Page images
PDF
EPUB

school, and we generally saw him twice a year; on which occasions I never failed to predict that he would make his mother's heart ache; a prediction which always excited her mirth, as she took it for a compliment to the boy's spirit.

It was when this boy was in his eleventh year, Lord Bellamy in his ninth, T'heodore in his seventh, and Laura in her sixth, that we all met at Hartlands: after I had been absent on the Continent for many months. It was the Christmas season, and my sister had suggested to me that I ought to take the education of my sons under consideration. As to Lord Bellamy,” she said, “there is still about him a tendency to deformity, and he would probably be made a laughing-stock, at a public school; you may as well let him stay at home with his stepmother for the present, and learn to hem cambric. But you must not suffer our noble Theodore—your own boy-to be ruined; you must be steady, brother, in this particular, and let him go from home immediately.” She then mentioned a place near town, where Lord Seaforth had been for two years, and promised to arrange every thing for me respecting the school; “that is,” she added, with a smile, “if I could make his doting mother consent to part with him.”

This conversation took place on our journey from town to Hartlands; and I promised my sister that I would act upon her suggestions.

Lady Roxeter had long been accustomed to see me go and return without using any expressions of kindness towards herself. We were, indeed, become a perfectly fashionable husband and wife; though, to do her justice, all the coldness was on my side. I felt I had injured her, and her presence made me very uncomfortable; but I was too proud to betray my feelings. Every advance, therefore, which she made towards an expression of affection was met with indifference; and all her kindness driven back upon herself

. I can hardly conceive a more determinately cruel conduct than mine, and that for such a succession of years as might, it would be thought, have worn out the affection of any woman.

On the occasion of this Christmas meeting, there would have been some little revivals of affection; our

children would have drawn us a little nearer to each other; for there never were two finer children than Theodore and Laura, or more simple and amiable little creatures than they were at that time; had I not, almost immediately on my arrival, informed Lady Roxeter that it was my determination to send Theodore to school. “He is a fine fellow, Lady Roxeter,” I said; "and, so far, it is all well. But he must now leave home; women do not know how to manage boys—they make perfect milksops of them. At Theodore's age, I myself should have ventured to mount any horse in my father's stud, and could out-bully any groom in his stable; and that was, because I was left to go where I would, and say what I would, and had no kind of petticoat discipline exercised over me. To school, therefore, Theodore must go: it is a decided thing; and my sister takes him to town when she returns with Seaforth.”

Lady Roxeter was mute when she first heard this decree; and then, when able to speak, she begged and entreated for a little delay; suggested other plans, and even wept; yea, she would have knelt, I am sure, had there been a chance of success.

But I was determined, and I told her I would have the management of my own son; adding, that, for the present, she might act as she pleased with Lord Bellamy; but that I certainly should presently interfere in his case also, and should send him to a public school as soon as his health was sufficiently strong: in the mean time, Mr. Helmly might teach him his Latin accidence.

Mr. Helmly was not present; for I should have informed my reader that he no longer resided at the Hall, but in the parsonage-house.

“Mr. Helmly has begun Latin already with Augustus,” said Lady Roxeter; "and might he not begin with Theodore, and thus preclude the necessity of his leaving home immediately ?"

“We will not discuss that matter again, Lady Roxeter," I replied: "the point has been once determined ; it shall not, therefore, if you please, be agitated again.” And I turned to my sister and introduced some other subject. The cold and haughty manner in which this matter

was settled, as far as I was ever able to judge, maut deeper impression on the heart of Lady Roxeter than the years of unkindness which had gone before. It was long after that period before she had recovered herself enough to endeavour even to smile upon me; and well did I deserve this. I will not say that I did not feel it; but I had deprived her of her chief earthly enjoyment; I had stabbed her to the deepest recesses of her heart. Her principal delight, since her arrival at Hartlands, had been derived from the presence of her children. The ardent love with which Lord Bellamy had returned her tender affection had awakened the warmest feelings, and given her the purest delight, from the very beginning; and her nursery, assuredly, had not become less interesting when the presence of her own children was added to that of her stepson. And when continually repulsed and chilled by my cruel conduct, these children comforted her; and she found a delight, beyond all that the world could supply, in instructing these little ones in the way of piety; and in taking them with her to survey her favourite flowers, to visit the lovely scenes in the neighbourhood of the Hall, and to call upon the poor people.

I was not, indeed, aware of the subject of her instructions to the children; and, had I known it, I should not have approved of it: but I felt that these little ones formed her chief delight; and it wanted not much discernment to perceive that they were of importance to her comfort, and that it was agony to part with Theodore.

It was during this Christmas vacation that I thought I first saw a change in Mr. Helmly. Instead of being all gaiety, as formerly, he was very serious, and seemed evidently to have something preying upon his mind. But he was little inclined to open his heart to me; and I was too proud to solicit his confidence. But my sister hinted that Lady Roxeter had won him over to her side; “as, no doubt,” added she, “she will influence all your friends, and children too, if she is permitted to do it."

“If you think so," I said, " we will send Bellamy to school with you, soon after the Midsummer holidays; as

I have

promised that he shall be left a little longer with Lady Roxeter, I will not now depart from my word.”

Theodore was sent to school at the same time that my sister went to London with her son; for Seaforth's school was beyond London from Hartlands: but I did not see the parting between the mother and son; and he was kept at school a whole year without coming home; during which year, Lord Bellamy was left with Lady Roxeter, and was really grown a fine boy; having almost lost the defect in his form. I was in the mean time much from Hartlands, for the truth was, that I had formed acquaintance about town, without whom I could scarcely exist; and, although I was miserable with these people, I was more so without them; for, at least, they helped to divert my thoughts from my own wretched condition. For, strange as it may appear, there was already, I am convinced, a change passed on my heart. I was not even then dead in sin: I had been entirely so at one time of my life; but never since my first serious conversation with Lady Roxeter. From that period every bad action had been followed by instant conviction; and, though I fought long and hard, desperately hard, against these convictions; yet, the work which had been begun, through the intervention of my beloved wife, still went on, though long unseen and unsuspected. And I could compare my experience to nothing so readily as to some mighty bulwark, which appears to stand in undiminished strength for years after the work of destruction has begun to sap its foundation. Yet who could have believed that I was actually a subject of divine and gracious interposition, even during those years when I seemed, and really was most headstrong in the ways of wickedness?

It was during the first Christmas vacation after Theodore had been a year at school that we all met again at Hartlands, and then I signified my intention of sending Bellamy to school with Lord Seaforth. On this occasion, Mr. Helmly, no doubt being urged by Lady Roxeter, argued the point most vehemently with me.

He stated, that Lord Bellamy had escaped being a cripple by the most tender and watchful care of Lady Roxeter and Dr. Simpson, and that he was not in a state for the rough

treatment which he must experience among other boys; and when he found that his arguments would not prevail, he called in Dr. Simpson to corroborate his opinions; but all to no purpose, my mind was made up. Augustus was sent with Lord Seaforth and Theodore to their respective schools, and little Laura alone left with her mother. At this time I could understand nothing of the state of Lady Roxeter; her manner was almost that of apathy. She never departed from that politeness which she had acquired froin education and good society ; but she was extremely silent, and was not amused by company. Her mind and affections seemed to be elsewhere than with us. Her eyes were very red with weeping the day the children went; but she never mentioned their names, and often absented herself from the company. I also remarked a sort of formality, and, indeed, an appearance of cold displeasure, on the part of those servants who were at all occupied about Lady Roxeter; and I found that when I condescended to jest in the presence of any of the lower classes in the parish, as I had been accustomed to do in former times, without any regard to the nature or tendency of my jokes, the young women, and younger servant maids especially, looked particularly grave, and even displeased, upon me. But what struck me most was, that I saw something of this manner in Mr. Helmly, which seemed to me very extraordinary.

I mentioned this to my sister, who replied, that she had no doubt but that Lady Roxeter was making her party good against mine; and that, when Lord Bellamy was old enough to support her, I should be made to feel the effects of these underhand dealings.

“Well,” I said, “at any rate it seems that Hartlands is no place for me;" and took myself off post-haste for London. But I had not been in London a week, when I received a letter to say, that my eldest son had been knocked down in an uproar at school among the boys, and it was feared was most materially injured.

He had received a blow on the knee which produced fever from excessive pain. On receiving this information, I sent a surgeon from town to the boy; and, as I was on the point of making an excursion to Brighton for

« EelmineJätka »