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was on this occasion. He looked at Lady Roxeter as if he could have knelt down and worshipped her. And Sir Berkley Greaves, an old gentleman who sat next to her-by the by, the same worthy personage who had come forward so busily in the affair of the cards-proposed that we should drink Lord Bellamy's health in a bumper, and that the ladies should not be excused. And this being done with hearty good-will, every one turned to look at the other blooming and sparkling cherub in my arms.
This nursery-scene was not prolonged more than a few minutes. The children were speedily dismissed, but not so the impression which had been made upon the company. For from that time Mr. Helmly became a warm and open advocate of Lady Roxeter. In a conversation which I had with him many years afterwards, he told me that he dated the commencement of his better state from that moment of glorious triumph of Christian principles and tender affecting feelings of the affectionate stepdame.
I shall take occasion in this place to give Mr. Helmly's own account of the case.
“I never,” said he, “had seen religion, excepting in connexion with low and coarse manners. I had never viewed an exhibition of its effects among the young, the lovely, and the elegant. I had always associated it, in my own mind, with low life and vulgarity. Lady Roxeter had always inspired me with respect, and I had thought her beautiful; but when I saw how she had been enabled to triumph over all unkind and selfish feelings in her conduct towards her stepson; when I read in the manner of the child the various private kindnesses by which his young heart had been drawn towards her; I began to see that there must be something more in religion than I had conceived; and I resolved, in order to satisfy my mind on this subject, that I would read my Bible with attention; that, in short, I would seek into the mine from which I had seen such treasures drawn. And having received this desire, I trust from above, I began to read my Bible, and then to pray over it, and, after awhile, to withdraw myself from society, And circumstances favouring me, I became more and
mure secluded from the company which had formerly injured me. And thus, from step to step, I was conducted to the knowledge of the truth; to utter self-abhorrence and self-loathing, and to an entire hopelessness of being ever able to make up for the evil I had done in my parish, and to you, my pupil. And then again Lady Roxeter became my leading star, by guiding me to the Saviour; and by showing me where true peace and happiness were to be found."
Such was Mr. Helmly's confession.--And now to return to my own immediate story.
I had almost forgotten to say that the first introduction of the children after dinner had taken place on a Sunday. After coffee in the drawing-room this same evening, cards were proposed, as usual, by my sister. I had vowed never again to play for more than a certain sum, but I had not forsworn cards entirely. I was accordingly quite ready to join the proposed party; and was therefore both surprised and disappointed when I found that Lady Seaforth could not muster a party. Lady Roxeter had walked out of the room the moment the cards were called for. Mr. Helmly had done the same, and Sir Berkeley declined cutting in.
My sister looked amazed, but commanded herself till the company had taken their leave; and then bursting forth in high indignation, “Roxeter,” she said, “are you become a bigot since your illness ?" But, not waiting for an answer, she added, “I dare say you are quite right: but I do beg that you will be judicious, and not expose yourself by too hurried a conversion. Learn prudence, and foresight, and discretion from Lady Roxeter! Really, I never was convinced of her sagacity till this day! A careless, thoughtless, straight-forward creature, like myself, must bow profoundly to such marvellous wisdom and foresight!"
“Please to explain yourself, Lady Seaforth ; you are as enigmatical as the sphinx," I said.
“Not at all so,” she replied; “I am far from enigmatical ; I am too straight-forward. But what could be more wise and prudent in the second lady of Lord Roxeter than to lose no time in endeavouring to gain the affections of the son of the first, the heir of the honours
and estates of his father; and, by so doing, to win to herself the suffrages of the whole world ?"
Why, surely, Juliana," I exclaimed, “you cannot suppose that Lady Roxeter had such views as these when she took the part of a dying baby? No one supposed that the child would have lived when she took him in hand.”
“ A dying baby!" repeated Juliana;" “ baby, indeed! a boy of two years old, and one who had exhibited the constitution of a Hercules! As to the distortion of his back, deformed persons are commonly known to outlive all their generation. Show me a deformed person, and I will show you one who is likely to outlive us all.”
I stormed and raved at her; but I nevertheless imbibed so much of the poison she desired to insinuate as the most malevolent person could have wished; and when I next met Lady Roxeter, it was in an ill humour.
As the summer advanced, we filled our house; and in the autumn came two actresses from town, who set us all on fire for theatrical amusements. We had also a visit from a Madame de Clarcie, a widow of a certain age, with whom my sister had formed an intimacy in Paris; and who, by her flatteries, her follies, and her levities, obtained an influence over me which would hardly be believed by persons who have not felt the same sort of fascination.
When this lady first rose on the hemisphere of Hartlands, and was brought in contrast with Lady Roxeter, I should as easily have anticipated the greatest miracle as have allowed myself to suppose it could have been possible that I should have been drawn aside from my allegiance to my lovely wife by such a creature as this. But the downward road is easy. I had given a rein to my evil passions; I found it more soothing to these to hearken to the flatteries of this vicious woman, than to raise
my sentiments and feelings to the standard of Lady Roxeter; and the small and almost imperceptible separation, which at first existed between us, was become, before the end of this season an almost impassable gulf. Yet I could not perceive how far lady Roxeter was aware of my coldness. Her manner was always calm and polite when in company; and when we were alone
together, she was affectionate; but it was evidently the affection of one who had a large share of fear mingled in the composition.
Strange to say, this manner did not please me, because it left me nothing to complain of; and, having opened my mind on the subject of her behaviour to my sister, adding, that I would rather be quarrelled with than be treated with such entire politeness and propriety; she replied, that I might as well make myself perfectly contented, that Lady Roxeter was what she had first conceived-a mere wax doll—a quiet sort of domestic animal, who, provided she had meat, and drink, and clothing, wanted nothing else, and had no other hopes or desires.
“How is this?" I said ; "did you not, but a short time since tell me that she was long-sighted, and never lost the view of her own interest ?»
My sister laughed, and replied, " That must be a dull animal indeed which cannot discern where the best pasture is. But indeed, brother, you must not consult me on these subjects ; if you cannot manage your own wife, I am sure I cannot do it for you. And, really, I think you ought to be very well content: a woman who was more attached to your fine face would not sit down so quietly and so calmly to witness all your vagaries and flirtations as poor Lady Roxeter does. So make the best of it, and remember that you might be worse off. And come, now,” she added, “ let us consider what piece we shall act when the whole of our party is assembled. Shall it be “The Distressed Husband ?? -I think there is such a comedy-and you shall act the hero; and fret, and fume, and stamp, and rant, because you cannot put your wife out of humour, or induce her to forget her manners.
“Pshaw!" I said, “no more of this nonsense !" and I looked in a large mirror, near which I was standing, and added, “Well, if I cannot find the means of attaching my wife to me, I need not die of despair; I am not quite such a wretch as to apprehend that others may not like me:” and thus ended our conversation.
From that period, I may reckon that I plunged more and more deeply into every species of dissipation. We converted a very large dining-room into a theatre, and fixed on the first play which we were to act. It was
"The School for Scandal;" and I, of course, was the hero. We also chose a farce, in which was a pretty, simple, female character, a sort of peasante; and Madame de Clarcie insisted upon it, that Lady Roxeter would be the very thing, if she would condescend to take the part. My sister immediately said that she was quite certain that no one would be able to make her use such condescension; and I immediately asserted that I both could and would. My sister dared me to it; and we made a bet of five guineas on the subject, my sister being bound in honour not to interfere.
I was half sorry when I had used this bravado ; fearing that I should have some difficulty in executing what I had undertaken, though I never doubted my ultimate success. However, I lost no time; but, being told that Lady Roxeter had walked out into the shrubbery, I followed her, with the farce in my hand: and soon found her alone with a book, in a retired root-house. She smiled when she saw me, and made some remarks on the beautiful tints of autumn shed from a wood scene, over a wide piece of water directly opposite.
After some indifferent conversation, I opened my errand to her, told her that we had arranged all our characters for our representation, and depended on her for that of Phebe in the farce.
She heard me through in silence, but I could not see her face on account of her bonnet; and then answered, “When a husband's judgment is opposed to his expressed wishes, how ought a wife to act ?"
“What do you mean, Lady Roxeter,” I asked.
“That the Earl of Roxeter," she replied, cannot possibly judge it right for his wife to take a part in a comedy among professed actresses, and before a large audience; and that therefore lady will serve him best in the end by declining so to do, though he may have been persuaded to make the request.”
"Am I to understand by this, Lady Roxeter,” I said, “that you will not acquiesce with my wishes ?"
“Not will not,” she answered, “but cannot."
“Let me tell you, that I insist upon it,” I replied. “If you will point out any one pursuit of mine in which you do not refuse to take a part, I will excuse you in this