THE ball dress of Camilla was not yet ready, when she set out for the amusement of the morning. Melmond, upon this occasion, was forced into the excursion; his sister represented, so pathetically, the ungrateful ill-breeding of sequestering himself from a company of which it must so publicly be judged Eugenia would make one, with the impossibility of for ever escaping the sight of Indiana, that he could not, in common decency, any longer postpone the double meeting he almost equally dreaded.
And this, with all that could aggravate its misery, from seeing the two objects together, immediately occurred. Sir Hugh Tyrold’s coach, containing Miss Margland, Indiana, Eugenia, and Dr. Orkborne, was arrived just before that of Mrs. Berlinton; and, the morning being very fine, they had just alighted, to join the company assembling upon the beach for the expedition. Miss Margland still continued to exact the attendance of the Doctor, though his wry looks and sluggish pace always proclaimed his ill will to the task. But Clermont, the only proper beau for her parties, was completely unattainable. He had connected himself with young Halder, and his associates, from whom, while he received instructions relative to the stables and the dog-kennels, he returned, with suitable edification, lessons on the culinary art.
Melmond, deeply distressed, besought his sister not to alight till the last moment. She pitied him too sincerely not to comply; and, in a very short time, she had herself an aggregate of almost all the gentlemen on the beach before the coach.
Among these, the first to press forward were the two Westwyns, each enraptured to again see Camilla; and the most successful in obtaining notice was Lord Valhurst, with whom Camilla still thought it prudent, however irksome, to discourse, rather than receive again the assiduities of Henry: but her mind, far from them all, was hovering on the edge of the shore, where Edgar was walking.
Edgar, for some time past, had joined the utmost uneasiness what conduct to pursue with regard to the friends of Camilla, to the heart-rending decision of parting from her for ever. He soon learnt the new and dangerous manner in which Mrs. Berlinton spent her evenings, and the idea that most naturally occurred to him, was imparting it to Mr. Tyrold. But in what way could he address that gentleman, without first knowing if Camilla had acquainted him with the step she had taken? He felt too strongly the severe blow it would prove, not to wish softening it with every palliation; and while these still lingering feelings awed his proceedings, his servant learnt, from Molly Mill, that Melmond had been favourably received at Cleves, as a suitor to Eugenia. Finding so near an alliance likely to take place with the brother, he gave up his plan of remonstrating against the sister, except in private counsel to Camilla; for which, and for uttering his fearful adieu, he was now waiting but to speak to her unobserved.
Still, however, with pain unabating he saw the eager approach to her of Henry, with disgust that of Lord Valhurst, and with alarm the general herd.
Lord Pervil, the young nobleman who deemed it worth while to be at the expence of several hundred pounds, in order to let the world know how old he was, now, with his mother, a widow lady, and some other relations, came down in a superb new equipage, to the water-side. Mrs. Berlinton could not be so singular, as not to join in the general crowd, that flocked around them with congratulations; and all parties, in a few minutes, were assembled on one spot.
Edgar, when he had spoken to the group to which the honours of the day belonged, made up to Camilla, gravely enquired after her health; and then placed himself as near to her as he was able, in the hope of conferring with her when the company began to move.
Her spirits now rose, and her prospects re-opened to their wished termination. All her regret was for Henry, who saw her present avoidance, and bemoaned her long absence, with a sadness that reproached and afflicted her.
A very fine yacht, and three large pleasure-boats, were in readiness for this company, surrounded by various other vessels of all sorts and conditions, which were filled with miscellaneous parties, who meant to partake the same gales for their own diversion or curiosity. The invited set was now summoned to the water, Lord Pervil and his relations leading the way by a small boat to the yacht, to which Mrs. Berlinton and the Cleves party were particularly selected guests.
Camilla, depending upon the assistance of Edgar, in passing through the boat to the yacht, so obviously turned from Henry, that he lost all courage for persevering in addressing her, and was even, though most unwillingly, retiring from a vicinity in which he seemed palpably obtrusive, had not his father insisted upon detaining him, whispering, ‘Be of good heart, Hal! the girl will come round yet.’
Edgar kept equally near her, with a design that was the counterpart of her own wish, of offering her his hand when it was her turn to enter the boat; but they were both disappointed, the Peer, not waiting that rotation, presented her his arm as soon as Lady Pervil had led the way. There was no redress, though Camilla was as much provoked as either of the young rivals.
Lord Valhurst did not long exult in his victory; the unsteadiness of the boat made him rather want help for himself, than find force to bestow it upon another, and, upon mounting at the helm to pass her on to the yacht, he tottered, his foot slipt, and he must have sunk between the two vessels, had not a waterman caught him up, and dragged him into the yacht, with no further misfortune than a bruised shin, wet legs and feet, and a deplorably rueful countenance, from mingled fright and mortification.
Edgar, not wholly unsuspicious such an accident might happen, was darting into the boat to snatch Camilla from its participation, when he felt himself forcibly pulled back, and saw, at the same moment, Henry, who had also started forward, but whom nothing had retarded, anticipate his purpose, and aid her into the yacht.
Looking round to see by what, or by whom, he had so unaccountably been stopt, he perceived old Mr. Westwyn, his forefinger upon his nose in sign of silence and secrecy, grasping him by the coat.
‘What is the humour of this, Sir?’ cried he, indignantly.
Mr. Westwyn, still making his token for discretion, and bending forward to speak in his ear, said, ‘Do, there’s a good soul, let my boy help that young lady. Hal will be much obliged to you, I can tell you; and he’s a very good lad.’
The nature of Edgar was too candid to suffer his wrath to resist a request so simple in sincerity; but deeply he sighed to find, by its implication, that the passion of Henry was thus still fed with hopes.
The passing of other ladies, with their esquires, prevented him, who had no lady he wished to conduct, from making his way yet into the yacht; and the honest old gentleman, detained by the same reason, entered promptly into the history of the present situation of his son with regard to Camilla; relating, frankly, that he thought her the sweetest girl in the world, except that she did not know her own mind; for she had been so pleased with his son first of all, that he really thought he should oblige her by making it a match: ‘which I could not,’ added he, ‘have the heart to refuse to a girl that gave the boy such a good character. You’d be surprised to know how she took to him! you may be proud, says she to me, you may be proud of your son! which is what I shall never forget; for though I loved Hal just the same before, I never could tell but what it was only because he was my own. And I’m so afraid of behaving like a blind old goose, that I often snub Hal, when he’s no more to blame than I am myself, for fear of his getting out of my hands, and behaving like a certain young man he has been brought up with, and who, I assure you, deserves to have his ears cropt ten times a day, for one piece of impudence or other. I should not have been sorry if he’d fallen into the water along with that old lord, whom I don’t wish much good to neither; for, between friends, it seems to me that it’s he that has put her out of conceit with my poor Hal: for all of a sudden, nobody can tell why nor wherefore, she takes it into her head there’s nothing else worth listening to, but just his old compliments. And my poor Hal, after thinking she had such a kindness for him, that he had nothing to do but put on his best coat-for I told him I’d have none of his new-fangled modes of affronting my worthy old friend, by doing to him like a postillion, with a cropt head, and half a coat-after thinking he’d only to ask his consent, for he’d got mine without ever a word, all at once, without the least quarrel, or either I or Hal giving her the least offence, she won’t so much as let him speak to her; but turns off to that old fellow that tumbled into the water there, and had near made her slip in after, if it had not been for my son’s stopping her, which I sha’n’t forget your kindness in letting him do; but what’s more, she won’t speak to me neither! though all I want is to ask her the reason of her behaviour! which I shall certainly do, if I can catch her any five minutes away from that lord; for you’ll never believe what good friends we were, before she took so to him. We three, that is, she and I, and Hal, used to speak to nobody else, scarce. Poor Hal thought he’d got it all his own way. And I can’t but own I thought as much myself; for there was no knowing she’d hold herself so above us, all at once. I assure you, if we don’t bring her to, it will go pretty hard with us; for I like her just as well as Hal does. I’d have made over to them the best half of my income immediately.’
Edgar had never yet felt such serious displeasure against Camilla, as seized him upon this artless narrative. To have trifled thus, and, as he believed, most wantonly, with the feelings and peace of two amiable persons, whether from the vanity of making a new conquest, or the tyranny of persecuting an old one, shewed a love of power the most unjustifiable, and a levity the most unpardonable. And when he considered himself as exactly in the same suspensive embarrassment, as a young man of little more than a fortnight’s acquaintance, he felt indignantly ashamed of so humiliating a rivalry, and a strong diminution of regret at his present purpose.
Melmond, meanwhile, pressed by his sister, seconded by his own sense of propriety, had forced himself to the Cleves’ party; and, after bowing civilly to Miss Margland, who courteously smiled upon one who she imagined would become master of Cleves, and most profoundly to Indiana, who coloured, but deigned not the smallest salutation in return, offered his hand to Eugenia; but with a mind so absorbed, and steps so uncertain, that he was unable to afford her any assistance; and her lameness and helplessness made her so much require it, that she was in danger of failing every moment; yet she felt in Paradise; she thought him but enfeebled, as she was enfeebled herself, by a tender sensibility; and danger, therefore, was not merely braved, it was dear, it was precious to her.
Indiana now consoled her mortification, with the solace of believing a retaliation at hand, that would overcome the otherwise indelible disgrace of being superseded by Eugenia in a conquest. Full of her own little scheme, she imperiously refused all offers of aid, and walked on alone, till crossing the boat, she gave a shriek at every step, made hazardous by her wilful rejection of assistance, and acted over again the charm of terror, of which she well recollected the power upon a former occasion.
These were sounds to vibrate but too surely to the heart of Melmond; he turned involuntarily to look at her; her beauty had all its original enchantment; and he snatched away his eyes. He led on her whom still less he durst view; but another glance, thus surprised from him, shewed Indiana unguarded, unprotected; his imagination painted her immediately in a watery grave; and, seeing Eugenia safe, though not accommodated, he rushed back to the boat, and with trembling respect implored her to accept his aid.
Triumphant, now, she conceived herself in her turn, and looking at him with haughty disdain, said, she chose to go alone; and when again he conjured her not to risk her precious safety, added,‘You know you don’t care about it; so pray go to your Miss Eugenia Tyrold.’
Young Melmond, delicate, refined, and well bred, was precisely amongst the first to feel, that a reply such as this must be classed amongst the reverse of those three epithets-had it come from any mouth but that of Indiana!-but love is deaf, as well as blind, to every defect of its chosen object, during the season of passion: from her, therefore, this answer, leaving unobserved the littleness and spleen which composed it, retained but so much of meaning as belongs to announcing jealousy, and in giving him that idea, filled him with sensations that almost tore him asunder.
Urged by her pique, she contrived, and with real risk, to jump into the yacht alone; though, if swayed by any less potent motive, she would sooner have remained in the boat the whole day. But what is the strength which may be put upon a par with inclination? and what the general courage that partial enterprise will not exceed?
Melmond, who only to some amiable cause could attribute whatever flowed from so beautiful an object, having once started the idea of jealousy, could give its source only to love: the impure spring of envy entered not into his suggestions. What, then, was his distraction, to think himself so greatly miserable! to believe he was secretly favoured by Indiana, at the instant of his first devoirs to another! Duty and desire were equally urgent to be heard; he shrunk in utter despondence from the two objects that seemed to personify both, and retreated, to the utmost of his power, from the sight of either.
Miss Margland had more than echoed every scream of Indiana, though nobody had seemed to hear her. Dr. Orkborne, the only beau she could compel into her service, was missing; her eye and voice alike every where demanded him in vain; he neither appeared to her view, nor answered her indignant calls.–Nor, indeed, though she forced his attendance, had she the most remote hope of inspiriting him to any gallantry: but still he was a man, and she thought it a mark of consequence to have one in her train; nor was it by any means nothing to her to torment Dr. Orkborne with her reproaches. To dispositions highly irascible, it is frequently more gratifying to have a subject of complaint than of acknowledgment.
The ladies being now all accommodated upon the deck, sailing orders were given, when an ‘holla! holla!’ making the company look round, Lynmere desired to be admitted. All the party intended for the yacht were already on board, and Lord Pervil told Mr. Lynmere he would find a very good place in one of the pleasure boats: but he answered he was just come from them, and preferred going in the yacht. Lord Pervil then only hoped the ladies would excuse being a little crowded. Edgar had already glided in, and Mr. Westwyn had openly declared, when asked to go to one of the boats, that he always went where Hal went, be it where it might.
Clermont, now, elbowing his way into a group of gentlemen, and addressing himself to young Halder, who was amongst them, said: ‘Do you know what they’ve got to eat here?’
‘What the deuce! have not you examined the larder? I have been looking over the three boats,-there’s nothing upon earth!-so I came to see if I could do any better here.’
Halder vowed if there were nothing to eat, he would sooner jump over board, and swim to shore, than go starving on.
‘Starving?’ said Mr. Westwyn, ‘why I saw, myself, several baskets of provisions taken into each of the boats.’
‘Only ham and fowls,’ answered Clermont, contemptuously.
‘Only ham and fowls? why what would you have?’
‘O the d — l,’ answered he, making faces, ‘not that antediluvian stuff! any thing’s better than ham and fowls.’
‘Stilton cheese, for instance!’ cried Mr. Westwyn, with a wrathful sneer, that made Clermont, who could not endure, yet, for many reasons, could not resent it, hastily decamp from his vicinity.
Mr, Westwyn, looking after the young epicure with an expression of angry scorn, now took the arm of Edgar, whose evident interest in his first communication encouraged further confidence, and said: ‘That person that you see walk that way just now, is a fellow that I have a prodigious longing to give a good caning to. I can’t say I like him; yet he’s nephew and heir to the very best man in the three kingdoms. However, I heartily hope his uncle will disinherit him, for he’s a poor fool as well as a sorry fellow. I love to speak my mind plainly.’
Edgar was ill-disposed to conversation, and intent only upon Camilla, who was now seated between Mrs. Berlinton and Eugenia, and occupied by the fine prospects every where open to her; yet he explained the error of Clermont’s being heir, as well as nephew, to Sir Hugh; at which the old gentleman, almost jumping with surprise and joy, said: ‘Why, then who’s to pay all his debts at Leipsic? I can’t say but what I’m glad to hear this. I hope he’ll be sent to prison, with all my heart, to teach him a little better manners. For my old friend will never cure him; he spoils young people prodigiously. I don’t believe he’d so much as give ’em a horse-whipping, let ’em do what they would. That i’n’t my way. Ask Hal!’
Here he stopt, disturbed by a new sight, which displaced Clermont from his thoughts.
Camilla, to whom the beauties of nature had mental, as well as visual charms, from the blessings, as well as pleasure, she had from childhood been instructed to consider as surrounding them, was so enchanted by the delicious scenery every way courting her eyes, the transparent brightness of the noble piece of water upon which she was sailing, the richness and verdure of its banks, the still and gently gliding motion of the vessel, the clearness of the heavens, and the serenity of the air, that all her cares, for a while, would have been lost in admiring contemplation, had she not painfully seen the eternal watching of Henry for her notice, and gathered from the expression of his eyes, his intended expostulation. The self-reproach with which she felt how ill she could make her defence, joined to a sincere and generous wish to spare him the humiliation of a rejection, made her seek so to engage herself, as to prevent the possibility of his uttering two sentences following. But as this was difficult with Eugenia, who was lost in silent meditation upon her own happiness, or Mrs. Berlinton, who was occupied in examining the beauty so fatal to the repose of her brother, she had found such trouble in, eluding him, that, when she saw Lord Valhurst advance from the cabin, where he had been drying and refreshing himself, she welcomed him as a resource, and, taking advantage of the civility she owed him for what he had suffered in esquiring her, gave him her sole attention; always persuaded his admiration was but a sort of old fashioned politeness, equally without design in itself, or subject for comment in others.
But what is so hard to judge as the human heart? The fairest observers misconstrue all motives to action, where any received prepossession has found an hypothesis. To Edgar this conduct appeared the most degrading fondness for adulation, and to Mr. Westwyn a tyrannical caprice, meant to mortify his son. ‘I hope you saw that! I hope you saw that!’ cried he, ‘for now I don’t care a pin for her any longer! and if Hal is such a mere fool as ever to think of her any more, I’ll never see his face again as long as I live. After looking askew at the poor boy all this time, to turn about and make way for that nasty old fellow; as who should say, I’ll speak to nothing but a lord! is what I shall never forgive; and I wish I had never seen the girl, nor Hal neither. I can’t say I like such ways. I can’t abide ’em.’
A sigh that then escaped Edgar, would have told a more discerning person, that he came in for his ample share in the same wish.
‘And, after all,’ continued he, ‘being a lord is no such great feat that ever I could learn. Hal might be a lord too, if he could get a title. There is nothing required for it but what any man may have; nobody asks after what he can do, or what he can say. If he’s got a good head, it’s well; and if he has not, it’s all one. And that’s what you can’t say of such a likely young fellow as my son. You may see twenty for one that’s as well looking. Indeed, to my mind, I don’t know that ever I saw a prettier lad in my life. So she might do worse, I promise her, though she has used my son so shabbily. I don’t like her the better for it, I assure her; and so you may tell her, if you please. I’m no great friend to not speaking my mind.’
The fear of being too late for the evening’s arrangements, made Lord Pervil, after a two hours sail, give orders for veering about: the ladies were advised to go into the cabin during this evolution, and Camilla was amongst those who most readily complied, for the novelty of viewing what she had not yet seen. But when, with the rest, she was returning to the deck, Lord Valhurst, just descended, entreated her to stop one moment.
Not at all conjecturing his reason, she knew not how to refuse, but innocently begged him to speak quick, as she was in haste, not to lose any of the beautiful landscapes they were passing.
‘Ah! what,’ cried the enamoured peer, ‘what in the world is beautiful in any comparison with yourself’? To me no possible object can have such charms; and I have now no wish remaining but never to lose sight of it.’
Amazed beyond all measure, she stared at him a moment in silence, and then, confirmed by his looks that he was serious, would have left the cabin with precipitance: but, preventing her from passing; ‘Charming Miss Tyrold!’ he cried, ‘let the confession of my flame meet your favour, and I will instantly make my proposals to your friends.’
To Camilla this offer appeared as little delicate, as its maker was attractive; yet she thought herself indebted for its general purport, and, as soon as her astonishment allowed her, gracefully thanked him for the honour of his good opinion, but entreated him to make no application to her friends, as it would not be in her power to concur in their consent.
Concluding this to be modest shyness, he was beginning a passionate protestation of the warmth of his regard, when the effusion was stopt by the appearance of Edgar.
Little imagining so serious a scene to be passing as the few words he now gathered gave him to understand, his perplexity at her not returning with the other ladies, made him suggest this to be a favourable moment to seize for following her himself, and demanding the sought, though dreaded conference. But when he found that his lordship, instead of making, as he had supposed, his usual fond, yet unmeaning compliments, was pompously offering his hand, he precipitately retired.
No liveliness of temper had injured in Camilla the real modesty of her character. A sense, therefore, of obligation for this partiality accompanied its surprise, and was preparing her for repeating the rejection with acknowledgments though with firmness, when the sight of Edgar brought an entirely new train of feelings and ideas into her mind. O! happy moment! thought she; he must have heard enough of what was passed to know me, at least, to be disinterested! he must see, now, it was himself, not his situation in life, I was so prompt in accepting-and if again he manifests the same preference, I may receive it with more frankness than ever, for he will see my whole heart, sincerely, singly, inviolably his own! Bewitched with this notion, she escaped from the peer, and ran up to the deck, with a renovation of animal spirits, so high, so lively, and so buoyant, that she scarce knew what she said or did, from the uncontroulable gaiety, which made every idea dance to a happiness new even to her happy mind. Whoever she looked at, she smiled upon; to whatever was proposed, she assented: scarce could she restrain her voice from involuntarily singing, or her feet from instinctively dancing.
Edgar, compared with what he now felt, believed that hitherto he had been a stranger to what wonder meant. Is this, thought he, Camilla? Has she wilfully fascinated this old man seriously to win him, and has she won him but to triumph in the vanity of her conquest? How is her delicacy perverted! what is become of her sensibility? Is this the artless Camilla? modest as she was gay, docile as she was spirited, gentle as she was intelligent? O how spoilt! how altered! how gone!
Camilla, little suspicious of this construction, thought it would be now equally wrong to speak any more with either Henry or Lord Valhurst, and talked with all others indiscriminately, changing her object with almost every speech.
A moment’s reflection would have told her, that quietness alone, in her present situation, could do justice to the purity of her intentions: but reflection is rarely the partner of happiness in the youthful breast; it is commonly brought by sorrow, and flies at the first dawn of returning joy.
Thus, while she dispensed to all around, with views the most innocent, her gay and almost wild felicity, the very delight to which she owed her animation, of believing she was evincing to Edgar with what singleness she was his own, gave her the appearance, in his judgment, of a finished, a vain, an all-accomplished coquette. The exaltation of her ideas brightened her eyes into a vivacity almost dazzling, gave an attraction to her smiles that was irresistible, the charm of fascination to the sound of her voice, to her air a thousand nameless graces, and to her manner and expression an enchantment.
Powers so captivating, now for the first time united with a facility of intercourse, soon drew around her all the attendant admiring beaux.
No animal is more gregarious than a fashionable young man, who, whatever may be his abilities to think, rarely decides, and still less frequently acts for himself. He may wish, he may appreciate, internally with justice and wisdom; but he only says, and only does, what some other man of fashion, higher in vogue, or older in courage, has said or has done before him.
The young Lord Pervil, the star of the present day, was now drawn into the magic circle of Camilla; this was full sufficient to bring into it every minor luminary of his constellation; and even the resplendent and incomparable beauty of Indiana, even the soft and melting influence of the expressively lovely Mrs. Berlinton, gave way to the superior ascendance of that varied grace, and winning vivacity, which seemed instinctively sharing with the beholders its own pleasure and animation.
To Edgar alone this gave her not new charms: he saw in her more of beauty, but less of interest; the sentence dictated by Dr. Marchmont, as the watch-word to his feelings, were she mine, recurred to him incessantly; alas! he thought, with this dissipated delight in admiration, what individual can make her happy? to the rational serenity of domestic life, she is lost!
Again, as he viewed the thickening group before her, offering fresh and fresh incense, which her occupied mind scarce perceived, though her elevated spirits unconsciously encouraged, he internally exclaimed: ‘O, if her trusting father saw her thus! her father who, with all his tender lenity, has not the blind indulgence of her uncle, how would he start! how would his sense of fair propriety be revolted!-or if her mother-her respectable mother, beheld thus changed, thus undignified, thus open to all flattery and all flatterers, her no longer peerless daughter-how would she blush! how would the tint of shame rob her impressive countenance of its noble confidence!’
These thoughts were too agitating for observation; his eyes moistened with sadness in associating to his disappointment that of her revered and exemplary parents, and he retreated from her sight till the moment of landing; when with sudden desperation, melancholy yet determined, he told himself he would no longer be withheld from fulfilling his purpose.
He made way, then, to the group, though with unsteady steps; his eye pierced through to Camilla; she caught and fixt it. He felt cold; but still advanced. She saw the change, but did not understand it. He offered her his hand before Lady Pervil arose to lead the way, lest some competitor should seize it; she accepted it, rather surprized by such sudden promptness, though encouraged by it to a still further dependance upon her revived and sanguine expectations.
Yet deeper sunk this flattering illusion, when she found his whole frame was shaking, and saw his complexion every moment varying. She continued, though in a less disengaged manner, her sprightly discourse with the group; for he uttered not a word. Content that he had secured her hand, he waited an opportunity less public.
Lady Pervil, who possessed that true politeness of a well-bred woman of rank, who knows herself never so much respected as when she lays aside mere heraldic claims to superiority, would not quit the yacht of which she did the honours, till every other lady was conducted to the shore. Edgar had else purposed to have detained Camilla in the vessel a moment later than her party, to hear the very few words it was his intention to speak. Frustrated of this design, he led her away with the rest, still totally silent, till her feet touched the beach: she was then, with seeming carelessness, withdrawing her hand, to trip off to Mrs. Berlinton; but Edgar, suddenly grasping it, tremulously said: ‘Will it be too much presumption-in a rejected man-to beg the honour of three minutes conference with Miss Tyrold, before she joins her party?’
A voice piercing from the deep could not have caused in Camilla a more immediate revulsion of ideas; but she was silent, in her turn, and he led her along the beach, while Mrs. Berlinton, attended by a train of beaux, went to her carriage, where, thus engaged, she contentedly waited.
‘Do not fear,’ he resumed, when they had passed the crowd, ‘do not fear to listen to me, though, once more, I venture to obtrude upon you some advice; let it not displease you; it is in the spirit of the purest good will; it is singly, solely, and disinterestedly as a friend.’
Camilla was now all emotion; pale she turned, but Edgar did not look at her; and she strove to thank him in a common manner, and to appear cool and unmoved.
‘My opinion, my fears rather, concerning Mrs. Berlinton, as I find she hopes soon for a near connexion with your family, will henceforth remain buried in my own breast: yet, should you, to any use hereafter remember them, I shall rejoice: though should nothing ever recur to remind you of them, I shall rejoice still more. Nor will I again torment you about that very underbred woman who inhabits the same house, and who every where boasts an intimacy with its two ladies, that is heard with general astonishment: nor yet upon another, and far more important topic, will I now touch,-the present evening recreation at Mrs. Berlinton’s . I know you are merely a spectatress, and I will not alarm your friends, nor dwell myself, upon collateral mischiefs, or eventual dangers, from a business that in three days will end, by your restoration to the most respectable of all protections. All that, now, I mean to enter upon, all that, now, I wish to enforce, a few words will comprise, and those words will be my–’
He would have said my last but his breath failed him; he stopt; he wanted her to seize his meaning unpronounced; and, though it came to her as a thunderbolt from heaven, its very horror helped her; she divined what he could not utter, by feeling what she could not hear.
‘Few, indeed,’ cried he, in broken accents, ‘must be these final words! but how can I set out upon my so long procrastinated tour, with an idea that you are not in perfect safety, yet without attempting to point out to you your danger? And yet,-that you should be surrounded by admirers can create no wonder-that you should feel your power without displeasure, is equally natural–I scarcely know, therefore, what I would urge-yet perhaps, untold, you may conceive what struggles in my breast, and do justice to the conflict between friendship and respect, where one prompts a freedom, which the other trembles to execute. I need not, I think, say, that to offend you is nearly the only thing that could aggravate the affliction of this parting.’–
Camilla turned aside from him; but not to weep; her spirit was now re-wakened by resentment, that he could thus propose a separation, without enquiring if she persisted to desire it.
‘I tire you?’ resumed he, mournfully; ‘yet can you be angry that a little I linger? Farewell, however-the grave, when it closes in upon me can alone end my prayers for your felicity! I commit wholly to you my character and my conduct, with regard to your most honoured father, whom I beseech and conjure you to assure of my eternal gratitude and affection. But I am uncertain of your wishes; I will, therefore, depart without seeing him. When I return to this country, all will be forgotten-or remembered only–’ by me, he meant to say, but he checked himself, and, with forced composure, went on:
‘That I travel not with any view of pleasure, you, who know what I leave-how I prize what I lose,-and how lately I thought all I most coveted mine for ever, will easily believe. But if earthly bliss is the lot of few, what right had I to expect being so selected? Severe as is this moment, with blessings, not with murmurs, I quit you! blessings which my life, could it be useful to you, should consecrate. If you were persuaded our dispositions would not assimilate; if mine appeared to you too rigorous, too ungenial, your timely precaution has spared more misery than it has inflicted. How could I have borne the light, when it had shewn me Camilla unhappy-yet Camilla my own–?’
His struggle here grew vain, his voice faltered; the resentment of Camilla forsook her; she raised her head, and was turning to him her softened countenance, and filling eyes, when she saw Melmond, and a party of gentlemen, fast approaching her from Mrs. Berlinton. Edgar saw them too, and cutting short all he meant to have added, kissed, without knowing what he did, the lace of her cloak, and ejaculating, ‘Be Heaven your guard, and happiness your portion!’ left her hand to that of Melmond, which was held out to her, and slightly bowing to the whole party, walked slowly, and frequently looking back, away: while Camilla, nearly blinded now by tears that would no longer be restrained, kept her eyes fixedly upon the earth, and was drawn, more dead than alive, by Melmond to the coach.
THE suddenness of this blow to Camilla, at the moment when her expectations from Edgar were wound up to the summit of all she desired, would have stupefied her into a consternation beyond even affliction, had not the mildness of his farewell, the kindness of his prayers, and the friendship of his counsels, joined to the generosity of leaving wholly to herself the account of their separation, subdued all the pride that sought to stifle her tenderness, and penetrated her with an admiration which left not one particle of censure to diminish her regret.
Melmond and his sister, always open to distress, and susceptible to pity, saw with true concern this melancholy change, and concluded that Mandlebert had communicated some painful intelligence.
She went straight to her own room, with a sign of supplication that Mrs. Berlinton would not follow; and turning quick from Mrs. Mittin, who met her at the street door.
Mrs. Berlinton yielded; but Mrs. Mittin was not easily rebuffed. She was loaded with lilac plumes, ribbands, and gauzes, and Camilla saw her bed completely covered with her new ball dress.
This sight was, at first, an aggravation of her agony, by appearing to her as superfluous as it was expensive: but wherever hope could find an aperture to creep in at, it was sure of a welcome from Camilla. Edgar was undoubtedly invited to the ball; why should he not be there? he had taken leave of her, indeed, and he certainly proposed going abroad; but could a mere meeting once more, be so repugnant as not to be endured.
The answer to this question was favourable to her wishes, for by her wishes it was framed: and the next play of her fertile and quick reviving imagination, described the meeting that would ensue, the accidents that would bring them into the same set, the circumstances that would draw them again into conversation, and the sincerity with which she would do justice to her unalterable esteem, by assuring him how injurious to it were his surmises that she thought him rigorous, austere, or in any single instance to blame.
These hopes somewhat appeased, though their uncertainty could not banish her terrors, and she was able to appear at dinner tolerably composed.
Another affair, immediately after, superseded them, for the present, by more urgent difficulties.
Soon after her arrival at Southampton, a poor woman, who washed for her, made a petition in behalf of her brother, a petty shop-keeper, who, by various common, yet pitiable circumstances of unmerited ill success in business, was unable to give either money or security to the wholesale dealers, for the renewal of his exhausted stock in trade; though the present full season, made it rational to suppose, that, if he had his usual commodities, he might retrieve his credit, save himself from bankruptcy, and his children from beggary. These last, which were five in number, were all, upon various pretences, brought to Camilla, whose pity they excited by the innocence with which they seemed ignorant of requiring it; and who received them with smiles and encouragement, however frivolous their errands, and frequent their interruptions. But the goods which their father wanted to lay in, to revive his trade, demanded full thirty pounds, which, Camilla declared, were as absolutely out of her power to give as thirty thousand, though she promised to plead to Sir Hugh for the sum, upon her return to Cleves, and was prevailed with to grant her name to this promise for the wholesale dealers. These would trust, however, to no verbal security; and Mrs. Mittin, who from collateral reasons was completely a friend of the poor man, offered to be bound for him herself, though thirty pounds were nearly her year’s income, provided Camilla would sign a paper, by which she would engage upon her honour, to indemnify her of any loss she might eventually sustain by this agreement, as soon as she was of age, or should find it in her power before that time.
The seriousness of this clause, made Camilla refuse the responsibility, protesting she should have no added means in consequence of being of age. But Mrs. Mittin assured Higden, the poor man, as she assured all others, that she was heiress to immense wealth, for she had had it from one that had it from her own brother’s own mouth; and that though she could not find out why she was so shy of owning it, she supposed it was only from the fear of being imposed upon.
The steadiness of Camilla, however, could not withstand her compassion, when the washerwoman brought the poor children to beg for their father; and, certain of her uncle’s bounty, she would have run a far more palpable risk, sooner than have assumed the force to send them weeping away.
The stores were then delivered; and all the family poured forth their thanks.
But this day, in quitting the dining parlour, she was stopt in the hall by Higden, who, in unfeigned agonies, related, that some flasks of oil, in a small hamper, which were amongst the miscellaneous articles of his just collected stores, had, by some cruel accident, been crushed, and their contents, finding their way into all the other packages, had stained or destroyed them.
Camilla, to whose foresight misfortune never presented itself, heard this with nearly equal terror for herself, and sorrow for the poor man: yet her own part, in a second minute, appeared that of mere inconvenience, compared with his, which seemed ruin irretrievable; she sought, therefore, to comfort him; but could afford no further help, since she had painfully to beg from her uncle the sum already so uselessly incurred. He ventured still to press, that, if again he could obtain a supply, every evil chance should be guarded against; but Camilla had now learned that accidents were possible; and the fear which arises from disappointed trust, made her think of probable mischiefs with too acute a discernment, to deem it right to run again any hazard, where, if there were a failure, another, not herself, would be the sufferer. Yet the despair of the poor man induced her to promise she would write in his favour, though not act in it again unauthorised.
With feelings of still augmented discomfort, from her denial, she repaired to her toilette; but attired herself without seeing what she put on, or knowing, but by Mrs. Mittin’s descriptions and boastings, that her dress was new, of the Pervil uniform, and made precisely like that of Mrs. Berlinton. Her agitated spirits, suspended, not between hope and fear, but hope and despair, permitted no examination of its elegance: the recollection of its expence, and the knowledge that Edgar thought her degenerating into coquetry, left nothing but regret for its wear.
Mrs. Berlinton, who never before, since her marriage, had been of any party where her attractions had not been unrivalled, had believed herself superior to pleasure from personal homage, and knew not, till she missed it, that it made any part of her amusement in public. But the Beauty, when first she perceives a competitor for the adulation she has enjoyed exclusively, and the Statesman, at the first turn of popular applause to an antagonist, are the two beings who, perhaps, for the moment, require the most severe display of self-command, to disguise, under the semblance of good humour or indifference, the disappointment they experience in themselves, or the contempt with which they are seized for the changing multitude.
Mrs. Berlinton, though she felt no resentment against Camilla for the desertion she had occasioned her, felt much surprize; not to be first was new to her: and whoever, in any station of life, any class of society, has had regular and acknowledged precedency, must own a sudden descent to be rather aukward. Where resignation is voluntary, to give up the higher place may denote more greatness of mind than to retain it; but where imposed by others, few things are less exhilarating to the principal, or impress less respect upon the by-stander.
Mrs. Berlinton had never been vain; but she could not be ignorant of her beauty; and that the world’s admiration should be so wondrously fickle, or so curiously short-lived, as to make even the bloom of youth fade before the higher zest of novelty, was an earlier lesson than her mind was prepared to receive. She thought she had dressed herself that morning with too much carelessness of what was becoming, and devoted to this evening a greater portion of labour and study.
While Camilla was impatiently waiting, Mrs. Pollard, the washerwoman, gained admittance to her, and bringing two interesting little children of from four to five years old, and an elder girl of eleven, made them join with herself to implore their benefactress to save them all from destruction.
Higden having had the imprudence, in his grief, to make known his recent misfortune, it had reached the ears of his landlord, who already was watchful and suspicious, from a year and half arrears of his rent; and steps were immediately preparing to seize whatever was upon the premises the next morning; which, by bringing upon him all his other creditors, would infallibly immure him in the lingering hopelessness of a prison.
Camilla now wavered; the debt was but eighteen pounds; the noble largesses of her uncle in charity, till, of late, that he had been somewhat drained by Lionel, were nearly unlimited.–She paused-looked now at the pleading group, now at her expensive dress; asked how, for her own hopes, she could risk so much, yet for their deliverance from ruin so little; and with a blush turning from the mirrour, and to the children with a tear, finally consented that the landlord should apply to her the next morning.
Lord Pervil had some time opened the ball before Mrs. Berlinton’s arrival; but he looked every where for Camilla, to succeed to a young lady of quality with whom he had danced the first two dances. He could not, however, believe he had found, though he now soon saw and made up to her. The brilliancy of her eyes was dimmed by weeping, her vivacity was changed into dejection, sighs and looks of absence took place of smiles and sallies of gaiety, and her whole character seemed to have lost its spring and elasticity. She gave him her hand, to preserve her power of giving it if claimed by Edgar, and though he had thought of her without ceasing since she had charmed him in the yacht, till he had obtained it, not a lady appeared in the room, by the time these two dances were over, that he would not more chearfully have chosen for two more: her gravity every minute encreased, her eye rolled, with restless anxiety, every where, except to meet his, and so little were her thoughts, looks, or conversation bestowed upon her partner, that instead of finding the animated beauty who had nearly captivated him on board the yacht, he seemed coupled with a fair lifeless machine, whom the music, perforce, put in motion; and relinquished her hand with as little reluctance as she withdrew it.
Melmond had again, by his sister, been forced into the party, though with added unwillingness, from his new idea of Indiana. Now, however, to avoid that fair bane was impossible: Indiana was the first object to meet every eye, from the lustre of her beauty, and the fineness of her figure, each more than ever transcendently conspicuous, from the uniform which had obliged every other female in the room to appear in exactly the same attire. Yet great and unrivalled as was the admiration which she met, what came simply and naturally was insufficient for the thirst with which she now quaffed this intoxicating beverage; and to render its draughts still more delicious, she made Eugenia always hold by her arm. The contrast here to the spectators was diverting as well as striking, and renewed attention to her own charms, when the eye began to grow nearly sated with gazing. The ingenuous Eugenia, incapable of suspecting such a design, was always the dupe to the request, from the opinion it was made in kindness, to save her from fatigue in the eternal sauntering of a public place; and, lost to all fear, in being lost to all hope, as to her own appearance, chearfully accompanied her beautiful kinswoman, without conjecturing that, in a company whence the illiterate and vulgar were excluded, personal imperfections could excite pleasantry, or be a subject of satire.
Camilla, who still saw nothing of Edgar, yet still thought it possible he might come, joined them as soon as she was able. Miss Margland was full of complaints about Dr. Orkborne, for his affording them no assistance in the yacht, and not coming home even to dinner, nor to attend them to Lord Pervil’s; and Eugenia, who was sincerely attached to the Doctor, from the many years he had been her preceptor, was beginning to express her serious uneasiness at his thus strangely vanishing; when Clermont, with the most obstreperous laughter, made up to them, and said: ‘I’ll tell you a monstrous good joke! the best thing you ever heard in your life! the old Doctor’s been upon the very point of being drowned!-and he has not had a morsel to eat all day!’
He then related that his man, having seen him composedly seated, and musing upon a pile of planks which were seasoning upon the beach, with his face turned away from the company to avoid its interruptions, had enquired if he had any commands at home, whither he was going: ‘Not for meaning to do them,’ continued Lynmere; ‘No, no! catch Bob at that! but only to break in upon him; for Bob’s a rare hand at a joke. He says he’s ready to die with laughing, when he speaks to the old Doctor while he’s studying, because he looks so much as if he wished we were all hanged. However, he answered tolerably civilly, and only desired that nobody might go into his room till he came home from the sail, for he’d forgot to lock it. So Bob, who smoked how the matter was, says: ‘The sail, Sir, what are you going alone, then? for all the company’s been gone these two hours.’ So this put him in such a taking, Bob says he never laughed so much in his life. He jumped up as if he’d been bit: ‘Gone?’ says he, ‘why where’s Miss Eugenia, I promised Sir Hugh not to lose sight of her.’ So he said he’d go after her that very moment. ‘Call me a boat,’ said he: just as if he’d ordered a hackney coach; for he knows about as much of winds and tides as my little bay Filly, that I bought of Halder yesterday for fifty pounds, but that I shall make worth seventy in less than a month. Well, there was nothing to be had but a small fishing boat, so Bob winks at the man to take in a friend; for he has all those fellows in a string! So in went his Latinship, and off they put. Bob fell into such a fit of laughter, he says I might have heard him a mile off. I don’t think Bob has his fellow upon earth for fun.’
Eugenia now interrupted the narration, with a serious enquiry where Dr. Orkborne was at present.
Lynmere, shouting at what he thought the ridicule of this concern, answered, that Bob had told the fisherman to go about his own business, unless the Doctor offered to pay him handsomely for taking him on board the yacht; but thinking it would be a good joke to know what was become of him, he had gone himself, with Halder, and some more choice blades, to the beach, about half an hour ago, to make Bob see if the fishing boat was come in; and, by good luck, they arrived at the very nick of time, and saw the Doctor, the fish, and the fishing-tackle, all hauled out together. ‘And a better sight was never seen before, I promise you!’ continued Lynmere; ‘I thought I should quite have burst my sides with looking at him, he was so wet and so cold, and so miserable; and when I thought of his having had no dinner, I shouted till I was ready to roll on the beach-and he smelt so of the fish, that I could have hugged Bob, ’twas such monstrous good sport. He got three half crowns in a minute for his ingenuity. Halder began;-and two others of us gave two more.’
‘Poor Dr. Orkborne! and where is he now?’ said Eugenia.
‘Why we got about the fisherman, and then we had all the same fun over again: He says, that, at first, the poor gentleman was in a great taking, fretting and fuming, and looking out for the yacht, and seeming almost beside himself for hurry to get to it; but after that, he takes out a little red book and a pencil, and falls to writing, just as hard as if he’d come into the boat for nothing else; insomuch, that when they were just coming along-side the yacht, he never lifted up his head, nor listened to one word, but kept making a motion with his hand to be let alone: and when the man said the yacht would be passed, he bid him hold his peace, and not interrupt him so, in such a pettish manner, that the man resolved to take honest Bob’s advice, and go on about his own business. And so he did, and the Doctor was as content as a lord, till he had scribbled all he could scratch out of his noddle: but then came the best sport of all; for when he had nothing more to write, and looked up, and saw the boat stock still, and the man fishing at his leisure, and heard the yacht had been bound homeward of a good hour, he was in such a perilous passion, the man says, that he actually thought he’d have jumped overboard. I’ll bet what you will he won’t ask Bob to call him a boat again in a hurry.’
‘As to his behaviour,’ said Miss Margland, ‘it’s the last thing in the world to surprize me, after what I have seen myself; nor any body else, I believe, neither. Who is Dr. Orkborne? I doubt much if any body ever heard his name before. I should like to know if any body can tell who was his grandfather!’
She then declared, if she could get any soul to fetch him, he should still come, if it were only that he might not pass the evening all in his own way, which would be just the thing to encourage him to hide himself out of sight, on purpose not to help them another time.
Eugenia was going to beg he might not be disturbed, when Melmond, all alacrity to seize any means of absenting himself from the two cousins, who produced in him so severe a conflict, offered his services to carry a message to the Doctor; which, being readily accepted, he set off.
Indiana and Eugenia, not wholly without similarity of sensation, looked after him. Indiana had now caught his eye; and though quickness was no part of her character, the tale it told had convinced her that her power, though no longer acknowledged was not extinguished; it required neither elemental precepts, nor sagacious perceptions, to make this discovery, and she exultingly determined to appease her late mortification, by reducing him to her feet. She stopt not to enquire what such a step might be to Eugenia, nor what was likely, or even desirable to be its event. Where narrow minds imagine they have received injury, they seek revenge rather than redress, from an opinion that such a conduct asserts their own importance.
Still vainly, and wretchedly, the eyes of Camilla sought Edgar: the evening advanced, but he came not; yet, catching at every possible chance for hope, she thought some other room that they had not visited, might be open for company, where, finally, they might meet.
Dr. Orkborne accompanied Melmond back. Miss Margland was preparing him a reproachful reception, but was so much offended by the fishy smell which he brought into the room, that she had immediate recourse to her salts, and besought him to stand out of her way. He complied without reluctance, though with high disdain.
The young ladies were all dancing. Indiana had no sooner perceived Melmond, than she determined to engage his attention: the arts of coquetry require but slender parts, where the love of admiration is potent; she pretended, therefore, to feel extremely ill, put her hand to her forehead, and telling her partner, Mr. Halder, she could not stand another minute, hastened to Miss Margland, and cast herself, as if fainting, upon her neck.
This had all the success with Melmond that his own lively imagination could give it. He flew to a side-table to get her a glass of water, which his trembling hand could scarce hold, but which she received from him with a languishing sweetness, that dissolved every tie but of love, and he ‘hung over her enamoured;’ [Milton] while Miss Margland related that she could hardly keep from fainting herself, so much she had been shocked and disordered by the horrid smell of Dr. Orkborne.
Indiana now caught the infection, and protested she was so much worse, that if she had not a little air she should die. Melmond was flying to open a window, but a lady who sat close to it, objected; and he had then recourse to two folding doors, leading to a portico open to a large garden.
Hither Indiana permitted herself to be led, and led by the thrice happy, yet thrice miserable Melmond. Miss Margland was accompanying them, but Lady Pervil, advancing to enquire what went wrong, gave her an opportunity irresistible to inveigh against Dr. Orkborne; and as her well-bred hearer, though little interested in such a detail, would not interrupt it, Indiana arrived alone in the portico with Melmond. Halder, who had danced with her, followed, but supposing Melmond the favoured man, walked singing off, and made the tour of the garden.
This situation was to Melmond as dangerous, as to Indiana it was exulting. She now suddenly withdrew her hand, with an air of poignant disdain, which the illuminated portico and house made amply visible; and when, surprised and much moved, he tremblingly enquired if she were worse, she answered, ‘Why do you ask? I am sure you do not care.’
Easily deprived of all forbearance, ‘Heavens!’ he exclaimed, ‘do I live, yet suffer this imputation! O divine Indiana! load me with every other reproach, rather than this dreadful charge of insensibility to all that is most lovely, most perfect upon earth!’
‘I thought,’ said Indiana, again softening her fine eyes, ‘you had quite forgot me, and all the vows you made to me.’
‘Wretch that I am,’ cried Melmond nearly distracted by this charge, and by the regret at losing him, which seemed its purpose, ‘condemned to every species of woe! O fair, angelic Indiana! in a cottage with you would I have dwelt, more delightedly, and more proudly, than any potentate in the most gorgeous palace: but, alas! from you-formed to enchant all mankind, and add grace to every dignity-from you could I dare ask such a sacrifice?’
Indiana now listened with an attentive softness no longer factitious; though all her views wafted her to splendour and high life, her ear could not withstand the romantic sound of love and a cottage; and though no character was ever less formed to know and taste the blessings such a spot may bestow and reciprocate, she imagined she might there be happy, for she considered such a habitation but as a bower of eglantine and roses, in which she might repose and be adored all day long.
Melmond saw but too quickly the relenting cast of her countenance; and ecstasy and despair combated which should bear sway in his breast. ‘Ah, madam,’ he cried, ‘most adorable and most adored of women! you know my terrible situation, but you know not the sufferings, nor the constancy of my heart!-the persecution of friends, the pressure of distress, the hopelessness of my idolized Indiana–’
A deep sigh interrupted him-it came not from Indiana-startled, he looked round-and beheld Eugenia, leaning against the door by which she seemed to have intended entering, pale, petrified, aghast.
Shame now tied his tongue, and tingled, with quick reproach, through his whole frame. He looked at Indiana with despair, at Eugenia with remorse; injured rectitude and blushing honour urged him to the swiftest termination of so every way terrible a scene, and bowing low to Eugenia, ‘I durst not, madam,’ he cried, ‘ever hope for your pardon! yet I rather deluded myself than deceived you when I ventured to solicit your acceptance. Alas! I am a bankrupt both in fortune and in heart, and can only pray you will hasten to forget-that you may forbear to execrate me!’
He then disappeared, finding a way out by the garden, to avoid re-entering the ball-room.
Eugenia, who, in this speech, comprehended an eternal adieu, sunk upon the seat of the portico, cold, shivering, almost lifeless. Little prepared for such an event, she had followed Indiana the moment she was disengaged from the dance, not suspicious of any tête-à-tête, from believing Halder of the party. The energy of Melmond made her approach unheard; and the words she unavoidably caught, nearly turned her to marble.
Indiana was sorry for her distress, yet felt a triumph in its cause; and wondered how so plain a little creature could take it into her head to think of marrying.
Camilla now joined them, affrighted at the evident anguish of Eugenia, who, leaning upon her affectionate bosom, had the relief excited by pity, of bursting into tears, while despondingly she uttered: ‘All is over, my sister, and over for life with Eugenia! Melmond flies and detests me! I am odious in his sight! I am horror to this thoughts!’
Camilla wept over her in silent, but heart-breaking sympathy. Indiana returned to the dance: but the two suffering sisters remained in the portico till summoned to depart. They were insensible to the night air, from the fever of their minds. They spoke no more; they felt the insufficiency of words to express their griefs, and their mutual compassion was all that softened their mutual sorrows.
LOST to all happiness, and for the first time in her life, divested of hope, Camilla at a late hour returned to Mrs. Berlinton’s . And here, her heart-breaking disappointment received the cruel aggravation of the most severe self-reproach, when, in facing the mirror to deposit her ornaments upon the toilette table, she considered the expensive elegance of her whole dress, now, even in her own estimation, by its abortive purpose, rendered glaringly extravagant. Since her project had failed, she saw the impropriety of having risked so much in its attempt; and a train of just reflections ensued, to which her understanding was always equal, though her gaiety was seldom disposed. ‘Would Edgar,’ thought she, ‘wait the event of a meeting at a ball to decide his conduct? Had he not every title to claim a conference with me, if he had the smallest inclination? Rejected as he calls himself, I had not pretended to demand our separation from any doubts, any displeasure of my own. From the moment he suffered me to quit, without reclamation, the roof under which I had proposed our parting, I ought to have seen it was but his own desire, perhaps design, I was executing. And all the reluctance he seemed to feel, which so weakly I attributed to regard, was but the expiring sensibility of the last moment of intercourse. Not with murmurs, he says, he will quit me-nor with murmurs will I now resign him!-with blessings, he says, he leaves me–O Edgar! mayest thou too be blest! The erring and unequal Camilla deserved thee not!’
A more minute examination of her attire was not calculated to improve her serenity. Her robe was everywhere edged with the finest Valencienne lace; her lilac shoes, sash, and gloves, were richly spangled with silver, and finished with a silver fringe; her ear-rings and necklace were of lilac and gold beads; her fan and shoe roses were brilliant with lilac foil, and her bouquet of artificial lilac flowers, and her plumes of lilac feathers, were here and there tipt with the most tiny transparent white beads, to give them the effect of being glittering with the dew.
Of the cost of all this she was no judge, but, certain its amount must be high, a warm displeasure arose against the incorrigible Mrs. Mittin, who had not only taken the pattern, but the value of Mrs. Berlinton’s dress for her guide: and a yet greater dissatisfaction ensued with herself, for trusting the smallest commission to so vain and ungovernable an agent. She could only hope to hoard the payment from the whole of her next year’s allowance, by living in so forbearing and retired a manner, as to require nothing for herself.
The new, but all powerful guest which now assailed her, unhappiness, had still kept her eyes from closing, when she was called up to Mr. Tennet, the landlord of Higden. Her fuller knowledge of her own hopeless debts, could not make her faithless to her engagement; for her acquaintance with misery awakened but more pity for the misery of others. She admitted him, therefore, without demur; and found he was a land surveyor, who had often been employed by Sir Hugh at Cleves. He accepted her verbal promise to be answerable for the rent now due, declining her note of hand, which her minority made illegal, and engaging not to hurry her for the money; well satisfied, by the Tyrold character in the whole county, he might abide by her word of honour, founded upon the known munificence of her uncle.
This delay was a relief, as it saved a partial demand, that must have forced an abrupt confession of her own debts, or have deceived the baronet into a belief she had nothing to solicit.
When this business was transacted, she hastened to Eugenia, to console whose sufferings was all that could mitigate her own.
One of the maids then came to say she had forgotten to inform her, that, some time after she had set out for Lord Pervil’s a stranger, much muffled up, and with a hat flapped over his face so as wholly to hide it, had enquired for her, and seemed much disturbed when he heard she was at the ball, but said he would call again the next day at noon.
No conjecture occurred to Camilla but that this must be Edgar; it was contrary to all probability; but no other image could find way to her mind. She hastened, inexpressibly perturbed, to her sister, determining to be at home before twelve o’clock, and fashioning to herself all the varieties such a meeting could afford; every one of which, however they began, ended regularly with a reconciliation.
She found Eugenia weeping in bed. She embraced her with the extremest tenderness: ‘Ah my sister!’ said the unhappy mourner, ‘I weep not for my disappointment, great as it may be-and I do not attempt describing it!-it is but my secondary sorrow. I weep, Camilla, for my own infatuation! for the folly, the blindness of which I find myself culpable. O Camilla! is it possible I could ever-for a moment, a single moment, suppose Melmond could willingly be mine! could see his exquisite susceptibility of every thing that is most perfect, yet persuade myself, he could take, by choice, the poor Eugenia for his wife! the mangled, deformed, unfortunate Eugenia!’
Camilla, touched to the heart, wept now more than her sister. ‘That Eugenia,’ she cried, ‘has but to be known, to leave all beauty, all figure, every exterior advantage aloof, by the nobler, the more just superiority of intrinsic worth. Let our estimates but be mental, and who will not be proud to be placed in parallel with Eugenia?’
She was then beginning her own sad relation, when an unopened letter upon the toilette table caught her eye. It had been placed there by Molly Mill, who thought her mistress asleep. Struck by the shape of the seal, Camilla rose to examine it: what was her palpitation, then, to see the cypher E.M., and, turning to the other side, to perceive the hand writing of Edgar!
She put it into her sister’s hand, with expectation too big for speech. Eugenia opened it, and they read it silently together.
To Miss EUGENIA TYROLD,
’Tis yet but a short time-in every account but my own-since I thought myself forming a legal claim to address Miss Eugenia Tyrold as my sister. Every other claim to that affectionate and endearing title has been hers beyond her own memory; hers by the filial love I bear her venerated parents; hers, by the tender esteem due to the union of almost every virtue. These first and early ties must remain for ever. Disappointment here cannot pierce her barbarous shafts, fortune cannot wanton in reversing, nor can time dissolve them.–
‘O Edgar!’ exclaimed Camilla, stopping the reading, and putting her hand, as in benediction, upon the paper, ‘do you deign to talk of disappointment? do you condescend to intimate you are unhappy? Ah, my Eugenia, you shall clear this dreadful error! ’tis to you he applies-you shall be peace-maker; restorer!’
Eugenia dried her tears at the thought of so sweet an office, and they read on.
Of the other-yet nearer claim, I will not speak. You have probably known longer than myself, its annihilation, and I will not pain your generous heart with any view of my sufferings in such a deprivation. I write but to take with my pen the leave I dare not trust myself to take by word of mouth; to wish to your opening prospects all the happiness that has flown mine, and to entreat you to answer for me to the whole of your loved family, that its name is what, through life, my ear with most reverence will hear, my heart with most devotion will love.
At the kind wish upon her own opening prospects, Eugenia wept afresh; but when Camilla took the letter to press to her lips and her heart what he said of his sufferings, she perceived at the doubling down, two lines more:–
I am this moment leaving Southampton for the Isle of Wight, whence I shall sail to the first port, that the first vessel with which I may meet shall be bound.
‘No, my dear Eugenia,’ cried she, then colouring, and putting down the letter, ‘your mediation will be spared. He acquaints us he is quitting England. He can only mention it to avoid the persecution of an answer. Certainly none shall be obtruded upon him.’
Eugenia pleaded that still a letter might overtake him at the Isle of Wight, and all misunderstanding might be rectified. ‘And then, my sister, all may be well, and your happiness renewed.–It has not flown you-like that of Eugenia-from any radical cause. Her’s is not only gone, past all resource, but has left behind it disgrace with sorrow, derision with disappointment!’
Camilla strove to soothe her, but would no longer listen to any mediation; she resolved, at once, to write of the separation to her father, and beseech him to send for her to Etherington, and never again suffer her to quit that roof, where alone her peace was without disturbance, her conduct without reproach. Even her debts, now, she felt equal to avowing, for as, far from contracting new ones, she meant in future to reside in complete obscurity, she hoped the feelings of this moment would procure pardon for her indiscretions, which her own sedulous future oeconomy should be indefatigable to repair.
Eugenia would not strive longer against a procedure which she deemed dignified, and the departure of Camilla was hurried by a messenger, who brought word that the strange man, with the flapped hat, was returned, and entreated her, for Heaven’s sake, to let him speak with her one moment.
Dead, now, to the hope she had entertained of this enquirer, she merely from his own urgency complied with his call; for her curiosity was gone since she now knew it could not be Edgar.
Edgar, indeed, was actually departed. His heart was loaded with sorrow, his prospect seemed black with despondence; but Camilla was lost to that perfect confidence, and unbounded esteem, he required to feel for his wife, and no tenderness without them, no partial good opinion, nor general admiration, could make him wish to lead her to the altar. ‘No!’ cried he, ‘Dr. Marchmont; you judged me better than my first passion, and her untried steadiness enabled me to judge myself. Misery only could have followed my view of her in the mixt society in which the thousand accidents of life might occasionally have placed us. I can only be happy with a character as simple in the world, as in retirement; as artless at an assembly, as in a cottage. Without that heavenly simplicity, the union of all else that renders life desirable, were vain! without that-all her enchanting qualities, with which nothing can vie, and which are entwined around my heartstrings, were ineffectual to my peace.’
‘You are right,’ said the Doctor, ‘and your timely caution, and early wisdom, will protect you from the bitterness of a personal experience like mine. With all the charms she assembles, her character seems too unstable for private domestic life. When a few years more have blunted the wild vivacity, the floating ambition, the changing propensities which now render her inconsistent to others, and fluctuating even to herself, she may yet become as respectable, as she must always be amiable. But now, . . . whoever takes her from the circle in which she is playing, will see her lost to all piety, though without daring to complain, from the restraint of bidden duties, which make the bidder a tyrant.’
Edgar shrunk from such a part, and immediately prepared for his long projected tour.
He had, originally, purposed visiting Mr. Tyrold before he set out, and conversing with him upon the state of danger in which he thought his daughter; but his tenderness for her feelings, during his last adieu, had beguiled him of this plan, lest it should prove painful, injurious, or inauspicious to her own views or designs in breaking to her friends their breach. He now addressed a few lines to his revered guardian, to be delivered by Dr. Marchmont; to whom he gave discretionary powers, if any explanation should be demanded; though clogged with an earnest clause, that he would neither advance, nor confess any thing that could hurt Camilla, even a moment, unless to avert from her some danger, or substantiate some good.
Dr. Marchmont determined to accompany him to the Isle of Wight, whither he resolved to go, and wait for his baggage; and undertook the superintendance of his estate and affairs in his absence.
When they were summoned to the little vessel, Edgar changed colour, his heart beat quick, and he sighed rather than breathed. He held his hand upon his eyes and forehead for a few minutes, in agony inexpressible, then silently gave his servant the letter he had written for Eugenia, took the Doctor by the arm, walked to the beach, and got aboard; his head still turned wholly towards the town, his eyes looking above it, as if seeking to fix the habitation of Camilla. Dr. Marchmont sought to draw his attention another way, but it was rivetted to the spot they were quitting.
‘I feel truly your unhappiness, my dear Mandlebert,’ said he, ‘that this young creature, with defects of so cruel a tendency, mingles qualities of so endearing a nature. Judge, however, the predominance of what is faulty, since parents so exemplary have not been able to make the scales weigh down on the side of right. Alas! Mr. Tyrold has himself erred, in committing, at so early a period, her conduct into her own reins. The very virtues, in the first youth, are so little regulated by reflection, that, were not watched nor aided, they run into extremes nearly as pernicious, though not so unamiable as the vices. What instance more than this now before us can shew the futility of education, and the precariousness of innate worth, when the contaminating world is allowed to seize its inexperienced prey, before the character is fixed as well as formed?’
A deeply assenting sigh broke from the bosom of Edgar, whose strained eyes held their purpose, till neither beach, nor town, nor even a spire of Southampton, were discernible. Again, then, for a moment, he covered them with his hand, and exclaimed ‘Farewell! Camilla, farewell!’
QUICK, though without a wish of speed, was the return home of Camilla; she felt at this moment in that crushed and desolate state, where the sudden extinction of hope leaves the mind without energy to form even a wish. She was quick only because too nervous to be slow, and hurried on, so little knowing why, that when she came to Mrs. Berlinton’s, she was running to her own room, wholly forgetting what had called her from Eugenia, till the servant said, ‘this is the man, ma’am.’
She then saw, parading up and down the hall, a figure wrapt round in a dark blue roquelo, with no part of his face visible, from the flaps of his hat.
At another time she might have been startled: but she was now indifferent to everything, and only enquired what was his business.
He made no answer but by a low bow, pointing, at the same time to the door of one of the parlours, and then, in a supplicating manner, putting together his hands, as if begging to speak to her in private.
Careless, rather than courageous, she was going into an empty room with him, when the servant whispered her to be upon her guard, as the man had a very suspicious look.
Stopping short, then, she again repeated her question, adding, ‘I can hear anything you have to say where we now are.’
The stranger shook his head, with a motion towards the servant, that seemed to demand his absence.
Alas! thought she, it is some gentleman in distress, who wants to beg and is ashamed. I have nothing to give him! I will, at least, therefore, not insist upon his exposing himself. She then whispered the footman to keep in the hall, and near the parlour, which she entered, telling the incognito he might follow.
But she was seriously alarmed out of her apathy, upon seeing him cautiously shut the door, and sedulously examine the apartment. She wanted not presence of mind, when not robbed of it by some peculiar and poignant feelings. She turned immediately to the bell, certain its first touch would bring in the footman: but, perceiving her purpose, the stranger seized her by the arm, and in a hoarse low voice said: ‘Are you mad, Camilla? don’t you know me?’ and she recognized her brother.
She expostulated upon his having so causelessly terrified her, and enquired why he came so disguised.
He laughed heartily at her affright, and extolled his own skill in personating a subtle ruffian; declaring he liked to have a touch at all trades, in case of accidents.
‘And have you come hither, Lionel, only for this foolish and very unpleasant trick?’
‘O no, my dear! this was only for my opening. I have an hundred smart freaks in my head, any one of them worth a little trip to Southampton. Besides, I wanted to know what you were about. How does a certain master Edgar Mandlebert do? Don’t blush, child. What a little sly rogue you have been! hey ho? Tears?–My dear Camilla! what’s all this?’
She entreated him to make his enquiries of Eugenia.
‘Well, you took me in, I promise you. I fully thought the young Baronet had been the man. And, really he’s as fine a fellow as I ever saw.’
‘Do not speak of him, I beg! O Lionel!-if you knew–’ She was going to say, how through your means, that affair has injured me-but she checked complaints which she now regarded as useless, and therefore degrading; and, wiping her eyes, asked if he had yet considered the large sum, for the obligation of which he had made her seem responsible to Sir Sedley, whom she should not know how ever to meet, nor consequently, how ever to visit in the county, till some payment, if not made, were at least arranged.
‘Pho, pho, my dear child, don’t be so Vellum-like; you’ll be fit for nothing, soon, but to file bills and score accounts. What’s two hundred to him? Hang him! I wish ’twere as much again–I hate making a fuss about nothing. But come, tell me something to raise my spirits–I am horribly melancholy. I’ve some notion of making a little sport here with Miss Scare-crow. How does she go on? Waspish as ever?’
‘Do tell me, seriously, Lionel, what it is has brought you hither?’
‘Two things, my dear. The first of which is the pleasure of seeing you; and the second, is a little amusement I propose myself with old Dr. Hic, HÃ¦c, Hoc. I find Clermont’s had rare sport with him already. It’s deuced unlucky I did not come sooner.’
‘Clermont? When did you see Clermont?’
‘Don’t be curious, child. I never encourage curiosity. It always leads to disagreeable questions. You may tell me any thing you please, but ask nothing. That’s my manner of dealing with little girls. How did you like my sending the Major to you? Was not that good fudge?’ What do you look so grave for, my dear? You’re enough to give one the vapours.’
Camilla attempted not to rally; she felt pierced as by a poniard at the very sight of Lionel. The debt he had made her contract with Sir Sedley, the secrecy it exacted, the correspondence it had drawn on, the cruel circumstances it had produced, and the heartbreaking event to which it had, ultimately, led, made his view excite sensations too corrosive, and reflections too bitter, for any enjoyment of a piety, which her utmost partiality could not disentangle from levity the most unfeeling.
‘Come, come, for pity’s sake, be a little less stupid, I conjure you. How terribly you want a good shaking! shall I give you one? By the way, you have never thanked me for sending you that smart young tinker. You are horribly ungrateful to all my tender care to provide you a good spouse. What! not a smile? Not one dear little dimple for all my rattle? Nay, then, if that’s the case, let’s to business at once. Anything is better than mawkishness. I always preferred being flogged for a frolic, to being told I was a good boy, at the expence of sitting still, and learning my lesson.’
‘And what business, my dear Lionel? Have you really any?’
‘O yes, always; nobody has more; only I do it so briskly, people always suppose it nothing but pleasure. However, just at this minute, I am really in rather an ugly dilemma. You know, my dear girl, there is a certain little rather awkward affair of mine, which I once hinted to you.’–
‘Lionel, I hope, at least,’–
‘O, none of your hopes with that grave face! Hope, with a grave face, always means fear. Now, as I am already half shoes over in the slough of despond, ’twill be horrid ungenerous to poke me still lower.’
Camilla now began to tremble, and would ask no questions–Lionel, when he had silenced her, seemed at a loss how to proceed; he walked about the room with quick jerks, opened and shut the window, seated himself upon every chair, and every table; and then, in a half passion, said: ‘so you don’t want to hear any more? and you don’t care a fig if I’m hanged or drowned?’
‘My spirits are not high, my dear Lionel; and my head is full, and my heart is oppressed: if you have any thing, therefore, important to say, speak, I beg without trifling.’
‘Nay, there’s nothing new; so don’t look frightened; it’s an the same old story.’
‘You continue, then, that dark, mysterious connexion? O brother!’
‘Why she’s so pretty! so monstrous pretty! besides, she doats upon me. You don’t half conceive what a pretty fellow I am, Camilla. A sister never knows how to judge a man. All the women like me prodigiously.’
‘Indeed, Lionel, you take an undue advantage of my affection. I must seriously insist that you mention this subject to me no more.’
‘I don’t intend it. I intend to finish with this once-provided you do me one last good turn. Will you, now? Come, don’t be queer.’–
‘I will do nothing, absolutely nothing in so improper-so shocking a business. Indeed, I know not how to forgive you for naming it again.’
‘Well, then, I’ll pledge you my word and honour you shall never hear of it more, if you’ll only grant me this one favour.’
Displeased at the past, and frightened for what might be to come, she protested she would immediately leave the room, if he continued this persecution: adding, ‘how affectionately I love you, I need not, I am sure, say; but a confidence such as this, from a brother to a sister, disgraces us both: and let me penetrate, but not irritate you, if I own, that I much doubt whether I ought not from the beginning, to have revealed this transaction at Etherington. Do not be angry Lionel: has not every consideration been surmounted by the fear of giving you pain?’
Finding he still would be heard, she was peremptorily quitting the room; but when she had her hand upon the door, he effectually stopt her, by saying, ‘Nay, then, if nothing will content you but getting the whole out at once, you may make yourself easy, the business is at end, for-we’re blown!’
‘I must certainly be glad if such a business is at an end, Lionel; but how do you mean blown? to whom? in what manner?’
‘To every body, I’m afraid; for the husband’s upon the point of getting at it.’
‘O, the deuce! I did not mean to say that: however, it’s out! and as it must have been known sooner or later’–
Camilla now had an air the nearest to severity she had ever worn: ‘Adieu, Lionel!’ she cried, ‘I am sorry for you, indeed; but you must find another hearer for this guilty history.–I will listen no more!’
Lionel now detained her by force. ‘How can you take up the thing so wrong,’ said he; ‘when I tell you it’s over, isn’t that enough? Besides, I promise you I have not wanted for my punishment: when you hear all, you’ll find that.’
Too sick for speech, yet too weak for resistance, she was constrained to return to her seat, and hear what he pleased to relate.
‘My adventure, my dear, was discovered entirely by the want of a little hush money. ’Tis the very deuce and all for a man to be in love when he is poor. If I had only had a little hush-money-yes, yes, I understand that eye! but as to those paltry sums I have had, from time to time, since this affair, why they could not be expected to last for ever: And the first went to a housemaid,-and the second to the groom,-and the third’–
‘Lionel! Lionel! is this a communication-are these particulars for me?’
‘Nay, I only mention it to let you know it’s all gone fairly. Besides, as to her being a married woman, which, I see, is what you think so much the worst of all, I assure you, if you knew her husband, you would not wonder; he deserves every thing. Such a tiresome quiz! It was often hours before we could get rid of him. You never knew such a blockhead. The poor thing can’t bear him. But she’s fond of me to distraction. Nay, nay, don’t frown so! If you’ll believe me, Camilla, you’ll quite spoil your face. Well, the fellow that threatens to betray us, won’t keep our secret under three hundred pounds! There’s an unconscionable knave! However, I thought that better than a trial too; not that she would have broken her heart at a separation, you’ll believe; but then . . . there’s a certain horrid thing called damages! And then my father’s particularities,-and my mother’s seeing things in such strong lights-and a parson’s son,-and all that.’–
Camilla, shaking and pale, now entreated him to get her a glass of water, and, for a while, at least, to forbear continuing this terrible story.
He consented to ring for the water, and then, more briefly, went on.
‘Finding it vain to hope any longer for entire concealment, I thought a private discovery less shocking than a public one; and therefore, telling my story as well as I could, I stated that three hundred pounds would save both the expences and publicity of a trial; and, with every possible profession of contrition and reformation, I humbly petitioned for that sum from my uncle.’
‘My poor uncle! alas! what unreasonable-unmerciful claims every way surround him!’
‘He’s well revenged for mine, I promise you! There’s no plague lost between us, as you’ll own, when you’ve heard the end of my poor petition. I followed up my letter, according to my usual custom, the next day, in order to receive my money, knowing poor uncle hates writing worse than giving: well, and when I arrived, my mind just made up to a few gentle reprimands against naughtiness, and as many gentle promises to do so no more; out pops me the old butler, and says his master can’t see me! Not see me? Why, who’s with him? Your father, Sir! O, then for your life, cries I, don’t say I have been here-but now–Camilla will you think me punished or not?–My uncle had a little gout in his right-hand, and had made my father open and read-that very day,-all his letters! If ever you knew old Nick serve a poor young fellow a worse turn than that, tell me so? I owe him such a grudge for it, I could almost find in my heart to turn parson myself.’
Camilla could not utter a word. She dropt her head over her folded arms upon the table, to hide her offending brother from her sight, whom now, placed in opposition to her all-excellent father, she blamed beyond her powers, beyond what she conceived even her rights of expression.
‘Why now, my dear Camilla, what do you hide your face for? Do you think I’m not as sorry for this thing as you can be for the life of you? However, now comes the worst; and if you don’t pity me when you hear this, you may depend upon it you have no bowels. I was making off as fast as I could, mum the word to the servants, when in comes old Jacob with a letter. I snatched it from him, hoping my uncle had privately sent me a draft-but the direction was written by my father! Don’t you begin to feel a little for me now?’
She could only raise her head to ejaculate, ‘My poor-poor father!’ and then, nearly in an agony, drop it again.
‘Hey-day, Camilla? how’s this? what! not one word of poor, poor brother, too? why you are harder than flint. However, read that letter. And then, if you don’t think me the most unhappy young fellow in existence, you are fit to devise tortures for the inquisition.’
She took the letter eagerly, yet awfully, kissed in weeping the hand-writing, and read what follows:
To LIONEL TYROLD, Esq.
To have brought up my family with the purity of principle which the holy profession of their father ought to inspire him to teach, has been, from the hour that my paternal solicitudes commenced, the most fervent of my prayers. How my hopes have been deluded you have but too long known; how grossly they have failed has reached my own knowledge but this moment. I here resign the vain expectation, that through my son the community might bless me: may a forfeiture so dread not extend to me, also, through my daughters!–
Camilla stopt, sunk upon her knees, and devoutly repeated the last sentence, with her own ardent supplications joined to it before she could proceed.
A few words more must, for the present, suffice between us. Accident, by throwing into my hands this last letter to the uncle whose goodness you have most unwarrantably and unfeelingly abused, has given birth to an investigation, by which I have arrived at the discovery of the long course of rapacity by which you have pillaged from the same source. Henceforth, you will find it dry. I have stated to my brother the mistake of his compliance, and obtained his solemn word, that all intercourse between you, that has not my previous approbation, shall here finally cease. You will now, therefore, empty no more those coffers which, but for you, have only been opened to the just claims of benevolence. You will regard this detection as the wrath of ill-fortune; I view it, on the contrary, as the mercy of Providence. What were further pecuniary exonerations, but deeper plunges into vilifying dissoluteness? If, as you intimate, the refusal of your present demands will expose you to public shame, may its shock awaken feelings that may restore you to private virtue! I cannot spare you from disgrace, by aiding you in corruption; I cannot rescue you from worldly dishonour, by hiding and abetting crimes that may unfold to eternal misery. To errour I would be lenient; to penitence I would be consoling; to reformation I would open my arms: but to him who confesses his guilt only to save himself from punishment, to him who would elude the incurred penalties of his wickedness, by shamelessly soliciting a respectable old relation to use bribery for its concealment,-to him, I can only say, since all precepts of virtue have failed to shew thee its excellence, go! learn of misfortune the evils, at least of vice! Pay to the laws of society what retribution they require for their violation-and if suffering should lead to contrition, and seclusion from the world bring thee back to rectitude, then thou may’st find again thy father
Another name I mention not. I present not to this sullied page an image of such purity: yet, if thy own thoughts dare paint it to thy view, will not thy heart, O Lionel! smite thee and say,–From her native land, from her sorrowing husband, from daughters just opening into life, by my follies and indiscretions I have driven my mother-by my guilt I shall make her blush to return to them?–
Camilla wept over this letter till its characters were almost effaced by her tears. To withhold from her father the knowledge of the misconduct of Lionel, what had she not suffered? what not sacrificed? yet to find it all unavailing, to find him thus informed of his son’s wanton calls for money, his culpable connection, and his just fears of seeing it published and punished,-and to consider with all this, that Edgar, through these unpardonable deviations from right, was irretrievably lost to her, excited sorrow the most depressing for her father, and regrets scarce supportable for herself.
‘Well,’ cried Lionel, ‘what do you think of my case now? Don’t you allow I pay pretty handsomely for a mere young man’s gambol? I assure you I don’t know what might have been the consequence, if Jacob had not afforded me a little comfort. He told me you were going to be married to ‘squire Mandlebert, and that you were all at Southton, and that he was sure you would do any thing in the world to get me out of jeopardy; and so, thinking pretty much the same myself, here I am! Well, what say you, Camilla? Will you speak a little word for me to Edgar?’
Shame, now taking place of affliction, stopt her tears, which dried upon her burning cheeks, as she answered, ‘He is well known to you, Lionel:-you can address him yourself!’
‘No; that’s your mistake, my dear. I have a little odd money matter to settle with him already; and besides, we have had a sort of a falling out upon the subject; for when I spoke to him about it last, he gave himself the airs of an old justice of the peace, and said if he did not find the affair given up, nothing should induce him ever to help me again. What a mere codger that lad has turned out!’
‘Ah, noble Edgar! just, high-principled, and firm!’ half pronounced Camilla, while again the icicles dissolved, and trickled down her face.
‘See but the different way in which things strike people! however, it is not very pretty in you, Camilla, to praise him for treating me so scurvily. But come, dost think he’ll lend me the money?’
‘Lend,’ repeated she, significantly.
‘Ay lend; for I shall pay it every farthing; and every thing else.’
‘And how? And when?’
‘Why,-with old unky Relvil’s fortune.’
‘For shame, brother!’
‘Nay, nay, you know as well as I do, I must have it at last. Who else has he to leave it to? Come, will you beg the three hundred for me? He dare not refuse you, you know, in your day of power.’
‘Lionel,’ cried she, with extreme emotion, ‘I shall see him no more! nor, perhaps may you!–He has left England.’
‘Impossible! why Jacob told me unky was working night and day at preparations for your keeping the wedding at Cleves.’
‘I cannot talk upon this subject. I must beseech you to reserve your enquiries for Eugenia.’
‘I must go to her then, directly. I have not a moment to lose. If you won’t make Edgar help me in this business-and I know he won’t do it of his own accord, I am utterly done up. There will remain but one single thing for me. So now for my roquelo. But do only tell me, Camilla, if you ever knew such a poor unlucky wight? for before I came to you, certain it would not be easy to make that young prig do any thing he had already declared against, I found out cousin Clermont. What a handsome coxcomb that is! Well, I told him my case, for one young fellow soon comprehends the difficulties of another, and begged him to ask for the money of uncle Hugh, as if for himself, telling him, that as he was a newcomer, and a new beginner, he could not so readily be refused; and promising to serve him as good a turn myself, when he had got a little into our ways, and wanted it, with my good uncle Relvil. Well! what do you think was the next news? It’s enough to make a man’s hair stand on end, to see what a spite fortune has taken to me! Do you know he has got debts of his own, of one sort or another, that poor unky has never heard of, to the amount of upwards of a thousand pounds?’
He then muffled himself up and departed.
CAMILLA remained in a state of accumulated distress, that knew not upon what object most to dwell: her father, shocked and irritated beyond the mild endurance of his character; her brother, wantonly sporting with his family’s honour, and his own morals and reputation; her uncle, preparing for nuptials broken off without his knowledge; Edgar, by a thousand perversities of accident, of indiscretion, of misunderstanding, for ever parted from her;-rushed all together upon her mind, each combating for precedence, each individually foiled, yet all collectively triumphant. Nor were even these her sole subjects of affliction: yet another cause was added, in debts contracted from mingled thoughtlessness, inexperience, and generosity, augmented to she knew not what sum, and to be paid by she knew not what means. And this topic, which in itself seemed to her the least interesting, soon, by the circumstances with which it was connected, grew the most pressing of any. How, at a moment like this, could she make her purposed confession to her father, whose wounded mind demanded all she could offer of condolement? How call upon her uncle to be responsible for what she owed, when she now knew the enormous accounts preparing for him from Clermont, of which he was himself yet uninformed?
Lionel soon returned. ‘So it’s really all off?’ he cried; ‘dame Fortune, methinks, has a mind to give me a taste of her art that I shan’t easily forget. Eugenia would tell me no particulars. But, since things are thus, there is only one step left for poor Pillgarlick. I must whisk over to the Continent.’
‘To the Continent? without consulting my father? without–’
‘My father?–Why, you see he gives me up. He thinks–I thank him!-a little wholesome discipline will do me good. Don’t you understand what he means by seclusion from the world? A prison, my dear! a gaol! However, I’m not quite of that opinion. I really think a man’s as well off in a little open air. So fare thee well, child. As soon as ever my dear uncle Relvil says good night, I’ll come home again, and wish you all good morning.’
‘Well, well! I know it’s very wrong, and all that; so say nothing. Don’t distress me, I beg, for I hate to be hipped. Besides, old Relvil don’t deserve much better; why can’t he behave like a man, and settle an annuity upon himself, and an old servant, and a dog, and a cat, and a parrot, and then let an honest young fellow see a little of the world handsomely, and like a gentleman? But your bachelor uncles, and maiden aunts, are the most tantalizing fellows and fellowesses in the creation.’
He then kissed her, and was going; but, earnestly detaining him, she conjured that he would let her first hint his design to their father, that at least it might be set aside, if it would still more deeply disturb him.
‘No, child, no; I know his way of reasoning already. He thinks every man should pay for what he owes, either with money or stripes. Now my poor dear little body is not of that opinion. And what would they get by having me shut up in prison? And I’ll defy ’em to cast me in any other damages. I’ve a few debts, too, of my own, that make me a little uneasy. I don’t mean to trades people; they can wait well enough; our credit is good: but a man looks horrid small, walking about, when he can’t pay his debts of honour. However, when I disappear, perhaps my father will take compassion upon my character. If not, the Relvil estate shall wipe off all in the long run.’
‘And is it possible, Lionel, thus lightly, thus negligently, thus unmoved, you can plan such a journey? such an exile?’
‘Why what can I do? what can I possibly do? I am obliged to be off in my own defence. Unless, indeed, I marry little Miss Dennel, which I have once or twice thought of; for she’s a monstrous fool. But then she is very rich. How should you like her for a sister? Nay, nay, I’m serious. Don’t shake your head as if I was joking. What do you think of her for my spouse?’
‘She is a good girl, I believe, Lionel, though a simple one; and I should be sorry to see her unhappy; and how could either of you be otherwise, with contempt such as this?’
‘Bless thy heart, my little dear, what have husbands and wives to do with making one another unhappy? Prithee don’t set about forming thy notions of married people from the parsonage-house, and conclude a wife no better than a real rib, sticking always close to a man’s side. You grow so horrid sententious, I really begin to believe you intend to take out your diploma soon, and put on the surplice my father meant for his poor son.’
‘Alas, Lionel!-how changed, how hard-forgive me if I say how hard must you be grown, to be capable of gaiety and rattle at this period!’
‘You’ll die an old maid, Camilla, take my word for it. And I’m really sorry, for you’re not an ugly girl. You might have been got off. But come, don’t look so melancholy at a little silly sport. The world is so full of sorrow, my dear girl, so little visited by happiness, that chearfulness is almost as necessary as existence, in such a vale of tears.’
‘What can induce you to laugh, Lionel, at such words?’
‘I can’t help it, faith! I was thinking I spoke so like a parson’s son!’
Camilla cast up her eyes and hands: ‘Lionel,’ she cried, ‘what have you done with your heart? has it banished every natural feeling? has the affecting letter of the best of fathers, his cruel separation from the most excellent of mothers, and even your own dreadfully censurable conduct, served but to amuse you with ridicule and derision?’
‘Camilla,’ cried he, taking her hands, ‘you wrong me! you think I have no feeling, because I am not always crying. However, shall I tell you the truth? I hate myself! and so completely hate myself at this moment, that I dare not be grave! dare not suffer reflection to take hold of me, lest it should make life too odious for me to bear it. I have run on from folly to wickedness for want of thought; and now thought is ready to come back, I must run from that, for want of fortitude. What has bewitched me, I know no more than you; but I never meant to play this abominable part. And now, if I did not flog up my spirits to prevent their flagging, I suppose I should hang or drown. And, believe me, if I were condemned to the galleys, I should think it less than I deserve; for I hate myself, I repeat–I honour my father, though I have used him so ill; I love my mother,-for all her deuced severity,-to the bottom of my soul; I would cut off my left arm for Lavinia and Eugenia; and for thee, Camilla, I would lop off my right!–But yet, when some frolic or gambol comes into my way, I forget you all! clear out of my memory you all walk, as if I had never beheld you!’
Camilla now embraced him with a deluge of tears, entreated him to forgive the asperity his seeming want of all feeling had drawn from her, and frequently to write to her, and acquaint her how he went on, and send his direction for her answers; that so, at least, their father might know how he employed himself, and have the power to give him counsel.
‘But how, my poor Lionel,’ she added, ‘how will you live abroad? How will you even travel?’
‘Why as to how I shall live there, I don’t know; but as well as I deserve easily: however, as to how I shall get there, look here,’ taking from his pocket a handful of guineas, ‘that good little Eugenia has given me every thing, even to the last half crown, that she had at Southampton, to help me forward.’
‘Dear excellent, ever generous Eugenia! O that I could follow her example! but alas! I have nothing!-and worse than nothing!’
They then affectionately embraced each other, and parted.
WHAT Camilla experienced at this juncture she believed inadmissible of aggravation. Even the breaking off with Edgar seemed as a new misfortune from the new force which circumstances gave to its affliction. With his sympathising aid, how might she have softened the sorrows of her father! how have broken the shock of the blow Clermont was preparing for her uncle? But now, instead of lessening their griefs, she must herself inflict upon them a heavier evil than any they had yet suffered. And how could she reveal tidings for which they were so wholly unprepared? how be even intelligible in the history, without exposing the guilty Lionel beyond all chance of pardon?
Again she went to counsel with Eugenia, who, with her usual disinterested affection, proposed taking the painful business upon herself at their return home. Camilla with tears of gratitude accepted the sisterly office, and resolved to devote the rest of her short time for Southampton to Mrs. Berlinton; who, shocked to see her evident unhappiness, hung over her with the most melting tenderness: bewailing alike the disappointment of Eugenia, and the conduct of her brother; who now, with exquisite misery, shut himself wholly up in his room.
This compassionate kindness somewhat softened her anguish; but when the engagements of Mrs. Berlinton called her away, Mrs. Mittin burst briskly into her chamber.
‘Well, my dear,’ cried she, ‘I come with better news now than ever! only guess what it is!’
Nothing could less conduce to the tranquillity of Camilla than such a desire; her conjectures always flowed into the channels of her wishes; and she thought immediately that Mrs. Mittin had been informed of her situation, and came to her with some intelligence of Edgar.
Mrs. Mittin, after keeping her a full quarter of an hour in suspence, at last said: ‘Do you know Miss Dennel’s going to be married?-though she was fifteen only yesterday!-and I am invited to the wedding?’
No surprise had ever yet produced less pleasure to Camilla, who now ceased to listen, though Mrs. Mittin by no means ceased to speak, till her attention was awakened by the following sentence: ‘So, as I am to go to town, to shop with her, at her own papa’s desire, you can give me the money, you know, my dear, and I can pay off your Tunbridge bills for you.’
She then took out of her pockets some accounts, which, she said, she had just received; though, in fact, they had been in her possession more than a week: but till the invitation of Miss Dennel called her so pleasantly away, she had thought it prudent to keep every motive in reserve, that added importance to her stay.
Camilla, with the utmost apprehension, took the papers into her hands; they were the bills from Tunbridge, of the milliner, the shoe-maker, the haberdasher, and the glover, and amounted altogether to sixteen pounds.
The chief articles had been nearly forced upon her by Mrs. Mittin, with assurances of their cheapness, and representations of their necessity, that, joined to her entire ignorance of the enormous charges of fashion, had led her to imagine four or five guineas the utmost sum at which they could be estimated.
What now, then, was her horror! if to sixteen pounds amounted the trifles she had had at Tunbridge, what calculation must she make of articles, so infinitely more valuable, that belonged to her debts at Southampton? And to whom now could she apply? The unhappy situation of her father was no longer an only reason to forbear such a call upon him: Lionel, still under age, was flying the kingdom with debts, which, be they small as they might, would, to Mr. Tyrold’s limited income, be as heavy as the more considerable ones of her cousin upon Sir Hugh; yet who besides could give her aid? Eugenia, whose yearly allowance, according to her settled future fortune, was five times that of her sisters, had given what help she had in her power, before she quitted Cleves, upon the affair of the horse; and all that remained of a considerable present made for her Southampton expedition by her uncle, who in every thing distinguished her as his successor and heiress, she had just bestowed upon Lionel, even, as he had declared, to her last half crown. Mrs. Berlinton, whose tender friendship might, in this emergence, have encouraged solicitation, was involved in debts of honour, and wanted money for herself; and to Mrs. Arlbery, her only other acquaintance rich enough to give assistance, and with whom she was intimate enough to ask it, she already owed five guineas; and how, in conscience or decency, could she address her for so much more, when she saw before her no time, no term, upon which she could fix for restitution?
In this terrible state, with no one to counsel her, and no powers of self-judgment, she felt a dread of going home, that rendered the coming day a day of horror, though to a home to which, hitherto, she had turned as the first joy of her happiness, or softest solace of any disturbance. Her filial affections were in their pristine force; her short commerce with the world had robbed them of none of their vivacity; her regard for Edgar, whom she delighted to consider as a younger Mr. Tyrold, had rather enlarged than divided them; but to return a burthen to an already burthened house, an affliction to an already afflicted parent–‘No!’ she broke out, aloud, ‘I cannot go home!–I cannot carry calamity to my father!–He will be mild-but he will look unhappy; and I would not see his face in sorrow-sorrow of my own creating-for years of after joy!’
She threw herself down upon the bed, hid her face with the counterpane, and wept, in desperate carelessness of the presence of Mrs. Mittin, and answering nothing that she said.
In affairs of this sort, Mrs. Mittin had a quickness of apprehension, which, though but the attribute of ready cunning, was not inferior to the keenest penetration, possessed, for deeper investigations, by characters of more solid sagacity. From the fear which Camilla, in her anguish, had uttered of seeing her father, she gathered, there must be some severe restriction in money concerns; and, without troubling herself to consider what they might be, saw that to aid her at this moment would be the highest obligation; and immediately set at work a brain as fertile in worldly expedients, as it was barren of intellectual endowments, in forming a plan of present relief, which she concluded would gain her a rich and powerful friend for life.
She was not long in suggesting a proposition, which Camilla started up eagerly to hear, almost breathless with the hope of any reprieve to her terrors.
Mrs. Mittin, amongst her numerous friends, counted a Mr. Clykes, a money-lender, a man, she said, of the first credit for such matters with people of fashion in any difficulty. If Camilla, therefore, would collect her debts, this gentleman would pay them, for a handsome premium, and handsome interest, till she was able, at her own full leisure, to return the principal, with a proper present.
Camilla nearly embraced her with rapture for this scheme. The premium she would collect as she could, and the interest she would pay from her allowance, certain that when her uncle was cleared from his embarrassments, her own might be revealed without any serious distress. She put, therefore, the affair wholly into the hands of Mrs. Mittin, besought her, the next morning, to demand all her Southampton bills, to add to them those for the rent and the stores of Higden, and then to transact the business with Mr. Clykes; promising to agree to whatever premium, interest, and present, he should demand, with endless acknowledgments to herself for so great a service.
She grieved to employ a person so utterly disagreeable to Edgar; but to avert immediate evil was ever resistless to her ardent mind.
The whole of the Southampton accounts were brought her early the next morning by the active Mrs. Mittin, who now concluded, that what she had conceived to be covetousness in Camilla, was only the fear of a hard tyrant of a father, who kept her so parsimoniously, that she could allow herself no indulgence, till the death of her uncle should endow her with her own rich inheritance.
Had this arrangement not taken place before the arrival of the bills, Camilla, upon beholding them, thought she should have been driven to complete distraction. The ear-rings and necklace, silver fringes and spangles, feathers, nosegay, and shoe-roses, with the other parts of the dress, and the fine Valencienne edging, came to thirty-three pounds. The cloak also, that cheapest thing in the world, was nine guineas; and various small articles, which Mrs. Mittin had occasionally brought in, and others with which Camilla could not dispense, came to another five pounds. To this, the rent for Higden added eighteen; and the bill of stores, which had been calculated at thirty, was sent in at thirty-seven.
The whole, therefore, with the sixteen pounds from Tunbridge, amounted to one hundred and eighteen pounds nine shillings.
Struck to the very soul with the idea of what she must have endured to have presented, at such a period, so large an account, either at Cleves or at Etherington, she felt lifted into paradise by the escape of this expedient, and lost sight of every possible future difficulty, in the relief of avoiding so severe a present penalty.
By this means, also, the tradesmen would not wait; and she had been educated with so just an abhorrence of receiving the goods, and benefiting from the labours of others, without speeding them their rights and their rewards, that she felt despicable as well as miserable, when she possessed what she had not repaid.
Mrs. Mittin was now invested with full powers for the agency, which her journey to London would give her immediate means to execute. She was to meet Miss Dennel there in two days, to assist in the wedding purchases, and then to accompany that young lady to her father’s house in Hampshire, whence she could visit Etherington, and finally arrange the transaction.
Camilla, again thanking, took leave of her, to consign her few remaining hours to Mrs. Berlinton, who was impatient at losing one moment of the society she began sincerely to regret she had not more uniformly preferred to all other. As sad now with cares as Camilla was with afflictions, she had robbed her situation of nearly the only good which belonged to it-an affluent power to gratify every luxury, whether of generosity or personal indulgence. Her gaming, to want of happiness, added now want of money; and Camilla, with a sigh, saw something more wretched, because far deeper and more wilful in error than herself.
They mingled their tears for their separate personal evils, with the kindest consolation that either could suggest for the other, till Camilla was told that Eugenia desired to see her in the parlour.
Mrs. Berlinton, ashamed, yet delighted to meet her again, went down at the same time. She embraced her with fondness, but ventured not to utter either apology or concern. Eugenia was serious but composed, sighed often, yet both accepted and returned her caresses.
Camilla enquired if Miss Margland expected them immediately.
‘Yes,’ she answered; ‘but I have first a little business of my own to transact.’ Then, turning to Mrs. Berlinton, and forcing smile, ‘You will be surprised,’ she said, ‘to hear me ask for . . . your brother! but I must see him before I can leave Southampton.’
Mrs. Berlinton hung her head: ‘There is certainly,’ she cried, ‘no reproach he does not merit . . . yet, if you knew.. . the respect . . . the . . . the. . . . ’
Eugenia rang the bell, making a slight apology, but not listening to what Mrs. Berlinton strove to say; who, colouring and uneasy, still attempted to utter something softening to what had passed.
‘Be so good,’ said Eugenia, when the footman appeared, ‘to tell Mr. Melmond I beg to speak with him.’
Camilla astonished, and Mrs. Berlinton silenced, waited, in an unpleasant pause, the event.
Eugenia, absorbed in thought, neither spoke to, nor looked at them, nor moved, till the door opened, and Melmond, who durst not refuse so direct a summons, though he would have preferred any punishment to obeying it, blushing, bowing, and trembling, entered the room.
She then started, half heaved, and half checked a sigh, took a folded note out of her pocket-book, and with a faint smile, said, ‘I fear my desire must have been painful to you; but you see me now for the last time–I hope!-with any ill-will.’
She stopt for breath to go on; Melmond, amazed, striving vainly to articulate one word of excuse, one profession even of respect.
‘Believe me, Sir,’ she then continued, ‘surprise was the last sensation I experienced upon a late . . . transaction. My extraordinary personal defects and deformity have been some time known to me, though–I cannot tell how–I had the weakness or vanity not to think of them as I ought to have done!–But I see I give you uneasiness, and therefore I will be more concise.’
Melmond, confounded, had bowed down his head not to look at her, while Camilla and Mrs. Berlinton both wept.
‘The sentiments, Sir,’ she then went on, ‘of my cousin have never been declared to me; but it is not very difficult to me to divine what they may be. All that is certain, is the unkindness of Fortune, which forbids her to listen, or you to plead to them. This, Sir, shall be my care’– she stopt a moment, looking paler, and wanting voice; but presently recovering, proceeded–‘my happiness, let me say, to endeavour to rectify. I have much influence with my kind uncle; can I doubt, when I represent to him that I have just escaped making two worthy people wretched, he will deny aiding me to make them happy? No! the residence already intended at Cleves will still be open, though one of its parties will be changed. But as my uncle, in a manner unexampled, has bound himself, in my favour, from any future disposition of what he possesses, I have ventured, Sir, upon this paper, to obviate any apprehensions of your friends, for the unhappy time when that generous uncle can no longer act for himself.’
She then unfolded, and gave him the paper, which contained these words:
‘I here solemnly engage myself, if Miss Indiana Lynmere accepts, with the consent of Sir Hugh Tyrold, the hand of Frederic Melmond, to share with them, so united, whatever fortune or estate I may be endowed with, to the end of my life, and to bequeath them the same equal portion by will after my death.
Signed. EUGENIA TYROLD.
Unable to read, yet conceiving the purport of the writing, Melmond was at her feet. She endeavoured to raise him, and though extremely affected, said, with an air of some pleasantry, ‘Shew less surprise, Sir, or I shall conclude you thought me as frightful within as without! But no! Providence is too good to make the mind necessarily deformed with the body.’
‘Ah, Madam!’ exclaimed Melmond, wholly overcome, ‘the noblest as well as softest of human hearts I perceive to be yours-and were mine at my own disposal-it must find you resistless!’–
‘No more, no more!’ interrupted she, penetrated with a pleasure in these words which she durst not indulge, ‘you shall hear from me soon.–Meanwhile, be Hope your motto, Friendship shall be mine.’
She was then going to hold out her hand to him; but her courage failed; she hastily embraced Mrs. Berlinton, took the arm of Camilla, and hurried out of the house, followed by the footman who had attended her.
Melmond, who had seen the motion of her hand now advancing, now withdrawn, would have given the universe to have stamped upon it his grateful reverence; but his courage was still less than her own; she seemed to him, on the sudden, transformed to a deity, benignly employed to rescue and bless him, but whose transcendent goodness he could only, at a distance, and in all humility, adore.
Mrs. Berlinton was left penetrated nearly as much as her brother, and doubtful if even the divine Indiana could render him as happy as the exalted, the incomparable Eugenia.
The two sisters found Miss Margland in extreme ill-humour waiting their arrival, and the whole party immediately quitted Southampton.
It not seldom occurred to Miss Margland to be cross merely as a mark of consequence; but here the displeasure was as deep with herself as with others. She had entered Southampton with a persuasion her fair pupil would make there the establishment so long the promised mede of her confinement; and Indiana herself, not knowing where to stop her sanguine and inflated hopes, imagined that the fame of her beauty would make the place where it first was exhibited the resort of all of fashion in the nation. And the opening of the scene had answered to their fullest expectations: no other name was heard but Indiana Lynmere, no other figure was admired, no other face could bear examination.
But her triumph, though splendid, was short; she soon found that the overtures of eyes were more ready than those of speech; and though one young baronet, enchanted with her beauty, immediately professed himself her lover, when he was disdained, in the full assurance of higher offers, and because a peer had addressed himself to Eugenia, she saw not that he was succeeded by any other, nor yet that he broke his own heart. Men of taste, after the first conversation, found her more admirable to look at than speak with; adventurers soon discovered that her personal charms were her only dower; the common herd were repulsed from approaching her by the repulsive manners of Miss Margland; and all evinced, that though a passion for beauty was still as fashionable as it was natural, the time was past when the altar of Hymen required no other incense to blaze upon it.
The governess, therefore, and the pupil, quitted Southampton with equal disappointment and indignation; the first foreseeing another long and yawning sojourn at Cleves; the second firmly believing herself the most unaccountably ill-used person in the creation, that one offer only had reached her, and that without repetition, though admired nearly to adoration, she literally rather than metaphorically conceived herself a demi-goddess.
One solitary offer to Eugenia, of an every way ruined young nobleman, though a blast both to the settlement and the peace of Indiana, was to herself wholly nugatory. Intent, at that period, upon dedicating for ever to Melmond her virgin heart, she was sorry, upon his account, for the application, but gave it not, upon her own, a moment’s consideration. This proposition was made upon her first arrival, and was followed by no other. She was then, by the account given to the master of the ceremonies by Miss Margland, regarded as the heiress of Cleves: but, almost immediately after, the report spread by Mrs. Mittin, that Camilla was the true heiress, gained such ground amongst the shopkeepers, and thence travelled so rapidly from gossip to gossip, and house to house, that Eugenia was soon no more thought of; though a species of doubt was cast upon the whole party, from the double assertion, that kept off from Camilla, also, the fortune seekers of the place.
But another rumour got abroad, that soon entirely cleared Eugenia, not merely of lovers but acquaintances; namely, her studies with Dr. Orkborne. This was a prevailing theme of spite with Miss Margland, when the Doctor had neglected and displeased her; and a topic always at hand for her spleen, when it was angered by other circumstances not so easy of blame or of mention.
This, shortly, made Eugenia stared at still more than her peculiar appearance. The misses, in tittering, ran away from the learned lady; the beaux contemptuously sneering, rejoiced she was too ugly to take in any poor fellow to marry her. Some imagined her studies had stinted her growth; and all were convinced her education had made her such a fright.
Of the whole party, the only one who quitted Southampton in spirits was Dr. Orkborne. He was delighted to be no longer under the dominion of Miss Margland, who, though she never left him tranquil in the possession of all he valued, his leisure, and his books and papers, eternally annoyed him with reproaches upon his absence, non-attendance, and ignorance of high life; asking always, when angry, ‘If any one had ever heard who was his grandfather?’
The doctor, in return, despising, like most who have it not, whatever belonged to noble birth, regarded her and her progenitors as the pest of the human race; frequently, when incensed by interruption, exclaiming, ‘Where intellect is uncultivated, what is man better than a brute, or woman than an idiot?’
Nor was his return to his own room, books, and hours, under the roof of the indulgent Sir Hugh, the only relief of this removal: he knew not of the previous departure of Dr. Marchmont, and he was glad to quit a spot where he was open to a comparison which he felt to be always to his disadvantage.
So much more powerful and more prominent is character than education, that no two men could be more different than Dr. Marchmont and Dr. Orkborne, though the same university had finished their studies, and the same passion, pursuit, and success in respect to learning, had raised and had spread their names and celebrity. The first, with all his scholastic endowments, was a man of the world, and a grace to society; the second, though in erudition equally respectable, was wholly lost to the general community, and alive only with his pen and his books. They enjoyed, indeed, in common, that happy and often sole reward of learned labours, the privilege of snatching some care from time, some repining from misfortune, by seizing for themselves, and their own exclusive use, the whole monopoly of mind; but they employed it not to the same extension. The things and people of this lower sphere were studiously, by Dr. Orkborne, sunk in oblivion by the domineering prevalence of the alternate transport and toil of intellectual occupation; Dr. Marchmont, on the contrary, though his education led to the same propensities, still held his fellow creatures to be of higher consideration than their productions. Without such extravagance in the pursuit of his studies, he knew it the happy province of literary occupations, where voluntary, to absorb worldly solicitudes, and banish for a while even mental anxieties; and though the charm may be broken by every fresh intrusion of calamity, it unites again with the first retirement, and, without diminishing the feelings of social life, has a power, from time to time, to set aside their sufferings.
IN the hall of the Cleves mansion the party from Southampton were received by Sir Hugh, Mr. Tyrold, and Lavinia. The baronet greeted in particular the two nieces he regarded as brides elect, with an elation that prevented him from observing their sadness; while their confusion at his mistake he attributed to the mere bashfulness of their situation. He enquired, nevertheless, with some surprise, why the two bridegrooms did not attend them? which, he owned, he thought rather odd; though he supposed it might be only the new way.
The changing colour and starting tears of the two sisters still escaped his kindly occupied but undiscerning eyes: while Mr. Tyrold, having tenderly embraced, avoided looking at them from the fear of adding to their blushes, and sat quiet and grave, striving to alleviate his present new and deep sorrow, by participating in the revived happiness of his brother. But Lavinia soon saw their mutual distress, and with apprehensive affection watched an opportunity to investigate its cause.
‘But come,’ cried Sir Hugh, ‘I sha’n’t wait for those gentlemen to shew you what I’ve done for you, seeing they don’t wait for me, by their following their own way, which, however, I suppose they may be with their lawyers, none of those gentleman having been here, which I think rather slow, considering the rooms are almost ready.’
He would now have taken them round the house; but, nearly expiring with shame, they entreated to be excused; and, insupportably oppressed by the cruel discovery they had to divulge, stole apart to consult upon what measures they should take. They then settled that Camilla should accompany Mr. Tyrold to Etherington, but keep off all disclosure till the next morning, when Eugenia would arrive, and unfold the sad tidings.
When they returned to the parlour, they found Sir Hugh, in the innocency of his heart, had forced Indiana, Miss Margland, and even Dr. Orkbome, to view his improvements for the expected nuptials, judging the disinterestedness of their pleasure by his own; though to the two ladies, nothing could be less gratifying than preparations for a scene in which they were to bear no part, and the Doctor thought every evil genius at work to detain him from his study and his manuscripts.
‘But what’s the oddest’ cried the Baronet, ‘of all, is nobody’s coming for poor Indiana; which I could never have expected, especially in the point of taking off little Eugenia first, whom her own cousin did not think pretty enough; which I can never think over and above good natured in him, being so difficult. However, I hope we shall soon forget that, now for which reason, I forgive him.’
Indiana was so much piqued, she could scarce refrain from relating the portico history at Lord Pervil’s; but the Baronet, not remarking her discomposure, turned to Camilla and Eugenia, smilingly exclaiming: ‘Well, my dear girls, I sha’n’t mention what we have been looking at in your absence, because of your blushes, which I hope you approve. But we shall soon, I hope, see it all together, without any of your modesty’s minding it. I shall have to pinch a little for it the rest of the year, which, God knows, will be a pleasure to me, for the sake of my two dear girls, as well as of Mr. Edgar; not to mention the new young gentleman; who seems a pretty kind of person too, though he is not one of our own relations.’
He was rather disappointed when he found Camilla was to go to Etherington, but desired there might be a general meeting the next day, when he should also invite Dr. Marchmont. ‘For I think,’ said he, ‘he’s as little proud as the best dunce amongst us; which makes me like him as well. And I can’t say but I was as much obliged to him that day about the mad bull, as if he had been one of my nephews or nieces himself: which is what I sha’n’t forget.’
In the way back to Etherington, Camilla could scarce utter a word; and Lavinia, who had just gathered from her, in a whisper ‘All is over with Edgar!’ with divided, but silent pity, looked from her father to her sister, thought of her brother, and wept for all three. Mr. Tyrold alone was capable of any exertion. Unwilling to give Camilla, whom he concluded impressed with the thousand solicitudes of her impending change of situation, any abrupt account of her brother’s cruel conduct, he spoke with composure though not with chearfulness, and hoped, by a general gravity, to prepare, without alarming her, for the ill news he must inevitably relate. But he soon, however, observed an excess of sadness upon her countenance, far deeper than what he could attribute to the thoughts he had first suggested, and wholly different from an agitation in which though fear bears a part, hope preponderates.
It now struck him that probably Lionel had been at Southampton: for so wide was every idea from supposing any mischief with Edgar, that, like Sir Hugh, upon his non-appearance, he had concluded him engaged with his lawyer. But of Melmond, less sure, he had been more open in enquiry, and with inexpressible concern, for his beloved and unfortunate Eugenia, gathered that the affair was ended: though her succeeding plan, by her own desire, Camilla left for her own explanation.
When they arrived at Etherington, taking her into his study, ‘Camilla,’ he said, ‘tell me, I beg . . . do you know anything of Lionel?’
An unrestrained burst of tears convinced him his conjecture was right, and he soon obtained all the particulars of the meeting, except its levity and flightiness. Where directly questioned, no sisterly tenderness could induce her to filial prevarication; but she rejoiced to spare her brother all exposure that mere silence could spare; and as Mr. Tyrold suspected not her former knowledge of his extravagance and ill conduct, he neither asked, nor heard, any thing beyond the last interview.
At the plan of going abroad, he sighed heavily, but would take no measures to prevent it. Lionel, he saw was certain of being cast in any trial; and though he would not stretch out his arm to avert the punishment he thought deserved, he was not sorry to change the languid waste of imprisonment at home, for the hardships with which he might live upon little abroad.
A calamity such as this seemed cause full sufficient for the distress of Camilla; Mr. Tyrold sought no other; but though she wept, now, at liberty, his very freedom from suspicion and enquiry increased her anguish. ‘Your happy fate,’ cried he, ‘is what most, at this moment supports me; and to that I shall chiefly owe the support of your mother; whom a blow such as this will more bitterly try than the loss of our whole income, or even than the life itself of your brother. Her virtue is above misfortune, but her soul will shudder at guilt.’
The horror of Camilla was nearly intolerable at this speech, and the dreadful disappointment which she knew yet to be awaiting her loved parents. ‘Take comfort, my dearest girl,’ said Mr. Tyrold, who saw her suffering, ‘it is yours, for all our sakes to be chearful, for to you we shall owe the worthiest of sons, at the piercing juncture when the weakest and most faulty fails us.’
‘O my father!’ she cried, ‘speak not such words! Lionel himself . . . ’ she was going to say: has made you less unhappy than you will be made by me: but she durst not finish her phrase; she turned away from him her streaming eyes, and stopt.
‘My dearest child,’ he cried, ‘let not your rising prospects be thus dampt by this cruel event. The connection you have formed will be a consolation to us all. It binds to us for life a character already so dear to us; it will afford to our Lavinia, should we leave her single, a certain asylum; it will give to our Eugenia a counsellor that may save her hereafter from fraud and ruin; it may aid poor Lionel, when, some time hence, he returns to his country, to return to the right path, whence so widely he has strayed; and it will heal with lenient balm the wounded, bleeding bosom of a meritorious but deeply afflicted mother! While to your father, my Camilla . . . ’
These last words were not heard; such a mention of her mother had already overpowered her, and unable to let him keep up his delusion, she supported her shaking frame against his shoulder, and exclaimed in a tone of agony: ‘O my father! you harrow me to the soul!–Edgar has left me!-has left England!-left us all!’–
Shocked, yet nearly incredulous, he insisted upon looking at her: her countenance impelled belief. The woe it expressed could be excited by nothing less than the deprivation of every worldly expectation, and a single glance was an answer to a thousand interrogatories.
Mr. Tyrold now sat down, with an air between calmness and despondence, saying, ‘And how has this come to pass?’
Again she got behind him, and in a voice scarce audible, said, Eugenia would, the next morning, explain all.
‘Very well, I will wait;’. he quietly, but with palpably stifled emotions, answered: ‘Go, my love, go to Lavinia; open to her your heart; you will find consolation in her kindness. My own, I confess, is now weighed down with sorrow! this last and unexpected stroke will demand some time, some solitude, to be yielded to as it ought.’ He then held out to her his hand, which she could scarcely approach from trembling, and scarcely kiss for weeping, and added: ‘I know what you feel for me-and know, too, that my loss to yours is nothing,-for yours is not to be estimated! you are young, however, and, with yourself, it may pass away . . . but your mother-my heart, Camilla, is rent for your unfortunate mother!’
He then embraced her, called Lavinia, and retired for the night.
Terribly it passed with them all.
The next morning, before they assembled to breakfast, Eugenia was in the chamber of Camilla.
She entered with a bright beam upon her countenance, which, in defiance of the ravaging distemper that had altered her, gave it an expression almost celestial. It was the pure emanation of virtue, of disinterested, of even heroic virtue. ‘Camilla!’ she cried, ‘all is settled with my uncle! Indiana . . . you will not wonder-consents; and already this morning I have written to Mr. Mel. . . . ’
With all her exaltation, her voice faltered at the name, and, with a faint smile, but deep blush, she called for the congratulations of her sister upon her speedy success.
‘Ah, far more than my congratulations, my esteem, my veneration is yours, dear and generous Eugenia! true daughter of my mother! and proudest recompence of my father!’
She was not sufficiently serene to give any particulars of the transaction; and Mr. Tyrold soon sent for her to his room.
Camilla, trembling and hanging over her, said: ‘You will do for me, I know better than I could do for myself:-but spare poor Lionel-and be just to Edgar!’–
Eugenia strictly obeyed: in sparing Lionel she spared also her father, whom his highly unfeeling behaviour with regard to Sir Sedley would yet further have incensed and grieved; and, in doing justice to Edgar, she flattered herself she prevented an alienation from one yet destined to be nearly allied to him, since time, she still hoped, would effect the reconciliation of Camilla with the youth whom-next to Melmond-she thought the most amiable upon earth.
Mr. Tyrold, by this means, gathered no further intelligence than that they had parted upon some mutual, though slight dissatisfaction. He hoped, therefore, with Eugenia, they might soon meet again; and resolved, till he could better judge what might prove the event, to keep this distress from Sir Hugh.
He then met Camilla with the most consolatory kindness; yet would not trust her ardent mind with the hopes he cherished himself, dreading infinitely more to give than to receive disappointment. He blamed her for admitting any doubts of the true regard of Edgar, in whom promise was always short of performance, and whom he conceived displeased by unjust suspicions, or offended by undue expectations of professions, which the very sincerity of his rational and manly character prevented him from making.
Camilla heard in silence suggestions she could not answer, without relating the history of Sir Sedley: ‘No, Lionel, no!’ she said to herself, ‘I will not now betray you! I have lost all!-and now the loss to me is irreparable, shall I blast you yet further to my poor father, whose deepest sigh is already for your misconduct?’
The story of Eugenia herself he learnt with true admiration, and gave to her magnanimity its dearest mede, in her mother’s promised, and his own immediate approbation.
But Sir Hugh, notwithstanding all Eugenia could urge in favour of Melmond, had heard her account with grief and resentment. All, however, being actually ready for the double wedding, he could not, he said, answer to his conscience doing so much for the rest, and refusing the same for Indiana, whom he called upon to accept or reject the preparations made for her cousin.
Indiana stood fluttering for a few minutes between the exultation of being the first bride, and the mortification of marrying a man without fortune or title. But the observation of Sir Hugh, upon the oddity of her marrying the last, she was piqued with a most earnest ambition to reverse. Nor did Melmond himself go for nothing in this affair, as all she had of heart he had been the first to touch.
She retired for a short conference with Miss Margland, who was nearly in an equal dilemma, from unwillingness to dispose of her beautiful pupil without a title, and from eagerness to quit Cleves, which she thought a convent for dullness, and a prison for confinement. Melmond had strongly in his favour the received maxim amongst match-makers, that a young lady without fortune has a less and less chance of getting off upon every public appearance, which they call a public failure: their joint deliberations were, however, interrupted by an abrupt intrusion of Molly Mill, who announced she had just heard that Miss Dennel was going to be married.
This information ended the discussion. The disgrace of a bridal appearance anticipated in the neighbourhood by such a chit, made Indiana hastily run down stairs, and tell her uncle that the merit of Melmond determined her to refuse every body for his sake.
A man and horse, therefore, at break of day the next morning, was sent off by Eugenia to Southampton with these words:
To FREDERIC MELMOND, Esq;
You will be welcome, Sir, at Cleves, where you will forget, I hope, every painful sensation, in the happiness which awaits you, and dismiss all retrospection, to return with sincerity the serene friendship of
Mr. Tyrold now visited Cleves with only his younger daughter, and excused the non-appearance there, for the present, of Camilla; acknowledging that some peculiar incidents, which he could not yet explain, kept Mandlebert away, and must postpone the celebration of the marriage.
The vexation this gave Sir Hugh, redoubled his anxiety to break to him the evil by degrees, if to break it to him at all should become indispensable.
MR. Tyrold was well aware that to keep from Sir Hugh the affliction of Camilla, he must keep from him Camilla herself: for though her sighs she could suppress, and her tears disperse, her voice had lost its tone, her countenance its gaiety; her eyes no longer sparkled, her very smiles betrayed anguish. He was the last to wonder at her sufferings, for Edgar was nearly as dear to him as herself; but he knew not, that, added to this annihilation of happiness, her peace was consumed by her secret knowledge of the blows yet impending for himself and for her uncle. Concealment, always abhorrent to her nature, had, till now, been unknown even to her thoughts; and its weight, from a species of culpability that seemed attached to its practice, was, at times, more dreadful to bear than the loss even of Edgar himself. The latter blackened every prospect of felicity; but the former, still more tremendous to the pure principles in which she had been educated, seemed to strike even at her innocence. The first wish of an ingenuous mind is to anticipate even enquiry; the feeling, therefore, that most heavily weighs it down, is any fear of detection.
While they were at breakfast the following morning, the servant brought in the name of Dr. Marchmont.
Camilla felt nearly fainting. Why he was come-whence-whether Edgar accompanied him-or sent by him any message-whether he were returned to Beech Park-or sailed for the Continent-were doubts that pressed so fast, and so vehemently upon her mind, that she feared to quit the room lest she should meet Edgar in the passage, and feared still more to continue in it, lest Dr. Marchmont should enter without him. Mr. Tyrold, who participated in all her feelings, and shared the same ideas, gently committed her to Lavinia, and went into his study to the doctor.
His own illusion was there quickly destroyed. The looks of Dr. Marchmont boded nothing that was happy. They wore not their customary expression. The gravity of Mr. Tyrold shewed a mind prepared for ill news, if not already oppressed with it, and the doctor, after a few general speeches, delivered the letter from Edgar.
Mr. Tyrold received it with a secret shuddering: ‘Where,’ he said, ‘is Mandlebert at present?’
‘I believe, by this time-at the Hague.’
This sentence, with the grieved, yet still air and tone of voice which accompanied it, was death at once to every flattering hope: he immediately read the letter, which, conceived in the tenderest terms of reverence and affection, took a short and simple, though touchingly respectful leave of the purposed connection, and demolished at once every distant view of future conciliation.
He hung his head a moment, and sighed from the bottom of his heart; but the resignation which he summoned upon every sorrow was never deaf to his call, and when he had secretly ejaculated a short and silent prayer for fortitude to his beloved wife, he turned calmly to the doctor, and began conversing upon other affairs.
Dr. Marchmont presumed not to manifest the commiseration with which he was filled. He saw the true Christian, enduring with humility misfortune, and the respectable parent supporting the dignity of his daughter by his own. To the first character, complaint was forbidden; to the second, it would have been degrading. He looked at him with veneration, but to spare further useless and painful efforts, soon took leave.
Mr. Tyrold, shaking hands with him, said as they were parting, ‘when you write to Mandlebert, assure him of my constant affection. The world, Dr. Marchmont is too full of real evil, for me at least, to cause one moment of unnecessary uneasiness to any of its poor pilgrims. ’Tis strange, my dear doctor, this is not more generally considered, since the advantage would be so reciprocal from man to man. But wrapt up in our own short moment, we forget our neighbour’s long hour! and existence is ultimately embittered to all, by the refined susceptibility for ourselves that monopolizes our feelings.’
Doctor Marchmont, who in this last sentence construed a slight reflection upon Edgar, expressively answered, ‘Our sensibility for others is not always dormant, because not apparent.–How much of worth and excellence may two characters separately possess, where yet there are disuniting particles which impede their harmonizing with each other!’
Mr. Tyrold, powerfully struck, saw now the general nature of the conceptions which had caused this lamented breach. He could not concur, but he would not attempt to controvert; opinion in this case must have even the precedence of justice. If Edgar thought his daughter of a disposition with which his own could not sympathise, it were vain to expatiate upon her virtues or her sweetness; that one doubt previously taken might mar their assimilating efficacy. Comprehending, therefore, the cause at large, he desired no detail; the words of Dr. Marchmont, though decisive, were not offensive, and they parted perfect friends, each perceiving, yet forgiving, that each cast upon the other the error of false reasoning; Edgar to the one, and Camilla to the other, appearing faultless in the separation.
But not in the tasks which succeeded were their offices as easily to be compared. Dr. Marchmont wrote to Edgar that all was quietly relinquished, and his measures were honourably acquitted; while Mr. Tyrold, shut up in his study, spent there some of the severest minutes of his life, in struggling for the equanimity he coveted to pronounce to his daughter this last doom. Pity for her suspence accelerated his efforts, and he then sent for her down stairs.
His utmost composure, in such an interview, was highly necessary for both. The pale and trembling Camilla advanced with downcast eyes; but when he took her in his arms, and kissed her, a sudden ray of hope shot across her quick imagination, and she looked up: an instant was now sufficient to rectify her mistake. The tenderness of her father wore no air of congratulation, it was the mere offspring of compassion, and the woe with which it was mixt, though mild, though patient, was too potent to require words for explanation.
The glance sufficed; her head dropt, her tears in torrents bathed his bosom; and she retired to Lavinia while yet neither of them had spoken.
Mr. Tyrold, contented with virtuous exertions, demanded not impossibilities; he left to nature that first grief which too early exhortation or controul rather inflames than appeases. He then brought her back to his apartment.
He conjured her, there, to remember that she grieved not alone; that where the tears flowed not so fast from the eyes, the sources were not dry whence they sprung, and that bridled sorrow was sometimes the most suffering.
‘Alas, my dearest father, to think you mourn too-and for me!-will that lessen what I feel?’
‘Yes, my dear child, by a generous duty it will point out to watch that the excess of one affliction involve you not in another.’
‘What a motive,’ she answered, ‘for exertion! If the smallest part of your happiness-of my honoured mother’s -depends upon mine, I shall be unhappy, I think, no more!’
A gush of tears ill accorded with this fond declaration; but Mr. Tyrold, without noticing them, kindly replied, ‘Let your filial affection, my child, check the inordinacy of your affliction, and I will accept with pleasure for your virtuous mother, and with thanks for myself, the exertion which, beginning for our sakes, may lead you to that self denial which is the parent of our best human actions, and approximates us the most to what is divine.’
Broken-hearted as was Camilla, her sorrows would, at least apparently, have abated from consolation so tender, if all she felt had been known; if no latent and lurking evil had hung upon her spirits, defeating all argument, and blighting all comfort, by the cruel consciousness of concealed mischief, which while incessantly she studied the best moment for revealing, accident might prematurely betray.
Upon this subject her thoughts were unremittingly bent, till, in a few days time, she received a letter from Mrs. Mittin, informing her she had just seen the money-lender, Mr. Clykes, who, finding her so much under age, would not undertake the business for less than ten per cent. nor without a free premium of at least twenty pounds.
The latter demand, so entirely out of her power to grant, gave to her the mental strength she had yet sought in vain; and determining to end this baneful secret, she seized her own first moment of emotion to relate to her father the whole of her distresses, and cast herself upon his mercy.
I shall be happier, she cried, much happier, as, with tottering steps, she hurried to the study; he will be lenient, I know;-and even if not, what displeasure can I incur so severe as the eternal apprehension of doing wrong?
But her plan, though well formed, had fixed upon an ill-timed moment for its execution. She entered the room with an agitation which rather sought than shunned remark, that some enquiry might make an opening for her confession: but Mr. Tyrold was intently reading a letter, and examining some papers, from which he raised not his eyes at her approach. She stood fearfully before him till he had done; but then, still not looking up, he leant his head upon his hand, with a countenance so disturbed, that, alarmed from her design, by the apprehension he had received some ill tidings from Lisbon, she asked, in a faint voice, if the foreign post were come in?
‘I hope not!’ he answered: ‘I should look with pain, at this moment, upon the hand of your unhappy mother!’
Camilla, affrighted, knew not now what to conjecture; but gliding into her pocket the letter of Mrs. Mittin, stood suspended from her purpose.
‘What a reception,’ he presently added, ‘is preparing for that noblest of women when her exile may end! That epoch, to which I have looked forward as the brightener of my every view upon earth-how is it now clouded!’
Giving her, then, the letter and papers; ‘The son,’ he said, ‘who once I had hoped would prove the guardian of his sisters, the honour of his mother’s days, the future prop of my own–See, Camilla, on how sandy a foundation mortal man builds mortal hopes!’
The letter was from a very respectable tradesman, containing a complaint that, for the three years Lionel had been at the University, he had never paid one bill, though he continually ordered new articles: and begging Mr. Tyrold would have the goodness to settle the accounts he enclosed; the young gentleman, after fixing a day for payment, having suddenly absconded without notice to any one.
‘The sum, you see,’ continued Mr. Tyrold, ‘amounts to one hundred and seventy-one pounds; a sum, for my income, enormous. The allowance I made this cruel boy, was not only adequate to all his proper wants, and reasonable desires, but all I could afford without distressing myself, or injuring my other children: yet it has served him, I imagine, but for pocket money! The immense sums he has extorted from both his uncles, must have been swallowed up at a gaming table. Into what wretched courses has he run! These bills, large as they are, I regard but as forerunners of others; all he has received he has squandered upon his vices, and to-morrow, and the next day, and the next, I may expect an encreasing list of his debts, from his hatter, his hosier, his shoe-maker, his taylor,-and whoever he has employed.’
Camilla, overwhelmed with internal shame, yet more powerful, than grief itself, stood motionless. These expences appeared but like a second part of her own, with her milliner, her jeweller, and her haberdasher; which now seemed to herself not less wanton in extravagance.
Surprised by her entire silence, Mr. Tyrold looked up. Her cheeks, rather livid than pale, and the deep dismay of her countenance, extremely affected him. The kindness of his embraces relieved her by melting her into tears, though the speech which accompanied them was, to her consciousness, but reproach: ‘Let not your sisterly feelings thus subdue you, my dearest Camilla. Be comforted that you have given us no affliction yourself, save what we must feel for your own undeservedly altered prospects. No unthinking imprudence, no unfeeling selfishness, has ever, for an instant, driven from your thoughts what you owe to your duty, or weakened your pleasure in every endearing filial tie. Let this cheer you, my child; and let us all try to submit calmly to our general disappointment!’
Praise thus ill-timed, rather probed than healed her wounds. Am I punished? am I punished? She internally exclaimed; but could not bear to meet the eyes of her father, whose indulgence she felt as if abusing, and whose good opinion seemed now but a delusion. Again, he made her over to the gentle Lavinia for comfort, and fearing serious ill effects from added misery, exerted himself, from this time, to appear chearful when she was present.
His predictions failed not to be fulfilled: the application made by one creditor, soon reached every other, and urged similar measures. Bills, therefore, came in daily, with petitions for payment; and as Lionel still wanted a month or two of being of age, his creditors depended with confidence upon the responsibility of his father.
Nor here closed the claims springing from general ill conduct. Two young men of fashion, hard pressed for their own failures, stated to Mr. Tyrold the debts of honour owing them from Lionel: and three notorious gamesters, who had drawn in the unthinking youth to his ruin, enforced the same information, with a hint that, if they were left unsatisfied, the credit of the young man would fall the sacrifice of their ill treatment.
The absence of Mrs. Tyrold at this period, by sparing her daily difficulty as well as pain, was rejoiced in by her husband; though never so strongly had he wanted her aiding counsel, her equal interest, and her consoling participation. Obliged to act without them, his deliberation was short and decisive for his measures, but long and painful for their means of execution. He at once determined to pay, though for the last time, all the trades people; but the manner of obtaining the money required more consideration.
The bills, when all collected, amounted to something above five hundred pounds, which was but one hundred short of his full yearly income.
Of this, he had always contrived to lay by an hundred pounds annually, which sum, with its accumulating interest, was destined to be divided between Lavinia and Camilla. Eugenia required nothing; and Lionel was to inherit the paternal little fortune. The portion of Mrs. Tyrold, which was small, the estate of her father having been almost all entailed upon Mr. Relvil, was to be divided equally amongst her children.
To take from the little hoard which, with so tender a care, he had heaped for the daughters, so large a share for the son, and to answer demands so unduly raised, and ill deserved, was repulsive to his inclination, and shocked his strong sense of equal justice. To apply to Mr. Relvil would be preposterous; for though upon him dwelt all his ultimate hopes for Lionel, he knew him, at this moment, to be so suffering and so irritated by his means, that to hear of any new misdemeanours might incense him to an irrevocable disinheritance.
With regard to Sir Hugh, nothing was too much to expect from his generous kindness; yet he knew that his bountiful heart had always kept his income from overflowing; and that, for three years past, Lionel had drained it without mercy. His preparations, also, for the double marriages had, of late, much straitened him. To take up even the smallest part of what, in less expensive times, he had laid by, he would regard as a breach of his solemn vow, by which he imagined himself bound to leave Eugenia the full property she would have possessed, had he died instantly upon making it. Reason might have shewn this a tie of supererogation; but where any man conceived himself obeying the dictates of his conscience, Mr. Tyrold held his motives too sacred for dispute.
The painful result of this afflicting meditation, was laying before his daughters the whole of his difficulties, and demanding if they would willingly concur in paying their brother’s bills from their appropriate little store, by adopting an altered plan of life, and severe self-denial of their present ease and elegance, to aid its speedy replacement.
Their satisfaction in any expedient to serve their brother that seemed to fall upon themselves, was sincere, was even joyful: but they jointly besought that the sum might be freely taken up, and deducted for ever more from the hoard; since no earthly gratification could be so great to them, as contributing their mite to prevent any deprivation of domestic enjoyment to their beloved parents.
His eyes glistened, but not from grief; it was the pleasure of virtuous happiness in their purity of filial affection. But though he knew their sincerity, he would not listen to their petition. ‘You are not yet,’ said he, ‘aware what your future calls may be for money. What I have yet been able to save, without this unexpected seizure, would be inadequate to your even decent maintenance, should any accident stop short its encrease. Weep not, my dear children! my health is still good, and my prospect of lengthened life seems fair. It would be, however, a temporal folly as well as a spiritual presumption, to forget the precarious tenure of human existence. My life, my dear girls, will be happier, without being shorter, for making provisions for its worldly cessation.’
‘But, Sir! but my father!’ cried Camilla, hanging over him, and losing in filial tenderness her personal distresses; ‘if your manner of living is altered, and my dear mother returns home and sees you relinquishing any of your small, your temperate indulgencies, may it not yet more embitter her sufferings and her displeasure for the unhappy cause? For her sake then, if not for ours’–
‘Do not turn away, dearest Sir!’ cried Lavinia; ‘what mother ever merited to have her peace the first study of her children, if it is not ours?’
‘O Providence benign!’ said Mr. Tyrold, folding them to his heart, ‘how am I yet blessed in my children!–True and excellent daughters of my invaluable wife-this little narration is the solace I shall have to offer for the grief I must communicate.’
He would not, however, hearken to their proposition; his peace, he said, required not only immediate measures for replacing what he must borrow, but also that no chasm should have lieu in funding his usual annual sum for them. All he would accept was the same severe forbearance he should instantly practice himself, and which their mother, when restored to them, would be the first to adopt and improve. And this, till its end was answered, they would all steadily continue, and then, with chearful self-approvance, resume their wonted comforts.
Mr. Tyrold had too frequent views of the brevity of human life to postpone, even from one sun to another, any action he deemed essential. A new general system, therefore, immediately pervaded his house. Two of the servants, with whom he best could dispense, were discharged; which hurt him more than any other privation, for he loved, and was loved by every domestic who lived with him. His table, always simple though elegant, was now reduced to plain necessaries; he parted with every horse, but one to whose long services he held himself a debtor; and whatever, throughout the whole economy of his small establishment, admitted simplifying, deducting, or abolishment, received, without delay, its requisite alteration or dismission.
These new regulations were quietly, but completely, put in practice, before he would discharge one bill for his son; to whom, nevertheless, though his conduct was strict, his feelings were still lenient. He attributed not to moral turpitude his errours nor his crimes, but to the prevalence of ill example, and to an unjustifiable and dangerous levity, which irresistibly led him to treat with mockery and trifling the most serious subjects. The punishment, however, which he had now drawn upon himself, would yet, he hoped, touch his heart.
But the debts called debts of honour, met not with similar treatment. He answered with spirited resentment demands he deemed highly flagitious, counselling those who sent them, when next they applied to an unhappy family to whose calamities they had contributed, to enquire first if its principles, as well as its fortune, made the hazards of gaming amongst its domestic responsibilities.
THE serenity of virtue would now again have made its abode the breast of Mr. Tyrold, but for the constant wretchedness to which he saw his daughter a prey. With the benignest pity he strove to revive her; a pity unabated by any wonder, unalloyed with any blame. His wonder fell all upon Edgar, whom he considered as refining away mortal happiness, by dissatisfaction that it was not divine; but his censure, which he reserved wholly for vice, exonerated them both. Still, however, he flattered himself that ere long, to her youthful mind and native chearfulness, tranquillity, if not felicity, would imperceptibly return, from such a union for exertion of filial and sisterly duties: that industry would sweeten rest, virtue gild privation, and self-approvance convert every sacrifice into enjoyment.
But peace such as this was far from her bosom. While the desertion of Edgar had tolled the death bell to all her hopes, an unremitting contention disturbed her mind, whether to avow or conceal her situation with regard to the money-lender. The reflections of every night brought a dissatisfaction in her conduct, which determined her upon an openness the most undisguised for the following morning: but timidity, and the desire of reprieve from the fearful task, again, the following morning, regularly postponed her purpose.
In the first horror occasioned by her father’s distress from the bills of her brother, she wrote a supplicating letter to Mrs. Mittin, to intreat she would endeavour to quiet her creditors till she could arrange something for their payment. And while this produced a correspondence replete with danger, difficulty, and impropriety, a new circumstance occurred, which yet more cruelly embittered her conflicting emotions. Lavinia, in the virtuous eagerness of her heart to forward the general oeconomy, insisted wholly to relinquish, for this year, her appropriate allowance; declaring that, by careful management, she could dispense with anything new, and that the very few expences she might find utterly unavoidable, she would demand from time to time as they occurred. Camilla, at this proposition, retreated, in agony, to her chamber. To make the same was impossible; for how, then, find interest for the money-lender? yet to withstand so just an example, seemed a disgrace to every duty and every feeling.
Lavinia, who, in her countenance and abrupt departure, read the new distress she had incautiously excited, with a thousand self-reproaches followed her. She had considered but the common cause when she spoke, without weighing the strange appearance of not being seconded by her sister: But her mind was amongst the last to covet the narrow praise of insidious comparison; and her concern for the proposal she had made, when she saw its effect, was as deep as that of Camilla in hearing it, though not attended with the same aggravations.
Mr. Tyrold remained utterly surprized. The generous and disinterested nature of Camilla, made it impossible to suspect her restrained by a greater love of money than Lavinia; and he could not endure to suppose her late visits to public places, had rendered personal oeconomy more painful.
But he would make no enquiry that might seem a reproach; nor suffer any privation or contribution that was not chearful and voluntary.
The purchases for the wedding of Miss Dennel being now made, that young lady came down to the country to solemnize her nuptials, accompanied by Mrs. Mittin, who instantly visited Camilla.
She could settle nothing, she said, with the money-lender, without the premium; but she had coaxed all the creditors, by assuring them, that, as the debtor was a great heiress, they were certain of their money when she came to her estate. Camilla could not endure to owe their forbearance to a falsehood; though to convince Mrs. Mittin of her errour, in contradiction to the assertion of Lionel, was a vain attempt. The business, however, pressed; and to keep back these but too just claimants was her present most fervent desire. Mrs. Mittin was amongst the most expert of expedient-mongers, and soon started a method for raising the premium. She asked to look at what Camilla possessed of trinkets: and the prize ear-rings of Tunbridge, the ear-rings and necklace of Southampton, and several small toys occasionally given her, were collected. The locket she also demanded, to make weight; but neither that, nor the peculiar gifts, as keep-sakes, of her father, mother, or uncle, consisting of a seal, a ring, and a watch, would she part with.
What she would relinquish, however, Mrs. Mittin disposed of to one of her numerous friends; but they raised only, when intrinsically valued, sixteen pounds. Lavinia then insisted upon coming forward with a contribution of every trinket she was worth, save what had the same sacred motives of detention: and the twenty pounds, without any ceremony of acknowledgment, were delivered to Mr. Clykes; who then took into his own hands the payment of the hundred and eighteen pounds; for which he received a bond, signed by Camilla, and witnessed by Mrs. Mittin; and another note of hand, promising ten per cent. interest for the sum, till the principal were repaid. These two notes, he acknowledged, were mere pledges of honour, as the law would treat her as an infant: but he never acted without them, as they prevented mistakes in private dealings.
This important affair arranged, Camilla felt somewhat more at ease; she was relieved from hourly alarms, and left the mistress to make her confession as circumstances directed. But she obtained not for nothing the agency of Mrs. Mittin, who was not a character to leave self out of consideration in her transactions for others; and at every visit made at Etherington from this time, she observed something in the apparel of Camilla that was utterly old fashioned, or too mean for her to wear; but which would do well enough for herself, when vamped up, as she knew how. Her obligations and inexperience made it impossible to her to resist, though, at this season of saving care, she gave up nothing which she could not have rendered useful, by industry and contrivance.
During this unhappy period at Etherington, a brighter, though not unclouded scene, was exhibited at Cleves. Melmond arrived; he was permitted to pay his addresses to the fair Indiana, and believed felicity celestial accorded to him even upon earth.
But this adored object herself suffered some severe repining at her fate, when she saw, from her window, her lover gallop into the park without equipage, without domestics, and mounted on a hired horse. The grimacing shrugs of Miss Margland shewed she entered into this mortification; and they were nearly conspiring to dismiss the ignoble pretender, when a letter, which he modestly sent up, from his sister, inviting Indiana to pass a few weeks in Grosvenor Square, once again secured the interest of the brother. She suffered, therefore, Sir Hugh to hand her down stairs, and the enamoured Melmond thought himself the most blest of men.
The sight of such eager enjoyment, and the really amiable qualities of this youth, soon completely reconciled the Baronet to this new business; for he saw no reason, he said, in fact, why one niece had not as good a right to be married first as another. The generous and sentimental Eugenia never ceased her kind offices, and steadily wore an air of tolerable chearfulness all day, though her pillow was nightly wetted with tears for her unfortunate lot.
Nor, with all her native equanimity and acquired philosophy, was this a situation to bring back serenity. The enthusiastic raptures of Melmond elevated him, in her eyes, to something above human; and while his adoration of Indiana presented to her a picture of all she thought most fascinating, his grateful softness of respect to herself, was penetratingly touching to her already conquered heart.
Indiana, meanwhile, began ere long, to catch some of the pleasure she inspired. The passionate animation of Melmond, soon not only resumed its first power, but became even essential to her. No one else had yet seemed to think her so completely a goddess, except Mr. Macdersey, whom she scarce expected ever to see again. With Melmond she could do nothing that did not make her appear to him still more lovely: and though her whims, thus indulged, became almost endless, they but kindled with fresh flame his admiration. If she fretted, he thought her all sensibility; if she pouted, all dignity; if her laughter was unmeaning, she was made up of innocent gaiety; if what she said was shallow, he called her the child of pure nature; if she were angry, how becoming was her spirit! if illiberal, how noble was her frankness! Her person charmed his eye, but his own imagination framed her mind, and while his enchanted faculties were the mere slaves of her beauty, they persuaded themselves they were vanquished by every other perfection.
Mr. Tyrold had not yet related Edgar’s defection to Sir Hugh; though from the moment the time of hope was past, he wished to end that of expectation. But the pressure of the affairs of Lionel detained him at Etherington, and he could not bear to give grief to his brother, till he could soften its effect by the consolation of some residence at Cleves. This time now arrived; and the next day was fixed for his painful task, in which he meant to spare Camilla any share, when Jacob begged immediate admittance into the study, where Mr. Tyrold and his daughters were drinking tea.
His scared look instantly announced ill news. Mr. Tyrold was alarmed, Lavinia was frightened, and Camilla exclaimed, ‘Jacob, speak at once!’
He begged to sit down.
Camilla ran to get him a chair.
‘Is my brother well, Jacob?’ cried Mr. Tyrold.
‘Why, pretty well, considering, Sir,-but these are vast bad times for us!’
‘O! if my uncle is but well,’ cried Camilla, relieved from her first dreadful doubt, ‘all, I hope, will do right!’
‘Why, ay, Miss,’ said Jacob, smiling, ‘I knew you’d be master’s best comfort; and so I told him, and so he says, for that matter himself, as I’ve got to tell you from him. But, for all that, he takes on prodigious bad. I never saw him in the like way, except just that time when Miss Geny had the small pox.’
They all supplicated him to forbear further comments, and then gathered, that a money-agent, employed by young Lynmere, had just arrived at Cleves; where, with bitter complaints, he related that, having been duped into believing him heir to Sir Hugh Tyrold, he had been prevailed with to grant him money, from time to time, to pay certain bills, contracted not only there, but in London, for goods sent thence by his order, to the amount of near thirteen hundred pounds, without the interest, of which he should give a separate account; that he had vainly applied to the young gentleman for re-imbursement, who finally assured him he was just disinherited by his uncle. No hope, therefore, remained to save him from the ruin of this affair, but in the compassion of the Baronet, which he now came to most humbly solicit.
While Mr. Tyrold, in silent surprise and concern, listened to an account that placed his brother in difficulties so similar to his own, Camilla, sinking back in her chair, looked pale, looked almost lifeless. The history of the debts she already knew, and had daily expected to hear; but the circumstance of the money-lender, and the delusion concerning the inheritance, so resembled her own terrible, and yet unknown story, that she felt personally involved in all the shame and horror of the relation.
Mr. Tyrold, who believed her suffering all for her uncle, made further enquiries, while Lavinia tenderly sustained her. ‘Don’t take on so, dear Miss,’ said Jacob, ‘for all our hope is in you, as Master and I both said; and he bid me tell your papa, that if he’d only give young ‘Squire Mandlebert a jog, to egg him on, that he might not be so shilly shally, as soon as ever the wedding’s over, he’d accept his kind invitation to Beech Park, and bide there till he got clear, as one may say.’
Mr. Tyrold now required no assigned motive for the excessive distress of his daughter, and hastened to turn Jacob from this too terribly trying subject, by saying, ‘My brother then means to pay these demands?’
‘Lauk, yes, Sir! his honour pays every thing as any body asks him; only he says he don’t know how, because of having no more money, being so hard run with all our preparations we have been making this last fortnight.’
Camilla, with every moment encreasing agitation, hid her face against Lavinia; but Mr. Tyrold, with some energy, said: ‘The interest, at least, I hope he will not discharge; for those dangerous vultures, who lie in wait for the weak or erring, to encourage their frailties or vices, by affording them means to pursue them, deserve much severer punishment, than merely losing a recompense for their iniquitous snares.’
This was quite too much for the already disordered Camilla; she quitted her sister, glided out of the room, and delivered herself over as a prey no longer to sorrow but remorse. Her conduct seemed to have been precisely the conduct of Clermont, and she felt herself dreadfully implicated as one of the weak or erring, guilty of frailties or vices.
That an uncle so dearly loved should believe she was forming an establishment which would afford him an asylum during his difficulties, now every prospect of that establishment was over, was so heart-piercing a circumstance, that to her father it seemed sufficient for the whole of what she endured. He made her over, therefore, to Lavinia, while he hastened to Cleves; for Jacob, when he had said all he was ordered to say, all he had gathered himself, and all he was able to suggest, finished with letting him know that his master begged he would set out that very moment.
The time of his absence was spent by Camilla in an anguish that, at his return, seemed quite to have changed her. He was alarmed, and redoubled his tenderness; but his tenderness was no longer her joy. He knows not, she thought, whom he caresses; knows not that the wounds just beginning to heal for the son, are soon to be again opened for the daughter!
Yet her affections were all awake to enquire after her uncle; and when she heard that nothing could so much sooth him as her sight, all fear of his comments, all terror of exertion, subsided in the possible chance of consoling him: and Mr. Tyrold, who thought every act of duty led to chearfulness, sent to desire the carriage might fetch her the next morning.
He passed slightly over to Camilla the scene he had himself gone through; but he confessed to Lavinia its difficulty and pain. Sir Hugh had acknowledged he had drawn his bankers dry, yet had merely current cash to go on till the next quarter, whence he intended to deduct the further expences of the weddings. Nevertheless, he was determined upon paying every shilling of the demand, not only for the debts, but for all the complicate interest. He would not listen to any reasoning upon this subject, because, he said, he had it upon his conscience that the first fault was his own, in letting poor Clermont leave the kingdom, without clearing up to him that he had made Eugenia his exclusive heiress. It was in vain Mr. Tyrold pointed out, that no future hopes of wealth could exculpate this unauthorized extravagance in Clermont, and no dissipation in Clermont could apologize for the clandestine loan, and its illegal interest: ‘The poor boy,’ said he, ‘did it all, knowing no better, which how can I expect, when I did wrong myself, being his uncle? Though, if I were to have twenty more nephews and nieces in future, the first word I should say to them would be to tell them I should give them nothing; to the end that having no hope, they might all be happy one as another.’ All, therefore, that was left for Mr. Tyrold, was to counsel him upon the best and shortest means of raising the sum; and for this purpose, he meant to be with him again the next day.
This affair, however, with all its reproach for the past, and all its sacrifices for the time to come, by no means so deeply affected Sir Hugh as the blow Mr. Tyrold could no longer spare concerning Edgar. It sunk to his heart, dispirited him to tears, and sent him, extremely ill, to bed.
The chaise came early the next morning, and Mr. Tyrold had the pleasure to see Camilla exert herself to appear less sad. Lavinia was also of the party, as he meant to stay the whole day.
Eugenia met them in the hall, with the welcome intelligence that Sir Hugh, though he had passed a wretched night, was now somewhat better, and considerably cheared, by a visit from his old Yorkshire friend, Mr. Westwyn.
Nevertheless, Sir Hugh dismissed him, and everybody else, to receive Camilla alone.
She endeavoured to approach him calmly, but his own unchecked emotions soon overset her borrowed fortitude, and the interview proved equally afflicting to both. The cruel mischiefs brought upon him by Clermont, were as nothing in the balance of his misfortunes, when opposed to the sight of sorrow upon that face which, hitherto, had so constantly enlivened him as an image of joy: and with her, every self-disappointment yielded, for the moment, to the regret of losing so precious a blessing, as offering a refuge, in a time of difficulty, to an uncle so dear to her.
Mr. Tyrold would not suffer this scene to be long uninterrupted; he entered, with a chearing countenance, that compelled them to dry their tears, and told them the Westwyns could not much longer be left out, though they remained, well contented, for the present, with Miss Margland and his other daughters. ‘Melmond and Indiana,’ added he, smiling, ‘seem at present not beings of this lower sphere, nor to have a moment to spare for those who are.’
‘That, my dear brother,’ answered the Baronet, ‘is all my comfort; for as to all the rest of my marrying, you see what it’s come to! who could have thought of young Mr. Edgar’s turning out in the same way? I can’t say but what I take it pretty unkind of him, letting me prepare at this rate for nothing; besides Beech Park’s being within but a stone’s throw, as one may say, as well as his own agreeableness. However, now I’ve seen a little more of the world, I can’t say I find much difference between the good and the bad, with respect to their all doing alike. The young boys now-a-days, whatever’s come to ’em, don’t know what they’d be at. They think nothing of disappointing a person if once they’ve a mind to change their minds. All one’s preparations go for nothing; which they never think of.’
Mr. Tyrold now prevailed for the re-admission of Mr. Westwyn, who was accompanied by his son, and followed by the Cleves family.
The cheeks of Camilla recovered their usual hue at the sight of Henry, from the various interesting recollections which occurred with it. She was seen herself with their original admiration, both by the father and the son, though with the former it was now mingled with anger, and with the latter no longer gilded with hope. Yet the complaints against her, which, upon his arrival, Mr. Westwyn meant to make, were soon not merely relinquished, but transformed into pity, upon the view of her dejected countenance, and silent melancholy.
The Baronet, however, revived again, by seeing his old friend, whose humour so much resembled his own, that, in Yorkshire, he had been always his first favourite. Each the children of untutored nature, honest and open alike in their words and their dealings, their characters and their propensities were nearly the same, though Sir Hugh, more self-formed, had a language and manner of his own; and Mr. Westwyn, of a temper less equal and less gentle, gave way, as they arose, to such angry passions as the indulgent Baronet never felt.
‘My dear friend,’ said Mr. Westwyn, ‘you don’t take much notice of my Hal, though, I’ll give you my word, you won’t see such another young fellow every day. However, it’s as well not, before his face, for it might only make him think himself somebody: and that, while I am alive, I don’t intend he should do. I can’t bear a young fellow not dutiful. I’ve always a bad opinion of him. I can’t say he pleases me.’
‘My dear Westwyn,’ answered the Baronet, ‘I’ve no doubt but what master Hal is very good, for which I am truly glad. But as to much over-rejoicing, now, upon the score of young boys, it’s what I can’t do, seeing they’ve turned out so ill, one after another, as far as I have had to do with them; for which, however, I hope I bear ’em no malice. They’ve enough to answer for without that, which, I hope, they’ll think of in time.’
‘Why to be sure, Sir Hugh, if you set about thinking of a young fellow by the pattern of my friend Clermont, I can’t say I’m much surprised you don’t care to give him a good word; I can’t say I am. I am pretty much of the same way of thinking. I love to speak the truth.’ He then took Mr. Tyrold apart, and ran on with a history of all he had gathered, while at Leipsic, of the conduct and way of life of Clermont Lynmere. ‘He was a disgrace,’ said he, ‘even to the English name, as a Professor told me, that I can’t remember the name of, it’s so prodigious long; but, if it had not been for my son, he told me, they’d have thought all the English young fellows good for nothing, except extravagance, and eating and drinking! “They’d all round have got an ill name,” says he, “if it had not been for your son,” were his words which I shall never forget. I sent him over a noble pipe of Madeira, which I’d just got for myself, as soon as I came home. I took to him very much, I can’t say but I did; he was a very good man; he had prodigiously the look of an Englishman. He said Hal was an ornament to the university. I took it very well of him. I wish he had not such a hard name. I can never call it to mind. I hate a hard name. I can never speak it without a blunder.’
Sir Hugh now, who had been talking with Henry, called upon Mr. Westwyn, to beg his pardon for not speaking of him more respectfully, saying: ‘I see he’s quite agreeable, which I should have noticed from the first, only being what I did not know; which I hope is my excuse; my head, my dear friend, not getting on much, in point of quickness: though I can’t say it’s for want of pains, since you and I used to live so much together; but to no great end, for I always find myself in the back, however it happens: which your son, Master Hal, is, I see, quite the contrary.’
Mr. Westwyn was so much gratified by this praise, that he immediately confessed the scheme and wish he had formed of marrying Hal to Camilla, only for her not approving it. Sir Hugh protested nothing could give him more pleasure than such a connexion, and significantly added, he had other nieces, besides Camilla.
‘Why, yes,’ said Mr. Westwyn, ‘and I can’t keep from looking at ’em; I like ’em all mightily. I’m a great friend to taking from a good stock. I chuse to know what I’m about. That girl at Southampton hit my fancy prodigiously. But I’m not for the beauty. A beauty won’t make a good wife. It takes her too much time to put her cap on.’ That little one, there, with the hump, which I don’t mind, nor the limp, neither, I like vastly. But I’m afraid Hal won’t take to her. A young man don’t much fancy an ugly girl. He’s always hankering after something pretty. There’s that other indeed, Miss Lavinia, is as handsome a girl as I’d wish to see. And she seems as good, too. However, I’m not for judging all by the eye. I’m past that. An old man should not play the fool. Which I wish somebody would whisper to a certain Lord that I know of, that don’t behave quite to my mind. I’m not fond of an old fool: nor a young one neither. They make me sick.’
Sir Hugh heard and agreed to all this, with the same simplicity with which it was spoken; and, soon after, Yorkshire becoming their theme, Mr. Tyrold had the pleasure of seeing his brother so much re-animated by the revival of old scenes, ideas, and connexions, that he heartily joined in pressing the Mr. Westwyns to spend a fortnight at Cleves, to which they consented with pleasure.
WITH every allowance for a grief in which so deeply he shared, Mr. Tyrold felt nearly bowed down with sorrow, when he observed his own tenderness abate of its power to console, and his exhortations of their influence with his miserable daughter, whose complicated afflictions seemed desperate to herself, and to him nearly hopeless.
He now began to fear the rigid oeconomy and retirement of their present lives might add secret disgust or fatigue to the disappointment of her heart. He sighed at an idea so little in unison with all that had hitherto appeared of her disposition; yet remembered she was very young and very lively, and thought that, if caught by a love of gayer scenes than Etherington afforded, she was at a season of life which brings its own excuse for such venial ambition.
He mentioned, therefore, with great kindness, their exclusion from all society, and proposed making an application to Mrs. Needham, a lady high in the esteem of Mrs. Tyrold, to have the goodness to take the charge of carrying them a little into the world, during the absence of their mother. ‘I can neither exact nor desire,’ he said, ‘to sequester you from all amusement for a term so utterly indefinite as that of her restoration; since it is now more than ever desirable to regain the favour of your uncle Relvil for Lionel, who has resisted every profession for which I have sought to prepare him; though his idle and licentious courses so little fit him for contentment with the small patrimony he will one day inherit.’
The sisters mutually and sincerely declined this proposition; Lavinia had too much employment to find time ever slow of passage; and Camilla, joined to the want of all spirit for recreation, had a dread of appearing in the county, lest she should meet with Sir Sedley Clarendel, whose two hundred pounds were amongst the evils ever present to her. The money which Eugenia meant to save for this account had all been given to Lionel; and now her marriage was at an end, and no particular sum expected, she must be very long in replacing it; especially as Jacob was first to be considered; though he had kindly protested he was in no haste to be paid.
Mr. Tyrold was not sorry to have his proposition declined; yet saw the sadness of Camilla unabated, and suggested, for a transient diversity, a visit to the Grove; enquiring why an acquaintance begun with so much warmth and pleasure, seemed thus utterly relinquished. Camilla had herself thought with shame of her apparently ungrateful neglect of Mrs. Arlbery; but the five guineas she had borrowed, and forgotten to pay, while she might yet have asked them of Sir Hugh, and which now she had no ability any where to raise, made the idea of meeting with her painful. And thus, overwhelmed with regret and repentance for all around, her spirits gone, and her heart sunk, she desired never more, except for Cleves, to stir from Etherington.
Had he seen the least symptom of her revival, Mr. Tyrold would have been gratified by her strengthened love of home; but this was far from being the case; and, upon the marriage of Miss Dennel, which was now celebrated, he was glad of an opportunity to force her abroad, from the necessity of making a congratulatory visit to the bride’s aunt, Mrs. Arlbery.
The chariot, therefore, of Sir Hugh being borrowed, she was compelled into this exertion; which was ill repaid by her reception from Mrs. Arlbery, who, hurt as well as offended by her long absence and total silence, wore an air of the most chilling coldness. Camilla felt sorry and ashamed; but too much disturbed to attempt any palliation for her non-appearance, and remissness of even a note or message.
The room was full of morning visitors, all collected for the same complimentary purpose; but she was relieved with respect to her fears of Sir Sedley Clarendel, in hearing of his tour to the Hebrides.
Her mournful countenance soon, however, dispersed the anger of Mrs. Arlbery. ‘What,’ cried she, ‘has befallen you, my fair friend? if you are not immeasurably unhappy, you are very seriously ill.’
‘Yes,-no,-my spirits-have not been good–’ answered she, stammering;–‘but yours may, perhaps, assist to restore them.’
The composition of Mrs. Arlbery had no particle of either malice or vengeance; she now threw off, therefore, all reserve, and taking her by the hand, said: ‘shall I keep you to spend the day with me? Yes, or no? Peace or war?’
And without waiting for an answer, she sent back the chariot, and a message to Mr. Tyrold, that she would carry home his daughter in the evening.
‘And now, my faithless Fair,’ cried she, as soon as they were alone, ‘tell me what has led you to this abominable fickleness? with me, I mean! If you had grown tired of any body else, I should have thought nothing so natural. But you know, I suppose, that the same thing we philosophise into an admirable good joke for our neighbours, we moralise into a crime against ourselves.’
‘I thought,’ said Camilla, attempting to smile, ‘none but country cousins ever made apologies?’
‘Nay, now, I must forgive you without one word more!’ answered Mrs. Arlbery, laughing, and shaking hands with her; ‘a happy citation of one bon mot, is worth any ten offences. So, you see, you have nine to commit, in store, clear of all damages. But the pleasure of finding one has not said a good thing only for once, thence to be forgotten and die away in the winds, is far greater than you can yet awhile conceive. In the first pride of youth and beauty, our attention is all upon how we are looked at. But when those begin to be somewhat on the wane-when that barbarous time comes into play, which revenges upon poor miserable woman all the airs she has been playing upon silly man-our ambition, then, is how we are listened to. So now, cutting short reproach and excuse, and all the wearying round of explanation, tell me a little of your history since we last met.’
This was the last thing Camilla meant to undertake: but she began, in a hesitating manner, to speak of her little debt. Mrs. Arlbery, eagerly interrupting her, insisted it should not be mentioned; adding: ‘I go on vastly well again; I am breaking in two ponies, and building a new phaeton; and I shall soon pay for both, without the smallest inconvenience,-except just pinching my servants, and starving my visitors. But tell me something of your adventures. You are not half so communicative as Rumour, which has given me a thousand details of you, and married you and your whole set to at least halt a dozen men a piece, since you were last at the Grove. Amongst others, it asserts, that my old Lord Valhurst was seriously at your feet? That prating Mrs. Mittin, who fastened upon my poor little niece at Tunbridge, and who is now her factotum, pretends that my lord’s own servants spoke of it publicly at Mrs. Berlinton’s .’
This was a fact that, being thus divulged, a very few questions made impossible to deny; though Camilla was highly superior to the indelicacy and ingratitude of repaying the preference of any gentleman by publishing his rejection.
‘And what in the world, my dear child,’ said Mrs. Arlbery, ‘could provoke you to so wild an action as refusing him?’
‘Good Heaven, Mrs. Arlbery!’
‘O, what-you were not in love with him? I believe not!-but if he was in love with you, take my word for it, that would have done quite as well. ’Tis such a little while that same love lasts, even when it is begun with, that you have but a few months to lose, to be exactly upon a par with those who set out with all the quivers of Cupid, darting from heart to heart. He has still fortune enough left for a handsome settlement; you can’t help outliving him, and then, think but how delectable would be your situation! Freedom, money at will, the choice of your own friends, and the enjoyment of your own humour!’
‘You would but try me, my dear Mrs. Arlbery; for you cannot, I’m sure, believe me capable of making so solemn an engagement for such mercenary hopes, and selfish purposes.’
‘This is all the romance of false reasoning. You have not sought the man, but the man you. You would not have solicited his acceptance, but yielded to his solicitation of yours. The balance is always just, where force is not used. The man has his reasons for chusing you; you have your reasons for suffering yourself to be chosen. What his are, you have no business to enquire; nor has he the smallest right to investigate yours.’
This was by no means the style in which Camilla had been brought up to think of marriage; and Mrs. Arlbery presently added: ‘You are grave? yet I speak but as a being of the world I live in: though I address one that knows nothing about it. Tell me, however, a little more of your affairs. What are all these marriages and no marriages, our neighbourhood is so busy in making and unmaking?’
Camilla returned the most brief and quiet answers in her power; but was too late to save the delicacy of Eugenia in concealing her late double disappointments, the abortive preparations of Sir Hugh having travelled through all the adjoining country. ‘Poor little dear ugly thing!’ cried Mrs. Arlbery, ‘she must certainly go off with her footman;-unless, indeed, that good old pedant, who teaches her that vast quantity of stuff she will have to unlearn, when once she goes a little about, will take compassion upon her and her thousands, and put them both into his own pockets.’
This raillery was painful, nearly to disgust to Camilla; who frankly declared she saw her sister with no eyes but those of respect and affection, and could not endure to hear her mentioned in so ridiculous a manner.
‘Never judge the heart of a wit,’ answered she, laughing, ‘by the tongue! We have often as good hearts, ay, and as much good nature, too, as the careful prosers who utter nothing but what is right, or the heavy thinkers who have too little fancy to say anything that is wrong. But we have a pleasure in our own rattle that cruelly runs away with our discretion.’
She then more seriously apologized for what she had said, and declared herself an unaffected admirer of all she had heard of the good qualities of Eugenia.
Other subjects were then taken up, till they were interrupted by a visit from the young bride, Mrs. Lissin.
Jumping into the room, ‘I’m just run away,’ she cried, ‘without saying a word to any body! I ordered my coach myself, and told my own footman to whisper me when it came, that I might get off, without saying a word of the matter. Dear! how they’ll all stare when they miss me! I hope they’ll be frightened!’
‘And why so, you little chit? why do you want to make them uneasy?’
‘O! I don’t mind! I’m so glad to have my own way, I don’t care for anything else. Dear, how do you do, Miss Camilla Tyrold? I wonder you have not been to see me! I had a great mind to have invited you to have been one of my bride’s maids. But papa was so monstrous cross, he would not let me do hardly any thing I liked. I was never so glad in my life as when I went out of the house to be married! I’ll never ask him about any one thing as long as I live again. I’ll always do just what I chuse.’
‘And you are quite sure Mr. Lissin will never interfere with that resolution?’
‘O, I sha’n’t let him! I dare say he would else. That’s one reason I came out so, just now, on purpose to let him see I was my own mistress. And I told my coachman, and my own footman, and my maid, all three, that if they said one word, I’d turn ’em all away. For I intend always to turn ’em away when I don’t like ’em. I shall never say anything to Mr. Lissin first, for fear of his meddling. I’m quite determined I won’t be crossed any more, now I’ve servants of my own. I’m sure I’ve been crossed long enough.’
Then, turning to Camilla, ‘Dear,’ she cried, ‘how grave you look! Dear, I wonder you don’t marry too! When I ordered my coach, just now, I was ready to cry for joy, to think of not having to ask papa about it. And to-day, at breakfast, I dare say I rung twenty times, for one thing or another. As fast as ever I could think of any thing, I went to ringing again. For when I was at papa’s, every time I rang the bell, he always asked me what I wanted. Only think of keeping one under so!’
‘And what in the world said Mr. Lissin to so prodigious an uproar?’
‘O, he stared like any thing. But he could not say much: I intend to use him to it from the first, that he may never plague me, like papa, with asking me what’s the reason for every thing. If I don’t like the dinner to-day, I’ll order a new one, to be dressed for me on purpose. And Mr. Lissin, and papa, and Mrs. Mittin, and the rest of ’em, may eat the old one. Papa never let me order the dinner at home; he always would know what there was himself, and have what he chose. I’m resolved I’ll have every thing I like best, now, every day. I could not get at the cook alone this morning, because so many of ’em were in the way; though I rung for her a dozen times. But to-morrow, I’ll tell her of some things I intend to have the whole year through; in particular, currant tarts, and minced veal, and mashed potatoes. I’ve been determined upon that these three years, for against I was married.’
Then, taking Camilla by the hand, she begged she would accompany her to next room, saying, ‘Pray excuse me, Aunt Arlbery, because I want to talk to Miss Tyrold about a secret.’
When they came to another apartment, after carefully shutting the door, ‘Only think,’ she cried, ‘Miss Camilla Tyrold, of my marrying Mr. Lissin at last! Pray did you ever suspect it? I’m sure I did not. When papa told me of it, you can’t think how I was surprised. I always thought it would have been Colonel Andover, or Mr. Macdersey, or else Mr. Summers; unless it had been Mr. Wiggan; or else your brother; but Mr. Lissin never once came into my head, because of his being so old. I dare say he’s seven and twenty! only think!–But I believe he and papa had settled it all along, only papa never told it me, till just before hand. I don’t like him much; do you?’
‘I have not the pleasure to know him: but. 1 hope you will endeavour to like him better, now.’
‘I don’t much care whether I do or not, for I shall never mind him. I always determined never to mind a husband. One minds one’s papa because one can’t help it: But only think of my being married before you! though you’re seventeen years old-almost eighteen, I dare say-and I’m only just fifteen. I could not help thinking of it all the time I was dressing for a bride. You can’t think how pretty my dress was. Papa made Mrs. Mittin buy it, because, he said, she could get every thing so cheap: but I made her get it the dearest she could, for all that. Papa’s monstrous stingy.’
This secret conference was broken up by a violent ringing at the gate, succeeded by the appearance of Mr. Lissin, who, without any ceremony, opened the door of the chamber into which the ladies had retired.
‘So, ma’am!’ said he, visibly very angry, ‘I have the pleasure at last to find you! dinner has waited till it is spoilt, and I hope, therefore, now, you will do us the favour to come and sit at the head of your table.’
She looked frightened, and he took her hand, which she had not courage to draw back, though in a voice that spoke a sob near at hand, ‘I’m sure,’ she cried, ‘this is not being treated like a married woman! and I’m sure if I’d known I might not do as I like, and come out when I’d a mind, I would not have married at all!’
Mr. Lissin, with little or no apology to Mrs. Arlbery, then conveyed his fair bride to her coach.
‘Poor simple girl!’ exclaimed Mrs. Arlbery. ‘Mr. Lissin, who is a country squire of Northwick, will soon teach her another lesson, than that of ordering her carriage just at dinner time! The poor child took it into her head that, because, upon marrying, she might say, “my house,” “my coach,” and “my servants,” instead of “my papa’s;” and ring her bell for she pleased, and give her own orders, that she was to arrive at complete liberty and independence, and that her husband had merely to give her his name, and lodge in the same dwelling: and she will regard him soon, as a tyrant and a brute, for not letting her play all day long the part of a wild school girl, just come home for the holidays.’
The rest of the visit passed without further investigation on the part of Mrs. Arlbery, or embarrassment on that of Camilla; who found again some little pleasure in the conversation which, at first, had so much charmed, and the kindness which even her apparent neglect had not extinguished.
Mrs. Arlbery, in two days, claimed her again. Mr. Tyrold would not permit her to send an excuse, and she found that lady more kindly disposed to her than ever; but with an undisguised compassion and concern in her countenance and manner. She had now learnt that Edgar was gone abroad; and she had learnt that Camilla had private debts, to the amount of one hundred and eighteen pounds.
The shock of Camilla, when spoken to upon this subject, was terrible. She soon gathered, she had been betrayed by Mrs. Mittin, who, though she had made the communication as a profound secret to Mrs. Arlbery, with whom she had met at Mrs. Lissin’s, there was every reason to suppose would whisper it, in the same manner, to an hundred persons besides.
Mrs. Arlbery, seeing her just uneasiness, promised, in this particular, to obviate it herself, by a conference with Mrs. Mittin, in which she would represent, that her own ruin would be the consequence of divulging this affair, from the general opinion which would prevail, that she had seduced a young lady under age, to having dealings with a usurer.
Camilla, deeply colouring, accepted her kind offer; but was forced upon a confession of the transaction; though with a shame for her trust in such a character as Mrs. Mittin, that made her deem the relation a penance almost adequate to its wrong.
THE Visit of the Westwyns to Sir Hugh shewed Lavinia in so favourable a light, that nothing less than the strong prepossession already conceived for Camilla could have guarded the heart of the son, or the wishes of the father, from the complete captivation of her modest beauty, her intrinsic worth, and the chearful alacrity, and virtuous self-denial, with which she presided in the new oeconomy of the rectory. But though the utter demolition of hope played with Henry its usual part of demolishing, also, half the fervour of admiration, he still felt, in consequence of his late failure, a distaste of any similar attempt: and Mr. Westwyn, unbribed by the high praise of his son, which had won him in Camilla, left him master of his choice. Each, however, found a delight in the Tyrold society, that seconded the wishes of the Baronet to make them lengthen their visit.
The retrenchments, by which the debts of Clermont were to be paid, could no longer, nevertheless, be deferred; and Mr. Tyrold was just setting out for Cleves, to give his counsel for their arrangement, when his daughters were broken in upon by Mrs. Mittin.
Camilla could scarcely look at her, for displeasure at her conduct; but soon observed she seemed herself full of resentment and ill humour. She desired a private interview; and Camilla then found, that Mrs. Arlbery had not only represented her fault, and frightened her with its consequences, but occasioned, though most undesignedly, new disturbances and new dangers to herself: for Mrs. Mittin at length learnt, in this conference, with equal certainty, surprise, and provocation, that the inheritance of Sir Hugh was positively and entirely settled upon his youngest niece; and that the denials of all expectation on the part of Camilla, which she had always taken for closeness, conveyed but the simple truth. Alarmed lest she should incur the anger of Mr. Clykes, who was amongst her most useful friends, she had written him word of the discovery, with her concern at the mistake: and Mr. Clykes, judging now he had no chance of the gratuity finally promised for honour and secrecy, and even that his principal was in danger, had sent an enraged answer, with an imperious declaration, that he must either immediately be repaid all he had laid out, or receive some security for its being refunded, of higher value than the note of a minor of no fortune nor expectations.
Mrs. Mittin protested she did not know which way to turn, she was so sorry to have disobliged so good a friend; and broke forth into a vehement invective against Mr. Dubster, for pretending he knew the truth from young Squire Tyrold himself.
Long as was her lamentation, and satisfied as she always felt to hear her own voice, her pause still came too soon for any reply from Camilla, who now felt the discovery of her situation to be inevitable, compulsatory and disgraceful. Self-upbraidings that she had ever listened to such an expedient, assailed her with the cruellest poignancy, mingling almost self-detestation with utter despair.
In vain Mrs. Mittin pressed for some satisfaction; she was mute from inability to devise any; till the coachman of Mr. Lissin sent word he could wait no longer. She then, in a broken voice, said, ‘Be so good as to write to Mr. Clykes, that if he will have the patience to wait a few days, I will prepare my friends to settle my accounts with him.’
Mrs. Mittin then, recovering from her own fright in this business, answered, ‘O, if that’s the case, my dear young lady, pray don’t be uneasy, for it grieves me to vex you; and I’ll promise you I’ll coax my good friend to wait such a matter as that; for he’s a vast regard for me; he’ll do any thing I ask him, I know.’
She now went away; and Lavinia, who ran to her sister, found her in a state of distress, that melted her gentle heart to behold: but when she gathered what had passed, ‘This disclosure, my dearest Camilla,’ she cried, ‘can never be so tremendous as the incessant fear of its discovery. Think of that, I conjure you! and endeavour to bear the one great shock, that will lead to after peace and case.’
‘No, my dear sister, peace and ease are no more for me!–My happiness was already buried;-and now, all that remained of consolation will be cut off also, in the lost good opinion of my father and mother!-that destroyed-and Edgar gone-what is life to me?–I barely exist!’
‘And is it possible you can even a moment doubt their forgiveness? dear as you are to them, cherished, beloved!–’
‘No-not their forgiveness-but their esteem, their confidence, their pleasure in their daughter will all end!-think, Lavinia, of my mother!-when she finds I, too, have contributed to the distress and disturbance of my father-that on my account, too, his small income is again straitened, his few gratifications are diminished–O Lavinia! how has she strove to guard her poor tottering girl from evil! And how has her fondness been always the pride of my life! What a conclusion is this to her cares! what a reward to all the goodness of my father!’
In this state of desperate wretchedness, she was still incapable to make the avowal which was now become indispensable, and which must require another loan from the store her father held so sacred, Lavinia had even less courage; and they determined to apply to Eugenia, who, though as softly feeling as either, mingled in her character a sort of heroic philosophy, that enabled her to execute and to endure the hardest tasks, where she thought them the demand of virtue. They resolved, therefore, the next morning, to send a note to Cleves for the carriage, and to commit the affair to this inexperienced and youthful female sage.
Far from running, as she was wont, to meet her father upon his entrance, Camilla was twice sent for before she could gain strength to appear in his presence; nor could his utmost kindness enable her to look up.
The heart of Mr. Tyrold was penetrated by her avoidance, and yet more sunk by her sight. His best hopes were all defeated of affording her parental comfort, and he was still to seek for her revival or support.
He related what had passed at Cleves, with the accustomed openness with which he conversed with his children as his friends. Clermont, he said, was arrived, and had authenticated all the accounts, with so little of either shame or sense, that a character less determined upon indulgence than that of Sir Hugh, must have revolted from affording him succour, if merely to mortify him into repentance. The manner of making payment, however, had been the difficult discussion of the whole day. Sir Hugh was unequal to performing any thing, though ready to consent to every thing. When he proposed the sale of several of his numerous horses, he objected, that what remained would be hard worked: when he mentioned diminishing his table, he was afraid the poor would take it ill, as they were used to have his orts: and when he talked of discharging some of his servants, he was sure they would think it very unkind. ‘His heart,’ continued Mr. Tyrold, ‘is so bountiful, and so full of kindness, that he pleads his tender feelings, and regretting wishes, against the sound reason of hard necessity. What is right, however, must only in itself seek what is pleasant; and there, when it ceases to look more abroad, it is sure to find it.’
He stopt, hearing a deep sigh from Camilla, who secretly ejaculated a prayer that this sentence might live, henceforward, in her memory. He divined the wish, which devoutly he echoed, and continued:
‘There is so little, in fine, that he could bear to relinquish, that, with my utmost efforts, I could not calculate any retrenchment, to which he will agree, at more than an hundred a year. Yet his scruples concerning his vow resist all the entreaties of our disinterested Eugenia, to either sell out for the sum, or cut down any trees in Yorkshire. These difficulties, too potent for his weak frame, were again sinking him into that despondence which we should all sedulously guard against, as the most prevailing of foes to active virtue, when, to relieve him, I made a proposal which my dear girls will both, I trust, find peculiar pleasure in seconding.’
Camilla had already attempted to raise her drooping head, conscience struck at what was said of despondence; and now endeavoured to join in the chearful confidence expressed by Lavinia, that he could not be mistaken.
‘The little hoard, into which already we have broken for Lionel,’ he went on, ‘I have offered to lend him for present payment, as far as it will go, and to receive it again at stated periods. In the mean while, I shall accept from him the same interest as from the bank. For this I am to have also security. I run no risk of the little all I have to leave to my two girls.’
He now looked at them both, expecting to see pleasure even in Camilla, that what was destined, hereafter, for herself, could prove of the smallest utility to Sir Hugh; but his disappointment, and her shock were equal. Too true for the most transitory disguise, the keenest anguish shot from her eye; and Mr. Tyrold, amazed, said: ‘Is it Camilla who would draw back from any service to her uncle?’
‘Ah no!’ cried she, with clasped hands, ‘I would die to do him any good! and O-that my death at this moment’–
She stopt, affrighted, for Mr. Tyrold frowned. A frown upon a face so constantly benign, was new, was awful to her; but she instantly recollected his condemnation of wishes so desperate, and fearfully taking his hand, besought his forgiveness.
His brow instantly resumed its serenity. ‘I have nothing,’ said he, ‘my dearest child, to forgive, from the moment you recollect yourself. But try, for your own sake, to keep in mind, that the current sorrows, however acute, of current life, are but uselessly aggravated by vain wishes for death. The smallest kind office better proves affection than any words, however elevated.’
The conference here broke up; something incomprehensible seemed to Mr. Tyrold to be blended with the grief of Camilla; and though from her birth she had manifested, by every opportunity, the most liberal disregard of wealth, the something not to be understood seemed always to have money for its object. What this might be, he now fervently wished to explore; yet still hoped, by patient kindness, to receive her confidence voluntarily.
Camilla now was half dead; Lavinia could with difficulty sustain, but by no possible means revive her. What a period was this to disclose to her Father that she must deprive him, in part, even of his promised solace in his intended assistance to his brother, to satisfy debts of which he suspected not the existence!
When forced down stairs, by a summons to supper, Mr. Tyrold, to console her for his momentary displeasure, redoubled his caresses; but his tenderness only made her weep yet more bitterly, and he looked at her with a heart rent with anguish. For Lavinia, for Eugenia, he would have felt similar grief; but their far less gay, though equally innocent natures, would have made the view of their affliction less strikingly oppressive. Camilla had, hitherto, seemed in the spring of joy yet more than of life. Anxiety flew at her approach, and animation took its place. Nothing could shake his resignation; yet to behold her constant sadness, severely tried his fortitude. To see tears trickling incessantly down the pale cheeks so lately blooming; to see her youthful countenance wear the haggard expression of care; to see life, in its wish and purposes seem at an end, ’ere, in its ordinary calculation, it was reckoned to have begun, drew him from every other consideration, and filled his whole mind with monopolizing apprehension.
He now himself pressed her, for change of scene, to accept an invitation she had received from Mrs. Berlinton to Grosvenor Square, whither Indiana was going in a few days, to spend a fortnight or three weeks before her marriage. But she declined the excursion, as not more unseasonable in its expence, than ungenial to her feelings.
The following morning, while they were at their melancholy breakfast, a letter arrived from Lisbon, which Mr. Tyrold read with visible disturbance, exclaiming, from time to time, ‘Lionel, thou art indeed punished!’
The sisters were equally alarmed, but Lavinia alone could make any enquiry.
Mr. Tyrold then informed them, their uncle Relvil had just acknowledged to their Mother, that he could no longer, in justice, conceal that, previously to his quitting England, he had privately married his house-keeper, to induce her to accompany him in his voyage: and that, during his first wrath upon the detection of Lionel, he had disinherited him in favour of a little boy of her own, by a former marriage, whom they had brought with them to Lisbon.
Mr. Tyrold, though it had been his constant study to bring up his children without any reference to their rich uncles, had never internally doubted, but that the bachelor brother of Mrs. Tyrold would leave his fortune to the son of his only sister, who was his sole near relation. And Lionel, he knew, in defiance of his admonitions, had built upon it himself, rather as a certainty than a hope. ‘He will now see,’ said Mr. Tyrold, ‘his presumption, and feel, by what he suffers, what he has earned. Yet culpable as he has been, he is now, also, unfortunate; and where crimes are followed by punishment, it is not for mortal man to harbour unabating resentment. I will write a few lines of comfort to him.’
Camilla, in this concession, experienced all she could feel of satisfaction; but the short sensation died away at the last words of the letter of her Mother, which Mr. Tyrold read aloud.
‘You, I well know, will immediately in this evil, find for yourself, and impart to our children, something of instruction, if not of comfort. Shall I recollect this without emulation? No, I will bear up from this stroke, which, at least, permits my return to Etherington; where, in the bosom of my dear family, and supported by its honoured chief, I will forget my voyage, my painful absence, and my disappointment, in exertions of practical oeconomy, strict, but not rigid, which our good children will vie with each other to adopt: sedulous, all around, to shew in what we can most forbear. I hope almost immediately to claim my share in these labours, which such motives will make light, and such companions render precious.’
In agony past repression at these words, Camilla glided out of the room. The return of her Mother was now horrour to her, not joy; her shattered nerves could not bear the interview, while under a cloud threatening to burst in such a storm; and she entreated Lavinia to tell her Father that she accepted his proposal for going to Mrs. Berlinton’s; ‘and there,’ she cried, ‘Lavinia, I will wait, till Eugenia has told the dreadful history that thus humbles me to the dust!’
Lavinia was too timid to oppose reason to this suffering; and Mr. Tyrold, already cruelly apprehensive the obscurity of their recluse lives contributed to her depression, and believing she compared her present privations to the lost elegancies of Beech Park, sighed heavily, yet said he was glad she would remove from a spot in which reminiscence was so painful. This was not, indeed, he added, the period he should have selected for her visiting the capital, or residing at Mrs. Berlinton’s; but she was too much touched by the state of her family, not to be guarded in her expences; and the pressure of her ever augmenting sadness, was heavier upon his mind than any other alarm.
The conscience-struck Camilla could make no profession, no promise; nor yet, though ardently wishing it, refuse his offered advance of her next quarter’s allowance, lest she should be reduced again to the necessity of borrowing.
This step once decided, brought with it something like a gloomy composure. ‘I shall avoid,’ she cried, ‘at least, with my Mother, these killing caresses of deluded kindness that break my heart with my Father. She, too, would soon discover there was something darker in my sadness than even grief! She would be sure that even my exquisite loss could not render me ungrateful to all condolement; she would know that a daughter whom she had herself reared and instructed, would blush so unceasingly to publish any personal disappointment, let her feel it how she might. O my loved Mother! how did the delight of knowing your kind expectations keep me, while under your guidance in the way I ought to go! O Mother of my heart! what a grievous disappointment awaits your sad return! To find, at the first opening of your virtuous schemes of general saving-that I, as well as Lionel, have involved my family in debts-that I, as well as Clermont, have committed them clandestinely to a usurer!’
Lavinia undertook to give Eugenia proper instructions for her commission; but news arrived, the next day, that Sir Hugh would take no denial to Eugenia’s being herself of the party. This added not, however, to the courage of Camilla for staying, and her next determination was to reveal the whole by letter.
Mr. Tyrold would not send her to Cleves to take leave, that her uncle might not be tempted to exercise his wonted, but now no longer convenient generosity, nor yet be exposed to the pain of withholding it. ‘You will go, now, my dear girl,’ he said, ‘in your pristine simplicity, and what can so every way become you? It is not for a scheme of pleasure, but for a stimulus to mental exertion, I part with you. When you return, your excellent Mother will aid your task, and reward its labour. Remember but, while in your own hands, that open oeconomy, springing from discretion, is always respected. It is false shame alone that begets ridicule.’
Weeping and silent she heard him, and his fears gained ground that her disappointment, joined to a view of gayer life, had robbed Etherington of all charms to her. Bitterly he regretted he had ever suffered her to leave his roof, though he would not now force her stay. Compulsion could only detain her person; and might heighten the disgust of her mind.
The little time which remained was given wholly to packing and preparing; and continued employment hid from Mr. Tyrold her emotion, which encreased every moment, till the carriage of Sir Hugh stopt at the gate. Lost, then, to all sensation, but the horrour of the avowal that must intervene ’ere they met again, with incertitude if again he would see her with the same kindness, she flew into his arms, rather agonised than affectionate; kissed his hands with fervour, kissed every separate finger, rested upon his shoulder, hid her face in his bosom, caught and pressed to her lips even the flaps of his coat, and scarce restrained herself from bending to kiss his feet; yet without uttering a word, without even shedding a tear.
Strangely surprised, and deeply affected, Mr. Tyrold, straining her to his breast, said: ‘Why, my dear child, why, my dearest Camilla, if thus agitated by our parting, do you leave me?’
This question brought her to recollection, by the impossibility she found to answer it; she tore herself, therefore, away from him, embraced Lavinia, and hurried into the coach.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06