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LONDON [Vol. II]
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Yes — it
was to this individual that Maria Villiers was to be sacrificed: — it
was to him that the cold and selfish policy of Lord Rossville was about to
consign a beautiful, an artless, and an amiable girl.
Sir Cherry's mother had paid the debt of nature about a
year previously; and the young baronet found himself the possessor of an immense
Lord Rossville only looked upon his orphan niece Maria
as an encumbrance while she remained single, or as a means of increasing the wealth
(and in his idea, the strength) of the family when she married. Sir
Cherry had met her in the brilliant sphere of the West-End society: he had
courted her; and, the moment Lord and Lady Rossville observed his attentions,
they commanded her to receive them with favour. She — poor
timid, friendless girl!-was half persuaded into the idea that the match was
really to her advantage, and half bullied (for we can actually use no other
term) into an acquiescence in the views of her guardian.
Thus she had not dared to utter a negative when the
effeminate and insipid baronet had solicited her hand; and, her silence being
taken for a ready consent, the preliminaries were hurried on, without any
further reference to the inclinations or wishes of the victim!
"We have been painfully excited on your account,
Sir Cherry Bounce," said Lady Ravensworth, advancing to receive the
"The twuth wath that my fwiend Thmilackth
inthithted on my widing the new horth I bought yethterday," exclaimed the
baronet; "and ath he don't theem to be veway well bwoken in, the wethult
wath that I nearly got a bwoken head."
"I never saw such a Guy on a horse before — strike
me!" ejaculated Major Smilax Dapper, who [-229-]
had followed his friend into the room. "He would keep in advance of me the
whole way; and although I called after him to rein in — strike
him! — he would not listen to me."
"It wath that thouting and hoowaying that
fwightened my horth," observed Sir Cherry, casting a sulky look towards
"At all events you are not hurt — and
that is the essential," said Lord Rossville.
"Hurted! no — of course de good
gentleman's not hurted," exclaimed Baron Torkemdef: "it noting at all
but de idea — de fancy. You know vare well, sare, dat you not really
exist — dat you only tink you do exist — "
Sir Cherry Bounce, to whom these words were addressed,
cast so ludicrous a look of surprise mingled with dismay upon the philosopher,
that Major Smilax Dapper burst into an immoderate fit of laughter; so that Baron
Torkemdef was for a moment disconcerted.
Lord Rossville seized this opportunity to lead Sir
Cherry Bounce towards Miss Villiers, who received her intended husband with a
manner which to the superficial observer might appear excessive bashful-ness,
but which to the penetrating eye was the expression of blank — dumb — soul-crushing
"I was just as timid with my first as Maria
is," whispered Mrs. Berrymenny to the Countess of Brazenphace: "with
my second I was a leetle more gay; — with my third — "
"Dear Mrs. Berrymenny," interrupted the
Countess, impatiently; "pray do not talk of your seconds and thirds,
when here are my two youngest daughters who haven't even yet got their firsts."
Two footmen, in gorgeous liveries, now entered the room
and threw open a pair of folding-doors, thus revealing an inner apartment where
the nuptial ceremony was to take place by special license. Then Sir Cherry
Bounce took Maria's hand, and led her slowly into the next room, the Honourable
Misses Wigmore attending her in the capacity of bridemaids.
The remainder of the company followed in procession.
And now the Bishop takes his place near the table, and
opens the book.
The ceremony begins.
Pale as marble, and almost insensible to what is passing
around her, Maria Villiers hears a sort of droning mumbling, but cannot
distinguish the words.
And yet the Bishop read the prayers in a clear,
distinct, and impressive manner.
One of the bridemaids whispered in Maria's ear; and the
young victim mechanically repeated the answer thus prompted.
But she was scarcely aware of the tenour of what she had
said: every moment the scene became less comprehensible to her mind — and
she was on the point of uttering a wild cry, so alarming was the confusion of
her thoughts, when there was a sudden movement amongst the assembly — warm
lips touched her forehead for a moment and were instantly withdrawn — and
then her ears rang with the congratulations of her friends!
The chaos of her ideas was immediately dispelled; and
the appalling truth broke suddenly on her. The ceremony was over — and
she was a wife: — upon her marble brow the kiss of a husband had
By one of those strange efforts of which the soul is
sometimes capable, when "the worst" has arrived and "the
bitterness of death" has passed, Maria recovered her presence of mind, and
even smiled faintly in acknowledgment of the congratulations which she received.
"Dat young lady seem vare happy now,"
whispered the German philosopher to Mrs. Berrymenny; "but it all nutting
more dan de idea. We all idea — dat reverend Bischop — dis
room — dat book what he was read in — everyting!"
"Do you mean to persuade me, sir," asked Mrs.
Berrymenny, with an indignant glance at Baron Torkemdef, that it is all mere
fancy on my part that I have had five husbands? If so, sir, all I can say is
that I should like to have a sixth opportunity of putting your theory to the
And with these words the widow of five experiments of
the marriage-state joined the procession which was now on its way to the
The table in this apartment was spread with all the
delicacies which were calculated to tempt the appetite even of satiety.
Sir Cherry thought it necessary to whisper some soft
nonsense in the ears of his bride, as he conducted her to a seat; and Maria
turned upon him a vacant glance of surprise; — then, suddenly
recollecting the relation in which she stood towards him, her head drooped upon
her bosom, and she made no reply.
"Cherry," whispered Major Dapper, "you
are not half lively enough — blow you! You look like a fool — but
I suppose you can't help it."
"Hold your tongue, Thmilackth," returned Sir
Cherry, colouring to such an extent that the deep red was visible beneath his
light hair. "You thant tweat me like a child any more."
And now began the bustle of the breakfast-table and the
excitement of the scene appeared to produce the most beneficial effects upon
Lord Ravensworth, who did the honours of the table, conjointly with Adeline, in
a manner indicative of more gaiety and spirit than he had exhibited for some
"Lord Ravensworth is certainly improving,"
said the Countess of Brazenphace apart to Mrs. Berrymenny.
"My second used to deceive me in the same
manner," was the reply, also delivered in an under tone He was always
dying — and always getting better, for at least three years before
he went off altogether. My fourth — "
"Oh! you have told me all about him before,"
hastily interrupted the Countess, who was alarmed lest the widow should inflict
upon her a narrative of oft-experienced tediousness.
"Dat care excellent bird — how you call
him? Peasant — Ah!" observed Baron Torkemdef to the young
clergyman, who, like a child, saw, heard, but said nothing. "But after all
it no use for to praise one ting or to blame anoder — 'cause dem
each de idea — de fancy. Dere really no table — no
peasant — no wine — no peoples: it all de
And while the philosopher went on expatiating in this
manner, the viands disappeared from his plate and the wine from the decanter
near him with a marvellous rapidity; so that the young clergyman could not help
muttering to himself, "I wonder whether the Baron's appetite is an idea
"Seraphina," whispered the Countess of
Brazenphace to one of her daughters, "it you look so much [-230-]
at Count Swindeliskl, I shall be very angry. He has got no money, and is not a
match for you. There is the Member for Buyemup-cum-Rhino sitting on your right,
and he is a wealthy bachelor."
"But, dear mamma," returned Miss Seraphina,
also in a whisper, "he is at least sixty."
"So much the better," was the prompt reply:
"he is the easier to catch. Now mind your p's and q's, Miss."
This maternal advice was duly attended to; and, by the
time he had tossed off his third glass of champagne, the Member for Buyemup-cum-Rhino
had grown very tenderly maudlin towards the red-haired young husband-hunter.
"Miss Blewstocken, dear," cried the elder Miss
Wigmore, "have you composed nothing appropriate for the present
occasion? — no sweet little poem in your own fascinating
"Oh! dear Miss Wigmore, how unkind!" said the
literary young lady, in an affected and languishing manner. "I could not
have believed it of you — to appeal to me before so many! If I have
told you in confidence, or if it be indeed generally known that 'The Poetic
Nosegay was written by me — and if it had a very large
circulation — I do not think it is fair to expect — "
"Ah! Miss Blewstocken," exclaimed Miss Wigmore,
"we are all aware that your pen is seldom idle."
"It is really quite provoking to find oneself known
to Fame," said the literary lady, with increasing affectation of manner,
and in a drawling, insipid tone. "I wish I had never written at all: — not
that I have ever been induced to acknowledge the authorship of that novel which
was so successful last year — 'The Royal Fiddlestick,' I
mean. No: — but the time may come — "
And here the literary lady shook her head in so
mysterious a way that if she intended to be incomprehensible, she certainly was
most successful in the endeavour.
"Who is that lady?" inquired the Bishop of
"Miss Blewstocken, the celebrated authoress,"
was the reply.
"Oh!" said the Bishop, in a dry laconic way,
which proved that, however celebrated Miss Blewstocken might be, the trumpet of
her renown had never sounded in his ears before.
"Talk of de poetry and de novel," exclaimed
the German Baron, "what are all dem to do researches of de philosoph? Was
your lordship ever read my von grand vork on de 'Ideality of de
"I cannot say that I have ever read it, Sir,"
answered the Bishop, with a frown. "I have heard of it, sir — and
I consider its doctrines to be opposed to the Bible, sir. I believe it is in
fourteen large volumes, sir? Well, sir — then all I have to observe
upon it is that so many quartos are themselves too substantial to be a mere
"But dey are von idea!" exclaimed the Baron,
angrily. "Dey do not really exist, milor — in spite of what
your lordship shall say. Everyting is de idea — we be ourselves all
de walking, moving idea: dere no such ting as joy — no such ting as
pain — dey mere sensation — "
At this moment the learned philosopher started from his
seat with a yell of agony, and began stamping on the floor in a furious manner.
The fact was that while he was gesticulating in order to
bestow additional emphasis on the enunciation of his principles, his hand,
raised in the air, came in contact with a cup of coffee which a domestic was
about to place before the young clergyman; and the scalding fluid was poured
forth on the bald head and down the back of the philosopher.
"Pray do not mind it, sir," said the Bishop,
drily: "it is merely an idea."
"Yes — it do idea, no doubt!"
ejaculated Baron Torkemdef, as he wiped his head with his pocket-handkerchief,
while the domestic murmured an apology and slunk sway: "but de idea was
come in de unpleasant shape — dat noting against my doctrine — tousand
devils, how him do burn!"
And, particularly disconcerted, the learned man sank
back into his seat, where he consoled himself with a renewed application to the
decanter near him.
Meantime Count Swindeliski was rendering himself very
amiable to the Honourable Miss Helena Sophie Alexandrina Wigmore, next to whom
"Poland, then, must be a very beautiful country?,'
said the young lady, duly impressed by a most graphic description which the
Count had just terminated.
"It vare fine — vare fine,"
returned the fascinating foreigner. "De ancestral castle of the
Swindeliskis vare grand — touch de clouds — so long dat
when you do stand at de von end you shall not see de odor — so wide
dat horses shall always be kept saddled for to cross de court. My father was
keep tree tousand dependents: me not choose for to spend de revenue in dat vay — me
only may keep von tousand."
"And can you prefer England to your own beautiful
country?" inquired Miss Helena Wigmore.
"Me shall not prefare England," answered the
Count: "me shall choose wife of de English ladies — dey vare
beautiful — vare fine — vare clevare. Den me take my
wife to Poland, where she shall be von vare great lady indeed."
And, as he spoke, he threw a tender glance at his fair
But Miss Helena Sophie Alexandrina Wigmore knew full
well that every word the Count uttered concerning his fortune and castle was
false. She was, however, too polite not to seem to believe him; and she was,
moreover, pleased at engrossing the attentions of the handsomest man in the
room. She therefore permitted herself to flirt a little with him, especially as
her mother was not present to control her actions; but, like all young ladles in
fashionable circles, she was too astute and wary to entertain the least idea of
a more serious connexion.
The breakfast was now over; a carriage and four drove up
to the front of the mansion; and the hour of departure had arrived for the
Maria withdrew for a few moments in company with Lady
Ravensworth and the two bridemaids and when she returned she was dressed for
"Happy fellow!" whispered Major Dapper to his
friend; "blow you!"
"Fooleth Thmilackth!" returned Sir Cherry
Bounce. "But I am weally veway happy — ekthepth that curthed
wide on the fatht twotting horth. Good bye: I thall wite to you in a few dayth."
The farewells were all said; and Maria resigned her hand
to him who was about to bear her away from the Hall.
[-231-] She wept not — she
sighed not: but despair was written on her marble visage — though
none present could read that. sombre and melancholy language.
"I have directed Flora to accompany you."
whispered Lady Ravensworth; "and you can keep her altogether, if you
choose. Should the young woman whom you have hired, make her appearance, I will
retain her, and give her a trial. But what is her name? I had forgotten to ask
Maria gave an answer; but there was such a bustle in the
room at the moment and such a confused din of many voices, that the name escaped
Sir Cherry at the same instant led Maria towards the
stairs; and in a few minutes the carriage, containing the newly-married pair,
was rolling away from Ravensworth Hall on its journey to Cherry Park in Essex.
"I wish I was bound on a similar trip with a sixth"
thought Mrs. Berrymenny, as she watched from the window the departure of the
"I wish I could get off my eighth and ninth
as easily as the Rossvilles have done with Maria" thought the Countess of
Brazenpbace. "But I am afraid that the member for Buyemup-cum-Rhino will
"I wish I had not eulogised the single state in my
poems." thought Miss Blewstocken, with a profound sigh.
"Me wish me shall soon find do agreeable lady dat
will make me de von happiest of men," said Count Swindeliskl to Miss Helena
Sophie Alexandra Wigmore.
"After all," said Baron Torkemdef. who had
resevered his equanimity, by dint of frequent libations, "de marriage only
de idea — de fancy, like any oder tlng. Dat handsome chariot do not
actually exist — it only de idea; and dat loving pair what shall sit
in it are only idea as well. All is idea — me an idea — and
dat Lord Bischop wid de lawn-sleeves only an idea."
"Where is Lord Ravensworth?" inquired Adeline
of a domestic.
"His lordship felt suddenly unwell a few moments
ago, my lady, and has retired to his cabinet."
"Ah! a reaction — a recurrence to the
meerschaum!" murmured Lady Ravensworth, a cloud passing over her brow.
"Please your ladyship," said the servant,
"a young woman has just arrived from London. She says that she was hired by
Miss Villiers — I beg pardon Lady Bounce — and that an
accident to the vehicle in which she came to the Hall has delayed her."
"Oh! she is to remain with me," returned
Adeline. "Tell her that I will take her into my service on the same terms
that were arranged between her and Lady Bounce. She is to replace Flora."
"Very good, my lady;" — and the
servant was about to retire.
"One moment, William," said Adeline, beckoning
him back "Did this young woman mention her name — for as yet i
am really Ignorant of it?"
"Yes, my lady," answered the domestic'
"her name is Lydia Hutchinson."
And the servant withdrew.
"Lydia Hutchinson!" murmured Lady Ravensworth,
turning deadly pale, and tottering to a seat.
"Are you unwell, Adeline?" inquired Lady
Rossville, approaching her daughter.
"No — a sudden indisposition — it
is nothing," replied Adeline; and she hastened from the
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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