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Title: Dilemmas of Pride, (Vol 1 of 3)
Author: Loudon, Margracia
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.

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                             DILEMMAS OF PRIDE.

                        BY THE AUTHOR OF FIRST LOVE.

                             IN THREE VOLUMES.

                                  VOL. I.


                                  LONDON:

                       BULL AND CHURTON, HOLLES STREET.

                                   1833.



                             DILEMMAS OF PRIDE.



                                 CHAPTER I.


The immense extent and beautiful irregularity of the grounds, the
unfathomable depth of the woods, the picturesque ramifications of some
of the most conspicuously situated of the very old trees, the hour, for
it was almost midnight, the numerous bonfires scattered in all
directions, the innumerable tenantry gathered round them, the crowd of
moving forms extending as far as the eye could penetrate into the
darkness; and, quite in the fore-ground, the figure of a blind old man
who had been born in the family, and grown grey in its service, playing,
with the most extravagant demonstrations of delight, on a rude harp,
that instrument so surrounded with poetic associations; seated too
beneath a spreading cedar, the trunk and undermost branches of which,
together with his countenance and white hair, were strongly illuminated
by an adjacent heap of blazing pine,--all gave to Arden Park a demesne
of such unlimited magnificence, that it formed in itself a sort of
sylvan empire, a powerful resemblance, at the moment of which we speak,
to what our imaginations are prone to figure of the feasts of _Shells_,
as described by that poet of ancient bards and burning oaks, the
venerable Ossian.

On an abrupt and rocky eminence, at some distance, but still within the
park, stood the picturesque remains of Arden Castle, once the residence
of the ancestors of the family. Its round towers of different
dimensions, some still perfect, its perpendicular site, the trees and
turn of the river at its base, were all rendered conspicuous by the
clear light of the moon now about to set behind the ruins.

In all the ancient deeds the landed property derived its designation
from this castle, and it was still customary for the heir to take formal
possession of the roofless walls, ere he was considered true Lord of the
Manor; a ceremony which had in the course of the day just passed, been
duly performed.

A little removed from the old castle, emerging from the trees, appeared
the square turret of another ruin, called the Grey Friary, once the
residence of monks, to whom at that time a portion of the lands
appertained, while along the verge of the horizon, the spires of several
churches were just visible, breaking the dark line formed by seemingly
interminable woods.

The modern house, a magnificent structure, standing on a commanding
eminence, the approach to which was gradual in the midst of a park and
woodlands comprising above thirty thousand acres, now poured from every
door and window streams of cheerful light.

Figures were discernible within, some moving in the merry dance, others
thronging to and from halls dedicated to hospitable cheer.

We have already said it was near midnight: the day had been spent in
festivities, held to celebrate the coming of age of Sir Willoughby
Arden, now (his father having been sometime dead,) the head of the
ancient family to whom the property belonged.

The rejoicings, not only those going forward beneath the sheltering roof
of the mansion but those also out of doors, were kept up thus late in
compliment to Alfred Arden, the twin brother of the heir. The elder twin
had been born about nine in the evening, the younger not till after
twelve at night. To unite, therefore, the two distinct birth-days in the
one festival, and thus preserve unsevered the more than brotherly tie,
it had been resolved that no guest, of whatever denomination, should
depart till the hour of midnight had been ushered in with every possible
demonstration of joy.

The county-town, though not above a quarter of a mile removed, was quite
planted out: the spires already noticed, and which were highly
ornamental to the landscape, being all pertaining of city scenery, which
was visible over the tops of the trees.

The clocks of some of the churches now began to strike. A spell at the
instant seemed to fall upon all: the music ceased, the voices of
revelry were hushed, and that peculiar stillness prevailed which seemed
to indicate that every individual in the crowd was occupied in counting
the solemn chimes. The nearest and loudest bell took the lead, and was
quite distinct from the rest, while the others followed, like answering
echoes, in the distance. A second after the number twelve was completed,
one universal shout rent the air! The health of Alfred Arden was drank
within the mansion, and arms might be seen waving above the heads of the
guests: after which, Sir Willoughby, leading his brother forward, issued
from the open door, and stood on the centre of the steps.

Servants held up lighted flambeaux on either side, and the old butler,
with hair as white as the harper's, presented a goblet of wine. Sir
Willoughby announced his brother with enthusiasm, and then drank to the
health of Alfred Arden. A simultaneous movement among the groups around
the bonfires indicated that they were following his good example, and
the next moment three times three resounded from the crowd.

In about an hour after this all was still, save the solitary voice of a
distant waterfall. Every light was quenched, and dying embers, which
from time to time as they fell together flashed for an instant, were all
that remained of the scattered bonfires. The merry crowd had sought
their respective homes, and the inhabitants of the mansion had retired
to rest, with the exception of Lady Arden, who sat at an open window,
taking leave as it were of familiar scenes which, when the light of
morning next dawned upon them, would no longer be her home.

In marrying the late Sir Alfred, the then head of the family, in
obedience to the wishes of her parents, she had sacrificed an early
attachment to his youngest brother.

Sir Alfred had, however, proved a very polite husband, and she had for
years been the mistress, nay, the very princess of a princely mansion, a
splendid establishment, and a magnificent demesne; she had possessed
every luxury that art and wealth could procure, and at the same time had
been surrounded by all the beauties of nature on the most extensive
scale.

All had now passed away! It was to her son, 'tis true, and he was
dutiful and affectionate, and would always, she had no doubt, make her
welcome, but of course as a visitor; and whenever her son should marry
(which she certainly wished him to do), a stranger would be mistress of
all; and to the courtesy of that stranger she must owe permission to
cross the threshold of her long accustomed home.

She did not mean absolutely to murmur; but there was something pensive,
at least, if not melancholy in such thoughts.

While her son was a minor, Arden Park had still been hers, at least the
right of living there; but to-morrow she was to set out for town; she
was to take her daughters from under the shelter of their father's roof,
to become wanderers as it were, on the world's wide wilderness. She
would have a house in town, 'tis true: a short season of each year would
be spent there, and the remainder in temporary and probably agreeable
homes in the various watering-places. But she felt a painful
consciousness, that, of the adventitious rank which the mere
_prejudices_ of society bestow, herself and daughters would now lose
many steps; and that the latter must, whenever she should die, if they
were not married, lose many more; nay, be probably reduced, at last, by
the insufficiency of their portions as younger children, to the state of
poor aunt Dorothea, whom she had herself often held up to them as a
warning of the miseries attendant on remaining single.

Aunt Dorothea's afflictions were not always of the tragic order, and the
remembrance of some of them called up, at the moment, despite her solemn
reflections, a faint smile on the countenance of Lady Arden; followed,
however, by a sigh, for the subject now came home to her feelings in a
manner it had never done before.

So absorbing had been her reflections, that she had not noticed the
gathering clouds which had gradually extinguished every star, and
darkened the heavens, till all on which she still looked out had become
one black and formless mass. At the instant, a vivid flash of lightning
gave to her view, with the most minute distinctness of outline, not only
the grand features of the landscape generally, but, prominent above all,
the ruins of the castle, the rocky eminence on which they stood, the
river at its foot, and the trees that surrounded its base. Thunder and
violent rain followed, and the wind rose to a hurricane. There existed a
superstitious belief among the country people that a tremendous tempest
always preceded or accompanied any event fatal to a member of the Arden
family. A remembrance of this crossed the mind of Lady Arden at the
moment, but was of course rejected as silly to a degree. Besides, she
added mentally, if an idea so absurd required refutation, the present
occasion being one of rejoicing, would be quite sufficient to satisfy
any reasonable mind. She retired to rest, however, with saddened
feelings, while the castle, crowning its rocky site, as already
described, floated before her eyes, even after their lids were closed;
and when she slept, the vision still blended with her dreams, as did the
forms of the Baron and his two sons, described in the legend of the
castle, and all strangely mixed up with the festivities of the previous
day, and the forms of her own happy blooming family.

The legend alluded to, and which had given rise to the superstition we
have mentioned, ran thus.

Some centuries ago, the Baron had two sons, who, when boys, had climbed,
one day, during a fearful thunder storm to the topmost turret of the
castle, which was at the time enveloped in clouds.

When, however, the storm was over, their bodies were found, locked in
each other's arms, laying in the river at the foot of the rock on which
the castle stands. The old Baron died of grief, and the property went to
a distant relative, who, it was vaguely hinted, had followed the youths
unseen, and while they stood gazing at the storm, had treacherously
drawn the coping-stone from beneath their feet; others maintained the
only grounds for this foul suspicion to be, that the said stone was
certainly found on the inner side the parapet, while the bodies of the
youths lay below.



                                 CHAPTER II.


When Lady Arden arose in the morning all was calm and sunshine.

The storm of the night might have seemed a dream but for the still
visible traces of its ravages. The river was greatly swollen, and
several of the largest and finest of a range of magnificent old trees
which had grown on the brow of a sloping bank, forming a beautiful
feature in the landscape, now lay on the ground, literally uprooted by
the violence of the tempest. Their fate, however, was soon forgotten in
that of two young oaks, which had been planted beside each other on the
lawn, on the joint birth-day of her two sons. The lightning had
shattered both: Lady Arden viewed them for the moment with a shuddering
sensation of superstitious dread, the influence of which it required all
her good sense to resist.

Geoffery Arden, the only nephew of the late Sir Alfred, was standing on
the grass, with his arms folded, and looking rather askance than
directly at the remains of the blasted trees, while his eye-brows were
drawn up contemptuously, and a somewhat scornful smile curled his lip,
as he marked blind Lewin the Harper, his countenance full of woe,
feeling, with visibly trembling hands, each shattered branch of the
uprooted oaks, while the large tears were falling from his sightless
eyes.

The brothers Willoughby and Alfred, and their three sisters, all
seemingly attracted by the same object, issued one by one, from the
open glass door of the breakfast room, and gathered round the spot; each
looked playfully dismal for a moment, and the next uttered some laughing
remark. They were soon joined by their mother; and the group would have
formed a striking family picture. Lady Arden was still a very fine
woman: from her mild temper the sweetness of her countenance was yet
unimpaired, while the expression of maternal tenderness,--and this from
the late tenor of her thoughts was unconsciously mingled with something
of solicitude,--with which she viewed her children, her sons now
especially, and Alfred in particular, her favourite son, gave additional
interest to her appearance.

Alfred's sparkling eye and blooming cheek did not, however, seem to
justify much anxiety on his account; his brother too, though he had
always been more delicate, seemed at present in excellent health and
spirits, while the three sisters were young, handsome, and happy
looking. Geoffery Arden still stood apart, as though there were but
little fellowship of feeling between him and the rest of the group.

He was a lad of eighteen or nineteen before the marriage of his uncle,
the late Sir Alfred; and from a child had been in the habit of hearing
his father and mother, and such of their particular friends as sought to
flatter their secret wishes, speculate on the possibility of his uncle's
never marrying, and his being consequently heir to the Arden estates,
which were strictly entailed in the male line. Nay, his very nursemaid's
usual threat was, that if he cried when his face was being washed, he
should never be Sir Geoffery. At school, all the boys at play hours had
somehow or other acquired the habit of calling him Sir Geoffery; and at
college his companions, particularly those who wished to flatter him
into idle extravagance, constantly joked and complimented him about his
great _expectations_. Thus had those expectations, unjustly founded as
they were, grown with his growth and strengthened with his strength;
till, when his uncle did marry, he could scarcely help thinking himself
an injured, robbed, and very ill-treated person. Hope however revived a
little, on the first three children chancing to be daughters, and his
mother began again to say, he might have the Arden estates
yet:--stranger things had happened. "And you might marry one of the
girls, you know, Geoffery," she would continue,--"it would be some
compensation to poor Sir Alfred for having no son."

"Indeed I should do no such thing," he would reply. "I should just
please myself. It's not to oblige me, I suppose, that my uncle has no
son."

The birth of the twin brothers, immediately after this, put an end to
all further speculations on the subject; except, indeed, that Mrs. Arden
could not help observing that, "after all, the lives of two weakly
infants, as twins of course must be, with the measles, hooping-cough,
and all other infantile diseases before them, were not worth much."

Geoffery became sulky under his disappointment, and said very little;
but silently he hated the twins for having been born. Of what use were
they, he thought; for what purpose had they been brought into the world,
except indeed to ruin his prospects.

Had they never been born, they would not have wanted the property, and
he might have enjoyed it. Now he must go and drudge at a profession,
the very idea of which, after his imagination had been so long dazzled
by false hopes, he absolutely loathed.

He had been educated for the Bar, but had neglected his studies. He had
been dissipated without gaiety of heart, and a gambler from avarice. His
hopes had made him proud, while his fears had made him gloomy. In short,
he had contrived to extract the evil from every thing, while he had
avoided all that was good. As to his legal studies, he had never read
any portion with interest or attention but the law of male entail.

He was a bachelor, and likely to remain such: for he could not afford to
marry, unless he obtained a much larger fortune than he was entitled to
expect.

There was nothing he could exactly dare to do to injure his cousins;
but he hated them both, and kept an evil eye upon them. As for his
female cousins, he did not take the trouble of actively hating them, he
merely despised them as beings shut out from all possibility of
inheriting the property. Beautiful and high born as they were, he would
not have accepted the hand of any one of them had it been offered to
him.

Sir Willoughby was goodnaturedly weak, and very vain;--his was a vanity
however which, when it happened to be gratified, made him extremely
happy, by keeping him in the highest good humour with himself. From him
Geoffery won large sums at billiards, by flattering him on his play,
'till he induced him to give him, habitually, such odds as amounted, in
point of fact, to giving him the game, or, in other words, the sum
staked upon it.

Lady Arden often endeavoured to dissuade her son from acquiring so bad a
habit as that of gambling, but in vain; for Willoughby, like all weak
men, was obstinate to excess: he had besides a marvellous respect for
the salique law, and that jealousy of being guided, which unhappily
always forms a leading feature in the characters of those who stand most
in need of guidance. Yet he was fondly attached to his mother; his
greatest delight was to devise something for her pleasure or her
accommodation; he was always ready to make her munificent presents; in
short, he would do any thing to oblige her, with the exception of
following her suggestions.

Not that he always ungraciously refused requests that contained in them
nothing prohibitory; he had no particular objection sometimes to do a
thing he was asked to do; but a thing he was asked not to do, he was
always sure to do! And if it happened to be a thing which Geoffery
Arden wished should be done, he could always decide the point, by
artfully complimenting his cousin on the _firmness_ of his character.

Of Alfred, Geoffery could make nothing. He was frank, kind, and
open-hearted; yet clear-seeing and decided. With him his mother's
slightest wish but guessed at was a law: his sisters, too, could always
coax him out of any plan of pleasure of his own, and get him to go with
them. Not so those for whom he had no particular affection; he had never
yet been known, in any one instance, to sacrifice his opinion of what
was right, respectable, or amiable, to the persuasions of idle
companions; so that he was already respected as well as regarded by
thinking and discerning men much older than himself; some of them too,
men who had bought their experience dearly enough and who were surprised
into involuntary admiration of so young a person, who seemed to have his
intuitively.

His brother loved him in the most enthusiastic manner; more than he did
his mother, or any one else in the world; yet, strange to say, such was
Willoughby's dread of being governed, that even the brother whom he
loved so much, had not the slightest influence over him; nay, Alfred was
afraid to use persuasion of any kind, lest it should have a contrary
effect; and yet, if he ever let it appear that he was in the slightest
degree hurt or offended by this unmeaning and dogged obstinacy on the
part of his brother, Willoughby's despair would sometimes, though but
for a moment or two, manifest itself in a way perfectly terrifying; he
would rush towards a window, or a river side, and threaten to fling
himself out or in; so that Alfred, though he knew himself to be his
brother's sole confidant, and the first object of his affections, was
obliged, with great pain of course, to see him led away by designing
people, especially his cousin Geoffery, into many practices far from
prudent, yet not interfere; and even be thankful, when by refraining
from so doing, he could avoid the recurrence of the distressing scenes
alluded to. Willoughby had received a blow on the head when a child,
which had not then exhibited any serious consequences; whether this
circumstance had any connection with the occasional strangeness of his
temper or not, it was impossible to say, but Alfred sometimes secretly
feared it had. It was a thought, however, which he did not communicate
even to his mother. Such was the family, which on the morning we have
described, quitted Arden Park for London.



                                CHAPTER III.


While the Arden family are on their way to town, we shall take a peep at
the High-street in Cheltenham. Strings of carriages were driving
backward and forward, from turnpike to turnpike, while the open
barouches, filled with bonnets of every colour in the rainbow, flaunting
and waving to and fro, looked like so many moving beds of full blown
tulips. Foot-passengers too of all classes thronged the flag-ways.

Among these was distinguishable a tall, large, and still handsome woman,
apparently upwards of fifty. There was something aristocratic about
both her countenance and carriage, although she was closely followed by
a trollopy looking maid-servant, who carried a bandbox under each arm, a
dressing-box in one hand, and a work-box in the other.

Mistress and maid entered the private door or _genteel_ separate
ingress, appropriated to lodgers, of a music-shop; and having the door
at the further end of the passage opened, for the purpose of throwing
light on the subject, stumbled up a still dark and very narrow
staircase, at the top of which they turned abruptly into a small sunny
drawing-room, furnished with chintz hangings, lined and draperied with
faded pink calico. The carpet was a stamped cloth, of a showy pattern.
It was a recent purchase, and therefore not yet faded; so that it
secured to these lodgings, as being _superiorly_ furnished, a great
preference over their competitors. In the centre of the room stood a
table covered with a very dingy green baize, and round the walls were
ranged some half dozen small mock rosewood chairs, accommodated with
little square inclined planes, covered with pink calico, and called
cushions. Either for want of strings at the back, or in consequence of
such strings being out of repair, these said inclined planes, whenever
you attempted to help yourself or any one else to a chair, flew off,
either into the middle of the floor, or if it was the fire you had
wished to approach, perchance under the grate. Over the mantelpiece was
placed what the landlady considered _a very handsome_ chimney-glass, a
_foot and half_ high, and about three wide; its gilt frame carefully
covered with transparent yellow gauze. On the mantelpiece stood two
bronze chimney lights, with cutglass drops, only it must be confessed
there were but three of the drops remaining on one, and the other wanted
two. The woman of the house, however, had promised faithfully to find
the rest of the drops, and so restore to these embellishers of her
establishment the whole of their pendant honours.

"I wouldn't give much for their promises," answered Sarah, the maid,
when, in reply to a comment of hers on the subject, she was told so by
Mrs. Dorothea Arden, her mistress.

"And here's no sofa, ma'am," she continued; "how are you to be sitting,
the length of an evening, stuck upright on one of these here _ricketty_
bits of chairs, I'd be glad to know."

"Why, it will not be very comfortable, to be sure," answered Mrs.
Dorothea, "so long as it lasts; but she has promised faithfully, that as
soon as the sick lady goes away, which will be in about a week, she will
let me have the sofa out of the next drawing-room."

"A bird in the hand's worth two in the bush!" replied Sarah. "I dare say
if the truth was known, they're not worth a sofa; or, if they are,
they'll keep it in the next room, when it is vacant, to be a decoy-duck
to another lodger. They're not going to let you have it, I promise you,
now that they have got you fast for a month certain."

"Well, if they don't, I can't help it," said Mrs. Dorothea; "one can't
have every thing you know; and the new carpet certainly gives the room a
very respectable appearance. And then there is a chiffonier; that's a
great comfort to put one's groceries in; or a few biskets; or a bottle
of wine, if one should be obliged to open one. The doors, to be sure,
are lined with blue and they should have been pink."

"And here's no key," said Sarah, examining the chiffonier; "and I
declare if the lock _ante_ broke."

"That is provoking," said Mrs. Dorothea, "she must get me a lock."

Sarah was now dispatched with her bandboxes, and ordered to hurry the
dinner and unpack the things.

In about half an hour, Aunt Dorothea becoming hungry and impatient, rang
her bell. Sarah reappeared, with a countenance of the utmost discontent,
declaring she was never in such a place in her life; that there was no
getting any thing done, and that as to unpacking, there was no use in
attempting it, in a place where they should never be able to stop. When
the dinner was asked for, she replied, that she believed it had been
done some time, but that she supposed there was no one to bring it up,
for all they had engaged to do the waiting. "But there's sixteen of
themselves, shop boys and all; and they _gets_ their own tea the while
your dinner's a cooking it seems."

When the dinner did come up, it was cold, and consisted of mutton-chops,
which had evidently been upset into the ashes. Poor Aunt Dorothea
consequently made but a slender repast.

The next day, while engaged in the labours of the toilet, she thus
addressed Sarah; for people who live quite alone, are too apt to get
into a way of gossiping with their servants.

"It's a very long time since the Salters have called; is it not,
Sarah?"

"A very long time indeed ma'am," replied the abigail, "they was a saying
to their own maid the other day (they don't know I suppose as she is a
friend of mine), for they was a saying, as I said, that they didn't
think as they should call any more; for that nobody never knew where to
find you, as you was always a changing your lodgings; and that as to
your having a sister that was a lady, they didn't believe a word of it;
for though you was always a talking of Lady Arden coming, she never
come."

"What impertinence! Well, Lady Arden will be here this season to a
certainty. She is to come direct from London; and I'll take care they
shall not be introduced to her. Was there ever such ingratitude! People
that had not a creature to speak to, till I introduced them to every one
they know. I even made so particular a request of my friends that they
would call on them, that I quite laid myself under obligations to
people. They could find out my lodgings fast enough, when they were
coming to my little sociable parties five nights out of the seven;
declaring they did not know what was to become of them, were it not for
my kindness; and that the more they saw how differently others behaved
to them, the more were they obliged to me; and then making such a vulgar
noise about the number of invitations they were in my debt and their
grief at not having it in their power as yet to make any return."

"Then I can tell you ma'am," said Sarah, "they are to have a grand party
this very night at the rooms, and never had the manners to ask you."

"I know their cards have been out for some time. And who are they to
have, did you hear?"

"Oh, titles without end, they say; and generals and baronets, and all
sorts of fine people. Mrs. Johnson _sais_, as the young ladies should
say, they were determined as their party should _exist_ entirely of
_excuses_."

"Exclusives you mean, I suppose; but did you hear any of the names?"

"Why yes ma'am; they are to have Sir Matthias and Lady Whaleworthy."

"Sir Matthias indeed!" repeated Mrs. Dorothea, "an alderman
cheesemonger, knighted only the other day; and as for his poor
goodnatured, vulgar wife, she has been fattened on whey, I suppose, till
no reasonable door can admit her."

"Well to be sure!" exclaimed the abigail, "and then they are to have Sir
Henry and Lady Shawbridge."

"Sir Henry, poor man," said Mrs. Dorothea, "was only knighted by
mistake. I don't know what he was himself, but they say he had just
married his cook-maid; and her ladyship certainly has all the
fiery-faced fierceness of that order about her."

"A cook-maid, ma'am! why I am a step above that myself. And let me see,
who else--oh, there's to be Lady Flamborough."

"She is a woman of rank certainly, or rather the widow of a man of rank;
for she is of very low birth herself; and what is much worse, she is a
woman of bad character, which of course prevents her being visited, so
that she is glad to go any where. And who else pray?"

"Sir William Orm, that Mrs. Johnson _sais_ is such a fine gentleman."

"Sir William Orm," repeated Mrs. Dorothea, "he is a known black-leg; a
man shut out from all good society; he may do very well for the Salters,
however, if he can endure their vulgarity."

"There is another title," said Sarah, "let me see--Sir--Sir--Sir Francis
Beerton, or Brierton, I think."

"Poor little man," said Mrs. Dorothea, "there is no particular harm in
him; but his wife is so sanctified, that she will neither go any where,
nor see any one at home; so that he is glad of any thing for variety.
Strange notions some people have of duty! in my opinion, if a woman will
not make a man's home comfortable and agreeable to him, she becomes
accountable for all the sins he may commit abroad, although she should
be praying for his conversion the whole time. Well, who comes next on
your list?"

"I don't think as I remember any more, excepting General Powel."

"He, poor old man, is mere lumber; neither useful nor ornamental, nobody
will be troubled with him who can get anybody else to fill up their
rooms; so that I should suppose he is not incumbered with many
invitations."

"Well who would a thought of their being such a _despisable_ set; and so
many titles among them too; why to have heard Mrs. Johnson talk o' them,
you'd supposed they had been so many kings and queens."

"It was a set I should not have joined certainly; but quite good enough
for the Salters, whom I should never have visited, had the friend who
wrote to me about them been sufficiently explicit as to who and what
they were. The daughters, I suppose, would be excessively indignant if
they thought it was known that their father had made his fortune
somewhere in Devonshire, by a contract for supplying the navy with
beef."

"Supplying beef, ma'am! Why isn't that all as one as being a butcher?"

"Not unlike it, certainly," replied Mrs. Dorothea.

"Well, who would have thought, and they so proud: but it's always them
there upstartish sort that's the impudentst and most unbearable."

"It is in general the way those sort of people betray themselves. If
they behaved in a modest unpretending manner, very possible no questions
might be asked. After their ingratitude and impertinence to me, I for
one shall make no secret of the circumstance. And the very young men
that eat Mr. Salter's roast beef now, washed down too with his champaign
and his claret, will not be the less ready to jeer at the time he sold
the same commodity raw. When my sister, Lady Arden, comes, and her three
beautiful daughters, they will of course have all the young men in
Cheltenham about them; so that I shall be acquainted with them all; and
I shall take care they shall not be in the dark about the Misses Salter,
who shall find that I am not to be insulted with impunity."

"And I shall have some fun with our butcher about it," said Sarah; "I
shall tell him to be particular what sort of meat he sends to such a
good judge as Mr. Salter. Perhaps you could spare me for a couple of
hours this evening, ma'am?" she added, when her mistress was attired.

"What for, Sarah? you are always asking leave to go out. I must say you
are very idly inclined. How are my summer things ever to be ready at
this rate. This mulberry silk has been looking quite out of season, ever
since the sunny weather came in."

"I am sure, ma'am, there is not a young person in Cheltenham sits as
close to their needle as what I do; but this evening Mrs. Johnson has,
of course, the privilege of the music-gallery, and she has offered me a
place. I thought you might like, perhaps, to hear how the party went
off?"

"Oh, certainly I should!" replied Mrs. Dorothea. "Well, Sarah, you may
go, and mind you have all your eyes about you, and bring me a full
account of every thing. And notice if there is any body there that I
know--and how the people are dressed--and how often the refreshment
trays come in--and whether they attempt a supper--and who begins the
dancing. The Miss Salters will get partners for once in their lives, I
suppose! And I dare say they will contrive to have a tolerably full
room; for I hear they have been getting all their acquaintance to give
away cards, right and left; Lady Matthias alone boasts that she has
disposed of three dozen."

Sarah promised strict compliance with all the directions she had
received, and disappeared in great haste, to pin new bows in her bonnet,
and slip stiffeners into the large sleeves of her best silk dress;
determining to complete her costume for the occasion, by lending herself
her mistress's pea-green china crape shawl and black lace veil.

Mrs. Dorothea Arden, as soon as she was alone, sighed unconsciously; for
visions of her early days presented themselves suddenly and unbidden,
forming a violent contrast with the whole class of petty and degrading
thoughts and interests, to which circumstances had gradually habituated,
at least, if not reconciled her.

Ere she had quitted the pedestal of her youthful pride, beneath the
shelter of her father's roof, with what appalling horror would she have
thought of the chance-collected mob, about whose movements she was now
capable of feeling an idle curiosity.

Vague recollections, too, passed with the quickness of a momentary
glance, through her mind, of eligible establishments rejected with
scorn, of comfort and respectability cast away, for dreams of ambition
it had never been her fate to realize.

She paused, and some seconds were given to a remembrance apart from
every other, which, though now but faintly seen amid the haze of
distance, still seemed a little illumined speck, on which a sun-beam,
piercing some aperture in a cloudy sky had chanced to fall.

But it was too late, quite too late for such thoughts, so she went out
to pay some morning visits, to send in a veal cutlet for her dinner, and
find out, more particularly, who were to be at the Salter's party.



                                 CHAPTER IV.


Mr. Salter and his two daughters, the former equipped in a new wig, the
latter in two new dresses, expressly for the occasion, were parading up
and down the yet vacant public ballroom.

The lights were burning, the waiters in attendance, and the orchestra
playing; while, peeping over the shoulder of the double bass, appeared a
particularly smart bonnet, decorated with numerous bows of quite new
ribbon, and further graced by a very handsome black lace veil.

"What can all the people be thinking of?" said Mr. Salter at last; "I
have a mind to order the lights to be put out, and go away home to my
bed. It would be just a proper punishment for them all. And pray," he
added, looking at his daughters' dresses, "what are these gig-meries to
cost?" At this crisis resounded the welcome sounds, "Sir Matthias and
Lady Whaleworthy:" with quickened steps and delighted countenances, our
trio hastened towards the bottom of the room, to receive their guests,
now, as by magic, flowing in altogether.

Introductions were endless; every leading bird was followed by a flock,
which neither host nor hostess had ever seen before; while, from time to
time, the promised titles, those stars which were to give brilliancy to
the night, made their appearance, sprinkling the common herd with
consequence. Lady Flamborough! Sir William Orm! Sir Henry and Lady
Shawbridge! Next appeared poor old General Powel and half blind Sir
Francis Brierton, poking his little sharp nose into everybody's face,
and smirking his recognition, when by so doing he had discovered who
they were; and though last not least, Sir James Lindsey; least in
consequence we mean, for he was a very little, very ugly man, the
express image of the knave of spades. He was, however, a vastly
important personage, a bachelor baronet, with fifteen thousand a-year,
and a man of good family too, so that there was no objection whatever to
him, except that he was a fool, and that when he danced he so capered
and kicked up behind, and rounded his elbows, and, in short, made
himself so completely the butt and laughing-stock of the whole room, it
was with difficulty that even his fifteen thousand per annum could
procure him a partner.

We rather suspect, however, that there were ladies who, though they
shrank from sharing with Sir James the unprofitable ridicule of the
hour, would have had no objection to share with him for life his fifteen
thousand a-year, for, in that case, they could afford to be laughed at.

Sir James had a brother, a very fine young man, remarkably handsome and
equally clever; perhaps a little too hot-headed, but warm-hearted
withal; an enthusiast in beauty, painting, music, scenery, every thing
in short at which a glowing imagination takes fire; the very material
for a frantic lover, yet condemned by his circumstances, either to lead
a single life, or possibly at least contract a marriage with the purse
of some old rich widow, fitter to be his mother than his wife. For Henry
Lindsey was one of the many living sacrifices hourly immolated on the
altars of _pride_, and how many a holocaust has been offered up upon
those altars!

How often have we heard persons, who could argue rationally enough on
other subjects, gravely assert, in reply to every argument which good
feeling or justice could urge, "A family must have a head."

In this particular instance the head, or _pride_ of the family, had
proved its disgrace, yet standing laws and previously made settlements
could not be altered. Fifteen thousand per annum, therefore, must be
melted down, to make a golden image of poor little silly Sir James,
while Henry, with the pittance which as a younger child was his portion,
was obliged to purchase the privilege of being shot at; for the younger
brother of an old baronet _could not disgrace his family_ by doing any
thing likely to provide _comfortably for himself_.

Thus do the _prejudices_ of society seem to have been invented for the
express purpose of hunting down and crushing those whom its laws have
robbed and oppressed.

Children of the same parents must be defrauded of the birthright, by
natural justice theirs, to heap all on one brother! And for what
purpose? That he may keep alive, by being its living representative,
that _pride_, that _curse_, which forbids to those so defrauded, the use
of honest means for earning honest bread!

If, instead of this, all property which had been a father's, were, at
his death, equally divided among his offspring, without revolution or
confiscation, extravagant disparity of station would gradually
disappear, and with it _pride_, that destroys the happiness, with its
whole array of _prejudices_, waging eternal warfare against rational
contentment.

How many are there who might still, even as the world now is, dwell
within a very garden of Eden, of peaceful and natural delights, and yet
who virtually turn themselves out of the same; and, at the mere mandate
of some _prejudice_ of society--some _by-law_ of _pride_, become
wanderers through the thistle-grown wildernesses of discontent, or weary
pilgrims amid the thorny paths of petty mortification.

But to return to our ball: by this time so fair a proportion of the
company had arrived, that it was thought advisable to commence dancing.
For this purpose Mr. Salter, with a feeling of exultation which made him
forget, for the time, what the whole entertainment was likely to cost,
led Lady Flamborough to the head of the room. Her ladyship had evidently
been pretty in her youth; but though the remains of a fine woman may
sometimes be viewed with a blending of admiration with our veneration,
mere prettiness seldom grows old gracefully. In Lady Flamborough's case
it certainly did not. Her once nicely rounded little figure had now
outgrown all bounds, not excepting those of the drapery which ought to
have concealed its exuberance. Her once infantine features were now
nearly lost in the midst of a countenance disproportionally increased in
its general dimensions; while in manner she still played off numberless
once becoming, but now disgusting, airs of artless innocence;
languishing, lisping, and rolling her eyes; and childishly twisting her
fingers through the ringlets of her hair, while looking up in her
partner's face, and saying silly things.

Had it been possible to have checked coquetry in Lady Flamborough, the
sight of the senseless bloated countenance on which she was thus casting
away those interesting appeals of her visual orbs, one would have
thought might have done so.

Mr. Salter's head was in shape something like a sugar loaf: the region
denominated fore-head, and appropriated by phrenologists to the
intellectual faculties, being so confined, that it nearly came to a
point, while the descent widened as it approached the organs of
gustativeness, and all that called itself face, concluded without any
distinct line of demarcation, in a jole, much resembling that of a
cod-fish.

The eyes were colourless, and owed all the brilliancy they possessed to
an inflammation of the lids, which never forsook them. The efforts of
their owner, on the present occasion, to give them a languishing roll,
that should correspond with that of her ladyship's, was truly ludicrous.
As to his mouth, it bisected his countenance from ear to ear, which
rendered his endeavours to spread it wider by that bland movement
designated a smile, nearly abortive.

A few additional lines of circular or spherical trigonometry were
conspicuously marked upon cheeks that yielded in carnation hue to nought
save the nose; while this rallying point of the vital powers, like
certain well-known altars of the ancients, never allowed the flame to
go out.

Mr. Salter was exceedingly proud of his legs, (not that he had seen them
himself for the last ten years), and though short for his body, which
by-the-by had precisely the appearance of a Brobdingnag melon on
castors, the legs themselves, when you were distant enough to have a
view of them beneath the inflated balloon that otherwise concealed them,
were certainly formed according to the rules of beauty; that is to say,
they had very large calves, and very small ankles.

We suppose it must have been the combined effect of the personal charms
and the elevated rank of his partner, which raised Mr. Salter's spirits
to so inconvenient a degree, as to produce in his mind a most frisky
longing to behold, once more, this long remembered attraction of his
own--his said handsome legs. Accordingly, while setting to the lady, he
made several kicks out in front, with accompanying jerks forward of the
head, in the vain hope of catching a glimpse; but, alas, in one
unfortunate effort more strenuous than the rest, he lost his balance;
out flew his feet, and down he came on his back, so much to the
amusement of the whole room that no one for a time had the presence of
mind to pick him up: while there he lay, sprawling and puffing, his own
endeavours to rise being quite as fruitless as those of a beetle usually
are, when placed in the same reversed position by a mischievous
school-boy. Neither was the evening by any means one of unmixed delight
to the Misses Salter. It was but too evident that even on the present
occasion, when, if ever compliment was due to them, that the gentlemen
evinced any thing but impatience to secure the felicity of being their
partners. On the contrary, it was generally when a quadrille was nearly
made up, and the last added couple were in great distress for a
_vis-à-vis_, that some one who had previously made up his mind not to
dance, was pressed into the service, and given a hint that one of the
Miss Salters was sitting down.

Even Sir James, though he did dance a set with each sister, did not do
so till he had been shaken off by nearly every other woman in the room.

The Scotch proverb says, "It's a lucky lass that's like her father."

But we must confess, we never could discover that it was any advantage
to Miss Salter to be so strikingly like her father as she certainly
was. Miss Grace Salter was altogether of a different style; she was
under-sized, pitiably thin, and extremely dark, with an expression of
countenance as if she had just swallowed something unseasonably bitter,
and was making a face at its disagreeable flavour. The set with Sir
James could not much sooth the vanity of either sister, for no sooner
did he commence operations, than a ring was immediately formed for the
avowed purpose of laughing at him; while he, mistaking the general
attention he drew for admiration, seemed gratefully determined to spare
no pains to give the greatest possible satisfaction to his numerous
spectators.

The Misses Salter had also another source of uneasiness this evening. At
all times their greatest earthly apprehension, next to that of not
getting husbands themselves, was, lest their father should marry, and
cut them out of a small sum, which not having been swallowed up in the
purchase of the estate for John, he had promised to divide between them
unless indeed he married again. His doing so seemed this evening more
probable than ever it had done before. The roll of his eye, while
looking at Lady Flamborough, had become quite ominous, while her
ladyship's air of condescension was truly alarming.

"Now it would be too bad, would it not?" said Miss Salter to Miss Grace
Salter, as they were undressing, "if after all, this ball that we have
been so long teazing at my father to give, and that he thinks so much
about the expense of, should turn out to be our own ruin in the end."

"Why, I am afraid, to be sure," replied her sister, "if he marries he
won't leave us the money, or else it would be a grand connection!
wouldn't it? We'd be sure to be visited by every body then."

"That we should, no doubt," said Miss Salter, "but what of that, we
shouldn't have a shilling in the world, comparatively speaking, when my
father dies--and as for John--"

"He wouldn't give us a shilling if we were starving!" observed Miss
Grace.

By John, they meant their brother. And, by-the-by, one of the reasons,
in addition to their want of beauty, why these ladies were paid so
little attention to by the gentlemen, was, that it was well known, Mr.
Salter had a cub of a son, on whom he meant, in imitation of his
betters, to heap the earnings and savings of his life, for the purpose,
as he himself expressed it, of making a family: and, for that matter he
didn't see why a man mightn't be prouder of being the first of his name
to do so, than if he was come of a family ready made to his hand a
thousand years ago! for sure, they must all have had a beginning one
time or other.

But as to being the first of his name to have a rise in the world, he
was not so clear of that neither: he had often heard talk of a Lord
Salter or Salisbury, or something beginning with an S; and he might
become a lord, one time or other, for any thing he knew to the contrary.

But be that as it may, "he wasn't going to have his money, that he had
been a lifetime scraping together, squandered by idle fellows that were
nothing at all akin to him, but would just come and marry his daughters
to get hold of the cash."

"But supposing, Sir, we shouldn't get married at all," said Miss Salter
one day.

"Nothing more likely," replied her father. "As for Grace, she is
certainly as plain a girl as I'd desire to see any day. And I don't know
how it is, you're not very handsome neither, tho' you're thought so like
me."

These observations of Mr. Salter's about being the first of his family
were, by the particular desire of his daughters, strictly confined to
his own fireside. There was no occasion, they argued, to make any such
confession in a place like Cheltenham, where nobody knew anything about
people, but what they choose to say of themselves. Accordingly, they
made family their constant theme; and inquired with the most
consequential airs about the connections of every one they heard named;
always winding up their harangue by observing, that of course it was
very natural for a man like their father, of such an ancient and highly
respectable family, to be very particular about who they visited,
particularly in those sorts of places where people of every description
congregated.

"It's no harm, you know," said Miss Salter to her sister, "to have the
name of being particular, it makes people of consequence; at the same
time I'd have us get acquainted with every creature we can, and go
everywhere; there's no knowing where one might find one's luck."

"Talking of luck," answered Grace, "I read in one of the new novels the
other day, that 'luck knocks once at every one's door;' I wish it would
knock once at mine, I know, and it shouldn't have to knock again."

"And, by-the-by, was it quite prudent of us, on your plan, to cut Mrs.
Dorothea Arden as we have done?"

"Oh, yes; what's the use of an old maid, she can have no sons, you know;
besides, we didn't cut her till Lady Whaleworthy, and Lady Flamborough,
and Lady Shawbridge, and all of them, had called; and then I thought we
could spare such old lumber as Mrs. Dorothea."

"Why, to be sure, as you say, she can have no sons; indeed I never even
heard her speak of a brother or a nephew; and as to her expecting this
Lady Arden that she is always talking about, I am sure its nothing but a
boast."

"Nothing more you may be certain! And then I was afraid my father would
have taken a fancy to her at last, for he was always saying, she was a
fine woman for her years."

"She was very useful however at first," said Grace.

"Oh yes she was, certainly," replied Miss Salter, "but now you know we
don't want her."



                                 CHAPTER V.


Lady Arden, leaning on her son Alfred, her eldest daughter on the other
side, her two younger following, had just entered the ballroom at
Almacks.

The sisters, we have already said, were beautiful. They were all above
the middle height, and finely formed; remarkably fair, with brilliant
complexions, and very beautiful light brown hair.

Jane, the eldest, had her mother's amiable, mild, regular features, and
soft, modest, hazel eyes.

Louisa, the second, much resembled her sister in the form of her
features, except that her mouth was a very little larger, the lips
fuller, and of a more vivid red, and the smile more conscious. Her eyes
were of a grey colour, clear and sparkling; but in their expression
there was too much of triumph, while her very blush had something in it
of the same character; you felt, you knew not why, that it did not arise
altogether from timidity.

Her beauty, however, was perfectly exquisite; there was a rich
luxuriance, a beaming lustre about her whole appearance, which seemed to
gain by contrast with others, whom, while viewed separately, you had
thought as handsome. It was like the undefinable distinction between
the brilliant and its best imitations, most clearly seen when subjected
to the ordeal of comparison.

Madeline, the youngest, had a rounder face than her sisters, the
features not quite so fine, yet lovely in their own perfectly innocent
joyousness; while beautifying dimples accompanied her smiles, and fairy
cupids danced in her laughing eyes.

The sisters always dressed alike: on the present occasion, they all wore
white lace over white satin; the lighter or outer drapery looped up on
one side with a bunch of white roses, mixed with lilies of the valley:
and a few of the same flowers in the hair on the contrary side. A set of
diamonds each, unusually costly for girls, but which, by a whim of their
maternal grandfather, they happened to possess, were their only
ornaments.

Lady Arden had never, since her widowhood, returned to colours; her
invariable costume was black velvet; her diamonds, however, yielded in
magnificence to those of royalty only. So that, what with the faces
being quite new, and the appearance of the group altogether, not
forgetting the handsome Alfred, was such as to excite considerable
attention, even amid an assembly like the present, where youth, beauty,
fashion, and splendour, habitually congregate.

Willoughby was too important a personage to form one of the family
picture. He was in the room, however, having just arrived in attendance
on a party with whom he had dined.

A young lady of remarkable beauty was leaning on his arm. He addressed
her from time to time with great animation; while she appeared to listen
with the most languid indifference. Young Lord Nelthorpe, one of their
nearest neighbours at Arden, now approached our party. Jane had noticed
him for some time, and, on first doing so, had coloured deeply. They had
not met before since their arrival in town. He came up to our party, was
very polite, and even friendly, but not quite as cordial as might have
been expected. He conversed with Lady Arden for a little time. Music
commenced, he made a slight bow, and moving quickly towards a lady at a
little distance, led her to the quadrille. Jane had been so perfectly
certain that he intended to dance with her, that when the music began,
she had instinctively drawn her arm half way from within her mother's.
Her disappointment was bitter, and arose from a feeling much deeper than
the mere loss of a partner for the dance could have excited.

From her earliest childhood she had been in the habit of hearing her own
family speak of Lord Nelthorpe as a very suitable match. As children
together, they had been quite little lovers. Public schools and colleges
had broken off this familiarity of intercourse. He had, however, since
arriving at the age of manhood, often paid her a good deal of attention
in the country, where he had nothing else to do; and in some of the
summer evening walks of the young people, a declaration had more than
once seemed to tremble on his lips; still nothing decided had passed;
and poor Jane's heart had been given away, some couple of years before
she had begun to doubt the sincerity of his attachment, or the certainty
of their future union. And why was Jane mistaken? Because, society being
artificially constituted, the language of nature cannot explain the
motives which govern its members; nor our own feelings, till we too
become sophisticated, teach us to calculate upon those of others.

The attention of Alfred was just at this moment attracted by the
appearance of the younger of two ladies, who were standing at a little
distance. They were evidently, from their striking resemblance, mother
and daughter. The stature of both was rather above the middle height;
that of the elder, from its queen-like carriage, and its being a little
disposed to embonpoint, had a strikingly imposing and majestic effect;
while that of the younger, though perfectly formed and beautifully
rounded, was so delicate in its proportions, and so timid in its air, as
to require comparison to convince the eye that the actual elevation was
the same. The features of both were so regular, that it would be
impossible for the scrutiny of the nicest artist, to discover a defect;
but those of the elder were of a lustrous, conspicuous white, as though
chiseled in Parian marble; those of the younger of a stainless
transparency, as if modelled in the purest wax; the lips only of both
were of a lively red; those of the elder, perhaps, a little too thin,
but boasting the glossy scarlet of the coral; while those of the
younger, full and bewitching in their expression, were of the tender
tint of the rose's ambrosial centre. The hair, eye-brows, and eye-lashes
of both were absolute jet; but while the firm braiding of the elder
lady's tresses betrayed the usual defect of black hair--strength of
texture--the raven ringlets of the younger rivalled the flaxen locks of
childhood in their silken softness. The line of her eye-brow, too, was
the most delicately penciled, and her eye-lashes the longest, or they
seemed so, her eyes being cast down; while those of the elder lady were
raised and fully visible. They were dark, large, and brilliant; but the
supercilious vanity with which they moved slowly round, courting the
universal admiration they drew towards them, without once shrinking from
its glare, made it impossible for their lustre, splendid as it was, to
reach any heart.

Alfred observed an elderly gentleman with whom he was acquainted join
the two ladies, and converse for a time with the air of an old intimate
of the elder. As soon as he quitted them Alfred joined him; and with as
much circumlocution, preparation, and management, as though he had in
view nothing less than the place of prime minister, demanded if he
could venture to introduce him to his fair friends, as a candidate for
the hand of the younger lady for the next quadrille. Nothing could be
easier: Lord Darlingford was intimate with the parties; accordingly, he
presented our hero to Lady Palliser and her daughter, Lady Caroline
Montague.

The eyes of the latter were, at the moment of introduction, of necessity
lifted to Alfred's face. In colour, size, and liquid lustre they
resembled her mother's; but oh, how unlike were they in their mild,
beseeching expression; and in the tremulous movement of the lids; which,
as if weighed down by their sable veil of silken lashes, hastened again
to overshadow them. The transparent cheek too, at the same instant that
the eyes were raised, had been visited by a deep blush; gifting, though
but for a fleeting instant, this beautiful, this almost too unearthly
being with the warm glow of life.

The effect on Alfred of the momentary vision was decisive of his fate.

During the dance, to which this introduction led, the snatches of most
exquisite pleasure experienced by our hero were when, by directly
addressing his partner, he could again induce her to look up. On each
such occasion, the beseeching expression already described, excited,
despite the cooler suggestions of reason, a feeling as though the gentle
appeal were addressed to him in particular. What was there so entreated
that he would not have undertaken? The most difficult feats of ancient
chivalry, nay, the impossibilities of necromancy itself, would have
seemed tasks of easy performance in such a cause! His beautiful partner
said very little; yet, from her general demeanour, and the fluttering
frequency with which her changing colour came and went, it might be
inferred that her reserve was neither that of haughtiness, nor of cold
calculation, but rather an excess of almost painful timidity. This
reserve, however, did not affect her performance of the quadrille, which
was perfect; it was the harmony of motion realized. The absolute
accordance was such that it seemed to be the influence of the musical
sounds on the undulating air, which wafted the light form, "like the
thistle-down floating on the breeze," through each evolution of the
dance. Or when called upon to quit her original position in the
quadrille for a few seconds and again return to it, such was the quiet
grace with which she executed the task, that it seemed as though the
delicate vision, fading away like Scott's White Lady of the Mist, had
but ceased for a moment to be visible, and, in a moment more, again
became palpable to sight.

From time to time she looked at Lady Palliser; not, however, as though
it were there she sought a refuge; for, on the contrary, there was an
indescribable something in the manner of the glance, which conveyed the
idea that her ladyship was the principal object of her daughter's fears.
Yet again, the moment the quadrille was concluded, Lady Caroline
expressed a wish to rejoin her mother. Lady Palliser received our hero
with a coldness that very soon made him feel obliged to take himself
off. At once captivated and mortified, he felt disinclined to dance any
more, and rather disposed to indulge in reveries, while pursuing with
his eyes the form of his new acquaintance through the moving crowd.
Instead, however, of reclining indolently on a sofa, or lounging about
with other men, he devoted himself, in the most amiable manner possible,
to his mother and sisters for the remainder of the evening; and though
they found him somewhat deaf, performed, when they did make him hear,
any little service they required of him with great alacrity.
Notwithstanding which, ere the evening was over, each of his sisters had
severally informed him that he was already in love. Such secrets are
generally discovered by others before they are known to the parties
themselves.

A friend of Lady Arden's, forgetful that her ladyship objected on
principle to all younger sons, _except her own_, had introduced Henry
Lindsey to Louisa. Her exquisite beauty dazzled and delighted him, while
her gratified vanity, at the enthusiasm of his admiration, made her
manner so encouraging, that he believed himself well received, and gave
himself up to hopes and feelings destined to cost him many a bitter
pang.

Lord Darlingford, though a widower and a man, by his own account upwards
of fifty, was much disposed, on the strength of his rank, to be a
serious admirer of Jane Arden. This evening he found himself better
received than usual; he did not deem it necessary to make a fool of
himself by dancing, but was sitting apart with the lady, conversing very
earnestly, and was just beginning to weigh the propriety of availing
himself of so favourable an opportunity for making her an offer of
marriage, when Lord Nelthorpe came up and asked her to dance. The moment
before she had determined, if he did do so at this late period of the
evening, to reject his offer. As soon, however, as he approached, and
preferred his request, her spirited resolve vanished: with one of her
sweetest smiles she rose and took his arm, and in the flurry of her
spirits, forgetting to make even a parting bow to poor Lord Darlingford,
left him sitting alone, looking what he was, quite forsaken, and cursing
himself for an old fool.

Lord Nelthorpe now took pains to be particularly agreeable, and either
from vanity or lingering attachment, was evidently anxious to discover
if he still retained the power he knew he had long possessed over the
feelings of his fair partner. He made allusions to her late companion,
and half jest, half earnest, ventured several whispered comments, almost
amounting to tender reproaches, watching her countenance while he did
so. As he handed her into the carriage, he secretly wished, with
something like a sigh, that he had no brothers and sisters to pay off.
She went home in high spirits.

"I wish, Jane," said Lady Arden, as they drove from the door, "you would
make up your mind to marry Lord Darlingford."

Jane made no reply.



                                 CHAPTER VI.


The next morning Willoughby confided to his brother the determination he
had come to on the last evening, of proposing for Lady Anne Armadale,
the daughter of Lord Selby.

He described with great exultation how much attached the lady had been
to a gentleman of whom her friends disapproved, and whom she was
notwithstanding determined to marry up to the time he had become his
rival; but that he had not been long in driving the former lover from
the field, and securing the preference of the lady.

Alfred, in his anxiety for his brother's happiness, forgot for the
moment his usual dread of offering advice.

"For heaven sake," he said, "Willoughby, pause! Be _quite_ certain that
you have secured her real preference!"

"I _am_ quite certain," said Willoughby, taking up his hat impatiently.

"Nay, do not be hasty either with the lady or with me."

"You think it is impossible for any woman to prefer me, I suppose. I
have, I confess, no pretensions to be an Adonis," he added with a sneer,
for he knew that Alfred was considered remarkably handsome; "at the same
time all people's taste are fortunately not alike!"

"Nay, my dear Willoughby, do not be childish! Is it not wiser to use a
little caution? Have you no fear of finding yourself, when too late, the
husband of a woman capable of sacrificing her feelings to her interest?"

Willoughby abruptly quitted the room. He went directly to Lord Selby's,
and in less than an hour had proposed for, and been accepted by Lady
Anne Armadale.

Unhappily for Willoughby, the slender share of sense he possessed was
not only at all times hoodwinked by vanity, but in general superseded in
its operations by temper. For if any friend happened to offer him the
slightest advice, so jealous was he of having it supposed his judgment
required assistance, that, without waiting to consider if any offence
was intended, he would feel perhaps but a momentary resentment, yet,
while under its dominion, as the readiest and most appropriate revenge,
would resolve hastily on an opposite line of conduct to that suggested
by his adviser; and having once so resolved, obstinacy would put its
seal on a determination which in fact had never been examined by his
understanding, while had there been no interference, he would at least
have considered the subject, and might, possibly, have come to a just
conclusion.

A man of a decidedly superior mind, on the contrary, having no private
misgivings respecting his own capacity, is always well pleased to take
under consideration any new views of a subject, which the suggestions of
a friend, or indeed of any one, may present. It is of course his own
judgment which finally decides, but like a just judge, after first
hearing every witness, that is to say every argument which can be
brought to bear upon the subject. Acuteness in prejudging is the boast
of the fool. Discrimination to give its due weight to every part of the
evidence, the privilege of the man of sense. The fool is always telling
you he can see with half an eye. We would request such persons to employ
in future the whole of both orbs, and possibly with a vision so
extraordinary, they might be enabled to pierce even to the bottom of
that far-famed well, in which it is said that truth has hitherto lain
hid from the researches of mankind.

Certainly no claim to merit or distinction can be more absurd than that
which is founded on the wilfully limited means employed for producing
the desired end.

Excellence, to challenge admiration, should be excellence in the
abstract; while he who would be even a respectable candidate for the
prize, should use every power that Providence has given to man, avail
himself of every ray of light that the experience of past ages has
elicited, and bringing all to a focus, pour the concentrated beam on the
path to be explored.

Thus only can each generation hope to gain some step on the road towards
perfection unattained by its predecessor.



                                 CHAPTER VII.


Gloucester Villa, the residence of Mr. Salter, at Cheltenham, was in a
state of high preparation for a dinner to be given to Lady Flamborough.

Mrs. Johnson had no leisure to assist the _young_ ladies to dress, they
were therefore left to perform that office for each other.

"By-the-by, I have been so much hurried, I forgot to tell you," said
Grace, "but Lady Arden is now really coming: Mrs. Dorothea's maid has
been telling Johnson all about it."

"Oh, I dare say it's just talk as usual," said Miss Salter.

"No, no, it's quite certain now," persisted her sister, "for Violet Bank
is taken for her ladyship for six months certain, and the adjoining
villa, Jessamine Bower, for another titled lady; and I daresay they'll
be acquainted, so you see what we've lost!"

"Well, that is really provoking!" exclaimed Miss Salter. "I wonder would
there be any use in sending her an invitation for this evening?"

"Sending who an invitation?" said Grace. "Mrs. Dorothea do you mean? Oh,
quite ridiculous at this late hour; and after leaving her out of the
ball too!"

"I know all that," replied Miss Salter; "but let me see, I'll write her
a long apology about having sent a card for our ball to her old lodging
in mistake! and for the short notice I'll say, that I know she likes
friendly invitations better than formal ones, and that our party this
evening is to be so particularly select, just what I know she likes; and
then I'll give a list of the titles, and that I think will decide her,
even if she does see through the excuses."

Accordingly Miss Salter, in great triumph at her own diplomatic
abilities, wrote and dispatched her note.

"After all," she added, as she resumed her toilette, "these are
sorrowful rejoicings for us, for I suppose with this fine lady coming to
dinner, and being so gracious, and all that, she means to marry my
father; and if she does, though to be sure it'ill bring fine
acquaintance, I suppose, but will it bring us husbands?--on the
contrary, if it gets abroad that we're not to have a shilling--"

"We'll have but a poor chance, I'm afraid," interrupted Grace.

"But I'll tell you what I have done to endeavour to obviate that," said
her sister; "I have been telling Johnson, and I have told her too that
she may tell it where she pleases, for it's no harm that the truth
should be known, that our mother's fortune was a hundred thousand
pounds, and was so settled upon us that my father can't keep it from us;
and she has begun already with Sir William Orm's man, and he has told
his master, and Sir William is full of it; so we shall see how he
behaves to-day."

"But what a shocking lie!" said Grace.

"Lie! Nonsense!" replied her sister, "Who tells the truth, I'd be glad
to know?"

Here the answer to the note interrupted the conversation. It was of
course a formal apology. Mrs. Dorothea had not been at a loss to see
through the motives of her _friends_ the Salters.

The _young_ ladies now descended to the drawing-room, where Mr. Salter
was already standing at a window, in high dress; with the bright white,
angular points of a fresh put on collar, contrasting finely with the
shining ruby of his cheeks. A carriage with a coronet drove up to the
door; bless me, how fine! thought the Misses Salter; it was almost
enough to reconcile their father's marrying again.

Lady Flamborough was announced. Her ladyship entered; her round, fat,
rosy face, smiling in a round wreath of red roses. Her dress, a colour
de rose satin, her ornaments, necklace and earrings of pink topaz.

The broad daylight, or rather sunshine, of the first day in May, in
weather unusually fine, and even hot for the season, in a three
windowed, south-west drawing room, at six o'clock, did ample justice to
the glow of her ladyship's appearance, which nothing less than the
entrance, immediately after, of Lady Whaleworthy, in a crimson velvet,
could have at all subdued.

Lady Shawbridge arrived next. Her dress was a gold coloured velvet, and
gold tissue turban, the wide circumference of which displayed the fiery
countenance hinted at by Mrs. Dorothea to great advantage. Indeed the
whole assembly was of a fiery order; although being, as we have said,
hot weather, there was no occasion for fire. But the very furniture of
the room, unluckily for the day and aspect, was crimson, while in
addition to the red and reddish countenances already enumerated, Miss
Salter's face, on all warm occasions like the present, was much too apt
to emulate the glow of her father's. While even poor Miss Grace, though
in general, from hardness and thinness, a chilly object, was subject
with peculiar provocation, to a dullish red knob, like a winter cherry,
just at the end of her nose.

The rest of the party having arrived, and among them Sir William Orm,
Sir James Lindsey, Sir Francis Brierton, and the general, dinner was
announced. Mr. Salter gave his arm to Lady Flamborough, and leading the
way, was followed by the rest of the company, to the dining-room; which,
having the same aspect as the drawing-room, and being, besides over the
kitchen, was by no means calculated to cool the already heated guests.
The two turtles, we mean Mr. Salter and Lady Flamborough, every way so
well _entitled_ to the _title_, being in their forms turtles, and in
their present dispositions towards each other turtle doves, took their
loving seats side by side, opposite to the turtle-soup, at the head of
the table. (Men who have no wives of course head their own tables.)

The dinner having been entirely provided at so much a-head, by a
pastrycook, who was to remove its remains, was of course only too good,
we mean too fine, too much ornamented, too technical; in fact the
display of each course resembled more a confectioner's counter than a
gentleman's table. Every thing, in short, was so befrosted, and so
beglazed, that if one had been at all absent, one might have put one's
hand in one's pocket, and asked what was to pay.

It is an acknowledged fact, that to act the gentleman is impossible. It
is equally impossible for people, though possessed of the purse of
Fortunatus, to ape successfully, on special occasions, a style of living
not habitual to them.

We hope we have not cooled the turtle-soup by our digression. Poor Mr.
Salter, instead of quietly conveying ladles of soup to soup-plates, till
the demand ceased, was most unnecessarily prolonging his own labours,
and delaying the progress of the feast, by deliberately inquiring of
every several member of the assembly by name, if they chose turtle-soup,
and poising the while, his insignia of office over the tureen, till
their ear caught the question and his the reply.

By the time similar rites had been performed over every steaming remove,
it may be believed that the countenance of our host had lost nothing of
its brilliancy. During the dessert he had more leisure to turn its
lustre, adorned with smiles, on his fair companion; whose uplifted eyes
languishingly met his, till there wanted but the pipe to make the pair
an excellent study for a painter of the Dutch school. The attitude too,
leaning back at their ease in their chairs, so favourably displayed
their forms, that the couple in this particular very much resembled a
_pair of globes_; though we must confess that, except in courtesy to the
lady, we should not have been disposed to designate either the
celestial.

Sir William Orm, who had handed in Miss Salter, was descanting with
much feeling on the interested motives which governed the matrimonial
views of but too many men in the world, and declaring that such must
ever be secondary considerations with him. Miss Salter confessed that
amiable sentiments like his were very rare now a days, and consequently
the more to be admired. On the opposite side, Sir James Lindsey was
giggling with silly self-satisfaction, as he sat receiving the assiduous
attentions and pointed compliments of Miss Grace. While Lady Shawbridge
was remarking aside to Sir Matthias Whaleworthy, that Lady Flamborough's
youthful airs were quite disgusting; and Sir Matthias in return, made
some comments on Mr. Salter's dancing, which sounded very ungrateful,
proceeding from lips which had just finished a _second_ plate of the
man's turtle-soup.

Lady Whaleworthy, good soul, was telling Sir Henry Shawbridge one of the
long stories about herself, her father and mother, brothers and sisters,
husband, children, and servants, which she inflicted on all who had the
misfortune to sit near, and the patience to listen to her.

Ere the ladies left the dining-room, the now completely enamoured Mr.
Salter had determined, that in the course of the evening he would take a
sly opportunity of making Lady Flamborough an offer of his heart and
hand. Alas! how vain are human resolves, when we know not what an hour
or at most an hour and a half may bring forth; for it could not have
exceeded that time, when the gentlemen followed the ladies to the
drawing-room, and yet Mr. Salter's visual organs by some process,
possibly connected with a certain series of toasts, which despite of
fashion, he might have felt it his duty to propose, had in that short
period undergone such an extraordinary change, that when he approached
what ought to have been the _sole_ object of his affections, he beheld
as it were two Lady Flamboroughs, sitting, or rather attempting to sit,
on the same chair! He gazed in utter amazement, and strove to
concentrate the powers of sight: for a second the mysterious vision
amalgamated, and was but one! again, however, it glided asunder, and
became two! nor did this happen but once, so as to leave any room for
doubt or mistake, on the contrary, while our astonished host still stood
staring, the extraordinary process was frequently repeated. Nay, once,
as lured by the smiles of the fair shadow nearest him, he ventured to
address some complimentary remark to its ear in particular, it slid away
as if for refuge behind its representative, and immediately after popped
in view on the other side!

Whether it is that supernatural appearances have a tendency to awe the
passions into stillness, or whether this glaring infringement on the
classical laws of unity, by dividing, destroyed the interest; or whether
possibly, some vague dread of being betrayed unconsciously into the sin
of bigamy, might have presented itself to the imagination of Mr. Salter,
we have not philosophical lore nor critical acumen sufficient to decide;
we can only speak to the effect, which was, that Mr. Salter, instead of
finding with this double provocation a double share of love inundating
his heart and overflowing his lips, was struck perfectly mute, and
continued so for the remainder of the evening.

So much for lovers continuing their libations at Bacchus' shrine until
they see double.



                                 CHAPTER VIII.


"Well, there is nothing like getting into _select_ society after all!"
said Miss Salter to her sister, when they had retired for the night.
"Who would have thought, six months ago, of both of us having baronets
for lovers? I dare say you are right, Grace, and that this marriage of
my father's (for I suppose now it will take place), is the best thing
that could have happened for us. And I know, I'm determined when I'm
married to Sir William Orm (and he has gone great lengths, I assure
you), that I will visit none but titled people. And tell me, how did
you and Sir James get on?"

"Oh, delightfully!" answered her sister, "he asked me if I thought him
very handsome; and of course I said I did; and then he laughed so. And
then he asked me if I thought the silk of his waistcoat a pretty
pattern; and I said I did; and he told me a lady chose it for him. And
he asked me if I was inclined to be jealous; and I said if I thought he
had any regard for me, I'd be jealous of every lady that looked at him;
and he said, 'would you indeed?' and laughed again. And he asked me if I
admired his dancing as much as most people did, for that he was thought
a first rate dancer; and I said that nobody could help admiring his
dancing. And he asked me if I could think what in the world it was that
made so many young ladies refuse to dance with him; and I said it was,
to be sure, because he danced so well that they were afraid it would
make their own bad dancing the more noticed. 'And do you really think
so?' said he, laughing again. And so, at last, only think! he asked me
if I'd like very much to be my lady! and I said I should of all things.
And so then he laughed, and said he could make any body a lady he
chose."

"And I hope you said you wished he'd make you one," interrupted her
sister.

"Why I thought of it," replied Miss Grace, "but I was afraid people
would hear me; if we had been quite by ourselves, I would have said it."

"What nonsense!" exclaimed Miss Salter. "If you can get to be my lady,
and have fifteen thousand a-year at your command, I think you can
afford to defy people's comments about how you came by it! You said, the
other day, that if luck knocked once at your door, it shouldn't have to
knock twice. I'm sure it knocked then, with a vengeance, and such a
knock as comes to the doors of but few, I can tell you; and you the fool
not to answer it. It's such as you'll never hear again, with your little
ugly black-a-moor face. And when you had the good fortune to get hold of
a fool that didn't know the difference, if you dosed his draught with
flattery enough, you should have said or done anything to please him,
blockhead that you are."

"You needn't be so abusive, Eliza," said poor Grace, almost whimpering,
"I'm sure I thought I was barefaced enough, this time, to please you."

"Such stuff, with your mock modesty," interrupted Miss Salter.

"And as for a black face, it's as good as a red one, any day," continued
Grace, "and rather _genteeler_ for that matter," she added, "since
you're grown so mighty fond of gentility."

Miss Salter's rage now knew no bounds, and consequently became so coarse
and disgusting in its manifestation, that we shall forbear any further
representation of the scene.

Vulgar people are bad enough in good humour. Propitious fate deliver us
from them when they are out of temper!

Before proceeding further with our history, we may as well take the
present opportunity of sketching slightly the origin of this same titled
personage, by a connection with whom the Misses Salter expected to gain
so much consequence. Lady Flamborough was the only child of an
hotel-keeper, who, in his hospitable calling, had amassed enormous
wealth. He had not always, however, been the great man, even in his own
line, which he ultimately became. His daughter, therefore, to the age of
five or six, was brought up, literally running about in a very minor
establishment, little better, in short, than a road-side posting-house;
and, being a pretty, rosy, fat child, had, up to that age, been the pet
and plaything, not only of her father, (she had no mother living), but
of every waiter and hostler in and about the house. And often had she
sat on her father's knee, while he drank his ale in the bar, and, when
the jest and the tale went round, which were, as yet, to the ear of the
child, a foreign tongue, laughed merrily for very glee at seeing others
laugh. But alas! amid the sounds and sights of scenes like these, native
delicacy, even at this early age, was lost. For callousness is not so
much a wrong bias given, as a class of feelings, out of which some of
the most valuable traits of character are hereafter to be formed,
destroyed; and if the material be gone, how can the superstructure be
raised?

The child was, after this, sent to expensive boarding-schools, and as
her father's fortunes rose, given every possible accomplishment. In
these, and her being very pretty, Mr. * * * *, afterwards Lord
Flamborough, but then a younger brother, and of course poor, found some
apology for overlooking the lady's want of birth, and appropriating her
immense wealth, which was his true object.

Soon after his marriage, his brother died, and he succeeded to the title
and estates; and now, bitterly repenting his ill-assorted union,
behaved with neglect, and even contempt, towards his wife. Upon which
the lady, partly out of revenge, and partly out of levity, gave a
favourable reception to the addresses of a lover in no very exalted
sphere of life.

Proceedings were immediately instituted to obtain legal redress; but
before the divorce had passed the house, his lordship, who had
previously been in a bad state of health, chanced to die.

Lady Flamborough, therefore, though of course banished from all tolerable
society, still continued to be Lady Flamborough, and to enjoy a handsome
jointure. On her total expulsion from the set among whom her marriage
had, for a time, given her a place, she descended till she found her
level among that, rationally speaking, only disreputable class, made up
of those who have lost caste by their own wilful departures from
principle, and those who are contemptible enough to be willing to
associate with vice, for the love of the _tarnished tinsel_ which once
was rank; forgetful that titles and honours were first invented as
badges of the virtuous or heroic deeds of those on whom they were
bestowed; that only as such they have any meaning; and that, when borne
by the vicious, they become, in a peculiar degree, objects for the
finger of scorn to point at, and seem to claim, as their especial
privilege, the contempt and derision of mankind.

  "'Tis phrase absurd to call a villain great."

Titles are attainted for high treason, why should they not be so for
every treason against good morals? Are not good morals as essential to
the well-being of the community as good Government?

Nay, what is Government? Power to enforce moral order. Why then should
not a sin against the end be visited as severely as a sin against the
means?

Are men, whose vices invade the peace of the domestic hearth, and sunder
the sacred ties of life,--or men who court luxury in foreign climes,
while evading the payment of their just debts at home; consigning the
while industrious tradesmen and their helpless families to ruin;--are
men, in short, who are no longer men of honour, to be still misnamed
_noble men_? Is it not the natural tendency of such misnomers to bring
nobility into contempt? And is not this an injustice to the truly
_noble_?

Are the vicious to be allowed to sully honours till the honourable
cannot wear them?

Nobility would indeed be beautiful were it a guarantee of virtue! titles
would indeed be honours, if the men who bore them must be pure! And if
the certainty that those titles for ages had existed in that family,
were thus an assurance that morality for centuries had not been sinned
against in that house, then indeed, would rank be nobility. Let us not
be misunderstood: let us not be supposed to mean that men of rank are
more likely to offend against the laws of morality than other men; on
the contrary, education and circumstances ought to render them less so:
we simply assert, that when they do so offend, such offence ought to
degrade them from their rank as _noble men_.

How glorious would be that land that first enacted such a law! how
worthy its monarch of that greatest of his titles, "Defender of the
Faith!" For what is this faith? Religion! and the author of Religion has
defined it thus:

"True religion and undefiled, before God and the Father is this: to
visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and keep himself
unspotted from the world."



                                 CHAPTER IX.


Mrs. Dorothea had been so busy all day, changing her lodgings again,
that she had hardly had time to ask Sarah a word about the Salters'
dinner-party.

On this occasion, however, we must remark, that she had moved to a
furnished house, not to a mere lodging; for she was determined to make
an exertion, while the Ardens were in Cheltenham, live how she might the
rest of the year, having a great horror of living like a poor relation.

Most people have a particular objection to seeming to be what they
really are.

Indeed Lady Arden had written most kindly to Mrs. Dorothea, inviting her
to spend the time they should be at Cheltenham with them. Had the
expense of a house or lodging been no object to Aunt Dorothea, she would
gladly have availed herself of this invitation for the pleasure of the
thing; but the arrangement would have been so very convenient, that her
_pride_ took the alarm, and would not suffer her to accept the offer. In
her father's life time, as a daughter of the then head of the family,
she had acquired notions of her own consequence, which became a painful
incumbrance from the moment her circumstances underwent that violent
revolution to which those of the daughters of the proudest and most
ancient families are peculiarly liable.

_Pride_ in any situation is a moral disease, which it would be highly
desirable to see for ever banished from the world! but _pride_, when
complicated with poverty, is apt to render the unhappy sufferer not only
always very uncomfortable, but often very ridiculous. Added to which, it
must ever be impossible for the heart that harbours _pride_ to know
contentment.

At present, however, Mrs. Dorothea was quite delighted. The house she
had taken for six months certain for Lady Arden, though designated by
the rural title of Violet Bank, was a splendid mansion. The one she had
taken for herself for the same period, was both pretty and agreeably
situated; it was accommodated with a cook, or maid of all work, who was
taken with it as a part of the furniture. Mrs. Dorothea had also hired a
footman for the great occasion, and put him into livery; so that with
Sarah, her own maid, she had now, for a single lady, quite a respectable
little establishment, and could look forward to returning the evening
entertainments, at least of her relations, on something of an
independent footing. Dinners of course she could not give, nor need she
accept them; she did not care what she eat. She certainly liked the best
society, and that she should now have, without laying herself under
obligations to any one. For, much as she liked Lady Arden, (one whom no
one could help liking, she was so truly amiable,) she could not forget
that her ladyship was a stranger in blood, from whom, consequently, an
_Arden_ could not receive even a courtesy without requital.

Mrs. Dorothea was so glad too, as she told Sarah, while she stood in the
centre of her new drawing-room, looking round her, to get out of that
horrid place where she had been for the last two months, sitting every
evening on those tiresome little chairs, for, as Sarah had prophesied,
her landlady had never given her the sofa, nor put the drops to the
chimney-light, nor even got a key for the chiffonier. Then, the woman of
the house could not or would not afford a decent servant, so that the
cooking was shocking, and the attendance wretched; and then the oven of
the bakehouse next door she found out at last was just on the other side
of the one brick thin wall, against which her bed stood, so that she had
been nearly baked to death, and had been losing her health without
knowing why. To be sure the carpet looked respectable, but then the
lodging had no other recommendation, as in addition to its many
discomforts, it had proved one way or other very expensive; for
mistaking the heat and restlessness she felt at nights for the
consequences of the lassitude and want of appetite of which they were in
fact the cause; she had got frightened about herself, and had called in
doctor after doctor, and taken ever so much medicine in vain, till at
last happening to go in next door to correct an error in her baker's
bill, in which she had been charged with all the bread supplied to her
landlady, she became acquainted with the geography of the premises, and
so discovered the whole mystery. Then being without a key to the
chiffonier too, made a great difference in the groceries, though having
no proof of the fact, it would not do to say so. This might have brought
down the lawyers upon her; then indeed would the cup of her afflictions
have been full. Poor Aunt Dorothea felt almost restored to the days of
her youth by the comparative comforts which now surrounded her. She
moved into her regular dining-room when her dinner was ready, and was
there decently and respectfully attended by her own footman in livery.
There was a sideboard, and her few articles of plate were arranged upon
it, and things looked orderly and comfortable; it was enough to give one
an appetite, and made her boiled chicken and quarter of a hundred of
asparagus seem a dinner for an emperor. Instead of dining in the
comfortless scramble she used to do, in her haste to send the tray out
of the drawing-room lest some one should come in, she now ate as slowly
as possible to prolong the gratifying sense of dignity which accompanied
the ceremony.

The very next day the Misses Salter had the impudence to call, and the
new footman not being in the family secrets, admitted them.

On their entrance Aunt Dorothea looked her astonishment with great
dignity.

"What a sweet situation," exclaimed Miss Salter.

"What a charming house," said Miss Grace. Mrs. Dorothea bowed.

"How fortunate we were in finding you at home," said Miss Salter.

"Oh, yes, very fortunate indeed!" added Miss Grace. Mrs. Dorothea bowed
again.

"How sorry we were you could not come to us last night," said Miss
Salter, "we had such a _select_ party, just what you would have liked."

"Yes, just what you would have liked," echoed Miss Grace.

"I hope we shall be more fortunate the next time," said Miss Salter. "We
shall have a great many of those agreeable _select_ parties just now.
Our _particular friend_, Lady Flamborough, you see, and our _particular
friend_, Lady Whaleworthy, and our _particular friend_, Lady Shawbridge,
and all that pleasant set being here just now, naturally induces one to
see a great deal of company. Then there are such delightful young men
here at present, and that you know always makes parties pleasant,
there's _our friend_, Sir William Orm, _such_ an elegant fashionable
young man."

"And Sir James Lindsey," observed Miss Grace, "an old baronet, with
fifteen thousand a-year."

"Yes," said Miss Salter, "such an agreeable good tempered little man, so
affable and unassuming. And there is General Powel too, in short we
quite abound in _nice young_ men. And I hope," added Miss Salter, with
an air of great friendship, "that we shall soon and often have the
pleasure of seeing you, Mrs. Arden."

"You are very obliging," replied Mrs. Dorothea, bowing gravely, "but my
arrangements will for some considerable time be controlled entirely by
those of my sister, Lady Arden, and her family, with whom I shall
consider myself engaged, either at home or abroad, every day during
their stay."

"So you expect Lady Arden," said Miss Salter, with well affected
surprise. "Dear me, I'm sure we should be most happy to pay attention to
any friend of yours."

"You are very obliging," observed Mrs. Dorothea, with if possible
increasing stiffness, "but Lady Arden does not mean to extend her
acquaintance."

The discomforted Misses Salter finding lingering and last words useless,
at length took their departure.

The Ardens dined on the road, but arrived in time to take tea with Aunt
Dorothea. The weather was beautiful; the rural appearance of the little
villa, situated among the plantations and pleasure grounds of the public
walks, its own miniature lawn and veranda, adorned with flowers and
flowering shrubs, and garlanded with roses as if for a festival, the
fine trees of the Old-Well-Walk in view, and bands of music, as if hid
in every grove, sending forth on each breeze some strain of melody, all
seemed delightful and refreshing to people just escaped from the heat
and fatigue of London. While the large and joyous looking family party,
some seated within the open glass door, some standing in the veranda,
some straying on the fresh mown turf of the little lawn, formed a
picture of social felicity quite delightful to the usually solitary Aunt
Dorothea; to whom the idea of the party being not only her near
relatives, but also her guests, was altogether so pleasing that she had
not been as happy for many years. To her kind heart must be ascribed the
chief of the pleasure she experienced; if, however, there was a slight
admixture of gratified vanity we cannot be surprised, when we consider
that a pretty comfortable house of her own, in which to receive her
friends, was to her so great a novelty.



                                 CHAPTER X.


So fond is youth of novelty, that Alfred and his sisters, though fresh
from all the gaieties a London season has to offer, were quite
impatient, the very morning after their arrival, to visit the public
walks, of which they had had peeps the evening before from Aunt
Dorothea's veranda. They had been told that about seven was the hour.
Accordingly, as it was a fine sunny morning, the girls were all up soon
after six. They had been told too, that notwithstanding the hour, it was
usual to be extremely fine; but for this their habits of good taste
were too inveterate; they equipped themselves therefore in quite close
bonnets, and having roused and enlisted the goodnatured Alfred, set off
for Mrs. Dorothea's, Lady Arden having by an arrangement of the evening
before, committed the young people to the charge of their aunt, knowing
that she should be too much fatigued herself after her journey to rise
so early.

Aunt Dorothea was quite ready. She was too happy in feeling herself
necessary to her nieces, too happy in having the charge of them, too
justly proud of them, proud of their beauty, and all their many
attractions and recommendations, to feel anything like laziness, this
first morning that she was to show, not only the walks to them, but them
to the walks.

Thither then they proceeded immediately, guided through each shady
maze, as in the play called _Magic Music_, in which the sounds become
louder to denote nearness to the object of pursuit. So did the swelling
notes of the band grow on the ear as they approached the immediate spot,
which it is fashion's whim to throng as closely as any crowded
assembly-room, while all around is comparative solitude.

Here all-kind Aunt Dorothea's proud anticipations were fully answered by
the sensation her nieces produced; every eye was turned towards them,
and in ten minutes after their first appearance all the company who sat
on the benches on either side the walk had asked each other who they
were; the mammas who had daughters, and the _young_ ladies who were _not
young_, decided that they were not the style of beauty they admired,
while the very young girls and all the men, had pronounced them the
loveliest creatures they had ever beheld. As for the mothers who had
sons, they prudently suspended their judgments till they should hear
what fortunes the Miss Ardens were likely to have.

Our party were joined instantly by Henry Lindsey. He had ascertained
their movements from themselves, and quitted town when they did to be in
Cheltenham before them. He was at Louisa's side in a moment, and was
received with a blush and a smile which, though produced in part at
least by gratified vanity, seemed to his generous nature all he could
desire of encouragement. He was of course introduced to Aunt Dorothea,
who, until she found out that he was a younger brother, was quite
delighted with him.

The Arden party now took advantage of vacant seats which presented
themselves, and for a time became in their turn spectators of the moving
crowd.

Soon after which, announced by noise, and with many coloured streamers
flying, the fleet of the Salters, and their _select_ friends hove in
sight.

There was in the first place Mr. Salter, with a white hat on, which duly
set off by contrast, that true secret for producing effect, a
countenance, the hue of which we flatter ourselves we need not again
describe. Lady Flamborough embellished his arm; her head thrown back,
and adorned by a pink crape hat and feathers, her eyes raised, and
practising their most becoming roll, her complexion heightened by the
heat of the weather and the long walk up through the Sherbourn. Not
that her dress was oppressive, on the contrary, it was light enough in
all conscience, consisting of the softest India muslin, trimmed with
superfine Mechlin lace, and ornamented at the neck, and at the wrists
round the top, and round the bottom, down the sleeves, and down the
front, with ties, bows, and ends innumerable, of pink ribbon, while a
broad long sash of the same encircled the waist, tied behind in
dancing-school fashion. The dress was made nearly as low round the bust
as a dinner costume, while what shelter there was to compensate for this
was derived from the long pendant white gauze-ribbon strings, and deep
blond-lace edge of the hat, with merely a slight pink gauze-scarf,
scarcely wider or longer than the said strings.

The next in the line (as it approached crossing the walk abreast), was
Lady Whaleworthy, defying hot weather and sunshine in a crimson velvet
pelisse. It was a thing which, as she told her own maid when putting it
on, had cost too much money to be ever either out of season or out of
fashion: it was only your dabs of things which every body could have
that were sure to go out again before you could turn yourself round in
them, so that there was no saving in the end. "I always _tells_ Sir
Matthias that a right good article, cost what it will at the first, is
sure to be the cheapest in the long run."

Poor Lady Whaleworthy! a crimson-velvet pelisse had been the dream of
her youth when she did not think she should ever possess such a
treasure! and still such the hold of early impressions in a
crimson-velvet pelisse was concentrated her ladyship's notions of the
_ne plus ultra_ of magnificence. Next came little Sir James,
fantastically fine, with a lilac figured silk waistcoat, as many gold
chains as a lady, and a glaring brooch, the gift of Miss Grace Salter,
and taken for the purpose of being so bestowed from her own dress, and
with her own brown hands transferred to the breast of his
open-work-fronted and diamond buttoned inner garment; while the little
man, during the whole performance of the flattering operation, had
laughed almost hysterically.

Three titles were very well to muster for a morning walk; so next came
the Misses Salter themselves. They never dressed alike, having each
their own notion of the colours that became them. In shape, however,
both their hats had been made by the same pattern, borrowed for the
purpose from Lady Flamborough's. Miss Salter's was of yellow crape, Sir
William Orm having been his own jockey at a late race, and rode in a
yellow jacket; while Miss Grace's, in compliment to Sir James's
waistcoat was lilac; both, of course, flaunted with feathers, blond, and
streaming strings, and had artificial flowers stuck in the inside. Nor
had such a show of beauty and fashion been a mere lucky hit; the Misses
Salter, on quitting Mrs. Dorothea's, had fully weighed the subject, and
resolved to show the Ardens, who might else be prejudiced against them,
that they were not people to be looked down upon; they had gone to
infinite pains in making their arrangements.

Alas! little did they think that this very morning was marked in the
book of fate to cost them both their lovers: they, too, who had none to
spare. But unhappily ladies so situated are so fond of showing off a
supposed conquest--so fond of being suspected of being about to be
married, that in their haste to be congratulated, they too often cast
away all cause for gratulation; and by the noise they raise themselves,
put a man on his guard before he is above half caught, whom they might
perhaps have secured, had they been satisfied to delay their triumph,
and keep him nodding at the home fireside till they had quietly netted
him round. We speak of course only of ladies in _distress_, like the
Misses Salter. The lovely sisters of Arden, on the contrary, so far from
being under the necessity of laying snares for lovers, found them at
their feet wherever they went; the only difficulty was to select from
among them such as might both please themselves, and come up to their
mamma's and brother's ideas of matches suitable to their family
consequence. We left our party seated on one of the benches, which, as
we have already stated, were ranged on either side this favourite
portion of the walk. The eye of Sir James, as he passed with the
Salters, was instantly caught by the extreme loveliness of the beautiful
sisters. For the poor little man, though he had neither sense nor
judgment to direct him in the formation of any thing approaching to an
opinion, was not without some of the natural elements of taste, and was
especially a great admirer of beauty: it dazzled and delighted him, as
new and splendid toys would a child; and it was much that he had been
taught to say, like the good child, "I'll only look!" for he would often
stand with his hands behind his back, as if the attitude were intended
to keep them out of the way of temptation, and to stare at strangers
whose appearance happened to strike him, till people would be first
offended, and finally guess the truth, that poor Sir James was silly.

On the present occasion, seeing his brother with the party which had
drawn his attention, he joined him instantly; and even while speaking to
him, as well as for some time after, eagerly passed his eyes again and
again along the row of ladies, till they were finally fixed by the
peculiar lustre of Louisa's beauty.

Henry now introduced his brother, and the party rose to renew their
walk. Sir James attached himself to them entirely, and contrived, too,
to make a good position next to Louisa, whose appetite for admiration
was so insatiable, that even his was acceptable. While the whole party
were so goodnatured, so agreeable, and so much amused; yet so much too
well bred to show it in the rude and flagrant manner indulged in by too
many towards those labouring under natural infirmities, that poor Sir
James was perfectly delighted, and felt as if he was among the most
charming, kind, agreeable people in the whole world.

The Misses Salter had in the mean time made several attempts to bow to
Mrs. Dorothea; but that lady always took care to be so much occupied
with other people, as to make it impossible for them to catch her eye.
She however noticed their proceedings; and observing that some time
after the desertion of Sir James, Sir William Orm arrived and joined
them, she laid her plans accordingly. Sir William would not do to
introduce to her nieces, but he should nevertheless desert Miss Salter.

The walk now began to thin; on which the Arden party, having invited Sir
James and Henry Lindsey home with them to breakfast, an invitation very
usual on the Cheltenham promenade, took the path which led to their own
villa.



                                 CHAPTER XI.


When breakfast was over, and the gentlemen had taken their departure,
Louisa was amazingly laughed at by her sisters about her new lover.

He was mimicked and ridiculed in every possible way; walk, air, manner,
voice, modes of expression, ways of looking, &c. &c.; till the girls had
perfectly fatigued themselves with laughing.

We have heard it said, that it was a service of danger for any man to
become the admirer of one of a large family; for that, let him be ever
so successful in talking the lady of his choice into love, she was sure
the moment he absented himself to be laughed out of it again by her
sisters. It is no wonder, then, that poor Sir James did not escape. Lady
Arden, however, and Mrs. Dorothea came from time to time to the rescue
of the little baronet's memory.

"Heedless creatures!" said Aunt Dorothea, "how little thought you give
to the future!"

"I only hope he may be serious, and really propose for Louisa," said
Lady Arden; "and if he should, I trust she will have the sense to pause
before she rejects so advantageous an offer."

"But then, mamma, is he not a fool?" asked Louisa.

"Why no, my dear, not exactly that. Indeed, I know a great many
ill-tempered, reserved sort of men, without a grain more sense, who pass
for Solomons! He is a vain little man, certainly; and perhaps too
goodnatured. But then, only consider what a vastly _eligible_
establishment it would be: you would have rank yourself, and be at once
restored to the wealth and station lost to you all by the death of your
father; and what, my dear, is still more important, you would be rescued
_in time_ from the comparative poverty, and consequent obscurity into
which you must ultimately sink, if you survive me unmarried."

What dilemmas so humiliating as those to which _Pride_ reduces its
votaries!

Lady Arden, by nature amiable, affectionate, and high-minded; but by
education tainted with false pride, thus stooped to the very depth of
meanness, unconscious of degradation; and sacrificed her purest feelings
to the supposed necessity of securing to her daughters that artificial
station in life which a system of unjust monopoly had for a time given
them, and of which the same system had again deprived them.

Artificial positions in society, like unnatural attitudes of the body,
cannot be long persisted in without pain and weariness. Where is the
dignity of human nature? Forgotten! for were it remembered, the beggar,
when educated, might share it with us; and at this false pride takes
alarm! And, therefore, do we leave man out of the account, and worship
idols of silver and idols of gold, and titles made of the breath of our
own lips.

  "From _Pride_ our very reasoning springs."

Louisa had nothing to say against such unanswerable arguments as those
Lady Arden had used; but she thought of Henry Lindsey, and could not
help wishing that he had been the elder brother, or, at least, that the
fortune had been divided: even seven thousand five hundred with him
would have been better, she could not help thinking, than the whole
fifteen thousand with Sir James.

"It is always desirable," continued Lady Arden, "that a girl should
marry in the same station as her father; but it is not always
practicable, particularly if she is a daughter of the elder branch; for
no family can have more than one elder son, while many may have half a
dozen daughters, no one of whom ought, in common prudence, to marry a
younger brother!!"

"Nay," said Alfred, "is not this sufficient to show how absurdly
society is constituted? What is to become, then, of five out of every
six daughters, and all the younger sons in the world? What is to become
of my hapless self, for instance?"

"We must hope, my dear, that you may be fortunate, and meet with an
heiress."

"But consider, ma'am, how few heiresses there are. Parliament ought to
make a new batch every session. It would, however, be of no use to me if
they did," he added, despondingly, "for heiresses, of course, consider
themselves entitled to marry, not only elder sons, but noblemen. I have
often thought what is to become of me, if I should ever have the
misfortune to fall in love."

"You did, I think, fall half in love one evening in town," said Jane.

"And, by-the-by," observed Lady Arden, "Lady Caroline Montague is an
heiress."

Alfred coloured, and rising, sauntered towards a window as he replied,
"And, therefore, very unlikely to be allowed to cast away a thought on
an unfor----" Here he broke off, and after gazing for a time from the
window, exclaimed, "That was certainly she--I had but a momentary view,
but I am quite sure it was she I saw pluck a rose in that next garden,
and run into the house again. Can they be living in the adjoining villa
to us?"

The grass gardens or little lawns of these twin villas were separated
only by wire palings, along which sweet briar and flowering shrubs were
trained.



                                CHAPTER XII.


The family party, with the addition of Lord Darlingford, Sir James
Lindsey, and his brother, were assembled round the luncheon-table at
Lady Arden's.

Henry Lindsey had been amazingly piqued that morning by Louisa's
reception of Sir James. The little baronet was now seated next to her,
and making, if possible, a greater fool of himself than usual; while, in
consequence of the lesson she had received, she was yielding him her
attention with marked complacency. Henry sat opposite, and trembled
with a mingling of agitation and indignation. He thought he could
already foresee that he was to be deliberately immolated to avarice;
yet, so thoroughly was he the slave of Louisa's beauty and his own
passion, that no worthlessness on her part could have set him free. He
felt, that were she already the wife of his brother, her image might
drive him mad, but that he could not banish it from his imagination.

The hardship of Henry Lindsey's case as a younger brother was
conspicuous, and displayed in a striking manner the evils consequent
upon sacrificing justice to _pride_.

From a boy he had felt much on this subject; but being of a generous,
warm-hearted, liberal nature, he did not long brood over his own
individual wrongs; his mind, however, following the impulse thus
received, though in the first instance from a selfish feeling, gave
itself to the contemplation and discussion of natural rights generally,
till it became enamoured of abstract justice, and learned to apply its
searching test to every subject, especially the all absorbing topic of
the day--Political Economy; while, with his characteristic enthusiasm,
despising the sophisms of expediency, he embraced, without perhaps
sufficient caution, theories which soon caused him to be considered by
his friends a reformer, by his enemies almost a revolutionist, and by
himself the warm advocate of the rights, not of younger brothers only,
but of those whom he emphatically termed the step-children of the
laws--_The People_.

Such were at all times his opinions, while the irritable state of his
mind, at the moment of which we are speaking, added asperity to his
manner of expressing himself, and caused him, in answer to some jesting
remark of Alfred's on the old topic of younger brothers, to give vent to
his feelings in a long, and almost angry political discussion. He
objected, he said, to the law of primogeniture on the ground of its
being a wretched system of monopoly, which placed in the hands of a
simple individual what, if divided, would suffice to restore thousands
of his degraded and oppressed fellow-creatures to the rank of humanity.
The times were gone by when communities, formed for the general weal,
would wilfully sacrifice prosperity to _pride_, and not only parcel out
the whole land to, comparatively speaking, a few families, but the
succession to those lands being limited to the elder branches, allow all
place, preferment, and emolument, to be confined to the younger sons of
the same families, because the land had given them influence; and the
mass of the people to be thus reduced to do the work of the ass and the
mule, and because they cannot also eat their food, the grass and the
thistle, be often in danger of starvation.

The old feudal system itself was better than this: the ancient baron was
at least bound to feed not only his relations but his vassals, and he
did so in his own hall, at his own table. While, now-a-days, a man, as
soon as his father's funeral is over, turns his brothers and sisters out
of doors, to exist as they may, on a pitiful portion, the principal of
which is in general infinitely less than one year's income of the
property, on the scale of which they have been accustomed to live in
their father's time; while the new master permits his servants to
collect their wages by showing the empty baronial hall to strangers at
so much per head, by which creditable means he is himself enabled to
reserve all his rents to stake at hazard in London, or at _rouge et
noir_ in Paris. When parliament is sitting, he must of course attend, to
vote against any infringement on his monopoly, which the enlightened
spirit of the times may chance to propose. Thanks, however, to the
Reform Bill, the holders of the monopolies are no longer our sole
law-givers; we have now some _chance_ of justice _one time or another_.

"Besides," he added, "to return to the ancient baron, he was not only
bound to feed his retainers, but in time of war to provide the
government with a certain number of them, fitly clothed and armed;
which was virtually bearing the burdens of the state. The baron was, in
point of fact, but the trustee to a certain property, which property was
to feed a certain number of the population, and to contribute its due
proportion to the defence of the community. Instead of this, when the
feudal system becomes dangerous to government the barons are forbidden
to arm, and exonerated from feeding their retainers; yet, the
trust-property left in their hands for _pocket-money_, while their late
followers are not only turned out on the wide world to starve, but the
taxes necessary to maintain the army which the barons are forbid to
provide, are levied on the _bare palms_ of the _hands_ of the thus
turned out and starving vassals; and not satisfied with this injustice,
those who thus keep possession of the trust-lands, have arrived at
literally billeting their younger sons on those said vassals, thus
turned out and starving."

"Explain! explain!" cried Lord Darlingford, "How can you make that out?"

"Are not," replied Henry, "the salaries and pensions of all the posts
and sinecures they hold paid by means of taxes, a great proportion of
which are levied on industry? Is this as it should be? If the _pride_ of
the great demand that their properties shall be inherited by their elder
sons, and the offspring of that _pride_--if _false necessity_, require
that places and sinecures be provided for their younger sons, should not
the _rich co-operate_ in raising a fund for the payment of the salaries
of such, and not grind their thousands by pittances from the _real
necessities_ of the _poor_?"

"What then is your panacea for so many crying ills?" asked Lord
Darlingford, "Do you call on us to render up our trusts and proclaim an
Agrarian law?"

"No; those whose motives are honest dare not go such lengths. This would
be to resolve society into its mere elements, to open the flood-gates of
anarchy, and awake the savage spirit of wanton plunder. Many large
landed properties too have been purchased with the wages of industry; so
that besides the horrible convulsions attendant upon the dissolution of
the social system, there would be no such thing as drawing the line; to
avoid, therefore, worse evils, I would allow the 'frightful
disparities,' as an able writer of the day terms them, to exist till
industry, unchecked, unladen, could work out for itself a gradual
emancipation from the bondage of want. But I would not add to evils I
dare not too suddenly remedy! I would not require the children of Israel
to make bricks without straw! I would not lay the burdens of the state
on shoulders already weighed down by nature's demand for daily bread. I
would exempt from the whole weight of taxation the labourer, whether of
brain or limb; he has no stake in the stability of the state; he can
carry his head or his hand wherever he goes. He who keeps back the
hire of the labourer is denounced in holy writ: I would not be worse
than such, and rob the labourer of his hire. I would, therefore, repeal
every tax _direct_ and _indirect_, which now exists, and substitute for
_all_ a graduated property-tax, on _independent_ property _only_,
trifling in amount, say one per cent., where the property was small;
and doubling, trebling, nay, quadrupling, if necessary, as it rises.
What, if a man with thirty thousand per annum, pay twenty thousand, can
he not live on ten? or if the man with two hundred thousand per annum,
pay one hundred and fifty thousand, can he not live on fifty? This, some
people are not ashamed to answer me would be robbing the rich; while
they talk as loudly as vaguely of the sacredness of property and vested
rights. But I would answer such, that starvation in the midst of plenty,
on the plea of the sacredness of justice, is a practical blasphemy!
What, therefore, relief from taxation did not effect for the absolutely
destitute, I would complete by an amended system of poor-laws;--such
assessments, however, to be levied on independent property only."

"Poor-laws are bad things," interrupted Sir James, who having finished
his luncheon, was now lolling on a sofa, "they make the common people so
lazy."

"As long as industry is not taxed in support of idleness," answered
Henry, "the lazy rich man is entitled to no commiseration for being
compelled to assist his brother, the lazy poor man! Poor-laws," he
added, turning to Lord Darlingford, "as far at least as food goes, I
consider the most sacred of vested rights. God said, 'Behold, I have
given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the
earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding
seed, to you it shall be for meat.'"

"But you allow," said his lordship, "that many of the great landed
properties you would tax thus heavily are purchased with the produce of
the owner's own exertions; state your reasons for giving immunity to
present industry and not to past?"

"Because," replied Henry, "when once a man has realized property he has
acquired a stake in the country, a stake in the stability of the
government; his property requires protection, whether from the foreign
enemy or the home depredator; and, therefore, he should pay for such
protection. If a man desires a wall round his garden, who pays for
building the wall? The man who owns the garden! If a man wishes to
insure his premises against fire, who pays the insurance? The man whose
premises are guaranteed. Would either of these persons dream of calling
a parish meeting to demand of their neighbours as a right, that they
should subscribe towards the expense so incurred; nay, that every
pauper subsisting on some shilling or two per week, should be compelled
to pay two-pence for his penny loaf until the sum was made up; yet, such
is the spirit of every tax, direct or indirect, levied on any thing but
independent property. The machinery of government is the garden-wall of
the landed interest, the insurance office of the fund-holder. Any tax,
therefore, levied on those who have neither land nor money is a crying
injustice, except, indeed," he added with bitter irony, "we admit of a
small pole-tax to keep down burking. It is, no doubt, the houseless,
nameless, friendless wretch, who has no one to ask what is become of
him; the poor creature, who has nothing to be protected but the limbs
and sinews he was born with, who runs the greatest risk of contributing
these to the promotion of science."

"But," observed Lord Darlingford, "it is not the very destitute who pay
taxes."

"I beg your pardon," said Henry, "indirect ones they do. If the beggar
in the street succeeds in exciting the compassion of the passenger, and
receives one penny, ere he can appease his hunger with a mouthful of
bread, do not the corn laws, by doubling the price of the loaf, exact
from him one half of the penny so obtained? And is not his mite, thus
cast into the treasury, like that of the poor widow in the Gospel, taken
from his _want_; and, therefore, more than all they (_the rich_) did
cast in of their abundance?"

"Oh, it is all but too true!" said Lady Arden, feelingly. "I do think
your scheme of taxation would be but justice. Willoughby would certainly
have a great deal to pay; but he can surely afford it better than poor
creatures who have nothing but what they earn, or what they beg. I see
the subject now in quite a new light. I have always been in the habit of
thinking people _poor_ who had but _one_ or _two_ thousands a-year; and
I never took the trouble of considering that there was any difference
between hundreds a-year and nothing."

"How would you apportion this property-tax of yours?" asked Lord
Darlingford; "and how ensure its being sufficient for the exigencies of
the state?"

"On a graduated scale, as I have already said," replied Henry, "from
justice to individuals: let those who have the largest property to
ensure, pay, as at all other insurance offices, the most; but, as to
details and calculations, I leave those to Mr. Hume, or some of the
multiplication table people; I only advocate the principle. Indeed, one
of the great recommendations of this plan is, that the principle once
established, the work is done: when those who tie up the burdens have to
carry them, they may be trusted to find scales of sufficient nicety in
which to weigh them: we need, in that case, no longer call for
estimates, or petition against sinecures; nay, we may give the very
voting of the subsidies to the _Lords_ themselves!--many of whom, I make
no doubt, would forthwith become immortalised by the economical or
'_twopenny halfpenny_' ingenuity, developed in the devising of future
budgets. '_Twopence halfpenny_,' I would have the noble lords to know,
though no object to them, is a sum which many of their destitute
fellow-creatures would, at this moment, receive with joy of heart! Then,
remember, in further recommendation of this scheme, the millions a-year
of unprofitable expense that would be saved to the nation, by having but
one instead of innumerable taxes to levy."

"I don't think," said Sir James, looking as if he had made a discovery,
"that the people with large fortunes will like this law of yours,
Henry."

"Many people, too," replied Henry, contemptuously, "don't like paying
their Christmas bills."

Alfred, who had been looking over a morning paper near a window, and
from time to time lending a share of his attention to the disputants,
now joined them.

"We cannot, I think," he said, "blame any particular government, or set
of men, for the ills of which you complain. The fault is in human
nature; and the remedy, if there be one, is only to be found in laying
step by step the wisest general restrictions we can on individual
selfishness. The advance of civilization has already placed a salutary
check on plunder by force; it remains for the march of intellect to
discover one for plunder by stratagem. But we must be cautious; in
desiring the higher steps of the ladder of wisdom and virtue, we must
not undervalue those we have attained, and in our headlong haste,
stumble; and, like our neighbours of the continent, fall back on the
frightful abyss of anarchy that lays below! 'Tis well to rise in
excellence; I hate the cant of dreading all chance: but, to keep to the
simile of the ladder, let us take care that the lifting foot be firmly
placed on the step above, ere the standing one be removed from the step
below."

"Is there not some danger," said Lord Darlingford, "of a property-tax
sending capital out of the kingdom?"

"It must be very easy," replied Henry, "for the inventors of all sorts
of protecting duties to devise a means of meeting that difficulty, by
some ingeniously arranged tax on the exportation of property, whether
income or capital, with a tremendously deterring fine on any attempt at
imposition; and minor exactments, to hunt evasion through all its
windings. There might, also," he added, "be an alien tax, to prevent the
foreign artizan from sharing the immunity from taxation, purchased by
our own rich for our own poor."

"Is there not some danger," said Lady Arden, "that the deteriorated
incomes of the great, by obliging them to lessen their establishments
and expenditure, would throw many people out of employment, and so
increase the numbers of the poor?"

"I should think not," answered Henry; "recollect there would be the same
property in the kingdom, only in more general and more equal
circulation. The servants dismissed, and the luxuries foregone by the
few, would in all probability be more than compensated by the increased
establishments and more numerous comforts of the many, though each only
in a small degree. The standard of splendour might be lowered, but that
of comfort would be raised. The change, too, is likely to be in favour
of home productions: the overflow of inordinate wealth, the _too much_
of the few, is frequently squandered on luxuries obtained from abroad;
while the fertilizing sufficiency, the _enough_ of the many, would
probably be expended on comforts produced at home.

"I do not, however," he added, "mean to assume the character of a
prophet, or even to argue the point of future consequences; I take
higher ground, and end every such discussion with the same appeal to
duty:

"Let each generation do what is clearly justice in their own day, and
leave the future to the All-wise Disposer of events.

"If there were, indeed, a theory through the mazes of which moral
rectitude knew no path, we might be excusable in taking calculation for
our guide; but when our road lies before us, indicated by duty's
steadily pointing finger, we are not entitled to balance ere we proceed,
even though it should be where four frequented highways meet."

Mrs. Dorothea, the sisters, and Sir James, had got tired of politics,
and wandered into the garden. Henry, perceiving that Sir James was still
in attendance on Louisa, became impatient, broke off the conversation
abruptly, and following them, joined her, saying, "Lord Darlingford is
too prudent a politician for me. I hate prudence and calculation, and
worldly mindedness," he added, with impetuosity, and a provoked and
mortified tone of voice, which Louisa was at no loss to comprehend. "The
present artificial state of society," he proceeded, "has banished into
the poet's dream every thing worth living for!--there alone all things
deserving the ambition of an intellectual being now hold their unreal
existence! Beauty has become a snare--feeling a folly, or a curse!--love
a farce, and lovely woman, nature's most cunning workmanship, a _toy_,
a _trinket_, which the rich man may draw out his purse and
purchase!!!--heart and all!" he subjoined, in an under and somewhat
softened voice, for Louisa had looked round, and their eyes had met for
a moment. "Is it so?" he continued; "or are the beautiful looking
deceptions now made to suit the _market_ for which they are intended,
_without hearts_?"



                                CHAPTER XIII.


Whether Alfred's study was pamphlet, newspaper, or magazine, he could
never contrive to discern the print by any light but that of the window,
or rather glass door, at which we left him standing on the morning on
which he first discerned the fleeting semblance of a fair vision in the
adjoining garden. The glass door was generally half open, a muslin blind
drawn half down across it, and the eyes of the student, like those of
the naughty child in the pictures of bold Harry, just visible over the
top of his book.

On such occasions one of his sisters would often glide behind him, and
startling him with a loud burlesque sigh, exclaim, "She is not there
to-day." "Nonsense!" Alfred would say, rising. "This is a very well
written thing," he added one morning, throwing his book on a table.

"What is it about, Alfred?" asked Madeline archly. He took up the book
again to examine it before he could answer the question; "I declare he
can't tell," she cried, "without looking at the top of the page;" a
general burst of laughter followed, from which Alfred escaped into the
garden. He had long since made it his business to ascertain that Lady
Palliser and her daughter inhabited the next villa; but few, very few
indeed, and "far between," had been the glimpses of his beauteous
enslaver which his late studious habits and love of good light had
procured for him.

Lady Caroline appeared to be conscious that the garden was exposed to
the view of their neighbours, and was therefore timid about entering it;
or, when she did so, as on the first occasion noticed, it was only to
pluck a flower, for she seemed fearful of remaining in it for a moment.
This morning, however, both mother and daughter had appeared on the lawn
and with bonnets on, which, combined with the early hour, had caused
Alfred to suspect them of an intention of visiting the walks; and his
consequent anticipations of a possible meeting, had, we must confess,
made him rather absent.

He now called in at the window to his sisters to know if they were not
yet ready, assuring them that the band had played several tunes, and
that they would be late.

"Don't you know that the Duke of Gloucester has arrived?" he continued,
"did you not hear the joy bells yesterday evening? He is so punctual to
seven, that the fashionables are always early when he is here."

This remonstrance had the desired effect; final arrangements were
quickly completed and the party set forth.

On entering the Montpelier walk, Alfred beheld, quite near and coming
towards them, Lady Palliser and her daughter, in company with the duke,
and attended by two or three of his grace's aides-de-camp.

Alfred saw that Lady Caroline perceived and recognised him, for she
coloured instantly, but looked as if she did not know whether she ought
to acknowledge him or not; while he was so much startled and confounded,
that he had not presence of mind to look for a recognition. Lady
Palliser happened to be conversing with his grace, and did not see him.
He passed, therefore, unacknowledged by either lady.

The next turn, the next and the next again, he was determined to manage
matters better, and accordingly kept a regular look out for the duke's
party, but they were nowhere to be seen; it was evident they had been
going off the walk at the time he met them.

How dull the whole gay scene became the moment this conviction reached
him! How irksome the frivolity of every body's manner; while all the
world, seeming to have made the discovery simultaneously with himself,
kept telling each other as they passed that the duke was gone, just as
if it was done on purpose to torment him.

In vain did Miss Salter, every time he encountered the party, address
Lady Flamborough by her title, in an unnecessarily loud tone, to
endeavour to draw his attention by showing him what exalted company she
was in. Every effort was thrown away upon him, as well as all the extra
finery sported this day on purpose for the duke. Little did his grace
think how many husbands and fathers he had caused to grumble. As for
poor Lady Whaleworthy, in her loyal zeal to make herself fit company for
royalty, she actually crowned herself with the gold tissue turban which
she wore at Mr. Salter's dinner; so that with this and her everlasting
crimson velvet pelisse, to which she had added a gold waist-band for the
occasion, she was altogether as fine as the hammer cloth of a lord
mayor's coach.

Lady Flamborough trusted more to her natural attractions; these she
displayed for the great occasion with a liberality which certainly did
succeed in calling forth a remark from his grace, though by no means a
complimentary one.

The new bonnets sported this morning would require the calculating boy
to count them; and as for shoes, many a simple-hearted girl fresh from
the country, submitted to hours of actual torture, in order that the
Duke of Gloucester might go back to London convinced that she had very
small feet.



                                CHAPTER XIV.


The next morning Alfred was on his guard, and watched the first
approaches of the duke's party with a palpitating heart.

But, alas! Lady Palliser, as before, was occupied and saw him not;
while, what was much worse, it was evident that Lady Caroline did see
him at a distance, and from that moment kept her eyes fixed on the
ground. They passed each other, and he could discern the glow of
consciousness steal over her cheek as they did so. Again and again they
passed--still without recognition; till at length he scarcely ventured
to look that way. Lord Darlingford now appeared. He attached himself to
Lady Arden's party--Jane in particular. After a turn or two, he
apologised for quitting them, saying he must go and speak to Lady
Palliser. Alfred, forming a sudden and desperate resolve, at which he
often afterwards looked back with astonishment, took his lordship's arm,
and accompanied him. The duke had just quitted the walk, and Lady
Palliser, quite _désoeuvrée_, happened at the moment to be in what she
called a humour for being spoken to. She received, therefore, not only
Lord Darlingford but Alfred with the utmost graciousness. Caroline,
after a timid glance at her mother's countenance, looked round and
recognised our hero with a smile that seemed to open to him in an
instant the gates of Paradise. Nay, the Montpelier walk itself became,
as by a sudden revelation, the very garden of Eden to his delighted
eyes. He was walking next to Caroline--he did not know how he had got
there! He was speaking to her--he did not know what he was saying! Her
countenance was turned towards him to reply, while the close bonnet
which, while it was so turned, hid its loveliness from every eye. It was
a slight summer one of simple snowy sarcenet, and though it warded off
the glare of the out-door sun-beam, it admitted through its half
transparent texture a heavenly kind of light, which at once accurately
defined, and seemed a fitting shrine for the perfectly angelic features
around which it dwelt: the pure lively red of the lovely moving lip,
where all else was so white; the smile of enchantment, exposing to view
the pearly teeth; the delicately pencilled brow; the large dark eyes,
which yet were so soft, so modestly raised, so meek in their expression,
that their very lustre seemed that of compassion's tear ere it o'erflows
the lid! Yet did their mild beams make such an unmerciful jumble of all
Alfred's ideas, that he was quite sure he must be talking nonsense. But
there was no help for it; if he spoke not, he saw but the fluted outside
of the white sarcenet bonnet; it was necessary to make ceaseless appeals
to Caroline's attention, or the graceful head would not be turned
towards him; the lovely eyes would not be raised to his, the beauteous
lips, fresh as rose leaves moist with morning dew, would not be parted
in reply; to purchase delights such as these he was compelled to risk
his reputation as a sage, and go on without an effort to think. At
length, however he came to an unlucky pause, and instead of jumping
over it, unfortunately began to weigh what subject he should next
propound. But, alas! the precious moments flew past in rapid succession,
and, one after another, became absorbed in the gulph of eternity, while
our poor hero was still at a stand.

And now strange uneasy sensations began to blend with the dream-like
felicity he had hitherto enjoyed, though he was not yet awake to the
cause, which was simply this: the band was playing that well known note
of dismissal--the national anthem--and anticipations of approaching
separation began to steal over his senses. To his surprise and infinite
delight, however, Lady Palliser suddenly asked Lord Darlingford and
himself, with the prettiest and most petitioning manner possible, to go
home with her party to breakfast. We need scarcely say that Alfred
consented; so did Lord Darlingford, though not quite so willingly, for
he had intended to return to Lady Arden's party.

After this morning, Alfred not only joined his new friends whenever they
appeared, but became in a short time almost a daily visitor at Jessamine
bower; and apparently with the entire approbation of Lady Palliser.
Indeed, it was in general some message or some commission of her
ladyship's, or some allusion to the morrow made at parting, almost
amounting to an appointment, which furnished him with an excuse for
calling. He, poor fellow, was flattered, delighted, filled with hope and
joy! But, alas! he was not sufficiently acquainted with the character of
Lady Palliser to understand his own position. Her ladyship was a being
without affections and without occupation; who in her intercourse with
others, and from total heartlessness, cared not whose best feelings were
the springs of the puppet-show, so the movements of the puppets amused
her--and he happened to be the whim of the hour;--to order him about, to
see him perfectly at her disposal, chanced to be what, just then,
afforded a species of excitement to her restless idleness and morbid
selfishness.



                                 CHAPTER XV.


Meanwhile much of Caroline's excessive reserve, or rather fearfulness of
manner wore off. In her mother's immediate presence indeed she was ever
the same; but if Lady Palliser quitted the room for a moment, or was
occupied conversing with some other visitor, Caroline's countenance
would brighten, and her manner become comparatively easy and happy.
Fully, however, to comprehend our heroine, it will be necessary to cast
a retrospective glance over the manner of her education.

The most painful silence of the heart and all its best affections had
from infancy been habitual to Caroline. She was an only child, and had
no recollection of her father; while her mother's strange, unfeeling
character, had made her from the very first shrink within herself. When
arrived at an age at which young people, not self-opinionated, naturally
wish to ask those older than themselves what they ought to do on various
little occasions, which seem to them important from their novelty, poor
Caroline would sometimes, in what she deemed a case of urgency, make a
great effort and apply to her mother, on which Lady Palliser would treat
her simplicity as the best of good jokes, laugh to excess, then rally
her for blushing, and next perhaps for shedding tears; and, finally,
either leave her question without reply, or give one turning the
subject into absolute ridicule; till at last Caroline learned to feel a
terror surpassing description of having any one thought, feeling, or
opinion even guessed at by her mother. Yet her mother was her only
companion. There was also a strange inconsistency in the character and
conduct of Lady Palliser; for while she never condescended to advise,
she was tyrannical in her commands, exacting implicit, unquestioned,
instantaneous obedience to every whim.

Either there was something in the thorough kindliness of Alfred's
disposition which appeared in his manner, and secretly won the
confidence of our heroine; or fate had ordained that they were to love
each other. Whatever the cause, the consequence was, that Caroline,
after the intimacy we have described had subsisted for some weeks, no
longer felt alone in the world--she was no longer without thoughts that
gave her pleasure; while those thoughts, though for their ostensible
object they had a walk, a song, a book, or a flower, were always
associated with the idea of Alfred--of something that he had said--or
some little kind service he had performed--or, perhaps, some chance
encounter of his eye--or the consciousness of his fixed gaze, felt
without daring to look up, and which, though it had produced strange
confusion of ideas at the time, was remembered with delight. Neither was
she any longer without hope, though but a hope that they might meet on
the walks, or that he might come in about something she had heard her
mother mention to him.

It may be asked why should Caroline not always have had the hopes with
which most young people enter life; merely because the buoyancy of youth
had been pressed down, and the elasticity of its spirits destroyed, by
the unnatural restraint under which every thought and feeling had been
held during the period that her earliest affections had, as is generally
the case, endeavoured to fix themselves on her parent.

As for Alfred, he had misgivings certainly, respecting his being a
younger brother, and his consequent want of fortune. At the same time,
when he felt that he was justified in harbouring the restless,
delightful hope, that he was already not quite indifferent to Caroline,
and that he received such decided encouragement as he did from her
mother, what could he think, but that he was the most fortunate fellow
in existence, and that he had met with the most generous, liberal
minded, delightful people in the whole world!

Sometimes, indeed, he would take a fastidious fit, and murmur a little
in his heart against fate, for compelling him to be the one to receive,
and denying him the pride and pleasure of bestowing; but so absorbing
was his passion for Caroline, that he soon closed his eyes against this
objection, almost as absolutely as he would have done against the
contrary had it existed. He was incapable, in short, at the time, of
weighing any subject deliberately: a look, a smile, or the unbidden
brightening of Caroline's countenance when they met, would have been
sufficient to have upset the firmest resolves, had he even been visited
by a lucid interval in which to have formed them; but on the contrary,
from the first morning he had been so unexpectedly invited home by Lady
Palliser, his head had become giddy with rapture; the pulsations of his
heart had never settled down to their steady original pace, nor had any
one thought or feeling ever once been summoned before the bar of reason.
That it must be a fairy tale--a dream--too much happiness to be true,
would sometimes cross his imagination for a moment, and strike his heart
with a sort of panic; but such thoughts not being agreeable enough to
meet with a welcome within, were therefore quickly dismissed.

Whenever he was neither at Lady Palliser's nor at his old post at the
window, he was wandering in some unfrequented walk, or reclining
listlessly on a remote sofa in a deep reverie, calling to mind looks,
smiles, or half uttered replies, from which, while they said nothing,
every thing might be inferred.

He studied and learned to comprehend as a language hitherto unknown, the
timid, shrinking, as yet undeveloped character of Caroline. To him her
very silence now conveyed more than the eloquence of others; and however
long he watched the downcast lid, if it was raised at last but for a
second, he was amply rewarded.

And when he repaired to Jessamine Bower, to pay his now daily morning
visit, and on entering addressed Lady Palliser first, as he made a point
of doing, he literally trembled with concealed emotion as he noted the
slight tinge, faint as the reflection from a rose leaf, steal over
Caroline's delicate cheek, while she continued to bend over her
employment, whatever it might be, and acting her part unnecessarily
well, endeavoured to betray no consciousness of his presence, till her
attention was absolutely claimed by some such formal address as--

"How is Lady Caroline this morning?" Formal as were the words, the tone
of the voice was sufficient. The faint tinge would increase to a deep
blush, ere the equally formed reply was articulated. On many occasions,
Alfred would continue to converse with Lady Palliser, or perform any of
her frivolous and whimsical commands, and nothing more apparently would
pass between the young people; yet would he, the while, trace in slight
variations of countenance, imperceptible to any other eye, all that
Caroline thought or felt with regard to what was said. Sometimes Lady
Palliser herself would suddenly fling down her netting or knotting, or
whatever nonsense she was about, with an expression of disgust, declare
she was sick of it, and ordering Alfred to look for her pet book of
Italian Trios, and Caroline to put away her drawing and join them, seat
herself at the instrument.

This to Caroline and Alfred was a wonderful improvement of position.
Standing together behind Lady Palliser's chair, their voices united in
the thrilling harmonies of the music, and sometimes in the utterance of
words expressive of thoughts, which else one at least of the voices had
never dared to pronounce. On one of these favourable occasions a
circumstance occurred, trivial in the extreme, yet which forwarded
Alfred's cause amazingly, and indeed conveyed to both a tacit conviction
of each other's attachment.

A hand of each while they sang rested on the back of Lady Palliser's
chair, and after a simultaneous attempt to turn over the leaf of the
music-book, accidentally came in contact as they returned to their
former position. It had been long ere a modest younger brother, like our
poor hero, had found courage to possess himself by any direct means of
the fair, soft, taper fingered, rosy palmed, little hand, of the great
heiress, the beautiful Lady Caroline Montague; but an occasion like this
was not to be resisted: Alfred's trembling fingers closed upon the fond
treasure; while a hasty but faint effort of Caroline's to withdraw it,
was met by a beseeching look that seemed to have the desired effect;
for, though covered with blushes, she did not immediately succeed in
disengaging the hand, while the little scene was at the moment supplied
by the duet with appropriate words.

[Illustration: Langue il mio co-re per te d'a-mo-re.]

Sang Alfred, while Caroline in faltering notes replied

[Illustration: Non so re-sis-te-re.]

When our hero had taken his departure Caroline hastened to her own
apartment. She felt unfit for any society, particularly her mother's.

Her pure unpractised delicacy of mind caused her to look back on the
incident which had just passed as an event of the utmost importance; as,
in short, not only a proposal, but also an acceptance. Nay, had she
wished it, she would no longer have thought herself at liberty to
retract; for she knew that she would not have allowed a man who was
indifferent to her to have retained her hand in his for a single second.
That she had permitted Alfred then to do so, she felt amounted to a
confession of preference! Deep was the blush which accompanied this
thought.

At other times Lady Palliser would be extravagantly late in the morning;
and, if consequently not in the drawing-room when our hero called, she
would send word that Mr. Arden was not to go away till she came down;
and then so whimsical were all her movements, not perhaps make her
appearance for an hour, or possibly two. Those were the occasions on
which Alfred best succeeded in drawing Caroline into easy and familiar
conversation, and thus inducing in her a feeling of confidence towards
himself, which a young creature who had been blessed with any friend in
her own family, would not have thought of mingling with her love for a
lover: but the affection poor Caroline was beginning to feel towards
Alfred was not only her _First Love_, but it was also the first
friendship her heart had ever been encouraged to know. Thus it was, that
to a being hitherto so totally alone in the world, he became in so short
a time every thing. While the idea, however vaguely entertained, of
being at some period of the future of existence protected by his
affection from every harshness--sheltered by his tenderness from every
sorrow, had almost unconsciously became the hope, the home, the resting
place of all her anticipations.



                                 CHAPTER XVI.


"But how are you to ask us to the wedding, Alfred, considering we don't
even visit?" said Louisa one morning to her brother, who stood as usual
at the window, but now without even the pretext of a book.

"Nonsense, Louisa!" he replied. "Wedding, indeed! I wish it were come to
that! and it would be easy to arrange the visiting. By-the-by, ma'am,"
he added, turning to his mother, "independent of Louisa's jesting, I
wish we did visit."

"So do I, my dear," replied Lady Arden, "but Lady Palliser, of the two,
was here rather before I was; besides she is a person of the highest
rank, so that I think the first advances ought to come from her. They
say too, her ladyship is going to give a great fancy ball, and it would
look as if I wanted to have the girls asked. However, I should suppose
we must visit soon, one way or other; for Louisa's jesting as you call
it, appears to me to go on in as serious a manner as you could desire."

"Oh--I--a--don't know, ma'am," said Alfred, colouring, and pulling off
and on an unfortunate glove, which seemed destined to be martyred in the
cause.

"Why certainly," persisted Lady Arden, "neither Lady Caroline, nor her
mother for her, would be justified in receiving either your public
attentions or your daily visits in the manner they do, if they meant to
make the only objection which could be made to you--your being a younger
son."

"Well--I hope you may be right, ma'am;" said Alfred, laughing, and
escaping into the garden to hide his confusion.

"He will be a fortunate young man if he gets Lady Caroline Montague,"
said Aunt Dorothea.

"Not more fortunate than he deserves, Mrs. Dorothea," replied Lady
Arden, "for he is the best creature in the world, as well as the
handsomest and the most agreeable."

"No one can be more sensible of my nephew's merits than I am," said Mrs.
Dorothea; "but I still maintain that few, even of the few who deserve as
well, are as fortunate. Lady Caroline Montague, I understand, inherits
the whole of the family estates, and her son, should she have one, will
I suppose have the title."

"Why, no doubt she could command any match," replied Lady Arden; "'tis
however a most fortunate circumstance that Lady Palliser has the good
sense to see the advantage of her daughter marrying so thoroughly
amiable a young man, who will make her so truly happy."

"Talking of happiness," said Mrs. Dorothea, "I hope poor Jane may be
happy with Lord Darlingford."

"I trust she will," replied Lady Arden, with a half suppressed sigh;
"and in point both of rank and fortune you know it is a most desirable
match."

"No doubt of it," rejoined Mrs. Dorothea, "and people are very foolish
who neglect such serious considerations, and allow their time to glide
by them. Were I, at this moment, as I might have been but for my own
folly, Countess Dowager of Ravenscroft;" and here Mrs. Dorothea drew up
her head with great stiffness, "such people as the Salters would never
have had it in their power to insult me; nor should I have been in
danger of losing my life by being baked to death in that horrid lodging.
To be sure the carpet looked respectable, and that was all it had to
recommend it."

"By-the-by," said her ladyship, "I have often wondered, Mrs. Arden, how
you, who have in general a very proper sense of your own dignity, came
to make the acquaintance of such people as those Salts, was it you
called them?"

"Your ladyship's remark is very just," replied Mrs. Dorothea, "but the
old friend from whom they brought me a letter, is a highly respectable
and gentlemanly man, and I was not aware till lately that he had only
made their acquaintance himself casually at a boarding-house, where it
seems they persecuted him with attentions, and then worried him for a
letter to some one at Cheltenham, where they said they were going
perfect strangers. He was afraid to enter into those particulars in the
note he sent by them, lest they should contrive to open and read it: and
the letter he since wrote me to say how little he himself knew of them,
and to apologise for the liberty he had taken, by explaining that they
made such a point of his giving them a line to some friend, that he did
not know how to refuse, was unfortunately delayed, waiting for a frank
(he knows I don't like postages), till with my usual silly goodnature I
had taken a great deal of trouble about those worthless people. Their
vulgarity too disgusted me all the time; yet they so overwhelmed me with
their thanks, their gratitude, as they called it, that I literally did
not know how to shake them off."

"Really my dear madam," said Lady Arden, "you are quite too
goodnatured."

"That has always been my weak point," replied Mrs. Dorothea: "when I see
that it is in my power to serve people, I am fool enough to fancy that
alone gives them a claim upon me."

And such was really the case, for poor Mrs. Dorothea, though she had
been all her life threatening to grow wise, in other words selfish, had
never yet attained to any degree of proficiency in this art of
self-defence, if we may so term it. Too great goodnature was indeed her
only apology for being still at fifty-five, what people of the world
emphatically call young! For she had not been all her days blinded by
the dazzling sunshine of unclouded prosperity; on the contrary, her
horizon had been frequently overshadowed by those unfavourable changes,
from which, as variableness of weather teaches the sailor seamanship,
knowledge of the world is in general collected.

"But we were speaking of Jane," proceeded Mrs. Dorothea, "I have not the
least doubt of my niece's good sense. Indeed Jane is a sweet girl, as
amiable as sensible. I was only afraid that Lord Darlingford had rather
a jealous temper."

"I hope not!" her ladyship replied, again sighing, "and you know, my
dear Mrs. Arden, the impossibility of having every thing one's own way
in this world. The connection, establishment, and all that, are in the
highest degree desirable. And then between ourselves, Lord Nelthorpe has
not behaved very well to poor Jane."

"In that respect, it is so far fortunate," said Mrs. Dorothea, "that she
is now making a still higher connection. And then Sir James, with his
fifteen thousand per annum, will certainly be a splendid match for
Louisa; but she must mind what she is about, and not laugh at him as she
now does after they are married."

"Of course she will have too much good sense for that," replied Lady
Arden; but her eyes filled with silent tears as she thought of the
infinite sacrifice Louisa would make, if she did indeed marry Sir James.

The three sisters had followed Alfred into the garden, and were
collecting flowers to supply the vases in the drawing-room, and laughing
in their usual light-hearted way, if but a blossom fell to the ground
instead of into the basket held out to catch it. Caroline the while was
standing in her mother's drawing-room, behind a Venetian blind, through
which unseen she was observing their movements, and envying their
happiness, which to her appeared to be satisfactorily accounted for by
Alfred's being their brother. How fervently did she wish at the moment
that she too were his sister, were it but that she might be privileged
to go out and join the cheerful group, on which she thus wistfully
gazed.

With her solitary musing, however, a thrill pleasure mingled, when from
time to time she saw Alfred steal a glance of interest at the very
window where she stood; and which, from the blind being down, he
suspected was occupied by Caroline.

The Arden girls, at the moment, were all occupied plucking blossoms from
various parts of a long trailing branch of woodbine, which as it hung
from above their heads, it cost them an effort to reach.

"Look, look! Caroline," cried Lady Palliser, who was standing at another
window, "how like they are to the drawings of the graces. I must go and
see Lady Arden directly, and send them all cards; for I am determined to
have those three nice girls to do the graces at my fancy ball."

Out of this mere whim of Lady Palliser's arose a visiting acquaintance
with the Ardens.

Alfred and Caroline were, therefore, more than ever together, a
consequence which Lady Palliser made no effort whatever to prevent. The
fact was that her ladyship was in the habit of considering Caroline, who
was but seventeen, a mere child; while her own excessive vanity, and
Alfred's unremitting efforts to make himself agreeable to her for
Caroline's sake, had completely deceived her into a belief that he was
under the dominion of one of those absurd boy passions, which very young
men sometimes conceive for women much older than themselves;
particularly if they happened to be, as her ladyship well knew she was,
still extremely beautiful. And though Lady Palliser was too proud and
too cold to have the most remote idea of making a fool of herself, she
looked forward to seeing our hero in despair at her feet as to the
_denouement_ of an excellent jest; while in the meantime she amused
herself by drawing him on to commit every absurdity she could devise.
And such, no doubt, if meant as attentions to herself, would have been
many humble assiduities, which, for Caroline's sake, he willingly paid
her ladyship.

During the progress of this amiable proceeding, the honest-hearted
Alfred received every symptom of kindliness of manner, as an indication
of maternal feeling, and as a proof that Lady Palliser already
considered him her future son-in-law.

One evening they happened to be alone, when he was about to take his
departure; her ladyship, on bidding him good night, held towards him
her beautiful white hand in a very coquettish, but, as he thought, in
the most frank, obliging manner possible. The idea struck him, that
considering his comparative want of fortune, it might be more honourable
in him to make some disclosure of the state of his feelings to Lady
Palliser, previously to addressing Caroline herself; accordingly, in a
paroxysm of grateful and dutiful affection, he seized her ladyship's
proffered hand, respectfully pressed it to his lips, and began to murmur
something about his own unworthiness. Lady Palliser, snatching her hand
away, laughed and said, "Go, you foolish child."

Alfred, thus discouraged for the moment, took his departure in silence,
with some idea that Lady Palliser, however kindly and liberally disposed
towards his humble pretensions, very possibly thought both Caroline and
himself too young at present. What else could she mean by calling him a
foolish child? Little did he dream of the construction put on his manner
by his intended mother-in-law.

As little had he suspected on former occasions, that her ladyship had
believed him to be making a complete fool of himself, and had been in
proportion well amused, when, in conversation with her, while every word
was intended for the ear of our heroine, who sat silently by at her
drawing, he had ventured on topics, which when alone with Caroline he
dared not introduce; and eloquently painted his idea of an ardent,
genuine, and worthy attachment, and the devotion of a whole life
consequent upon it till he had became breathless with agitation: yet,
seeing that Lady Palliser only smiled at the uncontrollable warmth which
quite carried him away, he believed that he was tacitly approved of,
and so thoroughly understood, that explanation, whenever the proper time
for it should arrive, would be merely matter of form.



                                CHAPTER XVII.


The triumphs of Aunt Dorothea over all her enemies, particularly the
Salters, were so numerous, that to avoid prolixity we have not recounted
them. As for Miss Salter, she had brought on a most inconvenient pain in
the back of her neck by the reiterated bows with which she had again and
again, morning after morning, vainly endeavoured to draw the attention
of Mrs. Dorothea Arden.

One day, however, when that lady was driving up and down the
High-street, seated at her ease in her sister, Lady Arden's peculiarly
splendid open barouche, she beheld, trudging along the flag-way and
coming towards her, Mr. and the Misses Salter, with countenances which
betrayed that they were not insensible to the heat of the weather; and
shoes so assimilated by dust to the dust on which they trod, as to be
nearly invisible. Mrs. Dorothea was not aware that the Salters had ever
before seen her in this elegant carriage: so anxious was she therefore
that they should do so now, that on the impulse of the moment, in
defiance of having long since given them the cut direct, she made an
almost involuntary, yet very conspicuous bow. Electrified and delighted,
the whole party stopped short and performed no less than three bows each
in return; while Miss Salter, who had by much the greatest portion of
moral courage of the whole trio, added even a kiss of the hand.

Miss Dorothea had not been long returned home when she received a card
of invitation from the Misses Salter to a quadrille party, accompanied
by a long servile note, to say that they were much concerned at not
having had earlier it in their power to offer some attention to her
friends, Lady Arden and family, and also to her friend Lady Palliser,
and begging to know if their waiting upon, and sending cards of
invitation to these respective ladies would be agreeable.

To this was added a hint, that indeed the party was in a great measure
made for her friends and would be very _select_.

To the invitation for herself, Mrs. Dorothea sent a formal rejection,
without assigning any reason. Of the absurd and forward proffer of
_attention_ to her _friends_ she took no notice.

Nor were those dignified proceedings the sole mode of vengeance
practised by Mrs. Dorothea against her pitiful foes; for much as she was
herself engaged at present with more agreeable occupations, she had
placed the affair from the commencement in such able hands, namely,
those of her prime minister, Sarah, that no circumstance, however
minute, had been lost sight of.

The origin of the Salters, by its coarsest appellation, had been
diligently disseminated in every servant's hall, and thence arisen to
the respective dining and drawing-rooms, till it had reached the ears of
many, who else had never known that there were such people in existence
as the Salters.

What was if possible worse, Sir William Orm's servant in particular had
been put on his guard about the deception practised on him by Mrs.
Johnson, respecting the young ladies' fortunes; on which Sir William had
without the slightest ceremony cut the connexion altogether. He never
called or even left a card; he never joined them any where, and as to
the bows he gave them in return for those they made to him from a mile
off, they were really, except to persons in desperate circumstances, not
worth having.

Sir James, it may be remembered, had deserted on the very first morning
he had encountered Louisa Arden; so that disconsolate indeed were now
the pair who had so lately congratulated themselves on having two
baronets for their lovers.

Their _select_ acquaintance too, the Shawbridges and Whaleworthys, began
to play fine; for in a watering place a title is a title, whether got by
accident or by cheese, and though both beef and cheese, like all other
necessaries, are sad vulgar things, experience had taught even the
innocent hearted Lady Whaleworthy, that with a certain class, and she
poor woman dreamed of no better, a title could cover a multitude of
_cheeses_.

Not so, alas, with the Misses Salter's _family secret_, which seemed for
the present to have abolished all variety of diet, for (crying
injustice!) while scarcely any body would visit Mr. Salter, Mr. Salter's
beef was, to quote Sarah's polite pun, "in every body's mouth!"

People could not even propound the flattering probability of his having
amassed a large fortune without some one more witty than elegant adding
the characteristic remark, that while salting his beef it was supposed
he had taken care to save his bacon.

To complete the unfortunate position of the family, Mr. Salter had
unluckily found it necessary of late, in consequence of an aggravation
of his old complaint of the eyelids, to wear, protruding from beneath
the brim of his white hat, a _green_ silk shade, which gave occasion to
the idlers on the Mountpelier-walk, green being the well known colour of
disappointment, to assert that he had done so in consequence of the
cruel desertion of Lady Flamborough, who had, simultaneously with the
appearance of the said badge of despair, jilted him for a half-pay
lieutenant; a gentleman who having received a hint to retire from the
service of his Majesty, for reasons best known to himself and his
brother officers, had come to Cheltenham to devote himself to the
service of the ladies.

Nor had poor Mr. Salter, while dragged every day to the walks by his
daughters, who now had no one else to walk with, a chance of forgetting
his fair deceiver; for there she was to be seen morning and evening as
gaily _undressed_ as ever, flaunting away and smiling and languishing as
usual; her white ostrich feathers too, at the highly improper
instigation of the breezes, mingling from time to time with the bright
red whiskers of the ci-devant lieutenant; while she, ungrateful woman,
had the barbarity to pass poor Mr. Salter again and again, without so
much as a recognition. "And that after," as he himself remarked,
"having had the face to eat his good dinners;" the remembrance of the
cost of which now added bitterness to the thoughts of slighted love.

This was the morning too of the very day, or rather evening, fixed for
Lady Palliser's fancy ball, with the expectation of which the whole town
was ringing. Even the walks were thinned by its prospective influence,
or rather picked of fashionables; for those who were to be there, were
keeping themselves up, that they might be quite fresh for an occasion to
which the very capriciousness of her ladyship's character had lent, in
anticipation at least, a more than common interest.

The Misses Salter, after weighing for two or three turns the poor chance
which sad experience had taught them there was of their picking up a
beau of any kind, against the certain disgrace of showing by their
wretchedness of fatigue that they were not to be among the _élite_ of
the evening, decided on going home to their breakfast, which social meal
commenced in a sulk and ended in a storm.

Miss Grace began again about the improvidence of cutting Mrs. Dorothea
in the premature manner they had done. "And it was all your fault,
Eliza," she continued, "that insolent temper of yours is always longing
so for an opportunity to break out; and yet there is nobody that can
sneak and cringe in the mean fawning manner that you can when you think
there is any thing to be got by a person. If my advice had been taken,
we would have been acquainted with all these genteel people, and going
to this ball to-night, no doubt. To do Mrs. Dorothea justice, she was
quite indefatigable in her kindness, and in getting people to call on us
and invite us as long as we showed her any kind of gratitude; so we have
ourselves to thank, or rather you for it all."

"Your advice indeed, you fool!" was all Miss Salter could find to say;
having, as she could not help knowing, the worst of the argument.

"It all comes of _pride_, and upstartishness, and nonsense," said Mr.
Salter. "Grace, the girl, however, is so far right; Mrs. Dorothea Arden
is a very worthy gentlewoman, and showed us a great deal more civility
than in our station of life we had any right to look for; and it
certainly was our place to be very grateful for it, and if we have not
been so it is no fault of mine; I knew nothing of the carryings on of
you Misses with your boarding-school breeding forsooth."



                                CHAPTER XVIII.


In consequence of the expected ball in the evening, neither the Palliser
nor Arden party had been at the walks in the morning. But soon after
breakfast Alfred called at Lady Palliser's with his usual offering of
sweets.

Caroline had just entered the drawing-room, and was proceeding towards a
conservatory at its further extremity, when the appearance of Alfred
arrested her steps.

He assisted her in arranging the flowers he had brought, and in
selecting from them the favoured few she was to wear herself. This task
drew from him some playful remark, more love-like than rational, on the
good fortune of the happy blossoms thus chosen.

Lady Palliser had been particularly harsh that morning about some
trifle, and Caroline was consequently in very bad spirits.

"Why should it be good fortune to be chosen by me," she said, "when I am
myself the most unfortunate of beings? The poor flowers that I choose,"
she added with a faint effort to laugh, fearful she had said too much,
"will be the first to fade away," quoting Moore's little song.

  "Or the young gazelle, with its soft black eye,
  If it _loved you well would be sure to die_,"

proceeded Alfred, humming the air and continuing the quotation; then in
a half playful, half tender whisper, he subjoined, "The death-warrant
of many of whom your ladyship little thinks would be already signed and
sealed were this the case." But perceiving while he spoke that though
Caroline tried to smile her lip trembled, he checked himself, and with
an altered tone exclaimed, "I beg a thousand pardons! You are--you
seem--what can have--"

"Oh, nothing," she replied, "only other young people are light-hearted
and cheerful together; there are your sisters for instance, how happy
they always seem to be; and how kind to you all--how indulgent, how
affectionate, Lady Arden appears. While I have neither sister, nor
brother, and yet my mother"--here checking herself, she added
hesitatingly, "I dare say--it must be my own fault--I suppose I don't
deserve to be loved--but I am quite sure that--that--my mother does not
love me--and oh, if you knew how miserable the thought makes me!"

"You cannot be serious," he said.

"I am indeed!" she replied, looking up with innocent earnestness, while
her eyes swam in tears.

Alfred caught her hand, pressed it to his lips, talked incoherently
about the impossibility of knowing without loving her, then of his own
unworthiness, his presumption, his poverty, his insignificance, &c. &c.;
his being in short a younger son; and at length wound up all by making,
notwithstanding, a passionate declaration of his love. If affection the
most devoted, the most unalterable, had any value in her eyes, affection
that would study her every wish, affection such as he was convinced no
lover had ever felt before; if such affection could in any degree
compensate for the absence of every other pretension, such, unable
longer to suppress his feeling, he now ventured to lay at her feet.

Caroline trembled and remained silent. He entreated her to speak, to
relieve him from the fear that he had offended her past forgiveness by
the very mention of his perhaps too daring suit.

"Does--my mother--know?" she whispered at last, "because--if not--I
fear--"

"Lady Palliser I think," he replied, "must know, must understand; nay, I
have ventured to allude slightly to the subject, and have even been
presumptuous enough to translate her ladyship's kindly and indulgent
admission of my constant visits as, however liberal on her part, a tacit
consent to my addresses."

"Oh, I hope you are right!" exclaimed Caroline, with an inadvertent
earnestness which called forth from Alfred gratitude the most profuse,
expressed, not indeed loudly, but in whispers so tender, so eloquent,
that for some moments, Caroline, forgetting every thing but their
import, felt a happiness she had never known before. New and delightful
prospects of futurity seemed opening before her youthful imagination,
hitherto so cruelly depressed. Her countenance, though covered with
blushes, and studiously turned away to hide them, so far indicated what
was passing within, as to encourage Alfred in adding,

"To-morrow, then, when Lady Palliser may possibly be at home, may I
venture to speak to her ladyship on this subject?"

After a short silence, Caroline replied with hesitation,

"Yes--I--suppose--you had better."

But she sighed heavily as she said so, for she dreaded the strange and
whimsical temper of Lady Palliser; yet she now found that a feeling of
consolation accompanied what had hitherto been her greatest sorrow, the
sense of her mother's want of affection; for perhaps, she thought, she
may not care enough about me to mind what I do! Here all her efforts at
self-possession gave way, and she yielded to a passion of tears.

Alfred had been holding her hand, and anxiously watching her
countenance; he became alarmed, and began to suspect, that perhaps she
was herself undecided. "What can this mean?" he cried. "You do not
repent of the permission you have given me? Caroline! say you do not!
Say I am wrong in this!"

She raised her eyes and moved her lips to reply, when a loud
electrifying knock was heard at the hall door. The look however had so
far reassured Alfred, that he again pressed her hand to his lips, and
repeated with an inquiring tone, "To-morrow, then?" Footsteps were heard
in the hall; the drawing-room door opened, and Alfred hastily
disappeared, while a servant entering, laid cards on the table and
retired.

Caroline was hastening towards the conservatory to take refuge there
till her agitation should subside, when the Venetian blind which hung
over its entrance was moved aside, and her mother appeared before her,
scorn and rage depicted in her countenance.

Our heroine, her footsteps thus unexpectedly arrested, stopped short in
the centre of the apartment, and stood trembling from head to foot.

From behind the Venetian blind, Lady Palliser had witnessed the whole of
the interview between the lovers.

She was not herself previously aware that the heartless coquetry in
which she had been indulging had taken so strong a hold even of her bad
feelings; but disappointed vanity was perhaps a mortification she had
never known before. She therefore scarcely herself understood the
species of rage with which she was now animated; the almost hatred with
which she now looked on the perfect loveliness of her blushing,
trembling child. Of course, on prudential considerations she would have
disapproved of the match at any rate; and of this she now made an
excuse to herself.

She stepped forward, and when close before Caroline, stamped her foot,
uttered an ironical, hysterical laugh, and almost gasping for breath,
stood some moments ere she could well articulate.

"You piece of premature impudence!" were the first words she at length
pronounced. After pausing again for a moment, she recommenced with a
sneer, "So you have made your arrangement. I must congratulate you on
Mr. Arden's obliging acceptance of your liberal offer, of heart, hand,
and fortune!"

Caroline looked the most innocent astonishment.

"You really do not understand me," proceeded her ladyship, in the same
tone of mockery. "Are you then not aware that I have been a witness to
the scene which has just passed? and have, of course, heard your modest
ladyship stating to Mr. Arden how much at a loss you were for some one
to love you, forsooth! Barefaced enough, certainly! Upon which the young
man could not in common politeness do less than offer his services.
Besides, it was much too good a thing to be rejected; few younger
brothers, and therefore beggars, would refuse the hand of an heiress of
your rank and fortune. Go! you disgrace to your family and sex; go to
your room, and remain there till you have my permission to leave it. As
for Mr. Arden, I shall give orders that he is never again admitted
beneath this roof. Should you hereafter meet him in society do not dare
to recognise him. Go!"

Caroline was moving towards the door, without attempting a reply, well
aware that remonstrance or entreaty would be perfectly vain.

"Stay!--I have changed my mind," recommenced her ladyship. "Mr. Arden
comes to-morrow, it seems--let him come--I shall not see him. Receive
him yourself, reject him yourself, now and for ever! Tell him that on
reflection you have repented of your folly; and that the subject must
not be even mentioned to me. Let the interview take place in this
room--let your rejection be distinct, and let him suppose it comes from
yourself. I shall be again in the conservatory--I shall hear and see all
that passes; and on your peril, by word or look, say more or less than I
have commanded."

Caroline flung herself on her knees, and with clasped hands and
streaming eyes looked up in her mother's face. "Oh, do not, do not,"
she exclaimed, "ask me to see him, and in all else I will submit!"

Lady Palliser laughed out with malicious irony, saying, "So you offer
conditional obedience. Do," she proceeded, frowning fiercely, and
extending her clenched hand in the attitude of a fury, "precisely as I
have commanded!"

"This evening," continued her ladyship, with affected composure, looking
contemptuously down on Caroline, who was sobbing ready to break her
heart, "this evening, deport yourself as though nothing had happened:
dance as much as usual; and do not dare to have red eyes, or to show the
slightest depression of manner. Should Mr. Arden make any allusion to
what has occurred this morning, merely tell him to say nothing more on
the subject till to-morrow."

Here Lady Palliser quitted the apartment, while Caroline remained on her
knees, overwhelmed by utter despair, and shedding, with all the innocent
vehemence of childhood, the large pure tears, which like summer showers
fall so abundantly from the eyes of the young in their first sorrow.

The alternative of daring to disobey her harsh and heartless mother
never once presented itself to her mind as possible.



                                 CHAPTER XIX.


It was night--arrivals had commenced--the lights, the music, the
decorations, the sight and scent of the flowers, all added to the aching
of Caroline's temples and the confusion of her ideas, as she stood in a
sort of waking dream, conscious only of wretchedness, near the door of
the first of the reception rooms, courtesying with a mechanical smile to
each new group that appeared. She would have given the world to have
been any where else, but this was the post her mother had commanded her
to fill.

When the ladies of the Arden party entered, she felt a childish impulse
to fling herself into the bosom of Lady Arden, and drawing all the
daughters round her, entreat them to hide her from her cruel mother.

Alfred next appeared, accompanied by Sir Willoughby and Mr. Geoffery
Arden. The two latter named gentlemen had been expected for some days,
but had arrived only about two hours before.

Alfred presented both, and some unmeaning conversation passed about the
heat of London, how long they had been on the road, &c. Our hero, the
moment he came in, missed the flowers Caroline had promised to wear, and
felt disappointed. If she had forgotten them in the hurry of dressing it
was no very flattering token of her regard. If, on the other hand, Lady
Palliser had noticed and forbid her wearing them, it was a bad symptom
of his ultimate success. He longed for an opportunity of venturing some
playful reproach which might lead to an explanation. When his companions
moved on a step or two he drew very near, and asked in an emphatic
whisper, if the chosen blossoms had faded already. A rush of colour,
which the peculiar fairness of Caroline's complexion already described
made the more remarkable, covered her cheeks in a moment; but she
attempted no reply. After a short and somewhat anxious pause Alfred
asked her to dance; she looked up suddenly but vacantly, as if scarcely
comprehending what he had said, but still spoke not. He was just about
to repeat his words, when Willoughby, who had been conversing with Lady
Palliser, turned round and made the same request. Caroline, glancing
towards her mother, and seeing her eye upon her, started, assented
quickly, took Willoughby's arm, and walked to the quadrille.

Lady Palliser noted the chagrin of our hero with secret triumph, and
suddenly forming one of her usually whimsical and tyrannical resolves,
determined, as an appropriate punishment for the lovers, to marry her
daughter to Sir Willoughby, whose match in town she had heard it
confidently reported was off. Though he was but a baronet, his immense
property made it at least an eligible marriage; and such, little as she
cared about Caroline, she had always considered it a necessary part of
etiquette some time or other to provide.

That Alfred, however, might ascribe Caroline's change to her own
caprice, and be the more mortified, Lady Palliser took his arm, walked
about with him for a considerable time, and treated him with more than
her usual cordiality.

It had the desired effect, it threw him into complete despair; he could
not now even console himself with the thought that Caroline was acting
under the influence of her mother.

When the dancing had ceased, and Caroline was seated with her evidently
delighted partner on a distant sofa, Lady Palliser led our hero up to
her, and said, "Come, Caroline, I have no notion of giving up old
friends for new ones altogether: you must dance one set with poor
Alfred; do see how forlorn he looks."

Caroline was utterly confounded: had her mother forgiven them--was she
going to relent.

Such happy thoughts, however, were soon scattered, for Lady Palliser,
on pretext of arranging a stray ringlet, drawing very near, whispered,
with a menacing frown, "Take care how you behave, and what you say." The
frown and whisper destroying as they did the momentary hope, caused
Caroline, on taking Alfred's arm, to look so much disappointed that it
was impossible not to infer that she would rather have remained on the
sofa. Yet Alfred could not bring himself to believe this! he was
miserable, however, and did not know what to think; while he was so much
occupied forming painful conjectures, that he himself behaved strangely
and coldly.

Caroline thought with intense agony of the task she had to perform in
the morning, while with a feeling allied to terror she stole from time
to time a momentary glance at the features of him she must so soon
mortally offend; to whom she must so soon give apparently just cause to
view her henceforward with hatred and contempt. She even fancied that
his countenance wore already a severity of expression she had never seen
in it before. She bewildered herself too with the thought, that if she
could get an opportunity and venture just to whisper, "Mr. Arden, don't
mind any thing I am obliged to say to you in the morning," it might
prevent his thinking so very very ill of her as he must otherwise do.
This sentence she repeated to herself above an hundred times during the
quadrille, yet whenever she was going to address it to Alfred, and more
than once she moved her lips to begin, she either caught her mother's
eye turned upon her, or she fancied it might be, and dared not look to
see lest it should give her a conscious and guilty appearance; or the
impression that Alfred was already displeased became so strong as to
deprive her of the courage to speak to him; besides all which, her heart
at each abortive attempt she made to articulate, leaped up into her
throat, and by its excessive fluttering quite choked her utterance, till
the convenient moment was gone by. On the music ceasing, Lady Palliser
came up and took her away, as if in great haste to make some
arrangement, yet, in so obliging a manner, and with so many pretty
excuses, that Alfred thought her ladyship at least was unchanged.

And so must Caroline, he told himself again and again; "it can be but
fancy on my part, or rather, all that seems strange and altered in her
manner must proceed from her extreme delicacy, her excessive timidity,
her consciousness that we now perfectly understand each other's thoughts
makes her fearful to meet my eye, at least with others present; makes
her afraid that all the world will know the moment they see us together
what is passing in our hearts. I can well imagine one so gentle, so
young, so fearful, feeling the newness of her situation, almost as
though she were already a bride; having listened but this very morning,
for the first time in her life, I should suppose favourably, to the
accent of a lover."

Alfred had wandered into the conservatory, where, amid the intoxicating
odours of ten thousand exotics--pursuing this train of thought--he
luxuriated for a time in dream-like meditations on the delicacy, the
devotion, the exclusive tenderness, which must necessarily characterise
the attachment of a being so pure, so innocent, so unpractised in the
world's ways as Caroline--his Caroline! Yes, he was now entitled to
combine with her idea this endearing epithet.

He was standing the while with his arms folded and his eyes
unconsciously uplifted to a brilliant lamp, as if lost in contemplation
of its brightness.

A change in the music broke his reverie; when his discerning vision
passing along a vista of orange trees, found its way into the
drawing-room, and fell on a group preparing to waltz. Among these, and
occupying the very spot hallowed to memory by the interview of the
morning, he beheld Caroline standing with the arm of Willoughby round
her slender waist, and her hand resting on his shoulder--a moment after
the couple had launched amid the tide of changing forms; but Alfred's
eye still traced them as they floated round and round the prescribed
circle, till, what with the moving scene, and his own thoughts of agony,
his brain went round also. He had never been able to prevail with
Caroline to waltz, her plea of refusal had always been that she did not
waltz. Was she then changed in every sentiment--in every opinion--in
every feeling! Had she become hardened to the world--lost to personal
delicacy--lost to affection--lost to him! What had she--what had she not
become! and all within a few short hours.



                                 CHAPTER XX.


In vain had our heroine, when Sir Willoughby had asked her to waltz,
pleaded the same excuse alluded to in our last chapter. Lady Palliser,
who was near, and heard Sir Willoughby's request, interfered, and
commanded compliance; while poor Caroline, who seems to have been born
but to be the victim of her mother's caprices, was led away to join the
gay circle, trembling and broken-hearted.

The report that Willoughby's marriage had been broken off was quite
true: he had written the account to Alfred a day or two before. The lady
had the very day previous to that fixed for the wedding eloped with her
former lover; while Sir Willoughby had found himself, his preparations
being all made, in rather an absurd situation.

The newspapers, too, had taken unwarrantable liberties with his name,
and made some witty comments on the superior personal attractions of his
rival.

His vanity it was which had in the first instance been gratified--his
vanity now suffered proportionately. And so irritable was his temper and
so depressed his spirits, on his arrival in Cheltenham, that Alfred, who
had but just returned from his interview with Caroline, felt that it
would be mistimed to mention her, or allude at all at present to his own
happier prospects. He limited the confidential conversation, therefore,
to kind condolence with his brother, being too delicate to remind
Willoughby that he might have escaped this mortification had he taken
his advice.

Thus was the foundation unintentionally laid of a concealment which
finally led to many disastrous consequences.

The moment Willoughby was introduced to Caroline he was captivated by
her beauty. After they had danced together, when our heroine was so
unexpectedly desired by her mother to dance with Alfred, Geoffery Arden,
who may be termed Willoughby's evil genius, took possession of the seat
beside him on the sofa, which had been just vacated by Caroline; and
well knowing his cousin's weak point, said, "Well, that is one of the
most pointed things I ever saw."

"To what do you allude?" asked Willoughby.

"Did you not see how mortified her ladyship looked at having her
flirtation with you disturbed."

"Flirtation, indeed!" repeated Willoughby, laughing; "the acquaintance
is rather short for that, I should think."

"Nay, we hear of love at first sight; and it was certainly something
very like it. You were not many minutes in the room when you asked Lady
Caroline to dance; and I don't know whether you noticed it, but a moment
or two before Alfred, who has been so long acquainted, had made the same
request; the lady pretended not to hear: she heard, however, when you
spoke, and consented with marked alacrity."

Willoughby's vanity, which had been so lately wounded, gladly welcomed
suggestions so flattering. To woo and win the young, the beautiful, the
rich Lady Caroline Montague, might well silence the jeers of those who
were disposed to make impertinent comments on his late disappointment.

As for Geoffery Arden's motive for offering the incense of flattery to
Willoughby, it was the same which in most cases governs most
men--self-interest. It was by the grossest flattery that he had long
since made himself necessary to his cousin; and by the same means he
still sought to retain an influence over him, which, in a pecuniary
point of view, was particularly convenient to himself. On the present
occasion also, he had seen with half a glance sufficient to make him
suspect, at least, that Lady Caroline Montague was an object of interest
to Alfred. If he was right in his conjecture, the circumstance might
afford a favourable opportunity for sowing the seeds of dissension
between the brothers, an object of which he never lost sight, well
knowing that his own influence and that of Alfred could never go hand in
hand--the one being for evil, the other for good.

Added to this, it was always more or less an object with him to throw
obstacles in the way of any love affair of either of the brothers; for
though he was not so romantic as to expect by such means to succeed in
preserving them both old bachelors, should they reach old age--for such
a chance could not be very important to him, who was so much their
senior--it was just as well to keep the book of fate open as long as
possible. There was no use in increasing the chances against himself.
The fewer names, in short, above his own on the list of even improbable
advantages the better.

While the cousins continued to occupy their sofa, and observe the
dancers, Geoffery was eloquent in the praises of Caroline's beauty;
quoting, as he well might, many high authorities for her being the
acknowledged belle of the late season in town. He knew that weak men,
with all their obstinate devotion to their own opinions, unconsciously
see with the eyes, hear with the ears, and even speak in the language of
others; and that their love most especially is a mere reflection!

Indeed, to gain an entire ascendency over weak people only requires a
little management; but unfortunately it is of that uncandid sort which
their best friends are the least likely to adopt.

If you say to an ill-governed child, "My dear, you have eaten enough of
that cake, give it me, and take this pretty toy to play with." The child
says, "No, I won't; it's not a pretty toy," and eats faster than before.
But lay down the toy carelessly within his sight, and if he has eaten
sufficiently, he will drop his cake on the floor, and fly to seize the
toy.

Men and women of weak minds are but children of a larger growth.

When the company had all retired, Lady Palliser thus addressed her
daughter: "Your avoiding to dance with Mr. Arden was quite unnecessary.
I have no desire that your manners towards him in society should be at
all altered: such conduct would draw down remarks which I do not choose
should be made. As for to-morrow," continued her ladyship, "remember
that I shall witness the scene; therefore let your obedience be perfect!
Also, if you have any regard to decency left, take care that no folly on
your part gives Mr. Arden an opportunity of boasting that Lady Caroline
Montague, in despite of the impropriety of the alliance, was
indelicately ready to fling herself into his arms, if Lady Palliser had
not interfered."

Her ladyship here quitted the room; and Caroline, her ideas confused by
this new view of the subject, stood transfixed to the spot, till aroused
from her reverie by the entrance of servants to extinguish the lights.

She retired, but it may be believed not to rest. She flung herself on
her bed without undressing, and wept away the early morning, the
brightness of which entering freely through the shutterless windows of
a Cheltenham bed-room, shone with incongruous lustre alike on her
glittering ornaments and her falling tears. We speak of morning, because
the night, of course, had been over before the ball concluded.



                                 CHAPTER XXI.


Alfred had no opportunity for private conversation with his brother
before he went to his appointment at Lady Palliser's; nor indeed did he
now desire it till he should have come to some explanation with
Caroline.

In strange perplexity of spirits, trying in vain to persuade himself
that he had every thing to hope and nothing to fear, he repaired to
Jessamine Bower.

On entering the drawing-room he perceived Caroline, seated and alone.
When he was announced, she did not move. He approached; her eyes still
remained fixed on the ground, while the paleness of her complexion was
even more remarkable than usual, and a very slight but universal tremor
pervaded her whole frame. He stood before her, and as he did so,
trembled himself with undefined apprehension.

"Good heavens, Caroline!" he exclaimed, sinking on one knee, and
attempting to take her hand. She withdrew it hastily, and her cheeks
crimsoned while she cast one involuntary glance in the direction of the
conservatory. Alfred rose, folded his arms, and stood for a moment
silent, then said--"If I have been presumptuous, Lady Caroline, I have
much to plead in my excuse, and the interview of yesterday in
particular; I was certainly led to hope for a more favourable
reception, however little I may be deserving of it."

"I was--to blame," said Caroline, in a voice scarcely articulate, and
still without looking up.

"Is it possible! Do I interpret you right? Were those hopes, to me so
full of joy, altogether fallacious? But no, Caroline, I will not, I
cannot believe it! Lady Palliser objects, and you deem it your duty to
submit: even this thought would be happiness, compared with that of your
indifference! Or--or--"

"My caprice!" said Caroline, looking up almost wildly for a moment,
"Yes, think it my caprice!"

"I cannot believe it," he replied.

There was a considerable pause, during which he anxiously observed
Caroline, and perceived that silent tears were stealing down her
cheeks.

"Those tears are not caused by caprice," he said in a tone of
tenderness; "in compassion say," he added with sudden and vehement
earnestness, "that you are acting in obedience to Lady Palliser's
commands, and I too will submit." While speaking again he sank on his
knee before her, and tried to take both her hands. The terror however
with which she resisted, hastily rising as she did so--the more
effectually to avoid him--so much for the moment resembled aversion,
that he rose as hastily, and looking his amazement, said with a
hysterical intonation of voice, "If it is indeed so, I have a thousand
apologies to offer to Lady Caroline Montague for my impertinent
intrusiveness. To retire, however, and offend no more, will perhaps be
better than entering further into the subject." He was about to depart,
when pausing he said, "I will ask one question--Am I rejected? Do you
finally withdraw the hopes you yesterday bestowed?"

"I do," she replied.

He stood for a few moments to master his emotion, then pronouncing a
haughty good morning, hastily quitted the room and the house. In a few
moments after, he was pacing, without plan or intention, one of the many
shady and usually quite solitary walks, which branch off in every
direction from the general scene of gaiety, and near to which both
villas stood.

His pride, as well as every tenderer and worthier feeling, was wounded
beyond description. He now appeared, even to himself, in the light of
one who had indelicately, unfeelingly, and presumptuously sought a match
of worldly advantage, to which he had no pretension; and though he
could acquit himself of interested views in so doing, he felt that it
would be a romance and absurdity to expect so candid an interpretation
from any one else. The one continued dream, which had made up his whole
existence for many weeks past, was now dissipated in an instant. Nay, he
sought in vain among his own meditations for the apologies, even to
himself, which had before seemed sufficient. Caroline, so silent, so
fearful at the commencement of their acquaintance, had seemed to derive
a new existence from his growing attentions, while Lady Palliser,
instead of checking those attentions, and showing alarm at the visible
pleasure with which her daughter received them, had herself given him
what he then considered the most unequivocal encouragement, being always
the first to make intercourse easy to both, by desiring the always
timid Caroline to dance with him, walk with him, and sing with him. And
then the silent glow of secret pleasure with which the welcome command
was obeyed, confirmed sometimes perhaps by a momentary expression caught
when the eyes accidentally met, or at other times merely by an alacrity
of movement, or cheerfulness of tone in obeying or replying, which,
notwithstanding, betrayed volumes in a character too fearful and gentle
to let itself be regularly read aloud, yet too artless, too unpractised,
to know how utterly to seal its pages.

While such things had been, the prejudices of society had faded from his
mind; he had believed it not impossible that where an only child already
possessed immense estates, a parent might prefer the happiness of that
child to the unnecessary addition of other estates. Now all the
artificial estimates of life and manners, taught by early education,
returned in their fullest force, and he thought himself a madman ever to
have entertained such an opinion.

He now believed that every one who knew he had had the presumption to
pay his addresses to Lady Caroline Montague, would reprobate him and
say, that because he was a younger brother, and of course a beggar, he
wanted to make his fortune by marrying an heiress. How bitterly did he
now regret that he had ever had the rash folly to confess his passion.
Yet, so thoroughly disinterested had that passion been, that he had even
for the time lost sight of the possibility of being suspected by others
of motives of which he was himself incapable: all that through the
happy intoxication of his feelings had presented itself respecting
fortune, was a vaguely delightful remembrance that his poverty could
never entail any privations on Caroline. What was now to be done? The
wretched state of his feelings would have induced him to quit Cheltenham
immediately, but wounded pride prompted him to remain; he wished to let
Lady Caroline Montague see that her caprices should not govern his
conduct; that he could behave with composure in her society--with polite
self-possession even towards herself. But in this first moment of just
resentment, he knew not the difficulty of the task he courted. He
resolved to conceal the whole affair from Willoughby, and if his mother
and sisters persisted in making allusion to the subject of his
admiration of Lady Caroline Montague, to assure them gravely that he
never meant, in his circumstances, to subject himself to the suspicion
of seeking an heiress because she was an heiress.

Having come to so dignified a resolve, he flattered himself for the
moment that he was almost composed. Scarcely however had he arrived at
this conclusion, than fond memory, more at leisure than it had been
during the late angry burst of disappointed passion, began retracing
scenes, recalling looks, repeating words, recounting circumstances, till
his mind again became a troubled sea, from amidst the breakers of which
he beheld, but now with all the aggravated feelings of one sent adrift
in a bark without rudder or oar, tantalizing views, but too distant to
admit a hope of reaching a smiling happy shore--a haven of bliss to
fancy's eye, which appeared the more perfect now that it was
unattainable.

At one time he stopped short, and stood for about ten minutes like an
absolute statue, quite unconscious of any outward object. He was asking
himself, if it were not still possible that Caroline was acting under
the influence of Lady Palliser and if there might not come a time when
that influence would cease?



                                CHAPTER XXII.


No language can paint the utter desolation of poor Caroline's mind; for
she was too young, too inexperienced, too much accustomed from infancy,
to be the unmurmuring slave of her mother's capricious tyranny to have
any thing like a just estimate of her own situation.

Had she ventured to think, which she had never yet done, that when of
age she should be her own mistress, she would, as very young people do
when they look forward three or four years, have thought the period so
remote as to be scarcely an object of hope; while she would still have
trembled at the thought of venturing at any time, however distant, to
disobey her mother, unless indeed she could be quite sure of never
seeing her again.

Lady Palliser's plan of government when Caroline was a mere infant, had
been a system of terror; nor had any thing in her subsequent conduct
tended to soften that first impression. Frowns and menacing attitudes
had been used towards the baby before it could understand words, if when
occasionally brought into its mother's presence it had happened to
stretch its little hand towards any attractive object. Hours of solitary
imprisonment in a dark room had been inflicted on the child, for but a
fancied dilatoriness of movement in the execution of a command, till
poor Caroline had learned to start with nervous alarm, and fly with the
alacrity of terror at the very sound of her mother's voice; while it was
melancholy to see, during the seemingly willing movement the little
innocent face of the child filled with the contradictory expressions of
anxiety and dread.

Thus had early associations followed up by constant tyranny, imposed at
the dictates of a temper unreasonable, capricious, and unfeeling, taught
Caroline to view with a sinking of the heart the very smiles of her
mother's countenance, as played off in company; none of them she knew
were intended for her, even when their light, perchance, was turned upon
her.

Overweening, all-engrossing vanity, was Lady Palliser's ruling passion;
society therefore in which she could be the object of universal
admiration was her only element. Not that she was what is commonly
called a flirt:--she was too haughty--too exacting of general adoration
for such a condescension towards any individual in particular; while yet
within her hidden thoughts, concealed beneath an appearance of
statue-like coldness, she had a secret delight in imagining every man
with whom she was acquainted, as much in love with her as he dared to
be, and withheld from a declaration of his passion only by her own
haughty reserve: nay, so far did she carry this dream of vanity, that
she felt more or less of resentment towards every man of her
acquaintance who married or attached himself to any other woman.

Such was the person with whom poor Caroline had hitherto spent every
domestic hour she could remember. Her home, which had thus never been a
happy one, now by contrast with the vague hopes in which she had
latterly ventured to indulge, presented to her imagination a long
perspective of tenfold dreariness. The frowns in private, the artificial
smiles in public of her unkind parent, were all that she anticipated in
future. Her very youth seemed an aggravation of her misery, for the
grave itself, which, in her present exaggerated and hopeless state of
feeling, was she believed, the only refuge to which she could look
forward, appeared at an immeasurable distance, the path to it stretching
before her mind's eye an interminable pilgrimage of weariness.

We do not mean to support these views of the subject as rational or
just; but Caroline in experience and knowledge of the world, as well as
in chancery phraseology, was still an infant; even her love had at
present something in it of the feelings of the child turning to the kind
and gentle, as a refuge from the harshness of the more severe; and with
the idea of Alfred was blended thoughts of his sisters and of Lady
Arden, and of their happy home--that scene of cheerfulness and general
goodwill, which she had latterly enjoyed the privilege of entering
without ceremony, and which she had never quitted without regret.

The most severe, however, of all her sufferings was the thought that
Alfred must now hate and despise her.

She was shut up in her own apartment weeping bitterly and giving way to
a succession of dreary reflections, when she received a summons from her
mother to appear in the drawing-room. So much was she accustomed to
obey implicitly that she did not dare to excuse herself.

On descending, she found with Lady Palliser, Sir Willoughby Arden and
his cousin Geoffery. Willoughby was turning over new songs and
professing himself a great admirer of music; the true secret of which
was that he sang remarkably well himself. After some trivial
conversation, he discovered several duets in which he had often taken a
part with his sisters, and intreated that Caroline would try one of
them. She excused herself on the plea of a headache caused by the music,
lights, and late hours of the previous evening; but Lady Palliser
interfering, she was compelled to make a wretched attempt; the manner
spiritless, the voice tremulous and even out of tune. Willoughby's
performance, however, was really good; he was therefore quite
delighted. As the song was being concluded, Lady and the Misses Arden
came in, and the latter being prevailed on to assist Willoughby with
some more of his favourite duets, the visit was prolonged into quite a
morning concert.

When the Ardens were about to take their departure for the avowed
purpose of a walk, Lady Palliser insisted on Caroline's accompanying
them, saying that the air would take away her headache. Caroline made a
faint effort to excuse herself, but in this, as in every thing, was
obliged to submit.

They soon met and were joined by Lord Darlingford and Sir James Lindsey;
and it not being an hour at which any part of the walks was particularly
crowded, they wandered on to where the shade by its coolness was
inviting.

Willoughby attached himself entirely to our heroine, with whom he
already fancied himself in love. Lord Darlingford walked soberly beside
Jane, who after many relapses of a hope, fainter at each return, had
resigned her early dream of first and mutual love, and was now quietly
receiving his serious addresses. She had at length brought her mind to
anticipate, with a placid sort of happiness, the hope of obtaining for
life the companionship and protection of a friend whom she could
respect; together with the certainty of securing a perfectly eligible
establishment, and thus escaping all those miseries inflicted by the
unfeeling world's scorn on the poor and the unprotected;--miseries
against which her mother and her aunt had so often warned her.

Louisa was attended by Sir James, her expected marriage with whom was
now the universal theme. She had herself, however, by no means made up
her mind; she could not even approach a decision, her meditations on the
subject always ending in a fruitless wish that Henry were the elder
brother.

Madeline, who did not happen to have a lover present walked and talked
with her cousin Geoffery.

Mrs. Dorothea had been called for as they passed her door; she was the
companion of Lady Arden.

Arranged in the order we have described, our party came suddenly upon
Alfred, standing where we last left him, and having just brought his
solitary musings to the final summing up with which we concluded the
last chapter.



                                CHAPTER XXIII.


Alfred could not without an appearance of great singularity avoid
joining the party; he turned, therefore, and making his salutation to
Caroline, and what other recognitions were necessary, in as hurried a
manner as possible, took the unoccupied side of Madeline. Geoffery saw a
good deal, and suspected more. "Where have you been all the morning,
Alfred?" he said. "We have had some delightful music at Lady
Palliser's."

"Indeed!" replied our hero.

"Yes," added Willoughby, "Lady Caroline was so obliging as to try one
or two charming duets, in which her ladyship permitted me to attempt a
part."

Alfred could scarcely credit that he heard aright--was it
possible!--could Caroline indeed be so utterly devoid of feeling? What,
but a few moments after having driven him from her presence, overwhelmed
with despair by her capricious perfidy? However strangely changed,
however indifferent she had herself become, had she not even the grace
to compassionate the sufferings she had wilfully inflicted? Could she
within the very same half hour be in such exuberant spirits that it was
necessary to exhaust them by singing for the amusement of her morning
visitors? Or was it indeed possible, that young as she was, she had
already learned worldly wisdom sufficient to prefer the possessor of
the Arden estates to his landless younger brother? So indeed it would
appear. Had she not last night danced with Willoughby in preference to
himself?--Had she not afterwards departed from her usual line of conduct
to waltz with him also?--This morning, had not every thought and feeling
undergone an evident and sudden revolution. That prudential
considerations had been strongly represented to Caroline he made no
doubt; it was highly improbable that such views had arisen spontaneously
in her own mind; but of what value could the merely fanciful preference
be that could be so easily turned aside? To believe Caroline worthless
cost him a more cruel pang than even the knowledge that she was lost to
him for ever.

As soon as the Arden family had reached home, after having left Caroline
at Lady Palliser's, and parted from Lord Darlingford and Sir James at
the door, the sisters began as usual to banter Alfred about his love;
and Lady Arden observed laughingly, "But you seem to have quite resigned
your post to Willoughby." Alfred made a strong effort to treat the
subject with seeming carelessness, and replied generally, that younger
brothers had no pretensions.

"That is," replied his mother, "as the lady may think. And I am sure
Willoughby would be very sorry to interfere with your prospects; an
heiress can be no object to him."

Willoughby looked amazed. Alfred begged Lady Arden would not treat the
subject with such unnecessary solemnity, and assured his brother, with
an earnestness that surprised the ladies of the family, that he had not
the most distant intention of ever addressing Lady Caroline Montague,
nor the slightest reason to suppose that if he were guilty of so silly a
presumption, his forwardness would not meet with the repulse it should
deserve.

"I don't know that," said Geoffery; "it must depend on the share of
encouragement a lady pleases to give."

"Lady Caroline Montague," observed Willoughby, "is certainly much to be
admired; at the same time," he added, with evident pique, "I should be
sorry, were I ever to enter the lists among her ladyship's adorers, to
owe my success to being an elder brother, as my mother would infer!"

The girls persisted in laughing, and declaring there must have been a
lover's quarrel; for that Alfred did not speak of Lady Caroline in the
least like the way he used to do.

"There is certainly a great change," said Mrs. Dorothea; "every thing
appeared to be going on just as Alfred's best friends could have
wished."

"How busy people make themselves," thought Willoughby, "but they shall
not influence my conduct."

To avoid the painful topic, Alfred sauntered into the lawn by one of the
open French windows. He was almost instantly followed by Willoughby, who
took his arm and walked for some time up and down in silence.

"I wish Alfred you would be candid with me," said Willoughby at last, "I
certainly admire Lady Caroline Montague, but mine is the admiration--the
acquaintance of a day--an hour. If you are seriously attached, still
more, if the attachment is, as my mother and sisters seem to think,
mutual, tell me so honestly, and I am sure you will do me the justice to
believe, that had I the vanity to suppose I could succeed in such an
attempt, I would be the last being in existence to wish to interfere
with your happiness; so far from it, that if fortune is the obstacle,
say so, and I will make a settlement on you so splendid, as to leave no
room for objection on that head."

Alfred, quite overcome by his brother's generosity, was unable to
articulate; he drew Willoughby's arm closer to his side in token of his
gratitude, and they walked on a little, till finding themselves
sheltered from the immediate view of the windows by a drooping
acacia-tree, they paused by a sort of mutual consent, and Alfred, making
an effort to master his emotion, said--"I feel Willoughby, if possible,
more gratitude than if I were about to accept and be made happy by your
noble offer. I feel too," he added, hesitating, "that I--owe it to your
generous nature to make a confession, which else I had gladly avoided.
I--I have been already rejected--rejected not by Lady Palliser on the
plea of want of fortune, but by Lady Caroline Montague herself. You are,
therefore, of course--free--to--to--" but he could not bring himself to
give the palpable form of words to the remainder of the inference.

"Rejected already! and by Lady Caroline herself!" repeated Willoughby.
"Thank heaven then, my interference at least can never be alleged. What
occurred before my arrival cannot be laid to my charge. This, under
whatever circumstances may arise, will be an infinite consolation to my
mind."

Alfred did not judge it necessary to correct the slight error in
chronology which his brother had made, and a protracted silence
followed; at length Willoughby said, "Do you think it probable, Alfred,
that you will be induced to renew your addresses?"

"Certainly not!" replied Alfred.

"In that case," said Willoughby, again breaking the silence, "who may or
who may not ultimately succeed in making themselves acceptable to Lady
Caroline Montague can in no wise affect your happiness?"

"My happiness," replied Alfred, in a strange hurried manner, "is quite
irrelevant to the present subject: but I am not, I trust, so selfish as
to feel any desire to condemn a lady to a life of celibacy, merely
because--but let us lay aside this painful subject; I shall endeavour
as quickly as possible to forget all things connected with it, except,
indeed, the feelings of heartfelt gratitude so justly due to you, my
dear Willoughby."

While this conversation was passing in the lawn, Geoffery, whom we left
in the drawing-room with the ladies of the family, addressed Mrs.
Dorothea Arden thus:

"So you really think it will be a match between Alfred and Lady Caroline
Montague?"

"I should think so, certainly," replied Mrs. Dorothea; "his attentions
have been very marked, and have been received with decided approbation,
both by mother and daughter; and I am sure that he is, poor fellow, very
sincerely attached."

"We all thought it quite settled," said Jane. Her sisters echoed nearly
the same sentiment.

"There can be no doubt," observed Lady Arden, "that Alfred would have a
right to consider himself very ill treated, if any objection to his
pretensions were started at this late period."

"There was a great difference, however, last night," said Louisa, "in
Lady Caroline's manner."

"And a still greater this morning," added Madeline.

"Your ladyship thinks Alfred attached to Lady Caroline?" asked Geoffrey.

"Unquestionably!" replied Lady Arden. "If the affair should not go on,
it will be a very serious disappointment to him, I am convinced."

"And her ladyship received him well up to last night?" persisted
Geoffrey.

"I should certainly say so," Lady Arden replied.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                            END OF VOL. I.


                   *       *       *       *       *

                  C. WHITING, BEAUFORT HOUSE, STRAND.





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software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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