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Title: Tales and Novels — Volume 07 - Patronage [part 1]
Author: Edgeworth, Maria, 1767-1849
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales and Novels — Volume 07 - Patronage [part 1]" ***

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TALES AND NOVELS, VOLUME VII (of X)


PATRONAGE


By Maria Edgeworth.


In Ten Volumes. With Engravings On Steel.



PATRONAGE.

  "Above a patron--though I condescend
  Sometimes to call a minister my friend."



TO THE READER.


My daughter again applies to me for my paternal _imprimatur_; and I hope
that I am not swayed by partiality, when I give the sanction which she
requires.

To excite the rising generation to depend upon their own exertions for
success in life is surely a laudable endeavour; but, while the young
mind is cautioned against dependence on the patronage of the great, and
of office, it is encouraged to rely upon such friends as may be acquired
by personal merit, good manners, and good conduct.

RICHARD LOVELL EDGEWORTH.

_Edgeworthstown,

Oct. 6, 1813._



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.

The public has called for a third _impression_ of this book; it was,
therefore, the duty of the author to take advantage of the corrections
which have been communicated to her by private friends and public
censors. Whatever she has thought liable to just censure has in the
present edition been amended, as far as is consistent with the identity
of the story. It is remarkable that several incidents which have been
objected to as impossible or improbable were true. For instance, the
medical case, in Chapter XIX.

A bishop was really saved from suffocation by a clergyman in his diocese
(no matter where or when), in the manner represented in Chapter X. The
bishop died long ago; and he never was an epicure. A considerable estate
was about seventy years ago regained, as described in Chapter XLII.,
by the discovery of a sixpence under the seal of a deed, which had been
coined later than the date of the deed. Whether it be advantageous or
prudent to introduce such singular facts in a fictitious history is a
separate consideration, which might lead to a discussion too long for
the present occasion.

On some other points of more importance to the writer, it is necessary
here to add a few words. It has been supposed that some parts of
PATRONAGE were not written by Miss Edgeworth. This is not fact: the
whole of these volumes were written by her, the opinions they contain
are her own, and she is answerable for all the faults which may be found
in them. Of ignorance of law, and medicine, and of diplomacy, she pleads
guilty; and of making any vain or absurd pretensions to legal or medical
learning, she hopes, by candid judges, to be acquitted. If in the
letters and history of her lawyer and physician she has sometimes
introduced technical phrases, it was done merely to give, as far as she
could, the colour of reality to her fictitious personages. To fulfil the
main purpose of her story it was essential only to show how some lawyers
and physicians may be pushed forward for a time, without much knowledge
either of law or medicine; or how, on the contrary, others may,
independently of patronage, advance themselves permanently by their
own merit. If this principal object of the fiction be accomplished, the
author's ignorance on professional subjects is of little consequence to
the moral or interest of the tale.

As to the charge of having drawn satirical portraits, she has already
disclaimed all personality, and all intention of satirizing any
profession; and she is grieved to find it necessary to repel such a
charge. The author of a slight work of fiction may, however, be consoled
for any unjust imputation of personal satire, by reflecting, that
even the grave and impartial historian cannot always escape similar
suspicion. Tacitus says that "there must always be men, who, from
congenial manners, and sympathy in vice, will think the fidelity of
history a satire on themselves; and even the praise due to virtue is
sure to give umbrage."

_August 1, 1815._



PATRONAGE.



CHAPTER I.


"How the wind is rising!" said Rosamond.--"God help the poor people at
sea to-night!"

Her brother Godfrey smiled.--"One would think," said he, "that she had
an argosy of lovers at sea, uninsured."

"You gentlemen," replied Rosamond, "imagine that ladies are always
thinking of lovers."

"Not _always_," said Godfrey; "only when they show themselves
particularly disposed to humanity."

"My humanity, on the present occasion, cannot even be suspected," said
Rosamond; "for you know, alas! that I have no lover at sea or land."

"But a shipwreck might bless the lucky shore with some rich waif," said
Godfrey.

"Waifs and strays belong to the lady of the manor," said Rosamond; "and
I have no claim to them."

"My mother would, I dare say, make over her right to you," said Godfrey.

"But that would do me no good," said Rosamond; "for here is Caroline,
with superior claims of every sort, and with that most undisputed of all
the rights of woman--beauty."

"True: but Caroline would never accept of stray hearts," said Godfrey.
"See how her lip curls with pride at the bare imagination!"

"Pride never curled Caroline's lip," cried Rosamond: "besides, pride is
very becoming to a woman. No woman can be good for much without it, can
she, mother?"

"Before you fly off, Rosamond, to my mother as to an ally, whom you are
sure I cannot resist," said Godfrey, "settle first whether you mean to
defend Caroline upon the ground of her having or not having pride."

A fresh gust of wind rose at this moment, and Rosamond listened to it
anxiously.

"Seriously, Godfrey," said she, "do you remember the ship-wrecks last
winter?"

As she spoke, Rosamond went to one of the windows, and opened the
shutter. Her sister Caroline followed, and they looked out in silence.

"I see a light to the left of the beacon," said Caroline.--"I never saw
a light there before--What can it mean?"

"Only some fishermen," said Godfrey.

"But, brother, it is quite a storm," persisted Rosamond.

"Only equinoctial gales, my dear."

"Only equinoctial gales! But to drowning people it would be no comfort
that they were shipwrecked only by equinoctial gales. There! there! what
do you think of that blast?" cried Rosamond; "is not there some danger
now?"

"Godfrey will not allow it," said Mrs. Percy: "he is a soldier, and it
is his trade not to know fear."

"Show him a _certain_ danger," cried Mr. Percy, looking up from a letter
he was writing,--"show him a _certain_ danger, and he will feel fear
as much as the greatest coward of you all. Ha! upon my word, it is an
_ugly_ night," continued he, going to the window.

"Oh, my dear father!" cried Rosamond, "did you see that light--out at
sea?--There! there!--to the left."

"To the east--I see it."

"Hark! did you hear?"

"Minute guns!" said Caroline.

There was a dead silence instantly.--Every body listened.--Guns were
heard again.--The signal of some vessel in distress. The sound seemed
near the shore.--Mr. Percy and Godfrey hastened immediately to the
coast.--Their servants and some people from the neighbouring village,
whom they summoned, quickly followed. They found that a vessel had
struck upon a rock, and from the redoubled signals it appeared that the
danger must be imminent.

The boatmen, who were just wakened, were surly, and swore that they
would not stir; that whoever she was, she might weather out the night,
for that, till daybreak, they couldn't get alongside of her. Godfrey
instantly jumped into a boat, declaring he would go out directly at all
hazards.--Mr. Percy with as much intrepidity, but, as became his age,
with more prudence, provided whatever assistance was necessary from the
villagers, who declared they would go any where with him; the boatmen,
then ashamed, or afraid of losing the offered reward, pushed aside the
_land lubbers_, and were ready to put out to sea.

Out they rowed--and they were soon so near the vessel, that they could
hear the cries and voices of the crew. The boats hailed her, and she
answered that she was Dutch, homeward bound--had mistaken the lights
upon the coast--had struck on a rock--was filling with water--and must
go down in half an hour.

The moment the boats came alongside of her, the crew crowded into them
so fast, and with such disorder and precipitation, that they were in
great danger of being overset, which, Mr. Percy seeing, called out in a
loud and commanding voice to stop several who were in the act of coming
down the ship's side, and promised to return for them if they would
wait. But just as he gave the order for his boatmen to _push off_, a
French voice called out "Monsieur!--Monsieur l'Anglois!--one moment."

Mr. Percy looked back and saw, as the moon shone full upon the wreck, a
figure standing at the poop, leaning over with out-stretched arms.

"I am Monsieur de Tourville, monsieur--a chargé d'affaires--with papers
of the greatest importance--despatches."

"I will return for you, sir--it is impossible for me to take you
now--our boat is loaded as much as it can bear," cried Mr. Percy; and he
repeated his order to the boatmen to _push off_.

Whilst Godfrey and Mr. Percy were trimming the boat, M. de Tourville
made an effort to jump into it.

"Oh! don't do it, sir!" cried a woman with a child in her arms; "the
gentleman will come back for us: for God's sake, don't jump into it!"

"Don't attempt it, sir," cried Mr. Percy, looking up, "or you'll sink us
all."

M. de Tourville threw down the poor woman who tried to stop him, and he
leaped from the side of the ship. At the same moment Mr. Percy, seizing
an oar, pushed the boat off, and saved it from being overset, as it must
have been if M. de Tourville had scrambled into it. He fell into the
water. Mr. Percy, without waiting to see the event, went off as fast as
possible, justly considering that the lives of the number he had
under his protection, including his son's and his own, were not to be
sacrificed for one man, whatever his name or office might be, especially
when that man had persisted against all warning in his rash selfishness.

At imminent danger to themselves, Mr. Percy and Godfrey, after landing
those in the boat, returned once more to the wreck; and though they both
declared that their consciences would be at ease even if they found that
M. de Tourville was drowned, yet it was evident that they rejoiced to
see him safe on board. This time the boat held him, and all the rest of
his fellow sufferers; and Mr. Percy and his son had the satisfaction
of bringing every soul safely to shore.--M. de Tourville, as soon as he
found himself on terra firma, joined with all around him in warm thanks
to Mr. Percy and his son, by whom their lives had been saved.--Godfrey
undertook to find lodgings for some of the passengers and for the ship's
crew in the village, and Mr. Percy invited the captain, M. de Tourville,
and the rest of the passengers, to Percy-hall, where Mrs. Percy and her
daughters had prepared every thing for their hospitable reception. When
they had warmed, dried, and refreshed themselves, they were left to
enjoy what they wanted most--repose. The Percy family, nearly as much
fatigued as their guests, were also glad to rest--all but Rosamond,
who was wide awake, and so much excited by what had happened, that she
continued talking to her sister, who slept in the same room with her, of
every circumstance, and filling her imagination with all that might come
to pass from the adventures of the night, whilst Caroline, too sleepy to
be able to answer judiciously, or even plausibly, said, "Yes," "No," and
"Very true," in the wrong place; and at length, incapable of uttering
even a monosyllable, was reduced to inarticulate sounds in sign of
attention. These grew fainter and fainter, and after long intervals
absolutely failing, Rosamond with some surprise and indignation,
exclaimed, "I do believe, Caroline, you are asleep!" And, in despair,
Rosamond, for want of an auditor, was compelled to compose herself to
rest.

In the course of a few hours the storm abated, and in the morning, when
the family and their shipwrecked guests assembled at breakfast, all was
calm and serene. Much to Rosamond's dissatisfaction, M. de Tourville
did not make his appearance. Of the other strangers she had seen only
a glimpse the preceding night, and had not settled her curiosity
concerning what sort of beings they were. On a clear view by daylight of
the personages who now sat at the breakfast-table, there did not appear
much to interest her romantic imagination, or to excite her benevolent
sympathy. They had the appearance of careful money-making men, thick,
square-built Dutch merchants, who said little and eat much--butter
especially. With one accord, as soon as they had breakfasted, they
rose, and begged permission to go down to the wreck to look after their
property. Mr. Percy and Godfrey offered immediately to accompany them to
the coast.

Mr. Percy had taken the precaution to set guards to watch all night,
from the time he left the vessel, that no depredations might be
committed. They found that some of the cargo had been damaged by
the sea-water, but excepting this loss there was no other of any
consequence; the best part of the goods was perfectly safe. As it was
found that it would take some time to repair the wreck, the Prussian and
Hamburgh passengers determined to go on board a vessel which was to sail
from a neighbouring port with the first fair wind. They came, previously
to their departure, to thank the Percy family, and to assure them that
their hospitality would never be forgotten.--Mr. Percy pressed them to
stay at Percy-hall till the vessel should sail, and till the captain
should send notice of the first change of wind.--This offer, however,
was declined, and the Dutch merchants, with due acknowledgments, said,
by their speaking partner, that "they considered it safest and best to
go with the goods, and so wished Mr. Percy a good morning, and that he
might prosper in all his dealings; and, sir," concluded he, "in any of
the changes of fortune, which happen to men by land as well as by
sea, please to remember the names of Grinderweld, Groensvelt, and
Slidderchild of Amsterdam, or our correspondents, Panton and Co.,
London."

So having said, they walked away, keeping an eye upon the goods.

When Mr. Percy returned home it was near dinner-time, yet M. de
Tourville had not made his appearance. He was all this while indulging
in a comfortable sleep. He had no goods on board the wreck except his
clothes, and as these were in certain trunks and portmanteaus in which
Comtois, his valet, had a joint concern, M. de Tourville securely
trusted that they would be obtained without his taking any trouble.

Comtois and the trunks again appeared, and a few minutes before dinner
M. de Tourville made his entrance into the drawing-room, no longer in
the plight of a shipwrecked mariner, but in gallant trim, wafting gales
of momentary bliss as he went round the room paying his compliments
to the ladies, bowing, smiling, apologizing,--the very pink of
courtesy!--The gentlemen of the family, who had seen him the preceding
night in his frightened, angry, drenched, and miserable state, could
scarcely believe him to be the same person.

A Frenchman, it will be allowed, can contrive to say more, and to tell
more of his private history in a given time, than could be accomplished
by a person of any other nation. In the few minutes before dinner he
found means to inform the company, that he was private secretary and
favourite of the minister of a certain German court. To account for
his having taken his passage in a Dutch merchant vessel, and for his
appearing without a suitable suite, he whispered that he had been
instructed to preserve a strict incognito, from which, indeed, nothing
but the horrors of the preceding night could have drawn him.

Dinner was served, and at dinner M. de Tourville was seen, according to
the polished forms of society, humbling himself in all the hypocrisy of
politeness; with ascetic good-breeding, preferring every creature's
ease and convenience to his own, practising a continual system
of self-denial, such as almost implied a total annihilation of
self-interest and self-love. All this was strikingly contrasted with
the selfishness which he had recently betrayed, when he was in personal
danger. Yet the influence of polite manners prevailed so far as to make
his former conduct be forgotten by most of the family.

After dinner, when the ladies retired, in the female privy council held
to discuss the merits of the absent gentlemen, Rosamond spoke first,
and during the course of five minutes pronounced as many contradictory
opinions of M. de Tourville, as could well be enunciated in the same
space of time.--At last she paused, and her mother smiled.

"I understand your smile, mother," said Rosamond; "but the reason I
appear a _little_ to contradict myself sometimes in my judgment of
character is, because I speak my thoughts just as they rise in my mind,
while persons who have a character for judgment to support always keep
the changes of their opinion snug to themselves, never showing the
items of the account on either side, and let you see nothing but their
balance.--This is very grand, and, if their balance be right, very
glorious.--But ignominious as my mode of proceeding may seem, exposing
me to the rebukes, derision, uplifted hands and eyes of my auditors,
yet exactly because I am checked at every little mistake I make in my
accounts, the chance is in my favour that my totals should at last be
right, and my balance perfectly accurate."

"Very true, my dear: as long as you choose for your auditors only your
friends, you are wise; but you sometimes lay your accounts open to
strangers; and as they see only your errors, without ever coming to your
conclusion, they form no favourable opinion of your accuracy."

"I don't mind what strangers think of me--much," said Rosamond.--"At
least you will allow, mamma, that I have reason to be satisfied, if
only those who do not know me should form an unfavourable opinion of my
judgment--and, after all, ma'am, of the two classes of people, those who
'never said a foolish thing, and never did a wise one,' and those who
never did a foolish thing, and never said a wise one, would not you
rather that I should belong to the latter class?"

"Certainly, if I were reduced to the cruel alternative: but is there an
unavoidable necessity for your belonging to either class?"

"I will consider of it, ma'am," said Rosamond: "in the meantime,
Caroline, you will allow that M. de Tourville is very agreeable?"

"Agreeable!" repeated Caroline; "such a selfish being? Have you
forgotten his attempting to jump into the boat, at the hazard of
oversetting it, and of drowning my father and Godfrey, who went out
to save him--and when my father warned him--and promised to return for
him--selfish, cowardly creature!"

"Oh! poor man, he was so frightened, that he did not know what he was
doing--he was not himself."

"You mean he was himself," said Caroline.

"You are very ungrateful, Caroline," cried Rosamond; "for I am sure M.
de Tourville admires you extremely--yes, in spite of that provoking,
incredulous smile, I say he does admire you exceedingly."

"And if he did," replied Caroline, "that would make no difference in my
opinion of him."

"I doubt _that_," said Rosamond: "I know a person's admiring me would
make a great difference in my opinion of his taste and judgment--and how
much more if he had sense enough to admire you!"

Rosamond paused, and stood for some minutes silent in reverie.

"It will never do, my dear," said Mrs. Percy, looking up at her; "trust
me it will never do; turn him which way you will in your imagination,
you will never make a hero of him--nor yet a brother-in-law."

"My dear mother, how could you guess what I was thinking of?" said
Rosamond, colouring a little, and laughing; "but I assure you--now let
me explain to you, ma'am, in one word, what I think of M. de Tourville."

"Hush! my dear, he is here."

The gentlemen came into the room to tea.--M. de Tourville walked to the
table at which Mrs. Percy was sitting; and, after various compliments on
the beauty of the views from the windows, on the richness of the foliage
in the park, and the superiority of English verdure, he next turned
to look at the pictures in the saloon, distinguished a portrait by Sir
Joshua Reynolds, then passing to a table on which lay several books--"Is
it permitted?" said he, taking up one of them--the Life of Lord Nelson.

M. de Tourville did not miss the opportunity of paying a just and what
to English ears he knew must be a delightful, tribute of praise to our
naval hero. Then opening several other books, he made a rash attempt
to pronounce in English their titles, and with the happy facility of a
Frenchman, he touched upon various subjects, dwelt upon none, but found
means on all to say something to raise himself and his country in the
opinion of the company, and at the same time to make all his auditors
pleased with themselves. Presently, taking a seat between Rosamond and
Caroline, he applied himself to draw out their talents for conversation.
Nor did he labour in vain. They did not shut themselves up in stupid and
provoking silence, nor did they make any ostentatious display of
their knowledge or abilities.--M. de Tourville, as Rosamond had
justly observed, seemed to be particularly struck with Miss Caroline
Percy.--She was beautiful, and of an uncommon style of beauty.
Ingenuous, unaffected, and with all the simplicity of youth, there was
a certain dignity and graceful self-possession in her manner, which gave
the idea of a superior character. She had, perhaps, less of what the
French call _esprit_ than M. de Tourville had been accustomed to meet
with in young persons on the continent, but he was the more surprised by
the strength and justness of thought which appeared in her plain replies
to the _finesse_ of some of his questions.

The morning of the second day that he was at Percy-hall, M. de Tourville
was admiring the Miss Percys' drawings, especially some miniatures of
Caroline's, and he produced his snuff-box, to show Mr. Percy a beautiful
miniature on its lid.

It was exquisitely painted. M. de Tourville offered it to Caroline to
copy, and Mrs. Percy urged her to make the attempt.

"It is the celebrated Euphrosyne," said he, "who from the stage was very
near mounting a throne."

M. de Tourville left the miniature in the hands of the ladies to be
admired, and, addressing himself to Mr. Percy, began to tell with much
mystery the story of Euphrosyne. She was an actress of whom the prince,
heir apparent at the _German court_ where he resided, had become
violently enamoured. One of the prince's young confidants had assisted
his royal highness in carrying on a secret correspondence with
Euphrosyne, which she managed so artfully that the prince was on the
point of giving her a written promise of marriage, when the intrigue was
discovered, and prevented from proceeding farther, by a certain Count
Albert Altenberg, a young nobleman who had till that moment been one
of the prince's favourites, but who by thus opposing his passion
lost entirely his prince's favour. The story was a common story of an
intrigue, such as happens every day in every country where there is a
young prince; but there was something uncommon in the conduct of
Count Altenberg. Mr. Percy expressed his admiration of it; but M.
de Tourville, though he acknowledged, as in morality bound, that the
count's conduct had been admirable, just what it ought to be upon this
occasion, yet spoke of him altogether as _une tête exaltée_, a young
man of a romantic Quixotic enthusiasm, to which he had sacrificed the
interests of his family, and his own hopes of advancement at court. In
support of this opinion, M. de Tourville related several anecdotes, and
on each of these anecdotes Mr. Percy and M. de Tourville differed in
opinion. All that was produced to prove that the young count had no
judgment or discretion appeared to Mr. Percy proofs of his independence
of character and greatness of soul. Mr. Percy repeated the anecdotes
to Mrs. Percy and his daughters; and M. de Tourville, as soon as he saw
that the ladies, and especially Caroline, differed from him, immediately
endeavoured to slide round to their opinion, and assured Caroline, with
many asseverations, and with his hand upon his heart, that he had
merely been speaking of the light in which these things appeared to the
generality of men of the world; that for his own particular feelings
they were all in favour of the frankness and generosity of character
evinced by these imprudences--he only lamented that certain qualities
should expose their possessor to the censure and ridicule of those who
were like half the world, incapable of being moved by any motive but
interest, and unable to reach to the idea of the moral sublime.

The more M. de Tourville said upon the subject, and the more gesture and
emphasis he used to impress the belief in his truth, the less Caroline
believed him, and the more dislike and contempt she felt for the
duplicity and pitiful meanness of a character, which was always
endeavouring to seem, instead of to be.--He understood and felt the
expression of her countenance, and mortified by that dignified silence,
which said more than words could express, he turned away, and never
afterwards addressed to her any of his _confidential_ conversation.

From this moment Rosamond's opinion of M. de Tourville changed. She gave
him up altogether, and denied, or at least gave him grudgingly,
that praise, which he eminently deserved for agreeable manners and
conversational talents. Not a foible of his now escaped her quick
observation and her lively perception of ridicule.

Whether from accident, or from some suspicion that he had lost ground
with the ladies, M. de Tourville the next day directed the principal
part of his conversation to the gentlemen of the family: comforting
himself with the importance of his political and official character, he
talked grandly of politics and diplomacy. Rosamond, who listened with
an air of arch attention, from time to time, with a tone of ironical
simplicity, asked explanations on certain points relative to the
diplomatic code of morality, and professed herself much edified and
enlightened by the answers she received.

She wished, as she told Caroline, that some one would write Advice
to Diplomatists, in the manner of Swift's advice to Servants; and she
observed that M. de Tourville, chargé d'affaires, &c., might supply
anecdotes illustrative, and might embellish the work with a portrait
of a finished diplomatist. Unfortunately for the public, on the third
morning of the diplomatist's visit, a circumstance occurred, which
prevented the farther development of his character, stopped his flow of
anecdote, and snatched him from the company of his hospitable hosts.
In looking over his papers, in order to show Mr. Percy a complimentary
letter from some crowned head, M. de Tourville discovered that an
important packet of papers belonging to his despatches was missing. He
had in the moment of danger and terror stuffed all his despatches into
his great-coat pocket; in getting out of the boat he had given his coat
to Comtois to carry, and, strange to tell, this chargé d'affaires had
taken it upon trust, from the assertion of his valet, that all his
papers were safe. He once, indeed, had looked them over, but so
carelessly that he never had missed the packet. His dismay was great
when he discovered his loss. He repeated at least a thousand times that
he was an undone man, unless the packet could be found.--Search was
made for it, in the boat, on the shore, in every probable and improbable
place--but all in vain; and in the midst of the search a messenger came
to announce that the wind was fair, that the ship would sail in one
hour, and that the captain could wait for no man. M. de Tourville was
obliged to take his departure without this precious packet.

Mrs. Percy was the only person in the family who had the humanity to
pity him. He was too little of a soldier for Godfrey's taste, too much
of a courtier for Mr. Percy, too frivolous for Caroline, and too little
romantic for Rosamond.

"So," said Rosamond, "here was a fine beginning of a romance with a
shipwreck, that ends only in five square merchants, who do not lose even
a guilder of their property, and a diplomatist, with whom we are sure of
nothing but that he has lost a bundle of papers for which nobody cares!"

In a few days the remembrance of the whole adventure began to fade from
her fancy. M. de Tourville, and his snuff-box, and his essences, and
his flattery, and his diplomacy, and his lost packet, and all the
circumstances of the shipwreck, would have appeared as a dream, if they
had not been maintained in the rank of realities by the daily sight of
the wreck, and by the actual presence of the Dutch sailors, who were
repairing the vessel.



CHAPTER II.


A few days after the departure of M. de Tourville, Commissioner
Falconer, a friend, or at least a relation of Mr. Percy's, came to pay
him a visit. As the commissioner looked out of the window and observed
the Dutch carpenter, who was passing by with tools under his arm, he
began to talk of the late shipwreck. Mr. Falconer said he had heard much
of the successful exertions and hospitality of the Percy family on that
occasion--regretted that he had himself been called to town just at that
time--asked many questions about the passengers on board the vessel, and
when M. de Tourville was described to him, deplored that Mr. Percy had
never thought of trying to detain this foreigner a few days longer.

For, argued the commissioner, though M. de Tourville might not be an
accredited chargé d'affaires, yet, since he was a person in some
degree in an official capacity, and intrusted with secret negotiations,
government might have wished to know something about him. "And at all
events," added the commissioner, with a shrewd smile, "it would have
been a fine way of paying our court to a certain great man."

"So, commissioner, you still put your trust in great men?" said Mr.
Percy.

"Not in all great men, but in some," replied the commissioner; "for
instance, in your old friend, Lord Oldborough, who, I'm happy to inform
you, is just come into our neighbourhood to Clermont-park, of which
he has at last completed the purchase, and has sent down his plate and
pictures.--Who knows but he may make Clermont-park his summer residence,
instead of his place in Essex? and if he should, there's no saying of
what advantage it might be, for I have it from the very best authority,
that his lordship's influence in _a certain quarter_ is greater than
ever. Of course, Mr. Percy, you will wait upon Lord Oldborough, when he
comes to this part of the country?"

"No, I believe not," said Mr. Percy: "I have no connexion with him now."

"But you were so intimate with him abroad," expostulated Mr. Falconer.

"It is five-and-twenty years since I knew him abroad," said Mr. Percy;
"and from all I have heard, he is an altered man. When I was intimate
with Lord Oldborough, he was a generous, open-hearted youth: he has
since become a politician, and I fear he has sold himself for a riband
to the demon of ambition."

"No matter to whom he has sold himself, or for what," replied the
commissioner; "that is his affair, not ours. We must not be too nice.
He is well disposed towards you; and, my dear sir, I should take it as a
very particular favour if you would introduce me to his lordship."

"With great pleasure," said Mr. Percy, "the very first opportunity."

"We must make opportunities--not wait for them," said the commissioner,
smiling. "Let me entreat that you will pay your respects to his lordship
as soon as he comes into the country. It really is but civil--and take
me in your hand."

"With all my heart," said Mr. Percy; "but mine shall only be a visit of
civility."

Well satisfied with having obtained this promise, Commissioner Falconer
departed.

Besides his general desire to be acquainted with the great, the
commissioner had particular reasons for wishing to be introduced at this
time to Lord Oldborough, and he had a peculiar cause for being curious
about M. de Tourville.--Mr. Falconer was in possession of the packet
which that diplomatist had lost. It had been found by one of the
commissioner's sons, Mr. John Falconer; or rather by Mr. John Falconer's
dog, Neptune, who brought it to his master when he was bathing in the
sea the day after the shipwreck. It had been thrown by the tide among
some sea-weed, where it was entangled, and where it lay hid till it
was discovered by the dog. Mr. John Falconer had carried it home, and
boasting of his dog's sagacity, had produced it rather as a proof of the
capital manner in which he had taught Neptune to fetch and carry, than
from any idea or care for the value of the packet; John Falconer being
one of those men who care for very little in this world,

  "Whilst they have their dog and their gun."

Not so the commissioner, who immediately began to examine the papers
with serious curiosity, to discover whether they could by any means be
productive of advantage to him or his family. The sea-water had injured
only the outer pages; but though the inner were not in the least
damaged, it was difficult to make out their contents, for they were
written in cipher. Commissioner Falconer, however, was skilled in
the art of deciphering, and possessed all the ingenuity and patience
necessary for the business. The title, superscription, and signature of
the paper were obliterated, so that he could not guess from whom they
came, or to whom they were addressed; he perceived that they were
political; but of what degree of importance they might be he could not
decide, till he heard of M. de Tourville the diplomatist, and of his
distress at the loss of this packet. The commissioner then resolved
to devote the evening, ensuing day, and night, if requisite, to the
business, that he might have it in readiness to carry with him when he
went to pay his respects to Lord Oldborough. Foreseeing that something
might be made of this intercepted despatch, and fearing that if he
mentioned it to Mr. Percy, that gentleman might object to opening the
papers, Mr. Falconer left Percy-hall without giving the most remote hint
of the treasure which he possessed, or of the use that he intended to
make of his discovery.

Early in the ensuing week Mr. Percy went to pay his visit of civility,
and Mr. Falconer his visit of policy, to Lord Oldborough. His lordship
was so much altered, that it was with difficulty Mr. Percy recollected
in him any traces of the same person. The Lord Oldborough he had
formerly known was gay, gallant, and rather dissipated; of a frank,
joyous air and manner. The Lord Oldborough whom he now saw was a
serious, reserved-looking personage, with a face in which the lines of
thought and care were deeply marked; large eyebrows, vigilant eyes, with
an expression of ability and decision in his whole countenance, but not
of tranquillity or of happiness. His manner was well-bred, but rather
cold and formal: his conversation circumspect, calculated to draw forth
the opinions, and to benefit by the information of others, rather than
to assert or display his own. He seemed to converse, to think, to live,
not with any enjoyment of the present, but with a view to some future
object, about which he was constantly anxious.

Mr. Percy and Mr. Falconer both observed Lord Oldborough attentively
during this visit: Mr. Percy studied him with philosophical curiosity,
to discover what changes had been made in his lordship's character by
the operation of ambition, and to determine how far that passion
had contributed to his happiness; Mr. Falconer studied him with the
interested eye of a man of the world, eager to discern what advantage
could be made by ministering to that ambition, and to decide whether
there was about his lordship the making of a good patron.

There was, he thought, the right twist, if he had but skill to follow,
and humour it in the working; but this was a task of much nicety. Lord
Oldborough appeared to be aware of the commissioner's views, and was not
disposed to burden himself with new _friends_. It seemed easy to go to
a certain point with his lordship, but difficult to get farther; easy to
obtain his attention, but impossible to gain his confidence.

The commissioner, however, had many resources ready; many small means of
fastening himself both on his lordship's private and public interests.
He determined to begin first with the despatch which he had been
deciphering. With this view he led Mr. Percy to speak of the shipwreck,
and of M. de Tourville. Lord Oldborough's attention was immediately
awakened; and when Mr. Falconer perceived that the regret for not having
seen M. de Tourville, and the curiosity to know the nature of his secret
negotiations had been sufficiently excited, the commissioner quitted
the subject, as he could go no farther whilst restrained by Mr. Percy's
presence. He took the first opportunity of leaving the room with his
lordship's nephew, Col. Hauton, to look at some horses, which were to
run at the ensuing races.

Left alone with Mr. Percy, Lord Oldborough looked less reserved, for he
plainly saw, indeed Mr. Percy plainly showed, that he had nothing to ask
from the great man, but that he came only to see his friend.

"Many years since we met, Mr. Percy," said his lordship, sitting down
and placing his chair for the first time without considering whether his
face or his back were to the light.--"A great many years since we met,
Mr. Percy; and yet I should not think so from your appearance; you do
not look as if--shall I say it?--five-and-twenty years had passed since
that time. But you have been leading an easy life in the country--the
happiest life: I envy you."

Mr. Percy, thinking that these were words of course, the mere polite
_cant_ of a courtier to a country gentleman, smiled, and replied, that
few who were acquainted with their different situations in the world
would imagine that Mr. Percy could be an object of envy to Lord
Oldborough, a statesman at the summit of favour and fortune.

"Not the summit," said Lord Oldborough, sighing; "and if I were even
at the summit, it is, you know, a dangerous situation. Fortune's wheel
never stands still--the highest point is therefore the most perilous."
His lordship sighed again as deeply as before; then spoke, or rather led
to the subject of general politics, of which Mr. Percy gave his opinions
with freedom and openness, yet without ever forgetting the respect due
to Lord Oldborough's situation. His lordship seemed sensible of this
attention, sometimes nodded, and sometimes smiled, as Mr. Percy spoke
of public men or measures; but when he expressed any sentiment of
patriotism, or of public virtue, Lord Oldborough took to his snuff-box,
shook and levelled the snuff; and if he listened, listened as to
words superfluous and irrelevant. When Mr. Percy uttered any principle
favourable to the liberty of the press, or of the people, his lordship
would take several pinches of snuff rapidly, to hide the expression
of his countenance; if the topics were continued, his averted eyes and
compressed lips showed disapprobation, and the difficulty he felt in
refraining from reply. From reply, however, he did absolutely refrain;
and after a pause of a few moments, with a smile, in a softer and lower
voice than his usual tone, he asked Mr. Percy some questions about
his family, and turned the conversation again to domestic
affairs;--expressed surprise, that a man of Mr. Percy's talents should
live in such absolute retirement; and seeming to forget what he had said
himself but half an hour before, of the pains and dangers of ambition,
and all that Mr. Percy had said of his love of domestic life, appeared
to take it for granted that Mr. Percy would be glad to shine in public,
if opportunity were not wanting. Upon this supposition, his lordship
dexterously pointed out ways by which he might distinguish himself;
threw out assurances of his own good wishes, compliments to his talents;
and, in short, sounded his heart, still expecting to find corruption or
ambition at the bottom. But none was to be found. Lord Oldborough was
convinced of it--and surprised. Perhaps his esteem for Mr. Percy's
understanding fell some degrees--he considered him as an eccentric
person, acting from unaccountable motives; but still he respected him
as that rarest of all things in a politician's eye--a really honest
independent man. He believed also that Mr. Percy had some regard
for him; and whatever portion it might be, it was valuable and
extraordinary--for it was disinterested: besides, they could never cross
in their objects--and as Mr. Percy lived out of the world, and had
no connexion with any party, he was a perfectly safe man. All these
thoughts acted so powerfully upon Lord Oldborough, that he threw aside
his reserve, in a manner which would have astonished and delighted Mr.
Falconer. Mr. Percy was astonished, but not delighted--he saw a noble
mind corroded and debased by ambition--virtuous principle, generous
feeling, stifled--a powerful, capacious understanding distorted--a soul,
once expatiating and full of high thoughts, now confined to a span--bent
down to low concerns--imprisoned in the precincts of a court.

"You pity me," said Lord Oldborough, who seemed to understand Mr.
Percy's thoughts; "you pity me--I pity myself. But such is ambition, and
I cannot live without it--once and always its slave."

"A person of such a strong mind as Lord Oldborough could emancipate
himself from any slavery--even that of habit."

"Yes, if he wished to break through it--but he does not."

"Can he have utterly--"

"Lost his taste for freedom? you would say. Yes--utterly. I see you
pity me," said his lordship with a bitter smile; "and," added he, rising
proudly, "I am unused to be pitied, and I am awkward, I fear, under the
obligation." Resuming his friendly aspect, however, in a moment or two,
he followed Mr. Percy, who had turned to examine a fine picture.

"Yes; a Corregio. You are not aware, my dear sir," continued he, "that
between the youth you knew at Paris, and the man who has now the honour
to speak to you, there is nothing in common--absolutely nothing--except
regard for Mr. Percy. You had always great knowledge of character, I
remember; but with respect to my own, you will recollect that I have
the advantage of possessing _la carte du pays_. You are grown quite a
philosopher, I find; and so am I, in my own way. In short, to put the
question between us at rest for ever, _there is nothing left for me in
life but ambition_. Now let us go to Corregio, or what you please."

Mr. Percy followed his lordship's lead immediately to Italy, to France,
to Paris, and talking over old times and youthful days, the conversation
grew gay and familiar. Lord Oldborough seemed enlivened and pleased,
and yet, as if it were a reminiscence of a former state of existence,
he often repeated, "Ah! those were young days--very young: I was a boy
then--quite a boy." At last Mr. Percy touched upon love and women, and,
by accident, mentioned an Italian lady whom they had known abroad.--A
flash of pale anger, almost of frenzy, passed across Lord Oldborough's
countenance: he turned short, darted full on Mr. Percy a penetrating,
imperious, interrogative look.--Answered by the innocence, the steady
openness of Mr. Percy's countenance, Lord Oldborough grew red instantly,
and, conscious of his unusual change of colour, stood actually abashed.
A moment afterward, commanding his agitation, he forced his whole person
to an air of tranquillity--took up the red book which lay upon his
table, walked deliberately to a window, and, looking earnestly through
his glass, asked if Mr. Percy could recollect who was member for some
borough in the neighbourhood? The conversation after this languished;
and though some efforts were made, it never recovered the tone of ease
and confidence. Both parties felt relieved from an indefinable sort of
constraint by the return of the other gentlemen. Mr. Falconer begged
Mr. Percy to go and look at a carriage of a new construction, which the
colonel had just brought from town; and the colonel accompanying Mr.
Percy, the stage was thus left clear for the commissioner to open his
business about M. de Tourville's packet. He did it with so much address,
and with so little circumlocution, that Lord Oldborough immediately
comprehended how important the papers might be to him, and how necessary
it was to secure the decipherer. When Mr. Percy returned, he found the
commissioner and his lordship in earnest and seemingly confidential
conversation. Both Mr. Falconer and Mr. Percy were now pressed to stay
to dine and to sleep at Clermont-park; an invitation which Mr. Percy
declined, but which the commissioner accepted.

In the evening, when the company who had dined at Clermont-park were
settled to cards and music, Lord Oldborough, after walking up and down
the room with the commissioner in silence for some minutes, retired
with him into his study, rang, and gave orders that they should not
be interrupted on any account till supper. The servant informed his
lordship that such and such persons, whom he had appointed, were
waiting.--"I cannot possibly see them till to-morrow," naming the hour.
The servant laid on the table before his lordship a huge parcel of
letters. Lord Oldborough, with an air of repressed impatience, bid the
man send his secretary, Mr. Drakelow,--looked over the letters, wrote
with a pencil, and with great despatch, a few words on the back of
each--met Mr. Drakelow as he entered the room--put the unfolded letters
all together into his hands--"The answers on the back--to be made out in
form--ready for signature at six to-morrow."

"Yes, my lord. May I ask--"

"Ask nothing, sir, if you please--I am busy--you have your directions."

Mr. Drakelow bowed submissive, and made his exit with great celerity.

"Now to our business, my dear sir," said his lordship, seating
himself at the table with Mr. Falconer, who immediately produced M. de
Tourville's papers.

It is not at this period of our story necessary to state precisely their
contents; it is sufficient to say, that they opened to Lord Oldborough
a scene of diplomatic treachery abroad, and of ungrateful duplicity at
home. From some of the intercepted letters he discovered that certain of
his colleagues, who appeared to be acting along with him with the utmost
cordiality, were secretly combined against him; and were carrying on
an underplot, to deprive him at once of popularity, favour, place, and
power. The strength, firmness, hardness of mind, which Lord Oldborough
exhibited at the moment of this discovery, perfectly amazed Mr.
Falconer. His lordship gave no sign of astonishment, uttered no
indignant exclamation, nor betrayed any symptoms of alarm; but he
listened with motionless attention, when Mr. Falconer from time to time
interrupted his reading, and put himself to great expense of face and
lungs to express his abhorrence of "such inconceivable treachery."
Lord Oldborough maintained an absolute silence, and waiting till the
commissioner had exhausted himself in invective, would point with
his pencil to the line in the paper where he had left off, and calmly
say--"Have the goodness to go on--Let us proceed, sir, if you please."

The commissioner went on till he came to the most important and
interesting point, and then glancing his eye on his intended patron's
profile, which was towards him, he suddenly stopped. Lord Oldborough,
raising his head from the hand on which it leaned, turned his full front
face upon Mr. Falconer.

"Let me hear the whole, if you please, sir.--To form a judgment upon
any business, it is necessary to have the whole before us.--You need not
fear to shock my feelings, sir. I wish always to see men and things
as they are." Mr. Falconer still hesitating, and turning over the
leaves--"As my friend in this business, Mr. Falconer," continued his
lordship, "you will comprehend that the essential point is to put me as
soon as possible in possession of the facts--then I can decide, and act.
If it will not fatigue you too much, I wish to go through these papers
before I sleep."

"Fatigue! Oh, my lord, I am not in the least--cannot be fatigued!
But the fact is, I cannot go on; for the next pages I have not yet
deciphered--the cipher changes here."

Lord Oldborough looked much disappointed and provoked; but, after a few
minutes' pause, calmly said, "What time will it take, sir, to decipher
the remainder?"

The commissioner protested he did not know--could not form an idea--he
and his son had spent many hours of intense labour on the first papers
before he could make out the first cipher--now this was a new one,
probably more difficult, and whether he could make it out at all, or in
what time, he was utterly unable to say. Lord Oldborough replied, "Let
us understand one another at once, Commissioner Falconer, if you please.
My maxim, and the maxim of every man in public life is, or ought
to be--Serve me, and I will serve you. I have no pretensions to Mr.
Falconer's friendship on any other grounds, I am sensible; nor on
any other terms can he have a claim to whatever power of patronage I
possess. But I neither serve nor will be served by halves: my first
object is to make myself master, as soon as possible, of the contents of
the papers in your hands; my next to secure your inviolable secrecy on
the whole transaction."

The commissioner was going to make vows of secrecy and protestations
of zeal, but Lord Oldborough cut all that short with "Of course--of
course," pronounced in the driest accent, and went on with, "Now, sir,
you know my object; will you do me the honour to state yours?--you will
excuse my abruptness--time in some circumstances is every thing--Do me
and yourself the justice to say at once what return I can make for the
service you have done or may do me and government."

"My only hesitation in speaking, my lord, was--"

"Have no hesitation in speaking, I beseech you, sir."

I _beseech_, in tone, was in effect, I _command_ you, sir;--and Mr.
Falconer, under the influence of an imperious and superior mind, came at
once to that point, which he had not intended to come to for a month, or
to approach till after infinite precaution and circumlocution.

"My object is to push my son Cunningham in the diplomatic line, my
lord--and I wish to make him one of your secretaries."

The commissioner stopped short, astonished to find that the truth,
and the whole truth, had absolutely passed his lips, and in such plain
words; but they could not be recalled: he gasped for breath--and began
an apologetical sentence about poor Mr. Drakelow, whom he should be
sorry to injure or displace.

"Never mind that now--time enough to think of Drakelow," said Lord
Oldborough, walking up and down the room--then stopping short, "I must
see your son, sir."

"I will bring him here to-morrow, if your lordship pleases."

"As soon as possible! But he can come surely without your going for
him--write, and beg that we may see him at breakfast--at nine, if you
please."

The letter was written, and despatched immediately. Lord Oldborough,
whilst the commissioner was writing, noted down the heads of what he
had learned from M. de Tourville's packet: then locked up those of the
papers which had been deciphered, put the others into Mr. Falconer's
charge, and recommended it to him to use all possible despatch in
deciphering the remainder.--The commissioner declared he would sit
up all night at the task; this did not appear to be more than was
expected.--His lordship rung, and ordered candles in Mr. Falconer's
room, then returned to the company in the saloon, without saying another
word. None could guess by his countenance or deportment that any unusual
circumstance had happened, or that his mind was in the least perturbed.
Mrs. Drakelow thought he was wholly absorbed in a rubber of whist, and
Miss Drakelow at the same time was persuaded that he was listening to
her music.

Punctual to the appointed hour--for ambition is as punctual to
appointments as love--Mr. Cunningham Falconer made his appearance at
nine, and was presented by his father to Lord Oldborough, who received
him, not with any show of gracious kindness, but as one who had been
forced upon him by circumstances, and whom, for valuable considerations,
he had bargained to take into his service. To try the young
diplomatist's talents, Lord Oldborough led him first to speak on the
subject of the Tourville papers, then urged him on to the affairs of
Germany, and the general interests and policy of the different courts
of Europe. Trembling, and in agony for his son, the commissioner stood
aware of the danger of the youth's venturing out of his depth, aware
also of the danger of showing that he dared not venture, and incapable
of deciding between these equal fears: but soon he was re-assured by
the calmness of his son. Cunningham, who had not so much information or
capacity, but who had less sensibility than his father, often succeeded
where his father's timidity prognosticated failure. Indeed, on the
present occasion, the care which the young diplomatist took not
to commit himself, the dexterity with which he "helped himself by
countenance and gesture," and "was judicious by signs," proved that he
was well skilled in all those arts of _seeming wise_, which have been so
well noted for use by "the greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind." Young
though he was, Cunningham was quite sufficiently slow, circumspect,
and solemn, to deserve to be ranked among those whom Bacon calls
_Formalists_, "who do nothing, or little, very solemnly--who seem always
to keep back somewhat; and when they know within themselves that they
speak of what they do not know, would, nevertheless, seem to others to
know that of which they may not well speak."

Lord Oldborough listened to whatever he said, and marked all that he
did not say with an air of attentive composure, which, as Mr. Falconer
thought, augured well for his son; but now and then there was, for
scarcely a definable portion of time, an expression of humour in his
lordship's eye, a sarcastic smile, which escaped the commissioner's
observation, and which, even if he had observed, he could not, with
his limited knowledge of Lord Oldborough's character, have rightly
interpreted. If his lordship had expressed his thoughts, perhaps, they
might have been, though in words less quaint, nearly the same as those
of the philosophic statesman, who says, "It is a ridiculous thing,
and fit for a satire to persons of judgment, to see what shifts these
_formalists_ have, and what prospectives to make superficies to seem
body that hath depth and bulk."

But Lord Oldborough philosophizing, and Lord Oldborough acting, were
two different people. His perception of the ridicule of the young
secretary's solemnity, and of the insufficiency of his information
and capacity, made no alteration in the minister's determination. The
question was not whether the individual was fit for this place, or
that employment, but whether it was expedient he should have it for the
security of political power. Waiving all delicacy, Lord Oldborough now,
as in most other cases, made it his chief object to be understood and
obeyed; therefore he applied directly to the universal motive, and spoke
the universal language of interest.

"Mr. Falconer," said he, "if you put me in possession of the remainder
of M. de Tourville's papers this night, I will to-morrow morning
put this young gentleman into the hands of my present secretary,
Mr. Drakelow, who will prepare him for the situation you desire. Mr.
Drakelow himself will, probably, soon leave me, to be employed more
advantageously for his majesty's service, in some other manner."

The decipherers, father and son, shut themselves up directly, and set
to work with all imaginable zeal. The whole packet was nearly expounded
before night, and the next morning Lord Oldborough performed his part of
the agreement. He sent for Mr. Drakelow, and said, "Mr. Drakelow, I
beg that, upon your return to town, you will be so good as to take this
young gentleman, Mr. Cunningham Falconer, to your office. Endeavour to
prepare him to supply your place with me whenever it may be proper
for his majesty's service, and for your interest, to send you to
Constantinople, or elsewhere."

Mr. Drakelow, though infinitely surprised and displeased, bowed all
submission. Nothing else he knew was to be done with Lord Oldborough.
His lordship, as soon as his secretary had left the room, turned to
Cunningham, and said, "You will not mention anything concerning M. de
Tourville's intercepted papers to Mr. Drakelow, or to any other person.
Affairs call me to town immediately: to-morrow morning at six, I set
off. You will, if you please, sir, be ready to accompany me. I will not
detain you longer from any preparations you may have to make for your
journey."

No sooner had the father and son quitted Lord Oldborough's presence than
Mr. Falconer exclaimed with exultation, "I long to see our good cousin
Percy, that I may tell him how I have provided already for one of my
sons."

"But remember, sir," said Cunningham, "that Mr. Percy is to know nothing
of the Tourville packet."

"To be sure not," said Mr. Falconer; "he is to know nothing of the
means, he is to see only the end--the successful end. Ha! cousin Percy,
I think we know rather better than you do how to make something of every
thing--even of a shipwreck."

"To prevent his having any suspicions," continued Cunningham, "it will
be best to give Mr. Percy some probable reason for Lord Oldborough's
_taking to us_ so suddenly. It will be well to hint that you have
opportunities of obliging about the borough, or about the address at the
county-meeting, or--"

"No, no; no particulars; never go to particulars," said old Falconer:
"stick to generals, and you are safe. Say, in general, that I had an
opportunity of obliging government. Percy is not curious, especially
about _jobbing_. He will ask no questions; or, if he should, I can
easily put him upon a wrong scent. Now, Cunningham, listen to me: I have
done my best, and have pushed you into a fine situation: but remember,
you cannot get on in the diplomatic line without a certain degree of
diplomatic information. I have pointed this out to you often; you have
neglected to make yourself master of these things, and, for want of them
in office, you will come, I fear, some day or other to shame."

"Do not be afraid of that--no danger of my coming to shame any more than
a thousand other people in office, who never trouble themselves about
diplomatic information, and all that. There is always some clerk who
knows the forms, and with those, and looking for what one wants upon the
spur of the occasion in books and pamphlets, and so forth, one may go on
very well--if one does but know how to keep one's own counsel. You see I
got through with Lord Oldborough to-day--"

"Ay--but I assure you I trembled for you, and I could have squeezed
myself into an auger-hole once, when you blundered about that treaty of
which I knew that you knew nothing."

"Oh! sir, I assure you I had turned over the leaves. I was correct
enough as to the dates; and, suppose I blundered, as my brother
Buckhurst says, half the world never know what they are saying, and the
other half never find it out.--Why, sir, you were telling me the other
night such a blunder of Prince Potemkin's--"

"Very true," interrupted the commissioner; "but you are not Prince
Potemkin, nor yet a prime minister; if you were, no matter how little
you knew--you might get other people to supply your deficiencies. But
now, in your place, and in the course of making your way upwards, you
will be called upon to supply _others_ with the information they may
want. And you know I shall not be always at your elbow; therefore I
really am afraid--"

"Dear sir, fear nothing," said Cunningham: "I shall do as well as others
do--the greatest difficulty is over. I have taken the first step, and it
has cost nothing."

"Well, get on, my boy--honestly, if you can--but get on."



CHAPTER III.


With the true genius of a political castle-builder, Mr. Falconer began
to add story after story to the edifice, of which he had thus promptly
and successfully laid the foundation. Having by a lucky hit provided for
one of his sons, that is to say, put him in a fair way of being provided
for, the industrious father began to form plans for the advancement of
his two other sons, Buckhurst and John: Buckhurst was destined by
his father for the church; John for the army. The commissioner,
notwithstanding he had been closeted for some hours with Lord
Oldborough, and notwithstanding his son Cunningham was to be one of his
lordship's secretaries, was well aware that little or no progress had
been made in Lord Oldborough's real favour or confidence. Mr. Falconer
knew that he had been literally _paid by the job_, that he was
considered and treated accordingly; yet, upon the whole, he was well
pleased that it should be so, for he foresaw the possibility of his
doing for his lordship many more jobs, public and private. He lost no
time in preparing for the continuity of his secret services, and in
creating a political necessity for his being employed in future, in a
manner that might ensure the advancement of the rest of his family.
In the first place, he knew that Lord Oldborough was desirous, for
the enlargement of the grounds at Clermont-park, to purchase certain
adjoining lands, which, from some ancient pique, the owner was unwilling
to sell. The proprietor was a tenant of Mr. Falconer's: he undertook to
negotiate the business, and to use his influence to bring his tenant
to reason. This offer, made through Cunningham, was accepted by Lord
Oldborough, and the negotiation led to fresh communications.--There was
soon to be a county meeting, and an address was to be procured in
favour of certain measures of government, which it was expected would be
violently opposed. In the commissioner's letters to his son, the private
secretary, he could say and suggest whatever he pleased; he pointed out
the gentlemen of the county who ought to be conciliated, and he offered
his services to represent things properly to some with whom he was
intimate. The sheriff and the under-sheriff also should know, without
being informed directly from ministry, what course in conducting the
meeting would be agreeable in a certain quarter--who so proper to say
and do all that might be expedient as Mr. Falconer, who was on the spot,
and well acquainted with the county?--The commissioner was informed
by the private secretary, that his services would be acceptable. There
happened also, at this time, to be some disputes and grievances in that
part of the country about tax-gatherers. Mr. Falconer hinted, that he
could soften and accommodate matters, if he were empowered to do so--and
he was so empowered. Besides all this, there was a borough in that
county, in which the interest of government had been declining; attempts
were made to _open the borough_--Mr. Falconer could be of use in
_keeping it close_--and he was commissioned to do every thing in his
power in the business. In a short time Mr. Falconer was acting on all
these points as an agent and partizan of Lord Oldborough's. But there
was one thing which made him uneasy; he was acting here, as in many
former instances, merely upon vague hopes of future reward.

Whilst his mind was full of these thoughts, a new prospect of advantage
opened to him in another direction. Colonel Hauton, Lord Oldborough's
nephew, stayed, during his uncle's absence, at Clermont-park, to be
in readiness for the races, which, this year, were expected to be
uncommonly fine. Buckhurst Falconer had been at school and at the
university with the colonel, and had frequently helped him in his Latin
exercises. The colonel having been always deficient in scholarship, he
had early contracted an aversion to literature, which at last amounted
to an antipathy even to the very sight of books, in consequence,
perhaps, of his uncle's ardent and precipitate desire to make him apply
to them whilst his head was full of tops and balls, kites and ponies.
Be this as it may, Commissioner Falconer thought his son Buckhurst might
benefit by his school friendship, and might now renew and improve
the connexion. Accordingly, Buckhurst waited upon the colonel,--was
immediately recognized, and received with promising demonstrations of
joy.

It would be difficult, indeed impossible, to describe Colonel Hauton, so
as to distinguish him from a thousand other young men of the same class,
except, perhaps, that he might be characterized by having more exclusive
and inveterate selfishness. Yet this was so far from appearing or being
suspected on a first acquaintance, that he was generally thought a
sociable, good-natured fellow. It was his absolute dependence upon
others for daily amusement and ideas, or, rather, for knowing what to do
with himself, that gave him this semblance of being sociable; the total
want of proper pride and dignity in his whole deportment, a certain
_slang_ and familiarity of tone, gave superficial observers the notion
that he was good-natured. It was Colonel Hauton's great ambition to
look like his own coachman; he succeeded only so far as to look like his
groom: but though he kept company with jockeys and coachmen, grooms and
stable-boys, yet not the stiffest, haughtiest, flat-backed Don of Spain,
in Spain's proudest days, could be more completely aristocratic in his
principles, or more despotic in his habits. This could not break out to
his equals, and his equals cared little how he treated his inferiors.
His present pleasure, or rather his present business, for no man
made more a business of pleasure than Colonel Hauton, was _the turf_.
Buckhurst Falconer could not here assist him as much as in making Latin
verses--but he could admire and sympathize; and the colonel, proud of
being now the superior, proud of his _knowing style_ and his _capital_
stud, enjoyed Buckhurst's company particularly, pressed him to stay
at Clermont-park, and to accompany him to the races. There was to be a
_famous_ match between Colonel Hauton's High-Blood and Squire Burton's
Wildfire; and the preparations of the horses and of their riders
occupied the intervening days. With all imaginable care, anxiety, and
solemnity, these important preparations were conducted. At stated hours,
Colonel Hauton, and with him Buckhurst, went to see High-Blood rubbed
down, and fed, and watered, and exercised, and minuted, and rubbed
down, and littered. Next to the horse, the rider, Jack Giles, was to
be attended to with the greatest solicitude; he was to be weighed--and
starved--and watched--and drammed--and _sweated_--and weighed again--and
so on in daily succession; and harder still, through this whole course
he was to be kept in humour: "None that ever sarved man or beast," as
the stable-boy declared, "ever worked harder for their bread than his
master and master's companion did this week for their pleasure." At last
the great, the important day arrived, and Jack Giles was weighed for
the last time in public, and so was Tom Hand, Squire Burton's rider--and
High-Blood and Wildfire were brought out; and the spectators assembled
in the stand, and about the scales, were all impatience, especially
those who had betted on either of the horses. And, Now, Hauton!--Now,
Burton!--Now, High-Blood!--Now, Wildfire!--Now, Jack Giles!--and Now,
Tom Hand! resounded on all sides. The gentlemen on the race-ground were
all on tiptoe in their stirrups. The ladies in the stand stretched their
necks of snow, and nobody looked at them.--Two men were run over, and
nobody took them up.--Two ladies fainted, and two gentlemen betted
across them. This was no time for nice observances--Jack Giles's spirit
began to flag--and Tom Hand's judgment _to tell_--High-Blood, on the
full stretch, was within view of the winning-post, when Wildfire, quite
in wind, was put to his speed by the judicious Tom Hand--he sprang
forward, came up with High-Blood--passed him--Jack Giles strove in vain
to regain his ground--High-Blood was blown, beyond the power of whip or
spur--Wildfire reached the post, and Squire Burton won the match hollow.

His friends congratulated him and themselves loudly, and extolled Tom
Hand and Wildfire to the skies. In the moment of disappointment, Colonel
Hauton, out of humour, said something that implied a suspicion of
unfairness on the part of Burton or Tom Hand, which the honest squire
could not brook either for self or rider. He swore that his Tom Hand was
as honest a fellow as any in England, and he would back him for such.
The colonel, depending on his own and his uncle's importance, on
his party and his flatterers, treated the squire with some of the
haughtiness of rank, which the squire retorted with some rustic English
humour. The colonel, who had not wit at will to put down his antagonist,
became still more provoked to see that such a low-born fellow as the
squire should and could laugh and make others laugh. For the lack of wit
the colonel had recourse to insolence, and went on from one impertinence
to another, till the squire, enraged, declared that he would not be
browbeat by any lord's nephew or jackanapes colonel that ever wore a
head; and as he spoke, tremendous in his ire, Squire Burton brandished
high the British horsewhip. At this critical moment, as it has been
asserted by some of the bystanders, the colonel _quailed_ and backed a
few paces; but others pretend that Buckhurst Falconer pushed before him.
It is certain that Buckhurst stopped the blow--wrested the horsewhip
from the squire--was challenged by him on the spot--accepted the
challenge--fought the squire--_winged_ him--appeared on the race ground
afterwards, and was admired by the ladies in public, and by his father
in private, who looked upon the duel and horsewhipping, from which he
thus saved his patron's nephew, as the most fortunate circumstance that
could have happened to his son upon his entrance into life.

"Such an advantage as this gives us such a claim upon the colonel--and,
indeed, upon the whole family. Lord Oldborough, having no children of
his own, looks to the nephew as his heir; and though he may be vexed now
and then by the colonel's extravagance, and angry that he could not give
this nephew more of a political turn, yet such as he is, depend upon it
he can do what he pleases with Lord Oldborough. Whoever has the nephew's
ear, has the uncle's heart; or I should say, whoever has the nephew's
heart, has the uncle's ear."

"Mayn't we as well put hearts out of the question on all sides, sir?"
said Buckhurst.

"With all my heart," said his father, laughing, "provided we don't put a
good living out of the question on our side."

Buckhurst looked averse, and said he did not know there was any such
thing in question.

"No!" said his father: "was it then from the pure and abstract love
of being horsewhipped, or shot at, that you took this quarrel off his
hands?"

"Faith! I did it from spirit, pure spirit," said Buckhurst: "I could not
stand by, and see one who had been my schoolfellow horsewhipped--if he
did not stand by himself, _yet_ I could not but stand by _him_, for
you know I was there as one of his party--and as I backed his bets on
High-Blood, I could do no less than back his cause altogether.--Oh! I
could not stand by and see _a chum_ of my own horsewhipped."

"Well, that was all very spirited and generous; but now, as you are
something too old for mere schoolboy notions," said the commissioner,
"let us look a little farther, and see what we can make of it. It's only
a silly boyish thing as you consider it; but I hope we can turn it to
good account."

"I never thought of turning it to account, sir."

"Think of it now," said the father, a little provoked by the careless
disinterestedness of the son. "In plain English, here is a colonel in
his majesty's service saved from a horsewhipping--a whole noble family
saved from disgrace: these are things not to be forgotten; that is, not
to be forgotten, if you force people to remember them: otherwise--my
word for it--I know the great--the whole would be forgotten in a week.
Therefore, leave me to follow the thing up properly with the uncle,
and do you never let it sleep with the nephew: sometimes a bold stroke,
sometimes a delicate touch, just as the occasion serves, or as may suit
the company present--all that I trust to your own address and judgment."

"Trust nothing, sir, to my address or judgment; for in these things
I have neither. I always act just from impulse and feeling, right
or wrong--I have no talents for _finesse_--leave them all to
Cunningham--that's his trade, and he likes it, luckily: and you should
be content with having one such genius in your family--no family could
bear two."

"Come, come, pray be serious, Buckhurst. If you have not or will not use
any common sense and address to advance yourself, leave that to me. You
see how I have pushed up Cunningham already, and all I ask of you is to
be quiet, and let me push you up."

"Oh! dear sir, I am very much obliged to you: if that is all, I will be
quite quiet--so that I am not to do any thing shabby or dirty for it.
I should be vastly glad to get a good place, and be provided for
handsomely."

"No doubt; and let me tell you that many I could name have, with
inferior claims, and without any natural connexion or relationship, from
the mere favour of proper friends, obtained church benefices of much
greater value than the living we have in our eye: you know--"

"I do not know, indeed," said Buckhurst; "I protest I have no living in
my eye."

"What! not know that the living of Chipping-Friars is in the gift of
Colonel Hauton--and the present incumbent has had one paralytic stroke
already. There's a prospect for you, Buckhurst!"

"To be frank with you, sir, I have no taste for the church."

"No taste for nine hundred a year, Buckhurst? No desire for fortune, Mr.
Philosopher?"

"Pardon me, a very strong taste for that, sir--not a bit of a
philosopher--as much in love with fortune as any man, young or old: is
there no way to fortune but through the church?"

"None for you so sure and so easy, all circumstances considered," said
his father. "I have planned and settled it, and you have nothing to do
but to get yourself ordained as soon as possible. I shall write to my
friend the bishop for that purpose this very night."

"Let me beg; father, that you will not be so precipitate. Upon my word,
sir, I cannot go into orders. I am not--in short, I am not fit for the
church."

The father stared with an expression between anger and astonishment.

"Have not you gone through the university?"

"Yes, sir:--but--but I am scarcely sober, and _staid_, and moral enough
for the church. Such a wild fellow as I am, I really could not in
conscience--I would not upon any account, for any living upon earth, or
any emolument, go into the church, unless I thought I should do credit
to it."

"And why should not you do credit to the church? I don't see that you
are wilder than your neighbours, and need not be more scrupulous. There
is G----, who at your age was wild enough, but he took up in time,
and is now a plump dean. Then there is the bishop that is just made:
I remember him such a youth as you are. Come, come, these are idle
scruples. Let me hear no more, my dear Buckhurst, of your conscience."

"Dear sir, I never pleaded my conscience on any occasion before--you
know that I am no puritan--but really on this point I have some
conscience, and I beg you not to press me farther. You have other sons;
and if you cannot spare Cunningham, that treasure of diplomacy!--there's
John; surely you might contrive to spare him for the church."

"Spare him I would, and welcome. But you know I could never get John
into orders."

"Why not, sir? John, I'll swear, would have no objection to the church,
provided you could get him a good fat living."

"But I am not talking of _his_ objections. To be sure he would make no
objection to a good fat living, nor would any body in his senses, except
yourself. But I ask you how I could possibly get your brother John into
the church? John's a dunce,--and you know it."

"Nobody better, sir: but are there no dunces in the church?--And as
you are so good as to think that I'm no wilder than my neighbours, you
surely will not say that my brother is more a dunce than his neighbours.
Put him into the hands of a clever grinder or crammer, and they would
soon cram the necessary portion of Latin and Greek into him, and they
would get him through the university for us readily enough; and a degree
once obtained, he might snap his fingers at Latin and Greek all the rest
of his life. Once in orders, and he might sit down upon his fat living,
or lie down content, all his days, only taking care to have some poor
devil of a curate up and about, doing duty for him."

"So I find you have no great scruples for your brother, whatever you may
have for yourself?"

"Sir, I am not the keeper of my brother's conscience--Indeed, if I were,
you might congratulate me in the words of Sir B. R. upon the possession
of a sinecure place."

"It is a pity, Buckhurst, that you cannot use your wit for yourself as
well as for other people. Ah! Buckhurst! Buckhurst! you will, I fear,
do worse in the world than any of your brothers; for wits are always
_unlucky_: sharp-sighted enough to every thing else, but blind, stone
blind to their own interest. Wit is folly, when one is talking of
serious business."

"Well, my dear father, be _agreeable_, and I will not be witty.--In
fact, in downright earnest, the sum total of the business is, that I
have a great desire to go into the army, and I entreat you to procure me
a commission."

"Then the sum total of the business is, that I will not; for I cannot
afford to purchase you a commission, and to maintain you in the army--"

"But by using interest, perhaps, sir," said Buckhurst.

"My interest must be all for your brother John; for I tell you I can do
nothing else for him but put him into the army.--He's a dunce.--I must
get him a commission, and then I have done with him."

"I wish I were a dunce," said Buckhurst, sighing; "for then I might go
into the army--instead of being forced into the church."

"There's no force upon your inclinations, Buckhurst," said his father
in a soft tone; "I only show you that it is impossible I should maintain
you in the army, and, therefore, beg you to put the army out of
your head. And I don't well see what else you could do. You have
not application enough for the bar, nor have I any friends among the
attorneys except Sharpe, who, between you and me, might take your
dinners, and leave you without a brief afterwards. You have talents, I
grant," continued the commissioner, "and if you had but application, and
if your uncle the judge had not died last year--"

"Oh, sir, he is dead, and we can't help it," interrupted Buckhurst. "And
as for me, I never had, and never shall have, any application: so pray
put the bar out of your mind."

"Very cavalier, indeed!--but I will make you serious at once, Buckhurst.
You have nothing to expect from my death--I have not a farthing to leave
you--my place, you know, is only for life--your mother's fortune is all
in annuity, and two girls to be provided for--and to live as we must
live--up to and beyond my income--shall have nothing to leave. Though
you are my eldest son, you see it is in vain to look to my death--so
into the church you must go, or be a beggar--and get a living or starve.
Now I have done," concluded the commissioner, quitting his son; "and I
leave you to think of what has been said."

Buckhurst thought and thought; but still his interest and his conscience
were at variance, and he could not bring himself either to be virtuous
or vicious enough to comply with his father's wishes. He could not
decide to go into the church merely from interested motives--from that
his conscience revolted; he could not determine to make himself fit to
do credit to the sacred profession--against this his habits and his love
of pleasure revolted. He went to his brother John, to try what could be
done with him. Latin and Greek were insuperable objections with John;
besides, though he had a dull imagination in general, John's fancy
had been smitten with one bright idea of an epaulette, from which
no considerations, fraternal, political, moral, or religious, could
distract his attention.--His genius, he said, was for the army, and
into the army he would go.--So to his genius, Buckhurst, in despair, was
obliged to leave him.--The commissioner neglected not to push the claim
which he had on Colonel Hauton, and he chose his time so well, when
proper people were by, and when the colonel did not wish to have the
squire, and the horse-whip, and the duel, brought before the public,
that he obtained, if not a full acknowledgment of obligation, a
promise of doing any thing and every thing in his power for his friend
Buckhurst. Any thing and every thing were indefinite, unsatisfactory
terms; and the commissioner, bold in dealing with the timid temper of
the colonel, though he had been cautious with the determined
character of the uncle, pressed his point--named the living of
Chipping-Friars--showed how well he would be satisfied, and how well he
could represent matters, if the promise were given; and at the same time
made it understood how loudly he could complain, and how disgraceful his
complaints might prove to the Oldborough family, if his son were treated
with ingratitude. The colonel particularly dreaded that he should
be suspected of want of spirit, and that his uncle should have the
transaction laid before him in this improper point of view. He pondered
for a few moments, and the promise for the living of Chipping-Friars was
given. The commissioner, secure of this, next returned to the point with
his son, and absolutely insisted upon his--going into orders. Buckhurst,
who had tried wit and raillery in vain, now tried persuasion and earnest
entreaties; but these were equally fruitless: his father, though an
easy, good-natured man, except where his favourite plans were crossed,
was peremptory, and, without using harsh words, he employed the harshest
measures to force his son's compliance. Buckhurst had contracted some
debts at the university, none of any great consequence, but such as
he could not pay immediately.--The bets he had laid and lost upon
High-Blood were also to be provided for; debts of honour claimed
precedency, and must be directly discharged. His father positively
refused to assist him, except upon condition of his compliance with his
wishes; and so far from affording him any means of settling with his
creditors, it has been proved, from the commissioner's _private_
answers to some of their applications, that he not only refused to pay
a farthing for his son, but encouraged the creditors to threaten him in
the strongest manner with the terrors of law and arrest. Thus pressed
and embarrassed, this young man, who had many honourable and religious
sentiments and genuine feelings, but no power of adhering to principle
or reason, was miserable beyond expression one hour--and the next he
became totally forgetful that there was any thing to be thought of
but the amusement of the moment. Incapable of coming to any serious
decision, he walked up and down his room talking, partly to himself, and
partly, for want of a better companion, to his brother John.

"So I must pay Wallis to-morrow, or he'll arrest me; and I must give my
father an answer about the church to-night--for he writes to the bishop,
and will wait no longer. Oh! hang it.' hang it, John! what the devil
shall I do? My father won't pay a farthing for me, unless I go into the
church!"

"Well, then, why can't you go into the church!" said John: "since you
are through the university, the worst is over."

"But I think it so wrong, so base--for money--for emolument! I cannot
do it. I am not fit for the church--I know I shall disgrace it," said
Buckhurst, striking his forehead: "I cannot do it--I can not--it is
against my conscience."

John stopped, as he was filling his shooting-pouch, and looked at
Buckhurst (his mouth half open) with an expression of surprise at these
demonstrations of sensibility. He had some sympathy for the external
symptoms of pain which he saw in his brother, but no clear conception of
the internal cause.

"Why, Buckhurst," said he, "if you cannot do it, you can't, you know,
Buckhurst: but I don't see why you should be a disgrace to the church
more than another, as my father says. If I were but through the
university, I had as lieve go into the church as not--that's all I can
say. And if my genius were not for the military line, there's nothing I
should relish better than the living of Chipping-Friars, I'm sure. The
only thing that I see against it is, that that paralytic incumbent may
live many a year: but, then, you get your debts paid now by only going
into orders, and that's a great point. But if it goes against your
conscience--you know best--if you can't, you can't."

"After all, I can't go to jail--I can't let myself be arrested--I can't
starve--I can't be a beggar," said Buckhurst; "and, as you say, I should
be so easy if these cursed debts were paid--and if I got this living of
nine hundred a year, how comfortable I should be! Then I could marry, by
Jove! and I'd propose directly for Caroline Percy, for I'm confoundedly
in love with her--such a sweet tempered, good creature!--not a girl so
much admired! Colonel Hauton, and G----, and P----, and D----, asked me,
'Who is that pretty girl?'--She certainly is a very pretty girl."

"She certainly is," repeated John. "This devil of a fellow never cleans
my gun."

"Not regularly handsome, neither," pursued Buckhurst; "but, as Hauton
says, fascinating and new; and a new face in public is a great matter.
Such a fashionable-looking figure, too--though she has not _come out_
yet; dances charmingly--would dance divinely, if she would let herself
out; and she sings and plays like an angel, fifty times better than our
two precious sisters, who have been _at it_ from their cradles, with all
the Signor _Squalicis_ at their elbows. Caroline Percy never exhibits in
public: the mother does not like it, I suppose."

"So I suppose," said John. "Curse this flint!--flints are growing worse
and worse every day--I wonder what in the world are become of all the
good flints there used to be!"

"Very unlike our mother, I am sure," continued Buckhurst. "There are
Georgiana and Bell at all the parties and concerts as regularly as
any of the professors, standing up in the midst of the singing men and
women, favouring the public in as fine a bravura style, and making as
ugly faces as the best of them. Do you remember the Italian's compliment
to Miss * * * * *?--I vish, miss, I had your _assurance_.'"

"Very good, ha!--very fair, faith!" said John. "Do you know what I've
done with my powder horn?"

"Not I--put it in the oven, may be, to dry," said Buckhurst. "But as I
was saying of my dear Caroline--_My_ Caroline! she is not mine yet."

"Very true," said John.

"Very true! Why, John, you are enough to provoke a saint!"

"I was agreeing with you, I thought," said John.

"But nothing is so provoking as always agreeing with one--and I can tell
you, Mr. Verytrue, that though Caroline Percy is not mine yet, I have
nevertheless a little suspicion, that, such even as I am, she might
readily be brought to love, honour, and obey me."

"I don't doubt it, for I never yet knew a woman that was not ready
enough to be married," quoth John. "But this is not the right ramrod,
after all."

"There you are wrong, John, on the other side," said Buckhurst; "for I
can assure you, Miss Caroline Percy is not one of your young ladies who
would marry any body. And even though she might like me, I am not at all
sure that she would marry me--for obedience to the best of fathers might
interfere."

"There's the point," said John; "for thereby hangs the fortune; and it
would be a _deuced_ thing to have the girl without the fortune."

"Not so _deuced_ a thing to me as you think," said Buckhurst, laughing;
"for, poor as I am, I can assure you the fortune is not my object--I am
not a mercenary dog."

"By-the-bye," cried John, "now you talk of dogs, I wish to Heaven above,
you had not given away that fine puppy of mine to that foolish old man,
who never was out a shooting in his days--the dog's just as much thrown
away as if you had drowned him. Now, do you know, if I had had _the
making_ of that puppy--"

"Puppy!" exclaimed Buckhurst: "is it possible you can be thinking of
a puppy, John, when I am talking to you of what is of so much
consequence?--when the whole happiness of my life is at stake?"

"Stake!--Well, but what can I do more!" said John: "have not I been
standing here this half hour with my gun in my hand this fine day,
listening to you prosing about I don't know what?"

"That's the very thing I complain of--that you do not know what: a
pretty brother!" said Buckhurst.

John made no further reply, but left the room sullenly, whistling as he
went.

Left to his own cogitations, Buckhurst fell into a reverie upon the
charms of Caroline Percy, and upon the probable pleasure of dancing
with her at the race-ball; after this, he recurred to the bitter
recollection, that he must decide about his debts, and the church.
A bright idea came into his mind, that he might have recourse to Mr.
Percy, and, perhaps, prevail upon him to persuade his father not
to force him to a step which he could not reconcile either to his
conscience or his inclination.--No sooner thought than done.--He called
for his horse and rode as hard as he could to Percy-hall.--When a boy
he had been intimate in the Percy family; but he had been long absent
at school and at the university; they had seen him only during the
vacations, and since his late return to the country. Though Mr. Percy
could not entirely approve of his character, yet he thought there were
many good points about Buckhurst; the frankness and candour with
which he now laid his whole mind and all his affairs open to
him--debts--love--fears--hopes--follies--faults--without reserve or
extenuation, interested Mr. Percy in his favour.--Pitying his distress,
and admiring the motives from which he acted, Mr. Percy said, that
though he had no right to interfere in Mr. Falconer's family affairs,
yet that he could, and would, so far assist Buckhurst, as to lend him
the money for which he was immediately pressed, that he might not
be driven by necessity to go into that profession, which ought to be
embraced only from the highest and purest motives. Buckhurst thanked him
with transports of gratitude for this generous kindness, which was far
beyond his expectations, and which, indeed, had never entered into his
hopes. Mr. Percy seized the moment when the young man's mind was warmed
with good feelings, to endeavour to bring him to serious thoughts and
rational determinations about his future life. He represented, that it
was unreasonable to expect that his father should let him go into
the army, when he had received an education to prepare himself for a
profession, in which his literary talents might be of advantage both to
himself and his family; that Mr. Falconer was not rich enough to forward
two of his sons in the army; that if Buckhurst, from conscientious
motives, declined the provision which his father had in view for him
in the church, he was bound to exert himself to obtain an independent
maintenance in another line of life; that he had talents which would
succeed at the bar, if he had application and perseverance sufficient
to go through the necessary drudgery at the commencement of the study of
the law.

Here Buckhurst groaned.--But Mr. Percy observed that there was no other
way of proving that he acted from conscientious motives respecting the
church; for otherwise it would appear that he preferred the army
only because he fancied it would afford a life of idleness and
pleasure.--That this would also be his only chance of winning the
approbation of the object of his affections, and of placing himself in a
situation in which he could marry.--Buckhurst, who was capable of being
strongly influenced by good motives, especially from one who had obliged
him, instantly, and in the most handsome manner, acknowledged the truth
and justice of Mr. Percy's arguments, and declared that he was ready to
begin the study of the law directly, if his father would consent to it;
and that he would submit to any drudgery rather than do what he felt
to be base and wrong. Mr. Percy, at his earnest request, applied to Mr.
Falconer, and with all the delicacy that was becoming, claimed the right
of relationship to speak of Mr. Falconer's family affairs, and told him
what he had ventured to do about Buckhurst's debts; and what the young
man now wished for himself.--The commissioner looked much disappointed
and vexed.

"The bar!" cried he: "Mr. Percy, you don't know him as well as I do. I
will answer for it, he will never go through with it--and then he is to
change his profession again!--and all the expense and all the trouble
is to fall on me!--and I am to provide for him at last!--In all
probability, by the time Buckhurst knows his own mind, the paralytic
incumbent will be dead, and the living of Chipping-Friars given
away.--And where am I to find nine hundred a year, I pray you, at a
minute's notice, for this conscientious youth, who, by that time, will
tell me his scruples were all nonsense, and that I should have known
better than to listen to them? Nine hundred a year does not come in a
man's way at every turn of his life; and if he gives it up now, it is
not my fault--let him look to it."

Mr. Percy replied, "that Buckhurst had declared himself ready to abide
by the consequences, and that he promised he would never complain of
the lot he had chosen for himself, much less reproach his father for his
compliance, and that he was resolute to maintain himself at the bar."

"Yes: very fine.--And how long will it be before he makes nine hundred a
year at the bar?"

Mr. Percy, who knew that none but worldly considerations made any
impression upon this father, suggested that he would have to maintain
his son during the life of the paralytic incumbent, and the expense of
Buckhurst's being at the bar would not probably be greater; and though
it might be several years before he could make nine hundred, or,
perhaps, one hundred a year at the bar, yet that if he succeeded, which,
with Buckhurst's talents, nothing but the want of perseverance could
prevent, he might make nine thousand a year by the profession of the
law--more than in the scope of human probability, and with all the
patronage his father's address could procure, he could hope to obtain in
the church.

"Well, let him try--let him try," repeated the commissioner, who, vexed
as he was, did not choose to run the risk of disobliging Mr. Percy,
losing a good match for him, or undergoing the scandal of its being
known that he forced his son into the church.

For obtaining this consent, however reluctantly granted by the
commissioner, Buckhurst warmly thanked Mr. Percy, who made one condition
with him, that he would go up to town immediately to commence his
studies.

This Buckhurst faithfully promised to do, and only implored permission
to declare his attachment to Caroline.--Caroline was at this time not
quite eighteen, too young, her father said, to think of forming any
serious engagement, even were it with a person suited to her in fortune
and in every other respect.

Buckhurst declared that he had no idea of endeavouring even to obtain
from Miss Caroline Percy any promise or engagement.--He had been
treated, he said, too generously by her father, to attempt to take any
step without his entire approbation.

He knew he was not, and could not for many years, be in circumstances
that would enable him to support a daughter of Mr. Percy's in the
station to which she was, by her birth and fortune, entitled.--All he
asked, he repeated, was to be permitted to declare to her his passion.

Mr. Percy thought it was more prudent to let it be declared openly than
to have it secretly suspected; therefore he consented to this request,
trusting much to Buckhurst's honour and to Caroline's prudence.

To this first declaration of love Caroline listened with a degree of
composure which astonished and mortified her lover. He had flattered
himself that, at least, her vanity or pride would have been apparently
gratified by her conquest.--But there was none of the flutter of vanity
in her manner, nor any of the repressed satisfaction of pride. There
were in her looks and words only simplicity and dignity.--She said that
she was at present occupied happily in various ways, endeavouring to
improve herself, and that she should be sorry to have her mind turned
from these pursuits; she desired to secure time to compare and judge of
her own tastes, and of the characters of others, before she should make
any engagement, or form an attachment on which the happiness of her life
must depend. She said she was equally desirous to keep herself free, and
to avoid injuring the happiness of the man who had honoured her by his
preference; therefore she requested he would discontinue a
pursuit, which she could not encourage him to hope would ever be
successful.--Long before the time when she should think it prudent to
marry, even if she were to meet with a character perfectly suited to
hers, she hoped that her cousin Buckhurst would be united to some woman
who would be able to return his affection.

The manner in which all this was said convinced Buckhurst that she spoke
the plain and exact truth. From the ease and frankness with which she
had hitherto conversed with him, he had flattered himself that it would
not be difficult to prepossess her heart in his favour; but now, when
he saw the same ease and simplicity unchanged in her manner, he was
convinced that he had been mistaken. He had still hopes that in time
he might make an impression upon her, and he urged that she was not yet
sufficiently acquainted with his character to be able to judge whether
or not it would suit hers. She frankly told him all she thought of him,
and in doing so impressed him with the conviction that she had both
discerned the merits and discovered the defects of his character: she
gave him back a representation of himself, which he felt to be exactly
just, and yet which struck him with all the force of novelty.

"It is myself," he exclaimed: "but I never knew myself till now."

He had such pleasure in hearing Caroline speak of him, that he wished
even to hear her speak of his faults--of these he would, however,
have been better pleased, if she had spoken with less calmness and
indulgence.

"She is a great way from love as yet," thought Buckhurst. "It is
astonishing, that with powers and knowledge on all other subjects so far
above her age, she should know so little even of the common language of
sentiment; very extraordinary, that with so much kindness, and such an
amiable disposition, she should have so little sensibility."

The novelty of this insensibility, and of this perfect simplicity,
so unlike all he had observed in the manners and minds of other young
ladies to whom he had been accustomed, had, however, a great effect
upon her lover. The openness and unaffected serenity of Caroline's
countenance at this moment appeared to him more charming than any other
thing he had ever beheld in the most finished coquette, or the most
fashionable beauty.

What a divine creature she will be a few years hence! thought he. The
time will come, when Love may waken this Psyche!--And what glory it
would be to me to produce to the world such perfection!

With these mixed ideas of love and glory, Buckhurst took leave of
Caroline; still he retained hope in spite of her calm and decided
refusal. He knew the power of constant attention, and the display of
ardent passion, to win the female heart. He trusted also in no slight
degree to the reputation he had already acquired of being a favourite
with the fair sex.



CHAPTER IV.


Buckhurst Falconer returned to Percy-hall.

He came provided with something like an excuse--he had business--his
father had desired him to ask Mr. Percy to take charge of a box of
family papers for him, as he apprehended that, when he was absent from
the country, his steward had not been as careful of them as he ought to
have been.

Mr. Percy willingly consented to take charge of the papers, but he
desired that, before they were left with him, Buckhurst should take a
list of them.

Buckhurst was unprepared for this task.

His head was intent on a ball and on Caroline. However, he was obliged
to undergo this labour; and when he had finished it, Mr. Percy, who
happened to be preparing some new leases of considerable farms, was
so busy, in the midst of his papers, that there was no such thing as
touching upon the subject of the ball. At length the ladies of the
family appeared, and all the parchments were at last out of the
way--Buckhurst began upon his real business, and said he meant to delay
going to town a few days longer, because there was to be a ball early in
the ensuing week.--"Nothing more natural," said Mr. Percy, "than to wish
to go to a ball; yet," added he, gravely, "when a man of honour gives
his promise that nothing shall prevent him from commencing his studies
immediately, I did not expect that the first temptation--"

"Oh! my dear Mr. Percy," said Buckhurst, endeavouring to laugh away the
displeasure, or rather the disappointment which he saw in Mr. Percy's
countenance, "a few days can make no difference."

"Only the difference of a term," said Mr. Percy; "and the difference
between promising and performing. You thought me unjust yesterday, when
I told you that I feared you would prefer present amusement to future
happiness."

"Amusement!" exclaimed Buckhurst, turning suddenly towards Caroline; "do
you imagine _that_ is my object?" Then approaching her, he said in a
low voice, "It is a natural mistake for you to make, Miss Caroline
Percy--for you--who know nothing of love. Amusement! It is not amusement
that detains me--can you think I would stay for a ball, unless I
expected to meet you there?"

"Then I will not go," said Caroline: "it would be coquetry to meet
you there, when, as I thought, I had distinctly explained to you
yesterday--"

"Oh! don't repeat that," interrupted Buckhurst: "a lady is never bound
to remember what she said yesterday--especially if it were a cruel
sentence; I hope hereafter you will change your mind--let me live upon
hope."

"I will never give any false hopes," said Caroline; "and since I cannot
add to your happiness, I will take care not to diminish it. I will not
be the cause of your breaking your promise to my father: I will not be
the means of tempting you to lower yourself in his opinion--I will not
go to this ball."

Buckhurst smiled, went on with some commonplace raillery about cruelty,
and took his leave, fancying that Caroline could not be in earnest in
her threat, as he called it.--As his disobedience would have the excuse
of _love_, he thought he might venture to transgress the letter of the
promise.

When the time came, he went to the ball, almost certain that Caroline
would break her resolution, as he knew that she had never yet been at
a public assembly, and it was natural that one so sure of being admired
would be anxious to be seen. His surprise and disappointment were great
when no Caroline appeared.

He asked Rosamond if her sister was not well?

"Perfectly well."

"Then why is not she here?"

"Don't you recollect her telling you that she would not come?"

"Yes: but I did not think she was in earnest."

"How little you know of Caroline," replied Rosamond, "if you imagine
that either in trifles, or in matters of consequence, _she_ would say
one thing and do another."

"I feel," said Buckhurst, colouring, "what that emphasis on _she_
means. But I did not think you would have reproached me so severely. _I
thought_ my cousin Rosamond was my friend."

"So I am--but not a friend to your faults."

"Surely it is no great crime in a young man to like going to a ball
better than going to the Temple! But I am really concerned," continued
Buckhurst, "that I have deprived Miss Caroline Percy of the pleasure of
being here to-night--and this was to have been her first appearance in
public--I am quite sorry."

"Caroline is not at all impatient to appear in public; and as to the
pleasure of being at a ball, it costs her little to sacrifice that, or
any pleasure of her own, for the advantage of others."

"When Miss Caroline Percy said something about my falling in her
father's opinion for such a trifle, I could not guess that she was
serious."

"She does not," replied Rosamond, "think it a trifle to break a
promise."

Buckhurst looked at his watch. "The mail-coach will pass through this
town in an hour. It shall take me to London--Good bye--I will not stay
another moment--I am gone. I wish I had gone yesterday--pray, my dear,
good Rosamond, say so for me to Caroline."

At this moment a beautiful young lady, attended by a large party,
entered the ball-room. Buckhurst stopped to inquire who she was.

"Did you never see my sister before?" replied Colonel Hauton--"Oh! I
must introduce you, and you shall dance with her."

"You do me a great deal of honour--I shall be very happy--that is, I
should be extremely happy--only unfortunately I am under a necessity of
setting off immediately for London--I'm afraid I shall be late for the
mail--Good night."

Buckhurst made an effort, as he spoke, to pass on; but Colonel Hauton
bursting into one of his horse laughs, held him fast by the arm, swore
he must be drunk, for that he did not know what he was saying or doing.

Commissioner Falconer, who now came up, whispered to Buckhurst, "Are you
mad? You can't refuse--you'll affront for ever!"

"I can't help it," said Buckhurst: "I'm sorry for it--I cannot help it."

He still kept on his way towards the door.

"But," expostulated the commissioner, following him out, "you can surely
stay, be introduced, and pay your compliments to the young lady--you are
time enough for the mail. Don't affront people for nothing, who may be
of the greatest use to you."

"But, my dear father, I don't want people to be of use to me."

"Well, at any rate turn back just to see what a charming creature Miss
Hauton is. Such an entrée! So much the air of a woman of fashion! every
eye riveted--the whole room in admiration of her!"

"I did not see any thing remarkable about her," said Buckhurst, turning
back to look at her again. "If you think I should affront--I would not
really affront Hauton, who has always been so civil to me--I'll go and
be introduced and pay my compliments, since you say it is necessary; but
I shall not stay five minutes."

Buckhurst returned to be introduced to Miss Hauton. This young lady was
so beautiful that she would, in all probability, have attracted general
attention, even if she had not been the sister of a man of Colonel
Hauton's fortune, and the niece of a nobleman of Lord Oldborough's
political consequence; but undoubtedly these circumstances much
increased the power of her charms over the imaginations of her admirers.
All the gentlemen at this hall were unanimous in declaring that she was
a most fascinating creature. Buckhurst Falconer and Godfrey Percy
were introduced to her nearly at the same time. Godfrey asked her to
dance--and Buckhurst could not help staying to see her. She danced so
gracefully, that while he thought he had stayed only five minutes,
he delayed a quarter of an hour. Many gentlemen were ambitious of the
honour of Miss Hauton's hand; but, to their disappointment, she declined
dancing any more; and though Buckhurst Falconer had determined not
to have stayed, nor to dance with her, yet an undefinable perverse
curiosity induced him to delay a few minutes to determine whether she
conversed as well as she danced. The sound of her voice was sweet and
soft, and there was an air of languor in her whole person and manner,
with an apparent indifference to general admiration, which charmed
Godfrey Percy, especially as he perceived, that she could be animated by
his conversation. To Buckhurst's wit she listened with politeness, but
obviously without interest. Buckhurst looked at his watch again--but it
was now too late for the mail. Rosamond was surprised to see him still
in the ball-room. He laid all the blame on his father, and pleaded that
he was detained by parental orders which he could not disobey. He sat
beside Rosamond at supper, and used much eloquence to convince her that
he had obeyed against his will.

In the mean time Godfrey, seated next to his fair partner, became
every moment more and more sensible of the advantages of his situation.
Towards the end of supper, when the buzz of general conversation
increased, it happened that somebody near Miss Hauton spoke of a
marriage that was likely to take place in the fashionable world, and all
who thought themselves, or who wished to be thought good authorities,
began to settle _how_ it would be, and _when_ it would be: but a
gentleman of Godfrey's acquaintance, who sat next to him, said, in a low
voice, "It will never be."--"Why?" said Godfrey.--The gentleman answered
in a whisper, "There is an insuperable objection: the _mother_--don't
you recollect?--the mother was a _divorcée_; and no man of sense would
venture to marry the daughter--"

"No, certainly," said Godfrey; "I did not know the fact."

He turned, as he finished speaking, to ask Miss Hauton if she would
permit him to help her to something that stood before him; but to
his surprise and alarm he perceived that she was pale, trembling, and
scarcely able to support herself.--He, for the first moment, thought
only that she was taken suddenly ill, and he was going to call Lady
Oldborough's attention to her indisposition--but Miss Hauton stopped
him, and said in a low, tremulous voice--"Take no notice." He then
poured out a glass of water, put it within her reach, turned away in
obedience to her wishes, and sat in such a manner as to screen her from
observation. A confused recollection now came across his mind of his
having heard many years ago, when he was a child, of the divorce of
some Lady Anne Hauton, and the truth occurred to him, that this was Miss
Hauton's mother, and that Miss Hauton had overheard the whisper.

In a few moments, anxious to see whether she had recovered, and yet
afraid to distress her by his attention, he half turned his head, and
looking down at her plate, asked if she was better.

"Quite well, thank you."

He then raised his eyes, and looking as unconcernedly as he could,
resumed his former attitude, and began some trifling conversation; but
whatever effort he made to appear the same as before, there was some
constraint, or some difference in his voice and manner, which the young
lady perceived--her voice immediately changed and faltered--he spoke
quickly--both spoke at the same time, without knowing what either said
or what they said themselves--their eyes met, and both were silent--Miss
Hauton blushed deeply. He saw that his conjecture was right, and she
saw, by Godfrey's countenance, that her secret was discovered: her eyes
fell, she grew pale, and instantly fainted. Lady Oldborough came to her
assistance, but she was too helpless a fine lady to be of the least use:
she could only say that it must be the heat of the room, and that she
should faint herself in another moment.

Godfrey whispered to his mother--and Miss Hauton was carried into the
open air. Lady Oldborough and her smelling-bottle followed. Godfrey,
leaving the young lady with them, returned quickly to the supper-room,
to prevent any one from intruding upon her. He met Buckhurst Falconer
and Colonel Hauton at the door, and stopped them with assurances that
Miss Hauton had all the assistance she could want.

"I'll tell you what she wants," cried the Colonel to Buckhurst; "a jaunt
to Cheltenham, which would do her and me, too, a d--d deal of good; for
now the races are over, what the devil shall we do with ourselves
here? I'll rattle Maria off the day after to-morrow in my phaeton.
No--Buckhurst, my good fellow, I'll drive you in the phaeton, and I'll
make Lady Oldborough take Maria in the coach."

Godfrey Percy, who, as he passed, could not avoid hearing this
invitation, did not stay to learn Buckhurst's answer, but went instantly
into the room. No one, not even the gentleman whose whisper had
occasioned it, had the least suspicion of the real cause of Miss
Hauton's indisposition. Lady Oldborough had assigned as the occasion
of the young lady's illness "the heat of the room," and an old medical
dowager was eager to establish that "it was _owing_ to some strawberry
ice, as, to her certain knowledge, ice, in some shape or other, was the
cause of most of the mischief in the world."

Whilst the partizans of heat and ice were still battling, and whilst the
dancers had quite forgotten Miss Hauton, and every thing but themselves,
the young lady returned to the room. Godfrey went to order Mrs. Percy's
carriage, and the Percy family left the ball.

When Godfrey found himself in the carriage with his own family, he began
eagerly to talk of Miss Hauton; he was anxious to know what all and each
thought of her, in general, and in particular: he talked so much of her,
and seemed so much surprised that any body could wish to talk or think
of any thing else, that Mrs. Percy could not help smiling. Mr. Percy,
leaning back in the carriage, said that he felt inclined to sleep.

"To sleep!" repeated Godfrey: "is it possible that you can be sleepy,
sir?"

"Very possible, my dear son--it is past four o'clock, I believe."

Godfrey was silent for some minutes, and he began to think over every
word and look that had passed between him and Miss Hauton. He had been
only amused with her conversation, and charmed by her grace and beauty
in the beginning of the evening; but the sensibility she had afterwards
shown had touched him so much, that he was extremely anxious to interest
his father in her favour. He explained the cause of her fainting,
and asked whether she was not much to be pitied. All pitied her--and
Godfrey, encouraged by this pity, went on to prove that she ought not to
be blamed for her mother's faults; that nothing could be more unjust and
cruel than to think ill of the innocent daughter, because her mother had
been imprudent.

"But, Godfrey," said Rosamond, "you seem to be answering some one who
has attacked Miss Hauton--whom are you contending with?"

"With himself," said Mr. Percy. "His prudence tells him that the
gentleman was quite right in saying that no man of sense would marry the
daughter of a woman who had conducted herself ill, and yet he wishes to
make an exception to the general rule in favour of pretty Miss Hauton."

"Pretty! My dear father, she is a great deal more than pretty: if she
were only pretty, I should not be so much interested about her. But
putting her quite out of the question, I do not agree with the general
principle that a man should not marry the daughter of a woman who has
conducted herself ill."

"I think you did agree with it till you knew that it applied to Miss
Hauton's case," said Mr. Percy: "as well as I remember, Godfrey, I heard
you once answer on a similar occasion, 'No, no--I will have nothing
to do with any of the daughters of that mother--black cats have black
kittens'--or 'black dogs have black puppies'--I forget which you said."

"Whichever it was, I am ashamed of having quoted such a vulgar proverb,"
said Godfrey.

"It may be a vulgar proverb, but I doubt whether it be a vulgar error,"
said Mr. Percy: "I have great faith in the wisdom of nations. So much so
in the present instance, that I own I would rather a son of mine were to
marry a well-conducted farmer's daughter of _honest parentage_, than
the daughter of an ill-conducted lady of rank or fashion. The farmer's
daughter might be trained into a gentlewoman, and might make my son at
least a faithful wife, which is more than he could expect, or than I
should expect, from the young lady, who had early seen the example
of what was bad, and whose predispositions would be provided with the
excuse of the old song."

Godfrey took fire at this, and exclaimed against the injustice of a
doctrine which would render wretched for life many young women who might
possess every amiable and estimable quality, and who could never remedy
the misfortune of their birth. Godfrey urged, that whilst this would
render the good miserable, it would be the most probable means of
driving the weak from despair into vice.

Rosamond eagerly joined her brother's side of the question. Mr. Percy,
though he knew, he said, that he must appear one of the "fathers
with flinty hearts," protested that he felt great compassion for the
unfortunate individuals, as much as a man who was not in love with any
of them could reasonably be expected to feel.

"But now," continued he, "granting that all the consequences which
Godfrey has predicted were to follow from my doctrine, yet I am inclined
to believe that society would, upon the whole, be the gainer by
such severity, or, as I am willing to allow it to be, such apparent
injustice. The adherence to this principle would be the misery, perhaps
the ruin, of a few; but would, I think, tend to the safety and happiness
of so many, that the evil would be nothing in comparison to the good.
The certainty of shame descending to the daughters would be a powerful
means of deterring mothers from ill-conduct; and might probably operate
more effectually to restrain licentiousness in high life than heavy
damages, or the now transient disgrace of public trial and divorce. As
to the apparent injustice of punishing children for the faults of their
parents, it should be considered that in most other cases children
suffer discredit more or less for the faults of their parents of
whatever kind; and that, on the other hand, they enjoy the advantage
of the good characters which their parents establish. This _must_ be so
from the necessary effect of experience, and from the nature of human
belief, except in cases where passion operates to destroy or suspend the
power of reason--"

"That is not my case, I assure you, sir," interrupted Godfrey.

Mr. Percy smiled, and continued:--"It appears to me highly advantageous,
that _character_, in general, should descend to posterity as well as
riches or honours, which are, in fact, often the representations, or
consequences, in other forms, of different parts of character--industry,
talents, courage. For instance, in the lower ranks of life, it is a
common saying, that a good name is the richest legacy a woman can leave
her daughter. This idea should be impressed more fully than it is
upon the higher classes. At present, money too frequently forms a
compensation for every thing in high life. It is not uncommon to see
the natural daughters of men of rank, or of large fortune, portioned so
magnificently, either with solid gold, or promised _family protection_,
that their origin by the mother's side, and the character of the mother,
are quite forgotten. Can this be advantageous to good morals? Surely a
mother living in open defiance of the virtue of her sex should not
see her illegitimate offspring, instead of being her shame, become her
glory.--On the contrary, nothing could tend more to prevent the ill
conduct of women in high life than the certainty that men who, from
their fortune, birth, and character, might be deemed the most desirable
matches, would shun alliances with the daughters of women of tainted
reputation."

Godfrey eagerly declared his contempt for those men who married for
money or ambition either illegitimate or legitimate daughters. He should
be sorry, he said, to do any thing that would countenance vice, which
ought to be put out of countenance by all means--if possible. But he was
not the guardian of public morals; and even if he were, he should still
think it unjust that the innocent should suffer for the guilty. That
for his own part, if he could put his father's disapprobation out of the
question, he should easily settle his mind, and overcome all objections
in a _prudential_ point of view to marrying an amiable woman who had had
the misfortune to have a worthless mother.

Mrs. Percy had not yet given her opinion--all eyes turned towards her.
As usual, she spoke with persuasive gentleness and good sense; she
marked where each had, in the warmth of argument, said more than
they intended, and she seized the just medium by which all might
be conciliated. She said that she thought the important point to be
considered was, what the _education_ of the daughter had been; on this
a prudent man would form his opinion, not on the mere accident of
her birth. He would inquire whether the girl had lived with the
ill-conducted mother--had been in situations to be influenced by her
example, or by that of the company which she kept. If such had been the
case, Mrs. Percy declared she thought it would be imprudent and wrong
to marry the daughter. But if the daughter had been separated in early
childhood from the mother, had never been exposed to the influence of
her example, had, on the contrary, been educated carefully in strict
moral and religious principles, it would be cruel, because unnecessary,
to object to an alliance with such a woman. The objection would appear
inconsistent, as well as unjust, if made by, those who professed to
believe in the unlimited power of education.

Godfrey rubbed his hands with delight--Mr. Percy smiled, and
acknowledged that he was compelled to admit the truth and justice of
this statement.

"Pray do you know, Godfrey," said Rosamond, "whether Miss Hauton lived
with her mother, or was educated by her?"

"I cannot tell," said Godfrey; "but I will make it my business to find
out. At all events, my dear mother," continued he, "a child cannot
decide by whom she will be educated. It is not her fault if her
childhood be passed with a mother who is no fit guardian for her."

"I acknowledge," said Mrs. Percy, "that is her misfortune."

"And would you make it an irreparable misfortune?" said Godfrey, in an
expostulatory tone: "my dear mother--only consider."

"My dear son, I do consider," said Mrs. Percy; "but I cannot give up the
point of education. I should be very sorry to see a son of mine married
to a woman who had been in this unfortunate predicament. But," added
Mrs. Percy, after a few minutes' silence, "if from the time her own will
and judgment could be supposed to act, she had chosen for her companions
respectable and amiable persons, and had conducted herself with uniform
propriety and discretion, I think I might be brought to allow of an
exception to my general principle." She looked at Mr. Percy.

"Undoubtedly," said Mr. Percy; "exceptions must not merely be allowed,
but will force themselves in favour of superior merit, of extraordinary
excellence, which will rise above every unfavourable circumstance in any
class, in any condition of life in which it may exist, which will throw
off any stigma, however disgraceful, counteract all prepossessions,
however potent, rise against all power of depression--redeem a
family--redeem a race."

"Now, father, you speak like yourself!" cried Godfrey: "this is all I
ask--all I wish."

"And here," continued Mr. Percy, "is an adequate motive for a good and
great mind--yes, _great_--for I believe there are great minds in the
female as well as in the male part of the creation; I say, here is an
adequate motive to excite a woman of a good and great mind to exert
herself to struggle against the misfortunes of her birth."

"For instance," said Rosamond, "my sister Caroline is just the kind of
woman, who, if she had been one of these unfortunate daughters, would
have made herself an exception."

"Very likely," said Mr. Percy, laughing; "but why you should go so far
out of your way to make an unfortunate daughter of poor Caroline, and
why you should picture to yourself, as Dr. Johnson would say, what would
be probable in an impossible situation, I cannot conceive, except
for the pleasure of exercising, as you do upon most occasions, a fine
romantic imagination."

"At all events _I_ am perfectly satisfied," said Godfrey. "Since you
admit of exceptions, sir, I agree with you entirely."

"No, not entirely. I am sure you cannot agree with me entirely, until I
admit Miss Hauton to be one of my exceptions."

"That will come in time, if she deserve it," said Mrs. Percy.

Godfrey thanked his mother with great warmth, and observed, that she was
always the most indulgent of friends.

"But remember my _if_," said Mrs. Percy: "I know nothing of Miss Hauton
at present, except that she is very pretty, and that she has engaging
manners--Do you, my dear Godfrey?"

"Yes, indeed, ma'am, I know a great deal more of her."

"Did you ever see her before this night?"

"Never," said Godfrey.

"And at a ball!" said Mrs. Percy: "you must have wonderful penetration
into character.--But Cupid, though blindfold, can see more at a
single glance than a philosophic eye can discover with the most minute
examination."

"But, Cupid out of the question, let me ask you, mother," said Godfrey,
"whether you do not think Miss Hauton has a great deal of sensibility?
You saw that there was no affectation in her fainting."

"None, none," said Mrs. Percy.

"There, father!" cried Godfrey, in an exulting tone; "and sensibility
is the foundation of every thing that is most amiable and charming, of
every grace, of every virtue in woman."

"Yes," said Mr. Percy, "and perhaps of some of their errors and vices.
It depends upon how it is governed, whether sensibility be a curse or a
blessing to its possessor, and to society."

"A curse!" cried Godfrey; "yes, if a woman be doomed--"

"Come, come, my dear Godfrey," interrupted Mr. Percy, "do not let
us talk any more upon the subject just now, because you are too much
interested to reason coolly."

Rosamond then took her turn to talk of what was uppermost in her
thoughts--Buckhurst Falconer, whom she alternately blamed and pitied,
accused and defended; sometimes rejoicing that Caroline had rejected his
suit, sometimes pitying him for his disappointment, and repeating that
with such talents, frankness, and generosity of disposition, it was
much to be regretted that he had not that rectitude of principle,
and steadiness of character, which alone could render him worthy of
Caroline. Then passing from compassion for the son to indignation
against the father, she observed, "that Commissioner Falconer seemed
determined to counteract all that was good in his son's disposition,
that he actually did every thing in his power to encourage Buckhurst in
a taste for dissipation, as it seemed on purpose to keep him in a state
of dependence, and to enslave him to the _great_.

"I hope, with all my heart, I hope," continued Rosamond, "that Buckhurst
will have sense and steadiness enough to refuse; but I heard his father
supporting that foolish Colonel Hauton's persuasions, and urging his
poor son to go with those people to Cheltenham. Now, if once he
gets into that extravagant, dissipated set, he will be ruined for
ever!--Adieu to all hopes of him. He will no more go to the bar than I
shall--he will think of nothing but pleasure; he will run in debt again,
and then farewell principle, and with principle, farewell all hopes of
him. But I think he will have sense and steadiness enough to resist
his father, and to refuse to accompany this profligate patron, Colonel
Hauton.--Godfrey, what is your opinion? Do you think Buckhurst will go?"

"I do not know," replied Godfrey: "in his place I should find it very
easy, but in my own case, I confess, I should feel it difficult, to
refuse, if I were pressed to join a party of pleasure with Miss Hauton."



CHAPTER V.


Godfrey Percy went in the morning to inquire after the health of his
fair partner: this was only a common civility. On his way thither
he overtook and joined a party of gentlemen, who were also going
to Clermont-park. They entered into conversation, and talked of the
preceding night--one of the gentlemen, an elderly man, who had not been
at the ball, happened to be acquainted with Miss Hauton, and with her
family. Godfrey heard from him all the particulars respecting Lady Anne
Hauton, and was thrown into a melancholy reverie by learning that Miss
Hauton had been educated by this mother, and had always lived with her
till her ladyship's death, which happened about two years before this
time.--After receiving this intelligence, Godfrey heard little more of
the conversation that passed till he reached Clermont-park.--A number
of young people were assembled in the music-room practising for a
concert.--Miss Hauton was at the piano-forte when he entered the room:
she was sitting with her back to the door, surrounded by a crowd of
amateurs; she did not see him--he stood behind listening to her singing.
Her voice was delightful; but he was surprised, and not pleased, by the
choice of her songs: she was singing, with some other high-bred young
ladies, songs which, to use the gentlest expression, were rather too
_anacreontic_--songs which, though sanctioned by fashion, were not such
as a young lady of taste would prefer, or such as a man of delicacy
would like to hear from his sister or his wife. They were nevertheless
highly applauded by all the audience, except by Godfrey, who remained
silent behind the young lady. In the fluctuation of the crowd he was
pressed nearer and nearer to her chair. As she finished singing a
fashionable air, she heard a sigh from the person behind her.

"That's your favourite, I think?" said she, turning round, and looking
up. "Mr. Percy! I--I thought it was Mr. Falconer." Face, neck, hands,
suddenly blushed: she stooped for a music-book, and searched for some
time in that attitude for she knew not what, whilst all the gentlemen
officiously offered their services, and begged only to know for what
book she was looking.

"Come, come, Maria," cried Colonel Hauton, "what the d---- are you
about?--Can't you give us another of these? You can't be better. Come,
you're keeping Miss Drakelow."

"Go on, Miss Drakelow, if you please, without me."

"Impossible. Come, come, Maria, what the deuce are you at?"

Miss Hauton, afraid to refuse her brother, afraid to provoke the
comments of the company, began to sing, or rather to attempt to
sing--her voice faltered; she cleared her throat, and began again--worse
still, she was out of tune: she affected to laugh. Then, pushing back
her chair, she rose, drew her veil over her face, and said, "I have sung
till I have no voice left.--Does nobody walk this morning?"

"No, no," said Colonel Hauton; "who the deuce would be _bored_ with
being broiled at this time of day? Miss Drakelow--Miss Chatterton, give
us some more music, I beseech you; for I like music better in a morning
than at night--the mornings, when one can't go out, are so confoundedly
long and heavy."

The young ladies played, and Miss Hauton seated herself apart from
the group of musicians, upon a _bergère_, leaning on her hand, in a
melancholy attitude. Buckhurst Falconer followed and sat down beside
her, endeavouring to entertain her with some witty anecdote.

She smiled with effort, listened with painful attention, and the moment
the anecdote was ended, her eyes wandered out of the window. Buckhurst
rose, vacated his seat, and before any of the other gentlemen who had
gathered round could avail themselves of that envied place, Miss Hauton,
complaining of the intolerable heat, removed nearer to the window, to an
ottoman, one half of which was already so fully occupied by a large dog
of her brother's, that she was in no danger from any other intruder.
Some of the gentlemen, who were not blessed with much sagacity,
followed, to talk to her of the beauty of the dog which she was
stroking; but to an eulogium upon its long ears, and even to a quotation
from Shakspeare about dewlaps, she listened with so vacant an air, that
her followers gave up the point, and successively retired, leaving her
to her meditations. Godfrey, who had kept aloof, had in the mean time
been looking at some books that lay on a reading table.--_Maria Hauton_
was written in the first page of several of them.--All were novels--some
French, and some German, of a sort which he did not like.

"What have you there, Mr. Percy?" said Miss Hauton.--"Nothing worth your
notice, I am afraid. I dare say you do not like novels."

"Pardon me, I like some novels very much."

"Which?" said Miss Hauton, rising and approaching the table.

"All that are just representations of life and manners, or of the human
heart," said Godfrey, "provided they are--"

"Ah! the human heart!" interrupted Miss Hauton: "the heart only can
understand the heart--who, in modern times, can describe the human
heart?"

"Not to speak of foreigners--Miss Burney--Mrs. Inchbald--Mrs. Opie,"
said Godfrey.

"True; and yet I--and yet--" said Miss Hauton, pausing and sighing.

"And yet that was not what I was thinking of," she should have said, had
she finished her sentence with the truth; but this not being convenient,
she left it unfinished, and began a new one, with "Some of these novels
are sad trash--I hope Mr. Godfrey Percy will not judge of my taste by
them: that would be condemning me for the crimes of my bookseller, who
will send us down everything new that comes out."

Godfrey disclaimed the idea of condemning or blaming Miss Hauton's
taste: "he could not," he said, "be so presumptuous, so impertinent."

"So then," said she, "Mr. Godfrey Percy is like all the rest of his
sex, and I must not expect to hear the truth from him."--She paused--and
looked at a print which he was examining.--"I would, however, rather
have him speak severely than think hardly of me."

"He has no right to speak, and certainly no inclination to think hardly
of Miss Hauton," replied Godfrey gravely, but with an emotion which he
in vain endeavoured to suppress. To change the conversation, he asked
her opinion about a figure in the print. She took out her glass, and
stooped to look quite closely at it.--"Before you utterly condemn me,"
continued she, speaking in a low voice, "consider how fashion silences
one's better taste and feelings, and how difficult it is when all around
one--"

Miss Chatterton, Miss Drakelow, and some officers of their suite came up
at this instant; a deputation, they said, to bring Miss Hauton back, to
favour them with another song, as she must now have recovered her voice.

"No--no--excuse me," said she, smiling languidly; "I beg not to be
pressed any more. I am really not well--I absolutely cannot sing any
more this morning. I have already sung so much--_too much_," added she,
when the deputation had retired, so that the last words could be heard
only by him for whom they were intended.

Though Miss Hauton's apologizing thus for her conduct, and making a
young gentleman, with whom she was but just acquainted, the judge of her
actions, might be deemed a still farther proof of her indiscretion, yet
the condescension was so flattering, and it appeared such an instance
of ingenuous disposition, that Godfrey was sensibly touched by it. He
followed the fair Maria to her ottoman, from which she banished Pompey
the Great, to make room for him. The recollection of his father's
warning words, however, came across Godfrey's mind; he bowed an answer
to a motion that invited him to the dangerous seat, and continued
standing with an air of safe respect.

"I hope you will have the goodness to express to Mrs. Percy how much
I felt her kindness to me last night, when--when I wanted it so much.
There is something so soothing, so gentle, so indulgent about Mrs.
Percy, so _loveable!_"

"She is very good, very indulgent, indeed," said Godfrey, in a tone of
strong affection,--"very _loveable_--that is the exact word."

"I fear it is not English," said Miss Hauton.

"_Il mérite bien de l'être_," said Godfrey.

A profound silence ensued.--Colonel Hauton came up to this pair, while
they were still silent, and with their eyes fixed upon the ground.

"D----d agreeable you two seem," cried the colonel.--"Buckhurst, you
have always so much to say for yourself, do help your cousin here: I'm
sure I know how to pity him, for many a time the morning after a ball,
I've been with my partner in just as bad a quandary--without a word to
throw to a dog."

"Impossible, surely, colonel, when you had such a fine animal as this,"
said Godfrey, caressing Pompey, who lay at his feet. "Where did you get
this handsome dog?"

The colonel then entered into the history of Pompey the Great. "I
was speaking," said Miss Hauton, "to Mr. Godfrey Percy of his
family--relations of yours, Mr. Falconer, are not they? He has another
sister, I think, some one told me, a beautiful sister, Caroline, who was
not at the ball last night?"

"Yes," said Buckhurst, who looked at this instant also to the dog for
assistance--"Pompey!--Pompey!--poor fellow!"

"Is Miss Caroline Percy like her mother?"

"No."

"Like her father--or her brother?"

"Not particularly--Will you honour me with any commands for
town?--Colonel, have you any?--I'm just going off with Major Clay," said
Buckhurst.

"Not you, indeed," cried the colonel; "your father has made you over to
me, and I won't give you leave of absence, my good fellow.--You're under
orders for Cheltenham to-morrow, my boy--No reply, sir--no arguing with
your commanding officer. You've no more to do, but to tell Clay to go
without you."

"And now," continued the colonel, returning to Godfrey Percy, after
Buckhurst had left the room, "what hinders you from making one of our
party? You can't do better. There's Maria and Lady Oldborough were both
wishing it at breakfast--Maria, can't you say something?"

Maria's eyes said more than the colonel could have said, if he had
spoken for ever.

"But perhaps Mr. Godfrey Percy may have other engagements," said she,
with a timid persuasive tone, which Godfrey found it extremely difficult
to resist.

"Bellamy! where the d----l do you come from?--Very glad to see you,
faith!" cried the colonel, going forward to shake hands with a very
handsome man, who had just then entered the room. "Maria," said Colonel
Hauton, turning to his sister, "don't you know Bellamy?--Bellamy,"
repeated he, coming close to her, whilst the gentleman was paying his
compliments to Lady Oldborough, "Captain Bellamy, with whom you used to
waltz every night, you know, at--what's the name of the woman's?"

"I never waltzed with him but once--or twice, that I remember," said
Miss Hauton, "and then because you insisted upon it."

"I!--Well, I did very right if I did, because you were keeping all the
world waiting, and I knew you intended to do it at last--so I thought
you might as well do it at first. But I don't know what's the matter
with you this morning--we must drive a little spirit into you at
Cheltenham."

Captain Bellamy came up to pay his respects, or rather his compliments,
to Miss Hauton: there was no respect in his manner, but the confidence
of one who had been accustomed to be well received.

"She has not been well--fainted last night at a ball--is _hipped_
this morning; but we'll get her spirits up again when we have her at
Cheltenham--We shall be a famous dashing party! I have been beating
up for recruits all day--here's one," said Colonel Hauton, turning to
Godfrey Percy.

"Excuse me," said Godfrey, "I am engaged--I am obliged to join my
regiment immediately." He bowed gravely to Miss Hauton--wished her a
good morning; and, without trusting himself to another look, retreated,
saying to himself,

  "Sir, she's yours--You have brushed from the grape its soft blue;
  From the rosebud you've shaken its tremulous dew:
  What you've touched you may take.--Pretty waltzer, adieu!"

From this moment he mentioned Miss Hauton's name no more in his own
family. His whole mind now seemed, and not only seemed, but was, full of
military thoughts. So quickly in youth do different and opposite trains
of ideas and emotions succeed to each other; and so easy it is, by a
timely exercise of reason and self-command, to prevent a _fancy_ from
becoming a passion. Perhaps, if his own happiness alone had been in
question, Godfrey might not have shown precisely the same prudence; but
on this occasion his generosity and honour assisted his discretion. He
plainly saw that Miss Hauton was not exactly a woman whom he could
wish to make his wife--and he was too honourable to trifle with her
affections. He was not such a coxcomb as to imagine that, in the course
of so slight an acquaintance, he could have made any serious impression
on this young lady's heart: yet he could not but perceive that she had
distinguished him from the first hour he was introduced to her; and
he was aware that, with her extreme sensibility, and an unoccupied
imagination, she might rapidly form for him an attachment that might
lead to mutual misery.

Mr. Percy rejoiced in his son's honourable conduct, and he was
particularly pleased by Godfrey's determining to join his regiment
immediately. Mr. Percy thought it advantageous for the eldest son of
a man of fortune to be absent for some years from his home, from his
father's estate, tenants, and dependents, to see something of the world,
to learn to estimate himself and others, and thus to have means
of becoming a really respectable, enlightened, and useful country
gentleman--not one of those booby squires, born only to consume the
fruits of the earth, who spend their lives in coursing, shooting,
hunting, carousing [Footnote: See an eloquent address to country
gentlemen, in Young's Annals of Agriculture, vol. i., last page.], "who
eat, drink, sleep, die, and rot in oblivion." He thought it in these
times the duty of every young heir to serve a few years, that he might
be as able, as willing, to join in the defence of his country, if
necessary. Godfrey went, perhaps, beyond his father's ideas upon
this subject, for he had an ardent desire to go into the army as a
profession, and almost regretted that his being an eldest son might
induce him to forego it after a few campaigns.

Godfrey did not enter into the army from the puerile vanity of wearing
a red coat and an epaulette; nor to save himself the trouble of pursuing
his studies; nor because he thought the army a _good lounge_, or a
happy escape from parental control; nor yet did he consider the military
profession as a mercenary speculation, in which he was to calculate
the chance of getting _into the shoes_, or over the head, of Lieutenant
A---- or Captain B----. He had higher objects; he had a noble ambition
to distinguish himself. Not in mere technical phrase, or to grace a
bumper toast, but in truth, and as a governing principle of action, he
felt zeal for the interests of the service. Yet Godfrey was not without
faults; and of these his parents, fond as they were of him, were well
aware.

Mrs. Percy, in particular, felt much anxiety, when the moment fixed for
his departure approached; when she considered that he was now to mix
with companions very different from those with whom he had hitherto
associated, and to be placed in a situation where calmness of temper and
prudence would be more requisite than military courage or generosity of
disposition.

"Well, my dear mother," cried Godfrey, when he came to take leave, "fare
you well: if I live, I hope I shall distinguish myself; and if I fall--

  'How sleep the brave, who sink to rest!'"

"God bless you, my dear son!" said his mother. She seemed to have much
more to say, but, unable at that moment to express it, she turned to her
husband, who knew all she thought and felt.

"My dear Godfrey," said his father, "I have never troubled you with much
advice; but now you are going from me, let me advise you to take care
that the same enthusiasm which makes you think your own country the best
country upon earth, your own family the best family in that country,
and your own regiment the best regiment in the service, all which is
becoming a good patriot, a good son, and a good soldier, should go a
step--a dangerous step farther, and should degenerate into party spirit,
or what the French call _esprit-de-corps_."

"The French!" cried Godfrey. "Oh! hang the French! Never mind what the
French call it, sir."

"And degenerating into party-spirit, or what is called
_esprit-de-corps_," resumed Mr. Percy, smiling, "should, in spite of
your more enlarged views of the military art and science, and your
knowledge of all that Alexander and Cæsar, and Marshal Saxe and Turenne,
and the Duke of Marlborough and Lord Peterborough, ever said or did,
persuade you to believe that your brother officers, whoever they may be,
are the greatest men that ever existed, and that their opinions should
rule the world, or at least should govern you."

"More than all the rest, I fear, my dear Godfrey," interposed Mrs.
Percy, "that, when you do not find the world so good as you imagine it
to be, you will, by quarrelling with it directly, make it worse to
you than it really is. But if you discover that merit is not always
immediately rewarded or promoted, do not let your indignation,
and--shall I say it--impatience of spirit, excite you to offend your
superiors in station, and, by these means, retard your own advancement."

"Surely, if I should be treated with injustice, you would not have me
bear it patiently?" cried Godfrey, turning quickly.

"In the first place, stay till it happens before you take fire,"
said his father; "and, in the next place, remember that patience,
and deference to his superiors, form an indispensable part of a young
soldier's merit."

"Ah! my dear," said Mrs. Percy, looking up at her son anxiously, "if,
even at this instant, even with us, even at the bare imagination of
injustice, you take offence, I fear--I very much fear--" said she,
laying her hand upon his arm.

"My dearest mother," said Godfrey, in a softened tone, taking his
mother's hand in the most respectful and tender manner, "fear nothing
for me. I will be as patient as a lamb, rather than be a source of
anxiety to you."

"And now, my good friends, fare ye well!" said Godfrey, turning to take
leave of his sisters.

The young soldier departed. His last words, as he got upon his horse,
were to Caroline. "Caroline, you will be married before I return."

But to descend to the common affairs of life. Whilst all these visits
and balls, coquettings and separations, had been going on, the Dutch
carpenters had been repairing the wreck; and, from time to time,
complaints had been made of them by Mr. Percy's old steward. The careful
steward's indignation was first excited by their forgetting every night
to lock a certain gate, with the key of which they had been entrusted.
Then they had wasted his master's timber, and various tools were
missing--they had been twice as long as they ought to have been in
finishing their work, and now, when the wind was fair, the whole ship's
crew impatient to sail, and not above half a day's work wanting, the
carpenters were smoking and drinking, instead of putting their hands to
the business. The Dutch carpenter, who was at this moment more than half
intoxicated, answered the steward's just reproaches with much insolence.
Mr. Percy, feeling that his hospitality and good-nature were encroached
upon and abused, declared that he would no longer permit the Dutchmen
to have the use of his house, and ordered his steward to see that they
quitted it immediately.

These men, and all belonging to them, consequently left the place in a
few hours; whatever remained to be done to the vessel was finished that
evening, and she sailed, to the great joy of her whole crew, and of
Mr. Percy's steward, who, when he brought the news of this event to
his master, protested that he was as glad as if any body had given
him twenty golden guineas, that he had at last got safely rid of these
ill-mannered drunken fellows, who, after all his master had done for
them, never so much as said, "thank you," and who had wasted and spoiled
more by their carelessness than their heads were worth.

Alas! he little knew at that moment how much more his master was to lose
by their carelessness, and he rejoiced too soon at having got _rid_ of
them.

In the middle of the night the family were alarmed by the cry of
fire!--A fire had broken out in the outhouse, which had been lent to the
Dutchmen; before it was discovered, the roof was in a blaze; the wind
unfortunately blew towards a hay-rick, which was soon in flames, and the
burning hay spread the fire to a considerable distance, till it caught
the veranda at the east wing of the dwelling-house. One of the servants,
who slept in that part of the house, was awakened by the light from the
burning veranda, but by the time the alarm was given, and before the
family could get out of their rooms, the flames had reached Mr. Percy's
study, which contained his most valuable papers. Mr. Percy, whose voice
all his family, in the midst of their terror and confusion, obeyed,
directed with great presence of mind what should be done by each. He
sent one to open a cistern of water at the top of the house, and to let
it flow over the roof, another to tear down the trellis next the part
that was on fire; others he despatched for barrows-full of wet mortar
from a heap which was in a back yard near the house; others he stationed
in readiness to throw the mortar where it was most needful to extinguish
the flames, or to prevent their communicating with the rest of the
building. He went himself to the place where the fire raged with the
greatest violence, whilst his wife and daughters were giving out from
the study the valuable papers, which, as he directed, were thrown in one
heap on the lawn, at a sufficient distance from the house to prevent any
danger of their being burnt--most of them were in tin cases that were
easily removed--the loose papers and books were put into baskets, and
covered with wet blankets, so that the pieces of the burning trellis,
which fell upon them as they were carried out, did them no injury.
It was wonderful with what silence, order, and despatch, this went on
whilst three females, instead of shrieking and fainting, combined to
do what was useful and prudent. In spite of all Mr. Percy's exertions,
however, the flames burst in from the burning trellis through one of the
windows of the study, before the men could tear down the shutters and
architraves, as he had ordered. The fire caught the wood-work, and ran
along the book-shelves on one side of the wall with terrible rapidity,
so that the whole room was, in a few minutes, in a blaze--they were
forced to leave it before they had carried out many of the books. Some
old papers remained in the presses, supposed to be duplicates, and of no
consequence. This whole wing of the house they were obliged to abandon
to the flames, but the fire was stopped in its progress at last, and the
principal part of the mansion was preserved by wet mortar, according
to Mr. Percy's judicious order, by the prompt obedience, and by the
unanimity, of all who assisted.

The next morning the family saw the melancholy spectacle of a heap
of ruins in the place of that library which they all loved so much.
However, it was their disposition to make the best of misfortunes;
instead of deploring what they had lost, they rejoiced in having
suffered so little and saved so much. They particularly rejoiced that no
lives had been sacrificed;--Mr. Percy declared, that for his own part,
he would willingly undergo much greater pecuniary loss, to have had the
satisfaction of seeing in all his family so much presence of mind, and
so much freedom from selfishness, as they had shown upon this occasion.

When he said something of this sort before his servants, who were all
assembled, it was observed that one of them, a very old nurse, looked
immediately at Caroline, then lifted up her hands and eyes to heaven,
in silent gratitude. Upon inquiry it appeared, that in the confusion
and terror, when the alarm had first been raised, the nurse had been
forgotten, or it had been taken for granted that she had gone home to
her own cottage the preceding evening.

Caroline, however, recollected her, and ran to her room, which was in
the attic story over the library.

When Caroline opened the door she could scarcely see the bed.--She made
her way to it, however, got old Martha out of the room, and with great
difficulty brought the bewildered, decrepit creature, safely down a
small staircase, which the flames had not then reached.--Nothing could
exceed her gratitude; with eyes streaming with tears, and a head shaking
with strong emotion, she delighted in relating all these circumstances,
and declared that none but Miss Caroline could have persuaded her to go
down that staircase, when she saw all below in flames.

Mr. Percy's first care was to look over his papers, to see whether any
were missing.--To his consternation, one valuable deed, a deed by
which he held the whole Percy estate, was nowhere to be found. He had
particular reason for being alarmed by the loss of this paper.--The
heir-at-law to this estate had long been lying in wait to make an attack
upon him.--Aware of this, Mr. Percy took all prudent means to conceal
the loss of this paper, and he cautioned his whole family never to
mention it.

It happened about this time, that a poor old man, to whom Buckhurst
Falconer had given that puppy which his brother John had so bitterly
regretted, came to Mr. Percy to complain that the dog had brought him
into great trouble. The puppy had grown into a dog, and of this the
old man had forgotten to give notice to the tax-gatherer. Mr. Percy
perceiving clearly that the man had no design to defraud, and pitying
him for having thus, by his ignorance or carelessness, subjected himself
to the heavy penalty of ten pounds, which, without selling his only
cow, he was unable to pay, advised him to state the simple fact in
a petition, and Mr. Percy promised to transmit this petition to
government, with a memorial against the tax-gatherer, who had been
accused, in many instances, of oppressive and corrupt conduct. He had
hitherto defied all complainants, because he was armed strong in law
by an attorney who was his near relation--an attorney of the name
of Sharpe, whose cunning and skill in the doubles and mazes of his
profession, and whose active and vindictive temper had rendered him the
terror of the neighbourhood. Not only the poor but the rich feared him,
for he never failed to devise means of revenging himself wherever he was
offended. He one morning waited on Mr. Percy, to speak to him about the
memorial, which, he understood, Mr. Percy was drawing up against Mr.
Bates, the tax-gatherer.

"Perhaps, Mr. Percy," said he, "you don't know that Mr. Bates is my near
relation?"

Mr. Percy replied, that he had not known it; but that now that he did,
he could not perceive how that altered the business; as he interfered,
not from any private motive, but from a sense of public justice, which
made him desire to remove a person from a situation for which he had
shown himself utterly unfit.

Mr. Sharpe smiled a malicious smile, and declared that, for his part, he
did not pretend to be a reformer of abuses: he thought, in the present
times, that gentlemen who wished well to their king and the peace of
the country ought not to be forward to lend their names to popular
discontents, and should not embarrass government with petty complaints.
Gentlemen could never foresee where such things would end, and
therefore, in the _existing circumstances_, they ought surely to
endeavour to strengthen, instead of weakening, the hands of government.

To this commonplace _cant_, by which all sorts of corruption and all
public delinquents might be screened, and by which selfishness and fraud
hope to pass for loyalty and love of the peace of the country, Mr. Percy
did not attempt, or rather did not deign, any reply.

Mr. Sharpe then insinuated that Lord Oldborough, who had put Bates into
his present situation, would be displeased by a complaint against him.
Mr. Sharpe observed, that Lord Oldborough was remarkable for standing
steadily by all the persons whom he appointed, and that, if Mr. Percy
persisted in this attack, he would probably not find himself thanked by
his own relations, the Falconers.

This hint produced no effect: so at last Mr. Sharpe concluded, by
saying, with an air of prodigious legal assurance, that for his own
part he was quite at ease about the result of the affair, for he was
confident that, when the matter came to be properly inquired into, and
the witnesses to be cross-examined, no malpractices could be brought
home to his relation.

Then Mr. Percy observed, that a memorial, praying to have the
circumstances inquired into, could be no disadvantage to Mr. Bates, but
the contrary, as it would tend to prove his innocence publicly, and to
remove the prejudice which now subsisted against him.--Mr. Percy, who
had the memorial at this time in his hand, deliberately folded it up,
and directed it.

"Then, sir," cried Mr. Sharpe, put off his guard by anger, "since you
are determined to throw away the scabbard, you cannot be surprised if I
do the same."

Mr. Percy, smiling, said that he feared no sword but the sword of
justice, which could not fall on his head, while he was doing what was
just. As he spoke, he prepared to seal the memorial.

Mr. Sharpe's habitual caution recurring in the space of a second or
two, he begged pardon if zeal for his relation had hurried him into any
unbecoming warmth of expression, and stretching out his hand eagerly to
stop Mr. Percy, as he was going to press down the seal, "Give me leave,
sir," said he, "give me leave to run my eye over that memorial--may I
beg? before you seal it."

"And welcome," said Mr. Percy, putting the paper into his hand: "all
that I do shall be done openly and fairly."

The attorney took possession of the memorial, and began to con it over.
As he was reading it, he happened to stand in a recessed window, so that
he could not easily be seen by any person who entered the room: at this
moment Rosamond came in suddenly, exclaiming, as she held up a huge
unfolded parchment, "I've found it!--I've found it, my dear father!--I
do believe this is Sir John Percy's deed that was lost!--I always said
it was not burned.--What's the matter?--What do you mean?--Nobody can
hear me? the outer door is shut--Perhaps this is only a copy.--It is not
signed or sealed, but I suppose--"

Here she stopped short, for she saw Mr. Sharpe--She looked so much
astounded, that even if he had not heard all she had said, her
countenance would have excited his curiosity. The attorney had heard
every syllable she had uttered, and he knew enough of Mr. Percy's
affairs to comprehend the full extent of the advantage that might be
made of this discovery. He coolly returned the memorial, acknowledging
that it was drawn up with much moderation and ability, but regretting
that Mr. Percy should think it necessary to send it; and concluding
with a few general expressions of the regard he had always felt for the
family, he took his leave.

"All is safe!" cried Rosamond, as soon as she heard the house door shut
after he was gone. "All is safe, thank Heaven!--for that man's head was
luckily so full of this memorial, that he never heard one word I said."

Mr. Percy was of a different opinion: he was persuaded that the attorney
would not neglect so fine an opportunity of revenge. Sharpe had formerly
been employed in suits of Sir Robert Percy, the heir-at-law. Here was
now the promise of a lawsuit, that would at all events put a great deal
of money into the pockets of the lawyers, and a considerable gratuity
would be ensured to the person who should first inform Sir Robert of the
loss of the important conveyance.

Mr. Percy's opinion of the revengeful nature of Sharpe, and his
perception that he was in the solicitor's power, did not, however, make
any change in his resolution about the memorial.--It was sent, and Bates
was turned out of his office. For some time nothing more was heard
of Mr. Sharpe.--Mr. Percy, for many months afterward, was busied in
rebuilding that part of his house which had been destroyed by the fire;
and as he was naturally of a sanguine temper, little inclined to occupy
himself with cabals and quarrels, the transaction concerning Bates, and
even the attorney's threat of throwing away the scabbard, passed from
his mind. The family pursued the happy tenour of their lives, without
remembering that there was such a being as Mr. Solicitor Sharpe.



CHAPTER VI.


At the time of the fire at Percy-hall, a painted glass window in the
passage--we should say the gallery--leading to the study had been
destroyed.--Old Martha, whose life Caroline had saved, had a son, who
possessed some talents as a painter, and who had learnt the art of
painting on glass. He had been early in his life assisted by the Percy
family, and, desirous to offer some small testimony of his gratitude, he
begged permission to paint a new window for the gallery.--He chose for
his subject the fire, and the moment when Caroline was assisting his
decrepit mother down the dangerous staircase.--The painting was finished
unknown to Caroline, and put up on her birthday, when she had just
attained her eighteenth year. This was the only circumstance worth
recording which the biographer can find noted in the family annals
at this period. In this dearth of events, may we take the liberty of
introducing, according to the fashion of modern biography, a few private
letters? They are written by persons of whom the reader as yet knows
nothing--Mr. Percy's second and third sons, Alfred and Erasmus. Alfred
was a barrister; Erasmus a physician: they were both at this time in
London, just commencing their professional career. Their characters--but
let their characters speak for themselves in their letters, else neither
their letters nor their characters can be worth attention.


ALFRED PERCY TO HIS FATHER.

"MY DEAR FATHER,

"Thank you for the books--I have been reading hard lately, for I have
still, alas! leisure enough to read. I cannot expect to be employed,
or to have _fees_ for some time to come. I am armed with patience--I
am told that I have got through the worst part of my profession, the
reading of dry law. This is tiresome enough, to be sure; but I think the
courting of attorneys and solicitors is the worst part of the beginning
of my profession: for this I was not, and I believe I never shall be,
sufficiently prepared. I give them no dinners, and they neglect me; yet
I hope I pay them proper attention. To make amends, however, I have been
so fortunate as to form acquaintance with some gentlemen of the bar, who
possess enlarged minds and general knowledge: their conversation is of
the greatest use and pleasure to me. But many barristers here are men
who live entirely among themselves, with their heads in their green
bags, and their souls narrowed to a point: mere machines for drawing
pleas and rejoinders.

"I remember Burke asserts (and I was once, with true professional
party-spirit, angry with him for the assertion) that the study of the
law has a contractile power on the mind; I am now convinced it has, from
what I see, and what I feel; therefore I will do all I can to counteract
this contraction by the expansive force of literature. I lose no
opportunity of making acquaintance with literary men, and cultivating
their society. The other day, at Hookham's library, I met with a man of
considerable talents--a Mr. Temple: he was looking for a passage in
the life of the lord-keeper Guildford, which I happened to know. This
brought us into a conversation, with which we were mutually so well
pleased, that we agreed to dine together, for further information--and
we soon knew all that was to be known of each other's history.

"Temple is of a very good family, though the younger son of a younger
brother. He was brought up by his grandfather, with whom he was a
favourite. Accustomed, from his childhood, to live with the rich
and great, to see a grand establishment, to be waited upon, to have
servants, horses, carriages at his command, and always to consider
himself as a part of a family who possessed every thing they could wish
for in life; he says, he almost forgot, or rather never thought of
the time when he was to have nothing, and when he should be obliged
to provide entirely for himself. Fortunately for him, his grandfather
having early discerned that he had considerable talents, determined that
he should have all the advantages of education, which he thought would
prepare him to shine in parliament.--His grandfather, however, died when
Temple was yet scarcely eighteen.--He had put off writing a codicil
to his will, by which Temple lost the provision intended for him.--All
hopes of being brought into parliament were over. His uncle, who
succeeded to the estate, had sons of his own. There were family
jealousies, and young Temple, as having been a favourite, was
disliked.--Promises were made by other relations, and by former friends,
and by these he was amused and misled for some time; but he found he
was only wasting his life, attending upon these great relations. The
unkindness and falsehood of some, and the haughty neglect of others,
hurt his high spirit, and roused his strong indignation. He, in his
turn, neglected and offended, was cast off at last, or forgotten by most
of the fine promisers.--At which, he says, he has had reason to rejoice,
for this threw him upon his own resources, and made him exert his own
mind.--He applied, in earnest, to prepare himself for the profession for
which he was best fitted, and went to the bar.--Now comes the part of
his history for which he, with reason, blames himself. He was disgusted,
not so much by the labour, as by the many disagreeable circumstances,
which necessarily occur in the beginning of a barrister's course.--He
could not bear the waiting in the courts, or on circuit, without
business, without notice. He thought his merit would never make its
way, and was provoked by seeing two or three stupid fellows pushed on by
solicitors, or helped up by judges.--He had so much knowledge, talent,
and eloquence, that he must in time have made a great figure, and would,
undoubtedly, have risen to the first dignities, had he persevered; but
he sacrificed himself to pique and impatience. He quitted the bar, and
the very summer after he had left it, the illness of a senior counsel on
that circuit afforded an opportunity where Temple would have been called
upon, and where he could fully have displayed his talents. Once known,
such a man would have been always distinguished.--He now bitterly
regrets that he abandoned his profession.--This imprudence gave his
friends a fair excuse for casting him off; but, he says, their neglect
grieves him not, for he had resolved never more to trust to their
promises, or to stoop to apply to them for patronage. He has been these
last two years in an obscure garret writing for bread. He says, however,
that he is sure he is happier, even in this situation, than are some
of his cousins at this instant, who are struggling in poverty to be
genteel, or to keep up a family name, and he would not change places
with those who are in a state of idle and opprobrious dependence. I
understand (remember, this is a secret between ourselves)--I understand
that _Secretary_ Cunningham Falconer has found him out, and makes _good
use of his pen_, but pays him shabbily. Temple is too much of a man of
honour to _peach_. So Lord Oldborough knows nothing of the matter;
and Cunningham gets half his business done, and supplies all his
deficiencies, by means of this poor drudging genius. Perhaps I have
tired you with this history of my new friend; but he has interested me
extremely:--he has faults certainly, perhaps too high a spirit, too much
sensibility; but he has such strict integrity, so much generosity of
mind, and something so engaging in his manners, that I cannot help
loving, admiring, and pitying him--that last sentiment, however, I am
obliged to conceal, for he would not bear it.

"I see very little of Erasmus. He has been in the country this fortnight
with some patient. I long for his return.--I will make the inquiries you
desire about Buckhurst Falconer.

"Your affectionate son,

"ALFRED PERCY.

"P.S. Yes, my dear Rosamond, I _shall_ be obliged to you for the
flower-roots for my landlady's daughter."


LETTER FROM ERASMUS TO HIS FATHER.

"MY DEAR FATHER,

"Pray do not feel disappointed when I tell you that I am not getting
on quite so fast as I expected. I assure you, however, that I have not
neglected any honourable means of bringing myself into notice. But it
is very difficult for a young man to rise without puffing, or using low
means.

"I met Lady Jane Granville a few days ago. She gave me a note to
Sir Amyas Courtney, a fashionable physician and a great favourite of
hers.--She told me that he had formerly been acquainted with some of
my family, and she so strongly urged me to wait upon him, that to avoid
offending her ladyship, I promised to avail myself of her introduction.

"I called several times before I found Sir Amyas at home. At last,
by appointment, I went to breakfast with him one morning when he was
confined to the house by an _influenza_. He received me in the most
courteous manner--recollected to have danced with my mother years ago,
at a ball at Lord Somebody's--professed the greatest respect for the
name of Percy--asked me various questions about my grandfather, which I
could not answer, and paid you more compliments than I can remember. Sir
Amyas is certainly the prettiest behaved physician breathing, with the
sweetest assortment of tittle-tattle, with an inexhaustible fund of
anecdotes and compliments for the great, and an intimate acquaintance
with the fair and fashionable. He has also the happiest art of speaking
a vast deal, and yet saying nothing; seeming to give an opinion, without
ever committing himself.--The address with which he avoids contested
points of science, and the art with which he displays his superficial
knowledge, and conceals his want of depth, is truly amusing. He slid
away from science as soon as he could, to politics, where he kept safe
in commonplace newspaper-phrases; and in the happy persuasion that every
thing is for the best, and that every man in power, let him be of what
party he may, can do no wrong. He did not seem quite satisfied with
my countenance as he spoke, and once or twice paused for my
acquiescence--in vain.

"We were interrupted by the entrance of a Mr. Gresham, a rich merchant,
who came to look at a picture which Sir Amyas shows as a true Titian.
Mr. Gresham spoke, as I thought, with much good sense and taste about
it, and Sir Amyas talked a great deal of amateur-nonsense. Still in the
same namby-pamby style, and with the same soft voice and sweet smile,
Sir Amyas talked on of pictures and battles, and carnage and levees,
and drawing-rooms and balls, and butterflies.--He has a museum for the
ladies, and he took me to look at it.--Sad was the hour and luckless
was the day!--Among his shells was one upon which he peculiarly prided
himself, and which he showed me as an unique. I was, I assure you,
prudently silent till he pressed for my opinion, and then I could not
avoid confessing that I suspected it to be a _made_ shell--_made_,
Caroline knows how, by the application of acids. The countenance of Sir
Amyas clouded over, and I saw that I at this moment lost all chance of
his future favour. He made me some fine speeches, when I was going
away, and dwelt upon his great desire to oblige any friend of Lady Jane
Granville's.

"A few days afterwards, I saw her ladyship again, and found, by her
manner, that she had not been satisfied by Sir Amyas Courtney's report
of me. She pressed me to tell her all that had passed between us. She
was provoked by my imprudence, as she called it, about the shell, and
exhorted me to repair it by future attentions and complaisance. When I
declined paying court to Sir Amyas, as inconsistent with my ideas and
feelings of independence, her ladyship grew angry--said that my father
had inspired all his sons with absurd notions of independence,
which would prevent their rising in the world, or succeeding in any
profession. I believe I then grew warm in defence of my father and
myself. The conclusion of the whole was, that we remained of our own
opinions, and that her ladyship protested she would never more attempt
to serve us. Alfred has called since on Lady Jane, but has not been
admitted. I am sorry that I too have offended her, for I really like
her, and am grateful for her kindness, but I cannot court her patronage,
nor bend to her idol, Sir Amyas.--

"Your affectionate son,

"ERASMUS PERCY."


LETTER FROM ERASMUS PERCY TO HIS FATHER.

"MY DEAR FATHER,

"I told you in my last how I lost all hopes of favour from Sir Amyas
Courtney, and how determined I was not to bend to him.--On some
occasion soon afterwards this determination appeared, and recommended
me immediately to the notice of a certain Dr. Frumpton, who is the
antagonist and sworn foe to Sir Amyas.--Do you know who Dr. Frumpton
is--and who he was--and how he has risen to his present height?

"He was a farrier in a remote county: he began by persuading the country
people in his neighbourhood that he had a specific for the bite of a mad
dog.

"It happened that he cured an old dowager's favourite waiting-maid who
had been bitten by a cross lap-dog, which her servants pronounced to be
mad, that they might have an excuse for hanging it.

"The fame of this cure was spread by the dowager among her numerous
acquaintance in town and country.

"Then he took agues--and afterwards scrofula--under his protection;
patronized by his old dowager, and lucky in some of his desperate
quackery, Dr. Frumpton's reputation rapidly increased, and from
different counties fools came to consult him. His manners were bearish
even to persons of quality who resorted to his den; but these brutal
manners _imposed_ upon many, heightened the idea of his confidence
in himself, and commanded the submission of the timid.--His tone grew
higher and higher, and he more and more easily bullied the credulity of
man and woman-kind.--It seems that either extreme of soft and
polished, or of rough and brutal manner, can succeed with certain
physicians.--_Dr._ Frumpton's name, and Dr. Frumpton's wonderful cures,
were in every newspaper, and in every shop-window. No man ever puffed
himself better even in this puffing age.--His success was viewed with
scornful yet with jealous eyes by the regularly bred physicians,
and they did all they could to keep him down--Sir Amyas Courtney, in
particular, who would never call him any thing but _that farrier_,
making what noise he could about Frumpton's practising without a
diploma. In pure spite, Frumpton took to learning--late as it was, he
put himself to school--with virulent zeal he read and _crammed_
till, Heaven knows how! he accomplished getting a diploma--stood all
prescribed examinations, and has grinned defiance ever since at Sir
Amyas.

"Frumpton, delighted with the story of the _made shell_, and conceiving
me to be the enemy of his enemy, resolved, as he declared, to take me
by the hand; and, such is the magical deception of self-love, that his
apparent friendliness towards me made him appear quite agreeable, and
notwithstanding all that I had heard and known of him, I fancied his
brutality was frankness, and his presumption strength of character.--I
gave him credit especially for a happy instinct for true merit, and an
honourable antipathy to flattery and meanness.--The manner in which he
pronounced the words, _fawning puppy!_ applied to Sir Amyas Courtney,
pleased me peculiarly--and I had just exalted Frumpton into a great man,
and an original genius, when he fell flat to the level, and below the
level of common mortals.

"It happened, as I was walking home with him, we were stopped in the
street by a crowd, which had gathered round a poor man, who had fallen
from a scaffold, and had broken his leg. Dr. Frumpton immediately said,
'Send for Bland, the surgeon, who lives at the corner of the street.'
The poor man was carried into a shop; we followed him. I found that his
leg, besides being broken, was terribly bruised and cut. The surgeon
in a few minutes arrived. Mr. Bland, it seems, is a _protégé_ of
Frumpton's, who formerly practised human farriery under him.

"Mr. Bland, after slightly looking at it, said, 'the leg must come off,
the sooner the better.' The man, perceiving that I pitied him, cast such
a beseeching look at me, as made me interpose, impertinently perhaps,
but I could not resist it. I forget what I said; but I know the sense
of it was, that I thought the poor fellow's leg could and ought to be
saved.--I remember Dr. Frumpton glared upon me instantly with eyes of
fury, and asked how I dared to interfere in a surgical case; and to
contradict his friend, Mr. Bland, a surgeon!

"They prepared for the operation--the surgeon whipped on his
mittens--the poor man, who was almost fainting with loss of blood, cast
another piteous look at me, and said, in an Irish accent, 'Long life to
you, dear!--and don't let'm--for what will I be without a leg? And my
wife and children!'

"He fell back in a swoon, and I sprung between the surgeon and him;
insisting that, as he had appealed to me, he should be left to me; and
declared that I would have him carried to St. George's Hospital, where I
knew he would be taken care of properly.

"Frumpton stamped, and scarcely articulate with rage, bade me--'stir the
man at your peril!' adding expressions injurious to the hospital, with
the governors of which he had some quarrel. I made a sign to the workmen
who had brought in the wounded man; they lifted him instantly, and
carried him out before me; and one of them, being his countryman,
followed, crying aloud, '_Success_ to your honour! and may you _never_
want a _friend_!'

"Frumpton seized him by both shoulders, and pushing him out of the
house, exclaimed, 'Success, by G----, he shall never have, if I can help
it! He has lost a friend such as he can never get again--By G--, I'll
make him repent this!'

"Unmoved by these denunciations, I pursued my way to the hospital. You
know in what an admirable manner the London hospitals are conducted.--At
St. George's this poor man was received, and attended with the greatest
care and skill. The surgeon who has taken charge of him assures me that
his leg will, a month hence, be as useful as any leg in London.

"Dr. Frumpton and Mr. Bland have, I find, loudly complained of my
interference, as contrary to all medical etiquette--_Etiquette!_--from
Frumpton!--The story has been told with many exaggerations, and always
to my disadvantage.--I cannot, however, repent.--Let me lose what I may,
I am satisfied with the pleasure of seeing the poor man in a way to do
well. Pray let me hear from you, my dear father, and say, if you can,
that you think me right--Thank Caroline for her letter.

"Your affectionate

"ERASMUS PERCY."


LETTER FROM ALFRED.

"My dear father, I have made all possible inquiries about Buckhurst
Falconer. He stayed at Cheltenham till about a month ago with the
Hautons, and I hear attended Miss Hauton every where: but I do not think
there is any reason to believe the report of his paying his addresses
to her. The public attention he showed her was, in my opinion, designed
only to pique Caroline, whom, I'm persuaded, he thinks (between the fits
of half-a-dozen other fancies) the first of women--as he always
calls her. Rosamond need not waste much pity on him. He is an
out-of-sight-out-of-mind man. The pleasure of the present moment is
all in all with him.--He has many good points in his disposition; but
Caroline had penetration enough to see that his character would never
suit hers; and I rejoice that she gave him a decided refusal.

"Since he came to town, he has, by his convivial powers, his good
stories, good songs, and knack of mimicry, made himself so _famous_,
that he has more invitations to dinner than he can accept. He has wit
and talents fit for more than being the buffoon or mocking-bird of a
good dinner and a pleasant party; but he seems so well contented with
this _réputation de salon_, that I am afraid his ambition will not rise
to any thing higher. After leading this idle life, and enjoying
this cheap-earned praise, he will never submit to the seclusion
and application necessary for the attainment of the great prizes of
professional excellence. I doubt whether he will even persevere so
far as to be called to the bar; though the other day when I met him in
Bond-street, he assured me, and bid me assure you, that he is getting on
_famously_, and eating his terms with a prodigious appetite. He seemed
heartily glad to see me, and expressed warm gratitude for your having
saved his conscience, and having prevented his father from forcing him,
as he said, to be a disgrace to the church.

"Rosamond asks what sort of girls the Miss Falconers are, and whether
the Falconers have been civil to me since I settled in town?--Yes;
pretty well. The girls are mere _show_ girls--like a myriad of
others--sing, play, dance, dress, flirt, and _all that_. Georgiana is
_beautiful sometimes_; Arabella, _ugly always_. I don't like either of
them, and they don't like me, for I am not an eldest son. The mother
was prodigiously pleased with me at first, because she mistook me for
Godfrey, or rather she mistook me for the heir of our branch of the
Percys. I hear that Mrs. Falconer has infinite address, both as a
political and hymeneal _intrigante_: but I have not time to study her.
Altogether, the family, though they live in constant gaiety, do not
give me the idea of being happy among one another. I have no particular
reason for saying this. I judge only from the tact on this subject which
I have acquired from my own happy experience.

"Love to Rosamond--I am afraid she will think I have been too severe
upon Buckhurst Falconer. I know he is a favourite, at least a _protégé_
of hers and of Godfrey. Bid her remember I have acknowledged that he has
talents and generosity; but that which interests Rosamond in his
favour inclines ill-natured me against him--his being one of Caroline's
suitors. I think he has great assurance to continue, in spite of all
repulse, to hope, especially as he does nothing to render himself more
worthy of encouragement. Thank Caroline for her letter; and assure
Rosamond, that, though I have never noticed it, I was grateful for her
entertaining account of M. de Tourville's _vis_: I confess, I am rather
late with my acknowledgments; but the fire at Percy-hall, and many
events which rapidly succeeded, put that whole affair out of my head.
Moreover, the story of Euphrosyne and Count Albert was so squeezed under
the seal, that I must beg notes of explanation in her next. Who the
deuce is Euphrosyne? and what does the letter P--for the rest of the
word was torn out--stand for? and is Count Albert a hero in a novel, or
a real live man?

"I saw a live man yesterday, whom I did not at all like to see--Sharpe,
walking with our _good_ cousin, Sir Robert Percy, in close conversation.
This conjunction, I fear, bodes us no good.--Pray, do pray make another
search for _the deed_.

"Your affectionate son,

"ALFRED PERCY."


Soon after this letter had been received, and while the picture of his
life, and the portraits of his worthy companions were yet fresh in her
view, Buckhurst Falconer took the unhappy moment to write to renew
his declaration of passionate attachment to Caroline, and to beg to be
permitted to wait upon her once more.

From the indignant blush which mounted in Caroline's face on reading
his letter, Rosamond saw how unlikely it was that this request should be
granted. It came, indeed, at an unlucky time. Rosamond could not refrain
from a few words of apology, and looks of commiseration for Buckhurst;
yet she entirely approved of Caroline's answer to his letter, and the
steady repetition of her refusal, and even of the strengthened terms in
which it was now expressed. Rosamond was always prudent for her friends,
when it came to any serious point where their interests or happiness
were concerned. Her affection for her friends, and her fear of doing
wrong on such occasions, awakened her judgment, and so controlled her
imagination, that she then proved herself uncommonly judicious and
discreet.--Prudence had not, it is true, been a part of Rosamond's
character in childhood; but, in the course of her education, a
considerable portion of it had been infused by a very careful and
skilful hand. Perhaps it had never completely assimilated with the
original composition: sometimes the prudence fell to the bottom,
sometimes was shaken to the top, according to the agitation or
tranquillity of her mind; sometimes it was so faintly visible, that
its existence might be doubted by the hasty observer; but when put to
a proper test, it never failed to reappear in full force.--After any
effort of discretion in conduct, Rosamond, however, often relieved
and amused herself by talking in favour of the imprudent side of the
question.

"You have decided prudently, my dear Caroline, I acknowledge," said she.
"But now your letter is fairly gone; now that it is all over, and that
we are safe, I begin to think you are a little too prudent for your
age.--Bless me, Caroline, if you are so prudent at eighteen, what will
you be at thirty? Beware!--and in the mean time you will never be a
heroine--what a stupid uninteresting heroine you will make! You will
never get into any _entanglements_, never have any adventures; or if
kind fate should, propitious to my prayer, bring you into some charming
difficulties, even then we could not tremble for you, or enjoy all the
luxury of pity, because we should always know that you would be so well
able to extricate yourself--so certain to conquer, or--not die--but
endure.--Recollect that Doctor Johnson, when his learned sock was off,
confessed that he could never be thoroughly interested for Clarissa,
because he knew that her prudence would always be equal to every
occasion."

Mrs. Percy began to question whether Johnson had ever expressed
this sentiment seriously: she reprobated the cruelty of _friendly_
biographers, who publish every light expression that escapes from
celebrated lips in private conversation; she was going to have added
a word or two about the injury done to the public, to young people
especially, by the spreading such rash dogmas under the sanction of a
great name.

But Rosamond did not give her mother time to enforce this moral; she
went on rapidly with her own thoughts.

"Caroline, my dear," continued she, "you shall not be my heroine; you
are too well proportioned for a heroine--in mind, I mean: a
heroine may--_must_ have a finely-proportioned person, but never a
well-proportioned mind. All her virtues must be larger than the life;
all her passions those of a tragedy queen. Produce--only dare to
produce--one of your reasonable wives, mothers, daughters, or sisters
on the theatre, and you would see them hissed off the stage. Good people
are acknowledged to be the bane of the drama and the novel--I never wish
to see a reasonable woman on the stage, or an unreasonable woman off it.
I have the greatest sympathy and admiration for your true heroine in a
book; but I grant you, that in real life, in a private room, the tragedy
queen would be too much for me; and the novel heroine would be the most
useless, troublesome, affected, haranguing, egotistical, insufferable
being imaginable! So, my dear Caroline, I am content, that you are my
sister, and my friend, though I give you up as a heroine."



CHAPTER VII.


LETTER FROM GODFREY PERCY TO MRS. PERCY.

"London, the British Hotel.

"You will be surprised, my dear mother, to find that I am in London,
instead of being, as I had hoped I should have been by this time, with
the army on the continent. Just as we were going to embark, we were
countermanded, and ordered to stay at our quarters. Conceive our
disappointment--to remain in garrison at the most stupid, idle country
town in England.

"You ask how I like my brother officers, and what sort of men they
are?--Major Gascoigne, son to my father's friend, I like extremely; he
is a man of a liberal spirit, much information, and zeal for the army.
But what I particularly admire in him is his candour. He says it is his
own fault that he is not higher in the army--that when he was a very
young man, he was of too unbending a temper--mistook bluntness
for sincerity--did not treat his superior officer with proper
deference--lost a good friend by it.

"A fine lesson for me! and the better, because not intended.

"Next to Gascoigne I like Captain Henry: a young man of my own age,
uncommonly handsome, but quite free from conceit. There is something in
his manners so gentlemanlike, and he is of so frank a disposition, that
I was immediately prepossessed in his favour.--I don't like him
the worse for having a tinge of proper pride, especially in the
circumstances in which he is placed. I understand that it is suspected
he is not of a good family; but I am not impertinent enough to inquire
into particulars. I have been told, that when he first came into the
regiment, some of the officers wanted to make out what family he belongs
to, and whether he is, or is not, one of the Irish Henrys. They showed
their curiosity in an unwarrantable manner; and Henry, who has great
feeling, and a spirit as quick to resent injury as to be won by
kindness, was going to call one of these gentlemen to account for his
impertinence. He would have had half a dozen duels upon his hands, if
Gascoigne had not settled them. I have not time to tell you the whole
story--but it is enough to say, that Major Gascoigne showed great
address and prudence, as well as steadiness, and you would all love
Captain Henry for his gratitude--he thinks Gascoigne a demi-god.

"The rest of my brother-officers are nothing supernatural--just what you
may call mere red coats; some of them fond of high play, others fond of
drinking: so I have formed no intimacy but with Gascoigne and Henry. My
father will see that I do not _yet_ think that the officers of my own
mess must all be the first men in the universe.

"Love to all at home. I hope we shall sail soon, and I hope Rosamond
will give me credit for the length of this letter.--She cannot say, with
all her malice, that my lines are at _shooting distance_, or that my
words are stretched out like a lawyer's--two good pages, count which
way you will!--and from Godfrey, who is not a letter-writer, as Alfred
is!--Two good pages, did I say? why, here's the best part of a third for
you, if you allow me to be,

  "My dear mother,
      with much respect,
    "Your dutiful, obedient,
        and affectionate son,
          "GODFREY PERCY."

Whilst Godfrey remained in quarters at this most idle and stupid of
country towns, some circumstances occurred in the regiment which put his
prudence to trial, and, sooner than he expected, called upon him for the
exercise of that spirit of forbearance and temper which he had promised
his mother he would show.--It was the more difficult to him to keep
his temper, because it was an affair which touched the interest of his
friend Major Gascoigne. The lieutenant-colonel of the regiment having
been promoted, Major Gascoigne had reasonable expectations of succeeding
him; but, to his disappointment, a younger man than himself, and a
stranger to the regiment, was put over his head. It was said that this
appointment was made in consequence of the new colonel being a nephew
of Lord Skreene, and of his also having it in his power to command two
votes in parliament.

For the truth of this story we cannot pretend to vouch. But the credit
the report gained in the regiment created great discontents, which the
behaviour of the new lieutenant-colonel unfortunately was not calculated
to dissipate.--He certainly did not bear his honours meekly, but, on the
contrary, gave himself airs of authority, and played the martinet to a
useless and ridiculous degree. This, from a mere _parade officer_, who
had never been out of London, to a man like the major--who had seen
service and could show wounds--was, to use the mildest expression,
ill-judged. Captain Henry said it was _intolerable_--and Godfrey thought
so.

Every parade day something unpleasant occurred, and, when it was talked
over, some of the officers took part with Gascoigne, and some with the
lieutenant-colonel--very few, however, with the latter--only those who
wanted to _keep in_ favour: officers in quarters as these were, had not
much to do; therefore they had the more time for disputes, which
became of more and more consequence every hour. Major Gascoigne behaved
incomparably well, never failing in respect towards his superior officer
when he was present, and when he was absent doing all that was possible
to restrain the imprudent zeal and indignation of his young friends.

One day, when Godfrey, Captain Henry, and Major Gascoigne were together,
the major actually knelt down to Henry, to prevail upon him to give up a
mad design of challenging his colonel.

That very day, not an hour afterwards, the lieutenant-colonel took
occasion to thwart the major about some circumstance of no consequence.
Godfrey's blood boiled in his veins--his promise to his mother, that
he would be as gentle as a lamb, he recollected at this instant--with
difficulty he restrained himself--still his blood boiled. Major
Gascoigne's fear that Godfrey and Henry should embroil themselves for
his sake increased, for he saw what passed in their hearts, and he had
no peace of mind by day, or rest by night.

Generous people are, of all others, the most touched by generosity,
either of feeling or action. In this state of irritation, it was not
possible that things should long go on without coming to a crisis. Major
Gascoigne proposed, as the measure that would be most likely to restore
and preserve peace, to quit the regiment.--It was a great sacrifice on
his part, and, at first, none of his friends would consent to his making
it; but, at last, he brought them all to acknowledge that it was, upon
the whole, the best thing that could be done. Gascoigne had a friend,
a major in another regiment then in England, who was willing to make an
exchange with him, and he thought that the business could be arranged
without much difficulty. However, from caprice, the love of showing his
power, or from some unknown reason, the lieutenant-colonel made it his
pleasure to oppose the exchange, and said that it could not be done;
though, as Captain Henry said, every body knew, that by his writing a
line to Lord Skreene it would have been accomplished directly. It now
recurred to Godfrey, that Cunningham Falconer, being secretary to
Lord Oldborough, might be of use in this affair. Cunningham had always
professed the greatest regard for Godfrey, and he was determined, at
least, to make this trial of his sincerity.

The secretary sent a civil answer in an official style, explaining _that
his office was not the War Office_; concluding by an assurance, that if
Captain Percy could point out how he could do so with propriety, nothing
could give Mr. C. Falconer greater pleasure than to have an opportunity
of obliging him.

Now Captain Percy, having a sort of generous good faith about him,
believed this last assurance; fancied that as he was no great writer
he had not explained himself well by letter, and that he should make
Cunningham understand him better _viva voce_. Keeping his own counsel,
and telling only Major Gascoigne and Captain Henry his object, he asked
for a fortnight's leave of absence, and, with some difficulty obtained
it. He went to London, waited on Secretary Falconer, and found him ten
times more _official_ in his style of conversation than in his letters.
Godfrey recollected that his cousin Cunningham had always been solemnly
inclined, but now he found him grown so mysterious, that he could
scarcely obtain a plain answer to the simplest question. "The whole man,
head and heart, seemed," as Godfrey said, "to be diplomatically closed."
It was clear, from the little that Cunningham did articulate, that he
would do nothing in furthering the exchange desired for Major
Gascoigne; but whether this arose from his having no influence with Lord
Oldborough, or from his fear of wearing it out, our young officer could
not determine. He left the secretary in disgust and despair, and went
to wait on Commissioner Falconer, who gave him a polite invitation to
dinner, and overwhelmed him with professions of friendship; but, as soon
as Godfrey explained his business, the commissioner protested that he
could not venture to speak to Lord Oldborough on such an affair, and
he earnestly advised him not to interest himself so much for Major
Gascoigne, who, though doubtless a very deserving officer, was, in fact,
nothing more. He next had recourse to Buckhurst Falconer, and asked him
to persuade Colonel Hauton to speak to his uncle upon the subject. This
Buckhurst immediately promised to do, and kept his promise. But Colonel
Hauton swore that his uncle never, on any occasion, listened to his
representations; therefore it was quite useless to speak to him. After
wandering from office to office, wasting hour after hour, and day
after day, waiting for people who did him no good when he did see
them, Godfrey at last determined to do what he should have done at
first--apply to Lord Oldborough. It is always better to deal with
principals than with secondaries. Lord Oldborough had the reputation
of being inaccessible, haughty, and peremptory in the extreme; the
secretaries, clerks, and under-clerks, "trembled at his name, each
under each, through all their ranks of venality." But to Captain Percy's
surprise, the moment his name was announced, the minister immediately
recognized him, and received him most graciously. His lordship inquired
after his old friend, Mr. Percy--said that Mr. Percy was one of the few
really independent men he had ever known. "Mr. Percy is an excellent
country gentleman, and, for England's sake, I wish there were many, many
more such. Now, sir, how can I serve his son?"

With frankness and brevity which suited the minister and the man,
Godfrey told his business, and Lord Oldborough, with laconic decision,
equally pleasing to the young soldier, replied, "that if it was
possible, the thing should be done for Major Gascoigne"--inquired how
long Captain Percy purposed to stay in town--desired to see him the day
before he should leave London, and named the hour.

All the diplomacy of Cunningham Falconer's face could not disguise
his astonishment when he saw the manner in which his master treated
Godfrey.--The next day the commissioner invited Captain Percy in a
pressing manner to dine with him: "We shall have a very pleasant party,"
said Mr. Falconer, "and Mrs. Falconer insists upon the pleasure of your
company--you have never seen my girls since they were children--your
own near relations!--you must be better acquainted: come--I will take no
denial."

Godfrey willingly accepted the invitation: he would, _perhaps_, have
found means to have excused himself, had he known whom he was to meet at
this dinner--Miss Hauton--the dangerous fair one, whom he had resolved
to avoid. But he was in the room with her, and beyond all power of
receding, before he knew his peril. The young lady looked more beautiful
than ever, and more melancholy. One of the Miss Falconers took an
opportunity of telling him, in confidence, the cause of her poor
friend's dejection. "Her uncle, Lord Oldborough, wants to marry her to
the Marquis of Twickenham, the eldest son of the Duke of Greenwich, and
Miss Hauton can't endure him."

The marquis was also at this dinner--Godfrey did not much wonder at
the lady's dislike; for he was a mean, peevish-looking man, had no
conversation, and appeared to be fond of drinking.

"But Lord Oldborough, who is all for ambition," whispered Miss Falconer,
"and who maintains that there is no such thing as love, except in
novels, says, that his niece may read foolish novels after marriage
as well as before, if she pleases, but that she must marry like a
reasonable woman."

Godfrey pitied her; and, whilst he was pitying, Mrs. Falconer arranged
a party for the opera for this night, in which Godfrey found himself
included. Perhaps he was imprudent; but he was a young man, and human
nature is--human nature.

At the opera Godfrey felt his danger increase every moment. Miss Hauton
was particularly engaging, and many circumstances conspired to flatter
his vanity, and to interest him for this fair victim of ambition. Her
marquis was in the box, smelling of claret, and paying his _devoirs_
to his intended bride, apparently very little to her satisfaction.
Commissioner Falconer, leaning forward, complimented Miss Hauton upon
her appearance this night, and observed that though it was a new opera,
all fashionable eyes were turned from the stage to Lady Oldborough's
box.

Miss Hauton smiled civilly upon the commissioner, then turning to
Godfrey, in a low soft voice, repeated,

  "And ev'n when fashion's brightest arts decoy,
  The heart distrusting asks, if this be joy?"

Godfrey was touched--she saw it, and sighed. A short time afterwards her
marquis left the box. Miss Hauton recovered from her languor, and became
animated in conversation with Godfrey. He felt the whole power of her
charms, the immediate force of the temptation; but he recollected
who she was--he recollected that she had not shown any instances of
discretion which could redeem her from the consequences of a mother's
disgrace: the songs he had heard from Miss Hauton's lips, Captain
Bellamy and the _waltzing_, came full upon his mind.

"No," said he to himself, "as a wife I cannot think of her: were the
Marquis of Twickenham out of the question, my wife she cannot be. Then
honour forbids me to trifle with her affections merely to gratify my
vanity or the feelings of the moment."

Captain Percy well knew that some men can satisfy their consciences by
calling a certain sort of treachery by the soft name of gallantry. He
was aware that he could, like many others in similar circumstances,
deceive by equivocal looks and expressions, and then throw the blame
from themselves, by asking why the woman was such a fool as to believe,
protesting that they never had a thought of her, and swearing that they
had not the least idea she had ever understood them to mean any thing
serious; but Godfrey had too much good feeling and good principle to
follow such examples.

Miss Hauton had a copy of the new opera before her, and as she turned
over the leaves, she pointed out to him the passages that she liked.
Some were peculiarly applicable to her own situation, representing
a heroine forced to marry a man she hates, whilst she tenderly loves
another. Godfrey could not, or would not, understand the Italian. It was
perfectly well explained to him; and then, perceiving the applications
made of certain lines by Miss Hauton's voice and eyes, he had no
resource but in a new singer, to whom he became suddenly so attentive
that nothing could distract him from the stage. When the actress ceased
to sing, he found means to engage the Miss Falconers in a discussion of
her merits, which, with all the nonsense and compliments to their taste
the occasion required, filled up the dangerous interval till the opera
was over; then--more dangerous still--waiting for carriages in
_the crush room_; but through all these perils, Godfrey passed so
dexterously, as to leave Miss Hauton in doubt whether she had been
understood or not. Thus he hoped that her conscience would in future, if
she should ever after her marriage reflect on the opera of this night,
be as much at ease as his own--though perhaps not with so good reason.

After this night, Godfrey would not expose himself to a repetition of
similar danger; and that he might avoid meeting this fair lady again, he
refused two invitations from Mrs. Falconer to a ball at her house, and
to a musical party.--This deserves to be recorded to his credit, because
he was very fond both of music and dancing.

The day before he was to leave town, at the hour and minute appointed,
Godfrey waited upon Lord Oldborough; but not such his reception now as
it had been on his first visit to this minister: he was kept two hours
waiting alone in an antechamber. At last the cabinet door opened, and
Lord Oldborough appeared with a dark cold countenance, and a haughty
stiffness in his whole frame. His lordship walked deliberately forward,
till he came within a yard of our young officer, and then, without
speaking, bent his head and body slowly, and so remained, as if waiting
to be informed who Captain Percy was, and what his business might be.
Astonishment, and offended pride, flashed successively in Godfrey's
countenance. Lord Oldborough, after fixing his interrogating eyes upon
him ineffectually, receiving no explanation, seemed to come a little
to his recollection, and condescended to say, "Captain Percy, I
believe!--your commands with me, Captain Percy."

"My lord, I have the honour to be here by your lordship's appointment on
Major Gascoigne's business."

"Sir, you had a note from me yesterday, I believe, which contained all
that I have it in my power to say on Major Gascoigne's business."

"Pardon me, my lord--I never had the honour of receiving any note from
your lordship."

"Very extraordinary! I sent it by my own man. You are at Batts' hotel,
sir?"

"No, my lord, at the British hotel."

"Ha!--that is the cause of the mistake. You will find my note, sir, at
Batts'."

Captain Percy bowed--Lord Oldborough bowed--not a word more passed.
Lord Oldborough walked on to his carriage, which rolled him away with
glorious rapidity, whilst Godfrey, his face flushed with resentment,
looked after him for an instant, then putting on his hat, which the
porter held to him, he walked off as fast as possible to Batts' hotel,
impatient to see the note which was to explain the meaning of this
extraordinary conduct. The note he found; but it threw little light upon
the business. It was written in Secretary Cunningham Falconer's hand,
and was as follows:

"Lord Oldborough will inform Captain Percy when any thing shall be
decided upon relative to the business on which Captain Percy spoke
to Lord Oldborough: and as communication by letter will answer every
purpose, his lordship hopes that he shall not be the means of detaining
Captain Percy longer from his regiment.

"_Tuesday_, ----."

A civil dismission!--After three attempts Godfrey obtained a sight
of Secretary Cunningham, who, as he thought, was at the bottom of
the affair; but this suspicion was at first dissipated by the unusual
openness with which the secretary looked and spoke. Apparently
without fear of committing himself, he said at once that it was a very
extraordinary proceeding--that he could no way account for it, but
by supposing that the lieutenant-colonel in question had, through his
relation, Lord Skreene, influenced his Grace of Greenwich, and that Lord
Oldborough could not, in the present conjuncture, make any movement in
direct opposition to the duke.

"In all these things, in all transactions with politicians," said
Godfrey, "there are wheels within wheels, which we simple people never
suspect; and by awkwardly interfering with them when they are in motion,
we are hurt, we know not how or why."

Cunningham smiled significantly, but was silent--his air of frankness
vanished, and his solemn reserve returned. "Cunningham will never be
hurt in that way," thought Godfrey; "I never saw a fellow so careful of
himself. I am convinced he would not hazard his little finger to save
the whole British empire, much less to serve a private friend like me,
or a poor honest man like Gascoigne."

Godfrey was too proud to make any further attempts to interest his
diplomatic cousin in the affair. He rose, and bade the secretary adieu,
who, with proper smiles and bows, attended him to the very door.

"Thank Heaven!" thought Godfrey, as he left the secretary's office, "I
am not forced to dance attendance upon any great man, or any great man's
secretary. I am--like my father--independent, and will keep myself so;
and if ever I live upon a smile for years, it shall not be upon the
smiles of a minister, but on those of a fair lady."

Godfrey left town immediately, and returned to his regiment.



CHAPTER VIII.


Little versed in the ways of courts or courtiers, Godfrey had been
easily deceived by the apparent candour of Cunningham Falconer. The fact
was, that Cunningham, not directly from himself, but by means of persons
of whom Lord Oldborough could have no suspicion, had insinuated to his
lordship that Godfrey Percy was the secret cause of the aversion Miss
Hauton showed to the proposed match with the Marquis of Twickenham. This
idea once suggested was easily confirmed by the account of the young
lady's behaviour at the opera, which was reported to Lord Oldborough
with proper exaggerations, and with a total misrepresentation of
Godfrey's conduct. The fainting at the ball was also recollected, and
many other little circumstances combined to bring conviction to Lord
Oldborough's mind. He was now persuaded that Major Gascoigne's business
was merely a pretence for Godfrey's coming to town: apprehension of
being disappointed in completing an alliance essential to his ambitious
views, pique at the idea of being deceived, and nearly duped by a boy
and girl, a rooted hatred and utter contempt for love and love affairs,
altogether produced that change in Lord Oldborough's manner towards
Captain Percy which had appeared so extraordinary.--Had Captain Percy
delayed to leave town, he would next day have received orders from
his commanding officer to join his regiment. As to Major Gascoigne's
business, it had made so little impression upon Lord Oldborough, that he
had totally forgotten the poor major's name till Godfrey repeated it to
him. Indeed, Godfrey himself could scarcely have blamed his lordship
for this, had he known how much business, how many cares pressed at this
time upon the mind of the unhappy statesman.--Besides a load of public
business, and all the open and violent attacks of opposition, which he
had usually to sustain, he was now under great and increasing anxiety
from the discovery of that plot against him, among his immediate
associates in office, which the Tourville papers, deciphered by
Commissioner Falconer and Cunningham, had but partially revealed. Lord
Oldborough was in the condition of a person apprised that he is standing
upon ground that is undermined, but who does not know exactly by what
hand or at what moment the train that may destroy him is to be set
on fire. One word frequently recurred in the Tourville papers, which
puzzled Commissioner Falconer extremely, and of which he was never able
to make out the meaning; the word was Gassoc. It was used thus: "We
are sorry to find that the Gassoc has not agreed to our proposal."--"No
answer has been given to question No. 2 by the Gassoc."--"With regard
to the subsidy, of which 35,000_l._ have not been sent or received,
the Gassoc has never explained; in consequence, great discontents
here."--"If the Gassoc be finally determined against the _Eagle_, means
must be taken to accomplish the purposes alluded to in paragraph 4,
in green (of the 7th ult.), also those in No. B. in lemon juice (of
September last)."--"The Gassoc will take notes of the mining tools
forgotten--also bullets too large, and no flints (as per No. 9, in
sympathetic ink)--also the sea charts, sent instead of maps--consequent
delay in march of troops--loss of fortress--to be attributed to _the
Eagle_."

_The Eagle_, which at first had been taken for granted to be the
Austrian eagle, was discovered to be Lord Oldborough. An eagle was his
lordship's crest, and the sea-charts, and the mining-tools, brought the
sense home to him conclusively. It was plain that the Gassoc stood for
some person who was inimical to Lord Oldborough, but who it could be was
the question. Commissioner Falconer suggested, that for _Gassoc_, you
should read _Gosshawk_; then, said he, "by finding what nobleman or
gentleman has a gosshawk in his arms, you have the family name, and the
individual is afterwards easily ascertained." To the Heralds'-office the
commissioner went a gosshawking, but after spending a whole day with
the assistance of Garter king at arms, he could make nothing of his
gosshawks, and he gave them up.

He next presumed that there might be a mistake of one letter in the
foreign spelling of the word, and that _Gassoc_ should be _Cassock_, and
might then mean a certain bishop, who was known to be a particular enemy
of Lord Oldborough. But still there were things ascribed to the Gassoc,
which could not come within the jurisdiction or cognizance of the
Cassock--and the commissioner was reluctantly obliged to give up the
church. He next suggested, that not only one letter, but every letter
in the word might be mistaken in the foreign spelling, and that _Gassoc_
might be the French or German written imitation of the oral sound of
some English proper name. The commissioner supported this opinion very
plausibly by citing many instances of the barbarous spelling of English
names by foreigners: Bassompierre writes Jorchaux for York-house,
Innimthort for Kensington; even in the polite memoirs of le Comte de
Grammont, we have Soutkask for Southesk, and Warméstre for some English
name not yet deciphered. Upon this hint the commissioner and Cunningham
made anagrams of half the noble names in England, but in vain.

Afterwards, recollecting that it was the fashion at one time even to pun
in the coats of arms of the nobility, and in the choice of their mottos,
he went to work again at the Heralds'-office, and tried a course of
puns, but to no purpose: the commissioner was mortified to find all his
ingenuity at fault.

Cunningham took care not to suggest anything, therefore he could never
be convicted of mistake. Nor was he in the least vexed by his father's
or his own fruitless labour, because he thought it might tend to his
future advancement.

Lord Oldborough had thrown out a hint that it would soon be necessary to
recall the present and send a new envoy or resident to the German
court in question; Cunningham nourished a hope of being chosen for
this purpose, as the Tourville papers were already known to him, and he
could, under private instructions, negotiate with M. de Tourville, and
draw from him an explanation. He did not, however, trust even his father
with the hope he had conceived, but relied on his own address, and
continually strove, by oblique hints, to magnify the danger of leaving
any part of the plot unravelled.

What effect these suggestions produced, or whether they produced
any, Cunningham was unable to judge from the minister's impenetrable
countenance. Lord Oldborough lost not a moment in repairing the mistake
about sea-charts, and the omission of mining tools, which he had
discovered from a paragraph in the Tourville papers; he stayed not to
inquire whether the error had been wilful or unintentional--_that_ he
left for future investigation. His next object was the subsidy. This
day the Duke of Greenwich gave a cabinet dinner. After dinner, when the
servants had retired, and when none of the company were prepared for
such a stroke, Lord Oldborough, in his decided, but very calm manner,
began with, "My lords, I must call your attention to an affair of some
importance--the subsidy from the secret service to our German ally."

All who had within them sins unwhipped of justice trembled.

"I have learned, no matter how," continued Lord Oldborough, "that, by
some strange mistake, 35,000_l_ of that subsidy were not remitted at the
time appointed by us, and that discontents, likely to be prejudicial to
his majesty's service, have arisen in consequence of this delay."

His lordship paused, and appeared to take no notice of the faces of
feigned astonishment and real consciousness by which he was surrounded.
Each looked at the other to inquire by what means this secret was
divulged, and to discover, if possible, how much more was known. Lord
Skreene began at the same moment with the Duke of Greenwich to
suggest that some clerk or agent must certainly be much to blame. Lord
Oldborough, in his decided tone, replied that it was indifferent to him
what clerk, agent, or principal was to blame in the business; but that
if the money were not _bonâ fide_ remitted, and acknowledged by the
court to which it was promised, and before any disagreeable consequences
should ensue, he must be under the necessity of stating the affair to
his majesty--of resigning his office, and bringing the whole before
parliament.

The terror of his voice, and lightning of his eye, the dread of his
determined spirit, operated powerfully. The subsidy was remitted the
next day, though at the expense of a service of plate which Lord Skreene
had bespoken for his mistress, and though Secretary Cope was compelled
to sell at some disadvantage a few of the very few remaining acres of
his paternal estate, to make good what had been borrowed from the secret
service money.

At the cabinet dinner, the keen eye of Lord Oldborough had discerned
some displeasure lurking in the mind of the Duke of Greenwich--a man
of considerable political consequence from his rank and connexions, and
from the number of voices he could command or influence. Lord Oldborough
knew that, if he could regain the duke, he could keep in awe his other
enemies. His grace was a puzzle-headed, pompous fool, whom Heaven had
cursed with the desire to be a statesman. He had not more than four
ideas; but to those four, which he conceived to be his own, he was
exclusively attached.--Yet a person of address and cunning could put
things into his head, which after a time he would find there, believe to
be his own, and which he would then propose as new with great solemnity,
and support with much zeal. Lord Oldborough, however, was neither able
nor willing to manage his grace in this manner; he was too imperious;
his pride of character was at continual variance with the duke's pride
of rank. The duke's was a sort of pride which Lord Oldborough did not
always understand, and which, when he did, he despised--it was a species
of pride that was perpetually taking offence at trifling failures in
etiquette, of which Lord Oldborough, intent upon great objects, was
sometimes guilty. There is a class of politicians who err by looking
for causes in too high a sphere, and by attributing the changes which
perplex states and monarchs to great passions and large motives. Lord
Oldborough was one of this class, and with all his talents would
have failed in every attempt to comprehend and conciliate the Duke
of Greenwich, had he not been assisted by the inferior genius of
Commissioner Falconer. While his lordship was thus searching far and
wide among the reasonable and probable causes for the duke's coldness,
examining and re-examining the bearings of every political measure,
as it could affect his grace's interest immediately or remotely,
Commissioner Falconer sought for the cause, and found it in the lowest
scale of trifles--he made the discovery by means which Lord Oldborough
could not have devised, and would not have used. The duke had a
favourite under-clerk, who, for a valuable consideration, disclosed the
secret to the commissioner. Lord Oldborough had sent his grace a note,
written in his own hand, sealed with a wafer. The clerk, who was present
when the note was received, said that the duke's face flushed violently,
and that he flung the note immediately to his secretary, exclaiming,
"Open that, if you please, sir--_I wonder how any man can have the
impertinence to send me his spittle!_"

This nice offence, which bore so coarse a comment, had alienated the
mind of the Duke of Greenwich. When Commissioner Falconer had thus
sagaciously discovered the cause of the noble duke's displeasure, he
with great address applied a remedy. Without ever hinting that he knew
of the offensive circumstance, having some business to transact with the
duke, he contrived, as if undesignedly, to turn the conversation upon
his friend Lord Oldborough's strange and unaccountable negligence of
common forms and etiquette; as a proof of which he told the duke in
confidence, and in a very low voice, an anecdote, which he heard
from his son Cunningham, from Lord Oldborough's own secretary, or the
commissioner protested that he would not, he could not have believed
it--his lordship had been once actually upon the point of sealing a note
with a wafer to one of the royal dukes!--had the wafer absolutely on
his lips, when Cunningham felt it his duty to take the liberty of
remonstrating. Upon which, Lord Oldborough, as Commissioner Falconer
said, looked with the utmost surprise, and replied, "I have sealed with
a wafer to the Duke of Greenwich, and _he_ was not offended."

This anecdote, the truth of which it fortunately never occurred to the
duke to doubt, had an immediate and powerful effect upon his mind,
as the commissioner saw by the complacent smile that played on his
countenance, and still further by the condescending pity with which his
grace observed, that "Great geniuses never understand common things--but
do every thing awkwardly, whether they cut open a book, or seal a note."

Mr. Falconer having thus brought the duke into fine temper, left him
in the best dispositions possible towards Lord Oldborough, went to his
lordship to report progress, and to boast of his success; but he told
only as much of what had passed as he thought would suit the statesman's
character, and ensure his approbation.--The Duke of Greenwich was as
much pleased by this reconciliation as Lord Oldborough; for, though in
a fit of offended pride he had been so rash as to join his lordship's
enemies, yet he had always dreaded coming to open war with such an
adversary. His grace felt infinitely more safe and comfortable when he
was leaning upon Lord Oldborough than when he stood opposed to him, even
in secret. There were points in politics in which he and Lord Oldborough
coincided, though they had arrived at these by far different roads.
They agreed in an overweening love of aristocracy, and in an inclination
towards arbitrary power; they agreed in a hatred of innovation; they
agreed in the principle that free discussion should be discouraged,
and that the country should be governed with a high and strong hand. On
these principles Lord Oldborough always acted, but seldom spoke, and
the Duke of Greenwich continually talked, but seldom acted: in fact, his
grace, "though he roared so loud, and looked so wondrous grim," was, in
action, afraid of every shadow. Right glad was he to have his political
vaunts made good by a coadjutor of commanding talents, resource, and
civil courage. Yet, as Lord Oldborough observed, with a man of such
wayward pride and weak understanding, there was no security from day to
day for the permanence of his attachment. It was then that Commissioner
Falconer, ever ready at expedients, suggested that an alliance between
his grace's family and his lordship's would be the best possible
security; and that the alliance might be easily effected, since it was
evident of late that the Marquis of Twickenham was much disposed to
admire the charms of his lordship's niece, Miss Hauton. Lord Oldborough
had not remarked that the marquis admired any thing but good wine; his
lordship's attention was not turned to these things, nor had he, in
general, much faith in friendships founded on family alliances; but
he observed that the duke was peculiarly tenacious of connexions and
relationships, and, therefore, this might be the best method of holding
him.

From the moment Lord Oldborough decided in favour of this scheme, Mr.
and Mrs. Falconer had done all in their power, with the utmost zeal
and address, to forward it, by contriving continual dancing-parties and
musical meetings, at their house, for the young people. Lady Oldborough,
who was sickly, whose manners were not popular, and who could not bear
_to be put out of her way_, was quite unsuited to this sort of business,
and rejoiced that the Falconers took it off her hands. Things were just
in this state, and Lord Oldborough had fixed his mind upon the match,
when Godfrey Percy's arrival in town had threatened disappointment. In
consequence of this fear, Lord Oldborough not only despatched Godfrey
directly to his regiment, but, to put an end to the danger at once, to
banish the idea of seeing him again completely out of the young lady's
head, the cruel uncle and decided politician had Godfrey's regiment
ordered immediately to the West Indies.


LETTER FROM GODFREY PERCY TO HIS FATHER.

"My dear father,

"We have a new lieutenant-colonel. Lord Skreene has removed his precious
nephew to another regiment, and to punish us for not liking the pretty
boy, has ordered us all off to the West Indies: so ends our croaking.
Our new King Log we cannot complain of as too young, or too much on the
_qui vive_: he looks as if he were far gone in a lethargy, can hardly
keep himself awake while he is giving the word of command, and, instead
of being a martinet, I am sure he would not care if the whole corps wore
their regimentals the wrong side outwards.--Gascoigne will have all the
regimental business on his shoulders, and no man can do it better.--He
is now at my elbow, supplying four hundred men and forty officers
with heads. The noise of questions and commands, and the notes of
preparation, are so loud and dissonant, that I hardly know what I
write. Gascoigne, though not benefited, was obliged to me for my
wrong-head-journey to London. Henry was very angry with Lord Oldborough
for jilting me--Gascoigne with much ado kept him in proper manners
towards the lieutenant-colonel, and I, in admiration of Gascoigne, kept
my temper miraculously. But there was an impertinent puppy of an ensign,
a partisan of the lieutenant-colonel, who wanted, I'm convinced, to have
the credit of fighting a duel for the colonel, and he one day said, in
Captain Henry's hearing, that 'it was no wonder some men should rail
against ministerial _influence_, who had no friends to look to, and were
men of no family.'--'Do you mean that for me, sir?' said Henry.
'Judge for yourself, sir.' Poor Henry judged ill, and challenged the
ensign.--They fought, and the ensign was slightly wounded. This duel has
wakened curiosity again about Captain Henry's birth, and he is in danger
of being exposed continually to things he could not like, and could not
well resent. He consulted Gascoigne and me, and has told us all he knows
of his history.--Read what follows to yourself, for I have permission
to speak of his affairs only to you. Captain Henry assured us that he
really does not know to what family he belongs, nor who his father and
mother were; but he has reason to believe that they were Irish. He was
bred up in a merchant's house in Dublin. The merchant broke, and went
off with his family to America. Henry was at that time fifteen or
sixteen. The merchant then said, that Henry was not his nephew, nor any
relation to him, but hinted that he was the son of a Mr. Henry, who
had taken an unfortunate part in _the troubles_ of Ireland, and who had
_suffered_--that his mother had been a servant-maid, and that she was
dead. The merchant added, that he had taken care of Henry from regard to
his father, but that, obliged by his own failure in business to quit the
country, he must thenceforward resign the charge.--He farther observed,
that the army was now the young man's only resource, and, on taking
leave, he put into Henry's hands a 50_l._ note, and an ensign's
commission.--With his commission he joined his regiment, which was at
Cork. A few days after his arrival, a Cork banker called upon him, and
inquired whether he was Ensign Charles Henry; and upon his answering in
the affirmative, informed him that he had orders to pay him 400_l._ a
year in quarterly payments. The order came from a house in Dublin, and
this was all the banker knew. On Henry's application in Dublin, he
was told that they had direction to stop payment of the annuity if any
questions were asked.--Of course, Henry asked no more.--The annuity has
been regularly paid to him ever since--When he was scarcely seventeen,
he was pillaged of a couple of hundred pounds one night by a set of
sharpers at the gaming-table: this loss roused his prudence, and he has
never played since. He has for many years lived within his pay; for he
prudently considered, that the extraordinary supply might suddenly fail,
and then he might be left in debt and distress, and at the same time
with habits of extravagance.--Instead of which, he has laid up money
every year, and has a considerable sum. He wishes to quit the army, and
to go into a mercantile house, for which his early education has fitted
him. He has a particular talent for languages: speaks French and Italian
accurately--Spanish and Dutch well enough for all the purposes of
commerce. So any mercantile house, who wants a partner, agent, or _clerk
for foreign affairs_ (perhaps I am not correct in the technical terms),
could not do better than to take Charles Henry. For his integrity and
honour I would answer with my life. Now, my dear father, could you
have the goodness to assist us so far as to write and inquire about the
partner in London of those Dutch merchants, whom you had an opportunity
of obliging at the time of the shipwreck?--I cannot recollect their
strange names, but if I am not mistaken, they left you their address,
and that of their London correspondent.--If this partner should be a
substantial man, perhaps our best plan would be to try to get Henry into
his house. You have certainly some claim there, and the Dutchmen desired
we would apply to them if ever they could do any thing to serve us--we
can but try. I am afraid you will say, '_This is like one of Godfrey's
wild schemes._' I am still more afraid that you should think Henry's
romantic story is _against him_--but such things are--that is all I can
say. Here is no motive for deception; and if you were to see the young
man, his countenance and manner would immediately persuade you of his
perfect truth and ingenuousness. I am aware that his romantic history
would not do for the Dutch merchants, or the London partner; they would
probably set him down directly for an adventurer, and refuse to have any
thing to do with him: so I see no necessity for beginning by stating it.
I know you hate, and I am sure so do I, all novel-like concealments and
mysteries; but because a man makes a bargain with another, he is not
obliged to tell him his whole history--because he takes him for his
partner or his master, he is not called upon to make him his confidant.
All that the merchants can want or have a right to know is forthcoming
and clear--character and money.

"My affectionate love and old-fashioned duty to my dear mother--pray
assure her and my sisters that they shall hear from me, though I am
going to have 'one foot on sea and one on land.'

"Tell dear Caroline the portfolio she made for me shall go with me
to the world's end; and Rosamond's _Tippoo Saib_ shall see the _West_
Indies--Gascoigne has been in the West Indies before now, and he says
and proves, that temperance and spice are the best preservatives in that
climate; so you need not fear for me, for you know I love pepper better
than port. I am called away, and can only add that the yellow fever
there has subsided, as an officer who arrived last week tells me. Our
regiment is just going to embark in high spirits.--God bless you all.

"Your affectionate son,

"G. Percy.

"P. S. Don't let my mother or Rosamond trust to newspaper reports--trust
to nothing but my letters;--Caroline, I know, is fit to be the sister,
and I hope will some time be the mother, of heroes."



CHAPTER IX.


Lord Oldborough expected that the prompt measure of despatching the
dangerous Godfrey to the West Indies would restore things to their
former train. For a week after Godfrey Percy's departure, Miss Hauton
seemed much affected by it, and was from morning till night languid
or in the sullens: of all which Lord Oldborough took not the slightest
notice. In the course of a fortnight Miss Falconer, who became
inseparable from Miss Hauton, flattering, pitying, and humouring her,
contrived to recover the young lady from this fit of despondency, and
produced her again at musical parties. She was passionately fond of
music; the Miss Falconers played on the piano-forte and sung, their
brother John accompanied exquisitely on the flute, and the Marquis of
Twickenham, who was dull as "the fat weed that grows on Lethe's brink,"
stood by--admiring. His proposal was made in form--and in form the young
lady evaded it--in form her uncle, Lord Oldborough, told her that the
thing must be, and proceeded directly to decide upon the settlements
with the Duke of Greenwich, and set the lawyers to work. In the mean
time, the bride elect wept, and deplored, and refused to eat, drink,
or speak, except to the Miss Falconers, with whom she was closeted for
hours, and to whom the task of managing her was consigned by common
consent. The marquis, who, though he was, as he said, much in love,
was not very delicate as to the possession of the lady's affections,
wondered that any one going to be married to the Marquis of Twickenham
could be so shy and so melancholy; but her confidantes assured him that
it was all uncommon refinement and sensibility, which was their sweetest
Maria's only fault. Excellent claret, and a moderately good opinion
of himself, persuaded the marquis of the truth of all which the Miss
Falconers pleased to say, and her uncle graciously granted the delays,
which the young lady prayed for week after week--till, at last, striking
his hand upon the table, Lord Oldborough said, "There must be an end of
this--the papers must be signed this day se'nnight--Maria Hauton shall
be married this day fortnight."--Maria Hauton was sent for to her
uncle's study; heard her doom in sullen silence; but she made no show
of resistance, and Lord Oldborough was satisfied. An hour afterwards
Commissioner Falconer begged admission, and presented himself with a
face of consternation--Lord Oldborough, not easily surprised or alarmed,
waited, however, with some anxiety, till he should speak.

"My lord, I beg pardon for this intrusion: I know, at this time, you are
much occupied; but it is absolutely necessary I should communicate--I
feel it to be my duty immediately--and I cannot hesitate--though I
really do not know how to bring myself--"

There was something in the apparent embarrassment and distress of Mr.
Falconer, which Lord Oldborough's penetrating eye instantly discerned
to be affected.--His lordship turned a chair towards him, but said not a
word.--The commissioner sat down like a man acting despair; but looking
for a moment in Lord Oldborough's face, he saw what his lordship was
thinking of, and immediately his affected embarrassment became real and
great.

"Well, commissioner, what is the difficulty?"

"My lord, I have within this quarter of an hour heard what will ruin me
for ever in your lordship's opinion, unless your lordship does me the
justice to believe that I never heard or suspected it before--I have
only to trust to your magnanimity--and I do."

Lord Oldborough bowed slightly--"The fact, if you please, my dear sir."

"The fact, my lord, is, that Captain Bellamy, whose eyes, I suppose,
have been quickened by jealousy, has discovered what has escaped us
all--what never would have occurred to me--what never could have entered
into my mind to suspect--what I still hope--"

"The fact, sir, let me beg."

The urgency of Lord Oldborough's look and voice admitted of no delay.

"Miss Hauton is in love with my son John."

"Indeed!"

This "Indeed!" was pronounced in a tone which left the commissioner
in doubt what it expressed, whether pure surprise, indignation, or
contempt--most of the last, perhaps: he longed to hear it repeated, but
he had not that satisfaction. Lord Oldborough turned abruptly--walked
up and down the room with such a firm tread as sounded ominously to the
commissioner's ear.

"So then, sir, Miss Hauton, I think you tell me, is in love with Cornet
Falconer?"

"Captain Bellamy says so, my lord."

"Sir, I care not what Captain Bellamy says--nor do I well know who or
what he is--much less what he can have to do with my family affairs--I
ask, sir, what reason you have to believe that my niece is in love, as
it is called, with your son? You certainly would not make such a report
to me without good reason for believing it--what are your reasons?"

"Excuse me, my lord, my reasons are founded on information which I
do not think myself at liberty to repeat: but upon hearing the report
from--" The commissioner, in the hurry and confusion of his mind, and in
his new situation, totally lost his _tact_, and at this moment was upon
the point of again saying _from Captain Bellamy_; but the flash of Lord
Oldborough's eye warned him of his danger--he dropped the name.

"I immediately went to sound my son John, and, as far as I can judge, he
has not yet any suspicion of the truth."

Lord Oldborough's countenance cleared. The commissioner recovered his
presence of mind, for he thought he saw his way before him. "I thought
it my duty to let your lordship know the first hint I had of such a
nature; for how soon it might be surmised, or what steps might be taken,
I must leave it to your lordship to judge--I can only assure you,
that as yet, to the best of my belief, John has not any suspicion:
fortunately, he is very slow--and not very bright."

Lord Oldborough stood with compressed lips, seeming to listen, but deep
in thought.

"Mr. Commissioner Falconer, let us understand one another well now--as
we have done hitherto. If your son, Cornet Falconer, were to marry Maria
Hauton, she would no longer be my niece, he would have a portionless,
friendless, and, in my opinion, a very silly wife. He is, I think you
say, not very bright himself--he would probably remain a cornet the rest
of his days--all idea of assistance being of course out of the question
in that case, from me or mine, to him or his."

The awful pause which Lord Oldborough made, and his determined look,
gave the commissioner opportunity to reflect much in a few seconds.

"On the contrary," resumed his lordship, "if your son John, my dear
sir, show the same desire to comply with my wishes, and to serve my
interests, which I have found in the rest of his family, he shall find
me willing and able to advance him as well as his brother Cunningham."

"Your lordship's wishes will, I can answer for it, be laws to him, as
well as to the rest of his family."

"In one word then--let Cornet Falconer be married elsewhere, within
a fortnight, and I prophesy that within a year he shall be a
field-officer--within two years, a lieutenant-colonel."

Commissioner Falconer bowed twice--low to the field-officer--lower to
the lieutenant-colonel.

"I have long had a match in my eye for John," said the father; "but a
fortnight, my gracious lord--that is so very short a time! Your lordship
will consider there are delicacies in these cases--no young lady--it is
impossible--your lordship must be sensible that it is really impossible,
with a young lady of any family."

"I am aware that it is difficult, but not impossible," replied Lord
Oldborough, rising deliberately.

The commissioner took his leave, stammering somewhat of "nothing being
impossible for a friend," courtier, he should have said.

The commissioner set to work in earnest about the match he had in view
for John. Not one, but several fair visions flitted before the eye of
his politic mind. The Miss Chattertons--any one of whom would, he knew,
come readily within the terms prescribed, but then they had neither
fortune nor connexions. A relation of Lady Jane Granville's--excellent
connexion, and reasonable fortune; but there all the decorum of regular
approaches and time would be necessary: luckily, a certain Miss Petcalf
was just arrived from India with a large fortune. The general, her
father, was anxious to introduce his daughter to the fashionable world,
and to marry her for connexion--fortune no object to him--delicacies he
would waive. The commissioner saw--counted--and decided--(there was
a brother Petcalf, too, who might do for Georgiana--but for that no
hurry)--John was asked by his father if he would like to be a major in a
year, and a lieutenant-colonel in two years?

To be sure he would--was he a fool?

Then he must be married in a fortnight.

John did not see how this conclusion followed immediately from the
premises, for John was not _quite_ a fool; so he answered "Indeed!" An
_indeed_ so unlike Lord Oldborough's, that the commissioner, struck with
the contrast, could scarcely maintain the gravity the occasion required,
and he could only pronounce the words, "General Petcalf has a daughter."

"Ay, Miss Petcalf--ay, he is a general; true--now I see it all: well,
I'm their man--I have no objection--But Miss Petcalf!--is not that the
Indian girl? Is not there a drop of black blood?--No, no, father," cried
John, drawing himself up, "I'll be d--d...."

"Hear me first, my own John," cried his father, much and justly alarmed,
for this motion was the precursor of an obstinate fit, which, if John
took, perish father, mother, the whole human race, he could not be moved
from the settled purpose of his soul. "Hear me, my beloved John--for you
are a man of sense," said his unblushing father: "do you think I'd have
a drop of black blood for my daughter-in-law, much less let my favourite
son--But there's none--it is climate--all climate--as you may see by
only looking at Mrs. Governor Carneguy, how she figures every where; and
Miss Petcalf is nothing near so dark as Mrs. Carneguy, surely."

"Surely," said John.

"And her father, the general, gives her an Indian fortune to suit an
Indian complexion."

"That's good, at any rate," quoth John.

"Yes, my dear major--yes, my lieutenant-colonel--to be sure that's good.
So to secure the good the gods provide us, go you this minute, dress,
and away to your fair Indian! I'll undertake the business with the
general."

"But a fortnight, my dear father," said John, looking into the glass:
"how can that be?"

"Look again, and tell me how it can _not_ be? Pray don't put that
difficulty into Miss Petcalf's head--into her heart I am sure it would
never come."

John yielded his shoulder to the push his father gave him towards the
door, but suddenly turning back, "Zounds! father, a fortnight!" he
exclaimed: "why there won't be time to buy even boots!"

"And what are even boots," replied his father, "to such a man as you?
Go, go, man; your legs are better than all the boots in the world."

Flattery can find her way to soothe the dullest, coldest ear _alive_.
John looked in the glass again--dressed--and went to flatter Miss
Petcalf. The proposal was graciously accepted, for the commissioner
stated, as he was permitted in confidence to the general, that his son
was under the special patronage of Lord Oldborough, who would make him
a lieutenant-colonel in two years. The general, who looked only for
connexion and genteel family, was satisfied. The young lady started at
the first mention of an _early day_; but there was an absolute necessity
for pressing that point, since the young officer was ordered to go
abroad in a fortnight, and could not bear to leave England without
completing his union with Miss Petcalf. These reasons, as no other were
to be had, proved sufficient with father and daughter.

John was presented with a captain's commission. He, before the end of
the fortnight, looked again and again in the glass to take leave of
himself, hung up his flute, and--was married. The bride and bridegroom
were presented to Lord and Lady Oldborough, and went immediately abroad.

Thus the forms of homage and the rights of vassalage are altered;
the competition for favour having succeeded to the dependence for
protection, the feudal lord of ancient times could ill compete in power
with the influence of the modern political patron.

Pending the negotiation of this marriage, and during the whole of this
eventful fortnight, Cunningham Falconer had been in the utmost anxiety
that can be conceived--not for a brother's interests, but for his own:
his own advancement he judged would depend upon the result, and he could
not rest day or night till the marriage was happily completed--though,
at the same time, he secretly cursed all the loves and marriages, which
had drawn Lord Oldborough's attention away from that embassy on which
his own heart was fixed.

Buckhurst, the while, though not admitted behind the scenes, said he was
sufficiently amused by what he saw on the stage, enjoyed the comedy of
the whole, and pretty well made out for himself the double plot. The
confidante, Miss Falconer, played her part to admiration, and prevailed
on Miss Hauton to appear on the appointed day in the character of a
_reasonable woman_; and accordingly she suffered herself to be led, in
fashionable style, to the hymeneal altar by the Marquis of Twickenham.
This dénouement satisfied Lord Oldborough.



CHAPTER X.


The day after his niece's marriage was happily effected, Lord Oldborough
said to his secretary, "Now, Mr. Cunningham Falconer, I have leisure to
turn my mind again to the Tourville papers."

"I was in hopes, my lord," said the secretary (_se composant le
visage_), "I was in hopes that this happy alliance, which secures the
Duke of Greenwich, would have put your lordship's mind completely at
ease, and that you would not have felt it necessary to examine farther
into that mystery."

"Weak men never foresee adversity during prosperity, nor prosperity
during adversity," replied Lord Oldborough. "His majesty has decided
immediately to recall his present envoy at that German court; a new one
will be sent, and the choice of that envoy his majesty is graciously
pleased to leave to me.--You are a very young man, Mr. Cunningham
Falconer, but you have given me such _written_ irrefragable proofs of
your ability and information, that I have no scruple in recommending you
to his majesty as a person to whom his interests may be intrusted, and
the zeal and attachment your family have shown me in actions, not in
words only, have convinced me that I cannot choose better for my private
affairs. Therefore, if the appointment be agreeable to you, you cannot
too soon make what preparations may be necessary."

Cunningham, delighted, made his acknowledgments and thanks for the
honour and the favour conferred upon him with all the eloquence in his
power.

"I endeavour not to do any thing hastily, Mr. Cunningham Falconer," said
his lordship. "I frankly tell you, that I was not at first prepossessed
in your favour, nor did I feel inclined to do more for you than that
to which I had been induced by peculiar circumstances. Under this
prepossession, I perhaps did not for some time do justice to your
talents; but I should be without judgment or without candour, if I did
not feel and acknowledge the merit of the performance which I hold in my
hand."

The performance was a pamphlet in support of Lord Oldborough's
administration, published in Cunningham's name, but the greater part of
it was written by his good genius in the garret.

"On _this_," said Lord Oldborough, putting his hand upon it as it lay
on the table, "on _this_ found your just title, sir, to my esteem and
confidence."

Would not the truth have burst from any man of common generosity,
honour, or honesty?--Would not a man who had any feeling, conscience,
or shame, supposing he could have resolved to keep his secret, at this
instant, have been ready to sink into the earth with confusion, under
this unmerited praise?--In availing himself falsely of a title to esteem
and confidence, then fraudulently of another's talents to obtain favour,
honour, and emolument, would not a blush, or silence, some awkwardness,
or some hesitation, have betrayed him to eyes far less penetrating than
those of Lord Oldborough? Yet nothing of this was felt by Cunningham:
he made, with a good grace, all the disqualifying speeches of a modest
author, repeated his thanks and assurances of grateful attachment,
and retired triumphant.--It must be acknowledged that he was fit for a
diplomatist. His credentials were forthwith made out in form, and his
instructions, public and private, furnished. No expense was spared
in fitting him out for his embassy--his preparations made, his suite
appointed, his liveries finished, his carriage at the door, he departed
in grand style; and all Commissioner Falconer's friends, of which,
at this time, he could not fail to have many, poured in with
congratulations on the rapid advancement of his sons, and on all sides
exclamations were heard in favour of _friends in power_.

"True--very true, indeed. And see what it is," said Commissioner
Falconer, turning to Buckhurst, "see what it is to have a son so
perverse, that he will not make use of a good friend when he has one,
and who will not accept the promise of an excellent living when he can
get it!"

All his friends and acquaintance now joining in one chorus told
Buckhurst, in courtly terms, that he was a fool, and Buckhurst began to
think they must be right.--"For here," said he to himself, "are my two
precious brothers finely provided for, one an envoy, the other a major
_in esse_, and a lieutenant-colonel _in posse_--and I, _in esse_ and _in
posse_, what?--Nothing but a good fellow--one day with the four in hand
club, the next in my chambers, studying the law, by which I shall never
make a penny. And there's Miss Caroline Percy, who has declined the
honour of my hand, no doubt, merely because I have indulged a little in
good company, instead of immuring myself with Coke and Blackstone,
Viner and Saunders, Bosanquet and Puller, or chaining myself to a
special-pleader's desk, like cousin Alfred, that galley-slave of the
law!--No, no, I'll not make a galley-slave of myself. Besides, at my
mother's, in all that set, and in the higher circles with Hauton and the
Clays, and those people, whenever I appear in the character of a poor
barrister, I am scouted--should never have _got on_ at all, but for my
being a wit--a wit!--and have not I wit enough to make my fortune? As
my father says, What hinders me?--My conscience only. And why should my
conscience be so cursedly delicate, so unlike other men's consciences?"

In this humour, Buckhurst was easily persuaded by his father to take
orders. The paralytic incumbent of Chipping-Friars had just at this time
another stroke of the palsy, on which Colonel Hauton congratulated the
young deacon; and, to keep him in patience while waiting for the third
stroke, made him chaplain to his regiment.--The Clays also introduced
him to their uncle, Bishop Clay, who had, as they told him, taken a
prodigious fancy to him; for he observed, that in carving a partridge,
Buckhurst never touched the wing with a knife, but after nicking the
joint, tore it off, so as to leave adhering to the bone that muscle
obnoxious to all good eaters.--The bishop pronounced him to be "a
capital carver."

Fortune at this time threw into Buckhurst's hands unasked, unlooked-for,
and in the oddest way imaginable, a gift of no small value in itself,
and an earnest of her future favours. At some high festival, Buckhurst
was invited to dine with the bishop. Now Bishop Clay was a rubicund,
full-blown, short-necked prelate, with the fear of apoplexy continually
before him, except when dinner was on the table; and at this time a
dinner was on the table, rich with every dainty of the season, that
earth, air, and sea, could provide. Grace being first said by the
chaplain, the bishop sat down "_richly to enjoy_;" but it happened in
the first onset, that a morsel too large for his lordship's swallow
stuck in his throat. The bishop grew crimson--purple--black in the face;
the chaplain started up, and untied his neckcloth. The guests crowded
round, one offering water, another advising bread, another calling for a
raw egg, another thumping his lordship on the back. Buckhurst Falconer,
with more presence of mind than was shown by any other person, saved his
patron's life. He blew with force in the bishop's ear, and thus produced
such a salutary convulsion in the throat, as relieved his lordship from
the danger of suffocation [Footnote: Some learned persons assert that
this could not have happened. We can only aver that it did happen.
The assertions against the possibility of the fact remind us of the
physician in Zadig, who, as the fable tells us, wrote a book to prove
that Zadig should have gone blind, though he had actually recovered the
use of his eye.--Zadig never read the book.]. The bishop, recovering his
breath and vital functions, sat up, restored to life and dinner--he ate
again, and drank to Mr. Buckhurst Falconer's health, with thanks for
this good service to the church, to which he prophesied the reverend
young gentleman would, in good time, prove an honour. And that he might
be, in some measure, the means of accomplishing his own prophecy, Bishop
Clay did, before he slept, which was immediately after dinner, present
Mr. Buckhurst Falconer with a living worth 400_l._ a year; a living
which had not fallen into the bishop's gift above half a day, and which,
as there were six worthy clergymen in waiting for it, would necessarily
have been disposed of the next morning.

"Oh! star of patronage, shine ever thus upon the Falconers!" cried
Buckhurst, when, elevated with wine in honour of the church, he gave an
account to his father at night of the success of the day.--"Oh! thou,
whose influence has, for us, arrested Fortune at the top of her wheel,
be ever thus propitious!--Only make me a dean. Have you not made my
brother, the dunce, a colonel? and my brother, the knave, an envoy?--I
only pray to be a dean--I ask not yet to be a bishop--you see I have
some conscience left."

"True," said his father, laughing. "Now go to bed, Buckhurst; you may,
for your fortune is up."

"Ha! my good cousin Percys, where are you now?--Education, merit, male
and female, where are you now?--Planting cabbages, and presiding at a
day-school: one son plodding in a pleader's office--another cast in an
election for an hospital physician--a third encountering a plague in the
West Indies. I give you joy!"

No wonder the commissioner exulted, for he had not only provided
thus rapidly for his sons, but he had besides happy expectations
for himself.--With Lord Oldborough he was now in higher favour and
confidence than he had ever hoped to be. Lord Oldborough, who was a
man little prone to promise, and who always did more than he said, had,
since the marriage of his niece, thrown out a hint that he was aware of
the expense it must have been to Commissioner and Mrs. Falconer to give
entertainments continually, and to keep open house, as they had done
this winter, for his political friends--no instance of zeal in his
majesty's service, his lordship said, he hoped was ever lost upon him,
and, if he continued in power, he trusted he should find occasion to
show his gratitude. This from another minister might mean nothing but to
pay with words; from Lord Oldborough the commissioner justly deemed it
as good as a promissory note for a lucrative place. Accordingly he
put it in circulation directly among his creditors, and he no longer
trembled at the expense at which he had lived and was living. Both Mrs.
Falconer and he had ever considered a good cook, and an agreeable house,
as indispensably necessary to those who would rise in the world; and
they laid it down as a maxim, that, if people wished to grow rich,
they must begin by appearing so. Upon this plan every thing in their
establishment, table, servants, equipage, dress, were far more splendid
than their fortune could afford. The immediate gratification which
resulted from this display, combining with their maxims of policy,
encouraged the whole family to continue this desperate game. Whenever
the timidity of the commissioner had started; when, pressed by his
creditors, he had backed, and had wished to stop in this course of
extravagance; his lady, of a more intrepid character, urged him forward,
pleading that he had gone too far to recede--that the poorer they were,
the more necessary to keep up the brilliant appearance of affluence. How
else could her daughters, after all the sums that had been risked upon
them, hope to be advantageously established? How otherwise could they
preserve what her friend Lady Jane Granville so justly styled the
patronage of fashion?

When success proved Mrs. Falconer to be right, "Now, Commissioner
Falconer! Now!" How she triumphed, and how she talked! Her sons all in
such favour--her daughters in such fashion! No party without the Miss
Falconers!--Miss Falconers must sing--Miss Falconers must play--Miss
Falconers must dance, or no lady of a house could feel herself happy,
or could think she had done her duty--no piano, no harp could draw such
crowds as the Miss Falconers. It was the ambition among the fashionable
men to dance with the Miss Falconers, to flirt with the Miss Falconers.
"Not merely flirting, ma'am," as Mrs. Falconer said, and took proper
pains should be heard, "but several serious proposals from very
respectable quarters:" however, none _yet_ exactly what she could
resolve to accept for the girls--she looked high for them, she
owned--she thought she had a right to look high. Girls in fashion should
not take the first offers--they should hold up their heads: why should
they not aspire to rank, why not to title, as well as to fortune?

Poor Petcalf! General Petcalf's son had been for some time, as it was
well known, desperately in love with Miss Georgiana Falconer; but
what chance had he now? However, he was to be _managed_: he was useful
sometimes, as a partner, "to whom one may say one is engaged when a
person one does not choose to dance with asks for the honour of one's
hand--useful sometimes to turn over the leaves of the music-book--useful
always as an attendant in public places--useful, in short, to be
exhibited as a captive; for one captive leads to another conquest." And
Miss Arabella Falconer, too, could boast her conquests, though nobody
merely by looking at her would have guessed it: but she was a striking
exemplification of the truth of Lady Jane Granville's maxim, that
fashion, like Venus's girdle, can beautify any girl, let her be ever so
ugly.

And now the Falconer family having risen and succeeded beyond their most
sanguine hopes by a combination of lucky circumstances, and by adherence
to their favourite system, we leave them fortified in their principles,
and at the height of prosperity.



CHAPTER XI.


Fortune, as if she had been piqued by Mr. Percy's disdain, and jealous
of his professed reliance upon the superior power of her rival,
Prudence, seemed now determined to humble him and all his family, to try
if she could not force him to make some of the customary sacrifices of
principle to propitiate her favour.

Unsuspicious of the designs that were carrying forward against him in
secret, Mr. Percy had quite forgotten his fears that his wicked relation
Sir Robert Percy, and Solicitor Sharpe, might take advantage of the loss
of that deed which had never been found since the night of the fire at
Percy-hall. It was nearly two years afterwards that Mr. Percy received
a letter from his cousin, Sir Robert, informing him that he had been
advised to dispute the title to the Percy estate, that he had the
opinion of the first lawyers in England in his favour, and that he had
given directions to his solicitor, Mr. Sharpe, to commence a suit to
reinstate the lawful heir in the property of his ancestors.--Sir Robert
Percy added something about his reluctance to go to law, and a vast
deal about candour, justice, and family friendship, which it would be
needless and unreasonable to repeat.

Fresh search was now made for the lost deed, but in vain; and in vain
Rosamond reproached herself with having betrayed the secret of that loss
to the revengeful attorney.--The ensuing post brought notice from Mr.
Sharpe that proceedings were commenced.--In Sir Robert's letter, though
not in the attorney's, there was obviously left an opening for an offer
to compromise; this was done either with intent to lure Mr. Percy on to
make an offer, which might afterwards appear against him, or it was done
in the hope that, intimidated by the fear of an expensive and hazardous
suit, Mr. Percy might give up half his estate, to secure the quiet
possession of the remainder. But they knew little of Mr. Percy who
argued in this manner: he was neither to be lured nor intimidated from
his right--all compromise, "all terms of commerce he disdained." He sent
no answer, but prepared to make a vigorous defence. For this purpose he
wrote to his son Alfred, desiring him to spare no pains or expense,
to engage the best counsel, and to put them in full possession of the
cause. Alfred regretted that he was not of sufficient standing at the
bar to take the lead in conducting his father's cause: he, however,
prepared all the documents with great care and ability. From time to
time, as the business went on, he wrote to his father in good spirits,
saying that he had excellent hopes they should succeed, notwithstanding
the unfortunate loss of the deed; that the more he considered the case,
the more clearly the justice of their cause and the solidity of their
right appeared. Alas! Alfred showed himself to be but a young lawyer,
in depending so much upon right and justice, while a point of law
was against him. It is unnecessary, and would be equally tedious and
unintelligible to most readers, to dwell upon the details of this suit.
Contrary to the usual complaints of the law's delay, this cause went
through the courts in a short time, because Mr. Percy did not make use
of any subterfuge to protract the business. A decree was given in favour
of Sir Robert Percy, and he became the legal possessor of the great
Percy estate in Hampshire, which had been so long the object of his
machinations.

Thus, at one stroke, the Percy family fell from the station and
affluence which they had so long, and, in the opinion of all who knew
them, so well enjoyed. Great was the regret among the higher classes,
and great, indeed, the lamentations of the poor in the neighbourhood,
when the decree was made known. It seemed as if the change in their
situation was deplored as a general misfortune, and as if it were felt
by all more than by the sufferers themselves, who were never seen to
give way to weak complaints, or heard to utter an invective against
their adversary. This magnanimity increased the public sympathy, and
pity for them was soon converted into indignation against Sir Robert
Percy. Naturally insolent, and now elated with success, he wrote post
after post to express his impatience to come and take possession of his
estate, and to hasten the departure of his relations from the family
seat. This was as cruel as it was unnecessary, for from the moment when
they learnt the event of the trial, they had been occupied with the
preparations for their departure; for the resignation of all the
conveniences and luxuries they possessed, all the pleasures associated
with the idea of home; for parting with all the animate and inanimate
objects to which they had long and early habits of affection and
attachment. This family had never been proud in prosperity, nor were
they abject in adversity: they submitted with fortitude to their fate;
yet they could not, without regret, leave the place where they had spent
so many happy years.

It had been settled that the improvements which Mr. Percy had made on
the estate, the expense of the buildings and furniture at Percy-hall, of
which a valuation had been made, should be taken in lieu of all arrears
of rent to which Sir Robert might lay claim. In consequence of this
award, Mr. Percy and his family were anxious to leave every thing about
the house and place in perfect order, that they might fulfil punctually
their part of the agreement. The evening before they were to quit
Percy-hall, they went into every room, to take a review of the whole.
The house was peculiarly convenient and well arranged. Mr. Percy had
spared nothing to render it in every respect agreeable, not only to his
guests, but to his family, to make his children happy in their home. His
daughters' apartments he had fitted up for them in the neatest manner,
and they had taken pleasure in ornamenting them with their own work and
drawings. They felt very melancholy the evening they were to take leave
of these for ever. They took down some of their drawings, and all the
little trophies preserved from childhood, memorials of early ingenuity
or taste, which could be of no use or value to any one except to
themselves; every thing else they agreed to leave as usual, to show how
kind their father had been to them--a sentiment well suited to their
good and innocent minds. They opened their writing-tables and their
drawing-boxes for the last time; for the last time they put fresh
flowers into their flower-pots, and, with a sigh, left their little
apartments.

All the family then went out to walk in the park and through the
shrubberies. It was a delightful summer's evening; the birds were
singing--"Caring little," as Rosamond said, "for our going away." The
sun was just setting, and they thought they had never seen the place
look so beautiful. Indeed Mr. and Mrs. Percy had, for many years,
delighted in cultivating the natural beauties of this picturesque
situation, and their improvements were now beginning to appear to
advantage. But they were never to enjoy the success of their labours!
The old steward followed the family in this walk. He stopped every now
and then to deplore over each fine tree or shrub as they passed, and
could scarcely refrain from bursting into invectives against _him_ that
was coming after them into possession.

"The whole country cries shame upon the villain," John began; but Mr.
Percy, with a smile, stopped him.

"Let us bear our misfortunes, John, with a good grace; let us be
thankful for the happiness which we have enjoyed, and submit
ourselves to the will of Providence. Without any hypocrisy or affected
resignation, I say, at this instant, what with my whole heart I feel,
that I submit, without repining, to the will of God, and firmly believe
that all is for the best."

"And so I strive to do," said John. "But only, I say, if it had pleased
God to order it otherwise, it's a pity the wicked should come _just_
after us to enjoy themselves, when they have robbed us of all."

"Not of all," said Mr. Percy.

"What is it they have not robbed us of?" cried John: "not a thing but
they must have from us."

"No; the best of all things we keep for ourselves--it cannot be taken
from us--a good conscience."

"Worth all the rest--that's true," said John; "and that is what he will
never have who is coming here to-morrow--never--never! They say he don't
sleep at nights. But I'll say no more about him, only--he's not a good
man."

"I am sure, John, you are not a good courtier," said Mrs. Percy,
smiling: "you ought to prepare to pay your court to your new master."

"_My_ new master!" cried John, growing red: "the longest day ever I
live, I'll never have a new master! All that I have in the world came
from you, and I'll never have another master. Sure you will let me
follow you? I will be no trouble: though but little, may be I can do
something still. Surely, madam--surely, sir--young ladies, you'll speak
for me--I shall be let to follow the fortunes of the family, and go
along with you into _banishment_."

"My good John," said Mr. Percy, "since you desire to follow us into
_banishment_, as you call it, you shall; and as long as we have any
thing upon earth, you shall never want. You must stay here to-morrow,
after we are gone, to give up possession." (John could not stand
this, but turned away to hide his face.) "When your business is done,"
continued Mr. Percy, "you may set out and follow us as soon as you
please."

"I thank you, sir, kindly," said John, with a most grateful bow, that
took in all the family, "that's new life to me."

He said not a word more during the rest of the walk, except just as he
passed near the beach where the ship was wrecked, he exclaimed, "There
was the first beginning of all our misfortune: who would have thought
that when we gave them shelter we should be turned out so soon
ourselves? 'twas that drunken rascal of a Dutch carpenter was the cause
of all!"

The next morning the whole family set out in an open carriage, which
had been made for the purpose of carrying as many of the young people
as possible upon excursions of pleasure. It was a large sociable, which
they used to call their _caravan_.

At the great gate of the park old John stopped the carriage, and leaning
over to his master, whispered, "I beg your pardon, sir, but God bless
you, and don't drive through the village: if you please, take the back
road; for I've just learned that _he_ is on the great road, and as
near hand as the turn at the school-house, and they say he wants to be
driving in his coach and four through the village as you are all going
out--now I wouldn't for any thing he had that triumph over us."

"Thank you, good John," said Mr. Percy, "but such triumphs cannot
mortify us."

Poor John reluctantly opened the gate and let the carriage pass--they
drove on--they cast a lingering look behind as they quitted the park--

  --"Must I then leave thee, Paradise?"--

As they passed through the village the poor people came out of their
houses to take leave of their excellent landlord; they flocked round the
carriage, and hung upon it till it stopped, and then, with one voice,
they poured forth praises, and blessings, and prayers for better days.
Just at this moment Sir Robert Percy made his appearance. His equipage
was splendid; his coachman drove his four fine horses down the street,
the middle of which was cleared in an instant. The crowd gazed at the
show as it passed--Sir Robert gave a signal to his coachman to drive
slower, that he might longer enjoy the triumph--he put his head out of
the coach window, but no one cried, "God bless him!" His insolence was
obviously mortified as he passed the Percy family, for Mr. Percy bowed
with an air of dignity and cheerfulness which seemed to say, "My fortune
is yours--but I am still myself." Some of the spectators clapped their
hands, and some wept.

Mr. Percy seemed to have prepared his mind for every circumstance of
his departure, and to be perfectly composed, or at least master of his
feelings; but a small incident, which had not been foreseen, suddenly
moved him almost to tears: as they crossed the bridge, which was at the
farthest end of the village, they heard the muffled bells of the church
toll as if for a public calamity [Footnote: On Mr. Morris's departure
from Piercefield the same circumstance happened.]. Instantly
recollecting the resentment to which these poor people were exposing
themselves, by this mark of their affection and regret, Mr. Percy went
by a short path to the church as quickly as possible, and had the bells
unmuffled.



CHAPTER XII.


Mr. Percy fortunately possessed, independently of the Percy estate, a
farm worth about seven or eight hundred a year, which he had purchased
with part of his wife's fortune; on which he had built a lodge, that he
had intended for the future residence of one of his sons. _The Hills_
was the name of this lodge, to which all the family now retired.
Though it was in the same county with Percy-hall, Clermont-park,
Falconer-court, Hungerford-castle, and within reach of several other
gentlemen's seats, yet from its being in a hilly part of the country,
through which no regular road had been made, it was little frequented,
and gave the idea not only of complete retirement, but of remoteness.
Though a lonely situation, it was, however, a beautiful one. The house
stood on the brow of a hill, and looked into a deep glen, through the
steep descent of which ran a clear and copious rivulet rolling over
a stony bed; the rocks were covered with mountain flowers, and wild
shrubs--But nothing is more tiresome than a picture in prose: we shall,
therefore, beg our readers to recall to their imagination some of the
views they may have seen in Wales, and they will probably have a better
idea of this place than any that we could give by the most laboured
description, amplified with all the epithets in the English language.

The house at the Hills, though finished, was yet but scantily furnished,
and was so small that it could hardly hold the family, who were now
obliged to take refuge in it. However, they were well disposed to
accommodate each other: they had habits of order, and had so little
accustomed themselves to be waited upon, that this sudden change in
their fortune and way of life did not appear terrible, as it would
to many in the same rank. Undoubtedly they felt the loss of real
conveniences, but they were not tormented with ideal wants, or with the
pangs of mortified vanity. Evils they had to bear, but they were not the
most dreadful of all evils--those of the imagination.

Mr. Percy, to whom his whole family looked for counsel and support, now
showed all the energy and decision of his character. What he knew must
be done sooner or later he did decidedly at first. The superfluities
to which his family had been accustomed, were instantly abandoned.
The great torment of decayed gentry is the remembrance of their former
station, and a weak desire still to appear what their fortune no longer
allows them to be. This folly Mr. Percy had not to combat in his family,
where all were eager to resign even more of their own comforts than the
occasion required. It was the object now for the family who were at home
to live as frugally as possible, that they might save as much of their
small income as they could, to assist and forward the sons in their
professions.

The eldest son, Godfrey, could not yet have heard of the change in his
father's fortune, and in his own expectations; but from a passage in his
last letter, it was evident that he had some idea of the possibility of
such a reverse, and that he was preparing himself to live with
economy. From Alfred and Erasmus Mr. Percy had at this trying time
the satisfaction of receiving at once the kindest and the most manly
letters, containing strong expressions of gratitude to their father
for having given them such an education as would enable them,
notwithstanding the loss of hereditary fortune, to become independent
and respectable. What would have been the difference of their fate and
of their feelings, had they been suffered to grow up into mere idle
lounging gentlemen, or four-in-hand coachmen! In different words, but
with the same spirit, both brothers declared that this change in the
circumstances of their family did not depress their minds, but, on the
contrary, gave them new and powerful motives for exertion. It seemed
to be the first wish of their souls to fulfil the fond hopes and
predictions of their father, and to make some return for the care their
parents had taken of their education.

Their father, pleased by the sanguine hopes and ardent spirit expressed
in their letters, was, however, sensible that a considerable time must
elapse before they could make any thing by law or medicine. They were
as yet only in the outset of their professions, the difficult beginning,
when men must toil often without reward, be subject to crosses and
losses, and rebukes and rebuffs, when their rivals push them back, and
when they want the assistance of friends to help them forward, whilst
with scarcely the means to live they must appear like gentlemen.

Besides the faithful steward, two servants, who were much attached to
the family, accompanied them to their retirement. One was Mrs. Harte,
who had lived with Mrs. Percy above thirty years; and who, from being
a housekeeper with handsome wages and plenary power over a numerous
household at Percy-hall, now served with increased zeal at the Hills,
doing a great part of the work of the house herself, with the assistance
only of a stout country girl newly hired, whose awkwardness and
ignorance, or, as Mrs. Harte expressed it, whose _comical_ ways, she
bore with a patience that cost her more than all the rest. The other
servant who followed the altered fortunes of the Percy family was a
young man of the name of Johnson, whom Mr. Percy had bred up from a boy,
and who was so creditable a servant that he could readily have obtained
a place with high wages in any opulent family, either in the country
or in London; but he chose to abide by his master, who could now only
afford to give him very little. Indeed, Mr. Percy would not have kept
any man-servant in his present circumstances, but out of regard for this
young man, who seemed miserable at the thoughts of leaving him, and who
undertook to make himself useful in the farm as well as in the house.

Very different was Johnson from the present race of _fine_ town
servants, who follow with no unequal steps the follies and vices of
their _betters_; and who, by their insolence and extravagance, become
the just torments of their masters. Very different was Johnson from some
country servants, who with gross selfishness look solely to their own
eating and drinking, and whose only thought is how to swallow as much
and do as little as possible.

As soon as he had settled his home, Mr. Percy looked abroad to a tract
of improveable ground, on which he might employ his agricultural skill.
He had reason to rejoice in having really led the life of a country
gentleman. He understood country business, and he was ably assisted in
all the details of farming and management. Never, in the most prosperous
days, did the old steward seem so fully interested in his master's
affairs, so punctual and active in executing his commands, and, above
all, so respectful in his manner to his master, as now in his fallen
fortunes.

It would be uninteresting to readers who are not farmers to enter into
a detail of Mr. Percy's probable improvements. It is enough to say, that
his hopes were founded upon experience, and that he was a man capable of
calculating. He had been long in the habit of keeping accurate accounts,
not such as gentlemen display when they are pleased to prove that their
farm, produces more than ever farm produced before. All the tradesmen
with whom he had dealt were, notwithstanding his change of fortune,
ready to trust him; and those who were strangers, finding themselves
regularly paid, soon acquired confidence in his punctuality. So that,
far from being terrified at having so little, he felt surprised at
having still so much money at his command.--The enjoyment of high credit
must surely give more pleasurable feelings than the mere possession of
wealth.

Often, during the first year after he had been deprived of the Percy
estate, Mr. Percy declared, that, as to himself, he had actually lost
nothing; for he had never been expensive or luxurious, his personal
enjoyments were nearly the same, and his active pursuits were not very
different from what they had always been. He had, it is true, less time
than he wished to give to literature, or to indulge in the company
and conversation of his wife and daughters; but even the pain of this
privation was compensated by the pleasure he felt in observing the
excellences in their characters which adversity developed.--It has by
some persons been thought, that women who have been suffered to acquire
literary tastes, whose understandings have been cultivated and refined,
are apt to disdain or to become unfit for the useful minutiæ of domestic
duties. In the education of her daughters Mrs. Percy had guarded against
this danger, and she now experienced the happy effects of her prudence.
At first they had felt it somewhat irksome, in their change of
circumstances, to be forced to spend a considerable portion of their
time in preparations for the mere business of living, but they perceived
that this constraint gave a new spring to their minds, and a higher
relish to their favourite employments. After the domestic business of
the day was done, they enjoyed, with fresh delight, the pleasures of
which it is not in the power of fortune to deprive us.

Soon after the family were settled at the Hills, they were surprised by
a visit from Commissioner Falconer--_surprised_, because, though they
knew that he had a certain degree of commonplace friendship for them as
relations, yet they were aware that his regard was not independent of
fortune, and they had never supposed that he would come to seek them in
their retirement. After some general expressions of condolence on their
losses, their change of situation, and the inconveniences to which a
large family, bred up, as they had been, in affluence, must suffer in
their present abode, he went out to walk with Mr. Percy, and he then
began to talk over his own family affairs. With polite acknowledgment to
Mr. Percy of the advantage he had derived from his introduction to Lord
Oldborough, and with modestly implied compliments to his own address in
turning that introduction to the best possible account, Mr. Falconer led
to the subject on which he wanted to dilate.

"You see, my dear Mr. Percy," said he, "without vanity I may now venture
to say, my plans for advancing my family have all succeeded; my sons
have risen in the world, or rather have been pushed up, beyond my most
sanguine hopes."

"I give you joy with all my heart," said Mr. Percy.

"But, my good sir, listen to me; your sons might have been in as
advantageous situations, if you had not been too proud to benefit by the
evidently favourable dispositions which Lord Oldborough shewed towards
you and yours."

"Too proud! No, my friend, I assure you, pride never influenced my
conduct--I acted from principle."

"So you are pleased to call it.--But we will not go back to the past--no
man likes to acknowledge he has been wrong. Let us, if you please, look
to the future. You know that you are now in a different situation from
what you were formerly, when you could afford to follow your principles
or your systems. Now, my dear sir, give me leave to tell you that it is
your duty, absolutely your duty, to make use of your interest for your
sons. There is not a man in England, who, if he chose it, might secure
for his sons a better patron than you could."

"I trust," replied Mr. Percy, "that I have secured for my sons what is
better than a good patron--a good education."

"Both are best," said Mr. Falconer. "Proud as you are, cousin Percy, you
must allow this, when you look round and see who rises, and how.--And
now we are by ourselves, let me ask you, frankly and seriously, why do
not you try to establish your sons by patronage?"

"Frankly and seriously, then, because I detest and despise the whole
system of patronage."

"That's very _strong_," said Mr. Falconer. "And I am glad for your sake,
and for the sake of your family, that nobody heard it but myself."

"If the whole world heard me," pursued Mr. Percy, "I should say just the
same. _Strong_--very strong!--I am glad of it; for (excuse me, you are
my relation, and we are on terms of familiarity) the delicate, guarded,
qualifying, trimming, mincing, pouncet-box, gentleman-usher mode of
speaking truth, makes no sort of impression. Truth should always be
strong--speaking or acting."

"Well, well, I beg your pardon; as strong let it be as you please, only
let it be cool, and then we cannot fail to understand one another. I
think you were going to explain to me why you detest and despise what
you call the system of patronage."

"Because I believe it to be ruinous to my country. Whenever the honours
of professions, civil, military, or ecclesiastical, are bestowed by
favour, not earned by merit--whenever the places of trust and dignity in
a state are to be gained by intrigue and solicitation--there is an
end of generous emulation, and consequently of exertion. Talents and
integrity, in losing their reward of glory, lose their vigour, and often
their very existence. If the affairs of this nation were guided, and if
her battles were fought by the corrupt, imbecile creatures of patronage,
how would they be guided?--how fought?--Woe be to the country that
trusts to such rulers and such defenders! Woe has been to every country
that has so trusted!--May such never be the fate of England!--And that
it never may, let every honest independent Englishman set his face,
his hand, his heart against this base, this ruinous system!--I will for
one."

"For one!--alas!" said Mr. Falconer, with a sigh meant to be heard, and
a smile not intended to be seen, "what can one do in such a desperate
case?--I am afraid certain things will go on in the world for ever,
whether we benefit by them or not.--And if I grant that patronage is
sometimes a public evil, you must allow that it is often a private
benefit."

"I doubt even that," said Mr. Percy; "for those young men who are
brought up to expect patronage in any profession--But," said Mr. Percy,
checking himself, "I forgot whom I am speaking to: I don't wish to say
any thing that can hurt your feelings, especially when you are so kind
to come to see me in adversity, and when you show so much interest in my
affairs."

"Oh! pray go on, go on," said the commissioner, smiling, "you will
not hurt me, I assure you: consider I am too firm in the success of my
system to be easily offended on that point--go on!--Those young men who
are brought up to expect patronage in any profession--"

"Are apt to depend upon it too much," continued Mr. Percy, "and
consequently neglect to acquire knowledge. They know that things will
be passed over for them, and they think that they need not be assiduous,
because they are secure of being provided for, independently of their
own exertions; and if they have a turn for extravagance, they may
indulge it, because a place will set all to rights."

"And if they are provided for, and if they do get good places, are they
not well enough off?" said Mr. Falconer: "I'll answer for it, your sons
would think so."

Mr. Percy, with a look of proud humility, replied, "I am inclined to
believe that my sons would not think themselves _well off_, unless they
were distinguished by their own merit."

"To be sure," said Mr. Falconer, correcting himself; "of course I mean
that too: but a young man can never distinguish himself, you know, so
well as when his merit is raised to a conspicuous situation."

"Or disgrace himself so effectually, as when he is raised to a situation
for which he is unprepared and unfit."

The commissioner's brow clouded--some unpleasant reflection or
apprehension seemed to cross his mind. Mr. Percy had no intention
of raising any; he meant no allusion to the commissioner's sons--he
hastened to turn what he had said more decidedly upon his own.

"I have chosen for my sons, or rather they have chosen for themselves,"
continued he, "professions which are independent of influence, and
in which it could be of little use to them. Patrons can be of little
advantage to a lawyer or a physician. No judge, no attorney, can push
a lawyer up, beyond a certain point--he may rise like a rocket, but he
will fall like the stick, if he be not supported by his own inherent
powers. Where property or life is at stake, men will not compliment or
even be influenced by great recommendations--they will consult the best
lawyer, and the best physician, whoever he may be. I have endeavoured
to give my Alfred and Erasmus such an education as shall enable them
honestly to work their own way to eminence."

"A friend's helping hand is no bad thing," said Mr. Falconer, "in that
hard and slippery ascent."

"As many friends, as many helping hands, in a fair way, as you please,"
said Mr. Percy: "I by no means would inculcate the anti-social, absurd,
impossible doctrine, that young men, or any men, can or ought to be
independent of the world. Let my sons make friends for themselves, and
enjoy the advantage of mine. I object only to their becoming dependent,
wasting the best years of their lives in a miserable, debasing servitude
to patrons--to patrons, who at last may perhaps capriciously desert them
at their utmost need."

Again, without designing it, Mr. Percy wakened unpleasant recollections
in the mind of the commissioner.

"Ah! there you touch a tender string with me," said Mr. Falconer,
sighing. "I have known something of that in my life. Lord N---- and Mr.
G---- did indeed use me shamefully ill. But I was young then, and did
not choose my friends well. I know more of the world now, and have done
better for my sons--and shall do better, I trust, for myself. In the
mean time, my dear Mr. Percy, let us think of your affairs. Such a man
as you should not be lost here on a farm amongst turnips and carrots. So
Lord Oldborough says and thinks--and, in short, to come to the point at
once, I was not sounding you from idle curiosity respecting patronage,
or from any impertinent desire to interfere with your concerns; but I
come, commissioned by Lord Oldborough, to make an offer, which, I
am persuaded, whatever theoretical objections might occur," said the
commissioner, with a significant smile, "Mr. Percy is too much a man of
practical sense to reject. Lord Oldborough empowers me to say, that it
is his wish to see his government supported and strengthened by men of
Mr. Percy's talents and character; that he is persuaded that Mr. Percy
would speak well in parliament; that if Mr. Percy will join _us_,
his lordship will bring him into parliament, and give him thus an
opportunity of at once distinguishing himself, advancing his family,
repairing the injustice of fortune, and serving his country."

Commissioner Falconer made this offer with much pomposity, with the air
of a person sure that he is saying something infinitely flattering, and
at the same time with a lurking smile on his countenance, at the idea of
the ease and certainty with which this offer would induce Mr. Percy to
recant all he had said against patrons and patronage. He was curious to
hear how the philosopher would change his tone; but, to his surprise,
Mr. Percy did not alter it in the least.

He returned his respectful and grateful acknowledgments to Lord
Oldborough, but begged leave totally to decline the honour intended him;
he could not, he said, accept it consistently with his principles--he
could not go into parliament with a view to advance himself or to
provide for his family.

The commissioner interrupted to _qualify_, for he was afraid he had
spoken too broadly, and observed that what he had said was quite
confidential.

Mr. Percy understood it so, and assured him there was no danger that it
should be repeated. The commissioner was then in a state to listen again
quietly.

Mr. Percy said, that when he was rich, he had preferred domestic
happiness to ambition, therefore he had never stood for the county to
which he belonged; that now he was poor, he felt an additional reason
for keeping out of parliament, that he might not put himself in a
situation to be tempted--a situation where he must spend more than he
could afford, and could only pay his expenses by selling his conscience.

The commissioner was silent with astonishment for some moments after Mr.
Percy ceased speaking. He had always thought his good cousin a singular
man, but he had never thought him a wrongheaded fool till this moment.
At first he was somewhat vexed, for Mr. Percy's sake and for the sake of
his sons, that he refused such an offer; for the commissioner had some
of the feelings of a relation, but more of the habits of a politician,
and these last, in a few moments, reconciled him to what he thought the
ruin of his cousin's prospects in life. Mr. Falconer considered, that
if Mr. Percy were to go into parliament to join their party, and to get
near Lord Oldborough, he might become a dangerous rival. He pressed the
matter, therefore, no longer with urgency, but only just sufficient
to enable him to report to Lord Oldborough that he had executed his
commission, but had found Mr. Percy _impracticable_.



CHAPTER XIII.


However sincere the general pity and esteem for the Percy family, they
did not escape the common lot of mortality; they had their share of
blame, as well as of condolence, from their friends and acquaintance.
Some discovered that all the misfortunes of the family might have been
avoided, if they had listened to good advice; others were quite clear
that the lawsuit would have been decided in Mr. Percy's favour, if he
had employed their solicitor or their barrister; or, in short, if every
step of the suit had been directed differently.

Commissioner Falconer now joined the band of reproaching friends. He
did not blame Mr. Percy, however, for the conduct of the lawsuit, for of
that he confessed himself to be no judge, but he thought he understood
the right way of advancing a family in the world; and on this subject
he now took a higher tone than he had formerly felt himself entitled to
assume. Success gives such rights--especially over the unfortunate.
The commissioner said loudly in all companies, that he had hoped his
relation, Mr. Percy, who certainly was a man of talents, and he was
convinced well-intentioned, would not have shown himself so obstinately
attached to his peculiar opinions--especially to his strange notions of
independence, which must disgust, ultimately, friends whom it was most
the interest of his family to please; that he doubted not that the young
men of the Percy family bitterly regretted that their father would not
avail himself of the advantages of his connexions, of the favourable
dispositions, and, to his knowledge, most _condescending_ offers that
had been made to him--offers which, the commissioner said, he must term
really condescending, when he considered that Mr. Percy had never paid
the common court that was expected by a minister. Other circumstances,
too, enhanced the favour: offence had undoubtedly been given by the
ill-timed, injudicious interference of Captain Godfrey Percy about
regimental business--some Major Gascoigne--yet, notwithstanding this,
a certain person, whose steadiness in his friendships the commissioner
declared he could never sufficiently admire, had not, for the son's
errors, changed his favourable opinion or disposition towards the
father.

Mr. Falconer concluded, with a sigh, "There are some men whom the best
of friends cannot serve--and such we can only leave to their fate."

The commissioner now considering Mr. Percy as a person so obstinately
odd that it was unsafe for a rising man to have any thing more to do
with him, it was agreed in the Falconer family, that it was necessary to
let the Percys drop--gently, without making any noise. Mrs. Falconer and
her daughters having always resided in London during the winter, and
at some watering place in summer, knew scarcely any thing of the female
part of the Percy family. Mrs. Falconer had occasionally met Mrs. Percy,
but the young ladies, who had not yet been in town, she had never
seen since they were children. Mrs. Falconer now considered this as a
peculiarly fortunate circumstance, because she should not be blamed for
_cutting_ them, and should escape all the _unpleasantness_ of breaking
off an intimacy with relations.

The commissioner acceded to all his lady's observations, and easily
shook off that attachment, which he had professed for so many years,
perhaps felt, for his _good cousin Percy_--perhaps felt, we say: because
we really believe that he was attached to Mr. Percy while that gentleman
was in prosperity. There are persons who have an exclusive sympathy with
the prosperous.

There was one, however, who, in this respect, felt differently from
the rest of the family. Buckhurst Falconer, with a generous impulse of
affection and gratitude, declared that he would not desert Mr. Percy or
any of the family in adversity; he could never forget how kind they
had been to him when he was in distress. Buckhurst's resentment against
Caroline for her repeated refusals suddenly subsided; his attachment
revived with redoubled force. He protested that he loved her the better
for having lost her fortune, and he reiterated this protestation more
loudly, because his father declared it was absurd and ridiculous. The
son persisted, till the father, though not subject to make violent
resolutions, was wrought to such a pitch as to swear, that if Buckhurst
should be fool enough to think seriously of a girl who was now a beggar,
he would absolutely refuse his consent to the match, and would never
give his son a shilling.

Buckhurst immediately wrote to Caroline a passionate declaration of the
constancy and ardour of his attachment, and entreated her permission to
wait upon her immediately.

"Do not sacrifice me," said Buckhurst, "to idle niceties. That I have
many faults, I am conscious; but none, I trust, for which you ought
utterly to condemn me--none but what you can cure. I am ready to be
every thing which you approve. Give me but leave to hope. There is no
sacrifice I will not make to facilitate, to expedite our union. I have
been ordained, one living I possess, and that which Colonel Hauton has
promised me will soon come into my possession. Believe me, I was decided
to go into the church by my attachment--to my passion for you, every
scruple, every consideration gave way. As to the rest, I shall never be
deterred from following the dictates of my heart by the opposition of
ambitious parents. Caroline, do not sacrifice me to idle niceties--I
know I have the misfortune not to please your brother Alfred: to do him
justice, he has fairly told me that he does not think me worthy of _his
sister Caroline_. I forgive him, I admire him for the pride with which
he pronounces the words, _my sister Caroline_. But though she may easily
find a more faultless character, she will never find a warmer heart, or
one more truly--more ardently attached."

There was something frank, warm, and generous in this letter, which
pleased Rosamond, and which, she said, justified her good opinion of
Buckhurst. Indeed, the great merit of being ardently attached to her
sister Caroline was sufficient, in Rosamond's eyes, to cover a multitude
of sins: and the contrast between his warmth at this moment, and the
coldness of the rest of his family, struck her forcibly. Rosamond
thought that Alfred had been too severe in his judgment, and observed,
that it was in vain to look with a lantern all over the world for a
faultless character--a monster. It was quite sufficient if a woman could
find an honest man--that She was sure Buckhurst had no faults but what
love would cure.

"But love has not cured him of any yet," said Caroline.

"Try marriage," said Rosamond, laughing.

Caroline shook her head. "Consider at what expense that trial must be
made."

At the first reading of Buckhurst's letter Caroline had been pleased
with it; but on a second perusal, she was dissatisfied with the passage
about his parents, nor could she approve of his giving up what he now
called his _scruples_, to obtain a competence for the woman he professed
to adore. She knew that he had been leading a dissipated life in town;
that he must, therefore, be less fit than he formerly was to make a good
husband, and still less likely to make a respectable clergyman. He had
some right feeling, but no steady principle, as Caroline observed. She
was grateful for the constancy of his attachment, and for the generosity
he showed in his whole conduct towards her; nor was she insensible to
the urgency with which Rosamond pleaded in his favour: but she was firm
in her own judgment; and her refusal, though expressed in the terms that
could best soften the pain it must give, was as decided as possible.

Soon after her letter had been sent, she and Rosamond had taken a longer
walk one evening than usual, and, eager in conversation, went on so far
in this wild unfrequented part of the country, that when they saw the
sun setting, they began to fear they should not reach home before it was
dark. They wished to find a shorter way than that by which they went,
and they looked about in hopes of seeing some labourer (some _swinked
hedger_) returning from his work, or a cottage where they could meet
with a guide.--But there was no person or house within sight. At last
Caroline, who had climbed upon a high bank in the lane where they were
walking, saw a smoke rising between some trees at a little distance; and
toward this spot they made their way through another lane, the entrance
to which had been stopped up with furze bushes. They soon came within
sight of a poor-looking cottage, and saw a young woman walking very
slowly with a child in her arms. She was going towards the house, and
did not perceive the young ladies till they were close to her. She
turned suddenly when they spoke--started--looked frightened and
confused; the infant began to cry, and hushing it as well as she could,
she answered to their questions with a bewildered look, "I don't
know indeed--I can't tell--I don't know any thing, ladies--ask at the
cottage, yonder." Then she quickened her pace, and walked so fast to
the house, that they could hardly keep up with her. She pushed open
the hatch door, and called "Dorothy! Dorothy, come out." But no Dorothy
answered.--The young woman seemed at a loss what to do; and as she stood
hesitating, her face, which had at first appeared pale and emaciated,
flushed up to her temples. She looked very handsome, but in ill-health.

"Be pleased, ladies," said she, with diffidence, and trembling from
head to foot, "be pleased to sit down and rest, ladies. One will be in
directly who knows the ways--I am a stranger in these parts."

As soon as she had set the chairs, she was retiring to an inner room,
but her child, who was pleased with Caroline's face as she smiled and
nodded at him, stretched out his little hands towards her.

"Oh! let my sister give him a kiss," said Rosamond. The mother stopped,
yet appeared unwilling. The child patted Caroline's cheek, played with
her hair, and laughed aloud. Caroline offered to take the child in her
arms, but the mother held him fast, and escaped into the inner room,
where they heard her sobbing violently. Caroline and Rosamond looked
at one another in silence, and left the cottage by tacit consent, sorry
that they had given pain, and feeling that they had no right to intrude
further. "We can go home the same way that we came," said Caroline, "and
that is better than to trouble any body."

"Certainly," said Rosamond: "yet I should like to know something more
about this poor woman if I could, without--If we happened to meet
Dorothy, whoever she is."

At this instant they saw an old woman come from a copse near the
cottage, with a bundle of sticks on her back and a tin can in her hand:
this was Dorothy. She saved them all the trouble and delicacy of asking
questions, for there was not a more communicative creature breathing.
She in the first place threw down her faggots, and offered her service
to guide the young ladies home; she guessed they belonged to the family
that was newly come to settle at the Hills, which she described, though
she could not tell the name. She would not be denied the pleasure of
showing them the shortest and safest way, and the only way by which
they could get home before it was night-fall. So they accepted her kind
offer, and she trudged on, talking as she went.

"It is a weary thing, ladies, to live in this lone place, where one does
not see a soul to speak to from one month's end to another--especially
to me that has lived afore now in my younger days in Lon'on. But it's
as God pleases! and I wish none had greater troubles in this world
than I--You were up at the house, ladies? There within at my little
place--ay--then you saw the greatest and the only great trouble I have,
or ever had in this life.--Did not you, ladies, see the young woman
with the child in her arms?--But may be you did not mind Kate, and she's
nothing now to look at, quite faded and gone, though she's only one
month past nineteen years of age. I am sure I ought to know, for I was
at her christening, and nursed her mother. She's of very good parentage,
that is, of a farmer's family, that _has_, as well as his neighbours,
that lives a great way off, quite on the other side of the country. And
not a year, at least not a year and a half ago, I remember Kate Robinson
dancing on the green at Squire Burton's there with the rest of the girls
of the village, and without compare the prettiest and freshest, and most
blithsome and innocent of them all. Ay, she was innocent then, none
ever more so, and she had no care, but all looking kind upon her in this
world, and fond parents taking pride in her--and now look at her what
she is! Cast off by all, shamed, and forgotten, and broken-hearted, and
lost as much as if she was in her grave. And better she was in her grave
than as she is."

The old woman now really felt so much that she stopped speaking, and she
was silent for several minutes.

"Ah! dear ladies," said she, looking up at Rosamond and Caroline, "I see
you have kind hearts within you, and I thank you for pitying poor Kate."

"I wish we could do any thing to serve her," said Caroline.

"Ah! miss, that I am afraid you can't--that's what I am afraid none
can now." The good woman paused and looked as if she expected to be
questioned. Caroline was silent, and the old woman looked disappointed.

"We do not like to question you," said Rosamond, "lest we should ask
what you might not like to answer, or what the young woman would be
sorry that you should answer."

"Why, miss, that's very considerate in you, and only that I know it
would be for her benefit, I am sure I would not have said a word--but
here I have so very little to give her, and that little so coarse fare
to what she been used to, both when she was at service, and when she
was with her own people, that I be afraid, weak as she be grown now,
she won't do. And though I have been a good nurse in my day, I think she
wants now a bit better doctor than I be--and then if she could see the
minister, to take the weight off her heart, to make her not fret so, to
bid her look up above for comfort, and to raise her with the hope and
trust that God will have more mercy upon her than her father and mother
do have; and to make her--hardest of all!--forget him that has forsaken
her and her little one, and been so cruel--Oh! ladies, to do all that,
needs a person that can speak to her better and with more authority than
I can."

The poor woman stopped again for some minutes, and then recollecting
that she had not told what she had intended to tell, she said, "I
suppose, ladies, you guess now how it be, and I ought to beg pardon for
speaking of such a thing, or such a one, as--as poor Kate is now, to
you, young ladies; but though she is fallen so low, and an outcast, she
is not hardened; and if it had been so that it had pleased Heaven that
she had been a wife to one in her own condition--Oh! what a wife, and
what a mother there was lost in her! The man that wronged her has a deal
to answer for. But he has no thought of that, nor care for her, or his
child; but he is a fine man about London, they say, driving about with
colonels, and lords, and dancing with ladies. Oh! if they saw Kate, one
would guess they would not think so much of him: but yet, may be, they'd
think more--there's no saying how the quality ladies judge on these
matters. But this I know, that though he was very free of his money, and
generous to Kate at the first, and even for some months after he quit
the country, till I suppose he forgot her, yet he has not sent her a
guinea for self or child these four months, nor a line of a letter of
any kind, which she pined for more, and we kept thinking the letters she
did write did not get to him by the post, so we sent one by a grandson
of my own, that we knowed would put the letter safe into his hands, and
did, just as the young gentleman was, as my grandson told me, coming out
of a fine house in London, and going, with a long whip in his hand, to
get upon the coach-box of a coach, with four horses too--and he looks at
the letter, and puts it in his pocket, and calls to my boy, 'No answer
now, my good friend--but I'll write by post to her.' Those were the very
words; and then that colonel that was with him laughing and making game
like, went to snatch the letter out of the pocket, saying, 'Show us that
love-letter, Buckhurst'--Lord forgive me! what have I done now?" said
the old woman, stopping short, struck by the sudden change in the
countenance of both her auditors.

"Mr. Buckhurst Falconer is a relation of ours," said Rosamond.

"Dear ladies, how could I think you knew him even?" interrupted the old
woman. "I beg your pardon. Kate says he's not so cruel as he seems, and
that if he were here this minute, he'd be as kind and generous to her as
ever.--It's all forgetfulness just, and giddiness, she says--or, may be,
as to the money, that he has it not to spare."

"To spare!" repeated Caroline, indignantly.

"Lord love her! what a colour she has now--and what a spirit spoke
there! But, ladies, I'd be sorry to hurt the young gentleman; for Kate
would be angry at me for that worse than at any thing. And as to all
that has happened, you know it's nothing extraordinary, but what happens
every day, by all accounts; and young gentlemen, such as he be, thinks
nothing of it; and the great ladies, I know, by what I noticed when I
was in sarvice once in Lon'on myself, the great ladies thinks the better
of them for such things."

"I am not a great lady," said Caroline.

"Nor I, thank God!" said Rosamond.

"Well, for certain, if you are not great, you're good ladies," said the
old woman.

As they were now within sight of their own house, they thanked and
dismissed their loquacious but kind-hearted guide, putting into her
hand some money for poor Kate, Caroline promising to make further
inquiries--Rosamond, without restriction, promising all manner of
assistance, pecuniary, medical, and spiritual.

The result of the inquiries that were made confirmed the truth of all
that old Dorothy had related, and brought to light other circumstances
relative to the seduction and desertion of this poor girl, which so
shocked Rosamond, that in proportion to her former prepossession in
Buckhurst's favour was now her abhorrence; and as if to repair the
imprudence with which she had formerly used her influence over her
sister's mind in his favour, she now went as far on the opposite side,
abjuring him with the strongest expressions of indignation, and wishing
that Caroline's last letter had not gone to Buckhurst, that she might
have given her refusal on this special account, in the most severe and
indignant terms the English language could supply.

Mrs. Percy, however, on the contrary, rejoiced that Caroline's letter
had been sent before they knew any thing of this affair.

"But, ma'am," cried Rosamond, "surely it would have been right for
Caroline to have given this reason for her refusal, and to have declared
that this had proved to her beyond a possibility of doubt that her
former objections to Mr. Buckhurst Falconer's principles were too well
founded; and it would have become Caroline to have written with strong
indignation. I am persuaded," continued Rosamond, "that if women would
reprobate young men for such instances of profligacy and cruelty,
instead of suffering such conduct to go under the fine plausible general
names of gallantry and _wildness_, it would make a greater impression
than all the sermons that could be preached. And Caroline, who has
beauty and eloquence, _can_ do this with effect. I remember Godfrey once
said, that the peculiar characteristic of Caroline, that in which she
differed most from the common herd of young ladies, is in her power of
feeling and expressing virtuous indignation. I am sure that Godfrey,
partial as he is to Mr. Buckhurst Falconer, would think that Caroline
ought, on such an occasion, to set an example of that proper spirit,
which, superior to the fear of ridicule and fashion, dares to speak the
indignation it feels."

"Very well spoken, and better felt, my dear daughter," said Mrs. Percy.
"And Heaven forbid I should lower the tone of your mind, or your honest
indignation against vice; but, Rosamond, my dear, let us be just.--I
must do even those, whom Godfrey calls the common herd of young ladies,
the justice to believe that there are many among them who have good
feeling enough to be angry, very angry, with a lover upon _such an
occasion_--angry enough to write him a most indignant, and, perhaps,
very eloquent letter.--You may recollect more than one heroine of a
novel, who discards her lover upon such a discovery as was made by you
last night. It is a common novel incident, and, of course, from novels
every young lady, even, who might not have _felt_ without a precedent,
knows how she ought to express herself in such circumstances. But you
will observe, my dear, that both in novels and in real life, young
ladies generally like and encourage men of feeling in contradistinction
to men of principle, and too often men of gallantry in preference to
men of correct morals: in short, that such a character as that of Mr.
Buckhurst Falconer is just the kind of person with whom many women would
fall in love. By suffering this to be thought the taste of our sex,
ladies encourage libertinism in general, more than they can possibly
discourage it by the loudest display of indignation against particular
instances.--If, like your sister Caroline, young ladies would show that
they really do not prefer such men, it would do essential service. And
observe, my dear Rosamond, this can be done by every young woman with
perfect delicacy: but I do not see how she can, with propriety or good
effect, do more. It is a subject ladies cannot well discuss; a subject
upon which the manners and customs of the world are so much at variance
with religion and morality, that entering upon the discussion would lead
to greater difficulties than you are aware of. It is, therefore, best
for our sex to show their disapprobation of vice, and to prove their
sense of virtue and religion by their conduct, rather than to proclaim
it to the world in words. Had Caroline in her letter expressed her
indignation in the most severe terms that the English language could
supply, she would only have exposed herself to the ridicule of Mr.
Buckhurst Falconer's fashionable companions, as a prating, preaching
prude, without doing the least good to him, or to any one living."

Rosamond reluctantly acknowledged that perhaps her mother was right.

"But, Caroline, how quietly you sit by, while we are talking of you and
your lover!" cried Rosamond; "I do not know whether to be provoked with
you, or to admire you."

"Admire me, pray," said Caroline, "if you can."

"I do not believe you will ever be in love," said Rosamond. "I confess I
should admire, or, at least, love you better, if you had more feeling,"
added Rosamond, hastily.

"By what do you judge that I want feeling?" said Caroline, colouring
deeply, and with a look and tone that expressed her keen sense of
injustice. "What proof have I ever given you of my want of feeling?"

"No proof, that I can recollect," said Rosamond, laughing; "no proof,
but that you have never been in love."

"Is it a proof I am incapable of feeling, that I have not been in love
with one who has proved himself utterly unworthy of my esteem--against
whose conduct my sister cannot find words sufficiently severe to express
her indignation? Rosamond, my mind inclined towards him at the
first reading of his last letter; but if I had ever given him any
encouragement, if I had loved him, what would have been my misery at
this moment!"

"All! my dear, but then if you had been very miserable, I should have
pitied you so much, and loved you so heartily for being in love," said
Rosamond, still laughing--

"Oh! Rosamond," continued Caroline, whose mind was now too highly
wrought for raillery, "is love to be trifled with? No, only by trifling
minds or by rash characters, by those who do not conceive its power--its
danger. Recollect what we have just seen: a young, beautiful woman
sinking into the grave with shame--deserted by her parents--wishing her
child unborn. Do you remember her look of agony when we praised that
child? the strongest charm of nature reversed--the strongest ties
dissolved; and love brought her to this! She is only a poor servant
girl. But the highest and the fairest, those of the most cultivated
understandings, of the tenderest hearts, cannot love bring them down to
the same level--to the same fate?--And not only our weak sex, but over
the stronger sex, and the strongest of the strong, and the wisest of
the wise, what is, what has ever been the power, the delusions of that
passion, which can cast a spell over the greatest hero, throw a blot on
the brightest glory, blast in a moment a life of fame!--What must be the
power of that passion, which can inspire genius in the dullest and the
coldest, waken heroism in the most timid of creatures, exalt to the
highest point, or to the lowest degrade our nature--the bitterest curse,
or the sweetest blessing Heaven bestows on us in this life!--Oh! sister,
is love to be trifled with?"

Caroline paused, and Rosamond, for some instants, looked at her and at
her mother in silence; then exclaimed, "All this from Caroline! Are not
you astonished, mother?"

"No," said Mrs. Percy; "I was aware that this was in Caroline's mind."

"I was not," said Rosamond. "She who never spoke of love!--I little
imagined that she thought of it so highly, so seriously."

"Yes, I do think of it seriously, highly may Heaven grant!" cried
Caroline, looking fervently upwards as she spoke with an illuminated
countenance. "May Heaven grant that love be a blessing and not a curse
to me! Heaven grant that I may never, in any moment of selfish vanity,
try to excite a passion which I cannot return! Heaven grant that I never
may feel the passion of love but for one whom I shall entirely esteem,
who shall be worthy to fill my whole soul!"

"Mother," continued Caroline, turning eagerly, and seizing her mother's
hand, "my guide, my guardian, whenever you see me in any, the slightest
inclination to coquetry, warn me--as you wish to save me from that which
I should most dread, the reproaches of my own conscience--in the first,
the very first instance, reprove me, mother, if you can--with severity.
And you, my sister, my bosom friend, do not use your influence to
soften, to open my mind to love; but if ever you perceive me yielding
my heart to the first tenderness of the passion, watch over me, if the
object be not every way worthy of me, my equal, my superior.--Oh! as you
would wish to snatch me from the grave, rouse me from the delusion--save
me from disappointment, regret, remorse, which I know that I could not
bear, and live."

Her mother, into whose arms she threw herself, pressed Caroline close to
her heart, while Rosamond, to whom she had given her hand, held it fast,
and stood motionless between surprise and sympathy. Caroline, to whose
usual manners and disposition every thing theatrical or romantic was so
foreign, seemed, as soon as she recollected herself, to be ashamed of
the excessive emotion and enthusiasm she had shown; withdrawing her hand
from her sister, she turned away, and left the room.

Her mother and sister both remained silent for a considerable time,
fully occupied with their own thoughts and feelings. The mother's
reverie looked to the future prospects of her daughter;--confident in
Caroline's character, yet uncertain of her fate, she felt a pleasing yet
painful solicitude.

Rosamond's thoughts turned rather to the past than to the future:
she recollected and compared words and looks, yet found insuperable
difficulty in connecting all she had ever before known or fancied of
Caroline with what she had just seen and heard. Rosamond did not fairly
recover from her surprise, and from her look of perplexity, during a
full hour that she remained absolutely silent, poring upon a screen,
upon which she saw nothing.

She then went in search of Caroline, in hopes of renewing the
conversation; but she found her busied in some of the common affairs of
life, and apparently a different person.

Rosamond, though she made divers attempts, could not lead Caroline
back again to the same train of thought, or tone of expression. Indeed,
Rosamond did not attempt it very skilfully, but rather with the awkward
impatience of one not accustomed to use address. Caroline, intent upon
the means of assisting the poor young woman whom they had seen at the
cottage, went there again as soon as she could, to warn old Dorothy,
in the first place, to be less communicative, and not on any account to
mention to any one else the names and circumstances which she had told
them with so little reserve. Caroline next applied to Dr. Leicester, the
vicar of their former parish, a most amiable and respectable clergyman,
who had come from his vicarage, near Percy-hall, to spend what time
he could spare from his duties with his favourite parishioners; at
Caroline's request he willingly went to see this unhappy young woman,
and succeeded in his endeavours to soothe and tranquillize her mind by
speaking to her words of peace. His mild piety raised and comforted
the trembling penitent; and while all prospect of forgiveness from her
parents, or of happiness in this world, was at an end, he fixed her
thoughts on those better hopes and promises which religion only can
afford. Her health appeared suddenly to mend when her mind was more
at ease: but this was only transient, and Dr. Percy, to whom Caroline
applied for his medical opinion, gave little hopes of her recovery.
All that could be done by medicine and proper kindness to assuage her
sufferings during her decline was done in the best manner by Mrs.
Percy and her daughters, especially by Caroline: the young woman,
nevertheless, died in six weeks, and was buried without Buckhurst
Falconer's making any inquiry concerning her, probably without his
knowing of her death. A few days after she was no more, a letter came
to her from him, which was returned unopened by Dorothy, who could just
write well enough to make these words intelligible in the cover:

"SIR,

"Kate Robinson is dead--this four days--your child is with me still, and
well.--She bid me tell you, if ever you asked more concerning her--she
left you her forgiveness on her death-bed, and hopes you will be happy,
sir.--

"Your humble servant,

"DOROTHY WHITE."

A bank note of ten pounds was received by Dorothy soon afterwards for
the use of the child, and deep regret was expressed by the father for
the death of its mother. But, as Dorothy said, "that came too late to be
of any good to her."



CHAPTER XIV.


Soon after the death of poor Kate, the attention of the Percy family
was taken up by a succession of different visits; some from their old
neighbours and really affectionate friends, some from among the band of
reproaching condolers. The first we shall mention, who partook of the
nature of both these classes, was Lady Jane Granville: she was a sincere
and warm friend, but a tormenting family adviser and director.

Her ladyship was nearly related to Mr. Percy, which gave her, on this
occasion, rights of which she knew how to avail herself.

To do her justice, she was better qualified to be an adviser and
protector than many who assume a familiar tone and character.

Lady Jane Granville was of high birth and fortune, had always lived in
good company, had seen a great deal of the world, both abroad and
at home; she had a complete knowledge of all that makes people well
received in society, had generalized her observations, and had formed
them into maxims of prudence and politeness, which redounded the more to
her credit in conversation, as they were never committed to writing,
and could, therefore, never be brought to the dangerous test of being
printed and published. Her ladyship valued her own traditional wisdom,
and oral instruction, beyond any thing that can be learned from books.
She had acquired a _tact_, which, disclaiming and disdaining every
regular process of reasoning, led her with admirable certainty to right
conclusions in her own concerns, and thus, in some degree, justified the
peremptory tone she assumed in advising others.

Though by no means pleased with Mr. and Mrs. Percy's answer to several
of her letters of counsel, yet she thought it her duty, as a friend and
relation, to persevere. She invited herself to the Hills, where, with
great difficulty, through scarcely practicable cross roads, she arrived.
She was so much fatigued and exhausted, in body and mind, that during
the first evening she could talk of nothing but her hair-breadth
escapes. The next morning after breakfast, she began with, "My dear Mr.
Percy, now I have a moment's ease, I have a thousand things to say to
you. I am very much surprised that you have thought fit to settle here
quite out of the world. Will you give me leave to speak my mind freely
to you on the subject?"

"As freely as you please, my dear Lady Jane, upon any subject, if you
will only promise not to be offended, if we should not coincide in
opinion."

"Certainly, certainly; I am sure I never expect or wish any body
to submit to my opinion, though I have had opportunities of seeing
something of the world: but I assure you, that nothing but very
particular regard would induce me to offer my advice. It is a maxim
of mine, that family interference begins in ill-breeding and ends in
impertinence, and accordingly it is a thing I have ever particularly
avoided. But with a particular friend and near relation like you, my
dear Mr. Percy, I think there ought to be an exception. Now, my
dear sir, the young people have just left the room--I can take this
opportunity of speaking freely: your daughters--what will you do with
them?"

"Do with them! I beg pardon for repeating your ladyship's words, but I
don't precisely understand your question."

"Well, precise sir, then, in other words, how do you mean to dispose of
them?"

"I don't mean to dispose of them at all," said Mr. Percy.

"Then let me tell you, my good friend," said Lady Jane, with a
most prophetic tone, "let me tell you, that you will live to repent
that.--You know I have seen something of the world--you ought to bring
them forward, and make the most of their birth, family, and connexions,
put them in a way of showing their accomplishments, make proper
acquaintance, and obtain for your girls what I call the patronage of
fashion."

"Patronage!" repeated Mr. Percy: "it seems to be my doom to hear of
nothing but patronage, whichever way I turn. What! patronage for my
daughters as well as for my sons!"

"Yes," said Lady Jane, "and look to it; for your daughters will never
go on without it. Upon their first coming out, you should--" Here her
ladyship stopped short, for Caroline and Rosamond returned. "Oh! go on,
go on, let me beg of your ladyship," said Mr. Percy: "why should not my
daughters have the advantage of hearing what you are saying?"

"Well, then, I will tell them candidly that upon their first _coming
out_, it will be an inconceivable advantage, whatever you may think
of it, to have the patronage of fashion! Every day we see many an ugly
face, many a mere simpleton, many a girl who had nothing upon earth but
her dress, become quite charming, when the radiance of fashion is upon
them. And there are some people who can throw this radiance where and on
whom they please, just as easily," said Lady Jane, playing with a spoon
she held in her hand, "just as easily as I throw the sunshine now upon
this object and now upon that, now upon Caroline and now upon Rosamond.
And, observe, no eye turns upon the beauteous Caroline now, because she
is left in the shade."

It was Mr. Percy's policy to allow Lady Jane full liberty to finish all
she wished to say without interruption; for when people are interrupted,
they imagine they have much more to add. Let them go on, and they come
to the end of their sense, and even of their words, sooner than they or
you could probably expect.

"Now," continued her ladyship, "to apply to living examples; you know
Mrs. Paul Cotterel?"

"No."

"Well!--Lady Peppercorn?"

"No."

"Nor the Miss Blissets?"

"No."

"That is the misfortune of living so much out of the world!--But there
are the Falconers, we all know them at least--now look at the Miss
Falconers."

"Alas! we have not the honour of knowing even the Miss Falconers," said
Mr. Percy, "though they are our cousins."

"Is it possible that you don't know the Miss Falconers?"

"Very possible," replied Mr. Percy: "they live always in town, and we
have never seen them since they were children: except a visit or two
which passed between us just after Mrs. Falconer's marriage, we know
nothing even of her, though we are all acquainted with the commissioner,
who comes from time to time to this part of the country."

"A very clever man is the commissioner in his way," said Lady Jane, "but
nothing to his wife. I can assure you, Mrs. Falconer is particularly
well worth your knowing; for unless maternal rivalship should interfere,
I know few people in the world who could be more useful to your girls
when you _bring them out_. She has a vast deal of address. And for a
proof, as I was going to point out to you, there are the Miss Falconers
in the first circles--asked every where--yet without fortunes, and with
no pretensions beyond, or equal to, what your daughters have--not with
half Rosamond's wit and information--nothing comparable in point of
beauty and accomplishments, to Caroline; yet how they have _got on_! See
what fashion can do! Come, come, we must court her patronage--leave that
to me: I assure you I understand the ways and means."

"I have no doubt of that," said Mr. Percy. "All that your ladyship has
said is excellent sense, and incontrovertible as far as--"

"Oh! I knew you would think so: I knew we should understand one another
as soon as you had heard all I had to say."

"Excellent sense, and incontrovertible, as far as it relates to the
means, but perhaps we may not agree as to the ends; and if these are
different, you know your means, though the best adapted for gaining your
objects, may be quite useless or unfit for the attainment of mine."

"At once, then, we can't differ as to our objects, for it is my object
to see your daughters happily married; now tell me," said Lady Jane,
appealing alternately to Mr. and Mrs. Percy, "honestly tell me, is not
this your object--and yours?"

"Honestly, it is," said Mr. and Mrs. Percy.

"That's right--I knew we must agree there."

"But," said Mrs. Percy, "allow me to ask what you mean by happily
married?"

"What do I mean? Just what you mean--what every body means at the
bottom of their hearts: in the first place married to men who have some
fortune."

"What does your ladyship mean by _some_ fortune?"

"Why--you have such a strange way of not understanding! We who live in
the world must speak as the world speaks--we cannot recur continually to
a philosophical dictionary, and if we had recourse to it, we should
only be sent from _a_ to _z_, and from _z_ back again to _a_; see
_affluence_, see _competence_, see _luxury_, see _philosophy_, and
see at last that you see nothing, and that you knew as much before you
opened the book as when you shut it--which indeed is what I find to be
the case with most books I read."

Triumphant from the consciousness of having hitherto had all the wit on
her side, Lady Jane looked round, and continued: "Though I don't
pretend to draw my maxims from books, yet this much I do know, that in
matrimony, let people have ever so much sense, and merit, and love, and
all that, they must have bread and butter into the bargain, or it won't
do."

"Certainly," said Mrs. Percy: "under that head I suppose you include all
the necessaries of life."

"And some of the luxuries, if you please; for in these days luxuries are
become necessaries."

"A barouche and four, for instance?" said Mrs. Percy.

"Oh! no, no--my dear madam, I speak within bounds; you cannot expect a
barouche and four for girls who have nothing."

"I expect it as little as I wish it for them," said Mrs. Percy, smiling;
"and as little as my daughters, I believe, desire it."

"But if such a thing should offer, I presume you would not wish that
Rosamond or Caroline should refuse?"

"That depends upon _who_ offers it," said Mrs. Percy. "But whatever my
wishes might be, I should, as I believe I safely may, leave my daughters
entirely at liberty to judge and decide for themselves."

"Yes, I believe you safely may," said Lady Jane, "as long as you keep
them here. You might as well talk of leaving them at liberty in the
deserts of Arabia. You don't expect that knights and squires should come
hither in quest of your damsels?"

"Then you would have the damsels sally forth in quest of the knights and
squires?" said Mr. Percy.

"Let them sally forth at any rate," said Lady Jane, laughing; "nobody has
a right to ask in quest of what. We are not now in the times of ancient
romance, when young ladies were to sit straight-laced at their looms, or
never to stir farther than to their bower windows."

"Young ladies must now go a great deal farther," said Mr. Percy, "before
the discourteous knights will deign to take any notice of them."

"Ay, indeed, it is shameful!" said Lady Jane sighing. "I declare it is
shameful!" repeated she, indignantly. "Do you know, that last winter at
Bath the ladies were forced to ask the gentlemen to dance?"

"Forced?" said Mr. Percy.

"Yes, forced!" said Lady Jane, "or else they must have sat still all
night like so many simpletons."

"Sad alternative!" said Mr. Percy; "and what is worse, I understand that
partners for life are scarcely to be had on easier terms; at least so
I am informed by one of your excellent modern mothers, Mrs. Chatterton,
who has been leading her three _gawky_ graces about from one
watering-place to another these six years, fishing, and hunting, and
hawking for husbands. 'There now! I have carried my girls to Bath, and
to London, and to Tunbridge, and to Weymouth, and to Cheltenham, and
every where; I am sure I can do no more for them.' I assure you,"
continued Mr. Percy, "I have heard Mrs. Chatterton say these very words
in a room full of company."

"In a room full of company? Shocking!" said Lady Jane. "But then poor
Mrs. Chatterton is a fool, you know; and, what is worse, not _well
mannered_,--how should she? But I flatter myself, if you will trust me
with your daughter Caroline, we should manage matters rather better. Now
let me tell you my plan. My plan is to take Caroline with me immediately
to Tunbridge, previous to her London campaign. Nothing can be a greater
mistake than to keep a young lady _up_, and prevent her being seen
till the moment when she is to be brought out: it is of incalculable
advantage that, previously to her appearance in the great world, she
should have been seen by certain fashionable _prôneurs_. It is essential
that certain reports respecting her accomplishments and connexions
should have had time to circulate properly."

All this Mr. and Mrs. Percy acknowledged, in as unqualified a manner as
Lady Jane could desire, was fit and necessary to secure what is called a
young lady's success in the fashionable world; but they said that it was
not their object to _dispose of their daughters_, as it is called, _to
the best advantage_. The arts which are commonly practised for this
purpose they thought not only indelicate, but ultimately impolitic and
absurd; for men in general are now so well aware of them, that they
avoid the snares, and ridicule and detest those by whom they are
contrived. If, now and then, a dupe be found, still the chance is, that
the match so made turns out unhappily; at best, attachments formed in
public places, and in the hurry of a town life, can seldom be founded
on any real knowledge of character, or suitableness of taste and temper.
"It is much more probable," added Mrs. Percy, "that happy marriages
should be made where people have leisure and opportunities of becoming
really and intimately acquainted with each other's dispositions."

"Vastly well!" said Lady Jane: "so you mean to bury your daughters
in the country--to shut them up, at least--all the days of their
unfortunate lives?"

Mr. and Mrs. Percy, both at the same moment, eagerly declared that they
had no such absurd or cruel intention towards their daughters. "On the
contrary," said Mr. Percy, "we shall take every proper occasion, that
our present fortune and situation will allow, of letting them see
agreeable and sensible persons."

"Are they to spring out of the ground, these agreeable and sensible
persons?" said Lady Jane. "Whom do you see in this desert, or expect to
see?"

"We see your ladyship, in the first place," said Mr. Percy: "you cannot
therefore wonder if we are proud enough to expect to see sometimes good
company, persons of merit, and even of fashion, though we have lost our
station and fortune."

"That is very politely turned by you, Mr. Percy. Much more polite
than my desert. But I could not bear the thoughts of your sweet pretty
Caroline's blushing unseen."

"Nor could we," said Mr. Percy, "bear the thoughts of her ceasing
to blush from being too much seen. We could not bear the thoughts of
_fitting our daughters out_, and sending them to the London market, with
the portionless class of matrimonial adventurers, of whom even the few
that succeed are often doomed but to splendid misery in marriage;
and the numbers who fail in their venture are, after a certain time,
consigned to neglect and contempt in single wretchedness. Here, on the
contrary, in the bosom of their own families, without seeking to entice
or entrap, they can at all events never be disappointed or degraded;
and, whether married or single, will be respected and respectable, in
youth and age--secure of friends, and of a happy home."

"Happy nonsense! begging your pardon, my dear coz. Shall I tell you
what the end of all this living in the bosom of their own families will
be?--that they will die old maids. For mercy's sake, my dear Mrs. Percy,
do not let Mr. Percy be philosophical for your daughters, whatever he
may be for himself. You, I am sure, cannot wish your poor daughters to
be _old maids_," said her ladyship, with a tremendous accent upon the
word.

"No, I should wish them to marry, if I could ensure for them good
husbands, not merely good fortunes. The warmest wish of my heart," cried
Mrs. Percy, "is to see my daughters as happy as I am myself, married to
men of their own choice, whom they can entirely esteem, and fondly love.
But I would rather see my daughters in their graves than see them
throw themselves away upon men unworthy of them, or sell themselves to
husbands unsuited to them, merely for the sake of being _established_,
for the vulgar notion of _getting married_, or to avoid the imaginary
and unjust ridicule of being old maids."

The warmth and energy with which these last words were spoken, by so
gentle a person as Mrs. Percy, surprised Lady Jane so much, that she
was silent; all her ideas being suddenly at a stand, and her sagacity at
fault. Mr. Percy proposed a walk to show her the Hills; as her ladyship
rose to accompany him, she said to herself, "Who could have guessed
that Mrs. Percy was so romantic?--But she has caught it from her
husband.--What a strange father and mother!--But for the sake of the
poor girls, I will not give up the point. I will have Caroline with me
to Tunbridge, and to town, in spite of their wise heads."

She renewed her attack in the evening after tea. Rising, and walking
towards the window, "A word with you, Mr. Percy, if you please. The
young people are going to walk, and now we can talk the matter over by
ourselves."

"Why should not we talk it over before the young people?" said Mr.
Percy. "We always speak of every thing openly in this family," continued
he, turning to Lady Jane; "and I think that is one reason why we live so
happily together. I let my children know all my views for them, all
my affairs, and my opinions, I may say all my thoughts, or how could I
expect them to trust me with theirs?"

"As to that, children are bound by gratitude to treat their parents with
perfect openness," said Lady Jane; "and it is the duty of children, you
know, to make their parents their confidants upon all occasions."

"Duty and gratitude are excellent things," said Mr. Percy, "but somewhat
more is necessary between parent and child to produce friendship.
Recollect the Duc d'Epernon's reply to his king, who reproached him with
want of affection. 'Sire, you may command my services, my life; but your
majesty knows, friendship is to be won only by friendship.'"

"Very true," said Lady Jane; "but friendship is not, properly speaking,
the connexion that subsists between parents and children."

"I am sorry you think so," said Mr. Percy, smiling: "pray do not teach
my children that doctrine."

"Nay," said Lady Jane, "no matter whether we call it friendship or not;
I will answer for it, that without any refined notions about perfect
openness and confidence, your children will be fond of you, if you
are indulgent to them in certain points. Caroline, my dear," said she,
turning to Caroline, who was at the farthest end of the room, "don't
look so unconscious, for you are a party concerned; so come and kneel
at the feet of this perverse father of yours, to plead your cause and
mine--I must take you with me to Tunbridge. You must let me have her a
summer and winter, and I will answer for Caroline's success."

"What does your ladyship mean by my success?" said Caroline.

"Why, child--Now don't play your father's philosophic airs upon me!
We people who live in the world, and not with philosophers, are not
prepared for such entrapping interrogatories. But come, I mean in plain
English, my dear, though I am afraid it will shock your ears, that
you will be" (speaking loud) "pretty well admired, pretty well abused,
and--oh, shocking!--pretty well married."

"Pretty well married!" repeated Mrs. Percy, in a scornful tone: "but
neither Caroline nor I should be satisfied unless she be very well
married."

"Heyday! There is no knowing where to have you _lady_ philosophers. This
morning you did not desire a coach and four for your daughters, not you;
now you quarrel with me on the other side of the question. Really, for a
lady of moderation, you are a little exorbitant. _Pretty well married_,
you know, implies 2000_l._ a-year; and very well married, nothing under
10,000_l._"

"Is that the language of the market? I did not understand the exact
meaning of _very well married_--did you, Caroline? I own I expect
something more than 10,000_l._ a-year."

"More!--you unconscionable wretch! how much more?" said Lady Jane.

"Infinitely more," said Mr. Percy: "I expect a man of sense, temper, and
virtue, who would love my daughter as she deserves to be loved."

"Let me advise you," said Lady Jane, in her very gravest tone, "not to
puff up Caroline's imagination with a parcel of romantic notions.--I
never yet knew any good done by it. Depend on it you will be
disappointed, if you expect a genius to descend from the clouds express
for your daughters. Let them do as other people do, and they may have
a chance of meeting with some good sort of men, who will make them as
happy as--as happy as their neighbours."

"And how happy is that?" said Caroline: "as happy as we are now?"

"As you are now!" said Lady Jane: "a vastly pretty maidenly speech! But
young ladies, nevertheless, usually think that the saffron robe of Hymen
would not be the most unbecoming dress in the world; and whether it be
in compliance with their daughters' taste, or their own convenience,
most parents are in a hurry to purchase it."

"Sometimes at the expense of their daughters' happiness for life," said
Mrs. Percy.

"Well, lest we should go over the same ground, and get into the same
labyrinth, where we lost ourselves this morning, let me come to the
point at once.--May I hope, Mr. and Mrs. Percy, to have the pleasure of
Caroline's company at Tunbridge next week, and in town next winter, or
not?--That is the question."

"That is a question which your ladyship will be so good as to ask
Caroline, if you please," said Mr. Percy; "both her mother and I wish
that she should decide for herself."

"Indeed?" cried Lady Jane: "then, my dear Caroline, if you please, come
with me this minute to my dressing-room, and we'll settle it all at my
_toilette de nuit_. I have a notion," added her ladyship, as she drew
Caroline's arm within hers, and led her out of the room, "I have a
notion that I shall not find you quite so impracticable as your father
has shown himself."

"You may leave us, Keppel," said Lady Jane to her maid, as she went into
her dressing-room--"I will ring when I want you.--My love," said she
to Caroline, who stood beside her dressing-table, "why did not you let
Keppel dress your hair to-day?--But no matter--when I once get you to
town, we'll manage it all our own way. I have a notion that you are not
of a positive temper."

Caroline coloured at this speech.

"I see what are you thinking of," said Lady Jane, mistaking her
countenance; "and to tell you the truth, I also am sadly afraid, by what
I see, that we shall hardly gain our point. I know your father--some
difficulty will be started, and ten to one he will not allow me to have
you at last, unless you try and persuade him yourself."

"I never try to persuade my father to do any thing."

"What, then, he is not a man to be persuaded?"

"No," said Caroline, smiling; "but what is much better, he is a man to
be convinced."

"Better!" exclaimed Lady Jane: "Why surely you had not rather live with
a man you were to convince than one you could persuade?"

"Would it not be safer?" said Caroline: "the arts of persuasion might be
turned against us by others, but the power of conviction never could."

"Now, my dear, you are too deep for me," replied Lady Jane. "You said
very little in our long debate this morning, and I'm afraid I said too
much; but I own I could not help speaking candidly. Between ourselves,
your father has some notions, which, you know, are a little odd."

"My father!" exclaimed Caroline.

"Yes, my dear, though he is your father, and my relation too, you know
one cannot be quite blinded by partiality--and I never would give up my
judgment."

"Nor would I," said Caroline. "Nor I am sure would my father ever desire
it. You see how freely he permits, he encourages us all to converse
with him. He is never displeased with any of us for being of a different
opinion from him."

"He may not show displeasure," said Lady Jane.

"Oh! he does not feel it, ma'am--I assure you," said Caroline, with
emotion. "You do not know my father, indeed you do not."

"My dear," said Lady Jane, retracting, "I know he is an excellent
father, and I am sure I would have you think so--it is your duty;
but, at the same time, you know he is not infallible, and you must not
insist," added she, sharply, "upon all the world being of one way of
thinking.--My dear, you are his favourite, and it is no wonder you
defend him."

"Indeed, ma'am," said Caroline, "if I am his favourite, I do not know
it."

"My dear, don't mistake me. It is no wonder that you _are_. You must be
a favourite with every body; and yet," said Lady Jane, and she paused,
"as you hinted, perhaps I am mistaken; I think Rosamond seems--hey?--Now
tell me candidly--which is the favourite?"

"I would if I knew," said Caroline.

"Oh! but there must be some favourite in a family--I know there must;
and since you will not speak, I guess how it is. Perhaps, if I had asked
your sister Rosamond to go to town with me next winter, your father
would have been better pleased, and would have consented more readily."

"To lose her company if she were his favourite?" said Caroline, smiling.

"But you know, my dear," continued Lady Jane, without hearing or
attending to this, "you know, my dear, that Rosamond, though a very
good girl and very sensible, I am sure, yet she has not your personal
advantages, and I could do nothing for her in town, except, perhaps,
introduce her at Mrs. Cator's, and Lady Spilsbury's, or Lady Angelica
Headingham's conversazione--Rosamond has a mixture of naïveté and
sprightliness that is new, and might _take_. If she had more courage,
and would hazard more in conversation, if she had, in short, _l'art de
se faire valoir_, one could hand her verses about, and get her forward
in the bel-esprit line. But she must stay till we have brought you into
fashion, my dear, and another winter, perhaps--Well, my love, I will not
keep you up longer. On Monday, if you please, we shall go--since you say
you are sure your father is in earnest, in giving you leave to decide
for yourself."

What was Lady Jane Granville's astonishment, when she heard Caroline
decline, with polite thanks, her kind invitation!

Her ladyship stood silent with suspended indignation.

"This cannot be your own determination, child?"

"I beg your ladyship's pardon--it is entirely my own. When a person is
convinced by good reasons, those reasons surely become their own. But
independently of all the arguments which I have heard from my father and
mother, my own feelings must prevent me from leaving home in our present
circumstances. I cannot quit my parents and my sister, now they are,
comparatively speaking, in distress. Neither in prosperity nor in
adversity do I wish to leave my family, but certainly not in adversity."

"High-flown notions! Your family is not in any great distress, that I
see: there is a change, to be sure, in the style of life; but a daughter
more, you know only increases the--the difficulties."

"I believe my father and mother do not think so," said Caroline;
"and till they do, I wish to stay with them, and share their fortune,
whatever it may be."

"I have done--as you please--you are to decide for yourself, Miss
Caroline Percy: this is your final determination?"

"It is," said Caroline; "but permit me," added she, taking Lady Jane's
hand, and endeavouring by the kindest tone of gratitude to avert the
displeasure which she saw gathering, "permit me to assure you, that I
am truly grateful for your kindness, and I hope--I am sure, that I never
shall forget it."

Lady Jane drew away her hand haughtily. "Permit me to assure you, Miss
Caroline Percy, that there are few, very few young ladies indeed, even
among my own nearest relations, to whom I would have undertaken to be
_chaperon_. I do not know another young lady in England to whom I would
have made the offer I have made to you, nor would that offer ever have
been made could I reasonably have foreseen the possibility of its being
refused. Let us say no more, ma'am, if you please--we understand one
another now--and I wish you a good night."

Caroline retired, sorry to have displeased one who had shown so much
friendly eagerness to serve her, yet not in the least disposed to change
her determination. The next day Lady Jane's morning face boded no good.
Mr. and Mrs. Percy in vain endeavoured by all the kind attentions in
their power to assuage her feelings, but nothing restored her to that
sweet temper in which she had begun the chapter of advice. She soon
announced that she had received letters which called her immediately to
Tunbridge, and her ladyship quitted the Hills, resolving never more to
visit relations who would not be guided by her opinion.

The next persons who came to visit the Percy family in their retirement
were Mrs. Hungerford and her daughter, Mrs. Mortimer, who had been
friends and near neighbours whilst they resided at Percy-hall, and whose
society they had particularly regretted. The distance at which they now
lived from Hungerford Castle was such, that they had little hope that
any intercourse could be kept up with its inhabitants, especially as
Mrs. Hungerford had arrived at that time of life when she was exempted
from the ceremony of visiting, and she seldom stirred from home except
when she went to town annually to see her daughter Mortimer.

"So," said Mrs. Hungerford, as Mr. Percy helped her out of her carriage,
"my good friend, you are surprised at seeing me, are you?--Ah! you
thought I was too old or too lazy to come; but I am happy to be able to
convince you that you are mistaken. See what motive will do! You know
Mr. Percy says, that people can do any thing they please, and it is
certain that it pleased me to do this."

When she was seated, and Mrs. Percy spoke of the distance from which
she had kindly come to see them, she answered, "I hear people talk of a
_visiting distance_; and I understand perfectly well what it means when
acquaintance are in question, but for friends there is no _visiting
distance_. Remove to the Land's End, and, old as I am, I will pursue and
overtake you too, tortoise as I seem; and don't depend upon dark nights,
for every night is full moon to me, when I am bent upon a visit to a
friend; and don't depend upon hills--there are no Pyrenees between us."

These sound, perhaps, like mere civil speeches, but they came from
one who always spoke sincerely, and who was no common person. Mrs.
Hungerford was, by those who did not know her, thought proud; those who
did, knew that she had reason to be proud. She was of noble descent,
dignified appearance, polite manners, strong understanding, and high
character. Her fortune, connexions, various knowledge, and extraordinary
merit, had, during a long life, given her means of becoming acquainted
with most of the persons of any celebrity or worth in her own or in
foreign countries. No new candidate for fame appeared in any line of
life, without desiring to be noticed by Mrs. Hungerford; no traveller of
distinction or of literature visited England without providing himself
with letters of introduction to Mrs. Hungerford, and to her accomplished
daughter, the wife of Admiral Mortimer. In her early youth she had
passed some years abroad, and had the vivacity, ease, polish, _tact_,
and _esprit de société_ of a Frenchwoman, with the solidity of
understanding, amiable qualities, domestic tastes, and virtues of an
Englishwoman. The mutual affection of this mother and daughter not only
secured their own happiness, but diffused an additional charm over their
manners, and increased the interest which they otherwise inspired. Mrs.
Mortimer's house in London was the resort of the best company, in the
best sense of the word: it was not that dull, dismal, unnatural thing,
an English _conversazione_, where people are set, against their will
and their nature, to talk wit; or reduced, against their pride and their
conscience, to worship _idols_. This society partook of the nature of
the best English and the best French society, judiciously combined: the
French mixture of persons of talents and of rank, men of literature
and of the world; the French habit of mingling feminine and masculine
subjects of conversation, instead of separating the sexes, far as the
confines of their prison-room will allow, into hostile parties, dooming
one sex to politics, argument, and eternal sense, the other to scandal,
dress, and eternal nonsense. Yet with these French manners there were
English morals; with this French ease, gaiety, and politeness, English
sincerity, confidence, and safety: no _simagrée_, no _espionnage_; no
intrigue, political or gallant; none of that profligacy, which not only
disgraced, but destroyed the _reality_ of pleasure in Parisian society,
at its most brilliant era. The persons of whom Mrs. Mortimer's society
was formed were, in their habits and good sense, so thoroughly English,
that, even had it been possible for them to put morality and religion
out of the question, they would still have thought it quite as
convenient and agreeable to love their own husbands and wives as to play
at cross-purposes in gallanting their neighbours'. Of consequence, Mrs.
Mortimer, in the bloom of youth and height of fashion, instead of being
a coquette, "hunting after men with her eyes," was beloved, almost to
adoration, as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend. Mrs. Hungerford,
at an advanced age, was not a wretched, selfish Madame du Deffand,
exacting _hommage_ and _attentions_, yet disbelieving in the existence
of friendship; complaining in the midst of all the luxuries of life,
mental and corporeal, of being oppressed by ennui, unable to find any
one to love and esteem, or incapable of loving and esteeming any one;
Mrs. Hungerford, surrounded

  "With all that should accompany old age,
  As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends."

was, as she often declared, with gratitude to Providence, happier in age
than she had been even in youth. With warm affections, and benevolence
guided and governed in its objects by reason and religion; indulgent
to human nature in general, and loving it, but not with German
cosmopolitism--first and best, loving her daughter, her family,
comprising a wide and happy extent of relations and connexions, sons and
nephews in the army and navy, or in different employments in the state:
many of these young men already distinguished, others wanting only
opportunity to do equal honour to their name.

During the summer, Mrs. Mortimer usually spent some months at Hungerford
Castle, and generally took with her from town some friends whose company
she thought would peculiarly suit her mother's taste. Mrs. Hungerford
had always been in the habit of inviting the Percy family, whenever she
had any body with her whom she thought they would wish to see or hear;
and thus the young people, though living retired in the country, had
enjoyed the advantages of becoming early acquainted with many celebrated
literary and public characters, and of living in the best society;
these were advantages which they obtained from their education and their
merit; for assuredly Mrs. Hungerford would never have troubled herself
with them merely because they were her neighbours, possessing so many
thousand pounds a year, and representatives of the Percy interest in the
county.--A proof of which, if any were wanting, is, that she never took
the least notice of those who now held their place at Percy-hall; and
the first visit she paid when she came to the country, the first visit
she had been known to pay for years, was to her friends the Percys,
after they had lost their thousands per annum. So completely was it
themselves and not their fortune which she had always considered, that
she never condoled with them, and scarcely seemed to advert to any
change in their circumstances. She perceived, to be sure, that she was
not at Percy-hall; she discovered, probably, that she was in a small
instead of a large room; the change of prospect from the windows
struck her eye, and she remarked that this part of the country was more
beautiful than that to which she had been accustomed.--As to the more or
less of show, of dress, or equipage, these things did not merely make
no difference in Mrs. Hungerford's estimation of persons, but in fact
scarcely made any impression upon her senses or attention. She had
been so much accustomed to magnificence upon a large scale, that the
different subordinate degrees were lost upon her; and she had seen
so many changes of fashion and of fortune, that she attached little
importance to these. Regardless of the drapery of objects, she saw at
once what was substantial and essential. It might, she thought, be
one man's taste to visit her in a barouche and four, with half-a-dozen
servants, and another person's pleasure to come without parade or
attendants--this was indifferent to her. It was their conversation,
their characters, their merit, she looked to; and many a lord and lady
of showy dress and equipage, and vast importance in their own opinions,
shrunk into insignificance in the company of Mrs. Hungerford; and,
though in the room with her, passed before her eyes without making a
sufficient sensation upon her organs to attract her notice, or to change
the course of her thoughts.

All these _peculiarities_ in this lady's character rendered
her particularly agreeable to the Percy family in their present
circumstances. She pressed them to pay her a long visit.

"You see," said Mrs. Hungerford, "that I had the grace to forbear asking
this favour till I had possession of my daughter Mortimer, and could
bring her with me to entice you.--And my dear young friends, you shall
find young friends too, as well as old ones, at my house: my nieces,
the Lady Pembrokes, are to be with me; and Lady Angelica Headingham, who
will entertain you, though, perhaps, you will sometimes be tired _for_
her, she works so hard _aux galères de bel-esprit_. I acknowledge
she has a little too much affectation. But we must have charity for
affectation and its multitude of foibles; for, you know, Locke says
that it is only a mistaken desire to please. Angelica will find out her
mistakes in time, and after trying all manners, will hold fast by the
best--that is, the most natural: in the mean time, do you, my dear young
friends, come and admire her as an inimitable actress. Then, Mr. Percy,
I have for you three temptations--a man of letters, a man of science,
and a man of sense. And, for the climax of my eloquence, I have
reserved," continued she turning to Mrs. Percy, "my appeal to the
mother's feelings. Know, then, that my son, my eldest hope, my colonel,
has arrived from the continent--landed last night--I expect him home
in a few days, and you must come and flatter me that he is prodigiously
improved by the service he has seen, and the wounds which he can
show, and assure me that, next to your own Godfrey, you would name my
Gustavus, of all the officers in the army, as most deserving to be our
commander-in-chief."

An invitation, which there were so many good and kind reasons for
accepting, could not be refused. But before we go to Hungerford Castle,
and before we see Colonel Hungerford--upon whom, doubtless, many a
one at this instant, as well as Rosamond Percy, has formed designs or
prognostics in favour of Caroline--we must read the following letter,
and bring up the affairs of Alfred and Erasmus.



CHAPTER XV.


LETTER FROM ALFRED PERCY TO HIS MOTHER.

"My Dear Mother,

"I am shocked by your story of Kate Robinson. I agree with you in
rejoicing that Caroline had sufficient penetration to see the faults of
Buckhurst Falconer's character, and steadiness enough, notwithstanding
his agreeable talents, never to give him any encouragement. I agree with
you, also, that it was fortunate that her last letter to him was written
and sent before this affair came to her knowledge. It was much better
that she should abide by her objection to his general principles than to
have had explanations and discussions on a subject into which she could
not enter with propriety.

"I will, as you desire, keep Buckhurst's secret. Indeed, in a worldly
point of view, it behoves him that it should be carefully kept, because
Bishop Clay, the prelate, who gave him his present living, though he
tolerates gormandizing to excess, is extremely strict with his clergy
_in other matters_; and, as I once heard Buckhurst say,

  'Compounds for sins he is inclin'd to,
  By damning those he has no mind to.'"

"Buckhurst had, I believe, hopes that Caroline would have relented,
in consequence of his last overture; he was thrown into despair by her
answer, containing, as he told me, such a calm and civil repetition
of her refusal--that he swears he will never trouble her again. For a
fortnight after, he protests he was ready to hang himself. About that
time, I suppose, when he heard of Kate Robinson's death, he shut himself
up in his rooms for several days--said he was not well, and could not
see any body. When he came out again, he looked wretchedly ill, and
unhappy: I pitied him--I felt the truth of what Rosamond said, 'that
there is such a mixture of good and bad in his character, as makes me
change my opinion of him every half hour.'

"He has just done me an essential service. He learnt the other day from
one of his sisters the secret reason why Lord Oldborough was displeased
with Godfrey, and why Godfrey was despatched to the West Indies.--Lord
Oldborough had been told, either by Cunningham, or by one of his
sisters, that Godfrey made love to Miss Hauton, and that when he came
to town ostensibly on some regimental business, and was pleading for a
brother officer, his concealed motive was to break off the marriage of
his lordship's niece. Buckhurst had been at the opera in the same
box with Miss Hauton and with my brother Godfrey one night. Godfrey's
conduct had been misrepresented, and as soon as Buckhurst found that
Lord Oldborough had been deceived, he was determined that he should know
the truth; or, at least, that he should know that my brother was not to
blame. Godfrey never mentioned the subject to me; but, from what I can
understand, the lady showed him _distinguished attention_. How Buckhurst
Falconer managed to _right_ my brother in Lord Oldborough's opinion
without _involving_ the young lady, I do not know.--He said that he had
fortunately had an opportunity one evening at his father's, when he
was playing at chess with Lord Oldborough, of speaking to him on that
subject, when none of his family was watching him. He told me that
Lord Oldborough desires to see me, and has appointed his hour to-morrow
morning. Now, Rosamond, my dear, set your imagination to work; I must go
and draw a _replication_, which will keep mine fast bound.

"Yours truly,

"Alfred Percy."

At the appointed hour, Alfred waited upon the minister, and was received
graciously. Not one word of Godfrey, however, or of any thing leading to
that subject. Lord Oldborough spoke to Alfred as to the son of his old
friend. He began by lamenting the misfortunes which had deprived Mr.
Percy of that estate and station to which he had done honour. His
lordship went on to say that he was sorry that Mr. Percy's love of
retirement, or pride of independence, precluded all idea of seeing
him in parliament; but he hoped that Mr. Percy's sons were, in this
extravagant notion of independence, and in this _only_, unlike their
father.

With all due deference, Alfred took the liberty of replying to the word
_extravagant_, and endeavoured to explain that his father's ideas of
independence did not go beyond just bounds: Lord Oldborough, contrary to
his usual custom when he met with any thing like contradiction, did not
look displeased; on the contrary, he complimented Alfred on his being
a good advocate. Alfred was going to _fall into a commonplace_, about
a good cause; but from that he was happily saved by Lord Oldborough's
changing the conversation.

He took up a pamphlet which lay upon his table. It was Cunningham
Falconer's, that is to say, the pamphlet which was published in
Cunningham's name, and for which he was mean enough to take the credit
from the poor starving genius in the garret. Lord Oldborough turned over
the leaves. "Here is a passage that was quoted yesterday at dinner at
Commissioner Falconer's, but I don't think that any of the company, or
the commissioner himself, though he is, or was, a reading man, could
recollect to what author it alludes."

Lord Oldborough pointed to the passage: "_Thus the fame of heroes is at
last neglected by their worshippers, and left to the care of the birds
of heaven, or abandoned to the serpents of the earth._"

Alfred fortunately recollected that this alluded to a description in
Arrian of the island of Achilles, the present Isle of Serpents, where
there is that temple of the hero, of which, as the historian says, "the
care is left to the birds alone, who every morning repair to the sea,
wet their wings, and sprinkle the temple, afterwards sweeping with their
plumage its sacred pavement."

Lord Oldborough smiled, and said, "The author--the reputed author of
this pamphlet, sir, is obliged to you for throwing light upon a passage
which he could not himself elucidate."

This speech of Lord Oldborough's alluded to something that had passed at
a dinner at Lord Skreene's, the day before Cunningham had set out on
his embassy. Cunningham had been _posed_ by this passage, for which
Secretary Cope, who hated him, had maliciously complimented him, and
besought him to explain it. Secretary Cope, who was a poet, made an
epigram on Cunningham the diplomatist. The lines we do not remember. The
points of it were, that Cunningham was so complete a diplomatist, that
he would not commit himself by giving up his authority, even for a
quotation, and that when he knew the author of an excellent thing, he,
with admirable good faith, _kept it to himself_. This epigram remained
at the time a profound secret to Lord Oldborough. Whilst Cunningham was
going with a prosperous gale, it was not heard of; but it worked round,
according to the manoeuvres of courts, just by the time the tide
of favour began to ebb. Lord Oldborough, dissatisfied with one of
Cunningham's despatches, was heard to say, as he folded it up, "_A
slovenly performance_!"

Then, at the happy moment, stepped in the rival Secretary Cope, and put
into his lordship's hands the epigram and the anecdote.

All this the reader is to take as a note explanatory upon Lord
Oldborough's last speech to Alfred, and now to go on with the
conversation--at the word _elucidate_.

"I suspect," continued his lordship, "that Mr. Alfred Percy knows more
of this pamphlet altogether than the reputed author ever did."

Alfred felt himself change colour, and the genius in the garret rushed
upon his mind; at the same instant he recollected that he was not at
liberty to name Mr. Temple, and that he must not betray Cunningham.
Alfred answered that it was not surprising he should know the pamphlet
well, as he probably admired it more, and had read it oftener, than the
author himself had ever done.

"Very well parried, young gentleman. You will not allow, then, that you
had any hand in writing it?"

"No, my lord," said Alfred, "I had none whatever; I never saw it till it
was published."

"I have not a right, in politeness, to press the question. Permit me,
however, to say, that it is a performance of which any man might be
proud."

"I should, my lord, be proud--very proud, if I had written it; but I am
incapable of assuming a merit that is not mine, and I trust the manner
in which I now disclaim it does not appear like the affected modesty
of an author who wishes to have that believed which he denies. I hope I
convince your lordship of the truth."

"I cannot have any doubt of what you assert in this serious manner, sir.
May I ask if you can tell me the name of the real author?"

"Excuse me, my lord--I cannot. I have answered your lordship with
perfect openness, as far as I am concerned."

"Sir," said Lord Oldborough, "I confess that I began this conversation
with the prepossession that you were equal to a performance of which
I think highly, but you have succeeded in convincing me that I was
mistaken--that you are not equal--but superior to it."

Upon this compliment, Alfred, as he thought the force of politeness
could no farther go, rose, bowed, and prepared to retire.

"Are you in a hurry to leave me, Mr. Percy?"

"Quite the contrary, but I was afraid of encroaching upon your
lordship's goodness; I know that your time is most valuable, and that
your lordship has so much business of importance."

"Perhaps Mr. Alfred Percy may assist me in saving time hereafter."

Alfred sat down again, as his lordship's eye desired it.--Lord
Oldborough remained for a few moments silent, leaning upon his arm on
the table, deep in thought.

"Yes, sir," said he, "I certainly have, as you say, much business
upon my hands. But _that_ is not the difficulty; with hands and heads
business is easily arranged and expedited. I have hands and heads enough
at my command. Talents of all sorts can be obtained for their price,
but that which is above all price, integrity, cannot--there's the
difficulty--there is my difficulty. I have not a single man about
me whom I can trust--many who understand my views, but none who feel
them--'_Des ames de boue et de fange!_' Wretches who care not if
the throne and the country perish, if their little interests--Young
gentleman," said he, recollecting himself, and turning to Alfred, "I
feel as if I were speaking to a part of your father when I am speaking
to you."

Alfred felt this, and Lord Oldborough saw that he felt it strongly.

"_Then_, my dear sir," said he, "you understand me--I see we understand
and shall suit one another. I am in want of a secretary to supply
the place of Mr. Cunningham Falconer. Mr. Drakelow is going to
Constantinople; but he shall first initiate his successor in the
business of his office--a routine, which little minds would make great
minds believe is a mystery above ordinary comprehension. But, sir,
I have no doubt that you will be expert in a very short time in the
technical part--in the routine of office; and if it suits your views, in
one word, I should be happy to have you for my private secretary. Take
time to consider, if you do not wish to give an answer immediately; but
I beg that you will consult no one but yourself--not even your father.
And as soon as your mind is made up, let me know your decision."

After returning thanks to the minister, who had, by this time, risen
to a prodigious height in Alfred's opinion; after having reiterated his
thanks with a warmth which was not displeasing, he retired. The account
of his feelings on this occasion is given with much _truth_ in his own
letter, from which we extract the passage:

"I believe I felt a little like Gil Blas after his first visit at court.
Vapours of ambition certainly mounted into my head, and made me a little
giddy; that night I did not sleep quite so well as usual. The bar and
the court, Lord Oldborough and my special pleader, were continually
before my eyes balancing in my imagination all the _pros_ and _cons_.
I fatigued myself, but could neither rest nor decide. Seven years
of famine at the bar--horrible! but then independence and liberty
of conscience--and in time, success--the certain reward of
industry--well-earned wealth--perhaps honours--why not the highest
professional honours? The life of a party-man and a politician, agreed
by all who have tried, even by this very Lord Oldborough himself, agreed
to be an unhappy life--obliged to live with people I despise--might
be tempted, like others, to do things for which I should despise
myself--subject to caprice--at best, my fortune quite dependent on my
patron's continuance in power--power and favour uncertain.

"It was long before I got my pros and cons even into this rude
preparation for comparison, and longer still before the logical process
of giving to each good and evil its just value, and drawing clear
deductions from distinct premises, could be accomplished. However, in
four-and-twenty hours I solved the problem.

"I waited upon Lord Oldborough to tell him my conclusion. With
professions of gratitude, respect, and attachment, more sincere, I
fancy, than those he usually hears, I began; and ended by telling him,
in the best manner I could, that I thought my trade was more honest
than his, and that, hard as a lawyer's life was, I preferred it to a
politician's.--You don't suspect me of saying all this--no, I was not
quite so brutal; but, perhaps, it was implied by my declining the honour
of the secretaryship, and preferring to abide by my profession. Lord
Oldborough looked--or my vanity fancied that he looked--disappointed.
After a pause of silent displeasure, he said, 'Well, sir, upon the whole
I believe you have decided wisely. I am sorry that you cannot serve me,
and that I cannot serve you in the manner which I had proposed. Yours is
a profession in which ministerial support can be of little use, but in
which talents, perseverance, and integrity, are secure, sooner or later,
of success. I have, therefore, only to wish you opportunity: and if any
means in my power should occur of accelerating that opportunity, you may
depend upon it, sir.' said his lordship, holding out his hand to me, 'I
shall not forget you--even if you were not the son of my old friend, you
have made an interest for yourself in my mind.'

"Thus satisfactorily we parted--no--just as I reached the door, his
lordship added, 'Your brother, Captain Percy--have you heard from him
lately?'

"'Yes, my lord, from Plymouth, where they were driven back by contrary
winds.'

"'Ha!--he was well, I hope?'

"'Very well, I thank your lordship.'

"'That's well--he is a temperate man, I think. So he will stand the
climate of the West Indies--and, probably, it will not be necessary for
his majesty's service that he should remain there long.'

"I bowed--was again retiring and was again recalled.

"'There was a major in your brother's regiment about whom Captain Percy
spoke to me--Major--'

"'Gascoigne, I believe, my lord.'

"'Gascoigne--true--Gascoigne.' His lordship wrote the name down in a
note-book.

"Bows for the last time--not a word more on either side.

"And now that I have written all this to you, my dear mother, I am
almost ashamed to send it--because it is so full of egotism. But
Rosamond, the _excuser general_, will apologize for me, by pleading that
I was obliged to tell the truth, and the whole truth.

"Love to Caroline, and thanks for her letter.--Love to Rosamond, upon
condition that she will write to me from Hungerford Castle, and cheer my
solitude in London with news from the country, and from home.

"Your affectionate son,

"ALFRED PERCY.

"P.S. I hope you all like O'Brien."

We hope the reader will recollect the poor Irishman, whose leg the
surgeon had condemned to be cut off, but which was saved by Erasmus. A
considerable time afterwards, one morning, when Erasmus was just getting
up, he heard a loud knock at his door, and in one and the same instant
pushing past his servant into his bedchamber, and to the foot of
his bed, rushed this Irishman O'Brien, breathless, and with a face
perspiring joy. "I axe your honour's pardon, master, but it's what
you're wanting down street in all haste--here's an elegant case for ye,
doctor dear!--That painter-jantleman down in the square there beyond
that is not _expicted_."

"Not expected!" said Erasmus.

"Ay, not expected: so put on ye with the speed of light--Where's his
waistcoat," continued he, turning to Dr. Percy's astonished servant,
"and coat?--the top coat, and the wig--has he one?--Well! boots or shoes
give him any way."

"But I don't clearly understand--Pray did this gentleman send for me?"
said Dr. Percy.

"Send for your honour! Troth he never thought of it--no, nor
couldn't--how could he? and he in the way he was and is. But God bless
ye! and never mind shaving, or another might get it afore we'd be back.
Though there was none _in it_ but myself when I left it--but still keep
on buttoning for the life."

Erasmus dressed as quickly as he could, not understanding, however,
above one word in ten that had been said to him. His servant, who
did not comprehend even one word, endeavoured in vain to obtain an
explanation; but O'Brien, paying no regard to his solemn face of
curiosity, put him aside with his hand, and continuing to address Dr.
Percy, followed him about the room.

"Master! you mind my _mintioning_ to you last time I _seen_ your honour,
that my leg was weak _by times_, no fault though to the doctor that
cured it--so I could not be _after carrying_ the weighty loads I used up
and down the ladders at every call, so I quit _sarving_ the masons, and
sought for lighter work, and found an employ that _shuted_ me with a
'jantleman painter', grinding of his colours, and that was what I was at
this morning, so I was, and standing as close to him as I am this minute
to your honour, thinking of nothing at all just now, please your honour,
_forenent_ him--_asy_ grinding, _whin_ he took some sort or kind of a
fit."

"A fit! Why did you not tell me that sooner?"

"Sure I _tould_ you he was not _expicted_,--that is, if you don't know
in England, _not expicted to live_; and sure I _tould_ your honour so
from the first," said O'Brien. "But then the jantleman was as well as I
am this minute, that minute afore--and the _nixt_ fell his length on
the floor entirely. Well! I set and up again, and, for want of better,
filled out a thimble-full, say, of the spirits of wine as they call it,
which he got by good luck for the varnish, and made him take it down,
and he come to, and I axed him how was he after it?--Better, says he.
That's well, says I; and who will I send for to ye, sir? says I. But
afore he could make answer, I bethought me of your own honour; and for
fear he would say another, I never troubled him, putting the question
to him again, but just set the spirits nigh hand him, and away with me
here; I come off without _letting on_ a word to nobody, good or bad, in
dread your honour would miss the job."

"Job!" said Dr. Percy's servant: "do you think my master wants a job?"

"Oh! Lord love ye, and just give his hat. Would you have us be standing
on ceremony now in a case of life and death?"

Dr. Percy was, as far as he understood it, of the Irishman's way of
thinking. He followed as fast as he could to the painter's--found that
he had had a slight paralytic stroke, from which he had recovered.
We need not detail the particulars. Nature and Dr. Percy _brought him
through_. He was satisfied with his physician; for Erasmus would not
take any fee, because he went unsent for by the patient. The painter,
after his recovery, was one day complimenting Dr. Percy on the
inestimable service he had done the arts in restoring him to his pencil,
in proof of which the artist showed many master-pieces that wanted
only the finishing touch, in particular a huge, long-limbed, fantastic,
allegorical piece of his own design, which he assured Dr. Percy was the
finest example of the _beau idéal_, ancient or modern, that human genius
had ever produced upon canvas. "And what do you think, doctor," said the
painter, "tell me what you can think of a connoisseur, a patron, sir,
who could stop my hand, and force me from that immortal work to a
portrait? A portrait! Barbarian! He fit to encourage genius! He set up
to be a Mecænas! Mere vanity! Gives pensions to four sign-post daubers,
not fit to grind my colours! Knows no more of the art than that
fellow," pointing to the Irishman, who was at that instant grinding the
colours--_asy_ as he described himself.

"And lets me languish here in obscurity!" continued the enraged painter.
"Now I'll never put another stroke to his Dutch beauty's portrait, if I
starve--if I rot for it in jail! He a Mecænas!"

The changes upon this abuse were rung repeatedly by this irritated
genius, his voice and palsied hand trembling with rage while he spoke,
till he was interrupted by a carriage stopping at the door.

"Here's the patron!" cried the Irishman, with an arch look. "Ay, it's
the patron, sure enough!"

Dr. Percy was going away, but O'Brien got between him and the door,
menacing his coat with his pallet-knife covered with oil--Erasmus
stopped.

"I axe your pardon, but don't go," whispered he: "I wouldn't for the
best coat nor waistcoat ever I seen you went this minute, dear!"

Mr. Gresham was announced--a gentleman of a most respectable,
benevolent, prepossessing appearance, whom Erasmus had some recollection
of having seen before. Mr. Gresham recognized him instantly: he was the
merchant whom Erasmus had met at Sir Amyas Courtney's the morning when
he offended Sir Amyas about the made shell. After having spoken a few
words to the painter about the portrait, Mr. Gresham turned to Dr.
Percy, and said, "I am afraid, sir, that you lost a friend at court by
your sincerity about a shell."

Before Erasmus could answer--in less time than he could have thought it
possible to take off a stocking, a great bare leg--O'Brien's leg, came
between Mr. Gresham and Dr. Percy. "There's what lost him a rich friend
any way, and gained him a poor one, if that would do any good. There it
is now! This leg! God for ever bless him and reward him for it!"

Then with eloquence, emphasis, and action, which came from the heart,
and went to the heart, the poor fellow told how his leg had been saved,
and spoke of what Dr. Percy had done for him, in terms which Erasmus
would have been ashamed to hear, but that he really was so much affected
with O'Brien's gratitude, and thought it did so much honour to human
nature, that he could not stop him.--Mr. Gresham was touched also; and
upon observing this, Erasmus's friend, with his odd mixture of comedy
and pathos, ended with this exhortation, "And God bless you, sir! you're
a great man, and have many to my knowledge under a compliment to you,
and if you've any friends that are _lying_, or sick, if you'd recommend
them to send for _him_ in preference to any other of the doctors, it
would be a charity to themselves and to me; for I will never have peace
else, thinking how I have been a hinderance to him. And a charity it
would be to themselves, for what does the sick want but to be cured? and
there's the man will do that for them, as two witnesses here present can
prove--that jantleman, if he would spake, and myself."

Erasmus now peremptorily stopped this scene, for he began to feel for
himself, and to be ashamed of the ridicule which his puffing friend, in
his zeal, was throwing upon him. Erasmus said that he had done nothing
for O'Brien except placing him in St. George's Hospital, where he had
been admirably well attended. Mr. Gresham, however, at once relieved his
wounded delicacy, and dispelled all fears and anxiety, by the manner
in which he spoke and looked. He concluded by inviting Dr. Percy to
his house, expressing with much cordiality a wish to be more
intimately acquainted with a young gentleman, of whose character he had
accidentally learned more good than his modesty seemed willing to allow
should be known.

O'Brien's eyes sparkled; he rubbed his hands, but restrained himself
lest Dr. Percy should be displeased. When Erasmus went away, O'Brien
followed him down stairs, begging his honour's pardon--if he had said
any thing wrong or unbecoming, it was through ignorance.

It was impossible to be angry with him.

We extract from Erasmus's letter to his mother the following account of
his first visit to Mr. Gresham.

"When I went to see Mr. Gresham, I was directed to an unfashionable part
of the town, to one of the dark old streets of the city; and from all
appearance I thought I was going to grope my way into some strange
dismal den, like many of the ancient houses in that quarter of the
town. But, to my surprise, after passing through a court, and up an
unpromising staircase, I found myself in a spacious apartment. The
darkness changed to light, the smoke and din of the city to retirement
and fresh air. A near view of the Thames appeared through large windows
down to the floor, balconies filled with flowers and sweet shrubs!--It
was an Arabian scene in London. Rosamond, how you would have been
delighted! But I have not yet told you that there was a young and
beautiful lady sitting near the balcony, and her name is Constance: that
is all I shall tell you about the young lady at present. I must go
on with Mr. Gresham, who was in his picture-gallery--yes,
picture-gallery--and a very fine one it is. Mr. Gresham, whose fortune
is one of those of which only English merchants can form any adequate
idea, makes use of it in a manner which does honour to his profession
and to his country: he has patronized the arts with a munificence not
unworthy of the Medici.

"My complaining genius, the painter, who had abused his patron so much,
was there with his portrait, which, notwithstanding his vow never to
touch it again, he had finished, and brought home, and with it the
sprawling Venus: he was now extremely angry with Mr. Gresham for
declining to purchase this chef-d'oeuvre. With the painter was a poet
equally vain and dissatisfied.

"I admired the mildness with which Mr. Gresham bore with their
ill-humour and vanity.--After the painter and poet, to my satisfaction,
had departed, I said something expressive of my pity for patrons who had
to deal with the irritable race. He mildly replied, that he thought that
a man, surrounded as he was with all the comforts and luxuries of life,
should have compassion, and should make allowance for genius struggling
with poverty, disease, and disappointment. He acknowledged that he had
met with much ingratitude, and had been plagued by the pretensions,
expectations, and quarrels of his tribe of poets and painters. 'For
a man's own happiness,' said he, 'the trade of a patron is the most
dreadful he can follow--gathering samphire were nothing to it.'

"Pray tell my father this, because it opens a new view, and new
confirmation of his opinions--I never spent a more agreeable day
than this with Mr. Gresham. He converses well, and has a variety
of information, which he pours forth liberally, and yet without the
slightest ostentation: his only wish seems to be to entertain and inform
those to whom he speaks--he has no desire to shine. In a few hours
we went over a world of literature. I was proud to follow him, and he
seemed pleased that I could sometimes anticipate--I happened to know as
well as he did the history of the two Flamels, and several particulars
of the Jesuits in Paraguay.

"My father often told us, when we were boys, that there is no knowledge,
however distant it seems from our profession, that may not, some time or
other, be useful; and Mr. Gresham, after he had conversed sufficiently
with me both on literature and science, to discover that I was not an
ignorant pretender, grew warm in his desire to serve me. But he had the
politeness to refrain from saying any thing directly about medicine;
he expressed only an increased desire to cultivate my acquaintance,
and begged that I would call upon him at any hour, and _give him the
pleasure of my conversation, whenever I had time_.

"The next morning he called upon me, and told me that he was desired to
ask my advice for a sick partner of his, to whom, if I would accompany
him, he would immediately introduce me. Who and what this partner is,
and of what disease he is dying, if you have any curiosity to know, you
shall hear in my next, this frank will hold no more--except love, light
as air, to all at home.

"Dear mother, affectionately yours,

"E. PERCY"



CHAPTER XVI.


Now for the visit to Hungerford Castle--a fine old place in a beautiful
park, which excelled many parks of greater extent by the uncommon size
of its venerable oaks. In the castle, which was sufficiently spacious to
accommodate with ease and perfect comfort the _troops of friends_ which
its owner's beneficent character drew round her, there were apartments
that usually bore the name of some of those persons who were considered
as the most intimate friends of the family. The Percys were of this
number. They found their own rooms ready, the old servants of the house
rejoicing to see them again, and eager in offering their services. Many
things showed that they had been thought of, and expected; yet there was
nothing that could remind them that any change had taken place in their
fortune: no formal or peculiar civilities from the mistress of the
house, from her daughter, or nieces--neither more nor less attention
than usual; but by every thing that marked old habits of intimacy
and confidence, the Percys were, as if undesignedly and necessarily,
distinguished from other guests.

Of these the most conspicuous was the Lady Angelica Headingham.--Her
ladyship had lately come to a large estate, and had consequently
produced a great sensation in the fashionable world. During the early
part of her life she had been much and injudiciously restrained. The
moment the pressure was taken off, the spirit boiled with surprising
rapidity: immediately Lady Angelica Headingham shone forth a beauty,
a bel-esprit, and a patroness; and though she appeared as it were
_impromptu_ in these characters, yet, to do her justice, she supported
them with as much spirit, truth, and confidence, as if she had been
in the habit of playing them all her life, and as if she had trod the
fashionable stage from her teens. There was only one point in which,
perhaps, she erred: from not having been early accustomed to flattery,
she did not receive it with quite sufficient _nonchalance_. The
adoration paid to her in her triple capacity by crowds of worshippers
only increased the avidity of her taste for incense, to receive which
she would now and then stoop lower than became a goddess. She had not
yet been suspected of a real partiality for any of her admirers,
though she was accused of giving each just as much encouragement as was
necessary to turn his head. Of these admirers, two, the most eager and
earnest in the pursuit, had followed her ladyship to the country, and
were now at Hungerford Castle--Sir James Harcourt and Mr. Barclay.

Sir James Harcourt was remarkably handsome and fashionable--completely
a man of the world, and a courtier: who, after having ruined his fortune
by standing for government two contested county elections, had dangled
year after year at court, living upon the hope and promise of a pension
or a place, till his creditors warning him that they could wait no
longer, he had fallen in love with Lady Angelica Headingham. Her
ladyship's other admirer, Mr. Barclay, was a man of considerable
fortune, of good family, and of excellent sense and character. He had
arrived at that time of life when he wished to settle to the quiet
enjoyment of domestic happiness; but he had seen so much misery arise
from unfortunate marriages among some of his particular friends, that he
had been afraid of forming any attachment, or, at least, engagement. His
acquaintance with fashionable life had still further rendered him averse
from matrimony; and from love he had defended himself with infinite
caution, and escaped, till in an unlucky moment he had met with Lady
Angelica. Against his better judgment, he had been captivated by her
charms and talents: his reason, however, still struggled with his
passion--he had never actually declared his love; but the lady knew it
probably better than he did, and her caprice and coquetry cost him many
an agonizing hour. All which he bore with the silence and patience of a
martyr.

When the Percy family saw Lady Angelica for the first time, she was in
all her glory--fresh from a successful toilette, conscious of renovated
powers, with an accumulated spirit of animation, and inspired by the
ambition to charm a new audience. Though past the bloom of youth,
she was a handsome showy woman, with the air of one who requires
and receives admiration. Her attitudes, her action, and the varied
expression she threw into her countenance, were more than the occasion
required, and rather too evidently designed to interest or to fascinate.
She was surrounded by a group of gentlemen; Sir James Harcourt, Mr.
Barclay, Mr. Seebright, a young poet; Mr. Grey, a man of science; and
others--_personnages muets_. Arduous as was the task, Lady Angelica's
various powers and indefatigable exertion proved capable of keeping each
of these different minds in full play, and in high admiration.

Beauties are always curious about beauties, and wits about wits. Lady
Angelica had heard that one of the Miss Percys was uncommonly handsome.
Quick as eye could glance, her ladyship's passed by Mrs. Percy and
Rosamond as they entered the room, fixed upon Caroline, and was
satisfied. There was beauty enough to alarm, but simplicity sufficient
to remove all fears of rivalship. Caroline entered, without any prepared
grace or practised smile, but merely as if she were coming into a room.
Her two friends, the Lady Pembrokes, instantly placed her between them,
her countenance expressing just what she felt, affectionate pleasure at
seeing them.

"A sweet pretty creature, really!" whispered Lady Angelica, to her
admirer in waiting, Sir James Harcourt.

"Ye--ye--yes; but nothing _marquante_," replied Sir James.

Mr. Barclay's eye followed, and fixed upon Caroline, with a degree of
interest. The room was so large, and they were at such a distance from
Caroline, who was now occupied in listening to her friends, that
Lady Angelica could continue her observations without fear of being
overheard.

"There is something so interesting in that air of simplicity!" pursued
her ladyship, addressing herself to Mr. Barclay. "Don't you think there
is a wonderful charm in simplicity? 'Tis a pity it can't last: it is
like those delicate colours which always catch the eye the moment they
are seen, by which I've been taken in a hundred times, and have now
forsworn for ever--treacherous colours that fade, and fly even while you
look at them."

"That is a pity," said Mr. Barclay, withdrawing his eyes from Caroline.

"A thousand pities," said Lady Angelica. "Perhaps, in the country, this
delicate charm might possibly, and with infinite care and caution, last
a few years, but in town it would not last a season."

"True--too true," said Mr. Barclay.

"For which reason," pursued Lady Angelica, "give me something a little
more durable, something that can stand what it must meet with in the
world: fashion, for instance, though not half so charming till we are
used to it; or knowledge, though often dearly bought; or genius, though
doubly taxed with censure; or wit, though so hard to be had genuine--any
thing is better than a faded charm, a has-been-pretty simplicity."

"When it comes to _that_, it is lamentable, indeed," said Mr. Barclay.
He seemed to wish to say something more in favour of simplicity, but to
be overpowered by wit.

Sir James shrugged his shoulders, and protested that simplicity had
something too _fade_ in it, to suit his taste.

All this time, where was Colonel Hungerford? He had been expected to
arrive this day; but a letter came to tell his mother, that he was
detained by indispensable military business, and that, he feared, he
could not for some weeks have the pleasure of being at home. Every one
looked and felt disappointed.

"So," thought Rosamond, "we shall be gone before he comes, and he will
not see Caroline!"

"So!" said Lady Angelica, to herself, "he will not see me."

Rosamond was somewhat comforted for her disappointment, by observing
that Caroline was not quite lost upon Mr. Barclay, pre-occupied though
he was with his brilliant mistress. She thought he seemed to notice the
marked difference there was in their manner of passing the day.

Lady Angelica, though she would sometimes handle a pencil, touch the
harp, or take up a book, yet never was really employed. Caroline was
continually occupied. In the morning, she usually sat with Rosamond
and the two Lady Pembrokes, in a little room called _the Oriel_, which
opened into the great library. Here in happy retirement Caroline and
Rosamond looked over Mrs. Hungerford's select library, and delighted
to read the passages which had been marked with approbation. At other
times, without disturbing the rest of the company, or being disturbed
by them, Caroline enjoyed the opportunity of cultivating her talents
for music and painting, with the assistance of her two friends, who
eminently excelled in these accomplishments.

All this time Lady Angelica spent in talking to show her wit, or
lounging to show her grace. Now and then her ladyship condescended to
join the young people, when they went out to walk, but never unless
they were attended by gentlemen. The beauties of nature have come
into fashion of late, and Lady Angelica Headingham could talk of bold
outlines, and sublime mountains, the charming effects of light and
shade, fine _accidents_, and rich foliage, spring verdure and autumnal
tints,--whilst Caroline could enjoy all these things, without expecting
to be admired for admiring them. Mrs. Mortimer was planting a new
shrubbery, and laying out a ride through the park. Caroline took
an unaffected interest in all her plans, whilst Lady Angelica was
interested only in showing how much she remembered of Price, and Repton,
and Knight. She became too hot or too cold, or she was tired to death,
the moment she ceased to be the principal object of attention. But
though her ladyship was thus idle by day, she sometimes worked hard by
night--hard as Butler is said to have toiled in secret, to support the
character of an idle universal genius, who knows every thing without
studying any thing. From dictionaries and extracts, abridgments and
_beauties_ of various authors, here, and there, and every where, she
picked up shining scraps, and often by an ostentation of superficial
knowledge succeeded in appearing in conversation to possess a vast
extent of literature, and to be deeply skilled in matters of science, of
which she knew nothing, and for which she had no taste.

Mr. Seebright, the poet, was easily duped by this display: he expressed
the most flattering astonishment, and pronounced her ladyship to be an
universal genius. He looked up to Lady Angelica for patronage. He was so
weak, or so ignorant of the world, as to imagine that the patronage of
a fashionable literary lady of high rank would immediately guide the
opinion of the public, and bring a poet forward to fortune and fame.
With these hopes he performed his daily, hourly duty of admiration to
his fair patroness, with all possible zeal and assiduity; but it was
observed by Rosamond that, in conversation, whenever Mr. Seebright had
a new idea or a favourite allusion to produce, his eye involuntarily
turned first to Caroline; and though he professed, on all points
of taste and criticism, to be implicitly governed by Lady Angelica
Headingham, there was "a small still voice" to which he more anxiously
listened.

As to Mr. Grey, the roan of science--he soon detected Lady Angelica's
ignorance; smiled in silence at her blunders, and despised her for
her _arts of pretence_. In vain, to win his suffrage, she produced
the letters of various men of note and talent with whom she was in
correspondence; in vain she talked of all the persons of rank who were
her relations or dear friends:--she should be so happy to introduce him
to this great man, or to mention him to that great lady; she should
be so proud, on her return to town, to have Mr. Grey at her _esprit
parties_; she would have such and such celebrated characters to meet
him, and would have the pleasure and honour of introducing him to every
person worth knowing in town.

With all due civility Mr. Grey declined these offers. There were few
persons the pleasure or honour of whose company could compensate to
him for the loss of his time, or equal the enjoyment he had in his own
occupations; and those few he was so happy to have for his friends,
he did not wish to form new acquaintance--he never went to
_conversaziones_--he was much obliged to her ladyship, but he did not
want to be _mentioned_ to great men or great women. The nature of his
fame was quite independent of fashion.--In this respect men of science
have much the advantage of men of taste. Works of taste may, to
a certain degree, be _cried up_ or _cried down_ by fashion. The
full-fledged bard soars superior, and looks down at once upon the great
and little world; but the young poet, in his first attempts to rise, is
often obliged, or thinks himself obliged, to have his wing impelled by
patronage.

With all her resources, however, both of patronage and of _bel-esprit_,
Lady Angelica was equally surprised and mortified to find herself
foiled at her own arms, by a girl whom nobody knew. She changed her
manoeuvres--she thought she could show Miss Caroline Percy, that,
whatever might be her abilities, her knowledge, or her charms, these
must all submit to the superior power of fashion. Caroline having lived
in the country, could not know much of the world of fashion. This was a
world from which she thought she could move every other at pleasure. Her
conversation was no longer of books, of which all of equal talents were
competent to form a judgment; but her _talk_ was now of persons, with
whom no one who had not lived in the great world could pretend to be
acquainted, of whom they could not presume to judge. Her ladyship tried
in vain to draw Mrs. Hungerford and Mrs. Mortimer to her aid; they were
too well-bred to encourage this exclusive and unprofitable conversation.
But her ladyship knew that she could be sufficiently supported by Sir
James Harcourt! He prided himself upon knowing and being known to _every
body_, that is, _any body_, in London; he had an inexhaustible fund of
town and court anecdote. What an auxiliary for Lady Angelica! But though
their combined operations were carried on with consummate skill, and
though the league offensive was strictly kept with every demonstration
of mutual amity that could excite jealousy or express contempt for
rival powers; yet the ultimate purpose was not gained--Caroline was
not mortified, and Mr. Barclay was not jealous; at least, he was not
sufficiently jealous to afford a clear triumph.

One morning, when she had been playing off all her graces, while Sir
James admired her in every Proteus form of affectation, Mr. Barclay, as
she thought, evidently pained by her coquetry, retired from the sofa,
where she sat, and went to Mrs. Hungerford's table, where he took up
a book and began to read. Lady Angelica spared no art to distract his
attention: she contrived for herself an employment, which called forth
continual exclamations of admiration, joy, despair, which at first made
Mr. Barclay turn to see by what they could be caused; but when he found
that they were occasioned only by the rise or fall of a house of cards
which she was building, he internally said, "Pshaw!" and afterwards
kept his eyes fixed upon his book. Sir James continued to serve the fair
architect with the frail materials for her building--her _Folly_, as
she called it--and for his services he received much encouragement of
smiles, and many marked commendations. Mrs. Hungerford called upon Mr.
Barclay to read a favourite poem.

Mr. Barclay read remarkably well, and soon fixed the attention of all
the company, except that of Lady Angelica and her knight, Sir James
Harcourt, whom she detained in her service. She could not be so
flagrantly rude as to interrupt the reader by audible exclamations, but
by dumb-show, by a variety of gestures and pretty looks of delight at
every fresh story added to her card edifice, and at every motion of
terror lest her tower should fall, her ladyship showed Mr. Barclay
that she was not listening to that which she knew he was particularly
desirous that she should hear.

The moment the reader's voice ceased, Lady Angelica approached the
table. "Ten millions of pardons!" said she, drawing some cards from
beneath Miss Caroline Percy's elbow, which rested on them. "Unpardonable
wretch that I am, to have disturbed such a reverie--and such an
attitude! Mr. Barclay," continued her ladyship, "now if you have leisure
to think of me, may I trouble you for some of your little cards for the
attic of my dear Folly?"

Mr. Barclay coolly presented the cards to her ladyship: then looked
out of the window, observed that his horse was at the door, and was
following Mr. Percy out of the room, when Lady Angelica, just as Mr.
Barclay passed, blew down her tower, and exclaimed, "There's an end of
my folly--of one of my follies, I mean: I wish I could blow them all
away so easily."

The sigh and look of penitence with which she pronounced these words
were accepted as expiation--Mr. Barclay stopped and returned; while
sweeping the wreck of her tower from the table, she repeated,

  "Easy, as when ashore an infant stands,
  And draws imagined houses on the sands,
  The sportive wanton, pleased with some new play,
  Sweeps the slight works and fancied domes away:
  Thus vanish at thy touch the tow'rs and walls,
  The toil of _mornings_ in a moment falls."

"Beautiful lines!" said Mr. Barclay.

"And charmingly repeated," said Sir James Harcourt: "are they your
ladyship's own?"

"No; Homer's," said she, smiling; "Pope's Homer's, I mean."

To cover his blunder as fast as possible, Sir James went on to something
else, and asked what her ladyship thought of Flaxman's sketches from
the Iliad and Odyssey? He had seen the book lying on the library
table yesterday: indeed, his eye had been caught, as it lay open, by
a striking resemblance--he knew it was very rude to talk of
likenesses--but, really, the resemblance was striking between a lady
he had in his view, and one of the figures in Flaxman, of Venus, or
Penelope, he could not say which, but he would look for the book and see
in a moment.

The book was not to be found on the library table; Mrs. Hungerford said
she believed it was in the Oriel: Sir James went to look--Miss Caroline
Percy was drawing from it--that was unlucky, for Mr. Barclay followed,
stayed to admire Miss Percy's drawings, which he had never seen before,
and in looking over these sketches of hers from Flaxman's Homer, and
from Euripides and Æschylus, which the Lady Pembrokes showed him, and
in speaking of these, he discovered so much of Caroline's taste,
literature, and feeling, that he could not quit the Oriel. Lady Angelica
had followed to prevent mischief, and Mrs. Hungerford had followed to
enjoy the pleasure of seeing Caroline's modest merit appreciated. Whilst
Mr. Barclay admired in silence, Sir James Harcourt, not with his usual
politeness, exclaimed, "I protest I had no notion that Miss Caroline
Percy drew in this style!"

"That's possible," cried Lady Mary Pembroke, colouring with that prompt
indignation which she was prone to feel when any thing was said that
seemed derogatory to her friends, "that's possible, Sir James; and yet
you find Miss Caroline Percy does draw in this very superior style--yes,
and it is the perfection of her accomplishments, that they are never
exhibited."

"You have always the pleasure of discovering them," said Mrs.
Hungerford; "they are as a woman's accomplishments and acquirements
ought to be, more retiring than obtrusive; or as my old friend, Dr.
South, quaintly but aptly expresses it--more in intaglio than in cameo."

At this instant a sudden scream was heard from Lady Angelica Headingham,
who caught hold of Mr. Barclay's arm, and writhed as if in agony.

"Good Heavens! What is the matter?" cried Mr. Barclay.

"Oh! cramp! cramp! horrid cramp! in my foot--in my leg!"

"Rest upon me," said Mr. Barclay, "and stretch your foot out."

"Torture!--I can't." It was impossible that she could stand without the
support of both gentlemen.

"Carry me to the sofa--there!"

When they had carried her out of the Oriel to the sofa in the library,
and when her ladyship found that she had excited sufficient interest,
and drawn the attention of Mr. Barclay away from Caroline, her ladyship
began to grow a little better, and by graceful degrees recovered the use
of her pretty limbs. And now, as she had reason to be satisfied with the
degree of feeling which Mr. Barclay had involuntarily shown for her
when he thought she was suffering, if her vanity had had any touch of
gratitude or affection mixed with it, she would not have taken this
moment to torment the heart of the man--the only man who ever really
loved her; but all in her was vanity: she began to coquet with Sir James
Harcourt--she let him put on her sandal and tie its strings--she sent
him for her shawl, for she had a mind to walk in the park--and when Mr.
Barclay offered to attend her, and when she found that Caroline and the
Lady Pembrokes were going, she had a mind not to go, and she resolved to
detain them all in admiration of her. She took her shawl from Sir James,
and throwing it round her in graceful drapery, she asked him if he
had ever seen any of Lady Hamilton's attitudes, or rather scenic
representations with shawl drapery.

Yes, he had; but he should be charmed to see them in perfection from her
ladyship.

Notwithstanding the hint Mrs. Hungerford had given about _exhibiting_,
and notwithstanding Mr. Barclay's grave looks, Lady Angelica, avowedly
to please Sir James Harcourt, consented to give the exhibition of the
passions. She ran into the Oriel--attired herself in a most appropriate
manner, and appeared first in the character of Fear--then of Hope: she
acted admirably, but just as

  "Hope enchanted, smiled, and waved her golden hair,"

her ladyship's auburn tresses caught on some ornament in the room. The
whole fabric was raised a little from the fair head on which it
seemed to grow--Caroline sprang forward instantly, and dexterously
disentangling the accomplished actress, relieved her from this imminent
and awkward peril.

"I am sure I'm exceedingly obliged to Miss Caroline Percy," said
her ladyship, adjusting her head-dress. "There, now, all's right
again--thank you, Miss Percy--don't trouble yourself, pray."

The heartless manner of these thanks, and her ladyship's preparing to go
on again with her exhibition, so displeased and disgusted Mr. Barclay,
that he left her to the flattery of Sir James Harcourt, and, sighing
deeply, quitted the room.

Lady Angelica, proud of showing her power of tormenting a man of
his sense, smiled victorious; and, in a half whisper, said to Mrs.
Hungerford, "Exit Mr. Barclay, jealous, because he thinks I did the
shawl attitudes for Sir James, and not for him--Poor man! he's very
angry; but he'll ride it off--or I'll smile it off."

Mrs. Hungerford shook her head. When her ladyship's exhibition had
finished, and when Sir James had continued repeating, either with his
words or his looks, "Charming! Is not she charming?" till the time of
dressing, an hour to which he was always punctual, he retired to his
toilette, and Lady Angelica found herself alone with Mrs. Hungerford.

"Oh! how tired I am!" cried her ladyship, throwing herself on a sofa
beside her. "My spirits do so wear me out! I am sure I'm too much for
you, Mrs. Hungerford; I am afraid you think me a strange wild creature:
but, dear madam, why do you look so grave?"

"My dear Lady Angelica Headingham," said Mrs. Hungerford, in a serious
but affectionate tone, laying her hand upon Lady Angelica's as she
spoke, "I was, you know, your mother's most intimate friend--I wish to
be yours. Considering this and my age, I think I may venture to speak
to you with more freedom than any one else now living could with
propriety--it grieves me to see such a woman as you are, being spoiled
by adulation."

"Thank you, my dear Mrs. Hungerford! and now do tell me all my faults,"
said Lady Angelica: "only first let me just say, that if you are going
to tell me that I am a coquette, and a fool, I know I am--both--and I
can't help it; and I know I am what some people call _odd_--but I would
not for the world be a common character."

"Then you must not be a coquette," said Mrs. Hungerford, "for that _is_
common character--the hackneyed character of every play, of every novel.
And whatever is common is vulgar, you know: airs and affectation are
common and paltry--throw them aside, my dear Lady Angelica; disdain
flattery, prove that you value your own esteem above vulgar admiration,
and then, with such beauty and talents as you possess, you may be what
you admire, an uncommon character."

"_May_be!" repeated Lady Angelica in a voice of vexation. "Well, I know
I have a hundred faults; but I never before heard any body, friend or
enemy, deny that I _am_ an uncommon character. Now, Mrs. Hungerford, do
you know any one of a more uncommon character?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Hungerford, smiling, "I know the thing that's most
uncommon,

  'I know a reasonable woman,
  Handsome and witty, yet a friend.'"

"Oh! your friend, Miss Caroline Percy, I suppose. Well! though she is
so great a favourite of yours, I must say that, to my fancy, she is as
little of an uncommon character as any girl I ever saw--uncommon beauty,
I acknowledge, she has, though not the style of face I like."

"And an uncommonly good understanding, without one grain of envy,
affectation, or vanity," said Mrs. Hungerford.

"Vanity!--Stay till you see her tried," said Lady Angelica; "stay till
she has gone through one winter's campaign in London; stay till she has
as many admirers as--"

"As you have," said Mrs. Hungerford, smiling. "She seems to be in a fair
way of soon trying that experiment to your satisfaction."

A considerable pause ensued; during which many conflicting passions
appeared in Lady Angelica's countenance.

"After all, Mrs. Hungerford," resumed she, "do you think Mr. Barclay is
really attached to me?"

"I think he _was_ really attached to you, and strongly: but you have
been doing all you can to weaken and destroy his attachment, I fear."

"Fear nothing! I fear nothing," exclaimed Lady Angelica, "now you tell
me, dear Mrs. Hungerford, that you do not doubt the _reality_ of his
love: all the rest I will answer for--trust to me, I know my game."

Mrs. Hungerford sighed; and replied, "I am old, have stood by, and
seen this game played and lost so often, and by as able players as Lady
Angelica Headingham--take care--remember I warn you."

Miss Caroline Percy came into the room at this instant--Lady Angelica
went to her toilette to repair her charms.



CHAPTER XVII.


While Mrs. Hungerford was wasting her good advice upon Lady Angelica,
Sir James Harcourt at his toilette received this day's letters, which he
read, as usual, while his hair was dressing. Some of these letters
were from creditors, who were impatient to hear when his _advantageous
marriage_ would be concluded, or when he would obtain that place which
had been so long promised. The place at court, as he was by this post
informed by a _private, very confidential_ letter, under a government
cover and huge seal, from his intimate friend, my Lord Skreene,
ministers had found themselves under the unfortunate necessity of giving
away, to secure three votes on a certain cabinet question.

Sir James threw the letter from him, without reading the rest of his
dear friend's official apologies: "So, the place at court is out of
the question--a wife must be my last resource," thought he, "but how to
bring her to the point?"

Sir James knew that though he was now in high favour, he might, at some
sudden turn of caprice, be discarded or deserted by his fair one, as
had been the fate of so many of his predecessors. The ruling passion,
vanity, must be touched, and the obvious means of awakening jealousy
were in his power. He determined to pay attentions to Miss Caroline
Percy: his experience in the tactics of gallantry supplying the place
of knowledge of the human heart, he counterfeited the symptoms of a new
passion, and acted "The Inconstant" so well, that Lady Angelica had no
doubt of his being what be appeared. She was not prepared for this turn
of fate, well as she thought she knew her game, and at this unlucky
moment, just when she wanted to play off Sir James against Mr.
Barclay--and in an old castle in the country too, where no substitute
was to be had!

Her ladyship was the more vexed, because Mrs. Hungerford must see her
distress. Unused to any thing that opposed her wishes, she lost all
temper, and every word and look manifested resentment and disdain
towards her innocent and generous rival. In this jealousy, as there was
no mixture of love to colour and conceal its nature, it could not
pass for refinement of sentiment--it bore no resemblance to any thing
noble--it must have been detected, even by a less penetrating and less
interested observer than Mr. Barclay. His eyes were now completely
opened.

In the mean time, Caroline's character, the more it was brought into
light, the more its value, goodness, and purity appeared. In the
education of a beauty, as of a prince, it is essential early to inspire
an utter contempt of flattery, and to give the habit of observing, and
consequently the power of judging, of character.

Caroline, on this occasion, when, perhaps, some little temptation
might have been felt by some ladies, remembered her own prayer against
coquetry--her manner towards Sir James was free from all possibility of
reproach or misconstruction: and by simply and steadily adhering to the
truth, and going the straight road, she avoided all the difficulties in
which she would have been involved, had she deviated but for a moment
into any crooked path.

But to return to Lady Angelica Headingham. She was pleased to see Sir
James Harcourt disconcerted, and delighted to see him mortified. Her
ladyship's disdainful manner towards Caroline was thrown aside,

  "And all the cruel language of the eye"

changed at once. Lady Angelica acknowledged that no one could show more
magnanimity than Miss Caroline Percy had displayed in her conduct to Sir
James Harcourt. This speech was made of course to be repeated, and when
Caroline heard it she could not help smiling at the word magnanimity,
which sounded to her rather too grand for the occasion.

Sir James Harcourt finding himself completely foiled in his schemes, and
perceiving that the parties were closing and combining in a manner which
his knowledge of the world had not taught him to foresee, endeavoured
with all possible address and expedition to make his separate peace with
Lady Angelica. Her ladyship, however, was proud to show that she had
too much sense and spirit to accept again the homage of this recreant
knight. He had not time to sue for pardon--his adventure might have
ended in a jail; so forthwith he took his departure from Hungerford
Castle, undetermined whether he should again haste to court to beg
a place, or bend his course to the city, there to barter his fashion
against the solid gold of some merchant, rolling in his majesty's coin,
who might be silly enough to give his daughter, for a bow, to a courtier
without a shilling. On one point, however, Sir James was decided--betide
him weal, betide him woe--that his next mistress should neither be a
wit, nor a beauty, nor yet a patroness.

After the departure of the baronet, the Lady Angelica expected to find
her remaining lover at her feet, in transports of joy and gratitude for
this haughty dismissal of his rival. No such thing: Mr. Barclay seemed
disposed to throw himself at the feet of another, and of the last person
in the world at whose feet her ladyship could bear to think of seeing
him. Yet if she had even now taken Mrs. Hungerford's friendly warning,
she might still have saved herself from mortification; but she was
hurried on by her evil genius--the spirit of coquetry.

She had promised to pay a visit this summer to an aunt of Mr. Barclay,
Lady B----, who lived in Leicestershire. And now, when every thing was
arranged for her reception, Lady Angelica changed her mind, and told Mr.
Barclay that she could not go, that she had just received letters from
town, from several of her fashionable friends, who were setting out for
Weymouth, and who insisted upon her meeting them there--and there was a
delightful Miss Kew, a protégée of hers, who was gone to Weymouth in the
hope and trust that her ladyship would _produce_ her and her new novel
at the reading parties which Lady Angelica had projected. She declared
that she could not possibly disappoint Miss Kew; besides, she had
promised to carry Mr. Seebright to Weymouth, to introduce him and
his poem to her friends--his subscription and the success of his poem
entirely depended upon her going to Weymouth--she could not possibly
disappoint _him_.

Mr. Barclay thought more of his own disappointment--and said so: at
which her ladyship rejoiced, for she wished to make this a trial of her
power; and she desired rather that her reasons should not appear valid,
and that her excuses should not be reasonable, on purpose that she
might compel Mr. Barclay to submit to her caprice, and carry him off in
triumph in her train.

She carelessly repeated that Leicestershire was out of the question at
this time, but that Mr. Barclay might attend her, if he pleased.

But it did not please him: he did not think that his aunt was properly
treated, and he preferred her to all the bel-esprits and fine ladies who
were going to Weymouth--her charming self excepted.

She depended too much on the power of that charming self. Mr. Barclay,
whose bands she had gradually loosened, now made one resolute effort,
asserted and recovered his liberty. He declared that to Weymouth he
could not have the honour of attending her: if her ladyship thought the
claims and feelings of her protégées of greater consequence than his,
if she held herself more bound by the promises she had given to Mr.
Seebright, Miss Kew, or any of her bel-esprit friends, than by those
with which she had honoured his aunt, he could not presume to dispute
her pleasure, or further to press Lady B.'s request; he could only
lament--and submit.

Lady Angelica flattered herself that this was only a bravado, or a
temporary ebullition of courage, but, to her surprise and dismay, Mr.
Barclay continued firm, calm, and civil. His heart now turned to the
object on which his understanding had long since told him it should fix.
He saw that Miss Caroline Percy was all that could make him happy
for life, if he could win her affections; but of the possibility of
succeeding he had great doubts. He had, to be sure, some circumstances
in his favour: he was of a good family, and had a considerable fortune;
in a worldly point of view he was a most advantageous match for Caroline
Percy, but he knew that an establishment was not the _first_ object,
either with her, or with her parents; neither could he wish that any
motives of interest should operate in his favour. His character, his
principles, were good, and he had reason to believe that Mr. Percy was
impressed with a highly favourable opinion of his good sense and
general understanding. Caroline talked to him always as if she liked his
conversation, and felt esteem for his character; but the very freedom
and ease of her manner showed that she had no thoughts of him. He
was many years older than Caroline: it did not amount to an absolute
disparity, but it was an alarming difference. Mr. Barclay, who estimated
himself with perfect impartiality and candour, was sensible that though
his temper was good, yet that he was somewhat fastidious, and though his
manners were polite, yet they were reserved--they wanted that amenity,
gaiety, and frankness, which might be essential to win and keep a lady's
heart. The more his love, the more doubts of his own deserts increased;
but at last he determined to try his fate. He caught a glimpse of
Caroline one morning as she was drawing in the Oriel. Her sister and the
two Lady Pembrokes were in the library, and he thought he was secure of
finding her alone.

"May I beg the favour of a few minutes?"--he began with a voice of much
emotion as he entered the room; but he stopped short at the sight of
Lady Angelica.

In spite of all the rouge she wore, her ladyship's change of colour was
striking. Her lips trembled and grew pale. Mr. Barclay's eyes fixed
upon her for one moment with astonishment, then turning calmly away, he
addressed himself to Caroline, his emotion recurring, though he merely
spoke to her of a drawing which she was examining, and though he only
said, "Is this yours?"

"Yes, Lady Angelica has just given it to me; it is one of her
drawings--a view of Weymouth."

"Very beautiful," said Mr. Barclay, coldly--"a view of Weymouth."

"Where I hope to be the day after to-morrow," cried Lady Angelica,
speaking in a hurried, piqued, and haughty voice--"I am dying to get to
Weymouth. Mr. Barclay, if you have any letters for your friends there,
I shall be happy to carry them. Only let them be given to my woman in
time," added her ladyship, rising; "and now I must go and say _vivace!
presto! prestissimo!_ to her preparations. Well, have you any commands?"

"No commands--but my best wishes for your ladyship's health and
happiness, whenever and wherever you go."

Lady Angelica sunk down upon her seat--made a strong effort to rise
again--but was unable. Caroline, without appearing to take any notice of
this, turned to Mr. Barclay, and said, "Will you have the goodness now
to give me the book which you were so kind as to promise me?"

Mr. Barclay went in search of it. Caroline proceeded with her drawing,
gave Lady Angelica time to recover, and left her the hope that her
perturbation had not been noticed. Her ladyship, as soon as she could,
left the room, repeating that she had some orders to give for her
departure. Caroline waited some time in vain for Mr. Barclay and his
book. Afterwards, as she was going up stairs, she was met by Rosamond,
who, with a face full of mystery, whispered, "Caroline, my father wants
you this instant in my mother's dressing-room--Mr. Barclay," added she,
in a low voice, and nodding her head, "Oh! I see you know what I mean--I
knew how it would be--I said so last night. Now go to my father, and you
will hear all the particulars."

Caroline heard from her father the confirmation of Rosamond's
intelligence, and she received from him and from her mother the kind
assurance that they would leave her entirely at liberty to accept or
refuse Mr. Barclay, according as her own judgment and feelings might
dictate. They said, that though it might be, in point of fortune, a
highly advantageous match, and though they saw nothing to which they
could object in his character, understanding, and temper, yet they
should not attempt to influence her in his favour. They begged her to
decide entirely for herself, and to consult only her own happiness.

"All I insist upon, my dear daughter, is, that you should, without any
idle or unjust generosity, consider first and solely what is for your
own happiness."

"And for Mr. Barclay's," said Caroline.

"And for Mr. Barclay's, as far as you are concerned: but, remember,
the question he asks you is, whether you can love him, whether you will
marry him, not whether you would advise him to love or marry somebody
else? Don't I know all that passes in your mind?"

"Not all, perhaps," said Caroline, "nor can I tell it you, because it is
another person's secret; therefore, I am sure you will not question me
further: but since you are so kind as to trust to my judgment, trust to
it entirely, when I assure you that I will, without any idle or unjust
generosity, consider, principally, what is for my own happiness."

"I am satisfied," said Mr. Percy, "no--one thing more: without meaning
or wishing to penetrate into any other person's affairs, I have a full
right to say to my daughter all that may be necessary to assist her in
deciding on a point the most material to her happiness. Now, Caroline,"
continued her father, looking away from her, "observe, I do not
endeavour, from my knowledge of your countenance, even to guess whether
what I imagine is fact; but I state to you this supposition--suppose you
had been told that another lady is attached to Mr. Barclay?"

"I never was told so," interrupted Caroline, "but I have discovered it
by accident--No, I have said too much--I do not think _that person_ is
attached to him, but that she might easily have become attached, if this
proposal had been made to her instead of to me; and I think that their
two characters are exactly suited to each other--much better suited than
mine could be to Mr. Barclay, or his to me: she has wit and imagination,
and great vivacity; he has judgment, prudence, and solid sense: in each
there is what would compensate for what is wanting in the other, and
both together would make a happy union."

"My dear Caroline," said her father, "I must put you upon your guard
against the too easy faith of a sincere affectionate heart. I am
really surprised that you, who have always shown such good judgment of
character, should now be so totally mistaken as to think a woman capable
of a real love who is merely acting a part from vanity and coquetry."

"Vanity! coquetry!" repeated Caroline: "nobody upon earth is more free
from vanity and coquetry than--Surely you do not imagine I am thinking
of Lady Angelica Headingham?--Oh! no; I have no compassion for her. I
know that if she suffers from losing Mr. Barclay, it will be only from
losing 'the dear delight of giving pain,' and I should be very sorry she
ever again enjoyed that delight at Mr. Barclay's expense. I assure you,
I am not thinking of Lady Angelica."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Percy were in doubt whether Caroline was thinking of
her sister Rosamond or of her friend Lady Mary Pembroke; but without
attempting to discover, they only repeated that, whoever the person in
question might be, or however amiable or dear to Caroline, she ought not
to let this idea interfere with her own happiness, or influence her in
giving an answer to Mr. Barclay's proposal, which she ought either to
accept or decline, according as her own feelings and judgment should
decide.--"If you wish to take time to decide, your father and I will
make Mr. Barclay clearly understand that he is not to consider this as
any encouragement; and as to the rest," added Mrs. Percy, "when you are
sure that you mean right, and that you do right, you will not, my dear
Caroline, I hope, be deterred from determining upon what is best for
your own happiness, merely by the weak fear of what idle foolish people
will say about an affair in which they have no concern."

Caroline assured her mother that no such weak fear acted upon her mind;
and that in any case where she had the least doubt whether she could
like a person as a husband or not, she should certainly ask for time to
consider, before she would give an answer; but that, with respect to Mr.
Barclay, she had had sufficient opportunities of seeing and judging of
him in the character of a lover, whilst he had been the admirer of
Lady Angelica; that she fully appreciated his good qualities, and was
grateful for his favourable opinion; but that she felt perfectly certain
that she did not and could not love him; and therefore she desired, as
soon as possible, to put him out of the pain of suspense, to prevent him
from having the mortification of showing himself the admirer of one by
whom he must ultimately be refused; and to leave him at liberty to turn
his thoughts elsewhere, to some person to whom he was better suited, and
who was better suited to him.

Mr. Barclay had made Mrs. Hungerford alone his confidant. As to Lady
Angelica Headingham, he thought that her ladyship could not be in any
doubt of the state of his affections as far as she was concerned, and
that was all she had a right to know. He never had actually declared
his passion for her, and his attentions had completely ceased since the
determination she had made to break her engagement with his aunt; but
Lady Angelica had still imagined that he would not be able to bring
himself to part with her for ever, and she trusted that, even at the
moment of getting into her carriage, she might prevail upon him to
forget his wrongs, and might at last carry him off. These hopes had been
checked, and for a moment overthrown, by Mr. Barclay's appearance
this morning in the Oriel; the emotion with which she saw him speak
to Caroline, and the indifference with which she heard him wish her
ladyship health and happiness at Weymouth, or wherever she went, for an
instant convinced her of the truth. But obstinate vanity recurred to the
hope that he was not yet irreclaimable, and under this persuasion she
hurried on the preparations for her departure, impatient for the moment
of crisis--of triumph.

The moment of crisis arrived--but not of triumph. Lady Angelica
Headingham's landau came to the door. But _trunks packed and corded_
gave no pang to her former lover--Mrs. Hungerford did not press her to
stay--Mr. Barclay handed her into the carriage--she stooped to conquer,
so far as to tell him that, as she had only Mr. Seebright and her maid,
she could give him a seat in her carriage, if he would come to Weymouth,
and that she would thence, in a fortnight at farthest, go to his aunt,
dear Lady B----, in Leicestershire. But all in vain--she saw it would
not do--bid her servant shut the carriage-door--desired Mr. Seebright
to draw up the glass, and, with a look of angry contempt towards Mr.
Barclay, threw herself back on the seat to conceal the vexation which
she could not control, and drove away for ever from irreclaimable lovers
and lost friends. We do not envy Mr. Seebright his trip to Weymouth with
his patroness in this humour; but without troubling ourselves further to
inquire what became of her, we leave her

  "To flaunt, and go down a disregarded thing."

Rosamond seemed to think that if Caroline married Mr. Barclay, the
dénouement would be too near, too clear, and commonplace: she said that
in this case Caroline would just be married, like any body else, to a
man with a good fortune, good character, good sense, and every thing
very good, but nothing extraordinary, and she would be settled at Mr.
Barclay's seat in Leicestershire, and she would be Mrs. Barclay, and,
perhaps, happy enough, but nothing extraordinary.

This plain view of things, and this positive termination of all hope of
romance, did not please Rosamond's imagination. She was relieved, when
at last Caroline surprised her with the assurance that there was no
probability of Mr. Barclay's succeeding in his suit. "And yet," said
Caroline, "if I were compelled at this moment to marry, of all men I
have ever yet seen, Mr. Barclay is the person to whom I could engage
myself with the least reluctance--the person with whom I think I should
have the best security for happiness."

Rosamond's face again lengthened. "If that is the case," said she,
"though you have no intention of marrying him at present, you will, I
suppose, be _reasoned into_ marrying him in time."

"No," said Caroline, "for I cannot be reasoned into loving him."

"There's my own dear Caroline," cried Rosamond: "I was horribly afraid
that this man of sense would have convinced you that esteem was quite
sufficient without love."

"Impossible!" said Caroline. "There must be some very powerful motive
that could induce me to quit my family: I can conceive no motive
sufficiently powerful, except love."

Rosamond was delighted.

"For what else _could_ I marry?" continued Caroline: "I, who am left
by the kindest of parents freely to my own choice--could I marry for
a house in Leicestershire? or for a barouche and four? on Lady Jane
Granville's principles for _an establishment_? or on the _missy_ notion
of being married, and having a house of my own, and ordering my own
dinner?--Was this your notion of me?" said Caroline, with a look of
such surprise, that Rosamond was obliged to fall immediately to
protestations, and appeals to common sense. "How was it possible she
could have formed such ideas!"

"Then why were you so much surprised and transported just now, when I
told you that no motive but love could induce me to marry?"

"I don't recollect being surprised--I was only delighted. I never
suspected that you could marry without love, but I thought that you and
I might differ as to the quantity--the degree."

"No common degree of love, and no common love, would be sufficient to
induce me to marry," said Caroline.

"Once, and but once, before in your life, you gave me the idea of your
having such an exalted opinion of love," replied Rosamond.

"But to return to Mr. Barclay," said Caroline. "I have, as I promised
my father that I would, consulted in the first place my own heart,
and considered my own happiness. He appears to me incapable of that
enthusiasm which rises either to the moral or intellectual sublime. I
respect his understanding, and esteem his principles; but in conversing
with him, I always feel--and in passing my life with him, how much more
should I feel!--that there is a want of the higher qualities of the
mind. He shows no invention, no genius, no magnanimity--nothing heroic,
nothing great, nothing which could waken sympathy, or excite that strong
attachment, which I think that I am capable of feeling for a superior
character--for a character at once good and great."

"And where upon earth are you to find such a man? Who is romantic now?"
cried Rosamond. "But I am very glad that you _are_ a little romantic; I
am glad that you have in you a touch of human absurdity, else how could
you be my sister, or how could I love you as I do?"

"I am heartily glad that you love me, but I am not sensible of my
present immediate claim to your love by my touch of human absurdity,"
said Caroline, smiling. "What did I say, that was absurd or romantic?"

"My dear, people never think their own romance absurd. Well! granted
that you are not romantic, since that is a point which I find I must
grant before we can go on,--now, tell me, was Mr. Barclay very sorry
when you refused him?" said Rosamond.

"I dare not tell you that there is yet no danger of his breaking his
heart," said Caroline.

"So I thought," cried Rosamond, with a look of ineffable contempt.
"I thought he was not a man to break his heart for love. With all his
sense, I dare say he will go back to his Lady Angelica Headingham. I
should not be surprised if he went after her to Weymouth to-morrow."

"I should," said Caroline; "especially as he has just ordered his
carriage to take him to his aunt, Lady B----, in Leicestershire."

"Oh! poor man!" said Rosamond, "now I do pity him."

"Because he is going to his aunt?"

"No; Caroline--you are very cruel--because I am sure he is very much
touched and disappointed by your refusal. He cannot bear to see you
again. Poor! _poor_ Mr. Barclay! I have been shamefully ill-natured.
I hope I did not prejudice your mind against him--I'll go directly and
take leave of him--poor Mr. Barclay!"

Rosamond, however, returned a few minutes afterwards, to complain that
Mr. Barclay had not made efforts enough to persuade Caroline to listen
to him.

"If he had been warmly in love, he would not so easily have given up
hope.

  'None, without hope, e'er loved the brightest fair;
  But love can hope, where Reason should despair.'"

"That, I think, is perfectly true," said Rosamond.

Never--begging Rosamond and the poet's pardon--never--except where
reason is very weak, or where the brightest fair has some touch of the
equivocating fiend. Love, let poets and lovers say what they will to the
contrary, can no more subsist without hope than flame can exist without
fuel. In all the cases cited to prove the contrary, we suspect that
there has been some inaccuracy in the experiment, and that by mistake a
little, a very little hope has been admitted. The slightest portion,
a quantity imperceptible to common observation, is known to be quite
sufficient to maintain the passion; but a total exclusion of hope
secures its extinction.

Mr. Barclay's departure was much regretted by all at Hungerford Castle,
most, perhaps, by the person who expressed that regret the least, Lady
Mary Pembroke--who now silently enjoyed the full chorus of praise that
was poured forth in honour of the departed. Lady Mary's common mode of
enjoying the praise of her friends was not in silence; all she thought
and felt usually came to her lips with the ingenuous vivacity of youth
and innocence. Caroline had managed so well by not managing at all,
that Lady Mary, far from guessing the real cause of Mr. Barclay's sudden
departure, repeatedly expressed surprise that her aunt Hungerford did
not press him to stay a little longer; and once said she wondered how
Mr. Barclay _could_ leave Hungerford Castle whilst Caroline was there;
that she had begun to think he had formed an attachment which would do
him more honour than his passion for Lady Angelica Headingham, but that
she feared he would have a relapse of that fit of folly, and that it
would at last end fatally in marriage.

Mrs. Hungerford smiled at the openness with which her niece told
her conjectures, and at the steadiness with which Caroline kept Mr.
Barclay's secret, by saying no more than just the thing she ought.
"The power of keeping a secret is very different from the habit of
dissimulation. You would convince me of this, if I had doubted it," said
Mrs. Hungerford, to Caroline. "Now that the affair is settled, my
dear, I must insist upon your praising me, as I have praised you for
discretion. I hope I never influenced your decision by word or look,
but I will now own to you that I was very anxious that you should decide
precisely as you have done. Mr. Barclay is a sensible man, an excellent
man, one who will make any amiable woman he marries happy. I am
convinced of it, or I should not, as I do, wish to see him married to
my niece--yet I never thought him suited to you. Yours is a character
without pretension, yet one which, in love and marriage, would not, I
believe, be easily satisfied, would require great qualities, a high tone
of thought and action, a character superior and lofty as your own."

Mrs. Hungerford paused, and seemed lost in thought. Caroline felt that
this lady had seen deeply into her mind. This conviction, beyond
all praise, and all demonstrations of fondness, increases affection,
confidence, and gratitude, in strong and generous minds. Caroline
endeavoured, but could not well express in words what she felt at this
instant.

"My dear," said Mrs. Hungerford, "we know that we are speaking plain
truth to each other--we need no flowers of speech--I understand you, and
you understand me. We are suited to each other--yes, notwithstanding the
difference of age, and a thousand other differences, we are suited to
each other. This possibility of a friendship between youth and age is
one of the rewards Heaven grants to the early and late cultivation of
the understanding and of the affections. Late as it is with me in life,
I have not, thank God, survived my affections. How can I ever, whilst
I have such children, such friends!" After a pause of a few moments of
seemingly pleasurable reflections, Mrs. Hungerford continued, "I have
never considered friendship as but a name--as a mere worldly commerce
of interest: I believe in disinterested affection, taking the word
_disinterested_ in its proper sense; and I have still, believe me, the
power of sympathizing with a _young_ friend--such a young friend as
Caroline Percy. Early as it is with her in life, she has so cultivated
her understanding, so regulated her mind, that she cannot consider
friendship merely as a companionship in frivolous amusement, or a
mixture of gossiping confidences and idle sentiment; therefore, I am
proud enough to hope that she can and will be the friend of such an old
woman as I am."

"It would be the pride of my life to have--to deserve such a friend,"
cried Caroline: "I feel all the condescension of this kindness. I know
you are much too good to me. I am afraid you think too highly of me.
But Mrs. Hungerford's praise does not operate like flattery: though it
exalts me in my own opinion, it shall not make me vain; it excites my
ambition to be--all she thinks me."

"You _are_ all I think you," said Mrs. Hungerford; "and that you may
hereafter be something yet nearer than a friend to me is the warmest
wish of my heart--But, no, I will not indulge myself in expressing that
wish; Such wishes are never wise where we have no power, no right to
act--such wishes often counteract their own object--anticipations
are always imprudent. But--about my niece, Lady Mary Pembroke. I
particularly admire the discretion, still more than the kindness, with
which you have acted with respect to her and Mr. Barclay--you have left
things to their natural course. You have not by any imprudent zeal or
generosity hazarded a word that could hurt the delicacy of either party.
You seem to have been fully aware that wherever the affections are
concerned, the human mind is most tenacious of what one half of the
philosophers in the world will not allow to exist, and the other half
cannot define. Influenced as we all are every moment in our preferences
and aversions, sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes avowedly, by the most
trifling and often the silliest causes, yet the wisest of us start, and
back, and think it incumbent on our pride in love affairs, to resist the
slightest interference, or the best advice, from the best friends.
What! love upon compulsion! No--Jupiter is not more tenacious of his
thunderbolt than Cupid is of his arrows. Blind as he is, none may
presume to direct the hand of that little urchin."

Here the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of a servant, who
brought the post-bag, with many letters for Mrs. Hungerford.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The arrival of the post was at this time an anxious moment to Mrs.
Hungerford, as she had so many near relations and friends in the army
and navy. This day brought letters, with news that lighted up her
countenance with dignified joy, one from Captain Hungerford, her second
son, ten minutes after an action at sea with the French.

"Dear mother--English victorious, of course; for particulars, see
Gazette. In the cockle shell I have, could do nothing worth mentioning,
but am promised a ship soon, and hope for opportunity to show myself
worthy to be your son.

"F. HUNGERFORD."

"I hope I am grateful to Providence for such children!" cried Mrs.
Hungerford.

Mrs. Mortimer darted upon Captain Hungerford's name in the Gazette--"And
I cannot refrain from mentioning to your lordships the gallant manner in
which I was seconded by Captain Hungerford."

"Happy mother that I am! And more happiness still--a letter also from my
colonel! Thanks of commanding officer--gallant conduct abroad--leave of
absence for three weeks--and will be here to-morrow!"

This news spread through the castle in a few minutes, and the whole
house was in motion and in joy.

"What is the matter?" said Rosamond, who had been out of the room when
the colonel's letter was read. "As I came down stairs, I met I can't
tell how many servants running different ways, with faces of delight. I
do believe Colonel Hungerford is come."

"Not come, but coming," said Mrs. Hungerford; "and I am proud that you,
my friends, should see what a sensation the first sound of his return
makes in his own _home_. There it is, after all, that you may best judge
what a man really is."

Every thing conspired to give Caroline a favourable idea of Colonel
Hungerford. He arrived--and his own appearance and manners, far from
contradicting, fully justified all that his friends had said. His
appearance was that of a soldier and a gentleman, with a fine person and
striking countenance, with the air of command, yet without presumption;
not without a consciousness of his own merit, but apparently with only
a consciousness sufficient to give value and grace to his deference
for others. To those he respected or loved, his manner was particularly
engaging; and the appropriate attentions he paid to each of his friends
proved that their peculiar tastes, their characteristic merits, and
their past kindnesses, were ever full in his remembrance. To his mother
his grateful affection, and the tender reverence he showed, were quite
touching; and the high opinion he had of her character, and the strong
influence she held over his mind, he seemed proud to avow in words and
actions. To his sister Mortimer, in a different but not less pleasing
manner, his affection appeared in a thousand little instances, which the
most polite courtiers, with the most officious desire to please, could
not without the happy inspiration of truth have invented. There were
innumerable slight strokes in his conversation with his sister
which marked the pleasure he felt in the recollection of their early
friendship, allusions to trivial passages in the history of their
childhood, which none of the important scenes in which he had since
been engaged had effaced from his mind; and at other times a playful
carelessness, that showed the lightness, the expanding freedom of
heart, which can be felt only in the perfect confidence and intimacy
of domestic affection. In his manner towards his cousins, the Lady
Pembrokes, who, since he had last seen them, had grown up from children
into fine young women, there were nice differences; with all the
privileged familiarity of relationship he met the sprightly frankness of
Lady Mary, and by a degree of delicate tender respect put the retiring
sensitive timidity of Lady Elizabeth at ease. None of these shades of
manner were lost upon Caroline's discriminating observation. For some
time after his arrival, the whole attention of every individual
at Hungerford Castle was occupied by Colonel Hungerford. All were
alternately talking of him or listening to him. The eagerness which
every body felt to hear from him accounts of public and private affairs,
and the multitude and variety of questions by which he was assailed,
drew him out continually; so that he talked a great deal, yet evidently
more to gratify others than himself. He was always unwilling to engross
the conversation, and sometimes anxious to hear from his mother and
sister of domestic occurrences; but he postponed his own gratification,
and never failed to satisfy general curiosity, even by the repetition of
narratives and anecdotes, till he was exhausted. Conscious that he did
not wish to make himself the hero of his tale, he threw himself upon the
mercy of his friends, or their justice; and without any of the provoking
reserve of affected or cowardly humility, he talked naturally of the
events in which he had taken a share, and of what concerned himself as
well as others. With polite kindness, which gratified them peculiarly,
he seemed to take the Percy family, as his mother's friends, directly
upon trust as his own: he spoke before them, freely, of all his
confidential opinions of men and things. He did them justice in
considering them as safe auditors, and they enjoyed and fully
appreciated the value of his various conversation. In his anecdotes
of persons, there was always something decidedly characteristic of the
individual, or illustrative of some general principle. In his narratives
there were strong marks of the Froissart accuracy of detail, which
interests by giving the impression of reality, and the proof of having
been an eye-witness of the scene; and sometimes, scorning detail, he
displayed the power of keeping an infinite number of particulars in
subordination, and of seizing those large features which gave a
rapid and masterly view of the whole. For his profession he felt that
enthusiasm which commands sympathy. Whilst he spoke of the British army,
those who heard him seemed to see every thing, as he did, in a military
point of view. Yet his love of military glory had not hardened his heart
so as to render him insensible of the evils and sufferings which, alas!
it necessarily produces. The natural expression of great feeling and
humanity burst from him; but he turned hastily and firmly from the
contemplation of evils, which he could not prevent, and would not
uselessly deplore. In conversing one day privately with Mr. Percy, he
showed that bitter and deep philosophic reflections on the horrors and
folly of war had passed through his mind, but that he had systematically
and resolutely shut them out.

"We are now," said he, "less likely than ever to see the time when all
the princes of Europe will sign the good Abbé de St. Pierre's project
for a perpetual peace; and, in the mean time, while kingdoms can
maintain their independence, their existence, only by superiority in
war, it is not for the defenders of their country to fix their thoughts
upon 'the price of victory.'"

After explaining the plan of a battle, or the intrigues of a court,
Colonel Hungerford would turn with delight to plans of cottages, which
his sister Mortimer was drawing for him; and from a map of the seat of
war he would go to a map of his own estate, eagerly asking his mother
where she would recommend that houses should be built, and consulting
her about the characters and merits of those tenants with whom his
absence on the continent had prevented him from becoming acquainted.
These and a thousand other little traits showed that his military habits
had not destroyed his domestic tastes.

Caroline had taken an interest in the military profession ever since her
eldest brother had gone into the army. Colonel Hungerford was seven or
eight years older than Godfrey Percy, and had a more formed, steady,
and exalted character, with more knowledge, and a far more cultivated
understanding; but many expressions, and some points of character, were
similar. Caroline observed this, and wished and hoped that, when her
brother should have had as many opportunities of improvement as Colonel
Hungerford's experience had given him, he might be just such a man.
This idea increased the interest she took in observing and listening to
Colonel Hungerford. After he had been some time at home, and that every
day more and more of his amiable character had been developed, Rosamond
said to herself, "This is certainly the man for Caroline, and I suspect
she begins to think so. If she does not, I never will forgive her."

One day, when the sisters were by themselves, Rosamond tried to sound
Caroline on this subject. She began, as she thought, at a safe distance
from her main object. "How very much esteemed and beloved Colonel
Hungerford is in his own family!"

"Very much and very deservedly," answered Caroline. She spoke without
any hesitation or embarrassment.

Rosamond, rather dissatisfied even with the fulness of the assent to her
first proposition, added, "And not only by his own family, but by all
who know him."

Caroline was silent.

"It is surprising," continued Rosamond, "that a man who has led a
soldier's wandering life should have acquired so much literature, such
accurate knowledge, and should have retained such simple and domestic
tastes."

Full assent again from Caroline, both of look and voice--but still not
the exact look and voice Rosamond desired.

"Do you know, Caroline," continued she, "I think that in several things
Colonel Hungerford is very like my brother Godfrey."

"Yes, and in some points, I think Colonel Hungerford is superior to
Godfrey," said Caroline.

"Well, I really think so too," cried Rosamond, "and I am sure Godfrey
would think and say so himself. How he would admire Colonel Hungerford,
and how desirous, how ambitious he would be to make such a man his
friend, his--in short, I know if Godfrey was here this minute, he
would think just as I do about Colonel Hungerford, and about--all other
things."

"All other things," repeated Caroline, smiling: "that includes a great
deal."

"Yes, it does, that is certain," said Rosamond, significantly. "And,"
continued she, "I know another person of excellent judgment too, who, if
I mistake not, is of my way of thinking, of wishing at least, in _some
things_, that is a comfort. How Mrs. Hungerford does adore her son!
And I think she loves you almost as much." Caroline expressed strong
gratitude for Mrs. Hungerford's kindness to her, and the warmest return
of affection.

"Then, in one word," continued Rosamond, "for out it must come, sooner
or later--I think she not only loves you as if you were her daughter,
but that--Now confess, Caroline, did not the idea ever occur to you?
And don't you see that Mrs. Hungerford wishes _it_?--Oh! that blush
is answer enough--I'll say no more--I do not mean to torment or
distress--good bye, I am satisfied."

"Stay, my dear Rosamond, stay one moment, and I will tell you exactly
all I think and feel."

"I will stay as long as you please," said Rosamond, "and I thank you for
this confidence."

"You have a right to it," said Caroline: "I see, my dear sister, and
feel all your kindness towards me, and all Mrs. Hungerford's--I see what
you both wish."

"There's my own sister Caroline, above all artifice and affectation."

"But," said Caroline.

"_But_--Oh! Caroline, don't go back--don't palter with us--abide by your
own words, and your own character, and don't condescend to any pitiful
_buts_."

"You do not yet know the nature of my _but_."

"Nor do I wish to know it, nor will I hear it," cried Rosamond, stopping
her ears, "because I know, whatever it is, it will lower you in my
opinion. You have fairly acknowledged that Colonel Hungerford possesses
every virtue, public and private, that can make him worthy of you--not
a single fault on which to ground one possible, imaginable, rational
_but_. Temper, manners, talents, character, fortune, family, fame, every
thing the heart of woman can desire."

"Every thing against which the heart of woman should guard itself," said
Caroline.

"Guard!--Why guard?--What is it you suspect? What crime can you invent
to lay to his charge?"

"I suspect him of nothing. It is no crime--except, perhaps, in your
eyes, dear Rosamond," said Caroline, smiling--"no crime not to love me."

"Oh! is that all? Now I understand and forgive you," said Rosamond, "if
it is only _that_ you fear."

"I do not recollect that I said I _feared_ it," said Caroline.

"Well, well--I beg pardon for using that unguarded word--of course
your pride must neither hope nor fear upon the occasion; you must quite
forget yourself to stone. As you please, or rather as you think proper;
but you will allow me to hope and fear for you. Since I have not, thank
Heaven! made proud and vain professions of stoicism--have not vowed to
throw away the rose, lest I should be pricked by the thorn."

"Laugh, but hear me," said Caroline. "I make no professions of stoicism;
it is because I am conscious that I am no stoic that I have endeavoured
to guard well my heart.--I have seen and admired all Colonel
Hungerford's good and amiable qualities; I have seen and been
grateful for all that you and Mrs. Hungerford hoped and wished for my
happiness--have not been insensible to any of the delightful, any of
the romantic circumstances of the _vision_; but I saw it was only a
vision--and one that might lead me into waking, lasting misery."

"Misery! lasting! How?" said Rosamond.

"Neither your wishes nor Mrs. Hungerford's, you know, can or ought to
decide, or even to influence the event, that is to be determined by
Colonel Hungerford's own judgment and feelings, and by mine. In the mean
time, I cannot forget that the delicacy, honour, pride, prudence of our
sex, forbid a woman to think of any man, as a lover, till he gives her
reason to believe that he feels love for her."

"Certainly," said Rosamond; "but I take it for granted that Colonel
Hungerford does love you."

"But why should we take it for granted?" said Caroline: "he has not
shown me any preference."

"Why--I don't know, I am not skilled in these matters," said
Rosamond--"I am not sure--but I think--and yet I should be sorry to
mislead you--at any rate there is no harm in hoping--"

"If there be no harm, there might be much danger," said Caroline:
"better not to think of the subject at all, since we can do no good by
thinking of it, and may do harm."

After a pause of surprise, disappointment, and reflection, Rosamond
resumed: "So I am to understand it to be your opinion, that a woman
of sense, delicacy, proper pride, honour, and prudence, must, can, and
ought to shut her eyes, ears, understanding, and heart, against all the
merit and all the powers of pleasing a man may possess, till said man
shall and do make a matrimonial proposal for her in due form--hey!
Caroline?"

"I never thought any such thing," answered Caroline, "and I expressed
myself very ill if I said any such thing. A woman need not shut her
eyes, ears, or understanding to a man's merit--only her heart."

"Then the irresistible charm, the supreme merit, the only merit that
can or ought to touch her heart in any man, is the simple or glorious
circumstance of his loving her?"

"I never heard that it was a man's supreme merit to love," said
Caroline; "but we are not at present inquiring what is a man's but what
is a woman's characteristic excellence. And I have heard it said to be a
woman's supreme merit, and grace, and dignity, that her love should _not
unsought be won_."

"That is true," said Rosamond, "perfectly true--in general; but surely
you will allow that there may be cases in which it would be difficult
to adhere to the letter as well as to the spirit of this excellent rule.
Have you never felt--can't you imagine this?"

"I can well imagine it," said Caroline; "fortunately, I have never
felt it. If I had not early perceived that Colonel Hungerford was not
thinking of me, I might have deceived myself with false hopes: believe
me, I never was insensible to his merit."

"But where is the merit or the glory, if there was no struggle, no
difficulty?" said Rosamond, in a melancholy tone.

"Glory there is none," said Caroline; "nor do I claim any merit: but is
not it something to prevent struggle and difficulty? Is it nothing to
preserve my own happiness?"

"Something, to be sure," said Rosamond. "But, on the other hand, you
know there is the old proverb, 'Nothing hazard, nothing have.'"

"That is a masculine, not a feminine proverb," said Caroline.

"All I meant to say was, that there is no rule without an exception, as
all your philosophers, even the most rigid, allow; and if an exception
be ever permitted, surely in such a case as this it might, in favour of
such a man as Colonel Hungerford."

"Dangerous exceptions!" said Caroline. "Every body is too apt to make
an exception in such cases in their own favour: that, you know, is the
common error of the weak. Oh! my dear sister, instead of weakening,
strengthen my mind--instead of trying to raise my enthusiasm, or
reproaching me for want of sensibility, tell me that you approve of
my exerting all my power over myself to do that which I think right.
Consider what evil I should bring upon myself, if I became attached to a
man who is not attached to me; if you saw me sinking, an object of pity
and contempt, the victim, the slave of an unhappy passion."

"Oh! my dear, dear Caroline, that could never be--God forbid; oh! God
forbid!" cried Rosamond, with a look of terror: but recovering herself,
she added, "This is a vain fear. With your strength of mind, you could
never be reduced to such a condition."

"Who can answer for their strength of mind in the second trial, if it
fail in the first?" said Caroline. "If a woman once lets her affections
go out of her power, how can she afterwards answer for her own
happiness?"

"All very right and very true," said Rosamond: "but for a young person,
Caroline, I could spare some of this premature reason. If there be some
folly, at least there is some generosity, some sensibility often joined
with a romantic temper: take care lest you 'mistake reverse of wrong for
right,' and in your great zeal to avoid romance, run into selfishness."

"Selfishness!"

"Why, yes--after all, what are these cold calculations about loving
or not loving such a character as Colonel Hungerford--what is all this
wonderfully long-sighted care of your own individual happiness, but
selfishness?--moral, very moral selfishness, I grant."

Caroline coloured, paused, and when she answered, she spoke in a lower
and graver tone and manner than usual.

"If it be selfish to pursue, by the best means in my power, and by means
which cannot hurt any human being, my own happiness, must I deserve to
be called selfish?--Unless a woman be quite unconnected with others in
society, without a family, and without friends--which, I thank God,
is not my situation--it is impossible to hazard or to destroy our own
happiness by any kind of imprudence, without destroying the happiness
of others. Therefore imprudence, call it romance, or what you please,
is often want of generosity--want of thought for the happiness of our
friends, as well as for our own."

"Well come off!" said Rosamond, laughing: "you have proved, with
admirable logic, that prudence is the height of generosity. But, my
dear Caroline, do not speak so very seriously, and do not look with
such 'sweet austere composure.'--I don't in earnest accuse you of
selfishness--I was wrong to use that ugly word; but I was vexed with you
for being more prudent than even good old Mrs. Hungerford."

At these words tears filled Caroline's eyes. "Dear, kind Mrs.
Hungerford," she exclaimed, "in the warmth of her heart, in the fulness
of her kindness for me, once in her life Mrs. Hungerford said perhaps an
imprudent word, expressed a wish of which her better judgment may have
repented."

"No, no!" cried Rosamond--"her better, her best judgment must have
confirmed her opinion of you. She never will repent of that wish. Why
should you think she has repented of it, Caroline?"

"Because she must by this time see that there is no probability of that
wish being accomplished: she must, therefore, desire that it should be
forgotten. And I trust I have acted, and shall always act, as if it
were forgotten by me, except as to its kindness--_that_ I shall remember
while I have life and feeling. But if I had built a romance upon
that slight word, consider how much that excellent friend would blame
herself, when she found that she had misled me, that she had been the
cause of anguish to my heart, that she had lowered in the opinion
of all, even in her own opinion, one she had once so exalted by her
approbation and friendship. And, oh! consider, Rosamond, what a return
should I make for that friendship, if I were to be the occasion of any
misunderstanding, any disagreement between her and her darling son. If
_I_ were to become the rival of her beloved niece!"

"Rival!--Niece!--How?--Which?" cried Rosamond, "Which?" repeated she,
eagerly; "I cannot think of any thing else, till you say which."

"Suppose Lady Elizabeth."

"The thought never occurred to me--Is it possible?--My dear Caroline,
you have opened my eyes--But are you sure? Then you have acted wisely,
rightly, Caroline; and I have as usual been very, _very_ imprudent.
Forgive what I said about selfishness--I was unjust. You selfish! you,
who thought of all your friends, I thought only of you. But tell me, did
you think of Lady Elizabeth from the first? Did you see how it would be
from the very first?"

"No; I never thought of it till lately, and I am not sure of it yet."

"So you never thought of it till lately, and you are not sure of
it yet?--Then I dare say you are mistaken, and wrong, with all your
superfluous prudence. I will observe with my own eyes, and trust only my
own judgment."

With this laudable resolution Rosamond departed.

The next morning she had an opportunity of observing, and deciding by
her own judgment. Lady Elizabeth Pembroke and Caroline had both been
copying a picture of Prince Rupert when a boy. They had finished their
copies. Mrs. Hungerford showed them to her son. Lady Elizabeth's was
rather the superior painting. Colonel Hungerford instantly distinguished
it, and, in strong terms, expressed his admiration; but, by some
mistake, he fancied that both copies were done by Caroline: she
explained to him that that which he preferred was Lady Elizabeth's.

"Yours!" exclaimed Colonel Hungerford, turning to Lady Elizabeth with a
look and tone of delighted surprise. Lady Elizabeth coloured, Lady Mary
smiled: he forbore adding one word either of praise or observation.
Caroline gently relieved Mrs. Hungerford's hand from her copy of the
picture which she still held.

Rosamond, breathless, looked and looked and waited for something more
decisive.

"My mother wished for a copy of this picture," said Lady Elizabeth, in
a tremulous voice, and without raising her eyes, "for we have none but a
vile daub of him at Pembroke."

"Perhaps my aunt Pembroke would be so good to accept of the original?"
said Colonel Hungerford; "and my mother would beg of Lady Elizabeth to
give her copy to--our gallery."

"Do, my dear Elizabeth," said Mrs. Hungerford. Lady Elizabeth shook her
head, yet smiled.

"Do, my dear; you cannot refuse your cousin."

"_Cousin!_ there's hope still," thought Rosamond.

"If it were but worthy of his acceptance," said Lady Elizabeth.--Colonel
Hungerford, lost in the enjoyment of her self-timidity and retiring
grace, quite forgot to say how much he thought the picture worthy of his
acceptance.

His mother spoke for him.

"Since Hungerford asks you for it, my dear, you may be certain that he
thinks highly of it, for my son never flatters."

"Who? I!--flatter!" cried Colonel Hungerford; "flatter!" added he, in a
low voice, with a tenderness of accent and look, which could scarcely be
misunderstood. Nor was it misunderstood by Lady Elizabeth, as her quick
varying colour showed. It was well that, at this moment, no eye turned
upon Rosamond, for all her thoughts and feeling would have been read in
her face.

"Come," cried Lady Mary, "let us have the picture in its place
directly--come all of you to the gallery, fix where it shall be hung."
Colonel Hungerford seized upon it, and following Lady Elizabeth,
accompanied Lady Mary to the gallery. Mrs. Hungerford rose
deliberately--Caroline offered her arm.

"Yes, my dear child, let me lean upon you."

They walked slowly after the young party--Rosamond followed.

"I am afraid," said Mrs. Hungerford, as she leaned more upon Caroline,
"I am afraid I shall tire you, my dear."

"Oh! no, no!" said Caroline, "not in the least."

"I am growing so infirm, that I require a stronger arm, a kinder I can
never have."

The door of the antechamber, which opened into the gallery, closed after
the young people.

"I am not one of those _exigeante_ mothers who expect always to have
possession of a son's arm," resumed Mrs. Hungerford: "the time, I knew,
would come, when I must give up my colonel."

"And with pleasure, I am sure, you now give him up, secure of his
happiness," said Caroline.

Mrs. Hungerford stopped short, and looked full on Caroline, upon whom
she had previously avoided to turn her eyes. From what anxiety did
Caroline's serene, open countenance, and sweet ingenuous smile, at this
instant, relieve her friend! Old as she was, Mrs. Hungerford had quick
and strong feelings. For a moment she could not speak--she held out her
arms to Caroline, and folded her to her heart.

"Excellent creature!" said she--"Child of my affections--_that_ you must
ever be!"

"Oh! Mrs. Hungerford! my dear madam," cried Rosamond, "you have no idea
how unjust and imprudent I have been about Caroline."

"My love," said Mrs. Hungerford, smiling, and wiping tears from her
eyes, "I fancy I can form a competent idea of your imprudence from my
own. We must all learn discretion from this dear girl--you, early--I,
late in life."

"Dear Rosamond, do not reproach yourself for your excessive kindness to
me," said Caroline; "in candour and generous feeling, who is equal to
you?"

"Kissing one another, I protest," cried Lady Mary Pembroke, opening the
door from the gallery, "whilst we were wondering you did not come after
us. Aunt Hungerford, you know how we looked for the bow and arrows, and
the peaked shoes, with the knee-chains of the time of Edward the Fourth.
Well, they are all behind the great armoury press, which Gustavus has
been moving to make room for Elizabeth's copy of Prince Rupert. Do
come and look at them--but stay, first I have a favour to beg of you,
Caroline. I know Gustavus will ask my sister to ride with him this
morning, and the flies torment her horse so, and she is such a coward,
that she will not be able to listen to a word that is said to her--could
you lend her your pretty gentle White Surrey?"

"With pleasure," said Caroline, "and my net."

"I will go and bring it to your ladyship," said Rosamond.

"My ladyship is in no hurry," cried Lady Mary--"don't run away, don't
go: it is not wanted yet."

But Rosamond, glad to escape, ran away, saying, "There is some of the
fringe off--I must sew it on."

Rosamond, as she sewed on the fringe, sighed--and worked--and wished it
was for Caroline, and said to herself, "So it is all over--and all in
vain!"

The horses for the happy riding party came to the door. Rosamond ran
down stairs with the net; Caroline had it put on her horse, and Lady
Elizabeth Pembroke thanked her with such a look of kindness, of secure
faith in her friend's sympathy, that even Rosamond forgave her for being
happy. But Rosamond could not wish to stay to witness her happiness just
at this time; and she was not sorry when her father announced the next
day that business required his immediate return home. Lamentations, loud
and sincere, were heard from every individual in the castle, especially
from Mrs. Hungerford, and from her daughter. They were, however, too
well bred to persist in their solicitations to have the visit prolonged.

They said they were grateful for the time which had been given to them,
and appeared kindly satisfied with their friends' promise to repeat
their visit, whenever they could with convenience.

Caroline, tenderly and gratefully attached to Mrs. Hungerford, found it
very difficult and painful to part from her; the more painful because
she feared to express all the affection, admiration, and gratitude
she felt for this excellent friend, lest her emotion might be
misinterpreted. Mrs. Hungerford understood her thoroughly. When she took
leave of her, she kissed her at first in silence, and then, by a few
strong words, and more by her manner than by her words, expressed her
high esteem and affection for her young friend.



CHAPTER XIX.


LETTER FROM DR. PERCY TO HIS SISTER ROSAMOND.

"I never told you, my dear Rosamond, that the beautiful Constance was
Mr. Gresham's daughter; I told you only that I saw her at his house. To
the best of my belief she is no relation to him. She is daughter to
Mr. Gresham's sick partner; and this partner--now, Rosamond, here is
coincidence, if not romance, enough to please you--this partner is Mr.
Panton, the London correspondent of the shipwrecked Dutch merchants,
the very Panton and Co. to whom my father lately wrote to recommend
Godfrey's friend, young Captain Henry--captain no more. I have not seen
him yet; he is invisible, in the counting-house, in the remote city, in
ultimate Broad-street, far as pole from pole from me at _Mrs._ Panton's
fine house in Grosvenor-square.

"But now to have done with an old story, before I begin with a new--I
will tell you at once all I know, or probably shall ever know, about
Constance. She is sole heiress to her father's fortune, which, on his
repeated word, I believe, amounts to hundreds of thousands. She is
accomplished and amiable, and, as I told you before, beautiful: but
luckily her style of beauty, which is that of one of Rubens' wives,
does not particularly strike my fancy. Besides, I would really and
truly rather have a profession than be an idle gentleman: I love my
profession, and feel ambitious to distinguish myself in it, and to make
you all proud of your brother, Dr. Percy. These general principles
are strengthened beyond the possibility of doubt, by the particular
circumstances of _the present case_. A young unknown physician, I have
been introduced by a friend to this family, and have, in my medical
capacity, been admitted to a degree of familiarity in the house which
none shall ever have cause to repent. Physicians, I think, are called
upon for scrupulous _good faith_, because in some respects, they are
more trusted in families, and have more opportunities of intimacy, than
those of any other profession. I know, my dear Rosamond, you will not
suspect me of assuming fine sentiments that are foreign to my real
feelings; but I must now inform you, that if I could make myself
agreeable and acceptable to Miss Panton, and if it were equally in my
will and in my power, yet I should never be, in the language of the
market, one shilling the better for her. Her father, a man of low birth,
and having, perhaps, in spite of his wealth, suffered from the proud
man's contumely, has determined to ennoble his family by means of his
only child, and she is not to enjoy his fortune unless she marry one
who has a title. If she unites herself with any man, below the rank of a
baron's son, he swears she shall never see the colour of sixpence of
his money. I understand that a certain Lord Roadster, eldest son of Lord
Runnymede, is the present candidate for her favour--or rather for her
wealth; and that his lordship is _patronized_ by her father. Every thing
that could be done by the vulgar selfishness and moneyed pride of her
father and mother-in-law to spoil this young lady, and to make her
consider herself as the first and only object of consequence in this
world, has been done--and yet she is not in the least spoiled. Shame to
all systems of education! there are some natures so good, that they will
go right, where all about them go wrong. My father will not admit this,
and will exclaim, Nonsense!--I will try to say something that he will
allow to be sense. Miss Panton's own mother was of a good family, and,
I am told, was an amiable woman, of agreeable manners, and a cultivated
mind, who had been sacrificed for fortune to this rich city husband.
Her daughter's first principles and ideas of manners and morals were, I
suppose, formed by her precepts and example. After her mother's death, I
know she had the advantage of an excellent and enlightened friend in her
father's partner, Mr. Gresham, who, having no children of his own, took
pleasure, at all his leisure moments, in improving little Constance.
Then the contrast between her father and him, between their ignorance
and his enlightened liberality, must have early struck her mind, and
thus, I suppose, by observing their faults and follies, she learned to
form for herself an opposite character and manners. The present Mrs.
Panton is only her step-mother. Mrs. Panton is a huge, protuberant
woman, with a full-blown face, a bay wig, and artificial flowers;
talking in an affected little voice, when she is in company, and when
she has on her _company clothes and manners_; but bawling loud, in
a vulgarly broad cockney dialect, when she is at her ease in her own
house. She has an inordinate passion for dress, and a _rage_ for fine
people. I have a chance of becoming a favourite, because I am 'of a good
_fammully_," and Mrs. Panton says she knows very well I have been egg
and bird in the best company.

"My patient--observe, my patient is the last person of whom I speak or
think--is nervous and hypochondriac; but as I do not believe that you
have much taste for medical detail, I shall not trouble you with the
particulars of this old gentleman's case, but pray for his recovery--for
if I succeed in setting him up again, it will set me up.... For the
first time I have, this day, after many calls, seen Godfrey's friend,
young Mr. Henry. He is handsome, and, as you ladies say, _interesting_.
He is particularly gentlemanlike in his manners; but he looks unhappy,
and I thought he was reserved towards me; but I have no right yet to
expect that he should be otherwise. He spoke of Godfrey with strong
affection.

"Yours, truly,

"ERASMUS PERCY."

In the care of Mr. Panton's health, Dr. Percy was now the immediate
successor to a certain apothecary of the name of Coxeater, who, by right
of flattery, had reigned for many years over the family with arbitrary
sway, till he offended the lady of the house by agreeing with her
husband upon some disputed point about a julep. The apothecary had a
terrible loss of old Panton, for he swallowed more drugs in the course
of a week than any man in the city swallows in a year. At the same time,
he was so economical of these very drugs, that when Dr. Percy ordered
the removal from his bedchamber of a range of half full phials, he was
actually near crying at the thoughts of the waste of such a quantity of
good physic: he finished by turning away a footman for laughing at his
ridiculous distress. Panton was obstinate by fits, but touch his fears
about his health, and he would be as docile as the _bon vivant_ seigneur
in Zadig, whose physician had no credit with him when he digested well,
but who governed him despotically whenever he had an indigestion; so
that he was ready to take any thing that could be prescribed, even a
basilisk stewed in rose-water. This merchant, retired from business,
was now as much engrossed with his health as ever he had been with his
wealth.

When Dr. Percy was first called in, he found his patient in a lamentable
state, in an arm-chair, dying with the apprehension of having swallowed
in a peach a live earwig, which he was persuaded had bred, was breeding,
or would breed in his stomach. However ridiculous this fancy may appear,
it had taken such hold of the man, that he was really wasting away--his
appetite failing as well as his spirits. He would not take the least
exercise, or stir from his chair, scarcely move or permit himself to be
moved, hand, foot, or head, lest he should disturb or waken this nest of
earwigs. Whilst these "_reptiles_" slept, he said, he had rest; but when
they wakened, he felt them crawling about and pinching his intestines.
The wife had laughed, and the apothecary had flattered in vain: Panton
angrily persisted in the assertion that he should die--and then they'd
"see who was right." Dr. Percy recollected a case, which he had heard
from a celebrated physician, of a hypochondriac, who fancied that his
intestines were sealed up by a piece of wax which he had swallowed,
and who, in this belief, refused to eat or drink any thing. Instead of
fighting against the fancy, the judicious physician humoured it--showed
the patient sealing-wax dissolving in spirit of wine, and then persuaded
him to take some of that spirit to produce the same effect. The patient
acceded to the reasoning, took the remedy, said that he felt that his
intestines were unsealing--were unsealed: but, alas! they had been
sealed so long, that they had lost their natural powers and actions, and
he died lamenting that his excellent physician had not been called in
soon enough.

Dr. Percy was more fortunate, for he came in time to kill the earwigs
for his patient before they had pinched him to death. Erasmus showed
Mr. Panton the experiment of killing one of these insects, by placing
it within a magic circle of oil, and prevailed upon him to destroy his
diminutive enemies with castor oil. When this _hallucination_, to speak
in words of learned length, when this hallucination was removed, there
was a still more difficult task, to cure our hypochondriac of the three
remote causes of his disease--idleness of mind--indolence of body--and
the habit of drinking every day a bottle of _London particular_: to
prevail upon him to diminish the quantity per diem was deemed impossible
by his wife; especially as Mr. Coxeater, the apothecary, had flattered
him with the notion, that _to live high_ was necessary for a gouty
constitution, and that he was gouty.--N.B. He never had the gout in his
life.

Mrs. Panton augured ill of Dr. Percy's success, and Constance grew pale
when he touched upon this dangerous subject--the madeira. Yet he had
hopes. He recollected the ingenious manner in which Dr. Brown [Footnote:
Vide Life of Dr. Brown.] worked upon a Highland chieftain, to induce him
to diminish his diurnal quantity of _spirituous potation_. But there was
no family pride to work upon, at least no family arms were to be had.
Erasmus found a succedaneum, however, in the love of titles and of what
are called _fine people_. Lord Runnymede had given Mr. Panton a gold
beaker, of curious workmanship, on which his lordship's arms were
engraved; of this present the citizen was very fond and vain: observing
this, Dr. Percy was determined to render it subservient to his purposes.
He knew they would be right glad of any opportunity of producing
and talking of this beaker to all their acquaintance. He therefore
advised--no, not _advised_; for with some minds if you _advise_ you are
not listened to, if you command you are obeyed--he commanded that his
patient should have his madeira always decanted into the curious beaker,
for certain galvanic advantages that every knowing porter-drinker is
aware of: Erasmus emptied a decanter of madeira into the beaker to
show that it held more than a quart. This last circumstance decided Mr.
Panton to give a solemn promise to abide by the advice of his physician,
who seized this auspicious moment to act upon the imagination of his
patient, by various medical anecdotes. Mr. Panton seemed to be much
struck with the account of bottles made of antimonial glass, which
continue, for years, to impregnate successive quantities of liquor with
the same antimonial virtues. Dr. Percy then produced a piece of coloured
crystal about the size of a large nut, which he directed his patient
to put into the beaker, and to add another of these medicated crystals
every day, till the vessel should be half full, to increase the power
of the drug by successive additions; and by this arrangement, Panton was
gradually reduced to half his usual quantity of wine.

Dr. Percy's next difficulty was how to supply the purse-full and
purse-proud citizen with motive and occupation. Mr. Panton had an utter
aversion and contempt for all science and literature; he could not
conceive that any man "could sit down to read for amusement," but he
enjoyed a party of pleasure in a good boat on the water, to one of the
_aits_ or islets in the Thames at the right season, to be regaled with
eel-pie. One book he had read, and one play he liked--no, not a play,
but a pantomime. The book was Robinson Crusoe--the pantomime, Harlequin
Friday. He had been heard to say, that if ever he had a villa, there
should be in it an island like Robinson Crusoe's; and why not a
fortress, a castle, and a grotto? this would be something new; and why
should he not have his fancy, and why should not there be _Panton's
Folly_ as well as any of the thousand _Follies_ in England? Surely he
was rich enough to have a Folly. His physician cherished this bright
idea. Mrs. Panton was all this time dying to have a villa on the Thames.
Dr. Percy proposed that one should be made on Mr. Panton's plan. The
villa was bought, and every day the hypochondriac--hypochondriac now
no more--went to his villa-Crusoe, where he fussed, and furbished, and
toiled at his desert island in the Thames, as hard as ever he laboured
to make his _plum_ in the counting-house. In _due course_ he recovered
his health, and, to use his own expression, "became as alert as any man
in all England of his inches in the girth, thanks be to Dr. Percy!"

We find the following letter from Dr. Percy, written, as it appears,
some months after his first attendance upon Mr. Panton.

"Yes, my dear friends at home, Alfred tells you truth, and does not
flatter much. The having set up again this old citizen, who was thought
bankrupt in constitution, has done me honour in the city; and, as Alfred
assures you, has spread my name through Broad-street, and Fleet-street,
and Milk-street, embracing the wide extremes between High-Holborn and
St. Mary Axe,

  'And even Islington has heard my fame.'

"In earnest, I am getting fast into practice in the city--and Rosamond
must not turn up her aristocratic lip at the city--very _good_ men, in
every sense of the word, some of the best men I know, inhabit what she
is pleased to call the wrong end of the town.

"Mr. Gresham is unceasing and indefatigable in his kindness to me. I
consider it as an instance of this kindness that he has found employment
for my poor friend, O'Brien; has made him his porter--a pleasanter place
than he had with the painter that pleased nobody: O'Brien sees me almost
every day, and rejoices in what he calls my prosperity.

"'Heaven for ever prosper your honour' is the beginning and end of all
he says, and, I believe, of all he thinks. Is not it singular, that my
first step towards getting into practice should have been prepared by
that which seemed to threaten my ruin--the quarrel with Frumpton about
O'Brien and the hospital?

"A delicacy strikes me, and begins at this moment, in the midst of my
prosperity, to make my pride uneasy.

"I am afraid that my father should say Erasmus gets on by patronage,
after all--by the patronage of a poor Irish porter and a rich English
merchant.

"Adieu, my dear friends; you must not expect such long letters from me
now that I am becoming a busy man. Alfred and I see but little of one
another, we live at such a distance, and we are both so gloriously
industrious. But we have holiday minutes, when we meet and talk more in
the same space of time than any two wise men--I did not say, women--that
you ever saw.

"Yours, affectionately,

"ERASMUS PERCY.

"P.S. I have just recollected that I forgot to answer your question
about Mr. Henry. I do see him whenever I have time to go, and whenever
he will come to Mr. Gresham's, which is very seldom. Mr. Gresham has
begged him repeatedly to come to his house every Sunday, when Henry must
undoubtedly be at leisure; yet Mr. Henry has been there but seldom since
the first six weeks after he came to London. I cannot yet understand
whether this arises from pride, or from some better motive. Mr. Gresham
says he likes what he has seen of him, and well observes, that a young
officer, who has lived a gay life in the army, must have great power
over his own habits, and something uncommon in his character, to be
both willing and able thus suddenly and completely to change his mode
of life, and to conform to all the restraints and disagreeable
circumstances of his new situation."


EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM MR. PERCY TO ERASMUS PERCY.

"... Let me take the opportunity of your playful allusion to your
present patrons, a porter and a hypochondriac, seriously to explain to
you my principles about patronage--I never had any idea that you ought
not to be assisted by friends: friends which have been made for you by
your parents I consider as part of your patrimony. I inherited many from
my father, for which I respect and bless his name. During the course of
my life, I have had the happiness of gaining the regard of some persons
of talents and virtue, some of them in high station; this regard will
extend to my children while I live, and descend to them when I am no
more. I never _cultivated_ them with a view to advancing my family,
but I make no doubt that their friendship will assist my sons in their
progress through their several professions. I hold it to be just and
right that friends should give, and that young men should gratefully
accept, all the means and opportunities of bringing professional
acquirements and abilities into notice. Afterwards, the merit of the
candidate, and his fitness for any given situation, ought, and probably
will, ultimately decide whether the assistance has been properly or
improperly given. If family friends procure for any young man a reward
of any kind which he has not merited, I should object to that as much as
if the place or the reward had been bestowed by a professed patron from
political or other interested motives. If my friends were to assist
you _merely_ because you were my sons, bore my name, or represented the
Percy estate, I should not think this just or honourable; but they know
the principles which have been instilled into you, and the education
you have received: from these they can form a judgment of what you are
likely to be, and for what situations you are qualified; therefore it is
but reasonable that they should recommend you preferably to strangers,
even of equal ability. Every young man has friends, and they will do all
they can to assist him: if they do so according to his merits, they do
well; if in spite of his demerits, they do ill; but whilst nothing is
practised to prevent the course of free competition, there can be no
evil to the community, and there is no injurious patronage. So much for
family friends. Now as to friends of your own making, they are as much
your own earning, and all the advantage they can be of to you is as
honourably yours, as your fees. Whatever assistance you may receive from
Mr. Gresham I consider in this light. As to gratitude--I acknowledge
that in some cases gratitude might be guilty of partial patronage.

"If you had saved a minister of state from breaking his neck, and he
in return had made you surgeon-general to our armies, without knowing
whether you were qualified for that situation, I should call that
partial and pernicious patronage; but if you had cured a great man of a
dangerous disease, and he afterwards exerted himself to recommend you as
a physician to his friends and acquaintance, this I should consider as
part of your fit reward.

"So now, my dear son, I hope you fully understand me, and that you will
not attribute to me false delicacies, and a prudery, a puritanism of
independence, which I utterly disclaim.--Go on, and prosper, and depend
upon the warm sympathy and entire approbation of your affectionate
father,

"L. PERCY."


LETTER FROM ALFRED PERCY TO ROSAMOND.

"MY DEAR ROSAMOND,

"Thank you for your letters from Hungerford Castle. If Mr. Barclay
had been but ten years younger, and if he had been ten degrees more a
laughing philosopher, and if Caroline could but have loved him, I should
have had no objection to him for a brother-in-law; but as my three _ifs_
could not be, I regret the Leicestershire estate as little as possible,
and I will console myself for not having the marriage settlements to
draw.

"Your letters were great delights to me. I kept them to read when the
business of the day was done, and I read them by my single candle in my
lone chamber. I would rather live in my lone chamber all my days,
and never see a wax-light all my nights, than be married to your Lady
Angelica Headingham. I give Mr. Barclay joy of having escaped from her
charms. I prefer an indenture tripartite, however musty or tiresome, to
a triple tyrant, however fair or entertaining.

"So you expect me to be very entertaining next vacation, and you expect
to hear all I have seen, heard, felt, and understood since I came to
London. Alas! Rosamond, I have no wonders to relate; and lest you should
be disappointed when we meet, I had best tell you now and at once all
I have to say about myself. My history is much like that of the first
years at the bar of every young lawyer--short and bitter--much law and
few fees. Some, however, I have received.

"A few of my father's friends, who are so unfortunate as to be at law,
have been so good as to direct their attorneys to give me briefs. But
most of his friends, to my loss--I am too generous, observe, to say
_to my sorrow_--are wise enough to keep clear of lawsuits. I heard his
friend, the late chancellor, say the other day to some one who wanted to
plunge into a suit in Chancery, 'If any body were to take a fancy to a
corner of my estate, I would rather--provided always that nobody knew
it--let him have it than go to law for it.'

"But to go on with my own affairs.

"A little while after my interview with Lord Oldborough, his lordship,
to my surprise--for I thought his offer to assist me in my profession,
if ever it should lie in his line, was a mere courtier's promise--sent
his attorney to me, with a brief in a cause of Colonel Hauton's. The
colonel has gone to law (most ungrateful as he is) with his uncle, who
was his guardian, and who managed all his affairs for years. I need not
explain to you the merits of the suit, or the demerits of the plaintiff.
It is enough to tell you that I was all-glorious, with the hope of
_making a good point_ which had escaped the other counsel employed on
our side; but the senior counsel never acknowledged the assistance he
had received from me--obtained a nonsuit against the colonel, and had
all the honour and triumph of the day. Some few gentlemen of the bar
knew the truth, and they were indignant. I hear that my senior, whose
name I will never tell you lest you should hate it, has got into great
practice by the gaining of this suit. Be that as it may, I would not
change places and feelings with him at this moment.

  'Grant me an honest fame, or grant me none!'

"Mr. Grose, Lord Oldborough's solicitor, a rich rogue and very saucy,
was obliged to employ me, because his client ordered it, and Lord
Oldborough is not a man to be disobeyed, either in private or public
affairs: but the attorney was obviously vexed and scandalized by his
lordship's employing me, a young barrister, of whom nobody had ever
heard, and who was not recommended by him, or under the protection
even of any solicitor of eminence. Mr. Grose knew well how the suit was
gained, but he never mentioned it to Lord Oldborough; on the contrary,
he gave all the credit to my _senior_. This dry story of a _point_ law
is the most interesting thing I have to tell you about myself. I have
seen nothing, heard nothing, know nothing, but of law, and I begin to
feel it difficult to write, speak, or think, in any but professional
language. Tell my father, that I shall soon come to talking law Latin
and law French.

"I know no more of what is going on in this great metropolis than if I
were at Tobolski. Buckhurst Falconer used to be my newspaper, but since
he has given up all hopes of Caroline, he seldom comes near me. I have
lost in him my fashionable Daily Advertiser, my Belle Assemblée, and
tête-à-tête magazine.

"Last Sunday, I went to his fashionable chapel to hear him preach: he is
much admired, but I don't like his manner or his sermons--too theatrical
and affected--too rhetorical and antithetical, evidently more suited to
display the talents of the preacher than to do honour to God or good
to man. He told me, that if he could preach himself into a deanery, he
should think he had preached to some purpose; and could die with a
safe conscience, as he should think he had not laboured in vain in
his vocation. Of all men, I think a dissipated clergyman is the most
contemptible. How much Commissioner Falconer has to answer for, who
forced him, or who lured him, knowing how unfit he was for it, into the
church! The commissioner frets because the price of iniquity has not yet
been received--the living of Chipping Friars is not yet Buckhurst's. The
poor paralytic incumbent, for whose death he is praying daily, is still
living; and, as Buckhurst says, may shake on many a long year. How
Buckhurst lives in the mean time at the rate he does I cannot tell
you--that art of living in style upon nothing is an art which I see
practised by numbers, but which is still a mystery to me. However, the
Falconers seem in great favour at present; the commissioner hopes Lord
Oldborough may do something for Buckhurst. Last Sunday, when I went to
hear him preach, I saw the whole family of the Falconers, in grandeur,
in the Duke of Greenwich's seat. The Marchioness of Twickenham was
there, and looked beautiful, but, as I thought, unhappy. After the
sermon, I heard Lady Somebody, who was in the next seat to me, whisper
to a Lady Otherbody, just as she was rising after the blessing, 'My
dear madam, did you hear the shocking report about the Marchioness of
Twickenham?' then a very close and confidential whisper; then, loud
enough for me to hear, 'But I do suppose, as there are hopes of an heir,
all will be hushed--for the present.'

"Just then the Duke of Greenwich and the marquis and marchioness came
down the aisle, and as they passed, my scandal-mongers smiled, and
curtsied, and were so delighted to see their dear marchioness! The Miss
Falconers, following in the wake of nobility, seemed too much charmed
with themselves, to see or know me--till Lord Oldborough, though
listening to the duke, espied me, and did me the honour to bow; then the
misses put up their glasses to see who I could be, and they also smiled,
and curtsied, and were delighted to see me.

"It is well for us that we don't live on their smiles and curtsies. They
went off in the Marchioness of Twickenham's superb equipage. I had
a full view of her as she drew up the glass, and a more melancholy
countenance than hers I have seldom seen. Lord Oldborough hoped my
father was well--but never mentioned Godfrey. The marchioness does not
know me, but she turned at the name of Percy, and I thought sighed. Now,
Rosamond, I put that sigh in for you--make what you can of it, and of
the half-heard mysterious whisper. I expect that you will have a romance
in great forwardness, before Monday, the 3rd of next month, when I hope
to see you all.

"No letters from Godfrey.--Erasmus has been so busy of late, he tells
me, he has not had time to record for you all his doings. In one word,
he is doing exceedingly well. His practice increases every day in
the city in spite of Dr. Frumpton. Adieu till Monday, the 3rd--Happy
Monday!--'Restraint that sweetens liberty.' My dear Rosamond, which do
you think loves vacation-time most, a lawyer or a school-boy?

"I was interrupted just now by a letter from a certain farmer of the
name of Grimwood, who has written to me, 'because I am a friend to
justice, and my father's son,' &c., and has given me a long account of
a quarrel he has with Dr. Leicester about the tithe of peaches--said
Grimwood is so angry, that he can neither spell nor write intelligibly,
and he swears that if it cost him a thousand guineas in gold, he will
have the law of the doctor. I wish my father would be so kind as to send
to Mr. Grimwood (he lives at Pegginton), and advise him to keep clear
of Attorney Sharpe, and to keep cool, if possible, till Monday, the 3rd,
and then I will make up the quarrel if I can. Observe, more is to be
done on Monday, the 3rd, than ever was done on any other Monday.

"Your affectionate brother,

"ALFRED PERCY.

"P.S.--I open my letter to tell you a delightful piece of news--that
Lord Oldborough has taken Temple for his private secretary, and will
bring him in for the borough of ----. How his lordship found him out to
be the author of that famous pamphlet, which bore Cunningham's name, I
do not know. I know that I kept the secret, as in honour bound; but Lord
Oldborough has the best ways and means of obtaining intelligence of any
man in England. It is singular that he never said one word about the
pamphlet to Temple, nor ever appeared to him to know that it was his
writing. I cannot understand this."

To comprehend why Lord Oldborough had never mentioned the pamphlet to
Mr. Temple, it was necessary to know more than Alfred had opportunities
of discovering of this minister's character. His lordship did not
choose to acknowledge to the world that he had been duped by Cunningham
Falconer. Lord Oldborough would sooner repair an error than acknowledge
it. Not that he was uncandid; but he considered candour as dangerous and
impolitic in a public character.

Upon some occasion, soon after Mr. Temple came to be his lordship's
secretary, Mr. Temple acknowledged to a gentleman, in Lord Oldborough's
presence, some trifling official mistake he had made: Lord Oldborough,
as soon as the gentleman was gone, said to his secretary, "Sir, if you
make a mistake, repair it--that is sufficient. Sir, you are young in
political life--you don't know, I see, that candour hurts a political
character in the opinion of fools--that is, of the greater part of
mankind. Candour may be advantageous to a moral writer, or to a private
gentleman, but not to a minister of state. A statesman, if he would
govern public opinion, must establish a belief in his infallibility."

Upon this principle Lord Oldborough abided, not only by his own
measures, but by his own instruments--right or wrong, he was known to
support those whom he had once employed or patronised. Lucky this for
the Falconer family!


LETTER FROM ALFRED TO ERASMUS.

"MY DEAR DOCTOR,

"How I pity you who have no vacations! Please, when next you sum up the
advantages and disadvantages of the professions I of law and medicine,
to set down _vacations_ to the credit side of the law. You who work for
life and death can have no pause, no respite; whilst I from time to
time may, happily, leave all the property, real and personal, of my
fellow-creatures, to its lawful or unlawful owners. Now, for six good
weeks to come, I may hang sorrow and cast away care, and forget the
sound and smell of parchments, and the din of the courts.

"Here I am, a happy prisoner at large, in this nutshell of a house at
the Hills, which you have never seen since it has become the family
mansion. I am now in the actual tenure and occupation of the little
room, commonly called Rosamond's room, bounded on the N. E. W. and S.
by blank--[N.B. a very dangerous practice of leaving blanks for your
boundaries in your leases, as an eminent attorney told me last week.]
Said room containing in the whole 14 square feet 4-1/2 square inches,
superficial measure, be the same more or less. I don't know how my
father and mother, and sisters, who all their lives were used to range
in spacious apartments, can live so happily, cooped up as they now are;
but their bodies, as well as minds, seem to have a contractile power,
which adapts them to their present confined circumstances. Procrustes,
though he was a mighty tyrant, could fit only the body to the bed. I
found all at home as cheerful and contented as in the days when we
lived magnificently at Percy-hall. I have not seen the Hungerfords yet;
Colonel H. is, I hear, attached to Lady Elizabeth Pembroke. I know
very little of her, but Caroline assures me she is an amiable, sensible
woman, well suited to him, and to all his family. I need not, however,
expatiate on this subject, for Caroline says that she wrote you a long
letter, the day after she returned from Hungerford Castle.

"I must tell you what has happened to me since I came to the country. Do
you remember my receiving a very angry, very ill-spelled letter, from a
certain Farmer Grimwood of Pegginton, who swore, that if it cost him a
thousand guineas in gold he would have the law of _the doctor_--viz. Dr.
Leicester--about a tithe of peaches? My father, at my request, was
so good as to send for said Grimwood, and to prevent him from having
recourse in his ire to Attorney Sharpe. With prodigious difficulty, the
angry farmer was restrained till my arrival; when I came home, I found
him waiting for me, and literally foaming at the mouth with the furious
desire for law. I flatter myself, I did listen to his story with a
patience for which Job might have been admired. I was well aware that
till he had exhausted himself, and was practically convinced that he had
nothing more to say, he would be incapable of listening to me, or to
the voice of the angel of peace. When at last absolute fatigue of
reiteration had reduced him to silence, when he had held me by the
button till he was persuaded he had made me fully master of his case,
I prevailed upon him to let me hear what could be said on the opposite
side of the question; and after some hours' cross-examination of six
witnesses, repeaters, and reporters, and after an infinite confusion of
_said I's, and said he's_, it was made clearly to appear that the whole
quarrel originated in the mistake of a few words in a message which Dr.
Leicester's agent had given to his son, a boy of seven years old, who
had left it with a deaf gate-keeper of seventy-six, who repeated it
to Farmer Grimwood, at a moment when the farmer was over-heated and
overtired, and consequently prone to _misunderstanding_ and to anger.
The most curious circumstance in the whole business is, that the
word peaches had never been mentioned by Dr. Leicester's agent in
the original message; and Dr. Leicester really did not know that Mr.
Grimwood of Pegginton was possessed of a single peach. Grimwood, though
uncommonly obstinate and slow, is a just man; and when I at last brought
the facts with indisputable evidence home to his understanding, he
acknowledged that he had been too hasty, rejoiced that he had not gone
to law, begged the doctor and the doctor's agent's pardon, thanked me
with his whole honest heart, and went home in perfect charity with all
mankind. Mr. Sharpe, who soon heard of the amicable conclusion of this
affair, laughs at me, and pronounces that I shall never make a lawyer,
and that my friends need never flatter themselves with the notion of my
rising at the bar.

"Yours truly,

"A. PERCY.

"My letter was forgotten yesterday, and I am glad of it. Blessings on
Farmer Grimwood of Pegginton! Little did I think that he and his quarrel
about tithe peaches would have such happy influence on my destiny.
Blessings on Farmer Grimwood of Pegginton! I repeat: he has been
the cause of my seeing such a--of my receiving such a look of
approbation--such a smile! She is niece to our good rector--come to
spend a few days with him. Grimwood went to the vicarage to make up his
quarrel with Dr. Leicester--I do not know what he said of me, but I find
it has left a very favourable impression in the good doctor's mind. He
came here yesterday, and brought with him his charming niece. My dear
Erasmus, you know that I have often prayed that I might never fall in
love _seriously_, till I had some reasonable prospect of being able to
marry; but I begin to retract my prayer for indifference, and to be of
opinion that the most prudent thing a professional man can do is to fall
in love--to fall in love with such a woman as Sophia Leicester. What a
new motive for exertion! Animated by delightful hope, perseverance, even
in the most stupid drudgery, will be pleasure. Hope!--but I am far
from hope--far at this instant from knowing distinctly what I hope--or
wish--or mean. I will write again soon and explain."



CHAPTER XX.


In several successive letters of Alfred to his brother, the progress of
his attachment to Miss Leicester is described. Instead of paying a visit
of a few days to her uncle, it appears that she stayed at the vicarage
during the whole of Alfred's vacation. Her mother died, and, contrary
to the expectation I of some of her admirers, Miss Leicester was left
in possession of only a moderate fortune. She showed much dignity under
these adverse circumstances, with a charming mixture of spirit and
gentleness of disposition. The change in her expectations, which
deprived her of some of her fashionable admirers, showed I her the
superior sincerity and steadiness of Alfred's sentiments. No promises
were given on either side; but it appears, that Alfred was permitted to
live and labour upon hope. He returned to London more eager than ever to
pursue his profession.

We trust that our readers will be fully satisfied with this abridgment
of the affair, and will be more inclined to sympathize with Alfred, and
to wish well to his attachment, than if they had been fatigued with a
volume of his love-letters, and with those endless repetitions of the
same sentiments with which most lovers' letters abound.

Let us now go on to the affairs of Erasmus Percy.

Mr. Panton, provoked by his daughter's coldness towards Lord Roadster,
had begun shrewdly to suspect that the lady must be in love with some
other person. His young physician was the only man on whom he could fix
his suspicions. Constance seemed to be on a more confidential footing
with him than with any of the visitors who frequented his house; she had
spoken of him in terms of high approbation, and had not contradicted her
father when he had, purposely to try her, pronounced Dr. Percy to be the
handsomest young fellow he knew. While these suspicions were secretly
gaining strength in the father's mind, a circumstance occurred which
confirmed them at once, and caused them to burst forth with uncontrolled
violence of expression.

Dr. Percy was called in to prescribe for a sick lawyer, and from this
lawyer's conversation he learnt that Lord Runnymede was a ruined man,
and that his son Lord Roadster's extravagance had been the cause of his
ruin. Erasmus determined to put Mr. Panton upon his guard, and thus, if
possible, to prevent the amiable Constance from becoming a victim to her
father's absurd ambition. With this view he went to Mr. Panton's.
The old gentleman was gone to dine with his club. Mrs. Panton, in her
elegant language, desired he would leave his business with her. When
he had explained the purport of his visit, after a variety of vulgar
exclamations denoting surprise and horror, and after paying many
compliments to her own sagacity, all which appeared incompatible with
her astonishment, Mrs. Panton expressed much gratitude to Erasmus, mixed
with suppressed satisfaction, and significant nods which he could not
quite comprehend. Her gratitude was interrupted, and the whole train
of her ideas changed, by the entrance of a milliner with new caps and
artificial flowers. She, however, retained sufficient recollection of
what had passed, to call after Erasmus when he had taken his leave, and
to insist upon his coming to her party that evening. This he declined.
Then she said he _must_ dine with her next day, for let him be never
so busy, he must dine somewhere, and as good dine with somebody as with
nobody--in short, she would take no denial. The next day Erasmus was
received with ungracious oddity of manner by old Panton--the only person
in the drawing-room when he arrived. Erasmus was so much struck with the
gloom of his countenance, that he asked whether Mr. Panton felt himself
ill. Panton bared his wrist, and held out his hand to Erasmus to feel
his pulse--then withdrawing his hand, he exclaimed, "Nonsense! I'm as
well as any man in England. Pray, now, Doctor Percy, why don't you get
a wig?"--"Why should I, sir, when I have hair?" said Erasmus,
laughing.--"Pshaw! doctor, what signifies laughing when I am
serious!--Why, sir, in my youth every decent physician wore a wig, and
I have no notion of a good physician without a wig--particularly a young
one. Sir, many people have a great objection to a young physician for
many reasons. And take my advice in time, Doctor Percy--a wig, a proper
wig, not one of your modern natural scratches, but a decent powdered
doctor's bob, would make you look ten years older at one slap, and trust
me you'd get into practice fast enough then, and be sent for by many a
sober family, that would never think of letting you within their doors
without the wig; for, sir, you are too young and too handsome for a
physician--Hey! what say you to the wig?" concluded Panton, in a tone of
such serious, yet comical impatience, that Erasmus found it difficult
to restrain a smile, whilst he answered that he really did not think
his charms were so dangerous that it was necessary to disguise them by
a wig; that as to his youth, it was an objection which every day would
tend to lessen; and that he trusted he might obtain the credit of being
a good physician if he could cure people of their diseases; and they
would feel it to be a matter of indifference whether they were restored
to health by a doctor in a wig or without one.

"Indifference!" cried Panton, starting upright in his chair with
passion. "I don't know what you call a matter of indifference, sir; I
can tell you its no matter of indifference to me--If you mean me; for
say that with God's mercy you carried me through, what then, if you are
doing your best to break my heart after all--"

Mr. Panton stopped short, for at this instant Constance came into
the room, and her father's look of angry suspicion, and her blush,
immediately explained to Erasmus what had the moment before appeared to
him unintelligible. He felt provoked with himself for colouring in his
turn, and being embarrassed without any reason, but he recovered his
presence of mind directly, when Constance, with a dignified ingenuous
modesty of manner, advanced towards him, notwithstanding her father's
forbidding look, and with a sweet, yet firm voice, thanked him for his
yesterday's friendly visit to her mother.

"I wonder you a'n't ashamed of yourself, girl!" cried old Panton,
choking with passion.

"And I'm sure I wonder you a'n't ashamed of yourself, Mr. Panton, if you
come to that," cried Mrs. Panton, "exposing of your family affairs this
way by your unseasonable passions, when one has asked people to dinner
too."

"Dinner or no dinner," cried old Panton, and he must have been strangely
transported beyond himself when he made that exclamation, "dinner or
no dinner, Mrs. Panton, I will speak my mind, and be master in my own
house! So, Doctor Percy, if you please, we'll leave the ladies, and talk
over our matters our own way, in my own room here within."

Dr. Percy willingly acceded to this proposal. Old Panton waddled as fast
as he could to show the way through the antechamber, whilst Mrs. Panton
called after him, "Don't expose yourself no more than you can help,
my dear!" And as Erasmus passed her, she whispered, "Never mind him,
doctor--stand by yourself--I'll stand by you, and _we'll_ stand by
you--won't we, Constance?--see her colour!"--"We have reason to be
grateful to Dr. Percy," said Constance, gravely, with an air of offended
modesty; "and I hope," added she, with softened sweetness of tone, as
she looked at him, and saw his feelings in his countenance, "I hope
Doctor Percy is assured of my gratitude, and of my perfect esteem."

"Come! what the devil?" cried old Panton, "I thought you were close
behind me."

"Now, doctor," cried he, as soon as he had fairly got Erasmus into his
closet, and shut the door, "now, doctor, I suppose you see I am not a
man to be imposed upon?"

"Nor, if you were, am I a man to impose upon you, sir," said Erasmus.
"If I understand you rightly, Mr. Panton, you suspect me of some designs
upon your daughter? I have none."

"And you won't have the assurance to deny that you are in love with
her?"

"I am not in love with Miss Panton, sir: she has charms and virtues
which might create the strongest attachment in the heart of any man of
feeling and discernment who could permit himself to think of her; but
I am not in a situation in which I could, with honour, seek to win
her affections, and, fortunately for me, this reflection has probably
preserved my heart from danger. If I felt any thing like love for your
daughter, sir, you may be assured that I should not, at this instant, be
in your house."

"A mighty fine speech, sir! and well delivered, for aught I know. You
are a scholar, and can speak sentences; but that won't impose on me, a
plain man that has eyes. Why--tell me!--didn't I see you within these
two minutes blushing up to the eyes, both of you, at one another?
Don't I know when I see men and women in love--tell me! Mrs.
Panton--fudge!--And did not I see behind my back, just now, the women
conjuring with you?--And aren't you colouring over head and ears with
conscience this very instant?--Tell me!"

Erasmus in vain asserted his own and the young lady's innocence, and
maintained that blushing was no proof of guilt--he even adverted to the
possibility of a man's blushing for others instead of himself.

"Blush for me as much as you please, if it's me you allude to," cried
the coarse father; "but when my daughter's at stake, I make no bones of
speaking plain, and cutting the matter short in the beginning--for we
all know what love is when it comes to a head. Marrow-bones! don't I
know that there must be some reason why that headstrong girl won't think
of my Lord Runnymede's son and heir, and such a looking youth, title and
all, as my Lord Roadster! And you are the cause, sir; and I thank you
for opening my eyes to it, as you did by your information to Mrs. Panton
yesterday, in my absence."

Erasmus protested with such an air of truth as would have convinced any
person capable of being convinced, that, in giving that information, he
had been actuated solely by a desire to save Miss Panton from a ruinous
match, by honest regard for her and all her family.

"Ruinous!--You are wrong, sir--I know better--I know best--I saw my Lord
Runnymede himself this very morning--a little temporary want of cash
only from the estate's being tied up, as they sometimes tie estates,
which all noble families is subject to--Tell me! don't I know the bottom
of these things? for though I haven't been used to land, I know all
about it. And at worst, my Lord Roadster, my son-in-law that is to be,
is not chargeable with a penny of his father's debts. So your informer
is wrong, sir, every way, and no lawyer, sir, for I have an attorney
at my back--and your information's all wrong, and you had no need to
interfere."

Erasmus felt and acknowledged the imprudence of his interference, but
hoped it might be forgiven in favour of the motive--and he looked so
honestly glad to hear that his information was all wrong, that old
Panton at the moment believed in his integrity, and said, stretching
out his hand towards him, "Well, well, no harm done--then it's all as
it should be, and we may ring for dinner--But," recurring again to his
favourite idea, "you'll get the wig, doctor?"

"Excuse me," said Erasmus, laughing, "your confidence in me cannot
depend upon a wig."

"It can, sir, and it does," cried Panton, turning again with all his
anger revived. "Excuse you! No, sir, I won't; for the wig's my test, and
I told Mrs. Panton so last night--the wig's my test of your uprightness
in this matter, sir; and I fairly tell you, that if you refuse this, all
the words you can string don't signify a button with me."

"And by what right, sir, do you speak to me in this manner?" cried
Erasmus, proudly, for he lost all sense of the ludicrous in indignation
at the insolent doubt of his integrity, which, after all the assurances
he had given, these last words from Mr. Panton implied: "By what right,
sir, do you speak to me in this manner?--And what reason can you have to
expect that I should submit to any tests to convince you of the truth of
my assertions?"

"Right! Reason!" cried Panton. "Why, doctor, don't you know that I'm
your patron?"

"My patron!" repeated Erasmus, in a tone which would have expressed much
to the mind of any man of sense or feeling, but which conveyed no
idea to the gross apprehension of old Panton except that Dr. Percy was
ignorant of the fact.

"Your patron--yes, doctor--why, don't you know, that ever since you set
me upon my legs I have been going up and down the city puffing--that
is, I mean, recommending you to all my friends? and you see you're
of consequence--getting into fine practice for so young a man. And it
stands to reason that when one takes a young man by the hand, one has
a right to expect one's advice should be followed; and as to the wig,
I don't make it a test--you've an objection to a test--but, as I've
mentioned it to Mrs. Panton, I must make it a point, and you know I am
not a man to go back. And you'll consider that if you disoblige me, you
can't expect that I should continue my friendship, and protection, and
patronage, and all that."

"Be assured, sir, I expect nothing from you," said Erasmus, "and desire
nothing: I have the happiness and honour to belong to a profession, in
which, if a man merits confidence, he will succeed, without requiring
any man's patronage."--Much less the patronage of such a one as you!
Erasmus would have said, but that he commanded his indignation, or,
perhaps, it was extinguished by contempt.

A servant now came to announce that the company was arrived, and dinner
was waiting. In very bad humour, Mr. Panton, nevertheless, ate an
excellent dinner, growling over every thing as he devoured it. Constance
seemed much grieved by her father's unseasonable fit of rudeness and
obstinacy; with sweetness of temper and filial duty she bore with his
humour, and concealed it as far as she could from observation. Mrs.
Panton was displeased with this, and once went so far as to whisper to
Erasmus that her step-daughter wanted spirit sadly, but that he ought
never to mind that, but to take a broad hint, and keep his ground.
Erasmus, who, with great simplicity and an upright character, had quick
observation and tact, perceived pretty nearly what was going on in the
family. He saw that the step-mother, under an air of frank and coarse
good-nature, was cunning and interested; that she wished to encourage
the daughter to open war with the father, knowing that nothing could
incense him so much as Constance's thinking of a poor physician instead
of accepting of an earl's son; Mrs. Panton wished then to fan to a
flame the spark which she was confident existed in his daughter's heart.
Erasmus, who was not apt to fancy that ladies liked him, endeavoured to
relieve Constance from the agonizing apprehension which he saw she felt
of his being misled by her mother's hints: he appeared sometimes not to
hear, and at other times not to understand, what Mrs. Panton whispered;
and at last talked so loud across the table to Mr. Henry, about letters
from Godfrey, and the officers of all the regiments in or out of
England, that no other subject could be introduced, and no other voice
could be heard. As soon as he decently could, after dinner, Dr. Percy
took his leave, heartily glad to escape from his awkward situation,
and from the patronage of Mr. Panton. Erasmus was mistaken, however, in
supposing that Mr. Panton could do him no harm. It is true that he could
not deny that Dr. Percy had restored him to health, and the opinion,
which had spread in the city, of Dr. Percy's skill, was not, and could
not, be diminished by Mr. Panton's railing against him; but when he
hinted that the young physician had practised upon his daughter's heart,
all the rich citizens who had daughters to watch began to consider him
as a dangerous person, and resolved never to call him in, except in some
desperate case. Mrs. Panton's gossiping confidences did more harm
than her husband's loud complaints; and the very eagerness which poor
Constance showed to vindicate Dr. Percy, and to declare the truth,
served only to confirm the sagaciously-nodding mothers and overwise
fathers in their own opinions. Mr. Henry said and did what he could
for Erasmus; but what could be done by a young man shut up all day in
a counting-house? or who would listen to any thing that was said by a
youth without station or name? Mr. Gresham unluckily was at this time at
his country-seat. Poor Erasmus found his practice in the city decline
as rapidly as it had risen, and he began a little to doubt the truth
of that noble sentiment which he had so proudly expressed. He was
comforted, however, by letters from his father, who strongly approved
his conduct, and who maintained that truth would at last prevail, and
that the prejudice which had been raised against him would, in time, be
turned to his advantage.

It happened that, while old Panton, in his present ludicrous fit of
obstinacy, was caballing against our young physician with all his might
in the city, the remote consequences of his absurdities were operating
in Dr. Percy's favour at the west end of the town. Our readers may
recollect having heard of a footman, whom Mr. Panton turned away for
laughing at his perversity. Erasmus had at the time pleaded in the poor
fellow's favour, and had, afterwards, when the servant was out of place,
in distress, and ill, humanely attended him, and cured a child of his,
who had inflamed eyes. This man was now in the service of a rich and
very fine lady, who lived in Grosvenor-square--Lady Spilsbury. Her
ladyship had several sickly children--children rendered sickly by their
mother's overweening and injudicious care. Alarmed successively by every
fashionable medical terror of the day, she dosed her children with every
specific which was publicly advertised or privately recommended. No
creatures of their age had taken such quantities of Ching's lozenges,
Godbold's elixir, or Dixon's antibilious pills. The consequence was,
that the dangers, which had at first been imaginary, became real: these
little victims of domestic medicine never had a day's health: they
looked, and were, more dead than alive. Still the mother, in the midst
of hourly alarms, was in admiration of her own medical skill, which she
said had actually preserved, in spite of nature, children of such sickly
constitutions. In consequence of this conviction, she redoubled her
vigilance, and the most trivial accident was magnified into a symptom of
the greatest importance.

It happened on the day when the eldest Miss Spilsbury had miraculously
attained her seventh year, a slight inflammation was discerned in her
right eye, which was attributed by her mother to her having neglected
the preceding day to bathe it in elder-flower water; by her governess,
to her having sat up the preceding night to supper; by her maid, to her
having been found peeping through a windy key-hole; and by the young
lady herself, to her having been kept poring for two hours over her
French lesson.

Whatever might have been the original cause, the inflammation evidently
increased, either in consequence or in spite of the innumerable remedies
applied internally and externally--the eye grew redder and redder, and
as red as blood, the nose inflamed, and the mother, in great alarm for
the beauty as well as health of her child, sent for Sir Amyas Courtney.
He had already won Lady Spilsbury's heart by recommending to her the
_honan tcha_, or Tartar tea, which enables the Tartars to digest raw
flesh, and tinges water of a red colour.

Sir Amyas pronounced that the young lady had hereditary nerves, besought
Lady Spilsbury to compose herself, assured her the inflammation was
purely symptomatic, and as soon as he could subdue the continual nervous
inclination to shrivel up the nose, which he trusted he could in time
master, all would go well. But Sir Amyas attended every day for a month,
yet never got the mastery of this nervous inclination. Lady Spilsbury
then was persuaded _it could not be nerves, it must be scrofula_;
and she called in Dr. Frumpton, _the man for scrofula_. He of course
confirmed her ladyship in her opinion; for a week d----d nerves and Sir
Amyas; threw in desperate doses of calomel for another month, reduced
the poor child to what the maid called an _attomy_, and still the
inflammation increased. Lady Spilsbury desired a consultation of
physicians, but Dr. Frumpton would not consult with Sir Amyas, nor would
Sir Amyas consult with Dr. Frumpton. Lady Spilsbury began to dread
that the sight of the eye would be injured, and this idea terrified the
mother almost out of her senses. In the suspension of authority which
terror produces in a family, the lady's-maid usually usurps considerable
power.

Now her ladyship's maid had been offended by Dr. Frumpton's calling her
_my good girl_, and by Sir Amyas Courtney's having objected to a green
silk bandage which she had recommended; so that she could not _abide_
either of the gentlemen, and she was confident the young lady would
never get well while they had the management of affairs: she had
heard--but she did not mention from whom, she was too diplomatic to give
up her authority--she had heard of a young physician, a Dr. Percy, who
had performed wonderful great cures in the city, and had in particular
cured a young _lady_ who had an inflamed eye, just for all the world
like Miss Spilsbury's. In this last assertion, there was, perhaps,
some little exaggeration; but it produced a salutary effect upon Lady
Spilsbury's imagination: the footman was immediately despatched for
Dr. Percy, and ordered to make all possible haste. Thus by one of those
petty underplots of life, which, often unknown to us, are continually
going on, our young physician was brought into a situation where he
had an opportunity of showing his abilities. These favourable accidents
happen to many men who are not able to make use of them, and thus
the general complaint is preferred of want of good fortune, or of
opportunity for talents to distinguish themselves.

Upon Dr. Percy's arrival at Lady Spilsbury's, he immediately perceived
that parties ran high, and that the partisans were all eager to know
whether he would pronounce the young lady's case to be nervous or
scrofulous. He was assailed by a multitude of female voices, and
requested particularly to attend to innumerable contradictory symptoms,
before he was permitted even to see his patient. He attended
carefully to whatever facts he could obtain, pure from opinion and
misrepresentation. The young lady was in a darkened room--he begged to
have a little more light admitted, though she was in such pain that she
could scarcely endure it. Our young physician had the great advantage of
possessing the use of his senses and understanding, unbiassed by medical
theories, or by the authority of great names: he was not always trying
to force symptoms to agree with previous descriptions, but he was
actually able to see, hear, and judge of them as they really appeared.
There was a small protuberance on the left side of the nose, which, on
his pressing it, gave great pain to the child.

"Dear me! miss, you know," said the maid, "it is not in your nose
you feel the great pain--you know you told Sir Amyas Courtney t'other
day--that is, Sir Amyas Courtney told you--"

Dr. Percy insisted that the child should be permitted to speak for
herself; and, relieved from the apprehension of not saying the thing
that she was expected to say, she described her present and past
feelings. She said, "that the pain seemed lately to have _changed from
where it was before_--that it had changed ever since Dr. Frumpton's
opening his snuff-box near her had made her sneeze." This sneeze was
thought by all but Dr. Percy to be a circumstance too trivial to
be worth mentioning; but on this hint he determined to repeat the
experiment. He had often thought that many of the pains which are
supposed to be symptoms of certain diseases, many disorders which baffle
the skill of medicine, originate in accidents, by which extraneous
substances are taken or forced into different parts of the body. He
ordered some cephalic snuff to be administered to the patient. All
present looked with contempt at the physician who proposed such a simple
remedy. But soon after the child had sneezed violently and repeatedly,
Dr. Percy saw a little bit of green silk appear, which was drawn from
the nostril, to the patient's great and immediate relief. Her brothers
and sisters then recollected having seen her, two months before,
stuffing up her nose a bit of green riband, which she said she liked
because it smelt of some perfume. The cause of the inflammation removed,
it soon subsided; the eye and nose recovered their natural size and
colour, and every body said, "Who would have thought it?" all but Dr.
Frumpton and Sir Amyas Courtney, who, in the face of demonstration,
maintained each his own opinion; declaring that the green riband had
nothing to do with the business. The sudden recovery of the child, Sir
Amyas said, proved to him, in the most satisfactory manner, that the
disease was, as he at first pronounced--nervous. Dr. Frumpton swore that
scrofula would soon break out again in another shape; and, denouncing
vengeance against generations yet unborn, he left Lady Spilsbury's
children to take the consequences of trusting to a youngster, whose
impertinent interference he could never forget or forgive. In spite
of all that the two angry and unsuccessful physicians could say, the
recovery of the child's eye redounded much to Dr. Percy's honour, and
introduced him to the notice of several men of science and celebrity,
who frequented Lady Spilsbury's excellent dinners. Even the intemperance
of Dr. Frumpton's anger was of service; for in consequence of his
furious assertions, inquiry was made into the circumstances, and the
friends of Erasmus had then an opportunity of producing in his defence
the Irish porter. His cause could not be in better hands.

With that warmth and eloquence of gratitude characteristic of his
country, the poor fellow told his story so as to touch every heart.
Among others it particularly affected an officer just returned from our
armies on the continent: and by him it was the next day repeated at the
table of a celebrated general, when the conversation turned upon the
conduct of certain army surgeons. Lord Oldborough happened to be one of
the company; the name of Percy struck his ear; the moment Erasmus was
thus brought to his recollection, he attended particularly to what the
officer was saying; and, after hearing two circumstances, which were
so marked with humanity and good sense, his lordship determined to give
what assistance he could to the rising credit of the son of his old
friend, by calling him in for Lady Oldborough, who was in a declining
state of health. But Sir Amyas Courtney, who had long attended her
ladyship, endeavoured, with all the address of hatred, to prejudice her
against his young rival, and to prevent her complying with her lord's
request. Depending on her habitual belief that he was essential to her
existence, Sir Amyas went so far as to declare that if Dr. Percy should
be sent for, he must discontinue his visits. Lord Oldborough, however,
whom the appearance of opposition to his will always confirmed in his
purpose, cut short the matter by a few peremptory words.

Sir Amyas, the soft silken Sir Amyas, could not for an instant stand
before the terror of Lord Oldborough's eye: the moment he was told that
he was at perfect liberty to discontinue his visits, his regard--his
attachment--his devotion for Lady Oldborough, prevented the possibility
of abandoning her ladyship; he was willing to sacrifice his private
feelings, perhaps his private prejudices, his judgment, in short any
thing, every thing, sooner than disoblige Lord Oldborough, or any of his
family. Lord Oldborough, satisfied with the submission, scarcely stayed
to hear the end of the speech, but rang the bell, ordered that Dr. Percy
should be sent for, and went to attend a cabinet council.

Lady Oldborough received him as it might be supposed that a very
sickly, very much prejudiced, very proud lady of quality would receive
a physician without a name, who was forced upon her in opposition to her
long habits of reliance on her courtly favourite. Her present disease,
as Dr. Percy believed, was water upon her chest, and there was some
chance of saving her, by the remedies which have been found successful
in a first attack of that complaint; but Sir Amyas had pronounced that
her ladyship's disorder was merely nervous spasms, consequent upon a
bilious attack, and he could not, or would not, recede from his opinion:
his prescriptions, to which her ladyship devoutly adhered to the last,
were all directed against bile and nerves. She would not hear of water
on the chest, or take any of the remedies proposed by Dr. Percy. Lady
Oldborough died ten days after he was called in. Those who knew nothing
of the matter, that is, above nine-tenths of all who talked about
it, affirmed that poor Lady Oldborough's death was occasioned by her
following the rash prescriptions of a young physician, who had been
forced upon her by Lord Oldborough; and who, unacquainted with her
ladyship's constitution, had mistaken the nature of her complaint. All
her ladyship's female relations joined in this clamour, for they were
most of them friends or partizans of Sir Amyas Courtney. The rank and
conspicuous situation of Lord Oldborough interested vast numbers in the
discussion, which was carried on in every fashionable circle the day
after her ladyship's decease.

Dr. Percy took a decided step in this emergency. He went to the
minister, to whom no one, friend or enemy, had ventured to give the
slightest hint of the reports in circulation. Dr. Percy plainly stated
the facts, represented that his character and the fate of his whole life
were at stake, and besought his lordship to have the truth examined
into by eminent and impartial physicians. Erasmus was aware of all
he hazarded in making this request--aware that he must hurt Lord
Oldborough's feelings--that he must irritate him by bringing to his
view at once, and in this critical moment, a number of family cabals,
of which he was ignorant--aware that Lord Oldborough was oppressed
with business, public and private; and that, above all things, he was
impatient of any intrusion upon his hours of privacy. But all
these subordinate considerations vanished before Lord Oldborough's
magnanimity. Without saying one word, he sat down and wrote an order,
that proper means should be taken to ascertain the disease of which Lady
Oldborough died.

The report made, in consequence of this order, by the surgeons,
confirmed Dr. Percy's opinion that her ladyship's disease was water on
the chest--and Lord Oldborough took effectual means to give the truth
publicity.

"You need not thank me, Dr. Percy--you have a right to expect justice,
more you will never want. My assistance might, it seems, have been
injurious, but can never be necessary to your reputation."

These few words--much from Lord Oldborough--and which he took care to
say when they could be heard by numbers, were quickly circulated. The
physicians and surgeons who had given in their report were zealous in
maintaining the truth; medical and political parties were interested in
the affair; the name of Dr. Percy was joined with the first names in the
medical world, and repeated by the first people in the great world, so
that with surprising celerity he became known and fashionable. And thus
the very circumstance that threatened his ruin was, by his civil courage
and decided judgment, converted into the means of his rising into
eminence.

Late one night, after a busy and fatiguing day, just as Erasmus had got
into bed, and was settling himself comfortably to sleep, he heard a loud
knock at the door.

"Mr. Henry, sir, from Mr. Panton's in the city, wishes to speak with
you."

"Show him in.--So, old Panton, I suppose--some indigestion has brought
him to reason?"

"Oh! no such thing," interrupted Mr. Henry--"I would not have disturbed
you at this time of night for any such trifle; but our excellent friend,
Mr. Gresham--"

"What of him?" cried Erasmus, starting up in bed.

"Is ill,--but whether dangerously or not, I cannot tell you. An express
from his house in the country has just arrived; I heard the letter read,
but could not get it to bring to you. It was written to old Panton from
Mr. Gresham's housekeeper, without her master's knowledge, as he has no
opinion of physicians, she said, except of a young Dr. Percy, and did
not like to send for him for such a trifle as a sore throat, lest it
should hurt his practice to leave town at this season."

Erasmus stayed to hear no more, but ordered horses instantly, set out,
and travelled with all possible expedition. He had reason to rejoice
that he had not made a moment's delay. He found Mr. Gresham actually
suffocating from a quinsy. A surgeon had been sent for from the next
town, but was not at home. Erasmus, the instant he saw Mr. Gresham,
perceiving the danger, without saying one syllable, sprang to the
bed, lanced the throat, and saved the life of his valuable friend. The
surgeon, who came the next day, said that Dr. Percy ought to have waited
for his arrival, and that a physician might be severely blamed for
performing a surgical operation--that it was a very indelicate thing.

But Mr. Gresham, who had fallen into a comfortable sleep, did not hear
him; nor did Dr. Percy, who was writing the following letter to his
father:

"... You will sympathize with me, my dear father, and all my friends
at home will sympathize in the joy I feel at seeing this excellent man,
this kind friend, recovering under my care. These are some of the
happy moments which, in my profession, repay us for years of toil,
disappointment, and sufferings--yes, sufferings--for we must suffer with
those that suffer: we must daily and hourly behold every form of pain,
acute or lingering; numbers, every year of our lives, we must see
perish, the victims of incurable disease. We are doomed to hear the
groans of the dying, and the lamentations, sometimes the reproaches, of
surviving friends; often and often must the candid and humane physician
deplore the insufficiency of his art. But there are successful,
gloriously successful moments, which reward us for all the painful
duties, all the unavailing regrets of our profession.

"This day I shall recall to my mind whenever my spirits sink, or
whenever my fortitude begins to fail. I wish you could see the gratitude
and joy in the looks of all Mr. Gresham's servants. His death would
have been a public loss, for the beneficent use he makes of his princely
fortune has rendered numbers dependent on him for the comforts of life.
He lives here in a palace, and every thing he has done, whether in
building or planting, in encouraging the useful or the fine arts, has
been done with a judicious and magnificent spirit. Surely this man ought
to be happy in his own reflections, and yet he does not seem to me as
happy as he deserves to be. I shall stay here till I see him out of all
danger of relapse.--He has just awakened--Adieu for the present."

In continuation of this letter the following was written the next day:

"All danger is over--my friend is convalescent, and I shall return to
town to-morrow. But would you think, my dear father, that the real cause
of Mr. Gresham's being unhappy is patronage? By accident I made use of
that word in speaking of old Panton's quarrel with me, and he cursed
the word the moment I pronounced it: 'Yes,' he exclaimed, 'it is twice
accursed--once in the giving, and once in the receiving.' Then he began,
in a most feeling manner, to describe the evils attendant upon being
a patron. He has done his utmost to relieve and encourage genius
in distress; but among all the poets, painters, artists, and men of
letters, whom in various ways he has obliged, he has scarcely been able
to satisfy the vanity or the expectations of any. Some have passed
from excessive adulation to gross abuse of him--many more torment him
continually with their complaints and invectives against each other;
and, instead of having done good by his generosity, he finds that, in
a variety of instances, of which he detailed the circumstances, he has
done much mischief, and, as he says, infinite injury to his own peace of
mind--for he has burdened himself with the care of a number of people,
who cannot be made happy. He has to deal with men but partially
cultivated; with _talents_, unaccompanied by reason, justice, or
liberality of sentiment. With great feeling himself, he suffers acutely
from all their jealousies and quarrels, and from the near and perpetual
view of the _littleness_ by which artists too often degrade themselves.
Another man in Mr. Gresham's situation would become a misanthropist, and
would comfort himself by railing against the ingratitude of mankind; but
this would not comfort Mr. Gresham. He loves his fellow-creatures, and
sees their faults in sorrow rather than in anger. I have known him, and
intimately, for a considerable time, and yet I never heard him speak on
this subject but once before, when the painter, whom I used to call the
irritable genius, had caricatured him in return for all his kindness.

"Though it is not easy to change the habits or to alter the views and
objects of a man, like Mr. Gresham, past the meridian of life, yet I
cannot help flattering myself that this might be effected. If he would,
by one bold effort, shake off these dependents, the evening of his days
might yet be serene and happy. He wants friends, not _protégées_. I have
advised him, as soon as his strength will permit, to take a little tour,
which will bring him into your part of the country. He wishes much to
become acquainted with all our family, and I have given him a note of
introduction. You, my dear father, can say to him more than I could with
propriety.

"Mr. Gresham knows how to accept as well as to give. He allows me
to have the pleasure of proving to him, that where my friends are
concerned, I am above pecuniary considerations. My love to my dear
mother, Rosamond, and Caroline.

"Your affectionate son,

"E. PERCY."

Though Mr. Gresham would not hurt the feelings of his young friend and
physician, by pressing upon him at the moment any remuneration, or
by entering into any calculation of the loss he would sustain by his
absence from London at this critical season, he took his own methods
of justly recompensing Dr. Percy. Erasmus found at his door, some time
after his return to town, a plain but excellent chariot and horses,
with a note from Mr. Gresham, written in such terms as precluded the
possibility of refusing the offer.

The celebrated London physician, who said that he was not paid for three
weeks' attendance in the country, by a draft of two thousand pounds; and
who, when the pen was put into his own hands, wrote four in the place
of two, would smile in scorn at the generosity of Mr. Gresham and the
disinterestedness of Dr. Percy.



CHAPTER XXI.


LETTER FROM CAROLINE TO ERASMUS.

"MY DEAR ERASMUS,

"Your friend and patient, Mr. Gresham, was so eager to take your advice,
and so quick in his movements, that your letter, announcing his intended
visit, reached us but a few days before his arrival at the Hills.
And--mark how great and little events, which seem to have no possible
link of connexion, depend upon one another--Alfred or Mr. Gresham must
have sat up all night, or slept on the floor, had not Alfred, that
morning, received a letter from Mrs. Hungerford, summoning him to town
to draw her son's marriage settlements. It is thought that Colonel
Hungerford, whose leave of absence from his regiment has, by special
favour, been repeatedly protracted, will be very soon sent abroad. Lady
Elizabeth Pembroke has, therefore, consented to his urgent desire for
their immediate union; and Alfred will, I am sure, give them as little
reason as possible to complain of the law's delay. Lady Elizabeth, who
has all that decision of mind and true courage which you know is so
completely compatible with the most perfect gentleness of disposition
and softness, even timidity of manners, resolves to leave all her
relations and friends, and to go abroad. She says she knew what
sacrifices she must make in marrying a soldier, and she is prepared to
make them without hesitation or repining.

"And now to return to your friend, Mr. Gresham. The more we see of him
the more we like him. Perhaps he bribed our judgment a little at
first by the kind, affectionate manner in which he spoke of you; but,
independently of this prepossession, we should, I hope, soon have
discovered his merit. He is a good English merchant. Not a '_M. Friport,
qui sçait donner, mais qui ne sçait pas vivre_,' but a well-bred,
well-informed gentleman, upright, liberal, and benevolent, without
singularity or oddities of any sort. His quiet, plain manners, free
from ostentation, express so well the kind feelings of his mind, that I
prefer them infinitely to what are called polished manners. Last night
Rosamond and I were amusing ourselves by contrasting him with our
recollection of the polished M. de Tourville--but as you were not at
home at the memorable time of the shipwreck, and of M. de Tourville's
visit, you cannot feel the force of our parallel between these two
beings, the most dissimilar I have ever seen--an English merchant and a
diplomatic Frenchman. You will ask, what put it into our heads to make
the comparison? A slight circumstance which happened yesterday evening.
Rosamond was showing Mr. Gresham some of my drawings, and among them
the copy of that beautiful miniature in M. de Tourville's snuff-box.
My father told him the history of Euphrosyne, of her German prince, and
Count Albert. Mr. Gresham's way of listening struck us, by its contrast
to the manner of M. de Tourville--and this led us on to draw a parallel
between their characters. Mr. Gresham, instead of shrugging his
shoulders, and smiling disdainfully, like the Frenchman, at the
Quixotism of the young nobleman, who lost his favour at court by
opposing the passion of his prince, was touched with Count Albert's
disinterested character; and quite forgetting, as Rosamond observed, to
compliment me upon my picture of Euphrosyne, he laid down the miniature
with a negligence of which M. de Tourville never would have been guilty,
and went on eagerly to tell some excellent traits of the count. For
instance, when he was a very young man in the Prussian or Austrian
service, I forget which, in the heat of an engagement he had his sabre
lifted over the head of one of the enemy's officers, when, looking down,
he saw that the officer's right arm was broken. The count immediately
stopped, took hold of the disabled officer's bridle, and led him off to
a place of safety. This and many other anecdotes Mr. Gresham heard,
when he spent some time on the continent a few years ago, whilst he
was transacting some commercial business. He had full opportunities of
learning the opinions of different parties; and he says, that it was
the prayer of all the good and wise in Germany, whenever the hereditary
prince should succeed to the throne, that Count Albert Altenberg might
be his minister.

"By-the-bye, Mr. Gresham, though he is rather an elderly man, and looks
remarkably cool and composed, shows all the warmth of youth whenever any
of his feelings are touched.

"I wish you could see how much my father is pleased with your friend. He
has frequently repeated that Mr. Gresham, long as he has been trained in
the habits of mercantile life, is quite free from the spirit of monopoly
in small or great affairs. My father rejoices that his son has made such
a friend. Rosamond charged me to leave her room to write to you at the
end of my letter; but she is listening so intently to something Mr.
Gresham is telling her, that I do not believe she will write one line. I
hear a few words, which so much excite my curiosity, that I must go and
listen too. Adieu.

"Affectionately yours,

"CAROLINE PERCY."

Another letter from Caroline to Erasmus, dated some weeks after the
preceding.

"Tuesday, 14th.

"Yes, my dear Erasmus, your friend, Mr. Gresham, is still with us; and
he declares that he has not, for many years, been so happy as since he
came here. He is now sufficiently intimate in this family to speak of
himself, and of his own feelings and plans. You, who know what a horror
he has of egotism, will consider this as a strong proof of his liking
us, and of his confidence in our regard. He has related many of the
instances, which, I suppose, he told you, of the ingratitude and
disappointments he has met with from persons whom he attempted to
serve. He has kept us all, for hours, Rosamond especially, in a state
of alternate pity and indignation. For all that has happened, he blames
himself more than he blames any one else; and with a mildness and
candour which make us at once admire and love him, he adverts to the
causes of his own disappointment.

"My father has spoken to him as freely as you could desire. He has
urged, that as far as the public good is concerned, free competition is
more advantageous to the arts and to artists than any private patronage
can be.

"If the productions have real merit, they will make their own way; if
they have not merit, they ought not to make their way. And the same
argument he has applied to literary merit, and to the merit, generally
speaking, of persons as well as of things. He has also plainly told
Mr. Gresham that he considers the trade of a patron as one of the most
thankless, as it is the least useful, of all trades.

"All this has made such an impression upon your candid friend, that he
has declared it to be his determination to have no more protégées, and
to let the competition of talents work fairly without the interference,
or, as he expressed it, any of the _bounties_ and _drawbacks_ of
patronage. 'But then,' he added, with a sigh, 'I am a solitary being:
am I to pass the remainder of my days without objects of interest or
affection? While Constance Panton was a child, she was an object to
me; but now she must live with her parents, or she will marry: at
all events, she is rich--and is my wealth to be only for my selfish
gratification? How happy you are, Mr. Percy, who have such an amiable
wife, such a large family, and so many charming domestic objects of
affection!'

"Mr. Gresham then walked away with my father to the end of the room, and
continued his conversation in a low voice, to which I did not think I
ought to listen, so I came up stairs to write to you. I think you told
me that Mr. Gresham had suffered some disappointment early in life,
which prevented his marrying; but if I am not mistaken, his mind now
turns again to the hopes of domestic happiness. If I am not mistaken,
Rosamond has made an impression on his heart. I have been as
conveniently and meritoriously deaf, blind, and stupid, for some time
past as possible; but though I shut my eyes, and stop my ears, yet my
imagination will act, and I can only say to myself, as we used to do
when we were children--I will not think of it till it comes, that I may
have the pleasure of the surprise....

"Affectionately yours,

"CAROLINE PERCY."

Caroline was right--Rosamond had made a great impression upon Mr.
Gresham's heart. His recollection of the difference between his age
and Rosamond's, and his consciousness of the want of the gaiety and
attractions of youth, rendered him extremely diffident, and for some
time suppressed his passion, at least delayed the declaration of his
attachment. But Rosamond seemed evidently to like his company and
conversation, and she showed that degree of esteem and interest for
him which, he flattered himself, might be improved into a more tender
affection. He ventured to make his proposal--he applied first to Mrs.
Percy, and entreated that she would make known his sentiments to her
daughter.

When Mrs. Percy spoke to Rosamond, she was surprised at the very decided
refusal which Rosamond immediately gave. Both Mrs. Percy and Caroline
were inclined to think that Rosamond had not only a high opinion of Mr.
Gresham, but that she had felt a preference for him which she had never
before shown for any other person; and they thought that, perhaps, some
refinement of delicacy about accepting his large fortune, or some fear
that his want of high birth, and what are called good connexions, would
be objected to by her father and mother, might be the cause of
this refusal. Mrs. Percy felt extremely anxious to explain her own
sentiments, and fully to understand Rosamond's feelings. In this anxiety
Caroline joined most earnestly; all the kindness, sympathy, and ardent
affection, which Rosamond had ever shown for her, when the interests of
her heart were in question, were strong in Caroline's recollection, and
these were now fully returned. Caroline thought Mr. Gresham was too old
for her sister; but she considered that this objection, and all others,
should yield to Rosamond's own opinion and taste. She agreed with her
mother in imagining that Rosamond was not quite indifferent to his merit
and to his attachment.

Mrs. Percy began by assuring Rosamond that she should be left entirely
at liberty to decide according to her own judgment and feelings. "You
have seen, my dear, how your father and I have acted towards your
sister; and you may be sure that we shall show you equal justice. Though
parents are accused of always rating 'a good estate above a faithful
lover,' yet you will recollect that Mr. Barclay's good estate did not
induce us to press his suit with Caroline. Mr. Gresham has a large
fortune; and, to speak in Lady Jane Granville's style, it must be
acknowledged, my dear Rosamond, that this would be a most advantageous
match; but for this very reason we are particularly desirous that you
should determine for yourself: at the same time, let me tell you, that I
am a little surprised by the promptness of your decision. Let me be sure
that this negative is serious--let me be sure that I rightly understand
you, my love: now, when only your own Caroline is present, tell me what
are your objections to Mr. Gresham?"

Thanks for her mother's kindness; thanks repeated, with tears in her
eyes, were, for a considerable time, all the answer that could be
obtained from Rosamond. At length she said, "Without having any
particular objection to a person, surely, if I cannot love him, that is
sufficient reason for my not wishing to marry him."

Rosamond spoke these words in so feeble a tone, and with so much
hesitation, colouring at the same time so much, that her mother and
sister were still uncertain how they were to understand her _if_--and
Mrs. Percy replied, "Undoubtedly, my dear, _if_ you cannot love him; but
that is the question. Is it quite certain that you cannot?"

"Oh! quite certain--I believe."

"This certainty seems to have come very suddenly," said her mother,
smiling.

"What can you mean, mother?"

"I mean that you did not show any decided dislike to him, till within
these few hours, my dear."

"Dislike! I don't feel--I hope I don't show any dislike--lam sure I
should be very ungrateful. On the contrary, it would be impossible for
any body, who is good for any thing, to _dislike_ Mr. Gresham."

"Then you can neither like him nor dislike him?--You are in a state of
absolute indifference."

"That is, except gratitude--gratitude for all his kindness to Erasmus,
and for his partiality to me--gratitude I certainly feel."

"And esteem?"

"Yes; to be sure, esteem."

"And I think," continued her mother, "that before he committed this
crime of proposing for you, Rosamond, you used to show some of the
indignation of a good friend against those ungrateful people who used
him so ill.

"Indignation! Yes," interrupted Rosamond, "who could avoid feeling
indignation?"

"And pity?--I think I have heard you express pity for poor Mr. Gresham."

"Well, ma'am, because he really was very much to be pitied--don't you
think so?"

"I do--and pity--" said Mrs. Percy, smiling.

"No, indeed, mother, you need not smile--nor you, Caroline; for the sort
of pity which I feel is not--it was merely pity by itself, plain pity:
why should people imagine and insist upon it, that more is felt than
expressed?"

"My dear," said Mrs. Percy, "I do not insist upon your feeling more
than you really do; but let us see--you are in a state of absolute
indifference, and yet you feel esteem, indignation, pity--how is this,
Rosamond? How can this be?"

"Very easily, ma'am, because by absolute indifference, I mean--Oh! you
know very well what I mean--absolute indifference as to--"

"Love, perhaps, is the word which you cannot pronounce this morning."

"Now, mother! Now, Caroline! You fancy that I love him. But, supposing
there were any _if_ in the case on my side, tell me only _why_ I should
refuse him?"

"Nay, my dear, that is what we wait to hear from you," said Mrs. Percy.

"Then I will tell you why," said Rosamond: "in the first place, Mr.
Gresham has a large fortune, and I have none. And I have the greatest
horror of the idea of marrying for money, or of the possibility of its
being suspected that I might do so."

"I thought that was the fear!" cried Caroline: "but, my dear Rosamond,
with your generous mind, you know it is quite impossible that you should
marry from interested motives."

"Absolutely impossible," said her mother. "And when you are sure of
your own mind, it would be weakness, my dear, to dread the suspicions of
others, even if such were likely to be formed."

"Oh! do not, my dearest Rosamond," said Caroline, taking her sister's
hand, pressing it between hers, and speaking in the most urgent,
almost supplicating tone, "do not, generous as you are, sacrifice your
happiness to mistaken delicacy!"

"But," said Rosamond, after a moment's silence, "but you attribute more
than I deserve to my delicacy and generosity: I ought not to let you
think me so much better than I really am. I had some other motives: you
will think them very foolish--very ridiculous--perhaps wrong; but you
are so kind and indulgent to me, mother, that I will tell you all my
follies. I do not like to marry a man who is not a hero--you are very
good not to laugh, Caroline."

"Indeed, I am too seriously interested at present to laugh," said
Caroline.

"And you must be sensible," continued Rosamond, "that I could not, by
any effort of imagination, or by any illusion of love, convert a man of
Mr. Gresham's time of life and appearance, with his wig, and sober kind
of understanding, into a hero."

"As to the wig," replied Mrs. Percy, "you will recollect that both Sir
Charles Grandison and Lovelace wore wigs; but, my dear, granting that a
man cannot, in these days, be a hero in a wig, and granting that a hero
cannot or should not have a sober understanding, will you give me leave
to ask, whether you have positively determined that none but heroes
and heroines should live, or love, or marry, or be happy in this mortal
world?"

"Heaven forbid!" said Rosamond, "particularly as I am not a heroine."

"And as only a few hundred millions of people in the world are in the
same condition," added Mrs. Percy.

"And those perhaps, not the least happy of human beings," said Caroline.
"Be that as it may, I think it cannot be denied that Mr. Gresham has, in
a high degree, one of the qualities which ought to distinguish a hero."

"What?" said Rosamond, eagerly.

"Generosity," replied Caroline; "and his large fortune puts it in his
power to show that quality upon a scale more extended than is usually
allowed even to the heroes of romance."

"True--very true," said Rosamond, smiling: "generosity might make a
hero of him if he were not a merchant--a merchant!--a Percy ought not to
marry a merchant."

"Perhaps, my dear," said Mrs. Percy, "you don't know that half, at
least, of all the nobility in England have married into the families of
merchants; therefore, in the opinion of half the nobility of England,
there can be nothing discreditable or derogatory in such an alliance."

"I know, ma'am, such things are; but then you will allow they are
usually done for money, and that makes the matter worse. If the sons of
noble families marry the daughters of mercantile houses, it is merely
to repair the family fortune. But a nobleman has great privileges. If
he marry beneath himself, his low wife is immediately raised by her
wedding-ring to an equality with the high and mighty husband--her name
is forgotten in her title--her vulgar relations are left in convenient
obscurity: the husband never thinks of taking notice of them; and the
wife, of course, may let it alone if she pleases. But a woman, in our
rank of life, must bear her husband's name, and must also bear all his
relations, be they ever so vulgar. Now, Caroline, honestly--how should
you like this?"

"Honestly, not at all," said Caroline; "but as we cannot have every
thing we like, or avoid every thing we dislike, in life, we must balance
the good against the evil, when we are to make our choice: and if I
found certain amiable, estimable qualities in a character, I think that
I might esteem, love, and marry him, even though he had a vulgar name
and vulgar connexions. I fairly acknowledge, however, that it must
be something superior in the man's character which could balance the
objection to vulgarity in my mind."

"Very well, my dear," said Rosamond, "do you be a martyr to vulgarity
and philosophy, if you like it--but excuse me, if you please. Since
you, who have so much strength of mind, fairly acknowledge that this
objection is barely to be overcome by your utmost efforts, do me the
favour, do me the justice, not to expect from me a degree of civil
courage quite above my powers."

Caroline, still believing that Rosamond was only bringing forward
all the objections that might be raised against her wishes, replied,
"Fortunately, my dear Rosamond, you are not called upon for any such
effort of philosophy, for Mr. Gresham is not vulgar, nor is even his
name vulgar, and he cannot have any vulgar relations, because he has no
relations of any description--I heard him say, the other day, that he
was a solitary being."

"That is a comfort," said Rosamond, laughing; "that is a great thing in
his favour; but if he has not relations, he has connexions. What do you
think of those horrible Pantons? This instant I think I see old Panton
cooling himself--wig pushed back--waistcoat unbuttoned--and protuberant
Mrs. Panton with her bay wig and artificial flowers. And not the Pantons
only, but you may be sure there are hordes of St. Mary Axe cockneys,
that would pour forth upon _Mrs. Gresham_, with overwhelming force, and
with partnership and old-acquaintance-sake claims upon her public notice
and private intimacy. Come, come, my dear Caroline, don't speak against
your conscience--you know you never could withstand the hordes of
_vulgarians_."

"These vulgarians in buckram," said Caroline, "have grown from two to
two hundred in a trice, in your imagination, Rosamond: but consider that
old Panton, against whom you have such an invincible horror, will, now
that he has quarrelled with Erasmus, probably very soon eat himself out
of the world; and I don't see that you are bound to Mr. Gresham's dead
partner's widow--is this your only objection to Mr. Gresham?"

"My only objection! Oh, no! don't flatter yourself that in killing old
Panton you have struck off all my objections. Independently of vulgar
relations or connexions, and the disparity of age, my grand objection
remains. But I will address myself to my mother, for you are not a good
person for judging of prejudices--you really don't understand them, my
dear Caroline; one might as well talk to Socrates. You go to work with
logic, and get one between the horns of a wicked dilemma directly--I
will talk to my mother; she understands prejudices."

"Your mother thanks you," said Mrs. Percy, smiling, "for your opinion of
her understanding."

"My mother is the most indulgent of mothers, and, besides, the most
candid, and therefore I know she will confess to me that she herself
cherishes a little darling prejudice in favour of birth and family,
a _leetle_ prejudice--well covered by good-nature and politeness--but
still a secret, invincible antipathy to low-born people."

"To low-bred people, I grant."

"Oh, mother! you are _upon your candour_--my dear mother, not only
low-bred but low-born: confess you have a--what shall I call it?--an
_indisposition_ towards low-born people."

"Since you put me upon my candour," said Mrs. Percy, "I am afraid I must
confess that I am conscious of a little of the aristocratic weakness you
impute to me."

"Impute!--No imputation, in my opinion," cried Rosamond. "I do not think
it any weakness."

"But I do," said Mrs. Percy--"I consider it as a weakness; and bitterly
should I reproach myself, if I saw any weakness, any prejudice of mine,
influence my children injuriously in the most material circumstance
of their lives, and where their happiness is at stake. So, my dear
Rosamond, let me intreat--"

"Oh! mother, don't let the tears come into your eyes; and, without any
intreaties, I will do just as you please."

"My love," said Mrs. Percy, "I have no pleasure but that you should
please yourself and judge for yourself, without referring to any
prepossession of mine. And lest your imagination should deceive you
as to the extent of my aristocratic prejudices, let me explain. The
_indisposition_, which I have acknowledged I feel towards low-born
people, arises, I believe, chiefly from my taking it for granted that
they cannot be thoroughly well-bred. I have accidentally seen examples
of people of inferior birth, who, though they had risen to high station,
and though they had acquired, in a certain degree, polite manners,
and had been metamorphosed by fashion, to all outward appearance, into
perfect gentry, yet betrayed some marks of their origin, or of their
early education, whenever their passions or their interests were
touched: then some awkward gesture, some vulgar expression, some mean or
mercenary sentiment, some habitual contraction of mind, recurred."

"True, true, most true!" said Rosamond. "It requires two generations,
at least, to wash out the stain of vulgarity: neither a gentleman nor a
gentlewoman can be made in less than two generations; therefore I never
will marry a low-born man, if he had every perfection under the sun."

"Nay, my dear, that is too strong," said Mrs. Percy. "Hear me, my
dearest Rosamond. I was going to tell you, that my experience has been
so limited, that I am not justified in drawing from it any general
conclusion. And even to the most positive and rational general rules you
know there are exceptions."

"That is a fine general softening clause," said Rosamond; "but now
positively, mother, would you have ever consented to marry a merchant?"

"Certainly, my dear, if your father bad been a merchant, I should have
married him," replied Mrs. Percy.

"Well, I except my father. To put the question more fairly, may I ask,
do you wish that your daughter should marry a merchant?"

"As I endeavoured to explain to you before, _that_ depends entirely upon
what the merchant is, and upon what my daughter feels for him."

Rosamond sighed.

"I ought to observe, that merchants are now quite in a different class
from what they were at the first rise of commerce in these countries,"
continued her mother. "Their education, their habits of thinking,
knowledge, and manners, are improved, and, consequently, their
_consideration_, their rank in society is raised. In our days, some of
the best informed, most liberal, and most respectable men in the British
dominions are merchants. I could not therefore object to my daughter's
marrying a merchant; but I should certainly inquire anxiously what sort
of a merchant he was. I do not mean that I should inquire whether he was
concerned in this or that branch of commerce, but whether his mind
were free from every thing mercenary and illiberal. I have done so
with respect to Mr. Gresham, and I can assure you solemnly, that
Mr. Gresham's want of the advantage of high birth is completely
counterbalanced in my opinion by his superior qualities. I see in him
a cultivated, enlarged, generous mind. I have seen him tried, where his
passions and his interests have been nearly concerned, and I never
saw in him the slightest tincture of vulgarity in manner or sentiment:
therefore, my dear daughter, if he has made an impression on your heart,
do not, on my account, conceal or struggle against it; because, far from
objecting to Mr. Gresham for a son-in-law, I should prefer him to any
gentleman or nobleman who had not his exalted character."

"There!" cried Caroline, with a look of joyful triumph, "there! my dear
Rosamond, now your heart must be quite at ease!"

But looking at Rosamond at this moment, she saw no expression of joy or
pleasure in her countenance; and Caroline was now convinced that she had
been mistaken about Rosamond's feelings.

"Really and truly, mother, you think all this?"

"Really and truly, my dear, no motive upon earth would make me disguise
my opinions, or palliate even my prejudices, when you thus consult me,
and depend upon my truth. And now that I have said this much, I will say
no more, lest I should bias you on the other side: I will leave you to
your own feelings and excellent understanding."

Rosamond's affectionate heart was touched so by her mother's kindness,
that she could not for some minutes repress her tears. When she
recovered her voice, she assured her mother and Caroline, with a
seriousness and an earnest frankness which at once convinced them of her
truth, that she had not the slightest partiality for Mr. Gresham; that,
on the contrary, his age was to her a serious objection. She had feared
that her friends might wish for the match, and that being conscious she
had no other objection to make to Mr. Gresham except that she could not
love him, she had hesitated for want of a better reason, when her mother
first began this cross-examination.

Relieved by this thorough explanation, and by the conviction that her
father, mother, and sister, were perfectly satisfied with her decision,
Rosamond was at ease as far as she herself was concerned. But she still
dreaded to see Mr. Gresham again. She was excessively sorry to have
given him pain, and she feared not a little that in rejecting the lover
she should lose the friend.

Mr. Gresham, however, was of too generous a character to cease to be the
friend of the woman he loved, merely because she could not return his
passion: it is wounded pride, not disappointed affection, that turns
immediately from love to hatred.

Rosamond was spared the pain of seeing Mr. Gresham again at this time,
for he left the Hills, and set out immediately for London, where he was
recalled by news of the sudden death of his partner. Old Mr. Panton
had been found dead in his bed, after having supped inordinately the
preceding night upon eel-pie. It was indispensably necessary that Mr.
Gresham should attend at the opening of Panton's will, and Mrs.
Panton wrote to represent this in urgent terms. Mr. Henry was gone to
Amsterdam; he had, for some time previously to the death of Mr. Panton,
obtained the partnership's permission to go over to the Dutch merchants,
their correspondents in Amsterdam, to fill a situation in their house,
for which his knowledge of the Dutch, French, and Spanish languages
eminently qualified him.

When Mr. Henry had solicited this employment, Mr. Gresham had been
unwilling to part with him, but had yielded to the young man's earnest
entreaties, and to the idea that this change would, in a lucrative point
of view, be materially for Mr. Henry's advantage.

Some apology to the lovers of romance may be expected for this
abrupt transition from the affairs of the heart to the affairs of the
counting-house--but so it is in real life. We are sorry, but we cannot
help it--we have neither sentiments nor sonnets, ready for every
occasion.



CHAPTER XXII.


LETTER FROM ALFRED.

_This appears to have been written some months after the vacation spent
at the Hills_.

  'Oh! thoughtless mortals, ever blind to fate,
  Too soon dejected, and too soon elate.'

"You remember, I am sure, my dear father, how angry we were some time
ago with that man, whose name I never would tell you, the man whom
Rosamond called Counsellor _Nameless_, who snatched a _good point_ from
me in arguing Mr. Hauton's cause. This very circumstance has been the
means of introducing me to the notice of three men, all eminent in their
profession, and each with the same inclination to serve me, according
to their respective powers--a solicitor, a barrister, and a judge.
Solicitor Babington (by-the-by, pray tell Rosamond in answer to her
question whether there is an honest attorney, that there are no
such things as _attorneys_ now in England--they are all turned into
solicitors and agents, just as every _shop_ is become a _warehouse_, and
every _service_ a _situation_), Babington the solicitor employed against
us in that suit a man who knows, without practising them, all the tricks
of the trade, and who is a thoroughly honest man. He saw the trick that
was played by _Nameless_, and took occasion afterwards to recommend me
to several of his own clients. Upon the strength of this _point_ briefs
appeared on my table day after day--two guineas, three guineas, five
guineas! comfortable sight! But far more comfortable, more gratifying,
the kindness of Counsellor Friend: a more benevolent man never existed.
I am sure the profession of the law has not contracted his heart, and
yet you never saw or can conceive a man more intent upon his business. I
believe he eats, drinks, and sleeps upon law: he has the reputation,
in consequence, of being one of the soundest of our lawyers--the best
opinion in England. He seems to make the cause of every client his own,
and is as anxious as if his private property depended on the fate
of each suit. He sets me a fine example of labour, perseverance,
professional enthusiasm and rectitude. He is one of the very best
friends a young lawyer like me could have; he puts me in the way I
should go, and keeps me in it by showing that it is not a matter of
chance, but of certainty, that this is the right road to fortune and to
fame.

"Mr. Friend has sometimes a way of paying a compliment as if he were
making a reproach, and of doing a favour as a matter of course. Just
now I met him, and apropos to some observations I happened to make on a
cause in which he is engaged, he said to me, as if he were half angry,
though I knew he was thoroughly pleased, 'Quick parts! Yes, so I see you
have: but take care--in your profession 'tis often "Most haste, worst
speed;" not but what there are happy exceptions, examples of lawyers,
who have combined judgment with wit, industry with genius, and law with
eloquence. But these instances are rare, very rare; for the rarity of
the case, worth studying. Therefore dine with me to-morrow, and I will
introduce you to one of these exceptions.'

"The person in question, I opine, is the lord chief justice--and Friend
could not do me a greater favour than to introduce me to one whom, as
you know, I have long admired in public, and with whom, independently of
any professional advantage, I have ardently wished to be acquainted.

"I have been told--I cannot tell you what--for here's the bell-man. I
don't wonder 'the choleric man' knocked down the postman for blowing his
horn in his ear.

"Abruptly yours,

"ALFRED PERCY."

Alfred had good reason to desire to be acquainted with this lord chief
justice. Some French writer says, "_Qu'il faut plier les grandes ailes
de l'éloquence pour entrer dans un salon._" The chief justice did so
with peculiar ease. He possessed perfect conversational _tact_, with
great powers of wit, humour, and all that felicity of allusion, which
an uncommonly recollective memory, acting on stores of varied knowledge,
can alone command. He really conversed; he did not merely tell stories,
or make bonmots, or confine himself to the single combat of close
argument, or the flourish of declamation; but he alternately followed
and led, threw out and received ideas, knowing how to listen full as
well as how to talk, remembering always Lord Chesterfield's experienced
maxim, "That it is easier to hear than to talk yourself into the good
opinion of your auditors." It was not, however, from policy, but from
benevolence, that the chief justice made so good a hearer. It has
been said, and with truth, that with him a _good point_ never passed
unnoticed in a public court, nor was a _good thing_ ever lost upon him
in private company. Of the number of his own good things fewer are in
circulation than might be expected. The best conversation, that which
rises from the occasion, and which suits the moment, suffers most from
repetition. Fitted precisely to the peculiar time and place, the best
things cannot bear transplanting.

The day Alfred Percy was introduced to the chief justice, the
conversation began, from some slight remarks made by one of the company,
on the acting of Mrs. Siddons. A lady who had just been reading the
memoirs of the celebrated French actress, Mademoiselle Clairon, spoke of
the astonishing pains which she took to study her parts, and to acquire
what the French call _l'air noble_, continually endeavouring, on the
most common occasions, when she was off the stage, to avoid all awkward
motions, and in her habitual manner to preserve an air of grace and
dignity. This led the chief justice to mention the care which Lord
Chatham, Mr. Pitt, and other great orators, have taken to form their
habits of speaking, by unremitting attention to their language in
private as well as in public. He maintained that no man _can_ speak with
ease and security in public till custom has brought him to feel it as a
moral impossibility that he could be guilty of any petty vulgarism, or
that he could be convicted of any capital sin against grammar.

Alfred felt anxious to hear the chief justice farther on this subject,
but the conversation was dragged back to Mademoiselle Clairon. The
lady by whom she was first mentioned declared she thought that all
Mademoiselle Clairon's studying must have made her a very unnatural
actress. The chief justice quoted the answer which Mademoiselle Clairon
gave, when she was reproached with having too much art.--"_De l'art!
et que voudroit-on done que j'eusse? Etois-je Andromaque? Etois-je
Phédre?_"

Alfred observed that those who complained of an actress's having too
much art should rather complain of her having too little--of her not
having art enough to conceal her art.

The chief justice honoured Alfred by a nod and a smile.

The lady, however, protested against this doctrine, and concluded by
confessing that she always did and always should prefer nature to art.

From this commonplace confession, the chief justice, by a playful
cross-examination, presently made it apparent that we do not always know
what we mean by art and what by nature; that the ideas are so mixed in
civilized society, and the words so inaccurately used, both in common
conversation, and in the writings of philosophers, that no metaphysical
prism can separate or reduce them to their primary meaning. Next he
touched upon the distinction between art and artifice. The conversation
branched out into remarks on grace and affectation, and thence to the
different theories of beauty and taste, with all which he _played_ with
a master's hand.

A man accustomed to speak to numbers perceives immediately when his
auditors seize his ideas, and knows instantly, by the assent and
expression of the eye, to whom they are new or to whom they are
familiar. The chief justice discovered that Alfred Percy had superior
knowledge, literature, and talents, even before he spoke, by his manner
of listening. The conversation presently passed from _l'air noble_ to
_le style noble_, and to the French laws of criticism, which prohibit
the descending to allusions to arts and manufactures. This subject
he discussed deeply, yet rapidly observed how taste is influenced by
different governments and manners--remarked how the strong line of
demarcation formerly kept in France between the nobility and the
citizens had influenced taste in writing and in eloquence, and how our
more _popular_ government not only admitted allusions to the occupations
of the lower classes, but required them. Our orators at elections,
and in parliament, must speak so as to come home to the feelings and
vocabulary of constituents. Examples from Burke and others, the chief
justice said, might be brought in support of this opinion.

Alfred was so fortunate as to recollect some apposite illustrations
from Burke, and from several of our great orators, Wyndham, Erskine,
Mackintosh, and Romilly. As Alfred spoke, the chief justice's eye
brightened with approbation, and it was observed that he afterwards
addressed to him particularly his conversation; and, more flattering
still, that he went deeper into the subject which he had been
discussing. From one of the passages which had been mentioned, he took
occasion to answer the argument of the French critics, who justify their
taste by asserting that it is the taste of the ancients. Skilled in
classical as in modern literature, he showed that the ancients had made
allusions to arts and manufactures, as far as their knowledge went;
but, as he observed, in modern times new arts and sciences afford fresh
subjects of allusion unknown to the ancients; consequently we ought not
to restrict our taste by exclusive reverence for classical precedents.
On these points it is requisite to reform the pandects of criticism.

Another passage from Burke, to which Alfred had alluded, the chief
justice thought too rich in ornament. "Ornaments," he said, "if not
kept subordinate, however intrinsically beautiful, injure the general
effect--therefore a judicious orator will sacrifice all such as draw the
attention from his principal design."

Alfred Percy, in support of this opinion, cited the example of the
Spanish painter, who obliterated certain beautiful silver vases, which
he had introduced in a picture of the Lord's Supper, because he found,
that at first view, every spectator's eye was caught by these splendid
ornaments, and every one extolled their exquisite finish, instead of
attending to the great subject of the piece.

The chief justice was so well pleased with the conversation of our young
barrister, that, at parting, he gave Alfred an invitation to his house.
The conversation had been very different from what might have been
expected: metaphysics, belles-lettres, poetry, plays, criticism--what a
range of ideas, far from Coke and Selden, was gone over this evening
in the course of a few hours! Alfred had reason to be more and more
convinced of the truth of his father's favourite doctrine, that the
general cultivation of the understanding, and the acquirement of
general knowledge, are essential to the attainment of excellence in any
profession, useful to a young man particularly in introducing him to the
notice of valuable friends and acquaintance.

An author well skilled in the worst parts of human nature has asserted,
that "nothing is more tiresome than praises in which we have no manner
of share." Yet we, who have a better opinion of our kind, trust that
there are some who can sympathize in the enthusiasm of a good and young
mind, struck with splendid talents, and with a superior character;
therefore we venture to insert some of the warm eulogiums, with which we
find our young lawyer's letters filled.


"My DEAR FATHER,

"I have only a few moments to write, but cannot delay to answer your
question about the chief justice. _Disappointed_--no danger of that--he
far surpasses my expectations. It has been said that he never opened
a book, that he never heard a common ballad, or saw a workman at his
trade, without learning something, which he afterwards turned to
good account. This you may see in his public speeches, but I am
more completely convinced of it since I have heard him converse. His
illustrations are drawn from the workshop, the manufactory, the mine,
the mechanic, the poet--from every art and science, from every thing in
nature, animate or inanimate.

  'From gems, from flames, from orient rays of light,
  The richest lustre makes his purple bright.'

"Perhaps I am writing his panegyric because he is my lord chief justice,
and because I dined with him yesterday, and am to dine with him again
to-morrow.

"Yours affectionately,

"ALFRED PERCY."

In a subsequent letter he shows that his admiration increased instead of
diminishing, upon a more intimate acquaintance with its object.

"High station," says Alfred, "appears to me much more desirable, since I
have known this great man. He makes rank so gracious, and shows that it
is a pleasurable, not a 'painful pre-eminence,' when it gives the power
of raising others, and of continually doing kind and generous actions.
Mr. Friend tells me, that, before the chief justice was so high as he
is now, without a rival in his profession, he was ever the most
generous man to his competitors. I am sure he is now the most kind
and condescending to his inferiors. In company he is never intent upon
himself, seems never anxious about his own dignity or his own fame.
He is sufficiently sure of both to be quite at ease. He excites my
ambition, and exalts its nature and value.

"He has raised my esteem for my profession, by showing the noble use
that can be made of it, in defending right and virtue. He has done my
mind good in another way: he has shown me that professional labour is
not incompatible with domestic pleasures. I wish you could see him as
I do, in the midst of his family, with his fine children playing about
him, with his wife, a charming cultivated woman, who adores him, and who
is his best companion and friend. Before I knew the chief justice, I had
seen other great lawyers and judges, some of them crabbed old bachelors,
others uneasily yoked to vulgar helpmates--having married early in life
women whom they had dragged up as they rose, but who were always pulling
them down--had seen some of these learned men sink into mere epicures,
and become dead to intellectual enjoyment--others, with higher minds,
and originally fine talents, I had seen in premature old age, with
understandings contracted and palsied by partial or overstrained
exertion, worn out, mind and body, and only late, very late in life,
just attaining wealth and honours, when they were incapable of enjoying
them. This had struck me as a deplorable and discouraging spectacle--a
sad termination of a life of labour. But now I see a man in the prime
of life, in the full vigour of all his intellectual faculties and moral
sensibility, with a high character, fortune, and professional honours,
all obtained by his own merit and exertions, with the prospect of health
and length of days to enjoy and communicate happiness. Exulting in the
sight of this resplendent luminary, and conscious that it will guide and
cheer me forwards, I 'bless the useful light.'"

Our young lawyer was so honestly enthusiastic in his admiration of this
great man, and was so full of the impression that had been made on his
mind, that he forgot in this letter to advert to the advantage which,
in a professional point of view, he might derive from the good opinion
formed of him by the chief justice. In consequence of Solicitor
Babington's telling his clients the share which Alfred had in winning
Colonel Hauton's cause, he was employed in a suit of considerable
importance, in which a great landed property was at stake. It was one of
those standing suits which last from year to year, and which seem likely
to linger on from generation to generation. Instead of considering his
brief in this cause merely as a means of obtaining a fee, instead of
contenting himself to make some _motion of course_, which fell to his
share, Alfred set himself seriously to study the case, and searched
indefatigably for all the precedents that could bear upon it. He was
fortunate enough, or rather he was persevering enough, to find an old
case in point, which had escaped the attention of the other lawyers. Mr.
Friend was one of the senior counsel in this cause, and he took generous
care that Alfred's merit should not now, as upon a former occasion, he
concealed. Mr. Friend prevailed upon his brother barristers to agree in
calling upon Alfred to speak to his own _case in point_; and the chief
justice, who presided, said, "This case is new to me. This had escaped
me, Mr. Percy; I must take another day to reconsider the matter, before
I can pronounce judgment."

This from the chief justice, with the sense which Alfred's brother
barristers felt of his deserving such notice, was of immediate and
material advantage to our young lawyer. Attorneys and solicitors
turned their eyes upon him, briefs began to flow in, and his diligence
increased with his business. As junior counsel, he still had little
opportunity in the common course of things of distinguishing himself,
as it frequently fell to his share only to say a few words; but he never
failed to make himself master of every case in which he was employed.
And it happened one day, when the senior counsel was ill, the judge
called upon the next barrister.--"Mr. Trevors, are you prepared?"

"My lord--I can't say--no, my lord."

"Mr. Percy, are you prepared?"

"Yes, my lord."

"So I thought--always prepared: go on, sir--go on, Mr. Percy."

He went on, and spoke so ably, and with such comprehensive knowledge of
the case and of the law, that he obtained a decision in favour of his
client, and established his own reputation as a man of business and
of talents, who was _always prepared_. For the manner in which he was
brought forward and distinguished by the chief justice he was truly
grateful. This was a species of patronage honourable both to the giver
and the receiver. Here was no favour shown disproportionate to deserts,
but here was just distinction paid to merit, and generous discernment
giving talents opportunity of developing themselves. These opportunities
would only have been the ruin of a man who could not show himself equal
to the occasion; but this was not the case with Alfred. His capacity,
like the fairy tent, seemed to enlarge so as to contain all that it
was necessary to comprehend: and new powers appeared in him in new
situations.

Alfred had been introduced by his brother Erasmus to some of those men
of literature with whom he had become acquainted at Lady Spilsbury's
good dinners. Among these was a Mr. Dunbar, a gentleman who had resided
for many years in India, from whom Alfred, who constantly sought for
information from all with whom he conversed, had learned much of Indian
affairs. Mr. Dunbar had collected some curious tracts on Mohammedan
law, and glad to find an intelligent auditor on his favourite subject, a
subject not generally interesting, he willingly communicated all he knew
to Alfred, and lent him his manuscripts and scarce tracts, which Alfred,
in the many leisure hours that a young lawyer can command before he gets
into practice, had studied, and of which he had made himself master. It
happened a considerable time afterwards that the East India Company had
a cause--one of the greatest causes ever brought before our courts of
law--relative to the demand of some native bankers in Hindostan against
the company for upwards of four millions of rupees. This Mr. Dunbar,
who had a considerable interest in the cause, and who was intimate with
several of the directors, recommended it to them to employ Mr. Alfred
Percy, who, as he knew, had had ample means of information, and who
had studied a subject of which few of his brother barristers had any
knowledge. The very circumstance of his being employed in a cause of
such importance was of great advantage to him; and the credit he gained
by accurate and uncommon knowledge in the course of the suit at once
raised his reputation among the best judges, and _established_ him in
the courts.

On another occasion, Alfred's moral character was as serviceable as his
literary taste had been in recommending him to his clients. Buckhurst
Falconer had introduced him to a certain Mr. Clay, known by the name
of _French_ Clay. In a conversation after dinner, when the ladies had
retired, Mr. Clay had boasted of his successes with the fair sex, and
had expressed many sentiments that marked him for a profligate coxcomb.

Alfred felt disgust and indignation for this parade of vice. There was
one officer in company who strongly sympathized in his feelings;
this led to farther acquaintance and mutual esteem. This officer soon
afterwards married Lady Harriet ----, a beautiful young woman, with whom
he lived happily for some time, till, unfortunately, while her
husband was abroad with his regiment, chance brought the wife, at a
watering-place, into the company of French Clay, and imprudence, the
love of flattery, coquetry, and self-confidence, made her a victim to
his vanity. Love he had none--nor she either--but her disgrace was soon
discovered, or revealed; and her unhappy and almost distracted husband
immediately commenced a suit against Clay. He chose Alfred Percy for his
counsel. In this cause, where strong feelings of indignation were justly
roused, and where there was room for oratory, Alfred spoke with such
force and pathos that every honest heart was touched. The verdict of the
jury showed the impression which he had made upon them: his speech was
universally admired; and those who had till now known him only as a man
of business, and a sound lawyer, were surprised to find him suddenly
display such powers of eloquence. Counsellor Friend's plain advice
to him had always been, "Never harangue about nothing: if your client
require it, he is a fool, and never mind him; never speak till you've
something to say, and then only say what you have to say.

  'Words are like leaves, and where they most abound,
  Much fruit of solid sense is seldom found.'"

Friend now congratulated Alfred with all his honest affectionate heart,
and said, with a frown that struggled hard with a smile, "Well, I
believe I must allow you to be an orator. But, take care--don't let the
lawyer merge in the advocate. Bear it always in mind, that a mere man of
words at the bar--or indeed any where else--is a mere man of straw."

The chief justice, who knew how to say the kindest things in the most
polite manner, was heard to observe, that "Mr. Percy had done wisely,
to begin by showing that he had laid a solid foundation of law, on which
the ornaments of oratory could be raised high, and supported securely."

French Clay's _affair_ with Lady Harriot had been much talked of in the
fashionable world; from a love of scandal or a love of justice, from
zeal in the cause of morality or from natural curiosity, her trial
had been a matter of general interest to the ladies, young and old. In
consequence Mr. Alfred Percy's speech was _prodigiously_ read, and,
from various motives, highly applauded. When a man begins to rise, all
hands--all hands but the hands of his rivals--are ready to push him
up, and all tongues exclaim, "'Twas I helped!" or, "'Twas what I always
foretold!"

The Lady Angelica Headingham now bethought herself that she had a little
poem, written by Mr. Alfred Percy, which had been given to her long ago
by Miss Percy, and of which, at the time she received it, her ladyship
had thought so little, that hardly deigning to bestow the customary
tribute of a compliment, she had thrown it, scarcely perused, into her
writing-box. It was now worth while to rummage for it, and now, when
the author had a _name_, her ladyship discovered that the poem was
charming--absolutely charming! Such an early indication of talents! Such
a happy promise of genius!--Oh! she had always foreseen that Mr. Alfred
Percy would make an uncommon figure in the world!

"Bless me! does your ladyship know him?"

"Oh! intimately!--That is, I never saw _him_ exactly--but all his family
I've known intimately--ages ago in the country."

"I should so like to meet him! And do pray give me a copy of the
verses--and me!--and me!"

To work went the pens of all the female amateurs, in scribbling copies
of "_The Lawyer's May-day_."--And away went the fair patroness in search
of the author--introduced herself with unabashed grace, invited him for
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday--Engaged? how unfortunate!--Well,
for next week? a fortnight hence? three weeks? positively she must have
him at her conversazione--she must give him--No, he must give her a day,
he must consent to lose a day--so many of her friends and real judges
were dying to see him.

To save the lives of so many judges, he consented to lose an
evening--the day was fixed--Alfred found her conversazione very
brilliant--was admired--and admired others in his turn as much as was
expected. It was an agreeable variety of company and of thought to him,
and he promised to go sometimes to her ladyship's parties--a promise
which delighted her much, particularly as he had not yet given a copy of
the verses to Lady Spilsbury. Lady Spilsbury, to whom the verses quickly
worked round, was quite angry that her friend Erasmus had not given
her an early copy; and now invitations the most pressing came from
Lady Spilsbury to her excellent literary dinners. If Alfred had been so
disposed, he might, among these fetchers and carriers of bays, have been
extolled to the skies; but he had too much sense and prudence to
lose the substance for the shadow, to sink a solid character into a
_drawing-room reputation_. Of this he had seen the folly in Buckhurst
Falconer's case, and now, if any farther warning on this subject
had been wanting, he would have taken it from the example of _poor_
Seebright, the poet, whom he met the second time he went to Lady
Angelica Headingham's. _Poor Seebright_, as the world already began to
call him, from being an object of admiration, was beginning to sink
into an object of pity. Instead of making himself independent by steady
exertions in any respectable profession, instead of making his way in
the republic of letters by some solid work of merit, he frittered away
his time among fashionable amateurs, feeding upon their flattery, and
living on in the vain hope of patronage. Already the flight of his
genius had been restrained, the force of his wing impaired; instead of
soaring superior, he kept hovering near the earth; his "kestrel courage
fell," he appeared to be almost tamed to the domestic state to which he
was reduced--yet now and then a rebel sense of his former freedom, and
of his present degradation, would appear. "Ah! if I were but independent
as you are! If I had but followed a profession as you have done!" said
he to Alfred, when, apart from the crowd, they had an opportunity of
conversing confidentially.

Alfred replied that it was not yet too late, that it was never too late
for a man of spirit and talents to make himself independent; he then
suggested to Mr. Seebright various ways of employing his powers, and
pointed out some useful and creditable literary undertakings, by
which he might acquire reputation. Seebright listened, his eye eagerly
catching at each new idea the first moment, the next turning off to
something else, raising objections futile or fastidious, seeing nothing
impossible in any dream of his imagination, where no effort of exertion
was requisite, but finding every thing impracticable when he came to
sober reality, where he was called upon to labour. In fact, he was one
of the sort of people who do not know what they want, or what they would
be, who complain and complain; disappointed and discontented, at having
sunk below their powers and their hopes, and are yet without capability
of persevering exertion to emerge from their obscurity. Seebright was
now become an inefficient being, whom no one could assist to any
good purpose. Alfred, after a long, mazy, fruitless conversation, was
convinced that the case was hopeless, and, sincerely pitying him, gave
it up as irremediable. Just as he had come to this conclusion, and
had sunk into silence, a relation of his, whom he had not seen for a
considerable time, entered the room, and passed by without noticing
him. She was so much altered in her appearance, that he could scarcely
believe he saw Lady Jane Granville; she looked out of spirits, and
care-worn. He immediately observed that less attention was paid to
her than she used to command; she had obviously sunk considerably in
importance, and appeared to feel this keenly. Upon inquiry, Alfred
learnt that she had lost a large portion of her fortune by a lawsuit,
which she had managed, that is to say, mismanaged, for herself; and she
was still at law for the remainder of her estate, which, notwithstanding
her right was undoubted, it was generally supposed that she would lose,
for the same reason that occasioned her former failure, her pertinacity
in following her own advice only. Alfred knew that there had been some
misunderstanding between Lady Jane and his family, that she had been
offended by his sister Caroline having declined accepting her invitation
to town, and from Mr. and Mrs. Percy having differed with her in
opinion as to the value of the _patronage_ of fashion: she had also been
displeased with Erasmus about Sir Amyas Courtney. Notwithstanding all
this, he was convinced that Lady Jane, whatever her opinions might be,
and whether mistaken or not, had been actuated by sincere regard for
his family, for which he and they were grateful; and now was the time
to show it, now when he was coming into notice in the world, and she
declining in importance. Therefore, though she had passed by him without
recognizing him, he went immediately and spoke to her in so respectful
and kind a manner, paid her the whole evening such marked attention,
that she was quite pleased and touched. In reality, she had been vexed
with herself for having persisted so long in her resentment; she wished
for a fair opportunity for a reconciliation, and she rejoiced that
Alfred thus opened the way for it. She invited him to come to see her
the next day, observing, as she put her card into his hand, that she
no longer lived in her fine house in St. James's place. Now that his
motives could not be mistaken, he was assiduous in his visits; and when
he had sufficiently obtained her confidence, he ventured to touch upon
her affairs. She, proud to convince him of her abilities as a woman of
business, explained her whole case, and descanted upon the blunders and
folly of her solicitors and counsellors, especially upon the absurdity
of the opinions which she had not followed. Her cause depended upon
the _replication_ she was to put in to a plea in special pleading: she
thought she saw the way straight before her, and exclaimed vehemently
against that love of the crooked path by which her lawyers seemed
possessed.

Without disputing the legal soundness of her ladyship's opinion in
her own peculiar case, Alfred, beginning at a great distance from her
passions, quietly undertook, by relating to her cases which had fallen
under his own knowledge, to convince her that plain common sense and
reason could never lead her to the knowledge of the rules of special
pleading, or to the proper wording of those answers, on the _letter_ of
which the fate of a cause frequently depends. He confessed to her that
his own understanding had been so shocked at first by the apparent
absurdity of the system, that he had almost abandoned the study, and
that it had been only in consequence of actual experience that he had at
last discovered the utility of those rules. She insisted upon being also
convinced before she could submit; but as it is not quite so easy as
ladies sometimes think it is to teach any art or science in two words,
or to convey, in a moment, to the ignorant, the combined result of study
and experience, Alfred declined this task, and could undertake only to
show her ladyship, by asking her opinion on various cases which had been
decided in the courts, that it was possible she might be mistaken;
and that, however superior her understanding, a court of law would
infallibly decide according to its own rules.

"But, good Heavens! my dear sir," exclaimed Lady Jane, "when, after
I have paid the amount of my bond, and every farthing that I owe a
creditor, yet this rogue says I have not, is not it a proper answer that
I owe him nothing?"

"Pardon me, this would be considered as an evasive plea by the court, or
as a _negative pregnant_."

"Oh! if you come to your _negative pregnants_," cried Lady Jane, "it is
impossible to understand you--I give up the point."

To this conclusion it had been Alfred's object to bring her ladyship;
and when she was fully convinced of the insufficient limits of the
human--he never said the female--understanding to comprehend these
things without the aid of men learned in the law, he humbly offered his
assistance to guide her out of that labyrinth, into which, unwittingly
and without any clue, she had ventured farther and farther, till she
was just in the very jaws of nonsuit and ruin. She put her affairs
completely into his hands, and promised that she would no farther
interfere, even with her advice; for it was upon this condition that
Alfred engaged to undertake the management of her cause. Nothing indeed
is more tormenting to men of business, than to be pestered with the
incessant advice, hopes and fears, cautions and explanations, cunning
suggestions, superficial knowledge, and profound ignorance, of lady or
gentlemen lawyers. Alfred now begged and obtained permission from the
court to amend the Lady Jane Granville's last plea--he thenceforward
conducted the business, and played the game of special pleading with
such strict and acute attention to the rules, that there were good hopes
the remaining portion of her ladyship's fortune, which was now at stake,
might be saved. He endeavoured to keep up her spirits and her patience,
for of a speedy termination to the business there was no chance. They
had to deal with adversaries who knew how, on their side, to protract
the pleadings, and to avoid what is called _coming to the point_.

It was a great pleasure to Alfred thus to have it in his power to assist
his friends, and the hope of serving them redoubled his diligence.
About this time he was engaged in a cause for his brother's friend
and Rosamond's admirer, Mr. Gresham. A picture-dealer had cheated this
gentleman, in the sale of a picture of considerable value. Mr. Gresham
had bargained for, and bought, an original Guido, wrote his name on the
back of it, and directed that it should be sent to him. The painting
which was taken to his house had his name written on the back, but was
not the original Guido for which he had bargained--it was a copy. The
picture-dealer, however, and two respectable witnesses, were ready
to swear positively that this was the identical picture on which Mr.
Gresham wrote his name--that they saw him write his name, and heard him
order that it should be sent to him. Mr. Gresham himself acknowledged
that the writing was so like his own that he could not venture to deny
that it was his, and yet he could swear that this was not the picture
for which he had bargained, and on which he had written his name. He
suspected it to be a forgery; and was certain that, by some means,
one picture had been substituted for another. Yet the defendant had
witnesses to prove that the picture never was out of Mr. Gresham's
sight, from the time he bargained for it, till the moment when he wrote
his name on the back, in the presence of the same witnesses.

This chain of evidence they thought was complete, and that it could not
be broken. Alfred Percy, however, discovered the nature of the fraud,
and, regardless of the boasts and taunts of the opposite party, kept his
mind carefully secret, till the moment when he came to cross-examine the
witnesses; for, as Mr. Friend had observed to him, many a cause had been
lost by the impatience of counsel, in showing, beforehand, how it might
certainly be won [Footnote: See Deinology.]. By thus revealing the
intended mode of attack, opportunity is given to prepare a defence
by which it may be ultimately counteracted. In the present case, the
defendant, however, came into court secure of victory, and utterly
unprepared to meet the truth, which was brought out full upon him when
least expected. The fact was, that he had put two pictures into the same
frame--the original in front, the copy behind it: on the back of the
canvass of the copy Mr. Gresham had written his name, never suspecting
that it was not the original for which he bargained, and which he
thought he actually held in his hand. The witnesses, therefore, swore
literally the truth, that they saw him write upon _that_ picture; and
they believed the picture, on which he wrote, was the identical picture
that was sent home to him. One of the witnesses was an honest man, who
really believed what he swore, and knew nothing of the fraud, to which
the other, a rogue in confederacy with the picture-dealer, was privy.
The cross-examination of both was so ably managed, that the honest man
was soon made to perceive and the rogue forced to reveal the truth.
Alfred had reason to be proud of the credit he obtained for the
ability displayed in this cross-examination, but he was infinitely more
gratified by having it in his power to gain a cause for his friend, and
to restore to Mr. Gresham his favourite Guido.

A welcome sight--a letter from Godfrey! the first his family had
received from him since he left England. Two of his letters, it appears,
had been lost. Alluding to one he had written immediately on hearing of
the change in his father's fortune, he observes, that he has kept his
resolution of living within his pay; and, after entering into some other
family details, he continues as follows: "Now, my dear mother, prepare
to hear me recant what I have said against Lord Oldborough. I forgive
his lordship all his sins, and I begin to believe, that though he is a
statesman, his heart is not yet quite _ossified_. He has recalled our
regiment from this unhealthy place, and he has promoted Gascoigne to be
our lieutenant-colonel. I say that Lord Oldborough has done all this,
because I am sure, from a hint in Alfred's last letter, that his
lordship has been the prime mover in the business. But not to keep you
in suspense about the facts.

"In my first letter to my father, I told you, that from the moment
our late lethargic lieutenant-colonel came to the island, he took to
drinking rum, pure rum, to waken himself--claret, port, and madeira,
had lost their power over him. Then came brandy, which he fancied was
an excellent preservative against the yellow fever, and the fever of the
country. So he died 'boldly by brandy.' Poor fellow! he was boasting
to me, the last week of his existence, when he was literally on his
deathbed, that his father taught him to drink before he was six years
old, by practising him every day, after dinner, in the sublime art of
carrying a bumper steadily to his lips. He, moreover, boasted to me,
that when a boy of thirteen, at an academy, he often drank two bottles
of claret at a sitting; and that, when he went into the army, getting
among a jolly set, he brought himself never to feel the worse for any
quantity of wine. I don't know what he meant by the worse for it--at
forty-five, when I first saw him, he had neither head nor hand left for
himself or his country. His hand shook so, that if he had been perishing
with thirst, he could not have carried a glass to his lips, till after
various attempts in all manner of curves and zigzags, spilling half of
it by the way. It was really pitiable to see him--when he was to sign
his name I always went out of the room, and left Gascoigne to guide
his hand. More helpless still his mind than his body. If his own or
England's salvation had depended upon it, he could not, when in
the least hurried, have uttered a distinct order, have dictated an
intelligible letter; or, in time of need, have recollected the name
of any one of his officers, or even his own name--quite imbecile and
embruted. But, peace to his ashes--or rather to his dregs--and may there
never be such another British colonel!

"Early habits of temperance have not only saved my life, but made my
life worth saving. Neither Colonel Gascoigne nor I have ever had a day's
serious illness since we came to the island--but we are the only two
that have escaped. Partly from the colonel's example, and partly
from their own inclination, all the other officers have drunk hard.
Lieutenant R---- is now ill of the fever; Captain H---- (I beg his
pardon), now Major H----, will soon follow the colonel to the grave,
unless he takes my very disinterested advice, and drinks less. I am
laughed at by D---- and V----and others for this; they ask why the
deuce I can't let the major kill himself his own way, and as fast as he
pleases, when I should get on a step by it, and that step such a great
one. They say none but a fool would do as I do, and I think none but a
brute could do otherwise--I can't stand by with any satisfaction, and
see a fellow- creature killing himself by inches, even though I have the
chance of slipping into his shoes: I am sure the shoes would pinch me
confoundedly. If it is my brother-officer's lot to fall in battle--it's
very well--I run the same hazard--he dies, as he ought to do, a brave
fellow; but to stand by, and see a man die as he ought not to do, and
die what is called an _honest fellow_!--I can't do it. H---- at first
had a great mind to run me through the body; but, poor man, he is now
very fond of me, and if any one can keep him from destroying himself, I
flatter myself I shall.

"A thousand thanks to dear Caroline for her letter, and to Rosamond
for her journal. They, who have never been an inch from home, cannot
conceive how delightful it is, at such a distance, to receive letters
from our friends. You remember, in Cook's voyage, his joy at meeting in
some distant island with the spoon marked _London_.

"I hope you received my letters, Nos. I and 2. Not that there was any
thing particular in them. You know I never do more than tell the bare
facts--not like Rosamond's journal--with which, by-the-bye, Gascoigne
has fallen in love. He sighs, and wishes that Heaven had blessed him
with such a sister--for _sister_, read wife. I hope this will encourage
Rosamond to write again immediately. No; do not tell what I have
just said about Gascoigne, for--who knows the perverse ways of
women?--perhaps it might prevent her from writing to me at all. You may
tell her, in general, that it is my opinion ladies always write better
and do every thing better than men--except fight, which Heaven forbid
they should ever do in public or private!

"I am glad that Caroline did not marry Mr. Barclay, since she did not
like him; but by all accounts he is a sensible, worthy man, and I
give my consent to his marriage with Lady Mary Pembroke, though, from
Caroline's description, I became half in love with her myself. N.B. I
have not been in love above six times since I left England, and but once
any thing to signify. How does the Marchioness of Twickenham go on?

"Affectionate duty to my father, and love to all the happy people at
home.

"Dear mother,

"Your affectionate son,

"G. PERCY."



CHAPTER XXIII.


LETTER FROM ALFRED TO CAROLINE.

"MY DEAR CAROLINE,

"I am going to surprise you--I know it is the most imprudent thing a
story-teller can do to give notice or promise of a surprise; but you
see, I have such confidence at this moment in my fact, that I hazard
this imprudence--Whom do you think I have seen? Guess--guess all round
the breakfast-table--father, mother, Caroline, Rosamond--I defy you
all--ay, Rosamond, even you, with all your capacity for romance; the
romance of real life is beyond all other romances--its coincidences
beyond the combinations of the most inventive fancy--even of yours,
Rosamond--Granted--go on--Patience, ladies, if you please, and don't
turn over the page, or glance to the end of my letter to satisfy your
curiosity, but read fairly on, says my father.

"You remember, I hope, the Irishman, O'Brien, to whom Erasmus was so
good, and whom Mr. Gresham, kind as he always is, took for his porter:
when Mr. Gresham set off last week for Amsterdam, he gave this fellow
leave to go home to his wife, who lives at Greenwich. This morning, the
wife came to see my honour to speak to me, and when she did see me she
could not speak, she was crying so bitterly; she was in the greatest
distress about her husband: he had, she said, in going to see her, been
seized by a press-gang, and put on board a tender now on the Thames.
Moved by the poor Irishwoman's agony of grief, and helpless state, I
went to Greenwich, where the tender was lying, to speak to the captain,
to try to obtain O'Brien's release. But upon my arrival there, I found
that the woman had been mistaken in every point of her story. In short,
her husband was not on board the tender, had never been pressed, and had
only stayed away from home the preceding night, in consequence of having
met with the captain's servant, one of his countrymen, from the county
of Leitrim dear, who had taken him home to treat him, and had kept him
all night to sing 'St. Patrick's day in the morning,' and to drink a
good journey, and a quick passage, across the salt water to his master,
which he could not refuse. Whilst I was looking at my watch, and
regretting my lost morning, a gentleman, whose servant had really been
pressed, came up to speak to the captain, who was standing beside me.
The gentleman had something striking and noble in his whole appearance;
but his address and accent, which were those of a foreigner, did not
suit the fancy of my English captain, who, putting on the surly air,
with which he thought it for his honour and for the honour of his
country to receive a Frenchman, as he took this gentleman to be, replied
in the least satisfactory manner possible, and in the short language of
some seamen, 'Your footman's an Englishman, sir; has been pressed for an
able-bodied seaman, which I trust he'll prove; he's aboard the tender,
and there he will remain.' The foreigner, who, notwithstanding the
politeness of his address, seemed to have a high spirit, and to be fully
sensible of what was due from others to him as well as from him to
them, replied with temper and firmness. The captain, without giving any
reasons, or attending to what was said, reiterated, 'I am under orders,
sir; I am acting according to my orders--I can do neither more nor less.
The law is as I tell you, sir.'

"The foreigner bowed submission to the law, but expressed his surprise
that such should be law in a land of liberty. With admiration he had
heard, that, by the English law and British constitution, the property
and personal liberty of the lowest, the meanest subject, could not be
injured or oppressed by the highest nobleman in the realm, by the most
powerful minister, even by the king himself. He had always been assured
that the king could not put his hand into the purse of the subject, or
take from him to the value of a single penny; that the sovereign could
not deprive the meanest of the people unheard, untried, uncondemned,
of a single hour of his liberty, or touch a hair of his head; he had
always, on the continent, heard it the boast of Englishmen, that when
even a slave touched English ground he became free: 'Yet now, to my
astonishment,' pursued the foreigner, 'what do I see?--a freeborn
British subject returning to his native land, after an absence of some
years, unoffending against any law, innocent, unsuspected of all crime,
a faithful domestic, an excellent man, prevented from returning to his
family and his home, put on board a king's ship, unused to hard labour,
condemned to work like a galley slave, doomed to banishment, perhaps to
death!--Good Heavens! In all this where is your English liberty? Where
is English justice, and the spirit of your English law?'

"'And who the devil are you, sir?' cried the captain, 'who seem to know
so much and so little of English law?'

"'My name, if that be of any consequence, is Count Albert Altenberg.'

"'Well, Caroline, you are surprised.--'No,' says Rosamond; 'I guessed
it was he, from the first moment I heard he was a foreigner, and had a
noble air.''

"'Altenberg,' repeated the captain; 'that's not a French name:--Why, you
are not a Frenchman!'

"'No, sir--a German.'

"'Ah ha!' cried the captain, suddenly changing his tone, 'I thought you
were not a Frenchman, or you could not talk so well of English law, and
feel so much for English liberty; and now, since that's the case, I'll
own to you frankly, that in the main I'm much of your mind--and for my
own particular share, I'd as lieve the Admiralty had sent me to hell
as have ordered me to press on the Thames. But my business is to obey
orders--which I will do, by the blessing of God--so good morning to you.
As to law, and justice, and all that, talk to him,' said the captain,
pointing with his thumb over his left shoulder to me as he walked off
hastily.

"'Poor fellow!' said I; 'this is the hardest part of a British captain's
duty, and so he feels it.'

"'Duty!' exclaimed the count--'Duty! pardon me for repeating your
word--but can it be his duty? I hope I did not pass proper bounds in
speaking to him; but now he is gone, I may say to you, sir--to you,
who, if I may presume to judge from your countenance, sympathize in my
feelings--this is a fitter employment for an African slave-merchant than
for a British officer. The whole scene which I have just beheld there
on the river, on the banks, the violence, the struggles I have witnessed
there, the screams of the women and children,--it is not only horrible,
but in England incredible! Is it not like what we have heard of on
the coast of Africa with detestation--what your humanity has there
forbidden--abolished? And is it possible that the cries of those negroes
across the Atlantic can so affect your philanthropists' imaginations,
whilst you are deaf or unmoved by these cries of your countrymen, close
to your metropolis, at your very gates? I think I hear them still,' said
the count, with a look of horror. 'Such a scene I never before beheld! I
have seen it--and yet I cannot believe that I have seen it in England.'

"I acknowledged that the sight was terrible; I could not be surprised
that the operation of pressing men for the sea service should strike
a foreigner as inconsistent with the notion of English justice and
liberty, and I admired the energy and strength of feeling which the
count showed; but I defended the measure as well as I could, on the plea
of necessity.

"'Necessity!' said the count: 'Pardon me if I remind you that necessity
is the tyrant's plea.'

"I mended my plea, and changed necessity into utility--general utility.
It was essential to England's defence--to her existence--she could not
exist without her navy, and her navy could not be maintained without a
press-gang--as I was assured by those who were skilled in naval affairs.

"The count smiled at my evident consciousness of the weakness of my
concluding corollary, and observed that, by my own statement, the whole
argument depended on the assertions of those who maintained that a navy
could not exist without a press-gang. He urged this no further, and I
was glad of it; his horses and mine were at this moment brought up, and
we both rode together to town.

"I know that Rosamond, at this instant, is gasping with impatience to
hear whether in the course of this ride I spoke of M. de Tourville--and
the shipwreck. I did--but not of Euphrosyne: upon that subject I could
not well touch. He had heard of the shipwreck, and of the hospitality
with which the sufferers had been treated by an English gentleman, and
he was surprised and pleased, when I told him that I was the son of that
gentleman. Of M. de Tourville, the count, I fancy, thinks much the
same as you do. He spoke of him as an intriguing diplomatist, of quick
talents, but of a mind incapable of any thing great or generous. The
count went on from speaking of M. de Tourville to some of the celebrated
public characters abroad, and to the politics and manners of the
different courts and countries of Europe. For so young a man, he has
seen and reflected much. He is indeed a very superior person, as he
convinced me even in this short ride. You know that Dr. Johnson says,
'that you cannot stand for five minutes with a great man under a shed,
waiting till a shower is over, without hearing him say something that
another man could not say.' But though the count conversed with me so
well and so agreeably, I could see that his mind was, from time to time,
absent and anxious; and as we came into town, he again spoke of the
press-gang, and of his poor servant--a faithful attached servant, he
called him, and I am sure the count is a good master, and a man of
feeling. He had offered money to obtain the man's release in vain. A
substitute it was at this time difficult to find--the count was but just
arrived in London, had not yet presented any of his numerous letters of
introduction; he mentioned the names of some of the people to whom these
were addressed, and he asked me whether application to any of them could
be of service. But none of his letters were to any of the men now in
power. Lord Oldborough was the only person I knew whose word would be
law in this case, and I offered to go with him to his lordship. This I
ventured, my dear father, because I wisely--yes, wisely, as you shall
see, calculated that the introduction of a foreigner, fresh from the
continent, and from that court where Cunningham Falconer is now resident
envoy, would be agreeable, and might be useful to the minister.

"My friend, Mr. Temple, who is as obliging and as much my friend now
he is secretary to _the_ great man as he was when he was a scrivening
nobody in his garret, obtained audience for us directly. I need not
detail--indeed I have not time--graciously received--count's business
done by a line--Temple ordered to write to Admiralty: Lord Oldborough
seemed obliged to me for introducing the count--I saw he wished to
have some private conversation with him--rose, and took my leave. Lord
Oldborough paid me for my discretion on the spot by a kind look--a great
deal from him--and following me to the door of the antechamber, 'Mr.
Percy, I cannot regret that you have followed your own independent
professional course--I congratulate you upon your success--I have heard
of it from many quarters, and always, believe me, with pleasure, on your
father's account, and on your own.'

"Next day I found on my table when I came from the courts, the count's
card--when I returned his visit, Commissioner Falconer was with him in
close converse--confirmed by this in opinion that Lord Oldborough is
sucking information--I mean, political secrets--out of the count. The
commissioner could not, in common decency, help being 'exceedingly sorry
that he and Mrs. Falconer had seen so little of me of late,' nor could
he well avoid asking me to a concert, to which he invited the count, for
the ensuing evening. As the count promised to go, so did I, on purpose
to meet him. Adieu, dearest Caroline.

"Most affectionately yours,

"ALFRED PERCY."

To give an account of Mrs. Falconer's concert in fashionable style, we
should inform the public that Dr. Mudge for ever established his fame
in "_Buds of Roses_;" and Miss La Grande was astonishing, absolutely
astonishing, in "_Frenar vorrei le lagrime_"--quite in Catalani's
best manner; but Miss Georgiana Falconer was divine in "_O Giove
omnipotente_," and quite surpassed herself in "_Quanto O quanto è amor
possente_," in which Dr. Mudge was also capital: indeed it would be
doing injustice to this gentleman's powers not to acknowledge the
universality of his genius.

Perhaps our readers may not feel quite satisfied with this general
eulogium, and may observe, that all this might have been learnt from the
newspapers of the day. Then we must tell things plainly and simply, but
this will not sound nearly so grand, and letting the public behind the
scenes will destroy all the stage effect and illusion. Alfred Percy
went to Mrs. Falconer's unfashionably early, in hopes that, as Count
Altenberg dined there, he might have a quarter of an hour's conversation
with him before the musical party should assemble. In this hope Alfred
was mistaken. He found in the great drawing-room only Mrs. Falconer and
two other ladies, whose names he never heard, standing round the
fire; the unknown ladies were in close and eager converse about Count
Altenberg. "He is so handsome--so polite--so charming!"--"He is very
rich--has immense possessions abroad, has not he?"--"Certainly, he has
a fine estate in Yorkshire."--"But when did he come to
England?"--"How long does he stay?"--"15,000_l._, no, 20,000_l._ per
annum."--"Indeed!"--"Mrs. Falconer, has not Count Altenberg 20,000_l._ a
year?"

Mrs. Falconer, seemingly uninterested, stood silent, looking through her
glass at the man who was lighting the argand lamps. "Really, my dear,"
answered she, "I can't say--I know nothing of Count Altenberg--Take
care! that argand!--He's quite a stranger to us--the commissioner
met him at Lord Oldborough's, and on Lord Oldborough's account, of
course--Vigor, we must have more light, Vigor--wishes to pay him
attention--But here's Mr. Percy," continued she, turning to Alfred,
"can, I dare say, tell you all about these things. I think the
commissioner mentioned that it was you, Mr. Percy, who introduced the
Count to Lord Oldborough."

The ladies immediately fixed their surprised and inquiring eyes upon
Mr. Alfred Percy--he seemed to grow in an instant several feet in their
estimation: but he shrunk again when he acknowledged that he had merely
met Count Altenberg accidentally at Greenwich--that he knew nothing of
the count's estate in Yorkshire, or of his foreign possessions, and was
utterly incompetent to decide whether he had 10,000_l._ or 20,000_l._
per annum.

"That's very odd!" said one of the ladies. "But this much I know, that
he is passionately fond of music, for he told me so at dinner."

"Then I am sure he will be charmed to-night with Miss Georgiana," said
the confidants.

"But what signifies that," replied the other lady, "if he has not--"

"Mr. Percy," interrupted Mrs. Falconer, "I have never seen you since
that sad affair of Lady Harriot H---- and Lewis Clay;" and putting her
arm within Alfred's, she walked him away, talking over the affair,
and throwing in a proper proportion of compliment. As she reached the
folding doors, at the farthest end of the room, she opened them.

"I have a notion the young people are here." She introduced him into
the music-room. Miss Georgiana Falconer, at the piano-forte, with
performers, composers, masters, and young ladies, all with music-books
round her, sat high in consultation, which Alfred's appearance
interrupted--a faint struggle to be civil--an insipid question or two
was addressed to him. "Fond of music, Mr. Percy? Captain Percy, I think,
likes music? You expect Captain Percy home soon?"

Scarcely listening to his answers, the young ladies soon resumed their
own conversation, forgot his existence, and went on eagerly with their
own affairs.

As they turned over their music-books, Alfred, for some minutes,
heard only the names of La Tour, Winter, Von Esch, Lanza, Portogallo,
Mortellari, Guglielmi, Sacchini, Sarti, Paisiello, pronounced by male
and female voices in various tones of ecstasy and of execration. Then
there was an eager search for certain favourite duets, trios, and
sets of _cavatinas_. Next he heard, in rapid succession, the names of
Tenducci, Pachierotti, Marchesi, Viganoni, Braham, Gabrielli, Mara,
Banti, Grassini, Billington, Catalani. Imagine our young barrister's
sense of his profound ignorance, whilst he heard the merits of all dead
and living composers, singers, and masters, decided upon by the Miss
Falconers. By degrees he began to see a little through the palpable
obscure, by which he had at first felt himself surrounded: he discerned
that he was in a committee of the particular friends of the Miss
Falconers, who were settling what they should sing and play. All, of
course, were flattering the Miss Falconers, and abusing their absent
friends, those especially who were expected to bear a part in this
concert; for instance--"Those two eternal Miss Byngs, with voices, like
cracked bells, and with their old-fashioned music, Handel, Corelli, and
Pergolese, horrid!--And odious little Miss Crotch, who has science but
no taste, execution but no expression!" Here they talked a vast deal
about expression. Alfred did not understand them, and doubted whether
they understood themselves. "Then her voice! how people can call it
fine!--powerful, if you will--but overpowering! For my part, I can't
stand it, can you?--Every body knows an artificial shake, when good, is
far superior to a natural shake. As to the Miss Barhams, the eldest has
no more ear than the table, and the youngest such a thread of a voice!"

"But, mamma," interrupted Miss Georgiana Falconer, "are the Miss La
Grandes to be here to-night?"

"Certainly, my dear--you know I could not avoid asking the Miss La
Grandes."

"Then, positively," cried Miss Georgiana, her whole face changing, and
ill-humour swelling in every feature, "then, positively, ma'am, I can't
and won't sing a note!"

"Why, my dear love," said Mrs. Falconer, "surely you don't pretend to be
afraid of the Miss La Grandes?"

"You!" cried one of the chorus of flatterers--"You! to whom the La
Grandes are no more to be compared--"

"Not but that they certainly sing finely, I am told," said Mrs.
Falconer; "yet I can't say I like their style of singing--and knowledge
of music, you know, they don't pretend to."

"Why, that's true," said Miss Georgiana; "but still, somehow, I can
never bring out my voice before those girls. If I have any voice at all,
it is in the lower part, and Miss La Grande always chooses the
lower part--besides, ma'am, you know she regularly takes '_O Giove
omnipotente_' from me. But I should not mind _that_ even, if she
would not attempt poor '_Quanto O quanto è amor possente_'--there's no
standing that! Now, really, to hear that so spoiled by Miss La Grande--"

"Hush! my dear," said Mrs. Falconer, just as Mrs. La Grande
appeared--"Oh! my good Mrs. La Grande, how kind is this of you to come
to me with your poor head! And Miss La Grande and Miss Eliza! We are so
much obliged to you, for you know that we could not have done without
you."

The Miss La Grandes were soon followed by the Miss Barhams and Miss
Crotch, and they were all "_so good, and so kind, and such dear
creatures_." But after the first forced compliments, silence and reserve
spread among the young ladies of the Miss Falconers' party. It was
evident that the fair professors were mutually afraid and envious of
each other, and there was little prospect of harmony of temper. At
length the gentlemen arrived. Count Altenberg appeared, and came up to
pay his compliments to the Miss Falconers: as he had not been behind the
scenes, all was charming illusion to his eyes. No one could appear more
good-humoured, agreeable, and amiable than Miss Georgiana; she was in
delightful spirits, well dressed, and admirably supported by her
mother. The concert began. But who can describe the anxiety of the rival
mothers, each in agonies to have their daughters brought forward
and exhibited to the best advantage! Some grew pale, some red--all,
according to their different powers of self-command and address,
endeavoured to conceal their feelings. Mrs. Falconer now shone superior
in ease inimitable. She appeared absolutely unconcerned for her own
daughter, quite intent upon bringing into notice the talents of the Miss
Barhams, Miss Crotch, the Miss La Grandes, &c.

These young ladies in their turn knew and practised the various arts by
which at a musical party the unfortunate mistress of the house may be
tormented. Some, who were sensible that the company were anxious for
their performance, chose to be "_quite out of voice_," till they had
been pressed and flattered into acquiescence; one sweet bashful creature
must absolutely be forced to the instrument, as a new speaker of the
House of Commons was formerly dragged to the chair. Then the instrument
was not what one young lady was _used to_; the lights were so placed
that another who was near-sighted could not see a note--another could
not endure such a glare. One could not sing unless the windows were all
open--another could not play unless they were all shut. With perfect
complaisance Mrs. Falconer ordered the windows to be opened and shut,
and again shut and opened; with admirable patience she was, or seemed to
be, the martyr to the caprices of the fair musicians. While all the time
she so manoeuvred as to divide, and govern, and finally to have every
thing arranged as she pleased. None but a perfectly cool stander-by,
and one previously acquainted with Mrs. Falconer's character, could have
seen all that Alfred saw. Perhaps the interest he began to take about
Count Altenberg, who was the grand object of all her operations,
increased his penetration. While the count was engaged in earnest
political conversation in one of the inner rooms with the commissioner,
Mrs. Falconer besought the Miss La Grandes to favour the company. It
was impossible for them to resist her polite entreaties. Next she called
upon Miss Crotch, and the Miss Barhams; and she contrived that they
should sing and play, and play and sing, till they had exhausted the
admiration and complaisance of the auditors. Then she relieved attention
with some slight things from Miss Arabella Falconer, such as could
excite no _sensation_ or envy. Presently, after walking about the room,
carelessly joining different conversation parties, and saying something
obliging to each, she approached the count and the commissioner. Finding
that the commissioner had finished all he had to say, she began to
reproach him for keeping the count so long from the ladies, and leading
him, as she spoke, to the piano-forte, she declared that he had missed
such charming things. She _could_ not ask Miss Crotch to play any more
till she had rested--"Georgiana! for want of something better, do
try what you can give us--She will appear to great disadvantage, of
course--My dear, I think we have not had _O Giove omnipotente_."

"I am not equal to that, ma'am," said Georgiana, drawing back: "you
should call upon Miss La Grande."

"True, my love; but Miss La Grande has been so very obliging, I could
not ask--Try it, my love--I am not surprised you should be diffident
after what we have heard; but the count, I am sure, will make
allowances."

With amiable and becoming diffidence Miss Georgiana was compelled to
comply--the count was surprised and charmed by her voice: then she was
prevailed upon to try "_Quanta O quanto è amor possente_"--the count,
who was enthusiastically fond of music, seemed quite enchanted; and Mrs.
Falconer took care that he should have this impression left full and
strong upon his mind--supper was announced. The count was placed at
the table between Mrs. Falconer and Lady Trant--but just as they were
sitting down, Mrs. Falconer called to Georgiana, who was going, much
against her will, to another table, "Take my place, my dear Georgiana,
for you know I never eat supper."

Georgiana's countenance, which had been black as night, became all
radiant instantly. She took her mamma's place beside the count. Mrs.
Falconer walked about all supper-time smiling, and saying obliging
things with self-satisfied grace. She had reason indeed to be satisfied
with the success of this night's operations. Never once did she appear
to look towards the count, or her daughter; but assuredly she saw that
things were going on as she wished.

In the mean time Alfred Percy was as heartily tired by the exhibitions
of this evening as were many fashionable young men who had been loud
in their praises of the performers. Perhaps Alfred was not however a
perfectly fair judge, as he was disappointed in his own manoeuvres,
not having been able to obtain two minutes' conversation with the count
during the whole evening. In a letter to Rosamond, the next day, he said
that Mrs. Falconer's concert had been very dull, and he observed that
"People can see more of one another in a single day in the country than
they can in a year in town." He was further very eloquent "on the folly
of meeting in crowds to say commonplace nothings to people you do not
care for, and to see only the outsides of those with whom you desire to
converse."

"Just as I was writing this sentence," continues Alfred, "Count
Altenberg called--how fortunate!--how obliging of him to come so early,
before I went to the courts. He has put me into good humour again with
the whole world--even with the Miss Falconers. He came to take leave of
me--he is going down to the country--with whom do you think?--With Lord
Oldborough, during the recess. Did I not tell you that Lord Oldborough
would like him--that is, would find that he has information, and can be
useful? I hope you will all see the count; indeed I am sure you will.
He politely spoke of paying his respects to my father, by whom the
shipwrecked foreigners had been so hospitably succoured in their
distress. I told him that our family no longer lived in the same place;
that we had been obliged to retire to a small estate, in a distant part
of the county. I did not trouble him with the history of our family
misfortunes; nor did I even mention how the shipwreck, and the
carelessness of the Dutch sailors, had occasioned the fire at Percy
Hall--though I was tempted to tell him this when I was speaking of M. de
Tourville.

"I forgot to tell my father, that the morning when I went with the count
to Lord Oldborough's, among a heap of books of heraldry, with which his
table was covered, I spied an old book of my father's on the _arte_ of
deciphering, which he had lent Commissioner Falconer years ago. Lord
Oldborough, whose eye is quick as a hawk's, saw my eye turn towards
it, and he asked me if I knew any thing of that book, or of the art
of deciphering? Nothing of the art, but something of the book, which I
recollected to be my father's. His lordship put it into my hands, and I
showed some pencil notes of my father's writing. Lord Oldborough seemed
surprised, and said he did not know this had been among the number of
your studies. I told him that you had once been much intent upon Wilkins
and Leibnitz's scheme of a universal language, and that I believed this
had led you to the art of deciphering. He repeated the words 'Universal
language--Ha!--then I suppose it was from Mr. Percy that Commissioner
Falconer learnt all he knew on this subject?'

"'I believe so, my lord.'

"'Ha!' He seemed lost for a moment in thought, and then added, 'I wish I
had known this sooner--Ha!'

"What these _Haes_ meant, I was unable to decipher; but I am sure they
related to some matter very interesting to him. He explained himself no
farther, but immediately turned away from me to the count, and began
to talk of the affairs of his court, and of M. de Tourville, of whom he
seems to have some knowledge, I suppose through the means of his envoy,
Cunningham Falconer.

"I understand that a prodigious party is invited to Falconer-court. The
count asked me if I was to be one of them, and seemed to wish it--I like
him much. They are to have balls, and plays, and great doings. If I have
time, I will write _to-morrow_, and tell you who goes, and give you a
sketch of their characters. Mrs. Falconer cannot well avoid asking you
to some of her entertainments, and it will be pleasant to you to know
who's who beforehand."



CHAPTER XXIV.


Notwithstanding all the patronage of fashion, which the Miss
Falconers had for some time enjoyed, notwithstanding all their own
accomplishments, and their mother's address and knowledge of the world,
the grand object had not been obtained--for they were not married.
Though every where seen, and every where admired, no proposals had yet
been made adequate to their expectations. In vain had one young
nobleman after another, heir apparent after heir apparent, been invited,
cherished, and flattered by Mrs. Falconer, had been constantly at her
balls and concerts, had stood beside the harp and the piano-forte, had
danced or flirted with the Miss Falconers, had been hung out at all
public places as a pendant to one or other of the sisters.

The mother, seeing project after project fail for the establishment
of her daughters, forced to bear and to conceal these disappointments,
still continued to form new schemes with indefatigable perseverance. Yet
every season the difficulty increased; and Mrs. Falconer, in the
midst of the life of pleasure which she seemed to lead, was a prey
to perpetual anxiety. She knew that if any thing should happen to
the commissioner, whose health was declining; if he should lose Lord
Oldborough's favour, which seemed not impossible; if Lord Oldborough
should not be able to maintain himself in power, or if he should die;
she and her daughters would lose every thing. From a small estate,
overwhelmed with debt, there would be no fortune for her daughters; they
would be left utterly destitute, and absolutely unable to do any thing
for themselves--unlikely to suit plain country gentlemen, after the high
style of company in which they had lived, and still more incapable
than she would be of bearing a reverse of fortune. The young ladies,
confident of their charms, unaccustomed to reflect, and full of the
present, thought little of these probabilities of future evil, though
they were quite as impatient to be married as their mother could wish.
Indeed, this impatience becoming visible, she was rather anxious to
suppress it, because it counteracted her views. Mrs. Falconer had still
two schemes for their establishment. Sir Robert Percy had luckily lost
his wife within the last twelvemonth, had no children, and had been
heard to declare that he would marry again as soon as he decently could,
because, if he were to die without heirs, the Percy estate might revert
to the relations, whom he detested. Mrs. Falconer had persuaded the
commissioner to cultivate Sir Robert Percy's acquaintance; had this
winter watched for the time when law business called him to town; had
prevailed upon him to go to her house, instead of staying, as he usually
did, at an hotel, or spending his day at his solicitor's chambers. She
had in short made things so agreeable to him, and he seemed so well
pleased with her, she had hopes he would in time be brought to propose
for her daughter Arabella. To conciliate Sir Robert Percy, it was
necessary to avoid all connexion with _the other Percys_; and it was
for this reason that the commissioner had of late avoided Alfred and
Erasmus. Mrs. Falconer's schemes for Georgiana, her beautiful daughter,
were far more brilliant. Several great establishments she had in view.
The appearance of Count Altenberg put many old visions to flight--her
whole fancy fixed upon him. If she could marry her Georgiana to Count
Altenberg!--There would be a match high as her most exalted ambition
could desire; and this project did not seem impossible. The count had
been heard to say that he thought Miss Georgiana Falconer the handsomest
woman he had seen since he had been in London. He had admired her
dancing, and had listened with enthusiastic attention to her music, and
to her charming voice; the young lady herself was confident that he
was, would be, or ought to be, her slave. The count was going into the
country for some weeks with Lord Oldborough. Mrs. Falconer, though
she had not seen Falconer-court for fifteen years, decided to go there
immediately. Then she should have the count fairly away from all
the designing mothers and rival daughters of her acquaintance, and
besides--she might, by this seasonable visit to the country, secure Sir
Robert Percy for her daughter Arabella. The commissioner rejoiced in
his lady's determination, because he knew that it would afford him an
opportunity of obliging Lord Oldborough. His lordship had always been
averse from the trouble of entertaining company. He disliked it still
more since the death of Lady Oldborough; but he knew that it was
necessary to keep up his interest and his popularity in the country, and
he would, therefore, be obliged by Mrs. Falconer's giving dinners
and entertainments for him. This game had succeeded, when it had been
played--at the time of the Marchioness of Twickenham's marriage. Mr.
Falconer was particularly anxious now to please Lord Oldborough, for he
was fully aware that he had lost ground with his patron, and that
his sons had all in different ways given his lordship cause of
dissatisfaction. With Buckhurst Falconer Lord Oldborough was displeased
for being the companion and encourager of his nephew, Colonel Hauton,
in extravagance and gaming. In paying his court to the nephew, Buckhurst
lost the uncle. Lord Oldborough had hoped that a man of literature and
talents, as Buckhurst had been represented to him, would have drawn his
nephew from the turf to the senate, and would have raised in Colonel
Hauton's mind some noble ambition.

"A clergyman! sir," said Lord Oldborough to Commissioner Falconer, with
a look of austere indignation.--"What could induce such a man as Mr.
Buckhurst Falconer to become a clergyman?" The commissioner, affecting
to sympathize in this indignation, declared that he was so angry with
his son that he would not see him. All the time, however, he comforted
himself with the hope that his son would, in a few months, be in
possession of the long-expected living of Chipping-Friars, as the old
incumbent was now speechless. Lord Oldborough had never, after this
disowning of Buckhurst, mentioned his name to the father, and the
commissioner thought this management had succeeded.

Of John Falconer, too, there had been complaints. Officers returned from
abroad had spoken of his stupidity, his neglect of duty, and, above all,
of his boasting that, let him do what he pleased, he was sure of
Lord Oldborough's favour--certain of being a major in one year, a
lieutenant-colonel in two. At first his boasts had been laughed at by
his brother officers, but when, at the year's end, he actually was made
a major, their surprise and discontent were great. Lord Oldborough was
blamed for patronizing such a fellow. All this, in course of time, came
to his lordship's knowledge. He heard these complaints in silence. It
was not his habit suddenly to express his displeasure. He heard, and
saw, without speaking or acting, till facts and proofs had accumulated
in his mind. He seemed to pass over many things unobserved, but they
were all registered in his memory, and he would judge and decide at last
in an instant, and irrevocably. Of this Commissioner Falconer, a cunning
man, who watched parts of a character narrowly, but could not take in
the whole, was not aware. He often blessed his good fortune for having
escaped Lord Oldborough's displeasure or detection, upon occasions
when his lordship had marked all that the commissioner imagined he had
overlooked; his lordship was often most awake to what was passing, and
most displeased, when he appeared most absent or unmoved.

For instance, many mistakes, and much ignorance, had frequently appeared
in his envoy Cunningham Falconer's despatches; but except when, in the
first moment of surprise at the difference between the ineptitude of the
envoy, and the talents of the author of the pamphlet, his lordship had
exclaimed, "_A slovenly despatch_," these mistakes, and this ignorance,
had passed without animadversion. Some symptoms of duplicity, some
evasion of the minister's questions, had likewise appeared, and the
commissioner had trembled lest the suspicions of his patron should be
awakened.

Count Altenberg, without design to injure Cunningham, had accidentally
mentioned in the presence of the commissioner and of Lord Oldborough
something of a transaction which was to be kept a profound secret from
the minister, a private intrigue which Cunningham had been carrying on
to get himself appointed envoy to the court of Denmark, by the interest
of the opposite party, in case of a change of ministry. At the moment
when this was alluded to by Count Altenberg, the commissioner was so
dreadfully alarmed that he perspired at every pore; but perceiving
that Lord Oldborough expressed no surprise, asked no explanation,
never looked towards him with suspicion, nor even raised his eyes, Mr.
Falconer flattered himself that his lordship was so completely engrossed
in the operation of replacing a loose glass in his spectacles, that he
had not heard or noticed one word the count had said. In this hope the
commissioner was confirmed by Lord Oldborough's speaking an instant
afterwards precisely in his usual tone, and pursuing his previous
subject of conversation, without any apparent interruption in the train
of his ideas. Yet, notwithstanding that the commissioner fancied that he
and his son had escaped, and were secure in each particular instance,
he had a general feeling that Lord Oldborough was more reserved towards
him; and he was haunted by a constant fear of losing, not his patron's
esteem or confidence, but his favour. Against this danger he constantly
guarded. To flatter, to keep Lord Oldborough in good humour, to make
himself agreeable and necessary by continual petty submissions and
services, was the sum of his policy.

It was with this view that he determined to go into the country;
and with this view he had consented to various expenses, which were
necessary, as Mrs. Falconer declared, to make it practicable for her and
her daughters to accompany him. Orders were sent to have a theatre
at Falconer-court, which had been long disused, fitted up in the most
elegant manner. The Miss Falconers had been in the habit of acting at
Sir Thomas and Lady Flowerton's private theatre at Richmond, and they
were accomplished actresses. Count Altenberg had declared that he was
particularly fond of theatrical amusements. That hint was sufficient.
Besides, what a sensation the opening of a theatre at Falconer-court
would create in the country! Mrs. Falconer observed that the only
possible way to make the country supportable was to have a large party
of town friends in your house--and this was the more necessary for her,
as she was almost a stranger in her own county.

Alfred kept his promise, and sent Rosamond a list of the persons of
whom the party was to consist. Opposite to several names he
wrote--commonplace young--or, commonplace old ladies:--of the latter
number were Lady Trant and Lady Kew: of the former were the Miss G----s,
and others not worth mentioning. Then came the two Lady Arlingtons,
nieces of the Duke of Greenwich.

"The Lady Arlingtons," continues Alfred, "are glad to get to Mrs.
Falconer, and Mrs. Falconer is glad to have them, because they are
related to my lord duke. I have met them at Mrs. Falconer's, at Lady
Angelica Headingham's, and often at Lady Jane Granville's. The style and
tone of the Lady Anne is languishing--of Lady Frances, lively: both seem
mere spoilt selfish ladies of quality. Lady Anne's selfishness is of the
cold, chronic, inveterate nature; Lady Frances' of the hot, acute, and
tormenting species. She 'loves everything by fits, and nothing long.'
Every body is _an angel_ and _a dear creature_, while they minister
to her fancies--and no longer. About these fancies she is restless and
impatient to a degree which makes her sister look sick and scornful
beyond description. Lady Anne neither fancies nor loves any thing or any
body. She seems to have no object upon earth but to drink barley-water,
and save herself from all manner of trouble or exertion, bodily or
mental. So much for the Lady Arlingtons.

"Buckhurst Falconer cannot be of this party--Colonel Hauton has him
at his regiment. But Buckhurst's two friends, the Clays, are earnestly
pressed into the service. Notwithstanding the fine sanctified speech
Mrs. Falconer made me, about _that sad affair of Lewis Clay with Lady
Harriot H----_, she invites him; and I have a notion, if Count Altenberg
had not appeared, that she would have liked to have had him, _or_ his
brother, for her son-in-law. That you may judge how much my mother
would like them for her sons-in-law, I will take the trouble to draw you
portraits of both gentlemen.

"_French_ Clay and _English_ Clay, as they have been named, are
brothers, both men of large fortune, which their father acquired
respectably by commerce, and which they are spending in all kinds
of extravagance and profligacy, not from inclination, but merely
to purchase admission into fine company. French Clay is a travelled
coxcomb, who, _à propos de bottes_, begins with, 'When I was abroad with
the Princess Orbitella--' But I am afraid I cannot speak of this man
with impartiality, for I cannot bear to see an Englishman apeing
a Frenchman. The imitation is always so awkward, so ridiculous, so
contemptible. French Clay talks of _tact_, but without possessing any;
he delights in what he calls _persiflage_, but in his _persiflage_,
instead of the wit and elegance of Parisian raillery, there appears only
the vulgar love and habit of derision. He is continually railing at
our English want of _savoir vivre_, yet is himself an example of
the ill-breeding which he reprobates. His manners have neither the
cordiality of an Englishman nor the polish of a foreigner. To improve us
in _l'esprit de société_, he would introduce the whole system of French
gallantry--the vice without the refinement. I heard him acknowledge it
to be 'his principle' to intrigue with every _married_ woman who would
listen to him, provided she has any one of his four requisites,
wit, fashion, beauty, or a good table. He says his late suit in
Doctors'-commons cost him nothing; for 10,000_l._ are nothing to him.

"Public virtue, as well as private, he thinks it a fine air to disdain,
and patriotism and love of our country, he calls prejudices of which a
philosopher ought to divest himself. Some charitable people say that
he is not so unfeeling as he seems to be, and that above half his vices
arise from affectation, and from a mistaken ambition to be what he
thinks perfectly French.

"His brother, English Clay, is a cold, reserved, proud, dull-looking
man, whom art, in despite of nature, strove, and strove in vain, to
quicken into a 'gay deceiver.' He is a grave man of pleasure--his first
care being to provide for his exclusively personal gratifications. His
dinner is a serious, solemn business, whether it be at his own table
or at a tavern, which last he prefers--he orders it so that his repast
shall be the very best of its kind that money can procure. His next
care is, that he be not cheated in what he is to pay. Not that he values
money, but he cannot bear to be _taken in_. Then his dress, his horses
his whole appointment and establishment, are complete, and accurately in
the fashion of the day--no expense spared. All that belongs to Mr. Clay,
of Clay-hall, is the best of its kind, or, at least, _had from the best
hand_ in England. Every thing about him is English; but I don't know
whether this arises from love of his country or contempt of his brother.
English Clay is not ostentatious of that which is his own, but he is
disdainful of all that belongs to another. The slightest deficiency in
the _appointments_ of his companions he sees, and marks by a wink
to some bystander, or with a dry joke laughs the wretch to scorn. In
company he delights to sit by silent and snug, sneering inwardly at
those who are entertaining the company, and _committing_ themselves.
He never entertains, and is seldom entertained. His joys are neither
convivial nor intellectual; he is gregarious, but not companionable; a
hard drinker, but not social. Wine sometimes makes him noisy, but never
makes him gay; and, whatever be his excesses, he commits them seemingly
without temptation from taste or passion. He keeps a furiously expensive
mistress, whom he curses, and who curses him, as Buckhurst informs me,
ten times a day; yet he prides himself on being free and unmarried!
Scorning and dreading women in general, he swears he would not marry
Venus herself unless she had 100,000_l._ in each pocket; and now that
no mortal Venus wears pockets, he thanks Heaven he is safe. Buckhurst,
I remember, assured me that beneath this crust of pride there is some
good-nature. Deep hid under a large mass of selfishness there may be
some glimmerings of affection. He shows symptoms of feeling for his
horses, and his mother, and his coachman, and his country. I do believe
he would fight for old England, for it is his country, and he is English
Clay. Affection for his coachman, did I say?--He shows admiration,
if not affection, for every whip of note in town. He is their
companion--no, their pupil, and, as Antoninus Pius gratefully prided
himself in recording the names of those relations and friends from
whom he learnt his several virtues, this man may boast to after-ages of
having learnt from one coachman how to cut a fly off his near leader's
ear, how to tuck up a duck from another, and the _true spit_ from a
third--by-the-bye, it is said, but I don't vouch for the truth of the
story, that this last accomplishment cost him a tooth, which he had had
drawn to attain it in perfection. Pure _slang_ he could not learn from
any one coachman, but from constantly frequenting the society of all. I
recollect Buckhurst Falconer telling me that he dined once with English
Clay, in company with a baronet, a viscount, an earl, a duke, and the
driver of a mail-coach, to whom was given, by acclamation, the seat
of honour. I am told there is a house, at which these gentlemen and
noblemen meet regularly every week, where there are two dining-rooms
divided by glass doors. In one room the real coachmen dined, in the
other the amateur gentlemen, who, when they are tired of their own
conversation, throw open the glass doors, that they may be entertained
and edified by the coachmen's wit and _slang_; in which dialect English
Clay's rapid proficiency has, it is said, recommended him to the _best_
society, even more than his being the master of the best of cooks, and
of Clay-hall.

"I have said so much more than I intended of both these brothers, that I
have no room for more portraits; indeed, the other gentlemen are zeros.

"Yours affectionately,

"ALFRED PERCY."

Notwithstanding the pains which Mrs. Falconer took to engage these Mr.
Clays to accompany her, she could obtain only a promise that they would
wait upon her, if possible, some time during the recess.

Count Altenberg also, much to Mrs. Falconer's disappointment, was
detained in town a few days longer than he had foreseen, but he promised
to follow Lord Oldborough early in the ensuing week. All the rest of
the _prodigious_ party arrived at Falconer-court, which was within a few
miles of Lord Oldborough's seat at Clermont-park.

The day after Lord Oldborough's arrival in the country, his lordship
was seized with a fit of the gout, which fixed in his right hand.
Commissioner Falconer, when he came in the morning to pay his respects,
and to inquire after his patron's health, found him in his study,
writing a letter with his left hand. "My lord, shall not I call Mr.
Temple--or--could I offer my services as secretary?"

"I thank you, sir--no. This letter must be written with my own hand."

Whom can this letter be to, that is of so much consequence? thought
the commissioner; and glancing his eye at the direction, he saw, as
the letter was given to a servant, "_To L. Percy, Esq._"--his surprise
arrested the pinch of snuff which he was just going to take. "What could
be the business--the secret--only a few lines, what could they contain?"

Simply these words

"MY DEAR SIR,

"I write to you with my left hand, the gout having, within these few
hours, incapacitated my right. Since this gout keeps me a prisoner, and
I cannot, as I had intended, go to you, may I beg that you will do me
the favour to come to me, if it could suit your convenience, to-morrow
morning, when I shall be alone from twelve till four.

"With true esteem,

"Yours,

"OLDBOROUGH."

In the course of the day the commissioner found out, by something Lord
Oldborough _let fall_, what his lordship had no intention to conceal,
that he had requested Mr. Percy to come to Clermont-park the next
morning; and the commissioner promised himself that he would be in the
way to see his good cousin Percy, and to satisfy his curiosity. But his
manoeuvres and windings were, whenever it was necessary, counteracted
and cut short by the unexpected directness and peremptory plain
dealing of his patron. In the morning, towards the hour of twelve, the
commissioner thought he had well begun a conversation that would draw
out into length upon a topic which he knew must be interesting to his
lordship, and he held in his hand private letters of great consequence
from his son Cunningham; but Lord Oldborough, taking the letters, locked
them up in his desk, saying, "To-night I will read them--this morning
I have set apart for a conversation with Mr. Percy, whom I wish to see
alone. In the mean time, my interest in the borough has been left
too much to the care of that attorney Sharpe, of whom I have no great
opinion. Will you be so good to ride over, as you promised me that you
would, to the borough, and see what is doing there?"

The commissioner endeavoured not to look disconcerted or discomfited,
rang the bell for his horses, and took his leave, as Lord Oldborough
had determined that he should, before the arrival of Mr. Percy, who came
exactly at twelve.

"I thank you for this punctuality, Mr. Percy," said Lord Oldborough,
advancing in his most gracious manner; and no two things could be more
strikingly different than his gracious and ungracious manner. "I
thank you for this kind punctuality. No one knows better than I do the
difference between the visit of a friend and all other visits."

Without preface, Lord Oldborough always went directly to the point. "I
have requested you to come to me, Mr. Percy, because I want from you two
things, which I cannot have so much to my satisfaction from any other
person as from you--assistance and sympathy. But, before I go to my
own affairs, let me--and not by way of compliment, but plainly and
truly--let me congratulate you, my dear sir, on the success of your
sons, on the distinction and independence they have already acquired
in their professions. I know the value of independence--of that which
I shall never have," added his lordship, with a forced smile and a deep
sigh. "But let that be. It was not of that I meant to speak. You
pursue your course; I, mine. Firmness of purpose I take to be the great
difference between man and man. I am not one of those who habitually
covet sympathy. It is a sign of a mind insufficient to its own support,
to look for sympathy on every trivial occurrence; and on great
occasions it has not been my good fortune to meet many persons who could
sympathize with me."

"True," said Mr. Percy, "people must think with you, before they can
feel with you."

"It is extraordinary, Mr. Percy," continued Lord Oldborough, "that,
knowing how widely you differ from me in political principles, I should
choose, of all men living, to open my mind to you. But the fact is, that
I am convinced, however we may differ about the means, the end we both
have in view is one and the same--the good and glory of the British
empire."

"My lord, I believe it," cried Mr. Percy--with energy and warmth he
repeated, "My lord, I believe it."

"I thank you, sir," said Lord Oldborough; "you do me justice. I have
reason to be satisfied when such men as you do me justice; I have reason
also to be satisfied that I have not to make the common complaint of
those who serve princes. From him whom I have served I have not met with
any ingratitude, with any neglect: on the contrary, I am well assured,
that so firm is his conviction of my intending the good of his throne
and of his people, that to preserve me his minister is the first wish of
his heart. I am confident that without hesitation he would dismiss from
his councils any who should obstruct my views, or be inimical to my
interests."

"Then, my lord, you are happy; if man can be happy at the summit of
ambition."

"Pardon me. It is a dizzy height at best; but, were it attained, I trust
my head would be strong enough to bear it."

"Lord Verulam, you know, my lord," said Mr. Percy, smiling, "tells us,
that people, by looking down precipices, do put their spirits in the act
of falling."

"True, true," said Lord Oldborough, rather impatient at Mr. Percy's
going to Lord Verulam and philosophy. "But you have not yet heard the
facts. I am encompassed with enemies, open and secret. Open enemies
I meet and defy--their strength I can calculate and oppose; but the
strength of my secret enemies I cannot calculate, for that strength
depends on their combination, and that combination I cannot break till
I know of what it consists. I have the power and the will to strike, but
know not where to aim. In the dark I will not strike, lest I injure the
innocent or destroy a friend. Light I cannot obtain, though I have been
in search of it for a considerable time. Perhaps by your assistance it
may be obtained."

"By my assistance!" exclaimed Mr. Percy: "ignorant, as I am, of all
parties, and of all their secret transactions, how, my dear lord, can I
possibly afford you any assistance?"

"Precisely by your being unconnected with all parties--a cool
stander-by, you can judge of the play--you can assist me with your
general knowledge of human nature, and with a particular species of
knowledge, of which I should never have guessed that you were possessed,
but for an accidental discovery of it made to me the other day by your
son Alfred--your knowledge of the art of deciphering."

Lord Oldborough then produced the Tourville papers, related how they had
been put into his hands by Commissioner Falconer, showed him what the
commissioner and his son had deciphered, pointed out where the remaining
difficulty occurred, and explained how they were completely at a stand
from their inability to decipher the word Gassoc, or to decide who
or what it could mean. All the conjectures of the commissioner,
the cassock, and the bishop, and the _gosshawk_, and the heraldic
researches, and the French misnomers, and the puns upon the coats of
arms, and the notes from Wilkins on universal language, and an old book
on deciphering, which had been lent to the commissioner, and the private
and public letters which Cunningham had written since he went abroad,
were all laid before Mr. Percy.

"As to my envoy, Mr. Cunningham Falconer," said Lord Oldborough, as
he took up the bundle of Cunningham's letters, "I do not choose to
interrupt the main business before us, by adverting to him or to his
character, farther than to point out to you this mark," showing a
peculiar pencil mark, made on certain papers. "This is my note of
distrust, observe, and this my note for mere circumlocution, or
nonsense. And here," continued his lordship, "is a list of all those in,
or connected with the ministry, whom it is possible may be my enemies."
The list was the same as that on which the commissioner formerly went to
work, except that the name of the Duke of Greenwich had been struck
out, and two others added in his place, so that it stood thus: "Dukes
of Doncaster and Stratford; Lords Coleman, Naresby, Skreene, Twisselton,
Waltham, Wrexfield, Chelsea, and Lancaster; Sir Thomas Cope, Sir James
Skipworth; Secretaries Arnold and Oldfield." This list was marked with
figures, in different coloured inks, prefixed to each name, denoting the
degrees of their supposed enmity to Lord Oldborough, and these had been
calculated from a paper, containing notes of the probable causes and
motives of their disaffection, drawn up by Commissioner Falconer,
but corrected, and in many places contradicted, by notes in Lord
Oldborough's hand-writing. His lordship marked which was _his_
calculation of probabilities, and made some observations on the
character of each, as he read over the list of names rapidly.

Doncaster, a dunce--Stratford, a miser--Coleman, a knave--Naresby, non
compos--Skreene, the most corrupt of the corrupt--Twisselton, puzzle
headed--Waltham, a mere theorist--Wrexfield, a speechifier--Chelsea, a
trimmer--Lancaster, deep and dark--Sir Thomas Cope, a wit, a poet, and
a fool--Sir James Skipworth, finance and finesse--Arnold, able and
active--and Oldfield, a diplomatist in grain.

"And is this the summary of the history of the men with whom your
lordship is obliged to act and live?" said Mr. Percy.

"It is--I am: but, my dear sir, do not let us fly off at a tangent
to morality or philosophy; these have nothing to do with the
present purpose. You have before you all the papers relative to this
transaction. Now, will you do me the favour, the service, to look them
over, and try whether you can make out _le mot d'énigme_? I shall not
disturb you."

Lord Oldborough sat down at a small table by the fire, with a packet of
letters and memorials beside him, and in a few minutes was completely
absorbed in these, for he had acquired the power of turning his
attention suddenly and entirely from one subject to another.

Without reading the mass of Commissioner Falconer's explanations and
conjectures, or encumbering his understanding with all that Cunningham
had collected, as if purposely to puzzle the cause, Mr. Percy examined
first very carefully the original documents--then Lord Oldborough's
notes on the views and characters of the suspected persons, and the
reasons of their several enmities or dissatisfaction. From the scale of
probabilities, which he found had been with great skill calculated on
these notes, he selected the principal names, and then tried with these,
whether he could make out an idea that had struck him the moment he had
heard of the Gassoc. He recollected the famous word Cabal, in the reign
of Charles the Second, and he thought it possible that the cabalistical
word Gassoc might be formed by a similar combination. But _Gassoc_ was
no English word, was no word of any language. Upon close examination of
the Tourville papers, he perceived that the commissioner had been right
in one of his suggestions, that the _G_ had been written instead of a
_C_: in some places it had been a _c_ turned into a _g_, and the writer
seemed to be in doubt whether the word should be Gassoc or Cassoc.
Assuming, therefore, that it was _Cassock_, Mr. Percy found the
initials of six persons, who stood high in Lord Oldborough's scale of
probabilities: Chelsea--Arnold--Skreene--Skipworth--Oldfield--Coleman;
and the last k, for which he hunted in vain a considerable time, was
supplied by Kensington (one of the Duke of Greenwich's titles), whose
name had been scratched out of the list, since his reconciliation and
connexion by marriage with Lord Oldborough, but who had certainly at one
time been of the league of his lordship's enemies. Every circumstance
and date in the Tourville papers exactly agree with this explanation:
the Cassock thus composed cleared up all difficulties; and passages,
that were before dark and mysterious, were rendered by this reading
perfectly intelligible. The interpretation, when once given, appeared
so simple, that Lord Oldborough wondered how it was possible that it had
not before occurred to his mind. His satisfaction was great--he was at
this moment relieved from all danger of mistaking friend for foe; he
felt that his enemies were in his power, and his triumph secure.

"My dear sir," cried he, "you do not know, you cannot estimate, the
extent of the service you have done me: far from wishing to lessen it
in your eyes, I wish you to know at this moment its full importance.
By Lady Oldborough's death, and by circumstances with which I need
not trouble you, I lost the support of her connexions. The Duke of
Greenwich, though my relation, is a weak man, and a weak man can never
be a good friend. I was encompassed, undermined, the ground hollow under
me--I knew it, but I could not put my finger upon one of the traitors.
Now I have them all at one blow, and I thank you for it. I have the
character, I believe, of being what is called proud, but you see that I
am not too proud to be assisted and obliged by one who will never allow
me to oblige or assist him or any of his family. But why should this be?
Look over the list of these men. In some one of these places of trust,
give me a person in whom I can confide, a friend to me, and to your
country. Look over that list, now in your hand, and put your finger upon
any thing that will suit you."

"I thank you, my lord," said Mr. Percy; "I feel the full value of your
good opinion, and true gratitude for the warmth of your friendship, but
I cannot accept of any office under your administration. Our political
principles differ as much as our private sentiments of honour agree; and
these sentiments will, I trust, make you approve of what I now say--and
do."

"But there are places, there are situations which you might accept,
where your political opinions and mine could never clash. It is an
extraordinary thing for a minister to press a gentleman to accept of a
place, unless he expects more in return than what he gives. But come--I
must have Mr. Percy one of us. You have never tried ambition yet," added
Lord Oldborough, with a smile: "trust me, you will find ambition has its
pleasures, its proud moments, when a man feels that he has his foot on
the neck of his enemies."

Lord Oldborough stood, as if he felt this pride at the instant. "You do
not know the charms of ambition, Mr. Percy."

"It may be delightful to feel one's foot on the neck of one's enemies,
but, for my part, I rather prefer having no enemies."

"No enemies!" said Lord Oldborough: "every man that has character enough
to make friends has character enough to make enemies--and must have
enemies, if not of his power or place, of his talents and property--the
sphere lower, the passion's the same. No enemies!--What is he, who has
been at law with you, and has robbed you of your estate?"

"I forgot him--upon my word, I forgot him," said Mr. Percy. "You see,
my lord, if he robbed me of my estate, he did not rob me of my peace
of mind. Does your lordship think," said Mr. Percy, smiling, "that any
ambitious man, deprived of his place, could say as much?"

"When I can tell you that from my own experience, you shall know,"
said Lord Oldborough, replying in the same tone; "but, thanks to your
discovery, there seems to be little chance, at present, of my being
competent to answer that question. But to business--we are wasting
life."

Every word or action that did not tend to a political purpose appeared
to Lord Oldborough to be a waste of life.

"Your ultimatum? Can you be one of us?"

"Impossible, my lord. Pardon me if I say, that the nearer the view your
confidence permits me to take of the workings of your powerful mind, and
of the pains and penalties of your exalted situation, the more clearly
I feel that ambition is not for me, that my happiness lies in another
line."

"Enough--I have done--the subject is at rest between us for ever." A
cloud, followed instantaneously by a strong radiance of pleasure,
passed across Lord Oldborough's countenance, while he pronounced, as
if speaking to himself, the words, "Singular obstinacy! Admirable
consistency! And I too am consistent, my dear sir," said he, sitting
down at the table. "Now for business; but I am deprived of my right
hand." He rang, and desired his secretary, Mr. Temple, to be sent to
him. Mr. Percy rose to take leave, but Lord Oldborough would not permit
him to go. "I can have no secrets for you, Mr. Percy--stay and see the
end of the Cassock."

Mr. Temple came in; and Lord Oldborough, with that promptitude and
decision by which he was characterised, dictated a letter to the king,
laying before his majesty the whole intrigue, as discovered by
the Tourville papers, adding a list of the members of the
_Cassock_--concluding by begging his majesty's permission to resign,
unless the cabal, which had rendered his efforts for the good of the
country and for his majesty's service in some points abortive, should
be dismissed from his majesty's councils. In another letter to a private
friend, who had access to the royal ear, Lord Oldborough named the
persons, whom, if his majesty should do him the favour of consulting
him, he should wish to recommend in the places of those who might be
dismissed. His lordship farther remarked, that the marriage which
had taken place between his niece and the eldest son of the Duke of
Greenwich, and the late proofs of his grace's friendship, dissipated all
fears and resentment arising from his former connexion with the Cassock.
Lord Oldborough therefore entreated his majesty to continue his grace in
his ministry. All this was stated in the shortest and plainest terms.

"No rounded periods, _no phrases_, no fine writing, Mr. Temple, upon
this occasion, if you please; it must be felt that these letters are
straight from my mind, and that if they are not written by my own hand,
it is because that hand is disabled. As soon as the gout will let me
stir, I shall pay my duty to my sovereign in person. These arrangements
will be completed, I trust, by the meeting of parliament. In the mean
time I am better here than in London; the blow will be struck, and none
will know by whom--not but what I am ready to avow it, if called upon.
But--let the coffee-house politicians decide, and the country gentlemen
prose upon it," said Lord Oldborough, smiling--"some will say the
ministry split on India affairs, some on Spanish, some on French
affairs. How little they, any of them, know what passes or what governs
behind the curtain! Let them talk--whilst I act."

The joy of this discovery so raised Lord Oldborough's spirits, and
dilated his heart, that he threw himself open with a freedom and
hilarity, and with a degree of humour unusual to him, and unknown except
to the few in his most intimate confidence. The letters finished, Mr.
Temple was immediately despatched with them to town.

"There," said Lord Oldborough, as soon as Mr. Temple had left him,
"there's a secretary I can depend upon; and there is another obligation
I owe to your family--to your son Alfred."

Now this business of the Tourville papers was off his mind, Lord
Oldborough, though not much accustomed to turn his attention to the
lesser details of domestic life, spoke of every individual of the Percy
family with whom he was acquainted; and, in particular, of Godfrey, to
whom he was conscious that he had been unjust. Mr. Percy, to relieve him
from this regret, talked of the pleasure his son had had in his friend
Gascoigne's late promotion to the lieutenant-colonelcy. Whilst Mr. Percy
spoke, Lord Oldborough searched among a packet of letters for one which
made honourable mention of Captain Percy, and put it into the hands of
the happy father.

"Ah! these are pleasurable feelings denied to me," said Lord Oldborough.

After a pause he added, "That nephew of mine, Colonel Hauton, is
irretrievably profligate, selfish, insignificant. I look to my niece,
the Marchioness of Twickenham's child, that is to say, if the mother--"

Another long pause, during which his lordship rubbed the glasses of his
spectacles, and looked through them, as if intent that no speck should
remain; while he did this very slowly, his mind ran rapidly from the
idea of the Marchioness of Twickenham to John Falconer, and thence to
all the causes of distrust and discontent which he felt towards all the
different individuals of the Falconer family. He considered, that now
the Tourville papers had been completely deciphered, the necessity for
engaging the secrecy of the commissioner, and of his son Cunningham,
would soon cease.

Lord Oldborough's reverie was interrupted by seeing, at this instant,
the commissioner returning from his ride.

"Not a word, Mr. Percy, of what has passed between us, to Commissioner
Falconer--not a word of the _Gassoc_. I put you on your guard, because
you live with those in whom you have entire confidence," said Lord
Oldborough; "but that is what a public man, a minister, cannot do."

Another reason why I should not like to be a minister, thought Mr.
Percy. "I took it for granted that the commissioner was entirely in your
lordship's confidence."

"I thought you were too good a philosopher to take any thing for
granted, Mr. Percy. Consider, if you please, that I am in a situation
where I must have tools, and use them, as long as I can make them
serviceable to my purposes. Sir, I am not a missionary, but a minister.
I must work with men, and upon men, such as I find them. I am not a
chemist, to analyze and purify the gold. I make no objection to that
alloy, which I am told is necessary, and fits it for being moulded to my
purposes. But here comes the ductile commissioner."

Lord Oldborough began to talk to him of the borough, without any
mercy for his curiosity, and without any attempt to evade the various
dexterous pushes he made to discover the business which had this morning
occupied his lordship. Mr. Percy was surprised, in the course of this
day, to see the manner in which the commissioner, a gentleman well-born,
of originally independent fortune and station, humbled and abased
himself to a patron. Mr. Falconer had contracted a certain cringing
servility of manner, which completely altered his whole appearance, and
which quite prevented him even from looking like a gentleman. It was his
principle never to contradict a great man, never to give him any sort
of pain; and his idea of the deference due to rank, and of the danger of
losing favour by giving offence, was carried so far, that not only his
attitude and language, but his whole mind, seemed to be new modified. He
had not the free use of his faculties. He seemed really so to subdue and
submit his powers, that his understanding was annihilated. Mr. Percy
was astonished at the change in his cousin; the commissioner was equally
surprised, nay, actually terrified, by Mr. Percy's freedom and boldness.
"Good Heavens! how can you speak in this manner?" said Mr. Falconer,
as they were going down stairs together, after parting with Lord
Oldborough.

"And why not?--I have nothing to fear or to hope, nothing to gain or to
lose. Lord Oldborough can give me nothing that I would accept, but his
esteem, and that I am sure of never losing."

Heigho! if I had your favour with my lord, what I would make of it!
thought the commissioner, as he stepped into his chariot. Mr. Percy
mounted his horse, and rode back to his humble home, glad to have done
his friend Lord Oldborough a service, still more glad that he was not
bound to the minister by any of the chains of political dependence.
Rejoiced to quit Tourville papers--state intrigues--lists of
enemies,--and all the necessity for reserve and _management_, and all
the turmoil of ambition.



CHAPTER XXV.


Count Altenberg arrived at Clermont-park, and as Lord Oldborough
was still confined by the gout, Commissioner Falconer, to his lady's
infinite satisfaction, was deputed to show him every thing that was
worth seeing in this part of the country. Every morning some party was
formed by Mrs. Falconer, and so happily arranged that her Georgiana and
the count were necessarily thrown together. The count rode extremely
well; Miss Falconers had been taught to ride in a celebrated
riding-house, and were delighted to display their equestrian graces.
When they were not disposed to ride, the count had a phaeton; and Mrs.
Falconer a barouche; and either in the phaeton, or the barouche
seat, Miss Georgiana Falconer was seated with the count, who, as she
discovered, drove uncommonly well.

The count had expressed a desire to see the place where M. de Tourville
had been shipwrecked, and he really wished to be introduced to the Percy
family, of whom, from the specimen he had seen in Alfred, and from all
the hospitality they had shown the distressed mariners (some of whom
were his countrymen), he had formed a favourable opinion. Half his
wish was granted, the rest dispersed in empty air. Mrs. Falconer with
alacrity arranged a party for Percy-hall, to show the count the scene
of the shipwreck. She should be so glad to see it herself, for she
was absent from the country at the time of the sad disaster; but the
commissioner, who knew the spot, and all the circumstances, better than
any other person, would show them every thing--and Sir Robert Percy,
she was sure, would think himself much honoured by Count Altenberg's
visiting his place.

Count Altenberg had some confused recollection of Mr. Alfred Percy's
having told him that his father no longer lived at Percy hall; but
this speech of Mrs. Falconer's led the count to believe that he had
misunderstood what Alfred had said.

The party arranged for Percy-hall consisted of the Miss Falconers,
the two Lady Arlingtons, and some other young people, who were at
Falconer-court. It was a fine morning, Mrs. Falconer was all suavity and
smiles, both the Miss Falconers in charming hopes, and consequently in
charming spirits.

Percy-hall was really a beautiful place, and Miss Arabella Falconer now
looked at it with the pleasure of anticipated possession. Sir Robert
Percy was not at home, he had been obliged that morning to be absent
on some special business; but he had left orders with his steward and
housekeeper to show the party of visitors the house and grounds. In
going through the apartments they came to the gallery leading to the
library, where they were stopped by some workmen's trestles, on which
were lying two painted glass windows, one that had been taken down, and
another which was to be put in its stead. Whilst the workmen were moving
the obstacles out of the way, the company had leisure to admire the
painted windows. One of them was covered with coats of arms: the
other represented the fire at Percy-hall, and the portrait of Caroline
assisting the old nurse down the staircase. This painting immediately
fixed Count Altenberg's eye, and Miss Georgiana Falconer, not knowing
whose portrait it was, exclaimed, as she looked at the figure of
Caroline, "Beautiful! Exquisite! What a lovely creature that is
assisting the old woman!"

"Yes," said Count Altenberg, "it is one of the finest countenances I
ever beheld."

All the ladies eagerly pressed forward to look at it.

"Beautiful! Don't you think it is something like Lady Anne Cope?" said
Miss Falconer.

"Oh! dear, no!" cried Miss Georgiana Falconer: "it is a great deal
handsomer than any of the Copes ever were, or ever will be!"

"It has a look of Lady Mary Nesbitt," said one of the Lady Arlingtons.

"The eyes are so like Lady Coningsby, who is my delight," said
Georgiana.

"And it has quite the Arlington nose," said Mrs. Falconer, glancing her
eye upon the Lady Arlingtons. Count Altenberg, without moving his eye,
repeated, "It is the most beautiful face I ever beheld."

"Not nearly so beautiful as the original, sir," said the painter.

"The original?--Is it a copy?"

"A portrait, sir."

"Oh! a family portrait of one of our great, great grandmother Percys, I
suppose," said Miss Georgiana, "done in her youth--in a fancy piece,
you know, according to the taste of those times--she must have been
superlatively lovely."

"Ma'am," said the painter, "the young lady, of whom this is a portrait,
is, I hope and believe, now living."

"Where?--and who can she be?--for I am sure I don't recollect ever
having seen her in all my life--never met her in town any where--Pray,
sir, who may it be?" added she, turning to the artist, with a mixture of
affected negligence and real pride.

"Miss Caroline Percy, ma'am."

"A daughter of Sir Robert Percy--of the gentleman of this house?" said
Count Altenberg eagerly.

Mrs. Falconer, and her daughter Georgiana, answered rapidly, with looks
of alarm, as they stood a little behind the count.

"Oh! no, no, Count Altenberg," cried Mrs. Falconer, advancing, "not a
daughter of the gentleman of this house--another family, relations, but
distant relations of the commissioner's: _he_ formerly knew something of
them, but _we_ know nothing of them."

The painter however knew a great deal, and seemed anxious to tell all he
knew: but Mrs. Falconer walked on immediately, saying, "This is our way,
is not it? This leads to the library, where, I dare say, we shall find
the book which the count wanted." The count heard her not, for with
his eyes fixed on the picture he was listening to the account which
the painter was giving of the circumstance it recorded of the fire at
Percy-hall--of the presence of mind and humanity of Miss Caroline Percy,
who had saved the life of the poor decrepit woman, who in the picture
was represented as leaning upon her arm. The painter paused when he came
to this part of his story--"That woman was my mother, sir."--He went
on, and with all the eloquence of filial affection and of gratitude,
pronounced in a few words a panegyric on the family who had been his
first and his best benefactors: all who heard him were touched with his
honest warmth, except the Miss Falconers.

"I dare say _those_ Percys were very good people in their day," said
Miss Falconer; "but their day is over, and no doubt you'll find, in the
present possessor of the estate, sir, as good a patron at least."

The artist took up his pencil without making any reply, and went on with
some heraldic devices he was painting.

"I am amazed how you could see any likeness in that face or figure to
Lady Anne Cope, or Lady Mary Nesbitt, or any of the Arlingtons," said
Miss Georgiana Falconer, looking through her hand at the portrait of
Caroline: "it's the most beautiful thing I ever saw, certainly; but
there's nothing of an air of fashion, and without that--"

"Count Altenberg, I have found for you the very book I heard you tell
the commissioner last night you wished so much to see," said Mrs.
Falconer. The count went forward to receive the book, and to thank the
lady for her polite attention; she turned over the leaves, and showed
him some uncommonly fine prints, which he was bound to admire--and
whilst he was admiring, Mrs. Falconer found a moment to whisper to her
daughter Georgiana, "Not a word more about the picture: let it alone,
and it is only a picture--dwell upon it, and you make it a reality."

Miss Georgiana had quickness and ability sufficient to feel the value
of her mother's knowledge of the world and of human nature, but she had
seldom sufficient command of temper to imitate or to benefit by Mrs.
Falconer's address. On this occasion she contented herself with venting
her spleen on the poor painter, whose colouring and drapery she began
to criticize unmercifully. Mrs. Falconer, however, carried off the count
with her into the library, and kept him there, till the commissioner,
who had been detained in the neighbouring village by some electioneering
business, arrived; and then they pursued their walk together through the
park. Miss Falconer was particularly delighted with the beauties of
the grounds. Miss Georgiana, recovering her good-humour, was again
charming--and all went on well; till they came near the sea-shore, and
the count asked Commissioner Falconer to show him the place where the
shipwreck had happened. She was provoked that his attention should be
withdrawn from her, and again by these Percys. The commissioner called
to one of the boatmen who had been ordered to be in readiness, and asked
him to point out the place where the Dutch vessel had been wrecked. The
man, who seemed rather surly, replied that they could not see the right
place where they stood, and if they had a mind to see it, they must come
into the boat, and _row a piece_ up farther.

Now some of these town-bred ladies were alarmed at the idea of going to
sea, and though Miss Georgiana was very unwilling to be separated from
the count, and though her mother encouraged the young lady to vanquish
her fears as much by precept and as little by example as possible, yet
when she was to be handed into the boat, she drew back in pretty terror,
put her hands before her face, and protested she could not venture even
with Count Altenberg. After as much waste of words as the discussion
of such arrangements on a party of pleasure usually involves, it was at
length settled that only the commissioner should accompany the count,
that the rest of the gentlemen and ladies should pursue their walk,
and that they should all meet again at the park-gate. The surly boatman
rowed off, but he soon ceased to be surly when the count spoke of the
humanity and hospitality which had been shown to some of his countrymen
by Mr. Percy. Immediately the boatman's tongue was loosed.

"Why, ay, sir, if you bees curous about _that_ there gentleman, I can
tell you a deal about him. But them as comes to see the new man does not
covet to hear talk of the old master; but, nevertheless, there's none
like him--he gave me and wife that there white cottage yonder, half ways
up the bank, where you see the smoke rising between the trees--as snug
a cottage it is!--But that is no matter to you, sir. But I wish you had
but _seed_ him the night of the shipwreck, he and his son, God above
bless him, and them--wherever they are, if they're above ground. I'd row
out the worse night ever we had, to set my eyes on them again before I
die, but for a minute. Ay, that night of the shipwreck, not a man was
willing to go out with them, or could be got out the first turn, but
myself."

Upon this text he spoke at large, entering into a most circumstantial
and diffuse history of the shipwreck, mingling his own praises with
those which he heartily bestowed upon the Percys of the right good old
branch. Commissioner Falconer meantime was not in a condition to throw
in any thing in favour of his new friend Sir Robert Percy; he was taking
pinch after pinch of snuff, looking alternately at the water and the
boat, sitting stiffly upright in anxious silence. Although in the
incessant practice of suppressing his own feelings, corporeal and
mental, from respect or complaisance to his superiors in rank and
station, yet he presently found it beyond the utmost efforts of his
courtly philosophy to endure his qualms of mind and body. Interrupting
the talkative boatman, he first conjured the orator to mind what he was
about; at last, Mr. Falconer complaining of growing very sick, the count
gave up all thoughts of proceeding farther, and begged the boatman to
put them ashore as soon as he could. They landed near the village, which
it was necessary that they should pass through, before they could reach
the appointed place of meeting. The poor commissioner, whose stomach was
still disordered, and whose head was giddy, observed that they had yet
a long walk to take, and proposed sending for one of the
carriages--accordingly they waited for it at the village inn. The
commissioner, after having made a multitude of apologies to the count,
retired to rest himself--during his absence, the count, who, wherever
he was, endeavoured to see as much as possible of the manners of
the people, began talking to the landlord and landlady. Again the
conversation turned upon the characters of the late and the present
possessors of Percy-hall; and the good people, by all the anecdotes they
told, and still more by the warm attachment they expressed for the old
banished family, increased every moment his desire to be personally
acquainted with those who in adversity were preferred to persons in
present power and prosperity. Count Altenberg, young as he was, had
seen enough of the world to feel the full value of eulogiums bestowed
on those who are poor, and who have no means of serving in any way the
interests of their panegyrists.

When the carriage came, and the commissioner was sufficiently refitted
for conversation, the count repeatedly expressed his earnest wish
to become acquainted with that Mr. Percy and his family, to whom his
countrymen had been so much obliged, and of whom he said he had this
morning heard so many interesting anecdotes. The commissioner had not
been present when the count saw the picture of Caroline, nor indeed
did he enter into Mrs. Falconer's matrimonial designs for her daughter
Georgiana. The commissioner generally saw the folly, and despaired of
the success, of all castle-building but his own, and his castles in
the air were always on a political plan. So without difficulty he
immediately replied that nothing would give him more pleasure than to
introduce the count to his relations, the Percys. The moment this was
mentioned, however, to Mrs. Falconer, the commissioner saw through the
complacent countenance, with which she forced herself to listen to him,
that he had made some terrible blunder, for which he should have to
answer in private.

Accordingly the first moment they were alone, Mrs. Falconer reproached
him with the rash promise he had made. "I shall have all the difficulty
in the world to put this out of the count's head. I thought, Mr.
Falconer, that you had agreed to let _those_ Percys drop."

"So I would if I could, my dear; but how can I, when Lord Oldborough
persists in holding them up?--You must go and see them, my dear."

"I!" cried Mrs. Falconer, with a look of horror; "I!--not I, indeed!
Lord Oldborough holds up only the gentlemen of the family--his lordship
has nothing to do with the ladies, I suppose. Now, you know visiting can
go on vastly well, to all eternity, between the gentlemen of a family
without the ladies having any sort of intimacy or acquaintance even.
You and Mr. Percy--if it is necessary for appearance sake with Lord
Oldborough--may continue upon the old footing; but I charge you,
commissioner, do not involve me--and whatever happens, don't take Count
Altenberg with you to the Hills."

"Why not, my dear?"

"My dear, I have my reasons. You were not in the gallery at Percy-hall
this morning, when the count saw that painted glass window?"

The commissioner begged an explanation; but when he had heard all Mrs.
Falconer's reasons, they did not seem to strike him with the force she
desired and expected.

"I will do as you please, my dear," said he, "and, if I can, I will make
the count forget my promised introduction to the Percys; but all the
time, depend upon it, your fears and your hopes are both equally vain.
You ladies are apt to take it for granted that men's heads are always
running on love."

"Young men's heads sometimes are," said Mrs. Falconer.

"Very seldom in these days," said the commissioner. "And love
altogether, as one should think you might know by this time, Mrs.
Falconer--a sensible woman of the world, as you are; but no woman, even
the most sensible, can ever believe it--love altogether has surprisingly
little to do in the real management and business of the world."

"Surprisingly little," replied Mrs. Falconer, placidly. "But seriously,
my dear, here is an opportunity of making an excellent match for
Georgiana, if you will be so obliging as not to counteract me."

"I am the last man in the world to counteract you, my dear; but it
will never do," said Mr. Falconer; "and you will only make Georgiana
ridiculous, as she has been several times already, from the failure of
these love-matches. I tell you, Mrs. Falconer, Count Altenberg is no
more thinking of love than I am--nor is he a man in the least likely to
fall in love."

"He is more than half in love with my Georgiana already," said the
mother, "if I have any eyes."

"You have eyes, and very fine eyes, my dear, as every body knows, and no
one better than myself--they have but one defect."

"Defect!"

"They sometimes see more than exists."

"You would not be so incredulous, Mr. Falconer, if you had seen the
rapture with which the count listens to Georgiana when she plays on the
harp. He is prodigiously fond of music."

"And of painting too," said the commissioner; "for, by your account of
the matter, he seemed to have been more than half in love also with a
picture this morning."

"A picture is no very dangerous rival, except in a _modern novel_,"
replied Mrs. Falconer. "But beware, commissioner--and remember, I
understand these things--I warn you in time--beware of the original of
that picture, and never again talk to me of going to see those Percys;
for though the girl may be only an unfashioned country beauty, and
Georgiana has so many polished advantages, yet there is no knowing what
whim a young man might take into his head."

The commissioner, though he remained completely of his own opinion, that
Mrs. Falconer's scheme for Georgiana would never do, disputed the point
no farther, but left the room, promising all she required, for promises
cost him nothing. To do him justice, he recollected and endeavoured to
the best of his power to keep his word; for the next morning he took
his time so well to propose a ride to the Hills, just at the moment when
Lord Oldborough and the count were deep in a conversation on the state
of continental politics, that his lordship would not part with him. The
commissioner paid his visit alone, and Mrs. Falconer gave him credit for
his address; but scarcely had she congratulated herself, when she
was thrown again into terror--the commissioner had suggested to Lord
Oldborough the propriety and policy of giving, whilst he was in the
country, a _popularity ball_! His lordship assented, and Mrs. Falconer,
as usual, was to take the trouble off his hands, and to give an
entertainment, to his lordship's friends. Lord Oldborough had not yet
recovered from the gout, and he was glad to accept of her offer: his
lordship not being able to appear, or to do the honours of the fête, was
a sufficient apology for his not giving it at Clermont-park.

The obsequious commissioner begged to have a list of any friends whom
Lord Oldborough particularly wished to have invited; but his lordship,
with a look of absence, replied, that he left all that entirely to Mrs.
Falconer; however, the very evening of the day on which the commissioner
paid his visit alone at the Hills, Lord Oldborough put into his hands a
list of the friends whom he wished should be invited to the ball, and at
the head of his list were the Percys.

"The Percys! the very people I first thought of!" said Mr. Falconer,
commanding his countenance carefully: "but I fear we cannot hope to have
them, they are at such a distance, and they have no carriage."

"Any of my carriages, all of them, shall be at their command," said Lord
Oldborough.

The commissioner reported this to Mrs. Falconer, observing that he had
gone to the very brink of offending Lord Oldborough to oblige her, as
he knew by his lordship's look and tone of voice; and that nothing now
could be done, but to visit the Percys, and as soon as possible, and to
send them a card of invitation for the ball.

"And, my dear, whatever you do, I am sure will be done with a good
grace," added the commissioner, observing that his lady looked
excessively discomfited.

"Very well, commissioner; you will have your daughter upon your hands,
that's all."

"I should be as sorry for that, my love, as you could be; but what can
be done? we must not lose the substance in running after the shadow.
Lord Oldborough might turn short round upon us."

"Not the least likely upon such a trifling occasion as this, where no
politics are in question. What can Mrs. or Miss Percy's being or not
being at this ball signify to Lord Oldborough?--a man who never in his
life thought of balls or cared any thing about women, and these are
women whom he has never seen. What interest can it possibly be of Lord
Oldborough's?"

"I cannot tell you, my dear--I don't see any immediate interest. But
there's an old private friendship in the case. Some way or other,
I declare I cannot tell you how, that old cousin Percy of mine has
contrived to get nearer to Lord Oldborough than any one living ever
could do--nearer to his heart."

"Heart!--Private friendship!" repeated Mrs. Falconer, with a tone of
ineffable contempt. "Well, I only wish you had said nothing about the
matter to Lord Oldborough; I could have managed it myself. Was there
ever such want of address! When you saw the Percys at the head of the
list, was that a time to say any thing about your fears of their not
coming? Do you think Lord Oldborough could not translate fears into
hopes? Then to mention their having no carriages!--when, if you had kept
your own counsel, that would have been our sufficient excuse at last.
They must have refused: nothing need have been said about it till the
night of the ball; and I would lay my life, Lord Oldborough would never,
in the mean time, have thought of it, or of them. But so silly! to
object in that way, when you know that the slightest contradiction
wakens Lord Oldborough's will, and then indeed you might as well talk to
his own Jupiter Tonans. If his lordship had set a beggar-woman's name at
the head of his list, and you had objected that she had no carriage,
he would directly have answered 'She shall have mine.' Bless me! It's
wonderful that people can pique themselves on address, and have so
little knowledge of character."

"My dear," said the commissioner, "if you reproach me from this time
till to-morrow, the end of the matter will be, that you must go and see
the Percys. I say, Mrs. Falconer," added he, assuming a peremptory tone,
for which he had acquired a taste from Lord Oldborough, but had seldom
courage or opportunity to indulge in it, "I say, Mrs. Falconer, the
thing must be done." He rang the bell in a gloriously authoritative
manner, and ordered the carriage.

A visit paid thus upon compulsion was not likely to be very agreeable;
but the complaints against the roads, the dreadful distance, and the
horrid necessity of being civil, need not be recorded. Miss Falconers
exclaimed when they at last came to the Hills, "La! I did not think it
was so tolerable a place!" Miss Georgiana hoped that they should,
at least, see Miss Caroline--she owned she was curious to see that
beautiful original, of whom the painter at Percy Hall, and her brother
Buckhurst, had said so much.

Mrs. Percy and Rosamond only were at home. Caroline had taken a walk
with her father to a considerable distance.

Mrs. Falconer, who had, by this time, completely recovered her
self-command, presented herself with such smiling grace, and expressed,
in such a tone of cordiality, her earnest desire, now that she had been
so happy as to get into the country, to enjoy the society of her friends
and relations, that Rosamond was quite charmed into a belief of at least
half of what she said. Rosamond was willing to attribute all that had
appeared, particularly of late, in contradiction of this lady's present
professions, to some political motives of Commissioner Falconer, whom
she disliked for his conduct to Buckhurst, and whom she was completely
willing to give up as a worldly-minded courtier. But whilst the manners
of the mother operated thus with Rosamond in favour of her moral
character, even Rosamond's easy faith and sanguine benevolence could not
see or hear any thing from the daughters that confirmed Mrs. Falconer's
flattering speeches; they sat in languid silence, looking upon
the animate and inanimate objects in the room with the same air of
supercilious listlessness. They could not speak so as to be heard, they
could not really understand any thing that Rosamond said to them; they
seemed as if their bodies had been brought into the room by mistake, and
their souls left behind them: not that they were in the least timid or
abashed; no, they seemed fully satisfied with their own inanity, and
proud to show that they had absolutely no ideas in common with those
into whose company they had been thus unfortunately compelled. Once or
twice they turned their heads with some signs of vivacity, when the door
opened, and when they expected to see Miss Caroline Percy enter: but
though the visit was protracted, in hopes of her return, yet at last
they were obliged to depart without having their curiosity satisfied.

Mrs. Falconer's fears of rivalship for her Georgiana were not diminished
by this visit. By those of the family whom she saw this day, she judged
of Caroline, whom she had not seen; and she had tact sufficient to
apprehend, that the conversation and manners of Mrs. Percy and
of Rosamond were such as might, perhaps, please a well-bred and
well-informed foreigner better, even, than the fashionable tone and
air of the day, of which he had not been long enough in England to
appreciate the conventional value. Still Mrs. Falconer had a lingering
hope that some difficulties about dress, or some happy cold, might
prevent these dangerous Percys from accepting the invitation to the
ball. When their answers to her card came, she gave one hasty glance at
it.

"Will do themselves the honour."

"My dear, you are alarming yourself unnecessarily," cried the
commissioner, who pitied the distress visible, at least to his eyes, in
her countenance; or who feared, perhaps, a renewal of reproaches for
his own want of address, "quite unnecessarily, believe me. I have had a
great deal of conversation with Count Altenberg since I spoke of him
to you last, and I am confirmed in my opinion that he merely feels the
curiosity natural to an enlightened traveller to become acquainted with
Mr. Percy, a man who has been described to him as a person of abilities.
And he wants to thank him in the name of his countrymen, who were
assisted, you know I told you, by the Percys, at the time of the
shipwreck. You will see, my dear, that the ladies of the family will be
nothing to him."

Mrs. Falconer sighed, and bit her lips.

"In half an hour's conversation, I would engage to find out the ruling
passion of any man, young or old. Now, remember I tell you, Mrs.
Falconer, Count Altenberg's ruling passion is ambition."

"Ruling passion!" repeated Mrs. Falconer; "one of your book-words,
and book-notions, that are always misleading you in practice. Ruling
passion!--Metaphysical nonsense! As if men were such consistent
creatures as to be ruled regularly by one passion--when often ten
different passions pull a man, even before your face, ten different
ways, and one cannot tell one hour what will be the ruling passion of
the next. Tell me the reigning fashion, and I will tell you the ruling
passion!--Luckily," continued Mrs. Falconer, after a pause of deep
consideration, "Georgiana is very fashionable--one of the most
fashionable young women in England, as the count might have seen when he
was in London. But then, on the other hand, whether he is judge enough
of English manners--Georgiana must be well dressed--and I know
the Count's taste in dress; I have made myself mistress of
that--commissioner, I must trouble you for some money."

"Mrs. Falconer, I have no money; and if I had," said the commissioner,
who always lost his temper when that subject was touched upon, "if I
had, I would not give it to you to throw away upon such a losing game--a
nonsensical speculation! Georgiana has not the least chance, nor has any
other English woman, were she as handsome as Venus and dressed in bank
notes--why, Mrs. Falconer, since you put me in a passion, I must tell
you a secret."

But checking himself, Mr. Falconer stood for a moment silent, and went
on with "Count Altenberg has made up his quarrel with the hereditary
prince, and I have it from undoubted authority, that he is to be the
prince's prime minister when he comes to the throne; and the present
prince, you know, as Cunningham says, is so infirm and asthmatic, that
he may be carried off at any moment."

"Very well--very likely--I am glad of it," said Mrs. Falconer: "but
where's the secret?"

"I've thought better of that, and I cannot tell it to you. But this much
I tell you positively, Mrs. Falconer, that you will lose your labour, if
you speculate upon the Count for Georgiana."

"Is he married? Answer me that question, and I will ask no more--and
that I have a right to ask."

"No--not married; but I can tell no more. Only let me beg that you
will just put all love notions out of Georgiana's head and your own, or
you'll make the girl ridiculous, and expose yourself, my dear. But, on
the other hand, let there be no deficiency of attention to the count,
for all our civilities to him will pay a hundred fold, and, perhaps,
sooner than you expect--for he may be prime minister and prime favourite
at Cunningham's court in a month, and of course will have it in his
power to forward Cunningham's interests. That is what I look to, Mrs.
Falconer; for I am long-sighted in my views, as you will find."

"Well, time will show. I am glad you tell me he positively is not
married," concluded Mrs. Falconer: "as to the rest, we shall see."



CHAPTER XXVI.


The evening appointed for Mrs. Falconer's ball at length arrived; and
all the neighbouring gentry assembled at Falconer-court. They were
received by Mrs. Falconer in a splendid saloon, newly furnished for this
occasion, which displayed in its decorations the utmost perfection of
modern taste and magnificence.

Mrs. Falconer was fitted, both by art and nature, to adorn a ball-room,
and conduct a ball. With that ease of manner which a perfect knowledge
of the world and long practice alone can give, she floated round the
circle, conscious that she was in her element. Her eye, with one glance,
seemed to pervade the whole assembly; her ear divided itself amongst
a multitude of voices; and her attention diffused itself over all with
equal grace. Yet that attention, universal as it seemed, was nicely
discriminative. Mistress of the art of pleasing, and perfectly
acquainted with all the shades of politeness, she knew how to dispose
them so as to conceal their boundaries, and even their gradation, from
all but the most skilful observers. They might, indeed, have formed,
from Mrs. Falconer's reception of each of her guests, an exact estimate
of their rank, fashion, and consequence in the world; for by these
standards she regulated her opinion, and measured her regard. Every one
present knew this to be her theory, and observed it to be her practice
towards others; but each flattered themselves by turns that they
discovered in her manner a personal exception in their own favour. In
the turn of her countenance, the tone of her voice, her smile or her
anxiety, in her distant respect or her affectionate familiarity, some
distinction was discerned peculiar to each individual.

The Miss Falconers, stationary at one end of the room, seemed to
have adopted manners diametrically opposite to those of their mother:
attraction being the principle of the mother, repulsion of the
daughters. Encircled amongst a party of young female friends, Miss
Falconers, with high-bred airs, confined to their own _coterie_ their
exclusive attention.

They left to their mother the responsibility and all the labour of
_doing the honours_ of her own house, whilst they enjoyed the glory of
being remarked and _wondered at_ by half the company; a circumstance
which, far from embarrassing, seemed obviously to increase their gaiety.

The ball could not begin till the band of a regiment, quartered in the
neighbourhood, arrived. Whilst they were waiting for the music, the Miss
Falconers and their party stationed themselves directly opposite to the
entrance of the saloon, so as to have a full view of the antechamber
through which the company were to pass--no one passed uncensured by this
confederacy. The first coup-d'oeil decided the fate of all who appeared,
and each of the fair judges vied with the others in the severity of
the sentence pronounced on the unfortunate persons who thus came before
their merciless tribunal.

"But I am astonished the Percys do not make their appearance," cried
Miss Georgiana Falconer.

"Has Sir Robert Percy any one with him?" asked one of the young ladies.

"I am not speaking of Sir Robert Percy," replied Miss Georgiana, "but
of the other branch, the fallen branch of the Percys--our relations
too--but we know nothing of them--only mamma was obliged to ask them for
to-night--And, Bell, only conceive how horribly provoking! because they
come, we sha'n't have Sir Robert Percy--just sent to excuse himself."

"Abominable! Now, really!--And for people quite out of the world, that
nobody ever heard of, except Lord Oldborough, who, ages ago, had some
political connexion, I think they say, with the father," said Miss
Arabella.

"No, they met abroad, or something of that sort," replied Miss
Georgiana.

"Was that it? Very likely--I know nothing about them: I only wish they
had stayed at home, where they are so fond of staying, I hear. You know,
Georgiana, Buckhurst told us, that when they had something to live upon
they never lived like other people, but always were buried alive in the
country; and Lady Jane Granville, with her own lips, told me, that, even
since they lost their fortune, she had asked one of these girls to
town with her and to Tunbridge--Now only conceive how kind! and what an
advantage that would have been--And, can you believe it? Mr. Percy was
so unaccountable, and they all so odd, that they refused--Lady Jane,
of course, will never ask them again. But now, must not they be the
silliest creatures in the universe?"

"Silly! Oh! dear, no: there you are wrong, Bell; for you know they are
all so wise, and so learned, so blue, such a deep blue, and all that
sort of thing, that, for my part, I shall never dare to open my lips
before them."

"Fortunately," said one of the young ladies, "you have not much to fear
from their learning at a ball; and as dancers I don't apprehend you have
much to dread from any of them, even from _the beauty_."

"Why, scarcely," said Miss Georgiana; "I own I shall be curious to see
how they will _get on--'comment ces savantes se tireront d'affaire_.'
I wonder they are not here. Keep your eye on the door, dear Lady
Frances--I would not miss their entrée for millions."

In vain eyes and glasses were fixed in expectation of the arrival of
these devoted objects of ridicule--another, and another, and another
came, but not the Percys.

The band was now ready, and began to play--Count Altenberg entered
the room. Quick as grace can venture to move, Mrs. Falconer glided to
receive him. Miss Georgiana Falconer, at the same moment, composed her
features into their most becoming position, and gave herself a fine air
of the head. The Count bowed to her--she fanned herself, and her eye
involuntarily glanced, first at a brilliant star he wore, and then at
her mother, whilst, with no small degree of anxiety, she prepared to
play off, on this decisive evening, all her artillery, to complete her
conquest--to complete her victory, for she flattered herself that only
the finishing blow was wanting. In this belief her female companions
contributed to confirm her, though probably they were all the time
laughing at her vanity.

Mrs. Falconer requested Count Altenberg to open the ball with Lady
Frances Arlington. After having obeyed her orders, he next led out Miss
Georgiana Falconer, evidently to her satisfaction; the more so, as she
was conscious of being, at that moment, the envy of at least half the
company.

Count Altenberg, quite unconscious of being himself the object of any
attention, seemed to think only of showing his partner to advantage; if
he danced well, it appeared to be only because he habitually moved with
ease and dignity, and that whatever he did he looked like a gentleman.
His fair partner danced admirably, and now surpassed herself.

It was repeated to Mrs. Falconer, that Colonel Bremen, the Count's
friend, had told some one that the Count had declared he had never
seen any thing equal to Miss Georgiana Falconer, except at the opera at
Paris. At this triumphant moment Miss Georgiana could have seen, with
security and complacency, the arrival of Miss Caroline Percy. The more
prudent mother, however, was well satisfied with her absence. Every
thing conspired to Mrs. Falconer's satisfaction. The ball was far
advanced, and no Percys appeared. Mrs. Falconer wondered, and deplored,
and at length it came near the hour when supper was ordered--the
commissioner inquired whether Mrs. Falconer was certain that she had
named the right day on the card?

"Oh! certain--But it is now so late, I am clear they will not be here
to-night."

"Very extraordinary, to keep Lord Oldborough's carriage and servants!"
said the commissioner: "they went in time, I am sure, for I saw them set
out."

"All I know is, that we have done every thing that is proper," said
Mrs. Falconer, "and Lord Oldborough cannot blame us--as to the Count, he
seems quite _content_."

Mrs. Falconer's accent seemed to imply something more than _content_;
but this was not a proper time or place to contest the point. The
husband passed on, saying to himself "Absurd!" The wife went on, saying
"Obstinate!"

Count Altenberg had led his partner to a seat, and as soon as he quitted
her, the young ladies of her party all flattered her, in congratulatory
whispers: one observed that there was certainly something very
particular in Count Altenberg's manner, when he first spoke to Miss
Georgiana Falconer; another remarked that he always spoke to Miss
Georgiana Falconer with emotion and embarrassment; a third declared that
her eye was fixed upon the Count, and she saw him several times change
colour--all, in short, agreed that the Count's heart was Miss Georgiana
Falconer's devoted prize. She the while, with well-affected incredulity
and secret complacency, half repressed and half encouraged these remarks
by frequent exclamations of "La! how can you think so!--Why will you say
such things!--Dear! how can you be so tormenting--so silly, now, to have
such fancies!--But did he really change colour?"--In love with her! She
wondered how such an idea could ever come into their heads--she should,
for her part, never have dreamed of such a thing--indeed, she was
positive they were mistaken. Count Altenberg in love with her!--Oh, no,
there could be nothing in it.

Whilst she spoke, her eyes followed the Count, who, quite unconscious of
his danger, undisturbed by any idea of Miss Georgiana Falconer and
love, two ideas which probably never had entered his mind together, was
carelessly walking down the room, his thoughts apparently occupied
with the passing scene. He had so much the habit of observing men
and manners, without appearing to observe them, that, under an air
of gaiety, he carried his understanding, as it were, incognito. His
observation glanced on all the company as he passed. Miss Georgiana
Falconer lost sight of him as he reached the end of the saloon; he
disappeared in the antechamber.

Soon afterwards a report reached her that the Percy family were arrived;
that Count Altenberg had been particularly struck by the sight of one of
the Miss Percys, and had been overheard to whisper to his friend
Colonel Bremen, "Very like the picture! but still more _mind_ in the
countenance!"

At hearing this, Miss Georgiana Falconer grew first red and then turned
pale; Mrs. Falconer, though scarcely less confounded, never changed
a muscle of her face, but leaving every body to choose their various
comments upon the Count's words, and simply saying, "Are the Percys come
at last?" she won her easy way through the crowd, whispering to
young Petcalf as she passed, "Now is your time, Petcalf, my good
creature--Georgiana is disengaged."

Before Mrs. Falconer got to the antechamber, another report met her,
"that the Percys had been overturned, and had been terribly hurt."

"Overturned!--terribly hurt!--Good Heavens!" cried Mrs. Falconer, as she
entered the antechamber. But the next person told her they were not
in the least hurt--still pressing forward, she exclaimed, "Mrs. Percy!
Where is Mrs. Percy? My dear madam! what has happened? Come the wrong
road, did you?--broken bridge--And were you really overturned?"

"No, no, only obliged to get out and walk a little way."

"Oh! I am sorry--But I am so glad to see you all safe!--When it grew
late, I grew so uneasy!" Then turning towards Caroline, "Miss Caroline
Percy, I am sure, though I had never, till now, the pleasure of seeing
her."

An introduction of Caroline by Mrs. Percy, in due form, took place. Mrs.
Falconer next recognized Mr. Percy, declared he did not look a day older
than when she had seen him fifteen years before--then recurring to the
ladies, "But, my dear Mrs. Percy, are you sure that your shoes are not
wet through?--Oh! my dear madam, Miss Percy's are terribly wet! and
Miss Caroline's!--Positively, the young ladies must go to my
dressing-room--the shoes must be dried." Mrs. Falconer said that perhaps
her daughters could accommodate the Miss Percys with others.

It was in vain that Rosamond protested her shoes were not wet, and that
her sister's were perfectly dry; a few specks on their white justified
Mrs. Falconer's apprehensions.

"Where is my Arabella? If there was any body I could venture to
trouble--"

Count Altenberg instantly offered his services. "Impossible to trouble
you, Count! But since you are so very good, perhaps you could find
one of my daughters for me--Miss Falconer--if you are so kind,
sir--Georgiana I am afraid is dancing."

Miss Falconer was found, and despatched with the Miss Percys, in spite
of all they could say to the contrary, to Mrs. Falconer's dressing-room.
Rosamond was permitted, without much difficulty, to do as she pleased;
but Mrs. Falconer's infinite fears lest Caroline should catch her death
of cold could not be appeased, till she had submitted to change her
shoes.

"Caroline!" said Rosamond, in a low voice, "Caroline! do not put on
those shoes--they are too large--you will never be able to dance in
them."

"I know that--but I am content. It is better to yield than to debate the
point any longer," said Caroline.

When they returned to the ball-room, Count Altenberg was in earnest
conversation with Mr. Percy; but Mrs. Falconer observed that the Count
saw Miss Caroline Percy the moment she re-appeared.

"Now is not it extraordinary," thought she, "when Georgiana dances so
well! is infinitely more fashionable, and so charmingly dressed!--What
can strike him so much in this girl's appearance?"

It was not her appearance that struck him. He was too well accustomed to
see beauty and fashion in public places to be caught at first sight by a
handsome face, or by a young lady's exhibition of her personal graces at
a ball; but a favourable impression had been made on his mind by what he
had previously heard of Miss Caroline Percy's conduct and character: her
appearance confirmed this impression precisely, because she had not the
practised air of a professed beauty, because she did not seem in the
least to be thinking of herself, or to expect admiration. This was
really uncommon, and, therefore, it fixed the attention of a man like
Count Altenberg. He asked Caroline to dance; she declined dancing.
Mr. Temple engaged Rosamond, and the moment he led her away, the Count
availed himself of her place, and a conversation commenced, which soon
made Mrs. Falconer regret that Caroline had declined dancing. Though the
Count was a stranger to the Percy family, yet there were many subjects
of common interest of which he knew how to avail himself. He began by
speaking of Mr. Alfred Percy, of the pleasure he had had in becoming
acquainted with him, of the circumstance which led to this acquaintance:
then he passed, to Lord Oldborough--to M. de Tourville--to the
shipwreck. He paused at Percy-hall, for he felt for those to whom he was
speaking. They understood him, but they did not avoid the subject;
he then indulged himself in the pleasure of repeating some of the
expressions of attachment to their old landlord, and of honest affection
and gratitude, which he had heard from the peasants in the village.

Mrs. Falconer moved away the moment she foresaw this part of the
conversation, but she was only so far removed as to prevent the
necessity of her taking any part in it, or of appearing to hear what
it might be awkward for her to hear, considering her intimacy with Sir
Robert Percy. She began talking to an old lady about her late illness,
of which she longed to hear from her own lips all the particulars; and
whilst the old lady told her case, Mrs. Falconer, with eyes fixed upon
her, and making, at proper intervals, all the appropriate changes
of countenance requisite to express tender sympathy, alarm, horror,
astonishment, and joyful congratulation, contrived, at the same time,
through the whole progress of fever, and the administration of half the
medicines in the London Pharmacopoeia, to hear every thing that was said
by Count Altenberg, and not to lose a word that was uttered by Caroline.
Mrs. Falconer was particularly anxious to know what would be said about
the picture in the gallery at Percy-hall, with which the Count had been
so much charmed. When he got into the gallery, Mrs. Falconer listened
with breathless eagerness, yet still smiling on the old lady's
never-ending history of her convalescence, and of a shawl undoubtedly
Turkish, with the true, inestimable, inimitable, little border.

Not a word was said of the picture--but a pause implied more to alarm
Mrs. Falconer than could have been expressed by the most flattering
compliment.

Mrs. Falconer wondered why supper was so late. She sent to order that it
might be served as soon as possible; but her man, or her gentleman cook,
was not a person to be hurried. Three successive messengers were sent in
vain. He knew his importance, and preserved his dignity. The caramel
was not ready, and nothing could make him dispense with its proper
appearance.

How much depended on this caramel! How much, of which the cook never
dreamed! How much Mrs. Falconer suffered during this half hour, and
suffered with a smiling countenance! How much, with a scowling brow,
Miss Georgiana Falconer made poor Petcalf endure!

Every thing conspired to discomfit Mrs. Falconer. She saw the manner
in which all the principal gentry in the country, one after another,
expressed satisfaction at meeting the Percy family. She saw the regard
and respect with which they were addressed, notwithstanding their loss
of fortune and station. It was quite astonishing to Mrs. Falconer.
Every body in the rooms, except her own set of town friends, seemed
_so strangely_ interested about this family. "How provoking that I was
obliged to ask them here!--And Count Altenberg sees and hears all this!"

Yes--all this confirmed, by the testimony of their equals in rank,
the favourable ideas he had first received of the Percys from their
inferiors and dependants. Every person who spoke to or of Caroline--and
he heard many speak of her who had known her from childhood--showed
affection in their countenance and manner.

At length, supper was announced, and Mrs. Falconer requested Count
Altenberg would take Lady Frances Arlington into the supper-room. Miss
Georgiana Falconer was anxious to sit as near as possible to her dear
Lady Frances, and this was happily accomplished.

The Count was more than usually agreeable; but whether this arose from
his desire to please the ladies who sat beside him, or those who sat
opposite to him, those to whom he was in politeness bound to address his
conversation, or those whose attention he might hope it would attract,
were questions of difficult solution.

As they were returning into the ball-room, Rosamond watched her
opportunity, made her way along a passage which led to Mrs. Falconer's
dressing-room, seized her sister's shoes, returned with the prize before
Caroline reached the antechamber, and, unseen by all, made her put them
on--"Now promise me not to refuse to dance, if you are asked again."

Count Altenberg engaged Miss Georgiana Falconer the first two
dances--when these were finished, he asked Caroline to dance, and Mrs.
Falconer, who dreaded the renewal of conversation between them, and
who knew nothing of Rosamond's counter-manoeuvre about the shoes, was
surprised and rejoiced when she saw Caroline comply, and suffer herself
to be led out by Count Altenberg. But Miss Georgiana, who had
observed that Rosamond danced well, had fears--the mother's hopes were
disappointed, the daughter's fears were justified. Caroline showed all
the capability of dancing without being a dancer, and it certainly
did not escape the Count's observation that she possessed what is most
desirable in female accomplishments, the power to excel without the wish
to display. Immediately after she had finished these dances, the favour
of her hand was solicited by a certain Colonel Spandrill. Colonel
Spandrill, celebrated for his fashionable address and personal
accomplishments, had been the hoped-for partner of many rival ladies,
and his choice excited no small degree of emotion. However, it was
settled that he only danced with Miss Percy because Mrs. Falconer had
made it her particular request. One of these ladies declared she had
overheard that request; Colonel Spandrill then was safe from all
blame, but the full fire of their resentment was directed against poor
Caroline. Every feature of her face was criticised, and even the minutiæ
of her dress. They all allowed that she was handsome, but each found
some different fault with her style of beauty. It was curious to observe
how this secondary class of young ladies, who had without discomfiture
or emotion seen Caroline the object of Count Altenberg's attention,
were struck with indignation the moment they suspected her of pleasing
Colonel Spandrill. Envy seldom takes two steps at once: it is always
excited by the fear of losing the proximate object of ambition; it never
exists without some mixture of hope as well as of fear. These ladies
having no hope of captivating Count Altenberg, Caroline did not then
appear to be their rival; but now that they dreaded her competition with
a man whom they had hopes of winning, they pulled her to pieces without
mercy.

The Miss Falconers and their quadrille-set were resting themselves,
whilst this country dance was going on. Miss Georgiana was all the
time endeavouring to engage Count Altenberg in conversation. By all
the modern arts of coquetry, so insipid to a man of the world, so
contemptible to a man of sense, she tried to recall the attention of the
Count. Politeness obliged him to seem to listen, and he endeavoured to
keep up that kind of conversation which is suited to a ball-room; but he
relapsed continually into reverie, till at last, provoked by his absence
of mind, Miss Georgiana, unable to conceal her vexation, unjustly threw
the blame upon her health. She complained of the headache, of heat, of
cold, of country dances--such barbarous things!--How could any one bear
any thing but quadrilles? Then the music--the band was horrid!--they
played vastly too fast--shocking! there was no such thing as keeping
time--did not Count Altenberg think so?

Count Altenberg was at that moment beating time with his foot, in exact
cadence to Miss Caroline Percy's dancing: Miss Falconer saw this, but
not till she had uttered her question, not till it had been observed by
all her companions. Lady Frances Arlington half smiled, and half a smile
instantly appeared along a whole line of young ladies. Miss Georgiana
suddenly became sensible that she was exposed to the ridicule or
sarcastic pity of those who but an hour before had flattered her in
the grossest manner: she had expected to produce a great effect at this
ball--she saw another preferred. Her spirits sunk, and even the powers
of affectation failed. The struggle between the fine lady and the woman
ceased. Passion always conquers art at a _coup de main_. When any strong
emotion of the soul is excited, the natural character, temper, and
manners seldom fail to break through all that is factitious--those who
had seen Miss Georgiana Falconer only through the veil of affectation
were absolutely astonished at the change that appeared when it was
thrown aside. By the Count the metamorphosis was unnoticed, for he was
intent on another object; but by many of the spectators it was beheld
with open surprise, or secret contempt. She exhibited at this moment the
picture of a disappointed coquette--the spasm of jealousy had seized her
heart; and, unable to conceal or endure the pain in this convulsion of
mind, she forgot all grace and decorum. Her mother from afar saw the
danger at this crisis, and came to her relief. The danger in Mrs.
Falconer's opinion was, that the young lady's want of temper should be
seen by Count Altenberg; she therefore carried him off to a distant part
of the room, to show him, as she said, "a bassoon player, who was the
exact image of Hogarth's enraged musician."

In the mean time Colonel Spandrill and Caroline had finished their
dance: and the colonel, who made it a principle to engross the attention
of the prettiest woman in the room, was now, after his manner, paying
his adorations to his fair partner. Promising himself that he should be
able to recede or advance as he thought proper, he used a certain happy
ambiguity of phrase, which, according to the manner in which it is
understood, or rather according to the tone and look with which it is
accompanied, says every thing--or nothing. With prudent caution,
he began with darts, flames, wounds, and anguish; words which every
military man holds himself privileged to use towards every fine woman he
meets. Darts, flames, wounds, and anguish, were of no avail. The colonel
went on, as far as bright eyes--bewitching smiles--and heavenly grace.
Still without effect. With astonishment he perceived that the girl, who
looked as if she had never heard that she was handsome, received the
full fire of his flattery with the composure of a veteran inured to
public admiration.

Mrs. Falconer was almost as much surprised and disappointed by this as
the colonel could be. She had purposely introduced the gallant Colonel
Spandrill to the Miss Percys, in hopes that Caroline's head might be
_affected_ by flattery; and that she might not then retain all that
dignity of manner which, as Mrs. Falconer had sense enough to see,
was her distinguishing charm in the eyes of the Count. Frustrated, and
dreading every instant that with all her address she should not be
able to manage her Georgiana's temper, Mrs. Falconer became excessively
impatient for the departure of the Percy family.

"Mr. Falconer!" cried she; "Commissioner! Mrs. Percy ordered her
carriage a considerable time ago. They have a great way to return, and
a dreadful road--I am uneasy about them--do pray be so good to see what
detains her carriage."

The commissioner went out of the room, and a few minutes afterwards
returned, and taking Mrs. Falconer aside, said, "I have something to
tell you, my dear, that will surprise you--indeed I can scarcely believe
it. Long as I have known Lord Oldborough, I never knew him do, or think
of doing such a thing--and he ill--at least ill enough with the gout,
for an excuse--an excuse he thought sufficient for the whole county--and
there are people of so much more consequence--I protest I cannot
understand it."

"Understand what, commissioner?--Will you tell me what has happened, and
you may be as much surprised as you please afterwards? Lord Oldborough
has the gout," added she, in an accent which expressed "_Well, all the
world knows that._"

"Lord Oldborough's own confidential man Rodney, you know--"

"Well, well, Rodney I do know--what of him?"

"He is here--I have seen him this instant--from his lord, with a message
to Mr. Percy, to let him know that there are apartments prepared for him
and all his family at Clermont-park; and that he insists upon their not
returning this night to the Hills, lest the ladies should be tired."

"Lord Oldborough!" repeated Mrs. Falconer; "Lord Oldborough!--the
ladies!--Clermont-park! where none but persons of the first distinction
are invited!"

"Ay, now you are surprised," cried the commissioner.

"Surprised! beyond all power of expression," said Mrs. Falconer.

"Beyond all power of dissimulation," she should have said.

"Count Altenberg, too, going to hand them to their carriage--going
to Clermont-park with them!--I wish to Heaven," said Mrs. Falconer to
herself, "I had never given this unfortunate ball!"

Mrs. Falconer was mistaken in this idea. It was not the circumstance of
meeting Caroline at a ball that made this impression on Count Altenberg;
wherever he had seen her, if he had had opportunity of conversing, and
of observing the dignity and simplicity of her manner, the same effect
would have been produced--but in fact Mrs. Falconer's fears, and her
daughter's jealousy, had much magnified the truth. Count Altenberg had
not, as they fancied, fallen desperately in love at first sight with
Caroline--he had only been pleased and interested sufficiently to make
him desirous to see more of her. Caroline, though so much the object of
jealousy, had not the slightest idea that she had made a conquest--she
simply thought the count's conversation agreeable, and she was glad that
she should see him again at breakfast the next morning.



CHAPTER XXVII.


Mr. and Mrs. Percy accepted of Lord Oldborough's invitation. They found
apartments prepared for them at Clermont-park, and servants ready
to attend, with the officious promptitude with which a great man's
domestics usually wait upon those who are supposed to stand high in
their master's favour.

During his illness Lord Oldborough had always breakfasted in his own
room; but his lordship appeared at the breakfast-table the morning after
the ball, ready to receive his guests. Nothing could be more gracious,
more polite, more kind, than his reception of Mr. Percy and his family.
From the moment he was introduced to the wife and daughters of his
friend, he seemed to throw aside the reserve and coldness of his
manner--to forget at once the statesman and the minister, the affairs
of Europe and the intrigues of the cabinet--to live entirely for the
present moment and the present company. The company consisted of the
Percy family, Count Altenberg, and Mr. Temple. It was a common practice
with Lord Oldborough to set conversation a-going, then to become silent,
and to retire to his own thoughts--he would just throw the ball, and
leave others to run for it. But now he condescended at least to join in
the pursuit, though apparently without ambition to obtain distinction in
the race. After breakfast he showed the ladies into his library; and, as
he was himself disabled, requested Mr. Temple to take down such books or
prints as he thought most worthy of their attention. Literature had been
neglected, perhaps undervalued, by Lord Oldborough, since he had devoted
himself to politics; but he could at will recall the classical stores
of his youth; and on modern books his quick eye and ear, joined to his
strong and rapid judgment, enabled him to decide better than many who
make it the only business of their lives to read. Even Mr. Percy, who
knew him best, was surprised; and still more surprised was Mr. Temple,
who had seen him in varieties of company, some of the highest rank and
fashion both in wit and literature, where his lordship had appeared
either absent of mind or a silent listener; but he now exerted those
powers of conversation which he usually suffered to lie dormant. Instead
of waiting in proud expectation that those who were in his company
should prove their claims to his attention, he now produced his own
intellectual treasures; evidently not for the vanity of display, but to
encourage his guests to produce those talents which he seemed to take it
for granted that they possessed. It appeared to be his sole object, his
pride and pleasure, to pay attention to the wife and daughters of
his friend; and to show them and him to advantage to an illustrious
foreigner.

"Yes," said he, apart to Count Altenberg, "I am proud to show you a
specimen of a cultivated independent country gentleman and his family."

With his usual penetration, Lord Oldborough soon discerned the
characteristics of each of the ladies of this family--the good sense
and good breeding of Mrs. Percy, the wit and generous simplicity of
Rosamond, the magnanimity and the superior understanding of Caroline.
As instances of these different qualities appeared, his quick and
brightening eye marked his approbation, sometimes by a glance at Count
Altenberg, by a nod to Mr. Temple, or by a congratulatory smile as he
turned to Mr. Percy.

"I now comprehend," said his lordship, "why Mr. Percy could never be
induced to take a part in public business. Ladies, you have done a
great injury to your country--you have made this gentleman too happy in
domestic life."

Lord Oldborough spoke this in a tone of raillery, and with a smile--but
the smile was succeeded by a deep sigh, and a dark gloom of countenance.
At this moment one of his secretaries, Mr. Shaw, came in with papers
to be signed. The minister reappeared. Lord Oldborough's mind turned
instantly to business; he withdrew to a table apart, sat down, and began
to look over the first paper that was laid before him. Mr. Percy rang
the bell, and something was said about not intruding on his lordship's
time--he looked up: "Mr. Temple, you are free. Mr. Shaw shall finish
whatever letters it is necessary should be written this morning. You
shall have the pleasure of being with your friends. It is a pleasure you
deserve, sir, and can appreciate. Mrs. Percy expressed a wish to see
the grounds--you will show them to these ladies. I am a prisoner still,"
said his lordship, looking down at his gouty hand, "and always shall be
a prisoner," added he, turning his eye upon the papers which Mr. Shaw
held.

The ladies, accompanied by Mr. Temple, and by Count Altenberg, went
out to walk. Mr. Percy stayed one moment to express his sense of the
extraordinary politeness and kindness with which Lord Oldborough had
honoured him and his family.

"You owe me no thanks, my dear sir. Kindness can be repaid only by
kindness. It is a species of debt, which in the course of my life I have
seldom been called upon to pay."

This was said not in a voice either of sentiment or of compliment, but
rather in an austere tone, and with a stern countenance of conquered
emotion. Without looking at Mr. Percy, he received and answered the
farewell shake of the hand; his lips were instantly after strongly
compressed; and, taking up his pen, the man was again absorbed in the
minister.

Mr. Percy joined the party who were going to walk in the park. Count
Altenberg had been unusually silent in Lord Oldborough's company: with
the becoming deference of a young man, in the presence of one superior
in age, and in high station, he had listened, eager to learn, instead
of impatient to talk. Attention of course now turned upon him, as the
stranger and the foreigner.

With the same perfect taste and good-breeding with which he knew how
to pay honour due, he received it, and appeared as much at his ease,
whether he was in the shade or the light, whether he was unnoticed or
the object of general attention. He had that air of self-possession,
which characterizes a person secure of his own resources, and not afraid
to produce his abilities.

The conversation turned at first upon the beauties of
nature--Clermont-park was one of the really magnificent places in
England which an Englishman may feel proud to show to a foreigner.

Count Altenberg politely and justly observed how different the country
seats of our nobility are from the ruinous and comfortless _chateaux_ of
most of the French nobility.

Clermont-park, however, was not new to the count. Commissioner Falconer
had the day after his arrival shown him every thing that was to be seen:
his attention, therefore, as they pursued their walk, was not so
much distracted by external objects as to prevent him from wishing to
converse. Finding that Mr. Percy had travelled, he spoke of Switzerland
and Italy; and, without any of the jargon of a connoisseur, showed that
he felt with sensibility and enthusiasm the beautiful and sublime. It
soon appeared that he had seen various countries, not merely with the
eye of a painter and a poet, but of a philosophical traveller, who
can allow for the differences of national taste, and discern how its
variations are influenced by climate, education, government, and local
circumstances. In his rapid panorama of foreign countries, he showed
variety of knowledge, and without illiberal prejudice against any
nation, an amiable predilection for his native country. Next to his own
country he preferred England, which, as he said, by the mother's side,
he might call his own. She had early instilled into him an admiration
for our free constitution, and a love of our domestic habits; but he had
never before visited this country, and he was particularly desirous to
obtain an accurate knowledge of England, and of the manners and modes of
life of its inhabitants. He seemed thus eager to obtain information, not
merely to gratify a cursory or selfish curiosity, but with a view to the
future, and with a hope of doing permanent good. It was clear that he
was not only a philosophical but a benevolent traveller, to whom nothing
that concerns his fellow-creatures is foreign or indifferent. His
treasuring up all he had seen abroad, that could be useful at home,
reminded Caroline of Colonel Hungerford; but she observed that Count
Altenberg's views were more enlarged; he was unbiassed by professional
habits; his sphere of action was higher; heir to extensive property,
with all the foreign rights of territorial dominion hereditarily his;
and with a probability of obtaining the political power of ministerial
station; plans, which in other circumstances might have been romantic,
with Count Altenberg's prospects and abilities, were within the
bounds of sound judgment and actual practicability. But whatever
these intentions might be, they were only to be inferred from his
conversation; he scarcely spoke of himself, or of his own designs;
whatever he was led to say on such subjects, he seemed, immediately
after he had said it, to feel as an impropriety, not justified by the
slight interest which the acquaintance of a few hours could inspire.

He changed the conversation by asking some questions about a celebrated
English writer. In return for the information Mr. Percy gave him, he
spoke of some recent foreign publications--related several anecdotes of
literary foreigners. His anecdotes were interesting, because, in each,
there was something characteristic of the individual, or illustrative of
some general principle of human nature. To gratify Mr. Percy, the Count
spoke of some public events of which he had had means of obtaining
information. He had not neglected any of the opportunities he enjoyed,
and whether he talked of civil or military affairs, he showed the same
_efficient_ knowledge, and the same superior ability.

Caroline, leaning on her father's arm, listened with a countenance full
of intelligence, animation, and sympathy; she looked alternately at the
Count and at her father, whose satisfaction she saw and enjoyed. Feeling
that he was appreciated by the father, inspired by the charms of the
daughter, and excited by the idea he had formed of her character,
Count Altenberg had indeed been uncommonly agreeable, entertaining, and
eloquent. During this walk, though Caroline said but little, yet that
little, to a man of the Count's discernment, was sufficient to show good
judgment and great capacity. This increased the admiration and interest
which her beauty and manners, and all he had heard of her conduct,
created.

It is said to be one of the characteristics of genius, that it is able
quickly to discover and elicit genius, wherever it exists. It is certain
that with the celerity of intuition, of sympathy, or of practised
penetration, Count Altenberg perceived Caroline's intellectual
superiority. He had been, at first, curious to discover whether her
mental qualifications were equal to her extraordinary personal beauty;
but he had soon forgotten his intention of trying her abilities, in
anxiety to convince her of his own. The whole turn and style of his
conversation now proved, more than any compliment could possibly
have shown, the high opinion he had of her understanding, and of the
elevation of her mind. A woman may always judge of the real estimation
in which she is held, by the conversation which is addressed to her.

All this time, where were Rosamond, Mrs. Percy, and Mr. Temple? Mr.
Temple had taken them to see a fine view; Mr. Percy proposed to sit down
and quietly wait their return; Caroline and the Count seemed to have no
objection to oblige him, and they placed themselves under a spreading
beech. They had not been seated many minutes, before they were
interrupted by the appearance of Commissioner Falconer, who came, by a
cross path, from the house.

"At last I have found you. What a prodigious walk you have taken!" cried
the commissioner, wiping his forehead. "But where's Mrs. Percy and the
rest of your party? I have so walked to catch you--rode over on purpose
to pay my compliments to the ladies before they return home--and I come
chargé d'affaires from Mrs. Falconer to Mrs. Percy. I must see Mrs.
Percy--Oh! here she is, coming down the hill--ay, from the _point
of view_--Mercy! how you have walked: I am not equal to the _grand
tour_--it kills me. But I am so sorry I was not here time enough to do
the honours of Clermont-park, as Lord Oldborough is confined. Who has
Mrs. Percy for her cicerone? Ha! Mr. Temple--I thought he was always so
busy--deputed by Lord Oldborough--really!--Hum--I hope Lord Oldborough
did not conceive that there was any want of _empressement_ on my part--I
should have been here a full hour sooner, but that my ladies were so
late at breakfast after sitting up--and I thought your ladies might have
been fatigued too--but Miss Caroline Percy, I see, fresh as a rose--"

The commissioner then, as if half in jest, half in earnest, paid
Caroline a profusion of compliments upon her appearance the preceding
night--numbered on his fingers the conquests she had made, and the
hearts she had broken. Mrs. Percy, Rosamond, and Mr. Temple came up; and
as soon as they had expressed their raptures on the beauty of this view,
the commissioner presented his note from Mrs. Falconer to Mrs. Percy,
to which, he said, he was most anxious to be the bearer of a favourable
answer, as he knew that he should otherwise be ill-received at home,
and the disappointment would be great. The note contained a pressing
invitation to a play, which the young people at Falconer-court had it in
contemplation to represent. Whether it was to be Zara or Cato, they had
not yet positively decided--for Cato they were in terrible distress for
a Marcia--could Miss Caroline Percy be prevailed upon to try Marcia? She
would look the part so well, and, no doubt, act it so well. Or if she
preferred Zara, Miss Georgiana Falconer would, with pleasure, take the
part of the confidante. Dresses in great forwardness, Turkish or Roman,
convertible, in a few hours' notice--should wait Miss Percy's decision.

"Well, my dear Caroline, what say you?" cried Mrs. Percy.

Caroline was going to answer.

"No, no, don't answer yet," interrupted the commissioner: "let me add,
what I find Mrs. Falconer took it for granted I would say, that there
can be no possible difficulty or inconvenience about the goings and
comings, and horses and carriages, and beds, and all that sort of
thing--for our horses and carriages can have nothing to do whilst the
ladies are rehearsing--shall attend you any day--any hour--and beds
we can contrive: so, I beseech you, let none of these vulgar sublunary
considerations deprive us of a Zara or a Marcia--But say, which shall it
be?--Which character, my charming cousin, will you do us the honour and
pleasure to take?"

Count Altenberg advanced a step, full of eager expectation. When he
heard Caroline pronounce, with great politeness, a refusal, for the
first moment he looked disappointed, but the next seemed satisfied and
pleased. It would have highly gratified and interested him to have seen
Caroline act either the sublime or the tender heroine, but he preferred
seeing her support her own character with modest dignity.

Commissioner Falconer pleaded and pressed in vain; Caroline was steady
in her refusal, though the manner of it was so gentle, that every
instant he thought he should vanquish her reluctance. At length he
turned from the ladies to the gentlemen for assistance.

"Mr. Temple, I am sure you will join my entreaties--Count Altenberg--"

Count Altenberg "would not presume to ask a favour, which had been
refused to the commissioner and to Mrs. Falconer." Caroline understood,
and gave him credit for his politeness.

"Then, if I must give up this point," said the commissioner, "at least
do not let me return disappointed in every respect--let me hope that you
will all favour us with your company at our play."

This invitation was accepted with many thanks.

"And, remember, you must not run away from us that night," added
the commissioner. "Mrs. Falconer will have reason to be jealous of
Clermont-park, if she finds that it draws our friends and relations away
from Falconer-court."

The carriage, which had been ordered to the great gate of the park, was
now waiting there, and the commissioner took leave of his relations,
with many shakes of the hand and many expressions of regret. Count
Altenberg continued talking to Caroline till the last moment; and after
he had handed her into the carriage, as he took leave of Mr. Percy,
he said that he had to thank him and his family for some of the most
agreeable among the many agreeable hours he had passed since he came to
England.

On their way home, this happy family-party eagerly talked over every
thing and every body that had interested them--first and chiefly they
spoke of Count Altenberg. Caroline said how often, during their walk,
she had regretted her mother's and sister's absence. She recollected
and reminded her father of some of the striking circumstances they had
heard, and Mr. Percy and she repeated so many curious and interesting
anecdotes, so many just observations and noble sentiments, that Mrs.
Percy and Rosamond were quite charmed with the Count. Rosamond, however,
was surprised by the openness and ease with which Caroline praised and
talked of this gentleman.

"I will say nothing," thought she; "for I am determined to be prudent
this time. But certainly here is no danger that her love should unsought
be won. Only this I may and must think, that Caroline cannot, without
affectation, avoid seeing that she has made a conquest."

Mistaken again, Rosamond--Caroline had neither seen nor suspected it.
Count Altenberg's gratitude for the hospitality shown to his countrymen
at the time of the shipwreck, his recent acquaintance with her brother
Alfred, and all he had heard of her father from the grateful tenants at
Percy-hall, accounted, as Caroline justly thought, for the eagerness he
had shown to be introduced to her family. His conversing so much with
her, she thought, was natural, as he was a stranger to most of the
company, and had some subjects of conversation in common with her and
her family. Caroline was not apt to imagine admiration in every word
or look; she was not expert in construing every compliment into a
declaration or an innuendo of love.

His conversation, during their walk, had been perfectly free from all
compliment. It had been on subjects so interesting, that she had been
carried on without having had time to think of love. A good and great
character had opened to her view, and she had been so absorbed in
sympathy, that though she had thought of nothing but Count Altenberg,
she had never thought of him with any reference to herself.

The morning after their return home, Count Altenberg came to the Hills,
accompanied by Mr. Temple. They stayed till it was late; for the Count
seemed to forget the hour of the day, till reminded of it by Mr. Temple.
Caroline, in her own family, at her home, pleased Count Altenberg
particularly. The interest he felt about her increased, and he
afterwards took or made frequent opportunities of calling at the Hills:
his conversation was generally addressed to Mr. Percy, but he observed
Caroline with peculiar attention--and Rosamond was confirmed in her
opinion. A few weeks passed in this manner, while the play was preparing
at Falconer-court. But before we go to the play, let us take a peep
behind the scenes, and inquire what is and has been doing by the
Falconer family. Even they who are used to the ennui subsequent
to dissipation, even they who have experienced the vicissitudes
of coquetry, the mortifications of rivalship, and the despair of
disappointed vanity, can scarcely conceive the complication of
disagreeable ideas and emotions with which Miss Georgiana Falconer awoke
the morning after the magnificent ball.

The image of her beautiful rival disturbed her morning dreams, and
stood before her fancy the moment she opened her eyes. Wakening, she
endeavoured to recollect and compare all that had passed the preceding
night; but there had been such tumult in her mind, that she had only a
vague remembrance of the transactions: she had a confused idea that the
Count was in love, and that he was not in love with her: she had fears
that, during the heat of competition, she had betrayed unbecoming
emotion; but gradually, habitual vanity predominated; her hopes
brightened; she began to fancy that the impression made by her rival
might be easily effaced, and that they should see no more of the fair
phantom. That branch of the Percy family, she recollected, were to be
considered only as decayed gentry; and she flattered herself that they
would necessarily and immediately sink again into that obscurity from
which her mother's ill-fated civility had raised them. Her mother,
she knew, had invited these Percys against her will, and would be
particularly careful on account of Sir Robert Percy (and Arabella) not
to show them any further attention. Thus things would, in a day or two,
fall again into their proper train. "No doubt the Count will call this
morning, to know how we do after the ball."

So she rose, and resolved to dress herself with the most becoming
negligence.

Very different was the result of her experienced mother's reflections.
Mrs. Falconer saw that her daughter's chance of the Count was now
scarcely worth considering; that it must be given up at once, to avoid
the danger of utter ruin to other speculations of a more promising kind.
The mother knew the unmanageable violence of her daughter's temper: she
had seen her Georgiana expose herself the preceding night at the ball
to her particular friends, and Mrs. Falconer knew enough of the world
to dread reports originating from particular friends; she dreaded, also,
that on some future similar occasion, the young lady's want of command
over her jealousy should produce some terribly ridiculous scene,
confirm the report that she had an unhappy passion for Count Altenberg,
stigmatize her as a forlorn maiden, and ruin her chance of any other
establishment. In this instance she had been misled by her own and her
daughter's vanity. It was mortifying, to be sure, to find that she had
been wrong; and still more provoking to be obliged to acknowledge
that Mr. Falconer was right; but in the existing circumstances it was
absolutely necessary, and Mrs. Falconer, with a species of satisfaction,
returned to her former habits of thinking, and resumed certain
old schemes, from which the arrival of the Count had diverted her
imagination. She expected the two Mr. Clays at Falconer-court the next
day. Either of them, she thought, might be a good match for Georgiana.
To be sure, it was said that French Clay had gaming debts to a large
amount upon his hands--this was against him; but, in his favour, there
was the chance of his elder brother's dying unmarried, and leaving him
Clay-hall. Or, take it the other way, and suppose English Clay to be
made the object--he was one of the men who professedly have a horror
of being taken in to marry; yet no men are more likely "to run into the
danger to avoid the apprehension." Suppose the worst, and that neither
of the Clays could be worked to any good purpose, Mrs. Falconer had
still in reserve that _pis aller_ Petcalf, whose father, the good
general, was at Bath, with the gout in his stomach; and if he should
die, young Petcalf would pop into possession of the general's lodge in
_Asia Minor_ [Footnote: A district in England so called.]: not so fine a
place, to be sure, nor an establishment so well appointed as Clay-hall;
but still with a nabob's fortune a great deal might be done--and
Georgiana might make Petcalf throw down the lodge and build. So at the
worst she might settle very comfortably with young Petcalf, whom
she could manage as she pleased, provided she never let him see her
_penchant_ for Count Altenberg. Mrs. Falconer determined to turn
the tables dexterously, and to make it appear that the Count admired
Georgiana, but saw she could not be induced to leave England. "We must,"
said she to herself, "persuade English Clay that I would not for any
consideration give my daughter to a foreigner."

In consequence of these plans and reflections, Mrs. Falconer began
her new system of operations, by writing that note full of superfluous
civility to Mrs. Percy, with which Commissioner Falconer had been
charged: the pressing Caroline to play Zara or Marcia, the leaving
to her the choice of dresses and characters, the assurance that Miss
Georgiana Falconer would take the confidante's part with pleasure, were
all strokes of Mrs. Falconer's policy. By these means she thought
she could most effectually do away all suspicion of her own or her
daughter's jealousy of Miss Caroline Percy. Mrs. Falconer foresaw
that, in all probability, Caroline would decline acting; but if she had
accepted, Mrs. Falconer would have been sincerely pleased, confident,
as she was, that Caroline's inferiority to her Georgiana, who was an
accomplished actress, would be conspicuously manifest.

As soon as Mrs. Percy's answer, and Caroline's refusal, arrived, Mrs.
Falconer went to her daughter Georgiana's apartment, who was giving
directions to her maid, Lydia Sharpe, about some part of Zara's dress.

"My dear," said Mrs. Falconer, looking carelessly at the dress, "you
won't want a very expensive dress for Zara."

"Indeed, ma'am, I shall," cried Georgiana: "Zara will be nothing, unless
she is well dressed."

"Well, my dear, you must manage as well as you can with Lydia Sharpe.
Your last court-dress surely she can make do vastly well, with a little
alteration to give it a Turkish air."

"Oh! dear me, ma'am!--a little alteration!" cried Lydia: "no alteration
upon the face of Heaven's earth, that I could devise from this till
Christmas, would give it a Turkish air. You don't consider, nor
conceive, ma'am, how _skimping_ these here court-trains are now--for say
the length might answer, its length without any manner of breadth, you
know, ma'am--look, ma'am, a mere strip!--only two breadths of three
quarters bare each--which gives no folds in nature, nor drapery, nor
majesty, which, for a Turkish queen, is indispensably requisite, I
presume."

"Another breadth or two would make it full enough, and cotton velvet
will do, and come cheap," said Mrs. Falconer.

"Cotton velvet!" cried Miss Georgiana. "I would not wear cotton
velvet--like the odious, shabby Miss Chattertons, who are infamous for
it."

"But on the stage, what eye could detect it, child?" said Mrs. Falconer.

"Eye, ma'am! no, to be sure, at that distance: but the first touch to
any body that understands velvets would betray it--and them that is on
the stage along with Miss Georgiana, or behind the scenes, will detect
it. And I understood the ladies was to sup in their dresses, and on such
an occasion I presumed you would like Miss Georgiana to have an entire
_cap a pie_ new dress, as the Lady Arlingtons and every body has seen
her appear in this, and has it by heart, I may say--and the Count too,
who, of course, will expect, to see Zara spick and span--But I leave it
all to your own better judgment, ma'am--I am only just mentioning--"

"All I know is, that the play will be nothing unless it is well
dressed," cried Miss Georgiana; "and I never will play Zara in old
trumpery."

"Well, my dear, there's your amber satin, or your pink, or your green,
or your white, or--I am sure you have dresses enough. Lydia, produce
them, and let me see."

Lydia covered the bed with various finery; but to every dress that was
produced some insuperable objection was started by the young lady or by
her maid.

"I remember you had a lavender satin, that I do not see here,
Georgiana," said Mrs. Falconer.

"The colour did not become me, ma'am, and I sold it to Lydia."

_Sold! gave_, perhaps some innocent reader may suspect that the young
lady meant to say.--No: this buying and selling of finery now goes on
frequently between a certain class of fashionable maids and mistresses;
and some young ladies are now not ashamed to become old clothes-women.

"Vastly well," said Mrs. Falconer, smiling; "you have your own ways and
means, and I am glad of it, for I can tell you there is no chance of my
getting you any money from your father; I dare not speak to him on that
subject--for he was extremely displeased with me about Mrs. Sparkes'
last bill: so if you want a new dress for Zara, you and Lydia Sharpe
must settle it as well as you can between you. I will, in the mean time,
go and write a note, while you make your bargain."

"Bargain! Me, ma'am!" cried Lydia Sharpe, as Mrs. Falconer left the
room; "I am the worst creature extant at bargaining, especially with
ladies. But any thing I can do certainly to accommodate, I shall, I'm
sure, be happy."

"Well, then," said Miss Georgiana, "if you take this white satin off my
hands, Lydia, I am sure I shall be happy."

"I have no objection, ma'am--that is, I'm in duty bound to make no
manner of objections," said Lydia, with a very sentimental air, hanging
her head aside, and with one finger rubbing her under-lip slowly, as she
contemplated the white satin, which her young mistress held up for sale.
"I am really scrupulous--but you're sensible, Miss Georgiana, that
your white satin is so all frayed with the crape sleeves. Lady Trant
recommended--"

"Only a very little frayed."

"But in the front breadth, ma'am; you know that makes a world of
difference, because there's no hiding, and with satin no turning--and
not a bit neither to new body."

"The body is perfectly good."

"I beg pardon for observing, but you know, ma'am, you noticed yourself
how it was blacked and soiled by wearing under your black lace last
time, and that you could not wear it again on that account."

"I!--but _you_--"

"To be sure, ma'am, there's a great deal of difference between I and
you: only when one comes to bargaining--"

She paused, seeing wrath gathering black and dire in her young lady's
countenance; before it burst, she changed her tone, and continued, "All
I mean to say, ma'am, is, that white satin being a style of thing I
could not pretend to think of wearing in any shape myself, I could
only take it to part with again, and in the existing circumstances, I'm
confident I should lose by it. But rather than disoblige, I'll take it
at whatever you please."

"Nay, I don't please about the matter, Lydia; but I am sure you had
an excellent bargain of my lavender satin, which I had only worn but
twice."

"Dear heart!--La, ma'am! if you knew what trouble I had with Mrs.
Sparkes, the dress-maker, about it, because of the coffee-stain--And
I vow to my stars I am ashamed to mention it; but Mrs. Scrags, Lady
Trant's woman, and both the Lady Arlingtons' maids, can vouch for the
truth of it. I did not make a penny, but lost, ma'am, last year, by you
and Miss Bell; that is, not by you nor Miss Bell, but by all I bought,
and sold to disadvantage; which, I am morally certain, you would not
have permitted, had you known of it, as I told Mrs. Scrags, who was
wondering and pitying of me: my young ladies, Mrs. Scrags, says I--"

"No matter," interrupted Georgiana; "no matter what you said to Mrs.
Scrags, or Mrs. Scrags to you--but tell me at once, Lydia, what you can
afford to give me for these three gowns."

"I afford to give!" said Lydia Sharpe. "Well, the times is past, to be
sure, and greatly changed, since ladies used to give, but now it's their
maids must give--then, suppose--let's see, ma'am--for the three, the
old white satin, and the amber satin, and the black lace--why, ma'am,
if you'd throw me the pink crape into the bargain, I don't doubt but I
could afford to give you nine guineas, ma'am," said the maid.

"Then, Lydia Sharpe, you will never have them, I promise you," cried the
mistress: "Nine guineas! how can you have the assurance to offer me such
a sum? As if I had never bought a gown in my life, and did not know the
value or price of any thing! Do you take me for a fool?"

"Oh! dear no, miss--I'm confident that you know the value and price
to the uttermost penny--but only you forget that there's a difference
betwixt the buying and selling price for ladies; but if you please,
ma'am--I would do any thing to oblige and accommodate you--I will
consult the Lady Arlingtons' women, Miss Flora, and Miss Prichard, who
is judges in this line--most honourable appraisers; and if they praise
the articles, on inspection, a shilling higher, I am sure I shall submit
to their jurisdiction--if they say ten guineas, ma'am, you shall
have it, for I love to be at a word and a blow--and to do every thing
genteel: so I'll step and consult my friends, ma'am, and give you my
ultimatum in half an hour."

So saying, whilst her young mistress stood flushed and swelling with
pride and anger, which, however, the sense of her own convenience and
interest controlled, the maid swept up the many coloured robes in her
arms, and carried them up the back stairs, to hold her consultation with
her friends, the most honourable of appraisers.

"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Falconer, returning as she heard the maid
quit the room, "have you driven your bargain for the loan? Have you
raised the supplies?"

"No, indeed, ma'am--for Lydia is grown a perfect Jew. She may well
say she is related to Sharpe, the attorney--she is the keenest, most
interested creature in the world--and grown very saucy too."

"Like all those people, my dear; but one can't do without them."

"But one can change them."

"But, to use their own language, one is not sure of bettering
oneself--and then their wages are to be paid--and all one's little
family secrets are at their mercy."

"It's very provoking--it is very provoking!" repeated Miss Georgiana,
walking up and down the room. "Such an extortioner!--for my amber satin,
and my white satin, and my black lace, and my pink crape, only nine
guineas! What do you think of that, ma'am?"

"I think, my dear, you pay a prodigious premium for ready money; but
nine guineas will dress Zara decently, I dare say, if that's your
object."

"Nine guineas! ma'am," cried Miss Georgiana, "impossible! I can't act at
all--so there's an end of the matter."

"Not an end of the matter quite," said Mrs. Falconer, coolly; "for in
that case I must look out for another Zara."

"And where will you find one, ma'am?"

"The Lady Arlingtons have both fine figures--and, I dare say, would
either of them oblige me."

"Not they. Lady Anne, with her indolence and her languor--a lady who
looks as if she was saying, 'Quasha, tell Quaco to tell Fibba to pick up
this pin that lies at my foot;' do you think she'd get a part by heart,
ma'am, to oblige you--or that she could, if she would, act Zara?--No
more than she could fly!"

"But her sister, Lady Frances, would and could," said Mrs. Falconer.
"She is quick enough, and I know she longs to try Zara."

"Longs!--Lord, ma'am, she longs for fifty things in a
minute!--Quick!--Yes, but don't depend on her, I advise you; for she
does not know, for two seconds together, what she would have or what she
would do."

"Then I have resource in one who, I am persuaded, will not disappoint me
or any body else," said Mrs. Falconer.

"Whom can you mean, ma'am?"

"Miss Caroline Percy. Count Altenberg put it into my head: he observed
that she would look the character remarkably well--and I will write to
her directly."

Without power of articulating, Miss Georgiana Falconer fixed her eyes
upon her mother for some moments.

"You think I have lost my senses this morning--I thought, and I am
afraid so did many other people, that you had lost yours last night.
Another such scene, your friends the Lady Arlingtons for spectators,
you are ridiculous, and, of course, undone for life in the fashionable
world--establishment, and every thing else that is desirable,
irrevocably out of the question. I am surprised that a girl of your
understanding and really polished manners, Georgiana, should, the moment
any thing crosses or vexes you, show no more command of temper, grace,
or dignity, than the veriest country girl. When things go wrong, do you
see me lose all presence of mind; or rather, do you ever see me change a
muscle of my countenance?"

"The muscles of some people's countenance, ma'am, I suppose, are
differently made from others--mine will change with my feelings, and
there is no remedy, for my feelings unfortunately are uncommonly acute."

"That is a misfortune, indeed, Georgiana; but not without remedy, I
trust. If you will take my advice--"

"Were you ever in love, ma'am?"

"Properly--when every thing was settled for my marriage; but not
improperly, or it might never have come to my wedding-day. Headstrong
child! listen to me, or you will never see that day with Count
Altenberg."

"Do you mean, ma'am, to ask Miss Caroline Percy to play Zara?"

"I will answer no question, Georgiana, till you have heard me
patiently."

"I only hope, ma'am, you'll put it in the play-bill--or, if you don't,
I will--Zara, Miss Caroline Percy--by particular desire of Count
Altenberg."

"Whatever I do, you may hope and be assured, Georgiana, shall be
properly done," cried Mrs. Falconer, rising with dignity; "and, since
you are not disposed to listen to me, I shall leave you to your own
inventions, and go and write my notes."

"La, mamma! dear mamma! _dear'st_ mamma!" cried the young lady, throwing
her arms round her mother, and stopping her. "You that never change
a muscle of your countenance, how hasty you are with your own
Georgiana!--sit down, and I'll listen patiently!"

Mrs. Falconer seated herself, and Miss Georgiana prepared to listen
patiently, armed with a piece of gold fringe, which she rolled and
unrolled, and held in different lights and varied festoons whilst her
mother spoke, or, as the young lady would say, lectured. Mrs. Falconer
was too well aware of the impracticableness of her daughter's temper
to tell her upon this occasion the whole truth, even if her own habits
would have permitted her to be sincere. She never mentioned to Georgiana
that she had totally given up the scheme of marrying her to Count
Altenberg, and that she was thoroughly convinced there was no chance of
her winning him; but, on the contrary, she represented to the young lady
that the Count had only a transient fancy for Miss Caroline Percy, which
would never come to any serious proposal, unless it was opposed; that
in a short time they should go to town, and the Count, of course, would
return with Lord Oldborough: then the game would be in her own hands,
provided, in the mean time, Georgiana should conduct herself with
prudence and temper, and let no creature see or suspect any sort of
anxiety; for that would give such an advantage against her, and such a
triumph to Caroline and her friends, who, as Mrs. Falconer said, were,
no doubt, all on the watch to "interpret," or misinterpret, "motions,
looks, and eyes." "My dear," concluded the mother, "your play is to show
yourself always easy and happy, whatever occurs; occupied with
other things, surrounded by other admirers, and encouraging them
properly--properly of course to pique the jealousy of your Count."

"My Count!" said Georgiana, with half a smile; "but Miss--You say this
fancy of his will pass away--but when? When?"

"You young people always say, '_but when?_' you have no idea of looking
forward: a few months, a year, more or less, what does it signify?
Georgiana, are you in such imminent danger of growing old or ugly?"

Georgiana turned her eyes involuntarily towards the glass, and smiled.

"But, ma'am, you were not in earnest then about getting another Zara."

"The offer I made--the compliments I paid in the note I wrote this
morning, were all necessary to cover your mistakes of the night."

"Made! Wrote!" cried the young lady, with terror in her voice and eyes:
"Good Heavens! mother, what have you done?"

"I had no doubt at the time I wrote," continued Mrs. Falconer, coolly,
"I had no other idea, but that Miss Caroline Percy would decline."

"Oh! ma'am," cried Georgiana, half crying, then stamping with passion,
"Oh! ma'am, how could you imagine, or affect to imagine, that that girl,
that odious girl, who was born to be my plague, with all her affected
humility, would decline?--Decline!--no, she will be transported to come
sweeping in, in gorgeous tragedy--Zara! Marcia! If the whole family can
beg or borrow a dress for her, we are undone--that's our only chance.
Oh! mother, what possessed you to do this?"

"Gently, pretty Passionate, and trust to my judgment in future," putting
into her daughter's hands Mrs. Percy's note.

"Miss Caroline Percy--sorry--out of her power!--Oh! charming!--a fine
escape!" cried Georgiana, delighted. "You may be sure it was for want of
the dress, though, mamma."

"No matter--but about yours, my dear?"

"Oh! yes, ma'am--my dress; that's the only difficulty now."

"I certainly wish you, my darling, to appear well, especially as all the
world will be here: the two Clays--by-the-bye, here's their letter--they
come to-morrow--and in short the whole world; but, as to money, there's
but one way of putting your father into good-humour enough with you to
touch upon that string."

"One way--well, if there be one way--any way."

"Petcalf!"

"Oh! Petcalf is my abhorrence--"

"There is the thing! He was speaking to your father seriously about you,
and your father sounded me: I said you would never agree, and he was
quite displeased--that and Mrs. Sparkes' bill completely overset him.
Now, if you had your wish, Georgiana--what would be your taste, child?"

"My wish! My taste!--Oh! that would be for a delicate, delicate, soft,
sentimental blue satin, with silver fringe, looped with pearl, for my
first act; and in my last--"

"Two dresses! Oh! you extravagant! out of all possibility."

"I am only wishing, telling you my taste, dear mamma. You know there
must be a change of dress, in the last act, for Zara's nuptials--now for
my wedding dress, mamma, my taste would be

  'Shine out, appear, be found, my lovely Zara,'

in bridal white and silver. You know, ma'am, I am only supposing."

"Well then, supposition for supposition," replied Mrs. Falconer:
"supposing I let your father hope that you are not _so_ decided to abhor
poor Petcalf--"

"Oh! dear mamma, I am so persecuted about that Petcalf! and compared
with Count Altenberg, my father must be blind, or think me an idiot."

"Oh! between him and the Count there is no comparison, to be sure; but
I forgot to mention, that what your father builds upon is our poor
old friend the general's death--Clay here, in a postscript, you see,
mentions the gout in his stomach--so I am afraid he is as good as gone,
as your father says, and then _The Lodge_ in _Asia Minor_ is certainly a
pretty place to sit down upon if one could do no better."

"But, ma'am, the Count's vast possessions and rank!"

"I grant you all that, my dear; but our present object is the
play--Zara's royal robes cannot be had for nothing, you know--you never
listened to my infallible means of obtaining your wish: I think I can
engage that the commissioner will not refuse us, if you will empower
me to say to him, that by this time twelvemonth, if nothing better
offers--mind my _if_--Petcalf shall be rewarded for his constancy."

"If--Oh! dear me! But before this time twelvemonth the Count--"

"Or one of the Clays might offer, and in that case, my _if_ brings you
off safe with your father."

"Well, then, mamma, upon condition that you will promise me, upon your
word, you will lay a marked emphasis upon your _if_--I believe, for
Zara's sake, I must--"

"I knew you would behave at last like a sensible girl," said Mrs.
Falconer: "I'll go and speak to your father directly."

Mrs. Falconer thus fairly gained her point, by setting Georgiana's
passion for dress against her passion for Count Altenberg; and having,
moreover, under false pretences, extorted from the young lady many
promises to keep her temper prudently, and to be upon the best terms
possible with her rival, the mother went away perfectly satisfied with
her own address.

The father was brought to perform his part, not without
difficulty--Carte blanche for Zara's sentimental blue and bridal white
robes was obtained, silver fringe and pearls inclusive: the triumphant
Zara rang for the base confidante of her late distresses--Lydia Sharpe
re-entered, with the four dresses upon sale; but she and her guineas,
and the most honourable appraisers, all were treated with becoming
scorn--and as Lydia obeyed her young lady's orders to replace her
clothes in her wardrobe, and never to think of them more, they suddenly
rose in value in her estimation, and she repented that she had been
quite so much of an extortioner. She knew the difference of her
mistress's tone when disappointed or successful, and guessed that
supplies had been obtained by some means or other: "New dresses, I
smell, are the order of the day," said Lydia Sharpe to herself; "but
I'll engage she will want me presently to make them up: so I warrant
I won't come down off my high horse till I see why--Miss Georgiana
Falconer, ma'am, I beg pardon--you are the mistress--I meant only to
oblige and accommodate when called upon--but if I'm not wanted, I'm not
wanted--and I hope ladies will find them that will be more abler and
willinger to serve them."

So saying, half flouncing, half pouting, she retired. Her young
mistress, aware that Lydia's talents and expeditious performance, as a
mantua-maker and a milliner, were essential to the appearance of Zara,
suppressed her own resentment, submitted to her maid's insolence, and
brought her into humour again that night, by a present of the famous
white satin.

In due time, consequently, the Turkish dresses were in great
forwardness. Lest we should never get to the play, we forbear to relate
all the various frettings, jealousies, clashing vanities, and petty
quarrels, which occurred between the actresses and their friends, during
the getting up of this piece and its rehearsals. We need mention,
only that the seeds of irreconcileable dislike were sown at this time,
between the Miss Falconers and their dear friends, the Lady Arlingtons:
there was some difficulty made by Lady Anne about lending her diamond
crescent for Zara's turban--Miss Georgiana could never forgive this;
and Lady Frances, on her part, was provoked, beyond measure, by an order
from the duke, her uncle, forbidding her to appear on the stage. She
had some reason to suspect that this order came in consequence of a
treacherous hint in a letter of Georgiana's to Lady Trant, which went
round, through Lady Jane Granville to the duke, who otherwise, as Lady
Frances observed, "in the midst of his politics, might never have heard
a word of the matter."

Mrs. Falconer had need of all her power over the muscles of her face,
and all her address, in these delicate and difficult circumstances. Her
daughter Arabella, too, was sullen--the young lady was subject to her
brother John's fits of obstinacy. For some time she could not be brought
to undertake the part of Selima; and no other Selima was to be had.
She did not see why she should condescend to play the confidante for
Georgiana's Zara--why she was to be sacrificed to her sister; and Sir
Robert Percy, her admirer, not even to be invited, because the other
Percys were to come.

Mrs. Falconer plied her well with flattery, through Colonel Spandrill;
and at last Arabella was pacified by a promise that the following week
"Love in a Village," or "The Lord of the Manor," should be acted, in
which she should choose her part, and in which her voice and musical
talents would be brought forward--and Sir Robert Percy and his friends
should be the principal auditors.

Recovered, or partly recovered, from her fit of the sullens, she was
prevailed upon to say she would try what she could do in Selima.

The parts were learnt by heart; the dresses, after innumerable
alterations, finished to the satisfaction of the heroes and heroines of
the drama.

Their quarrels, and the quarrels of their friends and of their servants,
male and female, were at last hushed to temporary repose, and--the
great, the important day arrived.

The preceding evening, Mrs. Falconer, as she sat quite exhausted in the
green-room, was heard to declare, she was so tired, that she would not
go through the same thing again, for one month, to be Queen of England.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


The theatre at Falconer-court was not very spacious, but it was
elegantly fitted up, extremely well lighted, and had a good effect.
There was a brilliant audience, an excellent band of music, and the
whole had a gay and festive appearance.

The Percy family, as they came from a great distance, were late. The
house was crowded. Mrs. Falconer was obliged to seat Mrs. Percy and
her daughters with the Lady Arlingtons on a bench upon the stage: a
conspicuous situation, which had been reserved for their ladyships.

Every eye instantly turned upon the beautiful Caroline. She bore the
gaze of public admiration with a blushing dignity, which interested
every body in her favour. Count Altenberg, who had anxiously expected
the moment of her arrival, was, however, upon his guard. Knowing that
he was watched by Mrs. Falconer's friends, he was determined that his
secret thoughts should not be seen. One involuntary glance he gave, but
immediately withdrew his eye, and continued his conversation with the
gentleman next to him. After a few moments had elapsed, he could indulge
himself in looking at Caroline unobserved, for the gaze of public
admiration is as transient as it is eager. It is surprising how short a
time any face, however beautiful, engages numbers who meet together to
be seen.

The audience were now happily full of themselves, arranging their
seats, and doing civilities to those of their friends who were worthy of
notice.

"Lady Trant! won't your ladyship sit in the front row?"

"I'm vastly well, thank you."

"Lady Kew, I am afraid you won't see over my head."

"Oh! I assure you--perfectly--perfectly."

"Colonel Spandrill, I'll trouble you--my shawl."

"Clay, lend me your opera-glass.--How did you leave all at Bath?"

"I'm so glad that General Petcalf's gout in his stomach did not
carry him off--for young Petcalf could not have acted, you know,
to-night.--Mrs. Harcourt is trying to catch your eye, Lady Kew."

All those who were new to the theatre at Falconer-court, or who were not
intimate with the family, were in great anxiety to inform themselves
on one important point, before the prologue should begin. Stretching to
those who were, or had the reputation of being, good authorities,
they asked in whispers, "Do you know if there is to be any clapping of
hands?--Can you tell me whether it is allowable to say any thing?"

It seems that at some private theatres loud demonstrations of applause
were forbidden. It was thought more genteel to approve and admire
in silence,--thus to draw the line between professional actors and
actresses, and gentlemen and lady performers. Upon trial, however, in
some instances, it had been found that the difference was sufficiently
obvious, without marking it by any invidious distinction. Young and old
amateurs have acknowledged, that the silence, however genteel, was
so dreadfully awful, that they preferred even the noise of vulgar
acclamations.

The cup of flattery was found so sweet, that objections were no longer
made to swallowing it in public.

The overture finished, the prologue, which was written by Mr. Seebright,
was received with merited applause. And, after a buzz of requests and
promises for copies, the house was silent--the curtain drew up, and the
first appearance of Zara, in the delicate sentimental blue satin, was
hailed with plaudits, long and loud--plaudits which were reiterated at
the end of her first speech, which was, indeed, extremely well recited.
Count Altenberg leaned forward, and seemed to listen with delight; then
stood up, and several times renewed his plaudits; at first, with an
appearance of timidity, afterwards, with decision and energy. Miss
Georgiana Falconer really acted uncommonly well, so that he could
without flattery applaud; and if he did exaggerate a little in the
expression of his admiration, he deemed it allowable. He had another
object: he was absolutely determined to see whether or not Caroline was
capable of the mean passions which had disgusted him in her rival. He
reflected that he had seen her only when she was triumphant; and he was
anxious to know how she would appear in different circumstances. Of
her high intellectual endowments he could not doubt; but temper is not
always a blessing given to the fair, or even to the wise. It may seem
strange that a gallant man should think of a beauty's temper; and,
probably, if Count Altenberg had considered Caroline only as a beauty,
he would not have troubled himself to make, on this point, any severe
and dangerous scrutiny.

The play went on--Zara sustaining the interest of the scene. She was but
feebly supported by the sulky Selima, and the other parts were but ill
performed. The faults common to unpractised actors occurred: one of
Osman's arms never moved, and the other sawed the air perpetually, as if
in pure despite of Hamlet's prohibition. Then, in crossing over, Osman
was continually entangled in Zara's robe; or, when standing still, she
was obliged to twitch her train thrice before she could get it from
beneath his leaden feet. When confident that he could repeat a speech
fluently, he was apt to turn his back upon his mistress; or, when he
felt himself called upon to listen to his mistress, he would regularly
turn his back upon the audience. But all these are defects permitted
by the licence of a private theatre, allowable by courtesy to
gentlemen-actors; and things went on as well as could be expected. Osman
had not his part by heart, but still Zara covered all deficiencies: and
Osman did no worse than other Osmans had done before him, till he came
to the long speech, beginning with,

  "The sultans, my great ancestors, bequeath'd
  Their empire to me, but their tastes they gave not."

Powerful prompting got him through the first six lines decently enough,
till he came to

  --"wasting tenderness in wild profusion,
  I might look down to my surrounded feet,
  And bless contending beauties,"

At this he bungled sadly--his hearing suddenly failing as well as his
memory, there was a dead stop. In vain the prompter, the scene-shifter,
the candle-snuffer, as loud as they could, and much louder than they
ought, reiterated the next sentence,

  "I might speak,
  Serenely slothful."

It was plain that Osman could not speak, nor was he "serene." He had
begun, as in dangers great he was wont, to kick his left ankle-bone
rapidly with his right heel; and through the pomp of Osman's oriental
robes and turban young Petcalf stood confessed. He threw back an angry
look at the prompter--Zara terrified, gave up all for lost--the two Lady
Arlingtons retreated behind the scenes to laugh--the polite audience
struggled not to smile. Count Altenberg at this moment looked
at Caroline, who, instead of joining in the laugh, showed by her
countenance and manner the most good-natured sympathy.

Zara, recovering her presence of mind, swept across the stage in such a
manner as to hide from view her kicking sultan; and as she passed, she
whispered the line to him so distinctly, that he caught the sound, left
off kicking, went on with his speech, and all was well again. Count
Altenberg forgot to join in the cheering plaudits, he was so much
charmed at that instant by Caroline's smile.

Fortunately for Zara, and for the audience, in the next scenes the
part of Lusignan was performed by a gentleman who had been well used to
acting--though he was not a man of any extraordinary capacity, yet, from
his _habit of the boards_, and his being perfect in his part, he now
seemed quite a superior person. It was found unaccountably easier to act
with this son of labour than with any other of the gentlemen-performers,
though they were all natural geniuses.

The moment Zara appeared with Lusignan, her powers shone forth--nothing
spoiled the illusion, the attention of the audience was fixed, their
interest was sustained, their feelings touched. The exercise of the fan
ceased in the front rows, glasses of lemonade were held untasted,
and nobody consulted the play-bill. Excited by success, sympathy, and
applause the most flattering, Zara went on with increasing éclat.

Meanwhile the Percy family, who were quite intent upon the play, began
to find their situation disagreeable from some noise behind the
scenes. A party of ladies, among whom was Lady Frances Arlington, stood
whispering so loud close to Caroline that their voices were heard by her
more distinctly than those of the actors. Lady Frances stood half hid
between the side scenes, holding a little white dog in her arms.

"Hush!" cried her ladyship, putting her fingers on her lips--her
companions became silent instantly. The house was now in profound
attention. Zara was in the midst of her favourite speech,

  "Would you learn more, and open all my heart?
  Know then that, spite of this renew'd injustice,
  I do not--cannot--wish to love you less;
  --That long before you look'd so low as Zara,
  She gave her heart to Osman."

At the name of _Osman_, the dog started and struggled--Lady Frances
appeared to restrain him, but he ran on the stage--leaped up on
Zara--and at the repetition of the name of _Osman_ sat down on his hind
legs, begged with his fore-paws, and began to whine in such a piteous
manner that the whole audience were on the brink of laughter--Zara, and
all her attendants and friends, lost their presence of mind.

Caroline sprang forward quite across the stage, caught the dog in her
arms, and carried him off. Count Altenberg, no longer master of himself,
clapped his hands, and the whole house resounded with applause.

Miss Georgiana Falconer misunderstood the cause of the plaudits,
imagined that she was _encored_, cast down her eyes, and, as soon as
there was silence, advanced and recommenced her speech, of which Count
Altenberg did not hear one word.

This malicious trick had been contrived by Lady Frances Arlington, to
revenge herself on Miss Georgiana Falconer for having prevented her
from taking a part in the play. Her ladyship had, in the course of the
rehearsals, privately drilled her dog to answer to the name of Osman,
when that name was pronounced in Zara's tragic tone. The dog had been
kept out of the way till Zara was in the midst of that speech in which
she calls repeatedly on the name of Osman. This trick had been so well
contrived, that all but those who were in the secret imagined that the
appearance of the dog at this unlucky moment had been accidental. The
truth began indeed to be soon whispered in confidence.

But to return to Count Altenberg. At the commencement of the play, when
the idea of trying Caroline's temper had occurred to him, he had felt
some anxiety lest all the high expectations he had formed, all the
bright enchantment, should vanish. In the first act, he had begun by
joining timidly in the general applause of Zara, dreading lest Caroline
should not be blessed with that temper which could bear the praises of a
rival "with unwounded ear." But the count applauded with more confidence
in the second act; during the third was quite at his ease; and in the
fifth could not forgive himself for having supposed it possible that
Caroline could be liable to any of the foibles of her sex.

In the mean time Miss Georgiana Falconer, in high spirits, intoxicated
with vanity, was persuaded that the Count had returned to his senses;
and so little did she know of his character, or of the human heart,
as to expect that a declaration of love would soon follow this public
profession of admiration. Such was the confusion of her ideas, that she
was confident Zara was on the point of becoming Countess of Altenberg.

After the play was over, and a thousand compliments had been paid and
received, most of the company called for their carriages. The house
emptied fast: there remained only a select party, who were to stay
supper. They soon adjourned to the green-room to repeat their tribute of
applause to the actors. High in the midst stood Miss Georgiana
Falconer, receiving incense from & crowd of adorers. As Count Altenberg
approached, she assumed a languishing air of softness and sensibility.
The Count said all that could reasonably be expected, but his
compliments did not seem quite to satisfy the lady. She was in hopes
that he was going to say something more to her taste, when French Clay
pressed forward, which he did with an air neither French nor English. He
protested that he could not have conceived it possible for the powers of
any actress upon earth to interest him for the English Zara; "but
you, madam," said he, "have done the impossible; and now I should die
content, if I could see your genius do justice to Zaïre. How you would
shine in the divine original, when you could do such wonders for a
miserable translation!"

Several gentlemen, and among others Mr. Percy, would not allow that the
English translation deserved to be called miserable. "The wrong side of
the tapestry we cannot expect should be quite equal to the right side."
said he: "Voltaire pointed out a few odds and ends here and there, which
disfigured the work, and required to be cut off; but upon the whole, if
I recollect, he was satisfied with the piece, and complimented Mr. Hill
upon having preserved the general design, spirit, and simplicity of the
original."

"Mere politeness in M. de Voltaire!" replied French Clay; "but, in
effect, Zaïre is absolutely incapable of any thing more than being _done
into_ English. For example, will any body have the goodness to tell me,"
said he, looking round, and fixing his look of appeal on Miss Caroline
Percy, "how would you translate the famous '_Zaïre!--vous pleurez!_"

"Is not it translated," said Caroline, "by 'Zara! you weep?'"

"Ah! _pardonnez moi!_" cried French Clay, with a shrug meant to be
French, but which English shoulders could not cleverly execute--"_Ah!
pardonnez!_ to my ears now that says nothing."

"To our feelings it said a great deal just now," said Caroline, looking
at Zara in a manner which was lost upon her feelings, but not upon Count
Altenberg's.

"Ah! indubitably I admit," cried Mr. Clay, "_la beauté est toujours dans
son pays_, and tears fortunately need no translation; but when we come
to words, you will allow me, ma'am, that the language of fine feeling is
absolutely untranslateable, _untransfusible_."

Caroline seemed to wish to avoid being drawn forward to farther
discussion, but Mr. Clay repeated, in a tone of soft condescension,
"Your silence flatters me with the hope, ma'am, that we agree?"

Caroline could not submit to this interpretation of her silence, and
blushing, but without being disconcerted, she answered, that she had
always heard, and believed, it was the test of true feeling, as of
true wit, that it can be easily understood, and that its language is
universal.

"If I had ever doubted that truth," said Count Altenberg, "I should have
been convinced of it by what I have seen and heard this night."

Miss Georgiana Falconer bowed her head graciously to the Count, and
smiled, and sighed. Lady Frances Arlington and Rosamond smiled at the
same moment, for they perceived by the universal language of the eye,
that what Count Altenberg said was not intended for the lady who took it
so decidedly to herself. This was the second time this night that Miss
Georgiana Falconer's vanity had appropriated to herself a compliment
in which she had no share. Yet, even at this moment, which, as she
conceived, was a moment of triumph, while she was encircled by adorers,
while the voice of praise yet vibrated in her ears, she felt anguish at
perceiving the serenity of her rival's countenance; and, however strange
it may appear, actually envied Caroline for not being envious.

Mrs. Falconer, skilled in every turn of her daughter's temper, which she
was now obliged to follow and humour, or dexterously to counteract,
lest it should ruin all schemes for her establishment, saw the cloud
gathering on Zara's brow, and immediately fixed the attention of the
company upon the beauty of her dress and the fine folds of her velvet
train. She commenced lamentations on the difference between English and
French velvets. French Clay, as she had foreseen, took up the word, and
talked of _velvets_ till supper was announced.

When Mrs. Falconer attended Lady Trant and Lady Kew to their rooms,
a nocturnal conference was held in Lady Trant's apartment, where, of
course, in the most confidential manner, their ladyships sat talking
over the events of the day, and of some matters too interesting to be
spoken of in general society. They began to congratulate Mrs. Falconer
upon the impression which Zara had made on Count Altenberg; but the wily
mother repressed their premature felicitations. She protested she was
positively certain that the person in question had _now_ no thoughts of
Georgiana, such as their ladyships' partiality to her might lead them
to suppose; and now, when the business was over, she might venture to
declare that nothing could have persuaded her to let a daughter of hers
marry a foreigner. She should have been sorry to give offence to such an
amiable and well-informed young nobleman; and she really rejoiced that,
if her sentiments had been, as no doubt by a person of his penetration
they must have been, discovered, Count Altenberg had taken the hint
without being offended: indeed, she had felt it a point of conscience to
let the truth be seen time enough, to prevent his coming to a downright
proposal, and having the mortification of an absolute refusal. Other
mothers, she knew, might feel differently about giving a daughter to
a foreigner, and other young ladies might feel differently from her
Georgiana. Where there was so great an establishment in prospect, and
rank, and fashion, and figure, to say nothing of talents, it could
hardly be expected that such temptations should be resisted in a
_certain family_, where it was so very desirable, and indeed necessary,
to get a daughter married without a portion. Mrs. Falconer declared that
on every account she should rejoice, if things should happen to turn
out so. The present object was every way worthy, and charming. She was
a young lady for whom, even from the little she had seen of her, she
confessed she felt uncommonly interested--putting relationship out of
the question.

Thus having with able generalship secured a retreat for herself and for
her daughter, Mrs. Falconer retired to rest.

Early the next morning one of Lord Oldborough's grooms brought a note
for Mr. Percy. Commissioner Falconer's confidential servant took the
note immediately up to his master's bedchamber, to inquire whether it
would be proper to waken Mr. Percy to give it to him, or to make the
groom wait till Mr. Percy should come down to breakfast.

The commissioner sat up in his bed, rubbed his eyes, read the direction
of the note, many times turned and returned it, and desired to see the
man who brought it. The groom was shown in.

"How is my lord's gout?"

"Quite well, sir: my lord was out yesterday in the park--both a
horseback and afoot."

"I am very happy to hear it. And pray, did any despatches come last
night from town, can you tell, sir?"

"I really can't particularly say, sir--I was out with the horses."

"But about this note?" said the commissioner.

The result of the cross-examination that followed gave reason to believe
that the note contained an invitation to breakfast, because he had heard
Mr. Rodney, my lord's own gentleman, tell the man whose business it was
to attend at breakfast, that my lord would breakfast in his own room,
and expected a friend to breakfast with him.

"A friend--Hum! Was there no note to me?--no message?"

"None, sir--as I know."

"Very extraordinary." Mr. Falconer inclined to keep the man till
breakfast-time, but he would not be kept--he had orders to return with
an answer immediately; and he had been on the fidgets all the time the
commissioner had been detaining him; for Lord Oldborough's messengers
could nut venture to delay. The note was consequently delivered to Mr.
Percy immediately, and Mr. Percy went to breakfast at Clermont-park. The
commissioner's breakfast was spoiled by the curiosity this invitation
excited, and he was obliged to chew green tea for the heartburn with
great diligence. Meantime the company were all talking the play over
and over again, till at last, when even Zara appeared satiated with the
subject, the conversation diverged a little to other topics. Unluckily
French Clay usurped so large a portion of attention, that Count
Altenberg's voice was for some time scarcely heard--the contrast was
striking between a really well-bred polished foreigner, and a man who,
having kept bad company abroad, and having formed himself on a few bad
models, presented an exaggerated imitation of those who were ridiculous,
detested, or unknown, in good society at Paris; and whom the nation
would utterly disclaim as representatives of their morals or manners.
At this period of their acquaintance with Count Altenberg, every
circumstance which drew out his character, tastes, and opinions,
was interesting to the Percy family in general, and in particular
to Caroline. The most commonplace and disagreeable characters often
promoted this purpose, and thus afforded means of amusement, and
materials for reflection. Towards the end of breakfast, the newspapers
were brought in--the commissioner, who had wondered frequently what
could make them so late, seized upon the government-paper directly,
which he pocketed, and retired, after handing other newspapers to
Count Altenberg and to the Mr. Clays. English Clay, setting down his
well-sugared cup of tea, leaving a happily-prepared morsel of ham and
bread and butter on his plate, turned his back upon the ladies; and
comfortably settling himself with his arm over his chair, and the light
full upon London news, began to read to himself. Count Altenberg glanced
at _Continental News_, as he unfolded his paper, but instantly turned
to _Gazette Extraordinary_, which he laid before Mrs. Falconer. She
requested him, if it was not too much trouble, to read it aloud. "I hope
my foreign accent will not make it unintelligible," said he; and without
farther preface, or considering how he was to appear himself, he obeyed.
Though he had not a perfectly English accent, he showed that he had a
thoroughly English heart, by the joy and pride he took in reading an
account of a great victory.

English Clay turned round upon his chair, and setting his arms a-kimbo,
with the newspaper still fast in his hand, and his elbow sticking out
across Lady Anne Arlington, sat facing the count, and listening to him
With a look of surprise. "Why, d----m'me, but you're a good fellow,
after all!" exclaimed he, "though you are not an Englishman!"

"By the mother's side I am, sir," replied Count Altenberg. "I may boast
that I am at least half an Englishman."

"Half is better than the whole," said French Clay, scornfully.

"By the Lord, I could have sworn his mother, or some of his blood, was
English!" cried English Clay. "I beg your pardon, ma'am--'fraid I
annoy your ladyship?" added he, perceiving that the Lady Anne haughtily
retreated from his offending elbow.

Then sensible of having committed himself by his sudden burst of
feeling, he coloured all over, took up his tea, drank as if he wished
to hide his face for ever in the cup, recovered his head with mighty
effort, turned round again to his newspaper, and was cold and silent as
before. His brother meanwhile was, or affected to be, more intent upon
some _eau sucrée_, that he was preparing for himself, than upon the
fate of the army and navy of Spain or England. Rising from the breakfast
table, he went into the adjoining room, and threw himself at full length
upon a sofa; Lady Frances Arlington, who detested politics, immediately
followed, and led the way to a work-table, round which the ladies
gathered, and formed themselves in a few minutes into a committee of
dress, all speaking at once; Count Altenberg went with the ladies out
of the breakfast-room, where English Clay would have been happy to have
remained alone; but being interrupted by the entrance of the servants,
he could not enjoy peaceable possession, and he was compelled also to
follow:--getting as far as he could from the female committee, he took
Petcalf into a window to talk of horses, and commenced a history of the
colts of Regulus, and of the plates they had won.

French Clay, rising from the sofa, and adjusting his cravat at a
looking-glass, carelessly said, addressing himself to Count Altenberg,
"I think, M. le Comte, I heard you say something about public feelings.
Now, I do not comprehend precisely what is meant by public feelings; for
my part, I am free to confess that I have none."

"I certainly must have expressed myself ill," replied Count Altenberg;
"I should have said, love of our country."

Mrs. Percy, Rosamond, and Caroline, escaped from the committee of dress,
were now eagerly listening to this conversation.

"And if you had, M. le Comte, I might, _en philosophe_, have been
permitted to ask," replied French Clay, "what is love of our country,
but a mere _prejudice_? and to a person of an _emancipated_ mind, that
word prejudice says volumes. Assuredly M. le Comte will allow, and must
_feel well_, that no prejudice ever was or can be useful to mankind."

The Count fully admitted that utility is the best human test by which
all sentiment, as well as every thing else, can be tried: but he
observed that Mr. Clay had not yet proved love of our country to be a
useless or pernicious principle of action: and by his own argument, if
it can be proved to be useful, it should not be called, in the invidious
sense of the word, a prejudice.

"True--but the labour of the proof fortunately rests with you, M. le
Comte."

Count Altenberg answered in French, speaking very rapidly. "It is a
labour saved me fortunately, by the recorded experience of all history,
by the testimony of the wisest and the best in all, countries, ancient
and modern--all agree in proclaiming love of our country to be one of
the most powerful, most permanent motives to good and great actions; the
most expansive, elevating principle--elevating without danger--expansive
without waste; the principle to which the legislator looks for the
preservative against corruption in states--to which the moralist turns
for the antidote against selfishness in individuals. Recollect, name any
great character, ancient or modern--is not love of his country one of
his virtues? Can you draw--can you conceive a great character--a great
or a good character, or even a safe member of society without it? A man
hangs loose upon society, as your own Burke says--"

"Ah! M. le Comte!" cried Clay, shrinking with affected horror, "I
repent--I see what I have brought upon myself; after Burke will come
Cicero; and after Cicero all Rome, Carthage, Athens, Lacedemon. Oh!
spare me! since I was a schoolboy, I could never _suffer_ those names.
Ah! M. le Comte, de grâce!--I know I have put myself _in the case_ to be
buried alive under a load of quotations."

The Count, with that good humour which disappoints ridicule, smiled, and
checked his enthusiasm.

"Is there not a kind of enthusiasm," said Mrs. Percy, "which is as
necessary to virtue as to genius?"

French Clay shook his head. He was sorry to differ from a lady; as a
gallant man, he knew he was wrong, but as a philosopher he could not
patronize enthusiasm. It was the business, he apprehended, of philosophy
to correct and extinguish it.

"I have heard it said," interposed Rosamond, "that it is a favourite
maxim of law, that the extreme of justice is the extreme of
injustice--perhaps this maxim may be applied to philosophy as well as to
law."

"Why extinguish enthusiasm?" cried Caroline. "It is not surely the
business of philosophy to extinguish, but to direct it. Does not
enthusiasm, well directed, give life and energy to all that is good and
great?"

There was so much life and energy in Caroline's beautiful countenance,
that French Clay was for a moment silenced by admiration.

"After all," resumed he, "there is one slight circumstance, which
persons of feeling should consider, that the evils and horrors of war
are produced by this very principle, which some people think so useful
to mankind, this famous love of our country."

Count Altenberg asked, whether wars had not more frequently arisen from
the unlawful fancies which princes and conquerors are apt to take for
the territories of their neighbours, than from the legitimate love of
their own country?

French Clay, hurried by a smile he saw on Rosamond's lips, changed his
ground again for the worse, and said he was not speaking of wars, of
foreign conquests, but of defensive wars, where foolish people, from an
absurd love of their own country, that is, of certain barren mountains,
of _a few acres of snow_, or of collections of old houses and churches,
called capital cities, will expose themselves to fire, flame, and
famine, and will stand to be cut to pieces inchmeal, rather than to
submit to a conqueror, who might, ten to one, be a more civilized or
cleverer sort of a person than their own rulers; and under whom they
might enjoy all the luxuries of life--changing only the name of their
country for some other equally well-sounding name; and perhaps adopting
a few new laws, instead of what they might have been in the habit from
their childhood of worshipping, as a wittenagemote, or a diet, or a
constitution. "For my part," continued French Clay, "I have accustomed
myself to go to the bottom of things. I have _approfondied_. I have not
suffered my understanding to be paralysed--I have made my own analysis
of happiness, and find that your legislators, and moralists, and
patriots, would juggle me out of many solid physical comforts, by
engaging me to fight for enthusiasms which do me no manner of good."

Count Altenberg's countenance had flushed with indignation, and cooled
with contempt, several times during Mr. Clay's Speech. Beginning in a
low composed voice, he first answered, whatever pretence to reason it
contained, in the analysis of human happiness, he observed, Mr. Clay had
bounded his to physical comforts--this was reducing civilized man below
even the savage, and nearly to the state of brutes. Did Mr. Clay
choose to leave out all intellectual pleasures--all the pleasures of
self-complacency, self-approbation, and sympathy? But, supposing that
he was content to bound his happiness, inelegant and low, to such narrow
limits, Count Altenberg observed, he did not provide for the security
even of that poor portion. If he were ready to give up the liberty or
the free constitution of the country in which he resided, ready to live
under tyrants and tyranny, how could he be secure for a year, a day,
even an hour, of his epicurean paradise?

Mr. Clay acknowledged, that, "in this point of view, it might be awkward
to live in a conquered country; but if a man has talents to make himself
agreeable to the powers that be, and money in his purse, _that_ can
never touch him, _chacun pour soi--et honi soit qui mal y pense_."

"Is it in England!--Oh! can it be in England, and from an Englishman,
that I hear such sentiments!" exclaimed Count Altenberg. "Such I have
heard on the continent--such we have heard the precursors of the ruin,
disgrace, destruction of the princes and nations of Europe!"

Some painful reflections or recollections seemed to absorb the Count for
a few moments.

"_Foi d'honnête homme et de philosophe_," French Clay declared, that,
for his own part, he cared not who ruled or how, who was conqueror, or
what was conquered, provided champagne and burgundy were left to him by
the conqueror.

Rosamond thought it was a pity Mr. Clay was not married to the lady who
said she did not care what revolutions happened, as long as she had her
roast chicken, and her little game at cards.

"Happen what will," continued French Clay, "I have two hundred thousand
pounds, well counted--as to the rest, it is quite indifferent to me,
whether England be called England or France; for," concluded he, walking
off to the committee of dress, "after all I have heard, I recur to my
first question, what is country--or, as people term it, _their native
land_?"

The following lines came full into Caroline's recollection as French
Clay spoke:

  "Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
  Who never to himself has said,
  This is my own, my native land?
  Whose heart has ne'er within him burn'd,
  As home his footsteps he hath turn'd,
  From wandering on a foreign strand?
  If such there he, go, mark him well;
  High though his titles, proud his fame,
  Boundless his wealth, as wish can claim,
  Despite these titles, power and pelf,
  The wretch, concentred all in self,
  Living shall forfeit fair renown,
  And doubly dying shall go down
  To the vile dust from whence he sprung.
  Unwept, unhonour'd, and unsung."

Caroline asked Count Altenberg, who seemed well acquainted with English
literature, if he had ever read Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel?

The Count smiled, and replied,

  "'Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
  Who never to himself has said'

any of those beautiful lines?"

Caroline, surprised that the Count knew so well what had passed in her
mind, blushed.

At this moment Mrs. Falconer returned, and throwing a reconnoitring
glance round the room to see how the company had disposed of themselves,
was well pleased to observe French Clay leaning on the back of
Georgiana's chair, and giving her his opinion about some artificial
flowers. The ladies had been consulting upon the manner in which the
characters in "Love in a Village,"--or, "The Lord of the Manor," should
be dressed, and Miss Arabella Falconer had not yet completely determined
which piece or which dress she preferred. She was glad that the Percys
had been kept from this committee, because, as they were not to be asked
to the entertainment, it was a subject she could not discuss before
them. Whenever they had approached the table, the young ladies had
talked only of fashions in general; and now, as Mrs. Percy and Caroline,
followed by Count Altenberg, joined them, Mrs. Falconer put aside a
volume of plays, containing "The Lord of the Manor," &c.; and, taking
up another book, said something about the immortal bard to English
Clay, who happened to be near her. He replied, "I have every edition of
Shakspeare that ever was printed or published, and every thing that ever
was written about him, good, bad, or indifferent, at Clay-hall. I made
this a principle, and I think every Englishman should do the same.
_Your_ Mr. Voltaire," added this polite Englishman, turning to Count
Altenberg, "made a fine example of himself by _dashing_ at _our_
Shakspeare?"

"Undoubtedly, Voltaire showed he did not understand Shakspeare, and
therefore did not do him justice," replied Count Altenberg. "Even
Voltaire had some tinge of national prejudice, as well as other men. It
was reserved for women to set us, in this instance, as in many others,
an example at once of superior candour and superior talent."

English Clay pulled up his boots, and, with a look of cool contempt,
said, "I see you are a lady's man, monsieur."

Count Altenberg replied, that if a lady's man means an admirer of the
fair sex, he was proud to feel that he deserved that compliment; and
with much warmth he pronounced such a panegyric upon that sex, without
whom "_le commencement de la vie est sans secours, le milieu sans
plaisir, et la fin sans consolation_," that even Lady Anne Arlington
raised her head from the hand on which it reclined, and every female eye
turned upon him with approbation.

"Oh! what a lover he will make, if ever he is in love," cried Lady
Frances Arlington, who never scrupled saying any thing that came into
her head. "I beg pardon, I believe I have said something very shocking.
Georgiana, my dear, I protest I was not thinking of--But what
a disturbance I have made amongst all your faces, ladies--and
_gentlemen_," repeated her ladyship, looking archly at the Count, whose
face at this moment glowed manifestly; "and all because gentlemen
and ladies don't mind their grammar and their tenses. Now don't you
recollect--I call upon Mrs. Falconer, who really has some presence
of--countenance--I call upon Mrs. Falconer to witness that I said 'if;'
and, pray comprehend me, M. le Comte, else I must appear excessively
rude, I did not mean to say any thing of the present or the past, but
only of the future."

The Count, recovering his presence of mind, and _presence_ of
_countenance_, turned to a little Cupid on the mantel-piece; and,
playfully doing homage before it, repeated,

  "Qui que tu sois voici ton maître,
  Il l'est, le fut--ou le doit être."

"Oh! charming--oh! for a translation!" cried Mrs. Falconer, glad to turn
the attention from Georgiana:--"Lady Frances--ladies some of you, Miss
Percy, here's my pencil."

Here they were interrupted by Mr. Percy's return from Lord Oldborough's.

The commissioner followed Mr. Percy into the room, and asked, and was
answered, a variety of questions about despatches from town; trying,
but, in vain, to find out what had been going forward. At last he ended
with a look of absence, and a declaration that he was quite happy to
hear that Lord Oldborough had _so_ completely got rid of his gout.

"Completely," said Mr. Percy; "and he desires me to tell you, that it
will be necessary for him to return to town in a few days."

"In a few days!" cried the commissioner.

"In a few days!" repeated several voices, in different tones.

"In a few days!--Gracious Heaven! and what will become of 'the Lord of
the Manor!'" cried Miss Falconer.

"Gently, my Arabella! never raise your voice so high--you, who are a
musician," said Mrs. Falconer, "and so sweet a voice as you have--in
general. Besides," added she, drawing her apart, "you forget that you
should not speak of 'the Lord of the Manor' before the Percys, as they
are not to be asked."

"To be sure. Pray keep your temper, Bell, if you can, for a minute,"
whispered Miss Georgiana; "you see they have rung for the carriage."

Mrs. Falconer began to entreat Mrs. Percy would not be in a hurry to run
away; but to her great joy the carriage came to the door.

At parting with Count Altenberg, Mr. Percy said that he regretted that
they were so soon to lose his company in this part of the world. "We,
who live so much retired, shall feel the loss particularly."

The Count, evidently agitated, only said, in a low voice, "We are not
parting yet--we shall meet again--I hope--do you ever go to London?"

"Never."

"At all events, we _must_ meet again," said the Count.

The ladies had all collected at the open windows, to see the departure
of the Percys; but Miss Georgiana Falconer could learn nothing from the
manner in which the Count handed Caroline into the carriage. It did not
appear even that he spoke to her.

On his return, the Miss Falconers, and the Lady Arlingtons, were of
course talking of those who had just left the house. There was at first
but one voice in praise of Caroline's beauty and talents, elegance,
and simplicity of manner. Mrs. Falconer set the example; Lady Frances
Arlington and Miss Georgiana Falconer extolled her in the highest
terms--one to provoke, the other not to appear provoked.

"La!" said Lady Frances, "how we may mistake even the people we know
best--Georgiana, can you conceive it? I never should have guessed, if
you had not told me, that Miss Caroline Percy was such a favourite of
yours. Do you know now, so little penetration have I, I should have
thought that you rather disliked her?"

"You are quite right, my dear Lady Frances," cried Mrs. Falconer; "I
give you credit for your penetration: _entre nous_, Miss Caroline Percy
is no favourite of Georgiana."

Georgiana actually opened her eyes with astonishment, and thought her
mother did not know what she was saying, and that she certainly did not
perceive that Count Altenberg was in the room.

"Count Altenberg, is this the book you are looking for?" said the young
lady, pronouncing Count Altenberg's name very distinctly, to put her
mother on her guard.

Mrs. Falconer continued precisely in the same tone. "Georgiana does
justice, I am sure, to Miss Percy's merit and charms; but the truth is,
she does not like her, and Georgiana has too much frankness to conceal
it; and now come here, and I will tell you the reason." In a half
whisper, but perfectly intelligible to every one in the room, Mrs.
Falconer went on--"Georgiana's favourite brother, Buckhurst--did you
never hear it? In days of yore, there was an attachment--Buckhurst, you
know, is very ardent in his attachments--desperately in love he was--and
no wonder. But at that time he was nobody--he was unprovided for, and
the young lady had a good fortune then--her father would have him go to
the bar--against the commissioner's wishes. You know a young man will
do any thing if he is in love, and is encouraged--I don't know how the
thing went on, or off, but Buckhurst found himself disappointed at last,
and was so miserable about it! ready to break his heart! you would have
pitied him! Georgiana was so sorry for him, that she never could forgive
the young lady--though I really don't imagine, after all, she was to
blame. But sisters will feel for their brothers."

Georgiana, charmed to find this amiable mode of accounting for her
dislike to Caroline, instantly pursued her mother's hint, and
frankly declared that she never could conceal either her likings or
dislikings--that Miss Caroline Percy might have all the merit upon
earth, and she did not doubt but she had; yet she never could forgive
her for jilting Buckhurst--no, never! never! It might be unjust, but she
owned that it was a prepossession she could not conquer.

"Why, indeed, my dear young lady, I hardly know how to blame you," cried
Lady Trant; "for certainly a jilt is not a very amiable character."

"Oh! my dear Lady Trant, don't use such a word--Georgiana!--Why will you
be so warm, so very unguarded, where that darling brother is concerned?
You really--Oh! my dear Lady Trant, this must not go farther--and
positively the word jilt must never be used again; for I'm confident it
is quite inapplicable."

"I'd not swear for that," cried Lady Trant; "for, now I recollect, at
Lady Angelica Headingham's, what was it we heard, my dear Lady Kew,
about her coquetting with that Mr. Barclay, who is now going to be
married to Lady Mary Pembroke, you know?"

"Oh! yes, I did hear something, I recollect--but, at the time, I never
minded, because I did not know, then, who that Miss Caroline Percy
was--true, true, I recollect it now. And all, you know, we heard about
her and Sir James Harcourt--was there not something there? By all
accounts, it is plain she is not the simple country beauty she
looks--practised!--practised! you see."

Miss Georgiana Falconer's only fear was, that Count Altenberg might not
hear Lady Kew, who had lowered her voice to the note of mystery. Mrs.
Falconer, who had accomplished her own judicious purpose, of accounting
for Georgiana's dislike of Miss Caroline Percy, was now afraid that her
dear friends would overdo the business; she made many efforts to stop
them, but once upon the scent of scandal, it was no easy matter to
change the pursuit.

"You seem to have found something that has caught your attention
delightfully, Count Altenberg," said Mrs. Falconer; "how I envy any one
who is completely _in_ a book--what is it?"

"Johnson's preface to Shakspeare."

Miss Georgiana Falconer was vexed, for she recollected that Miss
Caroline Percy had just been speaking of it with admiration.

Mrs. Falconer wondered how it could have happened that she had never
read it.

Lady Kew persevered in her story. "Sir James Harcourt, I know, who is
the most polite creature in the whole world, and who never speaks an
ill word of any body, I assure you, said of Miss Caroline Percy in my
hearing--what I shall not repeat. Only this much I must tell you, Mrs.
Falconer--Mrs. Falconer!--She won't listen because the young lady is
a relation of her own--and we are very rude; but truth is truth,
notwithstanding, you know. Well, well, she may talk of Miss Percy's
beauty and abilities--very clever she is, I don't dispute; but this I
may say, that Mrs. Falconer must never praise her to me for simplicity
of character."

"Why, no," said Miss Georgiana; "one is apt to suppose that a person
who has lived all her life in the country must, of course, have great
simplicity. But there is a simplicity of character, and a simplicity of
manner, and they don't always go together. Caroline Percy's manner is
fascinating, because, you know, it is what one does not meet with every
day in town--that was what struck my poor brother--that and her great
talents, which can make her whatever she pleases to be: but I am greatly
afraid she is not quite the _ingenuous_ person she looks."

Count Altenberg changed colour, and was putting down his book suddenly,
when Mrs. Falconer caught it, and stopping him, asked how far he had
read.

Whilst he was turning over the leaves, Lady Trant went on, in her
turn--"With all her _practice_, or her _simplicity_, whichever it may
be--far be it from me to decide which--I fancy she has met with her
match, and has been disappointed in her turn."

"Really!" cried Georgiana, eagerly: "How! What! When!--Are you certain?"

"Last summer--Oh! I have it from those who know the gentleman well. Only
an affair of the heart that did not end happily: but I am told she
was very much in love. The family would not hear of it--the
mother, especially, was averse: so the young gentleman ended by
marrying--exceedingly well--and the young lady by wearing the willow,
you know, a decent time."

"Oh! why did you never tell me this before?" said Miss Georgiana.

"I protest I never thought of it, till Lady Kew brought it to my
recollection, by talking of Lady Angelica Headingham, and Sir James
Harcourt, and all that."

"But who was the gentleman?"

"That's a secret," replied Lady Trant.

"A secret!--A secret!--What is it? What is it?" cried Lady Frances
Arlington, pressing into the midst of the party; for she was the most
curious person imaginable.

Then heads joined, and Lady Trant whispered, and Lady Frances exclaimed
aloud, "Hungerford?--Colonel Hungerford!"

"Fie! fie! Lady Frances," cried Georgiana--and "Fie! fie! you are a
pretty person to keep a secret," cried Lady Trant: "I vow I'll never
trust your ladyship with a secret again--when you publish it in this
way."

"I vow you will," said Lady Frances. "Why, you all know, in your hearts,
you wish to publish it--else why tell it--especially to me? But all this
time I am not thinking in the least about the matter, nor was I when I
said _Hungerford_--I was and am thinking of my own affairs. What did I
do with the letter I received this morning? I had it here--no, I hadn't
it--yes, I had--Anne!--Anne!--Lady Anne! the duchess's letter: I gave it
to you; what did you do with it?"

"La! it is somewhere, I suppose," said Lady Anne, raising her head, and
giving a vague look round the room.

Lady Frances made every one search their work-boxes, writing-boxes, and
reticules; then went from table to table, opening and shutting all the
drawers.

"Frances!--If you would not fly about so! What can it signify?"
expostulated Lady Anne. But in vain; her sister went on, moving every
thing and every body in the room, displacing all the cushions of all the
chairs in her progress, and, at last, approached Lady Anne's sofa, with
intent to invade her repose.

"Ah! Frances!" cried Lady Anne, in a deprecating tone, with a gesture of
supplication and anguish in her eyes, "do let me rest!"

"Never, till I have the letter."

With the energy of anger and despair Lady Anne made an effort to reach
the bell-cord--but it missed--the cord swung--Petcalf ran to catch it,
and stumbled over a stool--English Clay stood still and laughed--French
Clay exclaimed, "_Ah! mon Dieu! Cupidon!_"

Count Altenberg saved Cupid from falling, and rang the bell.

"Sir," said Lady Anne to the footman, "I had a letter--some time this
morning, in my hand."

"Yes, my lady."

"I want it."

"Yes, my lady."

"Pray, sir, tell somebody to tell Pritchard, to tell Flora, to go up
stairs to my dressing-room, sir, to look every where for't; and let it
be brought to my sister, Lady Frances, if you please, sir."

"No, no, sir, don't do any thing about the matter, if you please--I will
go myself," said Lady Frances.

Away the lady ran up stairs, and down again, with the letter in her
hand.

"Yes! exactly as I thought," cried she; "my aunt does say, that Mrs.
Hungerford is to be down to-day--I thought so."

"Very likely," said Lady Anne; "I never thought about it."

"But, Anne, you must think about it, for my aunt desires we should go
and see her directly."

"I can't go," said Lady Anne--"I've a cold--your going will do."

"Mrs. Falconer, my dear Mrs. Falconer, will you go with me to-morrow to
Hungerford Castle?" cried Lady Frances, eagerly.

"Impossible! my dear Lady Frances, unfortunately quite impossible. The
Hungerfords and we have no connexion--there was an old family quarrel--"

"Oh! never mind family quarrels and connexions--you can go, and I am
sure it will be taken very well--and you know you only go with me. Oh!
positively you must--now there's my good dear Mrs. Falconer--yes, and
order the carriage this minute for to-morrow early," said Lady Frances,
in a coaxing yet impatient tone.

Mrs. Falconer adhered to its being absolutely impossible.

"Then, Anne, you must go."

No--Anne was impenetrable.

"Then I'll go by myself," cried Lady Frances, pettishly--"I'll take
Pritchard with me, in our own carriage, and I'll speak about it
directly--for go I must and will."

"Now, Frances, what new fancy is this for Mrs. Hungerford? I am sure you
used not to care about her," said Lady Anne.

"And I dare say I should not care about her now," replied Lady Frances,
"but that I am dying to see an old pair of shoes she has."

"An old pair of shoes!" repeated Lady Anne, with a look of unutterable
disdain.

"An old pair of shoes!" cried Mrs. Falconer, laughing.

"Yes, a pair of blue damask shoes as old as Edward the Fourth's
time--with chains from the toe to the knee, you know--or do you know,
Count Altenberg? Miss Percy was describing them--she saw Colonel
Hungerford put them on--Oh! he must put them on for me--I'll make him
put them on, chains and all, to-morrow."

"Colonel Hungerford is on his way to India by this time," said Georgiana
Falconer, drily.

"May I ask," said Count Altenberg, taking advantage of the first pause
in the conversation--"may I ask if I understood rightly, that Mrs.
Hungerford, mother of Colonel Hungerford, lives in this neighbourhood,
and is coming into the country to-morrow?"

"Yes--just so," said Lady Frances.

What concern can it be of his? thought Miss Georgiana Falconer, fixing
her eyes upon the Count with alarmed curiosity.

"I knew Colonel Hungerford abroad," continued the Count, "and have a
great regard for him."

Lady Kew, Lady Trant, and Miss Georgiana Falconer, exchanged looks.

"I am sorry that he is gone to India," said Mrs. Falconer, in a
sentimental tone; "it would have been so pleasant to you to have renewed
an acquaintance with him in England."

Count Altenberg regretted the absence of his friend, the colonel;
but, turning to Lady Frances, he congratulated himself upon having an
opportunity of presenting his letters of introduction, and paying his
respects to Mrs. Hungerford, of whom he had heard much from foreigners
who had visited England, and who had been charmed with her, and with her
daughter, Mrs. Mortimer--his letters of introduction had been addressed
to her town residence, but she was not in London when he was there.

"No, she was at Pembroke," said Lady Kew.

I'm sure I wish she were there still, thought Miss Georgiana.

"But, after all, Lady Frances, is the duchess sure that Mrs. Hungerford
is actually come to the country?--May be, she is still in town."

"I shall have the honour of letting your ladyship know; for, if Lord
Oldborough will permit, I shall certainly go, very soon, to pay my
respects at Hungerford Castle," said Count Altenberg.

The prescient jealousy of Miss Georgiana Falconer boded ill of this
visit to Hungerford Castle. A few days afterwards a note was received
from Count Altenberg, returning many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Falconer for
the civilities he had received from them, paying all proper compliments
to Zara, announcing his intention of accepting an invitation to stay
some time at Mrs. Hungerford's, and taking a polite leave of the
Falconer family.

Here was a death-blow to all Georgiana's hopes! But we shall not stay to
describe her disappointment, or the art of her mother in concealing it;
nor shall we accompany Mrs. Falconer to town, to see how her designs
upon the Clays or Petcalf prospered. We must follow Count Altenberg to
Hungerford Castle.



CHAPTER XXIX.


  "Who would prize the tainted posies,
    Which on ev'ry breast are worn?
  Who could pluck the spotless roses
    From their never touched thorn?"

The feeling expressed in these lines will be acknowledged by every man
of sense and delicacy. "No such man ever prized a heart much hackneyed
in the ways of love." It was with exquisite pain that Count Altenberg
had heard all that had been said of Caroline--he did not give credit
to half the insinuations--he despised those who made them: he knew
that some of the ladies spoke from envy, others from the mere love of
scandal; but still, altogether, an impression unfavourable to Caroline,
or rather unfavourable to his passion for Caroline, was left on his
mind. The idea that she had been suspected, the certainty that she had
been talked of, that she had even been named as one who had coquetted
with many admirers--the notion that she had been in love--passionately
in love--all this took from the freshness, the virgin modesty, the
dignity, the charm, with which she had appeared to his imagination, and
without which she could not have touched his heart--a heart not to be
easily won.

In his own country, at the court where he resided, in the different
parts of the continent which he had visited, Germany, Poland,
Switzerland, France, he had seen women celebrated for beauty and
for wit, many of the most polished manners, many of the highest
accomplishments, some of exquisite sensibility, a few with genuine
simplicity of character, but in all there had been something which had
prevented his wishing to make any one of them the companion of his life.
In some there was a want of good temper--in others of good sense; there
was some false taste for admiration or for notoriety--some love of
pleasure, or some love of sway, inconsistent with his idea of the
perfection of the female character, incompatible with his plans of life,
and with his notions of love and happiness.

In England, where education, institutions, opinion, manners, the habits
of society, and of domestic life, happily combine to give the just
proportion of all that is attractive, useful, ornamental, and amiable to
the female character--in England, Count Altenberg had hopes of finding a
woman who, to the noble simplicity of character that was once the charm
of Switzerland, joined the polish, the elegance, that was once the
pride of France; a woman possessing an enlarged, cultivated, embellished
understanding, capable of comprehending all his views as a politician
and a statesman; yet without any wish for power, or love of political
intrigue. Graced with knowledge and taste for literature and science,
capable of being extended to the highest point of excellence, yet free
from all pedantry, or pretension--with wit, conversational talents, and
love of good society, without that desire of exhibition, that devouring
diseased appetite for admiration, which preys upon the mind insatiably,
to its torture--to its destruction; without that undefineable,
untranslateable French love of _succès de société_, which substitutes
a precarious; factitious, intoxicated existence in public, for the safe
self-approbation, the sober, the permanent happiness of domestic life.
In England Count Altenberg hoped to find a woman raised by "divine
philosophy" [Footnote: Milton.] far above all illiberal prejudice, but
preserving a just and becoming sense of religion; unobtrusive, mild,
and yet firm. Every thing that he had seen of Caroline had confirmed his
first hope, and exalted his future expectation; but, by what he had
just heard, his imagination was checked in full career, suddenly, and
painfully. His heavenly dream was disturbed by earthly voices--voices
of malignant spirits--mysterious--indistinct--yet alarming. He had not
conceived it possible that the breath of blame could approach such a
character as Caroline's--he was struck with surprise, and shocked, on
hearing her name profaned by common scandal, and spoken of as the victim
of a disappointed passion, the scorn of one of the most distinguished
families in England. Such were the first painful thoughts and feelings
of Count Altenberg. At the time he heard the whispers which gave rise to
them, he had been actually penning a letter to his father, declaring his
attachment--he now resolved not to write. But he determined to satisfy
himself as to the truth or falsehood of these reports. He was not a man
to give ear lightly to calumny--he detested its baseness; he would not
suffer himself for a moment to brood over suspicion, nor yet would
he allow himself for present ease and pleasure to gloss over, without
examination, that which might afterwards recur to his mind, and might
create future unjust or unhappy jealousy. Either the object of his hopes
was worthy of him, or not--if not worthy, better tear her from his heart
for ever. This determined him to go immediately to Mrs. Hungerford's.
Count Altenberg trusted to his own address and penetration for
discovering all he wished to know, without betraying any peculiar
interest in the subject.

The first sight of Mrs. Hungerford, the gracious dignity of her
appearance and manners, the first five minutes' conversation he had
with her, decided him in the opinion, that common report had done her
justice; and raised in his mind extreme anxiety to know her opinion of
Caroline. But, though he began the history of Zara, and of the play at
Falconer-court, for the express purpose of introducing the Percys, in
speaking of the company who had been present, yet, conscious of some
unusual emotion when he was going to pronounce that name, and fancying
some meaning in Mrs. Hungerford's great attention as he spoke, he
mentioned almost every other guest, even the most insignificant, without
speaking of Caroline, or of any of her family. He went back to his
friend Colonel Hungerford. Mrs. Hungerford opened a letter-case, and
took from it the last letter she had received from her son since he
left England, containing some interesting particulars.--Towards the
conclusion of the letter, the writing changed to a small feminine hand,
and all India vanished from the view of Count Altenberg, for, as he
turned the page, he saw the name of Caroline Percy: "I suppose I ought
to stop here," said he, offering the letter to Mrs. Hungerford. "No,"
she replied, the whole letter was at his service--they were only a few
lines from her daughter Lady Elizabeth.

These few lines mentioned Caroline Percy among the dear and intimate
friends whom she regretted most in Europe, and to whom she sent a
message expressive of the warmest affection and esteem. A glow of joy
instantly diffused itself over his whole frame. As far as related to
Colonel Hungerford, he was sure that all he had heard was false. There
was little probability that his wife should, if those circumstances were
true, he Caroline's most intimate friend. Before these thoughts had well
arranged themselves in his head, a pleasing, sprightly young lady came
into the room, who he at first thought was Mrs. Hungerford's daughter;
but she was too young to answer exactly the description of Mrs.
Mortimer.

"Lady Mary Pembroke, my niece," said Mrs. Hungerford.

Her ladyship was followed by Mr. Barclay--Count Altenberg seemed in
a fair way to have all his doubts satisfied; but, in the hurry of his
mind, he had almost forgotten to ask for Mrs. Mortimer.

"You will not see her to-day," said Mrs. Hungerford; "she is gone to see
some friends, who live at distance too great for a morning visit. But
I hope," continued Mrs. Hungerford, turning to Lady Mary, "that my
daughter will make me amends for losing a day of her company, by
bringing me our dear Caroline to-morrow."

"Is there a chance of Caroline's coming to us?" cried Lady Mary with
affectionate eagerness.

"Is there any hope of our seeing Miss Caroline Percy?" said Mr. Barclay,
with an air of respectful regard, very different from what must have
been the feelings of a man who had trifled with a woman, or who had
thought that she had trifled with him.

Count Altenberg rejoiced that he had come without a moment's delay to
Hungerford Castle.

"You are really a good creature, my dear," continued Mrs. Hungerford
to Lady Mary, "for being so anxious to have Caroline here--many a niece
might be jealous of my affection, for certainly I love her as well as
if she were my own child. To-morrow, sir," said she, turning to Count
Altenberg, "I hope I shall have the pleasure to introduce you to this
young friend of ours: I shall feel proud to show her to a foreigner,
whom I wish to prepossess in favour of my countrywomen."

The Count said that he had already had the honour of being presented to
Miss Caroline Percy--that he had seen her frequently at Falconer-court,
and at her own home--and that he was not surprised at the interest which
she excited at Hungerford Castle. Count Altenberg showed the interest
she had excited in his own mind, whilst he pronounced, in the most sober
manner in his power, those few words.

Mrs. Hungerford perceived it, nor had it escaped her observation,
that he had forborne to mention the name of Percy when enumerating the
persons he had met at Falconer-court. She was both too well bred in
general, and too discreet on Caroline's account, to take any notice
of this circumstance. She passed immediately and easily to a different
subject of conversation.

The next day Mrs. Mortimer returned with Caroline. The Count saw the
affection with which she was embraced by Mrs. Hungerford. The family had
crowded to the door of the antechamber to receive her, so that Caroline,
encompassed with friends, could not immediately see the Count, and he
enjoyed these moments so exquisitely, that the idea which had previously
engrossed all his soul, anxiety to see how she would look on meeting him
thus unexpectedly, was absolutely forgotten. When the crowd opened, and
Mrs. Hungerford led her forward, a smile of frank surprise and pleasure
appeared on her countenance upon seeing Count Altenberg; but her colour
had been previously so much raised, and so much pleasure had sparkled
in her eyes, that there was no judging what share of emotion was to be
attributed to this surprise. He was, and he had reason to be, satisfied
with perceiving, that in the midst of the first pleasure of meeting
intimate friends, and when she did not expect to meet any but friends,
she was not chilled by the sight of one who was, to her, as yet but a
new acquaintance.

After introducing Count Altenberg to Mrs. Mortimer, Mrs. Hungerford
said, "Till I had my daughter and all my friends in full force about
me, I prudently did not make any attempt, Count Altenberg, upon your
liberty; but now that you see my resources, I trust you will surrender
yourself, without difficulty, my prisoner, as long as we can possibly
detain you in this castle."

Never was man less disposed to refuse an invitation than Count Altenberg
at this moment. He wrote to Mrs. Falconer immediately that farewell note
which had shocked Miss Georgiana so much.

As Lord Oldborough was preparing to return to town, and likely to be
engrossed by ministerial business, his lordship, with less reluctance,
relinquished his company; and the Count, with infinite satisfaction,
found himself established at once upon a footing of intimacy at
Hungerford Castle. The letter he had intended to write to his father was
now written and sent; but it was expressed in yet stronger terms than
he had originally designed--he concluded by conjuring his father, as
he valued the happiness of his son, not to take a step in any of the
treaties of marriage that had been planned for him, and besought him to
write as soon as it was possible, to relieve his mind from suspense,
and to set him at liberty to declare his attachment, if, upon further
acquaintance with the English lady who had touched his heart, he should
feel any hope of making such an impression on her affections as could
induce her to make for him the great sacrifice of country, family, and
friends. In the mean time, the hours and days passed on most happily
at Hungerford Castle. Every succeeding day discovered to him some
new excellence in the object of his affection. Mrs. Hungerford, with
judicious, delicate kindness, forbore all attempts to display even those
qualities and talents in Caroline which she most valued, certain that
she might safely leave them to the discernment of her lover. That Count
Altenberg loved, Mrs. Hungerford had too much penetration to doubt; and
it rejoiced her heart, and satisfied all her hopes, to see a prospect of
her young friend being united to such a man. Mrs. Mortimer felt as much
joy and as much delicacy upon the subject as her mother showed.

In that near examination in domestic life, so dangerous to many women of
the highest pretensions, Caroline shone superior. His love, approved by
the whole strength of his reason, and exalted by the natural enthusiasm
of his temper, was now at the highest. His impatience was extreme for
the arrival of that answer to his letter, which he hoped would set him
at liberty to declare his passion.

The letter at last arrived; very different were its contents from what
he had hoped. A previous letter from his father to him, sent in a packet
with government despatches by Mr. Cunningham Falconer, had not reached
him. That letter, of which his father now sent him a copy, contained
an account of the steps which had been taken, relative to a treaty of
marriage between his son and the Countess Christina, a lady of high
birth, beauty, and talents, who had lately appeared for the first time
at that court. Count Altenberg's father described the countess as one
who, he was sure, must charm his son; and as the alliance was eagerly
desired by the lady's friends, and in every respect honourable for his
whole family, the old Count was impatient to have the affair concluded.
Receiving no answer to this letter, and pressed by circumstances, he had
gone forward in his son's name with the treaty, and had pledged him so
far, that there was now, he declared, no possibility of retracting with
honour. He lamented that his son should, in the mean time, have taken
a fancy to an English lady; but, as Count Albert's letter gave the
assurance to his family that he would not take any decisive step till he
should receive an answer, nothing could have been done in England
that would commit his honour--absence would soon efface a transient
impression--the advantages of the alliance proposed in his own country
would appear stronger the more they should be examined--the charms of
the Countess Christina, with her superior understanding, would have an
irresistible effect; "and," concluded the old count, "I beseech you,
my dear Albert, as your friend--I will say more--_I command you as your
father_, return to your own country as soon as you can obtain passports
after receiving this letter."

Count Altenberg would have left Hungerford Castle immediately, but he
had still a lingering hope that his last letter to his father would
produce a change in his mind, and for an answer to this he determined
to wait; but a sudden change appeared in his manner: he was grave and
absent; instead of seeking Caroline's company and conversation as usual,
he studiously avoided her; and when he did speak to her, his behaviour
was so cold and reserved--so unlike his natural or his former manner,
that the difference struck not only Caroline herself, but Rosamond and
Mrs. Percy, who were, at this time, at Hungerford Castle. It happened
that, on the very day, and nearly at the very hour, when Count Altenberg
received this letter from his father, of which no one knew any thing but
himself, there arrived at Hungerford Castle another of Mrs. Hungerford's
nieces, a young lady of uncommon beauty, and of the most attractive
and elegant manners, Lady Florence Pembroke. She was just returned
from Italy with an uncle, who had resided there for some time. Count
Altenberg, from the moment he was introduced to Lady Florence, devoted
to her his whole attention--he sat beside her--whenever he conversed,
his conversation was addressed to her; and the evident absence of mind
he occasionally betrayed, and all the change in his manner, seemed to
have been caused by her ladyship's appearance. Some sage philosophers
know little more of cause and effect than that the one precedes the
other; no wonder then that Rosamond, not famous for the accuracy of
her reasoning, should, in this instance, be misled by appearances.
To support her character for prudence, she determined not to seem to
observe what passed, and not to mention her suspicions to her sister;
who, as she remarked, was sensible of the count's altered manner; and
who, as she rightly conjectured, did not perceive it with indifference.
The accomplishments, good sense, and exalted sentiments of Count
Altenberg, and the marked attentions he had paid her, had made an
unusual impression on the mind of Caroline. He had never declared his
love, but involuntarily it had betrayed itself on several occasions.
Insensibly Caroline was thus led to feel for him more than she dared to
avow even to herself, when the sudden change in his manner awakened her
from this delightful forgetfulness of every object that was unconnected
with her new feelings, and suddenly arrested her steps as she seemed
entering the paradise of love and hope.

At night, when they were retiring to rest, and Caroline and Rosamond
were in their mother's room, Rosamond, unable longer to keep her prudent
silence, gave vent to her indignation against Count Altenberg in
general reflections upon the fickleness of man. Even men of the best
understanding were, she said, but children of a larger growth--pleased
with change--preferring always the newest to the fairest, or the best.
Caroline did not accede to these accusations.

Rosamond, astonished and provoked, exclaimed, "Is it possible that you
are so blind as not to see that Count Altenberg--" Rosamond stopped
short, for she saw Caroline's colour change. She stood beside her mother
motionless, and with her eyes fixed on the ground. Rosamond moved a
chair towards her.

"Sit down, my dear love," said her mother, tenderly taking Caroline's
hand--"sit down and compose yourself."

"My dear mother, you required one, and but one promise from me--I gave
it you, firmly intending to keep it; and yet I fear that you will think
I have broken it. I promised to tell you whenever I felt the first
symptom of preference for any person. I did not know my own mind till
this day. Indeed I thought I felt nothing but what every body else
expressed, esteem and admiration."

"In common minds," replied Mrs. Percy, "esteem and admiration may be
very safely distant from love; but in such a mind as yours, Caroline,
the step from perfect esteem to love is dangerously near--scarcely
perceptible."

"Why dangerously?" cried Rosamond: "why should not perfect love follow
perfect esteem? that is the very thing I desire for Caroline. I am sure
he _is_ attached to her, and he is all we could wish for her, and--"

"Stop!" cried Caroline. "Oh! my dear sister! as you wish me to be good
and happy, name him to me no more--for it cannot be."

"Why?" exclaimed Rosamond, with a look of dismay: "Why cannot it be? It
can, it must--it shall be."

Caroline sighed, and turning from her sister, as if she dreaded to
listen to her, she repeated, "No;--I will not flatter myself--I see that
it cannot be--I have observed the change in his manner. The pain it gave
me first awakened me to the state of my own affections. I have given you
some proof of sincerity by speaking thus immediately of the impression
made on my mind. You will acknowledge the effort was difficult.--Mother,
will you answer me one question--which I am afraid to ask--did you, or
do you think that any body else perceived my sentiments by my manner?"
Caroline paused, and her mother and sister set her heart at ease on that
point.

"After all," said Rosamond, addressing herself to her mother, "I may
be mistaken in what I hinted about Count Altenberg. I own I thought the
change in his manner arose from Lady Florence Pembroke--I am sorry I
said any thing of it--I dare say when he sees more of her--she is very
pretty, very pleasing, very elegant, and amiable, no doubt; but surely,
in comparison with Caroline--but I am not certain that there is any
rivalship in the case."

"I am certain that there shall be none," said Caroline. "How
extraordinary it is that the best, the noblest, the most delightful
feelings of the heart, may lead to the meanest, the most odious! I
have, within a few hours, felt enough to be aware of this. I will leave
nothing to chance. A woman should never expose herself to any hazard. I
will preserve my peace of mind, my own esteem. I will preserve my
dear and excellent friends; and that I may preserve some of them, I am
sensible that I must now quit them."

Mrs. Percy was going to speak, but Rosamond interposed.

"Oh! what have I done!" exclaimed she: "imprudent creature that I was,
why did I speak? why did I open your eyes, Caroline? I had resolved not
to say a single word of the change I perceived in the Count."

"And did you think I should not perceive it?" said Caroline. "Oh,
you little know how quickly--the first look--the first tone of his
voice--But of that I will think no more. Only let me assure you, that
you, my dear Rosamond, did no harm--it was not what any body said that
alarmed me: before you pointed it out, I had felt that change in his
manner, for which I cannot account."

"You cannot account?--Can you doubt that Lady Florence is the cause?"
said Rosamond.

"Yes, I have great doubts," said Caroline.

"So have I," said Mrs. Percy.

"I cannot believe," said Caroline, "that a man of his sense and
character would be so suddenly captivated: I do not mean to detract from
Lady Florence's merits, but before they could make the impression you
suspect on Count Altenberg, there must have been time for them to be
known and appreciated. Shall I go on, and tell you all that has passed
in my mind? Yes, my mother and sister should see me as I am--perhaps
under the delusion of vanity--or self-love--or--But if I am wrong, you
will set me right--you will help me to set myself right: it has never
been declared in words, therefore perhaps I am vain and presumptuous to
believe or to imagine--yet I do feel persuaded that I am preferred--that
I am--"

"Loved! Oh, yes!" said Rosamond, "a thousand times I have thought so,
I have felt certain, that Count Altenberg loved you; but now I am
convinced, alas! of my mistake--convinced at least that his love is of
that light, changeable sort, which is not worth having--not worth your
having."

"That last," cried Caroline, "I can never believe." She stopped, and
blushed deeply. "What does my mother say?" added she, in a timid voice.

"My mother, I am sure, thought once that he loved Caroline--did not you,
mother?" said Rosamond.

"Yes, my dear," answered Mrs. Percy, "I have thought so, and I am not
yet convinced that we were mistaken; but I entirely agree with Caroline
that this is a subject upon which we ought not to let our thoughts
dwell."

"Oh! so I have thought, so I have said on former occasions, how often,
how sincerely!" said Caroline. "But this is the first time I ever felt
it difficult to practise what I know to be wise and right. Mother, I beg
it as a favour that you will take me away from this place--this place,
where but yesterday I thought myself so happy!"

"But why, Caroline--why, mother, should she do this?" expostulated
Rosamond. "If she thinks, if you think that he loves her, if you do not
believe that he has changed, if you do not believe that he is struck
with a new face, why should Caroline go? For Heaven's sake do not take
her away till you are sure that it is necessary."

"I will be guided by her opinion," said Mrs. Percy; "I can depend
entirely on her own prudence."

"Indeed, I think it will be most prudent that I should not indulge
myself in staying longer," said Caroline. "From what I have seen of
Count Altenberg, we have reason to think that he acts in general from
wise and good motives. We should therefore believe that in the present
instance his motives are good and adequate--I cannot suspect that he
acts from caprice: what the nature of the obstacle may be, I can only
guess; but I am inclined to think that some opposing duty--"

"His duty," said Rosamond, "I suppose he must have known before to-day.
What new duty can he have discovered? No, no; men are not so very apt in
love matters to think of opposing duties as women do: much more likely
that he has heard something to your disadvantage, Caroline, from the
Falconers. I can tell you that Lady Frances Arlington gave me a hint
that strange things had been said, and great pains taken to misrepresent
you to the count."

"If injurious representations have been made of me to him," replied
Caroline, "he will in time discover the falsehood of such report; or, if
he believe them without examination, he is not what I imagine him to be.
No; I am convinced he has too noble a mind, too just an understanding,
to be misled by calumny."

Mrs. Percy declared she was decidedly of this opinion. "The obstacle,
whatever it may be, my dear mother," continued Caroline, with the
earnest tone and expression of countenance of a person of strong mind,
at once feeling and thinking deeply, "the difficulty, whatever it is,
must be either such as time will obviate or increase; the obstacle must
be either conquerable or unconquerable: if he love me, as I thought he
did, if he have the energy of character I think he possesses, he will
conquer it, if it can be conquered; if it be unconquerable, what misery,
what madness, to suffer my affections to be irrevocably engaged! or
what base vanity to wish, if it were in my power, to inspire him with an
unhappy passion! Then, in every point of view, mother, surely it is best
that I should leave this--dangerous place," said Caroline, smiling. "Yet
you are both so happy here, I am sorry to be the cause."

"My love," said her mother, "to us all things are trifles, compared with
what it is right and becoming that you should do. I entirely approve and
applaud your prudence and resolution: what you desire shall be done as
soon as possible. We will go home to-morrow morning."

"But, my dear ma'am! so suddenly! consider," cried Rosamond, "how very
strange this will appear to Mrs. Hungerford, and to every body!"

"My dear Rosamond, these are some of the small difficulties, the false
delicacies, which so often prevent people from doing what is right,
or what is essentially necessary for the security of the peace and
happiness of their whole lives," said Mrs. Percy.

"That is true," replied Rosamond; "and I do not object to doing the
thing, but I only wish we had some good, decent excuse for running
away: you don't expect that Mrs. Hungerford will part with you without
remonstrance, without struggle, without even inquiring, why you must run
away? I am sure I hope she will not ask me, for I am not prepared with
an answer, and my face would never do, and would give way at the first
glance of her penetrating eye--what will you say to Mrs. Hungerford?"

"The truth," replied Caroline. "Mrs. Hungerford has ever treated me with
so much kindness, has shown me so much affection and esteem, feels such
a warm interest in all that concerns me, and is herself of so noble a
character, that she commands my entire confidence--and she shall have
it without reserve. Since my mother agrees with me in thinking that Lady
Florence has not been in any degree the cause of the change of manner
we have observed, there can be no impropriety on that account in
our speaking of the subject to Mrs. Hungerford. It may be painful,
humiliating--but what is meant by confidence, by openness towards our
friends?--We are all of us ready enough to confess our virtues,"
said she, smiling; "but our weaknesses, what humbles our pride to
acknowledge, we are apt to find some delicate reason for keeping
secret. Mother, if you do not disapprove of it, I wish you to tell Mrs.
Hungerford the whole truth."

Mrs. Percy entirely approved of Caroline's placing confidence in this
excellent friend. She observed, that this was very different from the
girlish gossiping sort of _confidences_, which are made often from one
young lady to another, merely from the want of something to say, or the
pleasure of prattling about love, or the hope of being encouraged by
some weak young friend, to indulge some foolish passion.

The next morning, before Mrs. Hungerford had left her apartment, Mrs.
Percy went to her, and explained the reasons which induced Caroline
to refuse herself the pleasure of prolonging her visit at Hungerford
Castle.

Mrs. Hungerford was touched by the confidence which Caroline placed in
her. "Believe me," said she, "it is not misplaced--I feel all its value.
And must I lose her? I never parted with her without regret, and that
regret increases the more I see of her. I almost forget that she is not
my own, till I am called upon to relinquish her: but much as I value
her, much as I enjoy her society, I cannot be so selfish as to wish to
detain her when her peace of mind is at stake. How few, how very few are
there, of all the various young women I know, who would have the good
sense and resolution, I will say it, the integrity of mind, to act as
she does! There is usually some sentimental casuistry, some cowardly
fear, or lingering hope, that prevents young people in these
circumstances from doing the plain right thing--any thing but the plain
right thing they are ready to do--and there is always some delicate
reason for not telling the truth, especially to their friends; but _our_
daughters, Mrs. Percy, are above these things." With respect to Count
Altenberg, Mrs. Hungerford said, that, from many observations she had
made, she felt no doubt of his being strongly attached to Caroline.
"Their characters, their understandings, are suited to each other; they
have the same high views, the same magnanimity. With one exception--you
must allow a mother's partiality to make an exception in favour of her
own son--with one exception Count Altenberg is the man of all others to
whom I could wish to see Caroline united. I never till yesterday doubted
that it would be; but I was as much struck with the change in his manner
as you have been. I agree with Caroline, that some obstacle, probably of
duty, has arisen, and I hope--but no, I will imitate her example, and as
you tell me she forbids herself to hope, so will I--if possible. At all
events she raises herself, high as she was in my esteem, still higher by
her present conduct. Tell her so, my dear Mrs. Percy--you, her mother,
may give this praise, without hurting her delicacy; and tell her that,
old as I am, I have not forgotten so completely the feelings of my
youth, as not to be aware that suspense in some situations is the worst
of evils. She may be assured that my attention shall be as much awake as
even her mother's could be--and when any thing that I think important or
decisive occurs, she shall hear from me immediately, or see me, unless I
should lose the use of my limbs, or my faculties."

A messenger came to summon Mrs. Hungerford to breakfast--soon afterwards
a ride was proposed by Mrs. Mortimer. Count Altenberg was to be one of
this party, and he looked for a moment surprised and disappointed, when
he found that Caroline was not going with them; but he forebore to
ask why she did not ride, and endeavoured to occupy himself solely in
helping Mrs. Mortimer to mount her horse--Rosamond was glad to perceive
that he did not well know what he was doing.

Before they returned from their ride, the Percys were on their way
to the Hills. Till this moment the sight of home, even after a short
absence, had, on returning to it, always been delightful to Caroline;
but now, for the first time in her life, every object seemed to have
lost its brightness. In the stillness of retirement, which she used to
love, she felt something sad and lifeless. The favourite glade, which
formerly she thought the very spot so beautifully described by Dryden,
as the scene of his "Flower and the Leaf," even this she found had lost
its charm. New to love, Caroline was not till now aware, that it throws
a radiance upon every object, which, when passed away, seems to leave
all nature changed.

To banish recollections which she knew that she ought not to indulge,
she employed herself unremittingly. But her mind did not turn with its
wonted energy to her occupations, nor was it acted upon by those small
motives of ordinary life, by which it had formerly been excited. When
reading, her thoughts would wander even from her favourite authors:
every subject they discussed would remind her of some conversation
that had passed at Hungerford Castle; some coincidence or difference of
opinion would lead her to digress; some observation more just or more
striking; some better expression, or some expression which pleased her
better than the author's, would occur, and the book was laid down. These
digressions of fancy were yet more frequent when she was endeavouring
to fix her attention to drawing, needle-work, or to any other sedentary
employment. Exercise she found useful. She spent more time than usual
in planting and in gardening--a simple remedy; but practical philosophy
frequently finds those simple remedies the best which Providence has put
within the reach of all.

One morning, soon after her return home, when she was alone and busy in
her garden, she heard voices at a distance; as they approached nearer,
she thought she distinguished Mrs. Hungerford's. She listened, and
looked towards the path whence the voices had come. All was silent--but
a minute afterwards, she saw Mrs. Hungerford coming through the narrow
path in the thicket: Caroline at first sprang forward to meet her, then
stopped short, her heart beating violently--she thought that, perhaps,
Mrs. Hungerford was accompanied by Count Altenberg; but she was alone.
Ashamed of the hope which had glanced across her mind, and of the
sudden stop which had betrayed her thoughts, Caroline now went forward,
blushing.

Mrs. Hungerford embraced her with tenderness, and then assuming a
cheerful tone, "Your mother and sister wanted to persuade me," said she,
"that I should never find my way to you--but I insisted upon it that I
could. Had I not the instinct of a true friend to guide me?--So now
let me sit down and rest myself on this pretty seat--a very comfortable
throne!--and that is saying much for a throne. So these are your
territories?" continued she, looking round, and talking with an air of
playfulness, to give Caroline time to recover herself.

"Why did you never invite me to your garden?--Perhaps, you think me a
mere fire-side, arm-chair old woman, dead to all the beauties of
nature; but I can assure you that I have, all my life, from principle,
cultivated this taste, which I think peculiarly suited to women,
salutary not only to their health, but to their happiness and their
virtues--their domestic virtues, increasing the interest they take in
their homes, heightening those feelings of associated pleasure which
extend from persons to places, and which are at once a proof of the
strength of early attachments and a security for their continuance to
the latest period of life. Our friend, Count Altenberg, was observing to
me the other day that we Englishwomen, among our other advantages, from
our modes of life, from our spending so many months of the year in the
country, have more opportunity of forming and indulging these tastes
than is usual among foreign ladies in the same rank of life. Fortunately
for us, we are not like Mr. Clay's French countess, or duchess, who
declared that she hated innocent pleasures."

After mentioning French Clay, Mrs. Hungerford passed to a comparison
between him and Count Altenberg. She had met Mr. Clay in town, and
disliked him. "He is an Englishman only by birth, and a Frenchman only by
affectation; Count Altenberg, on the contrary, a foreigner by birth, has
all the tastes and principles that make him worthy to be an Englishman.
I am convinced that, if he had liberty of choice, he would prefer
residing in England to living in any country in the world. Indeed, he
expressed that sentiment at parting from us yesterday."

"He is gone then," said Caroline.

"He is, my love."

Caroline wished to ask where? and whether he was gone for ever? Yet she
continued silent--and became extremely pale.

Mrs. Hungerford, without appearing to take any notice of her emotion,
continued, and answered all the questions which she wished to ask.

"He is gone back to Germany to his own court--recalled, as he told me,
by some imperious duty."

Caroline revived.

"So far you see, my dear, we were right, as those usually are who judge
from general principles. It was not, indeed, to be credited," continued
Mrs. Hungerford, "that a man of his character and understanding should
act merely from caprice. What the nature of the duty may be, whether
relating to his duty as a public or a private man, he did not
explain--the latter, I fear: I apprehend some engagement, that will
prevent his return to England. In this case he has done most honourably,
at whatever risk or pain to himself, to avoid any attempt to engage your
affections, my dear; and you have, in these trying circumstances, acted
as becomes your sex and yourself."

"I hope so," said Caroline, timidly: "my mother and Rosamond endeavoured
to re-assure me on one point--you have seen more since, and must
therefore be better able to judge--Count Altenberg has none of that
presumption of manner which puts a woman upon her guard against his
_inferences_. But, in secret, do you think he ever suspected--"

"I cannot, my love, tell what passes in the secret recesses of man's
heart--much more difficult to penetrate than woman's," replied Mrs.
Hungerford, smiling. "But let this satisfy you--by no word, hint, or
look, could I ever guess that he had formed such a hope. Of your whole
family he spoke in terms of the highest regard. Of you he dared not
trust himself to say much; but the little he did venture to say was
expressive of the highest respect and esteem: more he did not, and ought
not, I am convinced, to have allowed himself."

"I am satisfied--quite satisfied," said Caroline, relieving her heart
by a deep sigh; "and I thank you, my kind Mrs. Hungerford. You have put
this subject at rest for ever in my mind. If Count Altenberg _can_ love
me with honour, he will; if he cannot, Heaven forbid I should wish it!"

From this time forward Caroline never spoke more upon the subject,
never mentioned the name of Count Altenberg. She exerted all the strong
command she possessed over herself to conquer the languor and indolence
to which she had found herself disposed.

It is a difficult task to restore what may be called the tone of the
mind, to recover the power of being acted upon by common and every
day motives, after sensibility has been unusually excited. Where the
affections have been deeply and long engaged, this is a task which the
most severe philosophy cannot accomplish without the aid of time--and of
that superior power which it would be irreverent here to name.

By using no concealment with her friends, by permitting no
self-delusion, by having the courage to confess the first symptom of
partiality of which she was conscious, Caroline put it out of her own
power to nourish a preference into a passion which must ultimately have
made herself and her friends unhappy. Besides the advantages which
she derived from her literary tastes, and her habits of varying her
occupations, she at this time found great resources in her warm and
affectionate attachment to her own family.

She had never yet arrived at that state of _egoisme_, which marks the
height of passion, when all interests and affections sink and vanish
before one exclusive and tyrant sentiment.



CHAPTER XXX.


When Count Altenberg went to London to obtain his passports, he went to
pay his parting respects to Lord Oldborough, whose talents and uncommon
character had made an indelible impression on his mind.

When he asked whether his lordship had any commands that he could
execute at his own court, he was surprised by receiving at once a
commission of a difficult and delicate nature. Lord Oldborough, whose
penetration had seen into Count Altenberg's character, and who knew how
and when to trust, though he was supposed to be the most reserved of
men, confided to the Count his dissatisfaction with the proceedings of
Cunningham Falconer; his suspicions that the envoy was playing double,
and endeavouring to ingratiate himself abroad and at home with a party
inimical to his lordship's interests.

"Diplomatists are all, more or less, insincere," said Lord Oldborough.
"But to have chosen an envoy who joins ingratitude to duplicity would
reflect no credit upon the minister by whom he was appointed. Were I
speaking to a common person, I should not admit the possibility of my
having committed such an error. But Count Altenberg will judge by the
whole and not by a part. He knows that every man _in power_ is sometimes
the slave of circumstances. This Cunningham Falconer--all these
Falconers were forced upon me--how, it is of little consequence to you
to hear. It is sufficient for me to assure you, Count, that it was not
my judgment that erred. Now the necessity has ceased. By other means my
purpose has been accomplished. The Falconers are useless to me. But I
will not abandon those whom I have undertaken to protect, till I have
proof of their perfidy."

Lord Oldborough then explained the points on which he desired to
inform himself before he should decide with regard to Cunningham.
Count Altenberg undertook to procure for his lordship the means of
ascertaining the fidelity of his envoy; and Lord Oldborough then turned
the conversation on general politics. He soon perceived that the Count
was not as much interested in these subjects as formerly. At parting,
Lord Oldborough smiled, and said, "You have been, since I saw you last,
Count Altenberg, too much in the company of a philosopher, who
prefers the happiness of a country gentleman's life to the glory of a
statesman's career. But height will soon recall high thoughts. Ambition
is not dead, only dormant within you. It will, I hope and trust, make
you in time the minister and pride of your country. In this hope I bid
you farewell."

Commissioner Falconer having been told, by one of the people in the
antechamber, that Count Altenberg had arrived, and was now with the
minister, waited anxiously to see him, caught him in his way out, and
eagerly pressed an invitation from Mrs. Falconer to dine or spend the
evening with them--but the Count had now his passports, and pleaded the
absolute necessity for his immediately setting out on his return to his
own country. The commissioner, from a word or two that he hazarded upon
the subject, had the vexation to perceive that his hopes of engaging
Count Altenberg to assist the views of his son Cunningham were vain, and
he regretted that he had wasted so much civility upon a foreigner who
would make him no return.

Miss Georgiana Falconer's mortification at the Count's leaving England
was much alleviated by finding that he had not been detained by the
charms of Miss Caroline Percy, and she was almost consoled for losing
the prize herself, by seeing that it had not been won by her rival. Mrs.
Falconer, too, though she had long abandoned all hopes of the Count as
a son-in-law, yet rejoiced to be spared the humiliation of writing
to congratulate Mr. and Mrs. Percy upon the marriage and splendid
establishment of their daughter.

"After all, how ill they have managed!" said Mrs. Falconer; "the game
was in their own hands. Certainly Mrs. Percy must be the worst mother in
the world, and the daughter, with all her sense, a perfect simpleton, or
they might have made up the match when they had the Count to themselves
at Hungerford Castle."

"I told you long ago, but you would never believe, Mrs. Falconer," cried
the commissioner, "that Count Altenberg's ruling passion was ambition,
and that he was not the least likely to fall in love, as you ladies call
it. The old Prince of ---- is going fast, and Count Altenberg's father
has sent for him, that he may be on the spot to secure his favour with
the hereditary prince--I am sure I hope Count Altenberg will not be
minister; for from the few words he said to me just now when I met him,
he will not enter into my views with regard to Cunningham."

"No, those political visions of yours, commissioner, seldom end in any
thing but disappointment," said Mrs. Falconer. "I always said it would
be so."

Then followed a scene of recrimination, such as was the usual
consequence of the failure of any of the plans of this intriguing pair.

"And, Mrs. Falconer," concluded the commissioner, "I augur as ill of
your present scheme for Georgiana as I did of the last. You will find
that all your dinners and concerts will be just as much thrown away upon
the two Clays as your balls and plays were upon Count Altenberg. And
this is the way, ma'am, you go on plunging me deeper and deeper in
debt," said the commissioner, walking about the room much disturbed,
"If any thing was to go wrong with Lord Oldborough, what would become of
us!"

"My dear, that is a very unseasonable apprehension; for Lord Oldborough,
as I hear on all sides, is firmer in power now than he ever was--of
that, you know, you were but yesterday giving me assurance and proof.
His favour, you know, is so high, that all who were leagued against him
in that combination he detected, were, in consequence of his lordship's
letter, instantly dismissed from office: his colleagues are now of his
choosing--the cabinet, I understand, completely his own friends. What
more security can you desire?"

"You don't understand me, Mrs. Falconer: I am not thinking of the
security of Lord Oldborough's power--of that, after all I have seen, I
can have no doubt; but I am not so sure of--"

"_The continuance of my own favour_," he was going to say, but it was
painful to him to utter the words, and he had a superstitious dread,
common to courtiers, of speaking of their decline of favour, Besides, he
knew that reproaches for want of address in managing Lord Oldborough's
humour would immediately follow from Mrs. Falconer, if he gave any hint
of this kind; and on his address the commissioner piqued himself, not
without reason. Abruptly changing his tone, and taking that air of
authority which every now and then he thought fit to assume, he said,
"Mrs. Falconer, there's one thing I won't allow--I won't allow Georgiana
and you to make a fool of young Petcalf."

"By no means, my love; but if he makes a fool of himself, you know?"

"Mrs. Falconer, you recollect the transaction about the draught."

"For Zara's dress?"

"Yes, ma'am. The condition you made then in my name with Georgiana I
hold her to, and I expect that she be prepared to be Mrs. Petcalf within
the year."

"I told her so, my dear, and she acquiesces--she submits--she is ready
to obey--if nothing better offers."

"_If_--Ay, there it is!--All the time I know you are looking to the
Clays; and if they fail, somebody else will start up, whom you will
think a better match than Petcalf, and all these people are to be
_fêted_, and so you will go on, wasting my money and your own time.
Petcalf will run restive at last, you will lose him, and I shall have
Georgiana left upon my hands after all."

"No danger, my dear. My principle is the most satisfactory and secure
imaginable. To have a number of tickets in the wheel--then, if one comes
up a blank, still you have a chance of a prize in the next. Only have
patience, Mr. Falconer."

"Patience! my dear: how can a man have patience, when he has seen the
same thing going on for years? And I have said the same thing to you
over and over a hundred times, Mrs. Falconer."

"A hundred times at least, I grant, and that, perhaps, is enough to try
my patience you'll allow, and yet, you see how reasonable I am. I have
only to repeat what is incontrovertible, that when a girl has been
brought up, and has lived in a certain line, you must push her in that
line, for she will not do in any other. You must be sensible that no
mere country gentleman would ever think of Georgiana--we must push her
in the line for which she is fit--the fashionable line."

"Push! Bless my soul, ma'am! you have been pushing one or other of those
girls ever since they were in their teens, but your pushing signifies
nothing. The men, don't you see, back as fast as the women advance?"

"Coarse!--Too coarse an observation for you, commissioner!" said Mrs.
Falconer, with admirable temper; "but when men are angry they will say
more than they think."

"Ma'am, I don't say half as much as I think--ever."

"Indeed!--That is a candid confession, for which I owe you credit, at
all events."

"It's a foolish game--it's a foolish game--it's a losing game,"
continued the commissioner; "and you will play it till we are ruined."

"Not a losing game if it be played with temper and spirit. Many throw up
the game like cowards, when, if they had but had courage to double the
bet, they would have made their fortune."

"Pshaw! Pshaw!" said the commissioner: "Can you double your girls'
beauty? can you double their fortune?"

"Fashion stands in the place both of beauty and fortune, Mr. Falconer;
and fashion, my girls, I hope you will allow, enjoy."

"Enjoy! What signifies that? Fashion, you told me, was to win Count
Altenberg--has it won him? Are we one bit the better for the expense we
were at in all those entertainments?"

"All that, or most of it--at least the popularity-ball--must be set down
to Lord Oldborough's account; and that is your affair, commissioner."

"And the play, and the play-house, and the dresses! Was Zara's dress my
affair? Did I not tell you, you were wasting your time upon that man?"

"No waste, nothing has been wasted, my dear commissioner; believe me,
even in point of economy we could not have laid out money better; for at
a trifling expense we have obtained for Georgiana the credit of having
refused Count Altenberg. Lady Kew and Lady Trant have spread the report.
You know it is not my business to speak--and now the Count is gone,
who can contradict it with any propriety?--The thing is universally
believed. Every body is talking of it, and the consequence is, Georgiana
is more in fashion now than ever she was. There's a proposal I had for
her this morning," said Mrs. Falconer, throwing a letter carelessly
before the commissioner.

"A proposal! That is something worth attending to," said the
commissioner, putting on his spectacles.

"No, nothing worth our attention," said Mrs. Falconer, "only eighteen
hundred a year, which, you know, Georgiana could not possibly live
upon."

"Better than nothing, surely," said the commissioner; "let me see."

"Not better than Petcalf, not within a thousand a year so good, putting
Asia Minor out of the question. So, you know, I could not hesitate an
instant."

"But I hope your answer was very civil. People are not aware what
dangerous enemies they make on these occasions," said Mr. Falconer: "I
hope your answer was very polite."

"Oh! the pink of courtesy," said Mrs. Falconer. "I lamented that my
daughter's fortune was so small as to put it out of her power, &c., and
I added a great deal about _merit_, and the _honour done our family_,
and so on. But I wonder the man had the assurance to propose for
Georgiana, when he had nothing better to say for himself."

"Petcalf, to be sure, if the general dies, is a thousand a year better.
I believe you are right there," said Mr. Falconer; and with an air of
calculating consideration, he took up a pen.

"But what are you about, commissioner? going to write on that letter, as
if it were waste paper!" said Mrs. Falconer, starting up, and taking
it hastily from him: "I must have it for Lady Trant, Lady Kew, and some
more of our intimate friends, that they may be able to say they have
seen the proposal; for mothers and daughters too, in these days, are so
apt to boast, that it is quite necessary to have some written document
to produce, and there's no going beyond _that_."

"Certainly--quite necessary. And what written document," said the
commissioner, smiling, "have you to produce in the case of Count
Altenberg?"

"Oh! that is another affair," said Mrs. Falconer, smiling in her
turn. "One must not in all cases have recourse to the same expedients.
Besides, if we produce our proofs on one occasion, we shall depend upon
having our word taken on trust another time; and it would be too much to
make a practice of showing gentlemen's letters: it is not what I should
always do--certainly not with regard to a man of Count Altenberg's
rank and pretensions, who merits to be treated with somewhat more
consideration, surely, than a man who hazards such a proposal as this. I
merely produced it to show you that Georgiana is in no absolute distress
for admirers. And now, my dear, I must trouble you--those public singers
are terribly expensive; yet at a concert we must have them, and one
cannot have them without coming up to their price--I must trouble you to
sign this draft, for our concert last week."

"Now, Mrs. Falconer, I have signed it," cried the commissioner, "and it
is the last, for a similar purpose, I ever will sign--upon my honour."

"I have invited every body to a concert here next week," said Mrs.
Falconer: "What can I do?"

"Do as others do," said the commissioner; "let these musical professors
give a concert at your house: then, instead of paying them, you share
their profits, and you have the best company at your house into the
bargain."

"Such things are done, I know," said Mrs. Falconer, "and by people
of rank; but Lady Jane Granville would not do it, when she was more
distressed for money than we are, and I know many say it is what they
would not do."

"It must be done by you, Mrs. Falconer, or you must give up having
concerts altogether," said the commissioner, leaving the room.

To give up concerts was quite impossible, especially as French Clay
was, or pretended to be, passionately fond of music, and it was at her
musical parties that he never failed to attend assiduously. The next
concert was given by a celebrated performer at Mrs. Falconer's house,
and she and the singers shared the profit. To such meanness can the
slaves of fashion condescend!

At this concert it happened that there was a new and remarkably
handsome, graceful, female Italian singer, who was much admired by all
the gentlemen present, and particularly by French Clay, who had set
up, with little ear, and less taste, for a great judge of music. He was
ambitious of appearing as the patron of this young performer. He went
about every where talking of her in raptures, and making interest for
her with all the great people of his acquaintance. Her own voice and her
own charms needed not the protection of Mr. Clay; from the night she was
first produced at Mrs. Falconer's, she became at once the height of the
fashion. Every body was eager to have her at their parties, especially
as she had never yet been upon the stage. Admirers crowded round her,
and among them were many of rank and fortune: an old earl and a young
baronet were of the number. The ardour of competition so much increased
the zeal of French Clay, that what was at first only affectation, became
real enthusiasm. He was resolved to win the lady from all his rivals.
He had frequent opportunities of seeing her at Mrs. Falconer's, where he
appeared always in glory as her patron.

Seraphina, the fair Italian, considering Mrs. Falconer as her first
patroness, made it a point of gratitude to hold her concerts frequently
at her house. Mrs. Falconer was proud of the distinction. Fresh éclat
was thrown upon her and upon her daughters.

French Clay was always near Miss Georgiana Falconer, or near Seraphina;
and he applauded each by turns with all the raptures of an amateur. Mrs.
Falconer saw that rivalship with the old earl and the young baronet had
worked Mr. Clay into a passion for Seraphina; but she thought she knew
how a passion for a singer must end, and as this did not interfere with
her matrimonial designs, it gave her little uneasiness. Bets ran high
in the fashionable world upon the three candidates. Mrs. Falconer had no
doubt that the old earl would carry off the prize, as he was extremely
rich, and was ready to make any settlement and any establishment. Her
prophecy would, probably, have been accomplished, but that French Clay,
strongly urged by the immediate danger of losing the lady, and flattered
by Seraphina's mother, who, in another style of life, was equal to Mrs.
Falconer in address and knowledge of the world, was drawn in to offer
what alone could balance the charms of the baronet's youth and of the
earl's wealth--a week after the offer was made, Seraphina became
Mrs. French Clay. Upon this marriage Commissioner Falconer hastened
immediately to reproach his wife.

"There! Mrs. Falconer, I told you it would never do--There is another
son-in-law who has escaped you!"

Never did Mrs. Falconer's genius appear so great as in circumstances
which would have confounded one of inferior resource. It is true, she
had been thrown into surprise and consternation by the first news of
this marriage; but by an able stroke she had turned defeat into victory.
With a calm air of triumph she replied to her husband, "I beg your
pardon, Mr. Falconer,--French Clay was only my ostensible object: I
should have been very sorry to have had him for my son-in-law; for,
though it is a secret, I know that he is overwhelmed with debt. The
son-in-law I really wished for has not escaped me, sir--the elder
brother, English Clay--Clay, of Clay-hall, I apprehend, you will
allow, is rather a better match for your daughter; and his proposal for
Georgiana, his relation, Lady Trant, was last night authorized to make
to me in form. And now, commissioner, there is an end of your fears
that your daughter should be left, at last, upon your hands; and now,
I flatter myself, you will acknowledge that I always knew what I was
about--mistress of Clay-hall, and of seven thousand a year--I think that
is doing pretty well for a girl who has nothing."

The commissioner was so much delighted, that he willingly permitted his
lady to enjoy her triumph over him.

"Now only consider, commissioner," she pursued, "if I had huddled
up that match with Petcalf!--Petcalf, I'll answer for it, in case of
necessity, that is, in case of any difficulty on the part of Sir Robert
Percy, I can turn over to Bell. Poor Petcalf!" added she, with a smile:
"I really have a regard for that ever-lasting partner, and wish to leave
him a chance of being partner for life to one of my daughters. I am sure
he has reason to be excessively obliged to me for thinking of him at
this moment--I must go to Georgiana and talk about wedding-clothes,
laces, jewels, equipages--Mr. Clay, of Clay-hall, piques himself
upon having every thing the best of its kind, and in the highest
style--Happy--happy girl!"

"Happy--happy father, who has got her off his hands!" cried the
commissioner.

"'Twas my doing--'twas all my doing!" said Mrs. Falconer.

"It was, my dear; and how was it brought about?" said Mr. Falconer:
"stay one minute from the wedding-clothes, and tell me."

Mrs. Falconer returned, and in the pride of successful intrigue
explained all--that is, all she chose her husband to know.

Lady Trant was Mr. Clay's near relation, and Mrs. Falconer's intimate
friend--how she had engaged her ladyship so zealously in her cause was
the point which Mrs. Falconer did not choose to explain, and into which
the commissioner never thought of inquiring. There are moments in which
the most selfish may be betrayed into a belief that others act from
generous motives; and the very principles which they hold infallible
applied to all other cases, they think admit in their own of an
exception: so Commissioner Falconer, notwithstanding his knowledge of
the world, and his knowledge of himself, took it for granted, that,
in this instance, Lady Trant acted from the impulse of disinterested
friendship. This point happily admitted without question, all the rest
Mrs. Falconer could satisfactorily explain. Lady Trant being a friend
she could trust entirely, Mrs. Falconer had opened her mind to her
ladyship, and, by her suggestion, Lady Trant had seized the happy
moment when English Clay was enraged against his brother for his strange
marriage, and had deplored that Clay-hall, and the fine estate belonging
to it, should go to the children of an Italian singer: English Clay took
fresh fire at this idea, and swore that, much as he hated the notion of
a wife and children, he had a great mind to marry on purpose to
punish his brother, and to cut him off, as he deserved, for ever from
Clay-hall. Lady Trant commended his spirit, and urged him to put his
resolution into execution--English Clay, however, balked a little at
this: women now-a-days, he said, were so cursed expensive, that scarce
any fortune could suffice for a wife, and horses, and all in style; and
as to taking a wife, who would not be of a piece with the rest of
his establishment, that was what he was not the man to do. Lady Trant
answered, that of course he would wish to have a fashionable wife; that
was the only thing that was wanting to make Clay-hall complete.

"But then an establishment that was quite correct, and in the first
style for a bachelor, would be quite incorrect for a married man, and
every thing to do over again."

"True; but then to grow into an old bachelor, and to hear every body
saying, or to know that every body is saying, behind your back, 'He will
never marry, you know; and all his estate will go to his brother, or the
children of Seraphina, the singer.'"

There are some men who might feel tired of having the same idea
repeated, and the self-same words reiterated; but English Clay was not
of the number: on the contrary, repetition was necessary, in the
first place, to give his mind time to take in an idea; and afterwards,
reiteration was agreeable, as it impressed him with a sense of
conviction without the trouble of thought. After Lady Trant had
reiterated a sufficient time, he assented, and declared what her
ladyship observed was d----d true; but after a silence of several
minutes, he added, "There's such a cursed deal of danger of being _taken
in_ by a woman, especially by one of those fashionable girls, who are
all in the catch-match line." Lady Trant, who had been well tutored and
prepared with replies by Mrs. Falconer, answered that as Mr. Clay, of
Clay-hall, had a fortune that entitled him to ask any woman, so he
was, for the same reason, at full liberty to please himself; and though
family connexion and fashion would of course be indispensable to him,
yet money could be no object to a man of his fortune--he was not like
many needy young men, obliged to sell themselves for a wife's fortune,
to pay old debts: no, Lady Trant said, she was sure her relation and
friend, Mr. Clay, of Clay-hall, would never bargain for a wife, and, of
course, where there was no bargaining there could be no fear of being
taken in.

English Clay had never considered the matter in this view before; but
now it was pointed out, he confessed it struck him as _very fair--very
fair_: and his pride, of which he had a comfortable portion, being now
touched, he asserted both his disinterestedness and his right to judge
and choose in this business entirely for himself. Who had a right to
blame him? his fortune was his own, and he would marry a girl without
sixpence, if she struck his fancy. Lady Trant supported him in
his humour, and he began to name some of the young ladies of his
acquaintance: one would look well in a curricle; another would do the
honours of his house handsomely; another danced charmingly, and would
be a credit to him in a ball-room; another would make a sweet-tempered
nurse when he should have the gout: but Lady Trant found some objection
to every one he mentioned, till, at last, when he had named all he could
think of in remainder to his heart, Lady Trant proposed Miss Georgiana.

But she was intended for his brother.

"Oh! no." Lady Trant had very particular reasons for being positive that
neither Mrs. nor Miss Falconer had ever such an idea, however they
might have let it go abroad, perhaps, to conceal their real wishes--Miss
Georgiana Falconer had refused so many gentlemen--Count Altenberg,
report said, among others; and it was plain to Lady Trant that the young
lady could not be easily pleased--that her affections were not to be
engaged very readily: yet she had a notion, she owned, that if--But she
was not at liberty to say more. She was only convinced that no girl was
more admired than Miss Georgiana Falconer, and no woman would do greater
credit to the taste of a man of fashion: she had all the requisites
Mr. Clay had named: she would look well in a curricle; she would do the
honours of his house charmingly; she sung and danced divinely: and Lady
Trant summed up all by reiterating, that Miss Georgiana Falconer never
would have married his brother.

This persuasive flattery, combining with English Clay's anger against
his brother, had such effect, that he protested, if it was not for the
trouble of the thing, he did not care if he married next week. But the
making the proposal, and all that, was an awkward, troublesome business,
to which he could not bring himself. Lady Trant kindly offered to take
all trouble of this sort off his hands--undertook to speak to Mrs.
Falconer, if she had his authority for so doing, and engaged that he
should be married without any kind of awkwardness or difficulty. In
consequence of this assurance, Lady Trant was empowered by Mr. Clay to
make the proposal, which was received with so much joy and triumph by
Mrs. Falconer and by her Georgiana.

But their joy and triumph were not of long duration. In this family,
where none of the members of it acted in concert, or well knew what the
others were doing,--where each had some separate interest, vanity, or
vice, to be pursued or indulged, it often happened that one individual
counteracted the other, and none were willing to abandon their selfish
purpose, whether of interest or pleasure. On the present occasion, by
a curious concatenation of circumstances, it happened that Buckhurst
Falconer, who had formerly been the spoiled darling of his mother, was
the person whose interest immediately crossed hers; and if he
pursued his object, it must be at the risk of breaking off his sister
Georgiana's marriage with English Clay. It is necessary to go back a
few steps to trace the progress of Buckhurst Falconer's history. It is
a painful task to recapitulate and follow the gradual deterioration of a
disposition such as his; to mark the ruin and degradation of a character
which, notwithstanding its faults, had a degree of generosity and
openness, with a sense of honour and quick feeling, which early in life
promised well; and which, but for parental weakness and mistaken system,
might have been matured into every thing good and great. After his
mother had, by introducing him early to fashionable company, and to a
life of idleness and dissipation, disgusted him with the profession of
the law, in which, with talents such as his, he might, with application
and perseverance, have risen to wealth and eminence--after his father
had, by duplicity and tyranny, forced him into that sacred profession
for which the young man felt himself unfit, and which his conscience
long refused to consider merely as the means of worldly provision--the
next step was to send him with a profligate patron, as chaplain to a
regiment, notorious for gambling. The first sacrifice of principle
made, his sense of honour, duty, and virtue, once abandoned, his natural
sensibility only hastened his perversion. He had a high idea of the
clerical character; but his past habits and his present duties were in
direct opposition. Indeed, in the situation in which he was placed, and
with the society into which he was thrown, it would have required
more than a common share of civil courage, and all the steadiness of
a veteran in virtue, to have withstood the temptations by which he was
surrounded. Even if he had possessed sufficient resolution to change his
former habits, and to become a good clergyman, his companions and his
patron, instead of respecting, would have shunned him as a censor.
Unwilling to give up the pleasures of conviviality, and incapable of
sustaining the martyrdom of ridicule, Buckhurst Falconer soon abjured
all the principles to which he could not adhere--he soon gloried in
the open defiance of every thing that he had once held right. Upon all
occasions, afraid of being supposed to be subject to any restraint as
a clergyman, or to be influenced by any of the prejudices of his
profession, he strove continually to show his liberality and spirit by
daring, both in words and actions, beyond what others dared. He might
have been checked and stopped in his career of extravagance by the
actual want of money and of credit, had he not unluckily obtained, at
this early period, a living, as a reward for saving Bishop Clay from
being choked: this preferment, obtained in circumstances so ludicrous,
afforded him matter of much temporary amusement and triumph; and
confirmed him in the idea his father had long laboured to inculcate,
that merit was unnecessary to rising in the world or in the church. But
however he might endeavour to blind himself to the truth, and however
general opinion was shut out from him for a time by those profligate
persons with whom he lived, yet he could not help now and then seeing
and feeling that he had lost respectability; and in the midst of noisy
merriment he was often to himself an object of secret and sad contempt.
Soon after he was separated for a time from Colonel Hauton and his
companions, by going to take possession of his living, he made an effort
to regain his self-complacency--he endeavoured to distinguish himself
as an eloquent preacher.--Ashamed of avowing to his associates better
motives, by which he was partly actuated, he protested that he preached
only for fame and a deanery. His talents were such as soon accomplished
half his wish, and ensured him celebrity--he obtained opportunities
of preaching in a fashionable chapel in London--he was prodigiously
followed--his theatrical manner, perhaps, increased the effect of his
eloquence upon a certain class of his auditors; but the more sober and
nice-judging part of his congregation objected to this dramatic art and
declamatory style, as tending to draw the attention from the doctrine to
the preacher, and to obtain admiration from man more than to do honour
to God. This, however, might have passed, as a matter of speculative
opinion or difference of taste; provided the preacher is believed to
be in earnest, the style of his preaching is of little comparative
consequence. But the moment he is suspected of being insincere, the
moment it is found that he does not practise what he preaches, his power
over the rational mind ceases; and to moral feeling such a clergyman
becomes an object, not only of contempt, but of disgust and abhorrence.
Murmurs were soon heard against the private conduct of the celebrated
preacher--perhaps envy for his talents and success mingled her voice
with the honest expressions of virtuous indignation. The murmurs grew
louder and louder; and Buckhurst Falconer, to avoid having inquiries
made and irregularities brought to light, was obliged to yield to a
rival preacher of far inferior talents, but of more correct conduct.

Commissioner Falconer was glad that his son was disappointed in this
manner, as he thought it would make him more attentive than he had been
of late to Colonel Hauton; and the living of Chipping-Friars was better
worth looking after than the fleeting fame of a popular preacher.
Buckhurst, however, still held fame in higher estimation than it had
ever been held by his father, who never valued it but as subordinate to
interest. But the love of fame, however superior to mercenary habits,
affords no security for the stability of conduct; on the contrary,
without good sense and resolution, it infallibly accelerates the
degeneracy of character. Buckhurst's hopes of obtaining literary
celebrity being lost, he sunk another step, and now contented himself
with the kind of notoriety which can be gained by a man of talents,
who condescends to be the wit of private circles and of public dinners.
Still he met with many competitors in this line. In the metropolis, the
mendicants for fame, like the professional beggars, portion out the town
among them, and whoever ventures to ply beyond his allotted _walk_ is
immediately jostled and abused; and the false pretensions of the wit,
and all the tricks to obtain admiration, are as sure to be exposed
by some rivals of the trade, as the false legs, arms, and various
impostures of the beggar are denounced by the brother-beggar, on whose
monopoly he has infringed. Our wit was soon compelled to confine himself
to his own _set_, and gradually he degenerated from being the wit to
being the good story-teller of the company. A man who lives by pleasing
must become whatever the society in which he lives desire. Colonel
Hauton and his associates had but little taste for pure wit--low humour
and facetious stories were more suited to their capacities--_slang_ and
buffoonery were their delight. Buckhurst had early become a proficient
in all these: the respect due to the clerical character had not
restrained him from the exercise of arts for his own amusement, which
now he found indispensably requisite for the entertainment of others,
and to preserve favour with his patron. Contrary to all calculation,
and, as the commissioner said, to all reasonable expectation, the old
paralytic incumbent had continued to exist, and so many years had
passed since the promise had been made to Buckhurst of this living,
the transaction in consequence of which it was promised was now so
completely forgotten, that the commissioner feared that Colonel Hauton,
no longer under the influence of shame, might consider the promise
as merely gratuitous, not binding: therefore the cautious father was
solicitous that his son should incessantly stick close to the colonel,
who, as it was observed, never recollected his absent friends.
Buckhurst, though he knew him to be selfish and silly, yet had no
suspicion of his breaking his promise, because he piqued himself on
being a man of honour; and little as he cared, in general, for any one
but himself, Colonel Hauton had often declared that he could not live
without Buckhurst Falconer. He was always driving with the colonel,
riding, betting with him, or relieving him from the sense of his own
inability by making a jest of some person. Buckhurst's talents for
mimickry were an infallible resource. In particular, he could mimick the
two Clays to perfection, could take off the affected tone, foreign airs,
and quick talkative vanity of French Clay; and represent the slow, surly
reserve, supercilious silence, and solemn self-importance of English
Clay. He used to imitate not only their manners, gesture, and voice, but
could hold conversations in their characters, fall naturally into their
train of thinking, and their modes of expression. Once a week, at least,
the two Clays were introduced for the amusement of their friend Colonel
Hauton, who, at the hundredth representation, was as well pleased as at
the first, and never failed to "witness his wonder with an idiot laugh,"
quite unconscious that, the moment afterwards, when he had left the
room, this laugh was mimicked for the entertainment of the remainder
of the band of friends. It happened one night that Buckhurst Falconer,
immediately after Colonel Hauton had quitted the party, began to set
the table in a roar, by mimicking his laugh, snuffling voice, and silly
observations; when, to his utter confusion, his patron, who he thought
had left the room, returned from behind a screen, and resumed his place
opposite to Buckhurst. Not Banquo's ghost could have struck more terror
into the heart of the guilty. Buckhurst grew pale as death, and sudden
silence ensued. Recovering his presence of mind, he thought that it
was possible the colonel might be such a fool as not to have recognized
himself; so by a wink to one of the company, and a kick under the table
to another, he endeavoured to make them join in his attempt to pass off
the whole as mimickry of a Colonel _Hallerton_. His companions supported
him as he continued the farce, and the laughter recommenced. Colonel
Hauton filled his glass, and said nothing; by degrees, however, he
joined or pretended to join in the laugh, and left the company without
Buckhurst's being able exactly to determine whether he had duped him or
not. After the colonel was fairly gone,--for this time Buckhurst took
care not only to look behind the screen, but even to shut the doors of
the antechamber, and to wait till he heard the parting wheels,--they
held a conference upon the question--duped or not duped? All agreed in
flattering Buckhurst that he had completely succeeded in giving _the
colonel the change_, and he was particularly complimented on his address
by a Mr. Sloak, chaplain to a nobleman, who was one of the company.
There was something of a hypocritical tone in Sloak's voice--something
of a doubtful cast in his eyes, which, for a moment, raised in
Buckhurst's mind a suspicion of him. But, the next day, Colonel Hauton
appeared as usual. Buckhurst rode, drove, and jested with him as
before; and the whole transaction was, on his part, forgotten. A month
afterwards the rector of Chipping-Friars actually died--Commissioner
Falconer despatched an express to Buckhurst, who stood beside his bed,
with the news, the instant he opened his eyes in the morning. Buckhurst
sent the messenger on to Colonel Hauton's at the barracks, and before
Buckhurst was dressed, the colonel's groom brought him an invitation to
meet a large party at dinner: "the colonel would be unavoidably engaged,
by regimental business, all morning."

Buckhurst's friends and acquaintance now flocked to congratulate him,
and, by dinner-time, he had, in imagination, disposed of the
second year's tithes, and looked out for a curate to do the duty of
Chipping-Friars. The company assembled at dinner, and the colonel seemed
in uncommonly good spirits, Buckhurst jovial and triumphant--nothing was
said of the living, but every thing was taken for granted. In the middle
of dinner the colonel cried, "Come, gentlemen, fill your glasses, and
drink with me to the health of the new rector of Chipping-Friars." The
glasses were filled instantly, all but Buckhurst Falconer's, who, of
course, thought he should not drink his own health.

"Mr. Sloak, I have the pleasure to drink your health; Mr. Sloak, rector
of Chipping-Friars," cried the patron, raising his voice. "Buckhurst,"
added he, with a malicious smile, "you do not fill your glass."

Buckhurst sat aghast. "Colonel, is this a jest?"

"A jest?--by G----! no," said the colonel; "I have had enough of jests
and jesters."

"What can this mean?"

"It means," said the colonel, coolly, "that, idiot as you take me,
or make me to be, I'm not fool enough to patronize a mimick to mimick
myself; and, moreover, I have the good of the church too much at heart,
to make a _rector_ of one who has no rectitude--I can have my pun, too."

The laugh was instantly turned against Buckhurst. Starting from table,
he looked alternately at Colonel Hauton and at Mr. Sloak, and could
scarcely find words to express his rage. "Hypocrisy! Treachery!
Ingratitude! Cowardice! If my cloth did not protect you, you would not
dare--Oh! that I were not a clergyman!" cried Buckhurst.

"It's a good time to wish it, faith!" said the colonel; "but you should
have thought better before you put on the cloth."

Cursing himself, his patron, and his father, Buckhurst struck his
forehead, and rushed out of the room: an insulting laugh followed from
Colonel Hauton, in which Mr. Sloak and all the company joined--Buckhurst
heard it with feelings of powerless desperation. He walked as fast as
possible--he almost ran through the barrack-yard and through the streets
of the town, to get as far as he could from this scene--from these
people. He found himself in the open fields, and leaning against a
tree--his heart almost bursting--for still he had a heart: "Oh! Mr.
Percy!" he exclaimed aloud, "once I had a friend--a good, generous
friend--and I left him for such a wretch as this! Oh! if I had followed
his advice! He knew me--knew my better self! And if he could see me at
this moment, he would pity me. Oh! Caroline! you would pity--no, you
would despise me, as I despise myself--I a clergyman!--Oh! father!
father! what have you to answer for!"

To this sudden pang of conscience and feeling succeeded the idea of the
reproaches which his father would pour upon him--the recollection of
his debts, and the impossibility of paying them--his destitute, hopeless
condition--anger against the new rector of Chipping-Friars, and against
his cold, malicious patron, returned with increased force upon his mind.
The remainder of that day, and the whole of the night, were passed in
these fluctuations of passion. Whenever he closed his eyes and began to
doze, he heard the voice of Colonel Hauton drinking the health of Mr.
Sloak; and twice he started from his sleep, after having collared both
the rector and his patron. The day brought him no relief: the moment his
creditors heard the facts, he knew he should be in immediate danger
of arrest. He hurried to town to his father--his father must know his
situation sooner or later, and something must be done.

We spare the reader a shocking scene of filial and parental reproaches.

They were both, at last, compelled to return to the question, What is
to be done I The father declared his utter inability to pay his son's
debts, and told him, that now there remained but one way of extricating
himself from his difficulties--to turn to a better patron.

"Oh! sir, I have done with patrons," cried Buckhurst.

"What, then, will you do, sir? Live in a jail the remainder of your
life?"

Buckhurst gave a deep sigh, and, after a pause, said, "Well, sir, go
on--Who is to be my new patron?"

"Your old friend, Bishop Clay."

"I have no claim upon him. He has done much for me already."

"Therefore he will do more."

"Not pay my debts--and that is the pressing difficulty. He cannot
extricate me, unless he could give me a good living immediately, and he
has none better than the one I have already, except Dr. Leicester's--his
deanery, you know, is in the gift of the crown. Besides, the good dean
is likely to live as long as I shall."

"Stay; you do not yet, quick sir, see my scheme--a scheme which would
pay your debts and put you at ease at once--Miss Tammy Clay, the
bishop's sister."

"An old, ugly, cross, avaricious devil!" cried Buckhurst.

"Rich! passing rich! and well inclined toward you, Buckhurst, as you
know."

Buckhurst said that she was his abhorrence--that the idea of a man's
selling himself in marriage was so repugnant to his feelings, that he
would rather die in a jail.

His father let him exhaust himself in declamation, certain that he would
be brought to think of it at last, by the necessity to which he was
reduced. The result was what the commissioner saw it must be. Creditors
pressed--a jail in immediate view--no resource but Miss Tammy Clay. He
went down to the country to the bishop's, to get out of the way of his
creditors, and--to consider about it. He found no difficulty likely
to arise on the part of the lady. The bishop, old, and almost doting,
governed by his sister Tammy, who was an admirable housekeeper, and kept
his table exquisitely, was brought, though very reluctantly, to consent
to their marriage.

Not so acquiescent, however, were Miss Tammy's two nephews, French and
English Clay. They had looked upon her wealth as their indefeasible
right and property. The possibility of her marrying had for years been,
as they thought, out of the question; and of all the young men of their
acquaintance, Buckhurst Falconer was the very last whom they would have
suspected to have any design upon aunt Tammy--she had long and often
been the subject of his ridicule. French Clay, though he had just made
an imprudent match with a singer, was the more loud and violent against
the aunt; and English Clay, though he was not in want of her money, was
roused by the idea of being duped by the Falconers. This was just at the
time he had commissioned Lady Trant to propose for Miss Georgiana. Aunt
Tammy had promised to give him six thousand pounds whenever he should
marry: he did not value her money a single sixpence, but he would not
be tricked out of his rights by any man or woman breathing. Aunt Tammy,
resenting certain words that had escaped him derogatory to her youth
and beauty, and being naturally unwilling to give--any thing but
herself--refused to part with the six thousand pounds. In these hard
times, and when she was going to marry an expensive husband, she
laughing said, that all she had would be little enough for her own
establishment. Buckhurst would willingly have given up the sum in
question, but English Clay would not receive it as a consequence of his
intercession. His pride offended Buckhurst: they came to high words, and
high silence. English Clay went to his relation, Lady Trant, and first
reproaching her with having been too precipitate in executing his first
commission, gave her a second, in which he begged she would make no
delay: he requested her ladyship would inform Mrs. Falconer that a
double alliance with her family was more than he had looked for--and in
one word, that either her son Buckhurst's marriage with his aunt Tammy,
or his own marriage with Miss Georgiana, must be given up. He would
not have his aunt at her age make herself ridiculous, and he would not
connect himself with a family who could uphold a young man in duping an
old woman: Lady Trant might shape his message as she pleased, but this
was to be its substance.

In consequence of Lady Trant's intimation, which of course was made with
all possible delicacy, Georgiana and Mrs. Falconer wrote to Buckhurst in
the strongest terms, urging him to give up his intended marriage. There
were, as they forcibly represented, so many other old women with large
fortunes who could in the course of a short time be found, who would be
quite as good matches for him, that it would argue a total insensibility
to the interests and entreaties of his beloved mother and sister, if he
persisted in his present preposterous design. Buckhurst answered,

"MY DEAR MOTHER AND GEORGY,

"I was married yesterday, and am as sorry for it to-day as you can be.

"Yours truly,

"B.F.

"P.S.--There are other young men, with as good fortunes as English Clay,
in the world."

The letter and the postscript disappointed and enraged Mrs. Falconer and
Georgiana beyond description.

English Clay left his D.I.O. at Mrs. Falconer's door, and _banged_ down
to Clay-hall.

Georgiana, violent in the expression of her disappointment, would have
exposed herself to Lady Trant, and to half her acquaintance; but Mrs.
Falconer, in the midst of her mortification, retained command of temper
sufficient to take thought for the future. She warned Lady Trant to be
silent, and took precautions to prevent the affair from being known;
providently determining, that, as soon as her daughter should recover
from the disappointment of losing Clay-hall, she would marry her to
Petcalf, and settle her at once at the lodge in Asia Minor.

"Till Georgiana is married," said she to herself, "the commissioner will
never let me have peace: if English Clay's breaking off the match gets
wind, we are undone; for who will think of a rejected girl, beautiful
or fashionable though she be? So the best thing that can be done is
to marry her immediately to Petcalf. I will have it so--and the
wedding-clothes will not have been bought in vain."

The bringing down the young lady's imagination, however, from Clay-hall
to a lodge was a task of much difficulty; and Mrs. Falconer often in
the bitterness of her heart exclaimed, that she had the most ungrateful
children in the world. It seems that it is a tacit compact between
mothers and daughters of a certain class, that if the young ladies are
dressed, amused, advertised, and exhibited at every fashionable public
place and private party, their hearts, or hands at least, are to be
absolutely at the disposal of their parents.

It was just when Mrs. Falconer was exasperated by Georgiana's
ingratitude, that her son Buckhurst was obliged to come to London after
his marriage, to settle with his creditors. His bride insisted upon
accompanying him, and chose this unpropitious time for being introduced
to his family. And such a bride! Mrs. Buckhurst Falconer! Such an
introduction! Such a reception! His mother cold and civil, merely
from policy to prevent their family-quarrels from becoming public; his
sisters--

But enough. Here let us turn from the painful scene, and leave this
house divided against itself.



CHAPTER XXXI.


LETTER FROM ALFRED TO HIS FATHER.

"MY DEAR FATHER,

"I send you two pamphlets on the causes of the late changes in the
ministry, one by a friend, the other by an enemy, of Lord Oldborough.
Temple, I should have thought the author of the first, but that I know
he has not time to write, and that there does not appear any of that
_behind the scene knowledge_ which his situation affords. All the
pamphleteers and newspaper politicians write as if they knew the
whole--some confident that the ministry split on one question--some on
another; long declamations and abuse follow as usual on each side, but
WISE people, and of course myself among that number, suspect 'that all
that we know is, that we know nothing.' That there was some private
intrigue in the cabinet, which has not yet transpired, I opine from
Temple's reserve whenever I have mentioned the subject. This morning,
when I asked him to frank these pamphlets, he laughed, and said that I
was sending coals to Newcastle: what this meant he refused to explain,
or rather he attempted to explain it away, by observing, that people of
good understanding often could judge better at a distance of what was
passing in the political world, than those who were close to the scene
of action, and subject to hear the contradictory reports of the day;
therefore, he conceived that I might be sending materials for thinking,
to one who could judge better than I can. I tormented Temple for a
quarter of an hour with a cross-examination so able, that it was really
a pity to waste it out of the courts; but I could get nothing more from
him. Is it possible, my dear father, that you are at the bottom of all
this?

"Lord Oldborough certainly told me the other day, and in a very
significant manner, and, as I now recollect, fixing his inquiring eye
upon me as he said the words, that he not only felt esteem and regard
for Mr. Percy, but _gratitude_--gratitude for tried friendship. I took
it at the time as a general expression of kindness; now I recollect the
look, and the pause after the word gratitude, I put this with Temple's
coals to Newcastle. But, if it be a secret, I must not inquire, and if
it be not, you will tell it to me. So I shall go on to my own affairs.

"The other day I was surprised by a visit at my chambers from an
East-India director. Lord Oldborough, I find, recommended it to him to
employ me in a very important cause, long pending, for a vast sum of
money: the whole, with all its accumulated and accumulating interest,
depending on a point of law. Heaven send me special sense, or special
nonsense, sufficient to avoid a nonsuit, of which there have been
already no less than three in this cause.

"What do you think of Lord Oldborough's kindness? This is only one of
many instances in which I have traced his desire to serve me. It is not
common with politicians, thus to recollect those who have no means of
serving them, and who have never reminded them even of their existence
by paying court in any way actively or passively.

"The Falconers are all discontented with his lordship at this moment,
because he has disposed of a sinecure place on which the commissioner
had long had his eye. His lordship has given it to an old disabled
sea-captain, whom he knew only by reputation.

"The accounts you have heard of Buckhurst's marriage are, alas! too
true; and what you have been told of the lady's age and ugliness is not
exaggerated. As to her temper and her avarice, I am afraid that what you
have heard of them is also true; for a brother lawyer of mine, who was
employed to draw the settlements, says she has taken care to keep every
penny she could in her own power; and that, in the whole course of his
practice, he never saw so hard a battle between love and parsimony. Poor
Buckhurst! who could have foreseen that this would be his fate! I met
him in the street yesterday with his bride, and he looked as if he
would rather be hanged than receive my congratulations: I passed without
seeming to have seen them.

"I have just received Mr. Barclay's letter, and am going to work upon
his settlements. So Caroline's wishes for Lady Mary Pembroke will be
accomplished. I asked Temple whether Lord Oldborough had heard any
thing of Count Altenberg since his return to his own country. Yes--one
_private_ letter to Lord Oldborough, from which nothing had transpired
but one line of general thanks for civilities received in England.
Temple, who seems to have formed the same notion and the same wishes
that we had, told me yesterday, without my questioning him, that Lord
Oldborough had written with his own hand an answer to the Count, which
none of the secretaries have seen. Temple, in sealing up the packet,
ventured to ask whether there was any chance of seeing Count Altenberg
again in England. 'None that he knew,' Lord Oldborough answered. Temple,
who of all men is least like Commissioner Falconer in circumlocutory
address, at once blurted out, 'Is Count Altenberg going to be married?'
Lord Oldborough turned and looked upon him with surprise--whether
surprise at his curiosity, or at the improbability of the Count's making
his lordship the confidant of his love-affairs, Temple declares he was
in too much confusion to be able to decide. Lord Oldborough made no
reply, but took up an answer to a memorial, which he had ordered Temple
to draw, pointed out some unlucky mistakes in it, and finished by saying
to him, 'Mr. Temple, your thoughts are not in your business. _Sir, I do
believe you are in love_;' which sentence Temple declares his lordship
pronounced with a look and accent that would have suited, _Sir, I do
believe you have the plague_.' And if so, do me the justice to let me
employ Mr. Shaw to do your business, till you are married.'

"Temple says that Lord Oldborough is proud of showing himself a foe
to love, which he considers as the bane of ambition, and as one of the
weaknesses of human nature, to which a great man ought to be superior.

"Whether the secretary be right or wrong in this opinion of his
lordship, I have not seen enough to be able to determine; and I suspect
that Temple is not at present a perfectly calm observer. Ever since his
visit to the country he seems not to be entirely master of himself: his
heart is still hovering round about some absent object--what object, I
do not know; for though he does not deny my charge, he will not tell
me the name of his fair one. I suspect Lady Frances Arlington of having
stolen his heart. I am very sorry for it--for I am clear she is only
coquetting with him. Temple says that he is too poor to marry. He is so
amiable, that I am sure he will make any woman he marries happy, if
it be not her own fault, and if they have but enough to live upon. It
grieves me to hear his unavailing daily regrets for having quitted the
bar. Had he continued in his original profession, he might, and in all
probability would have been, at this moment (as his competitor, a
man much his inferior in talent, actually is), in the receipt of four
thousand good pounds per annum, independent of all men; and might have
married any woman in any rank. Besides, even with such a patron as Lord
Oldborough, Temple feels dependence grievous to his spirit. He is of a
very good family, and was not early used to a subservient situation.
His health too will be hurt by his close confinement to the business of
office--and he has no time for indulging his literary taste--no play for
his genius: that was his original grievance at the bar, but his present
occupations are less congenial to his taste than law ever was. His
brother-secretary, Mr. Shaw, is a mere matter-of-fact man, who is
particularly unsuited to him--an objector to every thing new, a
curtailer and contemner of all eloquence: poor Temple is uneasy and
discontented; he would give up his situation to-morrow but that he
cannot quit Lord Oldborough. He says that he has a hundred times
resolved to resign--that he has had his letter written, and the words
on his lips; but he never could, when it came to the point, present
the letter, or pronounce the farewell to Lord Oldborough. Wonderful
the ascendancy this man has over the mind!--Extraordinary his power of
attaching, with manners so little conciliatory! Adieu, my dear father; I
have indulged myself too long in writing to you. I have to read over the
late Mr. Panton's will, and to give our friend Mr. Gresham an opinion
upon it--notwithstanding Rosamond's cruelty to him, he is as much
our friend, and her friend, as ever. Panton's will is on ten skins of
parchment: and then I have a plea in rejoinder to draw for Lady
Jane Granville; and, worse than all, to read and answer four of her
ladyship's notes now on my table. By-the-bye, I would rather carry on a
suit for any four men, than for one such woman of business as poor Lady
Jane. She is never at rest one moment; never can believe that either
lawyer or solicitor knows what he is about--always thinks her letters
and notes can do more than bills in chancery, or than the lord
chancellor himself. She frets incessantly. I must request Erasmus to
medicine her to repose; she has absolutely a _law fever_. Erasmus is at
Richmond--sent for by some _grandee_: he is in high practice. He told
me he began last week to write to Rosamond, from the bedside of some
sleeping patient, a full and true answer to all her questions about
Miss Panton; but the sleeper awakened, and the doctor had never time to
finish his story.

"Adieu a second time. Love to all.

"Dear father, yours affectionately,

"ALFRED PERCY.

"Just as I began the second skin of Panton's will, a note was brought
to me from--whom do you think? Lord Oldborough, requesting to see me
at four o'clock. What can his lordship want with me?--I must send this
frank before I can satisfy my own curiosity on this point--or yours,
Rosamond."


After finishing the perusal of Mr. Panton's long-winded will, writing
an opinion upon it for Mr. Gresham, and penning a quieting note for poor
Lady Jane Granville, Alfred, eager to be punctual to the appointed hour,
went to the minister. He need not have looked at his watch so often, or
have walked so fast, for when he arrived it wanted five minutes of the
time appointed, and his lordship had not returned from a visit to the
Duke of Greenwich. He was told, however, that orders had been given for
his admittance; and he was shown into an apartment where he had leisure,
during a full quarter of an hour, to admire his own punctuality. At last
he heard a noise of loud huzzas in the street, and looking out of the
window, he saw a crowd at the farthest end of the street; and as it
moved nearer, perceived that the populace had taken the horses from Lord
Oldborough's carriage, and were drawing him to his own door with loud
acclamations. His lordship bowed to the multitude as he got out of his
carriage rather proudly and coldly, yet still the crowd threw up their
hats and huzzaed. He apologized to Alfred, as he entered the room, for
having been later than his appointment. Commissioner Falconer and Mr.
Temple were with him, and the commissioner immediately began to tell how
they had been delayed by the zeal of the people. Lord Oldborough took
a paper from his pocket, and walked to the window to read it, without
seeming to hear one word that the commissioner was saying, and without
paying any attention to the acclamations of the multitude below, which
were again repeated on their seeing him at the window. When his lordship
had finished looking over the paper, he called upon Alfred to witness
it, and then presenting it to Mr. Falconer, he said, in his haughtiest
manner, "An equivalent, sir, for that sinecure place which you asked
for, and which it was out of my power to obtain for you. _That_ was
given as the just reward of merit, and of public services. My private
_debts_--" [Alfred Percy observed that his lordship did not use the word
_obligation_]. "My private debts to your family, Mr. Falconer, could
not be paid from the public fund with which I am entrusted, but you
will not, I hope, find me the less desirous that they should be properly
acknowledged. The annuity," continued he, putting his finger on the
amount, which the commissioner longed to see, but at which he had not
dared yet to look, "the annuity is to the full amount of that place
which, I think you assured me, would satisfy your and Mrs. Falconer's
expectations."

"Oh! my lord, more than satisfy: but from your lordship's private
fortune--from your lordship's own emoluments of office, I cannot
possibly think--Mrs. Falconer would, I am sure, be excessively
distressed--"

"Do me the favour, sir, to let no more be said upon this subject,"
interrupted Lord Oldborough. "As you return home, will you speak to
those poor people whom I still hear in the street, and advise them now
to return peaceably to their homes. My man Rodney, I am afraid, has
thought it for my honour to be too liberal to these good people--but you
will speak to them, commissioner."

The commissioner, who never completely felt Lord Oldborough's character,
imagined that at this moment his lordship secretly enjoyed the clamour
of popular applause, and that this cold indifference was affected; Mr.
Falconer therefore protested, with a smile, that he would do his best
to calm the enthusiasm of the people, but that it was a hard, if not
impossible task, to stem the tide of Lord Oldborough's popularity.
"Enjoy it, my lord!" concluded Mr. Falconer; "Enjoy it!--No minister in
my memory ever was so popular!"

As soon as the commissioner, after saying these words, had left the
room, Lord Oldborough, in a tone of sovereign contempt, repeated the
word, "Popularity! There goes a man, now, who thinks me fit to be a fool
to fame!"

"Popularity," said Mr. Temple, "is a bad master, but a good servant. A
great man will," as Burke says, "disdain to veer like the weathercock
on the temple of fashion with every breath of wind. But may he not, my
lord--say, for you know--may he not wisely take advantage of the gale,
and direct this great _power_, so as to work the state-machinery to good
purpose?"

"A dangerous power," replied Lord Oldborough, turning from his secretary
to Alfred, as if he were impatient to speak of business. Temple, who had
more of the habits of a man of letters than of a man of business or of
a courtier, was apt unseasonably to pursue a discussion, and to pique
himself upon showing sincerity by declaring a difference of opinion from
his patron. Utterly repugnant as this was to the minister's habits
and temper, yet in admiration of the boldness of the man, and in
consideration for his true attachment, Lord Oldborough bore it with
magnanimous patience--when he had time--and when he had not, would cut
it short at once.

"In a mixed government, popularity, philosophically speaking, if I may
differ from your lordship--" Temple began.

"Permit me, sir, first," interrupted Lord Oldborough, "to settle my
business with Mr. Alfred Percy, who, being a professional man, and in
high practice, probably sets a just value upon his time."

Mr. Temple, who was a man of quick feelings, felt a word or glance of
reproof from Lord Oldborough with keen sensibility. Alfred could not fix
his own attention upon what his lordship was now beginning to say. Lord
Oldborough saw reflected in Alfred's countenance the disturbance in his
friend's: and immediately returning, and putting a key into Mr. Temple's
hand--"You will do me a service, sir," said he, "by looking over my
father's papers marked _private_ in red letters. They may be necessary
in this business--they are papers which I could trust only to one who
has my interests at heart."

Mr. Temple's face brightened instantly, and bowing much lower than
usual, he received the key with great respect, and hurried away to
search for the papers.

"For a similar reason, Mr. Alfred Percy," said Lord Oldborough, "they
shall, if you please, be put into your hands." His lordship moved
a chair towards Alfred, and seated himself. "My law-agent has not
satisfied me of late. A suit, into which I have been plunged by those
who had the direction of my business, has not been carried on with
ability or vigour. I had not leisure to look into any affairs that
merely concerned myself. Circumstances have just wakened me to the
subject, and to the perception that my private fortune has suffered, and
will suffer yet more materially, unless I am fortunate enough to find
united in the same person a lawyer and a friend. I have looked round and
see many older barristers than Mr. Alfred Percy, but none so likely to
be interested in my affairs as the son of my earliest friend, and few
more capable of conducting them with diligence and ability. May I hope,
sir, for hereditary kindness from you, as well as for professional
services?"

No one knew better than Lord Oldborough how to seem receiving whilst he
conferred a favour; and if ever he appeared harsh, it was only where
he knew that the people to whom he spoke had not feelings worthy of his
consideration. His lordship was as much pleased by the manner in which
this trust was accepted, as our young lawyer could be by the manner in
which it was offered.

"My papers then shall be sent to you directly," said Lord Oldborough.
"Look over them, and if you are of opinion that my case is a bad one, I
will stop where I am. If, on the contrary, you find that justice and law
are on my side, proceed, persist. I shall trust the whole to you, sir,
without a farther question."

Lord Oldborough next spoke of a steward of his at Clermont-park, who, as
he had reason to suspect, was leagued with a certain Attorney Sharpe in
fraudulent designs: his lordship hoped that Mr. Alfred Percy, during his
vacations, when spent in that neighbourhood, might, consistently with
his professional duties, find time to see into these affairs; and, in
his lordship's absence, might supply the want of the master's eye.

Alfred assured his lordship that no effort or care should be wanting on
his part to justify the high confidence with which he was honoured.

"Since you are going to take charge of my business, sir," pursued Lord
Oldborough, "it is fit you should know my views relative to my affairs.
In my present situation, with the favour I enjoy, and the opportunities
I command, it would be easy to make my fortune whatever I pleased.
Avarice is not my passion. It is my pride not to increase the burdens of
my country. Mine is a generous country, ever ready to reward her public
servants, living or dying. But, whilst I live, never will I speculate
upon her generosity, and, when I die, never shall my heirs appeal to her
compassion. My power at its zenith, and my character being known, I
can afford to lay aside much of that adventitious splendour which adds
nothing to true dignity. Economy and dignity are compatible--essential
to each other. To preserve independence, and, consequently, integrity,
economy is necessary in all stations. Therefore, sir, I determine--for
I am not stringing sentences together that are to end in nothing--I
determine, at this moment, to begin to make retrenchments in my
expenditure. The establishment at Clermont-park, whither I have no
thoughts of returning, may be reduced. I commit that, sir, to your
discretion."

Mr. Temple returned with the papers, on which Lord Oldborough put his
seal, and said his solicitor should deliver them, with all others that
were necessary, the next morning to Mr. Percy. Alfred, careful never
to intrude a moment on the time of the minister, rose, and, without
repeating his thanks, made his bow.

"I consider this lawsuit as a fortunate circumstance," said Lord
Oldborough, "since it affords me means at last of engaging Mr. Alfred
Percy in my service, in a mode which cannot," added his lordship,
smiling, "interfere with his family horror of ministerial patronage."

Alfred said something respectfully expressive of his sense of the
professional advantage he must derive from being employed by Lord
Oldborough--a species of patronage, by which he felt himself most highly
honoured, and for which he was sure his whole family would feel properly
grateful.

"Sir," said Lord Oldborough, following him to the door, "if I had ever
doubted it, you would convince me that perfect propriety of manner is
consistent with independence of mind. As to the rest, we all know the
difference between a client and a patron."

The management of Lord Oldborough's business necessarily led to an
increase of intercourse between his lordship and Alfred, which was
peculiarly agreeable to our young barrister, not only as it gave him
opportunities of seeing more of the character of this minister, but as
it put it into his power to be of service occasionally to his friend Mr.
Temple. Chained to a desk, his genius confined to the forms of office,
and with a master too high, and an associate too low, to afford him any
of the pleasures of society, he had languished for want of a companion.
Alfred encouraged him by example to submit to the drudgery of business,
showed him that a man of letters may become a man of business, and that
the habits of both may be rendered compatible. Temple now performed the
duties of his office with all that regularity which is supposed to be
peculiar to dulness. About this time he had been brought into parliament
by Lord Oldborough, and in the intervals of business, in that leisure
which order afforded him, he employed and concentrated his powers on
a political question of considerable importance; and when he was
completely master of the subject, he rose in the House of Commons, and
made a speech, which from all parties obtained deserved applause. The
speech was published. A few days afterwards, Mr. Temple happened
to enter Lord Oldborough's cabinet earlier than usual: he found his
lordship reading; and reading with so much attention, that he did not
observe him--he heard his lordship's quick and decided pencil mark
page after page. At length, rising and turning to throw the book on the
table, Lord Oldborough saw his secretary copying a letter.

"An excellent speech--to the purpose, sir," said Lord Oldborough. "It
had its effect on the house, I understand; and I thank your friend, Mr.
Alfred Percy, for putting it into my hands when I had leisure to peruse
it with attention."

Lord Oldborough thought for some moments, then looked over some official
papers which he had ordered Mr. Temple to draw up.

"Very well, sir--very well. A man of genius, I see, can become a man of
business."

His lordship signed the papers, and, when that was finished, turned
again to Mr. Temple.

"Sir, some time ago a place was vacant, which, I know, you had reason
to expect. It was given to Mr. Shaw, because it was better suited to him
than to you. The manner in which you took your disappointment showed
a confidence in my justice. Have you any objection, Mr. Temple, to the
diplomatic line?"

"I fear--or I should say, I hope--my lord, that I have not the habits
of dissimulation, which, as I have always understood, are necessary to
success in the diplomatic line."

"You have understood wrongly, sir," replied Lord Oldborough. "I, who
have seen something of courts, and know something of diplomacy, am of
opinion that a man of sense, who knows what he is about, who says the
thing that is, who will tell at once what he can do, and what he cannot,
would succeed better as a negotiator in the present state of Europe,
than could any diplomatist with all the simulation and dissimulation of
Chesterfield, or with the tact of Mazarin."

"Indeed, my lord!" said Mr. Temple, looking up with an air of surprise
that almost expressed, Then why did you choose Cunningham Falconer for
an envoy?

"Pray," said Lord Oldborough, taking a long inspiration with a pinch
of snuff, "pray with that despatch this morning from Mr. Cunningham
Falconer were there any private letters?"

"One for Commissioner Falconer, my lord."

"None from Count Altenberg to me?"

"None, my lord."

The minister took a walk up and down the room, and then returning to Mr.
Temple, said, "His majesty thinks proper, sir, to appoint you envoy in
the place of Mr. Cunningham Falconer, who is recalled."

"I thank you, my lord--his majesty does me great honour," cried Mr.
Temple, with sudden gratitude: then, his countenance and tone instantly
changing from joy to sorrow, he added, "His majesty does me great
honour, my lord, but--"

"But not great pleasure, it seems, sir," said Lord Oldborough. "I
thought, Mr. Temple, you had trusted to me the advancement of your
fortune."

"My fortune! My lord, I am struck with surprise and gratitude by your
lordship's goodness in taking thought for the advancement of my fortune.
But I have other feelings."

"And may I ask what is the nature of your other feelings, sir?"

"My lord--excuse me--I cannot tell them to you."

"One word more, sir. Do you hesitate, from any motives of delicacy with
respect to the present envoy?"

"No, my lord, you look too high for my motive; and the higher I am
sensible that I stand in your lordship's opinion, the greater is my fear
of falling. I beg you will excuse me: the offer that your lordship has
had the goodness to make would be the height of my ambition; but when
opposing motives draw the will in contrary directions--"

"Sir, if you are going into the bottomless pit of metaphysics, excuse
me," said Lord Oldborough--"there I must leave you. I protest, sir, you
are past my comprehension."

"And past my own," cried Mr. Temple, "for," with effort he uttered the
words, "unfortunately I have formed an--I have become attached to--"

"In short, sir, you are _in love_, I think," said Lord Oldborough,
coolly. "I think I told you so, sir, more than a month ago."

"I have said it! and said it to Lord Oldborough!" exclaimed Mr. Temple,
looking as one uncertain whether he were dreaming or awake.

"It is undoubtedly uncommon to select a minister of state for the
confidant of a love affair," said Lord Oldborough, with an air of some
repressed humour.

"I knew I should expose myself to your lordship's derision," exclaimed
Mr. Temple.

He was too much engrossed by his own feelings, as he pronounced these
words, to observe in his lordship's countenance an extraordinary
emotion. It was visible but for one instant.

With a look more placid, and a tone somewhat below his usual voice, Lord
Oldborough said, "You have misjudged me much, Mr. Temple, if you have
conceived that your feelings, that such feelings would be matter of
derision to me. But since you have touched upon this subject, let me
give you one hint--Ambition _wears_ better than Love."

Lord Oldborough sat down to write, and added, "For one fortnight I can
spare you, Mr. Temple--Mr. Shaw will undertake your part of the business
of office. At the end of the ensuing fortnight, I trust you will let me
have your answer."

Full of gratitude, Mr. Temple could express it only by a bow--and
retired. The antechamber was now filling fast for the levee. One person
after another stopped him; all had some pressing business, or some
business which they thought of consequence, either to the nation or
themselves.

"Mr. Temple, I must trouble you to look over these heads of a bill."

"Mr. Temple!--My memorial--just give me your advice."

"Sir--I wrote a letter, three weeks ago, to Lord Oldborough, on the
herring-fishery, to which I have not had the honour of an answer."

"Mr. Temple--the address from Nottingham--Where's the reply?"

"Mr. Temple, may I know whether his lordship means to see us gentlemen
from the city about the loan?"

"Sir--Pray, sir!--My new invention for rifling cannon--Ordnance
department!--Sir, I did apply--War-office, too, sir!--It's very hard
I can't get an answer--bandied about!--Sir, I can't think myself well
used--Government shall hear more."

"One word, Mr. Temple, if you please, about tithes. I've an idea--"

"Temple, don't forget the Littleford turnpike bill."

"Mr. Temple, who is to second the motion on Indian affairs?"

"Temple, my good friend, did you speak to Lord Oldborough about my
little affair for Tom?"

"Mr. Temple, a word in your ear--the member for the borough, _you know_,
is dead; letters must be written directly to the corporation."

"Temple, my dear friend, before you go, give me a frank."

At last Mr. Temple got away from memorialists, petitioners, grievances,
men of business, idle men, newsmen, and dear friends, then hastened to
Alfred to unburden his mind--and to rest his exhausted spirits.



CHAPTER XXXII.


The moment that Mr. Temple reached his friend's chambers, he threw
himself into a chair.

"What repose--what leisure--what retirement is here!" cried he. "A man
can think and feel a moment for himself."

"Not well, I fear, in the midst of the crackling of these parchments,"
said Alfred, folding up the deeds at which he had been at work.
"However, I have now done my business for this day, and I am your
man for what you please--if you are not engaged by some of your great
people, we cannot do better than dine together."

"With all my heart," said Mr. Temple.

"And where shall we dine?" said Alfred.

"Any where you please. But I have a great deal to say to you,
Alfred--don't think of dining yet."

"At the old work!" cried Alfred.

  "'You think of convincing, while I think of dining.'"

But, as he spoke, Alfred observed his friend's agitated countenance,
and immediately becoming serious, he drew a chair beside Mr. Temple, and
said, "I believe, Temple, you have something to say that you are anxious
about. You know that if there is any thing I can do, head, hand, and
heart are at your service."

"Of that I am quite sure, else I should not come here to open my heart
to you," replied Mr. Temple. Then he related all that had just passed
between Lord Oldborough and himself, and ended by asking Alfred, whether
he thought there was any chance of success for his love?

"You have not told me who the lady is," said Alfred.

"Have not I?--but, surely, you can guess."

"I have guessed--but I wish to be mistaken--Lady Frances Arlington?"

"Quite mistaken. Guess again--and nearer home."

"Nearer home!--One of my sisters!--Not Caroline, I hope?"

"No."

"Then it must be as I once hoped. But why did you never mention it to me
before?"

Mr. Temple declared that he had thought there was so little chance of
his ever being in circumstances in which he could marry, especially a
woman who had not some fortune of her own, that he had scarcely ventured
to avow, even to himself, his attachment.

"I thought my love would wear itself out," added he. "Indeed I did not
know how serious a business it was, till this sudden proposal was made
to me of leaving England: then I felt that I should drag, at every step,
a lengthening chain. In plain prose, I cannot leave England without
knowing my fate. But don't let me make a fool of myself, Alfred. No man
of sense will do more than hazard a refusal: that every man ought to
do, or he sacrifices the dignity of the woman he loves to his own false
pride. I know that in these days gentlemen-suitors are usually expert
in _sounding_ the relations of the lady they wish to address. To inquire
whether the lady is engaged or not is, I think, prudent and honourable:
but beyond this, I consider it to be treacherous and base to endeavour,
by any indirect means, to engage relations to say what a lover should
learn only from the lady herself. Therefore, my dear friend, all I ask
is whether you have reason to believe that your sister Rosamond's heart
is pre-engaged; or if you think that there is such a certainty of my
being rejected, as ought, in common prudence, to prevent my hazarding
the mortification of a refusal?"

Alfred assured his friend, that, to the best of his belief, Rosamond's
heart was disengaged. "And," continued he, "as a witness is or ought to
be prepared to tell his cause of belief, I will give you mine. Some time
since I was commissioned by a gentleman, who wished to address her, to
make the previous inquiry, and the answer was, quite disengaged. Now as
she did not accept of this gentleman, there is reason to conclude that
he did not engage her affections--"

"Was he rich or poor, may I ask?" interrupted Mr. Temple.

"That is a leading question," said Alfred.

"I do not want you to tell me who the gentleman was--I know that would
not be a fair question, and I trust I should be as far from asking, as
you from answering it. But there are so many rich as well as so many
poor men in the world, that in answering to the inquiry rich or poor,
what city or court man do you name? I want only to draw a general
inference as to your sister's taste for wealth."

"Her taste is assuredly not exclusively for wealth; for her last admirer
was a gentleman of very large fortune."

"I am happy, at least, in that respect, in not resembling him," said Mr.
Temple. "Now for my other question--what chance for myself?"

"Of that, my good friend, you must judge for yourself. By your own rule
all you have a right to hear is, that I, Rosamond's brother, have no
reason for believing that she has such a repugnance to you as would make
a refusal certain. And that you may not too much admire my discretion, I
must add, that if I had a mind to tell you more, I could not. All I know
is, that Rosamond, as well as the rest of my family, in their letters
spoke of you with general approbation, but I do not believe the idea of
considering you as her lover ever entered into her head or theirs."

"But now the sooner it enters the better," cried Mr. Temple. "Will
you--can you--Have not you business to do for Lord Oldborough at
Clermont-park?"

"Yes--and I am glad of it, as it gives me an opportunity of indulging
myself in going with you, my dear Temple. I am ready to set out at any
moment."

"God bless you! The sooner the better, then. This night in the mail,
if you please. I'll run and take our places," said he, snatching up his
hat.

"Better send," cried Alfred stopping him: "my man can run and take
places in a coach as well as you. Do you stay with me. We will go to the
coffee-house, dine, and be ready to set off."

Mr. Temple acceded.

"In the mean time," said Alfred, "you have relations and connexions of
your own who should be consulted."

Mr. Temple said he was sure that all his relations and connexions would
highly approve of an alliance with the Percy family. "But, in fact,"
added he, "that is all they will care about the matter. My relations,
though high and mighty people, have never been of any service to me:
they are too grand, and too happy, to mind whether a younger son of a
younger son sinks or swims; whether I live in single wretchedness or
double blessedness. Not one relation has nature given, who cares for me
half as much as the friend I have made for myself."

Sincerely as Alfred was interested for his success, yet he did not let
this friendship interfere with the justice due to his sister, of leaving
_her_ sole arbitress of a question which most concerned her happiness.

During the last stage of their journey, they were lucky enough to have
the coach to themselves, and Mr. Temple made himself amends for the
restraint under which he had laboured during the preceding part of the
journey, whilst he had been oppressed by the presence of men, whose talk
was of the lower concerns of life. After he had descanted for some
time on the perfections of his mistress, he ended with expressing his
surprise that his friend, who had often of late rallied him upon his
being in love, had not guessed sooner who was the object of his passion.

Alfred said that the idea of Rosamond had occurred to him, because his
friend's absence of mind might be dated from the time of his last visit
to Clermont-park; "but," said Alfred, "as Lady Frances Arlington
was there, and as I had formerly fancied that her ladyship's wish to
captivate or dazzle you, had not been quite without effect, I was still
in doubt, and thought even your praises of Rosamond's disposition and
temper, compared with her ladyship's, might only be _ruse de guerre_, or
_ruse d'amour_."

"There was no _ruse_ in the case," said Mr. Temple; "I confess that when
I first emerged from my obscurity into all the light and life of the
world of fashion, my eyes were dazzled, and before I recovered the use
of them sufficiently to compare the splendid objects by which I found
myself surrounded, I was wonderfully struck with the appearance of
Lady Frances Arlington, and did not measure, as I ought, the immense
difference between Lord Oldborough's secretary, and the niece of the
Duke of Greenwich. Lady Frances, from mere _gaieté de coeur_ likes
to break hearts; and she continually wishes to add one, however
insignificant, to the number of her conquests. I, a simple man of
literature, unskilled in the wicked ways of the fair, was charmed by her
ladyship's innocent naïveté and frank gaiety, and all that was

  'Strangely wild, or madly gay,
  I call'd it only pretty Fanny's way.'

"Fortunately, just as I was in imminent danger of exchanging true sighs
for false smiles, I became acquainted with your sister Rosamond. In the
country, and under circumstances more favourable for the development of
character than any which might occur for months or years in a town-life,
where all the men and women are merely actors, I had leisure to see and
mark the difference and the resemblance between Lady Frances Arlington's
character, and that of your sister. They resembled each other in natural
quickness of intellect and of feeling; in wit, sprightliness, and
enthusiasm, they were also to a certain degree alike. I was amused by
Lady Frances Arlington's lively nonsense, till I heard your sister's
lively sense. Her ladyship hazards saying every thing that occurs to
her, and often makes happy hits; but your sister's style of wit is far
superior, and far more agreeable, because it has the grace, elegance,
and, above all, the infinite variety which literary allusion supplies.
I found myself pleased, not only with what she said, but with the trains
of ideas, that, by a single word, she often suggested. Conversing with
her, my mind was kept always active, without ever being over-exerted
or fatigued. I can look back, and trace the whole progress of my
attachment. I began in this way, by finding her conversation most
delightful--but soon discovered that she was not only more entertaining
and more cultivated, but far more amiable than my idol, Lady Frances,
because she had never been an idol, and did not expect to be adored.
Then she was more interesting, because more capable of being interested.
Lady Frances requires much sympathy, but gives little; and for that
enthusiasm of temper which had, at first, charmed me in her ladyship,
I began to lose my taste, when I observed that it was always excited by
trifles, and by trifles that concerned herself more than any one else.
I used to think her--what every body calls her, a perfectly natural
character; and so, perhaps, she is: but not the better for that--since
she is what, I am afraid, we all are naturally--selfish. Her ladyship,
if I may use the expression, is enthusiastically selfish. Your
sister--enthusiastically generous. Lady Frances's manners are caressing,
yet I doubt whether she feels affection for any one living, except just
at the moment when they are ministering to her fancies. It was Miss
Percy's warm affection for her sister Caroline which first touched
my heart. I saw each in her own family. The contrast was striking--in
short, by the joint effect of contrast and resemblance, my love for one
lady decreased as fast as it increased for the other; and I had just wit
and judgment enough to escape from snares that could not have held me
long, to chains that have power to hold me for ever."

To this history of the birth and progress of his love, Mr. Temple added
many expressions of his hopes, fears, and regrets, that he had not five
thousand a year, instead of five hundred, to offer his mistress; he at
length became absolutely silent. They were within view of the Hills, and
too many feelings crowded upon his mind to be expressed in words.

And now we might reasonably contrive to fill

  "Twelve vast French romances neatly gilt,"

with the history of the following eventful fortnight, including the
first surprise at the arrival of the travellers--the declaration of Mr.
Temple's love--the astonishment of Rosamond on discovering that she was
the object of this passion--of a passion so generous and ardent--the
consequent and rapid discovery of a hundred perfections in the gentleman
which had before escaped her penetration--the strong peculiar temptation
to marry him, because he had not enough to live upon--the reaction of
generosity on the other side of the question, which forbade to ruin
her lover's fortune--the fluctuations of sentiment and imagination, the
delicacies of generosity, gratitude, love, and finally the decision of
common sense.

It was fortunate for Rosamond, not only that she had prudent friends,
but that they had not made her in the least afraid of their superior
wisdom, so that she had, from the time she was a child, told them every
idea, as it rose in her vivid imagination, and every feeling of her
susceptible heart; imprudent as she might appear in her confidential
conversation, this never passed from words to actions. And now, when she
was called upon in an important event of life to decide for herself, she
acted with consummate discretion.

Mr. Temple's character and manners peculiarly pleased her, and his being
a man of birth and family certainly operated much in his favour. Her
parents now, as in Mr. Gresham's case, did not suffer their own tastes
or prepossessions to interfere with her happiness.

Caroline, grateful for the sympathy which Rosamond had always shown
her, took the warmest interest in this affair. Caroline was the most
excellent, indulgent, yet safe confidante; and as a hearer, she was
absolutely indefatigable. Rosamond never found her too busy, too lazy,
or too sleepy to listen to her: late at night, early in the morning, or
in the most hurried moment, of the day, it was all the same--Caroline
seemed to have nothing to do but to hear, think, and feel for Rosamond.

The fortnight allowed by Lord Oldborough having now nearly elapsed,
it was absolutely necessary Rosamond should come to some decision. Mr.
Temple's understanding, temper, disposition, and manners, she allowed
to be excellent--his conversation was particularly agreeable. In short,
after searching in vain for an objection, she was obliged to confess
that she liked him. Indeed, before she had allowed this in words her
mother and sister had made the discovery, and had seen the struggle
in her mind between love and prudence. Mr. Temple's fortune was not
sufficient for them to live upon, and she knew that a wife in
his present circumstances must be a burden to him; therefore,
notwithstanding all that his passion and all that her own partiality
could urge, she decidedly refused his proposal of an immediate union,
nor would she enter into any engagement, or suffer him to bind himself
by any promise for the future; but he obtained permission to correspond
with her during his absence from England, and with the hope that she
was not quite indifferent to him, he took leave of her--returned to
town--waited upon Lord Oldborough--accepted of the embassy, and prepared
for his departure to the continent.

Now that there was an approaching possibility and probability of hearing
of Count Altenberg, Caroline felt it extremely difficult to adhere to
her resolution of never thinking of him, especially as her mind,
which had been actively occupied and deeply interested in her sister's
concerns, was now left to return upon itself in all the leisure of
retirement. Fortunately for her, about this time she was again called
upon for that sympathy which she was ever ready to give to her friends.
She received the following letter from Mrs. Hungerford.


LETTER FROM MRS. HUNGERFORD TO MISS CAROLINE PERCY.

"Come, my beloved Caroline, my dear young friend, friend of my family,
and of all who are most near and dear to me--come, and enjoy with me and
them that happiness, which your judicious kindness long since foresaw,
and your prudence promoted.

"My niece, Lady Mary Pembroke, is at last persuaded that she has it in
her power to make Mr. Barclay permanently happy. He has been obliged to
take a considerable length of time to convince her of the steadiness of
his attachment. Indeed, her objection--that he had been charmed by such
a coquette as the lady by whom we first saw him captivated, appeared
to me strong; and I thought my niece right for adhering to it, more
especially as I believed that at the time her affections pleaded against
her reason in his favour, and that, if she had been convinced long ago,
it would not have been against her will.

"Mr. Barclay has behaved like a man of sense and honour. Without
disguise he told her of his former attachment to you. She instantly made
an answer, which raised her high in my estimation. She replied, that Mr.
Barclay's being detached from Lady Angelica Headingham by your superior
merit was to her the strongest argument in his favour. She must, she
said, have felt insecure in the possession of a heart, which had been
transferred directly from Lady Angelica to herself, because she was
conscious that her own disposition was so different from her ladyship's;
but in succeeding to the affection which he had felt for a woman of
your character, she should feel perfect security, or at least reasonable
hope, that by similar, though certainly inferior qualities, she might
ensure his happiness and her own. They are to be married next week. Lady
Mary particularly wishes that you should be one of her bride-maids--come
then, my love, and bring all my _Percys_. I shall not perfectly enjoy
my own and my niece's happiness till you share it with me. My daughter
Mortimer insists upon signing this as well as myself.

"MARY-ELIZABETH HUNGERFORD.

"KATE MORTIMER."


Caroline and _all Mrs. Hungerford's Percys_ obeyed her summons with
alacrity. Lady Mary Pembroke's marriage with Mr. Barclay was solemnized
under the happiest auspices, and in the midst of approving and
sympathizing friends. As soon as the ceremony was over, and she had
embraced and congratulated her niece, Mrs. Hungerford turned to Mrs.
Percy, and in a low voice said, "If it were not too much for one so
happy as I am, so rich in blessings, to ask one blessing more, I should
ask to be permitted to live to see the day when our dear Caroline--"
Mrs. Hungerford pressed Mrs. Percy's hand, but could say no more; the
tears rolled down her cheeks as she looked up to heaven. Some minutes
afterwards, following Caroline with her eyes, "Look at her, Mrs. Percy!"
said Mrs. Hungerford. "Did ever selfish coquette, in the height of
triumph over lover or rival, enjoy such pleasure as you see sparkling at
this moment in that dear girl's countenance?"

The bride and bridegroom set off immediately for Mr. Barclay's seat in
Berkshire. Lady Florence accompanied her sister; and Mrs. Hungerford,
after parting from both her nieces, entreated that Caroline might be
left with her. "It is a selfish request, I know, my dear; but at my age
I cannot afford to be generous of the society of those I love. Allow me
to plead my age, and my--Well, I will not say more since I see it gives
you pain, and since I see you will grant the prayer of my petition,
rather than hear my claims to your compassion."

Caroline liked particularly to stay with Mrs. Hungerford at this time,
when there was not any company at the castle, no one but Mrs. Hungerford
and her daughter, so that she had the full and quiet enjoyment of their
society. At this time of her life, and in the state of her mind at this
period, no society could have been more agreeable, soothing, and useful
to Caroline, than that of such a friend. One, who had not forgotten the
passions of youth; who could give at once sympathy and counsel; who
was willing to allow to love its full and exquisite power to exalt the
happiness of human life, yet appeared herself, in advanced and serene
old age, a constant example of the falsehood of the notion, that the
enthusiasm of passion is essential to felicity. An elegant and just
distinction has been made by a philosophical writer between _delicacy
of passion_ and _delicacy of taste_. One leading to that ill-governed
susceptibility, which transports the soul to ecstasy, or reduces it to
despair, on every adverse or prosperous change of fortune; the other
enlarging our sphere of happiness, by directing and increasing our
sensibility to objects of which we may command the enjoyment, instead of
wasting it upon those over which we have no control. Mrs. Hungerford was
a striking example of the advantage of cultivating _delicacy of taste_.

At an advanced age, she showed exquisite perception of pleasure in every
work of genius; in conversation, no stroke of wit or humour escaped her
quick intelligence, no shade of sentiment or politeness was lost upon
her; and on hearing of any trait of generosity or greatness of soul, her
whole countenance beamed with delight; yet with all this quickness
of feeling she was quite free from fastidiousness, and from that
irritability about trifles, into which those who indulge _the delicacy
of passion_ in youth are apt to degenerate in age. Caroline felt, every
day, increasing affection as well as admiration for Mrs. Hungerford, and
found time pass delightfully in her company. Besides that general
and well-chosen acquaintance with literature which supplied her with
perpetual resources, she had that knowledge of life and of the world
which mixes so well, in conversation, with the knowledge of books.
She had known, intimately, most of the celebrated people of the last
century, and had store of curious and interesting anecdotes, which she
produced with so much taste and judgment, and told so well, as never
to fatigue attention. Caroline found that her mind was never passive or
dormant in Mrs. Hungerford's company; she was always excited to follow
some train of thought, to discuss some interesting question, or to
reflect upon some new idea. There was, besides, in the whole tenor of
her conversation and remarks such an indulgence for human nature, with
all its faults and follies, as left the most pleasing and encouraging
impression on the mind, and inspired hope and confidence. Her anecdotes
and her philosophy all tended to prove that there is more virtue than
vice, more happiness than misery, in life; and, above all, that there is
a greater probability that the world should improve than that it should
degenerate. Caroline felt pleased continually to find her own favourite
opinions and hopes supported and confirmed by the experience and
judgment of such a woman; and there was something gratifying to her, in
being thus distinguished and preferred by one who had read so much and
thought so deeply.

As Mrs. Hungerford had heard nothing more of Count Altenberg, she
wisely forbore to touch upon the subject, or even to mention his name to
Caroline; and she saw, with satisfaction, the care with which her young
friend turned her mind from every dangerous recollection. Sometimes,
however, the remembrance of the Count was unavoidably recalled; once, in
particular, in turning over the life of Sir Philip Sidney, there was a
passage copied in his hand, on a slip of paper, which had accidentally
been left in the book.


"Algernon Sidney, in a letter to his son, says, that in the whole of
his life he never knew one man, of what condition soever, arrive at any
degree of reputation in the world, who made choice of, or delighted
in the company or conversation of those, who in their qualities were
inferior, or in their parts not much superior to himself."


"What have you there, my love? Something that pleases and interests you
particularly, I see," said Mrs. Hungerford, not knowing what it was that
Caroline was reading: "show it me, my dear--I am sure I shall like it."

Caroline, deeply blushing, gave her the paper. She recollected the
hand-writing, and folding up the paper, put it in her pocket-book.

"It is an observation," said she, "that I wish I could write in letters
of gold for the advantage of all the young men in the world in whom I
take any interest."

The energetic warmth with which Mrs. Hungerford spoke relieved Caroline,
as it seemed to justify the delight she had involuntarily expressed--the
sentiments for the individual seemed now enveloped in general
approbation and benevolence. She never loved Mrs. Hungerford better than
at this instant.

Mrs. Hungerford observed that none of the common sentimental passages,
either in poetry or novels, ever seemed to affect Caroline; and to the
romantic descriptions of love she was so indifferent that it might
have appeared to a common observer as if she was, and ever would be, a
stranger to the passion. By the help of the active and plastic powers
of the imagination, any and every hero of a novel could be made, at
pleasure, to appear the exact resemblance of each lady's different
lover. Some, indeed, professed a peculiar and absolute exclusive
attachment, founded on unintelligible or indescribable merits or graces;
but these ladies, of all others, she had found were most liable to
change, and on farther acquaintance with the world to discover, on
generalizing their notions, similar or superior attractions in new
models of perfection. In Caroline, Mrs. Hungerford saw none of these
capricious fancies, and that it was not her imagination, but her reason
which gave Count Altenberg the exalted place he held in her esteem. It
was therefore with pleasure, that this kind lady perceived, that her
young friend's residence with her soothed her mind and restored it to
its former tone.

But Caroline was soon obliged to leave Hungerford Castle, A letter from
Erasmus informed her that poor Lady Jane Granville was ill of a
nervous fever, that she had no companion, no one to attend her but a
maid-servant, and that she was much in want of some judicious friend who
could raise her spirits and tranquillize her mind, which was in a state
of continual agitation about her lawsuit. Caroline, remembering Lady
Jane's former kindness, thought this a fit opportunity to show her
gratitude; and, happy as she was with her friends at Hungerford Castle,
she hesitated not a moment to sacrifice her own pleasure.--Her father
and mother approved of her determination, and her brother Alfred carried
her to London.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


In these days, people travel with so much safety, ease, and celerity,
that heroines have little chance of adventures on the road; and a
journey is now so common a thing, that, as Rosamond observed, the
most brilliant imagination has no hope of having wonders to relate.
To Rosamond's mortification, Caroline and her brother reached London
without any event having occurred better worth recording than the loss
of an umbrella. They drove into town when it was nearly dark, just
before the lamps were lighted; Caroline, therefore, had little
satisfaction from the first view of the metropolis. She found Lady Jane
Granville in a small lodging in Clarges-street--the room dark--a smell
of smoke--the tea-equipage prepared--Lady Jane lying on a shabby-looking
sofa--drops and a smelling-bottle on a little table beside her. She
raised herself as Caroline entered, looked half pleased, half ashamed
to see her; and, stretching out her hand, said, in a complaining voice,
"Ah! my dear Caroline, are you really come? This is too good! Sadly
changed, you find--and every thing about me--Sit down, my dear--Keppel,
do let us have tea as soon as you can," said Lady Jane.

"As soon as ever Eustace comes in, my lady," answered Keppel, peevishly.

"In the mean time, for Heaven's sake, allow us a little more light--I
cannot live without light. Come nearer to me, my dear Caroline, and tell
me how did you leave all our friends at the Hills?"

Whilst Caroline was answering her ladyship, more candles were brought,
and Lady Jane moved them on the table till she threw the light full on
Caroline's face.

"Handsomer than ever! And altogether so _formed_. One would not think,
Alfred, she had been buried all this time in the country. Ah! perverse
child; why would not you come when I could have been of some use to
you--when, at least, I could, have received you as I ought? This is not
a fit place, you see; nor am I now in circumstances, or in a style of
life--Heigho!"

"Dr. Percy is not come yet," resumed she. "This is his usual hour--and
I wrote a note to tell him that he would meet his sister Caroline
to-night."

In all her ladyship said, in every look and motion, there was the same
nervous hurry and uneasiness. Dr. Percy arrived, and for a moment Lady
Jane forgot herself in sympathy with the pleasure the brother and
sister showed at meeting. Soon, however, she would have relapsed into
melancholy comparisons, but, that Dr. Percy checked the course of her
thoughts; and with the happy art, by which a physician of conversational
powers can amuse a nervous patient, he, without the aid of poppy or
mandragora, medicined her to rest, though not to sleep.

When Erasmus was alone with his sister, he observed that no permanent
amendment could be expected in Lady Jane's health till her mind should
be at ease about her lawsuit. While this was undecided, her imagination
vacillated between the horror of neglected poverty, and the hopes of
recovering her former splendour and consideration. The lawsuit was not
to be decided for some weeks, and Caroline saw that all that could be
done in the mean time was as much as possible to soothe and amuse her
patient: however tiresome and difficult the task, she went through it
with the utmost cheerfulness and sweetness of temper. Day after day she
passed alone with Lady Jane, hearing her complaints, bodily and mental,
and listening to the eternally repeated history of her lawsuit. But
Caroline's patience was ensured by a sense of gratitude, which, in her,
was not a sentimental phrase, but a motive for long endurance, still
more difficult than active exertion.

One half hour in the day, however, she was sure of being happy--the half
hour when her brother Erasmus paid his visit. Of Alfred she saw little,
for he was so much engaged with business, that a few minutes now and
then were all he could possibly spare from his professional duties. Mr.
Temple called. She was surprised to see him, for she thought he had
been on his way to the continent; but he told her that difficulties had
occurred, chiefly through the manoeuvres of Cunningham Falconer, and
that he did not know when there would be an end of these--that Lord
Oldborough was glad of the delay at present, because he wanted Mr.
Temple's assistance, as the other secretary had been taken ill, and
his lordship had not yet fixed upon a confidential person to supply
his place. Of course, in these circumstances, Mr. Temple was so much
occupied, that Caroline saw very little of him; and she experienced what
thousands have observed, that, however people may wish to meet in great
towns, it is frequently impracticable, from small difficulties as to
time, distance, and connexions. Of Mr. Gresham, Caroline had hoped
that she should see a great deal--her brother Erasmus had long since
introduced him to Lady Jane Granville; and, notwithstanding his being a
merchant, her ladyship liked him. He was as much disposed as ever to
be friendly to the whole Percy family; and the moment he heard of
Caroline's being in town, he hastened to see her, and showed all his
former affectionate regard in his countenance and manner. But his time
and his thoughts were now engrossed by an affair very near his heart,
which he was impatient to bring to a termination. As soon as this should
be accomplished, he was to set out for Amsterdam, where the concerns
of his late partner, old Mr. Panton, as his correspondents wrote,
imperiously demanded his presence.

This affair, which was so near Mr. Gresham's heart, related to his dear
Constance. Alfred had alluded to it in one of his letters, and Erasmus
had begun to write the particulars to Rosamond; but he had not at
the time leisure to finish the letter, and afterwards burnt it, being
uncertain how the romance, as Alfred called it, might end. He therefore
thought it prudent to say nothing about it. The whole story was now told
to Caroline, and, briefly, was this.

After old Panton's rage against Dr. Percy, in consequence of the
suspicion that his daughter was in love with him; after the strange
wig-scene, and the high words that followed, had driven Erasmus from the
house, Constance went to her father, and, intent upon doing justice to
Erasmus, at whatever hazard to herself, protested that he had not been
the cause of her refusal of Lord Roadster. To convince her father of
this, she confessed that her heart was not entirely disengaged--no
threats, no persuasion, could, however, draw from her the name of the
person whom she preferred: she knew that to name him would be only to
ruin his fortune--that her father never would consent to her marrying
him; nor had the object of her preference ever given her reason to think
that he felt any thing more for her than regard and respect. Old Panton,
the last man in the world to understand any delicacies, thought her
whole confession "_nonsense_:" the agitation and hesitation with which
it was made, and her eagerness to clear Dr. Percy's credit, and to
reinstate him in her father's favour, conspired to convince the old man
that his "own first original opinion was right." Of this, indeed, he
seldom needed any additional circumstances to complete the conviction on
any occasion. During the remainder of his life he continued obstinate
in his error: "If she likes any body else, why can't the girl name him?
Nonsense--that cursed Dr. Percy is the man, and he never shall be
the man." In this belief old Panton died, and what is of much more
consequence, in this belief he made his will. On purpose to exclude
Dr. Percy, and in the hope of accomplishing his favourite purpose of
ennobling his descendants, he, in due legal form, inserted a clause
in his will, stating, "that he bequeathed his whole fortune (save his
wife's dower) to his beloved daughter, upon condition, that within the
twelve calendar months next ensuing, after his decease, she, the said
Constance, should marry a man not below the rank of the son of a baron.
But in case she, the said Constance, should not marry within the said
twelve calendar months, or should marry any man below the rank of a
baron, then and after the expiration of said twelve calendar months, the
said fortune to go to his beloved wife, except an annuity of two hundred
pounds a year, to be paid thereout to his daughter Constance." Mr.
Gresham was appointed sole executor to his will. As soon as it was
decently possible, after old Panton's decease, Lord Roadster renewed his
suit to Constance, and was civilly but very steadily refused. Many other
suitors, coming within the description of persons favoured by the will,
presented themselves, but without success. Some making their application
to Constance herself, some endeavouring to win her favour through the
intercession of her guardian, Mr. Gresham--all in vain. Month after
month had passed away, and Mr. Gresham began to be much in dread,
and Mrs. Panton, the step-mother, somewhat in hopes, that the twelve
calendar months would elapse without the young lady's having fulfilled
the terms prescribed by the will. Mr. Gresham, one morning, took his
fair ward apart, and began to talk to her seriously upon the subject.
He told her that he thought it impossible she should act from mere
perverseness or caprice, especially as, from her childhood upwards,
he had never seen in her any symptoms of an obstinate or capricious
disposition; therefore he was well convinced that she had some good
reason for refusing so many offers seemingly unexceptionable: he
was grieved to find that he had not sufficiently won or deserved her
confidence, to be trusted with the secret of her heart. Constance, who
revered and loved him with the most grateful tenderness, knelt before
him; and clasping his hand in hers, while tears Tolled over her blushing
cheeks, endeavoured to speak, but could not for some moments. At last,
she assured him that delicacy, and the uncertainty in which she was
whether she was beloved, were the only causes which had hitherto
prevented her from speaking on this subject, even to him, who now stood
in the place of her father, and who had ever treated her with more than
a father's kindness.

Mr. Gresham named Erasmus Percy.

"No."

"Mr. Henry!"

"How was it possible that Mr. Gresham had never thought of him?"

Mr. Gresham had thought of him--had suspected that Mr. Henry's love for
Constance had been the cause of his quitting England--had admired the
young man's honourable silence and resolution--had recalled him from
Amsterdam, and he was now in London.

But young Henry, who knew nothing of Mr. Gresham's favourable
disposition towards him, who had only commercial correspondence with
him, and knew little of his character, considered him merely as the
executor of Mr. Panton, and, with this idea, obeyed his summons home to
settle accounts. When they met, he was much surprised by Mr. Gresham's
speaking, not of accounts, but of Constance. When Mr. Gresham told
him the terms of Mr. Panton's will, far from appearing disappointed
or dejected, Mr. Henry's face flushed with hope and joy. He instantly
confessed to her guardian that he loved Constance passionately; and that
now, when it could not be supposed he had mercenary views; now, when
no duty, no honour forbad him, he would try his fate. He spoke with a
spirit given by strong passion long repressed, and with a decision
of character which his modesty and reserve of manner had, till now,
prevented from appearing.

"Did he consider," Mr. Gresham asked, "what he expected Miss Panton to
sacrifice for him?"

"Yes, fortune, not duty--duty he could never have asked her to
sacrifice; he could not have esteemed her if she _had_ sacrificed
duty. As to the rest," added he, proudly, "Miss Panton is now to decide
between love and fortune."

"This from the modest Mr. Henry! from whom, till this moment, I never
heard a syllable that savoured of presumption!" said Mr. Gresham.

Mr. Henry was silent--and stood with an air of proud determination.
Regardless of the surprise and attention with which Mr. Gresham
considered him during this silence, he thought for a few moments, and
asked, "Sir, when may I see Miss Panton?"

"And would you," said Mr. Gresham, "if it were in your power, sir,
reduce the woman you love from opulence to poverty--to distress?"

"I have four hundred a year, Miss Panton has two--six hundred a year is
not poverty, sir. Distress--the woman I marry shall never know whilst I
have life and health. No, sir, this is not romance. Of my perseverance
in whatever I undertake, even when least congenial to my habits, you
have had proofs. Mr. Gresham, if Miss Panton approves of me, and if love
can make her happy, I fear not to assert to you, her guardian, that
I will make her happy. If she love me not, or," added he, his whole
countenance changing from the expression of ardent love to that of cold
disdain, "or, if love be not in her mind superior to fortune, then
I have little to regret. Wealth and honours wait her command. But,"
resumed he, "the trial I will make--the hazard I will run. If I am
mistaken--if I am presumptuous--the humiliation be mine--the agony all
my own: my heart will bear it--or--break!"

"Heroics!" said Mr. Gresham. "Now let me ask--"

"Let me ask, sir--pardon me," interrupted Mr. Henry--"Let me beg to see
Miss Panton."

"Stay, listen to me, young man--"

"Young gentleman, sir, if you please."

"Young gentleman, sir, if you please," repeated Mr. Gresham, mildly;
"I can make allowance for all this--you were bred a soldier, jealous of
honour--but listen to me: there is one thing I must tell you before you
see Miss Panton--though I apprehend it may somewhat mortify you, as
it will interfere with your boast of disinterestedness and your vow
of poverty--Miss Panton I have from her cradle been in the habit of
considering partly as my own--my own child--and, as such, I have left
her in my will ten thousand pounds. As she will want this money
before my death, if she marries you, I must convert my legacy into a
marriage-portion, and you shall not, sir, have love without fortune,
whatever your heroics may think of it. Now go to your mistress, and keep
my secret."

Young Henry was evidently more touched by this generosity than by this
bounty; and with a gentleness and humility the most feeling he said,
"How shall I thank you, sir, for bearing with me as you did?"

"Oh!" said Mr. Gresham, "old as I am, I know what it is to be in love,
and can conceive too what it is to fear that a guardian might be cross,
and that the executor and the partner of Mr. Panton might act like Mr.
Panton himself. Say no more--I understand it all, you see--Go to your
Constance."

Even in the haughtiness and spirit this young man had shown, Mr. Gresham
saw the sincerity, strength, and disinterestedness of his affection;
and in Mr. Gresham's estimation these were no trifling merits. We pass
over--shall we be forgiven?--the love scenes between Mr. Henry and
Constance. In these cases it is well when there is some sober friend
to look to the common sense of the thing, and in the midst of the
exaltation to do the necessary business of life. Mr. Gresham laid Mr.
Panton's will before counsel learned in the law, took opinions from two
different counsel; from Alfred Percy, whose friendship was likely to
quicken his attention, and from another barrister of long standing,
who, being totally unconnected with the parties might probably give a
perfectly unbiassed and dispassionate advice. Both agreed that there was
no avoiding the clause in the will; that Miss Panton, if she married
a man below the rank of a baron's son, must give up her fortune to her
step-mother at the end of twelve calendar months from the time of her
father's decease; but both barristers gave it as their opinion, that
the income during those twelve months belonged to Constance: this was a
considerable sum, which, by Mr. Gresham's advice, was to be vested with
the rest of Mr. Henry's capital in the firm of the house of Panton and
Co. In consequence of Mr. Gresham's earnest recommendation, and of his
own excellent conduct and ability, Mr. Henry was from this time joined
in the firm, and as one of the partners had a secure income proportioned
to his part of the capital, besides a share in the very advantageous
speculations in which the house was engaged. Mr. Gresham undertook
to supply Mr. Henry's place at Amsterdam, whither he was under the
necessity of going. His house he would leave to Constance during his
abs