|Chapter Title||DOMESTIC HAPPINESS OF THE EARL AND COUNTESS BLUSHROSE. PECULATION BY LORD TOOTLE'S MAID.|
|Newspaper Title||The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859)|
|Trove Title||The Story of a Feather|
THE STORY OF A FEATHER.
By Douglas Serrets
(A Story from "PUNCH")
(Continued from our last.)
DOMESTIC HAPPINESS OF THE EARL AND
COUNTESS BLUSHROSE. PECULATION BY LORD TOOTLE'S MAID."
" You come in good time, my lord," said the Countess, with icy speech, "in excellent time for Mr. Inglewood's eloquence."
" I am always happy to listen to Mr. Inglewood," said the Earl, politely bowing towards the wife of his bosom. His lordship then graciously smiled upon his chaplain, and drawing a chair, ceremoniously seated himself, as though resigned to a long discourse. This formality somewhat abashed the worthy chaplain ; but there was another circumstance which increased his confusion. He knew that for the past week the wedded couple had not once met; and the feigned civility interchanged between them gave certain omen of a rising storm. Their general bearing was that of polished indifference ; but when either of them was stung into extreme politeness, hostilities were sure to follow. The Earl could have loved his wife, nay, when he married, he did love her; but she had chilled him into coldness. Her excelling beauty had fascinated him ; but too late he found that he had sacrificed his dearest hopes to a statue. The Countess was that most terrible, but happily that rarest, evil of creation, a selfish woman. Supremely arrogant in her personal charms, her looking-glass presented her with all the external world contained: whilst self-self-self sang to her soul a never-ending lullaby. " Would to God !" cried her husband, as one day he looked upon her fatal loveliness with moistening eyes-" would to God she could change that face for a heart !" She would not have bartered one day's bloom of it for the maternal pride of a Cornelia.
" And now, Mr. Inglewood," said the Earl, " now for your household sermon. I see bow it is," he continued, marking the discomfort of the chaplain, keenly observing too the cloudy brow of the Countess,-" I see how it is ; as usual, you have been discoursing to her ladyship."
Here Inglewood inwardly shivered ; for he knew by fatal experience how his lordship-otherwise kind and considerate towards him,-delighted to play him off in his churchman's character against the Countess. It was, to the Earl's thinking, an exquisite touch of policy to correct his wife-correct, did I say? no, the Earl had no such desperate thought; but to punish the partner of his fortunes with the rod of the church. The Earl, I say, considered this to be a stroke of fine policy : some folks may call it conjugal cowardice.
"My lord," said Inglewood, determined to make an effort to extricate himself,-" I will defer my suit-for indeed, it was a suit I had to urge, and not a sermon,-until to-morrow."
, " Certainly not," Mr. Inglewood, cried her ladyship, affect- ing a distrustful glance towards her husband. " Proceed, I beg of you. I assure you, my lord, Mr. Inglewood was talk- ing very charmingly-very much so, when you interrupted us. I am sure he had something of importance to communicate ; something that you, doubtless, ought to hear-I beg he will continue." All this was said with meaning, inquisitive eyes, and in a tone of suppressed suffering ; so admirably did the unfeeling wife act jealousy-so perfectly did her very heart- lessness assume a heart. At once, his lordship knew that he was reserved for some mysterious mischief, and so resolved to
make the first attack.
(Poor Inglewood-poor chaplain! And he-he was to be the sentient shuttlecock, struck in cruel sport from wire to hus- band-from husband back to wife ! At that moment how did his heart yearn for the Paradise of a Welsh curacy !)
" Her ladyship, Mr. Inglewood," cried the Earl quickly, for the first time in his life getting the advance speech of his wife, and valorously determining to keep it-" Her ladvship - for all she may affect towards yourself-has, I know, the greatest veneration for your worth, your honesty. She loves plain-speaking dearly ; though perhaps it might be impolitic at all times to avow it. Still, Mr. Inglewood, you must not be too ascetic with her ladyship ; you must be a little indul- gent. You must not wage such a deadly crusade against piquet. I know what you have said of a woman gamester ; I have listened with great edification to your description of the terrible sect; have really shuddered at the frightful picture; at the anatomy, I may say, you have prepared from what for all good purpose has ceased to live-a lady gambler; nevertheless, my dear Mr Inglewood"-and here his lordship wreaked such cordi- ality upon his remonstrance-nevertheless, you must not con found a casual instance with a custom ; you must not consider her ladyship a hopeless idolater of painted paper, if now and then-to give wings to a heavy hour-she takes a hand or so. Really you must not, Mr. Inglewood." Thus spoke his lord- ship; and in the vanity of his masculine heart he thought he had achieved a wondrous triumph over the woman he had vowed to love and cherish. The lady, however, who had as strongly sworn, proved herself at least an equal match for the man she loved, honoured, and obeyed. As for Inglewood, he sat with his lips glued together. The polite vehemence of the Earl had kept him silent: now, her ladyship was about to speak, and he knew that nought remained for him but to suffer. With what scorching softness in ber eyes-with what bitter self-complacency-with what an obtrusive sense of martyrdom, -did the Countess Blushrose carefully construct a handful of inuendoes, every one of them enough to wound a woman's peace for ever.
"I'm sure, my lord,"-(if a man could be killed by music, the mortal melody of her ladyship's well-educated voice had cer- tainly slain her husband,-" I'm sure, that is I hope, I am always a patient listener to Mr. Inglewood. I know the good- ness that prompts him ; the conscience that animates every word ; I know his devotion to the high and abstract character, as I think I have heard you call it,-you see, my lord, how I treasure all your syllables,-yes, the high and abstract character of his function.-I know his regard for the family-his especial consideration for ourselves, and therefore from him can bear anything. Nevertheless, my lord, as I was saying to Mr. Inglewood when you entered-that is, I was about to say-I would not have him scold you as I know he does. He must not take upon common report-the world is so censorious, the world so delights to destroy wedded confidence-what I never can believe, at least not all of it. And therefore, my lord, I say he must not scold you."
Has the reader watched a well-grown kitten with its maiden mouse ? Has he seen how that velvet-coated, playful creature, having first crushed its victim's loins with all its teeth, drops it; .and now, crouching apart, with serene assurance that the miserable wretch cannot escape, watches with sweet forbearance its writhings and its strugglings, the very hopelessness of its agony to get away ? How the said kitten,-its claws humanely sheathed, they having already done their work-puts forth one paw, and now tapa the mouse on one side-now on the other and turns it over and over-and all in play-all in the prettiest sport?
If the reader has seen this, sure I am, he can find a parallel in wife and husband to puss and mouse.
"No, Mr. Inglewood," continued her ladyship,-"his lord- ship has, I know, his faults ; still he is not the unscrupulous
" Madam !" exclaimed his lordship, firing at the word, and then turnlng fiercely round upon his chaplain,-" Mr. Ingle- wood, what is this ?"
Mr. Inglewood, in patient amazement looked at the wedded pair, then asked, " What, my lord ?"
" Am I, sir, indebted to your insinuations for this character ? Is it thus, in my own house, you fulfil a mission of peace?"
" I protest, my lord," stammered Inglewood,-" I protest I "-
"Oh, Mr. Inglewood is a plain speaker," cried the Coun- tess, delighted at the success of her artifice. " And then so faithful, so vivid an artist, too ! I am sure I am delighted with the portrait that, as you tell me, my lord, Mr. Inglewood has passed off for me. It must have been so grateful to a husband, -so flattering to his wife !-And then it is so comfortable to have at one's elbow a kind remembrancer of one's little faults. Not that I want toknow all your lordship's treasons,-and even if if I did, Mr. Inglewood it so good, he would never tell
The chaplain was by nature and self-discipline, a meek, forbearing man, but he was full of generous impulses, and the implied slander of her ladyship was too much for his patience : he therefore committed a great breach of decorum ; for, ere her ladyship had well concluded her sentence, Mr. Inglewood
brought down his clenched fist upon the table with such a re- port that the Countess leapt in her chair with a slight shriek. "Mr. Inglewood 1" exclaimed the astonished Earl,-"you for- get yourself. Do you know, sir, what you are?"
" Yes, my lord," replied Inglewood, with sudden calmness " no longer your chaplain. I entered your lordship's service as a minister of peace : I will not-no, my lord, will not-to suit the fickle humours of the great, be made a scapegoat and a firebrand. I am no longer, sir, your servant."
"Come, come," said the really good-natured nobleman, " not so hasty, Air. Inglewood. Spoil not your hopes in life by a piece of temper." '
"My hopes in this life, my lord," said Inglewood, "are a quiet conscience, health, and a cordial faith, let them make what mistakes they will, in my fellow-creatures. Of these three hopes, it may please God to deprive me of one ; never- theless, two,-whilst my reason lasts-must and shall remain
"Mr. Inglewood-I have been wrong; I confess as much,
"My lord," replied Inglewood firmly, yet respectfully,"I have been wrong ; and by quitting your service can make the only reparation due to myself: understand me, my lord-to myself. I now know my place : it must be my own house my own roof-though wind and snow drive through it ; my own hearth, though with scarce a log to warm it; my own time, that I may work to know the mystery within me. I thank you, my lord, with all my heart I thank you, for this relief from bondage. You intended kindly by me : but, I feel it, my lord-I should dwarf and wither under your patronage : I should never grow to be a man !"
" You know best," said the Earl, resuming his dignity. " I would not by my favours blight a giant. Come, come," said the Earl smilingly, "you are a young man-a very young man.
Let us talk of this to-morrow."
" My lord," answered Inglewood, " I have made my election ; I am free. Yet, my lord, let me leave your house a peace- maker." Then turning to the Countess, he said, " Will your ladyship grant me a moment's hearing? for what I have to say must interest you." Her ladyship nodded dignified assent. "I would plead for a weak and foolish woman. She has betrayed her trust. Yet, I believe, 'twas pride, a vain and foolish pride -no deep sin-that beguiled her!"
" What woman's this ?" asked the Earl.
" One beneath your roof, my lord. One of your tenant's daughters, hired to tend your child. This morning"
" Ten thousand pardons, my lady," cried an elderly, hard featured woman, bursting into the apartment, "but flesh and blood can't bear to have such doings made nothing of. If Susan isn't packed off, nobody's safe. I knew his reverence here wanted to talk her off-but-I-I beg your pardon, my lady, for breaking in-but every body's character must suffer." Here the ancient dame, with her apron corner, carefully dis- lodged a small tear from either eye.
"What's the matter, Mrs. Pillow-what has Susan done?" asked the Countess. '
' " Stolen half-a-yard of lace from his lordship's cap," answered
Mrs Pillow. '
"Not stolen-not stolen,"shrieked a girl, as she rushed in, and with streaming eyes fell at the feet of the Countess. " I never had a thief's thought-never : nurse Said 'twas of no use-none; and I only took it to remember me of that sweet child-I love it dearer than my own flesh-to remember it when I should be old and baby be a man."
The girl, with clasped hands, looked with passionate grief in the face of the Countess. Her ladyship rose, and fanning her cheek with me-new from the Prince's coronet-said, " Send the culprit from the house, and Instantly."
The girl fell prostrate on the floor. Mr. Inglewood followed the Countess with his eyes, as, still waving me to and fro, she walked from the room. " God teach you better mercy !" he said in a low voice, and then stooped down to raise the heart
(To be continued.)