Page images

“I don't say so," replied Juliana; your property has been greatly improved by your marriages. Fortune bestowed on you a face and person, which have done great things for you with the ladies. And it is well for your son that it has been so; for I much question whether he will ever win the hearts of rich and noble ladies. Though to be sure," she added, laughing, "we women are capricious creatures; and, as the fairy tale informs us, the beautiful princess who fell in love with Riquet a la Houpe, became so blind, in consequence of her passion, that she even made it a question how her prince could ever have deserved an epithet so ungraceful.”

This vile conversation was not without its influence; and, though it operated against my own wife, I had á sort of pleasure in believing that Lady Roxeter was capricious; for an unwarrantable feeling attended me at that time, which was a growing dislike to her, on account of her superior merit.

Lady Roxeter had been much pleased with the physician who attended Lord Bellamy, and, therefore, she begged to be permitted to remain at Hartlands during her confinement, that he might be at hand. Lady Daurien also much wished it, and I, therefore, consented, though my sister opposed the wish; and, within the first year of our marriage, I was the father of a second son, who was pronounced to be as fine a child as ever

He was called Theodore, after me. It was during Lady Roxeter's confinement that I had a very interesting conversation with her. We were together rejoicing over our little son, who lay on his mother's lap, when I put her to the test, by asking, “Do you not now, my dear Mary, regret that there is another to deprive your son of the earldom ?"

“No, my beloved Theodore," she replied: "I would rather obtain the blessing of God for my children than I would leave them a royal diadem. Let us look at the generations of old, and ask if we ever saw the righteous forsaken, or their seed begging their bread; while we find in history examples without end of the sudden and entire destruction of whole families, whose parents have sought only their worldly aggrandizement. Had I been absorbed in selfish and worldy desires for my children,

was seen.

I should not have acted as I have done towards your


“ Then I am to understand, my dear Mary,” I said, playfully, “ that you did as you have done by Lord Bellamy, to bring good luck to your own children. But do you not know that Fortune is blind and capricious, and does not deal out her favours by the rules of justice ?"

“Fortune is blind," she replied: “but the wheels of Providence are full of eyes."

“What do you mean by that?" I answered : “you are enigmatical, Lady Roxeter."

“Am I, my love ?" she replied: “perhaps to some I may be; but not, I hope, to you. All my riddles may, I trust, be easily solved. I wish to have but one rule of action: and I desire to have but one object of supreme pursuit.” And

pray, ," I asked, “what may be this one rule of action of which you speak, Lady Roxeter ?"

“The will of my God,” she answered, solemnly: “I desire to be conformed to that will, and to take it as the rule of all my actions. It was hy the study of the word of God that I learned to look with contempt on worldly honours; and had I desired them for my children, I might have looked with jealousy on your infant son, and might have closed my heart to all his innocent and endearing ways."

“And was it by the same rule of action that you opened your heart to me, my Mary,” I said, profanely enough, “and overlooked all my faults, because of my title and fine person ?"

“I thought you pious when I married you," she answered, with a sigh; « and I was but young.'

“And therefore," I added, “it was not difficult for me to deceive you. Is that what you mean, my dear Mary ?"

The tears started in her eyes; she tried to restrain them, but was unable ; and she threw herself forward into my arms. “O, Theodore !” she said, 66 could I but see you what I wish in this respect, I should be blessed, blessed indeed! Did you but know the misery I endured when I found you were not of the number of those who love their God, who acknowledge their sinfulness, who are willing to accept the offers of redeeming mercy,

you would be sorry for me-for yourself; you would surely reflect on the state of your soul. Perhaps I have done wrong,'

," she continued; “I ought to have spoken to you before on this subject; but I waited some such moment as this to open my heart to you, to beseech-to entreat you to regard your highest interests. O, my Theodore ! be assured you are in the wrong way: you will never find happiness in the pursuits you have chosen; no happiness in this world, nor safety in the next; for you cannot but know yourself to be a sinner; and, as such, you are liable to the divine displeasure; neither can you be ignorant that there are ample means of salvation provided for you.” I attempted to interrupt her, but she proceeded; she would not be interrupted. “We are all sinners,” she added; “ we have all offended; we are all vile. Let us look at the commandments, and inquire which we have not broken. From perfect justice what have we then to hope, but as that justice is connected with the merits of the Saviour? And this is the Saviour on whose glory you cast contempt, my Theodore, and encourage others to do the same; while you live entirely with a view of pleasing self, and utterly regardless of every duty which interferes with that object.”

My ineffectual efforts to interrupt her, seemed to urge her to speak her mind, without waiting to select her expressions; which, probably would have been milder had she not been so urged. I was, however, resolved to hear no more: yet I was not so brutal as to quarrel with her just then, as her infant was not yet a fortnight old; I therefore used what I considered a vast deal of forbearance, tapped her on the cheek, said she had preached a very pretty sermon, and, kissing the boy, and his mother, I arose, looked in the glass, arranged my hair, yawned aloud, and walked out of the room, singing an opera tune as I went along the gallery, to convince my wife that I was not in the least degree impressed by what she had been saying. I, however, met her the next time with a determination to silence her at once, if she attempted another admonition of the same kind.

When lady Roxeter was sufficiently recovered, she appeared again among us, and took the same position

which she had formerly done in the society at Hartlands. What that position exactly was, my reader, no doubt, is desirous of knowing.

The place at the head of the table had, of course, always been given to her, with other distinctions of the same description; but otherwise she seemed to have been considered as a complete cipher; all the visiters regulating their attentions to her by what they saw were paid by me, with the exception only of some of the gentlemen : but the attentions of these she would not admit, beyond what ordinary politeness actually required. It was impossible but that she must have seen and felt the undue influence of my sister; but such was her delicacy respecting her, that for a long time she left me in doubt whether she did see it. She seldom mentioned her name to me; and if she did so, it was without comment or remark. I, however, perceived that she never admitted her to intimacy, never asked her advice, or entered any further into discourse with her than was absolutely necessary. She treated her, however, with invariable respect; and, when Juliana intruded her counsels, heard her with calmness, till she had finished what she had to say, and sometimes thanked her, but never attempted to reason with her, or to enter into any explanation of what she thought would be better to do.

She was perfectly polite to all my visiters, even ceremoniously so; but she declined games of hazard, of which we were very fond, and would take no part in our theatrical amusements. When compelled to hear conversation of an evil tendency, she was silent and grave; and I have seen her look very sad on these occasions; and sometimes she would expostulate with me on the sin of allowing such conversation at my table; reminding me of the dreadful consequences which were likely to ensue from the mode of life which I led ; at the same time pressing upon me the doctrines and duties of religion in a manner most beautifully impressive. But these private exhortations produced no other effect than to induce me to shun her society; which, when she perceived, she used them more sparingly, and, at length, entirely desisted from them. The only person whom I ever heard her reprove with any thing like severity,

was Mr. Helmly, and that on account of his sacred character; and undoubtedly, he was often awed by her presence, and was never so much himself when she was in the room.

My sister hinted to me, that there was great pride and rudeness in Lady Roxeter's refusing to join in our amusements; which induced me on one occasion to urge her to take part in a game of cards. We were in the drawing-room, after tea, and there were no persons present but such as I was very intimate with ;-it was soon after the birth of Theodore;-and when we were cutting in for whist, and my sister held the cards to her, I urged her to take one. She excused herself in a playful way for some minutes, saying, she did not know the cards, and should be obliged to count the spots like a baby. But, on my saying that I insisted upon her doing as I desired, that I would have her act as others did, and not pour contempt on me and my company by singularity, she said, in a low voice to me, Dear Theodore, please to excuse me; do not enforce your commands; I cannot obey; I will give you my reasons at another time.”

"Do you think it a sin to play at cards, Lady Roxeter ?" asked my sister, who had overheard the whisper.

"No," she replied, firmly,“I do not condemn any person who plays; the evil is not in the cards, but in what they may lead to.” And then she added, " I should be much obliged to you, Lady Seaforth, if you would allow me the liberty you take yourself. I do not choose to play.”

I started up from the sofa on which I sat near to her, and, placing myself with my back to the fire, I told her that I did not admire the word choose from the mouth of a married woman; and that I should be obliged to her to explain if it were meant for my ears, or for those of any

other person. She gave me one of those lovely imploring looks which she had sometimes before bestowed upon me: and then smiling, she addressed the company, and said, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you are polite, you will withdraw, and leave my Lord and Lady to fight it out. I feel, Í own, something like the naughty boy, who would not say, A, lest he should have to learn B, and I am

« EelmineJätka »