« EelmineJätka »
exert the utmost of his skill to cause them to live and flourish in flower-pots; neither could she be turned from her purpose, although the gardener sent word, by her maid, that the sprigs were of the most common sort, of which he had innumerable samples in the green-house.
“Tell him,” said Augusta,“ that he is mistaken; and, at any rate, he may do what he is bid, without giving his opinion."
Frederick saw no more of Lady Augusta during that summer, and he gave evidence, by the cheerfulness of his manner, that if she had made any impression on his heart, it was nearly effaced.
In the autumn, Mr. Lambert took a house in Town, intending to spend the winter there; in consequence of which, Robert and Frederick did not meet as usual, du. ring the Christmas vacation.
While residing in Town, Mr. Lambert, through the interest of Lord V. was created a baronet: on which account, we shall henceforward call him Sir Anthony Lambert, his Christian name being Anthony; which, as he said, had a very respectable sound in conjunction with Lambert.
After Christmas, Frederick was entered at Cambridge, it being thought, that, as Robert was at Oxford, associating with the higher circles, and spending much money, it would be more to his cousin's advantage that they should not be together. Mr. Day still continued at the parsonage, where it was settled that Frederick should spend his vacations.
Another year passed away, during which Robert came of age; and Sir Anthony Lambert spent the long vacation with his son at a sea-bathing place, and the Christmas holidays again in Town; and, as Clifton Castle was undergoing repairs, the earl's family did not come down into the country.
Robert was now removed from the University, and it became the common talk that his marriage with Lady Augusta was to take place in the summer season, when both the earl's and Sir Anthony's family were expected to be in the country.
But in arranging this plan the good gossips were much mistaken; as the marriage was by no means in that state of forwardness which was believed. Every
thing, indeed, had long been agreed upon by the parents on both sides, and Robert was extremely anxious that he might not be disappointed; but Lady Augusta had as yet evidenced no manner of partiality for him, and her mother had her serious doubts that her daughter herself would never consent to the union.
The two families, however, arrived in the country at the expected time, which was precisely at the commencement of Frederick's long vacation; and Lady V-brought with her one of the daughters of her brother the Earl of P—, who some years ago, on a tour to the Continent, had offended her father past recovery by marrying an indigent French nobleman, by whom she had been left a widow, and almost without resources, a little more than eighteen months past.
This lady (whom we shall call Lady Frances Courbillon) was about twenty-eight years of age; but with those who could not detect the various arts by which she contrived to disguise the injuries which the lapse of a few years produces even in the fairest form, she might easily pass for eighteen. She had all that gaiety and ease of manner so peculiar to the country in which she had resided for the last ten years; she was sprightly in conversation, full of wit and repartee, had an innumerable fund of French anecdotes, played delightfully on the harp, and appeared to be the most simple and undesigning creature in the world, having attained the perfection of art, which is, to seem to have no art at all.
There can be no doubt that the society of a lady of this character would be very acceptable in a large country house, the heads of which thought of nothing but of passing away their time in an agreeable manner, and that, by her highly fashionable air and free manners, such a companion would, as she in fact did, occasion what is called a very lively sensation among the country families who visited at the Castle.
“ Have you seen Lady Frances Courbillon?" said one lady to another. “Is not she beautiful? is not she elegant? is not she interesting?"
“A charming woman!" said another: “and so young to have known such sorrows! She even looks well by the side of Lady Augusta Clifton, and no one can doubt that she is in many respects vastly superior: for she is
so free, so communicative, so pleasant in conversation; while Lady Augusta is, on the contrary, altogether as reserved and impenetrable.'
Sir Anthony Lambert and Mr. Day were the only persons who decidedly disliked this lady. We do not wonder at Mr. Day, who was a man of deep penetration, not relishing an artificial, worldly character, of the kind we have described; but how she happened not to obtain the good-will of Sir Anthony, when we consider what pretensions she had to rank and fashion, would not so easily appear, unless I were to tell my reader, that the old gentleman thought he had detected her in making some attempts on the heart of his son Robert the summer before, at Brighton, where she then appeared, just come over from the Continent, in the interesting character of a young, beautiful, and afflicted widow.
Sir Anthony had charged his son with having manifested some partiality for this lady, and had represented the few civilities he had shewn her as so many affronts to Lady Augusta; the consequence of which strong statement of the case was, that Robert's indignation boiled over. He unequivocally charged his father with being suspicious, and at the same time decidedly refused to break off the acquaintance, as Sir Anthony desired.“Not," said he, speaking on the subject to one of his young companions, to whom he commonly opened his heart when his father displeased him, “not that I care one straw for Lady Frances; but I cannot bear to be tutored and lectured on every occasion, or to be led about, at my age, like a child in leading-strings, or a bear in chains.
“Ay, Lambert,” repeated his companion, laughing, “like a dancing-bear, with a monkey on his back.'
Robert was in a passion; he was angry with his father, and he allowed the simile of the monkey to pass without reproof, which at another time he perhaps would not have done: for, with all his roughness, his impetuosity, and his untractableness, Robert Lambert had some good qualities, some sense of religion, some benevolence of heart; and, had he from his infancy been generously and affectionately treated, he would probably have been a very different character from what he
Mr. Day and Frederick happened to be at the Hall when Sir Anthony and his son arrived, and Mr. Day instantly perceived a decided improvment in the appearance and manners of Robert. He was now become far from ill-looking, and his demeanour was easy
gentlemanlike. He accosted Mr. Day with kindness, but Frederick with so coldness, that the latter could not but observe it, though he passed it off with the ease and good-humour natural to him. In consequence, however, of this reserve, Mr. Day withdrew with his pupil as much as possible to the quiet rectory, leaving the great people to manage their affairs in their own way.
In the mean time, the two great families were constantly together, and nothing was heard of in the neighbourhood but of sumptuous dinners, rural galas, water-parties, excursions to the fine seats in the vicinity, &c.: but whether Robert made any progress in the good graces of Lady Augusta no one was able to ascertain.
The two families had been more than a month in the country, when, one morning, as Lady Augusta, attended by a livery servant, was riding through a wood at no very great distance from her father's castle, the very wood, in fact, which led to the village of Forrell, her horse took fright at the sight of two gipsies who suddenly appeared from among the trees; and the creature, after rearing and prancing for some moments, would inevitably have thrown its rider, if Frederick, who was returning from his little school at Forrell, had not bappened to come up at the critical moment, and, by his timely assistance, saved the lady from a dreadful fall. He seized the bridle of the horse, delivering it into the hands of the servant, and lifting Lady Augusta down, set her on a mossy bank which was near at hand: for the young lady was greatly terrified; and it was some time before she could speak to Frederick, or answer the servant's question, whether she would choose to mount again, or permit him to take the horses home, and send the carriage.
“Take back the horses,” she at length said, “but do not send the carriage, lest my mother be alarmed.” Then turning to Frederick, “I had intended," said she, “to have quarrelled with you, Sir, when we met; but
you have compelled me to exchange my expressions of resentment for those of gratitude. I thank you, Mr. Falconer, for what you have done,” she added, at the same time extending her hand to him: “you have perhaps saved my life:” and while she spoke, she changed colour several times, and seemed considerably agitated.
Frederick muttered something about satisfaction, honour, pleasure, &c. hoping that she was not hurt, not very much frightened: but not being able to finish a single sentence, he stopped, and looked down on the ground.
“I see, Frederick," said she, with more tranquillity, “I see you are ashamed to meet me, conscious, as you are, of your marked neglect of all our family, and of me in particular, who was the companion of your early days, who lived with you, in fact, as a sister, and a sister who once thought herself beloved."
“A sister!” repeated Frederick, sitting down on the bank near her.
will still consider me as a brother, and still honour me with your sisterly regard, I shall be happy; but"
“ But what, Frederick ?” said Augusta. Frederick added no more.
“Tell me, Frederick," said the young lady, “tell me, I beseech you, why you do not come among us as usual. What is the meaning of this estrangement? Have I done any thing to offend you? I am sure I never intended it. Have my parents displeased you? Explain to me the cause of this coldness.' So saying, she fixed her beautiful eyes upon him with a look of earnestness and anxiety, which greatly added to his embarrassment, putting it, at the same time, altogether out of his power to offer any kind of excuse for having so entirely withdrawn himself from her society. “Well," she said, suppressing a sigh, “I see, Frederick, that you will not grant me your confidence, and perhaps I am to blame to ask it. But only satisfy me in one point-have I offended you? have I displeased you?”
“No, dear Lady Augusta,” said Frederick; “no, never,--never in the least:” and he was about to add, that he never felt his affection for her warmer than at the present moment; when, recollecting Robert, he he. sitated, stammered, and was again silent.