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CHAPTER XV.

I fear the devil worst when gown and cassock,
Or, in the lack of them, old Calvin's cloak,
Conceals his cloven hoof.

Anonymous

JULIAN PEVERIL had scarce set sail for Whitehaven, when Alice Bridgenorth and her gouvernante, at the hasty command of her father, were embarked with equal speed and secrecy on board of a bark bound for Liverpool. Christian accompanied them on their voyage, as the friend to whose guardianship Alice was to be consigned during any future separation from her father, and whose amusing conversation, joined to his pleasing though cold manners, as well as his near relationship, induced Alice, in her forlorn situation, to consider her fate as fortunate in having such a guardian.

At Liverpool, as the reader already knows, Christian took the first overt step in the villany which he had contrived against the innocent girl, by exposing her at a meeting-house to the unhallowed gaze,

of Chiffinch, in order to convince him she was possessed of such uncommon beauty as might well deserve the infamous promotion to which they meditated to raise her.

Highly satisfied with her personal appearance, Chiffinch was no less so with the sense and delicacy of her conversation, when he met her in company with her uncle afterwards in London. The simplicity, and at the same time the spirit of her remarks, made him regard her as his scientific at. tendant, the cook, might have done a newly invented sauce, sufficiently piquante in its qualities to awaken the jaded appetite of a cloyed and gorged epicure. She was, he said and swore, the very corner-stone on which, with proper management, and with his instructions, a few honest fellows might build a court fortune.

That the necessary introduction might take place, the confederates judged fit she should be put under the charge of an experienced lady, whom some called Mistress Chiffinch, and others Chiffinch's mistress--one of those obliging creatures who are willing to discharge all the duties of a wife, without the inconvenient and indissoluble ceremony:

It was one, and not perhaps the least prejudicial consequence of the licence of that ill-governed time, that the bounds betwixt virtue and vice were so far smoothed down and levelled, that the frail wife, or the tender friend who was no wife, did not necessarily lose their place in society; but on the contrary, if they moved in the higher circles, were permitted and encouraged to mingle with women whose rank was certain, and whose reputation was untainted.

A regular liaison, like that of Chiffinch and his fair one, inferred little scandal; and such wa his influence as prime minister of his master's pleasures, that, as Charles himself expressed it, the lady whom we introduced to our readers in the last chapter, had obtained a brevet commission to rank as a married woman. And to do the gentle dame justice, no wife could have been more attentive to forward his plans, or more liberal in disposing of his income.

She inhabited a set of apartments called Chiffinch's—the scene of many an intrigue, both of love and politics; and where Charles often held his priyate parties for the evening, when, as frequentlm happened, the ill-humour of the Duchess of Portsmouth, his reigning Sultana, prevented his supping with her. The hold which such an arrangement gave a man like Chiffinch, used as he well knew how to use it, made him of too much consequence to be slighted even by the first persons in the state, unless they stood aloof from all manner of politics and court intrigue.

In the charge of Mistress Chiffinch, and of him whose name she bore, Edward Christian placed the daughter of his sister, and of his confiding friend, calmly contemplating her ruin as an event certain to follow; and hoping to ground upon it his own chance of a more assured fortune, than a life spent in intrigue had hitherto been able to procure for him.

The innocent Alice, without being able to discover any thing wrong either in the scenes of unusual luxury with which she was surrounded, or in the manners of her hostess, which, both from nature and policy, were kind and caressing—felt nevertheless an instinctive apprehension that all was not right—a feeling in the human mind, allied perhaps to that sense of danger which animals exhibit when placed in the vicinity of the natural enemies of their race, and which makes birds cower when the hawk is in the air, and beasts tremble when the tiger is abroad in the desert. There was a heaviness at her heart which she could not dispel; and the few hours which she had already spent at Chiffinch's, were like those passed in a prison by one unconscious of the cause or event of his captivity. It was the third morning after her arrival in London, that the scene took place which we now recur to.

The impertinence and vulgarity of Epsom, which was permitted to him as an unrivalled performer upon his instrument, were exhausting themselves at the expense of all other musical professors, and

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Mistress Chiffinch was listening with careless indifference, when some one was heard speaking loudly, and with animation, in the inner apartment.

“O gemini and gilliflower water!" exclaimed the damsel, startled out of her fine airs into her natural vulgarity of exclamation, and running to the door of communication—" if he has not come back again after all!--and if old Rowley-"

A tap at the further and opposite door here arrested her attention-she quitted the handle of that which she was about to open as speedily as if it had burnt her fingers, and, moving back towards her couch, asked, “ Who is there?”

“ Old Rowley himself, madam," said the King, entering the apartment with his usual air of easy composure.

“O crimini!-your Majesty!-I thought " “That I was out of hearing, doubtless,” said the King; " and spoke of me as folks speak of absent friends. Make no apology. I think I have heard ladies

say of their lace, that a rent is better than a darn.--Nay, be seated.--Where is Chiffinch?”

- He is down at York-House, your Majesty,” said the dame, recovering, though with no small difficulty, the calm affectation of her usual demeanour. “ Shall I send your Majesty's commands?

“I will wait his return," said the King.--" Permit me to taste your chocolate.”.

“ There is some fresh frothed in the office,” said the lady; and using a little silver call, or whistle, a black boy, superbly dressed, like an oriental

page, with gold bracelets on his naked arms, and a gold collar around his equally bare neck, attended with the favourite beverage of the morning, in an apparatus of the richest china.'

While he sipped his cup of chocolate, the King looked round the apartment, and observing Fenella,

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Peveril, and the musician, who remained standing beside a large Indian screen, he continued, addressing Mistress Chiffinch, though with polite indifference, • I sent you the fiddles this morning—or rather the flute-Empson, and a fairy elf whom I met in the Park, who dances divinely. She has brought us the very newest saraband from the court of Queen Mab, and I sent her here, that you may see it at leisure."

“ Your Majesty does me by far too much honour, ” said Chiffinch, her eyes properly cast down and her accents minced into becoming humility:

Nay, little Chiffinch,” answered the King, in a tone of as contemptuous familiarity as was consistent with his good breeding, “it was not altogether for thine own private ear, though quite deserving of all sweet sounds, but I thought Nelly had been with thee this morning.”

66 I can send Bajazet for her, your Majesty," answered the lady.

Nay, I will not trouble your little heathen Sultan to go so far. Still it strikes me that Chiffinch said you had company—some country cousin, or such a matter-Is there not such a person?”

6. There is a young person from the country," said Mistress Chiffinch, striving to conceal a considerable portion of embarrassment; but she is unprepared for such an honour as to be admitted into your Majesty's presence, and—”

6. And therefore the fitter to receive it, Chif. finch. There is nothing in nature so beautiful as the first blush of a little rustic between joy and fear, and wonder and curiosity. It is the down on the peach-pity it decays so soon!—the fruit remains, but the first high colouring and exquisite flavour are gone.—Never put up thy lip for the matter, Chiffinch, for it is as I tell you; so pray let

, us have la belle cousine.Vol. II.

--22

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