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The Wanderer (Volume 4 of 5) or, Female Difficulties   By: (1752-1840)

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VOLUME IV

CHAPTER LX

Juliet was precipitately followed by Lord Melbury.

'It is not, then,' he cried, 'your intention to return to Mrs Ireton?'

'No, my lord, never!'

She had but just uttered these words, when, immediately facing her, she beheld Mrs Howel.

A spectre could not have made her start more affrighted, could not have appeared to her more horrible. And Lord Melbury, who earnestly, at the same moment, had pronounced, 'Tell me whither, then, ' stopping abruptly, looked confounded.

'May I ask your lordship to take me to Lady Aurora?' Mrs Howel coldly demanded.

'Aurora? Yes; she is there, Ma'am; still in the gallery.'

Mrs Howel presented him her hand, palpably to force him with her; and stalked past Juliet, without any other demonstration of perceiving her than what was unavoidably manifested by an heightened air of haughty disdain.

Lord Melbury, distressed, would still have hung back; but Mrs Howel, taking his arm, proceeded, as if without observing his repugnance.

Juliet, in trembling dismay, glided on till she entered a vacant apartment, of which the door was open. To avoid intrusion, she was shutting herself in; but, upon some one's applying, nearly the next minute, for admittance, the fear of new misconstruction forced her to open the door. What, then, was her shock at again viewing Mrs Howel! She started back involuntarily, and her countenance depicted undisguised horrour.

With a brow of almost petrifying severity, sternly fixing her eyes upon Juliet, Mrs Howel, for a dreadful moment, seemed internally suspended, not between hardness and mercy, but between accusation and punishment. At length, in a tone, from the deep sounds of which Juliet shrunk, but had no means to retire, she slowly pronounced, while her head rose more loftily at every word, 'You abscond from Mrs Ireton, though she would permit you to remain with her? 'Tis to Lord Melbury that you reveal your purpose; and the inexperienced youth whom you would seduce, is the only person that can fail to discover your ultimate design, in taking the moment of meeting with him, for quitting the honourable protection which snatches you from want, if not from disgrace: at the same time that it offers security to a noble family, justly alarmed for the morals, if not for the honour of its youthful and credulous chief.'

The terror which, in shaking the nerves, seemed to have clouded even the faculties of Juliet, now suddenly subsided, superseded by yet more potent sensations of quick resentment. 'Hold, Madam!' she cried: 'I may bear with cruelty and injustice, for I am helpless! but not with insult, for I am innocent!'

Mrs Howel, surprised, paused an instant; but then harshly went on, 'This cant, young woman, can only delude those who are ignorant of the world. Whatever you may chuse to utter to me of that sort will be perfectly null. What I have to say is simple; what you have to offer must, of course, be complicate. But I have no time to throw away upon rants and rodomontades, and I have no patience to waste upon impostors. Hear me then without reply.'

'Not to reply, Madam, will cost me little,' indignantly cried Juliet: 'but to hear you, pardon me, Madam, force only can exact from me so dreadful a compliance.'

She looked round, but not having courage to open a further door, nor power to pass by Mrs Howel, walked to a window.

Not heeding her resistance, and disdaining her emotion, Mrs Howel continued: 'My Lord Melbury is not, it is true, like his sister, under my immediate care; but he is here only to join her ladyship, whom my Lord Denmeath has entrusted to my protection. And, therefore, though he is as noble in mind as in rank, since he is still, in years, but a boy, I must, in honour, consider myself to be equally responsible to my Lord Denmeath for the brother as for the sister. This being the case, I must not leave him to the machinations of an adventurer... Continue reading book >>


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