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- The Old English Baron - 30/33 -
When the noble company were all assembled, Sir Philip Harclay revived the subject, and besought the Lord Fitz-Owen to put an end to the work he had begun, by confirming Edmund's happiness. The Baron rose up, and thus spoke:
"The proofs of Edmund's noble birth, the still stronger ones of his excellent endowments and qualities, the solicitations of so many noble friends in his behalf, have altogether determined me in his favour; and I hope to do justice to his merit, without detriment to my other children; I am resolved to make them all as happy as my power will allow me to do. Lord Clifford has been so gracious to promise his fair daughter to my son Robert, upon certain conditions, that I will take upon me to ratify, and which will render my son worthy of the happiness that awaits him. My children are the undoubted heirs of my unhappy brother, Lovel; you, my son, shall therefore immediately take possession of your uncle's house and estate, only obliging you to pay to each of your younger brothers, the sum of one thousand pounds; on this condition, I will secure that estate to you and your heirs for ever. I will by my own act and deed surrender the castle and estate of Lovel to the right owner, and at the same time marry him to my daughter. I will settle a proper allowance upon my two younger sons, and dispose of what remains by a will and testament; and then I shall have done all my business in this world, and shall have nothing to do but prepare for the next."
"Oh, my father! said Sir Robert, "I cannot bear your generosity! you would give away all to others, and reserve nothing for yourself."
"Not so, my son," said the Baron; "I will repair my old castle in Wales, and reside there. I will visit my children, and be visited by them; I will enjoy their happiness, and by that means increase my own; whether I look backwards or forwards, I shall have nothing to do but rejoice, and be thankful to Heaven that has given me so many blessings; I shall have the comfortable reflection of having discharged my duties as a citizen, a husband, a father, a friend; and, whenever I am summoned away from this world, I shall die content."
Sir Robert came forward with tears on his cheeks; he kneeled to his father.
"Best of parents, and of men!" said he; "you have subdued a heart that has been too refractory to your will; you have this day made me sensible how much I owe to your goodness and forbearance with me. Forgive me all that is past, and from henceforward dispose of me; I will have no will but yours, no ambition but to be worthy of the name of your son."
"And this day," said the Baron, "do I enjoy the true happiness of a father! Rise, my son, and take possession of the first place in my affection without reserve." They embraced with tears on both sides; The company rose, and congratulated both father and son. The Baron presented his son to Lord Clifford, who embraced him, and said:
"You shall have my daughter, for I see that you deserve her."
Sir Philip Harclay approached--the Baron gave his son's hand to the knight.
"Love and respect that good man," said he; "deserve his friendship, and you will obtain it."
Nothing but congratulations were heard on all sides.
When their joy was in some degree reduced to composure, Sir Philip proposed that they should begin to execute the schemes of happiness they had planned. He proposed that my Lord Fitz-Owen should go with him to the Castle of Lovel, and settle the family there. The Baron consented; and both together invited such of the company, as liked it, to accompany them thither. It was agreed that a nephew of Lord Graham's, another of Lord Clifford's, two gentlemen, friends of Sir Philip Harclay, and father Oswald, should be of the party; together with several of Sir Philip's dependants and domestics, and the attendants on the rest. Lord Fitz Owen gave orders for their speedy departure. Lord Graham and his friends took leave of them, in order to return to his own home; but, before he went, he engaged his eldest nephew and heir to the second daughter of the Lord Clifford; Sir Robert offered himself to the eldest, who modestly received his address, and made no objection to his proposal. The fathers confirmed their engagement.
Lord Fitz-Owen promised to return to the celebration of the marriage; in the mean time he ordered his son to go and take possession of his uncle's house, and to settle his household; He invited young Clifford, and some other gentlemen, to go with him. The company separated with regret, and with many promises of friendship on all sides; and the gentlemen of the North were to cultivate the good neighbourhood on both sides of the borders.
Sir Philip Harclay and the Baron Fitz-Owen, with their friends and attendants, set forwards for the Castle of Lovel; a servant went before, at full speed, to acquaint the family of their approach. Edmund was in great anxiety of mind, now the crisis of his fate was near at hand; He enquired of the messenger, who were of the party? and finding that Sir Philip Harclay was there, and that Sir Robert Fitz-Owen stayed in the North, his hopes rose above his fears. Mr. William, attended by a servant, rode forward to meet them; he desired Edmund to stay and receive them. Edmund was under some difficulty with regard to his behaviour to the lovely Emma; a thousand times his heart rose to his lips, as often he suppressed his emotions; they both sighed frequently, said little, thought much, and wished for the event. Master Walter was too young to partake of their anxieties, but he wished for the arrival of his father to end them.
Mr. William's impatience spurred him on to meet his father; as soon as he saw him, he rode up directly to him.
"My dear father, you are welcome home!" said he.
"I think not, sir," said the Baron, and looked serious.
"Why so, my lord?" said William.
"Because it is no longer mine, but another man's home," answered he, "and I must receive my welcome from him."
"Meaning Edmund?" said William.
"Whom else can it be?"
"Ah, my Lord! he is your creature, your servant; he puts his fate into your hands, and will submit to your pleasure in all things!"
"Why comes he not to meet us?" said the Baron.
"His fears prevent him," said William; "but speak the word, and I will fetch him."
"No," said the Baron, "we will wait on him."
William looked confused.
"Is Edmund so unfortunate," said he, "as to have incurred your displeasure?"
Sir Philip Harclay advanced, and laid his hand on William's saddle.
"Generous impatience! noble youth! "said he; "look round you, and see if you can discover in this company one enemy of your friend! Leave to your excellent father the time and manner of explaining himself; he only can do justice to his own sentiments."
The Baron smiled on Sir Philip; William's countenance cleared up; they went forward, and soon arrived at the Castle of Lovel.
Edmund was walking to and fro in the hall, when he heard the horn that announced their arrival; his emotions were so great that he could hardly support them. The Baron and Sir Philip entered the hall hand in hand; Edmund threw himself at their feet, and embraced their knees, but could not utter a word. They raised him between them, and strove to encourage him; but he threw himself into the arms of Sir Philip Harclay, deprived of strength, and almost of life. They supported him to a seat, where he recovered by degrees, but had no power to speak his feelings; he looked up to his benefactors in the most affecting manner, he laid his hand upon his bosom, but was still silent.
"Compose yourself, my dear son," said Sir Philip; "you are in the arms of your best friends. Look up to the happiness that awaits you-- enjoy the blessings that Heaven sends you--lift up your heart in gratitude to the Creator, and think left of what you owe to the creature! You will have time enough to pay us your acknowledgments hereafter."
The company came round them, the servants flocked into the hall: shouts of joy were heard on all sides; the Baron came and took Edmund's hand.
"Rise, sir," said he, "and do the honours of your house! it is yours from this day: we are your guests, and expect from you our welcome!"
Edmund kneeled to the Baron, he spoke with a faltering voice:
"My Lord, I am yours! all that I have is at your devotion! dispose of me as it pleases you best."
The Baron embraced him with the greatest affection.
"Look round you," said he, "and salute your friends; these gentlemen came hither to do you honour."
Edmund revived, he embraced and welcomed the gentlemen. Father Oswald received his embrace with peculiar affection, and gave him his benediction in a most affecting manner.
Edmund exclaimed, "Pray for me, father! that I may bear all these blessings with gratitude and moderation!"
He then saluted and shook hands with all the servants, not omitting the meanest; he distinguished Joseph by a cordial embrace; he called him his dear friend.
"Now," said he, "I can return your friendship, and I am proud to acknowledge it!"
The old man, with a faltering voice, cried out:
"Now I have lived long enough! I have seen my master's son acknowledged for the heir of Lovel!"
The hall echoed with his words, "Long live the heir of Lovel!"
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