Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

Their mutual greetings, when they met, were unceremonious, but cordial ; and Rushbrook turned his horse and rode back with Sandford ;--yet, intimidated by his respect and tenderness for Lady Matilda, rather than by fear of the rebuffs of his companion, he had not the courage to name her till the ride was just finished, and they came within a few yards of the house incited then by the apprehension, he might not soon again enjoy so fit an opportunity, he said,

“Pardon me, Mr. Sandford, if I guess where you have been, and if my curiosity forces me to inquire for Miss Woodley's and Lady Matilda's health ?"

He named Miss Woodley first, to prolong the time before he mentioned Matilda : for though to name her gave him extreme pleasure, yet it was a pleasure accompanied by confusion and pain.

“They are both very well,” replied Sandford, at least they did not complain they were sick.”

“They are not in spirits, I suppose ?” said Rushbrook.

“No, indeed :” replied Sandford, shaking his head.

“No new misfortune has happened, I hope ?” cried Rushbrook; for it was plain to see Sandford's spirits were unusually cast down.

“Nothing new," returned he,“ except the insolence of a young nobleman.”

“What nobleman ?cried Rushbrook.
“A lover of Lady Matilda's,” replied Sandford.

Rushbrook was petrified. “Who? What lover, Mr. Sandford ?-explain.”

They were now arrvied at the house; and Sandford, without making any reply to this question, said to the servant who took his horse, “She has come a long way this morning; take care of her."

This interruption was torture to Rushbrook, who kept close to his side, in order to obtain a further explanation ; but Sandford, without attending to him, walked negligently into the hall, and before they advanced many steps, they were met by Lord Elmwood.

All further information was put an end to for the present.

“How do you do, Sandford ?” said Lord Elmwood with extreme kindness; as if he thanked him for the journey which, it was likely, he suspected he had been taking.

“I am indifferently well, my lord :” replied he, with a face of deep concern, and a tear in his eye, partly in gratitude for his patron's civility, and partly in reproach for his cruelty.

It was not now till the evening, that Rushbrook had an opportunity of renewing the conversation, which had been so painfully interrupted.

In the evening, no longer able to support the suspense into which he was thrown ; without fear or shame, he followed Sandford into his chamber at the time of his retiring, and entreated of him,

VOL, III.-12

with all the anxiety he suffered, to explain his allusion, when he talked of a lover, and of insolence to Lady Matilda.

Sandford, seeing his emotion, was angry with himself that he had inadvertently mentioned the circumstance; and putting on an air of surly importance, desired,—if he had any business with him, that he would call in the morning.

Exasperated at so unexpected a reception, and at the pain of his disappointment, Rushbrook replied, “He treated him cruelly, nor would he stir out of his room, till he had received a satisfactory answer to his question.”

“Then bring your bed,” replied Sandford, “ for you may pass the whole night here."

He found it vain to think of obtaining any intelligence by threats, he therefore said in a timid and persuasive manner,

“Did you, Mr. Sandford, hear Lady Matilda mention my name ?"

Yes,” replied Sandford, a little better reconciled to him.

“ Did you tell her what I lately declared to you ?” he asked with still more diffidence. "No,"

,replied Sandford. “ It is very well, sir,” returned he, vexed to the heart—yet again wishing to sooth him

“You certainly, Mr. Sandford, know what is for the best-yet I entreat you will give me some further account of the nobleman you named ?"

“I know what is for the best,” replied San dford, and I won't." Rushbrook bowed, and immediately left the

He went apparently submissive, but the moment he showed this submission, he took the resolution of paying a visit himself to the farm at which Lady Matilda resided ; and of learning, either from Miss Woodley, the people of the house, the neighbours, or perhaps from Lady Matilda's own lips, the secret which the obstinacy of Sandford had withheld.

He saw all the dangers of this undertaking, but none appeared so great as the danger of losing her he loved, by the influence of a rival-and though Sandford had named “insolence,” he was in doubt whether what had appeared so to him, was so in reality, or would be so considered by her.

To prevent the cause of his absence being suspected by Lord Elmwood, he immediately called his groom, ordered his horse, and giving those servants concerned a strict charge of secrecy, with some frivolous pretence to apologize for his not being present at breakfast (resolving to be back by dinner) he set off that night, and arrived at an inn about a mile from the farm at break of day.

The joy he felt, when he found himself so near to the beloved object of his journey, made him thank Sandford in his heart, for the unkindness which had sent him thither. But new difficulties arose, how to accomplish the end for which he came;-he learned from the people of the inn, that a lord, with a fine equipage, had visited at the

353

room.

[ocr errors]

farm, but who he was, or for what purpose he went, no one could inform him.

Dreading to return with his doubts unsatisfied, and yet afraid of proceeding to extremities that might be construed into presumption, he walked disconsolately (almost distractedly) across the fields, looking repeatedly at his watch, and wishing the time would stand still, till he was ready to go back with his errand completed.

Every field he passed brought him nearer to the house on which his imagination was fixed; but how, without forfeiting every appearance of that respect which he so powerfully felt, could he attempt to enter it ?--he saw the indecorum, resolved not to be guilty of it, and yet walked on till he was within but a small orchard of the door. Could he then retreat ?--he wished he could ; but he found that he had proceeded too far to be any longer master of himself. The time was urgent ; he must either behold her, and venture her displeasure, or, by diffidence during one moment, give up all his hopes, perhaps for ever.

With that same disregard to consequences, which actuated him when he dared to supplicate Lord Elmwood in his daughter's behalf, he at length went eagerly to the door and rapped.

A servant came-he asked to “speak with Miss Woodley, if she was quite alone.”

He was shown into an apartment, and Miss Woodley entered to him.

She started when she beheld who it was; but as he did not see a frown upon her face, he caught hold of her hand, and said persuasively,

“ Do not be offended with me. If I mean to offend you, may I forfeit my life in atonement.”

Poor Miss Woodley, glad in her solitude to see any one from Elmwood House, forgot his visit was an offence, till he put her in mind of it; she then said, with some reserve,

“Tell me the purport of your coming, sir, and perhaps I may have no reason to complain.”

“It was to see Lady Matilda,” he replied, to hear of her health. It was to offer her my services—it was, Miss Woodley, to convince her, if possible, of my esteem.”

“Had you no other method, sir ?" said Miss Woodley, with the same reserve.

“None;" replied he,“ or with joy I should have embraced it: and if you can inform me of any other, tell me I beseech you instantly, and I will immediately be gone, and pursue your directions."

Miss Woodley hesitated.

“ You know of no other means, Miss Woodley ?" he cried.

“ And yet I cannot commend this,” said she.

“ Nor do I. Do not imagine, because you see me here, that I approve of my visit; but reduced to this necessity, pity the motives that have urged it.”

Miss Woodley did pity them ; but as she would not own that she did, she could think of nothing

At this instant a bell rang from the chamber above.

“That is Lady Matilda's bell,” said Miss Woodley;

“she is coming to take a short walk. Do you wish to see her?"

Though it was the first wish of his heart, he paused, and said, “ Will you plead my excuse ?"

As the flight of stairs was but short, which Matilda had to come down, she was in the room with Miss Woodley and Mr. Rushbrook, just as that sentence ended.

She had stepped beyond the door of the apartment, when, perceiving a visitor, she hastily withdrew.

Rushbrook, animated, though trembling at her presence, cried, “ Lady Matilda, do not avoid me, till you know that I deserve such a punishment.”

She immediately saw who it was, and returned back with a proper pride, and yet a proper politeness in her manner.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said she, “I did not know you; I was afraid I intruded upon Miss Woodley and a stranger.”

“You do not then consider me as a stranger, Lady Matilda ? and that you do not requires my warmest acknowledgments."

She sat down, as if overcome by ill spirits and ill health.

Miss Woodley now asked Rushbrook to sitfor till now she had not.

“No, madam,” replied he, with confusion, “not unless Lady Matilda gives me permission.”

She smiled, and pointed to a chair--and all the kindness which Rushbrook during his whole life had received from Lord Elmwood never inspired half the gratitude which this one instance of civility from his daughter excited.

He sat down with the confession of the obligation upon every feature of his face.

“I am not well, Mr. Rushbrook,” said Matilda, languidly; "and you must excuse any want of etiquette at this house."

“Will you excuse me, madam, what can I have to complain of ?"

She appeared absent while he was speaking, and turning to Miss Woodley, said, “Do you think I had better walk to-day ?”

“No, my dear,” answered Miss Woodley; “the ground is damp, and the air cold.”

“ You are not well, indeed, Lady Matilda,” said Rushbrook, gazing upon her with the most, tender respect.

She shook her head; and the tears, without any effort either to impel or to restrain them, ran down her face.

Rushbrook rose from his seat, and with an accent and manner the most expressive, said, “We are cousins, Lady Matilda—in our infancy we were brought up together--we were beloved by the same mother-fostered by the same father”—

“Oh! oh!” cried she, interrupting him, with a tone which indicated the bitterest anguish,

[ocr errors]

or

[ocr errors]

else to say.

354

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Nay, do not let me add to your uneasiness," he resumed, “while I am attempting to alleviate it. Instruct me what I can do. to show my esteem and respect, rather than permit me thus unguided, to rush upon what you may construe into insult and arrogance.”

Miss Woodley went to Matilda, took her hand, then wiped the tears from her eyes, while Matilda reclined against her, entirely regardless of Rushbrook's presence.

“If I have been in the least instrumental to this sorrow, -said Rushbrook, with a face as much agitated as his mind.

No,” said Miss Woodley, in a low voice, you have not-she is often thus.”

Yes,” said Matilda, raising her head, “I am frequently so weak that I cannot resist the smallest incitement to grief. But do not make your visit long, Mr. Rushbrook,” she continued, “for I was just then thinking, that should Lord Elmwood hear of this attention which you have paid me, it might be fatal to you.” Here she wept again, as bitterly as before.

“ There is no probability of his hearing of it, madam,” Rushbrook replied ; " or if there was, I am persuaded that he would not resent it; for yesterday, when I am confident he knew that Mr. Sandford had been to see you, he received him on his return, with unusual marks of kindness.”

“Did he ?” said she—and again she lifted up her head; her eyes for a moment beaming with hope and joy.

“There is something which we cannot yet define,” said Rushbrook, “that Lord Elmwood struggles with; but when time shall have eradicated"

Before he could proceed further, Matilda was once more sunk into despondency, and scarce attended to what he was saying.

Miss Woodley observing this, said, “Mr. Rushbrook, let it be a token, we shall be glad to see you hereafter, that I now use the freedom to to beg you will put an end to your visit.”

“ You send me away, madam,” returned he, “ with the warmest thanks for the reception you have given me ; and this last assurance of your kindness is beyond any other favour you could have bestowed. Lady Matilda,” added he, “suffer me to take your hand at parting, and let it be a testimoney that you acknowledge me for a relation."

She put out her hand, which he knelt to receive, but did not raise it to his lips-he held the boon too sacred- and looking earnestly upon it, as it lay pale and wan in his, he breathed one sigh over it, and withdrew.

[ocr errors]

1

it with the most inordinate delight; and had he not seen decline of health, in the looks and behaviour of Lady Matilda, his felicity had been unbounded. Entranced in the happiness of her society, the thought of his rival never came once to his mind while he was with her ; a want of recollection, however, he by no means regretted, as her whole appearance contradicted every suspicion he could possibly entertain, that she favoured the addresses of any man living—and had he remembered, he would not have dared to name the subject.

The time ran so swiftly while he was away, that it was beyond the dinner hour at Elmwood House when he returned.- -Heated, his dress and his hair disordered, he entered the dining room just as the desert was put upon the table. He was confounded at his own appearance, and at the falsehoods he should be obliged to fabricate in his excuse : there was yet that which engaged his attention, beyond any circumstance rel to himself-the features of Lord Elmwood-of which his daughter's, whom he had just beheld, had the most striking resemblance ; though hers were softened by sorrow, while his were made austere by the self-same cause.

" Where have you been ?" said his uncle with a frown.

“ A chase, my lord-I beg your pardon--but a pack of dogs I unexpectedly met.”- -For in the hackneyed art of lying without injury to any one, Rushbrook, to his shame, was proficient.

His excuses were received, and the subject ceased.

During his absence that day, Lord Elmwood had called Sandford apart, and said to him,-that as the malevolence which he once observed between him and Rushbrook had, he perceived, subsided, he advised him, if he was a well-wisher to the young man, to sound his heart, and counsel him not to act against the will of his nearest relation and friend. "I myself am too hasty,” continued Lord Elmwood, “and, unhappily, too much determined upon what I have once (though, perhaps, rashly) said, to speak upon a topic where it is probable I shall meet with opposition. You, Sandford, can reason with moderation. For after all that I have done for my nephew, it would be a pity to forsake him at last ; and yet, that is but too likely, if he should provoke me to it.”

“Sir," replied Sandford, “I will speak to him." “ Yet,” added Lord Elmwood, sternly, “ do

what

you say for my sake, but for his own-I can part from him with ease—but he may then repent, and, you know, repentance always comes too late with me."

“My lord, I will exert all the efforts in my power for his welfare. But what is the subject on which he refused to comply with your desires ?

“Matrimony--have not I told you ?” 5 Not a word.”

not urge

CHAPTER L.

SORROWFUL and affecting as this interview had been, Rushbrook, as he rode home, reflected upon

disengage them, and use all my power to render myself worthy of the union for which he designs

me.

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“I wish him to marry, that I may then conclude the deeds in respect to my estate--and the only child of Sir William Winterton (a rich heiress) was the wife I meant to propose; but from his indifference to all I have said on the occasion, I have not yet mentioned her name to him ; you may.”.

“I will, my lord, and use all my persuasion to engage his obedience; and you shall have, at least, a faithful account of what he says."

Sandford the next morning sought an opportunity of being alone with Rushbrook :-he then plainly repeated to him what Lord Elmwood had said, and saw him listen to it all, and heard him answer to it all, with the most tranquil resolution, “ That he would do any thing to preserve the friendship and patronage of his uncle--but marry.”

“What can be your reason ?" asked Sandford --though he guessed.

“ A reason, I cannot give to Lord Elmwood.”

“ Then do not give it to me, for I have promised to tell him every thing you shall say to me.”

“ And every thing I have said ?” asked Rushbrook hastily.

“As to what you have said, I don't know whether it has made impression enough on my memory, to enable me to repeat it.”

“ I am glad it has not.”

“ And my answer to your uncle is to be simply, that you will not obey him ?

“I should hope, Mr. Sandford, that you would express it in better terms."

“Tell me the terms, and I will be exact."

Rushbrook struck his forehead, and walked about the room.

“ Am I to give him any reasons for your disobeying him?"

“I tell you again, that I dare not name the cause."

“ Then why do you submit to a power you are ashamed to own ?"

“I am not ashamed-1 glory in it-Are you ashamed of your esteem for Lady Matilda ?”

“Oh! if she is the cause of your disobedience, be assured I shall not mention it, for I am forbid to name her.”

“And this is not only your solemn promise but your fixed determination ?"

Nay, why will you search my heart to the bottom, when the surface ought to content you ?

“ If you cannot resolve on what you have proposed, why do you ask this time of your uncle ? For should he allow it you, your disobedience at the expiration will be less pardonable than it is now."

“Within a year, Mr. Sandford, who can tell what strange events may not occur, to change all our prospects ? Even my passion may decline.”

“In that expectation, then—the failure of which yourself must answer for-I will repeat as much of this discourse as shall be proper."

Here Rushbrook communicated his having been to see Lady Matilda, for which Sandford reproved him, but in less rigorous terms than he generally used in his reproofs ; and Rushbrook, by his entreaties, now gained the intelligence who the nobleman was who addressed Matilda, and on what views ; but was restrained to patience, by Sandford's arguments and threats.

Upon the subject of this marriage, Sandford met his patron, without having determined exactly what to say ; but rested on the temper in which he should find him.

At the commencement of the conversation he told him, “Rushbrook begged for time.”

“I have given him time, have I not ?" cried Lord Elmwood : “What can be the meaning of his thus trifling with me ?"

Sandford replied, “My lord, young men are frequently romantic in their notions of love, and think it impossible to have a sincere affection, where their own inclinations do not first point out the choice."

“ If he is in love," answered Lord Elmwood, “let him take the object, and leave my house and me for ever. Nor under this destiny can he have any claim to pity ; for genuine love will make

to speak plainly to you. I love Lady Matildaor, perhaps, unacquainted with love, what I feel may be only pity-and if so, pity is the most pleasing passion that ever possessed a human heart, and I would not change it for all her father's estates."

“Pity, then, gives rise to very different sensations—for I pity you, and that sensation I would gladly exchange for approbation.”

“If you really feel compassion for me, and I believe you do, contrive some means, by your an: swers to Lord Elmwood, to pacify him without involving me in ruin. Hint at my affections being engaged, but not to whom; and add, that I have given my word, if he will allow me a short time, a year or two only, I will, during that period, try to

: it the fool blessed as the wise.” The sincerity with which Lord Elmwood had loved was expressed, as he said this, more than in words.

“ Your lordship is talking,” replied Sandford, “of the passion in its most refined and predomi nant sense ; while I may possibly be speaking of a mere phantom, that has led this young man as. tray.”

“ Whatever it be,” returned Lord Elmwood, “ let him and his friends weigh the case well, and act for the best-30 shall I."

“His friends, my lord ?- -What friends, or what friend has he upon earth but you ?

“ Then why will he not submit to my advice ; or himself give me a proper reason why he cannot ?

“Because there may be friendship without familiarity—and so it is between him and you.”

“ That cannot be; for I have condescended to talk to him in the most familiar terms."

“ To condescend, my lord, is not to be familiar.”

“Then come, sir, let us be on an equal footing through you. And now speak out his thoughts freely, and hear mine in return.”

"Why then, he begs a respite for a year or two."

“ On what pretence ?"

“To me, it was preference of a single life-but I suspect it is—what he imagines to be love--and for some object whom he thinks your lordship would disapprove."

“He has not, then, actually confessed this to

16

or conceal them--nor by one sign, one item, remind me of her.”

“Your daughter did you call her ?--Can you call yourself her father?"

“I do sir-but I was likewise the husband of her mother. And, as that husband, I solemnly swear”—He was proceeding with violence.

“Oh! my lord,” cried Sandford, interrupting him, with his hands clasped in the most fervent supplication—“Oh! do not let me draw upon her one oath more of your eternal displeasure—I'll kneel to beg that you will drop the subject.”

The inclination he made with his knees bent towards the ground, stopped Lord Elmwood instantly. But though it broke in upon

his words, it did not alter one angry look-his eyes darted, and his lips trembled with indignation.

Sandford, in order to appease him, bowed and offered to withdraw, hoping to be recalled. He wished in vain. Lord Elmwood's eyes followed him to the door, expressive of the joy he should receive from his absense.

you ?

CHAPTER LI.

“ If he has, it was drawn from him by such means, that am not warranted

say in direct words."

“ I have entered into no contract, no agreement on his account with the friends of the lady I have pointed out,” said Lord Elmwood ; “nothing beyond implications have passed betwixt her family and myself at present; and if the person on whom he has fixed his affections should not be in a situation absolutely contrary to my wishes, I may, perhaps, confirm his choice.”

That moment Sandford's courage prompted him to name Lady Matilda, but his discretion opposed--however, in the various changes of his countenance from the conflict, it was plain to discern that he wished to say more than he dared.

On which Lord Elmwood cried,

“ Speak on, Sandford—what are you afraid of ?

Of you, my lord.” He started.

Sandford went on--_"I know no tie--no bond --no innocence, that is a protection when you feel resentment."

“You are right,” he replied, significantly.

“ Then how, my lord, can you encourage me to speak on, when that which I perhaps should say, might offend you to hear ?"

“To what, and whither are you changing our subject ?” cried Lord Elmwood. “But, sir, if you know my resentful and relentless temper, you surely know how to shun it."

“Not, and speak plainly.”
" Then dissemble.”
“No, I'll not do that--but I'll be silent.”

“A new parade of submission. You are more tormenting to me than any one I have about me-Constantly on the verge of disobeying my orders, that you may recede, and gain my good will by your forbearance. But know, Mr. Sandford, that I will not suffer this much longer. If you choose in every conversation we have together (though the most remote from such a topic) to think of my daughter, you must either banish your thoughts,

The companions and counsellors of Lord Margrave, who had so prudently advised gentle methods in the pursuit of his passion, while there was left any hope of their success, now convinced there was none, as strenuously recommended open violence ;-and sheltered under the consideration, that their depredations were to be practised upon a defenceless woman, who had not one protector, except an old priest, the subject of their ridicule ;-assured likewise from the influence of Lord Margrave's wealth, that all inferior consequences could be overborne, they saw no room for fears on any side, and what they wished to execute they with care and skill premeditated.

When their scheme was mature for performance, three of his chosen companions, and three servants, trained in all the villanous exploits of their masters, set off for the habitation of poor Matilda, and arrived there about the twilight of the evening.

Near four hours after that time (just as the family were going to bed) they came up to the doors of the house, and rapping violently, gave the alarm of fire, conjuring all the inhabitants to make their way out immediately, as they would save their lives.

The family consisted of few persons, all of whom ran instantly to the doors and opened them; on which two men rushed in, and with the plea of saving Lady Matilda from the pretended flames, caught her in their arms, and carried her off;—while all the deceived people of the house, running eagerly to save themselves, paid no regard to her ; till, looking for the cause for which they had been terrified, they perceived the stratagem, and the fatal consequences.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »