TALES AND NOVELS - VOL. V
TALES AND NOVELS - VOL. V
IN TEN VOLUMES. WITH ENGRAVINGS ON STEEL.
"And gave her words where oily Flatt'ry lays
The pleasing colours of the art of praise."--PARNELL.
NOTE FROM MRS. BEAUMONT TO MISS WALSINGHAM.
"I am more grieved than I can express my dearest Miss Walsingham by a
cruel _contre-temps_ which must prevent my indulging myself in the
long-promised and long-expected pleasure of being at your _fete de
famille_ on Tuesday to celebrate your dear father's birthday. I trust
however to your conciliating goodness my kind young friend to
represent my distress properly to Mr. Walsingham. Make him sensible I
conjure you that my _heart_ is with you all and assure him that this
is no common apology. Indeed I never employ such artifices with my
friends: to them and to you in particular my dear I always speak with
perfect frankness and candour. Amelia with whom _entre nous_ you are
more a favourite than ever is so much vexed and mortified by this
disappointment that I see I shall not be restored to favour till I can
fix a day for going to you: yet when that may be circumstances which I
should not feel myself quite justified in mentioning will not permit me
"Kindest regards and affectionate remembrances to all your dear
circle.--Any news of the young captain? Any hopes of his return from
"Ever with perfect truth my dearest Miss Walsingham's sincere friend
"P.S.--Private--read to yourself.
"To be candid with you my dear young friend my secret reason for
denying myself the pleasure of Tuesday's fete is that I have just
heard that there is a shocking chicken-pox in the village near you; and
I confess it is one of my weaknesses to dread even the bare rumour of
such a thing on account of my Amelia: but I should not wish to have
this mentioned in your house because you must be sensible your father
would think it an idle womanish fear; and you know how anxious I am for
"Burn this I beseech you----
"Upon second thoughts I believe it will be best to tell the truth and
the whole truth to your father if you should see that nothing else
will do----In short I write in haste and must trust now as ever
entirely to your discretion."
"Well my dear" said Mr. Walsingham to his daughter as the young lady
sat at the breakfast table looking over this note "how long do you
mean to sit the picture of The Delicate Embarrassment? To relieve you
as far as in me lies let me assure you that I shall not ask to see
this note of Mrs. Beaumont's which as usual seems to contain some
"No great mystery; only----"
"Only--some minikin mystery?" said Mr. Walsingham. "Yes '_Elle est
politique pour des choux et des raves_.'--This charming widow Beaumont
is _manoeuvrer_. We can't well make an English word of it. The
species thank Heaven! is not so numerous yet in England as to require
a generic name. The description however has been touched by one of
'Julia's a manager: she's born for rule
And knows her wiser husband is a fool.
For her own breakfast she'll project a scheme
Nor take her tea without a stratagem.'
Even from the time when Mrs. Beaumont was a girl of sixteen I remember
her manoeuvring to gain a husband and then manoeuvring to manage him
which she did with triumphant address."
"What sort of a man was Colonel Beaumont?"
"An excellent man; an open-hearted soldier of the strictest honour and
"Then is it not much in Mrs. Beaumont's favour that she enjoyed the
confidence of such a man and that he left her guardian to his son and
"If he had lived with her long enough to become acquainted with her real
character what you say my dear would be unanswerable. But Colonel
Beaumont died a few years after his marriage and during those few years
he was chiefly with his regiment."
"You will however allow" said Miss Walsingham "that since his death
Mrs. Beaumont has justified his confidence.--Has she not been a good
guardian and an affectionate mother?"
"Why--as a guardian I think she has allowed her son too much liberty
and too much money. I have heard that young Beaumont has lost a
considerable sum at Newmarket I grant you that Mrs. Beaumont is an
affectionate mother and I am convinced that she is extremely anxious to
advance the worldly interests of her children; still I cannot my dear
agree with you that she is a good mother. In the whole course of the
education of her son and daughter she has pursued a system of artifice.
Whatever she wanted them to learn or to do or to leave undone some
stratagem sentimental or scenic was employed; somebody was to hint to
some other body to act upon Amelia to make her do so and so.
Nothing--that is nothing like truth ever came directly from the
mother: there were always whisperings and mysteries and 'Don't say that
before Amelia!' and 'I would not have this told to Edward' because it
might make him like something that she did not wish that he should like
and that she had _her reasons_ for not letting him know that she did not
wish him to like. There was always some truth to be concealed for some
mighty good purpose; and things and persons were to be represented in
false lights to produce on some particular occasion some partial
effect. All this succeeded admirably in detail and for the management
of helpless ignorant credulous childhood. But mark the consequences
of this system: children grow up and cannot always see hear and
understand just as their mothers please. They will go into the world;
they will mix with others; their eyes will be opened; they will see
through the whole system of artifice by which their childhood was so
cleverly managed; and then confidence in the parent must be destroyed
Miss Walsingham acknowledged the truth of what her father said; but she
observed that this was a common error in education which had the
sanction of high authority in its favour; even the eloquent Rousseau
and the elegant and ingenious Madame de Genlis. "And it is certain"
continued Miss Walsingham "that Mrs. Beaumont has not made her children
artful; both Amelia and Mr. Beaumont are remarkably open sincere
honourable characters. Mr. Beaumont indeed carries his sincerity
almost to a fault: he is too blunt perhaps in his manner;--and Amelia
though she is of such a timid gentle temper and so much afraid of
giving pain has always courage enough to speak the truth even in
circumstances where it is most difficult. So at least you must allow my
dear father that Mrs. Beaumont has made her children sincere."
"I am sorry my dear to seem uncharitable; but I must observe that
sometimes the very faults of parents produce a tendency to opposite
virtues in their children: for the children suffer by the consequences
of these faults and detecting despise and resolve to avoid them. As
to Amelia and Mr. Beaumont their acquaintance with our family has been
no unfavourable circumstance in their education. They saw amongst us the
advantages of sincerity: they became attached to you and to my
excellent ward Captain Walsingham; he obtained strong power over young
Beaumont's mind and used it to the best purposes. Your friendship for
Amelia was I think equally advantageous to her: as you are nearly of
the same age you had opportunities of winning her confidence; and your
stronger mind fortified hers and inspired her timid character with the
courage necessary to be sincere."
"Well" persisted Miss Walsingham "though Mrs. Beaumont may have used a
little _finesse_ towards her children in trifles yet in matters of
consequence I do think that she has no interest but theirs; and her
affection for them will make her lay aside all art when their happiness
is at stake."
Mr. Walsingham shook his head.--"And do you then really believe my dear
Marianne that Mrs. Beaumont would consider any thing for instance in
the marriage of her son and daughter but fortune and what the world
calls _connexion and establishments_?"
"Certainly I cannot think that these are Mrs. Beaumont's first objects;
because we are people but of small fortune and yet she prefers us to
many of large estates and higher station."
"You should say she professes to prefer us" replied Mr. Walsingham.
"And do you really believe her to be sincere? Now there is my ward
Captain Walsingham for whom she pretends to have such a regard do you
think that Mrs. Beaumont wishes her daughter should marry him?"
"I do indeed; but Mrs. Beaumont must speak cautiously on that subject;
this is prudence not dissimulation: for you know that my cousin
Walsingham never declared his attachment to Miss Beaumont; on the
contrary he always took the most scrupulous pains to conceal it from
her because he had not fortune enough to marry and he was too
honourable to attempt or even to wish to engage the affections of one
to whom he had no prospect of being united."
"He is a noble fellow!" exclaimed Mr. Walsingham. "There is no
sacrifice of pleasure or interest he would hesitate to make to his
duty. For his friends there is no exertion no endurance no
forbearance of which he has not shown himself capable. For his
country----All I ask from Heaven for him is opportunity to serve his
country. Whether circumstances whether success will ever prove his
merits to the world I cannot foretell; but I shall always glory in him
as my ward my relation my friend."
"Mrs. Beaumont speaks of him just as you do" said Miss Walsingham.
"Speaks but not thinks" said Mr. Walsingham. "No no! Captain
Walsingham is not the man she desires for a son-in-law. She wants to
marry Amelia to Sir John Hunter."
"To Sir John Hunter!"
"Yes to Sir John Hunter a being without literature without morals
without even youth to plead in his favour. He is nearly forty years
old old enough to be Amelia's father; yet this is the man whom Mrs.
Beaumont prefers for the husband of her beloved daughter because he is
heir presumptive to a great estate and has the chance of a reversionary
earldom.--And this is your modern good mother."
"Oh no no!" cried Miss Walsingham "you do Mrs. Beaumont injustice; I
assure you she despises Sir John Hunter as much as we do."
"Yet observe the court she has paid to the whole family of the Hunters."
"Yes but that has been merely from regard to the late Lady Hunter who
was her particular friend."
"_Particular friend!_ a vamped-up sentimental conversation reason."
"But I assure you" persisted Miss Walsingham "that I know Mrs.
Beaumont's mind better than you do father at least on this subject."
"You! a girl of eighteen pretend to know a manoeuvrer of her age!"
"Only let me tell you my reasons.--It was but last week that Mrs.
Beaumont told me that she did not wish to encourage Sir John Hunter and
that she should be perfectly happy if she could see Amelia united to
such a man as Captain Walsingham."
"Such a man as Captain Walsingham! nicely guarded expression!"
"But you have not heard all yet.--Mrs. Beaumont anxiously inquired
from me whether he had made any prize-money whether there was any
chance of his returning soon; and she added with particular emphasis
'You don't know how much I wish it! You don't know what a favourite he
is of mine!'"
"That last I will lay any wager" cried Mr. Walsingham "she said in a
whisper and in a corner."
"Yes but she could not do otherwise for Amelia was present. Mrs.
Beaumont took me aside."
"Aside; ay ay but take care I advise you of her _asides_ and her
whisperings and her cornerings and her inuendoes and semiconfidences
lest your own happiness my dear unsuspecting enthusiastic daughter
should be the sacrifice."
Miss Walsingham now stood perfectly silent in embarrassed and
"I see" continued her father "that Mrs. Beaumont for whose mighty
genius one intrigue at a time is not sufficient wants also to persuade
you my dear that she wishes to have you for a daughter-in-law: and
yet all the time she is doing every thing she can to make her son marry
that fool Miss Hunter merely because she has two hundred thousand
"There I can assure you that you are mistaken" said Miss Walsingham;
"Mrs. Beaumont dreads that her son should marry Miss Hunter. Mrs.
Beaumont thinks her as silly as you do and complained to me of her
having no taste for literature or for any thing but dress and
"I wonder then that Mrs. Beaumont selects her continually for her
"She thinks Miss Hunter the most insipid companion in the world; but I
dare not tell you lest you should laugh at me again that it was for
the sake of the late Lady Hunter that Mrs. Beaumont was so kind to the
daughter; and now Miss Hunter is so fond of her and so grateful that
as Mrs. Beaumont says it would be cruelty to shake her off."
"Mighty plausible! But the truth of all this begging Mrs. Beaumont's
pardon I doubt; I will not call it a falsehood but I may be permitted
to call it a _Beaumont_. Time will show: and in the mean time my dear
daughter be on your guard against Mrs. Beaumont's art and against your
own credulity. The momentary pain I give my friends by speaking the
plain truth I have always found overbalanced by the pleasure and
advantage of mutual confidence. Our domestic happiness has arisen
chiefly from our habits of openness and sincerity. Our whole souls are
laid open; there is no management no '_intrigue de cabinet_ no
'_esprit de la ligue_.'"
Mr. Walsingham now left the room; and Miss Walsingham absorbed in
reflections more interesting to her than even the defence of Mrs.
Beaumont went out to walk. Her father's house was situated in a
beautiful part of Devonshire near the sea-shore in the neighbourhood
of Plymouth; and as Miss Walsingham was walking on the beach she saw an
old fisherman mooring his boat to the projecting stump of a tree. His
figure was so picturesque that she stopped to sketch it; and as she was
drawing a woman came from the cottage near the shore to ask the
fisherman what luck he had had. "A fine turbot" says he "and a
"Then away with them this minute to Beaumont Park" said the woman; "for
here's Madam Beaumont's man Martin called _in a flustrum_ while you
was away to say madam must have the nicest of our fish whatsomever it
might be and a john-doree if it could be had for love or money for
Tuesday."--Here the woman perceiving Miss Walsingham dropped a curtsy.
"Your humble servant Miss Walsingham" said the woman.
"On Tuesday?" said Miss Walsingham: "are you sure that Mrs. Beaumont
bespoke the fish for Tuesday?"
"Oh _sartin_ sure miss; for Martin mentioned moreover what he had
heard talk in the servants' hall that there is to be a very _pettiklar_
old gentleman as rich! as rich! as rich can be! from foreign parts and
a great friend of the colonel that's dead; and he--that is the old
_pettiklar_ gentleman--is to be down all the way from Lon'on to dine at
the park on Tuesday for _sartin_: so husband away with the john-doree
and the turbot while they be fresh."
"But why" thought Miss Walsingham "did not Mrs. Beaumont tell us the
plain truth if this is the truth?"
"Young Hermes next a close contriving god
Her brows encircled with his serpent rod;
Then plots and fair excuses fill her brain
And views of breaking am'rous vows for gain."
The information which Mrs. Beaumont's man Martin had learned from the
servants' hall and had communicated to the fisherman's wife was more
correct and had been less amplified embellished misunderstood or
misrepresented than is usually found to be the case with pieces of news
which are so heard and so repeated. It was true that Mrs. Beaumont
expected to see on Tuesday an old gentleman a Mr. Palmer who had been
a friend of her husband's; he had lately returned from Jamaica where he
had made a large fortune. It is true also that this old gentleman was
_a little particular_ but not precisely in the sense in which the
fisherman's wife understood the phrase; he was not particularly fond of
john-dorees and turbots but he was particularly fond of making his
fellow-creatures happy; particularly generous particularly open and
honest in his nature abhorring all artifice himself and unsuspicious
of it in others. He was unacquainted with Mrs. Beaumont's character as
he had been for many years in the West Indies and he knew her only from
her letters in which she appeared every thing that was candid and
amiable. His great friendship for her deceased husband also inclined him
to like her. Colonel Beaumont had appointed him one of the guardians of
his children but Mr. Palmer being absent from England had declined to
act: he was also trustee to Mrs. Beaumont's marriage-settlement and she
had represented that it was necessary he should be present at the
settlement of her family affairs upon her son's coming of age; an event
which was to take place in a few days. The urgent representations of
Mrs. Beaumont and the anxious desire she expressed to see Mr. Palmer
had at last prevailed with the good old gentleman to journey down to
Beaumont Park though he was a valetudinarian and though he was
obliged he said to return to Jamaica with the West India fleet which
was expected to sail in ten days; so that he announced positively that
he could stay but a week at Beaumont Park with his good friends and
He was related but distantly to the Beaumonts and he stood in precisely
the same degree of relationship to the Walsinghams. He had no other
relations and his fortune was completely at his own disposal. On this
fortune our cunning widow had speculated long and deeply though in fact
there was no occasion for art: it was Mr. Palmer's intention to leave
his large fortune to the Beaumonts; or to divide it between the Beaumont
and Walsingham families; and had she been sincere in her professed
desire of a complete union by a double marriage between the
representatives of the families her favourite object would have been
in either case equally secure. Here was a plain easy road to her
object; but it was too direct for Mrs. Beaumont. With all her abilities
she could never comprehend the axiom that a right line is the shortest
possible line between any two points:--an axiom equally true in morals
and in mathematics. No the serpentine line was in her opinion not
only the most beautiful but the most expeditious safe and convenient.
She had formed a triple scheme of such intricacy that it is necessary
distinctly to state the argument of her plot lest the action should be
too complicated to be easily developed.
She had in the first place a design of engrossing the whole of Mr.
Palmer's fortune for her own family; and for this purpose she determined
to prevent Mr. Palmer from becoming acquainted with his other relations
the Walsinghams to whom she had always had a secret dislike because
they were of remarkably open sincere characters. As Mr. Palmer proposed
to stay but a week in the country this scheme of preventing their
meeting seemed feasible.
In the second place Mrs. Beaumont wished to marry her daughter to Sir
John Hunter because Sir John was heir expectant to a large estate
called the Wigram estate and because there was in his family a certain
reversionary title the earldom of Puckeridge which would devolve to
Sir John after the death of a near relation.
In the third place Mrs. Beaumont wished to marry her own son to Miss
Hunter who was Sir John's sister by a second marriage and above twenty
years younger than he was: this lady was preferred to Miss Walsingham
for a daughter-in-law for the reasons which Mr. Walsingham had given;
because she possessed an independent fortune of two hundred thousand
pounds and because she was so childish and silly that Mrs. Beaumont
thought she could always manage her easily and by this means retain
power over her son. Miss Hunter was very pretty and Mrs. Beaumont had
observed that her son had sometimes been struck with her beauty
sufficiently to give hopes that by proper management he might be
diverted from his serious sober preference of Miss Walsingham.
Mrs. Beaumont foresaw many difficulties in the execution of these plans.
She knew that Amelia liked Captain Walsingham and that Captain
Walsingham was attached to her though he had never declared his love:
and she dreaded that Captain Walsingham who was at this time at sea
should return just whilst Mr. Palmer was with her; because she was well
aware that the captain was a kind of man Mr. Palmer would infinitely
prefer to Sir John Hunter. Indeed she had been secretly informed that
Mr. Palmer hated every one who had a title; therefore she could not
whilst he was with her openly encourage Sir John Hunter in his
addresses to Amelia. To conciliate these seemingly incompatible schemes
she determined----But let our heroine speak for herself.
"My dearest Miss Hunter" said she "now we are by ourselves let me
open my mind to you; I have been watching for an opportunity these two
days but so hurried as I have been!--Where's Amelia?"
"Out walking ma'am. She told me you begged her to walk to get rid of
her head-ache; and that she might look well to-day as Mr. Palmer is to
come. I would not go with her because you whispered to me at breakfast
that you had something very particular to say to me."
"But you did not give _that_ as a reason I hope! Surely you didn't
tell Amelia that I had something particular to say to you?"
"Oh no ma'am; I told her that I had something to do about my
dress--and so I had--my new hat to try on."
"True my love; quite right; for you know I wouldn't have her suspect
that we had any thing to say to each other that we didn't wish her to
hear especially as it is about herself."
"Herself!--Oh is it?" said Miss Hunter in a tone of disappointment.