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THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
I am advised to give her music o'mornings;
I was early in the concert-room, and soon saw the entry of those who alone gave it a charm in my eyes.
From I know not what cause, Charles was not among them, which did not displease me; but Mr. Hastings escorted his daughter and sister, the sheriff's lady, with a daughter, Miss Lucinda Mansell, a pleasing girl, and her odious brother.
Bertha was arrayed in all her loveliness of person and elegance of attire, combining the dignity of a queen with the grace of a nymph; in short, with all that distinction, yet suavity of manner, which attracted the regard and attention of every one, from the highest to the lowest. Accordingly, she was surrounded in a moment by the élite of the gentry at York; while I, at a distance, was more than ever shrunk in my own littleness, and more than ever impressed with my own temerity.
However, the commencement of the concert dissipated these reflections, and left me eager for the per
formance of the important strain; an eagerness which, from the reputation of Mr. Granville, who was known to have composed the music, and was otherwise so well known at York, seemed to be shared by the audience.
It met with complete success. The melody was so beautiful, that it would have insured favour to any words ; but the words themselves had also a share of praise. This I found from the remarks of many to whom I sat near, particularly of some young females of prepossessing appearance; though it was chiefly valuable to me for the hope this caused that Bertha might be of the same opinion. From what they said they plainly thought that Mr. Granville was the author of the stanzas as well as the music. " What a delightful man that Mr. Granville must be !” said these young ladies.
Can I deny my pleasure? But, safely can I say, that it was only or chiefly because it shewed it possible that another might think so too, and the verses be approved by her as well as by these strangers. This I thought not unlikely; for the enviable Granville, enrolled in the Hastings' party, was seated next to his lovely relation, who, to the annoyance of her other cousin, Mansell, who sat on the other side, gave him all her attention. Nay, it was obvious, for I could see it from my station, that she was complimenting him upon the melody, and perhaps upon the words, thinking them his; for he replied to her animated address with a succession of bows, but also with shakes of the head; the one evidently from acquiescence, the other as evidently from disclaimer.
All this was confirmed to me afterwards by himself, and, on leaving the room, I had the delight not only of receiving an angelic look of kindness from Bertha as she passed, but a direct appeal to my opinion, whether the thought in the new stanzas were not charming ? Moreover, this was crowned by an observation, that I had not called again upon her father.
I went home, plunged in a sea of delight, and could not sleep that night for joy.
The next day, Mr. Granville called again, and gladdened me by reporting what many, but particularly Bertha, thought of the stanzas. They were pathetic, generous, she said, delicate, and full of devotion, which could scarcely fail, she thought, to win the object of them.
What an agitating recital for me! Granville knew not the flame he was fanning, or the firmness he was undermining in relating this, « Let me tell you, however,” said he, “ that my honesty underwent no slight trial with my delightful kinswoman, who would have it, spite of my asseverations to the contrary, that I was the author; and concluded, playfully (you know how frank she is), that she was glad that the verses were not made upon her, for she should be in danger.”
My cheek became instantly all fire at this account, which luckily Mr. Granville, having moved to the window to look at a passing carriage, did not perceive; but I was in still greater danger when he added, “ By the way, Miss Hastings thought you very ungallant yesterday, considering how intimate you had formerly been at Foljambe Park, and wondered at your keeping so aloof in the same room, but supposed you had grown fine at Oxford. She owned, however, you were the cleverest man in the world at saving a lady from a fall in a ball-room.”
Granville having thus unconsciously set fire to a train, the mischief or extent of which he could not foresee, left me in a sort of trance, from which for very many minutes I did not recover.
When I awoke, it is astonishing what a confusion I felt in my brain. Surprise, pleasure, uncertainty, hope, timidity, doubt, fluctuation, resolution-in short, like the booby Silvius* (who seems no booby either as to his own case), I was “all made of passion, wishes, adoration, duty, observance, humbleness, patience, and impatience.”
My thoughts of fight were alternately renewed and suspended. The lover, as well as the drowning man, catches at a straw. From Granville's account it was plain I had a portion of—I was going to say her favour-but no ! even the Lover's Hope could not fabricate that so I contented myself with calling it good-will; and did not her cheerful, kind nature bestow good-will on every one, even Mansell ?
But then, what could I expect by remaining ? To be looked down upon ! to be told to keep my distance ! not by her, but by her brother, perhaps her father! Forbid it pride! Forbid it prudence! Forbid it the noble name of Clifford, however decayed !
Yet to fly, to lose all mastery over myself ! to live a coward in my own esteem ! a slave! an exile ! forbid
As You Like It.
it the same pride and noble name ! forbid it everything that was manly, firm, or independent !
Unable to decide, or even to think; unnerved by Granville's information, though only of a very common-place matter, meaning at best little, perhaps nothing,—I again sought my dear brook, sure, at least, of there finding solitude and leisure for my deliberations.
But I was disappointed ; it was solitude no longer. And how was it broken in upon ? The romantic Granville had found it out as well as myself, though he had not, like myself, wooed it for the sake of retirement. In fact, upon his discovering its pleasantness, he had tempted the very persons I was striving to avoid to recreate themselves in its shade and seclusion, while their more busy relatives, the sheriff and Mr. Hastings, were moiling in the service of their country, in a hot court of justice. Accordingly, he had persuaded Bertha, chaperoned by her aunt, Mrs. Mansell, and accompanied by both her cousins, to pass half an hour in that cool retreat.
What a rencontre was here! No escaping if I would! Unwilling if I could.
Bertha, in a simple flowered gown, and that most becoming of all the parts of female attire, a walking bonnet, was more attracting than ever, because more like one of my own degree. This perhaps I could have withstood; but her pleased look, and the manner in which she ejaculated, as if they had escaped unintentionally, the words, “O! Mr. De Clifford, this is quite unexpected, and very apropos"-put all thought but of unmixed devotion to fight.