« AnteriorContinuar »
the hospitality which he had received himself in England. He still remembered or professed to remember Lady Kew's beauty. How many women are there, awful of aspect, at present, of whom the same .pleasing legend is not narrated ? It must be true, for do not they themselves confess it? I know of few things more remarkable or suggestive of philosophic contemplation than those physical changes.
When the old Duke and the old Countess met together and talked confidentially, their conversation bloomed into a jargon wonderful to hear. Old scandals woke up, old naughtinesses rose out of their graves, and danced, and smirked, and gibbered again, like those wicked nuns whom Bertram and Robert le Diable evoke from their sepulchres whilst the bassoon performs a diabolical incantation. The Brighton Pavilion was tenanted : Ranelagh and the Pantheon swarmed with dancers and masks; Perdita was found again, and walked a minuet with the Prince of Wales. Mrs. Clarke and the Duke of York danced together-a pretty dance. The old Duke wore a jabot and ailes-de-pigeon, the old Countess a hoop, and a cushion on her head. If haply the young folks came in, the elders modified their recollections, and Lady Kew brought Jonest old King George and good old ugly Queen Charlotte to the rescue. Her ladyship was sister of the Marquis of Steyne, and in some respects resembled that lamented nobleman. Their family had relations in France (Lady Kew had always a pied-à-terre at Paris, a bitter little scandal-shop, where les bien-pensants assembled and retailed the most awful stories against the reigning dynasty). It was she who handed over le petit Kiou, when quite a boy, to Monsieur and Madame d'Ivry, to be lancé into Parisian society. He was treated as a son of the family by the Duke, one of whose many Christian names his lordship Francis George Xavier Earl of Kew and Viscount "Walham bears. If Lady Kew hated any one (and she could hate very considerably) she hated her daughter-in-law, Walham's widow, and the Methodists who surrounded her. Kew remain among a pack of psalm-singing old women and parsons with his mother! Fi donc ! Frank was Lady Kew's boy, she would form him, marry him, leave him her money if he married to her liking, and show him life. And so she showed it to him.
Have you taken your children to the National Gallery in London, and shown them the “Marriage à la Mode ?” Was the artist exceeding the privilege of his calling in painting the catastrophe in which those guilty people all suffer ? If this fable were not true, if many and many of your young men of pleasure had not acted it, and rued the moral, I would tear the page. You know that in our Nursery Tales there is commonly a good fairy to counsel, and a bad one to mislead the young prince. You perhaps feel that in your own life there is a Good Principle imploring you to come into its kind bosom, and a Bad Passion which tempts you into its arms. Be of easy minds, good-natured people ! Let us disdain surprises and coups-dethéâtre for once ; and tell those good souls who are interested about him, that there is a Good Spirit coming to the rescue of our young Lord Kew.
Surrounded by her court and royal attendants, La Reine Marie used graciously to attend the play-table, where luck occasionally declared itself for and against her Majesty. Her appearance used to create not a little excitement in the Saloon of Roulette, the game which she patronized, it being more “fertile of emotions” than the slower Trente et Quarante. She dreamed of numbers, had favourite incantations by which to conjure them ; noted the figures made by peels of peaches and so forth, the numbers of houses, on hackneycoaches-was superstitious comme toutes les âmes poétiques. She commonly brought a beautiful agate bonbonnière full of gold pieces when she played. It was wonderful to see her grimaces ; to watch her behaviour; her appeals to heaven, her delight and despair. Madame la Baronne de la Cruchecassée played on one side of her, Madame la Comtesse de Schlangenbad on the other. When she had lost all her money her Majesty would condescend to borrow-not from those ladies :-knowing the royal peculiarity, they never had any money ; they always lost; they swiftly pocketed their winnings and never left a mass on the table, or quitted it, as courtiers will, when they saw luck was going against their sovereign. The officers of her household were Count Punter, a Hanoverian, the Cavaliere Spada, Captain Blackball of a mysterious English regiment, which might be any one of the hundred and twenty in the Army List, and other noblemen and gentlemen, Greeks, Russians, and Spaniards. Mr. and Mrs. Jones (of England)—who had made the princess's acquaintance at Bagnères (where her lord still remained in the gout) and perseveringly followed her all the way to Baden-were dazzled by the splendour of the company in which they found themselves. Miss Jones wrote such letters to her dearest friend Miss Thompson, Cambridge Square, London, as caused that young person to crever with envy. Bob Jones, who had grown a pair of mustachios since he left home, began to think slightingly of poor little Fanny Thompson, now he had got into "the best continental society." Might not he quarter a countess's coat on his brougham along with the Jones's arms, or more slap-up still, have the two shields painted on the panels with the coronet over? “Do you know the princess calls herself the Queen of Scots and she calls me Julian Avenel ?” says Jones delighted to Clive, who wrote me about the transmogrification of our schoolfellow, an attorney's son, whom I recollected a snivelling little boy at Grey Friars. “I say, Newcome, the princess is going to establish an order," cried Bob in
ecstacy. Every one of her aides-de camp had a bunch of orders at his button, excepting, of course, poor Jones.
Like all persons who beheld her, when Miss Newcome and her party made their appearance at Baden, Monsieur de Florac was en: raptured with her beauty. “I speak of it constantly before the Duchesse. I know it pleases her," so the Vicomte said. “You should have seen her looks when your friend M. Jones praised Miss Newcome! She ground her teeth with fury. Tiens, ce petit sournois de Kiou ! He always spoke of her as a mere sac d'argent that he was about to marry—an ingot of the cité—une fille de Lord Maire. Have all English bankers such pearls of daughters? If the Vicomtesse de Florac had but quitted the earth, dont elle fait l'ornement I would present myself to the charmante Meess and ride a steeple-chase with Kiou !” That he should win it the Viscount never doubted.
When Lady Ann Newcome first appeared in the ball-room at Baden, Madame la Duchesse d'Ivry begged the Earl of Kew (notre filleul she called him) to present her to his aunt Miladi and her charming daughter. “My filleul had not prepared me for so much grace," she said, turning a look towards Lord Kew, which caused his lordship some embarrassment. Her kindness and graciousness were extreme. Her caresses and compliments never ceased all the evening. She told the mother, and the daughter too, that she had never seen any one so lovely as Ethel. Whenever she saw Lady Ann's children in the walks she ran to them (so that Captain Blackball and Count Punter, A.D.C., were amazed at her tenderness), she étouffé'd them with kisses. What lilies and roses! What lovely little creatures ! What companions for her own Antoinette! “ This is your governess, Miss Quigli; Mademoiselle, you must let me present you to Miss O'Grédi, your compatriot, and I hope your children will be always together.” The Irish Protestant governess scowled at the Irish Catholic there was a Boyne Water between them.
Little Antoinette, a lonely little girl, was glad to find any companions. “Mamma kisses me on the promenade," she told them in her artless way. “She never kisses me at home.” One day when Lord Kew with Florac and Clive was playing with the children, Antoinette said, “ Pourquoi ne venez-vous plus chez nous, M. de Kew? And why does mamma say you are a lâche? She said so yesterday to ces Messieurs. And why does mamma say thou art only a vaurien, mon cousin ? Thou art always very good for me. I love thee better than all those Messieurs. Ma tante Florac a été bonne pour moi à Paris aussi—Ah! qu'elle a été bonne!”
“C'est que les anges aiment bien les petits chérubins, and my mother is an angel, seest thou ?” cries Florac, kissing her.
“Thy mother is not dead,” said little Antoinette, “then why dost thou cry, my cousin ?" And the three spectators were touched by this
: Lady Ann Newcome received the caresses and compliments of Madame la Duchesse with marked coldness on the part of one commonly so very good-natured. Ethel's instinct told her that there was something wrong in this woman, and she shrank from her with haughty reserve. The girl's conduct was not likely to please the French lady, but she never relaxed in her smiles and her compliments, her caresses, and her professions of admiration. She was present when Clara Pulleyn fell; and, prodigal of câlineries and consolation, and shawls and scent-bottles, to the unhappy young lady, she would accompany her home. She inquired perpetually after the health of cette pauvre petite Miss Clara. Oh, how she railed against ces Anglaises and their prudery! Can you fancy her and her circle, the tea-table set in the twilight that evening, the court assembled, Madame de la Cruchecassée and Madame de Schlangenbad; and their whiskered humble servants, Baron Punter and Count Spada, and Marquis Iago, and Prince Iachimo, and worthy Captain Blackball ? Can you fancy a moonlight conclave, and ghouls feasting on the fresh corpse of a reputation :-the jibes and sarcasms, the laughing and the gnashing of teeth ? How they tear the dainty limbs, and relish the tender morsels!
“The air of this place is not good for you, believe me, my little Kew; it is dangerous. Have pressing affairs in England; let your château burn down; or your intendant run away, and pursue him. Partez, mon petit Kiou ; partez, or evil will come of it." Such was the advice which a friend of Lord Kew gave the young nobleman.
[THEL had made various attempts to become intimate with her L future sister-in-law; had walked, and ridden, and talked with Lady Clara before Barnes's arrival. She had come away not very much impressed with respect for Lady Clara's mental powers; indeed we have said that Miss Ethel was rather more prone to attack women than to admire them, and was a little hard upon the fashionable young persons of her acquaintance and sex. In after life, care and thought subdued her pride, and she learned to look at society more goodnaturedly; but at this time and for some years after, she was impatient of common-place people, and did not choose to conceal her scorn. Lady Clara was very much afraid of her. Those timid little thoughts, which would come out, and frisk and gambol with pretty graceful antics, and advance confidingly at the sound of Jack Belsize's jolly voice, and nibble crumbs out of his hand, shrank away before Ethel, severe nymph with the bright eyes, and hid themselves under the thickets and in the shade. Who has not overheard a simple couple of girls, or of lovers possibly, pouring out their little hearts, laughing at their own little jokes, prattling and prattling away unceasingly, until mamma appears with her awful didactic countenance, or the governess with her dry moralities, and the colloquy straightway ceases, the laughter stops, the chirp of the harmless little birds is hushed ? Lady Clara being of a timid nature, stood in as much awe of Ethel as of her father and mother; whereas her next sister, a brisk young creature of seventeen, who was of the order of romps or tomboys, was by no: means afraid of Miss Newcome, and indeed a much greater favourite: with her than her placid elder sister.
Young ladies may have been crossed in love, and have had their sufferings, their frantic moments of grief and tears, their wakeful nights, and so forth; but it is only in very sentiinental novels that people occupy themselves perpetually with that passion; and, I believe, what are called 'broken hearts are very rare articles indeed. Tom is jilted is for a while in a dreadful state-bores all his male acquaintance with his groans and his frenzy rallies from the complaint-eats his dinner very kindly-takes an interest in the next turf