’HONOURED MADAM,—The peculiar care I have of that distinguished and excellent gentleman, your son, no less than the profound duty I owe to my lord and your ladyship, induces me to a step which I cannot regard without misgiving; since, once known, it must deprive me of the influence with Mr. Dunborough which I have now the felicity to enjoy, and which, heightened by the affection he is so good as to bestow on me, renders his society the most agreeable in the world. Nevertheless, and though considerations of this sort cannot but have weight with me, I am not able to be silent, nor allow your honoured repose among the storied oaks of Papworth to be roughly shattered by a blow that may still be averted by skill and conduct.
’For particulars, Madam, the young gentleman—I say it with regret—has of late been drawn into a connection with a girl of low origin and suitable behaviour, Not that your ladyship is to think me so wanting in savoir-faire as to trouble your ears with this, were it all; but the person concerned—who (I need scarcely tell one so familiar with Mr. Dunborough’s amiable disposition) is solely to blame—has the wit to affect virtue, and by means of this pretence, often resorted to by creatures of that class, has led my generous but misguided pupil to the point of matrimony. Your ladyship shudders? Alas! it is so. I have learned within the hour that he has followed her to Wallingford, whither she has withdrawn herself, doubtless to augment his passion; I am forced to conclude that nothing short of your ladyship’s presence and advice can now stay his purpose. In that belief, and with the most profound regret, I pen these lines; and respectfully awaiting the favour of your ladyship’s commands, which shall ever evoke my instant compliance,
’I have the honour to be while I live, Madam,
Your ladyship’s most humble obedient servant,
’Nota bene.—I do not commend the advantage of silence in regard to this communication, this being patent to your ladyship’s sagacity.’
THE OLD BATH ROAD
In the year 1757—to go back ten years from the spring with which we are dealing—the ordinary Englishman was a Balbus despairing of the State. No phrase was then more common on English lips, or in English ears, than the statement that the days of England’s greatness were numbered, and were fast running out. Unwitting the wider sphere about to open before them, men dwelt fondly on the glories of the past. The old babbled of Marlborough’s wars, of the entrance of Prince Eugene into London, of choirs draped in flags, and steeples reeling giddily for Ramillies and Blenheim. The young listened, and sighed to think that the day had been, and was not, when England gave the law to Europe, and John Churchill’s warder set troops moving from Hamburg to the Alps.