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had promised to make him his heir, - and who behaved to him in every re
spect but one with the kindness of a father; that one was a positive stipulation on the part of Lord Robert, that Percival should never marry without his consent, which he declared he would never give to his uniting himself to any woman who was not of noble blood; money was not so much his lordship's object, but birth was indispensible; and Pembroke saw, that if he ever married, he would probably be obliged to give his hand rather in obedience to the dictates of ambition than affection.
"He took every opportunity, in the absence of Lady Diana, to endeavour to give me that consequence with myself which she sedulously laboured to deprive me of; and a succession of those little delicate attentions which, as one of our favourite authors expresses it, "are neither so pointed as to alarm, nor so vague as to be misunderstood," began by slow degrees to open my eyes as
to the nature of his sentiments for me. How did my heart throb with transport when I first ventured to think that he loved me; but the impossibility of our union soon chaced the delightful vision which, for a few moments, I had indulged; and I awoke to sober reflection and to real misery.
Lady Diana had for some time been menaced with an attack of the gout, and it had rendered her unusually peevish; she began to lay aside the cere monious politeness with which she had at first treated me, and at times she behaved with a degree of capricious rude mess that hurt me inconceivably. Mr. Pembroke saw and sympathized in my sufferings; and one day that he had witnessed her treating me with more than usual severity, he abruptly left the room. I saw by the change in his countenance, and the glance of disdain. which he cast at her ladyship, how feelingly sensible he was of her insolent tyranny.
bitation in the environs of London, which he had fitted up for me in a style of simple elegance. I was indeed the more readily induced to agree to this plan, because Lord Robert, who had been for some time in a declining state of health, grew daily worse, and his recovery was considered impossible.
Mr. Pembroke now visited me whenever he could leave his uncle; and for a short period I tasted the purest hap piness. At first, indeed, I felt the auk, wardness of my situation, but the uni form respect and tenderness with which he treated me, soon banished every uneasy sensation, and left no room in my heart for aught but love and confidence; that heart which, previous to my knowledge of Percival, had appeared shut to every human being, now expanded with hope and delight; my mind recovered its tone, and cheerfulness again sparkled in my eyes, and decked my countenance with smiles.
"Your lordship will excuse me if I
pass over the circumstances of my undoing; suffice it to say, that I had no cause to reproach Percival; there was not, I firmly believe, the least intention on his part of seduction. One unguarded moment plunged us both into guilt, and robbed me of peace for ever.
"Pembroke vehemently insisted upon marrying me immediately, but I as positively refused. I well knew that, should our marriage be discovered, it must prove his utter ruin; and I had too high an opinion of his honour, to doubt his making me his wife the moment he could do so with safety.
By arguments that were more specious than solid, he endeavoured to reconcile me to the past, and most solemnly did he invoke the Almighty to witness his intention to make me every reparation in his power. I cannot without shuddering recollect the mo. ment in which he imprecated Heaven's vengeance on his head, if ever he deserted me. Unhappy man! may that
"In the evening I received from him a letter, which contained an avowal of his passion in the most delicate and respectful terms; he lamented the reasons that prevented his offering me his hand immediately, but would I condescend (he said) to promise him mine, his uncle was far advanced in life, and it was probable that a short time would enable him to make me his in the face of the world; until then. I would, he hoped (if I accepted his proposals), allow him the happiness of placing me far above the tyranny of Lady Diana, which must, he knew, be utterly insupportable to my spirit.
"The momentary transport which this letter gave me, was perhaps the greatest I have ever experienced; it gratified equally my love and my pride, though the latter induced me positively to refuse placing myself under any pecuniary obligations to him. I did not, however, hesitate to acknowledge my predilection for him; but while I promised