A SIMPLE STORY.

IN FOUR VOLUMES.

BY MRS. INCHBALD.

VOL. III.

LONDON: Printed for G. G. J. and J. ROBINSON, Pater-noster Row. M.DCC.XCI.

A SIMPLE STORY.

CHAPTER I.

THROUGHOUT life, there cannot happen an event to arrest the reflection of a thoughtful mind more powerfully, or to leave so lasting an impression, as that of returning to a place after a few years absence, and observing an entire alteration in respect to all the persons who once formed the neighbourhood— To find some, who but a few years before were left in the bloom of youth and [Page 2] health, dead — to find children left at school, married, with children of their own — some persons who were in riches, reduced to poverty—others who were in poverty, become rich — those, once re­nowned for virtue, now detested for their vice — roving husbands, grown constant — constant ones, become rovers — the firmest friends, changed to the most im­placable enemies—beauty faded. — In a word, every change to demonstrate "All is transitory on this side the grave."

Actuated by a wish, that the reflective reader may experience the sensation, which an attention to circumstances such as these, must cause; he is desired to imagine seventeen years elapsed, since he has seen or heard of any of those persons, who in the foregoing volumes have been introduced to his acquaintance — and [Page 3] now, supposing himself at the period of those seventeen years, follow the sequel of their history.

To begin with the first female object of this story.—The beautiful, the beloved Miss Milner—she is no longer beautiful —no longer beloved—no longer—trem­ble while you read it! — no longer— virtuous.

Dorriforth, the pious, the good, the tender Dorriforth, is become a hard-hearted tyrant. The compassionate, the feeling, the just Lord Elmwood, an ex­ample of implacable rigour and injustice.

Miss Woodley is grown old, but less with years than grief.

[Page 4]The child Rushbrook is become a man, and the apparent heir of Lord Elmwood's fortune; while his own daughter, his only child by his once adored Miss Milner, he refuses ever to see again, in vengeance to her mother's crimes.

The least wonderful change, is the death of Mrs. Horton. Except

Sandford, who remains much the same as heretofore.

We left Lady Elmwood in the last volume at the summit of human hap­piness; a loving and beloved bride.— We begin this volume, and find her upon her death bed.

[Page 5]At thirty-five, her "Course was run" —a course full of perils, of hopes, of fears, of joys, and at the end of sorrows; all exquisite of their kind, for exquisite were the feelings of her susceptible heart.

At the commencement of this story, her father is described in the last mo­ments of his life, with all his cares fixed upon her, his only child—how vain these cares! how vain every precaution that was taken for her welfare! She knows, she reflects upon this; and yet, torn by that instinctive power which a parent feels, Lady Elmwood on her dying day has no worldly thought, but that of the future happiness of her only child.—To every other prospect before her, ‘Thy will be done’ is her continual excla­mation; but where the misery of her daughter presents itself, the dying peni­tent [Page 6] would there, combat the will of heaven.

To state the progression by which vice gains a predominance in the heart, may be a useful lesson; but it is one so little to the satisfaction of most readers, that it is not meant to be related here, all the degrees of frailty by which Lady Elmwood fell; but instead of picturing every occasion of her fall, come briefly to the events that followed.

There are, nevertheless, some articles under the former class, which ought not to be entirely omitted.

Lord Elmwood, after four years passed in the most perfect enjoyment of happi­ness, the marriage state could give; after seeing himself the father of a beautiful daughter, whom he loved with a tender­ness [Page 7] nearly equal to his love for her mo­ther, Lord Elmwood was then under the indispensable necessity of leaving them both for a time, in order to save from the depredation of his steward, a very large estate in the West Indies. His voyage was tedious; his residence there, from various accidents, prolonged from time to time, till near three years had at length passed away. — Lady Elmwood, at first only unhappy, became at last provoked; and giving way to that impatient, irri­table disposition she had so seldom go­verned, resolved, in spite of his injunc­tions, to divert the melancholy hours his absence caused, by mixing in the gaiest circles of London. His Lordship at this time, and for many months before, had been detained abroad by a severe and dangerous illness, which a too cau­tious fear of her uneasiness had prompted [Page 8] him to conceal; and she received his frequent aplogies for not returning, with a suspicion and resentment they were calculated, but not intended, to inspire.

To violent anger, succeeded a degree of indifference still more fatal — Lady Elmwood's heart was never formed for such a state—there, where all the pas­sions tumultuous strove by turns, one among them soon found the means to occupy all vacancies — that one was love. — The dear object of her fondest, truest, affections was away; and those affections painted the time so irksome that was past; so wearisome that, which was still to come; she flew from the present tedious solitude, to the dangerous society of one, whose every care to charm her, could not repay her for a moment's loss of him, whose absence he supplied.— [Page 9] Or if the delirium gave her a moment's recompense, what were her sufferings and remorse, when she was awakened from the sleeting joy by the unexpec­ted arrival of her husband? — How happy, how transporting, had been that arrival a few months before!—As it had then been felicitous, it was now bitter— this word, however, weakly expresses— Language affords none, to describe Lady Elmwood's sensations on being told her Lord was arrived, and that necessity only had so long delayed his return.

Guilty, but not hardened in her guilt, her pangs, her shame were the more exces­sive. She fled the place at his approach; fled his house, never again to return to a habitation where he was the master.— She did not, however, escape with her paramour, but eloped to shelter herself [Page 10] in the most dreary retreat; where she partook of no one comfort from society, or from life, but the still unremitting friendship of Miss Woodley.—Even her infant daughter she left behind, nor would allow herself the consolation of her innocent, but reproachful, smiles— she left her in her father's house that she might be under his protection; parted with her, as she thought for ever, with all the agonies that mothers part from their infant children: and yet even a mother scarcely can conceive how much more sharp those agonies were, on be­holding the child sent after her, as the perpetual outcast of its father.

Lord Elmwood's love to his lady had been extravagant—the effect of his hate was extravagant likewise. Beholding himself separated from her by a barrier [Page 11] never to be removed, he vowed in the deep torments of his revenge, not to be reminded of her by one individual object; much less by one so nearly al­lied to her as her child. To bestow upon that his affections, would be, he imagined, still in some sort, to divide them with the mother.—Firm in his re­solution, the beautiful Matilda was, at the age of six years, sent out of her fa­ther's house, and received by her mother with the tenderness, but with the anguish, of those parents, who behold their off­spring visited with the punishment due only to their own offences.

During this transaction, which was performed by his Lordship's agents at his command, he himself was engaged in an affair of still weightier importance —that of life or death:—he determined [Page 12] upon his own death, or the death of the man who had wounded his honour and his happiness. A duel with his old an­tagonist was the result of this determina­tion; nor was the Duke of Avon (before the decease of his father and eldest bro­ther, Lord Frederick Lawnly) backward to render all the satisfaction that was re­quired. — For it was no other than he, whose love for Lady Elmwood had still subsisted, and whose art and industry left no means unessayed to perfect his de­signs;—No other than he, (who, next to Lord Elmwood, was ever of all her lovers most prevalent in her heart,) to whom Lady Elmwood yielded her own and her husband's future peace, and gave to his vanity a prouder triumph, than if she had never given her hand in preference to another. This triumph however was but short — a month only, [Page 13] after the return of Lord Elmwood, his Grace was called upon to answer for his conduct, and was left upon the spot where they met, so maimed, and defaced with scars, as never again to endanger the honour of a husband. As Lord Elm­wood was inexorable to all accommoda­tion; their engagement lasted for some space of time; nor any thing but the steadfast assurance his opponent was slain, could at last have torn his Lordship from the field, though he himself was mor­tally wounded.

Yet even during that period of his danger, while for days he laid in the continual expectation of his own death, not all the entreaties of his dearest, most intimate, and most respected friends could prevail upon him to pronounce forgiveness to his wife, or suffer them to [Page 14] bring his daughter to him for his last blessing.

Lady Elmwood, who was made ac­quainted with the minutest circumstance as it passed, appeared to wait the news of her lord's decease with patience; but upon her brow, and in every lineament of her face it was marked, his death was an event she would not for a day survive — and she had left her child an orphan, to have followed Lord Elmwood to the grave.—She was prevented the trial; he recovered; and from the ample and dis­tinguished vengeance he had obtained upon the irresistible person of the Duke, in a short time seemed to regain his usual tranquillity.

He recovered, while Lady Elmwood fell sick and lingered—possessed of youth and a good constitution, she lingered till [Page 15] ten years decline, brought her to that period, with which the reader is now going to be presented.

CHAPTER II.

IN a lonely country on the borders of Scotland, a single house by the side of a dreary heath, was the residence of the once gay, volatile Miss Milner — In a large gloomy apartment of this solitary habitation (the windows of which scarce rendered the light accessible) was laid upon her death-bed, the once lovely Lady Elmwood — pale, half suffocated with the loss of breath; yet her senses perfectly clear and collected, which served but to sharpen the anguish of dying.

In one corner of the room, by the side of an old-fashioned stool, kneels Miss Woodley, praying most devoutly [Page 17] for her still beloved friend, but in vain endeavouring to pray composedly — floods of tears pour down her furrowed cheeks, and frequent sobs of sorrow break through each pious ejaculation.

Close by her mother's side, one hand supporting her head, the other wiping from her face the damp dew of death, behold Lady Elmwood's daughter — Lord Elmwood's daughter too—yet he far away, negligent of what either suf­fers.—Lady Elmwood turns to her often and attempts an embrace, but her feeble arms forbid, and they fall motion­less.—The daughter perceiving those in­effectual efforts, has her whole face con­vulsed with sorrow; kisses her mother; holds her to her bosom; and hangs upon her neck, as if she wished to cling there, and the grave not to part them.

[Page 18]On the other side the bed sits Sand­ford—his hair grown white—his face wrinkled with age—his heart the same as ever—The reprover, the enemy of the vain, idle, and wicked; but the friend, the comforter of the forlorn and miserable.

Upon those features where sarcasm, re­proach, and anger dwelt to threaten and alarm the sinner; mildness, tenderness, and pity beamed, to support and console the penitent. Compassion changed his language, and softened all those harsh tones that used to denounce resentment.

"In the name of God," said he to Lady Elmwood, "that God who suf­fered for you, and, suffering, knew and pitied all our weaknesses—By him, who has given his word to take compassion on the sinner's tears, I bid you hope for [Page 19] mercy.—By that innocence in which you once lived, be comforted—By the sor­rows you have known since your degra­dation, hope, in some degree, to have atoned — By that sincerity which shone upon your youthful face when I joined your hands; those thousand vir­tues you have at times given proof of, you were not born to die the death of the wicked."

As he spoke these words of consola­tion, her trembling hand clasped his— her dying eyes darted a ray of bright­ness—but her failing voice endeavoured, in vain, to articulate.—At length, her eyes fixing upon her daughter as their last dear object, she was just understood to utter the word "Father."

"I understand you," replied Sand­ford, "and by all that influence I ever [Page 20] had over him, by my prayers, my tears," (and they flowed at the word) "I will implore him to own his child."

She could now only smile, in thanks.

"And if I should fail," continued he, "yet while I live, she shall not want a friend or protector—all an old man like me can answer for"—here his tears interrupted him.

Lady Elmwood was sufficiently sensi­ble of his words and their import, to make a sign as if she wished to embrace him; but finding her life leaving her fast, she reserved this last token of love for her daughter—With a struggle she lifted herself from her pillow, clung to her child—and died in her arms.

CHAPTER III.

LORD Elmwood was by nature, and more from education, of a serious, think­ing, and philosophic turn of mind. His religious studies had completely taught him to consider this world but as a pas­sage to another; to enjoy with gratitude what Heaven in its bounty should be­stow, and to bear with submission, all which in its vengeance it might inflict— In a greater degree than most people he practised this doctrine; and as soon as the first shock he received from Lady Elmwood's conduct was abated, an en­tire calmness and resignation ensued; but still of that sensible and feeling kind, which could never force him to forget the [Page 22] happiness he had lost; and it was this sensibility, which urged him to fly from its more keen recollection as much as possible — this he alledged as the reason he would never suffer Lady Elmwood, or even her child, to be named in his hearing. But this injunction (which all his friends, and even the servants in the house who attended his person, had re­ceived) was, by many people, suspected rather to proceed from his resentment, than his tenderness; nor did he himself deny, that resentment mingled with his prudence; for prudence he called it not to remind himself of happiness he could never taste again, and of ingratitude that might impel him to hatred; and prudence he called it, not to form ano­ther attachment near to his heart; more especially so near as a parent's, which might a second time expose him [Page 23] to all the torments of ingratitude, from one whom he affectionately loved.

Upon these principles he formed the un­shaken resolution, never to acknowledge Lady Matilda as his child—or acknow­ledging her as such—never to see, hear of, or take one concern whatever in her fate and fortune. The death of her mo­ther appeared a favourable time, had he been so inclined, to have recalled this declaration which he had solemnly and repeatedly made—she was now destitute of the protection of her other parent, and it became his duty, at least to pro­vide her a guardian, if he did not choose to take that tender title upon himself.— But to mention either the mother or child to Lord Elmwood was an equal offence, and prohibited in the strongest terms to all his friends and household: and as he [Page 24] was an excellent good master, a sincere friend, and a most generous patron; not one of his acquaintance or dependants, were hardy enough to draw upon them­selves his certain, displeasure, which was violent in the extreme, by even the of­ficial intelligence of Lady Elmwood's death.

Sandford himself, intimidated through age, or by the austere, and even morose, manners Lord Elmwood had of late years adopted; Sandford wished, if possible, some other would undertake the dange­rous task of recalling to his Lordship's memory, there ever was such a person as his wife. He advised Miss Woodley to indite a proper letter to him on the subject; but she reminded him, such a step was still more perilous in her, than any other person, as she was the most destitute [Page 25] being on earth, without the benevolence of Lord Elmwood. The death of her aunt, Mrs. Horton, had left her sole reliance on Lady Elmwood; and now her death, had left her totally dependant upon the earl—for her Ladyship, long before her decease, had declared it was not her intention, to leave a single sentence be­hind her in the form of a will—She had no will, she said, but what she would wholly submit to Lord Elmwood's; and, if it were even his will, her child should live in poverty, as well as banishment, it should be so.— But, perhaps, in this implicit submission to his Lordship, there was a dis­tant hope that the necessitous situation of his daughter might plead more forcibly than his parental love; and that knowing her abandoned of every support but through himself, that idea might form some little [Page 26] tie between them; and be at least a token of the relationship.

But as Lady Elmwood anxiously wished this principle upon which she acted, should be concealed from his Lord­ship's suspicion, she included her friend, Miss Woodley, in the same fate; and thus, the only persons dear to her, she left, but at Lord Elmwood's pleasure, to be preserved from perishing in want.—Her child was too young to advise her on this subject, her friend too disinterested; and at this moment they were both with­out the smallest means of support, except through the justice or compas­sion of his Lordship. — Sandford had, indeed, promised his protection to the daughter; but his liberality had no other source than from his patron, with whom he still lived as usual, except during the [Page 27] winter when his Lordship resided in town, he then mostly stole a visit to Lady Elmwood—On this last visit, he staid to see her buried.

After some mature deliberations, Sand­ford was now preparing to go to Lord Elmwood at his house in town, and there to deliver himself the news that must sooner or later be told; and he meant also to venture, at the same time, to keep the promise he had made to his dying Lady — but the news reached Lord Elmwood before Sandford arrived; it was announced in the public papers, and by that means came first to his knowledge.

He was breakfasting by himself, when the newspaper that first gave the intelli­gence of Lady Elmwood's death, was [Page 28] laid before him—the paragraph con­tained these words:

On Wednesday last died, at Dring Park, a village in Northumberland, the right honourable Countess Elmwood— This lady, who has not been heard of for many years in the fashionable world, was a rich heiress, and of extreme beau­ty; but although she received overtures from many men of the first rank, she preferred her guardian, the present Lord Elmwood (then the humble Mr. Dorriforth) to them all—and it is said, they enjoyed an uncommon share of fe­licity, till his Lordship going abroad, and remaining there some time, the consequences (to a most captivating young woman left without a protector) were such, as to cause a separation on his return.—Her Ladyship has left one child, a daughter, about fifteen.

[Page 29]Lord Elmwood had so much feeling upon reading this, as to lay down the paper, and not take it up again for several minutes — nor did he taste his chocolate during this interval, but leaned his el­bow on the table and rested his head upon his hand. — He then rose up — walked two or three times across the room — sat down again — took up the paper—and read as usual.—Nor let the vociferous mourner, or the perpetual weeper, here complain of his want of sensibility—but let them remember Lord Elmwood was a man — a man of under­standing — of courage — of fortitude — with all, a man of the nicest feelings— and who shall say, but that at the time he leaned his head upon his hand, and rose to walk away the sense of what he felt, he might not feel as much as Lady Elmwood did in her last moments.

[Page 30]Be this as it may, his Lordship's sus­ceptibility on the occasion was not sus­pected by any one — he passed that day the same as usual; the next day too, and the day after.—On the morning of the fourth day, he sent for his steward to his study, and after talking of other busi­ness, said to him,

"Is it true that Lady Elmwood is dead?"

"It is, my Lord." replied the man.

His Lordship looked unusually grave, and at this reply, fetched an involuntary sigh.

"Mr. Sandford," my lord, continued the steward, "sent me word of the news, but left it to my own discretion, whether I made your Lordship acquainted with it or not."

"Where is Sandford?" asked Lord Elmwood.

[Page 31]"He was with my Lady." replied the steward.

"When she died?" asked his Lord­ship.

"Yes, my Lord."

"I am glad of it — he will see every thing she desired done. — Sandford is a good man, and would be a friend to every body."

"He is a very good man indeed, my Lord."

There was now a silence.—Mr. Gif­fard then bowing, said, "Has your Lordship any farther commands?"

"Write to Sandford," said Lord Elmwood, hesitating as he spoke, "and tell him to have every thing performed as she desired.—And whoever she may have selected for the guardian of her child, has my consent to act as such.— Nor in one instance, where I myself am [Page 32] not concerned, will I contradict her will." —The tears rushed to his eyes as he said this, and caused them to start in the steward's — observing which, he sternly resumed,

"Do not suppose from this conversa­tion, that any of those resolutions I have long since taken are, or will be, changed —they are the same; and shall continue the same: — and your interdiction, Sir, (as well as every other person's) remains just the same as formerly; never to men­tion this subject to me in future."

"My Lord, I always obeyed you," replied Mr. Giffard, "and hope I al­ways shall."

"I hope so too." replied his Lord­ship, in a threatening accent —"Write to Sandford," continued he, "to let him know my pleasure, and that is all you have to do."

[Page 33]The steward bowed and withdrew.

But before his letter arrived to Sand­ford, Sandford arrived in town; and Mr. Giffard related to him word for word what had passed between him and his Lord. — Upon every occasion, and upon every topic, except that of Lady Elmwood and her child, Sandford was just as free with Lord Elmwood as he had ever been; and as usual (after his interview with the steward) went into his Lordship's apartment without any pre­vious notice. His Lordship shaked him by the hand as upon all other meetings; and yet, whether his fears suggested it or not, Sandford thought he appeared more cool and reserved with him than common.

[Page 34]During the whole day, the slightest mention of Lady Elmwood, or of her child, was cautiously avoided—and not till the evening, (after Sandford had rung for his candle to retire to rest, it was brought, and he had wished his Lordship good night) did he dare to mention the sub­ject.—He then, after taking leave, and going to the door—turned back and said, "My Lord,"—

It was easy to guess on what he was preparing to speak—his voice failed, the tears began to trickle down his cheeks, he took out his handkerchief, and could proceed no farther.

"I thought," said Lord Elmwood, angrily, "I thought I had given my orders upon this subject — did not my steward write them to you?"

"He did, my Lord," said Sandford, [Page 35] humbly, "but I was set out before they arrived."

"Has he not told you my mind then?" cried his Lordship, more angrily still.

"He has;" replied Sandford, — "But"—

"But what, Sir?"—cried Lord Elm­wood.

"Your Lordship," continued Sand­ford, "was mistaken in supposing Lady Elmwood left a will; she left none."

"No will? no will at all?"—said his Lordship, surprised.

"No, my Lord," answered Sandford, "she wished every thing to be as you willed."

"She left me all the trouble, then, you mean?"

"No great trouble, Sir; for except two persons, her Ladyship has not left any one else to hope for your protection."

[Page 36]"And who are those two?" cried he hastily.

"One, my Lord, I need not name— the other is Miss Woodley."

There was a delicacy and an humility, in the manner in which Sandford deli­vered this reply, that Lord Elmwood could not resent, and he only returned,

"Miss Woodley, is she yet living?"

"She is — I left her at the house I came from."

"Well, then," answered his Lord­ship, "you must see that my steward provides for those two persons.—That care I leave to you—and should there be any complaints, on you they fall."

Sandford bowed and was going.

"And now," resumed his Lordship, in a stern and exalted voice, "let me never hear again on this subject. — You have full power to act in regard to the [Page 37] persons you have mentioned; and upon you their situation, their care, their whole management depend — but be sure, you never let them be named before me, from this moment."

"Then," said Sandford, "as this must be the last time they are mentioned, I must now take the opportunity to dis­burthen my mind of a charge"—

"What charge?" — cried his Lord­ship, morosely interrupting him.

"Though Lady Elmwood, my Lord, left no will behind, she left a request."

"Request"—said his Lordship, start­ing—"If it is for me to see her daughter, I tell you now before you ask, I will not grant it — for by heaven (and he spoke and looked most solemnly) though I have no resentment to the innocent child, and wish her happy, yet I will never see her.—Never, for her mother's sake, suffer [Page 38] my heart to be again softened by an ob­ject I might doat on.—Therefore, Sir, if that is the request, it is already answered; my will is fixed."

"The request, my Lord," replied Sandford, (taking out a pocket book from whence he drew several papers) "is contained in this letter; nor do I rightly know what its contents are."— And he held it out to him.

"Is it Lady Elmwood's writing?" cried his Lordship, extremely discom­posed."

"It is, my Lord—She called for ink and paper and wrote it a few days before she died, and enjoined me to deliver it to you, with my own hands."

"I refuse to read it."—cried he, put­ting it from him—and trembling while he did so.

[Page 39]"She desired me," said Sandford, (still presenting the letter) "to conjure you to read it, for her father's sake."

Lord Elmwood took it instantly.—But as soon as it was in his hand, he seemed distressed to know what he should do with it—in what place, to go to read it—or how fortify himself against its contents. — He appeared ashamed too, that he had been so far prevailed upon, and said, by way of excuse,

"For Mr. Milner's sake I would do much — nay, any thing, but that to which, I have just now sworn never to consent.—For his sake I have borne a great deal—for his sake alone, his daugh­ter died my wife.—You know, no other motive than respect for him, prevented my divorcing her.—Pray (and he he­sitated) was she buried with him?"

[Page 40]"No, my Lord — she expressed no such desire; and as that was the case, I did not think it necessary to carry the corpse so far."

At the word corpse, Lord Elmwood shrunk, and looked shocked beyond measure — but recovering himself, said, "I am sorry for it;—for he loved her sincerely, if she did not love him—and I wish they had been buried together.

"It is not then too late," said Sand­ford, and was going on — but his Lord­ship interrupted him.

"No, no—we will have no disturbing of the dead."

"Read her letter then," said Sand­ford, "and bid her rest in peace."

"If it is in my power," returned his Lordship, "to grant what she asks I will — but if her demand is what I ap­prehend, I cannot, I will not, bid her [Page 41] rest by complying —You know my reso­lution, and my disposition, and take care how you provoke me.— You may do an injury to the very perso [...] you are seek­ing to befriend — the very maintenance I mean to allow her daughter I can withdraw."

Poor Sandford, all alarm at this me­nace, replied with energy, "My Lord, unless you begin the subject, I never will presume to mention it again."

"I take you at your word,"—returned his Lordship," and in consequence of that, and that alone, we are friends.— Good night, Sir."

Sandford bowed with all humility, and they went to their separate bedchambers.

CHAPTER IV.

AFTER Lord Elmwood had retired into his chamber, it was some time before he read the letter Sandford had given him. He first walked back­wards and forwards in the room — he then began to take off some part of his dress, but did it slowly. At length he dismissed his valet, and sitting down, took the letter from his pocket. — He looked at the seal, but not at the direc­tion; for he seemed to dread to see Lady Elmwood's hand writing.—He then laid it on the table, and began again to un­dress. He did not proceed, but taking up the letter quickly, (with a kind of [Page 43] effort in making the resolution) broke it open. These were its contents:

My Lord,

Who writes this letter I well know —I well know also to whom it is ad­dressed — I feel with the most powerful force both our situations;—nor should I dare to offer you even this humble petition, but that at the time you receive it, there will be no such person as I am in existance.

For myself, then, all concern will be over—but there is a care that pur­sues me to the grave, and threatens my want of repose even there.

I leave a child—I will not call her mine, that has undone her—I will not call her yours, that will be of no avail. [Page 44] —I present her before you as the grand daughter of Mr. Milner. — Oh! do not refuse an assylum even in your own house, to the destitute offspring of your friend; the last, and only remaining branch of his family.

Receive her into your household, be her condition there ever so abject. — I cannot write distinctly what I would — my senses are not impaired, but the powers of expression are.—The unfortunate child in the scripture (a lesson I have studied) his complaint, has made this wish cling so fast to my heart, that without the distant hope of its being fulfilled, death would have more terrors than my weak mind could support.

[Page 45] I will go to my father; how many servants live in my father's house, and are fed with plenty, while I starve in a foreign land?

I do not ask a parent's festive rejoic­ing at her approach—I do not even ask her father to behold her;—but let her live under his protection.— For her grandfather's sake do not refuse this— to the child of his child whom he trusted to your care, do not refuse it.

Be her host; I remit the tie of being her parent. — Never see her— but let her sometimes live under the same roof with you.

It is Miss Milner your ward, to whom you never refused a request, suplicates you—not now for your ne­phew Rushbrook, but for one so much [Page 46] more dear, that a denial—she dares not suffer her thoughts to glance that way — She will hope — and in that hope, bids you farewell, with all the love she ever bore you.

Farewell Lord Elmwood—and be­fore you throw this letter from you with contempt or anger, cast your imagi­nation into the gravewhere I am lying. —Reflect upon all the days of my past life — the anxious moments I have known, and what has been their end.— Behold me, also—in my altered face there is no anxiety—no joy or sorrow —all is over.—My whole frame is motionless—my heart beats no more. —Look at my horrid habitation, too, —and ask yourself—whether I am an object of resentment?

[Page 47]While Lord Elmwood read this letter, it trembled in his hand: he once or twice wiped the tears from his eyes as he read, and once laid the letter down for a few minutes. At its conclusion the tears flowed fast down his face; but he seemed both ashamed and angry they did, and was going to throw the paper upon the fire; he however suddenly checked his hand, and putting it hastily into his pocket, went to bed.

CHAPTER V.

THE next morning, when Lord Elm­wood and Sandford met at breakfast, Sandford was pale with fear for the suc­cess of Lady Elmwood's letter—his Lord­ship was pale too, but there was beside upon his face something which evidently marked he was displeased—Sandford ob­served it, and was all humbleness, both in his words and looks, in order to soften him.

As soon as the breakfast was removed, his Lordship drew Lady Elmwood's let­ter from his pocket, and holding it to­wards Sandford, said,

[Page 49]"That may be of more value to you, than it is to me, therefore I give it you."

Sandford called up a look of surprise, as if he did not know the letter again.

"'Tis Lady Elmwood's letter," said his Lordship, "and I give it to you for two reasons."

Sandford took it, and putting it up, asked fearfully "What those two reasons were?"

"First," said Lord Elmwood, "be­cause I think it is a relick you may like to preserve—my second reason is, that you may show it to her daughter, and let her know why, and on what conditions I grant her mother's request."

"You do then grant it?" cried Sand­ford joyfully; "I thank you — you are kind—you are considerate."

[Page 50]"Be not too hasty in your gratitude," returned his Lordship, "you may have cause to recall it."

"I know what you have said," re­plied Sandford, "You have said you grant Lady Elmwood's request — you cannot recall these words, nor I my gra­titude."

"Do you know what her request is?" said Lord Elmwood.

"Not exactly, my Lord—I told you before, I did not; but it is no doubt something in favour of her child."

"I think not." replied his Lordship, "Such as it is, however, I grant it.— But in the strictest sense of the word — no farther;—and one neglect of my com­mands, releases my promise totally."

"We will take care, Sir, not to dis­obey them."

[Page 51]"Then listen to what they are—and to you I give the charge of delivering them again.—Lady Elmwood has peti­tioned me in the name of her father, (a name I reverence) to give his grand­child the sanction of my protection.—In the litteral sense, to suffer her to reside occasionally at one of my seats; dispen­sing at the same time with my ever seeing her."

"And you will comply?"

"I will, till she encroaches on this concession, and dare to ask for a greater. —I will, while she avoids my sight, or the giving me any remembrance of her. —But whether by design or by accident, I ever see or hear from her; that moment my compliance to her mother's supplica­tion ceases, and I abandon her once more."

[Page 52]Sandford sighed.—His Lordship conti­nued.

"I am glad her request stopped where it did.—I would rather comply with her desires than not; and I rejoice they are such as I can grant with ease and honour to myself. I am seldom now at Elm­wood house; let her daughter go there;— the few weeks or months I am down in the summer she may easily in that exten­sive house avoid me—while she does, she lives in security — when she does not, you know my resolution."

Sandford bowed — his Lordship re­sumed.

"Nor can it be a hardship to obey this command — she cannot lament the separation from a parent whom she never knew—" Sandford was going eagerly to prove the error of that assertion, but his Lordship prevented him saying, "In [Page 53] a word—without farther argument—if she obeys me in this, I certainly provide for her as my daughter during my life, and leave her a fortune at my death—but if she dares—"

Sandford interrupted the menace he saw prepared for utterance, saying, "And you still mean, I suppose, to make Mr. Rushbrook your heir?"

"Have you not heard me say so? And do you imagine I have changed my de­termination? I am not given to alter my resolutions, Mr. Sandford; and I thought you knew I was not;—besides, will not my title be extinct, whoever I make my heir?—Could any thing but a son have preserved my title?"

"Then it is yet possible—"

"By marrying again, you mean?— No—no— I have had enough of mar­riage [Page 54] — and Henry Rushbrook I leave my heir. Therefore, Sir—"

"My Lord, I do not presume—"

"Do not, Sandford, and we may still be friends.—But I am not to be control­ed as formerly; my temper is changed of late; changed to what it was origi­nally; till your scholastic and religious rules reformed it. You may remember, how troublesome it was, to conquer my stubborn disposition in my youth; then, indeed, you did; but in my manhood you will find the task more difficult."

Sandford again repeated "He should not presume—"

To which his Lordship again made answer, "Do not, Sandford;" and ad­ded, "For I have a sincere regard for you, and should be loath at these years to quarrel with you seriously."

[Page 55]Sandford turned away his head to hide his tears.

"Nay, if we do quarrel," resumed his Lordship, "You know it must be your own fault; —and as this is a theme the most likely of any (indeed the only one on which we can have a difference such as we cannot forgive) take care never from this day to resume it;—indeed that of itself, is an offence I will not par­don.—I have been clear and explicit in all I have said; there can be no fear of mistaking my meaning, therefore all fu­ture explanation is unnecessary—nor will I permit a word, or a hint on the subject from any one, without showing my resent­ment to the hour of my death." He was going out of the room.

"But before we bid adieu to the sub­ject for ever, my Lord—there was ano­ther person whom I named to you—"

[Page 56]"Do you mean Miss Woodley?— Oh, by all means let her live at Elm­wood House too. — On consideration, I have no objection to see Miss Woodley at any time—I shall be glad to see her.— do not let her be frightened at me—to her I shall be the same, I have always been."

"She is a good woman, my Lord," cried Sandford, pleased.

"You need not tell me that, Mr. Sandford; I know her worth."—And his Lordship left the room.

Sandford, to relieve Miss Woodley and her lovely charge from the suspense in which he had left them, set off for their habitation the next day; in order himself to conduct them from thence to Elmwood House, and ap­point some retired part of it for Lady Matilda, against the annual visit her [Page 57] father paid there. But before he left London, Giffard, the steward, took an opportunity to wait upon him, and let him know, that his Lord had acquainted him, with the consent he had given for his daughter to be admitted at Elmwood Castle; and upon what restrictions; like­wise that he had denounced the most se­vere threats, should these restrictions be broken. Sandford thanked Giffard for his friendly information, which served him as a second warning of the circum­spection that was necessary; and having taken leave of his Lordship under the pre­tence "he could not live in the smoke of London," he set out for the north.

It is unnecessary to say with what de­light Sandford was received by Miss Woodley, and the hapless daughter of Lady Elmwood, even before he told his [Page 58] errand. They both loved him sincerely; more especially Lady Matilda; whose forlorn state, and innocent sufferings, had ever excited his compassion in the extremest degree, and had caused him ever to treat her with the utmost affec­tion, tenderness, and respect. She knew, too, how much he had been her mother's friend; for that she also loved him; and being honoured with the friendship of her father, she looked up to him with reverence and awe. For Matilda (with an excellent understanding, a sedate­ness above her years, and early accus­tomed to the most private converse be­tween Lady Elmwood and Miss Wood­ley) was perfectly acquainted with the whole fatal history of her mother; and was by her taught, that respect and ad­miration of her father's virtues which they justly merited.

[Page 59]Notwithstanding the joy of beholding Mr. Sandford, once more to cheer by his presence their solitary dwelling; no sooner were the first kind greetings over, than the dread of what he might have to inform them, possessed both poor Ma­tilda and Miss Woodley so powerfully, their gladness was changed into affright. —Their apprehensions were far more for­cible than their curiosity;—they durst not ask a question, and even began to wish he would continue silent upon the sub­ject, on which they feared to listen.—For near two hours he was so.—At length, after a short interval from speaking, (du­ring which they waited with anxiety for what he might next say) he turned to Lady Matilda, and said,

"You don't ask for your father, my dear."

[Page 60]"I did not know it was proper." she replied timidly.

"It is always proper," answered Sandford, "for you to think of him, though he should never think on you."

She burst into tears, saying, she "did think of him, but she felt an apprehen­sion at mentioning his name."—and she wept bitterly while she spoke.

"Nay, do not think I reproved you," said Sandford; "I but told you what was right."

"Nay, said Miss Woodley, "it is not for that she cries thus—she fears her father has not complied with her mother's request.—Perhaps not even read her let­ter?"

"Yes, he has read it." returned Sandford.

"Oh Heavens!" exclaimed Matilda, [Page 61] clasping her hands together, and the tears falling faster still.

"Do not be so much alarmed, my dear," said Miss Woodley; "you know we are prepared for the worst; and you know you promised your mother, what­ever your fate was, to submit with pa­tience."

"Yes," replied Matilda, "and I am prepared for every thing, but my fa­ther's refusal to my dear mother."

"Your father has not refused your mother's request." replied Sandford.

She was leaping from her seat in ec­stasy.

"But," continued he, "do you know what her request was?"

"Not entirely," replied Matilda, "and since it is granted I am careless.— But she told me her letter concerned none but me."

[Page 62]To explain perfectly to Matilda Lady Elmwood's letter, and that she might per­fectly understand upon what terms she was admitted into Elmwood House, Sandford now read the letter to her; and repeated, as nearly as he could remember, the whole of the conver­sation that passed between Lord Elm­wood and himself; not even sparing, with an erroneous delicacy, any of those threats her father had denounced, should she dare to break through the limits he prescribed—nor did he try to soften, in one instance, a word his Lordship ut­tered. She listened sometimes with tears, sometimes with hope, but always with awe, and terror, to every sentence wherein her father was concerned. Once she called him cruel—then exclaimed "he was kind;" but at the end of Sandford's intelligence, concluded she was happy [Page 63] and grateful for the boon bestowed.— Even her mother had not a more ex­alted and transcendent idea of Lord Elm­wood's worth, than his daughter had formed; and this little bounty just ob­tained, had not been greater in her mother's estimation, than it was now in her's. — Miss Woodley, too, smiled at the prospect before her—she esteemed Lord Elmwood beyond any mortal liv­ing—she was proud to hear what he had said in her praise, and overjoyed at the prospect she should be once again in his company; picturing, at the same time, a thousand of the brightest hopes, from watching every emotion of his soul, and catching every proper occasion to excite, or increase, his paternal sentiments.— Yet she had the prudence to conceal those vague hopes from his child, lest a disappointment might prove fatal; and [Page 64] assuming a behaviour not too much elated or depressed, she advised they should hope for the best, but yet, as usual, expect and prepare for the worst.— After taking measures for quitting their melancholy abode; within the fortnight they all departed for Elmwood Castle.— Matilda, Miss Woodley, and even Sand­ford, first visiting Lady Elmwood's grave, and bedewing it with their tears.

CHAPTER VI.

IT was on a dark evening in the month of March, that Lady Matilda, accom­panied by Sandford and Miss Woodley, arrived at Elmwood Castle, the magni­ficent seat of her father.—Sandford chose the evening; rather to steal into the House privately, than by any appearance of parade, suffer Lord Elmwood to be reminded of it by the public prints, or by any other accident.—Nor would he give the neighbours or servants the slightest reason to suppose, the daughter of their Lord was admitted into his house in any other situation than, that, which she really was.

[Page 66]As the Porter opened the gates of the avenue to the carriage that brought them, Matilda felt an awful, and yet a gladsome sensation no terms can describe.—As she entered the door of the house this sensa­tion increased—and as she passed along the spacious hall, the splendid staircase, and many stately apartments, wonder! With a crowd of the tenderest, yet most afflicting, sentiments rushed to her heart. —She gazed with astonishment!—she reflected with more.

"And is my father the master of this house?" she cried—"And was my mo­ther once the mistress of this house?"— Here a flood of tears relieved her from a part of that burthen, which was before insupportable.

"Yes." replied Sandford, "And you are the mistress of it now, till your father arrives."

[Page 67]"Good God!" exclaimed she, "and will he ever arrive? and shall I live to sleep under the same roof with my fa­ther?"

"My dear," replied Miss Woodley, "have not you been told so?"

"Yes," said she, "but though I heard it with extreme pleasure, yet the idea never so forcibly affected me as at this moment.—I now feel, as the reality approaches, this has been kindness suf­ficient—I do not ask for more—I am now convinced, from what this trial makes me feel, that to see my father, would cause a sensation, a feeling, I could not survive."

The next morning gave to Matilda more objects still of admiration and won­der, as she walked over the extensive gardens, groves, and other pleasure [Page 68] grounds belonging to the house. She, who had never been beyond the dreary, ruinate place where her deceased mother had chosen her residence, was naturally struck with amazement and delight at the grandeur of a seat, which travellers have come for miles to see, and not thought their time mispent.

There was one object, however, among all she saw, which attracted her attention above the rest, and she would stand for hours to look at it —This was a full length portrait of Lord Elmwood, esteemed a very capital picture, and a great likeness—to this picture she would sigh and weep; though when it was first pointed out to her, she shrunk back with fear, and it was some time before she dared venture to cast her eyes completely upon it. In the features of her father [Page 69] she was proud to discern the exact moulds in which her own appeared to have been modelled; yet Matilda's person, shape, and complection were so extremely like what her mother's once were, that at the first glance she appeared to have a still greater resemblance of her, than of her father— but her mind and manners were all Lord Elmwood's; softened by the delicacy of her sex, the extreme tenderness of her heart, and the melancholy of her situa­tion.

She was now in her seventeenth year—of the same age, within a year and a few months, of her mother when she became the ward of Dorriforth.—She was just three years old when her father went abroad, and remembered something of bidding him farewell; but more of taking cher­ries [Page 70] from his hand as he pulled them from the tree to give to her.

Educated in the school of adversity, and inured to retirement from her in­fancy, she had acquired a taste for all those amusements which a recluse life affords — She was fond of walking and riding — was accomplished in the arts of music and drawing, by the most careful instructions of her mother — and as a scholar she excelled most of her sex, from the great pains Sandford had taken with that part of her education, and the great abilities he possessed for the task.

In devoting certain hours of the day to study with him, others to music, riding, and such recreations, Matilda's time never appeared tedious at Elmwood House, although she neither received [Page 71] nor paid one visit — for it was soon di­vulged in the neighbourhood upon what stipulation she resided at her father's, and intimated, that the most prudent and friendly behaviour of the friends both of her father and of herself, would be, to take no notice whatever that she lived among them: and as Lord Elmwood's will was a law all around, such was the consequence, of his will being known or supposed.

Neither did Miss Woodley regret the want of visiters, but found herself far more satisfied in her present situation, than her most sanguine hopes could have formed — She had a companion whom she loved with an equal fondness, with which she had loved her deceased mo­ther; and frequently in this charming mansion, where she had so often beheld [Page 72] Lady Elmwood, her imagination pic­tured Matilda as her risen from the grave in her former youth, health, and exqui­site beauty.

In peace, in content, though far from happiness, the days and weeks passed away till about the middle of August, when preparations began to be made for the arrival of Lord Elmwood. — The week in which he was to come was at length fixed, and some part of his reti­nue was arrived before him.—When this was told to Matilda she started, and looked just as her mother at her age of­ten times had done, when, in spite of her love, she was conscious she had of­fended him, and was terrified at his ap­proach. Sandford observing this, put out his hand, and taking hers shook it kindly; and bade her (but it was not in [Page 73] a cheerful tone) "not be afraid." This gave her no confidence; and she began, before his Lordship's arrival, to seclude herself in those apartments which were allotted for her during the time of his stay; and in the timorous expectation of his coming, her appetite declined and she lost all her colour. — Even Miss Woodley, whose spirits had been for some time elated with the hopes she had formed, on drawing near to the test, found those hopes vanished; and though she endeavoured to conceal it, she was replete with apprehensions. — Sandford, had certainly fewer fears an either; yet upon the eve of the day on which his patron was to arrive, he was evidently cast down.

Lady Matilda once asked him — "Are you certain, Mr. Sandford, you made no mistake in respect to what Lord Elmwood said, when he granted my [Page 74] mother's request? Are you sure he did grant it?—Was there nothing equivocal on which he may ground his displeasure should he hear I am here?—Oh! do not let me hazard the being once again turn­ed out of his house!—Oh! save me from provoking him perhaps to curse me."— And here she clasped her hands together with the most fervent petition, in the dread of what might happen.

"If you doubt my word or my senses," said Sandford, "call Giffard, and let him inform you;—my Lord repeated the same words to him he did to me."

Though from her reason Matilda could not doubt of any mistake from Mr. Sand­ford, yet her fears suggested a thousand scruples; and this reference to the stew­ard she received with the utmost satisfac­tion, (though she did not think it neces­sary to apply to him) as it perfectly con­vinced [Page 75] her of the folly of those suspicions she had entertained.

"And yet, Mr. Sandford," said she, "if it is so, why are you less cheerful than you were? I cannot help thinking but it must be the expectation of Lord Elmwood, which has caused in you this change."

"I don't know;" replied Sandford, carelessly, "but I believe I am grown afraid of your father.—His temper is a great deal altered from what it once was— he exalts his voice, and uses harsh ex­pressions upon the least provocation—his eyes flash lightning, and his face is dis­torted with anger on the slightest motives — he turns away his old servants at a moment's warning, and no concession can make their peace.—In a word, I am more at my ease when I am away from him — and I really believe," added he [Page 76] with a smile, but with a tear at the same time, "I really believe I am more afraid of him in my age, than he was of me when he was a boy."

Miss Woodley was present; she and Matilda looked at one another; and each saw the other turn pale, at this description.

The day at length came on which Lord Elmwood was expected to dinner. —It had been a high gratification to his daughter to have gone to the top­most window of the house, to have only beheld his chariot enter the avenue; but it was a gratification which her fears, her tremor, her extreme sensibility would not permit her to enjoy.

Miss Woodley and she sat down that day to dinner in their retired apartments; which were detached from the other part [Page 77] of the house by a gallery; and of the door leading to the gallery they had a key to impede any one from passing that way, without first ringing a bell; to an­swer which, was the sole employment of a servant who was placed there during his Lordship's residence, lest by any acci­dent he might chance to come near that unfrequented part of the house; on which occasion the man was to give immediate notice to his Lady.

Miss Woodley and she sat down to dinner, but did not dine.—Sandford ate, as usual, with Lord Elmwood. —When the servant brought up tea, Miss Wood­ley asked him if he had seen his Lord— The man answered, "Yes, Madam; and he looks vastly well." — Matilda wept with joy to hear it.

[Page 78]About nine in the evening Sandford rung at the bell, and was admitted—and never was he so welcome—Matilda hung upon him, as if his recent society with her father had endeared him to her more than ever; and staring anxiously in his face, seemed to ask him to tell her some­thing of Lord Elmwood, and something that should not alarm her.

"Well—how do you find yourself?" said he to her.

"How are you, Mr. Sandford?" she returned, with a sigh.

"Oh! very well." replied he.

"Is my Lord in a good temper?" asked Miss Woodley.

"Yes; very well." replied Sandford, with indifference.

"Did he seem glad to see you?" asked Matilda.

[Page 79]"He shook me by the hand." replied Sandford.

"That was a sign he was glad to see you, was it not?" said Matilda.

"Yes; but he could not do less."

"Nor more." replied she.

"He looks very well, our servant tells us." said Miss Woodley.

"Extremely well indeed," answered Sandford: "and, to tell the truth, I never saw him in better spirits."

"That is well:" said Matilda, and sighed a weight of fears from her heart.

"Where is he now, Mr. Sandford?"

"Gone to take a walk about his grounds, and so I stole here the time."

"What was your conversation during dinner?"

"Horses, hay, farming, and politics."

"Won't you sup with him?"

[Page 80]"I shall see him again before I go to bed."

"And again to-morrow!" — cried Matilda, "what happiness!"

"He has visiters to-morrow," said Sandford, "coming for a week or two."

"Thank heaven!" said Miss Wood­ley, "he will then be diverted from thinking on us."

"Do you know," returned Sandford, "it is my firm opinion, that his think­ing of ye at present, is the cause of his good spirits."

"Oh, heavens!" cried Matilda, lift­ing up her hands with rapture.

"Nay, do not mistake me;" said Sandford; "I would not have you build a foundation for joy upon this; for if he is in spirits that you are in this house— so near him—positively under his protec­tion — yet he will not allow himself to [Page 81] think that, is the cause of his content— and the sentiments he has adopted, and are now become natural to him, will re­main the same as ever; nay, perhaps with greater force, while he suspects his weakness (as he calls it) acting in oppo­sition."

"If he does but think of me with tenderness," cried Matilda, "I am re­compensed."

"And what recompense would his kind thoughts be to you," said Sandford, "were he to turn you out to beggary?"

"A great deal — a great deal." she replied.

"But how are you to know he has these kind thoughts, while he gives you no proof of them?"

"No, Mr. Sandford; but supposing we could know them without the proof."

[Page 82]"But as that is impossible," answered he, "I shall suppose, till the proof ap­pears, I am mistaken."

Matilda looked deeply concerned that the argument should conclude in her disappointment; for to have believed herself thought of with tenderness by her father, would have alone constituted her happiness.

When the servant came up with some­thing by way of supper, he told Mr. Sandford his Lordship was returned from his walk and had enquired for him; Sand­ford immediately bade his companions good night, and left them.

"How strange is this!" cried Matil­da, when Miss Woodley and she were alone, "My father within a few rooms of me, and yet I am debarred from see­ing him!—Only by walking a few paces [Page 83] I might be at his feet, and perhaps re­ceive his blessing."

"You make me shudder," said Miss Woodley; "but some spirits less fear­ful than mine, might perhaps advise you to try the experiment."

"Not for worlds," returned Matilda; "no counsel could tempt me to such temerity; and yet to entertain the thought, that it is possible I could do this, is a source of great comfort."

This conversation lasted till bed time, and later; for they sat up beyond their usual hour to indulge it.

Miss Woodley slept little, but Matilda less — she awaked repeatedly during the night, and every time sighed to herself, "I sleep in the same house with my fa­ther! Blessed spirit of my mother, look down and rejoice."

CHAPTER VII.

THE next day the whole Castle ap­peared to Lady Matilda (though she was in some degree retired from it) all tumult and bustle; as was usually the case while his Lordship was there. She saw from her windows servants run­ning across the yards and park, horses and carriages driving with fury, all the suit of a nobleman; and it seemed some­times to elate, at other times to depress her.

These impressions however, and others of fear and anxiety, which her father's first arrival had excited, by degrees wore away; and after some short time, she [Page 85] was in the same tranquil state she enjoyed before he came.

He had visitors, to stay a week or two; he paid some visits himself for several days; and thus the time passed, till it was about four weeks since he ar­rived; during which, Sandford, with all his penetration, could never clearly dis­cover whether he had once called to mind his daughter was living in the same house. He had not named her (that was not extraordinary) consequently no one durst name her to him; but he had not even mentioned Miss Woodley, of whom he had so lately spoken in the kindest terms, and said, "He should take pleasure in seeing her again." From these contra­dictions in Lord Elmwood's behaviour in respect to her, it was Miss Woodley's plan neither to throw herself in his way, [Page 86] or avoid him. She therefore frequently walked about the house while he was in it, not indeed wholly without re­straint, but at least with the show of li­berty. This freedom, indulged for some time without peril, became at last less cautious; and no ill consequences arising from its practice, her scruples gradually ceased.

One morning, however, as she was crossing the large hall, thoughtless of danger, a footstep at a distance alarmed her almost without knowing why—She stopped for a moment, thinking to re­turn; the steps approached quicker, and before she could retreat she beheld Lord Elmwood at the other end of the hall, and perceived that he saw her. — It was now too late to hesitate what was to be done; she could not go back, and had [Page 87] not courage to go on; she therefore stood still.—Disconcerted, and much affected at his sight, (their former intimacy com­ing to her mind, together with the many years, and many sad occurrences passed, since she last saw him) all her intentions, all her meditated plans how to conduct herself on such an occasion, gave way to a sudden shock—and to make the meet­ing yet more distressing, her very fright she knew must serve to recall more pow­erfully to his mind, the subject she most wished him to forget. The steward was with his Lordship, and as they came up close by her side, Giffard observing him look at her earnestly, said softly, but so as she heard him, "My Lord, it is Miss Woodley." Lord Elmwood's hat was off immediately, and coming to her with alacrity, he took her by the hand and said, "Indeed, Miss Woodley, I did not [Page 88] know you—I am very glad to see you." and while he spoke, shook her hand with a cordiality her tender heart could not bear — and never did she feel so hard a struggle as to restrain her tears. But the thought of Matilda's fate—the idea of awaking in his mind a sentiment that might irritate him against his child, wrought more forcibly than every other effort; and though she could not reply distinctly, she replied without weeping.— Whether he saw her embarrassment, and wished to release her from it, or was in haste to conceal his own; he left her al­most instantly; but not till he had en­treated she would dine that very day with him and Mr. Sandford, who were to dine without other company.—She curt­sied assent, and flew to tell Matilda what had occurred.—After listening with anx­iety and joy to all she told, Matilda laid [Page 89] hold of that hand she said Lord Elm­wood had held, and pressed it to her lips with love and reverence.

When Miss Woodley made her ap­pearance at dinner, Sandford, (who had not seen her since the invitation, and did not know of it) looked amazed!— on which his Lordship said, "Do you know, Sandford, I met Miss Woodley this morning, and had it not been for Giffard I should have passed her without knowing her — but Miss Woodley, if I am not so much altered but that you knew me, I take it unkind you did not speak first."—She was unable to speak even now — he saw it, and changed the conversation; which Sandford was happy to join, for in the present discourse he did not feel himself very comfortable.

[Page 90]As they advanced in their dinner, Miss Woodley's and Sandford's embar­rassment diminished; while Lord Elm­wood in his turn became, not embarras­sed, but absent and melancholy. — He now and then sighed heavily—and called for wine much oftener than he was ac­customed.

When Miss Woodley took her leave, his Lordship invited her to dine with him and Sandford whenever it was con­venient to her;—he said many things, too, of the same kind, and all with the utmost civility, yet not with that warmth with which he had spoken in the morn­ing — into that he had been surprised, while this coolness was the effect of re­flection.

[Page 91]When she came to Lady Matilda, and Sandford had joined them, they talked and deliberated on what had passed.—

"You acknowledge, Mr. Sandford," said Miss Woodley, "that you think my presence affected Lord Elmwood so as to make him much more thoughtful than usual; if you imagine these thoughts were upon Lady Elmwood, I will ne­ver intrude again; but if you suppose I caused him to think upon his daughter, I cannot go too often."

"I don't see how he can divide those two objects in his mind," replied Sand­ford, "and therefore you must e'en visit him on, and take your chance, what reflections you may inspire—but, be they what they will, time, will take away from you that power of affecting him."

She concurred in the opinion, and occasionally walked into his Lordship's [Page 92] apartments, dined, or took coffee with him, as the accident suited; and observed according to Sandford's prescience, that time, wore off that impression her visits first made.—Lord Elmwood now became just the same before her, as before others. —She easily discerned, too, through all that politeness which he assumed—he was no longer the considerate, the forbearing character he formally was; but haughty, impatient, imperious, and more than ever, implacable,

CHAPTER VIII.

WHEN Lord Elmwood had been at his country seat about six weeks, Mr. Rushbrook, his nephew, and his adopted child, the friendless boy whom poor Lady Elmwood first introduced in­to his uncle's house, and by her kind­ness preserved there—arrived from his travels, and was received by his Lord­ship with all that affectionate warmth due to the man he thought worthy to make his heir. Rushbrook had been a beautiful boy, and was now an extremely handsome young man; he had made an unusual progress in his studies, had com­pleted the tour of Italy and Germany, and returned home with the air and address of [Page 94] a perfect man of fashion—there was, be­side, an elegance and persuasion in his manner almost irresistible.—Yet with all those accomplishments, when he was in­troduced to Sandford, and put out his hand to take his, Sandford, with evi­dent reluctance, gave it to him; and when Lord Elmwood asked him, in the young man's presence, "if he did not think his nephew greatly improved?" He looked at him from head to foot, and muttered "he could not say he ob­served it." The colour heightened in Mr. Rushbrook's face upon this occasion, but he was too well bred not to be still in perfect good humour.

Sandford saw this young man treated in the house of Lord Elmwood with the same respect and attention as if he had been his Lordship's son; and it was but [Page 95] probable the old priest should make a comparison between the situation of him, and of Lady Matilda Elmwood.—Before her, it was Sandford's meaning to have concealed his thoughts upon the subject, and never to have mentioned it but with composure; that was, however, impos­sible — unused to conceal his feelings; at the name of Rushbrook his counte­nance would always change, and a sar­castic sneer, and sometimes a frown of resentment, force their way in spite of his resolution. — Miss Woodley, too, with all her boundless charity and good will, was, upon this occasion, induced to limit their excess; and they did not extend so far as to reach poor Rush­brook — She even, and in reality, did not think him handsome or engaging in his manners—she thought his gaiety fri­vilousness, his complaisance affectation, [Page 96] and his good humour impertinence.—It was impossible to conceal those unfavour­able sentiments entirely from Matilda; for when the subject arose, as it frequently did, Miss Woodley's undisguised heart, and Sandford's undisguised countenance, told them instantly.—Matilda had the understanding to imagine, she was, per­haps, the object who had thus deformed Mr. Rushbrook, and frequently (though he was a stranger to her, and one who had caused her many a jealous heartach) fre­quently she would speak in his vindication.

"You are very good," said Sandford one day to her; "you like him because you know your father loves him."

This was a hard sentence to the daugh­ter of Lord Elmwood, to whom her father's love would have been more pre­cious than any other blessing—She, how­ever, checked the assault of envy, and kindly replied,

[Page 97]"My mother loved him, too, Mr. Sandford."

"Yes," answered Sandford, "he has been a grateful man to your poor mo­ther—She did not suppose when she took him into the house, when she intreated your father to take him, and through her caresses and officious praises of him to his uncle, first gave him that power he now possesses over him; she little foresaw, at that time, his ingratitude, and its effects."

"Very true." said Miss Woodley, with a heavy sigh.

"What ingratitude?" said Matilda; "do you suppose Mr. Rushbrook is the cause my father will not see me? Oh do not pay Lord Elmwood's motives so ill a compliment."

"I do not say he is the absolute cause," returned Sandford; "but if a [Page 98] parent's heart is void, I would have it remain so, till stored by its lawful owner— a usurper I detest."

"No one can take Lord Elmwood's heart by force," replied his daughter, "it must, I believe, be a free gift to the possessor; and as such, whoever has it, has a right to it."

In this manner she would plead the young man's excuse—perhaps but to hear what could be said in his disfavour, for secretly his name was bitter to her— and once she exclaimed in vexation, on Sandford's saying Lord Elmwood and Mr. Rushbrook were gone out shooting together,

"All that pleasure is now eclipsed which I used to take in listening to the report of my father's gun, for I cannot now distinguish his, from his parasite's."

[Page 99]Sandford, much as he disliked Rush­brook—for this expression which com­prised her father in the reflection, turned to Matilda in extreme anger; but as he saw the colour mount to her face, for what, in the strong feelings of her heart, had escaped her lips, he did not say a word—and by a flood of tears that fol­lowed after, he rejoiced to see how much she reproved herself.

Miss Woodley, vext to the heart, and provoked every time she saw Lord Elmwood and Rushbrook together, and saw the familiar terms on which this young man lived with his benefactor, now made her visits to his Lordship very seldom.—If Lord Elmwood observed this, he did not appear to observe it; and though he received her very politely when she did pay him a visit, it was al­ways [Page 100] very coldly; nor did she suppose if she never went, he would ever ask for her. For his daughter's sake, how­ever, she thought it right sometimes to show herself before him; for she knew it must be impossible that, with all his seeming indifference, Lord Elmwood could ever see her without thinking for a moment on his child; and what one fortunate thought might sometime bring about, was an object too serious for her to slight.—She therefore, after remaining confined to her apartments near three weeks, (excepting those short and anxi­ous walks she and Matilda stole, while Lord Elmwood dined, or before he rose in a morning) went one forenoon into his Lordship's apartments, where as usual, she found him, Mr. Sandford, and Mr. Rushbrook.—After she had sat about half an hour, conversing with [Page 101] them all, though but very little with the latter, his Lordship was called out of the room upon some business; pre­sently after Sandford; and now, not much pleased with the companion with whom she was left, she rose and was going likewise, when Rushbrook fixed his speaking eyes upon her, and cried,

"Miss Woodley, will you pardon me what I am going to say?"

"Certainly, Sir—You can, I am sure, say nothing but what I must forgive."— But she made this reply with a distance and a reserve, very unlike the usual man­ners of Miss Woodley.

He looked at her earnestly and cried, "Ah! Miss Woodley, you don't be­have so kindly to me as you used to do!"

"I do not understand you, Sir," — she replied, very gravely;—"Times are [Page 102] changed, Mr. Rushbrook, since you were last here — you were then but a child."

"Yet I love all those persons now, I loved then;" replied he; "and so I shall for ever."

"But you mistake, Mr. Rushbrook; I was not even then so very much the object of your affections — there were other ladies you loved better.—Perhaps you don't remember Lady Elmwood?"

"Don't I?"—cried he, "Oh!" (clasp­ing his hands and lifting up his eyes to heaven) "shall I ever forget her?"

That moment Lord Elmwood opened the door; the conversation of course that moment ended; but confusion at the sudden surprise was on the face of both the parties — his Lordship saw it, [Page 103] and looked at each by turns, with a sternness that made poor Miss Woodley ready to faint; while Rushbrook, with the most natural and happy laugh that ever was affected, cried, "No, don't tell my Lord, pray, Miss Woodley."— She was more confused than before; and his Lordship turning to him, asked what the subject was.—By this time he had invented one, and continuing his laugh, said, "Miss Woodley, my Lord, will to this day protest she saw my apparition when I was a boy; and she says it is a sign I shall die young, and is really much affected at it."

Lord Elmwood turned away before this ridiculous speech was concluded; yet so well had it been acted, he did not for an instant doubt its truth.

Miss Woodley felt herself greatly re­lieved; [Page 104] and yet so little is it in the power of those we dislike to do any thing to please us, that from this very circum­stance, she formed a still more unfavour­able opinion of Mr. Rushbrook than she had done before. — She saw in this little incident the art of dissimulation, cun­ning, and duplicity in its most glaring shape; and detested the method by which they had each escaped Lord Elmwood's suspicion, and perhaps anger, the more, because it was so dexterously managed.

Lady Matilda and Sandford were both in their turns informed of this trait in Mr. Rushbrook's character; and al­though Miss Woodley had the best of dis­positions, and upon every occasion spoke the strictest truth, yet in relating this occurrence, she did not speak all the truth; for every circumstance that would [Page 105] have told to the young man's advantage, literally slipped her memory.

The twenty ninth of October arrived; on which a dinner, a ball, and supper, was given by Lord Elmwood to all the neighbouring gentry — the peasants also dined in the park off a roasted bullock; several casks of ale were distributed, and the bells of the village rung. — Matilda, who heard and saw some part of this fes­tivity from her windows, inquired the cause; but even the servant who waited upon her had too much sensibility to tell her, and answered, "he did not know." Miss Woodley however soon learnt the reason, and groaning with the painful secret, informed her, "Mr. Rushbrook on that day was come of age."

"My birth day was last week." re­plied Matilda; but not a word beside.

[Page 106]In their retired apartments, the day passed away not only soberly, but almost silently; for to speak upon any subject that did not engage their thoughts had been difficult, and to speak upon the only one that did, had been afflictive.

Just as they were sitting down to din­ner their bell gently rung, and in walked Sandford.

"Why are not you among the revel­lers, Mr. Sandford?" cried Miss Wood­ley, with an ironical sneer—(the first her features ever wore) —"Pray, were not you invited to dine with the company?"

"Yes," replied Sandford; "but my head aked; and so I had rather come and take a bit with you."

Matilda, as if she had beheld his heart as he spoke, clung round his neck and sobbed on his bosom: he put her [Page 107] peevishly away, crying, "Nonsense, nonsense—eat your dinner." But he did not eat himself.

CHAPTER IX.

ABOUT a week after this, Lord Elm­wood went out two days for a visit; con­sequently Rushbrook was for that time master of the house. The first morning he went a shooting, and returning about noon, enquired of Sandford, who was sitting in the room, if he had taken up a volume of plays left upon the table.— "I read no such things." replied Sand­ford, and quitted the room abruptly. Rushbrook then rung for his servant, and desired him to look for the book, asking him angrily, "Who had been in the apartment? for he was sure he had left it there when he went out."—The servant withdrew to enquire, and presently re­turned [Page 109] with the volume in his hand, and "Miss Woodley's compliments, she begs your pardon, Sir, she did not know the book was yours, and hopes you will excuse the liberty she took."

"Miss Woodley!" cried Rushbrook with surprize, "she comes so seldom in­to these apartments, I did not suppose it was her who had it — take it back to her instantly, with my respects, and I beg she will keep it."

The man went; but returned with the book again, and laying it on the table without speaking, was going away; when Rushbrook, hurt at receiving no second message, said, "I am afraid, Sir, you did very wrong in taking this book from Miss Woodley."

"It was not from her I took it, Sir," replied the man, "it was from Lady Matilda."

[Page 110]Since he had entered the house, Rush­brook had never before heard her name— he was shocked—confounded more than ever—and to conceal what he felt, in­stantly ordered the man out of the room.

In the mean time, Miss Woodley and Matilda were talking over this trifling occurrence; and frivolous as it was, drew from it strong conclusions of Rush­brook's insolence and power.—In spite of her pride, the daughter of Lord Elm­wood even wept at the insult she had received on this insignificant occasion; for the volume being merely taken from her at Mr. Rushbrook's command, she felt an insult; and the manner in which it was done by the servant, might contribute to the offence.

[Page 111]While Miss Woodley and she were upon this conversation, a note came from Rushbrook to Miss Woodley, wherein he entreated he might be permitted to see her.—She sent a verbal answer, "She was engaged." He sent again, begging she would name her own time. But certain of a second denial, he followed the servant who took the last message, and as Miss Woodley came out of her apartment into the gallery to speak to him, Rushbrook presented himself, and told the man to retire.

"Mr. Rushbrook," said Miss Wood­ley, "this intrusion is insupportable;— and destitute as you may think me of the friendship of Lord Elmwood"—

In the ardour with which Rushbrook was waiting to express himself, he inter­rupted her, and caught hold of her hand.

[Page 112]She immediately snatched it from him; and withdrew into her chamber.

He followed, saying in a low voice, "Dear Miss Woodley hear me."

At that juncture Lady Matilda, who was in an inner room, came out of it in­to Miss Woodley's.—Perceiving a gen­tleman, she stopped short at the door.

Rushbrook cast his eyes upon her, and stood motionless — his lips only moved. "Do not dep [...], Madam," said he, "without hearing my apology for being here."

Though Matilda had never seen him since her infancy, there was no cause to tell her who it was that addressed her— his elegant and youthful person, joined to the incident which had just occurred, convinced her it was Rushbrook; and she looked at him with an air of surprise, but with still more, of dignity.

[Page 113]"Miss Woodley is severe upon me, Madam," continued he, "she judges me unkindly; and I am afraid she will prepossess you with the same unfavour­able sentiments."

Still Matilda did not speak, but look­ed at him with the same air of dig­nity.

"If, Lady Matilda," resumed he, "I have offended you, and must quit you without pardon, I am more unhappy than I should be with the loss of your father's protection — more forlorn, than when an orphan boy, your mother first took pity on me."

At this last sentence, Matilda turned her eyes on Miss Woodley, and seemed in doubt what reply she was to give.

Rushbrook immediately fell upon his knees — "Oh! Lady Matilda," cried he, "if you knew the sensations of my [Page 114] heart, you would not treat me with this disdain."

"We can only judge of those sensa­tions, Mr. Rushbrook," said Miss Wood­ley, "by the effect they have upon your conduct; and while you insult Lord and Lady Elmwood's daughter by an intru­sion like this, and then ridicule her abect state by mockery, such as the present"—

He flew from his knees instantly, and interrupted her, crying "What can I do? — What am I to say, to make you change your opinion of me? — While Lord Elmwood has been at home I have kept at an awful distance; and though every moment I breathed was a wish to cast myself at his daughter's feet, yet as I feared, Miss Woodley, you were in­censed against me, by what means was I to procure an interview but by strata­gem [Page 115] or force?—This accident has given a third method, and I had not strength, I had not courage, to let it pass.—Lord Elmwood will soon return, and we may both be hurried to town immediately;— then how for a tedious winter could I sustain the thought that I was despised, nay perhaps considered as an object of ingratitude, by the only child of my deceased benefactress."

Matilda replied with all her father's haughtiness, "Depend upon it, Sir, if you should ever enter my thoughts, it will only be as an object of envy."

"Suffer me then, Madam," said he, "as an earnest you do not think worse of me than I merit, suffer me to be sometimes admitted into your presence."

She scarcely permitted him to finish the period, before she replied, "This is the last time, Sir, we shall ever meet, de­pend [Page 116] upon it — unless, indeed, Lord Elmwood should delegate to you the control of me — his commands I never dispute." And here she burst into a flood of tears.

Rushbrook walked to the window, and did not speak for a short time—then turning himself to make a reply, both Matilda and Miss Woodley were some­what surprised to see, he had shed tears too.—Having conquered them, he said, "I will not offend you, Madam, by staying one moment longer; and I give my honour, that, upon no pretence what­ever, will I presume to intrude here again. — Professions, I find, have no weight, and only by this obedience to your orders can I give a proof of that respect which you inspire;—and let the agitation I now feel, convince you, Lady Matilda, that, with all my seeming good [Page 117] fortune, I am not happier than yourself."— And so much was he agitated while he delivered this, it was with difficulty he came to the conclusion.—When he did, he bowed with reverence, as if he had left the presence of a deity, and went away.

Matilda immediately entered the chamber she had come from, and with­out casting a single look at Miss Wood­ley, by which she might guess of the opinion she had formed of Mr. Rush­brook's conduct. — The next time they met they did not even mention his name; for they were ashamed to own any par­tiality in his favour, and were too just to bring any serious accusation against him.

But Miss Woodley the day following communicated the intelligence of this [Page 118] visit to Mr. Sandford, who not being present, and a witness of those marks of humility and respect which were conspi­cuous in the deportment of Mr. Rush­brook, was highly offended at his pre­sumption; and threatened if he ever dared to force his company there again, he would acquaint Lord Elmwood with his arrogance, whatever might be the event.—Miss Woodley however, assured him, she believed he would have no cause for such a complaint, as the young man had made the most solemn promise never to commit the like offence; and she thought it her duty to enjoin Sand­ford, till he did repeat it, not to men­tion the circumstance, even to Rush­brook himself.

Matilda could not but feel a regard towards her father's heir in return for [Page 119] that which he had so fervently declared for her; yet the more favourable her opinion of his mind and manners, the more he be­came a proper object of her jealousy for the affections of Lord Elmwood, and was now consequently an object of greater sor­row to her, than when she believed him less worthy. — This, was the reverse on his part towards her — no jealousy inter­vened to bar his admiration and esteem, and the beauty of her person, and gran­deur of her mien, not only confirmed, but improved, the exalted idea he had formed of her previous to their meet­ing, and which his affection to both her parents had inspired.—The next time he saw his benefactor, he began to feel a new esteem and regard for him, for his daughter's sake; as he had at first an esteem for her on the foundation of his love for Lord and Lady Elmwood— [Page 120] He gazed with wonder at his uncle's insensibility to his own happiness, and longed to lead him to the jewel he cast away, though even his own expulsion should be the fatal consequence. — Such was the youthful, warm, generous, grate­ful, but unthinking mind of Rushbrook.

CHAPTER X.

AFTER this incident, Miss Wood­ley left her own apartments less frequently than before—she was afraid, though till now mistrust had been a stranger to her heart, she was afraid duplicity might be concealed under the apparent friendship of Rushbrook; it did not indeed appear so from any part of his behaviour, but she was apprehensive for the fate of Ma­tilda; she disliked him also, and there­fore she suspected him.—For near three weeks she had not now paid a visit to Lord Elmwood, and though to herself every visit was a pain, yet as Matilda took a delight in hearing of her father, what he said, what he did, what his at­tention [Page 122] seemed most employed on, and a thousand other circumstantial informa­tions, in the detail of which, Sandford would scorn to be half so particular, it was a deprivation to her, Miss Woodley did not go oftener.—Now too the middle of November had arrived, and it was expected his Lordship would shortly quit the country.

Partly therefore to indulge her hapless companion, and partly because it was a necessary duty, Miss Woodley paid his Lordship a morning visit, and staid din­ner. — Rushbrook was officiously polite to her, (for that was the epithet she gave his attention in relating it to Lady Ma­tilda) yet she owned he had not that for­ward impertinence she had formerly dis­covered in him, but appeared much more grave and sedate.

[Page 123]"But tell me of my father." said Matilda.

"I was going, my dear — but don't be concerned — don't let it vex you."

"What? what?" cried Matilda, frightened by the preface.

"Why, on my observing that I thought Mr. Rushbrook looked paler than usual, and appeared not to be in perfect health, (which was really the case) your father expressed the greatest anxiety imaginable; he said he could not bear to see him look so ill, begged him with all the tenderness of a parent to take the advice of a physician, and added a thousand other affectionate things."

"I detest Mr. Rushbrook."—said Ma­tilda, with her eyes flashing indignation.

"Nay, for shame," returned Miss Woodley: "do you suppose I told you this, to make you hate him?"

[Page 124]"No, there was no occasion for that," replied Matilda; "my sentiments (though I have never before avowed them) were long ago formed; he was always an object which added to my unhappiness; but since his daring intru­sion into my apartments, he has been an object of my hatred."

"But now perhaps I may tell you something to please you." cried Miss Woodley.

"And what is that?" said Matilda, with indifference; for the first intelli­gence had hurt her spirits too much to suffer her to listen with pleasure to any other.

"Mr. Rushbrook," continued Miss Woodley, "replied to your father, his indisposition was but a slight nervous fe­ver, and he would defer a physician's advice till he went to London—on which [Page 125] his Lordship said, "And when do you expect to be there?"—he replied, "With­in a week or two, I suppose, my Lord." But your father answered, "I do not mean to go myself till after Christmas." — "No indeed, my Lord!" said Mr. Sandford, with surprise: "you have not passed your Christmas here," continued he, "these many a year."—"No," re­turned his Lordship; "but I think I feel myself more attached to this house at present, than ever I did in my life."

"You imagine then, my father thought of me, when he said that?" cried Matilda eagerly.

"But I may be mistaken," replied Miss Woodley.—"I leave you to judge. — But I am sure Mr. Sandford imagined he thought of you, for I saw a smile over his whole face immediately."

"Did you, Miss Woodley?"

[Page 126]"Yes; it appeared on every feature except his lips; those he closed fast to­gether, for fear Lord Elmwood should perceive it."

Miss Woodley, with all her minute intelligence, did not however acquaint Matilda that Rushbrook followed her to the window while his Lordship was out of the room, and Sandford half asleep at the other end of it, and inquired respectfully and anxiously for her Lady­ship; adding, "It is my concern for Lady Matilda which makes me thus in­disposed: I suffer more than her; but I am not permitted to tell her so, nor can I hope, Miss Woodley, you will."—She replied, "You are right, Sir." Nor did she reveal this conversation, while not a sentence that passed except that, was omitted.

[Page 127]When Christmas arrived Lord Elm­wood had many convivial days at Elm­wood House, but the name of Matilda was never mentioned by one of his guests, and most probably never thought of.— During all those holidays she was unusu­ally melancholy, but sunk into the deep­est dejection when she was told the day was fixed on which her father was to depart for the season. — On the morning of that day she wept incessantly; and all her consolation was, "She would go to the chamber window which was front­ing the door he was to pass through to his carriage, and for the first time, and most likely for the last time of her life, behold him."

This design was soon forgot in an­other: — "She would rush boldly into the apartment where he was, and at his [Page 128] feet take leave of him for ever—She would lay hold of his hands, clasp his knees, provoke him to spurn her, which would be joy in comparison to this cruel indifference."—In the bitterness of her grief, she once called upon her mother, and reproached her memory—but the moment she recollected the offence, (which was almost instantaneously) she became all mildness and resignation. "What have I said?" cried she; "Dear, dear saint, forgive me, and behold for your sake I will bear all with patience—I will not groan, I will not even sigh again—this task I set my­self to atone for what I have dared to utter."

While Lady Matilda laboured under these variety of sensations, Miss Wood­ley was occupied in bewailing and en­deavouring [Page 129] to calm her sorrows — and Lord Elmwood, with Rushbrook, was prepared ready to set off. — His Lord­ship, however, loitered, and did not once seem in haste to be gone.—When at last he got up to depart, Sandford thought he pressed his hand, and shook it with more warmth than ever he had done in his life. — Encouraged by this supposition, Sandford, with the tears starting in his eyes, said, "my Lord, won't you condescend to take your leave of Miss Woodley?" — "Certainly, Sandford." replied his Lordship, and seemed glad of an excuse to sit down again.

Impressed with the idea of the state in which she had left his only child, Miss Woodley, when she came before Lord Elmwood to bid him farewell, [Page 130] was pale, trembling, and in tears. — Sandford, notwithstanding his Lordship's apparent kind humour, was shocked at the construction he must put upon her appearance, and cried, "What, Miss Woodley, are you not recovered of your illness yet." Lord Elmwood, how­ever, took no notice of her looks, but after wishing her health and happiness, walked slowly out of the house; turning back frequently and speaking to Sand­ford or some other person who was be­hind him, as if part of his thoughts were left behind, and he went with reluc­tance.

When he had quitted the room where Miss Woodley was; Rushbrook, timid before her, as she had been before her benefactor, went up to her all humility, and said, "Miss Woodley, we ought [Page 131] to be friends; our concern, our devo­tion is paid to the same objects, and one common interest should teach us to be friendly."

She made no reply.—"Will you per­mit me to write to you when I am away?" said he; "You may wish to hear of Lord Elmwood's health, and of what changes may take place in his reso­lutions—Will you permit me?"—At that moment a servant came and said, "Sir, my Lord is in his carriage and waiting for you." He hasted away, and Miss Woodley was relieved from the pain of giving him a denial.

No sooner was the chariot, with all its attendants, out of sight, than Lady Matilda was conducted by Miss Wood­ley from her lonely retreat into that part of the house from whence her father had [Page 132] just departed—and she visited every spot where he had so long resided, with a pleasing curiosity that for a while di­verted her grief. — In the breakfast and dining rooms she leaned over those seats with a kind of filial piety, on which she was told he had been accustomed to sit. And in the library she took up with filial delight, the pen with which he had been writing; and looked with the most curious attention into those books that were laid upon his reading desk.—But a hat, lying on one of the tables, gave her a sensation beyond any other she ex­perienced on thi [...] occasion—in that tri­fling article of his dress, she thought she saw he himself, and held it in her hand with pious reverence.

In the mean time, Lord Elmwood and Rushbrook were proceeding on [Page 133] their road with hearts not less heavy than those which they had left at Elm­wood House, though neither of them could so well as Matilda tell the cause of the weight.

CHAPTER XI.

YOUNG as Lady Matilda was du­ring the life of her mother, neither her youth, nor the recluse state in which she lived, had precluded her from the no­tice and solicitations of a nobleman who had professed himself her lover. Vis­count Margrave had an estate not far distant from the retreat Lady Elmwood had chosen, and being devoted to the sports of the country, he seldom quitted it for any of those joys which the town offered.—He was a young man, of a handsome person, and was what his neighbours stiled "A man of spirit."— He was an excellent fox-hunter, and as excellent a companion over his bottle at [Page 135] the end of the chace — he was prodigal of his fortune in all cases where his plea­sures were concerned, and as those plea­sures were mostly social, his sporting companions and his mistresses (for these were also of the plural number) partook largely of his wealth.

Two months previous to Lady Elm­wood's death, Miss Woodley and Lady Matilda were taking their usual walk in some fields and lanes near to their house, when chance threw Lord Margrave in their way, during a thunder storm in which they were suddenly caught; and he had the satisfaction to convey his new acquaintances to their home in his carri­age, safe from the fury of the elements.— Grateful for the service his Lordship had rendered them, Miss Woodley and her charge permitted him to enquire occa­sionally [Page 136] of their healths, and would some-see him.—The story of Lady Elmwood was known to Lord Margrave, and as he beheld her daughter with a passion such as he had been unused to over­come, he indulged it with the probable hope, that on the death of the mother Lord Elmwood would receive his child, and perhaps accept him as his son-in-law. —Wedlock was not the plan which Lord Margrave had ever proposed to himself for happiness; but the excess of his love on this new occasion, subdued every re­solution he had taken against the marriage state, and not daring to hope for the consummation of his wishes by any other means, he suffered himself to look for­ward to that, as his only resource.—No sooner was the long-expected death of Lady Elmwood arrived, than his Lord­ship waited with impatience to hear Lady [Page 137] Matilda was sent for and acknowledged by her father; for he meant to be the first to lay before Lord Elmwood his pretensions as a suitor.—But those preten­sions were founded on the vague hopes of a lover only; and Miss Woodley, to whom he first declared them, said every thing possible to convince him of their falaciousness. — As to the object of his passion, she was not only insensible, but totally inattentive to all that was said to her on the subject.—Lady Elmwood died without ever being disturbed with it; for her daughter did not even remember his proposals so as to repeat them again, and Miss Woodley thought it prudent to conceal from her friend, every new incident which might give her cause for fresh anxieties.

[Page 138]When Sandford and the ladies left the north and came to Elmwood House, so much were their thoughts employed with other ideas, Lord Margrave did not oc­cupy a place; and during the whole time they had been at their new abode, they had never once heard of him.—He had, nevertheless, his whole mind fixed upon Lady Matilda, and placed spies in the neighbourhood to inform him of every circumstance in her situation. — Having imbibed an aversion to matri­mony, he heard with but little regret, that there was no prospect of her ever becoming her father's heir; while such an information gave him the hope of obtaining her, upon the illegal terms of a mistress.

Lord Elmwood's departure to town forwarded this hope, and flattering him­self [Page 139] that the humiliating situation in which Matilda must feel herself in the house of her father, might gladly induce her to take shelter under any other pro­tection, he boldly advanced as soon as the Earl was gone, to make such over­tures as his wishes and his vanity told him, could not be rejected.

Inquiring for Miss Woodley, he easily gained admittance; but at the sight of so much modesty and dignity in the per­son of Matilda, so much good will, and yet such circumspection in her compa­nion; and the good sense and proper spirit which were always apparent in the man­ners of Sandford, his Lordship fell once more into the despondency, of becoming to Lady Matilda nothing more important to his reputation, than a husband.

[Page 140]Even that humble hope was, however, sometimes denied him, while Sandford set forth the impropriety of troubling Lord Elmwood on such a subject at pre­sent; and while the Viscount's penetra­tion, small as it was, discovered in his fair one much more to discourage than to favour his wishes.—Plunged, how­ever, too deep in his passion to emerge from it in haste, he meant still to visit, and wait for a change to happier circum­stances, when he was peremptorily de­sired by Mr. Sandford to desist from ever coming again.

"Wherefore, Mr. Sandford?" cried his Lordship.

"For two reasons, my Lord;—in the first place, your visits might be displeas­ing to Lord Elmwood;—in the next place, I know they are so to his daugh­ter."

[Page 141]Unaccustomed to be spoken to so plain­ly, particularly in a case where his heart was interested, his Lordship nevertheless submitted with patience; but in his own mind determined how long this patience should continue—no longer than it served as the means to prove his obedience, and by that artifice, secure his better recep­tion at some future period.

On his return home, cheered with the huzzas of his jovial companions, he began to consult those friends, what scheme was best to be adopted for the accomplishment of his desires. — Some, boldly advised application to the father, in defiance to the old priest; but that was the very last method his Lordship himself approved, as marriage must inevitably have followed Lord Elm­wood's consent; besides, though a Peer, [Page 142] Lord Margrave was unused to rank with Peers; and even the necessary formality of an interview with one of his equals, carried along with it a terror, or at least a fatigue, to a rustic Baron. — Others, of his companions advised seduction; but happily his Lordship possessed no arts of this kind to affect a heart appendant to such a mind as Matilda's.—There were not wanting among his most favourite counsellors some, who painted the triumph and gratification of force; those assured him there was nothing to apprehend un­der this head; as from the behaviour of Lord Elmwood to his child, it was more than probable he would be utterly indif­ferent to any violence that might be offered her.—This last advice seemed in­spired by the aid of wine; and no sooner had the wine freely circulated, than [Page 143] this was always the scheme which ap­peared by far the best.

While Lord Margrave alternately che­rished his hopes and his fears in the country, Rushbrook in town gave way to his fears only — every day of his life made him more acquainted with the firm, unshaken temper of Lord Elmwood, and every day whispered more forcibly to his own heart, that pity, gratitude, and friendship, strong and affectionate as these passions are, are weak and cold to that, which had gained the possession of him—he doubted, but he did not long doubt, that which he felt was love.— "And yet," said he to himself, "it is love of that kind, which arising from causes independant of the object itself, can scarcely deserve this sacred title.— Did I not love Lady Matilda before I [Page 144] beheld her?—for her mother's sake I loved her — and even for her father's.— Should I have felt the same affection for her, had she been the child of other pa­rents?—no. Or should I have felt that sympathetic tenderness which now preys upon my health, had not her misfortunes excited it?—no." — Yet the love which is the result of gratitude and pity only, he thought had little claim to rank with his; and after the most deliberate and deep reflection, he concluded with this decisive opinion—He had loved Lady Matilda, in whatever state, in whatever circumstances; and that the tenderness he felt towards her, and the anxiety for her happiness before he knew her, extreme as they were, were yet cool and dispas­sionate sensations, compared to that which her person and demeanour had incited— and though he acknowledged, that by [Page 145] those preceding sentiments his heart was softened, prepared, and moulded, as it were, to receive this last impression, yet the violence of his passion told him ge­nuine love, if not the basis on which it was founded, had been the certain con­sequence. — With a strict scrutiny into his heart he sought this knowledge, but arrived at it with a regret that amounted to despair.

To shield him from despondency, he formed in his mind a thousand projects, depicting the joys of his union with Lady Matilda; but her father's implacability stood foremost and confounded them all. — His Lordship was a man who made but few resolutions—those were the effect of deliberation; and as he was not the least capricious or inconstant in his tem­per, they were resolutions which no pro­bable [Page 146] event could shake. — Love, that produces wonders, that seduces and sub­dues the most determined and rigid spirits, had in two instances overcome the inflexibility of Lord Elmwood; he married Lady Elmwood contrary to his determination, because he loved; and for the sake of this beloved object, he had, contrary to his resolution, taken under his immediate care young Rush­brook; but the magic which once en­chanted away this spirit of immutability was no more — Lady Elmwood was no more, and the charm was broken.

As Miss Woodley was deprived the opportunity of desiring Rushbrook not to write when he asked her the permission, he passed one whole morning in the gra­tification of forming and writing a letter to her, which he thought might possibly [Page 147] be shewn to Matilda. — As he durst not touch upon any of those circumstances in which he was the most interested, that, joined to the respect he wished to pay the lady to whom he wrote, limited his letter to about twenty lines; yet the studious manner with which these lines were dictated, the hope and fear they might, or might not, be seen and re­garded by Lady Matilda, rendered the task an anxiety so pleasing, he could have wished it to have lasted for a year; and in all this magnifying of trifles was discoverable, the never-failing symptom of ardent love.

A reply to this formal address was a reward he wished for with impatience, but he wished in vain; and in the midst of his chagrin at the disappointment, a sorrow, little thought of, occurred, and [Page 148] gave him a perturbation of mind he had never before experienced. — Lord Elm­wood proposed a wife to him; and in a way so assured of his acquiescence, that if Rushbrook's life had depended upon his daring to dispute his benefactor's will, he would not have had the courage to have done so. There was, however, in his reply, and his embarrassment, something which his Lordship discerned from a free concurrence; and looking steadfastly at him, he said, in that stern manner which he now almost constantly adopted,

"You have no engagements, I sup­pose? Have made no previous pro­mises?"

"None on earth, my Lord." replied Rushbrook candidly.

"Nor have you disposed of your heart?"

[Page 149]"No, my Lord." replid he; but not candidly,—nor with the appearance of candour: for though he spoke hastily, it was rather like a man frightened than assured.—He hurried to tell the falsehood he thought himself obliged to tell, that the pain and shame might be over; but there Rushbrook was deceived; the lie once told was as troublesome as in the conception, and added to his first con­confusion, an encreasing one.

Lord Elmwood now fixed his eyes upon him with a sullen contempt, and rising from his seat, said, "Rushbrook, if you have been so inconsiderate as to give away your heart, tell me so at once, and tell me the object."

Rushbrook shuddered at the thought.

"I here," continued his Lordship, "tolerate the first untruth you ever told [Page 150] me, as the false assertion of a lover; and give you an opportunity to recall it—but after this moment, it is a lie be­tween man and man—a lie to your friend and father, and I will not forgive it."

Rushbrook stood silent, confused, alarmed, and bewildered in his thoughts. —His Lordship resumed,

"Name the person, if there is any such, on whom you have bestowed your heart; and though I do not give you the smallest hope I shall not censure your folly, I will at least not reproach you for having at first denied it."

To repeat these words in writing, the reader must condemn the young man that he could hesitate to own he loved, if he was even afraid to name the object of his passion; but his Lordship in his question had made the two answers inse­parable, [Page 151] and all evasions of the second, Rushbrook knew would be fruitless, after having avowed the first—and how could he confess the latter? The abso­lute orders he received from the steward on his first return from his travels, were, "Never to mention his daughter, any more than his late wife, before Lord Elmwood."—The fault of having rudely intruded into Lady Matilda's presence, rushed too upon his mind; for he did not even dare to say, by what means he had beheld her. — But more than all, the threatening manner in which his Lord­ship uttered this rational and seeming conciliating speech, the menaces, the severity which sat upon his countenance while he delivered those moderate words, might have intimidated a man wholly independent, and less used to fear him than his nephew had been.

[Page 152]"You make no answer, Sir." said his Lordship, after waiting a few mo­ments for his reply.

"I have only to say, my Lord," re­turned Rushbrook, "that although my heart may be totally disengaged, I may yet be disinclined to the prospect of mar­riage."

"May! May! Your heart may be disengaged," repeated his Lordship. "Do you dare to reply to me equivo­cally, when I have asked a positive an­swer?"

"Perhaps I am not positive myself, my Lord; but I will inquire the state of my mind, and make you acquainted with it very soon."

As the angry demeanour of his uncle affected Rushbrook with fear, so that fear, powerfully (but with proper man­liness) [Page 153] expressed, again softened the dis­pleasure of Lord Elmwood; and seeing and pitying his nephew's sensibilit [...] [...]e now changed his austere voice, and [...] mildly, but firmly,

"I give you a week to consu [...]t [...] yourself; at the expiration of that ti [...] I shall talk with you again, and I command you to be then prepared to speak, not only without deceit, but without hesitation." He left the room at these words, and left Rushbrook released from a fate, which his apprehensions had be­held depending that moment.

He had now a week to call his thoughts together, to weigh every circumstance, and to determine whether implicitly to submit to his Lordship's recommenda­tion for a wise, or revolt from it, and see some other more subservient to his will, appointed his heir.

[Page 154]Undetermined how to act upon this great trial which was to decide his fu­ture destiny, Rushbrook suffered so poignant an uncertainty, that he became at length ill, and before the end of the week which his uncle had allotted him for his reply, he was confined to his bed in a high fever.—His Lordship was ex­tremely affected at his indisposition; he gave him every care he could bestow, and even a great deal of his personal attendance.—This last favour had a claim upon the young man's gratitude, superior to every other obligation which since his infancy his benefactor had conserred; and he was at times so moved by those marks of kindness he received from Lord Elmwood, he would form the in­tention of tearing from his heart every trace Lady Matilda had left there, and as soon as his health permitted him, obey [Page 155] to the utmost of his views every wish his uncle had conceived. — Yet again, Matilda's pitiable situation presented it­self to his compassion, and her beautious person to his love. — Divided between the claims of obligation to the father, and tender attachment to the daughter, his sickness was increased by the tortures of his mind, and he once sincerely wished for that death, of which he was in danger, to free him from the dilem­ma into which his affections had involv­ed him.

At the time his illness was at its height, and he lay complaining of the violence of his fever, Lord Elmwood, taking his hand, asked him, "If there was any thing he could do for him?"

"Yes, yes, my Lord, a great deal." he replied eagerly

[Page 156]"What is it, Harry?" asked his Lordship kindly.

"Oh! my Lord," replied he, "that is what I must not tell you."

"Defer it then till you are well." said his Lordship, fearful of being sur­prised, or affected by the state of his health, into any promises which he might hereafter find the impropriety of grant­ing.

"And when I recover, my Lord, you give me leave to reveal to you, that which I wish you to comply with, let it be what it will?"

His Lordship hesitated—but seeing an anxiety for the answer, by his raising himself upon his elbow in the bed and staring wildly, Lord Elmwood at last said, "Certainly — Yes, yes." as a child is answered for its quiet.

[Page 157]That Lord Elmwood could have no idea what was the real petition which Rushbrook meant to present him is cer­tain; but it is certain he expected he had some request to make, with which it might be wrong for him to comply, and therefore he avoided hearing what it was; for great as his compassion for him in his present state, it was not of force to urge him to give a promise he did not mean to perform.—Rush­brook on his part was pleased with the assurance he might speak when he was restored to health, but no sooner was his fever abated, and his senses perfectly recovered from the slight derangement his malady had caused, than the lively remembrance of what he had hinted alarmed him, and he was even afraid to look his kind, but awful relation in the face. — Lord Elmwood's cheerfulness, [Page 158] however, on his returning health, and his undiminished attention, soon con­vinced him he had nothing to fear— But, alas! he found too, he had nothing to hope. — As his health re-established his wishes re-established also, and with his wishes his despair.

Convinced now that his nephew had something on his mind which he feared to reveal, his Lordship no longer doubt­ed but some youthful attachment had armed his heart against any marriage he should propose; but he had so much pity for his present weak state, to delay that farther inquiry which he had threat­ened before his sickness, to a time when he should be wholly restored.

It was the end of May before Rush­brook was able to be present and partake [Page 159] in the usual routine of the day — the country was now prescribed him as the means of entire restoration; and as Lord Elmwood designed to leave London some time in June, he advised him to go to Elmwood House a week or two before him;—this advice was received with delight, and a letter was sent to Mr. Sandford to prepare for Mr. Rush­brook's arrival.

CHAPTER XII.

DURING the illness of Rushbrook, news had been sent of his danger from the servants in town to those at Elmwood House, and Lady Matilda expressed compassion when she was told of it—she began to conceive the instant she thought he would soon die, that his visit to her had some merit rather than impertinence in its design, and that he might possibly be a more deserving man than she had supposed him to be. Even Sandford and Miss Woodley began to recollect qualifications he possessed, which they never had reflected on before, and Miss Woodley in particular reproached her­self that she had been so severe and inat­tentive [Page 161] to him. — Notwithstanding the prospects his death pointed out to her, it was with infinite joy she heard he was recovered; nor was Sandford less satis­fied; for he had treated the young man too unkindly not to dread, lest any ill should befall him;—but although he was glad to hear of his restored health, when he was informed he was coming down to Elmwood House for a few weeks in the style of its master, Sandford, with all his religious and humane principles, could not help thinking, "that provided the lad had been properly prepared, he had been as well out of the world as in it."

He was still less his friend when he saw him arrive with his usual florid ap­pearance: had he come pale and sickly, Sandford had been kind to him; but in apparent good health and spirits, he [Page 162] could not form his mouth to tell him he was "glad to see him."

On his arrival, Matilda, who for five months had been at large, secluded her­self as she would have done upon the arrival of Lord Elmwood; but with far different sensations. — Notwithstanding her restriction on the latter occasion, the residence of her father in that house had been a source of pleasure, rather than of sorrow to her; but from the abode of Rushbrook she derived punishment alone.

When, from inquiries made to his own servant, who inquired again, Rush­brook found that on his approach Ma­tilda had retired to her own confined apartments, the thought was torture to him; it was the hope of seeing and con­versing with her, of being admitted at [Page 163] all times to her society as the mistress of the house, that had raised his spirits, and effected his perfect cure, beyond any other cause; and he was hurt to the greatest degree at this respect, or rather contempt, shown to him by her retreat.

It was, nevertheless, a subject too de­licate to touch upon in any one sense— an invitation for her company on his part, might carry the appearance of su­perior authority, and an affected conde­scension, which he justly considered as the worst of all insults.—And yet, how could he support the idea that his visit had placed the daughter of his benefactor as a dependant stranger in that house, where in reality he was the dependant, and she the lawful heir. — For two or three days he suffered the torments of these reflec­tions, hoping to come to an explanation [Page 164] of all he felt by a fortunate meeting with Miss Woodley; but when that meeting occurred, although he observed she talk­ed to him with less reserve than she had formerly done, and even gave some proofs of the goodness of her disposition, yet she scrupulously avoided naming Lady Matilda; and when he diffidently enquired of her Ladyship's health, a cold restraint spread over Miss Woodley's face, and she left him instantly.—To Sandford it was still more difficult to apply; for though they were frequently together, they were never sociable; and as Sand­ford seldom disguised his feelings, to Rushbrook he was always extremley se­vere, and sometimes unmannerly.

In this perplexed situation, the coun­try air was rather of detriment than ser­vice to the invalid; and had he not, like [Page 165] a true lover, held fast to hope, while he could perceive nothing but despair; he had returned to town, rather than by his stay placed in a subordinate state the object of his adoration.—But still persist­ing in his hopes, he one morning met Miss Woodley in the garden, and en­gaging her a longer time than usual in conversation, at last obtained her promise "She would that day dine with him and Mr. Sandford."—But no sooner had she parted from him than she repented of her consent, and upon communicating it to Matilda, that young lady, for the first time in her life, darted upon her kind companion, a look of the most cut­ting reproach and haughty resentment.— Miss Woodley's own sentiments had up­braided her before; but she was not pre­pared to receive so pointed a mark of disapprobation from her young friend, [Page 166] till now, duteous and humble to her as to a mother, and not less affectionate. Her heart was too susceptible to bear this disrespectful and contumelious frown from the object of her long-devoted care and concern; the tears instantly covered her face, and she laid her hands upon her heart, as if she thought it would break.—Matilda was moved, but she pos­sessed too much of the manly resentment of her father, to discover what she felt for the first few minutes. — Miss Woodley, who had given so many tears to her sorrows, but never till now, one to her anger, had a still deeper sense of this indifference, than of the anger itself, and to conceal what she suffered, left the room.—Matil­da, who had been till this time working at her needle, seemingly composed, now let her work drop from her hand, and sat for a little while in a deep reverie.— [Page 167] At length she rose up, and followed Miss Woodley to the other apartment.— She entered grave, majestical, and appa­rently serene, while her poor heart flutter­ed with a thousand distressing sensations.— She approached Miss Woodley (who was still in tears) with a sullen silence; and awed by her manners the faithful friend of her deceased mother exclaimed, "Dear Lady Matilda, think no more on what I have done — do not resent it any longer, and on my knees I'll beg your pardon." Miss Woodley rose as she uttered these last words; but Ma­tilda laid fast hold of her to prevent the posture she offered to take, and instantly assumed it herself. "Oh, let this be my atonement!" she cried with the most earnest supplication.

They interchanged forgiveness; and as this reconciliation was sincere, they [Page 168] each without reserve gave their opinion upon the subject that had caused the mis­understanding; and it was agreed that an apology should be sent to Mr. Rush­brook, "That Miss Woodley had been suddenly indisposed." nor could this be said to differ from the truth, for since what had passed she was unfit to pay a visit.

Rushbrook, who had been all the morning elated with the advance he sup­posed he had made in that lady's favour, was highly disappointed, vext, and an­gry when this apology was delivered to him; nor did he, nor perhaps could he, conceal what he felt, although his severe observer, Mr. Sandford, was present.

"I am a very unfortunate man." said he, as soon as the servant was gone who brought the message.

[Page 169]Sandford cast his eyes upon him with a look of surprise and contempt.

"A very unfortunate man indeed, Mr. Sandford," repeated he, "although you treat my complaint contemptu­ously."

Sandford made no reply, and seemed above making one.

They sat down to dinner;—Rushbrook eat scarce any thing, but drank frequent­ly; Sandford took no notice of either, but had a book (which was his custom when he dined with persons whose con­versation was not interesting to him) laid by the side of his plate, which he occasionally looked into, as the dishes were removing, or other opportunities served.

Rushbrook, just now more hopeless than ever of forming an acquaintance [Page 170] with Lady Matilda, began to give way to the symptoms of despair; and they made their first attack by urging him to treat on the same level of familiarity that he himself was treated, Mr. Sand­ford, to whom he had till now ever behaved with the most profound tokens of respect.

"Come," said he to him as soon as the dinner was removed, "Lay aside your book and be good company."

Sandford lifted up his eyes upon him —stared in his face—and cast them on the book again.

"I say," continued Rushbrook, "I want a companion; and as Miss Wood­ley has disappointed me, I must have your company."

Sandford now laid down his book upon the table, but still holding his fingers in the pages he was reading, said, "And [Page 171] why are you disappointed of Miss Wood­ley's company?—When people expect what they have no right to hope for, they have yet the assurance to complain they are disappointed."

"I had a right to expect she would come," answered Rushbrook, "for she promised she would.

"But what right had you to ask her?"

"The right every one has, to make his time pass as agreeably as he can."

"But not at the expence of another."

"I believe, Mr. Sandford, it would be a heavy expence to you, to see me happy; I believe it would cost you even your own happiness."

"That is a price I have not now to give." replied Sandford, and he began reading again.

"What, you have already paid it away? No wonder that at your time of [Page 172] life it should be gone.—But what do you think of my having already squandered mine?"

"I don't think about you." returned Sandford, without taking his eyes from the book.

"Can you look me in the face and say that, Mr. Sandford?—No, you cannot — for you know you do think of me, and you know you hate me."—Here he drank two glasses of wine one after another; "And I can tell you why you hate me." continued he: "It is from a cause for which I often hate my­self."

Sandford read on.

"It is on Lady Matilda's account you hate me, and use me thus."

Sandford put down his book hastily, and put both his hands by his side.

[Page 173]"Yes," resumed Rushbrook, "you think I am wronging her."

"I think you grossly insult her," ex­claimed Sandford, "by this rude men­tion of her name; and I command you at your peril to desist."

"At my peril! Mr. Sandford? Do you assume the authority of Lord Elm­wood?"

"I do on this occasion; and if you dare to give your tongue a freedom"—

Rushbrook interrupted him—"Why then I boldly say, (and as her friend you ought rather to applaud than resent it) I boldly say, my heart suffers so much for her situation, I am regardless of my own.—I love her father—I loved her mother more—but she herself beyond either."

"Hold your licentious tongue," cried Sandford, "or quit the room."

[Page 174]"Licentious? Oh! the pure thoughts that dwell in her innocent mind, are not less sensual than mine towards her.—Do you upbraid me with my respect, my pity for her? They are the sensations which impel me to speak thus undisguised, even to you, my open—no, even worse— my secret enemy!"

"Insult me as you please, Mr. Rush­brook,—but beware how you mention Lord Elmwood's daughter."

"Can it be to her dishonour that I pity her? that I would quit the house this moment never to return, so she sup­plied the place I withhold from her."

"Go, then." cried Sandford.

"It would be of no use to her, or I would. — But come, Mr. Sandford, I will dare do as much as you.—Only se­cond me, and I will entreat Lord Elm­wood [Page 175] to be reconciled—to see and own her."

"Your vanity would be equal to your rashness.—You entreat?—She must greatly esteem those parental favours which your entreaties gained her! — Do you forget, young man, how short a time it is, since you were entreated for?"

"I prove I do not, while this anxiety for Lady Matilda, arises, from what I feel on that account."

"Remove your anxiety, then, from her to yourself; for were I to let Lord Elmwood know what has passed now"—

"It is for your own sake, not for mine, if you don't."

"You shall not dare me to it, Mr. Rushbrook,"—And he rose from his seat: "You shall not dare me to do you an injury.—But to avoid the temptation, I will never again come into your com­pany, [Page 176] unless my friend Lord Elmwood is present, to protect me and his child from your insults."

Rushbrook rose in yet more warmth than Sandford. "Have you the in­justice to say I have insulted Lady Ma­tilda?"

"To speak of her at all, is in you an insult. — But you have done more — You have dared to visit her—to force into her presence and shock her with your offers of services which she scorns; and of your compassion which she is far above."

"Did she complain to you?"

"She, or her friend did."

"I rather suppose, Mr. Sandford, you have bribed some of the servants to reveal this."

"The suspicion becomes Lord Elm­wood's heir."

[Page 177]"It becomes the man, who lives in a house with you."

"I thank you, Mr. Rushbrook, for what has passed this day—it has taken a weight off my mind.—I thought my dis­inclination to you, might perhaps arise from prejudice—this conversation has relieved me from those fears, and I thank you." — Saying this he calmly walked out of the room, and left Rush­brook to reflect on what he had been doing.

Heated with the wine he had drank, (and which Sandford engaged on his book had not observed) no sooner was he alone, than he became at once cool and repentant.— "What had he done?" was the first question to himself—"He had offended Sandford" — The man whom reason as well as prudence had [Page 178] ever taught him to treat with respect and even reverence.—He had grossly offended the firm friend of Lady Matilda, and even by the unreserved, the wanton use of her name. — All the retorts he had uttered came now to his memory; with a total forgetfulness of all Sandford had said to provoke them.

He once thought to follow him and Beg his pardon; but the contempt with which he had been treated, more than all the anger, withheld him.

As he sat forming plans how to re­trieve the opinion, ill as it was, which Sandford formerly entertained of him, he received a letter from Lord Elm­wood, kindly enquiring after his health, and saying he should be down early in the following week. — Never were the friendly expressions of his Lordship half [Page 179] so welcome to him; for they served to sooth his imagination, racked with Sand­ford's wrath and his own displeasure.

CHAPTER XIII.

WHEN Sandford acted deliberately he always acted up to his duty; it was his duty to forgive Rushbrook and he did so — but he had declared he would never "be again in his company unless Lord Elmwood was present;"—and with all his forgiveness, he found an unfor­giving gratification, in the duty, of being obliged to keep his word.

The next day Rushbrook dined alone, while Sandford gave his company to the ladies. — Rushbrook was too proud to seek to Sandford with abject conces­sions, but he endeavoured to meet him [Page 181] as by accident, and try what, in such a case, a submissive apology might effect. — For a day or two, all the schemes he formed on that head proved fruitless; he could never procure even a sight of him.—But on the evening of the third day, taking a lonely walk, he turned the corner of a grove, and saw in the very path he was going, Sandford ac­companied by Miss Woodley; and, what agitated him much more, Lady Matilda was with them.—He knew not whether to proceed, or to quit the path and palpably shun them — To one who seemed to put an unkind construction upon all he said and did, he knew to do either, would be to do wrong.—In spite of the propensity he felt to pass so near to Lady Matilda, could he have known what conduct would have been deemed the most respectful, whatever painful [Page 182] denial it had cost him, that, he would have adopted.—But undetermined whe­ther to go forward, or to cross to another path, he still walked on till he came too nigh to recede; he then, with a diffi­dence not affected, but felt in the most powerful degree, pulled of his hat; and without bowing, stood silently while the company passed. — Sandford walked on some paces before, and took no farther notice as he went by him, than just touching the fore part of his hat with his finger.—Miss Woodley curtsied as she followed.—But Lady Matilda made a full stop, and said, in the gentlest ac­cents, "I hope, Mr. Rushbrook, you are perfectly recovered."

It was the sweetest music he ever lis­tened to; and he returned with the most respectful bow, "I am better a great deal, Ma'am." and pursued his way as [Page 183] if he did not dare to utter another syl­lable.

Sandford seldom found fault with Lady Matilda; not because he loved her, but because she seldom did wrong— upon this occasion, however, he was half inclined to reprimand her; but yet he did not know what to say—the subse­quent humility of Rushbrook had taken from the indiscretion of her speaking to him, and the event could by no means justify his censure.—On hearing her be­gin to speak Sandford had stopped; and as Rushbrook after replying, walked away, Sandford called to her crossly, "Come, come along." But at the same time he put out his elbow for her to take hold of his arm.

She hastened her steps, and did so— then turning to Miss Woodley, she said, "I expected you would have spoken [Page 184] to Mr. Rushbrook; it might have pre­vented me."

Miss Woodley replied, "I was at a loss what to do;—when we met formerly, he always spoke first."

"And ought now." cried Sandford angrily—and then added, with a sarcas­tic smile, "It is certainly the duty of the superior, to be the first who speaks."

"He did not look as if he thought himself our superior." replied Matilda.

"No," returned Sandford, "some people can put on what looks they please."

"Then while he looks so pale," re­plied Matilda, "and so dejected, I can never forbear speaking to him when we meet, whatever he may think of it."

"And were he and I to meet a hun­dred, nay a thousand times," replied [Page 185] Sandford, "I don't think I shall ever speak to him again."

"Bless me! what for, Mr. Sandford?" cried Matilda — for Sandford, who was not a man that repeated little incidents, had never mentioned the circumstance of their quarrel.

"I have taken such a resolution,"— answered he, "yet I bear him no en­mity."

As this short reply indicated he meant to say no more, no more was asked; and the subject dropped.

In the mean time, Rushbrook, hap­pier than he had been for months; in­toxicated with joy at that voluntary mark of civilty he had received from Lady Matilda, felt his heart so joyous, so free from every particle of malice, that he resolved in the humblest man­ner, [Page 186] to make atonement for the breach of decorum he had lately been guilty of to Mr. Sandford.

Too happy at this time to suffer a mortification from any treatment he might receive, he sent his servant to him into his study, as soon as he was returned home, to beg to know "If he might be permitted to wait upon him, with a message he had to deliver from Lord Elmwood."

The servant returned — "Mr. Sand­ford desired he would send the message by him, or the house steward." This was highly affronting; but Rushbrook was not in a humour to be offended, and he sent again, begging he would admit him; —but the answer was, "He was busy."

Thus defeated in his hopes of recon­ciliation, his new transports felt an allay, [Page 187] and the few days that remained before Lord Elmwood came, he passed in soli­tary musing, and ineffectual walks and looks towards that path where he had met Matilda — she came that way no more — nor indeed scarce quitted her apartment, in the practice of that con­finement she had to experience on the arrival of her father.

All her former agitations now return­ed.—On the day he arrived she wept — all the night she did not sleep — and the name of Rushbrook again became hateful to her. — His Lordship came in extreme good health and spirits, but ap­peared concerned to find Rushbrook less well than when he went from town. — Sandford was now under the necessity of being in Rushbrook's company, yet he took care never to speak to him but when [Page 188] he was obliged; or to look at him but when he could not help it.—Lord Elm­wood observed this conduct, yet he neither wondered, or was offended at it— he had always perceived what little esteem Sandford showed his nephew from his first return; but he forgave in Sandford's humour a thousand faults he would for­give in no other; nor did he deem this one of his greatest faults, knowing the claim to his partiality from another object.

Miss Woodley waited on Lord Elm­wood as formerly; dined with him, and as heretofore related to the attentive Ma­tilda all that passed.

About this time Lord Margrave, de­prived by the season of all the sports of the field, felt his love for Matilda (which had been extreme while divided with the [Page 189] love of hunting) too violent to be subdued; and he resolved, though re­luctantly, to apply to her father for his consent to their union;—but writing to Sandford this resolution, he was once more repulsed, and charged as a man of honour, to forbear to disturb the tran­quility of the family by any application of the kind.—To this Sandford received no answer; for his Lordship, highly incensed at his mistress's repugnance to him, determined more firmly than ever, to consult his own happiness alone; and as that depended merely upon his ob­taining her, he cared not by what me­thod it was effected.

About a fortnight after Lord Elmwood came into the country, as he was riding one morning, his horse fell with him, and crushed his leg in so unfortunate a [Page 190] manner, as to be pronounced of dange­rous consequence. — He was brought home in a post chaise, and Matilda heard of the accident with more grief than would, on such an occasion, appertain to the most fondled child.

In consequence of the pain he suffered his fever was one night very high; and Sandford, who seldom quitted his apart­ment, went frequently to his bed side; every time with the secret hope he should hear him ask to see his daughter —he was every time disappointed—yet he saw him shake with a cordial friend­ship the hand of Rushbrook, as if he de­lighted in seeing those he loved.

The danger in which Lord Elmwood was supposed to be, was but of short dura­tion, and his sudden recovery succeeded. —Matida who had wept, moaned, and [Page 191] watched during the crisis of his illness, when she heard he was amending, ex­claimed (with a kind of surprise at the novelty of the sensation) "And this is joy that I feel!—Oh! I never till now knew, what those persons felt that expe­rienced joy."

Nor did she repine, like Mr. Sandford and Miss Woodley, at her father's inat­tention to her during his malady, for she did not hope like them—she did not hope he would behold her, even in dying.

But notwithstanding his Lordship's seeming indifference while his indisposi­tion continued, no sooner was he recover­ed so as to receive the congratulations of his friends, than there was no one person he evidently showed so much satisfaction at seeing, as Miss Woodley.— She waited upon him timorously, and with more than [Page 192] ordinary distaste at his late conduct; when he put out his hand with the utmost warmth to receive her, drew her to him, saluted her, (an honour he had never in his life conferred before) and all with signs of the sincerest friendship and af­fection. — Sandford was present, and ever associating the idea of Matilda with Miss Woodley, felt his heart bound with a triumph it had not enjoyed for many a day.

Matilda listened with delight to the recital Miss Woodley gave on her re­turn, and many times while it lasted exclaimed "She was happy." But poor Matilda's sudden transports of joy, which she termed happiness, were not made for long continuance; and if she ever found cause for gladness, she far oftener had motives for grief.

[Page 193]As Mr. Sandford was sitting with her and Miss Woodley one evening about a week after, a person rung at the bell and enquired for him; on being told of it by the servant, he went to the door of the apartment and cried "Oh! is it you? Come in." — An elderly man entered, who had been for many years the head gardener at Elmwood House; a man of honesty and sobriety, and with a large indigent family of aged parents, children, and other relatives, who subsisted whol­ly on the income arising from his place — The ladies, as well as Sandford, know him well, and they all, almost at once, asked "What was the matter?" for his looks told them something distressful had befallen him.

"Oh, Sir!" said he to Sandford, "I come to entreat your interest."

[Page 194]"In what, Edwards?" said Sandford with a mild voice; for when his assistance was supplicated in distress, his rough tones always took a plaintive key.

"My Lord has discharged me from his service,"—(returned Edwards trem­bling, and the tears starting in his eyes) "I am undone, Mr. Sandford, unless you plead for me."

"I will," said Sandford, "I will."

"And yet I am almost afraid of your success," replied the man, "for my Lord has ordered me out of his house this moment; and though I knelt down to him to be heard, he had no pity."

Matilda sighed from the bottom of her heart, and yet she envied this poor man who had been kneeling to her father.

"What was your offence?" cried Sandford.

[Page 195]The man hesitated; then looking at Matilda, said, "I'll tell you, Sir, some other time."

"Did you name me, before Lord Elmwood?" cried she eagerly, and ter­rified.

No, Madam," replied he, "but I unthinkingly spoke of my poor Lady that is dead and gone."

Matilda burst into tears.

"How came you to do so mad a thing?" cried Sandford, with the en­couragement his looks had once given him, now fled from his face.

"It was unthinkingly," repeated Ed­wards; "I was showing my Lord some plans for the new walks, and told him, among other things, that her Ladyship had many years ago approved of them." —'Who?' cried he. — Still I did not call to mind, but repeated 'Lady Elm­wood, [Page 196] Sir, while you were abroad' — As soon as these words were delivered, I saw my doom in his looks, and he commanded me to quit his house and service that instant."

"I am afraid," said Sandford, sitting down, "I can do nothing for you."

"Yes, Sir, you know you have more power over my Lord than any body— and perhaps you may be able to save me and all mine from misery."

"I would if I could." replied Sand­ford quickly.

"You can but try, Sir."

Matilda was all this while drowned in tears; nor Miss Woodley much less af­fected—Lady Elmwood was before their eyes — Matilda beheld her in her dying moments; Miss Woodley saw her, as the gay ward of Dorriforth.

[Page 197]"Ask Mr. Rushbrook," said Sand­ford, "prevail on him to speak; he has more power than I have."

"He has not enough, then," replied Edwards, "for he was in the room with my Lord when what I have told you happened."

"And did he say nothing? asked Sandford.

"Yes, Sir; he offered to speak in my behalf, but my Lord interrupted him, and ordered him out of the room — he instantly went.

Sandford now observing the effect which this narration had on the two la­dies, led the man to his own apartments, and there assured him he durst not un­dertake his cause; but that if time or chance should happily make an alteration in his Lordship's diposition, he would [Page 198] be the first to try to replace him. — Ed­wards was obliged to submit; and before the next day at noon, his pleasant house by the side of the park, his garden, and his orchard, which he had occupied above twenty years, were cleared of their old inhabitant, and all his wretched family.

CHAPTER XIV.

THIS melancholy incident perhaps affected Matilda and all the friends of the deceased Lady Elmwood, beyond any other that had occurred since her death. — A few days after this cir­cumstance, Miss Woodley, in order to divert the disconsolate mind of Lady Matilda, (and perhaps bring her some little anecdotes, to console her for that which had given her so much pain) waited upon Lord Elmwood in his li­brary, and borrowed some books out of it.—He was now perfectly well from his fall, and received her with the same politeness as usual, but, of course, not with that particular warmth he had re­ceived [Page 200] her just after his illness. — Rush­brook was in the library at the same time; he shewed to her several beautiful prints which his Lordship had just re­ceived from London, and appeared anxious to entertain, and give tokens of his esteem and respect for her.—But what gave her pleasure beyond any other attention was, that after she had taken (by the aid of Rushbrook) about a do­zen volumes from different shelves, and had laid them together, saying she would send her servant to fetch them, Lord Elmwood went eagerly to the place where they were, and taking up each book, examined attentively what it was.— One author he complained was too light, another too depressing, and put them on the shelves again; another was erro­neous and he changed it for a better; and thus he warned her against some, [Page 201] and selected other authors; as the most cautious preceptor culls for his pupil, or a fond father for his darling child.—She thanked him for his attention to her, but her heart thanked him for his attention to his daughter.—For as she herself had never received such a proof of his care since all their long acquaintance, she reasonably supposed Matilda's reading, and not hers, was the object of his soli­citude.

Having in these books store of com­fort for poor Matilda, she eagerly return­ed with them; and in reciting every particular circumstance, made her con­sider the volumes almost like presents from her father.

The month of September was now arrived, and Lord Elmwood, accom­panied by Rushbrook, went to a small [Page 202] shooting seat, about twenty miles dis­tant from Elmwood Castle, for a week's particular sport. — Matilda was once more at large; and one beautiful fore­noon, about eleven o'clock, seeing Miss Woodley walking on the lawn before the house, she hastily took her hat to join her; and not waiting to put it on, went nimbly down the great staircase with it hanging on her arm.—When she had descended a few stairs, she heard a footstep walking slowly up; and, (from what emotion she could not tell,) she stopt short, half resolved to return back. —She hesitated a single instant which to do — then went a few steps farther till she came to the second landing place; when, by the sudden winding of the staircase,—Lord Elmwood was immedi­ately before her!

[Page 203]She had felt something like affright be­fore she saw him—but her reason told her she had nothing to fear, as he was far away.—But now the appearance of a stran­ger whom she had never before seen; an air of authority in his looks as well as in the sound of his steps; a resemblance to the portrait she had seen of him; a start of astonishment which he gave on behold­ing her; but above all — her fears con­firmed her it was him. — She gave a scream of terror—put out her trembling hands to catch the balustrades on the stairs for support—missed them—and fell motionless into her father's arms.

He caught her, as by that impulse he would have caught any other person falling for want of aid. — Yet when he found her in his arms, he still held her [Page 204] there — gazed on her attentively — and once pressed her to his bosom.

At length, trying to escape the snare into which he had been led, he was going to leave her on the spot where she fell, when her eyes opened and she ut­tered, "Save me." — Her voice un­manned him.—His long-restrained tears now burst forth — and seeing her relaps­ing into the swoon again, he cried out eagerly to recall her. — Her name did not however come to his recollection — nor any name but this—"Miss Milner— Dear Miss Milner."

That sound did not awake her; and now again he wished to leave her in this senseless state, that not remember­ing what had passed, she might escape the punishment.

[Page 205]But at this instant Giffard, with an­other servant, passed by the foot of the stairs; on which, Lord Elmwood called to them — and into Giffard's hands deli­vered his apparently dead child; with­out one command respecting her, or one word of any kind; while his face was agitated with shame, with pity, with anger, with paternal tenderness.

As Giffard stood trembling, while he relieved his Lord from this hapless bur­then; his Lordship had to unloose her hand from the side of his coat, which she had caught fast hold of as she fell, and grasped so closely, it was with diffi­culty released. — On taking the hand away his Lordship trembled—faltered— then bade Giffard do it.

"Who, I, my Lord, I separate you?" cried he. — But recollecting himself, [Page 206] "My Lord, I will obey your commands whatever they are." And seizing her hand, pulled it with violence—it fell— and her father went away.

Matilda was carried to her own apart­ments, laid upon the bed, and Miss Woodley called to attend her, after listening to the recital of what had passed.

When Lady Elmwood's old and af­fectionate friend entered the room, and saw her youthful charge lying pale and speechless, yet no father by to comfort or sooth her, she lifted up her hands to heaven exclaiming, with a flood of tears, "And is this the end of thee, my poor child? — Is this the end of all our hopes? — of thy own fearful hopes — [Page 207] and of thy mother's supplications? — Oh! Lord Elmwood! Lord Elmwood!"

"At that name Matilda started, and cried, "Where is he? — Is it a dream, or have I seen him?"

"It is all a dream, my dear." said Miss Woodley.

"And yet I thought he held me in his arms," she replied — "I thought I felt his hands press mine—Let me sleep and dream it again."

Now thinking it best to undeceive her, "It is no dream, my dear." re­turned Miss Woodley.

"Is it not?" cried she, starting up and leaning on her elbow —"Then I suppose I must go away — go for ever away."—

Sandford now entered.—Having been told the news he came to condole—But [Page 208] at the sight of him Matilda was terrified, and cried, "Do not reproach me, do not upbraid me — I know I have done wrong—I know I had but one command from my father, and that I have dis­obeyed."

Sandford could not reproach her, for he could not speak;—he therefore only walked to the window and concealed his tears.

That whole day and night was passed in sympathetic grief, in alarm at every sound, lest it should be a messenger to pronounce Matilda's destiny.

Lord Elmwood did not stay upon this visit above three hours at Elmwood House; he then set off again for the seat he had left; where Rushbrook still remained, and from whence his Lordship [Page 209] had merely come by accident, to look over some writings he wanted dispatched to town.

During his short continuance here, Sandford cautiously avoided his pre­sence; for he thought, in a case like this, what nature would not of herself do, no art, no arguments of his could effect—and to nature and to providence he left the whole.—What these two powerful principles brought about, the reader must judge, on perusing the fol­lowing letter, received early the next morning by Miss Woodley.

END OF THE THIRD VOLUME.

ERRATA.

  • Page 75 line 7 after Lord Elmwood insert here.
  • — 153 — 14 for depending read impending.
  • — 167 — 3 for majestical read majestic.
  • — 168 — 2 for that read which.
  • — 174 — 5 for they read these.

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