Paul Clifford/Volume 2/Chapter 1
What is here?—
Gold? . . . . .
Thus much of this will make black white—foul fair.
Timon of Athens.
Came there a certain lord, neat, trimly drest,
Fresh as a bridegroom.
Henry the Fourth.
I do not know the man I should avoid
So soon as that spare Cassius? He reads much.
He is a great observer; and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men.
Often he smiles; but smiles in such a sort,
As if he mocked himself or scorned his spirit,
That could be moved to smile at any thing.
The next day, late at noon, as Lucy was sitting with her father, not as usual engaged either in work or in reading, but seemingly quite idle, with her pretty foot upon the Squire's gouty stool, and her eyes fixed on the carpet, while her hands (never were hands so soft and so small as Lucy's, though they may have been eclipsed in whiteness) were lightly clasped together and reposed listlessly on her knees,—the surgeon of the village abruptly entered with a face full of news and horror. Old Squire Brandon was one of those persons who always hear news, whatever it may be, later than any of their neighbours, and it was not till all the gossips of the neighbourhood had picked the bone of the matter quite bare, that he was now informed, through the medium of Mr. Pillum, that Lord Mauleverer had on the preceding night been stopped by three highwaymen in his road to his country seat, and robbed to a considerable amount.
The fame of the worthy Doctor Slopperton's mal-adventure having, long ere this, been spread far and wide, the whole neighbourhood was naturally thrown into great consternation. Magistrates were sent to, large dogs borrowed, blunder-busses cleaned, and a subscription made throughout the parish for the raising of a patrol. There seemed little doubt but that the offenders, in either case, were members of the same horde; and Mr. Pillum in his own mind was perfectly convinced, that they meant to encroach upon his trade, and destroy all the surrounding householders who were worth the trouble.
The next week passed in the most diligent endeavours, on the part of the neighbouring magistrates and yeomanry, to detect and seize the robbers, but their labours were utterly fruitless; and one justice of peace, who had been particularly active, was himself entirely "cleaned out" by an old gentleman, who, under the name of Mr. Bagshot—rather an ominous cognomen—offered to conduct the unsuspicious magistrate to the very spot where the miscreants might be seized. No sooner, however, had he drawn the poor justice away from his comrades into a lonely part of the road, than he stripped him to his shirt. He did not even leave his worship his flannel drawers, though the weather was as bitter as the dog days of eighteen-hundred and twenty-nine.
"'Tis not my way," said the hoary ruffian, when the justice petitioned at least for the latter article of attire; "'tis not my way—I be's slow about my work, but I does it thoroughly—so off with your rags, Old'un."
This was, however, the only additional instance of aggression in the vicinity of Warlock Manor-house; and by degrees, as the autumn declined, and no farther enormities were perpetrated, people began to look out for a new topic of conversation. This was afforded them by a piece of unexpected good fortune to Lucy Brandon.
Mrs. Warner, an old lady to whom she was slightly related, and with whom she had been residing during her brief and only visit to London, died suddenly, and in her will declared Lucy to be her sole heiress. The property, which was in the Funds, and which amounted to sixty-thousand pounds, was to be enjoyed by Miss Brandon immediately on her attaining her twenty-first year; meanwhile, the executors to the will were to pay to the young heiress the annual sum of six-hundred pounds. The joy which this news created in Warlock Manor-house, may easily be conceived. The Squire projected improvements here, and repairs there; and Lucy, poor girl, who had no idea of money for herself, beyond the purchase of a new pony, or a gown from London, seconded with affectionate pleasure all her father's suggestions, and delighted herself with the reflection, that those fine plans which were to make the Brandons greater than the Brandons ever were before, were to be realized by her own,—own money! It was at this identical time that the surrounding gentry made a simultaneous and grand discovery—viz. of the astonishing merits and great good sense of Mr. Joseph Brandon. It was a pity, they observed, that he was of so reserved and shy a turn—it was not becoming in a gentleman of so ancient a family. But why should they not endeavour to draw him from his retirement into those more public scenes which he was doubtless well calculated to adorn?
Accordingly, as soon as the first month of mourning had expired, several coaches, chariots, chaises, and horses, which had never been seen at Warlock Manor-house before, arrived there one after the other in the most friendly manner imaginable. Their owners admired every thing—the house was such a fine relic of old times!—for their parts they liked an oak-staircase!—and those nice old windows!—and what a beautiful peacock!—and, God save the mark! that magnificent chestnut-tree was worth a forest!—Mr. Brandon was requested to make one of the county hunt, not that he any longer hunted himself, but that his name would give such consequence to the thing!—Miss Lucy must come to pass a week with her dear friends the Honourable Misses Sansterre!—Augustus, their brother, had such a sweet lady's horse!—In short, the customary change which takes place in people's characters after the acquisition of a fortune, took place in the characters of Mr. and Miss Brandon; and when people become suddenly amiable, it is no wonder that they should suddenly gain a vast accession of friends.
But Lucy, though she had seen so little of the world, was not quite blind; and the squire, though rather obtuse, was not quite a fool. If they were not rude to their new visitors, they were by no means overpowered with gratitude at their condescension. Mr. Brandon declined subscribing to the hunt, and Miss Lucy laughed in the face of the Honourable Augustus Sansterre. Among their new guests, however, was one who to great knowledge of the world joined an extreme and even brilliant polish of manners, which at least prevented deceit from being disagreeable, if not wholly from being unseen—this was the new Lieutenant of the county, Lord Mauleverer.
Though possessed of an immense property in that district, Lord Mauleverer had hitherto resided but little on his estates. He was one of those gay lords who are now somewhat uncommon in this country after mature manhood is attained, who live an easy and rakish life, rather among their parasites than their equals, and who yet, by aid of an agreeable manner, natural talents, and a certain graceful and light cultivation of mind, (not the less pleasant for its being universally coloured with worldliness, and an amusing rather than offensive regard for self), never lose their legitimate station in society; who are oracles in dress, equipages, cookery, and beauty, and, having no character of their own, are able to fix by a single word a character upon any one else. Thus while Mauleverer rather lived the dissolute life of a young nobleman, who prefers the company of agreeable demirips to that of wearisome Duchesses, than maintained the decorous state befitting a mature age, and an immense interest in the country,—he was quite as popular at Court, where he held a situation in the Household, as he was in the green-room, where he enchanted every actress on the right side of forty. A word from him in the legitimate quarters of power went farther than an harangue from another; and even the prudes,—at least, all those who had daughters,—confessed "that his Lordship was a very interesting character." Like Brandon, his familiar friend, he had risen in the world (from the Irish Baron to the English Earl) without having ever changed his politics, which were ultra-Tory; and we need not observe that he was deemed, like Brandon, a model of public integrity. He was possessed of two places under Government, six votes in the House of Commons, and eight livings in the Church; and we must add, in justice to his loyal and religious principles, that there was not in the three kingdoms a firmer friend to the existing establishment.
Whenever a nobleman does not marry, people try to take away his character. Lord Mauleverer had never married; the Whigs had been very bitter on the subject; they even alluded to it in the House of Commons, that chaste assembly, where the never-failing subject of reproach against Mr. Pitt was the not being of an amorous temperament; but they had not hitherto prevailed against the stout Earl's celibacy. It is true that if he was devoid of a wife, he had secured to himself plenty of substitutes; his profession was that of a man of gallantry; and though he avoided the daughters, it was only to make love to the mothers. But his Lordship had now attained a certain age, and it was at last circulated among his friends that he intended to look out for a Lady Mauleverer.
"Spare your caresses," said his Toad-in-chief, to a certain Duchess who had three portionless daughters, "Mauleverer has sworn that he will not choose among your order; you know his high politics, and you will not wonder at his declaring himself averse in matrimony as in morals to a community of goods."
The announcement of the Earl's matrimonial design and the circulation of this anecdote, set all the clergymen's daughters in England on a blaze of expectation; and when Mauleverer came to ——shire, upon obtaining the honour of the Lieutenancy, to visit his estates and court the friendship of his neighbours, there was not an old young lady of forty, who worked in broad-stitch and had never been to London above a week at a time, who did not deem herself exactly the sort of person sure to fascinate his Lordship.
It was late in the afternoon when the travelling chariot of this distinguished person, preceded by two outriders in the Earl's undress livery of dark green, stopped at the hall door of Warlock House. The Squire was at home actually and metaphorically, for he never dreamt of denying himself to any one, gentle or simple. The door of the carriage being opened, there descended a small slight man, richly dressed, (for lace and silk vestments were not then quite discarded, though gradually growing less the mode,) and of an air preposessing, and distinguished, rather than dignified. His years,—for his countenance, though handsome, was deeply marked, and evinced the tokens of dissipation,—seemed more numerous than they really were; and though not actually past middle age, Lord Mauleverer might fairly have received the unpleasing epithet of elderly. However, his step was firm, his gait upright, and his figure was considerably more youthful than his physiognomy. The first compliments of the day having passed, and Lord Mauleverer having expressed his concern that his long and frequent absence from the county had hitherto prevented his making the acquaintance of Mr. Brandon, the brother of one of his oldest and most esteemed friends, conversation became on both sides rather an effort. Mr. Brandon first introduced the subject of the weather, and the turnips—inquired whether his Lordship was not very fond—(for his part he used to be, but lately the rheumatism had disabled him, he hoped his Lordship was not subject to that complaint)—of shooting!"
Catching only the last words,—for besides the awful complexity of the Squire's sentences, Mauleverer was slightly afflicted by the aristocratic complaint of deafness—the Earl answered with a smile.
"The complaint of shooting!—very good indeed, Mr. Brandon; it is seldom that I have heard so witty a phrase. No, I am not in the least troubled with that epidemic. It is a disorder very prevalent in this county."
"My Lord!" said the Squire, rather puzzled—and then observing that Mauleverer did not continue, he thought it expedient to start another subject.
"I was exceedingly grieved to hear that your Lordship, in travelling to Mauleverer Park—(that is a very ugly road across the waste land; the roads in this county are in general pretty good—for my own part, when I was a magistrate I was very strict in that respect)—was robbed. You have not yet I believe detected—(for my part, though I do not profess to be much of a politician, I do think that in affairs of robbery there is a great deal of remissness in the ministers)—the villains!"
"Our friend is disaffected!" thought the Lord Lieutenant, imagining that the last opprobrious term was applied to the respectable personages specified in the parenthesis. Bowing with a polished smile to the Squire, Mauleverer replied aloud, that he was extremely sorry, that their conduct (meaning the ministers) did not meet with Mr. Brandon's approbation.
"Well," thought the Squire, "that is playing the courtier with a vengeance!" "Meet with my approbation!" said he, warmly: "how could your Lordship think me—(for though I am none of your Saints, I am, I hope, a good Christian; an excellent one, judging from your words, your Lordship must be!)—so partial to crime!"
"I partial to crime!" returned Mauleverer, thinking he had stumbled unawares on some outrageous democrat, yet, smiling as softly as usual; "you judge me harshly, Mr. Brandon, you must do me more justice, and you can only do that by knowing me better."
Whatever unlucky answer the Squire might otherwise have made, was cut off by the entrance of Lucy; and the Earl, secretly delighted at the interruption, rose to render her his homage and to remind her of the introduction he had formerly been so happy as to obtain to her through the friendship of Mr. William Brandon,—"a friendship," said the gallant nobleman, "to which I have often before been indebted, but which was never more agreeably excited on my behalf."
Upon this Lucy, who, though she had been so painfully bashful during her meeting with Mr. Clifford, felt no overpowering diffidence in the presence of so much greater a person, replied laughingly, and the Earl rejoined by a second compliment. Conversation was now no longer an effort; and Mauleverer, the most consummate of epicures, whom even Royalty trembled to ask without preparation, on being invited by the unconscious Squire to partake of the family dinner, eagerly accepted the invitation. It was long since the knightly walls of Warlock had been honoured by the presence of a guest so courtly. The good Squire heaped his plate with a profusion of boiled beef, and while the poor Earl was contemplating in dismay the alps upon alps which he was expected to devour, the grey-headed butler, anxious to serve him with alacrity, whipped away the over-loaded plate, and presently returned it, yet more astoundingly surcharged with an additional world of a composition of stony colour and sudorific aspect, which, after examining in mute attention for some moments, and carefully removing, as well as he was able, to the extreme edge of his plate, the Earl discovered to be suet pudding.
"You eat nothing, my Lord!" cried the Squire; "let me give you (this is more underdone;)" holding between blade and fork in middle air a horrent fragment of scarlet, shaking its gory locks,—"another slice."
Swift at the word dropped upon Mauleverer's plate the harpy finger and ruthless thumb of the grey-headed butler.
"Not a morsel more," cried the Earl, struggling with the murtherous domestic. "My dear Sir, excuse me; I assure you I have never eat such a dinner before—never!"
"Nay now!" quoth the Squire, expostulating, "you really—(and this air is so keen that your Lordship should indulge your appetite, if you follow the physician's advice,) eat nothing!"
Again Mauleverer was at fault.
"The physicians are right, Mr. Brandon," said he, "very right, and I am forced to live abstemiously; indeed I do not know whether, if I were to exceed at your hospitable table, and attack all that you would bestow upon me, I should ever recover it. You would have to seek a new lieutenant for your charming county, and on the tomb of the last Mauleverer the hypocritical and unrelated heir would inscribe 'Died of the visitation of beef, John, Earl &c.'"
Plain as the meaning of this speech might have seemed to others, the Squire only laughed at the effeminate appetite of the speaker, and inclined to think him an excellent fellow for jesting so good-humouredly on his own physical infirmity. But Lucy had the tact of her sex, and taking pity on the Earl's calamitous situation, though she certainly never guessed at its extent, entered with so much grace and ease into the conversation which he sought to establish between them, that Mauleverer's gentleman, who had hitherto been pushed aside by the zeal of the grey-headed butler, found an opportunity, when the Squire was laughing and the butler staring, to steal away the overburthened plate unsuspected and unseen.
Despite, however, of these evils of board and lodgment, Mauleverer was exceedingly well pleased with his visit, nor did he terminate it till the shades of the night had begun to close, and the distance from his own residence conspired with experience to remind him that it was possible for a highwayman's audacity to attack the equipage even of Lord Mauleverer. He then reluctantly re-entered his carriage, and bidding the postilion drive as fast as possible, wrapped himself in his roquelaire, and divided his thoughts between Lucy Brandon, and the Homard au gratin with which he purposed to console himself immediately on his return home. However, Fate, which mocks our most cherished hopes, ordained that on arriving at Mauleverer Park the owner should be suddenly afflicted with a loss of appetite, a coldness in the limbs, a pain in the chest, and various other ungracious symptoms of portending malady. Lord Mauleverer went straight to bed; he remained there for some days, and when he recovered, his physicians ordered him to Bath. The Whig Methodists, who hated him, ascribed his illness to Providence; and his Lordship was firmly of opinion that it should be ascribed to the beef and pudding. However this be, there was an end, for the present, to the hopes of young ladies of forty, and to the intended festivities at Mauleverer Park. "Good God!" said the Earl, as his carriage wheels turned from his gates, "what a loss to country tradesmen may be occasioned by a piece of underdone beef, especially if it be boiled!"
About a fortnight had elapsed since Mauleverer's meteoric visit to Warlock House, when the Squire received from his brother the following epistle:—
- "MY DEAR JOSEPH,
"You know my numerous avocations, and amid the press of business which surrounds me, will, I am sure, forgive me for being a very negligent and remiss correspondent. Nevertheless, I assure you, no one can more sincerely sympathize in that good fortune which has befallen my charming niece, and of which your last letter informed me, than I do. Pray give my best love to her, and tell her how complacently I look forward to the brilliant sensation she will create, when her beauty is enthroned upon that rank which, I am quite sure, it will one day or other command.
"You are not aware, perhaps, my dear Joseph, that I have for some time been in a very weak and declining state of health. The old nervous complaint in my face has of late attacked me grievously, and the anguish is sometimes so great that I am scarcely able to bear it. I believe the great demand which my profession makes upon a frame of body never strong, and now beginning prematurely to feel the infirmities of time, is the real cause of my maladies. At last, however, I must absolutely punish my pocket, and indulge my inclinations by a short respite from toil. The doctors—sworn friends, you know, to the lawyers—since they make common cause against mankind, have peremptorily ordered me to lie by, and to try a short course of air, exercise, social amusements, and the waters of Bath. Fortunately this is Vacation time, and I can afford to lose a few weeks of emolument, in order, perhaps, to secure many years of life. I purpose then, early next week, repairing to that melancholy reservoir of the gay, where persons dance out of life, and are fiddled across the Styx. In a word, I shall make one of the adventurers after health, who seek the goddess at King Bladud's pump-room. Will you and dear Lucy join me there? I ask it of your friendship, and I am quite sure that neither of you will shrink aghast at the proposal of solacing your invalid relation. At the same time that I am recovering health, my pretty niece will be avenging Pluto, by consigning to his dominions many a better and younger hero in my stead. And it will be a double pleasure to me to see all the hearts, &c.—I break off, for what can I say on that subject which the little coquette does not anticipate! It is high time that Lucy should see the world; and though there are many at Bath, above all places, to whom the heiress will be an object of interested attentions, yet there are also many in that crowded city by no means undeserving her notice. What say you, dear Joseph? But I know already; you will not refuse to keep company with me in my little holiday, and Lucy's eyes are already sparkling at the idea of new bonnets, Milsom Street, a thousand adorers, and the Pump-room.
"Ever, dear Joseph,
"P.S. I find that my friend Lord Mauleverer is at Bath; I own that is an additional reason to take me thither; by a letter from him, received the other day, I see that he has paid you a visit, and he now raves about his host and the heiress. Ah, Miss Lucy, Miss Lucy! are you going to conquer him whom all London has, for years more than I care to tell, (yet not many, for Mauleverer is still young,) assailed in vain? Answer me!"
This letter created a considerable excitement in Warlock House. The old Squire was extremely fond of his brother, and grieved to the heart, to find that he spoke so discouragingly of his health. Nor did the Squire for a moment hesitate at accepting the proposal to join his distinguished relative at Bath. Lucy also,—who had for her uncle, possibly from his profuse yet not indelicate flattery, a very great regard and interest, though she had seen but little of him,—urged the Squire to lose no time in arranging matters for their departure, so as to precede the Barrister, and prepare every thing for his arrival. The father and daughter being thus agreed, there was little occasion for delay; an answer to the invalid's letter was sent by return of post, and on the fourth day from their receipt of the said epistle, the good old Squire, his daughter, a country girl, by way of abigail—the grey-headed butler, and two or three live pets, of the size and habits most convenient for travelling, were impelled along in the huge womb of the family coach, on their way to that city, which at that time was gayer at least, if somewhat less splendid, than the metropolis.
On the second day of their arrival at Bath, Brandon, (as in future, to avoid confusion, we shall call the younger brother, giving to the elder his patriarchal title of Squire,) joined them.
He was a man seemingly rather fond of parade, though at heart he disrelished and despised it. He came to their lodging, which had not been selected in the very best part of the town, in a carriage and six, but attended only by one favourite servant.
They found him in better looks and better spirits than they had anticipated; few persons, when he liked it, could be more agreeable than William Brandon; but at times there mixed with his conversation a bitter sarcasm, probably a habit acquired in his profession, or an occasional tinge of morose and haughty sadness, possibly the consequence of his ill-health. Yet his disorder, which was somewhat approaching to that painful affliction, the tic , though of fits more rare in occurrence than those of that complaint ordinarily are, never seemed even for an instant to operate upon his mood, whatever that might be. That disease worked unseen; not a muscle of his face appeared to quiver; the smile never vanished from his mouth, the blandness of his voice never grew faint as with pain, and, in the midst of intense torture, his resolute and stern mind conquered every external indication, nor could the most observant stranger have noted the moment when the fit attacked or released him. There was something inscrutable about the man. You felt that you took his character upon trust, and not on your own knowledge. The acquaintance of years would have left you equally dark as to his vices or his virtues. He varied often, yet in each variation he was equally undiscoverable. Was he performing a series of parts, or was it the ordinary changes of a man's true temperament, that you beheld in him? Commonly smooth, quiet, attentive, flattering in social intercourse; he was known in the senate and courts of law, for a cold asperity, and a caustic venom—scarcely rivalled even in those areas of contention. It seemed as if the bitterer feelings he checked in private life, he delighted to indulge in public. Yet, even there, he gave not way to momentary petulance or gushing passion, all seemed with him systematic sarcasm, or habitual sternness. He outraged no form of ceremonial, or of society. He stung, without appearing conscious of the sting; and his antagonist writhed not more beneath the torture of his satire, than the crushing contempt of his self-command.—Cool, ready, armed and defended on all points, sound in knowledge, unfailing in observation, equally consummate in sophistry when needed by himself, and instantaneous in detecting sophistry in another; scorning no art, however painful—begrudging no labour, however weighty—minute in detail, yet not the less comprehending the whole subject in a grasp; such was the legal and public character William Brandon had established, and such was the fame he joined to the unsullied purity of his moral reputation. But to his friends, he seemed only the agreeable, clever, lively, and, if we may use the phrase innocently, the worldly man—never affecting a superior sanctity, or an over-anxiety to forms, except upon great occasions; and rendering his austerity of manners the more admired, because he made it seem so unaccompanied by hypocrisy.
"Well," said Brandon, as he sat after dinner alone with his relations, and had seen the eyes of his brother close in diurnal slumber,—"tell me, Miss Lucy, what you think of Lord Mauleverer; do you find him agreeable?"
"Very; too much so, indeed!"
"Too much so! that is an uncommon fault, Lucy; unless you mean to insinuate that you find him too agreeable for your peace of mind."
"Oh, no! there is little fear of that; all that I meant to express was, that he seems to make it the sole business of his life to be agreeable; and that one imagines he had gained that end by the loss of certain qualities which one would have liked better."
"Umph! and what are they?"
"Truth, sincerity, independence, and honesty of mind."
"My dear Lucy, it has been the professional study of my life to discover a man's character, especially so far as truth is concerned, in as short a time as possible; but you excel me by intuition, if you can tell whether there be sincerity in a courtier's character at the first interview you have with him."
"Nevertheless, I am sure of my opinion," said Lucy, laughing; "and I will tell you one instance I observed among a hundred. Lord Mauleverer is rather deaf, and he imagined, in conversation, that my father said one thing—it was upon a very trifling subject—the speech of some member of Parliament, (the lawyer smiled,)—when in reality he meant to say another. Lord Mauleverer, in the warmest manner in the world, chimed in with him, appeared thoroughly of his opinion, applauded his sentiments, and wished the whole country of his mind. Suddenly my father spoke, Lord Mauleverer bent down his ear, and found that the sentiments he had so lauded were exactly those my father the least favoured. No sooner did he make this discovery, than he wheeled round again, dexterously and gracefully, I allow; condemned all that he had before extolled, and extolled all that he had before abused!"
"And is that all, Lucy!" said Brandon, with a keener sneer on his lip than the occasion warranted. "Why, that is what every one does; only some more gravely than others. Mauleverer in society; I, at the bar; the minister in Parliament; friend to friend; lover to mistress; mistress to lover; half of us are employed in saying white is black, and the other half in swearing that black is white. There is only one difference, my pretty niece, between the clever man and the fool; the fool says what is false while the colours stare in his face and give him the lie; but the clever man takes, as it were, a brush, and literally turns the black into white, and the white into black, before he makes the assertion, which is then true. The fool changes, and is a liar; the clever man makes the colours change, and is a genius. But this is not for your young years yet, Lucy."
"Yet, I can't see the necessity of seeming to agree with people," said Lucy, simply; "surely they would be just as well pleased if you differed from them civilly, and with respect."
"No, Lucy," said Brandon, still sneering; "to be liked, it is not necessary to be any thing but compliant; lie, cheat, make every word a snare, and every act a forgery—but never contradict. Agree with people, and they make a couch for you in their hearts. You know the story of Dante and the buffoon. Both were entertained at the court of the vain pedant, who called himself Prince Scaliger; the former poorly, the latter sumptuously.—'How comes it,' said the buffoon to the Poet, 'that I am so rich and you so poor.'—'I shall be as rich as you,' was the stinging and true reply—'whenever I can find a patron as like myself as Prince Scaliger is like you!'"
"Yet my birds," said Lucy, caressing the goldfinch, which nestled to her bosom, "are not like me, and I love them. Nay, I often think I could love those better who differ from me the most. I feel it so in books;—when, for instance, I read a novel or a play; and you, uncle, I like almost in proportion to my perceiving in myself nothing in common with you."
"Yes," said Brandon, "you have in common with me, a love for old stories of Sir Hugo, and Sir Rupert, and all the other 'Sirs' of our mouldered and by-gone race. So you shall sing me the ballad about Sir John de Brandon, and the dragon he slew in the Holy Land. We will adjourn to the drawing-room, not to disturb your father."
Lucy agreed, took her uncle's arm, repaired to the drawing-room, and, seating herself at the harpsichord sang to an inspiriting, yet somewhat rude air, the family ballad her uncle had demanded.
It would have been amusing to note, in the rigid face of the hardened and habitual man of peace and parchments, a certain enthusiasm which ever and anon crossed his cheek, as the verses of the ballad rested on some allusion to the Knightly House of Brandon, and its old renown. It was an early prejudice, breaking out despite of himself—a flash of character, stricken from the hard fossil in which it was embedded. One would have supposed that the silliest of all prides, (for the pride of money, though meaner, is less senseless,) family pride, was the last weakness which at that time the callous and astute lawyer would have confessed, even to himself.
"Lucy," said Brandon, as the song ceased, and he gazed on his beautiful niece with a certain pride in his aspect,—"I long to witness your first appearance in the world. This lodging, my dear, is not fit——but pardon me! what I was about to say is this; your father and yourself are here at my invitation, and in my house you must dwell; you are my guests, not mine host and hostess. I have, therefore, already directed my servant to secure me a house, and provide the necessary establishment; and I make no doubt, as he is a quick fellow, that within three days all will be ready:—you must then be the magnet of my abode, Lucy; and, meanwhile, you must explain this to my brother, and, for you know his jealous hospitality, obtain his acquiescence."
"But," began Lucy.
"But me no buts," said Brandon, quickly, but with an affectionate tone of wilfulness; "and now, as I feel very much fatigued with my journey, you must allow me to seek my own room."
"I will conduct you to it myself," said Lucy, for she was anxious to show her father's brother the care and forethought which she had lavished on her arrangements for his comfort. Brandon followed her into an apartment, which his eye knew at a glance had been subjected to that female superintendence, which makes such uses from what men reject as insignificant; and he thanked her with more than his usual amenity, for the grace which had presided over, and the kindness which had dictated, her preparations. As soon as he was left alone, he wheeled his armchair near the clear bright fire, and resting his face upon his hand, in the attitude of a man who prepares himself, as it were, for the indulgence of meditation, he muttered:—
"Yes! these women are, first, what Nature makes them, and that is good: next, what we make them, and that is evil! Now, could I persuade myself, that we ought to be nice as to the use we put these poor puppets to; I should shrink from enforcing the destiny which I have marked for this girl. But that is a pitiful consideration, and he is but a silly player who loses his money for the sake of preserving his counters. So, the young lady must go as another score to the fortunes of William Brandon. After all, who suffers? not she. She will have wealth, rank, honour: I shall suffer, to yield so pretty and pure a gem to the coronet of—faugh! How I despise that dog! but how I could hate, crush, mangle him, could I believe that he despised me! Could he do so? Umph! No, I have resolved myself, that is impossible. Well, let me hope, that matrimonial point will be settled; and now, let me consider what next step I shall take for myself—myself!—ay—only myself!—with me perishes the last male of Brandon. But the light shall not go out under a bushel."
As he said this, the soliloquist sunk into a more absorbed, and a silent reverie, from which he was disturbed by the entrance of his servant. Brandon, who was never a dreamer, save when alone, broke at once from his reflections.
"You have obeyed my orders, Barlow?" said he.
"Yes, Sir," answered the domestic, "I have taken the best house yet unoccupied, and when Mrs. Roberts (Brandon's housekeeper) arrives from London, every thing will, I trust, be exactly to your wishes."
"Good! And you gave my note to Lord Mauleverer?"
"With my own hands, Sir; his Lordship will await you at home all to-morrow."
"Very well! and now, Barlow, see that your room is within call—(bells, though known, were not common at that day) and give out that I am gone to bed and must not be disturbed. What's the hour?"
"Just on the stroke of ten, Sir."
"Place on that table my letter-case, and the inkstand. Look in, to help me to undress, at half past one; I shall go to bed at that hour. And—stay—be sure, Barlow, that my brother believes me retired for the night. He does not know my habits, and will vex himself if he thinks I sit up so late in my present state of health."
Drawing the table with its writing appurtenances near to his master, the servant left Brandon once more to his thoughts or his occupations.