« ElőzőTovább »
frame ten thousand times more in that single mo- upon his heart chilled with horror! To an indiment, than had the united false notes of all his vidual in his situation, a man of the town, a man different acquaintance, during the whole of his of the world, a clubman, a lounger, a gallant, the previous existence -an achievement that his mu- whirring of a dozen bullets in his ear would have sical sensibilities would once have deemed impos- been far preferable to that infernal sound ; for it sible.
seemed to him—oh, desperation ! like the effort As soon as he had recovered from the transito- of a female to suppress a titter. Even as the ry stupefaction into which this earthquake shuck stunned culprit when the scaffold is presented to had thrown him, his first effort was to ascertain him, mechanically he raised his eyes ; when, whether he had sustained any serious injury. what should his horrified vision encounter imFinding, as well as his restricted position would mediately above him, but the Lady Matilda Morpermit him to judge, that no bones were broken, den ! and with such a look of arch malice on her he lustily attempted to extricate himself from a mirthful countenance, that really I have not suffisituation at once peculiarly inconvenient and unbe- cient stoicism to even attempt to describe it. coming But this was an object unluckily far His first impulse was to slink snail-like back more easily coveted than attained. The upper again into his shell ; and there if possible forever part of the carriage had fallen into a ditch, and hide himself from eyes that seemed to gaze upon the roof consequently being considerably below him like those of Medusa. But he soon found the level of the floor, the situation of the unfor- that ingress was even more difficult than egress. tunate inmate may easily be conceived to be re- He had therefore only the alternative of remainmarkably unpleasant.
ing to be stared to death by the Gorgon eyes Now Mr. Fitz-Roy Byron had by no means a which he felt were still riveted upon him, for he contemptible opinion of his intellectual powers, dared not again raise his own to ascertain the fact ; and, in case of emergency, had frequently de- or to make immediately a desperate effort to evade pended upon his head for his support; but that this appalling catastrophe. this august ornament of the human trunk should Each of these proceedings however had its own ever have been materially devoted to such an em- particular vexations and disadvantages. If he reployment, had never previously, by the remotest mained, he died. But, if he attempted to escape, accident, entered into his calculation of possibili- while conscious that he was exposed to the gaze ties. He was consequently extremely indignant of the fair demon above him, he could not doubt at his situation ; and his vigorous effort to release but that he should make a very ludicrous exhibihimself having failed, he bellowed lustily for as- tion. And, perhaps, if there be in the world one sistance. But as well might he have summoned situation more awkward and ridiculous than the winds, for his servant had been tossed con- another, it is that of a man emerging from the temptuously, like an egg-shell from a monkey, window of an overturned carriage. A Vestris or over a lofty hedge into a mud-pond in the middle a Louis Quatorze could not have undergone this of an adjacent field; and as for the post-boy, he was ordeal with either grace or dignity; how then, in far too deeply immersed in a vehement perform- such a juncture, could even a Fitz-Roy Byron be ance of sundry pantomimic manæuvres to which the supposed likely to be successful ? agony of a sprained ankle was condemning him, These were his harrowing reflections ; but he to pay any heed to the vociferations of the im- had no further option ; one or other step must imprisoned and humiliated dandy.
mediately be adopted. He consequently deterMr. Fitz-Roy, therefore, soon found that he mined to escape ; and the result almost instantly was left to his own resources ; and this conscious- realized all his melancholy anticipations. He sucness supplied him with a desperation that, after ceeded in attaining the outside of the carriage many laborious efforts, ultimately enabled him to without entailing the slightest imputation on attain his object. First the head of the discon- either his grace, or his agility ; but in the leap solate man emerged from the window of the car which was necessary to deposit his person on terra riage ; and then his shoulders forced their way firma, he slipped and fell headlong into the mire, through the same narrow space. At last, the immediately beneath the spot, on which he benatural position of “the animal upon two legs” lieved his fair tormentor to be still stationed. was entirely regained ; he stood upright, his feet His spirit was broken ; instead of springing resting upon the nether side of the luckless vehi- from the earth, he rose slowly; and his temper cle, and part of his body and his arms exhibited was more disturbed than it had ever previously above the level of the upper window. This ob- been. ject attained, he tried to open the door ; but all “ When I resolved," thought he moodily, “ that his efforts proving unsuccessful, he rested his el. I would speedily have her at my feet, I little bows upon the panels, and depositing his chin in imagined that I was destined so soon to find myself his palms, deliberately paused to recover the prostrate at hers.” breath necessary for the exertion which he was But we will not trample upon a persecuted still doomed to undergo.
man; or any longer, with a malicious minuteness He had stood thus for perhaps two or three exhibit him in his misfortunes. We will thereminutes, when he was startled by a sound that fore not only suppose him arrived at the mansion, made the blood rush into his face, and then return but that the couple of days have elapsed, which
intervened before his bruises permitted him to pre-effort ; and it produced a similar effect. All the sent himself at the dinner table of his munificent ladies had risen-many of them had withdrawnhost.
and she saw that her continuation in her seat, unOn this occasion, he was seated next to Lady der such circumstances, was attracting attention. Matilda Morden, to whom he had been introduced Not a moment was to be lostmand, with one more during the morning of that day. And was he convulsive and desperate effort to regain her lost fascinated by her ? Did he appreciate both her treasure, she fairly and finally projected it beyond charms of person and of mind? Perhaps he did ; her reach! but he had conceived such a spite against her in Oh, it would have been worth the sacrifice of consequence of her accidental privity to his mis- half-a-dozen years of existence to have seen, and fortunes, that he would not even acknowledge to to have known the cause of, the look of despairhimself the entertainment of any favorable senti- ing resignation with which Lady Matilda Morden
Whether Lady Matilda was equally in- then glided from the apartment ! different to him, it is not easy to determine ; for After the departure of their fair neighbors, the as the very core of her vocation existed in the gentlemen made their usual approach to the head manifestation of a particular interest for every of the table ; and Mr. Byron occupied the seat of particular individual, she was so practised a per- our baffled heroine. He was really glad that she former that the object of her attentions for the was gone ; he had been pre-determined not to be moment was little likely to detect the semblance pleased with her; and her efforts to entrap him from the reality. But on the present occasion, for into a flirtation had consequently only bored and the first time in her life, she was destined to be vexed him. With the feelings therefore of a man defeated. In vain did she employ the sublimest who has experienced a relief, he threw himself efforts of her art; in vain did she direct against back in his chair, and comfortably stretched forth him the entire battery of her glances, and wiles ; his long legs ; when lo! they easily alighted on Mr. Byron sat impregnably secure in the citadel what the less proportions of the luckless Lady Maof his spleen, and scarcely even vouchsafed to her tilda could not with all her efforts attain. as much attention as courtesy required. Oecasion Why, what is Byron diving after ?” exclaimed ally, he addressed himself to the pretty Miss Tem- Sir Sedley Manvers, thus directing the attention ple, who was his neighbor, on the other side ; of the company to the circumstance of our hero but, still, evidently, the prevailing features of the having disappeared beneath the table. character he had assumed for the evening, were “ By Jupiter !” exclaimed in the next moment languor and nonchalance. How provoking ! and the object of their curiosity, emerging from the never had she before so much coveted a conquest ! folds of the table-cloth, into visible existence ;
" Why, Mr. Byron, how very dull you are to • By Jupiter ! a trouvaille !" night!" exclaimed piquantly old Lady Teviotdale, And he deposited upon the table the tiny slipwho possessed herself a most sepulchral vivacity. per of his unfortunate neighbor ; when one general
“ The dulness of Mr. Byron must, I am sure, expression of surprise and amusement arose. Then always be more entertaining than the brilliancy of it was passed from hand to hand, and obtained as others," said Lady Matilda, in a low tone, just general a share of admiration and curiosity. Many delicately tinctured by sentiment; recklessly defy- were the conjectures that were hazarded as to ing, in her eager desire to propitiate, all the peril whom it belonged ; but Mr. Byron, who with tolwhich her reputation as a wit could not fail to in- erable certainty could have solved this question, cur from this unequivocal platitude.
from some vague motive which perhaps he could But all her efforts were of no avail. Courtesy, not have defined to himself, pretended that from asperity ; mirth, gravity ; conciliation, provoca- the situation in which he found it, he was unable tion; every demeanor, tone, style, aspect and to determine who was its owner. demonstration, concordant and antithetical, were Some obtuse and kind-hearted person then sugrepeatedly tried and found equally unsuccessful. gested to Mr. Edwardes, that the slipper ought to The inexorable Byron would not be persuaded be despatched to the ladies in the drawing room, to address to her his homage.
for them to determine, among themselves, who was During the ten minutes, or quarter of an hour the proprietor of it. But the malicious, who are of taciturnity into which she then subsided, per- only too frequently the more acute, strongly resisthaps she was weary ; or, perhaps, she was vexed ; ed this proposition ; and protested that it would or, perhaps, she was abstracted ; I know not ; but be worse than infanticide, wilfully to destroy their from some, or other, or any cause, but that of her amusement in the very moment of its birth, especlittle black satin slipper being too tight, she had ially as it was in their power to bring it to a robust slipped from her beautiful foot this elegant and maturity. At the head of this class of malconcaptivating portion of the feminine apparel. She tents was our friend Mr. Byron, who moved as an had just become conscious of her bereavement, amendment, that no attempt should be made to diswhen the signal for the departure of the ladies was cover an owner for the shoe, until the gentlemen given by their hostess. Hastily, she endeavored should be present to witness it. to recover her little truant; but in the hurried at The much desired moment at length arrived ; tempt only propelled it to an increased distance and the host and his guests repaired to the drawfrom her. She made a second, and more anxious ing room. Curiously and scrutinizingly did they
eye all the young ladies then and there assembled.ceed to what old Brantome calls les voies de fait, Now it happened that not less than seven or eight and make the discovery by occular if not forcible specimens of this very indiosyncratic species of the means.” human genus had been collected at the dinner ta But in the very moment of its seeming fulfilble; all of whom, strange to say, were both so ment, the plotters were destined to be deprived of pretty and well made, that any one of them might a portion of their anticipated triumph ; for when have been the proprietor of the shoe, small and they turned from their admiration of their trophy, elegant as it was. The quizzers, therefore, had to recreate themselves in the discomposure of their rather an ample field for their erudite investiga- victim, they found to their great disappointment tions ; and right curiously did they peer beneath that she had disappeared. The instant she dischairs and tables, sofas and ottomans, piano-fortes cerned the magnificent entrance of her much-honand music-stools, for a sight of the complement of ored slipper at one door, she quietly escaped at feet with which nature had blessed each of the ob- another ; for she felt, with all her self-possession, jects of their suspicion. Their industry gradually and ready tact, that if she awaited the coming obtained its reward ; and at last it became pretty struggle, the laugh would be against her. generally established among this inquiring body, The next morning, at breakfast, the conversathat all their fair companions had been ascertained tion turned upon the incident of the previous to be in possession of the whole of their attire, evening; and after some few vapid jests, and with the exception of Lady Matilda Morden, who bavardage, upon the subject, had been perpetrated, sat most suspiciously, like the widow of Ems, ob- Fitz-Roy Byron remarked superciliously to a comstinately presenting to the eyes of her inquisitive panion, in a sotto voce, which was quite loud admirers only one shoe ; nor could any maneuvre enough to be distinctly audible to Lady Matilda, entrap her into a position which should exhibit " That he had never witnessed, or heard of in all her other foot.
his life, a more ingenious or elaborate stratagem Just as this fact had been unequivocally sub- to attract attention to a pretty foot. The fair stantiated, the door of the principal entrance opened, damsel had certainly admirably succeeded in imwith a prodigious eclat, to its extreme extent ; and pressing everybody with a very exalted opinion the tallest servant in the whole establishment, with of her talents for deception. But for himself, he powdered hair, a considerable quantity of gold and contritely confessed, that he could not say that plush, and a general aspect and character of great tricks of this nature ever particularly increased dignity, statelily entered the apartment, followed either his esteem or respect for the party who by three or four attendant menials, almost as long perpetrated them.” as himself. In his outstretched arms he ostenta Shortly after the departure of the gentlemen, tiously bore, with a vigor and an air worthy even two or three of the ladies had repaired to the liof the best heroes of the Iliad, a massive silver brary in search of books. Among this number waiter, which was as big as young Norval's was Lady Matilda Morden, who, after a long shield, which was round as the moon, if not quite vacillation, having at last suited her fastidious as large; and in the centre of which—not the taste, was retiring from the apartment, with the moon, or the shield, but the tray—conspicuously volumes she had selected; when Lady Teviotdale reposed, in solitary majesty, compensating by the accosted her, and taking her arm drew her slightly strong contrast of its color for the diminutiveness aside. Then addressing her, in the most confiof its size, the celebrated little black satin slip-dential manner, and with the kindest possible per.
malice, she said condolingly, To the great surprise of the ladies, and to the “I assure you, my dear, I really quite felt for great internal mirth of the gentlemen, though their you last night. Indeed, I told my daughter only countenances presented a profound affectation of this morning, that I little expected to have ever gravity and astonishment, this procession then ap- beheld you placed in such a situation. But it proached Mrs. Edwardes ; when the leader of it, really is too bad of that Mr. Byron ; and ask with an amusing unconsciousness of his participa- Charlotte whether I did not say so? I positively tion in a jest, formally acquainted her, in menial assert that all the kind advances you made to him, tone and phrase, during a most solemn silence, ought to have overwhelmed him with gratitude ; that the shoe had been found beneath the dinner but instead of exciting in him any feeling of the table ; and that his master had desired him to as- kind, I declare, and so does Lady Temple, that he certain from his mistress to whom it belonged. did not reply to them with even common attenGreat were the giggling and merriment excited by tion. And that harsh remark, too, of his, rethis announcement, among the livelier of both specting your little ingenious stratagem of the sexes; and even the most artificial and inert pos- pretty slipper. Indeed, my dear, he must not itively really smiled.
only be a terribly insensible, but a very ill-bred “ Who is the owner of this very pretty slip- person ; and, believe me, not at all worthy of your per ?" demanded Mr. Edwardes, exhibiting it to pursuit for the future.” the surrounding throng ; for great legislators may During this speech of the good-natured dow'occasionally be facetious, upon “precedent,” as ager, not only the cheeks and forehead of Lady even the stern Cromwell was a practical joker : Matilda were died with blushes, but the neck and
Nobody answers ; then I must vote that we pro- even the very arms shared in the crimson suffu
sion which her charitable commiseration had ex- | bore and an effort. The very necessity of avoidcited. As soon as she could emancipate herself ing him was itself an incentive to associate with from her friendly tormentor, instead of repairing him. But, deep within the recesses of her mind, to the drawing-room, there more to prattle than to was a feeling which also impelled her to this read, away, into the very depths of her own apart- latter course. It was a strange, mysterious feelment, hurried the discomfited Lady Matilda. ing; she could neither fathom nor comprehend it; When the doors were double locked, and her pri- and it was very vexatious and contrary : but it vacy was impassably secured, then, and not till did not the less fail to make its influence acknowlthen, the proud and humbled girl threw herself | edged, because it chanced to be unintelligible. into a chair, and gave vent to her deep mortifica Several days had now elapsed since Lady Tevtion in a paroxysm of tears.
iotdale had so kindly condoled with her. But, at “I hate the creature !” she exclaimed aloud, this period, she availed herself of an opportunity in the agony of her vexation, “I positively hate of “exhibiting” to her patient, as the medical him !"
gentlemen express themselves, another dose of This impassioned avowal of the pacific tenden- similar commiseration. *cy of her sentiments, she repeated several times “Well, my dear,” she said, “ I approve highly with increasing vehemence. After her wrath had of your conduct. I admire your fortitude exbeen somewhat mollified by indulgence, she be- tremely; and so do Lady Temple and Miss Temcame more tranquil, and silently pursued the train ple—and my daughter. You have cut him most of reflections which her chagrin suggested. completely and properly for the last two or three
“Who would have imagined,” she thought, days; and I repeat, that I give you all praise for “ when I saw that frivolous coxcomb huddled to your excellent conduct. But, is it not provoking gether in his prostrate carriage, and afterwards that he does not seem to entertain the slightest laughed at the absurdity and degradation of his sense of your desertion of him? Now, does not position and appearance for half a dozen hours to this prove to you what I always told you—ihat gether, that, within a week, he, the thing ! would he is a most insensible and indiscriminating perhave been the cause of my experiencing so much son, and altogether utterly unworthy of your purunhappiness ? 1, that have wealth, and rank, and suit?" fashion, and wit, and
“Well!” cried Lady Matilda, after having She raised her eyes, and gazed attentively at again taken refuge in the solitude of her chamber : something that appeared behind the broad surface" Well! this is not to be borne! The tiresome of the large mirror that confronted her. A very splenetic old woman! She'll drive me mad with pretty object presented itself to her inspection; it vexation! And that creature, too—his excessive was that of a lovely girl, whose face was pale, imperturbability and selfishness—I declare, he pays whose silken and clustering masses of rich auburn no more heed to me than if I were not in existhair were most picturesquely deranged, and whose ence. But, I will endure this odious ill-breeding large, full, and eloquent eyes glistened with the no longer. I will be revenged! and, if he do not traces of recent tears. She was half seated, and know how to bear himself as a civilized being, I half reclining in a large arm-chair; and, alto- will teach him a lesson that he shall never recall, gether, her attitude and aspect alike presented a but in sorrow and in fruitless regret. I will have very fascinating picture of feminine disconsolate- him at my feet! yes, have him at my feet-and ness and temporary self-forgetfulness.
then, forsake him—and make the conceited creaShe resumed her soliloquy.
ture rue for the rest of his days that he ever con“ 1, that have wealth, and rank, and fashion, temned Matilda Mordon!" and wit, and beauty; I, that am known to have Like a greyhound in pursuit of the hare, after rejected the Duke of Churchill; I, that the Prince a long confinement in sight of its prey, away flew, of Hungary, who has more shepherds than our with all the vigor of inclination, her giddy ladymost opulent nobles possess sheep, declares to be ship in this more congenial path. With a pertithe most captivating creature in Europe, and who nacious assiduity, and a skill that would have done has six, if not seven times solicited me to marry honor to a better cause, she now sat down, in regone of his sons; I, who possess all this eclat, and ular beleaguerment and siege, before the heart of personal attractions besides, am to be treated with the unconscious Mr. Byron. In all his whims disdain by a coxcomb, a superficial creature, who and tastes she carefully coincided ; addressed herhas no one earthly advantage, but that he is not self to all his foibles; and, whenever he manivery ugly. However, I will be revenged ! for I fested to her any peculiar degree of coldness, she will never speak to him, or even look at him again, only responded to the slight, by increased efforts as long as I live! and then, we will see how he to propitiate him; and, yet so skilfully and dainwill be able to support his fate!"
tily did she play her part, that in all this systemFor two or three days, Lady Matilda adhered atic and zealous concurrence, she never approached most consistently to the infiction of this atrocious obsequiousness, or deviated in the minutest degree punishment. But, to the volatile and wayward from the most rigid path of feminine delicacy. girl, the consciousness of having imposed upon But, with all her ingenuity, it is not to be supherself a rule was a restraint; and soon, there- posed that she could conceal her manæuvres from fore, the fulfilment of her resolution became as the quick eye of Lady Teviotdade, who hated her
most rancorously, for the very sufficient and justi- tilda, I really must congratulate you on your confiable reason that she was pretty, and her daughter quest.” was plain; that Lady Matilda was sought and But the lady made no reply; though a faint admired, and Miss Charlotte Duncan was either blush indicated both her consciousness and compreshunned or disregarded. But, in vain did the be- hension of her companion's speech. nevolent dowager interfere with her friendly sneers. “Yes," continued Mrs. Colquhoun, heedless Lady Matilda was now sustained by too strong of the sensation she excited, and equally careless and premeditated a purpose to succumb any longer whether she excited any attention at all ; but talkto their influence.
ing for her own amusement, without a thought or And how fared and proceeded Mr. Byron dur- regard for that of her auditor-a very common ing the progress of this assault? What were his infirmity in garrulous people : “ Yes, I am conficonduct, sentiments, and opinions ?—In a very dent that you have produced a very extraordinary short time, he began to find that his antipathy for impression upon Mr. Byron. Well, he is a charmLady Matilda was rapidly subsiding. During the ing young man; and it is a conquest of which anynext few days, it entirely expired; and, within body might be proud. If I had been unmarried, the ensuing week, he discovered that she was or indeed, if aught had ever happened to poor Mr. a very elegant, beautiful, cultivated creature, and Colquhoun -But, dear Lady Matilda, I hope thoroughly worthy of his services and assistance that you will not allow your triumph to make you in the flirting department.
conceited—and, that you will invite me to the “My dear Fitz-Roy,” said Sir Sedley Man- wedding breakfast.” vers, one day as they were strolling together in From this time forth, “ The Two Flirts" the park, “I firmly believe that your fascinating walked together, rode together, sat together, read self has really captivated that arch coquette, Lady together, and sang together ; in fact, acted as Matilda Morden."
pretty a flirtation as ever was exhibited in a counNow, the said Sir Sedley Manvers had spent try-house, for the amusement and edification of the one half his fortune and mortgaged the other; and, rest of the society. As for Lord Ambleside, he consequently, possessed a considerable predilection never dreamt of offering any opposition to this arfor Miss Temple, who was an heiress. But, it rangement. Mr. Byron was the heir to a barony, unfortunately chanced that, instead of gratefully and of fifteen thousand pounds per annum; matrirepaying the baronet for his disinterested affection, monial qualifications which entitled him, in the the thoughtless damsel entertained a tender senti- noble earl's estimation, to aspire even to the hand ment for Mr. Byron—which, to say the least, of his own matchless heiress. In fact, everybody was very provoking. Sir Sedley Manvers, there was perfectly satisfied, except the amorous Miss fore, would not have been sorry to have seen his Temple, and the splenetic Lady Teviotdale, who dear friend married to even a worse flirt than could not forget her own ugly and unmarried Lady Matilda Morden.
daughter. "Upon my life, I am in earnest,” repeated Sir Thus, for some weeks events proceeded : and, Sedley, “I do really believe that, consummate during all this time did Lady Matilda, in accordcoquette as she has been, she is now seriously in ance with her resolution, continue to feign the love with you.
I have recently watched her most passion which she did not feel? No; she must vigilantly; and I am convinced of the truth of my have been a very bad person if she had, and should statement. You know my tact in these matters ; never, I promise you, have been a heroine of and you know too that I have never yet been de- mine. But, what then was the result of her stratceived. But what a triumph for you, to have agem? How did all this extreme intimacy tersubjugated this hitherto heartless dominator of minate ? Why, in a very customary manner. all others' hearts—to have rendered natural the She had not sufficient obduracy to enable her to very Queen of Artifice! I am really afraid, Fitz, execute the plan which her wounded vanity had that it will make you insufferably conceited." conceived ; and the consequence was, that the
With great modesty and much generous firm- snarer became ensnared, and the intended captor ness did Mr. Byron combat the supposition, and was converted into the actual captive. The poor deny the soft impeachment; but they made their girl was deeply, thoroughly, uncomfortably in impression, nevertheless : and straightways, he love. entered into an even more zealous fulfilment of his “And now," thought she, “to what a hapless duties in the flirting department.
conclusion shall I have brought the perilous game We must now return to our heroine.
to which my sorry spite excited ine, if he should “Do you know, my dear Lady Matilda," said not entertain a real affection for me. But how be the bustling, volative, vacant Mrs. Colquhoun, convinced of the truth of his attachment, even if who, of all the good things in this world, best he should unequivocally avow it? How repose loved a marriage ; and ineffably delighted to watch an implicit faith in one, whose sole vocation it has its preliminaries through all their fascinating gra- ever been to profess the sentiments which he does dations, from their most mysterious germ, down not feel. While I have been weak enough to deto that final climax or anti-climax, a public sol- vote my whole heart to him, what is there to asemnization : “Do you know, my dear lady Ma- sure me, that he has not been trifling with me?