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Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 452 Volume 18, New Series, August 28, 1852
CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


No. 452. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, AUGUST 28, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d._




THE BETROTHAL.


Frances Seymour had been left an orphan and an heiress very early in
life. Her mother had died in giving birth to a second child, which did
not survive its parent, so that Frances had neither brother nor
sister; and her father, an officer of rank and merit, was killed at
Waterloo. When this sad news reached England, the child was spending
her vacation with Mrs Wentworth, a sister of Mrs Seymour, and
henceforth this lady's house became her home; partly, because there
was no other relative to claim her, and partly, because amongst
Colonel Seymour's papers, a letter was found, addressed to Mrs
Wentworth, requesting that, if he fell in the impending conflict, she
would take charge of his daughter. In making this request, it is
probable that Colonel Seymour was more influenced by necessity than
choice; Mrs Wentworth being a gay woman of the world, who was not
likely to bestow much thought or care upon her niece, whom she
received under her roof without unwillingness, but without affection.
Had Frances been poor, she would have felt her a burden; but as she
was rich, there was some éclat and no inconvenience in undertaking the
office of her guardian and chaperone--the rather as she had no
daughters of her own with whom Frances's beauty or wealth could
interfere; for as the young heiress grew into womanhood, the charms of
her person were quite remarkable enough to have excited the jealousy
of her cousins, if she had had any; or to make her own fortune, if she
had not possessed one already. She was, moreover, extremely
accomplished, good-tempered, cheerful, and altogether what is called a
very nice girl; but of course she had her fault like other people: she
was too fond of admiration--a fault that had been very much encouraged
at the school where she had been educated; beauty and wealth,
especially when combined, being generally extremely popular at such
establishments. As long, however, as her admirers were only romantic
schoolfellows and calculating school-mistresses, there was not much
harm done; but the period now approached in which there would be more
scope for the exercise of this passion, and more danger in its
indulgence--Frances had reached the age of seventeen, and was about to
make her début in the world of fashion--an event to which, certain as
she was of making numerous conquests, she looked forward with great
delight.

Whilst engaged in preparations for these anticipated triumphs, Mrs
Wentworth said to her one day: 'Now that you are coming out, Frances,
I think it is my duty to communicate to you a wish of your father's,
expressed in the letter that was found after his death. It is a wish
regarding your choice of a husband.'

'Dear me, aunt, how very odd!' exclaimed Frances.

'It is rather odd,' returned Mrs Wentworth; 'and, to be candid, I
don't think it is very wise; for schemes of this sort seldom or never
turn out well.'

'Scheme! What scheme is it?' asked Frances with no little curiosity.

'Why, you must know,' answered her aunt, 'that your father had a very
intimate friend, to whom he was as much attached all his life as if he
had been his brother.'

'You mean Sir Richard Elliott. I remember seeing him and his son at
Otterby, when I was a little girl; and I often heard papa speak of him
afterwards.'

'Well, when young Elliott got his commission, your papa, in compliance
with Sir Richard's request, used his interest to have him appointed to
his own regiment, in order that he might keep him under his eye. By
this means, he became intimately acquainted with the young man's
character, and, I suppose, as much attached to him as to his father.'

'And the scheme is, that I should marry him, I suppose?'

'Provided you are both so disposed, not otherwise; there is to be no
compulsion in the case.'

'It is a scheme that will never be realised,' said Frances; 'for, of
all things, I should dislike a marriage that had been planned in that
way. The very idea of standing in such an awkward relation to a man
would make me hate him.'

'That's why I think all such schemes better let alone,' returned Mrs
Wentworth; 'but as your father desires that I will put you in
possession of his wishes before you go into the world, I have no
choice but to do it.'

'It does not appear, however, that this Mr Elliott is very anxious
about the matter, since he has never taken the trouble of coming to
see me. Perhaps he does not know of the scheme?'

'O yes, he does; but, in the first place, he is abroad with his
regiment; and, in the second, he abstains upon principle from seeking
to make your acquaintance. So Sir Richard told me, when I met him last
year at Lady Grantley's fête. He said that his son's heart was yet
perfectly free, but that he did not think it right to throw himself in
your way, or endeavour to engage your affections, till you had had an
opportunity of seeing something of the world. The old gentleman had a
great desire to see you himself; and he would have called, but he was
only passing through London on his way to some German baths, and he
was to start the next morning.'

'And what sort of a person is this Mr Elliott?'

'I really don't know, except that his father praised him to the skies.
He's Major Elliott now, and must be about eight-and-twenty.'

'And is he the eldest son?'

'He's the eldest son, and will be Sir Henry--I think that's his
name--by and by. But he's not rich; quite the contrary, he's very poor
for a baronet; and I incline to think that is one of the reasons that
influenced your father. Being so fond of the Elliotts, he wished to
repair, in some degree, the dilapidation of their fortunes by yours.'

'So that I shall have the agreeable consciousness of being married
purely for my money. I am afraid poor dear papa's scheme will fail;
and I wish, aunt, you had never told me of it.'

'That was not left to my discretion; if it had been, I should not have
told you of it, I assure you.'

'Well, I can only hope that I shall never see Major Elliott; and if he
ever proposes to come, aunt, pray do me the favour to assure him, from
me, that it will not be of the smallest use.'

'That would be foolish till you've seen him. You may like him.'

'Never; I could not like a man whom I met under such circumstances, if
he were an angel.'

Thus, with a heart steeled against Major Elliott and his attractions,
whatever they might be, Frances Seymour made her début; and, however
brilliant had been her anticipations of success, she had the
satisfaction of finding them fully realised. She was the belle of the
season--admired, courted, and envied; and by the end of it, she had
refused at least half-a-dozen proposals. As she was perfectly
independent, she resolved to enjoy a longer lease of her liberty,
before she put it in the power of any man to control her inclinations.

Shortly after the termination of the season, some family affairs
called Mr and Mrs Wentworth to St Petersburg; and as it was not
convenient that Frances should accompany them, they arranged that she
should spend the interval in visiting some families of their own
connection residing in the country, who promised to take due charge of
her.

The first of these, by name Dunbar, were worthy people enough, but,
unfortunately for Frances, desperately dull; and the few neighbours
they had happened to be as dull as themselves. There were neither
balls nor routs to keep up the spirits of the London belle; and a
tiresome drive of six or eight miles to an equally tiresome
dinner-party, was but a poor substitute for the gaieties which the
late season had given her a taste for.

Frances was not without resources. She was a fine musician, and played
and sang admirably; but she liked to be told that she did so. At
Dunbar House, nobody cared for music, nobody listened to her, and her
most _recherchées toilettes_ delighted nobody but her maid. She was
_aux abois_, as the French say, and had made some progress in the
concoction of a scheme to get away, when an improvement took place in
her position, from the arrival of young Vincent Dunbar, the only son
of the family. He was a lieutenant in a regiment of infantry that had
lately returned from the colonies, and had come, as in duty bound, to
waste ten days or a fortnight of his three months' leave in the dull
home of his ancestors. As he was an extremely handsome,
fashionable-looking youth, Frances, when she went down to dinner, felt
quite revived by the sight of him. Here was something to dress for,
and something to sing to; and although the young lieutenant's
conversation was not a whit above the usual standard of his class, it
appeared lively and witty when compared with that of his parents. His
small colonial experiences were more interesting than Mrs Dunbar's
domestic ones; and his account of a tiger hunt more exciting than his
father's history of the run he had had after a fox. Frances was an
equally welcome resource to him. Here was an opportunity, quite
unexpected, of displaying his most fashionable ties and most splendid
waistcoats; here was a listener for his best stories, and one who did
not repay him in kind, as his father did; and here were a pair of
bright eyes, that always looked brighter at his approach; and a pair
of pretty lips, that pouted when he talked of going away to fulfil an
engagement he had made to meet some friends at Brighton.

As was to be expected, under circumstances so propitious, the young
man fell in love--as much in love as he could be with anybody but
himself; whilst his parents did not neglect to hint, that he could not
do better than prosecute a suit which the young lady's evident
partiality justified. Pleased with the prospect of their son's making
so good a match, they even ventured one day a dull jest on the subject
in the presence of Frances--a jest which, heavy as it was, aroused her
to reflection. Flirting with a man, and angling for his admiration, is
one thing; loving and marrying him, is another. For the first, Vincent
Dunbar answered exceedingly well; but for the second, he was wholly
unfit. In spite of her little weaknesses, Frances had too much sense
not to see that the young lieutenant was an empty-headed coxcomb, and
not at all the man with whom she hoped to spend her years of
discretion--when she arrived at them--after an ample enjoyment of the
delights that youth, beauty, and wealth are calculated to procure
their possessor. Her eyes were opened, in short; and the ordinary
effect of this sort of awakening from an unworthy _penchant_--for
attachment it could not be called--ensued: the temporary liking
changed into aversion, and the attentions that had flattered her
before became hateful. In accordance with this new state of her
feelings, she resolved to alter her behaviour, in order to dissipate
as quickly as possible the erroneous impression of the family; whilst,
at the same time, she privately made arrangements for cutting short
her visit, and anticipating the period of her removal to the house of
Mrs Gaskoin, betwixt whom and the Dunbars the interval of her friends'
absence in Russia was to be divided. In spite of her stratagem,
however, she did not escape what she apprehended. Vincent's leave had
nearly expired too; and when the moment approached that was to
separate them, he seized an opportunity of making his proposals.

There is scarcely a woman to be met with in society, who does not
know, from experience, what a painful thing it is to crush the hopes
of a man who is paying her the high compliment of wishing to place the
happiness of his life in her keeping; and when to this source of
embarrassment is added the consciousness of having culpably raised
expectations that she shrinks from realising, the situation becomes
doubly distressing. On the present occasion, agitated, ashamed, and
confused, Frances, instead of honestly avowing her fault, which would
have been the safest thing to do, had recourse to a subterfuge; she
answered, that she had been betrothed by her father to the son of his
dearest friend, and that she was not free to form any other
engagement. Of course, Vincent pleaded that such a contract could not
be binding on her; but as, whilst she declared her determination to
adhere to it, she forbore to add, that were she at liberty his
position would not be improved, the young man and his family remained
under the persuasion, that this premature engagement was the only bar
to his happiness; and with this impression, which she allowed him to
retain, because it spared him and herself pain, he returned to his
regiment, whilst she, as speedily as she could, decamped to her next
quarters, armed with a thousand good resolutions never again to bring
herself into such an unpleasant dilemma.

Mrs Gaskoin's was a different sort of house to the Dunbars'. It was
not gay, for the place was retired, and Mrs Gaskoin being in ill
health, they saw little company; but they were young, cheerful, and
accomplished people, and in their society Frances soon forgot the
vexations she had left behind her. She even ceased to miss the
admiration she was accustomed to; what was amiable and good in her
character--and there was much--regained the ascendant; her host and
hostess congratulated themselves on having so agreeable an inmate as
much as she did herself on the judicious move she had made, till her
equanimity was disturbed by learning that Mr Gaskoin was expecting a
visitor, and that this visitor was his old friend and brother-officer,
Major Elliott, the person of all others, Vincent Dunbar excepted, she
had the greatest desire to avoid.

'I cannot express how much I should dislike meeting him,' she said to
Mrs Gaskoin, to whom she thought it better to explain how she was
situated. 'You must allow me to keep my room whilst he is here.'

'If you are determined not to see him, I think you had better go back
to the Dunbars for a little while,' answered the hostess; 'but I
really think you should stay, and let things take their course. If
your aversion continues, you need not marry him; but my husband tells
me he's charming; and in point of character, I know no one whom he
estimates so highly.'

But Frances objected, that she should feel so embarrassed and awkward.

'In short, you apprehend that you will appear to a great
disadvantage,' said Mrs Gaskoin. 'That is possible, certainly; but as
Major Elliott is only coming for a day or two, I think we might
obviate that difficulty, by introducing you as my husband's niece,
Fanny Gaskoin. What do you say? You can declare yourself whenever you
please, or keep the secret till he goes, if you prefer it.'

Frances said she should like it very much; the scheme would afford
them a great deal of amusement, and any expedient was preferable to
going back to Dunbar House. Neither, as regarded themselves, was it at
all difficult of execution, since they always addressed her as Fanny
or Frances; the danger was with the servants, who, however cautioned
to call the visitor by no other name than Miss Fanny, might
inadvertently betray the secret. Still, if they did, a few blushes and
a hearty laugh were likely to be the only consequences of the
disclosure; so the little plot was duly framed, and successfully
executed; Major Elliott not entertaining the most remote suspicion
that this beautiful, fascinating Fanny Gaskoin was his own _fiancée_.

Whether they might have fallen in love with each other had they met
under more prosaic circumstances, there is no saying. As it was, they
did so almost at first sight. It is needless to say, that Major
Elliott extended his visit beyond the day or two he had engaged for;
and when Mr and Mrs Gaskoin saw how matters were going, they
recommended an immediate avowal of the little deception that had been
practised, lest some ill-timed visitor should inopportunely let out
the secret, which had already been endangered more than once by the
forgetfulness of the servants: but Frances wished to prolong their
diversion till she should find some happy moment for the _dénouement_;
added to which, she had an extreme curiosity to know how Major Elliott
intended to release himself from the engagement formed by Colonel
Seymour, in which he had tacitly, if not avowedly, acquiesced. It was
certainly very flattering that her charms had proved sufficiently
powerful to make him forget it; but that he should have yielded to the
temptation without the slightest appearance of a struggle, did
somewhat surprise her, as indeed, from their knowledge of his
character, it did Mr and Mrs Gaskoin. Not that they would have
expected him to adhere to the contract, if doing so proved repugnant
either to himself or the young lady; but under all the circumstances
of the case, they would have thought his conduct less open to
exception, if he had deferred entering into any other engagement till
he had seen Miss Seymour. It was true, that he had not yet offered his
hand to his friend Gaskoin's charming niece; but neither she, nor any
one else, entertained a doubt of his intention to do so; and Frances
never found herself alone with him, that her heart did not beat high
with the expectation of what might be coming.

The progress of love affairs is no measure of time: where the
_attrait_, or magnetic rapport (for perhaps magnetism has something to
do with the mystery), is very strong, one couple will make as much way
in a fortnight as another will do in a year. In the present instance,
Major Elliott's proclivity to fall in love with Frances may have been
aided by his persuasion that she was the niece of his friend. Be that
as it may, on the thirteenth day of his visit, Major Elliott invited
his host to join him in a walk, in the course of which he avowed his
intention of offering his hand to Miss Gaskoin, provided her family
were not likely to make any serious objection to the match. 'My reason
for mentioning the subject so early is,' said he, 'that, in the first
place, I cannot prolong my visit; I have already broken two
engagements, and now, however unwillingly, I must be off: and, in the
second place, I felt myself bound to mention the subject to you before
speaking to Miss Gaskoin, because you know how I am situated in regard
to money-matters; and that I cannot, unfortunately, make such a
settlement as may be expected by her friends.'

'I don't think that will be any obstacle to your wishes,' answered Mr
Gaskoin, with an arch smile. 'If you can find Fanny in the humour,
I'll undertake to answer for all the rest. As for her fortune, she'll
have something at all events--but that is a subject, I suppose, you
are too much in love to discuss.'

'It is one there is no use in discussing till I am accepted,' returned
Major Elliott; 'and I confess that is a point I am too anxious about
to think of any other.'

'Prepare yourself,' said Mrs Gaskoin to Frances: 'Major Elliott has
declared himself to my husband, and will doubtless take an opportunity
of speaking to you in the course of the evening. Of course, now the
truth must be disclosed, and I've no doubt it will be a very agreeable
surprise to him.'

When the tea-things were removed, and Frances, as usual, was seated at
the pianoforte, and Major Elliott, as usual, turning over the leaves
of her music-book, she almost lost her breath with agitation when the
gentle closing of a door aroused her to the fact, that they were
alone. Mr and Mrs Gaskoin had quietly slipped out of the room; and
conscious that the critical moment was come, she was making a nervous
attempt to follow them, when a hand was laid on hers, and---- But it
is quite needless to enter into the particulars: such scenes do not
bear relating. Major Elliott said something, and looked a thousand
things; Frances blushed and smiled, and then she wept, avowing that
her tears were tears of joy; and so engrossed was she with the
happiness of the moment, that she had actually forgotten the false
colours under which she was appearing, till her lover said: 'I have
already, my dear Fanny, spoken on this subject to your uncle.'

'Now, then, for the _dénouement_!' thought Frances; but she had formed
a little scheme for bringing this about, which she forthwith proceeded
to put in execution.

'But, dear Henry,' she said, as, seated on the sofa hand in hand, they
dilated on their present happiness and future plans--'dear Henry,
there is one thing that has rather perplexed me, and does perplex me
still, a little--do you know, I have been told you were engaged?'

'Indeed! Who told you that?'

'Well, I don't know; but I'm sure I heard it. It was said that you
were engaged to Miss Seymour--the Miss Seymour that lives with Mrs
Wentworth'----

'Do you know her?' inquired Major Elliott, interrupting her.

'Yes, I do--a little.'

'Only a little?'

'Well, perhaps I may say I know her pretty well. Indeed, to confess
the truth, I'm rather intimate with her.'

'That is extremely fortunate,' returned Major Elliott.

'Then you don't deny the engagement?' said Frances.

'Colonel Seymour, who was my father's friend and mine, very kindly
expressed a wish, before he died, that, provided there was no
objection on either side, his daughter and I should be married; but
you see, my dearest Fanny, as there happens to be an objection on both
sides, the scheme, however well meant, is defeated.'

'On both sides!' reiterated Frances with surprise.

'Yes; on both sides,' answered he smiling.

'But how do you know that, when you've never seen Miss Seymour--at
least I thought you never had?'

'Neither have I; but I happen to know that she has not the slightest
intention of taking me for her husband.'

'Oh,' said Frances, laughing at the recollection of her own violent
antipathy to this irresistible man, who, after all, had taken her
heart by storm--'I suppose you have somehow heard that she disliked
the idea of being trammelled by an engagement to a person she never
saw, and whom she had made up her mind she could not love; but
remember, Henry, she has never seen you. How do you know that she
might not have fallen in love with you at first sight?--as somebody
else did,' she added playfully.

'Because, my dear little girl, she happens to be in love already. She
did not wait to see me, but wisely gave away her heart when she met a
man that pleased her.'

'But you're mistaken,' answered Frances, beginning to feel alarmed;
'you are indeed! I know Frances Seymour has no attachment. I know that
till she saw you--I mean that--I am certain she has no attachment, nor
ever had any.'

'Perhaps you are not altogether in her confidence.'

'O yes, I am indeed.'

Major Elliott shook his head, and smiled significantly. 'Rely on it,'
he said, 'that what I tell you is the fact; but you have probably not
seen Miss Seymour very lately, which would sufficiently account for
your ignorance of her secret. I am told that she is extremely handsome
and charming, and that she sings divinely.'

Five minutes earlier, Frances would have been delighted with this
testimony to her attractions; and would have been ready with a
repartee about the loss he would sustain in relinquishing so many
perfections for her sake; but now her heart was growing faint with
terror, and her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth. Thoughts that
would fill pages darted through her brain like lightning--dreadful
possibilities, that she had never foreseen nor thought of.

Vincent Dunbar's regiment had been in India; she knew it was one of
the _seventies_; but she had either never heard the exact number, or
she had not sufficiently attended to the subject to know which it was.
Major Elliott's regiment had also been in India; and it was the 76th.
Suppose it were the same, and that the two officers were
acquainted--and suppose they had met since Vincent's departure from
Dunbar House! The young man had occasionally spoken to her of his
brother-officers; she remembered Poole, and Wainright, and Carter; the
name of Elliott he had certainly not mentioned; but it was naturally
of his own friends and companions he spoke, not of the field-officers.
Then, when she told him that she had been betrothed by her father, she
had not said to whom; but might he not, by some unlucky chance, have
found that out? And might not an explanation have ensued!

Could Major Elliott have distinctly discovered the expression of her
features, he would have seen that it was something more than
perplexity that kept her silent; but the light fell obscurely on the
seat they occupied, and he suspected nothing but that she was puzzled
and surprised.

'I see you are very curious to learn the secret,' he said, 'and if it
were my own, you should not pine in ignorance, I assure you; but as it
is a young lady's, I am bound to keep it till she chooses to disclose
it herself. However, I hope your curiosity will soon be satisfied, for
I have ascertained that Mr and Mrs Wentworth are to be in England
almost immediately--they have been some time on the continent--and
then we shall come to a general understanding. In the meantime, my
dearest Fanny'----

But Frances, unable longer to control her agitation, took advantage of
a slight noise in the hall, to say that Mr and Mrs Gaskoin were
coming; and before he had time to finish his sentence, she started to
her feet, and rushed out of the room.

On the other side of the hall was Mrs Gaskoin's boudoir, where she and
her husband were sitting over the fire, awaiting the result of the
tête-à-tête in the drawing-room.

'Well?' said they, rising as the door opened and a pale face looked
in. 'Is it all settled?'

'Ask me nothing now, I beseech you!' said Frances. 'I'm going to my
room; tell Major Elliott I am not well; say I'm agitated--anything you
like; but remember, he still thinks me Fanny Gaskoin'----

'But, my dear girl, I cannot permit that deception to be carried any
further; it has lasted too long already,' said Mr Gaskoin.

'Only to-night!' said Frances.

'It is not fair to Major Elliott,' urged Mrs Gaskoin.

'Only to-night! only to-night!' reiterated Frances. 'There! he's
coming; I hear his step in the hall! Let me out this way!' and so
saying, she darted out of a door that led to the backstairs, and
disappeared.

'She has refused him!' said Mrs Gaskoin. 'I confess I am amazed.'

But Major Elliott met them with a smiling face. 'What has become of
Frances?' said he.

'She rushed in to us in a state of violent agitation, and begged we
would tell you that she is not well, and is gone to her room. I'm
afraid the result of your interview has not been what we expected.'

'On the contrary,' returned Major Elliott, 'you must both congratulate
me on my good-fortune.'

'Silly girl!' said Mr Gaskoin, shaking his friend heartily by the
hand. 'I see what it is: she is nervous about a little deception we
have been practising on you.'

'A deception!'

'Why, you see, my dear fellow, when I told Frances that you were
coming here, she objected to meeting you'----

'Indeed! On what account?'

'You have never suspected anything?' said Mr Gaskoin, scarcely
repressing his laughter.

'Suspected anything? No.'

'It has never by chance occurred to you that this bewitching niece of
mine is'----

'Is what?'

'Your betrothed lady, for example, Frances Seymour?'

Major Elliott's cheeks and lips turned several shades paler; but the
candles were not lighted, and his friends did not remark the change.

'Frances Seymour!' he echoed.

'That is the precise state of the case, I assure you;' and then Mr
Gaskoin proceeded to explain how the deception came to be practised.
'I gave into it,' he said, 'though I do not like jests of that sort,
because I thought, as my wife did, that you were much more likely to
take a fancy to each other, if you did not know who she was, than if
you met under all the embarrassment of such an awkward relation.'

During this little discourse, Major Elliott had time to recover from
the shock; and being a man of resolute calmness and great
self-possession--which qualities, by the way, formed a considerable
element in his attractions--the remainder of the evening was passed
without any circumstance calculated to awaken the suspicions of his
host and hostess, further than that a certain gravity of tone and
manner, when they spoke of Frances, led them to apprehend that he was
not altogether pleased with the jest that had been practised.

'We ought to have told him the moment we saw that he was pleased with
her; but, foolish child, she would not let us,' said Mr Gaskoin to his
wife.

'She must make her peace with him to-morrow,' returned the lady; but,
alas! when they came down to breakfast on the following morning, Major
Elliott was gone, having left a few lines to excuse his sudden
departure, which, he said, he had only anticipated by a few hours, as,
in any case, he must have left them that afternoon.

By the same morning's post there arrived a letter from Vincent Dunbar,
addressed to Miss Seymour. Its contents were as follow:--

'MY DEAREST, DEAREST FRANCES--I should have written to you ten days
ago to tell you the joyful news--you little guess what--but that I had
applied for an extension of leave _on urgent private affairs_, and
expected every hour to get it. But they have refused me, be hanged to
them! So I write to you, my darling, to tell you that it's all
right--I mean between you and me. I'm not a very good hand at an
explanation on paper, my education in the art of composition having
been somewhat neglected; but you must know that old Elliott, whom your
dad wanted you to marry, is our senior major. Well, when I came down
here to meet Poole, as I had promised--his governor keeps hounds, you
know; a capital pack, too--I was as dull as ditch-water; I was, I
assure you; and whenever there was nothing going on, I used to take
out the verses you wrote, and the music you copied for me, to look at;
and one day, who should come in but Elliott, who was staying with his
governor on the West Cliff, where the old gentleman has taken a house.
Well, you know, I told you what a madcap fellow Poole is; and what
should he do, but tell Elliott that I was going stark mad for a girl
that couldn't have me because her dad had engaged her to somebody
else; and then he shewed him the music that was lying on the table
with your name on it. So you may guess how Elliott stared, and all the
questions he asked me about you, and about our acquaintance and our
love-making, and all the rest of it. And, of course, I told him the
truth, and shewed him the dear lock of hair you gave me; and the
little notes you wrote me the week I ran up to London; for Elliott's
an honourable fellow, and I knew it was all right. And it _is_ all
right, my darling; for he says he wouldn't stand in the way of our
happiness for the world, or marry a woman whose affections were not
all his own. And he'll speak to your aunt for us, and get it all
settled as soon as she comes back,' &c. &c.

The paper dropped from poor Frances Seymour's hands. She comprehended
enough of Major Elliott's character to see that all was over. But for
the unfortunate jest they had practised on him, an explanation would
necessarily have ensued the moment he mentioned Vincent's name to her;
but that unlucky deception had complicated the mischief beyond repair.
It was too late now to tell him that she did not love Vincent; he
would only think her false or fickle. A woman who could act as she had
done, or as she appeared to have done, was no wife for Henry Elliott.

There is no saying, but it is just possible, that an entire confidence
placed in Mr Gaskoin might have led to a happier issue; but her own
conviction that her position was irrecoverable, her hopelessness and
her pride, closed her lips. Her friends saw that there was something
wrong; and when a few lines from Major Elliott announced his immediate
departure for Paris, they concluded that some strange mystery had
divided the lovers, and clouded the hopeful future that for a short
period had promised so brightly.

Vincent Dunbar was not a man to break his heart at the disappointment
which, it is needless to say, awaited him. Long years afterwards, when
Sir Henry Elliott was not only married, but had daughters coming out
in the world, he, one day at a dinner-party, sat next a pale-faced,
middle-aged lady, whose still beautiful features, combined with the
quiet, almost grave elegance of her toilet, had already attracted his
attention in the drawing-room. It was a countenance of perfect
serenity; but no observing eye could look at it without feeling that
that was a serenity not born of joy, but of sadness--a calm that had
succeeded a storm--a peace won by a great battle. Sir Henry felt
pleased when he saw that the fortunes of the dinner-table had placed
him beside this lady, and they had not been long seated before he took
an opportunity of addressing her. Her eyelids fell as she turned to
answer him; but there was a sweet, mournful smile on her lip--a smile
that awoke strange recollections, and made his heart for a moment
stand still. For some minutes he did not speak again, nor she either;
when he did, it was to ask her, in a low, gentle voice, to take wine
with him. The lady's hand shook visibly as she raised her glass; but,
after a short interval, the surprise and the pang passed away, and
they conversed calmly on general subjects, like other people in
society.

When Sir Henry returned to the drawing-room, the pale-faced lady was
gone; and, a few days afterwards, the _Morning Post_ announced among
its departures that Miss Seymour had left London for the continent.




THE CONTINENTAL 'BRADSHAW' IN 1852.


Bradshaw's _Continental Railway Guide_--the square, pale-yellow,
compact, brochure which makes its appearance once a month, and which
has doubled its thickness in its brief existence of five years--is
suggestive of a multitude of thoughts concerning the silent revolution
now passing over Europe. Presidents may have _coups d'état_; kings may
put down parliaments, and emperors abrogate constitutions; Legitimists
may dream of the past, and Communists of the future; but the
_railways_ are marking out a path for themselves in Europe which will
tend to obliterate, or at least to soften, the rugged social barriers
which separate nation from nation. This will not be effected all at
once, and many enthusiasts are disappointed that the cosmopolitanism
advances so slowly; but the result is not the less certain in being
slow.

Our facetious contemporary _Punch_ once gave a railway map of England,
in which the face of the land was covered with intersecting lines at
mutual distances of only a mile or two. A railway map of Europe has
certainly not yet assumed such a labyrinthine character; still, the
lines of civilisation (for so we may well term them) are becoming
closer and closer every year. The outposts of Europe, where the
Scandinavian, the Sclavonian, the Italian, and the Spaniard
respectively rule, are scanty in their exhibition of such lines; but
as we gradually approach the scenes of commercial activity, there do
railways appear in greater and greater proximity. France strikingly
exemplifies its own theory, that 'Paris is France,' by shewing how all
its important railways spring from the metropolis in six directions.
Belgium exhibits its compact net-work of railways, by which nearly all
its principal towns are accommodated. The phlegmatic Dutchman has as
yet placed the locomotive only in that portion of Holland which lies
between the Rhine and the Zuiderzee. Rhineland, from Bâle to
Wiesbaden, is under railway dominion. North Germany, within a circle
of which Magdeburg may be taken as a centre, is railed pretty thickly;
and Vienna has become a point from which lines of great length start.
Exterior to all these are solitary lines, the pioneers of the new
order of things, pointing in directions which will one day come within
the yellow covers of Bradshaw. There is one line straggling out to
Rostock; another to Stettin and Bromberg, on its way to Danzig;
another to Warsaw, on its way to meet the czar at St Petersburg;
another to Pesth, whence it will be carried through the scenes of the
late Hungarian war; another to the neighbourhood of the Adriatic;
others from Central Germany southward to the Swiss highlands, which
bar further progress; and a very modest little group in North Italy.

It is instructive to mark the steps by which these continental
railways have been brought into existence. The English practice of
undertaking all such great works, is very little understood abroad;
there is not capital enough afloat, and the commercial audacity of the
people has not yet arrived at such a high-pressure point. Almost the
whole of the railways now under notice, have been constructed either
by the governments of the respective countries, or by companies which
require some sort of government guarantee before they can obtain their
capital.

Belgium was the first continental country to follow the railway
example of England. Very soon after King Leopold was seated securely
on his throne, he initiated measures for the construction of railways
in Belgium; and a law was passed in 1834, sanctioning that compact
system which, having Mechlin as a centre, branches out in four
directions--to Liege, Antwerp, Brussels, and Ostend; and there were
also lines sanctioned to the Prussian frontier, and the French
frontier--the whole giving a length of about 247 English miles. Three
years afterwards, a law was passed for the construction of 94
additional miles of railway--to Courtrai, Tournay, Namur, and other
towns. In the western part of Belgium, the engineering difficulties
were not of a formidable character; but towards the Prussian frontier,
the bridges, cuttings, and embankments are so extensive, as to have
rendered the works far more costly than in the average of continental
railways. The Belgian Chambers provided the money, or rather
authorised the government to borrow it, year after year. The first
portion of railway was opened in 1835, and every year from thence till
1843, witnessed the opening of additional portions; until at length,
in this last-named year, all the 341 miles mentioned above were opened
for traffic. The cost varied from L.6140 per mile (near Courtrai), to
L.38,700 per mile (near Liege); the entire cost of the whole,
including working-plant, was within L.17,000 per average mile. While
these railways were progressing, private companies were formed for the
construction of other lines, to the extent of about 200 additional
miles, most of which are now open--the Namur and Liege being opened in
1851. These various railways are said to have yielded, on an average,
about 3-1/2 per cent. on the outlay.

It was of course impossible for France to see its little neighbour,
Belgium, advancing in its railway course, without setting a similar
movement on foot; but various circumstances have given a lingering
character to French railway enterprise. It was in 1837 that the short
railway from Paris through Versailles to St Germain--the first
passenger line in France--was opened. In the next following year, two
companies, aided by the government in certain ways, undertook the
construction of the railways from Paris to Rouen, and from Paris to
Orleans. The French government, having a strong taste for
centralisation in national matters, formed in 1842 that plan which has
since, with some modifications, been carried into execution. The plan
consisted in causing the great lines of communication to be surveyed
and marked out by government engineers, and then to be ceded to
joint-stock companies, to be constructed on certain conditions. There
were to be seven such lines radiating from Paris: to the Belgian
frontier; to one or more ports on the Channel; to the Atlantic ports;
to Bordeaux; to the Spanish frontier; to Marseille; and to Rhenish
Prussia. The government has had to concede more favourable conditions
to some of these companies than were at first intended, to get the
lines constructed at all. The first and second of the above lines of
communication are now almost fully opened; the third is finished to
Chartres; the fourth, to Nantes and Poitiers; the fifth, to
Chateauroux; the sixth, to Chalons, with another portion from Avignon
to Marseille; while the seventh, or Paris and Strasbourg Railway, is
that of which the final opening has been recently celebrated with so
much firing of guns, drinking of healths, blessing of locomotives, and
speechifyings of presidents.



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Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 452 Volume 18, New Series, August 28, 1852