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then performed the same office for Charles, who stood on a chair while delivering his eloquent acknowledgement of the toast.
[Oh that anguished brow of thine, Aubrey, (thank God it is unobserved!) but it tells me that the iron is entering thy soul.]
And the moment that he had done -Kate folding her arms around him and kissing him-down they all jumped, and, a merry throng, scampered off to the drawing-room, (followed by Kate,) where blind-man's buff, husbands and wives, and divers other little games, kept them in constant enjoyment. After tea they were to have dancing-Kate mistress of the ceremonies-and 'twas quite laughable to see how perpetually she was foiled in her efforts to form the little sets. The girls were orderly enough -but their wild little partners were quite uncontrollable. The instant they were placed, and Kate had gone to the instrument and struck off a note or two-heigh!-there was a scrambling little crowd, jumping, and laughing, and chattering, and singing Over and over again she formed them into sets, with the like results. But at length a young lady, one of their governesses, took Miss Aubrey's place at the piano, leaving the latter to superintend the performances in person. She at length succeeded in getting up something like a countrydance, led off by Charles and little Lady Anne Cherville, the eldest daughter of the Earl of Oldacre, a beautiful child of about five years old, and who, judging from appearances, bade fair, in due time, to become another Lady Caroline Caversham. You would have laughed outright to watch the coquettish airs which this little creature gave herself with Charles, whom yet she evidently could not bear to see dancing with another.
"Now I shall dance with somebody else!" he exclaimed, suddenly letting go Lady Anne, and snatching hold of a sweet little thing, Miss Berton, that was standing modestly beside him. The discarded beauty walked with a stately air, and a swelling heart, towards Mrs Aubrey, who sat beside her husband on the sofa; and on reaching her, she stood for a few moments silently watching her late partner busily engaged with her successor and then she burst into tears. NO. CCXCIV. VOL. XLVII.
"Charles!"-called out Mrs Aubrey; who had watched the whole affair, and could hardly keep her countenance-"come here directly,
"Yes, mamma!" he exclaimedquite unaware of the serious aspect which things were assuming—and, without quitting the dance, where he was (as his jealous mistress too plainly saw, for, despite her grief, her eye seemed to follow all his motions) skipping about with infinite glee with a third partner-a laughing sister of his last partner.
"Come here, Charles," said Mr Aubrey; and in an instant his little son, all flushed and breathless, was at his side.
"Well, dear papa!" said he, keeping his eye fixed on the little throng he had just quitted, and where his deserted partner was skipping about alone.
What have you been doing to Lady Anne, Charles?" said his father.
"Nothing, dear papa!" he replied, still wistfully eyeing the dancers.
"You know you left me, and went to dance with Miss Berton; you did, Charles!" said the offended beauty.
"That is not behaving like a little gentleman, Charles," said his father. The tears came into the child's eyes.
"I'm very sorry, dear papa, I will dance with her'
"No, not now," said Lady Anne haughtily.
Oh, pooh! pooh!-kiss and be friends," said Mrs Aubrey," and go and dance as prettily as you were doing before." Little Aubrey put his arms round Lady Anne, kissed her, and away they both started to the dance again. While the latter part of this scene was going on, Mr Aubrey's eye caught the figure of a servant who made his appearance at the door, and then retired, (for such had been Mr Aubrey's orders, in the event of any messenger coming from Grilston.) Hastily whispering that he should return soon, he left the room. In the hall stood a messenger from Mr Parkinson; and on seeing Mr Aubrey, he took out a packet and retired, Mr Aubrey, with evident trepidation, repairing to his library. With a trembling hand he broke the seal, and found the following letter from Mr Parkinson, with three other enclo
"Grilston, 12th Jan. 18-.
"My dear Sir,
"I have only just received, and at once forward to you, copies of the three opinions given by the AttorneyGeneral, Mr Mansfield, and Mr Crystal. I lament to find that they are of a most discouraging character. They are quite independent of each other, having been laid before their respective writers at the same moment; yet you will observe that all three of them have hit upon precisely the same point, viz. that your grandfather had no right to succeed to the inheritance till there was a failure of the heirs of Dame Dorothy Duddlington. If, therefore, our opponents have contrived to ferret out any one who satisfies that designation, (I cannot conjecture how they ever got upon the scent,) I really fear we must prepare for the worst. I have been quietly pushing my enquiries in all directions, with a view to obtaining a clue to the case intended to be set up against us, and which you will find very shrewdly guessed at by the Attorney. General. Nor am I the only party in the field who has been making pointed enquiries in your neighbourhood; but of this more when we meet to-morrow. "I remain
"Yours very respectfully, J. PARKINSON. “Charles Aubrey, Esq., M.P.”
Having read this letter, Mr Aubrey sunk back in his chair, and remained motionless for more than a quarter of an hour. At length he roused himself and read over the opinions; the effect of which he found had been but too correctly given by Mr Parkinson. Some suggestions and enquiries put by the acute and experienced Mr Crystal, suddenly revived recollections of one or two incidents even of his boyish days, long forgotten, but which, as he reflected upon them, began to re-appear to his mind's eye with sickening distinctness. Wave after wave of agony passed over him, chilling and benumbing his heart within him; so that, when his little son came some time afterwards running up to him, with a message from his mamma, that she hoped he could come back to see them all play at snapdragon before they went to bed, he answered him mechanically, hardly seeming sensible even of his presence. At length, with
a groan that came from the depths of his heart, he rose, and walked to and fro, sensible of the necessity of exerting himself, and preparing himself, in some degree, for encountering his mother, his wife, and his sister. Taking up his candle, he hastened to his dressing-room, where he hoped, by the aid of refreshing ablutions, to succeed in effacing at least the stronger of these traces of suffering which his glass displayed to him, as it reflected the image of his blanched and agitated countenance. A sudden recollection of the critical and delicate situation of his idolized wife, glanced through his heart like a keen arrow. He sunk upon the sofa, and, clasping his hands, looked the most forlorn object that could be imagined. While he was in this deplorable state of mind, the door was pushed hastily but gently open; and, first looking in to see that it was really he of whom she was in search, in rushed Mrs Aubrey, pale and agitated, having been alarmed by his non-appearance in the drawing-room, and the look of the servant from whom she had learned that his master had been for some time gone up stairs.
"Charles! my love! my sweet love!" she exclaimed wildly, rushing up to him, flinging herself down beside him, and casting her arms round his neck. Overcome by the suddenness of her appearance and movements, for a moment he spoke not, but stared at her as if stupified.
"For mercy's sake-as you love me!-tell me, my darling, darling Charles, what has happened!"
"Nothing-love-nothing;" but his look belied his speech.
"Oh! am not I the wife of your bosom, dearest? Charles, I shall go distracted if you do not tell me what has happened. I know that something--something dreadful." He put his arm round her waist, and drew her tenderly towards him. He felt her heart beating violently. He kissed her cold forehead, but spoke not.
"Come, dearest! let me share your sorrows," said she, in a thrilling voice. "Cannot you trust your Agnes? Has not Heaven sent me as a helpmeet for you?"
"I love you, Agnes! ay, more than ever man loved woman!" he murmured, and buried his face in her bosom. Her arms folded him in closer
how very weak and foolish I have been to yield to
my own love! Must I then tell you of the misfortune that has overtaken us?" She gazed at him in mute and breathless apprehension. "They are bringing an action against me, which, if successful, may cause us all to quit Yatton-and, it may be, for ever.
"Oh, Charles!" she murmured, her eyes riveted upon his, while she unconsciously moved nearer to him, and trembled. Her head drooped upon his shoulder.
"Why is this?" she whispered. "Let us, dearest, talk of it another time. I have now told you what you asked me. He poured her out a glass of water. Having drunk a little, she appeared revived.
"Is all lost? Do, my own Charles -let me know the worst."
We are young, Agnes, and have the world before us. Health and honour are better than riches. You and our little loves-the children which God has given us-are my riches," said he, gazing with unspeakable fondness at her. "Even should it be the will of Heaven that this affair should go against us-so long as they cannot separate us from each other, they cannot really hurt us." She suddenly kissed him with frantic energy, and an hysteric smile gleamed over her pallid excited features.
Calm yourself, Agnes!-calm -yourself, for my sake!-as -as you love me!" His voice quivered. "Oh,
"No, no, no!" she gasped, evidently labouring with hysteric oppression. "Hush!" said she, suddenly starting, and wildly leaning forward towards the door which opened into the gallery leading to the various bedrooms. He listened the mother's ear had been quick and true. He presently heard the sound of many children's voices approaching: they were the little party, accompanied by Kate, on their way to bed; and little Charles's voice was loudest, and his laugh the merriest of them all. The wild smile of hysterics gleamed on Mrs Aubrey's face; her hand grasped her husband's with convulsive pressure; and she suddenly sunk, rigid and senseless, upon the sofa. He seemed for a moment stunned at the sight of her motionless figure. Soon, however, recovering his presence of mind, he rang the bell, and one or two female attendants quickly appeared; and by their joint assistance Mrs Aubrey was carried to her bed in the adjoining room, where, by the use of the ordinary remedies, she was presently restored to consciousness. Her first languid look was towards Mr Aubrey, whose hand she slowly raised to her lips.
She tried to raise a smile into her wan features-but 'twas in vain; and, after a few heavy and half-choking sobs, her overcharged feelings found relief in a flood of tears.
of the liveliest apprehensions as to the effect of this violent emotion upon her, in her delicate condition, he remained with her for some time, pouring into her ear every soothing and tender expression he could think of. He at length succeeded in bringing her into a somewhat more tranquil state than he could have expected. strictly enjoined the attendants, who had not quitted their lady's chamber, and whose alarmed and inquisitive looks he had noticed for some time with anxiety, to preserve silence concerning what they had so unexpectedly witnessed, adding that something unfortunate had happened, of which they would hear but too soon.
"Are you going to tell Kate? whispered Mrs Aubrey, sorrowfully. "Surely, love, you have suffered enough through my weakness. Wait till to-morrow. Let her have a few more happy hours."
solved to put you at once in possession of what I myself know. Can you bear bad news well, Kate?"
She turned very pale, and drawing her chair nearer to her brother, said, "Do not keep me in suspense, Charles I can bear any thing but suspense that is dreadful! What has happened? Oh dear," she added, with sudden alarm," where are mamma and Agnes?" She started to her feet.
"I assure you they are both well, Kate. My mother is now doubtless asleep, and as well as she ever was; Agnes is in her bedroom-certainly much distressed at the news which I am going"
"No, Agnes-it was my own weakness which caused me to be surprised into this premature disclosure to you. And now I must meet her again to-night, and I cannot control either my features or my feelings. Yes, poor Kate, she must know all to-night! I shall not be long absent, Agnes." And directing her maid to remain with her till he returned, he withdrew, and with slow step and heavy heart descended to the library; preparing himself for another heartbreaking scene-plunging another innocent and joyous creature into misery, which he believed to be inevitable. Having looked into the drawing-room as he passed it, and seen no one there-his mother having, as usual, retired at a very early hour -he rung his library bell, and desired Miss Aubrey's maid to request her mistress to come down to him there, as soon as she was at leisure. He was glad that the only light in the room was that given out by the fire, which was not very bright, and so would in some degree shield his features from, at all events, immediate scrutiny. His heart ached as, shortly afterwards, he heard Kate's light step crossing the hall. When she entered, her eyes sparkled with vivacity, and a smile was on her beauteous cheek. Her dress was tumbled, and her hair hung disordered and half uncurled the results of her sport with the little ones whom she had been seeing to bed.
"What merry little things, to be sure!" she commenced, laughingly"I could not get them to lie still a moment-popping their little heads in and out of the clothes. A fine night I shall have with Sir Harry! for he is to be my bedfellow, and I dare say I shall not sleep a wink all night. Why, Charles, how very-very grave you look to-night!" she added quickly, observing his eye fixed moodily upon her.
“'Tis you who are so very gay,” he replied, endeavouring to smile. "I want to speak to you, dear Kate,” he commenced affectionately, " on a serious matter. I have received some letters to-night"
Kate coloured suddenly and violently, and her heart beat; but, sweet soul! she was mistaken-very, very far off the mark her troubled brother
was aiming at. "And, relying on your strength of mind, I have re
"Oh why, Charles, did you tell any thing distressing to her?" claimed Miss Aubrey with an alarmed air.
“She came upon me by surprise, Kate. 'Twould have been infinitely more dangerous to have kept her in suspense; but she is recovering. I shall soon return to her. And now, my dear Kate-I know your strong sense and spirit-a very great calamity hangs over us. Let you and me," he grasped her hands affectionately," stand it steadily, and support those who cannot."
"Let me at once know all, Charles. See if I do not bear it as becomes your sister," said she, with forced calmness.
"If it should become necessary for all of us to retire into obscurityhumble obscurity, dear Kate-how do you think you could bear it?"
"If it will be an honourable obscurity-nay, 'tis quite impossible to be dis-honourable obscurity," said Miss Aubrey, with a momentary flash of energy.
"Never, never, Kate! The Aubreys may lose every thing on earth but the jewel HONOUR, and love for one another."
"Let me know all, Charles," said Miss Aubrey, in a low tone, but with a look of the deepest apprehension.
"A strange claim is set up-by one I never heard of-to the whole of the property I now enjoy."
Miss Aubrey started, and the colour faded from her cheek.
"But is it a true claim, Charles?" "That remains to be proved. But I will disguise nothing from you-I have woful apprehensions"
"Do you mean to say that Yatton is not ours?" enquired Miss Aubrey, catching her breath.
"So, my dearest girl, it is said." Miss Aubrey looked bewildered, and pressed her hand to her forehead. "How shocking!-shocking! shocking!" she gasped. "What is to become of mamma?"
"God Almighty will not desert her in her old age. He will desert none of us, dearest, if we only trust in Him," said her brother.
Miss Aubrey remained gazing at him intently, and continued perfectly motionless.
"Must we all leave Yatton?" said she, faintly.
"If this claim succeeds-but we shall leave it together, Kate.”
She threw her arms round his neck, and wept bitterly.
"Hush, hush, Kate!" said he, perceiving the increasing violence of her emotions, "restrain your feelings for the sake of my mother-and Agnes."
His words had the desired effect: the poor girl made a desperate effort. Unclasping her arms from her brother's neck, she sat down in her chair, breathing hard; and, after a few minutes' pause, she said, faintly, “ I am better now. Do tell me more, Charles! Let me have something to think about—only don't say any thing about -about-mamma and Agnes!" In spite of herself a visible shudder ran through her frame.
"It seems, Kate," said he, with all the calmness he could assume "at least they are trying to prove that our family had no right to succeed to this property; that there is living the right heir; his case has been taken up by powerful friends; and-let me tell you the worst at once-the first lawyers in the kingdom seem to agree that he is entitled to recover the whole of Yatton-even the lawyers consulted by Mr Parkinson on my behalf”
"But is mamma provided for?" whispered Miss Aubrey, almost inarticulately. "When I look at her again, I shall almost break my heart."
"No, Kate, you won't. Heaven will give you strength," said her brother, in a tremulous voice. "Remember, my only sister-my darling Kate! you must support me in my trouble we will support one another "
"We will!-we will!" interrupted
Miss Aubrey-instantly checking, however, her rising excitement.
"You bear it bravely, my noble girl!" said Mr Aubrey, fondly, after a brief interval of silence.
She turned from him her head, and moved her hand-in deprecation of expressions that might utterly unnerve her. Then she convulsively clasped her hands over her forehead; and, after a minute or two, turned towards him with tears in her eyes, but tranquillized features. The struggle had been dreadful, though brief-her noble spirit recovered itself.
'Twas like a fair bark, in mortal conflict with the black and boiling waters and howling hurricane; long quivering on the brink of destruction, but at last outliving the storm, righting itself, and suddenly gliding into safe and tranquil waters.
The distressed brother and sister sat conversing for a long time, frequently in tears, but with infinitely greater calmness and firmness than could have been expected. They agreed that Dr Tatham should very early in the morning be sent for, and implored to take upon himself the bitter duty of breaking the matter to their mother; its effects upon whom, her children anticipated with the most vivid apprehension. They then retired-Kate to a sleepless pillow, and her brother to spend a greater portion of the night in attempts to sooth and console his suffering wife; each of them having first knelt in humble reverence, and poured forth the breathings of a stricken and bleeding heart before Him who hath declared that he HEARETH and ANSWERETH prayer.
Ah! who can tell what a day or an hour may bring forth?
"It won't kindle-not a bit on'tit's green and full o' sap. Go out, and get us a log that's dry and old, George -and let's try to have a bit of a blaze in t'ould chimney, this bitter night,” said Isaac Tonson, the gamekeeper at Yatton, to the good-natured landlord of the Aubrey Arms, the little-and only-inn of the village. The suggestion was instantly attended to.
"How Peter's a-feathering of his geese to-night, to be sure!" exclaimed the landlord on his return, shaking the snow off his coat, and laying on the fire a great dry old log of wood, which seemed very acceptable to the