IN the hall of the Cleves mansion the party from Southampton were received by Sir Hugh, Mr. Tyrold, and Lavinia. The baronet greeted in particular the two nieces he regarded as brides elect, with an elation that prevented him from observing their sadness; while their confusion at his mistake he attributed to the mere bashfulness of their situation. He enquired, nevertheless, with some surprise, why the two bridegrooms did not attend them? which, he owned, he thought rather odd; though he supposed it might be only the new way.
The changing colour and starting tears of the two sisters still escaped his kindly occupied but undiscerning eyes: while Mr. Tyrold, having tenderly embraced, avoided looking at them from the fear of adding to their blushes, and sat quiet and grave, striving to alleviate his present new and deep sorrow, by participating in the revived happiness of his brother. But Lavinia soon saw their mutual distress, and with apprehensive affection watched an opportunity to investigate its cause.
'But come,' cried Sir Hugh, 'I sha'n't wait for those gentlemen to shew you what I've done for you, seeing they don't wait for me, by their following their own way, which, however, I suppose they may be with their lawyers, none of those gentleman having been here, which I think rather slow, considering the rooms are almost ready.'
He would now have taken them round the house; but, nearly expiring with shame, they entreated to be excused; and, insupportably oppressed by the cruel discovery they had to divulge, stole apart to consult upon what measures they should take. They then settled that Camilla should accompany Mr. Tyrold to Etherington, but keep off all disclosure till the next morning, when Eugenia would arrive, and unfold the sad tidings.
When they returned to the parlour, they found Sir Hugh, in the innocency of his heart, had forced Indiana, Miss Margland, and even Dr. Orkbome, to view his improvements for the expected nuptials, judging the disinterestedness of their pleasure by his own; though to the two ladies, nothing could be less gratifying than preparations for a scene in which they were to bear no part, and the Doctor thought every evil genius at work to detain him from his study and his manuscripts.
'But what's the oddest' cried the Baronet, 'of all, is nobody's coming for poor Indiana; which I could never have expected, especially in the point of taking off little Eugenia first, whom her own cousin did not think pretty enough; which I can never think over and above good natured in him, being so difficult. However, I hope we shall soon forget that, now for which reason, I forgive him.'
Indiana was so much piqued, she could scarce refrain from relating the portico history at Lord Pervil's; but the Baronet, not remarking her discomposure, turned to Camilla and Eugenia, smilingly exclaiming: 'Well, my dear girls, I sha'n't mention what we have been looking at in your absence, because of your blushes, which I hope you approve. But we shall soon, I hope, see it all together, without any of your modesty's minding it. I shall have to pinch a little for it the rest of the year, which, God knows, will be a pleasure to me, for the sake of my two dear girls, as well as of Mr. Edgar; not to mention the new young gentleman; who seems a pretty kind of person too, though he is not one of our own relations.'
He was rather disappointed when he found Camilla was to go to Etherington, but desired there might be a general meeting the next day, when he should also invite Dr. Marchmont. 'For I think,' said he, 'he's as little proud as the best dunce amongst us; which makes me like him as well. And I can't say but I was as much obliged to him that day about the mad bull, as if he had been one of my nephews or nieces himself: which is what I sha'n't forget.'
In the way back to Etherington, Camilla could scarce utter a word; and Lavinia, who had just gathered from her, in a whisper 'All is over with Edgar!' with divided, but silent pity, looked from her father to her sister, thought of her brother, and wept for all three. Mr. Tyrold alone was capable of any exertion. Unwilling to give Camilla, whom he concluded impressed with the thousand solicitudes of her impending change of situation, any abrupt account of her brother's cruel conduct, he spoke with composure though not with chearfulness, and hoped, by a general gravity, to prepare, without alarming her, for the ill news he must inevitably relate. But he soon, however, observed an excess of sadness upon her countenance, far deeper than what he could attribute to the thoughts he had first suggested, and wholly different from an agitation in which though fear bears a part, hope preponderates.
It now struck him that probably Lionel had been at Southampton: for so wide was every idea from supposing any mischief with Edgar, that, like Sir Hugh, upon his non-appearance, he had concluded him engaged with his lawyer. But of Melmond, less sure, he had been more open in enquiry, and with inexpressible concern, for his beloved and unfortunate Eugenia, gathered that the affair was ended: though her succeeding plan, by her own desire, Camilla left for her own explanation.
When they arrived at Etherington, taking her into his study, 'Camilla,' he said, 'tell me, I beg… do you know anything of Lionel?'
An unrestrained burst of tears convinced him his conjecture was right, and he soon obtained all the particulars of the meeting, except its levity and flightiness. Where directly questioned, no sisterly tenderness could induce her to filial prevarication; but she rejoiced to spare her brother all exposure that mere silence could spare; and as Mr. Tyrold suspected not her former knowledge of his extravagance and ill conduct, he neither asked, nor heard, any thing beyond the last interview.
At the plan of going abroad, he sighed heavily, but would take no measures to prevent it. Lionel, he saw was certain of being cast in any trial; and though he would not stretch out his arm to avert the punishment he thought deserved, he was not sorry to change the languid waste of imprisonment at home, for the hardships with which he might live upon little abroad.
A calamity such as this seemed cause full sufficient for the distress of Camilla; Mr. Tyrold sought no other; but though she wept, now, at liberty, his very freedom from suspicion and enquiry increased her anguish. 'Your happy fate,' cried he, 'is what most, at this moment supports me; and to that I shall chiefly owe the support of your mother; whom a blow such as this will more bitterly try than the loss of our whole income, or even than the life itself of your brother. Her virtue is above misfortune, but her soul will shudder at guilt.'
The horror of Camilla was nearly intolerable at this speech, and the dreadful disappointment which she knew yet to be awaiting her loved parents. 'Take comfort, my dearest girl,' said Mr. Tyrold, who saw her suffering, 'it is yours, for all our sakes to be chearful, for to you we shall owe the worthiest of sons, at the piercing juncture when the weakest and most faulty fails us.'
'O my father!' she cried, 'speak not such words! Lionel himself… ' she was going to say: has made you less unhappy than you will be made by me: but she durst not finish her phrase; she turned away from him her streaming eyes, and stopt.
'My dearest child,' he cried, 'let not your rising prospects be thus dampt by this cruel event. The connection you have formed will be a consolation to us all. It binds to us for life a character already so dear to us; it will afford to our Lavinia, should we leave her single, a certain asylum; it will give to our Eugenia a counsellor that may save her hereafter from fraud and ruin; it may aid poor Lionel, when, some time hence, he returns to his country, to return to the right path, whence so widely he has strayed; and it will heal with lenient balm the wounded, bleeding bosom of a meritorious but deeply afflicted mother! While to your father, my Camilla… '
These last words were not heard; such a mention of her mother had already overpowered her, and unable to let him keep up his delusion, she supported her shaking frame against his shoulder, and exclaimed in a tone of agony: 'O my father! you harrow me to the soul!—Edgar has left me!—has left England!—left us all!'—
Shocked, yet nearly incredulous, he insisted upon looking at her: her countenance impelled belief. The woe it expressed could be excited by nothing less than the deprivation of every worldly expectation, and a single glance was an answer to a thousand interrogatories.
Mr. Tyrold now sat down, with an air between calmness and despondence, saying, 'And how has this come to pass?'
Again she got behind him, and in a voice scarce audible, said, Eugenia would, the next morning, explain all.
'Very well, I will wait;'. he quietly, but with palpably stifled emotions, answered: 'Go, my love, go to Lavinia; open to her your heart; you will find consolation in her kindness. My own, I confess, is now weighed down with sorrow! this last and unexpected stroke will demand some time, some solitude, to be yielded to as it ought.' He then held out to her his hand, which she could scarcely approach from trembling, and scarcely kiss for weeping, and added: 'I know what you feel for me—and know, too, that my loss to yours is nothing,—for yours is not to be estimated! you are young, however, and, with yourself, it may pass away… but your mother—my heart, Camilla, is rent for your unfortunate mother!'
He then embraced her, called Lavinia, and retired for the night.
Terribly it passed with them all.
The next morning, before they assembled to breakfast, Eugenia was in the chamber of Camilla.
She entered with a bright beam upon her countenance, which, in defiance of the ravaging distemper that had altered her, gave it an expression almost celestial. It was the pure emanation of virtue, of disinterested, of even heroic virtue. 'Camilla!' she cried, 'all is settled with my uncle! Indiana… you will not wonder—consents; and already this morning I have written to Mr. Mel… '
With all her exaltation, her voice faltered at the name, and, with a faint smile, but deep blush, she called for the congratulations of her sister upon her speedy success.
'Ah, far more than my congratulations, my esteem, my veneration is yours, dear and generous Eugenia! true daughter of my mother! and proudest recompence of my father!'
She was not sufficiently serene to give any particulars of the transaction; and Mr. Tyrold soon sent for her to his room.
Camilla, trembling and hanging over her, said: 'You will do for me, I know better than I could do for myself:—but spare poor Lionel—and be just to Edgar!'—
Eugenia strictly obeyed: in sparing Lionel she spared also her father, whom his highly unfeeling behaviour with regard to Sir Sedley would yet further have incensed and grieved; and, in doing justice to Edgar, she flattered herself she prevented an alienation from one yet destined to be nearly allied to him, since time, she still hoped, would effect the reconciliation of Camilla with the youth whom—next to Melmond—she thought the most amiable upon earth.
Mr. Tyrold, by this means, gathered no further intelligence than that they had parted upon some mutual, though slight dissatisfaction. He hoped, therefore, with Eugenia, they might soon meet again; and resolved, till he could better judge what might prove the event, to keep this distress from Sir Hugh.
He then met Camilla with the most consolatory kindness; yet would not trust her ardent mind with the hopes he cherished himself, dreading infinitely more to give than to receive disappointment. He blamed her for admitting any doubts of the true regard of Edgar, in whom promise was always short of performance, and whom he conceived displeased by unjust suspicions, or offended by undue expectations of professions, which the very sincerity of his rational and manly character prevented him from making.
Camilla heard in silence suggestions she could not answer, without relating the history of Sir Sedley: 'No, Lionel, no!' she said to herself, 'I will not now betray you! I have lost all!—and now the loss to me is irreparable, shall I blast you yet further to my poor father, whose deepest sigh is already for your misconduct?'
The story of Eugenia herself he learnt with true admiration, and gave to her magnanimity its dearest mede, in her mother's promised, and his own immediate approbation.
But Sir Hugh, notwithstanding all Eugenia could urge in favour of Melmond, had heard her account with grief and resentment. All, however, being actually ready for the double wedding, he could not, he said, answer to his conscience doing so much for the rest, and refusing the same for Indiana, whom he called upon to accept or reject the preparations made for her cousin.
Indiana stood fluttering for a few minutes between the exultation of being the first bride, and the mortification of marrying a man without fortune or title. But the observation of Sir Hugh, upon the oddity of her marrying the last, she was piqued with a most earnest ambition to reverse. Nor did Melmond himself go for nothing in this affair, as all she had of heart he had been the first to touch.
She retired for a short conference with Miss Margland, who was nearly in an equal dilemma, from unwillingness to dispose of her beautiful pupil without a title, and from eagerness to quit Cleves, which she thought a convent for dullness, and a prison for confinement. Melmond had strongly in his favour the received maxim amongst match-makers, that a young lady without fortune has a less and less chance of getting off upon every public appearance, which they call a public failure: their joint deliberations were, however, interrupted by an abrupt intrusion of Molly Mill, who announced she had just heard that Miss Dennel was going to be married.
This information ended the discussion. The disgrace of a bridal appearance anticipated in the neighbourhood by such a chit, made Indiana hastily run down stairs, and tell her uncle that the merit of Melmond determined her to refuse every body for his sake.
A man and horse, therefore, at break of day the next morning, was sent off by Eugenia to Southampton with these words:
To FREDERIC MELMOND, Esq;
You will be welcome, Sir, at Cleves, where you will forget, I hope, every painful sensation, in the happiness which awaits you, and dismiss all retrospection, to return with sincerity the serene friendship of
Mr. Tyrold now visited Cleves with only his younger daughter, and excused the non-appearance there, for the present, of Camilla; acknowledging that some peculiar incidents, which he could not yet explain, kept Mandlebert away, and must postpone the celebration of the marriage.
The vexation this gave Sir Hugh, redoubled his anxiety to break to him the evil by degrees, if to break it to him at all should become indispensable.