Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

of

in time for to-morrow night;" Lord Delaware looked thunderstruck; "and,” proceeded Lord Exeter, “I am sorry to say, I saw him myself to day in town;—what can it mean?”

Whilst this unexpected subject of discourse was still going forward, they were joined by young Walsingham, one of the most promising young men of the party, who said: “Indeed, I regret to inform

you, I have just learned the terms on which our late warmest partizan, and I must own, one of our most promising allies, has been secured by the wizard trickeries of Charles Aubrey. This latter worthy has made a promising match for himself; he is to marry the widow Avondale, the step-mother of Cleveland's ward, who is to give this same young Miss half the fortune she possessed from her late doting lord and master, conditionally, that the day the widow marries Aubrey, the daughter marries Cleveland, and both these worthy heroes are to be elevated to the rank

peers of the realm. Lady Mary has settled it all most amicably, and comes to town without delay, throwing off, I suppose, her widow's weeds, in order to grace the double nuptials with her august presence. The ceremonies will take place immediately, for all parties must strike whilst the iron is hot.” Every one seemed satisfied with the truth of the statement, and each unwilling to say more, at that moment, on the subject, kept silence, till at last Sir George Burrell, with an incredulous smile, turned to Lord Delaware, we cannot believe a word of this."

Lord Delaware said, “ though there appears some plausibility in the story, I think I know my friend too well : scarcely can I trust my senses: do I not know him most intimately; and a long acquaintance with his principles of honour lead me to think very differently of him.” Notwithstanding this expression of his reliance on his friend, still he could not but feel some degree of uncertainty; his being in correspondence with Aubrey, his coming to town, were mysteries he could not fathom.

In a short time, politics began to yield to the more agreeable amusements of the evening, and every one seemed willing to forget the subject that had so lately annoyed all; but however anxious they were to drive the unpleasant thought of the late desertion away, it still recurred occasionally to each; yet as the admired beauties of Verona" were assembled, festive joy soon took possession of them. There were fairer forms than fancy ever sketched; there were youth and love, grace and beauty centered in many a bewitching form, that seemed to animate the crowded assembly. There were Walsingham and Vivian, each outvying the other in compliments to Lady Harriet, whilst Burrell was whispering into the ears of the enamoured Catherine Peyton his shrewd remarks, and everywhere were heard the lively badinage, the quick repartee, and brilliant flash of wit. Music and dancing were followed by their votaries, and care seemed banished from all, save one, and he in general the first amid the giddy throng.

16 all

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Lord Delaware, stunned by the news he had heard, could not recover from the state into which he had been thrown; but abstracted from all around him, with a breast torn by a thousand conflicting thoughts, he leaned upon a pillar, and seemed to know nothing of the passing scene. As he remained motionless, a female figure stood before him, and gently touching him, awoke him from his reverie. What was his astonishment to behold a figure resembling in every point Miss Avondale, but appearing more like a form from heaven, such radiance beamed from her countenance. He doubted his senses, till the voice of Miss Avondale broke upon him in a gentle whisper: “Our friend is in danger; he is beguiled, but his heart beats with the same love of truth and of virtue as ever.” Lord Delaware smiled with delight. “ But what detains him? why is he not here? suspicion has some cause for its indulgence.” “Oh! no,” said the same angelic voice,“ truth and honor still are his; upon his brow shame is ashamed to sit; but as you prize him, instantly dispatch a messenger, inform him that that which he holds dearer than existence, is now at stake. The hunters are spreading their toils around the victim, and he knows not his danger. It is for me, too, for my happiness that he allows himself to be detained. Fly to him, aid him, or all is lost." This was said with an energy of expression, a commanding yet pathetic tone, that thrilled through each vein. She appeared something ærial; her countenance wore a peculiar look of enthusiasm, and the beauty of her mind seemed written on her face.

But in a moment, a crowd of fashionable guests separated her from Lord Delaware; who as soon as he recovered from his astonishment, rushed forward to detain her; but she had vanished. He passed through every apartment in search of her: he asked in vain of every one if Miss Avondale had been there : no one seemed to have seen her, and no one could give him any information. He began to doubt whether his faculties had not laboured under some delusion, and fancied that his mind had been so absorbed in the peculiar state of his friend's affairs, that he had allowed himself to imagine that which never could in reality have taken place; for of course had the young lady been in town, he would have known it; and most certainly had she been present at such a scene, there would have been no difficulty in tracing her.

He was lost in a labyrinth, from which he knew not how to extricate himself. With a bursting heart and much emotion he left the house, unable to bid farewell even to the enchanting youthful mistress of the mansion. He returned home, and there planned a thousand schemes, every one of which he laid aside, feeling the difficulty of carrying them into execution. At one time he felt disposed to set off himself to Eglinton, but at last he determined to dispatch a messenger with an express, and he calculated that he might, by the utmost dispatch, reach him in

to prove

time sufficient to bring him to town. With a trembling hand and an aching heart he wrote a few lines.

« Cleveland, you have been my dearest, best of friends. Am I no longer to love you? Impossible. The world accuses you of betraying yourself and the interest of your country. There is but one way left you

the falseness of the infamous accusation. Be in the house to-morrow evening : Aubrey dares you to the combat, and says you shrink from him, or insinuates you have followed his example: give happiness once again to your attached Delaware." He immediately dispatched the messenger, desiring him not to delay one instant, but immediately he arrived to deliver the note into the hands of none but Cleveland.

He retired then in the hope of enjoying some rest, but the unabating fever of his mind kept him unhappy, restless, and agitated. No sleep visited his eyes, but he arose unrefreshed. Still he determined to wear a look of tranquillity-to appear to feel that confidence in the friend he still loved, and wore a smile of joy, though grief sat heavy at his heart. He lounged during the morning amid the enlivening scenes of town, and wherever he went he found the negociations as they were termed, the theme of conversation. He rode out with a party, and in vain attempted to divert the minds of his political friends. In vain did he attempt to draw the conversation to other subjects—the antiquity of horse-shoes; whether the Greeks or Romans shod their horses; the coachman of Vespasian and the horse-shoes drawn on by the people of Asia; the silver shoe of Nero and the gold ones of Poppæa his wife; all he attempted to discuss, but the theme did not last long. Saddles introduced by Pelethronius, as mentioned by Pliny; and the beautiful way in which Xenophon describes the Persian horse coverings : that Constantine the younger was the first person mentioned in history as falling from his saddle; that stirrups were unknown; that Hippocrates and Galen both mention diseases brought on by the legs wanting support on horseback; that they were invented in 1480 -all themes of moment at other times now passed quickly away, and were soon diverted into the absorbing question of the desertion of Cleveland.

The evening, the eventful evening arrived, and brought with it unceasing anxiety. The House of Commons was crowded : it was the first night of the session that was to be considered as a trial of the strength of the ministry: they relied upon the great exertions that had been made to gather their friends together : every nerve had been strained to procure the assistance of their ablest partizans, and to obtain the absence of others; and they fondly anticipated such a victory, as would enable them to claim the pretence of popularity. The two parties were as far as numerical power went tolerably equal, and the voices of the independent men would be necessary to confirm their relative

« PredošláPokračovať »