« PreviousContinue »
she was gone into the south of England. But there was once class of persons whom she had not failed to visit on her father's domain—they were the poor, who long had cause to remember her liberality.
The Earl of Wilton was extremely mortified by the determined seclusion of his eldest daughter, but finding his remonstrances of no effect, ceased to make them, and fixed his hopes on the budding graces and accomplishments of Letitia, who entered her fourteenth year, as the first twelvemonth of their return to England expired.
Laily Hester was gone on a private visit to those distant relations of Pastor Wilson who had taken Clinton from his destitute mother and brought him up to manhood. There, her heart, which was now entirely devoted to him, indulged itself by reviewing the enchanting period of their first acquaintance in the same delightful scenes in which it took place. Only to one member of the family, a younger son, who, from his childhood, had entertained a brother's regard for Clinton, did she speak of that which was nearest to her heart. Cautiously, when at another part of the drawing-room in which they were assembled, the younger scions of the house, and their
parents, were busy with a parcel of books and prints that had newly arrived from Paris, she made an allusion to the favourite companion and confidant of his younger years. He caught at the theme with eagerness, and dilated with warmth on the recollections which the name of Clinton rekindled in his mind. Neither he nor his relatives had heard, Lady Hester soon discovered to the enhancement of her happiness, of the real cause of Clinton's having quitted England. The merchants from
whom the latter had embezzled money having, as our readers are aware, received so soon after their loss threethirds of the amount from Clinton, and the rest from Lady Hester, and supposing that the whole had been returned by himself through her hands, willingly hushed up the transaction, which, accordingly, had not transpired beyond their firm. Lady Hester imparted to this friend and relative of Clinton her having seen him, and his sister and father, in Canada, describing the remarkable circumstances of their meeting, only keeping back the piratical character of Anderson's vessel. Her deeply interested listener in turn informed her that he had heard, from one of the vicars under the Bishop of Quebec, that Pastor Wilson, the grandfather of Clinton, was living in Upper Canada, and as soon as he could find leisure he should write to the good Pastor, on the part of his parents, and enclose a letter for Clinton, whom he hoped by this means it would reach.
Lady Hester had inherited a smali estate in her own right in Cornwall; thither she repaired next, and during the second year of her return from abroad, dwelt there in a solitude so entire as to give rise to various surmises among the disappointed circles of haut ton. It was even said that, in spite of the tales which had been circulated of the Colonel's infidelities, she had really loved her husband, and had vowed herself to perpetual grief for his loss. But an idea so romantic was hardly likely to keep its ground among the exclusives of the superior orders, who were little accustomed to devotedness to marriage ties, and they speedily banished a notion 80 repugnant to their frigid calculations.
Lady Hester, a thorough disciple of the same anti
enthusiastic school as far as her nature would suffer her to be, rigidly hid her real feelings from every eye. The end of the present year approached, and with it the period when her future path in life was to he decided. She grew restless and anxious; sleep forsook her pillow by night, and tranquillity her spirit by day; she sat at the piano-forte, but the charms of music had for the present filed; she took in hand her pencils for sketching, drew a few irregular outlines, but could not concentrate her mind upon the task; she prepared her colours, placed the exquisite productions of Florajand Pomona before her, flowers, and fruits, and shells; shaped cards for screens, and baskets, and similar bagatelle, which she meant to ornament with painting for her amusement; but in the midst of this graceful trifling, dropped her brush, sank back in her chair, and yielded herself up to the listlessness of a troubled mind
One day, while in this painful frame, wandering from one apartment to another, and trying one employment after another, but all to no purpose, the arrival of the morning's letters and papers were announced by a servant. She did not go immediately to the room in which they were ordinarily placed, for the vague hopes she had of late entertained were not in much vigour this morning, and nothing else but what referred to Clinton had at present power to interest her. With languid indifference she proceeded to turn them over just before going to dress for dinner; there were a variety of crested seals, black, and vermillion, and parti-coloured ; she glanced at the superscriptions and cast them on one side without opening them; then came forth from the bag a letter from her sister, who was then in town with
the Earl; she opened that, saying—“ Dear Letty! I must see what you have to say to me.” There was nothing of moment in it. The unspoiled warmth and vivacity of temper which male Letitia so pleasing, spoke out as usual on the odorous page in sentiments equally refined and affectionate.
“ Ah, Letty! you will not long remain, I fear, the unsophisticated being you now are. A few
you like us all—but long may it be before the fiery serpent, Love, breathes his pestilential vapours on you! May ít be long before you feel the pangs your sister has suffered !”
She supposed that she had emptied the letter-bag, but as she was pushing it from her across the table, to make room for a large print she was unrolling, another letter dropped from its mouth with the direction uppermost. She read—“. To the Right Hon. Lady Hester Cleveland, Wilton-hall, County of Essex, England.' It is from Clinton!” she ejaculated, and looked round the apartment to see that the disturbance of her des meanour was not observed.
“ It is assuredly his handwriting! The two years have not yet quite expiredhe has encroached on my permission.”
Notwithstanding these remarks, and the resentful tone in which they were uttered, it is not to be supposed but that Lady Hester was less displeased at lis having written a little before the time, than she would have been had he delayed until after. As Nelson is said to have averred that he owed his successes to having been a quarter of an hour beforehand with his engagements, so, it is probable, Clinton owed his ultimate success with Lady Hester to a similar cause.
The letter was in her hand as a carriage wheeled up the lawn in front of the house. Lady Hester was instantly to the outward eye unruffled, though her heart, like Vesuvius covered with snow, was on fire with a thousand emotions underneath. A lady in the neighbourhood entered to make a morning call. Lady Hester, with perfect ease, yielded herself to all the light topics of the day; invincibly patient, discussed the respective merits of lace from Valenciennes and Berlin-of china from Dresden and India-of fans from Paris and Madrid-of shawls, and parrots, and vases, and servants, and embroidered handkerchiefs. All which concluded, the lady returned to her carriage, and Lady Hester to Clinton's letter, with which the latter retreated to her dressing-room, from whence she stirred not for the rest of the day, taking her dinner, tea, and supper there, and spending the whole of the ensuing night in penning an answer for Clinton. Neither his communication or her reply shall we presume to lay before the readertheir contents are easily to be imagined by those who have loved truly, and devotedly—who have had their hopes long deferred, and who at last see themselves on the eve of obtaining the hallowed object of their heart's choice.
And now Lady Hester sold off all the property she possessed in her own right in England, lodged her money in the hands of a Metropolitan banker who was in correspondence with the Canadian bankers of Montreal and Toronto, and apprised the Earl of Wilton of her determination to return to North America, and settle there. He immediately left town with Letitia and came to her.