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Mrs. Griffiths, to trim a cap, pelerine, and apron for you: so you must oblige me by wearing it at my son's christening, that is, should not a little unwelcome girl arrive to disappoint all our hopes.”
“ It would break our dear Marquis's heart, I believe ;' interposed Lady Jane, handing her friend the card of superb lace : “ he has been so long hoping for an heir, to cut off that odious nephew of his, Mr. Desborough, and thinks so much of his present expectations, that I am sure I dare not tell him, should you have a daughter."
" Yes,” sighed the Marchioness, “it would break all our hearts; for I never shall present him with a child again! Do you like the pattern of that lace, Mrs. Griffiths ?" I see you do: it shall be sent to your apartment;” and she rang for her upper maid, a demure, consequential sort of person, “ to carry it to the work-box of Mrs. Griffiths, and place it on the lid.” I could only bow my thanks, for my heart was full of many thoughts. I had ascertained whilst Lady Jane Urquhart took out the card of lace from the Indian inlaid cabinet, that part at least of my suspicions were true!
"Why do you not lie down on the other ottoman, my love?" demanded the lady of the mansion of her friend : " indeed, dear Jane, you do not take sufficient care of yourself; you pamper me up, make quite a puppet of me, but you never seem to think that your life is of as much conse. quence as mine ;”-and she looked at me.
“ You are too considerate for me, dearest Georgiana,” replied Lady Jane, with a face suffused with blushes, and a sidelong glance at me. “Mrs. Griffiths, such is the extreme attachment I feel for this my earliest, and, indeed, my only friend, that I shall not be easy a moment away from her when she is confined."
I remained silent-indeed, there was nothing that required an observation from myself; but I felt a palpitation at my heart as she spoke, and a sort of dread of what was to come next. I even rose up to depart, but was overruled by both ladies in a breath : “ They were lowspirited ; they would thank me to remain an hour or two with them." The Marchioness especially complained of being rather unwell, at which her friend turned as pale as death, and suddenly burst into a flood of tears.
"You see her affection for me," said the lovely Marchioness, throwing back the ringlets of her hair, and half rising from the couch. “She will fret herself to death if she is divided from me by punctilio, when I take to my chamber ; indeed, I shall be very unhappy myself. Can there be an objection, Mrs. Griffiths, for a small Turkish bed to be put up for my dear friend in my sleeping apartment, and then I shall know she is close beside me by night and by day?"
“It is always customary, my Lady," cried I, drily enough, “to preserve the greatest quiet in the apartment of ladies situated as your Ladyship is; any excitement is thought injurious, and therefore -'
"—And therefore it is that I would wish to have Lady Jane Urquhart sleep in my chamber;" said the Marchioness, with a slight pettishness of manner. “If she is with me, I am ever calm, contented, happy ; away from her, I am uneasy, peevish, and irritable. As for quiet, Lady Jane is always so: she need not even speak to me if you, my good madam, forbid it: but, as for the Turkish bed, I shall order it to be put up immediately; I am sure the room is large enough, and the sooner it is done the better,"—and the orders were given through her own woman.
I now rose up to go, in good earnest; and I doubt not my countenance expressed some shade of displeasure; for ( am somewhat of a dignified sort of a person, and here was my judgment-my professional judgment -set at nought, without scruple or apology.
Lady Jane Urquhart perceived that her friend, the Marchioness, had gone too far; and she came forward to conciliate. She appeared so agitated too, that from my very soul I pitied her. I sat myself down again, and listened to what she had to say.
“My dear Mrs. Griffiths,” urged that beautiful lady; “ you are not a common personage. You have acuteness, discretion, humanity ”
As she pronounced this last word “humanity," her voice became tremulous, her lips quivered, and she turned exceedingly faint.
In an instant the Marchioness started from her couch, and flew to support her friend; I also tendered my services. Very soon Lady Jane recovered her self-possession : she turned her eyes on mine; they were suffused with tears, and had a look so appealing, so full of agony, that I could not resist their speechless pleading. “Madam," said I, “be comforted; if there is any thing I can do to save exposure, I shall be happy. As yet I know not what are your plans; but if I can lend myself to them with honour, assure yourself, I will do so.”
“ Generous and kind woman!" sobbed out Lady Jane Urquhart, upon my bosom.
"Most amply shall you be rewarded for this behaviour,” cried the Marchioness, taking from her finger a precious ring, and placing it on mine. “Save but the reputation of my beloved friend, and—”
“ Most richly,” said I, “shall I be rewarded in my own feelings. Permit, me, madam, respectfully to return this ring; I cannot accept it for the simple exercise of that holy charity which is due from every woman on earth to any other, when situated as I grieve to see is the poor young lady now before us.”
“ Then you before suspected it?” breathlessly exclaimed the Lady Jane. “I thought this Eastern costume, Georgiana, would have effectually concealed it! the folding of this Cachemire so worn! O, should any one-the domestics-should Lucy Calvert have guessed it! What think you, Mrs. Griffiths? Let me implore you to tell me your opinion.”
"Speak out fearlessly ;" said the Marchioness, taking my hand, and replacing the same ring upon my finger. “You know not of how much consequence it is that all this should remain a profound secret amongst ourselves. The Marquis would run mad if he thought it ever would transpire."
“Does the marquis, then, know of the precise situation of his relative ?" I demanded with an air of extreme surprise. “I have heard that the Lady Jane Urquhart is his cousin, and I should fear --"
I distinctly caught another look of peculiar meaning pass between the two ladies on my saying this, and it stopped me in the middle of my speech-the glance to me was inexplicable>I tried to solve it, but could not, and a reserve of manner, a painful consciousness of evil, again crept upon me, which neither the blandishments of the Mar
chioness, nor the pensiveness of her friend, could remove. I felt as if some snare were spreading for me beneath my feet, and I repented me of the glow of womanish enthusiasm I had just experienced.
“ It is the silver horn of his courier !” exclaimed Lady Jane Urquhart, springing up from her seat, and clasping her hands in ecstasy. “Dearest Georgiana! he is returned ! returned ! in another moment we shall behold him!”
“Scarcely had the words passed the lips of Lady Jane, when the door of the apartment suddenly opened, and, before I could make my escape by the other, a tall and exceedingly handsome man, with a rich travelling pelisse, lined and trimmed with most expensive sables, darted into the room, and caught the Marchioness in his arms, who I thought received him very coldly, nay, even half repulsed him, whilst some kind of anguish or other passed across her faultless countenance. The husband turned away, I saw, with some resentment and mortification in his manner, and met the melting eyes of Lady Jane Urquhart, and received her not reluctant form into his affectionate embrace.
“Dearest cousin !" I heard him say, as I left the apartment, “why is not my own Georgiana as tender and as loving as thou art !”
“All this is very strange," I said to myself, as I sat myself down in my own apartment. “What a superb looking man is the Marquis ! Quite a prince in appearance! What very handsome features ! What a very fine person! What a noble profile - black mustachios! curling hair! a very model for a painter! and yet it is evident his lady loves him not! What a reception did she give him after an absence of six months! How very cool! almost insulting! How much fonder she is of her friend, than of her husband !-such a husband, too!”
Thus did I cogitate for at least a couple of hours after the arrival of the master of the house, and then I turned my thoughts towards the elegant Cachemire, the card of costly Brussels-lace, and the rich emerald ring that had been presented to me that day—“ And for what?" I asked of my bosom's counsellor. It answered, “ Only for assisting to hide the shame of a young and noble lady, who is on the point of becoming a mother, without being a wife! Well! I see no great harm in that; and no doubt the offspring of this unsanctioned liaison will be cared for-It shall," I said aloud, as the two men-servants brought me in some sandwiches cut from the breast of a guinea-fowl, and a glass of white-wine negus, for my supper. They started at hearing my apostrophe, and beholding my air of determination ; but I changed the expression of my face very quickly into blandness, eat a couple of the sandwiches, sipped my negus, asked for a little more sugar, sipped again; then, taking up my gold candlestick, and lighting the aromatic wax from one of the argand lamps, with the shawl hanging across my arm, the card of Brussels-lace in my other hand, and my emerald-ring on my finger, I marched up-stairs to my elegant dressing-room, deposited my treasures in one of my drawers, and then sat down to ruminate again at my dressing-room fire, when Mrs. Cottrell, the Marchioness's favourite woman, requested admittance.
“ Pray come in,” I said, expecting she came to summon me to her lady's chamber.
"All is tranquil as yet, Mrs. Griffiths,” whispered the lady's maid; "but I think we shall be disturbed before the morning, for Lady Jane Urquhart has been very ill; so I thought I would come in and have a little chat with you.”
“I am obliged to you, Mrs. Cottrell," I replied rather distantly, “ but I was just preparing to retire for the night ; I must secure all the repose I can you know, whilst it is in my power.".
“I beg your pardon,” continued the precise femme de chambre, “but the Marchioness herself wished me to speak to you, to communicate "
“I know quite enough, Mrs. Cottrell," said I, rather impatiently; " my duty here is to take care of your lady and her infant, when it is newly born. I will perform this duty with my utmost skill and tenderness; but I want to have no confidences reposed in me, I have suffered too much for them already."
“Am I to return that answer to the Marchioness ? ” enquired Mrs. Cottrell simpering : “it is of no use,” she added, “ attempting to play the heroics here; we are all in for it, and we must get out of it the best way we can."
“I do not understand what you mean by being in for it,'” said I, trying to look grave, yet obliged to smile at the oddness of her phrase. “The Marchioness is in for it,' as you observe, certainly, and so is -"
“Poor Lady Jane Urquhart,” interrupted the demure Abigail. “What will be the end of it, is more than I can say : but, poor thing! she is much to be pitied.”
"No doubt of it," I observed, becoming more interested every moment : “who is the villain who has deserted so beautiful a creature ? I wonder the Marquis does not call him out, and insist upon his rendering her justice! the bosom friend, too, of the marchioness! and his own near relative! I trust she has not been the dupe of some married man ; for, in that case, little good can come of it.”
“Good!” repeated Mrs. Cottrell : “well, no matter, you will find it all out in time. I shall say no more, so good night, Mrs. Griffiths,” and away marched the sober-minded lady's maid.
The night passed without any interruption. In the morning the Marquis posted away to meet the king in council, and give an account of the very delicate state-affair with which he had been entrusted at a foreign court, although the policy of the then ministry had been circumvented by the clear-sightedness of the great diplomatist who stood at the head of the foreign cabinet. Yet, with such tact and address had the Marquis managed the proposal made, and received the refusal of the offer, that, instead of any bad feeling having been created between the two nations, the British Ambassador had returned with costly presents for his sovereign from the foreign monarch, and letters professing the warmest attachment.
So much was His Majesty, our king, pleased with the whole conduct of the Marquis in this negociation, that he insisted on his keeping a most elaborate and expensive piece of mechanism, the only thing of the kind in Europe, which was one of the chief presents of the foreign king to himself. It may be amusing, perhaps, to describe this elegant and astonishing piece of foreign workmanship, which I saw unpacked at L- d House on its arrival, wound up by the Marquis himself with a
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small gold key, and beheld, with astonishment, its exquisite mechanic powers, never surpassed, I have heard, by any that the ingenuity of man has formed. A Mr.
was the mechanist, a German, who died before he had completed a duplicate one for the Emperor of · have every reason to believe that this costly toy is still preserved, with due care, in
L d House; and that Royalty, both of British and foreign origin, have often witnessed the little drama it would act.
Let the reader imagine a richly-cut glass bason, or shallow vase, twelve feet in circumference, and about six inches deep, standing on a gold tripod.
In the centre of this splendid glass there was an elevation, that looked, when the vase was filled with rose-water (which was the first operation performed), like a little enchanted island, composed of precious stones, in the middle of which was a swan's-nest full of eggs, at least sixteen, and these were represented by pearls of great size, and of an oblong form ; the nest itself was composed of filigree silver, beautifully wrought.
When the glass reservoir was properly filled, the Marquis took from an ivory case, ornamented with gold, the Magic swan, the piece of mechanism alluded to, which measured not more than six inches, from head to tail; the eyes were ruby; the bill and feet of pearl; the seeming feathers of silver filigree, and they looked so light, that you could fancy they moved by the breath.
When the magic swan had been wound up, the Marquis placed her on her nest of pearls, and she began to move like " a thing of life.” At first the swan seemed to amuse herself with picking her feathers, and brooding over her nest; but quickly she arose, turned over some of her eggs with her bill, and then slowly descended into the water, where she majestically swam about, and then approached the margin of the reservoir, where four little silver baskets were hung at its cardinal points, filled with corns of barley made from gold. The magic swan came up severally to each of these baskets, and actually swallowed up the golden grains of corn, leaving but a few behind her; and then, after apparently well washing them down with the rose-water from the little lake, she returned, as it would seem, con amore, to her nest, and perfectly contented, continued to brood over her future offspring. Thus ended the first act of the marvellous doings of the magic swan.
All were loud in their plaudits of this piece of superb mechanism ; and the Marchioness and her friend were in perfect raptures, when they found the performance was not terminated. The swan at length seemed uneasy, got up from her nest, and ruffled her feathers and wings, uttered a cry of seeming agony, and then poured forth a strain of most delightful melody, sad in the extreme, whilst her frame appeared to be convulsed with the pangs of death. After about five minutes of this pathetic music, taken from Mozart's Requiem (of which such an astonishing tale is told*), the swan appeared actually to expire; it fell down, closed its eyes, and all was silent ; then there was a slight movement in
• It is reported that some supernatural being ordered this Requiem, which Mozart only finished a few hours before his death. It was sung for the first time over his own remains.