Page images



LORD ESKDALE's unexpected and unannounced departure occasioned much surprise, and not a few comments, at Spa. What could have induced him to go so suddenly? Every tongue in the circle or circles in which he did, or did not move, were busy with

his name. Some said he had been playing too highly at the rouge-et-noir table, and was obliged to decamp; some that he had run up an enormous hotel bill, which he could not pay; others, more charitable, that the intelligence of a death in his family had called him away; but for two or three days no one surmised the truth. It need never have been known but for Madeleine’s vanity. She could not keep her triumph, as she considered it, to herself. Mr. Percival never breathed a word of Lord Eskdale's offer and his sister-in-law's refusal to a living creature ; and Mr. Lawson, of course, was silent on the subject, and only said, when he was appealed to, that his friend had hurried to Brussels to join his sister and her husband, Sir Colin Dalrymple, with whom he was going to Paris and Italy.

The inquirers and busy-bodies might have been satisfied with his solution of the mystery, and have speedily forgotten the departed earl, but Madeleine was dying to tell of the offer she had received-her first offer -and having kept the secret with difficulty for a day and a half, she went to her cousin Octavie, and confided it to her.

Octavie was exceedingly surprised, not so much at the offer, as at Madeleine's folly in refusing it.

“What do you expect, my child?” she said, sneeringly; "a duke, a prince? You should remember that you are totally sans argent, that you are dependent on your relations, and that your mother's disgrace casts a slur upon you.

You are a fool, my dear." “ There are other men in the world besides Lord Eskdale, cousin, and I am not forsaken by my other admirers. See if at the ball to-morrow evening I don't receive as much attention as ever. It was only this morning that Captain Howard brought me a beautiful bouquet of the rarest flowers, and he was making me such a pretty speech about Cupidon and Venus, when that stupid Mr. Lawson came in, and interrupted him. I am sure he was going to propose also.”

“And you would have refused him also, in your wisdom, I suppose ?”

“Perhaps—very probably. I like the Count de Mauriac better, cousin Octavie." " It remains to be seen if the Count de Mauriac likes


well enough to marry you, Madeleine. I have not had an opportunity of sounding him yet, but I will now, for I can approach the subject by telling him of your having refused the Scotch earl.”

This was a bit of gossip that Octavie had not resolution enough to keep to herself. She hinted it to one or two persons first, told it without any reserve to Colonel Murray, and asked Captain Howard if he had not heard the affair from Alfred or Agnes. She mentioned it to her waiting-maid, who retailed it to the servants of the hotel, and in a very short time all Spa knew of poor Lord Eskdale's discomfiture.

[ocr errors]


The last person to hear it was Mrs. Percival; the fact was communicated to her by an old lady who resided in the same hotel, and who spent most of her evenings at the gaming-table, but even there, while winning and losing, she had ears for gossip.

It is astonishing how universal is the passion for gossip! Idle gossip about people with whom we have, in many cases, nothing to do. This is certainly a flaw in the human mind; but how is it to be mended ?

When the old lady who patronised the rouge-et-noir and roulette tables spoke to Mrs. Percival of her sister's rejection of Lord Eskdale, Agnes said that she must be under a mistake, as she had not heard of any proposal on the part of that gentleman. But the old lady insisted it was true, and gave as her authority Octavie's most particular friend, a lady from the south of France, who had been told it by Madeleine's cousin, to whom she herself had conımunicated the matter.

Still Agnes would not believe it. She thought it right, however, to mention the report to her sister, and greatly astonished and not a little hurt she was, when Madeleine admitted the truth of the story, and told her that Lord Eskdale had left Spa in consequence of her having refused him.

“How was it, Madeleine, that you did not tell me of this ?” she said. “ It would have been but natural that you should have spoken to me before you decided on giving up such excellent prospects. Lord Eskdale's title is his least recommendation; he is a very amiable and well-principled young man, he would have been a kind protector to you, and a most estimable companion through life. I am very, very sorry that you have thrown away such a chance of a good and happy marriage. You consulted Octavie, I suppose. I am surprised she should have advised you to refuse Lord Eskdale ; for she has spoken of him to me in terms of approbation, and signified her wish that he would think of you."

" I did not consult Octavie, sister ; I consulted,” she added, colouring violently, “nobody but Alfred. Have you not often told me that I could not do better than ask his advice in everything of any consequence ?"

“Yes, certainly I have. But if you consulted Alfred, I hardly think he would have recommended or approved of your refusing the Scotch earl.”

“He did, though; ask himself.”

“Why did he give you this advice? I do not at all understand what could be his reason. “ Ask him that, too-he may


There is no use for either you or Octavie to be groaning about that Lord Eskdale, and scolding me. Octavie had better run after him to Brussels, and try to secure him for herself. She has quite as good a chance for Eskdale as for De Mauriac, whom I begin to fancy she is dreaming of getting for a husband. De Mauriac, indeed! As if he would marry an old widow like her even though she is rich !"

“ Probably you think he would prefer you ?" said Agnes.

Madeleine only nodded her head, and sang the first verse of the pretty French chansonnette :

“Ma Ninette a quatorze ans,
Trois mois quelque chose;
Son teint est un vrai printemps,
Sa bouche une rose."


Agnes could not help smiling at the gay girl, though she regretted her levity. She asked her, however, if she had been boasting of Lord Eskdale's offer to any one, for unless told by herself or Alfred it could not have been known. Of course Madeleine confessed that she had told Octavie, but added, that she had not expected that she would go

about proclaiming it to every one, which, nevertheless, was an untruth on her part, for it was just what she expected and wished to be done.

Agnes next applied to Alfred to know why he had advised Madeleine to refuse Lord Eskdale, and why she had not been told of his offer. She said it was rather awkward for her to hear of it first from a total stranger.

Mr. Percival excused himself by declaring that he thought Madeleine would have told her; which was not the case, for he well knew she had not mentioned the matter to her sister. As to the advice, which he admitted having given, he said that as Madeleine had hinted—indeed, led him to believe that she liked another better, he feared urging her to accept the Scotch nobleman. He thought Lord Eskdale was an exceedingly good-natured, but rather soft young man, not one who would be able to acquire any influence over such a girl as Madeleine; that, as Agnes knew, she was very light-headed, and had no idea of right and wrong, and he was afraid, if she had married him, and become tired, as she assuredly would have done, of leading a humdrum life in Scotland, she might, on the occasion of a visit to London or Paris, have followed her mother's example, and eloped with some roué or other, thus bringing further disgrace upon her family.

“Aggy, dear,” he added, "your sister has not your prudence and good principles, and had she married a man she did not care for, Heaven only knows what might have happened."

" True, dear Alfred,” replied Agnes. “ Poor Madeleine is very foolish, and perhaps very faulty. But I cannot help thinking, that if she had married so estimable a young man as Lord Eskdale, a match with whom would have gratified her silly vanity, she might have gone on well in the future. However, there is no use of regretting what cannot now be helped. And I am quite sure you gave her what you considered the best advice.”

While this colloquy was taking place between Alfred and Agnes, an other conversation respecting Madeleine was going on between Octavie and the Count de Mauriac.

Octavie was, as she had promised, sounding him about his matrimonial intentions towards her cousin,

“She is a very pretty and very charming girl, count, and I really think that, as far as so young a woman is able to do so, she fully appreciates your superior qualities. She would be stupid and blind indeed, if she did not."

The count bowed, and looked rather pleased. “ You do pot, perhaps, know that she has just refused that Scotch milord, the Earl of Eskdale. Why did she do that?-evidently because another has won her heart, and, though I must not betray a confidence, perhaps I may hint—at least, I may leave it to you to conjecture-whó has done this."

“I shall be very sorry if such be the case, madame," replied the Count de Mauriac—" very sorry. I have, to speak frankly, no intention

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

of marrying Mademoiselle Stuart, and I should consider it dishonourable to endeavour to win her affection merely for the gratification of my vanity.” “ But

you have paid her a good deal of attention." “I have danced with her often, and talked nonsense to her sometimes; that is the extent of what you call my attentions. She is a beautiful dancer, and speaks two or three languages, but these accomplishments are not quite enough in my eyes. If her sister, that charming Madame Percival, had been a widow, I would much rather have married her.”

“Would you marry a widow ?” exclaimed Octavie, slightly blushing, and casting down her eyes.

“ Certainly. I would much rather marry a woman who knows the world—a woman who has some savoir faire—than a raw, inexperienced girl just let loose from a convent or a pension. I should much prefer to such demoiselles a pretty, pleasant, clever widow. But nothing would induce me to make the daughter and pupil of Madame Stuart my wife. Mademoiselle is too like her mother to suit me."

“But Agnes Percival is also Madame Stuart's daughter."

“Not educated by her, however--not initiated into all the corruption of a bad, though fashionable, set in Paris. No, madame; as regards that little Madeleine, 'le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle,' I would not mind taking her as the companion of a tour for two or three months, but make her Countess de Mauriac-never! I hope I have not offended you,

chère dame; that would distress me very much,” he added, as he took Octavie's hand and kissed it.

The count had only to look in Octavie’s face to see that she was anything but displeased with him. Her advocacy of Madeleine's claims no, not claims exactly, but her expectations, based on the Count de Mauriac's attentions-had elicited that he did not object to widows; and this was rather gratifying information to the wealthy and pretty widow, who was willing to become herself a countess.

It was somewhat unpleasant to convey to Madeleine the intelligence that the French count had no serious thoughts of her, but it had to be done, and Octavie nerved herself to the task. She told Madeleine that De Mauriac admired her very much, but that he would not marry the daughter of Madame Stuart, who had made herself so notorious in Paris.

"It is a great pity,” she said, “ Madeleine, that you did not accept Milord Eskdale, who did not care a straw about your mother's conduct; it was very foolish of

“ I could not help it, my dear cousin,” replied Madeleine. “You do not know all. Let it drop. The Count de Mauriac may marry any stupid, purblind, priest-ridden old woman he chooses ; I don't care what he does not I.”

But Madeleine did, for the first time in her life, feel mortified, and she did not care to remain longer at Spa.

It was also about the close of the season ; the Italian marquis had gone, the Dutch baron was going, half the hotels were being dismantled and shut up, and Mr. and Mrs. Percival determined to take a roundabout route, and visit Paris on their







MR. DICKENS once observed, in one of his earlier and most popularnot to say, more popular-works, that although to restless and ardent minds, morning may be the fitting season for exertion and activity, it is not always at that time that hope is strongest, or the spirit most sanguine and buoyant. In trying and doubtful positions, he said, -use, custom, a steady contemplation of the difficulties which surround us, and a familiarity with them, imperceptibly diminish our apprehensions and beget comparative indifference, if not a vague and reckless confidence in some relief, the means or nature of which we care not to foresee. “But when we come, fresh, upon such things in the morning, with that dark and silent gap between us and yesterday; with every link in the brittle chain of hope, to rivet afresh; our hot enthusiasm subdued, and cool calm reason substituted in its stead; doubt and misgiving revive.

“As the traveller sees farthest, by day, and becomes aware of rugged mountains and trackless plains which the friendly darkness had shrouded from his sight and mind together, so, the wayfarer in the toilsome path of human life, sees, with each returning sun, some new obstacle to surmount, some new height to be attained. Distances stretch out before him which, last night, were scarcely taken into account, and the light which gilds all nature with its cheerful beams, seems but to shine upon the weary obstacles that yet lie strewn between him and the grave.

At night, as Mr. Procter sings,—in verses set to music by the Chevalier Neukomm, and familiar to the drawing-rooms of town, long long ago, long ago,

At night all wrongs are right,

And all perils of life grow smooth;.
Then why cometh the fierce daylight,

When fancy is bright as truth.t At night, particularly, says the author of a hardly appreciated novel, " and in a scene of excitement, we remember with tenfold pleasure that which has pleased us, and we do so without dwelling on the possibly attendant evils, however they may occur to us at another time.”! But, in the words of another of the craft, , “ How sick and tremulous, the next morning, is the spirit that has dared so much, only the night before!"S

It is interesting, says an essayist on the subject of Early Rising:|| to reflect upon the change that comes over a man's mind on waking up early in the morning after what is called a good night's rest.

He re

* Nicholas Nickleby, ch. liii.

Songs by Barry Cornwall, “Midnight Rhymes.”
Violet, or the Danseuse, ch. vii.
Hawthorne, Transformation, ch. xx.
See an essay with that title in No. 334 of the Saturday Review.

« EelmineJätka »