« AnteriorContinuar »
LORD OAKBURN'S DAUGHTERS.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “EAST LYNNE."
CHAPTER XXIX.-AS IRON ENTERING INTO
known station at Pembury, or believe that
they had already reached it. The Earl of Oakburn was in a bustle. The He had, however, to part with his new earl was one of those people who always are acquaintance, for Pembury station was his in a bustle when starting upon a journey, be alighting point. He found Sir James Marden's it ever so short a one. He was going on a carriage waiting for him, a sort of mail phaeton, visit to Sir James Marden at Chesney Oaks, Sir James himself, a little man with a yellow and he was putting himself in a commotion face, seated in the box seat. The earl and his over it.
carpet-bag were duly installed in it, and Sir To Jane's surprise he had announced an James drove out of the station. intention not to take Pompey. Jane wondered As they were proceeding up the street to take how he would get on without that faithful and the avenue for Chesney Oaks,-the pleasant brow-beaten follower, if only in the light of an avenue, less green now than it had been in object to roar at; and when she asked the spring, which wound through the park to the earl the reason for not taking him, he had | house, –a small carriage, drawn by a pair of civilly replied that it was no business of hers. beautiful ponies, came rapidly down upon Jane felt sorry for the decision, for she believed them. Not more beautiful in their way, those Pompey to be essential to her father's com- ponies, than were the ladies seated in the carforts ; and she knew the earl, with all his riage. Two gay, lovely ladies, laughing and temper, liked the old servant, and was glad to talking with each other, their veils and their have him about him; but otherwise Jane streamers and their other furbelows, flying attached no importance to the matter. So behind them in the wind. The one, driving, the earl was driven to the Paddington station, was Colonel Marden's wife, and she was about and Pompey, after seeing his master and his to rein in and greet Sir James, when her comcarpet-bag safely in an express train, returned panion, with a half-smothered cry and a sudden with the carriage to Portland Place.
paleness displacing the rich bloom on her Jane Chesney was a little busy on her own cheeks, seized the reins and sent the ponies score just now, for she was seeking a governess onward at a gallop. It was Lady Laura to replace Miss Lethwait ; one who should Carlton. prove to be a more desirable inmate than that “ Holloa !” exclaimed Sir James, “what lady had been. Jane blamed herself greatly
was that for ?” for not having inquired more minutely into Lord Oakburn, in his surprise, had started Miss Lethwait's antecedents; she had been, up iu the phaeton. About the last person he as she thought now, too much prepossessed in had been thinking of was Laura, and Pembury her favour at first sight, had taken her too was about the last place he would have entirely upon trust. That Jane would not expected to see her in. The fact was, Laura err again on that score, her present occupation had recently met Mrs. Marden at a friend's was proving—that of searching out the smallest house near Great Wennock ; the two ladies details in connection with the lady now recom- had struck up a sudden friendship, and Laura mended to her, a Miss Snow. Not many had come back with her for a few days' visit. days yet had Miss Lethwait quitted the house, “She was evidently scared at the sight of but Jane had forcibly put her out of remem- one of us, and I'm sure I never met her before brance. Never, willingly, would she think to my knowledge,” cried Sir James, alluding again upon one, whose conduct in that one to the lady seated with Mrs. Marden.
“Do particular, the episode to which Jane had you know her, Lord Oakburn ?” been a witness the night of the party, had “Know her ! ” repeated the earl, rather been so entirely obnoxious.
explosively. “I'm sorry to say I do know Lord Oakburn was whirled along that desir- | her, sir. She is an ungrateful daughter of able line for travellers, the Great Western. mine, who ran away from her home to be In the opposite corner of the comfortable car- married to a fellow, and never asked my riage there happened to be another old naval leave.” commander sitting, and the terms that the two “ It must be Lady Laura Carlton ! ” quickly got upon were so good, that his lordship could exclaimed Sir James Marden. not believe his eyes when he saw the well- “ It is,” said the earl.
" And I assure you
I'd give a great deal out of my pocket if she clustering trees that surrounded the lawn and were Lady Laura Anybody-else."
flowers. “ You'll have to forgive her, I suppose. In features they were very much alike, but What a handsome girl she is !”
in figure no two could be much more dissimilar “No, I shan't have to forgive her," returned than the father and daughter. The vicar was a the earl, much offended at the suggestion. little shruken man, particularly timid in “ I don't intend to forgive her.”
manner; his daughter magnificent as a queen. Brave words, no doubt. But who knows If she had looked queenly in the handsomely what might have come of the interview had proportioned rooms of the earl's town house, that pony carriage been allowed to stop ? It how much more so did she look in the miniamight have been a turning point in Laura's ture little parlour of the vicarage. life, might have led to a reconciliation-for Lord Oakburn entered upon his business in Lord Oakburn's bark was worse than his bite, his usual blunt fashion. He had come down, and he did love his children. But Laura he said, to make acquaintance with Mr. LethCarlton, in her startled fear at seeing him wait, and to know when the wedding was so close to her, had herself given the check to be. and the impetus, and the opportunity was gone The vicar replied by stating that Eliza had by for ever.
told him all. And he, the father, was deeply “What brings her at Pembury ?” growled sensible of the honour done her by the Earl of the earl, as they drove through the park. Oakburn, and that he himself should be proud
“I can't tell,” replied Sir James. “I con- and pleased to see her his wife ; but that he clude she must be visiting at my brother's.” felt a scruple upon the point, as did Eliza.
“I didn't know she knew them,” was the He felt that her entrance into the family comment of the earl. “ Forgive a clandestine might be very objectionable to the earl's marriage ! No, never!”
daughters. Brave words again of the Earl of Oakburn's. And, knowing what you do know of the Clandestine marriages are not good in them- earl, you may be sure that that speech was the selves, and they often work incalculable ill, signal for an outburst. He poured forth a entailing embarrassing consequences on more torrent of angry eloquence in his peculiar than one generation. But the condemnation manner, so completely annihilating every arguwould have come with better grace from ment but his own, that the timid clergyman another than Lord Oakburn, seeing that he never dared to utter another word of objection. was contemplating something of the sort on The earl must have it his own way : as it had his own account.
been pretty sure from the first he would He slept one night at Chesney Oaks, and have it. then he concluded his visit. Sir James “ Eliza has been a good and dutiful daughMarden was surprised and vexed at the abrupt ter, my lord,” said the vicar, who in his termination. He set it down to the unwel. retired life, his humble home, had hardly ever come presence of the earl's rebellious daughter been brought into contact with one of the at Pembury, and he pressed Lord Oakburn's earl's social degree. “My living has been hand at parting, and begged him to come very small, and my expenses have been inevitagain shortly, at a more convenient period. ably large-that is, large for one in my posi
But most likely Lord Oakburn had never tion. The last years of my wife's life were intended a longer stay. The probabilities were years of illness ; she suffered from a complaint - it's hard, you know, to have to write it of a that required constant medical attendance and middle-aged earl, a member of the sedate and expensive nourishment, and Eliza was to us honourable Upper House—that he had only throughout almost as a guardian angel. Every taken Chesney Oaks as a blind to his daughters penny she could spare from her own solute on his way to Miss Lethwait. For his real
expenses, she sent to us. She has put up with visit was to her.
undesirable places where the cliscomforts were Chesney Oaks was situated in quite an great, the insults hard to be borne, and would opposite part of the kingdom to Twifford not throw herself out, lest we might suffer. vicarage, but by taking advantage of cross She has been a good daughter,” he emphatirails, Lord Oakburn contrived to reach Twif-cally added ; "she will, I hesitate not to say ford late that same night. He did not it, make a good wife. And if only your lordintrude on them until the following morning. ship's daughters will—_” The house, a low one, covered with ivy, Another interrupting burst from his lordwas small and unpretending, but exceedingly ship : his daughters had nothing to do with it, picturesque ; its garden was beautiful, and and he did not intend that they should have. the birds made their nests and sang in the | And the vicar was finally silenced.
The earl did things like nobody else. He governess, Eliza Lethwait, had nearly faded had spent the best part of his life at sea, and from Jane Chesney's memory, and she no shore ideas and proprieties were still almost to more dreamt of connecting that condemned him as a closed book. In discussing the lady with certain occasional short absences of arrangements of the marriage with Miss Leth- the earl in the country, than she dreamt of wait—for he compelled her to discuss them, attributing them to visits paid to the Great and he did it in a perfectly matter-of-fact Mogul. manner, just as he might have discussed a The first week in October came in, and the debate in the Lords—she found herself obliged evenings were getting wintry. Lord Oakburn to hint, as he did not, that a tour, long or had been away from home three days, and short, inland or foreign, as might be conve- | Jane, who had just got the house into nice nient, was usually deemed eligible on that condition, and was resting from her labours, had auspicious occasion. The earl could not be leisure to feel ill. Not actually ill, perhaps ; brought to see it ; did not understand it. but anything but well. She had felt so all What on earth was the matter with his house day, a sick shivery feeling that she could not at home that they could not proceed direct to account for, a low-spirited sensation, as of it on their wedding day ? he demanded. Were some approaching evil. Do coming events there a brig convenient they might enjoy a thus cast their shadows before ? There month's cruize in her, and he'd say something are those who tell us that they do. Not in to it, or even a well-built yacht; but he hated that way, however, was Jane Chesney superland travelling, . and was not going to en- stitious, or did she think of attributing her counter it.
| sensations to any such mystical cause. She Miss Lethwait thought of the horrors of
“ felt out of sorts” she said to Lucy's goversea-sickness, and left the brig and the yacht to ness, and supposed she had caught cold. drop into abeyance. Neither dared she, in Causing a fire to be lighted in her dressingthe timidity of her new position, urge the tour room, a little snuggery on the second floor further upon him ; but she did shrink from adjoining her bed-room, she resolved to make being taken home to the midst of his daugh- herself comfortable there for the evening. She ters on the marriage day.
ordered the tea-tray to be brought up, and On the following day the earl went back sent a message for Miss Snow and Lucy. to town, Miss Lethwait having succeeded in Miss Snow, a little, lively, warm-mannered postponing the period of the marriage until woman, the very reverse of the dignified Miss October.
Lethwait, was full of trifling cares for Lady September was a busy month with Jane Jane. She threw a
shawl on her Chesney. The term for which they had shoulders, she insisted on wrapping her feet in engaged their present furnished residence was flannel as they rested on the footstool before expiring, and Lord Oakburv took on lease one the fire, and she asked permission to make and of the neighbouring houses in Portland Place.
pour out the tea. Jane was in her element. Choosing furni- Judith was at that moment bringing in the ture and planning out arrangements for their tea-tray. Judith—I'm sure I forget whether new home was welcome work, all being done this has been mentioned before—had taken with one primary object—the comfort of her the place of own maid to Jane and Lucy when father.
The best rooms were appropriated to the change occurred in their fortunes. Jane him, the best things were placed in them. valued her greatly, and the girl was deserving Jane thought how happy they should be toge- of it. ther, she and her father, in this settled home- “A gentleman has called to inquire when stead. They did not intend to go out of the earl will be at home, my lady,” she said, town that year: why should they? they had as she put down the tray.
He wishes very but a few months entered it. Custom ? particularly to see him.” Fashion ? The earl did not understand cus- “ l'm sure I don't know,” said Jane, rather tom, and fashion was as a foreign ship to him. listlessly. " Who is it?" Jane only cared for what he cared.
“ It is that same gentleman who has been They moved into the house the last week in here occasionally on Sir James Marden's busiSeptember, Jane anxious with loving cares ness,” replied Judith.
" I heard him say to still. But for the mysterious and prolonged Wilson as I came through the hall that he had absence of Clarice, she would have been had a communication from Chesney Oaks which thoroughly and completely happy. Miss Snow he wished the earl to see as soon as possible. was proving an efficient governess for Lucy, Wilson asked me if I'd bring the message to and Jane had leisure on her hands. The your ladyship.” unpleasant episode in the reign of the last Jane turned her head in some slight sur
prise. “A communication from Chesney far as she could stretch, her ears and eyes Oaks ?” she repeated. “ But papa is at were riveted to what was going on in the hall Chesney Oaks. You can tell the gentleman below. The governess administered a sharp so, Judith.”
reprimand and ordered her to come away. “No, Jane, papa's not at Chesney Oaks,” But Lucy was absorbed, and altogether ignored interposed Lucy, who was dancing about the both Miss Snow and the mandate. room with her usual restlessness, “ If he had “Do you hear me speak to you, Lady Lucy? been going to Chesney Oaks he would have Must I come for you, then ?” gone from the Paddington Station, wouldn't Lucy drew away now, but not, as it appeared, he ?"
in obedience to the governess.
Her face wore “ Well ?” said Jane.
a puzzled look of surprise, and she went back “Well, he went to the King's Cross to the room on tiptoe. Station."
“ Jane,” said she, scarcely above her breath, “How do you know ?” asked Jane.
“ Jane what do you think? It is papa and Lucy gave a deprecatory glance at Miss Miss Lethwait." Snow ere she entered on her confession. She Jane turned round on her chair,
" What had run out to her papa after he was in the nonsense, Lucy! Miss Lethwait ! ” carriage for a last last kiss, and heard Pompey “It is indeed, Jane. It looks just as though give the order to the coachman, “ The King's papa had brought her on a visit, and there's Cross Station.”
some luggage coming into the hall. Miss Jane shook her head. “ You must have Lethwait been mistaken, Lucy,” she said. “I asked “ It cannot be Miss Lethwait,” sharply inpapa whether he was going to Chesney Oaks, terrupted Lady Jane, her tone betraying annoyand he-he-_” Jane stopped a moment in ance at the very mistake. recollection-" he nodded his head in the “ Yes it is Miss Lethwait,” persisted Lucy. affirmative. It must have meant the affirma- " She is dressed so well !-in a rich damask tive,” she added, slowly, as if debating the dress and a white bonnet, and an Indian shawl point with herself.
sure he is at with a gold border. It is just like that Indian Chesney Oaks."
shawl of mamma's that you never remove from “Shall I inquire of the coachman, my lady?” the drawer and never wear, because you say it asked Judith. “ He is down stairs."
puts you too much in mind of her.” “ Yes, do," replied Jane. “ And you can
“Lucy, you must certainly be dreaming !” tell the gentleman, Sir James Marden's agent, reiterated Jane. “Miss Lethwait would never that I shall expect Lord Oakburn home daily dare to step inside our house again. If——" until I see him. He seldom remains away Jane stopped. Wilson the footman had above three days."
come up the stairs, and his face wore a blank Judith went down on her errand, and came look, up again. Lucy was right. The coachman “I beg your pardon, my lady ; the earl has had driven his master to the King's Cross arrived." Station : the coachman further said that it was “ Well ?” said Jane. to the King's Cross Station that he had driven “ He ordered me to come up to you, my his master on his recent absences. Jane' lady, and ask whether there was nobody to wondered. She was not aware that Lord receive him and-and-Lady Oakburn.” Oakburn knew any one on that line. This “ Bade you ask what ?” demanded Jane, time he had taken Pompey with him.
bending her haughty eyelids on the servant. Miss Snow busied herself with the tea ; “My lady,” returned the man, thinking he Lucy talked ; Jane sat in listless idleness. would give the words as they were given to And thus the time went on until a loud knock him, and then perhaps he should escape anger, and ring resounded through the house. Jane “what his lordship said was this : 'Go up and lifted her eyes to the clock on the mantel- see where they are, and ask what's the reason piece, and saw that it wanted ten minutes to that nobody is about, to receive Lady Oakburn.' nine.
| They were the exact words, my lady.” “Visitors to-night !” she exclaimed, with “Is it my aunt, the Dowager Lady Oakvexation.
burn ?” asked Jane in her wonder. “ Don't admit them, Lady Jane,” spoke up “ It is Miss Lethwait, my lady. That is to Miss Snow impulsively, in her sympathy for say, she as was Miss Lethwait when she lived Lady Jane. “ You are not well enough.” here.”
Lucy had escaped from the room, and Miss Lucy was right, then! A ghastly hue overSnow caught her at the dignified pastime of spread the face of Jane Chesney. Not at the listening. Stretched over the balustrades as unhappy fact—which as yet, strange to say,
had not daw.jd on her mind—but at the to Jane's heart perhaps the keenest pang of all. insult offered to her by this re-entrance of the The earl was striding the room ; his stick, susgoverness into their house. Who was she, piciously restless, coming down loudly with this Eliza Lethwait, that she should come
He confronted his two daughters. again, and beard her in her home? Had he, “So ! here you are at last! And nothing her father, brought her-brought her on a ready, that I see, in the shape of welcome. visit, as surmised by Lucy?
Not so much as the tea laid! What's the The footman had already gone down stairs reason, Lady Jane ?” again. Jane flung aside Miss Snow's wrapper- “We did not expect you,” replied Jane in a ings and prepared to descend. The governess low tone, her back turned on the ex-governess. had stood in a state of puzzled amazement, “You got my letter. Wasn't it plain wondering what it all meant. On the stairs enough ? ” Jane encountered Judith. The girl was paler “I have not received any letter." than usual, and very grave.
“Not received any letter! By Jove ! I'll “My lady," she whispered, arresting Jane's prosecute the post-office! Girls," with progress, “ do you know what has occurred ?” flourish of his hand towards his wife—"here's
“I know that that person whom I turned your new mother, Lady Oakburn. You don't from my house has dared to intrude into it, want a letter to welcome her.” again," answered Lady Jane in her wrath, It seemed that Jane, at any rate, wanted speaking far more openly than it was her something, if not a letter. She persistently custom to speak before a servant. “But she ignored the presence of the lady, keeping shall not stop in it; no, not for an hour. Let her face turned to her father. But when me pass, Judith.”
she tried to address him, no sound issued Oh, my lady, hear the worst before you' from her white and quivering lips. The new go in ; before you enter upon a contest with countess came forward, and humbly, depreher that perhaps she'd gain,” implored Judith, catingly, held out her hand to Jane. in her eager sympathy for her mistress. “My Lady Jane, I implore you, let there be lord has married her, and has brought her peace between us. Suffer me to sue for it. home."
It has pleased Lord Oakburn to make me his Jane fell against the wall and looked at wife; but indeed I have not come here to Judith, a pitiable expression of helplessness on interfere with his daughters' privileges or to her face. The girl resumed.
Sow dissension in their home. Try and like "Pompey says they were married yesterday mo, Lady Jane! It will not be difficult to me morning; were married by Miss Lethwait's to love you.” father in his own church. He says, my lady, Jane wheeled round, her white lips trembling, he finds it is to Miss Lethwait's the earl has her face ablaze with scorn. gope lately when he has been absent from “ Like you !” she repeated, her voice, in her town ; not to Chesney Oaks."
terrible emotion, rising to a hiss.
“ Like you! “Support me, Judith," was
was the feeble Can we like the serpent that entwines its prayer of the unhappy daughter.
deadly coils around its victim ? You have Utterly sick and faint was she, and but for brought your arts to bear on my unsuspicious Judith's help she would have fallen. She father, and torn him from his children. As sunk down on the friendly stairs, and let her you have dealt with us, Eliza Lethwait, may head rest on them until the faintness had you so be dealt with when your turn shall passed. Then she rose, staggering, and went on with what feeble strength was left her.
The countess drew back in agitation. Sho “I must know the worst,” she moaned. “I laid her hand on Lucy. must know the worst.”
“ You at least will let me love you, Lucy ! Lucy, wondering and timid, stole into the I loved you when I was with you, and I will drawing-room after her. Standing by its fire, endeavour to be to you a second mother. her face turned to the door in expectation, was This entrance into your home is as embarrassing she who had quitted the house as Miss Leth- and painful to me as to you." wait, only six or seven weeks before. Jane's Lucy burst into tears as she received the eges fell on her dress, as mentioned by Lucy, kiss pressed upon her lips. She had liked the rich sweeping silk, the pretty white bonnet, Miss Lethwait very much, but she did not and the costly sbawl-their own mother's shawl ! like her to bring upon them this discomfort. taken by the earl from its resting place to The earl and his stick, neither of them quite bestow on his new bride. Wornan's mind is a 80 brave as usual, went off to take refuge in strange compound of strength and littleness ; the small room that they had made the and to see that shawl on her shoulders brought library ; glad perhaps, if the truth could be