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Title: Tales of My Time, Vol. 1 (of 3)
Author: Scargill, William Pitt
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.

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TALES OF MY TIME.


BY THE AUTHOR OF BLUE-STOCKING HALL.


IN THREE VOLUMES.


VOL. I.

WHO IS SHE?


LONDON:

HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY,
NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
1829.

J. B. NICHOLS AND SON,
25, Parliament Street.



WHO IS SHE?


"As a stranger give it welcome." HAMLET.



ADVERTISEMENT.


The following story is founded on facts which came within the knowledge
of the writer. The precise point at which truth ends, and fiction
begins, it is not necessary to divulge; but in an age when an avidity
for the stimulus of real adventure seems in a great degree to have
superseded the love of mere romance, it may not be uninteresting to
state that the heroine of the following pages is not altogether a
creature of imagination.



CONTENTS


Chapter

  I
  II
  III
  IV
  V
  VI
  VII
  VIII
  IX
  X



CHAPTER I.

    "Oh! this is trim!"--TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.


At not more than a stone's throw from a neat market town, in a certain
shire of England, lived Francis Hartland, Esq. in a well-built square
house, which was separated from the King's high road, by a lawn of
twenty acres. Round this lawn a double row of handsome elms lined a
ring fence, and formed the outer boundary, in that part next the house,
of a bank covered with all sorts of shrubs, which sloped in a gradually
inclined plane, from the shining laurel to the dwarf cistus, and met a
broad belt of gravel, hard and smooth as marble, through which no
upstart weed ever dared to force its way. This walk was fringed by a
border of flowers, in such variety of glowing tints, that lawn and all
might be aptly compared to a robe of green velvet, trimmed with a
phylactery of broidered work, worthy of Sheba's Queen in all her glory,
while the whole exhibited such precision and nicety in the keeping, as
to suggest the idea that its owner, in league with the fairies,
possessed some secret charm against every noxious reptile and devouring
fly.

This _Snuggery_ was not the hereditary right of Mr. Hartland, but was
purchased for valuable consideration, and he came to live in it, nobody
knew from whence, or how incited.

His appearance did not afford rich material for romance; for he was a
sleek, mild, contented looking man of forty odd, with an open
countenance. A spacious forehead of pipe-clay whiteness, from which his
hair was making annual recession, surmounted a nose of latinostrous
projection, eyes of rather the "lack lustre" character, and cheeks of
roseate hue, or perhaps more truly, though less poetically, of
brick-dust dye; while the _toute ensemble_ received decoration from a
set of teeth which seemed as if they had been newly chiselled from the
finest block of ivory ever imported from the land of Ophir. But
curiosity can find browsing even where food is most scantily provided;
and accordingly nothing could surpass the sensation produced by Mr.
Hartland's arrival at Henbury Lodge. The industry and zeal set in
motion by this event were rewarded at length to a certain extent by
information that the new comer was related to a noble house, and
possessed a clear independent property of twelve hundred a year.
Farther deponent sayeth not; but it usually happens that where truth
ends, generous fiction takes up the tale, and a thousand stories were
soon in circulation. That which excited most interest, and was
therefore most frequently repeated, though entirely divested of
foundation, gave to understand that a matrimonial disappointment had
driven him from the scene of mortification, and induced his removal to
a region in which he might hope to forget its sting.

Mr. Hartland's manner and appearances unquestionably contradicted this
surmise; but no matter for that. We know that stubborn facts are
accustomed to bend to theory in cases more impracticable than this; and
therefore, though we may object to the idea that features which seemed
to be moulded for the seat of a perennial smile, had ever been
"sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," no such incongruity was
perceived in the market-town of which our narrative makes mention; and
not only was Mr. Hartland believed to have suffered all the pangs and
penalties of slighted passion; but by degrees a certain name, locality,
height, complexion, and many other particulars, came to be added
respecting the cruel fair one, with such variance as suited the
character of each reporter.

The honest truth of the matter was, that Mr. Hartland came to his
present independence late in life, and regulated his mind till then, by
the _pole-star_ maxim, which he imbibed with his alphabet, that the
worst of all poor things was a poor marriage. His father died before he
was born; and his mother, who understood the art of making one pound
perform the work of two in any other hands, had contrived to educate
her darling and only child, by exercising the closest economy; but,
strange to say, instead of placing him in any profession by which he
might support himself, and repay her for the sacrifices she had made,
she preferred keeping him at home, and it was her pride and delight,
that whatever were the privations which _she_ endured, her son should
know no want. Young Hartland had his horse, while his mother assured
him that she _chose_ to walk; his boots and shoes shone like mirrors,
his hat was glossy as a raven's wing, and his whole wardrobe appointed
with as much care as if he only waited for his legal majority to step
into a good estate.

But one and twenty years had looked at themselves in the glass of one
and twenty more, ere any change occurred; and then the heirship to a
comfortable property put him in possession of easy circumstances only
just three months before death deprived him of her with whom he had
passed his days. This event rendered his home intolerable, and ability
to quit the scene of his loss coinciding with inclination to do so, Mr.
Hartland sought in all directions for an eligible residence. Being a
man of orderly and clock-work habits, who had performed a measured
round of daily action from the time of his earliest childhood, he felt
no desire to alter the manner of his life, but only wished to continue
its wonted routine upon a different stage. It never once occurred to
his imagination that foreign travel, or even the recreation of a
neighbouring watering place, might afford diversion to the uneasy
thoughts which possessed his mind; but lighting accidentally upon an
advertisement, which set forth that Henbury, with its appurtenances,
was to be sold, he immediately resolved on being the purchaser. There
were just as many acres as constituted his _beau ideal_ of a snug
abode, and he lost no time in transplanting thither every biped and
quadruped on which he was accustomed to rest his eyes, insomuch that
when first he opened them after sleeping in his new _domicile_, every
thing around was so tranquilly arranged that he would have been
scarcely sensible of having quitted his ancient abiding place, had not
the painful feeling been removed of association with the image of his
poor mother, whose arm-chair and work-basket no longer rose upon his
view, empty and unoccupied in their allotted corner.

Now it may easily be conceived that Mr. Hartland, such as we have
depicted him, though himself unperturbed, caused an active stir in the
neighbourhood of his new habitation. The tradespeople all gave
testimony to his being "a pure substantial man, who paid for every
thing he had like a true gentleman." The regularity of his attendance
at church gained him the rector's marked approval; while the apothecary
sighed as he contemplated the damask of a cheek which seemed to hold
out little hope of requiring aid from the leech's skill, or the rosy
conserves of his shop. But the chief commotion was among the female
part of the community, who, some for themselves, and others for their
daughters, set a longing eye on Henbury's "crisped shades and bowers,"
where revelled "the spruce and jocund spring." On Sundays a general
determination of gay hats and bonnets was observable towards that part
of the church which was occupied by Mr. Hartland, where such a stream
of floating ribbons might be remarked converging to his pew, as to
authorise the belief that a current of the electrid fluid set in that
direction, and drew the silken pennants thus to a point. The new comer
was visited and invited by all the inhabitants of the neighbourhood,
and declared to be an acquisition wherever he appeared. "Upon my word,
a very sensible steady man is Mr. Hartland," was the usual panegyric
pronounced by his hosts, while the old ladies protested that he played
a capital game of whist, and the young confessed that though he had
passed the first season of youth, he had not seen out its bloom.

Now it so happened that in the centre of the market-place, and in a
house distinguished by two bay windows so prominent and closely set,
that they looked like the eyes of a prawn, and served as spectacles to
her who dwelt within, there lived a maiden yclept Jemima Ferret, whose
name remarkably coincided with her character and vocation. Nature had
originally bestowed upon her features divested of all attraction, and
the small-pox had fatally confirmed the decree which had been issued in
her cradle against the chances of a husband. Jemima had attained the
age of fifty without a single proposal, though her favourite adage, and
one which she repeated with such emphasis as to prove that she believed
it in her heart, was, that "every Jack has his Jill."

When, however, half a century had fairly glided down the stream of
time, Miss Ferret transferred with honest zeal all those exertions
to the circle which surrounded her, which had hitherto proved
inefficacious while applied to her own use; and as the materials upon
which she worked were often widely different from those on which her
skill had been originally employed, the success was proportionate;
and Jemima Ferret rose to the highest pinnacle of consideration, as
the most adroit and judicious negociator who ever made a match, and
brought together two individuals in the holy bands of wedlock. Such
was the profound sagacity, such the acknowledged ability and discretion
of this hymeneal plenipotentiary, that she was always given _carte
blanche_ to proceed according to her own views, and there was a general
understanding that whatever she "_brought about_," was effected in the
very best manner.

In fact, such was the confidence which she inspired, that her
neighbours frequently avoided betraying their wishes in any direct
_commission_, relying upon her tact and penetration for discovering the
secret purpose of their hearts, and forwarding their wishes if no
pre-arrangement of her own militated against them; in which case it was
well known that her manoeuvring so far surpassed any tactics which
could be brought in opposition, as to secure the crown of victory, and
render vain every effort at competition.

Not to lead our readers into any false conclusions, which a little
trouble in the way of explanation might prevent, it may be well to
state the motives which induced an activity of zeal so very striking
and conspicuous. Be it known, then, that Miss Ferret's income was a
very small one, and though since she had given up all hope of bettering
her fortune by a lucrative barter of such qualifications as she had to
exchange for their money price, she had improved her means, by sinking
her little capital for an annuity, it was not so liberal a stipend as
to render her by any means indifferent to increase of comfort; and she
prudently considered that the next best thing to forming a good
establishment for herself, which we have hinted had hitherto proved
impracticable, would be to secure as many settlements as she could for
her friends, amongst whom she might pass from house to house much to
the solace of her spirits and the relief of her purse.

In this office of match-making, then, which she raised to the dignity
of a regular trade, or profession, she put forth all the strength of
her talents, and prospered exceedingly. She had all sorts, sizes, and
descriptions under her patronage; and her powers were so generally
known, that though people did not like to own their obligation to a
third person in matters of so delicate a nature, they were nevertheless
secretly felt to be of such importance, that to conciliate Miss
Ferret's regards became a point of rivalry in and about the town in
which she resided.

Mr. Hartland, without being aware of the honour, was placed at the head
of her list for matrimonial preferment as soon as he had come into
possession of Henbury; but for _once_, Jemima was puzzled about a
help-mate for him, some objection having occurred to three several
young ladies, whom she kept constantly in mind, and who were still on
the unattached service. When things are least expected, however, they
often come to pass, and it so chanced, that while Hymen's _chargé
d'affaires_ was at fault for her game, Miss Robinson came to pay a
visit at Colbrook, the seat of Sir Roger Goodman, an opulent and
corpulent Baronet, who lived within the district which Miss Ferret
resolved should limit the circuit of her exertions; because to have
engaged in distant experiment would have increased difficulties, and
diminished the probability of successful result.

The arrival of this lady, who deserves to be the heroine of a chapter,
as she was soon destined to be head of a house, at once furnished a
subject to animate the genius of our fair undertaker.



CHAPTER II.

    "The first springs of great events, like those of great rivers, are
    often mean and little."--SWIFT.


Miss Robinson, the heroine of our present chapter, was just five and
thirty, tall, thin, and well dressed, with something in her manner
smart, clever, cheerful, and _offhand_, but free from boldness, which
rendered her particularly agreeable to _shy_ men, with whom she was
observed to be a wonderful favourite. _Then_ Miss Robinson had a
"pretty fortune" of five thousand pounds entirely at her own disposal;
and the only possible manner of accounting for her protracted "single
blessedness," was by the supposition that either some "disappointment"
had occurred in early life, which she was too proud or too independent
to turn to advantage, or that she had been "over nice" in making her
election, and discovered now that people might be too fastidious for
the rapidity with which youth and bloom wing their cruel flight.

This at least was the way in which the point was decided by general
report, and how the case really stood is not material to our present
purpose to determine. The reader may perhaps imagine that Miss Ferret
was not of such a grade in society, as to admit of her insinuating
herself amongst the guests in a baronet's house, and that her ambition,
confined to an humbler walk, would scarcely aspire so high as to rule
the destinies of two such people as Miss Robinson and Mr. Hartland, but
the fact was otherwise. A _downright_ country neighbourhood, far
removed from metropolitan fastidiousness, admits of occasional mixtures
unknown to high life in town, and when we consider that the Ferret
family, of which Jemima was the last remnant, had lived with credit,
and voted steadily for Sir Roger during a course of years, as also that
Miss Ferret's central position close to the market-place, afforded her
opportunity of forestalling the scanty and uncertain supplies of fish,
sweetbreads, and other delicacies which are the pivots on which turns
the fame of a dinner entertainment in a remote situation, it cannot
surely surprise any reasonable person that Miss Ferret should often be
invited to mount her pony, and with her dinner dress tied in a
handkerchief, and suspended from the pummel, solicited to partake of
the good cheer which her late and early vigilance had provided. She
was, besides, a woman of address. If she passed a carriage on the road,
she drew her veil over her face, and never rode up to the front door.

She had likewise a permanent deposit of flowers, feathers, and
furbelows, which were left in a bandbox at Colbrook, under the
guardianship of Lady Goodman's maid, with whom she was a prime
favourite; as, however multifarious the concerns on her hands, she
never forgot to slip a volume of the last novel into her bundle for
Mrs. Hopkins. If a servant was to be hired, Miss Ferret inquired the
character; if a bargain was to be had, Miss Ferret heard of, and
recommended it to her friends, and when all her various _utilities_
were performed, the _dulce_ was not neglected. Enriched with a
countless fund of _on dits_, and freighted with charades, epigrams,
epithalamiums, and pasquinades, this active member of society defied
all the powers of dulness to produce stagnation of tongues, whenever
she was one of the company.

Well, in brisk spirits and iron-sided health, after executing a list of
commissions, half a yard in length, for Lady Goodman, off cantered Miss
Ferret, in joyous anticipation of a pleasant week at Colbrook. Her
reception was gladdening. "My dear creature, welcome," said Lady
Goodman, "you are actually my right hand; I do not know what in the
world I should do without you. Did you remember the wax candles, and
the snuff for Sir Roger, and the cards, and my watch which I sent to
have a new crystal, and did you pay Farquar's bill?"

"I have done, ordered, and paid every thing."

"Welcome, my dear, a thousand times!" replied Lady Goodman; "come, and
tell me all the news."

"Ah! Ferret," exclaimed Sir Roger, who entered at this moment, "I
rejoice to see you. Sad weather this; I have been as dead as ditch
water, I can tell you, and am glad that you are come to keep me awake.
The glass too is rising; you bring good luck with you; but here is Mr.
Hartland riding up the avenue; I must go and meet him."

"Oh! I'm glad that you have asked Mr. Hartland; that's a nice man; I've
seen a great deal of him lately," said Miss Ferret, as she turned to
Lady Goodman; "but have'nt you got Miss Robinson with you? I long to
see her: How does she look? when did she come? does she stay long?"

"She arrived on Wednesday, stays a month, and I never saw her looking
better," answered Lady Goodman.

"A nice thing," said Miss Ferret, "if we could make up a match between
Mr. Hartland and Miss Robinson, wouldn't it, Lady G.?"

"So it would;" replied her Ladyship; "but though your fame stands high,
I think you'll hardly have ingenuity to bring _that_ matter to bear.
They say that he's not at all a marrying man, and if he's one of the
bashful fraternity, there will not be time to get over the horrors of
presentation to a stranger, before Harriet will leave us to go to her
sister in Scotland."

"We must only not lose time," said Miss Ferret, "but make hay while the
sun shines."

The door opened, and Sir Roger presented Mr. Hartland to the ladies.
Though not an elegant man, there was nothing either coarse or revolting
in his demeanour. On the contrary, he comported himself extremely well,
in a plain and equable manner, without effort or perturbation, whatever
were the society into which he happened to fall. A phlegmatic
temperament, combining with constitutional prudence, and his mother's
counsel, had preserved Mr. Hartland in early life from those exciting
circumstances which often plunge young people into love entanglements;
and incredible as it may seem to those who have been differently
situated, it is not the less true, that he had lived so little in mixed
society, and had been so little in the way of _flirtation_, that no
rumour of marriage had ever been coupled with his name; and thus at an
age when others have _handed over_ their sensibilities to a new
generation, this serene and unaffected man was only commencing his
career of life, with all the simplicity of untried youth.

The company assembled; and such as have experienced the up-hill work
of conversation at a country dinner, when the subjects of weather,
crops, the moon, and the roads are _pumped dry_, will easily believe,
that if Miss Ferret were not the most polished woman in the world,
her animation rendered her, notwithstanding, the most agreeable
ingredient upon many occasions, in those assemblies which her presence
enlivened. She had the art to shake a drawing-room together, if we may
use such a simile; and wherever she was she contrived to prevent that
_stratification_ of men and women which madame de Staël has so happily
described, as characteristic of an English provincial half hour before
dinner. Miss Ferret had seen the _last_ newspaper, or talked with "an
intelligent man who had stepped from the coach" in the precise moment
of her setting out; or she had heard a paragraph read from a London
letter; or had a conference with the post-master immediately before
she quitted home; in short she knew something either true or false,
which no one else happened to know, of every thing and every body.
Thin and active, she glided about the room, and brought people into
actual contact who had never interchanged a look till she appeared.
Like the grouting of a wall she compacted and cemented what was
nothing but a heap of loose disjointed stones, till her vivacious
tongue poured in its eloquence amongst them.

When the glad announcement was sounded, that dinner was served, Miss
Ferret, who had laid her plan of operations, commenced them by keeping
up such a cross fire of talk, while the company were in the act of
descending the stairs, that by the time they reached the
dining-parlour, she now marshalled the guests without being perceived
by any one, and contrived to slide herself into a chair between Miss
Robinson and Mr. Hartland. The more obvious arrangement which, by
placing the gentleman in the centre, would have given both ladies an
equal claim on his attention, might not have been so judicious; but by
Miss Ferret's disposition of affairs, she constituted herself the "soft
intermediate" through whom any intercourse held by the extremes must
pass; and she was thus enabled to regulate and guide it as was most
conducive to her ultimate ends. Before the dessert came upon the table
she had ventured to insinuate that there was a wonderful sympathy in
the tastes of her _protegés__protegés_; and as she conveyed their
sentiments from one to the other upon the comparative merits of roast
and boiled, fricassee and fry, hot and cold, town and country, with
sundry other interesting opposites which she herself suggested, there
certainly did appear to be a harmony of opinion which bid fair for
domestic union in that state of life which, we are taught to believe,
traces much of the unhappiness by which it is, alas! so frequently
embittered, to a fatal talent for disputation upon such like topics of
daily recurrence.

The perpetual succession of single drops will wear out a rock, and
therefore Miss Ferret seemed to be guided by sound discretion in her
admiration of minor harmonies, life being, as she always observed,
"made up of _little things_." From generals it was natural to descend
to particulars, and Henbury itself was on the _tapis_ ere the ladies
withdrew. Miss Ferret asked Miss Robinson, if she, who was _so_
partial to the pursuit of rural objects, and knew "_every_ thing about
plants from the oak to the daisy," had ever seen a cork tree?

On being answered in the negative, Miss Ferret exclaimed, "Oh I am
_so_ glad that we have any thing new to shew you! By the bye, _madcap_
that I am, I am reckoning without my host, and must have Mr.
Hartland's leave to perform my promise, as it is at Henbury that the
curiosity which I have mentioned is to be found. They say that it was
brought over a sapling from Cintra, near Lisbon, fully an hundred
years ago, by an officer who gave it to my poor grandfather, who then
rented the lands which now belong to Mr. Hartland."

Mr. Hartland blushed, and his skin being thin and fair, the suffusion
was manifest to a degree which augured well for setting fire to the
train which was laid in Miss Ferret's mind, as he replied, "I have
horses which cannot be employed in a better service, and at any time I
shall be happy to engage their best offices in procuring such an honour
as you kindly design for their master."

"Upon my word, Mr. Hartland, you are very polite, and much more than I
deserve after such a liberty as I have taken; but I mean to profit by
it, I assure you. Miss Robinson ought not to suffer for my inadvertence
in forgetting, that with my poor grandfather all _my_ interest in
Henbury passed away. We will accept your friendly invitation, though
not your horses; for I am sure, that unless the rheumatism pinched
severely, Sir Roger could not refuse his favourite Miss Robinson any
thing. You know, my dear, that Sir Roger admires you more than any one;
and I often tell Lady Goodman, that she is the best tempered, amiable
creature in the world not to be jealous; but she dotes upon you quite
as much. So you see that I have no chance of breaking the peace at
Colbrook, which is mortifying, as it is proverbially, you know, an old
maid's province and privilege to make mischief wherever she goes."

What with blushing, bantering, laughing, and complimenting, a very fair
measure of execution was done before the party re-assembled above
stairs, and Miss Ferret, who, like all wise people, was a keen observer
of portents, remarked that Mr. Hartland was the first gentleman to
leave the dining-room; upon which she gave a significant wink,
accompanied by a smile, the meaning of which was only understood by
Miss Robinson, to whom Miss Ferret had just whispered previously that
she saw strange things in her tea-cup.

To talk of fortunes and fortune-tellers might have been too direct a
mode of attack. So thought one who was never mistaken in her
calculation, and turning rapidly to a little black dog which sat
wagging his tail at Lady Goodman's side, Miss Ferret, with masterly
presence of mind, said, as if continuing the previous conversation,
"Well, it shall be submitted, as Miss Robinson _will have it so_, to
Mr. Hartland. Oh! here he is! Come here, Duke--shew yourself to this
gentleman. Mr. Hartland, Miss Robinson and I have had almost a duel
about this little animal, which she declares is not of the true
Norfolk breed; while I maintain that it is; and moreover that the
first of the kind was brought here by my poor uncle Jacob Ferret, who
got him at Arundel Castle, and carried him, when a puppy, many a weary
mile in his bosom. Now I think _my_ informa tion decisive; Miss
Robinson however will not yield; but to settle the dispute, she says
that you shall be umpire."

Mr. Hartland looked evidently highly gratified, and proceeded directly
to an examination of Duke's mouth, Lady Goodman laughing _à gorge
deployée_ at the ready witted Ferret and the confusion of Miss
Robinson, who, all astonishment at our diplomatist's facility of
invention, was completely nonplused. To have contradicted Miss Ferret's
statement, however, would only have made matters worse, and proved
still more unequivocally to Mr. Hartland that he had been the subject
of discussion; so quietly acquiescing, she waited in silence for
judgment to be pronounced.

"Miss Robinson is quite right," said Mr. Hartland. "Duke is a beautiful
creature, but all his ancestors are not from Arundel."

"Well, well, needs must, and I give up," answered Miss Ferret; "but it
is enough to provoke a saint that Miss Robinson is always right, and I
am always wrong. I firmly believe that she bribes all our judges."

Her next _coup d'essai_ was at the card-table. She had accomplished the
point of involving Miss Robinson and Mr. Hartland in a descant upon all
manner of spaniels, pointers, pugs, and poodles, which ramified into
sundry other topics, and she now thought it high time to look after
Sir Roger, for whom she soon arranged a rubber of whist; and after
manoeuvring for some time, set down the Baronet and an excellent player
who lived in his neighbourhood, against the pair whom she determined to
bring together in a partnership of a more durable continuance.

"Come, my dear," said she, "Lady Goodman always makes me her _aide de
camp_. I am beating up for recruits. Here are Sir Roger and Mr. Gresham
ready: Mr. Hartland will play, I know; but unless _you_ are kind enough
to take a hand, we shall be badly off. Do you begin, and I will cut in
by and by. I know that you are not fond of cards, but you are always
fond of obliging."

So saying, she bustled the people into their places, talking
unceasingly--cut for partners herself, to save time she said, and had
them all seated and the first deal commenced, before any one was aware
how he or she came to be so disposed and employed.

When Miss Ferret had skimmed round the room, setting every body and
mind in motion, she returned to a post where she was always welcome,
particularly when fortune favoured, namely, at the corner of the
card-table, _all but_ in Sir Roger's pocket. From this vantage-ground
she viewed the game; remembering every card, and gave a casting voice
on sundry contested questions. From the same situation she likewise
dispensed between the deals the pungent jest, the lively sally, or
smart repartee; raised the sinking spirits of a vanquished foe, or
curbed the too triumphant crowing of success. Here too she sat ready to
ply her host with a pinch of snuff, or a judiciously tempered dose of
flattery, as the case required. No genius ever elicited in the corps
diplomatique is on record for a nicer trait of generalship than was
exhibited on this evening by our female politician, who had calculated
to a hair, and now shewed the perfection of her practice by bringing
out her scheme with flying colours. Miss Ferret knew that Miss Robinson
was no whist player, and though Mr. Hartland was a remarkably good one,
the inferior skill of his partner would, she equally knew, so far
counteract his sagacity as to prevent any chance of victory over the
well-sustained game of two such antagonists as Sir Roger Goodman and
Mr. Gresham. It was Miss Ferret's design that the Baronet should win;
and in order to explain the rationale of her plan, it may not be amiss
to give a brief sketch in this place of this worthy's character.

Sir Roger was descended from an ancient house, and inherited a fine
place, but small fortune, which occasioned a perpetual strife between
family pride and poverty. He had been at school what is called a
plover-pated boy, and in fact arrived at manhood's prime with as light
a burthen of learning as any dunce need ever desire to carry. The
sports of the field, however, gave him ample occupation, and he married
the daughter of a wealthy trader, whose well lined coffers would have
supplied the deficiency of his patrimonial inheritance, if an ill timed
bankruptcy had not frustrated his hopes. This was a severe stroke; it
was however irremediable, and while health and strength continued,
matters went on tolerably well. Sir Roger became the most skilful
farmer in the whole country, and Lady Goodman, who was a virtuous and
prudent woman, managed her department with cleverness and economy.

But as time revolved, reverses occurred; two or three infant children
dropped off--Colbrook was left without an heir--and a chronic
rheumatism succeeded, which called for more temper, resignation, and
resource of mind than poor Sir Roger possessed to meet the demand. His
decline of life, therefore, exhibited the sorry picture of a nervous,
growling old man, who revenged every cloud in the sky which produced a
sharper twinge, on every body who came in his way. His temper was
graduated like the barometer, and rose or fell with the elasticity of
the atmosphere.

Amongst the most exasperating trials of his life was loss at cards; and
yet to abstain from playing was a still greater cross to one so
entirely dependent, as was Sir Roger, on external excitement. He
delighted in the company of Miss Ferret, who acted like sal volatile on
his spirits, and Lady Goodman was so glad to have her at Colbrook, that
it might always have been the residence of this useful personage, if
her pride had not revolted at the idea of being called "_a companion_."

Such then was the outline of domestic affairs in the family of Goodman,
and Miss Ferret knew what she was about, when she resolved that Sir
Roger should find his purse much heavier at the end than beginning of
the evening. But how did Mr. Hartland feel respecting these
arrangements of which he appeared to be the victim? He was amply
compensated by the partnership in which his losses were sustained; and
which furnished occasion for several allusions, artfully improved by
Miss Ferret, to fate--fortune--identity of interests--and sympathy in
adversity, which never advancing in _direct_ allusion beyond the
literal precincts of the game in hand, suggested, notwithstanding,
pleasing thoughts of an undefined nature which were as new to Mr.
Hartland as if he had just entered his seventeenth year, and
experienced for the first time, the stimulus and delight which is felt
by a boy when taken notice of in female society.

So happy was the progress of affairs, that when the cards were shuffled
in the last deal by Miss Robinson, and she summed up in a _total_ the
various items of apology which had preceded, by saying, "Well, Mr.
Hartland, my bad play has been visited severely on you; your temper has
indeed been tried in the furnace, and you have reason to remember the
evil star which condemned you to such a destiny this evening:" her
partner was observed to colour, while he replied, with more animation
than could have been anticipated in one who had lost every rubber,
"Miss Robinson, it is more agreeable to fail in some company than
succeed elsewhere. I can remember nothing but the _pleasures_ of this
day."

"Why, my dear creature," said Miss Ferret, as she addressed Miss
Robinson, "you have been horribly unlucky. I protest you have nothing
for it left but selling out of the funds to pay off your debts, and
though all _you_ Change-alley people have been turned to _coiners_ by
the late rise of stock, it will not do to lift one's capital."

The table broke up; Mr. Gresham rubbed his hands self complacently, and
moving briskly towards a window, said, "Somebody mentioned a star just
now, which reminds me to look for some friendly ray to guide me home."

Mr. Hartland, who was equally interested in the light of the firmament,
followed slowly, and was the first to exclaim, "How dark it is!"

"_It is indeed_," answered Miss Ferret. "Look out, Sir Roger, it
is black as soot. I think you will have to answer to Mrs. Gresham for
her husband's life if you let him go home to-night."

Sir Roger was in the highest state of good humour, and seizing directly
on the hospitable hint, declared that neither of his guests should
"stir a foot." Lady Goodman, ever ready to second a kind feeling,
praised the merits of a well-aired bed to each of the gentlemen. Miss
Ferret knew that Mr. Gresham would refuse to stay, which he did,
alleging that Mrs. Gresham would be uneasy were he not to return, and
she wished, as well as thought, that Mr. Hartland would remain if
invited; in which speculation, accordingly, she was also right, and
seeing him hesitate, she ran towards the bell, saying, "I assure you it
would be folly to attempt riding home; there is no necessity at least
for Mr. Hartland to break his neck."

"No," said Sir Roger, laughing heartily; "though Hartland lives at
Henbury, there is no _henpecker_ there yet."

This sally was met by Miss Ferret with "Excellent, upon my honour! Lady
Goodman, is'nt that the best thing you ever heard? Well," added our
voluble _go-between_, "I thought that this would be the end of it,
when you gentlemen wedged yourselves into that far window before
dinner, and prosed about new moons, full moons, and harvest moons, till
you wearied the moon to sleep, and now you are left without any lamp in
the sky."

To be brief, Mr. Hartland was easily prevailed upon. Mr. Gresham took
his departure, and the circle at Colbrook, after partaking of a
comfortable old fashioned supper, retired to their apartments. If all
secrets must be discovered when we set about telling a story, we must
reveal the fact that two of the party passed a restless night. How it
happened may be thus accounted for.

Whatever may be thought, and however unnatural it may seem, that a man
of forty-two should be visited by those agitations which the young
imagine to belong exclusively to their fresh sensibilities, and the
hacknied do not believe in at all, it will not appear incredible to
those who are accustomed to look into the human heart with a
philosophic eye, if we assert that Mr. Hartland's spirits were thrown
into considerable flutter by the events of the past day.

Since his accession to an unexpected fortune he had heard many hints
thrown out, both at home and abroad, upon the propriety of his
"settling in life;" and _any_ thing often repeated will produce
impression. How much more then a matter of such importance as
matrimony! His old nurse used now to shake her head and say, "Ah! Sir,
since my poor Missess is gone you looks quite lonesome." The tenants
who came to visit their new landlord, as they drank his health, always
tacked a good wife as the climax of their wishes for his prosperity;
and he was assailed by all the old women of the parish, gentle and
simple, with some allusion to his single state. The words old bachelor
began to fret and gall him in a manner entirely unwonted. It was no
wonder then, perhaps, that with a mind thus pre-disposed, the
machinations of Miss Ferrett found the soil prepared and ready to aid
their purpose. Several circumstances of the evening rose in a sort of
pleasing phantasmagoria on Mr. Hartland's recollection. He thought Miss
Robinson very agreeable and genteel, neither too young nor too old,
lively without being all on wires, like Miss Ferrett, quiet without
being dull like some of the young ladies whom he had seen in the
neighbourhood. As he continued to commune with his pillow, several
obliging sentiments expressed towards him by Miss Robinson recurred to
memory, and just as he at length fell off in a doze, the faint
reminiscence of something concerning the funds glided in shadowy vision
across his brain.

Miss Robinson had waking dreams the while of Mr. Hartland. She was five
and thirty; he was of suitable age; she had five thousand pounds; a
small provision to _live_ upon in the decline of one's days, yet a
snug little dower too, if well bestowed and carefully settled. Mr.
Hartland's complexion was fine, his teeth superb, and his general air
that of a very comely person. Altogether, Miss Robinson thought that
she had not seen for a long time any one more amiable in appearance.
Then he lost his money with such a good grace as promised well for
domestic concord, and as _she_ fell asleep the last words which she
remembered were those of the not too refined Miss Ferret, when she
wished good-night at her chamber-door. "Take him, my dear, if you can
catch him; depend upon it you may go farther and fare worse."

Aurora unbarred the East with her rosy fingers, and sent a flood of
golden sunshine over the fields. Nothing is so cheering to the heart of
man as fine weather, and though Samuel Johnson, of lexicographical
memory, doubted the fact, we honestly believe that few inhabitants of
this terrestrial ball are altogether uninfluenced by clear air and a
fine day.

A ride to Henbury was proposed, accepted, and arranged. Mr. Hartland's
groom was sent forward to proclaim approach, and a _quartetto_,
composed of the lovers (for such we may venture already to call them),
Sir Roger and Miss Ferret followed quickly after. A narrow part of the
road soon afforded opportunity, of which advantage was taken, and a
double tête-à-tête was the order of the cavalcade, till the gates of
Henbury flew open to receive the visitors. The cork-tree, and every
other tree, plant, herb, and flower, was duly displayed and
appreciated. The interior was also pronounced to be without a fault,
and so complacently did the party feel towards each other, that Mr.
Hartland, who thought himself bound as a true Knight to escort his fair
guests half way back, was induced to go the other half through pure
charity towards Sir Roger, who gave so many solid reasons for wishing
to enjoy society while rheumatism would permit, that his neighbour, to
say nothing of politeness, would have deemed it unchristian to refuse.
So at Colbrook he dined again; again lost at whist, and again, deserted
by the "conscious moon," ruminated on his pillow concerning the charms
of Miss Robinson's person, mind, and manners.

Dull people must be told every tittle of a tale; but a lively reader,
for whom alone we would fain weave the storied web, will anticipate
results, and spare us the details of a courtship, brief as it was,
which had its rise, progress, and conclusion in three short weeks;
terminating a few days before the appointed period of Miss Robinson's
visit to Sir Roger and Lady Goodman, in the regular proposals of Mr.
Hartland of Henbury Lodge, to that young lady.



CHAPTER III.

    "I will dance and eat plums at your wedding."

    SHAKSPEARE.


It is said somewhere in the Spectator, that "a woman seldom asks advice
before she buys her wedding clothes." Now Miss Robinson neither asked
advice before nor after; for, being an orphan, and of full age, there
was no necessity to go through any such ceremony; she therefore decided
for herself, that having no aversion in the abstract towards the holy
state of wedlock, she could not make a particular sacrifice of that
liberty which she had not, perhaps, found such a panacea for all the
evils of life as Poets and Romancers teach, in a better cause than the
present. Mr. Hartland was every thing which a reasonable woman could
desire in a spouse, and accordingly his suit was not rejected. No
projected alliance ever gave more general satisfaction; and not a
single dissentient voice was raised against its prosperous completion,
except that of Mrs. Bunn, the house-keeper at Henbury, who, in common
with all persons holding the same situation under a bachelor's roof,
never could abide the bare idea of "the Master's" marriage, even though
it were to a Duchess in her own right.

On the first day, when Trotter the groom rode on with orders to have
the best of every thing prepared for luncheon, and the gardener was
desired to bring in the finest fruit that could be had, Mrs. Bunn
augured ill of the message, which she considered symptomatic; but when
it came to her being called upon for a fresh supply of linen, and
informed moreover that Mr. Hartland was going back to Colbrook, her
heart, as she expressed it, "died within her;" and not being able to
find the hartshorn-bottle in a moment of such flurry, she is said to
have had recourse to brandy, so completely were her spirits subdued by
the prospect too fatally realized of a finished reign. To abdicate was
preferable, however, to being deposed; and when Mrs. Bunn's agitation
subsided, she came to that conclusion, resolving to avoid the disgrace
of a dismissal, and by resigning the seals of office, while affairs of
higher interest occupied the mind of our Benedict, prevent too keen a
scrutiny into past conduct. Thus ended the dynasty of Bunn; and we must
forgive her for casting "a lingering look behind," as she quitted the
"flesh pots" of Henbury, for which she seemed to have as decided a
taste as ever Sancho discovered.

With this single exception, as has been observed, all was smooth
assent; and great was the sensation produced through town and country,
when Miss Ferrett, cantering her pony at a quicker gait than usual,
suddenly drew up opposite to the post-office door, and communicated to
an expectant group of some four or five _quidnuncs_ who were waiting
the arrival of the coach, that "everything was settled." She was in
her element; and in such a state of stimulus that she could scarcely
control the effervescence of her spirits. Finishing her proclamation
with "God save the King," she pushed forward to cry another "O yes!" at
the milliner's and the apothecary's; after which she hastened home to
set in movement sundry preparations in furtherance of the great event,
which, with better foundation than is common in general to swelling
pretensions, she justly considered as all "her own doing." We are
usually partial to whatever owes its existence to ourselves, and
therefore Miss Ferret's excitement was nothing extraordinary, and may
be excused.

Our readers are by this time sufficiently acquainted with the _carte
du pays_ of Colbrook within and Colbrook without, to know in what
part of the newspaper to look for the registry of a wedding conducted
under the auspices of its goodly possessors and their auxiliaries. The
sagacious and informed will not expect a detached paragraph, exhibiting
such a host of Lords and Ladies that the happy pair are scarcely
distinguishable in the brilliant mob; and which, were it not for the
heading of "Marriage in High Life," might be mistaken for the list of
arrivals at a London hotel; but the announcement of _our_ nuptial
rites will be sought, and found in that column, which, at one
comprehensive view, presents a picture of human life, and directs the
moral eye from the cradle to the grave.

We must not anticipate, however; for much is to be done before the
printer sets his types to the titles of Francis Hartland, Esq. of
Henbury-lodge, and Harriet, eldest daughter of a goodly 'Squire, John
Robinson by name, and gentleman by degree. Lady Goodman wrote to her
friend Mrs. Palmer, to send patterns of all sorts from town; while Sir
Roger, who was as much delighted as Miss Ferret with the coming event,
set to work with Mr. Points, the Solicitor, who rode off post haste to
Colbrook at three several times, as if he was an express; and when
arrived, bustled into the breakfast-parlour (for there was no library,
there being no readers at Colbrook,) with such stir and importance, and
made notes of the intended settlement with such pompous solemnity, that
an inhabitant of another planet, suddenly introduced to the scene,
might be fully borne out in the supposition, that our "special" was
employed in taking depositions against a state prisoner, chargeable, at
the very least, with design to overset the Constitution and compass the
death of our beloved Sovereign.

Let it not be imagined that Miss Ferret's was a sinecure office, during
this season of occupation. On the contrary, her dwelling in the
market-place might be styled the very centre, heart, or focus, of these
interesting proceedings. Her drawing room was the place of congress for
dress-makers, stay-makers, shoe-makers, and plain workers, while her
bed-chamber was the repository of boxes and bundles without end or
measure, from town and country. These same apartments were likewise the
scene of all the putting off, and trying on: the fault-finding and
approval; the lively criticism on shapes and colours; fashionable and
unfashionable, becoming and unbecoming, which naturally belongs most
peculiarly to that period of grand climacteric in a lady's wardrobe,
which Miss Robinson's was now to undergo; not to mention that Henbury
Lodge, being out of the mail-coach line, Miss Ferret's abode was,
moreover, a bank of deposit for innumerable and cumbersome packages
from tailors, hatters, hosiers, "_et hoc genus_," &c. insomuch that the
painstaking partisan, to whose official exertions this chapter is
principally indebted for its subject, might be justly compared to the
supple animal whose name she bore, when, with all its prying energies
elate, and with persevering industry prosecuting its vocation in the
bowels of the earth, the light crumbling soil falls in on every side,
and incloses the ferret's slender form, overwhelmed in the destruction
which itself had worked. But as it is not requisite to the appositeness
of a simile that the analogy should agree in all its parts, we are
happy to think that _our_ Ferret had well grounded prospect of
outliving her temporary sepulture, and hailing the bright beam of
Hymen's torch to guide her through the lumbering piles of paper parcels
by which she was almost suffocated; though it must on the other hand be
confessed that, after she had leisure to reflect in the still hour of
retirement on that busy crisis, she has been frequently heard to say,
that nothing short of the most devoted friendship could possibly have
sustained her; and in after times Mr. and Mrs. Hartland were often
reminded of all they owed to her unwearied zeal.

As Miss Ferret studied the _portable_ in all things, her wisdom
was condensed in aphorisms, amongst which, "there is a time for all
things," instructed her to choose the period of Christmas more
especially for stirring up the memory, and the gratitude of her
friends, when a plenitude of game, mince-pies, spiced meats, bottled
ale, and other seasonable reflections, furnished festive opportunity of
lightening a burthen on the heart, by reciprocating obligations on the
stomach. "Turn about is fair play," was another maxim which lent its
aid on these occasions.

At length matters appeared to be winding up to a point: Miss Robinson's
paraphernalia, after due exhibition, and the sly purloining of many a
useful hint, snatched hastily with scissors and brown paper, from
collar, cape, and cuffs, was all sent home; and Mr. Points witnessed
the due execution of the marriage articles at Colbrook, where Sir Roger
and Lady Goodman had from the first signified their wishes that the
approaching solemnity should be performed. The only hitch which arose,
(just enough to prove that every human scheme is less than perfect,)
occurred in the impossibility of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon's attendance on
the auspicious ceremony. Mrs. Gordon was younger sister to Miss
Robinson, and lived in Aberdeenshire, but indisposition would not
permit her to leave home, and her husband would not go without her; so
it was ordained that Sir Roger, in quality of guardian, should perform
the father's part, and that the bride and bridegroom should make a
visit to their relations in Scotland, before they sat down for life at
Henbury Lodge.

These matters being adjusted, it only remained to fix the day and the
hour for our espousals, which was accordingly done, and now succeeded
cares of no less magnitude.

It has been hinted that Sir Roger Goodman's mansion was larger than his
means of living in it. _Space_, indeed, was the first idea by which a
stranger was struck on entering the doors; for the fact was, that
besides the really capacious dimensions of each apartment, there was
such a dearth of furniture, that the eye was not interrupted in its
progress as it travelled over them. Four walls, handsomely paneled with
carved work of green and gold, enclosed an area, which was called the
billiard-room, with no other apparent object than that of exciting
attention, to remark that not a sign of table, mace, or ball, was to be
seen. In like manner the _place_ of a saloon was to be found with
nothing in it, and a chapel without provision for prayers. The "state"
bed-chambers were reserved for such momentous purposes that they were
never used at all, and therefore beds were superfluous; so they had not
any in them.

From this outline it follows that the disposable forces of hospitality
were confined at Colbrook within very straitened limits,
notwithstanding the large size of the building; and an entertainment in
this mausoleum of ancient grandeur, like a poem which we remember to
have seen somewhere or other, in imitation of Ossian, might very
appropriately be 'yclept a "feast of empty shells." Miss Ferret,
however, undertook the arrangements under the controlling direction of
Lady Goodman, and began her operations with the encouraging cheer,
"Faint heart never won fair Lady. We must put our best foot foremost."

To work she set, and what with rummaging out, scrubbing up, turning,
twisting, nailing, scouring, dying, and borrowing, things were put in
some sort of order, and accommodation provided for a numerous company
at breakfast. It was the custom of Lady Goodman's day, for the bride
and bridegroom to sit in full dress during a week, and receive
congratulations from all the neighbouring gentry: and sorely did she
regret the impossibility of reviving so venerable a pageant on the
present happy occasion; but there was no option, and fortunately the
fashion of setting out in a chaise and four, relieved her from the
mortification of confessing that the festivities of a hymeneal scene
could not be protracted under her roof beyond the cake-cutting hour.

The waste suites of unfurnished apartments were decked out with green
branches, and flowers disposed in arches and alcoves, so that Miss
Ferret converted the whole house into one mighty bower. She rooted out
some old moth-eaten banners, which were kept as an heir-loom in the
attic story, where, reposing under lock and key, they bore mouldering
testimony to the ancestral valour of Sir Roger's blood; also a stand of
colours which had been presented to his father, who raised a regiment
of Yeomanry; some Free-Masonry insignia, which glittered with
embroidery of tarnished gold and silver; elks' horns, which had been
sent as a curiosity; two American bows; a pair of snow shoes; some
halberts, and a trumpet which were taken in the rebellion of
forty-five, with other articles which had not seen the light for years,
but now came forward, however incongruously, to vary the sylvan
decorations, and were judiciously commingled with family portraits in
massive frames; an ivory ship, which, covered with a glass bell, made a
great figure; a canoe; two plaster-of-paris cupids; a leaden fawn;
Harlequin and Columbine; Neptune and Hebe of the same material, and
King William on horseback, well executed in bronze; so as altogether to
produce an imposing and animated effect, along a vista of the entire
front, including corridors, and enliven the "eternal shade" which would
otherwise have resulted from the great quantity of laurel, spruce, fir,
and other evergreens forced into company to fill the void.

Poor Lady Goodman, who knew better things than this ignorant medley
exhibited, sighed as she acquiesced in all Miss Ferret's manifestations
of taste, which would have been better suited to the preparations for
enacting a puppet-shew in a country barn, than the embellishment of a
fine feudal palace of the olden time, inhabited by those who boasted
armorial bearings and descent from the brave and fair of other days.
There was no help for it, however. It was Hobson's choice, and no
alternative presented itself, were Miss Ferret's suggestions repressed,
except absolute vacuity. Now Lady Goodman loved Miss Robinson
affectionately, and could not endure to appear deficient in friendship,
while her excellent heart overflowed with kindness. She therefore
preferred giving free scope to the fantastical vagaries of a
merry-andrew, to seeming less than she really was, to Sir Roger's ward,
and her own protegée.

It was in the servant and equipage department, that the greatest
difficulties arose. A solitary domestic, styled butler, but who
exercised no dominion, for the best reason, namely, that he had no
subjects, was the sole attendant at Colbrook. Dressed in a suit of
snuff-coloured clothes which had once been black, he answered the
hall-door bell. In jacket of fustian, with turned up sleeves, he might
next be seen, cleaning knives and forks; or should

      ----"the earlier season lead
    To the tanned haycock in the mead,"

you might again behold this worthy jack-of-all-trades, armed with rake
and pitch-fork, tossing high and wide the meadow's fragrant crop. An
old coachman, who performed as many parts in the stable as old Hasty
did within the house, completed the male part of the establishment, and
his rusty livery and antique wig were in perfect keeping with the heavy
machine which it was his lot to guide, and the ancient pair of roan
Barbarys which drew it. "What a turn-out for a wedding!" exclaimed Miss
Ferret, as she gazed upon the carriage which was to appear on the
following day first in the bridal procession.

"My dear Lady Goodman, I am ready to sink at the idea of such a tub
being drawn up at your door, and really know not what to do. So few
servants too!--it is quite confounding on such an occasion."

"My dear," replied Lady Goodman, "we must make the best of it. Your
genius has done much, but you cannot make our old coach any other than
it is. It is vain to fret yourself about what admits of no remedy."

"I cannot change, but I will manage yet to conceal it," answered Miss
Ferret, who flitted off to give her directions and arrange her measures
for the morning, which was ushered in by a brilliant dawn.

No sooner was the sun above the horizon, than our fair field marshal
persuaded Sir Roger that he should go on to church, and be ready to
hand the bride elect from her carriage, adding, that she hoped he would
not lose a moment in sending back his own to accommodate some of the
rest of the party. Though Sir Roger did not see any reason for what he
was desired to do, and had no mind to sit by himself in the vestry-room
for such a length of time as was contemplated by Miss Ferret, yet she
was so urgent, that she gave him no time for deliberation, and half
pushing, half entreating, had him fairly shut up in the coach and
whirled with unaccustomed celerity from the door, before he had power
to recollect that he should inevitably have a fit of the rheumatism in
consequence of so long a sitting in a draught of air, much cooler than
that of his own house. But David, who was perched up on high upon an
immense old-fashioned hammer-cloth, large enough to bear the city arms
on every side, like the lord mayor's equipage, received strict orders
_not to hear_ if his master called, but proceed, blow high, blow low,
to Weston church. Now he argued, that as weddings do not occur every
day, and Miss Ferret was chief governor on the present occasion, it
might be better to obey her implicitly. Besides he was in the habit of
turning a deaf ear to the word "stop," as having no footman except on
great emergencies, when Hasty the butler stepped up behind, he knew
that his porpoise-like body must be put in movement were he to indulge
every whim of halting here and there; and a descent from the altitude
at which David sat was no trifling exertion to a man "so scant of
breath" as he was. He grumbled, indeed, _sotto voce_, at not "heading
the procession," as he said; but Miss Ferret assured him that though
she had an offer of all the carriages to marshal in whatever manner she
thought proper, she would not suffer Sir Roger to be driven in any
vehicle but his own, or by any less careful charioteer than his
coachman. She likewise informed David that on account of the honour
which she designed him of enacting _avant courier_ on the occasion, she
had made his wedding favours twice as large as those of any body else,
which was true, for she used three yards of extraordinary white satin
ribbon with silver edges, in this instance to cover certain defects in
David's hat and coat.

This argument prevailed, insomuch that he took his seat aloft with much
self-complacency, and from the prodigious breadth of his chest, and the
monstrous size of the star-like platforms which Miss Ferret pinned upon
it, quite as large as the sod in a thrush's cage, David looked at a
little distance, so like a target, that had the archers been out, he
might have received an arrow through the heart, before he could have
had time to bless himself. He was next commissioned to return from
Weston by a circuitous route, the pretext for which was to deliver a
message at the house of a work-woman who had not brought home all Miss
Robinson's linen, but the real object of which was to delay the
carriage till all the party should have proceeded, and so avoid the
display of that unwieldy concern amongst the gay chariots and landaus
of the neighbouring gentry, several of whom graced our hymeneals with
their presence. Miss Ferret then took occasion, when the company were
all assembled on the steps just ready for departure, to say aloud to
Lady Goodman, "Upon my word, your ladyship has left us this morning
without a single servant to do any thing. Two gone on with Sir Roger;
one despatched to order post horses, as if a note would not have been
sufficient; and there is Barnett who has already drunk so many healths
to this happy event, that he was not able to stand straight, so I have
sent him off to bed."

So saying, she bustled and fidgeted about till by one contrivance or
other, she got the whole train in motion, and contrived to bring them
all back again, without giving any one leisure to remark how or by
which way they returned to Colbrook, where a beautiful breakfast
awaited them.

What with cutting cake, sticking pins, wrapping, and directing parcels,
with compliments from Mrs. Hartland, and sealing packets of white
gloves, while the gentlemen strolled through the beautiful, but
neglected demesne of Colbrook, Time flew on more rapid wing than he is
used to plume upon a wedding-day in the country, till a "trim-built"
travelling carriage with trunks, cap-case, and imperial drove up to the
door. Sir Roger handed to the bride, who was followed by her _setting
off_ and a shower of congratulations; and off wheeled the _nouveaux
Mariés_ towards Drumcairn, the romantic abode in Aberdeenshire of Mr.
and Mrs. Gordon. Part of the company left Colbrook immediately after,
while a select assembly was retained to dine and drink a bumper toast
to the health and happiness of Henbury Lodge.

Here again Miss Ferret's talents were felt, if not acknowledged, and
perhaps her chief ability lay in the circumstance, that while dulness
and ceremony, which are the bane of English society vanished before
her, she wisely took special care to seem no more than a useful
instrument in the hands of others, though in reality she was the
governing principle of all that ease and hilarity which her presence
inspired. Miss Ferret might be compared to an able mechanic who,
discovering the causes of inertion in whatever piece of workmanship is
submitted to his inspection, clears away rust, removes impediments,
rectifies the balance, oils the joints, and sets every spring into
active play, without presuming to claim any merit in the contrivance
that should interfere with the patentee. Had she not possessed such
perfect tact, (which is a quality much more dependent on quick natural
perception than the refinements of education,) that she always gave
other people that credit which she deserved herself, she would soon
have been taught to feel her inferiority; but she never was suspected,
and people thought that they were particularly well, cheerful, and
agreeable without supposing for an instant that they were indebted to
her influence. She was by nature all that Lord Chesterfield vainly
endeavoured to make his son by art, and knew that the whole secret of
popularity consists in putting every one into good humour with himself.

The dinner was abundant, and its deficiency in _setting off_ was
but little observed where all the guests were kindly disposed. In
fact that paltry criticism which is the terror and scourge of a
country neighbourhood, is much oftener the offspring of stupor than
malevolence. Keep a company alive, and they will seldom be able to tell
whether your damask is of Scotch or Hamburgh manufacture, your china,
Indian or Worcester, your glass, cut or plain. People only ask to be
_happy_, and how this is accomplished is never enquired into; but
if tongues are not employed eyes will be busy. Miss Ferret was aware of
this, and her vigilance was unremitting. The boldest stroke, and one at
which Sir Roger's mind at first revolted, succeeded to admiration, and
green gooseberry wine in long necked bottles passed muster for
sparkling champagne.

The trick had been played at a great race dinner, and Miss Ferret's
convincing argument for making an experiment of a like nature at
Colbrook, was contained in the following laconicism, "what has been,
may be." Sir Roger succumbed, and no one detected the fraud. "Depend
upon it," said Miss Ferret, "that all the French wines are made at
home, and you are no greater cheat than your wine merchant."

The young danced, the elders played whist, carriages were heard rolling
in the court, the party dispersed, and as all things must, sooner or
later, come to a conclusion, thus ended the wedding-day, and Miss
Ferret had laid the plan of another ere the sun was set.



CHAPTER IV.

    "----What now remains
    But that once more we tempt the wat'ry plains,
    And wandering homewards, seek our safety hence."

    DRYDEN.


Amongst the many contested questions which perplex conversation, and
seem destined to remain undecided, is comparison between the sum of
happiness derivable by those who are easily pleased, from frequently
recurring and commonly procurable resources, and that resulting from
the seldom tasted but vivid raptures of the fastidious, who, too
refined for average gratification, find life a desert, in which, like
"angel visits few and long between," the thinly scattered spangles of
verdure glow with intensity of freshness amid surrounding gloom. We
confess that our own minds suffered vacillation upon this important
topic, till, having witnessed the every-day felicity of Henbury Lodge,
we were enabled to cast the make-weight of its _beau rivant_ into
the scale of "little things."

As a flat road, however, admits of quick driving, we shall not detain
the reader unmercifully in describing a scene which presented no
alterations of light and shade, no moral vicissitudes of hill and dale,
to vary the landscape; but satisfy ourselves with a short sketch of
connubial contentment in a welcome-home to Mr. and Mrs. Hartland, who
after a brief aberration from their domestic settlement, returned to
the delights of clipped hedges, rolled terrace, and trim bowers.

It may be remembered that our wedded pair had each passed the term when
people of both sexes in the presumption of life's springtide, talk of
marriage as a common event which "comes to all;" and toss their
fortunes to and fro, with lavish prodigality, altogether unprophetic of
succeeding dearth.

This was precisely the case with _ci-devant_ Miss Robinson, who, having
rejected a crowd of aspirants, had begun to feel a chill frost creeping
over the season of youth, and the joy of seeing herself now
prosperously "_established_," and contemplating a well sized, well
furnished mansion, in which she ruled by the style and title of "_Mrs._
Hartland," produced a degree of self-gratulation proportioned to the
fears which had preceded her present elevation. She was a common place,
prudent woman, and we must not be too severe on the weaknesses which
were we, however, so stupid as not to observe, we should exercise no
charity in forgiving. We do confess then, though not in the spirit of
ill-nature, that no happiness ever transcended that of our recent
matron, when seated in a new post-chaise, the pannels of which were
like mirrors in which you might have shaved yourself, every strap and
brace polished to black satin, postilion light and dapper, dressed in a
fresh suit of green and silver, horses prancing, sun shining, she took
her joyous course along her own smoothly gravelled approach, armed with
a ticket-case of carved ivory in her hand, to perform the first circuit
of country visits in return for those which had been unsparingly
lavished on the late event. Neither did this gladness perish through
its vivacity, as is the case with the generality of powerful
stimulants, but there was a constantly recurring bliss in the sounds of
"My _own_ house, my _own_ carriage, my _own_ servants," &c. which
produced new impression at every repetition.

Mr. Hartland's situation was not less enviable. Having passed all his
youthful prime without considering marriage as practicable, he had
thought less than any body during early life of changing his condition;
and since he had attained competency, and became desirous of uniting
himself suitably to a virtuous partner, the difficulties of seeking,
finding, choosing, proposing, and wedding, rose upon his view like Alps
beyond Alps, and presented such a formidable barrier against hope, that
he could not see how the matter was ever to be undertaken, much less
how it would ever come to pass.

The husband, therefore, was just as much enchanted as the wife. He felt
himself raised in the scale of creation; he was now a person of more
consequence than he had ever been before. Then his affections, which
had been arrested by his mother's death, and which might be said to
have suffered a blockade since that event, were all set flowing again
with redoubled tenderness and activity. His former poverty, too, having
prevented him from being an object of competition, his vanity had never
been excited, and he was a total stranger, in his own person, to those
attentions, which, we are sorry to say, are often disgustingly paid to
men by the fair sex, when rank or fortune furnishes motive for
entrapping them. Mr. Hartland's gratitude, therefore, to Miss Robinson,
for having married him, was as sincere as it was unbounded; and thus
this favoured pair were, in the language of the nursery tales of olden
time, "as happy as the day is long;" reminding us of the spider, who
spinning her web from her own vitals, "lives along the line" of her own
daily occupation; or (as we are given to comparison), the Hartlands
frequently suggested to our memory the Epicurean aspiration of the
celebrated Quin, "Oh, that I had a throat half a mile in length, and
palate all the way." Now, the moral palate of Henbury's inhabitants
extended to the utmost verge of their possessions; and they might be
said to taste and relish whatever they found in their path.

They had neither of them seen much of the world, and neither knew any
thing of that high and towering intellect, which, like the lofty eagle,
quits the level of the plain, and builds its eyrie in an upper world
all its own. The Hartlands had sharp common understandings, good
nature, and discretion; but they rose not above mediocrity, and were of
that class whose _natural_ walk is on the earth. They were _busy_ all
day long about every thing; interested alike in the gravest or minutest
concerns, and never tortured their brains with any subject of
contemplation beyond the reach of sense. Healthful in mind, as well as
in body; gay, and continually employed; they talked, and walked, and
rode, and drove, dined out, and gave dinners at home, and were never
weary of themselves, or of the society around them.

But the cup of existence is never unmixed. If the wormwood leaf float
not on its surface, it will be found lying at the bottom. Three years
glided by. The first was one of such novelty and incessant excitement,
that no yawning chasm was seen, felt, or understood; the second was
sometimes slightly tinged by anxiety lest the pleasant hedge-rows of
Henbury Lodge should one day encircle another race, and stranger feet
should press its smiling lawns; but when a third year closed its barren
account with blighted hopes, expectation died away; and though Mr. and
Mrs. Hartland were still the envy of the region in which they grew, and
were universally declared to be worthy of an annual flitch, it was
nevertheless remarked, and especially by Miss Ferret, whose penetration
stood high in public regard, that "all was not right at Henbury."

At first her hints conveyed nothing more determinate, than was
communicated in the adage, "All is not gold that glisters;" but this
had the effect of setting those who were less intimate than herself
with the friends whose undefined sorrows she zealously published,
writhing with curiosity, while her own gained time for such inquisition
as should bring her to the true cause of that change, the effects of
which only her quick eye had as yet discerned. Besides, it was more
consonant with Miss Ferret's idea of _true friendship_ to set other
wits upon the discovery of any thing disagreeable, should such exist,
than _directly_ to proclaim it herself; and therefore every purpose
was gained of stimulating the industry of other gossips, while her
innuendoes, darkly dropped, persuaded the entire vicinage that she knew
a great deal more than she chose to reveal, and was only withheld from
promulgating to the full extent of her information, by "the sincere
regard which she entertained for the Hartlands."

But what is there which a union of talents and diligence will not
compass and achieve? Miss Ferret's were soon crowned with success, and
happily the cloud that overcast the horizon of Henbury was of that
nature which might be trumpeted to the four corners of the earth (if
indeed the round world have such convenient recesses for playing hide
and seek), without the violation of those feelings which our busy blab
professed for her _protegés_.

It was well known throughout the country that both Mr. and Mrs.
Hartland were particularly partial to children; so much so, that
whenever they appeared, the fond mothers of the neighbourhood used
constantly to ring the nursery chimes for their edification or
amusement, and many a morning call has been inconveniently protracted
to the visitors, for the purpose of "seeing the baby," whose tedious
delay after summons issued, and elaborate dress when produced, proved
the complete metamorphosis which it had undergone in the interval,
before it was considered to be fitly attired for exhibition in the
drawing-room. But Miss Ferret, happening to be in company one day when
the large family of a neighbouring curate was mentioned, remarked that
Mrs. Hartland, who never gave herself the habit of _generalizing_
in conversation, replied rather pensively, "Alas! how unequally the
gifts of Providence are distributed!"

Miss Ferret expressed herself to have felt as if she had been _shot_
when this observation fell from her friend; and it furnished a clue by
which the whole labyrinth of her secret thoughts came to be developed.
Pursuing the light which now glimmered, Miss Ferret immediately
acquiesced in the justice of the remark, and proceeded to tell of a
gentleman and lady who were the happiest people in the world, "_all
but_ having no heirs to their fine estate," and added, "They have been
married fully five years, and you may _suppose_ what their feelings
are; for we must acknowledge that it is the most natural thing in the
world to wish that one's name should not be cut off; and, as I often
say, an extinguisher put over one's grave is enough to lower one's
spirits; for the grave in itself is sufficiently gloomy in all
conscience, without putting an end to the whole _stock_, who might
live a little longer, all at a blow."

Mrs. Hartland sighed, while a faint colour was observed to glance
across her countenance. After a slight pause, she said, as though she
had often pondered the subject, "Yes, hope deferred, they say, maketh
the heart sick."

The whole mystery was now unravelled, or as Miss Ferret expressed the
same idea in her peculiar phraseology, "the cat was out of the bag;"
and it was evident that the Henbury _thorn_ stood revealed, in the
childless condition of that house. This point once established, it may
be imagined that joy was at its height, on the actual expectation of an
event, the delay of which only seemed _now_ to the grateful hearts of
Mr. and Mrs. Hartland to have been expressly ordained for the purpose
of enhancing its value. How readily we acknowledge the providence of
divine interposition when we are pleased!

But we cannot stop to moralize, it is our duty to recount; and if we
could bring our minds into full sympathy with those whose history we
are narrating, there are few subjects of sufficient importance to
alienate attention from the theme of our present consideration. The
dread of disappointment rendered Mrs. Hartland very cautious in
divulging her hopes; but at length prospects of the most gratifying
nature opened to her view, and Miss Ferret received permission to
diffuse tidings which appeared to tell the acme of human felicity.
Doctors and apothecaries, nurses and nurse-tenders, frocks, pinnafores,
cradles, and caps, tops and bottoms, goats' whey, rennet-whey,
asses'-milk, cows'-milk, and a thousand other appliances equally
interesting of this important season, which was now unequivocally
approaching, absorbed the thoughts, and occupied the conversation at
Henbury. Mrs. Hartland reclined upon a sofa, and issued her orders from
thence through the faithful Ferret, with as much pomp and ceremony as
ever hung upon the Ottoman Divan; while Mr. Hartland's anxious office
was to forestal the newspapers, seize upon the letter-bag, and prepare
every visitor by regular instruction upon the topics of their
discourse, lest the slightest imprudence in communicating the current
rumours of the day, might disturb the nervous system of his wife.

To this end, he generally took his station in an ante-room in which a
sort of probationary noviciate was performed, and people, after being
examined, admonished, and duly qualified, received admission tickets to
the presence chamber.

As the fulness of time advanced, several weighty consultations were
held, which called forth every power of taste and understanding which
the Hartlands possessed, to meet the opposite arguments which were
propounded in them. Two debates of longer and more difficult
deliberation than all preceding, were however happily adjusted to the
entire satisfaction of the parties, and the perfect reconcilement of
contending opinions. In one of these it was decreed that if a son were
to bless the parent eyes, he should be christened Algernon Robinson;
and if the soft smiles of a daughter were destined to awaken love,
rather than ambition, Melasina was to be her name. Mr. Hartland's
father had unfortunately been called Peter, Mrs. Hartland's progenitor
Jacob; and the reader will admit that two more impracticable
appellations were never unluckily brought together to perplex the
counsels of a pair who were looking forward with eager raptures to the
baptismal font, and habitually impressed at the _same time_, with
the propriety of sending family echoes to the latest posterity.

How to harmonize sounds without compromising respect was the question,
and no small exertion of skill did it require to balance the pros and
cons. Many cogent reasons were urged by Sir Roger and Lady Goodman for
the regular descent of Peter, Jacob, or both; while a hint, which gave
a climax to perplexity was thrown out by the latter, who said that she
should not think the addition of her worthy husband's name an
_unnatural_ appendage by way of compliment to him. Mrs. Hartland's rest
was broken by this harassing choice of evils. At last she resolved on
bursting her fetters, and declared the bold resolve to waive precedent,
and not in compliance with an antiquated prejudice, entail on future
generations the quaint appellations, which she determined to sacrifice
to what she considered the true interests of her son.

"The junction of sur-names," said she, "may appease the shades of his
dead grandfathers, and Goodman may bring up the rear. Whether boy or
girl, the only sounds which need be uttered shall delight the ear, and
all the rest may be smuggled away under initial letters. I am
_resolved_ on Algernon or Melasina."

Mr. Hartland was in the habit of acquiescing in the decrees of his
better half: and remembered how pleasantly his favourite Sterne has
declared that a man who might have made a flourishing figure in the
world as an Alexander might be Nicodemus'd into nothing. He therefore
gave his assent and consent to Algernon for the male sex, Melasina for
the female, and the debate was at an end.

The second dispute of magnitude which was settled about the same time,
related to sponsors. Mr. Hartland belonged to a noble house, and the
Earl of Marchdale, who held a high office under government, was his
first cousin. Those who know any thing of the world, are aware that
consanguinity to great men, unless in the nearest degrees, is more
frequently a disadvantage than the contrary. A brother cannot be left
in obscurity, and perhaps a nephew may have some chance of preferment,
but cousins are generally shaken off and made to know their distance.
Mr. Hartland's mother had once made an effort to seek for her son the
countenance and protection of his noble relative, but received such
peremptory repulse that a second experiment was never hazarded.

Times however were changed, and circumstances altered likewise. It had
reached Lord Marchdale's ears that Mr. Hartland was no longer a poor
man; and curiosity prompted him to ask where the newly acquired
property of his kinsman was situated, which led to information that it
lay in a certain county where he wished to increase his influence.
Something a kin to shame at the recollection of former rough treatment
exerted towards his relation, withheld his Lordship from offering his
congratulations on an accession of fortune which might immediately
suggest a remembrance of his former unkindness; but he formed the
benevolent design of seizing on the first convenient opportunity for
some token of conciliatory recognition of his cousin. Mr. Hartland's
marriage would have afforded an auspicious occasion, but unluckily Lord
Marchdale was making a tour on the Continent when that event took
place, and to have written an epithalamium after his return, might not
have had the desired effect.

"I should not have thanked any one for wishing _me_ joy on my nuptials,
six months after date," thought his Lordship; and acting in this
instance by the rule of doing to others, as he desired others should do
towards him, he waited--and waited not in vain. Actuated by the motives
to which we have alluded, to make more minute inquisition into the
affairs of his uncle's only son than had been his wont, he became
acquainted with the bright hopes which, like a morning in Spring, were
breaking over the destiny of one whose prosperity promised now to
transcend his own, for he was childless. Lord Marchdale therefore lost
no more time, but hastened on receiving the intelligence to write the
following epistle:

    "DEAR FRANK,

    "I am not one of those who advocate the perpetuation of family
    feuds. Your poor father and mine never agreed, but that is no
    reason why you and I should feel any hostility towards each other,
    though I fear that appearances are against me. My utter inability
    to serve you, when Mrs. Hartland applied to me in your behalf,
    having formerly obliged me reluctantly to disappoint her wishes, I
    learn now, with sincere satisfaction, that you no longer stand in
    need of aid, but are enabled proudly to raise your head amongst
    England's best protectors, her resident country gentlemen. I hear
    also the interesting news, that your happiness is likely to
    experience increase through an unexpected event; and am desirous
    that the young stranger should be a bond of re-union between us. If
    a boy, I wish that you may name him Algernon; and represent me at
    his baptism as godfather. If Mrs. Hartland should present you with
    a daughter, Lady Marchdale requests me to announce her disposition
    to stand sponsor. Believe me, dear Frank,

    "Very truly yours,

    "MARCHDALE."

The familiar style of this letter did not impose on Mr. Hartland, who
saw through the kindliness of its contents; but it was agreed in full
conclave, that it would be imprudent in the extreme to repel this
advance; and as the possibility of succeeding to the Marchdale titles
and estates had often in secret served as foundation for air built
castles, which soothed Mrs. Hartland's solitary hours, she had already
anticipated a part of her noble connexion's petition, by resolving on
giving her child, should it prove a son, the only high sounding name in
the family. Nothing could be more flattering to maternal ambition than
the coincidence, which resolved all past solicitude into the pleasing
certainty, that the expected progeny was to be ushered into life with
due pretension. If a son, as it was earnestly prayed that the offspring
should prove, Lord Marchdale and Sir Roger Goodman were to be his
sureties; if a girl, Lady Marchdale and Lady Goodman were to perform
the like office; and Miss Ferret, of whose adhesive assiduities it was
impossible to get rid, was to be an honorary or supplemental corps of
reserve. Nothing would tempt her to abandon the honour of "standing for
the child;" and, to pacify her, Mrs. Hartland consented to her bearing
it to the font, where she hoped that her over-zealous friend might be
mistaken for a mere proxy.

All things being prepared, and the minds of all composed into
tranquillity, Mrs. Hartland felt the moment arrived which was to crown
her hopes and raise her consequence. But an event of such importance
deserves a separate Chapter, and therefore we close this. Muffle the
knocker, scatter straw round the house and offices, forbid all approach
of horse or wheel that might disturb the anxious hour, and commit the
invalid, with our blessing, to her medical attendants.



CHAPTER V.

    "He talks to me, who never had a son."--KING JOHN.


We remember to have been shown once upon a time, as a marvellous
curiosity, the stump of a large bay-tree, which had been cut down to
make way for certain architectural improvements, and actually converted
into a chopping-block, in which capacity it was employed during several
years; but at length the family, to whom it appertained, quitted their
dwelling, and the aforesaid stump, which had not been defunct, but only
slumbering, was cast into a heap of earth, where, fertilized by the
beams of the sun and the dews of the morning, it struck root amid the
garden rubbish, and sent forth branches which flourished proudly, and
spread their verdant foliage to the wondering skies. What joyful
surprise would this neglected trunk have expressed had power of speech
been granted! and with what grateful pride would it not have called on
the admiring universe to behold and glorify its transformation!

Some such sentiments as we are supposing to have emanated from our bay
tree, glowed in the hearts of Mr. and Mrs. Hartland as they gazed in
rapture on a boy of uncommon symmetry and beauty; and, forgetful of the
lavish prodigality of that vivifying principle which is employed at
every moment in giving life from the palace to the cottage, the cottage
to the kennel, and the kennel downwards to the lowest grade of
organised existence, thanked Heaven with such alacrity of transport as
seemed to intimate that they considered the effort of nature which
animated the vital energies of Henbury as astonishing and unexpected as
that which caused the chopping-block to put forth leaves and blossoms.

The innocent vanity which Mrs. Hartland had formerly felt at finding
herself a wife, dwindled into insignificance in comparison with the
elation of her spirits when the dignity of mother was added to her
former honours; and the words "_son and heir_" might be read in
every look, and traced in every gesture in characters which seemed to
say, that none but herself had ever produced this mighty combination.

We have formerly stated, that literature was not the prevailing taste
of the neighbourhood in which Henbury was planted, and as it is a
common rule "to do as the Romans do while one is at Rome," Mr. and Mrs.
Hartland may, for all we can tell to the contrary, have suppressed
their own inclination to accommodate their manners and habits to the
fashion of those amongst whom they dwelt. Certain it is that, from
whatever cause it proceeded, there was an abstinence from books at
Henbury till the birth of Algernon Robinson Goodman Hartland, and
though his father had gone through school and university, and his
mother played well enough for carpet dancers, sang a little, painted
birds and flowers on velvet, and worked like a Moravian, neither the
one or the other found time, amid the multiplicity of their daily
pursuits, for reading.

The revolution which was effected by the little stranger's arrival was
therefore the more striking. Every thing now was made subservient to
the one great leading object. During the first year after this
agreeable surprise, Henbury appeared a temple dedicated to Lucina, in
which all the insignia of a new birth were displayed in cradle and
pillows, saucepans and panada, blankets and wraps. Whichever way the
eye were turned, the present deity of the place reigned from the attic
to the basement story; and all distinct purposes, and applications of
the several apartments were set aside for a season, to render the
dwelling a universal nursery. Then came on the time of go-carts and
corals; and every publication on teething, vaccination, and each
disease to which infant flesh is heir, poured from the press by all the
coaches, as if authors and printers were in league to pay their court
to Mr. and Mrs. Hartland.

Three years passed away, and with them the scaffolding which, becoming
unnecessary, was now thrown aside. The young Algernon, who, it must be
confessed, was beautiful as we are taught to believe the little god of
love, happily surmounted the host of enemies who take their stand at
the entrance-gate of life to oppose the mortal wayfarer, and was the
admiration of all beholders, as well as the centre of all joy and pride
to his parents. He was a child of extraordinary loveliness and most
noble bearing; and fortunately for him his father and mother had often
remarked, that the peasant children were a healthier race than the
offspring of a higher class, which procured for him the inestimable
privilege of breathing fresh air, and exercising his little limbs out
of doors.

The cares of home became gradually so engrossing as to wean Mr. and
Mrs. Hartland from the social circle, of which they had hitherto been
the chief pillar and support, in their neighbourhood. They were now
employed from morning till night in studying plans of education,
mooting the comparative merits and demerits of schools, canvassing the
question of public and private instruction, discussing the respective
characters of Oxford and Cambridge, and laying schemes for futurity, as
though time were to have no end.

The natural consequence of these things was a considerable loss of
popularity. People began to think both Mr. and Mrs. Hartland, who had
been prime and general favourites, grown dull and selfish, forgetting
that it was selfishness which passed the rigorous decree in adjudging
that disagreeable quality to them. Mrs. Hartland, who never till now
talked of books, soon obtained the opprobrious appellation of a Blue,
and all Miss Ferret's efforts were unavailing to conciliate those who
could not bear to think that the Hartlands were happy enough to do
without them.

Jemima, however, though she did her best to obtain forgiveness for her
friends, did not fail to warn them in private of their improvidence.
"Out of sight out of mind," was an apothegm which she urged with
reiterated pathos, to deter the inhabitants of Henbury from renouncing
the world, which she assured them "could not be drawn on and off like a
glove." Nothing, in fact, could be more hostile to Miss Ferret's views
than divisions and schisms, which, by splitting a neighbourhood into
parties, diminished its general hospitality; or those withdrawings from
society through sickness or sorrow, which lessened the gregarious
tendencies of the people amongst whom she lived. We may therefore give
her full credit for not leaving, as she herself expressed it, "a stone
unturned" to bring our pair of recluses to reason, and induce them to
seek their felicity where she found her own, namely, in the festive
coterie. But Mrs. Hartland in the course of her new studies had, some
how or other, stumbled upon the remarkable sentence which Charles the
Twelfth of Sweden, when a boy, wrote with a pencil at the bottom of a
map of Riga, demonstrative of those talents which were one day to
astonish the world: "Dieu me l'a donnée et le diable ne me l'otera
pas," and with maternal energy she replied in these celebrated words,
intimating by their appropriation to her own case, the same heroic
resolutions which inspired the Swede, to preserve that which had been
granted to _her_ arms.

"My dear Jemima," added she, unconsciously drawing up her head as she
spoke, "there is nothing easier than for people to talk who are not
mothers. I cannot perform by halves, the momentous duty which it has
pleased heaven to devolve upon me. The sacred task can only be
fulfilled by an entire devotion, and we must give ourselves up to the
faithful discharge of this awful trust. Lady Goodman, too, has never
known what it is to be a mother (raising her head still higher); and
really, my dear, it is impossible, even for the best intentioned of
one's friends who are _inexperienced_, to enter into the tremendous
responsibilities of a parent."

"No, thank heaven," answered Miss Ferret; "I know only by hearsay of
the great pangs and perils, through the martyrdom of which you boast
your new title; though our curate Mr. Pew, who had been but just
appointed before your confinement, seeing me at your side when I
accompanied you to the communion-table, stupidly churched me also, and
gave me a share in all your thanksgivings for a son and heir. But
depend upon it, my dear friend, that you will be tired of all this
sort of thing by and by, and wish that you had not affronted your
neighbours. Remember, after all said and done, that there cannot be any
_great_ distinction in bringing a bantling into the world, when every
beggar-woman in the parish has a troop at her heels. Your child will
fare the better for not being thought so much of. I always say that
'the watched pot never boils,' and people are constantly disappointed
themselves, besides being intolerable to others, when they make too
great a fuss about any thing that belongs to them."

Mrs. Hartland was deeply offended, and thus ended an intercourse which
had ceased to please on either side, and the _go-between_ quitted
Henbury and its inhabitants for ever, enlisting herself from that
moment amongst the most active of the oppositionists, who ridiculed
their folly and resented their pretensions.

Matters proceeded in this train till our once social pair had scarcely
a neighbour with whom they interchanged the usual hospitalities. They
were, however, so absorbed by their domestic interests, that no void
was felt, and the only serious grief which disturbed their happiness
was the want of a companion about his own age for their idol Algernon,
who improved in beauty as he advanced in growth, and gave evidence of
talents at five years old which might have been deemed uncommon at
double that age.

As may be imagined, Algernon experienced the very worst effects of the
spoiling system. Every possible error in education seemed likely to
lend its aid in making the child selfish, and the man, if he lived to
become one, insignificant and disagreeable. Mrs. Hartland read every
treatise which had ever been published on her favourite theme, and
endeavoured to put every theory in practice. Like all late converts to
any thing from its opposite, she was mad upon the subject of reading.
Literature, next to the love of young Algernon, became her ruling
passion, and the most tiresome pedantry of language succeeded her
natural manner of expressing herself. Exercising a limited capacity on
topics new to her understanding, and often above its calibre, our good
dame's mind became the strangest mass that could be conceived of
ill-digested systems, the principles of which she could not comprehend,
but the practical results of which, however contradictory, she
attempted to realize. Algernon was to be a miracle of early knowledge;
yet his mind was not to be over-wrought. He was to be a prodigy of
courage, while every living animal was banished from his presence, lest
any injury should reach the child. Of self-denial he was to be a
shining example, because Mrs. Hartland found that quality much insisted
upon in the works which were now her chief delight; but at the same
time her son's spirit was not to be broken by opposition, nor his
temper soured by contradiction. From this specimen it is easy to judge
of the whole, and the reader has no need of further insight into the
chaos which we have sufficiently described.

Mr. Hartland, though Greek and Latin had been driven into his cranium,
and he was rather proud of his skill in prosody, was a person of still
flatter intellect than his wife. Constitutional indolence also added
lead to the dullness of his faculties. It is therefore not to be
wondered at, that, mistaking his fair partner's activity for genius,
and her dictatorial harangues, delivered in words, each of which was as
long as a tape-worm, for the profoundest wisdom; he honestly believed
that Minerva herself had stepped down from her niche in the celestial
Pantheon, to assume the outward similitude of his better half.

Now it so happened that, about the period of which we are speaking, a
monstrous quarto, with prodigious margins, which professed to impart
the newest and most approved method of teaching the young idea how to
shoot like a vine along the march of modern intellect, arrived at
Henbury-lodge. Mrs. Hartland flew at the prize, and disinterring the
volume from the superincumbent mass of brown paper and twine by which
it was environed, hastened to her sanctum, and opening at random, after
the manner of the Virgilian lots, she chanced to light upon the
following paragraph, which struck upon her eye and understanding as
especially directed to her peculiar case:

"Nothing is more essential to the healthful developement of infant
mind, than congenial society. A child should associate with his
_fellows_, and while the bodily organs are kept in wholesome exercise,
the mental energies are thus directed to the natural objects of
childish pursuit. To this end children should be allowed to consort
together, and exhibit the true bearings of individual character,
uncontrolled by the bias which is given to youth by a constant and
injurious companionship with adults. In fine, a child should always be
provided with at least one playmate of his own age."

This paragraph rested on the mother's mind, and was the Mordecai of her
peace. Her intercourse with the neighbouring gentry was reduced to an
occasional exchange of morning visits, which afforded no opportunity of
introducing her boy to the children of her acquaintance, and there
seemed to be no probability of his having brother or sister with whom
to associate at home. In this dilemma Mrs. Hartland often turned in her
mind the temporary adoption of a peasant-child, who might serve the
desired purpose; but as frequently rejected the idea, through dread of
vulgar habits and low thoughts coming in contact with the mind of her
son.

While anxiously ruminating on what was best to be done, it happened
that Mr. Ackland, a gentleman who lived a few miles distant from
Henbury, called to enquire for the family, and in the course of
conversation of that miscellaneous kind which morning visits usually
supply, turned to Mrs. Hartland, and asked whether she had been to
Hazle-moor?

"Why to that desolate heath?" replied she. "I should not prefer a drive
to Hazle-moor for any beauty which that part of the country can boast."

"No," said Mr. Ackland, "the landscape is certainly not very alluring;
but you have heard of the lovely little Spaniard. Have you not?"

"I have not the least idea of what you allude to," answered Mrs.
Hartland. "What Spaniard do you speak of?"

"Oh!" replied Mr. Ackland, "I thought that every one within a circuit
of twenty miles at least had heard of our beautiful infant stranger. It
is upwards of a week since a troop of gipsies appeared upon Hazle-moor,
and there they might have held their station ever since without
exciting particular attention, were it not for the extraordinary
perfections of a child, who has in some mysterious manner fallen into
their hands. Two or three portrait-painters have already come to take
likenesses of the fascinating little creature; and the wild community
to which she belongs having discovered the profit which may be realized
through her means, are daily making money by exhibiting the symmetry of
her baby-form to all who are prompted by curiosity to visit this tiny
enchantress."

"Who is she?" said Mrs. Hartland.

"That is precisely the question which every body asks, and none can
answer," replied Mr. Ackland. "If her owners are acquainted with her
parentage, they do not choose to tell more than that they purchased her
from a soldier's wife, who seemed a worthless sort of person. Her
little mantle, hat, and plume, together with her country's dialect,
proclaim the land which gave her birth. She speaks fluently, though
with lisping tongue, and calls herself Zoé, as the nearest
approximation which she can make to the more difficult pronunciation of
Zorilda, which is the name she bears."

"Dear babe!" exclaimed Mrs. Hartland, "what will become of her?"

"Alas!" said Mr. Ackland, "the parents who have been robbed of such a
child are objects of one's tenderest commiseration; and as to the
little one herself, it is but too easy to foretell that her course
cannot prosper. She is now only three years old or thereabouts; and for
a short time to come may not imbibe the poison of personal flattery,
but a race of vanity will terminate in destruction. Were I not the
father of a family, and fearful of introducing perhaps the murderer of
future repose amongst my children by bringing a dangerous non-descript
under my roof, I would certainly purchase Zorilda from her present
possessors, and take her home to Newlands, in the hope of being able to
restore her some day or other to her relations. Yet, on the other hand,
she may be the property of people who are not desirous to reclaim her,
and might entail a weighty responsbility on my head. Such a romantic
importation into my household could not fail of working mischief in the
fulness of time, and therefore I have resolved silencing all the
_yearnings_ of impulse; but I recommend both you and Mr. Hartland
to go and see her, as the wandering group who are intent on showing her
to all who will pay them for the sight, will speedily pack up in all
probability for some other scene."

A sudden thought, which she refrained from promulging, darted across
the mind of Mrs. Hartland, and she pondered intently on what had fallen
from Mr. Ackland till the following day, when, ordering her carriage
immediately after breakfast, she set out, accompanied by her husband,
young Algernon, and his nurse, for Hazle-moor.



CHAPTER VI.

    "Beauty provoketh Thieves sooner than Gold."

    AS YOU LIKE IT.


The day was fine, and Algernon in high sprightliness and bloom, while
his delighted mother, stimulated by the opportunity of comparison which
now presented itself, secretly doubted in the pride of her heart that
any "mortal mixture of Earth's mould" could furnish such a specimen of
infant grace, as feasted her raptured eyes whenever they rested on her
darling, who had now attained the fifth anniversary of his birth.
Arrived at the Gipsey encampment, the party from Henbury descended from
their carriage and approached a crazy tent, the back of which was
turned towards the road by which our visitors had arrived at
Hazle-moor. Mrs. Hartland, snatching her boy's hand, pressed eagerly
forward, seeking with all her eyes, in every direction, for the little
Zorilda. A group of rustic looking children were at play in front of
the tent, and Mrs. Hartland darted into the midst of the circle, but
not seeing any thing attractive in the coarse physiognomy of these
youthful boors, she was seized with sudden alarm lest the object of her
curiosity had been borne away by some fortunate rival, in the very
scheme which she was herself meditating at that moment.

While she paused, not perceiving any grown person to whom she could
direct an enquiry, a woman came running from a little distance and
called out, "the Spanish child is here, Ma'am, please to walk this
way." So saying, she conducted the party to the distance of a few
hundred yards, till they reached a great mound of peat which had been
piled together by the peasants of the country for firing, and formed a
main source of incitement to the gipsies in selecting this spot for
their temporary encampment.

The woman preceded, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Hartland, Algernon, and
his nurse, and as they turned round the corner of the peat-rick, they
were arrested with astonishment at sight of the perfection of human
loveliness which burst upon their impatient view. Nothing, which was
ever fashioned in the laboratory of Nature in her most plastic mood,
could surpass the exquisite beauty of the cherub who lay fast asleep
upon a cushion of newly gathered heath, the rich purple blossoms of
which, mingling with curls of glossy jet, seemed to breathe their
perfumes in token of grateful pleasure, as the mountain breeze playing
amongst the tender branches wafted their delicate sprays across the
infant's polished brow, as if to guard the little angel from the sun's
too fervid beams.

Mr. and Mrs. Hartland gazed in silent rapture, but Algernon's
transports were not so easily repressed; and Zorilda was wakened by the
inconsiderate demonstration of his joy at sight of her. The pretty
creature started from her fragrant pillow, and, frightened by the
presence of strangers, opened wide the most splendid dark eyes, which
till then had been reposing within their silken curtains, and, looking
wildly round, stretched her dimpled arms towards the gipsey woman, to
whose features she was accustomed; but ere the movement was finished,
her attention was caught by the little boy, and springing forward to
him, these charming children were in an instant locked in each other's
embraces.

Mrs. Hartland's tears bespoke the feelings of her heart, and the gipsey
woman, desirous to heighten the effect of the scene by flattery,
assured her that the little Spaniard had never before exhibited such
sensibility to a stranger.

The children played together with a kid which had attached itself to
Zorilda, and lay cropping the stray sprigs of her flowery couch while
she slept. As Mrs. Hartland retired back a few paces to indulge her
emotion, the young Spaniard fancied that she was going away, and
seizing her hand, pointed to Algernon with a look of deep anxiety,
crying, in the sweetest possible accent, "Lady, no, no go." The spell
was now firmly bound around the mother's affection, and she resolved,
that if money could purchase the child, she would not return home
without Zorilda. Mr. Hartland was in the habit, as has been stated, of
yielding to every suggestion of his wife, whose prudence he respected
as much as he admired her wisdom; and as he doted on his son, in common
with her, and was as much delighted with Zorilda as Mrs. Hartland could
possibly be, he entered warmly into the idea of securing such a
treasure of companionship for Algernon, and set about negotiating the
purchase with all the zeal of one who wished to succeed.

The husband of the gipsey woman returned ere long, and much time did
not elapse before a bargain was concluded, the terms of which were,
that the child should accompany the party to Henbury, leaving the best
part of her little wardrobe behind, and fifty guineas were to be
exchanged for her in cash. The gipsies were in reality very anxious to
sell the infant, as, though the avidity of gain rendered them desirous
to exhibit her for profit, they suffered continual uneasiness from the
dread of her being claimed. They had, it is true, stolen her in a
distant part of the kingdom, and reached Hazle-moor by forced marches
and by intricate bye ways; but much farther concealment could not be
hoped for, and the mere loss of their booty was not the worst which
these lawless plunderers apprehended. They would be punished for the
flagrant violation of the laws which they had committed, and therefore
gladly availed themselves of the first offer to take the little girl
off their hands for a pecuniary price.

The business was arranged, and Zorilda, who clung with the greatest
solicitude to her new acquaintance, as if she felt it more natural as
well as agreeable to associate with them than her late masters, was put
into the carriage. Algernon followed, and Mrs. Hartland was just
raising her foot to the step, when Zorilda's kid made a spring, and
took precedence most ungallantly of the lady. The children were charmed
with nanny-goat's agility, clasped it in their arms, and begged that it
might be left with them. Half a guinea settled this second sale, and
the happy family drove away; Mr. Hartland having stipulated to redeem
his promissory note on the next market-day at the Tholsel, and an
engagement having been agreed to by the wandering horde, that no
enquiries should ever be made by any of them again concerning the
Spanish foundling.

"Who _can_ this little darling be?" said Mrs. Hartland. It was in
vain that she catechised the child. "Zoé," was the only reply to the
question, however frequently repeated, of "what is your name?"

The little stranger speedily adopted the sounds of "papa and mamma,"
the happy children lived in each other's smiles, unconscious that a
time might ever come when joy should be exchanged for grief; and what
is more extraordinary, such is the contraction of a selfish spirit,
parents who ought to have been able to take a wider survey of causes
and effects, were satisfied with present expediency, and resolved that
futurity should shift for itself.

Time rolled on; the same lessons, the same amusements, occupied the
opening minds of Algernon and Zorilda; yet in reality how dissimilar
was the education which they received! Admired, and even cherished as
was the latter, she was in point of fact a purchased slave, while the
former was the hope, the promise, the prop, and pillar of his father's
house. As we have never obtained a phrenological survey of these
childrens' heads, we shall not say any thing of original configuration
with reference to faculties and positions, nor fraudulently entrap our
readers into a new edition of Locke on the human understanding, when
they expect to find a narrative relating to individuals and events. It
suffices us as faithful biographers to state that, while Algernon was
theoretically informed, Zorilda was practically instructed; and as
early impressions are generally conceived to possess considerable
influence on subsequent character, we hope to be pardoned for briefly
describing the opposite results of two systems essentially different
from each other. Were the children at their meals? Algernon was told
that good boys were never greedy, but he was always helped first. Were
the little friends at play? Algernon often heard that the eldest, who
had most sense, should always give up, and "the young gentleman yield
to the young lady." Yet Algernon who was selfish, contended, conquered,
and was never reprimanded. He was _recommended_ to be polite, but the
little Zorilda was _commanded_ to bring him whatever he wanted. Matters
in short were so managed, or rather mismanaged, that _words_ were
employed with one, and _actions_ with the other; _shadows_ were the
portion of Algernon, while all the _substance_ of discipline was
bestowed on Zorilda.

As the children advanced they read the same books, they were taught by
the same masters, they learned the same accomplishments, but literary
or ornamental acquirement is only the surface of education. The
foundation of character, such as forms the real distinction between
individuals of the human species, must be laid in the heart, and
whether a man is the blessing or the curse of that society in which he
possesses influence in after life, generally depends upon the practical
nature of those views by which his natural propensities are regulated,
his vicious tendencies repressed, and every noble, virtuous indication
strengthened and encouraged. Profession is not principle; saying is not
doing; and the fruits will correspond with the methods pursued in
training the youthful mind. Algernon and Zorilda doted on each other,
but the former loved himself better than his little companion. He could
not endure her absence, but it was because her sweet temper, cheerful
acquiescence and inventive talents, increased the measure of his
enjoyment by constant study to please, and perpetual variety in the
means of amusement. Zorilda's affection on the contrary was
unadulterated by the alloy of selfishness. She could not imagine
pleasure separate from the happiness of those who were dear to her
little heart. Though her childish sports lost all their charm when
Algernon did not share them, she would at any moment endeavour to
promote his gratification by the sacrifice of her own; and employed her
irresistible eloquence in furthering the indulgence of a ride upon the
favourite pony at Mr. Hartland's side, which would deprive her of all
she valued till the return of her beloved play-fellow from his
excursion.

At length arrived the important hour of decision upon the long agitated
question of a public school or a private tutor; and the latter was
agreed upon. Mr. Playfair's credentials were unexceptionable, and he
commenced his course with every prospect of mutual liking. He was a
middle-aged man, of pleasing manners, and an excellent scholar; but as
he was given to understand that no moral instruction was required at
his hands, he soon learned to desist from interfering with a department
placed beyond the bounds of his jurisdiction.

"I would not allow any mortal," said Mrs. Hartland, "to supersede me in
the pleasing task of forming the mind and manners of my son;" and we
have already seen how she was qualified for the work which she
determined on executing without substitute or auxiliary.

Algernon wept over the Latin Grammar, and chiefly, because he did not
see any one else condemned to the labours which were inflicted on him.

"Why does not Mr. Playfair make Zoé as unhappy as I am, and give her
this hard lesson to get by heart?" said the boy, as he sobbed upon his
mother's breast.

Zoé was also drowned in tears; but it was because Algernon was
afflicted, and her question, urged in the softest tenderest accent,
was, "Oh, why may not I learn his lesson? I will then teach it to him."

These two short and simple queries furnish the clue by which to follow
the entire labyrinth of these childrens' course. Mr. Playfair, who was
charmed with Zorilda's beauty and docility, readily undertook to aid
her generous purpose, by becoming her tutor, to which Mrs. Hartland
willingly consented; "_not_ that Greek and Latin," said she, "are
necessary for a young lady, but as dear Zoé, who in point of fact is
_nobody_, much as we love her, may turn all that we can do for her
to future account, she may now be made useful to Algernon as well as
herself, by sharing _all_ his labours."

This fiat, though pronounced in an under voice, struck on Zorilda's ear
and attention. She was now only six years old, but the remarkable
acuteness of her sensibility, as well as understanding, rendered a
thousand appeals to both, which were beyond the reach of much older
children, comprehensible to her young mind; and the word _nobody_
suffused her expressive countenance with a blush of deepest die. She
had often heard the question asked, "Who is she?" "Zoé," was her only
reply, and she had never tarried to hear another answer. This
_nobody_ perplexed her little heart, and, running into the arms of
Mrs. Hartland, she buried her glowing face in the bosom of her
protectress.

"What do you mean, dear Mamma? sure Algernon is somebody; and though I
am younger, is not Zoé somebody too? we are both _your_ children."

Mrs. Hartland sighed, and, caressing the child, disengaged herself from
the tender pressure, while a "Yes, my love," hastily uttered as she
left the room, had the effect of brushing away the tear which, at Zoé's
age, "is dried as soon as shed."

Mr. Playfair was a man of distinguished learning, but he possessed
qualities of much rarer character than scholarship. He was a man of
strong sense and deep feeling.

Mrs. Hartland on quitting the room had given him a look of
intelligence, which he understood, and following her to another
apartment, he listened, for the first time, to the history of Zorilda's
introduction at Henbury.

When the story was finished, Mr. Playfair ventured to suggest a hint of
future inconvenience from this lovely child's domestication in the
family.

"A day will come," added he, "in which the truth _must_ be revealed,
and I foresee at least the possibility of great misery and
embarrassment."

Selfish people seldom take long views even for themselves, but happily
for the rest of mankind, are generally so uncompromising and
precipitate in endeavouring to compass their ends, as to put others on
their defence, and enable them sometimes to counteract, always to
anticipate the bearing of an illiberal spirit, intent on its own
exclusive gratification.

Mr. Playfair possessed discrimination, and took in at a glance the
entire _carte du pays_. Though the little Zorilda was affectionately
treated at Henbury, he clearly perceived that she would be
unrelentingly sacrificed to the interests of ambition, and shaken off
without any attention to her feelings whenever a period arrived in
which it might be deemed prudent to get rid of her; but she was an
unfriended orphan, and to snatch her from present positive good in
order to avoid future contingent evil, might perhaps have been scarcely
justifiable, even though ability to do so had seconded inclination. In
Mr. Playfair's case it was impossible. He had no resources, and was a
single man. All that his situation permitted, he determined on
contributing for the benefit of his interesting charge, and never were
exertions more fully repaid. Zorilda's talents were of the first order,
and what is not usual, the solidity of her understanding equalled its
extraordinary quickness. She learned with surprising facility, and
discovered such a thirst for knowledge, that, never satisfied with
superficial glimmerings, she loved to probe the depths of every subject
which lay open to her pursuit.

Algernon's sloth bore strict proportion to Zorilda's industry, of which
he knew how to reap the profit in a manner most congenial to his taste.
Certain of having his exercise written, and his translation parsed by
the companion of his studies, before she looked at her own task, he
gave himself as little trouble as possible; but, aware that the measure
of his idleness must continually depend on that of Zoé's diligence and
application, he encouraged in her what he neglected in his own
instance, and thus was instrumental in assisting Mr. Playfair's
benevolent design of storing the mind of the young unknown against the
hour of adversity. Whatever was the subject of instruction, Zorilda's
intuitive clearness of perception anticipated the labours of her tutor,
and she actually learned faster than he could teach; yet vanity was a
stranger to her young heart. Conscious of ignorance, while she sought
information, it appeared to her nothing extraordinary that she should
understand what the wisdom of others supplied: she transferred all
honour to her instructor, and as Mr. Playfair had too sincere an
interest in the welfare of his pupil to flatter her, our little heroine
passed her early spring of life without guessing that her talents
exceeded the common faculties of her fellow-creatures. Algernon
breathed, on the contrary, an atmosphere of continual praise, with
which his injudicious mother endeavoured to stimulate his progress. The
two children might be compared to plants, the one of which put forth
its sickly bloom in the artificial soil of a hot-bed; while the other,
fanned by the breezes, and fertilized by the dews of heaven, flourished
in full luxuriance of natural strength and beauty; but as the gardener,
who digs, prunes, trains, and waters, is the only person interested in
the gradual unfolding of those "leafy honours," which it is enough for
the casual visitor to see fully developed, we shall now draw a curtain
over the scene of budding hopes; or, if we may be allowed to conclude
our present Chapter with another simile, we will dive like the wild sea
bird into the ocean of time, on the surface of which we have been
slowly sailing, and hiding beneath the billows for a season, start up
anew after a temporary submersion.



CHAPTER VII.

    We were as twinned lambs that did frisk i' the sun
    And bleat the one at the other: what we changed
    Was innocence for innocence. We knew not
    The doctrine of ill-doing. No, nor dreamed
    That any did.

    WINTER'S TALE.


As we are not shackled by those inconvenient unities which fetter the
discursive propensities of the dramatist, binding him to time and
place, we have been permitted to take a ramble or a doze as our
inclinations prompted, and re-assemble at Henbury, after an interval of
some years.

On our return, we are naturally struck with the changes which such a
lapse has effected. Many alterations have taken place amongst our old
friends in the Hartland family since our last domestication amongst
them. On our return we found, it is true, the same dramatis personæ;
but the aspect of things was changed. The master of the mansion was the
first to appear as we approached his dwelling; and though men of his
temperament are remarkable for wearing well, the perennial smile which
used to illumine his features with the dead-light of a peat-coal fire,
was darkened by a cloud, if not of contemplation, certainly of care,
which had destroyed the only redeeming expression of a mindless
countenance. He was riding over his farm, with his eyes fixed on
vacancy, while he went at a snail's pace, and his horse's bridle lay
floating on the pummel of the saddle. We next discovered that Mrs.
Hartland was not far off, as we heard her speak before we had the
pleasure of seeing her, and learned, on inquiry, that we were not
mistaken in our recollection of her voice, though it was now employed
in scolding, which was a novelty to our ears.

"Ay," said the gardener, with whom we held some conversation before we
were enabled to judge for ourselves, "Missess has taken latterly to
thrift, and her eye is every where. We say that, like what is remarked
of the Bristol men, she sleeps with one eye open, for nothing escapes
her. She is all for the lucre of gain. The family is kept as bare as
can be, and she sends off the best of every thing to market. Miss
Ferret now supplies the whole country round with Henbury pork, and
Henbury fowls, and Henbury cheese, vegetables, fruit, and flowers.
Nothing will go down that doesn't come from Henbury; and it is
lamentable to see a lady scuffling about early and late, in her thick
shoes and rug cloak; battling with every body, and grinding people to
powder with her tongue; and all this to puff up pride, by heaping up
treasure for him who will not have the heart to spend it as he ought.
If it wasn't for that angel, Miss Zoé, who keeps the young Squire in
check, he would be just as great a skin-flint as his mother."

Accuracy of observation is not to be measured by refinement of phrase;
and though this rough sketch was delivered in coarse language, it was a
correct delineation. Mr. Hartland's strictness of economy had grown out
of circumstances, the chief amongst which was a decline in the health
of Lady Marchdale. Should she die, there was danger that Lord Marchdale
would marry again, and thus the remotest chance might be cut off of
Algernon's succession to the title and estates of his noble relative.
As matters stood, though _hope_ fluttered her golden pinion, and
sometimes dazzled the mother's eye, _expectation_ could not be said to
live in her breast, for she knew that Lord Marchdale had levied fines,
and could alienate his property if he pleased; but he was fond of his
name, and her son bore not only that of the family, but the Earl's
Christian name in addition; besides, the relation of godfather was
_something_, and the best look-out of all was, that a nobleman so
situated might delay making his will; in which case, were he to die
intestate, Algernon was next heir after his own father. These were
strong points, but not sufficient ground to _rest_ upon, and therefore
Mrs. Hartland prudently resolved to act as if the hedge-rows of Henbury
formed the extremest horizon of her view. Having taken the lead in her
son's education for several years, and perhaps believing that he was
_quite_ faultless, she gradually relaxed the severity of her studies,
and, ranging the ponderous volumes over which she had pored during many
a day upon the shelf, she devoted herself to active concerns, and
became so expert in buying and selling, farming and feeding, that every
year found a new deposit in the hands of Mr. Fairly, the stock-broker.

"My dear," said Mrs. Hartland to her husband, "we must not depend on
accidents. Our duty is to lay up for our child. If he comes to the
family title and fortune, well and good; no harm is done, and a
nest-egg in the funds is never amiss. If, on the other hand, we are
disappointed, Algernon may still hold up his head amongst our
neighbours, if we scrape together our pence, and live as we ought to
do."

Mr. Hartland nodded assent, and the screwing system commenced, not,
however, without a keen eye to appearances, which were to be observed
so as to maintain a show of gentility suited to prospective
contingencies. The warm, broad, laughing fire was exchanged for the
sullen brasier or the sulphurous stove; and though Mr. Playfair more
than once reminded Mrs. Hartland of the anecdote of Alexander and
Diogenes, she contrived to exclude the brightness of the sun, along
with the caloric of his beams, from affording compensation for the
deficiency of coals, by blocking up half the windows in the house, to
avoid the tax upon daylight. The _form_ of two courses certainly
graced the table; but in the first, the smoking joint had given way to
scraps and messes dished up nobody knew how, or from what material,
while never-ending Jerusalem artichokes, skerrets, and celery, played
an unfailing part in furnishing the second. We were assured that Mrs.
Hartland's parsimony had even descended to mixing the wines with water,
before they were put down after dinner.

But where were the young people, and how had time dealt with them? The
old lord of the scythe and hour-glass had performed the promise which,
during their infancy, he made to each. Algernon, who had reached his
nineteenth year, was strikingly handsome. Nearly six feet in height, he
had nothing of the awkwardness which usually marks that age; but
presented the appearance of full-grown five-and-twenty. Algernon was,
however, still the same indolent and selfish being of our former
acquaintance. He had imbibed just enough of knowledge and acquirement
to shew how much more he might have attained, and possessed abilities
capable of far higher cultivation than he could be prevailed upon to
employ; but self was the deity of his worship, and we need say no more
of him.

Of Zorilda--what words can be found to convey an adequate idea of her
perfections? She had numbered nearly seventeen years, and in face and
figure exhibited a model of female loveliness. The exquisite beauty of
her form, the natural grace of every movement, and the penetrating
sensibility of her countenance, would have rivetted all beholders, even
though her features had wanted that symmetry which is requisite to
charm the artist's eye; but Zorilda might have defied the painter's
skill to find a fault in the proportions of her face, and that face
bespoke the soul which dwelt within, and was worthy of such a casket to
contain such a gem. Never did imagination create a more delightful
fiction than was realized in the person of the youthful Spaniard. Was
it wonderful, then, that all who looked upon her, saw and loved?

For two young people to have lived from infancy together without having
ascertained that they were not related to each other by even the
remotest tie of consanguinity, would be ridiculous to suppose, and was
not the fact, though Mr. and Mrs. Hartland had been silent, and ordered
their household to abstain from any communication which might destroy
the illusion of brother and sister, which, if established into habitual
belief, might never be questioned, and prevent the growth of those
sentiments which the anxious parents at _last_ dreaded to anticipate.
Blinded by her wishes, as well as natural presumption, Mrs. Hartland
had long refused to open her eyes to the possible consequences of her
imprudent conduct, in domesticating her only son with the most
attractive of her sex, unless she desired a union between them. She saw
nothing but the accomplishment of her own views in _any_ arrangement;
and even after the warning voice of Mr. Playfair had put her on her
guard, thought it only necessary to employ an increased reserve upon
the topic of Zoé's origin, to secure against an unfortunate result, and
continue to Algernon the happiness of companionship, without
endangering his future repose.

"Should a time ever arrive," said the coarse-grained Mrs. Hartland,
"when it may become requisite to take stronger measures, it is only
necessary to tell Algernon the truth. _My_ son will never disgrace
himself by alliance with a gipsey. We can remove Zoé at any time, as I
say, Mr. Playfair. I appeal to _you_, rather than Mr. Hartland, on
this point, because he is absurdly fond of the girl, and I often tell
him that I am certain he loves that _enfant trouvé_ better than his own
flesh and blood."

"If he did not love his ward," replied Mr. Playfair, "he would be less
than human. Every body loves her, and when she is called hence amongst
her kindred of the skies, the angels will greet her, not as a stranger,
but beloved companion, who had been detached from the heavenly ranks
for a season, to teach earth better things than mortals could have
learned without her. Madam, you know my opinion; I have often told you
that the young people are bound in cords of affection for each other,
which it will be a heart-break to dissever. Your son may not suffer
much; the world lies before him; he will soon go to the University, and
find new friends as well as amusements; but not so the gentle, the
tender Zorilda, of whose happiness you seem to make small account. May
I ask what are your intentions respecting her? She is already a woman
in growth, and her acquirements would do honour to any age; believe me,
the danger increases daily, and an indissoluble engagement may bind
your son in chains, which having forged yourself, you could not desire
him to break; you would not have him act dishonourably, and sully his
name for ever in the eyes of virtue and delicacy."

"Nonsense! Mr. Playfair," said Mrs. Hartland, with vehemence, "virtue
and delicacy indeed! There would be much of these fine qualities
required to make me keep my temper, if I feared the fulfilment of your
prediction. I _must_ say that, after so many years passed in my
family, I might naturally expect that you would enter a little more
into the feelings of a mother, and the interests of our house; but
truly, gratitude is a rare return now-a-days for the most valuable
friendship. I cannot conceive why you should not see the impossibility
of a marriage between Algernon, the stay, the support, I may surely
add, the heir apparent, of a noble house, and an orphan out-cast. Who
is Zorilda?"

Mr. Playfair's cheek burned with honest indignation, but he determined
to control himself, and calmly replied:--

"The period of our separation. Madam, is drawing near, and I do not
wish to embitter the last moments of sojournment under your roof by
useless inquiries into the measure of my gratitude. For _kindness_ I am
always acknowledging, but if you allude to my pecuniary obligations,
which if I mistake not, take the lead in _your_ estimate of favours
conferred, I must beg leave to observe that I have dearly earned my
salary as tutor to your son, and may perhaps be presumptuous enough to
think that, on casting up the amount of mutual benefit, the balance of
debt may lie against you. But we were talking of a worthier theme; you
inquire of me, Who is Zorilda? I am sure if you who introduced her here
are ignorant of her birth and parentage, it would be difficult for me
to have discovered them. I can only say that whoever her parents may
be, they are enviable as having given being to such a creature, and
pitiable for having lost her. The only particle of rebellion in her
whole soul against the wisdom of that Providence to which she bows in
all things else with meek submission, may be traced in the anguish
which she endures on the score of her mysterious history. Her
suspicions have been long confirmed. She knows that she is not your
child, and is likewise aware of the obscure destiny from which she was
redeemed, through a money price paid by you. 'Alas!' she often exclaims
to me, 'what have I done to deserve this cruel punishment? Am I one of
those who fall under condemnation for the sins of their forefathers?
Why am I a cast-away? Is it like the abundant mercy of a gracious God,
who sendeth rain on the just and the unjust with prodigal bounty, thus
to visit a guiltless being so severely? Death would be preferable to
this brand of disgrace. It is like the mark set upon Cain, and shame
overwhelms me when I think of my lot. Yes, dear Mr. Playfair, there is
a worm which dieth not, gnawing incessantly at my heart's core.'

"In this way, Madam, does Zorilda pour out her grief to me. You know
nothing of it, for she thinks it her duty not to broach a subject which
you have never touched upon with her. She is wretched as she is lovely
and virtuous! Spare her, I conjure you, and let not her feelings be
wounded; you may have to answer for her life. When I leave Henbury, I
may be able to devise some scheme for the future. I have a sister who
lives in Switzerland, and I will----"

Just as Mr. Playfair uttered these words, the door opened, and Zorilda
entered the room, radiant with bloom, such as the breath of morn
dapples on the velvet cheek of youth. Her long dark eye-lashes were
moistened by a tear, and looked like the silky grass which waves on the
streamlet's verge before the sun has smiled away the dew-drop which
glitters through its graceful fringes, while with light and gentle step
she pressed forward to Mrs. Hartland, holding in her hand a bunch of
half-blown roses.

"Here is my first offering from the little tree which Algernon brought
me last year, from Marchdale Court; I have kept it secret to surprise
dear Mamma."

It was an unlucky moment, and the association of ideas produced by the
few words which Zorilda had spoken, was at that instant peculiarly
unfortunate. Mrs. Hartland forced a reluctant smile, accompanying a
frigid "Thank you," which chilled Zoé to the heart.

"What is the matter, dearest Mamma? are you ill? or has any thing
happened to displease you?"

"Do not tease me, Zoé; I was speaking on business of importance with
Mr. Playfair; and, my dear, you are growing too old to say _Mamma_. I
wish that you would begin to call me Mrs. Hartland."

Zorilda had an intuitive delicacy of character which gave her
sufficient command over her feelings to prevent a _scene_. Mrs.
Hartland was too unlike her in almost every respect to have ever been
the friend of her choice; but she was the only one who had occupied the
place of Mother to her, and her whole soul was formed to gratitude and
affection; but she had now for the first time experienced repulse, and
minds of sensibility do not require to be told what misery may be
inflicted on a confiding spirit, by the rejection of its tender
sympathies. Zorilda was stung to the quick, but restraining every
expression of excitement, she glided hastily from the apartment,
carrying with her the unwelcome flowers, which she perceived afforded
no gratification.

Without stopping to be informed whether Algernon had returned from his
ride, Zorilda flew to an arbour of acacias at some distance from the
house, and throwing herself upon a rustic seat, beneath its shade, gave
vent to a full tide of sorrow. When the oppression of her bosom was in
some measure relieved, she knelt down, and clasping her hands with
uplifted energy of supplication, prayed for fortitude to bear the ills
which seemed impending. The Divine aid is never asked in vain, and
Zorilda rose strengthened by the fervency of her petition. Her soul was
soothed and tranquillized, and she thanked the Almighty for a friend
who had in some degree prepared her for events which she now perceived
in prospect.

"Yes! Mr. Playfair has sometimes almost appeared unkind, in dwelling on
my misfortunes, and prophecying this evil hour, when I should no longer
be loved by the protectors of my youth. How _picturesque_ they love a
purchased stranger? The sad truth is now revealed. While yet children,
our infant sports caused no uneasiness, and we enjoyed happiness
unmixed with care. We are children no longer, and I am not wanted here.
The unknown Zorilda, the wandering gipsey, the dependent orphan, is not
considered meet companion for Algernon, advanced to manhood. What shall
I do? I must quit the asylum of my youth, the loved partner of my
playful hours, the venerable instructor of my early days, and remove
this weight of anxiety from the breast of my benefactress."

"Never!" exclaimed Algernon, who, rushing impetuously into the arbour,
caught Zorilda in his arms. "What means this emotion? Zoé, you must be
my wife, and then you shall stay here as in your natural home. In the
mean time leave it all to me. You know my influence with my mother; I
will come to the bottom of these whims, and you shall hear no more of
them."

"Speak not disrespectfully of your mother, Algernon; she is right, we
should either of us perhaps pursue the same course were we in her
situation. She once said that I was "nobody." All ask "Who is she?" to
which painful question there is no answer to be given; and why should I
delude myself any more. I thought the world was kind because every one
caressed me, but when they did so I was a mere plaything. Those who
once cherished are now ashamed of me, and this is what I can never
bear. Mr. Playfair has taught me many things, and your mother (oh! must
I never again call her mine) has not neglected to make me useful. I
will earn my bread, and be a willing sacrifice if my departure can
restore the peace which I have disturbed."

Algernon, though spoiled by indulgence, and rendered vain by flattery,
was as yet uncorrupted by the cold maxims of worldly wisdom, and loved
Zorilda with all the devotion of which a narrow soul was capable. She
was the confidant of all his pains and pleasures. In her society the
former were always mitigated, the latter constantly enhanced. He had
gazed upon her beautiful countenance, which reflected every ray that
cheered or cloud that darkened his own from infancy to youth; and he
could not realize to his mind the possibility of a separation from a
being so habitually necessary to his comfort.

"I will threaten my mother to shoot myself if she plagues you any
more," vociferated Algernon; and before the gentle Zoé could reply, he
darted from the arbour and ran to seek his agitated parent; while
Zorilda bent her steps towards a walk where she thought it likely that
she should meet Mr. Playfair, in which hope she was not disappointed. A
conversation with him was always sure to give her comfort; and never
had she so much needed the balm of kindness as on the present occasion.
Zorilda wept with bitterness as she expressed her grief and surprize at
the altered tone of Mrs. Hartland, and an impatient desire to sacrifice
every consideration to that of removing a source of disquietude from
her breast.

"Softly, my dear child," said Mr. Playfair, as he kindly pressed the
hand of his pupil. "We must not allow ourselves to act on mere
impulses, however amiable. There are _picturesque_ sorrows which must
not be allowed to tempt us out of the broad high way of a sober march.
We must not talk of victims and sacrifices, altars and shrines. Though
I know your heart, and how sincere are your wishes to promote the
happiness of others, even to the forgetfulness of your own, I cannot
permit you to be romantic. There is a vanity in heroic deeds which dims
the purity of action. My dear Zoé will act, I trust, in all things with
a _single_ purpose, and that purpose is to endeavour at the performance
of _duty_, the most difficult part of which, in morals as in the field
of war, is to _forbear_. Your path is sown with thorns, but I have
often warned you against repining. Believe and trust, pray to Him who
alone appoints the issue of events, for patience to _submit_. You
cannot see why you are thus grieved--you do not understand why you are
a nameless, solitary, insulated being, unknown, unclaimed, unconnected;
while all whom you see around are encircled in the social bands of fond
relationship. You do not behold the _end_. A day may come in which you
shall be suffered to comprehend the mysteries which now obscure your
sight; or, should it not please God to send a lamp to your feet, you
may learn to bless the darkness by which you are enveloped, and rejoice
in that uncertainty which you now consider your greatest misfortune.
You must not leave Henbury. Mrs. Hartland is bound to protect you, and
will do so. You will correspond with me, and I will watch your
interests with an anxious eye."

The ingenuous Zorilda confessed that some pride and impetuosity were
perhaps mingled with better feelings, in her hasty resolution to quit
the friends of her youth; and promising implicit acquiescence in her
Mentor's advice, prepared to return to the house. In her way thither
she met Algernon, who hastened to inform her that he had settled every
thing with his mother. "I told her fairly that I would never marry any
one but you; and that unless she chose to quarrel with me, she must
behave as she used to do in former times towards you. You know that I
can do any thing with my mother, and therefore you need not fret
yourself any more. Do dry your eyes, for I hate to see you in this
deplorable state. Come and feed the pheasants, I have not been to visit
them to day."

The disinterestedness of a noble mind attributes its own qualities to
every other, and Zorilda could perceive no motive in Algernon's conduct
at any time which would not have actuated her own in a similar
situation. She thanked him affectionately, but, gently rebuking him for
not speaking more kindly of his mother, added,

"You vex her I am sure by talking of marrying. You and I are very
young; we cannot see into futurity. I do not like engagements that bind
one to do what perhaps the free heart might reject at an after-time.
You are going away, and will find new pleasures in the world, and of
which you never dreamed before. You will not, it may be, always think
of poor Zoé as you do now, and I could not be satisfied with the cold
performance of a vow. I shall never love any beside Algernon, but
_you_ must be free."

Zorilda's tears gushed afresh as she uttered these words; to which her
youthful lover impatiently replied,

"You know, Zoé, that I have no _taste_ for this _larmoyante_ mood; I
love the laughing philosophers; they are the only true ones after all.
Tottham, our bailiff, told me lately that my godfather cannot live
long. When he dies my father succeeds to a certainty. Then I shall be
Lord Hautonville, with the higher title of Marchdale in prospect; and
may do what I please. Now I please to marry you, and let me hear what
is to prevent me from following my inclination."

Zoé sighed. "Dear Algernon, I do not love to build a life of happiness
upon the death of friends. I love you as you are, and do not like the
titles in your family half so well as your own pretty name. Besides, I
am sure from what Mr. Playfair says of the world, that I should never
enjoy its gay pageants. I would rather feed our gold and silver
pheasants than see myself decorated with all the jewels which you often
tell me shall one day be mine."

"You will not always think so," replied Algernon; "and I should be
sorry if you did. Nothing, it is said, is more annoying to a man of
fashion than a rustic wife who does not know her situation."

"Alas!" said the artless Zoé, "I do not like the only specimen of high
life that I have seen amongst young men, and ever since you and the
Marquess of Turnstock have taken so many rides together, you have
picked up several new notions unlike your former self. I wish that his
Lordship would go away, and leave our sober country."

"That he will not do till the shooting season is over," answered
Algernon; "and I can tell you, that our acquaintance is only in the
bud. He is an Oxford man, and I expect that we shall be much together.
Here comes my mother. She has made me promise not to call you my wife,
nor talk any more of our marriage in her presence. So upon the
principle of 'any thing for a quiet life,' I shall indulge her during
my short remaining stay, and she will be all civility and good-humour
with you. Are you not much obliged to me?"

Zorilda sighed again. Mrs. Hartland came up; took her son's arm;
discovered that some overhanging branches required lopping, and sent
Zorilda off with affected unconstraint to call the gardener, and see
the job executed.

Mrs. Hartland now felt that her innocent ward was a grievous encumbrance,
but she rejoiced to see her son attach himself _con amore_ to the society
of the young nobleman of whom we have made mention, and who had lately
come to pay a visit in the neighbourhood of Henbury.

"Mr. Playfair is right," said she to herself, as she soliloquized on
this subject, which now absorbed all her thoughts: "I ought not to
take this thing to heart. Opposition only rivets faster whatever we
resist in a young mind, and matters which are often spoiled by our
interference, would rectify themselves if we let them alone. Algernon
will be cured of his _first love_ by the sight of newer faces, and
I am resolved to give a hint to Lord Turnstock, to serve as a cue
hereafter, for ridiculing low matches, in the presence of my dear boy,
who will grow wise in time. Poor Zoé is useful to me, and I should
certainly lose a great deal by giving her up, besides appearing cruel
and capricious. No, no; all will come about in the end, and a little
flirtation in early life never leaves lasting impression, now that the
days of romance have vanished. My sister Gordon too, is a valuable
_corps de reserve_. She will come to visit me ere long, and will
dote on Zorilda, who is just formed in the very mould for her. I
_will not_ torment myself: 'All's well that ends well.'"

With the help of these reflections Mrs. Hartland allayed the ferment of
her temper, and went to give orders that due preparation should be made
for the Marquess, who was invited to dine at Henbury, by way of
securing his future friendship for the Oxonian elect. How comically do
people in middling life deceive themselves respecting the nature of an
occasional intercourse with the great! A hum-drum pair, in a remote
situation, ransack the entire district to get up a dull dinner at
enormous cost; and the noble stranger, for whom this unusual expense is
incurred, does penance for a banquet which is supposed to be as fine a
thing in his eyes as in those of his unpractised entertainers, and to
create a sense of obligation never to be forgotten. The Marquess of
Turnstock was precisely one of those young men of fashion who consider
their presence ample requital for a lavish expenditure of the best
viands, and the choicest wines; and as the country afforded little
variety, an invitation from the Hartlands arrived seasonably enough in
aid of killing a day. A cook was sent for to the county town; and fish,
flesh, and fowls, in accredited rotation, were provided from all
quarters. The Marquess brought three or four gentlemen, who were, he
said, "brother sportsmen," along with him; and Mrs. Hartland expressed
herself as particularly gratified with this indication of his desire to
cultivate an intimacy with her son. "It was such an easy friendly act,
and shewed how completely his Lordship felt _at home_" that she augured
every thing from such a beginning.

Zorilda entreated leave to absent herself from the dinner table, to
which Mrs. Hartland at first objected, from a secret hope that some one
of the strangers might be captivated by her beauty, but was prevailed
upon to acquiesce, from an irresistible argument, that the eye of her
protegée might be advantageously employed behind the scenes, in
marshalling the servants, and regulating affairs in a house
unaccustomed, generally speaking, to any other than a plain family
dinner.

Few motives are altogether unmixed. Zorilda's private incentive on the
present occasion was to evade the awkwardness, which till of late had
never been practically distressing to her feelings, of having _no
name_. "The little gipsey," "The Spanish girl," passed lightly over
her ear at an early period, but now planted a dagger in her heart; and
she courted solitude, flying from the presence of even a casual guest.
Mrs. Hartland, however, would not dispense with Zoé's company at the
tea-table, at which she was obliged to preside; but as the gentlemen
were not aware that any metal more attractive than the society of Mrs.
Hartland awaited them in the drawing-room, they were slow in making
their appearance; and when they did leave the dining parlour, some of
the party were certainly not the best society themselves. Elate with
wine, they talked and laughed on their way up stairs, in full
demonstration of having sacrificed too devoutly at the shrine of the
rosy god; but when the drawing-room door was opened, and Zorilda,
glowing with modest loveliness, met their astonished view, their
boisterous mirth received a sudden check, and they all seemed to feel
simultaneously, "how awful beauty is."

The Marquess and his satellite wassailers, were struck with amazement
at sight of the vision which now presented itself to their eyes, and
appeared instinctively to avoid the tea-table at which she sat. A sort
of general introduction took place, in which no name, except that of
the Marquess, was distinctly heard; while Mr. Playfair, who had
protracted his sitting below stairs, in order to act, as far as
hospitality would permit, as a _buff-stop_ on the festive gaiety of his
pupil, took his station on one side of Zorilda, and Mr. Hartland took
possession of a chair on the other. Well pleased to find herself thus
guarded, the timid Zoé smiled sweetly on her supporters, and proceeded
to perform the mysteries of tea and coffee as priestess of the rites.

The reader is not to understand that our guests were inebriated. That
expression conveys too strong a meaning. "Flushed with the Tuscan
grape," they were still _compos_, and after a short pause the _rumble_
of conversation, like that of a mill-wheel, was heard again to succeed
a temporary suspension.

"My friend Forbes, Mrs. Hartland," said Lord Turnstock, "is an
Irishman, and we have been bantering him on his country. I was just
making these gentlemen laugh with the story of an old woman who came to
me some time ago requesting my interference to prevent her grandson,
who had enlisted, from being sent to the Island of Saints with his
regiment. 'Oh my Lord,' said she, 'I shall never see my poor boy again.
They says as how that the Romans are all romancing so furious in
Hireland.' Was'nt it excellent?"

Mrs. Hartland laughed heartily, and Mr. Forbes, a very handsome fine
young man, stepped forward, still addressing her as _Chairman_ of
the Committee in defence of his native Erin:

"I can allow them to amuse themselves, Mrs. Hartland," said the young
Hibernian. "I grant that amongst vulgar people the peculiar tone of my
country, which you may have heard called _brogue_, is not harmonious,
but I would fight it against your Somersetshire, Lancashire, or Cornish
dialects, any day in the year; and as for Irish _character_, it
stands too high to need my championship. Whether I turn my eyes to the
cabinet or the field, whether I contemplate scholarship or divinity,
powers of penmanship or conversation, I find myself standing on such
exalted ground that I can endure the merriment of his Lordship with the
calm dignity of a lion, round whose head the harmless fly is humming.
He shall divert himself as much as he likes with the Anglo-Irish,
provided he sets his hand and seal to the truth of my statement."

"You are too strong to need his Lordship's vote," said Mr. Playfair;
"you have no occasion to solicit, you may command assent; at least this
is not the age for triumph over you. Whichever way we turn Irishmen
meet our eyes in the first situations of the state; and as to the fair
daughters of your Emerald Isle----"

"In _this_ company I withdraw _their_ claim," answered Mr. Forbes; "at
least I am forced to be modest in asserting it."

Zorilda coloured violently; and the Marquess, apparently apprehensive
of not being considered _first_ actor in the scene, looked at his
watch, and ringing the bell, ordered his carriage, which was in fact
already at the door; then apologizing for the lateness of the hour to
which he had been detained by agreeable society, a general leave taking
succeeded, and the guests departed without having exchanged three words
with her who had excited all their curiosity.

"Who is that magnificent girl, Hartland?" said the Marquess, as he
reached the hall door, and got rid of the civilities of his elder host,
who stuck closely to his side all the way down stairs.

"Where was she during dinner-time?" inquired Mr. Forbes.

"Why did you not apprize us of this rural divinity?" asked young Cecil;
"I should gladly have paid her an earlier homage."

As these questions were put all in a breath, Algernon contrived to
evade them; and in the bustle of calling for hats, gloves, &c. they
were never answered. "She can hardly be a sister of Hartland's, she is
so unlike the family," said Lord Turnstock. "I wonder you none of you
asked her name." "One would imagine that she has not any name," replied
one of his companions; "probably the truth is, that this country
_belle_ is affianced to the _heir apparent_ of Henbury, and the
youth is an Othello. I saw him frown like Jupiter while we gazed at
his beloved; and I am sure that the fellow will dream to-night of
rope-ladders, post chaises and four, elopements, and the blacksmith of
Gretna Green."

The Marquess laughed, and fell asleep. Some of his associates followed
his example, and thought no more of Zorilda till they reached Thornton
Abbey; but Cecil and Forbes were not of the number.

"Did you hear the servants say who that young lady is whom I saw at Mr.
Hartland's?" said his Lordship to his valet when he retired to his
bed-chamber.

"No, my Lord, I took no notice, except that I recollect somebody said
that a Virginia nightingale, which I saw in a cage, belonged to Miss
Zoé, or some such name; perhaps she may be the young lady that your
Lordship means."

"Aye i'faith, she is worthy of a Grecian appellation," muttered the
Marquess, as his servant went out of the room. "This fair incognita is
certainly an exotic, and the banks of the Ilissus may have given her
birth. She would make a noise in London, there is no doubt of that."
With this sentence the young Nobleman concluded his meditations; and
having desired to be called betimes to go upon a shooting expedition,
consigned himself to repose. The morning brought its own pursuits, and
Zorilda was either effaced from memory, or so little was elicited
respecting her that inquiry ceased, and the party at Thornton Abbey
dispersed in all directions.

The present age is one of too much refinement for trouble of any kind;
and we have long been spared the slavish toil of thinking for
ourselves. We talk indeed of _free_-thinkers, and make an unusual stir
about liberty of opinion; but that is a _façon de parler_ which
satisfies, while in reality we are more completely led than at any
former period of the world. "Whatever facilitates weakens." The human
mind is strengthened by labour; and now that we have grown too polished
to work, we cannot look for strong judgment; consequently individuality
is not the character of our time, and we are accustomed to praise or
abuse _en masse_. Zorilda with a _title_ would have set the capital on
fire, and filled every eye and tongue; but Zorilda, untrumpeted,
unknown, was soon forgotten. _Name_ is everything; whether of player or
preacher, beauty or book, a fashionable paper or review sounds the key
note, and the chorus is universal.

Preparations were now advancing at Henbury for Algernon's departure to
Oxford; and the desolation of Zoé's heart may be more easily imagined
than described. To lose the beloved companion of her life, her more
than self, seemed wretchedness enough for mortal lot; but in parting
with Mr. Playfair too, she was deprived of the only solace which might
have remained in her affliction, namely, that of talking over the
subject of it with a true friend. Mr. Hartland was good-natured, and
had always been affectionate in his bearing; but there was "no
speculation in his eye," no intelligence in his mind. He was a mere
recipient, and too dull even to reflect with vividness the thoughts of
another. With Mrs. Hartland, Zorilda had ceased to communicate, except
on household affairs.

Young and shrinking sensibility, like the opening rose, will only
diffuse its fragrance while we refrain from rudely touching its
delicate fabric; once decompose the tender structure by unhallowed
finger, and no skill of chemic art can restore its organization.

The dread hour arrived, and Zorilda, convulsed with grief, saw the gate
close upon all that she best loved on earth.



CHAPTER VIII.

                    ----"I'm sorry
    That he approves the common liar, Fame,
    Who speaks him thus at Rome."

    SHAKSPEARE.


How wisely, how mercifully is the future hidden from our view! Who
could bear to look into the book of fate, and see the blighted hopes,
the unfulfilled expectations, which await all human dreamers? But
though ever ready with sufficient vain glory to refer each prosperous
issue to our own prudence and sagacity, we cautiously avoid to charge
ourselves with the least co-operation in unfortunate results. Success
constitutes the hero, and it is with the triumphant only that we desire
to identify ourselves.

Algernon was now sent forth to make his _debut_ in society, and we
shall see how strictly his progress coincides with the previous
training of his mind.

He loved Zorilda with as much fervour as his nature would permit, and
therefore his tears flowed in copious stream as he bid her farewell.
Poor Mrs. Hartland ascribed the grief of her son to his separation from
her maternal arms. She loved him with entireness of senseless devotion,
and fondly flattered herself that she was in return the principal
object of his affections. "Dear boy, he will in vain look round for his
indulgent mother," sobbed the afflicted parent; but even the love of
Zorilda, which was by far the most powerful impression on Algernon's
heart, did not long exclude the joy which gained upon his short-lived
sorrow with every mile of increasing distance from Henbury. He was
going to be his own master in a wider sense than he had ever
experienced. He might do _as he pleased_. Mr. Playfair's vigilant
eye would no longer watch every movement, and he should meet again with
the associates whose short sojournment in the neighbourhood of his
father's house had given him so much pleasure, besides forming many
other similar acquaintances. It was not Algernon's design from the
first to distinguish himself in any kind of scholarship. The assiduity
of his tutor had done something, but even the best talents will not
achieve learning unaccompanied by application. Young Hartland intended
to render his college course as little irksome as possible, and
possessed the means of realizing his views. There is no description of
person, generally speaking, so well supplied with money as an only son
of a private family, in whom, as the sole object of pride and
solicitude, all parental effort is concentrated.

While the young nobleman issues forth depending on his title, and
frequently on that alone for consideration; the child, it may be, of a
half ruined house, hemmed in on every side by mortgages and bonds, and
relying on Jewish facilities of accommodation for keeping up the
present ball, to the destruction of future competency; the _son and
heir_ of _middle_ life sets out with purse well lined. He has no
"lordship" with which to gild poverty, but must pay his way, and
transfer to his pocket the popularity which he is not provided with any
other secret for securing to his person. Algernon was plentifully
supplied, and as soon as he found himself unrestrained by the
expostulations of Mr. Playfair, he began to spend so lavishly that his
rooms were soon the favourite lounge, and he found his acquaintance
universally courted. His vanity was flattered, and he never suspected
the reality of the case, but gave into the delusive belief that he was
sought after for his agreeable qualifications. He wrote letters to his
mother which delighted her. They spoke of viscounts, earls, and
marquesses, as the familiar companions of his hours; and generally
concluded with reminding her that such excellent society as it was his
good fortune to have got into, had only one counteracting evil
attending on its pleasures, which was expense.

"How considerate is our dear fellow!" said Mrs. Hartland; "but he must
not be fettered by too rigid an economy in the opening scene.
Frugality, if necessary, may come hereafter; but first impressions are
of the highest importance, and the most useful connections are often
made in school and college days. A private education has hitherto
deprived my son of this advantage, and it is therefore doubly requisite
to stretch a point at present, and supply him liberally. I have
foreseen all this, and laid by a little _preserve_. We may pinch at
home, and ought to do so, that we may not be said to burn our candle at
both ends; but our boy must be enabled to hold up his head amongst the
best of them."

Mr. Hartland groaned assent, and the amiable Zoé rejoiced in an
opportunity of contributing her mite to Algernon's comfort at Oxford,
by courting all sorts of privation at Henbury during his absence.

It is not surprising that an _outfit_ regulated by these principles,
inspired a belief of riches, and obtained for the freshman such a
reputation for affluence that he was surrounded at once as a honey-pot
is by flies; while credulity supports the illusion from one generation
to another, that a titled herd collected by such means, are to be the
props of after life, compensating by future patronage for the loss of
independence incurred in the pursuit of their friendship. The bubble
bursts, the gull is undeceived, but as experience seldom rectifies the
confidence of hope, a few exceptions are always sufficient to make men
reject the general rule, and expect to find themselves added to the
"glorious minority" of fortune's favoured exceptions. Alas! the prizes
are few, and the blanks are many in the lottery of life, and those are
the wisest who speculate the least on lucky _chances_.

Algernon was quickly initiated, and became the soul and centre of every
scheme which had pleasure for its aim and object. He gave the best
champagne, pulled the best oar, rode the best horse, was always ready
to take up a bet, or accept a boxing challenge, and wasted twice as
much money as any one else thought of expending, in whatever was the
amusement of the day; seeming to render compensation to himself for the
long fast which he had undergone, by devouring pleasure not only with a
knife and fork, but a spoon to boot. He wrote frequently to Zorilda,
and received letters from her in return.

Mrs. Hartland fretted at the correspondence, but had encouraged her son
in the habit of assuming authority to such a degree, that she feared to
resist his will; and was obliged to tolerate what she had lost all
power to control.

Algernon's letters were at first filled with wishes and laments; the
pain of parting; the joy of re-union; interspersed with animated
accounts of new scenes and associates. After a time he became less
punctual, and proposed that Zoé should not balance too strictly the
debtor and creditor sides of their correspondence, but write without
waiting for replies, alleging occupation at his studies as a cause for
the request. Whatever Algernon suggested was right in Zoé's opinion,
and as she was only called on to renounce a self-indulgence, though the
greatest which she could enjoy while separated from her friend, she
acquiesced without a murmur, though not without a sigh.

A longer silence than usual occurred, and Zoé could not sleep from
agitation, fearing that indisposition might occasion the delay. At last
the often-wished-for packet arrived; but though well filled, and giving
details of what Algernon called "pleasant parties," it was the least
satisfactory which Zorilda had ever received. She read it over and
over, yet was less pleased at each re-perusal. We shall give our
readers an opportunity of trying how far they sympathize with poor
Zoé's feelings, by transcribing this letter as a specimen of our young
Oxonian's improvement since he quitted home:

    "Dearest Zoé,

    "I am guilty of a long pause, and you are very angry; but you
    little know how my time is taken up. We have had several rowing
    matches, and I have been taking lessons from some of the _fancy_.
    Every day confirms the disagreeable conviction that I am half a
    century behind my contemporaries. What a cursed folly it is not to
    send boys to a public school! If I had been despatched to Eton
    instead of having been tied to my mother's apron-string all my
    days, I should not have everything to learn, as is my case at
    present. However, they say I am an apt scholar, and I do not
    despair of being soon up with the best of them here.

    "The little Marquess did not return till ten days ago. He received
    me quite like a brother, and we are a great deal together. He says
    he should not know me again, I have lost so much of the '_country
    bumpkin_' already. By the bye, we had a very pleasant party at
    his rooms the other night, but you cannot imagine how foolish I was
    made to look, about you.

    "I wish to heaven you had a name, for it is quite confounding to be
    asked at every turn, 'Who is she?' without being able to get rid of
    farther inquiry, by such a simple answer as can be given of every
    body except yourself from the royal family down to one's
    washerwoman. If I knew the name of the gipsey from whom my good
    papa and mamma ran away with you, I would call you after her; but I
    assure you that rather than encounter another such attack as I have
    endured in your service, I shall christen you, so prepare for being
    called Miss Hazlemoor, or Moor, if you like the monosyllable
    better, on the principle of the old song which Rachael sings, with
    a line in it something like this following:

        "For the least said, the sooner amended;"

    and amended it will all be one of these days, when I marry you. It
    will little signify when you are my wife--_perchance_ a titled
    one--what name you were known by before. Do not be cast down, my
    pretty Zo. I have promised, you know, to raise you from your
    present obscurity, and I can tell you, it is no small proof of my
    love, that I do not mean to forget my engagement; but I must tell
    you how they fell upon me the other night.

    "Turnstock gave champagne, and some five or six assembled by
    appointment at his rooms. We were going on very gaily, when my evil
    genius put it into the Marquess's head to turn shortly round, and
    say to me, 'Hartland, who the devil is that fair enchantress whom
    your mother has got _cooped_ up at Henbury; not your _sister_, I
    presume, eh?'

    "Unprepared for the question, I was completely at a nonplus, and
    losing all presence of mind, I hummed, and hawed, and stammered
    out--Zorilda.

    "'A fine romantic appellation truly,' said his Lordship; 'Donna
    Zorilda! but to what noble house does she belong?'

    "'I cannot tell,' answered I. 'To tell you the truth, a mystery
    hangs over her birth which I am not permitted to unravel.'

    "'Oh! I cry you mercy,' replied the Marquess; 'I shall not make
    further inquisition; I see how it is, 'A rose by any other name
    would smell as sweet;' so says the poet. A little mystery, they say
    is never _amiss_. Now it _is a Miss_, and nobody knows _who_, upon
    the present occasion; but n'importe; Zorilda is a lovely girl; and
    Zoé, as your servants call her, is better still, associated, as are
    those three letters, with all the nectar and ambrosia of Grecian
    song. We will place the Amaranth wreath on Zoé's brow, and drink to
    her health in a bumper of champagne. Come, Hartland, fill your
    glass. You shall not undergo any farther catechism. You are too
    wise a man to marry an 'inexpressive she:' and as for a little of
    the doubtful in any other relation of life, there is no need of
    taking it to heart.'

    "Now I know that all this sort of thing will fret and vex you, but
    never mind, we will talk of other matters. Turnstock is uncommonly
    clever, and I can assure you that we have often very deep
    conversation. He brought a young man with him from town who
    received his education here, but as he wants money and has plenty
    of brains, he has taken to writing for the Reviews. The little
    Marquess talks of getting up a periodical here under his own
    inspection. It is to be called 'The Freeman;' so if you see it
    advertised you will know whence it springs. We had a sort of
    _rehearsal_ last night, when some contributions were brought in. A
    friend of mine had a hit against his Lordship which made me laugh.
    The former brought an Essay on the Paradise Lost, which was read,
    but the Marquess condemned it. 'No, Caulfield, that will not do,'
    said he. 'I do not patronize your sentiments on Milton. You must
    try your pen at something else.'

    "'I thought, my Lord,' answered Caulfield, 'that we were to write
    for the _Freeman_, but I find that it is for the _Bondsman_.'

    "'Free or Bond, I shall not insert your Essay, my good fellow,'
    answered his Lordship. 'I mean to have this my own way. I set my
    face against all prosing; not a word of any poet older than Byron
    of immortal fame; and I will give a prize of his works, bound in
    russia, to whoever brings me the best satire on our modern novels,
    which are growing so decidedly moral, metaphysical, and soporific,
    that I would as lief sit down to Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity as
    open a volume of any of the last half dozen which have issued from
    the press. I think I shall write a novel myself, and call it
    'Re-action; or, the Extinguisher.'

    "You would not like any of my friends I am afraid, who are
    certainly not _religious_ men. The Marquess cavils at holy writ: I
    was going to stand up its advocate, but found it better to hold my
    tongue. There are many good people here, but Turnstock calls them
    _Spoonies_, and I do not feel any ambition to be ridiculed as
    one of the fraternity. Remember that I am only talking of my own
    set; so my father need not take alarm, and accuse me of a libel on
    his favourite Oxford. Things, however, are changed every where
    since his day. The Marquess declares that religion is only a
    political consideration now with strong heads. The march of mind,
    he says, has outstripped superstition and all her train. I do not
    say that he is right, for I am not much versed as yet in matters of
    this nature. The miserable error of bringing me up at home has
    prevented me, amongst many other things, from knowing what general
    opinion really is. In fact, Turnstock, who gives me more insight
    into these subjects than any one else, and who ought to be good
    authority, is eloquent in decrying all narrow limitations of sect
    or nation. He says that all mankind should be considered as a great
    family, claiming equal rights, and entitled to equal privileges;
    that all qualifications which exclude any individual from the
    attainment of power are infractions of natural justice; and all
    religious establishments are the offspring of persecution. He
    speaks beautifully, and uses very convincing arguments. For
    instance, he says, that to be born and to die are common to the
    whole created species, and no favour or partiality distinguishes
    one man from another in these two extreme events. The same pangs
    usher every mortal into existence--helpless, naked, and like his
    fellows in all things. Death again sweeps away irrespectively the
    beggar and the king, who both lie down in the grave where all their
    thoughts perish, and both are resolved alike into dust. 'What right
    then,' reasons Turnstock, 'has man to play such antic tricks before
    high heaven, and parcel out the intermediate term so unequally in
    his generation, that some shall lord it triumphantly, while others
    starve? Some rule with tyrannous sway, while thousands cringe in
    chains, and are forced to obey the few who usurp dominion over
    them?' I wish that you could hear him declaim upon these topics.
    Caulfield, who is always ready with some vexatious question or
    remark, but who had listened, as I thought, with as much
    satisfaction as I did myself to the whole harangue yesterday
    evening, asked rudely enough at its close, 'And pray, good my Lord,
    why are you the Marquess of Turnstock? Your guardians went through
    a tedious litigation to procure the title for you which another
    claimed, and fiercely contested. Though not called, like
    Cincinnatus, exactly from the plough, your Lordship's situation now
    is very different from what it was. Yet you do not object to these
    inequalities in your own case!'

    "Turnstock looked contemptuously round, and silenced the inquirer
    in a summary manner, 'Pooh, pooh, Caulfield. You are like a fly,
    for ever buzzing in one's ears. It is a pity you do not enter at
    Cambridge, _ad eundem_; you are a _Wrangler_ without the trouble of
    learning, and all competitors will make way for you.'

    "There was a great laugh against Caulfield, and so ended the
    dispute. I have enlisted under Turnstock's banner. I like his
    Epicurean philosophy, and think that his doctrines would tend to
    render mankind a far happier race than they are. Remember what I
    told you about writing with lemon-juice, and be sure to hold all my
    letters to the fire after you have read them through. Like Janus we
    must wear two faces, you know, while we are watched. A day will
    come when we may defy all vigilance, and interchange our thoughts
    in ink of any colour. Farewell, my Zoé, how I long to see you!" &c.

Zorilda vainly attempted to counteract the influences which she found
increasing reason to perceive were exercised over Algernon's mind to
the injury of his character. Her young heart poured forth its
entreating eloquence, but the poison had begun to work, and she had not
sufficient power to arrest its deadly progress. In vain did she appeal
to the memory of happier days in strains like the following, which we
extract from one of her letters:

    "Oh, my Algernon! is it for this that I have submitted to the mean
    device of dissimulation, and joined in a plot to deceive your
    mother by writing that which she is not to see? When I complied
    with your proposal to adopt this mode of frustrating her
    penetration, it was that I might spare her pain, and exert the
    power which I fondly imagined I possessed over your mind to your
    advantage, by constantly reminding you of the lessons which our
    dear and valued preceptor left us as a parting legacy. Algernon, I
    am punished for forgetting that we must not do evil in hope of
    future good. Yet after once o'erstepping the barrier which
    separates truth from falsehood, the noble ingenuousness of virtue
    for the mean accommodations of artifice, how difficult to regain
    the track of probity and honour! I feel with bitterness, how
    greatly I have erred; yet before I for ever abjure this dishonest
    method of conveying to you my secret thoughts, I will for once
    express the anguish of my heart, as I trace in your altered
    language a different Algernon from him who was the brother of my
    infant years, the beloved friend of riper age. Have _you_, too,
    become ashamed of the nameless Zorilda? and do _you_ ask 'Who is
    she?' with scornful reproach? Then indeed is my cup of affliction
    filled to overflowing. Talk no more of a day to come, when raised
    to the dignity of your wife. That question, which has been the
    blight of my Spring--the spectre of my solitude--the besetting
    demon of a ceaseless persecution; shall no longer scare me with
    humiliation and debasement. Zorilda will never purchase repose at
    Algernon's cost. How can such things be? Does not true affection
    identify itself with the object on which it rests? Would not 'Who
    was she?' be a death knell of my happiness still more appalling
    to my heart than the inquiry which now condemns me _alone_ to
    obscurity and shame! Never will I repay by base ingratitude the
    kindness which fostered a houseless child of want. I will fulfil my
    sad destiny, and pray for courage to meet the sting which awaits
    me. I shall be assisted from above, and Mr. Playfair's counsel will
    support my tottering steps. The path of duty is often one of
    difficulty and fatigue, but it is safe. There are no precipices
    along the way.

    "Algernon, my heart is breaking, and my selfish pen lingers amongst
    its sorrows, instead of exercising what little energy remains in
    the endeavour to recal you from a road which will lead to
    destruction if you continue to pursue its course. You have fallen
    amongst evil advisers, who are beginning their work by shaking
    those principles which Mr. Playfair says are our only pillars of
    strength--our only rock and refuge in the hour of temptation. Your
    self-denying parents intend to sacrifice the joy of holding you in
    their arms this summer, that you may profit by Lord Turnstock's
    invitation to accompany him on the Continent--_profit_ did I say?
    Alas! how foreign from my thoughts is the idea which that word
    conveys. No, dear Algernon, you will never gain by his example, and
    I weep as I contemplate your growing attachment to his society. I
    find in all your letters now something that spoils the pleasure
    which I used to feel in talking to you. Why is this, unless because
    the sympathy which was wont to knit our pursuits is fading away?

    "You tell me, too, that I must change; you say that I am a
    rustic--that I am not skilled in music--that I am too independent,
    and want that softness (perhaps from your description I should
    rather call it langour), which you tell me is the most attractive
    feature of female character. Alas! that I am very imperfect and
    very ignorant, a very cursory glance into my own heart too fatally
    convinces me every day; but my self reproach does not fall where
    you would point it. Why should I desire to be no longer a rustic?
    Is not the retirement in which I live better suited to the
    unhappy--the nameless orphan, than those scenes in which 'Who is
    she?' would be the brand of degradation? Is not my simple song, to
    which you once loved to sit and listen, adapted to my lowly lot,
    and the natural language of a sorrowing heart? Why should I regret
    that I am not versed in the mechanism of instrumental music. What
    have I to do with an admiring audience?

    "Yet do not believe me insensible to the charms of melody. I am
    young, and might improve with opportunity. To make the harp respond
    to the sadness which dwells within, would be a delightful
    companionship, but it is denied to me, and I must not repine. Oh
    no, there is but one murmur in my breast, but one murmur on my
    tongue, and from my pen.

    "Why am I thus forsaken? Why this homeless, houseless, friendless
    thing? This is the rankling thorn--the sharp arrow which festers
    and corrodes my vitals--which haunts me in visions of the night,
    and paralyzes every energy of soul by day. All other ills I can
    bear; and believe that they are good for me. You tell me that the
    pretty folly, the imploring weakness, the passive non-resistance of
    Lord Turnstock's sister, are fascinating; and you want me to copy
    without having seen the original. Much as I love to try and please
    you, and grateful as I feel for your wish to render me more capable
    of doing so, I cannot promise docility in this respect. Dear Mr.
    Playfair's words are engraven on my memory, and his very last
    letter repeats them. He bids me follow nature, and avoid every
    species of affectation. He reminds me that there are two glossaries
    which interpret the same words by different methods; that the timid
    supplication, the credulous innocence, the nervous sensibility, so
    captivating in a young beauty, are explained by far other terms in
    wives, sisters, daughters, and known in them by the harsher
    epithets of troublesome helplessness, ignorance, and fatiguing
    egotism, when the vapouring dreams of a youthful gallant are
    sobered into the honest but too often uncourteous phrase of
    husband, father, brother.

    "This advice may seem to have no application to one who is a
    stranger to _all_ the endearing relations of life, who has never
    known the blessing of those tender ties which bind the heart in
    sweet, yet wholesome, bondage; but truth is always the same. Let me
    pursue my homely track unseen. It will lead me to the quiet grave,
    where all my sorrows will have an end, but oh! my dearest Algernon,
    beware of the vortex into which _you_ are gliding; your parents can
    not supply your increasing demands upon their resources. They
    already feel your extravagance. Fly temptation, while it is still
    in your power to break the spell. You are undone if you accompany
    the Marquess. Oh! do not plunge us in despair. Mr. Playfair has the
    worst opinion of your associates, and I believe has written a
    warning letter to your father, suggested by his knowledge of Lord
    Turnstock's general character; I write in secret, and this will
    reach you by a private hand; farewell," &c.

Zoé's voice would once have roused Algernon to any enterprise, or
deterred him from any undertaking; but though he loved her better than
all things else, she was distant, pleasure present. Her melancholy
forebodings cast a gloom over his mind, and at length grew so
distasteful, that he resolved to adopt a new language in his
correspondence with her; pretending to be influenced by her advice, he
promised to be on his guard against the allurements which she dreaded,
assuring her that, sensible of the errors into which young men might be
led, he designed to be very particular in his selection of acquaintance,
should he feel himself so far engaged to accompany his friends to the
Continent, that he could not break through the arrangement. The heart
is of easy faith, when it wishes to believe, and the innocent Zorilda,
who knew nothing of the world, except what she had heard of its snares
from the instructor of her youth, seized with joy on the happy omen;
and the roses of health again bloomed on her pallid cheek, with all the
freshness of spring.

"Beloved Algernon," she would exclaim, while training the jessamine
which was taught to decorate his favourite seat, or visiting with
thoughtful tenderness the animals committed to her care, "you will
never be led away from these pure delights. The blandishments of vice
shall vainly attempt to dazzle, and its wicked artifices to entangle,
my Algernon, who will return unpolluted by the influence of bad
example. These sweet flowers will have new charms for him, and I shall
proudly deliver up my trust when I show him these birds of brilliant
wing, his dogs, and all his play-fellows so grown, so beautified, under
my guardianship."

Zorilda's hours now glided swiftly as the weaver's shuttle. She was
full of employment, and Algernon was the inspiring object of all she
did or imagined; improving daily in loveliness of face and form, and
glowing with animation, she seemed by her presence to cheer creation,
and, like the blessed sun, to dispel every cloud that gathered on the
horizon.

While Algernon was away from home, his mother, who never reflected much
on any thing, the immediate pressure of which on her external senses
did not force itself upon her mind, resumed her cheerfulness, and
finding in Zorilda all that the sweetest filial duty could bestow,
treated her once more with as much affection as her selfish nature
could feel. Mr. Hartland loved her as a daughter, and amongst the
dependents of every degree she was considered as an angel of light who
had descended from Heaven, to shower mercy and consolation on the poor,
the sick, and the afflicted. As Zorilda avoided strangers with the
greatest anxiety, she was seldom seen, and as she never left Henbury,
except to go to the parish church, in which a curtain round the pew
where she sat, and a veil on her bonnet, afforded all the privacy which
she sought, it is not surprising that the fame of her beauty had not
gone much abroad.

While Algernon was absent too, the motive for seeing company being
removed, the family assumed more than their usual habits of economy, to
enable Mrs. Hartland to indulge her vanity, in providing for the
excesses of her son, whose constantly increasing demands were founded
on false pretences; and his parents were imposed upon, by a belief that
they were aiding his advancement in life, while in reality they
ministered to every species of extravagance. Zorilda was the presiding
genius, who by her skill and activity achieved all Mrs. Hartland's
purposes without compromising a single duty; and though every expense
was regulated with the strictest attention, the interests of those
whose claims on benevolence had ever been accredited, were not
forgotten; and this admirable girl contrived to transfer to her friends
the praises which were due to herself alone. The cultivation of her
mind was her sole recreation: a fine talent for drawing, diversified
her amusements, and had it not been for the thorn at the heart, which
busy occupation sometimes concealed, but which no effort could extract,
her life might have presented as near a resemblance to what may be
imagined of higher spirits, whose existence is compounded of love and
knowledge, as had ever been witnessed on earth.

Algernon went abroad with his friend the Marquess without returning
home to take leave; and Mrs. Hartland revelled in all the novelty of an
heroic act of self-denial, which would bring about the accomplishment
of her object in the natural death, as she prognosticated, of that
attachment which was the bane of her ambition.

It was many years since Mrs. Gordon, the younger sister of Mrs.
Hartland, had visited her friends in England; and low spirits
occasioned by her son's departure having been urged by his mother as
an additional plea in her present invitation, it obtained a favourable
answer; and the pleasure of a family meeting in prospect in some
degree compensated for the privation to which she had condemned
herself; while Zorilda, whose eye governed every department, found in
making preparation for the coming guests a source of added employment
which helped to banish painful thoughts. She had heard much of Mrs.
Gordon from Mr. Playfair, and longed, with eager curiosity, to see
with her own eyes one of whom he spoke with such enthusiastic
admiration, and of whom she could only remember how kind she was to a
gipsey child. At _that_ time Zorilda was a prodigal of friendship,
because she did not want any larger store than Henbury supplied; but
she felt now, that if indeed Mrs. Gordon were to prove such a being as
she had been represented, her society would be a jewel above all
price.

The Gordons arrived, and Mr. Playfair's portrait was not exaggerated.
Much has been said against those sudden and sentimental attachments, to
which the female sex is accused of being especially addicted: and we
are not desirous of weakening the force of ridicule, which is justly
ascribable to vows of eternal friendship made at sight; but there is a
sympathy between kindred souls, which, as it will always exist in
nature, we may be permitted to hope will escape condemnation, and never
be confounded with the transitory illusions of romance. Such a sympathy
almost immediately drew Mrs. Gordon and Zorilda to each other, and
every day's experience confirmed the mutual attraction. Mr. and Mrs.
Gordon inspired the idea of having been shut up in an ark with a chosen
band, and "all appliances and means to boot," for preserving every
intellectual and social energy in constant play, untainted by the vices
or the follies of a surrounding world.

It may be imagined by some, who hold a widely extended intercourse with
mankind to be requisite to liberal views and enlightened
understandings, that such a description must necessarily imply narrow
minds, and limited information; but nothing could be more mistaken than
such a conclusion. In our present state of civilization, dark and
secluded must be that recess into which books and opinions do not find
their way, and perhaps it may be truly said of various kinds of
knowledge, that it is not unusually found in an inverse proportion with
the distance from its source. Whatever may be the truth, as a general
remark, the fact was, that in the particular instance with which we are
concerned at present, the Scotch visitors who now added to the family
circle at Henbury, appeared to Zorilda to be no other than the genii of
some more favoured planet, invested with the keys of all those sacred
stores from which the best possessions of mankind are derived. Her
clear intelligence and brilliant fancy, which had never before
"sparkled in collision," now expanded in a congenial atmosphere, and
the innocent Zoé was surprised by the powers of comprehension awakened
in her mind by the talisman of such society as she enjoyed for the
first time in her short life.

Mr. Playfair had been a mine of intellect, but the parental interest
which he felt for his pupil, induced caution in the encouragement of
those quick sensibilities which he foresaw would prove the bane of her
happiness. He had therefore always led her to such studies as exercised
her reason more than her imagination; and had endeavoured to repress
every tendency to excitement in a character of such refined texture and
vivid glow, that he dreaded its future contact with a world in which so
little would be found in sympathy with its delicate structure. What
rapture, was it not natural to think, did Zorilda now experience in
meeting with her _beau ideal_ of female friendship in Mrs. Gordon,
of whom she became almost a worshipper!

No human beings, born in the Antipodes of each other, could be more
entirely unlike than Mrs. Hartland and her sister. The latter, who was
by some years the younger of the two, had lived from her childhood with
an uncle who resided in Edinburgh, and held a high place amongst the
literati of his time. Under the auspices of this relation, who was
equally distinguished by his learning and worth, Eugenia Robinson had
enjoyed advantages which few young females possess, and of which still
fewer at the present day, are inclined to avail themselves when
offered. Mingling continually in company with men whose conversation
bore testimony to their genius and pursuits, she had opportunity for
indulging a thirst after all manner of solidly valuable acquisition,
without, happily for herself, incurring any of those stupid taunts with
which ignorance so frequently and successfully frightens away a spirit
of inquiry, or on the other hand attracting that sickly applause,
which, by flattering human weakness, often substitutes a contemptible
vanity for the genuine desire of improvement in mental cultivation.

Eugenia Robinson was not set up as a prodigy, nor was there the
slightest parade in her education; but she lived in a capital where it
is still the fashion to wear heads and hearts, and where she therefore
found that she might think without being called a _Blue_, and feel
without being styled a _romancer_. In the midst of that society which
her uncle brought together at his house, Eugenia met Mr. Gordon,
and after a time, marriage cemented a union which had long been
acknowledged by reciprocal preference, before it was confirmed at the
altar. Never did Hymen's torch light home a happier pair, and the
flame is not extinguished, but burns more purely and brightly in the
tranquil atmosphere of domestic life, than while it was hurried to and
fro, along the varying currents of hope and fear.

The wise man's prayer, "give me neither poverty nor riches," was
granted to them, and retiring to Drumcairn, a pleasant spot in
Aberdeenshire, they realized all that poets dream of conjugal felicity.
They had no children, but this was not a source of repining, first
because they firmly believed that every dispensation of Heaven is
ordered by unerring judgment, while that of mortal man is fallible and
short sighted; and secondly, because they were happy in each other, and
there was no craving void for vain wishes to occupy. Their days were
passed in the exercise of practical benevolence, not wasted in the busy
idleness of fashionable life; and their amusements were inspired by
rural objects, music, in which Mrs. Gordon was a proficient, and an
excellent library, which was constantly augmenting its stores, by the
addition of every new book worthy of a place upon its shelves.

Contentment, activity, and independence brought forth all their fruit
at Drumcairn, and Zorilda, who had felt through secret instinct that
such things _might_ be, though she had never seen them, opened her
whole soul to the genial influence of her new associates, as the
butterfly unfolds its radiant wing to the sunbeam.

Mrs. Gordon understood her thoughts before they found expression, and
entered into all her feelings while yet she believed them hidden in her
own breast; sympathizing or repressing, correcting or informing, as
acquaintance increased, and occasion suggested; but the grateful heart
of our gentle Zoé was not estranged from its early ties by the novelty
of that enchantment which an ardent mind experiences in gazing, for the
first time, on its own image in the bosom of a friend; like that of Eve
reflected from the clear waters of Paradise, when newly awakened from
sleep, she approached with timid step, now advancing, now retiring, to
grasp the lovely form which gave a second self to view. Zorilda, in the
retirement of her chamber, often breathed the silent murmur, "Oh why do
sisters differ thus?" but her heart replied, that Mrs. Hartland
deserved her gratitude, and she was Algernon's mother. Her innocent
prayers were then sent up to Heaven for strength to perform her course
in the path of duty, and she would fall into a rosy slumber, dreaming
of happy virtuous love and devoted friendship.

The character of Mr. Gordon resembled that of her friend and tutor,
which quickly secured him a place in her affections. She was charmed
with the clearness of his views, and the straight forward integrity of
his practice; but the more Zorilda was captivated by society thus
congenial, the more sedulously did she endeavour, by redoubled
attention, to avoid exhibiting to her benefactors how much they lost by
comparison with their guests. Every moment which could be snatched from
those cares which Zorilda never neglected, was employed in cultivating
the present opportunity of enjoyment; and Mrs. Hartland secretly
triumphed in the fulfilment of her project. She saw, in the mutual
attachment of her sister and her ward, the future feasibility of
sending the latter off to Scotland, should Algernon's travels not have
effaced all dangerous recollections; and in this view she had for the
first time an appearance of unselfishness by promoting a companionship
which afforded gratification to those around her. Pride prevented her
from divulging her fears.

"If," said she to herself, "my son is cured of his childish folly,
there is no use in exposing it. If, on the other hand, he should
relapse into any nonsense, it will be time enough to act. 'Sufficient
to the day is the evil thereof.' I might restrain my sister's affection
for Zoé were I to clog it with future demands, so I will let things
work their own way, and take advantage of results as occasion may
require."

This was Mrs. Hartland's policy; Zorilda had other motives for her
silence, and a tremulous delicacy of feeling prevented her from
reposing in the bosom of her dearest friend those hopes and fears which
disturbed the serenity of her own; but Mrs. Gordon knew human nature,
and her sister's individual character. The first taught her to believe
it very possible that her nephew might not be proof against such
attractions as those of her young friend, while the latter assured her
that nothing could be less consonant with the wishes of his mother than
that Zorilda should exercise any influence over his affections. These
abstract surmises were brought to clearer testimony by a conversation
after dinner one day, which turned on genealogy.

"There is nothing like a good family," said Mrs. Hartland; "even money
is not of so much consequence; and for my part I would rather see my
only child dead at my feet than that he should bring disgrace upon
himself and all belonging to him by marrying any one of low birth."

Though Zorilda had resolved to command her actions, she had no power to
control her looks; and the sudden transition from a crimson blush to
deadly pale, expressed more than she wished to communicate, and
revealed sentiments which no force of language could contradict.

"My love," said Mrs. Gordon, as she rose hastily from her chair, and
went towards Zorilda, "I told you that you had walked too far. I saw
that you were greatly fatigued. You are quite overcome now by the heat
of this room, and must come with me directly into the fresh air." Zoé
pressed the hand which was extended towards her, and accompanied her
kind conductress.

When relieved from the restraint of observation on the part of those
who knew all her little history, she burst into tears; and when the
soothing caresses of Mrs. Gordon had tranquillized her spirits
sufficiently to permit of utterance, her first anxiety was to explain
her emotion without touching on its principal spring.

"Oh!" exclaimed Zorilda, "what a misfortune, is it not? to be thus a
prey to the most agonizing sensations upon a subject altogether beyond
the scope of my power to elucidate or control! I am ashamed of my
weakness, of my rebellion against that Almighty Being who decrees my
trials, who my bible teaches me to believe, 'loveth whom He chasteneth,
and scourgeth the son whom he would save.' Is it a crime to be thus
forlorn; the sport of every wind, or like the wreck of some
sea-foundered skiff, a severed fragment floating on the ocean of life,
unknown, unclaimed, unacknowledged? Alas! I have tried to school my
warring soul, and bend it to its burthen. I have prayed to Him who can
alone strengthen our frail nature, but I have prayed in vain; I am not
heeded. I am an outcast in Heaven as on earth."

"Beloved child," replied the tender friend, who now sought to pour
balsam on a wounded spirit, "you pray not yet in fulness of _trust_;
you importune, but you do not confide. It is sometimes permitted us to
understand the discipline inflicted by Him who desireth not the death
of a sinner, who will never allow us to be tempted beyond our power to
endure. In Heaven there are no pedigrees; God will have your whole
heart, give it freely to Him who gives you all. Bless Him for the
dangers which you have escaped; His mercy has snatched you from the
perils which encompassed your infant head, and a day may come----"

"Never! never!" answered Zorilda, "it is a vain hope. Perhaps I shewed
less presence of mind to day than I might have summoned to my aid on
another occasion, because that long walk, which you, dearest Mrs.
Gordon, chid me for adventuring, was undertaken this morning in quest
of some information respecting my hapless tale. While resting yesterday
beneath the hawthorn hedge, I overheard a labourer telling our gardener
that a young man had lately come into the neighbourhood to marry one of
our farmers' daughters, and professed to have seen me in former days,
as well as to know how I fell into the hands of a gipsey horde.
Breathless and agitated I listened with the deepest attention, but the
men were walking forward, and I caught no more of their conversation.
On my return to the house I consulted with Rachael, that faithful
creature who was placed by the kindness of Mrs. Hartland to watch over
my tender years. She loves me dearly, and her affection has often been
a refuge for my sorrows. She knew at once, by my account, who the
person was to whom the labourer alluded, and promised to make minute
inquiry; but my impatience would not brook delay, and after a sleepless
night, I set off, accompanied by her, at early dawn to see and speak
myself to the stranger. Buoyed up at one moment by hope; at another,
trembling with fear, I flew along, regardless of distance, and reached
the cottage were he was to be found; I saw, and conversed with him. My
curiosity has been punished. Alas! the little he could tell, has only
served to add bitterness to my former ignorance. He told me that he
pursued the gipsey group, to which I afterwards belonged, for the
purpose of obtaining payment for a horse from the very man who
purchased me, and who was the greatest rogue of the whole party, as
also their chief. At length my informer found these wild people
encamped upon the southern coast, and while he remained to transact his
own business, he witnessed a negotiation, which put the lawless band in
possession of the miserable Zoé. A woman, dressed in mean attire, and
having the appearance of a soldier's wife, offered me for sale. The
bargain was made. The man who bought me inquired my name, and the
unfeeling wretch who could so barter her weeping infant for a sum of
money, replied, 'You may call her Zorilda. I have just landed with her
from Spain, and the sooner you change your quarters the better.' The
gipsey chief next inquired of the woman whether she had a husband,
fearing that the father might follow, to reclaim his child. 'No, no,'
answered the she wolf, whom, I am now tortured by supposing to have
been my mother; 'he is laid low enough. He was killed, and will not
rise from the grave to trouble you. I must not linger here. Hide the
child till you arrive in another part of the country, and set off with
your prize as fast as you can.'

"This is the sum and substance of all the information I could glean.
The woman who made traffic of her offspring, would not tell the gipsies
to what regiment her husband belonged, nor mention his name. I have,
therefore, not the slightest clue by which to make further scrutiny,
and the only knowledge which I have gained, deprives me of the humble
consolation which I before enjoyed, of dreaming that I was once folded
in the arms of an adoring parent, who, however lowly her lot of life,
still loved and pressed me to a mother's bosom. The keenness of this
disappointment, and the certainty that the moral qualities of her who
gave me birth were as debased as her station, peculiarly unfitted me to
bear with calmness the sentence which Mrs. Hartland pronounced to-day
upon a vulgar origin.

"Oh, why are my feelings so acute? Sprung from the lowest abyss, the
very dregs of my species, why are my thoughts so proud? Why is my will
thus rebellious? If, like the humble hind who tills the earth, I could
be satisfied with the rank assigned by Providence, I could be happy; I
could raise my hands to heaven, and bless my creator in the temple of
nature; bend to my rustic toil, and repose in peace; but there is a war
within, which murders rest. I feel as if I had been formed for another
destiny, and my spirit cannot submit in meekness to this degradation."

"My Zorilda," answered Mrs. Gordon, "you have not reduced religion to
practice, and your trials have been sufficient to render the task of
obedience severe; but it must be learned. The morbid sensibility which
you encourage blinds your understanding, and you draw false
conclusions. The inference which _I_ derive from your dialogue
with the stranger this morning is directly opposite to that which you
deduce. The soldier's wife was not your mother. Nay, I should decide
against her having even been your nurse. The strong instincts of nature
are seldom violated, and amid all the depravity of human kind there are
few instances of such unnatural character as you take for granted in
the present case. Zorilda is not a name by which an English soldier's
wife would have been likely to call her daughter; neither would a woman
who sold her own child, and whose husband was no longer living to
upbraid her, or seek its recovery, have had any apparent motive for the
concealment which she desired, in the speedy decampment of the gipsies.
Be assured that you are rather the offspring of Spanish parents,
probably of rank and consideration. Silk and velvet, of which materials
your dress was made when first my sister saw you, are not the common
manufactures which clothe inferior people. Who has had the misfortune
to lose you, is a mystery which I wish we were enabled to solve, but
all that I _do_ know convinces me that you are not the child of her
who sold you to the gipsey gang."

"Dear and kind friend," exclaimed Zorilda, "how grateful am I for the
tender feeling with which you try to mitigate my pain. I will not repel
your efforts--I will adopt your creed--it shall be mine, and I will
endeavour to believe that I was indeed stolen from my home by the cruel
being who passed me again into stranger hands. But what a fate is mine,
when such a surmise is the best consolation which can be offered. Had I
been left in my native land, though torn from all I loved, I might have
been brought up in the religion of my ancestors, and found an asylum in
some friendly convent. You have no such refuge here for the unhappy."

"All England is the refuge of the destitute," replied Mrs. Gordon; "her
bounteous shores have been pressed by royal fugitives, and this
glorious land, this favoured soil, has sheltered kings as well as
slaves from the tyranny of other climes. Shall my Zoé repine at having
imbibed the doctrines of a purer faith than that of Spain? The heart
may freely dedicate itself to God without the call of matin or of
vesper bell. We have altars every where, and do not want the convent's
gloomy pile to enshrine our prayers. Those sad receptacles are
frequently the scene of guilt, and the prison walls of the religious
recluse, too often contain devotion of every kind but that to Heaven."

"Oh forgive my impetuosity; I stand convicted of my error. Be my
counsellor; speak peace to a wounded spirit, and you shall find in
Zorilda a docile as well as a grateful heart," said the lovely
Spaniard, with an expression of countenance so contrite, so imploring,
as to touch Mrs. Gordon to the soul; but afraid of indulging affection
which would be soon interrupted by her own departure from Henbury, she
repressed the tear which rose to her eye, and looking at her young and
beautiful companion with an air of encouraging kindness, she kissed,
raised her gently from the seat on which they had been conversing, and
leading her towards the house, emphatically uttered those inspired
words of the royal Psalmist, "Whom have I in Heaven but thee; and whom
do I desire on earth beside thee?" adding, "When we can answer this
passionate and affecting inquiry with sincerity, and feel that there is
no idol dividing the empire of our hearts with that being who will not
reign over a disputed kingdom, then, and not till then, shall the
distracted bosom find repose."

Zorilda started, coloured violently, and looked as if her heart would
burst its prison without permission from her will, but just as her lips
were going to obey its impulse, she checked the accents as they were
escaping, and after a momentary pause, during which a short but
dreadful conflict seemed to convulse her frame, she caught the arm of
her friend, and calling up all the fortitude of virtuous resolution to
her aid, exclaimed--

"Yes! be it so; God is the orphan's portion. He is the defender of the
fatherless. You have touched a hidden chord. The world is of Proteus
form; and even in such seclusion as this, its roses or its thorns can
occupy the imagination, and divert the soul from its devotion to the
Supreme. I will bind your words upon my heart! I will remember that
within my own breast there is an altar of dedication to receive my
vows. The offering only is wanting to complete the sacrifice, and you
have furnished the test by which I am to seek the victim."

"Make no vows, my child," said Mrs. Gordon; "freedom is with noble
minds the straitest bondage. Endure your trials; kiss the rod. Believe
that affliction comes not from the dust; it is sent from on high to
purify and exalt. The murmur of irritability, and the gloomy silence of
a sullen temper, are alike remote from that submission which your God
requires to fit you for the glorious society of angels. Should an
earthly friend be wanted by my Zoé, while I live, remember Drumcairn,
and fly to its peaceful retreat."

These words sank too deeply for reply. The Gordons returned to
Scotland; and in an hour after they drove from the door. While Zorilda
was plunged in the deepest grief and lamentation, a letter arrived to
announce the approach of Algernon.



CHAPTER IX.

    "Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promised."

    SHAKSPEARE.


The difference between hope and fruition is a hacknied theme, and there
are few pleasures belonging to man, of which it may not be said, with
Congreve, that

    "'Tis expectation makes the blessing dear."

Scarcely had Zorilda bid adieu to the friends whose society had
afforded that fulness and variety of enjoyment which constitute the
longest as well as most delightful measure of remembered time, when in
an hour of such desolation as a heart like hers, alive to the strongest
impressions, could alone experience; the current of her grief was
disturbed, as is the rivulet's gentle flow, when a fragment from the
mountain side dashes into the midst of the stream, breaking its silent
waters into a thousand troubled eddies.

A letter from Algernon came to announce his intended return, and one
brief fortnight would now give him back to the eyes and heart of her
whose agitated spirits bore speaking testimony to the powerful hold
which he possessed on her affections.

Two years had intervened since our hero left Henbury for Oxford. He had
contrived, on various pretences, to lengthen his stay at Paris, till
the University appeared to be altogether abandoned. Mrs. Hartland felt
her son's absence severely, but it was some consolation to believe that
he was extending his connections advantageously amongst people whose
rank and consequence were conformable to the future dignity of his
prospects. She likewise trusted, that present sacrifice of his society
would be repaid by the perfect cure of his first love.

Algernon never failed to flatter the weakness of his parents, and while
time and money were wasted in profligacy, a list of distinguished names
deceived them, gratified their vanity, and cheated them, through a
series of vaunting lies, into the fond assurance, that their darling
was the principal ornament of the Court of France. He had quarrelled
with the Marquess of Turnstock, but concealed his separation from him,
and the true motive of his present design to re-visit home at this
moment, was in order to anticipate conjecture which might naturally
arise when his Lordship's arrival in England unaccompanied by him,
would lead to inquiry why they had parted from each other after being
the "Castor and Pollux" of Oxford.

Zorilda had indeed often wondered at the frigid nature of that
affection which could impose upon itself the pangs and penalties of
such lengthened absence. She had often asked herself what spell had the
power to charm the wanderer, and would then chide her heart for its
jealous doubts. The intervals between Algernon's letters were much
increased since he commenced his foreign travel, but Zorilda could
account for this. "He knows that I have no money, and would spare me
his mother's reproaches for the cost of frequent postage," said the
innocent Zoé, who judged of others by herself. Every letter, too, when
tried by the test which revealed its hidden sentiments, contained
assurance of undying love which kindred flames developed, when, spite
of her prohibition, inspired by

    "Hope, kind cheat, fair fallacy,"

she held the paper to the fire, "pardoning the treason for the
traitor's sake."

Zorilda's quick penetration had also remarked sundry abbreviations and
blots in Algernon's late _despatches_, which might be truly so called
in every sense of the word, and sighed as she recollected that a
celebrated Madame de Staal, who lived in the age of Louis Quinze, had
discovered the refrigeration of a lover's affection, in his voluntary
choice of a short road when he used to conduct her home to her
convent, after passing the day with her friends in Paris. Two sides of
the triangle which formed the court of the convent would have afforded
a longer _tête-à-tête_ than the diagonal; yet the lover abridged
opportunity by preferring the diagonal, and the young Frenchwoman at
once decided that he had ceased to be one, and would see him no more.

She was right, but though Zorilda felt the shortened words as much as
Madame de Staal in her youth had felt the shortened way, she pleaded
unavoidable haste, to excuse all apparent negligence or contempt,
though the acuteness of her sensibility made her alive to the slightest
change of temperature in affection. Even had her reasoning been more
severe, it would not have stood proof against the first sound of the
carriage wheels which announced Algernon's arrival within the gates of
Henbury. The most subtile arguments are but feeble weapons when opposed
to true love, when the latter is re-inforced by presence of the beloved
object. One look is sufficient to put to flight a world of reasoning,
and Zorilda did not wait to see her truant, before her beating heart
proclaimed full pardon of every omission or commission of which he had
ever been guilty. Algernon's letter inclosed an open note, which his
mother as usual read before she suffered it to leave her hands. To
_her_ eyes it only contained a few careless words, calculated to
lull every apprehension of repose. She could find nothing more than--

    "Dear Zo, I am coming and am in too great a bustle to say more than
    a few words. I am longing to see all my four-footed favourites.
    Send to Norton for my greyhound and setters, which I left with him;
    and tell him that I expect their _education to be finished_ by
    the time I see them again. I long also to re-visit my hawks and
    pheasants, which you have been nursing for me; and I long to see
    you too, and tell you of all my adventures. Your's truly, dear Zo,
    in _fire_ haste, A. H."

Mrs. Hartland contrasted this meagre demonstration with the "dearest
mother" and "most affectionate son," addressed to herself, and
presented this blotted billet to the blushing girl with an air of
triumph.

Zorilda read it without making any comment, but longed to be alone to
try whether "fire haste" might not extract something more from the
paper which she held in her trembling hand.

The intelligent reader has, no question, often remarked, that people
whose tempers are not governed by any other director than their
passions, are kind or unkind to others as they happen to be pleased or
displeased themselves. This was Mrs. Hartland's habit, and Zorilda's
patience was often put to severe trial; but the mother's spirits were
now elated, and all around shared their _couleur de rose_. She folded
up her packet, and smiling benignantly on her young friend, desired
her to go, and give the necessary orders to prepare for her son's
return.

"Algernon will be of age on the 25th," said Mrs. Hartland, "and this
is an event of importance in my family. If he comes before his
birthday, we shall have a double joy to celebrate. Childish things
must henceforth be put away, and my son must now assume the manly
character in which he is called from this time to act a new part upon
the stage of life; aye, and I trust also a _distinguished_ one. The
boyish follies of Algernon's early youth are no longer to be
remembered, and one-and-twenty is an age----"

The young Spaniard's eloquent cheek and eye were beginning to betray a
painful consciousness of the secret meaning which these words were
designed to convey. She understood, with rapid comprehension, the full
tenour of this commencing oration; but the entrance of a servant, who
came to say that a messenger had just arrived on horseback at full
speed, bringing a letter which he had orders not to confide to any
other hands than those of Mr. or Mrs. Hartland, offered an opportunity
which Zorilda instantaneously seized to glide out of the room, and
snatching up her straw hat as she passed quickly through the hall, she
flew into the open air to give free vent to feelings too agonizing to
be suppressed, too proud to be revealed, to her who had excited them.

"Break not yet, poor heart," said Zorilda aloud, as she gained her
favourite solitude; "such tumult of the soul can find no place in
Heaven, whither all my thoughts should bend. _There_ all is peace,
celestial peace! Oh, she is a skilful archer; every arrow is securely
aimed, every poisoned shaft is winged unerringly. Did she not say that
"childish things are to be laid aside?" and what _so_ childish as love
for the nameless, friendless, orphan-gipsey? I understand it all too
well, yet why _too_ well? Ungrateful that I am! Shall I repine that I
am enabled to perceive the dangers which beset my path? and do I call
myself unfriended while the spirit of her who so lately blessed me
with almost a mother's tenderness, still hovers here? Yes, in this
spot used we to hold sweet counsel. Here did I listen to the soothing
voice of comfort, here taste the balm of sacred wisdom as from her
lips distilled the pure stream of divine instruction, which poured
daily on my ear. Though absent, she shall teach me still, and I will
pray in the silence of this fragrant breeze, to that Being who is
never deaf to the supplicant's cry."

What breast unvitiated by the artificial world is not alive to the soft
influence of nature, and what soul ever sought its God in sincerity and
humiliation without finding relief? Zorilda rose from the mossy shrine,
strengthened, refreshed, consoled, and sitting down where she had knelt
before, exclaimed with fervour, "Remember Drumcairn!" "Those were her
parting words as she folded me to her bosom. Yes, I will remember, and
with thankfulness, that there is yet an earthly asylum for Zorilda." A
slight rustling amongst the branches which formed a screen behind where
she sat, and threw their protective shade over her head, disturbed her
meditations; and starting up she looked around, but could only discover
by an increased movement of the leaves, that something had brushed
through them.

"What a fool I am!" said she; "shall I fear my old and faithful
companions, and start at a bird? But hah! what is here? a letter, and
for me!" She seized the paper with trembling haste, and casting a timid
glance around, hurried breathlessly back to the shrubbery from which
she had strayed, and closed its gate before she dared venture to break
the seal, and read the following lines:

    "ZORILDA,

    "There is one at least in the world who asks not '_Who is she?_'
    but who knows you to be virtuous, lovely, and unhappy; one who can
    behold in you the pedigree of a noble soul, whencesoever it be
    derived; who has gazed more than once unseen upon your streaming
    eyes uplifted in prayer to Heaven; and listened to those sighs
    which rend your heart, yet without intrusion on your sorrows. The
    friend who now addresses you, has not taken advantage of his
    situation to possess himself of your secrets, if you have any
    which you desire should be unrevealed, and his motive in thus
    alarming, is to warn you against dangers which threaten your
    peace. Walk no more beyond the enclosure of your shrubbery, till
    you bear from your unknown guardian that you are safe in doing so;
    and rely on the fidelity of one, who cannot tell you more at
    present than that he is devoted to your interests, over which he
    watches with constant vigilance. Beware of wandering by moonlight,
    and alone."

Zorilda was nearly overcome with terror and astonishment. Unused to
consider herself an object of interest to any one, the liveliest
gratitude would have possessed her unsuspecting heart, if the dread of
some impending ill did not predominate over every calmer feeling. From
whence came the warning which she had just received? It was not the
hand-writing of Mr. Playfair, and if it were, why should he be thus
mysterious? He would have pointed explicitly to the approaching danger,
and as openly advised the best means of avoiding it. This anonymous
intimation was perhaps itself a snare; yet it prescribed caution, and
seemed to be dictated by truth and kindness.

"What shall I do? Oh whither shall I turn for counsel?" said Zorilda.
"If I tell Mr. Hartland, what profit will accrue? He cannot lock me up,
nor place a guard in attendance on my steps. Mrs. Hartland would call
me a heroine of romance, and I should be derided, ridiculed, insulted.
What a time is this to have lost the true friends who would have been
my pilots! But God is every where, He will direct me, if with a single
heart, I implore His heavenly guidance."

The sound of hasty footsteps put an end to Zorilda's reflections. She
folded the paper quickly, over which she had been musing, and had
scarcely time to conceal it, when Rachel, a faithful domestic already
introduced to the reader, ran towards her, out of breath--

"Miss Zoé, Miss Zoé, make no delay; my mistress is calling for you, and
angry that you cannot be found. Master is from home too; not expected
till dinner, which is ordered an hour later than usual, and we have
been put into a great flutterment by news at the house; but I am not to
tell you any thing about it, only to find, and send you in, without
loss of time."

Zorilda trembled so exceedingly, that she could hardly obey the
summons, and immediately concluded, that whatever circumstances had
occurred in her absence, bore some reference to the mysterious
communication which had been made to her. Bewildered by the variety of
alarms which thronged upon her mind, she advanced with breathless
agitation, and having reached the house, heard Mrs. Hartland's voice
loudly employed in giving directions to have a horse saddled, and a
servant in readiness to set off in quest of her husband, who had gone
that morning to attend a board of magistrates at some distance from
Henbury.

Zorilda, pale as death, gained the apartment from whence she heard
these orders issuing, and felt sinking with apprehension and
exhaustion, when she was met by a countenance in which exultation,
impatience, resentment, and solicitude struggled for mastery.

"Where is it that you hide yourself in this unfeeling manner?" said
Mrs. Hartland, with impetuous eagerness. "Is it not too provoking that
I should be left alone, and that nobody can be found in a moment of
such agitation as the present. Lord Marchdale lies at the point of
death. He has had a paralytic stroke, and is speechless. Mr. Humphries,
the head steward, who has long been in our interests, has sent off an
express to give secret intelligence of the event; and here, by the most
unlucky chance imaginable, my son is far away, and I know not how to
direct to him. Mr. Hartland, who hardly ever leaves home, is absent;
and even you too are moping idly in some hole or corner, and can
nowhere be found. _You_ have no personal interest, it is true, in
the matter, but it is intolerable that you should be out of the way
when my hand shakes so that I cannot hold a pen."

The harshness, as well as unreasonableness, of this attack, repelled
the softer sympathies of Zorilda's heart, which were ever ready at the
call of affection; and summoning as much firmness as she could command,
she calmly replied,

"Madam, as you had no cause to anticipate this event, you would have
been the first to censure Mr. Hartland's indolence, had he neglected
the business which engages him this morning; and as to me, I am not
aware of disobeying your commands in taking a walk at no great
distance from the house. I am ready now, though _my_ hand is not very
steady, to write as you shall dictate."

"I shall remember your insolent coldness," said Mrs. Hartland; "write
directly to Mr. Humphries, thank him in my name for the zeal which
_he_ has shewn in our affairs, desire him to keep a strict eye
over the property, and to refuse admittance to all interlopers,
and----"

"Oh," interrupted Zorilda, "do not accuse me of that which is foreign
from my nature. Can any good or evil happen at Henbury in which I do
not share? Are you not my benefactors? But you reject my sympathy with
disdain, and then reproach me for the want of it. Let me prove how much
I feel upon the present occasion by conjuring you not to commit
yourself by writing such a letter as you propose to the steward. If, as
I have heard you say, Mr. Hartland is heir to the estates, as well as
to the title of Marchdale, you will owe nothing to the officiousness of
this Humphries; but should Lord Marchdale have had power over his
fortune, and exercised it to your disadvantage, how will this
precipitancy advance your claims, or redress the evil? Again, a
paralytic stroke is not always fatal. Lord Marchdale may recover, and
then you are at the mercy of a sycophant who may turn your impatience
to account with his master, and represent you in unfavourable colours,
to your future ruin. Let me return your acknowledgments for a letter
which you have opened in the absence of Mr. Hartland, and enter no
farther into the subject of it."

"You are right, Zoé; I forgive you," answered Mrs. Hartland; "make
haste, give a guinea to the messenger, see that he is properly taken
care of, and despatch him without delay."

Zorilda executed the task which her own good sense and delicacy had
suggested; but who can describe the state of her mind, when, having
performed her commission, she had time to reflect on her own situation,
rendered doubly precarious and painful, by the increased distance which
she perceived the near prospect of rank and fortune would place between
her and all she loved?

Mr. Hartland returned, and even his phlegmatic temperament was excited
by the news which awaited him. Visions of future greatness now
absorbed the attention of him and his wife, though they took various
hues, according with the difference of their characters. Mr. Hartland
shewed no impatience, but, assuming a sort of sullen pomp, seemed to
feel himself already in possession of the distinction which he
anticipated; while Mrs. Hartland, in an agony of "hope deferred,"
endured a perpetual fever of mind from the restlessness and impotent
activity of her disposition. Day after day passed without bringing
farther tidings, and the _final_ account from Marchdale-court was
necessary to allay those apprehensions which embittered her golden
dreams.

There is one character still more irritating than that of an _ex post
facto_ prophet, and that is a person who, not waiting for events,
begins, while they are yet pending, to foresee disastrous issues in
the interval between causes and effects, without casting a shadow of
blame upon themselves for having acquiesced in that very conduct, on
the failure of which their angry sagacity is afterwards employed too
late to prevent whatever may be its result. Mrs. Hartland was of this
description. The mob principle, that every one must be wrong who does
not glide with full sails before the wind, influenced all her
decisions of every kind; and though in the present case it was
obvious, that while Lord Marchdale _lived_ she could not receive the
joyful information of his _death_, she could not impute the silence of
Mr. Humphries to any other source than offence at the frigid style of
Zorilda's reply to his letter. "I _saw plainly_ how it would be. I
_knew_ that Mr. Humphries would be affronted. We have evidently lost a
friend who would have watched over our interests, and all because I
was too much agitated to write myself. I should have conciliated this
worthy man, and flattered his vanity with assurance of my entire
reliance on his zeal and discretion; but people who know nothing of
the world will put in a word of advice, and woe to all who give ear to
their stupid counsels."

To these, and such like taunts, Zorilda had to listen, whenever her
evil genius brought her within hearing of Mrs. Hartland's unceasing
complaints; which were now received with less submission by her
husband, as he began to feel himself rising in the scale of human
dignity, and remembered that it was through _him_ that the expected
honours were to come.

"For Heaven's sake," he would sometimes say, "let my relation die in
peace, my dear. Would you have Mr. Humphries administer a dose of
poison to hasten your victim out of the world, in order to accommodate
your ambition?"

"Mr. Hartland you are becoming insufferable. Your torpor is more
exasperating than the rage of a lion. I am sure, were it not for the
sake of posterity, I wish that your relation may recover, and keep you
out of an earldom which you are not fit for, and have too little
feeling to value. My _son_, however, will one day grace a coronet
of which his father is little worthy."

"I suppose that you would kill me also, to make way for your idol,"
retorted Mr. Hartland; "but we may all prove too tough for your wishes.
Mind, I tell you that a paralytic stroke is not always a stroke unto
death; and you may be punished yet for committing murder in your heart,
if not with your hands. Take my advice, good lady, and keep yourself
cool; or in vulgar phrase, do not reckon your chickens before they are
hatched."

This was a new style of dialogue at Henbury, and exceedingly shocked
the gentle Zorilda; who, endeavouring to forget her own anxieties as
much as possible, tried every effort in her power to soften these
asperities and mediate between the belligerent parties, who never had
quarrelled till now, when they seemed upon the eve of attaining the
grand object of their common wishes.

"How strange the effect of what the world calls prosperity!" exclaimed
this child of nature, when relieved from the irksome society of those
with whom it was her lot to drag the heavy hours. "Who would desire to
possess a few ideal distinctions, brief as shadowy, at the expense of
all that is dear to the heart?"

Zorilda was debarred the luxury, not denied to many in this age, of
communicating her thoughts to a distant friend. The power of purchasing
this gratification was more than she could command, so entire was her
dependence; and even if it had been permitted her to correspond with
Mrs. Gordon, the necessity of shewing every line which she either wrote
or received, would have neutralized the privilege.

"Let me thank God," said she, "that I have still the power of thought;
still the blessed boon of self-communion left; and, oh may I use the
gift to profit! examine my heart, probe its most secret recesses, and
cultivate resignation to the will of Him who sees it good that I should
be thus severely tried!"

When aspirations such as these would escape her lips, a bright gleam of
hope sometimes succeeded, and painted Algernon in all the bloom of
youthful joy, returning to the home of his happy childhood; called
thither to embellish a higher sphere, elate with glad prospects, and
placed in possession of power to shed happiness in every smile. Spite
of every effort to repress the fond dreams of imagination, they would
sometimes, too, indulge in weaving a golden future for herself. If
Algernon had ceased to love, why did his letters still breathe the
honied accents of a sentiment which he might pretend to forget? Was it
generous to doubt his truth because his words were few? Was it
reasonable to expect more lavish demonstration of an attachment so
constrained by circumstances? Arrived at full age, and raised to
dignity and independence, might he not prevail with his parents to
enter into his views?

Thoughts such as these were too welcome not to force their way, and if
Zorilda had inclination, she wanted strength to banish them always from
her mind. A secret feeling would even picture the pleased surprise with
which Algernon would hear her voice, already flexible and melodious,
now improved by science and cultivation, and accompanied by the "mellow
minstrelsy" of a Spanish guitar, on which Mrs. Gordon's tasteful
tuition had rendered her a proficient.

How lovely was the expression of that eloquent eye! How touching the
sounds which flowed from those ruby lips when hope's delightful
inspirations came o'er her mind,

                "Like the sweet south
    That breathes upon a bank of violets,
    Stealing and giving odour."

At length the time arrived which was to realize or blast the timid
promises of faithful love; and on the same day, the evening of which
was to be blessed by Algernon's return, the dawn was ushered in by an
express to announce the death of Lord Marchdale.

Suspense and irritation had brought Mrs. Hartland's mind to a state of
quiescence through exhaustion, without effecting any improvement of
temper. On the contrary, the spirit of bickering against her husband
was ready as before, on the present occasion, and broke out into the
following fretful complaint:

"Ay! when one is worn out with expecting, here comes this empty title
at last; but not a word about the estates. As to the coronet, that was
a thing of course, and no gratitude is due on that score; but if the
property is left away, it would be much better that the title had gone
along with it. You have always neglected my advice, Mr. Hartland, or we
should not be indebted now to back-stairs informers for what we ought
to know ourselves. It is ten to one but you have ruined the fortunes of
your son by your indolent supineness."

"Can you not wait till the dead are buried?" answered the exasperated
husband. "Did any mortal, but yourself, ever hear of prying into a will
before the body is laid in the grave? even the commonest decencies of
life are violated by your rapacity."

"Pretty language, _indeed_," replied the ruffled dame; "but you may
find, bye and bye, that my '_rapacity_,' or prudence, or whatever else
you may please to call it, may have saved you from a jail."

Each party quitted the room by opposite doors in no very harmonious
frame of mind; yet, spite of ill humour with each other, they were
irresistibly excited by the intelligence just received. Men are said to
be but "children of a larger growth," and certain it is that we should
often be ashamed to confess to the world how a bauble can charm our
imaginations.

Mr. Hartland was met, on quitting the apartment, by eager faces of
attempted condolence and congratulation, mingled with the slavish
wonder and submissiveness generated in vulgar minds by sudden accession
of rank. The servants and dependants were peeping on tip-toe, shoving
each other backwards and forwards to catch the first glimpse of their
master, and see whether he looked differently from his former self,
since he had become a great lord; but the dread of discovering how much
he was pleased with his new dignity, as also a certain fear of upstart
claims which might at least be vexatious, and delay its attainment,
induced him to refrain from his usual ride, and issue orders that no
one should address him by any other than the ordinary appellation, till
his return from Marchdale-court, for which place it would be necessary
that he and his son should set out on the following day.

Mrs. Hartland gratified the people and herself by going out into the
shrubbery, garden, farm-yard, etcetera; and wherever she could find a
human being to greet her with the delightful sounds of "my Lady," and
"your ladyship," she condescended to expatiate on the lofty
acquirements which had descended on her house. One old woman, in the
effervescence of her zeal and ignorance, styled her "your Majesty,"
which flattered so bewitchingly, that the salutation scarcely seemed
ridiculous.

The express of the morning produced a very different effect on Zorilda,
whose agitation was sufficient for her delicate frame, without this
increase. These new honours had no charm for her, but seemed to raise a
barrier in her path. Algernon was no longer Algernon; she was to meet
Lord Hautonville, and a chill came over her heart as she tried to
practise the unwonted and unwished-for sounds. Then the object of her
soul's dearest attachment was to be snatched from her eyes, almost in
the moment of meeting them: and though the recollection of her own
danger was the last consideration to present itself, yet when
remembrance of the letter which she had in her possession forced upon
her mind a consciousness of the defenceless condition in which a few
hours would leave her, she shuddered with terror of she knew not what,
but felt such instinctive repugnance to proclaim her fears, and the
cause of them, that she resolved, under accumulating difficulty, still
to place her sole trust in that merciful assistance, the support of
which her heart began to acknowledge experimentally in moments of
trial.

"Oh! will not one look repay me for all this uneasiness, if it beams
with the affection of dear old times; and why do I admit these mean
doubts to overwhelm me? I will cast them from me, and sit musing here
no longer!"

So saying, Zorilda started from her reverie, and ran to put the last
finish to her little preparations, by dressing every part of the house
with fresh gathered flowers. After which she culled a bunch of

    ----"Valley Lilies, whiter
    Than Leda's love;"

with which to decorate her marble brow, and had scarcely ended her
simple toilette, when carriage wheels were heard. Mr. and Mrs.
Hartland, followed by the servants, hastened to the hall. Zorilda, with
beating heart, blanched cheek, and trembling knees, lingered on the
stairs, unable to move, but the first accents of the well-known voice
were, "Where is Zoé?" The vital glow re-animated her countenance, and
in a few short seconds she was folded in the arms of Algernon.

Never was the meeting of two lovers more rapturous. Zorilda's innocent
and confiding nature tasted such blessed assurance in this joyful
instant, as repaid an age of keenest anguish, while Algernon's
astonished gaze, seemed to declare that no such loveliness had ever
burst upon his senses, as met his eyes in the modest, yet dazzling
beauty of her on whom they now were rivetted.

Zorilda drew back, surprised in her turn by the changes which time had
wrought. Algernon was a perfect model of manly grace, and all the easy
elegance and polish of fashionable society were added to the native
symmetry which distinguished his appearance. A reproachful call from
Mrs. Hartland, quickly interrupted this short-lived transport of
uncertain bliss. Alas! it was never to return. Zorilda loved, and was
beloved; but, she knew not why, she had not the same pleasure which she
formerly felt in Algernon's company. There was a fire in his manner of
looking at her, and a bold familiarity in his mode of address, which
discomposed her, and made her desire to shrink into herself, without
being able to explain to her own breast the reason why she did so.
While he was summoned to hear the story of his altered fortunes, she
threw herself, exhausted by the variety of her emotions, into a chair
near a window, that opened on a trellised alcove, which she had
carefully entwined with every sweet climber that perfumes the garden,
to breathe a welcome for him she loved. Bursting into an agony of
tears, she looked upon her work and exclaimed:

"Flowers! you have lost your fragrance. The simple joys of nature are
no longer here. They are become 'dim recollected feelings of the days
of youth and early love.' Dreamer! thy doom is sealed! What has Zorilda
in common with the world's attractions? Algernon is lost to me! Yes,
these are not the looks of Algernon! Why do I turn abashed from the
companion of my childhood?"

Zorilda's meditations were interrupted by a summons from Mr. Hartland,
who informed her that he must leave Henbury early on the following day,
and desired to commit several matters of importance to her care during
his absence. Dinner succeeded, and the evening was chiefly occupied in
preparations of one kind or other for the ensuing journey; but
notwithstanding the vigilance of Mrs. Hartland, and her constant
endeavour to monopolize her son, he found opportunity from time to
time, to say a few words in secret to Zorilda.

"Keep up your spirits, Zoé; you shall be Lady Hautonville one of these
days! I am resolved upon it, so do not be frightened; but we have much
to do, and you have much to learn. You must be _schooled_ for the new
order of society which you are about to enter. Nothing can be more
unlike the world than your present style of manners, dress, appearance.
_My_ wife can never be such a country lassie as you are; but I will
have you put in the right way. I know a charming person, La Baronne de
Torsi, who will be happy to do me a kindness. She will have pleasure in
forming you to the standard of good taste. The materials, my Zoé, are
perfect, but you want the air, the fashion, the indispensable tone of
society, which you could not attain in this wretched place. What a pair
are these poor old souls, my father and mother! They seem to have the
year _one_, printed in large letters on every look, word, and gesture.
We must bury them in the woods at Marchdale-court, while you and I
figure away on the theatres of glorious France and Italy. I am sick of
Old England's roast beef, and find nothing good or agreeable off the
Continent. Good night, my lovely Zo; we will make all our arrangements
on my return from this horrible funeral."

Algernon wished to seal these words, which were but jarring sounds to
Zorilda's ear, by a kiss, but she turned, and hastily disengaging her
hand from his, flew to the sanctuary of her chamber, there to reflect,
through a sleepless night, upon the miseries of her destiny.

"La Baronne de Torsi! a stranger, a foreigner; _she_ to form my mind,
my manners, my tastes anew, to the frivolous and artificial? I will
have no such monitress. Is this the language of true love? I know it
not by these signs. There is no prison, however dreary, no wilderness
however wild, into which Zorilda would not accompany the being whom she
loved, to suffer pain and privation, and if not permitted her to
shield, yet still to share each pang, would be her bosom's joy; but
thus scorned, thus disdained, it must not, cannot be."

Morning came, and found the poor mourner still a prey to the tortures
of wounded sensibility. Mr. Hartland and his son were to set out so
early, that she was spared the humiliation of shewing how much power
Algernon possessed over her affections. As he went down stairs he
knocked at Zorilda's door, and slipped a bit of paper underneath, on
which were hastily written, with a pencil, the following words:

"In the tumult of yesterday's meeting, I forgot to warn you against
receiving any communication, either by letter or visit, from any one
till my return. _Addio, carissima, Algernon_."

"Hah!" thought Zorilda, "Can this be the explanation? Is Algernon the
unseen guardian who has been watching over me, and to whose friendly
care I have been indebted for avoiding danger, though I know not of
what nature? But no: the letter which I received is not in his
hand-writing, and the sentiments which it expresses, so full of
delicate consideration for the unhappy Zorilda, are alas! little in
unison with the language of yesterday evening, which still echoes
through my heart. Nothing but mystery appears to surround me whichever
way my eyes are directed."

On meeting Mrs. Hartland in the breakfast-parlour, Zorilda's looks too
plainly bespoke the state of her mind to leave a doubt of what she
endured. A few constrained questions and answers broke the rigid
silence which would otherwise have marked this unsocial meeting.

Mrs. Hartland rang the bell, and ordering the tea things to be taken
away, desired her young companion to wait her return; and quitting the
room, left Zorilda in new perplexity at what was next to happen.

Mrs. Hartland re-appeared in a few minutes, bringing an ink-stand and
paper in her hand. Shutting the door, and laying these upon a table,
she ordered Zorilda, in a stern voice, to sit down opposite to her,
with which the latter having complied, she proceeded to unfold her
object.

"It is no longer possible," said Mrs. Hartland, "to be silent. The
time is come when it is necessary to explain my views, and come to an
open understanding with you. Your attachment to my son cannot be
mistaken, and I must tell you plainly, that it highly displeases Mr.
Hartland and me. _You_ should recollect our relative positions: you,
an unknown orphan, discovered, accidentally, in a gipsey camp, without
name, family, or pretensions; redeemed from the infamy of associating
with a lawless horde by the charity which brought you here, are finely
repaying the protectors of your childhood! Can you suppose, for a
moment, that because you were permitted during infancy to be the
companion of my son, and allowed, in after life to share the
instructions which were bestowed on him by Mr. Playfair; can you, I
repeat, imagine for a single instant that you were ever designed to be
his wife? Do you think that a pretty face is sufficient qualification
for the future Countess of Marchdale, or that Lord Hautonville's
parents would ever look upon him again, were the wiles of an artful
girl to betray his honourable mind into a remembrance of the boyish
vows which children make to each other before they comprehend the
nature of a promise? There is only one act by which you can ease my
mind, and restore yourself to that place in my regards from which, I
confess with regret, that you have fallen. Here are paper, pen, and
ink; I have never found you untrue, and shall depend with confidence
upon your written assurance, regularly signed, for my _full_
satisfaction, that from this moment, you not only renounce all
pretension to an alliance with my family; but should a romantic spirit
of chivalry induce Algernon to forget what he owes to himself, and his
father and mother, by offering his hand to you, that you here pledge
yourself solemnly to repel such proposals, and reject every advance on
the part of one whose death would be preferable, in my eyes to a
marriage inconsistent with his rank in society. I have now spoken
without reserve. You know my feelings, and if you are disposed to
gratify me by the sacrifice which I require, there is nothing which I
will leave undone to forward your interests. I will prevail on my son
to settle something handsome upon you. I will write to my friends, and
obtain some situation for you as soon as possible, in which your
talents may secure your future independence; or it may be, that when
you are seen and known out of this deep retirement, some suitable
match may present itself, and----"

Zorilda had resolved to hear out Mrs. Hartland's harangue in patient
silence, and restrain every emotion which it might excite; but though
she had prepared for want of kindness, she did not anticipate the
coarseness by which she had just been assailed. Notwithstanding every
effort, or rather, perhaps, because she exerted herself beyond her
powers, her eyes grew dim, her head became giddy, and she fell back
senseless in her chair.

When she revived from the state of insensibility into which she had
been thrown by the indelicacy of Mrs. Hartland's proceedings, she found
herself alone with Rachel, whose tender assiduity restored her
faculties once more. She had been removed to her apartment, and was
laid on her bed, from which she now rose in haste, and, dismissing her
faithful attendant with thanks, she summoned up all the resolution of
her character, entered Mrs. Hartland's dressing-room, where she found
that lady seated at her table, writing with perfect sang froid, and
calmly addressed her:

"Madam," said Zorilda, in a gentle but unfaltering voice, "I come to
give you an answer, which the accident of sudden indisposition has
delayed. I thank you for your care of my infant years. I am grateful
also for the asylum which I have since found under your roof. These
acknowledgments are all that I have to bestow, and I confess that they
are a poor remuneration for the favours which you have conferred upon a
hapless stranger."

"My dear girl," said Mrs. Hartland, interrupting the lovely but
unfortunate Zorilda, "you can make a return which will more than repay
me. Certainly I _have been_ every thing to you, and I am glad that you
appreciate as you ought to do that kindness which snatched you from
perils worse than death, and has cherished you ever since in the
enjoyment of every comfort. You have sense enough to be conscious that
you have not been a costless charge; but I only mention your _entire_
destitution, your dependence for every morsel of bread, every article
of clothing, protection, tenderness, education, companionship, only, I
say, to show how _greatly_ I shall estimate the act by which you, who
are aware of the extent of your obligations, are enabled at one stroke
of your pen to cancel them all. Here, my love, I have drawn up the
_promissory note_, as I may call it, which wipes off all scores
between us. Here, my dear, though you have no sirname, nor for the
matter of _that_, perhaps, Christian either, for you may have been
born amongst the Turks or the Jews, and never baptized at all, for any
thing that we can tell to the contrary; sign the three syllables,
Zorilda, whether given to you at the font or in the gipsey's camp, it
is all the same to me. Write your name in a fair hand, opposite to
this seal; declare it to be your act and deed; I will call Rachel to
witness the transaction, and our business is done; I demand no legal
forms, as my confidence in your truth----"

"Must be your only guarantee, Madam," replied Zorilda. "I will not sign
any document to resign possessions to which I lay no claim. Whatever
kindness may be manifested towards me during my pilgrimage on earth,
must be freely given and as freely received; but you need not dread me;
I will not requite ungratefully the obligations which I owe. If you
really confide in my truth, prove it by relying on what I say; and as
to my future fate, discharge your mind, I pray you, of all anxiety upon
that account. Grant me but a short time to make some trifling
arrangements for my departure, and you shall be satisfied in all
things. I can never be too thankful for the instructions which you
permitted me to derive from that much valued friend, Mr. Playfair, and
upon these I shall depend for being no longer a tax upon your bounty.
The God in whom I trust, will hear the orphan's prayer, and bless my
humble exertions."

"Then, Madam," answered Mrs. Hartland, "am I to understand, that you
refuse to sign the paper which I hold in my hand?"

"It is most reluctantly that I refuse to comply with any requisition of
yours," said Zorilda; "but I am determined not to sign that paper.
Possessing no rights, making no demand, I will not assume the merit of
renouncing that to which I do not assert a title. Were I bound by an
engagement such as terrifies you to anticipate, I should be unworthy of
the choice, undeserving of the affection with which I could basely
trifle, and of which I could thus make a cruel, cold, and heartless
surrender----"

"Quit my presence this instant, artful and unnatural girl," retorted
Mrs. Hartland: "If you are resolved not to comply with my reasonable
desire, I am equally so, that you shall not reap any harvest from your
obstinacy and disobedience. Quit me, I say, this moment, and do not
presume to leave your apartment. I give you one week to consider of
your conduct; if at the end of that time you repent of your behaviour
to me, and declare yourself ready to submit, all shall be forgotten;
but if you persevere in your present shameful resistance to my will and
pleasure, prepare to depart. I shall take measures in the interim for
your removal, and shall not consult your convenience as to the time or
manner of it."

Zorilda withdrew, and having gained her prison-chamber, laid her aching
head upon the pillow, revolving in her mind this crisis of her present
circumstances. The cup of sorrow seemed now filled to the brim; one
drop more, and it would overflow; and death, the last friend of
despair, would come, she thought, to her aid, and terminate her trials.
It was not the rigorous treatment which she had just experienced--it
was not confinement--that she deplored; on the contrary, solitude and
repose were as soothing as they were become necessary to her harassed
spirits; but the gentle, the affectionate Zorilda, had never till now
rebelled against the authority of her whom she still reflected on as
her benefactress; and she reproached herself with having inflicted
pain. Unaccustomed to resist, she wondered how she could have denied a
request of Mrs. Hartland's. Yet to yield was as repugnant to every
sentiment of love and delicacy as to every principle of truth and
honour. Here, then, was the final dissolution of all her airy dreams.
Here was the extinguishment of hope, the end of wishes, the last blow
to expectation.

"How merciful the 'blindness kindly given' which prevents us
penetrating the dark veil of future events!" exclaimed the meek
sufferer; "but the time is come. How little did I imagine it so close
at hand when the friendship of my beloved Mrs. Gordon is to be tried!
_Her_ friendship will not fail me in the hour of need!"

Zorilda was at a loss whether or not to apprise the family at Drumcairn
of her intentions by a letter which should precede her arrival in
Scotland, but after a short consideration determined against doing so.
Her departure, she felt, had become too necessary to leave any option,
and it was better not to hazard the possibility of Mrs. Gordon's
recommending her to postpone so adventurous an undertaking. Besides, if
her elopement were to excite a desire in those she left behind to trace
her retreat, inquiry would naturally be directed, in the first
instance, to the only quarter from which it might be supposed that
authentic information respecting her movements and designs might be
obtained. She therefore resolved on prosecuting her journey without
giving Mrs. Gordon any reason to expect her, certain as she felt of the
welcome that awaited her coming at all times in the breast of that true
friend.

Those only whose hearts are capable of such attachment as dwelt within
Zorilda's bosom can form any idea of the overwhelming grief with which
she contemplated bidding farewell to the scenes of her childhood, and
with them to every object round which her strong, but tender affection,
had entwined itself from earliest infancy; yet as misfortune had begun
to teach her the happy art which can draw good from apparent evil, as
the bee extracts honey from the vilest weeds, she felt glad that the
prohibition which forbade her usual exercise preserved her from the
pain of dwelling in detail on every leaf and flower associated with
fondest memory. "Mrs. Hartland's decree is a kind one," said she. "I
shall break my bonds at once, and not weaken resolution by re-visiting
those objects, which to gaze upon again would but enfeeble its powers.
Algernon--once beloved--oh _still_ beloved, must I tear _you_ from
this heart? _There_ is the sting; but the sacrifice shall be
finished."

Some days elapsed; Zorilda made an effort to occupy herself in
preparation for her intended flight. Rachel's watchful care ministered
all the consolation which kindness could impart, and through her
activity and address, the manner of the journey was planned with so
much circumspection, that nothing further remained to impede its
commencement. The approaching alterations in the establishment at
Henbury afforded Rachel an opportunity of disengaging herself from
further services as a domestic without exciting suspicion respecting
her future intentions; and having given notice to Mrs. Hartland that
she meant to leave her, she determined on accompanying Zorilda wherever
her fortunes might lead the way. At the end of a week, just as the
time was drawing near when some account might be expected from
Marchdale-court, Rachel, gliding softly into Zorilda's apartment with
a packet in her hand,

"This is for you, my dear young lady; but it is not the letter which
you were hoping for from the North."

Zorilda started, and remembering the caution which she had received
from Algernon at parting, concluded this to be the communication
against which he had warned her in the slip of paper which he thrust
under her door just before he left Henbury. She seized the packet with
tremulous eagerness. It was of large dimensions, and contained some
hard substance. Whence could it come? what could it be? were questions
which might well interest a girl of eighteen. Perhaps, if truth were
told, there are few of either sex or any age exempt from such a measure
of curiosity as would tempt to break the seal in such a case; but in
Zorilda's circumstances every trifle was raised into importance; even
the parcel which she held in her hand might elucidate her history and
influence her fate. Yet Algernon had bid her beware of receiving any
thing of this nature. He therefore knew whence it came, and if
advantageous to her, would he have advised her to return it unopened?
Certainly not, and he should find, that however he might conduct
himself in the end towards her, she would not begin by doubting either
his truth or kindness. After a moment's pause, she gave back the packet
to Rachel, who stood gaping with expectation, and longing for the
unfolding of its contents.

"Here, Rachel, I am afraid to open this. I know nothing of it, and
think that there is some mistake. It may be a parcel of Mrs.
Hartland's; it cannot be for me; at least I will inquire who sent it,
before I take off the packing."

"Lord ha' mercy, my dear child," answered Rachel, "did I not tell you
that it comes from your old and fast friend Mr. Playfair? I'm sure if I
did not, it was the joy I felt in bringing it to you, that made me
neglect to name him. I thought you would know all about it the minute
you set your two eyes upon the cover, and wondered to see you so slow
in coming at the inside."

"Thank heaven!" ejaculated Zorilda. "Here is assistance in the hour of
need. Here at least is sympathy, when my dejected spirit is cast down."

Tearing off the wrapping paper with eagerness, she found a letter,
directed to "My dear Pupil," in the well known hand of her tutor,
accompanied by a large packet without any address.

"This will explain the other," said Zorilda, "and comes, I know, from
one in whom I may confide. I will read his letter first. Now, dear
Rachel, leave me, and if I have any good news to communicate you may be
sure of hearing it. You are the only being here who will care to listen
to aught that affects me, and you shall not be kept long in ignorance."

Rachel quitted the room while Zorilda unfolded the letter, and to her
astonishment read as follows:

    "I have, my dear child, always endeavoured to impress upon your
    young heart a _practical_ belief in the God who watches over
    His people. Your quick sensibility has been more inclined to
    murmuring than thankfulness, and the apparent hardness of that
    dispensation which left you like a fallen star, dropped from the
    clouds upon earth without home or parents or worldly provision of
    any kind, seemed to furnish excuse for the tardiness of your
    submission; but, inasmuch as you have felt inclined to doubt the
    care of an Almighty ruler, as relating to yourself, in such
    proportion will you now assuredly pour out the incense of gratitude
    and wonder, when you hear the tale which I have to unfold, and
    ponder on those remarkable coincidences which render me the medium
    of an accompanying packet, which I have taken means to convey by a
    safe hand through which it will find its way to yours, without the
    knowledge of any one at Henbury except the faithful Rachel. May
    this interesting document, which I now send you, prove the
    forerunner of future good, and may you experience as much
    satisfaction in receiving as I feel in imparting it!

    "I am yet to tell you how this packet most unexpectedly fell into
    the possession of your old and affectionate friend. On my way to
    Paris I lingered at Abbeville, with intention of revisiting those
    haunts endeared to memory by our favourite Petrarch. While staying
    at the inn a message was brought to me, saying that a dying
    gentleman, who lived at no great distance, was desirous to speak
    with me, and requested my immediate attention to his request. At a
    loss to account for such an invitation, yet fearful of giving pain
    to a fellow-creature in extremity, if I waited to make further
    inquiry, I followed a servant who led the way, and in a few minutes
    was introduced to the bedside of Colonel Dalton. He had a manly and
    noble countenance, but appeared in the last stage of decline.
    Fixing his fine expressive eyes, which were lighted by that meteor
    gleam which burns brightest on the confines of the tomb, upon my
    face, as if to read my character there--he extended his emaciated
    hand, and said, with a feeble voice,

    "'I thank you Sir. This is an act of kindness which will relieve my
    mind, and soothe the last moments of a departing spirit. Since I
    have been sensible that my hour is at hand, and that I shall never
    leave this place, the packet which I am now going to give into your
    care, has been subject of deep solicitude to me. I lately sent a
    faithful servant, on whose integrity I could have relied for its
    safe delivery--to prepare my sister, who lives in Sussex, for my
    arrival--but Heaven has ordered otherwise. I reached Abbeville a
    few days ago, attended only by my groom, whom I have not known long
    enough to depend upon. This packet contains some property of value,
    and a narrative which I drew up years ago. These are of the deepest
    interest to a young and lovely Spaniard who resides somewhere in
    England, with a family of the name of Hartland. The only name I
    know for her is Zorilda, but I do not mean to trouble you with
    seeking her out. Convey this, together with a box which I shall
    commit to your keeping, to my sister, Lady Carleton, whose address
    I will give you. She will do the rest, if you explain my wishes now
    expressed to you. You will greatly oblige me by this act of
    benevolence. Strength fails me. Your countenance inspires belief
    that you will fulfil the sacred trust which I repose in you. I am a
    soldier, and honour is the soldier's bond.'

    "He grew faint. I gave him some reviving drops, which were at hand,
    and, after promising to execute his commission with my best zeal,
    proceeded at intervals, as he could listen to the recital, to
    inform him of the extraordinary providence which had thrown in his
    way the very person of all others most suited to his purpose. He
    was much struck with the detail which I gave him, and during three
    succeeding days entirely devoted to him, I had the satisfaction of
    holding such conversation, as, with the blessing of Heaven upon its
    motive, I have good reason to believe deprived death of its sting.
    I took charge of his will, and other papers of value, for his
    family. He expired without a struggle, and having stayed to attend
    his mortal remains to the tomb, I travelled back to perform my vow.
    Having seen Lady Carleton, I have discharged my mission as far as
    regards her; but send your parcel, of which I made no mention to
    her ladyship, by a sure conveyance to your own hands. On my return
    to England (for I am once more setting out for the Continent) I
    hope to see you. Having now fortified your mind, I trust, by the
    proof which I send you of your Heavenly Father's care, I feel it my
    duty to put that faith and confidence, which such assurance ought
    to inspire, to a severe test, by communicating intelligence of
    another kind; but I should not be your true friend were I to
    suppress what has come to my knowledge; and through a cowardly
    dread of inflicting a present pang, incur the danger of
    contributing, by my silence, to your far greater suffering at a
    future day.

    "I am too well acquainted, my dear Zorilda, with the human heart,
    and the signs by which its feelings are naturally expressed, to be
    ignorant of the attachment which sprang up under my own observation
    between Algernon and you. I beheld its rise and progress, and
    lamented what I was unable to prevent. I knew the dissimilarity of
    your characters, and the difference of those motives by which you
    were severally actuated. Algernon, selfish and domineering from his
    birth, regarded no object except inasmuch as it increased the sum
    of his own gratification. You were ever generous, affectionate, and
    disinterested. Such disparity I was well aware could never produce
    a happy union; but I had no means of averting the perils which I
    foresaw. Events have confirmed my presages, and Algernon's career
    since he left home has been marked by an utter dereliction of every
    principle with which I vainly sought to imbue his mind. It is with
    grief I inform you that his extravagance and dissipation have
    arrived at a fearful height, and the last account which I have
    heard of him, is the worst. Overwhelmed with debt, for the payment
    of which his future prospects are pledged beyond, it is said, what
    the estates of Marchdale, if bequeathed to him, can liquidate,
    burthened as they are already; he has supplied present necessities
    by borrowing at usurious interest, till, on the failure of even
    this ruinous resource, he has condescended to receive pecuniary
    assistance from an opera singer, to whom many people believe that
    he is married, and in whose company he is gone to England.

    "Whatever be the nature of the tie which binds Algernon to such
    society, it is your part, my child, to wean your affections from a
    man who is unworthy of them. The effort will be painful, but it is
    necessary to your peace."

    "Farewell, my dear young friend, may you be sustained through every
    trial of life, by the divine protection," &c. &c. &c.

Zorilda's emotions as she concluded Mr.
Playfair's letter, may be imagined but cannot
be described. Surprise, curiosity, grief, and
indignation took alternate possession of her
mind. The packet accompanying the letter was
still unopened. What mysterious interference
of Providence in her behalf could it contain,
and coming too from a stranger's hand, that
should call forth her gratitude to God? She
broke the seals and found an agate box with a
roll of paper inscribed,

    "A TRUE NARRATIVE."

Laying the former aside, she read as follows:



CHAPTER X.

    "This is indeed a tiding!
    That fellow is a precious casket to us
    Enclosing weighty things."

    WALLENSTEIN.


    "On a fine evening of autumn, I arrived at Grenada. Fatigued after
    a toilsome journey, I determined to halt for the night in this
    ancient city, and strolling into one of its magnificent churches,
    from which the congregation had just issued, I wandered up and down
    the spacious aisles, indulging in silent solitude my admiration for
    the grand obscure of their noble architecture.

    "As I moved slowly forward, musing on a scene which peculiarly
    harmonised with my love for the sublime, a female figure, habited
    like a nun, and whose features were studiously concealed by a long
    veil, glided swiftly from behind one of the enormous pillars which
    supported the building, laid her hand hastily upon my arm, and in a
    low tone, addressed the following words to me in the Spanish
    language:

    "'I have marked your countenance; it bespeaks intrepidity and
    benevolence; if you possess these qualities, meet me to-night
    precisely at twelve o'clock without fail, at the western gate of
    the ancient palace of the Moors.'

    "The vision vanished, but the solemnity of voice and manner in
    which these words were pronounced, convinced me that the adventure
    had something extraordinary in its nature. It might be a case of
    imprisonment or distress. Conjecture was vain, but there was an
    earnestness in the nun's manner which was irresistible. I resolved
    on going armed, and taking a friend along with me to guard against
    a surprise. Exactly at the appointed hour I reached the western
    inlet to that once splendid residence, now superb vestige of former
    days, which had been named as the place of rendezvous. At the
    moment of my arrival, the same veiled figure whom I had seen in the
    church, appeared with a small lamp in her hand. Looking fearfully
    around, she inquired whether I was alone. I answered in the
    affirmative, having left my companion at a sufficient distance to
    prevent our being overheard.

    "'Then,' said my conductress, 'fear nothing; and follow me, if you
    are prepared to undertake a commission which requires secrecy and
    kindness to execute it efficiently.'

    "I hesitated, and drew back; but instantly perceiving the doubt
    which crossed my mind, the Nun added, with eagerness, 'Fear not; I
    will detain you but a few minutes. The only trial to which your
    courage will be exposed is surmounted in the moment of your
    entrance here. You suspect my truth, and the dark labyrinth through
    which I am going to lead the way, may well appal a stranger; but
    _trust_ me, and I will not deceive you.'

    "Ashamed to express any further unwillingness, and impressed by the
    mild dignity of her manner, I suffered myself to be drawn inside a
    small door which led down a flight of narrow stone stairs to a long
    winding subterranean passage. My guide went swiftly forward,
    encouraging me to follow. We made many turnings, and passed several
    doors on the right and left, which seemed to lead to other
    passages; but all was still and silent as the grave, except when
    the large heavy drops, that lined the vaulted roofs, fell to the
    ground with loud and sullen splash. My sword was slight defence, if
    ambush lurked within these walls; but it was too late to recede.
    The faint cry of an infant at length struck upon my ear, and sent a
    sudden thrill through my frame.

    "'Hush, beloved babe!' said my companion, as she pushed back a
    bolt, and we entered a small vaulted chamber, at the extremity of
    which a little silver lamp streamed its feeble rays upon a
    spectacle of woe--the lifeless corpse of a young and exquisitely
    beautiful woman, who seemed but that moment to have breathed her
    last, lay extended on the ground; from the chill damps of which,
    her delicate limbs appeared to have been only protected by a
    pallet of straw, over which was thrown, by way of coverlet, a rich
    mantle of scarlet cloth lined with ermine. The Nun, raising this
    splendid pall, discovered to my view a new-born infant within its
    folds. The little creature had just awakened from sleep; and my
    conductress taking the mantle from the dead body, wrapped it
    carefully round the child, which, after pressing affectionately to
    her bosom, she delivered into my arms. Then arranging the garments
    of the deceased, which resembled her own costume, with pious care,
    next placing an ebony cross, or _prie Dieu_, on the breast, and
    winding a string of beads round the alabaster arms, which she
    folded across the bosom, the friendly Nun threw back her veil, and
    with a heavenly expression of devotional tenderness, knelt down at
    the side of the corpse, and with uplifted hands and eyes, briefly,
    but fervently, implored a blessing on the departed spirit,
    committing that which had but just left its earthly tabernacle to
    the Eternal Guardian of souls. Then printing a fond kiss on the
    cold lips which were unconscious of the tender farewell, she
    seized a packet which lay near the head of the dead lady, and
    disposing it within her cloak, snatched up the lamp which had
    guided our steps to this abode of death, leaving the other to
    become fainter and fainter, and then expire over the dead. She
    pointed towards the door, which having passed, she bolted, and we
    again pursued our way through the same passages by which we
    entered the vaults, till, turning short by the foot of a staircase
    which I had not seen before, she led me to a different portal from
    that at which I met her: stopping there before she proceeded to
    unlock the outside door, and uncovering her face, she desired me
    to attend to her instructions. She appeared about five and thirty,
    of a fine figure, and her countenance was remarkable for its
    expression of serenity and sweetness.

    "'Preserve this precious infant,' said she, 'with fidelity and
    affection. Take her to your own country; and in this packet, which
    I consign to your honourable trust, you will find resources for
    giving her the best education. Her father is an English nobleman,
    her mother was lovely and virtuous, but deceived. She left the
    convent in which I dwell to join her husband; but a fictitious
    marriage, which she believed to have been performed according to
    the most sacred rites of your Church, left him who had basely
    practised on her confidence free to desert his victim, who died of
    grief after giving birth to this dear babe. She resumed her Nun's
    habit ere she laid her down in death; and made me vow to send her
    daughter to England, but not to the guardianship of her father. You
    will not disappoint my hopes; I feel assured that you will watch
    this little treasure with fostering kindness. Adieu! May the God of
    the orphan be with you! Depart in peace!'

    "So saying, she waved her hand; and giving me no time for more than
    a sincere but hasty promise, urged me gently forward, and closing
    the entrance, she retraced her steps, returning into the building,
    while I proceeded to grope along at random in quest of my friend,
    who suffered the greatest anxiety, fearing that I had fallen a prey
    to my imprudence and foolish thirst for romance. Apprehensive of my
    fate, he continued wandering round and round the Moorish palace,
    seeking me in every direction. We met at length. I related my
    adventure, and shall procure the signature of my friend to this
    account of it, that she to whom it is most interesting may
    hereafter find the best proof which I can give her of its accuracy.

    "It was but a slight deviation from the truth to proclaim, on my
    return to quarters, that I had found the infant. Having procured an
    excellent nurse, I placed my little charge in her care. The child
    grew in strength and beauty, and became as dear to me as if it had
    been my own. My duty obliged me frequently to change place and
    encounter peril, which, to spare my young ward, I settled her and
    her nurse in a delightful and wholesome situation in the province
    of Castille, resolving not to disturb them till I could convey the
    child to an English school. During my absence the nurse died. I was
    not informed of the event. Zorilda fell into the hands of an
    unprincipled wretch, the wife of a soldier, who immediately
    perceived that she could turn her theft to lucrative profit. This
    woman carefully concealed the child, wandering from place to place
    to elude pursuit, and at length, having crossed the sea with her
    booty, disposed of the little girl to a band of gipsies.

    "It was a long time before I gained any intelligence respecting
    Zorilda's fate, and when at last my mind was relieved from its
    solicitude, I was far away in India, and it appeared to me that I
    could do nothing better for my young charge, than leave her quietly
    in the safe asylum which the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Hartland had
    provided for her. My appearing to prefer my claim could not, I
    thought, benefit the condition of Zorilda. I was neither enabled to
    clear up the mystery of her birth, nor offer any clue to the
    discovery of her father. Interference on my part might lessen the
    interest conceived towards her by those benefactors who imagined
    their rights to be undisputed, while her noble parent, whoever he
    might be, coming to the knowledge of circumstances which were not
    intended to be divulged, and perhaps alarmed in consequence for his
    own reputation, might employ some artful means to obtain possession
    of his daughter. This reasoning satisfied me that the wisest plan
    was to lie by, and make no stir in the matter; but suffering things
    for the present to take their course, wait patiently till the full
    age, or marriage of Zorilda, should furnish occasion for the final
    relinquishment of my guardianship.

    "The sum originally deposited with me by the Nun has increased to
    five thousand pounds British, for which amount, a check upon my
    banker in London will be found sealed up in a packet containing a
    diamond cross, a bracelet of hair, and a miniature portrait.

    "I had presumed to hope that I might one day deliver these articles
    of value with my own hands to their interesting possessor, and
    taste the pleasure of recalling to her remembrance the welcome with
    which she used to receive me at her nurse Rueda's house, when I
    went laden with fruit and flowers to visit my charming little
    play-fellow. Providence has ordained it otherwise, and death
    arrests my progress.

    "The mantle of scarlet cloth, lined with ermine, which I wished to
    preserve and restore with the rest, was stolen from me. I commit
    all that remains to the care of Mr. Playfair, that excellent, may I
    venture to call him, friend, to whose goodness I am deeply
    indebted----"

The concluding lines of this memoir were scarcely legible, and traced
with a pencil in characters so unlike the writing which preceded, as to
prove that an effort of expiring strength had added them by way of
supplement to the narrative. A certificate was appended to it, sealed
and signed with the name of Charles Russell, who confirmed the
statement which it set forth; and Zorilda having with breathless
impatience devoured the entire, fell upon her knees, to adore that
Power which thus signally interposed to sustain her in the darkest hour
of adversity.

After a passionate thanksgiving offered with instinctive glow from her
inmost soul, the cruel thought of Algernon returned with all its force.
Oh! had these tidings arrived to crown his virtuous, constant love, how
blest had been Zorilda! But, like a lamp suddenly introduced into the
depths of a dungeon, the light which had just fallen on her history
only seemed to mark more clearly the desolation of her lot. She read
Mr. Playfair's letter again and again, and returned as often to the
narrative of Colonel Dalton, so absorbed in anxious scrutiny of their
contents, that for a long time she totally forgot another inclosure
which still remained unexamined.

Catching it hastily, with the eagerness of one desirous to repair an
ungrateful omission by increased activity, she unfolded the other
parcel, and opening a box of transparent agate, drew forth a splendid
Maltese cross of the richest brilliants, then a miniature, and lastly,
a bracelet of the finest soft dark hair, to which was fastened a
ticket, addressed "TO MY BELOVED ZORILDA, FROM HER MOTHER."

The word _Mother_, that magic word, containing within itself all that
the human heart intuitively acknowledges of tender and protective,
struck at this moment on Zorilda's heart with all the power of nature
and novelty, while her emotions almost seemed to threaten existence.

"Oh, my mother, my adored mother! must I lose and find you in the same
instant of time? Zorilda's arms would grow around that neck, and shield
that heavenly bosom from every grief, but she is dead! cold and dead!
This beaming eye is sealed, the soft glow of this beautiful cheek has
faded, this angelic smile no longer plays upon these coral lips which
it has deserted, and for ever!"

So raved Zorilda, as she pressed to her bosom the miniature of her
mother, and gazed, in an agony of grief, on the portrait of her whose
presence, could it be restored to her fond embrace, would now, she
thought, fill every void in her heart, and leave no room for any other
love.

When the feelings are strained to their utmost, the mind falls into
calm, as the raging billows of the ocean subside into repose after a
storm of elemental strife, while resignation sits above, and watches
the moment to whisper peace. Zorilda became gradually more composed,
and the torturing sense of her own loss began to yield to less selfish
considerations.

"This lovely being," said she aloud, "was unhappy; she is now
inhabiting the mansions of eternal rest. Here, in this cold and cruel
world, contumely and reproach might have pierced her soul; in Heaven
are no tears. _There_, in celestial communion with kindred spirits
of the just made perfect, clothed in white robes, and crowned with
imperishable glory, amongst the highly favoured, who have drank at the
bitter waters of affliction, and risen purified by tribulation, my
blessed mother stands before the throne, joining her voice in the
melodious concert of everlasting hallelujahs: and shall I wish her back
again in this scene of sorrow? No! But Heaven will hear my prayer, and
take me to her. That is all my desire, all for which my longing soul
now pants."

"Lord love my dear Miss Zoé, what fine things are here!" exclaimed
Rachel, who at this moment entered the room with some refreshment which
she set down on a tray before Zorilda. The latter started from her
seat, and threw her arms round the neck of this affectionate creature;
then, pointing to the papers, told her, that they contained much
interesting matter which should be explained at some future time when
she felt more equal to the task.

"Heaven be praised," said Rachel, "that you have good news from any
quarter to comfort you, for you have little to spare, and there will be
even less than we enjoy already, if I do not mistake, as my lady is
desperately chop-fallen, by reason of news which she has received
through this day's post; and you and I can both tell how her temper is
likely to be affected. Master writes her word, that he and Mr. Algernon
(Lord Hautonville, I should say,) are to be here the latter end of next
week, and there is a terrible falling off by what I can learn, in the
_property_ part of the story. It seems that my Lord Marchdale had
power to will away all the estates except one, which must go with the
title; and sure enough he did not leave Master a rap that he could keep
from him. All the bulk of his fortune is gone, they say, to a set of
people who have for a long time been eating him out of house and home;
and I hear, moreover, that what is left to the present lord is not
enough to keep up any state or style suitable for a nobleman. Indeed I
wish that we were well out of this before the meeting of the family
again, for I am full certain, that we shall find ourselves in troubled
waters."

Zorilda appeared lost in reverie during the greater part of Rachel's
harangue; but, suddenly awakened by its cessation, she answered,

"Yes, dear nurse, it is time to be gone. I will not wait the return of
Lord Marchdale, but I have neither head nor heart to make any
preparation for departure. On your skill and management I rest for so
ordering matters, that the strictest secrecy shall attend upon our
movements. I have the means of re-paying any money necessary for our
journey, but you must contrive to borrow for the present. I have much
to say, but am exhausted, and cannot talk to you more till to-morrow."

"Do not fatigue yourself, my child," replied Rachel. "Blessed and
praised for all things be that Providence which brings round the most
wonderful changes in its own good time. I had so many dreams about you,
and my sleep of late was so uneasy, that it was foreshewn to me how you
would come to riches and honour, and find out all about your birth and
parentage, and learn who you are, and----"

"Oh! stop, Rachel, stop, no more of this;" said Zorilda, whose memory
was touched upon a sensitive chord by these allusions to a part of her
history, which remained as much as ever wrapped in clouds. "Go," added
she, "and think how we shall get away in such a manner that we may
avoid the possibility of being traced. My mind is so agitated and
confused, that you must give me time to recover. Moments are precious.
Go, dear Rachel; lose no time; but consider how we shall leave this
without suspicion. No one must be involved in any difficulty or hazard
on my account, and therefore our purpose must be secret as well as its
execution."

"I will do every thing you desire," answered Rachel; "and moreover the
whole plan is already in my head. Every body knows that I was going
myself, and therefore no questions will be asked about my trunks, in
which there is room for your clothes as well as mine. My brother lives
near, and will lend me whatever I want. All is smooth as a
bowling-green, since you know who you are, and where you are going."

So saying, Rachel quitted the room, and her young mistress was left to
collect her scattered senses. "Her last words strike upon my heart.
Alas! I know as little as ever, and 'Who is she?' remains unanswered,"
sighed poor Zorilda, who had now leisure to reflect, and perceive that
the discovery which she had made was one that left her in all her
original ignorance. "But," added she, as she still mused on this
strange event, "it no longer avails, that I have neither name, nor
house, nor pretensions. More knowledge than I possess, what would it do
for me? Would it not only lead to hatred of a father who could act so
wickedly as mine has done? Why should I wish to know the man who was in
fact the murderer of this angelic being? It is better as it is. Oh! if
all our vain wishes were heard, what wretchedness should we add to our
afflictions! The councils of heaven are wiser than those of earth. We
know not what we ask."

Rachel returned after some interval of time, elated with her
contrivance, in which Zorilda could find nothing to improve. It was
arranged, that as soon as possible Rachel was to ask for her dismissal,
which Mrs. Hartland was prepared to give her. Her wages were paid, and
the removal of her luggage appeared a matter of course.

"We will leave the house so early in the morning," said Rachel, "that
there will be no witnesses of our departure. I will tell Mary not to
mind going till late into your room, and not to take notice of your
absence from it, as you must walk for your health, and cannot submit to
such close imprisonment as that to which you are condemned. The
servants will all be glad to think that you are taking the air.
Mistress will ask no questions, for she cares little about you, and her
mind is taken up with her own affairs. I have already borrowed a
covered cart of my brother's, who will meet us at a little distance
from his house. You shall throw a large cloak of mine over your dress,
which will disguise you completely. Even the man who drives us shall
not know that you are with me, and we will leave our vehicle before we
arrive at the next village; so that there will be no clue whatsoever to
our retreat. Let me manage every thing, and it shall be well done, I
promise you. Where are you going?"

"I am going to Scotland," answered Zorilda. "I leave all to your
sagacity. Take me to my dear Mrs. Gordon in Aberdeenshire, and I ask no
more. I will consult the map, and tell you the route by which we are to
travel. Let your care only be to guard against discovery and pursuit."

"Mrs. Hartland will not give herself any trouble about you, but will be
very glad to hear that you are out of her way; and as to the gentlemen,
who might not indeed take the matter so easily, they will not be here
till we are many a mile away from Henbury," answered Rachel. "I am now
going to send off my trunks, with a line, to my brother, to let him
know that I must go directly after one who owes me some money. He is
aware that I am frightened about this debt, and will have his cart
ready for me at the orchard-gate, where I have appointed it to attend
me, a quarter of a mile beyond his own house at five o'clock to-morrow
morning. I am come now to take the last of your things: every article
except these books is put up."

"I will leave these books behind," said Zorilda, bursting into tears;
"and this packet--this precious packet, shall never be separated from
me for an instant. I will take charge of it myself."

Rachel hastened to finish her preparations, and Zorilda, once more left
alone, gathered together a few volumes and some trifling ornaments,
which had been given her from time to time by Algernon, and after
gazing upon, and kissing fondly each memorial of early affection, which
brought distant circumstances and tender recollections to her mind, she
sealed up a parcel, containing all the little gifts which she had ever
received, and felt as if she had now closed the grave over the last
dear remains of blighted love and murdered hope. Her next act was to
write the following note, addressed to Mrs. Hartland:

"There was a time when Zorilda believed herself an object of
affectionate interest in the breast of that kind benefactress who first
offered an asylum to the destitute being, now going to requite a deed
of charity by one of gratitude. That time, alas! is past, and with it
all Zorilda's earthly happiness. Circumstances have occurred which
render decision necessary, and these few lines are only left to say,
that they are accompanied by a parcel, and the most earnest prayers for
every good, from the heart of her who now leaves Henbury for ever, and
bids Lady Marchdale a last adieu."

All being now ready, Zorilda lay down to rest, but not to sleep. "Fast
coming thoughts" troubled repose, and busy memory would not be still.
Weary of her uneasy couch, she rose before day, and looked from her
window by the clear starlight, on that scene to which in a little hour
she was to bid an eternal farewell.

"Beloved spot! I leave you, and for ever--yes, for ever! Nor time nor
change can alter my resolves. Algernon is dead to me, and my heart
shall prove a faithful widow to its first, its only love. These stars
shall witness my vows; these shrubs and flowers form the altar on which
they are dedicated."

As Zorilda meditated on the landscape, the eastern clouds began to
glow, and the birds awaked to the first beam of morning. Rachel's
approach interrupted the mournful soliloquy of her young mistress, who
was soon dressed, and, wrapping Rachel's large cloak around her, they
both quitted the apartment, and with light step passed down stairs,
through hall and passages unseen, and gained the pleasure-grounds
without any obstacle to their progress. Zorilda made a sudden stop as
she reached the arbour, which she had wreathed with fragrant climbers
to meet Algernon's return. The sweet breath of new-born day wafted the
perfume towards her, and she clasped her hands in anguish. Rachel's
presence repressed utterance; but here was the bower, she thought, in
which her delighted ear should listen to the tales of foreign travel,
and hear once more the accents of unchanging affection.

"Come, my dear," said Rachel, taking Zorilda by the arm, and gently
urging her forward, "you must not make yourself melancholy by lingering
here. If we are to go, we should not stand shilly shally. Remember that
you wish to avoid discovery, and the only way to secure privacy is to
use despatch."

Zorilda suffered herself to be driven on, and was presently in the open
fields, not daring to look round upon the home of her happy childhood.

As they advanced towards the orchard, near which they were to be met by
Farmer Wilson's cart, Rachel spied this rude equipage at a distance,
and concealing Zorilda behind some bushes, while she spoke to the
driver, and saw that her luggage was safely stowed within, she beckoned
our trembling heroine, and having contrived to place her in the
vehicle, stepped in herself, and ordered the lad to proceed in the
direction which she described to him. Zorilda observed a mournful
silence, which her companion, though not given to taciturnity, had no
inclination to disturb, her own mind being so intent on the practical
concern of executing her present task with ability, that she was not
sorry for the leisure to ponder her schemes, which Zorilda's deep
depression of spirits afforded her.

At the distance of nearly ten miles from Henbury, our travellers
approached the carrier's station, at which it was Rachel's design to
stop, but to avoid being seen in company with her young mistress, she
had the address to desire her charioteer to alight, and make inquiry in
a cottage by the way-side, whether Mrs. Nixon, an imaginary friend of
hers was to be found in the neighbourhood. While Tom made this inquiry,
Rachel watched her opportunity, and opening the door at the back of the
cart, made Zorilda descend, and walk forward towards the public-house,
which was near at hand.

This was so dexterously managed, that when the carter returned with his
answer, that no such person as Mr. Nixon was known, Rachel sat in
solitary possession of the lowly conveyance which all along the road
had been shared by another.

Arrived at the end of her appointed stage, she had the good luck to
find a caravan just ready to start from the door. Zorilda had
directions from her duenna to sit by the road side, under a spreading
tree, till this new vehicle was in motion, while Rachel bustled about,
appeared busy in recognising her acquaintances at the inn, and was
attended to her carriage by the landlord and his wife, who wished her a
pleasant journey, as she drove away from the porch at which they
performed the parting honours.

Bidding adieu to the group who always assemble on such occasions to
witness a departure, Rachel set off, and a sudden turn in the road,
bore the caravan, though not moving at a very brisk rate, out of sight
in a moment.

Zorilda was seated under the appointed tree, at a little distance, but
so completely absorbed in her own thoughts, that she would have
suffered the machine to pass unnoticed, if Rachel had not vociferated,
'Driver, driver; don't you hear that gentlewoman calling to you; wont
you stop for a passenger?'

The caravan stood still; Zorilda was roused from her melancholy
reverie, and appearing with her little basket on her arm, Rachel
shuffled from side to side with officious civility, assuring the
stranger that there was "plenty of room," and so there was, for though
like a snow-ball, they were destined to gather as they rolled, there
were but two other persons already occupying seats, and these were a
brace of sturdy farmers, who were so intent on comparing samples of
corn, which each drew from his pocket, that Rachel had full opportunity
to inform her fellow traveller, whose courage seemed to flag, that all
farther devices to cover her flight would be unnecessary in a few
hours.

"If they come in search of us, it will be first to my brother's; then
to the inn which we have just quitted, and where, likewise, they will
be foiled. After this stage, we may take our ease, and travel in a
proper manner, like Christians. A little caution for one or two stages
more, and we shall then be at liberty."

Zorilda sighed assent, and we will leave her and her attendant to their
repose in a quiet country inn, while we return to Henbury.

Some hours elapsed before it was perceived that the fugitives were
actually missing. Mrs. Hartland, or, as we must not forget henceforward
to entitle her, Lady Marchdale, heard the intelligence with perfect
sang froid, only remarking that it was very extraordinary that her
orders should be disobeyed, and desiring that on Zorilda's return to
her chamber, she should be informed of the circumstance. The servants
had no more suspicion than their Lady of a longer absence than till
evening, and fully believed that Rachel, fearful lest want of customary
exercise might injure "Miss Zoé's health," had prevailed on her to make
a short excursion for change of air.

Evening came on, however, and no sign of return. The parcel, with
Zorilda's note, which had escaped observation, was now brought to Lady
Marchdale, who was much surprised, but though she summoned all the
household, she could learn no tidings whatsoever of the travellers.
Curiosity was in fact the only motive for her inquiries, as the event
of Zorilda's voluntary flight gave her inexpressible delight. All care
and responsibility were now at an end. She had taken her affairs into
her own hands, and Lady Marchdale not only felt relieved from all
anxiety how to dispose of her, but might expatiate on the various
surmises which she chose to indulge, so unfavourable to female modesty,
youthful timidity, natural affection, gratitude, and the like, as to
strengthen her arguments upon the impropriety of Lord Hautonville's
wasting another thought upon such a graceless adventurer. "And Rachel
too; no doubt _she_ is in the secret. A pretty piece of work, truly,
but they are gone upon their own inventions, which I am afraid are not
of the best, and so I can do no more than leave them to their fate."

The old butler, to whom these words were principally addressed, shook
his head, and replied: "My lady, I could bear any thing but to hear
Miss Zoé suspected of evil doings. She is an angel on earth, wherever
she is gone, and if all the world were as good as she, there would be
no need of any other heaven."

"Shut the door," answered Lady Marchdale; "I did not ask your opinion."

Bernard retired, and all the servants mingled tears and wailing for the
loss of their favourite, while every effort to trace Zorilda was
fruitless. The dairy-maid, who was very superstitious, almost persuaded
the rest at length, that the fairies who she knew to a certainty were
often busy in conveying cows secretly from their pastures, had some
hand in the elopement of Miss Zoé. "Any way, she is gone upon nothing
harmful," was the unanimous decision below stairs. As to Rachel, every
body knew that she was to leave the service, and no one was puzzled at
her disappearance.

Several days were spent in discussions and controversy before the earl
and his son returned to Henbury. Lord Hautonville had scarcely seen his
mother before he flew off to Zorilda's apartment. The door was open. He
went in, and called. From thence he ran down stairs, and out into the
shrubberies, not waiting to ask a question of any one; but seeking her
through all the places which were familiar to remembrance, and not a
little indignant at her absence in the moment of his arrival.

The gardener at last appeared, and stunned him by the intelligence that
Zorilda had been missing for several days.

"Missing! gone!--Where--when--how--with whom? Did she receive any
letters? Did any gentleman visit here? Tell me every thing this moment.
Order fresh horses directly. I will largely reward whoever brings me
intelligence of their route, and be the death of any man who conceals
information. Be quick;--fly!--but tell me before you go all about her
departure."

Such were the incoherencies which burst all in a breath from Lord
Hautonville, who seemed so completely bereft of his senses as scarcely
to possess the faculty of listening; while Bernard, to whom they were
addressed, endeavoured to reply.

"My lord, nobody here can throw any light upon the matter. Miss Zoé
_did_ receive a packet, but we heard that it came from Mr. Playfair."

"Accursed treachery; foul contrivance all. I know who sent the letter.
How did it come; by post or messenger? Who brought it here, and when
did she receive it?"

"Two days before her departure, my lord," answered Bernard; "a
sallow-looking man, well mounted, a stranger here, rode to the lodge in
the dusk of the evening, and inquired for Rachel, who went to know his
commands, and thought it some message from Marchdale-court. When she
returned to the house we inquired what she had seen or heard; but she
put us off with saying that it was only a friend of Mr. Playfair's who
desired him to call as he passed, and ask after the family. This seemed
plausible enough, but since all this stir, and questioning, it has come
out that little Ben Tyrrel, who held the gate while the gentleman
stopped at it, saw him give Rachel a large packet."

"Death and fury! I see the whole train. I know it all. The messenger
was a dark devil of an Italian. His own man, whose heart's blood shall
answer for this. Call Rachel; let me see her instantly. But stay--not
so fast. How did she receive it? Did she appear agitated, or seemed
pleased? What did she do? How did she look?"

"We do not know, my Lord, for my Lady had ordered Miss Zoé not to quit
her apartment for many days. It seems they had some words in my Lady's
dressing-room, and Rachel was the only one who took any refreshment to
our dear and good young lady; and every time that she came from her
room, she used to be in tears herself, and said that it would melt a
heart of stone to see how Miss Zoé would walk all day backwards and
forwards, with her hands clasped, and her eyes streaming. It was a
pitiful sight. Well, when she went, it was so softly and so secretly,
that no mortal man or woman about the place, saw her go out. The very
dogs never barked, and that is no wonder, for they were so fond of her,
that they would follow her to Jamaica, if she was going there."

"Curse your folly!" exclaimed Lord Hautonville. "Never mind the dogs.
Was it a chaise and four? Where did it meet her?"

"My Lord, sure I am telling your Lordship as plain as I can speak, that
there was no sign of man, or horse, or carriage, or any thing else,
even to the value of a wheel-barrow, to leave track or trace in the
finest gravel round all Henbury. There wasn't a sign even of her light
footsteps, so much as would crush down a daisy's head, across the
fields, to tell us which way she went; and, as the ignorant people say,
it was as much like Fairies' work as any thing that ever came to pass.
The only one thing that with all our spelling and putting together, we
could remark was, that latterly she grew timoursome about taking long
walks, as she used to do; and Matthew the gardener observed one day
that she came hastily into the shrubbery gate, looking pale, as if she
was frightened; but that was long ago before your lordship returned,
and we concluded that the cattle might have startled her, though she
said nothing, only did not go out of the grounds again."

"Call Rachel, call Rachel. Bring Ben Tyrrell. Where is my mother? I
will question every one; make haste."

"My Lord, Rachel is no longer here; she quitted the service on the very
day that Miss Zoé left the house, and went to farmer Wilson's, her
brother; and here is my Lady herself coming to look for you."

Lady Marchdale entered the room with a reproachful air, and upbraided
her son with his want of affection. "I have," said she, "been calling
you every where. Is this the way in which you meet me after such an
absence?"

"What have you done with Zorilda?" answered Lord Hautonville, with a
savage countenance, as he looked sternly at his mother.

"I know nothing of the ungrateful girl," replied Lady Marchdale; "she
has taken herself out of my protection, and proved herself unworthy of
my regard."

"Madam," answered her son, "we part this moment, and for ever, if you
conceal a single tittle of all you know. Why did you imprison her?
Where is she gone? She is mine, and I will follow her. Nothing shall
prevail upon me to give her up; and you will not accomplish any end by
keeping me in the dark. Tell me all, I beg; I _demand_ that you do
not deceive me. The most fatal consequences may result from this
affair; consequences which you little anticipate."

Terrified out of her senses, Lady Marchdale now began to repent the
cruel part which she had acted; and told her son, without reserve, all
that she had to tell. Her proposal to Zorilda to reject his suit, and
bind herself by a written promise never to ally herself with the family
of Hartland; Zorilda's refusal--her subsequent imprisonment--farewell
note, and mysterious departure, were all detailed with an effort at
amplification, which seemed as if designed to bury the recollection of
past unkindness and neglect towards an amiable orphan, in the
importance and display of the present statement.

Algernon's impetuous temper broke out into unmeasured reproaches
against his mother, whom he charged, without any regard to decency,
with selfishness, pride, and barbarity. In the expression,
"Circumstances have occurred," contained in Zorilda's note, he found
ample confirmation of his suspicions, which were no other than that the
Marquess of Turnstock, having first unsuccessfully urged his suit, and
terrified her by an unexpected appearance at Henbury, had afterwards
adopted the artifice of assuming the name of Mr. Playfair, to practise
on her credulity, and decoy her from her friends. Rushing like a
lunatic from the house, Lord Hautonville's first essay was at farmer
Wilson's. There he summoned the boy who had driven Rachel to the
carrier's inn, but could learn no more than that he had performed his
mission; that the good woman travelled alone, and was safely lodged at
her destination. His next resolve was to mount a horse, and go off to
this place, where he obtained no farther satisfaction. Rachel was gone;
and the people of the inn were not sure, but thought they could
recollect that she spoke of being on her way to London, seeking after a
bad debt. Here the clue was lost. To look for Rachel in the metropolis
would have been like searching for a grain of mustard seed in the sands
of the sea.

In vain Lord Marchdale represented to his son the folly of his conduct,
and the necessity of remaining at home to meet several persons who were
appointed to assemble at Henbury on legal business. It was in vain that
Lady Marchdale alternately stormed and beseeched. Arguments, threats,
and caresses were alike ineffectual. Post horses were ordered; and
before the morning's dawn, on the following day, Lord Hautonville and
his valet were on the high road to London. But we return, to attend on
the steps of our female travellers.


END OF VOL. I.

J. B. Nichols and Son, 25, Parliament-street.





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