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´╗┐Title: Lady Susan
Author: Austen, Jane, 1775-1817
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lady Susan" ***

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LADY SUSAN

by Jane Austen



I


LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MR. VERNON


Langford, Dec.

MY DEAR BROTHER,--I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of
profiting by your kind invitation when we last parted of spending some
weeks with you at Churchhill, and, therefore, if quite convenient to you
and Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few
days to be introduced to a sister whom I have so long desired to be
acquainted with. My kind friends here are most affectionately
urgent with me to prolong my stay, but their hospitable and cheerful
dispositions lead them too much into society for my present situation
and state of mind; and I impatiently look forward to the hour when I
shall be admitted into Your delightful retirement.

I long to be made known to your dear little children, in whose hearts I
shall be very eager to secure an interest I shall soon have need for all
my fortitude, as I am on the point of separation from my own daughter.
The long illness of her dear father prevented my paying her that
attention which duty and affection equally dictated, and I have too
much reason to fear that the governess to whose care I consigned her was
unequal to the charge. I have therefore resolved on placing her at one
of the best private schools in town, where I shall have an opportunity
of leaving her myself in my way to you. I am determined, you see, not to
be denied admittance at Churchhill. It would indeed give me most painful
sensations to know that it were not in your power to receive me.

Your most obliged and affectionate sister,

S. VERNON.



II


LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON


Langford.


You were mistaken, my dear Alicia, in supposing me fixed at this place
for the rest of the winter: it grieves me to say how greatly you were
mistaken, for I have seldom spent three months more agreeably than
those which have just flown away. At present, nothing goes smoothly; the
females of the family are united against me. You foretold how it would
be when I first came to Langford, and Mainwaring is so uncommonly
pleasing that I was not without apprehensions for myself. I remember
saying to myself, as I drove to the house, "I like this man, pray Heaven
no harm come of it!" But I was determined to be discreet, to bear in
mind my being only four months a widow, and to be as quiet as possible:
and I have been so, my dear creature; I have admitted no one's
attentions but Mainwaring's. I have avoided all general flirtation
whatever; I have distinguished no creature besides, of all the numbers
resorting hither, except Sir James Martin, on whom I bestowed a little
notice, in order to detach him from Miss Mainwaring; but, if the world
could know my motive THERE they would honour me. I have been called an
unkind mother, but it was the sacred impulse of maternal affection, it
was the advantage of my daughter that led me on; and if that daughter
were not the greatest simpleton on earth, I might have been rewarded for
my exertions as I ought.

Sir James did make proposals to me for Frederica; but Frederica, who
was born to be the torment of my life, chose to set herself so violently
against the match that I thought it better to lay aside the scheme for
the present. I have more than once repented that I did not marry him
myself; and were he but one degree less contemptibly weak I certainly
should: but I must own myself rather romantic in that respect, and
that riches only will not satisfy me. The event of all this is very
provoking: Sir James is gone, Maria highly incensed, and Mrs. Mainwaring
insupportably jealous; so jealous, in short, and so enraged against
me, that, in the fury of her temper, I should not be surprized at her
appealing to her guardian, if she had the liberty of addressing him:
but there your husband stands my friend; and the kindest, most amiable
action of his life was his throwing her off for ever on her marriage.
Keep up his resentment, therefore, I charge you. We are now in a sad
state; no house was ever more altered; the whole party are at war, and
Mainwaring scarcely dares speak to me. It is time for me to be gone; I
have therefore determined on leaving them, and shall spend, I hope, a
comfortable day with you in town within this week. If I am as little
in favour with Mr. Johnson as ever, you must come to me at 10 Wigmore
street; but I hope this may not be the case, for as Mr. Johnson, with
all his faults, is a man to whom that great word "respectable" is always
given, and I am known to be so intimate with his wife, his slighting me
has an awkward look.

I take London in my way to that insupportable spot, a country village;
for I am really going to Churchhill. Forgive me, my dear friend, it is
my last resource. Were there another place in England open to me I would
prefer it. Charles Vernon is my aversion; and I am afraid of his wife.
At Churchhill, however, I must remain till I have something better in
view. My young lady accompanies me to town, where I shall deposit her
under the care of Miss Summers, in Wigmore street, till she becomes a
little more reasonable. She will made good connections there, as the
girls are all of the best families. The price is immense, and much
beyond what I can ever attempt to pay.

Adieu, I will send you a line as soon as I arrive in town.

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.



III


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill.


My dear Mother,--I am very sorry to tell you that it will not be in our
power to keep our promise of spending our Christmas with you; and we are
prevented that happiness by a circumstance which is not likely to
make us any amends. Lady Susan, in a letter to her brother-in-law, has
declared her intention of visiting us almost immediately; and as such
a visit is in all probability merely an affair of convenience, it is
impossible to conjecture its length. I was by no means prepared for such
an event, nor can I now account for her ladyship's conduct; Langford
appeared so exactly the place for her in every respect, as well from
the elegant and expensive style of living there, as from her particular
attachment to Mr. Mainwaring, that I was very far from expecting so
speedy a distinction, though I always imagined from her increasing
friendship for us since her husband's death that we should, at some
future period, be obliged to receive her. Mr. Vernon, I think, was a
great deal too kind to her when he was in Staffordshire; her behaviour
to him, independent of her general character, has been so inexcusably
artful and ungenerous since our marriage was first in agitation that no
one less amiable and mild than himself could have overlooked it all;
and though, as his brother's widow, and in narrow circumstances, it was
proper to render her pecuniary assistance, I cannot help thinking
his pressing invitation to her to visit us at Churchhill perfectly
unnecessary. Disposed, however, as he always is to think the best of
everyone, her display of grief, and professions of regret, and general
resolutions of prudence, were sufficient to soften his heart and make
him really confide in her sincerity; but, as for myself, I am still
unconvinced, and plausibly as her ladyship has now written, I cannot
make up my mind till I better understand her real meaning in coming to
us. You may guess, therefore, my dear madam, with what feelings I look
forward to her arrival. She will have occasion for all those attractive
powers for which she is celebrated to gain any share of my regard; and
I shall certainly endeavour to guard myself against their influence,
if not accompanied by something more substantial. She expresses a
most eager desire of being acquainted with me, and makes very gracious
mention of my children but I am not quite weak enough to suppose a woman
who has behaved with inattention, if not with unkindness, to her own
child, should be attached to any of mine. Miss Vernon is to be placed at
a school in London before her mother comes to us which I am glad of, for
her sake and my own. It must be to her advantage to be separated from
her mother, and a girl of sixteen who has received so wretched an
education, could not be a very desirable companion here. Reginald has
long wished, I know, to see the captivating Lady Susan, and we shall
depend on his joining our party soon. I am glad to hear that my father
continues so well; and am, with best love, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.



IV


MR. DE COURCY TO MRS. VERNON


Parklands.


My dear Sister,--I congratulate you and Mr. Vernon on being about to
receive into your family the most accomplished coquette in England. As a
very distinguished flirt I have always been taught to consider her, but
it has lately fallen In my way to hear some particulars of her conduct
at Langford: which prove that she does not confine herself to that sort
of honest flirtation which satisfies most people, but aspires to the
more delicious gratification of making a whole family miserable. By her
behaviour to Mr. Mainwaring she gave jealousy and wretchedness to his
wife, and by her attentions to a young man previously attached to Mr.
Mainwaring's sister deprived an amiable girl of her lover.

I learnt all this from Mr. Smith, now in this neighbourhood (I have
dined with him, at Hurst and Wilford), who is just come from Langford
where he was a fortnight with her ladyship, and who is therefore well
qualified to make the communication.

What a woman she must be! I long to see her, and shall certainly accept
your kind invitation, that I may form some idea of those bewitching
powers which can do so much--engaging at the same time, and in the same
house, the affections of two men, who were neither of them at liberty to
bestow them--and all this without the charm of youth! I am glad to find
Miss Vernon does not accompany her mother to Churchhill, as she has not
even manners to recommend her; and, according to Mr. Smith's account, is
equally dull and proud. Where pride and stupidity unite there can be
no dissimulation worthy notice, and Miss Vernon shall be consigned to
unrelenting contempt; but by all that I can gather Lady Susan possesses
a degree of captivating deceit which it must be pleasing to witness and
detect. I shall be with you very soon, and am ever,

Your affectionate brother,

R. DE COURCY.



V


LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON


Churchhill.


I received your note, my dear Alicia, just before I left town, and
rejoice to be assured that Mr. Johnson suspected nothing of your
engagement the evening before. It is undoubtedly better to deceive him
entirely, and since he will be stubborn he must be tricked. I arrived
here in safety, and have no reason to complain of my reception from Mr.
Vernon; but I confess myself not equally satisfied with the behaviour of
his lady. She is perfectly well-bred, indeed, and has the air of a woman
of fashion, but her manners are not such as can persuade me of her being
prepossessed in my favour. I wanted her to be delighted at seeing me.
I was as amiable as possible on the occasion, but all in vain. She does
not like me. To be sure when we consider that I DID take some pains to
prevent my brother-in-law's marrying her, this want of cordiality is not
very surprizing, and yet it shows an illiberal and vindictive spirit
to resent a project which influenced me six years ago, and which never
succeeded at last.

I am sometimes disposed to repent that I did not let Charles buy
Vernon Castle, when we were obliged to sell it; but it was a trying
circumstance, especially as the sale took place exactly at the time
of his marriage; and everybody ought to respect the delicacy of those
feelings which could not endure that my husband's dignity should be
lessened by his younger brother's having possession of the family
estate. Could matters have been so arranged as to prevent the necessity
of our leaving the castle, could we have lived with Charles and kept
him single, I should have been very far from persuading my husband to
dispose of it elsewhere; but Charles was on the point of marrying
Miss De Courcy, and the event has justified me. Here are children in
abundance, and what benefit could have accrued to me from his purchasing
Vernon? My having prevented it may perhaps have given his wife an
unfavourable impression, but where there is a disposition to dislike,
a motive will never be wanting; and as to money matters it has not
withheld him from being very useful to me. I really have a regard
for him, he is so easily imposed upon! The house is a good one, the
furniture fashionable, and everything announces plenty and elegance.
Charles is very rich I am sure; when a man has once got his name in a
banking-house he rolls in money; but they do not know what to do with
it, keep very little company, and never go to London but on business. We
shall be as stupid as possible. I mean to win my sister-in-law's heart
through the children; I know all their names already, and am going to
attach myself with the greatest sensibility to one in particular, a
young Frederic, whom I take on my lap and sigh over for his dear uncle's
sake.

Poor Mainwaring! I need not tell you how much I miss him, how
perpetually he is in my thoughts. I found a dismal letter from him on
my arrival here, full of complaints of his wife and sister, and
lamentations on the cruelty of his fate. I passed off the letter as his
wife's, to the Vernons, and when I write to him it must be under cover
to you.

Ever yours, S. VERNON.



VI


MRS. VERNON TO MR. DE COURCY


Churchhill.


Well, my dear Reginald, I have seen this dangerous creature, and must
give you some description of her, though I hope you will soon be able to
form your own judgment she is really excessively pretty; however you may
choose to question the allurements of a lady no longer young, I must,
for my own part, declare that I have seldom seen so lovely a woman
as Lady Susan. She is delicately fair, with fine grey eyes and dark
eyelashes; and from her appearance one would not suppose her more than
five and twenty, though she must in fact be ten years older, I was
certainly not disposed to admire her, though always hearing she was
beautiful; but I cannot help feeling that she possesses an uncommon
union of symmetry, brilliancy, and grace. Her address to me was so
gentle, frank, and even affectionate, that, if I had not known how much
she has always disliked me for marrying Mr. Vernon, and that we had
never met before, I should have imagined her an attached friend. One
is apt, I believe, to connect assurance of manner with coquetry, and to
expect that an impudent address will naturally attend an impudent mind;
at least I was myself prepared for an improper degree of confidence in
Lady Susan; but her countenance is absolutely sweet, and her voice and
manner winningly mild. I am sorry it is so, for what is this but deceit?
Unfortunately, one knows her too well. She is clever and agreeable, has
all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, and talks
very well, with a happy command of language, which is too often used, I
believe, to make black appear white. She has already almost persuaded me
of her being warmly attached to her daughter, though I have been so long
convinced to the contrary. She speaks of her with so much tenderness and
anxiety, lamenting so bitterly the neglect of her education, which she
represents however as wholly unavoidable, that I am forced to recollect
how many successive springs her ladyship spent in town, while her
daughter was left in Staffordshire to the care of servants, or a
governess very little better, to prevent my believing what she says.

If her manners have so great an influence on my resentful heart, you
may judge how much more strongly they operate on Mr. Vernon's generous
temper. I wish I could be as well satisfied as he is, that it was really
her choice to leave Langford for Churchhill; and if she had not stayed
there for months before she discovered that her friend's manner of
living did not suit her situation or feelings, I might have believed
that concern for the loss of such a husband as Mr. Vernon, to whom her
own behaviour was far from unexceptionable, might for a time make her
wish for retirement. But I cannot forget the length of her visit to the
Mainwarings, and when I reflect on the different mode of life which she
led with them from that to which she must now submit, I can only suppose
that the wish of establishing her reputation by following though late
the path of propriety, occasioned her removal from a family where she
must in reality have been particularly happy. Your friend Mr. Smith's
story, however, cannot be quite correct, as she corresponds regularly
with Mrs. Mainwaring. At any rate it must be exaggerated. It is scarcely
possible that two men should be so grossly deceived by her at once.

Yours, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON



VII


LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON


Churchhill.


My dear Alicia,--You are very good in taking notice of Frederica, and
I am grateful for it as a mark of your friendship; but as I cannot have
any doubt of the warmth of your affection, I am far from exacting so
heavy a sacrifice. She is a stupid girl, and has nothing to recommend
her. I would not, therefore, on my account, have you encumber one moment
of your precious time by sending for her to Edward Street, especially
as every visit is so much deducted from the grand affair of education,
which I really wish to have attended to while she remains at Miss
Summers's. I want her to play and sing with some portion of taste and
a good deal of assurance, as she has my hand and arm and a tolerable
voice. I was so much indulged in my infant years that I was never
obliged to attend to anything, and consequently am without the
accomplishments which are now necessary to finish a pretty woman. Not
that I am an advocate for the prevailing fashion of acquiring a perfect
knowledge of all languages, arts, and sciences. It is throwing time
away to be mistress of French, Italian, and German: music, singing,
and drawing, &c., will gain a woman some applause, but will not add
one lover to her list--grace and manner, after all, are of the greatest
importance. I do not mean, therefore, that Frederica's acquirements
should be more than superficial, and I flatter myself that she will not
remain long enough at school to understand anything thoroughly. I hope
to see her the wife of Sir James within a twelvemonth. You know on what
I ground my hope, and it is certainly a good foundation, for school must
be very humiliating to a girl of Frederica's age. And, by-the-by, you
had better not invite her any more on that account, as I wish her to
find her situation as unpleasant as possible. I am sure of Sir James at
any time, and could make him renew his application by a line. I shall
trouble you meanwhile to prevent his forming any other attachment when
he comes to town. Ask him to your house occasionally, and talk to him of
Frederica, that he may not forget her. Upon the whole, I commend my own
conduct in this affair extremely, and regard it as a very happy instance
of circumspection and tenderness. Some mothers would have insisted on
their daughter's accepting so good an offer on the first overture; but I
could not reconcile it to myself to force Frederica into a marriage from
which her heart revolted, and instead of adopting so harsh a measure
merely propose to make it her own choice, by rendering her thoroughly
uncomfortable till she does accept him--but enough of this tiresome
girl. You may well wonder how I contrive to pass my time here, and for
the first week it was insufferably dull. Now, however, we begin to mend,
our party is enlarged by Mrs. Vernon's brother, a handsome young man,
who promises me some amusement. There is something about him which
rather interests me, a sort of sauciness and familiarity which I shall
teach him to correct. He is lively, and seems clever, and when I have
inspired him with greater respect for me than his sister's kind offices
have implanted, he may be an agreeable flirt. There is exquisite
pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person
predetermined to dislike acknowledge one's superiority. I have
disconcerted him already by my calm reserve, and it shall be my
endeavour to humble the pride of these self important De Courcys still
lower, to convince Mrs. Vernon that her sisterly cautions have been
bestowed in vain, and to persuade Reginald that she has scandalously
belied me. This project will serve at least to amuse me, and prevent
my feeling so acutely this dreadful separation from you and all whom I
love.

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.



VIII


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill.


My dear Mother,--You must not expect Reginald back again for some time.
He desires me to tell you that the present open weather induces him to
accept Mr. Vernon's invitation to prolong his stay in Sussex, that
they may have some hunting together. He means to send for his horses
immediately, and it is impossible to say when you may see him in Kent. I
will not disguise my sentiments on this change from you, my dear mother,
though I think you had better not communicate them to my father, whose
excessive anxiety about Reginald would subject him to an alarm which
might seriously affect his health and spirits. Lady Susan has certainly
contrived, in the space of a fortnight, to make my brother like her.
In short, I am persuaded that his continuing here beyond the time
originally fixed for his return is occasioned as much by a degree of
fascination towards her, as by the wish of hunting with Mr. Vernon, and
of course I cannot receive that pleasure from the length of his visit
which my brother's company would otherwise give me. I am, indeed,
provoked at the artifice of this unprincipled woman; what stronger
proof of her dangerous abilities can be given than this perversion of
Reginald's judgment, which when he entered the house was so decidedly
against her! In his last letter he actually gave me some particulars of
her behaviour at Langford, such as he received from a gentleman who knew
her perfectly well, which, if true, must raise abhorrence against her,
and which Reginald himself was entirely disposed to credit. His opinion
of her, I am sure, was as low as of any woman in England; and when he
first came it was evident that he considered her as one entitled neither
to delicacy nor respect, and that he felt she would be delighted with
the attentions of any man inclined to flirt with her. Her behaviour, I
confess, has been calculated to do away with such an idea; I have
not detected the smallest impropriety in it--nothing of vanity, of
pretension, of levity; and she is altogether so attractive that I should
not wonder at his being delighted with her, had he known nothing of her
previous to this personal acquaintance; but, against reason, against
conviction, to be so well pleased with her, as I am sure he is, does
really astonish me. His admiration was at first very strong, but no more
than was natural, and I did not wonder at his being much struck by the
gentleness and delicacy of her manners; but when he has mentioned her of
late it has been in terms of more extraordinary praise; and yesterday he
actually said that he could not be surprised at any effect produced
on the heart of man by such loveliness and such abilities; and when I
lamented, in reply, the badness of her disposition, he observed that
whatever might have been her errors they were to be imputed to her
neglected education and early marriage, and that she was altogether a
wonderful woman. This tendency to excuse her conduct or to forget it, in
the warmth of admiration, vexes me; and if I did not know that Reginald
is too much at home at Churchhill to need an invitation for lengthening
his visit, I should regret Mr. Vernon's giving him any. Lady Susan's
intentions are of course those of absolute coquetry, or a desire
of universal admiration; I cannot for a moment imagine that she has
anything more serious in view; but it mortifies me to see a young man of
Reginald's sense duped by her at all.

I am, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.



IX


MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY S. VERNON


Edward Street.


My dearest Friend,--I congratulate you on Mr. De Courcy's arrival, and
I advise you by all means to marry him; his father's estate is, we know,
considerable, and I believe certainly entailed. Sir Reginald is very
infirm, and not likely to stand in your way long. I hear the young man
well spoken of; and though no one can really deserve you, my dearest
Susan, Mr. De Courcy may be worth having. Mainwaring will storm of
course, but you easily pacify him; besides, the most scrupulous point of
honour could not require you to wait for HIS emancipation. I have seen
Sir James; he came to town for a few days last week, and called several
times in Edward Street. I talked to him about you and your daughter, and
he is so far from having forgotten you, that I am sure he would marry
either of you with pleasure. I gave him hopes of Frederica's relenting,
and told him a great deal of her improvements. I scolded him for making
love to Maria Mainwaring; he protested that he had been only in joke,
and we both laughed heartily at her disappointment; and, in short, were
very agreeable. He is as silly as ever.

Yours faithfully,

ALICIA.



X


LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON


Churchhill.


I am much obliged to you, my dear Friend, for your advice respecting
Mr. De Courcy, which I know was given with the full conviction of its
expediency, though I am not quite determined on following it. I cannot
easily resolve on anything so serious as marriage; especially as I
am not at present in want of money, and might perhaps, till the old
gentleman's death, be very little benefited by the match. It is true
that I am vain enough to believe it within my reach. I have made him
sensible of my power, and can now enjoy the pleasure of triumphing
over a mind prepared to dislike me, and prejudiced against all my
past actions. His sister, too, is, I hope, convinced how little the
ungenerous representations of anyone to the disadvantage of another will
avail when opposed by the immediate influence of intellect and manner. I
see plainly that she is uneasy at my progress in the good opinion of
her brother, and conclude that nothing will be wanting on her part to
counteract me; but having once made him doubt the justice of her opinion
of me, I think I may defy, her. It has been delightful to me to watch
his advances towards intimacy, especially to observe his altered manner
in consequence of my repressing by the cool dignity of my deportment
his insolent approach to direct familiarity. My conduct has been equally
guarded from the first, and I never behaved less like a coquette in the
whole course of my life, though perhaps my desire of dominion was never
more decided. I have subdued him entirely by sentiment and serious
conversation, and made him, I may venture to say, at least half in love
with me, without the semblance of the most commonplace flirtation. Mrs.
Vernon's consciousness of deserving every sort of revenge that it can
be in my power to inflict for her ill-offices could alone enable her
to perceive that I am actuated by any design in behaviour so gentle
and unpretending. Let her think and act as she chooses, however. I have
never yet found that the advice of a sister could prevent a young
man's being in love if he chose. We are advancing now to some kind of
confidence, and in short are likely to be engaged in a sort of platonic
friendship. On my side you may be sure of its never being more, for if
I were not attached to another person as much as I can be to anyone, I
should make a point of not bestowing my affection on a man who had dared
to think so meanly of me. Reginald has a good figure and is not unworthy
the praise you have heard given him, but is still greatly inferior
to our friend at Langford. He is less polished, less insinuating than
Mainwaring, and is comparatively deficient in the power of saying those
delightful things which put one in good humour with oneself and all the
world. He is quite agreeable enough, however, to afford me amusement,
and to make many of those hours pass very pleasantly which would
otherwise be spent in endeavouring to overcome my sister-in-law's
reserve, and listening to the insipid talk of her husband. Your account
of Sir James is most satisfactory, and I mean to give Miss Frederica a
hint of my intentions very soon.

Yours, &c.,

S. VERNON.



XI


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill


I really grow quite uneasy, my dearest mother, about Reginald, from
witnessing the very rapid increase of Lady Susan's influence. They are
now on terms of the most particular friendship, frequently engaged in
long conversations together; and she has contrived by the most artful
coquetry to subdue his judgment to her own purposes. It is impossible
to see the intimacy between them so very soon established without some
alarm, though I can hardly suppose that Lady Susan's plans extend to
marriage. I wish you could get Reginald home again on any plausible
pretence; he is not at all disposed to leave us, and I have given him as
many hints of my father's precarious state of health as common decency
will allow me to do in my own house. Her power over him must now be
boundless, as she has entirely effaced all his former ill-opinion,
and persuaded him not merely to forget but to justify her conduct. Mr.
Smith's account of her proceedings at Langford, where he accused her of
having made Mr. Mainwaring and a young man engaged to Miss Mainwaring
distractedly in love with her, which Reginald firmly believed when he
came here, is now, he is persuaded, only a scandalous invention. He
has told me so with a warmth of manner which spoke his regret at having
believed the contrary himself. How sincerely do I grieve that she
ever entered this house! I always looked forward to her coming with
uneasiness; but very far was it from originating in anxiety for
Reginald. I expected a most disagreeable companion for myself, but could
not imagine that my brother would be in the smallest danger of being
captivated by a woman with whose principles he was so well acquainted,
and whose character he so heartily despised. If you can get him away it
will be a good thing.

Yours, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.



XII


SIR REGINALD DE COURCY TO HIS SON


Parklands.


I know that young men in general do not admit of any enquiry even from
their nearest relations into affairs of the heart, but I hope, my dear
Reginald, that you will be superior to such as allow nothing for a
father's anxiety, and think themselves privileged to refuse him their
confidence and slight his advice. You must be sensible that as an only
son, and the representative of an ancient family, your conduct in life
is most interesting to your connections; and in the very important
concern of marriage especially, there is everything at stake--your own
happiness, that of your parents, and the credit of your name. I do not
suppose that you would deliberately form an absolute engagement of that
nature without acquainting your mother and myself, or at least, without
being convinced that we should approve of your choice; but I cannot help
fearing that you may be drawn in, by the lady who has lately attached
you, to a marriage which the whole of your family, far and near, must
highly reprobate. Lady Susan's age is itself a material objection, but
her want of character is one so much more serious, that the difference
of even twelve years becomes in comparison of small amount. Were you not
blinded by a sort of fascination, it would be ridiculous in me to repeat
the instances of great misconduct on her side so very generally known.

Her neglect of her husband, her encouragement of other men, her
extravagance and dissipation, were so gross and notorious that no one
could be ignorant of them at the time, nor can now have forgotten them.
To our family she has always been represented in softened colours by
the benevolence of Mr. Charles Vernon, and yet, in spite of his generous
endeavours to excuse her, we know that she did, from the most selfish
motives, take all possible pains to prevent his marriage with Catherine.

My years and increasing infirmities make me very desirous of seeing you
settled in the world. To the fortune of a wife, the goodness of my own
will make me indifferent, but her family and character must be equally
unexceptionable. When your choice is fixed so that no objection can be
made to it, then I can promise you a ready and cheerful consent; but it
is my duty to oppose a match which deep art only could render possible,
and must in the end make wretched. It is possible her behaviour may
arise only from vanity, or the wish of gaining the admiration of a man
whom she must imagine to be particularly prejudiced against her; but it
is more likely that she should aim at something further. She is poor,
and may naturally seek an alliance which must be advantageous to
herself; you know your own rights, and that it is out of my power to
prevent your inheriting the family estate. My ability of distressing
you during my life would be a species of revenge to which I could hardly
stoop under any circumstances.

I honestly tell you my sentiments and intentions: I do not wish to work
on your fears, but on your sense and affection. It would destroy every
comfort of my life to know that you were married to Lady Susan Vernon;
it would be the death of that honest pride with which I have hitherto
considered my son; I should blush to see him, to hear of him, to think
of him. I may perhaps do no good but that of relieving my own mind by
this letter, but I felt it my duty to tell you that your partiality for
Lady Susan is no secret to your friends, and to warn you against her.
I should be glad to hear your reasons for disbelieving Mr. Smith's
intelligence; you had no doubt of its authenticity a month ago. If
you can give me your assurance of having no design beyond enjoying
the conversation of a clever woman for a short period, and of yielding
admiration only to her beauty and abilities, without being blinded by
them to her faults, you will restore me to happiness; but, if you cannot
do this, explain to me, at least, what has occasioned so great an
alteration in your opinion of her.

I am, &c., &c,

REGINALD DE COURCY



XIII


LADY DE COURCY TO MRS. VERNON


Parklands.


My dear Catherine,--Unluckily I was confined to my room when your last
letter came, by a cold which affected my eyes so much as to prevent my
reading it myself, so I could not refuse Your father when he offered
to read it to me, by which means he became acquainted, to my great
vexation, with all your fears about your brother. I had intended to
write to Reginald myself as soon as my eyes would let me, to point out,
as well as I could, the danger of an intimate acquaintance, with so
artful a woman as Lady Susan, to a young man of his age, and high
expectations. I meant, moreover, to have reminded him of our being quite
alone now, and very much in need of him to keep up our spirits these
long winter evenings. Whether it would have done any good can never be
settled now, but I am excessively vexed that Sir Reginald should know
anything of a matter which we foresaw would make him so uneasy. He
caught all your fears the moment he had read your letter, and I am sure
he has not had the business out of his head since. He wrote by the same
post to Reginald a long letter full of it all, and particularly asking
an explanation of what he may have heard from Lady Susan to contradict
the late shocking reports. His answer came this morning, which I shall
enclose to you, as I think you will like to see it. I wish it was more
satisfactory; but it seems written with such a determination to think
well of Lady Susan, that his assurances as to marriage, &c., do not set
my heart at ease. I say all I can, however, to satisfy your father, and
he is certainly less uneasy since Reginald's letter. How provoking it
is, my dear Catherine, that this unwelcome guest of yours should not
only prevent our meeting this Christmas, but be the occasion of so much
vexation and trouble! Kiss the dear children for me.

Your affectionate mother,

C. DE COURCY.



XIV


MR. DE COURCY TO SIR REGINALD


Churchhill.


My dear Sir,--I have this moment received your letter, which has given
me more astonishment than I ever felt before. I am to thank my sister,
I suppose, for having represented me in such a light as to injure me
in your opinion, and give you all this alarm. I know not why she should
choose to make herself and her family uneasy by apprehending an
event which no one but herself, I can affirm, would ever have thought
possible. To impute such a design to Lady Susan would be taking from her
every claim to that excellent understanding which her bitterest enemies
have never denied her; and equally low must sink my pretensions to
common sense if I am suspected of matrimonial views in my behaviour
to her. Our difference of age must be an insuperable objection, and I
entreat you, my dear father, to quiet your mind, and no longer harbour
a suspicion which cannot be more injurious to your own peace than to our
understandings. I can have no other view in remaining with Lady Susan,
than to enjoy for a short time (as you have yourself expressed it) the
conversation of a woman of high intellectual powers. If Mrs. Vernon
would allow something to my affection for herself and her husband in the
length of my visit, she would do more justice to us all; but my sister
is unhappily prejudiced beyond the hope of conviction against Lady
Susan. From an attachment to her husband, which in itself does honour to
both, she cannot forgive the endeavours at preventing their union, which
have been attributed to selfishness in Lady Susan; but in this case, as
well as in many others, the world has most grossly injured that lady, by
supposing the worst where the motives of her conduct have been doubtful.
Lady Susan had heard something so materially to the disadvantage of my
sister as to persuade her that the happiness of Mr. Vernon, to whom she
was always much attached, would be wholly destroyed by the marriage. And
this circumstance, while it explains the true motives of Lady Susan's
conduct, and removes all the blame which has been so lavished on her,
may also convince us how little the general report of anyone ought to
be credited; since no character, however upright, can escape the
malevolence of slander. If my sister, in the security of retirement,
with as little opportunity as inclination to do evil, could not avoid
censure, we must not rashly condemn those who, living in the world and
surrounded with temptations, should be accused of errors which they are
known to have the power of committing.

I blame myself severely for having so easily believed the slanderous
tales invented by Charles Smith to the prejudice of Lady Susan, as I
am now convinced how greatly they have traduced her. As to Mrs.
Mainwaring's jealousy it was totally his own invention, and his account
of her attaching Miss Mainwaring's lover was scarcely better founded.
Sir James Martin had been drawn in by that young lady to pay her some
attention; and as he is a man of fortune, it was easy to see HER views
extended to marriage. It is well known that Miss M. is absolutely on the
catch for a husband, and no one therefore can pity her for losing, by
the superior attractions of another woman, the chance of being able to
make a worthy man completely wretched. Lady Susan was far from intending
such a conquest, and on finding how warmly Miss Mainwaring resented her
lover's defection, determined, in spite of Mr. and Mrs. Mainwaring's
most urgent entreaties, to leave the family. I have reason to imagine
she did receive serious proposals from Sir James, but her removing to
Langford immediately on the discovery of his attachment, must acquit her
on that article with any mind of common candour. You will, I am sure, my
dear Sir, feel the truth of this, and will hereby learn to do justice to
the character of a very injured woman. I know that Lady Susan in coming
to Churchhill was governed only by the most honourable and amiable
intentions; her prudence and economy are exemplary, her regard for Mr.
Vernon equal even to HIS deserts; and her wish of obtaining my sister's
good opinion merits a better return than it has received. As a mother
she is unexceptionable; her solid affection for her child is shown by
placing her in hands where her education will be properly attended to;
but because she has not the blind and weak partiality of most mothers,
she is accused of wanting maternal tenderness. Every person of sense,
however, will know how to value and commend her well-directed affection,
and will join me in wishing that Frederica Vernon may prove more worthy
than she has yet done of her mother's tender care. I have now, my dear
father, written my real sentiments of Lady Susan; you will know from
this letter how highly I admire her abilities, and esteem her character;
but if you are not equally convinced by my full and solemn assurance
that your fears have been most idly created, you will deeply mortify and
distress me.

I am, &c., &c.,

R. DE COURCY.



XV


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill


My dear Mother,--I return you Reginald's letter, and rejoice with all
my heart that my father is made easy by it: tell him so, with my
congratulations; but, between ourselves, I must own it has only
convinced ME of my brother's having no PRESENT intention of marrying
Lady Susan, not that he is in no danger of doing so three months hence.
He gives a very plausible account of her behaviour at Langford; I wish
it may be true, but his intelligence must come from herself, and I
am less disposed to believe it than to lament the degree of intimacy
subsisting, between them implied by the discussion of such a subject. I
am sorry to have incurred his displeasure, but can expect nothing better
while he is so very eager in Lady Susan's justification. He is very
severe against me indeed, and yet I hope I have not been hasty in
my judgment of her. Poor woman! though I have reasons enough for
my dislike, I cannot help pitying her at present, as she is in real
distress, and with too much cause. She had this morning a letter from
the lady with whom she has placed her daughter, to request that Miss
Vernon might be immediately removed, as she had been detected in an
attempt to run away. Why, or whither she intended to go, does not
appear; but, as her situation seems to have been unexceptionable, it is
a sad thing, and of course highly distressing to Lady Susan. Frederica
must be as much as sixteen, and ought to know better; but from what
her mother insinuates, I am afraid she is a perverse girl. She has
been sadly neglected, however, and her mother ought to remember it. Mr.
Vernon set off for London as soon as she had determined what should be
done. He is, if possible, to prevail on Miss Summers to let Frederica
continue with her; and if he cannot succeed, to bring her to Churchhill
for the present, till some other situation can be found for her.
Her ladyship is comforting herself meanwhile by strolling along the
shrubbery with Reginald, calling forth all his tender feelings, I
suppose, on this distressing occasion. She has been talking a great deal
about it to me. She talks vastly well; I am afraid of being ungenerous,
or I should say, TOO well to feel so very deeply; but I will not look
for her faults; she may be Reginald's wife! Heaven forbid it! but why
should I be quicker-sighted than anyone else? Mr. Vernon declares that
he never saw deeper distress than hers, on the receipt of the letter;
and is his judgment inferior to mine? She was very unwilling that
Frederica should be allowed to come to Churchhill, and justly enough, as
it seems a sort of reward to behaviour deserving very differently; but
it was impossible to take her anywhere else, and she is not to remain
here long. "It will be absolutely necessary," said she, "as you, my dear
sister, must be sensible, to treat my daughter with some severity while
she is here; a most painful necessity, but I will ENDEAVOUR to submit to
it. I am afraid I have often been too indulgent, but my poor Frederica's
temper could never bear opposition well: you must support and encourage
me; you must urge the necessity of reproof if you see me too lenient."
All this sounds very reasonable. Reginald is so incensed against the
poor silly girl. Surely it is not to Lady Susan's credit that he should
be so bitter against her daughter; his idea of her must be drawn from
the mother's description. Well, whatever may be his fate, we have the
comfort of knowing that we have done our utmost to save him. We must
commit the event to a higher power.

Yours ever, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.



XVI


LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON


Churchhill.


Never, my dearest Alicia, was I so provoked in my life as by a letter
this morning from Miss Summers. That horrid girl of mine has been trying
to run away. I had not a notion of her being such a little devil before,
she seemed to have all the Vernon milkiness; but on receiving the letter
in which I declared my intention about Sir James, she actually attempted
to elope; at least, I cannot otherwise account for her doing it. She
meant, I suppose, to go to the Clarkes in Staffordshire, for she has no
other acquaintances. But she shall be punished, she shall have him. I
have sent Charles to town to make matters up if he can, for I do not
by any means want her here. If Miss Summers will not keep her, you must
find me out another school, unless we can get her married immediately.
Miss S. writes word that she could not get the young lady to assign
any cause for her extraordinary conduct, which confirms me in my own
previous explanation of it, Frederica is too shy, I think, and too much
in awe of me to tell tales, but if the mildness of her uncle should get
anything out of her, I am not afraid. I trust I shall be able to make my
story as good as hers. If I am vain of anything, it is of my eloquence.
Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language as
admiration waits on beauty, and here I have opportunity enough for the
exercise of my talent, as the chief of my time is spent in conversation.

Reginald is never easy unless we are by ourselves, and when the weather
is tolerable, we pace the shrubbery for hours together. I like him on
the whole very well; he is clever and has a good deal to say, but he
is sometimes impertinent and troublesome. There is a sort of ridiculous
delicacy about him which requires the fullest explanation of whatever he
may have heard to my disadvantage, and is never satisfied till he thinks
he has ascertained the beginning and end of everything. This is one sort
of love, but I confess it does not particularly recommend itself to me.
I infinitely prefer the tender and liberal spirit of Mainwaring, which,
impressed with the deepest conviction of my merit, is satisfied that
whatever I do must be right; and look with a degree of contempt on
the inquisitive and doubtful fancies of that heart which seems always
debating on the reasonableness of its emotions. Mainwaring is indeed,
beyond all compare, superior to Reginald--superior in everything but the
power of being with me! Poor fellow! he is much distracted by jealousy,
which I am not sorry for, as I know no better support of love. He has
been teazing me to allow of his coming into this country, and lodging
somewhere near INCOG.; but I forbade everything of the kind. Those women
are inexcusable who forget what is due to themselves, and the opinion of
the world.

Yours ever, S. VERNON.



XVII


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill.


My dear Mother,--Mr. Vernon returned on Thursday night, bringing his
niece with him. Lady Susan had received a line from him by that day's
post, informing her that Miss Summers had absolutely refused to allow of
Miss Vernon's continuance in her academy; we were therefore prepared for
her arrival, and expected them impatiently the whole evening. They came
while we were at tea, and I never saw any creature look so frightened as
Frederica when she entered the room. Lady Susan, who had been shedding
tears before, and showing great agitation at the idea of the meeting,
received her with perfect self-command, and without betraying the
least tenderness of spirit. She hardly spoke to her, and on Frederica's
bursting into tears as soon as we were seated, took her out of the room,
and did not return for some time. When she did, her eyes looked very red
and she was as much agitated as before. We saw no more of her daughter.
Poor Reginald was beyond measure concerned to see his fair friend in
such distress, and watched her with so much tender solicitude, that I,
who occasionally caught her observing his countenance with exultation,
was quite out of patience. This pathetic representation lasted the whole
evening, and so ostentatious and artful a display has entirely convinced
me that she did in fact feel nothing. I am more angry with her than ever
since I have seen her daughter; the poor girl looks so unhappy that my
heart aches for her. Lady Susan is surely too severe, for Frederica
does not seem to have the sort of temper to make severity necessary.
She looks perfectly timid, dejected, and penitent. She is very
pretty, though not so handsome as her mother, nor at all like her. Her
complexion is delicate, but neither so fair nor so blooming as Lady
Susan's, and she has quite the Vernon cast of countenance, the oval face
and mild dark eyes, and there is peculiar sweetness in her look when she
speaks either to her uncle or me, for as we behave kindly to her we have
of course engaged her gratitude.

Her mother has insinuated that her temper is intractable, but I never
saw a face less indicative of any evil disposition than hers; and from
what I can see of the behaviour of each to the other, the invariable
severity of Lady Susan and the silent dejection of Frederica, I am
led to believe as heretofore that the former has no real love for her
daughter, and has never done her justice or treated her affectionately.
I have not been able to have any conversation with my niece; she is shy,
and I think I can see that some pains are taken to prevent her being
much with me. Nothing satisfactory transpires as to her reason for
running away. Her kind-hearted uncle, you may be sure, was too fearful
of distressing her to ask many questions as they travelled. I wish it
had been possible for me to fetch her instead of him. I think I should
have discovered the truth in the course of a thirty-mile journey. The
small pianoforte has been removed within these few days, at Lady Susan's
request, into her dressing-room, and Frederica spends great part of the
day there, practising as it is called; but I seldom hear any noise when
I pass that way; what she does with herself there I do not know. There
are plenty of books, but it is not every girl who has been running
wild the first fifteen years of her life, that can or will read. Poor
creature! the prospect from her window is not very instructive, for that
room overlooks the lawn, you know, with the shrubbery on one side,
where she may see her mother walking for an hour together in earnest
conversation with Reginald. A girl of Frederica's age must be childish
indeed, if such things do not strike her. Is it not inexcusable to give
such an example to a daughter? Yet Reginald still thinks Lady Susan the
best of mothers, and still condemns Frederica as a worthless girl! He
is convinced that her attempt to run away proceeded from no, justifiable
cause, and had no provocation. I am sure I cannot say that it HAD,
but while Miss Summers declares that Miss Vernon showed no signs of
obstinacy or perverseness during her whole stay in Wigmore Street, till
she was detected in this scheme, I cannot so readily credit what Lady
Susan has made him, and wants to make me believe, that it was merely
an impatience of restraint and a desire of escaping from the tuition of
masters which brought on the plan of an elopement. O Reginald, how is
your judgment enslaved! He scarcely dares even allow her to be handsome,
and when I speak of her beauty, replies only that her eyes have no
brilliancy! Sometimes he is sure she is deficient in understanding, and
at others that her temper only is in fault. In short, when a person is
always to deceive, it is impossible to be consistent. Lady Susan
finds it necessary that Frederica should be to blame, and probably has
sometimes judged it expedient to excuse her of ill-nature and sometimes
to lament her want of sense. Reginald is only repeating after her
ladyship.

I remain, &c., &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.



XVIII


FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME


Churchhill.


My dear Mother,--I am very glad to find that my description of Frederica
Vernon has interested you, for I do believe her truly deserving of your
regard; and when I have communicated a notion which has recently struck
me, your kind impressions in her favour will, I am sure, be heightened.
I cannot help fancying that she is growing partial to my brother. I so
very often see her eyes fixed on his face with a remarkable expression
of pensive admiration. He is certainly very handsome; and yet more,
there is an openness in his manner that must be highly prepossessing,
and I am sure she feels it so. Thoughtful and pensive in general, her
countenance always brightens into a smile when Reginald says anything
amusing; and, let the subject be ever so serious that he may be
conversing on, I am much mistaken if a syllable of his uttering escapes
her. I want to make him sensible of all this, for we know the power
of gratitude on such a heart as his; and could Frederica's artless
affection detach him from her mother, we might bless the day which
brought her to Churchhill. I think, my dear mother, you would not
disapprove of her as a daughter. She is extremely young, to be sure,
has had a wretched education, and a dreadful example of levity in her
mother; but yet I can pronounce her disposition to be excellent, and her
natural abilities very good. Though totally without accomplishments, she
is by no means so ignorant as one might expect to find her, being fond
of books and spending the chief of her time in reading. Her mother
leaves her more to herself than she did, and I have her with me as much
as possible, and have taken great pains to overcome her timidity. We
are very good friends, and though she never opens her lips before her
mother, she talks enough when alone with me to make it clear that, if
properly treated by Lady Susan, she would always appear to much greater
advantage. There cannot be a more gentle, affectionate heart; or more
obliging manners, when acting without restraint; and her little cousins
are all very fond of her.

Your affectionate daughter,

C. VERNON



XIX


LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON


Churchhill.


You will be eager, I know, to hear something further of Frederica, and
perhaps may think me negligent for not writing before. She arrived with
her uncle last Thursday fortnight, when, of course, I lost no time in
demanding the cause of her behaviour; and soon found myself to have been
perfectly right in attributing it to my own letter. The prospect of
it frightened her so thoroughly, that, with a mixture of true girlish
perverseness and folly, she resolved on getting out of the house and
proceeding directly by the stage to her friends, the Clarkes; and had
really got as far as the length of two streets in her journey when
she was fortunately missed, pursued, and overtaken. Such was the first
distinguished exploit of Miss Frederica Vernon; and, if we consider that
it was achieved at the tender age of sixteen, we shall have room for
the most flattering prognostics of her future renown. I am excessively
provoked, however, at the parade of propriety which prevented Miss
Summers from keeping the girl; and it seems so extraordinary a piece of
nicety, considering my daughter's family connections, that I can only
suppose the lady to be governed by the fear of never getting her money.
Be that as it may, however, Frederica is returned on my hands; and,
having nothing else to employ her, is busy in pursuing the plan of
romance begun at Langford. She is actually falling in love with Reginald
De Courcy! To disobey her mother by refusing an unexceptionable offer
is not enough; her affections must also be given without her mother's
approbation. I never saw a girl of her age bid fairer to be the sport
of mankind. Her feelings are tolerably acute, and she is so charmingly
artless in their display as to afford the most reasonable hope of her
being ridiculous, and despised by every man who sees her.

Artlessness will never do in love matters; and that girl is born a
simpleton who has it either by nature or affectation. I am not yet
certain that Reginald sees what she is about, nor is it of much
consequence. She is now an object of indifference to him, and she would
be one of contempt were he to understand her emotions. Her beauty is
much admired by the Vernons, but it has no effect on him. She is in high
favour with her aunt altogether, because she is so little like myself,
of course. She is exactly the companion for Mrs. Vernon, who dearly
loves to be firm, and to have all the sense and all the wit of the
conversation to herself: Frederica will never eclipse her. When she
first came I was at some pains to prevent her seeing much of her aunt;
but I have relaxed, as I believe I may depend on her observing the rules
I have laid down for their discourse. But do not imagine that with all
this lenity I have for a moment given up my plan of her marriage. No; I
am unalterably fixed on this point, though I have not yet quite decided
on the manner of bringing it about. I should not chuse to have the
business brought on here, and canvassed by the wise heads of Mr. and
Mrs. Vernon; and I cannot just now afford to go to town. Miss Frederica
must therefore wait a little.

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.



XX


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill


We have a very unexpected guest with us at present, my dear Mother: he
arrived yesterday. I heard a carriage at the door, as I was sitting with
my children while they dined; and supposing I should be wanted, left the
nursery soon afterwards, and was half-way downstairs, when Frederica,
as pale as ashes, came running up, and rushed by me into her own room.
I instantly followed, and asked her what was the matter. "Oh!" said
she, "he is come--Sir James is come, and what shall I do?" This was no
explanation; I begged her to tell me what she meant. At that moment we
were interrupted by a knock at the door: it was Reginald, who came, by
Lady Susan's direction, to call Frederica down. "It is Mr. De Courcy!"
said she, colouring violently. "Mamma has sent for me; I must go."
We all three went down together; and I saw my brother examining the
terrified face of Frederica with surprize. In the breakfast-room we
found Lady Susan, and a young man of gentlemanlike appearance, whom she
introduced by the name of Sir James Martin--the very person, as you may
remember, whom it was said she had been at pains to detach from Miss
Mainwaring; but the conquest, it seems, was not designed for herself,
or she has since transferred it to her daughter; for Sir James is now
desperately in love with Frederica, and with full encouragement from
mamma. The poor girl, however, I am sure, dislikes him; and though his
person and address are very well, he appears, both to Mr. Vernon and
me, a very weak young man. Frederica looked so shy, so confused, when
we entered the room, that I felt for her exceedingly. Lady Susan behaved
with great attention to her visitor; and yet I thought I could perceive
that she had no particular pleasure in seeing him. Sir James talked a
great deal, and made many civil excuses to me for the liberty he had
taken in coming to Churchhill--mixing more frequent laughter with his
discourse than the subject required--said many things over and over
again, and told Lady Susan three times that he had seen Mrs. Johnson
a few evenings before. He now and then addressed Frederica, but more
frequently her mother. The poor girl sat all this time without opening
her lips--her eyes cast down, and her colour varying every instant;
while Reginald observed all that passed in perfect silence. At length
Lady Susan, weary, I believe, of her situation, proposed walking; and
we left the two gentlemen together, to put on our pelisses. As we went
upstairs Lady Susan begged permission to attend me for a few moments in
my dressing-room, as she was anxious to speak with me in private. I led
her thither accordingly, and as soon as the door was closed, she said:
"I was never more surprized in my life than by Sir James's arrival,
and the suddenness of it requires some apology to you, my dear sister;
though to ME, as a mother, it is highly flattering. He is so extremely
attached to my daughter that he could not exist longer without seeing
her. Sir James is a young man of an amiable disposition and excellent
character; a little too much of the rattle, perhaps, but a year or two
will rectify THAT: and he is in other respects so very eligible a match
for Frederica, that I have always observed his attachment with the
greatest pleasure; and am persuaded that you and my brother will give
the alliance your hearty approbation. I have never before mentioned the
likelihood of its taking place to anyone, because I thought that whilst
Frederica continued at school it had better not be known to exist;
but now, as I am convinced that Frederica is too old ever to submit to
school confinement, and have, therefore, begun to consider her union
with Sir James as not very distant, I had intended within a few days to
acquaint yourself and Mr. Vernon with the whole business. I am sure, my
dear sister, you will excuse my remaining silent so long, and agree
with me that such circumstances, while they continue from any cause
in suspense, cannot be too cautiously concealed. When you have the
happiness of bestowing your sweet little Catherine, some years hence, on
a man who in connection and character is alike unexceptionable, you
will know what I feel now; though, thank Heaven, you cannot have all my
reasons for rejoicing in such an event. Catherine will be amply provided
for, and not, like my Frederica, indebted to a fortunate
establishment for the comforts of life." She concluded by demanding
my congratulations. I gave them somewhat awkwardly, I believe; for, in
fact, the sudden disclosure of so important a matter took from me the
power of speaking with any clearness, She thanked me, however, most
affectionately, for my kind concern in the welfare of herself and
daughter; and then said: "I am not apt to deal in professions, my
dear Mrs. Vernon, and I never had the convenient talent of affecting
sensations foreign to my heart; and therefore I trust you will believe
me when I declare, that much as I had heard in your praise before I knew
you, I had no idea that I should ever love you as I now do; and I
must further say that your friendship towards me is more particularly
gratifying because I have reason to believe that some attempts were made
to prejudice you against me. I only wish that they, whoever they are,
to whom I am indebted for such kind intentions, could see the terms on
which we now are together, and understand the real affection we feel
for each other; but I will not detain you any longer. God bless you, for
your goodness to me and my girl, and continue to you all your present
happiness." What can one say of such a woman, my dear mother? Such
earnestness such solemnity of expression! and yet I cannot help
suspecting the truth of everything she says. As for Reginald, I believe
he does not know what to make of the matter. When Sir James came, he
appeared all astonishment and perplexity; the folly of the young man and
the confusion of Frederica entirely engrossed him; and though a little
private discourse with Lady Susan has since had its effect, he is still
hurt, I am sure, at her allowing of such a man's attentions to her
daughter. Sir James invited himself with great composure to remain here
a few days--hoped we would not think it odd, was aware of its being very
impertinent, but he took the liberty of a relation; and concluded by
wishing, with a laugh, that he might be really one very soon. Even Lady
Susan seemed a little disconcerted by this forwardness; in her heart I
am persuaded she sincerely wished him gone. But something must be done
for this poor girl, if her feelings are such as both I and her uncle
believe them to be. She must not be sacrificed to policy or ambition,
and she must not be left to suffer from the dread of it. The girl whose
heart can distinguish Reginald De Courcy, deserves, however he may
slight her, a better fate than to be Sir James Martin's wife. As soon
as I can get her alone, I will discover the real truth; but she seems to
wish to avoid me. I hope this does not proceed from anything wrong, and
that I shall not find out I have thought too well of her. Her
behaviour to Sir James certainly speaks the greatest consciousness and
embarrassment, but I see nothing in it more like encouragement. Adieu,
my dear mother.

Yours, &c.,

C. VERNON.



XXI


MISS VERNON TO MR DE COURCY


Sir,--I hope you will excuse this liberty; I am forced upon it by the
greatest distress, or I should be ashamed to trouble you. I am very
miserable about Sir James Martin, and have no other way in the world of
helping myself but by writing to you, for I am forbidden even speaking
to my uncle and aunt on the subject; and this being the case, I am
afraid my applying to you will appear no better than equivocation, and
as if I attended to the letter and not the spirit of mamma's commands.
But if you do not take my part and persuade her to break it off, I shall
be half distracted, for I cannot bear him. No human being but YOU could
have any chance of prevailing with her. If you will, therefore, have the
unspeakably great kindness of taking my part with her, and persuading
her to send Sir James away, I shall be more obliged to you than it is
possible for me to express. I always disliked him from the first: it is
not a sudden fancy, I assure you, sir; I always thought him silly and
impertinent and disagreeable, and now he is grown worse than ever. I
would rather work for my bread than marry him. I do not know how
to apologize enough for this letter; I know it is taking so great a
liberty. I am aware how dreadfully angry it will make mamma, but I
remember the risk.

I am, Sir, your most humble servant,

F. S. V.



XXII


LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON


Churchhill.


This is insufferable! My dearest friend, I was never so enraged before,
and must relieve myself by writing to you, who I know will enter into
all my feelings. Who should come on Tuesday but Sir James Martin! Guess
my astonishment, and vexation--for, as you well know, I never wished him
to be seen at Churchhill. What a pity that you should not have known
his intentions! Not content with coming, he actually invited himself to
remain here a few days. I could have poisoned him! I made the best of
it, however, and told my story with great success to Mrs. Vernon, who,
whatever might be her real sentiments, said nothing in opposition to
mine. I made a point also of Frederica's behaving civilly to Sir James,
and gave her to understand that I was absolutely determined on her
marrying him. She said something of her misery, but that was all. I have
for some time been more particularly resolved on the match from seeing
the rapid increase of her affection for Reginald, and from not feeling
secure that a knowledge of such affection might not in the end awaken
a return. Contemptible as a regard founded only on compassion must make
them both in my eyes, I felt by no means assured that such might not be
the consequence. It is true that Reginald had not in any degree grown
cool towards me; but yet he has lately mentioned Frederica spontaneously
and unnecessarily, and once said something in praise of her person.
HE was all astonishment at the appearance of my visitor, and at first
observed Sir James with an attention which I was pleased to see not
unmixed with jealousy; but unluckily it was impossible for me really
to torment him, as Sir James, though extremely gallant to me, very
soon made the whole party understand that his heart was devoted to my
daughter. I had no great difficulty in convincing De Courcy, when we
were alone, that I was perfectly justified, all things considered,
in desiring the match; and the whole business seemed most comfortably
arranged. They could none of them help perceiving that Sir James was no
Solomon; but I had positively forbidden Frederica complaining to Charles
Vernon or his wife, and they had therefore no pretence for interference;
though my impertinent sister, I believe, wanted only opportunity for
doing so. Everything, however, was going on calmly and quietly; and,
though I counted the hours of Sir James's stay, my mind was entirely
satisfied with the posture of affairs. Guess, then, what I must feel at
the sudden disturbance of all my schemes; and that, too, from a quarter
where I had least reason to expect it. Reginald came this morning into
my dressing-room with a very unusual solemnity of countenance, and after
some preface informed me in so many words that he wished to reason with
me on the impropriety and unkindness of allowing Sir James Martin to
address my daughter contrary to her inclinations. I was all amazement.
When I found that he was not to be laughed out of his design, I calmly
begged an explanation, and desired to know by what he was impelled, and
by whom commissioned, to reprimand me. He then told me, mixing in
his speech a few insolent compliments and ill-timed expressions of
tenderness, to which I listened with perfect indifference, that my
daughter had acquainted him with some circumstances concerning herself,
Sir James, and me which had given him great uneasiness. In short, I
found that she had in the first place actually written to him to request
his interference, and that, on receiving her letter, he had conversed
with her on the subject of it, in order to understand the particulars,
and to assure himself of her real wishes. I have not a doubt but that
the girl took this opportunity of making downright love to him. I am
convinced of it by the manner in which he spoke of her. Much good may
such love do him! I shall ever despise the man who can be gratified by
the passion which he never wished to inspire, nor solicited the avowal
of. I shall always detest them both. He can have no true regard for
me, or he would not have listened to her; and SHE, with her little
rebellious heart and indelicate feelings, to throw herself into the
protection of a young man with whom she has scarcely ever exchanged
two words before! I am equally confounded at HER impudence and HIS
credulity. How dared he believe what she told him in my disfavour! Ought
he not to have felt assured that I must have unanswerable motives for
all that I had done? Where was his reliance on my sense and goodness
then? Where the resentment which true love would have dictated against
the person defaming me--that person, too, a chit, a child, without
talent or education, whom he had been always taught to despise? I
was calm for some time; but the greatest degree of forbearance may be
overcome, and I hope I was afterwards sufficiently keen. He endeavoured,
long endeavoured, to soften my resentment; but that woman is a
fool indeed who, while insulted by accusation, can be worked on by
compliments. At length he left me, as deeply provoked as myself; and
he showed his anger more. I was quite cool, but he gave way to the most
violent indignation; I may therefore expect it will the sooner subside,
and perhaps his may be vanished for ever, while mine will be found still
fresh and implacable. He is now shut up in his apartment, whither I
heard him go on leaving mine. How unpleasant, one would think, must be
his reflections! but some people's feelings are incomprehensible. I have
not yet tranquillised myself enough to see Frederica. SHE shall not soon
forget the occurrences of this day; she shall find that she has poured
forth her tender tale of love in vain, and exposed herself for ever
to the contempt of the whole world, and the severest resentment of her
injured mother.

Your affectionate

S. VERNON.



XXIII


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill.


Let me congratulate you, my dearest Mother! The affair which has given
us so much anxiety is drawing to a happy conclusion. Our prospect is
most delightful, and since matters have now taken so favourable a turn,
I am quite sorry that I ever imparted my apprehensions to you; for the
pleasure of learning that the danger is over is perhaps dearly purchased
by all that you have previously suffered. I am so much agitated by
delight that I can scarcely hold a pen; but am determined to send you
a few short lines by James, that you may have some explanation of what
must so greatly astonish you, as that Reginald should be returning to
Parklands. I was sitting about half an hour ago with Sir James in
the breakfast parlour, when my brother called me out of the room. I
instantly saw that something was the matter; his complexion was raised,
and he spoke with great emotion; you know his eager manner, my dear
mother, when his mind is interested. "Catherine," said he, "I am going
home to-day; I am sorry to leave you, but I must go: it is a great while
since I have seen my father and mother. I am going to send James forward
with my hunters immediately; if you have any letter, therefore, he can
take it. I shall not be at home myself till Wednesday or Thursday, as I
shall go through London, where I have business; but before I leave you,"
he continued, speaking in a lower tone, and with still greater energy,
"I must warn you of one thing--do not let Frederica Vernon be made
unhappy by that Martin. He wants to marry her; her mother promotes the
match, but she cannot endure the idea of it. Be assured that I speak
from the fullest conviction of the truth of what I say; I Know that
Frederica is made wretched by Sir James's continuing here. She is a
sweet girl, and deserves a better fate. Send him away immediately; he is
only a fool: but what her mother can mean, Heaven only knows! Good bye,"
he added, shaking my hand with earnestness; "I do not know when you will
see me again; but remember what I tell you of Frederica; you MUST make
it your business to see justice done her. She is an amiable girl, and
has a very superior mind to what we have given her credit for." He then
left me, and ran upstairs. I would not try to stop him, for I know what
his feelings must be. The nature of mine, as I listened to him, I need
not attempt to describe; for a minute or two I remained in the same
spot, overpowered by wonder of a most agreeable sort indeed; yet it
required some consideration to be tranquilly happy. In about ten minutes
after my return to the parlour Lady Susan entered the room. I concluded,
of course, that she and Reginald had been quarrelling; and looked with
anxious curiosity for a confirmation of my belief in her face. Mistress
of deceit, however, she appeared perfectly unconcerned, and after
chatting on indifferent subjects for a short time, said to me, "I find
from Wilson that we are going to lose Mr. De Courcy--is it true that
he leaves Churchhill this morning?" I replied that it was. "He told
us nothing of all this last night," said she, laughing, "or even this
morning at breakfast; but perhaps he did not know it himself. Young men
are often hasty in their resolutions, and not more sudden in forming
than unsteady in keeping them. I should not be surprised if he were to
change his mind at last, and not go." She soon afterwards left the room.
I trust, however, my dear mother, that we have no reason to fear an
alteration of his present plan; things have gone too far. They must have
quarrelled, and about Frederica, too. Her calmness astonishes me. What
delight will be yours in seeing him again; in seeing him still worthy
your esteem, still capable of forming your happiness! When I next
write I shall be able to tell you that Sir James is gone, Lady Susan
vanquished, and Frederica at peace. We have much to do, but it shall
be done. I am all impatience to hear how this astonishing change was
effected. I finish as I began, with the warmest congratulations.

Yours ever, &c.,

CATH. VERNON.



XXIV


FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME


Churchhill.


Little did I imagine, my dear Mother, when I sent off my last letter,
that the delightful perturbation of spirits I was then in would undergo
so speedy, so melancholy a reverse. I never can sufficiently regret that
I wrote to you at all. Yet who could have foreseen what has happened?
My dear mother, every hope which made me so happy only two hours ago has
vanished. The quarrel between Lady Susan and Reginald is made up, and we
are all as we were before. One point only is gained. Sir James Martin is
dismissed. What are we now to look forward to? I am indeed disappointed;
Reginald was all but gone, his horse was ordered and all but brought
to the door; who would not have felt safe? For half an hour I was in
momentary expectation of his departure. After I had sent off my letter
to you, I went to Mr. Vernon, and sat with him in his room talking over
the whole matter, and then determined to look for Frederica, whom I had
not seen since breakfast. I met her on the stairs, and saw that she was
crying. "My dear aunt," said she, "he is going--Mr. De Courcy is going,
and it is all my fault. I am afraid you will be very angry with me, but
indeed I had no idea it would end so." "My love," I replied, "do not
think it necessary to apologize to me on that account. I shall feel
myself under an obligation to anyone who is the means of sending my
brother home, because," recollecting myself, "I know my father wants
very much to see him. But what is it you have done to occasion all
this?" She blushed deeply as she answered: "I was so unhappy about Sir
James that I could not help--I have done something very wrong, I know;
but you have not an idea of the misery I have been in: and mamma had
ordered me never to speak to you or my uncle about it, and--" "You
therefore spoke to my brother to engage his interference," said I, to
save her the explanation. "No, but I wrote to him--I did indeed, I got
up this morning before it was light, and was two hours about it; and
when my letter was done I thought I never should have courage to give
it. After breakfast however, as I was going to my room, I met him in the
passage, and then, as I knew that everything must depend on that moment,
I forced myself to give it. He was so good as to take it immediately. I
dared not look at him, and ran away directly. I was in such a fright I
could hardly breathe. My dear aunt, you do not know how miserable I
have been." "Frederica" said I, "you ought to have told me all your
distresses. You would have found in me a friend always ready to assist
you. Do you think that your uncle or I should not have espoused your
cause as warmly as my brother?" "Indeed, I did not doubt your kindness,"
said she, colouring again, "but I thought Mr. De Courcy could do
anything with my mother; but I was mistaken: they have had a dreadful
quarrel about it, and he is going away. Mamma will never forgive me,
and I shall be worse off than ever." "No, you shall not," I replied;
"in such a point as this your mother's prohibition ought not to have
prevented your speaking to me on the subject. She has no right to
make you unhappy, and she shall NOT do it. Your applying, however, to
Reginald can be productive only of good to all parties. I believe it
is best as it is. Depend upon it that you shall not be made unhappy any
longer." At that moment how great was my astonishment at seeing Reginald
come out of Lady Susan's dressing-room. My heart misgave me instantly.
His confusion at seeing me was very evident. Frederica immediately
disappeared. "Are you going?" I said; "you will find Mr. Vernon in his
own room." "No, Catherine," he replied, "I am not going. Will you let
me speak to you a moment?" We went into my room. "I find," he continued,
his confusion increasing as he spoke, "that I have been acting with my
usual foolish impetuosity. I have entirely misunderstood Lady Susan, and
was on the point of leaving the house under a false impression of
her conduct. There has been some very great mistake; we have been all
mistaken, I fancy. Frederica does not know her mother. Lady Susan means
nothing but her good, but she will not make a friend of her. Lady Susan
does not always know, therefore, what will make her daughter happy.
Besides, I could have no right to interfere. Miss Vernon was mistaken in
applying to me. In short, Catherine, everything has gone wrong, but it
is now all happily settled. Lady Susan, I believe, wishes to speak to
you about it, if you are at leisure." "Certainly," I replied, deeply
sighing at the recital of so lame a story. I made no comments, however,
for words would have been vain.

Reginald was glad to get away, and I went to Lady Susan, curious,
indeed, to hear her account of it. "Did I not tell you," said she with
a smile, "that your brother would not leave us after all?" "You did,
indeed," replied I very gravely; "but I flattered myself you would be
mistaken." "I should not have hazarded such an opinion," returned she,
"if it had not at that moment occurred to me that his resolution of
going might be occasioned by a conversation in which we had been this
morning engaged, and which had ended very much to his dissatisfaction,
from our not rightly understanding each other's meaning. This idea
struck me at the moment, and I instantly determined that an accidental
dispute, in which I might probably be as much to blame as himself,
should not deprive you of your brother. If you remember, I left the room
almost immediately. I was resolved to lose no time in clearing up those
mistakes as far as I could. The case was this--Frederica had set herself
violently against marrying Sir James." "And can your ladyship wonder
that she should?" cried I with some warmth; "Frederica has an excellent
understanding, and Sir James has none." "I am at least very far from
regretting it, my dear sister," said she; "on the contrary, I am
grateful for so favourable a sign of my daughter's sense. Sir James is
certainly below par (his boyish manners make him appear worse); and had
Frederica possessed the penetration and the abilities which I could have
wished in my daughter, or had I even known her to possess as much as she
does, I should not have been anxious for the match." "It is odd that
you should alone be ignorant of your daughter's sense!" "Frederica never
does justice to herself; her manners are shy and childish, and besides
she is afraid of me. During her poor father's life she was a spoilt
child; the severity which it has since been necessary for me to show
has alienated her affection; neither has she any of that brilliancy
of intellect, that genius or vigour of mind which will force itself
forward." "Say rather that she has been unfortunate in her education!"
"Heaven knows, my dearest Mrs. Vernon, how fully I am aware of that; but
I would wish to forget every circumstance that might throw blame on the
memory of one whose name is sacred with me." Here she pretended to cry;
I was out of patience with her. "But what," said I, "was your ladyship
going to tell me about your disagreement with my brother?" "It
originated in an action of my daughter's, which equally marks her want
of judgment and the unfortunate dread of me I have been mentioning--she
wrote to Mr. De Courcy." "I know she did; you had forbidden her speaking
to Mr. Vernon or to me on the cause of her distress; what could she do,
therefore, but apply to my brother?" "Good God!" she exclaimed, "what an
opinion you must have of me! Can you possibly suppose that I was
aware of her unhappiness! that it was my object to make my own child
miserable, and that I had forbidden her speaking to you on the subject
from a fear of your interrupting the diabolical scheme? Do you think
me destitute of every honest, every natural feeling? Am I capable of
consigning HER to everlasting: misery whose welfare it is my first
earthly duty to promote? The idea is horrible!" "What, then, was your
intention when you insisted on her silence?" "Of what use, my dear
sister, could be any application to you, however the affair might stand?
Why should I subject you to entreaties which I refused to attend to
myself? Neither for your sake nor for hers, nor for my own, could such
a thing be desirable. When my own resolution was taken I could nor
wish for the interference, however friendly, of another person. I was
mistaken, it is true, but I believed myself right." "But what was this
mistake to which your ladyship so often alludes! from whence arose so
astonishing a misconception of your daughter's feelings! Did you not
know that she disliked Sir James?" "I knew that he was not absolutely
the man she would have chosen, but I was persuaded that her objections
to him did not arise from any perception of his deficiency. You must
not question me, however, my dear sister, too minutely on this point,"
continued she, taking me affectionately by the hand; "I honestly own
that there is something to conceal. Frederica makes me very unhappy! Her
applying to Mr. De Courcy hurt me particularly." "What is it you mean
to infer," said I, "by this appearance of mystery? If you think your
daughter at all attached to Reginald, her objecting to Sir James could
not less deserve to be attended to than if the cause of her objecting
had been a consciousness of his folly; and why should your ladyship,
at any rate, quarrel with my brother for an interference which, you must
know, it is not in his nature to refuse when urged in such a manner?"

"His disposition, you know, is warm, and he came to expostulate with
me; his compassion all alive for this ill-used girl, this heroine in
distress! We misunderstood each other: he believed me more to blame than
I really was; I considered his interference less excusable than I
now find it. I have a real regard for him, and was beyond expression
mortified to find it, as I thought, so ill bestowed We were both warm,
and of course both to blame. His resolution of leaving Churchhill is
consistent with his general eagerness. When I understood his intention,
however, and at the same time began to think that we had been perhaps
equally mistaken in each other's meaning, I resolved to have an
explanation before it was too late. For any member of your family I must
always feel a degree of affection, and I own it would have sensibly hurt
me if my acquaintance with Mr. De Courcy had ended so gloomily. I have
now only to say further, that as I am convinced of Frederica's having
a reasonable dislike to Sir James, I shall instantly inform him that he
must give up all hope of her. I reproach myself for having even, though
innocently, made her unhappy on that score. She shall have all the
retribution in my power to make; if she value her own happiness as much
as I do, if she judge wisely, and command herself as she ought, she may
now be easy. Excuse me, my dearest sister, for thus trespassing on your
time, but I owe it to my own character; and after this explanation I
trust I am in no danger of sinking in your opinion." I could have
said, "Not much, indeed!" but I left her almost in silence. It was
the greatest stretch of forbearance I could practise. I could not have
stopped myself had I begun. Her assurance! her deceit! but I will not
allow myself to dwell on them; they will strike you sufficiently. My
heart sickens within me. As soon as I was tolerably composed I returned
to the parlour. Sir James's carriage was at the door, and he, merry
as usual, soon afterwards took his leave. How easily does her ladyship
encourage or dismiss a lover! In spite of this release, Frederica still
looks unhappy: still fearful, perhaps, of her mother's anger; and though
dreading my brother's departure, jealous, it may be, of his staying. I
see how closely she observes him and Lady Susan, poor girl! I have now
no hope for her. There is not a chance of her affection being returned.
He thinks very differently of her from what he used to do; he does her
some justice, but his reconciliation with her mother precludes every
dearer hope. Prepare, my dear mother, for the worst! The probability of
their marrying is surely heightened! He is more securely hers than ever.
When that wretched event takes place, Frederica must belong wholly to
us. I am thankful that my last letter will precede this by so little, as
every moment that you can be saved from feeling a joy which leads only
to disappointment is of consequence.

Yours ever, &c.,

CATHERINE VERNON.



XXV


LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON


Churchhill.


I call on you, dear Alicia, for congratulations: I am my own self, gay
and triumphant! When I wrote to you the other day I was, in truth, in
high irritation, and with ample cause. Nay, I know not whether I ought
to be quite tranquil now, for I have had more trouble in restoring
peace than I ever intended to submit to--a spirit, too, resulting from
a fancied sense of superior integrity, which is peculiarly insolent! I
shall not easily forgive him, I assure you. He was actually on the point
of leaving Churchhill! I had scarcely concluded my last, when Wilson
brought me word of it. I found, therefore, that something must be done;
for I did not choose to leave my character at the mercy of a man whose
passions are so violent and so revengeful. It would have been trifling
with my reputation to allow of his departing with such an impression in
my disfavour; in this light, condescension was necessary. I sent
Wilson to say that I desired to speak with him before he went; he came
immediately. The angry emotions which had marked every feature when we
last parted were partially subdued. He seemed astonished at the summons,
and looked as if half wishing and half fearing to be softened by what I
might say. If my countenance expressed what I aimed at, it was composed
and dignified; and yet, with a degree of pensiveness which might
convince him that I was not quite happy. "I beg your pardon, sir, for
the liberty I have taken in sending for you," said I; "but as I have
just learnt your intention of leaving this place to-day, I feel it my
duty to entreat that you will not on my account shorten your visit here
even an hour. I am perfectly aware that after what has passed between
us it would ill suit the feelings of either to remain longer in the same
house: so very great, so total a change from the intimacy of friendship
must render any future intercourse the severest punishment; and your
resolution of quitting Churchhill is undoubtedly in unison with our
situation, and with those lively feelings which I know you to possess.
But, at the same time, it is not for me to suffer such a sacrifice as it
must be to leave relations to whom you are so much attached, and are so
dear. My remaining here cannot give that pleasure to Mr. and Mrs. Vernon
which your society must; and my visit has already perhaps been too long.
My removal, therefore, which must, at any rate, take place soon, may,
with perfect convenience, be hastened; and I make it my particular
request that I may not in any way be instrumental in separating a
family so affectionately attached to each other. Where I go is of
no consequence to anyone; of very little to myself; but you are of
importance to all your connections." Here I concluded, and I hope you
will be satisfied with my speech. Its effect on Reginald justifies some
portion of vanity, for it was no less favourable than instantaneous. Oh,
how delightful it was to watch the variations of his countenance while I
spoke! to see the struggle between returning tenderness and the remains
of displeasure. There is something agreeable in feelings so easily
worked on; not that I envy him their possession, nor would, for the
world, have such myself; but they are very convenient when one wishes
to influence the passions of another. And yet this Reginald, whom a
very few words from me softened at once into the utmost submission, and
rendered more tractable, more attached, more devoted than ever, would
have left me in the first angry swelling of his proud heart without
deigning to seek an explanation. Humbled as he now is, I cannot forgive
him such an instance of pride, and am doubtful whether I ought not to
punish him by dismissing him at once after this reconciliation, or
by marrying and teazing him for ever. But these measures are each too
violent to be adopted without some deliberation; at present my thoughts
are fluctuating between various schemes. I have many things to compass:
I must punish Frederica, and pretty severely too, for her application to
Reginald; I must punish him for receiving it so favourably, and for the
rest of his conduct. I must torment my sister-in-law for the insolent
triumph of her look and manner since Sir James has been dismissed; for,
in reconciling Reginald to me, I was not able to save that ill-fated
young man; and I must make myself amends for the humiliation to which
I have stooped within these few days. To effect all this I have various
plans. I have also an idea of being soon in town; and whatever may be
my determination as to the rest, I shall probably put THAT project
in execution; for London will be always the fairest field of action,
however my views may be directed; and at any rate I shall there be
rewarded by your society, and a little dissipation, for a ten weeks'
penance at Churchhill. I believe I owe it to my character to complete
the match between my daughter and Sir James after having so long
intended it. Let me know your opinion on this point. Flexibility of
mind, a disposition easily biassed by others, is an attribute which you
know I am not very desirous of obtaining; nor has Frederica any claim
to the indulgence of her notions at the expense of her mother's
inclinations. Her idle love for Reginald, too! It is surely my duty to
discourage such romantic nonsense. All things considered, therefore, it
seems incumbent on me to take her to town and marry her immediately to
Sir James. When my own will is effected contrary to his, I shall have
some credit in being on good terms with Reginald, which at present, in
fact, I have not; for though he is still in my power, I have given up
the very article by which our quarrel was produced, and at best the
honour of victory is doubtful. Send me your opinion on all these
matters, my dear Alicia, and let me know whether you can get lodgings to
suit me within a short distance of you.

Your most attached

S. VERNON.



XXVI


MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY SUSAN


Edward Street.


I am gratified by your reference, and this is my advice: that you come
to town yourself, without loss of time, but that you leave Frederica
behind. It would surely be much more to the purpose to get yourself well
established by marrying Mr. De Courcy, than to irritate him and the rest
of his family by making her marry Sir James. You should think more of
yourself and less of your daughter. She is not of a disposition to do
you credit in the world, and seems precisely in her proper place at
Churchhill, with the Vernons. But you are fitted for society, and it
is shameful to have you exiled from it. Leave Frederica, therefore,
to punish herself for the plague she has given you, by indulging that
romantic tender-heartedness which will always ensure her misery enough,
and come to London as soon as you can. I have another reason for urging
this: Mainwaring came to town last week, and has contrived, in spite
of Mr. Johnson, to make opportunities of seeing me. He is absolutely
miserable about you, and jealous to such a degree of De Courcy that it
would be highly unadvisable for them to meet at present. And yet, if you
do not allow him to see you here, I cannot answer for his not committing
some great imprudence--such as going to Churchhill, for instance, which
would be dreadful! Besides, if you take my advice, and resolve to marry
De Courcy, it will be indispensably necessary to you to get Mainwaring
out of the way; and you only can have influence enough to send him back
to his wife. I have still another motive for your coming: Mr. Johnson
leaves London next Tuesday; he is going for his health to Bath, where,
if the waters are favourable to his constitution and my wishes, he will
be laid up with the gout many weeks. During his absence we shall be able
to chuse our own society, and to have true enjoyment. I would ask you to
Edward Street, but that once he forced from me a kind of promise never
to invite you to my house; nothing but my being in the utmost distress
for money should have extorted it from me. I can get you, however,
a nice drawing-room apartment in Upper Seymour Street, and we may be
always together there or here; for I consider my promise to Mr. Johnson
as comprehending only (at least in his absence) your not sleeping in the
house. Poor Mainwaring gives me such histories of his wife's jealousy.
Silly woman to expect constancy from so charming a man! but she always
was silly--intolerably so in marrying him at all, she the heiress of a
large fortune and he without a shilling: one title, I know, she might
have had, besides baronets. Her folly in forming the connection was so
great that, though Mr. Johnson was her guardian, and I do not in general
share HIS feelings, I never can forgive her.

Adieu. Yours ever,

ALICIA.



XXVII


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill.


This letter, my dear Mother, will be brought you by Reginald. His long
visit is about to be concluded at last, but I fear the separation takes
place too late to do us any good. She is going to London to see her
particular friend, Mrs. Johnson. It was at first her intention that
Frederica should accompany her, for the benefit of masters, but we
overruled her there. Frederica was wretched in the idea of going, and
I could not bear to have her at the mercy of her mother; not all the
masters in London could compensate for the ruin of her comfort. I
should have feared, too, for her health, and for everything but her
principles--there I believe she is not to be injured by her mother, or
her mother's friends; but with those friends she must have mixed (a very
bad set, I doubt not), or have been left in total solitude, and I can
hardly tell which would have been worse for her. If she is with her
mother, moreover, she must, alas! in all probability be with Reginald,
and that would be the greatest evil of all. Here we shall in time be in
peace, and our regular employments, our books and conversations, with
exercise, the children, and every domestic pleasure in my power to
procure her, will, I trust, gradually overcome this youthful attachment.
I should not have a doubt of it were she slighted for any other woman in
the world than her own mother. How long Lady Susan will be in town, or
whether she returns here again, I know not. I could not be cordial in my
invitation, but if she chuses to come no want of cordiality on my part
will keep her away. I could not help asking Reginald if he intended
being in London this winter, as soon as I found her ladyship's
steps would be bent thither; and though he professed himself quite
undetermined, there was something in his look and voice as he spoke
which contradicted his words. I have done with lamentation; I look upon
the event as so far decided that I resign myself to it in despair. If he
leaves you soon for London everything will be concluded.

Your affectionate, &c.,

C. VERNON.



XXVIII


MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY SUSAN


Edward Street.


My dearest Friend,--I write in the greatest distress; the most
unfortunate event has just taken place. Mr. Johnson has hit on the most
effectual manner of plaguing us all. He had heard, I imagine, by some
means or other, that you were soon to be in London, and immediately
contrived to have such an attack of the gout as must at least delay his
journey to Bath, if not wholly prevent it. I am persuaded the gout is
brought on or kept off at pleasure; it was the same when I wanted to
join the Hamiltons to the Lakes; and three years ago, when I had a fancy
for Bath, nothing could induce him to have a gouty symptom.

I am pleased to find that my letter had so much effect on you, and that
De Courcy is certainly your own. Let me hear from you as soon as you
arrive, and in particular tell me what you mean to do with Mainwaring.
It is impossible to say when I shall be able to come to you; my
confinement must be great. It is such an abominable trick to be ill here
instead of at Bath that I can scarcely command myself at all. At Bath
his old aunts would have nursed him, but here it all falls upon me; and
he bears pain with such patience that I have not the common excuse for
losing my temper.

Yours ever,

ALICIA.



XXIX


LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MRS. JOHNSON


Upper Seymour Street.


My dear Alicia,--There needed not this last fit of the gout to make
me detest Mr. Johnson, but now the extent of my aversion is not to
be estimated. To have you confined as nurse in his apartment! My dear
Alicia, of what a mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age!
just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too
old to be agreeable, too young to die. I arrived last night about five,
had scarcely swallowed my dinner when Mainwaring made his appearance.
I will not dissemble what real pleasure his sight afforded me, nor how
strongly I felt the contrast between his person and manners and those of
Reginald, to the infinite disadvantage of the latter. For an hour or two
I was even staggered in my resolution of marrying him, and though this
was too idle and nonsensical an idea to remain long on my mind, I do not
feel very eager for the conclusion of my marriage, nor look forward with
much impatience to the time when Reginald, according to our agreement,
is to be in town. I shall probably put off his arrival under some
pretence or other. He must not come till Mainwaring is gone. I am still
doubtful at times as to marrying; if the old man would die I might not
hesitate, but a state of dependance on the caprice of Sir Reginald will
not suit the freedom of my spirit; and if I resolve to wait for that
event, I shall have excuse enough at present in having been scarcely ten
months a widow. I have not given Mainwaring any hint of my intention, or
allowed him to consider my acquaintance with Reginald as more than the
commonest flirtation, and he is tolerably appeased. Adieu, till we meet;
I am enchanted with my lodgings.

Yours ever,

S. VERNON.



XXX


LADY SUSAN VERNON TO MR. DE COURCY


Upper Seymour Street.


I have received your letter, and though I do not attempt to conceal that
I am gratified by your impatience for the hour of meeting, I yet
feel myself under the necessity of delaying that hour beyond the time
originally fixed. Do not think me unkind for such an exercise of my
power, nor accuse me of instability without first hearing my reasons.
In the course of my journey from Churchhill I had ample leisure for
reflection on the present state of our affairs, and every review has
served to convince me that they require a delicacy and cautiousness of
conduct to which we have hitherto been too little attentive. We have
been hurried on by our feelings to a degree of precipitation which ill
accords with the claims of our friends or the opinion of the world. We
have been unguarded in forming this hasty engagement, but we must not
complete the imprudence by ratifying it while there is so much reason
to fear the connection would be opposed by those friends on whom you
depend. It is not for us to blame any expectations on your father's side
of your marrying to advantage; where possessions are so extensive as
those of your family, the wish of increasing them, if not strictly
reasonable, is too common to excite surprize or resentment. He has a
right to require; a woman of fortune in his daughter-in-law, and I am
sometimes quarrelling with myself for suffering you to form a connection
so imprudent; but the influence of reason is often acknowledged too late
by those who feel like me. I have now been but a few months a widow,
and, however little indebted to my husband's memory for any happiness
derived from him during a union of some years, I cannot forget that the
indelicacy of so early a second marriage must subject me to the censure
of the world, and incur, what would be still more insupportable, the
displeasure of Mr. Vernon. I might perhaps harden myself in time against
the injustice of general reproach, but the loss of HIS valued esteem
I am, as you well know, ill-fitted to endure; and when to this may be
added the consciousness of having injured you with your family, how am I
to support myself? With feelings so poignant as mine, the conviction of
having divided the son from his parents would make me, even with you,
the most miserable of beings. It will surely, therefore, be advisable to
delay our union--to delay it till appearances are more promising--till
affairs have taken a more favourable turn. To assist us In such a
resolution I feel that absence will be necessary. We must not meet.
Cruel as this sentence may appear, the necessity of pronouncing it,
which can alone reconcile it to myself, will be evident to you when you
have considered our situation in the light in which I have found myself
imperiously obliged to place it. You may be--you must be--well assured
that nothing but the strongest conviction of duty could induce me
to wound my own feelings by urging a lengthened separation, and of
insensibility to yours you will hardly suspect me. Again, therefore,
I say that we ought not, we must not, yet meet. By a removal for some
months from each other we shall tranquillise the sisterly fears of Mrs.
Vernon, who, accustomed herself to the enjoyment of riches, considers
fortune as necessary everywhere, and whose sensibilities are not of a
nature to comprehend ours. Let me hear from you soon--very soon. Tell me
that you submit to my arguments, and do not reproach me for using such.
I cannot bear reproaches: my spirits are not so high as to need being
repressed. I must endeavour to seek amusement, and fortunately many
of my friends are in town; amongst them the Mainwarings; you know how
sincerely I regard both husband and wife.

I am, very faithfully yours,

S. VERNON



XXXI


LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON


Upper Seymour Street.


My dear Friend,--That tormenting creature, Reginald, is here. My letter,
which was intended to keep him longer in the country, has hastened him
to town. Much as I wish him away, however, I cannot help being pleased
with such a proof of attachment. He is devoted to me, heart and soul.
He will carry this note himself, which is to serve as an introduction to
you, with whom he longs to be acquainted. Allow him to spend the evening
with you, that I may be in no danger of his returning here. I have told
him that I am not quite well, and must be alone; and should he call
again there might be confusion, for it is impossible to be sure of
servants. Keep him, therefore, I entreat you, in Edward Street. You will
not find him a heavy companion, and I allow you to flirt with him as
much as you like. At the same time, do not forget my real interest; say
all that you can to convince him that I shall be quite wretched if he
remains here; you know my reasons--propriety, and so forth. I would
urge them more myself, but that I am impatient to be rid of him, as
Mainwaring comes within half an hour. Adieu!

S VERNON



XXXII


MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY SUSAN


Edward Street.


My dear Creature,--I am in agonies, and know not what to do. Mr. De
Courcy arrived just when he should not. Mrs. Mainwaring had that instant
entered the house, and forced herself into her guardian's presence,
though I did not know a syllable of it till afterwards, for I was out
when both she and Reginald came, or I should have sent him away at all
events; but she was shut up with Mr. Johnson, while he waited in the
drawing-room for me. She arrived yesterday in pursuit of her husband,
but perhaps you know this already from himself. She came to this house
to entreat my husband's interference, and before I could be aware of
it, everything that you could wish to be concealed was known to him, and
unluckily she had wormed out of Mainwaring's servant that he had visited
you every day since your being in town, and had just watched him to your
door herself! What could I do! Facts are such horrid things! All is by
this time known to De Courcy, who is now alone with Mr. Johnson. Do not
accuse me; indeed, it was impossible to prevent it. Mr. Johnson has for
some time suspected De Courcy of intending to marry you, and would
speak with him alone as soon as he knew him to be in the house. That
detestable Mrs. Mainwaring, who, for your comfort, has fretted herself
thinner and uglier than ever, is still here, and they have been all
closeted together. What can be done? At any rate, I hope he will plague
his wife more than ever. With anxious wishes, Yours faithfully,

ALICIA.



XXXIII


LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON


Upper Seymour Street.


This eclaircissement is rather provoking. How unlucky that you should
have been from home! I thought myself sure of you at seven! I am
undismayed however. Do not torment yourself with fears on my account;
depend on it, I can make my story good with Reginald. Mainwaring is just
gone; he brought me the news of his wife's arrival. Silly woman, what
does she expect by such manoeuvres? Yet I wish she had stayed quietly
at Langford. Reginald will be a little enraged at first, but by
to-morrow's dinner, everything will be well again.

Adieu!

S. V.



XXXIV


MR. DE COURCY TO LADY SUSAN


--Hotel


I write only to bid you farewell, the spell is removed; I see you as
you are. Since we parted yesterday, I have received from indisputable
authority such a history of you as must bring the most mortifying
conviction of the imposition I have been under, and the absolute
necessity of an immediate and eternal separation from you. You
cannot doubt to what I allude. Langford! Langford! that word will be
sufficient. I received my information in Mr. Johnson's house, from Mrs.
Mainwaring herself. You know how I have loved you; you can intimately
judge of my present feelings, but I am not so weak as to find indulgence
in describing them to a woman who will glory in having excited their
anguish, but whose affection they have never been able to gain.

R. DE COURCY.



XXXV


LADY SUSAN TO MR. DE COURCY


Upper Seymour Street.


I will not attempt to describe my astonishment in reading the note this
moment received from you. I am bewildered in my endeavours to form
some rational conjecture of what Mrs. Mainwaring can have told you
to occasion so extraordinary a change in your sentiments. Have I not
explained everything to you with respect to myself which could bear a
doubtful meaning, and which the ill-nature of the world had interpreted
to my discredit? What can you now have heard to stagger your esteem for
me? Have I ever had a concealment from you? Reginald, you agitate
me beyond expression, I cannot suppose that the old story of Mrs.
Mainwaring's jealousy can be revived again, or at least be LISTENED to
again. Come to me immediately, and explain what is at present absolutely
incomprehensible. Believe me the single word of Langford is not of such
potent intelligence as to supersede the necessity of more. If we ARE to
part, it will at least be handsome to take your personal leave--but
I have little heart to jest; in truth, I am serious enough; for to be
sunk, though but for an hour, in your esteem Is a humiliation to which I
know not how to submit. I shall count every minute till your arrival.

S. V.



XXXVI


MR. DE COURCY TO LADY SUSAN


----Hotel.


Why would you write to me? Why do you require particulars? But, since
it must be so, I am obliged to declare that all the accounts of your
misconduct during the life, and since the death of Mr. Vernon, which had
reached me, in common with the world in general, and gained my entire
belief before I saw you, but which you, by the exertion of your
perverted abilities, had made me resolved to disallow, have been
unanswerably proved to me; nay more, I am assured that a connection,
of which I had never before entertained a thought, has for some time
existed, and still continues to exist, between you and the man whose
family you robbed of its peace in return for the hospitality with which
you were received into it; that you have corresponded with him ever
since your leaving Langford; not with his wife, but with him, and that
he now visits you every day. Can you, dare you deny it? and all this at
the time when I was an encouraged, an accepted lover! From what have I
not escaped! I have only to be grateful. Far from me be all complaint,
every sigh of regret. My own folly had endangered me, my preservation I
owe to the kindness, the integrity of another; but the unfortunate Mrs.
Mainwaring, whose agonies while she related the past seemed to threaten
her reason, how is SHE to be consoled! After such a discovery as this,
you will scarcely affect further wonder at my meaning in bidding you
adieu. My understanding is at length restored, and teaches no less to
abhor the artifices which had subdued me than to despise myself for the
weakness on which their strength was founded.

R. DE COURCY.



XXXVII


LADY SUSAN TO MR. DE COURCY


Upper Seymour Street.


I am satisfied, and will trouble you no more when these few lines are
dismissed. The engagement which you were eager to form a fortnight ago
is no longer compatible with your views, and I rejoice to find that
the prudent advice of your parents has not been given in vain. Your
restoration to peace will, I doubt not, speedily follow this act of
filial obedience, and I flatter myself with the hope of surviving my
share in this disappointment.

S. V.



XXXVIII


MRS. JOHNSON TO LADY SUSAN VERNON


Edward Street


I am grieved, though I cannot be astonished at your rupture with Mr.
De Courcy; he has just informed Mr. Johnson of it by letter. He leaves
London, he says, to-day. Be assured that I partake in all your feelings,
and do not be angry if I say that our intercourse, even by letter, must
soon be given up. It makes me miserable; but Mr. Johnson vows that if I
persist in the connection, he will settle in the country for the rest of
his life, and you know it is impossible to submit to such an extremity
while any other alternative remains. You have heard of course that the
Mainwarings are to part, and I am afraid Mrs. M. will come home to us
again; but she is still so fond of her husband, and frets so much about
him, that perhaps she may not live long. Miss Mainwaring is just come to
town to be with her aunt, and they say that she declares she will have
Sir James Martin before she leaves London again. If I were you, I would
certainly get him myself. I had almost forgot to give you my opinion of
Mr. De Courcy; I am really delighted with him; he is full as handsome, I
think, as Mainwaring, and with such an open, good-humoured countenance,
that one cannot help loving him at first sight. Mr. Johnson and he
are the greatest friends in the world. Adieu, my dearest Susan, I wish
matters did not go so perversely. That unlucky visit to Langford! but I
dare say you did all for the best, and there is no defying destiny.

Your sincerely attached

ALICIA.



XXXIX


LADY SUSAN TO MRS. JOHNSON


Upper Seymour Street.

My dear Alicia,--I yield to the necessity which parts us. Under
circumstances you could not act otherwise. Our friendship cannot
be impaired by it, and in happier times, when your situation is as
independent as mine, it will unite us again in the same intimacy as
ever. For this I shall impatiently wait, and meanwhile can safely assure
you that I never was more at ease, or better satisfied with myself and
everything about me than at the present hour. Your husband I abhor,
Reginald I despise, and I am secure of never seeing either again. Have
I not reason to rejoice? Mainwaring is more devoted to me than ever; and
were we at liberty, I doubt if I could resist even matrimony offered by
HIM. This event, if his wife live with you, it may be in your power to
hasten. The violence of her feelings, which must wear her out, may be
easily kept in irritation. I rely on your friendship for this. I am now
satisfied that I never could have brought myself to marry Reginald, and
am equally determined that Frederica never shall. To-morrow, I shall
fetch her from Churchhill, and let Maria Mainwaring tremble for the
consequence. Frederica shall be Sir James's wife before she quits my
house, and she may whimper, and the Vernons may storm, I regard them
not. I am tired of submitting my will to the caprices of others; of
resigning my own judgment in deference to those to whom I owe no duty,
and for whom I feel no respect. I have given up too much, have been too
easily worked on, but Frederica shall now feel the difference. Adieu,
dearest of friends; may the next gouty attack be more favourable! and
may you always regard me as unalterably yours,

S. VERNON



XL


LADY DE COURCY TO MRS. VERNON


My dear Catherine,--I have charming news for you, and if I had not sent
off my letter this morning you might have been spared the vexation of
knowing of Reginald's being gone to London, for he is returned. Reginald
is returned, not to ask our consent to his marrying Lady Susan, but to
tell us they are parted for ever. He has been only an hour in the house,
and I have not been able to learn particulars, for he is so very low
that I have not the heart to ask questions, but I hope we shall soon
know all. This is the most joyful hour he has ever given us since the
day of his birth. Nothing is wanting but to have you here, and it is our
particular wish and entreaty that you would come to us as soon as you
can. You have owed us a visit many long weeks; I hope nothing will make
it inconvenient to Mr. Vernon; and pray bring all my grand-children; and
your dear niece is included, of course; I long to see her. It has been
a sad, heavy winter hitherto, without Reginald, and seeing nobody from
Churchhill. I never found the season so dreary before; but this happy
meeting will make us young again. Frederica runs much in my thoughts,
and when Reginald has recovered his usual good spirits (as I trust he
soon will) we will try to rob him of his heart once more, and I am full
of hopes of seeing their hands joined at no great distance.

Your affectionate mother,

C. DE COURCY



XLI


MRS. VERNON TO LADY DE COURCY


Churchhill.


My dear Mother,--Your letter has surprized me beyond measure! Can it be
true that they are really separated--and for ever? I should be overjoyed
if I dared depend on it, but after all that I have seen how can one be
secure And Reginald really with you! My surprize is the greater because
on Wednesday, the very day of his coming to Parklands, we had a most
unexpected and unwelcome visit from Lady Susan, looking all cheerfulness
and good-humour, and seeming more as if she were to marry him when she
got to London than as if parted from him for ever. She stayed nearly two
hours, was as affectionate and agreeable as ever, and not a syllable,
not a hint was dropped, of any disagreement or coolness between them.
I asked her whether she had seen my brother since his arrival in town;
not, as you may suppose, with any doubt of the fact, but merely to see
how she looked. She immediately answered, without any embarrassment,
that he had been kind enough to call on her on Monday; but she believed
he had already returned home, which I was very far from crediting. Your
kind invitation is accepted by us with pleasure, and on Thursday next we
and our little ones will be with you. Pray heaven, Reginald may not be
in town again by that time! I wish we could bring dear Frederica too,
but I am sorry to say that her mother's errand hither was to fetch her
away; and, miserable as it made the poor girl, it was impossible to
detain her. I was thoroughly unwilling to let her go, and so was her
uncle; and all that could be urged we did urge; but Lady Susan declared
that as she was now about to fix herself in London for several months,
she could not be easy if her daughter were not with her for masters,
&c. Her manner, to be sure, was very kind and proper, and Mr. Vernon
believes that Frederica will now be treated with affection. I wish I
could think so too. The poor girl's heart was almost broke at taking
leave of us. I charged her to write to me very often, and to remember
that if she were in any distress we should be always her friends. I took
care to see her alone, that I might say all this, and I hope made her a
little more comfortable; but I shall not be easy till I can go to town
and judge of her situation myself. I wish there were a better prospect
than now appears of the match which the conclusion of your letter
declares your expectations of. At present, it is not very likely,

Yours ever, &c.,

C. VERNON



CONCLUSION


This correspondence, by a meeting between some of the parties, and a
separation between the others, could not, to the great detriment of the
Post Office revenue, be continued any longer. Very little assistance
to the State could be derived from the epistolary intercourse of Mrs.
Vernon and her niece; for the former soon perceived, by the style
of Frederica's letters, that they were written under her mother's
inspection! and therefore, deferring all particular enquiry till she
could make it personally in London, ceased writing minutely or often.
Having learnt enough, in the meanwhile, from her open-hearted brother,
of what had passed between him and Lady Susan to sink the latter lower
than ever in her opinion, she was proportionably more anxious to get
Frederica removed from such a mother, and placed under her own care;
and, though with little hope of success, was resolved to leave nothing
unattempted that might offer a chance of obtaining her sister-in-law's
consent to it. Her anxiety on the subject made her press for an early
visit to London; and Mr. Vernon, who, as it must already have appeared,
lived only to do whatever he was desired, soon found some accommodating
business to call him thither. With a heart full of the matter, Mrs.
Vernon waited on Lady Susan shortly after her arrival in town, and was
met with such an easy and cheerful affection, as made her almost turn
from her with horror. No remembrance of Reginald, no consciousness of
guilt, gave one look of embarrassment; she was in excellent spirits, and
seemed eager to show at once by ever possible attention to her brother
and sister her sense of their kindness, and her pleasure in their
society. Frederica was no more altered than Lady Susan; the same
restrained manners, the same timid look in the presence of her mother as
heretofore, assured her aunt of her situation being uncomfortable, and
confirmed her in the plan of altering it. No unkindness, however, on the
part of Lady Susan appeared. Persecution on the subject of Sir James was
entirely at an end; his name merely mentioned to say that he was not in
London; and indeed, in all her conversation, she was solicitous only for
the welfare and improvement of her daughter, acknowledging, in terms of
grateful delight, that Frederica was now growing every day more and more
what a parent could desire. Mrs. Vernon, surprized and incredulous,
knew not what to suspect, and, without any change in her own views,
only feared greater difficulty in accomplishing them. The first hope
of anything better was derived from Lady Susan's asking her whether she
thought Frederica looked quite as well as she had done at Churchhill, as
she must confess herself to have sometimes an anxious doubt of London's
perfectly agreeing with her. Mrs. Vernon, encouraging the doubt,
directly proposed her niece's returning with them into the country. Lady
Susan was unable to express her sense of such kindness, yet knew not,
from a variety of reasons, how to part with her daughter; and as, though
her own plans were not yet wholly fixed, she trusted it would ere long
be in her power to take Frederica into the country herself, concluded by
declining entirely to profit by such unexampled attention. Mrs. Vernon
persevered, however, in the offer of it, and though Lady Susan continued
to resist, her resistance in the course of a few days seemed somewhat
less formidable. The lucky alarm of an influenza decided what might not
have been decided quite so soon. Lady Susan's maternal fears were then
too much awakened for her to think of anything but Frederica's removal
from the risk of infection; above all disorders in the world she most
dreaded the influenza for her daughter's constitution!

Frederica returned to Churchhill with her uncle and aunt; and three
weeks afterwards, Lady Susan announced her being married to Sir James
Martin. Mrs. Vernon was then convinced of what she had only suspected
before, that she might have spared herself all the trouble of urging
a removal which Lady Susan had doubtless resolved on from the first.
Frederica's visit was nominally for six weeks, but her mother, though
inviting her to return in one or two affectionate letters, was very
ready to oblige the whole party by consenting to a prolongation of her
stay, and in the course of two months ceased to write of her absence,
and in the course of two or more to write to her at all. Frederica was
therefore fixed in the family of her uncle and aunt till such time as
Reginald De Courcy could be talked, flattered, and finessed into an
affection for her which, allowing leisure for the conquest of his
attachment to her mother, for his abjuring all future attachments, and
detesting the sex, might be reasonably looked for in the course of a
twelvemonth. Three months might have done it in general, but Reginald's
feelings were no less lasting than lively. Whether Lady Susan was or
was not happy in her second choice, I do not see how it can ever be
ascertained; for who would take her assurance of it on either side of
the question? The world must judge from probabilities; she had nothing
against her but her husband, and her conscience. Sir James may seem to
have drawn a harder lot than mere folly merited; I leave him, therefore,
to all the pity that anybody can give him. For myself, I confess that I
can pity only Miss Mainwaring; who, coming to town, and putting herself
to an expense in clothes which impoverished her for two years, on
purpose to secure him, was defrauded of her due by a woman ten years
older than herself.





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