Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

not believing it, the very doubt which it raised wounded her vanity touching her judgment, which she felt certain could not have been so faulty as to induce her to admit and acknowledge the esteem and respect and regard with which their amiable neighbour at Broadstairs had inspired her, if he were capable of deserting so charming a person as Lady Cramly described that person to be; or, in fact (as her husband had said the night before, when he was animated upon the subject) if he could have kept so remarkable a feature in his history undisclosed to those whom he at least seemed to treat like friends.

While these things were, as the Americans say, “ progressing," George Grindle--and Sir George particularly-began to get exceedingly nervous; for the worthy baronet had somehow heard that Ellen did actually assume George's name, a circumstance for which he had not been in the tirst instance prepared, and which, now the intercourse between France and England is so constant and perpetual, could not fail to become an immediate matter of notoriety on this side of the Channel. The effect which his enlightenment upon this point produced upon his mind was a ravenous desire to hurry as much as possible the marriage of his hopeful son; for amongst other subjects connected with the main one, the visit of Frank to France did not at all contribute to his comfort or security. George took things more easily than the governor, but even he was slumbering in a treacherous tranquillity.

The English newspapers had announced the death of Mr. Leeson-. those Ellen saw. If they had paused there, matters might have gone on quietly; but they went one step farther, and added, that in consequence of this calamitous event the marriage of Mr. Grindle, son of the baronet of that name, with the beautiful and accomplished Miss Bruff, was necessarily postponed for the present.

Quite certain that George would never desert her, but still more anxious to know all particulars, Ellen wrote to him in answer to his affectionate letter announcing the demise of his uncle, to know what the paragraph in the English Morning Post (which she cut out and enclosed to him) could possibly mean. Happy was the sympathy which seemed to inspire all parties concerned in the affair. His answer was, that his half-brother Frank was about to be married to Miss Bruff, touching very lightly upon the event, but merely remarking, hypothetically, that if he, George, had been going to be married to anybody, the death of old Leeson would not have induced him to put off the ceremony for half an hour.

This, nourished away with a promise to send over to her in a few days, was despatched, and as usual soothed and satisfied her unsuspecting mind. However, when Frank announced his projected visit to France, although George, as was his custom, put on a bold face, and laughed it off, he began to think that it might somehow cause an explosion. If Frank, as he himself had jokingly proposed to him to do, should go to Versailles, the name, the arms on his carriage would at once awaken Ellen to the identity of the visiter. She would find him there not much after the fashion of a pleasure-postponed bridegroom. His name, as it was clear she openly used it, would catch his ears—they might-would naturally meet, and then an interchange of intelligence upon a family affairs" would unquestionably produce a complete bouleversement of everything in progress, and George would

stand proclaimed as little mindful of truth as the gallant colonel would under similar circumstances. As for the matter of principle, we will say nothing about it; but as carrying on their plot, the coincidence is curious that both father-in-law and son-in-law should have hit upon the same expedient of throwing the whole blame of the transaction upon the only really true honourable and high-minded man of the whole party.

“Governor," said George, after showing his worthy parent the letter and extract which he had just answered, as we have shown above, “.

governor, I think I have done that business clean--it'll come well off the bat, if-aye, there is an if-if Frank and the girl don't meet. I tell you what has just come into my mind , governor: let us beg him to come to the wedding. I'll do uncommon affectionate. His heart is one of what they call the melters-a regular watering-pot in the sentimental line-lament past differences, hope for better days, eh?-50 screw him back. He can't have anything to do in France; and if he has, what is that to us ?”

“ Why," said the worthy baronet, “to say truth, at first I felt rather glad that he was going, but you throw a new light upon the matter. Any éclat there would be bad-infernally bad, and when he was here he was quite in the right tone for coming round. Ah, suppose we write him a kind invitation-beg him to come, eh?"

" Why,” said George, “I take it something must be done it wouldn't be pleasant to have Nelly come over, as they say,

• From Calais to Dover,' with the pledge in her lap-eh, governor ?"

“ Better a pledge than a duplicate," said Sir George, condescending to borrow a joke, "the light of other days."

“ But then," said George, “the execution, as I call the wedding, isn't to come off' for a fortnight-a deuced sight of mischief may be done long before that."

“ Frank said,” observed Sir George, “that he was going to Paris on business."

“ So he did," answered the son, "but nevertheless in a city where pleasure is the business of the day, and night too, the graver occupations of ils visiters soon become wonderfully relieved.

If he once gets fixed there, I'll back him in for three weeks or a month."

I don't exactly see what's to be done,” said the baronet. “Can't we write him a history like that of the dead magpie ?" asked the son.

“ Dead magpie?" exclaimed Sir George, “ I'm basketed.”

“Why, have you lived all these years, begging your pardon,” cried George, “ without hearing the way the affectionate servant broke bad news to his master ?-it's as old as the bills. Young Squire Green, just such a turn-out as Frank, comes to his grandfather's place in the country,—met at the inn by old Dobbs the steward.

"All,' says Dobbs, all here, sir, is right as right, excepting only that the magpie is dead.'

“Oh, that all ?' says the young chap, 'that's no great matter. What did the magpie die of?

“Eating too much horseflesh,' says Dobbs. "Where did he get that?' asks Green.

[ocr errors]

"«Surfeited himself off the coach-horses,' says Dobbs.
". What, killed them?' says Green.
""Overworked, fetching water for the fire,' says Dobbs.
66. What fire ?
“« Up at the hall, sir,' says Dobbs.
"66 What's the hall burned down ?'
“• Yes,' says Dobbs.
66. How was that ?

""One of the torches used at the funeral was left burning, and so set fire to it,' says Dobbs.

“ • Whose funeral,' asks Green.
«Your grandfather's, the squire's, sir,' says Dobbs.
“• What! is he dead ?' eagerly asks Green.

“« Yes, sir,' answered Dobbs, he shot himself because his bank failed and he was clear entire ruined out and out.'

“And so you see, governor, all the story comes out of the death of a magpie.”

" Gad," said the baronet, “ I am afraid, with all your genius and imaginativeness, you will not be able to conjure up such a concatenation of calamities for poor Frank; he can afford to lose more magpies than one.”

“ So could I, entre nous," said George. “However, rely upon it, after Nelly's letter, we are sitting on a barrel of gunpowder.”

“Shall I run over to France,” said Sir George, • and try to bring Frank back ?”

This suggestion, off-hand as it was, did not appear altogether injudicious. George had taught Nelly to hate and fear his father, and was quite sure that if the governor could establish himself with Frank, it would answer the double purpose not only of making her certain that he was the bridegroom elect, but of keeping them separate, so strong were her feelings of dread and dislike towards the father of her beloved, and the grandfather of Tiney.

This scheme was forthwith put into execution, and by the strangeness of the coincidences which seem to pervade our narrative, the announcement of its “ perpetration" by George to Jane in his letter to her of that day, did more than anything else could do to ease her doubts and calm her apprehensions as to the lady at Versailles. George in his letter informed her that his father would take his departure for France in the morning, having some business of importance to transact with his brother Francis. This statement brought conviction to her mind, that her father's history was after all the true one, and indeed the manner in which George—as well he knew how to do-gave a sort of colouring to the visit of his respectable parent to the French capital made in her mind“

assurance double sure," and her answer to his letter was written in such a different tone under the impression that George was really not what he had been represented, that the aspirant felt a very strong disposition to make his long-threatened visit at the Amershams', against which there certainly could be no possible objection under all the circumstances of the case.

At this period of our history, Mrs. Amersham was again placed in a very difficult position with Jane, who of course communicated the intelligence she had received from George, and the “ comfortable"

feelings with which his letter had inspired her. As upon former occasions (as we have seen), Emma's whole object was to support poor Jane in what she could not now consider anything but a trial—but with this anxiety, she could scarcely assume a sufficient degree of placidity to cover the expression of her apprehension that Jane's present views were mere delusions-she could not force herself to believe that Frank was in any way concerned in the Paris affair, and therefore it must be admitted that she was (to use a colloquial phrase), very like one of Job's comforters” during the discussion of the question; only begging Jane to recollect that Mr. Amersham had written confidentially to Mr. Miles Blackmore, and that his answer would be with them in perfectly good time for the alleviation of all these anxieties.

There was something painfully pleasing—some feeling for which Jane could not account to herself, which she experienced whenever Miles Blackmore was spoken of, and she could not help thinking that if she were likely to be subjected to wrong in this, the most important business of her life, Miles Blackmore would see her righted; there was, when he was serious and energetic, something commanding in his tone and manner, and above all, he had inspired her with a sincere admiration of his high principle and uncompromising honour -- it is odd enough that Tiney and he should have become such good friends on the voyage and journey, upon the results of which, as it seems, so much happiness or misery is somewhere depending.

By the earliest steamer Sir George Grindle took his departure for Dieppe, not altogether certain that he might not overtake Frank, halting on the road to Paris. It was to be sure a most extraordinary expedition, considering that for so many past years, his main object had been to avoid his second son ; but there was a great stake to play for, and, in fact, the importance of the marriage of George with Jane had latterly become much greater, seeing that more money had been raised by the father and son upon the prospects which the completion of that union opened to view.

The plot-or, as Mrs. Smylar would perhaps have called it professionally, the under-plot-began about this period of our history to thicken. While all these most unworthy maneuvres were in progress, sheshe, the primum mobile of all the family mischief, herself began to be puzzled—the influence of Lady Gramm over the colonel, which she saw was growing daily, worried and confounded herthat was something to be counteracted, something to overcome if possible. The game she had been so long, and obviously to the reader, playing, was quite discomfited by this new interference—all her designs with regard to Jane as tending to her great object seemed to be frustrated, and she herself left in a most deplorable position.

Can anybody doubt that such a woman so placed, so excited, so mortified, aud so determined, would quietly sit down under her disappointment ? No; rely upon it that all the dirtiest tricks of her dirty trade, and all the malignant bitternesses of her fiendlike disposition, would be called into play to frustrate the ends and objects of everybody who might even unconsciously be counteracting her proceedings, and thwarting her plans.

It was not because Colonel Bruff had returned irritable and angry from Amersham's however much she regretted the failure of that

scheme—that she doubted of her power to bring him back to gentleness and kindness, and all the other amiable attributes by which his else martial character was distinguished—she was sure she could manage that: but Jane was away-away from her influence, or rather from the persuasion which she had latterly found so well succeed with her; she could not communicate with her–Harris she feared to trust-and both George and Frank Grindle were utterly beyond her reach. Yet she could not rest—the desire to be meddling—to be doing something -to undo what, much to her disappointment, seemed to be going on, was uncontrollable--always observing that the present and immediate object of her detestation was my Lady Gramm, whom she began—such as we have long known were her real “ aspirations”-to consider in the light of a rival?

Had the scene of the drama been laid at the colonel's house, the active little wasp-like body would undoubtedly have contrived by some means to alarm Lady Gramm's pride or delicacy, or infused into the inspired brain of her shadow Miss Pheezle, some kind of doubt es to the wisdom or propriety of her dear friend's marrying the colonel. The heroine of Bullocks-smithy had more than once played Betty Hint in Macklin's “Man of the World," and she was quite prepared to act it in real life, had she the means and opportunity —but there was the difficulty; the little réunions were at Lady Gramm's, to whose house she could of course not gain access—she fels sure that she should fail in persuading the colonel to remove the venue, as the lawyers have it, and try the cause in his own house, by giving one or two little parties there--why should he do any such thing? Here were her drawing-rooms, her boudoir, her pastilles, her toady's singing, playing, and buffooning, her Roman punch, her powdered footmen, and blue-coated, white-waistcoated waiters, butler No. 1 and No. 2, with green-grocers and shoemakers to match. Supper-sociable sitdown supper-the soup good, all the accessories as they ought to be, and the champagne-a very questionable point in a widow's house excellent.

Why then, with all this going on, should the gallant and distinguished rhinoceros be induced to unsettle himself-a lady like Lady Gramm collects round her a circle of beauty, and wit, and talent, and accomplishment, and although the season was now over, and there was really nobody in town, her gay little rooms were somehow crowded with somebodies who made the evenings—aye, even until the morningsparticularly gay and pleasant.

So much for the colonel : but what for the widow? She was a wellooking person, and although a little flourishing in her way, after the manner of Lady Cramly, and a vast many other ladies of the same class, quite agreeable enough to induce a gentleman of the colonel's standing, just on the point of losing the head of his establishment, to look at and after her ; but

“ Ogni medaglio ha il suo reverso." What upon earth could induce Lady Gramm to encourage the hopes of the colonel ? She certainly did not want a protector; she could take care of herself; and as for a husband-why, with all deference to her taste, when she might, with her fortune, have chosen any husband she

« AnteriorContinuar »