“Come hither, child,” said the old Earl of Courtland to his daughter, as, in obedience to his summons, she entered his study; “come hither, I say; I wish to have some serious conversation with you: so dismiss your dogs, shut the door, and sit down here.”
Lady Juliana rang for the footman to take Venus; bade Pluto be quiet, like a darling, under the sofa; and, taking Cupid in her arms, assured his Lordship he need fear no disturbance from the sweet creatures, and that she would be all attention to his commands – kissing her cherished pug as she spoke.
“You are now, I think, seventeen, Juliana,” said his Lordship in a solemn important tone.
“And a half, papa.”
“It is therefore time you should be thinking of establishing yourself in the world. Have you ever turned your thoughts that way?”
Lady Juliana cast down her beautiful eyes, and was silent.
“As I can give you no fortune,” continued the Earl, swelling with ill-suppressed importance, as he proceeded, “you have perhaps no great pretensions to a very brilliant establishment.”
“Oh! none in the world, papa,” eagerly interrupted Lady Juliana; “a mere competence with the man of my heart.”
“The man of a fiddlestick!” exclaimed Lord Courtland in a fury; “what the devil have you to do with a heart, I should like to know? There’s no talking to a young woman now about marriage, but she is all in a blaze about hearts, and darts, and – and – But hark ye, child, I’ll suffer no daughter of mine to play the fool with her heart, indeed! She shall marry for the purpose for which matrimony was ordained amongst people of birth – that is, for the aggrandisement of her family, the extending of their political influence – for becoming, in short, the depository of their mutual interest. These are the only purposes for which persons of rank ever think of marriage. And pray, what has your heart to say to that?”
“Nothing, papa,” replied Lady Juliana in a faint dejected tone of voice. “Have done, Cupid!” addressing her favourite, who was amusing himself in pulling and tearing the beautiful lace veil that partly shaded the head of his fair mistress.
“I thought not,” resumed the Earl in a triumphant tone – “I thought not, indeed.” And as this victory over his daughter put him in unusual good humour, he condescended to sport a little with her curiosity.
“And pray, can this wonderful wise heart of yours inform you who it is you are going to obtain for a husband?”
Had Lady Juliana dared to utter the wishes of that heart she would have been at no loss for a reply; but she saw the necessity of dissimulation; and after naming such of her admirers as were most indifferent to her, she declared herself quite at a loss, and begged her father to put an end to her suspense.
“Now, what would you think of the Duke of L–?” asked the Earl in a voice of half-smothered exultation and delight.
“The Duke of L–!” repeated Lady Juliana, with a scream of horror and surprise; “surely, papa, you cannot be serious? Why, he’s red-haired and squints, and he’s as old as you.”
“If he were as old as the devil, and as ugly too,” interrupted the enraged Earl, “he should be your husband: and may I perish if you shall have any other!”
The youthful beauty burst into tears, while her father traversed the apartment with an inflamed and wrathful visage.
“If it had been anybody but that odious Duke,” sobbed the lovely Juliana.
“If it had been anybody but that odious Duke!” repeated the Earl, mimicking her, “they should not have had you. It has been my sole study, ever since I saw your brother settled, to bring about this alliance; and, when this is accomplished, my utmost ambition will be satisfied. So no more whining – the affair is settled; and all that remains for you to do is to study to make yourself agreeable to his Grace, and to sign the settlements. No such mighty sacrifice, me thinks, when repaid with a ducal coronet, the most splendid jewels, the finest equipages, and the largest jointure of any woman in England.”
Lady Juliana raised her head, and wiped her eyes. Lord Courtland perceived the effect his eloquence had produced upon the childish fancy of his daughter, and continued to expatiate upon the splendid joys that awaited her in a union with a nobleman of the Duke’s rank and fortune; till at length, dazzled, if not convinced, she declared herself “satisfied that it was her duty to marry whoever papa pleased; but –” and a sigh escaped her as she contrasted her noble suitor with her handsome lover: “but if I should marry him, papa, I am sure I shall never be able to love him.”
The Earl smiled at her childish simplicity as he assured her that was not at all necessary; that love was now entirely confined to the canaille; that it was very well for ploughmen and dairymaids to marry for love; but for a young woman of rank to think of such a thing was plebeian in the extreme!
Lady Juliana did not entirely subscribe to the arguments of her father; but the gay and glorious vision that floated in her brain stifled for a while the pleadings of her heart; and with a sparkling eye and an elastic step she hastened to prepare for the reception of the Duke.
For a few weeks the delusion lasted. Lady Juliana was flattered with the homage she received as a future Duchess; she was delighted with the éclat that attended her, and charmed with the daily presents showered upon her by her noble suitor.
“Well, really, Favolle,” said she to her maid, one day, as she clasped on her beautiful arm a resplendent bracelet, “it must be owned the Duke has a most exquisite taste in trinkets; don’t you think so? And, do you know, I don’t think him so very – very ugly. When we are married I mean to make him get a Brutus, cork his eyebrows, and have a set of teeth.” But just then the smiling eyes, curling hair, and finely formed person of a certain captivating Scotsman rose to view in her mind’s eye; and, with a peevish “pshaw!” she threw the bauble aside.
Educated for the sole purpose of forming a brilliant establishment, of catching the eye, and captivating the senses, the cultivation of her mind or the correction of her temper had formed no part of the system by which that aim was to be accomplished. Under the auspices of a fashionable mother and an obsequious governess the froward petulance of childhood, fostered and strengthened by indulgence and submission, had gradually ripened into that selfishness and caprice which now, in youth, formed the prominent features of her character. The Earl was too much engrossed by affairs of importance to pay much attention to anything so perfectly insignificant as the mind of his daughter. Her person he had predetermined should be entirely at his disposal, and therefore contemplated with delight the uncommon beauty which already distinguished it; not with the fond partiality of parental love, but with the heartless satisfaction of a crafty politician.
The mind of Lady Juliana was consequently the sport of every passion that by turns assailed it. Now swayed by ambition, and now softened by love, the struggle was violent, but it was short.
A few days before the one which was to seal her fate she granted an interview to her lover, who, young, thoughtless, and enamoured as herself, easily succeeded in persuading her to elope with him to Scotland. There, at the altar of Vulcan, the beautiful daughter of the Earl of Courtland gave her hand to her handsome but penniless lover; and there vowed to immolate every ambitious desire, every sentiment of vanity and high-born pride. Yet a sigh arose as she looked on the filthy hut, sooty priest, and ragged witnesses; and thought of the special license, splendid saloon, and bridal pomp that would have attended her union with the Duke. But the rapturous expressions which burst from the impassioned Douglas made her forget the gaudy pleasures of pomp and fashion. Amid the sylvan scenes of the neighbouring lakes the lovers sought a shelter; and, mutually charmed with each other, time flew for a while on downy pinions.
At the end of two months, however, the enamoured husband began to suspect that the lips of his “angel Julia” could utter very silly things; while the fond bride, on her part, discovered that though her “adored Henry’s” figure was symmetry itself, yet it certainly was deficient in a certain air – a je ne sais quoi – that marks the man of fashion.
“How I wish I had my pretty Cupid here,” said her Ladyship, with a sigh, one day as she lolled on a sofa: “he had so many pretty tricks, he would have helped to amuse us, and make the time pass; for really this place grows very stupid and tiresome; don’t you think so, love?”
“Most confoundedly so, my darling,” replied her husband, yawning sympathetically as he spoke.
“Then suppose I make one more attempt to soften papa, and be received into favour again?”
“With all my heart.”
“Shall I say I’m very sorry for what I have done?” asked her Ladyship, with a sigh. “You know I did not say that in my first letter.”
“Ay, do; and, if it will serve any purpose, you may say that I am no less so.”
In a few days the letter was returned, in a blank cover; and, by the same post, Douglas saw himself superseded in the Gazette, being absent without leave!
There now remained but one course to pursue; and that was to seek refuge at his father’s, in the Highlands of Scotland. At the first mention of it Lady Juliana was transported with joy, and begged that a letter might be instantly despatched, containing the offer of a visit: she had heard the Duchess of M declare nothing could be so delightful as the style of living in Scotland: the people were so frank and gay, and the manners so easy and engaging – oh! it was delightful! And then Lady Jane G and Lady Mary L, and a thousand other lords and ladies she knew, were all so charmed with the country, and all so sorry to leave it. Then dear Henry’s family must be so charming: an old castle, too, was her delight; she would feel quite at home while wandering through its long galleries; and she quite loved old pictures, and armour, and tapestry; and then her thoughts reverted to her father’s magnificent mansion in D–shire.
At length an answer arrived, containing a cordial invitation from the old Laird to spend the winter with them at Glenfern Castle.
All impatience to quit the scenes of their short lived felicity, they bade a hasty adieu to the now fading beauties of Windermere; and, full of hope and expectation, eagerly turned towards the bleak hills of Scotland. They stopped for a short time at Edinburgh, to provide themselves with a carriage, and some other necessaries. There, too, she fortunately met with an English Abigail and footman, who, for double wages, were prevailed upon to attend her to the Highlands; which, with the addition of two dogs, a tame squirrel, and mackaw, completed the establishment.
Excerpted from Marriage, Susan Edmonstone Ferrier, published in 1818.