Lord Malvern’s family and Mr. Hamilton’s were still in town, though the younger members of each were longing for the fresh air of the country.
One afternoon, hot and dusty from rapid riding, the young Earl St. Eval hastily, and somewhat discomposedly, entered his sister Lady Gertrude’s private room.
“Thank heaven, you are alone!” was his exclamation, as he entered; but throwing himself moodily on a couch, he did not seem inclined to say more.
“What is the matter, dear Eugene? Something has disturbed you,” said Lady Gertrude, soothingly, and in a tone tending rather to allay his irritation than express her own desire to know what had happened.
“Something—yes, Gertrude, enough to bid me forswear England again, and bury myself in a desert, where a sigh from your sex could never reach me more.”
“Not even mine, Eugene?” exclaimed his sister, laying down her work, and seating herself on a stool at his feet, while she looked up in his excited features with an expression of fondness on her placid countenance. “Would you indeed forbid my company, if I implored to share your solitude?”
“My sister, my own kind sister, would I, could I deprive myself of the blessing, the comfort your presence ever brings?” replied St. Eval, earnestly. “No, dearest Gertrude, I could not refuse you, whatever you might ask.”
“Then tell me now what it is that has disturbed you thus. With what new fancy are you tormenting yourself?”
“Nay, this is no fancy, Gertrude. You are, you have been wrong from the first, and I am too painfully right Caroline does not and never will love me.”
Lady Gertrude started.
“Have you been again rejected?” she demanded, a dark flush of indignant pride suffusing her cheek.
Lord St. Eval mournfully smiled.
“You are as summary in your conclusions as you say I am sometimes. No, Gertrude, I have not; I feel as if I could not undergo the torture I once experienced in saying those words which I hoped would seal my happiness.”
“Nay, then, I must say them for you,” said Lady Gertrude, smiling. “I have watched Caroline narrowly, and I feel so confident she loves you, that I would, without the slightest doubt or fear, consign your happiness, precious as it is to me, to her disposal.”
“Forbear, Gertrude, for pity!” exclaimed Lord St. Eval, starting up and pacing the room. “You saw not what I saw last night, nor heard the cold, malicious words warning me against her; that even when she had accepted, she was false; or, if she were not false, that she still loved another. I saw it in her varying cheek, her confused manner; I heard it in her hurried accents, and this morning has confirmed all—all. Gertrude, I ever told you, my lot was not happiness; that as the fate of some men is all bright, so that of others is all gloom, and such is mine.”