Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

promising aspirant after county honours. What is there in life like the sweet and freshening feelings of the wealthy young squire, stepping into the sphere of his hereditary honours and influence, and becoming at once the revered master of household and tenantry, grown grey in his father's service, the prop of his family, and the “rising man" in the county! Young Beauchamp experienced these salutary and reviving feelings in their full

rce. They diverted the current of his ambition into a new course, and enabled him keenly to appreciate his own capabilities. The difference between the life he had just determined on, and that he had formerly projected, was simply, so to speak, the difference between being a Triton among minnows, and a minnow among Tritons. At home, residing on his own property, surrounded by his own dependents, and by neighbours who were solicitous to secure his good graces, he could feel and enjoy his own consequence. Thus, in every point of view, a country life appeared preferable to one in the “gay and whirlpool crowded town.”

There was, however, one individual at Hall, who viewed these altered feelings and projects with no satisfactionit was Mr Eccles. This mean and selfish individual saw at once, that, in the event of these alterations being carried into effect, his own nefarious services would be instantly dispensed with, and a state of feelings brought into play which would lead his pupil to look with disgust at the scenes to which he had been introduced at college, and on the continent. He immediately set to work to frustrate the plans of his pupil. He selected the occasion of his being sent for one morning by Mr Beauchamp into his library, to commence operations. He was not discouraged, when his ci-devant pupil, whose eyes had really, as Eccles suspected, been opened to the iniquity of his tutor's doings, commenced thanking him, in a cold and formal style, for his past services, and requested presentation of the bill he held against him for £500, which he instantly paid. He then proceeded, without interruption from the mortified Eccles, to state his regret at being unable to reward his services with a living, at present; but that, if ever it were in his power, he might rely on it, &c. &c. Mr Eccles, with astonishment, mentioned the living of which Mrs Beauchamp had promised him the reversion ; but received an evasive reply from Mr Beauchamp, who was at length so much irritated at the pertinacity, and even the reproachful tone with which his tutor pressed his claim, that he said sharply, “ Mr Eccles, when my mother made you that promise, she never consulted me, in whose sole gift the living is. And besides, sir, what did she know of our tricks at French hazard and rouge et noir ? She must have thought your skill at play an odd recommendation for the duties of the church.” High words, mutual recriminations, and threats ensued, and they parted in anger. The tutor resolved to make his “ungrateful” pupil repent of his misconduct; and he lacked neither the tact nor the opportunities necessary for accomplishing his purpose. The altered demeanour of Mrs Beauchamp, together with the haughty and constrained civility of her son, soon warned Mr Eccles that his departure from the Hall should not be delayed; and he very shortly withdrew.

Mr Beauchamp began to breathe freely, as it were, when the evil spirit, in his tutor's shape, was no longer at his elbow, poisoning his principles, and prompting him to vice and debauchery. He resolved, forthwith, to be all that his tutor had represented him to his mother, and to atone for past indiscretions by a life of sobriety and virtue. All now went on smoothly and happily at the Hall. The new squire entered actively on the duties devolving upon him, and was engaged daily driving his beautiful cousin over his estate, and showing to his obsequious tenantry their future lady. On what trifling accidents do often the great changes of life depend! Mr Beauchamp, after a three months' continuance in the country, was sent for by his solicitor to town, in order to complete the final arrangements of his estate, and which, he supposed, would occupy him but a few days. That London visit led to his ruin! It may

be recollected that the execrable Eccles owed his pupil a grudge for the disappointment he had occasioned him, and the time and manner of his dismissal. What does the reader imagine was the diabolical device he adopted to bring about the utter ruin of his unsuspicious pupil? Apprized of Mr Beauchamp's visit to London, (Mr Eccles had removed to lodgings but a little distance from the Hall, and was, of course, acquainted with the leading movements of the family,) he wrote the following letter to a baronet in London, with whom he had been very intimate as a “plucker" at Oxford, and who having ruined himself by his devotion to play, equally in respect of fortune and character, was now become little else than a downright systematic sharper

66

.: Dear SIR EDWARD,

Young Beauchamp, one of our quondam pigeons at Oxford, who has just come of age, will be in London next Friday or Saturday, and put up at his old hotel, the He will bear plucking. Verb. suf. The bird is somewhat shy, but you are a good shot. Don't frighten him. He is giving up life, and going to turn saint! The fellow has used me cursedly ill; he has cut me quite, and refused me old Dr -'s living. I'll make him repent it!—I will, by -!

“ Yours ever, most faithfully,

PETER ECCLES. “ To Sir EDWARD STREIGHTON.

* P.S.-- If Beauchamp plucks well, you won't press me for the trifle I owe—will you? Burn this note."

66

This infernal letter, which, by a singular concurrence of events, got into the hands where I saw it, laid the train for such a series of plotting and maneuvring, as in the end ruined poor Beauchamp, and gave Eccles his coveted revenge.

When Beauchamp quitted the Hall, his mother and Ellen had the most solemn assurances that his stay in town would not be protracted beyond the week. Nothing but this could quiet the good old lady's apprehensions, who expressed an unaccountable conviction that some calamity or other was about to assail their house. She had had a dreadful dream, she said !—but when importuned to tell it, answered, that if Henry came safe home, then she would tell them her dream. In short, his departure was a scene of tears and gloom, which left an impression of sadness on his own mind, that lasted all the way up to town. On his arrival, he betook himself to his old place, the

Hotel, near Piccadilly; and, in order to expedite his business as much as possible, appointed the evening of the very day of his arrival for a meeting with his solicitor.

The morning papers duly apprized the world of the important fact, that “ Henry Beauchamp, Esquire, had arrived at

-'s, from his seat in shire;” and scarcely ten minutes after he had read the officious annunciation at breakfast, his valet brought in the card of Sir Edward Streighton.

“Sir Edward Streighton !” exclaimed Beauchamp with astonishment, laying down the card ; adding, after a pause, with a cold and doubtful air, “ Show in Sir Edward, of course.

In a few moments the baronet was ushered into the roommade up to his old " friend” with great cordiality, and expressed a thousand winning civilities. He was attired in a style of fashionable negligence; and his pale, emaciated features ensured him, at least, the show of a welcome, with which he would not otherwise have been greeted; for Beauchamp, though totally ignorant of the present pursuits and degraded character of his visiter, had seen enough of him in the heyday of dissipation to avoid a renewal of their intimacy. Beauchamp was touched with the air of languor and exhaustion assumed by Sir Edward, and asked kindly after his health.

The wily baronet contrived to keep him occupied with that topic for nearly an hour, till he fancied he had established an interest for himself in his destined victim's heart. He told him, with a languid smile, that the moment he saw Beauchamp's arrival in the papers, he had hurried, ill as he was, to pay a visit to his “old chum,” and “talk over old times." In short, after laying out all his powers of conversation, he so interested and delighted his quondam associate, that he extorted a reluctant promise from Beauchamp to dine with him the next evening, on the plausible pretext of his being in too delicate health to venture out himself at night-time. Sir Edward departed, apparently in a low mood, but really exulting in the success with which he considered he had opened his infernal campaign. He hurried to the house of one of his comrades in guilt, whom he invited to dinner on the morrow. Now, the fiendish object of this man, Sir Edward Streighton, in asking Beauchamp to dinner, was to

revive in his bosom the half-extinguished embers of his love for play! There are documents now in existence to show that Sir Edward and his companions had made the most exact calculations of poor Beauchamp's property, and even arranged the proportions in which the expected spoils were to be shared among the complotters! The whole conduct of the affair was entrusted, at his own instance, to Sir Edward ; who, with a smile, declared that he “knew all the .crooks and crannies of young Beauchamp's heart;" and that he had already settled his scheme of operations. He was himself to keep for some time in the background, and on no occasion to come forward till he was sure of his prey.

At the appointed hour, Beauchamp, though not without having experienced some misgivings in the course of the day, found himself seated at the elegant and luxurious table of Sir Edward, in company with two of the baronet's “choicest spirits.” It would be superfluous to pause over the exquisite wines and luscious cookery which were placed in requisition for the occasion, or the various and brilliant conversation that flashed around the table. Sir Edward was a man of talent and observation ; and, foul as were the scenes in which he had latterly passed his life, was full of rapid and brilliant repartee, and piquant sketches of men and manners without end. Like the poor animal whose palate is for a moment tickled with the bait alluring it to destruction, Beauchamp was in ecstasies! There was, besides, such a flattering deference paid to every thing that fell from his lipsso much eager curiosity excited by the accounts he gave of one or two of his foreign adventures—such an interest taken in the arrangements he contemplated for augmenting his estates in

-shire, &c. &c., that Beauchamp never felt better pleased with himself, nor with his companions. About eleven o'clock, one of Sir Edward's friends proposed a rubber at whist, “ thinking they had all of them talked one another hoarse," but Sir Edward promptly negatived it. The proposer insisted, but Sir Edward coldly repeated his refusal. “ I am not tired of my friends' conversation, though they may be of mine! And I fancy, Beauchamp,” he continued, shaking his head with a seri

« ZurückWeiter »