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search of information; or if it were the indulgence of a less commendable
spirit, it was an indulgence chastened by a taste and judgment that
lessened the danger, if it did not entirely remove it.

The room was filled with gentlemen and ladies; and while John was
exchanging his greetings with several of the neighboring gentry of his
acquaintance, his sisters were running nastily over a catalogue of the
books kept for circulation, as an elderly lady, of foreign accent and
dress, entered; and depositing a couple of religious works on the counter,
she inquired for the remainder of the set. The peculiarity of her idiom
and her proximity to the sisters caused them both to look up at the
moment, and, to the surprise of Jane, her sister uttered a slight
exclamation of pleasure. The foreigner was attracted by the sound, and
after a moment's hesitation, she respectfully curtsied. Emily, advancing,
kindly offered her hand, and the usual inquiries after each other's
welfare succeeded. To the questions asked after the friend of the matron
Emily learnt, with some surprise, and no less satisfaction, that she
resided in a retired cottage, about five miles from L - - , where they had
been for the last six months, and where they expected to remain for some
time, "until she could prevail on Mrs. Fitzgerald to return to Spain; a
thing, now there was peace, of which she did not despair." After asking
leave to call on them in their retreat, and exchanging good wishes, the
Spanish lady withdrew, and, as Jane had made her selection, was followed
immediately by John Moseley and his sisters. Emily, in their walk home,
acquainted her brother that the companion of their Bath incognita had been
at the library, and that for the first time she had learnt that their
young acquaintance was, or had been, married, and her name. John listened
to his sister with the interest which the beautiful Spaniard had excited
at the time they first met, and laughingly told her he could not believe
their unknown friend had ever been a wife. To satisfy this doubt, and to
gratify a wish they both had to renew their acquaintance with the
foreigner, they agreed to drive to the cottage the following morning,
accompanied by Mrs. Wilson and Jane, if she would go; but the next day was
the one appointed by Egerton for his arrival at L - - , and Jane, under a
pretence of writing letters, declined the excursion. She had carefully
examined the papers since his departure; had seen his name included in the
arrivals at London; and at a later day, had read an account of the review
by the commander-in-chief of the regiment to which he belonged. He had
never written to any of her friends; but, judging from her own feelings,
she did not in the least doubt he would be as punctual as love could make
him. Mrs. Wilson listened to her niece's account of the unexpected
interview in the library with pleasure, and cheerfully promised to
accompany them in their morning's excursion, as she had both a wish to
alleviate sorrow, and a desire to better understand the character of this
accidental acquaintance of Emily's.

Mr. Benfield and the baronet had a long conversation in relation to
Denbigh's fortune the morning after their arrival; and the old man was
loud in his expression of dissatisfaction at the youngster's pride. As the
baronet, however, in the fulness of his affection and simplicity, betrayed
to his uncle his expectation of a union between Denbigh and his daughter,
Mr. Benfield became contented with this reward; one fit, he thought, for
any services. On the whole, "it was best, as he was to marry Emmy, he
should sell out of the army; and as there would be an election soon, he
would bring him into parliament - yes - - yes - it did a man so much good to
sit one term in the parliament of this realm - to study human nature. All
his own knowledge in that way was raised on the foundations laid in the
House." To this Sir Edward cordially assented, and the gentlemen
separated, happy in their arrangements to advance the welfare of two
beings they so sincerely loved.

Although the care and wisdom of Mrs. Wilson had prohibited the admission
of any romantic or enthusiastic expectations of happiness into the
day-dreams of her charge, yet the buoyancy of health, of hope, of youth,
of innocence, had elevated Emily to a height of enjoyment hitherto unknown
to her usually placid and disciplined pleasures. Denbigh certainly
mingled in most of her thoughts, both of the past and the future, and she
stood on the threshold of that fantastic edifice in which Jane ordinarily
resided. Emily was in the situation perhaps the most dangerous to a young
female Christian: her heart, her affections, were given to a man, to
appearance, every way worthy of possessing them, it is true but she had
admitted a rival in her love to her Maker; and to keep those feelings
distinct, to bend the passions in due submission to the more powerful
considerations of endless duty, of unbounded gratitude, is one of the most
trying struggles of Christian fortitude. We are much more apt to forget
our God in prosperity than adversity. The weakness of human nature drives
us to seek assistance in distress; but vanity and worldly-mindedness often
induce us to imagine we control the happiness we only enjoy.

Sir Edward and Lady Moseley could see nothing in the prospect of the
future but lives of peace and contentment for their children. Clara was
happily settled, and her sisters were on the eve of making connexions with
men of family, condition, and certain character. What more could be done
for them? They must, like other people, take their chances in the lottery
of life; they could only hope and pray for their prosperity, and this they
did with great sincerity. Not so Mrs. Wilson: she had guarded the
invaluable charge intrusted to her keeping with too much assiduity, too
keen an interest, too just a sense of the awful responsibility she had
undertaken, to desert her post at the moment watchfulness was most
required. By a temperate, but firm and well-chosen conversation she kept
alive the sense of her real condition in her niece, and labored hard to
prevent the blandishments of life from supplanting the lively hope of
enjoying another existence. She endeavored, by her pious example, her
prayers, and her Judicious allusions, to keep the passion of love in the
breast of Emily secondary to the more important object of her creation;
and, by the aid of a kind and Almighty Providence, her labors, though
arduous, were crowned with success.

As the family were seated round the table after dinner, on the day of
their walk to the library, John Moseley, awakening from a reverie,
exclaimed suddenly,

"Which do you think the handsomest, Emily, Grace Chatterton or Miss
Fitzgerald?"

Emily laughed, as she answered, "Grace, certainly; do you not think so,
brother?"

"Yes, on the whole; but don't you think Grace looks like her mother at
times?"

"Oh no, she is the image of Chatterton."

"She is very like yourself, Emmy dear," said Mr. Benfield, who was
listening to their conversation.

"Me, dear uncle; I have never heard it remarked before."

"Yes, yes, she is as much like you as she can stare. I never saw as great
a resemblance, excepting between you and Lady Juliana - Lady Juliana, Emmy,
was a beauty in her day; very like her uncle, old Admiral Griffin - you
can't remember the admiral - he lost an eye in a battle with the Dutch, and
part of his cheek in a frigate, when a young man fighting the Dons. Oh, he
was a pleasant old gentleman; many a guinea has he given me when I was a
boy at school."

"And he looked like Grace Chatterton, uncle, did he?" asked John,
innocently.

"No, sir, he did not; who said he looked like Grace Chatterton,
jackanapes?"

"Why, I thought you made it out, sir: but perhaps it was the description
that deceived me - his eye and cheek, uncle."

"Did Lord Gosford leave children, uncle?" inquired Emily, throwing a look
of reproach at John.

"No, Emmy dear; his only child, a son, died at school. I shall never
forget the grief of poor Lady Juliana. She postponed a visit to Bath three
weeks on account of it. A gentleman who was paying his addresses to her at
the time, offered then, and was refused - indeed, her self-denial raised
such an admiration of her in the men, that immediately after the death of
young Lord Dayton, no less than seven gentlemen offered, and were refused
in one week. I heard Lady Juliana say, that what between lawyers and
suitors, she had not a moment's peace."

"Lawyers?" cried Sir Edward: "what had she to do with lawyers?"

"Why, Sir Edward, six thousand a year fell to her by the death of her
nephew; and there were trustees and deeds to be made out - poor young
woman, she was so affected, Emmy, I don't think she went out for a
week - all the time at home reading papers, and attending to her important
concerns. Oh! she was a woman of taste; her mourning, and liveries, and
new carriage, were more admired than those of any one about the court.
Yes, yes, the title is extinct; I know of none of the name now. The Earl
did not survive his loss but six years, and the countess died
broken-hearted, about a twelvemonth before him."

"And Lady Juliana, uncle," inquired John, "what became of her, did she
marry?"

The old man helped himself to a glass of wine, and looked over his
shoulder to see if Peter was at hand. Peter, who had been originally
butler, and had made it a condition of his preferment, that whenever there
was company, he should be allowed to preside at the sideboard, was now at
his station. Mr. Benfield, seeing his old friend near him, ventured to
talk on a subject he seldom trusted himself with in company.

"Why, yes - yes - she _did_ marry, it's true, although she did tell me she
intended to die a maid; but - hem - I suppose - hem - it was compassion for
the old viscount, who often said he could not live without her; and then
it gave her the power of doing so much good, a jointure of five thousand a
year added to her own income: yet - hem - I do confess I did not think she
would have chosen such an old and infirm man - - but, Peter, give me a
glass of claret." Peter handed the claret, and the old man
proceeded: - "They say he was very cross to her, and that, no doubt, must
have made her unhappy, she was so very tender-hearted."

How much longer the old gentleman would have continued in this strain, it
is impossible to say; but he was interrupted by the opening of the parlor
door, and the sudden appearance on its threshold of Denbigh. Every
countenance glowed with pleasure at this unexpected return of their
favorite; and but for the prudent caution of Mrs. Wilson, in handing a
glass of water to her niece, the surprise might have proved too much for
her. The salutations of Denbigh were returned by the different members of
the family with a cordiality that must have told him how much he was
valued by all its branches; and after briefly informing them that his
review was over, and that he had thrown himself into a chaise and
travelled post until he had rejoined them, he took his seat by Mr.
Benfield, who received him with a marked preference, exceeding that which
he had shown to any man who had ever entered his doors, Lord Gosford
himself not excepted. Peter removed from his station behind his master's
chair to one where he could face the new comer; and after wiping his eyes
until they filled so rapidly with water, that at last he was noticed by
the delighted John to put on the identical goggles which his care had
provided for Denbigh in his illness. His laugh drew the attention of the
rest to the honest steward, and when Denbigh was told this was Mr.
Benfield's ambassador to the hall, he rose from his chair, and taking the
old man by the hand, kindly thanked him for his thoughtful consideration
for his weak eyes.

Peter took the offered hand in both his own, and after making one or two
unsuccessful efforts to speak, he uttered, "Thank you, thank you; may
Heaven bless you," and burst into tears. This stopped the laugh, and John
followed the steward from the room, while his master exclaimed, wiping his
eyes, "Kind and condescending; just such another as my old friend, the
Earl of Gosford."


Chapter XXIII.


At the appointed hour, the carriage of Mrs. Wilson was ready to convey
herself and niece to the cottage of Mrs. Fitzgerald. John was left behind,
under the pretence of keeping Denbigh company in his morning avocations,
but really because Mrs. Wilson doubted the propriety of his becoming a
visiting acquaintance at the house, tenanted as the cottage was
represented to be. John was too fond of his friend to make any serious
objections, and was satisfied for the present, by sending his compliments,
and requesting his sister to ask permission for him to call in one of his
morning excursions, in order to pay his personal respects.

They found the cottage a beautiful and genteel, though a very small and
retired dwelling, almost hid by the trees and shrubs which surrounded it,
and its mistress in its little veranda, expecting the arrival of Emily.
Mrs. Fitzgerald was a Spaniard, under twenty, of a melancholy, yet highly
interesting countenance; her manners were soft and retiring, but evidently
bore the impression of good company, if not of high life. She was
extremely pleased with this renewal of attention on the part of Emily, and
expressed her gratitude to both ladies for their kindness in seeking her
out in her solitude. She presented her more matronly companion to them, by
the name of Donna Lorenza; and as nothing but good feeling prevailed, and
useless ceremony was banished, the little party were soon on terms of
friendly intercourse. The young widow (for such her dress indicated her to
be), did the honors of her house with graceful ease, and conduct ed her
visiters into her little grounds, which; together the cottage, gave
evident proofs of the taste and elegance of its occupant. The
establishment she supported she represented as very small; two women and
an aged man servant, with occasionally a laborer for her garden and
shrubbery. They never visited; it was a resolution she had made on fixing
her residence here, but if Mrs. Wilson and Miss Moseley would forgive the
rudeness of not returning their call, nothing would give her more
satisfaction than a frequent renewal of their visits. Mrs. Wilson took so
deep an interest in the misfortunes of this young female, and was so much
pleased with the modest resignation of her manner, that it required little
persuasion on the part of the recluse to obtain a promise of soon
repeating her visit. Emily mentioned the request of John, and Mrs.
Fitzgerald received it with a mournful smile, as she replied that Mr.
Moseley had laid her under such an obligation in their first interview,
she could not deny herself the pleasure of again thanking him for it; but
she must be excused if she desired they would limit their attendants to
him, as there was but one gentleman in England whose visits she admitted,
and it was seldom indeed he called; he had seen her but once since she had
resided in Norfolk.

After giving a promise not to suffer any one else to accompany them, and
promising an early call again, our ladies returned to Benfield Lodge in
season to dress for dinner. On entering the drawing-room, they found the
elegant person of Colonel Egerton leaning on the back of Jane's chair. He
had arrived during their absence, and immediately sought the baronet's
family. His reception, if not as warm as that given to Denbigh, was
cordial from all but the master of the house; and even he was in such
spirits by the company around him, and the prospects of Emily's marriage
(which he considered as settled), that he forced himself to an appearance
of good will he did not feel. Colonel Egerton was either deceived by his
manner, or too much a man of the world to discover his suspicion, and
everything in consequence was very harmoniously, if not sincerely
conducted between them.

Lady Moseley was completely happy. If she had the least doubts before, as
to the intentions of Egerton, they were now removed. His journey to that
unfashionable watering-place, was owing to his passion; and however she
might at times have doubted as to Sir Edgar's heir, Denbigh she thought a
man of too little consequence in the world, to make it possible he would
neglect to profit by his situation in the family of Sir Edward Moseley.
She was satisfied with both connexions. Mr. Benfield had told her General
Sir Frederic Denbigh was nearly allied to the Duke of Derwent, and Denbigh
had said the general was his grandfather. Wealth, she knew Emily would
possess from both her uncle and aunt; and the services of the gentleman
had their due weight upon the feelings of the affectionate mother. The
greatest of her maternal anxieties was removed, and she looked forward to
the peaceful enjoyment of the remnant of her days in the bosom of her
descendants. John, the heir of a baronetcy, and 15,000 pounds a year,
might suit himself; and Grace Chatterton, she thought, would be likely to
prove the future Lady Moseley. Sir Edward, without entering so deeply into
anticipations of the future as his wife, experienced an equal degree of
contentment; and it would have been a difficult task to discover in the
island a roof, under which there resided at the moment more happy
countenances than at Benfield Lodge; for as its master had insisted on
Denbigh becoming an inmate, he was obliged to extend his hospitality in an
equal degree to Colonel Egerton: indeed, the subject had been fully
canvassed between him and Peter the morning of his arrival, and was near
being decided against his admission, when the steward, who had picked up
all the incidents of the arbor scene from the servants (and of course with
many exaggerations), mentioned to his master that the colonel was very
active, and that he even contrived to bring water to revive Miss Emmy, a
great distance, in the hat of Captain Jarvis, which was full of holes, Mr.
John having blown it off the head of the captain without hurting a hair,
in firing at a woodcock. This mollified the master a little, and he agreed
to suspend his decision for further observation. At dinner, the colonel
happening to admire the really handsome face of Lord Gosford, as
delineated by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which graced the dining-room of
Benfield Lodge, its master, in a moment of unusual kindness, gave the
invitation; it was politely accepted, and the colonel at once
domesticated.

The face of John Moseley alone, at times, exhibited evidences of care and
thought, and at such moments it might be a subject of doubt whether he
thought the most of Grace Chatterton or her mother: if the latter, the
former was sure to lose ground in his estimation; a serious misfortune to
John, not to be able to love Grace without alloy. His letters from her
brother mentioned his being still at Denbigh castle, in Westmoreland, the
seat of his friend the Duke of Derwent; and John thought one or two of his
encomiums on Lady Harriet Denbigh, the sister of his grace, augured that
the unkindness of Emily might in time be forgotten. The dowager and her
daughters were at the seat of a maiden aunt in Yorkshire, where as John
knew no male animal was allowed admittance, he was tolerably easy at the
disposition of things. Nothing but legacy-hunting he knew would induce the
dowager to submit to such a banishment from the other sex; but that was
so preferable to husband-hunting he was satisfied. "I wish," said John
mentally, as he finished the perusal of his letter, "mother Chatterton
would get married herself, and she might let Kate and Grace manage for
themselves. Kate would do very well, I dare say, and how would Grace make
out!" John sighed, and whistled for Dido and Rover.

In the manners of Colonel Egerton there was the same general disposition
to please, and the same unremitted attention to the wishes and amusements
of Jane. They had renewed their poetical investigations, and Jane eagerly
encouraged a taste which afforded her delicacy some little coloring for
the indulgence of an association different from the real truth, and which,
in her estimation, was necessary to her happiness. Mrs. Wilson thought the
distance between the two suitors for the favor of her nieces was, if
anything, increased by their short separation, and particularly noticed on
the part of the colonel an aversion to Denbigh that at times painfully
alarmed, by exciting apprehensions for the future happiness of the
precious treasure she had prepared herself to yield to his solicitations,
whenever properly proffered. In the intercourse between Emily and her
preserver, as there was nothing to condemn, so there was much to admire.
The attentions of Denbigh were pointed, although less exclusive than those
of the colonel; and the aunt was pleased to observe that if the manners of
Egerton had more of the gloss of life, those of Denbigh were certainly
distinguished by a more finished delicacy and propriety. The one appeared
the influence of custom and association, with a tincture of artifice; the
other, benevolence, with a just perception of what was due to others, and
with an air of sincerity, when speaking of sentiments and principles, that
was particularly pleasing to the watchful widow. At times, however, she
could not but observe an air of restraint, if not of awkwardness, about
him that was a little surprising. It was most observable in mixed society,
and once or twice her imagination pictured his sensations into something
like alarm. These unpleasant interruptions to her admiration were soon
forgotten in her just appreciation of the more solid parts of his
character, which appeared literally to be unexceptionable; and when
momentary uneasiness would steal over her, the remembrance of the opinion
of Dr. Ives, his behavior with Jarvis, his charity, and chiefly his
devotion to her niece, would not fail to drive the disagreeable thoughts
from her mind. Emily herself moved about, the image of joy and innocence.
If Denbigh were near her, she was happy; if absent, she suffered no
uneasiness. Her feelings were so ardent, and yet so pure, that jealousy
had no admission. Perhaps no circumstances existed to excite this usual
attendant of the passion; but as the heart of Emily was more enchained
than her imagination, her affections were not of the restless nature of
ordinary attachments, though more dangerous to her peace of mind in the
event of an unfortunate issue. With Denbigh she never walked or rode
alone. He had never made the request, and her delicacy would have shrunk
from such an open manifestation of her preference; but he read to her and
her aunt; he accompanied them in their little excursions; and once or
twice John noticed that she took the offered hand of Denbigh to assist her
over any little impediment in their course, instead of her usual
unobtrusive custom of taking his arm on such occasions. "Well, Miss
Emily," thought John, "you appear to have chosen another favorite," on her
doing this three times in succession in one of their walks. "How strange
it is women will quit their natural friends for a face they have hardly
seen." John forgot his own - "There is no danger, dear Grace," when his
sister was almost dead with apprehension. But John loved Emily too well
to witness her preference of another with satisfaction, even though
Denbigh was the favorite; a feeling which soon wore away, however, by dint
of custom and reflection. Mr. Benfield had taken it into his head that if
the wedding of Emily could be solemnized while the family was at the
lodge, it would render him the happiest of men; and how to compass this
object, was the occupation of a whole morning's contemplation. Happily for
Emily's blushes, the old gentleman harbored the most fastidious notions of
female delicacy, and never in conversation made the most distant allusion
to the expected connexion. He, therefore, in conformity with these
feelings, could do nothing openly; all must be the effect of management;
and as he thought Peter one of the best contrivers in the world, to his
ingenuity he determined to refer the arrangement.

The bell rang - "Send Johnson to me, David."

In a few minutes, the drab coat and blue yarn stockings entered his
dressing-room with the body of Mr. Peter Johnson snugly cased within them.

"Peter," commenced Mr. Benfield, pointing kindly to a chair, which the
steward respectfully declined, "I suppose you know that Mr. Denbigh, the
grandson of General Denbigh, who was in parliament with me, is about to
marry my little Emmy?"

Peter smiled, as he bowed an assent.



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperPrecaution → online text (page 16 of 36)