The Banished Man/Volume 2/Chapter 20
So in the hollow breast of Appenine,
Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the wild.
THE solicitude with which D'Alonville now waited for every post, since he daily expected letters from the travellers, is not to be described; not could he, however he endeavoured to do so, conceal his anxiety from the persons with whom he was surrounded, at least from such of them as either from affection or aversion, had an interest in watching him. Miss Milsington, from the involuntary changes of his countenance when the letters arrived, began to suspect that some affection more powerful than what he felt either for his French or his English friends, either for De Touranges or Ellesmere, was the cause of his being so violently agitated. She knew he could hold no correspondence with his own country; and she felt a violent curiosity to know with whom he was connected in England, that hearing from them, or not hearing from them, had such an effect on his countenance and manner. In proportion as their stay was prolonged, the country appeared to have for her greater charms; and as the mornings were now fine, she contrived to engage herself continually in the walks D'Alonville took with his pupils, and seemed never so happy as when she could, without any other witnesses than the two youngest boys, lean on his arm, and enter into conversation on the state of France, of some topic on which she hoped to engage him to converse with interest: but she had often the mortification of finding that he was absent and inattentive—that he fixed his eyes on some distant object in the southwest, where she could distinguish nothing that ought to attract him—and instead of the attention she expected,
These morning walks, however, became subjects of continual ridicule to Mr. Brymore. The former, because he hated Miss Milsington; the latter, because he recommended himself to Lady Aberdore by the talent he possessed of rendering other ridiculous; by misrepresentation and mimickry, which often sunk into buffoonery, but which now constituted great part of Lady Aberdore's amusement. The languishing airs of the tender Jemima, and the pert pedantry of Paunceford, were no more spared than the awkwardness of the Welsh 'squires and dames who occasionally came to the house. The lady so little cared at whose expence she obtained a laugh, and was so little attentive to the pain she might inflict, that she encouraged Brymore to mimic them before their faces, or continue to betray them into absurdities, and even while they were present, she could not conceal the mirth thus excited—mirth which was redoubled by remarking the confusion into which people were sometimes thrown on discovering that they had done or said something ridiculous!
As the friendly taste in Lady Aberdore engaged Brymore in very vigilant observation, he presently discovered that D'Alonville eagerly expected some letter of consequence, and that Miss Milsington as eagerly desired to know the contents of it. He contrived therefore to lay in wait for the servant who was charged with the business of bringing the letters from the post town, and finding a large packet for D'Alonville, he brought them himself into the room where the whole family, except Lord Aberdore, were assembled at their tea, and affecting not to be able to make out the direction, he held them for a minute or two to a candle, giving an hint to Lady Aberdore to watch the effect of this delay on the features of Miss Milsington and her proteg.—D'Alonville indeed betrayed extreme emotion; but it was not till he received his letter, and had left the room to peruse it, that the uneasy curiosity thus raised, (and which it was impossible to gratify) was visible on the strong features of the gentle Jemima, to the infinite amusement of her friends, who failed not to torment her as much as they could; while D'Alonville in his own room opened his pacquet, which he knew by the superscription was not from Angelina, but from Ellesmere, and which ran thus:
"You have undoubtedly been surprised, my dear Chevalier, at not having heard from me during so long a time; but I have been engaged in the most mournful duties—my poor father is no more—he never recovered the loss of his eldest son, and has soon followed him. It is at this moment the greatest consolation imaginable, that I have attended him through his last illness, and that I have not embittered his last hours; but my filial duties being paid, my heart now flies back with redoubled force to its affections—and Alexina, the beloved object on which those affections are fixed, appears with all those enchantments about her, which attached me to her the moment I saw her. As soon as I have fulfilled the duties that yet call upon me. I fly to her, and I mean to marry her as privately as possible, and to keep our union secret till some months are elapsed: by that time I hope to reconcile my mother to a choice which will probably displease her; and I trust it will contribute to alleviate her displeasure, that I do not mean to fix my residence at Eddisbury, but to give up the house to her as long as she lives. It has always appeared to me particularly cruel, that at a late period of life, the mother of a family should be driven from her home by one of the children she has raised, and be compelled to seek other connections in some remote and inferior residence. Lady Ellesmere shall not be subject to this inconvenience: I have already assured her of it; and I have promised poor Elizabeth to make up to her the fortune required by the mercenary father of her lover, who is still unmarried. Thus I hope I have alleviated to my mother, and to Elizabeth the bitterness of their loss; for I could not think of happiness for myself, if I neglected to do what seems to me to be my duty towards them. I have also assured the old servants that none of them should be removed. After all, I shall be one of the poorest of those who bear the arms of Ulster—but be it so—I am sure that I can limit my expences to my income. and that I shall be happy if I live with those I love; I am as sure that nothing that fortune could do for me, would make me happy without them. I cannot, my dear friend, figure to myself any society half so delicious as that we may enjoy together; and it will appear a thousand years till I can realize the plan I have formed.
"None of the family have been more affected with my father's illness and death, than the honest old captain, my uncle Caverly, who I fear begins to find the yoke he has so long worn, too heavy for his declining years, and sighs for the liberty he has not however courage to obtain. I enclose you the adieus of Touranges and his family, though I suppose he has written to you the same effect.—Poor fellow! wherever he may be, he shall always command my services to the extent of my limited power."
The rest of Ellesmere's letter consisted of some account of his two married sisters, with whose husbands he appeared much displeased; and then by a sudden transition he began a rapturous apostrophe to Alexina, and ended with earnest enquiries after Mrs. Denzil and her daughter.
The death of Sir Maynard Ellesmere though under circumstances so different from those which attended the last sad moments of the Viscount de Fayolles, yet brought forcibly to the mind of D'Alonville all he had felt at that melancholy period; and then the strange scenes he had since passed through, even to the present hour, passed his memory in succession. He was now indeed comparatively happy, for he was the husband of the woman he adored; but many inquietudes yet assailed him: he dreaded lest want of money, or want of health, might yet detain Mrs. Denzil in London, or even on the road; and the suspence he might yet have to endure, he knew would be intolerable should it last long. He read Ellesmere's letter again, however, and felt soothed by its contents. The filial duty Ellesmere had paid to a father, who had no other claim to it than that he was his father, was now consoling to him; and D'Alonville, when he recollected how religiously he had fulfilled, as far as was in his power, the duties he owed, felt also that satisfaction which only the discharge of duties can bestow—satisfaction which alone is equal to sustain the oppressed mind in every exigence, in every suffering that adversity can impose.
He was proudly conscious too, that, driven as he was from his home, his property and his rank, no local circumstances could level him, while he preserved his integrity and his honor, with such men as Escott and Brymore, whose illiberal manners he saw and despised, though not without some doubts of being able long to command his temper, should their arrogance carry them to more marked insults.
But it was time to return to the room where the young men took their evening lesson. When it was passed, he desired Lord Aurevalle to excuse his attendance at supper, and retired to his own apartment, where, on the table, to his infinite delight and surprise, he saw a letter lay with the Bristol post mark, and directed by the hand of Angelina, which he eagerly opened. It began with an account of the difficulties that had impeded their journey. Though a small sum of money, the produce of part of her own fortune, had been due to her mother some time, Messieurs Ramsay and Shrimpshire, through whose hands it passed, had contrived to delay their receiving it, and had put them to great expence before they paid it, though they knew it must be paid. Indignation and disappointment oppressed the enfeebled frame of Mrs. Denzil, and the longer she indured the injustice and cruelty of her fate, the more severe was the anguish with which she looked round her children. A mind strong as hers could not have been crushed by pecuniary inconvenience alone, however hard to bear; but when to necessity thus needlessly inflicted, was added the insult of arrogant fraud, and the bitter reflection, that the injustice which robbed her and her family of the decencies of life, was exercised only to enrich some of the most worthless beings that disgrace humanity, her wearied spirit sunk beneath the complicated and hopeless evil; and though when she was released from London, the change of air and of scene appeared to give her a temporary relief, she could not even for a moment regain the chearfulness so long over-clouded. Angelina described the fears she again felt but too forcibly; and to show D'Alonville the state of her mother's mind, she thus related their visit to Bristol, the day after it was made. That part of her letter was in these words: "The meeting with her old friends Mrs. Armitage, whom she had not seen for many years, served only to depress my mother's spirits, instead of reviving them, for they recalled to the memory of each other scenes they had enjoyed together; hours of (at least transient) felicity that can never return; and, as they slowly walked after us from Clifton to the path afforded by a gradual slope towards the river, I saw more than once the tears of sad recollection fall from my mother's eyes. The view, however, which the descent, and the banks of the river afforded, seemed to recall a gleam of pleasure to her countenance. Mrs. Armitage took occasion to press her to remain some time at this village, assuring her that she would find it of the greatest benefit to her health. "Besides, my dear friend," said she, "you complain that your spirits, overwhelmed by long suffering, no longer allow you to exert those talents heaven has given you—I am persuaded you would find them revive here—it is the very scene of inspiration." My mother, after a moment's farther conversation on this subject, wrote in a blank leaf of her pocket book, the following answer to her friend—
Here from the restless bed of lingering pain,
The languid sufferer seeks the tepid wave,
And feels returning health, and hope again
Disperse "the gathering shadows of the grave."
And here romantic rocks that boldly swell,
Fringed with green woods, or dy'd with veins of ore,
Call'd native genius forth, whose heaven taught skill
Charm'd the deep echoes of the rifted shore:
But tepid waves, wild scenes, or summer air,
Restore they palsied fancy, woe-deprest?
Check they the torpid influence of despair?
Or bid warm health re-animate the breast?
Where hope's sweet visions have no longer part
And whose sad inmate is a broken heart?
Try, my dear Chevalier, to comprehend it. Her verses are generally reckoned very clear; but I know and acknowledge how difficult it is to a native of another country to taste the poetry of ours.
"Though my mother persists in her resolution to proceed to her cottage, yet she could not refuse to give one day more to her friend. And could I forget, that it is another day of absence from you, D'Alonville, and that it may perhaps render you discontented and unhappy, I should be sensible of more pleasure than I can now feel in scenes entirely new to me, and unlike any thing I have ever seen before; but my enjoyment is destroyed by the reflection that you will expect us, and watch for us in vain another, and perhaps another day. I dare not even hint this to my mother, for she would check her own wishes, and hasten on, even at the expence of her health, rather than give either of us a moment's pain.—The weather is so favourable to her that I wish she may take every advantage of it; and do you, my dear friend, be patient, relying on the assurance that, though we may be a day or two later than we expected, we shall soon, very soon, be at our cottage."
Notwithstanding these and other consoling expressions with which she closed her letter, D'Alonville was now tormented with a thousand painful doubts. He believed the poetry of Mrs. Denzil to be very fine and very pathetic; but the lyre of Orpheus would not beguile him of his apprehensions, that something or other would happen to delay, perhaps entirely to prevent, the arrival of Angelina. He looked however at the date of the letter, and saw that it had been written four days: the circumstance of its not being delivered with the rest he afterwards enquired into, and found it was merely owing to the mistake of a servant, who, when Mr. Brymore took from him the other letters, had omitted to give him this out of another pocket—an omission that D'Alonville rather rejoiced at, as he could not have concealed his emotion had he received this with Ellesmere's and he saw that for some reason or other Miss Milsington, as well as Mr. Brymore, made their remarks on his manner on these occasions; and there was nothing he so much wished to avoid, as any thing that might lead any part of the family to a discovery of Angelina's abode. By the dawn of the next morning he left his sleepless pillow, and hastened to Aberlynth, in hopes of hearing that new directions had been received as to making fires throughout the house, or that something might be going forward which might intimate their speedy arrival. But all was blank and comfortless around the cottage: the woman who had been commissioned by the attorny in London, (the agent of her former mistress) to prepare the house, without her knowing the name of the person it was for, was gone out to her work, and D'Alonville returned to Rock-March in despair; convinced that the presentiment he felt was but too just, and that the visionary happiness he had enjoyed in the hope of Angelina's residence near him was already vanished for ever.
By the post of that evening he received no letter, and his anxiety and impatience encreased, while, as if to irritate both, Miss Milsington took it into her head to be more than usually attentive to him, and in despite of the raillery of Brymore, insisted on his accompanying her on the bass viol in a very difficult lesson, in which she piqued herself on her execution.
With spirits on the rack, it was impossible to command his attention. He played the wrong notes, put his fair leader out, and she became quite peevish; less because having failed in her lesson, than from the conviction that D'Alonville was thinking of something that interested him much more than pleasing her; and she had not only indulged her fancy of late in its absurd partiality to him, but had taken that polite attention which was natural to him towards every woman, and which he thought particularly due to her, for the effects of a tenderer sentiment, which she saw no reason why he might not entertain for her. She was certainly a little older than he was but men of his country have given a thousand instances of such attachments they were becoming frequent in England; and the various accomplishments she possessed might well produce a more violent, as well as a more lasting, attachment than extreme youth and transient beauty.
Such were the agreeable dreams in which the accomplished Jemima suffered her imagination to riot; and though reason now remonstrated with her, and enquired what she proposed, even if the predilection of D'Alonville for her was as warm as she sometimes believed it; whether it was possible that she, who had aspired to ducal coronets, should dream of sacrificing all for love? She evaded the troublesome interrogatories as well as she could, and sometimes attempted to repel them, by putting them to the score of pity for his altered fortunes, and respect for his talents, the partiality she felt in his favour. The ridicule, however, to which she exposed herself, by showing this partiality, gave D'Alonville real pain at the beginning of their stay at Rock-March, and now became so uneasy to him, that he foresaw it would be impossible for him long to endure it; nor could he determine to subject himself to that share of ridicule which fell upon him from two men who sometimes seemed to believe that, as a dependant, he was not to feel their rudeness, or at least not to resent it. He resolved therefore, if Mrs. Denzil did not arrive, to quit Rock-March, under pretence of having business in London for some days; and if her resolution of settling with her family in the neighbourhood was altered, to return to it no more, but to adopt some other plan of life which might not compel some other plan of life which might not compel him to live without Angelina.
As he knew Mrs. Denzil would be cautious of sending to inform him of her arrival when she knew that Lord Aberdore was still at Rock-March, he had no means of knowing what passed at Aberlynth but by going thither himself; but that he could not do only at an early hour of the morning, when it was improbable that the Denzils should be arrived. The second morning in which he made this visit he was as little content with it as before. Another evening passed and he had no letter. Every conjecture that could torment and afflict him now assailed him again, and the greatest fault of his temper, and that which he had taken the most pains to conquer—excessive impatience—would have become visible by some act of imprudence, if he had not been unexpectedly relieved.
The weather was uncommonly beautiful and serene. To escape from his own tormenting thoughts, he accompanied Lord Aurevalle and his brother out on horseback, though Mr. Paunceford was of the party.
They were on that side of the park next the village of Aberlynth, and D'Alonville was lost in painful reflections, when a boy of thirteen or fourteen years old, who could only speak the language of the country, came running towards them, and holding out a letter, said something in terms which only the groom, who was with them, understood to be an enquiry for the person to whom the letter was directed. The boy pointed (as he delivered it, that the direction might be read,) to the village from whence he brought it. D'Alonville turned pale, and neither able to repress or explain his impatience, he waited in breathless expectation, while the groom first, and then Mr. Paunceford read the direction: "To the Chevalier D'Alonville at Lord Aberdore's." This, however, Paunceford read aloud.—"It is my letter," cried D'Alonville impatiently. "Yes," replied Paunceford, "it seems to be your letter, Sir—A lady's hand too—I did not know, Monseer, that you had any acquaintance in Wales: but it seems," added he with a significant look, "that you are universally fortunate."—"D'Alonville attended not to him—at that moment the opinion of the whole world was indifferent to him. He cared not what conjectures might be formed; but tearing open his letter eagerly he read these few lines written by the hand of Mrs. Denzil.
"We are arrived. Let us see you as soon as you can come to us without awakening impertinent curiosity, which many reasons make me particularly desirous of avoiding, since I find our right honourable ci-devant cousins are still at Rock-March.—Angelina is fatigued with her journey; but I, to whom travelling is pleasure, and of course health, should be sorry that I am arrived at the end of my travels, and that I must be confined, at least for some time
To a poor cottage on the mountains brow,
Now bleak with winds, and covered now with snow;"
but that I think less of others than of myself, and from the extreme scarcity, (as far at least as I have been able to observe,) of even transient happiness, I shall be content, if for some time you and my Angelina find it in being near each other.
Adieu, my dear D'Alonville."
The perusal of this letter redoubled the impatience, if it could be encreased, with which D'Alonville was tormented, and made him more careless than before of the remarks that might be made upon his conduct. He spoke for a few moments in a low voice to Lord Aurevalle, for to Mr. Paunceford he by no means thought himself accountable, and then galloped towards Rock-March house to leave his house—which having done, he ran round by the plantation that skirted the park, in order that he might escape observations, and arrived breathless with haste and impatience at the cottage on the mountain beyond Aberlynth.
Angelina, whose spirits were fatigued, rather with anxiety about her mother than by the journey, received him with tears, but they were tears of pleasure. Mrs. Denzil and the other part of the family were busied about the little arrangements necessary to be made in their new abode, and D'Alonville and Angelina, to escape from bustle, in which she would not allow either of them to assist, walked through the garden adjoining to the house, which was almost an area cut in the rock, and ascended into the wood above it that cloathed the acclivity, and which they could attain only by a sort of rugged steps formed of roots. From amid the trees, yet very partially in leaf, a beautiful and extensive prospect appeared. But D'Alonville saw only his Angelina, and might have said with Petrarch—
Bien di quella ineffabile dolcezza
Che dei bel viso, traffen gli occhi miei
Nel di che volentier chiusi gli avrei
Per non mirar giammai, minor bellazza.
Nor was it till some hours afterwards that Mrs. Denzil could prevail upon him to return to Rock-March, by showing him that his stay made her really uneasy, and would hazard discovering to Lord Aberdore the secret of their abode in his neighbourhood, which she was very desirous of avoiding.—"Not, my dear Chevalier," said she, "that I have the least reverence for this titled man, or the least apprehension of any ill effects from his displeasure; but he might believe I came hither to solicit his notice, or court his protection. The consequence of the man to himself is though to make him suppose that I think his patronage worth any sacrifice; and his meanness is such, that he would be full of expedients to escape from the importunities of poor relations as soon as possible, and before it was known here that any alliance had ever been acknowledged between his family and that of my children. this would subject me to messages, letters, or even visits, which I could very ill support; and it would besides render abortive your plan, equally prudent and generous, of finding in his family a resource against the inconveniencies to which your exile, and the wish you have to assist your friends, may expose you. Had I been aware that Lord Aberdore would have resided here any time, I should certainly have put off my journey; but as it is, my dear friend, we must make the best of it. The inhabitants of this obscure place will never be enquired after by those of Rock-March, unless some indiscretion forces us upon their observation; and those indiscretions for a short time we must endeavour to avoid."
D'Alonville concealed as well as he could the reluctance with which he yielded to these reasons for tearing himself from Angelina; but he insisted upon it that his evenings were his own; that nobody had a right to enquired how he then disposed of his time; and that he would quite Rock-March immediately after supper, and return to it in the morning before he was enquired for, as he could easily do. Mrs. Denzil doubted this extremely; but he made it, as he thought so clearly appear and was so bent on obtaining this permission, that it was at length partly granted; on condition, however, of his taking his after-supper-walk only on fine evenings, and when he was not likely to be missed.
As with slow and unwilling steps he returned to the great house, he recollected that for his abrupt departure and long absence some reason should be given;—he felt degraded by having thus subjected himself to enquiries and remarks; and all his fortitude was necessary to enable him to determine still to submit to this restraint. But when he remembered how much the task he had undertaken would enable him to soften to his Angelina the harshness of her destiny—how well she deserved all he could do for her, and how delicious it was to sacrifice his pride and his ease to an object so beloved, he stepped more lightly along and as he entered the house looked back with an air of triumph towards the cottage he had left, and half exclaimed—"She is there! fifteen minutes will at any time bring me to her—and of what do I complain?"
As he entered the lower hall, which it was necessary to cross as he went up to his own room, he met Miss Milsington——"So, Chevalier," cried she, "the young men have been enquiring for you; we imagined indeed that you were lost."
"You do me too much honour, Madam, to think about me. I am sorry if I have not been punctual in attending Lord Aurevalle and his brothers; but I do not often give them cause for complaint, and I had some business a mile or two from hence."
"Business!" replied she, "indeed!—I did not know you had any acquaintance in this country—Your friend, Mr. Pauncefort," added she significantly, "has been finding many good natured reasons for your absence.—But we are going to dinner.—It is past six o'clock—I see you are not dressed."
The lady then passed on, and D'Alonville, hastening to his own room, prepared as expeditiously as he could for his appearance at dinner, to which the last bell in a few moments summoned him.
But here, contrary to his expectation, nothing was said by any body of his unusual absence. Lord Aberdore, who seldom noticed either of the tutors, more than by a great bow or a short sentence of common civility, was now engaged by two strangers from another part of the country, who arrived that day. Lady Aberdore was talking in her usual way to her brother, Mr. Brymore, and Miss Milsington; but this whole party seemed less gay than usual, for it had to-day been settled, after some opposition on the part of the lady, that the family were yet to remain another week at Rock-March:—to this she had yielded only on condition of not being asked to return thither for at least twelve months, and that she should go to Bath, a place of which she was extremely fond, for three weeks, instead of going to London with her Lord, who was at the end of this week under the necessity of returning thither:—she had stipulated too with Brymore and Escott to remain; to both of whom she appealed whether she was not the very best wife in the world.—"Who on earth, but me," exclaimed she, "would stay for above three weeks in an old Welsh castle, with nothing better to talk to than one's brother, and such an animal as you, Brymore?—Well! I do think I am exemplary.
Far other were the thoughts of Angelina, who had quitted London with delight, and now thought herself as near happiness as she ever expected to be in the world. Her mother's health seemed almost re-established:—she hoped in the very retired and economical manner in which they proposed to live, that her mind would be no longer harassed by the pecuniary distresses which had for so many years agitated her spirits and injured her constitution; and for herself, she had nothing else to wish—for she was near her husband—and when a few days should leave him at liberty to dispose of some portion of his time by the departure of the family from Rock-March, she hoped to have the inexpressible delight of wandering with him among the rocky wilds and deep woods of a country entirely new to her. Already from a spot higher on the mountain than she had been with D'Alonville, she found a spot from whence one end of the house at Rock-March was visible; the broad sash windows glittered in the setting sun; and Angelina loved to believe that they were the windows of D'Alonville's apartment, which he described to her as being on the second floor, at a corner of the house where the offices adjoined to it. Here Angelina proposed to pass some time of every day, when her mother should be able to dispense with her presence; and here she planned a little bower, by interweaving the branches of the hazel and birch that crowded over a scar in the rocky bosom of the hill. This she figured to herself that D'Alonville would do for her, as well as construct a little rustic bench of the mossy branches of some older trees.—Already in the tall woods beneath the mountain, the rooks were busied in the feeding and attending their almost fledged young; the ground was covered with the early flowers of spring; and the paths Angelina trod were literally "primrose paths." In their little garden below, her little brother, a child of eight years old, was already making his arrangements with the infantine delight natural to that age, on coming to a new abode; and her youngest sister was producing her collection of flower seeds, which she proposed to divide with him on condition of his digging the border for her. Every simple object around her spoke to Angelina of hope and pleasure.