Page images

wishes of her benefactors, an apparent, not to say a real act of ingratitude, to which she endeavoured to reconcile herself by the fact that she had used no arts to inveigle his affections, and by that convenient morality which sometimes persuades young ladies that love, omnipotent and irresistible love, absolves its votaries from all the ordinary and vulgar. obligations of society, and claims, as a superior power, their most implicit obedience to his behests. Up to this period there had never been any secret between herself and Edith, her constant play-fellow and companion from the time of childhood, to whom she had more than once thought of revealing her engagement with Walter, and asking advice as to her future conduct; but various motives had deterred her from making the communication.

Edith, who was inconceivably acute in all her senses and perceptions, quickly discovered a certain degree of constraint and reserve in Hetty's demeanour, for which she was at a loss to account. Educated together, there had ever been

a sisterly attachment between them, and indeed Edith's affectionate disposition led her to love every thing that came within the reach of her sensitive heart; and yet there was but little congeniality in their dispositions ; the robust temperament of the farmer's daughter producing that natural cheerfulness which may be termed the health of virtue; while, if she did not possess the delicacy and refinement of her friend, she was never a victim to that sickly sensibility which, however it might accord with the hectic fragility of Edith’s frame, was little conducive to her happiness, and indeed almost unfitted her for the ordinary purposes of life.

Trifling as was this seeming coolness on the part of Hetty, for it did not amount to any real estrangement, her friend felt it, her sensibility being as intense as that of the Mimosa ; and she was therefore the more gratified when she learned that the Shelton family, between whom and the Colytons there had existed a considerable degree of intimacy, had returned to their residence at Hales Court, a sequestered house not

far from Orchard Place, but situated in a much more beautiful country, since it adjoined the wellwonded and picturesque estates of Sir Halsewell Tynte, in the vicinity of Goathurst. Dominick Shelton was a Catholic gentleman, but utterly free from the narrowness and bigotry which at that unhappy period too often characterized the religionists of the Roman persuasion. Althouglı attached to his faith from education and from pride, for his ancestors had held distinguished rank in the church before the Reformation, he was too generous and liberal not to condemn all attempts at coercion in spiritual matters, and too enlightened not to foresee that the violent and impolitic measures of King James would defeat his own purpose, and be much more likely to subvert the throne than the established religion of the country. Retired in his habits, and delighting in the seclusion of his wood-embowered retreat at Hales Court, a strong sense of duty had nevertheless impelled him to remove for some time to London, in order that he might solemnly warn the king, while

there was yet time, and implore him to pause in a career which must inevitably terminate in convulsion and civil war. Having a relation whọ filled an office at Court, he found no difficulty in addressing James by letter, and even in procuring a personal interview ; but the infatuated monarch, deaf to the only monitors who sincere. ly wished to save him, sternly rebuked him as a lukewarm and degenerate Romanist, charged him with disloyalty and presumption, and indignantly dismissed him from his presence. .

6 The gods previously stultify those whom they have determined to destroy,” ejaculated Mr. Shelton, translating the Latin adage, as he retired from the royal presence. fate cannot be much longer delayed ; some popular disturbance may be daily expected ; it will probably commence in the metropolis ; the Catholics will indisputably be its first victims, and I shall therefore lose no time in returning to my hermitage :” a resolution which he carried into immediate execution.

His family consisted of an only child, Agatha,

“ The King's

who was now about the same age as Edith Colyton, and an ancient relative, a Romish priest, whom he entirely supported, and who officiated every Sunday, when not prevented by his infirmities, before the little assembled household of Hales Court, all the domestics being of the same persuasion as their master. For this purpose a small apartment had been fitted up, so as to bear some resemblance to a chapel, a circumstance which, at a period when the national mind was absolutely insanified with a horror of popery and popish plots, was sufficient to beget all sort of absurd and injurious ru

Hales Court, according to the notion of the besotted bumpkins in its neighbourhood, was a dangerous papistical seminary, where the most nefarious conspiracies were secretly hatch ed; the poor harmless old priest was a diabolical Jesuit, the master of the mansion an emissary of the Pope, and his daughter only fit to be burnt at the stake. Even the very paupers whom the latter sustained by her bounty, maligned instead of blessing her at the meals she


« PreviousContinue »