« VorigeDoorgaan »
pretty cousin, and notwithstanding her evident annoyance she fully justified ny epithet. She was pretty. There was no feature in her face which you could have pronounced handsome, there was merely the tout ensemble of pleasing features, and a winning smile, which first made you think- That's a nice looking girl," and end by saying, “Well, she is an unCommonly pretty girl.” I certainly puzzled my brain as to what connection here could be between the two, and on further consideration I fully echoed my cousin's səntiments. Dashwood was a good-looking fellow, well dressed, with an easy carriage, and well-bred manner, but what annoyed me was that I deemed I perceived a certain superciliousness in his manner in the way he looked round the room and called Miss Barkford's attention to the various fittings. I determined to pay him off for it, and I soon had an opportunity I did not expect. On the termination of the breakfast I of course handed round my cigar case, proposing a stroll in the gardens. By the time it reached the bottom of the table it was empty, so, regretting the trouble I was giving him, I begged Dashwood to open a small cupboard
and bring out a box. He had no sooner done so than a fierce growl, a 1:
snap, and a rattle of a chain were heard, and Dashwood withdrew his arm with an oath
“What do you mean by this, sir ?" said he, turning to me ashy pale, while his coat sleeve hung in tatters. “ Confound you, sir,”
“ Hush, sir," interposed Mr. Grenfell, "remember there are ladies present."
“ A thousand pardons ! but really these practical jokes tax the temper.”
I then broke in—"I must really apologise ; but I had no idea the dog it was in the cupboard. It is a favourite bull-terrier, and when I told my
scout to put her out of the sight of the ladies, I certainly never thought he would have selected my cigar-cupboard as her kennel. Can I lend you a coat ?"
The apology was received with a very bad grace, and Dasliwood left the party as we sallied out into the gardens. At twelve o'clock we entered the Sheldonian Theatre, and the entry of the ladies was the signal for the usual shouts of “Three cheers for the lady in pink!" “ Three cheers for the blue bonnet !" &c. My cousin was especially distinguished, as she received an
ovation, not only as the lady in the green muslin,” but also as “The lady ! with golden hair.” The proceedings went off capitally; the proctors were popular, and consequently were not hissed. Three or four distinguished
hinen and foreigners received their honorary degrees, and the usual amount of bad Eng'ish and Latin was spouted by the fortunate gainers of the prizes. A luncheon in the hall of St. Peter's followed, and then we adjourned to the gardens, where a large marquee was pitched, in which grave and reverend Dons dispensed iced cups of all descriptions to all comers. Part of the elegantly dressed company devoted their attention to
performances of that most exquisite of all Choral Societies the Orpheus ES Club, whilst all around could be heard the welcome greetings of old college friends meeting again after many years.
“ Jack Longstreet ! is that you ?" literally shouted a dignified personage in a huge scarlet gown to another dressed in the every-day costume of the British swell. “They told me you were killed in Afghanistan.”
“Not a bit of it, my dear old boy. Come with me, and I'll introduce you to my wife.
What are you doing now?".
Such and such like recognitions met my ears as I was taking Farr a shady bench under the chesnuts, where I meant to find out how she got acquainted with Dashwood. We sat down, and I asked he: question point blank.
“I met Mr. Dashwood at a ball in Weymouth,” was her answer, danced with him several times. Shortly afterwards a very nice Fre lady came to the place, and Mr. Dashwood behaved very rudely to ? She was alone with only her daughter, and had to appeal to a gentle we knew, who I believe inflicted the punishment this Dashwood so rideserved. We knew nothing of this ; and as he was very attentive Beatrice and me, we used to get much quizzed on this subject. However, day I met this lady—a Madame de Longueville-such a nice person, ashe told me about him. Since then I have never set eyes on him. BL way, did you ever know Madame de Longueville abroad? She found you were my cousin, and asked me a lot of questions about you ?"
“What was she like?” “ Tall, very dark hair and eyes—a most beautiful woman, with rati too masculine an expression of haughtiness in her features.”
“Yes," I said, “I think I knew her.” In my mind no doubt existe. as to the identity of Madame de Langear and Madame de Longueville.
“Do you know where she is now ???
“Gone back to France, I think. How is it you never said anythin; about her to us? Tell me, Harry, are you-what shall I call it ?spooney in that matter? Ah ha! mon cousin, have I caught you! You'r blushing, Harry !"
“ You are talking nonsense,” said I ; “but tell me, did you ever mee: Duk ?"
“Duk? No. Why? What makes you ask such a question ?”
“Oh, nothing ; only I know how susceptible Duk is, and if he had met such a paragon as you describe”.
"I did nothing of the kind ; and I insist on your immediately telling me all you know about this lady. Now, Harry, you know I am accustomed to be obeyed, and if I do not hear all about her before I leave this bench, not one dance shall you have with me at any of the balls to which we are asked."
"It's too long a story, Fanny,” I said.
“There is a story then? Well, long or short I must hear it. Come somewhere where you can smoke your cigar, and tell your cousin, who you know has a deep interest in anything that affects those two scamps her brother and her cousin."
We turned down one of the walks, and after obtaining a promise of secrecy, I divulged whatever I could without breaking my oath.
Fanny's countenance altered very much during the recital, and at the end she turned to me
“Harry, I did not give you credit for so much pluck and spirit ; but I hope you have given up your absurd ideas.”
"Absurd ! My ideas absurd ! Because the conduct of the men employed to work out a good result is bad, is that any reason why the ideas from which it proceeds should be absurd ?"
“You have distressed me very much, Harry. Do you dare to tell mo that one of our race is disloyal to his Queen ?"
"I do not acknowledge the sovereignty of any one individual." Fanny stopped and with a heightened colour looked me full in the face.
Then of a sudden she dropped on a bench, and the hot tears came gushing out of her eyes.
Oh, Harry, you grieve me so. Do for your own sake, for my sake, at once dissolve your connection with these men. If not, you will break your mother's heart.”
“My father and mother seem to have got on very well without me for a long time, so I do not suppose any proceedings on my part will affect them much.”
“ But you do not consider us; you are looked upon as one of us. Papa I know loves you as if you were his son ; and think of his feelings when he, the thorough Conservative English country gentleman, hears that his nephew, of whom he was so proud, is associated with a band of midnight conspirators. Oh, Harry, Harry, do, I pray you, consider what I say.”
I I looked at the poor girl as she sobbed out her appeal, and I felt touched to the heart. I felt that happen what might, I could not tear myself away from the society of my cousin. I now began to perceive, for the first time, that whatever influence the lovely countenance of my French friend could have obtained over me, it was not to be compared with that exercised by the artless Fanny. I saw how thoroughly she was imbued with what I considered old fashioned ideas, and what a struggle she had between them and her regard for me. Was it more than regard ? And I attempted to analyse my own feelings with respect to my old playfellow. It was in vain that I tried to keep up the cold argument. Fanny was weeping. She the lively, merry-hearted girl, who had looked forward with such glee to her trip, was now evidently plunged in deep grief, and I was the
“ Fan, dearest Fan, for heaven's sake compose yourself,” said I, “and I promise you that I will do my best endeavour to wean myself from the society of the men—on one condition. Do you think that your love for Cousin Harry is sufficient to enable you to give him a favourable answer when he asks you to share his future fortunes ?”
“Oh Harry!" was at first the only answer. Then suddenly brushing away her tears, she rose, and in a firm tone of voice answered my question.
“Only give up this unlucky youthful folly of yours, Harry, and if Papa casts no objection in the way, when the time comes that you can claim me as your wife, I-Harry, dear Harry, I would lay down my life to save you from trouble.”
She made a violent effort, and spoke again in forced calm tone—“We are both too young yet to speak of such subjects; but if you continue in the same mind, and do as I wish you, ask me when the time comes, and I am yours. Please take me back to mamma—I feel faint.”
It was with great difficulty I could regain sufficient composure to walk back again to the lawn. The heat formed a sufficient cause for the headache of which Fanny complained, and good Mrs. Grenfell bustled off with her daughter to their lodgings, whilst, sick at heart, and unable to mix in the gay crowd that surrounded me, I went back to my rooms, vowing that Fanny's warning should be attended to. I mused deeply over the transactions of the day. I remembered how in my boyhood Fan and myself had always taken each other's part-how she had been the recipient of all my little secrets, always excepting the one I felt bound not to reveal—how her preference for me had even excited the jealousy of her brother; and, I exclaimed as I rose from my seat
“ By heavens ! I will follow the dear girl's advice. She has saved us and now I know why her image was so constantly in my thoughts. Fe her sake, good bye to Mr. Ribaud. I will write to Madame de Langeas She can get me clear.” And with a joyful anticipation of the future, rejoined my uncle in the garden. I did not then know the forced circumstances.
The rest of the week passed off amid the usual never-ceasing rouni of amusements. Mr. and Mrs. Grenfell were fairly knocked up, and even Beatrice confessed that three balls a night for four months was almost tur much. Fanny did not take her usual interest in what was going on, but the elasticity of her youthful disposition, and a renewed promise on my part to use my best endeavours to change my ideas, brought her back to her habitually high spirits. One thing she insisted on which astonished her father. She positively refused to go abroad that summer, saying sh wanted to see the Lakes of Killarney, and insisted on my accompanying the family thither.
The Squire gave way in this as he did in most things to his pet child. and I returned to town with the party. I need not relate how we did the lakes, how we ate salmon at Glena, climbed Mangerton, awoke the echoes of the Eagle's Nest, and wondered at the delicious beauty of the scenery.
Our tour then took us through Galway, and after a short stay in Dublin, the Grenfells went back to Dorsetshire. I returned to my lodgings ili town with the intention of reading hard, as the next year I had to take my degree. One evening, as I was puzzling out a chorus in Aristophanes, the servant knocked, and informed me that a gentleman wanted to speak tu me. I bade her show him in and he walked upstairs. The man was a perfect stranger to me, and from his dress—a tail coat, and black waistcoat and trousers, and a certain uneasiness in his manner, I put him down as a small tradesman. What was my horror when, after seeing close the door, he gave me one of the signs I had learnt in Paris.
"Who are you, and what do you want ?” I exclaimed, a dread coming orer me that I was once more entangled.
"My name, sir, is Peter Porklington, and I have come to invite you to attend this evening a meeting of British workmen to draw up a petition for the charter we require."
“I will do nothing of the kind,” was my reply,“ you see hour busily I am engaged.”
“Ah, my dear sir, said the emissary, “pray reconsider your decision. We want you especially as you are said to be most eager in favour of pacific demonstrations, and we have with us many hot heads who would plunge us into mischief.”
"Most certainly I object to any violent measures," I answered. “What I have seen in my boyhood, and what I apprehend will happen, makes me shudder. Tell me frankly what is your purpose this evening?"
I was rapidly falling into my old ideas. The thought that I might possess influence enough to prerent any rash explosion on the part of an ignorant assembly touched my vanity, and made me blind to the fact
that I was deliberately breaking the promise given to Fanny. I mused for some time without giving any answer to Mr. Porklington. “ After all,” I thought, “ I am going on an errand of mercy. I can tell these men the traditions I have heard in Paris of the horrors of the Revolution. I can shew to them how their passions, once indulged in, will defeat their own ends; and this our meeting over, should my endeavours fail, I will break off all ties with the Revolutionary Committee."
Mr. Porklington saw my hesitation, and urged all the arguments he could string together, to induce me to attend the meeting, and I must do him the justice to say that he found out my weakest point, and artfully flattered my vanity. He drew an alluring picture of the effect produced by the presence of one who, even at a tender age, had distinguished himself in the cause of Liberty, and of the advantage which would accrue to the peaceful portion of the society, by my urging the necessity of slow but persevering endeavours to obtain by negociatiou what would be difficult to acquire by force. In short he, a greasy, ungrammatical tradesman, taking advantage of my vanity, wound himself round me, and persuadsd me against all my good inclinations and resolves.
" When is the meeting, Mr. Porklington?" I asked.
The small grey eyes twinkled, and a half hidden smile of satis. faction came over the face of the emissary, as he answered my question.
“ We have half an hour to spare and no more.”
I went to my bed-room, and in order to be ready against all contingencies, took the precaution of slipping a small American pistol into my coat pocket. We drank one glass of wine, and then set forth. The walk reininded me forcibly of the one I had taken with de Maurigny, and I wondered what had become of him,--of young Lautour: --of the boisterous Arnaud. Then came over me the old horror I used to experience at any thought conected with the fatal shot in the Rue Dir Sous, and again I mentally swore that unless in actual self-detence 1 would never raise a weapon against a fellow creature. We walked to the place of meeting--a dirty house in one of the grimy back streets of Lambeth. The majority of the assembly consisted of men called by the orators who addressed them, “ the hardy sons of labour.” Among themi were many of the same class as Porklington, and I was thoroughly disgusted on seeing that I was the only gentleman present. The pride of race revolted at the association with such “ canaille," and had it not been for my determination to instil principles of peace into the minds of the meeting, I would have left the house at once. As it was, I stayed and listened for about an hour to some of the vilest trash it has ever been my lot to hear. The speakers all agreed in one thing--they denounced the Queen, the House, and the Government; but they proposed no plan, till one man arose and unfolded the purpose of the meeting. We were all to sign a monster petition, embodying our grievances, and present it to the House of Commons. In case of refusal, we were to be ready to support our cause with arms. In due course I rose, and, while deprecating all attempts at violence, I still supported my old theory of Republicanism. As I warmed with my subject, I declaimerl myself against the institutions of the country, and though I did not absolutely advocate the dethronement of the Sovereign, I hinted that