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conversation, a thousaud intimations of his love, and tokens of her lasting happiness.
It was now the middle of November; and yet, as Matilda passed along, never to her did the sun shine so bright as upon this morning-ne her imagination comprehend, that the human heart could feel happiness true and genuine as hers !
On arriving at the house, there was no abatement of her felicity :-all was respect and duty on the part of the domestics--all paternal care on the part of Lord Elmwood; and she would have been at that summit of her wishes which annihilates hope, but that the prospect of seeing Miss Woodley and Mr. Sandford still kept this passion in existence.
is too much for her ;-order beds here directly, and some proper person to sit up and attend her.”
She could only turn to him with a look of love and duty; her lips could not utter a sentence.
In the morning she found her father by the side of her bed. He inquired “If she was in health sufficient to pursue her journey, or if she would remain at the inn where she was ?"
“I am able to go with you,” she answered instantly
“Nay,” replied he,“ perhaps you ought to stay here till you are perfectly recovered !"
“I am recovered,” said she, “and ready to go with you."-Fearful that he meant to separate from her, as he had ever done.
He perceived her fears, and replied, “Nay, if you stay, I shall do the same—and when I go, shall take you with me to my house." “To Elmwood house?” she asked eagerly.
No, to my house in town, where I intend to be all the winter, and where you shall still continue under my care.”
She turned her face on the pillow to conceal tears of joy, but her sobs revealed them.
“Come,” said he, “this kiss is a token you have nothing to dread. I shall send for Miss Woodley too immediately," continued he.
“Oh! I shall be overjoyed to see her, my lord --and to see Mr. Sandford- and even Mr. Rushbrook.”
“Do you know him ?" said Lord Elmwood.
The earl, hoping the air might be a means of re-establishing her strength and spirits, now left the room, and ordered his carriage to be prepared: while she arose, attended by one of his female servants, for whom he had sent to town, to bring such changes of apparel as were requisite.
When Matilda was ready to join her father in the next room, she felt a tremor seize her that made it almost impossible to appear before him. No other circumstance now impending to agitate her heart, she felt more forcibly her embarrassment at meeting, on terms of easy intercourse, him, of whom she had never been used to think, but with that distant reverence and fear which his severity had excited ; and she knew not how she should dare to speak to, or look on him with that freedom which her affection warranted.
After many efforts to conquer these nice and refined sensations, but to no purpose, she at last went to his apartment. He was reading; but as she entered, he put out his hand and drew her to him. Her tears wholly overcame her. He could have intermingled his—but assuming a grave countenance, he entreated her to desist from exhausting her spirits; and, after a few powerful struggles, she obeyed.
Before the morning was over, she experienced the extreme joy of sitting by her father's side as they drove to town, and of receiving, during his
RUSHBROOK was detained at Elmwood house during all this time, more by the persuasions, nay prayers of Sandford than the commands of Lord Elmwood. He had, but for Sandford, followed his uncle, and exposed himself to his anger, sooner than have endured the most piercing inquietude, which he was doomed to suffer, till the news arrived of Lady Matilda's safety. He indeed had little else to fear from the known firm, courageous character of her father, and the expedition with which he undertook his journey; but lovers' fears are, like those of women, obstinate; and no argument could persuade either him or Miss Woodley (who had now ventured to come to Elmwood house), but that Matilda's peace of mind might be for ever destroyed, before she was rescued from her danger.
The summons from Lord Elmwood for their coming to town was received by each of this party with delight; but the impatience to obey it was in Rushbrook so violent, it was painful to himself, and extremely troublesome to Sandford ; who wished, from his regard to Lady Matilda, rather to delay than hurry their journey.
“You are to blame,” said he to him and Miss Woodley, “to wish, by your arrival, to divide with Lord Elmwood that tender bond which ties the good who confer obligations to the object of their benevolence. At present there is no one with him to share in the care and protection of his daughter, and he is under the necessity of discharging that duty himself ; this habit may become so powerful that he cannot throw it off, even if his former resolutions should urge him to it. While we remain here, therefore, Lady Matilda is safe with her father; but it would not surprise me, if on our arrival (especially if we are precipitate), he should place her again with Miss Woodley at a distance.”
To this forcible conjecture they submitted for a few days, and then most gladly set out for town.
On their arrival, they were met, even at the street-door, by Lady Matilda; and with an ex
pression of joy they did not suppose her features could have worn. She embraced Miss Woodley ! hung upon Sandford !--and to Mr. Rushbrook, who from his conscious love only bowed at an humble distance, she held out her hand with every look and gesture of the tenderest esteem.
When Lord Elmwood joined them, he welcomed them all sincerely; but Sandford more than the rest, with whom he had not spoken for many days before he left the country; for his allusion io the wretched situation of his daughter-and
lover. The idea of love never once came to hai thoughts; and she would sport with Rushbrook like the most harmless infant, while he, all impas. sioned, could with difficulty resist disclosing to her what she made him suffer.
At the meeting between him and Lord Elmwood, to which he was called for his final answer on that subject, which had once nearly proved so fatal to him ; after a thousand fears, much confusion and embarrassment, he at length frankly confessed his “heart was engaged, and had been so long before his
treat that daughter with an easy, a natural fondo Lord Elmwood, as he had done formerly
ness, as if she had lived with him from her infancy. He appeared, however, at times, under the apprehension, that the propensity of man to jealousy might give Rushbrook a pang at this dangerous rival in his love and fortune. For though Lord Elmwood remembered well the hazard he had once ventured to befriend Matilda, yet the present unlimited reconciliation was something so unlooked for, it might be a trial too much for his generosity. Slight as was this suspicion, it did Rushbrook injustice. He loved Lady Matilda too sincerely, he loved her father's happiness, and her mother's memory too faithfully, not to be rejoiced at all he witnessed ; nor could the secret hope that whispered him, “their blessings might one day be mutual,” increase the pleasure he found, in belolding Matilda happy.
Unexpected affairs, in which Lord Elmwood had been for some time engaged, had diverted his attention for a while from the marriage of his nephew; nor did he at this time find his disposition sufficiently severe to exact from the young man a compliance with his wishes, at so cruel an alternative as that of being for ever discarded. He felt his mind, by the late incident, too much softened for such harshness; he yet wished for the alliance he had proposed; for he was more consistent in his character than to suffer the tenderness his daughter's peril had awakened to derange those plans which he had long projected. Never, even now, for a moment did he indulge--for perhaps it would have been an indulgence—the design of replacing her exactly in the rights of her birth, to
he disappointment of all his nephew's expectations.
Yet, milder at this crisis in his temper than he had been for years before, and knowing he could be no longer irritated upon the subject of neglect to his child, he, at length, once more resolved to trust himself in a conference with Rushbrook on the plan of his marriage; meaning at the same time to mention Matilda as an opponent from whom he had nothing to fear. But, for some time before Rushbrook was called to this private audince, he had, by his unwearied attention, endeavoured to impress upon Matilda's mind the softest sentiments in his favour. He succeeded--but not so fully as he wished. She loved him as her friend, her cousin, her foster-brother, but not as a
ed to know, “ on whom he had placed his affections."
“I dare not tell you, my lord,”-returned he ; “ but Mr. Sandford can witness their sincerity, and how long they have been fixed.”
“Fixed !” cried the earl.
“Immovably fixed, my lord ; and yet the object is as unconscious of my love, to this mornent, as you yourself have been ; and I swear ever shall be so, without
your permission.” “Name the object,” said Lord Elmwood, anxiously.
“My Lord, I dare not—the last time I named her to you, you threatened to abandon me for my arrogance."
Lord Elmwood started.- -“My daughter ! Would you marry her ?”
“But with your approbation, my lord ; and that
Before he could proceed a word further, his uncle left the room hastily—and left Rushbrook all terror for his approaching fate.
Lord Elmwood went immediately into the apartment where Sandford, Miss Woodley, and Matilda were sitting, and cried with an angry voice, and with his countenance disordered,
“Rushbrook has offended me beyond forgiveness. Go, Sandford, to the library where he is, and tell him this instant to quit my house, and never dare to return."
Miss Woodley lifted up her hands and sighed.
Sandford rose slowly from his seat to execute the office.
While Lady Matilda, who was arranging her music books upon the instrument, stopped from her employment suddenly, and held her handkerchief to her eyes.
A genaral silence ensued, till Lord Elmwood, resuming his angry tone, cried, "Do you hear me, Mr. Sandford ?"
Sandford now, without a word in reply, made for the door—but there Matilda impeded him, and throwing her arms about his neck, cried,
“Dear Mr. Sandford, do not.” “ How !” exclaimed her father.
She saw the impending frown, and rushing towards him, took his hand fearfully, and knelt at his feet. “Mr. Rushbrook is my relation,” she cried in a pathetic voice, “my companion, my
friend-before you loved me he was anxious for my happiness, and often visited me, to lament with and console me. I cannot see him turned out of your house without feeling for him what he once felt for me."
Lord Elmwood turned aside to conceal his sensations-then raising her from the floor, he said, "Do you know what he has asked of me?"
"No,"-answered she in the utmost ignorance, and with the utmost innocence painted on her face ;-"but whatever it is, my lord, though you do not grant it, yet pardon him for asking."
"Perhaps you would grant him what he has requested?" said her father.
"Most willingly-was it in my gift."
"It is," replied he. "Go to him in the library, and hear what he has to say; for on your will his fate shall depend."
Like lightning she flew out of the room; while even the grave Sandford smiled at the idea of their meeting.
Rushbrook, with his fears all verified by the manner in which his uncle had left him, sat with his head reclined against a bookcase, and every limb extended with the despair that had seized him.
Matilda nimbly opened the door and cried, "Mr. Rushbrook, I am come to comfort you."
"That you have always done,” said he, rising in rapture to receive her, even in the midst of all his sadness.
"What is it you want?" said she. "What have you asked of my father that he has denied you ?"
"I have asked for that," replied he, "which is dearer to me than my life."
"Be satisfied then," returned she, "for you shall have it."
"Dear Matilda! it is not in your power to bestow."
"But he has told me it shall be in my power; and has desired me to give or refuse it you, at my own pleasure."
"O Heavens !" cried Rushbrook in transport, "has he?"