Precaution/Chapter 49

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The harvest had been gathered, and the beautiful vales of Pendennyss were shooting forth a second crop of verdure. The husbandman was turning his prudent forethought to the promises of the coming year, while the castle itself exhibited to the gaze of the wondering peasant a sight of cheerfulness and animation which had not been seen in it since the days of the good duke. Its numerous windows were opened to the light of the sun, its halls teemed with the faces of its happy inmates. Servants in various liveries were seen gliding through its magnificent apartments and multiplied passages. Horses, grooms, and carriages, with varied costumes and different armorial bearings, crowded its spacious stables and offices. Everything spoke society, splendor, and activity without; everything denoted order, propriety, and happiness within.

In a long range of spacious apartments were grouped in the pursuit of their morning employments, or in arranging their duties and pleasures of the day, the guests and owners of the princely abode.

In one room was John Moseley, carefully examining the properties of some flints which were submitted to his examination by his attending servant; while Grace, sitting at his side, playfully snatched the stones from his hand, as she cried half reproachfully, half tenderly—

"You must not devote yourself to your gun so incessantly, Moseley; it is cruel to kill inoffensive birds for your amusement only."

"Ask Emily's cook, and Mr. Haughton's appetite," said John, coolly extending his hand towards her for the flint, "whether no one is gratified but myself. I tell you, Grace, I seldom fire in vain."

"That only makes the matter worse; the slaughter you commit is dreadful."

"Oh!" cried John with a laugh, "the ci-devant Captain Jarvis is a sportsman to your mind. He would shoot a month without moving a feather; he was a great friend"—throwing an arch look to his solitary sister, who sat on a sofa at a distance perusing a book—"to Jane's feathered songsters."

"But now, Moseley," said Grace, yielding the flints, but gently retaining the hand that took them, "Pendennyss and Chatterton intend driving their wives, like good husbands, to see the beautiful waterfall in the mountains; and what am I to do this long tedious morning?"

John stole an inquiring glance, to see if his wife was very anxious to join the party, cast one look of regret on a beautiful agate that he had selected, and inquired,—

"Do you wish to go very much, Mrs. Moseley?"

"Indeed—indeed I do," said the other, eagerly, "if"—

"If what?"

"You will drive me," continued she, with a cheek slightly tinged with color.

"Well, then," answered John, with deliberation, and regarding his wife with affection, "I will go on one condition."

"Name it!" cried Grace, with still increasing color.

"That you will not expose your health again in going to the church on a Sunday, if it rains."

"The carriage is so close, Moseley," answered Grace, with a paler cheek than before, and eyes fixed on the carpet, "it is impossible I can take cold: you see the earl and countess and Aunt Wilson never miss public worship, when possibly within their power."

"The earl goes with his wife; but what becomes of poor me at such times?" said John, taking her hand and pressing it kindly. "I like to hear a good sermon, but not in bad weather. You must consent to oblige me, who only live in your presence."

Grace smiled faintly, as John, pursuing the point, said,—

"What do you say to my condition?"

"Well, then, if you wish," replied Grace, without the look of gayety her hopes had first inspired, "I will not go if it rain."

John ordered his phaeton, and his wife went to her room to prepare for the trip, and to regret her own resolution.

In the recess of a window, in which bloomed a profusion of exotics, stood the figure of Lady Marian Denbigh, playing with a half-blown rose of the richest colors; and before her, leaning against the angle of the wall, stood her kinsman, the Duke of Derwent.

"You heard the plan at the breakfast table," said his Grace, "to visit the little falls in the hills. But I suppose you have seen them too often to undergo the fatigue?"

"Oh, no! I love that ride dearly, and should wish to accompany the countess in her first visit to it. I had half a mind to ask George to take mo in his phaeton."

"My curricle would be honored by the presence of Lady Marian Denbigh," cried the duke with animation, "if she would accept me for her knight on the occasion."

Marian bowed an assent, in evident satisfaction, as the duke proceeded,—

"But if you take me as your knight, I should wear your ladyship's colors;" and he held out his hand towards the budding rose. Lady Marian hesitated a moment, looked out at the prospect, up at the wall—turned, and wondered where her brother was; and still finding the hand of the duke extended, while his eye rested on her in admiration, she gave him the boon with a cheek that vied with the richest tints of the flower. They separated to prepare, and it was on their return from the falls that the duke seemed uncommonly gay and amusing, and the lady silent with her tongue, though her eyes danced in every direction but towards her cousin.

"Really, my dear Lady Moseley," said tho dowager, as, seated by the side of her companion, her eyes roved over the magnificence within, and widely extended domains without, "Emily is well established indeed—better even than my Grace."

"Grace has an affectionate husband," replied the other, gravely, "and one that I hope will make her happy."

"Oh! no doubt happy!" said Lady Chatterton, hastily: "but they say Emily has a jointure of twelve thousand a year; by the by," she added, in a low tone, though no one was near enough to hear what she said, "could not the earl have settled Lumley Castle on her instead of the deanery?"

"Upon my word I never think of such gloomy subjects as provisions for widowhood," cried Lady Moseley: "you have been in Annerdale House—is it not a princely mansion?"

"Princely, indeed," rejoined the dowager, sighing; "don't the earl intend increasing the rents of this estate as the leases fall in? I am told they are very low now!"

"I believe not," said the other. "He has enough, and is willing others should prosper. But there is Clara, with her little boy—is he not a lovely child?" cried the grand- mother, rising to take the infant in her arms.

"Oh! excessively beautiful!" said the dowager, looking the other way, and observing Catharine making a movement towards Lord Henry Stapleton, she called to her, "Lady Herriefield—come this way, my dear—I wish to speak to you."

Kate obeyed with a sullen pout of her pretty lip, and entered into some idle discussion about a cap, though her eyes wandered round the rooms in listless vacancy.

The dowager had the curse of bad impressions in youth to contend with, and labored infinitely harder now to make her daughter act right, than formerly she had ever done to make her act wrong.

"Here! Uncle Benfield," cried Emily, with a face glowing with health and animation, as she approached his seat with a glass in her hands. "Here is the negus you wished; I have made it myself, and you will praise it of course."

"Oh! my dear Lady Pendennyss," said the old gentleman, rising politely from his seat to receive the beverage. "you are putting yourself to a great deal of trouble for an old bachelor like me; too much, indeed too much."

"Old bachelors are sometimes more esteemed than young ones," cried the earl gayly, joining them in time to hear this speech. "Here is my friend, Mr. Peter Johnson; who knows when we may dance at his wedding?"

"My lord, and my lady, and my honored master," said Peter gravely, in reply, bowing respectfully where he stood, waiting to take his master's glass, "I am past the age to think of a wife: I am seventy-three coming next 'lammas, counting by the old style."

"What do you intend to do with your three hundred a year," said Emily with a smile, "unless you bestow it on some good woman, for making the evening of your life comfortable?"

"My lady—hem—my lady," said the steward, blushing; "I had a little thought, with your kind ladyship's consent, as I have no relations, chick or child in the world, what to do with it."

"I should be happy to bear your plan," said the countess, observing that the steward was anxious to communicate something.

"Why, my lady, if my lord and my honored master's agreeable, I did think of making another codicil to master's will in order to dispose of it."

"Your master's will," said the earl laughing; "why not to your own, good Peter?"

"My honored lord," said the steward, with great humility. "it don't become a poor serving-man like me to make a will."

"But how will you prove it?" said the earl, kindly, willing to convince him of his error; "you must be both dead to prove it."

"Our wills," said Peter, gulping his words, "will be proved on the same day."

His master looked round at him with great affection, and both the earl and Emily were too much struck to say anything. Peter had, however, the subject too much at heart to abandon it, just as he had broken the ice. He anxiously wished for the countess's consent to the scheme, for he would not affront her, even after he was dead.

"My lady—Miss Emmy," said Johnson, eagerly, "my plan is, if my honored master's agreeable—to make a codicil, and give my mite to a little—Lady Emily Denbigh."

"Oh! Peter, you and uncle Benfield are both too good," cried Emily, laughing and blushing, as she hastened to Clara and her mother.

"Thank you, thank you," cried the delighted earl, following his wife with his eyes, and shaking the steward cordially by the hand; "and, if no better expedient be adopted by us, you have full permission to do as you please with your money."

"Peter," said his master to him in a low tone, "you should never speak of such things prematurely; now I remember when the Earl of Pendennyss, my nephew, was first presented to me, I was struck with the delicacy and propriety of his demeanor, and the Lady Pendennyss, my niece, too; you never see anything forward, or—Ah! Emmy, dear," said the old man, tenderly interrupting himself, "you are too good to remember your old uncle," taking one of the fine peaches she handed him from a plate.

"My lord," said Mr. Haughton to the earl, "Mrs. Ives and myself have had a contest about the comforts of matrimony; she insists she may be quite as happy at Bolton Parsonage as in this noble castle, and with this rich prospect in view."

"I hope," said Francis, "you are not teaching my wife to be discontented with her humble lot—if so, both hers and your visit will be an unhappy one."

"It would be no easy task, if our good friend intended any such thing by his jests," said Clara, smiling. "I know my true interests, I trust, too well, to wish to change my fortune."

"You are right," said Pendennyss; "it is wonderful how little our happiness depends on a temporal condition When here, or at Lumley Castle, surrounded by my tenantry, there are, I confess moments of weakness, in which the loss of my wealth or rank would be missed greatly; but when on service, subjected to great privations, and surrounded by men superior to me in military rank, who say unto me, Go, and I go, Come, and I come, I find my enjoyments intrinsically the same."

"That," said Francis, "may be owing to your lordship's tempered feelings, which have taught you to look beyond this world for pleasures and consolation."

"It has, doubtless, an effect," said the earl, "but there is no truth of which I am more fully persuaded, than that our happiness here does not depend upon our lot in life, so we are not suffering for necessaries—even changes bring less real misery than they are supposed to do."

"Doubtless," cried Mr. Haughton, "under the circumstances, I would not wish to change even with your lordship—unless, indeed," he continued, with a smile and bow to the countess, "it were the temptation of your lovely wife."

"You are quite polite," said Emily laughing, "but I have no desire to deprive Mrs. Haughton of a companion she has made out so well with these twenty years past."

"Thirty, my lady, if you please."

"And thirty more, I hope," continued Emily, as a servant announced the several carriages at the door. The younger part of the company now hastened to their different engagements, and Chatterton handed Harriet; John, Grace; and Pendennyss, Emily, into their respective carriages; the duke and Lady Marian following, but at some little distance from the rest of the party.

As the earl drove from the door, the countess looked up to a window, at which were standing her aunt and Doctor Ives. She kissed her hand to them, with a face in which glowed the mingled expression of innocence, love, and joy.

Before leaving the Park, the party passed Sir Edward, with his wife leaning on one arm and Jane on the other, pursuing their daily walk. The baronet followed the carriages with his eyes, and exchanged looks of the fondest love with his children, as they drove slowly and respectfully by him; and if the glance which followed on Jane, did not speak equal pleasure, it surely denoted its proper proportion of paternal love.

"You have much reason to congratulate yourself on the happy termination of your labors," said the doctor, with a smile, to the widow; "Emily is placed, so far as human foresight can judge, in the happiest of all stations a female can be in: she is the pious wife of a pious husband, beloved, and deserving of it."

"Yes," said Mrs. Wilson, drawing back from following the phaeton with her eyes, "they are happy as this world will admit, and, what is better, they are well prepared to meet any reverse of fortune which may occur, as well as to discharge the dudes on which they have entered. I do not think," continued she, musing, "that Pendennyss can ever doubt the affections of such a woman as Emily."

"I should think not," said the doctor; "but what can excite such a thought in your breast, and one so much to the prejudice of George?"

"The only unpleasant thing I have ever observed in him," said Mrs. Wilson gravely, "is the suspicion which induced him to adopt the disguise in which he entered our family."

"He did not adopt it, madam—chance and circumstances drew it around him accidentally; and when you consider the peculiar state of his mind from the discovery of his mother's misconduct—his own great wealth and rank—it is not so surprising that he should yield to a deception, rather harmless than injurious."

"Dr. Ives," said Mrs. Wilson, "is not wont to defend deceit."

"Nor do I now, madam," replied the doctor with a smile: "I acknowledge the offense of George, myself, wife, and son. I remonstrated at the time upon principle; I said the end would not justify the means; that a departure from ordinary rules of propriety was at all times dangerous, and seldom practiced with impunity."

"And you failed to convince your hearers," cried Mrs. Wilson, gayly; "a novelty in your case, my good rector."

"I thank you for the compliment," said the doctor; "I did convince them as to the truth of the principle, but the earl contended that his case might make an innocent exception. He had the vanity to think, I believe, that by concealing his real name, he injured himself more than any one else, and got rid of the charge in some such way. He is, however, thoroughly convinced of the truth of the position, by practice; his sufferings, growing out of the mistake of his real character, and which could not have happened had he appeared in proper person, having been greater than he is ready to acknowledge."

"If they study the fate of the Donna Julia, and his own weakness," said the widow, "they will have a salutary moral always at hand, to teach them the importance of two cardinal virtues at least—obedience and truth."

"Julia has suffered much," replied the doctor; "and although she has returned to her father, the consequences of her imprudence are likely to continue. When once the bonds of mutual confidence and respect are broken, they may be partially restored, it is true, but never with a warmth and reliance such as existed previously. To return, however, to yourself, do you not feel a sensation of delight at the prosperous end of your exertions in behalf of Emily?"

"It is certainly pleasant to think we have discharged our duties, and the task is much easier than we are apt to suppose," said Mrs. Wilson; "it is only to commence the foundation, so that it will be able to support the superstructure. I have endeavored to make Emily a Christian. I have endeavored to form such a taste and principles in her, that she would not be apt to admire an improper suitor, and I have labored to prepare her to discharge her continued duties through life, in such a manner and with such a faith, as under the providence of God will result in happiness far exceeding anything she now enjoys. In all those, by the blessing of Heaven. I have succeeded, and had occasion offered, I would have assisted her inexperience through the more delicate decisions of her sex, though in no instance would I attempt to control them."

"You are right, my dear madam," said the doctor, taking her kindly by the hand, "and had I a daughter, I would follow a similar course. Give her delicacy, religion, and a proper taste, aided by the unseen influence of a prudent parent's care, and the chances of a woman for happiness would be much greater than they are; and I am entirely of your opinion, 'that prevention is at all times better than cure.'"