Tales of College Life/A Long-Vacation Vigil/Chapter 9

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Tales of College Life by Cuthbert Bede
A Long-Vacation Vigil
Chapter 9



I was so tired out by my two nights' vigil, that the sun had been up several hours when I awoke, and it was late when I got down stairs. "Good morning, Sir!" said Mrs. Rummell, who was the first person I met. "Mr. Spencer, Sir, has left this note for you. He asked me your name, and he directed it here, in the bar, Sir."

"Mr. Spencer! And pray who is Mr. Spencer?"

"Why, the strange-mannered gentleman, Sir, as come with the two ladies in a carriage and four."

"Good heavens!" I cried—for I had forgotten Lord Glenarvon's incognito—"you don't mean to say that she—that they are gone?"

"Yes, Sir," said Mrs. Rummell; "they went quite sudden, just after eight this morning; and I'd barely time to make their bill out. I suppose, Sir, they must have heard of the death of some relative."

"Very like, very like!" I muttered in a dream-like way, as Hamlet does when they tell him of the Ghost; and, tearing open the note, I read this:—

"Sir,—When you again assist a young lady to break through her ties of filial duty and obedience, I should advise you to first ascertain if the young lady is a free agent.

Yours truly,

J. Spencer."

"A free agent, indeed! Well that is cool of the old Dragon, when he knows what a tight prisoner he 's kept her." And—metaphorically speaking, of course!—I foamed at the mouth with fury and excitement.

When Nelly heard the news, she was as much astonished as I had been; and when the post had come in, our mystification was still further increased; for, she received a letter from Fred. which had been written on the morning of the day when the elopement ought to have taken place, in which he said (referring to some people my sister knew) "the J.'s have got a picnic in hand for to-morrow, in which I expect some of ours will be ingloriously taken captive. Bessie J. is to bring all her battery of charms to bear upon poor Alvanley, whom we have forcibly compelled to accept the invite. He has been 'all in the downs,' lately; and we thought that a dose of Bessie's flirtation would do him good. So, perhaps, you may hear of your friend being engaged to my friend; but I trust she will not deprive herself of the pleasure of being your bridesmaid."

And so it seemed, that while I was keeping my vigil, and pacing my lonely round, and while Amy was on the watch for her lover, Captain Alvanley was either snoring between the sheets, or dreaming of flirtations with Bessie J.! Nelly and I were altogether mystified. Had Amy been imposing upon us, and was the Dragon really a Mr. Spencer, and not an Earl? Had Amy been really expecting some one to elope with her, to whom she had given a name out of the Peerage? or was the whole affair a practical joke on her part, to relieve the tedium of a dull watering-place? But this could not be. To solve the mystery, we determined to write at once to Fred., and submit it to his tact to find out if there was any connexion between the Captain Alvanley of his regiment, and our mysterious beautiful Amy.

It was some time before the matter was perfectly cleared up. Captain Alvanley himself wrote to me a very long and sad letter, which put us in possession of all the particulars relative to his engagement with his cousin Amy. All that she had written in her letter to my sister was quite true, up to the point of the discovery of the projected elopement; beyond that, it was the mere invention of a disordered brain.

After Amy had fallen fainting into her mother's arms, she had been seized with delirium and fever. This, together with the wild excitement through which she had gone, partially unsettled her intellect. As in many other similarly sad cases, the chief feature of her disease was a settled melancholy, and a derangement only on the one point that had brought on her illness; she was under the belief that her cousin had planned another night for the elopement, and her mind dwelt upon this, as though it were a fact. Hence her letter to my sister; and hence her plans of escape. It is needless now to explain the watchful care of her father and mother; they were too well aware of the peculiar phase which their daughter's aberration of intellect had assumed, not to fear lest she should escape in the night to the imaginary assignation. Change of scene and strict retirement had been advised as the most effectual way to prevent the increase of the malady, and it was by the doctor's counsel that Lord Glenarvon had maintained an incognito when he had brought his daughter to Westcliffe, in order that she might derive all the benefit that could be gained from sea-bathing and the fresh sea-breeze.

The effects of my vigil, and her unfortunate acquaintance with us, had added to her disorder; and her father (as Captain Alvanley afterwards discovered) had removed her from Westcliffe to the south of France, and from thence to Italy. There, under judicious treatment, her mind gradually recovered its healthy tone; and, though the shock upon her nervous system had been so great, she returned to England, after a little more than a year's absence, in perfect health and strength—the same Amy that she had been when she won her cousin's love.