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particular. But, without further words, do you or do you not intend, in this instance, to set my commands at defiance ?"
She made no answer. I used some rough words, and bade her speak out. “I cannot obey you in this particular,” she replied. “And wherefore, Madam ?-out with it all."
“You did not expect that I should, my Lord: you would have been surprised if I had,” she answered. And then, bursting into tears, “Oh my husband ! my dear, dear' husband! when, when will you see me as I am ? when shall we be again as we once were ?"
“When you know how to obey, Madam,” I said , and understand this I shall judge of your love and obedience by your acquiescence in the wishes at this time expressed by me. Let me know, this evening, what your determination is."
“If I alter my mind, my Lord," she replied, “be assured that I will inform you; but if I am silent, do not attribute it to obstinacy, or to want of affection. I know that I owe you the duty of obedience; and, when your · commands do not interfere with higher obligations, you never shall have reason to complain of me.”
“ And pray,” I asked, “what higher obligations have you than those which you owe to me?"
“My duty to God,” she answered, calmly, “is superior to any I can owe to man."
“And pray,” I asked, “what sin is there in taking a part in an innocent farce ?"
“None, my Lord," she replied, “none that I know of; but there is a sin in disguising our Christian profession by inconsistent conduct."
“ And pray,” I demanded, “who is to judge of what is inconsistent in my wife? and who has a right to make comments on her conduct, if I am satisfied."
Consult your own judgment, my Lord," she answered, “and you will at once see that I could not obey you in this instance, without lowering myself, not only as a Christian, but as your wife, and the mother of your children."
“Then perhaps you think that I am lowering myself by taking a part in the proposed representation ?”
She was silent. "Speak !" I said : "why don't you speak ?! “I will then, since you desire it,” she answered; and, without further hesitation, she again pressed me closelý on the subject of religion; intimating to me, that it was of no use for her to differ with me on minor points, when our whole views of life were entirely different.
I was provoked at this, and asked her what she meant.
She answered me with that sort of calm decision which indicates a mind made up to endure all consequences; and then proceeded to declare where our designs in life wholly disagreed. She made it appear, that it was her earnest desire to promote the real honour and welfare, not only of the family, but of all dependent on it, or influenced by it; and that she considered real prosperity consisted, not in the favour of man, but of God. And then, without regarding my frequent attempts to interrupt her, or heeding my unmannerly comments, she proceeded to give me such a view of the only way appointed to render sinful man acceptable to God, that notwithstanding my determined wickedness, I was struck with the beauty of the scheme of salvation, and its wonderful adaptation to the wants of a man; and for a moment the idea passed across my mind that I would become a Christian some time or other. But the thought was momentary; my convictions passed away as a flash of lightning in a summer evening; and, jealous of my authority as a husband, I broke out with violence, called my wife a bigoted fool, and walked away in such a humour as I should find it difficult to describe.
I was gloriously sulky at dinner; and my sister augmented my ill-humour by whispering, “You are trembling, I see, for your authority as a husband."
In the drawing-room, after dinner, we were very busy with our theatrical arrangements, and the question arose with the two actresses, who were present, respecting the character of Phebe; on which, Madame de Clarcie addressing Lady Roxeter, every one present united in entreating her to undertake it. She disengaged herself from these entreaties by saying that she should not disgrace them by her gaucherie; and then suddenly quitted the room, and appeared no more that evening in the
drawing-room; but I sought her in her own apartments, and we had a very lively discussion; the result of which was, that she told me plainly she would not do what she thought decidedly wrong: though, to escape my anger, which, she added, was what she dreaded more than that of any other earthly thing, and next in degree to the reproaches of her own conscience. We parted mutually dissatisfied. I left her in tears—hastened to my sisterthrew my five guineas into her lap--and swore, that, if my wife would not grant me her obedience, she should never again be the object of my affection.
There was from that time for many long months, as it were a zone of ice between me and my wife; and though she sometimes endeavoured to melt the ice by her smiles, yet those forced smiles, proceeding from a saddened heart, were wholly inefficient even to thaw the bare exterior of the hardened surface.
In the mean time, our theatricał preparations went on, and we had several dressed rehearsals preparatory to our public nights, when we expected large parties of the neighbouring gentry. Whether Lady Roxeter was or was not present at these rehearsals I know not, and never inquired. I was too busy with my own concerns, and too sullen to ask questions; but I was somewhat curious to know whether she would honour us with her company at the public representations. But fortune, as I profanely said, favoured her on this occasion ; for Lady Daurien was taken suddenly ill, and required the immediate attendance of her granddaughter, who set off directly on receiving the summons, and remained several days at her grandfather's.
During her absence, we not only gave two admired representations at Hartlands, but we undertook to represent the same comedy and farce in the nearest town, for the benefit of a strolling company there, which had lent us some assistance in our exhibition at Hartlands; and we even went so far as to have a bill printed, expressing such and such characters by a gentleman, and such and such by a lady from Drury-Lane, &c. &c.; my sister, however, having the prudence to employ one of the London ladies in her place.
It was the day after this bill was printed, yet some
days still before the exhibition was to take place, that, in riding over the park, I saw Lady Roxeter's carriage driving in from her grandfather's. The children had been sent, with their nurses, to fetch her, and were with her in the coach. As soon as she saw me, she stopt the carriage, and alighted, begging me to do the same. Her air was sad, perhaps the more so from the impression of the scene of sickness in which she had passed the few last days, but she appeared composed and determined. She looked, as I before observed, like one who had made up her mind to the performance of a certain duty at all hazards. I would have passed her by with a simple inquiry after her health ; but she would not be so put off.
I am particularly anxious to speak with you, my Lord,” she said: “I request, that I may for once be heard; I have something of importance to say.”
I sprang from my horse, and gave the bridle to my groom, and stood till the carriage, &c. had passed on.She then, laying her hand on my arm, began a very earnest and affectionate expostulation with me on what I was about to do, viz. to appear in public in the character of a stage-player. It may be easily supposed what she said ; every reader may understand what might be urged against an act of this kind in any man calling himself a gentleman. I attempted several times to in. terrupt her; but she would not hear me till she had said all she designed to say; and then, turning from me with inimitable grace, and wiping away those tears she had endeavoured to repress, she indulged an agony of grief, while her sobs seemed almost to choke her.
I stood like a fool; I attempted to speak, but did not succeed. At length, rousing myself from the astonishment which this scene had excited, “ Lady Roxeter," I said, “ you are jealous.”
No," she replied, “no, Theodore, I am not jealous. Well I know that not one of these women with whom you associate possesses that place in your affections which your wife has. You may be cold to me; but it is not because any other woman has your heart. This I know, that you cannot cease to honour and respect me until I cease to deserve that honour and respect."
You speak with confidence, Lady Roxeter,” I said.
“I speak as I feel," she answered: “I am not jealous."
“You are mistaken,” I replied; "you are jealous, and it is of Madame de Clarcie."
Something like scorn sat upon her beautiful lip, which passed away immediately, and gave way to a milder expression."No," she said, “I am not jealous of poor Madame de Clarcie; jealousy and pity will not unite in the same breast. I pity that poor woman, and I wish her well. But it little matters what I feel; only this once hear me, my Theodore, and hearken to my pleadings:" and she laid her hand on my arm again, and looked at me earnestly.
At that moment, my sister and a party of ladies appeared in sight, advancing along an avenue. I started from Lady Roxeter, motioned to my groom to lead up my horse, mounted in all speed, and tried to forget all that my affectionate counsellor had said to me; neither did I permit her pleadings to have any effect in preventing my appearance in public in the character of Charles Surface.
And now, having entered somewhat fully on the events of one period of my life, I must pass over some succeeding years more succinctly.
In the spring of the next year Lady Roxeter brought me a daughter, whom we called Laura; and from that time for many years I scarcely spent two months together at home. I visited London, Brighton, Paris, and other gay places; and, when at home, had my house overflowing with company. But my fortune, owing to my two marriages, being almost princely, (for, soon after Laura's birth, Lady Roxeter came to her whole fortune, by the death of her grandfather and grandmother,) I contrived never to exceed my annual income; though perhaps I rather owed this to the prudence and moderation of Lady Roxeter than to my own care, for I spared nothing which I thought might minister to my personal indulgence.
In the mean time my sister commonly moved about with me; having no other settled home but Hartlands, where she never liked to be when I was absent. Her son was sent, soon after the birth of Laura, to a public
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