WHEN Camilla appeared at the hall-door, a gentleman descended from the carriage of Mrs. Berlinton, with an air the most melancholy, and eyes bent to the earth, in the mournful bow with which he offered her his hand: though, when he had assisted her into the coach, he raised them, and, turning round, cast upon the mansion a look of desponding fondness, that immediately brought to her recollection young Melmond, the Oxford student, and the brother of her new friend.
Mrs. Berlinton received her with tenderness, folding her to her breast, and declaring life to be now insupportable without her.
The affection of Camilla was nearly reciprocal, but her pleasure had no chance of equal participation; nor was the suspensive state of her mind the only impediment; opposite to her in the carriage, and immediately claiming her attention, was Mrs. Mittin.
The agitating events which had filled up the short interval of her residence at Cleves, had so completely occupied every faculty that, till the affair of the horse involved her in new difficulties, her debts had entirely flown her remembrance; and the distressing scenes which immediately succeeded to that forced recollection, made its duration as short as it was irksome; but the sight of Mrs. Mittin brought it back with violence to her memory, and flashed it, with shame, upon her conscience.
The twenty pounds, however, just given her by Sir Hugh, occurred at the same moment to her thoughts; and she determined to repair her negligence, by appropriating it into parcels for the payment of all she owed, before she suffered sleep again to her eyes.
Mrs. Berlinton informed her, that both herself and her brother had been summoned to Southampton to meet Mrs. Ecton, the aunt by whom she had been educated, who had just arrived there from Wales, upon some secret business, necessary for her to hear, but which could not be revealed by letters.
The journey, though in itself short and pleasant, proved to Camilla long and wearisome; the beauties of the prospect were acknowledged by her eye, but her mind, dead to pleasure, refused to give them their merited effect. To the charms of nature she could not be blind; her fervent imagination, and the lessons of her youth, combined to do them justice; but she thought not of them at this moment; hill, vale, or plain, were uninteresting, however beautiful; it was Edgar she looked for; Edgar, who thus coldly had suffered her to depart, but who still, it was possible, might pursue; and hope, ever active, painted him, as she proceeded, in every distant object that caught her eye, whether living or inanimate, brightening, from time to time, the roses of her cheeks with the felicity of a speedy reconciliation; but upon every near approach, the flattering error was detected, and neither hill, vale, nor plain, could dispel the disappointment. A fine country, and diversified views, may soften even the keenest affliction of decided misfortune, and tranquillise the most gloomy sadness into resignation and composure; but suspense rejects the gentle palliative; ’tis an absorbent of the faculties that suffers them to see, hear, and feel only its own perplexity; and the finer the fibres of the sensibility on which it seizes, the more exclusive is its despotism; doubt, in a fervent mind, from the rapidity of its evolutions between fear in its utmost despondence, and hope in its fullest rapture, is little short of torture.
They drove immediately to an elegant house, situated upon a small eminence, half a mile without the town of Southampton, which had already been secured; and Mrs. Berlinton, as soon as she had chosen the pleasantest apartment it afforded for Camilla, and suffered Mrs. Mittin to choose the next pleasant for herself, went, accompanied by her brother, to the lodging of Mrs. Ecton.
Left alone, Camilla stationed herself at a window, believing she meant to look at the prospect; but her eye, faithful to her heart, roved up and down the high road, and took in only chaises or horsemen, till Mrs. Mittin, with her customary familiarity, came into the room. ‘Well, my dear miss,’ she cried, ‘you’re welcome to Southampton, and welcome to Mrs. Berlinton; she’s a nice lady as ever I knew; I suppose you’re surprised to see us so great together? but I’ll tell you how it came about. You must know, just as you was gone, I happened to be in the book shop when she came in, and asked for a book; the Peruvan Letters she called and it was not at home, and she looked quite vexed, for she said she had looked the catalogue up and down, and saw nothing she’d a mind to; so I thought it would be a good opportunity to oblige her, and be a way to make a prodigious genteel acquaintance besides; so I took down the name, and I found out the lady that had got the book, and I made her a visit, and I told her it was particular wanted by a lady that had a reason; so she let me have it, and I took it to my pretty lady, who was so pleased, she did not know how to thank me: So this got me footing in the house; and there I heard, amongst her people she was coming to Southampton, and was to call for you, my dear miss; so when I found she had not her coach full, I ask’d her to give me a cast; for I told her you’d be particular glad to see me, as we’d some business to settle together, that was a secret between only us two; so she said she would do anything to give you pleasure; so then I made free to ask her to give me a night’s lodging, till I could find out some friend to be at; for I’d a vast mind to come to Southampton, as I could do it so reasonable, for I like to go every where. And I say, my dear miss, if you’ll tell her ’twill oblige you, she’ll make me the compliment to let me stay all the time, for I know nobody, here; though I don’t fear making friends, go where I will. And you know, my dear miss, you can do no less by me, considering what I’ve done for you; for I’ve kept all the good people quiet about your debts; and they say you may pay them when you will, as I told them you was such a rich heiress; which Mr. Dubster let me into the secret of, for he had had it from your brother.’
Camilla now experienced the extremest repentance and shame to find herself involved in any obligation with a character so forward, vulgar, and encroaching, and to impose such a person through the abuse of her name and influence, upon the time and patience of Mrs. Berlinton.
The report spread by Lionel she immediately disavowed, and, producing her twenty pound bank note, begged Mrs. Mittin would have the goodness to get it changed for her, and to discharge her accounts without delay.
Surprised by this readiness, and struck by the view of the note, Mrs. Mittin imputed to mere reserve the denial of her expected wealth, but readily promised to get in the bills, and see her clear.
Camilla would now have been left alone; but Mrs. Mittin thought of nothing less than quitting her, and she knew not how to bid her depart. It was uncertain when Mrs. Berlinton could return; to obviate, therefore, in some measure, the fatigue of such conversation, Camilla proposed walking.
It was still but two o’clock, and the weather was delicious; every place that opened to any view, presented some prospect that was alluring; Camilla, notwithstanding her anxiety, was caught, and at intervals, at least, forgot all within, from admiration of all without.
Mrs. Mittin led immediately to the town, and Camilla was struck with its neatness, and surprised by its populousness. Mrs. Mittin assured her it was nothing to London, and only wished she could walk her from Charing-cross to Temple-bar, just to shew her what it was to see a little of the world.
‘But now, my dear,’ she cried, ‘the thing is to find out what we’ve got to look at; so don’t let’s go on without knowing what we’re about; however, these shops are all so monstrous smart, ’twill be a pleasure to go into them, and ask the good people what there’s to see in the town.’
This pretext proved so fertile to her of entertainment, in the opportunity it afforded of taking a near view of the various commodities exposed to sale, that while she entered almost every shop, with inquiries of what was worth seeing, she attended to no answer nor information, but having examined and admired all the goods within sight or reach, walked off, to obtain, by similar means, a similar privilege further on; boasting to Camilla, that, by this clever device they might see all that was smartest, without the expence of buying any thing.
It is possible that this might safely have been repeated, from one end of the town to the other, had Mrs. Mittin been alone; and she seemed well disposed to make the experiment; but Camilla, who, absent and absorbed, accompanied without heeding her, was of a figure and appearance not quite so well adapted for indulging with impunity such unbridled curiosity. The shopkeepers, who, according to their several tastes or opinions, gave their directions to the churches, the quays, the market-place, the antique gates, the town-hall, &c. involuntarily looked at her as they answered the questioner, and not satisfied with the short view, followed to the door, to look again; this presently produced an effect that, for the whole length of the High-street, was amply ridiculous; every one perceiving that, whatsoever had been his recommendation, whether to the right, to the left, or forward, the two inquirers went no further than into the next shop, whence they regularly drew forth either the master or the man to make another starer at their singular proceeding.
Some supposed they were only seeking to attract notice; others thought they were deranged in mind; and others, again, imagined they were shoplifters, and hastened back to their counters, to examine what was missing of their goods.
Two men of the two last persuasions communicated to one another their opinions, each sustaining his own with a positiveness that would have ended in a quarrel, had it not been accommodated by a wager. To settle this became now so important, that business gave way to speculation, and the contending parties, accompanied by a young perfumer as arbitrator, leaving their affairs in the hands of their wives, or their domestics, issued forth from their repositories, to pursue and watch the curious travellers; laying bets by the way at almost every shop as they proceeded, till they reached the quay, where the ladies made a full stand, and their followers opened a consultation how best to decide the contest.
Mr. Firl, a sagacious old linen draper, who concluded them to be shoplifters, declared he would keep aloof, for he should detect them best when they least suspected they were observed.
Mr. Drim, a gentle and simple haberdasher, who believed their senses disordered, made a circuit to face and examine them, frequently, however, looking back, to see that no absconding trick was played him by his friends. When he came up to them, the pensive and absorbed look of Camilla struck him as too particular to be natural; and in Mrs. Mittin he immediately fancied he perceived something wild, if not insane. In truth, an opinion preconceived of her derangement might easily authorise strong suspicions of confirmation, from the contented volubility with which she incessantly ran on, without waiting for answerers, or even listeners; and his observation had not taught him, that the loquacious desire only to speak. They exact time, not attention.
Mrs. Mittin, soon observing the curiosity with which he examined them, looked at him so hard in return, talking the whole time, in a quick low voice, to Camilla, upon his oddity, that, struck with a direful panic, in the persuasion she was marking him for some mischief, he turned short about to get back to his companions; leaving Mrs. Mittin with precisely the same opinion of himself which he had imbibed of her.
‘Well my dear,’ cried she, ‘this is one of the most miraculous adventures I’ve met with yet; as sure as you’re alive that man that stares so is not right in the head! for else what should he run away for, all in such a hurry, after looking at us so particular for nothing? I’ll assure you, I think the best thing we can do, is to get off as fast as we can, for fear of the worst.’
They then sped their way from the quay; but, in turning down the first passage to get out of sight, they were led into one of the little rooms prepared for the accommodation of bathers.
This seemed so secure, as well as pleasant, that Camilla, soothed by the tranquillity with which she could contemplate the noble Southampton water and its fine banks, sat down at the window, and desired not to walk any further.
The fright with which Mr. Drim had retreated, gained no proselyte to his opinion; Mr. Girt, the perfumer, asserted, significantly, they were only idle travellers, of light character; and Mr. Firl, when in dodging them, he saw they went into a bathing room, offered to double his wager that it was to make some assortment of their spoil.
This was accepted, and it was agreed that one should saunter in the adjoining passages to see which way they turned upon coming out while the two others should patrol the beach, to watch their disappearance from the windows.
Mrs. Mittin, meanwhile, was as much amused, though with different objects, as Camilla. A large mixt party of ladies and gentlemen, who had ordered a vessel for sailing down the water, which was not yet ready, now made their appearance; and their dress, their air of enjoyment, their outcries of impatience, the frisky gaiety of some, the noisy merriment of others, seemed to Mrs. Mittin marks of so much grandeur and happiness, that all her thoughts were at work to devise some contrivance for becoming of their acquaintance.
Camilla also surveyed, but almost without seeing them; for the only image of her mind now unexpectedly met her view; Dr. Marchmont and Edgar, just arrived, had patrolled to the beach, where Edgar, whose eye, from his eagerness, appeared to be every where in a moment, immediately perceived her; they both bowed, and Dr. Marchmont, amazed by the air and figure of her companion, inquired if Mrs. Berlinton had any particularly vulgar relation to whom she was likely to commit her fair guest.
Edgar, who had seen only herself, could not now forbear another glance; but the aspect of Mrs. Mittin, without Mrs. Berlinton, or any other more dignified or fitting protectress, was both unaccountable and unpleasant to him; he recollected having seen her at Tunbridge, where the careless temper, and negligent manners of Mrs. Arlbery, made all approaches easy, that answered any purpose of amusement or ridicule; but he could not conceive how Mrs. Berlinton, or Camilla herself, could be joined by such a companion.
Mr. Firl, having remarked these two gentlemen’s bows, began to fear for his wager; yet, thinking it authorised him to seek some information, approached them, and taking off his hat, said: ‘You seem to be noticing those two ladies up there; pray, gentlemen, if you’ve no objection, who may they be?’
‘Why do you ask, sir?’ cried Edgar, sternly.
‘Why, we’ve a wager depending upon them, sir, and I believe there’s no gentleman will refuse to help another about a wager.’
‘A wager?’ repeated Edgar, wishing, but vainly, to manifest no curiosity; ‘what inducement could you have to lay a wager about them?’
‘Why, I believe, sir, there’s nobody’s a better judge than me what I’ve laid about; though I may be out, to be sure, if you know the ladies; but I’ve seen so much of their tricks, in my time, that they must be pretty sharp before they’ll over-reach me.’
‘What tricks? who must be sharp? who are you talking of?’
‘Shoplifters! what do you mean?’
‘No harm, sir; I may be out, to be sure, as I say; and if so, I ask pardon; only, as we’ve laid the wager, I think I may speak before I pay.’
The curiosity of Edgar would have been converted into ridicule, had he been less uneasy at seeing with whom Camilla was thus associated; Mrs. Mittin might certainly be a worthy woman, and, if so, must merit every kindness that could be shewn her; but her air and manner so strongly displayed the low bred society to which she had been accustomed, that he foresaw nothing but improper acquaintance, or demeaning adventures, that could ensue from such a connection at a public place.
Dr. Marchmont demanded what had given rise to this suspicion.
Mr. Firl answered, that they had been into every shop in the town, routing over every body’s best goods, yet not laying out a penny.
Nothing of this could Edgar comprehend, except that Camilla had suffered herself to be led about by Mrs. Mittin, entirely at her pleasure; but all further inquiry was stopt, by the voluntary and pert junction of Girt, the young perfumer, who, during this period, had by no means been idle; for perceiving, in the group waiting for a vessel, a certain customer by whom he knew such a subject would be well received, he contrived to excite his curiosity to ask some questions, which could only be satisfied by the history of the wager, and his own opinion that both parties were out.
This drew all eyes to the bathing room; and new bets soon were circulated, consisting of every description of conjecture, or even possibility, except that the two objects in question were innocent: and for that, in a set of fourteen, only one was found who defended Camilla, though her face seemed the very index of purity, which still more strongly was painted upon it than beauty, or even than youth. Such is the prevalent disposition to believe in general depravity, that while those who are debased themselves find a consolation in thinking others equally worthless, those even, who are of a better sort, nourish a secret vanity in supposing few as good as themselves; and fully, without reflection, the fair candour of their minds, by aiding that insidious degeneracy, which robs the community of all confidence in virtue.
The approach of the perfumer to Edgar had all the hardiness of vulgar elation, bestowed, at this moment, by the recent encouragement of having been permitted to propagate his facetious opinions in a society of gentlefolks; for though to one only amongst them, a young man of large fortune, by whom he was particularly patronised, he had presumed verbally to address himself, he had yet the pleasure to hear his account repeated from one to another, till not a person of the company escaped hearing it.
‘My friend Firl’s been telling you, I suppose, sir,’ said he, to Edgar, ‘of his foolish wager? but, take my word for it. . . . ’
Here Edgar, who again had irresistibly looked up at the room, saw that the three gentlemen had entered it; alarmed lest these surmises should be productive of impertinence to Camilla, he darted quickly from the beach to her immediate protection.
But the rapidity of his wishes were ill seconded by the uncertainty of his footsteps; and while, with eyes eagerly wandering all around, he hastily pushed forward, he was stopt by Mr. Drim, who told him to take care how he went on, for, in one of those bathing houses, to the best of his belief, there were two crazy women, one melancholy, and one stark wild, that had just, as he supposed, escaped from their keepers.
‘How shall I find my way, then, to another of the bathing houses?’ cried Edgar.
Mr. Drim undertook to shew him where he might turn, but said he must not lose sight of the door, because he had a bottle of port depending upon it; his neighbour, Mr. Firl, insisting they were only shoplifters.
Edgar here stopt short and stared.
Drim then assured him it was what he could not believe, as nothing was missing; though Mr. Firl would have it that it was days and days, sometimes, before people found out what was gone; but he was sure, himself, they were touched in the head, by their going about so wild, asking everybody the same questions, and minding nobody’s answers.
Edgar, convinced now Camilla was here again implicated, broke with disgust from the man, and rushed to the door he charged him to avoid.
CAMILLA, from the instant she had perceived Edgar, had been in the utmost emotion, from doubt if his journey were to seek a reconciliation, or only to return her letters, and take a lasting farewell. Her first feeling at his sight urged her to retire: but something of a softer nature speedily interfered, representing, if now he should join her, what suffering might mutually be saved by an immediate conference. She kept, therefore, her seat, looking steadily straight down the water, and denying herself one moment’s glance at anything, or person, upon the beach: little imagining she ingrossed, herself, the attention of all who paraded it. But, when the insinuations of the flippant perfumer had once made her looked at, her beauty, her apparently unprotected situation, and the account of the wager, seemed to render her an object to be stared at without scruple.
Mrs. Mittin saw how much they were observed, but Camilla, unheeding her remarks, listened only to hear if any footsteps approached; but when, at last, some struck her ears, they were accompanied by an unknown voice, so loud and clamorously jovial, that, disturbed, she looked round . . . and saw the door violently flung open, and three persons, dressed like gentlemen, force their way into the small dwelling place.
Mr. Halder, the leader of this triumvirate, was the particular patron of Girt, the young perfumer; and, though his superior in birth and riches, was scarcely upon a par with him, from wilful neglect, in education; and undoubtedly beneath him in decency and conduct, notwithstanding young Girt piqued himself far less upon such sentimental qualifications, than upon his skill in cosmetics, and had less respect for unadulterated morals, than unadulterated powder.
The second who entered, was, in every particular, still less defensible: he was a peer of the realm; he had a daughter married, and his age entitled him to be the grandfather of young Halder. In point of fortune, speculatists deemed them equal; for though the estate of Halder was as yet unincumbered with the mortgages that hung upon that of Lord Valhurst, they computed, with great exactness, the term of its superiority, since already he had inlisted in the jockey meetings, and belonged to the gaming clubs.
The third, a young man of a serious, but pleasing demeanour, was rather an attendant than a partner in this intrusion. He was the only one of the whole party to whom the countenance of Camilla had announced innocence; and when Halder, instigated by the assertions of the facetious Girt, proposed the present measure, and Lord Valhurst, caught by the youthful beauty of the fair subject of discussion, acceded, this single champion stood forth, and modestly, yet firmly, declaring his opinion they were mistaken, accompanied them with a view to protect her, if he himself were right.
Boisterously entering, Halder addressed at once to Camilla, such unceremonious praise of her beauty, that, affrighted and offended, she hastily seized the arm of Mrs. Mittin, and, in a voice of alarm, though with an air of command that admitted no doubt of her seriousness, and no appeal from her resolution, said, ‘Let us go home, Mrs. Mittin, immediately.’
Simple as were these words, their manner had an effect upon Halder to awe and distance him. Beauty, in the garb of virtue, is rather formidable than attractive to those who are natively unenlightened, as well as habitually degenerate: though, over such as have ever known better sentiments, it frequently retains its primeval power, even in their darkest declension of depravity.
But while Halder, repulsed, stood back, and the young champion, with an air the most respectful, made way for her to pass; Lord Valhurst, shutting the door, planted himself against it.
Seeing terror now take possession of every feature of her face, her determined protector called out: ‘Make way, my Lord, I beg!’ and offered her his hand. But Camilla, equally frightened at them all, shrunk appalled from his assistance, and turned towards the window, with an intention of demanding help from Edgar, whom she supposed still on the beach; but the peer, slowly moving from the door, said he was the last to mean to disconcert the young lady, and only wished to stop her till he could call for his carriage, that he might see her safe wherever she wished to go.
Camilla had no doubt of the sincerity of this proposal, but would accept no aid from a stranger, even though an old man, while she hoped to obtain that of Edgar. Edgar, however, she saw not, and fear is generally precipitate: she concluded him gone; concluded herself deserted, and, from knowing neither, equally fearing both the young men, inclined towards Lord Valhurst; who, with delighted surprise, was going to take her under his care, when Edgar rushed forward.
The pleasure that darted into her eyes announced his welcome. Halder, from his reception, thought the enigma of his own ill success solved; the other youth, supposing him her brother, no longer sought to interfere; but Lord Valhurst exhibited signs of such irrepressible mortification, that inexperience itself could not mistake the dishonourable views of his offered services, since, to see her in safety, was so evidently not their purpose. Camilla, looking at him with the horror he so justly excited, gave her hand to Edgar, who had instantly claimed it, and, without one word being uttered by either, hastily walked away with him, nimbly accompanied by Mrs. Mittin.
The young man, whose own mind was sufficiently pure to make him give easy credit to the purity of another, was shocked at his undeserved implication in so gross an attack, and at his failure of manifesting the laudable motive which had made him one of the triumvirate; and, looking after her with mingled admiration and concern, ‘Indeed, gentlemen,’ he cried, ‘you have been much to blame. You have affronted a young lady who carries in the whole of her appearance the marks of meriting respect.’
The sensibility of Lord Valhurst was not of sufficient magnitude to separate into two courses: the little he possessed was already occupied by his disappointment, in losing the beautiful prey he believed just falling into his hands, and he had no emotion, therefore, to bestow upon his young reprover. But Halder, who, to want of feeling, added want of sense, roared out, with rude raillery, a gross, which he thought witty attack, both of the defender and the defended.
The young man, with the proud probity of unhackneyed sentiment, made a vindication of his uncorrupt intentions; which produced but louder mirth, and coarser incredulity. The contest, however, was wholly unequal; one had nerves of the most irritable delicacy; the other had never yet, by any sensation, nor any accident, been admonished that nerves made any part of the human composition: in proportion, therefore, as one became more offended, the other grew more callous, till the chivalry of indignant honour, casting prudence, safety, and forbearance away, dictated a hasty challenge, which was accepted with a horse laugh of brutal senselessness of danger. Courage is of another description, It risks life with heroism; but it is only to preserve or pursue something, without which the charm of life were dissolved: it meets death with steadiness; but it prepares for immortality with reverence and emotion.
Edgar and Camilla continued their walk in a silence painful to both, but which neither knew how first to break; each wished with earnestness an opening to communication and confidence; but, mutually shocked by the recent adventure, Edgar waited the absence of Mrs. Mittin, to point out the impropriety and insufficiency of such a guard; and Camilla, still aghast with terror, had no power of any sort to begin a discourse.
Their taciturnity, if not well supplied, was, at least, well contrasted by the volubility of Mrs. Mittin, which, as in the bathing house it had been incessant, in declaring, to the three intruders, that both she and the other young lady were persons of honour, was now no less unremitting in boasting how well she had checked and kept them in order.
The horror of the attack she had just escaped became soon but a secondary suffering to Camilla, though, at the moment, it had impressed her more terribly than any actual event of her life, or any scene her creative imagination had ever painted; yet, however dreadful, it was now past; but who could tell the end of what remained? the mute distance of Edgar, her uncertainty of his intentions, her suspicions of his wished secession, the severe task she thought necessary to perform of giving him his liberty, with the anguish of a total inability to judge whether such a step would recall his tenderness, or precipitate his retreat, were suggestions which quickly succeeded, and, in a very short time, wholly domineered over every other.
When they arrived at the house, Edgar demanded if he might hope for the honour of being presented, as a friend of the family, to Mrs. Berlinton.
Reviving, though embarrassed, she looked assent, and went forward to inquire if Mrs. Berlinton were come home.
The servant answered no; but delivered her a letter from that lady; she took it with a look of distress whether or not to invite Edgar to enter, which the, at this period, welcome officiousness of Mrs. Mittin relieved, by saying, ‘Come, let us all come in, and make the parlour a little comfortable against Mrs. Berlinton comes home; for, I dare say, there’s nothing as it should be. These lodging-houses always want a heap of things one never thinks of before hand.’
They then all three entered, and Mrs. Mittin, who saw, she said, a thousand ways by which she might serve and oblige Mrs. Berlinton by various suggestions, and even directions, which she hazarded against her return, busied herself to arrange the two parlours to her satisfaction; and, then, went up stairs, to settle, also, all there; making abundant apologies for leaving them, and assuring them she would be back again as soon as she possibly could get all in order.
Her departure was a moment of extreme confusion to Camilla, who considered it as an invitation to her great scheme of rejection, but who stammered something upon every other subject, to keep that off. She looked at her letter, wondered what it could contain, could not imagine why Mrs. Berlinton should write when they must so soon meet; and spent in conjectures upon its contents the time which Edgar besought her to bestow upon their perusal.
Nothing gives so much strength to an adversary as the view of timidity in his opponent. Edgar grew presently composed, and felt equal to his purposed expostulation.
‘You decline reading your letter till I am gone?’ cried he; ‘I must, therefore, hasten away. Yet, before I go, I earnestly wish once more to take upon me the office formerly allowed me, and to represent, with simple sincerity, my apprehensions upon what I have observed this morning.’
The beginning of this speech had made Camilla break the seal of her letter; but its conclusion agitated her too much for reading it.
‘Is this silence,’ said he, trying to smile, ‘to repress me as arrogant, . . . or to disregard me as impertinent?’
‘Neither!’ she answered, forcing herself to look towards him with cheerfulness; ‘it is merely . . . attention.’
‘You are very good, and I will try to be brief, that I may put your patience to no longer proof than I can avoid. You know, already, all I can urge concerning Mrs. Berlinton; how little I wonder at the promptness of your admiration; yet how greatly I fear for the permanence of your esteem. In putting yourself under her immediate and sole protection, you have shewn me the complete dissonance of our judgments upon this subject; but I do not forget that, though you had the goodness to hear me, you had the right to decide for yourself. Trust indeed, even against warning, is so far more amiable than suspicion, that it must always, even though it prove unfortunate, call for praise rather than censure.’
The confusion of Camilla was now converted into self-reproach. What she thought coldness, she had resented; what appeared to her to be haughtiness, she had resisted; but truth in the form of gentleness, brought her instantly to reason, and reason could only resume its empire, to represent as rash and imprudent an expedition so repugnant, in its circumstances, to the wishes and opinions of the person whose approbation was most essential to her happiness. Edgar had paused; and her every impulse led to a candid recognition of what she felt to be wrong; but her precarious situation with him, the report of his intended flight by Jacob, the letters still detained of Sir Sedley Clarendel, and no explanation demanded, by which she could gather if his plighted honour were not now his only tie with her, curbed her design, depressed her courage, and, silently, she let him proceed.
‘Upon this subject, therefore, I must say no more, except to hint a wish, that the apprehensions which first induced me to name it may, unbidden, occur as timely heralds to exertion, should any untoward circumstances point to danger, alarm, or impropriety.’
The new but strong friendship of Camilla was alarmed for its delicacy by these words. The diffidence she felt, from conscious error, for herself, extended not to Mrs. Berlinton, whom, since she found guiltless, she believed to be blameless. She broke forth, therefore, into a warm eulogy, which her agitation rendered eloquent, while her own mind and spirits were relieved and revived, by this flight from her mortified self, to the friend she thought deserving her most fervent justification.
Edgar listened attentively, and his eyes, though they expressed much of serious concern, shewed also an irrepressible admiration of an enthusiasm so ardent for a female friend of so much beauty.
‘May she always merit this generous warmth!’ cried he; ‘which must have excited my best wishes for her welfare, even if I had been insensible to her own claims upon every man of feeling. But I had meant, at this time, to confine my ungrateful annotations to another . . . to the person who had just quitted the room.’
‘You do not mean to name her with Mrs. Berlinton? to imagine it possible I can have for her any similar regard? or any, indeed, at all, but such common good-will as all sorts and classes of people are entitled to, who are well meaning?’
‘Here, at least, then,’ said Edgar, with a sigh half suppressed, ‘our opinions may be consonant. No; I designed no such disgraceful parallel for your elegant favourite. My whole intention is to remonstrate . . . can you pardon so plain a word? against your appearing in public with a person so ill adapted to insure you the respect that is so every way your due.’
‘I had not the smallest idea, believe me, of appearing in public. I merely walked out to see the town, and to beguile, in a stroll, time, which, in this person’s society, hung heavy upon me at home, in the absence of Mrs. Berlinton.’
The concise simplicity of this innocent account, banished, in a moment, all severity of judgment; and Edgar, expressively thanking her, rose, and was approaching her, though scarcely knowing with what purpose, when Mrs. Mittin burst into the room, exclaiming: ‘Well, my dear, you’ll never guess how many things I have done since I left you. In the first place, there was never a wash-ball; in the next place, not a napkin nor a towel was in its proper place; then the tea-things were forgot; and as to spoons, not one could I find. And now, I’ve a mind to go myself to a shop I took good notice of, and get her a little almond powder for her nice white hands; which, I dare say, will please her. I’ve thought of a hundred things at least. I dare say I shall quite win her heart. And I’m sure of my money again, if I lay out never so much. And I don’t know what I would not do for such a good lady.’
During this harangue, Camilla, ashamed of her want of resolution, secretly vowed, that, if again left alone with him, she would not lose a moment in restoring him his liberty, that with dignity she might once more receive, or with fortitude for ever resign it. She thought herself, at this moment, capable of either; but she had only thought it, since his softened look and air had made her believe she had nothing to fear from the alternative.
Mrs. Mittin soon went, though her continued and unmeaning chattery made the short term of her stay appear long. Each eager upon their own plan, both then involuntarily arose.
Camilla spoke first. ‘I have something,’ she cried, ‘to say,..’ but her voice became so husky, the inarticulate sounds died away unheard, and blushing at so feeble an opening, she strove, under the auspices of a cough, to disguise that she had spoken at all, for the purpose of beginning, in a more striking manner, again.
This succeeded with Edgar at this moment, for he had heard her voice, not her words: he began, therefore, himself. ‘This good lady,’ he said, ‘seems bit with the rage of obliging, though not, I think, so heroically, as much to injure her interest. But surely she flatters herself with somewhat too high a recompence? The heart of Mrs. Berlinton is not, I fancy, framed for such a conqueror. But how, at the same time, is it possible conversation such as this should be heard under her roof? And how can it have come to pass that such a person . . . ’
‘Talk of her,’ interrupted Camilla, recovering her breath, ‘some other time. Let me now inquire . . . have you burnt.. . I hope so! . . . those foolish . . . letters. . . . I put into your hands? . . . ’
The countenance of Edgar was instantly overclouded. The mention of those letters brought fresh to his heart the bitterest, the most excruciating and intolerable pang it had ever experienced; it brought Camilla to his view no longer artless, pure, and single-minded, but engaged to, or trifling with, one man, while seriously accepting another. ‘No, madam,’ he solemnly said, ‘I have not presumed so far. Their answers are not likely to meet with so violent a death, and it seemed to me that one part of the correspondence should be preserved for the elucidation of the other.’
Camilla felt stung by this reply, and tremulously answered, ‘Give me them back, then, if you please, and I will take care to see them all demolished together, in the same flames. Meanwhile. . . . ’
‘Are you sure,’ interrupted Edgar, ‘such a conflagration will be permitted? Does the man live who would have the philosophy . . . the insensibility I must rather style it-ever to resign, after once possessing, marks so distinguishing of esteem? O, Camilla! I, at least, could not be that man!’
Cut to the soul by this question, which, though softened by the last phrase, she deemed severely cruel, she hastily exclaimed. ‘Philosophy I have no right to speak of . . . but as to insensibility . . . who is the man that ever more can surprise me by its display? Let me take, however, this opportunity. . . . ’
A footman, opening the door, said, his lady had sent to beg an answer to her letter.
Camilla, in whom anger was momentary, but the love of justice permanent, rejoiced at an interruption which prevented her from speaking, with pique and displeasure, a sentence that must lose all its purpose if not uttered with mildness. She would write, she said, immediately; and, bidding the man get her pen and ink, went to the window to read her letter; with a formal bow of apology to Edgar as she passed him.
‘I have made you angry?’ cried he, when the man was gone; ‘and I hate myself to have caused you a moment’s pain. But you must feel for me, Camilla, in the wound you have inflicted! You know not the disorder of mind produced by a sudden, unlooked-for transition from felicity to perplexity, from serenity to misery! . . . ’
Camilla felt touched, yet continued reading, or rather rapidly repeating to herself the words of her letter, without comprehending, or even seeking to comprehend, the meaning of one sentence.
He found himself quite unequal to enduring her displeasure; his own, all his cautions, all Dr. Marchmont’s advice, were forgotten; and tenderly following her, ‘Have I offended,’ he cried, ‘past forgiveness?’ Is Camilla immoveable? and is the journey from which I fondly hoped to date the renewal of every hope, the termination of every doubt, the period of all suffering and sorrow . . . ’
He stopt abruptly, from the entrance of the servant with pen and ink, and the interruption was critical: it called him to his self-command: he stammered out that he would not impede her writing; and, though in palpable confusion, took his leave: yet, at the street-door, he gave a ticket with his name, to the servant who attended him, for Mrs. Berlinton; and, with his best respects, desired she might be told he should do himself the honour to endeavour to see her in the evening.
The recollection of Edgar came too late to his aid to answer its intended purpose. The tender avowal which had escaped him to Camilla, of the view of his journey, had first with astonishment struck her ear, and next with quick enchantment vibrated to her heart, which again it speedily taught to beat with its pristine vivacity; and joy, spirit, and confidence expelled in a breath all but themselves.
CAMILLA was again called upon for her note, before she had read the letter it was to answer; but relieved now from the pressure of her own terrifying apprehensions, she gave it complete and willing attention.
It contained four sides of paper, closely yet elegantly written in the language of romantic sentiment. Mrs. Berlinton said she had spent, as yet, only a few minutes with her aunt; but they had been awfully important; and since she had exacted from her a promise to stay the whole day, she could not deny her disappointed friendship the transient solace of a paper conversation, to sooth the lingering interval of this unexpected absence. ‘My soul pines to unburden the weight of its sorrows into thy sympathising bosom, my gentlest friend; but oh! there let them not sojourn! receive but to lighten, listen but to commiserate, and then, far, far thence dismiss them, retaining but the remembrance thou hast dismissed them with consolation.’ She then bewailed the time lost to soft communication and confidence, in their journey, from the presence of others; for though one was a brother she so truly loved, she found, notwithstanding the tenderness of his nature, he had the prejudices of a man upon man’s prerogatives, and her woes called for soothing not arguments; and the other, she briefly added, was but an accidental passenger. “Tis in thee only, O my beauteous friend! I would trust the sad murmurs of my irreversible and miserable destiny, of which I have learnt but this moment the cruel and desperate secret cause.’ She reserved, however, the discovery for their meeting, and called upon her pity for her unfortunate brother, as deeply involved in his future views, as she in her past, by this mystery: ‘And have I written this much,’ she burst forth, ‘without speaking of the cherished correspondent whom so often I have described to thee? Ah! believe me not faithless to that partner of my chosen esteem, that noble, that resistless possessor of my purest friendship! No, charming Camilla, think not so degradingly of her whom fate, in its sole pitying interval, has cast into thy arms.’ Two pages then ensued with this exclusive encomium, painting him chief in every virtue, and master of every grace. She next expressed her earnestness to see Indiana, Camilla had told her would be at Southampton. ‘Present me, I conjure thee, to the fair and amiable enslaver of my unhappy brother! I die to see, to converse with her, to catch from her lovely lips the modest wisdom with which he tells me they teem; to read in her speaking eyes the intelligence which he assures me illumines them.’ She concluded with desiring her to give what orders she pleased for the coach, and the servants, and to pass the day with her friends.
Camilla, whose own sensations were now revived to happiness, read the letter with all the sympathy it claimed, and felt her eyes fill with generous tears at the contrast of their situations; yet she highly blamed the tenderness expressed for the unknown correspondent, though its innocence she was sure must vanquish even Edgar, since its so constant avowal proved it might be published to all mankind. She answered her in language nearly as affectionate, though less inflated than her own, and resolved to support her with Edgar, till her sweetness and purity should need no champions but themselves. She was ashamed of the species of expectation raised for Indiana, yet knew not how to interfere in Melmond’s idea of her capacity, lest it might seem unkind to represent its fallaciousness; but she was glad to find her soft friend seemed to have a strict guardian in her brother; and wished eagerly to communicate to Edgar a circumstance which she was sure would be so welcome to him.
Impatient to see Eugenia, she accepted the offer of the carriage, and desirous to escape Mrs. Mittin, begged to have it immediately; but that notable person came to the door at the same time as the coach, and, without the smallest ceremony, said she would accompany her to the hotel, in order to take the opportunity of making acquaintance with her friends.
Courage frequently, at least in females, becomes potent as an agent, where it has been feeble as a principal. Camilla, though she had wished, upon her own account, to repress Mrs. Mittin in the morning, had been too timid for such an undertaking; but now, in her anxiety to oblige Edgar, she gathered resolution for declining her company. She then found, as is generally the case with the fearful, the task less difficult than she had expected; for Mrs. Mittin, content with a promise self-made, that the introduction should take place the next day, said she would go and help Mrs. Berlinton’s woman to unpack her lady’s things, which would make a useful friend for her in the house, for a thousand odd matters.
The carriage of Sir Hugh was just driving off as Camilla arrived at the hotel.
She hurried from Mrs. Berlinton’s coach, demanding which way the company was gone; and being answered, by a passing waiter, up stairs, ran on at once, without patience or thought for asking if she should turn to the right or left; till seeing a gentleman standing still upon the landing place, and leaning upon the bannisters, she was retreating, to desire a conductor, when she perceived it was Dr. Orkborne; who, while the ladies were looking at accommodations, and inquiring about lodgings, in profound cogitation, and with his tablets in his hands, undisturbed by the various noises around him, and unmoved by the various spectators continually passing and repassing, was finishing a period which he had begun in the coach for his great work.
Camilla, cheerfully greeting him, begged to know which way she should find Eugenia; but, making her a sign not to speak to him, he wrote on. Accustomed to his manner, and brought up to respect whatever belonged to study, from the studious life and turn of her father, she obeyed the mute injunction, and waited quietly by his side; till, tired of the delay, though unwilling to interrupt him, she glided softly about the passage, watching and examining if she could see any of the party, yet fearing to offend or mortify him if she called for a waiter.
While straying about thus, as far off as she could go without losing sight of Dr. Orkborne, a door she had just passed was flung open, and she saw young Halder, whose licentious insolence had so much alarmed her in the bathing-house, stroam out, yawning, stretching, and swearing unmeaningly, but most disgustingly, at every step.
Terrified at his sight, she went on, as she could not get to the Doctor without passing him; but the youth, recollecting her immediately, called out: ‘Ah, ha! are you there again, you little vixen?’ and pursued her.
‘Dr. Orkborne! Dr. Orkborne!’ she rather screamed than said, ‘pray come this way! I conjure–I beseech–I entreat–Dr. Orkborne!–’
The Doctor, catching nothing of this but his name, querulously exclaimed: ‘You molest me much!’ but without raising his eyes from his tablets; while Halder, at the appeal, cried: ‘Ay, ay, Doctor! keep your distance, Doctor! you are best where you are, Doctor, I can tell you, Doctor!’
Camilla, then, too much scared to be aware she ran a far greater risk than she escaped, desperately sought refuge by opening the nearest door; though by the sudden noises upon the stairs, and in all the adjoining passages, it seemed as if Dr. Orkborne were the only one not alarmed by her cries.
No one, however, could approach so soon as the person of whose chamber she had burst the door; who was an old gentleman, of a good and lively countenance, who promptly presenting himself, looked at her with some surprise, but good humouredly asked her what she was pleased to want in his room.
‘That gentleman,’ she cried, panting and meaning to point to Dr. Orkborne; ‘that gentleman I want, sir!’ but such a medley of waiters, company, and servants, had in a moment assembled in the space between them, that the Doctor was no longer to be discerned.
‘Do you only open my door, then,’ said he, drily, ‘to tell me you want somebody else?’
Yet when Halder, vowing he owed her an ill turn for which she should pay, would have seized her by the hand, he protected with his own arm, saying: ‘Fie, boy, fie! let the girl alone! I don’t like violence.’
A gentleman now, forcing himself through the crowd, exclaimed–‘Miss Camilla Tyrold! Is it possible! what can you do here, madam?’
It was Dr. Marchmont, whom the affrighted Camilla, springing forward, could only answer in catching by the arm.
‘Tyrold!’ repeated the old gentleman; ‘Is her name Tyrold?’
Sorry now to have pronounced it in this mixt company, Dr. Marchmont evaded any answer; and, begging her to be composed, asked whither, or to whom, he might have the honour of conducting her.
‘Almost all my family are here,’ cried she, ‘but I could not make Dr. Orkborne shew me the way to them.’
The old gentleman then, repeating ‘Tyrold! why if her name is Tyrold, I’ll take care of her myself;’ invited her into his apartment.
Dr. Marchmont, thanking him, said: ‘This young lady has friends, who in all probability are now uneasily seeking her; we must lose no time in joining them.’
‘Well, but, well,’ cried the old stranger, ‘let her come into my room till the coast is clear, and, then take her away in peace. Come, there’s a good girl, come in, do! you’re heartily welcome; for there’s a person of your name that’s the best friend I ever had in the world. He’s gone from our parts, now; but he’s left nothing so good behind. Pray, my dear, did you ever hear of a gentleman, an old Yorkshire Baronet, of your name?’
‘What! my uncle?’
‘Your uncle! why are you niece to Sir Hugh Tyrold?’
Upon her answering yes, he clapped his hands with delight, and saying: ‘Why then I’ll take care of you myself, if it’s at the risk of my life!’ carried, rather than drew her into his room, the Doctor following. Then, loudly shutting his door in the face of Halder, he called out: ‘Enter my castle who dare! I shall turn a young man myself, at the age of seventy, to drub the first varlet that would attack the niece of my dear old friend!’
They soon heard the passage clear, and, without deigning to listen to the petulant revilings with which young Halder solaced his foolish rage, ‘Why, my dear,’ he continued, ‘why did not you tell me your name was Tyrold at once? I promise you, you need carry nothing else with you into our parts, to see all the doors fly open to you. You make much of him, I hope, where he is? for he left not a dry eye for twenty miles round when he quitted us. I don’t know how many such men you may have in Hampshire; but Yorkshire’s a large county, yet the best man in it would find it hard to get a seat in Parliament, where Sir Hugh Tyrold would offer himself to be a candidate. We all say, in Yorkshire, he’s so stuffed full of goodness and kindness, that there’s no room left in him for anything else; that’s our way of talking of him in Yorkshire; if you have a better way in Hampshire, I shall be glad to learn it; never too late for that; I hate pride.’
No possible disturbance could make Camilla insensible to pleasure in the praise of her uncle, or depress her spirits from joining in his eulogy; and her attention, and brightening looks, drew a narrative from the old gentleman of the baronet’s good actions and former kindnesses, so pleasant both to the speaker and the hearer, that the one forgot he had never seen her before, and the other, the frightful adventure which occasioned their meeting now.
Dr. Marchmont at length, looking at his watch, inquired what she meant to do; to seek her sister and party, she answered; and, returning her host the warmest acknowledgments for his assistance and goodness, she was going; but, stopping her: ‘How now?’ he cried, ‘don’t you want to know who I am? Now I have told you I am a friend of your uncle, don’t you suppose he’ll ask you my name?’
Camilla, smiling, assured him she wished much to be informed, but knew not how to trouble him with the question.
‘Why my name, my dear, is Westwyn, and when you say that to your uncle, he won’t give you a sour look for your pains; take my word for that beforehand. I carried over his nephew and heir, a cousin, I suppose, of yours, to Leipsic with me, about eight years ago, along with a boy of my own, Hal Westwyn; a very good lad, I assure you, though I never tell him so to his face, for fear of puffing him up; I hate a boy puffed up; he commonly comes to no good; that’s the only fault of my honoured friend; he spoils all young people-witness that same cousin of yours, that I can’t say I much like; no more does he me; but tell your good uncle you have met me; and tell him I love and honour him as I ought to do; I don’t know how to do more, or else I would; tell him this, my dear. And I have not forgot what he did for me once, when I was hard run; and I don’t intend it; I’m no friend to short memories.’
Camilla said, his name, and her uncle’s regard for him, had long been familiar to her; and told him Clermont Lynmere was of the party to Southampton, though she knew not how to enter abruptly into an explanation of his mistake concerning the inheritance. Mr. Westwyn answered he was in no hurry to see Clermont, who was not at all to his taste; but would not quit Hampshire without visiting Cleves: and when he gathered that two more nieces of Sir Hugh were in the house, he desired to be presented to them.
Upon re-entering the passage, to the great amusement of Dr. Marchmont, and serious provocation of Camilla, they perceived Dr. Orkborne, standing precisely where he had first stationed himself; attending no more to the general hubbub than to her particular entreaty, and as regardless of the various jolts he had received during the tumult, as of the obstruction he caused, by his inconvenient position, to the haste of the passers by. Still steadily reposing against the bannisters, he worked hard at refining his paragraph, persuaded, since not summoned by Miss Margland, he had bestowed upon it but a few minutes, though he had been fixed to that spot near an hour.
Miss Margland received Camilla with a civility which, since her positive and public affiance to Edgar, she thought necessary to the mistress of Beech Park; but she looked upon Dr. Marchmont, whom she concluded to have been her advocate, with a cold illwill, which, for Mr. Westwyn, she seasoned still more strongly by a portion of contemptuous haughtiness; from a ready disposition to believe every stranger, not formally announced, beneath her notice.
The Doctor soon retired, and found Edgar in his apartment, just returned from a long stroll. He recounted to him the late transaction, with reiterated exhortations to circumspection, from added doubts of the solidity, though with new praise of the attractions of Camilla. ‘She seems a character,’ he said, ‘difficult to resist, and yet more difficult to attach. Nothing serious appears to impress her for two minutes together. Let us see if the thoughtlessness and inadvertence thus perpetually fertile of danger, result from youthful inexperience, or have their source in innate levity. Time and reason will rectify the first; but time, and even reason, will but harden and embolden the latter. Prudence, therefore, must now interfere; or passion may fly, when the union it has formed most requires its continuance.’
MR. WESTWYN, charmed to meet so many near relations of a long-valued friend, struck by the extraordinary beauty of Indiana, and by the sensible answers of the child, as he called Eugenia; as well as caught by the united loveliness of person and of mind which he observed in Camilla, could not bring himself to retire till the dinner was upon the table: pleading, in excuse for his stay, his former intimacy with Sir Hugh. Miss Margland, seeing in him nothing that marked fashion, strove to distance him by a high demeanour: but though not wanting in shrewdness, Mr. Westwyn was a perfectly natural man, and only thinking her manners disagreeable, without suspecting her intention, took but little notice of her, from the time he saw she could give him no pleasure: while with the young party, he was so much delighted, that he seriously regretted he had only one son to offer amongst them.
When the dinner was served, Eugenia grew uneasy that Dr. Orkborne should be summoned, whose non-appearance she had not ventured to mention, from the professed hatred of his very sight avowed by Miss Margland. But Camilla, brought up to exert constantly her courage for the absent, told the waiter to call the gentleman from the head of the stairs.
‘My master himself, ma’am,’ he answered, ‘as well as me, both told the gentleman the company he came with were served; but he as good as bid us both hold our tongues. He seems to have taken a great liking to that place upon the stairs; though there’s nothing I know of particular in it.’
‘But, if you tell him we wait dinner–’ cried Eugenia; when Miss Margland, interrupting her said, ‘I’m sure, then, you won’t tell him true: for I beg we may all begin. I think it would be rather more decorous he should wait for us!’
The waiter, nevertheless, went; but presently returned, somewhat ruffled; saying, ‘The gentleman does not choose to hear me, ma’am. He says, if he mayn’t be let alone one single minute, it will be throwing away all his morning. I can’t say I know what he means; but he speaks rather froppish. I’d as lieve not go to him again, if you please.’
Miss Margland declared, she wished him no better dinner than his pot-hooks; but did not doubt he would come just before they had done, as usual; and he was no more mentioned: though she never in her life eat so fast; and the table was ordered to be cleared of its covers, with a speed exactly the reverse of the patience with which the Doctor was indulged on similar occasions by the baronet.
Miss Margland, when the cloth was removed, proposed a sally in search of lodgings. Camilla and Eugenia, desirous of a private conference, begged to remain within; though the latter sought to take care of her absent preceptor, before she could enjoy the conversation of her sister; and when Miss Margland and Indiana, in secret exultation at his dinnerless state, had glided, with silent simpering, past him, flew to beseech his consent to take some nourishment.
Such, however, was his present absorption in what he was writing, that the voluntary kindness of his pupil was as unwelcome as the forced intrusion of the waiter; and he conjured her to grant him a little respite from such eternal tormenting, with the plaintive impatience of deprecating some injury.
The sisters, now, equally eager to relate and to listen to their mutual affairs, shut themselves up in the apartment of Eugenia; who, with the greatest simplicity, began the discourse, by saying, ‘Have you heard, my dear sister, that Clermont has refused me?’
Camilla was severely shocked. Accustomed herself to the face and form of Eugenia, which, to her innocent affection, presented always the image of her virtuous mind and cultivated understanding, she had not presaged even the possibility of such an event; and, though she had seen with concern the inequality of their outward appearance, Clermont had seemed to her, in all else, so inferior to her sister, that she had repined at his unworthiness, but never doubted the alliance.
She was distressed how to offer any consolation; but soon found none was required. Eugenia was composed and contented, though pensive, and not without some feeling of mortification. Yet anger and resentment had found no place in the transaction. Her equity acknowledged that Clermont had every right of choice: but while her candour induced her to even applaud his disinterestedness in relinquishing the Cleves estate, her capacity pointed out how terrible must be the personal defects, that so speedily, without one word of conversation, one trial of any sort how their tastes, tempers, or characters might accord, stimulated him to so decisive a rejection. This view of her unfortunate appearance cast her, at first, into a train of melancholy ideas, that would fast have led her to unhappiness, though wholly unmixed with any regret of Clermont, had not the natural philosophy of her mind come to her aid; or had her education been of a more worldly sort.
When Camilla related her own history, her plan of making Edgar again completely master of his own proceedings met the entire approbation of Eugenia, who, with a serious smile, said, ‘Take warning by me, my dear sister! and, little as you have reason to be brought into any comparison with such a one as me, anticipate the disgrace of defection!’
Camilla, much touched, embraced her, sincerely wishing she were half as faultless as her excellent self.
The return of Miss Margland and Indiana obliged them to quit their retreat; and they now found Dr. Orkborne in the dining room. Having finished his paragraph, he had sought his party of his own accord; but, meeting with no one, had taken a book from his pocket, with which he meant to beguile the appetite he felt rising, till the hour of dinner, which he had not the smallest suspicion was over; for of the progress of time he had no knowledge but by its palpable passage from the sun to the moon; his watch was never wound up, and the morning and the evening were but announced to him by a summons to breakfast and to supper.
The ladies seated themselves at the window. Indiana was enchanted by the concourse of gay and well-dressed people passing by, and far from insensible to the visible surprise and pleasure she excited in those who cast up their eyes at the hotel. Eugenia, to whom a great and populous town was entirely new, found also, in the diversity as well as novelty of its objects, much matter for remark and contemplation; Miss Margland experienced the utmost satisfaction in seeing, at last, some faces and some things less rustic than had been presented to her in Yorkshire or at Cleves; and Camilla had every hope that this place, in Edgar’s own expression, would terminate every perplexity, and give local date to her life’s permanent felicity.
In a few minutes, a youth appeared on the opposite pavement, whose air was new to none of the party, yet not immediately recollected by any. It was striking, however, in elegance and in melancholy. Eugenia recollected him first, and starting back, gasped for breath; Indiana the next moment called out, ‘Ah! . . . it’s Mr. Melmond!’ and blushing high, her whole face was bright and dimpled with unexpected delight.
He walked on, without looking up, and Indiana, simply piqued as well as chagrined, said she was glad he was gone.
But Eugenia looked after him with a gentle sigh, which now first she thought blameless, and a pleasure, which, though half mournful, she now suffered herself to encourage. Free from all ties that made her shun this partiality as culpable, she secretly told herself she might now, without injury to any one, indulge it for an object little as he was known to her, she internally painted with all the faultless qualities of ideal excellence.
From these meditations she was roused by Dr. Orkborne’s looking rather wishfully round him, and exclaiming, ‘Pray . . . don’t we dine rather late?’
The mistake being cleared up, by Miss Margland’s assuring him it was impossible to keep dinner waiting all day, for people who chose to stand whole hours upon a staircase, he felt rather discomforted: but when Eugenia privately ordered him a repast in his own chamber, he was amply consoled, by the unconstrained freedom with which he was empowered to have more books upon the table than plates; and to make more ink spots than he eat mouthfuls.
Camilla had the mortification to find, upon her return home, that Edgar had made his promised visit, not only in her absence, but while Mrs. Berlinton was still with her aunt.
The lady then communicated to Camilla the secret to which, while yet in ignorance of its existence, she now found she had been sacrificed. Mrs. Ecton, two years ago, had given her hand, in the most solemn privacy, to her butler, who now attended her to Southampton. To avoid disobliging a sick old relation, from whom she expected a considerable legacy, she had prevailed with her husband to consent that the marriage should not be divulged: but certain that whatever now might be her fortune, she had no power to bequeath it from her new connexion, the terror of leaving utterly destitute a beautiful young creature, who believed herself well provided for, had induced her to nearly force her acceptance of an almost superannuated old man of family; who, merely coveting her beauty, inquired not into her inclination. The same latent cause had made her inexorable to the pleadings of young Melmond; who, conceiving his fortune dependent upon the pleasure of his aunt, his certain income being trifling, thought it his duty to fly the fair object of his adoration, when he discovered the deceit of Lionel with regard to the inheritance of Sir Hugh.
This sick old relation was now just dead, and had left to her sole disposal a considerable estate. The husband naturally refused to be kept any longer from his just rights; but the shame she felt of making the discovery of a marriage contracted clandestinely, after she was sixty years of age, with a man under thirty, threw her into a nervous fever. And, in this state, unable to reveal to her nephew an event which now affected him alone, she prevailed with Mr. Ulst, who was willing to revisit his original home, Southampton, to accompany her thither in his capacity, till she had summoned her nephew and niece, and acquainted them with the affair.
To herself, Mrs. Berlinton said, the evil of this transaction had been over, while yet it was unknown; she had heard it, therefore, in silence, and forborne unavailing reproach. But her brother, to whom the blow was new, and the consequences were still impending, was struck with extreme anguish, that while thus every possible hope was extinguished with regard to his love, he must suddenly apply himself to some business, or be reduced to the most obscure poverty.
Camilla heard the account with sincere concern for them both, much heightened for young Melmond, upon finding that, by his express desire, his sister now relinquished her design of cultivating an acquaintance with Indiana, whom he had the virtue to determine to avoid, since his fortune, and even his hopes, were thus irretrievably ruined.
They conversed together to a late hour; and Camilla, before they parted, made the most earnest apologies for the liberty taken with her house by Mrs. Mittin: but Mrs. Berlinton, with the utmost sweetness, begged she might stay till all her business with her was settled; smilingly adding, business alone, she was sure could bring them together.
Much relieved, she then determined to press Mrs. Mittin to collect and pay her accounts immediately; and to avoid with her, in the meanwhile. any other transactions.
EARLY the next morning, Camilla went to the hotel, in the carriage of Mrs. Berlinton; eluding, though not without difficulty, the company of Mrs. Mittin. She found the party all in good spirits; Indiana, in particular, was completely elated; joined to the admiration she believed awaiting her in this large and fashionable town, she now knew she might meet there the only person who had ever excited in her youthful, and nearly vacant breast, any appropriate pleasure, super-added to the general zest of being adored. She did not, indeed, think of marrying any one who could not offer her a coach and four; but so little was she disturbed by thinking at all, that the delight of being adulated by the man she preferred, carried with it no idea of danger. Eugenia too, soothed with the delusions of her romantic but innocent fancy, flattered herself she might now see continually the object she conceived formed for meriting her ever reverential regard; and Miss Margland was importantly occupied upon affairs best suited to her taste and ancient habits, in deliberating how first to bring forth her fair charge with the most brilliant effect.
Camilla was much embarrassed how to parry an introduction to Mrs. Berlinton, upon which all the females built as the foundation of their Southampton prosperity; the young ones, already informed she was the sister of Melmond, languishing to know her for his sake; and Miss Margland, formerly acquainted with the noble family of her husband, being impatient to resume her claims in similar circles; but an awkward beginning apology was set aside by the entrance of Edgar and Dr. Marchmont.
Indiana now poured forth innumerable questions upon what she might look forward to with respect to balls and public places; Eugenia asked nearly as many concerning the buildings, antiquities, and prospects; and Miss Margland more than either, relative to the company, their genealogies and connexions. The two Doctors soon sat aloof, conferring upon less familiar matters; but Edgar only spoke in reply, and Camilla uttered not a word.
Soon after, a voice on the stairs called out, ‘O never mind shewing me the way; if I come to a wrong room, I’ll go on till I come to a right;’ and the next minute young Lynmere sallied into the apartment.
‘I could not get to you last night,’ cried he; ‘and I can only stay a moment now. I have a pretty serious business upon my hands; so if you can give me any breakfast, don’t lose time.’
Miss Margland, willing to please the brother of Indiana, readily ordered for him whatever the inn would afford, of which he failed not heartily to partake, saying, ‘I have met with a good comic sort of adventure here already. Guess what it is?’
Indiana complied; but his own wish to communicate was so much stronger than that of anyone to hear, that, before she could pronounce three words, he cried: ‘Well, if you’re so excessive curious, I’ll tell it you. I’m engaged in a duel.’
Indiana screamed; Miss Margland echoed her cry; Eugenia, who had looked down from his entrance, raised her eyes with an air of interest; Camilla was surprised out of her own concerns; and Edgar surveyed him with an astonishment not wholly unmixt with contempt; but the two Doctors went on with their own discourse.
‘Nay, nay, Dye, don’t be frightened; ’tis not a duel in which I am to fight myself; I am only to be second. But suppose I were first? what signifies? these are things we have in hand so often, we don’t think of them.’
‘La! brother! you don’t say so?’ cried Indiana: ‘La! how droll!’ He then pretended that he would tell nothing more.
Camilla inquired if he had seen Mr. Westwyn, whom she had met with the preceding day.
‘Not I, faith! but that’s a-propos enough; for it’s his son that has asked me to be his second.’
‘O, poor good old Mr. Westwyn!’ cried Camilla, now much interested in this history; ‘and can you not save him such a shock? can you not be mediator instead of second? he seems so fond of his son. . . . ’
‘O, as to him, it’s no matter; he’s such a harsh old hunks, I shall be glad to have him worked a little; I’ve often wanted to pull him by the nose, myself, he takes such liberties with me. But did you ever hear of such a fool as his son? he deserves to be badgered as bad as his father; he’s going to fight with as fine an honest fellow as ever I met with, for nothing at all! absolutely nothing!’
‘Dear! how droll!’ said Indiana.
‘But why can you not interfere?’ cried Camilla: ‘poor Mr. Westwyn will be made so unhappy if any evil befalls his son!’
‘O, faith, as to him, he may take it as he will; I shan’t trouble my head about him; he has made free enough with me, I can assure you; it’s only to have him out of the way, that the business is put off till noon; it was to have been in the morning, but the old tyrant took it into his pate to make poor Henry, who is one of your good ones, and does nothing to vex him on purpose, ride out with him; he has promised, however, to get off by twelve o’clock, when four of us are to be at a certain spot that I shan’t name.’
Camilla again began to plead the merits of the father; but Indiana more urgently demanded the reason of the combat. ‘I dare say, brother, they fight about being in love with somebody? don’t they, brother? now do tell me?’
‘Not a whit! it’s for a girl he don’t care a straw for, and never saw but once in his life, and don’t care a farthing if he never sees again.’
‘Dear, how droll, brother! I thought people always fought about being in love with somebody they wanted to marry; and never but when she was excessive pretty.’
‘O, faith, marriage seldom deserves a fighting match; but as to being pretty, that’s all Harry has in his excuse, so he pretends she’s as divine as an angel.’
‘Dear! well, and don’t you know anything more than that about it?’
‘No, nor he neither; he only saw her at a bathing house, where a fine jolly young buck was paying her a few compliments, that she affected not to like; and presently, in a silly dispute whether she was a girl of character, they had a violent quarrel, and Harry was such a fool as to end it with a challenge.’
At the words a bathing house, the blood forsook the checks of Camilla with sudden personal alarm; but it mounted high into them again, upon hearing the nature of the dispute; though yet again it sunk, and left them wholly pallid, at the brief and final conviction she was the sole cause of this duel, and upon so disgraceful a dispute.
The emotions of Edgar, though less fearful, were not less violent nor painful. That Camilla should be the subject of any challenge was shocking, but of such a one he thought a dishonour; yet to prevent, and with the least publicity, its effect, was the immediate occupation of his mind.
A short pause ensued, broken presently by Clermont, who, looking at his watch, suddenly jumped up, and calling out, ‘Faith, I shall be too late!’ was capering out of the room; but the shame of Camilla in the disgrace, was overpowered by her terror of its consequences, and starting up, and clasping her hands, ‘O cousin! O Clermont!’ she cried, ‘for Heaven’s sake stop this affair!’
Clermont, satisfied that a sufficient alarm was raised to impede the transaction, without any concession on his part, declared himself bound in honour to attend the appointment, and, in extreme seeming haste and earnestness, walked off: stopping, however, when he came to the door, not to listen to the supplications of his cousin, but to toss off a fresh cup of chocolate, which a waiter was just carrying to the next room.
Camilla now, her face varying in colour twenty times in a minute, and her whole frame shaking, while her eyes were cast, conscious and timid, on the floor, approached Edgar, and saying, ‘This young man’s father is my dear uncle’s friend!’ burst into tears.
Edgar, wholly dissolved, took her hand, pressed it to his lips, besought her, in a low voice, to dismiss her apprehensions, in the confidence of his most ardent exertions, and again kissing her hand, with the words, ‘Too . . . O, far too dear Camilla!’ hastened after Lynmere.
Affected in a thousand ways, she dropt, weeping, upon a chair. Should the duel take place, and any fatal consequences follow, she felt she should never be happy again; and even, should it be prevented, its very suggestion, from so horrible a doubt of her character, seemed a stain from which it could never recover. The inconsiderate facility with which she had wandered about with a person so little known to her, so underbred, and so forward, appeared now to herself inexcusable; and she determined, if but spared this dreadful punishment, to pass the whole of her future life in unremitting caution.
Eugenia, with the kindest sympathy, and Indiana and Miss Margland, with extreme curiosity, sought to discover the reason of her emotion; but while begging them to dispense with an explanation, old Mr. Westwyn was announced and appeared.
The horrors of a culprit, the most cruel as well as criminal, seemed instantly the portion of the self-condemned Camilla; and, as he advanced with cheerful kindness, to inquire after her health, his ignorance that all his happiness, through her means, was that moment at stake, pierced her with a suffering so exquisite, that she uttered a deep groan, and sunk back upon her chair.
An instant’s recollection brought her more of fortitude, though not of comfort; and springing up and addressing, though not looking at Mr. Westwyn, who was staring at her with astonishment and concern: ‘Where, sir,’ she cried, ‘is your son? If you have the least knowledge which way he is gone . . . which way he may be traced . . . pursue and force him back this moment! Immediately! . . . ’
‘My son!’ repeated the good old gentleman, wanting no other word to participate in any alarm; ‘what, Hal Westwyn?–’
‘Follow him . . . seek him . . . send for him . . . and do not, a single instant, lose sight of him all day!’
‘My dear young lady, what do you mean? I’ll send for him, to be sure, if you desire it; but what makes you so good as to think about my son? did you ever see my son? do you know my son? do you know Hal Westwyn?’
‘Don’t ask now, dear sir! secure him first, and make what inquiries you please afterwards.’
Mr. Westwyn, in evident consternation, walked out, Camilla herself opening the door; but turning back in the passage, strongly said: ‘If the boy has been guilty of any misbehaviour, I won’t support him; I don’t like misbehaviour; it’s a bad thing; I can’t take to it.’
‘O no! no! quite the contrary!’ exclaimed the agitated Camilla, ‘he is good, kind, generous! I owe him the greatest obligation! and I desire nothing upon earth so much, at this moment, as to see him, and to thank him!’
The old gentleman’s eyes now filled with tears, and coming back, and most affectionately shaking hands with her, ‘I was afraid he had misbehaved,’ he cried; ‘but he was always a good lad; and if he has done any thing for the niece of my dear Sir Hugh Tyrold, I shall hug him to my heart!’ and then, in great, but pleased perturbation, he hurried away, saying to himself, as he went: ‘I’ll take him to her, to be sure; I desire nothing better! God bless her! If she can speak so well of my poor Hal, she must be the best girl living! and she shall have him . . . yes, she shall have him, if she’s a mind to him; and I don’t care if she i’n’t worth a groat; she’s niece to my old friend; that’s better.’
Camilla speeding, but not hearing him, returned to her seat; yet could not answer one question, from the horrors of her fears, and her shame of the detail of the business.
When the breakfast was over Miss Margland desired everyone would get ready to go to the lodgings; and, with Indiana, repaired herself to visit them, and give general orders. Dr. Marchmont had glided out of the room, in anxiety for Edgar; to the great dissatisfaction, and almost contempt of Dr. Orkborne, with whom he was just discussing some controverted points upon the shield of Achilles; which, that he could quit for the light concerns of a young man, added again to his surmises that, though he had run creditably the usual scholastic race, his reputation was more the effect of general ability and address, than of such sound and consummate learning as he himself possessed. Ruminating upon the ignorant injustice of mankind, in suffering such quacks in literature and philology to carry the palm of fame, he went to his chamber, to collect, from his bolster and bedside, the hoard of books and papers, from which, the preceding night, he had disencumbered his coat, waistcoat, and great coat pockets, inside and out, to review before he could sleep; and which now were again to encircle him, to facilitate their change of abode.
But Eugenia would not quit her afflicted sister, who soon, in her gentle breast, deposited the whole of her grief, her apprehensions, and her plans; charging her instantly to retire, if Edgar should return, that whatever might be the event he should unfold, she might release him immediately from an engagement that his last words seemed to avow did not make him happy, and that probably he now repented. The design was so consonant to the native heroism of Eugenia, that she consented, with applause, to aid its execution.
About half an hour, which seemed to be prolonged to twenty times the duration of the whole day, passed in terrible expectation; Edgar then appeared, and Eugenia, suspending her earnest curiosity, to comply with the acute feelings of her sister, retreated.
Camilla could scarce breathe; she stood up, her eyes and mouth open, her face pale, her hands uplifted, waiting, but not daring to demand intelligence.
Edgar, entering into her distress with a tenderness that drove from him his own, eagerly satisfied her: ‘All,’ he cried, ‘is safe; the affair has been compromised; no duel has taken place; and the parties have mutually pledged themselves to forget the dispute.’
Tears again, but no longer bitter, flowed copiously down her cheeks, while her raised eyes and clasped hands expressed the fervency of her thankfulness.
Edgar, extremely touched, took her hand; he wished to seize a moment so nearly awful, to enforce upon her mind every serious subject with which he most desired it to be impressed; but sorrow was ever sacred to him; and desiring only, at this period, to console her: ‘This adventure,’ he cried, ‘has now terminated so well, you must not suffer it to wound you. Dismiss it, sweet Camilla, from your memory! . . . at least till you are more composed.’
‘No, sir!’ cried Camilla, to whom his softness, by restoring her hope of an ultimately happy conclusion, restored strength; ‘it ought never to be dismissed from my memory; and what I am now going to say will fix it there indelibly.’
Edgar was surprised, but pleased; his most anxious wishes seemed on the point of being fulfilled; he expected a voluntary explanation of every perplexity, a clearance of all mystery.
‘I am sensible that I have appeared to you,’ she resumed, ‘in many points reprehensible; in some, perhaps, inexcusable . . . ’
‘Inexcusable? O no! never! never!’
‘The letters of Sir Sedley Clarendel I know you think I ought not to have received. . . . ’
Edgar, biting his nails, looked down.
‘And, indeed, I acknowledge myself, in that affair, a most egregious dupe! . . . ’
She blushed; but her blush was colourless to that of Edgar. Resentment against Sir Sedley beat high in every vein; while disappointment to his delicacy, in the idea of Camilla duped by any man, seemed, in one blow, to detach him from her person, by a sudden dissolution of all charm to his mind in the connection.
Camilla saw, too late, she had been too hasty in a confession which some apologising account should have preceded; but what her courage had begun, pride now aided her to support, and she continued.
‘For what belongs to that correspondence, and even for its being unknown to my friends, I may offer, perhaps, hereafter, something in exculpation; . . . hereafter, I say, building upon your long family regard; for though we part . . . it will be, I trust, in amity.’
‘Part!’ repeated Edgar, recovering from his displeasure by amazement.
‘Yes, part,’ said she, with assumed firmness; ‘it would be vain to palliate what I cannot disguise from myself . . . I am lessened in your esteem.’ She could not go on; imperious shame took possession of her voice, crimsoned her very forehead, blushed even in her eyes, demolished her strained energy, and enfeebled her genuine spirit.
But the conscious taciturnity of Edgar recalled her exertions; struck and afflicted by the truth she had pronounced, he could not controvert it; he was mute; but his look spoke keen disturbance and bitter regret.
‘Not so low, however, am I yet, I trust, fallen in your opinion, that you can wonder at the step I now take. I am aware of many errours; I know, too, that appearances have often cruelly misrepresented me; my errours you might have the candour to forget, and false appearances I could easily clear in my own favour-but where, and what is the talisman which can erase from my own remembrance that you have thought me unworthy?’
Edgar started; but she would not give him time to speak; what she had last uttered was too painful to her to dwell upon, or hear answered, and rapidly, and in an elevated manner, she went on.
‘I here, therefore, solemnly release you from all tie, all engagement whatever with Camilla Tyrold! I shall immediately acquaint my friends that henceforth . . . we Both are Free!’
She was then retiring. Edgar, confounded by a stroke so utterly and every way unexpected, neither answering nor interposing, till he saw her hand upon the lock of the door. In a voice then, that spoke him cut to the soul, though without attempting to stop her, ‘This then,’ he cried, ‘Camilla, is your final adieu.’
She turned round, and with a face glowing, and eyes glistening, held out to him her hand: ‘I knew not if you would accept,’ she said, ‘a kinder word, or I should have assured you of my unaltered regard . . . and have claimed the continuance of your friendship, and even . . . if your patience is not utterly exhausted, of your watchful counsel. Farewell! remember me without severity! my own esteem must be permanent as my existence!’
The door, here, was opened by Miss Margland and Indiana, and Camilla hastily snatched away the hand which Edgar, grasping with the fondness of renovated passion, secretly meant to part with no more, till a final reconciliation once again made it his own; but compelled to yield to circumstance, he suffered it to be withdrawn; and while she darted into the chamber of Eugenia, to hide her deep emotion from Indiana, who was tittering, and Miss Margland, who was sneering, at the situation in which she was surprised, he abruptly took leave himself, too much impressed by this critical scene, to labour for uninteresting discourse.
WHILE in the bosom of her faithful sister, Camilla reposed her feelings and her fears, alternately rejoicing and trembling in the temerity of the resolution she had exerted; Edgar sought his not less faithful, nor honourable, but far more worldly friend, Dr. Marchmont.
He narrated, with extreme emotion, the scene he had just had with Camilla; asserting her possession of every species of excellence from the nobleness of her rejection, and abhorring himself for having given her a moment’s doubt of his fullest esteem. Not a solicitude, he declared, now remained with him, but how to appease her displeasure, satisfy her dignity, and recover her favour.
‘Softly, softly!’ said the Doctor; ‘measure your steps more temperately, ere you run with such velocity. If this refusal is the result of an offended sensibility, you cannot exert yourself too warmly in its consolation; even if it is from pride, it has a just claim to your concessions, since she thinks you have injured it; yet pause before you act, may it not be merely from a confidence of power that loves to tyrannize over its slaves, by playing with their chains? or a lurking spirit of coquetry, that desires to regain the liberty of trifling with some new Sir Sedley Clarendel? or, perhaps, with Sir Sedley himself?’
‘Dr. Marchmont! how wretchedly ill you think of women!’
‘I think of them as they are! I think of them as I have found them. They are artful, though feeble; they are shallow, yet subtle.’
‘You have been unfortunate in your connexions?’
‘Yet who had better prospects? with energies as warm, with hopes as alive as your own, twice have I conducted to the altar two beings I thought framed for my peculiar felicity; but my peace, my happiness, and my honour, have been torn up by the root, exactly where I thought I had planted them for my whole temporal existence. This heart, which to you appears hard and suspicious, has been the dupe of its susceptibilities; first, in a creature of its own choice, next, where it believed itself chosen. That first, Mandlebert, had you seen her, you would have thought, as I thought her myself . . . an angel! She was another Camilla.’
‘Grace, sweetness, and beauty vied in her for pre-eminence. Yes, another Camilla! though I see your incredulity; I see you think my comparison almost profane; and that grace, sweetness, and beauty, waited the birth of Camilla to be made known to the world. Such, however, she was, and I saw and loved at once. I knew her character fair, I precipitately made my addresses, and concluded myself beloved in return . . . because I was accepted!’
Edgar shrunk back, and cast down his eyes.
‘Nor was it till the moment . . . heart-breaking yet to my recollection! . . . of her sudden death, that I knew the lifeless, soulless, inanimate frame was all she had bestowed upon me. In the private drawer of her bureau, I then found a pocketbook. In the first leaf, I saw a gentleman’s name; . . . I turned over, and saw it again; I looked further, and still it met my view; I opened by chance. . . . but nothing else appeared: . . . there it was still, traced in every hand, charactered in every form, shape, and manner, the wayward, wistful eye could delight to fashion, for varying, yet beholding it without end: while, over the intermediate spaces, verses, quotations, short but affecting sentences, were every where scattered, bewailing the misery of disappointed hope, and unrequited love; of a heartless hand devoted at the altar; of vows enchaining liberty, not sanctifying affection! I then . . . alas, too late! dived deeper, with, then, useless investigation, . . . and discovered an early passion, never erased from her mind; . . . discovered . . . that I had never made her happy! that she was merely enduring, suffering me . . . while my whole confiding soul was undividedly hers!’
Edgar shuddered at this picture; ‘But why, then,’ he cried, ‘since she seemed amiable as well as fair, why did she accept you?’
‘Ask half the married women in the nation how they became wives: they will tell you their friends urged them; . . . that they had no other establishment in view; . . . that nothing is so uncertain as the repetition of matrimonial powers in women; . . . and that those who cannot solicit what they wish, must accommodate themselves to what offers. This first adventure, however, is now no longer useful to you, though upon its hard remembrance was founded my former caution: but I am even myself satisfied, at present, that the earliest partiality of Camilla has been yours; what now you have to weigh, is the strength or inadequacy of her character, for guiding that partiality to your mutual happiness. My second melancholy history will best illustrate this difficulty. You may easily believe, the last of my intentions was any further essay in a lottery I had found so inauspicious; but, while cold even to apathy, it was my inevitable chance to fall in the way of a pleasing and innocent young creature, who gave me, unsought and unwished-for, her heart. The boon, nevertheless, soon caught my own: for what is so alluring as the voluntary affection of a virtuous woman?’
‘Well,’ cried Edgar, ‘and what now could disturb your tranquillity?’
‘The insufficiency of that heart to its own decision. I soon found her apparent predilection was simply the result of the casualty which brought me almost exclusively into her society, but unmarked by any consonance of taste, feeling, or understanding. Her inexperience had made her believe, since she preferred me to the few who surrounded her, I was the man of her choice: with equal facility I concurred in the same mistake; . . . for what is so credulous as self-love? But such a regard, the child of accident, not selection, was unequal, upon the discovery of the dissimilarity of our dispositions, to the smallest sacrifice. My melancholy returned with the view of our mutual delusion; lassitude of pleasing was the precursor of discontent. Dissipation then, in the form of amusement, presented itself to her aid: retirement and books came to mine. My resource was safe, though solitary; her’s was gay, but perilous. Dissipation, with its usual Proteus powers, from amusement changed its form to temptation, allured her into dangers, impeached her honour, and blighted her with disgrace. I just discerned the precipice whence she was failing, in time to avert the dreadful necessity of casting her off for ever: . . . but what was our life thence forward? Cares unparticipated, griefs uncommunicated, stifled resentments, and unremitting weariness! She is now no more; and I am a lonely individual for the rest of my pilgrimage.
‘Take warning, my dear young friend, by my experience. The entire possession of the heart of the woman you marry is not more essential to your first happiness, than the complete knowledge of her disposition is to your ultimate peace.’
Edgar thanked him, in deep concern to have awakened emotions which the absorption of study, and influence of literature, held generally dormant. The lesson, however, which they inculcated, he engaged to keep always present to his consideration; though, but for the strange affair of Sir Sedley Clarendel, he should feel confident that, in Camilla, there was not more of exterior attraction, than of solid excellence: and, with regard to their concordance of taste and humour, he had never seen her so gay, nor so lovely, as in scenes of active benevolence, or domestic life. She had promised to clear, hereafter, the transaction with Sir Sedley; but he could not hold back for that explanation: hurt, already, by his apparent scruples, she had openly named them as the motives of her rejection: could he, then, shew her he yet demurred, without forfeiting all hope of a future accommodation?
‘Delicacy,’ said Dr. Marchmont, ‘though the quality the most amiable we can practise in the service of others, must not take place of common sense, and sound judgment, for ourselves. Her dismission does not discard you from her society; on the contrary, it invites your friendship . . . ’
‘Ah, Doctor! what innocence, what sweetness does that very circumstance display!’
‘Learn, however, their concomitants, ere you yield to their charms: learn if their source is from a present, yet accidental preference, or from the nobler spring of elevated sentiment. The meeting you surprised with Sir Sedley, the presumption you acknowledge of his letters, and the confession made by herself that she had submitted to be duped by him.’
‘O, Dr. Marchmont! what harrowing drawbacks to felicity! And how much must we rather pity than wonder at the errors of common young women, when a creature such as this is so easy to be misled!’
‘You must not imagine I mean a censure upon the excellent Mr. Tyrold, when I say she is left too much to herself: the purity of his principles, and the virtue of his character, must exempt him from blame; but his life has been both too private and too tranquil, to be aware of the dangers run by Female Youth, when straying from the mother’s careful wing. All that belongs to religion, and to principle, he feels, and he has taught; but the impediments they have to encounter in a commerce with mankind, he could not point out, for he does not know. Yet there is nothing more certain, than that seventeen weeks is not less able to go alone in a nursery, than seventeen years in the world.’
This suggestion but added to the bias of Edgar to take her, if possible, under his own immediate guidance.
‘Know, first,’ cried the Doctor, ‘if to your guidance she will give way; know if the affair with Sir Sedley has exculpations which render it single and adventitious, or if there hang upon it a lightness of character that may invest caprice, chance, or fickleness, with powers of involving such another entanglement.’
AS the lodgings taken by Miss Margland could not be ready till the afternoon, Camilla remained with her sister; a sojourn which, while it consoled her with the society, and gratified her by the approbation of Eugenia, had yet another allurement; it detained her under the same roof with Edgar; and his manner of listening to her rejection, and his undisguised suffering before they were parted, led her to expect he might yet demand a conference before she quitted the hotel.
In about an hour, as unpleasantly as unceremoniously, they were broken in upon by Mrs. Mittin.
‘How monstrous lucky, my dear,’ cried she, to Camilla, ‘that I should find you, and your little sister, for I suppose this is she, together! I went into your dining-room to ask for you, and there I met those other two ladies; and I’ve made acquaintance with ’em, I assure you, already; for I told them I was on a visit at the Honourable Mrs. Berlinton’s . So I’ve had the opportunity to recommend some shops to ’em, and I’ve been to tell some of the good folks to send them some of their nicest goods for ’em to look at; for, really, since I’ve been bustling a little about here, I’ve found some of the good people so vastly obliging, I can’t but take a pleasure in serving ’em, and getting ’em a few customers, especially as I know a little civility of that sort makes One friends surprisingly. Often and often have I got things under prime cost myself, only by helping a person on in his trade. So one can’t say good nature’s always thrown away. However, I come now on purpose to put a note into your own hands, from Mrs. Berlinton; for all the servants were out of the way, except one, and he wanted to be about something else, so I offered to bring it, and she was very much pleased; so I fancy it’s about some secret, for she never offered to shew it me; but as to the poor man saved from the walk, I’ve won his heart downright; I dare say he’ll go of any odd errand for me, now, without vails. That’s the best of good nature, it always comes home to one.’
The note from Mrs. Berlinton contained a tender supplication for the return of Camilla, and a pressing and flattering invitation that her sister should join their little party as the motives of honour and discretion which made her, at the request and for the sake of her brother, sacrifice her eagerness to be presented to Miss Lynmere, operated not to impede her acquaintance with Miss Eugenia.
This proposition had exquisite charms for Eugenia. To become acquainted with the sister of him to whom, henceforward, she meant to devote her secret thoughts, enchanted her imagination.
Camilla, therefore, negotiated the visit with Miss Margland, who, though little pleased by this separate invitation, knew not how to refuse her concurrence; but Indiana, indignant that the sister of Melmond should not, first, have waited upon her, and solicited her friendship, privately resolved, in pique of this disrespect, to punish the brother with every rigour she could invent.
Camilla, upon her return, found Mrs. Mittin already deeply engaged in proposing an alteration in the dress of Eugenia, which she was aiding Molly Mill to accomplish; and so much she found to say and to do, to propose and to object to, to contrive and to alter, that, from the simplicity of the mistress, and the ignorance of the maid, the one was soon led to conclude she should have appeared improperly before Mrs. Berlinton, without such useful advice; and the other to believe she must shortly have lost her place, now her young lady was come forth into the world, if she had not thus miraculously met with so good a friend.
During these preparations, Camilla was summoned back to the dining-room to receive Mr. Westwyn.
She did not hear this call with serenity. The danger which, however unwittingly, she had caused his son, and the shocking circumstances which were its foundation, tingled her cheeks, and confounded her wish of making acknowledgments, with an horror that such an obligation could be possible.
The door of the dining-room was open, and as soon as her steps were heard, Mr. Westwyn came smiling forth to receive her. She hung back involuntarily; but, pacing up to her, and taking her hand, ‘Well, my good young lady,’ he cried, ‘I have brought you my son; but he’s no boaster, that I can assure you, for though I told him how you wanted him to come to you, and was so good as to say you were so much obliged to him, I can’t make him own he has ever seen you in his life; which I tell him is carrying his modesty over far; I don’t like affectation . . . I have no taste for it.’
Camilla, discovering by this speech, as well as by his pleased and tranquil manner, that he had escaped hearing of the intended duel, and that his son was still ignorant whose cause he had espoused, ardently wished to avert farther shame by concealing herself; and, step by step, kept retreating back towards the room of Eugenia; though she could not disengage her hand from the old gentleman, who, trying to draw her on, said: ‘Come, my dear! don’t go away. Though my son won’t confess what he has done for you, he can’t make me forget that you were such a dear soul as to tell me yourself, of his good behaviour, and of your having such a kind opinion of him. And I have been telling him, and I can assure you I keep my word, that if he has done a service to the niece of my dear old friend, Sir Hugh Tyrold, it shall value him fifty pound a-year more to his income, if I straighten myself never so much. For a lad, that knows how to behave in that manner, will never spend his money so as to make his old father ashamed of him. And that’s a good thing for a man to know.’
‘Indeed, sir, this is some mistake,’ said the young man himself, now advancing into the passage, while Camilla was stammering out an excuse from entering; ‘it’s some great mistake; I have not the honour to know. . . . ’
He was going to add Miss Tyrold, but he saw her at the same moment, and instantly recollecting her face, stopt, blushed, and looked amazed.
The retreating effort of Camilla, her shame and her pride, all subsided by his view, and gave place to the more generous feelings of gratitude for his intuitive good opinion, and emotion for the risk he had run in her defence: and with an expression of captivating sweetness in her eyes and manner, ‘That you did not know me,’ she cried, ‘makes the peculiarity of your goodness, which, indeed, I am more sensible to than I can express.’
‘Why, there! there, now! there!’ cried Mr. Westwyn, while his son, enchanted to find whose character he had sustained, bowed almost to the ground with respectful gratitude for such thanks; only but listen! she says the very same things to your face, that she said behind your back! though I am afraid, it’s only to please an old father; for if not, I can’t for my life find out any reason why you should deny it. Come, Hal, speak out, Hal!’
Equally at a loss how either to avow or evade what had passed in the presence of Camilla, young Westwyn began a stammering and awkward apology; but Camilla, feeling doubly his forbearance, said: ‘Silence may in you be delicate . . . but in me it would be graceless.’ Then, turning from him to old Mr. Westwyn, ‘you may be proud, sir,’ she cried, ‘of your son! It was the honour of an utter stranger he was protecting, as helpless as she was unknown at the time she excited his interest; nor had he even in view this poor mede he now receives of her thanks!’
‘My dearest Hal!’ cried Mr. Westwyn, wringing him by the hand; ‘if you have but one small grain of regard for me, don’t persist in denying this! I’d give the last hundred pounds I had in the world to be sure it was true!’
‘That to hear the name of this lady,’ said the young man, ‘should not be necessary to inspire me with respect for her, who can wonder? that any opportunity could arise in which she should want defence, is all that can give any surprise.’
‘You own it, then, my dear Hal? you own you’ve done her a kindness? why then, my dear Hal, you’ve done one to me! and I can’t help giving you a hug for it, let who will think me an old fool.’
He then fervently embraced his son, who confused, though gratified, strove vainly to make disclaiming speeches. ‘No, no, my dear Hal,’ he cried, ‘you sha’n’t let yourself down with me again, I promise you, though you’ve two or three times tried to make me think nothing of you; but this young lady here, dear soul, speaks another language; she says I may be proud of my son! and I dare say she knows why, for she’s a charming girt, as ever I saw; so I will be proud of my son! Poor dear Hal! thou hast got a good friend, I can tell thee, in that young lady! and she’s niece to the best man I ever knew; and I value her good opinion more than anybody’s .’
‘You are much too good,’ cried Camilla, in an accent of tender pleasure, the result of grateful joy, that she had not been the means of destroying the paternal happiness of so fond a father, joined to the dreadful certainty how narrowly she had escaped that misery; ‘you are much too good, and I blush even to thank you, when I think–’
What she meant to add was in a moment forgotten, and that she blushed ceased to be metaphorical, when now, as they all three entered the dining-room together, the first object that met her eyes was Edgar.
Their eyes met not again; delighted and conscious, she turned hers hastily away. He comes, thought she, to me! he will not submit to the separation; he comes to re-assure me of his esteem, and to receive once more my faithful heart!
Edgar had seen, by chance, the Westwyns pass to the room of the Cleves party, and felt the most ardent desire to know if they would meet with Camilla, and what would be her reception of her young champion, whose sword, with extreme trouble, he had himself that morning sheathed, and whose gallantry he attributed to a vehement, however, sudden passion. Dr. Marchmont acknowledged the epoch to be highly interesting for observation, and, presuming upon their old right of intimacy with all the party, they abruptly made a second visit.
Miss Margland and Indiana, who were examining some goods sent by Mrs. Mittin, had received them all four without much mark of civility; and Mr. Westwyn immediately desired Camilla to be sent for, and kept upon the watch, till her step made him hasten out to meet her.
Edgar could not hear unmoved the dialogue which ensued; he imagined an amiable rival was suddenly springing up in young Westwyn, at the very moment of his own dismission, which he now even thought possible this incipient conquest had urged; and when Camilla, walking between the father and the son, with looks of softest sensibility, came into the room, he thought he had never seen her so lovely, and that her most bewitching smiles were purposely lavished for their captivation.
With this idea, he found it impossible to speak to her; their situation, indeed, was too critical for any common address, and when he saw that she turned from him, he attempted to converse with the other ladies upon their purchases; and Camilla, left to her two new beaux, had the unavoidable appearance of being engrossed by them, though the sight of Edgar instantly robbed them of all her real attention.
Soon after, the door was again opened, and Mr. Girt, the young perfumer, came, smirking and scraping, into the room, with a box of various toys, essences, and cosmetics, recommended by Mrs. Mittin.
Ignorant of the mischief he had done her, and not even recollecting to have seen him, Camilla made on to look at his goods; but Edgar, to whom his audacious assertions were immediately brought back by his sight, would have made him feel the effects of his resentment, had not his passion for Camilla been of so solid, as well as warm a texture, as to induce him to prefer guarding her delicacy, to any possible display he could make of his feelings to others, or even to herself.
Mr. Girt, in the midst of his exhibition of memorandum books, smelling bottles, tooth-pick cases, and pocket mirrours; with washes to immortalize the skin, powders becoming to all countenances, and pomatums to give natural tresses to old age, suddenly recollected Camilla. The gross mistake he had made he had already discovered, by having dodged her to the house of Mrs. Berlinton; but all alarm at it had ceased, by finding, through a visit made to his shop by Mrs. Mittin, that she was uninformed he had propagated it. Not gifted with the discernment to see in the air and manner of Camilla her entire, though unassuming superiority to her accidental associate, he concluded them both to be relations of some of the upper domestics; and with a look and tone descending from the most profound adulation, with which he was presenting his various articles to Miss Margland and Indiana, into a familiarity the most facetious, ‘O dear, ma’am,’ he cried, ‘I did not see you at first; I hope t’other lady’s well that’s been so kind as to recommend me? Indeed I saw her just now.’
Young Westwyn, to whom, as to Edgar, the bold defamation of Girt occurred with his presence, but whom none of the nameless delicacies of the peculiar situation, and peculiar character of Edgar, restrained into silence, felt such a disgust at the presumption of effrontery that gave him courage for this facetious address, to a young lady whose innocence of his ill usage made him think its injury double, that, unable to repress his indignation, he abruptly whispered in his ear, ‘Walk out of the room, sir!’
The amazed perfumer, at this haughty and unexpected order, stared, and cried aloud, ‘No offence, I hope, sir?’
Mr. Westwyn asked what was the matter? while Camilla, crimsoned by the familiar assurance with which she had been addressed, retired to a window.
‘Nothing of any moment, sir,’ answered Henry; and again, in a low but still more positive voice, he repeated his command to Girt.
‘Sir, I’m not used to be used in this manner!’ answered he, hardily, and hoping, by raising his tone, for the favourable intervention of the company.
Indiana, now, was preparing to scream, and Miss Margland was looking round to see whom she should reprehend; but young Westwyn, coolly opening the door, with a strong arm, and an able jerk, twisted the perfumer into the passage, saying, ‘You may send somebody for your goods.’
Girt, who equally strong, but not equally adroit as Henry, strove in vain to resist, vowed vengeance for this assault. Henry, without seeming to hear him, occupied himself with looking at what he had left. Camilla felt her eyes suffuse with tears; and Edgar, for the first time in his life, found himself visited by the baleful passion of envy.
Miss Margland could not comprehend what this meant; Indiana comprehended but too much in finding there was some disturbance of which she was not the object; but Mr. Westwyn, losing his look of delight, said, with something of severity, ‘Ha! what did you turn that man out of the room for?’
‘He is perfectly aware of my reason, sir,’ said Henry; and then added it was a long story, which he begged to relate another time.
The blank face of Mr. Westwyn shewed displeasure and mortification. He lifted the head of his cane to his mouth, and after biting it for some time, with a frowning countenance, muttered, ‘I don’t like to see a man turned out of a room. If he’s done any harm, tell him so; and if it’s worse than harm, souse him in a horsepond; I’ve no objection: But I don’t like to see a man turned out of a room; it’s very unmannerly; and I did not think Hal would do such a thing.’ Then suddenly, and with a succinct bow, bidding them all good bye, he took a hasty leave; still, however, muttering, all the way along the passage, and down the stairs, loud enough to be heard: ‘Kicking and jerking a man about does not prove him to be in the wrong. I thought Hal had been more of a gentleman. If I don’t find the man turns out to be a rascal, Hal shall beg his pardon; for I don’t like to see a man turned out of a room.’
Henry, whose spirit was as irritable as it was generous, felt acutely this public censure, which, though satisfied he did not deserve, every species of propriety prohibited his explaining away. With a forced smile, therefore, and a silent bow, he followed his father.
Miss Margland and Indiana now burst forth with a torrent of wonders, conjectures, and questions; but the full heart of Camilla denied her speech, and the carriage of Mrs. Berlinton being already at the door, she called upon Eugenia, and followed, perforce, by Mrs. Mittin, left the hotel.
Edgar and Dr. Marchmont gave neither surprise nor concern by retiring instantly to their own apartment.
‘Dr. Marchmont,’ said the former, in a tone of assumed moderation, ‘I have lost Camilla! I see it plainly. This young man steps forward so gallantly, so ingenuously, nay so amiably, that the contrast . . . chill, severe, and repulsive . . . must render me . . . in this detestable state . . . insupportable to all her feelings. Dr. Marchmont! I have not a doubt of the event!’
‘The juncture is, indeed, perilous, and the trial of extremest hazard; but it is such as draws all uncertainty to a crisis, and, therefore, is not much to be lamented. You may safely, I think, rest upon it your destiny. To a general female heart a duel is the most dangerous of all assaults, and the most fascinating of all charms; and a duellist, though precisely what a woman most should dread, as most exposing her to public notice, is the person of all others she can, commonly, least resist. By this test, then, prove your Camilla. Her champion seems evidently her admirer, and his father her adorer. Her late engagement with you may possibly not reach them; or reaching but with its dissolution, serve only to render them more eager.’
‘Do you suppose him,’ cried Edgar, after a pause of strong disturbance; ‘do you suppose him rich?’
‘Certainly not. That the addition of fifty pounds a-year to his income should be any object, proves his fortune to be very moderate.’
‘Clear her, then, at least,’ said he, with a solemnity almost reproachful; ‘clear her, at least, of every mercenary charge! If I lose her . . . ’ he gasped for breath . . . ‘she will not, you find, be bought from me! and pique, anger, injustice, nay inconstancy, all are less debasing than the sordid corruption of which you suspected her.’
‘This does not, necessarily, prove her disinterested; she is too young, yet, to know herself the value she may hereafter set upon wealth. And, independent of that inexperience, there is commonly so little stability, so little internal hold, in the female character, that any sudden glare of adventitious lure, will draw them, for the moment, from any and every regular plan of substantial benefit. It remains, therefore, now to be tried, if Beech Park, and its master united, can vie with the bright and intoxicating incense of a life voluntarily risked, in support . . . not of her fair fame, that was unknown to its defender . . . but simply of the fair countenance which seemed its pledge.’
Edgar, heartless and sad, attempted no further argument; he thought the Doctor prejudiced against the merits of Camilla; yet it appeared, even to himself, that her whole conduct, from the short period of his open avowal, had seemed a wilful series of opposition to his requests and opinions. And while terror for surrounding dangers gave weight to his disapprobation of her visiting Southampton, with a lady she knew him to think more attractive than safe or respectable, her sufferance of the vulgar and forward Mrs. Mittin, with whom again he saw her quit the hotel, was yet more offensive, since he could conceive for it no other inducement than a careless, if not determined humour, to indulge every impulse, in equal contempt of his counsel, and her own reflection,
All blame, however, of Camilla, was short of his self-dissatisfaction, in the distance imposed upon him by uncertainty, and the coldness dictated by discretion. At a period so sensitive, when her spirit was alarmed, and her delicacy was wounded, that a stranger should start forward, to vindicate her innocence, and chastise its detractors, was singular, was unfortunate, was nearly intolerable; and he thought he could with thankfulness, have renounced half his fortune, to have been himself the sole protector of Camilla.
THE two sisters were silent from the hotel to the house of Mrs. Berlinton. . . . From the height of happiest expectation, raised by the quick return of Edgar, Camilla was sunk into the lowest despondence, by the abortive conclusion of the meeting: while Eugenia was absorbed in mute joy, and wrapt expectation. But Mrs. Mittin, undisturbed by the pangs of uncertainty, and unoccupied by any romantic persuasion of bliss, spoke amply, with respect to quantity, for all three.
Mrs. Berlinton, though somewhat struck at first sight of Eugenia, with her strange contrast to Camilla, received her with all the distinguishing kindness due to the sister of her friend.
She had the poems of Collins in her hand; and, at their joint desire, instead of putting the book aside, read aloud, and with tenderest accent, one of his most plaintive odes.
Eugenia was enraptured. Ah! thought she, this is indeed the true sister of the accomplished Melmond! . . . She shall share with him my adoration. My heart shall be devoted . . . after my own dear family . . . to the homage of their perfections!
The ode, to her great delight, lasted till the dinner was announced, when Melmond appeared: but her prepossession could alone give any charm to his sight: he could barely recollect that he had seen her, or even Camilla before; he had conversed with neither; his eyes had been devoted to Indiana, and the despondence which had become his portion since the news of the marriage of his aunt, seemed but rendered the more peculiarly bitter, by this intimate connection with the family of an object so adored.
Yet, though nothing could be more spiritless than the hour of dinner, Eugenia discovered in it no deficiency; she had previously settled, that the presence of Melmond could only breathe sweets and perfection, and the magic of prejudice works every event into its own circle of expectation.
Melmond did not even accompany them back to the drawing-room. Eugenia sighed; but nobody heard her. Mrs. Mittin said, she had something of great consequence to do in her own room, and Mrs. Berlinton, to divert the languor she found creeping upon them all, had recourse to Hammond’s elegies.
These were still reading, when a servant brought in the name of Lord Valhurst. ‘O, deny me to him! deny me to him!’ cried Mrs. Berlinton; “tis a relation of Mr. Berlinton’s, and I hate him.’
The order was given, however, too late; he entered the room.
The name, as Camilla knew it not, she had heard unmoved; but the sight of a person who had so largely contributed to shock and terrify her in the bathing-house, struck her with horror. Brought up with the respect of other times, she had risen at his entrance; but she turned suddenly round upon recollecting him, and instead of the courtsie she intended making, involuntarily moved away her chair from the part of the room to which he was advancing.
This was unnoticed by Mrs. Berlinton, whose chagrin at his intrusion made her wish to walk away also; while with Lord Valhurst it only passed, joined to her rising, for a mark of her being but little accustomed to company. That Eugenia rose too was not perceived, as she rather lost than gained in height by standing.
Most obsequiously, but most unsuccessfully, the peer made his court to Mrs. Berlinton; inquiring after her health, with fulsome tenderness, and extolling her good looks with nearly gross admiration. Mrs. Berlinton listened, for she was incapable of incivility; though, weary and disgusted, she seldom made the smallest answer.
The two sisters might, with ease, equally have escaped notice, since, though Mrs. Berlinton occasionally addressed them the peer never turned from herself, had not Mrs, Mittin, abruptly entering in search of a pair of scissors, perceived him, and hastily called out, ‘O lauk, sir, if it is not you! I know you again well enough! But I hope, now you see us in such good company as this good lady’s, you’ll believe me another time, when I tell you we’re not the sort of persons you took us for! Miss Tyrold, my dear, I hope you’ve spoke to the gentleman?’
Lord Valhurst with difficulty recollected Mrs. Mittin, from the very cursory view his otherwise occupied eyes had taken of her; but when the concluding words made him look at Camilla, whose youth and beauty were not so liable to be forgotten, he knew at once her associate, and was aware of the meaning of her harangue.
Sorry to appear before his fair kinswoman to any disadvantage, though by no means displeased at an opportunity of again seeing a young creature he had thought so charming, he began an apology to Mrs. Mittin, while his eyes were fixed upon Camilla, vindicating himself from every intention that was not respectful, and hoping she did not so much injure as to mistake him.
Mrs. Mittin was just beginning to answer that she knew better, when the words, ‘Why, my Lord, how have you offended Mrs. Mittin?’ dropping from Mrs. Berlinton, instantly new strung all her notions. To find him a nobleman was to find him innocent; for, though she did not quite suppose that a peer was not a mortal, she had never spoken to one before; and the power of title upon the ear, like that of beauty upon the eye, is, in its first novelty, all-commanding; manifold as are the drawbacks to the influence of either, when awe is lost by familiarity, and habitual reflection takes place of casual and momentary admiration. Title then, as well as beauty, demands mental auxiliaries; and those who possess either, more watched than the common race, seem of higher responsibility; but proportioned to the censure they draw where they err, is the veneration they inspire where their eminence is complete. Nor is this the tribute of prejudice, as those who look up to all superiority with envy love to aver; the impartial and candid reflectors upon human frailty, who, in viewing it, see with its elevation its surrounding temptations, will call it but the tribute of justice.
To Mrs. Mittin, however, the mere sound of a title was enough; she felt its ascendance without examining its claims, and, dropping the lowest courtsie her knees could support, confusedly said, she hoped his lordship would excuse her speaking so quick and improperly, which she only did from not knowing who he was; for, if she had known him better, she should have been sure he was too much the gentleman to do anything with an ill design.
His lordship courteously accepted the apology; and advanced to Camilla, to express his hopes she had not participated in such injurious suspicions.
She made no answer, and Mrs. Berlinton inquired what all this meant.
‘I protest, my dear madam,’ said the peer, ‘I do not well comprehend myself. I only see there has been some misunderstanding; but I hope this young lady will believe me, when I declare, upon my honour, that I had no view but to offer my protection, at the time I saw her under alarm.’
This was a declaration Camilla could not dispute, and even felt inclined to credit, from the solemnity with which it was uttered; but to discuss it was every way impossible, and therefore, coldly bowing her head, she seemed acquiescent.
Lord Valhurst now pretty equally divided his attention between these two beautiful young women; looking at and complimenting them alternately, till a servant came in and said, ‘The two Mr. Westwyns desire to see Miss Tyrold.’
Camilla did not wish to avoid persons to whom she was so much obliged, but begged she might receive them in the next apartment, that Mrs. Berlinton might not be disturbed.
The eager old gentleman stood with the door in one hand, and his son in the other, awaiting her. ‘My dear young lady,’ he cried, ‘I have been hunting you out for hours. Your good governess had not a mind to give me your direction, thinking me, I suppose, but a troublesome old fellow; and I did not know which way to turn, till Hal found it out. Hal’s pretty quick. So now, my dear young lady, let me tell you my errand; which I won’t be tedious in, for fear, another time, you may rather not see me. And the more I see you, the less I like to think such a thing. However, with all my good will to make haste, I must premise one thing, as it is but fair. Hal was quite against my coming upon this business. But I don’t think it the less right for that; and so I come. I never yet saw any good of a man’s being ruled by his children. It only serves to make them think their old fathers superannuated. And if once I find Hal taking such a thing as that into his head, I’ll cut him off with a shilling, well as I love him.’
‘Your menace, sir,’ said Henry, colouring, though smiling, ‘gives me no alarm, for I see no danger. But . . . shall we not detain Miss Tyrold too long from her friends?’
‘Ay now, there comes in what I take notice to be the taste of the present day! a lad can hardly enter his teens, before he thinks himself wiser than his father, and gives him his counsel, and tells him what he thinks best. And, if a man i’n’t upon his guard, he may be run down for an old dotard, before he knows where he is, and see his son setting up for a member of parliament, making laws for him. Now this is what I don’t like; so I keep a tight hand upon Hal, that he mayn’t do it. For Hal’s but a boy, ma’am, though he’s so clever. Not that I pretend I’d change him neither, for e’er an old fellow in the three kingdoms. Well, but, now I’ll tell you what I come for. You know how angry I was about Hal’s turning that man out of the room? well, I took all the pains I could to come at the bottom of the fray, intending, all the time, to make Hal ask the man’s pardon; and now what do you think is the end? Why, I’ve found out Hal to be in the right! The man proves to be a worthless fellow, that has defamed the niece of my dear Sir Hugh Tyrold; and if Hal had lashed him with a cat-o’nine-tails, I should have been glad of it. I can’t say I should have found fault. So you see, my dear young lady, I was but a cross old fellow, to be so out of sorts with poor Hal.’
Camilla, with mingled gratitude and shame, offered her acknowledgments; though what she heard astonished, if possible, even more than it mortified her. How in the world, thought she, can I have provoked this slander?
She knew not how little provocation is necessary for calumny; nor how regularly the common herd, where appearances admit two interpretations, decide for the worst. Girt designed her neither evil nor good; but not knowing who nor what she was, simply filled up the doubts in his own mind, by the bias of his own character.
Confused as much as herself, Henry proposed immediately to retire; and, as Camilla did not invite them to stay, Mr. Westwyn, could not refuse his consent: though, sending his son out first, he stopt to say, in a low voice, ‘What do you think of Hal, my dear young lady? I’n’t he a brave rogue? And did not you tell me I might be proud of my son? And so I am, I promise you! How do you think my old friend will like Hal? I shall take him to Cleves. He’s another sort of lad to Master Clermont! I hope, my dear young lady, you don’t like your cousin? He’s but a sad spark, I give you my word. Not a bit like Hal.’
When the carriage came for Eugenia, who was self-persuaded this day was the most felicitous of her life, she went so reluctantly, that Mrs. Berlinton, caught by her delight in the visit, though unsuspicious of its motive, invited her to renew it the next morning.
At night, Mrs. Mittin, following Camilla to her chamber, said, ‘See here, my dear! what do you say to this? Did you ever see a prettier cloak? look at the cut of it, look at the capes! look at the mode! And as for the lace, I don’t think all Southampton can produce its fellow; what do you say to it, my dear?’
‘What every body must say to it, Mrs. Mittin; that it’s remarkably pretty.’
‘Well, now try it on. There’s a set! there’s a fall off the shoulders! do but look at it in the glass. I’d really give something you could but see how it becomes you. Now, do pray, only tell me what you think of it?’
‘Always the same, Mrs. Mittin; that it’s extremely pretty.’
‘Well, my dear, then, now comes out the secret! It’s your own! you may well stare; but it’s true; it’s your own, my dear!’
She demanded an explanation; and Mrs. Mittin said, that, having taken notice that her cloak looked very mean by the side of Mrs. Berlinton’s, when she compared them together, she resolved upon surprising her with a new one as quick as possible. She had, therefore, got the pattern of Mrs. Berlinton’s and cut it out, and then got the mode at an haberdasher’s, and then the lace at a milliner’s, and then set to work so hard, that she had got it done already.
Camilla, seeing the materials were all infinitely richer than any she had been accustomed to wear, was extremely chagrined by such officiousness, and gravely inquired how much this would add to her debts.
‘I don’t know yet, my dear; but I had all the things as cheap as possible; but as it was not all at one shop, I can’t be clear as to the exact sum.’
Camilla, who had determined to avoid even the shadow of a debt, and to forbear every possible expence till she had not one remaining, was now not merely vexed, but angry. Mrs. Mittin, however, upon whose feelings that most troublesome of all qualities to its possessors, delicacy, never obtruded, went on, extolling her own performance, and praising her own good nature, without discovering that either were impertinent; and, so far from conceiving it possible they could be unwelcome, that she attributed the concern of Camilla to modesty, on account of her trouble; and mistook her displeasure for distress, what she could do for her in return. And, indeed, when she finished her double panegyric upon the cloak and its maker, with confessing she had sat up the whole night, in order to get it done, Camilla considered herself as too much obliged to her intention to reproach any further its want of judgment; and concluded by merely entreating she would change her note, pay for it immediately, discharge her other accounts with all speed, and make no future purchase for her whatsoever.
EUGENIA failed not to observe her appointment the next morning, which was devoted to elegiac poetry. A taste so similar operated imperceptibly upon Mrs. Berlinton, who detained her till she was compelled to return to prepare for a great ball at the public rooms; the profound deliberations of Miss Margland, how to exhibit her fair pupil, having finished, like most deliberations upon such subjects, by doing that which is done by every body else upon the same occasion.
Sir Hugh had given directions to Miss Margland to clear his three nieces equally of all expenses relative to public places. Camilla, therefore, being entitled to a ticket, and having brought with her whatever was unspoilt of her Tunbridge apparel, thought this the most seasonable opportunity she could take for again seeing Edgar, who, in their present delicate situation, would no longer, probably, think it right to inquire for her at a stranger’s .
Mrs. Berlinton had not purposed appearing in public, till she had formed her own party; but an irrepressible curiosity to see Indiana induced her to accompany Camilla, with no other attendant than Lord Valhurst.
Mrs. Mittin sought vainly to be of the party; Mrs. Berlinton, though permitting her stay in her house, and treating her with constant civility, had no idea of including her in her own society, which she aimed to have always distinguished by either rank, talents, or admirers: and Camilla, who now felt her integrity involved in her economy, was firm against every hint for assisting her with a ticket.
Lord Valhurst, who alone, of the fashionable sojourners, had yet discovered the arrival of Mrs. Berlinton, was highly gratified by this opportunity of attending two such fair creatures in public.
Mrs. Berlinton, as usual, was the last to enter the room; for she never began the duties of the toilette till after tea-time. Two such youthful beauties were not likely to pass without observation.
Mrs. Berlinton, already no longer new to it, had alternately the air of receiving it with the most winning modesty, or of not noticing she received it at all: for though, but a few months since, she had scarcely been even seen by twenty persons, and even of those had never met a fixed eye without a blush, the feelings are so often the mere concomitants of the habits, that she could now already know herself the principal object of a whole assembly, without any sensation of timidity, or appearance of confusion. To be bold was not in her nature, which was soft and amiable; but admiration is a dangerous assaulter of diffidence, and familiarity makes almost any distinction met unmoved.
Camilla was too completely engrossed by her heart, to think of her appearance.
Lord Valhurst, from his time of life, seemed to be their father, though his adulating air as little suited that character as his inclination. He scarce knew upon which most to lavish his compliments, or to regale his eyes, and turned, half expiring with ecstasy, from the soft charms of his kinswoman, with something, he thought, resembling animation, to the more quickening influence of her bright-eyed companion.
But the effect produced upon the company at large by the radiant beauty of Indiana, who had entered some time, was still more striking than any immediate powers from all the bewitching graces of Mrs. Berlinton, and all the intelligent loveliness of Camilla. Her faultless face, her perfect form, raised wonder in one sex, and overpowered envy in the other. The men looked at her, as at something almost too celestial for their devoirs; the women, even the most charming amongst them, saw themselves distanced from all pretensions to rivalry. She was followed, but not approached; gazed at, as if a statue, and inquired after, rather as a prodigy than a mortal.
This awful homage spread not, however, to her party; the watchful but disdainful eyes of Miss Margland obtained for herself, even with usury, all the haughty contempt they bestowed upon others: Eugenia was pronounced to be a foil, brought merely in ridicule: and Dr. Orkborne, whom Miss Margland, though detesting, forced into the set, in preference to being without a man, to hand them from the carriage, and to call it for them at night, had a look so forlorn and distressed, while obliged to parade with them up and down the room, that he seemed rather a prisoner than an esquire, and more to require a guardian to prevent his escaping himself, than to serve for one in securing his young charges from any attack.
Miss Margland augured nothing short of half a score proposals of marriage the next day, from the evident brilliancy of this first opening into life of her beautiful pupil; whose own eyes, while they dazzled all others, sought eagerly those of Melmond, which they meant to vanquish, if not annihilate.
The first care of Miss Margland was to make herself and her young ladies known to the master of the ceremonies. Indiana needed not that precaution to be immediately the choice of the most elegant man in the room; yet she was piqued, not delighted, and Miss Margland felt still more irritated, that he proved to be only a baronet, though a nobleman, at the same time, had presented himself to Eugenia. It is true the peer was ruined; but his title was unimpaired; and though the fortune of the baronet, like his person, was in its prime, Indiana thought herself degraded by his hand, since the partner of her cousin was of superior rank.
Eugenia, insensible to this honour, looked only for Melmond; not like Indiana, splendidly to see and kill, but silently to view and venerate. Melmond, however, was not there; he knew his little command over his passion, in presence of its object; he knew, too, that the expence of public places was not beyond the propriety of his income, and virtuously devoted his evening to his sick aunt.
Edgar had waited impatiently the entrance of Camilla. His momentary sight of Lord Valhurst, at the bathing-room, did not bring him to his remembrance in his present more shewy apparel, and he was gratified to see only an old beau in her immediate suite. He did not deem it proper, as they were now circumstanced, to ask her to dance; but he quietly approached and bowed to her, and addressed some civil inquiries to Mrs. Berlinton. The Westwyns had waited for her at the door; and the father had immediately made her give her hand to Henry to join the dancers.
‘That’s a charming girl,’ cried old Mr. Westwyn, when she was gone; ‘a very charming girl, I promise you. I have taken a prodigious liking to her; and so has Hal.’
Revived by this open speech, which made him hope there was no serious design, Edgar smiled upon the old gentleman, who had addressed it to the whole remaining party; and said, ‘You have not known that young lady long, I believe, sir?’
‘No, sit; but a little while; but that I don’t mind. A long while and a short while is all one, when I like a person: for I don’t think how many years they’ve got over their heads since first I saw them, but how many good things they’ve got on the inside their hearts to make me want to see them again. Her uncle’s the dearest friend I have in the world; and when I go from this place, I shall make him a visit; for I’m sure of a welcome. But he has never seen my Hal. However, that good girl will be sure to speak a kind word for him, I know; for she thinks very well of him; she told me herself, I might be proud of my son. I can’t say but I’ve loved the girl ever since for it.’
Edgar was so much pleased with the perfectly natural character of this old gentleman, that, though alarmed at his intended call upon the favour of Sir Hugh, through the influence of Camilla, for Henry, he would yet have remained in his society, had he not been driven from it by the junction of young Lynmere, whose shallow insolence he thought insupportable.
Mrs. Berlinton, who declined dancing, had arrived so late, that when Henry led back Camilla, the company was summoned to the tea-table. She was languishing for an introduction to Indiana, the absence of Melmond obviating all present objection to their meeting; she therefore gave Camilla the welcome task to propose that the two parties should unite.
Many years had elapsed since Miss Margland had received so sensible a gratification; and, in the coalition which took place, she displayed more of civility in a few minutes, than she had exerted during the whole period of her Yorkshire and Cleves residence.
Notwithstanding all she had heard of her charms, Mrs. Berlinton still saw with surprise and admiration the exquisite face and form of the chosen of her brother, whom she now so sincerely bewailed that, had her own wealth been personal or transferrable, she would not have hesitated in sharing it with him, to aid his better success.
Lord Valhurst adhered tenaciously to his kinswoman; and the three gentlemen who had danced the last dances with Indiana, Eugenia, and Camilla, asserted the privilege of attending their partners at the tea-table.
In a few minutes, Lynmere, coming up to them, with ‘Well, have you got any thing here one can touch?’ leant his hand on the edge and his whole body over the table, to take a view at his ease of its contents.
‘Suppose there were nothing, sir?’ said old Westwyn; ‘look round, and see what you could want.’
‘Really, sir,’ said Miss Margland, between whom and Camilla Lynmere had squeezed himself a place, ‘you don’t use much ceremony!’
Having taken some tea, he found it intolerable, and said he must have a glass of Champagne.
‘La brother!’ cried Indiana, ‘if you bring any wine, I can’t bear to stay.’
Miss Margland said the same; but he whistled, and looked round him without answering.
Mrs. Berlinton, who, though she had thought his uncommonly fine person an excuse for his intrusion, thought nothing could excuse this ill-breeding, proposed they should leave the tea-table, and walk.
‘Sit still, ladies,’ said Mr. Westwyn, ‘and drink your tea in peace.’ Then, turning to Lynmere, ‘I wonder,’ he cried, ‘you a’n’t ashamed of yourself! If you were a son of mine, I’ll tell you what; I’d lock you up! I’d serve you as I did when I carried you over to Leipsic, eight years ago. I always hated pert boys. I can’t fancy em.’
Lynmere, affecting not to hear him, though inwardly firing, called violently after a waiter; and, in mere futile vengeance, not only gave an order for Champagne, but demanded some Stilton cheese.
‘Cheese!’ exclaimed Miss Margland, ‘if you order any cheese, I can’t so much as stay in the room. Think what a nauseous smell it will make!’
The man answered, they had no Stilton cheese in the house, but the very best of every other sort.
Lynmere, who had only given this command to shew his defiance of control, seized, with equal avidity, the opportunity to abuse the waiter; affirming he belonged to the worst served hotel in Christendom.
The man walked off in dudgeon, and Mr. Westwyn, losing his anger in his astonishment at this effrontery, said, ‘And pray, Mr. Lynmere, what do you pretend to know of Stilton cheese? do they make it at Leipsic? did you ever so much as taste it in your life?’
‘O, yes! excellent! excellentissimo! I can eat no other.’
‘Eat no other! it’s well my Hal don’t say the same! I’d churn him to a cheese himself if he did! And pray, Mr. Lynmere, be so good as to let me know how you got it there!’
‘Ways and means, sir; ways and means!’
‘Why you did not send across the sea for it?’
‘A travelled man, sir, thinks no more of what you call across the sea, than you, that live always over your own fire-side, think of stepping across a kennel.’
‘Well, sir, well,’ said the old gentleman, now very much piqued, ‘I can’t but say I feel some concern for my old friend, to have his money doused about at such a rantipole rate. A boy to be sending over out of Germany into England for Stilton cheese! I wish it had been Hal with all my heart! I promise you I’d have given him enough of it. If the least little thought of the kind was but once to have got in his head, I’d have taken my best oaken stick, and have done him the good office to have helped it out for him: and have made him thank me after too! I hate daintiness; especially in boys. I have no great patience with it.’
Only more incensed, Lynmere called aloud for his Champagne. The waiter civilly told him, it was not usual to bring wine during tea: but he persisted; and Mr. Westwyn, who saw the ladies all rising, authoritatively, told the waiter to mind no such directions. Lynmere, who had entered the ball-room in his riding-dress, raised a switch at the man, which he durst not raise at Mr. Westwyn, and protested, in a threatening attitude, he would lay it across his shoulders, if he obeyed not. The man, justly provoked, thought himself authorised to snatch if from him: Clermont resisted; a fierce scuffle ensued; and though Henry, by immediate intervention, could have parted them, Mr. Westwyn insisted there should be no interference, saying, ‘If any body’s helped, let it be the waiter; for he’s here to do his duty: he don’t come only to behave unmannerly, for his own pleasure. And if I see him hard run, it’s odds but I lend him my own fist to right him. I like fair play.’
The female party, in very serious alarm at this unpleasant scene, rose to hurry away. Lord Valhurst was ambitious to suffice as guardian to both his fair charges; but Henry, when prohibited from stopping the affray, offered his services to Camilla, who could not refuse them; and Mrs. Berlinton, active and impatient, flew on foremost; with more speed than his lordship could follow, or even keep in sight. Indiana was handed out by her new adorer, the young baronet; and Eugenia was assisted by her new assailer, the young nobleman.
Edgar, who had hurried to Camilla at the first tumult, was stung to the heart to see who handed her away; and, forcing a passage, followed, till Henry, the envied Henry, deposited her in the carriage of Mrs. Berlinton.
The confusion in the room, meanwhile, was not likely soon to decrease, for old Mr. Westwyn, delighted by this mortifying chastisement to Clermont, would permit neither mediation nor assistance on his side; saying, with great glee, ‘It will do him a great deal of good! My poor old friend will bless me for it. This is a better lesson than he got in all Leipsic. Let him feel that a Man’s a Man; and not take it into his head a person’s to stand still to be switched, when he’s doing his duty, according to his calling. Switching a man is a bad thing. I can’t say I like it. A gentleman should always use good words; and then a poor man’s proud to serve him; or, if he’s insolent for nothing, he may trounce him and welcome. I’ve no objection.’
Miss Margland, meanwhile, had not been remiss in what she esteemed a most capital feminine accomplishment, screaming; though, in its exercise, she had failed of any success; since, while her voice called remark, her countenance repelled its effect. Yet as she saw that not one lady of the group retreated unattended, she thought it a disgrace to seem the only female, who, from internal courage, or external neglect, should retire alone; she therefore called upon Dr. Orkborne, conjuring, in a shrill and pathetic voice, meant more for all who surrounded than for himself, that he would protect her.
The Doctor, who had kept his place in defiance of all sort of inconvenience, either to himself or to others; and who, with some curiosity, was viewing the combat, which he was mentally comparing with certain pugilistic games of old, was now, for the first time in the evening, receiving some little entertainment, and therefore composedly answered, ‘I have a very good place here, ma’am; and I would rather not quit it till this scene is over.’
‘So you won’t come, then, Doctor?’ cried she, modulating into a soft whine the voice which rage, not terror, rendered tremulous.
Dr. Orkborne, who was any thing rather than loquacious, having given one answer, said no more.
Miss Margland appealed to all present upon the indecorum of a lady’s being kept to witness such unbecoming violence, and upon the unheard-of inattention of the Doctor: but a short, ‘Certainly!–’ ‘To be sure, ma’am!–’ or, ‘It’s very shocking indeed!’ with a hasty decampment from her neighbourhood, was all of sympathy she procured.
The entrance, at length, of the master of the house, stopt the affray, by calling off the waiter.
Clermont, then, though wishing to extirpate old Westwyn from the earth, and ready to eat his own flesh with fury at the double disgrace he had endured, affected a loud halloo, as if he had been contending for his amusement; and protesting Bob, the waiter, was a fine fellow, went off with great apparent satisfaction.
‘Now, then, at least, sit,’ cried Miss Margland, imperiously to the Doctor, who, still ruminating upon the late contest, kept his seat, ‘I suppose you’ll condescend to take care of me to the coach?’
‘These modern clothes are very much in the way,’ said the Doctor, gravely; ‘and give a bad effect to attitudes.’ He rose, however, but not knowing what to take care of a lady to a coach meant, stood resolutely still, till she was forced, in desperation, to walk on alone. He then slowly followed, keeping many paces behind, notwithstanding her continually looking back; and when, with a heavy sigh at her hard fate, she got, unassisted, into the carriage, where her young ladies were waiting, he tranquilly mounted after her, tolerably reconciled to the loss of his evening, by some new annotations it had suggested for his work, relative to the games of antiquity.
CAMILLA now thought herself safe in harbour; the storms all over, the dangers all past, and but a light gale or two wanting to make good her landing on the bosom of permanent repose. This gale, this propitious gale, she thought ready to blow at her call; for she deemed it no other than the breath of jealousy. She had seen Edgar, though he knew her to be protected, follow her to the coach, and she had seen, by the light afforded from the lamps of the carriage, that her safety from the crowd and tumult was not the sole object of his watchfulness, since though that, at the instant she turned round, was obviously secure, his countenance exhibited the strongest marks of disturbance. The secret spring, therefore, she now thought, that was to re-unite them, was in her own possession.
All the counsels of Mrs. Arlbery upon this subject occurred to her; and imagining she had hitherto erred from a simple facility, she rejoiced in the accident which had pointed her to a safer path, and shewn her that, in the present disordered state of the opinions of Edgar, the only way to a lasting accommodation was to alarm his security, by asserting her own independence.
Her difficulty, however, was still considerable as to the means. The severe punishment she had received, and the self blame and penitence she had incurred, from her experiment with Sir Sedley Clarendel, all rendered, too, abortive, by Edgar’s contempt of the object, determined her to suffer no hopes, no feelings of her own, to engross her ever more from weighing those of another. The end, therefore, of her deliberation was to shew general gaiety, without appropriate favour, and to renew solicitude on his part by a displayed ease of mind on her own.
Elated with this idea, she determined upon every possible public exhibition by which she could execute it to the best advantage. Mrs. Berlinton had but to appear, to secure the most fashionable persons at Southampton for her parties, and soon renewed the same course of life she had lived at Tunbridge, of seeing company either at home or abroad every day, except when some accidental plan offered a scheme of more novelty.
Upon all these occasions, young Westwyn, though wholly unsought, and even unthought of by Camilla, was instinctively and incautiously the most alert to second her plan; he was her first partner when she danced, her constant attendant when she walked, and always in wait to converse with her when she was seated; while, not purposing to engage him, she perceived not his fast growing regard, and intending to be open to all alike, observed not the thwarting effect to her design of this peculiar assiduity.
By old Mr. Westwyn this intercourse was yet more urgently forwarded. Bewitched with Camilla, he carried his son to her wherever she appeared, and said aloud to every body but herself: ‘If the boy and girl like one another, they shall have one another; and I won’t inquire what she’s worth; for she thinks so well of my son, that I’d rather he’d have her than an empress. Money goes but a little way to make people happy; and true love’s not a thing to be got every day; so if she has a mind to my Hal, and Hal has a mind to her, why, if they have not enough, he must work hard and get more. I don’t like to cross young people. Better let a man labour with his hands, than fret away his spirit. Neither a boy nor a girl are good for much when they’ve got their hearts broke.’
This new experiment of Camilla, like every other deduced from false reasoning, and formed upon false principles, was flattering in its promise, pernicious in its progress, and abortive in its performance. Edgar saw with agony what he conceived the ascendance of a new attachment built upon the declension of all regard for himself; and in the first horror of his apprehensions, would have resisted the supplanter by enforcing his own final claim; but Dr. Marchmont represented that, since he had heard in silence his right to that claim solemnly withdrawn, he had better first ascertain if this apparent connection with young Westwyn were the motive, or only the consequence of that resumption: ‘If the first be the case,’ he added, ‘you must trust her no more; a heart so inflammable as to be kindled into passion by a mere accidental blaze of gallantry and valour, can have nothing in consonance with the chaste purity and fidelity your character requires and merits: If the last, investigate whether the net in which she is entangling herself is that of levity, delighting in change, or of pique, disguising its own agitation in efforts to agitate others.’
‘Alas!’ cried the melancholy Edgar, ‘in either case, she is no more the artless Camilla I first adored! that fatal connection at the Grove, formed while her character, pure, white, and spotless, was in its enchanting, but dangerous state of first ductility, has already broken into that clear transparent singleness of mind, so beautiful in its total ignorance of every species of scheme, every sort of double measure, every idea of secret view and latent expedient!’
‘Repine not, however, at the connection till you know whether she owe to it her defects, or only their manifestation. A man should see the woman he would marry in many situations, ere he can judge what chance he may have of happiness with her in any. Though now and then ’tis a blessed, ’tis always a perilous state; but the man who has to weather its storms, should not be remiss in studying the clouds which precede them.’
‘Ah, Doctor! by this delay . . . by these experiments . . . should I lose her! . . . ’
‘If by finding her unworthy, where is the loss?’
Edgar sighed, but acknowledged this question to be unanswerable.
‘Think, my dear young friend, what would be your sufferings to discover any radical, inherent failing, when irremediably her’s! run not into the very common error of depending upon the gratitude of your wife after marriage, for the inequality of her fortune before your union. She who has no fortune at all, owes you no more for your alliance, than she who has thousands; for you do not marry her because she has no fortune! you marry her because you think she has some endowment, mental or personal, which you conclude will conduce to your happiness; and she, on her part, accepts you, because she supposes you or your situation will contribute to her’s . The object may be different, but neither side is indebted to the other, since each has self, only, in contemplation; and thus, in fact, rich or poor, high or low, whatever be the previous distinction between the parties, on the hour of marriage they begin as equals. The obligation and the debt of gratitude can only commence when the knot is tied: self, then, may give way to sympathy; and whichever, from that moment, most considers the other, becomes immediately the creditor in the great account of life and happiness.’
While Camilla, in gay ignorance of danger, and awake only to hope, pursued her new course, Eugenia had the infinite delight of improving daily and even hourly in the good graces of Mrs. Berlinton; who soon discovered how wide from justice to that excellent young creature was all judgment that could be formed from her appearance. She found that she was as elegant in her taste for letters as herself, and far more deeply cultivated in their knowledge; that her manners were gentle, her sentiments were elevated, yet that her mind was humble; the same authors delighted and the same passages struck them; they met every morning; they thought every morning too short, and their friendship, in a very few days, knit by so many bands of sympathy, was as fully established as that which already Mrs. Berlinton had formed with Camilla.
To Eugenia this treaty of amity was a delicious poison, which, while it enchanted her faculties by day, preyed upon her vitals by night. She frequently saw Melmond, and though a melancholy bow was almost all the notice she ever obtained from him, the countenance with which he made it, his air, his figure, his face, nay his very dress, for the half instant he bestowed upon her, occupied all her thoughts till she saw him again, and had another to con over and dwell upon.
Melmond, inexpressibly wretched at the deprivation of all hope of Indiana, at the very period when fortune seemed to favour his again pursuing her, dreamt not of this partiality. His time was devoted to deliberating upon some lucrative scheme of future life, which his literary turn of mind rendered difficult of selection, and which his refined love of study and retirement made hateful to him to undertake.
He was kind, however, and even consoling to his aunt, who saw his nearly desolate state with a compunction bitterly increased by finding she had thrown their joint properties, with her own person, into the hands of a rapacious tyrant. To soften her repentance, and allow her the soothing of all she could spare of her own time, Mrs. Berlinton invited her to her own house. Mr. Ulst, of course included in the invitation, made the removal with alacrity, not for the pleasure it procured his wife, but for the money it saved himself; and Mrs. Mittin voluntarily resigned to them the apartment she had chosen for her own, by way of a little peace-offering for her undesired length of stay; for still, though incessantly Camilla inquired for her account, she had received no answer from the creditors, and was obliged to wait for another and another post.
Mrs. Ulst, though not well enough, at present, to see company, and at all times, fanatically averse to every species of recreation, could not entirely avoid Eugenia, whose visits were constant every morning, and whose expected inheritance made a similar wish occur for her nephew, with that which had disposed of her niece; for she flattered herself that if once she could see them both in possession of greath wealth, her mind would be more at ease.
She communicated this idea to Mr. Ulst, who, most willing, also, to get rid of the reproach of the poverty and ruin of Melmond, imparted it, with strong exhortation for its promotion, to the young man; but he heard with disdain the mercenary project, and protested he would daily labour for his bread, in preference to prostituting his probity, by soliciting a regard he could never return, for the acquirement of a fortune which he never could merit.
Mr. Ulst, much too hard to feel this as any reflection upon himself, applied for the interest of Mrs. Berlinton; but she so completely thought with her brother, that she would not interfere, till Mr. Ulst made some observations upon Eugenia herself, that inclined her to waver.
He soon remarked, in that young and artless character, the symptoms of the partiality she had conceived in favour of Melmond, which, when once pointed out, could not be mistaken by Mrs. Berlinton, who, though more than equally susceptible with Eugenia, was self-occupied, and saw neither her emotion at his name, nor her timid air at his approach, till Mr. Ulst, whose discernment had been quickened by his wishes, told her when, and for what, to look.
Touched now, herself, by the double happiness that might ensue, from a gratified choice to Eugenia, and a noble fortune to her brother, she took up the cause, with delicacy, yet with pity; representing all the charming mental and intellectual accomplishments of Eugenia, and beseeching him not to sacrifice both his interest and his peace, in submitting to a hopeless passion for one object, while he inflicted all its horrors upon another.
Melmond, amazed and softened, listened and sighed; but protested such a change, from all of beauty to all of deformity, was impracticable; and that though he revered the character she painted, and was sensible to the honour of such a preference, he must be base, double, and perjured, to take advantage of her great, yet unaccountable goodness, by heartless professions of feigned participation.
Mrs. Berlinton, to whom sentiment was irresistible, urged the matter no longer, but wept over her brother, with compassionate admiration.
Another day only passed, when Mrs. Mittin picked up a paper upon the stairs, which she saw fall from the pocket of Eugenia, in drawing out her handkerchief, but which, determining to read ere she returned, she found contained these lines.
‘O Reason! friend of the troubled breast, guide of the wayward fancy, moderator of the flights of hope, and sinkings of despair, Eugenia calls thee!’
O! to a feeble, suppliant Maid,
Light of Reason, lend thy aid!
And with thy mild, thy lucid ray,
Point her the way
To genial calm and mental joy!
From Passion far! whose flashes bright
Yet ah! invite!
With varying powers attract, repel,
Now fiercely beam,
Now softly gleam,
With magic spell
Charm to consume, win to destroy!
Ah! lead her from the chequer’d glare
So false, so fair!–
Ah, quick from Passion bid her fly,
Its sway repulse, its wiles defy;
And to a feeble, suppliant heart
Thy aid, O Reason’s light, impart!
Next, Eugenia, point thy prayer
That He whom all thy wishes bless,
Whom all thy tenderest thoughts confess,
Thy calm may prove, thy peace may share.
O, if the griefs to him assign’d,
To thee might pass-thy strengthened mind
Would meet all woe, support all pain,
Suffering despise, complaint disdain,
Brac’d with new nerves each ill would brave,
From Melmond but one pang to save!’
Overjoyed by the possession of the important secret, this little juvenile effusion of tenderness betrayed, Mrs. Mittin ran with it to Mrs. Berlinton, and without mentioning she had seen whence the paper came, said she had found it upon the stairs: for even those who have too little delicacy to attribute to treachery a clandestine indulgence of curiosity, have a certain instinctive sense of its unfairness, which they evince without avowing, by the care with which they soften their motives, or their manner, of according themselves this species of gratification.
Mrs. Berlinton, who scrupulously would have withheld from looking into a letter, could not see a copy of verses, and recognise the hand of Eugenia, already known to her by frequent notes, and refrain reading. That she should find any thing personal, did not occur to her; to peruse, therefore, a manuscript ode or sonnet, which the humility of Eugenia might never voluntarily reveal, caused her no hesitation; and she ran through the lines with the warmest delight, till, coming suddenly upon the end, she burst into tears, and flew to the apartment of her brother.
She put the paper into his hand without a word. He read it hastily. Surprised, confounded, disordered, he looked at his sister for some explanation or comment; she was still silently in tears; he read it again, and with yet greater emotion; when, holding it back to her, ‘Why, my sister,’ he cried, ‘why would she give you this? why would you deliver it? Ah! leave me, in pity, firm in integrity, though fallen in fortune!’
‘My brother, my dear brother, this matchless creature merits not so degrading an idea; she gave me not the precious paper . . . she knows not I possess it; it was found upon the stairs: Ah! far from thus openly confessing her unhappy prepossession, she conceals it from every human being; even her beloved sister, I am convinced, is untrusted; upon paper only she has breathed it, and breathed it as you see . . . with a generosity of soul that is equal to the delicacy of her conduct.’
Melmond now felt subdued. To have excited such a regard in a mind that seemed so highly cultivated, and so naturally elegant, could not fail to touch him; and the concluding line deeply penetrated him with tender though melancholy gratitude. He took the hand of his sister, returned her the paper, and was going to say: ‘Do whatever you think proper;’ but the idea of losing all right to adore Indiana checked and silenced him; and mournfully telling her he required a little time for reflection, he entreated to be left to himself.
He was not suffered to ruminate in quiet; Mrs. Mittin, proud of having any thing to communicate to a relation of Mrs. Berlinton’s, made in opportunity to sit with Mrs. Ulst, purposely to communicate to her the discovery that Miss Eugenia Tyrold was in love with, and wrote verses upon, her nephew. Melmond was instantly sent for; the important secret was enlarged upon with remonstrances so pathetic, not to throw away such an invitation to the most brilliant good fortune, in order to cast himself, with his vainly nourished passion, upon immediate hardships, or lasting penury; that reason as well as interest, compelled him to listen; and, after a severe conflict, he gave his reluctant promise to see Eugenia upon her next visit, and endeavour to bias his mind to the connexion that seemed likely to ensue.
Camilla, who was in total ignorance of the whole of this business, received, during the dinner, an incoherent note from her sister, conjuring that she would search immediately, but privately, in her own chamber, in the dressing-room of Mrs. Berlinton, in the hall, and upon the stairs, for a paper in her handwriting, which she had somewhere lost, but which she besought her, by all that she held dear, not to read when she found; protesting she should shut herself up for ever from the whole world, if a syllable of what she had written on that paper were read by a human being.
Camilla could not endure to keep her sister a moment in this suspensive state, and made an excuse for quitting the table that she might instantly seek the manuscript. Melmond and Mrs. Berlinton both conjectured the contents of the billet, and felt much for the modest and timid Eugenia; but Mrs. Mittin could not confine herself to silent suggestion; she rose also, and running after Camilla, said: ‘My dear Miss, has your sister sent to you to look for any thing?’
Camilla asked the meaning of her inquiry; and she then owned she had picked up, from the stairs, a sort of love letter, in which Miss Eugenia had wrote couplets upon Mr. Melmond.
Inexpressibly astonished, Camilla demanded their restoration; this soon produced a complete explanation, and while, with equal surprise and concern, she learnt the secret of Eugenia, and its discovery to its object, she could not but respect and honour all she gathered from Mrs. Berlinton of the behaviour of her brother upon the detection; and his equal freedom from presumptuous vanity, or mercenary projects, induced her to believe her sister’s choice, though wholly new to her, was well founded; and that if he could conquer his early propensity for Indiana, he seemed, of all the characters she knew, Edgar alone and always excepted, the most peculiarly formed for the happiness of Eugenia.
She begged to have the paper, and entreated her sister might never know into whose hands it had fallen. This was cheerfully agreed to; but Mrs. Mittin, during the conference, had already flown to Eugenia, and amidst a torrent of offers of service, and professions of power to do any thing she pleased for her, suffered her to see that her attachment was betrayed to the whole house.
The agony of Eugenia was excessive; and she resolved to keep her chamber till she returned to Cleves, that she might neither see nor be seen any more by Melmond nor his family. Scarce could she bear to be broken in upon even by Camilla, who tenderly hastened to console her. She hid her blushing conscious face, and protested she would inhabit only her own apartment for the rest of her life.
The active Mrs. Mittin failed not to carry back the history of this resolution; and Melmond, to his unspeakable regret in being thus precipitated, thought himself called upon in all decency and propriety to an immediate declaration. He could not, however, assume fortitude to make it in person; nor yet was his mind sufficiently composed for writing; he commissioned, therefore, his sister to be the bearer of his overtures.
He charged her to make no mention of the verses, which it was fitting should, on his part, pass unnoticed, though she could not but be sensible his present address was their consequence; he desired her simply to state his high reverence for her virtues and talents, and his consciousness of the inadequacy of his pretensions to any claim upon them, except what arose from the grateful integrity of esteem with which her happiness should become the first object of his future life, if she forbade not his application for the consent of Sir Hugh and Mr. Tyrold to solicit her favour.
With respect to Indiana, he begged her, unless questioned, to be wholly silent. To say his flame for that adorable creature was extinguished would be utterly false; but his peace, as much as his honour, would lead him to combat, henceforth, by all the means in his power, his ill-fated and woe-teeming passion.
This commission was in perfect consonance with the feelings of Mrs. Berlinton, who, though with difficulty she gained admission, executed it with the most tender delicacy to the terrified Eugenia, who, amazed and trembling, pale and incredulous, so little understood what she heard, so little was able to believe what she wished, that, when Mrs. Berlinton, with an affectionate embrace, begged her answer, she asked if it was not Indiana of whom she was speaking!
Mrs. Berlinton then thought it right to be explicit: she acknowledged the early passion of her brother for that young lady, but stated that, long before he had ventured to think of herself, he had determined its conquest; and that what originally was the prudence of compulsion, was now, from his altered prospects in life, become choice: ‘And believe me,’ added she, ‘from my long and complete knowledge of the honour and the delicacy of his opinion, as well as of the tenderness and gratitude of his nature, the woman who shall once receive his vows, will find his life devoted to the study of her happiness.’
Eugenia flew into her arms, hung upon her bosom, wept, blushed, smiled, and sighed, alternately; one mornent wished Indiana in possession of her fortune, the next thought she herself, in all but beauty, more formed for his felicity, and ultimately gave her tacit but transported consent to the application.
Melmond, upon receiving it, heaved what he fondly hoped would be his last sigh for Indiana; and ordering his horse, set off immediately for Cleves and Etherington; determined frankly to state his small income and crushed expectations; and feeling almost equally indifferent to acceptance or rejection.
Camilla devoted the afternoon to her agitated but enraptured sister, who desired her secret might spread no further, till the will of her father and uncle should decide its fate; but the loquacious Mrs. Mittin, having some cheap ribands and fine edgings to recommend to Miss Margland and Indiana, could by no means refrain from informing them, at the same time, of the discovered manuscript.
‘Poor thing!’ cried Indiana, ‘I really pity her. I don’t think,’ imperceptibly gliding towards the glass; ‘I don’t think, by what I have seen of Mr. Melmond, she has much chance; I’ve a notion he’s rather more difficult.’
‘Really this is what I always expected!’ said Miss Margland; ‘It’s just exactly what one might look for from one of your learned educations, which I always despised with all my heart. Writing love verses at fifteen! Dr. Orkborne’s made a fine hand of her! I always hated him, from the very first. However, I’ve had nothing to do with the bringing her up, that’s my consolation! I thank Heaven I never made a verse in my life! and I never intend it.’
CAMILLA left her sister to accompany Mrs. Berlinton to the Rooms, no other mode remaining for seeing Edgar, who, since her rejection, had held back from repeating his attempt of visiting Mrs. Berlinton.
In mutual solicitude, mutual watchfulness, and mutual trials of each other’s hearts and esteem, a week had already passed, without one hope being extirpated, or one doubt allayed. This evening was somewhat more, though less pleasantly decisive.
Accident, want of due consideration, and sudden recollection, in an agitated moment, of the worldly doctrine of Mrs. Arlbery, had led Camilla, once more, into the semblance of a character, which, without thinking of, she was acting. Born simple and ingenuous, and bred to hold in horror every species of art, all idea of coquetry was foreign to her meaning, though an untoward contrariety of circumstances, playing upon feelings too potent for deliberations, had eluded her into a conduct as mischievous in its effects and as wide from artlessness in its appearance, as if she had been brought up and nourished in fashionable egotism.
Such, however, was not Camilla: her every propensity was pure, and, when reflection came to her aid, her conduct was as exemplary as her wishes. But the ardour of her imagination, acted upon by every passing idea, shook her judgment from its yet unsteady seat, and left her at the mercy of wayward Sensibility-that delicate, but irregular power, which now impels to all that is most disinterested for others, now forgets all mankind, to watch the pulsations of its own fancies.
This evening brought her back to recollection.–Young Westwyn, urged by what he deemed encouragement, and prompted by his impatient father, spoke of his intended visit to Cleves, and introduction to Sir Hugh, in terms of such animated pleasure, and with a manner of such open admiration, that she could not mistake the serious purposes which he meant to imply.
Alarmed, she looked at him; but the expression of his eyes was not such as to still her suspicions. Frightened at what now she first observed, she turned from him, gravely, meaning to avoid conversing with him the rest of the evening; but her caution came too late; her first civilities had flattered both him and his father into a belief of her favour, and this sudden drawback he imputed only to virgin modesty, which but added to the fervour of his devoirs.
Camilla now perceived her own error: the perseverance of young Westwyn not merely startled, but appalled her. His character, unassuming, though spirited, was marked by a general decency and propriety of demeanour, that would not presumptuously brave distancing; and awakened her, therefore, to a review of her own conduct, as it related or as it might seem, to himself.
And here, not all the guiltlessness of her intentions could exonerate her from blame with that finely scrutinizing monitor to which Heaven, in pity to those evil propensities that law cannot touch, nor society reclaim, has devolved its earthly jurisdiction in the human breast. With her hopes she could play, with her wishes she could trifle, her intentions she could defend, her designs she could relinquish-but with her conscience she could not combat. It pointed beyond the present moment; it took her back to her imprudence with Sir Sedley Clarendel, which should have taught her more circumspection; and it carried her on to the disappointment of Henry and his father, whom while heedlessly she had won, though without the most remote view to beguile, she might seem artfully to have caught, for the wanton vanity of rejecting.
While advice and retrospection were thus alike oppressive in accusation, her pensive air and withdrawn smiles proved but more endearing to young Westwyn, whose internal interpretation was so little adapted to render them formidable, that his assiduities were but more tender, and allowed her no repose.
Edgar, who with the most suffering suspense, observed her unusual seriousness, and its effect upon Henry, drew from it, with the customary ingenuity of sensitive minds to torment themselves, the same inference for his causeless torture, as proved to his rival a delusive blessing. But while thus he contemplated Henry as the most to be envied of mortals, a new scene called forth new surprise, and gave birth to yet new doubts in his mind. He saw Camilla not merely turn wholly away from his rival, but enter into conversation, and give, apparently, her whole attention to Lord Valhurst, who, it was palpable, only spoke to her of her charms, which, alternately with those of Mrs. Berlinton, he devoted his whole time to worshipping.
Camilla by this action, meant simply to take the quickest road she saw in her power to shew young Westwyn his mistake. Lord Valhurst she held nearly in aversion; for, though his vindication of his upright motives at the bathing-house, joined to her indifference in considering him either guilty or innocent, made her conclude he might be blameless in that transaction, his perpetual compliments, enforced by staring eyes and tender glances, wearied and disgusted her. But he was always by her side, when not in the same position with Mrs. Berlinton; and while his readiness to engage her made this her easiest expedient, his time of life persuaded her it was the safest. Little aware of the effect this produced upon Edgar, she imagined he would not more notice her in any conversation with Lord Valhurst, than if she were discoursing with her uncle.
But while she judged from the sincerity of reality, she thought not of the mischief of appearance. What in her was designed with innocence, was rendered suspicious to the observers by the looks and manner of her companion. The pleasure with which he found, at last, that incense received, which hitherto had been slighted, gave new zest to an adulation which, while Camilla endured merely to shew her coldness to young Westwyn, seemed to Edgar to be offered with a gross presumption of welcome, that must result from an opinion it was addressed to a confirmed coquette.
Offended in his inmost soul by this idea, he scarce desired to know if she were now stimulated most by a wish to torment Henry, or himself, or only by the general pleasure she found in this new mode of amusement. ‘Be it,’ cried he, to Dr. Marchmont, ‘as it may, with me all is equally over! I seek not to recall an attachment liable to such intermissions, such commotions. What would be my peace, my tranquillity, with a companion so unstable? A mind all at large in its pursuits?-a dissipated wife! No!–I will remain here but to let her know I acquiesce in her dismission, and to learn in what form she has communicated our breach to her friends.’
Dr. Marchmont was silent, and they walked out of the room together; leaving the deceived Camilla persuaded he was so indifferent with regard to the old peer, that all her influence was lost, and all her late exertions were thrown away, by one evening’s remissness in exciting his fears of a young rival.
Melmond returned to Southampton the next morning with an air of deep and settled melancholy. He had found the two brothers together, and the candour of his appearance, the plainness of his declaration, the openness with which he stated his situation, and his near relationship to Mrs. Berlinton, procured him a courteous hearing; and he soon saw that both the father and the uncle, though they desired time for consideration and inquiry, were disposed to favour him. Mr. Tyrold, though, to his acknowledged recent disappointment of fortune, he attributed his address, had so little hope that any man at once amiable and rich would present himself to his unfortunate Eugenia, that, when he saw a gentleman well educated, well allied, of pleasing manners, and with every external promise of a good and feeling character, modestly, and with no professions but of esteem and respect, seek her of her friends, he thought himself not even entitled to refuse him. He told him, however, that he could conclude upon nothing in a matter of such equal interest to himself and his wife, without her knowledge and concurrence; and that during the time he demanded before he gave a final answer, he required a forbearance of all intercourse, beyond that of a common acquaintance. His first design was immediately to send for Eugenia home; but the young man appeared so reasonable, so mild, so unlike a fortune-hunter, that, constitutionally indulgent where he apprehended nothing criminal, he contented himself with writing to the same effect to Eugenia, fully satisfied of her scrupulous punctuality when once his will was known.
Melmond, though thus well received, returned back to Southampton with any air rather than that of a bridegroom. The order, not to wait upon Eugenia in private, was the only part of his task he performed with satisfaction; for though a mind really virtuous made him wish to conquer his repugnance to his future partner he felt it could not be by comparing her with Indiana.
Eugenia received the letter of her father, written in his own and her uncle’s name, with transport; and, to testify her grateful obedience, resolved to name the impending transaction to no one, and even to relinquish her visits to Mrs. Berlinton, and only to see Melmond when accident brought him before her in public.
But Mrs. Mittin, through words casually dropt, or conversations not very delicately overheard, soon gathered the particulars of her situation, which happily furnished her with a new subject for a gossiping visit to Miss Margland and Indiana. The first of these ladies received the news with unconcern, rather pleased than otherwise, that the temptation of an heiress should be removed from any rivalry with the charms of her fair pupil; who, by no means, however, listened to the account with equal indifference. The sight of Melmond at Southampton, with the circumstance of his being brother to the Honourable Mrs. Berlinton, had awakened all the pleasure with which she had first met his impassioned admiration; and while she haughtily expected from every public exhibition, ‘to bring home hearts by dozens,’ the secret point she had in view, was shewing Melmond that her power over others was as mighty as it had been over himself She had not taken the trouble to ask with what end: what was passed never afforded her an observation; what was to come never called forth an idea. Occupied only by the present moment, things gone remained upon her memory but as matters of fact, and all her expectations she looked forward to but as matters of course. To lose, therefore, a conquest she had thought the victim of her beauty for life, was a surprise nearly incredible; to lose him to Eugenia an affront scarcely supportable-and she waited but an opportunity to kill him with her disdain. But Melmond, who dreaded nothing so much as an interview, availed himself of the commands of Mr. Tyrold, in not going to the lodgings of Eugenia, and lived absorbed in a melancholy retirement, which books alone could a little alleviate.
The conclusion of the letter of Mr. Tyrold gave to Camilla as much pain as every other part of it gave to Eugenia pleasure: it was an earnest and parentally tender prayer, that the alliance with Melmond, should his worth appear such as to authorise its taking place, might prove the counterpart to the happiness so sweetly promised from that of her sister with Edgar.
While Camilla sighed to consider how wide from the certainty with which he mentioned it was such an event, she blushed that he should thus be uninformed of her insecurity: but while a reconciliation was not more her hope than her expectation with every rising sun, she could not endure to break his repose with the knowledge of a suspense she thought as disgraceful as it was unhappy. Yet her present scheme to accelerate its termination, became difficult even of trial.
The obviously serious regard of Henry was a continual reproach to her; and the undisguised approbation of his father was equally painful. Yet she could now only escape them by turning to some other, and that other was necessarily Lord Valhurst, whose close siege to her notice forced off every assailant but himself. This the deluded Camilla thought an expedient the most innoxious; and gave to him so much of her time, that his susceptibility to the charms of youth and beauty was put to a trial beyond his fortitude; and, in a very few days, notwithstanding their disproportion in age, his embarrassed though large estates, and the little or no fortune which she had in view, he determined to marry her: for when a man of rank and riches resolves to propose himself to a woman who has neither, he conceives his acceptance not a matter of doubt.
In any other society, his admiration of Camilla might easily, like what he had already experienced and forgotten for thousands of her sex, have escaped so grave or decided a tendency; but in Mrs. Berlinton he saw so much of youth and beauty bestowed upon a man whom he knew to be his own senior in age, that the idea of a handsome young wife was perpetually present to him. He weighed, like all people who seek to entice themselves to their own wishes, but one side of the question; and risked, like all who succeed in such self-seduction, the inconvenience of finding out the other side too late. He saw the attractions of his fair kinswoman; but neglected to consider of how little avail they were to her husband; he thought, with exultation of that husband’s age, and almost childishness; but forgot to take into the scales, that they had obtained from his youthful choice only disgust and avoidance.
While he waited for some trinkets, which he had ordered from town, to have ready for presenting with his proposals, Edgar only sought an opportunity and courage to take his last farewell. Whenever Camilla was so much engaged with others that it was impossible to approach her, he thought himself capable of uttering an eternal adieu; but when, by any opening, he saw where and how he might address her, his feet refused to move, his tongue became parched, and his pleading heart seemed exclaiming: O, not to-night! yet, yet, another day, ere Camilla is parted with for ever!
But suddenly, soon after, Camilla ceased to appear. At the rooms, at the plays, at the balls, and at the private assemblies, Edgar looked for her in vain. Her old adulator, also, vanished from public places, while her young admirer and his father hovered about in them as usual, but spiritless, comfortless, and as if in the same search as himself.
MRS. NORFIELD, a lady whom circumstances had brought into some intimacy with Mrs. Berlinton upon her marriage, had endeavoured, from the first of her entrance into high life, to draw her into a love of play; not with an idea of doing her any mischief, for she was no more her enemy than her friend; but to answer her own purposes of having a Faro table under her own direction. She was a woman of fashion, and as such every-where received; but her fortune was small, and her passion for gaming inordinate; and as there was not, at this time, one Faro table at Southampton, whither she was ordered for her health, she was almost wearied into a lethargy, till her reiterated intreaties prevailed, at length, with Mrs. Berlinton to hold one at her own house.
The fatigue of life without view, the peril of talents without prudence, and the satiety of pleasure without intermission, were already dangerously assaulting the early independence and the moment of vacancy and weariness was seized by Mrs. Norfield, to press the essay of a new mode of amusement.
Mrs. Berlinton’s house opened, failed not to be filled; and opened for a Faro table, to be filled with a peculiar set. To game has, unfortunately, always its attractions; to game with a perfect novice is not what will render it less alluring; and to see that novice rich and beautiful is still less likely to be repelling.
Mr. Berlinton, when he made this marriage, supposed he had engaged for life a fair nurse to his infirmities; but when he saw her fixed aversion, he had not spirit to cope with it; and when she had always an excuse for a separation, he had not the sense to acquaint himself how she passed her time in his absence. A natural imbecility of mind was now nearly verging upon dotage, and as he rarely quitted his room but at meal times, she made a point never to see him in any other part of the day. Her antipathy rendered her obdurate, though her disposition was gentle, and she had now left him at Tunbridge, to meet her aunt at Southampton, with a knowledge he was too ill to follow her, and a determination, upon various pretences, to stay away from him for some months. The ill fate of such unequal alliances is almost daily exemplified in life; and though few young brides of old bridegrooms fly their mates thus openly and decidedly, their retainers have seldom much cause to rejoice in superior happiness, since they are generally regarded but as the gaolers of their young prey.
Moderation was the last praise to which Mrs. Berlinton had any claim; what she entered upon through persecution, in an interval of mental supineness, she was soon awake to as a pleasure, and next pursued as a passion. Her beloved correspondent was neglected; her favourite authors were set aside; her country rambles were given up; balls and the rooms were forgotten; and Faro alone engrossed her faculties by day, and her dreams during the short epoch she reserved for sleep at night. She lost, as might be expected, as constantly as she played; but as money was not what she naturally valued, she disdained to weigh that circumstance; and so long as she had any to pay, resigned it with more grace than by others it was won.
That Camilla was not caught by this ruinous fascination, was not simply the effect of necessity. Had the state of her finances been as flourishing as it was decayed, she would have been equally steady in this forbearance: her reason was fair, though her feelings frequently chaced it from the field. She looked on, therefore, with safety, though not wholly with indifference; she had too much fancy not to be amused by the spirit of the business, and was too animated not to take part in the successive hopes and fears of the several competitors; but though her quick sensations prompted a readiness, like that of Mrs. Berlinton, to enter warmly into all that was presented to her, the resemblance went no further; what she was once convinced was wrong she was incapable of practising.
Upon Gaming, the first feeling and the latest reflection are commonly one; both point its hazards to be unnecessary, its purposes rapacious, and its end desperate loss, or destructive gain; she not only, therefore, held back; she took the liberty, upon the privilege of their avowed friendship, to remonstrate against this dangerous pastime with Mrs. Berlinton. But that lady, though eminently designed to be amiable, had now contracted the fearful habit of giving way to every propensity; and finding her native notions of happiness were blighted in the bud, concluded that all which now remained for her was the indulgence of every luxury. She heard with sweetness the expostulation of her young friend; but she pursued her own course.
In a very few days, however, while the blush of shame dyed her beautiful cheeks, she inquired if Camilla could lend her a little ready money.
A blush of no less unpleasant feelings overspread the face of her fair guest, in being compelled to own she had none to lend; but she eagerly promised to procure some from Mrs. Mittin, who had a note in her hand to exchange for the payment of some small debts contracted at Tunbridge. Mrs. Berlinton, gathering, from her confusion, how ill she was stored, would not hear of applying to this resource, ‘though I hate,’ she cried, ‘to be indebted to that odious old cousin, of whom I was obliged to borrow last night.’
Glaring imprudence in others is a lesson even to the most unthinking; Camilla, when she found that Mrs. Berlinton had lost every guinea she could command, ventured to renew still more forcibly her exhortations against the Faro table; but Mrs. Berlinton, notwithstanding she possessed an excellent capacity, was so little fortified with any practical tenets either of religion or morality, that where sentiment did not take the part of what was right, she had no preservative against what was wrong. The Faro table, therefore, was still opened; and Lord Valhurst, by the sums he lent, obtained every privilege of intimacy in the family, except that of being welcome.
Against this perilous mode of proceeding Camilla was not the only warner. Mrs. Ulst saw with extreme repugnance the mode of life her niece was pursuing, and reprimanded her with severe reproach; but her influence was now lost; and Mrs. Berlinton, though she kindly attended her, and sought to alleviate her sufferings, acted as if she were not in existence.
It was now Mrs. Mittin gained the highest point of her ambition; Mrs. Berlinton, tired of remonstrances she could not controvert, and would not observe, was extremely relieved by finding a person who would sit with her aunt, comply with her humours, hear her lamentations, subscribe to her opinions, and beguile her of her rigid fretfulness by the amusement of gossiping anecdotes.
Mrs. Mittin had begun life as the apprentice to a small country milliner; but had rendered herself so useful to a sick elderly gentlewoman, who lodged in the house, that she left her a legacy, which, by sinking into an annuity, enabled her to quit her business, and set up, in her own conception, for a gentlewoman herself; though with so very small an income, that to sustain her new post, she was frequently reduced to far greater dependence and hardships than she experienced in her old one. She was good-humoured, yet laborious; gay, yet subservient; poor, yet dissipated. To be useful, she would submit to any drudgery; to become agreeable, devoted herself to any flattery. To please was her incessant desire, and her rage for popularity included every rank and class of society. The more eminent, of course, were her first objects, but the same aim descended to the lowest. She would work, read, go of errands, or cook a dinner; be a parasite, a spy, an attendant, a drudge; keep a secret, or spread a report; incite a quarrel, or coax contending parties into peace; invent any expedient, and execute any scheme . . . all with the pretext to oblige others, but all, in fact, for simple egotism; as prevalent in her mind as in that of the more highly ambitious, though meaner and less dangerous.
Camilla was much relieved when she found this officious person was no longer retained solely upon her account; but still she could neither obtain her bills, no answers ever arriving, nor the money for her twenty pound note, Mrs. Mittin always evading to deliver it, and asserting she was sure somebody would come in the stage the next day for the payment she had promised; and when Camilla wanted cash for any of the very few articles she now allowed herself to think indispensable, instead of restoring it into her hands, she flew out herself to purchase the goods that were required, and always brought them home with assurances they were cheaper than the shopkeepers would let her have them for herself.
Camilla resisted all incitements to new dress and new ornaments, with a fortitude which must not be judged by the aged, nor the retired, who weighing only the frivolity of what she withstood, are not qualified to appreciate the merit of this sort of resignation; the young, the gay, the new in life, who know that, amongst minor calamities, none are more alarming to the juvenile breast than the fear of not appearing initiated in the reigning modes, can alone do justice to the present philosophy of Camilla, in seeing that all she wore, by the quick changes of fashion, seemed already out of date; in refusing to look at the perpetual diversity of apparel daily brought, by various dress modellers, for the approbation of Mrs. Berlinton, and in seeing that lady always newly, brightly, and in a distinguished manner attired, yet appearing by her side in exactly the same array that she had constantly worn at Tunbridge. Nor was Camilla indifferent to this contrast; but she submitted to it as the duty of her present involved situation, which exacted from her every privation, in preference to bestowing upon any new expence the only sum she could command towards clearing what was past.
But, after a very short time, the little wardrobe exhibited a worse quality than that of not keeping pace with the last devices of the ton; it lost not merely its newness, but its delicacy. Alas! thought she, how long, in the careful and rare wear of Etherington and Cleves, all this would have served me; while here, in this daily use, a fortnight is scarce passed, yet all is spoilt and destroyed. Ah! public places are only for the rich!
Now, therefore, Mrs. Mittin was of serious utility; she failed not to observe the declining state of her attire; and though she wondered at the parsimony which so resolutely prohibited all orders for its renewal, in a young lady she considered as so great an heiress, she was yet proud to display her various powers of proving serviceable. She turned, changed, rubbed, cleaned, and new made up all the several articles of which her dress was composed, to so much advantage, and with such striking effect, that for yet a few days more all seemed renewed, and by the arts of some few alterations, her appearance was rather more than less fashionable than upon her first arrival.
But this could not last long; and when all, again, was fading into a state of decay, Mrs. Berlinton received an invitation for herself and her fair guest, to a great ball and supper, given upon the occasion of a young nobleman’s coming of age, in which all the dancers, by agreement, were to be habited in uniform.
This uniform was to be clear fine lawn, with lilac plumes and ornaments.
Camilla had now, with consuming regret, passed several days without one sight of Edgar. This invitation, therefore, which was general to all the company at Southampton, was, in its first sound, delicious; but became, upon consideration, the reverse. Clear lawn and lilac plumes and ornaments she had none; how to go she knew not; yet Edgar she was sure would be there; how to stay away she knew less.
This was a severe moment to her courage; she felt it faltering,.and putting down the card of invitation, without the force of desiring Mrs. Berlinton to make her excuse, repaired to her own room, terrified by the preponderance of her wishes to a consent which she knew her situation rendered unwarrantable.
There, however, though she gained time for reflection, she gathered not the resolution she sought. The stay at Southampton, by the desire of Lynmere, had been lengthened; yet only a week remained, before she must return to her father and her Uncle . . . but how return? separated from Edgar? Edgar whom she still believed she had only to see again in some more auspicious moment to re-conquer and fix for life! But when and where might that auspicious moment be looked for? not at Mrs. Berlinton’s; there he no more attempted to visit: not at the Rooms; those regions were decidedly relinquished, and all general invitations were inadequate to draw Mrs. Berlinton from her new pursuit: where, then, was this happy explanation to pass?
When our wishes can only be gratified with difficulty, we conclude, in the ardour of combating their obstacle, that to lose them, is to lose everything, to obtain them is to ensure all good. At this ball, and this supper, Camilla painted Edgar completely restored to her; she was certain he would dance with her; she was sure he would sit by no one else during the repast; the many days since they had met would endear to him every moment they could now spend together, and her active imagination soon worked up scenes so important from this evening, that she next persuaded her belief that all chance of reconciliation hung wholly upon the meeting it offered.
Impelled by this notion, yet wavering, dissatisfied, and uncomfortable, she summoned Mrs. Mittin, and entreated she would make such inquiries concerning the value of the ball-dress uniform, as would enable her to estimate its entire expence.
Her hours passed now in extreme disquietude; for while all her hopes centred in the approaching festival, the estimate which was to determine her power of enjoying it was by no means easy to procure. Mrs. Mittin, though an adept in such matters, took more pleasure in the parade than in the performance of her task; and always answered to her inquiries, that it was impossible to speak so soon; that she must go to such another shop first; that she must consult with such and such a person; and that she must consider over more closely the orders given by Mrs. Berlinton, which were to be her direction, though with the stipulation of having materials much cheaper and more common.
At length, however, she burst into her room, one morning, before she was dressed, saying: ‘Now, my dear miss, I hope I shall make you happy;’ and displayed, upon the bed, a beautiful piece of fine lawn.
Camilla examined and admired it, asked what it was a yard, and how much would suffice for the dress.
‘Why, my dear, I’ll answer for it there’s enough for three whole dresses; why it’s a whole piece; and I dare say I can get a handkerchief and an apron out of it into the bargain.’
‘But I want neither handkerchief, nor apron, nor three dresses, Mrs. Mittin; I shall take the smallest quantity that is possible, if I take any at all.’
Mrs. Mittin said that the man would not cut it, and she must take the whole, or none.
Camilla was amazed she could so far have misunderstood her as to bring it upon such terms, and begged she would carry it back.
‘Nay, if you don’t take this, my dear, there’s nothing in the shops that comes near it for less than fifteen shillings a-yard; Mrs. Berlinton gives eighteen for her’s, and it don’t look one bit to choose; and this, if you take it all together, you may have for ten, for all its width, for there’s 30 yards, and the piece comes to but fifteen pound.’
Camilla protested she would not, at this time, pay ten shillings a-yard for any gown in the world.
Mrs. Mittin, who had flattered herself that the handkerchief and apron, at least, if not one of the gowns, would have fallen to her share, was much discomposed by this unexpected declaration; and disappointed, murmuring, and conceiving her the most avaricious of mortals, was forced away; leaving Camilla in complete despondence of any power to effect her wish with propriety.
Mrs. Mittin came back late, and with a look of dismay; the man of whom she had had the muslin, who was a traveller, whom she had met at a friend’s, had not waited her return; and, as she had left the fifteen pounds with him, for a pledge of the security of his goods, she supposed he had made off, to get rid of the whole piece at once.
Camilla felt petrified. No possible pleasure or desire could urge her, deliberately, to what she deemed an extravagance; yet here, in one moment, she was despoiled of three parts of all she possessed, either for her own use, or towards the restitution of her just debts with others.
Observing her distress, though with more displeasure than pity, from believing it founded in the most extraordinary covetousness, Mrs. Mittin proposed measuring the piece in three, and disposing of the two gowns she did not want to Mrs. Berlinton, or her sister and Miss Lynmere.
Camilla was a little revived; but the respite of difficulty was short; upon opening the piece, it was found damaged; and after the first few yards, which Mrs. Mittin had sedulously examined, not a breadth had escaped some rent, fray, or mischief.
The ill being now irremediable, to make up the dress in the cheapest manner possible was the only consolation that remained. Mrs. Mittin knew a mantua-maker who, to oblige her, would undertake this for a very small payment; and she promised to procure everything else that was necessary for the merest trifle.
Determined, however, to risk nothing more in such hands, she now positively demanded that the residue of the note should be restored to her own keeping. Mrs. Mittin, though much affronted, honestly refunded the five pounds. The little articles she had occasionally brought were still unpaid for; but her passion for detaining the money was merely with a view to give herself consequence, in boasting how and by whom she was trusted, and now and then drawing out her purse, before those who had less to produce; but wholly without any design of imposition or fraud; all she could obtain by hints and address she conceived to be fair booty; but further she went not even in thought.
Three days now only remained before this event-promising ball was to take place, and within three after it, the Southampton expedition was to close. Camilla scarce breathed from impatience for the important moment, which was preceded by an invitation to all the company, to take a sail on the Southampton water on the morning of the entertainment.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51