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Title: Penelope: or, Love's Labour Lost,  Vol. 2 (of 3)
Author: Scargill, William Pitt
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Penelope: or, Love's Labour Lost,  Vol. 2 (of 3)" ***

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PENELOPE:

OR,

LOVE'S LABOUR LOST.

A NOVEL.

IN THREE VOLUMES.


II.


  LONDON:
  PRINTED FOR HUNT AND CLARKE,
  YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN.


  1828.


  LONDON:
  PRINTED BY C. H. REYNELL, BROAD STREET, GOLDEN SQUARE.


  PENELOPE:
  OR,
  LOVE'S LABOUR LOST.



CHAPTER I.


Lord Spoonbill was not less disappointed than the Countess of
Smatterton, to hear that Penelope was in daily expectation of seeing
her father. Hereditary legislators are sometimes perplexed, and in
the present case the son of the Earl of Smatterton was in a state of
grievous doubt and agitation.

His object in the first instance had been to take Penelope under his
protection, and he supposed that if the correspondence between her
and Robert Darnley could be broken off, there would be very little
difficulty in inducing her to comply with his proposals. For it was
his intention to make a most liberal settlement and to place her in
a very handsome establishment. Living as he had always in splendour,
and enjoying the luxuries and ostentation of wealth, though accustomed
to them from his birth, he thought, that to one educated in such
humble obscurity as Penelope had been, these fascinations would be
irresistible. During the short time that he had been under the same
roof with her, he had seen and observed more of the character of her
mind, and he felt that it was not personal beauty alone that she
possessed, but that her disposition was kind and her temper beautiful;
and therefore he loved her with a much purer regard than ever he had
before entertained for any one of the sex. He loved her so much, in
fact, that he absolutely regretted that her rank in life was not nearer
to his own.

It now also occurred to him, from what he had heard in the autumn,
that it was very probable that Robert Darnley might be in England, and
that through the intervention of Mr Primrose some explanation might
bring the parties together again, and thus his lordship's hopes would
be disappointed and his schemes frustrated. Then there came into his
lordship's mind the thought of the intercepted letters, and with that
thought the fear that a discovery might be made as to the manner in
which, and the person by whom, they had been intercepted. But that fear
was transient, for his lordship confidently said to himself, "It is
absolutely impossible that Nick Muggins should betray me." What could
his lordship be thinking about when he uttered this soliloquy? Did the
Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill think that the principle of honor was
stronger in the mind of Nick Muggins, the Smatterton post-boy, than it
was in his own Right Honorable self? Wherein, did his lordship imagine,
consisted the essential superiority of the high born above the sons of
the peasantry? Did his lordship imagine that the only difference was in
titles and soft white hands? It is not for us to know what lords may
think, it is enough for us to gaze with wonderment on what they do.

Present circumstances and present feelings compelled Lord Spoonbill to
enter into serious deliberation with himself as to what step he should
pursue. He could not for a moment admit the possibility of making an
honorable offer of his hand to the young lady; such a proposal would
have been the death of the Earl of Smatterton. That offer, which his
lordship gravely called the other proposal, required a little more
circumlocution and management; for his lordship was not quite so simple
as not to be aware that, if making the first proposal was condescension
on his part, accepting the latter would be condescension on the part
of the lady. There was required for this purpose a tolerably strong
attachment to his lordship, which might not yet exist in the lady's
mind. And though Lord Spoonbill was not by any means a man of great
understanding or extraordinary penetration, yet in those matters in
which he was most conversant he was not altogether unskilful. In
pursuits of a similar nature to the present, his lordship was by no
means inexpert; but, in the present instance, he knew that the person
in question was gifted with mental powers superior to those which
had belonged to his previous victims, and his own regard for her was
somewhat more tender and respectful.

These considerations on the one hand told his lordship that success
would be endangered by precipitancy, while the fact that Mr Primrose,
in the course of a day or two, would make his appearance, rendered it
necessary that some immediate steps should be taken. It is a great pity
that hereditary legislators, who are born to govern a nation, should
in any case be incapable of legislating for themselves. Such a case
now occurred. Lord Spoonbill thought of calling to his aid the counsel
of a friend. For this purpose he forthwith ordered his horse for a
morning ride; and, after an unmercifully rapid gallop of ten miles, he
dismounted at the door of one of the prettiest little cottages within
twenty miles of London.

This cottage was almost secluded from the sight of the world, but was
yet within reach of life's gaieties and luxuries. Its secludedness was
owing partly to the immensely thick plantations by which it was hidden
from the road, and partly to the narrow and almost imperceptible lane
which led to it. The external appearance of the plantation was rugged
and uncultivated and neglected; and this appearance was, on the part of
the owner and occupier of the place, cunningly intentional. He was a
man who loved seclusion, but who loved the world; but the world which
he loved was not the miscellaneous world of promiscuous humanity; it
was only the world of select and superfastidious fashion, of graceful
gaiety and refined voluptuousness. He loved society not as society, but
as the means of more intense and effective sensual gratification. Our
readers, we trust, will excuse and accompany us if we describe with
very particular minuteness this very singular character. He belonged
not to any class, or tribe, or general description of men; for if he
had, a few words of outline would suffice to state the class to which
he belonged, and imagination or observation might supply the rest. But
he was a perfect unique.

His personal appearance was striking, though not marked by any
decided or obvious singularity. He was tall and well formed, finely
proportioned and of graceful carriage. The top of his head was entirely
and shiningly bald; his complexion was fair, and there was for the most
part a look of good humour and easy gaiety in his countenance; but an
attentive observer might occasionally perceive a transient cloudiness
that looked like disappointment, and there were also visible traces
of slight asperity and symptoms of sneer and contemptuousness. In
his dress he was fastidiously accurate and expensively splendid. He
regarded fashion no farther than as it gave him an opportunity of
exhibiting himself to the greatest possible advantage.

Of the qualities of his mind it is difficult to speak intelligibly.
He was intellectual, though sensual; his reading was remarkably
limited, and his knowledge as remarkably extensive. He had received
the rudiments of his education at Westminster, and had finished his
studies at Cambridge, at which place he had become acquainted with Lord
Spoonbill. But, notwithstanding all the opportunities which had been
afforded him, he had not made what is called progress in literature. He
was perfect in no species of knowledge or science which is derivable
from books. He had learned Greek, Latin, French, Italian and German,
but he was familiar with none of them. He had slightly attended to the
exact sciences, but he had forgotten of them everything but their
existence. He had read ancient and modern history; his recollection
of them was little, but clear, and when he had any occasion to speak
of any of their facts or their philosophies, he generally spoke with
accuracy, and thereby acquired a reputation, which he had no wish or
ambition to acquire, of being a well read man. Few people speak Greek
or Latin, and therefore our gentleman, not being examined, passed
for a scholar. Everybody who pretends to any degree of refinement or
fashion, interslops his own native language with an ungrammatical nasal
blattering, called quoting French; and our gentleman had picked up
enough of that affected trumpery to pass well in the society which he
occasionally frequented. With how small a portion of real literature
and actual knowledge a man may pass muster in society, is only known to
those who love the reputation of scholarship better than its toils.

The gentleman of whom we are speaking was too politic to trouble
himself about politics. His politics, if the theory of such an
indolent one may be called by that name, were Ascendancy politics.
Those are the best subjects who never trouble their heads about
politics: if we were king we should always encourage and patronize such
people. The tame negroes in the West India islands do not trouble their
heads about politics, nor do the subjects of the Emperor of Morocco, or
the King of Persia, for if they did, their heads would soon cease to
trouble them. The people of the United States do trouble their heads,
but the time may come when there may be in that part of the world a
great multitude who will not trouble their heads about politics; it
will then be a much pleasanter thing to be king of America than it
would now. But while we say that our gentleman was indifferent to
politics, and therefore a good subject, we by no means wish it to be
understood that he was a Tory, for Tories do trouble their heads about
politics, and trouble other people's heads too.

This person eschewed partisanship, because it would give him trouble
to belong to a party. His principle was to possess and enjoy animally
every luxury within his reach; but at the same time to avoid those
excesses which are palpably and obviously ruinous to the constitution.
He had made the experiment for very few years, but he began to find
thus early that the experiment was not likely to succeed. For want of
exertion and activity the keenness of his relish had already begun to
abate; and by carefully extracting the bitter ingredients from life's
cup and casting them away, he found that its sweets were sickening and
saturating. Whatever was annoying to mind or body, he endeavoured,
and in most cases successfully, to avoid. But there was gradually and
surely coming upon him the bitterest of all annoyances; that kind of
mental suffering which is only describable in the language of paradox,
and which we will set down for the purpose of giving the purblind
puppies of criticism something to yelp at. He was then beginning to
feel the bitterness of sweetness, the darkness of light, the discord
of harmony, the solitude of society, the weariness of rest, the
deformity of beauty; but he knew not how and from whence this annoyance
was coming upon him. He had felt that sensibility was painful, and he
had suppressed or neutralized it; he avoided the sight or thought of
suffering, for he felt that sympathy with pain was painful. He had not
exercised the powers of his mind, lest that exercise should interfere
with that system of luxurious enjoyment which he had adopted. He had
despised and derided the moral feeling, and had studiously guarded
himself against all reproofs which conscience might administer to him.
But with all this care he experienced feelings far more oppressive than
those against which he guarded.

Now the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill was also a man of no mental
exertion, but he was a man of no mental power; he also was sensual,
but his was not a deliberate and studied sensuality, it was purely
animal and instinctive. He was an Epicurean, but not an Epicurean
philosopher. At Cambridge he had been acquainted with this Mr
Erpingham, and he had admired the dextrous sophistry by which this
gentleman had proved the worse to be the better cause. Mr Erpingham
had also been proud of the acquaintance with nobility, though Lord
Spoonbill was a younger man than he. And they had become the confidents
and companions of each others profligacies.

In a difficulty therefore of that kind to which we have above alluded,
it is not to be wondered at that his lordship should enter into
consultation, or at least into conversation, concerning the subject
with his good friend Erpingham.

We would not, however, have our readers imagine that Lord Spoonbill was
quite such a ninny as to make it the subject of deliberate consultation
and express enquiry, to learn what he ought to do on the present
occasion; he merely meant to make a call upon his friend, and he was
prompted to make that call by the circumstances in which he was then
placed with regard to Penelope Primrose. His object was to talk the
matter over, and he certainly could not have selected a properer person
to take part in such conversation.

The two friends had not met for some time; the interview was agreeable
therefore to both parties; for they had a great mutual respect for each
other: Lord Spoonbill admired Mr Erpingham's talents, and Mr Erpingham
had a high respect for Lord Spoonbill's title and high connexions.



CHAPTER II.


Lord Spoonbill was ushered into an apartment, the air of which was warm
and fragrant: the warmth came from Newcastle, and the fragrancy from
Bond street. At first entering the room his lordship saw not any one to
whom his name could have been announced. The servant who had opened the
door for him closed it immediately behind him, and he seemed to be in
an empty apartment. By an instinct natural to an Englishman he advanced
towards the fire-place, and there he presently saw on a sofa, the back
of which was towards the door, his friend Erpingham reclining at full
length, and having before him an open volume placed on a low table,
which had been constructed and adapted for reading on a sofa. This was
what Erpingham called "reading made easy."

His lordship expressed by his looks some surprise that his friend
should not rise from the sofa, and said, "Erpingham! are you unwell?"

"Ah! Spoonbill, is it you? Excuse my not rising to receive you; but the
fact is, I have been trying for the last hour and a half to get into an
easy position, and I have but just accomplished it, and if I move now
I shall not be able to recover the position, and you know how wretched
that sensation is. Well, how are the old materials?"

This last question referred to the health of the Earl and Countess of
Smatterton; and it was a phrase which Erpingham had learned from Lord
Spoonbill himself.

To this question Lord Spoonbill made the regular response, and
continued, "How is it, Erpingham, that I never have the pleasure of
seeing you unless I ride over to you?"

"Can't say," was the careless reply: "but," continued the
Epicurean, "I am not partial to mixed company. Now your house in town
is too multitudinous for me.--But my Clarissa tells me that the Countess
of Smatterton is going to astonish the whole world by introducing a new
first-rate voice."

For explanation, it may be enough to inform the reader that Clarissa
held the same place in Mr Erpingham's establishment as Lord Spoonbill
wished Penelope to hold in his. His lordship therefore was not sorry
that the subject should be thus introduced, and he replied:

"Exactly so. But we have our doubts whether the lady will, under
present circumstances, assent to the arrangement: for when she came
to London, it was as an orphan, but now her father has returned from
India after a long, and, I suppose, a profitable absence. Mr Primrose,
the father, is now on his way from Smatterton, and he has said in his
letter to his daughter, that he is about to place her in a home of his
own. So I fear we shall lose this star."

Mr Erpingham did not lay anything very much to heart, and therefore
he did not express any serious lamentation on this probable loss. He
directed his remarks to other matters; and among other questions which
he asked of Lord Spoonbill, alluding to the circumstances and events of
his lordship's life, he enquired: "And have you got rid of your dear
little Ellen at last? You had a great deal of trouble with her, I think
you told me some time ago."

Lord Spoonbill was quite as profligate as his elegant friend, but he
had not so successfully and completely neutralized all his feelings.
Though his profligacy therefore was coarser than that of Erpingham,
and though his lordship was not over gifted with sensibility, yet he
was not so entirely and systematically heartless. To this question
concerning poor Ellen he shook his head, and said:

"Why, yes; I was sorry for the poor thing too: she was very much in
love with me at one time, I really believe."

"Ay," replied Erpingham, "that was bad. It is quite annoying to have
a woman in love with one. I could not endure it. I make it a rule
never to encourage anything of the kind. You were too much addicted
to sentimentality when you were at Cambridge. I suspect now that you
are more than half in love with this Miss Primrose. Is she pretty and
silly?"

Lord Spoonbill frowned at the question, and did not answer it.

"Oh, well," replied his friend, "I have no wish to be in your
confidence. Pray don't tell me any more of your secrets than you wish
me to know. And if you are going to talk as much nonsense to me about
Miss Primrose as you did two years ago about your 'dear little Ellen,'
I must beg to be excused. Positively, Spoonbill, I have grown quite
nervous of late."

"I think," replied his lordship, "you have grown quite provoking. I
have no intention of boring your ears with any sentimentality, as you
are pleased to call it."

This being uttered in a petulant tone, and Erpingham not liking to
take the trouble of replying in the same tone, contented himself with
indolently saying:

"Well, well, don't be angry. Say what you please. I will bear it very
patiently."

Lord Spoonbill having but little time to spare, and being very desirous
of unburthening his mind to his friend, suffered this kind of careless
half-apology to extract from him the secret of his attachment to
Penelope. Erpingham listened as attentively as he could to the story,
and when it was finished he yawned out, "Ah! sure! But what assistance
can I give you?"

It was not very easy to answer that question. His lordship was more
disposed indeed to ask questions than answer them, and therefore,
instead of replying to the question of his friend, he said: "Now what
would you advise me to do?"

"Make her an offer of a handsome establishment. I suppose she is
violently in love with you."

"I cannot be quite sure of that," replied his lordship; "but I
believe I am not quite disagreeable to her."

"There is something in that," replied Erpingham; "but not much.
According to your account of this Miss Primrose, it should seem
that she is of a good family, and perhaps the arrangement that you
contemplate would not be acceded to."

"That," answered his lordship, "is what I most fear; and I will
acknowledge to you that I am so far in love, that rather than lose her
I would actually marry her."

"Marry her," exclaimed the Epicurean; "marry her! Impossible!"
Saying this, Erpingham roused himself from his indolent lounging
posture, and with much greater energy than he was accustomed to use, he
said: "Spoonbill, I am not much in the habit of either giving or
taking advice, but I will for once so far advise you as to say, that if
you contemplate marrying Miss Primrose, you must not on any account
whatever make her any other offer."

"Why so?" replied his booby lordship, with a stare of awkward
astonishment.

"Why so!" echoed his friend; "because, if the young lady has a proper
sense of her own dignity, she will not accept an offer of marriage from
one who has made her an offer of another description; and if she has
not that sense of dignity, but merely makes a profitable market of your
passion for her, she will despise you for a fond fool, and you, when
your fondness is over, will look upon her as a cunning, artful baggage.
I know nothing about Miss Primrose; but I am very sure that no woman
is fit to be a wife who could ever forgive a proposal of a different
description."

The sagacious hereditary legislator could not understand this logic,
and he stared at his friend as if he thought that he was crazy. "Bless
my soul, Erpingham," at length he said, "what nonsense you are talking.
I really cannot understand you. What can be more natural and regular
than to offer her marriage, if she will not accept me on any other
terms. You talk about hating sentimentality; I am sure you are now
talking as much sentimentality as any one need wish to hear."

Erpingham had exerted himself so much by the two last speeches which
he had made, as not to wish to continue the discussion, or to undergo
any more blundering interrogations from his noble friend; he therefore
began to resume his indolent attitude, and said, "Well, do as you like
best, Spoonbill, only remember I did not refuse my advice when you
asked it. Will you stop now and take your dinner with me?"

Lord Spoonbill was not any more disposed than his friend to carry on
the discourse, and therefore declined the invitation to dine, and made
the best of his way home again. As he rode homewards he attempted to
think, but he found no small difficulty in that mental operation. There
are some advertising schoolmasters who profess to teach their pupils to
think; but as we were not educated in one of these thought-mongering
seminaries, we cannot think how thinking can be taught. It may be
possible, for the only impossibility in these days is to decide à
priori that anything is impossible. But we do verily believe that,
had Lord Spoonbill been at one of these establishments, he would have
puzzled his preceptor as much as his preceptor would have puzzled him.

By the time that his lordship had arrived at home he had come to
the conclusion of his thinking, and the result was, that he thought
Erpingham to be quite an altered man; and he also thought that he would
not follow the ridiculous advice which his friend had given him.

Penelope made her appearance at dinner, and looked, as Lord Spoonbill
said, most divinely. How Lord Spoonbill should know what divine
looks are, we cannot tell: perhaps he meant that Penelope looked
like a parson. However Penelope might look at dinner, it is very
certain that Lord Spoonbill looked very much at Penelope. But the
young lady's thoughts were so pleasingly and agreeably engaged, and
her anticipations were so delightful, that everybody and everything
appeared agreeable to her. It was very different with the Countess of
Smatterton. Her anticipations were not very pleasant: her ladyship
apprehended that the return of Mr Primrose to England would be
the destruction of her prospects, as far as they related to Miss
Primrose. Having already observed that the young lady had manifested
some reluctance to the public exhibition of her musical talents, the
Countess very naturally supposed that Mr Primrose would indulge an only
child in whatever fancy she might take up.

It was unfortunate also for the Countess, that she could not easily
suppress her feelings of displeasure or dissatisfaction when any
of her favourite fancies were disappointed. Having already so far
committed herself among her rival prodigy-fanciers as to make a kind
of preliminary exhibition of her newly discovered wonder, her ladyship
felt that it would be very mortifying indeed to make her appearance
in town without fulfilling the high promises which she had made, and
gratifying the expectations which she had raised.

It is mortifying to spend money for nothing; but it is infinitely more
mortifying to be at the expense of a prodigious deal of condescension
to answer at last no good or self-gratifying end. This was the loss
and the mortification which the Countess of Smatterton now suffered,
or at least anticipated. Instead therefore of the usual courteous
manner which her ladyship had hitherto manifested towards the niece
of the late rector of Smatterton, there was coldness, haughtiness,
and silence. The Earl of Smatterton had not so quick a perception as
the Countess, and he had not anticipated any disappointment in the
return of Penelope's father to England. His lordship still continued to
sport the condescensions, and he did not take any notice whatever of
her ladyship's fit of ill-humour. When stupid men are henpecked they
often receive more pity than they need, for they are very frequently
insensible to many of the ill-humours of their mates.

Now, as the Countess was silent, an opportunity was offered for his
lordship to talk. Happy would it be if all married people would talk
only one at a time.

"And so, Miss Primrose," thus spake the Earl of Smatterton, "I find
that you expect shortly to see your father. It is a long while, I
think, since you have seen him?"

"It is sixteen years, my lord," answered Penelope.

"Sixteen years!" repeated his lordship: "you will hardly recollect
him. The meeting, I dare say, will be very interesting. And may I ask,
what time in the day you expect your father?"

"I fear it will be late in the day, my lord, for my father will not
arrive in London till twelve or one o'clock. His letter tells me that
he will call soon after that time at your lordship's house in town,
where he supposes I now am."

"He will be disappointed at not finding you in town," said Lord
Smatterton.

There was much truth in this last remark of his lordship's. The Earl
was somewhat remarkable for the intense and unquestionable truth
of many of his remarks. He was by no means given to what is called
romancing. Indeed, so exquisitely and unquestionably true was this
observation, that Penelope thought it needed not the corroboration of
her assent, but that it must carry conviction to every mind. And so
it did; and especially to the mind of the Countess, who immediately
observed: "Perhaps it may be agreeable to Miss Primrose to go to town
early to-morrow morning for the purpose of meeting her father."

Her ladyship made this proposal because she had no desire to entertain
Mr Primrose, and she thought that if Penelope was to be taken from her
patronage at all, the sooner it was done the better. What prodigious
lies patrons and patronesses do tell when they profess to have no
other object in view than the welfare and happiness of those whom they
patronise. The Countess of Smatterton had been pleasing herself with
the thought that she should be the talk of the season, as producing
and exhibiting such a prodigy as Miss Primrose; and her ladyship, who
was very partial to thanks, had been enjoying the anticipation of
Penelope's overpowering gratitude for such distinguished and desirable
patronage. But when all these pleasant and agreeable speculations
seemed to burst like a bubble, then was her ladyship very angry and
morose; and it was her wish to let Penelope know how deeply the
disappointment was felt. There were no words however which her ladyship
could use expressive of her feelings, and at the same time reproachful
to Miss Primrose. It was not Penelope's fault that her father, after
an absence of sixteen years, was now returned to England; nor would it
have been proper and just ground of rebuke that the young lady should
be pleased at the thought of seeing her father again, and be ready
to yield herself to his direction in preference to undergoing the
precarious patronage of the great.

Lady Smatterton was not the less ill-humoured because she had no just
ground on which she might utter the language of expostulation and
reproof to Penelope, but on the contrary her anger was greater: for had
there been an opportunity of indulging in language of reproach, that
very circumstance would have been a relief and consolation. It was not
therefore with a very agreeable intonation nor with the accompaniment
of the most gracious of all possible looks that her ladyship proposed
that Penelope should go to town to meet her father. But the poor girl
being happy in her own thoughts, and unconscious of anything done
or said by her that could be offensive to the Countess, was quite
unobservant of the harshness of her ladyship's manner, and thought
only of the substantial kindness of the proposal. To the suggestion of
the Countess Penelope therefore replied with grateful and pleasurable
vivacity:

"Your ladyship is extremely kind; and, if it is not giving too much
trouble, I should certainly be happy to take the earliest opportunity
of meeting my father."

"It will be giving no trouble," hastily and sharply replied her
ladyship; "there are coaches to town almost every hour. They will tell
you in the housekeeper's room what time the first coach goes."

Some high-spirited young ladies would have been mightily indignant
at a reference from a nobleman's table to the housekeeper's room
and stage-coaches. But Penelope was not so high-spirited; she was so
completely occupied with the thought of an early meeting with her
father, that nothing else was able to obtain possession of her mind.

A momentary pause followed the last observation of the Countess; and
then, in his own peculiarly majestic manner, the Earl of Smatterton
said, "I am of opinion that it is not quite proper and suitable for a
young lady to travel in a stage alone and unprotected."

With exquisite, and as if premeditated, promptitude Lord Spoonbill
replied, "Certainly not; but there will be no necessity for Miss
Primrose going alone or in the stage-coach at all. I shall drive up to
town tomorrow morning, and if the young lady will accept of a seat in
my gig, I shall be most happy in her company."

Hereupon a general family frowning took place. The Countess frowned at
the Earl, his lordship frowned at Lord Spoonbill, and Lord Spoonbill
frowned at the Countess; and if Penelope had not been too polite she
would have laughed at all three. Lord Spoonbill, however, in spite of
frowns, determined to have his own way, and seeing that Penelope was
desirous of going to town, insisted on accompanying her.

The Countess was next puzzled how to part with Miss Primrose; whether
as concluding that the young lady would not return to her and adopt
the profession which had been recommended by her ladyship, or as
admitting the probability that Mr Primrose would not object to the
public employment of his daughter's musical talents. For with all
her ladyship's alarm at the return of Mr Primrose to England, it had
not yet appeared that his return would interfere with her ladyship's
schemes. The probability however was, that when there was no pecuniary
necessity for the exercise of these talents, they would not be
cultivated for public display.

Before the Countess parted from Penelope for the night, her ladyship
said, "Miss Primrose, as I presume that your father may not object to
the profession which I have chosen for you, may I ask when it will be
convenient for you to take lessons previous to your public appearance:
for it is now time to think of that matter? Of course you know that I
have engaged a preceptor for you?"

The Countess of Smatterton had more fears than hopes on the subject,
and as for Penelope herself, she had taken it for granted that the
return of her father would of course release her from dependence
on strangers, and consequently render all professional employment
unnecessary. She was therefore startled at the question, but with
tolerable promptitude and presence of mind, replied:

"I am grateful for your ladyship's kindness. But, till I have seen my
father, it is impossible to say when I can begin to apply myself to the
instruction so kindly provided. I will return as soon as----"

The Countess understood this sentence, and answered with rather more
asperity than became a kind and condescending patron: "You need not
trouble yourself to return to me, Miss Primrose, unless you please to
accept of the instruction that I have provided for you. If I confer
favours I expect to choose what favours I shall confer."

Penelope made no reply, for her heart was full, and she thought of Mrs
Greendale; but, under all this, the joy at the thought of her father's
return kept her spirits from sinking.



CHAPTER III.


It was a very fine morning when Lord Spoonbill's gig was brought to
the door to convey Penelope to London. The young lady was joyful even
to tears. Hers was a joy of such intoxicating and almost bewildering
nature, that it became necessary for her to exercise some restraint
over herself, lest she should make herself ridiculous by ungoverned
prating. Lord Spoonbill was also pleased with the commission which
he had given to himself, to conduct the young lady to town. But his
pleasure was mingled with thoughtfulness, and alloyed by meditating
and contriving. He not been inexperienced in the winning of female
affection, but he was conscious that there was in the mind of Penelope
something widely different from and far superior to those with whom his
former intimacies had been.

Deeply and seriously did he endeavour to revolve in his mind the advice
which he had received from his friend Erpingham. But his lordship's
mind was unfortunately too narrow and contracted to afford room for
anything to turn round in it. He tried and tried, but all to no
purpose, to understand what Erpingham could possibly mean, when he
said that a woman is not fit for a wife who can forgive an offer of a
different description. His lordship, on the contrary, thought that a
woman is not fit for a wife who is of an unforgiving disposition.

So far indeed as his lordship's own personal feelings were concerned
he would have had no objection whatever to offer his hand to Miss
Primrose; an offer which he thought of course could not possibly be
rejected. But then again he thought of his dignity; and he remembered
how very severely he had spoken, and how very contemptibly he had
thought, of some titled individuals who had so far compromised their
dignity as to marry from the lower orders. Yet there was something so
elegant and so naturally noble in Penelope's look, manner, expression,
tone of voice, carriage and person, that nature itself seemed to have
ennobled her. She seemed fitted for any station in society. This was
all very true; but Lord Spoonbill could not for all this reconcile his
mind to the thought of raising Miss Primrose to the exalted rank of
the Spoonbill family. He was fearful too that the degradation would
break his mother's heart. All these thoughts, if thoughts they might be
called, with myriads more of the same complexion and tendency, passed
through the mind, if mind he had any, of the son and heir of the Right
Honorable the Earl of Smatterton.

We have said it was a fine morning, and if two of the English nation
can on such a morning travel together without talking about the
fineness of the weather, when it is really fine, they are two that we
have never seen, heard, or read of.

"We have a beautiful morning for our ride, Miss Primrose," said Lord
Spoonbill.

"Beautiful, indeed," replied Penelope; and she said it with such
energy, with such heart-bounding glee, as if the sun had never shewn
her its cloudless face before. And never indeed had it shone so
brightly before to her. There is something peculiarly and positively
beautiful in a fine bright day in the midst of winter. The shortness
of its light adds to its intensity and condenses its interest. But
when there is sunshine within as well as without, and when the heart
is young, pure, hopeful and buoyant, then is there felt a revelry of
delight, a wantonness of happiness. So felt Penelope on this bright
and brilliant winter's morning. And when there was added to the joyous
feeling within and to the effect of the spirit-stirring anticipation
with which she set out on her journey, the bracing and sharpening
of an almost frosty air, her fine countenance was suffused with as
brilliant a hue as ever graced the human countenance. As far as life
excels the art of the sculptor, so far did the countenance of Penelope
on this morning's journey excel in brightness and beauty its ordinary
expression. "We are not stocks and stones." So thought Lord Spoonbill
when he gazed on the lovely one who sat beside him. He almost felt the
majesty of loveliness, and was almost awed into reverence.

And did not the thought then occur to his lordship, that the scheme
which he was meditating must of necessity destroy that peace, that
happiness, that purity, which now formed so lovely and interesting a
picture? Did not some recollection of beauty prematurely fading, of
the burning blushes of self-reproach, of the convulsive throbbings
of breaking hearts, of memory burdened and writhing under the agony
of thoughts it cannot bear and cannot forget, come into the mind of
the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill? Did he not recollect poor Ellen,
lovely in her simplicity, happy in her innocence, the light of her home
and the joy of her widowed mother's heart? And did he not think of that
same Ellen dropping the tears of agonizing penitence on that mother's
dying pillow, and wandering now, for aught he knew to the contrary, a
houseless, shivering, desolate outcast?

No such thoughts entered his mind. Selfishness and sensuality
predominated over, or excluded all other feelings. He used all
the art of which he was master to render himself agreeable to his
companion during their short journey. He also exerted all his power of
observation to see whether any symptoms betrayed an interest in him
on the part of Penelope. But in the brightness of her looks, and the
joyousness of her features, no other emotions were visible and no other
thoughts could be read. His lordship was convinced that he could not
possibly live without her, and he resolved that at all events he would
make known his admiration by words as well as by looks. Like all the
rest of the world, preferring his own judgment to the advice of any
other, he determined that the offer of marriage should be reserved till
he should ascertain that no other was likely to succeed.

The journey was soon over. They arrived at the Earl of Smatterton's
town mansion full two hours before it was likely that Mr Primrose
should be in town. Ten thousand thanks were given by the grateful
Penelope for the kindness of his lordship, and unnumbered
acknowledgments of the goodness and condescension of the Earl and
Countess of Smatterton. Such were the joyous feelings of the young
lady, that these thanks and acknowledgments were expressed with unusual
earnestness and warmth of manner; and such was the modesty of Lord
Spoonbill, that for himself and for his right honorable parents he
disclaimed all right and title to such a profusion of thanks.

"I beg, Miss Primrose," said his modest lordship, "that you will not
so overwhelm us with your thanks. We are but too happy in having had it
in our power to afford you any little accommodation."

"Oh my lord, you are very kind, very kind. But I am almost afraid that
I have said or done something to offend her ladyship, the Countess;
for, when I took my leave last night, her ladyship spoke to me as in
anger. I fear I did wrong in so readily accepting the offer to come to
town to meet my father."

To the ear of Lord Spoonbill there was something exceedingly graceful
and musical in the tone with which this language was uttered. There
is indeed an indescribable beauty in the accents of a grateful mind
fearful of having offended its benefactor. His lordship was aware of
his mother's feelings on the subject of the probable loss of Penelope,
and his lordship was himself also fearful of losing her. But he did
not use the language of harshness under that apprehension, he sought
rather to retain her by kindness of expression. Assuming therefore an
unusual tenderness and considerateness of manner, he took the young
lady's hand, as if unconsciously, but in truth designedly, and holding
the hand with sufficient firmness to prevent it being withdrawn, but
not so as to excite suspicion or thought of intentional seriousness, he
said:

"I am very sorry that anything which the Countess may have said, has
given you uneasiness; but my mother has a peculiar earnestness and
hastiness of manner, that you have mistaken for anger. No one can ever
be offended with Miss Primrose."

There was a little pause, during which Lord Spoonbill endeavoured to
catch a glance of the expression of Penelope's countenance, without
appearing to make any particular observation; and, in this short
pause, Penelope almost sighed. Lovers delight to hear sighs, and Lord
Spoonbill was especially pleased at this symptom of emotion in Miss
Primrose. Retaining her hand therefore, and softening his tone down to
deeper tenderness, he continued:

"The Countess no doubt will be sorry to lose you, if the return of your
father necessarily involves that condition. But let us hope that may
not be the case."

Having thus spoken, his lordship pressed the young lady's hand more
emphatically, and sighed. Now, by rights, Penelope should at this have
started up, and suddenly withdrawing her hand, knitting her brows,
advancing three steps backward and darting a look of indignation at
his lordship, should have exclaimed, "Unhand me, my lord; what is the
meaning of this language?" But Penelope neither did nor said anything
of the kind. For the word 'unhand' was not in her dictionary, and she
had been too long acquainted with Lord Spoonbill to expect that he
should be able to explain the meaning of all he said. There was also
another reason why the young lady did not thus express indignation
and astonishment; namely, that having no suspicion of the views or
intentions of his lordship, she did not observe or rightly interpret
his language and his sigh. In addition to this, it may be also supposed
that the expectation of her father's arrival had some influence in
rendering her unobservant of everything else.

Emboldened by the unresisting manner in which Penelope listened to his
conversation, his lordship proceeded to speak less equivocally, and
grasping with both his hands the still unremoved hand of Penelope, and
assuming a look and tone of tenderness, he said:

"Pardon me, Miss Primrose, if I seize this first and perhaps last
opportunity of avowing how dearly I do love you."

His lordship was about to say much more on the same interesting topic,
but Miss Primrose interrupted him. The manner in which the interruption
was given was rather singular, and did not seem at all favorable to his
lordship's hopes. For, instead of looking serious and frowning and
attitudinizing, the young lady merely withdrew her hand, and said with
a smile:

"My lord, I hope you are only jesting; but my feelings are too much
interested with the thought of presently meeting my father, to allow me
now even to enter into the humour of a jest."

Thereupon his lordship rose from his seat, laid his hand upon his
heart, and directed to Miss Primrose a look, which would, on the stage,
have called down deafening plaudits from the back of the one shilling
gallery to the front row of the pit, and with indescribable earnestness
exclaimed, "By heavens, Miss Primrose, I am serious!"

To that declaration the young lady replied seriously, "Then, my lord, I
am very sorry to hear it."

Thus speaking, Penelope went towards the window, leaving his lordship
to think what he should say next. The enamoured hereditary legislator
then, undaunted by the smiles or frowns of Miss Primrose, followed the
young lady to the window, and in less impassioned but mildly persuasive
tones continued his address, saying:

"Miss Primrose, may I request of you the favor to hear me?"

"Certainly, my lord," replied Penelope, "if you will hear me
first."

"Most willingly," replied his lordship.

"Then, my lord," continued Penelope, "I must be permitted to say that
I feel very much hurt and surprised at what you have already said.
You have recalled to my mind thoughts that I would willingly have
forgotten; this allusion will suffice to let your lordship understand
the state of my feelings. I hope you will forbear the unpleasant
discussion. Indeed"--here her voice was feebler, and her lip quivered,
and the full tear was in her eyes, and her whole frame trembled, but
she did not look the less lovely for this emotion; summoning an effort,
she continued, "For mercy's sake, my lord, let me meet my father as
composedly as I possibly can. In less than an hour he will be here.
Pray do not rob our meeting of its happiness."

In saying this she threw herself into the nearest chair, and covering
her face with her handkerchief she sobbed and wept, and in spite of
herself thought of Robert Darnley. The Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill
also sat down, and thought of Nick Muggins and the indescribable pony.
But his lordship neither wept nor blushed. We record this fact rather
for its truth than its beauty. It seems indeed an encouragement to such
sparks as, in their transgressions, sometimes feel remorse; for it is
as much as to say that, by practice, they will become so familiarized
with meanness and cruelty as to cease to feel ashamed of them.

His lordship for a few minutes was silent. But as soon as Penelope
was a little more composed, he said; "I am very much concerned,
Miss Primrose, for the uneasiness which I have occasioned you, and
so far from wishing to interrupt the happiness of your meeting with
your father I will retire, that you may compose yourself. Only let me
request that I may have the honor of being introduced to Mr Primrose
after your first meeting is over."

This was all very rational and proper, and the kind, considerate manner
in which it was spoken pleased Penelope very much, and she made her
acknowledgments for the kindness with so much grace as to fascinate his
lordship more than ever. He thought he had never seen so lovely and
interesting a creature in his life. He apologized for having introduced
such a subject so inopportunely, and attributed it solely to the fear
that the arrival of her father might preclude him from speaking on the
subject at a future time.

When the poor girl was left alone, it was no easy matter for her to
arrange her scattered thoughts and to bring herself back to that state
of holiday extasy with which she had begun the day. Nor was much
time afforded her for the purpose; for, not many minutes after the
departure of Lord Spoonbill, the arrival of Mr Primrose was announced.
There seemed to Penelope to be scarcely any interval between hearing a
carriage stop at the door, and finding herself embraced in the arms of
her long lost father.

Over a scene like this all modest dramatists would drop the curtain,
knowing that imagination would be rather impeded than assisted by
farther exhibition.



CHAPTER IV.


To continue that reference to the drama with which the preceding
chapter was concluded, it may be remarked that, when the curtain has
fallen thus abruptly on one scene, the spectators do not anticipate
that, on its being drawn up again, the eye should be greeted with any
continuation of that scene; but rather do they look for some great and
decided transition. Our readers therefore will not now be surprised if
we take them back again to Neverden and Smatterton. They are pleasant
villages, and their inhabitants are for the most part unartificial
people.

It is a fact worthy of notice, and we have no doubt that our observant
readers have already remarked it, that all the personages in those
two villages of whom we have yet spoken, have had that delectable and
pleasing feeling of their own importance, by which they have considered
that the world has been under infinite obligations to them. To have
that feeling strongly and genuinely, is a real happiness; and if there
has ever been any human being whom we have envied, it has been P. P.,
clerk of this parish, especially while he was writing his own memoirs.
To endeavour to rob any one of this sense, is cruel, heart-rendingly
cruel and barbarous; but fortunately for human happiness, this robbery
cannot easily be effected.

But though the good people of these villages had this feeling in a very
high and pure degree, yet it is not altogether confined to them; and
if the Reverend Mr Darnley, in his vigintennial visits to London, has
been rather angry and offended at the rude behaviour of the people in
the streets who have jostled and driven against him, without having
the grace to move their hats to him, that self-same Mr Darnley has
in his turn inflicted upon a distinguished inhabitant of the great
metropolis as serious a mortification as his reverence experienced from
metropolitan neglect.

We have introduced to our readers the Rev. Charles Pringle; we have
now to introduce that gentleman's first-cousin, Zephaniah Pringle,
Esq. This illustrious personage was not a native, but had long been an
inhabitant, of the great metropolis, and, according to his own view of
the matter, a great ornament to it. He was a literary man. He had been
destined by his parents for agricultural pursuits, but his genius was
above them. The circumstances, the trifling circumstances, which tend
to develope the powers of the mind and to direct the energies into
their proper channel, are always worthy of notice. Everybody knows the
story of Sir Isaac Newton and the apple. But everybody does not know,
but soon will know, the circumstances which made Zephaniah Pringle a
critic.

When Zephaniah was about twelve years old he was taken to Smatterton by
his father, who had to make a call of business on Mr Kipperson. While
Mr Pringle and Mr Kipperson were engaged in looking at some cattle
which the latter had to dispose of, young Pringle was gaping about
in the library, and admiring with great veneration all its literary
wonders; but that which most powerfully arrested his attention was
a plaister bust of Dr Johnson. And when the agricultural gentlemen
returned to the library, Zephaniah, pointing to the bust, said,
"Father, was that there thick-headed man a heathen philosopher?"

Mr Kipperson, who was pleased with the young gentleman's manifestation
of a taste for literature and philosophy, kindly corrected the
misapprehension of the youth, and said, "No, my lad, the heathen
philosophers did not wear wigs. That is a bust of Dr Johnson, the
celebrated critic and lexicographer."

Zephaniah, with open mouth and expanded eyes, stared his thanks to Mr
Kipperson, who immediately asked the young gentleman if he was fond of
reading. To which he replied in the affirmative. Whereupon Mr Kipperson
kindly lent the youth Boswell's Life of Dr Johnson.

From that moment young Pringle felt an irresistible impulse to become
a man of letters; and with a view to gratify that ambition, his father
was kind enough to let him have another quarter's Latin, in order to
give him an opportunity to perfect himself in classical literature.

Thus qualified, the young man in due time went up to London. In the
great metropolis he soon divested himself of the rusticity of his
manners, and after some few failures in the first instance, for want
of knowing the proper knack of writing, he soon acquired a tolerable
facility, and absolutely once wrote something that was talked
about. From that moment he never saw two people talking together in
a bookseller's shop, without fancying that they were talking about
Zephaniah Pringle.

He took great pains to imitate Dr Johnson; but his literary companions
detected him and laughed at him. He had but a slender frame and a
slender voice; and when he attempted the oracular and the pompous
style, it was like playing the Hallelujah Chorus on a fife. He could
not adopt the doctor's Jacobitism, but he took instead of that a double
extra super-Eldon high Toryism. And in religion, not that he ever went
to church, he was decidedly of opinion that all dissenters and Roman
Catholics were convinced that the church of England was the only true
church, but that they would not conform merely out of spite. It was
his opinion that the Duke of Wellington would never have driven the
French out of Spain, had he not always made a point of hearing all his
soldiers every day say the church catechism.

He had a praiseworthy and prodigious horror of gymnastics; they came
from Greece, and the ancient Greeks were republicans. In his notion of
mechanics' institutes he was exceedingly ungrateful to Mr Kipperson,
who patronized him and them too; and when Mr Kipperson once proposed
to establish a mechanics' institute at Smatterton for the benefit of
the agricultural operatives, this Zephaniah Pringle had the impudence
to write him a long letter on the subject, accusing him of a design to
subvert the established church, and convert England into a republic. Mr
Kipperson gave up the scheme, not because of this letter, but because,
when he assembled the people of the village in one of his barns to read
them a lecture on hydrostatics, every soul of them fell fast asleep.

There was another subject on which Mr Zephaniah Pringle had very strong
opinions,--viz. West India slavery. He very properly laughed at the
absurdity of supposing that negroes have the slightest objection
to be flogged to death; and he knew that the only object which the
abolitionists had in view, was to overturn the established church.

Mr Zephaniah Pringle had a most exquisite conceit of his own
superlative wisdom and penetration. This gentleman must have
experienced therefore a sensation of great delight in taking his
important self down to Smatterton to visit Mr Kipperson and surprise
the natives. But how great must have been his astonishment, when
introduced by Mr Kipperson at the rectory of Neverden, to find that Mr
Darnley the elder had never heard of the name and fame of Zephaniah
Pringle. He consoled himself, however, with the reflection, that many
other names great as his own were equally unknown to this obscure
village parson.

Finding that the young ladies of Mr Darnley's family were addicted to
reading, the critic kindly administered his gratuitous and unasked
commentaries on divers modern and ancient authors. He astonished the
daughters of the rector of Neverden by opinions hitherto unheard
and unthought of. The confidence of his manner passed for wisdom and
decided apprehension of the subjects on which he spoke; and as he took
care to let it be thoroughly understood that all who differed from him
were fools, and as literary young ladies do not like to be considered
fools, they of course assented to Zephaniah Pringle's opinions on
literary topics.

In his conversation with Mr Darnley the younger he found that,
by talking literature, he did not seem to magnify himself to his
heart's content; for Robert Darnley did not believe that critics
were conjurors. The genius then had recourse to talk concerning
those persons of high style and dignity with whom he had the honor
to be acquainted. Among other great names, he mentioned that of Lord
Smatterton, and the scarcely less illustrious name of Lord Spoonbill.

"You are acquainted then with Lord Spoonbill?" said Robert Darnley.

"Oh yes, perfectly well," replied the critic.

"And pray what kind of man is this Lord Spoonbill? for, though the
family resides in the next village, I am totally unacquainted with
them."

"Lord Spoonbill himself is the best creature in the world. The Earl
of Smatterton is a proud, haughty man, like the rest of the Whig
aristocracy."

"Then Lord Spoonbill is not so very proud?"

"I cannot say that Lord Spoonbill is altogether without pride. He has
very high notions; but his manner is not pompous like his father's. And
he can be very agreeable, though he is by no means a man of any great
share of intellect."

"I have heard him spoken of," replied Robert Darnley, "as being a
very profligate man."

"I believe," said the critic, "he is rather gay, but not more so than
most young men of his rank. The finest joke in the world is, that
his father, the Earl of Smatterton, thinks that he is one of the
gravest and steadiest young men of the age, and quotes him as such
accordingly. But the fact is, that his lordship has lately taken under
his protection a lady, now received at Lord Smatterton's table."

Robert Darnley could not believe his own senses. The language which
he now heard from Zephaniah Pringle seemed to allude plainly enough
to Penelope, but it could not be possible, he thought, that a young
lady of such high and pure spirit as Miss Primrose could ever submit
to an arrangement so truly humiliating. Suppressing and concealing his
agitation as well as he could, he endeavoured to ascertain from the man
of letters what was really the fact concerning Lord Spoonbill and this,
as yet unnamed, young lady.

"Surely, Mr Pringle, you do not mean to say that Lord Spoonbill has
a lady in keeping, whom he introduces to his father's table? This is
really beyond all credence."

"But indeed, sir, I do mean it," replied Zephaniah the critic: "and,
if you have never heard the story, I can tell you all the particulars."

"It is no business of mine," said Darnley, "but I do feel curious
to know the particulars of so very singular a case, as a young man
bringing a kept lady to his father's own table."

"It is not altogether so," replied Mr Pringle; "but I will tell you
exactly how the case stands; I know Spoonbill very intimately."

This last expression was uttered as everybody would naturally suppose
such an expression would be uttered by such a man. After thoroughly
enjoying the high and refined satisfaction of having said, "I know
Spoonbill very intimately," the loyal and religious critic proceeded:

"You must remember old Greendale, the rector of Smatterton, who was my
cousin's predecessor in the living. He died a very short time before
you returned from India. This old man had a very pretty niece, you
know; you must remember her, for I understand that she lived with old
Dr Greendale from her infancy."

"Oh, certainly," said Darnley, with much effort concealing the
agitation which he felt; "I remember her very well, her name is
Primrose; but you surely do not mean to say that Miss Primrose is
living under the protection of Lord Spoonbill?"

Hereupon Mr Pringle did somewhat hesitate and say, "Why, why--I cannot
exactly say that--that she is absolutely living under his protection.
She is rather living under the protection of Lady Smatterton as yet.
You perhaps may not know that Miss Primrose has a remarkably fine
voice, and is in fact a first-rate vocalist: now Lady Smatterton is a
great patroness of musical talent, and has taken a fancy to bring Miss
Primrose out this season as a public singer, and Lord Spoonbill has
made proposals, which I believe have been accepted by the lady; and she
is to be under his lordship's protection as soon as she leaves Lord
Smatterton's house, and that will be very soon. That is the true state
of the case. I wonder you have never heard of it before; for though
you have been from India a very short time, yet in country places
intelligence flies very rapidly."

"Well, you astonish me," said Mr Darnley the younger; "I could not
have thought that a young lady, brought up by such an exemplary and
virtuous man as the late Dr Greendale, should ever condescend to live
upon those terms with the first nobleman in the kingdom."

"Oh, sir," replied the knowing critic, "you do not understand the
heart, especially the female heart. There is something in title and
splendour so fascinating to the weaker sex, that few can resist its
influence. I have observed and studied the human mind in all its
various attitudes, and I have lived in the world long enough to cease
to be astonished at anything I hear or see. In such an outlandish place
as India you see nothing and learn nothing. London is the only place
where the human character can be thoroughly and properly studied."

Much more to the same purpose did the fluent cousin of the new rector
of Smatterton say to the son of the rector of Neverden. But Robert
Darnley heard him and heeded him not. Deeply did the intelligence
concerning Penelope sink into his mind, and painfully did he revolve
the idle gossip of the loyal and religious critic, who had properly
and thoroughly studied human nature, in his lodgings in Fetter lane,
Holborn.



CHAPTER V.


The day which followed immediately after the above-mentioned
conversation, was destined for a grand dinner party at the mansion
of Sir George Aimwell, Bart. Preparations were made for a splendid
entertainment. It was not an easy matter to get together a large
party in that neighbourhood without admitting to the table some
individuals of dubious dignity. There was, for instance, the equivocal
Mr Kipperson, at once landlord and tenant, gentleman and farmer; but
then he was so zealous a friend to the interest of agriculture. He was
so thoroughly enlightened on the corn question, that the great men of
Smatterton and Neverden could not but respect him. Sir George Aimwell
also liked Mr Kipperson, because he was a bad shot, and had so ardent a
zeal against poachers.

This party was assembled, among other objects, for the purpose of
welcoming to England the son of the rector of Neverden. But Robert
Darnley was by no means in spirits for the enjoyment of festivity. He
was sorry for what he had heard from Zephaniah Pringle, and he was
angry that he was sorry, and then again sorry that he was angry.

It had been unfortunate for him that there had been such silence
observed on the subject of his correspondence and acquaintance with
Penelope. Scarcely any one but the parties concerned knew anything
of the matter. Mr Kipperson suspected it, and the Smatterton family
had been informed of it by Mr Darnley, because the reverend gentleman
thought it but respectful to let them into the secret. As for Sir
George Aimwell, he scarcely knew or thought of anything, except
administering justice and killing birds. The Reverend Charles Pringle,
rector of Smatterton, was also quite unaware of the existence of any
correspondence between Robert Darnley and Penelope Primrose. No wonder
then that, under the present awkward circumstances, and with the false
account which Zephaniah, the critic, had brought from London, there
should be in the hearing of Robert Darnley much conversation by no
means agreeable to his feelings, or soothing to his mind.

When the party began to assemble they began also to talk: but at the
first their talk was very desultory and common-place. The worthy
baronet was congratulated by Mr Kipperson on having caught a poacher,
and was condoled with by the same gentleman on having lost almost his
whole brood of pheasants. It is astonishing that any one can be so
simple as not to see that pheasants were obviously created to be shot
by gentlemen and noblemen only, or their gamekeepers. There was also
much talk about horses and dogs, and the poor-rates, and Mr Malthus,
and parish settlements, and the agricultural interest.

It is very erroneously stated by many persons, both in writing
and in speaking, that the period between the first arrival of the
company and the serving up of the dinner is most weary, stale, flat
and unprofitable. But as there is no spot of earth so barren as not
to produce some curiosity to reward the toil and gratify the taste
of the botanist, so there is no attitude or condition of our being
which may not yield some fruit of instruction and amusement to the
moral botanist. We deserve the thanks of our readers for much that
we communicate in the way of information and amusement, but perhaps
for nothing so much as for directing their attention to the great and
valuable truth, that even the usually-considered dreary half hour
before dinner is not absolutely barren and worthless. Peradventure
also, by directing the attention to this matter, we may prevent many a
dinner from being spoiled, because we thus present a strong inducement
to an early arrival. He that arrives first is pretty certain that the
rest of the company can have no opportunity of pulling his character
to pieces behind his back. For when the host expresses to the rest of
his party his wonder that Mr Smith is not come, then the good people
who are hungry and impatient begin to talk about Mr Smith, and they use
him ungently, treating his transgressions with no candour, and honoring
his virtues with no encomium. There is also something very curious in
observing the different effects which dining produces on different
persons. Some will enter the drawing-room brimfull of intelligence,
telling everybody everything that everybody knows, and nobody cares
about. There are people who entertain the strange notion that tongues
were made to talk about mere matters of fact; and when they have said
their say, they are silent for the rest of the evening. There are again
others who, before dinner, look as wise and as stupid as owls; who seem
at a most painful loss what to do with their hands, or their feet,
or their eyes; who having no motive to look at one object in the room
more than at another, let their eyes roll unmeaningly and incessantly
about as if they were endeavouring to keep them open without looking
at anything. But when these apparently inanimate imitations of Chinese
Mandarins have had their dinner, their looks are brightened and
their tongues loosened, and as before dinner they seemed as if they
were wishing most ardently for an opportunity to simper at something
which might be said by another, they after dinner give forth that
which interests and delights. The period before dinner is also one
of great importance for the exhibition of personal decoration. Then,
and then only, has dress its right display, and its full complement
of observers. In this brief digression it is impossible to enter into
one half, or one twentieth of the particulars which may interest and
delight an observant mind. "Sermons in stones and good in everything,"
is one of the most true and most valuable expressions which the pen of
Shakspeare ever wrote. But to proceed.

There was, as we have said above, much miscellaneous talk before dinner
at this "grand miscellaneous" entertainment, given by Sir George
Aimwell. Mr Kipperson strutted about the room with his hands in his
pockets, looking as wise as a conjuror and as pleased as Punch, saying
something scientific or agricultural to every one there. The Reverend
Charles Pringle made his appearance also time enough to show the
company how possible it was to violate the decorum of clerical attire
without actually transgressing the literal regulations. Lady Aimwell
received much of that gentleman's polite attention; and the daughters
of Mr Darnley were also not unnoticed. The new rector of Smatterton
was very clever at conundrums, some new ones of his own making were
graciously communicated to the young ladies. Zephaniah Pringle, the
critic, was pleased to look very important, and to feel his dignity and
intellectuality mightily hurt, because the talk, such as it was, had
no interest for him. He was much at a loss to think how it was possible
for human beings to take an interest in such unintellectual things as
corn, cattle, game and poor-laws; and he thought the people were great
blockheads because they talked about what concerned themselves. Robert
Darnley received the congratulations of his friends; but he received
them coldly, for his mind was not at ease.

Now after much talk, miscellaneous and desultory, several of the party,
while yet they were waiting for dinner, congregated together at one of
the windows, and their talk was almost in whispers. Zephaniah Pringle
was one of that select committee, and he was speaking very gravely and
very knowingly, and Sir George Aimwell was looking as much as to say,
"I am very sorry for it." Mr Darnley the elder was also one of the
whispering group, and looked as serious and solemn as any one of them;
and every now and then he turned his eyes suspiciously and inquiringly
towards his son. The young gentleman more than suspected what was the
subject of their discourse; and as the rector of Neverden was the only
one of the party who had any suspicion of the interest which Robert
Darnley took in the person concerning whom the discussion was made,
they did not very carefully subdue and suppress their voices, but they
spoke loudly enough to be heard in their whispering, and the name of
Primrose was heard by Robert Darnley, and in spite of his high spirit
he felt sick at heart. And though he felt little appetite for dinner,
he was glad of the announcement, which relieved him from hearing, or
rather fancying that he heard, talk that told of the shame of Penelope.

Oh, that our pen could write strongly as our heart feels against those
villanous, viper-souled, low-minded, merciless reptiles, who, from
motives too grovelling and dirty to be analyzed, impertinently by their
ill-digested calumnies, mutilate and mangle the fairest reputation,
and sully the purest characters. Never can such vermin be sufficiently
punished or adequately vituperated, for they are absolutely incapable
of feeling such racking mental agonies as they inflict on others.
What could such a heartless puppy as Zephaniah Pringle feel of mental
and heart-rending agony, compared with that which Robert Darnley
experienced, when he had reason to think that the high-minded,
clear-souled Penelope, whom he had loved for her purity, her moral as
well as personal beauty, had so far forgotten all good feelings and
all high thoughts as to sink down into a character for which refined
language has no name?

The baronet's table was splendidly covered, and the guests were as
well pleased in demolishing as the cook had been in constructing and
compiling the various specimens of culinary art. Sir George Aimwell
paid, as was proper, especial attention to Robert Darnley, and
endeavoured to draw the young man into conversation, or, more properly
speaking, to provoke him into narrative. To such questions as were
asked he gave an ample and intelligent answer, but he proceeded no
further; he did not seem desirous to obtrude himself upon the attention
of the company.

Table-talk was by no means the forte of the worthy baronet; but when
he had a party he generally exerted himself: and as he was very well
aware that, in his own proper person, and from his own peculiar stores,
he was by no means a man of talk, he very considerately endeavoured to
set in motion other tongues than his own. On the present occasion he
thought, that as Mr Robert Darnley had been long abroad, he would most
likely be best able to entertain the guests. But when the hospitable
host observed how very slowly and reluctantly the young man brought
out the stores of his information, he next directed his attention to
Zephaniah Pringle, who was not so reserved. He spoke fluently, and
readily, and oracularly. Sir George, though not a man of letters, was
ready enough to indulge his guests, or to suffer them, if they would,
to indulge themselves, with literary conversation; and it was a great
happiness to Zephaniah Pringle to let the inhabitants of Smatterton
and Neverden know how great a man was in their company. Yet there was
a little abatement from the purity and intensity of that enjoyment,
in the observing how inapt they seemed to be in comprehending which
were the first publications of the day, and which were productions of
inferior note. Some of the party asked strange things about reviews and
magazines, and Zephaniah was astonished that there should be in any
part of Great Britain such complete, total darkness, and intellectual
neglect, as that his own peculiar periodical should be altogether
unknown even by name. He attributed their ignorance to mere spite, or
thought that Lord Smatterton, being a Whig, had made it a point to
conceal from his country neighbours the existence of that periodical,
which, by the means of pastry-cooks and tobacconists, had an immense
circulation in the metropolis. The daughters of Mr Darnley listened
with much reverence to the oracles of Zephaniah the critic, and they
thought him prodigiously wise, because he thought differently from
everybody else. They asked his opinion of every book which they
remembered having read: and they endeavoured to persuade themselves to
entertain the same opinions as he did.

If our readers imagine that, from what we have said concerning
the daughters of the rector of Neverden, these young ladies were
superficial simpletons, we are desirous of removing such impression.
They were not conceitedly confident in their own judgment; and, as they
were not much in the way of seeing or hearing literary pretenders and
intellectual quacks, they gave Zephaniah Pringle credit for all that he
assumed. They did not think very highly of themselves, and therefore
they readily yielded assent to the oracles of one who appeared so
competent and able to give an opinion. Many others, besides the
daughters of Mr Darnley, have been at a first, or even second interview
with Zephaniah, very greatly deceived as to the height, the depth, and
the breadth, of the critic's understanding.

This part of our narrative, though not directly tending to the
developement of the history, we could not consent to pass by unnoticed;
for though it may not be very entertaining, it is instructive, and
it affords us an opportunity of giving a valuable hint to our young
readers. The hint to which we allude, is to caution them against too
much modesty. Only suppose, for instance, that such an empty-headed
coxcomb as Zephaniah Pringle had entertained a fair opinion of his own
understanding, or that he had underrated his own intellectual powers
and stores, who would ever have found out that he was superior to what
he assumed? Who would have taken the trouble to urge him to assume a
higher rank? Not one. But now that he set himself up for a great one,
who was to detect the hollowness of his pretensions? Not above one in
a hundred. And who would take the trouble to expose him? Not one in a
thousand. And who would take notice of the exposure? Not one in ten
thousand.

In our next edition we will cancel this last paragraph, if we find
that modesty has ever made its owner rich or celebrated. Modesty is
certainly very much to be praised, and if we were candidate for any
situation of honor or emolument, or even for a good seat in a theatre,
we should very much approve of the modesty of such as, having power to
rival us, would meekly and quietly stand out of our way.



CHAPTER VI.


During the night which followed the grand dinner given by Sir George
Aimwell, Robert Darnley scarcely slept a single hour. He retired to
his apartment full of bitter and distracting thoughts, almost tempted
to believe that there was truth in the foul libels that thoughtless
blockheads have uttered and written concerning the gentler sex. He said
to himself, "Frailty! thy name is woman." He was so grieved, so pierced
to the heart's core, that he forgot for a while all that he had heard,
read, or witnessed of woman's devout affection, unwearied kindness,
heroic attachment, and moral sublimity. And he thought not of the
patience with which woman bears the peevishness of our infancy, the
selfishness of our riper years, and the capricious fretfulness of our
declining age. He was for a while angry and contemptuous, professing
to himself an indifference which he did not feel, and fancying
himself superior to that weakness under which he was writhing and
labouring in bitter agony. Then there was a change in the complexion
of his thoughts, and as the angry passions yielded to the approaching
drowsiness which health must periodically experience, more tender and
more gentle thoughts subdued him. The eyelids were scarcely closed,
when imagination threw her rainbow light on past days, and there stood
before him, not quite in a dream, the image of Penelope--lovely,
bright, and living. The momentary vision melted him, and the effort
to retain it banished it. Slowly his slumbers crept again upon him,
and the vision was more distinct, and he could hear again that sweet
voice with which he had been enraptured, and there was in his heart a
repetition of that swell of feeling with which he had years ago taken
his leave of her. So passed the night.

When morning came again, it found the young man unrefreshed and
unrested. But in the family of the rector of Neverden there was
great regularity and punctuality. Robert Darnley therefore made his
appearance at breakfast at the usual hour. It was impossible not to
see that his mind was painfully disturbed, and it was also equally
impossible not to conjecture the cause of its agitation.

A very unpleasant restraint sat upon the whole party. Mr Darnley the
elder would not speak on the subject of his son's altered appearance,
and Mrs Darnley and her daughters were reluctant to introduce any
mention of the matter, unsanctioned by Mr Darnley. The hour of
breakfast was usually to that family a season of social and cheerful
talk, but on the present occasion there was silence and restraint; and
as they abstained from addressing themselves to Robert, they also
abstained from talking to one another. When breakfast was over Mr
Darnley desired his son's presence in the study.

Robert Darnley knew he was destined to undergo a lecture, and he braced
himself up to bear it with filial resignation. The young man's father
prided himself on the fluency with which he could talk in the way of
admonition, and we believe that he derived almost as much pleasure from
these exhibitions as his auditors did profit. Sir George Aimwell used
to say, that instead of sending poachers to gaol, it would be a better
plan to send them to Mr Darnley to be talked to; for the worthy baronet
thought that they would not readily expose themselves to the risk of
a second infliction. Those of our readers who have never been talked
to will not be able to sympathize with Robert Darnley; those who have,
will pity him from the bottom of their hearts.

The young man promptly obeyed his father's commands and delayed not to
attend him in the study; for he naturally supposed that the sooner the
lecture began the sooner it would be over. The father seated himself
and desired his son to shut the door and seat himself too. These
preliminary steps having been taken, and Mr Darnley having stirred and
arranged the fire so amply as to preclude the necessity of any more
attention to it for some time, thus began:

"Robert, my dear boy, I wish to have some little talk with you. I have
not had much opportunity of speaking to you since you came home. Now,
you know, I can have no other object in view than your welfare. I do
not desire you to follow the advice I may give you, unless you are
convinced of its propriety. You know of course what I am now alluding
to--your unhappy attachment to that unfortunate young woman, Miss
Primrose. For my part, I cannot say that I altogether approved of it
in the first instance; but I said nothing. I knew the impetuosity of
your character and the obstinacy of your disposition, and therefore
I concluded that opposition might do more harm than good. I hoped
that, in time, your own good sense would let you see that it was not
a suitable connexion for you. I do not say indeed that I have ever
observed anything absolutely improper in the conduct of Miss Primrose;
but I must be permitted to say, that there was too much pride in her
manner, considering her station and expectations. Of the young woman's
father I knew comparatively nothing, except that he had gambled away
his property and broken his wife's heart. Mr Primrose did call here,
as you know; but I must confess to you I was not much pleased with his
manners. I was under the disagreeable necessity of rebuking him for
taking the name of the Lord in vain. As for the young woman herself,
of course you must relinquish all thoughts of her after what you have
heard from Mr Pringle. Now let me advise you to banish her from your
mind at once. I am sorry to see that your thoughts are still too much
dwelling upon her. You make your mother and your sisters and me very
uncomfortable by these gloomy looks. Why can you not be cheerful as you
used to be? What have you to regret? You ought rather to be grateful
that you have been rescued from such a marriage, and that it cannot
be said that the dissolution of the acquaintance arose from your own
caprice. I think that the young woman did not manifest a very great
sense of propriety when she so readily adopted the profession of a
public singer. And what would the world say, should the report ever get
abroad, that my son was desirous of marrying a public singer? I gave
the young woman all the good advice I possibly could; but I fear it
will be of no use to her. There were such very strong manifestations of
her partiality for that profligate young man, Lord Spoonbill, that I am
not at all surprised at what I hear from Mr Pringle. Now all that I can
say is, that if after this you can retain any regard for Miss Primrose,
you do not shew yourself a man of sense and prudence."

Here Mr Darnley paused, not because he was out of breath, for he spoke
very slowly and deliberately, but because he thought that he had said
enough to induce his son to relinquish the thought of Penelope, and to
make himself mightily happy under his disappointment. But it certainly
is very provoking, after living three years or more in expectation of
receiving the hand and heart of a lovely, amiable, and intelligent
young lady, to find at last that all this bright anticipation is come
to nought. It had been painful to Robert Darnley that several of his
later communications had been unanswered; but he would not suffer that
circumstance alone to weigh with him, considering it possible that the
fault was in the irregular transmission of letters. When he came back
to England and heard that Miss Primrose was in London with the Earl of
Smatterton's family, it appeared obvious enough that she had considered
the correspondence as having ceased. But still it was not clear to the
young man's entire satisfaction that this had been a voluntary act on
the part of Penelope. It was possible that his letters might not have
reached their destination, and that Miss Primrose might be regarding
him as the faithless one. Such was his spirit, that he would not rest
under the imputation of such conduct, and he resolved to take the
earliest opportunity of coming to an explanation. When, however, in
addition to all that he had heard from his own family of the partiality
manifested by Penelope for Lord Spoonbill, he heard also the tale told
by Zephaniah Pringle, he wavered and hesitated. It was not probable, he
thought, that such rumours could be totally unfounded, and it comported
but too well with what Mr Darnley had already said.

The distress of mind which Robert Darnley suffered, and that gloominess
of look which his father reprobated and lectured him upon, did not
arise so much from the mere loss of Penelope, as from the harassing
doubts to which he was exposed by the conflicting of external and
internal evidence. It is a painful thing to doubt, because it is
humiliating, and seems to question our discernment. It is also very
perplexing to the mind when it sees evidence enough to prove that which
it feels to be impossible, or very unlikely. In this dilemma Robert
Darnley had been placed by what he had heard of Penelope Primrose. He
knew, or at least very firmly believed her to be of decided character,
good principle and high spirit. He felt it impossible that she should
love a profligate or a blockhead, and he knew Lord Spoonbill to be
both. But it was very clear that she was with Lord Smatterton's family,
and that she had certainly contemplated the public exercise of her
musical talents.

To his fathers discourse therefore he listened with unresisting
patience, and only replied when it was finished; "I can only say, sir,
that if what Mr Pringle has said concerning Miss Primrose be true, I
have been very much deceived in the estimate which I had formed of the
young lady's mind and character."

"Certainly you were," replied his father; "you are a young man and
have seen but little of human nature. You are hasty, very hasty, in
forming your judgment. You will grow wiser as you grow older. Now I was
not deceived in Miss Primrose. I could see her real character. I always
thought her very proud and vain and conceited. But she laboured under
great disadvantages in her education. Her uncle was a worthy man, but
he was a mere scholar, by no means a man of the world. And as for Mrs
Greendale, she is a very weak woman."

Robert Darnley knew his father too well to contradict him directly
in anything which he might be pleased to assert; he therefore only
ventured in a very circuitous way to insinuate the possibility that
Mr Zephaniah Pringle might be erroneously informed, and that there
might be some mistake or misapprehension. But the worthy rector of
Neverden was not able to bear the slightest approach to contradiction
or opposition. He had lived so long in absolute authority in his own
house and parish, that he was perfectly sincere in believing that he
could never be wrong and ought never to be contradicted. He therefore
contributed very considerably to shorten the discussion, by saying:

"You are of age, and of course may do as you please; but, if you will
condescend to take my advice, you will think no more of Miss Primrose.
At all events, it is my particular request that I may hear no more of
her."

To this the young gentleman bowed respectfully. Now it does not appear
to us that Mr Darnley adopted the best plan in the world to set his
son's heart at rest. Nor did Robert Darnley find any great alleviation
in what his father had been pleased to say concerning Penelope's actual
situation and real character. It also occurred to the young gentleman's
mind, that his father had superfluously and unnecessarily quoted the
fact of Mr Primrose having used irreverent and thoughtless language.
It is not indeed, generally speaking, advisable to bring every possible
accusation against an offending one; for by so doing we make known our
own pettishness or malignity quite as much as we display the sins of
the accused. If Miss Primrose had been in other respects a suitable
wife for Robert Darnley, the fact that her father had spoken hastily
and unadvisedly, would not have rendered her unsuitable. And if the
situation of Penelope had been such as it had been represented by Mr
Pringle, then there was quite enough to set Robert Darnley's mind at
rest upon the subject, without quoting Mr Primrose's transgressions.

The disappointed lover had no sooner finished the task of hearing his
father's lecture, than he was destined to undergo a gabblement from
his mother and sisters. Mrs Darnley was a worthy good creature as
ever lived; but she would talk, and that not always consequentially.
She always however meant well, though she might be clumsy in the
manifestation of her well-meaning.

"Well, Robert,"--thus began Mrs Darnley,--"and so your father has
been talking to you about poor Penelope Primrose. What a pity it is that
such a nice young woman should turn out so. I really could hardly
believe my senses when I first heard of it. Dear me, what a favorite
she used to be here; your father used to think so highly of her."

"I can't say that I thought so very highly of her," interrupted Miss
Mary Darnley; "she was a great deal too haughty for my liking. Of
course we were civil to her for Robert's sake."

Miss Mary was rude in thus interrupting her mother, but it was the
general practice with the young ladies, and Mrs Darnley was so much
in the habit of being interrupted, that she always expected it, and
kept talking on till some one else of the party began. Now this remark
of Miss Mary might be founded on truth, or it might be merely the
result of an angry imagination. For there is in the human mind such a
reluctance to acknowledge an error in judgment, that even when we have
been really and palpably deceived in a human character, we generally
find out or persuade ourselves that we "prophesied so," though we never
told any body.

The eldest Miss Darnley, however, had more candour. It was her opinion
that, though Miss Primrose had not behaved exactly as she ought to
do, yet she had too high a sense of propriety and decorum ever to
transgress as was represented by Mr Pringle.

In this annunciation of opinions it was but right and regular that the
youngest should speak in her turn; and notwithstanding the apparent
deference which she had seemed on the previous day to yield to the
oracular language of Zephaniah Pringle the critic, she said:

"I wonder who told Mr Pringle? I dare say Miss Primrose did not, and I
should not think it likely that Lord Spoonbill did."

"Oh dear," replied Mary, "I dare say it is the general talk in
London, and everbody knows it by this time."

"Oh dear," retorted Martha, "I dare say you know a great deal about
London."

"I know a great deal more about it than you do, Martha; I was there
with papa nearly two months when we had lodgings in Wigmore street."

Martha was inclined to be pert, and Mary to be pettish, and the two
sisters would very likely have enjoyed a skirmish of tongues, had they
not been stopped by the good humour of their brother, who was very
happy to divert their tongues and thoughts to other topics. Robert
Darnley therefore made an effort to suppress unpleasant feelings, and
directed the conversation to affairs of a different description; and he
amused his mother and sisters with anecdotes and narratives descriptive
of the country from which he had recently arrived.

In assuming this composure, Robert Darnley was not a little aided
by the suggestion thrown out by Martha. And he began to think it
very possible that Mr Zephaniah Pringle might have been misinformed.
He might have had wit enough to form that conjecture without the
assistance of his youngest sister; but he was too much agitated to
think calmly on the subject.



CHAPTER VII.


The preceding chapters, relative to affairs at Neverden, were rendered
indispensable by the necessity under which we were placed to account
for the non-appearance of Robert Darnley in London, to clear up the
mystery and explain the cause of the interrupted correspondence. We
are now most happy to revert to that part of our narrative which more
immediately and directly concerns Penelope Primrose and her father. For
this purpose therefore our history goes back a few days.

After the first passionate agitation of meeting had subsided, and
Penelope was able to speak collectedly, and Mr Primrose was patient
enough to listen to two successive sentences, the young lady explained
to her father the situation in which she had been placed by the
sudden decease of her uncle, and spoke of the kindness which she had
experienced from the Earl and Countess of Smatterton, adding, that they
had been so kind as to propose giving her the opportunity of meeting
her father in London. She then informed her father that Lord Spoonbill
was in the house, and would be happy to see him.

Mr Primrose was too happy at the meeting with his daughter to think
anything of the awkward stories which he had heard of the young
gentleman's irregularities. He therefore expressed himself pleased with
an opportunity of making his acknowledgments to any part of the family.
The young lord therefore soon made his appearance. And such was the
frank, gentlemanly aspect and bearing of Mr Primrose, that his lordship
was quite delighted with him, and said with great sincerity much which
he would otherwise have said with polite formality and hypocrisy.

Penelope exercised a considerable degree of self-command in introducing
Lord Spoonbill so composedly to her father. And happy was it at this
moment for Mr Primrose, that such was his cheerfulness and hilarity
of feeling, that he was only sensible to that which was pleasant and
agreeable.

"My Lord Spoonbill," said he with one of his politest bows, and with
the most agreeable intonation of voice that he could command, "I thank
you most sincerely, and I beg that you will convey my most cordial and
respectful thanks to the Earl and Countess of Smatterton for their kind
and generous attention to my dear child."

Even with similar politeness did Lord Spoonbill profess how truly
happy the Earl and Countess had been in affording any accommodation
to the neice of their late esteemed friend, the respected rector of
Smatterton. By making mention of that good man, Lord Spoonbill brought
tears into the eyes of Mr Primrose, who mournfully shook his head and
replied:

"Ah, my lord, he was indeed a good man. I lament the loss of him most
sincerely. So much kind feeling, blended with such strict integrity,
and so high a degree of moral purity, I never have witnessed in any
other. I have seen strictness of principle with severity of manners,
and I have witnessed kindness of heart with moral carelessness; but the
late Dr Greendale had the most finely attempered mind of any man I ever
knew. He did, or desired to do, good to everybody, and that must have
been a hard heart which he could not soften."

It was well for Lord Spoonbill at this moment that he was not of so
susceptible a temperament as Mr Primrose, or the remark last recorded
would have distressed him. It was in another point of view ill for
his lordship that he had not a little more sensibility, for if he had
he might have been moved to contrition and reflection. His lordship
very courteously assented to every compliment which Mr Primrose felt
disposed to pay to the late Dr Greendale. And presently his lordship
directed the talk to other matters; for though he had not sensibility
to be moved, yet he had enough of that kind of feeling which rendered
him awkward under reflections and recollections. The hereditary
legislator was also especially desirous of knowing what was to be the
immediate destination of Miss Primrose and her father; but found, after
a long conversation and many indirect hints, that no arrangement of any
determinate nature had entered the mind of Mr Primrose, who probably
thought, that for the night ensuing, he might take up his abode at the
town residence of Lord Smatterton.

At length, Lord Spoonbill, finding that it became time for him to
return to dinner, and knowing that it would not be very agreeable
to the Countess to take back with him father and daughter too, and
suspecting also very strongly and very naturally that the two were
not likely to be separated, began to make something like an apology
to Mr Primrose for having brought him to an empty house, and offered
such accommodation as the house might afford, expressing his great
regret that he himself was under the necessity of returning to Lord
Smatterton's suburban villa.

These explanations and apologies roused Mr Primrose to his
recollection, and he presently and promptly declined availing himself
of his lordship's kind offer, and expressed his intention of taking up
his abode at a hotel, which he named.

Lord Spoonbill was satisfied. He now knew where to find Mr Primrose
again; and so long as he was not at a loss where to seek Penelope, his
lordship readily took his leave, with a promise that he would very
shortly pay his respects again to his good friends.

Mr Primrose and his daughter then went to their hotel, and the
overjoyed parent endeavoured to compose himself for the sobriety
of narrative and interrogation. Many questions were asked, and
multitudinous digressions and recommencements and interruptions
rendered their discourse rather less instructive than entertaining. The
father of Penelope walked restlessly about the room, and ever and anon
would he stop and look with an indescribable earnestness on the face of
his child, as if to fill his mind's eye with her image, or to endeavour
to trace her likeness to her departed mother. And from these momentary
absorptions he would start into recollection, and utter such thrilling
expressions of delight, that his poor child feared that the joy would
be too much for him.

Some of the human species have suffered more from joy than from sorrow.
Ecstacy has lifted the mind to that height and giddiness as to destroy
its self-command, and to precipitate it into the depths and darkness
of idiocy. Penelope entertained a fear of this kind for her father.
For she had not been accustomed to witness or yield to any very
strong emotions. Her uncle, with whom she had lived, had been a very
quiet man; and, in his studious retirement, life had passed smoothly
and placidly as the waveless current of a subterranean stream. Mrs
Greendale had experienced and manifested occasional ebullitions, but
they were merely culinary, domestic, common-place, and transitory.
As for herself, poor girl, deep as her feelings might have been, and
strongly, as in various instances, she might have been moved, these
emotions were solitary and soon suppressed.

When therefore she saw her father in this state of agitation, much of
her own joy was abated in thoughts and fears for him. But in time the
violence of the emotion abated, and the father and daughter sat down
together to dinner. This was a relief to them both. When the cloth was
removed, Mr Primrose then bethought himself of Robert Darnley. Drawing
closer to the fire, he said to Penelope; "Well, but, my dear child,
I have not yet said a word about an old acquaintance of yours, whom
report says you have not used handsomely. But I don't mind what report
says. Have you quite forgot your old neighbour Robert Darnley?"

Penelope sighed and shook her head, and replied, "Oh, no, my dear
father; I have not forgotten him."

"Then why did you not answer his letters?"

"I answered his letters, but he did not answer mine."

"What!" exclaimed Mr Primrose; "do you say that he was the person who
dropped the correspondence? You are wrong, my dear, you are wrong. Ay,
ay, I see how it is--some letters have not been delivered. It is all
a misunderstanding; but it will soon be set right. I have seen the
young man. He is now at Neverden; and he tells me that you have not
answered his letters. But we shall soon see him in town. He would have
come with me, but he must needs stay to eat his Christmas dinner at the
parsonage, just to please the old folks. That of course is right; and
if children did but know how easily parents are pleased, and how happy
they are when their children please them, there would not be so many
undutiful children in the world.--And so, my dear Penelope, it is all a
mere invention that you are attached to Lord Spoonbill?"

Recollecting what had that morning taken place, and from that also
calling to mind what before she had not noticed, and what without that
event she would have forgotten; thinking again how assiduously and
politely attentive Lord Spoonbill had behaved towards her, she began to
think that his lordship's attentive behaviour had been seen and noticed
by others when it had not been obvious to herself. And these thoughts
confused and perplexed her. Therefore she did not immediately reply to
her father's interrogation. Her silence was observed by her anxious
parent, and he hastily said:

"What then, is it true? But it is a great pity. Robert Darnley is a
fine spirited young man; and I am sure he did not design to drop the
correspondence. Well, well; you are like your father, you are very
hasty. But never mind, it cannot be helped now. And what will you say
to poor Darnley when he sees you again; for I fully expect him up in
town as soon as Christmas is well over? I dare say he will be here in a
week, or a little more. I told him that he would find us at this hotel.
And has Lord Spoonbill really made proposals to you? And have you
accepted his offer?"

The discovery which this talk of her father opened to the mind of
Penelope moved her with feelings not describable. There was powerful
and oppressive agitation, but whether painful or pleasurable she
scarcely knew. Her heart was too full to speak, and her thoughts too
hurried for utterance. The colour was in her cheeks, and the tears were
silently falling, and presently the quick glancing eye of her father
caught the expression of concern and deep feeling, and his impetuosity
misinterpreted the emotion. With rapidity of utterance, and with kind
tenderness of tone, he exclaimed, grasping her hand:

"Nay, nay, my dear Penelope, do not be so afflicted. You misunderstand
me, indeed you do. I am not angry with you. If you are really attached
to Lord Spoonbill, and if he has a regard for you, I would not for the
world oppose your inclinations. If you are happy, I shall be so. I
know comparatively very little of Robert Darnley. As to what I saw of
his father, I certainly thought not favourably. The young man appeared
not so proud and formal as the old gentleman. But Lord Spoonbill may
be a very excellent man, and I am sure he would not be your choice if
he were not so. I dare say that all these stories I have heard of his
profligacies are not true."

Hereat the young lady started; and she thought that she had some faint
recollection of having heard some obscure hints on that subject; for
these matters are not made the topic of explicit discourse in the
presence of young ladies. And with this impression she hastened to
undeceive her father as to the state of her affections, protesting very
calmly and deliberately that there had not been any transfer of her
attachment to Lord Spoonbill from Robert Darnley. And, as connectedly
and circumstantially as she was able, she narrated the history of her
life, from the decease of her worthy uncle to the moment of her meeting
with her father.

Mr Primrose made his observations on these events, and expressed
himself delighted in having arrived in England time enough to prevent
his daughter from publicly exhibiting her musical talents. Now, in the
course of Penelope's narrative, mention had not been made, nor did it
seem necessary to state the fact, of Lord Spoonbill's declaration of
devotedness, which his lordship had made that very morning. It was
therefore unfortunate, though of no great consequence, that when the
poor girl had finished her story, Mr Primrose said:

"And so then after all Lord Spoonbill has not said a word to you on the
subject of attachment?"

It became necessary then to acknowledge what had passed in the morning;
and the reluctance with which the acknowledgment was made very
naturally excited some slight suspicion in the breast of Mr Primrose,
that there was something more serious than had been acknowledged. A
satisfactory explanation however was made, and all was right again.

This trifling incident would not have been mentioned, but for the
illustration which it affords of the value of explicitness and candour,
and for the proof which it presents that the purest and most upright
mind may, from a false delicacy, involve itself in serious perplexity.



CHAPTER VIII.


At the hotel where Mr Primrose had taken up his residence, he remained
with his daughter for two or three weeks. Penelope and her father were
during this time in daily expectation of seeing or hearing from Robert
Darnley, but there came no letter, there came no visitor. Mr Primrose
grew impatient, and talked to his daughter about writing. That Penelope
should write was quite out of the question, nor could the young lady
bring herself readily to allow her father to write.

They both agreed that, if the young man was still seriously attached,
he would find some way of communicating with them now all parties
were together in England. And so he certainly would have done, had
it not been for the false report carried to Neverden by the loyal and
religious Zephaniah Pringle, and corroborated by the almost unanimous
and universal talk of the people of that village. Influenced by
this tale, he remained at Neverden spending day after day in most
clumsily doing nothing at all. His father talked to him, his mother
talked to him, and his sisters talked to him, but all their talk
amounted to nothing. Disappointed affection is a painful feeling, and
talking cannot heal it; nor was it ever known in the course of human
experience, that calling a man a fool has been the means of making him
wise.

Whatever were the feelings of Robert Darnley on this sad blight of his
fair hopes, he was wise enough to keep them to himself; he was indeed
dull and listless, but he did not annoy others any farther than thus
negatively. On the other hand, the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill had
no sooner accomplished the mighty feat of telling Miss Primrose how
devoted he was to her, than he must needs again invade the luxurious
and lounging solitude of his friend Erpingham in order again to
talk over the subject. His lordship did not indeed on the very day
after, but at as short an interval as possible consistent with other
engagements, call upon his luxurious friend to enjoy the pleasure of
talking about Miss Primrose.

Now Erpingham, as we have already intimated, was by no means a
simpleton. He had wisdom enough to see through Lord Spoonbill, though
his lordship was not always able to comprehend the logic of his old
college companion. There is at Cambridge, as everybody knows, a
species of animal called a tuft-hunter, that is, a plebeian man, who,
for pence or pride, cultivates an acquaintance with the young green
shoots of nobility that are sent to that place to learn horse-racing,
card-playing, and mathematics, in order to make laws to preserve game
and keep up the dignity of hereditary legislators. Now Erpingham was
not one of that description. But there are, among the unfledged
lordlings who honor that town and university with their superfine
presence, some few individuals who, in order to enjoy a stronger sense
and feeling of their own noble rank and exalted condition, seek for
acquaintance among the untitled. Of this class was Lord Spoonbill, and
his acquaintance thus and there formed, was Mr Erpingham.

To seek an acquaintance with any individual is generally felt,
whether it be so considered or not, as an act of humiliation. It
is at all events a homage paid to the acquaintance thus sought. He
that voluntarily seeks after another, involuntarily pays that other
a compliment. And frequently that compliment is taken by those who
receive it for more than it is really worth. By this circumstance
therefore that the acquaintance with Erpingham had been of Lord
Spoonbill's own seeking, the former did not quite so highly value and
honor the young legislator as otherwise he might have done. And when
once we can thoroughly and heartily take it into our heads that any
man is a fool, it is no difficult matter to convince ourselves that
he really is so. Plenty of illustrations are always at hand, if we be
intimate with the person in question.

Now, in spite of all the reverence which Mr Erpingham felt for high
rank, he could not help thinking that his lordship was no conjuror.
Indeed it is no more to be wished than it is to be expected that the
House of Lords should be all conjurors. As therefore Mr Erpingham
thought but indifferently of the understanding of his right honorable
friend, it is not to be wondered at that Lord Spoonbill should not
always be treated with the most profound respect. At Cambridge, indeed,
Erpingham thought it something of an honor to be acquainted with a
nobleman; but by degrees, and especially after leaving the university,
the gentleman thought otherwise, and diminished much of the homage
which he had formerly paid to that right honorable hereditary pillar of
the Protestant succession.

When therefore Lord Spoonbill made his appearance again, and
threatened a tedious lack-a-daisical prating about love, Mr Erpingham
almost laughed at him.

"Well, Spoonbill," said the Epicurean, "and so you are coming to
report progress. And what says this paragon of wit and beauty? I suppose
you have made your arrangements: and am I to be honored by an
introduction?"

Lord Spoonbill shook his head, and went on tediously to relate all
the particulars of the journey to London and the introduction to Mr
Primrose. To all this Mr Erpingham listened very attentively; and, when
the narrative was concluded, he drawled out, "Well, Spoonbill, and what
then?"

To that question the hereditary legislator made no direct or
intelligible reply. His friend therefore repeated his question,
adding: "Were you content with making a mere sentimental speech about
your devotion to this young lady? And did not you give the slightest
intimation of your designs?"

"How could I," replied his lordship, "under these circumstances?"

"Then I will tell you, my good friend, that I have done more for you
than you have done for yourself."

Lord Spoonbill started and stared, and exclaimed: "Erpingham! what do
you mean?"

"I mean what I say. Do you know Zephaniah Pringle, a literary prig,
with whose vanity I sometimes amuse myself?"

"Certainly I do," replied his lordship; "but what can he have to do
with this matter?"

"A great deal," replied Erpingham; "he is, as I suppose you know, an
impertinent chatter-box, and whatever is trusted to him as a profound
secret is sure to be known to all the world; so I communicated to
him that Miss Primrose was in the high road to be placed under the
protection of the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill, and by this time
Smatterton and its adjoining village is already in possession of the
important secret."

On hearing this, Lord Spoonbill started, as if with a strong sense of
moral indignation, and exclaimed: "Erpingham, are you mad? What could
you mean by circulating such a report? Suppose I should intend to marry
Miss Primrose!"

"Why, then you are less likely to have a rival."

Although Lord Spoonbill was quite as profligate and unprincipled as Mr
Erpingham, yet as his profligacy and want of principle were not managed
and directed precisely after the model of the same vices in the conduct
of his friend, his lordship took credit to himself that he could enjoy
the pleasure of reproving the vicious principles of this Epicurean. But
though he expressed a feeling of indignation at the cool, deliberate
viciousness of this son of luxury and sensuality, he felt no little
satisfaction in the thought that this report must infallibly reach the
ears of Mr Robert Darnley, and thus prevent any further attempt on his
part to renew the acquaintance with Penelope.

It may seem rather strange to some part of our readers, that a man who
could descend to the meanness of intercepting letters, should lift up
his voice and turn up his eyes at the sin of circulating false reports
touching the character and situation of a young woman, and that this
same man should deliberately meditate on schemes for placing that young
woman in that situation which he professed to think so degrading. But
there is a wonderful difference in the apprehension which men entertain
of the same vices under different circumstances. There is also
observable in the feelings of Lord Spoonbill, on the present occasion,
the readiness and satisfaction with which a man will cheerfully avail
himself of the benefits derivable from the vicious or unprincipled
conduct of others.

The Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill seemed to think that his friend
Erpingham had behaved very unhandsomely and disrespectfully to Penelope
by causing such a rumour to get into circulation; but, when it
occurred to him that some advantage might be taken of the said rumour,
his indignation was abated, and all his reproof was softened down into
merely saying:

"Really, Erpingham, you are too bad."

Everybody who is worse than ourselves is too bad; everybody, whose
vices differ from ours, is too bad. Lord Spoonbill was selfish,
sensual, and unprincipled; but he endeavoured to conceal his character,
and, from attempting to deceive others, had come at last to deceive
himself; and he really did flatter himself that there was some good
in his character, and some good feelings in his heart. But Erpingham,
on the other hand, did not play the hypocrite either to himself or
to others; he was definite and decided, and he took to himself some
little credit for the unblushing honesty of his conduct and character.
He smiled contemptuously at the meanness and littleness of his friend
Spoonbill's vices; but this meanness was essential to the very
existence of his vices, he would have been frightened at himself had
he seen his own moral features without a mask.

There was this difference in the character of these two friends, that
had Erpingham had the same object in view as Lord Spoonbill, he would
have pursued it unblushingly, unhesitatingly, and without remorse. He
would have intercepted letters, but he would not have shuddered when
he had them in his possession; nor would he have hesitated to open
them, if that would have forwarded his schemes. There would have been
no demur or doubt, but everything would have been rendered subservient
to his villanous purposes. But Lord Spoonbill was not so straitforward
in his roguery, he was a more pusillanimous profligate. The difference
between the two is, that Erpingham was an object of indignation, and
Lord Spoonbill of contempt.

Seeing therefore how matters now stood, the Right Honorable Lord
Spoonbill thought that he might as well pursue his first object with
regard to Penelope, and not, at least for the present, think or say a
word concerning marriage. And it was a great consolation to him in the
course of his meditations to think how much more unprincipled Erpingham
was than he.

From a long, and to the Epicurean a wearying discussion, Lord Spoonbill
returned to his home; and on his return he found that the Countess
was quite angry, and that her patience was exhausted in waiting for
Penelope's return. The young lady had indeed mentioned the subject
to her father, but he did not think any further acknowledgments
necessary than he had already personally made to the heir of the house
of Smatterton. Nor could Mr Primrose persuade himself that any very
high tribute of gratitude was due for that species of patronage which
the Countess of Smatterton had proposed for his daughter. It was his
feeling, that her ladyship had in view her own gratification quite as
much as the welfare of Penelope.

When therefore Lord Spoonbill found that the Countess was still
expecting either the return of Miss Primrose, or some grateful
intimation that the proffered patronage was declined, he thought it an
excellent opportunity to propose a call on Mr Primrose; and, after some
of the usual prate about condescension and dignity, the young lord, on
the following morning, rode up to town.



CHAPTER IX.


When a lady finds herself a second time alone with a gentleman who has
once addressed her on an interesting topic, but whose address has not
been altogether pleasant and agreeable, the lady's situation is by no
means enviable. It is more distressing still when, in the recollection
of the young lady, there are yet lingering the faint relics of brighter
and better hopes.

This was the situation of Penelope when Lord Spoonbill called upon
her. Mr Primrose was not within: business demanded his attention in
the City, and there he was likely to be detained some hours. The
young lord, with well feigned seriousness, expressed his regret that
he should be so unfortunate as not to meet with Mr Primrose, and
he added that he would call again if Mr Primrose was likely soon to
return. When however he heard that Penelope did not expect her father
till dinner-time, he was more pleased with the information than he
professed to be. Miss Primrose very respectfully enquired after the
Earl and Countess of Smatterton; and, in replying to those enquiries,
Lord Spoonbill took the opportunity of hinting that her ladyship felt
somewhat anxious to know whether the return of Mr Primrose to England
had induced Penelope to relinquish the thought of that profession which
she had recently contemplated, and for which immediate preparation
became otherwise necessary and important.

In reply to this enquiry, Penelope informed his lordship that her
father had expressed himself decidedly of opinion that such pursuit
would not be agreeable to himself or necessary for his daughter. Lord
Spoonbill cared little for the disappointment, except that it would
be in the way of his schemes, and render the arrangement which he
meditated rather more difficult of execution. So far as expectation was
concerned, he was prepared for this event; but he was not prepared with
any plan that he might immediately pursue.

After the common-place talk was finished, his lordship thought that he
ought to take his leave; but he was reluctant to go, and he did not
know how to stay. Penelope also wished him gone, for she was afraid
of a renewal of an unpleasant topic. The young lady also took no
particular pains to conceal that wish, and his lordship was not quite
so flat as not to discern that his presence was not very acceptable.
In truth, his situation was grievously perplexing, and a wiser man
than he would have been at a loss in such circumstances how to act. It
was clear to him that Penelope had not quite forgotten Robert Darnley;
it was also obvious that Lord Spoonbill was not yet essential to the
happiness of Miss Primrose; he most earnestly desired to render
himself agreeable to Miss Primrose, and he very well knew that nothing
could be more agreeable than that he should take his leave; but that
would not have been agreeable to himself; and greatly as he desired
to do anything that might recommend him to the approbation of Miss
Primrose, he was equally desirous of avoiding anything that might be
disagreeable or unpleasant to himself.

Lord Spoonbill is not to be regarded in this instance as differing so
very widely from the rest of the world. Other lovers frequently have
the same ideas on the subject of the mutual accommodation of themselves
and their adored ones. And if, after this observation, any individual
of the gentler sex should be deceived by professions and protestations
of disinterestedness, the fault will be hers and not ours.

In this embarrassing situation in which Lord Spoonbill was placed,
it occurred to his most fertile imagination that it might greatly
forward his designs upon Penelope, if, by any means, he could contrive
to bring the young lady to think unhandsomely of Robert Darnley. It
certainly would not do for his lordship to make any direct allusion
to this young gentleman; for it was hardly supposed by Miss Primrose
that there existed in the mind of his lordship any knowledge of the
acquaintance between her and the son of the rector of Neverden;
and such was his lordship's clumsiness in the management of his
irregularities, that he was even fearful of the most indirect allusion
to Robert Darnley, lest, in making that allusion, he might betray
himself.

At length it came into his lordship's most sagacious head that,
although it might be hazardous to make any allusion to Neverden, there
could not be much risk incurred by enquiring after Mrs Greendale,
therefore he ventured to ask, as if for want of something else to say,
if Miss Primrose had lately heard from Smatterton, and in making this
enquiry he endeavoured to watch the countenance of the young lady
most narrowly, in order to observe whether the mention of Smatterton
produced any deep emotion as connected with Neverden. Penelope answered
with perfect composure, and informed the hereditary legislator that Mrs
Greendale had not written to her since her departure from Smatterton.

After mentioning Mrs Greendale, his lordship proceeded to some more
common talk, merely and obviously to delay his departure; and he
manifested in this kind of talk that he had a great wish to recur to
that topic which he had introduced on the morning of Mr Primrose's
meeting with his daughter. But if it was evident to Penelope that such
was his lordship's wish, it was quite as evident to his lordship that
the young lady was equally uneasy under the apprehension, and dreaded
the repetition of a discussion which at its first introduction had so
distressed her thoughts.

And now it would have been absolutely and uncontrollably necessary for
Lord Spoonbill to take his leave, and he must have taken his leave,
not knowing when or how he might find Penelope again, had it not been
for one of those unexpected and extraordinary accidents which often
change the aspect of a whole life. This accident was neither more nor
less than the sudden return of Mr Primrose to his hotel.

By the expression of Mr Primrose's countenance, which seldom indeed
concealed or belied the emotions of his mind, it was visible that some
calamity had befallen him, or at least that something had occurred to
discompose him. It might not be anything very serious; Penelope hoped
it was not; for, during the short time that she had been with her
father she had had abundant occasion of observing that such was the
susceptibility of his feelings, that the expressions of joy and sorrow
were soon excited, and that by a very slight and trifling occurrence.

But it was soon manifest that it was no trivial circumstance that
oppressed the spirits of her father in the present instance. When
he entered the apartment he scarcely noticed his daughter or Lord
Spoonbill. He took the former by the hand, and to the latter he
slightly bowed; and this was his only recognition of them, for he did
not open his lips, and he scarcely directed his looks towards them. His
lips were closely compressed, as if he feared that by opening them he
should betray or give way to stronger expressions of grief than might
well become him. He sat himself down upon a chair and looked listlessly
out into the street, moving neither feature nor muscle, except that the
vibration of his eyelids was more rapid than usual.

Lord Spoonbill was now at a loss whether to offer his sympathy or to
take his departure. He could not, with any great propriety, leave
the room without taking some notice of Mr Primrose; but such was the
expression of the poor man's countenance, that it seemed that merely
to speak to him in the most common-place manner imaginable would be
to distress his feelings, and to burst open that flood of grief which
he seemed to endeavour to restrain. Directing therefore an enquiring
look to Penelope, and again turning towards Mr Primrose, his lordship,
by these looks and the movements which accompanied them, intimated
an intention of departing, if his presence were a restraint. Seeing
that Mr Primrose kept his position, and that no change was made in his
features, his lordship was just whispering to Penelope that he was
sorry to see her father under such depression, and that it might be
agreeable that he should leave them, Mr Primrose hastily started up and
said;

"I beg your pardon, Lord Spoonbill, for my rudeness, but I have met
with a shock this morning that has completely subdued me."

At this speech, Penelope caught her father's hand with tender
eagerness, and asked, as well as her feelings would allow, what was the
nature of the misfortune that he had met with. Most tenderly, and with
a tone which reached even the heart of Lord Spoonbill, Mr Primrose said;

"My dear, dear child, you are a dependent again, and God knows how soon
you may be an orphan indeed."

Before Penelope could speak, and indeed before she well comprehended
her father's meaning, the distressed man directed his speech to Lord
Spoonbill, saying;

"Could you believe it possible, my lord, that such deliberate villains
should exist in a Christian country, as to take from a man the little
property which he had been toiling for years to accumulate, to take
what they knew they never could restore. Those villains suffered me,
but ten days ago, to deposit my all in their hands, and now they have
stopped payment; and from all that I can hear in the City, I am not
likely to receive above one shilling in the pound, and I may wait
months, or perhaps years, for that."

It may be in the recollection of the reader, that Lord Spoonbill was
described in an early part of this narrative as being unduly and
indecently pleased to hear of the illness of Dr Greendale, as exulting
in the thought that the decease of that worthy, kind-hearted man would
afford his lordship a more convenient opportunity of pursuing his
schemes against the peace and innocence of Penelope Primrose. It will
not therefore appear very surprizing if that same hereditary legislator
should regard the present calamity of Mr Primrose as an agreeable
circumstance to himself, and as greatly favouring his designs. There
was however, in the contemplation of this misfortune of the father
of Penelope, a desire also on the part of his lordship to contribute
towards its alleviation. Lord Spoonbill was a profligate, and he was a
mean, contemptible fellow; but he was not a devil incarnate, delighting
in mischief or wickedness purely for its own sake. He wished Mr
Primrose no ill, he had no desire to inflict any injuries or to give
pain to any one, but he loved himself, and he pursued his own plans for
his own pleasure, and he was pleased with whatever gave him promise or
hope of success, even though that very circumstance should be the death
or injury of another.

Seeing, therefore, that in the present circumstances there was
something which afforded him promise, he was pleased, and being pleased
he very kindly sympathised with Mr Primrose, and expressed a wish that
matters might not be quite so bad as was expected.

Mr Primrose took his lordship's sympathy very kindly, and his mind was
soothed by it; and with rather more self-possession than might have
been expected, he replied; "For myself, I care but little; but it is
mortifying, after so long an absence from my native land, and after so
much toil and perseverance for the sake of my own and only child, to
find that all the fruit of that toil is swept away at once."

Penelope, who had been overwhelmed by the suddenness of the
intelligence, had scarcely spoken; but now assuming with great success
a calmness and resolvedness of manner, said to her father:

"If that be all the calamity, my dear father, it is easily remedied.
The Countess of Smatterton has been kind enough to promise me her
high patronage, and to facilitate my efforts towards providing an
independency, and Lord Spoonbill has but this moment, just before
you returned, been enquiring whether or not I design to continue my
preparation for that pursuit."

"No, no, my Penelope, that is an occupation which I am sure can never
suit your taste. I will not on any account consent to that. How can
I bear to think of my own child exerting and wasting her strength to
amuse the public, and to see her standing before a promiscuous and
unfeeling multitude, exposed to the rudeness and insolence of loudly
expressed disapprobation and extempore criticism?"

"Nay, my good sir," said Lord Spoonbill in his pleasantest manner;
"there is no danger, and there need be no fear, that Miss Primrose will
ever incur disapprobation; whatever loud expressions there may be, will
be expressions of applause and delight."

"And that," rejoined Mr Primrose, "is almost as bad. To stand up
before a multitude and beg for their applause, even if the applause be
gained, is to my feelings humiliating. To a female it is more painful
still. I cannot brook the idea of being dependent on a multitude, a
capricious mass of, perhaps, gross and indiscriminating individuals."

Lord Spoonbill was so much delighted with the probability of Miss
Primrose's return to the condescending and discriminating patronage
of the Countess of Smatterton, that the anticipation made him more
than usually eloquent and logical; and there was something also in the
manner of Mr Primrose that excited the hereditary legislator to use his
utmost powers of persuasion. He therefore thus pursued the subject:

"But, sir, it is not merely in that profession which Miss Primrose
contemplates, that the public takes the liberty of expressing its
opinion. The highest personage in the kingdom is not exempt from
expressions of public censure or public applause; and when a nobleman
in the House of Peers, or a gentleman in the House of Commons, rises
and expresses his sentiments on any question of policy, the public
takes the liberty to express, and sometimes very loudly and rudely, an
opinion of the merits or demerits of such speech."

"Yes, my lord, you are talking very plausibly; but you must feel that
there is a wide difference between the two cases. You cannot by such
arguments cheat me out of my feelings. I thought it a calamity when I
heard that my child meditated that profession, and I was delighted that
it was in my power to save her from such a painful publicity."

It was not perhaps quite consistent with the strictest veracity when
Penelope, interrupting her father, said: "Indeed, my dear father, you
quite misunderstand me, if you think that I should feel any unpleasant
sensations in that publicity."

Mr Primrose saw clearly enough the motive of that speech; and he began
to wish that this discussion had not taken place in the presence of a
third person; and Lord Spoonbill saw that this feeling oppressed the
poor man. With a degree of propriety and delicacy therefore, which he
could readily assume when it suited his purpose, he concluded his visit
by saying:

"Well, Mr Primrose, I will not intrude upon you any longer for the
present; and I can only say, that I hope you will not find the affairs
of your banker quite so bad as you expect; but if you should, then I
will venture to say that the Earl of Smatterton will not forget a near
relative of the late respected Dr Greendale. Our family will be in
town in a few days, and I shall be most happy then to repeat my call.
And should Miss Primrose still persist in wishing to adopt the musical
profession, a patroness and every possible assistance will not be
wanting."

In this there was much kindness, and Mr Primrose was accordingly
pleased with the young lord, and forgot for a moment that he had ever
heard any stories to his discredit. And, when the father and daughter
were left alone, they entered into long and serious talk concerning
their respective prospects.

Mr Primrose was not left absolutely pennyless by the stopping of his
banker; but the greater part of his property was gone if, as report
stated, the house should be only able to pay one shilling in the pound.
Indeed, upon the supposition of a much larger dividend, the property,
which would then remain to Mr Primrose, would be but a very narrow
and scanty independence. He had not made so very large a fortune in
India as some persons are said to have accumulated; but, as soon as he
had acquired what he thought a respectable competence, he returned to
England to have as much as possible the enjoyment of his daughter's
company, and those pleasures which none but a native land is capable of
affording.

When he had stated to Penelope as accurately and fully as possible the
various particulars relative to his property, and mentioned the sources
from whence the rumours came concerning the incompetency of his banker,
the young lady very composedly expressed her readiness to avail
herself of the proffered patronage of the Countess of Smatterton.
There appeared so much sincerity and cheerfulness in the proposal,
that Mr Primrose felt himself considerably relieved: and not only did
there appear sincerity in the language used by Penelope, but there
really was what there appeared to be. For reluctant as she might have
been to engage in such a profession merely for the gratification of a
patroness, she felt very differently when she thought that she might
thereby be an assistance to her father.

Hurt as Mr Primrose's feelings, or pride, might have been at the
thought of receiving assistance from his own daughter, whom he had
hoped to place in a state of independence, and mortified as he might be
at the prospect of the young lady making a public appearance, yet he
had but little to say to the repeated enquiry which Penelope made in
answer to all his objections; for invariably his remarks were followed
by the question--"What else can be done?"

It was too late for Mr Primrose to return to India; and the patronage
or interest which once had favoured him now existed for him no longer.
He had not been brought up to any profession whereby he might gain a
livelihood in England, and he had been accustomed to a style of living
which rendered daily bread a more expensive article to him than to
those of humbler prospects.

A very distressing and heart-rending scene may be drawn of human
suffering from the lowest and most abject of the children of penury and
destitution. But we have our doubts whether the bitterest and keenest
sense of suffering is really in that class. The poor gentleman suffers
mentally, and while the beggar who lives on casual charity has an
occasional luxury in a full meal, he, whose poverty must be hidden but
cannot be unknown, is labouring under an unremitting and incessant
pressure; and it is this that wastes away the body to a mere shadow and
bows down the spirit to the earth. They are cruel and unfeeling indeed,
who mock such misery as this. We envy not the talent which can draw
mirth from a source so painful.



CHAPTER X.


Another morning dawned, and with its opening light there came to the
father of Penelope a feeling of his comparatively destitute situation.
His heart swelled as he thought of it, and he had some difficulty to
preserve composure enough to meet his child. There was however one
drop of consolation in the cup of his affliction, for it was not by
his own fault or folly that his present loss was occasioned. But even
this consolation afflicted him, for it brought to his recollection his
past folly, and reminded him of the patient endurance with which the
mother of his Penelope had borne up, as long as possible, against her
sufferings. He recollected how gradually and slowly she sunk, and how
to the very last moment of life her looks were to him all tenderness
and forgiveness. And he thought that he could also discern in his child
those same moral features which had been the grace and glory of her
departed mother.

Commanding his feelings as well as he could, he commenced the talk
concerning the calamity of the preceding day. His heart was touched by
the cheerful manner in which Penelope referred to the proposal of the
Countess of Smatterton, and he smiled through his tears to hear how
sanguinely the poor girl talked of the certainty of high success. But
as yet all was in uncertainty.

His banker, in whose hands he had placed the greater part of his
property, had certainly stopped payment; but it could not yet be
ascertained when his affairs would be put into a train for settlement,
nor was it likely that one so little acquainted with the City as Mr
Primrose should be able to form any idea of the dividend which might
be paid. He certainly had heard it said that no greater dividend would
be forthcoming, than one shilling in the pound. But people in the City
sometimes tells lies not knowing them to be lies, and sometimes even do
they go so far as to tell lies knowing them to be so.

Mr Primrose was a very hasty man, catching up whatever he heard, and
taking it for granted that all he heard was true. He never thought of
enquiring what was the political party to which his banker belonged,
nor did he know to what party those persons attached themselves who
told him the melancholy story of that banker's inability to pay more
than one shilling in the pound. As for Mr Primrose himself, he, poor
man, knew nothing about party; he was not aware that England contained
two classes of men, one of which is all that is good, and the other
all that is bad. He simply knew that the banker had stopped payment,
and that two very respectable-looking gentlemen had declared it as
their opinion that there would not be a dividend of more than one
shilling in the pound. That story he believed, and on that presumption
was proceeding. His daughter of course could know nothing about the
matter; and as for the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill, he was such a
superfine sort of a gentleman that he hardly knew that there was such a
place as the City; and if he had ever heard of such an animal as a City
Alderman, he took it for some such a creature as the Bonassus.

Now this melancholy intelligence, which Mr Primrose had brought with
him from the City, put a stop of course to those employments in which
he would otherwise have been engaged. He was preparing to look out
for some residence, either in town or country; and for that purpose
he had every morning read with great attention all the advertisements
of desirable residences to be sold or let. It was not very pleasant
to turn from these thoughts to study painfully the means of again
acquiring a maintenance.

It was more especially distressing to him to observe how anxiously his
poor child now supplicated as a favour to be permitted to engage in an
occupation, from which he knew that, under other circumstances, she
would have timidly shrunk. He was afflicted to hear such solicitations;
but he had so much pleasure in his daughter's society, and so little
occasion to go out, that he remained in his hotel the greater part of
the morning, or more properly speaking the day. Towards evening however
it occurred to him, and to any one else it would have occurred much
earlier, that it might be the means of setting his mind a little at
rest, and of giving him some little ground of hope, if he should go
once more into the City and enquire of his agent into the probability
of a settlement or arrangement of his banker's affairs.

While Mr Primrose was gone into the City Penelope was left mournfully
alone. It is indeed very dull to spend a long solitary evening in a
strange place without occupation, and with nothing to think upon but
painful recollections and fearful anticipations.

The room in which the poor girl was left was large and well furnished,
but there were no books in it, and the pictures were but indifferent
engravings in splendid frames. There was a newspaper, but that was soon
exhausted. There were many persons in the house, but Penelope knew none
of them, and none of them cared about her.

It had been very different at Smatterton, and at Neverden; in those two
villages everybody knew her, and everybody loved her more or less; and
there she never felt herself alone, for she knew that her good uncle
was near her, and there is some pleasure in knowing that a good friend
is near us. There, when she heard footsteps and voices, they were
familiar voices and the footsteps of friends; but in the large hotel,
where she sat alone waiting for her father, she heard only the voices
of strangers. And when for the sake of a little variety she drew
aside the drapery of the long windows and looked down upon the lamp
illuminated street, there was something quite melancholy in the dim
appearance and the monotonous sounds. Carriage-wheels seemed to roll
incessantly, and their passing lights were miserably reflected from
myriads of little puddles coldly shining amidst the uneven pavement.

There was a specimen or two to be heard of the London cries; but there
was no music in them, and they fell upon the ear with a strangely
unpleasant effect, intermingled with the occasional sound of a street
organ. Penelope strained her attention to listen to the music, and it
was pleasant to her, though the images which it raised in her mind
were those only of sad regrets. There is more effect produced by those
street organs than people in general are aware of. Shall we be pardoned
the strangeness of the expression, if we say that they sometimes give
a wholesome agitation to the stagnation of the moral atmosphere? And
shall we be still farther pardoned if we digress, for the sake of
illustrating by an anecdote the above singular expression? By such a
digression we are not interrupting our narrative, which is now indeed,
like its pensive heroine, standing still.

A father had lost an affectionate and promising child, over whose
long lingering illness he had watched anxiously but hopelessly. The
poor child had suffered patiently, but had experienced some intervals
of ease, and some sensations even of delight. A popular melody had
caught his fancy, and when the wandering organist of that neighbourhood
played his favourite air, the little sufferer's eyes would brighten,
and his pale transparent hand would beat the time as knowingly as an
amateur. That was a scene for a parent to recollect. And the poor
little one died, and the father, when he had seen the grave closed
upon the child's remains, returned to his home in a state of apathy:
feeling seemed to have perished in him. The organist made his
accustomed round, played the favourite air; the bereaved father was
awakened to the agony of remembrance, and those tears flowed freely and
spontaneously, which told that feeling had not departed.

By the itinerant musicians the feelings of Penelope were awakened; but
she could not help observing how much less emotion she experienced than
formerly, when these well-known melodies brought to her mind thoughts
of the absent and the distant. Her mind was otherwise engaged and her
thoughts otherwise directed. Little did she imagine, when she had been
anxiously expecting and joyfully anticipating her father's return to
England, that so dark a cloud would obscure the first dawn of her
happiness. While she was thus wearing away the slowly moving hours, the
door of the apartment was opened and Lord Spoonbill made his appearance.

It is a great evil that virtuous men should ever make themselves
disagreeable, and it is also a great evil that vicious men should
make themselves agreeable; but the latter is quite as common as the
former, and perhaps more so. He that exercises no reflection, and never
turns his thoughts within, has so much the more attention to give to
the external of manner and address. And so much had Lord Spoonbill
cultivated manner, that although Penelope had reason to suppose him
to be no conjuror, and though she had also reason to think that his
morals were not the most pure, yet he was not altogether offensive and
disagreeable to her. She could not but feel almost grateful to him
for having so readily abstained from urging the topic which he had
mentioned on the day of her meeting with her father. It also appeared
to her highly flattering and complimentary, that a person of his
lordship's rank should deign to pay court to one of inferior station;
for there was not in her mind the slightest or remotest suspicion that
Lord Spoonbill had any other than the most honourable intention in
making a profession of attachment.

When his lordship made his appearance, he was received cordially and
as cheerfully as circumstances would permit. Penelope had now fully
made up her mind to adopt the profession recommended by the Countess
of Smatterton, and as Lord Spoonbill had on the previous day, in
conversation with Mr Primrose, used arguments rather recommendatory
of that step, the young lady could not of course imagine that there
remained in his lordship's mind any intention whatever of pursuing the
subject of his attachment, or renewing any mention of his love and
devotedness.

This thought gave to her manner a much greater ease, and being also
blended with the pensiveness of her present feelings, presented her to
the eye of Lord Spoonbill as more interesting and lovely than ever.
His lordship was a vain man; and to possess so lovely a creature as
Penelope, would be the means of gratifying his vanity. He was cunning
enough however to see that Miss Primrose was quite unsuspicious of his
designs, and that she did not anticipate a revival of that discourse to
which her earnest supplications had put a stop. He felt therefore that
it would not be prudent hastily to recommence a conversation of that
nature, but to endeavour to render himself more agreeable, and to try
to ascertain how far there yet remained in her recollection any tender
thoughts of Robert Darnley.

Such were his lordship's intentions, but they were frustrated by the
manner in which Penelope spoke, and by the decision with which she
proposed to cast herself on the patronage of the Countess, and to adopt
the profession so earnestly recommended by her ladyship. Lord Spoonbill
to this proposal replied, that the Countess would be most happy to
afford Miss Primrose all the assistance in her power; and his lordship
was also pleased to say, that this resolution would contribute very
essentially to increase the attractions of Lady Smatterton's parties.

Penelope sighed and almost shuddered at the thought; but, as the
effort was made for the sake of her father, she subdued or concealed
her reluctance. It was of course understood by his lordship, that this
resolution of the young lady arose from the loss which her father had
experienced; it was therefore very natural that some expressions of
sympathy and concern should be used on the occasion by the hereditary
legislator. These expressions were gratefully received by Penelope,
though her language of acknowledgment was only the language of looks
and imperfectly suppressed tears.

Lord Spoonbill interpreted this emotion as an omen in his favour; and
he was tempted by his evil genius to say something farther in allusion
to the prohibited topic. He was greatly and agreeably surprised to
hear no express and hasty interruption; and fearful lest this silence
should proceed only from abstraction of mind, he went on to speak more
decidedly and less equivocally concerning his attachment to the young
lady. Penelope gave symptoms of understanding his lordship, but shewed
no decided or obvious marks of disapprobation. There seemed to be,
and there certainly was, a strong conflict in her mind. She had not,
indeed, ceased to think tenderly and affectionately of Robert Darnley;
but she had nearly, if not altogether, ceased to hope. The conflict in
her mind was between her affection for her father and her indifference
to Lord Spoonbill. We will not say that her vanity was not flattered by
the apparent offer of so splendid an alliance. It perhaps influenced
her as little as it would influence any one; but when the mind is just
recovering from the pains and mortifications of a first disappointment,
it is mightily indifferent to matters of sentiment. The very loss of a
first love is of itself so great an affliction, that it appears as if
no condition of being could render the affliction greater.

Finding that Penelope returned no answer to his protestations of
attachment, and that she did not withdraw her hand from his grasp, his
lordship proceeded to urge his suit in the common language adapted
for such occasions as the present, and used by such persons as his
lordship. Penelope, fancying that she was about to give her consent
to become Lady Spoonbill, prefaced that consent by expressing her
fears that the Earl and Countess of Smatterton would look down, with
disapprobation at least, on one so humble and portionless. To obviate
this objection his lordship, who did not, or who would not see the
misapprehension of the young lady, observed that the Earl and Countess
need not know anything of the arrangement.

"But how is that possible?" inquired Penelope in the simplicity of her
heart.

In explaining that possibility his lordship also explained the object
which he had in view in making a declaration of his attachment. Now
Penelope, who had been brought up under the roof and instruction of Dr
Greendale, and who knew no more of the world than the world knew of
her, was not able immediately and readily to comprehend his lordship's
meaning, and when she did comprehend it, she was shocked and astonished
at it; her pride also, of which she possessed constitutionally an
abundant share, took alarm at the indignity, and she would, but for the
utter depression of her spirits, have resented the insult loudly and
contemptuously. As it was, her only resource was in a copious flood of
silent tears, and when her paroxysm of anguish was somewhat abated, so
that she could find utterance for words, she said:

"My Lord Spoonbill, let me request you to leave me. My father will soon
return, and if he should learn what has passed, I cannot answer for the
consequences."

The Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill began to discern symptoms of a
horsewhipping, and having acted dishonorably, he looked foolishly. It
was not generous to attempt to take advantage of the misfortunes of Mr
Primrose, and the destitute condition of Penelope. But there was in
his lordship's heart so great a regard for Penelope, that he resolved
at all events to make her his own, and that if marriage was the only
condition, he would offer her marriage. With this view he stammered out
something which he intended as an apology, and endeavoured, as well
as he could, to unsay all that he had said concerning the humiliating
arrangement which he had at first proposed; but Penelope heard him not,
or if hearing, heeded him not.

Hereupon his lordship became more earnest in his solicitations, and
made such clumsy attempts to explain away his first proposal, that the
young lady began to think more contemptuously of him than she had ever
thought before. And now his lordship saw that there was some truth
and justice in the observations which had been thrown out by his
friend Erpingham. Seeing the lady so resolute and obdurate, he thought
it would be the wisest step that he could take to leave her for the
present, in hope that hereafter her indignation might somewhat abate.

When he was gone, the poor, perplexed, and almost desolate one, felt
in some measure relieved by his absence; but, when she began to
reflect, she found that her hopes of the patronage of Lady Smatterton
were now gone; for it would be absolutely impossible for her to
place herself again in a situation where she might be exposed to
the importunities of Lord Spoonbill. And when at a late hour in the
evening her father returned from the City, it was too much for her to
receive him cheerfully, and she could no longer speak sanguinely and
with confidence concerning her prospects under the patronage of Lady
Smatterton.

As for Mr Primrose, no brighter prospect seemed to shine before him;
for he had gained no intelligence. He had found, as he might have
expected, the office of his agent closed, and there was no one in the
house who could give him the slightest information. He was astonished
at the world's apathy; no one seemed to sympathise with him. Everybody
was wrapped up in their own concerns, and the thoughts of all seemed
to be centred in themselves. This is indeed not much to be wondered
at. It is the way of the world, and always has been, and always will,
until some change takes place which we cannot yet anticipate or
conjecture. It was pleasantly observed by a sentimental jockey, who
lost by a considerable length the first race he ever rode, "I'll never
ride another race as long as I live. The riders are the most selfish,
narrow-minded creatures on the face of the earth. They kept riding and
galloping as fast as they could, and never had once the kindness or
civility to stop for me."

In some such state of mind as this was Mr Primrose when he returned
from his fruitless excursion in the City. All the inquiries which
he had made about his agent, as to where he was, and how long the
office had been shut, and what time it would be open tomorrow, and
ten thousand other matters, had been answered with a toil-saving
brevity and a coldness, which intimated that the persons answering the
questions had not so great an interest in them as the person asking
them.



CHAPTER XI.


Many days had now passed away since Mr Primrose had left Neverden and
Smatterton, and since Robert Darnley had expressed his resolution
to make prompt inquiry into the cause of the interruption of the
correspondence between Penelope and himself. There had arrived no
intelligence from the young gentleman: but Mr Primrose began now to
think that he himself had not done right in listening and yielding to
the delicate scruples of his daughter. The father of Penelope was of
that complexion of mind that, under similar circumstances, he would
have thanked any one for removing any misunderstanding, even had it
been the lady herself.

He knew that Robert Darnley had not been the wilful cause of breaking
off the correspondence, and he knew also that his own daughter had
not neglected to answer the letters which she had received. He knew
that the parties were attached to each other, and he had learned from
Penelope herself that there was no foundation for the story of her
attachment to Lord Spoonbill. Now what should prevent him from writing
to Neverden to inform the young gentleman of this fact? He thought that
it would be an act of kindness to both parties. Nevertheless, it should
be observed, that Mr Primrose was not one of those terribly kind people
who force their kindness upon one, whether we like it or not, as the
man who beat his wife and said, "It is all for your good, my dear."

When therefore he was fully satisfied that it would be but an act of
kindness to his daughter to remove the mystery from the mind of Robert
Darnley, he did not take this step without first consulting her for
whose benefit such step was to be taken. At breakfast he said to
Penelope:

"So, my dear, my excursion into the City was to no purpose last night.
I find that I must make an earlier visit, and therefore I shall go
again to-day. I hope and trust I may find matters not quite so bad as
I first anticipated. And I think that you need not be in a very great
hurry to engage in this profession. I cannot say I like patronage. But
why should not we take some steps to let Robert Darnley know that the
breaking off the correspondence was not your act? I think I ought to
write to him. Indeed I almost promised that I would. Very likely he may
be waiting till he hears from me."

"My dear father," exclaimed Penelope, "you surely would not think of
such a step as that. It would be exceedingly indelicate, and might
expose me to contempt. Mr Darnley knows that I am in London, and if
he were at all disposed to renew the correspondence, or to have an
explanation of the cause of its interruption, he would either have
written or have made his appearance in town. Knowing that I was at Lord
Smatterton's, it was no difficult matter to write to me; for the letter
would be sure to find me, if directed under cover to his lordship."

"But, my dear child," interrupted Mr Primrose, "I think he expects to
hear from me; for I recollect now having said something to that effect."

"But after this long interval, if Mr Darnley were really anxious, and
at all concerned about me, he would have written to press you to the
performance of your promise."

"He might have done so to be sure," said her father, slowly and
thoughtfully, and then, as if recollecting himself, he continued in a
livelier and quicker tone; "but perhaps, as he has not heard from me,
he takes it for granted that you really were desirous of dropping the
correspondence; and so after all you will appear to him as the person
by whose act and deed the acquaintance has ceased."

"And what will he, or can he think," rejoined Penelope, "if, under
present circumstances, there should be on my part an effort made to
renew the acquaintance? No, no; let the matter rest. Even if you did
promise to write first, you may be sure that he would not have waited
patiently all this while in expectation of hearing from you. He might
naturally enough suppose that I should object to having overtures made
as from me; and if he had a real regard for me, we should have heard
from him by this time. My attachment to Mr Darnley was founded on the
qualities and endowments of the mind, and if I were deceived as to
them, that attachment will soon die away."

"Upon my word, child," said Mr Primrose, "I really do not think you
have any regard for Mr Darnley. You are certainly captivated by this
Lord Spoonbill."

This was said by Mr Primrose not angrily, but with a tone of mock
reproach. Penelope shuddered at the allusion to Lord Spoonbill; but she
endeavoured to conceal her emotion as much as possible, lest she should
be under the necessity of informing her father of the proposal which
his lordship had made her the day before.

While this conversation was passing between Mr Primrose and his
daughter, another scene was passing at the town mansion of the Earl of
Smatterton, where his lordship and family had arrived on the preceding
day. Parliament was about to meet after the prorogation. On such
occasions his lordship's magnificence swelled out to most extraordinary
dimensions. Then did he bethink himself that he was one of those who
held in his hand the destiny of the British empire; and, when the
postman brought letters from divers parts of the kingdom, his lordship
felt himself to be the centre to which many minds were directing their
most anxious thoughts. The letters were handed to his lordship on a
silver tray. The servant who brought them swelled with importance,
and even the silver tray shone with unusual brightness beneath its
important burden.

"It is very fatiguing," his lordship would sometimes say, "to have
anything to do with public business. I often envy the obscurity of
humble station. There is peace and quietness in the lowly valley."

This, together with much more pompous sentimentality of the same kind,
his lordship would utter when an unusual number of letters were brought
to him. On the morning to which we now refer the number of letters was
great, and they were spread on the table by his important lordship's
own right honorable hands. The contents of some he anticipated, and of
others he uttered his conjectures.

"Oh! here are two from Smatterton," exclaimed his lordship: "one,
I see, is from Kipperson: that Kipperson is really a man of some
talent; he has very just views of things. This letter from Kipperson
is of course on private business, which must be postponed to the more
important affairs which concern the destiny of the empire. But from
whom can this other letter come? I have no other correspondent there,
except my cousin Letitia, and this is not her writing."

Then his lordship looked very knowingly at the letter again. But all
this speechification was perfectly needless; for if he wished to know
from whom the letter came, he had nothing to do but to open it; and
till he did open it he was not likely to know anything about it. After
a full share of idle wonderment, his lordship took the envelope off
the mysterious letter, and found that it was addressed to Mr Primrose.
Thereat his lordship was angry, and expressed great astonishment at the
liberty thus taken with his right honorable name. On looking again at
the cover he discerned a few lines of apology, bearing the signature
of Robert Darnley, and stating that the liberty had been taken because
the writer did not know the gentleman's address, and because he also
understood that Mr Primrose's daughter was under his lordship's roof.

"And how am I to know the gentleman's address?" exclaimed his
lordship with a most magnificent air.

But the Countess, who had been informed by Lord Spoonbill that Penelope
had the intention of returning to undergo her ladyship's patronage, did
not feel quite so angry as her lord, but suggested that the young lord
had seen Mr Primrose, and knew the name of the hotel where he lodged.

"Certainly," said Lord Spoonbill, "I will take care of it." And he
forthwith laid hands upon the letter. Lord Smatterton then added, "I
beg that Mr Primrose may be immediately recommended to make known his
address to Mr Darnley, that this liberty may not be taken again."

When Lord Spoonbill had possession of this letter he forthwith began
to think how he should dispose of it. He was not quite sure, though
it came from Robert Darnley to Mr Primrose, that it must of necessity
discourse concerning love and Penelope. When his lordship therefore in
his own apartment sat muttering over the letter, and wondering what it
could contain, there was some little more reason for his doubts and
wonderments than for those of Lord Smatterton over the unopened cover
addressed to himself. The letter in possession of Lord Spoonbill was
not addressed to himself, and therefore he had no right to open it,
however deeply he might feel interested in its contents.

He took up the letter, and looked at the direction and at the seal;
and he endeavoured to conjecture on what other subject than that of
Penelope Mr Darnley could write to Mr Primrose. Then did his lordship
poke his right honorable finger and thumb into the open sides of the
letter, endeavouring to catch a glimpse of a word or two that might
help him over the difficulties of conjecture. But the letter was so
very ingeniously folded that not a single word could be seen. Hereupon,
incredible as it may appear, his lordship was in a very great wrath,
and was offended with the insolence of Robert Darnley, who had taken
such pains to fold his letter, as if he had a suspicion that any
individual of Lord Smatterton's family should have the meanness to look
into it. This curious mode of folding the letter induced his lordship
to make another and another attempt to read a line or a word. But
nothing could be seen. Now, in the progress of these repeated efforts
at investigation, the letter was so much disfigured that his lordship,
with all his ingenuity, could not make it look like itself again.

Another difficulty now arose: for his lordship was ashamed to send it
in so questionable a shape; and should he send or make any apology, he
must tell something very much like a lie, and perhaps by his clumsiness
in apologizing create a suspicion of the real fact. Perplexed and
undecided, he thrust the letter into his pocket and walked out.

Lord Spoonbill must have been very much attached to Miss Primrose to
take all this trouble, and to expose himself to so many annoyances
on her account; and the worst of the matter was that he could not,
in making his visit to the young lady, quote all these instances of
mortification and self-denial as illustrations and proofs of his
devotedness to her. He could not tell her that, for her sake, he had
stooped to meannesses of which any other man would have been ashamed.
He could not tell her that, in order to place her in the enviable
rank of nobility, he had intercepted her letters and had corrupted
the integrity of Nick Muggins, the Smatterton post-boy. By the way we
cannot help remarking, that Muggins was much to blame for accepting
a bribe to betray his trust. But the love of gold is an universal
passion, it is not confined to any one class or condition of human
life; it influences the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the
learned and the unlearned;

  "In peace it tunes the shepherd's reed,
  In war it mounts the warrior's steed,
  In halls in gay attire 'tis seen,
  In hamlets dances on the green;
  It rules the court, the camp, the grove,
  And men below and gentlemen above."

But to return to our enamoured hereditary legislator. He was walking,
he scarcely knew whither, with Robert Darnley's letter in his pocket;
and he was meditating most perplexedly on the various events of human
life, on those at least which concerned himself, and he thought that he
had been acting very much like a fool, and he felt very much inclined
to make a mighty effort to act like a wise man. But wisdom is not an
extemporaneous production of a fool's head. It required something more
than a volition to change the whole tenor of the conduct.

In his resolution to act more wisely, the Right Honorable Lord
Spoonbill made with himself this stipulation, namely, that at all
events, and by any means honorable, or dishonorable, he must have Miss
Primrose; for it was absolutely impossible that he could live without
her. It was therefore no easy matter for his lordship so to manage
matters as to gain Miss Primrose at all events, and yet to act as a
man of honor. For here was in his pocket a letter, which, as a man of
honor, he ought immediately to hand over to Mr Primrose; and yet he
very strongly suspected, that if the said letter should come into the
possession of the person to whom it was addressed, it would be most
probably the means of placing an insuperable objection in the way of
his lordship's designs. It also entered into the mind of the meditating
young gentleman that, if the acquaintance between Miss Primrose and
Robert Darnley should be renewed, there might be some talk about the
letters which had not reached their destination, and there might be
made some enquiries. And what if, after all, Nick Muggins should turn
traitor! Who could tell what influences fear or hope might exercise
over the uncivilized post-boy of Smatterton?

Instruction being a much more important object than amusement, we
feel ourselves bound to direct the attention of our readers to the
instruction which may be derived from the fact here alluded to. Here
is political instruction and personal instruction. We do not believe
a word of the idle prating that some political greenhorns make about
secret service money; but we do believe that many of those politicians,
and they are not a few, who mistake cunning for wisdom, frequently
become entangled in nets of their own weaving, and fall into pits
of their own digging. To play the rogue with perfect success, is a
perfection almost beyond the reach of ordinary humanity: for they, who
have talent and power to do so, are generally too wise to possess the
inclination, and they who are weak enough to possess the inclination,
are in nine cases out of ten too clumsy to carry it on with perfect
success. And the worst of it is, that they must make use of tools which
are either too strong to be managed, or too weak to be depended on.

This is also a lesson of instruction to persons in private life,
especially to those who have nothing to do but to live on the fruits
of their grandfather's industry, or their great grandfather's roguery;
for it teaches them that, if they will pursue those ends which are
dishonorable, they must also make use of dishonorable means; and they
will very frequently be placed in very uncomfortable and mortifying
situations.

Now, however willing Lord Spoonbill might have been to suffer the
letter in his possession to reach its proper destination, he found that
he could not send it without exposing his former meanness to the risk
of detection, and in all probability defeating the end which he had
in view in intercepting the letters which were passing between Miss
Primrose and Robert Darnley. In such perplexity, his lordship walked
from one street to another till he found himself at a very considerable
distance from Mr Primrose's hotel.



CHAPTER XII.


Lord Spoonbill was not like Cato. For history records of the latter
that he preferred being good to seeming so: Lord Spoonbill had no great
objection to being a rogue, but did not like to be thought one. It was
therefore not very pleasant for him to be placed in that dilemma, of
which we made mention in the last chapter. He saw, or at least had good
reason to think that he saw, that Mr Darnley was bent on renewing the
acquaintance with Miss Primrose; and he also feared that Penelope had
not sufficiently forgotten her first lover.

There also occurred to his mind the thought that it was possible for
Mr Darnley to make a journey to London for a personal explanation, if
the letter to Mr Primrose should not be answered. This consideration
suggested to his lordship the necessity of taking prompt and decided
measures. He saw that no chance remained for him but in the way of
matrimony. He certainly dreaded the encounter with his right honorable
parents; but, if he could not live without Penelope, it was absolutely
necessary that he should take steps to live with her.

This is a very proper place wherein to make a digression concerning
the omnipotence of love; and here we ought to be extremely pathetic,
shewing and demonstrating with heart-rending eloquence, how
irresistible is this universal passion: and perhaps some of our
readers, not many we hope, may think that we ought to make a very
sentimental defence of Lord Spoonbill, as some of our predecessors
in the history of lovers have made of those idle cubs who have shewn
their refinement and sensibility by seducing engaged or betrothed
affections. But we do not believe in the omnipotence of love; and we
do not think Lord Spoonbill at all deserving of pity. Falling in love
with Penelope was on his part perfectly voluntary, deliberate, wilful,
and intentional. It is all very possible and very plausible for an
inexperienced and thoughtless youth to find himself mightily attached
to a young woman before he is aware almost of the existence of the
passion; but this was not the case with Lord Spoonbill. When he saw
Miss Primrose he admired her; when he became more acquainted with her,
he liked her; and, from pursuing, he loved her. But he knew from the
first that she was otherwise engaged; and his designs towards her had
been degrading.

We have dwelt long, and perhaps tediously, on Lord Spoonbill's
embarrassment; we have done so intentionally, because that
embarrassment dwelt tediously on his mind, and it was necessary,
for the sake of accuracy in the picture, to represent the case not
transiently, but copiously.

The result of the right honorable hereditary legislator's meditation
was, that as it was not possible for him to live without Penelope, and
as delay might expose him to the danger of being compelled to do that
which he knew to be impossible, he would take the earliest opportunity
of making regular and deliberate overtures of marriage. And he felt
satisfied that the fascination of title and the splendour of opulence
would be too much for a female heart to withstand. There was also
another thought on which he grounded his hopes: he considered that
the affection which Penelope had for her father would induce her more
readily to accept an offer which would provide her with the means of
assisting him.

With this resolution he returned home; as he thought that it might be
more advisable to communicate his intention to the parties concerned
by letter than by word of mouth. Probably his lordship might imagine
that, if thus Mr Primrose were made acquainted with the magnificent
offer that awaited his daughter's acceptance, paternal pride would be
gratified, and paternal authority might be added to other motives,
inducing the young lady's compliance. Lord Spoonbill was by no means
fastidious as to the manner in which he gained his object, provided
that the object was gained.

His lordship dined that day at home. During dinner he was silent, and
looked almost sulky. The Earl and Countess inferred from these looks
that their hopeful son was on the eve of saying or doing something not
very agreeable to his parents; for he most usually prefaced an act
of opposition to their will by putting himself into an ill-humour.
This is a refined piece of domestic tactics. None however but spoiled
children can use it with proper dexterity and complete success. When a
wife wishes to persuade her husband out of his senses, or to guide him
against his better judgment, her prelude is generally an extraordinary
degree of sweetness, and her preface is made of witching smiles; and
then the husband thinks that it would be cruel to convert such smiles
into tears, and he passively yields to the power of the silent logic
of the laughing eye. But the policy of a great overgrown booby is
different. The spoiled blockhead knows that no art of his can give
extra loveliness to his looks in the eyes of his fond parents. His own
precious numskull is to them the ne plus ultra of human excellence.
But if that sweet face is darkened by a frown, and if the dear pet is
sulky, cross-grained, and ill-humoured, then anything and everything
must be conceded to bring him back to his good-humour again.

"Spoonbill, are you unwell?" said Lord Smatterton.

"No," replied Spoonbill in a style of sulky abruptness, which Tony
Lumpkin himself might have envied.

"You seem to be quite out of spirits to-day:" said the Countess, in one
of her most agreeable and winning tones.

"One cannot be always laughing and talking," was the uncourteous and
ungrateful reply.

Then followed a long pause. The Earl and Countess scarcely dared
to speak to each other, and Lord Spoonbill pertinaciously held his
peace. Now such a state of things cannot last long; it is absolutely
unbearable. Very soon after the servants had left the room, as the
young man's silence and sulkiness yet continued, Lord Smatterton, who
thought himself a bit of a politician, gave her ladyship a hint to
indulge them with her absence.

When they were alone, the Earl of Smatterton thus addressed his hopeful
son: "Spoonbill, I fear that something is preying upon your mind. May I
be permitted to know what it is that disturbs you?"

Lord Spoonbill did not make any reply to this consolatory
interrogation: for he felt very well satisfied that the communication
of the cause of his concern would not be very likely to remove it. He
therefore thought it best to contrive, if it could be so managed, to
let the truth come out gradually, and to bring his father to guess,
than to tell abruptly, the cause of his oppression.

"You are silent," said the Earl of Smatterton. Lord Spoonbill knew that
without requiring to be told of it. The Earl then continued:

"Why should you conceal from me anything that concerns and interests
you? I am only desirous of promoting your welfare; and, if in any
matter I can serve you, command me."

It is quite contrary to our notions of propriety that sons should
command their parents; it was also contrary to Lord Smatterton's ideas
of his own dignity that any one should dictate to him; but in the
present instance he adopted the courtier's language. As his son did not
seem disposed to command him, the father felt very much inclined to
command his son, and to insist with mighty dignity on knowing the cause
of this strange behaviour. But Lord Spoonbill was rather too old to be
treated like a boy. His lordship would not be snubbed; but he could not
always escape a lecturing.

There is this difference between the rational and irrational part of
the creation; that, among the irrational animals, the parents are in
haste to give their offspring a hint of their independence; but among
rational beings, the young ones are more in haste to throw off their
dependence than parents to renounce their authority or withdraw their
protection. One reason perhaps for this arrangement is, that rational
youngsters are not quite so well able to guide and to take care of
themselves as irrational animals are.

The feeling of which we are here speaking operated very powerfully in
the minds of Lord Smatterton and his son. The father was especially
fond of authority, and the son as fond of independence: but the father
held the purse, and there lay the great secret of his power. Lord
Spoonbill knew that he could not marry Miss Primrose without the
consent of more parties than himself and the young lady; he knew that
the means of an establishment must be contributed by his own right
honorable father; and therefore his consideration was, how to obtain
that consent, and how to reconcile his father's well-known horror of
plebeianism with his own marriage, with the daughter of a man who had
originally sprung from the City. To have made the proposal flatly and
plainly, would have put the Earl into a most tremendous passion. It was
therefore necessary to have recourse to management.

Finding that the Earl was slow in uttering conjectures, Lord Spoonbill
was compelled to give broader hints; and for that purpose he rose
from his seat and walked to the fire-place, and put his elbow on the
chimney-piece, and his hand upon his forehead, and sighed--oh, how he
did sigh! He would have been a fine subject for Chantrey; but neither
Chantrey nor any one else could have immortalized that magnificent
sigh.

At this movement the Earl started, and exclaimed: "Are you in love,
Spoonbill?"

"Suppose I am, sir;" replied the son of the patrician, "and what
then?"

"What then!" echoed Lord Smatterton; "that very much depends on the
person who has engaged your affections. If it be a suitable connexion,
I shall throw no impediment in your way."

"But, perhaps, what may appear a suitable connexion to me may not
appear in the same light to you."

"Of course you will not think of marrying a woman of no understanding."

"Certainly not," replied Lord Spoonbill cheerfully and confidently;
"I could not bear to live with a wife who was not a person of
intellect."

Some of our readers might not have expected this remark from Lord
Smatterton, or this reply from Lord Spoonbill; but let those readers
look out among their acquaintance for a great blockhead, and let
them talk to him about intellect, and they will not wonder that Lord
Spoonbill had a fancy for an intellectual wife. There is, now a-days, a
great demand for intellect, and a demand will always create a supply of
some sort or other.

"And I think," continued the Earl of Smatterton, "that I know your
opinions on that subject too well to suppose that you would ever
degrade yourself so far as to marry a person of low birth."

Lord Spoonbill bit his lips; and said, "I would never marry a woman of
vulgar manners, whatever might be her birth."

"You are right," said the Earl; "but why can you not tell me at once,
without all this circumlocution, who is the lady that is destined to
the honor of becoming Lady Spoonbill?"

Here the young man hesitated and demurred, and endeavoured to say
something that should amount to nothing. But the Earl was not content
to be put off evasively, and pressed so hard, that at length the secret
was extorted. Then was the Lord of Smatterton exceedingly astonished
and grieved, and he groaned and shook his head most solemnly, and in a
tone of great anguish of mind, said;

"Oh, Spoonbill! Spoonbill! That you should ever have come to this! And
have you made the young woman an offer of your hand?"

"I have," replied the son, who thought that the readiest way of
bringing the matter to a conclusion would be to avow it at once.

But, when the Earl farther enquired whether the offer had been accepted
or not, the young lord was under the necessity of acknowledging that
it had not been exactly accepted, but that he had no doubt it would
be. This was a curious piece of refinement in the art of lying. Lord
Spoonbill was too scrupulous to commit himself by a downright palpable
falsehood, which might be detected, but instead of that he had recourse
to one of those lies, which are not so easy of detection, but which
answer quite as well the purpose of deceit. It was quite as much a
lie to say that he had no doubt that his offer would be accepted, as
it would have been to say that it had already been accepted. But the
one lie might have been detected, the other could not. He had doubts
of his acceptance, and serious doubts too; but he thought that if the
young lady and her father found that the match was countenanced by
the Earl, and, if proposals could be fairly and fully made before Mr
Darnley should have an opportunity of holding any intercourse with Miss
Primrose or her father, there was a possibility of success.

This information was indeed melancholy news to Lord Smatterton, who had
enjoyed and pleased himself with the thought that he had to boast of
true patrician blood, and who looked forward to see his only son uphold
the dignity of his house. There is a pleasure in greatness which none
but great ones know. It had been the pride of the Earl of Smatterton
to look down with contempt on such noble families as had degraded
themselves by admixture with plebeian blood. Now all his sneers and
sarcasms, he thought, would be turned against himself, and it pained
him to think that it might be said of him, "that is Lord Smatterton,
whose son married a woman from the City."

His lordship knew that his son was obstinate and headstrong, and he saw
that there was no mode of preventing the catastrophe, if the young man
had set his mind upon it. But notwithstanding he knew that opposition
must be fruitless, he could not help speaking in his own peculiarly
emphatic manner against the proposed match.

"Spoonbill," said the Earl, "marry Miss Primrose if you please; but
remember"--here his lordship made a most magnificent pause--"remember
that your establishment must be from the fortune of your destined
bride. From me you have nothing."

Had circumstances been otherwise than they were, and not requiring
such despatch, Lord Spoonbill would not have heeded this speech. He
would have known that ultimately he should succeed with his magnificent
father; but his object was to come to a speedy decision; he wished
to be able at once to make a decided proposal. At this remark of his
father Lord Spoonbill was angry and sulky, and he pettishly replied; "I
think I have a right to marry as I please."

"And I also have a right to use my property as I please; and I
will never consent to appropriate any part of it to the purpose of
introducing a woman of low birth into my family."

It may be very well supposed by our readers, that the discussion on
this interesting topic between Lord Smatterton and his son did not end
here; and we shall not be blamed for omitting the remainder of the
angry discussion between father and son on this very interesting and
delicate topic. It may be very easily imagined that the son went on
grumbling, and that the father went on prosing, for a considerable
length of time, and that they did not arrive at any satisfactory
conclusion.

It may be also very easily imagined that when the melancholy
intelligence was communicated to Lady Smatterton, her ladyship must
have suffered very acutely when she found that her beloved and only
child had so far forgotten the pure and high principles in which he
had been nourished, as to think of bringing misery and disgrace into a
noble family, by letting down the Spoonbills to an alliance with the
Primroses.

It is a pity that in these days of invention and ingenuity no
contrivance can be hit upon for preventing such miserable and
heart-breaking casualties, as patrician youths falling in love with
plebeian damsels. The "order" of hereditary legislators has been in
many instances most cruelly and mercilessly invaded by impertinent,
instrusive plebeians. Sometimes love and sometimes necessity have
compelled an union between the high and low; and yet, notwithstanding
these painful and melancholy admixtures, patricianism has kept up a
very pretty spirit of distinctness, and does yet contain some choice
specimens of the finer sorts of humanity. How much more magnificent and
sublime patricianism might have been but for these admixtures, it is
impossible to say.

It is enough however for our present purpose to observe that, with all
the power which Lord Spoonbill, as an only one and a spoiled child,
possessed over his parents, he was not able, even with the additional
force of his sulkiness and ill-humour, to bring them to assent to
the ill-assorted union which he contemplated. The Earl and Countess
of Smatterton could not give their consent to such a humiliating and
degrading connexion. They did not indeed know who or what Mr Primrose
was, but they did know who and what he was not. They knew that he was
not of their set; that he was not a man of family or title, and that
whatever property he might possess, he had acquired it by his own
diligence or wit. Now that was an abomination, an indelible disgrace,
a reproach not easily to be wiped away. They took it for granted,
indeed, that Mr Primrose had some property; but if they had known that
even the little property which he had was placed in jeopardy, their
indignation would have been greater still at the folly of their own
and only precious pet essaying to unite himself with a young woman who
had nothing to recommend her but the possession of almost every virtue
that can adorn the female character, united with a strong and masculine
understanding, and embellished with gracefulness of manners, gentleness
of deportment, and a moral dignity, which was high enough to look down
with indifference on the accidental distinctions of society.

All that Lord Spoonbill could gain from his inexorable and right
honorable parents, was a promise that they would think about it.



CHAPTER XIII.


It is a sad thing to be the most unfortunate creature in the world; and
the only consolation under such calamity, is the thought that it is
by no means uncommon. Almost every body is in this condition at some
period or other of his life. This calamity befel Lord Spoonbill at the
juncture of which we are now writing. It happened under the following
circumstances.

We have related that Mr Primrose, after hearing of the stoppage of
his banker, went into the City to his agent at a preposterously late
hour of the day, and that in so doing he lost his labour. We have
also related that, during the absence of Mr Primrose from his hotel,
the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill called and made overtures to Miss
Primrose. We have also related that Lord Spoonbill, finding that it was
absolutely impossible to live without Penelope, and finding also that,
without an establishment, it would be as impossible to live with her,
had made known to his respected parents his intention to lead that same
young lady to the altar, or, in plain English, to marry her. Leading a
lady to the altar is merely a newspaper phrase, and sounds heathenish;
we ought rather to say, leading her to the communion table. But, not to
use superfluous words, let us proceed.

We have narrated that the right honorable parents of Lord Spoonbill
were indignant at the proposal of their son, and we have also stated
that despatch was to the young gentleman an object of the greatest
importance. The reason why he was in so much haste has also been stated.

Now it so happened, that on the very day on which the letter of Robert
Darnley was intercepted at the house of Lord Smatterton, and by the
meanness of Lord Spoonbill, Mr Primrose went again into the City and
called on his agent, and made enquiries concerning the probabilities
or chances of his bankers paying a good dividend. In these enquiries
he found himself most agreeably surprised, by ascertaining two very
important points: one was, that only part, and that no very great
part of his property had been paid into the hands of the said banker;
and another was, that what had been already paid there would, in
all probability, be soon forthcoming again, very little, if at all,
diminished by the untoward circumstances that compelled a stoppage.

While therefore Lord Spoonbill was sulking and pouting to his papa
and mama about Penelope Primrose, that young lady was enjoying the
agreeable and pleasant intelligence which her father had brought from
the City. The brief discussion which passed between the father and
daughter concerning the propriety of writing to Robert Darnley, we have
already narrated. This took place on the morning of the day on which
Mr Primrose, going into the City, found his affairs in so much better
order than he had anticipated.

On the evening of that day the subject was renewed, though but faintly
and indirectly. But in the course of conversation Mr Primrose alluded
to the offer which Mr Pringle, the new rector of Smatterton, had made
of accommodating Mr Primrose with the parsonage-house, provided he
should choose to take up his residence at Smatterton. Now Penelope
loved Smatterton for many reasons. There had she first learned to
know and feel what was real kindness of heart. With that village were
blended all her early associations and recollections. She loved the
village church, and there was to her ear music in its abrupt little
ring of six small bells. The very air of the village was wholesome
to her, morally as well as physically. The great booby boys and the
freckled girls of the village were her intimates; not her companions
indeed, but she could sympathize with them, although they could not
always sympathize with her. She also knew the cows and the dogs and the
horses. She knew the names of a great many of them; and very often,
during her short sojourn in the great city, she had called to mind with
a starting tear the recollection of the monotonous, drawling, daily
tone, with which the farmers' men talked to these animals.

When therefore her father proposed taking up his abode at Smatterton,
and hiring for that purpose the parsonage-house, she altogether
forgot its vicinity to Neverden and its association with the name of
Darnley, and she was delighted with the prospect of going back again
to those scenes with which her mind connected images of pleasure and
recollections of peace.

It was with ready and delightful acquiescence that Penelope assented to
the proposal; and as Mr Primrose saw that his child was pleased with
the thought of going to reside at Smatterton, he hastened to put his
intentions into execution; and at the very time that Lord Spoonbill
was grumbling about his right to marry whomsoever he pleased, Mr
Primrose was making arrangements to leave London.

The father of Penelope was not slow in his movements, and he was not
in the habit of giving his purposes time to cool. He wrote by that
evening's post to Smatterton, and at an early hour on the following
morning he and his daughter commenced their journey. So that when Lord
Spoonbill, who heeded not his father's long lecture on the subject
of dignity, called again at Mr Primrose's hotel, and heard that the
gentleman and his daughter were gone, and that they were gone to
Smatterton, then his lordship was grieved beyond measure, and his
perplexity was serious, and his fears rose within him: for he took it
for granted that there must soon be an interview and an explanation,
and then he distrusted Nick Muggins, and there rose up before his
mind's eye the phantom of that ungainly cub and his clumsy pony: that
image which, in the recollection of most who had seen it, would excite
a smile at its uncouthness, was to the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill
productive of very painful emotions and disagreeable apprehensions. So
his lordship thought himself the most unfortunate creature in the world.

Then again there was in his lordship's possession the letter from
Robert Darnley to Mr Primrose, and his lordship hardly knew what to do
with that. He thought that the secret of his having already detained it
for a whole day must inevitably transpire. Whether he should send it
or detain it would be equally ruinous to his schemes. He looked very
thoughtfully at the letter, and at length resolved to send it with an
explanation to Mr Primrose at Smatterton. He thought that, if there
should be on the letter any symptoms of curious or prying fingers, it
might be attributed to any one rather than to his lordship; and he
thought that, at the worst, no one would explicitly charge him with
an attempt to penetrate into its secresy. The letter was therefore
despatched with an apology for its detention as much like a lie as
anything that a lord could write.

There was nothing now left for Lord Spoonbill to do but to sigh over
his calamitous loss as deeply as he could, and to explain to his
father, as ingeniously as might be, the singular event of the sudden
departure of Mr Primrose and his daughter from London, at the very
moment when a right honorable suitor for the young lady's hand had
started up in the person of Lord Spoonbill. The son said it was very
strange, and the father also thought it was very strange, and he
recommended his son not to have any farther correspondence with persons
who could behave thus disrespectfully. But the young gentleman was too
much enamoured to listen to such advice, and he exercised most heartily
all his little wits to devise means of carrying on his suit to Penelope.

For the present we must leave his loving lordship in London, enjoying
all the luxuries and splendors which gas, fog, smoke, foolery, wax
candles, painted faces, late hours, French cookery, Italian music,
prosy dancing, Whig politics, and patrician scandal, could afford him.
It is far more to our taste to follow Mr Primrose and his daughter into
the country than to remain with Lord Spoonbill in London. If any of our
readers wish to know what Lord Spoonbill did with himself in London,
they may form a tolerably correct idea from ascertaining how the rest
of that tribe occupy their time. He was a very fashionable man, he knew
all the common-places perfectly, and with his own set he was quite at
home. There let us leave him.

Mr Primrose and Penelope travelled to Smatterton in perfect safety;
and the father congratulated himself and his daughter upon their safe
arrival, observing that had they ventured to use the stage-coach
instead of post-chaises, they would certainly have had their necks
broken at the bottom of some steep hill.

Their reception at Smatterton parsonage was most cordial and highly
courteous. Nothing could exceed the happiness of the young rector
in receiving under his roof so respected a friend as Mr Primrose.
Preparations had been made according to the best of the young
clergyman's ability; and, as Mr Primrose's letter mentioned the day
and the hour of his arrival, Mr Pringle thought that he could not do
otherwise than make a party to meet the gentleman at dinner.

Since the departure of Mrs Greendale from Smatterton, the establishment
of Mr Pringle had continued the same, but his domestics had not had
a very bustling life; and they ventured to contradict the popular
theory which represents man as a creature of habit. For during the
reign of Mrs Greendale they had been accustomed to fly about the house
with unceasing bustle and activity, but since her departure they had
become almost as lazy as their master. The domestics were two female
servants, one about sixty and the other about forty. They were clumsy
and uncouth, but their clumsiness was hardly visible in the time of
Mrs Greendale; for under her administration they had been habituated
to move about with most marvellous celerity, and now that the old
lady was departed they seemed glad to take breath, and they took it
very leisurely. It was a great mercy that they were not absolutely
broken-winded.

There was also remaining in the establishment a man servant, an
amphibious animal as it were, not because he lived partly on land and
partly in water, but as living partly in the house and partly out
of it. He was a mighty pluralist, and filled, or rather occupied,
many places; and from the universality of his genius he might,
had he been in higher station, have aspired to be prime minister,
commander-in-chief, lord chancellor, and archbishop of Canterbury. As
it was, his occupations were quite as multitudinous and heterogeneous.
His great skill was in gardening, and finding that he was successful
in cultivating cabbages, he ventured also to undertake the cavalry
department in the late Dr Greendale's service. His duties here were not
many or oppressive, seeing that the late doctor kept but one horse,
and that was very quiet and gentle. This universal genius acted also
as butler and footman. In this last capacity he did not shine. He did
not want for head, he had enough of that, and more than enough. As for
figure, it is difficult to say what that was, it was so exceedingly
indefinite. It was considerate of the late Dr Greendale that he did not
task the poor man very hardly as to his department of footman. But the
new rector loved state, and it was his pride to keep a livery servant,
and he would also insist upon the attendance of this man at table. And
though the footman was not himself a great adept in waiting at table,
he soon brought his master to wait.

With this ungainly establishment, the Reverend Charles Pringle took it
into his head to give a dinner to as many as he could collect, in order
to pay a compliment to Mr Primrose, and to pay court to Miss Primrose.
Unfortunately for Mr Pringle it did not answer.

It would be wearying to our readers to have the particulars and
the failures of a clumsy mockery of an elegant dinner set forth at
full length. Let it be supposed that there was expense, inelegance,
constraint, anxiety, mortification. As we are not writing for cooks, we
pass over the minutenesses of a spoiled dinner; the greatest evil of
which was, that the party was in some degree silent during the progress
of dinner, for they had not much opportunity of talking gastronomically.

The English people can talk, but they must have something to begin
with. If they meet out of doors, they must begin talking about the
weather, and within doors, especially at dinner time, they must begin
talking about eatables and drinkables. From such beginnings they can
go on to any subject; but they must of necessity have a common-place
beginning.

After the cloth was removed, and the spoiled or ill-arranged dishes
were forgotten, the party felt themselves more at liberty. We have not
yet named the persons who composed the party; and when we say that
Mr Kipperson, Mr Zephaniah Pringle, and five or six of lesser note
were present, our readers may well suppose that there was no lack of
inclination to discourse, especially on the part of those two gentlemen
whom we have named.

Now it has been stated, that Zephaniah the critic had carried down to
Smatterton an awkward rumour concerning Penelope Primrose. The source
from whence the said critic had gathered the information has been also
stated. But as soon as the intelligence of Mr Primrose's intention to
reside with his daughter at Smatterton reached the new rector, and
was by him communicated to his brother and to Mr Kipperson, a virtual
contradiction was given to the ill report; and then all three of the
gentlemen found out that they had never believed it.

To render themselves as agreeable as possible to Mr Primrose, the
three whom we have named talked great abundance of nonsense and
magnificence. Their first concern immediately after dinner was to
consult on the best means of saving the nation. Mr Kipperson was well
satisfied that nothing would or could do the nation the slightest
service, so long as the agricultural interest was neglected. There were
two serious evils which were growing worse and worse, the increase of
the population, and the importation of foreign grain. The ingenious
agriculturist proved that the farmer was eaten up by the increasing
population, and that the quantity of grain in the country was so large
that it could not find consumers.

Zephaniah Pringle agreed with Mr Kipperson in the grand principle that
there were too many consumers for the corn, and too much corn for the
consumers. There was the great evil, he thought, in these two troubles
existing at once; were they in existence separately they might soon
be got rid of. The consumers might consume an extra quantity, and
soon settle matters in that way, or the want of corn might thin the
consumers, and soon settle matters that way. But, while the two evils
operated together, they were dreadful calamities.

Those of our readers who are not agriculturists, or political
economists, cannot understand this reasoning, or, more properly
speaking, they will not; they are blinded by their own interested
feelings; they have prejudices which agriculturists have not.

But though Zephaniah Pringle agreed with Mr Kipperson, that the people
were starving because there was too much corn, and that the corn could
not find consumers because there were so many people to eat it, yet
he thought that there were more serious evils in the country yet. He
thought that those obscure seditious newspapers and vile trumpery
publications, which nobody reads and which everybody despises, which
are published by a set of needy miscreants, who spare no expense in
circulating them all over the kingdom, had corrupted the minds of all
the people in this once happy land. He thought that the nation was in
a most prosperous condition, and that nothing was wanting to render it
more prosperous, than an additional number of bishops, and an increase
in the numbers of the yeomanry cavalry.

Mr Primrose listened with polite and pleased attention to these
dextrous and acute politicians, and he thought that his Majesty need
never be at a loss for a prime minister, or for two, if he wanted
them, while Zephaniah Pringle and Mr Kipperson should live. But, as Mr
Primrose was neither an agriculturist, nor a political economist, he
felt himself a little puzzled to reconcile the apparent contradiction
which was contained in Mr Kipperson's statement of the agricultural
grievances. Mr Kipperson was very properly angry with Mr Primrose for
expressing a doubt on the subject; and the scientific agriculturist
immediately and satisfactorily explained that all the superfluous
population was pennyless, and could not pay for the corn which they
would like to consume. Whereupon Mr Primrose understood that in the
good old times people were born with money in their pockets.

Zephaniah Pringle almost feared that Mr Primrose was a radical, at
least he thought he was in the high road to become so, unless he should
resist that foolish propensity of wishing to understand what he talked
about.

There might have been at the table of Mr Pringle, rector of Smatterton,
some diversity of political opinion, as there certainly was, seeing
that Mr Kipperson was a Whig, and Zephaniah Pringle a Tory; but the
corn question most cordially united them. How far these gentlemen
differed in some other points, we have seen already in the matter
of mechanics' institutes. On this subject Mr Kipperson's hopes were
rather too sanguine; and perhaps Zephaniah the critic was too nervously
susceptible, on the other hand, of apprehensions of danger to the
Protestant succession; for, to his mind, the mechanics' institutes
had no other ultimate object in view than transubstantiation and
republicanism.

Concerning gymnastics, the gentlemen also differed. Zephaniah condemned
them in toto, and so did the rector of Smatterton, in spite of his
whiggism. Mr Kipperson spoke very learnedly about muscles and tension,
and proved that bodily exercise was essential to intellectual vigour;
but he had the candour to acknowledge that he could never persuade his
men to take gymnastic exercises when their day's work was over; and he
attributed their ignorance of science to their neglect of gymnastics.

The whole of the conversation, to which we have above alluded, did not
take place in the hearing of Miss Primrose, nor indeed did one tenth
part of it; for the fatigue of the journey, together with the agitation
of her spirits, led her to make an early retreat from the dining-room.
And the old female servant, who had known Penelope from childhood,
was delighted in the opportunity of again attending upon her. Fluent
was the old gentlewoman's speech, and mightily communicative was she
touching the various changes which had taken place in Smatterton and
Neverden since the decease of the good Dr Greendale. The kind-hearted
woman also expressed herself delighted at the return of Miss Primrose
to Smatterton, inasmuch as there was one person who would be so happy
to see her again, and that person was Mr Robert Darnley. Penelope
begged that his name might never be mentioned again in her hearing, and
thereupon the poor old domestic began to fear that there was some truth
in the stories that had been talked about in the village concerning
Miss Primrose and Lord Spoonbill. And when the old servant found that
she could not talk to her late young mistress concerning love-matters,
she hastily finished her discourse and left the young lady to retire
quietly to rest.



CHAPTER XIV.


The news of Mr Primrose's arrival at Smatterton soon reached the
rectory at Neverden. Had it not found its way there sooner, Mr
Zephaniah Pringle would have been the first to communicate the
intelligence on the following morning. The arrival having been
announced, was of course expected. And there was much anxiety
felt on the subject by all the parties concerned: of course more
especially by Robert Darnley. For in consequence of his letter having
been unanswered, he had fully determined, in spite of all domestic
opposition and paternal expostulation, to make a journey to London for
the purpose of explanation.

The elder Mr Darnley was mightily displeased to hear of the purpose
which Mr Primrose had in view in coming to Smatterton. To the
fastidious mind of the rector of Neverden it appeared very indelicate
for Miss Primrose, after what had taken place, to throw herself in the
way of Mr Robert Darnley: for in no other light could the rector of
Neverden regard the meditated settlement of Mr Primrose at Smatterton.

It is a great pity that such a man as Mr Darnley, who had for the most
part a good understanding and good feelings, should be so obstinate
in his prejudices and so immoveable in his fancies. He had, for some
reason or other, taken it into his head that Miss Primrose was proud
and fantastical and unfeeling; and nothing could bring him to think
favourably of her. He saw everything that she did or said through the
deceptive medium of his erroneous apprehension of her character. It was
a vain attempt to turn him from his humour. He had thoroughly believed
at the first the calumnious report brought from London by Zephaniah
Pringle. He had also believed that it was Penelope's own wish, purpose,
and desire, to adopt the musical profession; and though he had felt
satisfied that the cessation of the correspondence between his son and
the young lady had sprung altogether from the caprice of the latter,
yet he considered that this meditated residence in Smatterton was,
on the part of Penelope, with a desire of meeting again with Robert
Darnley.

We have already acknowledged, nor do we wish to retract the
acknowledgment, that the rector of Neverden was a very conscientious,
attentive, and upright parish priest; we will give him credit for
great zeal and activity in the discharge of his pastoral duties; but,
notwithstanding all this, he was grievously deficient in one part
of the Christian character, seeing that he had very little of that
"charity which thinketh no evil." We have seen other good people,
besides the rector of Neverden, who, fancying themselves models of all
that is right, and patterns for the rest of the world, have exercised a
perverse ingenuity in discovering, and an unholy pleasure in displaying
and condemning, their neighbours' faults, real or imaginary. These
people imagine that they cannot show a dislike of what is wrong without
exhibiting a degree of malignity against such as transgress. Now the
late Dr Greendale, though a man of great purity and integrity, had
no such feeling as this. He was as candid as he was pure, and his
gentleness was equal to his integrity. And the people of his parish
liked him very much for his goodness and gentleness, and so his
character had a very powerful influence upon them. But Mr Darnley was a
different kind of man.

When Zephaniah Pringle therefore made his appearance at Neverden,
and repeated the information which had already been conveyed to the
rectory, as touching the arrival of Mr and Miss Primrose at Smatterton,
the Rev. Mr Darnley expressed himself astonished at the indecorum and
want of feeling which Miss Primrose manifested.

"Mr Pringle, I am quite surprized at this intelligence. Your relative
at Smatterton has certainly a right to let the parsonage-house if he
pleases; but I must say that I could wish, for the sake of public
morals, that it had a more respectable tenant."

Now as Penelope had appeared most truly respectable, and not a
little fascinating in the eyes of Zephaniah the critic, and as he
was not quite certain that the rumour which he had been the means of
circulating was quite founded on fact, and as his doubts were stronger
after he had seen Penelope and her father, he wished to unsay or
to soften down what he had said. He therefore replied to the above
exclamation:

"Why really, sir, I must say that I think Miss Primrose a respectable
young lady, and it is probable that the report which I heard in town
may not be perfectly correct. And indeed, as the lady is about to
reside with her father, it is certainly not true to its full extent."

Mr Darnley was not much in the habit of changing his opinion on matters
of fact any more than on matters of speculation; and having once felt
himself persuaded that Miss Primrose had acted improperly, it was no
easy matter for Mr Pringle to bring him to change the view which he
had entertained of the young lady's character. Reasoning may be a
very fine thing, and logic may be a very fine thing, and facts may be
very stubborn things; but neither reasoning nor logic can make a man
change his opinion, if he does not like to do so; and there are no
facts in the world so stubborn as a conceited man's own stubborn will.
Mr Darnley took it for granted that whatever he took for granted must
be most incontestably true; and Mr Darnley had taken it for granted
that Miss Primrose had not demeaned herself aright, and nothing could
convince him to the contrary. He adhered to the general thought,
though beaten out of all its particulars. We would not recommend any
one who has exalted notions of the power of reasoning and the force of
evidence, to endeavour to convince another of any fact or speculation,
till that other has shewn symptoms of an inclination to believe such
fact or to adopt such theory.

It was all in vain that Zephaniah Pringle contended that Miss Primrose
could not possibly be living dishonorably with Lord Spoonbill in
London, while she was living quietly and reputably with her father at
Smatterton. Mr Darnley had made up his mind, and nothing could shake
his conclusions. Of some heads it is observed, that you can get nothing
into them; of others it may with as much truth be said, that you can
get nothing out of them. In this latter predicament was placed the head
of the rector of Neverden.

When therefore Zephaniah found that no impression was to be made on
Mr Darnley, he gave up the discussion, not a little regretting that
he himself had, for the sake of gratifying a little vanity in talking
about his own intimacy with Lord Spoonbill, done an injury which he
could not undo. He began also to fear lest he should be detected
and exposed; and under that apprehension he found himself uneasy at
Smatterton, and wished that his visit was finished. This served him
perfectly right. He had made public talk of what had been told to him
in confidence, and as a secret, and he had circulated a calumnious
report, careless whether it were true or false, and heedless what
injury it might inflict upon innocence, or what misery it might
occasion to those concerned.

Yet this prodigiously conceited puppy could and did in his critical
lucubrations write himself down as being most zealously devoted to the
service of religion, and he would make a mighty noise about those most
execrable and abominable caitiffs, who presume to question one iota of
the faith according to Queen Elizabeth.

It is hard, very hard, that religion should have to bear the reproach
of the whims, vagaries, bigotry, and fanaticism of many, who are
sincere in their profession and honest in their intemperate zeal; but
it is doubly hard that a set of coxcomical greenhorns, who scarcely
know the difference between the Bible and the Koran, who cannot tell
why they believe, and who do not care what they believe, who never
enter a church, and who never doubt because they never think, it is
doubly hard that all their impertinent arrogance should be laid to the
charge of a religion which has never influenced one action of their
lives, or one thought of their hearts.

Finding that Mr Darnley the elder would not listen to or be influenced
by any recantation of his calumny, the critic next sought for the young
gentleman to whom he made known the fact of the arrival of Mr Primrose
at Smatterton.

During the visit, which the loyal and religious Zephaniah Pringle paid
at Smatterton, there had been comparatively little intercourse between
him and Robert Darnley. This was owing to two causes: in the first
place, Robert Darnley was in low spirits, and had not much intercourse
with any one; and, in the second place, he had a contempt for puppyism,
and Zephaniah had wit enough to see that he had.

In the present instance it was an object with Mr Pringle to correct any
erroneous notion which he might have conveyed to the mind of Mr Robert
Darnley; he therefore began the conversation.

"I think I must have been in an error when I informed you, as you may
remember, that Miss Primrose was living with Lord Spoonbill."

"Very likely you were, sir," replied Mr Robert Darnley, somewhat
abruptly; "but did you not insinuate to me that you had the information
from Lord Spoonbill himself?"

This question was perplexing to the critic. He had insinuated as
much, but he had not absolutely said so. Therefore he could not
promptly reply in the negative, but was forced to make use of a little
circumlocution, saying:

"Why not exactly so; I did not say that Lord Spoonbill himself told me
in so many words: I merely--I said---that is--a very intimate friend of
Spoonbill said, that he thought--that is, he understood that--I believe
he said that he had reason to suspect that some arrangement was likely
to be made--"

Thereupon the explanation tapered off into an indistinct muttering
that was sufficient, if for no other purpose, at least to show that
Mr Zephaniah Pringle was a sneaking, shuffling, contemptible fellow.
Robert Darnley was not in the habit of flying into a violent passion
when he felt contempt for any meanness of character or conduct; if
such had been his temperament, the present was an occasion, all
circumstances being considered, strong enough to tempt him to knock a
fool's head and the wall together. He contented himself with coolly
saying:

"It is a great pity, sir, that you should have circulated a report of
that nature before you were quite certain that it was true."

"I am very sorry indeed," replied Zephaniah, "that I was led into
such an error."

"Well, well," said Robert Darnley, "I dare say it will not be
productive of any very serious consequence. Nobody who was at all
acquainted with Miss Primrose could possibly believe the report."

Zephaniah Pringle thought it but poor consolation to be told that he
was not likely to be believed. He felt himself indeed so thoroughly
humbled, that he was heartily glad to bring his conference with Robert
Darnley to a close. The critic very soon said, "Good morning," and
Robert Darnley returned his "Good morning" in such a tone, and with
such an air, as to make Zephaniah experience the sensation of being
looked down upon.

It was a great refreshment and relief to the mind of the younger
Darnley, to hear that Penelope and her father had arrived at
Smatterton. He had never believed the calumnious tale of the loyal and
religious critic, but he certainly did entertain some apprehension
that assiduous attentions from a person of high rank and large estate
might produce in time an effect even upon the mind of Penelope. As
now Mr Primrose had come down expressly to take up his residence at
Smatterton, and as this was not a time of year for such families as
that of the Earl of Smatterton to take up their abode in the country,
there was some ground to hope that, if the young nobleman had even made
endeavours to gain the affection of Penelope, he had not succeeded.

It was the blessing of Robert Darnley's mind that he had a disposition
to look on the most favorable aspect of events, and it was not in
his nature to yield himself up to a slight misunderstanding or
misapprehension. Many miseries might be avoided if mankind possessed in
general a little more of that kind of considerateness; but the evil
is, that they too often take up with any idle tale, and are led by
the merest and slightest apprehensions into quarrels, coldnesses, and
loss of friendships: inasmuch, that a quarrel is courteously called a
misunderstanding, much to the reproach indeed of the misunderstanders;
for it is thereby intimated that the parties quarrel merely for the
want of taking the pains to understand one another, or sometimes
perhaps to understand themselves.

Under the circumstances which belong to this narration, it would
have been very possible for two simpletons to have made themselves
completely wretched. And as some people are very glad to be miserable
for the sake of the pathos and sentimentality thereof, we will tell
these people, though perhaps they could find it out without our
assistance, how they might make themselves truly wretched under similar
circumstances.

To gain this desirable end, the gentleman and the lady should have
despaired of meeting each other again, and should have carefully
avoided everything that might lead to an explanation, and they should,
while very much in love with each other, have made all possible haste
to give their hands to another. They ought to have married, as it
were, out of spite, and then after marriage they ought to have met by
accident, and to have explained; and then they ought to have compared
notes, and to have made it out that one had the worst husband, and
the other the worst wife, in the world; and then they would have had
nothing more to do than to have made a very pretty tragical conclusion
of the business, either giving employment to, what the newspapers call,
the gentlemen of the long robe, or, more seriously still, causing the
calling together of a coroner's jury.

It was well for Robert Darnley that such was not his disposition. He
thought it much the best to ascertain, if he possibly could, what
were Penelope's real sentiments; and for that purpose he had already
spoken to her father, and, as no result had come from speaking, he
had written; and if his letter had not been soon answered, or if Mr
Primrose had not arrived at Smatterton, he would have visited the party
in London.



CHAPTER XV.


The arrival of Mr Primrose and Penelope at Smatterton gave trouble and
disturbance to many minds there, and at Neverden. We shall be fortunate
if, without tediousness, we can explain this.

Zephaniah Pringle was troubled, because he laboured under the
apprehension that some kind friend or other might communicate to the
father what had been said of the daughter. And Zephaniah very naturally
thought that the young lady's father would resent the insult very much
to the inconvenience, bodily or mental, of the said loyal and religious
critic.

The elder Mr Darnley was troubled, as we have already intimated, lest
this arrival should again unsettle the mind of his son. Mrs Darnley
also thought it was a pity, now Robert had so nearly recovered his
spirits, that there should be any probability of his being again
disturbed. Miss Mary Darnley, who, by frequent literary and scientific
discussions with the learned and scientific Mr Kipperson, had become
a great admirer of the gentleman, was jealous of the presence of Miss
Primrose again in the country. The two other young ladies, who did not
like to hear their father preach, except in the pulpit, were troubled
with the apprehension of long lectures on the impropriety of being
improperly in love.

Mr Kipperson also had his troubles; for though it would have given him
great pleasure to have gained the heart of Miss Primrose, he thought
he saw several formidable rivals among gentlemen of more suitable age.
But Mr Kipperson had too much self-love to suffer much from love of any
other description. Robert Darnley was troubled and perplexed, though
very much pleased. He now saw that he should have an opportunity of
ascertaining the truth: but in either case there was an evil. For if
Penelope still retained a regard for him, there was yet to be dreaded
the opposition of his father; and if she did not, the change would be
painful to him.

But the greatest trouble was at Neverden Hall. There was residing under
the roof of Sir George Aimwell a young lady, who had been consigned
to the care of the worthy baronet. The name of this lady was Arabella
Glossop. She had very recently been sent to Neverden by her careful
father, in order that time, absence, and change of scene, might
eradicate from her mind an unfortunate attachment which she had formed
for a pennyless lieutenant.

Here we cannot but suggest to our legislators an improvement, which
might and ought to be made in our military code. It is melancholy
to think how many instances have occurred of men of low family and
no fortune winning the hearts of young ladies of high birth, of
respectable connexions, and of good fortune. This might be prevented by
a law, making it felony for a military officer without fortune to fall
in love with a lady of good family.

Miss Glossop was not indeed of high family; but she was the daughter of
a gentleman whose family had with great diligence been pushing itself
up into consideration and importance. The mortification of anything
like a humiliating connexion was so much the greater. Mr Glossop, the
young lady's father, was an eminent solicitor in a small but genteel
town, and had married a distant relation of Sir George Aimwell. Of this
connexion Mr Glossop was naturally proud; and he made the most of it.

In the town where he lived was a theatre; and the company which
performed there was pronounced by such London performers as
occasionally lent their mighty selves for provincial exhibition, to
be one of the best provincial companies they had ever performed
with. When an actor from London made his appearance on the stage,
Miss Glossop honored the theatre with her presence. Greatly did the
young lady surprize the natives by her studied inattention to what was
passing on the stage. It was to her a mighty amusement to laugh and
talk aloud, especially during those passages of the performance which
were most interesting to the rest of the audience. By such means did
Miss Glossop manifest her own importance and superiority. This kind
of public rudeness passed with the ignorant people in the country for
elegance and fashion.

The young lady was in error in this respect. But not only was she wrong
in her calculations in this point. Many other blunders did she make.
For being very pretty, she thought herself handsome; and being tall,
she thought herself elegant; and being acquainted with many books, she
thought herself learned; and having a full, clear, comprehensive voice,
she thought herself a beautiful singer; and being able to perform at
sight very complicated pieces of music, she apprehended that she was an
excellent musician; and being rude and blunt in her manner of speaking,
she thought herself a person of great intellectual superiority; and
from being very much stared at, she took it for granted that she was
very much admired.

Now this lady did not apprehend that there was any individual in the
compass of her provincial acquaintance worthy to aspire to the honor
of her hand; and she was in the habit of giving herself such arrogant
and domineering airs at the country balls, that a facetiously inclined
young gentleman once actually contrived in the advertisement announcing
these balls, to have the name of Arabella Glossop, Esq., printed as one
of the stewards. The circumstance caused a great deal of talk at the
time; but it is now totally forgotten, or at least very seldom alluded
to. The printer of the paper was forced to tell a great many lies to
save himself from serious inconvenience.

At one of these country balls there happened to be a lieutenant who was
quartered in that neighbourhood, and was a person of exceedingly good
address, and also of good understanding, except that he was so very
desirous of obtaining a fortune, that, for the sake of money, he would
willingly have married Miss Glossop. He had heard reports of the lady's
fortune, and these reports were of course exaggerated. He paid the
usual attentions, and was so far successful that, had it not been for
some untoward accident, Mr Glossop's ambition of matching his daughter
with some gentleman of fortune and consideration in the county, would
have been frustrated by a poor lieutenant.

As soon as the unfortunate attachment was made known to the father, he
put himself with all suitable speed into a most towering passion; he
banged all the doors, thumped all the tables, kicked all the chairs,
and, but for the interference of Mrs Glossop, would have broken all
the crockery in the house, because his daughter would not listen to
reason. The young lady was locked up; but the young lady grew sulky,
and thought that her dear lieutenant was the most charming creature in
the world, because her father was in a violent passion. And the more
angry was Mr Glossop, the more deeply in love was Miss Glossop.

We have said that the young lady was locked up. Now Arabella did not
like this discipline, and she seriously threatened her inexorable
paa, that if she was not suffered to have her own way, she would
either starve herself to death, or go mad. This last idea was no doubt
suggested by a pathetic passage in one of Oliver Goldsmith's poems,
wherein he says:

  "The dog to gain his private ends
  Went mad."----

Whatever apprehensions Mr Glossop might entertain concerning his
daughter's madness, he certainly had some slight idea that he himself
might be driven mad by the young lady's perverseness and obstinacy.
Therefore he adopted the very wise and prudent precaution, in such
cases made and provided, of sending the lovely and loving Arabella to
his worthy friend and relative, Sir George Aimwell, Bart.

Mr Glossop wisely thought that absence and change of scene might
produce a beneficial change in his daughter's mind. The worthy baronet
was pleased with the charge; for as the shooting season was nearly
over, and as he had suffered very bitterly from the encroachments of
the poachers, and as the transgressing ones had made their escape, he
was glad of anything that promised him a little amusement. Arabella had
always been a favorite with the baronet on account of her high spirit,
and when he heard of the nature of the complaint which rendered change
of air desirable, he very readily undertook the charge, thinking that
a better remedy was within reach, and that Robert Darnley might very
probably banish from the mind of his young kinswoman all thoughts of
the poor lieutenant.

Nor did the baronet judge unwisely. For, as soon as the lady had taken
up her abode at Neverden Hall, her spirits revived, and her wit and
humour were all alive again, and her love of admiration was as strong
as ever, and she very soon pronounced Robert Darnley to be a charming
young fellow. The worthy baronet was pleased with such good symptoms,
and had written word to her father accordingly. To a match of this
nature Mr Glossop had no very great objection. The Darnleys were of
good family, and the young man was likely to have a good property.
Perhaps, Mr Glossop would have preferred an union with the family of
the Earl of Smatterton; but at all events the Darnleys were better than
poor lieutenants.

The circumstance of Arabella Glossop being placed under the care of
Sir George Aimwell, had rendered the intercourse between the hall and
the rectory rather more frequent than usual; and the baronet had of
course been made acquainted with the fact of Robert Darnley's former
engagement to Miss Primrose. When, therefore, Penelope and her father
made their appearance at Smatterton again, and thus gave a virtual
contradiction to the calumnious report which Mr Zephaniah Pringle had
circulated, Sir George began to be apprehensive that his schemes with
regard to the son of the rector of Neverden were very likely to fail.

We have now explained according to the best of our ability, and in
as few words as distinctness would permit us to use, the varied
perplexities occasioned by the apparently simple fact of Mr Primrose
and his daughter taking up their abode at Smatterton rectory. Oh! how
complicated are the interests of humanity, and what mighty changes
are made in the history of the world and the destiny of nations by
movements apparently trifling and of no moment. Common people do not
observe these things; it is only such wise people, gentle reader, as
you and I and Tacitus, that can take a philosophical and comprehensive
view of the history of man. But we must economise our wisdom, or it
will not hold out. Therefore let us proceed with our history.

The letter which Robert Darnley had written to Mr Primrose, and which
the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill had fruitlessly fumbled and tumbled
to ascertain the contents thereof, found its way at last into the hands
for which it was by its writer originally destined. It was brought to
Smatterton, as usual, by Nick Muggins.

Nick was a poor lad and a somewhat simple one, though not altogether
lacking craftiness. He was not so rich as an archdeacon, but he had not
quite determined that he was too poor to keep a conscience; therefore
he had not entirely given it up for a bad job. He kept a pony--he was
almost forced to do so--but he kept his pony very scantily and worked
it hardly, and the beast was at best but a queer kind of animal. It
would have been a riddle to Buffon, and a treasure to Sir Joseph Banks.
Nick's conscience was kept about as scurvily as his pony, and was much
such another nondescript; but, like his pony, it answered his purpose
as well as a better; it was kicked, cuffed, and buffeted about, but
still it was a conscience.

Now this conscience, such as it was, smote poor Muggins right heartily
when he delivered into the fair hands of Penelope Primrose a letter for
her father. The poor lad recollected that he had, at Lord Spoonbill's
expense, drunk several more quarts of strong beer and glasses of gin
than would otherwise have fallen to his lot, and that he had obtained
these extra luxuries by putting into the hands of his lordship those
letters which he ought to have delivered to Penelope Primrose.

When Penelope left Smatterton, and was residing in London, Nick thought
little or nothing concerning his treachery. But now she had returned
to the country again, and he had seen her, and she had spoken to him
kindly and civilly, and had condescended to make enquiries after his
poor old mother, his heart melted within him, and he could hardly speak
to her. It was very kind of her to come out and speak to him, there was
not one young lady in a hundred who would have condescended so much.
Poor Muggins could not think what had bewitched him to play the traitor
to so beautiful, so elegant, and so sweet-tempered a young lady as Miss
Primrose; for Nick had a notion of elegance and beauty, though, to look
at himself and his pony, one would hardly have imagined it.

That was a curious refinement in Nick's conscience, that he should
reproach himself so much the more bitterly for his transgression,
because the person whom he had injured was beautiful and
sweet-tempered. Perhaps he would have thought less of the matter had
Miss Primrose been a little, under-sized, snub-nosed, cross-grained
old maid. But that is a very dangerous and wicked mode of reasoning,
and wiser people than Nick Muggins are guilty of it; let such persons
be told that under-sized, snub-nosed, cross-grained old maids have as
much feeling as the rest of the world, and are as much entitled to the
advantages and protection of the laws of humanity as the young, and the
lovely, and the amiable.

Be this as it may, still the ungainly post-boy felt rather awkwardly
and looked foolishly when he thus encountered the unexpected appearance
and condescension of Penelope Primrose. And when he returned home
to his mother's cottage, he could not help acknowledging to her his
transgressions, and speaking of the remorse that he felt.

The old woman however thought and said, that what was done could not be
undone, and that he had better be more cautious another time, and that
mayhap it might not be a matter of much consequence; just a love affair
like, or some sich stuff; and she concluded by telling him never to
take money out of letters for fear of being hanged.

"But I am so sorry, mother," said Nick, "you can't think what
a nice, kind young lady Miss Primrose is."

"Ay, ay," said Mrs Muggins, in reply, "and so is my Lord Spoonbill a
very nice young gentleman. Never mind now, only don't do so again. And
what's the use of your telling Miss Primrose anything about it?"

"Oh why, because somehow I think it was such a pity like. She is so
pretty."

"Nonsense, boy; Lord Spoonbill is a person of much greater consequence
than a dozen pretty Miss Primroses. I am sure he is as nice a man as
ever lived."

Nick muttered something about Lord Spoonbill's large whiskers, and the
colloquy ceased; but Nick was fidgetty still.

The Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill suffered much uneasiness, and would,
had he known what was passing in the mind of Nick Muggins, have
suffered much more. But our business is now with the good people at
Smatterton and Neverden, and we must therefore leave his lordship to
bear his troubles by himself as well as he can.



CHAPTER XVI.


On the Sunday after their arrival, Mr Primrose and his daughter made
their appearance at church, and the people of the village stared at
them of course. The rector of Smatterton preached one of his best
sermons, and in his best style. The eloquence was lost upon all his
audience, except Mr Primrose and his daughter; they attended to the
preacher, and the rest of the congregation attended to them.

When the service was over, Penelope took her father to look at the
monument which had been raised in the churchyard to the memory of Dr
Greendale. It was a very handsome monument, and had been put up at the
expense of the Earl of Smatterton. There was a very long and elaborate
eulogium on the deceased, which had been drawn up, it is supposed,
by Mr Darnley, but subsequently corrected and altered by the Earl of
Smatterton in the first instance, and in the next by the stone-mason.

Mr Primrose had been so long out of England that, for aught he knew to
the contrary, it might be the fashion now to write nonsense on grave
stones. There was however a kind intention, and Mr Primrose was pleased
with it. While the father and daughter were thus mournfully enjoying
the contemplation of this memorial of their deceased relative's
virtues, the great boys and girls of the village who had been in the
habit of bowing and curtseying to Penelope, and who remembered that
their homage had been graciously received while she lived there under
her uncle's roof, now thronged almost rudely round them, as if with a
view of attracting the lady's notice.

For a little while Penelope was too much taken up to notice them;
but when her curiosity had been gratified, and her feelings had been
indulged by a few gentle and stainless tears shed to the memory of her
departed benefactor, she turned round and took particular notice of
such as she remembered. She asked them such questions as occurred to
her concerning their respective families and occupations, and she heard
many an old story repeated concerning the aged and infirm. Enquiries
were made by Penelope after grandfathers and grandmothers, and in one
or two instances of great grandmothers. These enquiries were copiously
or sheepishly answered, according to the several tastes and habits of
the persons answering them.

There was one little girl in the group whose face Penelope did not
recollect. The child looked very earnestly at her, and seemed several
times as if about to make an effort to speak, but awe held her back.
With her, and as if urging her on to speak, was another and greater
girl. And the greater girl moved the little one towards Miss Primrose,
and the poor little girl coloured up to the eyes; but she had gone too
far to retract, and she was emboldened at last by Penelope's kind looks
to make a very pretty curtsey and say, "Please Miss--"

The poor thing could get no farther, till Penelope relieved her
embarrassment by taking hold of her hand and saying, "Well, my dear,
what have you to say to me? I have no recollection that I have ever
seen you before. How long have you lived at Smatterton?"

Then the little one was emboldened to speak, and she told Penelope that
she had but recently come there, and that she had taken the liberty to
speak, because she had some few weeks ago picked up a letter directed
to Miss Primrose.

Hereupon the girl drew from her pocket a handkerchief which was
carefully folded up, and when with great ceremony the handkerchief was
unfolded, a letter made its appearance, which did not seem to have
required much careful enveloping to keep it clean. It was miserably
dirty, and the direction was barely visible. Penelope wondered indeed
that the child had been able to make out the inscription, so far as
to ascertain to whom it was addressed; but the hand-writing was so
manifestly Robert Darnley's, that the young lady felt too much emotion
and too eager a curiosity to wait to ask any farther particulars of the
mode, place and time in which the letter was found. Only waiting to ask
the child her name and place of abode, and to make such acknowledgment
as is expected in such cases, Penelope hastened home full of contending
and harassing thoughts, unable to form the slightest conjecture of a
satisfactory nature concerning this strange occurrence.

Now this letter, together with that which Robert Darnley had written
to Mr Primrose, and which Mr Primrose gave to his daughter for her
perusal, set the question completely at rest in the mind of Penelope,
and assured her that the young gentleman had not by any neglect
designed to break off the correspondence.

But when one difficulty was removed, another started up in its place.
There was something very remarkable in a letter being dropped out of
the bag; but though it was barely possible that such mishap might have
befallen one letter, it was by no means a supposable case that several
letters in succession passing between the same persons should all have
met with the same accident. In the interruption of these letters there
was clearly design and intention; but what was the design, or who was
the designer, Penelope could not conjecture. Her suspicions could not
find an object to rest upon; she was not aware of having any enemies,
and of course she could not imagine that any one but an enemy could
have behaved so cruelly. She concluded, therefore, as far as in such
a case any conclusion could be made, that the interruption of the
correspondence must have been effected by some enemy of Robert Darnley.

It was not very pleasant to have the idea of some concealed and
unascertained enemy, but there was something gratifying to Penelope in
having discovered that verily the cessation of the correspondence had
not been voluntary on the part of her lover. Therefore, as it appeared
from the letter which had been picked up that the young gentleman had
not ceased to write, even after he had some ground to fear that the
correspondence was discontinued by the young lady, and as it was also
manifest from the letter addressed to Mr Primrose, that Robert Darnley
was still desirous of an explanation of the young lady's silence,
Penelope could not any longer resist her father's proposal that he
should write to the young gentleman.

The answer was accordingly sent to Robert Darnley, and the explanation
which he sought was amply and fully given. He was also as much puzzled
as the young lady was at the circumstance of the letter being picked
up, and his conjectures found no resting place. His immediate impulse
was to make direct enquiry of the post-boy, and to extort from him, if
possible, some account of the very remarkable fact of a correspondence
actually suppressed by the failure of three letters in succession.

But there was a more interesting matter yet to attend to, and that
was the meeting with Penelope after a long absence and an interrupted
correspondence. Robert Darnley knew his father's temperament, and felt
a difficulty in mentioning the subject to him, but still he could not
think of renewing the acquaintance with a view to marriage, without
explicitly informing his father of the intention.

Mr Primrose and his daughter had now been at Smatterton a few days, and
as the two villages were so remarkably intimate with each other, it
was impossible for anything to take place in the one without its being
known in the other. The arrival of the parties had been made known,
as we have seen, at the rectory of Neverden, and apprehensions were
entertained by the daughters of Mr Darnley that their father would be
grievously liberal of his wise exhortations to his yet enamoured son.
And when two or three days had passed away, and not a word of public
notice had been taken of the fact in the family of the rector, the
young ladies began to please themselves with the hope that no notice
would be taken of the matter, and they trusted that some circumstance
or other might remove Penelope again, and finally, from Smatterton;
or, as they thought it not unlikely, their brother might soon fix his
affections elsewhere.

It was very clear to the young ladies that Miss Glossop,
notwithstanding her recent disappointment, was something of an admirer
of their brother; and it was obvious that Sir George Aimwell was
desirous of cultivating an acquaintance between the parties. The
worthy baronet was unusually eloquent in praising Miss Glossop, and
mightily ingenious in discovering innumerable, and to other eyes
undiscernible, good qualities in his fair kinswoman. But though Sir
George was a magistrate and a game preserver, he was no conjurer. He
was not aware that there could exist any diversities of taste; but he
seemed to imagine that those qualities which were agreeable to himself
must be agreeable to everybody else; and when he was descanting on the
multitudinous excellences of Miss Glossop, and describing her to Robert
Darnley as possessing every possible and impossible virtue, he did not
see that the young man's mind was of a complexion widely different from
his own. It was not therefore to this young lady that the daughters of
the rector of Neverden looked forward as the person likely to liberate
them from Miss Primrose.

Their hope was altogether of an undefined nature. They merely hoped and
trusted that something would occur to relieve them from their present
uncomfortable condition. This undefined hope is, perhaps, after all the
best that we can entertain. It may appear not very rational, but we
have a notion that in serious truth it is a great deal more rational
than that hope which seems to have a foundation in something probable:
for it is in the very nature and condition of earthly events, that
they almost invariably disappoint expectation and miserably mock our
sagacity. If therefore our hopes be of something definite, they will
be almost assuredly disappointed; but if we only hope generally and
indefinitely that something, we know not what, may occur to remove the
cause of our troubles, we may have a much better chance that we shall
not be disappointed. The chances in our favor are thus indefinitely
multiplied.

The hope of the young ladies, that nothing would be said about Miss
Primrose because nothing had been said about her for several days,
was disappointed on the very morning that Mr Primrose sent his answer
to Robert Darnley, explaining the cause of the suspension of the
correspondence. The note from Mr Primrose was brought to Neverden by
the trusty servant and universal genius who performed at Smatterton
rectory the various duties of footman, groom, gardener, butler,
stable-boy, and porter.

Mr Darnley, whose eyes were ever vigilant, no sooner saw the messenger
than he conjectured what was the object of his coming; that is, he so
far conjectured as to form an idea that the note was with reference
to Miss Primrose. When therefore the reverend gentleman heard that a
note was actually brought from Smatterton rectory, and addressed to Mr
Robert Darnley, the feeling of curiosity was strongly excited to know
what was the object of the said note. But, to say nothing of curiosity,
the elder Mr Darnley felt that it was his duty to be acquainted with
all correspondence carried on with persons under his roof, especially
with members of his own family.

Impelled then by a double motive--the power of curiosity and a sense of
duty--the rector of Neverden very peremptorily commanded the attendance
of his son in the study. The command was as promptly obeyed as it had
been authoritatively given.

"You have had a note from Smatterton this morning?" said the father.

"I have, sir," replied the son steadily, but respectfully.

"And may I be permitted to know the contents of that communication?"

"Most assuredly, sir," replied the young gentleman: "I intended to
acquaint you with its contents as soon as I had read it."

Robert Darnley then handed the paper to his father, who perused it
with eager haste and anxious excitement. Rapidly however as the rector
read the communication, he discerned two facts which made him angry,
and, as he said, astonished. We have observed that the astonishment
rests upon the testimony only of Mr Darnley's own saying; and we
have made that observation, because we think that Mr Darnley was not
strictly correct in his assertion: we do not believe that Mr Darnley
was at all astonished at those facts. He was no doubt angry when
he discovered that his son had written to Mr Primrose; and there is
nothing incredible in the idea that he was angry at the anticipation of
a renewal of the acquaintance between his son and Miss Primrose. But he
was not astonished at these things, and he ought not to have said that
he was. It is however a very common practice, for the sake of giving
pathos and effect to moral exhortation or expostulation, to express an
astonishment which is not felt. This is a species of lying, and Mrs
Opie would certainly set it down as such.

Mr Darnley not only said that he was astonished, but absolutely
affected to look astonished. But that dramatic species of visual
rebuke was by no means adapted to produce an impression on Mr Darnley
the younger; and had the trick been played off by any one else than a
parent, the young gentleman would certainly have laughed. It has been
often observed, that children are much more knowing than is generally
supposed, and the same observation may be applied to children of a
larger growth. But parents cannot well help considering their children
as always children.

"And so," said the rector of Neverden, "you have actually had the
folly to write to Mr Primrose, and to endeavour to renew an acquaintance
which was clearly and positively broken off by Miss Primrose herself?"

"I think, sir," responded with much gentleness the rector's son,
"that, if you read this note attentively, you will see that Miss
Primrose did not positively break the acquaintance, but that by some
means, as yet unknown, the letters which should have passed between us
were intercepted. Proof of that is given in the singular circumstance,
that the last letter which I wrote to Smatterton from India was the
other day picked up by a child."

Mr Darnley smiled a smile of incredulity and compassionate
condescension.

"Foolish boy," said he, "and can you suffer yourself to be so easily
deceived as to believe this story?"

"Surely you will not go so far as to say that Miss Primrose would
descend to the meanness of asserting an untruth."

"I am asserting nothing concerning Miss Primrose. This note is not
her's, it is her father's; and I do know that Mr Primrose can use
profane language; I have heard him. And would such a man hesitate at
untruth for the sake of an establishment for his daughter? Besides what
can be more clear than that, now the negotiation with Lord Spoonbill is
broken off, they are very willing to apply to you again."

There is great power in imagination. Mr Darnley had taken it into
his head that Penelope had really been simple enough to admire Lord
Spoonbill, and vain enough to aspire to title on the strength of
personal beauty. She was what is commonly called a fine young woman,
and there was in her deportment, especially in the season of health and
spirits, while her uncle lived, a certain constitutional magnificence
of manner which might easily bear the name of pride and haughtiness.
Now as Mr Darnley was himself a proud man, he did not like pride;
and there is nothing at all paradoxical or inconsistent in this. It
is perfectly natural that those who feel a pleasure in looking down
on others and being looked up to, should not be pleased with such as
indulge them not in their favourite occupation.

There had not indeed ever been in the behaviour of Penelope towards
Mr Darnley anything actually disrespectful; but Mr Darnley could see
that her spirit was high and essentially unsubmissive. He had therefore
always called her proud; and as soon as any suspicion arose of the
withdrawing of her affections from Robert Darnley, immediately the
father concluded that this change was owing to the young lady's pride
aspiring to the hand of Lord Spoonbill; and when she went to London
to the Countess, then his suspicion seemed corroborated; and when
she returned to Smatterton, and when Mr Primrose sent the note in
question to Neverden, then did Mr Darnley feel himself assured that the
young lady had been disappointed in her calculations concerning Lord
Spoonbill, and that now she repented her folly in renouncing the hand
of Robert Darnley, and wished to recall the affection which she had
spurned.

Under such persuasion, from which not all the logic in the world could
move him, he smiled at the credulity and the weakness of the young man,
while the young man was equally astonished and grieved at the immovable
obstinacy of his father. Such cases sometimes occur, and perplexing are
they when they do occur, in which a son bearing all possible respect
towards a father feels himself yet justified in the court of his own
conscience in acting contrary to his father's will. Thus situated was
the son of the rector of Neverden. He found that it would be in vain
to use any arguments, and he was firm in his intention of taking the
earliest opportunity of acknowledging the receipt of Mr Primrose's
letter, and of expressing his full determination to renew the
acquaintance with Penelope. So far was the young man from participating
in his father's suspicions, that the very arguments which the father
had used, and the particulars which he had stated, did but strengthen
his own opinion of the purity and correctness of the young lady's
conduct; and when he considered the circumstances under which she had
been placed, he felt a degree of pity for her, and he pitied her also
that she laboured under those untoward and unfounded suspicions which
had been excited by the idle tongue of Zephaniah Pringle.

It became in fact to Robert Darnley a matter of conscience to rectify
all misunderstandings as early as possible. Without therefore affecting
to enter into any elaborate discussion with his father, he merely
replied to what had been said: "I cannot say that I view this affair
in the same light that you do, sir; and I am satisfied that if you had
a knowledge of all the facts, you would not have reason to blame Miss
Primrose. I will not pretend to argue with you, or to presume to put
my knowledge of the world in competition with yours. But I must take
the liberty to say firmly, though respectfully, that it is my intention
to see Mr and Miss Primrose, and if I find that Penelope is still the
same amiable and pure-minded young woman as she was when I first made
her an offer of my hand, I will repeat that offer; and I am convinced
your prejudice will wear off, if not by my arguments, at least they
will give way to the young lady's real excellence of character."

Mr Darnley was not accustomed to be contradicted. Neither his wife
nor his daughters ever disputed his will, or affected to oppose their
logic to his determinations. Of his son's obedience and gentleness of
disposition he had always entertained the highest opinion, and with
reason: but he forgot that everything has its limits, and there is a
point beyond which compliance and obedience cannot go. If Mr Darnley
had said at the close of his son's last speech, "I am astonished,"
he would have spoken truly. He was indeed astonished, but he was
not frightened out of his propriety; he was rather frightened into
propriety.

For a few seconds he was absolutely speechless and almost breathless.
But soon respiration returned, and the power of speech returned
with it; and his momentary gasp of astonishment gave him time for
consideration. He considered in that brief interval that he had no more
power over his son than his son chose to give him, and he thought it a
pity to endanger his influence by attempting to retain his authority.
Subduing himself, he replied:

"If you will be obstinate there is no help for it. But I could wish
that you would listen to reason."

Thus speaking, Mr Darnley left the apartment, angry but endeavouring to
keep himself calm.



CHAPTER XVII.


Mr Darnley's study overlooked the avenue which led to the house. For a
study it was not well situated, inasmuch as it was next to impossible
for any one but a person of great powers of abstraction to keep himself
free from interruption. The situation however was very well adapted to
the humour of the rector of Neverden; for thus he could observe every
one who approached the house, and exercise a continual superintendance
over his establishment, seeing that no one could enter or leave the
house without his knowledge.

At the study window Robert Darnley took his station, looking listlessly
towards the road that passed the end of the avenue and led towards
the village of Smatterton. Turning a little towards the left hand he
could see at a very short distance the magnificent towers of Smatterton
castle and the smart gilt weathercock of Smatterton church. The young
man was beginning to grow sentimental and melancholy; but soon his
thoughts were diverted from sentimentality by the appearance of Nick
Muggins and his pony fumbling their clumsy entrance at the great white
gate that opened into the road. Better riders than Nick are sometimes
puzzled at opening a heavy swing gate on horseback; but Nick would
always manage it without dismounting, if he had to make twenty efforts
for it.

Nick was certainly a picturesque, though by no means a poetical object;
and his appearance dispersed the gathering cloud of lackadaisicalness
which was just threatening Robert Darnley with a fit of melancholy.
Other thoughts, though bearing on the same object, now took possession
of him; and as he was very straitforward and prompt in whatever
occurred to him, he immediately resolved to question the boy concerning
the lost letters.

For this purpose, without waiting for the arrival of the letter-carrier
at the house-door, Robert Darnley went partly down the avenue to meet
him. Nick made one of his best bows, and grinned his compliments
to the young gentleman on his arrival in England; for this was the
first meeting of the parties since the rector's son arrived at home.
Robert Darnley was not a man of compliments; he proceeded directly to
business. Producing from his pocket the letter which had been picked up
by the little girl, he held it out to the lad, saying:

"Muggins, can you give any account of this letter; it was picked up in
the road the other day; do you ever drop the letters out of the bag?"

Muggins, who was as cunning a rogue as many of his betters, concealed
his conviction and shame as well as might be, and took the letter into
his hand with much simplicity of look, and gazed upon it for a while
with "lack-lustre eye;" not that he had any great need to examine the
letter in order to answer the question, but thereby he gained time to
meditate a lie of some kind or other. After looking at it for a few
moments he handed it back to Robert Darnley, and said:

"Please, sir, I can't make out the 'rection of it."

That might be true, but it was not much of an answer to the question
which was proposed to him.

"The direction of the letter," answered Darnley, "is to Miss Primrose
at Smatterton. Now do you remember ever losing a letter that should
have been delivered at the rectory at Smatterton?"

Nick Muggins, we have related, was so melted by the condescending
kindness of Penelope Primrose, that his heart smote him sorely for
his unfaithfulness to his trust, and he was on the very verge of a
confession of his iniquity; but then Penelope was not likely to
horsewhip him, whereas there did appear to the sagacious mind of the
treacherous letter-carrier some possibility of such operation being
performed by the more vigorous arm of Robert Darnley; and as such a
catastrophe must be exceedingly unpleasant to a man of any feeling,
Nick resolved to use his utmost sagacity to avoid it. The question
therefore, which was last proposed, he answered thus:

"I've took a great many letters to Smatterton parsonage, sir, and I
don't never remember losen none as I took there."

Here again was an equivocation worthy of the Right Honorable Lord
Spoonbill himself. Robert Darnley thought that Nick Muggins was a fool,
but Nick was not such a fool as he looked. He had prodigiously fine
diplomatic talents, but 'Full many a flower, &c.' as the poet says.

All the questions and cross-questionings of the son of the rector of
Neverden could not extort from the carrier of the Smatterton and
Neverden letter-bags any information leading to the discovery of the
circumstances to which the interruption of the correspondence might
be attributed. In despair of ascertaining anything, Robert Darnley
ceased his interrogations, and the uncouth rider of the indescribable
beast then handed to his interrogator his share of the contents of the
letter-bag. It was only one letter, and the superscription was in an
unknown hand.

The young gentleman opened the letter with great eagerness of
curiosity, and looking to the end of it he found that it was anonymous.
He endeavoured to read and comprehend the whole by one glance, but it
did not betray its meaning so obviously; he was therefore under the
necessity of reading it regularly line by line. We are not much in the
habit of printing letters--we think it a breach of confidence; but, as
the present is anonymous, we venture to give it:

"A sincere well-wisher to Mr Robert Darnley, though a total stranger,
or nearly so, wishes to caution an unsuspicious and generous mind
against a deep-laid plot, which has for its object to entrap Mr D.
into a marriage, which will bring with it poverty and disgrace. It may
not be altogether unknown to Mr D. that a certain gentleman, who shall
be nameless, once ruined a handsome fortune by gaming. This gentleman
now professes to have repaired his shattered fortunes, and to have
forsaken entirely his vicious habit. But this is mere pretence. Nearly
the whole of that which he acquired abroad, he has in a short time lost
by gambling at home; and now he gives out that his loss arises from
the stoppage of a banking-house in town. Concerning the character of
a young lady nearly related to the gentleman above alluded to, Mr D.
would do well to make the strictest inquiry before he ventures on the
irretrievable step of marriage. Mr D. ought to ascertain why Smatterton
is chosen for her residence. The ---- family is not residing at the
castle, but it is possible that an individual of that family may find a
pretence for an incognito visit there. A word to the wise is enough."

A letter such as this was almost too much for Robert Darnley. He
was honest, candid, and unsuspicious; but even in such minds as his
jealousy may be excited, and the above letter very nearly answered the
purpose.

Instead of going directly to Smatterton, according to his first
intention, he returned to the house, and read over and over again this
mysterious and anonymous epistle. But there was nothing in it which
could afford him the slightest information as to the source from whence
it came, or the motive with which it could have been written.

It was peculiarly mortifying, after the magnanimous, prompt, and
decided avowal which he had made to his father, of his intention of
renewing his acquaintance with Miss Primrose, that he should meet with
this painful and perplexing interruption. He began to wish that he
had not been quite so positive. He supposed that of course his father
took it for granted that the threatened visit to Smatterton would
be paid that very morning. And he had dreaded meeting the family at
dinner, should the visit have been paid; but still greater would be his
mortification to meet his father again and be forced to acknowledge
that he had not been to Smatterton. It would be but natural to ask if
he had been there, and quite as natural to ask why he had not.

The answer to these enquiries would involve the young gentleman in a
dilemma, to extricate himself from which would require the talents
of a Muggins, or a Spoonbill. But Robert Darnley was not cut out for
shuffling and equivocating. His only consideration was, how far it
might be prudent to inform his father of the receipt of the anonymous
letter.

For the purpose of giving himself time for uninterrupted meditation, he
sauntered out from the house, and, as it were unconsciously, turned
his steps towards the village of Smatterton. And he thought, as he
walked along, that it would take several days at least, if not some
weeks, to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the insinuations. He knew
not where to seek for information, or how to gain evidence either on
one side or the other. If he should not very soon make a visit to Mr
Primrose, it would seem manifest that his intention was not to renew
the acquaintance with Penelope; and very mortifying indeed would it be
to him, if, after making enquiries and finding that the insinuations
of the anonymous letter were unfounded, malicious and mischievous, he
should, by his tardiness or mean suspicions, have forfeited the good
will of the young lady.

Fortunate for him was it, that while he was thinking on the subject of
this anonymous communication, and putting the case that it might be
the work of some malicious and ill-designing one, there occurred also
to his recollection the lost letter which had been picked up by a
stranger. With the recollection of that came also again to his mind the
image and tone and look of the crafty letter-carrier, and the shuffling
evasive answers which the cunning dog had given to his interrogatories.

Wise and penetrating reader, who can'st dive most deeply into human
motives, and read the movements of the human heart, we beseech thee
not to impute it to stupidity or obtuseness in our friend Robert
Darnley, that he could not sooner see the probability of the existence
in some quarter or other of a spirit of treachery at work against him.
His own mind was of a very unsuspicious cast, and he was not in the
habit of looking for deeply-laid schemes, but he gave general credit
to appearances and ordinary assertions. He was not unaware of the
existence of roguery, or of the circulation of unfounded reports, but
he did not look very commonly and cunningly for tricks and falsehood
in the everyday movements of human life. But when he once had ground
for suspicion, he had sagacity enough to pursue the investigation, and
prudence enough not to be deceived when once put on his guard.

He thought again of the anonymous letter, and he knew that there was
no individual residing in London sufficiently acquainted with him to
have written this letter for his sake. He thought of the intercepted
letters, and of the allusion to Lord Spoonbill, and he thought of none
so likely to have intercepted those letters as Lord Spoonbill himself.
An apprehension of something near the truth now came firmly and
distinctly upon his mind.

Under the impression of this thought, he moved somewhat more rapidly
and decidedly towards Smatterton, almost resolving that he would
actually call at once on Mr Primrose, and renew his acquaintance with
Penelope. He thought that he possessed penetration enough to discover
if there were in the young lady's deportment and carriage any symptoms
of a diminished or impaired moral feeling.

It would not be much out of his way to go through the park, and as
there was a footpath passing very closely by the castle, he designed to
take that route, that, if meeting any one of the domestics, he might
be able to ascertain whether or not Lord Spoonbill was expected at
Smatterton.

Not many steps had he taken with this intention before he had the
satisfaction of meeting the unfaithful Nick Muggins, shuffling back
from having delivered up his charge. Nick saw the young gentleman, and
would gladly have avoided the meeting; but there was no way of escape,
except by going back again to Smatterton, and that was quite out of
the question, for at the public-house of that village he had spent his
last allowable minute. Finding that the encounter must take place,
Nick whistled himself up to his highest pitch of moral fortitude, and
put spurs to his beast. He might as well have struck his spurs against
a brick wall. The rough-coated quadruped had been too long in the
service of government to be put out of his usual pace by Nick's spurs,
and these said spurs had been long enough in the service of Muggins to
have lost their virtue.

Nick's next resource was to give Mr Robert Darnley the cut indirect,
and to ride on without seeing him. But that was no easy matter in a
narrow unfrequented road. Before the rogue could resolve what to do,
the parties were together, and Robert Darnley, advancing into the
middle of the road, gave command to the lad to stop. Disobedience of
course was not to be thought of; and though the consciousness of guilt
and the suspicion of accusation made him tremble, yet the necessity of
concealment rendered him very cautious of betraying any emotion.

The appearance of Robert Darnley's countenance was at this interview
very different from what it had been an hour or two ago. For, in the
first instance, he had been merely making an unsuspicious enquiry, and
his interrogations had been more for the purpose of gaining information
than for fixing an accusation. Now, he felt as if he were examining a
criminal, and he directed a stern enquiring look towards the uncouth
varlet, who blinked like an owl in the sunshine and seemed to be
looking about for something to look at; for he was ashamed to look at
Robert Darnley, and afraid to fix his eyes elsewhere.

"Muggins, have the goodness to dismount," said the young gentleman;
"I wish to have a little talk with you."

That was a movement by no means agreeable to Mr Muggins, who would
thereby be brought into closer and more perilous contact with an ugly
ill-looking elastic knotted cane, which was bending under the pressure
of Mr Darnley's hand. Muggins therefore, in answer to this command,
said with all the coolness he could muster:

"Please, sir, I maan't stay long."

"Nonsense," replied Darnley; "dismount, I tell you."

Now Muggins thought that if he was destined to receive a caning for a
violation of his trust, he need not add to his troubles by provoking
Mr Darnley to administer an extra application to him for refusing to
dismount. Down therefore came Nick, and at the word of command fastened
his horse to a gate-post.

"Now, Muggins," said Robert Darnley, "if you don't tell me the
truth, I will cane you as long as I can stand."

"Sir?" said Muggins, in a tone of well-feigned astonishment, and with
the accent of interrogation.

"Will you tell me the truth, sir?" repeated the interrogator.

"What about, sir?" asked Muggins.

That question does by no means redound to the credit of Muggins; for
had he been a truly honest lad, he would have been ready to tell the
truth on any subject.

"What about!" echoed Darnley; "about those letters, to be sure, which
you ought to have delivered at the rectory at Smatterton. Tell me what
you did with them, this moment."

A threatening aspect accompanied, and a threatening attitude followed
this speech. Muggins gave himself up for lost. If he called out
"murder," there was none to assist him; running away was an absolute
impossibility; resistance would be vain; and shuffling would no
longer answer the purpose. It is astonishing how powerfully present
considerations overwhelm and command the mind. If Muggins could have
mustered up sufficient energy of purpose to resist the threats of
the son of the rector of Neverden, he might afterwards have laid his
case before the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill, by whose interest he
might have gained promotion, or by whose liberality he might have been
handsomely rewarded. But all other thoughts and considerations were
lost and absorbed in the elastic cane, which seemed vibrating with
anxious eagerness for a close acquaintance with his shoulders.

Cowering and trembling, the guilty one, whose craftiness would no
longer avail him, dropped abjectly upon his knees and blubberingly
implored for mercy, on consideration of revealing the whole truth.
Darnley, who thought more of the happiness of renewing his acquaintance
with Penelope than of the pleasure of caning a graceless varlet,
readily promised mercy upon confession. And so great was Nick's
gratitude for the mercy promised, that he told the whole truth, and
gave up the character of Lord Spoonbill to contempt.



CHAPTER XVIII.


When the interview recorded in the last chapter had concluded, both
parties were pleased; but the pleasure of the one was far more durable
than that of the other. Nick Muggins enjoyed but a negative delight in
having escaped an imminent and threatening peril. But afterwards he
began to reflect; for he could think, seeing that he had nothing else
to do.

It is worth notice, that many apparently stupid, ignorant and obtuse
cubs, whose employment is monotonous and mechanical, possess a certain
degree of shrewdness, and exhibit occasionally symptoms of reflection
and observation to which more cultivated and educated minds are
strangers. Curious it is also to see the gaping wonderment with which
those, whose wisdom is from books, regard those who happen to have any
power or capacity of thought without the assistance of books. Gentle
reader, when you are next requested to write some wise sentence in a
lady's album, write the following: "books are more indebted to wisdom,
than wisdom is to books."

Nick, we have said, began to think; and the farther he was removed from
Robert Darnley's cane with the less delight did he contemplate his
escape. It came also into his mind that, although this young gentleman
had withheld the threatened infliction, yet there were other troubles
awaiting him, and other dangers threatening him. Drowning mariners, it
has been said, seldom calculate upon the consequence of their vows. Nor
did Muggins calculate upon the probable consequences of the confession
which he had made to escape an impending castigation.

He had escaped the cane of Robert Darnley, but he had thereby exposed
himself to the danger of a similar visitation from the hand of Lord
Spoonbill. There was also some probability, and no slight one, that he
might in addition to other calamities suffer the loss of his place.
People in office do not like to lose their places, for it makes them
very ill-humoured and provokes them to all manner of absurdities. Nick
also thought that if his place should be taken from him in consequence
of this his unfaithfulness, Lord Spoonbill would be also exposed, and
Lord Spoonbill being exposed would be mightily angry with Nick, and,
being angry with him, would not make him any remuneration for his loss.
Moreover Nick thought that Lord Spoonbill would call him a fool for
having divulged the secret, and Nick did not like to be called a fool.
Who does? So, in order to avoid being called a fool, Nick meditated
playing the rogue.

We by no means approve of this conduct, and we record it not as an
example, but as a caution; and we would seriously recommend all
persons in public offices to be as honest as they possibly can; or if
this political morality appears too rigid and savours of puritanical
strictness, we would advise them to be as honest as they conveniently
can.

The scheme of roguery which the letter-carrier devised, was destined
to be effected by means of epistolary correspondence with the Right
Honorable Lord Spoonbill; but fortunately for the rogue, as even
rogues are sometimes fortunate, the trouble of writing was saved him
by the personal appearance of Lord Spoonbill himself at the town of
M----, where Nick Muggins dwelt, and from which he carried the letters
to Smatterton and Neverden. It was a great pleasure to Muggins to be
saved the trouble of writing, for that operation was attended with much
labour and difficulty to him, seeing that he had many doubts as to the
shapes of letters and the meaning of words.

Muggins had not been at home many minutes before Lord Spoonbill
presented himself to the astonished eyes of the unfaithful
letter-carrier. His lordship was wonderfully condescending to honor so
humble a roof by his presence; but it was not the first time that he
had paid a visit to Mr Muggins in his own house. The object, or more
properly speaking the nature of the object, of his visit was guessed
at, and the spirit of Nick's knavery was kindled within him, and he was
prepared to say or do aught that his lordship might dictate or propose,
for the purpose of furthering the hereditary legislator's right
honorable pursuit.

Nick's residence is not indeed a matter of much importance to the
world, nor does its locality or aspect bear powerfully on the
development of our catastrophe, or greatly assist the progress of our
narrative. But we describe it, because we may thereby give our readers
a more complete and impressive idea of the great condescension of Lord
Spoonbill in visiting so obscure an abode.

The town of M---- was situated on the banks of a river. The streets
were long and narrow, and the houses high and dingy. The ground on
which the town was built was uneven, and the materials with which it
was paved were execrable. This is spoken of the best parts of the town,
of those streets which stood on the higher ground. The inferior part
was not paved at all, and was approachable only by an almost abrupt
descent through a lane or narrow street, in which the houses nearly met
at the top. The ground on which a passenger must walk was of a nature
so miscellaneous as almost to defy description, and quite to puzzle
analysis. Black mud, as everlasting as the perennial snows which rest
on the summits of inaccessible mountains, decayed vegetables of every
season of the year, refuse fish, unpicked bones of every conceivable
variety of animals, deceased cats and dogs and rats in every possible
degree of decomposition, broken bricks and tiles, and shreds of earthen
vessels of all variety of domestic application, sticks, stones, old
shoes, tin kettles and superannuated old saucepans, formed the dead
stock of the street. And the live stock was by no means calculated to
give to the spectator a high idea of the dignity of human nature. The
fair sex in these regions appeared by no means to any great advantage;
nature had done little for them and art less. In their voices there
was less melody than loudness, and in their language more energy than
elegance. They expressed their feelings without circumlocution, and
resented indignities with hand as well as tongue. In the air which they
breathed there might be enough to discompose and irritate, for the
decomposition of sprats is by no means fragrant; and when an atmosphere
is constantly burdened with the effluvia of soap, tallow, and train
oil, it is not calculated to soothe the irritated nerves.

To pass through such a region as this could not have been mightily
agreeable to the refined senses of Lord Spoonbill. But not only did he
pass through it, but he sought out in one of its meanest habitations
the carrier of the Smatterton and Neverden letter-bags. All this
however he did patiently undergo for love of Penelope Primrose.

"Muggins," said his lordship, "have you left a letter at Neverden
within this day or two for Mr Darnley?"

"Yes, my lord," replied the carrier.

"And did you see Mr Darnley when you delivered the letter?"

"Oh, yes, my lord, I see Mr Robert himself. And please, my lord, I am
almost afraid that you and I will be found out."

"Found out, you rascal! what do you mean?"

"Why, I means, my lord, please your lordship, that one of them letters
as I give your lordship is been picked up, and Mr Robert Darnley showed
it to me and axed whether I knowed nothing about it. And he said he'd
kill me if I did not tell him, and so I told him that I didn't know
nothing where it come from. And so, my lord, I'm quite afeard to go
again to Neverden, only I don't know what to do just to get a bit of
bread."

At this information the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill was perplexed.

"Why, Muggins, if that is the case," said his lordship, "you had
better get away."

"Yes, my lord, but what will become of me if I give up my place?"

"Oh, leave that to me!" said his lordship, "and I will take care you
shall be no loser."

This was the point to which the crafty one wished to bring his right
honorable friend. Suffice it then to say that Lord Spoonbill, fancying
that he should place discovery out of the reach of probability, made
the rogue a very handsome present, and gave him letters whereby he
might find employment in London, which would more than compensate for
the loss of his place in the country.

Then did Lord Spoonbill under cover of night's darkness find his way
to Smatterton castle, pleasing himself with the thought that his
well-formed scheme was now likely to take effect, and that Mr Robert
Darnley, after the warning of the anonymous letter, would not be very
hasty to renew his acquaintance with Miss Primrose. It was of course
supposed by our readers, and intended to be so supposed, that the
anonymous letter above alluded to was sent, if not by Lord Spoonbill
himself, at least by his instigation, and for the purpose of forwarding
his designs. And, that the merit of the communication may not be
ascribed to a wrong personage, it is right to inform the world that the
writer of the same letter was Colonel Crop. By this gallant officer
Lord Spoonbill was now accompanied to Smatterton castle.

Colonel Crop was an excellent travelling companion, for he never
disturbed the train of his fellow-traveller's thoughts by any
impertinent prating. The dexterous economy which the colonel exercised
over his words and actions was quite surprising. He could make a little
go a great way. If for instance any friend, and many such there were,
invited the gallant colonel to dinner, it would seem that thereby an
occupation were afforded him for an hour or two previously for the
purpose of dressing. But the ingenious time-consumer managed to make
a whole morning's work of it. Equally economical was he of words. For
if his Right Honorable friend Lord Spoonbill should talk to him for a
whole hour together, the colonel would think it quite sufficient to
reply to the long harangue by simply saying: "'Pon honor! you
don't say so."

With this lively companion did Lord Spoonbill journey towards
Smatterton; and as his lordship wished to be left to his own thoughts,
his friend was not unwilling to indulge him; and thus did the
hereditary legislator enjoy the pleasure of silently congratulating
himself on the dexterity with which he had managed this affair; and
more especially was he delighted at the fortunate circumstance of
having removed Nick Muggins far away from the danger of being tempted
or terrified into confession of his unfaithfulness.

It did not enter, nor was it likely to enter into the mind of Lord
Spoonbill, that Nick Muggins had already impeached, and that Robert
Darnley was in possession of all the facts of the case. There was
something else also in the transactions of that day unknown to and
unsuspected by his lordship. That other matter to which we here allude,
was the visit which Robert Darnley had paid to Mr and Miss Primrose.

At the close of the preceding chapter we related that Mr Darnley
and the letter-carrier parted after their interview, and we have
accompanied Nick back to his home, and have narrated what took place
there. We may now therefore return to Robert Darnley, and accompany him
also in his visit to Smatterton.

After he had ascertained from Muggins the truth of the matter
concerning the suppressed letter, he no longer heeded the anonymous
communication which he had received; and instead of passing through the
park as he had designed, he proceeded immediately to the rectory.

He was most happy in the thought that now all doubts and perplexities
were removed from his mind, and he was much better able and far more
willing to believe that Penelope still remained pure, honorable, and
affectionate, than to give credence to the foul calumnies which had
been circulated concerning her. There are individuals in the world
of whom it is, ordinarily speaking, almost impossible to think ill.
Such was the character of Penelope Primrose to those well acquainted
with her. But the elder Mr Darnley being a mightily pompous and grand
sort of man, looked at almost every one from an awful distance.
Discrimination of character was by no means his forte. He thought that
the whole mass of mankind was divisible into two classes, the good
and the bad. He considered that the good must do as he did, and think
as he thought; and that the bad were those that opposed him. It was
his notion that it required only a simple volition for the good to
become bad and for the bad to become good. And when he heard that Miss
Primrose had transgressed, he forthwith believed the tale and renounced
her.

But to say nothing of the affection which the younger Darnley
entertained for the lady, and the pleasing hopes with which for so
long a period he had been accustomed to think of her, he could not
think it possible for a mind like hers ever to descend to the meanness
with which she had been charged. He did think it possible that,
in consequence of a supposed neglect on his part, and by means of
ingenious assiduities on the part of another, that her regards might
be transferred from him; but even that he would not believe without
positive evidence. Many a faithful heart had been broken, and many an
honest man has been hanged, by circumstantial evidence.

The meeting of the lovers was silent. They might have been previously
studying speeches; but these were forgotten on both sides. And in
their silence their looks explained to each other how much they had
respectively suffered from the villany of him who had interrupted their
correspondence. After a long and silent embrace, and gazing again and
again at those features which he had so loved to think of at a mighty
distance, Darnley at length was able to speak, and he said: "And you
have not forgotten me!" How cold these words do look on paper. But from
the living lips which spoke them, and from the energetic tenderness
with which they were uttered, and from the thought of that mental
suffering and that withering of heart which had been occasioned by
the fear of forgetfulness, and above all from the circumstance that
these were the first words which Penelope had heard from those lips
for so long, so very long a period, they came to her ear and heart
with a thrilling power, and awakened her from her silent trance to the
expression of that feeling which had almost subdued her.

"Forget!" she was attempting to echo her lover's words, but
emotion was too strong for the utterance of words, and she finished her
answer by falling on his neck and weeping audibly.

Might it not have done Lord Spoonbill good to have witnessed this
scene? Surely it might have taught him how little prospect there was of
the success of his designs; and he might, had he possessed the ordinary
feelings of humanity, have thought that the coronet must be brilliant
indeed which could tempt Penelope to renounce her lover.

But Lord Spoonbill saw it not, and suspected it not; if he had, it
certainly would have saved him a great deal of trouble.

The lovers, when they did recover themselves sufficiently to speak
composedly and collectedly, had volumes of talk for each other, and
Darnley was interested and moved by the narrative of Penelope's
excursion to London, and the narrow escape which she had from a
profession so ill adapted to the character and complexion of her mind.
But in all the conversation Darnley did not mention to Penelope the
anonymous letter which he had that morning received, nor did he say
a word concerning the confession of the letter-carrier. As to the
anonymous letter, he would not insult her even by alluding to the
existence of evil reports; and as to the suppressed letters, he feared
lest the impetuosity of the young lady's father might be productive of
mischief. He thought it at all events most desirable, at least so long
as they might remain in the neighbourhood of Smatterton castle, to let
Penelope suppose that the loss of the letters was accidental.

There may be some persons who think that under present circumstances it
was the duty of Robert Darnley to send Lord Spoonbill a challenge, or
to bestow upon his lordship that chastisement with which Nick Muggins
had been threatened. That Lord Spoonbill deserved a bodily castigation,
we will readily concede; but as to duelling, we conceive it to be a
very silly and useless practice, and we are not sorry that we are
not compelled to relate of the younger Darnley that his inclination
prompted him to adopt that very equivocal mode of demonstrating himself
to be a gentleman, or man of courage.

Very pleasantly passed the two or three hours which Robert Darnley
allowed himself to spend at Smatterton parsonage; very awkwardly passed
the dinner hour on his return to Neverden parsonage; for the Rev. Mr
Darnley would not speak to his son, and poor Mrs Darnley and the young
ladies were afraid to speak when the rector was silent.



CHAPTER XIX.


At a late hour in the evening Lord Spoonbill, accompanied by his worthy
friend Colonel Crop, arrived at Smatterton castle. The domestics were
instructed not to make the arrival public, for his lordship was not
desirous of being interrupted by any invasions of callers. His object
professed to be the making some arrangements, and laying down some
plans for alterations and improvements.

Colonel Crop was an excellent counsellor. He was one of those admirable
advisers, whose suggestions are always taken, and whose advice is
always welcome, for he never gave any advice except that which was
dictated to him by the person whose counsellor he was. He would have
made an excellent prime minister for any sovereign who might not like
to be contradicted. His reverence for lords was very great, and far
greater of course would have been his reverence for kings. He would no
more think of reasoning with or contradicting a lord, than a common
soldier would think of refusing to march or halt at the word of his
commander.

Now when this worthy couple had finished a late dinner, and Colonel
Crop had assented to and echoed all that Lord Spoonbill had been
pleased to affirm as touching the excellence or the reverse of the
various meats and drinks composing their dinner, the hereditary
legislator began the work of consultation.

"Well, Crop, it is a good thing that I have sent that rascally
letter-carrier away."

"Very," replied the colonel.

"It would have been quite shocking if he had been terrified or bribed
out of his secret."

"Quite," replied the colonel.

"Now I have been thinking," continued his lordship, "that you may
be of great service to me in this affair."

"You may command me," replied the colonel.

That was true enough, and so might any one who would feed him. Young
men of weak minds and vicious habits are very much to be pitied when
they have such friends and companions as Colonel Crop.

"You know Miss Primrose by sight, colonel?" said his lordship.

"Can't say I do," replied the colonel; "I have seen her once, but I
took very little notice."

"I must introduce you then. Now you remember the trouble I had with the
old ones about this affair, and you know that I was fool enough, as I
told you, to go so far as actually to make Miss Primrose an offer of
marriage."

The colonel gave his assent to this proposition also; for he seemed
to think it an act of rudeness to contradict a lord, even when he
called himself a fool. And so perhaps it really is; for a lord ought
to know whether he is a fool or not, and he would not say it if he did
not believe it; and there is also a degree of wisdom in the discovery
that one has been a fool, for thereby it is intimated that the season
of folly is over. Whosoever therefore actually says that he was a fool
formerly, virtually says that he is not a fool now. So no doubt did
the colonel interpret the assertion of Lord Spoonbill, and with this
interpretation he said, "Exactly so."

"But I think now," proceeded his lordship, "I may have the young lady
on my own terms. But the difficulty is how to manage the business
without alarming her, and perhaps bringing down some deadly vengeance
from that father of her's, for he is as fierce as a tiger."

That which is a difficulty to an hereditary legislator and heir to
a title and large estate, must of course be a difficulty also to a
half-pay colonel, who loves to depend upon occasional dinners, and,
like a hospital, to be supported by voluntary contributions. Therefore
the colonel said:

"Ay, that is the difficulty."

"If by any means we could contrive to get the father out of the way,
we might perhaps get rid of some obstacle. Crop, can you hit upon any
scheme to separate them?"

"Can't, 'pon honor," replied the colonel, who probably thought that
it was not becoming in him to be more ingenious than his feeder. The
colonel indeed was willing to do whatever he might be bid, to say
whatever might be put into his mouth, to write whatever might be
dictated to him, and to go wherever he might be sent. But he was by no
means a self-acting machine. He would do anything for any body, but he
required to be told explicitly what to do.

After a pause of some minutes, Lord Spoonbill observed; "Perhaps some
use might be made of the stoppage of Mr Primrose's banker. I forget
the name; have you any recollection of it?"

"Can't say I have, 'pon honor;" replied the colonel.

To proceed much farther in narrating this lively dialogue which took
place between the Right Honorable Lord Spoonbill and Colonel Crop, as
to the most likely means of forwarding the designs which his lordship
meditated against Miss Primrose, would contribute more to the reader's
weariness than to his amusement or edification. It will be enough
in the present state of affairs to say, that this notable colloquy
terminated in the determination on the part of his lordship to take no
immediate steps in the affair till he had ascertained what effect the
anonymous letter had produced upon Robert Darnley. For this purpose,
Colonel Crop might render himself useful. Instructions were therefore
given him accordingly, and he was ordered to ride over to Neverden
Hall, where he might be most likely to gain some information.

Early therefore, on the following morning, the gallant colonel found
his way to the mansion of the worthy baronet and able magistrate, Sir
George Aimwell. The unpaid one was mightily well pleased at the visit,
and he shook the hand of the half-paid one till his fingers ached.

"Well, Colonel, I am glad to see you. So you are tired of the gaieties
of London already, and you are coming to relieve our dullness in the
country. How are our noble neighbours?"

"Quite well, I thank you," replied the colonel, who felt himself one
of great importance in being able to speak so readily and assuredly
concerning nobility.

And here we will take the opportunity, and a very fit one it is, of
observing on a very curious fact, namely, that the reverence for
nobility and high rank is not felt so acutely and powerfully by simple
and unmixed plebeians, as it is by those who have some remote affinity
to nobility, or who fancy themselves to be a shadow or two of a caste
above the mere plebeian. Colonel Crop was not of noble family, but he
was the last of a mighty puissant race of insignificant attenuated
gentry in a country town; and as nobility was a scarce article in the
neighbourhood where he was born and brought up, he was mightily proud
of his intimacy with the noble family of the Spoonbills. But to proceed.

"Now, colonel, as you are here," said the worthy baronet, "I hope you
will stay and spend the day with me."

We are always popping in our remarks upon everything that is done and
said; and here again we cannot help remarking that Sir George Aimwell
might have had the grace to say "with us," as well as "with me;"
but he thought so much of his own magisterial self, that he had no
consideration of any one else.

To the invitation thus given the gallant colonel scarcely knew what
to say, for his commission, though very definite as to purpose, was
not definite as to time. Now the colonel, though a man of family, was
somewhat obtuse, and by some people would have been called stupid; and
he scarcely knew whether or not he should communicate to the amiable
magistrate at Neverden Hall, the fact of Lord Spoonbill's incognito
presence at Smatterton castle. And as it was not possible for him to
send back to the castle for further orders, he thought that the most
prudent step that he could take would be to leave the matter of dining
undecided, and go back in person to Smatterton for full directions.

He gave therefore an undecided answer to the baronet's invitation,
saying that he had some "little matters" to attend to at Smatterton,
and that, if he possibly could return to Neverden in the evening, he
should be most happy to take his dinner with the worthy baronet.

Back therefore to Smatterton trotted the convenient colonel, in order
to report progress and ask leave to sit at the baronet's table. Now we
"guess" that some of our readers are sneering most contemptuously at
this convenient colonel, and admiring the placid facility with which
he is moved about from place to place at the nod of an hereditary
legislator, and obeying all the commands of a tadpole senator. Yet why
should any one think that he is unworthily or degradingly employed.
Only let us imagine for a moment that the Right Honorable Lord
Spoonbill is a most gracious, or a most Christian majesty, and that
his negociations are for precisely the same purpose as they are at
present; or that from negociations of this nature there may have arisen
between two mighty and puissant nations a just and necessary war--such
things have been--then would the said Colonel Crop, in his capacity of
negociator, be regarded with profound admiration by all his majesty's
most faithful and loyal subjects; and morning and evening papers
would be proud of putting forth second editions to immortalize his
diplomatic movements. But, as it is, ours is the only record of these
matters.

When Colonel Crop therefore returned to Smatterton castle, and informed
his right honorable employer of what had passed at Neverden, Lord
Spoonbill thought, though he did not say, that Colonel Crop was a great
booby.

"Why, colonel," said his lordship, "by all means go back and take
your dinner with Sir George; you may find out something about Darnley; I
am in no hurry for your return, only let me know all that you can
collect concerning this young lady; and above all endeavour to find
out whether Mr Robert Darnley is spoken of as her future husband, or
whether the acquaintance between them is broken off. That is all I wish
to ascertain at present. I shall then know how to act. For don't you
see that, if Darnley keeps at a distance in consequence of the present
reports, I am more likely to have her on my own terms. There is no
heart so easy to win as that of a disappointed lover."

With his instructions back went the colonel to Neverden. And as we have
not the opportunity of giving verbal or senatorial advice to mighty
and puissant princes, we will here do all we can for the good of our
country, and of all countries into the language of which this history
may be translated, by advising and most earnestly recommending that
blockheads, however valorous or gallant, like our friend Colonel Crop,
be not employed in diplomatic offices. There is a very great difference
between the vigorous arm that can break a man's head, and the ingenious
dexterity which can bend a man's heart. And, generally speaking, those
people can have but little regard for brains, whose business it is to
knock them out.

For want of a dexterous diplomatist, Lord Spoonbill, as we shall see
hereafter, was exposed to great inconvenience, and suffered mighty and
serious disappointment.

Colonel Crop was not sorry that leave was granted him to dine at Sir
George Aimwell's. For the baronet had an excellent cook, and the cook
had an excellent place, and few are the instances in which there exists
so good an understanding between master and servant, as in the present
case there did between the worthy magistrate and his as worthy cook.

Whether Colonel Crop did or did not possess the organ of hope strongly
developed in his skull, we cannot tell, for the gallant colonel has not
yet been hanged; if he had, we might have found any organs we pleased;
but we may suppose that he had the organ of anticipativeness, for his
thoughts dwelt so seriously and intently upon the good dinner that he
was likely to enjoy at Sir George Aimwell's table, that he did actually
and truly forget a great part of his errand. Oh, how selfish is mortal
man!

The colonel, however, with all his propensity to oblivion, had
sufficient memory to recollect that his business was to ascertain
whether Mr Darnley, son of the rector of Neverden, still continued his
acquaintance with a young lady or not. At the table of Sir George
Aimwell there was introduced a young lady, Miss Glossop. The name of
Glossop bears no very marked affinity to that of Primrose, but by some
strange fatality or fatuity, the gallant colonel confounded them. The
young lady, by a certain dashing style of behaviour, passed off with
the colonel as a remarkably fine young woman; and when Sir George
Aimwell spoke banteringly to her concerning Robert Darnley, then the
gallant negociator was sure that this was the lady in question.

There was a still farther corroboration in the circumstance that this
lady was gifted with remarkable vocal powers. The colonel was no great
judge of music, but he could see that she played very rapidly, and he
could hear that she sung very loud; and therefore he entertained the
same notion of her musical talents which she herself did.

The musical exhibition took place after tea. Lady Aimwell cared little
about music or anything else, and in the presence of her husband's
visitors she generally shewed her dignity by looking sulky. But Colonel
Crop was so vastly polite, that her ladyship was generally more civil
and courteous to him than to any other guests who were attracted to
Neverden Hall by the fame of the baronet's cook.

And while Miss Glossop was amusing herself with melodious
vociferations, and singing and playing so loud that the poor magistrate
could hardly keep his eyes shut, Colonel Crop and Lady Aimwell were
engaged in a whispering or muttering conversation, all about nothing
at all. They both agreed that it was remarkable weather, neither of
them had remembered it so mild for many years. Lady Aimwell was very
well pleased to hear Colonel Crop's common-place nothings which he had
brought from London, and her ladyship related all that had taken place
at Neverden since the colonel was there last.

Her ladyship was not especially partial to Miss Glossop. There was some
little jealousy in the heart of Lady Aimwell that this stranger, as it
were, should occupy so much of the baronet's attention. Disagreeable
people are generally the most jealous. Her ladyship noticed the music.

"I wonder," muttered the fretful one to Colonel Crop, "that Sir
George can bear to hear such a constant noise. I am sure he knows
nothing of music. There is a great deal of talk about her fine voice and
her rapid execution; her voice sounds to my ear very much like the voice
of a peacock."

Saying this her ladyship smiled, because it was almost witty, and the
colonel also smiled, for he too thought it was witty.

"But I beg your pardon, colonel," said her ladyship; "perhaps you may
be partial to music?"

"By no means," replied the colonel, "and I was not aware that Sir
George was partial to it. Our friends at the castle are very musical."

It was pleasant for the colonel to be able to talk about our friends
at the castle; but Lady Aimwell, though not very ambitious of publicity
in the gay world, was rather jealous of the Smatterton great ones, and
thought herself treated with too much haughtiness and distance by the
Earl and Countess.

"I wish that all that noise and affectation were at the castle, instead
of tormenting me."

Thus spoke Lady Aimwell. Now, thought Colonel Crop, there was a fine
opportunity for introducing his diplomacy; and for that purpose the
gallant negociator said, in a very knowing accent:

"But I think I have heard that this young lady is likely to give her
hand to a Mr ---- Mr ---- bless me, I forget names."

"Do you mean Mr Darnley," said her ladyship, "the son of our
rector?"

"Yes, yes," replied the colonel, "I believe that is the name;
Darnley, Darnley, ay, ay, that is the name. This lady is going to be
married to Mr Darnley, I have heard."

"Oh no!" replied her ladyship, "I don't believe it. I can hardly
think it probable. Indeed--but I hope it will go no further"--

Here her ladyship spoke in a still lower key and more subdued tone, and
the gallant colonel listened with profound attention, and with great
delight did he hear her ladyship thus speak:

"There has, I believe, been some talk about such an affair, and Robert
Darnley has met her here once or twice. But the truth is, he seems to
know her character and disposition too well. And if there were any such
thoughts on his part, I am sure he has given up all such idea by this
time. Indeed, I do not think that there ever was much regard on either
side."

This was grand intelligence for the colonel. He felt himself mightily
important. He soon ceased the conversation, and took his leave of the
family at Neverden Hall, and he reported all that he had heard and seen
according to the best of his ability.

"Well, my lord, I have seen your Arabella."

"Penelope, you mean;" interrupted his lordship.

"Ay, ay, Penelope; bless me, how soon I forget names. So I have seen
her and heard her."

"She plays and sings delightfully," said Lord Spoonbill.

"Wonderfully," replied the colonel, who was more than usually eloquent
in consequence of the good success of his diplomacy: "to be sure I do
not understand music, but I never saw so rapid an execution in my life."

"But," interrupted his impatient lordship, "did you hear anything
about that Darnley?"

"Yes," replied the colonel, with mighty pomp and energy of manner.
"Lady Aimwell told me, in confidence, that Darnley knew her character
too well to think of marrying her. These were her ladyship's own
words."

"Now, Crop, you have done me a service indeed. Now I think the day is
our own."

When the good friends parted for the night, his delighted lordship was
so occupied with his own sweet thoughts that he was quite intoxicated
with joy. He would, had he been able, have sung a _Te Deum_; and it
would be very well if _Te Deum_ had never been sung on occasions quite
as unworthy as, if not infinitely more so than the present.


END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.

  LONDON:
  PRINTED BY C. H. REYNELL, BROAD STREET, GOLDEN SQUARE.


       *       *       *       *       *


TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

Inconsistent spelling has been retained, unless it's clearly a
printer's error.

This is a list of the corrections made:

  Smattertno     => Smatterton
  too verturn    => to overturn
  gird           => girl
  enoug          => enough





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