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very unwilling to play at cards to-day, which is Friday, lest I should have to play again to-morrow, which is Saturday, and the next day which is Sunday. And as she uttered the last word, she looked at Mr. Helmly, who had the grace to blush; for it must be understood that our card-tables were in as much requisition on a Sunday evening as on every other day of the week.
I could not restrain myself on receiving this affront; and I spoke with violence, and said some very unbecoming things, of which she took no notice; and, as no one answered, I found myself awkwardly situated : for I scarcely know any thing so provoking as the adversary failing in the midst of a wordy quarrel: a man feels so like a fool beating and buffeting the empty air with loud words, especially when he knows that every one present thinks him wrong. And thus
had made myself ridiculous, and my fair adversary was on the point of gaining a complete triumph; when, like a loyal wife, in the true spirit of conjugal submission, she rose before all the company, came up close to me, entreated my pardon, acknowledged she had spoken unadvisedly, and begged me, as a favour, to excuse her joining in our card-parties, as she had an unconquerable distaste for the amusement, though she was far from wishing to interfere with the opinions of others.
An old gentleman who happened to be present, immediately concurred with her in an open way, while all the rest, no doubt, did the same in their hearts, and said, "Come, come, my Lord, acknowledge yourself conquered in the way which women only ought to conquer, by submission. Grant the boon so humbly asked. Give your hand to the fairest of fair solicitors; and, since she pleads incapacity, excuse her from learning to read those volumes whose author is said not to have been of the best report; and thank your good fortune which has betowed on you a lady who loves her needle more than the dice-box.”
I was excessively angry, because I had, I felt, played a foolish part in the affair : however, I made the best of it, shook hands with Lady Roxeter, and told the old gentleman that he must now look to his own safety, for the penalty of making up matrimonial quarrels is well
known to be a union of man and wife against the peacemaker.
This scene was concluded by every one present sitting down to cards, with the exception of Lady Roxeter; and, from that period, this subject was never again agitated between her and myself. For I really thought it was quite as well that she was not fond of cards; which, in unskilful hands, and, indeed, in skilful ones, often becomes a very expensive amusement, as I had, indeed, frequently felt.
During the spring of this year I went to London with my sister, being called there by business. Lady Roxeter did not accompany us, on account of Theodore whom she was nursing: indeed, to say the truth, I did not invite her. We proposed staying only a fortnight, but were tempted to remain there week after week till we had completed more than six; and a most gay and wild life did I then lead. I renewed my acquaintance with some ladies of the theatre whom I had formerly known, and invited them to Hartlands in the autumn. I attended certain clubs, where I gambled high ; and had a violent quarrel, which my sister pressed me to settle by a challenge and a duel, that terminated by my being wounded and brought home in a miserable condition to my house, while my adversary fled the country.
Thus in six weeks I ran a complete career of folly, and had nearly lost my life; and, when all was done, I found my sister a miserable comforter on my bed of pain, and my own thoughts still worse. She tried, however, to reconcile me to what I had done, and told me, that, as a man of honour, I could not put up with the affront I had received. But I drove her out of my room, and would have driven away my own thoughts also, but that was not so easy.
In the mean time, the news of my vile conduct, and of my wound, having reached Hartlands, Lady Roxeter procured a nurse for her little boy, and appeared, on the third morning after the duel, standing like a ministering spirit by my bedside.
The scenes which then took place might fill a volume. Instead of the reproaches I had deserved from my wife,
I met with nothing but kindness; and, when she was informed of the losses I had met with in play, she never uttered one murmur; but pressed me to give up my house in town, at least, till these losses were made up. She even succeeded in inducing me so to do, and adopted the necessary means for effecting it. Shé reconciled me also to my sister; and prevailed on me to write to the gentleman I had engaged with in the duel, to entreat a hearty reconciliation. The happiest few weeks I had ever known were those which ensued when all these arrangements were made, although I was still confined to my room; while the influence which my lovely wife had acquired in the hour of pain, still remained in its full force; while I felt subdued by anguish and weakness ; while the world was excluded from my thoughts, and my sister unable to whisper her dark counsels into my
The only thing that annoyed me at this time was, that Lady Roxeter would be constantly endeavouring to draw my attention to the subject of religion; and, though she used all the address in her power to make it acceptable to me, yet it was not likely that she should succeed, for my heart was not prepared for its reception; and though I did not show all the disgust I felt, yet I had not at that time those renewed feelings which would have enabled me to receive spiritual things. Still, however, what she then attempted to do was not entirely lost upon me. I apprehend that from that time I had a clearer view of what religion is, and was able to trace the actions of religious people more readily to their motives; and to perceive that there was a sort of connexion between them and their conduct, which I had not before observed; for I had been in the habit of indulging the opinion, that religion was either the effect of caprice, of sourness and disappointment, or of slavish fear.
At length it was judged that I might appear abroad with safety. We took leave of our town-house, which we had let for the term of seven years, and commenced our journey to Hartlands, whither my sister had gone a few days before us.
And now what I have next to say, will probably surprise my reader more than all I have before related. I was no sooner arrived at Hartlands than Lady Roxeter VOVII.
began to lose her influence again, and my sister to recover hers.
I shall account for this by saying that my sister's influence was in unison with all my old habits, while that of Lady Roxeter was in opposition to them. I was environed also at Hartlands by a set of people who from childhood had been accustomed to administer to my depraved tastes. There never, perhaps, was a set of worse servants in any nobleman's family than those who surrounded me; the tenants, the villagers, and the very cottagers partook largely of the depravity which proceeded from the Hall. The rector of the parish was an infidel; the visiters only augmented the tide of folly and dissipation; and all having something to hide,
had some secret motive for keeping me unacquainted with their proceedings.
By reason of these circumstances, I had scarcely recovered my health and strength before every thing had fallen again into its usual routine. My sister was become lady paramount, and Lady Roxeter comparatively a stranger to me. Whole days frequently passed in which I saw her only at meals; and then merely saw her; for, as I before remarked, she seldom took much part in the conversation. Still, when I remembered her sate kindness, my heart would sometimes smite me; but my self-reproaches had no consistent and lasting effect. If sometimes they induced me to lavish tokens of affection upon her, they more frequently induced me to be rude and irritable towards her. It was natural for her then to withdraw from me, and the distance became daily greater between us.
I must not, however, omit to mention one circumstance which happened about this time. I had been quite enraptured with the growth and improvement of my second boy on my arrival from town; he was then eight or nine months old, and as beautiful a baby as ever had been seen. I was proud of him, I was anxious that every one should admire him. And the first day after our arrival, being in expectation of a large party at dinner, I desired that he might be brought down when the cloth was drawn.
“You will permit me, my love, to direct that Augustus shall be brought with him," said Lady Roxeter.
I started at this suggestion, and it was with great difficulty that she could get me to acquiesce. At length I considered that the boy could not be kept back for ever; and that, perhaps, the present was the best time to introduce him; when, if there was any thing singular in the elder brother, the younger would be present to draw off the attention of the company.
I had not seen Augustus, even at a distance, for several months; and I had no idea what kind of appearance he would make.
The hour at length came, the dessert and wine were set on the table, the door was opened, and two neat young women appeared, one of whom carried the infant, and the other led his elder brother. My sister's son, a great boy at that time of five or six years of age, finished the procession. My eye instantly fixed on the Lilliputian Lord Bellamy; the little man with the great name; and I saw an exceedingly delicate child, with features perfectly regular, and a complexion of almost transparent purity; but having, in a slight degree, something of that appearance which commonly attends persons who are deformed. He was at that time in his fourth year, but looked much younger. He was dressed with minute care, in a sort of robe richly trimmed; and his hair hung in bright golden clusters around his face and neck. He seemed a timid child; and his first motion, on entering the door and beholding the company, was to turn back and endeavour to make his escape; but, on being intercepted by his attendant, and, at the same moment seeing Lady Roxeter, he darted towards her like an arrow from a bow, and with the activity of a squirrel had mounted on her lap before a moment had expired. There, as from a tried place of security, he gazed around on the company, and then, looking up to his mother, his whole face lighted up with a smile which would not have disgraced a cherub. It was a scene which every one felt. The hardest hearts in the company were softened, with the exception of one only; and the blushes which rose in the cheeks of the beautiful stepdame, with the tears that stole into her lovely eyes, seemed to say, “ This moment pays for all my cares and fatigues.”
I never saw Mr. Helmly so taken by surprise as he