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Moreover, Lincoln was rich in all those personal gifts and gracos which, in the estimation of a In Arcadia. Well-bred and amiable, gifted by nature both in mind and person, the Countess would, in fact, have preferred him less perfect in every way, as he would then have ap- peared less out of her reach. It was like having honey for sauce to sugar, that a man so favoured by fortime should also be endowed with personal advantages which would have rendered him esti- mable without a shilling.
The Countess was clear-sighted as to the position of affairs, and did not deceive herself as to the diflBculties of the enter- prise. To attain to so lofty a perch as the dukedom would require skill and enterprise, aided by good luck ; besides, there were positive impediments in the way, enough of them to cause a less resolute nature to reflect: If, in an occasional fit of despondency, the prize seemed beyond attainment, there were brighter 28 A Chronicle of the Fermors.
After all, superior beings of finer clay, heirs to ducal fortunes, married, as a rule, much like earthenware mortals. Why might it not be Lincoln's fate to marry well, and select early? In fact, a wife was the only blessing which it seemed possible to add to his singularly favoured lot. And if the stars willed that he should lose his bachelor liberty, and find an early happiness now in Florence, who would not envy him? What if it did happen? By-and-by, when he arrived at the fulness of all his honours, he might, in any case, present his wife to the criticism of the world, and fearlessly challenge Europe round to produce another duchess her peer.
Though female loveliness was by no means rare in the last century, and the Court of George II. At her appearance in the world she became the attraction of the season, the envy of rival belles and despair of fashionable mothers. The greatest people at Court, the king himself, was on the list of her admirers. She is mixed up in the famous gossip of the time, and her name occurs frequently in that compendious tattling correspondence which has come down to us.
Contemporary writers sound a common note of admiration on this theme. The beauty of her person, the perfection of her mind, the rarity of her natural gifts, the range of her accomplishments — they are never done sounding her praises. Even the hereditary beauty of the Fermors was surpassed in her ; and the strain of beauty running in the Fermor blood was already famous; it had been celebrated in song. Mistress Arabella Fermor, was the heroine of the ' Bape of the Lock,' and Pope has left her portrait in the well-known lines: Fay ours to none, to all she smiles extends ; Oft she objects, but never once offends.
Yet gracefol ease, and sweetness void of pride. Might hide her faults, if belles have faults to hide. If to her shame some female errors fall. Look on her face and you'll forget them alL" But Mistress Arabella never obtained the uni- versal admiration which saluted Lady Sophia on her appearance in the world. Although, strictly speaking, she made her debut in society at Florence, she had been seen some years before, when only fourteen years of age, at the English Court, as one of the four maids who carried the bride's train at the marriage of Frederick Prince of Wales with the Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha.
Each maid wore jewels to the value of thirty thousand pounds, and was dressed in robes of cloth of silver. They were all four renowned beauties, and selected because of their beauty to grace the royal nuptials ; but the youth- 32 A Chronicle of the Fermors. At the period of our narra- tive society at Florence seemed to have lost its senses about her. She excelled all models of female loveliness which the Italians had ever seen. The most extravagant compliments were paid her. People went wild — crowded in public places to see her pass by.
One gifted Italian noblemen twisted all his wits away writing sonnets in her praise. And the English appeared to be nearly as bad as the Italians. All the letters home of this period are filled with the subject. Lady Mary Montagu, in her correspondence with Mr. I shall never be surprised at her conquests. I take great pleasure in being the spectatress of her triumphs: He chronicles the splendours of Lady Sophia. He makes no secret either of his admiration or of his feelings towards her, and is never done lamenting that a creature so perfect should be the child of such a mother.
Walpole quickly perceived the maternal hopes which Lord Lincoln's arrival had already excited, and his sen- tences are never so elaborately pointed as when dwelling upon them: But he likewise very clearly exposes his own bitterness at the manifest en- couragement accorded to a successful rival. Warburton, it is true, affirms that Lady Charlotte Fermor, the younger sister, was the object of his passion ; but no student of his letters can doubt that it was Lady Sophia, alone.
During the whole of his long life he never seems to have had a genuine attachment for any other woman ; and up to her marriage, or after it — ay, or even after her death — never to have lost his inclination for her. I D 34 A Chronicle of the Fermors. It is pleasant to picture the supercilious hyper- critical Horace caught like a schoolboy in a warm fit of genuine first love ; undergoing the hot and cold of passion, the pangs of jealousy, or else plotting and intriguing to circumvent his more fortunate friend. How maliciously he must have laboured at first to tangle up the angling tackle of the aspiring Countess,while objurgating his fate and his stars, in moody rides along the Cascine, or in moonlight saunterings by the wooded Arno!
One sees the hypocritical change of his manner towards the Countess, also his careful abstinence from the old habits of ridicule, his charitable blindness to her grammar, his attention to her literary reminiscences as well as to her discourses on the chiaroscuro and modelling of Vandyck, the compliments to her dis- cernment, the flattery, the venal applause.
What a pleasant Arcadia it must have been, what a happy time for the Countess, with the heir to the Duchy of Newcastle, the first match in England, making love to her daughter, and Walpole, son of the great minister, the most accomplished gentleman of note Lady Sophia. How smoothly life must have gone on then! What soothing interior harmony underlying the brilhant exterior bustle of the household, until the hour when its mistress first perceived the real state of aflFairs, and scented a taint on the breath of this sly Horatian flattery!
But the discovery came at last, with all the sud- denness of a surprise. Fancy the first dawnings of a humiliating suspicion ; then the clear perception that, with all her marvellous business talents, she was being outwitted, outmanoeuvred, by a fledgling petit-maitre like Walpole. She who had secured sinecures and pensions, presented diamond ear- rings, created an earldom, appointed a Master of the Horse — who, in despite of grammar and a sin- cere ignorance, had usurped a learned reputation, and had come to regard success as the rule in all her speculations — that she should be balked in a matter so peculiarly her own as a matehmaking enterprise, and by a conceited stripling!
Imagine the ire which this enkindled, the com- motion in the Palazzo which followed from it! One sees the round, rouged, comely face pucker- ing into anxieties ; the high-pitched treble of her anger rings in our ears. How she must have raged and banged the doors, and shrilled at Sophia, and rated in broad English before " my Earl," and in execrable Italian at the scared native menials. The Countess had not the faculty of holding herself in when under strong excitement ; notwithstanding her habits of intrigue, she had little power of self-restraint.
Interior disturbance was immediately followed by a visible eruption of temper, and in her angry moods there was little interval of time between the lightning and the thunder-clap. It is therefore probable that at the moment she committed herself in some positive way with Lady Sophia. How, we do not know ; what passed between them is a matter of conjecure only ; but it is certain that he suddenly abdicated the position of an admirer of Lady Sophia, and left Lord Lincoln alone in the field.
There was no open rupture ; Walpole continued apparently as intimate as ever with the family ; but he was finally out of competi- tion for the favour of Lady Sophia. Perhaps this was in deference to the expostulation of the Countess, or perhaps in despair, at recognising that he could have no chance with his paltry sinecure of two thousand pounds a year against the ducal expectations of his rival, or perhaps it was out of revenge that he retired from the contest, because of the private afiFairs of Lord Lincoln, of which he alone was in the secret.
For there was a secret. Lincoln was an engaged man, and Walpole knew it. Before starting on his foreign tour the young earl had gone down to Esher, the seat of his imcle, Henry Pelham, to comply with a family arrange- ment by which the wealth of the Pelhams, united to the title of Newcastle, should vest in his person ; '.
Lady Sophia, 39 his winning hand only by playing with cogged dice ; and Walpole, standing by, was aware of the cheat. How the knowledge of it must have buoyed up the youthful cynic, and fed the hungry jealousy that devoured him! One sees him lounging apart on the balcony of the Ridolfi, a thin smile curving his firm lips, a metallic glitter in the cold hard eyes as they fol- lowed the movements of the lovers loitering in the garden beneath. He could already see the end of that happy and prosperous wooing. Blessed as the pair were with wealth and beauty, and love to crown the union, they too — the paragon and the peer — should reap only a heart-break for harvest ; the flames of this budding passion would be quenched in sighs and sorrow and die out in ashes like his own.
How he hugged the thought of it! Yet Lincoln was going very far. Rumour caught up the affair, and made its own of it; details of the courtship found their way into the 40 A Chronicle of the Femtors. His person and his manners were commended ; he was not only remarkable for his sense and ability, but even for his dancing ; and in the last century this accom- pKshment was of great importance in the educa- tion of a gentleman ; even in the progress of this courtship it marked an epoch.
For at a state ball given by the British ambassador at Florence, Lord Lincohi especially distinguished himself in this way. Lady Sophia Fermor and my lord executed a famous minuet together amidst a press of surrounding spectators, who were already begin- ning to whisper that the handsome couple were engaged.
Walpole, who was in this circle of admirers, was very witty and sarcastic at his friend's excellent performance, and delivered many an ironical encomium on the young earl's successful capering. What a pleasant scene it must have been for him! How thoroughly he enjoyed himself on that night Lady Sophia. What a genial light on his long face! How cordially he responded to the good wishes of which Lady Sophia Fermor and Lord Lincoln were jointly the object! Lincoln receives a letter from England ordering him home. Rumours concerning the Pomfrets had perhaps reached the Duke of Newcastle's ears, and shrewd enough to scent out danger of that treacherous kind, he writes peremptorily to his nephew "to finish his idleness and his tour, and return to England forthwith.
His letter explained that a favourable juncture in politics offered Lincoln an opportunity of taking an active part in Parliament. On that account, the duke desired his assistance in the House ; he v4 Countermarch. This was very flattering. That appointment was then as now, the first step on the upper degrees of the Treasury ladder ; and no special gifts of states- manship, nor capacity, nor knowledge of the perplexing sister island was expected from the man in whose hands its government was placed — exactly as at present, when to be ignorant, super- cilious, and dull, appear to be among the qualifica- tions for administering that critical office.
Besides, family affairs, as well as politics, de- manded his return: The act probably did him good ; it was English, it was irrational ; but it eased his mind, and was at all events better than to commit some dreadful action — suicide or sudden matrimony say — as would the young Frenchman of fiction placed in a like situation. There was no top spinning on the Lung' Arno for Lord Lincoln to kick out of the way when the cut which that letter dealt him began to bite and fester, as it quickly did ; but he mounted his horse and had a hot and eager gallop along the Cascine.
A group of stonecutters, returning to their work at the Villa Visconti facade, were chanting a serenade of Vittorelli — " Guarda cho bianca luna! Guarda clie notto azziirm! Afterwards Lincoln dismounted, and giving his horse to the groom, walked meditatively back towards the town. Walking was better for him; he found it easier to keep pace with the rapidity of his thoughts on foot.
This letter was as unexpected as unwelcome; it was offensive: Was he a child, to be capri- ciously commanded hither and thither?
Should he be coerced into this prearranged Pelham marriage whether he would or not? No duke or uncle in England should do that, he vowed. He would return home or remain abroad, as it suited him; and marry or not, as leisure or inclination prompted. But until that moment he had never examined himself as to his possible want of inclination in this regard. Now independence of spirit seemed to have become the first of personal qualities ; it appeared noble in the highest degree, like a youth- ful knight of old romance, to fling the great 46 A Chronicle of the Fermors.
If it were merely a question of the loss of sundry lands and honours, and thousands of income, as against the indulgence of the amorous impulse which was so strong on him then, Lincoln was well disposed to adopt a startling resolution — but Catherine Pelham! He could not bring himself to consider her in the light of a chattel, to be adopted or neglected at his pleasure. Until now he had never doubted his attachment to her. She had not done anything to forfeit his esteem: Somehow devotion to Lady Sophia Fermor became a less chivalrous sentiment when opposed to the claims of his cousin ; and his own conduct failed to sustain the highly complimentary hght which he desired it to bear.
Lincoln shrank from a betrayal of his word ; he was young and unspoilt A Countermarch. What an imbroglio it was! How hopelessly intricate the tangle of his destiny had become! He seemed condemned by fate to enact a doubtful part in any case ; his conduct must be imbecoming and unworthy, leaving him for only choice the particular kind of baseness to select from. What was to be his decision in this delicate and difficult crisis? Who was to be the victim? Which of his two mistresses the jilted one?
His inquisitive conscience pressed for an answer. What a position for a vain and chivalrous young gentleman, of a frank and not ungenerous nature, to stand racking his brains for an answer to these questions! Beside him the Arno flowed, its wooded banks dotted with palaces and villas steeped in light ; in front the clustering spires of the churches, floating in the Tuscan air; in the midst of them Giotto's wonder. Some mouldering coliunns of Caligula's villa, bound in coils of vine, looked big in the foreground, a sunbeam playing 48 A Chronicle of the Fermors.
A temple of pleasure and power, where now only death inhabited ; there Lincoln saw a symbol of that vain ambition to which they sought to devote him. Further on, it was a grotto consecrated to Apollo — Apollo, the god of love. How he hated the landscape! Then came a torrent of feeble regrets. Why had he ever set foot in Tuscany at all, or trusted himself so far into temptation, or set eyes on this wondrous creature, or lost his soul in the witchery of her charms?
A sun ray whitened the turrets of the Ridolfi on the opposite bank of the river. It seemed like a direct invitation to him. There was a by-path leading to the bridge. In his excited and incoherent mood he felt that sympathy and assistance were only to be found there ; at all events it was a way of escaping from the immediate ordeal of making up his mind ; so he went straight to the Ridolfi. Yet without any A Countermarch. One of the younger daughters met him on entering the house, and open-mouthed he declared the possible object of his visit to her: Li the end Lady Sophia changed her mind ; she did not go out that forenoon.
She divined the substance of what had happened ; it flashed on her like an inspiration. It might be that insight into her lover's charac- VOL. E 50 A Chronicle of the Fermors. However amiable in disposition, he was not of the heroic order. And in any case she had no knowledge of his feelings. It was only now that she began to realise or to dis- cover what her own were — what they might be, rather. She had been living a life of fantasy in heed- less security ; and an awakening shock came sud- denly to shatter Ihe gilded dangerous dream which had been her life. She could not meet Lincoln now without betraying that which she blushed to dis- cover to herself.
Remember her age; she was all simplicity and inexperience. Scarcely had she yet opened her eyes on that world which was already beginning to wonder at her beauty. She did not go downstairs to bid farewell ; she could not see him then. She did not want to hear the sentence from his own lips — the recital in detail of those pressing motives which compelled him unwillingly to desert her. It was enough that she was abandoned, and that he was false.
In a while Lincoln, who was impatiently pacing the drawing-room, learnt that she had a headache, and did not intend to see him. Then the Countess turned pale and slowly laid down her flowers. He turned quickly when the door opened, then stammered and hesitated — he had not expected the mother. His dress was strangely disordered, the powder of his hair had scattered down over the shoulders and breast of his long mulberry riding-coat, and whitened on his cheek, though that was white enough before. He wore no sword, he had left that weapon with his groom: How prejudice and anger blind one!
Even the experienced, the skilful, and the prudent are not always proof against the sudden assaults of passion. But Lincoln endeavoured to express his busi- ness, and stammered on about his precious letter, and the command of his uncle the duke which ordered him home. Here the Countess exploded. This she saw or concluded that she saw ; and here it was that the temper of the Countess broke loose — mere petulance overmastered her.
She was mistaken, however, and for the suc- cess of her project it was a fatal error. Had she guessed it, all that Lincoln required was such mental support and assistance as she might easily have supplied him with. A little dexterous manipu- lation at that moment of indecision would have given him resolution, and made her own of him at a stroke, and ruined the schemes of the duke and the family at Esher.
A degree more of coolness and circumspection, and the Pelham alliance was at an end. But her impulse was already beyond control: My daughter is ill in her chamber. I shall convey your respects to her, and say that you obey the duke: Pray consider your health and yonr uncle, and do not distress yourself. And look, my lord!
Here is your portrait, which, to my surprise, I find you presented to my daughter. Your family might not care to have so precious an object of art travelling in Tuscany; you had better take care of it" She flung the locket on the table. You may find use for it at home, or else your uncle the duke may instruct you how to dispose of it again in some proper manner. We understand each other, I think. You have only to make your bow with the best grace you can manage. Whether it is a becoming one or not, I leave you to judge. Farewell;" and the Countess courtesied scorn- fully, with her hand upon the bell-rope.
This was an electric shock to Lincoln; as if a bolt had suddenly descended on his head ; and he was dazed and startled at the strange stunning sensation.
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Until that awakening moment he was not conscious that any human being, that any voice but that of his own conscience, was entitled to address him in terms of reproach. If he felt in truth something slightly like a villain perhaps, that was no concern of those who had not the privilege of looking into his heart and who could know nothing of the unhappy engagement with his cousin.
It was a secret in his own breast, and with- out express evidence of its knowledge no one had a right to be aware of it. Besides, did he know that he was going to behave ill when he had not yet determined how to proceed? He might yet turn out to be a hero after all ; perhaps it was the other side — the other lady that he should decide to betray. But now his pride rebounded at the shock of this encounter — the collision was rude. He was A Countermarch. Lady Charlotte heard his spurs jingling as he descended the marble stairs, and bounded out to meet him in a girlish way.
She was in riding cos- tume, and asked if he had come to be her escort ; but my lord made her a stately salute, and regretted that his engagements forbade him that honour. Lady Charlotte stared in a frightened way at his royal bearing. He reached the town in a fume ; then hurriedly crossed the river to his palazzo. Alphonse, the new French valet, was reclining on a sculptured seat by the columns of the entrance. This goatherd was a fat garlio-eating rogue, who had never tended other flocks than the pack of foreign visitors and tourists who crowded the inns and lodging-houses: He stood blowing through his pipe, one forefinger uplifted on the stop, exactly as we may see him at this hour performing in living Berlin wool on many a gilded pole-screen, or in chalky looking lithographs in second-rate print shops.
This representative Tuscan stood in place of the urchin's top to the angry Lieutenant Osborne referred to before.watch
Full text of "A chronicle of the Fermors: Horace Walpole in love"
Lord Lincoln did not kick him into the area railings — there are none to Italian palaces — but he sent the wretch screaming from the porch with a stroke of his riding whip, and then turning on the blushing Alphonse, overwhelmed him with a torrent of invective in his native tongue. The language of the Countess alone had helped him to make up his mind ; and he quitted Florence without again presenting himself at the Bidolfi, or seeing any of its inmates.
Here, then, was the end of a scheme which at one time looked so promising. Lady Pomfret felt her own share of the mishap so keenly that she did not observe how much to heart her daughter also took the disappointment. After a defeat a general does not at once go over the nimierical list of the killed and wounded to reckon up how much his battalions may have suffered in the conflict.
She did DOC at first note the hollow cheeks, and pallor and waning spirits of her daughter. There was the bnghing Manr Montagu to be outfaced ; Horace's sister. Ladr Walpole, the other rival sham literary ladj ; and the pale, polite, sneering, abominable Horace himself, to be encountered every day.
But presently the change in her daughter ex- cited real alarm. It was Lady Sophia's first at- tachment, and her first experience of disappoint- ment and desertion. The iron entered deeply, and the wound was slow to close. She tired at once of Florence and its monotonous gaieties, of the Amo and its insipid beauty. Her mother perceived that she had lost some of her beauty, and all her spirits, so the order to march was given at once.
The tents were struck. The campaign in Tuscany had come to a close: Time, money, and labour all spent there without profit ; but what matter? The Countess was not one to sit down mourning in apathy and idleness. Preparations were promptly made for trying again with better luck elsewhere ; for renewing operations on a larger scale at home. So the family geta under weigh, and by easy stages moves towards London ; stopping at Genoa, Milan, Geneva, and Brussels by the way. By an odd coincidence, Horace Walpole quits Florence immediately after the Pomfrets.
Ostensibly there was a political reason for his departure. Sir Robert Walpole's Government, then tottering before an opposition led by the able and unscrupulous Lord Carteret, needed all the par- liamentary strength which it could muster, and Horace was doubtless anxious to assist his father ; but strange that his letters to Sir Horace Mann at this very period give every minute detail concern- ing the Fermor family and its movements.
It appears to be the one subject uppermost in his mind. Besides, there are such numbers here who have such equal pretensions to be absurd, that one is scarce aware of particular ridicules. Lady Sophia is still ill with a cold ; her head is to be dressed French, her body English ; for which I am sorry, her figure is so fine in a robe. She is full as sorry as I am. Their trunks have not arrived yet, so they have not made their appearance. Lady Pomfret had so arranged her journey as to arrive in time for the London season, and no more than in time.
In George the Second's reign the season commenced in October. The affair in Florence had rendered it important to perform great things during the coming campaign. If Lord Lincoln had taken himself away it was necessary that the world should understand he had not taken sighs from either mother or daughter along with him ; also that it should see what a prize he had let slip through his fingers. Like an opulent connoisseur, he had been granted a private view of this priceless masterpiece of nature, and had not the wit to appreciate his luck or seize his opportunity.
Now the gem was to be properly hung up and ticketed, and exposed for auction on the walls of the Royal Academy of fashion. The duller he, to have allowed it to come to an open market. The world at large would appreciate the value of that which he had neither the sense nor taste to admire. Both her daughters were to appear this season, and the town might be challenged to prodoce such another pair.
Which does, the frame or the picture itself, go far- thest in producing an effect? In a ball was a brilliant affair, and the work of setting out a young lady in society a sufficiently engrossing occupation for herself and her family. At that strange epoch in the history of England not only ladies, but even gentlemen, went into society for pleasure. And when they went out they danced.
F 66 A Chronicle of the Fennors. The modern plan for enjoying oneself by standing mute in a doorway was yet undiscovered. It was where the ruins of Nineveh were before Mr. And if men of fashion were then as ignorant as they are said to be at present ; if they were as dull, shall we say, for want of a better term — as little useful — dull or no, they were more ornamental ; and everybody, whether in society or not, could form an opinion upon that. No danger then of mistaking your host for that far more gentlemanly and better-bred individual his butler.
Silks, velvets, gold-lace, embroidery, dia- monds—but what famous tailors' bills must have been in those days! How were they ever paid? AVhat a capital trade man- millinery was. Beaux must have gone out shopping every day, snipping off bits of rib- bon, and matching silks, and judging of the clocking of stockings, and fingering inches of lace.
How miserably at the mercy of his laundress your dandy must have been! What with his frills, his ruffles, his stays, his buckles, his garters, painting Same Elderly yuveniles. However, the eflfect of a ball-room, crowded with those enamelled and brocaded figures, was, even with due allowance for the dingy tallow candles of the period, stupendous. The licence accorded to costume, even when it produced a fop and cari- cature in the individual, contributed only to enhance the general eflfect of the assembly; and the ball at Sir Thomas Robinson's of Rokeby was ihfd most brilliant festival of the season of the year ' It was a juvenile ball given in honour of a young daughter of the Duke of Richmond, and all London was there; the great and small of the fashionable world, the aged and the young; as we are informed, " all, from Miss in her bib and apron to my Lord Chancellor in his bib and mace.
The ball began at eight: There were four and twenty couples, divided into twelve and twelve: They outshone all others, as much by the magnificence and fashion of their toilettes as by the splendour of their beauty. Who knows which form of praise was the most accept- able to the female mind? Ladies have views upon this graceful subject which the dull male creature can never hope to understand. As might have been predicted, Horace Walpole did not miss this entertainment. Here we find him dancing, and perhaps enjoying himself.
That he found the proceedings interesting we have his word, whether they were to his taste or not. At all events he was in the press of the fashionable Some Elderly yuvenites. Dono inf elice ' Dear, dear old Florence! I took some pains to make it look its best to-night, and am glad it pleases you," said Walpole, drawing back nervously, and disengaging his hand from the prolonged clasp of the Countess..
Charlotte and I have just come to an agreement on that point. You may not remember his haste to quit Florence, but I do. Yet eager as he was to return to England, his Some Elderly Juveniles. There was no longer any hurry once he had quitted Italy ; it seems his uncle could do without him then. Odd, I admit, but the fact is so. Bless me, but Lady Sophia is more of a queen than ever, though she has grown lean, very lean — the exdtement of travel, probably; yet I think it improves her.
That is but a fancy of yours, and you are by nature very fanci- ful. It is the uncomplimentary light ; or else there is something in the room to-night that makes everything look odd, for, strange! I thought the same of you. Walpole, grown longer and leaner than ever. Congratulate me on that account. People will say you are nursing some msXheroose passion, Mr.
It is only victims of your sex who can orf rm that office gracefully, or with any hope or likoliliood of obtaining hopeful results, or, in any oaHo, univoreal sympathy. Sentimental misery in the male invariably provokes ridicule. There was a certain air of, perhaps, patronage about hor ; some of the old Ridolfi manner, of that period when his name too was inscribed on the unhappy list of her daughter's victims ; when he had boon coini ollod to cringe, and swallow down his grins, and bow the knee allegorically at her Some Elderly yuveniles. He was no longer the Peri casting longing eyes into that Paradise where he dared not set foot.
He did not covet Paradise any longer, not he; and as for the angel guarding the garden of Eden with the two-edged sword, her wit — faugh! The instinct of the Countess divined the difference, and she declined the encounter. If yon provoke me to fight I will, big a prince as Ton are.
You have such excellent taste, Mr. Walpole, that I should be glad to hear from you if her dress will do. My mind will be at rest about it if you approve," added the Countess grimly. A most magnificent and stately figure, her cold salute to the Countess being in marked contrast to the sudden sunshine of smiles which beamed on Walpole. She tapped his French sleeve reproach- fully with her fen ; then her eyes and diamonds sparkled playfully over the edge of it. He had for- gotten his promises ; he was like all poets — volage ; and to make his peace he must come to dinner at the Ambassade on Thursday.
My Lord Carteret was promised, and she had asked all the most disagree- able people in town on purpose to meet him. So y6 A Chronicle of the Fermors. The Countess was impressed by this little scene. Had she been quite wise that time in Florence when Walpole had received his curt dismissal? True, he was not a match for Sophia in any ordinary sense ; but he had a certain position in town, and with his powerful father, and his own ability, there was no telling what future might be in store for him yet.
Though only a bird in the bush, still, while our great lady was smarting from the cut of a greater lady still, Walpole, with his quizzing supercilious air and French suit, looked a very tempting bird of very fine feather. What a superb paroore of brilliants! An Some Elderly yuveniles. However, as I dine there on Thursday, I shall plead in excuse that all my poetry has been left behind in Italy, and the source of all inspiration also — alas!
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The Countess was not quite certain. See, yonder by the pillars; do look," said Lady Pomfret, shifting the conversation into another channel. Was ever such a caricature? Did you ever see persons of their age and condition so misconduct themselves — so foolish, so extravagant? Kissing her hand, actually kissing it again, as I'm alive, and before everybody. What would you say if my earl and I were to go on in that manner, billing and cooing in the midst of a London ball-room?
My dear madam, how can you? These people may tear their eyes out behind the scenes, for all we know. It is too ridiculous, such airs and graces, with every one of five and twenty children be- tween them. However, the duchess is so extremely well preserved that one excuses the gallantry of the old duke. We saw nothing like that in Italy, Mr. But you remember that a good deal of something like this tender exhibition might now and then have been witnessed, not confined to elderly people either ; assuredly not to ugly ones. The vast rooms and vast gardens of the Palazzo Ridolfi, for instance, might have been vastly convenient for amorous couples in search of such a convenience as oppor- txmity: But I am tired of Italian reminiscences.
Let us change the subject. There was a pause. Mr, Selwyn, Is he still as bad as ever? What a life is his, haunting clubs and dozing over his cards! A wonder so sleepy a person can be so wide awake. Yet he has a fine fortune. What a shame he does not marry! Don't you think so, Mr. Sophia, here is our old friend Mr. Walpole, and as uncomplimentary as ever, for he says you have grown lean. He waa annoyed that the mother should have said anything to convey that he had been speaking of her daughter, that he was even aware of that superb young lady's existence at all, much less of her presence in the room.
It was a nothing, but there are situations of the mind — rather, of the aflfections — when the buzz of an insect soxmds like a cannon-shot in the delicate ears which are especially tuned to receive it. Walpole had been very polite and stand oflF, and indifferent — supremely indifferent — to everything concerning Lady Sophia Fermor, and it was of such impor- tance that his petit-maitre air should be preserved intact and should also be perceived by those beautiful eyes.
He was standing on the brink, In which some yuveniles embrace. It was a humiliation for him ; there he was splashing about with consciously unbecomiug gestures. How was it possible to preserve a superfine self-sufficient smirk when this heedless or artful matron had made so reckless an exposure of the matter of his thoughts?
He was taken at woful disadvantage, and turned shyly as Lady Sophia came up, leaning on the arm of Lord Holdemess, and stood presenting her hand. Did she attend to her mother's obser- vation? She was acquiring experience of the world already, and the sensations of other people were sometimes becoming a tiresome subject to attend to. She had come in from the juvenile dancing-room, and was obviously out of himiour. The Clubs of the next generation will have small call for toasts, as I said to Lord Holdemess;" and Lady Sophia put up her fan and yawned in a most unbecoming fashion for the beautiful heroine she was.
I cannot think there is such luck in store for the coming generation as has fallen to our share. There is no such thing nowadays as a nose. I have examined the collection in the room without discovering anything beyond the snub," said Walpole, recovering himself, all the easier because the fit of nervousness which had seized him was apparently not perceived by any- body.
And as for those faces where all features are perfect, one scarcely ventures to look at them at all," he added, simpering. Lady Sophia moved her shoulders ; the necklace of amethysts and brilliants which her mother had purchased a bargain from Princess Craon gieamed in the rays of the chandelier as she stirred. She was vexed, or tired, or out of humour ; or weary of Lord Holdemess, perhaps.
Lord Holderness, I am tired ; I shall sit this dance. I thought we should have had a minuet this time at least ;" and her short upper lip curved as she rustled quickly down on a couch, and presented the back of her gracefiil head to the group with the haughtiness of a queen. Lord Holderness, protesting that he was as willing to talk as dance, took a position beside her, and Walpole, standing pensively apart, opened his large eyes, an unconscious melancholy lurking in them as he looked at the pair.
He detected a vacant expression, a certain sadness in the beautiful face. A coronet manque — a want of Lincoln — ho translated it. But what In which some juveniles embrace. Then, as he con- tinued to gaze, the old dangerous Florentine light beamed out from those eyes, and slowly in response the old feeling revived within him. It was a perilous moment. Perhaps he had misjudged her.
She might not have been so bad, so worldly, as he imagined. A strange form of thought to find a resting-place in his mind! Then he saw that she had not indeed improved in looks, and that the fair clear features had lost their fresh burnish of happiness. Walpole, what are you staring at? You look as melancholy as the statue of Momus in the Florentine Grallery," said the Countess in a loud tone at his elbow. He lost heaven and the society of gods, and of goddesses too, Mr. Walpole, because he could not practise the golden art of holding his tongue.
However, if Momus would turn round now and enlighten my ignorance, I should be his debtor. I want to know who everybody is, and as I ciceroned the god of mirth, or of satire — which is it? I have been so long out of the country that I scarcely know how to behave in public. Fancy, I caught myself break- ing out in Italian to Mrs. It was very inadvertent of me, and they looked so ashamed of it too. I conclude you present the young ladies on Friday, the Birthday? Lincoln, you know, is expected, and promises to bring my finery. If he should disappoint for Friday, then his Majesty must bear with my absence.
My taste is French, and I dare not exhibit my person in the work of an English scissors. By-the-way, if Lincoln means coming at all, I judge he had better come quickly. Thank him from me when you write. I hope he is well ; he was very obliging. Mann hopes the happy event will not delay, as otherwise the poem threatens to be as long as the Iliad, and whatever small stock of sense the count may possess will evaporate in its accomplishment.
I was fond of the count," said Lady Pomfret innocently. Froissart In which some Juveniles embrace. But what Froissart said was never heard by Walpole, for at the moment a short pretty person, in the tallest of coiffures, trotted or toddled forward, as nnsteadily as her high vermiKon heels could manage.
From her sparkling beady eyes down to the enormous spangled rosettes of her short shoes, one amazing glitter and flutter. Society has been quite snuffed out since your departure — vapid and 9 a A Chronicle of the Fermors. We want some one of parts and wit, with your fund of anecdote, to re- animate us again. Such a dull set here. My fan, Mn Winnington ; my smelling-bottle, Sir Charles. They said you were here, but I did not believe it, and huYo lH on seeking you from garret to cellar.
These rooms are so numerous, so crowded, one might play at hide-and-seek ineffectually all the evening. My Lord Mountstewart, ft tch mo a chair ; but no, it does not become me, aiul you may carry my reticule instead. If your tongue has lost any of its bitter. In which same yuveniles embrace. For the Kttle lady was a reputed quiz, and it was the only decent reputation which she deserved or took any trouble to sustain. Provided she was laughed with or at, and had a supply of young fellows following in her train, and plenty of women looking on to envy, it was all she cared about. The paint on her cheek copied no hue of nature ; it did not pretend to deceive.
She painted brazenly, as she lived, and Mrs. Montagu in two sentences records how the marchioness was then passing her time. He is, I hope, recovered? I wonder some Sangrado did not In which some Juveniles embrace. One actually did prescribe tar-water, another bleeding, another starvation; but the most rapid cure of disease I ever heard of was effected in a lady of my acquaintance lately by the death of a husband. Countess, you are such a perpetual spring, you must tell me your secret ; you must, my dear. Do you use elder-flower g6 A Zjarvmu: He was about to interfere with this object, but Lady Townshend interposed opportunely.
Our day is gone by. Men will never look at either of us as long as there are such handsome women as your daughters in the room ; they are already the rage of the town and the toast of the Clubs. A quality that any woman may acquire by trying for. H 98 A Chronicle of the Fennors. How can good subjects worship beauty when it finds such small favour with his Majesty? All readers are aware of that. Froissart mentions as one of the great qualities of the Black Prince his loyalty and respect for his father.
Can one conceive a certain nameless Majesty ever having anything like a Black Prince for son? I have it on authority; and here Mr. Walpole can corroborate or con- tradict me as he pleases. I have a presentiment that we are on the eve of family peace. Walpole remained silent, then, bowing with mock gravity to both ladies, turned to George In which some yuveniles embrace.
He has insufferable airs and conceit, and upsets me with his lackadaisical way of asking questions," " Yet he was said to admire your ladyship, or else perhaps it was some member of your ladyship's family," replied Lady Townshend smartly ; " how- ever, I find him charming: Besides, he has hereditary talent, and Lady Pomfret must appreciate that. Can we have sixpenny pharaoh. I have not seen a card since the night at Lady Bel Finch's, when I was ruined by you all.
Sir Charles, we are going ; clear a space through the doorway for my hoop. Shall you join us at pharaoh. Lady Pomfret T " Or let it be a game of brag, which the Countess probably understands better," said Lady Townshend with a glitter of her fan.
Walpole's pale face again, paler than ever, I protest. Walpole, do you join us? He had asked L: The supper was served at twelve: We danced till four, then had tea and coffee, and came home. It was far on into daylight when he had finished his letter ; then he looked at his white face in the glass with a shudder.
What an object he was! But who was to blame? Had he not wantonly brought it on himself? If he had been silly enough to come back again flickering round the old flame, then he had singed himself for his pains, and had only his folly to thank for it. The royal conversation was in French, and, pleased with Lincoln's accents his Majesty pronomiced him the most agreeable man in England of his age, and declared he shonld be made a lord in waiting at the first opportnnitj. Afterwards came other marks of favour ; the king presented the young courtier to a very distinguished lady, who addressed him in a foreign accent.
However, Lincoln's debut at Court was success- ful ; he had won the approval of madame, and it was probably owing to the good fevour of that ill- favoured mistress that the king consented to a cherished project of the Duke ot Newcastle's to entail the dukedom on Lord Lincoln and his heirs. His name was to be inserted in the patent, and the duke, never doubting that the afiFair of the marriage would be carried out, had paid sixty thousand pounds to Lord Vane, who was next heir male, to cut off the entail in order to secure the estates to his nephew. Lord Vane, being in embarrassed circumstances and childless, preferred a large sura down to the possible chances of a remote succession.
So everything was being arranged for Lord Lincoln's profit and advantage. Fortune seemed eager to devise new favours for him, as that tuft- hunting goddess not unfrequently does in the case of those who have been already surfeited with her gifts. No wonder if he should have excited the envy of contemporaries of his rank, as well as the admiration of his own family, and that of the powerful connection which he was to acquire by the marriage with his cousin.
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As for the duke, the manners, dress, talents, taste, virtues, vices, even, of the young lord, were alike the burden of his Esher, conversation and the theme of his praises ; his pride in him was without bounds and, like all mani- festations of feeling on the part of that great man, expressed itself in extravagance and absurdity. After a few weeks in town, Lincoln dutifully goes down to Esher, Henry Pelham's magnificent place in Surrey: The visit had long been looked forward to, ancj Lincoln was received with every honour, and with a cordial welcome.
His affianced wife had grown into a graceful and accomplished girl, who, if wanting in the superlative attractions of Lady Sophia Fermor, was yet well endowed with personal charms.
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