The first carriages that rolled over the lawn to Bolton parsonage, on the succeeding day, were those of the baronet and his sister, the latter in advance.
"There, Francis," cried Emily, who was impatiently waiting for him to remove some slight obstruction to her alighting, "thank you, thank you; that will do."
In the next moment she was in the extended arms of Clara. After pressing each other to their bosoms for a few moments in silence, Emily looked up with a tear glistening in her eye, and first noticed the form of Denbigh, who was modestly withdrawing, as if unwilling to intrude on such pure and domestic feelings as the sisters were betraying, unconscious of the presence of a witness. Mrs. Wilson and Jane, followed by Miss Chatterton, now entered, and cordial salutes and greetings flowed upon Clara from her various friends.
The baronet's coach reached the door; it contained himself and wife, Mr. Benfield, and Lady Chatterton. Clara stood on the portico of the building, ready to receive them; her face all smiles, and tears, and blushes, and her arm locked in that of Emily.
"I wish you joy of your new abode, Mrs. Francis." Lady Moseley forgot her form, and bursting into tears, she pressed her daughter with ardor to her bosom.
"Clara, my love!" said the baronet, hastily wiping his eyes, and succeeding his wife in the embrace of their child. He kissed her, and pressing Francis by the hand, walked into the house in silence.
"Well, well," cried the dowager, as she saluted her cousin, "all looks comfortable and genteel here, upon my word, Mis. Ives: grapery—hot-houses—everything in good style, too; and Sir Edward tells me the living is worth a good five hundred a year."
"So, girl, I suppose you expect a kiss," said Mr. Bonfield, who ascended the steps slowly, and with difficulty. "Kissing has gone much out of fashion lately. I remember, on the marriage of my friend, Lord Gosford, in the year fifty-eight, that all the maids and attendants were properly saluted in order. The lady Juliana was quite young then; not more than fifteen: it was there I got my first salute from her—but—so—kiss me." After which be continued, as they went into the house, "Marrying in that day was a serious business. You might visit a lady a dozen times before you could get a sight of her naked hand. Who's that?" stopping short, and looking earnestly at Denbigh, who now approached them.
"Mr. Denbigh, sir," said Clara, "my uncle, Mr. Benfield."
"Did you ever know, sir, a gentleman of your name, who sat in the parliament of this realm in the year sixty?" Mr. Benfield abruptly asked, as soon as the civilities of the introduction were exchanged. "You don't look much like him."
"That was rather before my day, sir," said Denbigh, with a smile, respectfully offering to relieve Clara, who supported him on one side, while Emily held his arm on the other.
The old gentleman was particularly averse to strangers, and Emily was in terror lest he should say something rude; but, after examining Denbigh again from head to foot, he took the offered arm, and coolly replied,—
"True; very true: that was sixty years ago; you can hardly recollect as long. Ah! Mr. Denbigh, times are sadly altered since my youth. People who were then glad to ride on a pillion now drive their coaches; men who thought ale a luxury, drink their port; aye! and those who went barefoot must have their shoes and stockings too. Luxury, sir, and the love of ease, will ruin this mighty empire. Corruption has taken hold of everything; the ministry buy the members, the members buy the ministry; everything is bought and sold. Now, sir, in the parliament in which I had the honor of a seat, there was a knot of us, as upright as posts, sir. My Lord Gosford was one, and General Denbigh was another, although I can't say he was much a favorite with me. You do not look in the least like him. How was he related to you, sir?"
"He was my grandfather," replied Denbigh, looking pleasantly at Emily, as if to tell her he understood the character of her uncle.
Had the old man continued his speech an hour longer, Denbigh would not have complained. They had stopped while talking, and he thus became confronted with the beautiful figure that supported the other arm. Denbigh contemplated in admiration the varying countenance which now blushed with apprehension, and now smiled in affection, or even with an archer expression, as her uncle proceeded in his harangue on the times. But all felicity in this world has an end, as well as misery. Denbigh retained the recollection of that speech long after Mr. Benfield was comfortably seated in the parlor, though for his life he could not recollect a word he had said.
The Haughtons, the Jarvises, and a few more of their intimate acquaintances arrived, and the parsonage had a busy air; but John, who had undertaken to drive Grace Chatterton in his own phaeton, was yet absent. Some little anxiety had begun to be manifested, when he appeared, dashing through the gates at a great rate, and with the skill of a member of the four-in-hand.
Lady Chatterton had begun to be seriously uneasy, and she was about to speak to her son to go in quest of them, as they came in sight; but now her fears vanished, and she could only suppose that a desire to have Grace alone could keep one who had the reputation of a Jehu, so much behind the rest of the party. She met them in great spirits, crying,—
"Upon my word, Mr. Moseley, I began to think you had taken the road to Scotland, you stayed so long."
"Your daughter, my Lady Chatterton," said John, pithily, "would go to Scotland neither with me nor any other man or I am greatly deceived in her character. Clara, my sister, how do you do?" He saluted the bride with great warmth and affection.
"But what detained you, Moseley?" inquired the mother.
"One of the horses was restive, and he broke the harness. We merely stopped in the village while it was mended."
"And how did Grace behave?" asked Emily, laughing.
"Oh, a thousand times better than you would, sister; as she always does, and like an angel."
The only point in dispute between Emily and her brother was her want of faith in his driving; while poor Grace, naturally timid, and unwilling to oppose any one, particularly the gentleman who then held the reins, had governed herself sufficiently to be silent and motionless. Indeed, she could hardly do otherwise had she wished it, so great was his impetuosity of character; and John felt flattered to a degree of which he was himself unconscious. Self-complacency, aided by the merit, the beauty, and the delicacy of the young lady herself, might have led to the very results her mother so anxiously wished to produce, had that mother been satisfied with letting things take their course. But managers very generally overdo their work.
"Grace is a good girl," said her gratified mother; "and you found her very valiant, Mr. Moseley?"
"Oh, as brave as Cæsar," answered John, carelessly, in a way that was not quite free from irony.
Grace, whose burning cheek showed but too plainly that praise from John Moseley was an incense too powerful for her resistance, now sank behind some of the company, endeavoring to conceal the tears that almost gushed from her eyes. Denbigh was a silent spectator of the whole scene, and he now considerately observed, that he had lately seen an improvement which would obviate the difficulty Mr. Moseley had experienced. John turned to the speaker, and they were soon engaged in the discussion of curbs and buckles, when the tilbury of Colonel Egerton drove to the door, containing himself and his friend the captain.
The bride undoubtedly received congratulations that day more sincere than those which were now offered, but none were delivered in a more graceful and insinuating manner than the compliments which fell from Colonel Egerton. He passed round the room, speaking to his acquaintances, until he arrived at the chair of Jane, who was seated next her aunt. Here he stopped, and glancing his eye round, and saluting with bows and smiles the remainder of the party, he appeared fixed at the centre of all attraction.
"There is a gentleman I think I have never seen before," he observed to Mrs. Wilson, casting his eyes on Denbigh, whose back was towards him in discourse with Mr. Benfield.
"It is Mr. Denbigh, of whom you heard us speak," replied Mrs. Wilson. While she spoke, Denbigh faced them. Egerton started as he caught a view of his face, and seemed to gaze on the countenance which was open to his inspection with an earnestness that showed an interest of some kind, but of a nature that was inexplicable to Mrs. Wilson, who was the only observer of this singular recognition, for such it evidently was. All was now natural in the colonel for the moment; his color sensibly changed, and there was an expression of doubt in his face. It might be fear, it might be horror, it might be a strong aversion; it clearly was not love. Emily sat by her aunt, and Denbigh approached them, making a cheerful remark. It was impossible for the colonel to avoid him had he wished it and he kept his ground. Mrs. Wilson thought she would try the experiment of an introduction.
"Colonel Egerton—Mr. Denbigh."
Both gentlemen bowed, but nothing striking was seen in the deportment of either. The colonel, who was not exactly at ease, said hastily,—
"Mr. Denbigh is, or has been, in the army, I believe."Denbigh was now taken by surprise in his turn: he cast a look on Egerton of fixed and settled meaning; then carelessly observed, but still as if requiring an answer,—
"I am yet; but I do not recollect having had the pleasure of meeting with Colonel Egerton on service."
"Your countenance is familiar, sir," replied the colonel, coldly; "but at this moment I cannot tax my memory with the place of our meeting, though one sees so many strange faces in a campaign, that they come and go like shadows."
He then changed the conversation. It was some time, however, before either gentleman entirely recovered his ease, and many days elapsed ere anything like intercourse passed between them. The colonel attached himself during this visit to Jane, with occasional notices of the Misses Jarvis, who began to manifest symptoms of uneasiness at the decided preference he showed to a lady they now chose to look upon, in some measure, as a rival.
Mrs. Wilson and her charge, on the other hand, were entertained by the conversation of Chatterton and Denbigh, relieved by occasional sallies from the lively John. There was something in the person and manners of Denbigh that insensibly attracted those whom chance threw in his way. His face was not strikingly handsome, but it was noble; and when he smiled, or was much animated, it invariably communicated a spark of his own enthusiasm to the beholder. His figure was faultless; his air and manner, if less easy than those of Colonel Egerton, were more sincere and ingenuous; his breeding was clearly higher; his respect for others rather bordering on the old school. But in his voice there existed a charm which would make him, when he spoke to a female ear, almost resistless: it was soft, deep, melodious, and winning.
"Baronet," said the rector, looking with a smile towards his son and daughter, "I love to see my children happy, and Mrs. Ives threatens a divorce if I go on in the manner I have commenced. She says I desert her for Bolton."
"Why, doctor, if our wives conspire against us, and present our enjoying a comfortable dish of tea with Clara, or a glass of wine with Frank, we must call in the higher authorities as umpires. What say you, sister? Is a parent to desert his child in any case?"
"My opinion is," said Mrs. Wilson, with a smile, yet speaking with emphasis, "that a parent is not to desert a child, in any case or in any manner."
"Do you hear that, my Lady Moseley?" cried the good-humored baronet.
"Do you hear that, my Lady Chatterton?" echoed John, who had just taken a seat by Grace when her mother approached them.
"I hear it, but do not see the application, Mr. Moseley."
"No, my lady! Why, there is the honorable Miss Chatterton almost dying to play a game of her favorite chess with Mr. Denbigh. She has beaten us all but him, and her triumph will not be complete until she has him, too, at her feet."
And as Denbigh politely offered to meet the challenge, the board was produced, and the parties were seated. Lady Chatterton stood leaning over her daughter's chair, with a view, however, to prevent any of those consequences she was generally fond of seeing result from this amusement; every measure taken by this prudent mother being literally governed by judicious calculation.
"Umph," thought John, as he viewed the players, while listening with pleasure to the opinions of Grace, who had recovered her composure and spirits; "Kate, after all, has played one game without using her feet."