« ForrigeFortsæt »
which was designed to raise the veil upon our guilt; for the one he produced contained exactly these words:— 'With respect to your Ladyship's anxiety to know how far the acquaintance with Mr. X. Y. Z. is likely to be of service to your son, I think I may now venture to say that' There the sibylline fragment ended; nor could we torture it into any further revelation. However, when we reached Dublin, we sate down, and addressed an ingenuous account of our journey and our little mystery to my young friend's mother in England. For to her, it was clear, that the tutor had confided his wrongs. Her Ladyship answered with kindness; but did not throw any light on the problem which exercised at once our memories, our skill in conjectural interpretation, and our sincere regrets. I mention this trifle, simply because, trifle as it is, it involved a mystery, and furnishes an occasion for glancing at that topic. Mysteries as deep, with results a little more important, have occasionally crossed me in life; one, in particular, I recollect at this moment, known pretty extensively to the neighborhood in which it occurred. It was in the county of S. A lady married, and married well, as was thought. About twelve months afterwards, she returned alone in a post-chaise to her father's house; paid and herself dismissed the postilion at the gate; entered the house; ascended to the room in which she had passed her youth, and known in the family by her name; took possession of it again; intimated by signs, and by one short letter at her first arrival, what she would require; lived for nearly twenty years in this state of La Trappe seclusion and silence; nor ever, to the hour of her death, explained what circumstances had dissolved the supposed happy connection she had formed, or what had become of her husband Her looks and gestures were of a nature to repress all questions in the spirit of mere curiosity, and the
spirit of affection naturally respected a secret which was guarded so severely. This might be supposed a Spanish tale; yet it happened in England, and in a pretty populous neighborhood. The romances which occur in real life are too often connected with circumstances of deep and lasting pain to the feelings of some among the parties concerned; on that account, more than for any other, they are often suppressed; else, judging by the number which have fallen within my own knowledge, I believe they are of more frequent occurrence, even in our modern unromantic mode of life, than is usually supposed. In particular, I believe that, among such romances, those cases form an unusual proportion in which young, innocent, and high-minded persons have made a sudden discovery of some great profligacy or deep unworthiness in the person to whom they had surrendered their entire affections. That shock, more than any other, is capable of blighting the whole after existence, and sometimes of at once overthrowing the balance either of life or of reason. Instances I know of both; and such afflictions are the less open to any alleviation, that they are of a nature so delicate as to preclude all confidential communication of them to another.
A sort of adventure occurred, and not of a kind pleasant to recall, even on this short voyage. The passage to Dublin from the Head is about sixty miles, I believe; yet, from baffling winds, it cost us upwards of thirty hours. The next day, on going upon deck, we found that our only fellow-passenger of note was a woman of rank, celebrated for her beauty, and not undeservedly, for a lovely creature she was. The body of her travelling coach had been, as usual, unslung from the 'carriage,' (by which is technically meant the wheels and the perch,) and placed upon deck. This she used as a place of re
treat from the sun during the day, and as a resting-place at night. For want of more interesting companions, she invited us, during the day, into her coach; we taxed our abilities to do the agreeable, and made ourselves as entertaining as we could; and, on our parts, we were greatly fascinated by the lady's beauty. The second night proved very sultry; and Lord W. and myself, suffering from the oppression of the cabin, left our berths, and lay, wrapped up in cloaks, upon deck. Having talked for some hours, we were both on the point of falling asleep, when a stealthy tread near our heads awoke us. It was starlight; and we traced between ourselves and the sky the outline of a man's figure. Lying upon a mass of tarpaulins, we were ourselves undistinguishable; and the figure moved in the direction of the coach. Our first thought was to raise an alarm, scarcely doubting that the purpose of the man was to rob the unprotected lady of her watch or purse. But to our astonishment, and I can add, to our real pain, we saw the coach door silently swing open under a touch from within. All was as silent as a dream; the figure entered, the door closed, and we were left to interpret the case as we might. Strange it was that this lady could calculate upon absolute concealment in such circumstances. We recollected afterwards to have heard some indistinct rumor buzzed about the packet on the day preceding, that a gentleman, - and some even spoke of him by name as a Colonel for some unknown purpose, was concealed in the steerage of the packet. And other appearances indicated that the affair was not entirely a secret even amongst the lady's servants. I recollected the story of Prince Cameralzaman (I believe it is) and his brother in the Arabian Nights.' But the impression there made was unfavorable to women generally; whereas, with both of us, the story proclaimed only a moral already suffi
that women of the highest and the lowest rank are alike thrown too much into situations of danger and temptation. I might mention some additional circumstances of aggravation in this lady's case; but as they would tend to point out the real person to those acquainted with her history, I shall forbear. She has since made a noise in the world, and has maintained, I believe, a tolerably fair reputation. Soon after sunrise the next morning, a heavenly morning of June, we dropt our anchor in the famous bay of Dublin. There was a dead calm: the sea was like a lake; and, as we were some miles from the Pigeon-House, a boat was manned to put us on shore. The lovely lady, unaware that we were parties to her guilty secret, went with us, accompanied by her numerous attendants, and looking as beautiful, and hardly less innocent, than an angel. Long afterwards, Lord W. and I met her, hanging upon the arm of her husband, a manly and good-natured man, of polished manners, to whom she introduced us: for she voluntarily challenged us as her fellow-voyagers, and, I suppose, had no suspicions which pointed in our direction. She even joined her husband in cordially pressing us to visit them at their magnificent chateau.
Landing about three miles from Dublin, we were not long in reaching Sackville Street, where my friend's father was anxiously awaiting his son, an only child. He received us both with a truly paternal kindness. From this time, for about the five months following, during which I resided with my noble friends in Ireland, I saw many of the scenes and most of the persons that were then particularly interesting in that country.
IRELAND was still smoking with the embers of rebellion; and Lord Cornwallis, who had been sent expressly to extinguish it, and was said to have fulfilled his mission with energy and success, was then the Lieutenant, and was regarded at that moment with more interest than any other public man. Accordingly I was not sorry when, two mornings after our arrival, my friend's father said to us at breakfast, 'Now, if you wish to see what I call a great man, go with me this morning, and I will take you to see Lord Cornwallis; for that man, who has given peace both to the East and to the West, I must consider in the light of a great man.' We willingly accompanied the Earl to the Phoenix Park, where the Lord Lieutenant was then residing, and were privately presented to him. I had seen an engraving (celebrated, I believe, in its day) of Lord Cornwallis receiving the young Mysore princes as hostages at Seringapatam; and I knew the outline of his public services. This gave me an additional interest in seeing him but I was disappointed to find no traces in his manner of the energy and activity I presumed him to possess; he seemed, on the contrary, slow or even heavy, but kind and benevolent in a degree which won the confidence at once. Him we saw often; for Lord Atook us with him wherever and whenever we wished;