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BRIDE AND BRIDEGROOM.
BRILLIANT assembly was collected In the principal saloon of Ravensworth Hall.
Lord Rossville, — a tall, thin,
stern-looking man, — and Lady Rossville, — a very short,
stout, and affected dame, — were amongst the most conspicuous by
rank and station.
Lady Ravensworth seemed as beautiful as Lydia Hutchinson
had described her; and, as she was rather pale and delicate in consequence of
being in an "interesting situation," she was really a being who might
be termed, without any poetical exaggeration, sweetly fascinating. But no one
who there beheld the elegant and proud peeress, doing the honours of her
splendid mansion to a circle of noble guests, would have imagined that, when
plain Miss Adeline Enfield, she had played the wanton at so tender an age, and
given birth to a child in a miserable garret!
The Honourable Miss Maria Augusta Victoria Amelia
Hyacintha Villiers was a beautiful, but timid and retiring, girl of
seventeen; — and as she now appeared in the virginal white which
custom had compelled her to assume for the consummation of a sacrifice which she
felt — Oh! how keenly felt, — it was easy for a
benevolent eye to perceive that she was a victim to cold calculation, and not a
happy bride about to accompany to the altar one whom she loved.
But there were no benevolent eyes there: — there
seldom are in fashionable life and in such cases. The expression of blank
despair which marked the countenance of the young bride was regarded only as the
token of maidenly reserve and bashfulness.
Not that she loved another: no — her heart
was entirely her own; — but she was about to be given to a man whom
"Why did she not remonstrate with her
guardian?" asks the innocent reader. Remonstrate with a stanch Tory and
High-Church-supporting [-227-] peer like Lord
Rossville! Ridiculous! He who believed that the people are mere machines formed
to toil for the aristocracy, was not likely to listen with even common patience
to the remonstrances of a young maiden for whom he believed he had arranged a
"But, then, poor Maria might have opened her heart
to Lady Rossville!" says that self-same innocent reader. Equally
ridiculous! A mother who had intrigued so well as to foist her own daughter upon
an elderly noble like Lord Ravensworth, and who imagined that matrimony was
nothing more nor less in respect to young ladies than "catching at the
first rich man who offered himself," was very far from being the proper
person at whose hands the orphan and portionless Maria could obtain a reprieve
of the death-sentence which had been pronounced upon her heart.
In high life how many matrimonial connexions are based
on the calculations of sordid interest, instead of the sympathies of the soul!
And then the hoary peer or the decrepid nabob is surprised that his young wife
proves unfaithful to his bed, and declaims against the profligacy of her conduct
in yielding to the temptations of a deeply-seated love for another — a
love which was perhaps engendered before the ignominious sacrifice of her person
to the sexagenarian husband was ever thought of!
To return to the drawing-room at Ravensworth Hall.
Amongst the select party assembled, we must especially
mention the Honourable Miss Wigmore and the Honourable Miss Helena Sophia
Alexandrina Wigmore — the bridesmaids, who looked as if they had
much rather have been principal instead of secondary actresses in the
matrimonial ceremony. There also was the newly-appointed Bishop of the Carribee
Islands — solemn in lawn sleeves, and pompous in the display of his
episcopal importance. Lounging near the chair of a very pretty girl, with whom
he was conversing, stood Count Swindeliski — a refugee who sported
enormous whiskers, who had found his way into fashionable society no one exactly
knew how, and who had the extraordinary but not altogether uncommon knack of
living at the rate of five thousand a-year — upon nothing! Then
there were several Members of Parliament who had collected together near a
window, and were disputing with all their talent whether there ought to be a
duty of one half-penny or three-farthings per hundred on foreign brick-bats.
Near an open piano was gathered a group of very young ladies, engaged in an
edifying discussion on the character of some other very young lady who was not
present. Conversing with Lord Rossville was the owner of half a county, who
could return six Members to Parliament with the greatest ease, but could not for
the life of him return a sensible answer to even the plainest question. Standing
apart from all the rest, was a young country clergyman, who kept turning up the
whites of his eyes as if in a constant agony of some kind or another — but
really because he was in the presence of a Bishop, although the said Bishop
never once cast his reverend eyes that way. Then there was the Dowager Countess
of Brazenphace, who had "got off" seven out of nine red-haired
daughters, and had brought the two remaining single ones with her just to see if
they could not make an impression somewhere or another. There also was the
celebrated German philosopher Baron Torkemdef, who had written a work in
fourteen quarto volumes to prove that there is no such thing as matter-that we
do not really exist — but that we ourselves and every thing else are
mere ideas. This learned man was, as might be supposed, a very valuable
acquisition to a bridal party. Seated next to Lady Rossville was the Honourable
Mrs. Berrymenny, who had seen five husbands consigned to the tomb, and was
looking out for a sixth. It was, however, probable that she was doomed to look
long enough, inasmuch as she had no fortune, and had already reached the
comfortable age of fifty-three. Lastly, there was the elegant and accomplished
Miss Blewstocken, who was known to have written a volume of poems which had an
excellent circulation (amongst the butter-shops), and who was suspected of
having perpetrated a novel.
These are all the stars whom it is worth while to
signalise amidst a galaxy of some fifty personages.
The bridegroom had not yet arrived: he was expected to
make his appearance at about half-past-eight.
When Lord Ravensworth entered the room, every one who
had not lately seen him was shocked at the dreadful change which had taken place
in him; but of course the guests, one and all, assured him that they had never
seen him look so well before.
Adeline sighed deeply — for she could not
help thinking that it was a miserable mockery for a gaunt and almost fleshless
skeleton thus to deck itself out in an apparel befitting a bridal: — moreover,
the idea that if her yet unborn offspring should prove a girl, the broad lands
and noble Hall of Ravensworth would pass away to another, was ever uppermost in
To conceal her emotions, she hastened to the side of
poor Maria Villiers, to whom she said, "It is very strange that the
lady's-maid whom you have hired did not come last evening, as promised."
"It is, indeed, very annoying," observed
Maria, whose sorrows were, however, too deep to permit her mind to be even
ruffled by that trifling source of vexation.
"But never mind," continued Lady Ravensworth,
in a whisper; "you shall take my maid Flora with you, and I will either
find another at my leisure, or keep the one whom you have engaged, should she
make her appearance after you have left."
"This is very kind of you, Adeline," said
"I am afraid you did not manage well in your first
essay in choosing dependants, dear Maria," observed Lady Ravensworth.
"You were attracted by the advertisement in the Morning Herald;
whereas I never should think of taking a lady's-maid who advertises. Then, as
you yourself told me, you went to some out-of-the-way place in the City for the
young woman's character."
"Oh! I was perfectly satisfied, Adeline,"
interrupted Maria, to whom this conversation appeared trivial in the extreme on
an occasion so fraught with solemnity to herself.
Lady Ravensworth was about to make some reply, when Lord
Rossville, who had been standing at the window for the last few moments,
exclaimed, "Here's the bridegroom!"
A cold shudder passed over Maria's frame; and it seemed
that her heart had been suddenly swathed in ice.
[-228-] She alone retained
her place: all the other persons present hurried to the window.
And, sure enough, the bridegroom was in view; and a very
funny view it was. Perched upon the back of an enormous bright bay horse, the
"happy man" never appeared more miserable in his life. He was tugging
at the reins with all his might; but the huge animal galloped furiously along in
spite of the efforts made to restrain its speed. The bridegroom's feet were
thrust as far as they could go into the stirrups: his hat was rammed tight down
over his eyes, to prevent it from blowing away; — his form was bent,
or rather crouched up, like that of a monkey; — -with his right hand
he held fast by the horse's mane; — and with his left he continued
tugging at the bit and bradoon. The poor animal itself seemed to wonder, like
John Gilpin's steed, what sort of a thing it had got upon its back; for its eyes
glared, and its nostrils dilated with affright: while its whole body was covered
with a great perspiration, and white flakes of foam kept falling from its mouth.
In this manner did the bridegroom rush madly, but with
involuntary speed, through the spacious Park towards the Hall. At a short
distance behind him rode another cavalier, who managed his horse well, and
amused himself by maintaining a succession of shouts and hurrahs after the
bridegroom, whereby that unfortunate individual's steed was only affrighted all
the more. A third person on horseback appeared at a greater distance still; but
this was the bridegroom's servant.
"A most un-christianlike and decidedly unhallowed
manner for a bridegroom to comport himself," said the Bishop of the
Carribbee Islands, as he contemplated this ludicrous display of horsemanship.
"It certainly is strange," observed Lord
Rossville. But perhaps our young friend is anxious to display his skill — "
"No such a ting, milor — no such a
ting!" ejaculated Count Swindeliski, caressing his whiskers. "Dat
young gentelman's von great homebogue; and if me was dere, me hit him some kick
for his pain."
"Ah! he doesn't ride so well as my poor dear fourth,"
said Mrs. Berrymenny, with a profound sigh, as she thus alluded to one of her
"It's all vanity and vexation of spirit,"
observed the young clergyman, glancing deferentially towards the Bishop.
"No, sir — it is not, sir," said
the Bishop sternly: "it is sheer bad riding, sir — and nothing
The Right Reverend Father in God had been a fox-hunter
in his time.
"For my part," cried a Member of Parliament,
"I move that we repair to the young gentleman's assistance."
"And I beg to second the motion," said another
"Ah! by heaven, that's serious!" ejaculated
Lord Rossville, turning abruptly away from the window.
And so it seemed; for the horse suddenly stopped near
the entrance of the mansion, and pitched the bridegroom clean over its head into
a clump of evergreens.
All the ladies who beheld this catastrophe screamed
But at the very next moment he rose from his ignominious
position, and with difficulty removing his battered hat from over his eyes,
saluted the company assembled at the windows of the drawing. room.
"It's noting at all," said Baron Torkemdef:
"he only tink himself hurted — you only tink dat a horse what
did seem to run way wid him: — it all de idea — all de
Then, while Lord Rossville and others hastened to meet
the bridegroom and assure themselves that he was not hurt, Baron Torkemdef
caught hold of the great county landowner by the button-hole, and began to
expatiate upon the folly of yielding to sensations of pain and other
afflictions, as not only those sensations but also we ourselves were only so
many unsubstantial ideas.
Meantime, poor Maria Villiers had remained in a sort of
listless reverie in her seat; and it was only when Lady Ravensworth assured her
that the bridegroom had sustained no injury, that she learnt ho had been in any
peril at all.
in ten minutes the door opened, and Lord Rossville
returned to the room, ushering in the bridegroom, who had been cleansed in the
meantime from the effects of his fall, and who endeavoured to put a smiling face
upon the matter, although still terribly disconcerted.
Then Lady Adeline advanced to meet him, and said in a
most gracious tone, "We have been painfully excited on your account, Sir
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