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I sought him—unfemininely-weakly-culpably; | dale had long departed, finding that there was no and vanity alone would instigate him to respond chance for her ugly daughter at Vernon Cliff. to my pursuit. Rightly am I punished for my But having heard that there was a very marrylevity and folly!”
ing young man, at a neighboring seat, thence, Nor were Mr. Byron's feelings much more sat- by her diplomacy, she quickly obtained an invitaisfactory.
tion ; and thither, she still more quickly repaired. Sedley," said he, one day, to his friend, “Sed- And, as there may be no occasion for again menley, I am not happy."
tioning her, we will at once state that she was “ You !” exclaimed the other, in astonishment, successful in her speculation ; and that she most you! Fitz-Roy Byron, not happy? A minute ago skilfully transferred to the shoulders of this nuptial I should have deemed such an occurrence impos- Sinbad, a burthen far more tenacious and peevish sible."
than that of the Old Man of the Sea—and quite " And so should I, one month ago."
as ugly. " But what is your sorrow ?"
Miss Temple and Lady Temple had departed, “ Matilda Morden."
and, of course, Sir Sedley Manvers followed them. “I thought she was your love."
All had gone, with, as I have stated, one excep“Ah,” replied Byron, ruefully, “that is the tion, which must be obvious—Mrs. Colquhoun ; reason she is my sorrow. Love and unhappiness whom nothing could have induced to desert her —they are synonymes, I fear. At least, I know present location, until she had witnessed the terthat I live in a state of the utmost uneasiness. Oh, mination of the chase, and the game fairly run how unwisely have I acted! For the mere sake down. No, if the cholera had entered the house of a heartless amusement, and for the gratification in its most pestilential form, she would rather of my idle, wanton, guilty vanity, have I now been have voluntarily perished, than have deserted her for many weeks associating with this fascinating post, ere she had seen the objects of her interest creature, and publicly addressing to her what was once firmly secured in the arms of either Pluto, once my fictitious homage. But rightly have I or Hymen. And, to own the truth, as both were been punished for my callous deception! for, to grand and effective terminations, she would not the very being whom I regarded as my toy, and have been very particular with regard to the almy puppet, has my just fate ordained me to sur-ternative : a wedding, or a burial--they were render the custody of my heart. She has awakened pretty nearly the same. The only really imporin me feelings which I dreamt not to have existed ; tant difference was that, in the one case, certain she has changed my whole nature, annihilated my individuals wept in white satin, and in the other, volatility, destroyed all my reckless spirits, and in black bombazin. Both, however, were equally rendered me, I fear, permanently attached to her. pageants—and better still, both were almost equalYes--I fear, because, captivating, enchanting, ly exciting. lovely as she is, I have too much reason to believe Of course, this lady was of considerable use in her to be a person with as little heart and passion the development of the drama. Everything that as I once possessed. She seems to love me, it is mortal being could do, to advance, and to hasten true ; but were she unequivocally to avow her af- the catastrophe, did Mrs. Colquhoun. Her zeal fection—to proclaim it, and to swear it—by what was unflagging; it had a two hundred horse process of self-delusion could I ever induce my rea- power. By every possible innuendo, and skilful son to repose any confidence in her professions ? artifice, for she did not want tact, she was perpetHow, in short, could I ever cajole myself into a ually directing the attention of both to their mutual belief in the truth of her, whose whole previous fitness. She often reported the kind words, and life has been one ceaseless career of deception ?" expressions of eulogium, which had been uttered
Such were the opinions and the apprehensions by each during absence ; and never tired of extolof “ The Two Flirts ;” and, to own the fact, they ling the one to the other. Indeed, she carried her were not wholly devoid of either judgment or matrimonial meditations so far, as, when she had foundation. But love is blind, and love is omnip- nothing agreeable to repeat, to invent the paneotent, are two assertions that have been said and gyric which neither had ever uttered. sung, repeated and received, until they have be- What with these wiles, and the headstrong income established as facts. And facts, indeed, they clinations of the objects of her diplomacy, the must be, if causes are ever to be discovered from course of true love at last conducted to a very effects; for such is the conduct of the votaries of customary termination. this precious deity, that it can only be explained During one of those mild and pleasant days by a religious belief in these attributes of his. which occasionally occur in December, as though None, therefore, will be surprised if the acts of for the express object of rendering one additionally Byron and Lady Matilda are found to be very in- sensitive to the ensuing frosts, Byron and Lady consistent with their opinions.
Matilda were strolling in the garden of Vernon They had now resided together beneath the Cliff. Who that could have followed this pair, same roof above three months ; an age in the and unknowing who they were, have overheard history of the passions of volatile people. They their conversation, could ever have believed, that had outstaid all the guests they had originally those two sensible people were, but a few short found there, with one exception. Lady Teviot- / weeks ago, volatile, wordly, and irrational! They
talked as gravely as a couple of mandarins, but | been forgotten ; and, for the last half-hour, he had far more wisely ; for the subjects of their talk been gradually approaching a crescendo of passion. were neither Cham-ho, nor Cham-he, the form of At this opportune question—and a more judicious an obeisance, nor their sovereign's consanguinity one than which, at that moment, she could not to the sun and the moon. Nor, yet more barbar- have selected, even if she had been inspired by the ous still, did they find their topics in that narrow profoundest principles of coquetry—his fervor and conventional sphere, which generally alone reached its orgasm ; and exploded with an effect interests their class ; but to the vapid and eter- which might have shamed the finale to the first nally hackneyed discussion of which only the most act of the Cenerentola. sterile, frivolous, and insensible minds can ever “What would I give you ?” he exclaimed imvoluntarily adhere. No; their true, but unfor- petuously : “all that the world—all that the tunately mutually suspected love, dignified them ; universe contains—these would I give to you, had and their discourse assumed a high and intellect- I the blissful power of bestowing them! ual tone.
I am but a poor and limited individual, I can only In the vast and stupendous works of nature, and offer you my sole possessions—my heart, and in their mysterious and inscrutable relation to hand! Say, dearest Matilda,” he continued, themselves, did these two examples of the occa- sinking on one knee, seizing her unresisting hand, sionally elevating powers of their divinity, first and passionately pressing it to his lips; " say, do find the food for their converse. But gradually it you accept my terms of exchange ? That rose became more restricted ; and at last it entirely shall convey your answer. If you resign it, my centred in their own feelings and passions. 1 happiness is eternally secured to me ; but if you will not attempt to repeat the many flattering and withhold it, you exile me from your presence foraffectionate sentiments which, while upon this too ever." captivating and dangerous topic, Mr. Byron implied She cast one long, fond, and yet investigating rather than proclaimed for the object of his hom- glance upon him. In the expression of tenderage. At last, the combustible nature of their dis- ness, and of truth, his eyes more than equalled her course conducted to a very usual termination-own: and in that moment, they stood mutually agitation ; which, in its turn, led to an equally revealed, and believed. inevitable result-silence.
The goal was won! Fitz-Roy loved her! really In this rather awkward and perilous predica- loved her-She felt the proud consciousness-triment, they stood for some time; Lady Matilda, umphed in it, gloried in it—and instantly the with her eyes bent obstinately on the earth, and a better mood and tone of feeling which affection glowing and fixed flush on her transparent cheek; and anxiety had conjointly engendered in her, and Mr. Byron as pertinaciously regarding her vanished like a dream ; and all the factitious diswith an undisguised and passionate admiration. positions, and caprices of the coquette, which time
At last, Lady Matilda made a desperate effort and indulgence had matured into a second nature, to extricate herself from her too consciously ap- revived within her in their fullest vigor. parent confusion and disquietude.
The flush of delight gradually faded from her “ How beautiful are those roses !” she said ; cheek ; and a far less captivating expression, that
considering the period of the year, it is really of self-command, assumed possession of her counquite wonderful to see them in such a state of tenance. perfection.”
There, take the rose," said she, “it is not As she thus spoke, she hastily entered the hot worth my preservation.” house, and plucked one of the flowers which had Byron received the gift with rapture, and tesexcited her sudden admiration. She then returned, tified his gratitude on the lips of his fair mistress. and with a pair of scissors fashioned for the pur- In this manner did the Two Flirts affiance pose, busily trimmed and clipped her prize ; and themselves. when this operation was completed, after having But though Byron was delighted by her acquibeen prolonged to its utmost possible extent, she escence, there was something in its tone, and devoted an equal time and zeal to the arrangement phrase, that grated upon him, even at that moment. of the flower in the attire of her bosom.
But when the first intense ebullition of his passion With great interest and a profound silence, Mr. had subsided, he became assured that, in her asByron had watched all these eloquent manœuvres. sent, she had not displayed the extent of feeling
" I should like to have that rose, at last, said which he could have desired. He gazed inquiringhe, timidly, and wistfully eying the coveted ly into her countenance ; but there was upon it an treasure.
expression of tranquillity that did not reässure or “ You would like to have this rose?”' half un- gratify him. Could he have seen but into her consciously repeated Lady Matilda, her former heart, what an entire content would he have exconfusion rapidly reviving. But she quickly added, perienced ! But the face was a perjured dissemwith great apparent gayety, “What would you bler; and while her mind was really revelling in give me, if I were to bestow it upon you?” an exulting sense of happiness, she manifested an
All had been elysium ; every word, look, and impassiveness that was aught but gratifying to an action of Lady Matilda had abundantly satisfied enthusiastic lover. Several were the attempts he him. His resolutions and apprehensions had long made to resume the tone of their former discourse, but he received few responses, and no encourage- | you to tell me without the least disguise, whether ment from her; and, consequently, an entire silence it is true that, as he asserts, you really like him?" quickly ensued. Yet, to do her justice, this re- And how did Lady Matilda reply? luctance to converse originated less in a capricious I will first tell you how she felt. While her wilfulness, than in the abstraction which the in- father spoke, her face was crimsoned with blushes, ternal contemplation and indulgence of her happi- her heart throbbed violently, and a gush of delight ness occasioned. The germ, however, of mischief pervaded her whole frame. When he had concluded, and of wrong was in her countenance ; which, her first impulse was frankly to avow to him all with a guilty waywardness, she had composed into the deep and strong affection she experienced ; an expression of indifference, if not of levity. but, in the next moment, the perverse vanity of
They reached the mansion, when Byron imme- the obdurate and pertinacious flirt again unhappily diately sought Lord Ambleside, and having ac- predominated ; and her wantonly delusive answer quainted him that he had reason to suppose that was to this effect :- That she certainly did not Lady Matilda was not repugnant, demanded his dislike Mr. Byron-she thought him rather frivsanction to their marriage. His lordship replied, olous, it is true-he was not so staid, or possessed that, if his daughter was concurrent, he could see of quite so much fond, as she could have desired no reason for interposing any obstacle--and thus - but that she agreed with her parent in considerthe matter was arranged.
ing him, in a worldly point view, a suitable But Byron was not delighted, he was not even parti— and, consequently, if her papa had no parsure that he was contented ; and again he strolled ticular objection, she-would marry him. into the garden to meditate upon what he had Unhappy Mr. Byron! a pleasant time had you, done. Unconsciously he bent his way to the hot- during this flippant speech, in your luckless place house where Lady Matilda had obtained the rose. of concealment! Such, many worthy but rather He entered it, and seated himself.
inquiring people would tell you, is only too often " How intensely happy,” thought he, "was I the result of clandestinely listening to other here, only one short hour ago! And why am I people's conversations. Not that Byron was prenot equally happy now?"
meditatedly an eaves-dropper. Heaven forbid ! He could not, or rather would not, answer the No; in every respect, with the trifling exceptions question. He feared to acknowledge to himself of his coxcombry, and flirtations, he was an excelthat a mere change in the expression of his mis- lent, generous person, utterly incapable of an act tress' countenance had revived all his former sus- of meanness. The fact is, he had heard involunpicions—had induced him again to apprehend that tarily ; spell-bound by the intensity of his interest. she was a mere heartless coquette, who had really Poor fellow ! his feelings were far too laguneither truth nor feeling ; but who had assumed brious to permit an elaborate description of them the semblance of both for the sake of gratifying to be at all agreeable to the readers of a light her unprincipled desire of parading him before tale; or to be at all in harmony with the general the world as the slave and victim of her fascina- character of the tale itself. Melancholy was the tions.
prevailing feature of his mind; and as it is the He had been but for a brief time abandoning passion that makes, perhaps, the dullest picture, I himself to these melancholy meditations when he shall only succinctly allude to it. All his anticiobserved Lady Matilda advancing towards him. pations were confirmed; he had discovered Lady The sight somewhat soothed him, for from her air, Matilda to be the heartless, artificial person he had and the inquiring glances she cast around, he in-apprehended her to be ; she had been assuming ferred, what was the fact, that she had seen him the semblance of truth and feeling, in the vain and issue from the house into the garden, and was now selfish desire of inveigling him into an attachment wandering in search of him. But his despondency to her. Yet this consciousness, grave as it was, was far from dissipated ; and he was still conse- formed but the less portion of his sufferings ; for quently uncertain whether to advance and accost the far greater part was occasioned by the humilher, or to allow her to pass him ; for though he iating conviction that, in spite of his detection of could observe her, he was concealed from her her deficiencies, and comparative unworthiness, he view by the shrubs. While he thus hesitated, he still loved her with an unabated fervor. But ho saw Lord Ambleside quickly approaching from resolved that she should not have to glory in their the opposite direction ; and in another instant, the knowledge ; he would mete unto her as she had father and daughter met close to the hothouse. meted to him, and assume for her the insensibility
“ My dear Matilda,” exclaimed the peer, “I which he believed her to really experience. No; have been looking for you everywhere, as I have she should no longer suppose that he was the poor no common intelligence to communicate to you. pliant creature she deemed him ; he would show And yet, I dare say, that you do know that Byron her that he, at least, could exhibit, if he could not has just been with me, and demanded your hand. entertain, an indifference equal to her own. For myself, I have no objection whatever to the After breakfast, on the following morning, Lady match ; I think that in every point of view he is Matilda repaired to the library, for the first time a very suitable person. But, as I have always for many weeks, alone. She looked mournfully determined that your inclinations shall never in around her; every object, almost every volume in the slightest degree be restricted, I now request the room, reminded her of a person who was too
dear to her, to enable her, to support this un- glow! Hastily she quitted the apartment; and wonted separation with even common regret. hurried into the garden in pursuit of her lover. Besides, his mood and manner during the pre- Within the next ten minutes, in the most revious evening had filled her with anxiety. What tired and sombre path he could have selected, Mr. could have occurred to occasion Fitz-Roy, the gay, Byron heard footsteps behind him ; and he turned and of late serenely cheerful Fitz-Roy, the de- discontentedly to confront the intruder. Lady spondence which he had then exhibited ? A senti- Matilda was rapidly approaching him; her cheek ment of increased uneasiness was the answer to glowing, and her eyes flashing, with animation this self-questioning. Little did she dream that and exercise. he had overheard her flippant colloquy with her “Fitz-Roy,” she exclaimed, holding forth her father ; but well did she remember the manner hand to him, “ dear Fitz-Roy, I have been seeking she had assumed immediately after she had ac- you everywhere”—and she paused and panted to quired a conviction of the truth of his affection for recover her breath. her. Upon a retrospection, in her now softened A sudden gleam of pleasure flashed from his tone of mind, how ungrateful, how unnatural, did eyes, as he gazed intently upon her ; but it quickthis conduct seem. Poor Fitz-Roy ! could his ly disappeared. keen sense of this ill return for his impassioned “ I did not know that it was you,” he replied avowal have excited his dejection? Yes, such coldly, at the same moment languidly accepting her might be the sole cause; for, only too well did proffered hand. she personally know that, to the sensitive feelings This unimpassioned reception was not what she of true love, the very slightest indication of a expected, or could have wished ; but she was too diminution, or even of a temporary suspension of highly wrought to be disconcerted by it. affection in its object, occasions an acute pang.
“Do not be so frigid,” she said,
will In another minute of reflection, doubt became con- compel me to suspect that your demeanor is not verted into certainty ; and she stood remorsefully in accordance with your sentiments." self-convicted of being the source of her lover's And as she spoke, she gazed upon him so affecgrief. Oh, how honestly did she then condemn tionately, that again Mr. Byron felt terribly and hate her own levity! And tenfold was this tempted to relent. But he quickly mastered the painful sentiment increased, when she recollected impulse ; and rejoined with much self-possession : how his unhappiness must have been strengthened “ Upon my word, you are very flattering; but and confirmed by the neglect which she had ex- I confess that I cannot exactly understand why hibited to him during the whole of the previous you do me the honor of considering me a hypoevening; for, piqued and vexed by a gloom which crite. I can aver that, until Lady Matilda was to her, in her then still exulting state of feeling, kind enough to acquaint me, I was not at all was unintelligible, she had systematically ab- aware that I was addicted to dissimulation ; nor stained from all attempts to enliven or conciliate even now, can I in the least comprehend what him.
object I have in such a proceeding.” During this contrite self-communion, she had Her flow and excitement of spirit had been too stationed herself in the recess of a window, whence great to yet desert her; and still, therefore, unrewas commanded an extensive view of the garden. buked, she replied cheerfully and tenderly, For a time, her eyes wandered unconsciously over “I will tell you a very vain and fond conjecthe scene ; but, at last, they were arrested by a ture of mine, which will reveal to you why I acfigure which both the distance and the foliage cused you of dissembling ; as to the explanation continued to render obscure. Instantly an im- of the wherefore, that lies neither within my provpulse which is known only to love—and most fre- ince nor my power.” She then added with inquently, to feminine love-assured her that it was creased archness, “ I guess
you were thinking Byron; and she watched it intently. The figure of me when I first accosted you—aye, and very was moving ; and at length it arrived in a nearer kindly too." and more exposed position ; when her suspicions Really,” replied Mr. Byron, somewhat were confirmed. It was Fitz-Roy; and, in spite startled and disordered by this sudden denunciaof the space that still intervened, to her quick eye, tion and conviction ; “ really, I did not know-I was apparent something in his attitude and air, do not know—whether I ought, as a gentleman, that indicated that his melancholy mood had not to plead guilty or innocent to so terrible a charge. passed away.
While she gazed upon him, with But, pray oblige me by first acquainting me what the most intense interest, he advanced his arm is your foundation for it?” towards his face, and continued it for a brief “ Ah! that is a secret—but in the plenitude while in that position, evidently in contemplation of my generosity I will reveal it to you. Allow of some object which it sustained ; but which the me, then, in my turn to interrogate you. What distance would not allow her to distinguish. This was that ohject which some few minutes ago you object he then approached to his lips ; and again, held in your hand, and were kissing ?" a secret and indefinable feeling instantly assured At this seemingly very innocent question, her that it was the rose.
mirabile dictu, the clear brown cheek of the What a thrill of delight then darted through stoical man of fashion, which, perhaps, during his her, causing her heart to leap and her blood to whole existence, had never before changed its
hue, became suddenly converted into a vivid crim-| ing cordiality and sincerity, again for a moment son !
she duped me ; and I credulously imagined that she Byron was indeed thoroughly confused-discon- really experienced the interest and the affection certed—angry. He was vexed and mortified by which her tone and her features so admirably asthe consciousness of his own discomposure ; and sumed. But never again shall she cajole me into a still more by this detection of his sentiments, betrayal of my tenderness; for, independently of this unceremonious plunder of the most cherished all feelings of wounded pride and disappointed secret of his heart. While, however, he was hope, how do I know but that, with a creature meditating, and endeavoring to give words to so volatile and wayward as she is, I may not, by some evasive reply, Lady Matilda suddenly ex- a systematic and unvarying manifestation of indifclaimed, with an expression of arch simplicity, ference, at last pique her into a real and perma
“May I beseech that you will be good enough nent attachment." to inform me what is that beautifully colored ob- In the mean time, deep within the recesses of ject ?"
her own chamber, was again immured the forlorn And, as she spoke, she pointed to that portion and self-communing Matilda. of the male attire which lies about the region of “ Thus, then,” she thought, are all my fears the heart; and in the recesses of which conspicu- realized ! thus, then, are all my dreams of happiously appeared a rose.
ness eternally annihilated ! He to whom I have “Oh, this !” exclaimed the baffled Mr. Byron, surrendered by best and fondest affections, is selfmore confused and splenetic than ever, as he me- ish, froward, and heartless! God in heaven, help chanically withdrew his treasure from the place me! for such is my wretched destiny-or rather, which had betrayed it; “I am sure, I know not so weak, so sorry, so degraded a thing am I-that how it could have got there—it is a rose, a faded I feel that I shall ever fondly love him who disreone ; and,” he added, with a sudden recovery of gards, if he does not contemn me! Oh, how insidall his self-possession, and a glance of malicious iously did he steal into my heart! and now that, like significance, at Lady Matilda, “not worth my a traitor, he has gained it, he discards the mask, preservation.”
and recklessly and disdainfully shows how little As he thus retorted, contemptuously he cast the he is deserving of that prize which I, poor creduflower from him, among a little wilderness of lous fool! was only too willing to yield. But he evergreens which skirted their path.
shall not triumph—if I cannot remedy, I can at Lady Matilda only too well remembered who least conceal my weakness; and my actions for the had previously applied those very words to that future shall intimate that I am as regardless of very rose ; and her wounded spirit spoke elo- him as he is of me.” quently in the faint blush which suffused her feat- These were the resolutions of the two flirts, and
But, in another instant, the crimson shade to them they adhered for some time ; as people departed, and an unnatural pallor supplied its unfortunately are more consistent in ill than in good. place. She uttered not another word ; Byron But in vain Byron addressed himself most asmade not an effort to propitiate her ; and they pro- siduously to Lady Harriet Gordon, one of their ceeded in silence until they arrived at the termina- new visitors ; and in vain Lady Matilda flirted tion of their path ; when she coldly and formally most vehemently with the Duke of Lancashire, the begged that she might not interrupt his walk, as eyes of the two impostors often involuntarily met, she intended to return to the mansion. Her lover and they stood consciously mutually detected. made no reply ; but stilly bowed ; and she with- These moments, however, of renewed confidence, drew. He watched her, however, intently as she were rare, and only of too brief duration. receded; but no “fond, lingering look" did she Mrs. Colquhoun, as may easily be conceived, cast behind. Their first, but not their last, rup- was for a time, in a state of positive desperation, ture had occurred between them.
at this altered aspect of affairs ; for, prompted by As soon as she had completely disappeared, her ruling passion, her quick eye soon enabled her Byron slowly and carefully retraced his path ; to ascertain that Byron and Lady Matilda were no anxiously casting scrutinizing glances on each longer upon their former terms of concord. At side of him, as he proceeded. At length he ar- first, she dreaded that their mutual estrangement rived at the spot which he had well marked, and might ultimately lead to a rupture ; and there quickly discovered his lost treasure. Eagerly he was not an effort which she did not make to reconclutched the rose, which but a few minutes before cile them. But when she found that, even in he had abandoned with so much ostentatious con- their most splenetic moments, no idea of breaking tempt; gazed fondly and sorrowfully upon it ; off the marriage ever entered into the head of then he kissed it tenderly, and concealed it within either, she very tranquilly allowed events to prothe covering of his breast.
ceed in their present course. “Oh! how can I ever sufficiently regret,” The party at Vernon Cliff separated ; and the thought he, “that so lovely and fascinating a affianced couple, among others, went to London. being should be so thoroughly artificial ? When It had been previously settled that they should be she first accosted me, with her endearing manner, united in the early portion of the spring. During and her beautiful countenance beaming with seem- the two intervening months they continued to asso