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peculiar in the dinner, and as I have no time for describing such matters in detail the clatter of plate, the jingling of silver, the sparkling of wines, and so forth-I shall request the reader to imagine himself led by me quietly out of the dining-room into the library-thus escaping from all the bustle and hubbub attendant upon such an entertainment as is going on in the front of the house. We shall be alone in the libraryhere it is; we enter it, and shut the door. 'Tis a spacious room, all the sides covered with books, of which Mr Aubrey is a great collector-and the clear red fire (which we must presently replenish or it will go out) is shedding a subdued ruddy light on all the objects in the room, very favourable for our purpose. The ample table is covered with books and papers; and there is an antique-looking arm chair drawn opposite to the fire, in which Mr Aubrey has been indulging in a long reverie till the moment of quitting it to go and dress for dinner. This chair I shall sit in my self; you may draw out from the recess for yourself, one of two little sloping easy-chairs, which have been placed there by Mrs and Miss Aubrey for their own sole use, considering that they are excellent judges of the period at which Mr Aubrey has been long enough alone, and at which they should come in and gossip with him. We may as well draw the dusky green curtains across the window, through which the moon shines at present rather too brightly. So, now, after coaxing up the fire-I will proceed to tell you a little bit of pleasant family history.
The Aubreys are a Yorkshire family. Their residence, Yatton, is in the north-eastern part of the county, not above fifteen or twenty miles from the sea. The hall is one of those old structures, the sight of which throws you back nearly a couple of centuries in our English history. It stands in a park, crowded with trees, many of them of great age and size, and under which some two hundred head of deer perform their capricious and graceful gambols. You strike off the great North road into a broad by-way; after going down which for about a mile, you come to a straggling little village called Yatton, at the further extremity of which stands an aged grey church, with a very tall thin
spire; an immense yew-tree, with a kind of friendly gloom, overshadowing, in the little churchyard, nearly half the graves. A little behind the church is the vicarage house, snug and sheltered by a line of fir-trees. After walking on about eighty yards, you come to the high park-gates, and see a lodge just within, on the left hand side, sheltered by an elm-tree. You then wind your way for about a third of a mile along a gravel walk, amongst the thickening trees, till you come to a ponderous old crumbling. looking red brick gateway of the time of Henry VII., with one or two deeplyset stone windows in the turrets, and mouldering stone-capped battlements peeping through high-climbing ivy. There is an old escutcheon immediately over the point of the arch; and as you pass underneath, if you look up you can see the groove of the old portcullis still remaining. Having passed under this castellated remnant, you enter a kind of court, formed by a high wall completely covered with ivy, running along in a line from the right hand turret of the gateway till it joins the house. Along its course are a number of yew-trees. In the centre of the open space is a quaintly disposed grass-plot, dotted about with stunted box, and in the centre stands a weatherbeaten stone sundial. The house itself is a large irregular pile of dull red brickwork, with great stacks of chimneys in the rear; the body of the building had evidently been erected at different times. Some part is evidently in the style of Queen Elizabeth's reign, another in that of Queen Anne and it is plain that on the site of the present structure has formerly stood a castle. There are traces of the old moat still visible round the rear of the house. One of the ancient towers, with small deep stone windows, still remains, giving its venerable support to the righthand extremity of the building. The long frontage of the house consists of two huge masses of dusky red brickwork, (you can hardly call them wings,) connected together by a lower building in the centre, which contains the hall. There are three or four rows of long thin deep windows, with heavy-looking wooden sashes. The high-pitched roof is of slate, and has deep projecting eaves, forming, in fact, a bold wooden cornice running
along the whole length of the building, which is some two or three stories high. At the left extremity stands a clump of ancient cedars of Lebanon, feathering in evergreen beauty down to the ground. The hall is large and lofty; the floor is of polished oak, almost the whole of which is covered with thick matting; it is wainscoted all round with black oak; some seven or eight full-length pictures, evidently of considerable antiquity, being let into the panels. Quaint figures these are to be sure; and if they resembled the ancestors of the Aubrey family, those ancestors must have been singular and startling persons! The faces are quite white and staring-all as if in wonder; and they have such long legs, ending in sharp-pointed shoesjust such as were worn in the reign of Edward III., or even Richard II. On each side of the ample fireplace stands a figure in full armour; and there are also ranged along the wall old swords and lances, the very idea of wielding and handling which makes your arms ache, while you exclaim, "they must have been giants in those days!" On one side of this hall, a door opens into the dining-room, beyond which is the library; on the other side a door leads you into a noble room, now called the drawingroom, where stands a very fine organ. Out of both the dining-room and drawing-room, you pass up a staircase contained in an old square tower, two sides of each of them opening on the old quadrangle, lead into a gallery running all round the quadrangle, and into which all the bed-rooms open. But I need not go into further detail. Altogether it is truly a fine old mansion. Its only constant occupant is Mrs Aubrey, the mother of Mr Aubrey, in whose library we are now seated. She is a widow, having survived her husband, who twice was one of the county members about fifteen years. Mr Aubrey is her firstborn child, Miss Aubrey her last: four intervening children she has followed to the grave, the grief and suffering consequent upon which have sadly shaken her constitution, and made her, both in actual health and in appearance, at least ten years older than she really is-for she has, in point of fact, not long since entered her sixtieth year. What a blessed life she leads at Yatton! Her serene and
cheerful temper makes every one happy about her; and her charity is unbounded, but dispensed with a most just discrimination. One way or another, almost a fourth of the village are direct pensioners upon her bounty. You have only to mention the name of Madam Aubrey, the lady of Yatton, to witness involuntary homage paid to her virtues. Her word is law; and well indeed it may be. While Mr Aubrey, her husband, was to the last stern in his temper, and reserved in his habits, bearing withal a spotless and lofty character, she was always what she still is, meek, gentle, accessible, charitable, and pious. On his death she withdrew from the world, and has ever since resided at Yatton -never having quitted it for a single day. There are in the vicinity one or two stately families, with ancient name, sounding title, and great possessions; but for ten miles round Yatton, old Madam Aubrey, the squire's mother, is the name that is enshrined in people's kindliest and most grateful feelings, and receives their readiest homage. 'Tis perhaps a very small matter to mention, but there is at the hall a great white old mare, Peggy, that for these twenty years, in all weathers, hath been the bearer of Madam's bounty. A thousand times hath she carried Jacob Jones (now a pensioned servant, whose hair is as white as Peggy's) all over the estate, and also oft beyond it, with comfortable matters for the sick and poor. Most commonly there are a couple of stone bottles, filled with cowslip, cur rant, ginger, or elderberry wine, slung before old Jones over the wellworn saddle-to the carrying of which Peggy has got so accustomed that she does not go comfortably without them. She has so fallen into the habits of old Jones, who is an inveterate gossip, (Madam having helped to make him such by the numerous enquiries she makes of him every morning as to every one in the village, and on the estate, and which enquiries he must have the means of answering,) that slow as she jogs along, if ever she meets or is overtaken by any one, she stops of her own accord, as if to hear what they and her rider have to say to one another. She is a great favourite with all, and gets a mouthful of hay or grass at every place she stops at, either from the children or
the old people.
though not, perhaps, of the highest or most brilliant order; and is a most capital scholar. At Oxford he plucked the prize from a host of strong com. petitors, and has since justified the expectations which were entertained of him. He has made several really valuable contributions to historic literature-indeed, I think he is even now engaged upon some researches calculated to throw much light upon the obscure origin of several of our political institutions. He has entered upon politics with uncommon ardour-perhaps with an excessive ardour. I think he is likely to make a considerable figure in Parliament; for he is a man of very clear head, very patient, of businesslike habits, and, moreover, has a very impressive delivery as a public speaker. He is generous and charitable as his admirable mother, and careless, even to a fault, of his pecuniary interests. He is a man of perfect simplicity and purity of character. Above all, his virtues are the virtues which have been sublimed by Christianity-the cold embers of morality warmed into religion.
When old Peggy comes to die, she will be missed by all the folk round Yatton. Madam Aubrey, growing, I am sorry to say, very feeble, cannot go about as much as she used, and betakes herself oftener and oftener to the old family coach; and when she is going to drive about the neighbourhood, you may always see it stop at the vicarage for old Dr Tatham, who generally accompanies her. On these occasions she always has a bag containing Testaments and prayer-books, which are distributed as rewards to those whom the parson can recommend as deserving of them. For these five-and-twenty years she has never missed giving a copy of each to every child in the village and on the estate, on its being confirmed; and the old lady looks round very keenly every Sunday, from her pew, to see that these Bibles and prayer. books are reverently used. I could go on for an hour and longer, telling you these and other such matters of this exemplary lady; but we shall by and by have some opportunities of seeing and knowing more of her personally. In manner she is very calm, and quiet, and dignified. She looks all that you could expect from what I have told you. The briskness of youth, the sedate firmness of middle-age, have years since given place, as you will see with some pain, to the feebleness produced by ill health and mental suffering for she mourned after her children with all a fond and bereaved mother's love. Oh! how she doats upon her surviving son and daughter! And are they not worthy of such a mother? Mr Aubrey is in his thirty. sixth year; and inherits the mental qualities of both his parents-the demeanour and person of his father. He has a reserve that is not cynical, but only diffident, yet it gives him, at least at first sight, an air of hauteur, if not austerity, which is very far from his real nature, for within is, indeed, the rich" milk of human kindness." He has the soft heart and benignant temper of his mother, joined with the masculine firmness of character which belonged to his father. Sensitive he is, perhaps to a fault. There is a tone of melancholy or pensiveness in his composition, which has probably increased upon him from his severe studies, ever since his youth. He is a man of superior intellect,
He stands happily equidistant from infidelity and fanaticism. He has looked for light from above, and has heard a voice saying "This is the way, walk thou in it." His piety is the real source of that happy consistent dignity, and content, and firmness which have earned him the respect of all who know him, and will bear him through whatever may befall him. He who standeth upon this rock cannot be moved, perhaps not even touched, by the surges of worldly circumstances of difficulty and distress. In manner Mr Aubrey is calm and gentlemanlike; in person he is rather above the middle height, and of slight make-too slight, perhaps, to be elegant. From the way in which his clothes hang about him, a certain sharpness at his shoulders catching the eye of an observer-you would feel an anxiety about his health, which would be increased by hearing of the mortality in his family; and your thoughts are perhaps pointed in the same direction, by a glance at his long, thin, delicate, white hands. His countenance, though not to be called handsome, has a serene manliness about it when in repose, and an acuteness and vivacity when animated, which are delightful to behold: it often beams with energy and intellect.
His hair is black as jet, and his forehead ample and marked.
Mr Aubrey has been married about six years; 'twas a case of love at first sight. Chance threw him in the way of Agnes St Clair, within a few weeks after she had been bereaved of her only parent, Colonel St Clair, who fell in the Peninsular war. Had he lived only a month or two longer, he would have succeeded to a considerable estate; as it was, he left his only child comparatively penniless- but Heaven had endowed her with personal beauty, with a lovely disposition, and superior understanding. It was not till after a long and anxious wooing, backed by the cordial entreaties of Mrs Aubrey, that Miss St Clair consented to become the wife of a man, who, to this hour, loves her with all the passionate ardour with which she had first inspired him. And richly she deserves his love, for she doats upon him, she studies, or rather perhaps anticipates, his every wish; in short, had the whole sex been searched for one calculated to make happy the morbidly-fastidious Aubrey, the choice must surely have fallen on Miss St Clair; a woman whose temper, whose tastes, and whose manners were at once in delicate and harmonizing unison and contrast with his own. She has hitherto brought him but two children, a boy between four and five years old, and a girl about two years old. If I were to hint my own impressions, I should say there was a probability but be that as it may, 'tis an affair we have nothing to do with at present.
Of Catharine Aubrey you had a momentary moonlight glimpse, at a former period of this history ;* and you have seen her this evening under other, and perhaps not less interesting circumstances. Now, where have you beheld a more exquisite specimen of budding womanhood?-but I feel that I shall get extravagant if I begin to dwell upon her charms. You have seen her-judge for yourself; but you do not know her as I do; and I shall tell you that her personal beauty is but a faint emblem of the beauties of her mind and character. She is Aubrey's youngest-his only sister; and he cherishes her with the tenderest and
fondest regard. Neither he, nor his mother-with both of whom she spends her time alternately-can bear to part with her for ever so short an interval. She is the gay, romping playmate of the little Aubreys; the demure secretary and treasurer of her mother. say demure-for there is a sly humour and archness in Kate's composition, which flickers about even her gravest moods. She is calculated equally for the seclusion of Yatton, and the splendid atmosphere of Almack's; but for the latter she seems at present to have little inclination. Kate is a girl of decided character, of strong sense, of high principle; all of which are irradicated, not overborne, by her sparkling vivacity of temperament. She has real talent; and her mind has been trained, and her tastes directed, with affectionate skill and vigilance by her gifted mother. She has many accomplishments; but the only one I shall choose here to name is-music. She was a girl to sing and play before a man of the most fastidious taste and genius. I defy any man to hear the rich tones of Miss Aubrey's voice without being exquisitely moved. Music is with her a matter not of art, but of feeling-of passionate feeling; but hark!-hush!-surely-yes, that is Miss Aubrey's voice, I will be sworn -that is her clear and brilliant touch; the ladies have ascended to the drawing-room, and we must presently follow them. How time has passed! I had a great deal more to tell you about the family, but we must take some other opportunity.
Yes, it is Miss Aubrey, playing on the new and superb piano given by her brother last week to Mrs Aubrey. Do you see with what a careless grace and ease she is giving a very sweet but difficult composition of Haydn? The lady who is standing by her to turn over her music, is the celebrated Countess of Lydsdale. She is still young and beautiful; but beside Miss Aubrey what a painful contrast! 'Tis all the difference between an artificial and a natural flower. Poor Lady Lydsdale! you are not happy with all your splendour; the glitter of your diamonds cannot compensate for the loss of the sparkling spirits of a younger day; they pale their ineffectual fires
* See ante, Vol. xlvi., p. 839.
beside the fresh and joyous spirit of Catharine Aubrey. You sigh.
"Now I'll sing you quite a new thing," said Kate, starting up, and turning over her portfolio till she came to a sheet of paper, on which were some verses in her own handwriting: "The words were written by my brother, were not they, Agnes? and I have found an old ballad that exactly fits them!" Here her fingers, wandering lightly and softly over the keys, gave forth a beautiful symphony in the minor; after which, with exquisite simplicity, she sung the follow ing:
Peace, wandering, lays her head On regal couch, in captive's denBut nowhere finds she rest with men, Or only with the dead!
To these words, trembling on the beautiful lips of Miss Aubrey, was listening an unperceived auditor, with eyes devouring her every feature, and cars absorbing every tone of her thrilling voice. It was young Delamere, who had, only a moment or two before Miss Aubrey commenced singing the above lines, alighted from his father's carriage, which was then waiting at the door to carry off Lord De la Zouch to the House of Lords. Arrested by the rich voice of the singer, he stopped short before he had entered the front drawing-room, and, stepping
to a corner where he was hid from view, though he could distinctly see Miss Aubrey, there he remained as if rooted to the spot. He, too, had a soul for music; and the exquisite manner in which Miss Aubrey gave the last verse, called up before his excited fancy the vivid image of a dove fluttering with agitated uncertainty over the sea of buman life, even like the dove over the waters enveloping the earth in olden time. The mournful minor into which she threw the last line, excited a heart susceptible of the liveliest emotions to a degree which it required some effort to control, and almost a tear to relieve. When Miss Aubrey had quitted the piano, Mrs Aubrey followed, and gave a very delicate sonata from Haydn. Then sat down Lady Lydsdale, and dashed off, in an exceedingly brilliant style, a scena from the new opera, which quickly reduced the excited feelings of Delamere to a pitch admitting of his presenting himself. While this lowering process was going on, Delamere took down a little volume from a cabinet of books immediately behind him, and which proved to be a volume of the Faery Queen. He found many pencil-marks, evidently made by a light female hand; and turning to the fly-leaf, he beheld, in a small elegant hand, the name of "Catharine Aubrey." His heart fluttered; he turned towards the piano, and beheld the graceful figure of Miss Aubrey standing beside Lady Lydsdale, in an attitude of delighted earnestness-for her ladyship was undoubtedly a very splendid performer-totally unconscious of the burning eye that was fixed upon her. After gazing at her for some moments, he gently pressed the autograph to his lips; and solemnly vowed within himself, in the most deliberate manner possible, that if he could not marry Catharine Aubrey, he would never marry any body; he would, moreover, quit England for ever; and deposit a broken heart in a foreign grave-and so forth. Thus calmly resolved-or rather to such a resolution did his thoughts tendthat sedate person, the Honourable Geoffry Lovel Delamere. He was a high spirited, frank-hearted fellow; and, like a good-natured fool, whom bitter knowledge of the world has not cooled down into contempt for a very considerable portion of it, trusted and