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- Sybil, or the Two Nations - 10/101 -


friendly interposition that sends you in an official capacity to the marsupial sympathies of Sydney or Swan River!

Now is the time for the men to come forward who have claims; claims for spending their money, which nobody asked them to do, but which of course they only did for the sake of the party. They never wrote for their party, or spoke for their party, or gave their party any other vote than their own; but they urge their claims,--to something; a commissionership of anything, or a consulship anywhere; if no place to be had, they are ready to take it out in dignities. They once looked to the privy council, but would now be content with an hereditary honour; if they can have neither, they will take a clerkship in the Treasury for a younger son. Perhaps they may get that in time; at present they go away growling with a gaugership; or, having with desperate dexterity at length contrived to transform a tidewaiter into a landwaiter. But there is nothing like asking--except refusing.

Hark! it tolls! All is over. The great bell of the metropolitan cathedral announces the death of the last son of George the Third who probably will ever reign in England. He was a good man: with feelings and sympathies; deficient in culture rather than ability; with a sense of duty; and with something of the conception of what should be the character of an English monarch. Peace to his manes! We are summoned to a different scene.

In a palace in a garden--not in a haughty keep, proud with the fame, but dark with the violence of ages; not in a regal pile, bright with the splendour, but soiled with the intrigues, of courts and factions--in a palace in a garden, meet scene for youth, and innocence, and beauty--came the voice that told the maiden she must ascend her throne!

The council of England is summoned for the first time within her bowers. There are assembled the prelates and captains and chief men of her realm; the priests of the religion that consoles, the heroes of the sword that has conquered, the votaries of the craft that has decided the fate of empires; men grey with thought, and fame, and age; who are the stewards of divine mysteries, who have encountered in battle the hosts of Europe, who have toiled in secret cabinets, who have struggled in the less merciful strife of aspiring senates; men too, some of them, lords of a thousand vassals and chief proprietors of provinces, yet not one of them whose heart does not at this moment tremble as he awaits the first presence of the maiden who must now ascend her throne.

A hum of half-suppressed conversation which would attempt to conceal the excitement, which some of the greatest of them have since acknowledged, fills that brilliant assemblage; that sea of plumes, and glittering stars, and gorgeous dresses. Hush! the portals open; She comes! The silence is as deep as that of a noontide forest. Attended for a moment by her royal mother and the ladies of her court, who bow and then retire, VICTORIA ascends her throne; a girl, alone, and for the first time, amid an assemblage of men.

In a sweet and thrilling voice, and with a composed mien which indicates rather the absorbing sense of august duty than an absence of emotion, THE QUEEN announces her accession to the throne of her ancestors, and her humble hope that divine providence will guard over the fulfilment of her lofty trust.

The prelates and captains and chief men of her realm then advance to the throne, and kneeling before her, pledge their troth, and take the sacred oaths of allegiance and supremacy.

Allegiance to one who rules over the land that the great Macedonian could not conquer; and over a continent of which even Columbus never dreamed: to the Queen of every sea, and of nations in every zone.

It is not of these that I would speak; but of a nation nearer her foot-stool, and which at this moment looks to her with anxiety, with affection, perhaps with hope. Fair and serene, she has the blood and beauty of the Saxon. Will it be her proud destiny at length to bear relief to suffering millions, and with that soft hand which might inspire troubadours and guerdon knights, break the last links in the chain of Saxon thraldom?

END OF THE FIRST BOOK

BOOK II

Book 2 Chapter 1

The building which was still called MARNEY ABBEY, though remote from the site of the ancient monastery, was an extensive structure raised at the latter end of the reign of James the First, and in the stately and picturesque style of that age. Placed on a noble elevation in the centre of an extensive and well wooded park, it presented a front with two projecting wings of equal dimensions with the centre, so that the form of the building was that of a quadrangle, less one of its sides. Its ancient lattices had been removed, and the present windows though convenient accorded little with the structure; the old entrance door in the centre of the building however still remained, a wondrous specimen of fantastic carving: Ionic columns of black oak, with a profusion of fruits and flowers, and heads of stags and sylvans. The whole of the building was crowned with a considerable pediment of what seemed at the first glance fanciful open work, but which examined more nearly offered in gigantic letters the motto of the house of Marney. The portal opened to a hall, such as is now rarely found; with the dais, the screen, the gallery, and the buttery-hatch all perfect, and all of carved black oak. Modern luxury, and the refined taste of the lady of the late lord, had made Marney Abbey as remarkable for its comfort and pleasantness of accommodation as for its ancient state and splendour. The apartments were in general furnished with all the cheerful ease and brilliancy of the modern mansion of a noble, but the grand gallery of the seventeenth century was still preserved, and was used on great occasions as the chief reception-room. You ascended the principal staircase to reach it through a long corridor. It occupied the whole length of one of the wings; was one hundred feet long, and forty-five feet broad, its walls hung with a collection of choice pictures rich in history; while the Axminster carpets, the cabinets, carved tables, and variety of easy chairs, ingeniously grouped, imparted even to this palatian chamber a lively and habitable air.

Lord Marney was several years the senior of Charles Egremont, yet still a young man. He was handsome; there was indeed a general resemblance between the brothers, though the expression of their countenances was entirely different; of the same height and air, and throughout the features a certain family cast; but here the likeness ceased. The countenance of Lord Marney bespoke the character of his mind; cynical, devoid of sentiment, arrogant, literal, hard. He had no imagination, had exhausted his slight native feeling, but he was acute, disputatious, and firm even to obstinacy. Though his early education had been very imperfect, he had subsequently read a good deal, especially in French literature. He had formed his mind by Helvetius, whose system he deemed irrefutable, and in whom alone he had faith. Armed with the principles of his great master, he believed he could pass through existence in adamantine armour, and always gave you in the business of life the idea of a man who was conscious you were trying to take him in, and rather respected you for it, but the working of whose cold, unkind, eye defied you.

There never had been excessive cordiality between the brothers even in their boyish days, and shortly after Egremont's entrance into life, they had become estranged. They were to meet now for the first time since Egremont's return from the continent. Their mother had arranged their reconciliation. They were to meet as if no misunderstanding had ever existed between them; it was specially stipulated by Lord Marney, that there was to be no "scene." Apprised of Egremont's impending arrival, Lord Marney was careful to be detained late that day at petty sessions, and entered the room only a few minutes before dinner was announced, where he found Egremont not only with the countess and a young lady who was staying with her, but with additional bail against any ebullition of sentiment in the shape of the Vicar of Marney, and a certain Captain Grouse, who was a kind of aide-de-camp of the earl; killed birds and carved them; played billiards with him, and lost; had indeed every accomplishment that could please woman or ease man; could sing, dance, draw, make artificial flies, break horses, exercise a supervision over stewards and bailiffs, and make every body comfortable by taking everything on his own shoulders.

Lady Marney had received Egremont in a manner which expressed the extreme satisfaction she experienced at finding him once more beneath his brother's roof. When he arrived indeed, he would have preferred to have been shown at once to his rooms, but a message immediately delivered expressed the wish of his sister-in-law at once to see him. She received him alone and with great warmth. She was beautiful, and soft as May; a glowing yet delicate face; rich brown hair, and large blue eyes; not yet a mother, but with something of the dignity of the matron blending with the lingering timidity of the girl.

Egremont was glad to join his sister-in-law again in the drawing-room before dinner. He seated himself by her side; and in answer to her enquiries was giving her some narrative of his travels; the Vicar who was very low church, was shaking his head at Lady Marney's young friend, who was enlarging on the excellence of Mr Paget's tales; while Captain Grouse, in a very stiff white neck-cloth, very tight pantaloons, to show his very celebrated legs, transparent stockings and polished shoes, was throwing himself into attitudes in the back ground, and with a zeal amounting almost to enthusiasm, teaching Lady Marney's spaniel to beg; when the door opened, and Lord Marney entered, but as if to make security doubly sure, not alone. He was accompanied by a neighbour and brother magistrate, Sir Vavasour Firebrace, a baronet of the earliest batch, and a gentleman of great family and great estate.


Sybil, or the Two Nations - 10/101

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