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CLEVELAND; OR, THE MAN OF PRINCIPLE.
LADY NORFOLK welcomed her with an air of delight, and congratulated her on her looks: indeed, never did this beautiful young woman appear more lovely or more captivating. Had she arrayed herself in all her charms to lure some wanderer to her toils, and keep him prisoner there, she could not have summoned more grace and fascination to her aid, than she that morning displayed. The brilliancy of her eyes, and the carnation bloom upon her cheek, was heightened by the pleasure of the hour she had passed. Lady Norfolk regretted very much her unavoidable absence when she arrived-declared a few tiresome visits would destroy her more than any of the anxieties she had lately endured.
She introduced her friends, and regretted very much that Lady Harriet should have been obliged to pass so dull and wretched a morning. She assured the kind hostess, she seldom had enjoyed more pleasure. She had walked over the grounds, had seen the improvements, and finished, she said, by spending some very pleasant moments in the library. She said this with some emotion, but it passed completely unnoticed. Lady Norfolk hoped she had found something that enabled her to amuse herself, and did not seem to be at all aware that any inmate had been there; for when Lady Harriet hoped she had disturbed no one, "Oh! no, quite impossible, without she had disturbed the philosophy of Plato, spoiled the poetry of Homer, or of Virgil, or murdered some play of Shakspeare's in his own presence, she could have interrupted no one, the taste of the day is so much at variance with books." “But do not,” said Lady Harriet, “even if the ladies have given up bestowing their attentions on the wisdom of ages past, do not the gentlemen occasionally improve their minds, for, indeed, in this barbaric age, many of them want it much; they are either grooms or coachmen, and seek the driving of the chariot wheels with as much emulation as their prototypes; it may, though, be in imitation of the Olympic Games."
"Oh!” said Lady Norfolk, “ the library is the last place to which any of them would venture. No, our modern beaux pays more attention to the fish, the game, the billiard table; anything that may drive dull care away, is preferred by them, and they become as insipid as the dullness of their own untutored brains will permit them ; indeed," continued she, “nobody goes there, but Charles Aubrey who left us this morning.”
“ Charles Aubrey," echoed Lady Harriet, “is it possible ?"
“ Yes," replied Lady Norfolk," he brought me some news from town, and left me to day. He was considerate in bringing me kind intelligence, but you know he is no favourite of mine, indeed, his late conduct has lost him many friends.”
Can it be possible, thought Lady Harriet, that the fascinating individual I saw to day is that renegade! Impossible! His father and brother I know very well; they bear no resemblance to him: yet it must be so, and the peculiar expression of his countenance, when she spoke of a spy, immediately recurred to her mind. But still she thought it impossible, a man who had so lately deserted his principles, could have spoken in the terms of admiration he had done, of her father and of Lord Delaware; could have dwelt, too, upon rectitude of conduct, and evinced such warm and strong feelings on the subject.
Miss Dormer, a friend of Lady Norfolk's, said, " I wonder Mr. Aubrey is not admired? his person and his manners are so superior to all others; but there is something which, though it at first captivates, appears designing; nobody likes him at a second interview.”
“Yes, he is very handsome and very clever," said another young Lady, "but I do not like him either;" and every one present seemed to concur in disliking this person; yet all agreed there was something which at first might lead the mind to form conclusions in his favour. Many anecdotes were related of him, and at last Lady Harriet was angry with herself for having been so strongly prejudiced in favour of a person whose character was so notoriously the object of dislike, and she determined to speak to him no more, should she again be thrown into his society.
Her time passed for a week delightfully at Norfolk Park. Miss Dormer, a charming, amiable young woman, was her constant companion, and she invited her to return to Exeter House with her, when the period of her visit had elapsed, to which the young Lady most gladly consented.
There was no variety of character to offer any amusement at Norfolk Park; the great employment was watching for the arrival of the newspapers, and anticipating the contents of the gazette. The nervous trepidation into which the least account from the Continent threw the amiable mistress of the house, was an uneasy object to her visitors, and they gradually withdrew themselves, anxiously wishing that success might attend the actions of the noble Lord, whose courage-whose fame, were not to be tarnished by any unforeseen event, which was too likely to occur from the state of things at home.
The want of vigour in the Cabinet was felt abroad, and the constant state of vacillating policy, which the Ministers of the day pursued, tended to increase the responsibility of the various commanders in every part of Europe. To this both Lord and Lady Norfolk were tremblingly alive, and it could not be concealed, that unless some change took place, some disaster might occur, which would cause unhappiness to all who were in any way connected with public affairs.
Lady Harriet, at the end of the week, bade farewell to the hospitable roof that had held her, and set out, accompanied by Miss Dormer, to town, her mind, in spite of herself, still dwelling on the stranger who had imposed himself on her as a man of virtue and integrity.
Lady Harriet passed through the park on her way home, and the first person she recognized was her friend Lord Delaware: she was delighted to see him; he dismounted, and desiring his groom to return home with the horses, was rewarded by a seat in the carriage; his introduction to Miss Dormer followed, and he gave a pretty copious account of his proceedings since he last was in London.
Lady Harriet, who still remembered Sir George Burrell's ridiculous report of the intended marriage between Lord Delaware and Lady Mary Cleveland, said to him: "I understand you have for the first time in your life been conquered by a pair of eyes.”
Lord Delaware, surprised at this remark, and fancying he was suspected of being captivated by Miss Avondale, said, “Why, though beauty is out of the question, the lady is by no means destitute of charms."
“But,” said her Ladyship,“ do you despise that old fashioned idea, youth; why you are young enough to be her son."
Lord Delaware stared with astonishment, and begged permission to ask how old her friends called her; I
suppose a sexagenarian,” said he, laughing.
"No, not quite that certainly,” said Lady Harriet," but old enough to have forgotten how Miss in her teens should be played - but what says Henry Cleveland to it: I long to see him: so much as I have heard of him, it is a most distressing thing not to have seen him—I wonder you do not bring your son forward in the fashionable world.” “Rather my brother,” said the Earl.
Oh any name you choose to give him, he will never have cause to blush at any alliance with you,” said the persevering Lady Harriet.
“ You really have been studying the enigmas at the end of the new pocket books: for my comprehension, you are too lively: I . probably am in a fog this morning."
“Oh, love in a mist is no novelty, and you really will wed Cleveland's mother,” said Miss Dormer.
This was too great a shock for the sensitive nobleman; he could not but remember he was far from being a favourite with
Lady Mary Cleveland, and he dreaded lest some malicious person had spread the foolish report to increase her anger.
“Yes," said Lady Harriet, “the admired of all admirers, the charm of society, is at last going to be tacked to an old damask Dowager, who will teach him to avoid that dreadful flirtation in which he has indulged himself from his youth upwards."
"In mercy spare me," said the poor Lord, “and tell me, as you value my repose, from whence did you get that absurd report."
“Oh if you conjure me by such a prayer, grant it I must; but my ever valued friend, it is over the whole world; and being a great secret, all mankind knows it by this time. Why, have you not observed, that every friend that has passed has given a most significant leer at you? as much as might be interpreted in plain unadulterated English, alas poor Delaware!--pity the sorrow of the poor old woman, and make her most affectionately yours; but you do not seem to laugh; why that's very odd, for to my certain knowledge, you have laughed at every piece of malicious scandal for the last five years; and now down! oh fie for shame! what will your lovely bride say to such a sombre look? you seem to have met with a catastrophe.”
"There goes Charles Aubrey,” said Lord Delaware, quite accidentally looking out of the window, and to his surprise, on looking at Lady Harriet, her cheek was covered with crimson.
Why, hey-day, what's the matter?" said he, to Lady Harriet. “Why it is your turn now to look a little like a catastrophe: what has happened so suddenly to you? you were playing chanticleer pretty loudly, and now it is over; can you explain Miss Dormer, any of the marvels I have seen this day worked by the peerless heroine, who honours us with her gaze?
“I do not know," continued the Earl,“ what to make of those Aubrey's, they seem very anxious still to keep up my acquaintance, though they have fled our camp.'
Oh, the gawky girls, now Lady Jane and Sarah Aubrey, have set their caps at you,” said Lady Harriet; "and I suppose the father and brothers are willing to have you of their flesh and blood.”
" As for the father," said Delaware," he is still good for something; but Charles Aubrey, for whom I once had some regard, has played a most slippery trick.”
“What, you," then observed Lady Harriet, " are one of those who were captivated by Charles Aubrey's externals ? "
“No," said he, “I never was an admirer : he had the happy art of diving into my thoughts and availing himself of them, by which means he posted himself upon me as a friend, till, he had a better offer, and then he threw me down the stream to be buffetted by the winds and waves; but we shall yet prove too strong for him.”
The party arrived at Exeter House, and were welcomed by the excellent master of that splendid establishment; a party was to assemble in the evening, and Lord Delaware was one of the number. The first person he encountered was Sir George Burrell, who immediately congratulated him on the arrival of his friend Cleveland. Lord Delaware expressed his surprise, and said, “ it was impossible he should be in town, as he had neither seen nor heard of him.”
“ It is true, nevertheless, and he and Charles Aubrey have had an interview; nay, start not, the worst is yet to come; Charles has given some very suspicious inuendoes, that lead one to imagine some negociations, as they call their wicked intrigues, are going on; even your name has been heard,” said the Baronet.
My name coupled with Cleveland's can never be dishonourable to me; you must have allowed your dislike to conquer you, and lent ears to mischievous fabrications."
“Mr. Vivian will, I believe, confirm my statement, though I seldom require the witness of another person to vouch for my veracity,” said Sir George.
"Indeed, my Lord,” said Vivian," I saw Cleveland leave the room in which he had been playing tête-a-tête with George Aubrey; I went to him on business; as I was seated in a corner of the room looking over a memorial, I heard Lord Aubrey's voice, which induced Charles to leave the room and join him; they approached the room in conversation, and I heard Sir George say, 'Cleveland will consent-he comes in—the mother is all my own;' and he has frequently repeated to his political friends, that he is certain of aid at a trying moment from a quarter of great weight.”
Delaware said : “ This is some scheme of the arch intriguer; I pledge my own life Cleveland is a Man of Principle.”
“I hope," said Burrell, with a smile of derision," he will not prove a Man of Principal and Interest. As a friend of yours, my Lord Delaware, I have always had some regard for him, but you know
sentiments." “I do,” said Delaware, “ and freely forgive your frankness; away at once with love if he prove false.”
Lord Exeter joined the party, announcing to them the arrival of news of the utmost importance, which had caused a meeting of the Cabinet Council. No doubt was entertained that some misfortune had happened to a division of the army; “At any rate, his Lordship said, “We now shall be enabled to meet the foe at equal play; our forces are, I know, well prepared for a struggle in the House of Commons, to overthrow the weak and fallacious system, so long pursued; " then turning to Lord Delaware, he continued, “ you have heard that we must seek a new advocate to open the attack; I have received a note from Cleveland, stating the impossibility, from some unforeseen event, of being up