“But, my lord, my lord,” said the Duke, “after Lord Byerdale’s conduct to myself—”
“Enter into no dispute with him till I come, my dear duke,” said the Earl—“I will be with you in one minute; and his lordship of Byerdale will have quite sufficient to settle with me, to give occupation to his thoughts for the rest of the evening. You may chance to see triumphant villany rebuked—I wanted to have escaped the matter; but since he has presumed to come into my house, I must take the task upon myself.”
The tone in which he spoke, and the expectation of what was to follow, fixed the Duke’s determination at once; and drawing the arm of Lady Laura within his own, he followed the servant, who now threw open the door to which Lord Sunbury pointed, and entered the dining-room, while the Earl himself ascended the stairs.
A scene curious but yet painful presented itself to the eyes of Lady Laura and her father on entering the dining-room of Lord Sunbury’s house. On the side of the room opposite to the door stood Lord Sherbrooke, with his arms folded on his chest, his brow contracted, his teeth firmly shut, his lips drawn close, and every feature but the bright and flashing eye betokening a strong and vigorous struggle to command the passions which were busy in his bosom. Seated at the table, on which the young nobleman had laid down his sword, was his beautiful wife, with her eyes buried in her hands, and no part of her face to be seen but a portion of the cheek as pale as ashes, and the small delicate ear glowing like fire. The sun was far to the westward, and streaming in across the open space of the square, poured through the window upon her beautiful form, which, even under the pressure of deep grief, fell naturally into lines of the most perfect grace.
But the same evening light poured across also, and streamed full upon the face and form of the Earl of Byerdale, who seemed to have totally forgotten, in excess of rage, the calm command over himself which he usually exercised even in moments of the greatest excitement. His lip was quivering, his brow was contracted, his eye was rolling with strong passion, his hand was clenched; and at the moment that Laura and the Duke went round the table from the door towards the side of the room on which were Lord Sherbrooke and his wife, the Earl was shaking his clenched hand at his son, accompanying by that gesture of wrath the most terrible denunciations upon his head.
“Yes, sir, yes!” he exclaimed. “I tell you my curse is upon you! I divorce myself from your mother’s memory! I cast you off, and abandon you for ever! Think not that I will have pity upon you, when I see your open-mouthed creditors swallowing you up living, and dooming you to a prison for life. May an eternal curse fall upon me, if ever I relieve you with a shilling even to buy you bread! See if the man in whose house you have