« AnteriorContinuar »
and then he proceeded to cover up old Lady Kew, and to conduct her ladyship to her chariot. Miss Ethel chose to be displeased at her cousin's displeasure. What were balls made for but that people should dance? She a flirt ? She displease Lord Kew? If she chose to dance, she would dance; she had no idea of his giving himself airs : besides it was such fun taking away the gentlemen of Mary Queen of Scots' court from her: such capital fun! So she went to bed, singing and performing wonderful roulades as she lighted her candle and retired to her room. She had had such a jolly evening! such famous fun, and, I daresay, (but how shall a novelist penetrate these mysteries ?) when her chamber-door was closed, she scolded her maid and was as cross as two sticks. You see there come moments of sorrow after the most brilliant victories; and you conquer and rout the enemy utterly, and then regret that you fought.
THE END OF THE CONGRESS OF BADEN. M ENTION has been made of an elderly young person from
IVT Ireland, engaged by Madame la Duchesse d'Ivry, as companion and teacher of English for her little daughter. When Miss O'Grady, as she did some time afterwards, quitted Madame d'Ivry's family, she spoke with great freedom regarding the behaviour of that duchess, and recounted horrors which she, the latter, had committed. A number of the most terrific anecdotes issued from the lips of the indignant Miss, whose volubility Lord Kew was obliged to check, not choosing that his countess, with whom he was paying a bridal visit to Paris, should hear such dreadful legends. It was there that Miss O'Grady, finding herself in misfortune, and reading of Lord Kew's arrival at the “Hôtel Bristol," waited upon his lordship and the Countess of Kew, begging them to take tickets in a raffle for an invaluable ivory writing-desk, sole relic of her former prosperity, which she proposed to give her friends the chance of acquiring: in fact, Miss O'Grady lived for some years on the produce of repeated raffles for this beautiful desk; many religious ladies of the Faubourg St. Germain taking an interest in her misfortunes, and alleviating them by the simple lottery system. Protestants as well as Catholics were permitted to take shares in Miss O'Grady's raffles; and Lord Kew, good-natured then as always, purchased so many tickets, that the contrite O'Grady informed him of a transaction which had nearly affected his happiness, and in which she took a not very creditable share. “Had I known your lordship's real character," Miss O'G. was pleased to say, “no tortures would have induced me to do an act for which I have undergone penance. It was that black-hearted woman, my lord, who maligned your lordship to me: that woman whom I called friend once, but who is the most false, depraved, and dangerous of her sex.” In this way do ladies' companions sometimes speak of ladies when quarrels separate them, when confidential attendants are dismissed, bearing away family secrets in their minds, and revenge in their hearts.
The day after Miss Ethel's feats at the assembly, old Lady Kew went over to advise her granddaughter, and to give her a little timely
warning about the impropriety of flirtations; above all, with such men as are to be found at watering-places, persons who are never seen elsewhere in society. “Remark the peculiarities of Kew's temper, who never flies into a passion like you and me, my dear," said the old lady (being determined to be particularly gracious and cautious); “ when once angry he remains so, and is so obstinate that it is almost impossible to coax him into good humour. It is much better, my love, to be like us,” continued the old lady,“ to fly out in a rage and have it over, but que voulez-vous ? such is Frank's temper, and we must manage him.” So she went on, backing her advice by a crowd of examples drawn from the family history; showing how Kew was like his grandfather, her own poor husband; still more like his late father, Lord Walham; between whom and his mother there had been differences, chiefly brought on by my Lady Walham, of course, which had ended in the almost total estrangement of mother and son. Lady Kew then administered her advice, and told her stories with Ethel alone for a listener; and in a most edifying manner, she besought Miss Newcome to ménager Lord Kew's susceptibilities, as she valued her own future comfort in life, as well as the happiness of a most amiable man, of whom, if properly managed, Ethel might make what she pleased. We have said Lady Kew managed everybody, and that most of the members of her family allowed themselves to be managed by her ladyship.
Ethel, who had permitted her grandmother to continue her sententious advice, while she herself sat tapping her feet on the floor, and performing the most rapid variations of that air which is called the Devil's Tattoo, burst out, at length, to the elder lady's surprise, with an outbreak of indignation, a flushing face, and a voice quivering with anger. :" This most amiable man," she cried out, “that you design for me, I know everything about this most amiable man, and thank you and my family for the present you make me! For the past year, what have you been doing?. Every one of you! my father, my brother, and you yourself, have been fiiling my ears with cruel reports against a poor boy, whom you chose to depict as everything that was dissolute and wicked, when there was nothing against him; nothing, but that he was poor. Yes, you yourself, grandmamma, have told me many and many a time, that Clive Newcome was not a fit companion for us; warned me against his bad courses, and painted him as extravagant, unprincipled, I don't know how bad. How bad! I know how good he is; how upright, generous, and truth-telling: though there was not a day until lately, that Barnes did not make some wicked story against him, Barnes, who, I believe, is bad himself, like-like other young men. Yes, I am sure, there was something about Barnes in that newspaper which my father took away from me. And you come and you lift up your hands and shake your head, because I dance with one gentleman or another. You tell me I am wrong; mamma has told me so this morning. Barnes, of course, has told me so, and you bring me Frank as a pattern, and tell me to love and honour and obey him! Look here," and she drew out a paper and put it into Lady Kew's hands. “Here is. Kew's history, and I believe it is true; yes, I am sure it is true.”
The old dowager lifted her eyeglass to her black eyebrow, and read a paper written in English, and bearing no signature, in which many circumstances of Lord Kew's life were narrated for poor Ethel's benefit. It was not a worse life than that of a thousand young men of pleasure, but there were Kew's many misdeeds set down in order: such a catalogue as we laugh at when Leporello trolls it, and sings his master's victories in France, Italy, and Spain. Madame d'Ivry's name was not mentioned in this list, and Lady Kew felt sure that the outrage came from her.
With real ardour Lady Kew sought to defend her grandson from some of the attacks here made against him; and showed Ethel that the person who could use such means of calumniating him, would not scruple to resort to falsehood in order to effect her purpose.
“Her purpose," cries Ethel. “How do you know it is a woman?" Lady Kew lapsed into generalities. She thought the handwriting was a woman's—at least it was not likely that a man should think of addressing an anonymous letter to a young lady, and so wreaking his hatred upon Lord Kew. “Besides Frank has had no rivals-except -except one young gentleman who has carried his paint-boxes to Italy," says Lady Kew. “You don't think your dear Colonel's son would leave such a piece of mischief behind him? You must act, my dear," continued her ladyship, “as if this letter had never been written at all: the person who wrote it no doubt will watch you. Of course we are too proud to allow him to see that we are wounded ; and pray, pray do not think of letting poor Frank know a word about this horrid transaction."
“ Then the letter is true!" burst out Ethel. “You know it is true, grandmamma, and that is why you would have me keep it a secret from my cousin; besides,” she added, with a little hesitation, “your caution comes too late, Lord Kew has seen the letter."
“You fool,” screamed the old lady, “you were not so mad as to show it to him?"
“I am sure the letter is true,” Ethel said, rising up very haughtily. "It is not by calling me bad names that your ladyship will disprove it. Keep them, if you please, for my Aunt Julia: she is sick and weak, and can't defend herself. I do not choose to bear abuse from you, or lectures from Lord Kew. He happened to be here a short while since, when the letter arrived. He had been good enough to come to preach me a sermon on his own account. He to find fault with my actions !” cried Miss Ethel, quivering with wrath and clenching the luckless paper in her hand. “He to accuse me of levity, and to warn me against making improper acquaintances! He began his lectures too soon. I am not a lawful slave yet, and prefer to remain unmolested, at least as long as I am free."
“And you told Frank all this, Miss Newcome, and you showed him that letter ? " said the old lady.
“The letter was actually brought to me whilst his lordship was in the midst of his sermon," Ethel replied. "I read it as he was making his speech," she continued, gathering anger and scorn as she recalled the circumstances of the interview. “He was perfectly polite in his language. He did not call me a fool or use a single other bad name. He was good enough to advise me and to make such virtuous pretty speeches, that if he had been a bishop he could not have spoken better; and as I thought the letter was a nice commentary on his lordship's sermon I gave it to him. I gave it to him," cried the young woman, "and much good may it do him. I don't think my Lord Kew will preach to me again for some time.”
“I don't think he will indeed," said Lady Kew, in a hard dry voice. “ You don't know what you may have done. Will you be pleased to ring the bell and order my carriage? I congratulate you on having performed a most charming morning's work.”
Ethel made her grandmother a very stately curtsey. I pity Lady Julia's condition when her mother reached home.
All who know Lord Kew may be pretty sure that in that unlucky interview with Ethel, to which the young lady had just alluded, he said no single word to her that was not kind, and just, and gentle. Considering the relation between them, he thought himself justified in remonstrating with her as to the conduct which she chose to pursue, and in warning her against acquaintances of whom his own experience had taught him the dangerous character. He knew Madame d'Ivry and her friends so well that he would not have his wife elect a member of their circle. He could not tell Ethel what he knew of those women and their history. She chose not to understand his hints-did not, very likely, comprehend them. She was quite young, and the stories of such lives as theirs had never been told before her. She was indignant at the surveillance which Lord Kew exerted over her, and the authority which he began to assume. At another moment and in a better frame of mind she would have been thankful for his care, and very soon and ever after she did justice to his many admirable qualities -his frankness, honesty, and sweet temper. Only her high spirit was