« PreviousContinue »
his thoughts were far from pleasant, for he was called upon to decide upon the forfeiture of one of two invaluable possessions, - the countenance of his uncle, or the prospect of being the husband of Emily; either of which he found it difficult, nay almost impossible, to resign. From a boy, Ernest had known he was destined to marry his cousin Louisa Yorke ; and, as is frequently the case where force is put upon the will, any and every woman he saw had more charms for him than the one being he was intended to love and protect. Nature had endowed him with strong passions and feelings, while a peculiarly joyous and dauntless disposition rendered him an attractive companion; and in the army, good fellowship is sure to entail extravagant and dissipated habits, unless, indeed, prudence should be added to the other virtues of the individual, a circumstance not to be anticipated from the inexperienced youth. Ernest ran the ordeal with pleasure, entered deeply into every excess, and sported beneath the dazzling influence of grace and beauty, culling sweets from every flower, regardless of the pain he inflicted; for he had his uncle's promise constantly in view, and dared not commit himself. Thus he became desirous only of present gratification, without bestowing a thought on his victims. Not that his heart was bad, on the contrary, he was capable of the truest affection. With Emily he had tampered, as with the rest on his previous visit, in an equally successful manner; not so now; his affection became involved, ere he was aware of it; and though he knew his uncle's consent would be withheld, he continued to nourish his passionate admiration without a struggle, particularly as he found no opposition on the part of his bonne amie. How to act in the present emergency, he knew not, yet decision was absolutely necessary, and long and stormy was the debate between duty and love. At one moment he condemned his uncle's pride, and ill-judged promise to his mother; at another, he cursed his own evil destiny, and again was ready to be displeased with Emily for being so attractive. He at length resolved, that he would refuse positively, as he had already done, to marry his cousin; to declare nothing should induce him to alter his mind with regard to Emily, but that he intended without delay to quit the Grove. Of Emily, he saw no more that day, and he could not help suspecting that her absence was caused by Mr. Yorke, though indisposition was alleged to be the occasion of it.
The following morning, he repaired to the study, where he found Mr. Yorke reading; he laid down his book, saying, “ You are true to your appointment, sir. I hope reflection has made you more alive to your own interests than you were yesterday.”
“ I have certainly had ample time to consolidate my resolutions, Uncle, which have never changed from the first moment you spoke to me on the subject.”
“ Then you intend to persist, Ernest, in the answer you gave me yesterday,” replied the uncle, sternly.
“ Most certainly, sir. I love Emily; she is every thing to me: whereas my cousin, equally, perhaps more, estimable, can never awaken in my breast any other sentiment than that of relative kindness.
Unwilling as I am to forfeit the good opinion I hope you entertain of me, I cannot resign my only true love."
“ And this is your ultimatum, Ernest ?"
“ Then permit me to tell you that by such a decision you are injuring the object of your affections; for I shall not harbour clandestine love."
“ On that point, Uncle, you need not disturb yourself; for I shall not request the shelter of your roof for more than one night. It is my intention to spend a month in London, and then rejoin my regiment : when I am gone, you will not refuse still to extend your protection to the orphan, who, but for me, might still be as happy as she deserves to be.”
Mr. Yorke's severity softened, when he heard Ernest's intention to depart; for he felt a paternal interest for his nephew; and he answered, more mildly, “ No, Ernest, this shall still be her home; I have no intention of depriving her of it if you leave this : but you must cease to think of her, for my consent will not and cannot be procured.”
“ Nay, sir, let me hope time may work some change in our favour; for mine she shall be eventually, in spite of every earthly power, until the green sod covers me, I will hope. For the sake of her present happiness, sir, I tear myself away, and chance may render my
absence eternal, only in the expectation of find-
- Threaten me not, Ernest: you know I have no other object than your mutual advantage; and time and circumstances must determine whether I continue as firm as at this moment, or relax my prejudices in your favour.” Mr. Yorke rose as he concluded, and, notwithstanding his nephew's entreaties, refused to alter one iota of his determination.
Ernest's sudden departure soon reached the ears of the unhappy Emily: she appreciated the prudence and wisdom of the step, although it pained her to the heart's core.
Mr. Yorke had acquainted her with his displeasure, and utter aversion to their attachment: he mildly, but firmly, pointed out to her the unworthy return she had made for his care, in playing the part of the deceiver, and wounding him deeply while in the act of receiving his bounty; and told her it was her duty to counsel Ernest to yield to the wishes of his parents,