now sure it was sent by himself, and could no longer, therefore, doubt his intentions being serious.
With infinite perplexity she consulted with her sisters; but, when candidly she had related, that once, to her never-ending regret, she had apparently welcomed his civilities, Eugenia pronounced her rectitude to be engaged by that error, as strongly as her gratitude by the preservation of her life, and the extraordinary service done to Lionel, not to reject the young baronet, should he make his proposals.
She heard this opinion with horror. Timid shame, and the counsel of her father, united to impede her naming the internal obstacle which she felt to be insurmountable; and, while casting up, in silence, her appealing eyes to Heaven for relief, from the intricacy in which she found herself involved, she saw Lionel galloping into the park.
She flew to meet him, and he dismounted, and led his horse, to walk with her.
She flattered herself, she might now represent the mischief he was doing, and obtain from him some redress. But he was more wild and impracticable than ever. ‘Well, my dear girl,’ he cried, ‘when are all these betterings and worsings to take place? Numps has sent for me to see poor little Greek and Latin hobble to the altar, but, ’tis a million to one, if our noble baronet does not whisk you there before her. He’s a charming fellow faith. I had a good long confab with him this morning.’
‘This morning? I hope, then, you were so good, so just, as to tell him when you mean to pay the money you have borrowed?’
‘My dear child, I often think you were born but yesterday, only, by some accident, you came into the world, like Minerva, grown up and ready dressed. What makes you think I mean to pay him? Have I given him any bond?’
‘A bond? Is that necessary to justice and honour?’
‘If I had asked the money, you are right, my dear; I ought, then, certainly, to refund. But, as it now stands, ’tis his own affair. I have nothing to do with it: except, indeed, receiving the dear little golden boys, and making merry with them.’
‘O fie, Lionel, fie!’
‘Why, what had I to do with it? Do you think he would care one fig if he saw me sunk to the bottom of the Red Sea? No, my dear, no, you are the little debtor; so balance your accounts for yourself, and don’t cast them upon your poor neighbours, who have full enough to settle of their own.’
Camilla was thunderstruck; ‘And have you been so cruel,’ she cried, ‘seeing the matter in such a light, to place me in such a predicament?’
‘Cruel, my dear girl? why, what will it cost you, except dimple or two the more? And don’t you know you always look best when you smile? I assure you, it’s a mercy he don’t see you when you are giving me one of my lectures. It disfigures you so horribly, that he’d take fright and never speak to you again.’
‘What can I ever say, to make you hear me, or feel for me? Tell me, at least, what has passed this morning; and assure me that nothing new, nothing yet worse, has occurred.’
‘O no, nothing at all. All is in the fairest train possible. I dare say, he’ll come hither, upon the grand question, before sun-set.’
Camilla gasped for breath, and was some time before she could ask whence he drew such a conclusion.
‘O, because I see he’s in for it. I have a pretty good eye, my dear! He said, too, he had such a prodigious . . . friendship, I think he called it, for you, that he was immeasurably happy, and all that, to be of the least service to your brother. A fine fellow, upon my word! a fine generous spark as ever I saw. He charged me to call upon him freely when I had any little embarrassment, or difficulty, or was hard run, or things of that sort. He’s a fine buck, I tell you, and knows the world perfectly, that I promise you. He’s none of your drivellers, none of your ignoramuses. He has the true notion of things. He’s just a right friend for me. You could not have made a better match.’
Camilla, in the most solemn manner, protested herself disengaged in thought, word, and deed; and declared her fixed intention so to continue. But he only laughed at her declarations, calling them maidenly fibs; and, assuring her, the young baronet was so much in earnest, she might as well be sincere as not. ‘Besides,’ he added, “tis not fair to trifle where a man behaves so handsomely and honourably. Consider the Â£200!’
‘I shall quite lose my senses, Lionel!’ cried she, in an agony; ‘I shall quite lose my senses if you speak in this manner!’
Lionel shouted aloud; ‘Why, my dear girl, what is Â£200 to Sir Sedley Clarendel? You talk as if he had twenty pound a-year for pin-money, like you and Lavinia, that might go with half a gown a-year, if good old Numps did not help you. Why, he’s as rich as Croesus, child. Besides, he would have been quite affronted if I had talked of paying him such a trifle, for he offered me any thing I pleased. O, he knows the world, I promise you! He’s none of your starched prigs. He knows life, my dear! He said, he could perfectly conceive how hard it must be to a lad of spirit, like me, to be always exact. I don’t know that I ever made a more agreeable acquaintance in my life.’
Camilla was in an agitation that made him regard her, for a moment, with a serious surprise; but his natural levity soon resumed its post, and, laughing at himself for being nearly, he said, taken in, by her childish freaks, he protested he would bite no more: ‘For, after all, you must not think to make a fool of me, my dear. It won’t do. I’m too knowing. Do you suppose, if he had not already made up his mind to the noose, and was not sure you had made up yours to letting it be tied, he would have cared for poor me, and my scrapes? No, no; whatever he does for me, before you are married, you may set down in your own memorandum book: whatever he may please to do afterwards, I am content should be charged to poor Pillgarlic.’
He then bid her good-morrow, by the name of Lady Clarendel; and said, he would go and see if little Greek and Latin were as preposterous a prude about young Lynmere.
Camilla remained almost petrified with amazement at her own situation; and only was deterred from immediately opening her whole heart and affairs to her father, with the confidence to which his indulgence entitled him, by the impossibility of explaining her full distress without betraying her brother.
THE next morning, Camilla, eager to try once more her influence with her brother, accompanied him into the park, and renewed her remonstrances, but with no better success; and while they were passing by a private gate, that opened to the high road, they saw Sir Sedley Clarendel driving by in his phaeton.
Lionel, bursting from his sister, opened the gate, called to Sir Sedley to give his reins to one of his servants, and brought him, not unwilling, though much surprised, into the park.
Camilla, in dismay unspeakable at this conduct, and the idea of such a meeting, had run forward instantly to hide herself in the summer-house, to avoid re-passing the gate in her way to the mansion; but her scheme was more precipitate than wise; Lionel caught a glimpse of her gown as she went into the little building, and shouted aloud: ‘Look! look! Sir Sedley! there’s Camilla making believe to run away from you!’
‘Ah, fair fugitive!’ cried the baronet, springing forward, and entering the summer-house almost as soon as herself, ‘fly only thus, where you may be pursued!’
Camilla, utterly confounded, knew not where to cast her eyes, where to hide her face; and her quick-changing colour, and short-heaved breath, manifested an excess of confusion, that touched, flattered, and penetrated the baronet so deeply and so suddenly, as to put him off from all guard of consequences, and all recollection of matrimonial distaste: ‘Beautiful, resistless Camilla!’ he cried; ‘how vain is it to struggle against your witchery! Assure me but of your clemency, and I will adore the chains that shackle me!’
Camilla, wholly overcome, by sorrow, gratitude, repentance, and shame, sunk upon a chair, and shed a torrent of tears that she even sought not to restrain. The shock of refusing one, to whose error in believing himself acceptable she had largely contributed, or the horror of yielding to him her hand, while her heart was in the possession of another, made her almost wish, at this moment, he should divine her distress, that his own pride might conclude it.
But far different from what would produce such an effect, were the feelings of pride now working in his bosom. He imagined her emotion had its source in causes the softest and most flattering. Every personal obstacle sunk before this idea, and with a seriousness in his manner he had not yet used: ‘This evening, lovely Camilla,’ he cried, ‘let me beg, for this evening, the audience accorded me upon that which I lost at Tunbridge.’
He was then going; but Camilla, hastily rising, cried, ‘Sir Sedley, I beseech . . . ’ when Lionel capering into the little apartment, danced round it in mad ecstasy, chanting ‘Lady Clarendel, Lady Clarendel, my dear Lady Clarendel!’
Camilla now was not confused alone. Sir Sedley himself could gladly have pushed him out of the building; but neither the looks of surprise and provocation of the baronet, nor the prayers nor reprimands of Camilla, could tame his wild transport. He shook hands, whether he would or not, with the one; he bowed most obsequiously, whether she would regard him or not, to the other; and still chanting the same burden, made a clamour that shook the little edifice to its foundation.
The strong taste for ridicule, that was a prominent part of the character of Sir Sedley, was soon conquered by. this ludicrous behaviour, and both his amazement and displeasure ended in a hearty fit of laughter. But Camilla suffered too severely to join in the mirth; she blushed for her brother, she blushed for herself, she hung her head in speechless shame, and covered her eyes with her hand.
The noisy merriment of Lionel preventing any explanation, though rendering it every moment more necessary, Sir Sedley, repeating his request for the evening, took leave.
Camilla looked upon his departing in this manner as her sentence of misery, and was pursuing him, to decline the visit; but Lionel, seizing her two hands, swung her round the room, in defiance of her even angry expostulations and sufferings, which he neither credited nor conceived, and then skipt after the baronet himself, who was already out of the park.
She became now nearly frantic. She thought herself irretrievably in the power of Sir Sedley, and by means so forced and indelicate, that she was scarcely more afflicted at the event, than shocked by its circumstances; and though incapable to really harbour rancour against a brother she sincerely loved, she yet believed at this moment she never should forgive, nor willingly see him more.
In this state she was found by Lavinia. The history was inarticulately told, but Lavinia could give only her pity; she saw not any avenue to an honourable retreat, and thought, like Eugenia, she could now only free herself by the breach of what should be dearer to her even than happiness, her probity and honour.
Utterly inconsolable she remained, till again she heard the voice of Lionel, loudly singing in the park.
‘Go to him! go to him! my dearest Lavinia,’ she cried, ‘and, if my peace is dear to you, prevail with him to clear up the mistakes of Sir Sedley, and to prevent his dreaded, killing visit this evening!’
Lavinia only answered by compliance; but, after an half hour’s useless contest with her riotous brother, returned to her weeping sister, not merely successless with regard to her petition, but loaded with fresh ill tidings that she knew not how to impart. Lionel had only laughed at the repugnance of Camilla, which he regarded as something between childishness and affectation, and begged Lavinia to be wiser than to heed to it: ‘Brother Sedley has desired me, however,’ he added, ‘not to speak of the matter to Numps nor my father, till he has had a little more conversation with his charmer; and he intends to call to-night as if only upon a visit to me.’
When Camilla learnt, at length, this painful end of her embassy, she gave herself up so completely to despair, that Lavinia, affrighted, ran to the house for Eugenia, whose extreme youth was no impediment, in the minds of her liberal sisters, to their belief nor reverence of her superior wisdom. Her species of education had early prepossessed them with respect for her knowledge, and her unaffected fondness for study, had fixed their opinion of her extraordinary understanding. The goodness of her heart, the evenness of her temper, and her natural turn to contemplation, had established her character alike for sanctity and for philosophy throughout the family.
She listened with the sincerest commiseration to the present state of the case: ‘Certainly,’ she cried, ‘you cannot, in honour, now refuse him; but deal with him sincerely, and he may generously himself relinquish his claims. Write to him, my dear Camilla; tell him you grieve to afflict, yet disdain to deceive him; assure him of your perfect esteem and eternal gratitude; but confess, at once, your heart refuses to return his tenderness. Entreat him to forgive whatever he may have mistaken, and nobly to restore to you the liberty of which your obligations, without his consent, must rob you.’
To Lavinia this advice appeared infallible; but Camilla, though she felt an entanglement which fettered herself, thought it by no means sufficiently direct or clear to authorise a rejection of Sir Sedley; since, strangely as she seemed in his power, circumstances had placed her there, and not his own solicitation.
Yet to prevent a visit of which her knowledge seemed consent, and which her consent must be most seriously to authorise, she deemed as indispensable to her character, as to her fears. She hesitated, therefore, not a moment in preferring writing to a meeting; and after various conversations, and various essays, the following billet was dispatched to Clarendel Place, through the means of Molly Mill, and by her friend Tommy Hodd.
To Sir Sedley Clarendel.
I SHOULD ill return what I owe to Sir Sedley Clarendel by causing him any useless trouble I can spare him. He spoke of a visit hither this evening, when I was too much hurried to represent that it could not be received, as my brother’s residence is at Etherington, and my father and my uncle have not the honour to be known to Sir Sedley. For me, my gratitude must ever be unalterable; and where accident occasions a meeting, I shall be most happy to express it; but I have nothing to say, nothing to offer, that could recompense one moment of Sir Sedley’s time given voluntarily to such a visit.
Ill as this letter satisfied her, she could devise nothing better; but though her sisters had both thought it too rigorous, she would not risk anything gentler.
During the dinner, they all appeared absent and dejected; but Sir Hugh attributed it to the non-arrival of Clermont, in watching for whom his own time was completely occupied, by examining two weather-cocks, and walking from one to the other, to see if they agreed, or how they changed; Indiana was wholly engrossed in consultations with Miss Margland, upon the most becoming dress for a bride’s maid; and Mr. Tyrold, having observed that his three girls had spent the morning together, concluded Camilla had divulged to them her unhappy perplexity, and felt soothed himself in considering she had soothers so affectionate and faithful.
Early in the evening Tommy Hodd arrived, and Molly Mill brought Camilla the following answer of Sir Sedley.
To Miss Camilla Tyrold.
AH! what in this lower sphere can be unchequered, when even a correspondence with the most lovely of her sex, brings alarm with its felicity? Must I come, then, to Cleves, fair Insensible, but as a visitor to Mr. Lionel? Have you taken a captive only to see him in fetters? Allured a victim merely to behold him bleed? Ah! tomorrow, at least, permit the audience that today is denied, and at your feet, let your slave receive his doom.
Camilla turned cold. She shrunk from a remonstrance she conceived she had merited, and regarded herself to be henceforth either culpable or unhappy. Unacquainted with the feminine indulgence which the world, by long prescription, grants to coquetry, its name was scarcely known to her; and she saw in its own native egotism the ungenerous desire to please, where she herself was indifferent, and anticipated from Sir Sedley reproach, if not contempt. No sophistications of custom had warped the first innocence of her innate sense of right, and to trifle with the feelings of another for any gratification of her own, made success bring a blush to her integrity, not exultation to her vanity.
The words victim and bleeding, much affected the tender Lavinia, while those of fetters, captive, and insensible, satisfied the heroic Eugenia that Sir Sedley deserved the hand of her sister; but neither of them spoke.
‘You say nothing?’ cried Camilla, turning paler and paler, and sitting down lest she should fall.
They both wept and embraced her, and Eugenia said, if, indeed, she could not conquer her aversion, she saw no way to elude the baronet, but by openly confessing her repugnance, in the conversation he demanded.
Camilla saw not less strongly the necessity of being both prompt and explicit; but how receive Sir Sedley at Cleves? and upon what pretence converse with him privately? Even Lionel the next day was to return to the university, though his presence, if he staid, would, in all probability, but add to every difficulty.
At length, they decided, that the conference should take place at the Grove; and to prevent the threatened visit of the next day, Camilla wrote the following answer:
To Sir Sedley Clarendel.
I SHOULD be grieved, indeed, to return my obligations to Sir Sedley Clarendel by meriting his serious reproach; yet I cannot have the honour of seeing him at Cleves, since my brother is immediately quitting it for Oxford. As soon as I hear Mrs. Arlbery is again at the Grove, I shall wait upon her, and always be most happy to assure Sir Sedley of my gratitude, which will be as lasting as it is sincere.
Though wretched in this strange state of things, she knew not how to word her letter more positively, since his own, notwithstanding its inferences, had so much more the style of florid gallantry than plain truth. Molly Mill undertook that Tommy Hodd should carry it early the next morning.
Lionel was so enraged at the non-appearance of the young baronet at night, that Camilla was compelled to confess she had promised to see him, and to give him his answer at Mrs. Arlbery’s . He was out of humour, nevertheless, lest Sir Sedley should be affronted by the delay, and feared that the best match in the whole county would prove abortive, from his sister’s foolish trimmings, and silly ignorance of life.
THE increasing depression of Camilla, and the melancholy of her sympathising sisters, though still attributed to the adverse wind by the compass-watching baronet, escaped not the notice of Mr. Tyrold; who, alarmed for the peace of his daughter, determined to watch for the first quiet opportunity of investigating her actual situation.
Lionel, after breakfast, the next morning, was obliged to relinquish waiting for Clermont, and to set off for Oxford. He contrived to whisper to Camilla, that he hoped she would be a good girl at last, and not play the fool; but, finding she only sighed, he laughed at her calamitous state, in becoming mistress of fifteen thousand per annum, only by the small trouble of running over a short ceremony; and, assuring her he would assist her off with part of the charge, if it were too heavy for her, bid her inform him in time of the propitious day.
Camilla, shortly after, saw from her window, galloping full speed across the park to the house, Major Cerwood. She suspected her tormenting brother to have been again at work; nor was she mistaken. He had met with the Major at the hotel at Tunbridge, while his spirits, always violent, were in a state of almost intoxication of delight, at the first idea of such an accession to his powers of amusement, as a new brother rolling in immense wealth, which he already considered as nearly at his own disposal. High wrought, therefore, for what he deemed good sport, he confirmed what he had asserted at the ball at Northwick, of the expectations of Camilla from Sir Hugh, by relating the public fact, of her having been announced, to the family and neighbourhood, for his uncle’s heiress, at ten years of age; and only sinking, in his account, the revocation made so soon after in favour of Eugenia. To this, he added his advice, that no time was to be lost, as numberless new suitors were likely to pursue her from Tunbridge.
The Major, upon alighting, inquired for Sir Hugh, deeming Mr. Tyrold of little consequence, since it was not from him Camilla was to inherit her fortune.
The baronet, as usual, was watching the winds and the clouds; but, concluding whoever came would bring some news from Clermont, received the Major with the utmost cordiality, saying: ‘I see, sir, you are a stranger; by which I suppose you to be just come from abroad; where, I hope, you left all well?’
‘I am just come, sir,’ answered the Major, ‘from Tunbridge, where I had the honour, through my acquaintance with Mrs. Arlbery, of meeting daily with your charming niece; an honour, sir, which must cause all the future happiness or misery of my life.’
He then made a declaration, in form, of the most ardent passion for Camilla; mentioned his family, which was an honourable one; talked of his expectations with confidence, though vaguely; and desired to leave the disposition of the settlement wholly to the baronet; who, he hoped, would not refuse to see his elder brother, a gentleman of fortune in Lincolnshire, who would have the honour to wait upon him, at any time he would be so good as to appoint, upon this momentous affair.
Sir Hugh heard this harangue with consternation. The Major was in the prime of life, his person was good, his speech was florid, his air was assured, and his regimentals were gay. Not a doubt of his success occurred to the baronet; who saw, in one blow, the darling scheme of his old age demolished, in the deprivation of Camilla.
The Major impatiently waited for an answer; but Sir Hugh was too much disordered to frame one; he walked up and down the room, muttering in a desponding mariner, to himself, ‘Lord, help us! what a set of poor weak mortals we are, we poor men! The best schemes and plans in the world always coming to nothing before we can bring them about! I’ll never form another while I live, for the sake of this one warning. Nobody knows, next, but what Clermont will be carrying off Eugenia to see foreign parts! and then comes some other of these red-coats to take away Indiana; and, after doing all for the best so long, I may be left all alone, except just for Mrs. Margland and the Doctor! that I don’t take much pleasure in, Lord help me! except as a Christian, which I hope is no sin.’
At length, endeavouring to compose himself, he sat down, and said, ‘So you are come, sir, to take away from me my own particular little niece? which is a hard thing upon an uncle, intending her to live with him. However, I don’t mean to find fault; but I can tell you this one thing, sir, which I beg you to remember; which is, if you don’t make her happy, you’ll break my heart! For she’s what I love the best in the world, little as I’ve made it appear, by not leaving her a shilling. For which sake, however, I can’t but respect you the more for coming after her, instead of Eugenia.’
‘Sir?’ cried the Major, amazed.
‘The other two chaps,’ continued he, ‘that came about us not long ago, wanted to make their court to Eugenia and Indiana; as well as another that came to the house when I was ill, in the same coat as yourself, by what I can gather from the description; but never a one has come to Camilla yet, except yourself, because my brother can spare her but a trifle, having another young girl to provide for, besides Lionel; which is the most expensive of them all, poor boy! never having enough, by the reason Oxford is so dear, as I suppose.’
The Major now wore an air of surprise and uneasiness that Sir Hugh began to observe, but attributed to his unpleasant reception of his proposals. He begged his pardon, therefore, and again assured him of his respect for a choice so little mercenary, which he looked upon as a mark of a good heart.
The Major, completely staggered, and suspecting the information of Lionel to be ill grounded, if not purposely deluding, entreated his permission to wait upon him again; and offered for the present to take leave.
Sir Hugh, in a melancholy voice, said, he would first summon his niece, as he could not answer it to his conscience preventing the meeting, unless she gave him leave.
He then rang the bell, and told Jacob to call Camilla.
Major Cerwood was excessively distressed. To retreat seemed impossible; yet to connect himself without fortune, when he thought he was addressing a rich heiress, was a turn of fate he scarcely knew how either to support or to parry. All that, in this haste, he could resolve, was, to let the matter pass for the moment, and then insist upon satisfaction from Lionel, either in clearing up the mistake, or taking upon himself its blame.
When Camilla appeared, the disturbance of Sir Hugh still augmented; and he could hardly articulate, ‘My dear, in the case you are willing to leave your family, here’s a gentleman come to make his addresses to you; which I think it right you should know, though how I shall struggle through it, if I lose you, is more than my poor weak head can tell; for what shall I do without my dear little girl, that I thought to make the best comfort of my old age? which, however, I beg you not to think of, in case this young Captain’s more agreeable.’
‘Ah! my dear uncle!’ cried she, ‘your Camilla can never return half the comfort she receives from you! keep me with you still, and ever! I am much obliged to Major Cerwood. I beg him to accept my sincerest thanks; but to pardon me, when I assure him, they are all I have to offer him.’
Repulse was not new to the Major; who, in various country towns, had sought to retrieve his affairs by some prudent connection; his pride, however, had never so little suffered as on the present occasion, for his apprehension of error or imposition had removed from him all thought of even the possibility of a refusal; which, now, therefore, unexpectedly and joyfully obviated his embarrassment, and enabled him to quit the field by an honourable retreat. He bowed profoundly, called himself, without knowing what he said, the most unhappy of men; and, without risking one solicitation, or a moment for repentance, hastily took leave, with intention, immediately, to demand an explanation of Lionel.
But he had not escaped a mile from the house, ere he gave up that design, from anticipating the ridicule that might follow it. To require satisfaction for a young lady’s want of fortune, however reasonable, would always be derided as ludicrous. He resolved, therefore, quietly to put up with the rejection; and to gather his next documents concerning the portion of a fair damsel, from authority better to be relied upon than that of a brother.
Sir Hugh, for some time, discovered not that he had retired. Enchanted by so unexpected a dismission, his favourite scheme of life seemed accorded to him, and he pressed Camilla to his bosom, in a transport of joy. ‘We shall live together, now, I hope,’ he cried, ‘without any of these young chaps coming in again to part us. Not that I would object to your marrying, my dear girl, if it was with a relation, like Eugenia, or, with a neighbour, like Indiana, if it had not been for its going off; but to see you taken away from me by a mere stranger, coming from distant parts, and knowing nothing of any of us, is a thing that makes my heart ache but to think of; so I hope it will happen no more; for these trials do no good to my recovery.’
Turning round, then, with a view to say something consolatory to the Major, he was seriously concerned to find him departed. ‘I can’t say,’ he cried, ‘I had any intention to send him off so short, his meaning not being bad, considering him in the light of a person in love; which is a time when a man has not much thought, except for himself, by what I can gather.’
He then proposed a walk, to watch if Clermont were coming. The wind, he acknowledged, was indeed contrary; but, he did not doubt, upon such a particular occasion, his good lad would not mind such difficulties.
SIR HUGH called upon his other nieces to join him; purposing to stroll to the end of a lane which led to the London road.
Camilla accompanied the party in the most mournful silence. The assuming letter she had received; the interview she should have to sustain; and her apparent dependance upon Sir Sedley, sinking her into complete despondence.
When they came to the high road, Sir Hugh made a stop, and bid every body look sharp.
A horseman was seen advancing full gallop. By his figure he appeared to be young; by his pace, in uncommon speed.
‘That’s him,’ cried Sir Hugh, striking his stick upon the ground, and smiling most complacently; ‘I said he would not mind the wind, my dear Eugenia! what’s the wind, or the waves either, to a lover? which is a thing, however, that I won’t talk about; so don’t be ashamed, my dear girl, nobody knowing what we mean.’
Eugenia looked down, deeply colouring, and much regretting the lameness that prevented her running back, to avoid so public and discountenancing a meeting.
The horseman now came up to them, and was preparing to turn down the lane; when, all at once, they perceived him to be Edgar Mandlebert.
He had left Tunbridge in a manner not more abrupt than comfortless. His disappointment in the failure of Camilla at the Rooms had been as bitter, as his expectations from the promised conference had been animated. When Lionel appeared, he inquired if his sister were absent from illness. . . . No; she was only writing a letter. To take this moment for such a purpose, be the letter what it might, seemed sporting with his curiosity and warm interest in her affairs: and he went back, mortified and dejected, to his lodgings; where, just arrived by the stage, he found a letter from Dr. Marchmont, acquainting him with his return to his rectory. In this suspensive state of mind, to cast himself upon his sagacious friend seemed a relief the most desirable: but, while considering whether first to claim from Camilla her promised communication, the voice of Lionel issuing from the room of Major Cerwood, struck his ears. He darted forth, and accompanied the youth to his horse, who was setting out upon some expedition, in the dark; and then received information, under the pretence of great secrecy, that Major Cerwood was going immediately to ask leave of absence, and proceed straight to Hampshire, with his final proposals of marriage with Camilla. He now concluded this was the subject upon which she had meant to consult with him; but delicacy, pride, and hope all combated his interference. He determined even to avoid her, till the answer should be given. ‘I must owe her hand,’ cried he, ‘to her heart, not to a contest such as this: and, if impartially and unbiassed, the Major is refused, no farther cruel doubt, no torturing hesitation, shall keep me another minute from her feet!’ With the dawn, therefore, he set out for Hampshire; but, fixed to avoid Cleves, till he could learn that the Major’s visit were over, he devoted his mornings to rides, and his evenings to Dr. Marchmont, till now, a mile or two from the Park, he had met the Major himself, and concluded the acceptance or the rejection decided. They merely touched their hats as they passed each other; and he instantly took the route which the Major was quitting.
In the excess of his tribulation, he was galloping past the whole group, without discerning one of its figures; when Sir Hugh called out, ‘Why it’s young Mr. Edgar! So now we’ve walked all this way for nothing! and Clermont may be still at Jericho, or at Rome, for anything we know to the contrary!’
Edgar stopt short. He felt himself shiver at sight of Camilla, but dismounted, gave his horse to his groom, and joined the party.
Eugenia recovering, now fearlessly looked up; but Camilla, struck and affected, shook in every limb, and was forced to hold by Lavinia.
Edgar called upon his utmost presence of mind to carry him through what he conceived to be a final trial. He spoke to Sir Hugh, and compelled himself to speak separately to every one else; but, when he addressed Camilla, to whom he said something not very distinctly, about Tunbridge, she curtsied to him slightly, and turned away, without making any answer. Her mind, taking suddenly a quick retrospection of all that had passed between them, presented him to her view as uncertain and delusive; and, casting upon him, internally, the whole odium of her present distress, and her feelings were so indignant, that, in her present desperate state, she deemed it beneath her to disguise them, either from himself or the world.
Edgar, to whose troubled imagination everything painted his rival, concluded the Major had been heard with favour; and his own adverse counsel was now recollected with resentment.
Sir Hugh, far more fatigued by his disappointment than by his walk, said he should go no further, as he found it in vain to expect Clermont; and accepted the arm of Edgar to aid his stick in helping him home.
Camilla, still leaning upon Lavinia, mounted a little bank, which she knew Sir Hugh could not ascend, that she might walk on where Edgar could not join her; involuntarily ejaculating, ‘Lavinia! if you would avoid deceit and treachery, look at a man as at a picture, which tells you only the present moment! Rely upon nothing of time to come! They are not like us, Lavinia. They think themselves free, if they have made no verbal profession; though they may have pledged themselves by looks, by actions, by attentions, and by manners, a thousand, and a thousand times!’
Edgar observed her avoidance with the keenest apprehension; and, connecting it with her failure at the Rooms, imagined the Major had now influenced her to an utter aversion of him.
Sir Hugh meanwhile, though wholly unheard, related, in a low voice, to Edgar, the history of his preparations for Clermont; begging him, however, to take no notice of them to Eugenia: and, then, adding, ‘Very likely, Mr. Edgar, you are just come from Tunbridge? and, if so, you may have met with that young Captain that has been with us this morning; who, I understand to be a Major?’
Edgar was thrown into the utmost trepidation; the artless openness of Sir Hugh gave him every reason to suppose he should immediately gather full intelligence, and all his peace and all his hopes might hang upon another word. He could only bow to the question; but before Sir Hugh could go on, a butcher’s boy, who was riding by, from a wanton love of mischief, gave a signal to his attending bull-dog, to attack the old spaniel that accompanied Sir Hugh.
Sustained by his master many a year, the proud old favourite though unequal to the combat, disdained to fly; and the fierce bull-dog would presently have demolished him, had not Edgar, recovering all his vigour from his earnest desire to rescue an animal so dear to Sir Hugh, armed himself with the baronet’s stick, and thrust it dexterously across the jaws of this intended antagonist.
Nothing, however, could withstand the fangs of the bull-dog; they soon severed it, and, again, he made at the spaniel; but Edgar rushed between them, with no other weapons than the broken fragments of the stick: and, while the baronet and Eugenia screamed out to old Rover to return to them, and Lavinia, with more readiness of common sense, exerted the fullest powers of which her gentle voice was capable, to conjure the wicked boy to call off his dog, Camilla, who was the last to look round at this scene, only turned about as the incensed and disappointed bull-dog, missing his object, aimed at Edgar himself. Roused at once from her, sullen calm to the most agonising sensibility, every thing and every body, herself most of all, were forgotten in the sight of his danger; and, with a piercing shriek, she darted down the bank, and arrived at the tremendous spot, at the same instant that the more useful exhortations of Lavinia, had induced the boy to withdraw the fierce animal; who, with all his might, and all his fury, obeyed the weak whistle of a little urchin he had been bred to love and respect, for bringing him his daily food.
Camilla perceived not if the danger were impending, or over; gasping, pale, and agitated, she caught Mandlebert by the arm, and, in broken accents, half pronounced, ‘O Edgar! . . . are you hurt?’
The revulsion that had operated in her mind took now its ample turn in that of Mandlebert; he could hardly trust his senses, hardly believe he existed; yet he felt the pressure of her hand upon his arm, and saw in her countenance terror the most undisguised, and tenderness that went straight to his soul. ‘Is it Camilla,’ he cried, ‘who thus speaks to me? . . . Is not my safety or my destruction alike indifferent to Camilla?’
‘O no! O no!’ cried she, scarce conscious she answered at all till called to recollection by his own changed looks; changed from incredulity and amazement to animation that lightened up every feature, to eyes that shot fire. Abashed, astonished, ashamed, she precipitately drew away her hand, and sought quietly to retire.
But Edgar was no longer master of himself; he conceived he was on a pinnacle, whence he could only, and without any gradation, turn to happiness or despair. He followed her, trembling and uncertain, his joy fading into alarm at her retreat, his hope transforming into apprehension at her resumed coldness of demeanor. ‘Do you repent,’ he cried, ‘that you have shewn me a little humanity? . . . will the Major . . . the happy Major!.. be offended you do less than detest me?’
‘The Major!’ repeated she, looking back, surprised, ‘can you think the Major has any influence with me?’
‘Ah, Heaven!’ he cried, ‘what do you say!’
Enchanted, affrighted, bewildered, yet silent, she hurried on; Edgar could not forget himself more than a moment; he forbore, therefore, to follow, and, though with a self-denial next to torture, returned to Sir Hugh, to whom his arm was doubly necessary, from the scene he had just witnessed, and the loss of his stick.
The butcher’s boy and his bull-dog were decamped; and the baronet and Eugenia were rivalling each other in fondling the rescued spaniel, and in pouring thanks and praise unlimited upon Edgar.
They then walked back as before; and, as soon as they re-entered the mansion, the female party went upstairs, and Sir Hugh, warmly shaking Edgar by the hand, said: ‘My dear Mr. Edgar, this is one of the happiest days of my life, except just that of my nephew’s coming over, which it is but right to put before it. But here, first, my dear Camilla’s refused that young Captain, who would have carried her the Lord knows where, immediately, as I make no doubt; and next, I’ve saved the life of my poor old Rover, by the means of your good-nature.’
‘Refused?’ cried Edgar; ‘my dear Sir Hugh!-did you say refused?’
Sir Hugh innocently gratified him with the repetition of the word, but begged him not to mention it, ‘For fear,’ he said, ‘it should hurt the young man when he falls in love somewhere else; which I heartily hope he will do soon, poor gentleman! for the sake of its not fretting him.’
‘Miss Camilla, then, has refused him?’ again repeated Edgar, with a countenance that, to any man but the baronet, must have betrayed his whole soul.
‘Yes, poor gentleman! this very morning; for which I am thankful enough: for what do we know of those young officers, who may all be sent to the East Indies, or Jamaica, every day of their lives? Not but what I have the proper pity for him, which, I hope, is all that can be expected.’
Edgar walked about the room, in a perturbation of hope, fear, and joy, that disabled him from all further appearance of attention. He wished to relate this transaction to Dr. Marchmont, yet dreaded any retarding advice; he languished to make Camilla herself the sole mistress of his destiny: the interest she had shewn for his safety seemed to admit but one interpretation; and, finally, he resolved to stay at Cleves till he could meet with her alone.
Camilla had not uttered a word after the adventure of the bull-dog. The smallest idea that she could excite the least emotion in, Edgar, brought a secret rapture to her heart, that, at any former period, would alone have sufficed to render her happy: but, at this instant of entanglement with another, she revolted from the indulgence of such pleasure; and instead of dwelling, as she would have done before, on the look, the accent, the manner, that were susceptible, by any construction, of partiality, she checked every idea that did not represent Edgar as unstable and consistent; and sought with all her power, to regard him as Mrs. Arlbery had painted him, and to believe him, except in a few casual moments of caprice, insensible and hard of heart.
Yet this entanglement, in which, scarce knowing how, she now seemed to be entwined with Sir Sedley, grew more and more terrific; and when she considered that her sisters themselves thought her independence gone, and her honour engaged, she was seized with so much wonderment, how it had all been brought about, that her understanding seemed to play her false, and she believed the whole a dream.
WHEN the sisters were summoned down stairs to dinner, planted at the door, ready to receive them at their entrance, stood Edgar. Lavinia and Eugenia addressed him as usual; but Camilla could not speak, could not return his salutation, could not look at him. She sat hastily down in her accustomed place by her uncle, and even the presence of her father scarcely restrained her tears, as she contrasted the hopeless uncertainties of Edgar, with the perilous pursuit of Sir Sedley.
Edgar, for the first time, saw her avoidance without suspecting that it flowed from repugnance. The interest she had shewn for his safety was still bounding in his breast, and as, from time to time he stole a glance at her, and observed her emotion, his heart whispered him the softest hopes, that soon the most perfect confidence would make every feeling reciprocal.
But these hopes were not long without alloy; he soon discerned something that far exceeded what could give him pleasure in her perturbation; he read in it not merely hurry and alarm, but suffering and distress.
He now ventured to look at her no more; his confidence gave place to pity; he saw she was unhappy, and breathed no present wish but to relieve and console her.
When the dessert was served, she was preparing to retire; but she caught the eye of her father, and saw she should not long be alone; she reseated herself, therefore, in haste, to postpone, at least, his scrutiny.
Every body, at length, arose, and Sir Hugh proposed that they should all walk in the park, during his nap, but keep close to the pales, that they might listen for all passengers, in case of Clermont’s coming.
To this, also, Camilla could make no objection, and they set out. She took an arm of each sister, and indulged the heaviness of her heart in not uttering a word.
They had not gone far, when a servant ran after Mr. Tyrold with a pacquet, just arrived, by a private hand, from Lisbon. He returned to read it in his own room; Lavinia and Eugenia accompanied him to hear its contents, and Camilla, for the first time, seemed the least affectionate of his daughters; she durst not encounter him but in the mixt company of all the house; she told Lavinia to make haste back with the news, and took the arm of Indiana.
The compulsion of uninteresting discourse soon became intolerable; and no longer chained to the party by the awe of her father, she presently left Indiana to Miss Margland, and perceiving that Edgar was conversing with Dr. Orkborne, said she would wait for her sisters; and, turning a little aside, sat down upon a bench under a large oak.
Here her painful struggle and unwilling forbearance ended; she gave free vent to her tears, and thought herself the most wretched of human beings; she found her heart, her aching heart, more than ever devoted to Mandlebert, filled with his image, revering his virtues, honouring even his coldness, from a persuasion she deserved not his affection, and sighing solely for the privilege to consign herself to his remembrance for life, though unknown to himself, and unsuspected by the world. The very idea of Sir Sedley was horror to her; she felt guilty to have involved herself in an intercourse so fertile of danger; she thought over, with severest repentance, her short, but unjustifiable deviation from that transparent openness, and undesigning plainness of conduct, which her disposition as much as her education ought to have rendered unchangeable. To that, alone, was owing all her actual difficulty, for to that alone was owing her own opinion of any claim upon her justice. How dearly, she cried, do I now pay for the unthinking plan with which I risked the peace of another, for the re-establishment of my own! She languished to throw herself into the arms of her father, to unbosom to him all her errors and distresses, and owe their extrication to his wisdom and kindness. She was sure he would be unmoved by the glare of a brilliant establishment, and that far from desiring her to sacrifice her feelings to wealth and shew, he would himself plead against the alliance when he knew the state of her mind, and recommend to her, so circumstanced, the single life, in the true spirit of Christian philosophy and moderation: but all was so closely interwoven in the affairs and ill conduct of her brother, that she believed herself engaged in honour to guard the fatal secret, though hazarding by its concealment impropriety and misery.
These afflicting ruminations were at length interrupted by the sound of feet; she took her handkerchief from her eyes, expecting to see her sisters; she was mistaken, and beheld Mandlebert.
She started and rose; she strove to chace the tears from her eyes without wiping them, and asked what he had done with Dr. Orkborne?
‘You are in grief!’ cried he in a tone of sympathy; ‘some evil has befallen you! . . . let me ask. . . . ’
‘No; I am only waiting for my sisters. They have just received letters from Lisbon.’
‘You have been weeping! you are weeping now! why do you turn away from me? I will not obtrusively demand your confidence yet, could I give you the most distant idea what a weight it might remove from my mind, . . . you would find it difficult to deny yourself the pleasure of doing so much good!’
The tears of Camilla now streamed afresh. Words so kind from Edgar, the cold, the hard-hearted Edgar, surprised and overset her; yet she endeavoured to hide her face, and made an effort to pass him.
‘Is not this a little unkind?’ cried he, gravely; ‘however, I have no claim to oppose you.’
‘Unkind!’ she repeated, and involuntarily turning to him, shewed a countenance so disconsolate, that he lost his self-control, and taking her reluctant hand, said: ‘O Camilla! Torture me no longer!’
Almost transfixed with astonishment, she looked at him for a moment in a speechless wonder; but the interval short; the character of Edgar, for unalienable steadiness, unalterable honour, was fixed in her mind, like ‘truths from holy writ,’ and she knew, with certainty incontrovertible, that his fate was at her disposal, from the instant he acknowledged openly her power over his feelings.
Every opposite sensation, that with violence the most ungovernable could encounter but to combat, now met in her bosom, elevating her to rapture, harrowing her with terror, menacing even her understanding. The most exquisite wish of her heart seemed accorded at a period so nearly too late for its acceptance that her faculties, bewildered, confused, deranged, lost the capacity of clearly conceiving if still she were a free agent or not.
He saw her excess of disorder with alarm; he sought to draw her again to her seat; but she put her hand upon her forehead, and leant it against the bark of the tree.
‘You will not speak to me!’ cried he; ‘you will not trust me! shall I call you cruel? No! for you are not aware of the pain you inflict, the anguish you make me suffer! the generosity of your nature would else, unbidden, impulsively interfere.’
‘You suffer! You!’ cried she, again distressfully, almost incredulously, looking at him, while her hands were uplifted with amazement: ‘I thought you above any suffering! superior to all calamity! . . . almost to all feeling!..’
‘Ah, Camilla! what thus estranges you from candor? justice? what is it can prompt you to goad thus a heart which almost from its first beating . . . ’
He stopt, desirous to check himself; while penetrated his softness, and ashamed of what, in the bitterness of her spirit she had pronounced, she again melted into tears, and sunk down upon the bench; yet holding out to him one hand, while with the other she covered her face: ‘Forgive me,’ she cried, ‘I entreat-for I scarce know what I say.’
Such a speech, and so accompanied, might have the stoicism of an older philosopher than Edgar; he fervently kissed her proffered hand, exclaiming: ‘Forgive you! Can Camilla use such a word? has she the slightest care for my opinion? The most remote concern for me, or for my happiness?’
‘Farewell! farewell!’ cried she, hastily drawing away her hand, ‘go now, I beseech you!’
‘What a moment to expect me to depart! O Camilla! my soul sickens of this suspence! End it, generous Camilla! Beloved as lovely! my heart is all your own! use it gently, and accept it nobly!’
Every other emotion, now, in the vanquished Camilla, every retrospective fear, every actual regret, yielded to the conquering charm of grateful tenderness; and restoring the hand she had withdrawn. ‘O Edgar,’ she cried, ‘how little can I merit such a gift! Yet I prize it far, far beyond all words!’
The agitation of Edgar was, at first, too mighty and too delicious for speech; but his eyes, now cast up to heaven, now fixed upon her own, spoke the most ardent, yet purest felicity; while her hand, now held to his heart, now pressed to his lips, strove vainly to recover its liberty. ‘Blest moment!’ he at length uttered, ‘that finishes for ever such misery of uncertainty! that gives my life to happiness-my existence to Camilla!’
Again speech seemed too poor for him. Perfect satisfaction is seldom loquacious; its character is rather tender than gay; and where happiness succeeds abruptly to long solicitude and sorrow, its enjoyment is fearful; it softens rather than exhilarates. Sudden joy is sportive, but sudden happiness is awful.
The pause however, that on his side was ecstatic thankfulness, soon became mixt, on that of Camilla, with confusion and remorse; Sir Sedley returned to her memory, and with him every reflection, and every apprehension, that most cruelly could sully each trembling, though nearly gratified hope.
The cloud that so soon dimmed the transient radiance of her countenance, was instantly perceived by Edgar; but as he was beginning the most anxious inquiries, the two sisters approached, and Camilla, whose hand he then relinquished, rushed forward, and throwing her arms around their necks, wept upon their bosoms.
‘Sweet sisters!’ cried Edgar, embracing them all three in one; ‘long may ye thus endearingly entwine each other, in the sacred links of affectionate affinity! Where shall I find our common father?-where is Mr. Tyrold?’
The amazed sisters could with difficulty answer that he was with their uncle, to whom he was communicating news from their mother.
Edgar looked tenderly at Camilla, but, perceiving her emotion, forbore to speak to her, though he could not deny himself the pleasure of snatching one kiss of the hand which hung down upon the shoulder of Eugenia; he then whispered to both the sisters: ‘You will not, I trust, be my enemies?’ and hurried to he house.
‘What can this mean?’ cried Eugenia and Lavinia in a breath.
‘It means,’ said Camilla, ‘that I am the most distressed . . . the happiest of human beings!’
This little speech, began with the deepest sigh, but finished with the most refulgent smile, only added to their wonder.
‘I hope you have been consulting with Edgar,’ said the innocent Eugenia; ‘nobody can more ably advise you, since, in generosity to Lionel, you are prohibited from counselling with my father.’
Again the most expressive smiles played in every feature through the tears of Camilla, as she turned, with involuntary archness, to Eugenia, and answered: ‘And shall I follow his counsel, my dear sister, if he gives me any?’
‘Why not? he is wise, prudent, and much attached to us all. How he can have supposed it possible we could be his enemies, is past all divination!’
Gaiety was so truly the native growth of the mind of Camilla that neither care nor affliction could chace it long from its home. The speeches of the unsuspicious Eugenia, that a moment before would have past unheeded, now regaled her renovated fancy with a thousand amusing images,which so vigorously struggled against her sadness and her terrors, that they were soon nearly driven from the field by their sportive assailants; and, by the time she reached her chamber, whither, lost in amaze, her sisters followed her, the surprise she had in store for them, the pleasure with which she knew they would sympathise in her happiness, a security of Edgar’s decided regard, had liberated her mind from the shackles of reminiscence, and restored her vivacity to original spirit.
Fastening, then, her door, she turned to them with a countenance of the brightest animation; alternately and almost wildly embraced them, and related the explicit declaration of Edgar; now hiding in their bosoms the blushes of her modest joy, offering up to Heaven the thanksgiving of her artless rapture, now dissolving in the soft tears of the tenderest sensibility, according to the quick changing impulses of her natural and lively, yet feeling and susceptible character. Nor once did she look at the reverse of this darling portrait of chosen felicity, till Eugenia, with a gentle sigh, uttered: ‘Unhappy Sir Sedley Clarendel! How may this stroke be softened to him?’
‘Ah Eugenia!’ she cried; ‘that alone is my impediment to the most perfect, the most unmixt content! why have you made me think of him?’
‘My dear Camilla,’ said Eugenia, with a look of curious earnestness, and taking both her hands, while she seemed examining her face, ‘you are then, it seems, in love? and with Edgar Mandlebert?’
Camilla, blushing, yet laughing, broke away from her, denying the charge.
A consultation succeeded upon the method of proceeding with the young baronet. Tommy Hodd was not yet returned with the answer; it was five miles to Clarendel Place, which made going and returning his day’s work. She resolved to wait but this one reply, and then to acknowledge to Edgar the whole of her situation. The delicacy of Lavinia, and the high honour of Eugenia, concurred in the propriety of this confession; and they all saw the urgent necessity of an immediate explanation with Sir Sedley, whose disappointment might every hour receive added weight from delay. Painful, therefore, confusing and distasteful, as was the task, Camilla determined upon the avowal, and as completely to be guided by Edgar in this difficult conjuncture, as if his advice were already sanctioned by conjugal authority.
EDGAR returned to the parlour with a countenance so much brightened, a joy so open, a confidence so manly, and an air so strongly announcing some interesting intelligence, that his history required no prelude. ‘Edgar,’ said Mr. Tyrold, ‘you have a look to disarm care of its corrosion. You could not take a better time to wear so cheering an aspect; I have just learnt that my wife can fix no sort of date for her return; I must borrow, therefore, some reflected happiness; and none, after my children, can bring its sunshine so home to my bosom as yourself’
‘What a fortunate moment have you chosen,’ cried Edgar, affectionately taking him by the hand, ‘to express this generous pleasure in seeing me happy! will you repent, will you retract, when you hear in what it may involve you? . . . Dearest sir! my honoured, my parental friend! to what a test shall I put your kindness! . . . Will you give me in charge one of the dearest ties of your existence? will you repose in my care so large a portion of your peace? will you trust to me your Camilla?’
With all the ardour of her character, all the keen and quick feelings of her sensitive mind, scarce had Camilla herself been more struck, more penetrated with sudden joy, sudden wonder, sudden gratification of every kind, than Mr. Tyrold felt at this moment. He more than returned the pressure with which Edgar held his hand, and instantly answered, ‘Yes, my excellent young friend, without hesitation, without a shadow of apprehension for her happiness! though she is all the fondest father can wish; . . . and though she only who gave her to me is dearer!’
Felicity and tenderness were now the sole guests in the breast of Edgar. He kissed with reverence the hand of Mr. Tyrold, called him by the honoured and endearing title of father; acknowledged that, from the earliest period of observation, Camilla had seemed to him the most amiable of human creatures; spoke with the warm devotion he sincerely felt for her of Mrs. Tyrold; and was breathing forth his very soul in tender rapture upon his happy prospects, when something between a sigh and a groan from the baronet, made him hastily turn round, apologise for not sooner addressing him, and respectfully solicit his consent.
Sir Hugh was in an agitation of delight and surprise almost too potent for his strength. ‘The Lord be good unto me,’ he cried; ‘have I lived to see such a day as this?’ Then, throwing his arms about Edgar’s neck, while his eyes were fast filling with tears, which soon ran plentifully down his cheeks, ‘Good young Edgar!’ he cried; ‘good young man! and do you really love my poor Camilla, for all her not being worth a penny? And will my dear little darling come to so good an end at last, after being disinherited for doing nothing? And will you never vex her, nor speak an unkind word to her? Indeed, young Mr. Edgar, you are a noble boy! you are indeed; and I love you to the bottom of my heart for this true good naturedness!’
Then, again and again embracing him, ‘This is all of a piece,’ he continued, ‘with your saving my poor old Rover, which is a thing I shall never forget to my longest day, being a remarkable sign of a good heart; the poor dog having done nothing to offend, as we can all testify. So that it’s a surprising thing what that mastiff owed him such a grudge for.’
Then quitting him abruptly to embrace Mr. Tyrold, ‘My dear brother,’ he cried, ‘I hope your judgment approves this thing, as well as my sister’s, when she comes to hear it, which I shall send off express, before I sleep another wink, for fear of accidents.’
‘Approve,’ answered Mr. Tyrold, with a look of the most expressive kindness at Edgar, ‘is too cold a word; I rejoice, even thankfully rejoice, to place my dear child in such worthy and beloved hands.’
‘Well, then,’ cried the enchanted baronet, ‘if that’s the case, that we are all of one mind, we had better settle the business at once, all of us being subject to die by delay.’
He then rang the bell, and ordered Jacob to summon Camilla to the parlour, adding, ‘And all the rest too, Jacob, for I have something to tell them every one, which, I make no doubt, they will be very glad to hear, yourself included, as well as your fellow-servants, who have no right to be left out; only let my niece come first, being her own affair.’
Camilla obeyed not the call without many secret sensations of distress and difficulty, but which, mingled with the more obvious ones of modesty and embarrassment, all passed for a flutter of spirits that appeared natural to the occasion.
Mr. Tyrold could only silently embrace her: knowing what she had suffered, and judging thence the excess of her present satisfaction, he would not add to her confusion by any information of his consciousness; but the softness with which he held her to his bosom spoke, beyond all words, his heartfelt sympathy in her happiness.
Camilla had no power to draw herself from his arms; but Edgar hovered round her, and Sir Hugh repeatedly and impatiently demanded to have his turn. Mr. Tyrold, gently disengaging himself from her embraces, gave one of her hands to Edgar, who, with grateful joy, pressed it to his lips.
‘My children!’ he then said, laying a hand upon the shoulder of each, ‘what a sight is this to me! how precious a union! what will it be to your excellent mother! So long and so decidedly it has been our favourite earthly wish, that, were she but restored to me . . . to her country and to her family . . . I might, perhaps, require some new evil to prevent my forgetting where . . . and what I am!’
‘My dear brother, I say! my dear niece! My dear Mr. young Edgar!’ cried Sir Hugh, in the highest good humour, though with nearly exhausted patience, ‘won’t you let me put in a word? nor so much as give you my blessing? though I can hardly hold and soul together for the sake of my joy!’
Camilla cast herself into his arms, he kissed her most fondly saying: ‘Don’t forget your poor old uncle, my dear little girl, for the account of this young Mr. Edgar, because, good as he is, he has taken to you but a short time in comparison with me.’
‘No,’ said Edgar, still tenaciously retaining the hand parentally bestowed upon him; ‘no, dear Sir Hugh, I wish not to rob you of your darling. I wish but to be admitted myself into this dear respected family, and to have Etherington, Cleves, and Beech Park, considered as our alternate and common habitations.’
‘You are the very best young man in the whole wide world!’ cried Sir Hugh, almost sobbing with ecstasy; ‘for you have hit upon just the very thing I was thinking of in my own private mind! What a mercy it is our not accepting that young Captain, who would have run away with her to I don’t know where, instead of being married to the very nearest estate in the county, that will always be living with us!’
The rest of the family now, obedient to the direction of Jacob, who had intimated that something extraordinary was going forward, entered the room.
‘Come in, come in,’ cried Sir Hugh, ‘and hear the good news; for we have just been upon the very point of losing the best opportunity that ever we had in our lives of all living together; which, I hope, we shall now do, without any more strangers coming upon us with their company, being a thing we don’t desire.’
‘But what’s the good news, uncle?’ said Indiana; ‘is it only about our living together?’
‘Why, yes, my dear, that’s the first principle, and the other is, that young Mr. Edgar’s going to marry Camilla, which I hope you won’t take ill, liking being all fancy.’
‘Me?’ cried she, with a disdainful toss of the head, though severely mortified; ‘it’s nothing to me, I’m sure!’
Camilla ashamed, and Edgar embarrassed, strove now mutually to shew Sir Hugh they wished no more might be said: but he only embraced them again, and declared he had never been so full of joy before in his whole life, and would not be cut short.
Miss Margland, extremely piqued, vented her spleen in oblique sarcasms, and sought to heal her offended pride by appeals for justice to her sagacity and foresight in the whole business.
Jacob, now opening the door, said all the servants were come.
Camilla tried to escape; but Sir Hugh would not permit her, and the house-keeper and butler led the way, followed by every other domestic of the house.
‘Well, my friends,’ he cried, ‘wish her joy, which I am sure you will do of your own accord, for she’s going to be mistress of Beech Park; which I thought would have been the case with my other niece, till I found out my mistakes; which is of no consequence now, all having ended for the best; though unknown to us poor mortals.’
The servants obeyed with alacrity, and offered their hearty congratulations to the blushing Camilla and happy Edgar, Molly Mill excepted; who, having concluded Sir Sedley Clarendel the man, doubted her own senses, and, instead of open felicitations, whispered Camilla, ‘Dear Miss, I’ve got another letter for you!’
Camilla, frightened, said: ‘Hush! hush!’ while Edgar, imagining the girl, whose simplicity and talkativeness were familiar to him, had said something ridiculous, entreated to be indulged with hearing her remark, but seeing Camilla look grave, forbore to press his request.
The baronet now began an harangue upon the happiness that would accrue from these double unions, for which he assured them they should have double remembrances, though the same preparations would do for both, as he meant they should take place at the same time, provided Mr. Edgar would have the obligingness to wait for a fair wind, which he was expecting every hour.
Camilla could now stay no longer; nor could Edgar, though, adoring the hearty joy of Sir Hugh, refuse to aid her in absconding.
He begged her permission to follow, as soon as it might be possible, which she tacitly accorded.
She was impatient herself for the important conference she was planning, and felt, with increasing solicitude, that all her life’s happiness hung upon her power to extricate herself honourably from the terrible embarrassment in which she was involved.
She sauntered about the hall till the servants came out, anxious to receive the letter which Molly Mill had announced. They all sought to surround her with fresh good wishes; but she singled out Molly, and begged the rest to leave her for the present. The letter, however, was not unpinned from the inside neck handkerchief, before Edgar, eager and gay, joined her. Trembling then, she entreated her to make haste.
‘La, Miss,’ answered the girl, ‘if you hurry me so, I shall tear it as sure as can be; and what will you say then, Miss?’
‘Well . . . then . . . another time will do . . . take it to my room.’
‘No, no, Miss; the gentleman told Tommy Hodd he wanted an answer as quick as can be; he said, if Tommy’d come a-horseback, he’d pay for the horse, to make him quicker; and Tommy says he always behaves very handsome.’
She then gave her the squeezed billet. Camilla, in great confusion, put it into her pocket. Edgar, who even unavoidably heard what passed, held back till Molly retired; and then, with an air of undisguised surprise and curiosity, though in a laughing tome, said, ‘Must not the letter be read till I make my bow?’
‘O yes,’ . . . cried she, stammering, ‘it may be read at any time.’ And she put her hand in her pocket to reproduce it. But the idea of making known the strange and unexpected history she had to relate, by shewing so strange a correspondence, without one leading and softening previous circumstance, required a force and confidence of which she was not mistress. She twisted it, therefore, hastily round, to hide the handwriting of the direction, and then, with the same care, rolled it up, and encircled it with her fingers.
‘Shall I be jealous?’ said he, gently, though disappointed.
‘You have much reason!’ she answered, with a smile so soft, it dispersed every fear, yet with an attention so careful to conceal the address, that it kept alive every wonder. He took her other hand, and kissing it, cried: ‘No, sweetest Camilla, such unworthy distrust shall make no part of our compact. Yet I own myself a little interested to know what gentleman has obtained a privilege I should myself prize above almost any other. I will leave you, however, to read the letter, and, perhaps, before you answer it-but no–I will ask nothing; I shall lose all pleasure in your confidence, if it is not spontaneous. I will go and find your sisters.’
The first impulse of Camilla was, to commit to him immediately the unopened letter: but the fear of its contents, its style, its requisitions, made her terror overpower her generosity; and, though she looked after him with regret, she stood still to break the seal of her letter.
Miss Camilla Tyrold.
Is it thus, O far too fair tormenter! thou delightest to torture? Dost thou give wings but to clip them? raise expectation but to bid it linger? fan bright the flame of hope, but to see it consume in its own ashes? Another delay? . . . Ah! tell me how I may exist till it terminates! Name to me, O fair tyrant! some period, . . . or build not upon longer forbearance, but expect me at your feet. You talk of the Grove: its fair owner is just returned, and calls herself impatient to see you. Tomorrow, then, . . . you will not, I trust, kill me again tomorrow? With the sun, the renovating sun, I will visit those precincts, nor quit them till warned away by the pale light of Diana: tell me, then, to what century of that period your ingenious cruelty condemns me to this expiring state, ere a vivifying smile recalls me back to life?
The immediate presence of Edgar himself could not have made this letter dye the cheeks of Camilla of a deeper red. She saw that Sir Sedley thought her only coquetishly trifling, and she looked forward with nearly equal horror to clearing up a mistake that might embitter his future life, and to acknowledging to Edgar . . . the scrupulous, the scrutinising, the delicate Edgar . . . that such a mistake could have been formed.
She was ruminating upon this formidable, this terrible task, when Edgar again appeared, accompanied by her sisters. She hurried the letter into her pocket. Edgar saw the action with a concern that dampt his spirits; he wished to obtain from her immediately the unlimited trust, which immediately, and for ever, he meant to repose in her. They all strolled together for a short time in the park; but she was anxious to retreat to her room, and her sisters were dying with impatience to read Sir Sedley’s letter. Edgar, disturbed to see how little any of their countenances accorded with the happy feelings he had so recently experienced, proposed not to lengthen the walk, but flattered himself, upon re-entering the house, Camilla would afford him a few minutes of explanation. But she only, with a faint smile, said she should soon return to the parlour; and he saw Molly Mill eagerly waiting for her upon the stairs, and heard her, in reply to some question concerning Tommy Hodd, desire the girl to be quiet till she got to her room.
Edgar could form no idea of what all this meant, yet, that some secret disturbance preyed upon Camilla, that some gentleman wrote to her, and expected impatiently an answer; and that the correspondence passed neither through her friends, nor by the post, but by the medium of Molly Mill, were circumstances not less unaccountable than unpleasant.
Camilla, meanwhile, produced the letter to her sisters, beseeching their ablest counsel. ‘See but,’ she cried, ‘how dreadfully unprepared is Sir Sedley for the event of the day! And oh! . . . how yet more unprepared must be Edgar for seeing that such a letter could ever be addressed to me! How shall I shew it him, my dear sisters? how help his believing I must have given every possible encouragement, ere Sir Sedley could have written to me in so assured a style?’
Much deliberation ensued; but they were all so perplexed, that they were summoned to tea before they had come to any resolution. The counsel of Eugenia, then, prevailed; and it was settled, that Camilla should avoid, for the present, any communication to Edgar, lest it should lead to mischief between him and the young baronet, who could not but be mutually displeased with each other; and that the next morning, before she saw Edgar again, she should set out for the Grove, and there cast herself wholly upon the generosity of Sir Sedley; and, when freed from all engagement, return, and relate, without reserve, the whole history to Edgar; who would so soon be brother of her brother, that he would pardon the faults of Lionel, and who would then be in no danger himself from personal contest or discussion with Sir Sedley. She wrote, therefore, one line, to say she would see Mrs. Arlbery early the next day, and delivered it to Molly Mill; who promised to borrow a horse of the under-groom, that Tommy Hodd might be back before bed-time, without any obligation to Sir Sedley.
She, then, went down stairs; when Edgar, disappointed by her long absence, sought vainly to recompense it by conversing with her. She was gentle, but seated herself aloof, and avoided his eyes.
His desire to unravel so much mystery he thought now so legitimated by his peculiar situation, that he was frequently upon the point of soliciting for information: but, to know himself privileged, upon further reflexion, was sufficient to insure his forbearance. Even when that knot was tied which would give to him all power, he sincerely meant to owe all her trust to willing communication. Should he now, then, make her deem him exacting, and tenacious of prerogative? no; it might shackle the freedom of her mind in their future intercourse. He would quietly, therefore, wait her own time, and submit to her own inclination. She could not doubt his impatience; he would not compel her generosity.
THE three sisters were retired, at night, to another council in the room of Camilla, when Molly Mill, with a look of dismay, burst in upon them, bringing, with the answer of Sir Sedley, news that Tommy Hodd, by an accident he could not help, had rode the horse she had borrowed for him of the under-groom to death.
The dismay, now, spread equally to them all. What a tale would this misfortune unfold to Sir Hugh, to Edgar, to the whole house! The debt of Lionel, the correspondence with Sir Sedley, the expectations of the young baronet. . . . Camilla could not support it; she sent for Jacob to own to him the affair, and beg his assistance.
Jacob, though getting into bed, obeyed the call. He was, however, so much irritated at the loss of the horse, and the boldness of the under-groom, in lending him without leave, that, at first, he would listen to no entreaties, and protested that both the boy and Molly Mill should be complained of to his master. The eloquence, however, of his three young mistresses, for so all the nieces of Sir Hugh were called by the servants at Cleves, soon softened his ire; he almost adored his master, and was affectionately attached to the young family. They begged him, therefore, to buy another horse, as like it as possible, and to contrive not to employ it when Sir Hugh was in sight, till they were able to clear up the history to their uncle themselves: this would not be difficult, as the baronet rarely visited his stables since his fall, from the melancholy with which he was filled by the sight of his horses.
There was to be a fair for cattle in the neighbourhood the next day, and Jacob promised to ride over to see what bargain he could make for them.
They then inquired about what money would be necessary for the purchase.
The cost, he said, of poor Tom Jones was 40l.
Camilla held up her hands, almost screaming. Eugenia, with more presence of mind, said they would see him again in the morning before he went, and then told Molly Mill to wait for her in her own room.
‘What can I now do?’ cried Camilla; ‘I would not add the history of this dreadful expence to the sad tale I have already to relate to Edgar for the universe! To begin my career by such a string of humiliations would be insupportable. Already I owe five guineas to Mrs. Arlbery, which the tumult of my mind since my return has prevented me from naming to my uncle; and I have left debts at Tunbridge that will probably take up all my next quarter’s allowance!’
‘As far as these three guineas will go,’ said Lavinia, taking out her purse, ‘here, my dearest Camilla, they are; . . . but how little that is! I never before thought my pittance too small! yet how well we all know my dear father cannot augment it.’
Eugenia, who, in haste, had stept to her own room, now came back, and putting twenty guineas into the hand of Camilla, said: ‘This, my beloved sister, is all I now have by me; but Jacob is rich and good, and will rejoice to pay the rest for us at present; and I shall very soon reimburse him, for my uncle has insisted upon making me a very considerable present, which I shall, now, no longer refuse.’
Camilla burst into tears, and, hanging about their necks: ‘O my sisters,’ she cried, ‘what goodness is yours! but how can I avail myself of it with any justice? Your three guineas, my Lavinia, your little all . . . how can I bear to take?’
‘Do not teach me to repine, my dear Camilla, that I have no more! I am sure of being remembered by my uncle on the approaching occasions, and I can never, therefore, better spare my little store.’
‘You are all kindness! and you my dear Eugenia, though you have more, have claims upon that more, and are both expected and used to answer them. . . . ’
‘Yes, I have indeed more!’ interrupted Eugenia, ‘which only sisters good as mine could pardon; but because my uncle has made me his heiress, has he made me a brute? No! whatever I have, must be amongst us all in common, not only now, but. . . . ’ She stopt, affrighted at the idea she was presenting to herself, and fervently clasping her hands, exclaimed: ‘O long . . . long may it be ere I can shew my sisters all I feel for them! they will believe it, I am sure . . . and that is far happier!’
The idea this raised struck them all, at the same moment, to the heart. Not one of them had dry eyes, and with a sadness overpowering every other consideration, they sighed as heavily, and with looks as disconsolate, as if the uncle so dear to them were already no more.
The influence of parts, the predominance of knowledge, the honour of learning, the captivation of talents, and even the charm of fame itself, all shrink in their effects before the superior force of goodness, even where most simple and uncultivated, for power over the social affections.
At an early hour, the next morning the commission, with the twenty guineas in hand, and the promise of the rest in a short time, were given to Jacob; and Camilla, then, begged permission of her father, and the carriage of her uncle, to visit Mrs. Arlbery, who, she had heard, was just returned to the Grove.
Concluding she wished to be the messenger of her own affairs to that lady, they made no opposition, and she set off before eight o’clock, without entering the parlour, where Edgar, she was informed, was already arrived for breakfast.
The little journey was terrible to her; scenes of disappointment and despair on the part of Sir Sedley, were anticipated by her alarmed imagination, and she reproached herself for every word she had ever spoken, every look she had ever given, that could have raised any presumption of her regard.
The last note was written in the style of all the others, and not one ever expressed the smallest doubt of success; how dreadful then to break to him such news, at the very moment he might imagine she came to meet him with partial pleasure!
Mrs. Arlbery was not yet risen. Camilla inquired, stammering, if any company were at the house. None, was the answer. She then begged leave to walk in the garden till Mrs. Arlbery came down stairs.
She was not sorry to miss her; she dreaded her yet more than Sir Sedley himself, and hoped to see him alone.
Nevertheless, she remained a full hour in waiting, ruminating upon the wonder her disappearance would give to Edgar, and nearly persuaded some chance had anticipated her account to Sir Sedley, whose rage and grief were too violent to suffer him to keep his appointment.
This idea served but to add to her perturbation, when, at last, she saw him enter the garden.
All presence of mind then forsook her; she looked around to see if she could escape, but his approach was too quick for avoidance. Her eyes, unable to encounter his, were bent upon the ground, and she stood still, and even trembling, till he reached her.
To the prepossessed notions and vain character of Sir Sedley, these were symptoms by no means discouraging; with a confidence almost amounting to arrogance he advanced, pitying her distress, yet pitying himself still more for the snare in which it was involving him. He permitted his eyes for a moment to fasten upon her, to admire her, and to enjoy triumphantly her confusion in silence: ‘Ah, beauteous tyrant!’ he then cried; ‘if this instant were less inappreciable, in what language could I upbraid thy unexampled abuse of power? Thy lacerating barbarity?’
He then, almost by force, took her hand; she struggled eagerly to recover it, but ‘No,’ he cried, ‘fair torturer! It is now my prisoner, and must be punished for its inhuman sins, in the congealing and unmerciful lines it has portrayed for me.’
And then, regardless of her resistance, which he attributed to mere bashfulness, he obstinately and incessantly devoured it with kisses, in defiance of opposition, supplication, or anger, till, suddenly and piercingly, she startled him with a scream and snatched it away with a force irresistible.
Amazed, he stared at her. Her face was almost convulsed with emotion; but her eyes, which appeared to be fixed, directed him to the cause. At the bottom of the walk, which was only a few yards distant, stood Mandlebert.
Pale and motionless, he looked as if bereft of strength and faculties. Camilla had seen him the moment she raised her eyes, and her horror was uncontrollable. Sir Sedley, astonished at what he beheld, astonished what to think, drew back, with a supercilious kind of bow. Edgar, recalled by what he thought insolence to is recollection, advanced a few steps, and addressing himself to Camilla, said: ‘I had the commands of Sir Hugh to pursue you, Miss Tyrold, to give you immediate notice that Mr. Lynmere is arrived.’ He added no more, deigned not a look at Sir Sedley, but rapidly retreated, remounted his horse, and galloped off.
Camilla looked after him till he was out of sight, with uplifted hands and eyes, deploring his departure, his mistake, and his resentment, without courage to attempt stopping him.
Sir Sedley stood suspended, how to act, what to judge. If Edgar’s was the displeasure of a discarded lover, why should it so affect Camilla? if of a successful one why came she to meet him? why had she received and answered his notes?
Finding she attempted neither to speak nor move, he again approached her, and saying, ‘Fair Incomprehensible! . . . ’ would again have taken her hand; but rousing to a sense of her situation, she drew back, and with some dignity, but more agitation, cried: ‘Sir Sedley, I blush if I am culpable of any part of your mistake but suffer me now to be explicit, and let me be fully, finally, and not too late understood. You must write to me no more; I cannot answer nor read your letters. You must speak to me no more, except in public society; you must go further, Sir Sedley . . . you must think of me no more.’
‘Horrible!’ cried he, starting back; ‘you distress me past measure!’
‘No, no, you will soon . . . easily . . . readily forget me.’
‘Inhuman! you make me unhappy past thought!’
‘Indeed I am inexpressibly concerned; but the whole affair . . . ’
‘You shock, you annihilate me, you injure me in the tenderest point!’
Camilla now, amazed, cried ‘what is it you mean, sir?’
‘By investing me, fair barbarian, with the temerity of forming any claim that can call for repulse!’
Utterly confounded by so unexpected a disclaiming of all design, she again, though from far different sensations, cast up her eyes and hands. And is it, she thought, for a trifler such as this, so unmeaning, so unfeeling, I have risked my whole of hope and happiness?
She said, however, no more; for what more could be said? She coloured, past him, and hastily quitting the garden, told the footman to apologise to Mrs. Arlbery for her sudden departure, by informing her that a near relation was just arrived from abroad; and then got into the carriage and drove back to Cleves.
Sir Sedley followed carelessly, yet without aiming at overtaking her, and intreated, negligently, to be heard, yet said nothing which required the smallest answer.
Piqued completely, and mortified to the quick, by the conviction which now broke in upon him of the superior ascendance of Mandlebert, he could not brook to have been thought in earnest when he saw he should not have been accepted, nor pardon his own vanity the affront it had brought upon his pride. He sung aloud an opera air till the carriage of Sir Hugh was out of sight, and then drove his phaeton to Clarendel Place, where he instantly ordered his post-chaise, and in less than an hour, set off on a tour to the Hebrides.
CAMILLA had but just set out from Cleves, when Sir Hugh, consulting his weather-cocks, which a new chain of ideas had made him forget to examine, saw that the wind was fair for the voyage of his nephew; and heard, upon inquiry, that the favourable change had taken place the preceding day, though the general confusion of the house had prevented it from being heeded by any of the family.
With eagerness the most excessive, he went to the room of Eugenia, and bid her put on a smart hat to walk out with him, forming as there was no knowing how soon a certain person might arrive.
Eugenia, colouring, said she would rather stay within.
‘Well,’ cried he, ‘you’ll be neater, to be sure, for not blowing about in the wind; so I’ll go take t’other girls.’
Eugenia, left alone, became exceedingly fluttered. She could not bear to remain in the house under the notion of so degrading a consideration as owing any advantage to outward appearance; and fearing her uncle, in his extreme openness, should give that reason for her not walking, she determined to take a stroll by herself in the park.
She bent her steps towards a small wood at some distance from the house, where she meant to rest herself and read; for she had learnt of Dr. Orkborne never to be unprovided with a book. But she had not yet reached her place of intended repose, when the sound of feet made her turn round, and, to her utter consternation she saw a young man, whose boots, whip, and foreign air, announced instantly to be Clermont Lynmere.
She doubted not but he was sent in pursuit of her; and though youthful timidity prompted her to shun him, she retained sufficient command over herself to check it, and to stop till he came up to her; while he, neither quickening nor slackening his pace as he approached, passed her with so little attention, that she was presently convinced he had scarce even perceived her.
Disconcerted by a meeting so strange and so ill timed, she involuntarily stood still, without any other power than that of looking after him.
In a few minutes Molly Mill, running up to her, cried: ‘Dear Miss, have not you seen young Mr. Lynmere? He come by t’other way just as master, and Miss Margland, and Miss Lynmere, and Miss Tyrold, was gone to meet him by the great gate; and so he said he’d come and look who he could find himself.’
Eugenia had merely voice to order her back. The notion of having a figure so insignificant as to be passed, without even exciting a doubt she might be, was cruelly mortifying. She knew not how to return to the house, and relate such an incident. She sat down under a tree to recollect herself.
Presently, however, she saw the stranger turn quick about, and before she could rise, slightly touching his hat, without looking at her: ‘Pray, ma’am,’ he said, ‘do you belong to that house?’ pointing to the mansion of Sir Hugh.
Faintly she answered, ‘Yes, sir;’ and he then added: ‘I am just arrived, and in search of Sir Hugh and the young ladies; one of them, they told me, was this way; but I can trace nobody. Have you seen any of them?’
More and more confounded, she could make no reply. Inattentive to her embarrassment, and still looking every way around, he repeated his question. She then pointed towards the great gate, stammering she believed they went that way. ‘Thank you;’ he answered, with a nod, and then hurried off.
She now thought no more of moving nor of rising; she felt a kind of stupor, in which, fixed, and without reflection, she remained, till, startled by the sound of her uncle’s voice, she got up, made what haste she was able to the house by a private path, and ascended to her own room by a back stair case.
That an interview to which she had so long looked forward, for which, with unwearied assiduity, she had so many years laboured to prepare herself, and which was the declared precursor of the most important era of her life, should pass over so abruptly, and be circumstanced so aukwardly, equally dispirited and confused her.
In a few minutes, Molly Mill, entering, said: ‘They’re all come back, and Sir Hugh’s fit to eat the young squire up; and no wonder, for he’s a sweet proper gentleman, as ever I see. Come miss, I hope you’ll put on something else, for that hat makes you look worse than any thing. I would not have the young squire see you such a figure for never so much.’
The artlessness of unadorned truth, however sure in theory of extorting administration, rarely, in practice, fails inflicting pain or mortification. The simple honesty of Molly redoubled the chagrin of her young mistress, who, sending her away, went anxiously to find the looking-glass, whence, in a few moments, she perceived her uncle, from the window, laughing, and making significant signs to some one out of her sight. Extremely ashamed to be so surprised, she retreated to the other end of the room, though not till she had heard Sir Hugh say: ‘Ay, ay, she’s getting ready for you; I told you why she would not walk out with us, so don’t let’s hurry her, though I can’t but commend your being a little impatient, which I dare say so is she, only young girls can’t so well talk about it.’
Eugenia now found that Clermont had no suspicion he had seen her. Sir Hugh concluded she had not left her room, and asked no questions that could lead to the discovery. Presently the baronet came up stairs himself, and tapping at her door, said: ‘Come, my dear, don’t be too curious, the breakfast having been spoilt this hour already; besides your cousin’s having nothing on himself but his riding dress.’
Happy she could at least clear herself from so derogatory a design, she opened her door. Sir Hugh, surveying her with a look of surprise and vexation, exclaimed: ‘What my dear! an’t you dizened yet? why I thought to have seen you in all your best things!’
‘No, sir,’ answered she calmly; ‘I shall not dress till dinnertime.’
‘My dear girl,’ cried he, kindly, though a little distressed how to explain himself; ‘there’s no need you should look worse than you can help; though you can do better things, I know, than looking well at any time; only what I mean is, you should let him see you to the best advantage at the first, for fear of his taking any dislike before he knows about Dr. Orkborne, and that.’
‘Dislike, sir!’ repeated she, extremely hurt; ‘if you think he will take any dislike . . . I had better not see him at all!’
‘My dear girl, you quite mistake me, owing to my poor head’s always using the wrong word; which is a remarkable thing that I can’t help. But I don’t mean in the least to doubt his being pleased with you, except only at the beginning, from not being to you; for as to all your studies, there’s no more Greek and Latin in one body’s face than in another’s; but, however, if you won’t dress, there’s no need to keep the poor boy in hot water for nothing.’
He then took her hand, and rather dragged than drew her down stairs, saying as they went: ‘I must wish you joy, though, for I assure you he’s a very fine lad, and hardly a bit of a coxcomb.’
The family was all assembled in the parlour, except Camilla for whom the baronet had instantly dispatched Edgar, and Mr. Tyrold, who was not yet returned from a morning ride, but for whom Sir Hugh had ordered the great dinner bell to be rung, as a signal of something extraordinary.
Young Lynmere was waiting the arrival of Eugenia with avowed and unbridled impatience. Far from surmising it was her he had met in the park, he had concluded it was one of the maids, and thought of her no more. He asked a thousand questions in a breath when his uncle was gone. Was she tall? was she short? was she plump? was she lean? was she fair? was she brown? was she florid? was she pale? But as he asked them of every body, nobody answered; yet all were in some dismay at a curiosity implying such entire ignorance, except Indiana, who could not, without simpering, foresee the amazement of her brother at her cousin’s person and appearance.
‘Here’s a noble girl for you!’ cried Sir Hugh, opening the door with a flourish; ‘for all she’s got so many best things, she’s come down in her worst, for the sake of looking ill at the beginning, to the end that there may be no fault to be found afterwards; which is the wiseness that does honour to her education.’
This was, perhaps, the first time an harangue from the baron had been thought too short; but the surprise of young Lynmere; at the view of his destined bride, made him wish he would speak on, merely to annul any necessity for speaking himself. Eugenia aimed in vain to recover the calmness of her nature, or to borrow what might resemble it from her notions of female dignity. The injudicious speech of Sir Hugh, but publicly forcing upon the whole party the settled purpose of the interview, covered her with blushes, and gave a tremor to her frame that obliged her precipitately to seat herself, while her joined hands supplicated his silence.
‘Well, my dear, well!’ said he, kissing her, ‘don’t let me vex you; what I said having no meaning, except for the best; though your cousin might as well have saluted you before you sat down, I think; which, however, I suppose may be out of fashion now, every thing changing since my time; which, Lord help me! it will take me long enough to learn.’
Lynmere noticed not this hint, and they all seated themselves round the breakfast table; Sir Hugh scarce able to refrain from crying for joy, and continually exclaiming: ‘This is the happiest day of all my life, for all I’ve lived so long! To see us all together, at last, and my dear boy come home to his native old England!’
Miss Margland made the tea, and young Lynmere instantly and almost voraciously began eating of every thing that was upon the table. Indiana, when she saw her brother as handsome as her cousin was deformed, thought the contrast so droll, she could look at neither without tittering; Lavinia observed, with extreme concern, the visible distress of her sister; Dr. Orkborne forbore to ruminate upon his work, in expectation, every moment, of being called upon to converse with the learned young traveller; but Sir Hugh alone spoke, though his delight and his loquacity joined to his pleasure in remarking the good old English appetite which his nephew had brought with him from foreign parts, prevented his being struck with the general taciturnity.
The entrance of Mr. Tyrold proved a relief to all the party, though a pain to himself. He suffered in seeing the distressed confusion of Eugenia, and felt something little short of indignation at the supercilious air with which Clermont seemed to examine her; holding his head high and back, as if measuring his superior height, while every line round his mouth marked that ridicule was but suppressed by contempt.
When Sir Hugh, at length, observed that the young traveller uttered not a syllable, he exclaimed: ‘Lord help us! what fools it makes of us, being overjoyed! here am I talking all the talk to myself, while my young scholar says nothing! which I take to be owing to my speaking only English; which, however, I should not do, if it was not for the misfortune of knowing no other, which I can’t properly call a fault, being out of no idleness, as that gentleman can witness for me; for I’ll warrant nobody’s taken more pains; but our heads won’t always do what we want.’
He then gave a long and melancholy detail of his studies and their failure.
When the carriage arrived with Camilla, young Lynmere loitered to a window, to look at it; Eugenia arose, meaning to seize the opportunity to escape to her room; but seeing him turn round upon her moving, she again sat down, experiencing, for the first time, a sensation of shame for her lameness, which, hitherto, she had regularly borne with fortitude, when she had not forgotten from indifference: neither did she feel spirits to exhibit, again, before his tall and strikingly elegant figure, her diminutive little person.
Camilla entered with traces of a disordered mind too strongly marked in her countenance to have escaped observation, had she been looked at with any attention. But Eugenia and Lynmere ingrossed all eyes and all thoughts. Even herself, at first sight of the husband elect of her sister, lost, for a moment, all personal consideration, and looked at him only with the interesting idea of the future fate of Eugenia. But it was only for a moment; when she turned round, and saw nothing of Edgar, when her uncle’s inquiry what had become of him convinced her he was gone elsewhere, her heart sunk, she felt sick, and would have glided out of the room, had not Sir Hugh, thinking her faint from want of her breakfast, begged Miss Margland to make her some fresh tea; adding, ‘As this is a day in which I intend us all to be happy alike, I beg nobody will go out of the room, for the sake of our enjoying it all together.’
This summons to happiness produced the usual effect of such calls; a general silence, succeeded by a general yawning, and a universal secret wish of separation, to the single exception of Sir Hugh, who, after a pause, said, ‘Why nobody speaks but me! which I really think odd enough. However, my dear nephew, if you don’t care for our plain English conversation, which, indeed, after all your studies, one can’t much wonder at, nobody can be against you and the Doctor jabbering together a little of your Greek and Latin.’
Lynmere, letting fall his bread upon the table, leaned back in his chair, and, sticking his hands in his side, looked at his uncle an air of astonishment.
‘Nay,’ continued the baronet, ‘I don’t pretend I should be so much the wiser for it; however, it’s what I’ve no objection to hear so come, Doctor! you’re the oldest; break the ice!’
A verse of Horace with which Dr. Orkborne was opening his answer, was stopt short, by the eager manner in which Lynmere re-seized his bread with one hand, while, with the other, to the great discomposure of the exact Miss Margland, he stretched forth for the tea-pot, to pour out a bason of tea; not ceasing the libation till the saucer itself, overcharged, sent his beverage in trickling rills from the tablecloth to the floor.
The ladies all moved some paces from the table, to save their clothes; and Miss Margland reproachfully inquired if she had not made his tea to his liking.
‘Don’t mind it, I beg, my dear boy,’ cried Sir Hugh; ‘a little slop’s soon wiped up; and we’re all friends: so don’t let that stop your Latin.’
Lynmere, noticing neither the Latin, the mischief, nor the consolation, finished his tea in one draught, and then said: ‘Pray, sir, where do you keep all your newspapers?’
‘Newspapers, my dear nephew? I’ve got no newspapers: what would you have us do with a mere set of politics, that not one of us understand, in point of what may be their true drift; now we’re all met together o’purpose to be comfortable?’
‘No newspapers, sir?’ cried Lynmere, rising, and vehemently ringing the bell; and, with a scornful laugh, adding, half between his teeth ‘Ha! ha! live in the country without newspapers! a good joke, faith!’
A servant appearing, he gave orders for all the morning papers that could be procured.
Sir Hugh looked much amazed; but presently, starting up, said, ‘My dear nephew, I believe I’ve caught your meaning, at last-for if you mean, as I take for granted, that we’re all rather dull company, why I’ll take your hint, and leave you and a certain person together, to make a better acquaintance; which you can’t do so well while we’re all by, on account of modesty.’
Eugenia, frightened almost to sickness, caught by her two sisters; and Mr. Tyrold, tenderly compassionating her apprehensions, whispered to Sir Hugh to dispense with a tête-à-tête so early: and, taking her hand, accompanied her himself to her room, composing, and re-assuring her by the way.
Sir Hugh, though vexed, then followed, to issue some particular orders; the rest of the party dispersed, and young Lynmere remained with his sister.
Walking on tiptoe to the door, he shut it, and put his ear to the key-hole, till he no longer heard any footstep. Turning then hastily round, he flung himself, full length, upon a sofa, and into so violent a fit of laughter, he was forced to hold his sides.
Indiana, tittering, said, ‘Well, brother, how do you like her?’
‘Like her!’ he repeated, when able to speak; ‘why the gentleman doats! He can never, else, seriously suppose I’ll marry her.’
‘He! he! he! yes, but he does, indeed, brother. He’s got everything ready.’
‘Has he, faith?’ cried Lynmere, again rolling on the sofa, almost suffocated with violent laughter: from which, suddenly recovering, he started up to stroam to a large looking-glass, and, standing before it, in an easy and most assured attitude ‘Much obliged to him, ‘pon honour!’ he exclaimed: ‘Don’t you think,’ turning carelessly, yet in an elegant position, round to his sister, ‘don’t you think I am, Indiana?’
‘Me, brother? La! I’m sure I think she’s the ugliest little fright, poor thing! I ever saw in the world, poor thing! Such a little, short, dumpty, hump backed, crooked, limping figure of a fright . . . poor thing!’
‘Yes, yes,’ cried he, changing his posture, but still undauntedly examining himself before the glass, ‘he has taken amazing care of me, I confess; matched me most exactly!’
Then sitting down, as if to consider the matter more seriously, he took Indiana by the arm, and, with some displeasure, said, ‘Why, what does the old quoz mean? Does he want me to toss him in a blanket?’
Indiana tittered more than ever at this idea, till her brother angrily demanded of her, why she had not written herself some description of this young Hecate, to prepare him for her sight? Sir Hugh having merely given him to understand that she was not quite beautiful.
Indiana had no excuse to plead, but that she did not think of it. She had, indeed, grown up with an aversion to writing, in common with whatever else gave trouble, or required attention; and her correspondence with her brother rarely produced more than two letters in a year, which were briefly upon general topics, and read by the whole family.
She now related to him the history of the will, and the vow, which only in an imperfect, and but half-credited manner reached him.
His laughter than gave place to a storm of rage. He called himself ruined, blasted, undone; and abused Sir Hugh as a good-for-nothing dotard, defrauding him of his just rights and expectations.
‘Why, that’s the reason,’ said Indiana, ‘he wants to marry you to cousin Eugenia; because, he says, it’s to make you amends.’
This led him to a rather more serious consideration of the affair; for, he protested, the money was what he could not do without. Yet, again parading to the glass, ‘What a shame, Indiana,’ he cried, ‘what a shame would it be to make such a sacrifice? If he’ll only pay a trifle of money for me, and give me a few odd hundreds to begin with, I’ll hold him quit of all else, so he’ll but quit me of that wizen little stump.’
A newspaper, procured from the nearest public house, being now brought, he pinched Indiana by the chin, said she was the finest girl he had seen in England, and whistled off to his appointed chamber.
Clermont Lynmere so entirely resembled his sister in person, that now, in his first youth, he might almost have been taken for her, even without change of dress: but the effect produced upon the beholders bore not the same parallel: what in her was beauty in its highest delicacy, in him seemed effeminacy in its lowest degradation. The brilliant fairness of his forehead, transparent pink of his cheeks, the pouting vermillion of his lips, the liquid lustre of his languishing blue eyes, the minute form of his almost infantine mouth, and the snowy whiteness of his small hands and taper fingers, far from bearing the attraction which, in his sister, rendered them so lovely, made him considered by his own sex as an unmanly fop, and by the women, as too conceited to admire any thing but himself.
With respect to his understanding, his superiority over his sister was rather in education than in parts, and in practical intercourse with the world, than in any higher reasoning faculties. His character, like his person, wanted maturing, the one being as distinct from intellectual decision, as the other from masculine dignity. He had youth without diffidence, sprightliness without wit, opinion without judgment, and learning without knowledge. Yet, as he contemplated his fine person in the glass, he thought himself without one external fault; and, early cast upon his own responsibility, was not conscious of one mental deficiency.
MR. TYROLD left Eugenia to her sisters, unwilling to speak of Lynmere till he had seen something more of him. Sir Hugh, also, was going, for he had no time, he said, to lose in his but Eugenia, taking his arm, besought that nothing might, at present, be mentioned.
‘Don’t trouble yourself about that, my dear,’ he answered; for it’s what I take all into my own hands; your cousin being a person that don’t talk much; by which, how can any thing be forward, if nobody interferes? A girl, you know, my dear, can’t speak for herself, let her wish it never so much.’
‘Alas!’ said Eugenia, when he was gone, ‘how painfully am I situated! Clermont will surely suppose this precipitance all mine; and already, possibly, concludes it is upon my suggestion he has thus prematurely been called from his travels, and impeded in his praise-worthy ambition of studying the laws, manners, and customs of the different nations of Europe!’
The wan countenance of Camilla soon, however, drew all observation upon herself, and obliged her to narrate the cruel adventure of the morning.
The sisters were both petrified by the account of Sir Sedley, and their compassion for his expected despair was changed into disgust at his insulting impertinence. They were of opinion that his bird and his letters should immediately be returned; and their horror of any debt with a character mingling such presumption with such levity, made Eugenia promise that, as soon as she was mistress of so much money, she would send him, in the name of Lionel, his two hundred pounds.
The bird, therefore, by Tom Hodd, was instantly conveyed to Clarendel Place; but the letters Camilla retained, till she could first shew them to Edgar, . . . if this event had not lost him to her for ever, and if he manifested any desire of an explanation.
Edgar himself, meanwhile, in a paroxysm of sudden misery, and torturing jealousy, had galloped furiously to the rector of Cleves.
‘O, Doctor Marchmont!’ he cried, ‘what a tale have I now to unfold! Within these last twenty-four hours I have been the most wretched . . . the happiest . . . and again the most agonized of human beings! I have thought Camilla bestowed upon another, . . . I have believed her, . . . oh, Doctor! . . . my own! . . . I have conceived myself at the summit of all earthly felicity! . . . I find myself, at this moment deluded and undone!’
He then detailed the account, calling upon the Doctor to unravel to him the insupportable Ã¦nigma of his destiny; to tell him for what purpose Camilla had shewn him a tenderness so bewitching, at the very time she was carrying on a clandestine intercourse with another? with a man, who, though destitute neither of wit nor good qualities, it was impossible she should love, since she was as incapable of admiring as of participating in his defects? To what incomprehensible motives attribute such incongruities? Why accept and suffer her friends to accept him, if engaged to Sir Sedley? why, if seriously meaning to be his, this secret correspondence? Why so early, so private, so strange a meeting? ‘Whence, Doctor Marchmont, the daring boldness of his seizing her hand? whence the never-to-be-forgotten licence with which he presumed to lift it to his lips, and there hardily to detain it, so as never man durst do, whose hopes were not all alive, from his own belief in their encouragement! explain, expound to me this work of darkness and amazement; tell me why, with every appearance of the most artless openness, I find her thus eternally disingenuous and unintelligible? why, though I have cast myself wholly into her power, she retains all her mystery . . . she heightens it into deceit next perjury?’
‘Ask me, my dear young friend, why the sun does not give night, and the moon day; then why women practise coquetry. Alas! my season for surprise has long been passed! They will rather trifle, even with those they despise, than be candid even with those they respect. The young baronet, probably, has been making his court to her, or she has believed such was his design; but as you first came to the point, she would not hazard rejecting you, while uncertain if he were serious. She was, possibly, putting him to the test, by the account of your declaration, at the moment of your unseasonable intrusion.’
‘If this, Doctor, is your statement, and if your statement is just, in how despicable a lottery have I risked the peace of my life! You suppose then . . . that, if sure of Sir Sedley . . . I am discarded?’
‘You know what I think of your situation: can I, when to yet more riches I add a title, suppose that of Sir Sedley less secure?’
The shuddering start, the distracted look of Edgar, with his hand clapped to his burning forehead, now alarmed the Doctor, who endeavoured to somewhat soften his sentence, dissuading him against any immediate measures, and advising him to pass over these first moments of emotion, and then coolly to suffer inquiry to take place of decision. But Edgar could not hear him; he shook hands with him, faintly smiled, as an apology for not speaking; and, hurrying off, without waiting for his servant, galloped towards the New Forest: leaving his absence from Cleves to declare his defection, and bent only to fly from Camilla, and all that belonged to her.
All, however, that belonged to Camilla was precisely what followed him; pursued him in every possible form, clung to his heart-strings, almost maddened his senses. He could not bear to reflect; retrospection was torture, anticipation was horror. To lose thus, without necessity, without calamity, the object of his dearest wishes, . . . to lose her from mere declension of esteem . . ., ‘Any inevitable evil,’ he cried, ‘I could have sustained; any blow of fortune, however severe; any stroke of adversity, however terrible; . . . but this . . . this error of all my senses . . . this deception of all my hopes . . . this extinction of every feeling I have cherished’–
He rode on yet harder, leaping over every thing, thoughtless rather than fearless of every danger he could encounter, and galloping with the speed and violence of some pursuit, though wholly without view, and almost without consciousness; as if hoping by flight, to escape from the degenerate portrait of Camilla: but its painter was his own imagination, and mocked the attempt.
From the other side of a five-barred gate, which, with almost frantic speed, he was approaching with a view to clear, a voice halloo’d to stop him; and, at the same time, a man who was leading one horse, and riding another, dismounted, and called ‘Why, as sure as I’m alive, it’s ‘Squire Mandlebert!’
Edgar now, perceiving Jacob, was going to turn back to avoid him; but, restraining this first movement, faintly desired him to stand by, as he had not a moment to lose.
‘Good lack!’ cried Jacob, with the freedom of an old servant, who had known him from a boy; ‘why, I would not but have happened to come this way for never so much! why you might have broke your neck, else! Leap such a gate as this here? why, I can’t let you do no such a thing! Miss Camilla’s like a child of my own as one may say; and she’ll never hold up her head again, I’ll be bound for it, if you should come to any harm; and, as to poor old master! ’twould go nigh to break his heart.’
Struck with words which, from so faithful an old servant, could not but be touching, Edgar was brought suddenly to himself, and felt the claim of the Tyrold family for a conduct more guarded. He endeavoured to put his own feelings apart, and consider how best he might spare those of the friends of Camilla; those of Camilla herself he concluded to be out of his reach, except as they might simply relate to the female pride and vanity of refusing rather than being given up.
He paused, now, to weigh how he might obviate any offence; and, after first resolving to write a sort of general leave-taking, and, next, seeing the almost insuperable objections to whatever he could state, determined upon gaining time for deliberation, by merely commissioning Jacob to carry a message to Cleves, that some sudden affairs called him, for the present, to a distant part of the country. This, at such a period, would create a surprise that might lead the way to what would follow: and Camilla, who could not, he thought, be much astonished, might then take her own measures for the defection she would see reason to expect.
But Jacob resisted bearing the intelligence: ‘Good lack, sir,’ he cried, ‘what have you got in your head? something that will do you no good, I’ll be bound, by the look of your eyes, which look as big as if they was both going to drop out; you’d better come yourself and tell ’em what’s the matter, and speak a word to poor Miss Camilla, or she’ll never believe but what some ill has betided you, Why we all knew about it, fast enough, before our master told us; servants have eyes well as their masters; only Mary will have it she found it out at the first, which an’t true, for I saw it by the time you’d been a week in the house; and if you’ll take my word, squire, I don’t think there’s such another heart in the world as Miss Camilla’s, except just my own old master’s.’
Edgar leant against his horse neither speaking nor moving, yet involuntarily listening, while deeply sighing.
‘What a power of good she’ll do,’ continued Jacob, ‘when she’s mistress of Beech Park! I warrant she’ll go about, visiting the poor, and making them clothes, and broths, and wine possets, and baby-linen, all day long. She has done it at Etherington quite from a child; and when she had nothing to give ’em, she used to take her thread papers and needle books, and sit down and work for them, and carry them bits and scraps of things to help ’em patch their gowns. Why when she’s got your fine fortunes, she’ll bring a blessing upon the whole county.’
Edgar felt touched; his wrath was softened into tenderness, and he ejaculated to himself: ‘Such, indeed, I thought Camilla! Active in charity, gentle in good works! . . . I thought that in putting my fortune into her hands, I was serving the unhappy, feeding the indigent, . . . reviving the sick!’
‘Master,’ continued Jacob, ‘took a fancy to her from the very first, as well as I; and when master said she was coming to live with us, I asked to make it a holiday for all our folks, and master was as pleased as I. But nobody’d think what a tender heart she’s got of her own, without knowing her, because of singing, and laughing, and dancing so, except when old Margland’s in the way, who’s what Mr. Lionel calls a kill-joy at any time. Howbeit, I’ll take special care she shan’t be by when I tell her of my stopping you from breaking your neck here; but I wish you could be in a corner yourself, to peep at her without her knowing it; I’ll warrant you she’ll give me such a smile, you’d be fit to eat her!’
Shaken once more in every resolution, because uncertain every opinion, Edgar found the indignant desperation which had seized him begin to subside, and his mind again become assailable by something resembling hope. Almost instinctively he remounted his horse, and almost involuntarily drawn on by hearkening to the praise of Camilla, and fascinated by the details made by Jacob of her regard, accompanied him back to Cleves.
As they rode into the park, and while he was earnestly endeavouring to form some palliation, by which he, might exculpate what seemed to him so guilty in the strange meeting and its strange circumstances, he perceived Camilla herself, walking upon the lawn. He saw she had observed him, and saw, from her air, she seemed irresolute if to re-enter the house, or await him.
Jacob, significantly pointing her out, offered to shew the effect he could produce by what he could relate; but Edgar, giving him the charge of his horse, earnestly besought him to retire in quiet, and to keep his opinions and experiments to himself.
Each now, separately, and with nearly equal difficulty, strove to attain fortitude to seek an explanation. They approached each other; Camilla with her eyes fixed upon the ground, her air embarrassed, and her cheeks covered with blushes; Edgar with quick, but almost tottering steps, his eyes wildly avoiding hers, and his complexion pale even to indisposition.
When they were met within a few yards, they stopt; Camilla still without courage to look up, and Edgar striving to speak, but finding no passage for his voice. Camilla, then, ashamed of her situation, raised her eyes, and forced herself to say, ‘Have you been into the house? Have you seen my cousin Lynmere?’
‘No . . . madam.’
Struck with a cold formality that never before, from Edgar, had reached her ears, and shocked by the sight of his estranged and altered countenance, with the cruel consciousness that appearances authorised the most depreciating suspicions, she advanced, and holding out her hand, ‘Edgar,’ she gently cried, ‘are you ill? Or only angry?’
‘O Camilla!’ he answered, ‘can you deign to use to me such a word? can you distort my dearest affections, convulse my fairest hopes, eradicate every power of happiness . . . yet speak with so much sweetness . . . yet look at me with such mildness? Such softness . . . I had almost said . . . such kindness?’
Deeply affected, she could hardly stand. He had taken her offered hand, but in a manner so changed from the same action the preceding day, that she scarce knew if he touched while he held it, scarce felt that he relinquished, as almost immediately she withdrew it.
But her condescension at this moment was rather a new torment than any solace to him. The hand which she proferred, and which the day before had received as the token of permanent felicity, he had now seen in the possession of another, with every licence, every apparent mark of permitted rapture in which he had been indulged himself. He knew not to whom it of right belonged; and the doubt not merely banished happiness, but mingled resentment with misery.
‘I see,’ cried she, after a mortified pause; ‘you have lost your good opinion of me . . . I can only, therefore. . . . ’ She stopt, his melancholy silence was a confirmation of her suggestion that offended her into more exertion, and, with sensibility raised into dignity, she added, ‘only hope your intended tour to the Continent may take place without delay!’
She would then have walked on to the house; but following her, ‘Is all over?’ he cried, ‘and is it thus, Camilla, we part?’
‘Why not?’ said she, suppressing a sigh, yet turning back.
‘What a question! cruel Camilla! Is this all the explanation you allow me?’
‘What other do you wish?’
‘All! . . . every other! . . . that meeting . . . those letters . . . ’
‘If you have any curiosity yet remaining . . . only name what you desire.’
‘Are you indeed so good?’ cried he, in a voice that shewed his soul again melting; ‘those letters, then. . . . ’
‘You shall have them . . . every one!’ she cried, with alacrity; and instantly taking out her pocket-book, presented him with the prepared packet.
Penetrated by this unexpected openness and compliance, he snatched her hand, with intent to press it to his lips; but again the recollection he had seen that liberty accorded to Sir Sedley, joined to the sight of his writing, checked him; he let it go; bowed his thanks with a look of grateful respect, and attempting no more to stop her, walked towards the summer house, to peruse the letters.
THE sound of the dinner-bell, which rang in the ears of Edgar before he reached his intended retreat, would have been unnoticed, if not seconded by a message from Sir Hugh, who had seen him from his window.
Compelled to obey, though in a state of suspense almost intolerable, he put up the important little packet, and repaired to the dining parlour; where, though none were equally disturbed with himself, no one was at ease. Young Lynmere, under an appearance of mingled assurance and apathy, the effect of acquired conceit, playing upon natural insipidity, was secretly tormented with the rueful necessity of sacrificing either a noble fortune, or his own fine person; Sir Hugh felt a strange disappointment from the whole behaviour of his nephew, though it was what he would not acknowledge, and could not define; Mr. Tyrold saw with much uneasiness the glaringly apparent unsuitableness of the intended alliance; Eugenia had never yet thought herself so plain and insignificant, and felt as if, even since the morning, the small-pox had renewed its ravages, and she had sunk into being shorter; Indiana and Miss Margland were both acutely incensed with Mandlebert; Dr. Orkborne saw but small reason to expect gratitude for his labours from the supercilious negligence of the boasted young student; Lavinia was disturbed for both her sisters; and Camilla felt that all she valued in life depended upon the next critical hour or two.
In this state of general discomfort, Sir Hugh, who could never be silent, alone talked. Having long prepared himself to look upon this meeting as a day of happiness, he strove to believe, for a while, the whole family were peculiarly enjoying themselves; but, upon a dead silence, which ensued upon his taking a copious draught of Madeira and water, ‘Why, my dear nephew,’ he cried, putting down his goblet, ‘you don’t tell us any thing? which I’ve no doubt but you know why yourself. However, as we’re all met o’ purpose to see you, I can’t say I should be sorry to hear the sound of your voice, provided it won’t be disagreeable.’
‘We are not much-conversant, sir, in each other’s connexions, I believe,’ answered Lynmere, without ceasing a moment to eat, and to help himself, and ordering a fresh plate at every second mouthful; ‘I have seen nothing, yet, of your folks hereabouts; and, I fancy, sir, you don’t know a great deal of the people I have been used to.’
Sir Hugh, having good humouredly acknowledged this to be truth, was at a loss what further to purpose; and, imagining the taciturnity of the rest of the party to proceed from an awe of the knowledge and abilities of his nephew, soon became himself so infected with fear and reverence, that, though he could not be silent, he spoke only to those who were next him, and in a whisper.
When the dessert was served, something like a general relief was effected by the unexpected entrance of Dr. Marchmont. Alarmed by the ungoverned, and, in him, unprecedented emotions of Edgar, he had been to Beech Park; and, finding he had not returned there, had ridden on, in the most uneasy uncertainty, to inquire for him at Cleves.
Happy to see him safe, though almost smiling to see with whom, he was beginning some excuse for his intrusion, when the baronet saved his proceeding, by calling out, ‘Well, this is as good a piece of good luck as any we’ve met with yet! Here’s Dr. Marchmont come to wish us joy; and as he’s as good a scholar as yourself, nephew, for any thing I know to the contrary, why you need not be so afraid of speaking, for the sake of our not understanding you; which here’s five of us can do now, as well as yourself.’
Lynmere, readily concluding Mr. Tyrold and Edgar, with the two Doctors, made four, glanced round the table to see who might be the fifth; when, supposing it Miss Margland, he withdrew his eyes with a look of derision, and, turning to the butler, asked what wines he might call for.
Sir Hugh then proposed that they should all pair off; the ignorant ones going one way, and the learned ones straying another.
It would be difficult to say which looked most averse to this proposition, Eugenia, or the young traveller; who hastily said, ‘I always ride after dinner, sir. Is your groom at hand? Can he shew me your horses?’
‘My nephew little suspects,’ cried Sir Hugh, winking, ‘Eugenia belongs to the scholars! Ten to one but he thinks he’s got Homer and Horace to himself! But here, my dear boy, as you’re so fond of the classics’–
Clermont, nimbly rising, and knocking down a decanter of water in his haste, but not turning back to look at it, nor staying to offer any apology, affected not to hear his uncle, and flung hastily out of the room, calling upon Indiana to follow him.
‘In the name of all the Diavoli,’ cried he, pulling her into the park with him, ‘what does all this mean? Is the old gentleman non compos? what’s all this stuff he descants upon so freely, of scholars, and classics, and Homer, and Horace?’
‘O you must ask Eugenia, not me!’ answered Indiana, scornfully.
‘Why, what does Eugenia know of the matter?’
‘Know? why every thing. She’s a great scholar, and has been brought up by Dr. Orkborne; and she talks Greek and Latin.’
‘Does she so? then, by the Lord! she’s no wife of mine! I’d as soon marry the old Doctor himself! and I’m sure he’d make me as pretty a wife. Greek and Latin! why I’d as soon tie myself to a rod. Pretty sort of dinners she’ll give!’
‘O dear, yes, brother; she don’t care what she eats; she cares for nothing but books, and such kind of things.’
‘Books! ha! ha! Books, and Latin and Greek! upon my faith, a pretty wife the old gentleman has been so good as to find me! why he must be a downright driveller!’
‘Ah, brother, if we had all that fortune, what a different figure we should cut with it!’
‘Why, yes, I rather flatter myself we should. No great need of five thousand a year to pore over books! Ha! ha! faith, this is a good hum enough! So he thinks to take me in, does he?’
‘Why, you know, she is so rich, brother.’ . . .
‘Rich? well, and what am I? do you see such a figure as this,’ (suddenly skipping before her,) ‘every day? Am I reduced to my last legs, think you? Do you suppose I can’t meet with some kind old dowager any time these twenty years?’
‘La, brother, won’t you have her then?’
‘No, faith, won’t I! It’s not come to that, neither. This learning is worse than her ugliness; ’twould make me look like a dunce in my own house.’
He then protested he had rather lose forty estates, than so be sacrificed, and vowed, without venturing a direct refusal, he would soon sicken the old gentleman of his scheme.
Eugenia, in retreating to her room, was again accompanied by her father and her uncle, whom she conjured now, to name her to Clermont no more.
‘I can’t say I admire these puttings off, my dear,’ said the baronet, ‘in this our mortal state, which is always liable to end in our dying. Not that I pretend to tell you I think him over much alert; but there’s no knowing but what he may have some meaning in it that we can’t understand; a person having studied all his life, has a right to a little particularity.’
Mr. Tyrold himself now seriously interfered, and desired that, henceforth, Clermont might be treated as if his visit to Cleves was merely to congratulate his uncle upon his recovery; and that all schemes, preparations, and allusions, might be put aside, unless the youth himself, and with a good grace, brought them forward; meanwhile, he and Lavinia would return without delay to Etherington, to obviate all appearance of waiting the decision of any plan.
Sir Hugh was much discomfited by the exaction of such forbearance, yet could the less oppose it, from his own discontent with his nephew, which he inadvertently betrayed, by murmuring, in his way to his chamber, ‘There’s no denying but what they’ve got some odd-fangled new ways of their own, in those foreign parts; meeting a set of old relations for the first time, and saying nothing to them, but asking for the newspapers! Lord help us! caring about the wide world, so, when we know nothing of it, instead of one’s own uncles and nephews, and kinspeople!’
During this time, Edgar, almost agonised by suspence and doubt, had escaped to the summer-house, whither he was followed by Dr. Marchmont, greatly to the wonder, almost with the contempt of Dr. Orkborne; whom he quitted, in anxiety for his young friend, just as he had intimated a design to consult him upon a difficult passage in an ancient author, which had a place in his work, that was now nearly ready for the press.
‘I know well, Doctor,’ said Edgar, ‘that to find me here, after all that has passed, will make you conclude me the weakest of men . . . but I cannot now explain how it has been brought about . . . these letters must first tell me if Camilla and I meet more than once again.’
He then hastily ran over the letters; but by no means hastily could he digest, nor even comprehend their contents. He thought them florid, affected, and presuming; yet vague, studied, with little appearance of sincerity, and less of explicit decision. What related to Lionel, and to aiding him in the disposal of his wealth, seemed least intelligible, yet most like serious meaning; but when he found that the interview at the Grove was by positive appointment, and granted to a request made with a forwardness and assurance so wide from all delicacy and propriety, the blood mounted high into his cheeks, and, precipitately putting up the packet he exclaimed: ‘Here, then, it ends! the last little ray of hesitation is extinct to be kindled never more!’
The sound of these last words caused him an emotion of sorrow he was unable to resist, though unwilling to betray, and he hurried out of the summer-house to the wood, where he strove to compose his mind to the last leave-taking upon which he was now determined; but so dreadful was the resolution which exacted from his own mouth the resignation of all that, till now, had been dearest to his views and hopes, that the afternoon was far advanced, before he could assume sufficient courage to direct his steps to the spot where the sacrifice was to be made.
Accusing himself, then of weakness unpardonable, he returned to the summer-house, to apologise to Dr. Marchmont for his abrupt retreat; but the Doctor had already re-entered the mansion. Thither, therefore, he proceeded, purposing to seek Camilla, to return her the letters of Sir Sedley, and to desire her commands in what manner to conduct himself with her father and her uncle, in acknowledging his fears that the projected union would fail of affording, to either party, the happiness which, at first, it seemed to promise.
The carriage of Sir Hugh was in waiting at the door, and Mr. Tyrold and Lavinia were in the hall. Edgar, in no condition for such an encounter, would have avoided them; but Mr. Tyrold, little suspecting his desire, rejoiced at the meeting, saying he had had the house searched for him in vain, that he might shake hands with him before his return to Etherington.
Then, taking him apart, ‘My dear Edgar,’ he cried, ‘I have long loved you as tenderly, and I may now confide in you as completely, as if you were my son. I go hence in some inquietude; I fear my brother has been too hasty in making known his views with regard to Clermont; who does not seem equal to appreciating the worth of Eugenia, though it is evident he has not been slack in noticing her misfortunes. I entreat you, during my absence, to examine him as if you were already the brother of that dear child, who merits, you well know, the best and tenderest of husbands.’
He then followed Lavinia into the carriage, prevented by his own occupied mind from observing the fallen countenance of Edgar, who, more wretched than ever, bemoaned now the kindness of which he had hitherto been proud, and lamented the paternal trust which he would have purchased the day before almost with life.
Camilla, during this period, had gone through conflicts no less severe.
Jacob, who had bought a horse, for which he had advanced 20l. had informed her of the gate adventure of Edgar, and told her that, but for his stopping him, he was riding like mad from Cleves, and only sending them all a message that he could not come back.
Grieved, surprised, and offended, she instantly determined she would not risk such another mark of his cold superiority, but restore to him his liberty, and leave him master of himself. ‘If the severity of his judgment,’ cried she, ‘is so much more potent than the warmth of his affection, it shall not be his delicacy, nor his compassion, that shall make me his. I will neither be the wife of his repentance nor of his pity. I must be convinced of his unaltered love, his esteem, his trust . . . or I shall descend to humiliation, not rise to happiness, in becoming his. Softness here would be meanness; submission degrading . . . if he hesitates-let him go!’
She then, without weighing, or even seeing one objection, precipitately resolved to beg permission of her friends, to accept an invitation she had received, without as yet answering, to meet Mrs. Berlinton at Southampton, where that lady was going to pass some weeks. She could there, she thought, give the rejection which here its inviolable circumstances made her, for Lionel’s sake, afraid to risk; or she could there, if a full explanation should appease him, find opportunity to make it with equal safety; his dislike to that acquaintance rather urged than impede her plan, for her wounded spirit panted to prove its independence and dignity.
Eugenia approved this elevation of sentiment, and doubted not it would shew her again in her true light to Edgar, and bring him, with added esteem, to her feet.
Camilla wept with joy at the idea: ‘Ah!; she cried, ‘if such should be my happy fate; if, after hearing all my imprudence, my precipitance, and want of judgment, he should voluntarily, when wholly set free, return to me . . . I will confess to him every feeling . . . and every failing of my heart! I will open to him my whole soul, and cast myself ever after upon his generosity and his goodness . . . O, my Eugenia! almost on my knees could I receive . . . a second time . . . the vows of Edgar Mandlebert!’
LYNMERE, at tea-time, returned from his ride, with a fixed plan of frightening or disgusting the baronet from the alliance; with Eugenia, herself, he imagined the attempt would be vain, for he did not conceive it possible any woman who had eyes could be induced to reject him.
Determined, therefore, to indulge, in full, both the natural presumption and acquired luxuriance of his character, he conducted himself in a manner that, to any thing short of the partiality of Sir Hugh, would have rendered him insupportably offensive: but Sir Hugh had so long cherished a reverence for what he had himself ordered with regard to his studies, and what he implicitly credited of his attainments, that it was more easy to him to doubt his senses, than to suppose so accomplished a scholar could do any thing but what was right.
‘Your horses are worth nothing, sir,’ cried he, in entering; ‘I never rode so unpleasant a beast. I don’t know who has the care of your stud; but whoever it is, he deserves to be hanged.’
Sir Hugh could not refuse, either to his justice or his kindness, to vindicate his faithful Jacob; and for his horses he made as many excuses, as if every one had been a human creature, whom he was recommending to his mercy, with a fear they were unworthy of his favour.
Not a word was said more, except what Miss Margland, from time to time, extorted, by begging questions, in praise of her tea, till Lynmere, violently ringing the bell, called out to order a fire.
Every body was surprised at this liberty, without any previous demand of permission from the baronet, or any inquiry into the feelings of the rest of the company; and Sir Hugh, in a low voice, said to Eugenia, ‘I am a little afraid poor Mary will be rather out of humour to have the grate to polish again tomorrow in the case my nephew should not like to have another fire then; which, I suppose, if the weather continues so hot, may very likely, not be agreeable to him.’
Another pause now ensued; Dr. Marchmont, who, of the whole party, was alone, at this time, capable of leading to a general conversation, was separately occupied by watching Camilla; while himself, as usual, was curiously and unremittingly examined by Dr. Orkborne, in whom so much attention to a young lady raised many private doubts of the justice of his scholastic fame; which soon, by what he observed of his civility even to Miss Margland, were confirmed nearly to scepticism.
Mary, now, entering with a coal scuttle and a candle, Lynmere, with much displeasure, called out, ‘Bring wood; I hate coals.’
Mary, as much displeased, and nearly as much humoured as himself, answered that nothing but coals were ever burnt in that grate.
‘Take it all away, then, and bid my man send me my pelisse. That I made to cross the Alps in.’
‘I am very sorry, indeed, nephew,’ said Sir Hugh, ‘that we were not better prepared for your being so chilly, owing to the weather being set in so sultry, that we none of us much thought of having a fire; and, indeed, in my young time, we were never allowed thinking of such things before Michaelmas-day; which I suppose is quite behind-hand now. Pray, nephew, if it is not too much trouble to you, what’s the day for lighting fires in foreign parts?’
‘There’s no rule of that sort, now, sir, in modern philosophy; that kind of thing’s completely out; entirely exploded, I give you my word.’
‘Well, every thing’s new, Lord help me, since I was born! But I pray, nephew, if I may ask, without tiring you too much, on account of my ignorance, have they fires in summer as well as winter there?’
‘Do you imagine there are grates and fires on the Continent, sir, the same as in England? ha! ha!’
Sir Hugh was discountenanced from any further inquiry.
Another silence ensued, broken again by a vehement ringing of the bell.
When the servant appeared, ‘What have you got,’ cried Lynmere, ‘that you can bring me to eat?’
‘Eat, nephew! why you would not eat before supper, when here’s nobody done tea? not that I’d have you baulk your appetite, which, to be sure, ought to be the best judge.’
The youth ordered some oysters.
There were none in the house.
He desired a barrel might immediately be procured; he could eat nothing else.
Still Edgar, though frequent opportunities occurred, had no fortitude to address Camilla, and no spirits to speak. To her, however, his dejection was a revival; she read in it her power, and hoped her present plan would finally confirm it.
A servant now came in, announcing a person who had brought two letters, one for Sir Hugh, the other for Miss Camilla, but who said he would deliver them himself. The baronet desired he might be admitted.
Several minutes passed, and he did not appear. The wonder of Sir Hugh was awakened for his letter; but Camilla, dreading a billet from Sir Sedley, was in no haste.
Lynmere, however, glad of an opportunity to issue orders, or make disturbance, furiously rang the bell, saying: ‘Where are these letters?’
‘Jacob,’ said the baronet, ‘my nephew don’t mean the slowness to be any fault of yours, it being what you can’t help; only tell the person that brought us our letters, we should be glad to look at them, not knowing who they may be from.’
‘Why he seems but an odd sort of fish, sir; I can’t much make him out, he’s been begging some flour to put in his hair; he’ll make himself so spruce, he says, we sha’n’t know him again; I can’t much think he’s a gentleman.’
He then, however, added he had made a mistake, as there was no letter for his master, but one for Miss Camilla, and the other for Miss Margland.
‘For me?’ exclaimed Miss Margland, breaking forth from a scornful silence, during which her under lip had been busy to express her contempt of the curiosity excited upon this subject. ‘Why how dare they not tell me it was for me? it may be from somebody of consequence, about something of importance, and here’s half a day lost before I can see it!’
She then rose to go in search of it herself, but opened the door upon Mr. Dubster.
A ghost, could she have persuaded herself she had seen one, could not more have astonished, though it would more dismayed her. She drew haughtily back, saying: ‘Is there nobody else come?’
The servant answered in the negative, and she retreated to her chair.
Camilla alone was not perplext by this sight; she had, already, from the description, suggested whom she might expect, according to the intimation given by the ever mischievous Lionel.
Miss Margland, concluding he would turn out to be some broken tradesman, prepared herself to expect that the letter was a petition, and watched for an opportunity to steal out of the room.
Mr. Dubster made two or three low bows, while he had his hand upon the door, and two or three more when he had shut it. He then cast his eyes round the room, and espying Camilla, with a leering sort of smile, said: ‘O, you’re there, ma’am! I should find you out in a hundred. I’ve got a letter for you, ma’am, and another for the gentlewoman I took for your mamma; and I was not much out in my guess, for there’s no great difference, as one may say, between a mamma and a governess; only the mother’s the more natural, like.’
He then presented her a letter, which she hastily put up, not daring to venture at a public perusal, lest it might contain not merely something ludicrous concerning Mr. Dubster, to which she was wholly indifferent, but allusions to Sir Sedley Clarendel, which, in the actual situation of things, might be fatally unseasonable.
‘And now,’ said Mr. Dubster, ‘I must give up my t’other letter, asking the gentlewoman’s pardon for not giving it before; only I was willing to give the young lady her’s first, young ladies being apt to be more in a hurry than people a little in years.’
This address did not much add to the benevolent eagerness of Miss Margland to read the epistle, and endeavouring to decline accepting it: ‘Really,’ she said, ‘unless I know what it’s about, I’m not much used to receiving letters in that manner.’
‘As to what it’s about,’ cried he, with a half suppressed simper and nodding his head on one side; ‘that’s a bit of a secret, as you’ll see when you’ve read it.’
‘Indeed, good man, I wish you very well; but as to reading all the letters that every body brings one, it requires more time than I can pretend to have to spare, upon every trifling occasion.’
She would then have retired; but Mr. Dubster, stopping her, said: ‘Why, if you don’t read it, ma’am, nobody’ll be never the wiser for what I come about, for it’s ungain-like to speak for one’s self; and the young gentleman said he’d write to you, because, he said, you’d like it the best.’
‘The young gentleman? what young gentleman?’
‘Young squire Tyrold; he said you’d be as pleased as any thing to tell it to the old gentleman yourself; for you was vast fond, he said, of matrimony.’
‘Matrimony? what have I to do with matrimony?’ cried Miss Margland, reddening and bridling; ‘if it’s any vulgar trick of that kind, that Mr. Lionel is amusing himself with, I’m not quite the right sort of person to be so played upon; and I desire, mister, you’ll take care how you come to me any more upon such errands, lest you meet with your proper deserts.’
‘Dear heart! I’m not going to offer anything uncivil. As to matrimony, it’s no great joke to a man, when once he’s made his way in the world; it’s more an affair of you ladies by half.’
‘Of us? Upon my word! this is a compliment rather higher than I expected. Mr. Lionel may find, however, I have friends who will resent such impertinence, if he imagines he may send who he will to me with proposals of this sort.’
‘Lauk, ma’am, you need not be in such a fright for nothing! however, there’s your letter, ma’am,’ putting it upon the table; ‘and when you are in better cue, I suppose you’ll read it.’
Then, advancing to Camilla: ‘Now, ma’am, let’s you and I have a little talk together; but first, by good rights, I ought to speak to your uncle; only I don’t know which he is; ’twill be mortal kind if you’ll help a body out.’
Sir Hugh was going to answer for himself, when Lynmere, fatigued with so long a scene in which he had no share, had recourse to his friend the bell, calling out, at the same time, in a voice of impatience, ‘No oysters yet!’
Sir Hugh now began to grow unhappy for his servants; for himself he not only could bear any thing, but still concluded he had nothing to bear; but his domestics began all to wear long faces, and, accustomed to see them happy, he was hurt to observe the change. No partiality to his nephew could disguise to him, that, long used to every possible indulgence, it was vain to hope they would submit, without murmuring, to so new a bondage of continual and peremptory commands. Instead of attending, therefore, to Mr. Dubster, he considered what apology to offer to Jacob; who suspecting by whom he was summoned, did not make his appearance till Lynmere rung again.
‘Where are these oysters?’ he then demanded; ‘have you been eating them?’
‘No, sir,’ answered he surlily; ‘we’re not so sharp set; we live in Old England; we don’t come from outlandish countries.’
This true John Bullism, Lynmere had neither sense to despise, nor humour to laugh at; and, seriously in a rage, called out, ‘Sirrah, I’ll break your bones!’ and lifted up his riding switch, with which, as well as his boots, he had re-entered the parlour.
‘The Lord be good unto me!’ cried Sir Hugh, ‘what new ways are got into the world! but don’t take it to heart, Jacob, for as to breaking your bones, after all your long services, it’s a thing I sha’n’t consent to; which I hope my nephew won’t take ill.’
Affronted with the master, and enraged with the man, Lynmere stroamed petulantly up and down the room, with loud and marked steps, that called, or at least disturbed the attention of everyone, exclaiming, at every turning, ‘A confounded country this! a villainous country! nothing to be had in it! I don’t know what in the world to think of that there’s any chance I can get!’
Sir Hugh, recovering, said he was sorry he was so badly off and desired Jacob not to fail procuring oysters if they were to be had within a mile.
‘A mile? . . . ten miles! say ten miles round,’ cried Lynmere ‘or you do nothing; what’s ten miles for a thing of that sort?’
‘Ten miles, nephew? what? at this time of night! why you don’t think, with all your travelling, that when they’ve got ten miles there, they’ll have ten miles to come back, and that makes count twenty.’
‘Well, sir, and suppose it was forty; what have such fellows to do better?’
Sir Hugh blessed himself, and Mr. Dubster said to Camilla: ‘So, ma’am, why you don’t read your letter, neither, no more than the gentlewoman; however, I think you may as well see a little what’s in it; though I suppose no great matters, being from a lady.’
‘A lady! what lady?’ cried she, and eagerly taking it from her pocket, saw the hand-writing of Mrs. Berlinton, and inquired how it came into his possession.
He answered, that happening to meet the lady’s footman, whom he had known something of while in business, as he was going to put it to the post, he told him he was coming to the very house, and so took it to bring himself, the man being rather in a hurry to go another way; ‘so I thought ’twas as well, ma’am,’ he added, ‘to save you the postage; for as to a day or so sooner or later, I suppose it can break no great squares, in you ladies letter-writing.’
Camilla, hastily running it over, found it contained a most pressing repetition of invitation from Mrs. Berlinton for the Southampton plan, and information that she should make a little circuit, to call and take her up at Cleves, if not immediately forbidden; the time she named for her arrival, though four days distant from the date of her letter, would be now the following morning.
This seemed, to the agitated spirits of Camilla, an inviting opening to her scheme. She gave the letter to her uncle, saying, in a fluttered manner, she should be happy to accompany Mrs. Berlinton, for a few days, if her father should not disapprove the excursion, and if he could himself have the goodness to spare one of the carriages to fetch her home, as Southampton was but sixteen miles off.
While Sir Hugh, amazed at this request, yet always unable to pronounce a negative to what she desired, stammered, Edgar abruptly took leave.
Thunderstruck by his departure, she looked affrighted, after him, with a sigh impossible to repress; she now first weighed the hazard of what she was doing, the deep game she was inconsiderately playing. Would it sunder . . . would it unite them? . . . Tears started into her eyes at the doubt; she did not hear her uncle’s answer; she rose to hurry out of the room; but before she could escape, the big drops rolled fast down her cheeks; and, when arrived at her chamber, ‘I have lost him!’ she cried, ‘by my own unreflecting precipitance; I have lost him, perhaps, for ever!’
Dr. Marchmont now also took leave; Mr. Dubster desired he might speak with the baronet the next morning; and the family remained alone.
WHILE the baronet was pondering, in the most melancholy manner, upon this sudden and unexpected demand of absence in Camilla, the grim goddess of Envy took possession of the fine features of Indiana; who declared she was immured alive, while her cousin went everywhere. The curiosity of Lynmere being excited, to inquire what was to be had or done at Southampton, he heard it abounded in good company, and good fish, and protested he must undoubtedly set out for it the next morning.
Indiana then wept with vexation and anger, and Miss Margland affirmed, she was the only young lady in Hampshire, who had never been at Southampton. Sir Hugh, concluding Edgar would attend Camilla, feared it might hurt the other match to part Eugenia from Clermont; and, after a little pause, though deeply sighing at such a dispersion from Cleves, consented that they should all go together. Camilla, therefore, was commissioned to ask leave of Mr. Tyrold for Eugenia, as well as for herself, and to add a petition from Sir Hugh, that he and Lavinia would spend the time of their absence at Cleves. The baronet then, of his own accord, asked Dr. Orkborne to be of the party, that Eugenia, he said, might run over her lessons with him in a morning, for fear of forgetting them.
A breach, however, such as this, of plans so long formed, and a desertion so voluntary of his house, at the very epoch he had settled for rendering its residence the most desirable, sent him in complete discomfiture to his bed. But there, in a few hours, his sanguine temper, and the kindness of his heart new modelled and new coloured the circumstances of his chagrin. He considered he should have full time to prepare for the double marriages, and that, with the aid of Lavinia, he might delight and amaze them all, with new dresses and new trinkets, which he could now choose without the torment of continual opposition from the documentising Miss Margland. Thus he restored his plastic mind to its usual satisfaction, and arose the next morning without a cloud upon his brow. The pure design of benevolence is to happiness upon others, but its intrinsic reward is bringing happiness home!
But this sweetness of nature, so aptly supplying the first calls, and the first virtues of philosophy, was yet more severely again tried the next morning: for when, forgetting the caution he had solemnly promised, but vainly endeavoured to observe, he intimated to Lynmere these purposes, the youth, blushing at the idea of being taken for the destined husband of Eugenia in public, preferred all risks to being followed by such a rumour to Southampton; and, when he found she was to be of the party, positively declared the match to be out of all question.
Sir Hugh now stood aghast. Many had been his disappointments; his rage for forming schemes, and his credulity in persuading himself they would be successful, were sources not more fertile of amusement in their projection, than of mortification in their event: but here, the length of time since his plan had been arranged, joined to the very superficial view he had taken of any chance of its failure, had made him, by degrees, regard it as so fixed and settled, that it rather demanded congratulation than concurrence, rather waited to be enjoyed than executed.
Lynmere took not the smallest interest in the dismay of his uncle but, turning upon his heel, said he would go to the stables, to see if he could find something that would carry him any better than the miserable jade he had mounted the preceding evening.
Sir Hugh remained in a kind of stupefaction. He seemed to himself to be bereft of every purpose of life; and robbed at once, of all view for his actions, all subject for his thoughts. The wide world he believed, had never, hitherto, given birth to a plan so sagaciously conceived, so rationally combined, so infallibly secure: yet it was fallen, crushed, rejected!
A gleam of sunshine, however, ere long, upon his despondence; it occurred to him, that the learned education of Eugenia was still a secret to her cousin; his whole scheme, therefore, might perhaps yet be retrieved, when Lynmere should be informed of the peculiar preparations made for his conjugal happiness.
Fetching now a long breath, to aid the revival of his faculties and his spirits, he considered how to open his discourse render it most impressive, and then sent for Clermont to him in his chamber.
‘Nephew,’ cried he, upon his entrance, ‘I am now going to talk to you a little in your own way, having something to tell you of, that, I believe, you won’t know how to hold cheap, being a thing that belongs to your studies; that is to say, to your cousin’s; which, I hope, is pretty much the same thing, at least as to the end. Now the case of what I have to say is this; you must know, nephew, I had always set my heart upon having a rich heir; but it’s what did not turn out, which I am sorry enough for; but where’s the man that’s so wise as to know his own doom? That is, the doom of his fortune. However, that’s what I should not talk of to you, having so little; which, I hope, you won’t take to heart. And, indeed, it in’t much worth a wise man’s thinking of, when he han’t got it, for what’s a fortune, at bottom, but mere metal? And so having, as I said before, no heir, I’m forced, in default of it, to take up with an heiress. But, to the end of making all parties happy, I’ve had her brought up in the style of a boy, for the sake of your marrying her. For which reason, I believe, in point of the classics’ . . .
‘Me, sir?’ cried Lymnere, recovering from a long yawning fit, ‘and what have I to do with marrying a girl like a boy? That’s not my taste, my dear sir, I assure you. Besides, what has a wife to do with the classics? will they shew her how to order her table? I suppose when I want to eat, I may go to a cook’s shop!”
Here subsided, at once, every particle of that reverence Sir Hugh had so long nourished for Clermont Lynmere. To hear the classics spoken of with disrespect, after all the pains he had taken, all the orders he had given for their exclusive study and veneration, and to find the common calls of life, which he had believed every scholar regarded but as means of existence, not auxiliaries of happiness, named with preference, distanced, at a stroke, all high opinion of his nephew, and made way, in its stead, for a displeasure not wholly free from disdain.
‘Well, Clermont,’ said he, after a pause, ‘I won’t keep you any longer, now I know your mind, which I wish I had known before, for the account of your cousin, who has had plague enough about it in her bringing up; which, however, I shall put an end to now, not seeing that any good has come from it.’
Lynmere joyfully accepted the permission to retire, enchanted that the rejection was thus completely off his mind, and had incurred only so slight a reproof, unaccompanied with one menace or even remonstrance.
The first consternation of Sir Hugh, at the fall of this favourite project was, indeed, somewhat lessened, at this moment, by the fall of his respectful opinion of its principal object. He sent therefore, hastily, for Eugenia, to whom he abruptly exclaimed, ‘My dear girl, who’d have thought it? here’s your cousin Clermont with all his Greek and Latin, which I begin to bless God I don’t know a word of, turning out a mere common nothing, thinking about his dinners and suppers! for which reason I beg you’ll think of him no more, it not being worth your while; in particular as he don’t desire it.’
Eugenia, at this intimation, felt nearly as much relieved as disturbed. To be refused was, indeed, shocking; not to her pride, she was a stranger to that passion; but to her delicacy, which pointed out to her, in strong colours, the impropriety of having been exposed to such a decision: nevertheless, to find herself unshackled from an alliance to which she looked forward with dread, without offending her uncle, to whom so many reasons made it dear, or militating against her own heroic sentiments of generosity, which revolted against wilfully depriving her cousin of an inheritance already offered to him, removed a weight from her mind, which his every word, look, and gesture, had contributed to increase since their first meeting.
Dr. Marchmont had ridden to Beech Park, where he had spent the night, though uninvited by its agitated owner, whom the very name of Mrs. Berlinton, annexed to an accepted party of pleasure, had driven, in speechless agony, from Cleves.
‘I wonder not,’ cried he, ‘at your disturbance; I feel for it, on the contrary, more than ever, from my observations of this evening; for I now see the charm, the potent charm, as well as the difficulties of your situation. This strange affair with Sir Sedley Clarendel cannot, in common foresight of what may ensue from it, be passed over without the most rigid scrutiny, and severest deliberation; yet, I sincerely hope, inquiry may produce some palliation: this young lady, I see, will not easily, for sweetness, for countenance, for every apparent attraction, be replaced: and, the first of all requisites is certainly in your favour; it is evident she loves you.’
‘Loves me?’ cried Edgar, his arms involuntarily encircling him as he repeated the magnetising words: ‘Ah! Dr. Marchmont, could she then thus grieve and defy me?–And yet, so too said Jacob,-that good, faithful, excellent old servant’. . . .
‘Yes; I watched her unremittingly; and saw her so much hurt by your abrupt retreat, that her eyes filled with tears the moment you left the room.’
‘O, Dr. Marchmont!-and for me were they shed?-my dear dear friend! withhold from me such a picture-or reconcile me completely to viewing no other!’
‘Once more, let me warn you to circumspection. The stake for which you are playing is life in its best part, ’tis peace of mind. That her manners are engaging, that her looks are captivating, and even that her heart is yours, admit no doubt: but the solidity or the lightness of that heart are yet to be proved.’
‘Still, Doctor, though nearly in defiance of all my senses, still I can doubt anything rather than the heart of Camilla! Precipitate, I know, she has always been reckoned; but her precipitance is of kin to her noblest virtues; it springs but from the unsuspicious frankness of an unguarded, because innocent nature. And this, in a short time, her understanding will correct.’
‘Are you sure it is adequate to the task? There is often, in early youth, a quickness of parts which raises expectations that are never realised. Their origin is but in the animal spirits, which, instead of ripening into judgment and sense by added years, dwindle into nothingness, or harden into flippancy. The character, at this period, is often so unstable, as to be completely new moulded by every new accident, or new associate. How innumerable are the lurking ill qualities that may lie dormant beneath the smiles of youth and beauty, in the season of their untried serenity! The contemporaries of half our fiercest viragos of fifty, may assure you that, at fifteen, they were all softness and sweetness. The present Ã¦ra, however, my dear young friend, is highly favourable to all you can judiciously wish; namely, the entire re-establishment, or total destruction of all confidence. . . . To a man of your nice feelings, there is no medium. Your love demands respect, or your tranquillity exacts flight from its object. Set apart your offence at the cultivation of an acquaintance you disapprove; be yourself of the party to Southampton, and there, a very little observation will enable you to dive into the most secret recesses of her character.’
‘Steadiness, Doctor, I do not want, nor yet, however I suffer from its exertion, fortitude: but a plan such as this, requires something more; it calls for an equivocal conduct, which, to me, would be impracticable, and to her, might prove delusive. No! . . . the openness I so much pine to meet with, I must, at least, not forfeit myself.’
‘The fervour of your integrity, my dear Mandlebert, mistakes caution for deceit. If, indeed, this plan had any other view than your union, it would not merely be cruel, but infamous: the truth, however, is you must either pursue her upon proof, or abandon her at once, with every chance of repenting such a measure.’
‘Alas! how torturing is hesitation! to believe myself the object of her regard . . . to think that first of all human felicities mine, yet to find it so pliant . . . so precarious . . . to see her, with such thoughtless readiness, upon the point of falling into the hands of another! . . . receiving . . . answering . . . his letters! . . . letters too so confident, so daring! made up of insolent demands and imperious reproaches . . . to meet him by his own appointment. . . . O Dr. Marchmont! all delicious as is the idea of her preference . . . all entwined as she is around my soul, how, now, how ever again, can I be happy, either to quit . . . or to claim her? . . . ’
‘This division of sentiment is what gives rise to my plan. At Southampton, you will see if Sir Sedley pursues her; and, as she will be uncertain of your intentions, you will be enabled to judge the singleness of her mind, and the stability of her affection, by the reception she gives him.’
‘But if . . . as I think I can gather from her delivering me his letters, the affair, whatever it has been, with Sir Sedley, is over. . . . What then?’
‘You will have leisure to discuss it; and opportunity, also, to see her with other Sir Sedleys. Public places abound with those flutterers after youth and beauty; unmeaning admirers, who sigh at every new face; or black traitors to society, who seek but to try, and try but to publish their own power of conquest.’
‘Will you, then, my dear Doctor, be also of the party? for my sake, will you, once more, quit your studies and repose, to give me, upon the spot, your counsel, according to the varying exigence of varying circumstances? to aid me to prepare and compose my mind for whatever may be the event, and to guide even, if possible, my wavering and distracted thoughts?’
To the importance of the period, and to a plea so serious, every obstacle yielded, and Dr. Marchmont agreed to accompany him to Southampton.
BEFORE the Cleves party assembled to breakfast, after the various arrangements made for Southampton, Mr. Dubster arrived and demanded an interview with Sir Hugh, who, attending him to the drawing-room, asked his pleasure.
‘Why, have not you read the young gentleman’s letter, sir?’ cried he, surprised, ‘because, he said, he’d put it all down, as a pike staff, to save time.’
Sir Hugh had not heard of it.
‘Why, then, if you please, sir, we’ll go and ask that gentlewoman, what she’s done with it. She might as well have shewed it, after the young gentleman’s taking the trouble to write it to her. But she is none of the good naturedest, I take it.’
Repairing, then, to Miss Margland, after his usual the company, ‘I ask pardon, ma’am,’ he cried; ‘but what’s the reason of your keeping the young gentleman’s letter to yourself, which was writ o’purpose to let the old gentleman know what I come for?’
‘Because I never trouble myself with any thing that’s impertinent,’ she haughtily answered: though, in fact, when the family had retired, she had stolen downstairs, and read the letter; which contained a warm recommendation of Mr. Dubster to her favour, with abundant flippant offers to promote her own interest for so desirable a match, should Camilla prove blind to its advantages. This she had then burnt, with a determination never to acknowledge her condescension in opening it.
The repeated calls of Mr. Dubster procuring no further satisfaction; ‘Why, then, I don’t see,’ he said, ‘but what I’m as bad off, as if the young gentleman had not writ the letter, for I’ve got to speak for myself at last.’
Taking Sir Hugh, then, by a button of his coat, he desired he would go back with him to the other parlour: and there, with much circumlocution, and unqualified declarations of his having given over all thoughts of further marrying, till the young gentleman over persuaded him of his being particular agreeable to the young lady, he solemnly proposed himself for Miss Camilla Tyrold.
Sir Hugh, who perceived in this address nothing that was ridiculous, was somewhat drawn from reflecting on his own disappointment, by the pity he conceived for this hopeless suitor, to whom with equal circumlocution of concern, he communicated, that his niece was on the point of marriage with a neighbour.
‘I know that,’ replied Mr. Dubster, nodding sagaciously, ‘the young gentleman having told me of the young baronight; but he said it was all against her will, being only your over teasing, and the like.’
‘The Lord be good unto me!’ exclaimed the baronet, holding up his hands–‘if I don’t think all the young boys have a mind to drive me out of my wits, one after t’other!’
Hurrying, then, back to the breakfast parlour, and to Camilla, ‘Come hither, my dear,’ he cried, ‘for here’s a gentleman come to make his addresses to you, that won’t take an answer.’
Every serious thought, and every melancholy apprehension in Camilla gave place, at this speech, to the ludicrous image of such an admirer as Mr. Dubster, foisted upon her by the ridiculous machinations of Lionel. She took Sir Hugh by the hand, and, drawing him away to the most distant window, said, in a low voice ‘My dear uncle, this is a mere trick of Lionel; the person you see here is, I believe, a tinker.’
‘A tinker!’ repeated Sir Hugh, quite loud, in defiance of the signs and hists! hists! of Camilla, ‘good lack! that’s a person I should never have thought of!’ Then, walking up to Mr. Dubster, who was taking into his hands all the ornaments from the chimney-piece, one by one, to examine, ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘you may be a very good sort of man, and I don’t doubt but you are, for proper respect for every trade in its way; but in point of marrying my niece, it’s a thing I must beg you to put out of your head; it not being a proper subject to talk of to a young lady, from a person in that line.’
‘Very well, sir,’ answered Mr. Dubster, stiffly, and pouting, ‘it’s not of much consequence; don’t make yourself There’s nothing in what I was going to propose but what was quite genteel. I’d scorn to address a lady else. She’d have a good five hundred a-year, in case of outliving me.’
‘Good lack! five hundred a-year! who’d have thought of such a thing by the tinkering business?’
‘The what business, did you say, sir?’ cried Mr. Dubster, strutting up to the baronet, with a solemn frown.
‘The tinkering business, my good friend. An’t you a tinker?’
‘Sir!’ cried Mr. Dubster, swelling, ‘I did not think, when coming to make such a handsome offer, of being affronted at such a rate as this. Not that I mind it. It’s not worth fretting about. However, as to a tinker, I’m no more a tinker than yourself, whatever put it in your head.’
‘Good lack, my dear,’ cried the baronet, to Camilla, ‘the gentleman quite denies it.’
Camilla, though unable to refrain from laughing, confessed she had received the information from Mrs. Arlbery at the Northwick breakfast, who, she now supposed, had said it in random sport.
Sir Hugh cordially begged his pardon, and asked him to take a seat at the breakfast table, to soften the undesigned offence.
A note now arrived from Mr. Tyrold to the baronet. It contained his consent to return, with Lavinia, to Cleves, and his ready, acquiescence in the little excursion to Southampton since Miss Margland would be superintendant of the party; ‘and since,’ he added, ‘they will have another guardian, to whom already I consign my Camilla, and, upon her account, my dear Eugenia also, with the same fearless confidence I should feel in seeing them again under the maternal wing.’
Sir Hugh, who always read his letters aloud, said, when he had done: ‘See what it is to be a good boy! my brother looks upon young Mr. Edgar as these young girls’ husband already; that is, of one of them; by which means the other becomes his sister; which, I’m sure, is a trouble he won’t mind, except as a pleasure.’ Camilla’s distress at this speech past unnoticed, from the abrupt entrance of Lynmere, giving orders aloud to his servant to get ready for Southampton.
Inflamed with triumph in his recent success in baffling his uncle, that youth was in the most turbulent spirits, and fixed a resolution either to lord it over the whole house, or regain at once his liberty for returning to the Continent.
Forcing a chair between Sir Hugh and Camilla, he seized rapidly whatever looked most inviting from every plate on the table, to place upon his own, murmuring the whole time against the horses, delaring the stud the most wretched he had ever seen, and protesting the old groom must be turned away without loss of time.
‘What, Jacob?’ cried the baronet; ‘why, nephew, he has lived with me from a boy; and now he’s grown old, I’d sooner rub down every horse with my own hand, than part with him.’
‘He must certainly go, sir. There’s no keeping him. I may be tempted else to knock his brains out some day. Besides, I have a very good fellow I can recommend to you of my own.’
‘Clermont, I’ve no doubt of his being a good fellow, which I’m very glad of; but as to your always knocking out the brains of my servants, it’s a thing I must beg you not to talk of any more, being against the law. Besides which, it don’t sound very kind of you, considering their having done you no harm; never having seen your face, as one may say, except just to wait upon you; which can hardly be reckoned a bad office; besides a servant’s being a man, as well as you whether Homer and Horace tell you so or no.’
To see Sir Hugh displeased, was a sight new to the whole house. Camilla and Eugenia, mutually pained for him, endeavoured, by various little kind offices, to divert his attention; but Indiana thought his displeasure proved her brother to be a wit; and Clermont rose in spirits and in insolence upon the same idea: too shallow to know, that of all the qualities with which the perversity of human nature is gifted, and power which is the most common to attain, and the most easy to practise, is the art of provoking.
Jacob now appearing, Lynmere ordered some shrimps.
There were none
‘There’s nothing to be had! ’Tis a wretched county this!’
‘You’ll get nice shrimps at Southampton, sir, by what hear,’ said Mr. Dubster. ‘Tom Hicks says he has been sick with ’em many a day, he’s eat such a heap. They gets ’em by hundreds and hundreds, and hundreds at a time.’
‘Pray, nephew, how long shall you stay? because of my nieces coming back at the same time.’
‘A fortnight’s enough to tire me anywhere, sir. Pray what do you all do with yourselves here after breakfast? What’s your mode?’
‘Mode, nephew? we’ve got no particular mode that ever I heard of. However, among so many of us, I think it’s a little hard, if you can find nothing to say to us; all, in a manner, your relations too.’
‘We take no notice of relations now, sir; that’s out.’
‘I’m sorry for it, nephew, for a relation’s a relation, whether you take notice of him or not. And there’s ne’er an ode in Virgil will tell you to the contrary, as I believe.’
A short silence now ensued, which was broken by a sigh from Sir Hugh, who ejaculated to himself, though aloud, ‘I can’t but think what my poor friend Westwyn will do, if his son’s come home in this manner! caring for nobody, but an oyster, or a shrimp; . . . unless it’s a newspaper!’
‘And what should a man care for else, my good old friend, in a desert place such as this?’
‘Good old friend!’ repeated the baronet; ‘to be sure, I’m not very young. . . . However, as to that . . . but you mean no harm, I know, for which reason I can’t be so ill-natured as to take it ill. However, if poor Westwyn is served in this . . . way . . . He’s my dearest friend that I’ve got, out of us all here, of my own kin, and he’s got only one son, and he sent him to foreign parts only for cheapness; and if he should happen to like nothing he can get at home, it won’t answer much in saving, to send out for things all day long.’
‘O don’t be troubled, sir; Westwyn’s but a poor creature. He’ll take up with anything. He lived within his allowance the whole time. A mighty poor creature.’
‘I’m glad of it! glad of it, indeed!’ cried Sir Hugh, with involuntary eagerness; ‘I should have been sorry if my poor good old friend had had such disappointment.’
‘Upon my honour,’ cried Lymnere, piqued, ‘the quoz of the present season are beyond what a man could have hoped to see!’
‘Quoz! what’s quoz, nephew?’
‘Why, it’s a thing there’s no explaining to you sort of gentlemen; and sometimes we say quiz, my good old Sir.’
Sir Hugh, now, for almost the first time in his life, felt seriously affronted. His utmost lenity could not palliate the wilful disrespect of his language; and, with a look of grave displeasure, he answered, ‘Really, nephew, I can’t but say, I think you’ve got rather a particular odd way of speaking to persons. As to talking so much about people’s being old, you’d do well to consider that’s no fault in anybody; except one’s years, which is what we can’t be said to help.’
‘You descant too much upon words, Sir; we have left off, now, using them with such prodigious precision. It’s quite over, Sir.’
‘O, my dear Clermont!’ cried Sir Hugh, losing his short movement of anger in a more tender sensation of concern, ‘how it goes to my heart to see you turn out such a jackanapes!’
Lynmere, resentfully hanging back, said no more: and Mr. Dubster, having drunk seven dishes of tea, with a long apology between each for the trouble, gladly seized the moment of pause, to ask Camilla when she had heard from their friend Mrs. Mittin, adding, ‘I should have brought you a letter from her, ma’am, myself, but that I was rather out of sorts with her; for happening to meet her, the day as you went, walking on them Pantiles, with some of her quality binding, when I was not dressed out quite in my best becomes, she made as if she did not know me. Not as it signifies. It’s pretty much of a muchness to me. I remember her another sort of person to what she looks now, before I was a gentleman myself.’
‘Why, pray, what was you then, Sir?’ cried Sir Hugh, with great simplicity.
‘As to that, Sir, there’s no need to say whether I was one thing I know of; I’m not in the least ashamed of what I was.’
Sir Hugh seeing him offended, was beginning an apology; but, interrupting him, ‘No, Sir,’ he said, ‘there’s no need to say nothing about it. It’s not a thing to take much to heart. I’ve been defamed often enough, I hope, to be above minding it. Only just this one thing, sir; I beg I may have the favour to be introduced to that lady as had the obligingness to call me a tinker, when I never was no such thing.’
Breakfast now being done, the ladies retired to prepare for their journey.
‘Well,’ cried Mr. Dubster, looking after Eugenia, ‘that little lady will make no great figure at such a place as Southton. I would not have her look out for a husband there.’
‘She’d have been just the thing for me!’ cried Lynmere, haughtily rising, and conceitedly parading his fine form up and down the room; his eyes catching it from looking-glass to looking glass, by every possible contrivance; ‘just the thing! matched to perfection!’
‘Lord help me! if I don’t find myself in the dark about every thing!’ cried Sir Hugh; ‘who’d have thought of you scholars thinking so much of beauty; I should be glad to know what your classics say to that point?’
‘Faith, my good sir, I never trouble myself to ask. From the time we begin our tours, we wipe away all that stuff as fast as possible from our thoughts.’
‘Why, pray, nephew, what harm could it do to your tours?’
‘We want room, sir, room in the pericranium! As soon as we begin to travel, we give up everything to taste. And then we want clear heads. Clear heads, sir, for pictures, statues, busts, relievos, basso relievos, tablets, monuments, mausoleums.’
‘If you go on at that rate, nephew,’ interrupted Sir Hugh, holding his ears, ‘you’ll put my poor head quite into a whirligig. And it’s none of the deepest already, Lord help me!’
Lynmere now, without ceremony, made off; and Mr. Dubster, left alone with the baronet, said they might as well proceed to business. ‘So pray, sir, if I may make bold, in the case we come to a right understanding about the young lady, what do you propose to give her down?’
Sir Hugh, staring, inquired what he meant.
‘Why, I mean, sir, what shall you give her at the first? I know she’s to have it all at your demise; but that i’n’t the bird in the hand. Now, when once I know that, I can make my offers, which shall be handsome or not, according. And that’s but fair. So how much can you part with, sir?’
‘Not a guinea!’ cried Sir Hugh, with some emotion; ‘I can’t give her anything! Mr. Edgar knows that.’
‘That’s hard, indeed, sir. What nothing for a setting out? And, pray, sir, what may the sum total be upon your demise?’
‘Not a penny!’ cried Sir Hugh, with still more agitation: ‘Don’t you know I’ve disinherited her?’
‘Disinherited her? why this is bad news enough! And pray, sir, what for?’
‘Nothing! She never offended me in thought, word, nor deed!’
‘Well that’s odd enough. And when did you do it, sir?
‘The very week she was nine years old, poor thing! Which I shall never forget as long as I live, being my worst action.’
‘Well, this is particular enough! And young squire Tyrold’s never heard a word of it: which is somewhat a wonder too.’
‘Not heard of it? Why the whole family know it! I’ve settled everything I was worth in the world upon her younger sister, that you saw sitting by her.’
‘Well, if Tom Hicks did not as good as tell me so ever so long ago, though the young squire said it was all to the contrary: what for, I don’t know; unless to take me in. But he won’t find that quite so easy, asking his pardon. Matrimony’s a good thing enough, when it’s to help a man forward: but a person must be a fool indeed, to put himself out of his way for nothing.’
He then formally wished the baronet a good day, and hastened from the house, puffed up with vain glory, at his own sagacious precautions, which had thus happily saved him from being tricked into unprofitable wedlock.
Mrs. Berlinton now arrived, and, as Camilla was ready, though trembling, doubtful, apprehensive of the step she was taking, declined alighting. A general meeting was to take place at the inn: and the baronet, putting a twenty pound note into her hand, with the most tender blessings parted with his darling niece. And then, surprised at not seeing Edgar to breakfast, sent his butler to tell him the history of the excursion.
Lynmere was already set off on horseback: and the party, consisting of Dr. Orkborne, Miss Margland, Indiana, and Eugenia, followed two hours after, in the coach of the baronet, which drove from the park as the chaise entered it with Mr. Tyrold and Lavinia, to supply their places.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51