« PreviousContinue »
stances which, as Mr. Bayes says, " elevate and surprise." She lost, when an infant, her mother, a woman of sense and piety; who, had she lived, would have formed the ductile mind of the daughter, turned her various talents into other channels, and raised her character to the elevation it was meant to reach.”
“ How melancholy a consideration is it,” said I, “ that so superior a woman should live so much below her high destination! She is doubtless utterly destitute of any thought of religion.”
“ You are much mistaken,” replied Sir John, “ I will not indeed venture to pronounce that she entertains much thought about it; but she by no means denies its truth, nor neglects occasionally to exhibit its outward and visible signs. She has not yet completely forgotten
All that the nurse and all the priest have taught.
I do not think that, like Lady Denham, she considers it as a commutation, but she preserves in it as a habit. A religious exercise, however, never interferes with a worldly one. They are taken up in succession, but with this distinction, the worldly business is to be done, the religious one is not altogether to be left undone. She has a moral chemistry which excels in the amalgamation of contradictory ingredients. On a Sunday at Melbury castle, if by any strange accident she and her lord happen to be there together, she first reads him a sermon, and plays at cribbage with bim the rest of the evening. In town one Sunday, when she had a cold, she wrote a tract on the sacrament, for her maids, and then sat up all night at deep play. She declared that if she had been successful she would have given her winnings to charity; but as she lost some hundreds, she said, she could now with a safe conscience borrow that sum from her charity purse, which she had hoped to add to it, to pay her debt of honour.”
Next day, within two hours of her appointed time, she came, and was complimented by Sir John on her punctuality. Indeed," said she, “ I am rather late, but I met with such a fascinating German novel, that it positively chained me to my bed till past three. I assure you, I never lose time by not rising. In the course of a few winters I have exhausted half Hookham's catalogue, before some of my acquaintance are awake, or I myself out of bed.”
We soon stopped at the humble door of which we were in search. Sir John conducted Lady Melbury up the little winding stairs. I assisted Lady Belfield. We reached the room, where Fanny was just finishing a beautiful bunch of Jonquils. “How picturesque,” whispered Lady Melbury to me!-“ Do lend me your pencil; I must take a sketch of that sweet girl with the jonquils in her band.-My dear creature,” continued she, “ you must not only let me
have these, but you must make me twelve dozen more flowers as fast as possible, and be sure let me have a great many sprigs of jessamine and myrtle.” Then snatching up a wreath of various coloured geraniums, “I must try this on my head by the glass.” So saying, she ran into an adjoining room, the door of which was open ; Lady Belfield having before stolen into it to speak to the poor
invalid. As soon as Lady Melbury got into the room, she uttered a loud shriek. Sir John and I ran in, and were shocked to find her near fainting. “ Oh, Belfield,” said she, “ this is a trick, and a most cruel one! Why did you not tell me where you were bringing me? Why did you not tell me the people's name ?”—“ I have never heard it myself,” said Sir John, “ on my honour I do not understand you." “ You know as much of the woman as I know,” said Lady Belfield. “ Alas, much more,” cried she, as fast as her tears would give her leave to speak. She retired to the window for air, wringing her hands, and called for a glass of water to keep her from fainting. I turned to the sick woman for an explanation; I saw her countenance much changed.
“ This sir,” said she, “ is the lady, whose debt of seven hundred pounds ruined me, and was the death of my husband.” I was thunderstruck, but went to assist Lady Melbury, who implored Sir John to go home with her instantly, saying, her coach should come back for us. “ But, dear Lady Belfield, do lend me twenty guineas, I have not a shilling about me.”'_“Then, my dear Lady Melbury,” said Lady Belfield, “ how could you order twelve dozen expensive flowers ?”—“ Oh,” said she, “ I did not mean to have paid for them till next year.”
-“ And how,” replied Lady Belfield, “ could the debt which was not to have been paid for a twelvemonth have relieved the pressing wants of a creature, who must pay ready money for her materials? However, as you are so distressed, we will contrive to do without your money.”—“ I would pawn my diamond necklace directly," returned she, but speaking lower, “ to own the truth, it is already in the jeweller's hands, and I wear a paste necklace of the same form.”
Sir John knowing 1 had been at my banker's that morning, gave me such a significant look as restrained my hand, which was already on my pocketbook. In great seeming anguish, she gave Sir John her hand, who conducted her to her coach. As he was leading her down stairs, she solemnly declared she would never again run in debt, never order more things than she wanted, and above all, would never play while she lived. She was miserable, because she durst not ask Lord Melbury to pay this woman, he having already given her money three times for the purpose, which she had lost at Faro. Then retracting, she protested, if ever she did touch a card again, it should be for the sole purpose of getting something to discharge this debt. Sir John earnestly conjured her not to lay “ that flattering unction to her soul,” but to convert the present vexation into an occasion of felicity, by making it the memorable and happy æra of abandoning a practice, which injured her fortune, her fame, her principles, and her peace.“ Poor thing,”
,” said Sir John, when he repeated this to us,
Ease will recant
“ In an interval of weeping, she told me,” added he, 6 that she was to be at the opera to-night. To the opera Faro will succeed, and to-morrow probably the diamond ear-rings will go to Grey's in pursuit of the necklace."
Lady Belfield enquired of Fanny how it happened that Lady Melbury, who talked with her, without surprise or emotion, discovered so much of both at the bare sight of her mother. The girl explained this by saying, that she had never been in the way while they lived in Bond-street when her ladyship used to come, having been always employed in an upper room, or attending her masters.
Before we parted, effectual measures were taken for the comfortable subsistence of the sick mother, and for alleviating the sorrows, and lightening the labours of the daughter, and next morning I set out on my journey to Stanley Grove, Sir John and Lady Belfield promising to follow me in a few weeks.